Thoughts from an active pensioner who is now somewhat past his Biblical "Use-by date"

"Why just be difficult, when with a little more effort you can be bloody impossible?"

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Anti-Nuclear Power Hysteria and its Significant Contribution to Global Warming

This article, of the above name in "Watts Up With That?" shows just how much the global hysteria over nuclear power has contributed to the rise in Carbon Dioxide emissions over the past few years. In all counties, emissions due to power generation rose steadily through the last century, dropping briefly in the late '70s with the introduction of some nuclear power stations, but, once building stopped, they then continued in an inexorable rise until the present.
This is shown in graphical form for the US,  along with what might have been had the planned nuclear power stations been built, in which case the current overall generation emissions would by now have been equivalent to those of the mid-'50s.
France is the only country to buck the trend, with their present power generation emissions being roughly the same as in the late '60's, and falling. I assume that I don't have to explain why!

It is interesting to note that with both India and China proposing to follow the nuclear route, and it is predicted that their emissions will show a similar trend to those of France in due course.
Incidentally, China is likely to build Thorium reactors, which are considered safer in that they do not produce the radioactive waste of the current Uranium reactors.

It would be the final indignity and sign of this country's total decline as an industrial power if we allowed China to become the world experts on the subject and we had to buy our reactors from them!

If Clegg feels that the present nuclear reactors are unsafe, why doesn't he advocate urgent research into Thorium reactors. We already have knowledge and expertise in this country, what is not available is money. Far better to spend money on studying a potentially very safe method of generating "green" electricity than wasting our money on windmills or even high speed rail links!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The TUC is just like a child.

I was watching a couple of children pestering their mother for sweets whilst waiting at the till at our local supermarket. The mother took the view that they hadn't earned any this week and didn't deserve any. There was tantrums from the younger child, and the mother explained that she couldn't afford any as she had bought the cake they wanted and didn't have any money for sweets. The elder said words to the effect that "You don't need money, Mum, you just put it on the card"

Why do you think this made me think of the TUC?
Incidentally, the mother stuck to her guns. Potential Cabinet material, I would think!

Monday, 28 March 2011

Demonstration Costs

None of the media seem to have provided any information on the policing costs of the recent TUC demonstration.
But when the EDL wanted to hold a march at Luton, efforts were made by Labour supporters to have it banned on the grounds that the country couldn't afford the police costs of £800,000.
Similarly, two MPs from the Birmingham area wanted to ban an EDL march there on similar grounds, and because they "have a track record of violence".
Surely the same arguments should have been employed to ban the TUC march; the police costs are enormous and that TUC marches "have a track record of violence".
It is no use politicians arguing that the TUC was not responsible for the violence when they are totally unable to accept that it outsiders who are responsible for any violence at EDL rallies.
"Pot and Kettle" comes to mind!

And having mentioned Birmingham, its time for a (racist?) joke
"A friend got a mongrel from the dog rescue centre; it was black at one end, brown at the other, and had a white spot in the middle of its back. What major city did he name it after?"

Sunday, 27 March 2011

I Blame the TUC

A few years ago, I visited a country in the Far East for a holiday. I thought of hiring a car, but was warned not to do so on the basis that if I was involved in an accident with a local, I would be held entirely to blame whatever the circumstances. Indeed it was suggested that someone might deliberately try to get hurt by my car in order to claim damages.
It was pointed out to me that the logic in that particular country was quite simple, I hadn't a need to drive the car, and if I hadn't driven it, the accident would not have happened. Therefore it must be my fault.

I take the same view of the TUC. They didn't need to hold a demonstration; they did, and other people chose to take advantage of the situation. If they hadn't held it, these anarchist groups wouldn't have dreamed of doing what they did. Therefore it is the fault of the TUC.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Pre-School Teaching

Now I have a grandson, just turned two, I am taking some interest in schools again.

The Early Years Foundation Stage has been a compulsory requirement for all nurseries, pre-schools and childminders since 2008, and so my grandson, who attends a nursery three days a week has been subject to it's requirements.
In today's Daily Telegraph, they report that the 117 requirements of the EYFS is to be cut to a mere 17, one of the biggest cuts introduced so far by this government!

To me, there are a number of disturbing features about this report, the main one being that a government should interfere with what children taught before they go to school and seek to force private nurseries to comply with their wishes as a condition of existence (this is in addition to child protection requirements with which I fully agree). My daughter chose the nursery which junior attends on the basis of her assessment of the care and treatment of the children and whether the ones there already appeared to be happy, not because it met some 117 bureaucratic requirements.

Another disturbing feature is that a number of the criteria listed were things that the children should be taught at home by their parents, and that others were there to meet a PC agenda. Once you start telling the nurseries to do something, it is clear that a large number of parents opt out of what should be their responsibilities. These are the lazy people who should be told to meet the 117 requirements, not nurseries!
The poor standard of upbringing by parents is shown by the fact that 40% of boys starting school at five cannot hold a a pencil or write their name; nor apparently can many count to ten! What are their parents doing?
At just turned two, my grandson can count to 13, this being the number of stairs which he counts each night when going up to bed. He can hold a crayon correctly, although so far the results are mere scribble, and he tries to dress himself, so he is clearly "on-target"!
But it wasn't government criteria that brought this about, it was his parents (and grandparents) spending some time with him.

Incidentally, some years ago I read a bit of child's verse entitled something like "Why everyone should have a Granny"  It started
"Mummy is always rush and tear,
But Granny has time to stand and stare"

I'd like to find the rest, but I've "Googled" without success - please let me know if you can identify it.

Census Gestapo (2)

Today's Daily Telegraph reports that a 100 strong army of census enforcers with police powers are being used to ensure that census forms are completed. They will be authorised to conduct interviews under caution of those people from whom the 30,000 enforcers have been unable get a satisfactory response.
I wonder if they will be visiting the sink estates and immigrant ghettos?
What is the probability that all the prosecutions will be of basically law-abiding middle class citizens who have some ethical or moral reasons for not wanting to complete the intrusive forms?
All this to get information which, if the authorities had done their job properly, should already be in their records.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Census Gestapo

According to the Daily Mail, a 30,000 strong "census police force" will be used to chase up those who have failed to respond to the census questionnaire.

"The enforcement army will be deployed early next month as the first wave of an operation costing hundreds of millions of pounds to try to ensure no home in the country fails to comply with the census".

I wonder . . . . . . . ?
Will they be like social workers, who in the main are happy to go to homes in well kept middle-class housing estates and harass normally law-abiding parents over some triviality? Will they go to the sink estates where even the police won't venture alone or without body armour? Will they go to the immigrant ghettos where we most need accurate information as to numbers?  What threat will a £1000 fine be to someone on benefits who decides not to comply?
And more to the point, what are they going to do to ensure that people tell the truth anyway?

With an interest in family history, my wife and I have traced our ancestors in all the censuses (shouldn't it be censii ?) from 1841 to 1911, and rarely do two consecutive censuses agree, in spite of the small amount of information requested. Some "errors" were probably lack of knowledge such as their not knowing their birthplace or even their true age (or perhaps they couldn't subtract). With others, it is clear that they were downright lies, particularly regarding family relationships, and the describing of "boarders" who presumably pay rent as "visitors" who don't!

All in all, a total waste of money, although I have no doubt that there will be a few high profile court cases to "prove" how efficient they are.

Perhaps we need to amend the old saying to "There are lies, dammed lies, statistics and censuses"!

And finally, the penalty for non-completion demonstrates how distorted values have become in this country. A £1000 fine for not completing a piece of officialdom's paperwork yet a mere £50 fine for offending millions by burning the national flag during the silence on Armistice Day.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Libya - Why?

I remain undecided as to the merits of our actions in Libya and totally unconvinced by the official reasons.
I understand the moral and humanitarian arguments. They are logical and perfectly acceptable, and I feel that no one could reasonably disagree with the need to stop fighting, whether it is two factions within a country, or a bully beating up someone in the school playground.
What I do find strange is this sudden outbreak of morals in our government and parts of the EU.

There has been plenty of other similar incidents of suppression and killing in African countries over the past few years, and these governments have merely sat on their hands and done nothing.
Zimbabwe, or  Rhodesia as I prefer to call it, has been terrorised by Mugabe and many thousands have been killed with even greater numbers dying of starvation and disease. The life expectancy there is now at an all time low. This for a country which, at the time of independence was the "bread basket" of Africa with one of the highest living standards on the continent.
Then there was Rwanda, a former Belgian colony, Angola and Congo, both former Portuguese colonies,  Algeria and the Ivory Coast, both former French colonies all of which have had civil wars with huge death tolls, not only from the war, but also as in Rhodesia, from the subsequent starvation.
None of these stirred the morals of any of the individual ex-colonial powers, the EU or the UN. So why should Libya.
Now there are good reasons for the EU to intervene in Libya apart from oil, the main one being the likelihood of huge numbers of refugees. Italy and Malta are already experiencing a huge influx of refugees from Tunisia, a small country compared with Libya, and were this to be repeated by similar numbers from Libya the EU could be inundated.

So, on balance, I support the action being taken at present, albeit with numerous reservations.
What I do hope is that part of the eventual resolution of the situation will involve the splitting if Libya up into the two original countries from which it was formed after the war, Cirenaica and Tripolitania which were based on the original tribal territories.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Actions Not Words

According to the BBC web site:
British Prime Minister David Cameron said Col Gaddafi would be judged by "his actions, not his words".

What is exactly what the British electorate have been doing to Cameron since he was elected, and as far as L am concerned, he has been judged and failed.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Nuclear Disaster

The Japanese earthquake, Tsunami and subsequent problems at one of their nuclear power stations have been world news for a week now and we must all have great sympathy for the Japanese people.
However, in this country, I have noticed that the anti-nuclear power contingent are already using the disaster at the power station to press their case against nuclear power generation, without, of course, offering any alternative.
Personally, I would prefer to wait until we see the final outcome before jumping to any rash conclusions. Most importantly, we need to know how many people have been killed by the accident (as distinct from the earthquake & tsunami), together with an assessment of the numbers who are likely to suffer from the effects of radiation either now, or later in their lives. In this respect, at the time of Chernobyl, the predictions ranged from tens to hundreds of thousands, which has since been proven to be more like hundreds rather than thousands.

But as a retired engineer (albeit in a different field) I would like to make a few points which have applied to all engineering activities over the last few hundred years.
The first thing to note is that the initial engineering in most areas was usually very crude when compared with later developments, but was always inspired by a desire to do something better or more efficiently than the existing method.
Thus bridges were built of cast iron and later steel, rather than wood, because they could have longer spans and take larger loads; Steam engines started to be used instead of horses, because they had more power and became cheaper to run; aeroplanes took over from trains and ships because people wanted to get to their destination quicker; the list is endless.
However, it is important to note that none of these developments were without risk, and that there were a large number of accidents and disasters along the way before they reached their present state of development. I honestly believe that engineering is one of the few activities where those responsible can genuinely claim to have learnt from their mistakes, unlike many other areas where "We will learn from our mistakes" is merely a catchphrase.

Steam Engines and the early railways probably caused the highest number of deaths over the years, and although unfortunately accidents still happen, their frequency and severity has been considerably reduced.The deaths certainly did not stop the development of the railways, but invariably led to improvements following an enquiry into the causes.
Shipping has had its fair share of disasters; whether you regard the wrecking of the British naval fleet on the Scillies as an engineering disaster is a moot point, but the solution certainly was in the form of Harrison's chronometer.
Bridges too, have not been immune. The most famous is the collapse of the Tay Bridge disaster of 1879 when 75 people were killed following the collapse of the bridge whilst a train was crossing. However it didn't stop a new bridge being build in 1887 which is still in use today, having had its only major maintenance in 2007, 130 years later!
Air accidents, of course always hit the headlines, but the two Comet disasters didn't stop the construction of jet aircraft, nor indeed have recent accidents stopped people still wanting to fly.

I make these points at some length because nothing that man does in this world is 100% safe, and engineering is no exception. But as I said above, engineers always learn from accidents, which frequently occur due to factors of which they were either unaware or for which they made insufficient allowances. This will be true of what happened in Japan, and strictly from an engineering standpoint, one could say that this disaster has stress tested the reactors to a level that they would never have received otherwise. To a non-specialist like myself, it would seem that the actual reactor design was adequate but that it was the cooling system, or its power supplies which failed and that their design clearly will need re-appraisal in any new construction.

That, of course, is my initial reaction without real facts; I would much prefer that all the so-called experts desisted from making comments until the full effects are known and an enquiry by genuine experts has reached its conclusions.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

French Racist Joke? You're Joking!

I couldn't resist a link to this joke on the "Gates of Vienna"
Translated from the French, it was declared to be racist by Sarkozy’s ruling UMP party

Our European President

As a change from Nigel Farrage having a go at the EU President, I offer you this by by the 
Belgian ECR MEP Derk-Jan Eppink.

Eurosceptism is clearly not the prerogative of the British!

'World's largest paedophile ring'

According to the BBC, the 'World's largest paedophile ring' has been uncovered and 121 people have been arrested in the UK.
I wonder how many of them have either been cleared,  or would have been cleared (had they been asked), by the Child Protection Agency?
If as I am inclined to suspect, the majority "have no previous", it would of course prove that the CPA is a waste of time and money, as in the case of the nursery worker, Vanessa George, who was recently jailed for child sex abuse.

Late News
The ITV Evening news (6.30) said that there were "Schoolmasters, a Scout master and a Policeman" amongst those arrested.

Monday, 14 March 2011

High Speed Rail

I was idly reading a blog about HS2, and I didn't immediately realise what it was about as I had read it as H2S.
Then I realised that there was no real difference between HS2 and H2S, they both stink!

Friday, 11 March 2011

The NHS costs due to Smoking.

As I have said before, I'm a non-smoker. Even so, I find it impossible to accept that smoking is costing the NHS the large sums that the antis claim, particularly if you take the revenue from tobacco taxation into account.
As I have got older, I have realised that the bulk of people that I knew, who have died in the past ten or so years, have cost the NHS or the Social Services quite a lot of money in the two or three years prior to their death. This may be by being in hospital, by having daily carers call, or being in a nursing home, and it is a depressing fact (to me) that unless one drops down with a heart attack, we are all going to end up requiring one, or more, of these services.
So what is different with smokers? Exactly the same happens with them, except in general it is at a somewhat younger age. They usually die of emphysema or cancer of the lungs rather than illnesses like Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease. So where is the extra cost? In fact it us oldies who are costing the country money. We insist on staying as fit as possible, going to the GP for regular check-ups, consuming pills by the bucket load (if only statins for our cholesterol and diuretics for our blood pressure) and requiring annual flu injections.
And that is likely to be the minimum on-going NHS maintenance costs, without the running repairs. Two of my friend have recently fallen and broken their legs, requiring ambulances, hospital care and once home, physiotherapists, which certainly doesn't come cheap.
Then, of course, there are the other costs we incur, state pension, heating allowance, bus passes, and all the rest.
Now I am certainly not advocating that we should not get these things, but simply making the point that if you try to look at the situation logically, there is no reason for arguing that smokers, on average, cost the state any more than non-smokers. the costs simply come earlier in their, statistically shorter, lives.

So the only remaining question is whether the government has a moral duty to try to maximise people's lives. And if they do have this duty, should they try to force people to try to maximise their own lives?
Personally, I don't feel that they have the latter duty, and that their responsibility ends once they have made reasonable attempts to make sure that the public are aware of the risks. I believe they have more than fulfilled their duty, both towards smokers and non-smokers.

Indeed, their fanatical action on smoking in pubs has led to the reduction in size of my favourite local to about a third and the conversion of the remainder to a restaurant on the basis that it was no longer making a profit. As it was well ventilated before the ban, only a fanatical zealot could have objected, and he would have been free to drink elsewhere, just as the smokers are doing now. But I can no longer drink with my smoking friends at the pub, and it seems that I'll soon be unable to drink there at all as closure now seems imminent.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011


Today was "No-Smoking Day", or some such similar stupid name. So before I start, let me make it clear that I'm a non-smoker, but even so I felt tempted to go and buy a packet just to show my contempt for all those who oppose activities which a very large number of people find perfectly acceptable.
The latest bright idea from the government is ban the display of cigarettes in shops in the naive belief that if people don't see them they won't be encouraged to buy them. They obviously have no idea as to human nature, ever since Adam and Eve, the attraction has always been for the forbidden fruit. They obviously didn't live through wartime rationing, when my mother's first question in the butchers and the grocers was "What have you got hidden away today?" (Certain items weren't rationed, but in short supply). If there was anything, there was a tendency to buy it whether it was actually needed or not, a sort of gamesmanship.
I suspect that it will be the same with cigarettes, the fact that they are "hidden goods" will add to their attraction, particularly with the youngsters. For years all governments have tried to stop illegal drug taking, and the result is that it is, in fact, increasing. I envisage that exactly the same will happen with tobacco, "it's discouraged, so there must be something going for it". Even more worrying is that fact that rather than smoking, many potential, or existing smokers might turn to drugs as being an easy option.
Even more crazy to my mind, is that they want to ban "branding", presumably all cigarettes will come in a plain packet. Are we going to have just one make, with all makers using an identical package, just like (for those that remember) the Pool Petrol that was available during the war?
To date, the cigarette companies have generally appeased the governments, "voluntarily" agreeing to such impositions as health warnings on the packet, but I suspect this could be the last straw and that it will be actively opposed.
I envisage a long series of law suits covering everything from restraint of trade, competition issues, loss of profits, human rights, judicial reviews and anything else lawyers can think of.
From the tobacco companies' point of view, whichever way the eventual judgement goes, they'll be no worse off than if they did nothing and the actions will be very good value for money in terms of the publicity, possibly going on for years as they fight them all the way to the EU courts.
Unfortunately, it's going to cost the taxpayer a fortune, otherwise I'd enjoy just sitting back and watching the fun!

Friday, 4 March 2011

UKIP at Barnsley

UKIP did very well at Barnsley, coming second to Labour whose victory was never in any doubt in spite of the fact that their last MP was sent to prison for fraud.
OK, they were a long way behind, but they got half as many votes again as the Conservatives who came third and three times as many as the Lib Dems who came sixth behind the BNP and an Independent.
Of course UKIP got barely a mention on the BBC who concentrated on the fate of the LibDems, who at the General Election had such broad policies that they were everyone's darlings. Now they've actually been forced to face the need for real decisions,  strangely they're finding people don't like them so much! Its so easy to be in opposition!
There is no doubt that recent European decisions have helped UKIP, so in a way, I'm hoping that the government gives in to the European Court over Votes for Prisoners, as this will strengthen UKIP's hand. And although I'm against AV, I think that UKIP, not the LibDems, will be the main beneficiaries.
The BBC, of course remains a major stumbling block, failing in my view, to give them any coverage other than what is absolutely necessary. One can almost hear their minds working: "LibDems sixth?" - never mind, we'll still interview them; "UKIP second?" - a freak result, not worth bothering about. At least SKY interviewed Nigel Farrage.
Nevertheless this is a very good result.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

University Fees

News today that a major company, GlaxoSmithKlein are prepared to pay the University fees of somewhere between 50 and 100 students at top universities will undoubtedly be greeted with different reactions according to ones political outlook. The company have made it clear that they want the very best students they can find who could be of value to the company in the future.
Clearly the company won't be impressed by the government's social policies intended to force our universities to take inadequately educated pupils from poor comprehensive schools; they simply want the very best. However there are already murmurings from the left and from trendy liberals and no doubt these were get louder if, as seems likely, other major companies decide to follow suit. It'll be interesting to see what action the government takes to placate the LibDems.

But of course this is what used to happen in the "good old days" with apprenticeships, "sandwich courses" and day release. However, for some reason, governments became obsessed with the belief that everyone should go to university, and all the Technical Colleges became Colleges of Technology and then "Universities". I followed this route, found an employer who allowed me a paid day off each week for study as well as paying some study costs. Similarly, a close friend of mine, had his full time studies as a marine engineer supported by Esso prior to his going to sea, an arrangement that was clearly beneficial to both. More recently, my eldest daughter, who originally decided against university and went out to work, had her part time studies for a first degree supported by her employer to the extent that they allowed her time off on full pay and paid part of her fees.

I hope it catches on. The universities will get students who have a real incentive to study knowing that they have a job with good prospects awaiting them.

But I fear that it is going to face opposition - the interests of those seeking their kind of social reform and of the employers are clearly incompatible and there were be screams of rage from those to whom any idea of selection is an anathema.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Libya - Weapons of Mass Destruction

Whilst I am probably as appalled as anyone by the turn of events in Libya, and feel that there is a need for the civilized nations to take some action, I am somewhat concerned by the Daily Telegraph's reports of Weapons of Mass destruction, in this case Mustard Gas, which "are still a concern" according to a senior British Government Source.

Haven't we heard this before?