Monday, March 31, 2008

On this day

1924 The first British national airline, Imperial Airways, was founded at Croydon Airport.

Follwing the T5 debacle perhaps BA should consider a name change to rebuild its brand, but I suspect a return to Imperial Airways won't be the answer

Blogging differently

I am on a business trip to the ME later today until next Thursday and I suspect that blogging in this country will be quite difficult as it is notoriously paranoid. Even if I can get on to blog I will always be sober so I suspect fewer rants.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Blogging light

I'm away for a weekend in Lyme Regis looking for retirement properties with the Great Wiseone. I'm not sure if the hotel has Internet access and even if it does I'm sure I won't be allowed to spend much time.

On this day

in 1912, both the Oxford and the Cambridge boats sank in the annual university boat race.

Lets hope for a better race on Sunday, although I'm sure watching them both sink will be entertaining.

Public employee salaries

Tim Worstall is quoting a TPA piece and it has even made the radio news:

Over 800 town hall employees make more than £100,000 a year. Some even
make more than Polly, if you can believe that.
Given that government, national and local, is a necessary evil it is in our own interests that we employ the best people and pay them well. The problem is that there isn't a real benchmark to decide what they are worth. There pay is therefore decided by some committee who come up with typical jobs in the private sector.

I have a much better idea that will demonstrate how much they are really worth. Every 5 years anyone earning more than, say, 1.5x the median salary, should be given 3 months to find a job in in the private sector. They can either accept the job or have their salary set at the level of that job offer. If the don't get an offer they should be paid 1.5x the median salary and take a 10% cut every year until they can either get a job offer and get their salaries set to the new offer or to the minimum wage.

Yet more Government interference masquerading as a charity

Via the Cynical Libertarian we learn about another bunch of interfering busybodies purporting to be a charity, but really paid for you and I, using this cover to call for yet more state control of our everyday lives:

Schools and councils are being urged to make it harder for children to swap their school meal for a takeaway.

Rising levels of obesity are being fuelled by the ready availability of junk food, said the School Food Trust.

It wants schools to close their gates at lunchtime and councils to stop new fast food outlets opening nearby.


The trust has issued a "league table" of the local education authority areas with the most takeaway and sweet shops per secondary school.

Topping the list is Brighton and Hove, with 46 per school, closely followed by Blackpool and Hull.

This is a statistics free report from the beeb, no surprises there, so I will also make a statistics free observation before getting in to more detail about these control freaks. As it happened I was driving through Marlow yesterday afternoon and whilst I saw loads of school kids I wasn't aware of any of them being overweight, let alone an epidemic.

So lets have a look at this organisation who want to not only control school kids but tell the rest of us how we can trade. As you would expect they have a flashy web site:

The School Food Trust was established by the Department for Education and Skills
in September 2005. Its remit is to transform school food and food skills, promote the education and health of children and young people and improve the quality of food in schools.
So how did they come to this high number of wicked capitalists doing the devils work of tempting our kids to eat themselves to death. I would have expected this to have been burger joints (helpfully the beeb gives us the ubiquitous picture of a burger) and fish and chip shops within, say, 500m of the school:

Local authorities have been ranked by the number of junk food outlets
in their area, divided by the number of secondary schools in that areae.g.
Brighton and Hove:415 junk food outlets divided by 9 secondary schools =

That will be every shop in a town that sells crisps, chocolate of beefburgers. That will include all supermarkets, newsagents and garage, no matter how far it is from the school that these bastards want to control. Where I went to school one of the fish and chips shops that will be included in this study is over 2 miles from the school, I can't think of any schoolkids that would be willing to walk that far for their junk food fix.

So in one fell swoop we have a bunch of interfering busybodies :
  • Telling 18 year-olds what they can and can't eat
  • Jailing 18 year-olds behind school gates against their will and for committing no crime other than offending the Government
  • Licensing every shop or food outlet in the country to ensure that they only sell what is approved of by them

And all this using our money:

The School Food Trust was set up in 2005 with £15 million of funding from
the Department for Education and Skills to promote the education and health of
children and young people by improving the quality of food supplied and consumed
in schools.

Despite having a good look round I haven't been able to find one statistic that tells me how many of our children are obese to justify this money and interference. If it really was that bad I would have expected them to be screaming the figures of every page of their web site.

All that money and we have the sloppiest of reports that wouldn't acceptable as an 11 year-olds science report.

I'll leave the Cynical Libertarian to sum up:

I'll finish with this thought: the School Food Trust has compiled a 'league table' of those areas with the most fast-food outlets and 'sweet shops' per school. It could, presumably, have compiled a 'league table' of areas with the highest rates of child obesity and compared the two. If they're right, there should be a strong positive correlation. Why leave out such a damning piece of proof if you're right?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

On this day

in 1860, the corkscrew was patented by M.L. Byrn.

The English were the first to seal wine bottles, using cork imported from
Spain or Portugal. Cork comes from the wood of the Quercus Suber or cork tree, a
species of Oak native to Spain. Obviously, corkscrews were invented as an easy
way of removing the cork from a bottle.
Also on this day in 1987 U2 filmed their video "Where the Streets Have No Name" on a rooftop in L.A, a brilliant video. Unfortunately I can't find a source so I can embed the video so you'll have to go at watch it here:

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Another one to make the climate catastrophists squirm

Anyone who has been paying attention to the climate debate will be aware that the looming catastrophe isn't the the temperature increased caused by CO2, that is accepted by the IPCC and skeptics is about 1deg C increase, a minor irritation. No, climate alarmists rely on positive feedback to multiply that 1 deg rise by 3, 4 or even more. It works something like this: CO2 causes some warming, this warming causes, say more clouds, more clouds causes more heat to be trapped, which causes more clouds....and this is what is in the climate change models

Climate skeptics have, for some time, been pointing out that positive feedback in nature is not only unproven, but also very unlikely - think of the runaway affects when someone puts a microphone in front of a speaker - why hasn't the earth endued up like Venus as we've had hotter periods and periods with more CO2 in the atmosphere? Up until now climate scientists have been able to dismiss skeptic claims because they had nothing to base their objections on. I say up until now because via Climate Skeptic we get this interesting piece.

The gist of the story is:

The [NASA Aqua] satellite was only launched in 2002 and it enabled the collection of data, not just on temperature but also on cloud formation and water vapour. What all the climate models suggest is that, when you've got warming from additional carbon dioxide, this will result in increased water vapour, so you're going to get a positive feedback. That's what the models have been indicating. What this great data from the NASA Aqua satellite ... (is) actually showing is just the opposite, that with a little bit of warming, weather processes are compensating, so they're actually limiting the greenhouse effect and you're getting a negative rather than a positive feedback."

Both are worth the full read although Climate Skeptic gets to the point faster and is easier to read, there are also some interesting comments that are worth reading.

So, whilst there is still some argument to be had over this data is does at least support the skeptic arguments which cannot now easily be dismissed.

New euphemism for lying

We've had "being economical with the truth" and being economical with the actuality now Hilary Clinton brings us "misspoke" to hide her lying to get attention and make her out to be something she isn't:

Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has said she made a mistake in
claiming that she came under sniper fire on a trip to Bosnia in the 1990s.
"It proves I'm human," she said in Pennsylvania ahead of the key primary
election vote there on 22 April.

Her aides earlier admitted she "misspoke" in claiming she and daughter Chelsea "ran with our heads down" when arriving in Bosnia in 1996.

The human memory is a wonderful thing but it does play tricks on us, especially the way it tends to block out bad experiences and reinforces good ones. I'm sure that some of my own memories are distorted and don't agree with the actual events. But this is different.

I haven't been the target by snipers, thankfully, but I have come under fire from enemy artillery and air force in the Falklands and I can assure you that you don't make up that sort of experience without pre-planning it. They're so far up their own arses when it comes to this that they don't even have the forethought to imagine they'll get found out.

So, in short she confirms that she, like the rest of the politicians worldwide, is just a lying bastard who will do and say anything to get in to power. Bastards, the lot of 'em.

Daily Mail distorts DNA story

I don't read the DM, I don't like its style and political stance and so only catch these stories second hand, hence the delay.

On of the reasons I started reading blogs was to get a different perspective on what is really happening. Like most people I found the MSM sensationalist at best and downright liars at worst. One of my favourites is The Magistrates Blog, which is where I picked up this story:

Financial adviser arrested and forced to give DNA sample after spraying neighbour with garden hose A man was given a police caution for spraying a neighbour with his garden hose in a row over gardening. Bob Cornwall was questioned for three hours and had his fingerprints and a DNA sample taken after he squirted water at John Tait. The 42-year-old financial adviser was washing his car with his five-year-old son Reece when Mr Tait complained that he had dumped some branches in his garden.

Bob Cornwall was taken to a police station for three hours after spraying his neighbour with a garden hose Mr Cornwall said: "He was angry, red-faced and shouting. I told him initially to go away and stop shouting but then he started calling me names in front of my son so I flicked the hose at him. "Because I was cleaning my car the setting was only on a light spray so he was hardly drenched.
OK, so it looks like we have a neighbour dispute, the worst kind of dispute, and the police were called in, questioned Mr Cornwall and took his DNA and they are being pilloried by the DM, why?

As The Magistrate says:
..the action described in the story would certainly amount to Common
Assault. If it is reported to the police they have a duty to act, and so they
did. Neighbour disputes are not all trivial, and have even resulted in murder
before now

That sounds a bit different doesn't it? And you can bet that if the police hadn't done anything and it had led serious assault and even murder the DM would have been all over the police for not responding, they can't win.

But it gets worse:
But that isn't the worst of it. When I read the report (online: I wouldn't pay
for the damn thing) I rang an acquaintance to ask him to add a comment pointing
out that the police had acted properly, which he did. It was not published:
conclusive proof that the Mail did not want to spoil a good 'how dare they'
story with the inconvenient truth.

Now that, if true, is disgusting and the DM and MSM should be ashamed. But that's not the worst of it, hey wouldn't get my money anyway so I'm sure they don't care about my opinion.

But the real point is the one The Magistrate finishes with:
What annoys me about this is that many people, like those whose comments
were published, will have accepted the story with its suggestions of police bias
and inefficiency.

It all too easy to fall for the police have better things to do line when it offends the DM and its readership, but we never get the full story, do we?

On this day - Falklands

March 26, 1982.

The Argentine military junta decides to invade the islands. (Although most of us didn't know it I wouldn't be surprised if the security services had some idea that something was brewing.)


Argentina is in deep economic trouble; Throughout 1981, inflation sky-rockets to over 600%, GDP is down 11.4%, manufacturing output is down 22.9%, and real wages by 19.2% [Rock: p 375-378]. In addition, Mass disappearances of people in the hands of the military juntas causes significant unrest.

The third dictatorship president since the 1976 coup, General Leopoldo
launches a military invasion of the islands, code named OperaciĆ³n Rosario. The invasion is planned by the commander of the Navy Admiral Jorge Anaya to be launched on one of the most important national celebrations (The revolution anniversary on May 25th or Independence day on July 9th). Its main purpose is to divert public attention from the distressing internal problems and restore the long lost popularity and prestige of the dictatorship.

Due to the mounting pressures on the government, and mass union
demonstrations in late March, the date of the invasion is moved earlier to April
2nd in an act of desperation.


I have highlighted the sentence about the purpose because despite what some on the left like to claim it was the typical response of an unpopular dictator - find a distraction when things aren't going well at home. I have yet to see any convincing data that claims otherwise but if the racts change.....

At this time I was still in Germany going about my normal business and oblivious to what was going on, like most of the UK population I suspect.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

On this day

This is truly a black armband day as in 1957 six European nations signed the Treaty of Rome thus establishing the Common Market. They were Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Holland and Luxembourg.

If only they had stuck to trade and a common market instead of building a bureaucratic empire we might all be wealthier.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Its not just the Ghurka's we should be ashamed about

The plight of Ghurkas not being allowed to settle here has, quite rightly, raised public concern. It is summed up quite nicely by Philip Johnston in The Telegraph:

There are times when the routine irritation we all feel with the idiocies that take place daily in government is supplanted by splenetic anger caused by something truly outlandish.

The sight of Gurkha ex-servicemen gathered in front of the Palace of Westminster to return the medals they had received for fighting with the British Army was just such a moment. They were objecting to the fact that many of their number are denied the right to settle in Britain because they retired before 1997.

I spent 9 months on a course with 4 Gurkhas* and saw them land in the Falklands and like anyone who has served have nothing but admiration for them and support every move to give them equality and treat them as fellow citizens.

However, lets not forget that because they are a Regiment with a high profile they get most of the best PR but they aren't alone in being badly treated. Fijians have just as good a record serving in the army and are just as badly treated. This is an old article but gives yo goo background. Again I served with a number of Fijians and there loyalty and professionalism cannot be disputed.

Update: via Tmmy, EU Referndum points out that the real reason those who served in the Gurkhas befor 1997 can't be geive citizenship is down to the EU. Well, there's a surprise:
However, the admission of third-country nationals to the UK and the rules for citizenship are set out not in UK law but by the EU, specifically
Council Directive 2003/109/EC of 25 November 2003, "concerning the status of third-country nationals who are long-term residents".Within the framework of reference of this EU law, Ghurkas who were based on Britain – i.e., post 1997 – conform with the entry requirements set out. Those who were engaged prior to that do not. It really is as simple as that.*The first Saturday morning of the course I was woken up at about 11am, we had been out until daybreak, by the 4 Gurkhas who promptly thrust a curry under my nose and sat in my room until I had eaten it. They and the rest of the Gurkhas who were on other courses were given the run of the cookhouse on a Saturday morning and this was the first of many curries I enjoyed during that course.

On this day

in 1946, broadcaster Alastair Cooke read his first 'Letter from America' [This link also has the audio broadcast] on BBC Radio. His weekly broadcasts continued for more than 50 years.

I didn't go out of my way to listen to them but if I was near a radio I would try to catch them as he had a wonderful voice and always told a fascinating and enlightening story, no matter what subject he had chosen as the weekly broadcast.

At last the penny's dropping on bio fuels

Even the beeb is starting to realise that all that is said and done at the alter of the almighty "global warming" is not necessarily good. This morning I nearly had an accident whilst driving when Today carried a piece on the insanity of bio fuel legislation which comes in to force in April. The we article can be read here:

The UK's chief environment scientist has called for a delay to a policy demanding inclusion of biofuels into fuel at pumps across the UK.

Professor Robert Watson said ministers should await the results of their inquiry into biofuels' sustainability

Some scientists think biofuels' carbon benefits may be currently outweighed by negative effects from their production.

The Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO) is to introduce 2.5% biofuels at the pumps from 1 April.
On the radio he claimed he hadn't even been consulted by ministers before they implemented the policy. I am sure that, like me, you would expect any right thinking layman to at least the consult the experts before making up their mind. You would certainly think the Government would before passing legislation, wouldn't you? I'm sure you can guess why they didn't bother -

The DfT is itself under pressure from an EU policy demanding the inclusion of 5% biofuels in road fuels by 2010 in an attempt to cut carbon emissions.
Yep, the good old EU appears to have come up with a policy that not even rabid environmentalists support:

His [Professor Watson] comments in an interview with BBC Radio 4's Today programme appear on the day when a coalition of pressure groups from Oxfam to Greenpeace writes to the Department for Transport (DfT) demanding that the policy be delayed until after the review.
So what do the EU have to say:

The EU's Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas earlier told BBC News that this target should only be reached if the biofuels could be proved to be sustainably produced.
But its EU policy you fucking numpty, one that you and your fellow collection of failed and corrupt politicians have implemented without knowing the facts. And you wonder why the EU is being held in contempt by so many people.

The closing piece though is the real killer:
But many will question why energy experts promoting biofuels in the EU were
allowed to go unchallenged so long by the views on biofuels of agriculture
specialists or soil scientists.

Is it because they are making a shit load of our money promoting scare stories and promising their pet solutions alone have the answer? Surely not?

Anyway, its a good start and all we need now is people to question why the climate alarmists are allowed to get away with making outlandish claims of 8 deg warming based on positive feedback in nature and we might be able to have a grown up debate on the subject of global warming.

Normal weather

The MSM has been on and on about how miserable the weather is, no thought about AGW! It all seems fairly normal to me. Its only anecdotal but after all these years this all seems fairly normal. Winter normally has a sting in March and during late March and April it is not uncommon to have all four seasons in a day, yesterday we had all fours seasons twice. Today we had all four again - I went from full winter rig on the gold course to shirt sleeves and back to full winter rig.

And this is global warming!

Blogging light

I've been distracted recently, work piled up and I promised the Great Wiseone I would update her website.

The first version of her website was built with Frontpage and we weren't very happy with it, but it was quick to build, required no traing and worked. It was functional but was difficult to update and was very clunky. I spent the past 2 weeks learning HTML and CSS and this weekend building it. I'm glad the weather was miserable because I have been stuck indoors and only played golf once and no sailing.

Anyway, I hope to catch up with blog reading and posting over the next week or so

Sunday, March 23, 2008

On this day

in 1991, Prime Minister John Major issued his Citizens' Charter. Failing public service providers would be forced to offer customers cash refunds or face government budget cuts.

I always thought that Major was what was known in military parlance as a "newt" - not employable with the troops. He seemed to be a reasonably competent Staff officer but as PM he was useless and this gimmick just about summed him up. What was the point of fining them our money for giving us a bad service?

It just goes to show how even after 10 years of Maggie there was still a lot of senior politicians who thought the revenues raised through taxes were the Government's own money to treat as they saw fit.

Nothing has changed, in fact its got worse. Bastards, the lot of them

Social stigmas and the welfare state

Burning Our Money has a very good post on life in Dewsbury Moorside and specifically the road where Shannon Matthew's family live. I don't intend to copy the post here or make many references because I want to talk about how we go here. But to give you an insight:

But round our way, that isn't what people are talking about. Round our way, everyone's clucking about her family circumstances, five siblings by different fathers and all. And those neighbours we met at the street celebrations afterwards [go and see the picture, but not while you are eating]


According to the local paper this is "one of most deprived areas in the country". That conclusion is based on a giant number crunching exercise carried out by the Department for Communities and Local Government and known as the Index of Deprivation 2007.


Another big difference is in working for a living. Unemployment and "incapacity" together account for around 13% of the adult population not working, compared to 8% nationally. Add in another 4% for lone parents (see below) not working, and we've got around 17% of the working age population being supported by the state rather than earning their own way. That's about 70% higher than the national average.

Against that background it's not surprising that welfare payments make up a good proportion of the community's income. 23% of the working age population claim a "key benefit" (cf 14% nationally), including 4% on Jobseekers Allowance, and 10% on Incapacity Benefit. Income support claimants, at 10% of the population, are three times the national average, and Housing and Council Tax Benefit claimants (14%) are more than 50% above average.

So how have we got to this point? At one time people would have been ashamed to have children out of wedlock, but even when they did parents tended to stick together. teenage pregnancy was a great source of social stigma, which gave girls the incentive to keep their legs closed until they had at least a promise of marriage. Nobody would accept unemployment as a way of life, as well as living in poverty it was part of a man's duty to provide and if you didn't you were looked down on.

I think iit is a good thing that we no longer have these social stigmas; what people do with their life is their business within reason, but we seem to have gone from accepting these lifestyles to positively rewarding them. Which means that humans beings, being fairly rational, will see them as a career choice.

So what can be done? I don't want to see a return to stigmatising people for their lifestyle choices, that path leads to honour killings, back street abortions and suicides. BOM is partly right:
So here are some suggestions:

Freeze welfare benefits, especially the reward for having children: welfare should not be an attractive career choice
Freeze the minimum wage: Brown likes to brag how the minimum wage has not destroyed jobs, but in areas like the poor end of Dewsbury a national minimum wage almost certainly means unskilled low-end labour cannot find work

But these are symptoms. We need to get the apologists for these people, the Polly Toynbee's of this world, to stop excusing people. We have to get our politicians to stop their race to the bottom, seeing who can give away most of our money, and get them to start preaching personal responsibility.

I hate saying this because we push too much on to schools but they are the ones who have to inculcate personal responsibility in to our children. Nobody should be leaving school without a clear understanding that they, and they alone, are responsible for their own lives. Yes there will be a minimum standard of life for the unfortunate, but not the reckless and feckless. A CBI payment is probably worth a try.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Give 'em a good slap

Not the kids, the parents.

This is obviously a self serving story put out by the TUC to support their claims for more of whatever it is they want - money, time off, teachers; but it is still a sad reflection on the way we live.

Research for the National Union of Teachers (NUT) suggested a minority of children threw tantrums, swore and were physically aggressive.

No mention of how big the minority is, but we'll let it pass as I have other things to do. Anyway, we are treated to some fine examples, possibly the only ones in the report, but good for their cause:
It described a mother who celebrated the fact she had been able to get her five-year-old to bed at 1am instead of his previous bedtime of 3am.


It also told of a seven-year-old who smashed up his Playstation in a tantrum, then spent a week pestering his mother until she bought him a new one.

The researchers said some parents simply could not say "no" when their children demanded televisions and computers in their bedrooms.

Yes children do that, they push things to the limit, but it really isn't the child's fault, they are programmed to get away with what they can.*
Then we have the blindingly obvious quote to pad out the story:
"Others would do "anything to shut up their children just to get some peace", it said."
Of course we all know who to blame really, don't we. yes, it those horrible free marketeers:
Mr Sinnott said the problem lay with parents who were struggling with little or no help to bring up their children in a heavily commercialised world.

He wants a ban on advertising aimed at children.

"Parents are trying to cope by indulging, or by over-indulging, their youngsters," he said.

Ahaa, that's what this is about, more bansturbation. No thought to the parents who aren't struggling and have no objections, no, just ban it. Lets not forget that they did claim that it was only a minority of parents who were struggling, so they are talkking about baning the majorouty from going about their lawful business.

I'm getting bored now so I'll finish with the reason for the post title:
NUT boss Steve Sinnott is calling for more advice for parents who struggle to say "no" to their children.

No, Steve, they don't need "help", and by that I assume you mean more civil servants and higher taxes, they just need a good slap and to be told not to be so soft.

*The Economist carried an interesting article a couple of weeks ago which showed that babies will cry more if they think that the adult nearby will feed them more. They cry less if the adult refuses.
For a long time such signals have been considered honest—at least by childless zoologists. The more noise an infant makes, the hungrier it is. However, Matthew Bell, a zoologist at Cambridge University, now suspects that a degree of dishonesty and manipulation may be involved.
There is, he says, a conflict of interest between parents and offspring, with offspring frequently wanting more resources than the parents would readily provide. But because the parents do not know for sure how hungry their child is, they are liable to manipulation.


He thinks the findings are more broadly applicable. In human infants, there is the same kind of “information battle”, in which parents try to understand the cues that accurately convey information about what their offspring needs, versus what they can get away with. Parents of over-fussy babies, or tantrum-prone children, will not be pleased to discover it is their very attentiveness that is making matters worse. It is painful to acknowledge, but marketers were right all along: pester power works

Another example of research confirming what we know.

BBC irony on childcare

BBC News excelled itself this morning and provided us with a good laugh.

In the first article we were told how spoilt children are disrupting schools. To accompany the story we were given lots of pictures of children pestering parents in toy shops. The online version is here:

Primary schoolchildren spoilt by their parents can cause disruption in the classroom by repeating manipulative behaviour used at home, a report says.

Maybe more on this one later

In the next story we are told that parents are having trouble meeting the costs of childcare during school holidays. Again the online version is here:
A leading childcare charity is urging the government to force schools to make term times more co-ordinated.
With this Easter falling so early, different schools' holidays span a four-week period.

The Daycare Trust said the system was costing parents whose children have different Easter holiday times hundreds of pounds extra in childcare costs.

We then had pictures of an obviously middle class mum who is struggling because her children have different holidays and she was having to cope with the extended period. We were obviously supposed to pity her and then without a trace of irony we are told that two of here children are at private school!

FFS, having children is a big decision and requires sacrifices by the parents not be the rest of us. I accept that as a society it is best we pool resources to pay for education and that we do need a constant stream of doctors, nurses, electricians etc, to maintain us in our dotage, but that is far enough. I don't see why I should pay more taxes to parents that a) spoil their children because they are on a guilt trip or B) want to send their kids to private schools without sacrifice.

No doubt some soft headed politician or social commentator like Polly will take up their cause and demand that we be given even less pocket money from our munificent governement.

On this day

in 1903, Niagara Falls ran out of water due to a drought.

And it managed this without any help from us in the form of increased CO2.

Friday, March 21, 2008

On this day

in 1999 Ernie Wise, comedian, died aged 73.

As I've had a shit day teaching myself HTML and CSS only find IE7 doesn't support the feature I wanted to use I need a laugh:

Thursday, March 20, 2008

On this day

in 1966, the football World Cup (Jules Rimet trophy) was stolen whilst being exhibited at Central Hall in London.

Kudos to anyone who cam name the dog that found it without looking it up on the web.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Is Jeffrey Skilling innocent?

Yes, that Jeffrey Skilling of Enron fame! I followed this story and watched the film and like most was convinced of his guilt and as someone who had many privileges I felt his jail term of 24 years was harsh but it did send a message to other people in similar positions.

Well, incredible as it may seem the Economist is carrying and article that suggests he could have been the victim of a miscarriage of justice:

On March 14th, evidence emerged that government prosecutors may have misled the court and Mr Skilling’s defence team about the content of interviews with key witnesses, including Andrew Fastow, Enron’s former chief financial officer.

Mr Fastow’s testimony was widely regarded, not least by the prosecution, as crucial to securing Mr Skilling’s conviction: it was the only direct evidence that Mr Skilling actually knew about the various frauds at Enron for which he was found guilty. Yet the new document reveals that, at least in his early interviews with the FBI, Mr Fastow did not appear to implicate Mr Skilling as unequivocally as he did when he testified in court. Indeed, on crucial points, his original answers appear to exonerate Mr Skilling.

So how did this come about and why has it taken so long?
Why is this inconsistency only now coming to light? Rather than handing over the original interview notes, the government instead produced a composite summary. This is standard practice, but the summary must accurately reflect what was said. Mr Skilling’s defence team, after eventually persuading the court to order the government to hand over its original notes, makes a strong case that the summary of Mr Fastow's interview omits details in a way that consistently favours the government.

Now if this is true this is, IMHO, just as big a scandal as the original offence. It shows the State has no regard for the truth or due process and was just after a conviction, come what may. And people wonder why we get so wound up about the need to control the state and have safeguards in place.

Having said that, for a CEO to have not known what was going on is still somewhat incredible and if he didn't he deserves some punishment for incompetence, but that would be up to the shareholders not some zealous prosecutor.

On this day - Faklands

in 1982,A group of Argentine scrap metal merchants working in the South Georgia island is escorted by some military personnel. Britain calls Argentina to remove the military personnel without response.

I was serving in Germany at the time and like most people wondered what this was all about. I'd never heard of the place and it took some time for the political history and significance, oil it was believed, to sink in.

The eagle eyed readers will notice the the title of this post includes the Falklands reference. This subject is going to be a bit of a personal indulgence over the next few months so I'll use this to indicate one of those indulgences and save those who aren't interested some time.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Who's to blame for the personal debt crises?

I listened, somewhat bemused, to part of the Radio 5 phone-in on personal debt this morning. (I know I shouldn't but R4 was crap and I had forgotten my iPod).

It was amazing how many people wanted to blame irresponsible lending and exonerate those who had got themselves in to massive debt they couldn't afford to pay back. What was worrying was that seemed to be the line of the presenter and the guests in the studios.

Well I have little sympathy for those who ran up massive credit card debt and wanted to scream at them all; so what if the credit card companies want to give you a credit card that has a limit of your annual salary, it isn't compulsory to use it. So the bank wants to lend you the money to buy a house, if you filled in the forms correctly and looked at the amounts you must have been satisfied you could pay the monthly sum, otherwise you wouldn't have taken out the mortgage, would you?

Yes I know some people were duped in to taking out mortgages by unscrupulous brokers; to which the response has to be - if it sounds too good.... and your gripe is with them not the industry, per se.

Lets consider what these people were asking for when they said they wanted a return to sensible lending. I took out my first mortgage in 1976. Before I could have the mortgage I had to have a 6 month savings record with the building society, then I had 2 grilling interviews with the manager. He quizzed me on my lifestyle, especially drinking, holidaying and cars (I didn't have the latter). He wouldn't take in to account the fact that I was fast tracked in the Army or that I had overseas allowances. In the end they would only lend me 2.5x my salary on an 80% mortgage, and that was a good deal. (To be fair it was the best lesson I ever had and I've never borrowed more than that since)

We should also consider the bad example set my our current PM and erstwhile Chancellor. We all know that during good times sensible people save for a rainy day and we were constantly being told that we had the sound economy and that all was well. I agreed and during the past 10 years or so I paid off my mortgage, despite working for a tech company that went bust during that period. So what did our Government do? They spent like drunken sailors who never been in ashore before and thought they only had a day left to live. Not a penny saved for a rainy day and now we are borrwing ever increasing amounts just to keep the ship of state afloat (to complete the horrible metaphors).

So now the "belt tightening" starts and does anyone expect our lords and masters to set a good example and start trimming govenement spending? No, I didn't think so.

McCartney Vs Mills

I now know more then I ever wanted to know about a contract entered into willingly by two people and how it ended.

Yes I know I could have turned off the radio but I wanted to catch up with the news when I jumped in the car this afternoon it was the lead story on all the bulletins.

Looks like I'll have to avoid the the TV news and papers for a few days :-(

On this day

in 1992, white South Africans backed a motion to end apartheid and create a multi-racial government.

I had always been against against sanctions on the basis that they punished the poor, yet the left seemed not to care and were generally unrelenting in their quests for ever tighter sanctions, no matter what the consequences.

My mind was changed when I worked there for 6 months in 1999/2000. I worked for a bunch of guys who had been very senior in the MK, the military wing of the ANC during apartheid and they had some very interesting stories to tell. Anyway, when I discussed sanctions with them and how they punished the poor and vulnerable their attitude was that it was worth it to get rid of the regime.

I was further convinced that sanctions had been right when I read FW De Klerk's autobiography. He makes that point that his mind was finally made up to end apartheid when business leaders told him that they couldn't continue to operate with the sanctions in place.

With this in mind I was pro sanctions when we were trying to contain Saddam Hussein, who lets face it, was just as evil as apartheid. What I couldn't get my head round was why the left was against sanctions; furthermore their arguments were the same as mine had been over apartheid. It couldn't be because the USA was against sanctions for SA but for them against Iraq, could it?

Monday, March 17, 2008

On this day

in 1873, the birth of Margaret Grace Bondfield, Labour politician who became chairman of the TUC in 1923 and Minister of Labour in 1929, the first woman to hold office in the Cabinet.

I must confess to not having heard of her, she does sound quite a remarkable woman.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

On this day

in 1963, Peter, Paul and Mary released the children's favourite "Puff The Magic Dragon".

I'll bet you know the words so why not join in for a bit of fun?

Go on...

Saturday, March 15, 2008

On this day

in 44 BC, Roman Emperor Julius Caesar was assassinated by high ranking Roman Senators. The day is known as the “Ides of March.”

Caesar summoned the Senate to meet in the Theatre of Pompey on the Ides of March. A certain seer warned Caesar to be on his guard against a great peril on the day of the month of March which the Romans call the Ides; and when the day had come and Caesar was on his way to the senate-house, he greeted the seer with a jest and said: "The Ides of March has come," and the seer said to him softly: "Yes, the Ides of March has come, but it has not passed."[3]

As the Senate convened, Caesar was attacked and stabbed to death by a group of senators who called themselves the Liberatores ("Liberators"); they justified their action on the grounds that they committed tyrannicide and were preserving the Republic from Caesar's alleged monarchical ambitions

What is little known is that every month has an "Ides":
In the Roman calendar, the term ides was used for the 15th day of the months of March, May, July, and October, and the 13th day of the other 8 months.[1].

Friday, March 14, 2008

Brown's golden error

You may remember that brown didn't sell the family silver, he sold the family gold. This was how the Telegraph reported it in 1999:

GORDON BROWN was accused last night of trying to take Britain into the European single currency by stealth after surprising the City with an announcement that he was selling more than half of the country's gold reserves, leaving Britain the lowest bullion holdings of any major country.

The £4 billion of gold reserves - 415 tonnes - will be converted into euros, dollars and yen over the next few years. The sale will see the proportion of reserves held in gold falling from 17 per cent to 7 per cent. The Chancellor's announcement triggered a fall in the price of gold and provoked Tories and Euro-sceptic businessmen to claim the decision was politically motivated to prepare Britain's entry into the euro.

In case you were wondering this is how gold prices had stood in the period:

Fairly flat you'll agree. The in 1997 we learned this:
From The Sunday Times April 15, 2007

Goldfinger Brown’s £2 billion blunder in the bullion market
Chancellor ignored advice on sell-off
GATHERED around a table in one of the Bank of England’s grand meeting rooms, the select group of Britain’s top gold traders could not believe what they were being told.

Gordon Brown had decided to sell off more than half of the country’s centuries-old gold reserves and the chancellor was intending to announce his plan later that day.

It was May 1999 and the gold price had stagnated for much of the decade. The traders present — including senior executives from at least two big investment banks — warned that Brown, who was not at the meeting, could barely have chosen a worse moment.

In the room, just behind the governor’s main office, they cautioned that gold traditionally moved in decades-long cycles and that the price was likely to increase. They added that even if the sale were to go ahead, the timings and amounts should not be announced, as the gold price would plunge.

“The timing of the decision was ludicrous. We told them you are going to push the gold price down before you sell,” said Peter Fava, then head of precious metal dealing at HSBC who was present at the meeting. “We thought it was a disastrous decision; we couldn’t understand it. We brought up a lot of potential problems at the meeting.”

Martin Stokes, former vice-president at JP Morgan, who was also present, said: “I was surprised they had chosen the auction method. It indicated they did not have a real understanding of the gold market.”
According to other sources, however, Bank of England officials told those present they had “little say” about what was going to happen and that they were “doing what they were told”. This was a decision made by Brown and his inner circle, who appeared uninterested in their expert advice.

So now we have gold at over $1,000, that's 3x what it was when Brown decided to sell. In the words of Balls, so what? Well, the economy was growing strongly then and we shouldn't have needed a fire sale, which depressed prices further. Now we have economic problems that gold and extra money would have come in pretty handy.

As Lord Melbourn said:
"What all the wise men promised has not happened and what all the dammed fools said would happen has come to pass

And still they claim to be economically competent. Bastards

How did MP’s expenses get to this?

Being an MP is a job; yes a special job because they are representing a constituency and their job interview is in the form of an election but still a job after all. When they apply for this job they are well aware that it requires a certain amount of travel and being away on business. This gives them 2 choices: they can either live in their constituency and commute to Westminster or they can live near London and commute to their constituencies at tax payers expense.

Whichever they choose they may need to stay overnight, fair enough, that happens to lots of us and we accept that it is part of the job. Now some employers are very generous, they allow business class travel, 5 star hotels and generous restaurant bills, accepting this is straight off the bottom line but they judge that they get value for money. Others are quite parsimonious and insist on the cheapest form of travel, a 3 star hotel and "reasonable" meals. Most allow a free call to talk to family whilst away but generally limit this to around 10 minutes. I don't see why this principle shouldn't apply to MP's. and maybe they sit somewhere in between.

If someone wants to take their spouse on one of these trips their costs have to be kept completely separate for business and tax reasons. I had one employer who insisted that that we get the clients' permission as well before our spouses travelled with us, harsh but it was a condition of employment.

One thing is sure; if the tax man thinks that the employer has been too generous with their expenses policy then they will tax expenses as a benefit in kind. This means the employee and employer have to pay tax at the prevailing rate on those expenses. Furthermore, all expenses have to be fully receipted, if they aren't the taxman can, and do, treat them as a benefit in kind.

So how have we got to the point where MP's have so many exemptions from these best practices, most of which they have insisted on so they can cream more tax and ensure none of us get any real perks? The answer is that they are in charge of their own pay and expenses policy and like all people the temptation became too much and they started to lick the arse out of it. When this happens in industry with execs awarding themselves company jets and other perks there is, quite rightly, a public outcry. Indeed when they really kick the arse out of it they go to jail, as Lord Black will testify.

As MP's have shown themselves to be so untrustworthy we should turn to industry to provide us with a solution. We need the equivalent of non-execs to police pay and expenses policies. Whoever does this needs to be separated from the civil service following New Labour's successful politicisation of them and with the growth of failed politicians and other toadies being ennobled the Lords is out. Perhaps something along the lines of the jury system, say 100 people picked at random who elect a smaller team to get in to the nitty gritty and then they all vote on it.

A tale of 2 expense claims

While our MP's lord it over us with their claims for kitchen's, mirrors, carpets and other essential goods they need to be able to carry out their business effectively (more on this later) we have just been zapped by HMRC for our lax mobile phone policy.

We are a smallish company, c.60 employees, and because our life is perilous (we could be closed down quickly if some trials fail) we have allowed employees to use their own mobile phones. We have paid for calls and pro-rata for subscription/free calls. At most this tend to be around £20 per month for employees who use their phones a lot.

This is good enough for the taxman, they have a benefit-in-kind and told us to stop. We may even be getting a bill to pay unpaid taxes on this benefit going back 3 years.

We now have to go out and get a mobile phone contract for all our employees and give them phones. As well as the administrative cost we will have to take out a year's contract despite the fact we may not be in business in 12 months, so this is another liability our, foreign, shareholders will have to carry.

We really have to get these bastards at Westminster out of their ivory towers and in to the real world, or, if they carry n like this on to the end of a piece of rope hanging from the nearest lamppost.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Answer the effing question, Chancellor

I deliberately didn't watch or listen to any of the budget yesterday because I just knew it would wind me up and wouldn't be good for my health. However I did find myself listening to the Chancellor's ministerial broadcast interview on the Today programme. To be fair they did try to take him to task over the government's incompetence in their borrowing forecasts.

It was a typical interview with a politician, interviewer asks a reasonable question, something like "how can we believe your current forecasts for borrowing when you've been so wrong in the past". Politician answers with something completely different making them look good and slagging off the opposition. At this point I was screaming at the car radio for the twat to "answer the fucking question" and undoing all the good work of staying calm yesterday. Masochists can hear it all here, but it does carry a health warning.

So I resolved to find out exactly how bad the government's forecasts had been and planned to spend a bit of time this evening carry out some research. Fortunately the esteemed Wat Tyler at BOM had also heard the ministerial broadcast interview and had a similar idea:

I've just listened to Darling being interviewed on BBC R4 Today. In fairness to Evan Davis, he had a good go at forcing the Chancellor to admit his borrowing forecasts are wildly optimistic and asked why anyone should believe them?

Naturally Darling declined to answer, wittering on instead about how the world is very difficult and it is right to blah blah blah.

Anyway, he is much better than I at digging out these types of numbers and has come up with this table which saved me a lot of time:

By now you are probably, like me, wondering how anyone, let alone all those mega brains in the treasury, get it so wrong? Surely this can't all be exceptional circumstances? We have, after all, had a period of strained growth, as these bastards never tire of telling us.

I'll let Watt sum it up:
One possibility is incompetence, but blind incompetence would surely have produced a random pattern of errors. Moreover this has been a period where growth has turned out stronger than most expected, so if anything, future borrowing should have been overestimated.

No, the forecasts have been systematically massaged down throughout the whole period, and the massaging is almost certainly even worse in this Budget.

He's a bit too kind methinks, once is unfortunate, twice is questionable, 3 or more times on the trot is systematic lying to us.

On this day

in 1973, Pink Floyd released the classic "Dark Side of the Moon". Is there anybody out there (another track) who hasn't got a copy of this album?

Its not my favourite Pink Floyd album but it has some great tracks. My facourite being this one, the vocals never fail to move me:

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Will those who wish to govern us learn from the Spitzer affair?

There is a great deal of schadenfreude over the resignation of Eliot Spitzer, and quite right too. For those who want a more factual and less emotive roundup of the story the beeb is probably the beeb best bet:

New York Governor Eliot Spitzer has resigned, after being linked to a prostitution ring.
Flanked by his wife Silda, Mr Spitzer, a leading Democrat, told a news conference: "I cannot allow my private failings to disrupt the people's work."

He once again apologised for failing to live up to the standards he demanded of others - but he gave no details.

For those who would like to gloat a bit try here, here, here, here and, well just wander round the blogosphere. This is typical from Timmy at The Business:
Dancing on Spitzer's Grave
Well, Eliot Spitzer's political grave that is. Wall Street is simply giddy with joy at the man's downfall. That prostitution is a victimless crime is true, that libertarians and classical liberals (like myself) argue in favour of legality is also true.

So given all this do you think those who wish to govern us will learn the lesson of this: that we will put up with most things except hypocrisy; that's his real crime, not screwing prostitutes, not even that old crack about "being caught", it is the rank hypocrisy of our leaders that really gets us wound up.

A certain amount of hypocrisy is important and does make the world go round. Anyone has been a parent is a master at it. And this is the point, when politicians practice it is like they are being parents and we are the children, there they are tut tutting and wagging their fingers about the dangers of smoking/drinking/screwing/making our own decisions and all the time they are practicing these vices with great gusto. And that is why there is always so much glee when one of the bastards is found out.

The answer to my own the answer is no; they wil continue to dream up new ways of treating us like children whilst all the time pretending to be grown ups and doing their own thing.

On this day

in 1935, Britain imposed a 30 mph speed limit in built up areas.

Despite the improvements in brake systems and passenger impact zones, I am becoming more convinced by the argument that in built up areas 30mph is too fast and we should consider 25 and even 20mph. I would be prepared to make these variable, say 20mph near schools and playgrounds during the day and back to 30, or even 40, during quiet times.

At the other end of the scale it is time to raise the motorway speed limit to 85 or even 90. Again this could be a variable limit. Back to 70 or even 60 in bad weather but even faster in quiet times. (I say this even though I rarely drive above 68mph but when I do I want to be able to get moving)

Whilst on the theme, I would do away with the majority of speed cameras and bring back more traffic police. Too many people just do as they please and only slow down when they see cameras. We also need to sort out those who drive on pavements, jump red lights and weave in and out of traffic and the only way to do this is unmarked cars.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

CO2 Increase, no hysteria

There is something wrong here, a story of "unexpected growth" growth in CO2 and no hysterical forecasts of armageddon:

Carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere have risen 35% faster than expected since 2000, says a study.
International scientists found that inefficiency in the use of fossil fuels increased levels of CO2 by 17%.

The other 18% came from a decline in the natural ability of land and oceans to soak up CO2 from the atmosphere.

The whole story is well balanced and just presents facts, without any pejorative reference to AGW and the need for us to go back to living in caves. Perhaps it's because the penny is starting to drop that despite the unexpected growth increase in CO2 since 2000, the earth's temperature has been more-or-less constant or even slightly cooling as this post and graph from Climate Skeptic clearly show.

H/T Climate Science

On this day

in 1702, The 'Daily Courant', the first successful English newspaper, was first published. It consisted of only 1 sheet.

The paper consisted of a single page with two columns. Mallet advertised that he intended to publish only foreign news, and claimed that he would not take upon himself to add any comments of his own, supposing other people to have "sense enough to make reflections for themselves. Having watched the programm on press barons and prime minsiters last night I like his style.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Home office distorts ID Card opinions

This caught my eye in the ZDNET email newsletter I get:

Support for the National Identity Scheme remains stable, according to a survey of more than 2,000 people carried out for the Home Office by Taylor Nelson Sofres in February.

The research, released on 6 March, 2008, found that 59 percent of those questioned supported the scheme, with 23 percent opposed. A similar survey by Taylor Nelson Sofres in October 2007 found 59 percent in support, with 20 percent against.

Despite all the negative publicity 59% of the population still support ID Cards, something couldn't be right I here, surely? Well it isn't, its another Government piece of polling worthy of Yes, Minister. Reading on..
However, a survey by ICM on 1,008 people, also carried out in February and using a question mentioning a likely price of £93 for a biometric passport, found 50 percent in opposition and 47 percent in favour. A poll by YouGov for The Daily Telegraph in December found 48 percent of respondents opposed the scheme and 43 percent were in favour.

So back to the original poll:
But 56 percent thought that ID cards will be provided free of charge, with just 34 percent saying this is not the case, perhaps explaining the difference in results among different polls.

This is worrying here, as soon as pricing is mentioned opinions change. The opposition is good news but it is worrying that people only oppose ID cards on grounds of cost. Even more worrying is that so people are ignorant of the proposed costs despite all the noise. Where have these people been?

Somebody once asked me why I referred to them as Idiot cards, I need only point them to these polls.

On this day

in 1956, British test pilot Peter Twiss was the first man to fly at more than 1,000 mph.

In 1946, Twiss joined Fairey Aviation as a test pilot and flew many of the company's aircraft, including the Fairey Primer, Fairey Gannet, Fairey Firefly, and the Fairey Rotodyne compound-helicopter. He worked two years on the Fairey Delta 2, a supersonic delta-winged research plane. On 10 March 1956 this aircraft flown by Twiss broke the World Speed Record raising it to 1,132 mph (1811 km/h), an increase of some 300 mph (480 km/h) over the record set in year before by an F-100 Super Sabre, and thus became the first aircraft to exceed 1,000 mph in level flight.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Manners maketh the man

and an orderly society for that matter, which is why this story from the Croydonian is so disappointing and, as a he says, a poor reflection on modern day living.

The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, today unveiled new Tube signs aimed at encouraging Tube users to consider their fellow passengers and to think about who might need a seat most on the Underground.

New priority seating stickers, which will be rolled out throughout the Underground from March 10, will now ask passengers to give up their seat for pregnant women, as well as for people with disabilities or for those less able to stand. This is the first time that pregnant women have been included in the signs.

It was drilled in to me as a child not just to stand up for a pregnant woman but also for any woman, elderly person or person who is obviously having difficulty standing.

I am not saying we should go back to some mythical age of chivalry but such courtesies are part of helping society get through its daily drudgery in a pleasant and cohesive way. It shouldn't be passengers on public transport he is aiming at but all parents.

David Davis

I used to have a low opinion of David Davis, rightly or wrongly he came across as one of the worst types of "hang 'em and flog 'em" types appealing to the basest instincts of the population. Over the past couple of years he has moderated and started to come across as well balanced, well briefed and moderate. This was undone in one fell swoop when I watched Panorama last night.

During a discussion on 24 hour drinking and cheap alcohol he implied that the Government should change competition law so that supermarkets can collude to keep prices up. What sort of economic madness is this coming from a Tory? Doesn't he have a sense of history? Its not that long since we had economic chaos with Governments trying to impose price controls which led to strikes and further economic chaos.

Its a sad day when a senior Tory is advocating controls on a free market.

On this day

in 1950, Timothy Evans was hanged for the murder of his wife. Three years later John Christie admitted killing her and several other women.

he's still dead, which is all that needs saying in the capital punishement debate.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Attacks on service personnel are nothing new

This is has been bubbling around for a while:

After windows in her home and car were smashed in a campaign of abuse lasting five months, an RAF nurse in Peterborough finally told senior officers she thought she was being targeted because she wore her uniform in public

Rudyard Kipling wrote this in 1892 for a reason.

I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.

I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-'alls,
But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, wait outside";
But it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide,
The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide,
O it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide.

Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.
Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?"
But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.

We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;
While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind",
But it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind,
There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
O it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind.

You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!

On this day

in 1974, Bad Company gave their debut performance in England. It caused quite a stir at the time because of its links with Free through singer Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke, although the whole band were superstars at the time.

Friday, March 07, 2008

On this day

in 1876, the Scottish-born inventor, Alexander Graham Bell, patented the telephone.

He must have been a bit of a showman because also on this day

in 1926, the first transatlantic telephone call was made, from London to New York.

I would like to salute him and Marconi because I have made my living out of mobile telephony for the past 18 years and it has led me to seeing a large number of wonderful countries and working with great people from even more countries.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

MP's Pay (4)

Now that MP's have elected to lob most of their remaining powers to Brussels, not that they had any left, we only need to pay them the same as local councillors, which is what they are becoming. That should save us a bob or two.

More on Idiot cards

Looks like this Government is going for some kind of record on pissing us all off. One day is signing away more liberties to Brussels and the next we get more on idiot cards. They just don't give up do they?

The government has set out changes to its planned identity scheme - including allowing people to use passports or driving licences instead of ID cards.

So, after what, 4 years, they still haven't got a plan and they wonder why we think they're incompetent. Whilst I will refuse point blank to have one I would have more respect for them if they had put a plan together and then started implementing it. This jerking around looking for reasons and ways to sneak it in is embarrassing.
And plans to force passport applicants to get an ID card have been dropped.

The exception will be airport and other workers in security-sensitive jobs who will need an ID card from 2009.

If airport workers need ID cards and some form of biometric database then let the airport authorities, ultimately the passengers, pay for it. If the Govt feels that it needs to help out because of terrorism then just make a straight forward subsidy payment. Lets face it, if these things are needed to protect us then the last thing we need is the Government, any Government, implementing the policy! With their track record on implementating IT projects and keeping data secure we may as well set up an Al Qaeda training camp in terminal 4.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said students would also be encouraged to get identity cards from 2010, as part of plans to let "consumer demand" drive take-up.

Hahahahaha, consumer demand, hahahaha. They really are deluded fools aren't they? The sad thing is that they have dumbed down education so much our students will probably fall for it.

What we need is to somehow educate our students on the way their compatriots acted in the 60's. This looks like being our first battle in what looks like being a long war and we need to get the troops trained. Poll tax riots should be made to look like a teddy bears picnic, its the only way to get the message across.

Malaysian woman jailed for worshipping teapot

This story is in The Register and I'm carrying for the same reason as the author:

And the IT angle?
Who cares? You get one chance in your career to write the Malaysian teapot-worship headline, and by the Lord Harry and Saint George this hack wasn't going to let it pass

As for the story? Another reason why Sharia Law shouldn't be allowed anywhere. Malaysian woman, born Muslim, renounces Islam and joins tea-pot worshipping sect (there's another joke there methinks), declared apostate, jailed for 2 years.

Democrat Primaries

Mr E has a very good post on the Democrat Primaries from his US correspondent. It is well worth the read and IMHO as good an analysis as you'll read in the MSM.

The point is that her time in the White House is the anchor for her rationale to be president: experience. Ready on Day One. She’s only been a senator for four years longer than Obama, but she’ll hit the ground running because she was a key player in the White House for eight years. She was at her husband’s side as he made all those tough calls.

That’s why you want her answering the phone at 3am. Right?

But using your husband’s legacy when it’s convenient, and trashing it when not, is gold-plated hypocrisy.

(Also, as I’ve previously suggested, surely you begin to suspect that the feministas have lost their way when being the wife of someone successful counts as relevant experience to do their job? If not, can I gratuitously introduce you to the England soccer team’s new wide defender? [Sheryl Tweedy pic which is worth a look on its own])

He points out that this "Ready at Day One" might work with Obama, but what if she wins and has to take on McCain:
Clinton: “I’m Ready on Day One.”

McCain: “I’m Ready on Day One, and I’m not Hillary Clinton.”

Looks like the Super delegates might be switching allegiance.

On this day

in 1974, British coal workers called off a four-week strike following a 35% pay offer from the new Labour government.


in 1984, The National Coal Board announced a plan of massive job cuts & pit closures.

The dates may be coincindental but ther former, complete with 3 day weeks and long power cuts, definately led to the latter.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Lisbon Treaty and the Parliament Act

Dizzy has an interesting post in which he raises the possibility of the Lords voting for the Tory Amendment on a Lisbon Treaty Referendum. He then raises the issue of the Parliament act which he doesn't discuss and goes off in to discussion on the next General Election date.

I'm more intrigued by the possibility of Gordon invoking the Parliament Act. I am no constitutionalist so I may misunderstand what could happen next so please feel free to correct me.

The PA is designed to limit the power of the House of Lords and is really 2 acts, but that's detail you can read in the link. Traditionally the PA was aimed at making sure budgets and manifesto pledges could be implemented, but with a delay of 1 year if they were really contentious. It has only been used 7 times but has been threatened on a number of occasions.

So what happens if the Lords vote through the Tory amendment for a referendum. We will get a ping-pong with the HoC and eventually stalemate. At this point Gordon can invoke the Parliament Act, but on what grounds? Signing the Lisbon Treaty is not a manifesto pledge, not that Gordon bothers about such trivia, indeed many see the opposite as true and that as a pseudo constitution we should have a treaty.

Its not a money bill either, these go through on a 1 month delay. Its worth noting that the Speaker decides what is a money bill, but surely not even he could stoop that low?

So it looks like Gordon will have to ignore tradition and set a new precedent by invoking the act for no other reason than he needs it for his own credibility in Europe. In this case the HoL looks like the protector of the people's wishes.

So next we come to the signing of the Act into law. What would Her Majesty do? She is a traditionalist but would she be prepared to start a constitutional crises by refusing to sign it? Somehow I doubt it, and correctly so IMHO, but I'm sure it won't go through without some leaks to the press about how dischuffed she is.

So winding forward to the next GE and assuming a Tory win. Its always been assumed that the Tories couldn't unsign the treaty because of its legal status and we will be in the new EU by then, but given its history they could argue that it was illegally, or at least illegitimately, passed in to law. Could they then have a retrospective referendum and tell the EU to get stuffed?

Well that's my brain hurting now, but it does mean that we could, as the Chinese say, be living in interesting times very soon.

On this day

in 1963, Britain had its first frost free night since December 22nd of the previous year.

I vaguely remember it; birds freezing to power lines is one image, as are chapped thighs as we wore shorts at school and continued to play sports and go sledging. We're a hardy (foolish?) bunch us Yorkies.

PS I have added a couple of links in the sidebar which I have started using as reference for on this day

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Well done David Liddington MP

I subscribe to They Work For You email alerts and I was heartened to get one showing David asking questions about the way Iraqi's who worked for the MOD have been treated. The answers are bland and evasive, as you would expect from this shower of shit, but at least he is trying. The Q&A can be found here

I have emailed David congratulating him and urging him and his colleagues not to let the Government rest on this one as it is a source of deep embarrassment for all of us. I strongly urge you, dear reader, to make representations to your own MP.

For those who aren't aware of what is going on I strongly urge you to read Dan Hardie's excellent post on the subject and far more eloquent than I could ever be.

A good judgement

This how justice should be administered, rather than throwing people in jail at every turn:

A bottle-wielding thug has been spared a prison sentence – so he can pay for his victim's cosmetic surgery.
Off-duty soldier David Holberry, 24, was left with a deep scar on his forehead when Robert Hart smashed him in the face with a bottle in Preston city centre.

Now – in a landmark ruling – a judge has ordered Hart to pay his victim £2,500 after hearing the life-changing surgery was not available on the NHS.

Private Holberry has backed the decision to spare his attacker jail and said: "If he goes to jail, how is that going to help me?"

I was just surprised that it was a landmark ruling. Yes it was a stupid and vicious attack but anything that keeps people out of jail has to be a good thing, especially if that person has a job they would probably lose.

As well as the compensation, an absolute must in all cases IMHO, there is a punishment/deterrent element:
Hart, of Leyland Road, Penwortham, pleaded guilty to unlawful wounding. He has no previous convictions.

Wayne Jackson, defending, said: "He is ashamed of what he did, he acted on the spur of the moment in an argument which had nothing to do with him."

Judge Brown ordered him to pay his victim £2,500 and placed him on an 18-month community order together with an unpaid work requirement of 200 hours.

Although something a bit harsher may have been appropriate given the use of a bottle

On this day

in 1975 Charlie Chaplin was knighted after a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Rewarding failure goverenment style

The left love, especially NuLab politicians, to go in to paroxysms of outrage whenever the boss of a company receives a big pay off having lost a shed load of money. That it is the shareholders who are paying and none of their business doesn't seem to matter, they are full of moral outrage about fat cats and the iniquities of capitalism.

So what happens when someones failure leads to death? Remember Ruth Harrison? Let me remind you:

A former Buckinghamshire NHS chief whose trust was the centre of a Clostridium difficile scandal has stepped down from a review of other hospitals.
Ruth Harrison headed up Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury but left in 2006 after a damning report revealed how outbreaks of C diff led to 33 patient deaths

This wasn't shareholder money being lost it was people lives. So, she left her job, didn't she? Well, sort of:
She left her £130,000 chief executive job at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Bucks, in 2006 with a £140,000 "golden goodbye" the day before a damning report was published, citing serious faults in her leadership

Yep, that's our money her failure was rewarded with, money we have no choice about paying as taxes, not some shareholders who have gone in to a transaction understanding caveat emptor
So what might somebody who's incompetence led to 33 deaths be doing now?Ruth Harrison is being paid £52,000 on a short-term contract to head a review into maternity and children's services at Epsom and St Helier Hospital in Surrey, which could lead to the closure of wards.

Yep, working for the same NHS as a consultant. Its not like this is a one off, remember Rose Gibb, who's incompetence led to deaths at a hospital in Kent?
The practice of cash pay-offs to failing NHS managers led to a public outcry last year over the case of Rose Gibb, the chief executive of Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust in Kent.

She left her job in October when a Healthcare Commission report criticised her handling of the C.diff infection which hit 1,176 people in three hospitals between 2004 and 2006.

After it emerged that she was likely to be given a large payout, Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary, attempted to block it. However it was disclosed last month that Ms Gibb is still seeking £150,000.

This is what we are getting for our money, serial incompetence that not only goes unpunished but is rewarded. Who want a bet that Ms Gibb won't appear somewhere soon, I understand she is setting up a consultancy (I can't be bothered to google it).

Its one thing venture capitalists backing failed entrepreneurs because they have experience, that's their own money, it quite another with the government reemploying people who's incompetence led to people's death.

At least the patients' association are on the ball:

NHS hires ex-chief from 'superbug hospital'
By Lucy Cockcroft
Last Updated: 2:24am GMT 03/03/2008

A former hospital chief executive who was at the centre of a superbug outbreak which left 33 people dead is working for the NHS again, despite receiving a £140,000 pay-off just over a year ago.

Your guide to local hospital services
Ruth Harrison is being paid £52,000 on a short-term contract to head a review into maternity and children's services at Epsom and St Helier Hospital in Surrey, which could lead to the closure of wards.

advertisementShe left her £130,000 chief executive job at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Bucks, in 2006 with a £140,000 "golden goodbye" the day before a damning report was published, citing serious faults in her leadership.

Under her tenure 33 patients died and 334 became seriously ill with the highly infectious stomach bug Clostridium difficile.

The Healthcare Commission, which carried out the investigation into the outbreak between October 2003 and June 2005, said the trust "compromised the safety of patients by failing to make the right decisions" and that it "rejected the proper advice of their own experts".

Its report said: "The Healthcare Commission considers there were significant failings on the part of the leadership at the trust and has recommended that the leadership change."
The appointment of Ms Harrison at Epsom and St Helier Hospital has caused outrage among patients' rights campaigners, who believe it is tantamount to rewarding poor performance.

A spokesman for the Patients' Association said: "Ms Harrison left Stoke Mandeville at a time when infection rates were so high that it led to avoidable deaths.

"She then got a huge pay-off and a year to enjoy it. Now we hear she is back again advising the NHS on best practice. It absolutely beggars belief."

So next time you hear some NuLab flunky or lefty pontificating about fat cats do what my old RSM would have said: shove it up their backsides so far they will need a dentist to remove it.

On this day

in 1995, it was announced that British police were to be issued stab proof vests in dangerous operations.

Now they have become part of the uniform along with a whole paraphernalia of gadgets which make policemen look like something from an alien invasion movie.

I am sure that they would be a lot more approachable to the general public and especially yoof if they went back to a simple uniform. It might even help reduce aggression.

Ye, I know that these are designed to protect them but they do get an "x" factor in their pay to cover the increased risk. It might also make them understand how we feel as we walk through crowded streets in dangerous areas and actually do something.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

In the club

I went to see the play of that name of Friday and I must recommend it to everyone. Although its a true British farce it isn't toe curling and has some great jokes.

The setting is a Strasbourg hotel suite occupied by a British socialist MEP and his secretary. It is a great lampoon at the EU systems of expenses and other payments. Nobody is left alone, English, Germans, Belgium's, French, Gypsies, Welsh and Scots are all sent up.

One of the first few lines is the lead character talking to his secretary - "Oh how I love being an MEP, all the power and no need to worry about my constituency. They don't know me and frankly I don't care about them".

His friend is a bluff Yorkshire UKIP member who is kipping on the floor to save money as he refuses to draw ludicrous expenses in Strasbourg (cue digs at that system). He has a wonderful line - there are only 3 types of people Yorkshire men, those who want to be a Yorkshire man and them with no ambition.

The MEP's girlfriend "runs" his UK office on 80k euros and they all happily admit she does nothing.

Anyway, in good old farce tradition lots of people coming in and out through doors, terrible mix ups in identification, lots of foul language and sex talk.

Its doing the provinces and then going to the West End. Get to see it if you can, I haven't laughed so much for ages.

French "BBC" strike to keep advertising

I'm just catching up on my Economist reading and came across this* one from a couple of weeks ago. French broadcasting unions are striking because they want to maintain advertising on the public broadcasting service:

THAT France's unions led a one-day broadcasting strike last week was scarcely a surprise. The French have grown used to non-stop piped music on the public airwaves during walk-outs. But the cause of the disgruntlement was unusual. The plan the left-leaning unions object to does not call for the privatisation of public television, but the abolition of advertising on state-owned channels. The unions are, in short, fighting to remain dependent on private-sector advertisers. Without them, they fear, jobs will have to go.

So here we have a wonderful example of the left not knowing which way to turn. In the UK if anyone mentions ads on the beeb they are Philistines at best and fascists at worst. Could you imaging the beeb's unions' attitude to adverts - apoplectic rage followed by histrionics followed by petulant claims that it would reduce quality of television.

The article deals with this last argument as well.
Mr Sarkozy seems to think that ending advertising will improve matters. “Public television must be ‘dangerous’ and audacious. It must take risks,” he said, arguing that the way to ensure this is to free it from the need to sell eyeballs to advertisers. But there are three objections to his plan.

OK, I can see that argument and its the one that the beeb's supporters use as well. But does it really happen like that?
First, experience in other countries shows that there is no automatic link between public finance and higher quality. The French seem to consider Britain's BBC, which has no advertising on its domestic service, as a model. Yet the most popular programme on the main BBC channel last year was a soap opera, and its prime-time schedule is packed with reality TV and talent contests.

That's not very helpful to their argument is it? So why is that then?
The reason is simple: if, as with the BBC, public television is financed largely by a licence fee or TV tax, it must still chase ratings in order to justify levying the tax. Since France also levies a licence fee, which provides 64% of the public-television budget, state broadcasters—with or without advertising—will be compelled to lure big audiences, and are likely to do so with low-brow, popular shows.

The rest of the article goes on to discuss how Sarkozy plans to replace advertising revenues:
Third, Mr Sarkozy has promised public broadcasters that he will replace every euro of lost ad revenue with public money. Exactly how is unclear, but he has said that, as well as taxing the extra ad revenues won by the private channels, he may introduce an “infinitesimal” tax on mobile phones and Internet access. Politically, this may be appealing, but economically it would be a mistake. Given the sluggish state of the economy and the relative lack of high-tech investment, a tax on all things digital would be daft. As one French boss puts it: “It would be shooting the French economy in the foot.”

For my part I blow hot and cold with the beeb. When it is good its very good, and when it bad it horrid. I wouldn't object to some PSB but its probably too big now. Its stepping on to areas that are being filled by private broadcaster and distorting markets. Perhaps a reduction in size, back to say 1, or 2 at most, TV channels and 2 national radio licences. It probably doesn't need to be in local TV and radio either. If the BBC does develop popular programmes like Eastenders or formats it should be made to sell them to the highest bidder and/or make get some licence fee for each new series to bolster it revenues.

That's probably enough for now, I'm sure I'll return to this subject in the future.

*I think you need a subcription to be able to read the article.

On this day

in 1882, Scotsman Roderick Maclean attemted to assassinate Queen Victoria.

This was the last of eight attempts over a period of forty years to kill or assault Victoria, and it was the only one in which the gun in use was actually loaded. McLean's motive was purportedly a curt reply to poetry of his mailed to the Queen.

Tried for high treason that April 20, the jury after five minutes' deliberation found the Scotsman McLean "not guilty, but insane" and he lived out his remaining days in Broadmoor Asylum. The verdict prompted the Queen to ask for a change in English law so that those implicated in cases with similar outcomes would be considered as "guilty, but insane."

Eight attempts and we still didn't have as much authritarian control or protection for VIP's as we do now.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

On this day

in 1946, the British Labour Government took control of the Bank of England, after 252years.
They've certainly bodged giving it independence again.