Northern Rock: Still Lending

And still lending at what seem to be (at least to me) dangerous multiples of income:

Northern Rock stands accused of “reckless” lending after it emerged this weekend that the beleaguered bank is still offering mortgages of six times salary to potential borrowers.

Despite provoking the worst banking crisis for decades, the bank last week offered a reporter posing as a first-time buyer a £180,000 mortgage even though he had a salary of only £30,000.

The loan was at least £30,000 more than other leading lenders were prepared to offer. Repayments for the loan would have accounted for more than 60% of the fictional buyer’s take-home salary.

It is, of course, the taxpayer that is extending that loan. A good use of your money, don\’t you think?

Homosexuality Not a Disease

So says a famous medical expert:

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has said that homosexuality is not a "disease" on the eve of a crucial decision that could split the Anglican Church worldwide.

Good, glad we\’ve got that sorted then.

Lembit Opik

It appears that Lembit Opik has more than just one connection with the music business:

Lembit did the instrumental on Culture Club’s Karma Chameleon…

So, err, did he date Boy George as well?

Martin Kettle\’s Quite Right, You Know?

Really, he is:

In the long history of Labour as a governing party, nothing – but nothing – has been as politically destructive as financial crisis. The slump of 1931, the devaluations of 1949 and 1967 and the IMF bail-out of 1976 inflicted mortal wounds that destroyed four Labour prime ministers and sent four Labour governments to their electoral graves. Collectively these events had an even more devastating effect, cumulatively undermining the plausibility of the entire 20th century Labour governmental project and barring the way to a sustained British social democratic settlement on European lines.

Whether the run on Northern Rock of 2007 has triggered another episode to rank with those past traumas it is still too early to say.

But there is a radical option too. This says that Northern Rock proves that the right sort of government regulation and intervention will support, not destroy, strong markets and good businesses.

Quite. The right sort of government intervention and regulation will indeed support strong markets and good businesses. There\’s no one (at least no one rational) who would dispute this. All we need now is to work out what is the right sort of government intervention. On the evidence that Martin himself offers, the Labour Party has failed to get the right answer to this question four times and the result at the fifth time of asking is as yet unknown.

There is a very good argument for the right type of intervention but I\’m not sure that the above is a very strong argument for Labour knowing what the right type is.

Cuban Travel Writing

An extract from The Guardian:

Cienfuegos was lovely, but it was in Trinidad, just 50km further along the south coast, that I really fell in love with la vida loca of rural Cuba. A colonial Spanish town built on sugar and slavery and now a Unesco world heritage site. All pink, pistachio and pale blue, it appeared to have taken a civic decision to halt pretty much all conventional progression around 50 or 60 years ago.

Gosh, what was it that happened 50 or 60 years ago that might have caused that? Anyone?

Emma Thompson

Interesting precis here from The Times:

Emma Thompson will be in Trafalgar Square in London every day next week hoping to raise awareness of the sex industry

There was a time not long ago when \”actress on street corner\” was the sex industry rather than a way of raising awareness of it. Although to be fair, such advertising would indeed raise awareness.

Biofuels:Bad for the Planet

Yet more evidence that biofuels are part of the problem, not the solution:

Rapeseed and maize biodiesels were calculated to produce up to 70 per cent and 50 per cent more greenhouse gases respectively than fossil fuels. The concerns were raised over the levels of emissions of nitrous oxide, which is 296 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Scientists found that the use of biofuels released twice as much as nitrous oxide as previously realised. The research team found that 3 to 5 per cent of the nitrogen in fertiliser was converted and emitted. In contrast, the figure used by the International Panel on Climate Change, which assesses the extent and impact of man-made global warming, was 2 per cent. The findings illustrated the importance, the researchers said, of ensuring that measures designed to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions are assessed thoroughly before being hailed as a solution.

Well, quite. We want indeed to have a proper cost benefit analysis of all of the things that are being proposed. Landfill, for example, has lower emissions than wormeries in dealing with food and garden waste. You\’ll note though that government action is to increase the use of wormeries and reduce landfill. You\’ll already know that the recycling of green glass into road surfacing increases emissions rather than reduces them: and that government policy is to increase the use of green glass in roads. You\’ll now know, from the above, that biofuels (except in the limited sense of driving off old chip fat) increases rather than reduces emissions. And the EU and the US are in an orgy of subsidy for this increase in emissions.

Those who insist that government actions are going to save us obviously haven\’t been paying attention.

More on GP Contracts

We are privileged indeed to see what they do with our money:

Changes to GPs’ working arrangements and a generous pay rise for doctors have cost the Government £1.8 billion more than ministers bargained for, new figures have revealed.

Just to recap. Our Lords and Masters decided that there should be a renegotiation of the contract by which GPs offer their services to the NHS. Fine, entirely acceptable. Then they underestimated how much work GPs actually did already, offered to let them off some of the most onerous work (out of hourse services), offer bonuses for things they were already doing (vaccination rates etc) and, lo and behold, GPs incomes rose much more than the negotiators planned. So they ended up buying less service for more money and they were so inefficient at it that they didn\’t even manage to calculate how much it was going to cost.

Can someone remind me why it is that we let politicians run such things for us?

NHS Pensions

Yes, they\’ve bottled pension reform again:

Campaigners accused the Government of double standards after it was announced that all NHS staff would keep their final salary pension schemes.

All NHS staff, including new starters, will be guaranteed a final salary scheme under the new arrangements, meaning their pensions will be based on their highest pay during their last three years at work.

We\’re often told that government is better at planning things because it has a longer time horizon than private business does. The truth of that can be seen in precisely these pensions changes. Business is closing final salary schemes as they are indeed planning for 40 years down the road. The public sector still has them because the government won\’t risk short term disorder (and the possibility of a lost election) at the cost of financial problems 40 years down the road. So, err, can we put to rest the idea that governments do indeed plan for the future better than the private sector?

That Gender Pay Gap Explained

Now, of course, we know that it shouldn\’t be like this. The law is the law and everyone should obey it. Indeed, we know that simply by passing a law we solve a problem and there are never any unintended consequences.

Women are losing out on jobs because some businesses avoid hiring those of child-bearing age because of maternity laws, research claims.

Some 63 per cent of executives say they find regulations pose a \”serious threat\” to their companies.

Almost one in five directors says they have avoided hiring women of child-bearing age because of the legal risk of being caught out by constant changes in rules on maternity pay and time off.

Such discrimination is illegal. But whether it is or not isn\’t quite the point. If 20% of directors avoid hiring women of child bearing age because of the maternity rules then that\’s one fifth of the economy off limits to such women of child bearing age. This will obviously have an effect upon the wages on offer. Just more fuel for the fire that is the obvious thought: the gender pay gap is, at least in part, caused by the laws on maternity leave etc.

My my, what a surprise. Perhaps it isn\’t possible to have it all, perhaps there really are trade offs that have to be made in real life?

Lasting Power of Attorney

There\’s a slight kerfluffle over the changes coming in about powers of attorney.

Obtaining powers of attorney over the affairs of a sick or elderly relative will cost 10 times as much, be more onerous and take far longer under rules to be introduced within a fortnight, lawyers have warned.

I have absolutely no doubt that this will be a screw up, given my enduring faith in the organisational abilities of our Lords and Masters. The Office of the Public Guardian will be as efficient and courteous as all of our bureaucracy, of course. However, looking at the actual form that will now have to be filled in, I can\’t say that I see it as being particularly horrendous. In fact, it all seems admirably clear: vastly better than any tax forms, for example. My only possible complaint actually is that social workers can sign off on it: do we have any that are sufficiently literate to write their own names?

PCSOs: Men Or Mice?

So we have this new sort of Plod, the police community service officer. No powers of arrest, not allowed to interviewpeople: they are there to provide a uniformed body on the streets. So given that they don\’t actually solve crimes, catch crooks, you\’d like to think that they do the \”community\” part of policing, yes? Helping old ladies across the road, taking lost children home…hey, how about helping some kid drowning in a pond? Community enough?

A police leader has called community support officers a \”failed experiment\” which should be abandoned, after it emerged that two PCSOs stood by as a boy drowned because they were not trained to carry out water rescues.

Jordon jumped into the water to save his eight-year-old stepsister at a local beauty spot in May this year. Mrs Lyon said: \”If you\’re walking down the street and you see a child drowning, you automatically go in that water.\”

Well, yes, I\’d say that would be the appropriate reaction of any adult to the sight of a drowning child. Whether that adult is trained or in uniform or not. In other news, the basic pay for a PCSO is £16,000 plus paid overtime etc.

Am I being too demanding in thinking that at that price we should be employing men, not mice?

Vicki Woods is on the subject today:

A \”police presence\” is not the same as policing. And PCSOs are not the same as police officers, as reports about the inquest into the death of a 10-year-old boy in Wigan showed. Jordon Lyon was playing near a pond with his sister and both got into difficulties. A 999 call fetched two PCSOs to the scene, where people were shrieking for help as the children floundered. Two fishermen, aged 63 and 66, flung themselves into the pond and managed to rescue the girl, but the two PCSOs stood faffing about on the edge.

When a regular police sergeant arrived minutes later, he dived into the pond and pulled Jordon from the water, but he could not be resuscitated. The inquest was told: \”PCSOs are not trained to deal with major incidents such as this.\”

Oh, really? Neither are a couple of fishermen aged 63 and 66, but they had a go.

Corporate Advertising The Right Way: A Message to Schillings re Alisher Usmanov

From the Schillings website:

The internet attacker

The Issues

Our client was the founder and CEO of a financial services company. An anonymous source created a website which accused our client of assault, various financial crimes and unethical behaviour. We suspected that the source was a disgruntled former business partner, based both in the USA and the UK, but we could not initially prove this.

The Solution

The internet is not lawless. All the laws that apply to traditional publications apply, plus new regulations have been created. In this instance we:

  • applied to Court for a “Spartacus” order requiring the source to identify himself or his ISP and webhost to identify him; and
  • contacted the host, ISP and various search engines advising them that even though the allegations had physically been posted in the US they were defamatory under UK law as they could be accessed here
  • search engines and ISPs removed the material.

Once the source was outed and starved of the oxygen of publicity, he quickly settled to avoid a defamation claim.

This might read better as follows:

The internet attacker

The Issues

Our client was the founder and CEO of a Russian metals company. An Ambassador created a website which accused our client of some things which I shall not repeat here. We suspected that the source was disgruntled and while he had published such allegations in a freely available book we advised our client not to sue for defamation.

The Solution

The internet is not lawless. All the laws that apply to traditional publications apply, plus new regulations have been created. In this instance we:

  • applied to Court for a “Spartacus” order requiring the source to identify himself or his ISP and webhost to identify him; and
  • contacted the host, ISP and various search engines advising them that the allegations were defamatory under UK law, although no one had ever tried anything in court.
  • search engines and ISPs removed the material.

Once the source was closed down we could invoice our client in the knowledge of a job well done. The reputation of Gospodin Usmanov is, due to our prompt and careful attention, still spotless.

Laudatory comments upon our actions can be seen across the internet. If your reputation is at stake from some chavvy little blogger, no doubt any of the following would be delighted to provide you with references as to the effectiveness of our services.

Curious Hamster, Pickled Politics, Harry’s Place, Tim Worstall, Dizzy, Iain Dale, Ten Percent, Blairwatch, Davide Simonetti, Earthquake Cove, Turbulent Cleric (who suggests dropping a line to the FA about Mr Usmanov), Mike Power, Jailhouse Lawyer, Suesam, Devil’s Kitchen, The Cartoonist, Falco, Casualty Monitor, Forever Expat, Arseblog, Drink-soaked Trots (and another), Pitch Invasion, Wonko’s World, Roll A Monkey, Caroline Hunt, Westminster Wisdom, Chris K, Anorak, Mediawatchwatch, Norfolk Blogger, Chris Paul, Indymedia (with a list of Craig Murray’s articles that are currently unavailable), Obsolete, Tom Watson, Cynical Chatter, Reactionary Snob, Mr Eugenides, Matthew Sinclair, The Select Society, Liberal England, Davblog, Peter Gasston Pitch Perfect, Adelaide Green Porridge Cafe, Lunartalks, Tygerland, The Crossed Pond, Our Kingdom, Big Daddy Merk, Daily Mail Watch, Graeme’s, Random Thoughts, Nosemonkey, Matt Wardman, Politics in the Zeros, Love and Garbage, The Huntsman, Conservative Party Reptile, Ellee Seymour, Sabretache, Not A Sheep, Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion, The People’s Republic Of Newport, Life, the Universe & Everything, Arsenal Transfer Rumour Mill, The Green Ribbon, Blood & Treasure, The Last Ditch, Areopagitica, Football in Finland, An Englishman’s Castle, Freeborn John, Eursoc, The Back Four, Rebellion Suck!, Ministry of Truth, ModernityBlog, Beau Bo D’Or, Scots and Independent, The Splund, Bill Cameron, Podnosh, Dodgeblogium, Moving Target, Serious Golmal, Goonerholic, The Spine, Zero Point Nine, Lenin’s Tomb, The Durruti Column, The Bristol Blogger, ArseNews, David Lindsay, Quaequam Blog!, On A Quiet Day…, Kathz’s Blog, England Expects, Theo Spark, Duncan Borrowman, Senn’s Blog, Katykins, Jewcy, Kevin Maguire, Stumbling and Mumbling, Famous for 15 megapixels, Ordovicius, Tom Morris, AOL Fanhouse, Doctor Vee, The Curmudgeonly, The Poor Mouth, 1820, Hangbitch, Crooked Timber, ArseNole, Identity Unknown, Liberty Alone, Amused Cynicism, Clairwil, The Lone Voice, Tampon Teabag, Unoriginalname38, Special/Blown It, The Remittance Man, 18 Doughty Street (121).

There, that\’s the way to do it, don\’t you think?

Ukraine, Uzbekistan, All the Same Place, Right?

This is why those journalists get paid the major bucks folks. Commenting upon Usmanov and the way in which his attempt to close down a few blogs has led to the story gaining new wind, Kevin Maguire tells us:

But in brief Usmanov hired fanatstically expensive London law firm Schillings to gag our former man in the Ukraine, Craig Murray, who wrote some very disobliging things about a businessman as touchy as he is rich.

It\’s those multiple layers of editors and fact checkers that make the major media outlets so useful, nay, invaluable.

Welcome, Welcome, One and All

Oooh, exciting isn\’t it? New blog, lovely white pages, no scuffs on the cover or anything. Time perhaps for a radical rethink of what I blog about?

Naah. Same old froths and rants I think. Just in a new place. It\’ll take us a few days (yes, there is indeed a crack team working on the styling n\’everything) to get up to speed but blogging will be here now, not there.