Sunday, July 26, 2009

Government Education cuts!

After all the waffle and lies from Labour about "Tory cuts" and calling David Cameron Mr 10% now at least we have some truth!

Labour is cutting the funding of university teaching by £65 million.

The BBC has this!

Still, certain course can recruit more students, particularly ones teaching technology, they just can't have any more money!

The truth about Bank interest rates.

Some people are having a go at the banks for the interest rates they charge, particularly as the Bank of England base rate is at 0.5%.

People claim that the banks are making a big profit by charging interest rates of 4.5% and above when the Bank of England rate is so low.

The problem is, as I have said before, that no one cares what the dreamers in the Bank of England set interest rates at, no one is lending at that rate, particularly to banks. They are not even close to that rate to the government. Banks are paying much higher rates for the money they buy in to lend so are charging more for it. It is as simple as that.

The fact that the Bank of England is in cloud cuckoo land will however cause real long term problems.

The BBC has this.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Harry Patch, Rest in Peace.

The last man still alive, to serve to serve in the trenches in World War 1 died today at the age of 111.

He did not start talking about his experiences until he was over 100.

He was the last surviving man to have served in the first world war.

May he rest in peace.

The BBC has this.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Conservative Chloe Smith wins Norwich North with majority of 7,000!

Well done to all who campaigned there, this is a fantastic result!

Chloe Smith got 13,591 votes, and a majority over Labour's Chris Ostrowski of 7,348 who got6,243.

That is a swing of 16.6%!

(Source Wikipedia here)

The BBC has this.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Henry Allingham, rest in peace.

Henry Allingham, the oldest surviving World War 1 veteran and last surviving founder member of the RAF died today at his care home. He was 113.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

For the Fallen, by Laurence Binyon

We will remember him.

The BBC has this.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Peter Harvey, the teacher who snapped

Peter Harvey was a popular and well respected science teacher at All Saints' Roman Catholic School in Mansfield, then one day he attacked 14 year old pupil **** ********** with a 2kg weight and injured two other pupils.

The incident happened because he was being taunted by the physics class he was teaching, with them singing man in the mirror changing some of the words to psycho.

He will appear before magistrates today charged with attempted murder.

Peter Harvey had just returned from sick leave having suffered a stress related stroke. Then someone thought it would be a bright idea to throw him back in the classroom on his own.

To me at least, this seems like lighting the blue touch and standing well back. If the stress of teaching was so bad it caused him a stroke he clearly was not coping before he was ill and so needed much more support which he did not appear to have. You do have to wonder if the duty of care the school owed to him and his pupils was properly discharged. Personally I suspect not.

The BBC has this.

Update 22:53

Having read some of the comments, I offer this from the Daily Mail.

I would point out that we have no reason to believe **** ********** deserved anything. According to the Daily Mail article, he may well have been a nice lad.

What appears to have happened is that a class got seriously out of control with a teacher who should have been better supported.

Update 14th May 2010, to reflect a section 39 order I have been made aware of.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

A bonfire of the QuANGO's?

A QuANGO is a Quasi Autonomous Non Governmental Organisation.

In principle, in their place they are no bad thing. For example they can be independent of government, albeit only to an extent. Only to an extent of course because those who run a QuANGO are usually picked by the executive and only really gain Independence when it is obvious that is likely to change, particularly if the head of said QuANGO decides now is a good time to give the existing executive a bit of a kicking.

As an example, we have the Office for National Statistics. This obviously has to be arms length and independent of government in order for there to be trust in the numbers it produces. However it is only as independent as its head, and he or she is only as independent as his next reappointment.

The ONS has given the government a bit of a kicking over things like immigration, but I personally suspect that is because the stench of death over this government is so clear you can smell it in Australia.

However there is another reason for creating an arms length QuANGO, and that is political cover for uncomfortable decisions. The Learning and Skills Council has crashed and burned in terms of setting up new collages and funding expansion of places (even here in Mid Sussex) but taken the heat for the calamity without it burning politicians.

You see, it gives political cover.

The Conservative party currently propose an independent NHS board to stop the NHS being a political football.

This is of course a fantastic aim, and is a bit like motherhood and apple pie (as our American cousins would say). You can't argue against motherhood and apple pie!

Except of course you can. The NHS consumes huge amounts of taxpayers cash. Enormous amounts of it. It will be something like £102 billion either this year or next.

Personally, I want to fire someone if they get that spending wrong. It is after all, a remarkably large amount of my cash.

And this is the problem with QuANGO's in general. They are a way of dodging political responsibility, generating headlines and pretending something is being done, whether it is or isn't.

The BBC has this.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

State abduction of children and spam (Or unsolicited commercial email)

This may be two subjects where you can see absolutely no connection what so ever. Fair enough. There is though, and I will get to it.

I read in today's Sunday Telegraph, of the case of a man who because he had security concerns about his circumstances asked to pick up his daughter from inside the school gates. This led to social workers turning up, refusing to show ID, and then him getting arrested and for a while sectioned.

Read the article, I really suggest you do. You can also read this from Manwiddicombe from whom I have got the link.

Right. Read those?

Now cast your mind back to baby P, or rather baby Peter. I wrote at the time that knee jerk reactions were no good.

The problem seems to be this: That if children die at the hands of parents then social services need to be harsher or if children are taken into care unreasonably they need to be easier.

This is where the link to spam comes in. One of the things the company for which I work sell is an anti spam solution. I personally do a lot of work on it.

We can move the goal posts in terms of score at which emails are considered spam or not one way or the other, catching more or less spam as spam and generating more or less false positives as a result.

Surprisingly* this is frankly not good enough. The customer who does not want spam does not want to lose an important email because it now score high enough. What the customer actually wants is more discrimination between what is unsolicited commercial email and what is not, rather than some individual binning their email on an arbitrary rule change.

Our response has to be raising our game to write better spam busting rules. The question then is, why can't the state? The case of baby Peter is instructive. He had half a finger missing. All you need is a medic or social worker who can count to 10 and do fractions and they would have noticed something amis. No need for harsher rules, just better discrimination between those that need intervention and those that do not.

*Actually, it is not that surprising at all really.

Hitler got things done?

The Sunday Times have conducted an interview with Bernie Ecclestone in which he apparently laments weak leaders and says that Hitler got things done. He also says that Saddam Hussein should not have been overthrown because he was the only person who could hold the country together.

Oh dear.

Well it is true that Hitler got things done, one of which was to get Germany totally destroyed, and divided for 46 years.

He may well have made the trains run on time* but if it is a choice between punctual trains, and living in fear of a knock at the door in the middle of the night, frankly, I'll walk to work if that's all the same to Bernie.

The Saddam comment is also illustrative. He held Iraq together with nothing but fear. I would rather be free in a wreck of a country than live in constant fear in a "perfect" one.

*I have no idea if he did, but it is often said.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Remove the power of the Bank of England?

There is an interesting article in the Times, by Jamie Whyte suggesting that powers be removed from the bank of England rather than given to it.

Specifically the power to set interest rates.

As it happens I think that the Bank of England should supervise banks, and have the power to do so.

That said Jamie makes a very powerful case for removing the power of the Bank of England to set interest rates. The only comment I would make though, is that it has already lost them. Many banks are paying much more than 0.5% for savings and lending at much higher rates as well, and Libor is much higher than 0.5% as well. In fact what the bank currently does with interest rates is mostly irrelevant.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Are the BBC this technically illiterate?

Note the above picture in a question for GCSE technology on the BBC website. (Click to zoom in)

The part is correctly identified as an inverter although it could also be called a not gate. The text below says:
It's an inverter, which is an electrical device that converts direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC).
Oh dear. It is not that sort of inverter. Did someone technically illiterate at the BBC google it, or did someone setting the syllabus do that and the BBC not notice? Either way it amazes me just how ignorant journalists are.

Update 22:15

The BBC have updated the question to just say this:
CORRECT! It's an inverter.
Oh dear. You thought they could have looked up what sort of inverter that is!

Reform of MP's falling at first hurdle?

It is no surprise to me that the reform of MP's conduct of MP's expenses and conduct is falling at the first hurdle, as the BBC reports here.

I have no doubt that Labour government figures will blame people, particularly Conservatives, for being against this ridiculous bill on the grounds that they must not want either reform or MP's to be honest.

The reality is of course starkly different. When apologists for this bunch of liars turn up on the airwaves to lie, I will call them liars, just like Ed Balls is a liar.

As I have already pointed out, MP's guilty of making false claims could (and should) already be prosecuted for fraud, or obtaining pecuniary advantage by deception and be imprisoned for 10 years so why let them off with a maximum of 1 year?

The bill also seeks to reduce the privilege given to parliament, whereby a nothing that a member of parliament says can be used against them in court. Members of parliament who understand these things are needless to say against.

Then the bill has to pass the house of lords, where they will take one look at this fetid pile of excrement and throw it out only for the government to huff and puff.

Ed Balls is a liar!

There is no charitable way to put this, Ed Balls has been on the airwaves lying like there is no tomorrow.

Sue me Ed, if you dare.

As Fraser Nelson notes here, and then after the angry phone call here, Ed Balls has claimed that Alistair Darling's 2009 budget laid down plans to reduce the public debt.

Ed Ball's lied thus:
Alistair Darling in the budget set out plans which show the deficit coming down, national debt coming down.
The problem is that he is using a measure of debt most people would not use, and measured on a basis no serious economist believes.

The statement is true if you think reducing borrowing growth to a level where the economy is growing faster is reducing national debt. Basically if you imagine a household budget, you are still increasing your overdraft every year till 2017, but you will get pay rises every year till then of 3.5% and in 2017, the accumulated debt will look like less in percentage terms against your wages.

The problem is that this is still increasing debt in net terms, and the supposed real terms decrease on which the lie is based is founded on the idea that economic growth will start right now, be sustained, (no double dip recession) and then go on the serial above trend growth over several years of 3.5%.

It all comes unstuck there for two reasons. First of all most people would still regard continued borrowing as increasing rather than decreasing debt, but secondly and most importantly it relies on amazing growth figures for years to come.

That is not going to happen because overall debt (government, household and corporate debt combined) is running at 400% of GDP whilst real interest rates are near 5% (not what the Bank of England base rate actually is, but what lenders are actually charging for new loans) which means that this lot could cost us 20% of GDP every year. Quite a lot of that money is going abroad to foreign lenders. It drains money from the economy.

Whilst it is possible that there may be a strong bounce back in growth after a recession as inventories are built up, it seems utter fantasy land that such a bounce would last several years with this much debt.

Hat tip to Manwiddicombe for the links to Fraser's article.