Browsing the blog archives for September, 2009.

Farage destroys Monnet professor in Irish referendum debate

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Never heard of a Monnet professor? Neither had I until I saw this video. Stick with it because Farage explains it all at the end but you need to understand the context of his response:

More about the position from Wiki:

The Jean Monnet Programme, also known as the Jean Monnet Project, is a European Commission initiative to encourage teaching, research and reflection in the field of European integration studies in higher education institutions.

The programme includes the network of Jean Monnet European Centres of Excellence – university-level institutions recognised by the European Commission for high quality research into, and teaching of, topics relating to European integration. There are currently 97 Jean Monnet European Centres of Excellence worldwide.[1]

The Commission also funds Jean Monnet Chairs and Jean Monnet teaching modules. There are currently 629 Jean Monnet Chairs worldwide.

Worrying isn’t it that they can use so much of our money to go round the world paying people tolecture students about how good the EU is? And do you think that they will start each lecture with “I have to declare an interest, I am paid by the EU to act as their PR agent.”? Not a cat in hell’s chance I would say.

Bastards.

There’s more clips of Farage in that debate here and this wonderful widget comes via Prodicus

Get Widget

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Expect a very dirty election campaign, starting now.

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I’ve been reading the latest poll in the Guardian and it doesn’t make good reading for Labour with the Conservatives looking ever more likely to win with a comfortable margin.  Yes I know that’s a dog bites man story, but what stood out was this:

David Cameron, by contrast, is popular: 52% see him favourably and 39% do not. Most people who voted Labour in 2005 now say they like the Tory leader. So do 37% of definite Labour supporters. [My emphasis]

Of course there will be platitudes about campaigning on policies and all the rest of the guff, but with Labour apparatchiks in general and Gordon Brown in particular hating  David Cameron they aren’t going to take this lightly.  The Tory Toff stunt at the Crewe by election is going to look very mild indeed.

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Labour’s Unnecessary Spending

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I’m a bit late on Gordon’s u-turn on spending cuts because I’ve been distracted by real life:

The prime minister said he would “cut costs, cut inefficiencies, cut unnecessary programmes and cut lower priority budgets”.

Bearing in mind that this is about budget  reduction because of mounting debt,  it  is nothing but meaningless waffle:

Cut costs; Ermm, is there anything else other than costs that can be cut to  save money?

Cut inefficiencies: We’ve been told this many times so one must wonder if there are any inefficiencies left. Furthermore, this is what good managers are constantly doing; as things change inefficiencies in any organisation do creep in, so all he is really telling us is that they will be good stewards – I’m sure he would say continue to be good stewards.

cut unnecessary programmes: My favourite and to which we can only retort “..if it was unnecessary why the fuck did you start them in the first place?”. Perhaps they mean discretionary spending? In my last job we used to get fruit 3 times a week, I would call this discretionary spending but in a multi million pound budget it doesn’t even register in the rounding errors.

cut unnecessary programmes: To be fair this is what we all do when times are tight, but given that the economic crises and mounting debts started a year ago why has it taken so long to even acknowledge the need?

Those last two points also leave the Government open to the obvious point that all government spending is unnecessary, the debate is over what is desirable, then how much we want to spend on whatever we decide is to our overall benefit and then how we deliver it. And that opens up a whole new can of worms, which I am sure will be opened very wide before the general election.

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The BBC trust and the future of the BBC

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I caught part of the interview with Sir Michael Lyons, Chairman of the BBC Trust in response to this speech from Ben Bradshaw:

The culture secretary, Ben Bradshaw, has issued a strongly-worded attack on the BBC Trust, the corporation’s regulatory and governance body, telling an audience of TV executives that “I don’t think it’s a sustainable model” and hinting that he would like to see it disbanded.

In his first major speech since his appointment, Bradshaw, a former BBC journalist, also told the Royal Television Society Cambridge Convention today that “the BBC probably has reached the limits of reasonable expansion.”

As you would expect Sir Michael defended the Trust and the BBC. His argument was that the Trust is like a Board of a PLC and has the best interests of the shareholders as its mandate. This is arrant nonsense and typical of the soft thinking that goes on in the public sector. Every shareholder of a PLC is a voluntary subscriber and the share price, a reflection of the true value and worth of the business,  is in the public domain for all to see. If the business starts to fail either through hubris or just because the world has changed the market will send a signal via that share price. This will be accompanied by a severe reduction in working capital caused  by reduced sales revenue and dearer borrowing.

The Board will then be driven to either make changes in the hope of turning round the business, including: sell all or part of itself, close unprofitable parts, make swingeing cost savings  because if it doesn’t it will die a slow death. In the broadcasting sector look no further than ITV.

The BBC gets its its revenue from a tax on all TV’s, whether people want to watch their programs or not.  No market signals here as people choose to spend their money on other products, just straight forward extortion. Yes, they do carry out a lot of public consultations but as economists often point out: watch what people do, not what they say.  While people might say that they like the BBC and that they would happily pay the telly tax, they have no choice and so aren’t giving honest responses. To my mind its a bit like the polls on increased taxes  – they should have read that 80% (or whatever it is) of those asked are happy for someone else to pay higher taxes.

So what’s the best solution? I would give the BBC 5 years to decide what it wants to be in each of those 5 years there would be a 20%* reduction in the telly tax and the BBC could top this up from voluntary donations, advertising and sales or program and merchandise or it could just shrink until it disappears if nobody wants it.

And what of Sir Michael Lyons, he who makes those vapid statements? Is he the man to lead the BBC and bring in fresh air at any time, let alone undermy proposed changes:

Sir Michael Lyons knows a thing or two about red tape. A former councillor, council chief executive, and involved in local politics for twenty years, he understands the meaning of governance and scrutiny more than most.

He also knows quite a bit about economics: a subject the BBC is going to have to focus on very hard following the lower-than-expected licence fee settlement earlier this year. After studying a masters degree in the subject at the University of London, Sir Michael worked as a lecturer in economics at London’s Wallbrook College and the University of Nottingham. As well as a full-time economist, he also became a Labour councillor for Birmingham City Council in the early 1980s. His political career continued, becoming chief executive of Wolverhampton Borough Council, Nottinghamshire County Council and Birmingham City Council, before he was knighted in January 2000 for his services to local government.

As another member of the public sector Cosa Nostra I think not.

*That’s 20% at today’s rates so that it eventually falls to zero and not a 20% year on year reduction which would never fall to zero.

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The Narrative

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You couldn’t do much better with 13 minutes than watching this polemic from Pyjama TV.  A tour de force of the history of political correctness, critical theory and the way the US MSM* unconciously imbeds it in their thinking.

*Its a very easy mental leap from here to the BBC, Guardian and the rest of the british MSM.

H/T Douting Richard who I have just added to my reading daily list

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The trouble with pornography: Hard Time

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No, not another spam email selling viagra, an article tile in the weeks’ Economist about how the recession has affected the porn industry in Los Angeles.

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Question Time Is The Problem, Not The BNP

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Much has been said about the BBC’s dilemma over whether to invite the BNP on to QT:

The BBC has confirmed it may invite British National Party leader Nick Griffin to appear on a future edition of the Question Time programme.

A spokesman said the BBC was bound by the rules to treat all political parties with “due impartiality”.

As it happens I have tended toward the view that we have to debate the issues and show the BNP for the racists that they are, as Mark Reckons’:

I have always in principle been against the “No Platform” policy whereby some opponents of the BNP have refused to share the same debating platform as them. The argument is that even being seen on the same platform as mainstream parties lends the BNP a legitimacy that they do not deserve. My view is that you win debates and arguments by taking on your opponents, not by banning them from the debating arena.

However Paul Sagar at Liberal Conspiracy takes a different view:

Taking the prudential point, one could go further and argue that the best way to tackle the BNP is to debate them: putting them on a platform makes them easier to shoot at. On this point, I’m convinced of the classic liberal arguments espoused by Mill in On Liberty: the best way to destroy a pernicious opinion is to publicly expose it; the most counterproductive way of tackling such an opinion is to try and stifle it.

OK, so far so good but … there has to be a but otherwise this post is dead!:

Except – and here’s the irony – QT is highly unlikely to achieve that, for the simple reason that QT is not a platform for debate. It’s an opportunity for political figures to sound-off their own prejudices without being subjected to scrutiny. And its format necessarily makes this so.

He has a point here and it is one* reason why I stopped watching QT. Another being the audience, as Stumbling and Mumbling puts it:

that QT is not a platform for debate but merely a zoo in which soundbites are vomited into an audience who clap like hyperactive seals.

I like that, it made me laugh.

Anyway, back to Paul’s post:

Except – and here’s the irony – QT is highly unlikely to achieve that, for the simple reason that QT is not a platform for debate. It’s an opportunity for political figures to sound-off their own prejudices without being subjected to scrutiny. And its format necessarily makes this so.

For debate to take place, what is required are a limited – ideally two or three – number of participants, who use reasoned arguments and verifiably facts to offer point and counter-point in order to expose and abandon bad arguments, all in an effort to strive towards the most intellectually tenable position.

To be fair he makes some good points and the whole post is worth reading, but he misses the obvious conclusion – QT needs to change. It needs to return to a serious debating program at a sensible time.  And that means a smaller audience who should be told to keep their gobs shut, if we want to hear their opinions they should go out and start a blog, not bollocks up one of the few opportunities there is for serious political debate on the TV.

I’ll go further, surely the BBC is in dereliction of its duty by not having a decent weekly debate on the TV?

Belle Gerens, on the other hand, thinks that Peter Hain, (and by extension,  I suspect, the rest of Labour), who will boycott the program is a coward:

Perhaps Hain sees, as do the rest of us who are not blinded by polemic, that the only thing that separates the BNP from its more traditional rivals is its racism. And if the BNP refuse to be engaged on their racism, and want to talk about their platform of social justice instead, Hain and everybody else are going to find themselves in the unenviable position of agreeing with the BNP but not wishing to admit it. And so the BNP will come across as being quite firm in their ideas, whilst the three main parties flail about trying to show that their sort of social justice is somehow demonstrably different from the BNP’s.

So, lets hope that the BBC sort out  QT and we do get some good debate, it should be very interesting. Perhaps a campaign is in order?

*Its also a bit late for me when I’m working and I’m not sure I could watch a whole program without smashing the telly

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Bangladesh and climate change

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I was only half paying attention last night when the BBC news brought us another story about destitution and poverty in the third world, this time it was about the problems Bangladesh is suffering from the flooding in the latest monsoons:

Up to 20 million people in low-lying Bangladesh are at risk from rising sea levels in the coming decades, according to new research.

Scientists predict that salty water could reach far inland, making it hard to cultivate staple foods like rice.

The research comes as the government appeals for $5bn (£3bn) over five years to combat climate change.

In May, Cyclone Aila left thousands homeless, killed many and caused widespread flooding and damage.

My mind wandered and I half remembered Blue Peter or some other program doing an appeal donkeys years ago. Something about them cutting down trees and the soil being eroded so the water ran off the mountains faster or something. Obviusly its getting worse, I thought, but why raise it now this isn’t news it happens every year, doesn’t it?

Then I started to pay full attention as the magic words – Climate Change – were used:

Abdul Khaleque is managing Oxfam’s emergency response in Satkhira region, where more than 20,000 people lost their homes on Gabura Island.

He said: “This place is very near to the sea and we know climate change is causing sea levels to rise.

As it happens, man made or not, Bangladesh is going to be one of the places that suffers if the predictions of a warming world are correct (if it is  AGW will only bring the date forward a few years). It therefore highlights the problems the world does face and why we need to keep getting richer so we can pay for  places like Bangladesh to deal with their problems and this should be the story, but more on that in a while.

Its worth considering what has happened in Bangladesh that has made the problem so accute. I had to do some digging to get my memory back in order but I was right, a large part of the problem is man made, but it isn’t AGW. Firstly there is the problem of deforestation which is explained in slide 2 and  of this presentation.

But that isn’t the full story of Bangaldesh’s problems. This report, Problems and Prospects of the Hilly Watersheds in Bangladesh: Priorities for their Conservation, explains in more detail what has been going on:

With a population of 123 million and a land area of 14.757 million ha, Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world (834 persons/km2) with a per capita land availability of a mere 0.12 ha

..

However, over the last two centuries land use has undergone a tremendous change with clear felling of forest trees to make way for the establishment of mostly monoculture plantations of valuable timber species such as teak and fruit trees, and other economically important cash crops. Due to land scarcity and almost yearly flood havoc in other parts of the country, people have been migrating to the CHTs. According to the latest census conducted in 2001, the population of the area was 1.06, or 0.14% of the national population of 129.25 million. Over a period of 50 years, population density in the area rose from 22 people/km2 in 1951 to 78 people/km2 in 2001, an increase of 355%. This population explosion necessitated an expansion of agricultural activities in the hilly landscape at the cost of preservation of the watersheds. Degradation of watersheds
then accelerated due to the combined effects of deforestation and unsystematic slash and burn practices, contributing to severe soil erosion and deterioration of water quality.

So with or without climate change Bangladesh is in serious trouble and needs help. So back to the original story:

According to the researchers, data from 11 Bangladeshi monitoring stations shows an average sea-level rise of 5mm per year over the last 30 years, with climate models forecasting further rises.

I’m not sure if that is land sinking, as it is on the eastern seaboard of the UK, for example, or the sea rising. Either way it not good for Bangladesh and something does need to be done:

In an interview with BBC News, Bangladesh’s Minister of Disaster Management, Dr Muhammed Abdur Razzaque, said he wanted sea defences similar to those in Holland.

“We have to have new designs for embankments and we have to raise their height,” he said.

“We are expecting $5bn over the next five years in support from the international community.

OK thats a start. Not cheap but if it helps to protect 20m people from climate change then I suppose it needs to be done. But here’s the rub. If we follow the recommendations of some of the eco warriers we are going to impoverish ourselves to try to halt climate change. In fact they want to impede growth in poor areas by restricting their CO2 output as well. So, if we are to help Bangladesh lets all keep getting rich shall we? (read this piece from Tim Worstall for more details on wealth generation and the economic models of the IPPC)

But there is an alternative I suppose:

Among those living in tents on a narrow strip of high ground is Asma Khatun, a 25-year-old widow, who is now eager to leave.

“I think it is not possible to live in this country any longer. We have to move to other countries.

“We can’t live here just by drinking this water. It is not possible to live here.”

Yes, mass migration is the alternative and given the problems that has been generating over the past couple of years its hardly going to be popular!

So, lets help these countries to deal with the problems, but more importantly, stop people trying to impoverish everyone by over reacting about the impact of CO2 and unnecessarily restricting world growth.

BTW for each doubling of CO2 even the UN says we will only get a 1.2deg temp rise and nobody is forecasting more than a doubling without any measures to restrict output.

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Who is to blame for alcohol driven bad behaviour?

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In all the crap that is being spouted on the radio about the latest alcohol report a call in to Radio 5L summed up the real problem. The caller claimed to be from a restaurant and he related a story about what happened last night.

Apparently a family group spanning 3 generations went in for a meal. First up the father of a 12 yearl old asked if the child could have a WKD. We have laws that say no. No problem there then but said father was pissed off. So? Its not the alcohol industries problem its the licence owners.

If it had been me I would have suggested perhaps a glass with 1 part wine and 3 parts water might be a way to promote sensible drinking, legal or not.

Then at the end of the night all the adults went on to shots and had something like 6 shots of Tequila. Fair enough, if they were sober and if they were pissed then we have laws against serving drunks. Again, its the licence holders responsibility to ensure that people aren’t pissed.

So, if as this caller and others claim the problem is that young adults are getting tanked up before they go out and then drinking shots when they are pissed take the licences away from those selling the alcohol.

BTW, read Filthy Smoker, here over at DK’s place, he is on fine form, here ’s a snapshot:

You know you’re dealing with true zealots when they start seeing birthday cards and the Rover’s Return as part of a ‘web’, but what is most shocking is just how many half-truths and outright lies are contained in this document. For example:
1.

Alcohol consumption in the UK has increased rapidly in recent years

Er, not if by “recent years” you mean the last five years, as the report admits on page 9:

the figures peaked in 2003-04

2.

…over a third of adults regularly exceed the Government’s recommended guidelines

Only because you’ve changed the way you measure how much people drink. Besides, the guidelines were “plucked out of the air” in the first place.
3.

the UK is among the heaviest alcohol consuming countries in Europe

4.

In the UK, alcohol marketing and promotion is regulated via voluntary codes governing creative content.

No, as a spokesman for the Advertising Standards Agency has already pointed out:

“Contrary to the BMA’s report, the UK Advertising Codes are not voluntary. The codes are amongst the strictest in the world.

“The ASA rigorously enforces the rules and does not hesitate to take action if the rules have been broken.”

5.

alcohol is frequently used as a promotional tool – or loss leader – to attract customers into supermarkets.

So we keep being told, but has anyone actually seen it happen? I have never seen alcohol on sale below cost price and God knows I’ve looked. If it ever happens at all, it certainly does not happen “frequently.” At best, this is a half-truth.
6.

The difference between the retail price index and the alcohol price index has also fallen, meaning that the rate of increase of the price of alcoholic drinks, relative to all retail items, has decreased.

No, the opposite has happened. Since 1980, alcohol prices have risen 19.3% above the Retail Price Index (see p. 83 of this PDF from the Office of National Statistics). Have I mentioned that these people are liars yet?
Naturally, at the heart of this hideous illiberal crap is yet another scheme for the state to steal more money.

In order to reduce alcohol consumption among young people, the level of excise paid on alcohol should be increased

Suck. My. Balls.

This increased taxation would not only reduce consumption levels, but could also contribute much needed funding for public health research and education

Well, fancy that. It’s another bunch of nest-feathering, rent-seeking, thieving, public sector cocksuckers who want to take your cash and spend it on themselves. Fuck right off, Alcohol Health Alliance – you’re not getting one more penny from me. I’ll kill myself with my own moonshine before I pay the wages of any more unelected puritans.

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Unintended Consequences of Alcohol Advertising Ban

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As expected the social fascists that have been appointed by the Government to justify their banning of anything they dissaprove of  have done their duty:

There should be a ban on all alcohol advertising, including sports and music sponsorship, doctors say.

The British Medical Association said the crackdown on marketing was needed, along with an end to cut-price deals, to stop rising rates of consumption.

Lets just think about this for a minute. They want to end cut price deals by lowering the industry’s cost of doing business by about 15% (from my reading of Diageo’slatest results [1]). Lets take this as about the norm for the industry.

So what is likely to happen if advertising is banned, assuming that the ban is tight enough to block all work arounds? Will this money go back to the shareholders in the form of increased profits? I’m sure the shareholders would like to thinks so but is it likely in a cut throat industry like this, especially if they can’t advertise or market themselves?

My bet is that  we enter a new phase where the only way the drinks industry can compete is on price, and so prices will be further reduced – exactly what the social fascists don’t want! Of course this will lead the social fascists  to their ultimate goal of price controls as they claim the industry is being irresponsible.

I suppose my heading is wrong as price controls are really their long term goal.

1. Page 10 from here shows for Europe 2009 net sales of £2,750m and marketing spend of £419m.

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