Search This Blog

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Flight control

It's bad enough that I'm not allowed to use my iPad to read instead of a book when the plane is taking off or landing (even though the pilots are now being issued with iPads instead of paper manuals) but the phones thing is getting further out of control.

According to the F.A.A., 712 million passengers flew within the United States in 2010. Let’s assume that just 1 percent of those passengers — about two people per Boeing 737, a conservative number — left a cellphone, e-reader or laptop turned on during takeoff or landing. That would mean seven million people on 11 million flights endangered the lives of their fellow passengers.

Yet, in 2010, no crashes were attributed to people using technology on a plane. None were in 2009. Or 2008, 2007 and so on. You get the point.

[From Fliers Still Must Turn Off Devices, but It's Not Clear Why -]

When I landed at a major US international airport a few days ago, we were informed by an announcement of board the plane, whole taxiing to our arrival stand, that we were required by the airport authorities to keep our phones switched off until we left the terminal building for "security reasons". An awful lot of passengers were pissed off about this, because they wanted to let relatives know that they had landed, check their messages and so on. There was a lot of grumbling as we stood in the 55 minutes line for immigration. Fortunately I had the latest "Economist" with me so I had something read while the people around me, some of them families with small children, had absolutely nothing to do. They weren't even allowed to listen to music or play handheld games.

I began to wonder what "security reasons" there might be for the prohibition. If I were a terrorist dedicated to the overthrow of the United States, then I would simply ignore it. So it can't be aimed at terrorists or criminals or other people who disobey the law. And if the "authorities" really don't want anyone to make phone calls inside their airport, then all they have to do is turn off the cells.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Stock arguments

Listening to the wireless whilst pottering around the house, I heard noted pop music impresario Pete Waterman bemoaning the laziness and stupidity of British youth. Now, I normally pay no attention at all to the drug-fuelled ramblings of music industry persons, but in this particular case he caught my attention, because he runs a business in the real world. Or, at least, in Crewe. He has an engineering works and has been trying to hire (I think he said) 20 apprentices but they won't do it because they start at 7.45am and he won't let them use mobile phones while using equipment. He said that he had had to look "further afield" to find the people he needs - he didn't specify but I assume he meant Poland or Latvia.

Meanwhile, my wife was in hospital recently and was being served lunch by a Latvian woman. She was a university graduate but was serving food in a hotel to earn some money in the UK while she bettered her English and went to college in the evening. I know that anecdote aren't statistics, but you see this sam pattern time and time again. Under New Labour insane plans to create an underclass that would form a permanent socialist voting bloc while using uncontrolled mass immigration to keep the lights on we have come close to rendering an entire generation unemployable.

By coincidence, I happened to have been at an employers gathering the day before. I don't want to say why, because it would be inappropriate to identify any of the particular organisations. but it was interesting here some of the CEOs talk about the problems of expanding their businesses in the UK. Some had made a very deliberate decision to expand overseas and it wasn't, as I would have imagined, all about wage levels. More than one of them said that it was simply not possible to find young people in the UK who were prepared to work all day. Someone I know tolerably well has moved his software development company from the south east of England to Romania. You don't just lose the jobs of the software developers, you lose the jobs of the receptionists, janitors, accountants, solicitors and so forth too.

One of the guys at the meeting I was at was talking about the new government apprentice scheme. They have ten places available for (paid) apprentices. Only two people even showed up for interview (in a country with over a million unemployed yoofs). One of the other guys was trying to to hire engineering graduates and couldn't find any. The chap from one of the universities present said that many engineering graduates go into banking and finance because it offers the potential for big bonuses.

What has gone wrong? The New Labour edukashun drive must have had even more disastrous effects on our young people than even I had imagined, and my kids go to state schools so I see the catastrophic reality every day. This leaves me with very little hope for the UK - naturally I am advising my own children to flee as soon as is practical - but someone please tell me that there is a ray of sunshine out there somewhere.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Monday, December 05, 2011

Derek and Clive

I was waiting for a bus in San Francisco. At the bus stop with me were two men, late teens or early twenties. One was African-American, one was Latino-American. They were both dressed in the standard uniform of very baggy jeans with the crotch below their knees, underpants showing so that they looked like escaping mental patients, strangely thick padded jackets (it was a very hot day) and hats. They were talking about potential career options. Their conversation was so ridiculous I dubbed them Derek and Clive. For younger readers, this is an allusion to an infamous series of albums made by Dudley Moore and Peter Cook. One of them actually said, and I swear to Roberto Mancini that I'm not making this up, that he'd considered being a judge, because he thought he would quite good at it (if I understood his vernacular), but had decided against it after discovering that you had to go to law school first.

I would much prefer to be a judge than a coal miner because of the absence of falling coal.

[From Peter Cook - Wikiquote]

The other youth said that he hadn't come to any firm conclusions yet but thought that he might like to work in the music industry.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Monday, November 14, 2011

Next right please, minister

If my taxi driver is a reliable barometer for the economic outlook, which I believe him to be, things are about to get better irrespective of what the CBI, or the berks running the "Treasury model" might think. He told me that business has been picking up lately and he attributes it to three things, each of which I think might serve as more practical guide for business than any number of MBA theories.

  1. He spent money on advertising and, in particular, expensive advertising on roundabouts.
  2. He bought another taxi company (for several tens of thousands of pounds) in order to consolidate but specifically because they had a better (i.e., simpler and more memorable) phone number than he did.
  3. He started to follow the weather more closely, making sure there were more taxis on the rank when it was cold and raining.

Should Vince Cable become involved in some sort of scandal and be forced to resign, I believe I can point to a ready-made replacement. The person who runs the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills should, in my opinion, be drawn from the ranks of those of create by far the great majority of jobs in these British Isles: SMEs. In fact, I'd go further and say that you shouldn't be allowed any senior position in BIS at all unless you had run an SME for some qualifying period. A few years working for a bank or an oil company doesn't put you in touch with the beating heart of UK plc. I would formally like to nominate my taxi driver as the next Minister for whatever it is that noted tax-evader Vince Cable is Minister of.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ministry of morons

Much as we changed the name of the "Ministry of War" to the "Ministry of Defence" in 1964, I think we should change the name of the "Department for Education" the "Department for Stupidity" to reflect the new reality. The increase in stupidity is inexorable. There was an article in New Scientist a few weeks ago that said that we are losing, on average, about 0.8 IQ points per generation because stupid people are having more children than clever people. The burgeoning underclass in the UK is testament to this and there's no solution in sight: the welfare state incentivises the production of children while uncontrolled mass immigration further adds to the population. Fortunately, some of the immigrants can read and write, thus providing a basic workforce, but the long-term trend is not encouraging. If you don't believe me, watch the Jeremy Kyle show or read a national tabloid newspaper.

One way to measure the decline in national intelligence might be to find a benchmark. Here's an interesting suggestion: use television quiz shows.

“Who is the head of the Ismaili community?” was one question, to which the correct reply was the Aga Khan. Another asked which British politician had bought shares in the Suez canal. Disraeli, it turned out.

[From Think Britain hasn't dumbed down? Just watch Bullseye - Telegraph]

This gives me an idea for an independent measure of national stupidity, free from political interference or distortion by the vested interests at the Ministry of Edukashun. Perhaps some academics could construct an index that simultaneously measures how much easier the questions are on the top-rated prime time quiz show, University Challenge.

Brain of Britain, on Radio 4, seems mercifully unaffected by the collapsing national intelligence so that could serve as a reference point. Then all we have to do is persuade the government to announce the national stupidity level each year and hopefully they will then try to manage it down. If national stupidity goes up, then I will expect the Minister to write a suitably apologetic letter to the Prime MInister and then resign. Although I suppose making the Bank of England write a letter apologising for the inflation figures doesn't seem to have improved them.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Monday, October 17, 2011

Taking a stand

A friend of a friend, a chap I've know for a few years, is a bankster: that is, he works at a bank that is "too big to fail". To be precise, he works on the fixed income desk for one of the big banks in the UK. His job, for many years, has been arranging syndicate loans for, primarily, PIGS. Basically, the governments run out of money, come to a bank for a few billion euros, that bank arranges a syndicate who each put up a few hundred million. The lead bank gets a few extra points for arranging the syndicate. This adds up. The bank makes a ton of money, my friend makes a ton of money -- enough to buy a very big house in the country near Woking and to send both of his kids to one of the most expensive private schools in the country -- and UK plc gets tax revenue.

Germany is pushing behind the scenes for a "hard" default in Greece with losses of up to 60pc for banks and pension funds

[From German push for Greek default risks EMU-wide 'snowball' - Telegraph]

So here's my question. Since the loans that my bankster friend arranged are about to go tits up, will he have to pay back 60% of the cash he earned? No, of course, not. And if his bank is going to go tits up because it was stupid enough to loan the money itself instead of palming the dodgy deals off on to syndicate partners, then the bank will go bankrupt, but my friend will still keep his cash. And of course, since the government won't let the bank to go down, the taxpayer (i.e., me) will end up paying.

Now, as a capitalist, I used to think that my friend deserved his bank balance because he was smarter than me or worked harder than me. But now I understand the actual dynamic --- which is that he was simply a lottery winner, having almost randomly chosen that line of work -- I'm outraged and my faith in "the system" is undermined. I've a good mind to go an join the Occupy Wall Street chaps, but unlike them, I know what I want. My demands will be for some actual capitalism in the city instead of the debased corporatism that has allowed the few to loot from the many.

And as I have previously noted, radical concentration of wealth actually destroys capitalism, turning it instead into socialism for the rich.

[From Guest Post: Extreme Inequality Helped Cause Both the Great Depression and the Current Economic Crisis « naked capitalism]

We need to stand firm against all forms of socialism, whether National (as in Germany), International (as in the Soviet Union), Bonkers (as in North Korea) or Tailored (as in Wall Street).

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Audio boo

Here's a +1 to Starbucks: the wifi is now free in the UK (finally) so you don't have to remember your loyalty card username and password any more. Great stuff. Personally, I prefer the coffee at Costa, but they don't have wifi so Starbucks will be getting my business again for the time being.

Here's a -1 to Starbucks: the music is too loud. I have my iPhone with me, so if I want to listen to music while I work, then I'll sort that out for myself thanks. Right now, I'm listening to Paul Jones BBC2 Rhythm & Blues Hour from a couple of weeks ago, and really enjoying, but I have to turn it up quite loud to block out what sounds like Jazz Odyssey in the background. So, Starbucks: if I want to listen to the two girls sitting next to me discussing who got with who at the party last night I can't hear them because of your music and if I don't then I can't hear my music because of your music. Loud music in coffee shops is so last century. Please turn it down.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A comment on tax

Suppose you earn £40,000 per annum. You decide that you want to improve your quality of life, so you decide to work four days per week instead of five and make do with £32,000 per annum. With a marginal rate of tax at 51% (40% income tax plus 11% national insurance), you take a salary cut of £8,000 but are only £4,000 per annum worse off. If you've paid off your mortgage and the kids are all college, you might well prefer a four day week with time to pursue your hobbies over the extra £80 per week.

This isn't idle speculation, because I know people who have already done this. Therefore, the net gain to Exchequer from the 50p tax rate is negative. If an employer has a couple of people who do this, and hires a part-timer to fill in for them, then the overall tax take is substantially less, although I suppose you could argue that having three people employed part-time (provided that's what they all want) is better for society than having two people full time and one on benefit.

More than 2,000 tax inspectors will be recruited to crack down on tax evasion among the wealthiest people in the UK… Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, told the Lib Dem conference that this would ensure 350,000 top earners paid their "fair share" of tax.

[From BBC News - Lib Dem conference: Minister signals tax crackdown]

Since really, really rich people don't pay tax anyway, all this suggests to me that the days of income tax are numbered and the sooner it is scrapped, the better. We should have introduced a land value tax back in Victorian times, it's time to bite the bullet. Now, people who live in big houses around Woking might whine about it, but it's a much fairer way of funding the state (and it can't be dodged).

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Friday, August 26, 2011

That's with a "z"

I enjoy reading Spiked Online of a Friday afternoon with my winding-down cuppa. I'd just got off the phone to Canada and put my feet up with some Yorkshire Gold when I read

Nobby’s disdain for south London – ‘It’s a karzi’, he says, ‘I wouldn’t go there in a tank’

[From Burnt Oak: it ain’t all doom and gloom | Brendan O’Neill | spiked]

Oh dear. Brendan O'Neill has confused khazi (British slang for toilet) with karzi (a misspelling of the name of the Prime Minister of Afghanistan), a mistake I often mentally trip over.

If I hear on the news about Hamid Karzai, the President of Afghanistan, in my head I picture noted English actor Kenneth Williams. That’s because he starred as the Khazi of Khalibar, the head of the Pashtun (I assume) opponents of the British Raj in the greatest film of the Carry On series (in fact one of the greatest English films of all time) Carry On up the Khyber.

[From a blog from a Citizen of Woking: One up the Khyber]

I shall e-mail him immediately.


In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Saturday, August 20, 2011

There's a riot goin' on

Unfortunately, with the continuous low-level background of crime to which we British have been conditioned, there's not much hope of improvement in the quality of life in the foreseeable future.

You have to WANT to be caught to be prosecuted for any half-serious crime nowadays, whereas the police are pretty good at the trivial stuff.

[From PC Bloggs - a Twenty-first Century Police Officer: Will the real blogger please stand up?]

Indeed. And the latest Channel 4 figures prove it. You're much more likely to be a victim of serious crime in London than in New York, presumably because the police are busy giving out speeding tickets and arresting people for over-filling their recycling bins. There's been a lot of serious crime recently. I woke up on a Sunday morning recently to the news channels reporting a night of criminal violence and looting in north London. Apparently the police abandoned the streets to gangs who were able to empty retail premises at a leisurely pace, burning down shops, setting fire to cars, that sort of thing.

On Saturday night, shops and homes were raided and cash machines ripped out in Tottenham. There were also thefts from shops in nearby Wood Green.

[From BBC News - London riots: Met Police launch Operation Withern]

Where were the rubber bullets? I have a conspiracy theory. The government has asked the police to cut their spending back to 2008 levels, so the police responded by letting London burn, thus making it politically impossible for the government to impose cuts. It's been a win-win for them: lots of easy people to arrest and a great PR win over the evil Tories at the same time.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Feeling a little blue (helmet)

I see that Iran is ready to contribute to a UN Peacekeeping force to help Britain control its rampaging underclass. Now, normally, the opportunity to have other countries' taxpayers fork out help us would be welcome, but I fear this is one specific idea that I will not support.

Iranian military commanders say that if the United Nations decides to send peacekeepers to the U.K., Iranian troops are ready to go now.

[From Britain Burning: Iran ready to send troops, calls U.K. leaders autocratic oppressors | Blind Bat News]

But in her excellent book Emergency Sex, Heidi Postlewait recounts her time with UN in various places in Europe, Asia and Africa and concludes with a very stark and specific piece of advice (I paraphrase, since I don't have the book to hand) that if some UN chaps with blue helmets arrive at your village and tell you that they are there to protect, grab what you can and run, don't walk, in the opposite direction as fast as you can. So I think we should turn down Iran's kind offer.

However, I can see one area where Iran might be able to provide practical support. Our Prime Minister, David Cameron (Eton, Oxford -- a man well-versed in modern technology and with a Digital Champion to hand in the form of Martha Lane Fox (Westminster, Oxford) who understands modern youth and their use of that technology -- has his finger on the pulse and intends to "crack down" on social media to prevent looting in the future. Now, I understand that in Iran, the revolutionary guards have been forcing suspected troublemakers to log in to their Facebook accounts in front of them so that they can see if the miscreants have been posting counterrevolutionary or blasphemous messages, or if their friends had. Perhaps some Revolutionary Guards could be dispatched to the streets of Hackney, where they could support the Prime Minister's strategy by asking passing youths to log in to Facebook, Twitter and BBM. If they see a message saying something like "Meet at Currys at 3am" then they could execute a citizen's arrest. Job done.

Facebook has been banned in Pakistan for a year or so, and I imagine civil disorder must have fallen substantially in that time.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Deranged debit

I got a letter from the tax persons today, pointing out that after paying tens of thousands of pounds in tax over the later year, I still owed them about fifty quid. I put it in my bils pile, because I generally do the bills on Sunday morning when I log into to my internet banking and pay things. I was surprised to see a flyer tucked in to my tax bill, though, inviting me fill out a direct debit form for Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs so that they could, in future, remove the money directly from my bank account.

Are they nuts? Who is responsible for this potty pamphlet? Anyone with even a passing knowledge of public sector IT would sooner fill out a direct debit to the widow of former Nigerian strongman General Sani Abacha, who only this morning e-mailed me with news of a financially-rewarding scheme, than give the Revenue this access.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Saturday, July 09, 2011

By, of, and for... the consultants

There were several Twitter conversations going on last week about UK public sector IT. Generally speaking, it's been pretty disastrous and billions of pounds have been completely wasted. Why? There are lots of theories, but mine is that the nature of the British establishment means that all technology-related policy is disastrous.

When the words "former management consultants" are invoked, watch out. There is very little idealism in these types, mainly on a gravy train and with a tendency to just re-formulate and re-play back what the people working for their customers tell them.

[From Charles Moore warns that the Downing Street machine isn't working | The Spectator]

As someone once said - but I can't find on Google - New Labour created a government by, of and for management consultants. It was inevitably going to wreck both the economy and society. How different things are in a successful operation.

Agarwal tells us that Apple is completely run by its engineers. "They don’t have a lot of product management," he says. "Most of the project teams are really small, and they’re all driven by the engineers." On top of that, Agarwal says that most managers are all engineers as well, "not product people or MBAs." That means that the people overseeing projects understand the technology, what's necessary for a project, and can really relate to their team.

[From 8 Management Lessons I Learned Working At Apple]

This so very different a culture to public sector organisations in the UK, where being an engineer, or having any understanding of a technical topic at all, is see as a positive disadvantage. This is all rooted in Britain's pernicious class structure. When you go into a meeting with senior civil servant about some important and expensive IT project, he or she will almost certainly begin the conversation by telling you that, of course, they don't understand the technology. Which is true, they don't. But that's not what they are really telling you, which is that you are "trade" - you are a member of the grubby commercial class, and scarcely fit to be in their presence. From then on, your comments about the feasibility or otherwise of the proposed scheme/system/standard can be simply discounted before the project is handed over to one of the large management consultancies to run for a few years before it gets cancelled. And the civil servant you are talking to doesn't care in the slightest.

MP Richard Bacon suggested yesterday that the only accountability for the failure of the project was Sir Robert Kerslake's having an uncomfortable two hours before the Public Accounts Committee. As for his officials, the only accountability for the waste of £469m was to sit in seats behind him, periodically passing him notes.

[From £469m waste on Firecontrol vindicates setting up of Cabinet Office's Major Projects Authority - The Tony Collins Blog]

Half-a-billion quid down the train, and no-one so much as struck off of the Departmental Winter Festival card list.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Thursday, June 30, 2011

It's always economics in the end

The War on (some) Drugs doesn't seem to have been going to particularly well recently,

I should have listened to the Drug Enforcement Administration official who told me that wholesale heroin, cocaine, and marijuana were sufficiently cheap and easy to smuggle that synthetics had no real marketplace advantage. He was right, and I've been reluctant to commit acts of prophesy ever since.

[From Synthetic pot: Bloomberg BusinessWeek files a dandy drug-capitalism story. - By Jack Shafer - Slate Magazine]

That's amazing, isn't it: There's no market for synthetic drugs because the natural drugs are cheaper, even with the billions of dollars spent on law enforcement, interdiction, education, prison and everything else. Perhaps the solution is make the synthetic drugs not cheaper than the natural ones but better. There are plenty of people working on "nutriceuticals" so a breakthrough can only be around the corner. Who's going to buy Afghan opium when the man-made opium will work better, make you smarter and improve your sex life (or whatever).

What with the ageing population, that I was reading about yet again today because of the strike by communist fifth-columnists in government empty, the business opportunities are obvious. Someone is bound to invent something that's a bit like MDMA but that improves your memory. They'll make a fortune.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Hitchhikers guide

You know those horror stories you used to hear when you were a kid, where a friend of a friend picks up a hitchhiker only to later discover that the hitchhiker had died years before, or was the the spirit or serial killer, or whatever? Well how much scary would it be to pick up a hitchhiker only to discover it was noted celtic caterwauler Bono, leader of the famous Dutch beat combo U2.

Edmonton Oilers center Gilbert Brule found something very unusual on the side of the road while taking a drive in West Vancouver -- U2 frontman Bono, the Edmonton Journal reported Thursday... After hopping in, Bono, by now sitting in the back beside the couple's dog, told them they had gone for a walk only for it to start raining.

[From Professional Hockey Player Picks Up Hitchhiking U2 Frontman Bono -]

A nightmare from which you might never recover. But if it does happen to you, there may be therapy available at this year's Glastonbury Festival, a traditional English fayre at which the privileged gather to listen to members of the artistic establishment bemoan capitalism (except for record companies). This year, however, anti-tax avoidance protesters finally going to make it a happening and relevant place, as it used to three decades ago...

Members of activist group Art Uncut will hoist a massive inflatable sign with the message 'Bono Pay Up' spelt out in lights during the Irish band's headline performance.

[From 'Saint Bono' facing huge Glastonbury protest ¿ for avoiding tax | Mail Online]

This is because the communist ingrates are upset about U2's perfectly natural tax avoidance strategy. They are just doing what anyone else in their right mind would do, and adopting perfectly legal tax avoidance methods in order to minimise their payments to governments, thus leaving as much money as possible in their own hands for their own good works.

Ireland changed its tax laws in 2006 so that the earnings of artists fell within the tax net if they exceeded Euros 250,000 a year. Extraordinarily, they had been exempt whatever the amount until then. For 99% of all artists this did not, of course, have any impact on their tax affairs. For Bono and his U2 colleagues it did... and despite the fact that they could have kept them in an Irish company and have paid no more than 12.5% tax... They did instead shift the place in which they recorded their royalties as being earned to the Netherlands. As a result they cut the potential tax they might pay to no more 5%, because that’s what the Netherlands allows.

[From Netherlands » Tax Research UK]

These good works, naturally, include investments intended to boost the amount of money available charitable donations, third-world debt relief and so forth downstream.

Bono, the Irish rock star, is being hailed as "the worst investor in America" as his five person investment team Elevation Partners reels from a series of unprofitable investments. It's believed that the rocker has lost millions by investing with Elevation... which investment trade papers are calling arguably the worst run institutional fund of any size in the United States.

[From U2's Bono called the worst investor in America | Irish Business | IrishCentral]

Hhhhmmm. Perhaps Bono had the wrong investment advisor.

Gordon Brown and Bono

I wonder if he sold his gold records as well.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Monday, May 30, 2011

What a night!

Great night out at the O2. We went to see Roger Water perform "The Wall" (out of total nostalgia) and guess what...

David Gilmour joined old band mate Roger Waters on stage tonight at London’s O2 Arena to perform in Roger Waters’ epic tour of The Wall! David played lead guitar on Comfortably Numb using his black Fender Stratocaster guitar and also brought his mandolin out at the end of the show... also attended by Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason.

[From David Gilmour Joins Roger Waters On Stage at London O2]

Amazing. I'm sure I wasn't the only person in the London audience who had been to see "The Wall" when it was originally performed 30 years ago.

The concept album was originally toured by Pink Floyd in 1980 and 1981 in only 4 cities due to the colossal size of the production! The show made the band a financial loss due to the expense of staging it.

[From David Gilmour Joins Roger Waters On Stage at London O2]

And I saw it then too - in both years, in London. It's something to do with the cycle of life, but I've been reflecting on how I enjoyed the concerts in different ways. When I saw it in 1980 and 1981, I was just there to enjoy some great music (I always loved "The Wall" -- I can remember listening to it over and over in the living room of the house I shared with mates at Uni) with some great mates. Listening to it as a "grown up" (and not off your face) was a very different experience, because you were following the story, and understanding more about emotional content. The evening went by in a flash - wonderful.

It was, naturally, made even better by the tidal wave of envy I unleashed after twittering all about Dave Gilmour's appearance!

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Saturday, May 07, 2011

We don't need no... um... ahh..

Oh no, I was forced to start thinking about education again, and this during the school holidays, because I sat next to two women talking on a train back from London yesterday. One of them was a teacher, and although I didn't hear all of the conversation, I did hear her say that she had taught in both state schools and in private schools and that when she had children (she looked around 30 I guess) she hoped that she would be able to afford to send them to private school. All this while her union, presumably, campaigns to force the children of the masses into state edukashun camps under their control.

I sat in a lesson in a top public school the other day in which the children were learning about the Treaty of Versailles. I swear I'm not exaggerating: in that one lesson they learnt more than they would learn in an entire term in some of our state schools.

[From Katharine Birbalsingh: 'The middle class is disguising the failings of state schools in the inner cities' | Education | The Observer]

The only way out of this is to make all schools private.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Friday, April 22, 2011


Nothing winds me up more at the moment than hearing rich film stars complaining about government arts funding in the UK. I have no objection to people funding arts projects. Let's be clear about that. Let me be the first go on a record to say that I have absolutely no objection to multi-millionaires Kenneth Branagh or Helen Mirren (who was paid £500K for two days work by Nintendo) funding any or all arts projects that they see fit anywhere in the UK.

I suggest that instead of writing letters to The Observer they write letters to old Etonian Hugh Laurie, who earns more than $400,000 per episode for the American medical soap "House". Each episode could pay for one regional theatre company for a year, or something like that. I think the general public would be moved to see the artistic community banding together in this way.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Waiting, waiting

Oh man, I watched something horrifying on my last plane journey. I was flicking through the movies looking for something to watch after spending four solid hours typing on my laptop. I couldn't see anything that looked appealing that I hadn't seen, and I certainly wasn't going to watch Harry Potter, but then I spotted a title I didn't recognise. I chose it. The strapline was that it was documentary about the American public school system. Yawn. Still sounded better than Harry Potter. So I started watching it.

It was compelling, interesting, well-made, fascinating and above all, horrifying. Every day I am tortured by middle-class guilt because I didn't send my kids to private school and this didn't make me feel any better (even thought it was about the US). Public schools are failing us.

England's primary trainee teachers came second to last out of eight countries with a score of 32.2 out of 60.

[From BBC News - England's teacher trainees 'do worse' in maths tests]

The filmmaker began by noting that he drove past three public schools every day while he was taking his own children to private school. I liked this: I can't stand liberal posturing about education from people at (for example) newspapers who went to private schools and Oxbridge and send their own children to private school in turn.

In essence, the point of the documentary was that the biggest problem in American schools is the teacher's unions, which I'm sure applies equally in the UK.

One of the most amazing things I've ever seen in my life was the footage from the "rubber room" in New York where teachers who are suspended awaiting a hearing for a variety of disciplinary problems (up to and including sexual abuse). They do absolutely nothing all day here. In the US, 1 in 57 doctors will lose his medical licence. Around 1 in 100 lawyers will be struck off. And, of course, people don't chose bad doctors or lawyers, so the bad ones do less damage. Only 1 in 2500 teachers will be fired, and they basically have to kill someone to do that.

Despite years of reform, capital investment, targets, increased assessments and testing, a great deal of comprehensive education languishes far behind that offered by the independent sector and, indeed, other European nations. The manner in which private-school students dominate the elites of politics, law, business and media, not to mention Oxbridge colleges, is sobering enough for middle-class parents who have the resources and ability to add value to state education, but it leaves the vast majority of working-class children, especially those with minimal parental back-up, with little to no chance of bridging an ever-widening divide.

[From Katharine Birbalsingh: 'The middle class is disguising the failings of state schools in the inner cities' | Education | The Observer]

Anyway, the documentary was about the US charter school movement. It featured an incredible guy called Geoffrey Canada, who started a charter school in the worst-performing school district in New York, in Harlem. I won't spoil the movie by telling you any more, but it's well worth your time. Watch "Waiting for Superman" when you have a chance.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Friday, March 25, 2011


Never mind having a minimum age for voting -- which really should be much higher than it is now, say maybe 21 at the very least -- pretty soon we're going to have to introduce a maximum age for voting. I can't see any other way of avoiding the coming age riots of 2025 (when the youth of the western world will commemorate the Watts race riots of 1965 by going on the rampage to demand equality) than by stopping the old from voting. Otherwise the inevitable, inexorable steamroller of the dismal science will guarantee intergenerational conflict. The problem is simply that neither politicians nor journalists nor voters can understand the basic facts.

Politics is not about economics tutorials. Political journalists can’t or won’t understand anything more than a soundbite, so giving them a lengthy lecture about economics makes as much sense as reciting poetry to a pig.

[From Stumbling and Mumbling: Expertise in politics]

Now that may be a little unfair to all journalists. For example: hereditary celebrity and Oxford graduate Stephanie Flanders, the millionaire BBC Economics Editor and former girlfriend of new Labour leader Miliband, E., went to one of the most expensive private schools in the country (St. Paul's) and so can clearly understand economics tutorials. And she noted recently that

Here's the stark reality: employment in the UK has risen by 296,000 since the start of 2010, and 75% of those jobs - or 222,000 - have gone to people over 50. Just under 44% of the jobs have gone to the 3% of workers over 65. For comparison, the number of 16-17 year olds in work has fallen by nearly 8% over the same period

[From BBC - Stephanomics: Jobs for the boys - and the over 65s]

But not all journalists have this excellent grounding and a great many of them know perfectly well that even if they did understand the economics, it wouldn't make any difference to what they might report.

As someone once said, in politics, if you have to explain you’ve lost the debate.

[From Stumbling and Mumbling: Expertise in politics]

Well, that's just a sad, but true, signpost on the road to disaster that we seem unable to turn off. Why does this matter?

At the last election, over 55s accounted for more than 10 million votes cast - 40% of the total. In 24 constituencies, they accounted for more than half the votes cast (and there will be more constituencies like them when we next go to the polls).

[From Nick Cohen: Loth as I am to give Joan Bakewell a kicking... | Comment is free | The Observer]

You won't see an article in the Daily Mail arguing that old people should start paying back some of the largesse that the Joan Bakewell generation acquired through political capture, but the truth is that as they come to dominate the political environment so it will become impossible take even the slightest steps to redress the balance. Meanwhile doctors are thinking of going on strike because they want to continue to retire at 60 while the rest of us work until we drop.

the true cost of these pensions ranges from 34.7 per cent of salary for a male teacher, up to 71.8 per cent for a policewoman. No wonder the Government Actuary’s Department calculates that taxpayers will have to find a total of £770bn in future to deliver unfunded pensions already promised to public sector workers.

[From Arresting cost of police pensions – and five steps to boost yours – Telegraph Blogs]

This is why I am telling my kids to leave the country before the civil war between the unemployed or highly-taxed young and the retired old begins.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


I think I prefer British Airways business class to American Airlines. I like the ergonomic "cocoon" seats on BA and I find them more comfortable for working. But there were three things that struck me about AA that BA ought to adopt immediately. First of all, they had much nicer coffee than BA. Whether it's the coffee itself, or the way it is brewed I don't know, but it was definitely better. Secondly, instead of the crappy headsets you get on BA, they give you Bose noise-cancelling headsets and these are so much better and so much more comfortable than normal airplane headsets. Watching TV shows, movies and listening to Eric Clapton's greatest hits were all made considerably more pleasurable through the simple expedient of better headsets. At, what, $100 per seat to buy these would be an excellent investment for our flag carrier. And finally, the toilets are much bigger and much more comfortable than even the first class toilets on BA. I guess AA have the plane configured with less galley space? I couldn't quite figure it out, but they were definitely way bigger.

Now, I do realise that when the burning issue of the day that I am moved to blog on is the comparison of business class seats on transatlantic flights it can reasonably be said that I do not reflect the median, but it's budget day back home and by the time I post this I will be considerably poorer.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Confused by the news

Internet safety has been back in the news again. Reminds of something I saw a few weeks ago.

The IWF circulates a list to ISPs of sites found to be hosting illegal images of child sexual abuse

[From BBC News - Internet porn block 'not possible' say ISPs]

Is there another list of the sites found to be hosting legal images of child sexual abuse?

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Chicks dig jerks

I don't get it. I really don't. I just watched a movie where a woman who works at a bank falls in love with one of the bank robbers. He is a thief and part of an armed gang that murder people. Now, I know it's a tradition in movies to see bank robbers as heroes (oddly, in my opinion, since none of them have ever robbed anything like as much from banks and their own management - Barclays paid £150m in bonuses to top management last year and I doubt that they've suffered £150m in robberies in their entire existence) but the film left me really puzzled. Why would the attractive and sexy (and apparently smart) woman fall for the criminal? He was, of course, very handsome, but surely in real life this wouldn't happen.

Wrong. That is real life. A sad lesson that was brought home to me in early puberty. Chicks dig jerks, as the old saying goes (doesn't it?). You don't get the girl by doing your homework, passing your British Constitution 'O' Level and helping with the lighting deck for the school play. Rudimentary evolutionary biology would surely indicate that fertile females would value these secondary signals of long-term ability to support offspring through to reproductive maturity, but no-one had told the girls at the Richard Jeffries Secondary School in Swindon.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Fruit and cakes

Another bonkers New Labour doomed experiment in social control hits the buffers. I should explain to foreign readers that the British welfare state has been optimised to ensure that middle-class people face severe penalties should they decide to reproduce, part of a post-war Marxist drive to eradicate the bourgoisie, and find themselves taxed to penury. Meanwhile, the people least able to support and nurture the next generation are encourage to reproduce without limit. Anyway, hilariously, under the Brown junta, is was decided to give 600,000 women on benefit shopping vouchers for £322 per year while they are pregnant or have babies. Now, the results of this mental programme were entirely predictable to anyone with even the most rudimentary acquaintance with the British underclass (eg, people like me who have to live near them, but not Cherie Blair or Harriet Harman). And guess what?

Now a Government survey of more than 2,000 retailers, health professionals and recipients has found that more than one in five knew of occasions when shops had swapped the tokens for products outside the scheme. Critics said the findings showed that the nanny state had encouraged “shameless behaviour” by those keen to exploit the system. As well as trading vouchers for alcohol and cigarettes, supermarkets and small convenience stores had allowed them to be used to pay for nappies, baby products, general groceries, bread, eggs and meat, the report found.

[From New mothers swap fruit vouchers for booze and cigarettes - Telegraph]

Who would have thought?

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Hacked off

There was more on TV about the News of the World phone "hacking" scandal today. I've sort of lost interest in it, so I can't say I've been following every twist and turn. I assumed it was a battle in the BBC/Guardian vs. New International war, so I was unclear as to what was at the root of it (which, I think, was something to do with slebs being too thick to change the default passcode on their voicemail services). Anyway, I saw this thing about it on the news, and once again the newsreader used the example of Sienna Miller. They refer to her as an actress, but I've no idea who she is, and can't be bothered to go and look her up on IMDB. I didn't recognise her from any films, as far as I could tell. So why is she the "poster child" of the scandal? I assume she already has more money than I will ever have in my entire life and that she will never have to work again, so it's not like I'm going to feel sorry for her, and I'm pretty sure her voicemail messages weren't at the wikileaks level, so no-one cared about those either.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Friday, January 14, 2011

Comfortably dumb

I haven't yet got over the shock of nodding in agreement to Julie Burchill's December outburst in The Independent, lambasting the new aristocracy (founded on celebrity rather than land ownership) and its devastating impact on our society. She mentioned in passing the case of Charlie Gilmour, son of Pink Floyd guitarist Dave Gilmour (who has an £84m fortune). Naturally, his son went to an expensive private school and Oxbridge and, more recently, went off to stick it to the man.

Gilmour - who studies history at Cambridge University - issued a grovelling apology, but incredibly claimed he did not realise he was insulting the memory of Britain's war dead.

[From Student riots | Cenotaph yob is son of Pink Floyd star Dave Gilmour | The Sun |News]

A testament to New Labour's legacy, where only the privately-educated can expect a decent education and a place at Oxbridge (private school pupils, according to the latest figures, are 22 times more likely to get into a "top" university), yet they are as dumb as the sea of chavs they float above.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]