Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Not the best adverb

In an article on Radio 5 about the children of the Austrian man who imprisons and raped his own daughter, producing 7 children who are now in care, the reporter described the children as being relatively well.

I suppose they don't have sub editors on radio programmes.

Gordon's new distraction - a new telecoms/broadband policy?

Rumor has it that Stephen Carter, Gordon's SpAd and ex-Ofcom supremo, summonsed all the big hitters in the telecoms industry to meet Gordon last week. Apparently the "invite" went out at 7pm on Thursday for a 7am meeting on Friday. The subject of the discussions still hasn't filtered out on the subject of the meeting to this humble telecoms engineer so I can only speculate.

So why would a beleaguered PM want to meet senior telecoms managers, and I mean senior, at such short notice when he is facing a meltdown in the local elections, the loss of the London Mayor, disquiet and almost rebellion over his own tax policies when he was Chancellor and now a possible rebellion over 42 days detention? Could it be free internet for the poor? More Internet? Cheaper calls?

Whatever it is he isn't going to get much joy out of the telecoms industry:

Mobile operators are pissed off that there is going to be another auction for spectrum is the so called 3G expansion band which they don't need yet. They are also pissed off with the EU because they are getting another kicking over roaming, this time SMS

ISP's are pissed off they are expected to find the Capex to support the growth in Internet usage caused by BBC's iPlayer

The large ISP's are bleeding because of the land grab for more customers, and this means the MNO's as well, and through their own stupidity of the race to the bottom over "free" Internet.

No, the telecom's industry isn't really the place for Gordon to be looking for some sort of pancea to his unpopularity.

Anyway, telecoms is such a long term game that he will be lucky for there to be any noticeable difference by the next election, let alone after the (hopeful) debacle that is going to happen to him in the polls tomorrow.

On this day - Falklands

in 1982, Alexander Haig's mission is officially terminated. President Ronald Reagan declares US support for Britain and economic sanctions against Argentina. The British war exclusion zone comes into effect.

There was no surprise at this on board although Reagan’s public support did lift spirits s we knew they could supply good intel. Indeed history tells us that they already had been.

By now I had been across to another landing ship to see if I could get the other jammer working. When I got there most bits were still in boxes but I had a go. The problem was I couldn’t test it because we were still on Emcon and for those who aren’t aware a radio jammer needs to shove out a lot of power tow work. Imgaine trying to drown out a conversation that is taking place 20m from you by shouting at the people having that conversation. So any emissions from the jammer would have been picked up by the Argentine EW guys within seconds.

There was a problem getting back from the ship, the weather closed in and the helicopter despatch service didn’t fly for 3 days. I didn’t have my kit with me so had to scrounge toothpaste etc. By the time I got back my hosts were glad to see the back of me given how crowded the ships were.

When I did eventually get a helicopter ride back they decided it was too dangerous to land and I had to jump from about 6 foot on to a rolling ships helicopter deck. Its amazing how deep you can get you nails in to a steel decking when the alternative is being pitched in to a freezing South Atlantic!

Who are these selfish drivers

I am far from perfect as a driver and I don't expect other road users to be perfect either. We all have lapses in concentration for which if caught we can be punished. Furthermore I never knowingly speed in built up areas and often go slower than the speed limit, but on the open road and motorways, well its whatever the conditions will allow.

So with that disclaimer done I have to say I have been dismayed by what we have been hearing about fellow drivers and their general attitude attitude, not least to schools and school children.

Firstly, a colleague returned to work today nursing a broken rib and severely bruised arm following a road rage incident on the M11. He admits he cut up another driver when changing lanes from 3 to 2 but it wasn't serious, well at least in his eyes. The other driver though differently and chased my colleague, eventually rear ending him at 65mph. When my colleague pulled over the other driver attacked him.

In the Telegraph this morning we read that a lolly-pop lady has been fitted with a camera to catch motorists putting children at risk:

Lollipop poles with in-built cameras will be used to trap drivers involved in dangerous and abusive behaviour.

The move comes after 1,400 such incidents were reported to council's throughout the country last year.

Dozens of patrol staff have required hospital treatment after being struck by vehicles and others have complained of regular intimidation.

And then the BBC carries a story about police needing to film the entrance of a school because of selfish drivers putting children at risk:
A car with a CCTV camera built into a periscope has begun patrolling outside schools amid concerns drivers are putting children at risk.

The high-tech camera is being used to deter parents from parking near school gates in Harrow, north-west London, after complaints from headteachers.

Are we so selfish and stressed that we can't forgive a minor infraction, wait for children to cross the road or park far enough away from a school gate?

Selfish and abusive behaviour like this should carry double the penalty and if it leads to injury you have to wonder why people should be allowed to drive.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

BP and Shell profits - twat comment of the day

Listening to a discussion on BP and Shell's profits at lunchtime I heard a comment that just about had me careering in to a bus I was so enraged. Some twat was arguing that the high taxes on petrol are protecting us from the price hikes. His argument goes something like:

We have very high taxes on fuel, unlike the Americans. So when we get a price rise of say 4p in a litre of fuel we hardly notice it because it is only a c.0.4% rise. However because Americans pay so little for their fuel a 4p rise is the equivalent of a 10% rise to them and so affects them more.

Where do the BBC find these idiots! I'm getting fleeced but its OK because it makes price rises seem lower, WTF are they on?

Comment of the year winner already?

Prodicus has picked up on this excellent comment on a Political betting post about a Comres poll giving the Tories a 14% lead:

I mean: WTF are Labour for? Are they for liberty - then why ID cards? Are they meant to help the poor? Then why abolish 10p tax rates? Are they for clean politics? Why cash-for-peerages?

Do they represent the working classes? Then why mass immigration, repressing low-skilled wages? Maybe they are the capitalist party? But then, why bail out Northern Rock?

Are they the europhile party? But why didn’t they join the euro? Maybe they are the democratic party. In which case, why didn’t they give us the referendum they promised on Europe? Perhaps they are the British party - yet they promoted Devolution. Could be they are the pacifist internationalist party - er, hold on, no, they invaded Iraq illegally and killed half a million.

Ah, I know, they believe in racial equality. Whoops, wait a minute - “British jobs for British workers”. Who said that?

Labour are a nothing party. They believe, literally, in nothing but their own careers. They are a busload of ugly, self-serving, slimy-faced shysters, they are a dish of cold sick in the canteen of Hell. They are moral bacteria.

Enough. We need a new lefty opposition. Time to give the Lib Dems a go, while the rightwing gets on with government.

Brilliant. Sean T, whoever you are mark the political awards date in your diary and if you don't get first prize you've been robbed.

Monday, April 28, 2008

On this day

in 1909, in a revolutionary budget, the British Chancellor David Lloyd George introduced a new 'supertax' of sixpence in the pound for anyone earning more than £5,000 a year. The new high level of supertax was to pay for old age pensions and re-armament of the forces.

Yet our current masters can't survive on 20p and higher. Bastards

"Best Internet Conspiracy Theory” Competition

The Statistician is running an competition to find the best Internet theory. Here is an example he made up:

Certain scientists discovered a formula, derived from an alien artifact dug up in Area 51, for turning ordinary sea water into limitless, cheap fuel. Green Energies, a subsidiary of, based in the World Trade Center was about to sell this discovery and eliminate Global Warming, when the Oil Companies learned of it. Big Oil contacted George Bush, who ordered the Twin Towers destroyed before the secret could get out. Ron Paul found out about this and was going to expose the entire matter had he won the Republican Nomination, which he would have done except the Mainstream Media ignored him

It should be fun so go and have a look and get you thinking caps on.

On this day

in 1772, the world's most travelled goat died in London. She had circumnavigated the world twice, first on Dolphin under Captain Wallis, then on Cook's Endeavour. The Lord of the Admiralty signed a document acknowledging her age and adventures, but she died soon after.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

On this day

in 1968, Simon & Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson" was released. Now I know I'm getting old as I remember buying the single to put on the juke box in my father's pub.

Political Thriller?

Searching amazon for a few books to take on holiday in early June I decided to search "Political Thriller" and go the following return:

Saturday, April 26, 2008

On this day

in 1975, Labour Party members voted by almost 2-1 to leave the EEC, underlining the deep divisions over the issue of Europe.

Labour stayed anti EU to well in to the 80's and I'm convinced only became pre-EU because Maggie was an EU Skeptic and had many a pitched battle with them.

Misleading headlines (1)

I don't buy a paper but I often see them lying round and will pick them up if there as an eye catching headline. By eye catching I mean a topic of interest as opposed to some clever play on words.

Anyway, walking through the golf club this morning this Times headline really caught my eye:

Banks pull the plug on buy-to-let landlords

This could be very serious I thought. If they are going to foreclose buy-to-let mortgages there's going to be a flood of property on the market, depressed prices all round. This could be very good for first time buyers and I may be able to pick up a couple of cheap properties at the start of a new BTL cycle. So over I strolled to read the article:
The era of the amateur landlord has all but ended, with banks effectively refusing to lend to new entrants to the buy-to-let market.

Thousands of existing landlords also face huge increases in the cost of remortgaging, experts said yesterday.

So in reality BTL owners are going to be treated the same as anyone else with mortgages and face the cold wind of higher interest rates.

Not quite what the headline implied.

Friday, April 25, 2008

On this day - Falklands

The mood is changing as we head south, well as we head all over the place really. We are on emcon which means that there is no electronic communication and only a minimum of radar from the ships on the periphery of the task force which are guarding us. We have been practicing action station and anti Exocet drills. The scary partis that as embarked forces all we can do is return to our cabins and site, with 24 (or so) other souls and wait for things to happen. That is scary.

Despite all the efforts to get organised on Ascension Island one of our Landrovers is on another ship. This is one of our jammers that hasn't been fully built and commissioned and I have to get there to build it so it can be made operational quickly when we land. I am trying to hitch a lift on the Helicopter Dispatch Service but as the weather is closing in an d the sea getting lumpy they are frequently cancelled.

Meanwhile in the outside world its starting to look like the inevitable will happen as also on this day:

A small British commando force re-takes the Georgia Island. The Argentine submarine ``Santa Fe'' is attacked and disabled. The commander of the Argentine forces on the island, Captain Largos, signs an unconditional surrender document on board the British HMS Antrim. The notorious Alfredo Astiz, who is at the time, a Lieutenant Commander in charge of a small party based in Stromness surrenders with his company and signs an unconditional surrender document on board the British HMS Plymouth without firing a single shot violating the military code's article 751:
"A soldier will be condemned to prison for three to five years if, in combat with a foreign enemy, he surrenders without having exhausted his supply of ammunition or without having lost two thirds of the men under his command."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Today's St George's day poem from a Scotsman

Only the BBC would think about commissioning a St George's day poem from a Scotsman. I heard it this evening and found it quite amusing, although I tend to have a bit of a thick skin for these things:

Once more unto the breach, dear Morris Dancers
once more
Jingle your bells, thwack sticks, raise flagons
Cry “God for Harry and Saint George!”
Gallant knight and slayer of dragons
Patron saint of merry England –
And Georgia, and Catalonia, and Portugal, Beirut, Moscow
Istanbul, Germany, Greece
Archers, farmers, boy scouts, butchers and sufferers of
Multicultural icon with sword and codpiece
On, on you bullet-headed saxon sons
Fly flags from white van and cab
But remember stout yeomen, your champion was Turkish
So – get drunk and have a kebab

Fair enough you might think, but can you imagine the howls from over the border if they had commissioned an Englishman to write a disparaging poem about St Andrew or the Bonnie Prince?

They do have a strange view on life at the beeb.

On this day

in 1932, a mass trespass by thousands of ramblers took place on Kinder Scout in the Peak District. Their aim was to establish public right of access on the moors and mountains that were privately owned for grouse shooting.

A very noble cause that suffered the law of unintended consequences as Tim Worstall explains here:

It is perhaps ironic then that the birthplace of the rambling revolution is falling victim to the ramblers themselves. Millions of footfalls have contributed to such horrific erosion that conservationists are now fighting a desperate battle to save this iconic spot

So that's the consequence of a free for all policy, also known as the Tragedy of the Commons. As Tim Says:
Put simply, open access to a resource is just fine. Marxian access, as it is called, works wonderfully:people who need something, like a bracing walk over the peat, can do so and there's no problem at all. Until, until, a certain point is reached. That point being when demand for the resource outstrips the supply of the resource. Now here we're only talking about horny handed sons of toil going all Fotherington-Thomas on us and uttering kagouled "Hullo clouds, Hullo sky"s as they bunk off making whippet flanges but exactly the same problem is behind most environmental problems, fisheries, pollution, climate change and so on.

Do go and read the whole piece, it's a very intersting.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Fuel poverty

Who decided on the level? I've been sat on the car driving out of London listening to some woman demanding special rates (social rates) for the fuel poor and started to get really pissed of with her and her sense of entitlement to pick my pocket.

Isn't this also another way of strengthening the "poverty trap"? We already hear of marginal tax rates of up to 9-% for those coming off benefits, if we add losing cheap fuel and any other benefits they get - bus passes, free sports membership to name two in my area - aren't we in danger of making it impossible for people to get out of the poverty trap?

On this day

in 1348, the Order of the Garter was formed

The Most Noble Order of the Garter is an order of chivalry, or knighthood, originating in medieval England, and presently bestowed on recipients in any of the Commonwealth realms; it is the pinnacle of the honours system in the United Kingdom. Membership in the order is limited to the sovereign, the Prince of Wales, and no more than twenty-four members, or Companions; the order also comprises Supernumerary knights and ladies (e.g., members of the British Royal Family and foreign monarchs).

Complete history

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The real reson why Gordon removed the 10p limit

There has been a lot of noise about why Gordon really removed the 10p tax threshold and reduced the 22p one to 20p, most of it revolving around his need to grandstand. This explanation by Phil A of Critical Faculty Dojo is by far the most plausible as it involves our old friend "relative" poverty and what's more he spotted what would happen nearly a year ago:

Before Gordon's last budget there was much rending of clothes and gnashing of teeth over ‘Child Poverty’. New Labour had foolishly promised (though why breaking some promises should bother them more than others is not clear) to halve child poverty in Britain by 2010 - and there was no way they were going to meet that target.

That NuLab, especially TB, love making headline catching promises without having a clue how to deliver is nothing new, but when it comes to children there really is nowhere to hide in the modern world. The problem with this one was that for some reason we only talk about relative poverty:
Now New-labour were presumably too stupid to realise this is effectively impossible when they set this target. But because of the way the formula is calculated ‘Child Poverty’ is defined by a moving set of goalposts. If you were to somehow magically increase the household incomes of all families, every single one, who fall within the definition at midnight on Sunday - and then re run the figures the poverty line would have increased and you would still have children living in ‘poverty’. You can do the sums for yourself if you care to.

I think most people with half a brain cell had worked that one out and bloggers have been ripping in to it for some time.

So now comes the old sleight of hand:
So what has this to do with the abolition of the 10p tax band? Well there is one way of getting a temporary boost to the child poverty figures. It is a matter of percentages. If you take from the really poor who it would take a lot of cash to lift out of actual poverty and give that to those who are not so badly off just below the ‘poverty’ line and only need a little to lift them out, then you can keep the goal posts more-or-less where they are and improve the figures no end. It works especially well if you mostly just take from those poor who have no children.

Gordon may be many things, mendacious, cowardly, traitorous, venal, pick your favourite, but he isn't stupid and I think there is more than a kernel of truth in Phil's next comment:
One suspects it is far from a coincidence that Gordon Brown, knowing he would be judged on New Labour's rash promises on ‘Child Poverty’ decided to do the one thing that could easily improve his figures and might be made to look like a tax cut. Rather like a magician drawing your attention to his right hand whist his left does the real trick.

So it looks suspiciously like just another, albeit particularly dodgy, case of New Labour manipulating figures to pretend to be accomplishing something.

I think I can agree with Phil's analysis and until someone comes up with a better motive then this one works for me.

Desktop Meme

I have been tagged by Vindico with the desktop meme. I am working from home today so its a bit more interesting as we have a very strict clear desk policy because the office is tight for space.

I plug my laptop in to the desktop monitor so I effectively have 2 screens, which I find very useful for doing presentations and spreadsheets, as well as blogging. The bits underneath the light and the fountain of papers above belong to The Great Wiseone, the rest of the books are mine and are generally Telecoms and IT from my consulting days. Now I just learn direct from the web - great innovation for consultants.

The shield is from HMS Fearless and a memento of my return from the Falklands. The skewiff picture next to it is our wedding photo.

The HTML and CSS books are there because I am trying to fix The Great Wiseone's web site which doesn't work well with Safari and FireFox - if anyone has any ideas please feel free to send me advice.

Well, I had better get on with work as someone is chasing me on Skype.

I tag:

The Bystander
William M Briggs, Statistician
Phil A, Critical Faculty Dojo

Competition states bleedin obvious on BAA monopoly

Following months of expensive research and deliberations we get this stunning conclusion:

BAA's ownership of seven UK airports "may not be serving well the interests of either airlines or passengers", the Competition Commission has said.

The commission's "emerging thinking" report said that BAA, "dominates the airports markets in the south-east of England and in lowland Scotland".

No shit, Sherlock. We needed some of the best brains around to tell us this? All they needed to do was travel through any airport and have a chat with a few business travellers.
Its next report in August may call on BAA to sell one or more airports.

August? WTF is it taking that long? I know its a difficult subject as it could be argued each airport is a natural monopoly, OK you could argue each terminal is a seprate business, but owning most of the airports in and around London certainly isn't. This problem has been around for some time and surely there is a lot of research already and plenty of ideas around of what to do with it?

A brief look at the history of BAA tells the sad story:
1965: Labour minister, Roy Jenkins, introduced the Airports Authority Bill. It was intended to make the nation’s airports more flexible and able to generate profits – while remaining responsible to Parliament. The British Airports Authority was established.

Roy Jenkin's was involved in it birth, enough said. Note the remaining responsible to Parliament bit, for those not around at the time this was code for we'll tell them what to do and make sure decisions benefit our party/constituents and fuck the idea of business efficiency. And just to make sure they had real control:
1966: The British Airports Authority assumes ownership and responsibility for Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Prestwick airports.

1971 – 75: The British Airports Authority acquires Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow airports.

That is a sorry reflection of the nature of politics of the 60's and 70's. Its very sad that Maggie didn't even break it up, although she did at least privatise it, which did at least make it a bit more efficient.

On this day

in 1778, James Hargreaves, the English inventor of the spinning jenny died. After he had begun to sell the machines to help support his large family, hand spinners, fearing unemployment, broke into his house and destroyed a number of jennies, causing Hargreaves to move from Blackburn to Nottingham in 1768.

Its a constant battle to demonstrate that innovation and improvements in efficiency benefit us all. I'll bet Tim Worstall has a name for it with reference to some academic piece, most likely in Wealth of Nations, but I am stuck with observation and experience. However you describe it, it is hard to argue that those who would have us still hand spinning to protect their jobs were right.

What we really need is for the EU to realise that protectionism benefits the few at the expense of the many, both within and without the EU, and get it to remove CAP and other trade barriers so everyone can benefit from innovation and trade.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Is negative equity a big problem?

I don't thinks so. There may be a huge psychological problem because of the scars the the 1990's house price crash, but this time is very different and as long as people don't panic they should be OK.

Then we had high interest rates and a deep recession. I remember getting in to my car on black Wednesday (or is it good Wednesday?) and hearing the news announce 15% interest rates and feeling numb - I had a reasonably paid job, a relatively low mortgage (I never borrow more than 2.5x salary) and I was going to struggle so how would the unemployed cope.

This time it is different and without wanting to sound like a NuLab supporter interests rates are lower and unemployment is relatively low. All people have to do is hang on and the market will turn back up, no matter how low it goes.

Building societies may not like it but they won't throw someone out for being in negative equity. It will be a problem for those who need to move for, say, work reasons, maybe they will have to live away during the week, not nice but doable. For those who do lose their jabs life will be very tough, but we do have a welfare state. For those coming off fixed rate mortgages there will be the shock of new higher payments, but they should have been budgeting for the new payments.

The only reason why negative equity is a problem is the perception of wealth. We have got used to getting richer without doing anything other than check the latest price of our house every couple of months. Well that has come to an end for a while so we just need new a new mindset of accepting a house is a home for living in, not a free pension.

Banks should not accept the Government’s Money

The Bank of England has announced details of a £50bn plan to help prevent the credit crisis causing more damage to the UK banking system and economy.

Banks will be able to swap potentially risky mortgage debts for secure government bonds to enable them to operate during the credit squeeze.

Leaving aside whether or not the £50bn should be on offer and that it's our money anyway, there is a very good reason why the banks shouldn't accept this money and shareholders should sort it out themselves – the next time banks are making a tidy sum and announcing huge profits the Government will have a legitimate excuse to impose windfall or other capricious taxes. No doubt they will then waste the money on some useless pet projects

Human rights, animal rights and now plant rights

Having worked in Switzerland they never struck me as being ultra greens:

Swiss experts say plants have rights too
Plants need protection from maltreatment and pollution, government experts said on Monday.
A report by the government-appointed Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology (ECNH) described interfering with plants without a valid reason as "morally inadmissible".

H/T Matt Briggs, Statistician

On this day

1926, Queen Elizabeth II was born. Radio 4 announced this and played the National Anthem just before the 7am news. It all seemed rather quaint and old fashioned, which I found comforting I must be getting old.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Protection against construction industry fraud

This is unbelievable:

Construction cartel 'may have cost taxpayer £300 million'
Taxpayers may have lost more than £300 million pounds through alleged bid-rigging to build schools, hospitals and universities by some of the country’s biggest construction firms it has emerged.

Balfour Beatty is among the 112 companies accused of bid-rigging
In one of the biggest investigations ever carried out by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), investigators outlined 240 alleged cases in contracts totalling more than £3 billion.

Watt Tyler on Burning our Money provides his usual forensic analysis of the problem:
The only real surprise over all those contractors rigging their bids for public sector work is that anyone should be surprised. The construction industry has never been famed for fastidious business practices, which is why sensible informed buyers always take a great deal of care to ensure they're not being ripped off. Caveat emptor, my son, caveat emptor.

Quite. But what is really galling is that it isn't difficult to protect yourself against this type of fraud. We commission building work, admittedly not on this scale, but in the order of 10's of '0000's per project. To protect ourselves we employ a consulting company that has all market rates for construction work, including the latest prices of all work, equipment and goods, down to individual nuts and bolts. It costs us a few hundred pounds at most.

By all means lets throw the book at those who who have benefited from any fraud that is proved, but at the same time lets not forget those whose gross negligence allowed it to happen.

Curbing the Crap Artists

I've been very busy this past week or so and whilst I have done a bit of reading but as I was in London on Wednesday and managed to get to the Curbing the Crap Artists blogger's event organised by the ASI:

The date is Wednesday April 16th, and the bloggers are out in strength at
the Adam Smith Institute. The evening's theme is "Curbing the Crap Artists,"
with three top line bloggers to show how. Tim Worstall will speak on curbing the
crap journalists. Guido Fawkes will tell us how to curb the crap politicians,
and Samizdata's Perry de Havilland will lay into the crap business models

It was the first political event I have been to since I was about 18, 33 years ago, and I really enjoyed it. All three bloggers spoke well and kept to their allotted time of 10 minutes. All had amusing anecdotes whilst getting across the main thrusts of their blogs.

I had a quick chat with Tim who I wanted to thank for the educational value of his blog. I have always had a bit more than a passing interest in economics but having left school at 15 never really had the chance to think about it too much. Tim is just as intersting and enthusaistic as his blog suggests. I also got to thank DK* for enlightening me about my true politics although that was as I was leaving. I have always believed in personal responsibility, small state and leaving people alone. I knew I was a Liberal or LibDem because they interfere in my life too much for my liking. Now I know its called Libertarianism and I know the difference between classical liberal and left liberal.

It was also heartening to see so many young people there and that everyone looked fairly normal, despite what the left would have us believe about the blogosphere being inhabited by swivel-eyed right wing nutters. Indeed it was quite the opposite and I had some interesting chats with quite a few fun loving people who were very well balanced.

If they ever do anything similar make an effort to get there and not just for the free booze.

*I would jjoin LPUK as DK suggests but I don't have time and I am one of those people who gets to involved and always ends up on committees. Perhaps when I retire.

Changing my mind on taxing the poor

I have been following the debate on the 10p rate of income tax with a huge amount of schadenfreude and Nu Labour's embarrassment at this one. I wasn't blogging lat year but I remember thinking when Brown announced it that this was just another piece of Labour grandstanding and a waste of money because of the increased bureaucracy.

I have always been a great believer in a simple tax system and that the beast way to help the poor is to raise the starting rate of tax to something like £15k (about 60% of median salary). However I started to change my mind reading through some of the comments on Tim Worstall's site and especially this one from dearieme:

dearieme // Apr 18, 2008 at 11:31 am

Why do people who don’t pay income tax get to vote?

On reflection I think this is a really good point and its one I have always felt was a problem with the NHS*. It was the one made against the old rating system where only private housing paid rates (not strictly true but because council tenants paid it in their rent as one figure they didn't link the 2). This was thought to skew local election voting and needed to be changed. Sadly the change was fucked up and we got the "poll tax", but that's not the point of this thread.

I don't want to get in to the Citizens Basic Income argument here because, much as I think there is a case for it, I don't think it will happen and even if it did MP's would soon tinker benefits back in. What I am now starting to think about is maybe an even lower tax band, say 5%, paid on all earnings. We would probably need 2 other tax levels, say 25% above the median wage and then 45% above about £100k. These numbers need working through and I am aware that there are still problems with marginal tax rates and at the boundary, but no system is perfect. It should, though, help with the real problem we have now of huge marginal tax rates, approaching 70%, for those coming off benefits.

* too many people don't value things that are free, which is why there is so much abuse of the NHS and especailly 999 services. I reckon we need to give people an invoice for the true value of any service and where possible make people pay a smal , say, 15% capped at £100, with pensioners and other on benefit having there's stamped "Paid by te Tax payer".

On this day - Falklands

Well on or about this day as I can't find the exact date that our time on Ascension island came to an end and we set off on the final leg of the journey.

The time on Ascension had been relatively quiet, even boring. My only memories of not were a fight in one of the clubs between 2 junior officers (one RAF and one Navy). As this was a civilian club and was witnessed by the other ranks it turned out to be quite embarrassing for the top brass. In true military style and to save embarrassment the military arranged for the club to be officers only and posted a military policeman outside to stop the rest of us going on.

After that we were confined to the USA servicemen's club, which was OK except we had to use US currency. Whilst sitting outside one afternoon a helicopter (one of many) dropped its under-slung load from about 500ft. When it landed the box burst open and about 100 tin hats flew in to the air like a huge fountain. Fortunately it wasn't an are where people were likely to be.

So it was on to Sir Tristan, a troop carrier, and now a major change of mindset. The politicians kept talking but it was getting harder to see a peaceful resolution neither national leaders could back down.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

On this day

in 1969, Bernadette Devlin, 21, was voted in as Britain's youngest ever female MP and the country's third youngest ever.

Devlin was studying Psychology at Queen's University Belfast in 1968 when she took a prominent role in a student-led civil rights political party called People's Democracy. She opposed James Chichester-Clark in the Northern Ireland general election of 1969. When George Forrest, the MP for Mid Ulster, died, she fought the subsequent by-election on the "Unity" ticket, defeating a female Unionist candidate, Forrest's widow Anna, and was elected to the Westminster Parliament. At the age of 21, she was the youngest MP at the time. She stood on the slogan "I will take my seat and fight for your rights" – signalling her rejection of the traditional Irish republican tactic of abstentionism (being absent from Westminster). She made her maiden speech on her 22nd birthday, rather unconventionally within an hour of taking her seat.

People tend to forget that Catholics had a genuine civil rights grievance in NI as they were treated like second class citizens. Protestants had all the best jobs, especially in local Government and used their position to ensure Catholic housing and other services weren't as good as that for Protestants.

Under successive Unionist Prime Ministers from Sir James Craig (later Lord Craigavon) onwards, the unionist establishment practiced what is generally considered a policy of discrimination against the nationalist/Catholic minority.

A pattern of discrimination has most firmly and inarguably been established in the case of local government,[7] where gerrymandered ward boundaries rigged local government elections to ensure unionist control of local councils with nationalist majorities. In a number of cases, most prominently those of the Corporation of Londonderry, Omagh Urban District, and Fermanagh County Council, ward boundaries were drawn to place as many Catholics as possible into wards with overwhelming nationalist majorities while other wards were created where unionists had small but secure majorities, maximising unionist representation. This process was greatly facilitated by the use of bloc voting to elect local councillors in most areas outside Belfast.

Voting arrangements which gave commercial companies votes and restricted the vote to property owners, primary tenants and their spouses also helped achieve similar ends. Disputes over local government gerrymandering were at the heart of the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

In addition, there was widespread discrimination in employment, particularly at senior levels of the public sector and in certain sectors of the economy, such as shipbuilding and heavy engineering. Emigration to seek employment was significantly more prevalent among the Catholic population. As a result, Northern Ireland's demography shifted further in favour of Protestants leaving their ascendancy seemingly impregnable by the late 1950s.

Yes I know this is a Wiki entry and open to dispute but there are other sources and Wiki does tend to write in an easily digestible style

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

On this day

in 1918 Spike Milligan, English comedian and writer was born.

Well done that man

Sitting on the train in to London the person behind me put their ear plugs in and turned up the volume. As we all know that is extremely irritating. After about 2 minutes I was just about to crack and ask them to turn it down when someone else stepped and beat to me to it. To be fair the person did turn it down without argument.

I reckon the problem is that those using portable devices don't realise how loud they are and therefore need to be told when it is intrusive to others. .


PS I use and iPod but most of the time it is the spoken word but if it is too loud I would like to be told.

Pensions and Inheritence Tax

I've just been (half) listening to an argument on Radio 5 Live's Wake Up To Money in which life expectancy and pensions were discussed. It seems that anyone over the age of 50 (?) now has a 50% chance of living to the age of 90. This is good news for those who do, especially if they are reasonably fit and healthy for most of the time.

The problem seems to be that very few people have the pension savings to allow them to fund living that long and they will become an increasing burden on the state, by which they mean the rest of the working population. This problem is exacerbated by the change in demography that means in a couple of years time there will be more pensioners than children.

Despite exhortations from our politicians with their gold plated politicians to save more the situation is getting worse with fewer people planning for their retirement as this article notes:

Other figures published by the ONS show that active membership of private pension schemes has continued to decline among men, but fell at a much slower rate among women.

From 1999-2000 to 2005-06, the proportion of working age men who were members of any scheme fell from 49% to 43% at just 7.6 million.

Although 6.2 million women were members, they represented 37% of working age women, down from 38% six years earlier.

There are many reasons why people aren't planning adequately for the retirement but I reckon there are 2 key ones:

Moral Hazard Why should people save if they know the state will bail them out? Whilst the state pension may be small there are means tested benefits that mean pensioners aren't destitute. Now this may not be much when you get there there but for younger people there is a belief that the state will provide. Why should someone forgo expensive holidays, cars, nice house, a good pissup every weekend and all the other trappings of consumer life if the Government will bail them out anyway? Indeed it makes those who do forgo these experiences seem pretty stupid. Which leads quite nicely to the second:

Inheritance Tax Who know how long we need to save for? So if we do save what happens to our money if we die early? Well as we all know the State thinks it owns a huge part of it and will help itself to what it likes. Over the years they have helped themselves to ever increasing proportions of that money rather than allow us to pass it on to our children.

Yes I know this is a very complicated subject and I could be writing all day, but unless we address these 2 problems there is no way that we will be able to get more people saving adequate amounts for their retirement.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

On this day

in 1945, British troops entered the Belsen concentration camp after negotiating a truce with the German commandant. Soldiers found piles of dead and rotting corpses and thousands of sick and starving prisoners.

I lived in Celle, about 20km from there in the 80's and visited Belsen a few times. It is an eerie place and certainly makes you reflect on what happened there. It is said that no birds next in the area and very few fly over it and I wasn't aware of of any bird noise.

As the memory fades and fewer people remember what happened first hand it is important that places like Belsen are preserved and we we are reminded of them, often. Not just because of what happened to millions of Jews, but because of how it demonstrated how easy it is for mans savagery to rise to the surface and destroy our sense of humanity.

I know there have been similar cases of genocide which don't rate anywhere near the profile of the Holocaust, Pol Pot, Stalin, Mao, to name but a few, but that shouldn't stop these places and events being remembered.

Cameron on Radio 5

I caught part of the programme with him being interviewed on Radio 5 this morning and was reasonably impressed. I still think he his trying to out Blair Blair instead of developing his own style and personality, but he is growing in to the job.

I was quite impressed that he refused to make himself a hostage to fortune by making rash pledges now, even on soft topics like reintroducing the 10p tax rate. I missed the bit when he took EU comments and would be interested to know how he got on in that section, although I suspect he was quite woolly.

Although I have voted Tory most of my life and even held my nose in 1997 and voted for them I was getting disillusioned with them, I still am though, but I might change my mind if he continues to show promise. I also have a good Tory MP in David Liddington, which also sways me that way. Still, a long time to go and lats of water and bridges as they say.

Berlusconi 'wins' Italy election

Its been intersting listening to the beeb report Berlusconi's win. Last night he was "the right wing billionaire", this morning he is the "conservative billionaire", pejorative terms that show more about their disapproval of the stupid Italians than reporting facts. There was also reference to his TV and media empire, no doubt implying that he somehow bought the election by having unfair media exposure.

I find Berlusconi a bit of an odd ball but he has character and may at least liven up Italy's politics, he also has the knack of winding up the EU, which can only be a good thing. I wish him well, he can't do worse than the Prodi and the left, which have failed Italy and Italians yet again.

Another nail in the cimate alarmist coffin

Climate alarmists dismiss any research and data that challenges their pet positive feedback claims as being from non climate scientists and therefore not worthy. Well this research should be harder to dismiss:

Dr. Roy Spencer, a principal research scientist in UAHuntsville's Earth System Science Center

He has been researching clouds and their role in positive feedback and seems like someone who should know a bit about climate and how it works, or doesn't work as the case may be. Whats more, he appears to be an open minded researcher who has looked at the latest data and decided that his original assumptions were wrong.

For those who haven't been able to keep up with the climate debate nobody disputes that CO2 is a warming gas, the problem, for climate alarmists is that it will only cause, at most, 1deg of warming for each doubling, and even that is being challenged. In order to make their wilder claims that allow them to control our lives climate alarmists need positive feedback in the climate. Climate modellers have built this in to their models by claiming that as the climate warms we get a build up of clouds, which in turn causes more warming.

Unfortunately for climate alarmists Dr Spencer's research doesn't support this theory:
"All leading climate models forecast that as the atmosphere warms there should be an increase in high altitude cirrus clouds, which would amplify any warming caused by man made greenhouse gases," he said. "That amplification is a positive feedback. What we found in month-to-month fluctuations of the tropical climate system was a strongly negative feedback. As the tropical atmosphere warms, cirrus clouds decrease. That allows more infrared heat to escape from the atmosphere to outer space."

Note that is a strongly negative feedback; this may even mean that the increase in temperature of 1 deg for each doubling of CO2 may be too high.

And just to add insult to injury for climate alarmists Dr Spencer is no lone maverick, as the alarmists often claim:
The results of this research were published today in the American Geophysical Union's "Geophysical Research Letters" on-line edition. The paper was co-authored by UAHuntsville's Dr. John R. Christy and Dr. W. Danny Braswell, and Dr. Justin Hnilo of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, CA.

If you read the report you will see that there is still some uncertainty of what this means and that the results of the research still need to be modelled, but that is part of the scientific process followed by those with open minds. However, this latest data is another step in calming the wildest claims and hopefully starting a grown up debate on what is really happening, but I won't hold my breath.

H/t Climate Science

Monday, April 14, 2008

On this day

in 1989, police in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, revealed that violent prisoners were being put into a bright pink cell which seemed to have a calming effect. The colour was named Baker-Miller Pink after the police chief and psychologist who thought up the idea.

Dr. Alexander Schauss, Ph.D., director of the American Institute for Biosocial Research in Tacoma Washington, was the first to report the suppression of angry, antagonistic, and anxiety ridden behavior among prisoners: "Even if a person tries to be angry or aggressive in the presence of pink, he can't. The heart muscles can’t race fast enough. It’s a tranquilizing color that saps your energy. Even the color-blind are tranquilized by pink rooms."

Ther must be something in this pink thing as I remember reading about a Texas Sherriff who makes inmates wear pink :
For some, it may be a sign that prison life has become too cushy. For others, it represents the ultimate humiliation as the final shred of dignity is stripped away.
At a county jail in Texas - maximum capacity four males and one female - inmates are dressed in pink jumpsuits. They sleep on pink sheets and wear pink slippers. Even the walls and the bars of the cells are painted pink.

"I wanted to stop reoffenders," the sheriff of Mason County, Clint Low, told the Associated Press. "They don't want to wear them. Working inmates get a choice to work outside or sit inside, and some choose to sit inside because they don't want people to see them. They would rather stay upstairs."

The tactic seems to be working, although it has had an adverse effect on the prison's policy of using inmates for community labour. "I'm not going outside in these things," said one inmate at the ageing jail. "It's a good deterrent because I don't want to wear them any more."

Maybe they should start painting some of the violent areas of our inner cities pink?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

On this day

in 1992, Neil Kinnock resigned as Labour Party leaiel
der. He blamed the Conservative backed press for his party's defeat at the general election.

No, it was because he is a Wlesh windbag and a twat to go with it. Anyone who didn't know that before the infamous Sheffield rally soon realised when the saw the "we're all right" bit. It's about 1:40 in to this if you can stomach it:

Saturday, April 12, 2008

On this day - Falklands

After a weekend at Lympstone it was time to set of to join the task force which had left in a bit of a rush. Whilst it had been a good move politically to dispatch the task force as soon as possible it wasn't necessarily the best move militarily. Equipment and troops had been loaded on the nearest ship, with troops not always being on the same one as their kit.

We had spent the Easter weekend trying to buy decent equipment - rucksacks, sleeping bags, waterproofs and other bits and pieces. The armed forces have always provided their own kit on the basis that equipment supplied is barely functional, cheap and designed by someone who has never left a warm office*.

We were heading for Ascension Island where we would meet our equipment which was already on a ship, but nobody was sure which one. Our journey was going to be by Hercules via Gibraltar and Senegal for refueling. We shared the plane with members of 8901 Naval Platoon, you may remember them as the guys who were on Stanley when the Argentinians invaded. They were quiet and didn't talk much but our Marines did get from them that they were pretty determined to make amends, not that anyone blames them.

On Gibraltar we went to the cook house to get a bite to eat and wait for the plane to get clearance for the next leg to Senegal. There was a function on in one of the rooms and everyone was having fun whilst we looked on through the windows like some modern day Oliver.

Senegal was just a refueling and quick smoke break and on to Ascension. We landed amidst utter chaos, helicopters, truck and land rovers whizzing all over the place like demented ants. We spent the first night sleeping in the ammo compound whilst the boss went off to find someone in authority who knew what we were supposed to be doing.

*When I was at the School of Signals we did invite equipment designers to a yearly day out where we would dress them in full NBC equipment and ask them to operate their equipment. We had one guy who had designed a radio that had a very noisy fan so we locked him in the vehicle with it running for 2 hours, he soon got the message.

Friday, April 11, 2008

BAe, Sausdi's and the public interest

I don't know enough about this case to know whether BAe did or didn't bribe Saudi officials to win the contract. Having worked in Asia I do know that sometimes we have a different understanding of "commissions" than some countries do, but that's by the by.

What I do know is that I don't trust these NuLabour bastards to know what's in the public interest and I have good reason for my cynicism. During the run up to Gulf War 2 I had many a lively discussion with the sprog about the rights and wrongs of deposing Saddam and the roles of WMD. As we didn't have all the facts all I could say to him was that in the end there are times when we have to trust our politicians to rise above politics and do what is right. We have to trust them and their advisers to make the right call with the facts they have, and accept we can't publicise the intelligence.

Its not that the sprog was right that infuriated me, it was, as you all know, the way public opinion was manipulated by the "45 minute" insinuations. My contempt is doubled because they didn't even have a plan to win the peace.

So when I am told to accept that political interference to curtail a legitimate criminal investigation is in the public interest I have only one comment - fuck off, you've lost my trust and have nothing since to earn it back.

If we must have public funded TV

I have a better idea than those being suggested. Firstly, privatise the BBC and make it, like all TV stations, bid for the money on offer, why should they have a special position?

What we need is a committee of dedicated, well paid, people to adminster the fund and ensure the money is used in the public interest. I am willing to make the ultimate sacrifice and let my name be accepted for the the role of very well paid plus lots of expenses Chairman. I will be scrupuosly fair and ensure that my favourite sports worthy programmes are heavily subsidised sponsored.

As part of the deal I will make sure that my favourite sports worthy programmes are shown at a time to suit me time that ensure maximum access. Furthermore, I will ensure that the committee is stuffed with my mates well balanced and represents all our interests and that we get lots of jollies to favourite events minority interests.

On this day

in 1996, forty-three African nations signed the African Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty.

They had obviusly decided that the were killing enough of their own people without the help of nuclear bombs.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Daily Mail stole 45 minutes of my life

Returning through T4 yesterday the queue for immigration was horrendous and it too 45 minutes to get through it. This is my first time through T4 for a few years and it was never like this, in fact the only wait I remember was when we got to immigration before immigration opened and even then it was only 2 mins.


So why do I blame the DM? Well it their campaign that has led to this nonsense of checking, double checking and even triple checking every passport and questioning around 30% of people from what I saw. All this in the vain hope of stopping illegal immigrants "swamping" our country. Has as been pointed out most of the "foreigners" who are in our country are perfectly legal, and perfectly welcome AFAIAC, as they come from the EU.

I would love to see a cost benefit analysis from all these extra controls and immigration officers but can't find one, which makes me suspect the benefit is negative. Until then I will consider the efforts of the rabble rousing DM to have caused these extra queues which meant I lost 45 minutes of my life

On this day

in 1633, bananas went on display in Thomas Johnson's shop window in London. This was the first time the fruit had been seen in Britain.

No worries about food miles then!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Personal hypocrisy, Brown, China and the Olympics

Like most of the blogosphere I was appalled to see Chinese goons running round the streets of London and even in Downing Street. It was such a newsworthy event it even made the English language newspapers in Riyadh although they didn't mention the reasons for the demonstrations. I am sympathetic to the cause of the Tibetan's and other oppressed people in China, but have worked there on a number of occasions. I believe that parts of the ME are even more oppressive, at least the Chinese want to increase wealth through free trade, especially the country I have just left. I have worked in Asia where some of the most corrupt regimes in the world raped their populations and salted away billons of $'s, leaving the vast majority of the populations in poverty if not down right destitute.

I hate all these regimes and would if I could free the people to get on with improving their lives and wealth, in the same way that I and my ancestors have done I would. I would love to see democracy installed in these countries and I don't mean the excuses of democracy that some on the left seem to accept (Chavez, Castro anyone?) – there's no such thing as "Asian democracy" for example. Democracy is like pregnancy, you can't have a little bit of it. Yes I know about voting systems etc but what I am really driving at is the underlying principles that allow democracy to flourish – rule of law for all, especially politicians, property rights, politicians freely and peacefully giving up power when they lose.

These demos made me think about my own situation, again. So how do I square this with working in these areas? I like to think that by working in, and with, these regimes I am somehow helping to free the shackles. Working in telecoms I build mobile phone network that allow people to communicate, generate wealth and even organise against their rulers. Building ISP networks I am helping to spread freedom by allowing the people access to information so they can find out how corrupt their leaders are and that there is a better way. But in the end it's a fig leaf to salve my conscience, in the end I do it because I get paid a decent fee or salary, more than I would get working in a job in the UK and I just hope there is a spin off that benefits the people.

So I suppose that makes me a hypocrite? But at least I don't look and act like that scared rabbit in Downing Street who wants to bask in the reflected glory of the Olympics but hasn't the balls to tell the Chinese to fuck off and send their goons home, we can police our own streets, thank you. He hasn't even got the courage to emulate those who he writes about and either grab the torch and make a speech condemning oppression whilst holding it high or stay away and make a statement about boycotting the opening ceremony or making a similar empty gesture. If he wasn't going to do this why the fuck did we have those embarrassing pictures of Chinese goons running round London and the "photo op" in Downing Street?

But what's worse, if Brown is still there after the predicted debacle of the May elections we will get pictures of him smiling alongside our medal winners like some mad and deformed Cheshire cat. It makes me want to puke just thinking about it.

On this day - Falklands

In 1982, it was Good Friday and after a hectic day's packing it was off to join the Marines in Lympstone. It was a strange feeling as I remember – a cross between a jolly jape and a sense of foreboding that this really would turn in to a real war. The task force had set off, rather hastily, to a great deal of fanfare and jingoism and we felt like some sort of afterthought.

The journey was rather dull: car to Gutersloh, crab air to Brize Norton and mini-bus to Lympstone. It was early evening when we got there and met up with the rest of what was to become known as Yankee Troop. We were a motley crew of Royal Signals, Intelligence Corp and Marines. They were all good Marines wer good guys with specialist but, with the exception of Marines, that didn't really include soldering.

We were given an introduction to Navy life, the place was a "ship", and how a task force was organised. It was all good stuff and I remember being impressed when they told how good Sea Wolf and Sea Dart were, they forgot to add that this was the marketing video and not reality. We wrapped up the day with a bit of team building – aka as a good pissup.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

And so to home

Well, my first business trip to the ME is coming to an end and I have a tortuous journey back. From Riyadh to Dubai tonight, getting there about midnight. A few hours in a hotel and then a 9am flight landing at 2pm UK time. Don't let anyone tell you business travel is glamorous.

It's been interesting and the hospitality was fantastic and I'm sure I've put a few pounds on despite the lack of alcohol. It has also been educational and has reinforced some of my opinions which will be the subject of another post when I get a few minutes.

On this day - Falklands

in 1982 it was Maundy Thursday and for us the log weekend had started. I wasn't formally taking leave so couldn't leave Germany - as part of BAOR (British Army Of The Rhine) there had to be a certain level of forces and unless you had a formal leave pass you couldn't leave country. In truth I was preparing to get the train to Copenhagen for some sight seeing and maybe a visit to Lego Land.

I had just had breakfast and was sitting in the lounge having a cup coffee when my boss walked in and asked what I was planning. Obviously I couldn't admit my plans so mumbled something about not much. Anyway, it turns out than an Electronic Warfare troop was being put together as part of the Task Force, under the command of the Marines. I was a specialist in maintaining EW equipment I was being seconded to the troop, along with 2 of our best operators. We would be joining language and other experts at Lympstone, the home of the marines.

This was an informal discussion because I had to complete certain forms. We went to the Regimental HQ where the Adjutant and Chief Clerk were waiting. I was given life insurance forms to complete and sign and then formerly told that I was under orders for active service and would be flying to Lympstone the next morning.

Nobody seriously thought it would end in full blown was so it was all rather light hearted and I spent the rest of the day preparing equipment and packing.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Hunt down these deluded fools

The Guardian is reporting a YouGov poll carried out by the Telegraph:

The YouGov poll asked voters who they would choose from a list of politicians "at the peak of their powers" to be prime minister. Only 5% chose Brown

Who are these deluded fools, have they no brain?

Maybe this is why Brown is talking of constinutional changes - the new voting system will be limited to these idiots.

H/T Guido

The dumbing down of the MSM continues apace

Having a quick break from writing presentations I had a look at the beeb's news pages to see if anything new had happened and was appalled by this headline :

The 'tapas seven'
The central witnesses in the Madeleine McCann case ..

FFS, this is not some story created for sub editors to have a bit of fun trying to see who can come up with most eye catching pun, its a real story about about a missing girl and distraught parents.

Is there no story that the MSM can't reduce to the banal? Are we all so dumb now that we can't read serious news without some weak pun to attract us?

It wouldn't be so bad, although still unacceptable, if it was some commercial organisation needing click through to generate revenues.

On this day

in 1976, MP John Stonehouse resigned from the Labour Party, leaving James Callaghan's government in a minority of one. Stonehouse was accused of faking his own death, and also faced 18 charges of theft, forgery, attempted insurance frauds and conspiracy.

Our current crop of politicians won't have to worry about being arrested as they've legalised fraud, theft and banditry, calling it expenses.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

April snow, so what?

Occasionally the weather can even take a rather wintry turn during June. On the 2nd June 1975 snow fell in a number of places with midday temperatures held down at only 2°Celsius!

Then all the great and good were forecasting an ice age and anyone who challenged them was some sort of nutter.

On this day

in 1944 Pay As You Earn (PAYE) income tax was introduced into Britain. It was devised by Cornelius Gregg.

A simple measure that tidies things up nicely for bureaucrats* but which breaks the link between the taxed and those spending the money. Its surprising how many people only consider their take home pay and don't give a second though to how much they have been taxed and, more importantly, where that money goes and how efficiently it is used. I know it anecdotal but I would say, as a former employer and now senior manager dealing with pay and rations, that 90% of our workforce don't consider the tax element as part of their salary.

I suppose with our innumerate society a return to everyone filling out tax returns and sending a cheque once a year will never happen; but if it did I am sure there would be more holding MP's to account over Govt expenditure.

*I'm being generous and assuming it wasn't a deliberate step to separate tax and spend

Saturday, April 05, 2008

If climate models are so good

how come they don't model La Nina and El Nino?

Global temperatures for 2008 will be slightly cooler than last year as a result
of the cold La Nina current in the Pacific, UN meteorologists have said.
The World Meteorological Organization's secretary-general, Michel Jarraud, told the BBC it was likely that La Nina would continue into the summer.

They are, after all, well known phenomena. And if they can't predict these how can they make this statement:
and in a few years time we are confident that the current record temperature of 1998 will be beaten when the La Nina has ended

And yes i do understand the difference between weather and climate and long term trends. My point is that alarmists seem happy to use peaks like 2008, El Nino high? to make their point, yet when another phenomena is only a blip.

Max Mosely affair brings us some ugly insights in to our national attitudes

I am on a business trip in the ME and have been spared most of the prurient and hypocritical commentary about Mosely's shenanigans, thankfully. But I have heard enough to make me realise that Longrider has an excellent take on the whole subject. It is worth a full read but he sums up my view far better than I could:

Any suggestion that this is in the public interest is pure fantasy. It is not. What a public figure does in the privacy of their own home – or bordello – is no one’s business but theirs and the other participants; providing those activities take place between consenting adults. The wheeling out of the professional victim brigade to claim that Mosely’s “disgusting” and “perverted” activities were offensive to them would be laughable if so many stupid people didn’t take it so seriously.

What is really dispiriting is that should one of our politicians or other so called community leader stand up and make this point there will be howls of outrage and they will be pursued to the ends of the earth by the liberal media.

How did we get to this point where it is acceptable to spy on people's private lives and condemn activities between consenting adults, yet making a comment in support of their right to do it is tantamount to having I'm a paedophile tattooed on you forehead?

There's no wonder Brown can get away with his totalitarian moves to increase detention without trial, remove Coroners when it suits them, introduce ID cards and the attendant National Database etc.

On this day

in 1976, James Callaghan won the Labour leadership contest and took over at Number 10 Downing Street.

he was a geneial, bumbling, idiot who never led his party to a general election victory. Lets hope that Brown, a vindictive control freak, emulates him in having the embarrasment of never winning a popular vote.

Supreme irony

Zanu-PF accuses MDC of vote rigging (reported on BBC News 24 in ME)

EU calls on Mugabe to accept the will of the people

All said with a straight face

Friday, April 04, 2008

Shock, Horror, Some foreign nationals are cheating the nationality test

Was the headline on the 4pm radio 5 news.

Well, bugger me with a wet lettuce, I would never have imagined that would have happened.

Good news, sensible lending returns

and everyone focuses on first tome buyers, again:

The UK's largest mortgage lender, the Halifax, is targeting buyers who can
pay larger deposits.
It said new deals would see borrowers who put down a 25% deposit getting a deal with a lower rate than those with less money to put down.

Seems fair enough, lower risk gets better deal. Isn't that sensible lending?
But the highest loan-to-value (LTV) offer will be 95% from Monday, compared
with the previous high of 97%.

More sense returning then. Only lending to people who have shown they can save and that they can live without the money needed to make the repayments.

The squeeze on first-time buyers, who are often short of money to put down
as a deposit, echoes other lenders in the market.

First-time buyers must find at least 5% of a property's value for a deposit in deals being offered from Monday, rather than 3%.

Taking the average Land Registry house price of £185,616, that is an increase in the minimum deposit of a typical home from £5,568 to £9,280

Good. If you can't afford to save that much money then you shouldn't be considering taking out a mortgage of £185,616 that requires a repayment of c£1,300 per month (25 years repayment mortgage @7%). This is the sensible lending everyone has been asking for and all they are saying is that to get the mortgage all you have to do is save the equivalent amount for 6 months or so.

I really don't understand why the beeb is making such a fuss of this.

Procol Harum ruling is overturned

Its an arcane legal about a song that makes no sense; but who cares its an opportunity to listen and enjoy a real classic - or it would be if the ISP here would let me!

Brown to review last budget changes

Over 12 months after Brown's final budget he is now promising to review the income tax changes he made.

Gordon Brown has moved to quell a backbench revolt over the abolition
of the 10p income tax band amid fears it will hit some low-paid families. Mr
Brown has assured former Labour whip Greg Pope - who tabled a Commons motion calling for action - he will look again at the impact of the changes.

In his final Budget as Chancellor last year, Mr Brown paid for a 2p cut
in the basic rate - to 20p - by abolishing the 10p lower rate.

We're supposed to have some of the brightest minds in the treasury and Cabinet and 12 months after a budget when delayed measure is just about to be introduced we are told it will be reviewed.

The sooner we get a chance to throw out these useless bastards the better?

On this day

in 1934, Yorkshireman Percy Shaw laid the first "cats' eyes" along the centre of the road at an accident black spot near Bradford.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

In defence of BA and T5

Well sort of, its a rant about twats who comment when things go wrong

In time honoured tradition I will declare and interest ands say that I am regular BA passenger and have always been treated well. When consulting I was taking in the order of 30 flights a year, or maybe more at the peak, both long haul and short haul. I also had the advantage of travelling business class, which helps.

I was a bit dismayed to see the fuck up that happened at T5 because as a traveller I knew I would be affected, but listening to some of the vox pop comments and even those of so called experts has left me somewhat exasperated. As someone who has been involved in major projects I know all too well that it is the smallest things that catch you out.

Its amazing how many people with PhD's in Hindsight have been trotted out to say how they would have done it differently and they would have had practices. Did they really think that the PM's running the show didn't think of that - twats. As it happens they have been doing practices at T5 for over a year. Mind you the first ones were a mess.

I even heard one idiot who complaining that he was told that his baggage might not arrive and did he still want to travel? he did and his baggage didn't get there (as if this is something new). It then turns out that he put his laptop in the hold and had to buy a new one and was "going to take BA to the cleaners". Are people really that fucking stupid? I have never come across an airline that would make you check in a laptop.

I heard one person holding up the new HK airport as an example of how it should be done. I travelled through there 2 days after it opened and it was a real mess:

Three days after its much-trumpeted opening, Hong Kong's $20 billion airport
is lurching from crisis to crisis. Just as the airport seems to be reducing the
chaos in the passenger terminal, computer glitches have all but paralyzed its
air-cargo operations.

Today, Hong Kong International Airport's main cargo handler said it would extend until Saturday an embargo on all exports and imports carried on passenger jets.

Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals Ltd. first imposed an embargo on Tuesday, after it
began to lose track of shipments, causing containers to pile up next to its giant terminal.

But everyone's forgotten that now and it much more fun poking fun at ourselves.

Hilary Benn talks shit on Radio 5

I just tuned in to Radio 5 on the web so that I could catch the news and sport and caught the smarmy bastard being interviewed, well fed lines so he could make ministerial broadcasts. He talked ignorant shit on CO2 and then on Gordon Brown.

I need to go and puke.

Travelling tales

Now that I am settled it seems that the people who control ISP's here are a bit schizophrenic on blogs and the beeb. In the past few days I have had blogs blocked and then readable and then blocked again. I could read some that were private URL's like The Devil and Timmy. Today appears to be the first day I can write to my blog though, possible to do with it being the weekend?

Same goes for the beeb, I am listening to R4 and the other day listened to R5, but sometimes I can't even get to the news and sport pages.

I managed to pick up something before I left and the journey was quite bad. I won't bore you with the details but having the runs when you are stuck in transit and on planes is no fun.

Interesting country, so few women about but the men are very friendly and welcoming and I am enjoying working with them. As expected the landscape is flat and the streets very scruffy with litter everywhere.

Last night I visited one of the famous compounds where the ex-pats live, the security to get in was intense and tighter than getting in to a barracks in Derry at the height of the Troubles. It was a strange atmosphere and I'm sure it suits some, I would be stir crazy withing days, even though it has a 9 hole golf course. The Great Wiseone wouldn't last more than a few hours before wanting to kill someone.

Well, lets hope I can do a bit of blogging while I'm here. Although its the weekend here I still have work to do and of course in the UK the day job still needs doing.

On this day - Falklands

Its the first full day of the Islands being under Argentine control and like many I am still getting my head round the idea that the Falklands are in the South Atlantic and not somewhere near the Hebrides.

The UN demands that Argentina withdraws and starts a dance that shows how ineffectual it was, and still is.