...a blog by Richard Flowers

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Day 2916: Mysteries of Doctor Who #17: Is Kylie a Conker?

Christmas Day:

Isn't it ODD how many aliens in Doctor Who look just like human beans? Some people say it is because the Doctor's people, the Time Lords, made the other species evolve that way; some people say that it's to do with the pattern they made in the Universal morphic fields; some people say Just be grateful we don't get wrinkly rubber noses like they do on Star Trek…

For example, the people of the Planet Sto aboard Max Capricorn's doomed space liner Titanic.

(Incidentally, since they're all far from home does that make everyone on board Sto Aways? Okay, never mind that.)

The funny thing is, we've seen a bunch of tourists on their way to visit the Earth before: the Navarino coach tour to 1950's Disneyland that comes to grief (in so many more ways than one) in "Delta and the Bannerpersons".

In their natural form, the Navarinos are purple blobby things, slightly like upright caterpillars, but with pointy heads and stubby arms. It is not unreasonable to suppose that such folks might STAND OUT slightly, especially in one of Earth's more, shall we say, conservative decades.

Fortunately, they have to hand a "transformation arch" that handily disguises them as an assortment of British character actors who've raided the BBC costume department.

Could the people of Sto have taken a similar precaution?

Well, take a look at Bannakaffalatta. Just take a LOOK at him! But nobody on the ship blinks an eyelid. Clearly, he's not in any way UNUSUAL on Sto. Well actually, he IS unusual, but it's because he's a closet CYBORG, not because he's bright red and spiky! But equally there aren't any OTHER aliens of any description on the ship, so he OUGHT to stand out. It's a "dog that didn't bark in the night" observation, but perhaps it because as far as everyone else is concerned he DOESN'T stand out.

Maybe, maybe, he's not unusual because EVERYONE on Sto looks like that.

What if, in fact, the passengers and crew on the Titanic all look like that as well?

Perhaps Mr B has taken advantage of the option NOT to transform himself to cover up the fact that the process doesn't work on Cyborgs.

Actually, there are a couple of things that count against this theory: first, there's his NAME: Bannakaffalatta. It's just not the same as all the other Sto people's names: Astrid Peth, Alonzo Frame, Foon van Hoff and the rest. They're all a little bit… Earth-like. And his really isn't; it's a "comedy alien name". Like the one Mr Russell is always deriding: "Planet Zog". In the Doctor Who scheme of things (in which the scale of things as large as planets, where hugeness allows for a VARIETY of cultures, is never properly taken into consideration) it suggests he's MORE alien than they are. And second, there's Mr Max Capricorn, who (never mind the sheer redundancy of transformation-arching himself, or for that matter his portraits and corporate videos) is definitely much MORE cyborg than little Bannakaffalatta, but does not have a Conker-head on top of his box.

Still, it's rather ENTERTAINING to think of everyone on planet Sto running around looking like the little red spiky guy, and it would certainly teach Dr Who a lesson for making eyes at another blonde.

When, after all, she's really a Red Head.


Elephant’s Treasure
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What? What?! WHAT!?!

Dragon’s Christmas
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Merry Christmas, everyone!


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Day 2915: Tangerine Book - The Puzzle Page

Christmas Eve:

Millennium is TRAPPED in the MAZE of Conservatory policies… can you help him to find his way out?

Mr Balloon's Not so Amazing
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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Day 2914: How to Fix the Economy (gosh, that's a brave title!)


WORLD CAPITALISM, it can do only one of two things: it can spiral UP or it can spiral DOWN.

People buy more stuff; so, companies have more cash; so, companies hire more workers; so, more people have money; so, people buy more stuff…


People buy LESS stuff; so, companies have LESS cash; so, companies lay off workers; so, FEWER people have money; so, people buy LESS stuff…

It's like a Law of Physics.

So, anyone saying (for example) that they have abolished "boom and bust" is as wrong as a sub-orbital hippopotamus saying it's abolished "plummeting and splatting" just because it's not reached the top of its parabola yet.

The banks have their own part in this spiral. If people have more money, they put some in the bank. Suppose I put £10 pocket money in the bank. The bank says: "well, Millennium won't want ALL of that money TODAY, so we will lend some of it to someone. Let's say he might want £1 for a STICKY BUN, and lend out £9 to Cuddly Cthulhu". So, now I have £10 (in the bank) and Cuddly Cthulhu has £9 – and the bank has, somehow, magically almost doubled the money.

But then, what does Cuddly Cthulhu do? Well, he puts it in the Unspeakable Bank of R'lyeh! And the Unspeakable Bank say to themselves: "well, Cthulhu won't want ALL of that money TODAY, so we will lend some of it to someone. Let's say he might want £1 for a Cultist Kebab, and lend out £8 to the Clangers".

So NOW, I have £10 and Cuddly Cthulhu has £9 and the Clangers have £8 and it seems like we've discovered the secret of making money out of NOTHING!

(And what, you may ask, are the Clangers doing banking at the Unspeakable Bank of R'lyeh?!)

The more money people make, the more they put in the bank, the more that the bank can multiply up by their magic, the more money there is to go back into the economy and push it further up the spiral.

And then, along comes the CREDIT CRUNCH.

Like Road Runner pointing out the obvious to Wile E. Coyote, someone like Mr Robert "Hey!" Presto comes along and says: hang on, this money doesn't really exist. And THEN look what happens!

My bank suddenly gets very nervous, and starts to say: "hmmm, what if Millennium wants £2 today? We'd better only lend £8 of his money to Cuddly Cthulhu".

And the Unspeakable Bank of R'lyeh suddenly gets very nervous (or, indeed, very much MORE nervous, being as banking in R'lyeh is enough to make ANYONE quite worried to begin with), and starts to say: "hmmm, what if Cthulhu wants £2 today? We'd better only lend £7 of his money to the Clangers".

Pretty soon, half of the magic money has just vanished – poof! – back into wherever it came from!

And now there is less ACTUAL money going round and round (or "in circulation", as pundits and Presto might say) so less STUFF can be bought and suddenly we are into the downward (BAD!) spiral.

Of course, it doesn't HAVE to be a credit crunch that tips the balance – inflation can do it too: too much inflation can also be a way to cut the amount that people have to spend on stuff (it doesn't cut the amount of MONEY, but because the money is worth LESS it cuts the amount of VALUE). The big recessions of the Eighties were caused by inflation, which is why Governments have been paranoid about it.

And possibly why the current Government's solutions are a MISTAKE.

Cutting VAT to make things cheaper is an anti-inflationary tactic to let people buy more stuff for the same amount of money. But with the oil prices now rapidly reversing their huge leaps of earlier in the year, inflation IS NOT the problem.

Mr Frown's attempts to galvanise the banks into unclenching their money fists are doomed to failure because he is AT THE SAME TIME ordering them to improve their security by holding on to more money. Loan more and keep more at the same time. You can see why the banks are ignoring him.

Besides, the banks currently have NO CONFIDENCE in themselves or each other, let alone any other business on the face of the planet.

So, what is the solution?

Let me have a look at recessions of earlier years. The recession of the nineties ended when the boom took off; the recession of the Eighties ended with the string of selling-off-the-family-silver privatisations and the right to buy (cheap) your Council House; even, if you think about it, the Great Depression ended when the world's Governments went out shopping for re-armament.

Basically, people start buying stuff when they think there's a get-rich-quick scheme in the offing. The banks themselves become more confident and slacken their credit controls and the whole magic money-go-round starts up again.

The crucial factors appear to be that it must be a GENUINE opportunity, and it must capture the PUBLIC IMAGINATION. There have to be real results so that people are convinced, but turning the corner will really be driven by aspiration when enough people think that they can share in the wealth too.

The REALLY HARD PART, of course, is guessing just what that aspirational opportunity will be.

I would really LOVE to say that Mr Clogg's Liberal Democrat "Green Road out of the Recession" is that answer. It MIGHT be. It's certainly a BETTER answer than anything the OTHER Parties have… because they have NOTHING.

Mr Frown's Hard Labour plan to SPEND their way out of recession lacks any focus and offers nothing by way of opportunity.

Mr Balloon's Conservatory plan to CUT spending offers nothing by way of inspiration OR reward.

The opportunity available from founding the Green Economy OUGHT to be obvious but it will only save the world IF it manages to inspire people.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Day 2910: In other news… Dracula rejects inquiry into theft from bloodbank


Look, perhaps I'm not understanding this:

"The Metropolitan Police force has rejected calls for an inquiry into errors made by, er, The Metropolitan Police"

Since when was it up to the police to decide whether or not anyone should oversee their actions?


"Mr Frown has rejected calls for an early* inquiry into the Iraq war started by Lord Blairimort and paid for by, er, Mr Frown"

Is it me, or is there a PATTERN developing?

It is an ABUSE of POWER, if you are able to cover your own fluffy bottom by preventing inquiries into your own FAILINGS.

And the continued BLURRING of the lines between the Metropolitan Police and the Hard Labour Party (that began with that CLONE of Lord Blairimort being in charge, and appear to have continued with the TERRORISM Squad now enforcing the Hard Labour's anti-leak policy) must surely be TERRIFYING for those concerned about the encroaching power of the state.

Is it not about time that Parliament – notionally the "highest court in the land" and at least on some VAGUE level our actual representatives – had the power to COMMAND inquiries into the police, or courts, or army, rather than having to grovel and wait their turn? And shouldn't, in the interest of proper SUPERVISION, the Opposition parties be able to order their own inquiries so that Parliament is actually ABLE to OVERSEE the actions of the Almighty Executive?

Now, if you will excuse me, I must nip off to reject Daddy's inquiry into where all the sticky buns have gone!

*this, incidentally, is clearly some new and interesting definition of the word "early" meaning "more than five-and-a-half years after the event".

And even if the argument that "our boys are still on the battlefield (i.e. holed up at Basra airport)" wasn't wearing a little THIN so many years after "mission accomplished", you would still have to point out that it never used to stop people holding inquiries when millions (not thousands) were in actual battle.

e.g. Following the horrible mess made of the attempt to take Gallipoli in 1915, when a great many people were shot in the Dardanelles (©Comrade Nutski, "The Correct Way to Kill"), a commission was set up in 1916 and conducted an inquiry into the affair… while World War Part One was still in full thunder.

Mind you, there was a LIBERAL in charge back then, so what do you expect!


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Day 2908: Obesity – is conception too late to take action?


New reports from SCIENCE suggest that once mommies and daddies are even THINKING about having little baby elephants it may already be too late to stop their offspring turning into total PORKERS without radical re-educational brain-washing and extensive gene therapy… probably using LASERS…

…image of ELEPHANT strapped to giant-sized CHOPPING-BOARD as SINISTER figure of Mr Jamie Oliver adjusts the surgical food-i-mix to SLICE-&-DICE

ELEPHANT: Do you expect me to TALK???

OLIVER: No, Mr Dome, I expect you to STIR-FRY!

…I'm drifting!

Three MILLION years of EVOLUTION on the African plains taught you monkey-people at a GENETIC level: eat lots of stuff, especially those yummy sugary and fatty things; you'll need the reserves later. A few THOUSAND years of civilisation (literally living in cities) risking famine if the crops fail have done NOTHING to change that. So fewer than half-a-dozen DECADES of enormous abundance certainly aren't going to convince your species that starvation isn't just one more sticky bun away.

The Government – of course – wants to have their cake and eat it.

Or, more accurately, have YOUR cake and you NOT eat it.

As they exhort and extort us to work longer and longer hours at the call-centre or computer screen, no-one has any TIME left to go for a WALK so in spite of actually eating FEWER calories than people in YE OLDEN DAYS, we continue to increase in weight because of our increasingly sedentary lifestyles.

And then, with no time to COOK properly, we all end up eating CONVENIENCE food, stuffed with sugar and preservatives, or fast food loaded with fat. Yum yum. And very soon, tum tum.

Meanwhile, children no longer walk or cycle to work lest they be SQUISHED by all the OTHER mothers on the SUV school-run, and no longer play outside because, even if they had the time between cramming for the next Government imposed SAT test, no one would let them out anymore because those state-sponsored TERRORISTS the NEWSPAPERS have terrorised parents into believing that the only children to avoid shooting, knifing or bludgeoning by the crack-addled FERAL YOUTH of Broken Britain (© Mr Balloon) are the ones snatched by PREVERTS that Social Services allow to roam wild in our community thanks to Political Correctness Gone Maaaaaaaaaaaaad.

We all have a stretched thin, stressed out lifestyle and people are SURPRISED that it's having an effect on our health???

Here's a thought: crying and whinging that we're all doomed to be titanic FATTIES by age five is only going to make people MORE twisted up: some will give up and tuck into another round of pork pies on toast; some will give themselves bulimia aka winter vomiting sickness. No one will get any BETTER.

You want to help? Give everybody Monday morning off and make it "walk-to-work day"; build more swimming pools and make them free for everyone; give every schoolchild a bicycle for Christmas. And more than anything STOP going on and on and on about obesity: you are only MAKING PEOPLE UNHAPPY!


Monday, December 08, 2008

Day 2899: Things Robert Peston Should've Ought to've known


If there's a PROBLEM with the BBC's funny-talking money-guru Mr Robert "Hey!" Presto, it's NOT that he knows NOTHING, but that he tends to know ONE thing and make a big thing of stating and re-stating this. But he certainly doesn't have the depth or breadth of knowledge that, say, his predecessor had.

Normally, this is fine, because the ONE thing that he knows is the IMPORTANT thing, and the focus of the story. (Then you call up Mr Vince and let him explain it.)

But occasionally, it means that he'll TOTALLY MISS the POINT by a country mile.

For example, his "coup" for today is the news that Mr David Ross, the deputy-chairperson and co-founder of Carphone Warehouse, has had to resign for failing to disclose that he was using his personal shareholdings as collateral for a loan.

Why is this BAD? he was asked on the The Today Programme.

"Well," says MR Presto, "the rules say that you can't use your personal shareholdings as collateral for a loan without disclosing it."

This isn't so much an answer as re-stating the headling. It's the ONE THING that he knew, so he said it again.

The presenter tried to help him out.

"Could it be because the bank might foreclose?"

"Ahh," Presto snags the lifeline, "yes, suddenly the share-ownership is in doubt; the bank could end up owning a fifth of the Carphone Warehouse. Not that those loans are at risk at the moment, but they might be. The economy. You know."

He repeats this sage advice on his BBC sponsored diary.

"Investors will therefore see this morning's announcement as raising great uncertainties about the future ownership of that fifth of the company…"

The only problem with his answer is that it's completely WRONG.

Investors don't care STUFFING about the OWNERSHIP of a PLC – they care about the share price, the dividends, the debts, the profitability and the management, but owners don't have much, if any say, about those things. Certainly, the bank COULD end up owning those shares were they to foreclose. Just as they could if the deputy-chairperson SOLD them to the bank. It would be JUST be a change of name on the share certificates. That's NOT a RISK to the business.

(There's a remote possibility they might care that the bank won't dump the shares on the market all at once to recover their cash, but that would at worst cause a short-term fall in the share price that might actually be seen as an opportunity to buy at a depressed price.)

The POINT, that Mr Presto so badly missed, is that Mr Ross secured his loan against the value of his share but as a DIRECTOR of the business, Mr Ross is in a position to INFLUENCE the value of those shares.

There is therefore a CONFLICT of INTEREST.

He might USE his powers as a director to protect HIS OWN interests in the value of those shares ahead of the interests of the business, or the other shareholders.

(e.g. he might press for a higher dividend, which would support a higher current value of the shares, even if it's not in the long-term interest of the business to pay cash out.)

That's NOT to say that he IS doing that – that's why it's not ILLEGAL. But it is proper for him to let them KNOW about the clash, so that they can decide whether that makes things more risky or not.

Proper disclosure, i.e. honesty, about WHAT directors are doing with other people's money and assets is VITAL for proper supervision and regulation. And that is at the HEART of why the economy has gone BASE over APEX. Businesses – specifically banks, but let's not forget car makers and house builders – were throwing a lot of money about without anyone knowing – or ABLE to know – what it was they were really doing.

THAT is why concealing things, eg, these debts, is BAD.

And so it's a bit worrying that the BBC's economics editor doesn't appear to realise that.

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice


Sunday, December 07, 2008

Actually, I do have this… Day 2893: Is Mr James Purnell EVIL?


There are really only TWO possible interpretations of the Minister for the Enslavement of the Proletariat's insistence on his plan for people who are kept in poverty on benefits to face being made EVEN MORE POOR, regardless of their ability, situation, needs or desires, through removal of those benefits unless they find employment in the imploding job market of recession-struck Great Britain.

Either… he is the sort of insanely twisted monomaniacal Puritan who in earlier centuries would have gotten his kicks by incinerating elderly ladies for being "a bit different".

Or… no, I'm wrong. There AREN'T two possible interpretations.

Work is NOT good in and of itself. It is ONLY good in as much as it empowers people, liberates people to achieve things they could not do otherwise. As such it IS a good TOOL for liberty, but it cannot, must not be thought of as COMPULSORY.

The desire to work should be a VIRTUE and NOT a REQUIREMENT.

Mr Kant's idea of a CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE can be massively oversimplified to "if everyone did it, would that be ok?"

Clearly, on these terms, you can see that if EVERYONE decided to stop working then we'd all be in BIG TROUBLE and OUT of STICKY BUNS!

But, equally, you can say if we all chose to be PHILOSOPHERS, then no one would till the fields and we'd still be up the creek without a PICNIC… which appears to make Mr Kant morally wrong on his own terms. And THAT is why the CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE is KANT.

We CAN sustain a share of our population doing things OTHER than Mr Frown’s Treasury-approved, One-size-fits-all, Central Government definition of “work”. With his tax collector hat on, Mr Frown might only recognise paid… i.e. TAXABLE… income, but the economy RELIES on the selfless UNPAID contribution of carers, not least PARENTS. But whether it is caring (for their babies, or their elderly parents, or their incapacitated loved ones), whether it is being poorly, whether it is being between jobs, whether it is artistic endeavour, whether it is great philosophy, whether it is dossing about… it really doesn't matter. If people can get by on the contemptuously little we in our infinite generosity hand out then, frankly, WELL DONE!

Just how many kids "dossing about" do you NEED for three or four of them to be the next Beatles? Or the next Bertrand Russells? Or the next Manuel from Fawlty Towers?

We work LONG hours, in Great Britain, and our reward is for the lazy, smug, self-satisfied CAREER POLITICIANS of the Hard Labour Party to BLOW THE ECONOMY to SMITHEREENS and then have the GALL to LECTURE us about it.

Work for NO CAUSE but itself is NOT good; it is called SLAVERY and it is EVIL.

LIBERTY means many things and one of them is LEISURE.

We need to say that Mr Purnell is WRONG!

Work LESS, work for YOU, work for your FAMILY, work for what YOU want, work IF you want, work if you CAN, work for your COMMUNITY, work with your NEIGHBOURS, work with your FRIENDS, work for your DREAMS.

Work to live. Don't EVER live to work.

DON'T WORK for HARD LABOUR. Work WITH the Liberal Democrats.


Saturday, December 06, 2008

Day 2896: Star Bears: Return of the Tedi


Sorry for the delay: the Government has changed a tax called VAT and gave Daddy Richard just seven days to change all the sales and purchases systems at his work. Believe it or not, this was slightly time-consuming.

THEN Daddy Richard and Daddy Alex went and got SURVIVORS flu and were very poorly. However, when we emerged, we were pleasantly surprised to find that 99.9% of the world WEREN'T already dead. Phew!

We hope that, one day, normal service will be resumed. In the meantime, here are some Teddy Bears in space…

Another triumph for the British Rocket Group
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