Freedom, system thinking, politics, science, education, economics, pirates

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Gurkhas win

Hoorah! The Gurkahs test case against the immigration authorities have won their case, which was around whether they had sufficient links with Britain, or not.

Cherie: "let them eat cake"

According to local news, Cherie Blair was at UEA for a book selling when she faced a demonstration from students about the size of her student debts. Asked by reporters she said that the debt was fine and that by getting a degree the students would be able to repay the debt, or if they didn't get a god job they wouldn't have to pay it back at all.

She seems to miss the point that most of the debt carried by students is on overdrafts, bank loans and credit cards, since the governments student loan is too small to cover all fees and living costs. It is true that the student loan company need not be repaid if a graduate fails to earn in excess of £15k/year, but banks aren't so helpful when it comes to their loans and credit card debt.

I think Cherie kinda missed the students' point. Surprising she didn't say "let them eat cake"

I have a two sons at University, they get the minimum Student Loan, because I am "rich" (I make enough money to just miss on help like EMA and WTC, but after tax and mortgage on my modest three bed terraced house in Essex, I just clear what a "Job seeker" getting all his various benefits can get.) The minimum student loan does not cover education and living costs so other forms of debt are inevitable for my sons. I really hope the economy recovers enough for them to get decent graduate jobs, otherwise they'll be unemployed and saddled with a ton of debt.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

LVT I can understand

I think this is a simple explanation on how Land Value Tax could work.

[Mark W and Anti-Citizen One; I'm coming round to the idea!]

Since the economy looks fubar'd anyway, now could be an excellent chance to change the system.

Worst. President. Ever


I guess Bush is longing for a McCain presidency so he can rid off his mark 'Worst president ever' from the history books...

Fantastic comment on Huffington Post.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Engalnd Expects the EU to limit freedeom

Gawain Towler has been forced to stop blogging by his bosses at the EU as employees of the EU are not allowed to publicly criticize the EU. Oddly Gawain is a press officer, working for the Independent group, which is Eurosceptic, which means by the same rules that have stopped him blogging, he can't actually do his job.

This reminds me of the civil servant who had her blog shut down a little while ago, so its not just the EU where the jackboot rules.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Hyprocrite Kelly

So Ruth Kelly has resigned from Broon's cabinet so she can spend more time with her children.


How can she be allowed to do this? The state provides childcare that is better than any parent can provide(apparently). Mrs Kelly has been part of a Govt and Minister of a department that has coerced parents into putting their children into childcare; but it's OK for her to decide she doesn't have to do that.

One rule for us, another rule for them.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Chris Dillow

Chris on my favourite subject today

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Johan Norberg writes

"All those who now think that the solution is to give more powers to politicians, authorities and central banks should at least go to the trouble of looking at what they did with the powers they already had. Decision makers on the market do act irresponsibly and incredibly short-sighted from time to time. So do decision makers in government."

Enqiry to Equality & Human Rights Commission

I am concerned that government in the shape of the Labour Govt in Westminster and the SNP Govt in Scotland are pressurising LloydsTSB to ensure that Scottish employees of HBOS and LloydsTSB are treated more favourably than English employees in regard to future employment prospects and redundancy. I am shocked that such blatant discrimination by Scottish people against English people has gone by the Equality & Human Rights Commission without comment and I would like to know what the position of the EHRC is and what the legal position is in this case of discrimination.

That's my enquiry - not holding out too much hope of a good reply!

English jobs

So with Alec Salmond fighting for BOS's Scottish jobs at the expense of Lloyds TSB's and Halifax's English jobs, who of our English democratically elected leaders is fighting for English jobs ?

That's right - nobody.

England: land without representation. The Scots pick our pockets and screw over our employees.

When can we leave?

Monday, 22 September 2008

Obama Republicans?

A Conservative for Obama

My party has slipped its moorings. It’s time for a true pragmatist to lead the country.

Leading Off By Wick Allison, Editor In Chief

THE MORE I LISTEN TO AND READ ABOUT “the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate,” the more I like him. Barack Obama strikes a chord with me like no political figure since Ronald Reagan. To explain why, I need to explain why I am a conservative and what it means to me.

In 1964, at the age of 16, I organized the Dallas County Youth for Goldwater. My senior thesis at the University of Texas was on the conservative intellectual revival in America. Twenty years later, I was invited by William F. Buckley Jr. to join the board of National Review. I later became its publisher.

Conservatism to me is less a political philosophy than a stance, a recognition of the fallibility of man and of man’s institutions. Conservatives respect the past not for its antiquity but because it represents, as G.K. Chesterton said, the democracy of the dead; it gives the benefit of the doubt to customs and laws tried and tested in the crucible of time. Conservatives are skeptical of abstract theories and utopian schemes, doubtful that government is wiser than its citizens, and always ready to test any political program against actual results.

Liberalism always seemed to me to be a system of “oughts.” We ought to do this or that because it’s the right thing to do, regardless of whether it works or not. It is a doctrine based on intentions, not results, on feeling good rather than doing good.

But today it is so-called conservatives who are cemented to political programs when they clearly don’t work. The Bush tax cuts—a solution for which there was no real problem and which he refused to end even when the nation went to war—led to huge deficit spending and a $3 trillion growth in the federal debt. Facing this, John McCain pumps his “conservative” credentials by proposing even bigger tax cuts. Meanwhile, a movement that once fought for limited government has presided over the greatest growth of government in our history. That is not conservatism; it is profligacy using conservatism as a mask.

Today it is conservatives, not liberals, who talk with alarming bellicosity about making the world “safe for democracy.” It is John McCain who says America’s job is to “defeat evil,” a theological expansion of the nation’s mission that would make George Washington cough out his wooden teeth.

This kind of conservatism, which is not conservative at all, has produced financial mismanagement, the waste of human lives, the loss of moral authority, and the wreckage of our economy that McCain now threatens to make worse.

Barack Obama is not my ideal candidate for president. (In fact, I made the maximum donation to John McCain during the primaries, when there was still hope he might come to his senses.) But I now see that Obama is almost the ideal candidate for this moment in American history. I disagree with him on many issues. But those don’t matter as much as what Obama offers, which is a deeply conservative view of the world. Nobody can read Obama’s books (which, it is worth noting, he wrote himself) or listen to him speak without realizing that this is a thoughtful, pragmatic, and prudent man. It gives me comfort just to think that after eight years of George W. Bush we will have a president who has actually read the Federalist Papers.

Most important, Obama will be a realist. I doubt he will taunt Russia, as McCain has, at the very moment when our national interest requires it as an ally. The crucial distinction in my mind is that, unlike John McCain, I am convinced he will not impulsively take us into another war unless American national interests are directly threatened.

“Every great cause,” Eric Hoffer wrote, “begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” As a cause, conservatism may be dead. But as a stance, as a way of making judgments in a complex and difficult world, I believe it is very much alive in the instincts and predispositions of a liberal named Barack Obama

New Damien Hirst work

‘Investment Banker in Formaldehyde’

Hear John Seddon Speak

This autumn John Seddon will be speaking at three exclusive events. He will outline how Systems Thinking leads to better results and improved morale. It is your chance to hear from the man who developed the Systems approach to service organisations or perhaps it is your opportunity to encourage someone who needs to develop curiosity about Systems Thinking. The dates and locations are as follows:
  • Tuesday 4th November 2008 – 9.30am – 12.30 pm

The Conference Centre Buckingham

  • Tuesday 11th November 2008 – 9.30am – 12.30 pm

IMI Conference Centre & Residence, Dublin 16

  • Wednesday 26th November 2008 – 2.00pm – 5.00pm

Waterton Technology Centre, Bridgend

The cost is ONLY £95+VAT/€125 per delegate, to cover the event costs plus delegates will also receive a free copy of either John Seddon’s ‘Freedom from Command and Control’ or ‘Systems Thinking in the Public Sector’ book.

Places are limited and are on a first come first served basis so to reserve your place(s) please e-mail info@vanguardconsult for a booking form.


Sinfest's view of the banking disaster.

More Sinfest at

Friday, 19 September 2008

Taxpayers' Alliance - Brown's Boasting

Matthew Elliott, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said:
"For all Gordon Brown's boasting, his economic stewardship has failed people on every count. Ordinary taxpayers have seen their bills rise and rise but our services have not improved in return. With the credit crunch tightening its grip, it's clear that the country is poorly prepared for tough economic conditions, and it is Gordon Brown who is to blame. He has pursued flawed policies, wasted taxpayers' money and further complicated a government structure which is chaotic and in dire need of reform."

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Oliphant at Yahoo news today

Gordo will deal: BBCNews

On interview with BBCNews, Gordo said:

"we will deal with this irresponsible behaviour"

What did he mean? He is going to legislate against short selling and retrospectivly prosecute the short sellers?

McCain doesn't know where Spain is

Just goes to show, geography is not the US's strongest point.

According to this blog (click title for link) Senator McCain was confused by a Spanish reporter.

When I lived in the US in Detroit, people would regularly remark on my English accent, ask where I came from and on my reply that I came from England would ask: "what language do you speak in England?"

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Gordo - best chancellor? You're having a laugh.

1. I love a good graph, over at Guido's is a graph showing the FTSE before & during Gordo's reign. (link above)

2. The bastard fucked over my pension by taxing growth in fund values.  And I knew what he did at the time he did it - I wasn't fooled at the time, but as stealth taxes go it takes the biscuit.

Look at the graph, he taxed the bits that sloped up, did nothing when they sloped down. The final value is little different from when he took over, so what hav we paid tax for?

And they say he's the best person to lead us through the credit crunch? Clueless. 

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Save the Gurkas

This link is for the No10 petition for Gurkhas:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to give all Ex Gurkha soldiers and their families who have served our country British citizenship on leaving the service.

Lee Jasper Fisked

What a lovely post by Miss Snuffleupagus.

Hat tip: The Devil's Ktchen

Monday, 15 September 2008

William Rees Mogg loses the plot

Is this a send-up, or has WRM lost it? He suggests that Labour need the "Palin effect" and leadership should be between Ruth Kelly & Harriden Harperson-Dromey. 

Now that would guarantee a big majority for Cameron & Co.

Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator

Here's  a picture showing an ICD like mine installed under the skin, just below the collar bone. In my case, there is one lead from the ICD to my heart.

My ICD is a Vitality2 made by Boston Scientific (previously known as Guidant) The unit has the following parts:
  • Sensors that can detect my heart rate 
  • Microprocessor that controls it
  • RAM for storing data it collects 
  • Capacitors for bulding and applying the shock (this is the reason why an ICD is larger than a pacemaker)
  • Telemetry module that communicates with an external computer for programing
  • Batteries - battery life is 5-8 years, depending how much use I make of it. When the battery is exhausted, the whole thing has to be replaced. 

The ICD has three functions:
1. Defibrillation - this will provide a shock to stop Ventricular Fibrillation (VF).

2. Cardioversion - this will control Tachycardia by providing a smaller shock.

3. Pacing - if my heart rate drops below 40bpm the unit will provide pacing pulses to raise my pulse to 60 bpm.

Function 1 is the main reason I have the unit, since I have gone into VF once before, which very nearly killed me. If the unit ever shocks me it will almost certainly be saving my life in doing so.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Lee Jasper on Schools

I never thought I'd find myself agreeing with Lee Jasper, but he makes the point that if segregated schools are alright for Jews, Catholics and Muslims, why not for Blacks?

Where I differ with Mr Jasper is that I don't think any segregation in schools is acceptable. I think he makes my point very well.

Friday, 12 September 2008

LHC experiment webcam

an interesting view of one of the detectors on the LHC, well worth a look

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Norman Blackwell in Monday's Times

September 8, 2008

Roll back the State and mend society too

Breaking our dependency culture will reinforce the common values needed for a decent life

As the Conservatives wake up to the prospect of power after the next election, they face the daunting task of fulfilling their twin promises of smaller, less intrusive government - what they have termed the post-bureaucratic State - while encouraging the renaissance of personal responsibility and social values needed to address the “broken society”.

The two go hand in hand. A side-effect of over-government and “political correctness” is that they tend to weaken personal values. We end up doing things, sometimes reluctantly or with contempt, because the law says so, rather than because we believe it is our responsibility.

If the Conservatives succeed in rolling back the nanny state of detailed laws and regulations, the importance of social norms in helping to regulate behaviour will move back centre stage. Equally, to the extent that today's dependency culture reflects the breakdown of shared values, the “broken society” can only be addressed by encouraging individuals, families and communities to take back personal responsibilities. Aspiration and achievement are the best counter to dependency and social exclusion.

Such encouragement of shared social values should not be a licence for a paternalistic State to impose a top-down moral order - it should simply be about ensuring that the State reinforces the natural values embedded in society itself. The Conservatives' flirtation with “nudging” may sound gimmicky, but it reflects a welcome recognition that working with the grain of strong social values is the best way to build a cohesive society where individual initiative can flourish.

So how could a new Conservative government put this into practice? Here are some practical suggestions that could make a real difference.

1. Stop talking about welfare benefits as “entitlements” handed out by some remote, impersonal State and rename them “community support” - recognising that they are provided by fellow citizens to help people in difficulty, but with the obligation that those that can will do their best to get back on their own feet. No one wants a return to the time when welfare was stigmatised, but the language of entitlements has done much to undermine the obligation people should have to look after themselves and their families before turning to others to pay their bills.

2. Replace large swaths of detailed regulations - for example in health and safety - with a general obligation “not to behave irresponsibly”, while making it more difficult for individuals to sue for damages after an innocent accident. Of course we must ensure that companies do not recklessly put the public at risk through negligence, but the law has gone too far in encouraging people to expect that all risks can be removed from everyday life - and seeking to blame all and everyone when things go wrong.

3. Restore rights (and confidence) to teachers, policeman and parents to exercise discretion in breaking up fights and imposing discipline on children. The law should protect children from violence and abuse, but we should trust the vast majority of adults to understand instinctively how to act responsibly in providing children with the clear boundaries they need on acceptable behaviour.

4. Reinforce the importance of marriage and family support as the bedrock of a stable society. Transferable tax allowances for couples where one partner cares for children or elderly relatives would be a powerful signal.

5. Encourage academic achievement and excellence, and abandon the misguided nostrum that all children can emerge equal. While we lavish money and praise on elite athletes and actors, we condemn many able children to lifelong underperformance through mixed ability classes and diluted “no-one-can-fail” school standards. This is particularly unfair on those from poor families who cannot afford the escape route of private education

6. Raise the penalties and police attention given to antisocial behaviour by the disruptive minority - flytipping, public violence - relative to minor traffic offences and other small infringements by the law-abiding majority. Most people respond better when required to set their own standards. The flashing signs that warn drivers that they are speeding are a better approach than speed cameras.

7. Abandon the failed experiment of “multiculturalism” with its politically correct requirement that mainstream social values and beliefs be downplayed in case they “offend” a minority group. We should be a tolerant society, but if we do not give proper respect to traditional British customs we risk creating a rudderless country with no common values.

Following these prescriptions would be a brave departure from the views of the liberal Establishment that has dominated British politics in recent years. For most of the public, however, it would mark the return of a government prepared to embrace the sound common sense and common values that society itself has shaped over generations. Big government has failed - it's time to trust the people again.

Lord Blackwell is chairman of the Centre for Policy Studies

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Reflections on the NHS

Having been a customer of the NHS the last 3 weeks I have some new views:

1) They saved my life. Together with a passer-by and an off-duty policemen who performed CPR on me, the Paramedics, A&E and ITU saved my life. Most people who have a cardiac arrest die.

2) The NHS is chock full of people waiting. Half the patients on my ward were waiting for by-pass or valve surgery, while being too sick to be at home. There is a very big percentage of resources tied up in looking after patients who are waiting

3) Thre are some fantastic resources. I had the following tests: X-Ray, Sonogram, Angiogram, Stress Test ECG, MRI Scan, Blood tests (lots of those) In ITU I was Intubated, sedated and refrigerated. Most of these resources are located in brand new facilities. I had my ICD fitted in a state-of-the art Catheter lab.

4) Hospital is not a good place to get well. Sleeping is difficult. There is so much noise in the night, from nurses moving around and gossiping, other patients' snoring, machines beeping etc. The food is not too great either, all overcooked and not hot enough. I'm much more comfortable now I'm home and sleeping and eating much better.

5) They have to do some dumb things to meet targets. People organising complex tasks are not trained and do not have the tools required. I watched the team responsible for organising taking patients home. they were trying hard, but the organisation was very poor and the service very inefficient. A little bit of John Seddon would go a long way.

6) The staff are mostly dedicated and hard working, who are motivated by looking after people. But they work in a system that wastes a lot of their time.

7) Some of the women working in the NHS are top-drawer beautiful. Makes the days pass more easily, I can tell you! My MRI at the Brompton test was transformed form a scary experience into on of the most pleasurable, by the lovely radiographer, Annette, who is from Norway. As well as being beautiful she was really kind and caring and she has the most lovely voice, which really calmed me down when I was inside the machine.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Been away

It's been quiet here because I have been in Hospital. On Aug 17th August I had a Cardiac Arrest while driving my car. Fortunately the car crashed gently, outside the house of a policeman who performed CPR on me, certainly saving my life.

I've been in hospital since then and have now got a defibrillator implanted in my chest.