Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The lapdogs of war

The Boy David was getting it in the neck from the smuggies at Blair's Broadcasting Corporation for changing the Tory mind on George and Tony's Iraq crusade when I switched on News 24 this morning.

Of course, no Labour politician ever changed their mind about anything, did they? The recent about-turn on matters such as controlled immigration and the end of multiculturalism has nothing to do with responding to popular demand, does it? Nooo... of course not. The BBC's management and Board of Govenors is far too conscious of its opportunities for sinecures in the Lords and "service" on other quangos for that to be the case.

Bush and Blair's big mistake was failing to find WMD within hours of the invasion; the next was failing to "find" WMD at all. After all, what on earth are MI5, the SAS, the CIA and the NSA (and presumably also MOSSAD) for? From that point on, a meltdown was pretty much assured as Arab support poured in from Saddam's old enemies as well as guaranteed disruption from his vast Baath party organisation.

It wasn't as if the US and UK hadn't had sufficient prior experiences of dodgy ventures in foreign lands. The aftermath is ALWAYS more tricky than any politician wants to believe, and it is fair to point out that nearly all the support for the original invasion was qualified with "as long as you know what the end game is really going to be".

If the unholy alliance of opposition parties lead by the boy David finally knocks over this tattered administration, I imagine all sorts of dirty tricks and favours will be called on to try and discredit the effort. The US administration reaction will be especially interesting: do they know the meaning of the expression "lost cause", I wonder?

Someone somewhere has plenty to hide, and the Kelley enquiry fiasco suggests that there is an alliance and conspiracy of government, spin doctors and some media being held together in the name of not making life any more difficult for our forces in Iraq.

So it's hardly surprising that Blair doesn't want a proper enquiry - but is it just possible that Cameron's surprise move arises partly because the Labour Party is again busy doing what they have done for the past 9 years - using the proven diversionary tactic of blatantly stealing potentially popular Tory party policies (this time the Green ones) ? Does the boy David reckon it's time to fight dirty at last?

Those who watch "Spooks" - a dangerously credible BBC1 drama about MI5 - get a wonderfully rich diet of scarily plausible misdeeds in the highest places of government, so I wouldn't be at all surprised if Cameron soon starts sporting a chunky jacket to cover a bullet proof vest. Or maybe he'll ask the well-upholstered Boris Johnson to walk just ahead of him... or both?

Monday, October 30, 2006

Best practice

According to the Wikipedia, Best Practice is a management idea which asserts that there is a technique, method, process, activity, incentive or reward that is more effective at delivering a particular outcome than any other technique, method, process, etc. The idea is that with proper processes, checks, and testing, a project can be rolled out and completed with fewer problems and unforeseen complications.

Yes, just as you and I suspected, it's yet another form of modernspeak designed to state the obvious, and give those stating the obvious an air of undeserved authority. It has found its way into both political and management jargon, and it is completely meaningless.

Would anyone knowingly pursue the route of worst practice?

A big danger of this type of mindless tripe is that it encourages those witless folks whose sad lives revolve around stringing together such phrases in order to seem as though they know what they are doing, to believe that they really do know what they are doing.

Next time anyone mentions "Best Practice" to you, tell them that the bloke drank himself death, so you'd rather not bother.

Global warming and erosion of the bank account

There's a golden rule for voters of competing parties: never, ever agree about anything.

When politicians detect a glimmer of consensus on any subject, with barely concealed delight, the first thing they will try and do is look for ways to tax it. Having taxed all the traditional sources to death, the new opportunities of congestion charges and now climate change are providing rich new pastures for those who think they can spend your money more wisely than you can.

The doom mongers commenting on the lingering summer and autumn are twittering about global warming and imminent doom. But before we get overwhelmed by the assumptions, let's examine what's actually going on.

We are told that planting a tree is necessary to balance the carbon equation through the process of photosynthesis that uses the combination of sunlight, H20 and chlorophyll to hoover the C from CO2 and fix in complex hydrocarbons, and then release back the 02 to the atmosphere. However, trees take a long time to grow. So consider the immediately beneficial effects of extending the period of the year in which the green stuff is able to rinse the atmosphere. Would it be fair to suggest that by extending the growing period for a month, we might get an extra 15-20% of the carbon absorption?

While you are cursing the need to cut your grass in November, just think how much extra carbon has been taken from the atmosphere in the growing process.

Higher temperatures, lashings of rain and the effect of extended growing seasons look very much like nature's feedback system at work. So whilst we may need to build a little more thoughtfully to keep the roof on - and improve the drainage - just maybe things are not quite as dire as the more hysterical tree huggers would have us believe.

What is more energy efficient? Running a vehicle for 500k miles and accepting that older engines emit a bit more of the nasty stuff - or go mad like the Japanese and devise emission rules that require engine replacement every 50-75k miles or so? (Which actually results in the Japanese shipping loads of second hand cars around the LHD world and keeping their home economy churning.)

Let's put this in perspective: the UK is responsible for 2% of global pollution, there will be no more fossil fuels in 30 years time anyway.

Easily the biggest political challenge arises from who controls what's left, and governments (like ours) that have wasted their peoples' resources. So governments that are now perilously dependent on savvy Russians and unstable Saudi Arabians would prefer not to admit this to the voters, but try and find ways to deflect attention onto other things - especially when it means they can tax something new and kid the voters that they are doing them a favour.

The main reason for you to fret about energy conservation is cash conservation. The best use of old engine oil is to pour it into vats, boil it, and place them on the roof of your porch, ready for when New Labour's numerous new tax inspectors come calling.

If only we could find a way to tax the sanctimonious...

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Human rights and inhuman wrongs

The dangerous stupidity and dogmatic ritual of "Human Rights" legislation is one of the crowning works of the devil and his/her many disciples in Brussels and Whitehall. It brings together the otherwise unimportant, the self righteous, the unworldly, the well-meaning, the smugly sanctimonious and the downright mischievous in an co-ordinated orgy of self-indulgent hypocrisy, the like of which civilization has not seen since the Spanish Inquisition.

With acknowledgements to Monty Python, the big difference this time around is that by now, most of us do indeed thoroughly expect the European Convention on Human Rights.

Where ever justice, truth, decency and the normal of way doing things has prevailed for centuries, some unelected twat will turn up and quote some obscure regulation enacted by a committee of unelected twats, to ensure that common sense is brought to a swift and mindless conclusion.

The bastard offspring of the ECHR are of course the legions of Health and Safety officialdom. H&S frequently quotes the ECHR as its foundation, justification and guiding principle. After all, sending a bloke up a ladder to change a light bulb without a full safety harness and air-sea rescue standing by is indeed asking for trouble in today's litigation-laced environment.

And just we have come to expect the ECHR and H&S blocking the path of common sense at every turn, so it's no surprise to find the worthless bureaucratic mandarins of the EU and President Blair's lawyer missus at the heart of this catastrophe of obtuse, unnecessary and disruptive legislation that has spawned more work for the vexatious and their lawyers than just about anything else in the past 50 years.

If like the many political apparatchiks drawn from the legal profession, you have a £m+ mortgage in trendy Islington and a penchant for living above your means to service, that's good news indeed.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Our survey said: more sex please, we're past it

Dontcha just love surveys? UKTVGold has commissioned an audience attitude review to assess the regrets felt by two specific age groups. It quizzed 1,500 Britons over 65 and the same number aged between 20-29 and asked for their top 10 wishes if they could turn back the clock.
Instead of UKTV's probably hoped-for news that the nation was gagging for more episodes of the Sweeny and reruns of Bargain Hunt, the 20-29s mostly regretted wasting money and not getting on the housing ladder soon enough. Maybe not too surprising given the sort of treadmill lives they lead where the first 364 days of the working year are just about all spent working for Gordon Brown. And if that's not a waste of money, what is?

But the really interesting thing was that the over 65s mostly (70%) regretted not having enough sex and travel. All of which only goes to prove that you always want what you can't have.

Another disappointing but telling regret is that only 16% of crumblies regret not starting their own business - but bear in mind that the survey was probably drawn from the audience of daytime satellite TV...

More ladders, less snakes

After many years of blameless motoring, it comes as a something of a shock to get shot in the back at 90mph by two of Essex's finest, skulking behind a bridge on the A120 on a perfectly clear day with little traffic around. Or so my friend tells me.

This set a train of thought running for a possible TMP policy: negative points on your license.

The marketing industry has known the carrot value of fluffy loyalty bonus points for years, but Her Majesty's Plod only knows the stick value of stern punishment. Insurance companies appreciate the overall value of no claims' bonuses, so how about giving motorists a negative point for each year they manage to navigate the hell on wheels that is the British road network, without incident..?

Moreover, because these bonus points are just that - "a bonus" - it should be possible to invoke other aspects of motoring presently (rightly) outside the penalty points scheme. For example, certain types of static motoring misdemeanours could count against the annual bonus scheme - whereas it would be deemed grossly unfair to treat parking on a par with moving traffic violations when handing out penalties, these "static" offences could more fairly be taken into account when handing out the gold stars.

With a bit of thought, such a scheme might also be introduced to other areas of incentives to give those who try and lead responsible lives some hope that maybe the criminal justice system is not entirely skewed in favour of the feckless and irresponsible.

The insurance industry would also love it, since such a scheme would provide a very reliable instant provenance on prospects and give it yet more excuses to penalise the young and feckless. And capping the negative points at -15 would probably ensure that some elderly motorist with an armoured car, a grudge and -60 points didn't decide to cash them all in one fell swoop by going postal and wiping out an entire town centre.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

One man's tax cut is another man's soundbite

Understandably, the present hierarchy of the Conservative party does not want to be drawn on policy, yet. Over the course of the last 3 elections, the Labour Party has quite unashamedly stolen the finest fashions from the Tory wardrobe. The fact that most of these clothes fit badly on many of Blair's fellow travellers becomes apparent from time to time, with the occasional accompaniment of the sound of rending seams. John Prescott in particular clearly couldn't wait to get his kit off; but the trouble was he forgot to put any of the new gear on ...

So all George Osborne had to say when commenting on the Tax Reform Commission was that he would be prudent and not risk affecting mortgage rates. And all Gordon Brown's soulmate and gopher, Ed Balls, could say in response was to try and brazen it out, by avoiding answering the observation that Labour had imposed more than 60 stealth taxes. Instead, he predictably tried to plead what Labour had done for "the family" as many times as he possibly could, despite the shambolic state of the family credit system being pointed out several times by the (R5) interviewer.

I particularly liked one text comment sent on the Labour Treasury spokesman's input:

"Ed? Balls!"

So after months of pestering for a glimpse of a few policies, the BBC website dutifully says: "The Lib Dems say the Tories are in a muddle, while Labour say tax cuts would be financed by cuts in public spending. " [errrm... can we have our licence fee increase, now please?]

Hmmm. How about financing some tax cuts by ditching the BBC tax (aka license fee)? This country is already awash with more media than it's subjects can possible consume, and the need to operate it on a costly broadcast infrastructure no longer exists - strategically or practically.

Why not gift the whole thing to Channel 4 to operate? Given the magic of digital delivery, it is now perfectly possible for those that wanted to, to "buy off" the commercials that would otherwise interrupt and fund it.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

In the name of the Father Son and Holy Ballot Box

In the mindless pursuit of democracy, those chanting "one man one vote" have become about as rational as any religious zealot; and it's a brave soul indeed that suggests that democracy has become just as badly abused and misused as religion. Yet the evidence of the systemic inoperability of the concept is all around: there are numerous voting systems within "democracy", usually manipulated by the party in power to ensure that it stays in power.

The democracy zealot is now just as immune to reason and evidence as the religious zealot. Worse, if you are George W Bush, and his obedient servant, Yo Blair, democracy and religion are one and the same crusade. Democracy advocates will justify the many sacrifices made in world and other wars in its name; much the same sacrifices were made in the name of religion during the Dark Ages.

The cynical abuse of "democracy" is all around. The furor surrounding the dubious abuse of patronage and allegations of cash for peerages comes under the familiar heading of "no surprises there". Indeed, all political parties do it and have done it for ages, so all the purple bluster and steam seems unlikely to stir an unsurprised nation to arms; but let's extract the principle "of purchased influence" and place it in a proper democratic context.

Unless the theory of marketing and advertising is complete nonsense, democracy, crudely means a system of government where money buys influence. Why else would the US be so keen to impose it?

Dangerously, for the cosy beneficiaries of the status-quo in that most undemocratic of lands where minority rule is imposed every 5 years (the UK), "genuine democracy" where the people are allowed to decide on all important issues, has become perfectly possible now that modern technology connects the entire population to an instant voting mechanism. Moreover, the proposed £5bn worth identity card effort at least ought to ensure that a secure means of proof of identity was in the hands of every subject.

But who should be permitted to vote? In the present system of delegated voting authority, there is a very clear and brutal system that dictates just how far democracy reaches. And the answer is just 316 egomaniacs who are sufficiently self-obsessed and self-seeking to seek election to the House of Commons.

The moment that Commons majority is reached, this oligarchy can conveniently forget the 60-odd million voters for whom life is a daily struggle for survival in the face of increasingly tedious and questionable impositions. The magical majority of 316 people, mainly drawn from the ranks of lawyers, teachers, lecturers, trade union activists and an increasing number of "professional politicians" who have never held a proper job of any sort in their misbegotten lives, can do what they bloody well like. And as President Blair has shown on many occasions, he bloody well did; entirely ignoring parliament and acting like a dictator.

So then, please remind me, just why is universal suffrage deemed to be such a great idea? Adolf Hitler was elected democratically, as was Robert Mugabe, George Bush (just) and Tony Blair (overwhelmingly). This suggests that democracy might not be all that it's cracked to be. In fact, it suggests that democracy is a dreadful way to elect an effective government.

One US political commentator once observed:

"Every 4 years, the US public generally gets to make a choice between a crook or a fool. If they have any sense, they vote for the crook."


A tax by any other name...

Tell me, fellow subjects, what is the difference between a tax, a "duty", a "charge" or a "licence fee" when the cash ends up being spent by the same bloke on the same things..?

Just as squirrels are rats with PR and a sense of theatre, some politician somewhere must have felt that it was worth the effort to try and masquerade house purchase tax as "stamp duty" - in a quaint allusion to a bygone age. It is nowt but a tax in pantaloons and tricorn hat in an age when President Blair and his closet republican henchmen (and women) are desperately trying to edge us towards becoming citizens, and no longer subjects.

This game of "when is a tax not a tax" doesn't always work out. One tax that was proposed in a coiffured wig, thigh length boots and leather hot pants ended up doing for a certain Margaret Thatcher. The "Community Charge" was instantly dubbed the "poll tax" by her opponents, and the rest is history.

Ironically, Red Ken Livingstone's infamous "Congestion Charge" seems to have raised £trillions, but even that's not enough to clear his irritating sinuses. What's that? Oh? I see! He actually meant to call it the "London Travel Tax", it has nothing to do with clearing congestion, nasal or streetwise. Every political address should carry the warning: Too much honesty may seriously endanger your re-electability.

Blair's very own combination of Brutus and Robespierre, Gordon Brown, has achieved a new benchmark in political fiscal chicanery with his complex system of retrospective taxes and emascualtion of the once thriving and essential pensions industry in order to fund Labour's traditional wasteful spending, most of which has been directed towards propping up regions - both geographic and demographic - that traditionally support the party.

Remind me, what happened to the Westminster councillors who attempted a spot gerrymandering on a relatively modest scale? It all goes to show that the bigger and more outrageous you are, the more likely it is that you will get away with it.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Scorekeepers shall not also bat

There is a widely accepted principle that students don't mark their own exam papers, and that the scorers in sports events don't participate as players. Auditors are supposed to be independent of the firms that they audit. So why should those who derive their income from public funds be allowed to vote on par with those who provide that income?

UK governments of the past 50 years have all declared that you cannot buck markets. This is just another market, but one where the sellers are allowed to set the prices - which is fundamentally flawed and will end in tears. I don't for a moment suppose that this idea will be wildly popular amongst those who become disenfranchised, but once upon a time "public service" meant accepting less financial reward in return for stability of employment. But these days, public servants get more money, enjoy less stress and better pensions than those who pay for them.

One of the trickiest legacies of the Blair Presidency will be the fact that just about half the working population of the UK is now paid from one public purse or another. How is any politician ever going to get elected on a policy of redressing this insane situation? We've already seen how easily the civil service managed to close ranks and brush aside what seemed like perfectly reasonable attempts to put their retirement age in line with the rest of us.

But those who are paid by the state, are allowed to vote for the composition of the state. Why?
The argument generally goes that they are also tax payers. OK, but the tax they pay comes from salaries that are provided by the rest of us. Precious few civil servants have any role in any form of wealth creation; almost universally they dig large holes into which the wealth created by others simply "disappears".

So how about this for a way forward? We should hold a referendum where everyone (for the last time) gets to decide which of the publicly funded occupations should be allowed to vote in elections. Simply listing the vast roll call of who is taking our money will require polling stations to have standby smelling salts, when those who pay for them at last realise just how far the disease has spread.

I would guess that all medical staff in the NHS will be allowed to vote - but not administrators; the police force below the rank of deputy commissioner would send an interesting signal to those for whom political correctness has become more important than catching felons. The whole of the Armed Forces would almost certainly get 100% approval.

But is there a chance in hell that BBC employees, politicians, tax collectors, traffic wardens, or Whitehall civil servants would ever the see the inside of a polling booth ever again?

These are a few more of my most unfavourite things

Following on the list of the Blair presidency's outstanding achievements in the previous blog, I have been offered a few more to include...

  • More surveillance TV in the UK than any other country in the world
  • The Scottish parliament building is 4 times over budget, a snip at £200m
  • Council tax rising >3x faster than inflation
  • No discernible energy strategy or resource planning
  • The sacking of nurses
  • Human Rights as an industry
  • Postcode medicine
  • GPs abandoning weekend cover yet now getting paid £100k PA average
  • Bugged dustbins
  • The Health and Safety Gestapo
  • Stealth taxes
  • Annual taxation documentation that has ballooned by some 1000%
  • Confusing new postal shipment rules
  • ASBOs and tagging
  • Dr Kelley's "suicide"
  • House of Lords "reform"

One of the most predictable excuses offered by UK governments since the first oil crisis was the news that "global events" were beyond its control; so it also seems appropriate to list the major global influences and trends since 1997 to see how many can be blamed for the mess overtaking The Republic of Blair. Not many of which seem to have been much of an impediment to running the country in the past 9 years. In fact the negative consequences of 9/11 now seem to have been self inflicted, and have left the world in a position where it is powerless to act on the news that North Korea really does have WMD.

All the other events have been grabbed by most nations of the world and turned into fantastic opportunities for development and growth. Countries like India and China have leveraged telecoms and IT to come from almost nowhere during Blair's reign. For HMG's part, IT has been the scene of yet more famous costly disasters in just about every aspect of public spending, despite Blair cabinet fixture, Patricia Hewitt, famously having been a former high flyer with high fallutin' and famously expensive management and IT consultants, Accenture. (Errm, but surely Accenture has been one of the usual suspects involved in many of these costly disasters..?)

Sadly, the one and only public IT project that seems to have worked well has been the introduction of the Livingstone Tax on London drivers - plus of course ultra efficient digital speed cameras; now just about the last industry where Britain proudly leads the wolrd.

Significant World Events since 1997...

  • 9/11
  • The internet
  • The end of broadcast TV as a mass medium
  • Satellite Navigation
  • Cellphones for all
  • Renewable energy competes at last on price with traditional energy

The President has gone mad, long live the President

To give Blair his due, it's probably not all his fault. He's an actor, and now his scriptwriters have given up the ghost, and deserted him. He never was a rocket scientist, as his proud admissions of supreme computer illiteracy might have warned us. As a manager, he's quite obviously out of his depth.

His judgment with sycophantic colleagues was clearly flawed from the off: the preposterous Mandleson, the even more preposterous Prescott. The unimaginably awful Patricia Hewitt, the permatanned Hain, the ghastly Hazel Blears, the increasingly weird Straw - and then his crowning glory - Tessa Jowell.

Tessa is the minister once married to a lawyer involved in distinctly dodgy goings on with that unimaginably dodgy Italian, Silvio Berlusconi - Italian premier and one time provider of luxury B&B services to President and Mrs Blair.

The litany of Blair's incompetence is endless. Moreover, integrity and talent has been (at the very least) a career setback to any would be Blair apparatchik: witness the late Robin Cooke and the late Mo Mowlem. Clare Short is wisely keeping her head down.

Much of Gordon's frustration is that Gordon thinks he's a lot smarter than Blair; and entirely personally responsible for providing the stability of the economic platform (mostly by continuing the previous Tory administration's core policies) while Blair collected the plaudits. He only gave in over the leadership issue the first time around because he was told that Tony was electable, and assured that he wasn't.

Of the scriptwriters, Alistair Campbell went mad first; and now his simply dreadful wife has run out of preposterousness at long last, and left her husband standing on the burning deck as his administration sinks slowly under a hail of Iraq-inspired suicide bombers, and the sort of systemic sleaze and incompetence that put the relative misdemeanours of the previous Tory administration into interesting perspective.

After all, the quicker he's out of office, the quicker all the memoirs can get published and the sooner the much-needed fees can start rolling in to pay off the mega mortgage and her various other ambitions.

So how come he's clung on this long? Perhaps this has more than a bit to do with the BBC's efforts to avoid getting deservedly gelded in the next license review, and the fact that the BBC is overtly operated by anything but Tory sympathisers.

So, now what? Despite the shambolic state of the UK in 2006, the incumbent government is still being allowed to get away with it, and technically, could do so for another 3 and half years. After all, how many Labour MPs are likely to vote for their own demise? Why on earth does the Great British Public allow this to happen? I suspect that much is down to the mindset that has grown up around the simple but widely held view...

"What's the point? They're all as bad as each other, aren't they?"

Which is a view that now applies to much more than just the Government. It is an indictment of 10 years of Labour's mismanagement of the country, where the government has actively encouraged the creation of vast monopolies and cartels, since they are much simpler to manage centrally and coerce politically than a multiplicity of smaller and more agile competitive businesses. And bigger businesses mean bigger party donations. Or they did...

The tacit permission for the concentration of near monopoly powers and the operation of cartel tactics means that bully-boy providers of anything from satellite TV to software to groceries to phone services to banking services have no fear of come-uppance arising from their arrogant and poor service - simply because the public have given up hope of finding anyone that cares.
Ironically, this attitude bears more than a passing resemblance to the resigned fatalism that prevailed in Russia under communism.

So the Useless Opposition needs all the help it can get, and I'm gathering together a check list of everything that's gone sour during the Blair Presidency.

  • Government elected by a minority of English vote
  • Scottish and Welsh assemblies - so what about the English?
  • Creeping EU takeover
  • Pension Thefts
  • Foreign call centres
  • No Go Zones
  • Dangerous tolerance of BigCo Monopolies
  • Peerages for donations
  • Political Correctness gone mad
  • The War on Terror Fox Hunting Speed cameras
  • Immigration out of control
  • Pointless job creation
  • Sports worship
  • Ladettes Boozing all hours
  • Tattoos for women
  • Gambling more attractive then working

All contributions welcome.