Archive for December, 2013

@BBC4 lowers quality

December 31, 2013

I’m watching BBC4’s “Rome’s Lost Empire” and squirming.

Why for God’s sake put on this fakery of posing questions about a not-so-new technique of revealing lost cities etc..

Feigning high tension over this investigation, as if it is happening right now, on this instant, with everyone involved worrying about whether they will succeed in their quest. 

We know that if it was a total bust, there would have been no program.

Why has BBC4 abandoned its past format of assuming that any viewer’s of such a program, put out at this time of night (10:;00 pm), on New Year’s Eve, will be serious minded adults.

Why use a presentation more suited to cbbc or Fox? Things aren’t merely interesting, they’re amazing, stupendous and other wordsusually associated with Marvel comics.

He couldn’t even refer to Dacia, modern day Roumania, without displaying a map designating the area as Transylvania..

How long before David Attenborough’s future successor deliver’s Nature programmes in a similar insulting fashion?

Brilliant dialogue

Dan Snow: “There’s an embankment here. what do you think it is?”

Expert replies: “It’s clearly an embankment.!”

I give up. I’ll wait until The Discovery Channel covers the topic.

From volunteers accepting charity donations to CEO’s maximising profits.

December 27, 2013

In recent times I’ve been invited to adopt a guide-dog, an elephant, a tiger, a leopard, a polar bear, an animal of my choice and various zoo’s / wildlife parks.
These offers are actually requests to sign up to monthly direct debit payments of £2 to £5 with options to donate larger amounts.
Of these, the only one, which actually excites my sympathy is the guide dogs for the blind.
I don’t really understand the attraction in paying to help protect animals in a foreign land, which, if they roamed free in this country, would be quickly despatched.
Even with the quide dogs, the notion of signing a direct debit seems odious.
But it’s not just adopt an animal charities, which are causing me concern.
There seems to be a plethora of worthwhile charities asking for access to my bank account.
The whole process has become a business and a livelihood for so many.
a quick Google for charity donations will bring up numerous worthy causes from the local based “litle Jimmy needs an operation” to the frequent campaigns to help the victims of man-made strife, or natural disaster

There are numerous disease specific collections.

There are hopital and hospices needing extra funds.

There are many organisations collecting to support parallel aims. For instance the Privatised Water companies have set up Water Aid, duplicationg Unicef’s effort’s. Cancer might have been long banished, if the numerous Cancer research organisatioons had amalgamated saving on the funds spent on overheads.
This last item is the one that causes me most concern.
Charity is the greatest of the virtues and the one dearest to the hearts of most people (not just The British) but it seems to me a virtue, which is being exploited to an increasing extent by the greedy and the parasitic.

At the bottom we have those faking a charitable cause, even exploiting their own children as a source of income.
We have those, who have started out campaigning on a “something must be done about drink-driving/ savage dogs /the homeless /global warming/badger culls etc. etc.

Campaigns need funds and a charity organisation is set up. Once it’s set up, it gains inertia and persists long after it has fulfilled its initial purpose. It appends new causes and becomes the full time employment of too many people to just terminate.
Further up the ladder, we have the established organisations, which become big enough to eschew volunteer’s for professional’s with CEO’s, heads of advertising, area manager’s, shop manager’s etc. These CEO’s will often have salaries comparable to large manufacturing companies.
Such charities are effectively businesses, with profit motive being their main driving force. Relying on trade journal’s and consultancies, they have secondary businesses, who rely on their continued existence. not just printer’s and independent TV companies but solicitior’s. auditor’s etc.
This website highlightss the nature of this Industry: http://nonprofit.about.com/od/onlinefundraising/a/Why-Your-Charity-Should-Have-A-Monthly-Giving-Program.htm

From a period, when we had only one flag day (poppies), bob-a-job, harvest festival, RSPCA, we have entered a period, where there are regularly national appeals for somewhere in the World. There are nightly TV adverts for one or more charities. There are,frequently, charity related items, which have been placed in newspapers. There are  numerous charity shops on most High Streets and it is rare to make any shopping trip without encountering at least one charity collector, although, thankfully chugger’s are less frequent.
As austerity bites and Government dumps more of their less saleable functions onto the Charity scene, the ensuing carnage could be quite bitter,

pay-rises and pensions of MP’s should be compared to public servants such as nurses

December 23, 2013

This was published in the yes/no section of the Daily Express’s Reader’s letter’s, so it has been severely abridged.

The original email follows it:

Published:

IN supporting an 11 percent pay rise for MPs, Frederick Forsyth compares their wage with even more grossly overpaid sectors, such as the Civil Service, the BBC and county council bosses.
Why not compare MPs with soldiers, who risk their lives at their behest?
How about nurses, who work truly unsocial hours, dealing with matters that many would find distasteful in the extreme?
Consider that MPs have to serve only five years to get a pension and that ordinary working people have to work decades to achieve a state pension.

Original:

So Fred Forsyth has been persuaded to add to the clamour that Parliamentary voting fodder, should be rewarded for their Party loyalty by being given an extra 11% in pay.
Could he please justify the assertion that IPSA is truly “independent”.
Could IPSA, in turn, please explain how they came up with this figure and then justify it, in terms of the actions taken against soldiers, sailors, police, nurses, firemen and various other public sector workers, who, if they’ve not been made redundant, have had effective cuts in pay, conditions and pensions.
Fred’s comparison with even more grossly overpaid sector’s, is not a justification of further reward for MP’s.
Why not compare them with soldiers, who risk their lives at their behest?
How about nurses, who work hard, truly, unsociable hours, dealing with matters that many would find distasteful in the extreme.
Or consider that MP’s only have to serve 5 years to get a pension (it’d be interesting to know how much) and that ordinary working people have to work 40+ years to achieve a State Pension, equal to 70% of this proposed payrise.
Finally consider that many voters will have to wait an extra Parliamentary term of office to get that miserly sum.

 

Parliamentary pantomime season as sent to @Daily_Express.

December 11, 2013

I think the pay-rise promised to MP’s , excepting them from the austerity measures, which they have only too willingly visited on others, is a disgrace.

It must be especially galling for all those nurses, squaddies and other public servants, who have been made redundant as Xmas and Winter approach.

As Sir Keith Joseph (Maggie’s mentor) proclaimed “Carrot’s for the bosses, the stick for the Worker’s”

It must seem to many other’s, beside myself,  that Parliament has joined in the spirit of The Pantomime season.
Ann Widdecombe opened it for me, by proclaiming that MP’s payrise had been the result of the deliberation’s of an independent panel.
I’m sure there must have been many who mentally chorused “Oh! no, they’re not” in response to the use of the word “Independent”.
Just because a word appears on the label, it doesn’t mean that that’s what’s in the Findus Lasagne.
In what way is IPSA, independent?
Were the member’s elected by the people? “Oh! no, they weren’t”
Who selected the member’s of this panel? To whom do they owe their patronage?
No doubt we would all recognise their names( “Oh! no, we wouldn’t”)
No doubt we can trust the selector’s to have chosen people with impeccable references people such as Andy Coulson, perhaps.
Who ensures that IPSA member’s aren’t suborned?
Who oversee’s their activities?
I suspect that they will have to report to a Select Committee of impartial MP’s.
I may be expressing a very cynical view of the situation but I suspect that past examples, of Parliamentery morality, will mean that there will be many other voter’s with a similar jaundiced view of this matter.
Then the P.M. rose in Parliament to announce that he and the other party leaders were opposed to this pay rise and this might carry some weight with the “independent” panel.
More Pantomime?
The announcement that implementation will be postponed until after the General Election, merely adds to the scepticism; implying that the money will be grabbed, MP’s, with both hands, safe in the knowledge that the voters will have five years to be distracted by other crises, manufactured by that Parliament.
Perhaps Ann should remind Parliament that Pantomime is meant to wholesome and humorous.

Want to start a political party? some thoughts.

December 9, 2013


The hardest part is getting a name that describes your aims AND meets with the approval of the Electoral Commission.
If we get a name sorted out then we need to get it known. one way would be to put names forward for Council Elections. Usually about May 5th, you can get candidate packs from the Town Hall mid_April.
You have to submit a nomination form (in the pack) signed by 10 elector’s from the ward that you wish to stand in.
You don’t have to do anything else, apart from fill in a few more forms).
The main point is that you get your party name on the ballot form, where it will be seen by all voters.
Any media coverage such as the local paper must give equal access to all candidates. They may only list the candidates and their parties but, Usually, they will offer you a chance to make a brief statement.
So you’ve got your party name into the public domain at minimal cost.

If you want to make a go of it, you’ll have to start recording your expenses and check that you don’t overspend.(details in the pack).
A point to note here is that your expenses record only has to start from the day that your candidacy is agreed.
That’s why Council repairs, road mending, cleaning etc. occur around March, at the same time as Councillor’s increase their photo oppportunities, giving out certificates to school children etc.

On the plus side, if you get elected, there’s a wage of ~£11,000 attached, which would be useful for campaigning and you’ll be able to access photo opportunities by contacting school’s and businesses in your ward.
On the negative side campaigning is expensive for the individual. You can ask for donations from altruists, so long as you record them.

The large established parties have “benefactor’s” and can rely on generic advertising, economy of scale and accumulated resources.
I.e. they will have donations from those with reason to be grateful for past favours.
The media tends to concentrate on the main parties (political editors may have got their degrees from the same courses as the career politicians, they write about.
Whereas an individual might buy himself a laser printer, the big parties will have fully equipped offices with secretaries etc. established MP’s will also have taxpayer paid secretaries (often a spouse). Whilst an individual will only have a copy of the electoral roll. candidates of the large parties will have access to databases of likely supporters and auto-diallers to make personal contact, without wasting shoe leather.

A new party can achieve economy of scale by putting out generic leaflets
For example in Wigan there are 25 wards, so the party would have to have 25 candidates
A single leaflet shot in one council ward (300,000 voters means 12,000 voters in each Ward so about 6,000 homes) can cost
about £100 for the absolute cheapest. However a generic mailshot for all Wigan might only be £400.

you can’t vote for “None of the Above”. It’s the Law.

December 9, 2013

Apparently, if you want to register a new party for elections, you have to get permission and approval for your chosen name at http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0016/107701/doc-prohibited-rp.pdf

You are specically banned from chosing “None of the Above”.

You are required to offer a name for approval, meaning that you are at the mercy of the vagaries of a nameless bureaucrat. What a wonderful way of avoiding a new party having a self descriptive name such as Labour or Conservative.

Obviously any name that suggests that you don’t believe in the two party system will be disallowed and you’ll be forced to assume the meaningless title of independent.

I assume that the NHAParty wanted to register as the “NHS party” or “Save our NHS”. the allowed name doesn’t actually let you know anything about their raison d’être.

The argument given is that it might be misleading. People who might want to vote to save the NHS, or register a protest vote, could be misled into doing exactly that.

The 10 commandments of logic

December 9, 2013

I took this off the ” Ifuckinglovescience” Facebook page

It’s meant to ensure proper Scientific debate but it helps counter Troll’s, climatologist’s and politician’s, who use these gambits to try and confuse.

1 Thou shall not attack the person’s character but the argument (ad hominem)
2: Thou shall not misrepresent or exaggerate a person’s argument in order tomake them easier to attack (straw man fallacy)
3. Thou shall not use small numbers to represent the whole (hasty generalisation)
4: Thou shall not argue thy position by assuming that one of its premises is true (begging the question)
5. Thou, shall not claim that because something occured before, it must be the cause. (Post Hoc / false cause)
6. Thou shall not reduce the argument down to two possibilities (false dichotomy)
7. Thou shall, not argue that because of our ignorance a claim must be true or false.. (Ad ignorantum)
8. Thou shall not lay the burden of proof onto him that is questioning the claim. (Burden of proof reversal)
9. Thou shall not assume “this” follows “that” when it has no logical connection. (Non sequitur)
10. Thou shall not claim that because a premise is popular, therefore it must be true. (Bandwagon. fallacy)

Tory politicians lack finesse If they have a walnut to crack, they reach for a sledgehammer.

December 6, 2013

I sent this in to the Daily Express and it was published on the same day (minus traces of venom) that the financial page carried an item about Osborne cutting business rates by £1000, so obviously he’d already been made aware of the problem.

Unfortunately, I still don’t think he gets it, sufficiently.

This measure will help but it will also benefit the Shylock’s, whilst only offering a token assistance to those on the edge of survival. It’s a bit like throwing a lifebelt to a drowning man and sailing away. They need a moratorium on all taxes, until they’re in profit.

It seems that the likes of Amazon and Google can get such assistance, whilst they’re simply lying about their profit levels, but the small trader on the High Street has to yield up their pound of flesh, whatever his/her true situation.

As published;

Raising taxes will send more shops to the wall.

 I HEARD an interview recently with a man who makes a living bybuying up the stock of retailers going out of business.

It was significant that he said that it was tax and rates issues that were killing these businesses.

Unfortunately, the only way politicians have of handling recession is to raise taxes.

I expect that, in the short term, we’ll see more charity shops and bookies on the average British high street.

The Chancellor, George Osborne, needs to rein in such taxation and keep the high street alive.

Otherwise he may find a sudden brake on his supposed economic recovery, as personal debt levels become unsustainable and even the charity shops lose their customers.

Original :

On the BBC breakfast show, they interviewed a man (subject of a Ch.4 progtramme), who made a living, by buying up the stock of retailer’s, who were going out of business.

It was significant, I think, that he said that it was tax/rates issues that were killing these businesses.
The implication is that these businesses might well have continued to tick over during this recession, if, as with individuals, they had some threshold level of income, before they were taxed.
Unfortunately, the only way politician’s have of handling recession is to raise taxes.
I expect that, in the short term, we’ll see more charity, bookies and Shylocks on the High Street. Charity shops don’t have to worry about taxes (at present} and the money men, presently, rely on increasing personal debt  to pay these taxes.
The Chancellor needs to rein in such taxation and keep the High Street alive, else he may find a sudden brake on his supposed economic recovery, as personal debt levels, become unsustainable and even charity shops lose custom