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Google Note

In my playing around with blogs I\’ve just found something interesting out about the Google algorithm.

The old technique of google bombing, using anchor text and a link to boost results for a certain word or phrase no longer seems to work. Indeed, it seems to work in reverse. I won\’t trouble you with what the phrase was but a post I had was at number 41 in the Google rankings for a specific phrase. In the spirit of enquiry for which I am known (read, desperate for cash) off I went to boost that by employing the above technique.

The thing is, using it now actually degrades your results, not boosts them.

Interesting, no?


Markets, Markets…

They can lay low the best laid plans of mice and men:

THE GOVERNMENT has paid out a record £450,000 for an end-of-terrace house in one of the Victorian streets being bulldozed across northern England to make way for modern housing developments.


Under the government’s so-called Pathfinder scheme – championed by former deputy prime minister John Prescott – it was proposed up to 200,000 Victorian homes in the Midlands and northern England would be bulldozed and replaced with modern housing developments.

When the Pathfinder projects were first conceived, terraced homes could be bought in the north of England for as little as £12,000, but Yvette Cooper, the housing minister, has been caught out by rising property prices.

So in the years that the planners have been bumbling along the market has solved the problem all by itself. What were formerly places not worth renovating are indeed now worth renovating: at a vastly lower price than the costs of demolition and new build.

In the face of such changed facts, do the planners do a Keynes and change their minds? No, certainly not, they\’ve not that intellecual honesty. They carry on, pissing the taxpayers\’ money away with ever greater abandon.

Aren\’t we lucky to be ruled by such towering intellectual giants?

Will Hutton on Football

Yes, he\’s as confused on this subject as he is on all the others.

Instead of the profits being spread to the roots of the game and the communities in which the clubs are embedded, the Premier League has become the vehicle for financial engineering that makes private equity look honourable. In essence, clubs are being bought at astronomic prices, then the revenue they generate is used to pay back the debt their new owners incurred. The winners are the selling shareholders, the loser is football.

So the winners are the selling shareholders. That\’s the Brits who currently own the clubs, eh? You\’d think that a bunch of Brits doing well from hte way they hav developed an industry over some decades would be regarded as a good thing but no, in Hutton World, this is a bad thing.

Last week, Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov took his stake in Arsenal closer to the 30 per cent that would trigger a full bid. Despite the club\’s robust talk of staying British, the eye-watering price he can afford to pay for the shares, to be financed by the club\’s own revenues post takeover, surely means it is only a matter of time before even this citadel falls.

But Will. If it\’s all being financed out of the club\’s own revenues then it doesn\’t have to be a billionaire that buys it, does it?

Chelsea and England captain John Terry\’s recent £135,000-a-week contract, a catch-up with the pay of Chelsea imports Michael Ballack and Andrei Shevchenko, is a classic example of the inflationary dynamic.

Indeed, this is absolutely a classic example. Of the way in which in talent based industries, all the money flows to those with the talent. They might only be 1% better than the other hundreds of thousands of soccer players in the country but that 1% means that they are in great demand. The same is true of merchant bankers, film stars, actors and so on. The owners (whether individuals or more widely spread shareholders in listed companies) get the short end of the stick here as that competition to hire that rare talent means that the workers\’ wages spiral ever upwards.

But then I thought that as a man of the left, Hutton was in favour of the workers getting the money, rather than the capitalist overlords?

What to do? Ten days ago, Michael Platini, incoming president of the Union of European Football Associations (Uefa) wrote to Gordon Brown arguing passionately that \’the values championed by football are a powerful source of social integration and civic education\’. Now the values are money. He wants pan-European action: wage caps on players; quotas for home-grown players; regulations on agents; financial checks on owners; revenue sharing between clubs; and redistribution of revenue into lower leagues. Platini even wants a reference to sport\’s special nature in the EU Reform Treaty.

Does Hutton want this? Salary caps for God\’s sake? That the workers should not get the full value of their contribution?

Football values must be reasserted and some limits have to be negotiated and it will have to be an initiative on a pan-European scale. The way things are, it cannot and will not include free-market, Eurosceptic, every- asset-can-bought-by-anyone England.

Apparently so. What a liberal man Will Hutton is, to be sure.


Not Sure They\’ve Quite Got This Public Service Bit Yet.

There\’s more on they way in which elfn\’safety rules mean that Plod is to walk past someone drowning:

Rules for West Country officers are set out in a policy document headed Health and safety – water safety, which states: "Devon and Cornwall Constabulary do not expect or require any member of staff to enter water in a rescue attempt of any person or animal under any circumstances.

"Life-saving equipment such as life-belt, throw line, throw bag or buoyancy aid may be used where such use is in accordance and compliance with dynamic risk assessment procedures… Physical contact with a struggling casualty should be avoided to prevent a rescuer becoming overwhelmed and pulled into the water and submerged.

"The task of rescuing members of the public, or animals, from water lies primarily with other emergency services that are equipped and trained to undertake such tasks."

All of which is bad enough but the truly astonishing comment is this:

A force spokesman said: "No organisation can expect staff to risk their lives. However, the force has reported many instances where staff have saved people."

Well actually, yes, an organisation can expect staff to risk their lives. The military actually exists to do so. The emergency services are not, as is obvious, the military, but they are half way there from a purely civilian organisation. Is no fireman ever to risk his life? Reduce the risks taken by having proper training and equipment, of course, but no risk at all?

All I can say is thank the Lord that the RNLI are a voluntary force. Otherwise the lifeboats would never put to sea in a storm.



Don\’t Do As I Do, Do As I Say.

Two quotes from CC Net:

European leaders are getting a bit impatient, not on our own behalf but on behalf of the planet. China, India and the other industrializing countries will not do anything unless the U.S. is moving.
    –Connie Hedegaard, Danish Environment Minister, Washington Post, 26 September 2007

Denmark\’s CO2 emissions rose 16.1 per cent in 2006 compared to the previous year on the back of strong economic growth and electricity exports from coal-fired power plants, according to statistics released today.
    –Point Carbon, 28 September 2007


Somewhat Geeky

Don\’t you think?

I write as a woman whose brother wears socks with the name of the day woven into the sole. Sometimes, he wears them on the wrong day, which I think is a sign of his renegade spirit.

Stop the War March

My, my:

The Metropolitan Police told organisers of the Stop the War Coalition that no march would now be allowed “within one mile of Parliament” while MPs were in session.

The organisers, who are expecting thousands of people to turn up for the protest march from Trafalgar Square to Parliament Square, said that this was a “totally different” interpretation of the regulations, and accused Gordon Brown of reneging on a pledge to liberalise the laws on demonstrations.

“One moment the Prime Minister is supporting the right of Burmese monks to demonstrate in Rangoon, and yet here in London we’re being stopped from marching on Parliament. It’s hypocrisy,” Lindsey German, convener of the Stop the War Coalition, said.

German, who is I think one of the raving Trots known as the Socialist Worker\’s Party, would find I disagree with just about everything he (or is it she?) says on just about any and every subject under the sun. However, I do think that he and his equally deluded chums should be allowed to have a day out in London. Even, to make known their misguided views. It\’s one of the things that would make us a free and liberal country, that people were not prevented from exercising their natural right to express themselves.

We really are ruled by scum, aren\’t we? And will any of them be alert enough to appreciate the irony?

Yusuf Islam

A tale from the past:

"A lot of Englishmen have this thing about English schoolgirls… He took me to Marks & Spencer, and we went into the section where they sold school uniforms. We started play-acting and XXXX told the saleslady, \’I have to buy this little girl a school uniform, she\’s the daughter of one of my friends, can you fit her please?\’ Here was this 21-year-old kid with this however-the-hell-old-I-looked young girl. I was supposed to be going into seventh or eighth grade, but must have looked about 11.
Groupie: Patti D\’Arbanville

Gambling Problems

So we\’re all revved up to worry about gambling addictions again then.

The money lost by British gamblers will exceed £10bn annually next year – a rise of 50% in nine years, and the biggest jump since the 1960s.

Looks terrible, doesn\’t it? Hmmm. Inflation (RPI) was 25% or so over that period. So that\’s some of the rise explained. Average earnings rose 45% over the period (OK, I\’m using 97 to 2006, because that\’s what the calculator allows, but it\’s illustrative) so in fact we could say that the rise is purely down to the fact that people have more money and that they are spending it. Doesn\’t actually look so bad now, does it? Gambling up 50%, incomes up 45%? As GDP has risen 59% in the period then we might actually say that gambling as a percentage of GDP has fallen, although I\’m not sure I\’d actually believe that.

Estimates produced for the Guardian by a leading government adviser show £650m a year is taken from punters by the terminals – a sum almost matching the conventional casino industry\’s entire takings.

Oooh, scary.

Leighton Vaughan Williams of Nottingham Business School said British punters lose £9.5bn a year across all gambling- a 36% rise on £7bn lost in 1999, the year online gambling emerged. Excluding the lottery – the "softest" form of gambling – the annual loss from hard gambling widened by 56% in eight years to £7bn.

So the lottery has losses of £2.5 billion. That is, the lottery is 3.8 times as bad as video roulette. So when do we ban that tax on stupidity then?

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 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?