Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Monday, 29 March 2010

Either Lying or Incompetent

I'm not watching the Chancellors debate tonight. I'm getting so upset by the lies, spin, distortions and blatant untruths that pass for "debate" in Labour circles these days that I (seriously) don't think my blood pressure could stand it*. For example, as Dizzy dissects so wonderfully, we are expected to believe that a decision not to raise taxes in the future is a "cut".

That aside, I understand that Darling has claimed that Labour will cut waste in public spending. He has certainly claimed this before now, anyway. I want to examine that more closely.

Labour have, as we know, been in power for 13 years. If there is enough waste in public spending that its elimination will offer serious help in digging us out of the financial crisis - Labour's financial crisis - in which we find ourselves, then it begs one astoundingly obvious question. Why have you sat there for 13 years and wasted our money?

This is a serious point. It is perfectly reasonable for Osborne to stand up and say he will cut waste. We all know it is possible; we all see it daily. But for Darling to make the same claim, even if the factual basis is the same, is an utter admission of failure. Of course, there is always waste; no budget can be spent perfectly. But if the waste that lies in public spending is enough to help with the crisis, then Labour have failed, utterly. If they have not failed utterly, then there must only be a minimal and unavoidable level of waste and therefore nothing to save.

If there is enough waste that we can help things by cutting it, then surely that waste is what dragged us into financial ruin - and now Labour propose to save us by not being stupid any more? For Darling to stand up and say that he will save us from financial ruin by cutting waste is the rhetorical equivalent of the boy who murdered his parents and then pleaded to the Court for clemency on the grounds that he was an orphan.

Which is it, Darling? Are you lying, or is Labour incompetent?

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*Also, Mondays are a bit busy as it is Brownies night.


Thursday, 25 March 2010

If this is good news...

Here, then, is the success touted by New Labour. The evidence that Gordon and Alistair were right all along, and that the Tories were wrong, wrong, wrong. Labour's management of the economy has meant that our net debt in 2014 will "only" be £1.4trn instead of the £1.45trn or so that we feared it might be.

(image courtesy of The Spectator)

That's a national debt of £1,400,000,000,000.00. Try saying it to yourself: a £1,400,000,000,000.00 debt, good news. Good news, a debt of only £1,400,000,000,000.00. No, I can't either.

As I tweeted to @sshrpe earlier today, things are indeed good, because our nightmares about how bad it might be in the future have just got mildly less bad. Because that is truly the measure of things "going well" under Labour - that today's prediction as to how disastrous things will turn out to be is very slightly not-as-bad as the prediction we made a few months ago.

The truth is, of course, that we face this huge debt because Gordon led us to a point where we had to choose between the devil of economic collapse and the deep blue sea of debt. As we drown in the sea of debt, he stands there proudly proclaiming that the sea is marginally less deep than was originally thought. (OK, we're still way out of our depth and drowning fast, but the unreachable sea floor is a little closer than we thought)

Does it occur to no-one that perhaps we should not have been led onto that cliff-edge in the first place?

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Heritage

As you may know, I am the (very) proud owner of an utterly beautiful 911. Well, Porsche have produce an ad which explain precisely why I chose one of theirs, and not one of the many other fast open-topped sports cars that were on offer all those years ago. Here it is:



It's not about posing. It's not about looking right. It's about the engineering marvel that only Stuttgart knows how to produce.

Thought for the Day

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Truth Stranger than Fiction?

Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister were among my favourite programmes in the 80s. They combined a quintessentially British humour with a refusal to get laughs by dumbing down - all the characters were intelligent, yet they still got into trouble. I can still quote Sir Humphrey's excellent way of identifying those unable to comprehend Latin - "Si tacuisses, philosophus mansisses".

But anyway. I distinctly remember an episode in which the (unelected) PM Jim Hacker tried to manipulate the media in order to smother an embarrassing story by taking the eminently newsworthy but utterly pointless step of expelling some foreign diplomats. We are so lucky that could not happen in real life.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Pass the tinfoil

OK, so the last of the Blairites are now in political freefall. Now, be clear one one thing; I have no sympathy for them. None whatsoever. But...

Is it not odd that shortly before the General Election that is expected to oust Labour from power and prompt the inevitable leadership challenge, a struggle for supremacy between the heirs of Blair and Brown's minions, that all of a sudden the Blairites vanish from the scene in one fell swoop?

Spooky.

Mind you, you have to admit that whoever did this has class. Oust the Blairites for sleaze? Classic.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Try again

A little more thought is needed on this one, I think:

(Image courtesy of verydemotivational.com - hat tip to Leg-Iron)

Friday, 19 March 2010

Taking Aim at Targets

Constantly Furious has posted yet another example of targets going horribly wrong and generally ruining things for the people they are meant to help. Like I have, he has reached the conclusion that targets are not a magic way of improving public services; they are a lazy way. They are a way that it adopted by people who are incompetent managers. Managers who are managing people who are far, far more intelligent and able than them.

But no - a commenter has found a counterexample! Andrew from South London points to the 4 hour A&E target for hospitals - a good thing that patients love and doctors hate.

No, Andrew.

No.

My comment in reply to Andrew's reads as follows.
Sorry Andrew, the 4 hour A&E target is not a good thing.

It is not a good thing when you take your child in the evening to A&E with suspected post-operative complications, and wait for 3 hours 30 minutes to be seen because people have to be seen in strict order because meeting the 4 hour target is more important than being assessed on clinical need.

It is not a good thing when, 20 minutes into the consultation with the doctor, the charge nurse walks in and informs the doctor that this child must leave A&E, now. No discussion, he must leave, and all trace of him must be gone within 10 minutes.

It is not a good thing when your child is therefore admitted to the ward and spends the night there waiting for someone to confirm that he can go home, because the ward doctors don't know the test results and the A&E doctor is not there.

It is not a good thing when you have to drive the two hour round trip back home to get overnight stuff for your wife; two hours, because they closed the A&E unit 10 minutes from your home because it was "more efficient" to have a single unit for the whole county. Such a single unit being, naturally, more able to meet the 4 hour target.

So no, the 4 hour target is not a good thing. And the doctors are right to hate it. Why? Because they are skilled. They know what they are doing. They went into medicine for a reason. And their skilled assessment of the best clinical approach to a patient is being overruled by a man with a clipboard and a stopwatch.

If you want to know how I know this, it's simple. I was there.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

A Warm Welcome Will Be Extended....

Gordon has a cunning plan. He is going visit voters in their homes, sit on their sofas and have cups of tea with them.

Obo is keen. So am I. Enjoy your tea, Gordon. No, that taste is normal, it's just the water here. Smile for the cameras. Have you tried this book? I'd really recommend it. Keep smiling, Gordon. What's the gold price these days?

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Lessons will be learnt, no doubt?

The sad news broke today of a young lad who died after an asthma attack. Now, I speak from experience when I say that these are treatable and that prompt action means that the patient can be helped to recover. So why did he die? Because his school left him in a corridor and shoo-ed away the children who were trying to help - despite the fact that he was virtually unable to breathe. By the time his mother arrived, he was visibly grey. By the time he reached hospital, it was too late.

Now, you'd expect the school to be shocked into action, I imagine? Err, no. The problem was, apparently, that the school "had no written medical procedures for staff"
Evelyn Leslie, headteacher at Offerton High School , said there had been no medical policy in place at the time of 11-year-old Sam Linton's death in December 2007.
This is pathetic. I blogged long ago that rules and procedures are not enough. This is yet another example; if someone can't work out that a child who is going grey and unable to breathe needs an ambulance NOW then the existence of a policy statement in folder 5, tab 7 stating that an the teacher should notify the designated emergency medical coordinator (see folder 3, tab 2, section 5.6.2 for the current holder of this post) who should immediately call an ambulance is not going to be much help.

Officialdom never seems to realise that it's not policies you need in these situations, it's common sense and a feeling of responsibility. Policies for every situation actually achieve the exact opposite of this.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Help!

Can anyone identify this music?

It's the dramatic background music from the BBC Horizon programme on the physics of the universe. The iPlayer has it here, for a little while longer, and an example of the music kicks in just after 45 mins in.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Infuriatingly Impartial

Mr Constantly Furious is a little put out that the newspapers are reporting Mrs Bulger's comments on the Venables case as gospel.

I remember a R4 comedy programme that included a sketch along similar lines. A talk show host phoned a bereaved father on-air to get his views on how a similar child killer should be treated - let off or locked up & the key thrown away. The father then spent the first part of the sketch being most surprised at the co-incidence that the journalist should be talking to him - after all, he was a victim of a very similar crime! Eventually the journalist twigged, and pointed out that they were in fact calling him because he had been afflicted in the same way.

At that point, the father switched into incredulity. "But why is my opinion of any interest?" he pointed out. "I, of all people, will be completely incapable of taking a reasoned and impartial view! After what happened to me, I am so obviously going to be biassed in one direction, and one direction only! Why would you want my opinion, in those circumstances?".

Wonderful comedy, and very pointed. I wish I could remember more, and find a link.

That said, of course, Venables is clearly best suited to the "Now, where did we put the key?" treatment. Who let him out, I wonder?

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Not painless

Apparently, Gordon's main campaign theme is that his policies have allowed us a painless recession. Apparently:
First and most important, for the vast majority of people this has so far been a relatively painless recession. The Government has protected them from the full force of the contraction with unprecedented quantities of public support which in any other circumstances would have been condemned as the most scandalous pre-election giveaway of all time.
Not from my perspective.

My firm's accounts show our profits halving. Those profits are my income. So my income just halved in the space of two years. Granted, it has halved to a level that is still (by any measure) comfortable, but two more years of this and I will be paying for the privilege of going to work. Painless this is not.

We have, of course, taken what steps we could to mitigate this. As a result, none of our staff have seen a pay rise for some time. Some have been laid off; they can but dream of the type of redundancy provisions that Unite - Gordon's paymaster - demands that we must fund for their members. Their strike, and the news of the postal workers' settlement, sounds like another world. Not painless for my staff, then, either.

Of course, Gordon doesn't mind this. I have never voted Labour, and never will. I doubt that too many of my staff would vote for him either. But we are not the ones for whom Gordon has ensured a painless recession; we are not the ones at whom the message is directed. We do not figure on his radar. We are already a lost cause.

Except that I seem to remember hearing the phrase "A Future Fair for All".

I should wish.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Sadly Believable

I read the Daily Mash quite regularly. It takes a somewhat askance view of the day's news and "reports" one or more items in a very satirical manner. Some of you know of it already, but for those who don't, I'd strongly recommend it. Provided you don't mind rude words.

There is always a grain of truth in every report, though. Something that has actually been said or done, which then becomes the butt of the article's sarcastic satirisation. For example, when the Mash reported that the Government was considering compulsory insurance for owners of crocodiles, we all knew immediately that they were referring to the proposed amendment of the Dangerous Dogs Act.

Or so I thought, until I read this article:

BROWN NOW DICKING ABOUT WITH FISH AND CHIPS

GORDON Brown last night added the size of chip shop chips to his list of things to dick about with.

As the government's healthy eating experts told chip shops to increase the size of their chips by 32.7%, across the country 58 million people said 'oh for the love of ******* Christ' in perfect unison.

The article goes on, and is well worth reading. It reduced me and a work colleague to tears of laughter. Here, though, I thought they were trying something new; satirise the kind of thing New Labour would do, not something that they actually had done. Take their known control-freak Nanny-state tendency and illustrate just where it could end up if the lunatics finally did take over the asylum and lost all sense of proportion and self-control. Very funny, I thought, but risky - how will I know in future whether there is a real basis for a Mash story or whether they are just off on another adventure?

Now I kind of wish that I still had that to worry about. In fact, the story is true:

Government demands thicker chips to help Britain's Obesity Crisis

Worse still, it is not even just "Daily Mail True". Others are reporting it:

Government health crackdown on British fish and chips

Searching at the Food Standards Agency will also reveal that they do, indeed, recommend that you ask Chip Shops to make sure that your chips are nice and thick. Now, I don't know where they live, but round my neck of the woods you have the chips you get. Or you leave, with the shop's staff and customers behind you laughing and pointing.

My colleague's reaction to discovering that the story was true was simple: "Unbelievable". Sadly, I think he's wrong. It is believable. Horribly believable.

As the Mash said,

"I'm so tired. Can I just have my dinner? I'm begging you. Can I just. Please. Have. My. Dinner?"

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Only 7 hours left!

Quick! If you can bear to, you only have 7 hours to take up smoking!

I won't (can't stand the habit), but if you can then please do. And make sure you tell this lot that you did.

But what about the kittens?

Al-Jahom takes a look at the current state of the UK, and compares & contrasts this with the media headlines. There seems to be a slight difference of emphasis between the two.

Well worth reading.

(Hat Tip to Leg-Iron)

Monday, 8 March 2010

Learning from Labour

Right, so it seems that Labour made a big announcement that they were going to provide more money to provide respite care for carers. And now no-one knows where the money is, least of all those charged with spending it.

Why? Because Labour just threw the money into a huge pot without telling each local Trust how much they were getting, or that it had to be spent on respite care, while setting lots of other "priorities" that they had to meet. Surprise surprise, the money seems to have been spent on other stuff.

It just goes to prove a very simple lesson that we really should now understand after 13 years. If Labour promise to spend "x" in order to achieve "y", then we can be utterly and 100% confident that at least "x" will indeed be spent. Just don't hold your breath waiting for "y" to happen.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

So What?

Apparently, there is some kind of fuss because Samantha Cameron once voted Labour. The Speccie does its best to explain why this is not an issue.

They miss the biggest reason, though. There are huge numbers of people who used to vote Labour but who are now thoroughly disgusted and disappointed with what they got, and won't be doing it again.

Samantha Cameron is far from alone.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Labour Do It Again

They really are creatures of habit, aren't they?

It was over a year ago that I wrote a long and discursive post about the nature of legal drafting, and Labour's habit of drafting laws that did indeed catch a naughty activity within their scope, but also caught a lot of other stuff.

Now, it seems, the Digital Economy Bill* is set to do the same. ZDNet reports that this will effectively outlaw open free WiFi. Now, there's usually quite a lot of meaning in the word "effectively", and this is no exception. However, the bill does place a requirement on anyone providing this to either declare themselves to be an ISP and therefore keep careful records of who uses their service in case any of them are naughty, or be a subscriber and hence liable for whatever anyone does on their network - with the potential threat of disconnection if someone fileshares. Whilst this is not actually the same as outlawing free open WiFi, it is (I think) close enough.

This is, therefore, a classic New Labour law on two counts. First, it is incompetently drafted because it has the effect of outlawing a whole host of perfectly acceptable activities. Second, it is drafted in the usual manner of "Catching the naughty person is hard, so we'll catch anyone who is standing near the scene of the naughtiness".

I'm going to quote in full one of the comments to that article, because it is just excellent:
Recent Government research has shown that practically all violent criminals, trrrrrsts, paedophiles, drug pushers and even MPs, were aided in their criminal activities by the use of clothes. It is therefore the opinion of this government that in order to hamper the efforts of these people that the use of clothes should outlawed. If anyone has an issue with this, just bear in mind that if only one child is saved from harm, it will have been worth it and if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear.
Seriously, though, this really is getting quite tedious. Can we have an election please?

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*Sorry - can't help the obvious joke. We used to have an analogue economy, which could grow and shrink. Labour are committed to converting this to a digital economy, which can be either on or off. Until they got their hands on it, it was on. Now that Gordon has been running it... :-)

Do as Gordon says, not as he does

Constantly Furious is spot on today in dissecting a Gordon Brown speech.

First, we have Gordon's favourite part, bashing the Tories:

"..you don’t tackle the fear of crime by cultivating it, by ramping up a public sense of panic, by abusing the figures and claiming our society is broken ... Because sometimes as damaging as the fear of crime is the crime of fear. And I will play no part in that."
Then, his second favourite part, justifying a huge national database:

"Some argue that liberty dictates we should immediately wipe from the DNA database everyone who has been arrested but not convicted of an offence. But if we did this ... many dangerous criminals would have remained at large ... next time you hear somebody question the value of retaining DNA profiles ... remember Jeremiah Sheridan. And most of all remember the innocent woman he attacked"
Ooops.

But it gets worse. Not only is Gordon a screaming hypocrite, he is also detached from all sense of logic. Remember, the theory behind a DNA database is that when a crime is committed, the police can feed the DNA samples into the database, collect a match, and then go and arrest "the" offender (because in this magical perfect world, there will be only one match and it will of course be the right person).

Except that is not what happened in the Jeremiah Sheridan case. He was arrested in 2005 for an unrelated offence, and the DNA sample taken at the time of his arrest was matched to a sample taken at the 1991 crime scene. (Granted, the police did not get round to matching them for some time, but police incompetence is hardly an excuse for civil liberties infringements).

So, as always, a case offered in justification for the DNA database turns out to be nothing of the sort. Sheridan could have been, and would have been, caught merely by the process of retaining crime scene samples and comparing samples from new arrests with the database. There was no need to retain the samples of the innocent in order to catch Sheridan, and his case offers no support for the current practice.

Gordon: stop lying to us, and call the election.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Religion for the Masses

Dungeekin can't understand what is significant about this week's story about some footballists. After claiming to have no knowledge on the subject, he nevertheless describes football very acurately as:

22 overpaid, over-hyped, extravagantly-coiffed and unimportant prima-donnas kicking an inflated pigs bladder around a field, occasionally putting it in a big net box and sometimes falling over clutching their faces if another prima donna gets within fifteen feet of them. Oh, and spitting. And swearing at the poor sod refereeing.
As I have commented in reply to Dungeekin, when I was young I was always confused why my Dad used to get so upset when 11 men that he did not know personally and who did not grow up near to where he grew up had failed to kick an inflated pig's bladder into a wooden rectangle as often as had 11 other men that he did not know personally and who did not grow up near to where he grew up.

This disappointment would arrive most Saturday afternoons and then again (in spades) every fourth summer. So, when he asked me whether I wanted to go with him to "the football", I would decline. As football was the principal interest and excitement in his life (he was an accountant...), I suspect that my lack of interest explained a lot of his subsequent attitude to me.

I have to say, I still don't understand the attraction.