Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Daily Mash Nails the UK Film Council

From the Mash
"Just imagine how good The Godfather could have been, if only it had been part-funded by the government."
I was going to write a post about the UK Film Council, but the Mash piece covers it so well that I'm going to redirect you there.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Oh, Really?

via The BBC:-
A delicate, blue-hued insect has re-appeared in the UK after an interval of more than half a century.

The dainty damselfly, a smaller relative of dragonflies, was washed away from its single East Anglian pond in the severe coastal floods of 1952/3.

Now, a few individuals have been found at a site in north Kent.

Conservationists believe the insects were blown on the wind from France or Belgium where they have become more common, probably due to climate change.

The photo below was taken in my back garden (in Swindon) in June 2008. It's a long way to blow from France to here.

h/t Mark Wadsworth

Government to Roll Back 24 Hour Drinking

From the Daily Hate:-
A war on Booze Britain will dismantle Labour's failed 24-hour drinking laws and ban the sale of dirt-cheap alcohol.
Nice. Poor people have to pay more for booze. Bastards.
Ministers are to introduce powers to stem the drink-fuelled violence which has turned town centres into 'wild west' zones.
Town centres have not been turned into "wild west" zones or "no go" areas since 24 hour drinking. They were always full of pissheads, have been for 20 years.
They hope this will herald the return of the traditional pub, in which the public can drink without fear of assault or abuse.
Almost no trouble takes place in pubs. You have to go to the roughest pub in town to find a fight, which are rarely your young person's pub. The violence happens after the pubs kick out.
Crucially, town halls will be able to reinstate traditional closing times in areas where late-night opening, introduced by the last government in 2005, is causing havoc.
It's not causing havoc. Statistically, violence has fallen since 24 hour drinking was introduced. It's only at one period in the night that violence has gone up (around 3am), and that's a very small number of overnight alcohol-related crimes.
Labour had claimed that more relaxed opening times would lead to a continental-style 'cafe culture'. But ministers say this has been proved a nonsense. 
In future, bars that do stay open late will have to pay a levy to put extra police on the streets.
Alcohol duty more than pays for the health and policing costs, so it's completely unnecessary, and just a tax on people who want to drink later, for no other reason than because you can.
Supermarkets will be barred from selling alcohol for less than cost price. And pubs which sell drink to children repeatedly will be shut down.
I'd sort of assumed that that's why we have licenses. That people who repeatedly break the law get it taken away. But enforcing the law seems like a good idea, if it happens (I have my doubts).
Supermarkets began selling alcohol cheaper than bottled water, as stores used drink as a so-called loss leader to lure in customers.
That's bollocks. They sell the cheapest own brand lager for less than highly branded bottled waters. Compare like with like and they don't. And I doubt that Supermarkets actually sell booze at a loss (or much of a loss). You can buy the booze for sale in Sainsburys at the same price in their wine store, where you're only buying that booze, so it doesn't act as a loss-leader there.
But police warned it was falling into the hands of the young, who used it to ‘preload’, before going drunk to town centres.
Firstly, supermarkets are very hot on selling to the young. It's the last place that young people go because they know that they'll probably get asked for ID. Secondly, you can't preload on the cheap Tesco Value Lager 2% pisswater. By the time you get to town, most of it is out of your system.
Some retailers are likely to protest, but officials said they had the chance to behave responsibly and did not take it.
They won't protest. The government has just legislated the price to cost. They can get richer without fearing competition so much.
Rank-and-file police say the combination of late opening and ‘pre-loading’ has stretched their resources to breaking point, warning that some town centres have been turned into the ‘wild west’.
Stretching their resources to breaking point? The 3 or 4 coppers I see out in the Town Centre every Saturday night? How many police do you actually have?
‘The Government believes that the power to make licensing decisions needs to be rebalanced in favour of local communities, so that they can decide on the night-time economy they want.’
Which would go about as well as Pickles' housing plan - in other words, no-one would want any clubs near their houses.
Labour had made it hard for councils to refuse late-night licences. In particular, town halls could not refuse a pub a licence on the grounds that a street or town centre was saturated with bars and clubs.
This Government wants the situation reversed, in favour of councils fixing opening times. A bar could be turned down if homes were surrounded by pubs.
That's called competition. And what the hell else are you going to put in town centre shop premises now that the internet and large supermarkets have wiped out so many shops?
In some areas, locals could reinstate traditional closing times.
Which will simply bring back the old problem of hard drinking until 11pm, followed by lots of cold, pissed people waiting for taxis, and violence to follow.
The late-night levy would hit bars which stay open after midnight. Cash will be paid into a pot held by councils, which can plough the money into extra policing or improving life for nearby residents.
Or pissed away on their pet projects...
It is hoped the threat of ‘meaningful’ penalties which could run into thousands, will persuade rowdy pubs to change their ways.
We're going to penalise pubs for their drinkers? Which pub do you penalise when someone goes to 3 or 4 pubs in a night? The first, or the last? Pubs will just pay into the council's pet project fund and pass the cost onto drinkers.
Late opening accounts for about a quarter of the police’s £400million overtime bill.
Which is more than covered by the billions in alcohol duty.
Taxes will also be imposed on strong lagers blamed for problem drinking. Last night, Mr Brokenshire said: 'We will overhaul the Licensing Act to give local authorities and the police much stronger powers to remove licences from, or refuse to grant licences to, any premises that are causing problems.
And when you tax strong lager, drinkers will just switch to strong cider, spirits, whatever....
'We will toughen the sanctions for those premises found to be persistently selling alcohol to children and will allow local councils to charge more for late-night licences, which in turn will raise money for extra policing. We will also ban the below-cost sale of alcohol.’
Belatedly, Gordon Brown did acknowledge 24-hour drinking had failed. He ordered a review of the policy. But all it recommended was a three-hour reduction in opening times in problem areas.
That's not actually true. He called a review to address public concern, and to see if it was working.

It's a pity the government is going to reverse one of Labour's few good policies, while leaving the disastrous smoking ban legislation in place.

Monday, 19 July 2010

The French Burqa Ban

From The Independent:-
The French internal security services estimate that only 1,900 women in France wear the full-face veil Рroughly 0.1 per cent of the adult, female, Muslim population. Supporters of the ban, on both the left and the right, say the burka is an affront to the principle of Libert̩ enshrined in the French constitution. Opponents Рand the "sages" of the Conseil Constitutionnel Рsay the ban is itself an assault on individual liberty.
I tend to side with the latter group. Liberty, to my mind, includes the right to choose not to be free. If you ban the burqa, then you should also ban people from participating in sado-masochistic activities.

(incidentally, it includes a ban on covering your face in public, which presumably also means brides.

School Rebuilding

We are, by nature, taken in by appearances. For most of us, it's only experience that teaches us to look at the data instead.

When they built a new hospital in my town, we were told that it would be the answer to all our ills. It wasn't. It barely made any difference.

In my experience,schools are even less compelling. The best 2 schools in the town I was raised in were a boys' comprehensive and a private (but not especially posh) girls school. Both were mostly made up of buildings that were 50 years old. I'd go further - all the schools which had been built within the past few decades were the ones that people tried not to send their children to.

Now, it's possible for me to get data on league tables, but anyone know where to get tables on the ages of schools?

School Rebuilding

We are, by nature, taken in by appearances. For most of us, it's only experience that teaches us to look at the data instead.

When they built a new hospital in my town, we were told that it would be the answer to all our ills. It wasn't. It barely made any difference.

In my experience,schools are even less compelling. The best 2 schools in the town I was raised in were a boys' comprehensive and a private (but not especially posh) girls school. Both were mostly made up of buildings that were 50 years old. I'd go further - all the schools which had been built within the past few decades were the ones that people tried not to send their children to.

Now, it's possible for me to get data on league tables, but anyone know where to get tables on the ages of schools?

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Film Review: The Counterfeiters

One of the things that the BBC's iPlayer has which is quite nice (and well worth enabling for your Wii if you have one), is the occassional movie. I'm not sure what the deal is as it's not all movies, but one that I decided to try is an Austrian film called The Counterfeiters.

The story is a fictionalised version of Operation Bernhard which was a WW2 German operation to produce forged Pounds and Dollars using known Jewish counterfeiters at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Anyway, it's a pretty damn good film and well worth a viewing if you don't mind subtitles. As you might imagine, there's a some violence, but not that much.

Jobsworth of the Year (so far)

We should have an award for things like this
Workmen painting white lines on a road left a gap for a dead badger because they said it was not their responsibility to move it.
The animal had been killed about a week before on the A338 near Downton, on the Hampshire-Wiltshire border.
Hampshire County Council said the workers did what they thought "was best" because it is the district council's job to remove carcasses.
Hampshire County Council is responsible for the line painting but New Forest District Council is responsible for clearing road kill.
The two failed to arrange the clearance before line painting began.

"Did what was best"? In the time it took you to make the call to "arrange the clearance", you could have just fired a hose in it's general direction, or picked it up with a shovel, or stuck a pair of plastic gloves on and moved it.

It's funny when socialists talk about how socialism makes people more co-operative . The reality is that they actually do far more job demarcation than the free market. In the world of the free market, people just get on with things where there's a bump in the road. Companies actually don't work like jobsworths to contracts - they aim to please, because people then want to work with them again.

If a client sends me a spec with what seems to be an error, I don't just implement it. I give them a call to clarify, or in their absence, I rectify it and clarify it with them later. I do what I consider to be delivering a good service. The reason? Professional pride and the desire to get more of their business.

Graduate Tax

According to Cable:-
It surely can't be right that a teacher or care worker or research scientist is expected to pay the same graduate contribution as a top commercial lawyer or surgeon or City analyst whose graduate premium is so much bigger.
But they're already making a greater contribution - they pay a huge amount more in tax. This reflects the fact that we actually want people doing degrees in law, medicine and for a city analyst, I'd guess math (if we're talking quants). These people are not a problem, and we want more people doing those sort of degrees precisely because we actually want those sorts of skills.

So, the result of Cable's idea is that we don't deter people from doing degrees where there is little demand for the resulting education (Philosophy, Sociology). We still incur the costs of worthless degrees. On the other hand, we're going to encourage people with the sort of skills/abilities who earn lots of money and pay lots of tax to go and work elsewhere.

Here's a better idea: lower targets about higher education and drop the amount of spending to an expectation of less than 10% of people going to university. The best of the best will go to university. We just don't need 40 or 50% of people with degrees. Take computing... the likes of Google, Microsoft and Pixar need people with comp sci degrees and PhDs, but most corporate programming doesn't. A degree has only become a requirement because of the number of people with degrees.

Dropping the spending would focus universities on the courses that they really need to provide rather than the slurry degrees they do now.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Cameron - my thoughts so far

I didn't like the look of this government in opposition, but I'm starting to warm to it. I'd generally assumed Cameron to be a bit of a wet lettuce, but I had in the back of my mind that possibly he was just playing a smart, tactical game. I now believe that this is what is happening.

Firstly, Cam/Osborne had to get elected. BBC and Labour propaganda has been for years that the Conservatives would cut and there would be disastrous consequences. A lot of the public actually fell for this. So, the Cameron strategy was to basically say "we don't want to cut anything". Then, you get into power, dig through the accounts, find things are pretty awful, and what you start doing is cutting the really, really useless parts of government.

Now, Labour's part comes into play - they start protesting about how disastrous all these cuts are. Of course, cutting the arts is not disastrous in the least. Other than a few Guardian readers and the people involved in producting kabuki theatre, or plays about paraplegic lesbians in Iran, no-one else is affected. Certainly not the people who spend their money going to see Toy Story 3.

The effect of this is that people start to see that actually, cutting parts of government aren't too scary.

At the same time, the Conservatives have cleverly left the NHS alone. The NHS is totemic for Labour, the NHS is also something that a lot of people don't use that much (unless they're old). But a lot of people know about good and bad schools, and how terrible many of them are, and many parents in good schools would opt for private schools, if they could afford it. Parent-run schools are going to take off like a rocket. People are going to meet people whose kids are at parent-run schools who will have great stories about how much better their schools are than under the old LEA. This then sets up the government to go after health afterwards.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

A Little Idea

In order to get some interesting thoughts going about Richard Murphy, can I suggest that everyone puts up a link to Tim Worstall's blog post category about Richard Murphy?

Use the link above, and some Google juice should help people to read Timmy's stuff about it...

As I Predicted...

From the Morning Advertiser:-
More than three out of four licensees would support the introduction of a separate, well-ventilated smoking room in pubs. 
Three years after the ban came into effect, a Morning Advertiser poll of 156 licensees found 64% believed it has been terrible or bad for business, with 76% saying a separate smoking room should be allowed.
I think that's enough evidence, don't you? The people who said they'd go to pubs if they were less smoky just didn't turn up. And these are the pubs that are left, never mind all those that closed because of the effect of the ban.

I predicted this result, and sadly, I was right.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Sense of Humour Bypass

From the BBC:-
Jeremy Clarkson has been criticised for claiming he drove at 186mph on a public road, by a father whose son died when a speeding car crashed into his vehicle.
Sounds terrible. Go on...
The BBC's Top Gear presenter, from Oxfordshire, told a festival audience in Wales he reached the speed while driving a Bugatti Veyron in London.
186mph in London? Hmm....
When asked about driving the supercar, Clarkson, who lives in Chipping Norton, said: "I got a great speeding ticket. I think it was 186 in the Limehouse Link.
Apart from the fact that even reaching 186mph in a tunnel, in London is almost impossible, if you get caught doing 186mph by a speed camera, you will go before a magistrate, and they will ban you. There's no grey area at that speed.

Sterling job, BBC.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Ooh Matron!

From the Daily Fail:-

A 'big budget' pornographic movie was shot in a NHS hospital when it hired out one of its wards to a film company, it  emerged today.

The movie, which generated 'substantial income' for the hospital, was filmed in a fully-equipped - albeit closed - ward in the central London hospital, a Tory MP has revealed.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday, Penny Mordaunt, MP for Portsmouth North, said: 'When I was director of Kensington and Chelsea Council, I discovered that one of our local hospitals was hiring out one of its closed - but fully-equipped wards - to a film company to use as a film set.

'To add insult to injury, the movie was a pornographic one. Although I cannot claim to have seen the final picture - as I understand, these things are no longer claimable on parliamentary expenses - it was a big-budget affair and generated substantial income for the hospital.

But apart from cheering up a few of the in-patients, it cannot be said to be contributing to the objectives of the primary care trust (PCT).'

Nice dig at the former Home Secretary, but can someone explain how this is not contributing to the objectives of the PCT? They had a ward that was closed, and someone offers them some money to make use of it. The money paid presumably considerably covered the costs of having a grumble film crew in, so therefore allowed the hospital to contribute to saving patients money.