In final reviews and Beta Reads
"Who the hell are you?" "I'm the cleaner Mr. President." "Where is everyone?" "Who, Sir?" "Sean, Reince, Michael, even that Comey fella?" "I'm not sure I am the right one to ask?" "You're part of my staff aren't you, you should know." "Actually my Great Leader pays for me to be here." "So I can't fire you." "You could but Mr. Putin would not be happy." "Vlad sent you, to be my cleaner?" "No, it was agreed at the meeting. I'm a Russian orphan you have helped into the country." "But your nearly 60?" "Both my parents are dead." "I think that qualifies then. So where is every one?" "Who Sir? "Sean and the rest of them?" "You fired them Sir." "I'm good at that had a TV show did you watch it?" "I preferred the British version." "There's a British version?" "Yes a Mr. Sugar runs it." "You're making it up." "No Sir it's on the BBC and Cable." "Not Fox?" "No. Look, should I get someone for you to talk to? Our Great Leader will want me to report back on something not just our chat." "Is there anyone else?" "Your new Communications Director." "Remind me..." "Anthony Scaramucci." "Er..." "I'll go get him Sir. Your new chief of staff will be over soon too." "Who's that?" "John Kelly, he's a general." "I thought I fired the general." "This is a different one." "I have more than one?" "You have many generals. Mr President, but it's a state secret how many." "I'm the President you can tell me." "I mean a Russian State Secret- I would have to ask our other Great Leader." "Don't bother Vlad." "I think Xi has the latest count." "Good man Xi. So where is Anthony Scara, Scar erm..." "He's sorting out the lot Sir." "The what?" "He's offering a special opening day sale, using the White House lawn; nice balloons." "Selling what?" "American cars I believe. He's got a latino couple in at the moment trying to get them to take the limo' with all the trimmings." "Has he checked their immigration status?" "I'm sure he will, after he has the money." "Good man." "Was there anything else Mr. President only I need to see my doctor?" "No as long as you have finished tidying up. You get health care with this role?" "No Mr. President but thanks to you I still have ObamaCare." "What!"
Although I would love to be a full time writer and earn enough to have that career, reality means that I earn a living plying a different role. Since leaving the armed forces most of that time has been spent in or around the IT industry. Sometimes that is for companies delivering support services for non-IT related government and private contracts. This article is in no way about my current company and I generalise for effect.
So what has this article got to do with that?
Let’s take a step back. How often have you heard otherwise intelligent people state that they do not understand mathematics. They did not do well at it in school and claim not to understand it now. Despite that alleged failing these same people hold down jobs and supposedly manage budgets sometimes of of hundreds of millions of pound or dollars. Many politicians suffer from this trait and their inability to add up neatly explains why tax income is exceeded by government expenditure. They do not explain this fallacy because they need to promise the electorate better services, higher wages, more infrastructure, etc. whilst reducing tax. Two plus two does not equal five. This promise inflicts, or infects, all political parties resulting in endlessly borrowing on all our grandchildren’s future. I have ranted about this before, the question is why is this simple piece of mathematics so hard for the population to grasp? This brings me back to that statement about not understanding mathematics, often explained with a silly smile and a shrug.
I get the same response about IT. There seems to be a culture of ignorance about IT in the same way as mathematics. In other words many, very clever, senior people don’t understand or do not want to understand IT. I have seen this across industries and from CEOs to numerate finance directors and operations directors. One mention of a network issue or a software problem and eyes glaze over. Now these folks fundamentally understand complex business operations or financial wheeling and dealing. I appreciate that IT, like other fields, is full of technical jargon and complexity. I do not expect a non-expert to understand the details of network routing and firewall configuration or the impact of a failure to replicate a database between clusters in multiple data centres. What I do expect is that sufficient time is allocated to discuss with non-technical jargon the impact of such issues. As a manager next time you check a business agenda, see where IT is, if at all.
I strongly believe that here we have a root cause of why so many major IT projects go wrong. Whether it’s a major update to a legacy system in a government department (take your pick from HMRC, NHS, DWP) or a failure sometimes in public of a major private company, BA is a recent example. In all these cases I am certain risks or issues where known, briefed in IT departments and probably ignored by senior management because it would mean cost, delay or change from sometimes impossible requirements. The old axiom of do it right first time is often ignored by reducing budget, resources and changing requirements. Meanwhile those in charge seem to have little if any understanding of the fundamentals they are changing. Compare this approach with other professions.
If a surgeon gives a long diagnosis and prognosis of a particular issue you may not understand it but you would not tell him to deliver the surgery in 60% of the time at 75% of the costs and by the way do it with two fewer nurses and use a cleaner as the anesthetist because we can do that bit without that expertise. Yet the number of times I have seen senior management claim this is all possible, if only the project or programme manager would get a grip. There is then equal surprise when the task is delayed, fails or causes some other major issue. Short cuts on patching regime, welcome to WannaCry. Short cuts on refresh policy welcome to system failure. Shortcuts on data centre configuration don’t be surprised when BCP does not work.
Clearly IT, like every business support service, needs to work to a budget but I have heard senior executives demand reductions in budget year on year regardless of the system requirements, status of hardware or software. This leaves security and service risks which again get ignored by clients and supplier alike. That is until disaster strikes or the project is so far over budget and behind schedule it cannot be recovered without exposing massive embarrassment. Try and raise this in a non-IT meeting and see how far you get. By the time you get traction it’s already too late.
So how can this be fixed? Better training? For whom? More respect for IT? Again how? Simpler explanations? They have a place but back to the surgeon. I do not claim that IT is as complex as brain surgery but some networks I have seen look more like a neutron cluster than a controlled design. This is due to company changes and just endless bolting on of additional bits to keep it working. Look at the bloat in our core office applications. Some of this code is new features but most is error checking and correcting code rather than core fixes. It’s cheaper that way and Moore’s law has given the raw horsepower to cope. We now have massively inefficient code, applications, management systems and networks. This should go against every engineering tenet for simplicity of design. It will cost to fix this and until disaster strikes no one will care.
That major data leak, failure of data centre or never-ending non-delivering project will be blamed on the IT team, not the executives who ignored the warnings in that briefing they did not bother to read or understand. I wish it was not so but I fear this will only get worse with the Internet of things. Router config’ anyone?
Time to reflect on the UK’s Election or what might become known as Theresa May’s disaster.
Some of this is extracted from a Goodreads forum discussion.
- Although pleasing the turnout went up 3% since 2015 we still ended up with only 69% bothering to vote or deciding to vote. i.e. nearly 1/3 of electorate did not care or could not decide.
- 53 to 48% on UK Brexit out on turnout of 72% of which 62% in Scotland voted to remain in EU and 60% in London did the same. EU vote also included Gibraltar
55 to 45% on Scotland to stay in UK on 84.5% of eligible Scottish voters – no one else got a say
- 2015 General election 66.4% turnout with wide variation dependent on constituency. The Conservatives won 36% of that which gave them overall majority of 12 seats in House of Commons
May as P.M
IMHO May got exactly what she deserved. 3 unbelievably bad decisions in under 12 months:
- No general election after becoming p.m and failing to seek support across parties for Brexit process after referendum and Cameron’s resignation
- Triggering Brexit process but not having election whilst clearly knowing there was a 2 year timetable
- Changing mind and having election – again this could have been agreed with other parties based on the Brexit timetable – i.e. the alleged reason of a stable government to agree deal on the timeline
If anything proves that May is not fit to be P.M it should be the above – as if her record as an appalling Home Secretary was any justification for making her leader. I think that was the anyone but Boris Johnson/Michael Gove vote in action. Luckily I was away for a few weeks of the general election campaign but seldom have I seen such a disastrous rabble as the Conservative attempt – again totally controlled by May’s cohorts, at least some of them have had the dignity to resign. Contrast with Scottish campaign run by Scottish Conservatives 1 MP to 13 is staggering.
Now what – the country will have to carry on with May (or have 4 weeks of leadership election) for a period but expect an autumn election – no party can govern without a more formalised agreement as 2010-15 showed – at least Gov was stable – unlike Lib-Lab pact of 70’s. Despite Progressive Alliance discussion Labour would need DUP as well as all the other parties to pass any legislation unless they expect Conservatives to vote for their policies – nationalise railways for example?
Kudos to Corbyn although losing an election is a funny way of claiming victory. The big losers are SNP but are still the majority in Scotland. My only comment there is if your campaign is entirely based on someone who is not standing i.e. Nicola Sturgeon then don’t be surprised if it get personal. Ditto for heresa May but at least she was standing in her constituency. Labour MPs after this election have 10 less than Labour won under Neil Kinnock in 1987. He resigned as it was seen as a disastrous result. Some Labour commentators have managed to mention the fact that Labour lost.
Some realism at last. To win an outright majority Labour need’s at least another 70 seats. To have a decent majority they need more like another 100. Even with a complete reversal in Scotland (30 back from SNP) a dozen from Wales and no resurgence in Lib Dems, somehow they need another 50 current Conservative seats.
If there is another election will Conservatives campaign as badly? Will young turnout (thought to be Labour) be as high will places like Kensington stay with current result. My view:
- Lib Dems will gain again impact on both Labaour and Conservative but only small number maybe another 5-8
- Labour will hold more easily in North but lose in South end up same
- Conservatives will regain Southern losts
- SNP will again slip back to Labour but might re-gain Conservative wins.
- Net result – same again but might just give Conservatives 8 seats net gain for overall majority.
I cannot see an alternate candidate for P.M – yes I know people talk about Boris but he does not have enough backing. There is no obvious alternate leader in waiting. I think May will survive for a few months, then again I didn’t expect Cameron to resign and her to become P.M. Let alone to blow the election – I had a bet for 50+ majority. This time I won’t put money on it and a lot can happen between now and then
The BBC’s poll of polls tracker actually showed it. The trend for Labour was up just as it had been for the referendum out vote and the 2015 election Conservative win. What Theresa would give for Cameron’s result now.
Unless we as a society do some fundamental re-thinking of tax income we are in danger of the rich man/company walking away. The amount of money raised by just increasing higher rates of tax is small because there are so few. This is always going to result in less income as the ridiculous 90% tax applied in the 70s demonstrated. The same applies to rich companies – i.e. those that generate sufficient profits or dividends. If the are publicly owned then those dividends turn into investment income for our pensions – yes the senior executives pay themselves extortionate amounts. The richest companies in the world (Apple etc.) employ hundreds of people to move money around to avoid whichever country tries to get more of the income even under a current system. If you make it more expensive for them to trade the directors will be duty bound (and financially incentivised) to try a way to avoid it. Taking their jobs (from Apple store assistants to financial traders) with them.
By the way increasing wages in any organisation increases costs unless there is a corresponding increase in productivity. Cost = goods / services price rise or cost of service for public sector. Thus either price inflation or more tax required issue. Pay seems to come first, productivity a long way behind, if ever. Have we learned nothing from the high inflation and high interest rates of the 70s and 80s. Of course the young have an excuse. They were promised in Labour’s manifesto free University education, higher wages, and the old more spending on welfare and social care. They are the now generation and have grown up with exceptionally low inflation. This is not a Conservative manifesto it is baic economics. We as a population are childish and naive. We want something for nothing. We all want jam tomorrow. The current political situation is a reflection of lack of honesty from politicians of all parties who have failed to address the major issues of national income and national debt. If we want good health care and good social care then it has to be paid for. That means tax not borrowing. The trident row is another good example, Whatever the merits of a nuclear deterrent the cost argument is farcical. Trident cost is £100bn for whole life i.e. less than the cost of one year’s NHS spending.
I sometimes think the entire population is unable to understand basic mathematics in particular what a percentage is i.e. the tax take example above. If we really want to sort out public finances.Institue of Financial Studies produced this in 2015. Suggested reading
- a 1 percentage point rise in all rates of income tax would raise £5.5 billion;
- a 1 percentage point rise in all employee and self-employed National Insurance
- contribution (NIC) rates would raise £4.9 billion;
- a 1 percentage point rise in the main rate of VAT would raise £5.2 billion.
Published some pictures from my recent trip to Malaysia accompanied by my lovely better half of now over 30 years
View form the beach at sunset of the Tanjung Rhu Resort Langkawi Malaysia – yes it is that stunning!
My phone has an app attached to our national broadcaster, the ABC (or Australian Broadcasting Corporation), which sounded its familiar ABC breaking news music this morning.
As normal, I looked down to see what was happening, to discover that there had been an explosion at a concert in the UK. We now know that over twenty have died, and close to sixty are injured. Another horrific attack because – at this stage – who knows?
As I scroll down my news feed, I can see articles on the Lindt Cafe siege in Sydney, troubles in the Middle East, warnings about North Korea, and more articles on the ongoing issues in Syria.
It’s a sobering list, full of the atrocities humans perpetrate on each other. Sometimes I just have to ask myself ‘Why?’ I mean, really, ‘Why?’ Why is it that we can’t see the good in each other? Why can’t…
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"Vlad?" "Don! How are you? Sacked any more Directors yet?" "Give me time." "I've told you time is of the essence don't give them time to think, change continuously." "I know, I know... Is that why you sent me the guide?" "Yes I've updated from last year Kim Sung made some amendments." "I admire him for one so young." "He had good training, like Assad, you really should meet up." "I can't with Assad I just bombed his base." "I know still nothing damaged and you did warn us first so I could tell him." "Shhhh the FBI may be listening?" "So what you have dealt with them now." "No, not quite the temporary one is being nasty about me in congress implying I was wrong." "Then fire him too, or really terminate - its what the rest of us do." "That reminds me, on page two of the guide it says I should assassinate some journalists after I have removed the heads of police." "Yes you need to adapt for your own terminology but get rid of a few journo's and the rest come into line." "I noticed and Erdogan recommended the same." "He's following the same programme, we'll soon have it all sorted." "Shame about Marie." "Yes and after the Dutch fiasco." "The hack was too late." "I've had the head of the team shot for the timing." "If only I had your control." "Back to the FBI, send them in armed and have accidental shooting with terrorism connections always works. Schools, cinemas, underground stations, all works and adds up." "I know you are right. What's next on the agenda." "Germany." "Is she the short fat one?" "Yes, but don't worry about her we still have the Stasi files." "What did she do?" "Nothing you have to worry about Don. Not as bad as the hotel..." "You said you would not mention those again." "Ha Ha just winding you up old friend. Xi says Hi by the way." "I owe him a call need to coordinate message when Kim does his next test." "Will it fail?" "We have not agreed yet. Now South Korea is coming on line maybe we should postpone." "No don't do that we need to keep the tension up. I wish Kim had agreed to that limited strike idea." "He needs to learn from Assad too. Got to keep some world opinion on side." "You are too soft Don, I'll get Ivanka to give you a rub down." "Will she?" "Anything for you Don you know that but ease off on Twitter it makes you look silly." "OK Vlad and thanks for the guide."
I had not realised that it has been over a month since my last wittering. Many of you will be thankful for the silence especially my own son who’s has managed to embed himself into a political party and start campaigning in the UK’s latest election. I’ll get to that in a moment first lets talk NHS and drugs!
In the never ending debate about NHS spending in the UK – read across to other countries – let’s get a fact out from http://www.nhshistory.net/parlymoney.pdf
In 1950/51 spending amounted to £11.7 billion in 2010/11 prices, or 3.5% of GDP. By 2010/11, spending had increased more than tenfold in real terms to reach £121bn, or 8.2% of GDP. Although it has risen consistently over the period, spending has accelerated in recent years. Between 1999/00 and 2009/10, real-terms expenditure rose by 92%
The Kings Fund has this for NHS in England in dismissing yet another politicians claim of how big an increase the NHS had received each year
i.e. there has been a real terms increase in NHS spending in England since the 70s with 3 exceptions – so much for NHS cuts. The counter to that argument is that NHS costs have also increased ahead of regular inflation during this period and that is true in particular costs for new treatments i.e. drugs and they are treating more patients due to larger population size, but this is a pot % of a bigger pot as GDP has grown in the same period. There are within the numbers huge variations of what the money has been spent on – a new hospital, pay for cleaners, more doctors and nurses, radiographers, LGBT diagnosis, car parking executives, etc? But lets stick to Drugs.
The drug market has recently been in the news with the perceived failure (in economic terms against improved life expectancy) of the UK’s National Cancer Fund. This was set up with the best intentions of funding nationally treatment that local health authorities could not afford. Thus transferring large amounts of money for very expensive drugs produced by pharmaceutical companies. Not surprisingly the results have not been as good collectively as everyone hoped. Some individuals have had very successful treatment, unfortunately most have not. This brings us to the bigger picture of drug companies, cures and such issues of the slow failure of antibiotics (due to over prescription and misuse).
Drug companies are not investing in research to replace antibiotics because there is no money in it for them. There is no money in any drug that produces a cure. What drug companies want is a population that is kept well enough to earn a living thus to pay for drugs that do not cure but keep the customer well. There is no cure for diabetes just a lifetime of insulin injections, blood tests and monitoring. Vaccines cure or prevent treatment is designed not to cure. The only answer to this problem is to either persuade leopards to change spots i.e. drug companies to work for the interests of the patient rather than shareholders or Government to be socially responsible. I have quoted before one terrorism incident provokes millions of tax money spent. Thousands of antibiotic deaths and risks of death provokes barely a whisper.
Just a brief word on Brexit divorce bill for my European colleagues. Yes there will be a cost for commitments beyond Brexit date. the liabilities, but there is also a share of assets. Therefore, I presume the UK will be paid its percentage share of buildings, systems, IPR, stored wine, butter, grain, computer systems etc. Of course it appears that the rest of the EU want the UK to pay maintenance for the rest of the EU countries lives, like a distraught spouse who wants to stay in the family house and not work for a living.
Both the elements above are key UK election issues. I know my pleads will land on deaf ears (or blind readers) but can we have proper facts. If a cut is claimed (See NHS) above please have the Oxford English Dictionary refine what the word cut actually means. I thought after Trump alternative facts might go on the back seat but no such luck. To add to NHS lets look at Education
The graph on that link shows a less than 1% reduction in Education spending as % of GDP between 2010 and 2015 since reversed and trending back upwards. This is in turn with a growing GDP i.e. higher % of higher total pot. Again internal inflation may reduce value of increase but it is not a cut. Spending per pupil – another measure may be down overall but that is because we have far more pupils than before due to net population increase, thanks to birth rates, lower death rates and better health care. Immigration may also have an impact but where more children come from is less important than the fact that there are more children living longer – I have covered this before. Normally we talk about age and long life pushing the population numbers up but higher birth rates and lower infant mortality do the same then 70+ years later add to the aging population. Just one example not in my local area and not a hotbed of immigration (unlike London), Somerset County Council had an increase in pupil numbers of 0.8% just between 2014 and 2015. This amounted to 521 pupils i.e. a decent sized primary school capacity needed. Have you noticed all the new schools being built, and the sewage systems, the roads the hospitals the…. You get my drift
I could also hope that people not actually standing in the election but in political parties might shut up for ten seconds so we can view the actual candidates – already a forlorn hope. Farage, Blair, Osbourne, Sturgeon I mean you. We then have the endless comments about voting for May, Crobyn, Farrow etc (other candidates are available) We do not have a presidency. For any one of these they first have to get elected by their area’s constituents. None of these people are standing where I live so I cannot vote for any of them. I can only vote for candidates standing in the area I am registered to vote. I continue to see commentators, media and the general public asked who they will vote for with the answer one of the leaders. All of these discussions are not in the the respective constituencies. Why is this question even asked?
Once elected as an MP, then ,if they manage to be the current leader of the largest political party (or other grouping), in the UK’s parliament, you may be asked by the monarch to form a government. If the numbers do not add up (326 MPS) you may still be asked if with other partners you can form a government as happened from 2010-2015. Sorry regional governments that’s why you still have national elections not regional ones Ms Sturgeon please take note, if you want a say on UK politics please stand as an MP and be accountable to your constituents to the UK Parliament otherwise please stick to running the bits of Scotland devolved to the Scottish Parliament. This specifically does not include foreign affairs, defence, security etc.
Of course by the time the UK goes to its national poll (we have local elections before that) France will have a new President. On current polls (can we believe any of them?) the likely winner on 7th May will be Emmanuel Macron and not Marine Le Pen. Here unlike UK they are voting for an individual. The whole EU leadership seems to be behind Macron as he is seen as pro-EU and business. Of course I am certain that no EU funds have been used to support any of the candidates apart from the funding all candidates in France receive from the EU – what you did not know that the EU funds political parties?
It Almost Makes Sense
In the UK there are major restrictions on funding of political parties, hence potential prosecutions over expenses in the 2015 election, meanwhile the EU funds all sorts of groups and clearly the UK currently pays (via its net contributions) for this. Perhaps this is the real reason the EU wants funding to continue post Brexit. All those political parties and institutions are dependent on it just like a drug company wanting unwell patients that are never cured.
"Morning Mr. President" "Morning Sean" "Here's the list Rex sent" "What list?" "The one you asked for with the countries you haven't insulted or accused yet." "But there's only one sheet of paper and there's only two countries listed that's if Burkina Faso is a country?" "I'm told it is Sir." "Who by?" "The State Department." "And you believed them, you sure their not making it up?" "I checked with Andrew Napolitano at Fox, he say's he's heard of it. South America he thinks." "We didn't campaign there." "No Mr. President, South America the continent not south of the USA even though it is, south of the USA I mean." "Are you trying to hoodwink me?" "No Sir, I do need to check because I thought it was in Africa." "You mean we don't know where the country is, what sort of state did Obama let this country get into. Find it out immediately we can't just lose the location of a country!" "I don't think it's moved at all." "Why not? It can move if I want it too. I'm President, Vlad moves bits of countries all the time." "He does not move them Sir he just annexes bits of territory. In Georgia and the Ukraine." "He can't have Georgia we have the Masters there." "The nation Sir not the US State." "There's a difference?" "Sir?" "Never mind, so what do we do with this Faso?" "We can accuse them of harbouring a GCHQ listening post that was used to bug Trump Tower, maybe expel some diplomats." "Sounds good, get to it." "I can't I mean we can't Sir." "Why not?" "We promised the Brits we would not mention GCHQ again or accuse them of spying on you, you told Theresa May you would not nor the NSA." "Remind me, is Theresa the one I met this week the short dumpy one who spoke a foreign language?" "No Sir, that was Angela Merkel the German Chancellor, she wanted to hold your hand like Theresa did." "But she was foreign and somehow she got in the country despite my Immigration order." "Germany is not on the order Sir." "But she is foreign?" "Most people are Sir." "Not Americans." "We best not get into that." "Now Sir I have your daily security briefing, do you want the one from the NSA or your usual one from Fox News." "Can't believe the NSA one its all fake news and tell them I'm upset by them failing to confirm Andrew's story." "I have Sir." "Good, I'll look at it after Sesame Street, who is left on the list? What's the USSR?" "Oh that's just Vlad, he suggested he bring back the old name, a traditional branding opportunity his marketing folk have said." "Clever, I like it so we don't have to insult the USSR." "No Sir, we do not Russia but the USSR that justifies us increasing defence spending." "BUt if the USSR doesn't exist we're insulting no one?" "Exactly Sir." "How are we gonna pay for it all, I mean we don't get enough in tax." "No Sir some people have not paid tax in decades." "It's the American way Sean, I'm not stupid." "No Sir, very clever. I may have a way out." "What?" "Well according to the State Department Briefing Burkina Faso get some US Aid, we can withdraw it." "Great and we have an excuse as they have been spying on us, we can call it unnamed agencies used the place to coordinate spying activity. That won't upset the Angela." "That's Theresa and very good Sir." "What can we spend the money on instead." "A missile." "How many?" "Just one Sir a Hellfire I think. we only gave them a couple of million last year." "Too much, I paid more than that in tax." "No you didn't Sir." "That's because I'm clever." "Yes you are Sir."
"Mr. President great news." "What's happened?" "A judge ruled in our favour." "About time, so the new Exec order is OK then." "Not quite, there's one problem." "What now?" "It's the same judge." "The same one?" "Yeah the one you called an idiot and anti-democratic." "Did I say that?" "You did." "Was I on oath?" "Nope" "Shame I could deny it then, the AG did." "We're working on the statement now." "Try - we're always supportive of the legal process." "But that's not true." "And your point is?"