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Saturday, 16 August 2008

A step closer to carbon rationing?

'Tuscan' Toynbee gives the game away in her piece in CiF today when she says:
In distribution of wealth, Britain is now back to 1937 levels of inequality, regressing backwards every year: that's what makes any kind of carbon tax or reliance on high prices impossible, the burden falling too unfairly.
That's a damning indictment of Zanu Labour from their star commentator; in 1997 we were at 1997 levels of inequality, but in just ten years Labour have put the clock back 60 years. Sixty years of wasted effort in building One Nation, of increasing opportunities for the poorest, of cross-party consensus on 'fairness', that most defining trait of our nation. Brown's sheer incompetence at the Treasury, his economic illiteracy, his pursuance of a dogma as outdated as his beach suit and tie (lacking only the knotted hankie on the head for 1937 authenticity), his bloody-minded obstinacy and his third-rate intellect have left Labour nowhere to go but backwards.

Nowhere that is except the route that Tuscan Polly advocates; carbon rationing. This is where I usually head to C@W or Sackerson, Stumbling or Tim for an analysis. I've no idea whether the per-capita distribution of carbon 'consumption' is a bell curve or not; intuitively, I'd suspect the distribution has a longish tail, and is fairly flat. Which may mean a gap between median and average consumption. To make sense in Labour terms the base universal ration level would have to be set somewhere below median to (a) achieve an overall reduction and (b) to leave the poorest unaffected. Thus the total 'ration' in circulation would be less than aggregate demand.

Since living in cities is more carbon-efficient than living in the country, it would also mitigate against rural areas, already suffering from Labour's spend skew and high prices. Those at the heavy consumption tail of the distribution would quickly bid-up the price of unused rations on the market and would be OK. The people I suspect who would be hit hardest would be those lying in the +/- 1SD zone. Us. Normal people.

And what this would do to GDP I don't know. But carbon is one area in which Cameron's 'nudge' approach may be a lot less painful than Toynbee's universal State ration approach.

Friday, 15 August 2008

The hypocricy of the 'rights' lobby

I'm going to admit I've never been to a lap-dancing club. There used to be a rough pub around here that had a lunchtime stripper; if she collected enough 50p coins in a pint mug, she'd take her clothes off. Most regulars had seen this many times and grown bored and jaded, and used their 50p's in the fruit machines, from which they some chance of a return, instead. So most of the time she kept her clothes on and sat at the end of the bar smoking and chatting to the barmaid (this was some time ago). Anyway, not really my thing.

But I'm staggered by the hypocrisy and arrogance of the lobby that wants effectively to ban lap dancing clubs on the basis that:
"Our towns and cities should be shaped as far as possible according to residents' wishes, not by the presence of unwanted lap-dancing clubs in the heart of them."
Uhm, and just who do you imagine voluntarily spends enough money to make these places an economic proposition? Doesn't the fact that they're thriving tell you that somebody wants them; in fact, quite a lot of people (erm, men) must want them, surely, or they'd go out of business?

This has absolutely nothing to do with residents wishes or what people want, and everything to do with a joyless, prissy, interfering Puritanism that seeks to decide for other people what's good for them. And I would have thought the centres of towns and cities are exactly the sort of places where such things should be located.

You can take the man out of Sunderland ...

Many of you will be familiar with the London conference hotels that cluster in the hinterland between the Euston Road and Oxford Street; bland, anonymous 80s-ish foyers, conference rooms equipped with audio and projectors for the ubiquitous Powerpoint presentations, and kitchens equipped to dish out a 20 minute lunch. I would usually rather have a fork thrust in my eyeballs than spend a day in one of these places, but a couple of years ago, despite every ingenious effort on my part to escape, I was obliged to do so. These things are perennially popular with Northern middle managers for some reason; pompous, inflated little balloons of men who fiddle incessantly with their testicles and whose requests to ".. bring us a black coffee, will you, pet" to the Lithuanian staff are met with incomprehension.

Anyway, on this day the conference kitchens had excelled themselves. The buffet lunch was a massive stainless steel bed of crushed ice on which were laid salver after salver of living and dead water-creatures; oysters, green-lipped mussels, sea urchins, sushi and sashimi, several varieties of Nethrops, a poached salmon, nestling in beds of crisp lettuce from which the fluorescent glow of lemons shone as artistic highlights. In the queue before me a knot of Northern balloons worked their fingers frantically in their trouser pockets. "I can't eat that; it's bloody raw fish" "Lewk, George, there's some crabsticks there" "Where?" "There, in the corner by those slimy things" "Have you got any bread, love?".

If you visit the pages of the Sunderland Echo to gauge the reaction of that place to the news that Policy Exchange thinks we should stop spending our tax subsidies here, you will be presented with a recruitment video for the local Barclays call centre. A call centre worker steps from a limo of the kind favoured by suburban hen-parties to the corporate HQ; the camera pans lovingly around the corporate gym and the cafeteria, the chilled shelves of which will be reassuringly devoid of raw fish, and the shot closes with the monstrous sign over the corporate front door that reads "Through these doors walk the loveliest people in Sunderland. And you're one of them". You just know that as the head-balloon stood inspecting the newly-erected sign and counting his testicles that he longed to add a comma and 'pet' to the final sentence.

I suspect that Barclays confines its Northern middle-managers to their own call centres and an occasional two days at a London conference hotel. If these little bundles of wool-polyester pomposity were ever allowed into the bank's docklands tower to meet the teenagers with iPod earphones slung around their necks and take-away sushi boxes littering their desks who earn six times their own salary, it would have the same effect as a drunk with a cigarette at a children's balloon party. Scraps of wool-polyester and bits of limp testicle would lie scattered from Bow to ExCel.

And the adage that you can take the man out of Sunderland but you can't take Sunderland out of the man holds true. It would be cruel and unusual punishment indeed to take these fish from their small ponds to resettle them. The piece in the Sunderland Echo uncannily parrots the Onion in quoting "We have the Winter Gardens, the Glass Centre, the Aquatic Centre, the football team – and the only way is up". Alright, pet.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Council Tax single discounts - a cut out and keep guide

The 'Mail' is in a tizzy this morning because some councils are demanding that residents sign a waiver permitting council prodnoses to poke around inside their homes to verify that the 25% single discount on council tax is being claimed honestly.

Don't worry. If you're entitled to a single discount and receive such a form, throw it straight in the recycling bin. Then write a letter to the Chief Executive of the council stating that you qualify for the discount and giving them two months to act. If they fail or refuse to apply it within that period, initiate an appeal to the Valuation Tribunal. You'll win. They'll have to give you your money back.

And remember, the single discount doesn't mean that there can only be one person living in your home. It can be permanently crammed to the rafters with people staying and you can still be entitled to claim the discount. Here's who can stay for free;
  • Boyfriends or girlfriends can live with you for up to 182 days a year on average, so long as they spend the other 183 days living in their own place
  • Likewise friends, relatives, vague acquaintances you met on holiday, your sister's friends, their relatives or anyone else can live with you for the same periods
  • If you're elderly and benefit from a therapeutic massage in the mornings, you can have a Thai masseur permanently living with you as long as you pay her no more than £35 a week.
  • My friend Lucy will be interested to discover that she can have the Cuban Military attache living with her permanently and keep the discount, or indeed any foreign military member or diplomat or their dependents
  • Your dim 18 and 19 year old relatives (if you have any) on 'A' level crammer courses can stay for free
  • You can have as many student nurses as you like to stay for as long as they care to
  • Anyone under 25 receiving training funded by the LSC can stay for free
  • All full time students can stay for free
  • And finally, you can have your own resident monk or nun in the spare room and still claim the single discount; handy for those who'd like a Buddhist for the garden.
In fact, it can be permanent party-time chez vous and you can still claim the 25% discount. And there's not a damn thing the killjoy council prodnoses can do about it.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

A rainy night in Georgia

Well, it's looking like I called it right on Georgia. Putin has administered a slapping and is now backing off. A few thousand people have been rather horribly killed. A couple of billion quids worth of kit and munitions have been written-off. In a week the MSM will have forgotten the story and Edwina Currie's breast implants will be on the front pages. Saakashvili (96% of votes in the last corrupt election) and Putin (71% of votes in a slightly less corrupt election) can go back to loathing one another.

Did anyone else find the EU flag that Saakashvili displayed in every news shot a bit, well, pathetic? Like an Indonesian peasant wearing a Man U shirt? Perhaps he expected the Belgian 4th Brigade to parachute in and start clucking their tongues at the state of the drains before stopping for lunch. Or maybe the Dutch Air Mobile Brigade Special Forces could have made an appearance, and performed the same hiding trick they did so well in Srebrenica as the inhabitants were slaughtered. Or perhaps the entire Luxembourg army, all 450, could have played popular hits of the 80s at the Russians to halt their advance. The Germans of course are banned from actually being Huns anywhere outside their own borders, but could have sent some engineers to plaster over the shell holes and drink lager and trade porn DVDs with the locals.

Nope, there are only two nations in the EU with a military with any use at all - us and the French. And the frogs only fire real bullets at their own civilians at military tattoos these days.

Which leads me to think that Saakashvili wasn't after EU military assistance at all. What he really wanted was a couple of thousand EU bureaucrats to parachute in and assault the Russians with 10,000 word draft Directives, Commission Proposals, an outline Vade Mecum and proposals for legislative codecisions. The lack of 'CE' marking alone on Russian armour would have sent these worthies into spasms of shock; they would insist that shells and rockets conform to standard 'e' sizes and classes before being fired, that contracts for landmines had been advertised correctly in OJEU, that Russian ground attack aircraft had been certified as meeting the Vth Framework Directive on aircraft environmental standards (emissions, noise and recycling of cannon cartridge cases), that body armour and combat uniforms carried the correctly conforming labelling on sizes and cleaning actions and that explosives met the EU residual toxicity limits for the Preservation of Biohabitats.

Putin and Saakashvili are perhaps the last manifestation of initiators of battles for territory fought by soldiers rather than by armies of gray bureaucrats with iPods and water bottles with babies teats on them assaulting each other with prolix 'Word' documents with 'track changes' enabled.

Risking the wrath of Saga

At the risk of drawing down the wrath of pensioners' organisation Saga on my head, I'm going to stick my neck out and support Conservative Bury council for telling residents, amongst them a pensioner, to clean up their own graffiti. The Mail illustrates the story with a picture of the alley concerned.

Now if some scrote tagged my wall, I'd sigh, get the solvents out and scrub it off. I'd suspect most homeowners would do the same. But just take a look at the Mail's picture again; those boundary fences are homogenous, municipal even. Not the 16' sections of individuality that private boundary fences are. And that grotty tarmac looks 'council' too. I'll bet all those graffitied homes are actually council houses.

Council tenants aren't like the rest of us. In return for their heavily subsidised £35 a week in rent, they expect superlative levels of service from the State. Around here they can throw their old mattresses out on the street confident that the council will pick them up free of charge within 24 hours, when the rest of us have to wait a fortnight and pay £20. They can allow their fences to fall into rotting heaps of weeds confident that the council will be along to put it all right. And they can demand that the council turns up to clean the graffiti from those fences. Only in this case Bury says no.

It never seems to occur to them that by abrogating any semblance of 'ownership' of the properties they occupy, they themselves are encouraging the taggers. The clients of the Client State are responsible for their own predicament.

Graffiti removal is excellent healthy exercise for pensioners. It improves wrist and upper body strength and thereby lessens the risk of falls, provides gentle cardiovascular exercise and importantly is an opportunity for socialisation of benefit to isolated single pensioners. I would go further than Bury Council. I would issue the complaining pensioners with a litre of solvent, a face mask, a pair of Marigolds and a scrubbing brush. Within a few months, graffiti will have ceased to appear.

The right of us all who die at the hand of the State

Back in February I blogged against the provisions then making their way through the Terrorism Bill. The Commons passed those provisions without demur in July and the Lords are now to consider them. With no apology I repeat below my concluding paragraph from February:

Coroners' inquests are not about the rights of the living, or even less about 'the public interest'; they are about the rights of the dead. It is the right of every British subject who meets a violent or sudden death at the hands of the State to have a jury of ordinary British subjects, under the advice of a coroner who is outside of the criminal justice system, to have the circumstances of their demise examined. It is one of our most ancient rights. It might be that the coroner's jury decides it was our own fault - death by misadventure. Or that we killed ourselves. Or that it was an accident. But our greatest defence lies in the fact that they can also decide, against the wishes of the police, or the CPS, or the government, or the coroner himself, that we were unlawfully killed. This is our final safeguard against the capriciousness of the State, and the basis of the compact between the Crown and the people, in which allegiance is given in return for protection from casual murder.

We cannot permit any government to rob us of this right.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

High winds and low water

Raedwald may not look like much (she's the boat equivalent of a MkIII Landy), but she's 24' and over 3.5 tonnes and believe me single-handing her in force 6 winds and lively tides is no picnic; the passage-making is no problem, but mooring and using ground tackle in a decent blow needs more arms, more muscle and more speed dashing from wheel and throttle to lines and warps than I can be bothered with these days. Or I swear at her whilst risking pushing bits of intestine through my embonpoint "Come round you bitch!" as she skips away to wind and wave. Still, she's a superb sea boat, built like a Panzer, and I trust my life to her.

The news that 123 very tired, cold, wet and bedraggled crusties were picked up by police and harbour launches yesterday from a variety of kiddies inflatables and soggy rafts as they attempted to blockade Kingsnorth really irritates me. A force 6 wind against an incoming tide around the eddies and rills of Kingsnorth jetty is not a playground. It was irresponsible self-indulgence, and relied upon the police and harbour launches to rescue them. Prats.

Buy a baby, get a bribe

Peace Sandberg would have done OK from Brown's latest idea to bribe Britain with its own money. You may recall she popped back to her native Nigeria to buy a baby for £150 because she needed another Council house and her own child was too old to qualify her for priority status. With Brown's proposed £150 bribe to all child benefit claimants she would have been evens.

And Nigerians Oriyome and Tunde Williams would have been quids in; they were claiming child benefit for around 200 made-up children in a fraud that netted them around £1m. A Brownite bribe of £150 per fake claim could have earned them another new Audi.

Of course we also pay child benefit to EU nationals working here who have kids at home in their own countries. I'll bet £150 will come in quite useful in Gdansk or Budapest.

The women having the most babies in the UK in the past few years are immigrants. Here in my part of London they're west Africans; the streets, buses and markets, the surgeries, clinics and care centres are largely filled with Nigerian village girls having babies at my expense. Living in social housing at my expense. And now being bribed by Brown at my expense. Over 20,000 Africans have arrived in my London borough over the past 10 years; far, far too many and many more than we can afford to hand out free services and benefits to.

Oh dear. I'm starting to sound like the loathsome BNP. But it really can't continue. They must take their babies and go back to Lagos or Abuja and make the best they can of it; my wallet is feeling the strain of paying for them all. And Brown's corrupt bribery is the last straw.