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Monday, December 26, 2011

Another PFI scam

Back in the summer Northamptonshire County Council announced that they had to make savings of £2m a year. At the time I thought they best way to make savings was:
1. Don't pay your Chief Executive so much- and make him/her pay his own pension contributions.
2. Get rid of all the dead wood, all those people in "protected" jobs, that can't be sacked and have been downgraded but kept their big salaries. A friend told me of an instance where a woman on £50k's job had finished but because her job was protected they couldn't get rid of her, so she worked in the council call centre. All the others were on minimum wage, and she was on a thousand pounds a week- for answering the phone.

But no. They switched off half the street lights across the county. They did this in June and July, when the evenings are light and the nights are short. They switched off the lights outside my house and in the service road that runs along my side boundary. Within a couple of days a woman had fallen and cut her head, necessitating a trip to A&E. We complained and they switched our street light back on (switching another off down the street).

After a while one gets used to the gloom.

This week I received a letter from Balfour Beatty saying that they'd entered into a PFI schemem with Northants County Council where they were going to replace all the street lights. This was in some way going to save the council money (my suggestion would have saved more).

So how come we never heard about this PFI scheme? Was it already in place before they switched the lights off? Where are the figures to support their claim that this will be cheaper?

PFI schemes are scams. They are always biased against the taxpayer. Howm much will we end up paying for the lights to be switched back on?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Modern myths

Christmas is for many people a time when they can eat and drink to excess.

But what constitutes excess? And how is it measured?

Let's look at the "Safe" limits for drinking. Where did they originate? What scientific research was carried out that led researchers to their conclusion?
According to this blog

" Guidelines on safe alcohol consumption limits that have shaped health policy in Britain for 20 years were “plucked out of the air” as an “intelligent guess”.
The Times reveals today that the recommended weekly drinking limits of 21 units of alcohol for men and 14 for women, first introduced in 1987 and still in use today, had no firm scientific basis whatsoever."

A best guess. That's all it could be. Surely a five foot tall adult male weighing seven stone will have a different tolerance to alcohol than a six foot six male weighing eighteen stone? So how can one standard be applied? More nonsense and scaremongering.

What about the Five-a-Day healthy eating campaign? You know we're all supposed to eat five portions of fruit and/or veg in order to stay healthy. Where did they find the scientific proof of that?

The answer is - they didn't. According to this article

"It started as a marketing campaign dreamt up by around 20 fruit and veg ­companies and the U.S. National Cancer Institute at a meeting in California in 1991"

That's right- an advertising campaign by fruit and veg companies. No bias or vested interest there then.

So- whatever you're doing this Christmas- enjoy yourself. My advice (which is worthless) is to drink moderately and only eat what you normally eat. It's up to you to decide what is moderate. We're all different. And don't you forget it.

John Galt speaks

I saw this over at Old Holborn's site and yes, I watched it. All 15+ minutes of it.

You are no doubt aware that I'm a fan of Ayn Grant's magnificent opus "Atlas Shrugged". I will no doubt be reading it again in the coming months. Her "hero" is a character called John Galt.

Here is a video of Ryan Air's CEO Michael O'Leary speaking in Brussels earlier this year. His speach could have been written by Rand. Please take the time and watch it all the way through. See if you don't find yourself agreeing with him long before the end.

Merry thingy and a happy wotsit

(Forwarded by a friend)

Good morning/afternoon/evening,

I wanted to send some sort of holiday greeting to friends and family, but it is difficult in today's world to know exactly what to say without offending someone. So I met with my lawyer yesterday, and on advice I wish to say the following :

Please accept, with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress , non-addictive, gender neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday practiced with the most enjoyable traditions of religious persuasion or secular practices of your choice with respect for the religious / secular persuasions and / or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all .

I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2012, but not without due respect for the calendar of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make our country great ( not to imply that the United Kingdom is necessarily greater than any other country ) and without regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee .

By accepting this greeting, please be advised that you are accepting these terms :

This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable on the proviso that there is no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for her / him or others and is void where prohibited by law, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. The wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher .

Best Regards ( without prejudice )

Name withheld ( Privacy Act )

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The French have short memories

I've been thinking back to Sarkozy's blaming of the UK for refusing to rubber stamp their lunatic scheme to save the Euro.

I think that the French President has a very short memory. He is conveniently forgetful of the role played by British troops in the liberation of his country 65 short years ago.
When bolshie French President de Gaulle withdrew France from the common NATO military command in February 1966, he ordered all American military forces to leave France. US President Lyndon B Johnson asked Secretary of State Dean Rusk to seek further clarification from President de Gaulle by asking whether the bodies of buried American soldiers must leave France as well. Rusk recorded in his autobiography that de Gaulle did not respond when asked, "Does your order include the bodies of American soldiers in France's cemeteries?

Perhaps Cameron might remind Sarko that his freedom was bought with British blood?

Just a thought...

One thing about the present Eurocrisis puzzles me.

Over the last ten years Germany grew rich by selling cars to peasants in Greece, Portugal and Ireland. Now these countries are broke and will sooner or later default on their debts.

All the current strategy is based on Germany economic strength, of how it's the powerhouse in Europe. But hang on- they grew rich by selling cars. Their European market has shrunk, so who is going to buy the cars to get the EU out of trouble?

Not Ireland. Not Greece. Not Portugal. Not Spain........

Just a thought...

Monday, December 12, 2011

More Econonsense from Durban

I've been reading up on Carbon Dioxide- you know- that vile pollutant that is destroying our planet and must be stopped at all costs- according to the WWF and all the eco-loonies that infested Durban recently. They tell me the science is settled and that the earth is going to get warmer because of all the CO2 that is being produced by filthy humans.

This is a good link to find out about CO2.

I particularly like this section:

Humans use carbon dioxide in many different ways. The most familiar example is its use in soft drinks and beer, to make them fizzy. Carbon dioxide released by baking powder or yeast makes cake batter rise.
Some fire extinguishers use carbon dioxide because it is denser than air. Carbon dioxide can blanket a fire, because of its heaviness. It prevents oxygen from getting to the fire and as a result, the burning material is deprived of the oxygen it needs to continue burning.
Carbon dioxide is also used in a technology called supercritical fluid extraction that is used to decaffeinate coffee. The solid form of carbon dioxide, commonly known as Dry Ice, is used in theatres to create stage fogs and make things like "magic potions" bubble.

I've highlighted the section that says that CO2 is heavier/denser than air. I was always told and read in books/ watched in films that people trapped in enclosed spaces need to move to the top of the space they are in- as the CO2 sinks to the floor.
OK you warmists- show us where the concentrations of CO2 low down in the atmosphere are.
You can't?
Why's that?
Oh- the CO2 is trapped high in the atmosphere you say?

That must be a different sort of CO2 to the common ordinary CO2 that makes plants grow and is so essential to human life then.

Sorry you sad apologists and snake oil salesmen and bandwagon hoppers-on. The science is settled and you are wrong. So wrong.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

It's not just about money

The European debt crisis continues to dominate the news, As I write Cameron is meeting Merkel, Sarkozy and the others in an attempt to fudge yet another "cure" for the Euro. It will fail. It will always fail. And all the time the bailiffs are at the door.

Around about 2003 I started to get a premonition about the coming storm. At that time Gordon Brown was Chancellor and he expressed concern about the sluggish economy, which was dominated by consumer spending. It must have been close to Christmas. As usual, the retailers were moaning about how slow the sales were. Brown commented that he was concerned about the level of debt that the general public was running up, but at the same time expressed the hope that we would continue to spend in the shops in order to keep the economy moving.

In November 2003, Vince Cable asked Gordon Brown, then Chancellor, "Is not the brutal truth that ... the growth of the British economy is sustained by consumer spending pinned against record levels of personal debt, which is secured, if at all, against house prices that the Bank of England describes as well above equilibrium level?" Brown replied, "As the Bank of England said yesterday, consumer spending is returning to trend. The Governor said, 'there is no indication that the scale of debt problems have ... risen markedly in the last five years.' He also said that the fraction of household income used up in debt service is lower than it was then."

Put simply- Brown said, I know we're in a mess but keep spending (or I know we're in the shit, but keep paddling). We've lost the paddle.

I kept dreaming that we'd wake up in our beds to find bailiffs downstairs with papers to say that our building society had gone bust and had been bought up by foreigners and the new owners wanted their property back and we had but a few hours to get out before we would be forcibly evicted. That hasn't come true (thank God) but Europe is in a desperate situation.

1. We've given all our manufacturing to the Chinese who are no respecter of details such as copyright and patents. When we closed our factories, the machines were sold and exported and the factories demolished. We couldn't restart production if we wanted to.

2. We've based our economy on the Germans selling their cars to countries like Ireland and Greece who couldn't afford them, but bought them on credit. David McWilliams in his 3 part TV series "Searching for the Pope's Children" put this point most convincingly. I recommend you watch it if you can.

3. The Euro was launched under a false premise, and to his credit Gordon Brown refused to join. The UK was probably the only honest country. One of the conditions of joining was that our debt should not exceed 60% (I think) of GDP. Our debt was above that so we waited. All the other countries lied.

4. The solution to the Euro crisis is the reason why it was doomed from the start. The only way a common currency will work is if all the countries have the same economic strategies and budgets. It US dollar works because the central government sets budgets and economic policy for all 51 states. How can 17 countries with different economies, languages, cultures and parliaments share a common currency? The EU now wants to impose a central government that sets budgets for each of the member states. When we signed up to the Common Market, it was just to allow our goods to be traded across borders without the imposition of tariffs. We're a long way from that.

5. If the UK government caves in and allows Brussels to set our budget, then what?

I can see a number of threats to our way of life and to the distinctiveness of Britain.

The most serious is the threat of change in our legal system. English common law is based upon the simple premise that a man is innocent until proven guilty. Another way of looking at it is that in the UK everything is allowed unless it is prohibited.
Europe follows the Napoleonic Code where a man is guilty unless he can prove his innocence. That is the exact opposite of our legal code. Put another way- in Europe everything is prohibited unless it is allowed.
Such a change in the law will undo every statute going back to Magna Carta. Every law that is imposed by Brussels acts against our interests, and now you can see why. Their laws are based on an entirely different premise.

The UK's tradition of driving on the left hand side of the road while sitting in the right hand seat dates back to Roman times. It meant that the driver could pull his sword and wield it while driving with his left hand. Napoleon ordered his army to enforce driving on the right hand side of the road whilst sitting on the left hand seat in order to identify his troops, his supporters and his enemies- who were driving on the other side of the road. That is why the US drive on the left. They were also in conflict with Britain and sided with the French who were in Canada to the North, and Louisiana in the South.
If we become European, with Napoleonic laws, we will then be compelled to drive on the right.
Would that be a road too far?

I had another broken night's sleep and eventually went downstairs for a cup of tea. I switched the TV on and caught Cameron's press conference. We are now the fall guys of Europe. The EU is still doomed, the Euro is still doomed, but now they have someone to blame.
A commenter on the excellent Biased-BBC website has summed it up perfectly

"Beneath all this France and Germany cannot agree, as so cannot address the issue of the euro zone imbalances. But they need someone to blame, so the bumbling incoherent fool Cameron is just the job. He thinks he has a victory, Germany and France blame the British, and we have status quo.
I think it is as simple as this not that anything is simple with the EU

France is stuffed and can see its Banks going down the tube and wants the ECB to buy Bonds
Germany won’t allow this until there is fiscal union with budgets controlled by the EU. (Big treaty change taking forever) Austerity and punishment is all they have to offer NOW
France does not want the EU to control its budgets, as they will then have a problem with all their farmers and other small matters like that, many of which would be very similar to those in the UK truth be told.

So whatever power grab the EU is looking for they are just the hyenas circling for the scraps."

Read the complete post here

Monday, December 05, 2011

NHS and waste

My quote for the day-
"All truth passes through three stages. First it is ridiculed. Second it is violently opposed. Third it is accepted as being self-evident." --Schopenhauer.

I saw an article on The Register's site last week. You can access it here-

I read it with interest as I have been spending a lot of time at my local hospital. I'm currently attending three or four different clinics and I've been in and out of hospital a few times recently as well. I probably know as much about what is happening at the coal face than the bosses upstairs. Added to which is the fact that I have had a huge amount of experience in various jobs in my career. You can check out just how varied by reading my other blog-

The problem with all political decisions is this- whichever party is in power, the decisions and strategies are always worked out by the civil service in Whitehall. So whatever the parties may try, nothing changes. Even the current upheaval in the NHS won't make the slightest difference. The bodies currently administrating it (The PCTs) have already started rebranding and working with the GP consortia so that nothing will change- except that there will be an extra level of bureaucracy to pay for.

But there is hope- and it involves thinking outside the box. In the article in the Reg we find an appalling catalogue of inefficiency regarding purchasing. Read this-

"Over the past 10 years the system, which operates along similar lines to systems available in major supermarkets, has been rolled out to departments with a stock value greater than £250,000."

Read it again. Simply by having a computerised bar code reading system this one hospital is saving thousands, possibly millions.

"Medwell says that the trauma, spinal and neurology theatres at Leeds General Infirmary saved £500,000 over three years by cutting the purchase of excess stock. The figure represents a one-off saving, but as he puts it: "You then live off the fat of the land as you use up the stock and your ordering patterns become much more stable."

The trust claims that savings are also made against the costs of running a time-consuming manual system. "We are talking about saving nursing time, stock control and stock checking which are a real bane in the life of most nurses," says Medwell."

So why hasn't it been tried before? Every supermarket chain has computer systems in place that can give information on the stock levels of every item on the shelves. It can use this information to plan deliveries, buy the correct amounts and cut waste. The supermarkets could not function without these systems.

So why do I bring this up? It's time to think outside the box. Tesco or one of the major chains should trial their systems in one or more hospital. Because the systems are proven technology they should be easy to install and get running. No more wasting countless millions re-inventing the wheel, which is what is currently happening. Once the system is up and running the savings will be apparent. Tesco did not get to be the size it is by wasting money. Then roll it out across the country.

One final thing. No-one currently working on NHS IT schemes or responsible for ordering them should be let within 500 miles of the pilot unless they are invited.

The money-pit that is the NHS can be reformed, but it will take political will and commercial acumen.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Stating the obvious

The BBC, arch eco-activists and pushers of global warming/climate change are at it again. Stating the bleeding obvious.

I draw your attention to the first paragraph;
"The drought that has affected parts of England since June will last into next summer if there is insufficient winter rain, the Environment Agency has said."

True. But then, the sun will definitely shine tomorrow if there are no clouds in the sky.
These days my trust in the BBC's impartiality and trustworthiness has eroded to zero. I don't trust them on climate, I don't trust them on weather, and I don't trust their wild life and nature films.
OK, they were always suspect. When Armand & Michaela Denis made their wild life films back in the 50s they used to piece together the films they had shot in order to create a story. In some ways the only honest wild life film maker was Johnny Morris, who used to put words into the mouths of zoo animals. It was tosh. He knew it, we knew it. It was not a factual programme, merely entertainment.
But then the BBC wild life unit (or whatever it's called) in Bristol got hold of CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) and all pretence of factual broadcasting went out of the window. Programmes about dinosaurs are the worst.
All we know about dinosoars are a few fragments of fossils, yet there they are on the screen in full technicolour and sound. I'm all for using your imagination but these programmes are passed off as fact.....
Now dinosoars are accepted a gospel and don't anyone contradict them.
I do. I am contradicting them and their cronies at the Natural History Museum.

All we know for certain about scientific knowledge is that in time, eventually, everything we take as fact will be disproven. Anyone who disagreed with the church's belief that the earth was the centre of the universe and that everything revolved around it was a heretic. Now we know better.

One hundred and forty years ago the best scientific minds believed that space was filled with a mysterious jelly like substance called "ether". Einstein disproved that theory but was mocked for years by people who thought they knew better.Now we know better.

One day we may know more about evolution, but for now it is only a theory.

Back to the BBC's article. Some parts of the country don't get much rain. Well tell me something I didn't know. This has always been the case. 30 years ago there was talk about doing something about it. Now that successive governments have sold off the water boards who built the reservoirs we rely on, it's going to be difficult to fix. difficult but not impossible.

The rain falls in the North West, but not the South East, where the people live (mostly because it's not raining). The rainwater drains into the rivers and then to the sea. Our Victorian forefathers created a network of navigable rivers and canals that criss cross the country. It is possible to travel in a boat from the North West to the South East by canal and river. If that is the case then it is surely easy for water to be moved using the same network? A few pumps to move the water up the lock systems and a few miles of underground pipework similar to that which links Rutland and Pitsford reservoirs and the water could easily flow.

People keep claiming that the world will run out of drinkable water. Nonsense.
80% of the world's surface is covered by water. Although most of that is seawater, modern technology can easily convert saltwater into fresh.

According to Wikipaedia:
"A typical aircraft carrier in the U.S. military uses nuclear power to desalinate 400,000 US gallons (1,500,000 l; 330,000 imp gal) of water per day." A big ship with a large crew floats in sea water and converts sea water to fresh water as required. We are an island surrounded by sea. Why not convert sea water to fresh?

There are several methods of desalination, but two that spring to mind are:
Multi-stage flash distillation which accounted for 85% of production worldwide in 2004; and processes that use membranes to desalinate, by applying reverse osmosis technology.
Membrane processes use semi-permeable membranes and pressure to separate salts from water. Reverse osmosis plant membrane systems typically use less energy than thermal distillation, which has led to a reduction in overall desalination costs over the past decade. (Source- Wikipaedia- desalination)

OK so they use a lot of energy and won't solve all the world's problems, but in the UK, an island where no-one lives more than 100 miles from the sea, they could be useful. The nuclear power stations that are sited next to the sea could supply the energy, and an underground water pipeline could move the fresh water to where it can be stored and used.

I envy the Victorians and their "can-do" attitude. If they'd have had access to our technology, they'd have sorted it all out. Everything would have been built to last and not jerry-rigged as cheaply as possible. It would have worked and would have looked great as well (even the insides of the Victorian sewage works- where no-one would see them- were designed to look beautiful).

I'm convinced that there are people in power who want this country brought to its knees. Who want it to fail. Who want it destroyed. 60 or 70 years ago they would be condemned as traitors. Call me old-fashioned, but that's what they are.