402 - Spring Snippets | Scoins.net | DJS

402 - Spring Snippets

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Spring snippets runs from April onwards.

The only slightly hidden pages, that I think of as subsidiary snippets, are:

402.1 Fuel Duty

402.2 - Housing density

402.3 - Climate change action

I'm wondering whether these first three topics should be collected under a different heading, since they're connected.


Our MP for Blackpool South, Scott Benton, has been approached by journalists posing as representatives of the gambling industry in the hope of tempting him into actions he would then be called out for.  Some juicy quotes were gained, but Benton took himself off to the relevant office of proper behaviour to report that something fishy was occurring.  On that alone, I'd expect hime to survive. However, the publicity has caused him to lose the whip (non-Brits: that means he is declared not to represent the Conservative party while the whip is suspended, which will last as long as the investigation into his behaviour).



https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/tory-mp-scott-benton-lobbying-investigation-ckhzrfqg0   (Times paywall)


The 'proper office' is the parliamentary commissioner for standards. The reporters were working for the Times. I doubt that Benton has broken the rules, but he has produced some juicy video clips and that probably provides any political enemies with quite sufficient ammunition.

Scott Benton has consistently campaigned on behalf of the gambling industry. Today's Times (20230408) referred to his criticisms of the likely candidates for the gambling watchdog role (Times link, chairmanship of the gambling commission); the one he didn't criticise got the job. Benton is openly criticised by the press (I've read this in the Times, the Guardian and Private Eye) for his receipt of gifts (all declared, so it's not hidden) from the gambling industry.

Personally I disagree with my MP. But I disagree with him on many topics, one of which is his interest in returning Blackpool airport to any former glory. Given our need to curtail energy consumption and fossil fuel usage I see no need at all for more airport capacity. I would prefer the skies to be empty of planes, especially at low levels. I would prefer for there to be agreement that we need fewer flights, not more. In the same way I disagree with my MP over gambling: I want it treated as much the same as the delivery of alcohol: inherently addictive and unhealthy. But then I'm offended by the widespread niff of marijuana (cannabis) across the town, where it seems to be in something close to open use. I think it must be every day I am caused to be near pedestrians that I detect the distinct aroma of weed. Cannabis is a class B drug in the UK, though I discover we are an exporter at scale. Quoting the linked wiki article, In 2017, 7.2% of 16 to 59-year-olds reported using cannabis in the last year, making it the most commonly used illegal drug in the United Kingdom. The European drug report 2017 found that 29.4% of those aged 15–64 had used cannabis at least once. This compares with France who has some of the strongest drug laws in Europe with 40.9% and Portugal which views drug taking as a medical issue and therefore has far more relaxed laws at 9.4%.   

We have shown, repeatedly, that making something illegal generally moves profit towards criminal elements. What seems to be consistently better is to accept there is some need and to regulate the provision or license it. What would be better altogether would be to attack to root causes of such needs (for dependencies of all sorts), That would require us to address mental health, often now called well-being, at a national scale. 

This, of course, is way too difficult for elected representatives. We find ourselves in positions much as turkeys voting for Christmas, we can see a load of uncomfortable issues that need to be addressed but we're going to continue to vote for people who then work towards keeping us appeased in the short term. Thus we know we need to work at reducing our consumption of fossil fuels while at the very same time expanding licences to drill for oil and gas, fighting for reductions in fuel duty and ignoring pleas to insulate our homes so as to use (a lot) less gas. But at the very same time our politicians are doing little or nothing to encourage us—to nudge us—into different behaviour.

   DJS 20230407

Reviewing this in May and June, Benton is still without the Tory whip (since April 2023) and therefore classes as an Independent.




On a very similar topic I came across a reference in a novel to plant-based vehicle fuel. In the novel it was suggested that a mere 5% of the crop (the only supply of such energy) would be for food and that the vast majority would disappear as fuel for industry and transport. So I had a look at the possibilities of biofuel, which is anything from biomass; what we mean is not the 'old' biomass of gas, oil and coal but 'new' biomass like a cropped or recovered oil.

Do read the linked article, but it says that we have no way of producing enough crop to feed our energy demands – where the assumption is that we'd attempt to match the novel and supply all fuel needs from biofuel. NPP is net primary production; we use (says the attached article) 32% (of terrestrial photosynthesis products, 10-55%, 32%±22%), so the 60% required would be achieved if we managed to have 100% of the photosynthesis captured, thus 32% would be available for what we've been doing and the next 60% would meet out apparent fuel needs. I say this simply says we're heading for a disaster and we need to change course. More, we need to have already changed course.


https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11752576/  explains NPP properly, or points to where you can find such.


On a connected topic, it has become clear that I'm not the only one thinking that government  prattling about carbon capture is the hot air that should be powering parliament. They talk about it as existing and it is not as yet shown to work at all, let alone to work at the scale that we need.


https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/mar/30/government-gambles-on-carbon-capture-and-storage-tech-despite-scientists-doubts   George Monbiot


In the middle of June, Boris Johnson resigned as an MP. It soon became clear that th reson for this was that the inquiry into his behaviour—whether or not he had misled Parliament—had reached a conclusion. The rules for behaviour by the committee causes them to send a report to the parties concerned, on the understanding that the document, and indeed the message itself, are themselves provoleged and not to be shared. BoJo, the idiot, breached this in short order; as the Guardian pointed out in at least one piece (Friday 16th, possibly the night before) his routine action when confronted is to double down and protest all the louder. 

I have read the report —roughly pp 50-85 of it—and several things become clear. Not least, any censure will come from parliament when it discusses ("debates") the report. The interesting piece, to me, is the ways in which the committee has responded to his behaviour subsequent to deloivery to his hands. The committee had decided that  BJ had indeed misled the House (and the committee); he had fudged all sorts of details (themselves detailed at length and with some repetition in the report); on receipt of the finished report (not a draft, more a discussion document that might have more added) it is/was clear tht he was to be given enough days banned form the House to trigger a bye-election (Officially, Recall of MP, I think). His public tantrums, calling the committee process into disrepute when that is exactly what ghe is required not to do and one of the several things he has promised not to do, have caused additional penalties so that the fundamental recommendation is that he be not allowed back into the House.

We await the decision of parliament. What is seen from outside is that one liar has been censured. Wrong; he has been recommended for censure. His cronies, as particularly evidence by the exit honour roll of titles handed out, are seen to be twisting whatever they can to effect the outcomes. I'm afraid I see this as more lying. I could write and ramble at length in advance of parliamentary 'scrutiny'. Instead i will wait for that result and criticise it. I deem the action to be significant, in that it will indicate the extent to which our system is prepared to act as self-regulating. In particular it is the action by the majority Tory MPs that will determine whether they are to be trusted to any extent. I mean that trust may be moved to a positive value. I'm afraid that they need to be seen to act with propriety. Such censure is easy for the opposition parties, especially if they are able to demonstrate that they demonstrate the absent integrity within their own circles. The SNP has its own current struggles with that. Labour needs to be seen to grasp other nettles, though I reckon that they're waiting to be in power (or to believe that they will be in power) before they reveal any future intentions. And, of course, all declared intentions can only occur if the FPTP majority is large enough. I continue to hope for radical change.

Lay beside this Johnson behaviour the several tributes made to Caroline Lucas, the only Green MP, who has (also) decided not to stand again. She is held as an example of the way an MP could behave; with honesty and intefgrity, actually answering questions, admitting that ideas can change, working hard to change her constituency for the better – and being seen to do those things. 

I can see a possible argument that a sole MP is without power and so has the relative luxury of not needing to hide information from the press. Which rather suggests, does it not, that senior politicians need to be able to lie. I disagree with that and I think they should be able to say more nearly the truth, that decisions have not yet been taken. I liked Jack Straw's use of 'minded', as in "I am minded to decide <thing>", while leaving open the possibility that other opinions may cause that idea (<thing>) to fall away. I think it would be helpful for politicians to indicate possibilities, to give longer answers, more information (and less opinion, perhaps, but certainly less trite and meaningless repetition. If politicians are to have any relevance at all they need to be seen to behave with probity. This does not occur and —for me, certainly—I start listening to any politician already regretting that I am doing so and simply disbelieving every completed sentence.

Trust in a politician? Do explain how that is ever going to occur. yet the parliamentary system relies upon ministers (at least) telling MNPs truth. or at least not untruth. I accept that there are, on occasion, some items of truth which should not be shared, but I think this is a limited list of circumstances and specifically does not include professional embarrassment.

To have trust or even belief in politicians we need to have a quite different system and high expectations of 'proper' behaviour. Much would be achieved if parties were funded from the public purse and not ever from private contributions; much would be achieved if MPs were not to earn while in public service (and do the opposite, perhaps, in the Other House, where attendance is infrequent and not funded in the same way). Parliaments repeatedly fail to complete their work, which says to me that they're not being productive; that rather implies that whatever the 'other' activities they pursue are, these should be inspected for relevance to the public service they are supposed to be providing.

Have we seen the last of Boris? Well, one can hope so. But, while the press continue to see hime as  a source of material, he will fail to drop out of sight. Meanwhile across the Atlantic, the Donald is being pursued in a parallel way over his abstraction of various secret documents - in volume; this is not the odd file dropped behind the sofa, this is more like a garage-ful. So this is nothing to be pooh-poohed (swept under the carpet, so to speak), this is serious malfeasance. In the same way that we wait to see if the House of Commons can be seen to do the right thing, the US state has a similar problem. I have no doubt that th terms kangaroo court and witch hunt will be used again, both sides of the Pond.

DJS 20230616

Apart from the HoC and wikipedia, the other links were found a day or more after finishing writing. I discover that a high turnover of ministers (mini(huck)sters?) means that the Privy Council is enormous, not that it meets. 



For flouting Covid restrictions, Margaret Ferrier, a hitherto obscure MP for the SNP, received a 30-day suspension that has demolished her political career. Mr Johnson repeatedly lied to parliament from the highest office in the land. He did so in an attempt to conceal an extremely grave scandal at the heart of government involving more than 100 offences against the law. He then tried to cover up his cover-up with yet more lies.

Noted, the use of claque rather than clique:  A clique is a small, usually exclusive group of individuals. A claque is a group of individuals hired to attend a performance and either boo or applaud.  [Quora)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caroline_Lucas  MP for Brighton Pavilion 2010-2024.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/jun/08/caroline-lucas-britain-politics-green-mp-brighton-pavilion Read this ...

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2023/jun/13/caroline-lucas-is-a-symbol-of-a-better-politics          ... and then these.

DJS 20230616


From my Facebook feed; click on the picture.


Here's the relevant bit of content, not that I agree that voting for my ward councillor has anything at all to do with the parliamentary parties. At the local level I want a person who'll simply do the job as well as they can, while able to explain what they and the council as a whole do. Particularly, I want to be helped to understand why things can't be done, what we the residents can do to make things better and what the frustrations are within the council system. I care that there might be an interfering external body (the party) and I want them kept well out of anything that is to occur.

In case you’re still wondering who to vote for in this May’s local elections, here’s a list of Tory achievements during the last thirteen years:

* 1,000 sure start centres closed.

* 780 libraries closed.

* 700 football pitches closed.

* Food bank use up 5,400%.

* Homelessness up 1,000%.

* Rough sleeping up 1,200%

* Evictions at record highs.

* Student fees up 300%.

* Student debt has risen 150%.

* Eradication of EMA (education maintenance allowance).

* National debt has risen from £850billion to £2.25trillion.

* GBP fallen by around 15% versus EUR and USD.

* Manufacturing in recession.

* Construction in recession.

* Services close to recession.

* 25-30% cuts to all govt departments.

* 25,000 fewer police.

* 20,000 fewer prison officers.

* 10,000 fewer border officials.

* 10,000 fewer firefighters.

* 10,000 fewer medical professionals.

* 14,000 fewer bed spaces for mental illness.

* Creation of 1.3m jobs, mainly temporary, self employed, gig economy and Zero Hours Contract.

* Only 30k full time work positions created.

* 25% cuts for our disabled community.

* 80% cuts to Mobility allowance.

* Closing Remploy.

* 40% of working households with practically no savings.

* 70% of households have less than 10k savings.

* 60% of households can only survive 2 months without a wage.

* Increase of 50% in hate crimes.

* Increase of knife crime by 150% to 22,000 per year.

* Life expectancy down 3 years.

* Voted down a bill which would have forced landlords to make their rental properties fit for human habitation

* NHS satisfaction level at lowest recorded rate.

* Council home building down 90%.

* 200k social homes lost since 2010.

* Zero starter homes built, despite Tory flagship programme.

* 36,000 fewer teachers.

* Six form funding cut by 25%.

* 33,000 nurses leave the NHS each year.

* 14 prisons closed down and land sold to developers.

* 50% of all police stations closed.

* 300 + courts closed down, leading to a huge backlog.

* Millions to a shipping company with no ships

* Economy the worst in Europe

* Billions to Tory Donors for PPE that either didn't work or never turned up.

* Brexit deal that has seen the economy drop even further and exports evaporate.

* Repeatedly broke laws they'd only just made and had parties whilst the rest sacrificed

* Largest tax increase for 70 years whilst the chancellor's wife and rich people like her simply avoid it.

* Crashed the pound.

* Chancellor of the Exchequer on the fiddle and fined by HMRC

* Voted to allow water companies to dump raw sewage in our rivers and seas for the next 15 years.

Not all bad news though. Although inflation is at a 40 year high, at least corporate profits are at 70 year record levels, so that’s good.

PS - here’s a tip for any grovelling Tory apologists. Save time and brain-ache by selecting one or more of the following responses:

Option 1 response “None of this is true”

Option 2 response “It’ all true but its Labour’s fault”

Option 3 response “More leftie nonsense”

Option 4 response “Labour would have been worse”

Our local MP is Scott Benton. As explained above, he has taken silver from the gambling industry, asked questions on their behalf and generally made a fool of himself. I disagree with him on the benefits of gambling (I see none at all) just as I disagree with him over the airport, which he wants to expand (a daily tourist flight schedule for example) and I want to stay barely functional. Doesn't he know there is a climate crisis? He's successfully brought quite a lot of money from central government (to Blackpool) which says more about the cronyism of parliament than any sort of fairness. The more I learn about 'the system' the more it disgusts me.



A lengthy discussion with the darling daughter stemmed from a declaration of principle by me, that we should be expected to take responsibility for our decisions. I coupled this with (or to) my reasoning for being unsympathetic to self-inflicted injuries.

This principle does not apply in our society. Indeed, the very idea of the nanny state works in the opposite direction, providing (I say) a safety blanket of sorts in many circumstances. What I think has been going wrong is that the perception is that the safety net is so close (available, immediate) that many of us have in turn surrendered responsibility becasue the safety net will catch us.

Of course, therein lies huge presumption. Not least that the net will actually catch us, and that when we need it, the net works as we expect it to. Again, presumption is being preferred to responsibility.

So I choose some examples. One such is health. Natural advantages aside, I have worked most of my life at being well (fit in the sporting sense, healthy when I see opportunities for improvement). I see the NHS as a place I go if I've erred or if I've caught something unexpected – which you might intyerpret as something unsuccesfully defended against, but I'd rather you didn't. Many of those afflicted with obesity have made life choices relevant to their continuing condition. I mostly disbelieve the argument that "It's my genes", which is a declaration that "it's not my fault". Yes there are some who will be larger framed; yes, we're not all the same; yes, we don't all start from the same position. Yet I say that many of us are not working and have not worked at being healthy. I agree that life in Britain leaves some of us with difficult situations and that what one person sees as a life choice another sees as no choice at all. It is that disagreement that I think could be addressed better and it is in that region of decision making that i thiink we could make strides towards long-term levelling up.

A second example is education. Originally the whole idea of nationwide compulsory free education was to provide an equalisation of opportunity. It appears that to an extent this continues to not quite succeed. I say that becasue it doesn't seem to be equalising other advantages. That may be because it only equalises a few of those advantages created at birth. [UK education ranks very highly; see here]. 

Part of our lengthening discussion covered the transition to adulthood. The reason for this is that we both have worked at length in secondary and tertiary education, seeing and contributing (we hope) to that transition. we agree that there is a lot of evidence that the new adult has very little idea of their responsibilities, even to themselves. Which strongly indicates that they are not ready to take on adulthood. The many errors that students make —and I am very well aware that the unsdergraduate student body is but a fraction of the population betwen 18 and 21—serves to demonstrate this. But why do such mistakes occur? Have they not been told of things to avoid, things not to do? Did they actually not listen? Is the problem that they've been kept so very safe that it is only when they make mistakes that they twig that there are mistakes to make? if they've made mistakes, do they recognise these as such and learn from them? Where might they turn for help? Might there be assumption that, having reached their majority, that whatever has gone wrong is now their individual problem to solve?
What generally happens at university is that there are a few services available, but (multiple buts) the university does not see this as their problem to solve; not least there is no funding for what other parties would like to see as adequate provision. I've written already about duty of care, but here I'm pushing the idea that there is also some duty of responsibility. There is no right, or not yet, to irresponsibility.

There is more to put here and i need to sort the ideas into a better order than the instinctual ramble. But that ap[plies to many of the posts on here. i realised some time ago that I use this space for my own purposes and that I'm my own best (most frequent) customer. In many ways I write as part of the process of clarifying what I think; perhaps what appears here is those matters where I fail to produce what I myself consider to be a satisfactory conclusion, plus multipple repetition of issues over which i can see that change needs to occur.



Reading about something entirely different I came across the medical concept of the MED, the minimum effective dosage. This gives a whole new meaning to the word 'meds'. The point of a MED is that there is an assumption that the minimum effective amount of something means that more than that is markedly less effective. One is not saying that the minimum is the optimum. However, couple this with the Pareto effect and it might well be that the minimum, being effective, is sufficient to have enough effect to achieve enough benefit so that other stuff can be done.

The pareto effect is also called the 80/20 rule. For a mountain of outcomes, 80% of the consequences come from 20% of the causes. I suspect that this could be applied helpfully if there were suitable measures in place. But, if looking at where to put one's effort most effectively, it woudl seem that one would attend to the 20% (say) of customers that produce 80% of the revenue. After that, effort is applied at the margins, as in the term diminishing marginal benefits. In general, things are not distributed evenly; how you see this is so is an unrecognised challenge.

It is not relevant that 20+80=100. It just so happens that those who like quoting such figures pick balance points that behave this way. You might instead write that 80% of the output is determined by 20% of the input. Or that 20% of your activity accounts for 80% of your results. 

The obvious place for this to be applied is in time management; do the big things first, the thngs that bother you the most, those matters that will have the biggest effect on other progress.

Some of the most interesting findings that confirmed this principle are:  [https://www.technogym.com/gb/newsroom/pareto-principle]

  • The Pareto principle in business: in a given firm, 20% of all customers accounts for 80% of total profits
  • The Pareto principle in healthcare: 20% of all patients accounts for 80% of total healthcare spending
  • The Pareto principle in informatics: 20% of all software bugs caused 80% of total software crashes
  • The Pareto principle in crime prevention: 20% of all crimes are committed by 80% of criminals
  • 80% of the results of a workout come from 20% of the time at the gym  [later, same page]. HITT training, anyone?

However, I came across an article about the benefits of being outside. In 2022, a study found that a one-hour walk in nature reduces stress more than walking for an hour in a city.  Similarly, gardening, trees, nature. So the principle of MED asks just how little gardening is required; how much time with a tree, time outside etc etc - how much is enough? is there a point at which other effects reduce the desired result? I suggest that maybe I might manage ten minutes intentional gardening, which woulf probably be twice that amount of time outside in the garden. ten minutes every day (probably four days a week, weather permitting) might be enough to have positive effects on both myself and the garden.

MED outside in non-urban setting for measurable wellbeing benefit is TEN MINUTES. The point, though, is that more than ten minutes doesn't change the result much. So perhaps if one wants to spend longer outside one needs some other reasons than mental health?

In very much the same way, is there a MED for sunbathing?  I suspect that 15 minutes is enough, but then I'm spending an hour outside every day just running (that's the door-to-door elapsed time, not the actual running time). This is clearly quite enough, then. Which is, to me, sufficient reason to disregard 'sunbathing' or 'outside' as necessary for well-being – while running is occurring.  I go no further than wanting my run route to include green aplenty in the sight-field.

https://www.briantracy.com/blog/personal-success/how-to-use-the-80-20-rule-pareto-principle/ One of many such pages. Also almost anything from Tim Ferris, such as The 4-Hour Body. At its simplest, finding targets you can stick to by doing the minimum effective dosage or exercise, restraint, eating, change, etc etc. It is the 'sticking to' that is the difficult bit.

Is the Pareto effect named after Mr Pareto? Sort of. Vilfredo Pareto saw that 80% of his bean crop came from 20% of his plants; seems unlikely to me. Pareto was an Italian living at the turn of the 20th century. He is famous for the published observation that 80% of Italian wealth lay among 20% of the population. I notice that wikipedia does not confirm the bean part of the story. I've always pronounced this parEEtoh;  if you're in the US, it's parEEdoh. It may be better to associate the Pareto effect with Joseph Juran, writing in 1941 (ish), which would be 18 years after Pareto died. Juran was Romanian-born, but lived in the US (Minneapolis) from the age of five.





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