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Sunday, 31 July 2011

More BBC bias

First we have the story in the Mail, Guardian Telegraph and over 200 other news sources that Blair will be pilloried by Chilcott.  No mention by the Beeb.

Then we have "NHS funds moved to richer areas, Labour says Labour is accusing the government of moving NHS spending in England away from poorer areas towards richer parts of the country."

Except of course no money is being taken away from anywhere. Everywhere is getting at least a 2.2% increase.  Remember GDP was up by only 0.2% on the last quarter so that is a higher proportion of GDP as well as a real-terms increase - everywhere.

Some places are getting more than that.  The highest seems to be Derby with 4.4%, but most places get less than 3%. Sure enough some places that are relatively prosperous get a higher percentage increase in funding, but they are starting from a lower per capita base.  For all I know a 2.2% increase in a "poor" community still represents more cash than a 3% increase in a rich community because the "poor" community already gets 50% more funding per capita.

And yes, Tower Hamlets does get considerably more funding per capita than SUrrey for just about every public service, and believe it or not the population is increasing in prosperous areas and decreasing in areeas where there is less employment.

So there is no substance in the Labour claims, but that doesn't stop the BBC printing them verbatim.

Friday, 29 July 2011

All the news we can make up

The BBC website currently carries a headline "Apple holding more cash than USA"

They go on :
Apple now has more cash to spend than the United States government. Latest figures from the US Treasury Department show that the country has an operating cash balance of $73.7bn (£45.3bn). Apple's most recent financial results put its reserves at $76.4bn (£46.9bn).

Yes, that's right.  Apple has reserves of £46.9 bn, not cash.  Total reserves are an accounting estimate of the amount available to shareholders on a winding up assuming that all assets could be sold at their book value and all liabilities could be settled at par without penalty, where as cash is actual liquid holdings available now.  Apple only has £8 billion cash.  It has other short term instruments, but it isn't going to get its hands on anything like that amount of cash unless it winds up its entire business.

On the other hand US government could raise.some extra cash by selling a few assets, but that is neither here nor there.

The truth is that the BBC is wrong because it is too stupid to find out the facts and in any event it has no interest in honest reporting, only in making up stories.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Deja vu, all over again

Two and a half years ago I posted on the subject of "curing the GDP Fetish", which was all about politicians avoiding the temptation to make their economic decisions revolve around the measure of Gross Domestic Product, and rather insightful I thought it was too.

As it turned out, so did Joseph Stiglitz and he also called it a fetish six months later, and just to prove it was no flash in the pan, so did Nicolas Sarkozy.  Oh what an influential thinker I must be.

But the same logic still persists in the UK, and George Osborne should not be swayed by the fact that there has only been 0.2% growth in GDP in the last quarter.

The simple fact was that under the last government, GDP was not a measure of the value of economic activity but of money flowing in the economy. Every year the Scottish chncellor would come to the House of Commons and announce that GDP had risen by ... 3%.  How did he do that? Simple, when the real economy was flat-lining he would put his foot on the economic gas pedal, and pump out some extra spending.

At first it was easy to pay for more computers in schools and more doctors, but as the trick was repeated we didn't need more of them, we just paid more for the same, hence the "NHS inflation" that ran at 8% rather than the 3% of RPI

Eventually this meant that a substantial part of government spending was simply overspending, perhaps electoral bribes, that was unneeded and more importantly, wasn't funded by taxes but by borrowing.

So what the current Chancellor needs to do is to cut spending, not by buying fewer goods and services but by paying less for the same goods and services, essentially putting us back to where we were nearly 10 years ago, and drive out the wasteful spending funded by borrowing.  Sure that means that GDP will drop.  But the real value of economic activity will be just the same.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

20/20 hindsight: a retrospective

Five scientists at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology report the direct observation of optical precursors of heralded single photons with step- and square-modulated wave packets passing through cold atoms in this months Physical Review Letters. Using electromagnetically induced transparency and the slow-light effect, they separated the single-photon precursor, which always travels at the speed of light in vacuum, from its delayed main wave packet. In the two-level superluminal medium, their result suggests that the causality holds for a single photon, or in other words, nothing travels faster than light and you can't travel.

I have made similar observations, that led to the same conclusion, except that my observation was that lottery draws appear to be very rarely won by Chinese physics professors, which leads indirectly to the same conclusion.

Where do I get a refund?

I am not a curmudgeon and am very willing to see my taxes used to pay for those that are too ill to support themselves, but the DWP has just released the results from the first 1.3 million tests for  sickness benefit.

1% of applications were still in progress
39% were deemed to be fit for work and were moved onto jobseeker's allowance
17% were able to do some sort of work given the correct support
7% were incapable of any work
36% dropped out of the application process

So that's over a third who dropped their claim before testing. and nearly two in five who weren't really ill at all, and in total less than one claim in four was actually valid.

Can I have some of my taxes back, please? Perhaps the list of those who can put their hands in their pockets first are the GPs who wrote the sick notes for the 1.1 million claimants who took the system for a ride.

All quiet on the hacking front

As soon as the Newsnight report came out implicating the Daily Mirror, suddenly the BBC went quiet on the subject of phone hacking.  Suddenly, after 2 weeks of harranguing News International, there were no more inter views with A. Campbell, K. Maguire etc.

Funny that.

Friday, 22 July 2011

More BBC Bias

The extent to which the BBC are prepared to bend over backwards to perpetuate their onslaught on Murdoch has become quite ridiculous.

Right now they are giving top news billing to a piece of mud slinging from Tom Watson.  According to the BBC, Mr Watson knows more about the phone hacking affair than anyone else, although why he should be more knowledgable than the rest of the population is unclear. What is clear is that Mr watson has been flingting more mud in the hope that he can make some stick on the Conservatives, aided by Peston and Robinson.  So far he has failed.

The latest allegation is that James Murdoch told the parliamentary enquiry that he was not aware of an email detailing additional phone hacking at New International.  Fair enough, it may or may not have been sent or copied to him (nobody suggests it was0, but he doesn't have to be aware of it, and it is not his fault if he isn't.  Watson says that other ex-NI employees told Murdoch that there was more phone hacking.  That employee probably did and Murdoch probably knew from this and other sources that there had been further phone hacking (but let us remember, not by NI employees).  So Watson wants a police enquiry.  Into what?  Not knowing about an e-mail?  That was never a crime and the police would do nothing about it.  They can hardly prove that anybody is/was aware of an e-mail, even one sent to them. 

So why is the BBC making such a fuss?  Because it fits their biased narrative.

The issue that The Labour Party and the BBC are trying to disguise or avoid is the fact that Ken MacDonald (DPP) and Lord Goldsmith (AG) were both informed by the Met that there was a substantial evidence of wider phone hacking in 2006, but the police were instructed not to investigate any phone intercepts unless they could prove that voicemails were hacked before they had been received by the intended recipient (which hase no basis in law). Goldsmith yesterday denied restricting the scope of the police investigation, but that wasn't his job, it was MacDonald's (not a squeak from him). Goldsmith's job was to inform the PM (Blair) and the Cabinet. Did he?

Of course, if the Blair government and its law officers had acted properly, there would probably be no questions for Cameron to answer over Coulson. Meanwhile, MacDonald collects fairly handy sums from The Times for his occasional pieces on legal matters.

Why is the BBC sniffing around News International and the Conservative Party when the smell is coming from elsewhere.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Do the math(s)

Researchers from Oxford ave discovered that men taller than 5'9" are [X]% more likely to contract a cancer than men less than 5' tall.  Well, duh!, that's because there [Y: Y>X*(5'9"/5')]% more cells in their bodies that might mutate.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Why am I not surprised?

Some nebbish of a chief risk officer ata German Landesbank pocketed a cool $44 million paid into his 2 Austrian companies by a Mr Bernard E and the Bambino Trust. At the same time, the German Landesbank paid $41 million to Bernard Ecclestone and $25 million to Ecclestone family trusts by way of "commission" for the arrangement of the sale of the Landesbank's shares in F1 to CVC.

An open and shut case of graft, allegedly.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The geeks will inherit the earth

Some more good news on the home front.  I apologise for being a day or two behind, but I am on holiday in France (more on that later), but news reaches me over the internet that Tom Pellereau has won The Apprentice. As you may be aware I am not an avid watcher of TV programmes, and do not hold a TV license (although here in France with a VPN connection to a UK based IP address I gather I might be able to watch live UK TV without a UK TV license, although I would probably need a French one).

Nevertheless, I wanted Tom to win as an example of how brains, common sense and a pleasant manner can triumph over the brash self-regarding pushiness of most of the candidates. In reality, the decision can't have been too difficult for Lord Sugar.  Who do you give £250k to, a smart bloke with good ideas and large dollops of honesty and charm, or any of a dozen pushy losers with inflated egos?

I think I met Tom briefly when he was still a teenager.  I have certainly met both of his sisters and have known his parents ever since his younger sistesr and my youngest daughter were the two smallest girls in their school, and they have been great friends ever since. His parents are equally charming, and Matthew and Phillippa, your son is a great credit to you.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Dick head of the Terrorist Squad

I have long despaired of the quality of the British police and their lack of ability to act in the public interest, viz:
  • ACPO's ability to access police (i.e. government) criminal records for its own financial benefit (supposedly an independent, non-governmental organisation)
  • the bludgeoning to death of a newspaper seller on the streets of London
  • the acceptance of bribes by police officers from journalists
  • the sale of confidential information by policemen to journalists
  • the incompetence inherent in the death of Jean-Charles de Meneses
It is the latter that provokes the greatest disbelief, and the attempted cover-up by another man called Blair that causes the most dismay (actually the fact that this man now sits in the House of Lords that causes the most dismay), but up there amongst the greatest causes of dismay was the fact that there was no reprimand for the extra-judicical killing of an innocent person.  The person responsible for that operation has just been appointed head of the anti-terriorist squad.

The BBC describes the wretched woman as having been in charge of the operation that led to the death of Jean-Charles de Meneses.  I wouldn't put it that way.  I would put that she initiated, was in charge of and supervised the most recent public execution by the British authorities on British soil.  She made the wrong decision then.  Why should we believe she will do any better in future?

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Is this all we get?

The BBC play the useful idiot for MOD spin on the unveiling of the "Voyager", the RAF's "largest ever aircraft", as though that was something remarkable.  Strip away the hype and what you have is an Airbus A330-200 with strengthened floors, wings off an A340 with 4 engine mounts so the second pair can be used for in-flight refuelling pods. 

Liam Fox called the planes magnificent, but it isn't the planes, which are truly eyecatching, but the price.  You can see bigger planes taking off and landing at Heathrow all the time.  An A330 is nothing special, a medium to long range plane comparable to a Boeing 767, MD-11 or the new B787, but smaller than all the A340's, A380's, B777's and B747's in the world. But none of them cost even a quarter of the $1 billion per plane that we are paying for the rather ordinary RAF's planes.

The BBC website gives a nice diagram showing how the A330 is bigger than an Aor Lancaster or a Vulcan bomber, but omits to show that it is only fractionally larger than the VC-10's and Lockheed TriStars that they replace, which came to the government virtually free from the BOAC fleet. They also required strengthened floors for cargo and mountings for pods for in-flight refuelling, so no new technology there.

So yet again, why are we paying an extra $800 million for each of these planes? About £7 billion spent without any real explanation. Perhaps the governments new accounting regime will give us a clearer picture.  I see an FOI request coming on.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

A good thing

A while ago I did a video...

On Wednesday the Treasury will publish accounts drawn up on the same basis as listed companies, counting the future liabilities of the accrued pension rights for public sector workers and the future costs of private finance initiative projects. The figures are being published to coincide with the Office for Budget Responsibility’s first assessment of the long-term health of the public finances.


Friday, 8 July 2011

Divided by more than the Channel

It would be a triumph of spin, but one of the most frightening aspects of the French character is that there are people who think that if Dominique Strauss-Kahn manages to get off his US rape charges, then he can still be a front-runner in the French presidential campaign.

Now I have nothing against the man, and I reserve all judgement on his guilt or innocence in the criminal affair, but it is common ground between the parties that DS-K and the maid had a sexual encounter.  That much is beyond dispute.  Whilst there might be a certain amount of Gallic bravado and some who would applaud such behaviour (saluto Silvio, hi Bill), it has to be said that screwing the hotel maid is more than a tad tawdry.

Worse than that, such impetuosity is not really becoming in the Head of a State of a major nation, and particularly not one with an independent nuclear capability.  Some times the alpha male needs a little bit of beta to do the right thing.

6 Ways to speed up your PC

For Windows XP users according to Microsoft at

1. Remove spyware, and help protect your computer from viruses
2. Free up disk space
3. Speed up access to data
4. Detect and repair disk errors
5. Learn about ReadyBoost
6. Upgrade  to  Windows 7

Option 6 screams "screw you if you paid good money for our software"

Friday, 1 July 2011

Can you hear me Alex Salmond?

Billy Connolly, Sean Connery, Walter Scott, Rabbie Burns, Lord Reith,  James Clerk Maxwell, Gordon Brown, Alex Salmond. Can you hear me Alex Salmond? Your boy took one hell of a beating! Your boy took one hell of a beating!'