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Monday
Dec182006

Welfare reform. Again.

See this announcement of John Hutton's that he's going to deal with the long-term unemployed? Unless I'm very much mistaken, when they were first elected in 1997, NuLab slapped a windfall tax on the privatised utilities to fund a "sustained assault on structural unemployment" or some such nonsense. So presumably this announcement is a tacit admission that either they spent the money on something else or that they wasted it all.

I wonder which it could be? 

Thursday
Dec142006

After the deluge

Well, the flood waters were gone by the morning. It was amazing that, where the river had rushed along the main road last night, there was now no sign that anything had happened at all. We seem to have made it to the BBC website. Rather impressively they have managed to get the identification of the river wrong - it was the Back Burn rather than the River Queich which flooded the town centre. The Quiech skirts the edge of the town half a mile away.

Questions are already being asked about why the new flood defences failed. The risk to the town centre comes from the Back Burn passing through a culvert under the Town Hall and the main road. If the volume of water is too high it backs up until it the river bursts its banks just upstream of the culvert.

The new flood defences seem to have involved clearing the river bed of debris and building up the retaining walls in this critical area above the culvert. Now, I'm no expert, but all this seems to do is to increase the flow of water towards the choke point, but seeking to contain it. But isn't building up the walls rather futile in the face of a major flood? Surely even the tallest wall can't hope to contain this volume of water? Shouldn't a proper flood defence scheme aim to move the choke point much further upstream to somewhere where excess water can be released away from civilisation? 

Who decided on this particular design of flood defence? Are they qualified? How much were they paid? We need to know. 

Wednesday
Dec132006

Rain and rain and rain

It's been a terrible month for rain here, and its been tipping it down pretty much non-stop for the last three days.

Tonight the river through the village lost the plot and burst its banks, making a nonsense of the new flood defence works which were completed just a few weeks ago. Having said that, I don't think any flood defence works would have stood up to the battering ours have received in recent days.

There are quite a few houses completely flooded, and several businesses are going to be hard hit, not least of which is the post office - one which can ill afford the expense. Fortunately, we're well above the river.

This was the view along the main road an hour ago. It's still raining and its forecast to keep going for another twenty four hours or so.

DSC03498b.JPG 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The photo is not the clearest, but everything you can see between the camera and the man in high-vis clothing is water. 

And before anyone mentions global warming, the old-timers are saying it's nearly as bad as the one in 1991.

Sunday
Dec102006

New on the blogroll

Out From Under - apparently a Liberal Democrat who is in the wrong party.

Liberal Polemic - who hasn't worked it out yet.

Both well worth visiting. 

Sunday
Dec102006

Instruments of attainder

An Act of Attainder is an act of parliament passed against a particular person or sometimes a group of people. Until their use died out in the late eighteenth century they were a means by which the King could convict anyone he liked without needing to persuade a jury of his case. The last recorded Act of Attainder was passed against the Irish rebel Lord Fitzgerald in 1798.

Until now.

Christopher Booker recounts the truly shocking story of Bowland Dairies, a small Lancashire cheesemaker which was on the receiving end of a short visit from EU inspectors. The inspectors claimed that the milk did not meet EU rules on antibiotic residues, and, despite a Food Standards Agency visit confirming that this was incorrect, they went on to confirm a ban on the company's products. Even when they were defeated in the European courts, the Commission went ahead an banned the company from trading. They went on to threaten the UK with a full audit of every dairy in the country and a fine for not protecting consumers.

If anything it then gets worse

Despite the FSA's solid support of Bowland and its insistence that no rules had been broken, the Department of Health bowed to the commission's diktat. On October 16 it rushed through a statutory instrument, the Curd Cheese (Restriction on Placing on the Market) Regulations 2006, to take immediate effect. Section 3 read "No person shall place on the market any curd cheese manufactured by Bowland Dairy Products Limited".

Never before, it is believed, has a statutory instrument been issued in Britain directed at closing down a single named company (breaching the ancient principle of British law that "the law must be blind", i.e. it must be general in application, not directed at any specific individual or body).

This is therefore the first Act of Attainder passed in this country since Lord Fitzgerald in 1798. If anything it's worse than that - it's a statutory instrument rather than an act of Parliament, so it doesn't even carry the moral authority of having passed a vote in both houses. Essentially the executive have taken upon themselves the power to outlaw someone without resort to the courts, without even the backing of Parliament. Tony Blair has only to point his finger at you and you are outlawed.

That's tyranny isn't it? 

 

Saturday
Dec092006

Playing the race card

Bit of a to-do over at Councillor Bob Piper's. The good councillor has gone and posted a picture of David Cameron photoshopped to look like something out of the Black & White Minstrel show. Tory Diary and Prague Tory are outraged and are letting their feelings be known.

sortitrr.jpgNow let's not kid ourselves. A Conservative couldn't do anything like this and get away with it. They would be hounded out of office, with every left-wing blog in the country snapping at their heels like a bunch of rabid mongrels. But let's also not kid ourselves that Bob Piper is some sort of racist. Foul-mouthed and offensive, yes, but it's a bit of a stretch to suggest that this was targeted at blacks. 

Mind you if I was black, I wouldn't be desperately impressed at being reminded that my ancestors had been looked down on in this way, and I might well be tempted to make a complaint to someone. There are some episodes of history which it would be better to consign to history. How are the scars of the past ever going to be healed if the left keeps trying to open them again for their grubby little political ends?

 
It's instructive to compare Bob Piper's pictures to a very similar photo of Joe Libermann which was put out by Jane Hamsher, a supporter of Ned Lamont, earlier in the year.

liebermanhamsher.jpgAs Outside the Beltway said at the time:

As political satire, it’s incredibly risky, period. But to use it in the context of a blog post that has nothing to do with [...] race relations in general is just inexplicable.

Hamsher later issued an apology (of sorts) and withdrew the picture. The Lamont campaign made strenuous efforts to distance themselves from her. I would imagine that Bob Piper would be best advised to do the same thing before the Labour party decides to distance itself from him.

 Even stranger though,  was this picture of Michael Steele, the Republican candidate for Maryland senator, also done out in blackface and also the production of a left-wing blog. Strange because, if it's not obvious from the photo, Michael Steele is black anyway.

steelesmeared.jpg

Why is it that left-wing commentators feel free to use this kind of photo which must be offensive to millions of black people? What is it they hope to acheive? To me it marks them out as crude, unthinking people. Who would want to vote for people with minds so corrupt? They must be pretty desperate to let the mask slip like this. 

Labour has accused the Conservatives of playing the race card whenever they have raised the subjects of immigration and multiculturalism. We should be clear that discussing immigration and multiculturalism is not playing the race card. This is.

Thursday
Dec072006

Millions may refuse to have an ID card

The Register reports on a YouGov survey on how people are feeling about the prospect of having to carry an ID card. The results are very encouraging for those of us who are trying to get the message out that it is not acceptable to a free society. Fully 8% of the respondents questions indicated that they would refuse to sign up for the database even if this meant they were fined. If this figure was extrapolated to the whole of the over 16 population, this would mean 4.8 million refuseniks.

The ID cards issue is shaping up very nicely to be Labour's poll tax. Keep spreading the word. 

Wednesday
Dec062006

What's going on at the UNDP?

Here's an interesting story I chanced across while in search of something else. It's from a site called Inner City Press who are snooping around the UN Development Program.

The story (in fact it's a series of stories) allege that:

  • Head of the UNDP Kemal Devis fired Brian Gleeson, an associate of UN deputy Director General Mark Malloch Brown, but then offered  an artificially created post in order to hush things up. Mr Gleeson may have been threatening to spill the beans on other improprieties.
  • Mark Malloch Brown hired an author to pen a book about the UNDP which doubled as a hagiography of Mr Malloch Brown. The book cost $567,000.
  • Jeffrey Sachs the economist who is famously paid only $1 to advise the UN on its development goals was secretly taking a salary of $75,000 from another part of the UN.
  • Mark Malloch Brown appointed one of his supporters to the post of UNDP Communications director outwith normal recruitment procedures, by dint of getting the same Brian Gleeson to rewrite the rule book.

 Apparently some people see the UN as the conscience of the world, or as the basis of a future world government. Some people are absolutely barking mad.

Monday
Dec042006

Rightmove

Via Laban Tall, comes this Daily Mail article which tells us that the government is buying access to the Rightmove homes database from its American owners. At a stroke this gives them access to floorplans and details of property improvements for the majority of houses sold in the last ten years. This of course gives them information which will enable them to "reassess" (ie increase) council tax. Tax implications aside, the real objection is obviously that it's big brother writ large.

The good news is that Rightmove is selling access to the database, rather than the database itself. This means that practical steps can be taken to put pressure on Rightmove.

So get the word out. Don't use any estate agent that is signed up to Rightmove. There's a handy search facility on their website so you know who to avoid.

Of course, this doesn't stop the government from using the information it has access to already. All we can do there is kick the buggers out of power. I propose that polite society starts shunning Labour supporters too. If you support Labour, you support big brother. Your choice. Deal with the consequences.

Angry. 


 

Monday
Dec042006

Cameron outflanked on the right

It's happened. There are now parts of the Liberal Democrats which are further to the right than David Cameron: Cicero is lambasting the boy king for his support of relative poverty, describing it as capitulation rather than triangulation.

This country does not need more of the same- it needs a radical deregulation and much clearer limits to the power of the state.

Yes indeed. We now have three big-government parties none of which seem to have any concept of how to deal with the problems the country is facing.

Sunday
Dec032006

Technorati v Blogpulse

I've just checked how the new site is doing at Technorati & Blogpulse. It's a bit odd. Technorati has picked up links from Devil's Kitchen. Blogpulse has picked up links from the Adam Smith Institute.

Why don't these links appear in both? 

Sunday
Dec032006

A response to Ellee Seymour

I left a comment on Ellee Seymour's site in which I questioned her proposal to place further restrictions on knife ownership.  In her response she said that it would be a nonsense if guns were as freely available as knives.

Firstly I agree that it would be wrong for guns to be as freely available as knives. I also accept that restrictions on gun ownership is part of received wisdom. There is, however, a case that guns should be more freely available than they are.

At the moment any criminal who wants a gun is able to get one cheaply and easily. I think this is now pretty much undisputed, and I have had it confirmed to me by a friend who works in police intelligence. Currently, the only disincentive to the criminal is the slight possibility of being caught in possession. Any criminal who feels they need a gun can and will arm themselves.

If gun ownership were liberalised, what would change? That would depend on how the legislation was framed, but I would outlaw anyone with a criminal record from legally holding a firearm. In this way the disincentive to the criminal would remain in place. But what liberalisation would also do is to create a major new disincentive to using a firearm, namely the possibility that the intended victim might shoot back. This disincentive also applies to any number of criminal activities - mugging, burglary, rape, you name it.

Don't think for a moment that I'm suggesting that people should be allowed to execute anyone who tries to mug or rape them. Pointing a gun at them and inviting them to go away should be sufficient, and the law should require them to act on this basis. But until people, particularly the weakest in society, are able to defend themselves we are going to remain a people plagued by violent crime. As A V Dicey pointed out as long ago as 1885: "Discourage self-help and loyal subjects become the slaves of ruffians".

Would this lead to an upsurge in gun-crime? It's hard to say. The evidence points both ways depending where you look. America has high gun crime, but has high knife crime too. Nobody suggests that this is because they have more knives than us. Switzerland has automatic rifles in every house but relatively low crime. Gun crime has increased every year since the handgun ban in 1997, a fact which does more to support my position than Ellee's.

But even if Ellee is right and there is a cost to be borne, it is entirely fallacious to let this be the basis of a decision. We have to assess the costs and benefits on both sides. We are bearing a huge cost now in terms of criminality against the weak - old ladies mugged, young women attacked with impunity. Can we really continue to treat the most vulnerable in society as expendable? Is this the mark of a civilised society? Could it be that there are worse things than widespread gun ownership?

Sunday
Dec032006

The rule of law

A V Dicey defined the rule of law under three heads:

  1. There should be no punishment except for breaches of the law.
  2. Everyone is subject to the law and equal before it.
  3. The law of the constitution is a consequence of the rights of individuals as defined by the courts.

These simple concepts seem to have eluded our political masters though. The Telegraph reports today that, apart from withholding information from the police enquiry into loans for peerages, Downing Street has been making it know that

the Prime Minister is happy to co-operate [with the enquiry] but should be interviewed as a witness.

I can't think of any other case in which the subject of a police investigation would even think of attempting to define how he is interviewed by them.  

I hope Yates of the Yard has no truck with this sort of posturing. If he prevaricates: nick 'im. 

Thursday
Nov302006

Leather (again)

This piece was originally published on my old site, shortly before I switched to Squarespace. I've reproduced it here in view of Guido's story about the Charities Commissioners looking at the status of Gordon Brown's Smith Institute. (In other words, it's a naked attempt to generate a bit of traffic).

Sometimes you have a dull moment and you just fancy reading something that you know will make you really angry. I usually find the Times "Public Sector" supplement just the job, and last week's edition was no exception.

In it we had a piece about Dame Suzi Leather, the new head of the Charities Commission and, by the by, a woman whose very name can excite paroxysms of delight in readers at Laban's place.

It's not terribly exciting - we learn that she knows nothing about charities, but has a background in regulation. She was born in Uganda and has done some paragliding. But then this appears at the bottom.
Career:
1979-84 research officer, Consumers in Europe.
1984-86 trainee probation officer
1997-2001 chair, Exeter and District NHS Trust
2000-02 deputy chair, Food Standards Agency
2002-06 chair, Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority
2005-06 chair, School Food Trust
Read that again.

She went from being a research officer at an NGO, to training as a probation officer and then, after a gap of ten years was considered suitably qualified to head up an NHS trust. That's a neat trick if you can pull it off.

What on earth was she doing in that ten year gap to suddenly make her top management material? A bit of digging turns up this article which reveals that she was a "homemaker and freelance consumer consultant". So from her published CV she started in her position at the tiller of an NHS trust with no professional management experience whatsoever. This might go some way to explaining the performance of the NHS.

What possible reason can there be for this extraordinary advancement? Perhaps she is just extremely good at interviews or just plain lucky. Perhaps we'll never know.

In unrelated news the Guardian notes:
Dame Suzi, as she has been since January, [is] a committed member of the Labour party.
It's also interesting to compare the press release on her appointment to the FSA to the CV above:
[Sir John Krebs'] Deputy will be Ms Suzi Leather, who has twenty years of experience in consumer representation.
(My emphasis)

Still look on the bright side she says she's going to be robust in making charities submit their accounts on time. Perhaps she'll be dealing with the Moslem Council of Britain who have never actually submitted their accounts since their formation ten years ago.

 

Thursday
Nov302006

Qualifications

The government clearly decided on day one of their administration that the populace should be treated with the utmost contempt. Perhaps it's true that we get the government we deserve.

Hardly a day goes by without a policy announcement, ministerial bullshit dutifully regurgitated by unquestioning hacks in the mainstream media. The assumption is that once an announcement is made, no further action need be taken. Nobody will ever follow up and ask what the results were.

In 2004 the schools minister, David Milliband told A-Level students that the exam was

as testing as ever

He went on: 

I am not claiming that today's students are cleverer than their parents; I do say that schools are getting better at teaching them well. Improvements in education have released the potential of middle England.

Good. Win-win. Everyone happy. Keep going just as we are, cos everything's fine. Right?

Today, however, it was announced that:

Tony Blair will endorse the International Baccalaureate Diploma as an alternative to the "gold standard" A-level today and promise funding to allow state schools to make the switch.

I leave it to my readers to decide whether Milliband was telling the truth or not.

Meanwhile, on the GCSE front ministers loudly ordered a rethink of the qualifications on offer, commanding a consultation on whether the International GCSE should be offered instead. Just one month later, the bureaucrats have come back and told him that the IGCSE is not suitable

Does anyone seriously think that these jokers should be in charge of the education system?