Monthly Archives: February 2015

Rifkind clutching at Straws?

With the Rifkind/Straw ‘debacle‘ surfacing, the ‘great-and-the-good-know-it-all’ have lost no time in airing their views on the matter. Witness: Paul Goodman on ConservativeHome; Douglas Murray in The Speccie; and John Lehal on PublicAffairs.

Goodman writes that: We want MPs who don’t earn outside the Commons and aren’t paid more by the taxpayer and are people of real ability. But it’s impossible to have all three at once – but does not realise that it is not impossible. Douglas Murray believes that MPs have too little to do and aren’t paid enough – and on what I presume he considers a ‘pittance’ they have to run two homes. John Lehal seems either not ‘taken aback’ or ‘surprised’ at quite a lot that most people would be about how MPs ‘load’ their basic salary – even though he does admit that the fact MPs have little to do is due to the fact their predecessors off-loaded most of their duties to Brussels.

Not one of these geniuses (or genii) appears to be aware that each of the problems about which they write is quite easily solved by the introduction of direct democracy. Reading the articles linked to above, it is quite easy to see how the salaries of MPs can be controlled by the people; it is quite easy to see how the ‘behaviour’ of MPs can be controlled by the people; in fact it is quite easy to see how all the problems that our ‘great-and-good-know-it-all’ talking heads pontificate about can be addressed.

Problem solving really is quite simple if one engages brain.

 

In for a penny?

In the case of Ed Miliband’s latest thought – when the penny drops with the electorate that if they vote for him there will be no more ‘cooking on gas‘ – would it be cynical to suggest that if you gave him a penny for his thoughts you would probably get some change?

Yet again, just asking………………

Afterthought: The foregoing could well apply to any of the current crop of our politicians!

 

 

The air that I breathe

Sometimes all I need is the air that I breathe – The Hollies

A poignant line, especially when reading this news article in the Telegraph – and doubly so when previously the subject had been raised by Christopher Booker in 2007 and latterly in 2012. Yet we learn from Wikipedia the aerotoxic syndrome was raised before Booker, way back in 2000 by Chris Winder and Jean-Christophe Balouet. Even before that, in 1986 to be precise, a US inquiry into cabin air quality recommended a ban on smoking as a means to improve cabin air quality.

The first well-documented case was of a C-130 Hercules navigator becoming incapacitated after breathing contaminated cabin air in 1977. The neurotoxic properties of organophosphates have been known about since before the Second World War. The toxicity of heated jet oil was known from 1954. All jet aircraft including turboprops are susceptible to fume events. Some aircraft have a worse history with the worst offenders being the BAe 146, Boeing 757.  In today’s existing modern bleed air aircraft, the quality of cabin air could be improved, and the risk of contamination by engine oil reduced, with these known solutions:

  • The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner is the obvious answer as it eliminates the possibility of cabin air contamination. Instead of bleed air, cabin air is supplied by electrically-driven compressors taking their air directly from the atmosphere.
  • As bleed air is not presently filtered, installation of bleed air filtration systems would eliminate the problem, although a technically efficient system does not yet seem to have been developed.
  • A less toxic oil formulation could lead to significant improvement. The French oil company NYCO is continuously developing such oils.
  • Chemical sensors to detect contaminated air in the bleed air supplies – instead of human noses – would alert pilots to problems, allowing prompt preventive action.

Numerous independent scientific studies have produced clear evidence of contaminated cabin air being the cause of chronic health problems. On the other hand, various governments and regulatory authorities have commissioned research, which, while admitting an association between contaminated cabin air and chronic health problems, have stopped short of admitting causation. The aviation industry has tended to use the latter set of research (despite its often dubious scientific quality) to deny the existence of the problem, while ignoring the evidence of the independent studies or victims testimonies. One feature of the complex international situation of aviation is that the regulating authorities, while nominally government agencies, are actually financed and controlled by the aviation industry and therefore follow the industry’s desires. Doubtless mindful of the expense of addressing the issue, industry maintain there is ‘no evidence’ whilst tacitly acknowledging there is a problem; as shown by the introduction of the new Boeing 787.
(source)

Is it cynical to think that where business and legislators are concerned it is a case of ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ – or as David Cameron so eloquently put it: ‘We’re all in it together’?

Just asking…………….

Meeting my Member of Parliament (4)

On Friday I had the pleasure of meeting my new Member of Parliament, Grahame Morris, Labour: Easington, the objective of which was to introduce myself as a new constituent. Due to the fact that this surgery was, so I am informed, an ‘open’ surgery (no appointment was necessary,one just ‘turned up’ and joined the queue), time was somewhat limited.

The conversation ranged (briefly) over matters European Union, democracy and sovereignty. Grahame Morris informed me that he was a proud socialist and that, as a result, he had disagreements with his leadership over various aspects of policy; but as an ‘internationalist’ (his term) he was in favour of this country’s membership of the European Union. I also raised with him the question of two emails to his leader which have apparently been ignored and he informed me he would broach this the next time they shared ‘a cup of tea’ at Westminster.

Recognising that time was limited, coupled with the fact Parliament is currently in recess, he provided me with a ‘direct’ email address; a facility of which I have promptly made use in an attempt to pin him down on the three aforementioned topics. 

To his credit he appeared to have a desire to actually help his constituents and has indeed been quick off the mark on one particular subject (one in which I have become involved by association with the person concerned), the result of which was akin to that of having prodded a hornets nest.

Time will tell how effective Grahame Morris will be and readers may rest assured that pressure will be applied on a regular basis.

 

 

Mediocrity

Some people are born mediocre, some people achieve mediocrity, and some people have mediocrity thrust upon them.
Joseph Heller

George Parker, writing in the Financial Times, reports that David Cameron is being urged to appoint a full-time lead negotiator in order to secure his proposed new deal for Britain in the EU. The person behind this suggestion is David Frost; who was, until recently, the UK’s most senior trade diplomat, as Director for Europe, Trade and International Affairs at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Frost’s ‘paper’, one entitled: Gearing up for delivery, How to manage the renegotiation (produced by Open Europe), can be read here.

As will have been noted, Frost joins a long list of those who believe their idea is original, when in fact it has already been thought of. In this regard, one can dismiss ‘the Frost Report’ as a comprehensive proposal on how to handle any renegotiation process already exists (page 28).

Seemingly day after day we have political columnists imparting their views on the UK’s relationship with the European Union and the possible referendum on that relationship only to illustrate their complete lack of knowledge on the subject. One such unknowing columnist is Rafael Behr with this article.

Not that political columnists are the only culprits guilty of talking out of their lower orifice; witness the wanna-be prime minister, Boris Johnson, informing Cameron to ‘get it done‘.

When considering present-say politicians, political columnists – coupled with the ‘experts’ to whom we are requested to pay attention – one can but be reminded  of a quotation from P.J. O’Rourke, namely: Anyway, no drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we’re looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn’t test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power. What we witness within all three groups is that stupidity, combined with arrogance and an inflated ego will get you a long way – especially when the audience, to which all three address themselves, have been ‘engineered’ to forget they have the power of reason and thought.

As an aside, it is a source of constant amazement to this blog that we have so many experts and that, unrecognised, the accolade ‘expert’ has now been devalued by the increasing numbers of those accorded the title who demonstrate that actually they know nothing, or at best, very, very, little – yet still they receive the attention of the masses, their words being accepted as ‘gospel’.

Afterthought:  Well, two really: (a) perhaps people are being ‘led’ to demand freedom of speech as a form of compensation for the freedom of thought which they now seldom use; and (b) is the UK being run by smart people who would have us believe they are stupid – or by imbeciles who really mean it.

 

 

 

 

 

Meeting my Member of Parliament (3)

Having become a constituent in the constituency of Easington (registered this morning!), I have arranged an appointment this coming Friday afternoon with my new Member of Parliament – with a view to ‘introducing myself’.

Needless to say, besides letting Grahame Morris know where I stand on matters of democracy, Parliamentary sovereignty and the European Union, one of the first things I shall be asking him to do is ascertain from the leader of his political party where and when he mislaid his courtesy – I refer to my email to Ed Miliband at the end of November last year and to which I have not even had an acknowledgement; nor an acknowledgement of the ‘reminder’ I sent in early January this year.

As I shall also be informing him that it is inevitable he will no doubt be receiving some additional publicity in the local media – at every opportunity – I do so hope that when my allotted time ends I shall be leaving him a ‘very happy bunny’ – not!

The Norway Option

I note, courtesy of The Economic Voice, that which is referred to as ‘The Norway Option’ has reared its head again with the publication of a Civitas paper authored by Jonathon Lindsell.

‘The Norway Option’, for the benefit of new readers, deals with how that country trades with the European Union while maintaining the relationship at  what might be termed ‘arms length’.

This report by Jonathan Lindsell shows how Norway does have influence where the introduction of ‘EU Law’ is concerned, not only by her mandated participation in that process, but also by her membership of standards-setting bodies such as Codex and UNECE, to name but two.

Needless to say there are still those who are adamant that Norway does not have influence, an example of which is this article, one appearing today in the Daily Telegraph and being authored by Ben Wright – incidentally, the IEA paper to which he refers can be read here. It is difficult enough to attempt to nullify this repetitive meme by means of writing and it becomes even more difficult when in debate. Let me relate, briefly, an incident which only occurred last Thursday:

I had been invited to speak at a public school in Oxfordshire about the UK’s membership of the European Union and in particular the costs and benefits of that membership, where my ‘opponent’ was one Graham Jones – a Liberal Democrat and former Oxford City Councillor (he lost his seat last year). Speaking about Norway and her relationship with the European Union, having carefully explained about the derivation of ‘law’ and the setting of ‘standards’ by bodies under the aegis of the United Nations; having explained how the European Commission is mandated, under the EEA, to involve Norway in pre-legislative discussions; having explained that as a result of that requirement Norway sits on more than 200 European Union Committees; having explained that, as a last resort, Norway has the power of veto over European Union legislation – Graham Jones then told the audience that I was completely wrong and that, regardless of what I had said, Norway had no say whatsoever in the formation of ‘EU Law’!

That any forthcoming Referendum campaign on the UK’s membership of the European Union may well become personal and vindictive was illustrated at the aforementioned venue when I was subjected to what can only be described as an attempted ‘character assassination’ by Graham Jones, one which branded me a racist and Islamophobe. That this failed can only again be illustrated by the teacher, who organised the debate, writing to the think tank who sponsored it, complaining bitterly at the unwarranted attack, the substance of which he and the other members of staff present felt uncomfortable with; coupled with the fact that a number of the pupils that formed the audience kept me talking in the car park afterwards about democracy and our lack of it.

When I have yet to see any mention in the MSM of Lindsell’s paper (although I may have missed it, having been a tad distracted the past few days) then one could say the chips are stacked against a free and fair ‘referendum debate’ – neither are matters helped when those with opposing views to yourself ignore facts and resort to personal abuse.

 

 

The EU Website

An extensive email exchange has been taking place with both the London office of the European Union (and Brussels) in respect of the non-transparency where notification of information about the various projects that are announced – especially with regard to those from TEN-T.

A case in point is the scheme to enhance the ports of Dover and Calais, where the EU is contributing €14,261,536 out of a total project cost of €72,027,960. This begged the question of exactly how much was coming, respectively, from the United Kingdom and France  to which I was informed the EU did not hold that information – something which is totally illogical and also farcical – and that I should contact the relative port authorities (I have emailed the Dover contact provided by the EU but to date no response has been received).

Anyways, eventually an ‘EU response’ was received from Jeffrey Lamb, Research Assistant
Political Section, Representation of the European Commission in the UK, as follows:

I have now received a reply from our colleagues responsible for the management of the Europa server, which reads as follows.

The central point you raise – that all information relevant to a particular project should be easily accessible alongside the project page itself – is completely valid.

This is exactly the type of issue that we are tackling in the European Commission’s ongoing Digital Transformation project, which aims to:

  • help people find the information they are looking for quickly and easily
  • make the European Commission’s online communication more coherent
  • make it easier for people to understand what the European Commission does
  • save money with better online communications. 

We would request your patience while this extensive overhaul is ongoing, and encourage you to follow progress on the team’s blog at http://blogs.ec.europa.eu/eu-digital/home_en.

It would have been even better if they had thought about this from the outset – but then when have bureaucrats ever considered how to save money when said money is not their own?

 

Safe Arrival

I am pleased to say the journey to Seaham was uneventful, bearing in mind I chose Friday 13th. I still have to return to transport my furniture on Thursday 19th though, so Witney has not seen the last of me yet.

It is with pleasure that I welcome readers both new and old to my new home. The blog still has a few tweaks which need to be done – the banner, for example, is only temporary until such time as I retrieve my camera on Thursday and can take a better picture and the flag and associated wordage has to be moved – however, allowing for the rather hectic previous four days, having said SfS would be on line by today, here it is.

Output on Twitter will be under the byline of @ScribblinSeaham.