Thursday, 27 January 2011

Calibrating the Moral compass

Sometimes I'm not sure where I stand. Occasionally I rant just for the fun of it! Quite often I (attempt to) play Devil's advocate for fun. I'm a big fan of Al Murray and it's not been unknown for me to play the part of the sexist, mysoginist, xenophobe, racist, sectarian bigot - more to poke fun at the people who actually hold such views than anything.

I'm not a highly paid sport's broadcaster though and I'm not responsible for helping the dull witted amongst us form their opinions, therefore in my view it's entirely right that Andy Gray and Richard Keys should no longer hold the responsibility of such a position either - although I am a little uncomfortable with the sacking offense in Andy Gray's case being something which he was recorded doing quite some time before he actually received his official warning about such behaviour.

So, there you go. I'm willing to indulge in such banter with my mates either in the pub or at work - but I am coming around to appreciate that if someone was to overhear my tea break, sectarian rants without knowing that I was actually christened RC, they might imagine they are sharing a workplace with the worst the Copland Road stand has to offer, rather than the witty raconteur I imagine myself to be... but I'm happy to see someone else lose their job for an equivalent miscontruction.

I guess I'm a hypocrite!

On the other hand, I can console myself with the fact that my views often align exactly with such luminaries as Nelson Mandela and Ian Hamilton QC whilst I've always opposed the lying, war monger who highjacked the Labour party.

Feeling better about myself already!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

The Daily Telegraph and PFI

It occasionally surprises people familiar with my leftish views to find that I'm an avid reader of the Daily Telegraph. I can't stand the Guardian with the way it's journalists appear to fall over themselves in efforts to find the most outlandishly left wing position. To me it reads like some student flyer written by faux intellects who are never willing to subject their witterings to any sort of scrutiny.

In recent years it has been the Telegraph who have produced the most outstanding stories, in particular I've enjoyed the way in which they have exposed the outrageous hypocrisy of our MPs with regard to their expenses.

Now it's time for the Labour PFI fans to take cover though, for finally some serious rigour is to be applied to the scam that is PFI. Such a shame the Conservatives couldn't do it when in opposition - but then again it's in their nature to give our money to big businesses. The Lib Dems position on PFI... what is it again? I've no idea what those jelly fish actually have to say about anything. Of course, In Scotland we've had the SNP shouting from the rooftops about the how ridiculous PFI is with it's '1 hospital for the price of 2' economics, but for some reason that's not taken seriously elsewhere... and even in Scotland, the politics is so partisan it doesn't seem to matter. Labour can do as Labour will and the downtrodden people of Glasgow East will still come out to support the likes of the Martins.

So, this morning I am delighted to see the Telegraph announce a series of reports on PFI, and I can't wait to hear the justifications for it given by political giants such as Andy Kerr. Perhaps those voters in Scotland willing to listen to both sides of an argument may actually remember the SNP's opposition to this scam from day 1.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

VAT & Fuel analysis

Whilst I'm still ranting about economists I recall a radio interview last week with some so called International Oil Analyst who was finding it extremely difficult to see how the government could help in steadying the price of fuel. I'm going to assume he's another Tory with an arts degree...

A quick google search found the petrolprices web site. For the purposes of this rant, I'm just going to run with the figures they give.

On the 1st of December 2008 a permanent 2p increase in fuel tax was introduced to offset the rate cut in VAT from 17.5% to 15% bringing the duty rate for the main road fuels up to 52.35p per litre.

So, that's fuel duty up 2p deliberately to compensate for a cut in VAT... Were they funding the VAT cut by hitting the motorist? I don't remember this - but what you should know at this point is that the fuel duty we pay on every litre of fuel is also subject to VAT - tax on a tax! Yep, I hear you - No, that doesn't seem fair to me either!

On 1 April 2009 the duty rate for unleaded petrol and diesel was increased by 1.84 ppl to 54.19p per litre and again on 1 September 2009 by 2 ppl to reach the level of 56.19 per litre. These rates were planned to be increased further on 1 April 2010 to 2013 by 1ppl above indexation each year.

The plan is to deliberately increase the price of fuel at the pump for everyone at a rate above an index in any case. So, it's been deliberate policy to make fuel much more expensive for a number of years (remember, the price of fuel has a direct impact on the price of everything you need to live... apart from your mortgage - that goes up when the price of everything else rises too fast!)

On the 1st January 2010 the VAT rate reverted to 17.5%.

You're looking for the bit where the 2p added to the Fuel duty was rescinded aren't you... I know I was...

The 3p fuel duty rise scheduled for early 2010 was delayed in 2010 Budget with the duty going up by only 1p a litre on the 1st of April. This went up by another 1p a litre on the 1st October 2010 and is scheduled to go up by 0.76p on the 1st January 2011.

What 3p fuel duty rise? Where the hell did that come from?

Now a simpleton like you or me might argue that the VAT returning to 17.5% should really have resulted in that 2p rise being rescinded. Of course, Whitehall are a lot more generous spirits than you or I. What they've done is NOT raise the price by a further 3p per litre rather than cutting it. We're 1p per litre better off - don't you see? ... Well apart from that 1p increase in April, but you were probably expecting something worse by then anyway.

A 0.76p increase on the 1st January 2011 brought the duty rate for the main road fuels up to 58.95p per litre. This coincided with the 2.5% increase in VAT rate, which is now at record high of 20%.

I hope you weren't expecting them to cut fuel duty to compensate for that 2.5% increase in VAT (tax on a tax in this case), thereby proving that the previous 2p rise wasn't just another attack on the car owner, were you?

To be fair to the oil analyst, he was actually struggling to see how the government could help stabilise the cost of fuel across the country, rather than stabilising the cost of fuel, but that hasn't stopped me frothing at the mouth over the upward pressure they have deliberately imposed on fuel prices - which is surely the root cause of a significant proportion of the inflation they seem so concerned about.

In response to the analyst though, surely it isn't beyond the wit of man to devise a discount on the fuel duty based on geography and the normal fluctuations within the market; if the will to find a solution actually existed - after all, they managed to devise London weighting for civil servant's salaries to address the inequity of living in London...

An economist makes sense of it...

With special thanks to Braveheart who in breaking from his usual habit of defending Labour's economic illiteracy, has found an economist who has managed to compute that the reason why inflation is so high is a result of government policy and a rise in the price of International raw materials "fuelled by City based speculation" ( No doubt he means those wankers in London who find it appropriate to award themselves millions of our pounds in bonuses ) - Fucking Bravo! An economist who can count!

More than an ability to count, this chap can actually think a wee bit too! Check this bit out! Apparently "real incomes in the UK may be under pressure because of a fundamental rebalancing of the overall economic equation within the world economy" and so he gets to the humdinger of a conclusion
"if there is a reaction within the UK which sees ordinary consumers penalised for something that is entirely beyond their means to rectify through altering their pattern of consumption the consequence is that we will, inevitably, see an exacerbation of the fall in household income, and the creation of the environment for a double dip recession, which will inevitably follow.

So people getting shafted all ways because of government policy and having their disposable income rapidly diminished by those government policies are unlikely to need or respond well to further reductions in their disposable income, particularly not when the excuse for that (2nd shafting) is an alleged need to address the rising prices caused by the government policy (original shafting) in the first place.

All that does though is further enhance my view that economics is nothing more than opinion and occasionally some common sense. I don't know why I'm surprised, it is an arts degree after all. What I really don't understand though is why they seem to be held in such high esteem.

Economic theory

I'm no economist. I really don't get it. I bought a book called "How economics explains everything" and it was the biggest pile of pish I've ever read. I take a look in the economics sections of various papers from time to time and as far as I can see economic forecasting is nothing more than guesswork based on past examples - sometimes they even use relevant past cases on which they base their predictions...

How so many of these geniuses failed to recognise that a system whereby really dodgy American mortgages could be wrapped up with occasionally good investment opportunity and rebranded as AAA bonds / securities / whatever whilst the people making the rating were getting incentivised to produce more AAA rated bonds / securities / whatevers... well that's beyond me. Then again I'm a simple engineer.

So, it's no surprise then that I find myself at a loss to explain the situation we are faced today with regards to inflation, VAT and interest rates. Apparently inflation is above target and that has come as a surprise to some of these bankers / economists... Maybe if some of them tried living in the real world with appropriate bonus-free salaries, the effect of the price of oil might not so easily bypass them?
Anyway, I digress. Here I stand as a UK mortgage holding householder with a small family which includes 2 pre-school dependants. I don't suppose that makes me an out of the ordinary case study. I've got a mortgage, keep my home heated, buy food regularly and drive to work regularly. I work in the private sector and haven't had a pay rise in 4 years...
Due to increases in the price of oil and gas my heating bill has risen considerably over the last couple of years.
Due to the increase in oil prices, the cost of my food shoping has risen considerably in the last few years - see the cost of basics such as bread and milk.
Due to the increase in Oil prices, the cost of my commute has risen considerably in the last few years.
Now the government has added 2.5% to VAT which they expect will directly result in a 1.4 point rise in inflation, breaching the 4% level.

In order to 'cool the economy' it is apparently the view of some economists that interest rates need to rise in order to take some money out of the economy. That's some euphimism for taking more of my money in order to further reduce my disposable income, lest I am tempted to go on some massive spending spree tipping us into the abyss.

I just don't have the words now to express the anger and helplessness I feel as I stuggle to live in this country of bountiful resource being run by mad men who'd rather see me lining the pockets of Multi-National Energy company's shareholders whilst living in poverty than imagine a country without Trident. Lunatics who think that big business and big banks can really survive without a civil society for them to operate within.

The bile is rising!

Monday, 17 January 2011

Gorgeous George

Tremendous news that Gorgeous George Galloway is to throw his hat into the ring for a seat at Holyrood. He's exactly right about Iain Gray and it will be interesting to see how the non-entities on the Labour bench respond to someone actually showing them what Labour's values once were.

As an added bonus, the next time the yanks start demanding we sent someone over to explain our actions to them we've got a man who's already handed them their own arses on a plate.

BBC Wales

With my fancy new Sky+ HD system installed, I realised last night that in order to see Match of the Day 2, I wouldn't need to suffer through the agony of Sportscene Scotland with it's less than stimulating coverage of the less than stimulating SPL. No, I could simply select one of the alternative BBC regional channels and skip straight to the highlights of Liverpool Vs Everton and Manchester United at Spurs.

I was slightly bemused to notice that whilst in Scotland we are forced through the trauma of our National game before the Premier League highlights program, in Northern Ireland they get a politics show pushing MOTD back in the schedule.

I opted for BBC Wales, if only to enjoy a melodious Welsh voice delivering the regional news and weather. Interestingly, the Welsh regional news sports section included coverage of the weekends rugby results as well as the football and also the Ice Hockey where I discovered that the Dundee Stars had beaten the Cardiff devils 2-1 ending the Cardiff sides 22 match winning streak... I didn't even know Dundee had an Ice Hockey team - never mind one that sounds like it might actually be quite good.

I quite enjoyed it as a News Bulletin and it made me wonder whether it was just the novelty of a different take on the days events that had me so impressed or is BBC Scotland really just a parochial wee sideshow with no interest beyond the Old Firm and what Labour have to say about the SNP?

Friday, 14 January 2011

Single Police force

I'm not sure I understand the arguments against a single police force - The Scottish Police. We're not such a big country. Computing power and Telecommunications infrastructure, if not transport, has undergone quantum leaps since a Police Federation comprising of 8 distinct police forces was envisioned.

I don't really see how any of it can actually save much money in the short term though. Any savings through the increased purchasing power of the new unified force would surely be drastically outweighed by the consultancy fees for the new design of uniform, badge and vehicle livery {(c) Inverclyde public sector management}.

We'd still need the same number of Police officers to police the same number of citizens in the same number of cities and spread across the same (poorly connected) countryside. Those police officers would still report back up a command chain to someone responsible for the managing the policing of the local area. People accused of criminal activities would preseumably still be reported to the same procurater and the courts would presumably continue to be inundated with the same people.

There would still need to be adequate IT support in order to support the integrated police databases and provide local support.

How would it save any real money? What difference would it actually make?