Thursday, August 14, 2008

Northerners: Leave your homes and all move South!

Well, that is not actually quite the message of the Policy Exchange report released today but it sure does sound like it.

Iain Dale has his take here, with a helpful extract from the introduction. The full document is here, I no I have not as yet read it.

The premise seems to be that regeneration money has not actually kept the cities of the north with growth of the south. Obviously you would have to ask just how bad would it be had the money not been spent.

The point is well made, and the reports introduction does scream the answer, alas the report seems to miss the answer it is screaming on page one and prefers the answer that John Prescott obviously feels a bit insulting and David Cameron thinks is mad, which is that people should move to the same corner of the country. Is anyone going to ask us southerners if we want to take all this internal migration? What of the cities of the north now denuded of all their aspirational talent? Is this not just going to make some very bad situations worse?

As Iain points out above, Cardiff is doing well in its regeneration.

So what is the answer? Well the introduction of the report states:
Places that enjoyed the conditions for creating wealth in the coal-powered 19th-century often do not do so today. Port cities had an advantage in an era when exporting manufactured goods by sea was a vital source of prosperity; today the sea is a barrier to their potential for expansion and they are cut off from the main road transport routes.
Just re read that several times. Particularly "and they are cut off from the main road transport routes."

If you look at every deprived area of the country, and they exist in the south east as well as the north, you will note the lack of proper transport links. Hastings is an example of relative deprivation as is Weymouth.

The short answer is to build better road, rail and air transport to all these areas. Build the transport links and the business will come, its basic O level geography. What is more, the person representing the report on the news today seemed to know that transport is what built these cities, he just has not worked out that if those modes of transport have moved on, we can build new ones.

Something that is clear to me though, is that if the Conservative party wishes to build a prosperous Conservative country it needs to build road and rail like never before.

The BBC has this

Russia withdraws from Georgia!

Russian troops have throughout the day been withdrawing from Georgia in accordance with statements made by President Dmitry Medvedev.

This would normally have been treated as good news, however there is a problem, and that is that either their navigational equipment is broken, or that their definition of "withdrawal" is a one with which we are not familiar with.

It beggars belief that Russian troops have been filmed by both Channel 4 and the BBC in and around Gori.

Iain Dale laments the tales of Georgian refugees in this article here. I have not been there, but I can tell you that I have been to the former Yugoslavia when it was at war, and this sort of things happen both ways. That is of course no excuse for anything, but I will say this: I suspect that if you went to Tshinvali* and sat and had a coffee with a few local Ossetians you would come away with the impression that these were good solid honest hospitable and above all friendly people. You would feel exactly the same way having spent the afternoon in the company of Georgians in Gori. You would however, as I was in the former Yugoslavia be dreadfully shocked at the bestial violence they seem to meet out amongst themselves.

I have heard much about the atrocities the Russians claim have been committed and those committed by them and the Ossetians. With regret I can believe and disbelieve both at the same time. What is of course needed is hard evidence and in war that is hard to come by. Is that dead child a Georgian killed by the evil Russians, and Ossetian killed by the evil Georgians, or just a casualty of war.

Two things are clear though, Mikheil Saakashvili is not the sort of person I would want to be able to declare war on my behalf, and Russia needs sorting out.

*Please note that a correct transliteration would probably spell that Tsinvali though other alternatives are Tschinvali. It is pronounced roughly as Shinvali but try to imagine a T being there, at the front, but just a bit.

The BBC has this.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What was Georgia thinking of?

You do have to ask, don't you.

It is true that at this time of year that the separatist parts of Georgia kick off. Conspiracy theorists might suspect that Russians are advising this is a good time of year to act as international leaders are on holiday. Such skirmishes happen every year it seems.

Yet this time Georgia responded.

I am not saying that Georgia does not have the right to defend itself or its citizens and so on and so forth, but the people threatening them are, at heart a super power of sorts.

So why now, and why like this?

Good question. I have no idea why now.

Why like this? It was nuts. There are Russian troops in Georgia and it must have been obvious that they would be reinforced if there was any sort of threat. Georgia is separated from Russia via a fairly defensible mountain range. The only rational thing to do would have been to only "go for it" if they could seal all mountain roads before reinforcements could be sent. That rather obvious part of the plan seems not to have made it on to the plan.

Georgia was provoked, and was aware of the large build up of Russian troops. It does beg the question what were they playing at?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

War in Georgia: What do we do?

This is a question that Iain Dale poses on his blog, quoting some interesting articles including some from Cicero's songs. I like Cicero and find him pleasant company and very knowledgeable on Russia and its former imperial possessions of which Georgia is one. Cicero's songs has this and this. One of those articles says that Russian troops have turned up in Abkhazia, Georgia's other break away region which shows Russia's true intentions.

So what do we do? Well, I would not start from here.

Cicero makes the point that this is a bit like the Rhineland. For those who are not as well versed in history that refers to Nazi Germany sending in their army into the Rhineland breaching the Versailles treaty of 1919. You might ask what is wrong with the Germans stationing their troops in Germany. Well, it was the first test of international resolve and lead to ever greater ones until the invasion of Poland in September 1939 which led to war.

However the problem is this: Whilst we would have had trade with Germany which we could have stopped with sanctions (but did not) we can't do the same with Russia. Firstly we have too much money there but more crucially Europe is reliant on Russian oil and gas. The only other way of getting the stuff out of central Asia is.. yes you guessed it, via a pipeline in Georgia the Russians have just bombed. In short the Russians have us by both out wallets and our heating and lighting.

We do seriously look at the way we have taxed our oil companies out of our own oil fields. Europe also needs to do no important trade with Russia, because frankly we can't trust their government.

The BBC has this.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Government dithering smashes housing market

Government dithering over stamp duty is set to cause an even worse crash than we were headed for.

The problem is this: Some journalists got the idea that Alistair Darling was going to introduce a stamp duty holiday in a similar way to that introduced by the Conservative government in the last housing crash.

The problem is that now we have uncertainty. Buyers who have to pay the tax may wait until they know because there could be a few thousand pounds in it.

This could all be a story cooked up by the media but the problem with that thesis is that we know that this Labour government (including the Tony Blair years) likes to manage news. Whereas in years gone by if a budget measure was in the press before it was announced to parliament, the chancellor resigned New Labour's news management has gone to such levels that we know about most of the budget from well briefed journalists long before hand. In other words this government has form for this sort of thing.

However no actual announcement has been made so the housing market is in limbo. The Conservative party have rightly asked for an end to the uncertainty and rightly so. We can stymie the housing market until October's pre budget report.

This is of course the problem with Labour and indeed its news management. It has no idea why things are as they are so sees no reason not to change. It sees no boundaries in common conventions. Frankly they have not got a clue and never had one either.

The BBC has this and the Daily Mail has this.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A Woman's place is in the home: Official!

Hold on, don't shoot the messenger, I am only commenting on this survey conducted by Professor Jacqueline Scott of Cambridge university.

It seems that attitudes to working mums has begun to change back to thinking that perhaps it is better for women to be at home.

That is an interesting change and what is more it has begun to swing as more parents put their children with minders and go out to work.

From a personal point of view I can see why attitudes are changing and in some ways that is no bad thing. There seemed to be a building disdain for women who stayed at home to look after kids and it is also a job which is under appreciated.

However it would be a very bad thing if people started feeling constrained by others. After all people do need to make their own decisions. In quite a few cases it can make more sense for the man to stay at home for example. I am not sure it does make sense for both parents to work full time at the same time thus having their children in full time care though sometimes that is necessary.

Any way, I think I ought to shut up now before I did an even deeper hole for myself!

The BBC has this.

I have just bought £130 of Northern Rock Shares!

I know, I know, you must think I am mad, and I have to say I see your point, but I have just bought £130 of Northern Rock shares anyway.

The transaction was easy and fairly painless as far as I was concerned. I did not have to sign any papers, call any stock brokers or anything like that.

In fact coming to think about it, I wasn't even asked. Someone just dipped their hands in my pocket, just took the money and bought the shares.

Still the paper work is easy. No share certificates or anything like that.

On the upside its not like there will be any profits to pay tax on, on the downside I will not be able to write my losses of against the already murderous tax I pay.

The BBC has this.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Richard Dawkins and the non existence of God

I have to say I have heard a few snippets of what Richard Dawkins has had to say on the subject of religion, but never quite realised what a plonker he is.

Channel 4 have just screened a documentary billed as being about Charles Darwin whereas it was in fact about Richard Dawkins using the Origin of Species as an attack on religion. A bot of a shame really as Charles Darwin was a clever fellow, whom I would have liked to hear about. Richard Dawkins on the other hand I can live without.

His theory on the non existence of God seems to go along the lines of:

Christianity says the world was created in 6 days.

Evolution says it wasn't, ergo God does not exist.

Needless to say with thinking like that, it is no surprise to find h is a biologist rather than a mathematician or physicist.

The problem with Dawkins proposition is that he us taking the bible far too literally. For example what about the earth being created in 6 days? Well who's days? Ours? God's? Where is the evidence to say?

Further more, the bible and others like it have not only been passed down for generations often orally, but also crucially is not supposed to be a scientific treatise which is why it does not mention quantum theory, but a treatise on the way people should interact with each other and with God.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Gordon Brown declared Bankrupt!

You will not have read this in any of the national news papers but Gordon Brown has been declared bankrupt.

Personally I feel sorry for him. I don't know what is worse. Being declared bankrupt or having as a namesake the most unpopular Prime minister in history.

Curiously though it was in the High Court which is an odd place to make a window cleaner bankrupt. I wish him luck, he is going to need it.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Whatever you do, don't catch an unfashionable disease

Please don't.

There are fashionable diseases, like AIDS or breast cancer, then there are unfashionable ones like prostate cancer, malaria or Alzheimer's.

If you look at how many people who are going get a given disease and how much is spent on research and treatment there are clearly fashionable diseases and unfashionable ones.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Barry George guilty! but not of murder...

Well, the worst you say say about Barry George is that he is a bit odd, which combined wit the fact that he lived near Jill Dando about sums up the prosecution case against him.

I am very pleased he has been acquitted because last time I looked being a bit odd was not a criminal offence.

I wonder of the police will investigate the murder properly. Somehow I doubt it.

The BBC has this.