Showing posts from March, 2013

Quote of the Day

“Political correctness is the natural continuum from the party line. What we are seeing once again is a self-appointed group of vigilantes imposing their views on others. It is a heritage of communism, but they don't seem to see this.”   Doris Lessing

Wishing everyone who reads this a Happy Easter

It is easy for us in a society whose culture is overwhelmingly shaped by Christianity, but where Christian festivals can become more social than religious affairs, to take Easter for granted and forget how powerful the message of the first Easter was. The disciples thought they had seen everything they had believed in and hoped for destroyed, and the saviour who they had hoped would bring peace and justice was killed in a particularly horrible way. Yet in the Easter story, from the blackest despair and disaster God’s power brought hope and a new future. To everyone who is reading this and is a Christian, may the love and peace of the risen Christ be with you this Easter. To anyone who is reading this and belongs to another faith, I hope your God may be with you this weekend. To anyone who is reading this and does not have any religious faith, I hope that you can still share this weekend in something of the happiness which Easter brings to believers.

Quote of the Day

"Only government can take perfectly good paper, cover it with perfectly good ink, and make the combination worthless." Professor Milton Friedman

Quote of the Day

"Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the Capitalistic System was to debauch the currency. . . Lenin was certainly right. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million can diagnose." John Maynard Keynes, in "The Economic consequences of the peace."

A choice between bad and worse

There were no good options for dealing with the problems in Cyprus. Both Cyprus and the Euro zone negotiators trying to put a deal together were facing a choice between bad options and terrible ones. The bailout deal which was rejected by the Cypriot parliament was a particularly bad one because it would have confiscated money from the bank deposits held by small savers, and I dread to think how much harm that would have done to public confidence in banks all around the world. The need to avoid moral hazard means that you allow those who do stupid things to suffer consequences, but putting your money in a bank rather than hiding it in the mattress of your big should not be allowed to become a stupid thing to do. For governments to ask taxpayers to pay to protecting the managers and shareholders of a badly run bank is a mistake. Protecting the depositors of the bank is not. Actually taxing bank deposits is a really, really bad idea. The deal which was actualy approved protects

Quote of the Day

"So it appears that not even Justin Bieber wants to go to a Justin Bieber concert ..." Anonymous tweet doing the rounds on the internet

Quote of the Day

"Our National Health Service is one of this country’s greatest assets. And it’s right that when people come here legitimately they should be able to use it. But we should be clear that what we have is a free National Health Service… …not a free International Health Service." David Cameron

Thoughts on the big freeze

In order to avoid tempting fate I struck out the word "final" at the start of the title of this post: there were snowflakes in the air in Whitehaven at several points today although it did not manage to settle, and although things are slowly beginning to return to normal there are still large snowdrifts in significant areas of Cumbria and other parts of Britain. The forecast is still for cold weather and it might be premature to assume the problems of the past week are about to literally melt away. But whatever else we may say about the disruption which the weather has caused over the past few days, it has shown humanity at it's best. The landlord of the Brown Cow in Waberthwaite, Phil Chapman, who provided accomodation to a dozen stranded people: all those other people from hoteliers and council staff to private citizens who  helped provide a roof over the heads of stranded travellers. All those people who helped rescue stranded motorists, both those from the polic

Whatever next

Thanks to Jim for pointing out that the Guardian actually published an article on Friday called " Is the weather worse under the coalition government? " which gives the figures to show that the weather in Britain has been colder since David C ameron has been Prime Minister than under his predecessors. I am fairly sure that making this connection was supposed to be a joke - the journalist who wrote the piece more or less confirmed this in one of the comments. Actually the funniest thing about the article is the comments, which ranged from those along the lines of "Why not - we blame them for everything else!" through "Victory for David Cameron in fight against global warming," to "Slow news day, then ?" You can judge for yourself here .

Quote of the Day

"Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and appying the wrong remedies." Groucho Marx

David Cameron's speech about immigration

Here is a link to a video with extracts from the speech which the Prime Minister gave today about immigration (video posted by the Daily Telegraph on Youtube.) And here is the full text of the speech.    "It's great to be here in Ipswich at University Campus Suffolk. This is an important time for this young and growing university. With pioneering research and business start-up incubators, UCS is playing an important role in the economic development of the region. And with some 500 students from 70 different countries of origin outside the EU, it is also a natural place to talk about something I see as a vital part of our economic strategy - which is immigration.   Now I have always had a clear view about immigration. I believe immigration has brought significant benefits to Britain. From Polish heroes who fought for us during the war… …to West Indians who helped us rebuild afterwards.   From those who have come to our shores seeking a safe haven fr

Cumbria 25 March 2013: the big freeze day four

As sections of the A595 remain blocked by huge snowdrifts between Bootle and Holmrook, police are asking drivers who have not recovered vehicles abandoned on the A595 to contact them, and not to try to collect their vehicles until it is safe to do so. Scores of cars and vans were abandoned along stretches of the A595 in Cumbria at the weekend. Recovery teams towed them to lay-bys so they would not impede the gritters and snowploughs clearing the route. Anyone who has to travel through areas of Cumbria which had been affected by the snow - which is the majority of the county - are urged to exercise extreme caution, as melting snow may refreeze as black ice. As of Monday lunchtime the hamlet of Hall Waberthwaite remains largely cut off by heavy snowdrifts. Conditions have begun to improve. About 54 properties in the Copeland district of Cumbria remained without electricity as at first thing on Monday morning, mostly in the Eskmeals, Bootle and Waberthwaite areas but an Elect

Quote of the Day

"In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over one mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oolitic Silurian Period, just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi River was upwards of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-rod. And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long, and Cairo and New Orleans will have joined their streets together, and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact." - Mark Twain, from "Life on t

Cumbria 24 Mar 2013: the big freeze day three

The variability of the weather in Cumbria remains astonishing. In some areas, such as Whitehaven, there is bright sunshine, and the only sign of severe weather is that it is rather colder than the typical spring morning. Other areas are still suffering severe disruption with huge snowdrifts still blocking key roads, including the A595 near Drigg and the A66 at Brough. As at just before noon on Sunday there are still half a dozen major road closures in Cumbria The BBC Travel News Cumbria page with up to date details of these and other problems is here .

Quote of the Day

Despite the bloodbath he helped to unleash, Tony Blair used the tenth anniversary of the Iraq war to make the case for putting our troops on the ground in Syria. Isn’t there something obscene about a man who makes his millions parading as a peace-maker being so quick to call for more British lives to be risked fighting unwinnable wars in the Middle East? Perhaps if his own son Euan had signed up to serve his country, Blair would be a little less gung-ho about sending other young boys to die on doomed missions in the desert. Amanda Platell, writing in the Daily Mail

Letter from the Falkland Islanders to the UN

The elected government of the Falkland Islands has sent the following letter to the UN Secretary general following the recent referendum.   "On behalf of the Falkland Islands Government, the Hon. Michael Summers and Hon. Sharon Halford would like to present to you the results of the recent referendum on the future political status of the Falkland Islands. " A total of 99.8 per cent of those who voted decided to maintain the current constitutional arrangement between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Falkland Islands Government. We believe this result is a clear and comprehensive expression of our wishes and very much hope that the United Nations will acknowledge and respect those wishes as the legitimate voice of the Falkland Islands people. " The founding principles of the Charter of the United Nations and General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) are clear on the primacy of respect for the principle of self-determination for all

Cumbria 23 March 2013: the big freeze continues

It is astonishing how some parts of the county seem to have almost entirely escaped the severe weather but others continue to be badly affected.   Staff at the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant have been advised to arrive for their shifts as usual today (Saturday 23rd March) after nonessential personnel were sent home yesterday (Friday 22nd) because the weather and road closures meant concern about whether they might be stranded.   Search and rescue teams led stranded motorists to safety in Cumbria overnight after deep snowdrifts made roads impassable. About 70 people were rescued and Cumbria Police said it received 800 calls for assistance.   Gary Parsons from the Bay Search and Rescue Team said the snow had been "unprecedented". Mr Parsons said work to clear the worst-hit areas would continue throughout the day. "We're going to try and move some of the cars and try to make a path for them so hopefully by mid-afternoon the roads will be op

Childcare vs stay at home mums - we should value both

For most new parents the choices involved in deciding how to reconcile earning money and looking after your children are extremely difficult. I always try to avoid using terms like "full-time-mums" or "working mothers" which appear to make a perjorative choice on one side or the other, except to disavow them. Indeed, I detest both the phrase "working mother" because being a mum is extremely hard work whether you have another job as well or not, and the phrase "full-time mother" because those mothers who do have another job still carry the burden of responsibility, and the guilt complex with which society seems determined to saddle parents in general and mothers in particular, 100% of the time during a long day. And although where one parent stays at home it is most often the mother, there are some stay-at-home dads, and their work should be valued too. It is right that the government is trying to help those mums who have or want to find e

Quote of the Day

"I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Voltaire, attributed in G. Tallentyre's "The Friends of Voltaire."

On Internet Search Engines

I can't wait for search engines to get a bit more selective at directing people towards what they actually want. I'm sure it will eventually happen in my lifetime, though it's taking longer than I would have hoped. Surely it ought not to be beyond the wit of man that if someone puts in search terms which suggest that they are looking for time-sensitive information - if one of the words in the search is "today" for instance, you programme search engines that any results from weblogs like this one bring up recent posts rather than old ones. What provoked this thought was looking at today's traffic stats for the posts on my blog and realising that search engines had obviously directed people who were looking for details of school closures in Cumbria today to a post which had gone up in January on a previous occasion when snow closed a lot of schools. The really annoying thing is that I posted a few hours ago the details of the schools in West and Central Cu

The big shutdown 22 Mar 2013: Sellafield closed, A595 blocked south of Calderbridge

Take extreme care if you are travelling today. As of mid-day in the part of Whitehaven where I live the only noteworthy thing about the weather is that it is cold. however, in many other parts of Cumbria snow and high winds are causing havoc. As mentioned the A595 is closed south of Calderbridge. It is blocked at Waberthwaite and Bootle   due to snow and the A686 Hartside Pass, both ways between Alston and Melmerby, is closed. Snow ploughs, a JCB and gritter are all on the way to assist those stuck, say Copeland police, who add that the roads cannot be cleared effectively due to abandoned cars. Police are also currently dealing with a heavy goods vehicle that has reportedly been blown over on the A66 eastbound close to Bassenthwaite, a few miles from the Pheasant Inn. Police said the A66 at Stainmore is also closed and the A595 and A5092 towards Millom is inaccessible. The M6 Hackthorpe to Shap is passable with care. Sellafield are evacuating their non-essential workforce as

The world didn't end in February either

On 21st December, the last day of the Mayan "Long Count" calendar which certain silly people somehow interpreted as a prediction for the end of the world, I was gently taking the mick out of them, and an anonymous person posted  "You wont be laughing on 15th February 2013 when the world really does end." I asked how much he would bet me that it wouldn't but got no reply. Pity, I could have used the money. I wonder when the next ludicrous prediction of the end of the world is going to be?

Quote of the day

"Nous avons tous assez de force pour supporter les maux d'autres." (We all have enough strenght to bear the misfortunes of others) The Duc de la Rochefoucauld

On the crisis in Cyprus

I changed this morning's quote of the day to Sir Humphrey Appleby's "politician's syllogism" because I thought it particularly relevant to the vote in Cyprus earlier this week. Various newspapers and commentators have been treating the vote by the Cypriot parliament to reject the initially proposed bailout package, which included a confiscatory levy on bank deposits above a certain size, as a sign of impending disaster and an unwillingness to take the measures necessary to pull the country round. The thing is, Cyprus DOES need to take very tough painful measures, but THIS particular package was wrong, wrong, wrong. The mere fact that the idea of a levy on bank deposits was seriously considered is going to have seriously harmful short and medium term impacts on the willingness of savers to put or leave their money in the banks, not just in Cyprus but probably in the rest of the Mediterranean area too. This in turn will have negative consequences on the abilit

Quote of the Day

The politician's syllogism , We must do something This is something Therefore, we must do this. As identified by "Sir Humphrey Appleby" in a 1988 episode of the BBC television political sitcom Yes, Prime Minister called " Power to the People ". It is of course a logical fallacy.

The siren voices of those who would borrow more

I have just returned home from a day working in London and in the last stages of the voyage home I was listening to the budget debate on "Today in Parliament" Although I had already noted in this morning's post that Labour has the disastrous policy of wanting to borrow more, I was deeply depressed at the number of siren voices, mostly from the Labour benches, who were urging this policy on the chancellor. To say that these people are the economic equivalent of lemmings would be to risk a class action from lemmings. Have they learned nothing from the mess that Cyprus is in? Obviously not. One MP referred to the fact that it's a good time to borrow because interest rates are low: another said that there is good borrowing and bad borrowing. The trouble with borrowing when interest rates are cheap is that if they go up again, as eventually they must, and you are not in a position to pay the money back, the cost of paying the interest on the extra debt becomes cr

The chancellor writes on today's budget

George Osborne writes:          "My budget today supports everyone who wants to work hard and get on. In a tough economic situation, the British people know there are no easy answers or short cuts. But we are succeeding, slowly but surely, in fixing those problems. We've now cut Labour's record deficit by not just by a quarter,  - but by a third. We've helped create 1.25 million new private sector jobs. Interest rates remain at record lows. This government inherited the largest deficit of any major economy. Labour's plans to borrow even more would take us backwards. Instead, by making savings from bureaucracy, from the benefits bill, and by ensuring that the better off play their part, we are able to do more to boost jobs and help families. To compete in the global ra

Cyprus rejects a disastrous panic measure

Cyprus, like a number of other countries which followed for too long the fatally lax policies which the Labour party implemented in Britain and are still urging on us, is in a terrible financial mess and is going to have to take very painful decisions if a total financial meltdown is to be avoided. But the fact that tough choices will have to be made does not mean that any tough choice is right. And the proposal for a levy on savings which Cyprus MPs have wisely rejected was perfectly calculated to make a bad situation worse. I explained in a recent post why negative nominal interest rates are a suicidally disastrous idea and I was horrified that a senior official of the Bank of England was prepared to so much as consider them, even if this only applied to money deposited by other banks with the central bank, which was the proposal suggested. A tax on savings would be even more disastrous for much the same reasons. Even considering this sort of policy can cause a run on banks

Budget Day quote of the day

"Why are Conservative chancellors so often unpopular? Because they often have to clear up the mess left behind by Labour chancellors." (Anonymous Tory Grandee)

DC on making childcare more affordable

Prime Minister David Cameron writes: "This Government faces tough choices in clearing up Labour's mess and getting this country standing tall again. But we've always been clear that we'll do everything we can to make life easier for Britain's families.          That's why we're determined to make childcare more affordable. We need to help parents who get up early, work hard and then find their income eaten away by fees for nurseries or childminders. And we also need to help people who just can't afford to work, because it's too expensive to pay someone to look after their children. So today we've announced radical plans to cut childcare costs for parents from 2015: We're going to pay 20 per cent of your bill every year, up to £1,200 per child. That effectively gives you back your tax for childcare costs.

Government approves new Nuclear Reactor

The first new nuclear reactor for a generation was given planning permission today. In a huge boost for Britain's nuclear renaissance, Energy Secretary Ed Davey told the House of Commons that he was granting planning consent for French energy giant EDF to construct a third generation power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset. The proposed £14bn power plant would be capable of powering five million homes. The last nuclear plant built in the UK was Sizewell B in Suffolk. Building work for the plant, near Leiston, began in 1988 and it started operating seven years later. The proposal had cross party support in the House of Commons and was welcomed by the trade unions, with  Unite's national officer for energy Kevin Coyne describing the decision to grant consent was a "massive boost for jobs". Hinkley C will be one of the UK's biggest infrastructure projects for years with 5,600 workers on site at the peak of construction. Mr Davey told the Commons

Quote of the Day: on Chris Huhne

“Huhne’s greatest offence was not having his hands on the wheel but putting his foot on the brake of shale gas.” Rt. Hon. Peter Lilley MP, writing in the Conservative Way Forward magazine

An honourable compromise

On the face of it, the deal struck between the three parties on the Royal Charter for the new Independent Press regulator looks like a reasonable compromise. As far as I can tell the legal framework behind the bill is that there will be a three-line clause in an act of parliament, probably the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, which will mean that the charter cannot be amended by ministers or the Privy Council without the consent of a two-thirds majority vote in the House of Commons. The Labour and Lib/Dem parties say that means that the code has "statutory underpinning" but it doesn't on the face of it look like a measure which will make it easy to use the law to muzzle the press. However, I am reminded of a very old saying: "The price of Liberty is eternal vigilance." No government, regardless of what party they may come from or what I personally may think of them, can be trusted with the power to tell the press what to write. No population who w

Very rare quote of the day - a Labour PM talking sense

"We used to think that you could spend your way out of a recession, and increase employ­ment by cutting taxes and boosting Government spending. I tell you in all candour that that option no longer exists, and that in so far as it ever did exist, it only worked on each occasion since the war by injecting a bigger dose of infla­tion into the economy, followed by a higher level of unemployment as the next step. Higher inflation followed by higher unemployment. We have just escaped from the highest rate of inflation this country has known; we have not yet escaped from the consequences: high unemployment." "That is the history of the last 20 years. Each time we did this the twin evils of unemployment and inflation have hit hardest those least able to stand them. Not those with the strongest bargaining power, no, it has not hit those. It has hit the poor, the old and the sick." James Callaghan, Labour Prime Minister: Leader's party conference speech 1976. It is

Swimathon 2013

This April I will be taking part in the Swimathon to raise money for Marie Curie cancer care This will be the twentieth consecutive year I have taken part. This year my son is also taking part for the first time. You can support Marie Curie Cancer care by sponsoring either of us at the respective pages below. My fundraising page: Chris Whiteside's sponsorship page for Swimathon 2013 My son's fundraising page: John Whiteside's sponsorship page for Swimathon 2013

Quote of the day

"It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first." Ronald Reagan.

Quote of the Day

“The trouble with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” Margaret Thatcher

When European and national parties disagree

There is an interesting analysis at the Open Europe blog about how MEPs from a number of parties around Europe voted when their national leadership and the groups they are part of in the European parliament went in opposite directions. It has already been noted that British Lib/Dem MEPs voted against the summit proposals to reduce EU budget limits. In the process they earned a severe public ticking-off from Nick Clegg when the Lib Dem leader praised Cameron's negotiating tactics and expressed disappointment that his MEPs voted with their European group against the proposed lower MFF budget ceiling and in favour of higher spending, a higher national contribution, and new taxes to fund the EU. It is also interesting to note that UKIP's Kamikazi pilot vote against cutting the EU spending limits was not supported by the rest of the "Europe of Freedom and Democracy" group with which they sit. The same sort of problem was visible in several parts of Europe: Angela

How your MEP voted on the EU Budget

There has been a LOT of confusion about how British MEPs voted on the EU budget (known as the MFF or Multiannual Financial Framework). There were in fact two votes, one on a Conservative/ECR motion to accept the summit deal (which would have delivered the first ever reduction in the EU's budget ceiling) and one on a second motion to reject the budget deal as it currently stands, asking for extra EU spending and extra taxes on all European taxpayers (particularly British ones.) For British voters two things particularly stand out: 1) LIB/DEMS AND GREENS VOTED FOR EXTRA EU SPENDING AND HIGHER TAXES The majority of Lib/Dem and Greens MEPs voted AGAINST the proposal to accept the budget cut and FOR the motion to reject it in it's present form and demand higher spending and more taxes. In other words they voted against cutting spending and taxes, and FOR higher taxes on British and European taxpayers. Nick Clegg quickly distanced himself from his MEPs but that's still