Thursday, November 30, 2006

ASA rules Blair is not Hitler

The Advertsing Standards Agency has ruled here that the No2ID campaign poster (pictured) did not constitue saying Blair was Hitler.

According to the ASA ruling the advert "had been intended to encourage discussion on a sensitive political issue" and that "it was unlikely to be seen as making a serious comparison between Tony Blair and Hitler but instead as highlighting a lobbying groups opinion that ID cards should not be introduced because of the threat to civil liberty they posed."

A victory for common sense clearly. Although the poster did make me chuckle. You can get a big copy of the poster here.

It'll cost us too much to tell you... again

For the second weeking running the Chancellor of the Exechequer has refused to answer a simple accounting question on the grounds that it will cost too much to tell them. The question was put by Tory MP, Mark Francois (he's been busy), about how much the Treasury had "spent on external media trainers in each year since 1997, broken down by supplier".

The response by one of Brown's minions, John Healey, was that the "information requested is not held centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost". This answer is nonsense anyway, but coming from the Treasury, a department who's roles is to manage the books, it's incredulous bordering on the edge of absurdity.

One must presume that they have something to hide on this matter. Using public funds to support party political media training perhaps?

DTI hides behind commercial sensitivity

I'm a little confused this morning at a response given to a written question yesterday in Parliament. Tory MP, Mark Francois, asked the DTI "what the total capital value is of each private finance initiative scheme overseen by his Department which has reached financial close; over what period repayments will take place; and what the total cost of repayment will be." A pretty reasonable question given we're talking about the spending public money.

The response from Jim Fitzpatrick was that the DTI has one PFI contract with Fujitsu and it's financial close was in 1999 but that he was "not able to provide financial information set against this contract as it is commercially sensitive".

How is telling Parliament how much Government is spending on a project which had financial close 7 years ago commercial sensitive? Surely the public has a right to know what amount of money they have committed to paying? After all, it's not the Goevrnment's money, it's ours.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Random observation in Westminster

During the chaos the tube line suffered this morning I took a moment out to get coffee in Cafe Nero outsdie Portcullis House. Sadly I didn't have time to get my camera phone out in time but a guy rode past on a a large unicycle. Lord knows what it must be like when he hits a red light.

David Miliband admits Government IT incompetence on Radio 4?

This evening, whilst being interviewed about the EU's recent environmental announcements, the Secretary of State for the Environment, David Miliband, was asked by Eddie Mare if he would introduce individual carbon trading.

In response, Miliband said that he was not about to announce a loyalty card scheme for 60 million as given the Government's "fame for competence with IT projects" it would be "unwise" to do so. I nearly crashed my car.

A message for Alastair Campbell

Firstly, my thanks go to Iain for hightlighting this. I'm not going to go into lengthy detail though. All I'm going to say is this.

Alastair Campbell et al, you can take a code of conduct and stick it somewhere that may cause you to wince. Self-proclaimed Luddites like you will never control the baud or the bit. We are here to stay, get used to it.

Try something different today... on a shoestring?

Apparently the Government is going to provide £2m of funding to set up a "network of regional training schools for school cooks" to teach them how to cook. Assuming that the "regional" aspect relates to the regions defined in the current assemblies, and assuming that London is not included, that's actually £250,000 each.

Something rell's me that setting up a functioning training school for £250,000 is not very likely. I doubt it will even cover the cost of kitchen materials required. Which makes me wonder the money is actually more about gesture politics to appease the fat-tongued one.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Getting your road tax online.... maybe

When applying for Road Tax online step 1 of 5 says "If you have the reminder… Enter the Reference Number that can be found on the front of the reminder in the yellow box on the right hand side (also known as the Vehicle Licence Application/SORN Declaration)."

They conveniently provide a picture for you and circle where the reference number will be (see image to the right). My yellow box doesn't have a reference number though, instead it directs me to the website to errrr... get my tax disc online.

Graham Stringer MP gets it

EDM 300: That this House believes that the Government and Government Ministers should only apologise for events for which they are responsible.

'nuff said.

Imagining the Tenth Dimension

For anyone aware of string theory, it is based on the notion that there are actually far more dimensions than just the three we naturally see. In string theory the idea of a unified theory of everything is possible with 10 dimensions. But how can you imagine and conceptualise ten dimension when three is the inctive default position?

Click here to learn how.

FBI drops case against British student

It appears that the FBI have dropped their case against the British citizen, and PhD student in the US (see here and here for the back story). However, whilst Chris Soghoian has had the case against him dropped, and had his computer property returned, the security issue that he highlighted still remains. Chris has written about it at length on his blog here the section titled "The Bad".

It's good to see that sanity prevailed on the matter of charges against Chris Soghoian, but it worrying that someone on the no-fly list can still quite easily get themselves on to a plane using this method.

Prescott tells the Commons he will not save the taxpayers money

In response to a question about what steps he was taking to reduce his bloated expenditure, John Prescott has told the Commons that he is not attempting to spend less of the taxpayers money. Presumably he is under the delusion that his utterly non-job is value for money.

Since his demotion he has cost the taxpayer at least £1 million, and all he has managed to do is answer question in Parliament less than 10 times, and chair very few committee meetings. He;s also had a nice jolly to South-East Asia of course.

Daily Mail plays catch up

It seems the Daily Mail has an article here about ACAS's advice for running office Christmas parties. Only 12 days late... bless.

What do you get a Monkey for Christmas?

Last night, on the Tube, I finally listened to the most recent podcast of the Knives are Out radio show featuring Guido and Recess monkey along with a special guest appearance from the guy that runs Never Trust a Hippy. Now normally I wouldn't bother blogging about a podcast, but in light of an hysterical post by Recess Monkey yesterday I just felt compelled.

Essentially, Recess Monkey got all excitable yesterday about Bob Spink repeating some facts and figures he was given by the Home Secretary. The long and short is that Bob Spink is a "racist hate-monger", John Reid is not. Now, anyone with half a brain can see a non-story being embellished into something more than it is. And of course, such playfulness is not restricted to just one side of the political play fence.

This said, I would like to draw peoples attention to Recess Monkey's comment in the podcast where he says that disabled people should be fair game for ridicule, and in fact, there should be no boundaries to ridicule. I shall be buying him a Bernard Manning DVD for Christmas now.

Should Descartes be taught in biology?

The news today is that creationism, sorry, Intelligent Design, no wait, the ideas of the father of modern philosophy and mathematics, Rene Descartes, are being taught in Biology lessons.

Personally, I don't have a problem with students discussing the ideas of a 17th century rationalist scientist in Biology lessons. The clockwork argument, and consequentially the watchmaker analogy deserves to be heard, and then it deserves to be discredited with some good old fashioned posteriori based empiricism.

What is slightly more worrying about this development is that it is the second time in almost as many weeks that a classic wedge argument from the US has reared it's head in the UK. As with abortion we must, at all costs, avoid letting ourselves be distracted by such things.

There is a reason Descartes and Biology causes such a stir in the US. It is because in state schools over there the US Consititution restricts them from teaching religion in any form. As a result there is no place for creationism to be taught in any place other than biology as a juxtaposition to Darwin.

In comparison, the UK has, thankfully, not separated the Church and State consitituionally. This means we can, and do, have Religious Education lessons in schools. Let's keep creationism where it belongs and let the students use their faculties to assess the arguments themselves.

The Electric Sports Car of the future?

This is the Tesla Roadster. 100% electric, 0-60 in 4 seconds, 130mph top speed, no clutch and instant torque, equivalent to 135mpg, 250 mile per charge. Sadly it's about £45K - £50K and there is a waiting list, but hey, it's probably the future. Congestion Charge free as well - for now. I'm sure they'll tax it eventually though.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Awards for not leaving bruises?

How odd, according to 24 Dash, Livingstone has been presenting something called the "Domestic Violence Awards" for "innovation and good practice". I now have visions of awards that look like cans of Stella.

You'd think a spinner would've pointed out the ease with which the name of the awards could be so easily misconstrued wouldn't you?

Headline of the Day

"Debt collection service in provisional liquidation" - GNN
Beautiful. I wonder if any baliffs got sent round at any point.

The cost of Regional Assemblies

Whilst we may not have directly elected Regional Assemblies in the UK we do have Regional Assemblies none the less. They are usually made up of councillors from within the region and expenses and allowances are paid to the senior positions. For example, the Chair of the South East Regional Assembly receives approximately 12K, in addition to his salary as Leader of Oxfordshire County Council.

Now you may be wondering what these organisations do. Having spoken with a few Communications departments this morning it would appear that the answer is not very much. Largely they write documents that form part of the "debate". One of the websites says, they're "a leading player in the region with a 'voice'" (those are their quote around voice not mine).

The large majority of their funding comes from central Government, specifcally the Department of Communities and Local Government. Having done a little search the total amount from the DCLG is just short of £20 million a year. The scary thing is that nearly 50% of all that money is spent on salaries and member allowances. Just for reference:

Yes I know this is not a particularly interesting story, but that's £20m being spent on bodies that appear to exist outside the system. They're not democratically mandated, but they're not quangos either, they just are, and they cost quite a tidy sum too. Purely as an aside one of the people I spoke to at one of the regional assemblies called the central Government pot the money comes from a "slush fund" which was funny.

N.B. London has been left out.

What about HIV?

Last night I saw the Government's latest sexual health campaign advert. The advert has scenes of "yoof" out on the pull, whilst their underwear say things like "I've got chlamydia" on them. The reason behind the ads is a steep and recent increase in the amount of STDs such as gonorrhea and chlamydia.

What is interesting is that at no point in the adverts is HIV mentioned (at elast not in the adverts I have seen). It's as if it doesn't even exist. And yet last year, the UK diagnosed the most case of HIV infection across the European union. The research suggests that complacency is setting in.

As the advances in treatment have progressed so to has the emphasis away from HIV prevention strategies. The new adverts from the Government seem to bear that analysis out. It seems today the curable infections are more important than the HIV. That is surely not a good situation to be in?

The ironic thing though is that the rise of these curable STDs is arguably linked to the downgrading of HIV prevention. My generation, and I am only 31, have the memory of Freddie Mercury, Philadelphia, MTV AIDS adverts that galvanised our awareness. The young, and by that I mean teenagers and those in their early twenties, have not had that, the memory is not there for them.

It is, of course, vitally important that the Department of Health take a lead in creating awareness of STDs, but it should include, at the very top of that strategy, HIV and AIDS. Telling a teenager that he might get a bit itchy for a few months will never quite have the impact that telling he might be dead will have. We should not let our complacency encourage their ignorance.

Even when we go it will still be our fault...

This morning I had what can only be descirbed as momentary lapse of reason and purchased a copy of the Guardian. I have to admit, if the purpose of the Guardian is too make me angry then I was certainly not disappointed. This morning's award for Orwellian doublethink goes to Gary Younge, who is, it seems, a shinging example of all that is bad with what passes as intelligent comment from today's Left.

In an act of medacious originality Gary has chosen the subject matter of Iraq to discuss today, what's more, and I must say I was so shocked by this, apparently everything is either America or Britain's fault. I won't bore you too much with the finer details of his words for they are the same ones that are played out time and again on this issue assorted rabble of sophists.

As I've mused many a time before, the people calling for withdrawal from Iraq will, when we have eventually left, blame us for leaving to soon when it all goes wrong. Such is the nature of their arguments. If we hand over security to the Iraqis and remain at their request in a handful of bases they will say the Iraqi Goevrnment is a puppet regime and we remain to ensure they do our bidding. You'll never win with people like Gary Younge et al.

I imagine there are some out there that will argue that this is simply not the case, however, you can already see Gary Younge preparing himself for that argument. In his article he says, "The troops must go. But the west has to leave enough resources behind to pay for what it broke." I am willing to bet money that sometime in the future Gary Younge will argue that the West did not leave enough resources behind in Iraq and thus it is all the West's fault.... again.

Why not celeberate Wilberforce?

Why are we expressing regret for the slave trade? We are not culpable today for things that happened over two hundred years ago.

Why is Blair not celebrating Wilberforce and the fact that Britain led the way in the world for abolishing the slave trade? At least Gordon Brown celebrated the fact we abolished the slave trade (although as I recall he seemed to rewrite history and suggest it was a Labour, rather than a Tory, achievement).

I simply do not understand this obsession for apologising for things that happens long before our time, it's utterly fallacious.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Is the Union finished?

The headline on the Telegraph website today says something that doesn't particularly surprise me. Apparently, according to a recent poll, "England wants its independence". In fact, as the Telegraph's image to the right shows, there appears to be a larger majority in favour of English independence than there are for Scottish independence, although interestingly the questions do explain that Scotland gets more money per head than England, so that might explain the skew. It would be interesting to know how many English changed their mind on independence after being told about the spending reality.

The real question I think is what the implications of, in effect, repealing the Act of Union would actually be. What role, if any, could monarchy play in such situation? Also, there is the European question. Technically, the United Kingdom of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland joined the European project, if the Union were to end, then renegotiation would become a reality for all home nations. That would be a rather good situation to be, England could just join EFTA and avoid being part of a bureaucratic monster.

Of course, the likelihood of the Union being broken is small. Labour - at least at the moment - will never do it because they rely so heavily on Scottish votes. That's the same reason they refuse to even address the Westlothian Question - better to be an ostrich in their opinion. The Conservative Party are unlikely to break the Union, it's a rather radical thing to do and I think there would be concern about unintended consequences.

Having said all this, if the SNP win power in the May election, then they may very well start the process for us. If that happened it could be a blessing in disguise for our relationship with European Union, couldn't it?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

A busy weekend...

I don't expect to be posting very much over the next two days. I have lots of grouting to do in the bathroom and my new laptop is now here waiting for Gentoo to be installed.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Male Restroom Etiquette

I love Fridays.

Public Information Films

The National Archive has Public Information Films going back to the 1940s available to watch here. It's amazing some of the stuff that the Government put out in the past that it simply couldn't get away with now. The one from the 1950s about "FIVE POUNDS" is a telling reminder of what it was like before Thatcher saved us.

Just remember though, Charley says, always tell your Mummy before going off somewhere.

The Home Office

Hat Tip: Theo Spark

What's Michael Stone's motivation?

Many would disagree that michael Stone is a dead man walking, but I wonder what his motivation was for this?

Does he just like being caught on camera doing crazy stuff? Is he being paid by someone else? Or does he just want to get back inside because it's probably safer for him? If he was being paid who was the target?

Welcome to Brit-Cit

As most know, the recent Queens' Speech had a lot of stuff about law and order in it. We heard about - for at least the second time - how the Goevrnment was going to rebalance the Criminal justice system in favour of the victim rather than the criminal.

Many have suggested that the proposals on the table for giving extra-judicial powers to the Police and Local Authorities are an afront to the very notion of criminal justice and the court system. Interestingly, the Government and its supporters tend to argue that those who oppose such policies on the basis of justice are extremists and/or paranoid.

However, ask yourself this, if the Court system really isn't being gradually replaced with a Judge Dredd style society, then why is it that since 1997, 122 Magistrate and 22 County Court Houses* have been closed by the Government?

* Hansard Nov 23rd 2006

Don't pay the extra tax to renew your road tax

When it comes to renewing your tax disc for your car you can now, if you have an electronic MOT, do it over the phone. The Government kindly set up a "semi-premium rate" for doing this. I call it "semi-premium rate" because it is an 0870 number which means you get charged at the national rate for the call which can be anything up to 10p per minute, unlike 0845 which is local rate.

Since the Government set up this number, 0870 8504444, it has generated revenue for the Government of £454,535.46. Of course, you could just ring 01792 782341, choose Option 2, then Option 3, and then ask to renew your tax disc. If you have a good deal on national calls from your provider (which most people nowadays have) you won't pay the Government's extra tax for renewing your road tax.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Rate My Teacher

Have just come across this little gem called "Rate My Teachers". The site says that "in the public discourse on improving education, we believe the most important voices [students] are often ignored". They thus provide an outlet for studenst and parents to rate how good they actually think their teachers are.

Who needs Oftsed when you can have a vindictive child with a hate complex? If anyone reading this is a teacher do let me know if you've been rated.

Educational and blue

Want one.

Tattoos on fish?

Apparently, according to Wierd Asia News, the people of Wu Han, China are now able to buy tattoo'd tropical fish. The fish come with different Chinese words such as Wealth, Dragon, Longevity and Happiness and are used for Fengshui purpose.

How?

16 years, still no project plan but about a billion spent

Unbelievably, the Goevrnment is still unable to say how much the expected cost of transitioning the doomed Libra IT project to new contracter will be. For those unaware, the Libra project was intended to link up the UK court systems and began 16 years under Magaret Thatcher. It has never gone live and remains in pilot.

In response to a written question from Vince Cable, the Department of Constittuional Affairs Minister, Vera Baird, said that project plans for Libra were still being "developed" so cost was not something that was known. If people think NHS Connecting for Health is an example of a Goevrnment IT project gone bad, it's not a patch on Libra.

We must not use the suffix "relative"

Let me start by saying that I do not, by necessity, have a problem with redefining what poverty means in today's world (although I should stress that I do not believe being without a television means you are in poverty). However, what I do have a problem with is the suffix that we are using to define this shift in what we consider norms of ordinary subsistence.

When we use the term relative as a prefix to the term poverty we encourage games of equivalence bordering on classical sophistry. By acknowledging that which is relative what we actually do is debase that which we consider absolute, such as liberty, freedom and truth.

This may seem a glib argument, but by engaging with the very notion of relativism we legitimise secondary arguments about culture and morality which are inspired from that same - and dare I say, intellectually barren - philosophical foundation.

The irony of course is that the father of relativism, Paul Feyerabend, always argued that it would be wrong to apply his theories about science to anything else because of the dangers for intellectual thought it posed.

Home Office still not "fit for purpose"?

Apparently, the Home Office doesn't know whether the people it appoints to Indepdnent Monitoring Boards in Youth Offender Institutions holding juveniles actually have qualifications in child protection. Now, tt may well be the case that the members do have such knowledge and experience, but it's a bit worrying that the Home Office doesn't actually know, or even attempt to record the information.

In response to a written question, the Prisons Minister Gerry Sutcliffe, said that the "information is not available" and that the details for those on the IMBs does not include qualification details.". Makes you wonder how an IMB can ensure "proper standards of care and decency are maintained" in youth offender institutions if no one knows whetrher the memebrs have the necessary knowledge to carry out the role.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Ten things I would never do

It would appear Iain has tagged me to do this bloody list so I'll be polite and oblige. Here are ten things I would never do (not necessarily in ranking order).

  1. Own a Citroën
  2. Buy a copy of Microsoft Windows
  3. Buy a copy of Microsoft Office
  4. Go to Australia (out of choice)
  5. Vote Labour
  6. Buy a yacht
  7. Choose to listen to Abba
  8. Buy a Mac
  9. Stand for Parliament
  10. Support England in an Everton vs England game.
Now I believe the rules of these things require me to tag some other people, so here goes. Croydonian, Martin Martine, Ellee Seymour, Last Boy Scout and finally, the UK Daily Pundit because I know he loves these meme's so much.

Government says it costs too much to answer a Parliamentary Question?

It appears the Government, not content with restricting its own freedom of information legislation on the basis of cost, is now using the same argument in relation to its answers to Parliamentary questions.

In response to a question yesterday by Dr. Alasdair McDonnell (SDLP) which asked "how much was spent in Northern Ireland on advertising working tax credits in each of the last five years." The Paymaster General, Dawn Primarolo responded that the "information could be provided only at disproportionate cost."

It is not Liberty who sits on the edge of extremism

In today's Times, Tim Luckhurst in the Thunderer column has railed against Shami Chakrabarti as a "pin up for extremism" he argues,

"the trick known as triangulation seeks to popularise government policy by contrasting it with the views of unpopular minorities... Almost single-handedly [Chakrabati] has shifted the civil liberties lobby so far beyond the parameters of mainstream opinion that ministers pray she will oppose them. Their logic is simple: if Liberty objects, Middle Britain will automatically conclude that a policy is pure common sense."
This argument in itself is not particularly wrong, the nature of triangulation is such that it plays this intellectual trickery with the positioning of argument in order to make unpalatable policies appear sane. The problem of course is that which is positioned to appear sane is not by necessity right.

However, where Luckhurst fails is not in his argument outlining the worrying tendency toward triangulation on fundamental issues of Enlightenment principles, but instead in his two arguments to justify the limitations on liberty. His first argument is that the liberty of the "errant individual" should not be protected at the "detriment of the majority". Such an argument wistfully ignores de Tocqueville's warning of about the "tyranny of the majority" and the rise of mobocracy.

Luckhurst continues then to argue that Liberty's decision to support a man who was banned from a number of pubs in one town simply because of one incident in one pub is wrong because the PubWatch scheme "achieves the utilitarian ideal of the greatest good of the greatest number". It may be true that the utilitarian ideal is indeed achieved, but again this position is one that can prop up tyranny and could easily be used to justify, for example, the mass internment of all Muslims.

I am not, I should add, arguing that all that Shami Chakrabati and Liberty does is necessarily right, however, in the case of Luckhurst examples, and his arguments it is in fact he, not Liberty, who is flirting on the edges of extremism. For it his arguments, not Liberty's that have the potential of slipping into, and justifying tyranny. He is essential arguing, in the case of antisocial behaviour schemes, for a separation to be made between liberty and justice, and to paraphrase Burke, when any such separation is made then neither liberty nor justice is safe.

Labour MP calls for market price control

The "Blairite" MP, Lindsay Hoyle, as called on the Government to interfere with the milk market and attempt to impose a minimum price per litre that the supermarket should pay farmers. The reason it is argued is classic protectionism against cheap Polish milk. How quaintly 1970ish!

I'm a bit surprised that five Tory MPs signed the motion as well, I;m going to presume thats because they have a few farmers in their constitutency. The bottom line though is that the market decides the price, not politicians. Government should not go around setting minimum prices for goods in order to protect its markets from competition. Competition is good, the trick is to evolve and cope.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Is Lord Goldsmith paving the way for his rejection of the "Cash for Peerages" case file?

How interesting. The Attorney General Lord Goldsmith has today announced that there will be an inquiry into the appointment of Bertha McDougall as Northern Ireland's victims' commissioner by Peter Hain.

There are probably some who wouldn't find that interesting I grant you, but this is the second time in as many days that Goldsmith has been publicly seen to act against the Government. Yesterday it was 90 day detention, today it's the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

The cynic in me does wonder whether this is more about Lord Goldsmith building a quick legend for himself as a fair minded, impartial man in advance of the CPS receiving the files on "Cash for Peerages".

What's the betting he is involved in the decision and "sources close to" cites the events of the last two days as proof he's not a government lackey?

Government given cold shoulder by US over Iraq policy?

The British Government appears to have been given the cold shoulder in the forthcoming US led policy review of Iraq. In response to a parliamentary question asking whether the British Government had been asked to input into the policy review - which is being coordinated by National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley in response to the bipartisan Iraq Study Group - the foreign office minister, Kim Howells said, "We have not been asked to contribute to this review".

Microsoft threatens to sue all Linux users.. then changes it mind?

Yesterday, it was reported on The Register that Microsoft's top man, Steve Blamer said Linux "uses our intellectual property". At no point do Microsoft elaborate on what intellectual property has been stolen.

Today however, it appears that Microsoft have backtracked slightly, and are now still claiming they are right but are essentially saying they're not going to do anything about it. I smell something and it isn't sheep.

Government effectively admits drug policy has failed?

The Government has effectively admitted it's failed to tackle the supply of illegal drugs even though it says it has pumped over £7.5 billion into the project. In a press release today by the Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker, the Government stated that tackling the drug supply was a core aim whilst simultaneously praising the fact that there were double the number in treatement today as there were in 1998.

Surely, if there are double the number of people in drug treatement today than in 1998 the implication is that far from tackling the drug supply, the drug supply has simply strolled along. This is also evidenced in the street value price of drugs which have plummetted in recent years. Prices do not go down when supply is low.

Monday, November 20, 2006

We must have a website!

A quick Google search for *.gov.uk certainly throws up a lot. It's amazing what semi-defunct and seemingly pointless wastes of money there are out there cluttering up Government web servers.

  • www.euro.gov.uk - somehow linked to the Treasury but not actually updated since July.
  • www.letsallgeton.gov.uk - sounds very "let's have a group hug" doesn't it? Apparently it's part of the Knowledge Network and redirects user to that link.
  • www.knowledgenetwork.gov.uk - Shows the same "Holding Page" as "Let's all get on". Dropped iniative?
  • www.firekills.gov.uk - I thought fire was friendly. Now that I've read that site I know different.
  • www.drugs.gov.uk - not a place to score.
  • www.e-envoy.gov.uk - see above. Also note that it is now defunct anyway.
  • www.mindbodysoul.gov.uk - WTF?
  • www.lifebytes.gov.uk - ditto
  • www.riddor.gov.uk - Grass on your employer?
  • www.itsafe.gov.uk - Why? What's the point when the commerical sector does a better job? Total waste of time and money.
  • www.dwi.gov.uk - Water quango not the same as Ofwat. Very old looking site.
  • www.og.dti.gov.uk - No updates since June. However the web designer has embedded his email address in the page. I bet he get's lot's of spam.
  • www.cfit.gov.uk - Just because there is a website it doesn't make integrated transport so! The latest press release is priceless. Sounds like what they've been saying for nine years. Funny that.
  • www.lacors.gov.uk - promotes "quality regulation" whatever that is.
  • FP6 UK - EUro babble. Actually sounds rather iffy and sinister.
  • www.motoring.gov.uk - Totally dead site. Why waste the bandwidth costs if it's not valid anymore?
  • www.cleanersafergreener.gov.uk - Interesting, "Cleaner, greener, Safer" was Labour's election slogan last May. Bit of a blur between Government and party politics methinks? Online poll result is amusing though.
  • www.communicationsact.gov.uk - A site dedicated to an Act that became law three years ago. Why is it still online? Why is it not archived?
  • www.salt.gov.uk - a website all about errr... salt. How much did that cost?
  • www.cica.gov.uk - Doesn't appear to work in Firefox due a misconfigured webserver. Works fine in IE because IE is compensating for the webservers poor configuration.
  • www.benchmarking.gov.uk - Public Sector Benchmarking website. The "What's new" section says there is nothing new.

Government says "you're better off with Galloway"?

Is this a data protection breach?

Last week the National Archive announced that over a 1000 registrations cards of foreign nationals that came to London have gone online and are now searchable. The cards are for settling foreign nationals between 1914 and 1991 and, according to website include information such as

"full name, date of birth, date of arrival into the UK, marital status, details of any children, address, employment history (including employer's name and address), and date of naturalisation with the Home Office reference if applicable... [and] at least one photograph"
Is it just me or does 1991 sound awfully recent? There's a strong possibility that some of these people will still be alive. It's very possible that those people might even live in the same place. I wonder if any checks were made, or people were asked if they wanted their personal history published for all to see?

Don't get me wrong on this though. I think such information is useful for historical purposes, what I'm not sure about is whether publishing detailed personal information from the not very distant past is particularly wise, or perhaps still, even legal?

Boys Beware!

Got sent a link to this last night. A classic piece of 1950s anti-gay propaganda. I'll never hitchhiking again! (note that the clip is 10 minutes long)

Today is Bad Hand Day

Today, for anyone unaware, is Bad Hand Day. What I hear you cry? Well, it's another of those fluffy campaigns by the 'elf'n safety executive. Apparently, 70% of hairdressers suffer from dermatitis and other types of skin damage.

Given this, HSE has spent taxpayers money producing a website explaining that hairdressers should wear gloves and use moisturiser. This is a good point that I think many hairdressers won't have realised. After all, most of them are clearly scruffs who don't care about their appearance and would never think of moisturising. I imagine such advice will be like an epiphany for them.

Bad Hand Day? More like "State the Bleeding Obvious" Day.

N.B. In a cruel twist of irony I have awoken to discover a bad case of dermatitis on my right hand. That'll teach me.

McCain calls for Roe vs Wade to be overturned

This may not seem like a particularly interesting story to some, but the significance of the Republican contender for the White House - who has supported Roe vs Wade in the past - is a pretty major shift. Presumably the change in direction is part of his presidential candidate campaign. He's also recently taken on the former debating coach for Jerry Falwell evangelical Liberty University, Brett O'Donnell, to advise on communication strategy.

Transcript:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask one question about abortion. Then I want to turn to Iraq. You’re for a constitutional amendment banning abortion, with some exceptions for life and rape and incest.

MCCAIN: Rape, incest and the life of the mother. Yes.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So is President Bush, yet that hasn’t advanced in the six years he’s been in office. What are you going to do to advance a constitutional amendment that President Bush hasn’t done?

MCCAIN: I don’t think a constitutional amendment is probably going to take place, but I do believe that it’s very likely or possible that the Supreme Court should — could overturn Roe v. Wade, which would then return these decisions to the states, which I support.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And you’d be for that?

MCCAIN: Yes, because I’m a federalist. Just as I believe that the issue of gay marriage should be decided by the states, so do I believe that we would be better off by having Roe v. Wade return to the states. And I don’t believe the Supreme Court should be legislating in the way that they did on Roe v. Wade.
It's actually quite a sophisictaed political position to take, he's anti-abortion accept in specifc cases, which will appeal to the left of the Republican vote, whilst also stating that he wants to repeal Roe vs Wade and put control of abortion in the hands of the states. Such a move, if achievable, would remove the wedge aspect from Presidential politics and Supreme Court appointments, which personally I think would be good thing to do as abortion is such a divisive issue in the US.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Aquapet - the must have err...childrens' toy?

This is the Dora Aquapet. It is, unbelievably, a childrens' bath toy from a wide range which even includes a SpongeBob Squarepants version.

You can buy them as stocking fillers for the kids from Amazon. There are some quite interesting reviews of Dora here. It appears she's popular with adults as well. I really don't know what else to say. Honestly, I don't.

Official Aquapet website

McDonalds starts to sell halal burger in Melbourne

Two McDonalds in Melbourne have managed to double their sales by selling Halal burgers. For anyone wondering what that actually means, it means the cow was killed facing Mecca and slowly bled to death whilst being blessed. Unsuprisingly, animal rights people think it's all terribly nasty and a barbaric way to kill an animal you intend to eat.

There does appear to have been some backlash to the changes though, some people have thrown the argument on it's head and saying, "Just as a Muslim would not want to eat anything that isn't halal, I should have my rights to eat normal, ordinary food that hasn't been blessed". Frankly, I think that's just an argument for argument sake, if you're not a Muslim what should it matter how they killed the animal you're eating?

Bottom line in this story is that these two McDonalds outlets have doubled their sales by doing that which their immediate market dictates. As the late Milton Friedman said, "the business of business is business". They doubled their sales, good work I say.

The impact of 9/11 on Blair

Funny what an earth shattering event can do to the way you look.

Click image for larger version

The above image actually accompanies a rather good feature artcile in today's Telegraph by Spectator Editor, Matthew d'Ancona. I think largely, d'Ancona is right about Blair, particularly on Iraq and the War on Terror. When we look back in fifty years at Blair's decision on Iraq it will not, I think, be considered the biggest foreign policy mistake since Suez.

Will he "send the boys round"?

When the "loans for peerages" scandal first broke and the names of Labour Party lenders appeared in the press, a number of them said they genuinely expected to be repaid their money at the agreed time. In 11 days, Sir Christopher Evans, the founder of Merlin Biosciences, and lender of £1 million is due his cash. Labour are not exactly in a financial to pay right now, but will Evans "send the boys round"? Or will someone in the Labour Party convince him to become a donor instead? I guess we'll know on December 1st.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Why does it take a talent show to find Leona?

I apologise if people have a problem with The X Factor, but I love pretty much every reality show I've ever seen, and I especially love singing talent shows. It's car crash TV in the early stages, and then later enjoyable on multiple levels. Every now and again on these sort of shows someone comes along who really does blast everyone else off the stage, and finally the X Factor has found that person.

Leona Lewis is, by far and away, the greatest talent ever seen on any TV singing contest. When you hear her sing, frankly, you wonder why on earth she needs to be on a show like that. YouTube cannot do her voice the credit it truly deserves, but even if you hate these talent shows, watch her, she is effortless, you'd think she'd been a professional for years.

First it was Rumsfeld, will Rove be next?

Rumours are abouncd that the electoral mastermind behind the Bush Administration, Karl Rove, will be leaving the Administration within a matter of "weeks, not months". The rumour circulating is that Rove's instinctive partisan style is not in keeping with Bush's newly found position which require's a little more bipartisanship, hence he's planning to step aside sooner, rather than later.

Crazy World of Warcraft gamers!

Quite possibly the best forum post I've ever seen, and I've seen a few. Obviously I accept that by laughing at it I am going straight to Hell, but the guy's reply just show how obssessive WoW can be to some people. Praise Al Gore for inventing the Internet!

Click image for larger version

Music Free Buses

Sitting next to someone listening to their iPod looudly is annoying but I can put up with it. But sitting on a bus, or tube, next to someone who is listening to their mp3s on their phone without headphones I cannot handle. There is worse though. Once, I had the pleasure of sitting in front of someone who decided to sing along with their music. Sadly they only had two tracks, Celine Dion's Titanic horror, and End of the Road by Boyz II Men.

There is hope though, an online campaign and petition has been started for Music Free Buses which is certainly worthy of support, if not simply to stop that inevitable first "mp3 bus rage" incident.

Government to dump cost of anti-terror operation on local council taxpayers?

The cost of running the August anti-terror operation and on-going searches in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, may be left to the local Council taxpayer to fund. The final bill for the operations in the Thames Valley is likely to be around £7m, and it's been indicated that the Government will not meet the costs, instead pushing it off to the local authorities that span the Thames Valley to deal with.

The estimated £7m bill would repesent a loss of 75 frontline police officer jobs if covered by Thames Valley police who are already planning to civilianise 36 police posts, cut 74 support staff and remove 12 police officer jobs. Given this the cost will be deferred to local authorities to raise through their police contribution from Council Tax. The bill would require a rise of around 5% to Council Tax rates.

If ever there was an example of under-funding in the Police force then I'd say this situation exemplifies it. It also strengthens the case for the creation of a Homeland Security style department which concentrates solely on these security matters and would be fed from it's own budget rather than overstretching the Police budget ever further. Why should the local Council taxpayer suffer for what is clearly a national problem?

A lonely girl with global friends

Not sure how many people will know lonelygirl15 (aka Bree (played by Jessica Rose)), but it's one of the most successful YouTube blogs going, and Wired News has an excellent feature piece on how in just five months it has become a global phenomonon.

When the first episode was originally posted to YouTube in June it was not clear whether lonelygirl15 was genuine, however, by September it was exposed as a work of fiction (which just so happened to be a couple of weeks after I started watching), but this has not detracted from it's popularity. The first epsiode is posted below, if, you have no life like me, then it's worth wasting a few minutes each week to watch.


Friday, November 17, 2006

British "secure" passports cracked - Shock horror!

The Guardian is reporting that the RFID secure British Passports that have been being issued for the past six months have been cracked. Amusingly the Guardian summary title asks why it was "so easy to break the security codes?"

There is a simple answer. Security technology is invented by human beings, therefore it stands to reason that human beings will find a way to circumvent it. This idea that ID Cards will be secure is, putting it simply, absolute nonsense. They will be cracked by someone because they've been invented by someone.

Politicians that see technology as a panacea need to learn Jeff Richards' two laws of data security.

  1. Don't buy a computer.
  2. If you do buy a computer, don't turn it on.
They should also heed the words of the Information Security expert Eugene H. Spafford that "the only system that is truly secure is one that is switched off and unplugged, locked in a titanium safe, buried in a concrete vault on the bottom of the sea and surrounded by very highly paid armed guards. Even then I wouldn't bet on it."

Where does responsibility lie?

Are pub landlords responsible for the actions of their customers after they leave their premises? The answer appears to be yes in the minds of a handful of MPs from across of the main parties. EDM 103 calls on the Government to "grant local authorities mandatory powers to impose a levy on premises throughout the country whose customers cause an unwanted burden on policing and clean-up costs."

Single point of failure?

Something very weird just happened on the Government News Network website. As far as I can tell, three press releases posted at 14:25 have just disappeared completely. One from the Home Office (cached) about how we are about to stop South African's entering the country on temporary passports; the other two from the Health and Safety Executive about prosecution of some company, and working with dangerous pathogens. Interestiongly the press releases don't appear on the individual websites either. Does that mean there is a single centralsied database for press releases ergo a single point of failure in the system? Surely the Government wouldn't do an IT project badly would they?

I would never do this....

Some pimp their car, others pimp their PC (me), then there are those that do this.

BeforeAfter

Are National Rail storing passport details?

I spotted a letter in this morning's Telegraph regarding the online application forms from National Rail for Railcards. When going through the form there is section called "Identity Information" which states "Enter either passport or driving licence number to purchase online."

The obvious question this raises is "why do they need that?" If, as someone in a National Rail Enquiries lines suggests it is for purposes of identification there are three possible scenarios.

Either, National Rail compare the information against an automated online validater that hooks into the DVLA and Passport office databases - worrying given they're a private company accessing Government data on individuals. Not to mention that if that's the case then there is clearly a weak point of access that could be hacked and thus obtain access to Government systems.

Else they store the information in order to "verify" you when you call them. Worrying from the point that this is a private company storing all your personal details including highly sensitive information relating to Government documents. Think about it for a minute, if they're storing the data they have name, address, phone, passport number and they will probably have a photo too once you get the card. Identity theft anyone?

Or, worse than the previous two, they do both.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Joined-up Government?

16/11/2006 09:34: "Get ready now for the worst of winter, Highways Agency advises drivers" - Highways Agency :

16/11/2006 12:41: "Water companies should prepare for another dry winter, says OFWAT" - Water Services Regulation Authority :

A Quango Approved Winterval Party

The following Q & A sheet comes from a press release by ACAS informing employers how to hold a company party. It really is something else.

Q. We usually allow our social club to sell raffle tickets for prizes which are given out at the Christmas party - surely there's no problem with this?
A. Generally, no. However, some religions forbid gambling so no pressure should be exerted on staff who don't want to take part. It's also worth ensuring that the prizes on offer are not going to be unacceptable to those who do not drink alcohol or eat meat.
What do they mean by "some religions" I wonder? Could these people who won't be winning the prizes of alcohol or meat because they don't gamble be the same people who don't drink alcohol or non-blessed meat? Also can anyone point me to an example where a vegetarian or vegan has gone postal because their raffle prize wasn't quorn?
Q. What if an employee who has clearly drunk too much at the office Christmas party is planning to drive home. It's not my responsibility, is it?
A. In fact, it is. As an employer you have a 'duty of care' toward your employees and as it's the company's party, you need to take some responsibility. Think about travel arrangements and maybe end the party before public transport stops running. Or provide the phone numbers for local registered cab companies and encourage employees to use them. Hiring minibuses to take staff home is another option which would probably be greatly appreciated.
Brilliant, this means I can get into a fight on the way home when I'm drunk and claim diminished responsibility citing my bosses as ultimately to blame for my stupid actions. I shall do this just before I blame my parents for having me, then blame their parents for having them ad infinitum.
Q. We want to make sure that there isn't a repeat of last year when people failed to turn up for work the day after the party?
A. Make sure you provide plenty of non-alcoholic drinks and food. Before the party ensure that all staff realise that disciplinary action could be taken if they fail to turn up for work and there is reason to believe it is due to over-indulgence.
How about not holding the bloody thing on a school night? This way you won't waste lots of cash on non-alcoholic things that no one drinks.
Q. If an employee suffers verbal abuse about being gay at the local pub before the party - it's not on work premises so it's a matter for them, isn't it?
A. Wrong - going to the pub before the office party counts as an extension of work and so all the laws covering discrimination still apply. Make sure the company has policies in place on bullying and harassment and discrimination and that everyone knows what they are and what the penalties are for ignoring them.
This is surely bollocks? If it were true then the company could surely discipline everyone for going on the lash on company time. And anyway, what if the person giving the abuse is just some punter in the pub, what's the company going to do? Employ him for an hour so it can sack him for discrimination?
Q. My recently-recruited manager has issued an email to staff telling them that Christmas decorations breach health and safety rules. She also said they are outlawed by the religion and belief regulations. Is she correct?
A. As long as a proper risk assessment is carried out looking at where and how decorations are sited, particularly if they could pose potential fire hazards, health and safety rules will not normally be breached. Regulations on religion and belief do not outlaw traditional customs. As most Christmas decorations such as tinsel, lights and trees are secular and not inherently religious, it could be difficult to argue that they cause offence to non-Christians.
Risk assessment? Once upon a time there was this little thing called common sense that dictated that putting tinsel, which is made of paper, next to very very hot things, might be bad. Oh yes, and the manager should be fired, she's clearly an idiot (although unlike ACAS she does at least realise that Christmas trees and decorations are religious in origin, she should still be fired though because she wants to ban them).
Q. Our Christmas party has always been a rather quiet event. However, we took over another company this year and now have a majority of younger employees. They are used to more boisterous celebrations and I'm worried that age discrimination claims will be lodged - how can I make everyone happy?
A. The key to any successful party is to put some thought into it. Try to ensure that there is a mix of music and that any organised entertainment takes account of all ages. What you end up with may not be to everyone's taste but you can always learn from it and canvass suggestions for next year!
It's called "Wedding Shite". If you don't know what that is then frankly you shouldn't be arranging an office party. In fact, you don't even deserve to go to it.

So in summary, an ACAS approved office party is one with nothing that might upset some religions, definitely no raffle, absolutely no booze (people might get drunk!), no meat whatsoever in case PETA turn up, and no pre-party trip to the pub in case someone gets called a name by some other unspecified random person. Would you bother going?

What do you want for the NHS?

Open Government?

It appears the Treasury has announced the we can all pre-order copies of Gordon Brown's Pre-Budget Report for 2006. They're apparently £48 each, but that price is only available if you can collect from the Central Office of Information which requires you to have a GNN swipecard to access. Never fear though, you can also order them for delivery. There is however a £10 postage and packaging charge and you're strictly limited to only 5 copies per organisation. I wonder if that includes the Labour party?

It's all very good introducing it but....

How do we get rid of pay-as-you-drive road charging? I realise some may think this an odd question, especially those (usually on the Left) who think blunt green taxes are the future for changing behaviour. However, the reason I ask such an odd question is because I'm actually humouring those that claim such taxes are about making people change their ways rather than being about revenue.

Let's assume, for argument sake, that the high-minded narrative theorising of those in favour of road pricing is an accurate prediction for a moment. Yes, I'm negating the complexity of the world and events, but let's just assume their Durkheimism is correct.

Once everyone has reacted to these taxes, sold the polluting cars for scrap (which is an environmental consequence no one has mentioned incidentally), and changed to nice clean green cars, what happens? How do you remove something that by that time would be so utterly entrenched in the budget as a means of revenue? It would be both fiscally and politically difficult surely?

Now, before someone suggests that the pricing would be graduated based on the type of car will certain cars being free. The number of free users will be massively outweighed by those paying from the outset. The idea that when that balance tips the pricing will not change in order to reflect the need to maintain revenue streams is, frankly, risible.

Essentially, this is the fundamental flaw (and some might call it disingenuous) of the behaviourist argument in favour of road charging. The argument has been framed within the emotive environmental agenda, and in such a way as to imply it will have an end point when people have become greener.

However, simultaneously the proposals are such that when viewed in the medium to long term, it's clear that it will be impossible to ever achieve the supposed end point because the revenue stream the charging will generate will make it impossible to ever scrap.

If you're going to introduce green taxes designed to change behaviour then they must have an exit strategy for when their purpose has been acheived. They are already many schemes, national and local, which are supposedly about changing behaviour but get classified under "income generation" in budgets. Road charging, as it stands, will not be any different.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Messengers of Faith

Apparently, the US Marine Reserves' Toys for Tots programme has turned down an offer to donate 4,000 talking Jesus dolls on grounds that they might be mistakenly given to Muslim or Jewish children. According to reports the dolls say "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again" and "Love your neighbour as yourself."

I did a little digging and found the company also produces more than just Jesus dolls. Messengers of Faith also stock, Mary, David, Moses and Esther (only $20 each!). Personally I think they're rather cool.

Does he think we're stupid?

I'm really starting to wonder what the level of contempt that Livingstone has for Londoners actually is. In response to the Queens Speech he's said that it will bring a "major devolution of planning, housing and skills powers from Government to London's city-wide government". Obviously, when he says "London's city-wide government" what he actually means is "me". Sometimes I wonder if he has a poster in his office that says "believe the lie". It's the only way I can reconcile the blatent disingenuity in the statements he makes.

The new buzz word is "regurgitation" not "spin"

How odd. The Government appears to have finally admitted that an "independent" quango it set up is not independent at all and requires another quango to be set up to solve the problem.

In the Queens' Speech, and following on from a Gordon Brown announcement last year, the Government is planning on introducing legislation that will "reinforce the independence, integrity and quality of statistics produced in government."

Currently the Office for National Statistics publishes government statistics which is monitored by the Statistics Commission set up in 2000 by the Government to "help ensure that official statistics are trustworthy and responsive to public needs" and to "give independent, reliable and relevant advice".

However, the Government has admitted that it has failed and is now about to set up another "independent" quango to monitor Government statistics called the "Statistics Board".

Normally they just re-announce money, now they're acknowledging they're policy failure and then re-announcing the same policy with a different name. It's not so much spin, as regurgitation.

My Government....

"will put victims at heart of criminal justice system"
Now, besides they the fact they got Madge to say a similar thing in 2002, how long have they been saying that for now? All talk, no action.

Downing Street website launches e-petitions. Oh the temptation!

Downing Street is slowly catching up with new media and has created a section on it;s website where people can create petitions. This will remove the need for people to embarrass the Prime Minister by walking down Downing Street to deliver petitions and just generally keep the riff-raff and proles away.

It looks like the petitions are moderated in some way sadly, so know Miliband Wiki-style mischeif I'm afraid. Of course, one could submit lots and lots of petitions just to create a heavy workload, but that would be exceptionally naughty.

Parenting Centres will fail like Sure Start

Yesterday evening, Iain posted about the Government's plans to introduce parenting centres. Iain has come under a bit of flak from some in his comments for using the Mail as the source for the story, but interestingly (and atypical of any discussion online really), the critics, sych as Bob Piper, have gone after the source not the underlying story.

If one takes a moment to avoid the Sixth From debating though, there is actually something deeply concerning about the policy in general (which was reported by the BBC yesterday as well). Take first, for example, the comment made by Beverly Hughes to the BBC, she said,

"It is now clear that what parents actually do has a huge impact on children's well-being and capacity to succeed, both at the time and in future."
Now clear? Without wishing to sound glib, I'm wondering whether Hughes should perhaps be the Minister for Stating the Bleeding Obvious. The problem here is that the underlying assumption to what is, in fairness, an utterly absurd comment, is that somehow more is known today about what is "good" and what is "bad" in parenting. The logical conclusion therefore is that all parenting before now has been carried out in a state of partial or complete ignorance.

The second area of concern here is the one whch relates directly to state interference. The issue is not about compulsion so much as success though. As has been made clear by the Prime Minister himself, and by countless researchers, Sure Start, for example, has been a failure precisely because it's been felt as intrusive by those social groups it intended to target. These are, going on the basis, the same social groups that so parenting lessons, are going to target. That is clear from Beverly Hughes' comments about "children's outcomes".

Whilst the element of compulsion implied by the Mail, and reported by Iain is unlikely to be there, Iain's summary headline about the policy being "half baked" actually hits the nail right on the head. The policy makes blatent invalid assumptions about parenting in general and the past, and is actually likely to be rejected by those that it is designed to help because of feeling of state interference and nannying just like Sure Start.

typos will be fixed in the next hour - off to catch a train

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

"It could topple a government"

In tonight's Standard there's an article regarding the extra security circumstances surrounding Yates of the Yard. In the piece an unnamed Scotland Yard source says

"This is one of the most difficult and sensitive inquiries the Yard has ever undertaken. It could topple a government, so people have had to think of every contingency"
I'm not quite sure why I'm blogging it but I just thougght the second sentence made it significant enough to mention.

Reid proposes even greater summary powers

According to a Home Office press release, John Reid wants to bring in new "swift justice" which will include being able to evict homeowners and board their home up for unspecified periods on the basis of exceptionally vague circumstances. According to the Consultation paper, there is a desire to have closure orders for properties which include

"excessive noise and rowdy behaviour, frequent drunken parties, high numbers of people entering and leaving the premises at all times of the day or night".
The document goes on to imply that any children living in a premises that is closed will be taken into care.

I can't deny the proposals bother me. There does seem to be a rather worrying tendency in the Government these days to actually openly argue for summary powers to be legitimised in the hands of those outside the court system as if it is a "good" thing. What's more, opposition, of any sort, finds itself portrayed as "soft" on crime.

In that sense the proposals have the double-whammy characteristic of being objectional increases in summary state power, whilst simultaneously closing down the principled debating position which opposes them. It's actually quite bizarre I think given that those in power talk about something called the "centre ground".

Did the Skills Minister break EU regulations?

Apparently. the Skills Minister Phil Hope has been in London's Church Street Market today in order to promote an adult numeracy campaign. As anyone will know, market trader can all add, subtract, multiply and divide perfectly in their heads and never use calculators ever.

Thus it makes sense for the Government to send some junior toady along to take part and show off how well he can add up on the fly too. Apparently Phil served Londoners with fruit and veg whilst trying out his "maths down the market" patter and "giving away skills for free." (that means he handed out leaflets whilst selling fruit and veg).

What I'm wondering is whether he corrected the little old ladies who wanted 'alf a pound of apples and told them they actually wanted 226 grams on apples? The public has a right to know if he broke EU regulations surely? I bet he wouldn't get find if he did.

Another Government IT contract

Great news, the Government has signed a deal with an accounting software provider called Agresso. Agresso are a leading software developer who have a website which only works properly in Internet Explorer (scroll the mouse over the side menu bar links in Firefox (avoid doing this if you suffer from epilepsy)). I'm sure Agresso's functional quality assurance testing is fine really. It's only taxpayers money anyway.

How to avoid paying compensation to other addicts?

One of the stories in the news that caught my eye this morning was that three memebrs of a street gang who were "addicted to violence" wree jailed for life yesterday. This made me wonder, given they have an addiction, is the Home Secretary going to pay them compensation for going "cold turkey"? Or could this be an opportunity to introduce televised "extreme hardcore" wrestling from prisons to compliment televised trials?

Stuff and nonsense on Iraq in the Times

What is it about people using hindsight and claiming that because a prediction appears to have come true the prediction should've been what was adhered to before the eventual knowledge from hindsight was known?

This is the sort of intellectually banal argument that I was faced with in this morning's Times from Martin Samuel. Under the title of "Damned if you leave, damned if you don't" this wasn't actually a serious addition to the discussion about Iraq, this was a classic piece of doublethink from the anti-war crowd which deliberately ignores the reality of the pre-war decision making process and exploits hindsight knowledge to argue that they were right all along. According to Samuel

"The argument that there can be a no-mess, no-blame divorce from the chaos exists only to feed a desperate need for vindication on the part of those who took us to war, and those who supported the decision."
I'm sorry Mr Samuel but it doesn't. Those who too the decision to go to war, and those who supported, are not searching for a vindication of their decision or support at all. The vindication of their decision is known very well in the history which surrounded it.

We were faced with two options. The first was to act against a man who had consistently played games with the UN, and who, as UNSCR 1441 unanimously agreed, had weapons mass of destruction. Or do nothing and allow this man to continue along the route of developing weapons which the international order of nations unanimously believed he had.

The decision to go to war in Iraq can, is and remains justified and vindicated when contextualised within the historical reality of which it took place.

It doesn't however just stop there for Samuel, he continues along this route of using hindsight and accuses those (like me in this very post I guess) who point out the fallaciousness of his argument as merely "peddling falsehoods". According to Samuel,
One of the main reasons to oppose the invasion of Iraq was its entirely predictable aftermath. It suits many commentators to peddle the falsehood that the events of the past three years could not have been foreseen when the basic problems were glaringly obvious
There is no falsehood in stating that it is impossible to know what will happen in the future. The only falsehood is the post facto claim that if predictions of historical events do indeed happen then those that predicted the events actually knew the future. Whilst I don't doubt the arguments about the Iraq War will go on and on the reality of the decision to go to war is rather plain if one is objectively honest. When placed within the historical context in which it was taken, the decision to act against Saddam far outweighed any deicsion not too.

Monday, November 13, 2006

I can't help but think this Oyster card change is a con

Anyone who travels on the Tube regularly will have heard the announcements that "if you don't 'touch in' or 'touch out' you will pay the maximum fare". This refers to those that use pre-pay Oyster cards which users put a certain amount of money on and thus spend as they travel. The plan is that if they do not touch out when leaving a station they will receive a penalty fare, even if they've only travelled one stop.

These new rules will come in during this week I beleive and something else that I noticed today, at more than one tube station, was a sign saying "remember to 'touch out' even if the gates are open". Now, open gates at tube stations are pretty uncommon, so this got me wondering, are we about to see lots of open gates late at night for the purpose of driving up revenue from drunks?

EU Commission: We could be talking rubbish

Have just received a mail out from Open Europe which references a post on their blog. It's all about a new site that has been set by the EU Commission which is essentially a propaganda site, its not particularly easy to tell that though at first glance.

There is of course an amusing side to the site as ever. Their disclaimer says the information on the site is "not necessarily comprehensive, complete, accurate or up to date". It seems that even when the EU does soft propaganda it can't be sure whether it's right. How wonderfully postmodern!

Say again...?

Margaret Hodge over at the DTI has just announced "a further 100m of Government money to boost innovation, jobs and growth for budding entrepreneurs and existing businesses in the UK". Note it is not until the end of the press release that they mention this money has been announced once already by Gordon Brown in April.


 

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