Friday, 31 July 2009

Fake Charity Spot #2

From the Swindon Advertiser:-

FORMER patients at Great Western Hospital are to be given the chance to have their say on the way health services are run.

Independent research agency The Picker Institute has posted questionnaires to 850 people who have recently used the hospital.

I'd never heard of The Picker Institute, so I did a little googling and they appear here and are charity number 1081688.

It seems that most of their work is running various surveys for the NHS. So, their money comes from the government.

Incidentally, going back to that "Independent" thing, have a look at their trustees. Two of them are currently chief executives of NHS Trusts and one is the ex-president of the GMC.

Don't expect any earth shattering suggestions about how to improve the NHS (like destroying it).

Thursday, 30 July 2009


From The Times:-

Recycling Your Rubbish Correctly Could Earn £150 a Year

Householders will earn up to £150 a year from recycling their rubbish under a scheme designed to reward those who put waste in the correct bins.

Which also means that it's a tax. All those £150s have to come from the tax payer, so if you don't do it, you'll be paying in to pay for those £150s and getting nothing back.

Microchips will be installed on wheelie bins, which will be scanned and weighed automatically as they are emptied into refuse lorries.

Councils will issue rewards based on the weight of recyclable waste collected from each home.

If they're going to weigh the amount of recyclable waste, isn't that then an incentive to get more recyclable waste? So, next time you go shopping, you'll ask for some bags which you can stuff into the box to get your weight up.

Some of the plastics will go to a plastic recyling facility in Dagenham, East London. Initially, the rewards will be in the form of vouchers redeemable at local shops. At a later stage, authorities may introduce cash payments or discounts on council tax bills.

So, it's not only a tax, but a handy way to get money out of people's hands to subsidise local shops.

Householders will be able to track their recycling levels and rewards online.

You can bet that's going to work well and be reasonably priced.

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, is holding talks with six boroughs that are interested in taking part in the trials. He believes that offering rewards will be much more effective than fines in reducing the amount of waste going to landfill.

Jesus. Offering a reward for good behaviour is exactly the same thing as fining someone for bad behaviour in a tax system. Each of those "good behaviour" rewards has to be paid for by the tax payer. So if you're not getting a "good behaviour" reward, then you are effectively being punished.

To keep the numbers simple... if you have 1000 households in a village, and 500 of them recycle then you need £75,000 to pay for the rewards. Which means that on average, a household has to pay in £75.

So, if you get the "good behaviour" reward, you paid in £75 and got £150. If you don't get the "good behaviour" reward, you paid in £75 and got £0. So, for not doing the "good behaviour" activity, you lose out by £75.

Isabel Dedring, the mayor’s environment adviser, said that the vouchers would be provided by retailers and local businesses, which would benefit from increased trade.

She said that councils were also likely to pass on to households some of the savings they will make from sending less waste to landfill sites. The landfill tax will rise to £48 a tonne next year, up from £40 a tonne this year.

Or alternatively, we could just leave the EU and get all of it back.

Last month the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead began a reward scheme under which householders receive points, which can be converted into retail vouchers, every time they leave out their garden waste wheelie bin. The points earned do not yet vary according to weight, but the total amount of garden waste collected has still risen sharply.

Applying any effort to recycling garden waste is just stupid. Drop it on a landfill and it will breakdown very quickly. I'd suggest that this is purely about avoiding the stupid landfill tax.

Look, the amount of space required for landfill is trivial.

Twin Towns

This mayor in Doncaster is right on the money:-

THE NEW mayor of Doncaster has hit back at critics who said he'd 'isolated' the town when he scrapped its twin town links.

The mayor is spot on with this. Twinning makes no difference in terms of business.

Mr Davies was asked to explain his decision further at a full council meeting this week. Independent Coun Tony Brown said his decision sent out a worldwide message to towns and cities that Doncaster was 'closed for business'.

Idiot. Most business carried out by businesses is business they get on their own by their own efforts. Despite living in a town twinned with a town in Germany and one in America, I've had no business from either. I did nearly do some business with a business in Minnesota once, though.

The mayor said twinning had nothing to do with business because it was a concept started after the war to foster friendship between towns on the continent at a time when people didn't take foreign holidays.

And probably served a useful purpose of reconciliation and cultural exchange. Then. Today, you can download French rap music, buy bottles of Alsace Gewurtztraminer from Tesco and fly to Prague for less than a train to London.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

The Fawcett Society

I know that Mark Wadsworth has had his bit of sport over The Farrah Fawcett Society, but in a moment of boredom, I decided to see what Wikipedia had to say about the Fawcett Society and its naming.

I know some readers may already know this, but here's a few things from the Wikipedia page about her:-

1) Fawcett wanted equal rights for women (like the vote). Not special priveledges.
2) Fawcett was a free trade liberal
3) Mostly left politics once the vote had been secured.

Go onto the Fawcett Society website and there is no mention of her book Political Economy for Beginners. You can read it here, but as a snippet, try this:-

The economic defects of Socialism. There are many economic objections to be urged against socialistic schemes. In the first place self-interest, one of the most powerful ot all the incentives to exertion, is only partially operative ; a
man will not work with the same energy and zeal if the results of his labour are to be shared by the whole community of which he is a member, as he will if he is able to
secure the whole fruit of his toil for himself and his family.

That's basically Thatcher, isn't it? And hardly in accord with the Fawcett Society who recommend that the government:-

Ensure both women and men are entitled to earnings-related leave to encourage men as well as women to take it up.

The Unofficial Opposition

I was reading this article today about the creation of a load of non-jobs (recycling, forestry workers) and I think that something just tipped, something I've been spotting for a long time, and it's now happened one too many times.

That thing is the use of the Taxpayers Alliance (TPA) as the first opposition voice in government spending. I have no criticism of the TPA.

But it does strike me that in the years of Major or Blair, the first opposition voice in an article was a spokesman from the opposition party. Today, it's the TPA. Are the Telegraph going to them first for a comment? I doubt it. More likely, the Conservatives are too scared to be bold and aren't commenting.

Is it any surprise that people don't know what the Conservatives stand for, when they seem to be unafraid to say anything that might be considered as tough choices?

Monday, 27 July 2009

David Davis On Google

From The Times

When I read in the pages of this newspaper this month that the Conservative Party was planning to transfer people’s health data to Google, my heart sank. The policy described was so naive I could only hope that it was an unapproved kite-flying exercise by a young researcher in Conservative HQ. If not, what was proposed was both dangerous in its own right, and hazardous to the public acceptability of necessary reforms to the state’s handling of our private information.

There are powerful arguments for people owning their own information and having rights to control it. There are massive weaknesses in the NHS’s bloated central database and there are benefits from using the private sector. But there are also enormous risks, so we are still a long step from being able to give personal data to any company, let alone Google.

That's right. The "powerful argument" for owning my own data is that I can choose a competent company, like Google or Microsoft to look after it, not some Fred Karno's Army of subcontractors who will leave it on a USB stick.

Google is the last company I would trust with data belonging to me. In the words of human rights watchdog Privacy International

Those are the guys who objected to StreetView as an invasion of privacy, aren't they? So, definitely not nutters, then?

This highlights how careful we must be in using private companies to handle personal data. Actual and potential misuse of such data will be a recurrent public concern of the next several decades. This is because of the huge commercial value of a near-monopoly internet presence, combined with legally unfettered use of personal data. This is what gives Google a market capitalisation of $130 billion (£79 billion). It represents the value of exploiting its customers’ private data for commercial ends.

Yup. So maybe Google takes some things, works out general patterns of people's behaviour and people like drug companies are interested in that. They won't provide actual records to people though.

It was the prospect of huge profits that pushed Google into its amoral deal with China and drove its high- handed approach to the intrusion on people’s privacy with Streetview. These profits also explain its cavalier approach to European legislation (which it claims does not apply to it). This means we have to be rigorous about how we allow any private- sector operator to manage state-originated personal data.

Just like any photographer taking photos in the street, StreetView was not an invasion of privacy. And everyone whores themselves for China. Microsoft and Yahoo do exactly the same sort of censoring to operate in China.

A Conservative spokesman was quoted last week as saying: “We fully expect that there will be multiple providers that will almost certainly be free to users.” If so, the question arises of how the providers will pay for it. It should not be possible to make money out of holding health data. Health information has to be secure, and should not be available to be used for commercial purposes. That means it should not be sold on, it should not be data mined for commercial insights, and it should not be used for targeted advertising.

Excuse me, but the development of the NHS IT system is using outsourced companies. That means they're making money out of holding health data right now. Google's model seems to be a bit more efficient and open to competition.

Furthermore, any companies allowed to hold this data must be required to do so on computers within the UK, with no possibility of transfer. This is the only way we can enforce UK privacy standards and laws. Paradoxically, such a contract might be of no interest to Google, because it denies the opportunity to profit from data exploitation. If a new government is not careful about these so-called “post-bureaucratic” policies, data-loss and data-misuse scandals will kill public confidence in it. This would be a tragedy.

In case you hadn't noticed, Davis. Google don't have a data loss problem. It's the UK government with it's departments littered with unencrypted USB sticks that does.

So private companies are better than the state, but they are not saints. Accordingly, before any government privatises personal data management, we should be clear about the rules and the structure. The protection of the individual’s right to control his or her own data must be plain and strong. An individual is unlikely to mount, let alone win, a legal challenge against a large corporation unless that is so.

The point about the idea that the Conservative chap came up with is that there would be competing systems. And the Americans are already ahead of us on this with the CCD and CCR protocol. It's supported by Google Health, Microsoft HealthVault and some other systems. So, if you don't want to be with Google, you don't have to be. Heck, you could create your own server that presented your own health record and no-one would ever see it but you.

That is so even for their personal “commercial” data, such as shopping patterns. When it comes to more private information such as health records or tax-and-benefit history, we should go one step further and learn from the financial crash of the past two years. The financial “masters of the universe” were allowed to be too big to challenge, and too big to fail. Only three years ago, they were “cool”. Now they cripple our economy with their incompetence.

Oh, FFS. That was down to pisspoor regulation and property boom, not size.

It is a similar situation with the companies we eventually entrust with our personal data. They have to be subject to personal, judicial, and national influence. They should not be beyond control. So when we are handing out these state contracts, being a multinational mega- corporation is for once a competitive disadvantage. Google need not apply.

Missing the point entirely. This isn't about "state contracts". It's about individuals choosing where their data goes. And frankly, I'd happily put my data with Google than most of the cunts that get government contracts

Broken Government

From The Telegraph:-

Why does modern British government make so many mistakes and such big and costly ones at that? This question is vexing two of the country’s leading political academics – Anthony King, professor of government at Essex University, and Sir Ivor Crewe, Master of University College, Oxford – who have embarked on a research project to see if they can find the answer. In this endeavour they claim the support of serving ministers, civil servants and shadow cabinet spokesmen who may well be occupying ministerial offices from next year. They all want to know, too, as do the rest of us.

My solutions to the Conservatives are simple:-

1) Less government. It basically works badly around the world, so limit it to what you have to do.
2) Less complexity. Of the things you have to do, simplify them (like tax). You'll need less people and projects will run smoother.
3) Stop chasing today's headlines. Be prepared to sometimes challenge the press and the electorate in the short term.

But if you're a Conservative shadow cabinet spokesman and you can't figure it out, then we really are fucked for 5 years.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

I can't see this failing... oh no...

From the BBC:-

The article says a new "points-based" test for citizenship will credit applicants if they have set up home in parts of the country in need of increased population.

Scotland has been singled out by the Home Office as a place where points could be earned, because its own population is likely to fall over the long term.

This really isn't going to work. If people aren't coming to Scotland, it's because the package of salary, proximity to other places, weather, beer quality etc isn't good enough.

The immigration minister is obviously thinking that if they encourage more immigrants to Scotland that this will solve their depopulation problem.

What it will actually do is the following: immigrants will come to the UK and get themselves some work in Scotland. They'll then stay there for as long as they have to to prove that they're settled, at which point they'll leave Scotland.

End result? Yet more immigration in England.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Zoe Wanamaker on Actresses Pay

From The Stage:-

Speaking to The Stage, Wanamaker said that she herself had experienced the problem in the past and revealed that she had been forced to “fight” to receive parity with some of the male performers in the BBC sitcom My Family, in which she still stars.

There's a very good reason for this: there's a glut of middle-aged female actresses because they mostly get disposed of for starring roles when they hit 30 while men carry on.

The actress, who appeared alongside Simon Russell Beale in Much Ado About Nothing at the National Theatre last year, said agents or bookers should be “more careful” when negotiating deals for female performers and added: “Women are always at the bottom as far as pay is concerned - the equal pay business is a big struggle.

The trouble is that it's one profession where you can't have equal pay because you don't have equal jobs. If you've got 20 women for Juliet and 10 men for Romeo, you should be paying the Juliets less. You can't just get the women to play Romeo.

This is best demonstrated by the porn industry where actresses are paid considerably more money than actors.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Pub Closures

From The BBC:-

UK pubs closed at a rate of 52 per week in the first half of the year - a third more than the same period in 2008 - the British Beer & Pub Association said.

Over a thousand pubs lost. What's that? 5,000? 10,000 jobs lost? Is that really worth it to save the lives of the 26 bar workers who died from passive smoking in the same period? I'd say not.

Local pubs were the most vulnerable as communities were hit by the fallout of the economic downturn, it added.

Just to check this, I wandered over to the British Beer and Pub Association website. After all, the BBC has been muddying the waters over this issue. I found their press release here and there isn't a single mention of the smoking ban.

The research suggested businesses that provided food were far more resilient to the recession.

Let's spell this out for the hard of thinking at the BBFA: If pubs are going to be hit hardest in a recession, it's going to be on food sales, not drink sales. In a recession, the lipstick effect comes into play and people spend money on smaller rather than larger luxuries. The effect should be much harder on food than on booze.

Let's consider another possibility: Pubs with a lot of food business used to ban smoking in the dining area. So, the smoking ban would have had little impact on those pubs.

And branded pubs and cafe-style bars were opening at a rate of two a week, according to the report.

"Pubs are already diversifying, but unfortunately if you are a community pub, you can't transform yourself into a trendy town-centre bar," said an association spokesman.

Again, completely missing the point. The difference between trendy town-centre bars and local pubs is about purpose. Young people go to trendy town-centre bars to meet new people, mostly of the opposite sex. Local pubs are about meeting your mates.

So, despite the smoking ban, people will still go to trendy town-centre bars because they have to in order to score. But people don't have to do that with their mates. They can just meet at each others houses and smoke in the warm instead.

I'd actually be willing to do an analysis of the BBPA data just to prove this once and for all, because the pubs that have survived around here fall into 3 categories:-

1) Places people go to score.
2) Pubs with food
3) Pubs with an outdoor courtyard or garden where people can smoke.

Just send me a database of pub closures with their postcodes and I'll go through them all.

"The biggest impact is the recession. There are fewer people out and fewer people spending money in pubs and bars, regardless of where they are," he said.

There are pubs closing that have been in business for decades, centuries even. The number of pubs that closed in the recession of the early 90s was about nil.

In fact, pubs should close less slowly in a property slump because the option to convert them to private residences becomes less favourable.

OK, pub takings should be down in a recession, but a lot of businesses will get through that. This isn't what's happening. When the economy picks back up, we won't see booming pubs again as the remaining pubs soak up customers coming back.

The fact is that before the ban, there were straw polls done in some pubs and 80% of the people in them were against the ban. The middle classes who said they would go if they weren't so smoky were obviously bullshitting as there were always plenty of pubs with non-smoking areas and they never went in them.

Get a clue and start fighting the government over the ban before another 1,000 pubs are gone. Ally yourself with UKIP who are the only one of the political parties who is against the ban and start telling people who come to your pub to vote for them if they want to be able to smoke in a pub again.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Trade Union Blacklists

From Pat McFadden in Comment is Free:-

No one should lose out on work because of their union role and it is wrong to suggest trade union membership is incompatible with successful business and progressive employment relations. Instead, it is time the vast majority of modern trade union representatives were commended for their dedication in helping workers and companies thrive.

Ah hahahaha.

Let's think of all those successful trade unionised businesses: GM, Chrysler, Jaguar, BA, BT, Rover.

No employer in their right mind wants a trade union involved in their business. Because against non-unionised competition, you really don't have much hope. They'll be cheaper and more able to adapt to changes in the market.

The only time a unionised business will do well is when it is up against other unionised businesses, often in highly regulated or business areas with high barriers to entry.

Swine Flu

From the PA:-

Health Secretary Andy Burnham denied that conflicting advice had been issued to pregnant women over swine flu as he maintained the NHS had dealt "fantastically well" with the virus.

Mr Burnham urged the country to "have confidence" in the handling of swine flu, saying preparations for tackling the illness were the best in the world.

I know that swine flu's a bit of a mass panic at the moment, and really, nothing to worry about, but would you really have confidence in a man whose pre-parliament CV says "researcher" if there really was a serious disease?

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Conservative Free Speech

From The BBC:-

A Tory government would attempt to remove the long standing peace camp in Parliament Square, David Cameron says.

Anti-war campaigner Brian Haw has been camping opposite Parliament since 2001, surrounded by banners and placards.

Just to reinforce this point: If you're voting Conservative for liberty, think again.

I happen to disagree with Brian Haw, but I rather like him being there. He's a constant reminder to the people inside the house that we have the right to disagree.

The Tory leader said he was in favour of free speech but the square had been turned into a "pretty poor place" and it was time to say "enough is enough".

I'd say it's a nobler place than the building next door to it.

Why the Moon Landings Aren't A Fake...

... because the Soviets never doubted it.

The race to the moon was a pure propaganda exercise from both sides. The Soviets were getting there but had some setbacks and the Americans got there first.

If the Soviets had had any doubt, if they thought they could smear it, you can bet your bottom dollar that they would have exploited it, shown it was a fake and then sent a rocket up to where it had supposedly landed and shown that it hadn't happened.

They didn't. Because it happened.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

If you're going to grow your own Cannabis...

... it might not be a good idea to photograph them...

... and then to leave them on the camera that you use to take photographs of the police with.


Reap what you Sow...

I see that the RMT are going on strike in East Anglia, despite the fact that we're in a recession and that National Express offered them an above-inflation salary rise.

The problem of nearly all industrial action is that it ends in tears. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but eventually.

There's a thing in business that happens with some suppliers. They'll get their servers/vehicles/photocopiers into your business, and then try and exploit the fact that you have to go back to them. It works in the short term just fine. In the long term, however, it stores up resentment which means that when they can ditch you, they will.

Striking railwaymen? Well, for starters there are people who might have been thinking of getting a car who now feel "tipped" towards getting a car. And once they've got the car, they might decide to not use the rail to get to work. So, there's some customers gone. It might also encourage a few more companies to fit more technology for remote working and once they discover how well that works, they might get even more staff doing it.

Jobs without Experience

A little snippet from today's report into banking governance:-

There was concern that too many people working at board level within banks did not have any formal training as bankers.
The former head of Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS), Andy Hornby, came from a retail background, having previously headed up supermarket chain Asda.

Yet the government seems to think that it's just fine to have a former economic adviser to the government (ha!) as a the education secretary, a former Jaguar union rep looking after our defences and a wonk with no experience in hospitals running our hospitals.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Opera on TV

You know how whenever there's an argument about the BBC license fee and how there's always the claim of "but without the BBC, you wouldn't get things like opera on TV and Murdoch just wants to pump game shows into your front room"?

Sky Arts to broadcast live opera from Glyndebourne

Sky Arts has also acquired television distribution rights to show the Glyndebourne opera series for the next four years.

That's high quality German and Italian opera, in the original language including subtitles. And Handel's Giulio Cesare is quite an obscure opera at that.

If Sky can do it without subsidy, we don't need the BBC to provide it by forcing single mothers to cough up for it.

I rather like that Sky and Glyndebourne have done this, seeing how neither of them depends on the state (Glyndebourne receives arts funding to do some touring, but if that was cut, they'd survive quite happily in their current location).

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Natalie Portman in Thor

I see that Natalie Portman is to star in the love interest in Kenneth Branagh's movie of the Marvel Comic Thor.

Which is an excellent reason for this old joke...

Thor comes down to earth and shacks up with a woman. After a week he tells her "I must return to Valhalla, I'm Thor".
"You're Thor?" she asks "I'm so Thor I can't pith".

Monday, 13 July 2009

Is the National Lottery bad?

I am not against legalised gambling here. I gamble myself on the horses sometimes, and have no problem with there being betting shops. Gambling in moderation can be a lot of fun.

But I do have a problem with the state being involved with it for the following reasons:-

1) A philosophical one: government should not be involved in encouraging fatalism and gambling. Investment, risk, creativity... absolutely, but the lottery is a pure gamble. Nothing gets created as the result of it, and it encourages desperate people to only hope on their lucky numbers, rather than working on their skills.

2) The distribution of wealth. The lottery is terrible for encouraging wealth away from the desperate and poor towards the statist middle classes. The Arts Councils are getting opera and ballet produced using the contributions of many of the poorest in our society.

3) A bad bet. The lottery is a worse bet than other forms of gambling such as premium bonds, fruit machines or sports betting.

If the lottery is there to help the poor with projects, yet takes money from the poor to give back to them, then it's not really doing any good, and all that it actually does it to produce more government to deal with the funnelling of money.

As I said, I basically believe in liberty and have no problem with legalised gambling. I just don't think it's something that government should be doing.

Saving Marriage

Here's Iain Duncan Smith's plan for this:-

The £120 billion bill for the cost of crime, drug abuse and educational failure would be slashed if the law and tax system were reformed to protect marriage, according to the report, by the Centre for Social Justice.

Sounds interesting. Go on...

As well as counselling during difficult periods of marriage, couples should also be given more access to marriage preparation classes before their wedding, he will add, pointing to evidence that these can reduce divorce rates during the first five years of marriage by 30 per cent.

More likely the case that the people who go to marriage preparation classes are the sort of people who are more committed to being married.

"Britain's record on family breakdown is currently the worst in Europe," Mr Duncan Smith will say. "Its scale and impact should be of concern to us all ... Healthy marriages build healthy families, and healthy families build a healthy society".

He will add that encouraging marriage is crucial to preventing social breakdown, pointing to research suggesting that fatherless households are twice as likely as two-parent families to be living in poverty.

I'm shocked. A household where the tasks of childcare and breadwinning are taken by 1 person are more likely to be poor.

"Children who grow up in a lone parent family are 75 per cent more likely to fail at school, 70 per cent more likely to be a drug addict, 50 per cent more likely to develop an alcohol problem and 40 per cent more likely to have serious personal debt problems," Mr Duncan Smith will say.

Sounds about right.

Mr Duncan Smith will say: "On average half of all cohabiting couples will break up by their child's fifth birthday – compared to only one in 12 married couples."

So, the sort of people who don't make commitments are the sort of people who more easily walk away from things?

I know what IDS deluded thinking is here: throw money at people and they'll get married and they'll then have good, happy homes with their kids. The fact is that for £20/week it's just not going to happen.

You really want to sort things out? You nail down the benefits system. Stop pushing unemployed pregnant girls up the council house ladder.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Remember... These Moronic Bastards Will Be Gone Soon

Whatever else you can say about David Cameron's Conservatives, I have little doubt that as of June 3rd next year, we'll see a rather quick unwinding of this sort of crap:-

Labour is opening up a new front in its obsession with equal rights. It wants to stamp out prejudice against... Northerners.

OK, this sounds like a bit of dog-whistle politics to keep the heartlands voting Labour. All those people who sit on their arse blaming the south for their lack of a job, despite there frequently being jobs in the neighbouring town*.

Mr Foster was challenged by Yorkshire MP Meg Munn to stop people from the South East dominating the boards of public bodies based in London but that have a national remit.

Can you just hear yourself, Ms Munn? Can you?

London is in the South East of the UK. Therefore, it's more likely that they're going to employ people from... the South East.

But the other thing is that it's Ms Munn and her colleagues in the Labour Party who have done this. They've taken the money from people's pockets in places like Sheffield and inflated the size of government by creating numerous pointless quangos and fake charities with London/South East offices. Roll back the state, and you'll see a lot more power devolved back to Yorkshire.

* At the time that I did some work for a client in Warrington, they had almost no unemployment despite it only being 20 minutes on the train from Manchester.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Council Recycling Stupidity

From the BBC:-

UK supermarkets should be forced to reveal how much packaging they produce, local councils say.

And why might that be, then?

"Supermarkets must be open with people about how much packaging they are producing," said Margaret Eaton, chairman of the Local Government Association, in a letter to Environment Secretary Hilary Benn.

"It is vital that consumers can make informed choices about where they shop and which products they buy."

Because there's no way that a consumer picking up a product can see how much packaging is on it, is there?

Friday, 10 July 2009

When does the Monarch Act?

As a republican, I've been through a number of arguments with people about the monarchy. The money is the least of my problems with them. They spend a pittance compared to most of the state, and probably get more back in tourism than that. So, this isn't a post about class war.

I'm more concerned about the constitution of Britain. We don't have a written one with supreme courts or separation into strictly defined parts of government like the USA or France. We have government (which is mostly elected dictatorship for 4 years) and the monarchy. And the monarchy is supposed to uphold the unwritten constitution.

What I'd like to know from people is what they consider the line to be where the monarch steps in and intervenes, and whether they think it could happen. My own view is that removing the right to habeus corpus in some trials was something which probably should have been ruled unconstitutional, the signing of Lisbon after a vote was promised (and not delivered on) and the recent move where the civil service sided against the BNP would also be so.

I would argue that the monarch is achieving little in any of this and I see no purpose in them even existing as a part of government if they aren't going to bother to protect common law. Get rid of them, or get a written constitution and an elected president.

Local News

I was reading another piece in the Mail, and noticed that it was about a local news presenter here in the South West and something about allegedly fiddling expenses. No big deal. But this...

But sources close to Ms Aziz say the £150,000-a-year presenter has been suspended over allegations that she made seven wrongful expense claims

Isn't ITV in the crapper? Don't we keep hearing how they're repeatedly getting their arse kicked by Google in the advertising market? What the fuck are they doing paying £150K for someone to present the sort of inspid local crap that you get on West Country Tonight?

Equality... On Our Terms

From The Daily Mail:-

She broke down as she recalled how she tried to avoid going to the Spearmint Rhino flagship club in Tottenham Court Road with her Norwegian client and Mr Whelan in August 2007.

She said: 'I told Danny that I did not want to go to that sort of establishment but that I was happy for the two of them to go on without me and I would return home.

'Danny responded by saying that was not acceptable and that I had to accompany them as it was my responsibility to entertain clients. I therefore felt I had no option but to go along with them.'

Once inside, she grew uneasy at being surrounded by strippers. She said: 'I realised that I was the only female in the audience, a fact which made me very uncomfortable.'

Of course, there's now a tribunal going on.

I don't really have any sympathy. If you're involved in selling to middle managers in large corporations, you're not really selling on price or service, but on perks. They don't care that your services cost more than some small company down the road. They don't get to keep the saving, so they might as well go with you on the basis of the perks.

Those perks might be a day at Twickenham, a trip to see the suppliers offices in the South of France or in this case, some half-naked women*. And whichever one thinks might float their boat, you take the opportunity to be there to sell or learn something about your client. Quitting because you feel uncomfortable means you aren't doing your job, that the business could go elsewhere.

I'm not sure where all this entitlement leads. Probably to people doing more work offshore or more independent businesses where they don't have to worry that they might hire some whiner for an employee.

* I've honestly never been in a lap-dancing club. Are they half-naked or fully-naked?

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Pickled Numbers

From The Times:-

The number of people dying from alcohol-related causes rose by nearly 40 per cent from 5,287 in 1999 to 7,341 last year, figures obtained by the Conservative MP James Brokenshire, a shadow Home Office minister, show.


The Conservatives blamed the increase on the relaxation of drinking laws in November 2005.

The facts don't reflect this. The figure for 2004 (before 24 hour drinking was introduced) was 6,544 deaths, so the majority of the rise in alcohol-related deaths happened in the first 5 years of the study period, not after.

Or to put it another way, post 2004, the rate of increase in alcohol deaths in the UK has actually declined. I don't have the annual statistics for England and Wales, but looking at the UK deaths, the rise from 2005 to 2007 (you can't really include 2005 as it was introduced in November) were almost insignificant. Total alcohol-related deaths rose from 8386 in 2005 to 8754 in 2006, a rise of less than 5%.

To take this further, we can look at deaths amongst those aged 15-34, the group most likely to be late-night drinking. For men, there were an extra 11 deaths from 2005 to 2007. For women, an extra 18 deaths in that period. Yet for the 35-50 age group, there were an extra 86 deaths for men and an 51 deaths for women. This simply shows that there is no causual link between late night opening and deaths.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Fake Charity Spot

I know that every blogger does these, but maybe if we keep posting them, someone in the mainstream media might just get this.

Today's little offering is: Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation.

You just have to look at the beautifully photoshopped photo to know that deep in the depths of the accounts it's an FC, so let's take a look at the numbers.

Now, they say that they received £446,000 of "Voluntary Income" out of £691,000 of total income, but of that, the following were received:-

1) £300,000 from Sport England (who distribute national lottery money).
2) £6,000 from Sport Scotland (like 1) )

and of the "Consultancy Fees", £84,000 came from the "ESC Lottery Fund" (English Sports Council).

There's a few accounts items like "Gender Equality" which I can't trace, but we can say that at least £390,000 of £691,000 has come from the state.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

The BBC License Fee

Via the Daily Hate:-

But increasing numbers are switching to computers and other devices to watch shows via websites such as BBC iPlayer – for which they do not need a licence.

This has sparked fears that fewer and fewer will actually bother to pay the £142.50 charge. Now the BBC’s most senior executive has admitted that ‘you might define the licence fee in a different way’.

Simple answer to that: Make iPlayer subscription-based. Sign up, put in your credit card details and you get an account you can use.