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Saturday, 20 February 2010

Is the BBC talking-up a Falklands conflict?

Any sabre-rattling by Argentina at the moment provides a God sent opportunity for Brown to strut his patriotism thing; it also plays well at home in Argentina, so is almost a win-win ploy for both leaders at a time when both are increasingly unpopular. Just as long as it never goes beyond brave words.

And sometimes you almost feel as though the BBC is egging the whole thing along with a series of minor distortions in its news stories, little not-quite-correct lapses in reporting that serve to stoke public indignation against Argentina.

This story is a good example. The piece ends

Last year, Argentina submitted a claim to the United Nations for a vast expanse of ocean, based on research into the extent of the continental shelf, stretching to the Antarctic and including the Falklands, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands - all UK territories.

It is due to raise the issue at the UN next week.

But neglects to mention that the UK has also submitted exactly the same claim over exactly the same continental shelf - illustrated on a map in a previous post here - and that in such cases, the UN will make no decision to ratify either claim until the matter is resolved by the nations themselves.

Brown and Cameron both target 'that hopey, changey thing'

The Guardian reports this morning on Labour's plans to exploit voters' 'submerged optimism' to prevent a Tory win, whilst Cameron's 'Change is Good' message hits them on the right flank. The Libdems, meanwhile, hope to mop up the hopey, changey waverers under an election slogan that Matthew Parris transcribes as 'We're the only party that believes in fairies'.

Half the electorate, some 22.5 million voters, really won't give a stuff for any of this insipid pottage. They're so disenchanted with our sick parties that they may not even bother to vote, creating the real prospect of turn out falling below 50% for the first time. More than ever, the whole election garbage appears to be little more than a mechanism to lever the avaricious political class and their central party cabal into prime position to thrust their sticky hands into our money. There's precious little sincerity on offer from any of them, and who can blame the electorate for its cynicism.

If I vote for Cameron, it will because he's the least worst evil, not because I believe a word of the anodyne bilge orchestrated by CCHQ.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Labour to hide council snouts

A recent post here ( Big snouts and deep troughs for London council bosses ) drew attention to the 498 council bosses in London now earning over £100,000, a scandal that has seen the earnings of public sector bosses under Labour soar above all other earnings. Now in an effort to limit damage from increasing disclosures about top salaries, Labour has grudgingly required all local councils to disclose details of staff ..... but only those earning above £150,000. This follows a determined fight-back by the snouts themselves against being identified; as a Telegraph leader has it today
Material disclosed through Freedom of Information requests reveals the full, self-serving nature of council executives' objections to greater transparency. Publishing such details, they warned, would lead to officials being "personally targeted by less stable persons in the community", "could lead to personal attacks" and "families could be at risk of abuse and children of bullying".In other words, if council taxpayers really knew how their money was being spent, they would be tempted to resort to violence. What an admission. Such bluster would be comical if it had not proved so effective – for the Government has caved in.
As the Telegraph says;
The MPs' expenses scandal has changed fundamentally the way we view public servants and how they spend our money. Any remaining notion of a public-service ethos has been replaced by scepticism and suspicion – unfortunate, perhaps, but understandable in the light of the cynical abuses this newspaper uncovered.
Hiding the snouts won't work. We need disclosure.

Labour's latest tax theft

The Labour Party has long been skilled at diverting public tax funds for private party political use, whether for rewarding their chums, giving contracts to their mates, using the civil service as an unpaid pool of party workers, cramming the mouths of tame Labour Fake Charities with gold or commissioning 'research' that's little more than party propaganda. Every year under Labour, hundreds of millions of tax money has been bled away for party purposes in Labour's cynical and corrupt maladministration of public funds.

Now we know that fish really do rot from the head - and Gordon Brown is behind the most blatant misuse of tax funds to date, the risible progress of his circuit cabinet around Labour's most vulnerable marginal seats at the taxpayer's expense. With the cost estimated to be in the millions, hard working families are paying through the nose for luxury travel and accommodation for this mobile party political broadcast.

It stinks. It's corruption, it's misuse of public funds, it's sleazy and it fouls our tradition of government, soiling as only Labour can everything valuable and good. God rot the bent bastards.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The riddle of les voitures brûlées

Just how many voitures are brûléed each New Year's Eve in France by members of the Afro-Muslim community? Is it the official figure of 1,147 carbonised autos in 2009 (up from 878 in 2008 and 397 in 2007) or is it 41,000, thereby making the annual flambé almost an official scrappage scheme?

Full story in Le Monde HERE.

Blair silent on Israeli assassins

We haven't heard a peep out of the former PM, now acting a part as a Middle East peace envoy, on the murder by Israeli assassins of a Hamas dissident in Dubai. Indeed, the Dubai authorities are uncertain even how he died; poison has been mentioned, or suffocation - indicating that there there were no obvious indications on the body.

Perhaps Mabhouh had inconveniently forgotten to carry his penknife with him on his travels.

Where forever means 30 years

The economic life of a commercial building is not long. The hideous piece of dung now being built adjacent to your tube station (perhaps by me) may even reach the end of its economic life before you retire, its services failing, lifts stalling and repair bills soaring. One could strip such buildings back to the frame and rebuild from there - a lower-carbon option - but most of the time its easier to take the whole thing down and start again. Such is the fate of commercial buildings constructed through the 70s and 80s, and now being nubbled down to steel and rubble.

The driver of course is the P&L account and the balance sheet. Constructing to a standard that depreciates over a century rather than a quarter of that time is simply not good business. All the government's carbon targets are for cost-in-use rather than embodied carbon cost, so there's not even an economic distorter to affect the business equation.

The same doesn't hold true for monumental or grand public buildings; we're stuck with the National Gallery's Sainsbury Wing forever, however uneconomic it becomes to re-engineer and maintain. Likewise Portcullis House, and as the structure and fabric of the truly hideous Scottish Parliament building begin to fail (as I expect will start to happen sooner rather than later) we'll be called upon to stump up hundreds of millions more to keep the thing standing.

The rigour of the planning system is designed to cope not with the former but with the latter class of building; there's an inbuilt assumption of longevity that makes getting development consent even for a 'temporary' commercial building a hurdle that impacts on the competitiveness of UK business.

Now is the time to recognise the difference between the two types of development; for short-lived commercial structures, once the land is designated for this use, we should make a bonfire of development controls and free British business to rebuild its global competitiveness.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

And here's another ...

To add to those already out there, here's my photoshop take on the new Tory poster range. Feel free to reproduce.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Boy George's Big Idea

George Osborne's big idea on R4's 'Today' this morning is to allow whole parts of the public service to turn themselves into non-profit making co-ops to run their existing services. It doesn't take a genius to start to see the holes in this;
  1. TUPE means the new co-ops will have to maintain existing pay and conditions - including pension conditions and liabilities. So no financial gain for the taxpayer except in the long term as transferred staff drop off the payroll.
  2. Without profits, where is the incentive for staff to become detached?
  3. Contracts with the employing authority will need to be for a decent term - say five or seven years - and make it difficult and expensive for the taxpayer to vary or determine early
No doubt readers will see more difficulties.

This suggestion comes straight from the Central Statist school of government; not much more than a Thatcher-Lite version of compulsory competitive tendering. The central command structure under which schools, hospitals and councils are no more than extensions of Whitehall staffed with a plethora of £100k+ functionaries will change not one jot.

Osborne's anti-Localism is really starting to irritate me.

No more Plastic Dave posters?

Why CCHQ thought that making Dave look like something Pixar had generated was a good idea is beyond me. The poster was rightly parodied within hours, with more people now having seen versions of the parody than have seen the original.

Likewise Labour's Janus-faced Camera-On. Likewise CCHQ's tombstone.

Back in the days of 'Labour isn't working', that snaking dole queue looked down on us from hundreds of forty-foot poster sites across the capital; catch the 23 from Liverpool Street to Marble Arch and you'd have seen it a dozen times. No more it seems.

Now the parties only need release a poster on the interweb to get noticed; the real poster need only be on a cheap eight-sheet on a railway siding in Llandrindod Wells. Within minutes, parodies will be circulating via Twitter and Facebook. Once you recognise the parody for parody, you can guess at the original message, making an absorbing game for all the family out of election campaigning. Can't be bad.