The Care of the State

Aren\’t we lucky to have such a wonderful and caring organisation looking after us:

However, it is just such a fate that befell Jean Gambell when at the age of 15, in 1937, she was falsely accused of stealing 2s 6d (12.5p) from the doctor\’s surgery where she worked as a cleaner.

She was sectioned under the 1890 Lunacy Act and even though the money was later found, she has been moved from mental institution to mental institution. More recently, she went into a care home and has been lost to her family, who thought she was dead.

The brothers spent much of their childhood in orphanages because their parents were so poor. They said that they had later discovered that their father had tried for years to get Jean freed after she was put in Cranage Hall mental hospital in Macclesfield for being "of feeble mind", but was unsuccessful because her records had been mislaid.

She spent years, lost in a maze of instutitons and care homes, trying to convince people in authority that she had a family. But nobody would believe her.

Macclesfield Social Services are now conducting an inquiry into Miss Gambell\’s incarceration.

An entire lifetime spent "lost" in mental institutions. No one will be held responsible of course. No one at all.

Joined up Government

That is, I believe, what we were promised a decade ago, isn\’t it? So the first lines of two stories in The Telegraph today:

Private schools could lose their multi-million pound tax-breaks unless they help state-educated pupils get into universities such as Oxford and Cambridge, it was disclosed yesterday.

The number of failing schools has soared by almost a fifth this year, new figures showed yesterday.

None of those failing schools, as far as I can see, are in the private sector.

So, is it joined up thinking to remove subsidy friom what works and to spend more on what does not?

 

Speaking With Forked Tongues

I have some sympathy with this statement:

"This analysis misleadingly claims to represent the average situation, but it is undermined by the carefully-selected assumptions on which it is based."

What analysis?

Smith & Williamson estimates that the total taxes paid by a typical family with two children, buying an ordinary terrace house, have soared from 36p in the pound to 54p since 1997.

Well, yes. Only if they move house though and that\’s because a hige chunk of it is the stamp duty on a house which has soared in price. So it is very much a cherry picked number.

A Treasury spokesman said the tax burden on the average family had fallen since 1997.

But that I flat out do not believe. It is clearly not true in nominal, monetary terms.  I doubt very much if it is true in percentage terms. And if we remember that to spend (even to promise to spend) is to tax, then it most certainly isn\’t true. For we\’d have to add in to the tax burden all those wonderful promises for the future, like public sector pensions, the future PFI payments and the Trreasury debt itself.

 

Thank God We Have the European Union!

No really, I do mean it. Thank the Lord for the existence of the European Union.

For, as you will remember, they passed some laws a few months back that made roaming across international borders with your cell phone cheaper. Isn\’t that lovely?

Well, yes, indeed it is:

One especially lucrative business, however, has somehow escaped the Internet’s notice so far: international cellphone calls.

That’s about to change. Early next month, a small company called Cubic Telecom will release what it’s calling the first global mobile phone.

Now, most carriers offer special international plans: you pay more a month, you get slightly lower roaming rates. But even they can’t touch the appeal of Cubic’s cellphone. It makes calls to or from any of 214 countries — for 50 to 90 percent off what the big carriers would charge.

For example, consider this: at the MaxRoam.com site from Cubic, you can request local phone numbers in up to 50 cities at no charge. Now you can have a Paris number, a London number and a Mexico City number that your friends overseas can use to call your cellphone.

No longer must you hand out a series of international phone numbers for each trip you make, or expect your colleagues in the United States to pay $50 a pop to reach you.

Even that’s not the end of this phone’s possibilities. For a flat $42 a month, you can turn on its unlimited Wi-Fi calling option. It lets you receive unlimited unmetered calls to any numbers in the world from Internet hot spots, or make them for a penny a minute. Either way, you have little fear of racking up your bill.

But here’s the other dizzying news: Cubic’s cheap global dialing has nothing to do with the phone. The real magic is in the SIM card, the memory card that determines your account information.

So get this: For $40, you can buy this card without the phone. Cubic says that you can slip it into any GSM phone — even your regular T-Mobile or AT&T phone, as long as it’s an “unlocked” phone (one that works with other companies’ SIM cards). Then your own cellphone behaves exactly like the Cubic phone described up to this point, minus the Wi-Fi calling, of course.

So what\’s all this got to do with making roaming on the traditional networks cheaper? Well, by insisting that roaming is cheaper, they\’re compressing the pricing against which Cubic is competing: making it, therefore, more difficult for it to enter the market and prosper.

So the nett effect of the European Union regulations is to further entrench the incumbent Telcos at the expense of the upstart market entrant. That upstart being the one offering us 90% of roaming charges.

Thank God we have the European Union, eh?

Can we leave yet?

 

 

Yes, I\’m Scared Yet

*

It\’s looking like Hillary vs. Rudy. Consider this:

Brad DeLong: "… I think it is the two cents\’ worth of everybody who worked for the Clinton Administration health care reform effort of 1993-1994–is that Hillary Rodham Clinton needs to be kept very far away from the White House for the rest of her life".

Daniel W. Drezner: "… Despite the fact that this collection of individuals would likely disagree about pretty much everything, there was an airtight conensus about one and only one point: A Giuliani presidency would be an unmitigated disaster for the United States."

 

Margot Blogging

Ooooh, dear.

The citizens of Brussels “reclaimed the streets” last Sunday when it was “Car Free Day”. Thousands and thousands of people enjoyed a warm and sunny day on their feet, bikes, skateboards or horses (!). We also enjoyed the silence and the improved air quality.

We\’re ruled by someone who thinks that horse transport improves urban air quality.

Can we leave yet?

 

 

The Problem with International Organisations

This is one of the problems we have with teaming up with Johnny Foreigner in all of these international organisations:

South Africa’s police chief faces a warrant for his arrest as a bitter struggle at the top of the country’s ruling African National Congress threatens to plunge the country into chaos.

The warrant against Jackie Selebi, who is also head of Interpol, was issued last week, according to SABC, the state broadcaster. Mr Selebi has been accused of links to figures from South Africa’s underworld. Last night he told a local radio station that he had no knowledge of the warrant.

The reported move comes amid a fierce political battle that this week propelled the country’s chief prosecutor into murky circumstances. “There is a full-scale war going on now between the prosecutors and the Justice Ministry,” one political commentator said. President Mbeki has pledged to root out corruption but has been accused of soft-pedalling on allegations made against his own supporters. Mr Selebi would not have got his job without being one of the early Mbeki backers. In 2004 he was elected to the rotating post of Interpol President.

Mr Selebi, who has been criticised harshly for failing to reduce crime, himself became a target for investigation by the country’s FBI-style Scorpions unit after a business associate was arrested on suspicion of the murder in September 2005 of Bret Kebble, a flamboyant mining magnate who had close links to the ANC. It emerged that Mr Selebi had frequently played golf with the suspect, Glenn Agliotti, a well-known drug lord.

The problem being that we\’ve teamed up in an international organisation with Johnny Foreigner, who might have a rather different understanding of the words probity and legality than we do. For example, aren\’t you glad that Interpol, the people who deal with international police matters, warrants and so on, has as its President someone who is a regular golfing partner of a drug dealer?

Or that the European transport system is run by a convicted fraudster?

Those Greek Fires

An interesting little detail in this story about the Greek fires this summer:

In the absence of a land registry and forest maps, Greeks invariably have been able to build with impunity in areas that would normally be protected.

So at least part of the cause of the fires was the absence of clearly delineated property rights. Tsk, it is something that people do try to point out a lot, that when they are not clearly marked out and registered, then you will get problems.

As with what used to happen in Portugal: if the forest burned down you would get planning permission for it. Now, as a result of a change in the law, you have to replant it. Amazingly, the number of fires has fallen.

So this summer\’s fires: not necessarily climate change, but a dereliction of duty by the Government….not necessarily the current one either. A systemic failure to allocate and then defend property rights.

Note To Telegraph Subs

This headline:

 

Tories must do or die in Blackpool

It\’s a party conference they\’re having, not a rerun of Zulu. They\’re going there to talk to fellow minded people, get drunk with them and if the past is any guide, screw a few of them (both physically and metaphorically).

A tad over the top, don\’t you think?

Hmmm, Could it be?

Interesting little note here (yes, I know the survey was sponsored by the manufacturer of an energy drink):

It says: "Thirtysomething women today are on their knees suffering debilitating tiredness because there are simply not enough hours in their days to build in any relaxation time."

Eighty-five per cent of thirtysomething women say they frequently feel tired and 59 per cent of these feel tired all the time.

Only a quarter regularly enjoy seven or eight hours sleep a night, 75 per cent are lucky if they get six hours, and 40 per cent usually get by on less than six.

They snack, eat on the hoof, and almost half regularly phone in sick.

One in 10 has heart palpitations, a quarter suffer from asthma or eczema, and one in 10 suffers from shortness of breath.

The gender pay gap is virtually non-existent amongst those in their 20s, widens dramatically in the 30s and then starts to shrink again in the 40s and 50s. I wonder whether this could be anything to do with it?

Crappy Schools System

So the OECD says that the UK school system isn\’t very good, that it doesn\’t educate people and that all the extra money that\’s been fire hosed in isn\’t actually getting to the places that need it. The response?

Jim Knight, the schools minister, said the education system was "performing strongly" but admitted more needed to be done.

He said: "In the decade ahead we must do more – the OECD confirms this. That is why we will make education a right for every young person until 18."

Err, a free, State, education for all up to the age of 18 is already a right. What Knight actually means is that he\’s going to turn it into a duty. When those who do not know the difference between rights and duties are running the asylum, what prospect a decent education system?

Banning Incandescent Light Bulbs

There\’s a few points to be made about this announcement from Hilary Benn:

The traditional lightbulb will disappear from shops under a two year timetable announced by Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary.

The first is that it\’s not really a big decision. As the article notes we\’re signed up to an EU regulation that bans them anyway. What\’s left for our domestic politician (the one we vote for) is announcing how it will be done: not whether. Defra is simply a branch office these days.

But there is a price for consumers because CFLs are more expensive and require more energy to make.

The second is that the expense is at least party to do with the EU itself. There\’s a 66% import duty on CFLs from China. As Tebaf Margot pointed out recently, they\’re discussing whether to lift this or not. Decision in a year or so.

The third is that Greenpeace really are a group of know nothing little shits:

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said: "This initiative, which will reduce the UK\’s CO2 emissions and finally begin to consign these hugely energy wasteful bulbs to the history books, is long overdue.

"However, almost all of the retailers involved have already committed to removing these bulbs ahead of 2011 after a campaign by Greenpeace.

"We think the Government needs to go further and introduce tough mandatory efficiency standards rather than relying on weak voluntary initiatives.

"For every year of delay in getting rid of these bulbs, five million tonnes of C02 are emitted into the atmosphere, unnecessarily."

Along wih your desires there is the necessity of looking at how the world really is. Current world capacity for CFL manufacture is 1 billion a year or so ( calculated from the capacity and order book of one of my customers, who manufacture a vital part). Given the time it takes to build a new manufacturing plant, or to convert an old one, if we banned incandescents in 2008, or 2009, it wouldn\’t mean people buying the lovely CFLs. It would mean their being able to buy no bulbs at all.

Sorry to have to break it to you but it does actually take time to redirect an entire manufacturing industry.