Showing posts from August, 2013

Quote of the Day 31st August 2013

Niven's law: "There is a technical literary term for those who mistake the opinions and beliefs of characters in a novel for those of the author. The term is 'idiot.'" (Larry Niven, attributed by S. M. Stirling in the acknowledgements at the start of his novel "Conquistador.")

Latest concerns about West Cumberland Hospital

In this week's Whitehaven News a consultant expresses concerns about West Cumberland Hospital - about plans to transfer more patients to Carlisle and about the current state of services. The clinician told the Whitehaven News that: “When Northumbria Foundation Trust was selected as a preferred health trust, there was a condition that they accepted North Cumbria ‘as it is’. However, I believe managers of Northumbria are still working to change the way services are provided in West Cumbria without any public consultation.’’ After pointing to the increased number of transfers to Carlisle and expressing a number of concerns including lack of a named consultant to provide continuity of care, poor morale leading to high staff turnover and increasing pressure on the staff who remain, he added that “Those who are left continue to work against the odds to provide excellent care" and “We want the public to realise what is happening and demand some answers.” You can read t

After the Syrian vote

It is a good thing for the government of a democracy to be able to put foreign policy to a vote of the elected parliament, particularly if we are talking about a possible military intervention. However, there is a huge contradiction in attitudes to this, especially on the part of the press and whoever is currently in opposition. * We want parliament to have a role in ensuring Britain does not get dragged into foreign wars for which there is not public support. * We want a proper and open public debate including a debate in the House of Commons before we get involved in a war, and we complain bitterly if the government of the day appears to be trying to act without one. * But if a government does consult the House of Commons, and doesn't entirely get it's own way, and listens to the result, lots of people are instantly ready to accuse the government of being weak, suggest their position has been undermined, etc etc. As is now happening after the Syria vote. But these 

Quote of the Day 30th August 2013

"The great danger to the consumer is the monopoly -- whether private or governmental. His most effective protection is free competition at home and free trade throughout the world. The consumer is protected from being exploited by one seller by the existence of another seller from whom he can buy and who is eager to sell to him. Alternative sources of supply protect the consumer far more effectively than all the Ralph Naders of the world." (Milton Friedman)

Angela Merkel criticised for stating the obvious

There is an old joke that the definition of a "gaffe" is when a politician, general, or other senior figure tells the truth without meaning to. I am quite sure, however, that Angela Merkel knew exactly what she was doing when she said that Greece should not have been allowed to join the Euro. Speaking to supporters in Rendsburg on Tuesday, Ms Merkel criticised her predecessor, Gerhard Schröder, for admitting Greece into the single currency. “The crisis emerged over many years, through founding errors in the euro. For example, Greece should not have been admitted into the euro area,” she said. I suppose it is inevitable that the remark should have attracted criticism in Greece, but frankly, this was a statement of the obvious. There was not enough convergence between the Greek economy and those of the remainder of the Euro-zone to make it wise to include Greece when the Euro was created. It would have been bettter both for Greece, and for the other Euro-zone countr

A bad idea comes back yet again

I am astonished to learn that Copeland Borough Council is taking yet another look at the idea of setting up a Town Council for Whitehaven. Oh No, NOT AGAIN! If there were a strong and dynamic group of local people who were pressing for the idea because they were really interested in using a Town council as a means of regenerating Whitehaven, I would reconsider my opposition to the idea in a trice. But there was certainly no such group the last time we looked at the idea while I was a member of Copeland council. The apathy in response to Copeland's admittedly lacklustre consultation about the possibility of a Town council - that's on top of the existing Borough Council and County Council - could best be described as a deafening silence. The pressure for this to be considered last time did NOT come from Whitehaven. It came mostly from outside the town, and in particular from two councillors who live in and represented areas twenty miles to the south and who felt that th

Quote of the Day 29th August 2013

'I might have preferred iron, but bronze will do. It won't rust.' (Margaret Thatcher at the unveiling of her statue in the House of Commons, 2007

Yewdale Litterpick

Here is Christine Finlayson, (centre) who organised the litterpick in Yewdale ward Carlisle last week, with members of her team and some of the rubbish collected.

Quote of the Day 28th August 2013

"The incompetent person with nothing to do can still make a mess of it." (Laurence J Peter)

130,000 not out

At about 8am BST this morning this blog had it's 130,000th pageview since the traffic count started in May 2007. Thanks to all those who have visited and read the blog in that time.

Whiteside's corollory of Einstein's supposed law of compound interest ...

As explained in the last point, Einstein is often credited, probably wrongly, with having made a statement on the long term impact of compound interest. along the lines of "Compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe" Whether or not he actually said this, is is certainly true that the cumulative effect of compound interest over a perid long enough to allow an investment to double repeatedly in real value - which requires a period of some decades and interest rates which are nearly always above inflation - can be dramatic. Unfortunately the converse is also true and this gives rise to what I shall call "Whiteside's Corollory" "Negative real interest rates, if sustained continuously for a decade or more, are one of the most destructive things which can happen to an economy." Britain has already had rock bottom interest rates - well below the rate of inflation, and which therefore have the effect of destroying the purchasing p

Quote of the Day 27th August 2013 - Einstein on Compound Interest

Albert Einstein was, of course, a physicist. He is, however, often credited with a statements about the power of compound interest. Unfortunately a lot of people who have attempted tp find any proof that he ever said or wrote any of the statements frequently attributed to him have been unable to do so. The earliest attribution of any variant of the quote which anyone has been able to trace was in the New York Times in 1983, and Einstein died in 1955. So to say the least, it is not confirmed that Albert Einstein ever said "Compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe" or “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it ... he who doesn't ... pays it.” or even some variant on "Compound interest, not E = M C squared, is the most important mathematical discovery of all time." But even if Albert Einstein never said any of these things, it is true that compound interest, if continued for long enough

Quote of the Day 26th August 2013

"Inflation is taxation without legislation." (Professor Milton Friedman)

Quotes of the day 25th August 2013

"A chauvinist thinks that 'Whither thou goest, I will go' was said by a woman to a man." (Marcella Markham) "A male chauvinist, or someone who knows Roman History better than he knows the bible, thinks that 'Whither thou goest, I will go' was said by a woman to a man. A female chauvinist, or someone who knows the bible better than she knows Roman History, thinks that ' Whither thou goest, I will go' was said by a woman to another woman. A well informed person knows that both are correct." (Chris Whiteside)

DC wins German and Dutch support for reform of EU

In a huge step forward for those who want to see reform of the European Union, the German chancellor Angela Merkal said this week that she would be happy to discuss creating a looser Europe some time after her country’s September elections. "We don't have to do everything in Brussels," she said. This follows on from the publication in June by the Dutch government of a list of things that the European Union should and should not be involved in – proving that the UK is not the only country interested in rolling back power from Brussels. As the Daily Telegraph put it in an article which you can read in full here , "The British and German governments agree about the need to trim EU bureaucracy and cut expenses, as well as strengthen the ability of our parliaments to block EU plans. Tory Eurosceptics want to see, in addition, repatriation of powers over areas such as social and employment law, crime and policing. Nevertheless, they should be cautiously ple

Quote of the Day 24 August 2013

"Whenever I hear someone arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally." (Abraham Lincoln)

Growth Figures

The latest growth figures for the second quarter of this year, released by the office of National Statistics, suggest that the UK economy grow by 0.7% in the second quarter of 2013, and activity was 1.5% higher than in the same quarter of 2012. The revised data confirmed that all four major sectors of the economy - services, industry, agriculture and construction - had expanded during the three months to June. The latest ONS release showed that exports played a bigger role than expected in boosting growth. Exports rose 3.6% from the previous three months, helped by the weak pound and a bottoming-out of the eurozone economy, while imports increased 2.5%, meaning that the country's deficit would have narrowed. "The expenditure breakdown was positive news," said Philip Rush, economist at investment bank Nomura. "Consumption obviously fairly important to the recovery there but... the recovery in the second quarter wasn't as reliant on consumption as

Quote of the Day

"History is too serious to be left to historians" (Iain Macleod M.P. who died suddenly at the age of 57 shortly after becoming Chancellor in 1970)

Litter Pick in Yewdale

Christine Finlayson, the Conservative candidate in the currrent council by-election for Yewdale ward in Carlisle, organised an excellent and well supported litter pick in the ward this afternoon. A dozen bags of litter were cleared up, including quite a bit of broken glass from a field where children play. Well done Christine

The silly season continues

You would think that with carnage in Syria and Egypt, a flurry of news on the economy (most good but some bad), arguments over fracking and the banks in trouble yet again, that the press would have plenty of serious news to write about without the need for "silly season" stories. And you'd think wrong. It's all over the media this week that the soldier who gave lots of information to Wikileaks, Bradley Manning, has now decided that he's a woman and wants to be known as Chelsea Manning. It's probably moot since he'll be banged up in prison in the states for the next 35 years and meanwhile  Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for goodness knows how long. Last week Jeremy Paxman's beard was getting all the attention, and Yougove did a poll, of which you can read the results on "Political Betting" here , showing the relationship between voting intention and propensity to grow a beard (for men.) A

Slaughter in Syria

While I agree with those who would be most reluctant to put UN or NATO troops on the ground in Syria, the carnage of innocent people in that country is getting so dire that it cannot be ignored, and the apparent use of poison gas on women and children was particularly barbaric. If it is proved that the Syrian government did this, the UN must look for an effective means to dissuade them from repeating this kind of atrocity.

Quote of the Day

"A little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion." (Sir Francis Bacon, in his essay "Of Atheism" ; in the original archaic English this read: " It is true, that a little Philosophy inclineth Mans Minde to Atheisme ; But depth in Philosophy, bringeth Mens Mindes about to Religion .")

Quote of the Day

"Money is like muck, not good except it be spread." ( Sir Francis Bacon making the original justification of Fractional Reserve Banking in his essay "Of Seditions and Troubles .")

Quote of the day

"Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but their own." (Jonathan Swift)

The difference between anti-fracking protesters and suffragettes ...

A number of protesters against fracking for gas who are using civil disobedience in Balcombe to try to halt the legal activities of a company which is drilling for oil using techniques which do not include fracking, have compared themselves to the suffragettes. An apparently rather ignorant man called Jamie Kelsey-Fry, whose views on fracking do not deserve special attention if he is as badly informed about that subject as he is about history, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that there was "absolutely no difference" between civil disobedience by the suffragettes and the anti-fracking protesters, and that " It was exactly these kinds of actions hundreds of years ago which gave women the vote." Apart from the fact that it was less than a hundred years ago that women actually got the vote in this country, most historians think that the more extreme actions of the suffragettes were actually counter-productive. I have heard it suggested that there might hav

When clever people say stupid things

My first reaction when I heard that leading atheist Richard Dawkins had taken a break from attacking Christians by having a go at Muslims was to think that at least he was consistent. Indeed, I was tempted for a few moments to commend his courage. Until I read what he had actually tweeted - that "All the world's Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though." Now whatever else you may say about him, Richard Dawkins is not a stupid man. But this was a pretty stupid statement. What on earth was it supposed to prove? As Nesrine Malik pointed out in the Guardian here , "Yes, it is technically true that fewer Muslims (10) than Trinity College Cambridge members (32) have won Nobel prizes. But insert pretty much any other group of people instead of "Muslims", and the statement would be true. You are comparing a specialised academic institution to an arbitrarily chosen group of people.

Quote of the Day

"There is all the difference in the world, however, between two kinds of assistance through government that seem superficially similar: first, 90 percent of us agreeing to impose taxes on ourselves in order to help the bottom 10 percent, and second, 80 percent voting to impose taxes on the top 10 percent to help the bottom 10 percent -- William Graham Sumner's famous example of B and C decided what D shall do for A. "The first may be wise or unwise, an effective or ineffective way to help the disadvantaged -- but it is consistent with belief in both equality of opportunity and liberty. "The second seeks equality of outcome and is entirely antithetical to liberty." (Professor Milton Friedman)

Arguments on Fracking

Anyone who has been following the media hysteria about the possible use of shale gas, sometimes extracted by a controversial process called "fracking" will have gathered that some people are very concerned about the possible impact. It's harder, though not impossible, to get the other side of the story. When I was asked about this a few weeks ago at a Conservative selection conference I gave cautious support to the idea of shale gas exploitation in the UK. I declared an interest as I have relatives in Lancashire who live not all that far away from some of the possible sites, emphasised that I thought it was extremely important to carry out full environmental checks and tests to ensure that the process was safe before it went a head, but supported it provided those tests produced a clean bill of health, pointing to the enormous economic benefits that shale gas has brought the USA. Over the past weeks, as exactly the same type of hysteria, scaremongering, and downright

Quote of the Day

"There is no stigma attached to recognising a bad decision in time to install a better one." (Laurence J Peter)

At first glance ..

I was in Carlisle this morning supporting the campaign of the excellent Conservative candidate Christine Finlayson who is standing for the council in the Yewsdale ward by-election on 5th September. While driving through Carlisle I did a double take on thinking I had seen a sign for the "Immoral Art Studio." A second glance revealed that my eyes were playing a trick on me - it is actually the "Immortal Art Studio." The mind boggles ...

"Literally" murdering the English Language

PEDANT ALERT - this post is about the correct use of the English Langauage and is pedantic in the "Devils dictionary" sense of wanting to get things right. If you find that boring or irritating, please don't read it. The word "literally" has a highly specific meaning, indicating that a statement is true, or has been understood to be true, in the usual meanings of the words and without any metaphor, allegory, or exaggeration. In a society which is highly prone to exaggeration and metaphor, it is extremely useful to be able to express by adding one word that a particular statement is precisely correct without either metaphor or exxageration having been employed. E.g. "He was so angry that he literally shook with rage" means that he really did physically shake. It is also helpful to be able to describe as "literal-minded" somone who is prone to assuming that a statement which had been intended as a metaphor or a figure of speech is actual

Quote of the Day

"When I hear any man talk of an unalterable law, the only effect it produces upon me is to convince me that he is an unalterable fool ." (Syndey Smith)

HIstory reverses itself

I should make clear that I am not advocating or defending any act of violence or unlawful behaviour and nothing in this post is intended to incite people to throw eggs at other people. Many years ago after someone threw an egg at him (and missed), the then leader of the Labour party, Harold Wilson made a political point about how many eggs he had evaded in successive elections under Labour and Conservative governments, adding that under a Labour government more people could afford to throw eggs. The same point was reversed today in a tweet by the Independent's John Rentoul, @JohnRentoul who pointed out "Ed Miliband's 'Cost of Living' soundbite undermined by demonstration that eggs are cheap."

A recipe for national bankruptcy

No matter how many times a policy of profligacy leads to disaster - be it through debasement of the currency, allowing the money supply to get out of control, house price or stock market bubbles or building up vast amounts of government debt - there are some people who refuse to get the message that governments cannot magic up infinate resources without consequences. These people are always guaranteed to blame the person or government who clears up the mess for the pain involved, not the person or government on whose watch the problem was created. Hat tip to Political Betting where a number of posters such as Richard Nabavi and others pointed out that this article in the Guardian is an excellent example of such a mindset. Lots of weeping and wailing about how dreadful the cuts are and how Miliband ought to do more to oppose them. Without the least scintilla of recognition that when an incoming government inherits a situation where it is spending four pounds for every three co

Quote of the Day

“You cannot build character and courage by taking away people's initiative and independence”   ( Abraham Lincoln  )

Campaigning in Yewdale

There is a council by election in Yewdale ward, Carlisle on 5th September. I went there this evening to support Christine Finlayson, the Conservative candidate, who was out campaigning with a strong team. In this part of the world you can never rely on the co-operation of the elements - if you only campaigned in good weather then at least half the electorate would never see hide nor hair of you. There was a bit of light drizzzle this evening but nobody paid it too much attention - one colleague said to me that one thing about fighting an election in August, if you get rained on at least the rain is warm. I was quite encouraged by the friendly reception on the doorstep. Yewdale is a marginal ward so the result will be interesting. 

Quote of the Day

" Waste no more time talking about great souls and how they should be. Become one yourself! " (Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus)

The Guardian's "Fruitcake test"

The Guardian has what is meant to be a humorous take here called " Would you pass UKIP's fruitcake test? " on rumours that UKIP is subjecting would be candidates for the European parliament to a so-called "fruitcake test." It's quite funny but certainly reveals far more about the mindset at the Guardian than it does about UKIP. There are ten multiple choice questions with three possble answers to each and I would imagine (and hope) that 90% of Conservatives would not be able to find a single one of the thirty possible answers that we agreed with. I couldn't find a single response that I came very close to agreeing with. In each case your choices consisted of one hopelessly left wing or "progressive" guardianista reply, one reply which is a parody of what many fairly right wing or Conservative people would think but usually with some little touch designed to make anyone who selects it sound like a refugee from the 1950s, and a thi

Quote of the Day

  " There is nothing new under the sun but there are lots of old things we don't know. " (Ambrose Bierce)

Quote of the Day

  " It is the act of a madman to pursue impossibilities." (Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus)

Quote of the Day

"The man who says he is willing to meet you halfway is usully a poor judge of distance" Laurence J Peter

Another modest proposal ...

For the benefit of anyone who does not immediately realise from the title, here is a warning - this blog post contains irony. Britain is supposed to be, and largely is, a free country and the peaceful and lawful expression of almost any view should be encouraged without any comeback or reprisal. That includes the right to non-violent demonstrations against any plan to drill for or generate new sources of energy, provided that the demonstration does not include any element of criminal obstruction, and even where the concerns of the demonstrators bear no resemblance to what is actually proposed. However, where the law has been broken, perhaps the courts should be given the power to make the punishment fit the crime. Perhaps the courts should be given the power to impose on anyone convicted of a criminal offence designed to sabotage, frustrate or prevent legitimate activities of the energy industry, an order cutting off gas and electricity to their residence for a week. Or where

Quote of the Day

" The more extensive a man's knowledge of what has been done, the greater will be his power of knowing what to do."   (Benjamin Disraeli)

Lakes Alive 2013

The "Lakes Alive" festival is now running and will continue until next Friday (16th August). There are events all over Cumbria including from Kendal and Millom to Whitehaven - anyone who has been within earshot of Whitehaven harbour yesterday evening of this afternoon has been aware that something was going on. I'm advised that the  "Xarxa Teatre" show,  "Fire of the Sea"  (El Foc Del Mar) at Whitehaven Harbour was very spectacular and well worth watching when it is repeated at 9.30pm this evening. El Foc Del Mar involves a fiery parade, with giant characters inspired by the imagery of Miro, a famous Catalan artist, with larger than life moving figures and fireworks.  POSTSCRIPT 10.40 PM Just arrived home after watching the display, which was very spectacular. Unfortunately the Cumbria weather joined in the party and we arrived home very wet. Nver mind, it was still something quite exceptional to see

Sajid Javid MP writes on 2960 reasons not to vote Labour

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Sajid Javid MP, wrote to people today explaining 2,960 reasons not to vote Labour (which all have the Quee's head on them.) He writes: "Ed Miliband has spent the last three years telling us to abandon our plans to rescue the economy. He claimed the only answer was more borrowing. But because we took action to cut borrowing, the deficit is down by a third, private sector employment is at an all-time high and now the economy is moving out of intensive care and into recovery. Labour’s argument has been proved wrong – and yet they’re still clinging to the same old Labour policy of more borrowing. This year alone, they’ve announced policies that would cost £50 billion without saying how they would pay for them. That’s £2,960 more debt for every working family in this country – and it would lead to soaring mortgage rates. While Labour remain stuck in the past, we are focussed on the future – ensuring that all hardworking peo

Quote of the Day

"The trouble with trying to make yourself more stupid than you really are is that you very often succeed."   (C. S. Lewis)

Political Betting on the Euro elections

Mike Smithson argues on his excellent "political betting" website here that it's a "value bet" for the 2014 European parliament elections that the Conservatives will top the poll. This doesn't mean Mike is making a firm prediction that this will happen, although he notes that the Conservatives have in fact topped the poll in every single european election since the present voting system was introduced in 1999, it means he thinks the odds currently available of six to one against the Conservatives doing so are a considerable understatement of the actual chances. The press seems to almost take for granted that UKIP will top the Euro poll, but Farage's party may have peaked a year early and there has been a steady drip of negative stories about them. Plus the Conservatives will go into the 2014 European elections with a good story to tell and more united than we have been on Europe for many years.

Baby Boom

Britain's population is growing faster than that of any other EU country and the majority of this is due to a new "baby boom" although increased longevity and net immigration are both significant contributing factors. Birth rates have risen for women throughout the range of childbearing ages. A quarter of births have been to women who were not born in the UK - which is of course another way of saying that 75% have been to women who were. The Greater London area seems to have been particularly affected as the population there has risen despite significant net migration to other parts of the UK but the consequence of that migration is that this will have knock-on effects elsewhere. All this is before any additional impact of the new royal baby - and I seem to remember that the births of his father and uncle were followed by minor baby booms, so it is entirely conceivable (no pun intended) that the birth of Prince George will have a similar effect. Britain is already

Quote of the Day

“The world is weary of statesmen whom democracy has degraded into politicians.”   (  Benjamin Disraeli  )

Ministerial Visits to the North West

Attended two ministerial visits to the North West in two days. David Cameron was in the South Manchester area yesterday: went to a very well attended meeting, also attended by fellow Euro candidates Saj Karim MEP, Kevin Beaty amd Joe Barker. PM was on excellent form. Then today the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, has been in Cumbria. Rory Stewart MP has been showing him some of the roads which need investment (we've been asking him to dual the A66). And yes, he was also asked about Petrol/fuel prices. He gave a reasonbly sympathetic reponse. Kevin Beaty and myself were among those who attended a reception in Skelton Village Hall, north west of Penrith, to meet the Secretary of State. Both DC and Patrick were strongly in favour of HS2, and so am I - if this project is completed it will  help the North a great deal. But of course no major infrastructure project in this country is ever completed quickly.

Quote of the Day

" A gram of experience is worth a ton of theory." ( Robert Gascoigne-Cecil, 3rd Marquis of Salisbury )

All centuries but this and every country but his own

In the lyrics to the Gilbert and Sullivan opera "The Mikado," Gilbert put onto the Lord High Executioner's " little list " of people who would not be missed if they needed people to execute, " The idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone, All centuries but this and every country but his own." For the avoidance of doubt, and before anyone accuses me of being a misogynistic troll, I am certainly not endorsing Ko-Ko's proposed solution for people who take this approach nor even necessarily his characterisation of them as idiots. But there are a number of journalists and columnists who remind me of those lines when I read one of their articles about foreign affairs. One such item can be found in today's "Independent" and "I" by Mary Dejevsky, which you can read here and which establishes her as today's colonialist anti-colonialist. If that criticism sounds like a contradiction in terms that's because this i

Quote of the Day

"I know of no method to secure the repal of bad or obnoxious laws so effective as their stringent execution." (President Ulysses S Grant.)

Sandy Woodward R.I.P.

Admiral Sir John "Sandy" Woodward,  who commanded the tast force which retook the Falklands, died yesterday after a long illness at the age of 81. David Cameron said the UK was "indebted" to Adm Woodward for his role in ensuring freedom for islanders. "The admiral was a truly courageous and decisive leader, proven by his heroic command of the Royal Navy Taskforce during the Falklands conflict," said the prime minister. "We are indebted to him for his many years of service and the vital role he played to ensure that the people of the Falkland Islands can still today live in peace and freedom. My thoughts and prayers are with Admiral Woodward's family and friends at this difficult time." Daniel Allan, founder of the Falklands United Movement, which represents some islanders, told the BBC that Admiral Woodward was a "modern-day hero". "We owe him a debt of gratitude and he is in the thoughts of every islan

Quotes of the day: daft courtroom dialogue

Lawyers are trained to make sure the wintnesses make it absolutely clear what they are saying and ensure that necessary statements get into the courtroom record. This can make it necessary for them to ask a question to which the answer ought to be obvious to a four year old. Witnesses can sometimes find this very annoying and respond along the lines of the old saying, "ask a silly question and you'll get a silly answer, which can lead in turn to dialogue which must make it difficult to keep order in court. Here are some of my favourite examples from a book called "Disorder in the court: Great Fractured moments in Courtroom history" by Charles Sevilla and Lee Lorenz. It is available on Amazon here . COUNSEL: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse? WITNESS: No. COUNSEL: Did you check for blood pressure? WITNESS: No. COUNSEL: Did you check for breathing? WITNESS: No.. COUNSEL: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive

Article of the week: Martin Robbins on the need for evidence

I suspect there are not many things on which I would agree with New Statesman columnist Martin Robbins, but he wrote a very intelligent article here recently which for me was the most thought provoking thing I have read this week. He was referring to a court case which the Daily Mail lost against a self-proclaimed "psychic" who they accused of being a fraud. His point was that, very sadly, they deserved to lose, not because they disagreed with "Psychic Sally" nor because they believe her claim to be able to read minds is ludicrous, but because they had implied that her activities were fraudulent without taking the trouble to collect any actual evidence to back up that allegation. The fact that "Psychic Sally" won her case does not, repeat not, mean that the British legal system regards her claimed psychic talents as having been "proved." It means that they have upheld the principle that a newspaper, or anybody else, should not suggest

England retain Ashes

Congratulations to the England Test cricket squad whose brilliant play in the first two tests produced a two-nil lead in the Ashes series. The abandonment of the third test due to rain makes it mathematically impossible for Australia to overhaul England so even if they square the series England will retain the Ashes. A great result but a shame it's due to rain: both England and the Aussies have produced moments - and ineed hours - of brilliant play and deserved a decision which was not the result of the British climate. A Russian general once said that his country had two generals on which it could rely - "Generals Janvier and Fevrier" (January and February). Whenever England is trying to save a test match during a home series there is a similar possibility that our weather will intervene. Let's hope we get some more good cricket during the remaining two matches.

The "SIlly Season" is with us ...

And further proof of a slow news week ... Last time I looked Britain was still supposed to be a free country despite the best efforts of Gordon Brown and Jacqui Smith to the contrary. And the sumptuary laws regulating what people could wear fell into disrepute centuries ago. So what on earth are we supposed to make of the fact that a list of the top stories of last week on the Friday evening thread at "Political Betting" here included, admittedly in last place, this  article in the Daily Telegraph about how Mumsnet, and half the 2,000 people who filled in a YouGov poll, think men who wear red trousers look silly. Let me make clear: I do not own a pair of red trousers and cannot recall wearing such a garment at any time in the past couple of decades. But if I did decide to wear a pair of red trousers it would be none of Mumsnet's business, none of Yougov's business and none of the Daily Telegraph's businesss. As with almost every garment of almost any c

Quote of the Day

"If you are going to go through hell, keep going." (Sir Winston Churchill)

Summer Roadworks

If you're able to avoid going into the centre of Whitehaven by car today, give the area a wide berth. Badly maintained roads and pavements are one of the worst bugbears of many people and frequently comes up both in conversation and on the doorstep, whether it is potholes, loose or broken paving stones, or weeds growing in the pavement. I have campaigned to have too many roads and pavements fixed to feel able ever to complain about the fact that a county council or the Highways authority ever finally gets round to doing it, though I might complain that it should have been done sooner. There is never an ideal time to fix the roads, and it has to be done, but there is something about the rash of summer roadworks which can be very irritating and this summer has been no exception. Had to take the A596 to and from Carlisle yesterday as the A595 was affected by major roadworks a few miles north of Cockermouth. Appears that this may have finished as it doesn't appear on the BB

Quote of the Day

"The badge of freedom is variety" (Lord Hailsham)