Sunday, 28 February 2010

Cameron? Bold?

I've just seen his WebCameron performance, and I don't know where the man gets his ideas from. He's calling himself bold, yet there is simply no evidence of that.

The best policy that the Conservatives have is in the area of education, where they plan to improve parental choice. Even that is lukewarm due to how much it is being watered down.

The remainder of Cameron's claims are window-dressing. More ethnic minority candidates is hardly radical, nor will it win seats where it matters, in marginals like Worcester and Kettering.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

The News In Pictures: The Falkland Islands

I'm not sure what Matthew Parris is talking about with "Give The Falklands Back". To demonstrate, here's a little chart which shows the history of the Falkland Islands since the first colony in 1764 through to today with the areas coloured based on rule throughout those years:-


  • Purple - Britain and France joint rule
  • Orange - Spain and Britain joint rule
  • Yellow - Spain rule
  • Green - no rule
  • Cyan - Argentinian rule
  • Blue - British rule
I hope this helps anyone reading to visualise just how little the islands have been Argentinian. In their history, they have been ruled by Argentina for less than 13 years. Add this to the fact that France were the first colonists, and that the islanders want to be part of Britain, and Argentina's claim looks pretty weak.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Matt Frei On Cuba


"Cuba's extraordinary culture is a glorious byproduct of a society that is still pitifully short on the distractions of choice and prosperity"
  1. Salsa existed in Cuba long before Castro got in, and exists in many parts of latin America.
  2. The ballet only exists because the state funds it and people see it as a way out of poverty (despite being unproductive culture).
  3. You take a beautiful palace and put a fucking factory in it? Well, that's a great advert for misusing resources.
  4. A lot of cigar afficiandos don't actually rate Cuban cigars as much better than what you get elsewhere.
But I really dislike Frei's quote, because there's so much more evidence that culture thrives when you leave it to the market. American culture dominates like no other, and yet the government does nothing.

Clooney's Villa

And now they're saying it's going to be owned by David Beckham. The whiny-voiced beelzebub. The beast with multiple endorsements.

The anti-George.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Farage and Belgium

There's a whole thing about politics that I find quite distasteful, which is when people simply sling arguments at others because what they say is socially unacceptable, despite the fact that they themselves think it or express it in other ways.

The fact is that Belgium has long been the butt of many jokes by comics of many different political persuasions in the UK. The old meme of "Name 10 Famous Belgians" exists because people think it's a bit of a non-country (I can generally get to 8). It doesn't have the romance of France, the outward liberty of the Netherlands, the glamour of Switzerland. If someone of the cultural left had called it a non-country because of little more culturally than Technotronic and Tintin, this would have been considered as wry observation. But because Nigel Farage said it, people will point and call him a "little Englander" or the all-too-obvious "racist".

Personally, I've been defending Belgium for years because it makes great beer and food (but I'm biased in that regard).

The Cost of RBS

Is there any way to measure or to demonstrate that we shouldn't have bailed out RBS?

Today's losses of £3.6bn are basically a loss of just over £3bn to the tax payer. So we can add that to the total cost, as well as the interest we would have all earned by sticking it in a regular savings account from now until we get it back (if we ever get it back).

Now, I know people like to say "but who's going to lend money to businesses" but that's a spherical cow argument. If the government lends/gives £1 to RBS, that's £1 taken from the taxpayer. Taking that from the taxpayer means they don't spend it on lattes, DVDs or cars, which give money to businesses. So, in effect, rather than businesses getting money from customers in the form of income, they instead have to get it from banks in the form of loans. Hardly the most efficient arrangement.

Any idea how much we've spent so far (plus interest)?

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Bogus Colleges

OK, so people are coming into the UK on student visas as a way to illegally immigrate.

Strikes me that there's a simple test for this: if you're coming from a country which generally has illegal immigrants then you can only come into the UK to study if the thing you are studying is outside of the norm. So, you can't come to do a fairly regular degree in computer studies, because why would you? Surely it would be cheaper to do it in your home country.

But let's say you're doing aPhd in electronics at Cambridge, or doing a course related to steel in Sheffield (which you can't do in your own country), then you get thoroughly checked before coming in.

Comments welcome on these thoughts...

Teenage Pregnancies

Here's Alice Thomson:-

Enough. British children shouldn’t be getting their sex education from Ashley and Cheryl but from their parents and teachers. I was once one of those prissy, prudish parents pussyfooting around the question until I was sent to the Netherlands by this newspaper to discuss procreation.

The Netherlands. This should be interesting.
In the Netherlands, sex and children aren’t a taboo subject. As pupils play mummies and daddies in the playground they know exactly what they might have been doing last night. Families watch babies being born on the birthing channel together and a 12-year-old at the senior school showed me how to roll a condom on to a broomstick while her friend asked me if I masturbated.
OK. I don't see this as unhelpful.
Yet the 17-year-old girls were shocked when I asked if they had actually had sex. They all agreed they didn’t want to consummate any relationship until they had a career and a serious partner. The country now has the lowest rates of sexually transmitted diseases among young people, the lowest teenage pregnancy rate in the West, the lowest rate of abortion and one of the lowest rates of divorce.

The British, meanwhile, expect their children to learn about sex and relationships from the playground, internet porn, WAGs and celebrities, and are amazed that we have the highest rate of sexually transmitted diseases and abortions among the under 21s in Europe. In Britain, 53 per cent of young people use contraception. In Holland, it’s 93 per cent. David Cameron is worried about his daughter Nancy learning about sex from listening to Lily Allen on his iPod, but he hasn’t suggested an alternative.

More sex please, we’re British.
That's funny, because in Alice Thomson's piece from November 24, 2008, she said:-
In Britain the average teenager loses his or her virginity at 16 - more than a year before the Dutch average of 17.7 years.
Which suggests that rather a lot of them are going hammer and tongs long before they've got a career and a serious relationship.

Funnily enough in that piece from 2008 she actually nailed why the Netherlands has so few teenage pregnancies:-
Another reason why the teenage pregnancy rate is so low may be that in the Netherlands there is still a stigma attached to having a child before the age of 20. In Britain, a baby who can offer unconditional love, a free home away from parents and a cheque every month is not considered a disaster for a teenage girl. The Dutch Government still penalises single mothers under 18, who are expected to live with their parents if they become pregnant. Until six years ago the Government gave them no financial support.
Which is, of course, the real reason, and is backed up by the levels of teenage pregnancy in Switzerland and Japan where no assistance is given.

Through a strange accident of scheduling, I never had a single sex education lesson. Yet, at the age of 17 I knew about condoms and how they work, because kids talk about this stuff. I seriously don't believe that there aren't any boys out there who don't know because everyone in my year did (or else they're the sort of non-disgusting boys who aren't chasing girls anyway). And once you've seen a condom, they're pretty intuitive. They might well have instructions, but you don't really need to read them. The design tells you everything.

I'm sure there's a few dummies out there, but most kids know this stuff. It's more a question of them being prepared to accept the risk of pregnancy. If the state's going to support her and the baby anyway, then you might as well have the extra fun.

The sooner we stop wasting hundreds of millions on programmes that most kids don't need (and maybe just giving the simplest explanation about condoms and pregnancy), and start addressing the benefits system, the sooner we'll sort this problem out.

Libel Laws

I'm always amazed how people talk about libel laws in this country, like they shouldn't exist.

The simple fact is that whether you're getting sued by McDonalds or a famous actress, being a lying cunt who lies about someone and damages their reputation or character deserves a bit of a pasting, metaphorically speaking. To wail that the law shouldn't exist and that you deserve some sympathy having lied about them is just absurd.

Which isn't to say that we don't need reform, and the most important thing is that justice is not deprived because of the threat of legal costs by richer parties, at which point it is not just, but a deliberate attempt to silence people by force. But that's the limit of it.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Citizen Journalism ++

As an Android user, I decided to download the new Sky News app. It looks quite good what with video clips from the news and all that.

But another interesting feature is the "report" button. You're out and about, you see something interesting happening, you film it, put in your details and it goes to the news room. Are we going to see more "citizen journalism"? I think so

Monday, 22 February 2010

NHS to drop Homeopathy

This doesn't really matter, of course. We'll still have the memory of homeopathy in the NHS so it will still work.

Another Olympic Benefit Nobbled

We know already that it's going to cost far more than it should have done, not create many local jobs, not give us facilities that can be used (as they're mostly unsuitable), but at least we, as the people who pay for it will get priority on the tickets, right? Right?

EU ruling leaves Britons facing battle for tickets
But Telegraph Sport has been told that Britons will not have any exclusive access to the tickets, nor any advance purchase opportunities. 
On a political level there are approaches being made to see if there is any possibility of reserving a percentage of tickets for the British public, but early indications appear that any such move would contravene the European Union act.
Lord Coe, the chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, said on Tuesday: "The reality is we signed the European Union act in 1971, we are part of the European political landscape and my instinct is that the tickets have to be made available to Europe at the same time as Britain.''
So, are there any good reasons for us having these games?

Saturday, 20 February 2010

My New Hobby...

Clicking Google Ads from utter shits on my friends websites.

It's a giant win-win. Labour/Greenpeace/TUC appear as an an on a friend's site. I click - Labour/Greenpeace/TUC get their coffers emptied a little, Google get to keep going and my friend gets some pennies as a result.

Taking a 2nd Look at Labour

OK, I've taken a 2nd look. What am I missing?

Is it one of those optical illusions or stereograms where if you squint a little, a shimmering government of light appears instead of an incompetent bunch of fuckwits?

Torchwood: Children of Earth

I've watched a bit of Torchwood before and while it's not bad entertainment and a bit hokey, never taken it seriously.

So, series 3, Children of Earth was something of a revelation. It's rare for TV (and especially the BBC) to use science fiction to reflect society, to ask difficult moral questions. But Torchwood: Children of Earth did this rather spectacularly. It also did sci-fi without resorting to huge levels of special effects, but instead by making a compelling drama, by learning from what people like Hitchcock knew: sometimes, it's about what you don't show that scares more than what you do.

To be honest, it's about the most shocking, serious drama that I can remember the BBC doing for a very long time. You've got to go back to something like Edge of Darkness to find something close to it. Seriously... it's Monty Python good, Fawlty Towers good. You just don't get TV this good and this mature in the UK very often.

More thoughts on these PAYE changes

OK, there's 2 ways that this Conservative plan can work:-
  1. Company pays money to Inland Revenue who subtract the PAYE amount before passing it onto the bank account of employee
  2. Company pays money to Bank Account and then sends a notification to the Inland Revenue that they paid employee 1234 the amount of £1800 and to remove the tax from the bank account of the user.
Now, I really can't see #2 flying with the population of this country. The Inland Revenue regularly deducting pay a few days. Will go down like a lead balloon.

Which leaves #1. Firstly, this relies on the Inland Revenue calculating the amount correctly and quickly posting to someone's accounts. That means not fucking it up, not having system crashes and so forth. And with the normal Fred Karno's Consultancy Armies that get hired, I wouldn't bank on that.

But it's also going to require a complete reworking of processes to support this (in fact, either one will). It will mean changes to existing payroll packages to also send additional packets of information to whoever receives this stuff. Now, what's the cost of that going to be?

And how much is it going to replace software anyway? If you're a business, you're still going to want to track payroll costs, you're still going to want to have some software to calculate things like bonuses, overtime etc.

And what happens about payslips, notifying employees about the split between tax and NI? How's that going to be done?

Staff who are paid cash? Staff who have international bank accounts?

Lots of questions, and I doubt that Cameron has spent even 5 minutes thinking about them...

Swiss Prostitutes trained to use Defibralators

From The Telegraph:-
Brothel owners in the Lugano area say electric shock treatment to restart customer's hearts is needed because so many elderly customers are using their services.

The most recent victim was a pensioner, thought to be having fun with the help of anti-impotence medication.

His death followed a series of other incidents, some fatal, in which heart attacks have claimed brothel customers in the area.

The owner of one sex club said: "Having customers die on us isn't exactly good publicity".
If you want to know why brothels should be legalised, it's all there. Because it actually saves lives. And there's plenty of other historical evidence about people being killed by illegality from bathroom gin to how narcotics are cut today.

Think about it... you're running a "massage parlour" masquerading as a brothel and you get a defibralator in, and train your girls in how to use CPR. Next thing you know, the government comes along and says that this is obviously an indicator that prostitution is going on in the premises, as you'd only need one if horizontal jogging is taking place.

So instead, they don't have a defibrilator and when some old boy with a dodgy ticker comes in, they instead have to rely on the time for an ambulance to arrive.

Very practical people, the Swiss.

Inspired By Matthew Parris

It would make as much sense as most of their policies, to be honest.

Amy Williams

I've just checked our history in the Winter Olympics. Excluding the non-sport of figure skating, she's just won our first ever individual gold medal. Nice.

Tories Shake Up The Tax System... ish

From The Telegraph:-

The Conservatives  are working on a pilot for a new automated bank-based system that would remove the responsibility of deducting and paying income tax from employers. The new system could save businesses up to £5.5bn according to the Tories and increase revenues to the Exchequer of £1bn., according to the Tories election  hopefuls.
I don't know where £5.5bn comes from. That sounds like about £200/annum per employed person, which seems a bit high.
Rather than leaving employers to process different tax codes and pay income tax for employees, the new system would automatically deduct income tax and national insurance contributions directly from an employee's gross pay as it is paid into their bank account.
How far out of date are the Conservatives? You buy a bit of accounting software and it does most of the donkey work for you. Costs a couple of hundred quid. For most businesses, it's part of a larger software package, so any change is going to be small.
The Tories, who are in talks with various technology providers who are developing the system, said the plans have been made in response to the increasing failures of the current tax system.
Oh goody. So, rather than businesses doing their payroll themselves using a bit of software, we're going to be paying the likes of Crapita running a system that will take what the employer puts in and deduct it before it reaches the bank account. See how happy the public are when that goes tits up and they're left without payments arriving in their bank account.

If the Tories really wanted to reduce the burdens of business, they'd scrap VAT and the ridiculous amount of red tape that kicks in once you've got 10 employees. They'd also change employment laws to something closer to right-to-hire and rollback Labour's changes to maternity leave.

H/T Tim Worstall

Polling Question...

Quite an interesting item about how Angus Reid do their polling at

Why do we poll online?
Three main reasons: We believe that it is the most representative means of conducting research. True, not everybody has access to the internet but not everybody is available to take a phone call at 6.30pm or answer the door when the interviewer knocks. By allowing respondents to answer the questionnaire at a time and place of their choosing you increase the percentage of people available to answer across all demographics. Internet uptake is now sufficient in all sectors of society to be able to sample to cover all sectors of society.

This strikes me as really interesting. If you have to call or visit at 6:30pm, you're more likely to get people who work less, housewives, people who work from home and the unemployed. Workaholics and young successful people with social lives might not be home by then.

So, maybe some of the polls are understating the "parties of the right" (Conservative/UKIP) and overstating Labour.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Joslyn James

From The Daily Mail

As one of 12 women linked to married golf star Tiger Woods, Joslyn James could rightly be expected to feel ashamed of her actions.

But as she watched his televised apology today the porn star seemed more upset than the golfer himself, sobbing hysterically as her lawyer tried to comfort her.

Hang on... she's got nothing to be ashamed of. It was Tiger who is in the wrong here. If he'd kept his wood in the bag, this wouldn't have been a problem.

Abbey Road Studios

Apart from the fact that I don't see why Macca can't just buy them if he cares so much (I'm sure he's still got £120 million available), I'm also not into ideas like turning it into a museum or getting it listed.

For one thing, it's a wholly unspectacular building, so it doesn't deserve any listing, but also the thing that matters most about Abbey Road is not the building - it's the zebra crossing.

The fact is that you don't need studios in nice, expensive places like St Johns Wood. Probably made sense when you needed very skillful people to record onto master discs, and when people were less mobile. But today it can all be done digitally, and it's unnecessary.

So, let it get turned into flats or a hotel... far more useful for London.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Why You Should Vote UKIP

You could vote for them, but after reading today's Cameronbollocks about co-operatives, you might as well not. Vote UKIP. Even if Labour get in, it's not bad news.

Here's the situation:-

If you vote Conservative, you get David Cameron with his woolly grip on pseudo-Conservative / psuedo-LibDem of policies. He's barely going to dismantle the state and in 5 years time, might be kicked out and replaced with another Labour PM and 5 years of taking the economy into disaster.

Even if you vote UKIP and get a Labour MP, there are benefits. The main one is that Cameron will get the boot along with most of the lightweights in the shadow cabinet. We get a robust Conservative opposition to 5 years where Labour utterly destroy their credibility. But also, you register where you feel British politics will go.

Don't compromise... Vote UKIP.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Idea: Replacing GPs with Specialists

I've been mulling over the idea of replacing GPs with specialists as the bulk of patient to doctor relationships.

It strikes me that when people get ill, they normally know where the problem is. So, why are people not going straight to a specialist who knows about their area?

This isn't to say that you don't need GPs, but that GPs would be more like "holistic specialists"*. That is to say, when there's a problem which a specialist can't diagnose which is about pain in one part of the body being affected by another, these people would then come into effect, perhaps creating a team of specialists to analyse the problem.

Am I missing something in this?

Because what strikes me is that GPs come from olden times, when people were less mobile so that you had to have 1 jack-of-all-trades to treat everything. When you've got towns of 200,000 or more people, I see no reason that you couldn't have a number of specialists.

* holistic as defined by Aristotle, not the new age ecobollocks use of it.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Ricky Tomlinson to Stand as Independent Candidate?

A celeb standing in an election wouldn't normally be that interesting, but there's a couple of things to consider about this if it happens:-

1) Liverpool's one of those areas of the country with a very strong self-identity. Posting someone who's never heard of Bill Shankly or Gerry and the Pacemakers strikes me as a bad decision.

2) Ricky Tomlinson's a local boy made good and can probably make a decent speech.

3) It's not a particularly strong Labour seat. Labour had 5000 more votes at the last election than the Lib Dems. That's already going to get taken down a little by the fact that Labour are struggling and dropping in a new candidate.

So, could Ricky Tomlinson fight the seat, split the Labour vote and let the Lib Dems in? Could be interesting...

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Charles vs The Enlightenment

via The Times

To Prince Charles, however, it is old hat. “I was accused once of being the enemy of the Enlightenment,” he told a conference at St James’s Palace. “I felt proud of that.”

Well, of course he is. Once people start thinking rationally, they start questioning things like whether it's sensible to appoint someone to be the last line of defence against fascism simply because they came from the loins of another person.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Bastiat Fail

It looks like An Englishman's Castle has had a response from David Cameron's office over climate change:-

We need to make the transition to a low carbon economy urgently, and I hope you’ll agree that our plans for a Low Carbon Economy will help create hundreds of thousands of jobs, raise skills and improve Britain’s competitiveness.

Let me get this right... David Cameron has a 1st class honours degree from Oxford in Philosophy, Politics and Economics as well as an A-level in Economics, yet doesn't know about opportunity cost? Isn't this a fundamental part of economics?

Men of England I say unto you: don't fall into the trap of voting Cameron. Vote elsewhere, despite your conservative leanings. You will only replace him as leader by him losing or getting a marginal victory.