Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Gay adoption again

Or rather, forget about the gay adoption issue for the moment, as you read this story on the front page of today's Daily Mail about grandparents who were forced through lack of cash to give their grandchildren up for adoption because social services said they could not look after them.

Now answer me this:

You are young, your parents either can't or won't look after you, or are dead.

Who would you rather be looked after by? A close family member like a grandparent, or indeed parents, or some stranger?

Why the hell is this sort of thing going on? Have Edinburgh social services got so few pottential baby P's that they have to spend years grinding a family into the dust on the grounds that the grandparents are not in the best of health?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Labour tank in the polls!

Labour are really tanking in the polls.

The latest Comres poll (They had the Conservatives and Labour as close as 1% 2 months ago) shows a 15% Conservative lead with Labour below 30% at 28%!

This is serious for Labour as that will mean a healthy Conservative majority and more than a decimation of the Labour benches.

(Note, a decimation implies 1 in 10 of the body is killed off).

PoliticalBetting has this, whilst the Independent (whose poll it was) has this.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Labour Peers! get Your Labour Peers here!

Yes, get your Labour Peers here, while they're hot!

Very useful if you have bags of cash and need the odd bill amending.

The Sunday Times carries this interesting article on Labour Peers for sale.

The Sunday Times also approached Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Ulster Unionist Peers but got no joy from them but four out of five Labour Peers approached would help amend a bill for a fee.

I bet Labour party members are feeling proud right now. Mind you what with the Bernie Ecclestone affair almost on day one, its not like we haven't known Labour are rotten to the core.

Hamas in War crimes shocker!

Well it depends on what you may think the shock is.

For me it is that Channel 4 seem to have gathered some evidence of Hamas war crimes, as opposed to the fact that they commit them.

Jonathan Miller has made a few reports from Gaza, including some detailing Israel's war crimes there, but in this latest report he highlights some of Hamas', and no not the obvious ones of sending rockets over the border into civilian areas but the one of taking over civilian areas to fight Israel and shooting those who complain. (Albeit in this case non fatally).

Whilst I think that Israel is wrong in many of the things it does something that does get on my nerves is people (albeit a small number) who think Hamas are beyond reproach. Neither side frankly are.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Barack Obama: The recovery starts today!

It has to be said that Barack Obama is one hell of an orator.

I can't think of an orator in his class, and boy are there some examples you can look at, like Winston Churchill or indeed Adolf Hitler.

In many ways Barack Obama has an easy skill with words. He can say nothing at all and yet inspire. Whilst I still like to see the substance, that is only half the battle. Changing the mood is the other half, and that can only be done with words and leadership. He has the words in spades.

What is more it looks like there will be no easy messages. For example he is clear to say that "government can only do so much".

Things will change tomorrow. George W Bush will be gone. Barack Obama will be President of the United States of America.

In that one moment the mood of America will change. It will become more positive. It will look to the future. Challenges will appear easier. The United States of America will have a spring in its step, one that has not been there for a while.

In that one moment, there is a chance, albeit only a chance, that America will start the long road out of gloom and in that will lift the rest of the world.

Its over to you Barack, good luck, and God bless. Do the best you can. My best wishes and the best wishes of all right minded thinking people are with you.

This really is a world changing event. And I am still a John McCain supporter.

Good luck America.

The Bank Bailout II: The Sequel!

To hit your taxes soon, The Bank Bailout II: The Sequel!

The last one was so popular that producer Gordon Brown thought he would bring the sequel out quickly to capitalise on the originals reception.

Details are still sketchy, but it appears that the horror theme is continued, with poor ordinary folk being robbed to pay for the hideous mistakes of some bankers, and crucially a complete failure to organise regulation.

Curiously enough when the original was released to much fanfare we were promised that it was a one off work of art, carefully crafted so that there would be no need of a sequel.

Movie goers will cower in fear as they try and hide from the very realistic prospect of having all their money frittered away by an incompetent pair if pillocks.

The BBC has this here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Ken Clarke back!

I have to say I am a bit gob smacked.

There has been much rumour about, and to be fair it had reached a point where it was inevitable, but I am still surprised.

On the down side I am not happy about his approval of the VAT cut which was pointless, and I do not agree with the level of his support for Europe.

On the upside, he is a good man, a good politician and a big hitter.

The BBC has this.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Decisive poll lead for the Conservative party

Two polls are out in the Sunday papers, one in the Sunday Times and one in the Independent on Sunday.

Both are covered on PoliticalBetting.

In short the Conservatives have between a 13% lead (YouGov in the Sunday Times, see PB here) and 9% (Comres in the Independent on Sunday, see PB here.)

In short, Gordon Brown's second bounce is well and truly over. We are talking landslide territory.

Friday, January 16, 2009

One hell of a landing!

So said Jeff Kolodjay, a passenger aboard a US Airways flight that ditched in the Hudson River.

Well, any landing you can walk away from is a good one, and I am so pleased everyone did escape with their lives.

A good result.

(Well, it would have been better if it had been an uneventful flight... but it could have been so much worse)

The BBC has this.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Heathrow third runway to go ahead!

Apparently the Government is going to announce tomorrow that the third runway at Heathrow is to go ahead.

Bonkers. The road traffic around Heathrow already and the train links are very very bad indeed. Not only that but the quality of life for any one living in the area will go down the pan.

The BBC has this.

Gordon Brown out of touch on VAT!

Gordon Brown is totally out of touch with what hard pressed people are actually spending their money on.

At today's Prime ministers questions he said that the VAT cut was saving the average family £5 per week. If you calculate that you would need to spend £235 per week on goods and services which attract VAT. (£1,018 per calender month or £12,220 per year).

So, after you have paid for all those things that do not have VAT on them, like rent/mortgage, council tax, food, domestic gas those things that do attract VAT but have had their duty raised, like cigarettes, beer and petrol, do you have £235 left? I don't. Neither does anyone I know.

Which planet is he living on? On the other hand for the same money he could have raised personal income tax allowances to £10,000 thus putting £67 per calender month in my pocket, or about £15 per week! Three times as much as the government claim and much much more than that over what benefit I get from the VAT cut.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Brown Bounce 2 ends shocker!

Gordon Brown's second poll bounce has ended. has this, whilst the poll is in the Times here.

The raw numbers are: Conservatives on 43% (+4), Labour on 33% (-2) and the Liberal Democrats on 15% (-2).

I can't help but feel that the Liberal Democrats will gain votes, mostly from Labour though, widening the gap which would give David Cameron a 42 seat majority.

The "do nothing" Conservatives!

Every time some one from the government pops up on TV or Radio, they compare their "action" to the "do nothing" Conservatives. This is of course a plain lie, and from time to time they are getting picked up on it, as well as pieces to camera by the likes of Nick Robinson pointing out what the Conservatives would do.

For example:

Bank recapitalisation, David Cameron suggested it first.

A "golden Hello" for employers who take on anyone who has been unemployed for a while. (As Guido points out here, they were slagging that policy off last month).

A government backed loan guarantee scheme for small businesses.

There are more, but what is interesting about the above three examples of what a Conservative government would do is that they have subsequently become government policy.

So the accusation of "do nothing" is just plain ridiculous. That said James Purnell did get hot under the collar on yesterday's Today program when it was pointed out that the latest government scheme was one nicked wholesale from the Conservative party. He blustered that despite this, the Conservatives were "do nothing" because they (that is us, the Conservative party) would fund these schemes in other ways other than borrowing like there is no tomorrow.

However, I would rather have a "do nothing" government than one which went around doing the wrong things.

Imagine for example your house is on fire. Everyone is thankfully out, but you need the fire put out. Someone turns up who claims to be from the fire brigade and starts taking ten pound notes from you and throwing them on the fire to put it out.

Would you rather do that than nothing? After all, if you just let the fire burn out then you will at least have some money to rebuild if you have not thrown it all on the fire.

The problem we have of course is one of failure to diagnose the problem and then deal with it rather than deal with problems we have not got.

This causes problems as well. Taking as an example a car (at least an old fashioned one) if it will not start but does turn over then generally either you have no spark or a fuel problem. If you have no fuel getting through and start looking to see if you have a spark that's fine. If on the other hand you do have lots of fuel getting through and keep turning the engine over you just flood it, and then it will not start at all for ages. You need to diagnose the problem, or else you will make it worse.

What is curious about the current economic climate is that there is broad agreement on what the problem is, which is the credit crunch, as in the lack of availability of money. It mystifies me that as a result people want to reduce the cost of borrowing money, which is not a big problem, when in fact it will make the real problem worse, which is the lack of money. If you were not prepared to lend at say 4%, why would asking you to lend at 1.5% make you more amenable? The answer is that it will not.

Had interest rates been higher earlier to stave off the housing boom, and/or reduced earlier to stave off the credit crunch all would be well, the credit crunch may well not have happened, and confidence would abound. Alas we are where we are now, and it would help if people dealt with the problems that we do have not try and avoid driving into the ditch we are already in.

The BBC has this.

Israel, Gaza, Hamas and the Truth!

You will not see Israel, Gaza, Hamas or the truth mentioned in the same sentence, or at least not by some one who is honest.

The fact is that there is wrong on all sides.

Yesterdays Today program had an interesting interview with both Tony Blair and Sir Jeremy Greenstock on the subject of talking to Hamas.

Then listen to the interview with Mark Regev at 7:50 on this link.

The problem we have is this:

Whilst it is true that Hamas are a nasty organisation, the fact is that Israel ignores UN resolutions of all sorts, and ignores international law all the time. I looked up the security council resolution about the 1973 Yom Kippur war once, but stumbled across the previous security council resolution which was about Israeli air force jets ordering a civilian airliner in Lebanese airspace bound for Beirut to land in Israel.

Israel is both a stranger to international law and resolutions of the UN security council. It can't claim that the latter is biased against it because the US can and will veto resolutions which it considers biased against Israel. (To be fair the the USA, quite a few proposed resolutions are).

The problem right now of course is that Hamas have "broken" a ceasefire that it and Israel where Israel has simply not met its obligations. That is no excuse for launching rockets aimlessly at any where let alone civilian areas, but there is also no excuse for Israel's continued blockade of Gaza.

When Israel wants to make peace it can. For a start, it can stop breaking international law. That would be a great start. Stop expanding settlements and stealing land. You would be surprised at how big a difference such a simple move make. It would be my preference that it did this in talks with the Palestinian Authority, as that would help the peace process more, but if Israel really does want peace (as opposed to merely saying it wants peace) then this is a minimum. Meanwhile, it seems bizarre that Israel moans about Hamas breaking international law whilst Israel has been doing it systematically for years.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Counter productive interest rate cut.

The Bank of England has cut its base rate of interest to the lowest in history.

This is of course entirely ridiculous, and they ought to be ashamed of themselves.

The Bank of England lost the ability to control interest rates in the market place months ago as a result of the credit crunch. It can set its base rate to what it likes, no body is taking any any notice.

In order to cure a problem, you need to start with the correct diagnosis. This clearly has not been done.

The problem that ails the economy is not the cost of money (or lending) but its availability. You could set interest rates to what ever you like that in principle, is not going to do anything to fix the problem. In fact if you set them too low it will (and is) making the problem worse, or in this case, much worse.

The problem we have is that there is far less on deposit from savers in this country then there is currently out in loans. Our banks do not have the access to money to lend. That is the long and the short of the problem.

All cutting interest rates will do is make it less attractive to lend into this economy.

It gets worse. (No, really, it does). Whilst all those on trackers, without collars, or those who have not yet had them applied are getting cheaper money on existing loans, as in their repayments are less (the equivalent of a tax cut for them, 4.5 million people) those trying to get new loans are having to pay much higher interest rates if they can get loans at all.

I did hear the economically illiterate Yvette Cooper (Mrs Balls) who is Chief secretary to the Treasury speaking yesterday. She said that the banks ought to pass on the cut as they were getting cheaper money! Where from love? The banks are not even getting Libor rate and are paying very good rates compared to base for savers prepared to make a long term commitment.

So what we need is for the Bank of England to stop trying to fix a problem we do not have (the cost of money according to base rate) and start fixing the problem we do have, which is that no one is prepared to lend to us at very low rates.

The BBC has this.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A proportionate response?

Dizzy, confused by what people mean when they say Israel has responded "disproportionately" asks what is a "proportionate response".

It's a fair question, so lets look at some examples:

You have agreed a ceasefire with someone with whom you were in conflict with, but they continue an 18 month blockade, not only stifling any prospect of economic growth, but keeping the consequently unemployed near or close to starvation.

Is resuming the conflict proportionate. In particular, is it proportionate to send rockets aimlessley over the border, towards urban conerbations?

Good question.

A commentator (Jonny Mac) on Dizzy's thread cites (or at least claims to) international law on the subject (as if anyone takes any notice, or indeed ever has) and says thus:
To assess proportionality, military lawyers weigh the strategic importance of the objective against (a) the risk of casualties (especially civilian) and the likely level of those casualties and (b) the steps that will be taken to minimise those casualties.
Well lets look at that:

The strategic objective is to lift the blockade. Looks reasonable to me. No one would tolerate living under such a total blockade, not the United kingdom, The United States of America, Israel, nor indeed Dizzy or Iain Dale. So we have a reasonable strategic objective.

So lets move to how many casualties, civilian or otherwise. Compared to those who may well have died of poverty in the Gaza strip, very few. The weapons used, whether home made or Russian Grad missiles are so inaccurate that if you wanted to hit a barn you would have to be in it. They are "mostly harmless". That does not mean they don't or can't kill, it just means that if you launched 100 of them you would be very lucky to kill anyone, either civilian or military.

What are they doing to limit civilian over military casualties? Toughy that one. They don't have either the range or accuracy in any weapons system to have any meaningfull effect on that. Not only that, the affect on death rates within Israel is slight compared to things like road traffic accidents. You can't really do more to limit civilian casualties than to make the deaths you cause insignificant. Where the rocket attacks do score highly though is that they do cause widespread terror and economic damage. This causes political pressure.

Hmm.. So the action may well be proportionate. What is more.. it may actually result in the lifting of the blockade!*

So is Israel's actions proportionate?

Well, their objective seems to be to stop the rocket attacks. This is because they cause political pressure. It has to be said that like lifting the blockade on the Gaza strip, this is not an unreasonable thing to do.

You do have to wonder though, if they could not both agree to stop pissing in each others tents they could avoid a lot of suffering. Alas politics there does not work like this.

So what should they do? What equipment do they have that could deal with the problem, that is the rocket attacks (other than the obvious stopping the blockade) that could limit casualties, particularly civilian ones.

The obvious one is of course using pilotless drones to watch for rocket crews and despatch them before (preferably) they fire. It would be similar to what we did with the IRA when we stationed SAS squads where the IRA were going to turn up, and making them (obviously armed members of the IRA on a mission) pay.

That would be proportionate.

I do get fed up with Israel claiming that anyone else would do the same. It is certainly true that many would, but history shows that whilst we in the United Kingdon have tried it, we found it does not work and so have sought more effective and less bloody methods.

*Hamas managing to cause a deal that lifts the blockade on Gaza whilst Israel squeazes the West Bank ever tighter will be the death knell of a moderate Palestinian authority. That would also end the possibility of peace. Some cynics may wonder if that is not the long term objective of some on the Israeli side. It is of course taken for granted that that is the aim of Hamas.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Israel sends tanks into Gaza

Israel has sent ground forces into Gaza.

Its at times like this that it is useful to address some important questions;

Who broke the ceasefire?

This seems a bone on contention in some corners, though many point the finger at Hamas. Some point the finger at Israel. Neither is of course true, as the ceasefire was never implemented. In particular there has been no lifting of the economic blockade which has lasted since June 2007, with only sporadic openings of the border for very limited supplies with no provision for Gaza to get any exports out.

Who will win?

Well, who knows. It depends on who sets the victory conditions. In 2006 Hezbollah "won" in many ways, certainly many in Israel felt they did not come out of it victors. Sheik Hassan Nasrallah has gained much cudos.

In this war, we have to be clear that Hamas are no Hezbollah, but then Gaza is difficult terrain because it is small, and so limited places for Israeli forces to go. In short it makes large land mines easier as well as ambushes.

Having said all that if Hamas can still launch missiles into Israel (I would class that as a certainty, they are home made and can make it from the farthest corner of Gaza into Israel) then some will count that as a victory for Hamas.

Some other points of note:

Hamas is an organisation that owes its early days to Shin Bet. They saw it as a bulwark against the secular PLO and Fatah. You would have to laugh at Israel having to kill a monster of its own creation if it did not involve so much death and destruction either side of the border.

The BBC has this.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year for 2009!

I hope everyone has a happy new year in 2009, even if the economic news is going to be a bit grim.

Good luck.