Blog Review 937


Much is being made of this expedition measuring the polar ice thickness. A climate scientist who knows about it doesn't think much of it.

Just what would it cost to fire a few civil servants? Surely we would profit by doing so?

The best aid policy would be to have the free movement of labour.

Maybe the Pope was right about condoms and AIDS. Ever heard of "offsetting behaviour"?

The Taxpayers' Alliance seems to so provoke certain Town Hall types that they resort to cooking the figures in their response.

Another method of downsizing government.

And finally, how to beat the CCTV.

Official: Carbon dioxide is bad for you


At least, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Of course, there is still some way to go before this "pollutant" is controlled under the Clean Air Act, and it is conceivable that Congress will pass legislation aimed at controlling emissions in the meantime (but I wouldn't put money on it).

Carbon dioxide is essential for life. Without it, plants could not photosynthesise and, without plants, there would be no animal life, or anyone to write or read this blog. Horticulturalists deliberately boost the level in the air in greenhouses to increase their crop yields. Humans and all other animals add more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every time they exhale. But, because the IPCC has deemed it to be the major driver of recent changes to the climate (despite there being no direct evidence to support this view), the EPA has now ruled that it can harm humans and therefore can be controlled under the CAA.

If this is taken to its logical conclusion, and carbon dioxide is treated in the same way as truly harmful gases such as sulphur dioxide, the impact on the US economy is likely to be severe, and both the American public and the Obama administration will have cause to regret it.

Martin Livermore is the Director of The Scientific Alliance

The Hospital: We are all in A&E


Channel 4 is currently showing a documentary called The Hospital which takes a frank look at the effect that teenagers have on our nation’s health service. In this three part special they speak to the doctors working on the frontline dealing with the uneducated accidents that barrel through their doors on a regular basis. The first looked at the carnage that alcohol has unleashed, the second teenage pregnancies and the final show will examine obesity. It is an eye-opener and gives a truly shocking insight into the thinking of a sub-section of society.

Politicians have created a monster. It is clear to see that the health service in this country is having an impact on behaviour as there is little or no recognition of the consequences of actions: people have been desensitized. For example, a teenage pregnancy on the NHS typically costs around £10,000 to £15,000 due to the higher than normal risks because of the natural stresses on an under developed body. The teenagers in question have no awareness of these costs. Society as a whole would probably behave differently if only the individuals/families concerned had to bear the costs.

The politicians have created a new breed of teenager who typically come from a family that has little desire to be concerned about their offspring’s education and consequentially show little emotion towards them. This could perhaps be a reason why teens have descended upon alcohol and have such a bad relationship with it. These fault lines are a politicians’ creation, yet they will claim that only they can fix them. Sadly the time has come to shock people into behaving in a ‘normal’ manner by exposing them to the true costs of their behaviour: we should do without politicians. Or at least only hold in high regard those politicians who can say no and explain why a person will be stronger by learning from their mistakes. Until that time we are all in A&E.

Nowhere to turn


When [unproductive hands are] multiplied to an unnecessary number, they may in a particular year consume so great a share of this produce as not to leave a sufficiency for maintaining the productive laborers, who should reproduce it next year.

Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations 

The UK generates 1.2 trillion pounds worth of wealth each year. Of this, the State confiscates 600 billion pounds. The balance remains in the economy and generates, the next year, the next 1.2 trillion pounds of wealth. 

Where markets and so sales have weakened from recession, the profitability of the economy has been reduced; there can no longer be generated so much from so little. To maintain itself, the economy now needs a larger initial sum; which is another way of saying taxation is too high. 

The upshot of this is that we have -  finally - reached a limit on State spending, for the State cannot extract a greater percentage of wealth from the economy, because to do so will reduce the wealth created by the economy to such an extent that total tax revenue will be lower. 

And it is here now upon this marginal stage that our scene unfolds. 

The UK is heavily centralised. Central Government taxes and then allocates funding, sometimes requiring a local contribution for a fund to be granted. It is so in Nottingham City, today, where a major transport infrastructure allocation requires a 25% local contribution. 

The City obviously has a huge incentive to provide those funds. Will it reduce spending to do so? Will it increase taxes? If taxes increase, there is a fundamental problem, for this money is all coming from the same economy. 

Within that City, there are as you would imagine a wide range and large number of businesses. These businesses own or rent their buildings and the land around them. As you would expect, many drive to and park at their work. 

The Council intends now to provide their local contribution by charging companies a fee, which they must pay, or they will be denied the use of their own, privately owned parking.

Blog Review 936


Amazing as it will seem to many, private schools really do work better than state provided ones.

Well, normally they do that is.

A saucer of milk for Mr. Dale please.

When even lefties are calling for a smaller state perhaps we might think that we're actually getting somewhere?

Much of the State we already have won't really be missed now, will it?

What is it with artistes and their inability to understand simple supply and demand?

And finally, a fun new game or the weekend.

Getting serious about climate change


Happily, someone is indeed getting serious about climate change: the pity is though that it's not our Government, despite their plans to spend some £100 billion on putting a windmill on top of every bump in the landscape. It's actually two private companies:

The initial plan is for the firm Solaren Corp to provide some 200MW of electricity. Solaren, which is based in Manhattan Beach, California, says it will launch a satellite with an array of solar panels around 22,000 miles above the earth's equator using existing rocket technology, and then convert the power generated into radio-frequency transmissions. The radio waves would be beamed back down to antennae in Fresno, California and then converted into electricity and fed into the regular power grid, PG&E said.

All that PG&E has agreed to do is to buy the electricity if they can indeed manage to produce and deliver it.

There are no technical reasons why it cannot work, only cost ones. In fact, it's a cost one. The price of getting to orbit. Bring that cost down and such space based solar power systems would be financially as well as technically feasible.

Perhaps we should be agitating for the following modest proposal? The Government is already saying that there will be pots and oodles of money spent on various renewable energy generation projects. Why not simply agree that a pot or an oodle be made available to anyone who can deliver such space based solar power to the UK?

Think of it along the lines of the Ansari X-Prize. No money up front, no advance subsidy or "investment" from the State. Just an agreement that any power delivered from such a source will indeed be purchased under the same highly favourable terms as power derived from other renewable technologies. That would spark something of a technological race wouldn't it?

Think on it: it's already agreed that our taxes will be used to subsidise windmills, dams and the like. Why not use that, at no nett extra cost, to try and solve climate change once and for all by encouraging the exploitation of a near inexhaustible (I'm not sure that anyone's quite thinking ahead 4 billion years to hte dimming of the Sun as yet) source of energy?

Get your hands dirty


Writing in the Yorkshire Post, David Cameron loosely sets out his vision of the next government. He appears confident that the Conservatives will be able to turn things around. Writing on the recent revelations of MPs expenses and the McPoison affair, Cameron states:

This can't go on. Politicians have a lot of work to do to rebuild trust in them, in politics, and in our capacity to change things for the better.

One way or another the media has a huge influence on political outcomes. In much the same way that a reality-TV nonentity is built up only to be crushed under the weight of the revelations of every tawdry detail of their lives, the British people were caught in a bubble of New Labour spin, with a complicit media willing to act as distributors of propaganda. That bubble has now been rightly popped.

We deserve journalists that are prepared to dig around in the dirt of politics, criticise the establishment and argue against the current trend of popular opinion. We can only hope that the lost faith in the Labour Party is not transferred to Cameron’s Conservative Party if they come to power. We should be cynical about the political process as it stands: after all, these people put themselves forward to determine how free we are to lead the lives we want.

Politics by its very nature a slimy and dirty business. Until the powers of politicians to control and compel are severely curtailed we require a watchful fourth estate; whether this is paper or internet based is irrelevant. The more questioning the press and people of this country are about politics and the politicians that rule them, the less likely we will be to trust them with the important decisions of our lives. Perhaps one day we will wake up to the fact that we are better off contracting with others freely, instead of letting the governement do the bidding on our their behalf.

With recent police activity, anti-terror adverts and CCTV everywhere no wonder we’re all scared stiff

Do we live in a country where our every move is being watched? Dr Eamonn Butler believes that the huge number of CCTV cameras on our streets have caused a new wave of anxiety amongst the public, as the police can easily target the innocent for insignificant crimes rather than taking care of the real threats to society.

Big Brother state? Britain has more CCTV cameras than the rest of Europe put together.

So it has now become one of the main causes of anxiety. Among all the other worries that people face  –  the recession, crime, hospital superbugs and terrorism  –  a new fear has emerged: that of the Big Brother state.

According to a survey by the Mental Health Foundation, we are a pretty fearful lot. In fact, more than seven million of us are living with some sort of anxiety problem.

And the proliferation of surveillance equipment such as CCTV cameras (of which we have more than the rest of Europe put together) only makes people more worried of the very things the cameras are designed to tackle: crime and terrorism.

It is ironic that something which is supposed to put our minds at rest has exactly the opposite effect.

But there is also a darker side to the proliferation of monitoring equipment which should also be a cause of great concern to us all.

The evidence can no longer be ignored that after a decade of New Labour, Britain has become a far worse place for honest citizens to live their lives as they please, away from the eyes and ears of the state.

In the name of ‘efficiency’ and ‘national security’, our civil liberties have been systematically eroded.

We have calmly allowed our rulers to grab enormous and unprecedented power. They claim it is needed to protect us from criminals, but in fact they are using it to bully and enslave us with a litany of regulation and red tape.

Police and other state officials have turned from our servants into our masters.

We have granted these sweeping powers to our rulers on the understanding they would only be used against the most determined and brutal terrorists.

But, in fact, they have been used to browbeat ordinary, honest, tax-paying citizens  –  particularly when they oppose the Government’s point of view.

Now they can be used to check on your rubbish bins, an extension to your home, or even that you do actually live where you claim to live when applying to a local school.

If Taliban extremists ever did bring Britain under their control, you might imagine that the first thing they would abolish would be our right to free speech. But they wouldn’t need to. We’ve already done it for them.

It’s already a crime to demonstrate your views peacefully, or heckle a politician, or even wear a T-shirt making fun of one.

Meanwhile, the Freedom of Information Act, which is meant to allow us access to what is happening, is under threat of being watered down to the point of being pointless.

The 7/7 bombings showed that terrorism is a real threat; so is organised crime.

But as Dame Stella Rimington, head of MI5 from 1992 to 1996, has made clear, it is far better to deal with those risks rather than frighten people into accepting new laws that actually enslave us.

Typically, the Home Office has defended its approach as ‘proportionate’  –  which simply shows that it has no concept of how authoritarian it has become.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is behind the plans for the new ‘super database’ to record all our emails, internet searches and phone calls, just in case one of us might be a wrong ‘un.

If the police do pick us up, she wants to keep us under interrogation for up to six weeks without trial.

That’s worrying, because now the police can arrest us, not just for serious crimes, but for even the most trivial reasons. And with the hundreds of sweeping laws New Labour has brought in, or the 3,609 new offences that it has created since 1997, there’s quite a choice.

The police  –  plus 1,407 other official bodies  –  can now impose on-the-spot fines for things as trivial as dropping an apple core. Refuse to pay up and you’ll be arrested and tried.

Now, even photographing a policeman could land you with a ten-year jail sentence.

Under Section 76 of the 2008 Counter-Terrorism Act, any picture ‘likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism’ is strictly banned.

A new series of ominous TV adverts certainly does nothing to allay people’s fears, but rather increases them. The sound of a normal street scene is described as ‘the sound of a bomb not going off’ because someone had reported some suspicious activity.

While being alert to threat is commendable, there is the danger of making people afraid of just about anything.

And if you do fall foul of these sweeping new powers, once arrested, your DNA will be swabbed and added to the largest DNA database in the world, with 4.8 million samples.

Youth is no defence. Of the 722,464 swabs taken in 2006-7, some 350,000 were taken from children under 15.

It took a six-month legal battle to get the DNA of one 13-year-old boy, falsely accused of writing graffiti, removed from the database.

In fact, the police are incentivised to make criminals of us, rather than prevent crime.

In London last year, three officers wasted half the night by holding a 19-year-old student for five hours before cautioning him for holding open the door of a lift in an Underground station.

But then police chiefs can get up to £15,000 in annual performance bonuses depending on how many people they spot-fine, caution or charge.

So be careful near the end of the month when they are trying to fill their monthly quotas.

The whole system encourages the police to go after the easy targets  –  the peaceful, unthreatening, decent majority  –  rather than the criminals and terrorists they should focus on.

The TV licensing advertisements sum up this nightmare as eloquently as anything.

We’re told in no uncertain terms: ‘Your town, your street, your home. It’s all in our database. It’s impossible to hide.’

Well, I agree that people should pay their taxes. But these bullyboy tactics wouldn’t look out of place in Stalin’s Russia.

It is impossible to hide. Britain has more CCTV cameras than any other country. The number of speed cameras alone has trebled in the past six years.

Some 800 organisations can have our phones tapped, including, of course, all those local councils who suspect you might be leaving your wheeliebins out too early.

There is something dark in New Labour’s psychology that makes it regard such oppression as ‘proportionate’. Its need to keep control of a perpetually wayward party mutated into a desire to control a bloodyminded public.

And New Labour really believed it knew what was best for us. If our traditional rights and institutions  –  trial by jury, habeas corpus, Parliament and the judiciary  –  got in the way, they could quite legitimately be swept aside.

This week, more than 100 climate change protesters were arrested before they protested about anything, but just because of what they might do.

So now we are defenceless against even more oppression. And that’s not just my view.

In a speech at Exeter University recently, David Blunkett  –  the former Home Secretary  –  warned that a planned government ‘super-database’, storing people’s emails, internet traffic and other personal data, would be a threat to individual rights.

And Sir David Ormand  –  Whitehall’s former security and intelligence co-ordinator  –  has warned that the Government’s plans to gather ever-increasing amounts of data on citizens ‘will involve breaking everyday moral rules’.

The International Commission of Jurists has suggested that countries like Britain were doing the terrorists’ jobs for them, enacting laws that undermine the very values and freedoms they claim to be protecting. Even at the highest levels, there is clearly unease at the extent of ‘Big Brother Britain’. Let’s hope these alarms are loud enough to wake us up to the full horror of what we’ve created. No wonder we’re all so worried.

Eamonn Butler is Director of the Adam Smith Institute and author of The Rotten State Of Britain published by Gibson Square Books.

Published in the Daily Mail here