Wednesday, 7 October 2015

He Who Laughs Last Laughs Longest

In his speech to the Conservative Conference David Cameron made a shameless plug for a book he claimed to have read.  It is called "The Joy Of Tax" and is by Richard Murphy.

The book, in fact, is less about tax being a consumer luxury but the scale and nature of tax avoidance if people want to have a big government doing things with big money.

The link to the clip is here and comes courtesy of the Guido Fawkes web site which veers to the Right on most matters.  Given that we have had Labour, Coalition and now Conservative governments that have been letting the tax avoiders, evaders and fraudsters get away with so much do the Tories really want to give free publicity to a chap who has other ideas?

People might actually read it and come to different conclusions.  The reason why Mr. Murphy called it "The Joy Of Tax" rather than some more obvious titles may be more of a marketing ploy than anything else.  Something any capitalist should praise.

Where I depart from Mr. Murphy is about how the government spends and that it is more likely to waste money and make bad decisions on populist grounds.  Manufacturing debt to spend on a large scale with crafty accounting may seem easy but it usually goes badly wrong.

What is worrying me at present is that the Tories have decided on what is almost a cavalry charge against Corbyn's Labour instead of digging in for a long campaign that could turn difficult given the serious uncertainties in the world.  There are some big bad ones that will have to be dealt with.

Cameron and company could well use up all their ammunition before the fight really starts and have their cavalry straggled and scattered around the field and impossible to regroup.  The title of the picture above is "Floreat Etona".

We might remember that the Bolsheviks were a minority who took power because of the errors and over confidence of their opponents.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Was There A Doctor In The House?

The great problem with over arching noble principles and ideals is what happens in practice.  If you are not careful you stumble into the Great Grimpen Mire of no right decisions and disappear from sight.

Especially if you are pursued by Hounds of the Baskervilles in the shape of people and groups whose moral imperatives or personal interests blind them to the nature of reality.

The reference is Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson material from the works of Arthur Conan Doyle and his tale of the Hound Of The Baskervilles. In the Holmes stories Dr. Watson did not seem to do much doctoring.

Perhaps he took early retirement on a offer that he was unable to refuse.  One thing is certain, then there was no National Health Service but there were many and various ways of insuring or being a member of something which gave access to medicine and medic's.

The National Health Service is a noble ideal. But there are the problems of organising, managing and paying for it.  These involve choices that are made not in conclaves of right minded idealists seeking the ultimate good but in others.

These are politicians and the organisations they set up. In turn the politicians want to be popular but are engaged with vested interests, major corporations, trade unions and a whole raft of other bodies all anxious for decisions that suit them.

As it is health it involves the people.  The media are anxious to have stories of those for whom things go wrong; all those deserving persons, tragic cases, rare conditions and  emotional stories to grab our attention and sell the papers or TV service.

At the cutting edge, the front of stage and the crucial decision making are the doctors and nurses.  Recently, they have been reorganised almost every other year.  Also, their training and work has been a major target for the application of many and various high principles.

So there are many issues and conflicts of interest and ideals and they are taking longer and longer and becoming more and more difficult to resolve.  To add to this the more people you have employed then the more there are at the margins and the greater the potential turnover.

If what are deemed "right" decisions are those that conform to the politics and its dogmas and to particular interests and not to the general health then we are heading for a situation where there is no National Health Service at all.

If we are not there already then we will be soon.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

The Bahamas Disaster And Tragedy

There has been more than enough to distract us recently and the events in the Middle East have been the headlines with its implications for Europe.

But we should be fully aware of what has happened to The Bahamas over the last few days in the wake of Hurricane Joaquin.  It's islands have been devastated in the full meaning of the word.

The scale of the tragedy is immense.  Not just for the families who have lost loved ones but for the many who now face ruin together with the catastrophic effects on the economy and infrastructure.

Much of the housing stock has been damaged or destroyed.  In a seagoing community many of the boats have gone, the communications are shattered and the commercial and tourist facilities have many beyond repair.

This is an emergency in the fullest and truest sense of the word and our government should be both aware and as active as possible in bringing help and support to this former colony.

Missing The Kicks

Well, I am very glad I did not have a ticket for Twickenham.  An 8 pm kick off may be good for TV audiences but traipsing round the M25 at midnight is not my idea of a good evening out, especially when England both lost to Australia and go out of the World Cup having lost to Wales already.

First rule of Rugby, do not give away kickable penalties if the other side have a reliable kicker.  Second, to score tries you have to attack effectively.  Routine bump and grind is not enough and the more so if your players lack basic discipline.

But I am one of those long lost souls still sorry that Rugby Union went professional at the top.  Sometimes I put up on Youtube an international from the past to see the game as it once was.  It has changed and so have I, but I still think a lot was lost.

One intriguing question, however, is whether David Attenborough might have made it into the top levels of Rugby Union as it then was back in the 40's and early 50's. He certainly played for his school, and Wyggeston then had a strong fixture list.

He might actually have played at Rugby School.  Despite the war years and the restrictions on road transport, there were then two services between Leicester and Rugby, the LMS and LNER which entailed less than an hour's travel each way.

It may be like many useful players that when it came to National Service or being at College there were other things to do and Rugby could take up a lot of time with a couple of fixtures a week and training and the rest.

When he joined the BBC by then he was certainly already with interests in nature and science that marked his career and output. But chances of life and all that. If the BBC had been scratching around as large organisations do, he might have been packed off to Twickenham to commentate on matches.

So we might never have had David the naturalist nor Bill McClaren who became the voice of Rugby. The idea of David Attenborough the national treasure Rugby man is a strange one but it might have been.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Joined Up Thinking

It is reported that Lord Nigel Lawson of Beamish has escaped from the cave where old Thatcherites are kept claiming to lead the movement for exit from the European Union.

He is father to Nigella, Head Cook and Bottlewasher, Tenderiser Royal of the BBC, so it is goodbye Paella hello Eccles Cakes.  Also, he was in the Cabinet in the time before the internet, digital TV, the Euro and Premiership football.

He joins a growing number of people who share these views, but one way or another. There seem to be almost as many differing groups as people wanting out.

For some time I have had increasing misgivings about the EU, how it is organised, run, financed and its policies, if you can call their knee jerk responses that.

So one looks for a group that opposes them in a way that might achieve major reform or even leaving if that is the best course.  But given the number of them and the divisions that exist, this is not an easy choice.

The trouble is finding one as this clip from one of the seminal works of our time demonstrates.  Beamish is home to an interesting museum facility presenting life as it was long ago when we were an industrial nation.

It is also part of Gateshead and a visit to Gateshead F.C. website in Wikipedia will reveal a tangled history even more complicated than Lawson's political career, a tale of many relegations and financial disasters.

Perhaps a long really cold winter with a collapse in energy supply and food shortages will do the trick.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Fancy A Nibble?

There are great questions of the past that we still ask.

One is "Why did modern humans eat and hunt rabbit while Neanderthals didn't."

The article is here from Past Horizons.

The first fast food?

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The Germans Come Clean

Our car is elderly now so when the MOT and insurances come round and we have the information its emissions have been on the high side compared to others, to our cost.  But it has a small engine and has not been driven hard or far.

So when I have looked at the figures for much bigger and powerful cars I have supposed that the reason for our higher figures is that the technology and design of cars has advanced so much that ours rather than being among the lowest is at the higher end.

What I did not realise was that the technological advance has been to the effect of disguising the true emission level.  So they, cars for the wealthier, have been paying less than my little runabout that does have good petrol use figures.

My reaction is that the so and so's should be hammered.  But they are not British cars they are German.  Which raises issues at the highest level.  This, sadly, means government, the EU and other things.

It is Lombard Street to a China Orange, to quote Chancellor George Osborne's favourite saying, that the Bullingdon Club of old, and maybe, more recently, during their jollies sang rude songs.  As well as doing the tiresome NSDAP impressions that became common in younger generations of students, but not mine for obvious reasons.

One of these is singing the impolite version of the German Anthem, "Deutscheland Uber Alles".  It is very simple to learn and sing, even for the Bullingdon.  When Ms. Merkel next visits Downing Street perhaps a crew of old Bullingdonians can be lined up to sing it, their sort of emissions.

There are only three words, repeated and repeated.