Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Hester Gesture - Part 2

So, Stephen Hester refuses his bonus. The politicians, newspapers, the BBC, Guardian and masses of churchmen (and women) are happy. So to are lots of the public, who think that this is justice, of sorts.

The cost to those same members of the public? £900 million off the share price. Probably aroynd £500,000 of lost income to the tax man. The job of getting our money back from RBS even harder.

Everybody happy now?

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Hester Gesture

After all of the hysteria and hyperventilating Stephen Hester submitted to the inevitable and canned his bonus. All I can say is thank Christ for that. The hyperbole was becoming unbearable. We should be grateful to him for putting an end to the posturing that was already completely out of control.

There are some things that are worth pointing which were pretty much obscured in all of this fuss.

Firstly, RBS shouldn't even exist in its current form. It should have been allowed to go under. For those who are convinced that  the whole bonus fiasco is an example of unconstrained capitalism, think again. If we had unconstrained capitalism (or even capitalism just a little less restrained), then RBS, Northern Rock et al would have been left to sink or swim. Capitalism is an evolutionary process at heart. By deciding to intervene and part-nationalise the banks, Gordon Brown showed once more that he was no friend of markets or market processes, but a statist who believes that capitalism is dangerous because it is uncontrolled. His first instinct, and that of Obama, Cameron and the entire Euro class, is to intervene and take control.

The fact that the Labour government did intervene means we have the situation where what is effectivaly a state employee - Stephen Hester - is able to get a potential bonus of nearly a million quid. What rankles is that at a time when everyone else is fed a diet of austerity, this class of state employee is able to earn huge bucks. And remember, this was only 60% of the bonus pot, in theory he could have met his targets and earned the full lot. If this was just another bank and not a semi-state bank, people would have shrugged, got angry but there would never have been the same reaction. And perhaps, we would  have been spared the panto from political figures across the spectrum (a spectrum that stretches all the way from A to B, but never beyond that).

However, the fact is that the tax payer did rescue RBS, so arguing that it shouldn't be here is a moot point.

Having said that then, where were the politicians arguing the case that if we're ever to get our money back then RBS has to be re-privatised? Where was the case that Hester should be judged on how well that goes? His bonus should only be cashed after that privatisation. His incentives should be to get the most for RBS for the tax payer, and unless he does that his bonuses should be deferred. And what better way of making the case then to suggest that tax payers would benefit in the form of a chance to buy shares in the eventual privatisation ahead of institutional investors?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

CBI Stands Beside FoE

Following the Court of Appeal's rejection of the government's appeal against the ruling that the cuts to solar feed-in tariffs are not legal, the Telegraph  quotes John Cridland, CBI Director-General, saying:
The judgement should be used to draw a line under this saga, which saw the Government scoring a spectacular own goal and confidence in the renewables sector undermined.

We must bring certainty back to this high growth sector. Looking to the future, the Government should guarantee the rate applicants will receive earlier in the process, for all the technologies covered by the feed-in-tariff, to give buyers the confidence to proceed.
Not only is the head of the CBI not standing up for consumers who end up having to foot the bill for the renewables gravy train, he is also not standing up for his members in companies suffering increased fuel costs. There are some who claim that solar is a 'high growth' industry, but it's high growth only insofar as it can suck endless subsidy. As the experience of Germany, Spain and other countries who've gone this same route has shown, the growth is illusory and represents a net loss to the economy, not a gain.

We expect this kind of nonsense from Friends of the Earth, but really, has the head of the CBI got no understanding of basic economics?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Why Vote Yes To The EU?

I must admit to being suprised by the turn out of the Croatian referendum on joining the EU. I just assumed that the low turn out meant that most voters had been bored to apathy and that the result was that only those who wanted to join bothered to vote. Now with more detail in an excellent post over at England Expects...

It's what we ought to expect by default really...A massive corruption of the political process by local elites working hand in glove with Brussels...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Stop The US Research Works Act

It's not often that I find myself agreeing wholeheartedly with an article in the Guardian, but when it comes to the argument about free public access to tax-payer funded research it's a no-brainer. We - that is tax payers - pay for huge amounts of research, particularly when it comes to medicine. The results of that research, which we paid for, should therefore be free for all of us to access. In the US the powerful National Institutes of Health have given us PubMed, Biomed Central and a committment to making the research they pay (with tax payer dollars) should be published online and accessed for free.

Now the academic publishers are fighting back in the form of the proposed Research Works Act. This would take tax payer research results out of the public domain and back behind very, very, very expensive paywalls.

You'd expect that scientists would be out there fighting this change, but as detailed in a piece in the Guardian:
What is surprising is how complicit scientists are in perpetuating this feudal system. The RWA is noisily supported by the Association of American Publishers, which has as members more than 50 scholarly societies – including, ironically, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which by its implicit support of the RWA is making itself an association for the retardation of science.
This blog gets a fair number of visitors from the other side of the pond and I would urge them to contact their representatives now to stop this Act in its tracks.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

More state action against sceptics?

Following on from the recent police action against the climate sceptic blogger known as Tallbloke, we have the police turning up on the doorstep of an anti-windfarm activist...


Is this the shape of things to come? The more that they lost the battle to convince the public - and the more that the 'science' falls apart - the more desperate they are becoming..

BBC Ignores Damning Report on Windpower

BBC bias works in many ways. Often it's as important to look at what is not said as it is to look at the surface of what they is said. A prime example is the report by the think tank Civitas on wind power. Authored by economist Ruth Lea, the report 'Electricity Costs: The folly of wind-power', is frankly scathing. While it's not news to those who follow climate politics, it is blunt in its assessment of windpower, finding that that there is no economic case for wind, that it does little to reduce CO2. The headline conclusion is:
Wind-power is therefore expensive and ineffective in cutting CO2 emissions. If it were not for the renewables targets set by the Renewables Directive, wind-power would not even be entertained as a cost-effective way of generating electricity and/or cutting emissions. The renewables targets should be renegotiated with the EU.
Not surprisingly the story has been picked up in many parts of the mainstream media, as well as the sceptical blogosphere.

What about the BBC? Which is the broadcast arm of the British windpower industry? No sign of it on the website. No mention on the environment pages. No blogs that I can see. OK, so I try the search function on the website. Searching on 'civitas' shows up plenty of hits. The BBC have reported on many of the previous reports produced by the think tank, and have turned to it for comments on other occasions. Doing a search on 'windfarm' brings up a huge number of hits, including a just-published story: 'Daviot Wind Farm near Inverness to 'benefit' education'. It's a typical puff piece for the wind industry, with no real content and no challenge to the alleged benefits of this particular windfarm.

So we have a major report on wind power being reported elsewhere (Daily Mail, Guardian, Telegraph etc), but not a word from our state broadcaster.

Perhaps the BBC are just being a bit slow. But perhaps they'll prefer to set the agenda by ignoring an inconvenient report that helps burst the bubble that is windpower.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

School and lack of structure

Can anyone really be surprised by the findings of the Prince's Trust Youth Index 2012 that unstructured lifestyles amongst children lead to educational underachievement? It's right there at the top of the stating the bleedin' obvious tables. Still, the story got a fair amount of prominence, especially from the BBC. The emphasis has been on the chaotic lives of children and teenagers from poor backgrounds - the cause being poverty in the narrow sense of the word rather than referring to the culture that these children are raised in. Theodore Dalrymple, for example, has written extensively about the slack jawed chaos of the underclass. None of this is news, as I've already said.

But what hasn't been mentioned in the stories about this report, as far as I can see is the educational system that encourages disorder and lack of structure. So-called 'free flow' teaching methods that are used in many primary schools do nothing to impose set timetables for activities. Children are encouraged to manage themselves and to engage in activities that they want to do when they want to do them. The idea of having a set reading time, or class story or any other organised activity that children have to take part in is anathema to such a system. If a teacher wants to read a story to the class at the end of the day, for example, then the children (including reception and year one children) can simply decide that it's boring and carry on playing or doing something else.

This lack of structure is supposed to help children learn for themselves - it's based on Piaget's theories. These children are young scientists driven by natural curiosity to learn - imposing structure on them is authoritarian and destroys their ability to learn and be creative. While that may have been fine with Piaget's little angels, for kids brought up in chaotic homes, with no rules, no structure and no direction, all it does is perpetuate the aimlessness into the classroom. Kids schooled using free flow pay for it later - they simply never get used to structure, timetables and the idea of being told what to do and when. It's a disaster for these kids, and yet it is sanctioned as a recognised and widely used teaching methodology.

Can we expect any discussion of this from the BBC or other liberal media? Nope. Far easier to focus on economics and to blame capitalism than it is to point out that the liberal educational establishment perpetuates and worsens existing cultural poverty in huge swathes of the country.