Thursday, January 31, 2008

I'm really not sure about this judgement

Whilst I fees sorry for Mrs A in the sexual abuse compensation case and I am sure that he is a very unpleasant man who probably should be still in jail the ruling just doesn't seem right. Te fact that he won a pile of money on the lottery is also an insult, but to allow criminals to be sued so long after the original case is opening a very big can of worms.

I know that this ruling is meant to deal with exceptions

The other law lords all agreed. But that is not the end of Mrs A’s story. She can now take advantage of the exception allowing claimants to bring a late claim if it is equitable to do so. But she will now have to satisfy a High Court judge that it would be fair to sue in her particular case.

I don’t imagine this will be much of a problem for her. The normal six-year time limit for most civil claims goes back nearly four centuries to the Limitation Act. It still serves an important purpose: people are entitled to conduct their business affairs secure in the knowledge that they will not have to meet financial claims many years after a transaction has been completed.
Unfortunately exceptions have a habit of becoming the norm, and even if they don't I expect we will now see many cases being taken through the courts to be treated as a an exception.

We should also consider this case in the case of an other area where moves are a foot to make special cases: rape. The move to make convictions for rape easier have been commented on many times but they are still being pursued. So lets consider a hypothetical case where these two exceptions are concatenated.

A young man is found guilty of rape in a word of mouth case where both parties admit being drunk, however in our more enlightened world he is found guilty on her say so. Twenty years later, his crime behind him and his "debt to society" paid, he is now a successful businessman, married with a family. He can now be dragged through the courts by someone loking for the easy money of compensation. What's worse, he is named in public but the woman isn't so doesn't even have to consider the affects at all.

This can only have a down side, no matter what the Law Lords say or Joshua Rozenberg claims:
Those words are not binding on the lower courts. But they warn us that the courts are not opening the floodgates to unlimited sexual abuse claims. All in all, then, a fair and balanced judgment from our highest court.

Hard case always make bad law.

On this day

in 1867 the four bronze lions at the base of Nelson's Column were completed. they really are magnificent and they are meant to show Nelson's, and, I suppose, the nation's, resolve.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Hospital deep cleaning

Devils Kitchen has a post on MRSA and the Government's attempts to meet its targets through "deep cleaning" and the way that awful woman from Kent who was responsible for about 90 deaths has cleaned up, as it were, at our expense. As always it is rather a good read and it refers back to an excellent post on BOM.

I am more concerned by why need a deep clean in the first place. When the Tories first started insisting of competitive tendering for cleaning Labour was apoplectic, claiming that it would lead to dirty hospitals. Well if they were right why didn't they do something 10 years ago? Surely all those contracts will have been up for renewal by now?

I suspect that the real problem isn't that cleaning was outsourced, but the way it was done. To understand the problem you first have to understand the reasons why any company* would outsource any function in the first place. There are 2 reasons: reduce costs and/or remove a none core function which is a distraction to management.

In the first case cost should never be the driving force unless the function is easily removed to other suppliers who can extract economies of scale. Lets say its the manufacturing of a widget in the car industry that all cars need. It makes sense to buy this in rather than having the costs of tooling up and managing a production line. It is hard to see, though, how this can be extrapolated to hospital cleaning. The function cannot be removed to a central point to get economies of scale so the only savings are going to be minor, through process improvements and pooling of staff across many contracts to cover holidays and work peaks. Any savings here are only going to be minor and at the margins.

This leaves removing a none core competence. I can see this being a good reason; should nurses and doctors be worrying about treating patients not managing cleaners? Yes, they need to make sure that hospitals are clean, but you don't need to be micro managing cleaners to get that done. On the face of it then this looks like a good idea.

But as always the the problem lies in the implementation**. The real driving force was the need to get NHS costs down (not a bad reason in itself) so contracts went out and were let on a cost basis. Having been involved with government and private industry tendering I am sure that the real problem lies in the contract process. Sloppy contracts that don't clearly define the service and then a need to select the cheapest tender.

The next problem is contract management. Having been squeezed until the pips squeak the contract winner will now look to make their margin. This will be done by reducing staff and speeding up cleaning. They will endeavour to do this within the contract and will push the terms to the limit. Any variation to the contract required by the hospital will be negotiated to the nth degree as there will be no good will left. I will go a step further and speculate that NHS contract management is quite weak and that they have rings run round them.

So why not bring it back in house? Well, as I said it isn't a core competence and why lumber nurses and doctors with the problem of managing cleaners? Furthermore I don't think they are capable. I have recently watched hospitals as a visitor and patient and what surprised me was how poor senior nurses are at management. You see groups of nurses milling around a central station chatting. Occasionally one will wander off to do something and then return. It all seems quite random with nobody in control giving instructions to junior staff; but that's a general problem in society anyway and may be the subject of another blog someday.

So, in conclusion, cleaning isn't the problem, its contract management and the desire of politicians to make savings where they can't be made.

*For the sake of this argument lets assume that the NHS and indeed other Government controlled organisations are companies

**In a past life I have made a bit of money sorting out poor implementation of outsourcing in the mobile telecoms industry

On this day

In 1847 the town of Yerba Buena was renamed San Francisco. I didn't know that and I was in SF last year. I really must pay more attention to all those books we buy before going on holiday.

Yerba buena (Clinopodium douglasii) is a sprawling aromatic herb of western and northwestern North America, ranging from maritime Alaska southwards to Baja California Sur.[1] The plant takes the form of a sprawling, mat-forming perennial, and is especially abundant close to the coast.

The plant's common name, the same in English and Spanish, is an alternate form of the Spanish hierba buena (meaning "good herb"). The name was bestowed by pioneer Catholic priests of Alta California as they settled an area where the plant is native. It was so abundant there that its name was also applied to the settler's town adjacent to Mission San Francisco de Asís. In 1846 Yerba Buena was seized by the United States during the Mexican-American War and its name was changed to San Francisco after the nearby mission in 1847

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Compare this with the way Conway was treated

Some of the details of this may not be quite accurate because of the mists of time, but the general thrust is correct.

In 1989 an RSM with a distinguished career was found guilty of fraud. He had been claiming mileage expenses for travelling to work when he wasn't entitled. I can't remember the details but I think he had moved but claimed the higher rate. From what I remember this had been going on for 2 years.

The RSM was Court Martial'd and found guilty. The punishment was a reduction in rank to Private and, I think, he served some jail time. Now this may seem a reasonable punishment but consider that he was near the end of his career and his pension was also reduced to that of a Private. At today's rates an RSM receives c.£12.5k pa and a Private c.6.8k pa. So as they retire at 40 and can expect to live, say 30 years longer, that would be a loss of nearly £180k.

On this day

in 1848 Greenwich Mean Time was adopted by Scotland. I haven't been able to find anything about what they did before then, but I wil keep looking.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Firing ranges for schools debate on beeb

This article in the Guardian on Saturday caused Radio 5L to have a debated yesterday morning.

The number of schools introducing rifle ranges for pupils has surged since ministers backed shooting sports last year, say gun groups.


I don't normally listen to these Sunday debates as I am usually playing golf or sailing but yesterday I was free and was appalled at the level of the debate. The anti's only line seemed to be emotional blackmail.

The woman speaking against teaching children to shoot was from Mothers Against Murder and Aggression (As opposed to mother for murder and aggression!). She had set up the charity when her own son was killed in a gun incident. Now I am sure that she is very sincere in her opposition to guns and I am sure she runs a much needed charity that provides support to others, but is she the best person to argue against? No, she is far too emotionally attached and the BBC did nobody any favours.

Her main comments were along the lines of I'm shocked, I can't believe we are doing this, think about the children etc. The only time she got close to a relevant argument was assert that a child could go made. She proferred no evidence that this could had ever happened or psychological evidence that x children could be at risk.

We really need to up the quality of debates on subjects like this rather than just continuing with emotional blackmail.

There are a number of arguments against this move - cost, time (we put too much pressure on schools)and these should be made, along with the benefits and then we can carry out a cost benefit analysis.

As a result of this I am all for the motion.

Derek Conway

Go to jail, now.

On this day

In 1896 Walter Arnold of Kent was the first British motorist to receive a speeding fine, for exceeding 2 mph in a built-up area. He was doing 8 mph as he passed the house of the local policeman. The constable gave chase on his bicycle and after a 5 mile chase Mr. Arnold was arrested. He was fined one shilling for his offence.

Nowadays he would be fined for going so slow.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

On this day

In 1606 The trial of Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators began. They were charged with treason for attempting to blow up the Houses of Parliament in November 1605.

Maybe we need a modern day Guy Fawkes given the way our current Government is determined to undermine parliament and give away all its powers

Forget Inconvenient Truth, this lecture should go to all schools

Courtesy of William Briggs, Statistician, again, we get a video of a lecture given by geologist Bob Carter. This guy is brilliant, he knows how to give a lecture and get across a complicated subject in a clear and straightforward way. He is also very humurous in the way he destroys the climate alarmist predictions.

So, grab yourselves a glass of wine or whatever you have wen relaxing and take the next 35 minutes or so to watch these videos.

Part 1


Part 2



Part 3



Part 4

Saturday, January 26, 2008

So I'm a second class citizen, am I?

I couldn't believe this when I heard it on the radio this morning:

The security of the online computer system used by more than three million people to file tax returns is in doubt after HM Revenue and Customs admitted it was not secure enough to be used by MPs, celebrities and the Royal Family.

I am so incensed but I don't have time to write a coherent, or even incoherent, post.

We've got friends coming round for a Burns supper in about 15 minutes and I need to get ready. So, I'm going to have a convivial evening and drink a few glasses of the red stuff and quite a few of glasses of Scotland's best export. Then I'm going to bed.

I will get up tomorrow and have a game of squash then go off for the day with the Great Wiseone. When I get back I expect to hear that it was either a silly prank, an oversight and we are being treated the same or that someone has been fired in a very public way. Otherwise it will have to be a full rant.

Have a good evening and as my father used to say - if you're not in bed by midnight, come home.

Police too "low key" in Donorgate

According to this article

The police are expected to conduct a similar low-key investigation into Mr Hain's alleged breach of electoral laws as that conducted into the hidden donors affair.

Now whilst I tend to be a bit soft in not liking prison for non-viloent offenders I do believe in the power of deterrence and the only way to make deterrence work is to make sure everyone knows that they will be caught, and that goes for our corrupt and venal politicians as much as common thiefs.

So, I reckon its about time PC Pold stopped being sensitive and touchy feely and started feeling a few collars in public. Seeing PC Plod striding across the floor of the House of Commons and handcuffing an MP would send all the right signals to the to those who think laws are for the little people.

So, for the benefit of PC plod, here's how it should be done:



and here


Animals in war

There is a very interesting and memorial on Park Lane dedicated to animals in war with the epitaph "They had no choice". I walk past it when I have to go in to London and find it quite moving.

Well it seems that this epitaph might not be accurate as the remarkable story of Voytek the bear attests:

The 250lb brown bear, standing more than 6ft tall, was possibly the most remarkable combatant of the Second World War, seeing action amid the hell of Monte Cassino in Italy.
...
Cradling 25lb shells or boxes of ammunition in his arms, he would effortlessly pass them down the line. Off-duty, he loved a bottle of beer, a cigarette and to wrestle with the men - in between raids on the cookhouse.

A remarkable story and one which is well worth a read.

H/T An Englishman's Castle

on this day

In 1784 - In a letter to his daughter, Benjamin Franklin expressed unhappiness over the eagle as the symbol of America. He wanted the symbol to be the turkey.

I wonder if that would have changed the psyche of America and Americans?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Burns night

We have friends coming round for a Burns supper tommorrow night but as today is the day here's a great oieve of Scottish fusion music. I like the bag pipes and this guy really is great and they are fun band so stick it out for a minute or 2.

Teacher training, a mature new teacher's view

Following Tim Worstall's blog at the ASI in which he comments on research that showed we don't need to spend years training teachers:

Put simply, the idea is to take bright graduates, give them a few weeks of training to polish their educational skills and then stick them into bad schools. The schools that they find it very difficult to get fully trained teachers to go to.

I sent the article to a very good friend and former colleague who now teaches.

But before I copy his email you should know that he left school at 16 and got an HND in the Royal Navy. On leaving he worked for a mobile company before I met him and recruited him to a consultancy. We worked together around the world on some fairly tough assignments, generally alongside management consultants, where he was often engaged on long projects by clients because of his abilities. During this time he gained an MBA from the OU. Now in his in his mid 40's he has qualified as a teacher last year after undergoing one years teacher training.

So this is his response:
Thanks xxxx,
Just had a look it’s interesting. There is a similar scheme here where very bright graduates do nearly all their training in teaching practice and not learning how to become teachers.

Apparently there’s a lot of truth in it, these young graduates are keen and focus more on ‘selling’ to the students and getting their buy in rather than droning on at them and assuming some of what you say will stick

Also some of the more mature teachers I have met are really lazy and just come in and don’t want to prepare to make their lessons interesting but just reuse old material they planned donkeys years ago.

I’m still trying to be the former, can you imagine how bad teaching would be if you hated it?

I'll bet the NUT et al would have something to say about his opinion.

We really do need a way of getting rid of dead wood from the teaching profession, especially if they want to remain a profession.

From SpAd to SoS in 6 years

That's the achievement of Andy Burnham our new Culture and Media Secretary and LabourHome want to know if its a record.

Well I don't know whether its a record or not but it seems too quick for me as a matter of principle, unless the guy is absolutely brilliant and has shown outstanding leadership skills in private business. Maybe he built a succesful company or even a large worthy charuty, from scrtach? So what do we know about this guy? Well, according to his CV in the Guardian he is Cambridge educated. I presume they mean the University so I'll take it he is a bright guy, but you need a bit more than brains to be that good so what else has he done?

He had previously gained expertise in the media while working as a special adviser to the former culture secretary Chris Smith. He also worked as a researcher for Smith's successor, Tessa Jowell, after becoming an MP.

Oh, fuck, he's one of those, "working" in the media and then becoming a SpAd.
Well how did he perform once he got elected?
After stints as a junior minister in the Home Office and Department of Health, Burnham became chief secretary to the Treasury in June last year in Gordon Brown's first cabinet.

So in nearly 7 years in parliament he hasn't been in a job long enough to show any competence (or incompetence as that seems to be the new requirement for a cabinet position). BTW, I reckon 3 years in a senior position to know whether someone is any good or not. Moving on before then means you've eather messed up or not had time to deal with difficult issues.

Nothing personal Andy, but you've done fuck all to make you worthy of job in Government, even if it is a bit of a none job.

So what about his position as an MP? Well those guys on They Work for You have him down as:
Voted moderately against a transparent Parliament. votes, speeches

What, how can you be against a transparent parliament? This is a democracy where we lend you our authority and you don't want us to know what you are doing? Have you something to hide? Your not a control freak are you?
Voted very strongly for introducing a smoking ban. votes, speeches

Ah you are a bit of a control freak and like banning thigs? I'll guess you would have voted to ban fox hunting as well?
Voted strongly for introducing ID cards. votes, speeches

Well there's a surprise. I'm starting to build a picture of you that I don't like.
Voted very strongly for Labour's anti-terrorism laws. votes, speeches

I definitely don't like this. I'll bet you'd have voted for 90 days as well.
Voted very strongly for the hunting ban. votes, speeches
We'll there's a surprise.
OK, this is personal, why don't you fuck off, get a proper job, do something special and then come back and we'll see about letting you loose with our liberties and taxes.

So how did you get in to parliament anyway? By winning the safe Labour seat of Leigh (maj), Greater Manchester with a majority of 16,632 in 2001 and17,272 in 2005. I see, you're a donkey.

This, dear reader, is why politics is getting such a bad name. And if you think I'm being party political, well only partly because if he had been a Tory I would have been even more scathing with that voting record.

On this day

In 1858 Mendelssohn’s "Wedding March" was presented for the first time, as the daughter of Queen Victoria married the Crown Prince of Prussia.

But as that is a horrible piece of music I have decided to give you another of my favourite bands. Sadly I wasn't at the OW to see this one but I did see them live at Wembley in '74

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Home Secretary mauled on Today, again

She has to be the most inept Home Secretary in a long line of inept incumbents. Even the cheer leading Radio 4 seems to have nothing but contempt for her. At times it was toe curling as she tried to justify 42 days pre-charge detention by claiming some hypothetical future event where the police have umpteen serious and simultaneous terrorist cases to investigate.

When it was pointed out that she could use the Civil Contingencies Act as this allows for 58 days detention she said there would be legal difficulties!

That the whole point, you bitch, we doesn't want you and your cronies in the judiciary locking people up because you think it might be appropriate. And we don't trust the police either, not since you started politicising them by appointing that obsequies toad Blair.

It was also pointed out that of the 71 bodies consulted on 42 days PCD only 6 said they supported it. Her answer was that she did listen and that is why it is going to 42 days in 7 day stages via a judge. So what was the point of consultation then, you stupid cow?

After a long waffle about when this might be used the interviewer accused her of making up hypothetical situations, to which she that it won't be hypothetical when it occurs! This got the interviewer and I chortling. But the worst bit was when she went on to describe something happening as being unhypothetical, hasn't she ever heard the word "real"?

At the end she was asked about walking the streets at night and got in to an even worse tangle sprouting a load of whishy washy waffle about crime coming down blah, blah, blah.

It makes you almost wish Blunkett was back!

Unions should be after Ken soon

I've just been listening to Ken justifying his existing on Today (via podcast) and was surprised to hear a good man of the left clearly admitting that his staff work more than 60 hours per week, despit being on a 37 hour contract.

So we can expect the wrath of the left to come crashing down on the monstorous boss who abuses the poor down trodden workers pretty soon, can't we?

Windfall taxes

Dizzy is reporting and Early Day Motion signed by Abbott, Corbyn et al calling on the Government to introduce a one-off windfall tax on energy company profit in order to fund an increase in the winter fuel payment that the oldies get. His objection is that we pay these winter fuel allowances to people in warmer climates, which is fair enough.

I have two objections: firstly, it is impossible for companies to plan investments if they think a capricious government will just dip in to their profits when times are good.

Secondly, this is not a 2-way street companies that hit a a bad time don't get the money back in the form of a windfall tax credit.

As I commented on Dizzy's site, I am reminded of a story that was told to me in the mid 90's. When the mobile operator that is now T-Mobile was building its network, a very expensive undertaking, one of its employees asked the CEO at an open meeting if there would be a profit sharing scheme? His response was that only when the employees sign up to a loss sharing scheme.

Fat people to be paid to lose wait

So now that bunch of interfering busybodies and thieves that passes for a government want to take money from those who work hard to keep their weight down and even spend their own money on gyms, to those who can't be arsed to look after themselves.

Anyway, I thought the incentive was that if you don't lose weight forget your NHS care?

Any chance of a coherent policy?

On this day

in 1965 Winston Churchill died at the age of 90.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Climate skeptism not sexy to statisticians

William M. Briggs, Statistician, is at an American Mathematical Society (AMS)conference on climate change and has some interesting, but very dry, conference reports. One almost throw away comment in today's report (day 3) is quite shocking:

The rest of my talk went well, though I noticed that, for our session, we had only about one-quarter the number of people listening as listened to the people who were sympathetic to the idea that mankind causes increasing temperatures

This is worrying, because if dry old mathematicians are focusing on the pro climate change debate how can we every expect and full and balanced review of the data and debate on the subject?

There was a more heartwarming end to his report though:
I ran into Jim O’Brian, also from FSU, in the COAPS group. Jim tried to recruit me to that group last year: it was a good job, but circumstances would not let me move from New York City. Anyway, Jim was wearing his Nobel Peace Prize pin, somewhat ironically. He was, and is, one of the many 100s of scientists on the IPCC, but Jim is openly skeptical of man-made global warming. Which should give you pause next time you hear the word “consensus” used to describe scientific thought about the matter.

I suppose there is still hope that the catastrophists won't get it all there own way.

EU to become a state using the Westphalian standard

I have just started Paddy Ashdown's book, Swords and Ploughshares, and he makes an interesting point about states:

According to the Westphalian standard, establishing statehood was an entirely empirical matter. A state was said to exist when it had fulfilled the duties of a state abroad. Not before. To obtain a legal personality recognised by other states , it had therefore to do what other states could do: have effective control over a territory delineated by stable borders , provide its citizens with services - especially security - which citizenship was entitled to, and interact with other states on a basis of equality and reciprocity.

Wiki says that academics argue over this subject, I'll bet the do, but I am going to take it at face value, not least because it is a European construct:
Adherents to the concept of a Westphalian system trace it back to the Peace of Westphalia, signed in 1648, in which, it is claimed, the major European powers (with the notable exception of England) agreed to abide by the principle of territorial integrity.

and I'm willing to bet £100 to anyone favourite charity that the EU will use it when it suits them, which I suspect will be soon.

The whole point of the EU Constitution was for the EU to have "legal personality" so that it could become an active state. Thankfully our Dutch and French friends scuppered these plans, or so we thought. Lets have a look at Paddy's passage and put it to the EU Constitution Lisbon Treaty test:
To obtain a legal personality recognised by other states , it had therefore to do what other states could do: have effective control over a territory delineated by stable borders

Yes, we have very clear borders, especially with the Schengen Agreement. OK, so we have a few internal borders, but doesn't China and it is a state?
provide its citizens with services - especially security - which citizenship was entitled to

European Defence Force anyone? Yes I know its old but it does show there is a political will and the means to create one.
and interact with other states on a basis of equality and reciprocity

This one is easy. We are getting a full time president and a High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy’. Now what are these fine figures to do? Limit themselves to ceremonial duties? Yea right, these are self serving politicians appointed by other self serving politicians who will covet those jobs. How long do you reckon before they start acting for the EU on their own terms and other states start referring to them ahead of national governments?

Indeed we are getting there, the US has a Special Envoy to EU. How long before he becomes a full blown Ambassador?

There are other examples, easy extradition, EU arrest warrants, QMV on ever more topics.

So it looks like the EU doesn't need the constitution to become a state, it just starts acting like one and waits for other countries to treat it as an equal.

On this day

in 1924 the first Labour government was formed, under Ramsay MacDonald.

The 1931 General Election was a disaster for the Labour Party with only 46 members winning their seats.

Lets hope history repeats itself in 2009 or whenever Brown if forced to the polls.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Hague in EU Referndum Debate

I caught part of Today in parliament this morning and they were playing one of Hague's questions during the EU constitution Lisbon Treaty Parliamentary debate sham. He was very funny when he described the new EU President, Tony Blair, arriving at 10 Downing Street to meet Brown. He describes Brown coveting that job as well.

Does anyone know how I can dig it out of Hansard, I've tried but all my searches miss yesterday.

Update

Many thanks to Vindico. Here is the section that I found most amusing:

The creation of that job took many years—and the present Prime Minister probably feels that it took almost as long to get round to his turn to hold it. To see how the post of a permanent President of the European Council could evolve is not difficult even for the humblest student of politics, and it is, of course, rumoured that one Tony Blair may be interested in the job. If that prospect makes us uncomfortable on the Conservative Benches, just imagine how it will be viewed in Downing street! I must warn Ministers that having tangled with Tony Blair across the Dispatch Box on hundreds of occasions, I know his mind almost as well as they do. I can tell them that when he goes off to a major political conference of a centre-right party and refers to himself as a socialist, he is on manoeuvres, and is busily building coalitions as only he can.

We can all picture the scene at a European Council sometime next year. Picture the face of our poor Prime Minister as the name "Blair" is nominated by one President and Prime Minister after another: the look of utter gloom on his face at the nauseating, glutinous praise oozing from every Head of Government, the rapid revelation of a majority view, agreed behind closed doors when he, as usual, was excluded. Never would he more regret no longer being in possession of a veto: the famous dropped jaw almost hitting the table, as he realises there is no option but to join in. And then the awful moment when the motorcade of the President of Europe sweeps into Downing street. The gritted teeth and bitten nails: the Prime Minister emerges from his door with a smile of intolerable anguish; the choking sensation as the words, "Mr President", are forced from his mouth. And then, once in the Cabinet room, the melodrama of, "When will you hand over to me?" all over again.

methinks the Tories are going to regret not having Hague as their leader, he is by far the best debater the have and we would tear Brown apart in PMQ's.

On this day

In 1771 The Falkland Islands were ceded to Great Britain by Spain. Of course this led to the eventual invasion by Argentina and a British Task Force being sent to evict them, more on that later in the year.

Monday, January 21, 2008

On this day

in 1981 Tehran freed 52 US hostages after 444 days in captivity. Will history repeat itself given the current tensions in the region.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Lisbon Treaty Judicial Review

The Cynical Optimist is carrying this email, which is self explanatroy

"We are urgently preparing to seek Judicial Review and hopefully persuade the Courts to declare that the Lisbon Treaty, as signed by Blair and Brown and now being presented to Parliament for approval to ratify, is in conflict with our own extant Constitution and therefore it would be unlawful to accept the EU Constitution into British law.

One of the best and most respected younger QCs with a fearsome record, Rabinder Singh, has been engaged together with a very bright lady junior and we hope to launch proceedings in the High Court within the next two weeks. We are delighted that leading businessman Stuart Wheeler has taken up the case in his own name as plaintiff and agreed to bear responsibility for it through to the House of Lords if necessary.

Naturally we must do all we can to offset his public-spirited contribution - Friends and colleagues, members, supporters - every little counts and donations (non-charitable) should be sent to 'CONSTITUTIONAL CHALLENGE',

c/o This England PO Box 52, Cheltenham, Glos GL50 1YQ.

However my immediate request is to ask each of you to jot down any points, clauses, articles in the Lisbon Treaty to which you object and why, and list them under their treaty references, and then send your list to me on my john.gouriet1@virgin.net address as soon as you possibly can. This would be an enormous help as we are under a very tight schedule to brief counsel and get the case into court before Parliament complete the betrayal, but it would be a terrific feat if we can put a cast iron stick in their wheel, even at this late hour!"

First piece of political activism

Only a small start but after years of sitting on the sidelines I've decided to get off my backside and do something. This bunch of cretins that pass for a Government have got me so incensed (see this post) that today I made a donation to

Sign up to the I Want a Referendum campaign

I know that technically I didn't get off my backside to do this but you know what I mean.

Next step will be to get involved with them I suppose, if I can work out some free time

Lisbon Treaty Referendum - No Alternatives

I was listening to the debate on whether we should have a referendum on the EU Constitution Lisbon Treaty on Radio 5 this morning and it set me thinking about whether there we any alternatives that might be acceptable.

As you will see from the sidebar, I support calls for a referendum, but only because New Labour made this a manifesto commitment and we should hold our politicians to account on manifesto commitments. I know their argument is that this isn't a constitution but there is enough of a body of opinion, some of it from the pro EU lobby, that it is as close as makes no difference. And now, according to this report in the Telegraph our own foreign affairs select committee say the same:

As the Government prepares to debate the treaty in the House of Commons, a report by the foreign affairs select committee concludes that it cedes vital powers to Brussels and that ministers are misleading the public by saying that it does not.

During the debate this morning many arguments were made against holding the referendum:

That we have a representative parliamentary democracy and that referendums aren't part of our heritage - This may be true, and one that I generally support, but this case is different as I outline above. Furthermore, heritage has to start at some point so I don't have a problem with setting new precedents. I also have a problem with the size of the government payroll vote which is leading more and more to an elected dictatorship.

The people aren't capable of understanding the questionWhat a condescending argument. We could be trusted in 1975 so why not now? Anyone putting this argument forward should be taken outside and shot. I won't dwell on this one as it is bad for my stress levels.

That those asking for a referendum on the treaty are really pushing for a referendum on leaving the EU – (This was put forward by their pro EU speaker this morning) So what? That is for those phrasing the question and organising the referendum, not a reason against the referendum in principle.

That the rest of the EU will not accept a no vote as the other 26 countries are al for it – Well that's their problem not ours and if they don't like it then throw us out. Indeed if this is the case then it is even more important that we have a referendum to show that we will not be bullied in to signing the treaty.

Anyway, as I listened to these arguments, especially the representative democracy one, I got to thinking about alternatives and wondered if a free vote for MP's might work. Unlikely, because of the bullying nature of Brown and his acolytes and the payroll vote.

So how about really setting a precedent and have a secret free vote for MP's? This might work except it goes against the principle of knowing what our representatives get up to with their voting. Anyway I can't see this bunch of bullies allowing that.

So I conclude that their isn't an alternative to a referendum on this important subject, so I ask you to get across to I Want A Referendum and sign their petition, no matter which way you intend to vote, we have to hold our politicians to their manifesto pledges.

On this day

in 1265 the first English parliament met in Westminster Hall.

Which makes it even more ironic that the foreign affairs select committee concludes that the EU Constitution Lisbon Treaty cedes vital powers to Brussels and that ministers are misleading the public by saying that it does not.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Home secretary in King Canute tribute

Except that Canute knew what h was doing, she doesn't, but I think you'll get my drift.

The Home Secretary is making a series of interviews and speeches on terrorism (Islamic) and the Internet. She was on the Today programme the other day and it was, at best, banal. Even the Nu Labour cheerleaders couldn't hide their disdain with the interviewer interrupting many times because "there was nothing new", to which the Home Sec blustered and carried on. See Prodicus here for more on the interview.

The Register has also taken her to task about how she thinks she is going to control the Internet. Here she is with a typical politicians statement, lots of words but no substance:

The internet is a key tool for the propagandists for violent extremism... Let me be clear. The internet is not a no-go area for Government.

We are already working closely with the communications industry to take action against paedophiles... we should also take action against those who groom vulnerable people for the purposes of violent extremism... I will be talking to industry... about how best to do this.

Where there is illegal material on the net, I want it removed

But look at that second paragraph where I have highlighted. Now, If was going to make a bold statement to my colleagues at work, for instance, I would at least be sure that that I was saying was at least practical by talking to the relevant people, wouldn't you? It is also worth noting that this isn't something new and off the cuff, her boss made a similar speech last November:

Brown went down a similar route in November, saying: "The Home Secretary is inviting the largest global technology and internet companies to work together to ensure that our best technical expertise is galvanised to counter online incitement to hatred"

So even if her boss didn't consult her before his speech, highly plausible given his reputation, she has had 6 weeks or so to get across the subject. Plenty of time to talk to those who know about these things and would have to implement any new laws.

UK internet service provider group ISPA confirmed to the Reg today that it still hadn't heard anything from the government regarding the web terror crackdown. It had asked for a meeting following the Brown speech, but so far has heard nothing

OK, she's a buy person so let's give her the benefit of the doubt because she could have consulted the single biggest ISP in the country, BT, to save time.

In the UK, much of the net backbone is actually controlled by just one company, British Telecom. Asked today if the company had been approached by government specifically in its role as an infrastructure provider - rather than a consumer ISP - a spokesman confirmed: "We have had discussions with the Home Office... no measures have been taken."

Fair enough they have at least looked in to it, so what were they told:

The company added that any new action "would need to be underpinned by appropriate legislation... sites would need to be monitored by law enforcement or an independent body. It is not our job to police the internet".

Ah, so that's it, the Government needs to pass laws and set up an even bigger state security bureau, that's not what the Home Sec said, is it? She wants to continue talking and having a dialogue because that's what politicians do, but I suppose we should be grateful because when they do get round to passing laws they are invariably badly drafted and punish the innocent, as any new laws censoring the internet would because it will be impossible to control the web, as even China is finding out. Here is what the Reg said:

BT and the ISPs could block overseas websites, but almost certainly not as fast as they could be put up. Interesting stuff tends to be mirrored very fast, too; and it isn't hard to use relays such as Tor to effectively browse from a point overseas.

So that's it then, nigh on impossible to do and what they could do would take a huge bureaucracy, yet she still insists that she will be "talking to the industry".

As a final thought, I remember reading a piece from the 70's (before the Internet) by, I think, John Junor, in which the author described how they had been arrested under the Official Secrets act in the 50's for publishing the details of how to make a nuclear bomb. The security services insisted that secrets must have been stolen because the nuclear bomb was a secret project. The author wasn't charged because they pointed out that all the information was in the public domain in various science publications. So even if the control freaks manage to control the Internet there are still 1000's of ways to get hold of the information they need.

On this day

In 1969 Czech student Jan Palach set himself on fire in Prague's Wenceslas Square in protest against the Russian invasion of 1968, which became known as the Prague Spring.

Prague is my favourite city; it is beautiful at any time of year and being small you don't need to spend a lot of time travelling round to see things. I've had the pleasure of working there on a number of occasions and it never failed to impress. If you haven't been it really is worth a visit. However it is grim once you get out of the city centre and is a reminder of soullessness of communism.

Friday, January 18, 2008

MP's Pay (3) - Hoist by their own petard

Courtesy of Mrs Smallprint we get this brilliant question from her MP, sort of hoist by their own petard:

QUESTION

David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells, Conservative)
On Members' pay, does the Leader of the House agree that if the proposed Lisbon treaty is ratified more powers would be transferred away from this House, and it would therefore be right for our pay to be reduced? Will she ask the Senior Salaries Review Body to recalculate its proposals in view of that reduction of powers? It would obviously be wrong for us to be paid more when our control over legislation and policy is reduced. The same thing should apply to ministerial salaries, particularly those of the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister.

ANSWER

Harriet Harman (Lord Privy Seal, House of Commons)
The right hon. Gentleman will have a chance to raise those points in debate either on Monday, on Second Reading of the European Union (Amendment) Bill, or on Thursday, when we debate the SSRB's recommendations, or he can again synthesise the two points on Monday or Thursday.


Well, it a fair point, MP's want to give away responsibility so they can hardly expect more money.

I bet Harman didn't see this ones coming, I would love to have seen her face - and the rest of them as well for that matter.

Hoist by their own petard springs to mind

When 30 became 40 or even 50.

I was reading this tripe on global warming and it got me thinking. We often read predictions like this:

By the time we reach 2050, annual average temperatures are expected to have increased by as much as 3.4C.


Whatever we do to reduce our carbon emissions, we will see climate change over the next 50 years.


By 2050, the average sea level is expected to rise by about 54cm, increasing the risk of coastal flooding. By 2050 the annual average temperature will have increased by between 1.2C and 3.4C.

Leaving aside all the climate arguments and that there is no reference at all to any credible research or even organisation, what I notice is that we are now looking 40 to 50 years in the future, which I think everyone must agree is a long time and anything can happen.

It reminded be of the dire predictions of the 60's and 70's which something like:

Oil will run out in 30 years

Food will run out 30 years

Whatever the catastrophe it was always 30 years; but here we are 30 years later with plenty of oil and food and no sign of the impending catastrophe. But what's worse is that with increasing life spans more of us remember these predictions and realise just how barmy they were and that those who make them are held in contempt. Could it be that who like scaring us to death in the name of whatever cause they are championing so we will be malleable, realise this and need to protect themselves and so are now choosing 40 and 50 year predictions?

H/T Climate Science

On this day

in 1973 Pink Floyd began recording "Dark Side Of The Moon." Not my favourite Pink Floyd album but still a classic.





I introduced to Floyd by Alan "Fluff" Freeman on his saturday afternoon show sometime in 1973, when he played Echoes which remains my long time favourite Floyd track. Sadly this one comes in 2 parts.




Thursday, January 17, 2008

Kafka: The Trial and The EU

The Telegraph brings us the latest EU piece of double standards and treachery by our own bunch of unprincipled bunch of cretins that form the excuse for a Government.

But first a piece of background just to set the scene, Franz Kafka wrote a book called The Trial in which the subject, named Josef K, awakens one morning and, for reasons never revealed, is arrested and subjected to the judicial process for an unspecified crime. When he declares his innocence, he is immediately questioned "innocent of what"? and the process continues with him never hearing a charge and being executed. (Apologies to the philosophers out there but this paraphrase is to set the scene)

So what has this to do with the EU? Well it looks like our craven politicians are about to cave in to EU demands to make extradition of people who have been convicted in absentia even easier - yes it already goes on now

A draft text, seen by The Daily Telegraph, notes that existing rules [on extradition]do not "deal consistently with the issue of judgments rendered in absentia". "This diversity complicates the work of the practitioner and hampers judicial co-operation," it states


These piece of EU bullshit means that they can't be arsed with normal extradition and we should just hand over people who have been convicted of crimes in other countries, even though they weren't there to defend themselves or may not have even known there was a trial.

For fucks sake, whatever happened to habeous corpus? In this country we are entitled to now why we are being charged and to face our accusers, you would think that our politicians would at least have the balls to respect that and tell those toe rags in the EU to go fuck themselves. We have this right for a reason - to protect us from over bearing government, which should include the EU:
Britain does not convict people or hold trials in their absence but many EU countries, including Belgium, France, Spain Greece and Italy, do so on a regular basis

I don't give a toss what these countries do because, frankly it should be none of our business, but I do care that our tosspots Government follow the process that has protected us for 700 years and accept that these right aren't theirs to kill in the first place.

What makes this worse is it is already happening, all they want to do is make it easier:
Miss Daniels was extradited and jailed in Spain in 2005 after being sentenced, without the chance to defend herself, for cocaine smuggling. She has always protested her innocence and her lawyers in Spain have submitted an application for a pardon.

How did that one slip by without a great storm? I didn't read blogs then and relied on the MSM - more fool me!

Its not like we don't have extradition treaties so that people can be extradited to face trial, so why don't we tell them we have a process which works, thank you, now fuck off.

Someone fetch the rope, I know a few good lampposts

On this day

in 1968 The motor manufacturer British Leyland was formed; from the merger of British Motor Holdings Ltd. and Leyland Motor Corp. Ltd

This brought us not a magnificent car industry under state control but Red Robbo and endless strikes the majority led by Derek "Red Robbo" Robinson who, "According to the BBC, "between 1978 and 1979 Mr Robinson was credited with causing 523 walk-outs at Longbridge, costing an estimated £200m in lost production".

I don't think my blood pressure will stand me researching how much tax payers money was blown on this lost cause.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

On this day

in 1547 Ivan Grozny, better known as Ivan the Terrible was crowned Czar of Russia.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Hain - 2 thoughts

1. We shouldn't need a Commissioner for Parliamentary Standards

2. If we need one, any MP who is referred to him is, by definition, beneath contempt and should be sacked as an MP

On this day

in 1870 A cartoon by Thomas Nast titled "A Live Jackass Kicking a Dead Lion" appeared in "Harper's Weekly." The cartoon used the donkey to symbolize the Democratic Party for the first time.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Doctors warn family that Prudence brain dead

Press Release

It is with deep regret that Doctors today told close family that despite all their efforts Prudence's illness and her weak state mean that she is in effect brain dead and their is nothing further than can do. All that remains is for the close family to accept the situation, switch off the life machine and start planning the funeral.

End Press release

The Simpleton Times can report that Doctors told a press conference that Prudence had been dangerously ill for some years now. Her main problem was the her publicum debtus rose to dangerously high levels of around 38 percent of gedeepius over the past 5 years. This, they noted, was dangerously close to the critical 40percent level that everyone knows as the golden rule, above which chancelerux bolluxarium sets in and there is nothing further that can be done.

We understand that this rise in gedeepius was driven by an uncontrolled rash of cashspree which caused a secondary infection and huge swelling in her buraucraticum. Some experts claim that early treatment of the cashspree could have prevented the swelling but we understand that the family ignored this advice and claimed armchair experts and opposirium were were know nothings and should be ignored.

Doctors later said they had used every known treatment to stop her condition deteriorating, including some creative measures frowned upon by serious specialists and consultants in the practice of economius. Despite this her prognosis took a turn for the worse when when her econimus was hit by an infection of bankarium callapuses. At this point doctors were outraged when Prudenece's family stepped in and used untrained lay visitors to give her an injection of an old drug, lendorium lastresorticum, that was known to prolong life but in the end never works. This injection was, The Simpleton Times understands, equivalent to an extra 7% of publicus debtus which took her to 45% of gedeepius, a terminal level.

We understand doctors and family are now arguing over whether she is already dead or whether she is still live until doctors switch off her nord felsen.

Experts have told The Simpleton times that the cost of the lendorium lastresorticum used to keep prudence alive is exepcted to be a minimum of £55bn pounds and that they believe that the family can't afford to pay. If this is the case then they may have to apply for an emergency taxus upus.

(Readers who would like to know more about these conditions can get help from our on line support desk here)

Techie stuff - solid state hard drives

Courtesy of The Register comes this demo of a new solid state hard drive. Its only about 90 seconds and worth watching for the throw away comment about about their demo of regular hard drives.

On this day

In 1878 Alexander Graham Bell demonstrated the telephone for Britain's Queen Victoria.

Telecommunications have been a great driver in economic growth. When I worked on a consulting project in India in the mid 90's there was a World Bank report doing the rounds that claimed for every $ spent on telecommunications it generated $2 in the economy.

Now of course we have the mobile phone which has become far more than just a means of making voice calls. With the advent of 3G it is possible to have a semi reasonable internet browsing experience but mobile Internet will really take off in the next couple of years with new 4G technologies such as WiMAX

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Anthropogenic Continental Drift: An Incoherent Truth

From Climate Skeptic we get this highly amusing link:

A new menace to the planet has been discovered and validated by a consensus of politically reliable scientists: Anthropogenic Continental Drift (ACD) will result in catastrophic damage and untold suffering, unless immediate indemnity payments from the United Sates, Europe, and Australia be made to the governments of non-industrial nations, to counteract this man-made threat to the world's habitats


It is a wonderful parody of how some of the wilder claims for AGW are made. I particularly like this one:
This widening of the Atlantic is taking place at an astounding rate, according to indisputable IPCD scientific data. Today it costs almost a third again as much to fly an Air France jet from New York to Paris than it did in 1997, a clear indicator that the ocean has indeed increased in size in the past decade. Surface shipping rates have likewise increased dramatically.


Well, I don't think anyone could deny that costs have gone up, it just the cause of those rising costs that is in dispute. And next comes the wonderful climate fascist clincher:

"This is a clear and reliable indicator of the speed of ACD," said Passapotapissalong, "much more so than the global positioning satellite data often cited by 'Continental Drift Deniers.' The GPS system was, after all, originally created by the US military to enhance their empire-building program, and we all know who controls the US military." He paused at this point and pulled his ears out to each side, a clear reference to the ape-like countenance of the American president.


Now there are still some who won't believe this is closure and want to rely on statistics, but hey, lets look at who pays for their research and data:

"Although these so-called 'scientists' claim that there is no GPS data to support the rapid widening of the Atlantic Ocean, they are all employees of American corporations or have been paid to falsify their data by the American government. Air France fuel costs are a much more reliable indicator of distance flown." He added that he and his right-thinking colleagues had "nothing to gain" by presenting their findings, pointing out that their stipends, expenses and salaries were drawn from the IPCD General Fund, not corporate or government grants.


I commend the whole post and comments to one and all

Organ donation opt out (2)

Apart from the stealth ID card argument, like many other bloggers I have some real concerns about this move which are practical. I also favour the libertarian argument that it is my body and I'll do what I like with it but that debate will just get lost on most politicians and the general public.

It is easy to see the argument from the recpient end of the telescope: people are dying for want of what has become for many organ replacement operations a fairly routine, low risk, procedure and all that is missing are the donor organs. But like victim's justice in criminal cases those at the sharp end shouldn't be the ones making policy, no matter heart rending the case.

It may have become a cliche but John Campbell Argyll was correct when he said "hard cases make bad law" and this one will provide another gravy train for human rights lawers and others as well as providing great distress for relatives and friends of organ donors. Leaving aside the ID card argument, for now, one only has to consider the case of someone who changes there minds, opts out and dies before their changes have fed through the system. Then there those who aren't carrying their ID cards? And what about errors in the database? In all these cases errors are going to be very distressing for the donor's family.

No, this is a bad policy and the Governement should stay well clear of this one and instead look at why more people aren't carrying donor cards or making their wishes known to their relatives?

I suspect I am a fairly typical person on this subject: I don't object to my organs being donated and my family know that and I know that they have a similar position. So why don't I carry a donor card? Laziness? Pobably a bit of that I used to carry one and lost it but never got round to replacing it. Fear of tempting fate? I am sure that is the case for some and no doubt there are people who have picked one up and been killed in a car accodent withing 24 hours and that this puts some off.

Anyway, whatever the reason education is the only solution and perhaps instead of spending ££££££££'s on scaring us to death with scare stories on obesity and the like, perhaps some of that money could be spent on education and the promotion of donor cards? Or not takenfrom us in the first place, but thats not for this discussion.

And for the avoidance of doubt I'm against the opt in database solution as well. We all know how incomptenet the Governement is when it comes to IT projects and this would be just another waste of money

Global warming - nice climate scientists and sheep and goats

Bear with me on this post, I have been meaning to write something about my attitude to global warming* and why the skeptic arguments** seems so hard for some to grasp. I have been spurred to action after finding a great blog which I will introduce further in to the post.

I often wonder about the certainty of those who believe that the debate over global warming is settled and that we now have to act. I also get very cross when I hear those people, especially those in who could considered opinion formers, refer to global warming skeptics as "flat earthers" or discounting their research because it was paid for by oil companies. Furthermore, these same people, who tend to be campaigners and politicians with no scientific background, dismiss skeptics because they aren't climate scientists.

Whenever I hear all the great and the good state there is no need for further debate as the arguments are settled, no matter the subject I instantly become a skeptic (it goes back to the vote in '75 on the EU, but that's for another post)and start looking at the research and skeptic arguments. What I have found is that global warming is very difficult subject to get your head round and that there is new research being released almost daily.

Whilst I have a technical and mathematical background I am by no means a scientist and, furthermore, I don't have time to read all the research that pours out of the various institutions looking at global warming. Even when I find time and read the research papers I admit I find it hard to understand all the maths and statistics. It is wroth noting that climate science isn't about weather forecasting but about gathering and analysing statistics and then modelling those statistics to provide very long term forecasts of how those statistics will change. It is which statistics are gathered, how they are gathered how they are analysed and then the efficacy of the models where the most skeptics step in ans some of the arguments over the statistics are very difficult to follow, but other parts aren't.

I therefore rely on a number of blogs to provide a skeptic commentary on the latest research, most notably Climate Skeptic, Tom Nelson and Climate Science, which also lead to other sites and articles and I probably spend about 5 hours a week reading the various material they write or reference. I reckon I get enough pro global warming information through the MSM and in particular the beeb to keep some balance.

So it is with some delight that I came across this blog by Wiliam M Briggs, Statistician. He has knowledge of the subject of global warming although he isn't a climate scientist his real strength is as a disinterested (my favourite word today!) commentator who does have the academic background to understand the research and statistics. He has a good writing style style as well.

Anyway, if you don't have much time you must read this post where he provides a fascinating insight in to the minds of scientists in general and climate scientists in particular and why they always believe their research and this post where he talks about Greenpeace's objection to climate skeptics being funded by oil companies and puts forward the sheep-goat theory. I will try to paraphrase for those short of time but I am afraid I will not do his arguments justice and you should find the time to read them later.

In the first post I refer to the scene is that he plays petanque regularly and there is often a dispute over who is closest to the cochonette:

Now, I have stood over the cochonette literally thousands of times—it helps to understand that I have perfect vision and have never needed glasses—and in a large fraction of those times I would have sworn, on my soul, that my ball was the closer of the two. Sometimes, of course, it is, but if you know me as a player, you know that is a rarity. Usually, my ball is the furthest, but it is often manifest, I pledge on my honor, that mine is best! Not only does my ball appear closer, but it is so obviously closer, that I cannot for the life of me see why there is an argument from my opponent.

But there is invariably a dispute, so out comes the stick, usually a telescoping radio antenna stripped from its base. Somebody bends down and measures the distance between all the balls and the cochonette. Once the objective results are in, there are usually groans from one side and calls of “It was obvious” from the other

I think we have all been in similar situations and know the feelings? Well this is how some of the research by climate scientists can be considered:
It is true that greater than 99% of all climatologists are like our scientist, forthright, incredibly bright, and diligent. Too many “climate skeptics” have accused climate researchers as being driven by politics or by money (in the form of grants), and so seek to disregard results from these scientists on that account...

...

Climatologists are, I believe, too confident in their results: if there is any political temptation here, it is towards the tendency to make public statements that convey more certainty than research warrants; but there is no attempt to mislead. Without question, “activists” are annoyingly precise in their pronouncements, and since theirs is a political life, there is no temptation to which they will not give in. But many skeptics, too, could use a dose of humility. To say, for example, that “global warming is a hoax” is carrying constructive criticism too far

I can understand this position and believe that it isn't the scientists who are the problem in this debate but the politicians and lobby groups with another agenda who who look for certainties and absolutes in what is a continuum of research. This is, after all, still a very newscientific discipline that doesn't have a great deal of base knowledge to draw on and so those who practise it tend to be young (at least from my experience) and less considered without older, wiser, colleagues to guide them.

Which brings me on nicely to the second post I refer to in which William looks at the mind set of Greenpeace in particular and, I would say, the global warming lobby in general.
There is a belief among certain paranormal researchers—these are the guys who study mind reading, clairvoyance, etc.—that is used to explain why psychic experiments haven’t seen positive results. It is called the sheep-goat theory.

Those gifted with psychic powers, such as the ability to bend kitchen cutlery without using muscles, are sheep. Those who disbelieve in these powers are goats. It seems that, via a mysterious mechanism, the goats are able to emit evil, anti-psychic rays that interfere with the sheep’s positive-psychic vibrations, and so cause negative results, i.e. findings of no effect (more about this here). The goats do this both intentionally and unconsciously. If it weren’t for the goats, the belief goes, psychics would be manifesting multiple miracles and the world would be a better, more enlightened place.

Again, I think we have all heard those believe in the paranormal use similar arguments whenever challenged, even if you haven't heard the sheep-goat theory. William then goes to say that Greenpeace are in a similar mindset when it comes to the funding of climate skeptics by the oil industry and that skeptics are the goats in the global warming debate and that for this reason their research should be discounted. He then goes on later in the post:
Forget that it is often pointed out that it is a logical fallacy that, just because a group funds a study, it follows that the results from that study are false; forget, too, the implication that oil companies are evil because they are oil companies, and instead concentrate on the psychology behind these statements. There is a desire that lies beneath them to believe that the results from non-consensus studies must be false, and so must have been produced by nefarious means. Therefore, these studies can be ignored and dispersions can be heaped upon their authors.

My friends, academic science cannot be conducted toward a pre-defined conclusion. We have already lost many of our humanities departments to this philosophy. Do not let it also happen to the quantitative sciences, and try to keep an open mind.

Yes, I can understand that but it is up to the various self policing universities and academic publications to set the lead here and lobby politicians and the general public, but that's another discussion.

Anyway, the wrap up of the post has really got me thinking about how would I respond:
The best test for an open mind is this question, which I always ask of my acquaintances who follow the paranormal, “What evidence would convince you that what you believe is false?” If you find you have no answer, your mind is closed

I have already said I am a global warming skeptic so what what would convince me that global warming is a real threat and that those who propose Kyoto style solutions are right? Having thought about it for a while I really don't know and I need to think more because I would like to think I have an open mind. In the meantime I promise to to be more open minded to the climate research, but by nature and and experience I will remain skeptical of political pronouncements from organisations like Greenpeace.

I will be adding this blog's feed my most read list of blogs and look forward to more fascinating insights.

*I do know the difference between climate change and anthropogenic global warming. In this post I refer to global warming as a generic reference to AGW because that is what most people think about when climate change is disussed

**For the avoidance of doubt I accept the scientifically proven that CO2 cause global warming, about 1.2deg C for a doubling of CO2 from pre-industrial CO2 levels. I don't believe in the theory that extra warming put forward by many that the extra warming will come from positive feedback.

More evidence that the health lobby are misleading us

It is always eye opening to find a piece of disinterested* research that challenges received wisdom. This time we find, via The Scotsman , that not everything we have been told about being overweight is doom and gloom and that there is some good news:

BEING overweight or mildly obese means you will live longer on average than people who are slim or skinny, according to the astonishing conclusion of a team of statistics experts.

A person who is overweight can expect to live two and a half months longer than someone of 'ideal' weight and 15 months longer than an underweight person, concludes the study of the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and longevity.

Hang on a minute wasn't only a few months ago that we were being told being obese was as good as a death sentence? Ah, here it is:
The World Health Organization has described obesity as "one of the greatest neglected public health problems of our time with an impact on health which may well prove to be greater than smoking".
...
The National Obesity Forum says obesity is thought to cause 10% of cancers in non-smokers. In addition, death rates from all cancers were 52% higher in men who were morbidly obese and 62% higher in women. Obesity is specifically linked to an increased risk of breast, endometrial and colon cancers

Well if the WHO says obesity is an epidemic worse than smoking and the NOF say it causes all diseases then those who published this report must be cranks and charlatans then?
The research, by actuarial mathematicians at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, appears to overturn the widespread assumption that the fat face an early grave. And in the age of size-zero models, it also highlights the dangers of being underweight.

Whoa, actuarial mathematicians aren't renowned for being hot headed cranks who take delight in challenging the establishment, so what is happening here?

All it shows really is that doctors and the health lobby are not disinterested parties trying to advise us on the latest knowledge but are spinning medical research to further their own prejudices. I don't blame medical researchers, they appreciate that their work is part of a continuum and all they are telling is the latest knowledge based on their current work and interpretations of the results. I do blame doctors' leaders though, they are a bunch of arrogant bastards who should know better.

It seems that medical knowledge has moved on since research showed leeching and blood letting would cure all our ills, but the arrogance and certainty of doctors hasn't.

But I reserve may real opprobrium for politicians and civil servants who take the advice of people like The Obesity Forum who "thought" that obesity caused all these ailments and diseases, and unquestioningly inflict all sorts of scare mongering nonsense on us, using our money. A plague on all their houses.

(Hat tip to An Englishman's Castle from where I found the article in the Scotsman)

*1. unbiased by personal interest or advantage; not influenced by selfish motives

Organ donation opt out

More on the subject itself later but I smell a rat - if we are to have to opt out how will they know we have opted out?

By ID cards and a National Identity Register of course. Even better they will be able to make sure the have the right person by using biometrics.

On this day

On this day in 1128, Pope Honorius II grants a papal sanction to the military order known as the Knights Templar, declaring it to be an army of God.

All manner of myths and legends have grown up around the Knights Templar which have fed the conspiracy theorists throughout history. However one of the, the ark of the covenant, did bring us that cracking yarn The Da Vinci Code.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

On this day

In 49 BC Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon River signaling a war between Rome and Gaul and bringing us a phrase that many use but few know where it came from of its significance.

Friday, January 11, 2008

What a picture

This got to me via email, it is doing the rounds and nobody knows much more about it than is on the picture. Its pretty impressive though.

(You need to click it and see it enlarged to get the full effect)

On this day

In 1967 Jimi Hendrix recorded Purple Haze

MP's Pay (3) - Comparators

Courtesy of The Wardman Wire I learn that MP's believe that Doctor's pay is a comparator to justify their own, above inflation, pay rise, isn't this a bit circular?

MP's allowed Doctor's, especially GP's, to get huge pay rises over the past 10 years and now they complain that they need an above average pay rise to keep up.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Another report telling was we know

I could have told them this 21 years ago:

Research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, commissioned by the Government, found that pupils born over the summer are likely to fall behind those born at the beginning of the academic year


The Great Wiseone was a Reception/Year 1 teacher and when she got pregnant she was desperate to hang on to the new academic year so our sprog would have a better chance in school. It was well known at the time, and I am sure before then, that older pupils fared better in school.

Still, we've got to keep those think tanks employed, haven't we, and who would trust a teacher anyway?

On this day

Thomas Paine published his pamphlet "Common Sense.". The document denounced British rule and, through its immense popularity, contributed to stimulating the American Revolution.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

American primaries and the MSM

Blimey, today's result with Hilary wining in New Hampshire has got the MSM in to a bit of a lather. It seems like they can't cope when the result doesn't reflect "The Polls". Guido sums it up well.

How Did We All Get This So Wrong? in the Speccie sums up the pundits this morning. All the pundit talk of double digit leads for Obama have come to naught, there was even talk of Hillary pulling out of the race yesterday.

The beeb, especially Radio 4 this morning, was full of "the American people have voted for.." or The people of New Hampshire have voted for.." it was the same after Iowa. All this shows is that the MSM are completely ignorant of what is going on with the Primaries and how they work, which is different in just about every State.

But before looking at the result its worth understanding the general purpose of the Primary. The idea is for the Party to select its best candidate to fight the election, in this case the US presidential election. Furthermore, as a federal country each State has a proportion of the final say, with the larger States having the largest say, as you would expect. As part of the process the candidates put themselves up for scrutiny by the party faithful (well in most cases but bare with me). This exposes them to the type of scrutiny they will get in the main election and in theory knocks out the weakest candidates, leaving their strongest candidate.

How each state carries out its Primary, and when, is up to that State and there are many ways it can be done, but from here I have listed the main ones:
Closed. Voters may vote in a party's primary only if they are registered members of that party. Independents cannot participate. Note that due to the appropriation of the term "independent" by some political parties, the term "non-partisan" is often used to refer to those who are not affiliated with a political party.

Semi-closed. As in closed primaries, registered party members can vote only in their own party's primary. Semi-closed systems, however, allow unaffiliated voters to participate as well. Depending on the state, independents either make their choice of party primary privately, inside the voting booth, or publicly, by registering with any party on Election Day.

Open. A registered voter may vote in any party primary regardless of his or her own party affiliation. When voters do not pre-register with a party before the primary, it is called a pick-a-party primary because the voter can select which party's primary he or she wishes to vote in on election day. Because of the open nature of this system, a practice known as "raiding" may occur. "Raiding" consists of voters of one party crossing over and voting in the primary of another party. Although no cases can be shown where this has happened successfully, the theory is that opposing party members vote for the weakest candidate of the opposite party in order to give their own party the advantage in the general election.

Semi-open. All voters may vote in any single primary, but must publicly declare which primary they will vote in before entering the voting booth. Typically this declaration is accomplished by requesting a ballot. In many states with semi-open primaries, election officials record each voter's choice of party and provide the parties access to the information

There is one other piece of information you need to understand before we look at the first two results and that is a Caucus which was used in Iowa:
Caucus A caucus is most generally defined as a meeting of supporters or members of a political party or movement. The exact definition varies among many different countries.

So now lets look at the results so far and see why the MSM and polls can be so wrong.

Iowa is a Caucus, which means people had to turn out to public meetings and cast their vote by standing around with other like minded people. It should also be remembered that the weather wasn't exactly temperate either so only the most dedicated will turn out. So who turns out to these meeting do you think? The party faithful, of course. What's more, whilst these may be organised by the State they people mill around so are open to the persuasion by the most vocal and to peer pressure.

So how do we think this type of vote may pan out? My guess is that it tends to favour those closest to the opinions of the core party members and workers who, like in this country, tend to be towards the extremes of public opinion.

Next New Hampshire. This is a Semi-Open primary and therefore open to all sorts of raiding (as described in the Open description above). Again it appeals to party members but anyone can turn up. So lets just look at raiding again - you look at the opposing party's nominees and think "if we are too win it would be much better if X was their nominee as the people don't like him/her" and go and vote for them. This is particularly the case if you would rather your own worst nominee was President rather than the other Party's best person.

Now I am not saying this definitely happened, especially in New Hampshire, but it certainly capable of happening. Lets face it we get similar negative voting here where Labour voters go for LibDems rather than let a Tory in.

Furthermore, given that its party members who are most likely to vote in Primaries we also have to be very suspicious of polls that sample the general population.

Anyway, I'm no political scientist and this is only a lay man's guide, but if I can see the flaws in believing polls why dont the MSM?

On this day

My diary is incorrect, yet again, by claiming that Amy Johnson died after baling out of her plane over the Thames, which happened on 5th January.

What did happen? Today in 1799 William Pitt the Younger introduced income tax, at two shillings (10p) in the pound, to raise funds for the Napoleonic Wars.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Labour need a history lesson

Yesterday I commented Mark Wadsworth's post, Winter of Discontent:

The daft buggers have only just repealed the law preventing prison officers striking in favour of a voluntary ban on strikes. Clearly nobody in New Labour is either old enough to remember the 60's and 70's or has read a history book.

This was more prescient than I thought because Labour has now started talking about 3 year pay deals for public sector workers, in effect a pay cut, with an expected union response which is covered with the usual rigour of Watt Tyler here:

One cave-in we should particularly look out for is the RPI-linked deal. Already this morning we've heard the GMB calling for RPI plus o.5%, which at present would mean nearly 5%. On a public sector paybill in excess of £150bn pa.

BOM's more mature readers will recall RPI-plus was precisely the formula that hopeless Heath visited on Britain in 1973- just before the first OPEC oil price hike. And it really did turn a drama into a wage-price spiralling crisis.


Like Watt, I too remember the euphoria of getting a monthly pay rise, only to find that it didn't anywhere near compensate for a pint of beer increasing in price just about every night.

As George Santayana said:
Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Lets just hope it isn't going to be 7 years before we get a "Thatcher" to untangle the mess again, it would be just too painful a second time round.

If this had been the Tories (3)

According to The Register

Stephen Ladyman, the former UK transport minister, is now working as an adviser to a traffic-data company.
The MP, who stepped down from his ministerial post last year following the departure of Tony Blair but remains in Parliament, says in the Register of Members' Interests that he receives from £10,000 to £15,000 pa from ITIS Holdings plc. ITIS uses data from various sources to maintain its national traffic-flow database, which produces journey-time forecasts, blackspot updates and so on.

In the 80's and 90's Labour would have been apoplectic, but is OK now because:
Ladyman undertook not to conduct lobbying of the British government for one year when he stood down from the DfT, and this period will not expire until June. However, he considers himself at liberty to help ITIS deal with European and continental authorities, telling the Times that:
"I know quite a lot of the transport ministers around Europe..."

And I'm sure that when he bumps in to his mates around Westminster he won't dream of mentioning what he does or how he could help them. As for the EU connection, given they pay people to lobby them I suppose we shouldn't see anything wrong here, he may as well be doing something useful and trying to win contracts for the UK from the grat pork barrel in Brussels.

But all that is really just a side show because the real long term goal has to be this golden egg:
The broadsheet saw the Ladyman-ITIS payments as a sign that UK national road-pricing is imminent.

Of course because it a Labour MP doing all this there is no hint of impropriety at all.

Someone pass me a clothes peg, it getting too smelly round here.

On this day

My diary claims Louis Braille was born in 1809, but from the link to RNIB web site you will see that my diary is wrong and that he was born on 4th January! I have already complained once to Collins about a factual error and now this; definitely not acceptable.

Anyway, here's a correct on - General Charles de Gaulle was born. As my father said, he never once forgave us and the Americans for liberating Paris.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Poor Belgium

Charlemagne in the Economist has a very interesting piece on how EU states control shop opening hours and even when sales can take place and how much shops can discount in sales. Apparently shopkeepers in Belgium can't even offer bogoff's because that is too much of a discount. But that's not the point of the post.

The truly scary part is that Belgium has a bureaucrat in its economics ministry, who glories in the title of director-general for regulation and organisation of the market.

Anyone wan to bet that if the EU hasn't got one that it soon will.