Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Iranian Dance Troupe

Stick with it for the three and bit minutes. It gets quite surreal when the Islamic sword formation in the colours of the Iranian flag strikes through the Star of David and the US flag formation with a swastika in it. Apparently the music is from St Trinians - oh how I laughed at that one!

Hat Tip: Anorak

Nadine Dorries: Traitor

As published on her blog last night, Nadine Dorries MP has said that the Select Committee that was investigating possible changes to the abortion limits was "hi-jacked by those who have powerful financial vested interests in the abortion industry."

Pretty serious accusations - I didn't even know that we had an "abortion industry" so to speak in this country - it makes it sound like a production line with lots of knitting needles.

However, these accusations pale in insignificance for me compared to something I have just learned from reading Nadine's maiden speech to Parliament. It seems that her grandfather was a founder of Everton FC and she is a Liverpool fan. Blood traitor.

Not so steely morals

Should anyone wish to see a shining example of the stunning moral relativism of the Left today then hop over to the Independent's website and read the commentary by lefty comedian Mark Steel. It begins by slating the appalling human rights record of Saudi Arabia and its treatment of women, then in the second half it attacks the West for its belliscosity towards Iran whilst failing to mention her appaling human rights record and its treatment of women.

Iran you see is merely a victim of Western aggression thus outweighing its own record for torture, public executions, use of chemcial weapons in the war with Iraq, subjugationm of women etc etc. Those issues only matter in relation to Britain's poorly chosen allies you see. The so-called universalism of the fashionable Left's values (for not all of them are like this) is laid bare by the sheer contradiction of the argument Steel makes. You can also bet that if the West or Israel suddenly decided to be belliscose towards Saudi then they'd become instant victims of Western imperialism overnight and the human rights record wouldn't matter anymore. That is how it works you see.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

You never have a camera when you want one

It is typical that I should get a flashy new camera-less mobile phone that allows me to blog easily and then see something that would make a perfect picture for the blog. As such I shall simply describe that which tickled me greatly when I arrived at North Greenwich station this evening, a place that also happens to be the home of the Dome/O2 arena.

In the main concourse of the station hangs advertising for the O2 reminding you where you are. It's huge in fact, and the place is always full of people arriving for events. There is also a WH Smith with an Evening Standard board outside. Tonight's screaming headline? 'O2 ARENA POISION GAS ALERT'. Just what you need as you head into the giant white tent huh?

Livingstone the hypocrite strikes again

I shall try my hardest to use temperate language but who the hell does the Mayor of London Ken Livingstone think he is to complain about Saudi hypocrisy on terrorism and suggest it's a 'bit rich' for them to comment?

After all this is the man who cares about London so much that during the period when the IRA was bombing it he shared a platform with and praised known IRA terrorists. In more recent years he has shared a stage with and called a loopy Islamist cleric that wants to kill homosexuals, a 'moderate'.

What is actually 'rich' is Livingstone thinking he has any moral credibility to oppose Saudi when he has made no bones about actively courting the sort of people he says the Saudi's fund. Frankly both of them are taking the piss to think they have the credibility to talk about fighting Islamist insanity.

Rubbish tax pilots go ahead

Well just look at that! Apparently rubbish charge pilots are going ahead. Less than a week after it was reported that Gordon Brown had 'bravely' intervened to stop it happening and it's... errr... happening. I did say it was a 360 degree spin at the time mind.

Eric Pickles told the BBC that "[t]his is a policy, remember, which was on the cards last week, then stopped by the prime minister at the end of the week, now back on again." It was never off though as the Government made clear on the same day it was supposedly vetoed by Brown.

Whatever could he mean?

Whatever could Guido be getting at here with that picture? Can't possibly imagine, although strangely the picture makes me think of a Thorntons' advert for some reason.
Now you must excuse me, there is a Thomas the Tank Engine toy peeping and tooting behind me and I must attend to it.

Reading between the lines

Sometimes it's not the content of Parliamentary reports that spark a reaction from me but the title. Take this one titled, "Helping newly registered businesses meet their tax obligations".

You have to admire the way they've titled it in a way to imply they're doing people a favour, rather than being honest and calling it, "How to ensure we get our pound of flesh".

I didn't realise David Aaronovitch was a gardener

There is an interesting piece in this morning's Times by the commentator David Aaronovitch on the West Lothain Question. He says,

The snag is that the idea of fairness suggested by the West Lothian Question is essentially childish. It was a big, big problem that a House of Commons in which English MPs outnumbered Scottish ones by eight to one (it is now ten to one) could decide all domestic policies for Scotland. It is not, under almost all foreseeable circumstances, a comparably big problem that 59 Scottish MPs might vote on English matters, given that there are 533 English MPs. The English cannot be outvoted by the Scots, period.
Sounds all so plausible doesn't it? But notice the hedge in the middle of it? No? look right there, it says "almost all foreseeable circumstances". A classic rhetorical device to protect against the "forseeable circumstance" that the hedge itself concedes he knows exists. What could it be?

It couldn't possibly be the fact that whilst the total number of Scottish MPs cannot out vote the total English ones, there can, have and no doubt will be future incidents where the Government passes legislation affesting England where it is the Scottish MPs votes which carry it into law, could it?

Mr Aaronovitch Sir, I tip my hat to a marvelllous piece of hedging work in your English country garden. You managed to cut it just short enough to allow others to see over the top.

Monday, October 29, 2007

We don't need limits

Just thought I would link back to my post titled What immigration problem? As one of the bloggers who simply spout out the Conservative Party press releases I thought it worth noting that I don't think we need limits on immigration. I do however agree that we need to sort out the idiotic benefit system that creates a marketplace that sees Brits sitting on their arses not taking jobs that can only therefore be serviced by economic migrants.

Oh my God how incredibly embarassing!

What a pleasure, Bob Piper has linked to me saying I am a "fearless investigator of dodgy dealings in public life". Slight problem, I'm actually just an IT geek who is also a card-carrying Tory with a habit - unhealthy some might say - of writing about politics and attacking the Government. However just to keep him happy I will post about it as the whole point he seems to have been making is that Tory bloggers don't write about Tories.

So, for anyone reading this who hasn't already read Guido's post on the subject, apparently a load of Tory MPs have entered in the Register of Members Interests (over a period of time) flights to places that have been paid for by a company called Flying Lion which is apparently registered in Bermuda but controlled by Lord Ashcroft.

Apparently there is something "whiffy" about these publicly made entries on the Register, because the company Flying Lion is not registered in the UK. However, the rules in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 states that MPs can accept donations from foreign people or organisations if the purpose of the donation is to pay for the travel costs. The travel costs registered are to be calculated based on commercial rates too.

So... errmm... I'm not sure what the problem is exactly. Interestingly Bob Piper also noted that I (and others) might "maintain an embarrassed silence" about the 'sordid' affair. Precisely why I should be embarrassed that some MPs accepted a legitimate donation from a company controlled by a senior Tory peer in terms of travel costs and then registered it as per the rule is beyond me.

But hey ho! No doubt my relaxed and confused attitude to it all will merely reinforce the view that I am playing something down or refusing to investigate a errr.... "Flights for Gifts" scandal because I'm a partisan. Such is life!

How odd.....

Ahh the M25 junction 5, how I love it! Still this travelling means I can listen to Today and shout at the radio. This morning's bizarre argument came from the acting Lib Dem leader Vince Cable about the visit of King Abdullah from Saudi Arabia. Cable lambasted the Saudi regime for its gross dictatorship and general nastiness which was absolutely right of course but the proceeded to say that what should be upheld is the rule of law in relation to corruption allegations and BAE upon which the serious fraud investigation was halted.

The bizarre part of the argument for me comes in this notion of the rule of law, for it was the rule of law upon which the Lib Dems opposed the overthrow of a totalitarian secretive vicious regime in Iraq. Call me a neocon if you must but how exactly can one oppose a regime in strong moral terms and the equally stand by and say that the same moral argument does not apply to Iraq and Saddam Hussein. The positions seem entirely contradictory to me.

Surely one can either oppose all forms of nastiness and human oppression by dictatorship or you don't, otherwise the claim for the moral highground looks weak? The position of the Lib Dems, and others for that matter seems to be that dictatorship is bad unless we might be breaking the law in which case sod the poor bastards having their toenails extracted by the people we denounce. These are strange times it seems.

Now I really am going to a meeting.

All day meeting again.....

No more blogging from me today which is why the last post was so long. I shall be in a meeting all day "off-site".

The rise of the faux professional

What a strange year it has been thus far for blogs (or "weblogs" if you're old skool (or insist on pretending to be)). What was a niche publishing medium has become totally mainstream in terms of awareness and the result has been lots of talks about controlling the medium. It all started early in the year amongst UK political blogs when, as many will know, there was what got called a "blog war" between high profile right and left wing blogs with a spillover discussion to others. The spill over debate was that the instinctively Net-authoritarian Left decided that there should be some sort of rules and regulations to stop what they considered to be propaganda and/or disingenuous statements being published by others.

This was a truly bizarre development in my view mainly because those that started to call for such rules were, in many cases, people who had been around for sometime and walked the boards on IRC and Usenet before the Net became as mainstream as it is today. All of a sudden these people that never had a problem with the medium being free from legislative and regulatory control felt that it needed to be tamed. Such about turns struck me as so odd that the only explanation I could really make for it was that all of sudden some people felt the space they had occupied for so long and gained a 'profile' in was being squeezed. What better way to halt its continued and rapid expansion than to make proposals on how to control the medium in your favour?

After all, given how technology had provided the means for everyone and anyone to publish with limited technical skills; and given the expansion of Internet access, it stood to reason that there would be those in their Ivory Towers of Net-analism that would dislike the freedom and potential power of so many newbies. Throw into the mix - certainly in the UK - that the majority of the country is not a member of the "soft-liberal nihilstic Guardian class Left", and is it any wonder that that class (online at least) would recoil in disgust and scream out for some sort of regulation and control? Freedom and liberty to say what you like, when you like, and how you like is a dangerous thing to those that would like to avoid seeing their once dominant views being ever more marginalised by the masses of individuality that the Net creates.

Sadly these calls for regulation were then helped along by "web guru" Tim O'Reilly who, in March 2007, published on his blog a call for a Bloggers Code of Conduct. This was seized upon by some as vindication for their own arguments. A week later, O'Reilly published a draft of the code and the argument appeared to be gaining momentum as those that wanted to restrict how and what people chose to say on their personal websites became more vocal. By April however, O'Reilly had backtracked from the idea altogether saying that "the call for a code of conduct was a bit misguided." Sadly those seeking such things (especially in the UK) didn't report this development. This is hardly a surprise of course as it didn't serve their purpose to let their readers know that the man they were praising (whilst equally being openly smug about their own prescience) had decided the idea was not a sensible one.

Strangely this was pretty much the last anyone heard of a "Bloggers Code of Conduct" argument in the UK. All of sudden the issue went off the radar as quickly as it had arisen. What it showed, yet again, was that the Net produces the perfect flash in the pan fads. All it takes is for someone with a relatively reasonable amount of traffic (a few thousand a day) to say something, and for that to be linked and suddenly the idea rolls away with itself like a snowball. But just like the snowball, when the sun comes out it starts to melt. The difference on the Internet is that the sun kicks out the sort of heat equivalent to the planet Mercury. The snow didn't just slowly melt it disintegrated just as quickly as it had previously grown.

This doesn't of course mean that the Net-authoritarians have gone away, or that their argument that online publishing should be regulated through an official code of conduct has gone either. I'm sure they will keep pushing the case for restricting the liberty of individuals to say what they like, how they like. Ironically though they will also be the first to scream about freedom of speech if they think their liberty has been breached. Doublethink and authoritarianism go hand in hand after all. But what is worth remembering is that far from it being a high-minded principled stand it was, in actuality and irony, all about class - albeit online class.

You see, online there are two classes of people. There's the old hat, and then there is the newbie (or n00b). The call for a Code of Conduct was not really about conduct at all. It was little more than a collective scream by the old hat authoritarians that felt the arena was theirs of "get lost n00b!" as loud as they possibly could. It is ironic therefore that in a time when the blogging phenomena has often been coined as the "rise of the amateur" that the original amateurs should turn head and start to attack the new amateurs for their lack of professionalism.

Even more ironic was that whilst they did this they claimed that it was about protecting the medium's power to engage people in debate. The inherent contradiction of praising the power of the Internet's power of engagement whilst simultaneously calling for that engagement to be controlled along lines that were to be dictated by them was of course lost of them. Which brings us up to today of course. The snobbery and patronising idea of a code of conduct for newbies has died a death for now, but we should remember this when it rears it ugly head again.

If early adopters of the Net and blogs have a lock on how things develop, why should that not be applied to other things as well? For example, why should women vote give they didn't originally? Why should immigrants have a say on things given that they were not there when Birmingham or Leicester were originally built etc etc? The problem with the newbie haters argument is - when placed in these terms - clear for all to see. We wouldn't go down that line in the real world and it should be resisted in the virtual one just as strongly, especially when it's driven by not the amateur but the faux professional.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

That'll teach him

Bet of the Day

Who wants to place a bet that if, and I'd rather it didn't happen, but if there is military action against Iran over the matter of nuclear weapons, that the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) will be opposed to the action. Not should I say that I'm suggesting that CND are in anyway nihilistic or inconsistent you understand.

The "I didn't read it" defence

It seems that the Culture Secretary James Purnell is in a spot of bother this morning. Having managed to ride his way through the fake photo row where he was photochopped into a group photo it has resurfaced this morning after the Sunday Telegraph obtained copies of emails casting further doubt on his original statements saying he had no idea doctored photos had been produced and he would never have agreed to it if he did.


In an an email dated July 24th the Chief Executive of the hospital said, "Dear James, Thank you for attending on Friday. I am pleased we were able to catch the photographer so that he could 'drop you into the photographs'." This was almost two months before the story broke. She even then sent him a copy of the doctored photo about two weeks before the news of it emerged.

Unsurprisingly, Purnell has said that these emails were received by his constituency office but he was not informed of them until September 24th by which time everyone was talking about it. Now, in fairness I think that it's plausible for the emails sent a week or so before the news appeared.

However, for me at least, that plausibility is not quite as strong on the matter of the email sent in July which is pretty explicit about what is going on. Although I admit I am judging the minister by my standards on reading email and I guess he might have people to read it for him. In which case he should fire whoever failed to spot a nightmare of a story.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Zebra crossing reinforces a truism

It appears the Oliver Letwin's mind has boggled upon discovering that the cost of a Zebra-crossing is £114,000. Personally it doesn't surprise me one bit, but then I read Hansard so much these days that insane figures for things that should not cost as much as they do is par for the course.

Apparently the Zebra-crossing cost is "made up of £11,000 for designing each crossing, despite their apparent similarity, £16,000 for the equipment and £87,000 for the labour". The breakdown of figures certainly reinforces a truism. It's always labour that stings you!

Why people hate traffic wardens

Is it any wonder that people hate traffic wardens so much when they do something like this? I mean, seriously, ticketing an entire funeral cortege whilst they loaded the coffin and wreaths? Jesus wept.

Some of those arguments about Iran

I don't do foreign policy much I have to admit, but having forced myself to sit through Question Time the other night and listen not just to the pro-Saddam, pro-Stalin, pro-Castro George Galloway, but also some wet Oxford professor making the weakest arguments ever about Iran I thought I would do a bit now.

1: "Iran only wants nuclear civil energy" - So let's get this straight, the country with the second largest conventional crude oil reserves in the world (133 gigabarrels) just wants nuclear energy does it? Pull the other one.

2: "Iran is not making a bomb and doesn't have the material to do so" - OK, let's assume that it is just civil nuclear energy. That would mean a reactor enriching energy from Uranium-238 (not weapons grade like U-235) which produces as a by-product Plutonium-239 (very much weapons grade). They may not have the nuclear material for a warhead at the moment, nuclear "civil" energy will give them it though.

3: "IAEA has found no evidence of bomb making facilties" - Well first of all, just because you cannot find something it doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. However, far more important is the fact that nuclear energy will provide the means to produce weapons grade nuclear material. Iran already has conventional mid-range missiles which, in an ever so Soviet way, they have paraded in the streets, it is just a matter of developing the means to change the payload.

4: "Is it a surprise Iran might want nuclear weapons when it looks at what America did to Iraq. She has a right to defend herself" - Well apparently she hasn't got nuclear weapons and doesn't want them according the previous argument rolled out. I guess this is a hedging argument just in case the earlier ones proves to be wrong. But let's think about this for a second, how will having a mid-range nuclear weapon defend Iran against America? They'd need ICBMs which they don't have. No, this is not about defending themselves against America, this about threatening US allies, like the only democracy in the region, Israel. When Iran talks about it's right to defend itself from America she is actually referring to an intent to use Israel as a proxy attack on the US. The Iranian President has after all made his feeling about Israel's mere existence quite clear.

5: "Tough sanctions on Iran merely play into the hand of hardliners" - And the other option is to do what? Just sit back and allow the "civil" energy enrichment of U-238 and hope that they're just responsible with P-239 they produce as a result. If the argument concedes the existence of "hardliners" then it must equally concede that letting the very same people produce weaponised material as a by-product of a "civil programme" (that they evidently do not need), would be universally stupid and definitely not in the interests of the region that they have expressed great desire to dominate. We tried the "do nothing" diplomatic and platitude promises route once before in North Korea. Did it work?

6: "Why should the US et al be allowed nuclear weapons but not Iran?" - This argument is based quite bizarrely upon the assumption that proliferation is better than non-proliferation. Now besides the argument being self-evidently nuts, what is more nuts is that it comes from people that in principle are opposed to nuclear weapons. It is horribly self-contradictory and is reminiscent of the Douglas Hurd line about creating a "level killing field". Nuclear weapons are not good, but the fact remains that some nations by virtue of history, and others by virtue of us looking in another direction during the late 20th Century have them. The reason they have them is because of power politics which have existed consistently and continue to exist. Put simply it is not in anyone's interest for there to be more nuclear nations wherever possible. Disarmament of already existing stockpiles is wishful thinking, but stopping the stockpiles increasing is something that can and should be achieved wherever the possibility arises.

7: "This is just more Western Imperialism by the American Empire" - Yes, because the West have installed a Raj and has colonised Iraq, disenfranchised it's local population and rules with an iron fist. That's not to say that America is not an "Empire" it most certainly is. It's biggest problem is that it is in self-denial about that reality. This whole argument is based upon the silly hegemon theses though that assume that the hegemonic power is always a bad thing and we just need to get rid of it for the world to be a better place. Let's not be under any illusion here, if America wasn't the single global power there would be someone else, the options are Russia (Mafia style Oligarch Capitalism) or China (Communist control of the media and population). The idealistic world where we all have a group hug might sound nice, but as ever with the arguments of the Left it negates human nature and totally misunderstands the reality of power politics.

8: "Well it's all about oil again!" - I'm being disingenuous here because I am yet to hear this argument to be honest, but I don't doubt that as the hypocritical anti-war Left continues to shout louder it is only a matter of time before it appears again. If it were true - and it isn't - but if it were true that this was all the US just wanting to grab oil I would put it like this. What is the least worst option in terms of oil ownership? A nation that hold free elections in two year cycles with a free media and scrutiny, or a theocratic nation that holds questionable elections, subjugates women and actively seeks to remove the existence of it's neighbours and talks about militarily dominating her sphere of influence? Like I say though, the "oil grab" argument simply isn't true, but it is an easy argument to accept if one wishes to be intellectually lazy.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Do we really want "child-friendly" prison visits?

I expect this will not necessarily work in the minds of some people, but yestedray Mark Oaten asked a question about something that seems nonsensical to me and exactly the opposite of what you want to do. He asked the Ministry of Justice "how many prisons in England and Wales participate in child-friendly visit schemes."

Now surely the last thing you want for an impressionable young mind is to make a visit to a prison be "friendly"? If someone takes a child along to see Daddy (or Mummy) do you really want them coming away thinking "well that was a nice place"? Surely you want them to come away thinking "I never want to go there"? So actually, they should be pretty "child-unfriendly" really?

Is he "just like you"?

So yesterday the expenses of MPs were published. A yearly ritual where we find out who is good and who is bad with our money. Who is spendthrift and who is a fat politician that takes the mick with our money providing very little value in return. Take for example, the West Midlands MP, Sion Simon who as you may recall derided David Cameron for trying to be just like you. Is Sion Simon just like you though?

Last year, he claimed £14,176 for rail expenses. OK you may say, but he lives in Birmingham so he has to catch the train a lot right? Well let's see shall we. He claims the full £22,000 a year allowance for staying away from his constituency. And how much does it cost to get to his constituency anyway? Well you can get there for as little as £4. Even at peak times the cost of a Virgin direct train is only around £50 return. Travelling home every weekend for his constituency surgery over a 52 week year could only cost a maximum of about £3000.

Does he go back every weekend for surgery though? No he does not. This MP cares so much about his constituents that he only has seven surgeries a year. Yes honestly, seven. So what's that in rail fares? £350 maximum? Even if he made the journey in every one of the 38 weeks that Parliament sits his rail travel would only cost about £2,000. Perhaps he's travelling first class though? That would be about £69 return taking the total rail cost to around £5,000.

There seems to be somewhere around £10,000 that just doesn't add up doesn't there? After all is an MP that claims £22,000 a year to live in London seriously trying to tell us that his surgeries that are little over 100 miles away cost him £2000 each time he goes to one? One thing is for sure, Sion Simon is most defintely not "just like you".

Dutch Government beaten into submission?

James Forsyth over the Coffee House blog has drawn attention to an Early Day Motion tabled by Paul Goodman and Michael Gove which states,

"This House, recognising that freedom of speech within the law and freedom from violence and intimidation are indispensable preconditions of a free society, deeply regrets the decision of the Dutch Parliament and Government to withdraw protection abroad from Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the author, film-maker and former politician, and urges both bodies to reverse this decision forthwith."
Whilst the motion may not in itself carry masses of weight the point being made is a very important one. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the screenplay writer of the Theo van Gogh directed film Submission.

Theo van Gogh was murdered in the street by an Islamist because of the film, and since then Ayaan Hirsi Ali has been given protection by the Dutch Government as well. At least she has until now. Submission caused quite a storm when it was released as it not only led to the butchering of a man but it tackled head-on the misogny and anti-women bent that exists within significant parts of Islamic cultures. It also did a good job of showing up much of the soft liberal-left as tacit ignorers of the worst possible things on the grounds of cultural relativism, but that is a side issue really.

The fact that the Dutch Government has decided to withdraw their protection of Ayaan Hirsi Alin is a sad day for liberty, especially in the supposedly liberal society of Europe. Tackling the subjugation of women is no longer allowed in Holland it seems. One would hope that the British Government tells her she come here and enjoy protection from the loonies that don't like it up'em.

We're doomed!

I note that once again this morning we're all doomed. This is the view of a report that the UN has published by almost 400 of the great and good minds of science. As you'd expect the Indy has splashed it on the front page saying it's not just another environmental scare story (by implication suggesting the others it has run have been?), whilst the Times too makex it front page news and double-page inside coverage.

Amusingly the quotes from the report that have been used don't actually paint the picture of doom in quite such certain terms. They're all hedged. They say we 'may' pass on a bill to our children, or my personal favourite, that we must act now to 'avoid the threat of catastrophic consequences'. So that's not action to avoid catastrophy, but action to avoid the maybe/possibility of catastrophy. That's a bit like me saying that to avoid the threat of being conscripted in any possible future war I should cut off my arms and legs. Now there's a global policy to stop war if ever there was one. Amputation at birth to protect the children of the future from the horrors of land war!

The reporting also plays to the weakest of fallacious argument to bolster the importance and 'rightness' of the UN report. We are told that the top scientists in their field produced it. The subtle appeal to authority is clear. These people are experts therefore what they say must be accepted as right. Now I am not saying they are not right, but the appeal to their position in the body of knowledge is not what makes them right. The Science Editor of the Times however has based part of his commentary on such an appeal.

He argues that this is not just another agenda driven report from a green pressure group, but is instead a sound scientific one that operates by consensus and strict peer review. A group of 'top scientists' getting together and deciding that they share the same view does not however make their view correct. It is a cliche I know, but hundreds of years ago the experts all agreed the sun went around a flat earth. To base an argument on the fact that there is consensus and to claim that it is science is not science at all but a conflation with collective group think.

If you then throw into the mix a bit of politics it becomes clear from reading the excerpts of the report that this is not something free of value judgments. The end game of the report is the developed world is a nasty consumer whilst it allowed the developing world to lag behind with environmental consequence. The master/slave Hegelian world view, along with its Marxian extension based on exploitation and production shines through like the sun on our supposedly doomed planet. The idea that the report is agenda-free is - frankly - risible.

Again though I am not saying that the scientific knowledge that has formed the basis of such hedged predictions and clearly ideological recommendations is by necessity wrong. What is wrong is the way it is being presented to us. The hedged predicitons have become unhedged apocalypse. We're asked to accept it because the people involved simply know more than we do and they all agree with each other don't you know (some might call that a mob). And last but not least we're expected to ignore the ideological politics that run through its recommendations thanks to the appeal to fear about saving humanity from a fate equal to death.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Former Labour MP deselected by text message

Apparently the former Labour MP for Northampton South, Tony Clarke, discovered the Labour Party was firing him as a councillor "on the morning of the nominations by text message without any explanation what so ever".

This has caused a storm on LabourHome with accusations of censorship flying around, as well as people saying that Northampton is "an absolute hell hole" full of people or are either "inbred or dinosaurs". I can't comment on the latter, but the former is unfair because it's not as bad as Newham.

For more details check out Mike Rouse's blog.

Update: Post has been amended due to my poor reading comprehension of the original tale.

Lib Dem calls Tory by mistake and outlines his secret plans

This has to be quite possibly the funniest thing I have read all day. Apparently, a Lib Dem councillor in Hexham called Derek Kennedy (pictured) meant to call his colleague Dougie Watkin but instead called the leader of the Tories on Tynedale Council, Michael Walton and left the following answerphone message.

"Dougie it’s Derek. I’ve been having a think about this, you know, this retention of payments allowance thing at Tynedale. I was thinking because if this gets out it’s obvious all the officers and other districts are going to do the same.

Should we put a motion in at county hall saying we don’t want any recruitment allowances in Northumberland County Council because we recognise that it would be divisive for other staff? And obviously the current status, Tynedale, at Northumberland County Council’s £230m of debt that we shouldn’t pay any such allowances."

"I think if we dress it properly it, you know it’ll make it as though we’re protecting the staff as opposed to giving the officers a big, bloody big pay out. Give us a ring, tell us what you think. Cheers now, tada."
Whoops! Guess he needs to read that mobile phone manual again. Is this what Clegg means by going beyond their comfort zone?

Sir Ian Blair has 'full support' of the MPA

Apparently, the Metropolitan Police Authority says that the Commissioner Sir Iain Blair has their 'full support'.

"The MPA fully supports the Commissioner and his management team and urges that they continue to work to the Authority's strategic reform agenda, which is already delivering real benefits to Londoners.

"The Authority met in private session with the Commissioner and the Deputy at the Full Authority meeting today, to discuss issues that had arisen in the media over the past few days. There was overwhelming support for the Commissioner. No one moved a vote of no confidence.
In today's world he must be worrying slightly more now huh? When they give you their full support you know the time is nearly over. Will he be in the position after the bonus is decided?

Two Observations on the California wildfires

  1. That's Arnie's green carbon emission targets screwed then.
  2. Watching the CNN ticket earlier it said "BREAKING NEWS: California still burning". I expect soon it will be "BREAKING NEWS: President Kennedy still dead"

Gordon's Aussie counterpart prefers earwax to bogey?


Update: Apparently the "worm" is reference to some sort of tv popularity polling tool they use in the live debates. Original ear wax eating footgage is here

Update II: Appears the original footage was on Play Politcal last week.

Labour does 360 degree spin on bin tax

Reports this morning have all said that the Government, after the intervention of Gordon Brown, has dropped the idea of a "bin tax" on the amount of refuse people keep create. Meanwhile, DEFRA has said that the reports are absolute nonsense saying, "[i]t is pure hysteria and nonsense coming from somewhere and we are going to unveil the scheme to MP’s when we feel ready to."

Then this lunchtime, the Government publishes its response to the Communities and Local Government Select Committee on the matter of refuse collections and charging seemingly saying that the scheme is alive and well but there will give the power to Local Authorities to implement it, rather than impose it on them as a duty.

So let's see. They were for it, then they were against it, then they were for it again in the sapce of 24 hours? I think not! There has been no cave in from the Government, they've just spun the story to make it look like Brown scrapped it when in fact it's just been tweaked so the Government has plausible denial over who decides who pays.

Interesting too that the news in today's papers should come on the same day that the Goevrnment should respond to the Communities and Local Government Select Committee indicating that the scheme was anything but scrapped. News management at its most shamelessly transparent?

Our Bobby Chatroom?

Oh dear I'm such a reactionary old cynic this morning. Have just learned about a new initiative by the Welsh Police Constabulary called Our Bobby which has a chat room facility to let people talk directly to their local bobbies.

I'm sure it's well intentioned but all I could think was "so it is now official policy to have local police officers sitting on their arses at a keyboard discussing crime in a virtual space with Hot_Lips44 and Froggy"?

The archive chat is very amusing though, mostly just bland statements about how crime is actually down in response to people saying "why don't you do something about X". Wonder what the budget for the whole thing was?

Can someone tell me what he did?

Why does everyone want to ban the UN Secretary General from places? Seriously, I see press releases every day that start "Ban Ki-Moon" and I find myself wondering if there is actually anywhere left that this poor man can actually go without being refused entry?

P.S. Bill Posters is innocent too!

Roaming charges scandal hits Labour

This morning's Times carries a rather worrying report about how the Labour Party appears to have conspired with the mobile phone operators in the UK over roaming charges. Purely as an aside and point of interest, Gordon Brown's PPS, Iain Austin MP, sponsors a Commons "secretary/researcher pass" for an employee from Orange.

The Vol au Vent League Table, 2006-07

UPDATED: A new entry at number 4! Communities and Local Government and other departments.

UPDATED:
The Home Office leaps into 7th.

UPDATED: Some new entires it seems. The Scottish Office enters the Top Ten. Meanwhile the Treasury leaps in to fifth just edging another new entry, the DWP into sixth.

UPDATED:
A new entry in third, DEFRA, the figure is the centrally held information relating to the "core-Department's expenditure".

Should anyone ever have wondered how much Government departments spend on hospitality here is a little league table of current spending for the 2006-07 season. Unfortunately it is not complete but hopefully I can update as more figures come to light.

  1. Trade & Industry, £1,420,000
  2. Foreign Office, £810,000
  3. DEFRA, £309,634
  4. Communties, £307,845
  5. International Development, £238,000
  6. HM Treasury, £197,000
  7. Work and Pension, £188,000
  8. Home Office, £94,044
  9. Culture, Media & Sport £64,990
  10. Constitutional Affairs, £43,804
  11. Scottish Office, £23,410.69
  12. Wales Office, £14,279.62
  13. Leader of the Commons, £5,823
  14. Ministry of Defence claimed they published at this dead link
  15. Duchy of Lancaster We'll know in July
Clearly the place to be for nibbles is the DTI, whilst the Harriet Harman is the tight one.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Laws against clearing a blocked up nose?

I heard the strangest of tales last night about someone who had a cold and went to a major high street chemist. They tried to buy two packets of Lemsip over the counter and were told - in no uncertain terms - that they were not allowed to purchase two packets of decongestant analgesic because of the law.

Now there are certainly restrictions on the amount of analgesics (e.g. paracetamol, aspirin and ibuprofen) that can exist in a pack. And some stores do have voluntary policy limits. But as far as I can tell there is no law that states you cannot buy more than X at any one time.

Quentin Letts writes on Wright

Whilst waiting for the plane this morning to bring me back to Blighty I managed to grab two English papers, the Daily Mail and the Independent. Shockingly poor I know but what can you do? Anyway, something did leap out at me in Quentin Letts report on Yates before the Select Committee on Cash for Peerages. Talking of Tony Wright MP, Letts reported that Wright said

"We know there's a trade in honours that goes on... But it goes on in covert ways. We said to you, "that's the way the world is". We knew you weren't gonna get anywhere."
I have not been able to corroborate these words against the uncorrected evidence, but as Letts notes this seem to say that the political Establishment view is "Yes, dodgy things have happened. But so what? We're politicians! How dare you apply the rule of law to us?"

Quite!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Nothing to see here....

Well, nothing to see for the next few hours anyway. Am off to Luxembourg in the morning and fly back on Wednesday morning. So unless the Novotel has wifi there will probably not be any blogging. No doubt I will miss some huge event, or worse someone will get annoyed because I've not blogged about some other event.

Update: Dale says "why don't I use the Blackberry phone thingy". Roaming 3G charges? It wouldn't make a difference during the day. I will be in a bunker. I may do a post out whilst at City airport.

Making a profit from wiretapping

Some interesting news from across the pond here. It seems that Comcast, one of America's largest telecommunications company has a handbook which outlines its charge rate to the Federal Government when requests for writetapping comes in under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Apparently Comcast charges $1000 for the initial wiretap and then a monthly charge of $750 to maintain it. Not a bad little profit. This got me wondering, do BT and the other Telco's charge the Government in the UK for wiretaps? Time to FoI the Home Office and ask, although I don't hold out hope of a reply.

Screw Over Your Employer Day

Apparently on Wednesday it's "European 'Elf n Safety Day". The TUC has decided to get in on the act and announced that to coincide with it they will have National Inspection Day when all their safety shop stewards are to stop working (but presumably still be paid) and go around inspecting their work place. They've even produced a nifty handbook for it with some amusing yes/no questions for the inspections, including,

"Violence" section - "Do interview rooms allow easy escape whilst giving privacy to clients?" (WTF?)
"Ventilation" section - "Is there a supply of fresh air without draughts?" (don't open windows?)
"Do risk assessments include stress?" (how can you assess the risk of stress which is an entirely subjective thing?)
"Is the weight of loads known and clearly marked, and are they small and light enough?" (this one could be yes and no couldn't it?)
"Are windows clean on both sides and free of obstructions?" (are they saying they need to be left unlocked?)
I do hope that the TGWU reps find that the TGWU offices are left wanting. And let's hope the Health and Safety Executive is found - yet again - to be a rogue employer!

Gesture politics for Fatties

The papers this mornig seem to be awash with the news that the Government is going to send "warning letters" to parents of fat kids telling them that their fat kids are fat. This seems to me to be yet another of those "something must be done, this is something, therefore we must do it" type policies. Think about this for a moment, if you've got a fat kid the chances are they;ve got fat parents. Sending a letter to fat parents telling them that their kid is fat is probably not going to make a blind bit of difference.

The other day I was sitting on the bus in front a woman that was immense in size. She stuffed her face with the two bags of crisps then a bag of fizzy sweets, and then, hilarious, took about a bottle of Diet Coke. She was with her children, who were equally porky. Does anyone seriously think a letter from the school telling her the kids are fat will make her stop and think, "oh I must stop trying to stretch my shopping budget by buying the cheapest food from the supermarket and start going organic"?

What will Salmond do about the EU Treaty?

If you read just one piece of commentary today then it should be William Rees-Mogg's piece in this morning's Times. He makes a very compelling argument about the fact that the EU Treaty will transfer powers that have actually been devolved to Scotland from Westminister, and thus are not Westminister's ergo Brown's powers to give away.

Huhne the acid monster?

Over the weekend an article surfaced that was allegedly written by Lib Dem leadership hopeful Chris Huhne from his time at Oxford. The article, in simple terms, extolled the virtue of experimenting with opium and that necking LSD wasn't so bad if you were comfortable with yourself and who you were. This latter point is largely the same for the natural hallucinogens that are so popular with shamen, and Terence McKenna as they're often perceived as a means of exploring the self, but I digress.

What I found amusing was that Huhne's response was not to flatly deny that he wrote the article as such. He simply said that he didn't recall writing it. My first thought was 'well why would you remember it if you were dropping acid and chasing the dragon at the time of it's writing?' The real point for me is that when it comes to drugs these days and what you might have done in your youth no one really cares. One day a politician will realise this and be totally honest about it.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

9/11 Truthers infiltrate Bill Mayer

As one US blogger said, "Even liberals are sick of these nuts."

Time to relax on the beach?

There are lot of videos on YouTube of this airport in the Caribbean that is 'quite close' to the beach. One of the videos featured on Sky News on Friday night.

No chance of falling asleep in the sun on that beach I think.

Oxford professor calls for scientific freedom

Some rather good news from the Sunday Times that significant members of the scientific community are rallying around James Watson (a subject I posted about on Wednesday after the Independent ran a front page on him effectively branding him a racist).

Colin Blakemore, former chief executive of the Medical Research Council and now professor of neuroscience at Oxford University has argued, quite rightly, that scientists should not be constrained in their hypothesising on the basis of political and cultural correctness.

The Sunday Times also reports that the presidnet of the Royal Society, Lord Rees, and his predecessor Lord May have not publicly spoken out to defend such academic and scientific freedoms. Personally I hope they say something soon

"You bottled it" says Balls to Brown

Indeed yes. Apparently it says so in Anthony Seldon's new book (serialised in the Mail on Sunday). According to Seldon, just after the local elections in 2006, Gordon failed to force his neighbour Tony out of office.

When he returned to the Treasury from a radio interview, Ed Balls became furious with him and said "you bottled it". Brown et al have of course denied that any of this happened, and are claiming that Blairites are using the book to destablise the Government.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Where's the England shirt Gordon?

So Gordon Brown went to the Rugby World Cup Final, and so did the heir to the Throne. William (and his brother) were wearing England shirts. Thabo Mbeki was wearing the Springboks colours throughout. What did the "English supporter" Brown wear? A suit and red tie that's what. This is the man that lost the sight in one eye playing rugby, so he can't claim he's not a fan of the sport.

Now you may say I'm being partisan (and yes I am), but Gordon likes to tell us he loves the whole of Britain, how comes his future boss is willing to dress like the rest of us, whilst his counterpart from the new World Champions nation is too? Yet Gordon? No, not a chance!

Couldn't be because he's Scottish could it?

Update: Could anyone imagine any other President doing what Thabo Mbeki did this evening? To be lifted up with the team? Would Gordon have done it if England had won?

The weird and wonderful Commonwealth of Nations

I guess the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was always going to win in the "least popular websites under it's control" category. After all, the word Commonwealth means they have some sort of responsibility for all those little "micro-nations" out in the Pacific.

Apparently, the least popular website that they have responsibility for is the "Vanuatu's Post" website which has had 764 visitors since January. If you're wondering where Vanuatu is, it's here, and I 'think' this is the Post Office website. Bizarrely Vanuatu have an Underwater Post Office too.

I'm presuming that Vanuatu pays us for the web hosting costs.

How would a man claim maternity pay?

I'm not sure what to make of this, but the other day Chris Grayling asked the DWP "how many fraudulent applications for maternity pay there were in each of the last 10 years; and how many of the claimants were men." And the answer was simply that "[t]he information is not available."

Now I'm guessing that the answer just means the Government has no record of it happening but it's covering its arse just in case Mr Grayling knows something they don't. Best to say "the information is not available" than to say "there have been no fraudulent applications for maternity benefits in the last 10 years" just in case there has been.

Here's a question though. How does one go about committing this sort of fraud? After all, there is a key element involved that proves whether one is genuine or not. And how on earth a man might go about doing it is beyond me. If it turns out that Grayling is on to something and such things have been going on then the system is clearly knackered.

Policing party conferences

One of the things I notices at the Tory Party conference was the large number of Police. No surprise there really at such an event, but I did wonder how much it all cost. Well, apparently, according to Home Office, this is paid for through special grants it gives out. The grants are available to police forces to fund the policing of the conferences of the two main political parties (not sure where the Lib Dems fit in for their policing costs).

Anyway, according to Tony McNulty, the Dorset Constabulary, when submitting their grant application, requested £4.58 million to covr policing the Labour Party Conference this year. Sadly he didn't provide figures for the Tory Conference, but if we assume it's around the same amount, that nearly £10 million a year.

Simple question therefore is, is it really worth it?

Michael Crick "reveals" month old blog post

I've justed watched Michael Crick's report from Newsnight last night about Nick Clegg. It opened by talking about Nick Clegg's campaign website and said "Newsnight can reveal" that the site was registered by the former Lib Dem MP for Sheffield Hallam, Richard Allen (who happens to now be Clegg's campaign manager).

Now I thought that when information had been in the public domain for some time the BBC would use the phrase "has learned" rather than "can reveal" otherwise they could be accused of 'stealing' someone else's story, couldn't they? Other media outlets often link to such things when a quick Google search does the job for them.

Mr Crick, you "revealed" bugger all! (accept perhaps the revelation that the BBC can 'point and drool' with a mouse?).

Friday, October 19, 2007

Think of the children Greg!

I know one should avoid speaking ill of a fellow Tory, but occasionally you just can't help yourself. You see, I visited Greg Knight's website and decided to click on the photos section link and didn't just get photos.

Oh no, I got a song too, and if you press play on the little platyer below you can hear it too. Trust me, use the player, you can press pause when it gets too much which you can't do on Greg's site! (Dear God!)


Wrong, wrong wrong. Wronger than the most wrong thing ever to come out of the wrong side of a wrong town.

Note: In Greg's defence he did manage to succeed in getting the UK ‘drinking up time’ on licensed premises doubled from ten to twenty minutes. Good man!

Clegg declares

Well we all know he's going to anyway, but the site is actually to be www.nickclegg.com/campaign/ rather than www.nickclegg.com (at least that is where it' at currently). But what's a folder between friends? They will probably put a rewrite rule in at some point.

Will this polling get covered by the BBC?

According to some recent polling of the Afghanistan population by Canadian media oprganisations, the majority of Afghans are happy with the foreign military presence in their country; they think that the country is going in the right direction; and generally think the NATO presence (and America) is a force for good whilst they largely despise the Taliban.

Question is, will such positive polling data be picked up by the UK media like the BBC? My heart wishes so, but my gut thinks that news that Afghans appreciate what we're doing - and especially what the Americans are doing- won't be considered worthy of coverage. You can bet Robert Fisk and the Independent won't be writing about it that's for sure!
Hat Tip: Croydonian

The Ministry for the Middle Classes

Due to certain issue I may have to take a day off from blogging on Tuesday and pop across the Channel to Luxembourg. In mentioning this to Croydonian he said "The country with a minister for the middle classes. FACT." And 'lo for it is true!
They don't have a Ministry for the Working Classes mind you, so I am presuming that the tiny nation doesn't actually have any proles.

What machinery of Government change?

On October 11th, Mark Hoban MP asked the Leader of the House, Harriet Harman, how much her office had spent on First Class rail tickets in the last year. The answer was £242.20. He also asked her how much they spent on training in the last year. The answer was £9,000. No big deal there, pretty reasonable I would say.

Strangely though, when Norman Baker asked what the cost of fixed penalty notices for vehicles in the purview of her department were in the last year that figures were available for, Helen Goodman MP responded by saying,

Following a machinery of government change, detailed information on expenditure incurred in the 2006-07 financial year is available only at disproportionate cost.
So they have detailed expenditure information incurred on train tickets and training which is not too expensive to get, yet in this case they simply don't have any figures because the machinery of Government changed?

Now please do correct me if I'm wrong here, but the only machinery of Government changes that were announced when Brown took over were as follow. The Department for Trade and Industry became the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. There was the creation of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, and the Department for Education and Skills became the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

None of those departments, as far as I can tell, have anything to do with the Office of the Leader of the Commons which hasn't changed at all has it? Seems to me that the reason they've given for why it is too expensive to find the answer is complete nonsense. Isn't it interesting though that the first two answers had small figures in them. Could it be that the fixed penalty notice figure might just show they've been a little naughty with their driving speeds?

Update: Purely as an aside, it's amusing that the Leader of the House chooses to selectively publish Parliamentary questions on her official website.

Did someone target the Dome this morning?

Some very strange happenings this morning at the Dome, now the O2. All traffice was stopped half a mile from the site (where the Tube station is), everyone had to get off the bus and were told that we would not be allowed in. There were more Police than I have seen in Greenwich in one place for, well, forever.

Wehn I asked what was going on the response was tight-lipped, they wouldn't even confirm if it was just another annoying security alert. Then an ambulance flew past towards the place with sirens blazing and I was told that this was "protocol" - which it may very well be of course.

After about ten minutes we were allowed to walk the half mile to the station, and when I got there the place was crawling with Police. Some were taking statements off people. When I asked again what was happening I was told that they couldn't say but that it was "all over now".

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the Dome would become a target if it was a security alert. But I'm still bemused about the ambulance and the fact that people were giving statements to the Police well after the place was re-opened.. all very curious.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Sarah Brown's fashion choices?

I wonder who... erm... designed the logo on the jacket? More importantly, I wonder who said "that's a lovely jacket, go on wear it for the cameras!"

Taken from Channel 4 News clip posted to YouTube

Malloch-Brown gets Prescott's grace and favour pad

I wonder how most of the full Cabinet members must feel about this one. It appears that of all the grace and favour residence available to Government ministers, only Lord Malloch-Brown, a mere minister attending Cabinet, has been given any of the spoils.

It appears that he is now staying in one of the flats in Admiralty House, and the rest of the Politburo (aside from Brown and Darling) have all been cold shouldered. Poor souls, all that hard work and brown-nosing (sorry) and the elevated newbie gets the crash pad.

Wonder what he's got on Brown?

Government gives tax break to former Northern Rock savers

I am in a little bit of a bad mood this lunchtime, as such the tiniest little thing is causing me to bloe my top slightly more than I normally do. Rather than simply wailing at the sky I now scream and think about buying a gun. Imagine therefore my blood pressure when I read this.

The Economic Secretary, Kitty Ussher, today announced that the Government would allow people who during the recent financial market disruption withdrew cash from Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs) held at Northern Rock - and in the process lost their tax advantages - to re-deposit that money into a cash ISA with Northern Rock or any other provider, restoring their tax advantages.
So hang on a second. Somebody panic withdraws their tax-free savings of their own volition, and the Government gives them a tax break effectively saying
"That's OK Mr Smith, you can pay it back in and we won't tax it again. Actually, you can pay it back in anywhere you damn well please and we'll let you off even though you chose to withdraw the funds when we told you that you didn't need to panic withdraw anything."
If I go to my bank tomorrow and withdraw my funds in a fit of panic can I go to the Government and ask for such a tax break? Can I hell as like. They will tell me that I shouldn't have been so silly, even though they told all those people who had money in Northern Rock precisely that whilst they queued along the streets. It gets better though, according to Kitty Ussher this move is,
[t]o ensure that Northern Rock ISA savers are not penalised by the financial instability in the market."
What about the rest of us that might lose out in the future and get penalised by "financial instability in the market", are they going to underwrite that? When I go into negative equity if the housing market crashes is Kitty going to come rushing to the rescue and ensure that I and everyone else with mortgages are not "penalised by the financial instability in the market"? Of course she isn't.

What's more, there were people withdrawing up to a million pounds of savings from Northern Rock, are these not the very same people that the Government keeps on insisting don't deserve tax breaks? Arse, face, about, angry.

It may not be "party-political" but it sure is "political"

Apparently Nicholas Stern, the author of the Government's report on the economic impact of climate change has just been appointed to the House of Lords. He's going to be taking a cross-bench position apparently.

However, please excuse my cynicism, but I find it interesting that the press release feels the need to stress it is a "non party-political appointment". Fair enough, he will take no party whip, but are we really to believe that the appointment has no political dimension?

Aren't they popular!

If Norman Baker ever leaves Parliament it will be a sad day. He loves asking the most awkward and amusing information gleaning questions of all the MPs it seems. In recent days he has been asking what the most and least popular websites that departments have are. For example, the Northern Ireland office main website is very popular as you would imagine. However, the website they set up at howsecureisyourhome.com has managed to receive a mere 5,909 hits between January and August this year.

Should we be surprised at this? Let's be honest, if you live in Northern Ireland you're probably fairly security conscious right? Reprisal shootings and decades of bombs will have made you that way. Do you really need the Government to tell you how to lock a door or window? Also of largely no popularity is the HM Government website which currently contains the Draft Legislative Programme. It's managed to recieve 3,598 visits (not hits) since April. I can't imagine why something so immensely interesting would be so unpopular!

My favourite though has to be Were We Live - Building Communities through Culture and Sport which averages about 500 hits a month, and looks like someone vomited on the screen when you visit it.

What immigration problem?

'What are you going to do about all the bloody immigrants?' is a question I have heard more than once on the doorstep and my personal answer is always the simple one. Nothing, nada, zip, zilch! We don't need to do anything that directly and specifically targets immigrants that come here to work. They are simply taking the wealth of jobs that exist because a rising number of arrogant lazy Brits refuse to take them.

Why the indigenous population chooses not to take these jobs of course is a problem that should be addressed and it has more than one cause. In the 16-25 category we have to tackle unrealistic expectations for a start. Sadly this is not as easy as it sounds in an education system that constantly re-inforces the view amongst many of this age group that they are far cleverer, and therefore deserve more than they actually do.

Throughout the rest of the population we have masses of people sitting around on incapacity benefit who could work in other jobs but just keep getting the certificate signed by the GP. Take a bricklayer by trade who is on such benefit. It may very well be true that he cannot go back to the building site for health reasons. That does not mean he cannot sit on a checkout in the supermarket.

The only way to resolve such a situation is to 'think the unthinkable' as Frank Field once did and introduce a genuine Welfare-to-Work programme that says if you don't take a job that you can do then you lose your benefits. I believe it was once called 'Making Work Pay' but at some point that concept was replaced by 'Making the Taxpayer Pay'.

Of course, the left winger will bemoan such schemes and cite examples in America where single mothers have to get up at 6am and don't get home until 8pm. That's called work I'm afraid and a lot of single mothers do it willingly already. Not to mention that in America there is vast distance to travel between home and work that makes the example fall on its face in a UK specific scenario, but I digress.

Handily there is also a knock-on to such a policy. If we get the indigenous population that can work into work with more stick and less carrot, then it will mean a less fluid job market for immigrants because it will no longer be economically attractive for them to come to Britain.

After all, immigrant labour, as important as it is, only occurs when the market conditions exist to encourage it. Brown has created a job economy reliant on it because he has actively encouraged large sections of the 'born here' population to sit on their backsides, or in the case of the young think they're too good to stack shelves in supermarkets.

We don't have an immigration problem in Britain. We have a benefit system problem. Tackling the cause not the sympton is the way forward.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Straw: 'We're crap at technology and we keep getting done up like kippers'

What an amazing piece of evidence Jack Straw, the Secretary of State for Justice, gave to the Commons Constitutional Affairs Committee last week. He said,

"In all the departments that I have worked in so many of these [IT] schemes end up over budget and over time and are not quite up to spec.... It is very frustrating that so many people, including the private sector, are taken in by snake oil salesmen from IT contractors who are not necessarily very competent and make a lot of money out of these things. I am pretty intolerant of this."
A startling display of honesty from Straw don't you think? He's basically just acknowledged that the Government regularly get taken in by consultants who sell them crap, produce crap, and charge them highly for the crap.

Question Secretary of State. If you're so intolerant of it, why does the Government keep giving out tenders to the same companies if they're nothing but con artists? It couldn't possibly be because some of them donate oodles of cash to the Labour Party or because so many of the projects are PFI so can be hidden of the balance books? Could it?

Amazingly, as he continued to give evidence to the Committtee he also accepted Lib Dem MP David Howarth's criticism that "the in-house team is not expert enough to judge what is being said to them and that is how these things go wrong" saying "It is a real problem". In other words, they not only get fleeced by IT consultants but their own IT staff are cluevoid too. Joy!
Hat Tip: Croydonian for mentioning this to me

More sport is not about money

Excuse me for a moment whilst I have a bit of a rant, but I am absolutely bloody sick of hearing this complete total bollocks from Brown and other ministers about sport in school. Apparently, in order to tackle obesity, the Government is going to make schools have not just 2 hours a week of sport but now 5 hours a week. According to Brown this is only possible because of the money he is spending investing.

Why is this bollocks? Well, for a start I went to state schools from 1979 to 1992 and I had more than two hours a week of sport. This was during the time that, according to Brown, bugger all money was spent in schools on sport. And yet, during that time there were not hundreds of oompa loompas rolling around the schools. His argument is, frankly, complete crap.

Oh yes, and he also said in Parliament that he's going to ban the advertising of "unacceptable foods". How long before he bans "unacceptable foods" altogether and we only eat a Government approved diet? Clause IV may not be around to allow for the nationalisation of production anymore, but it sounds like Brown wants to go for the nationalisation of consumption instead.

Brown calls Hague Foreign Secretary

Brown has just called William Hague the Foreign Secretary in the Commons. Freudian slip! In other news when Vince Cable stood up everyone started shouting "where's the knife?"

£327,000 on escalator feature that doesn't work?

Back in April I posted about the new escalators in Portcullis House that would have a fancy motion detector and were costing the taxpayer £327,000. Well the good news is that they're in. The bad news is that the motion sensitivity featurem which is what they were bought for to save energy is currently turned off.

Why? Well apparently it's a precautionary measure because the compent that does it is known to be faulty in other escalators systems. They're hoping to turn it on next month, but the cynic in me wonders if that will actually happen.

Huhne website almost ready. Declaration coming soon?

It's no surprise really that Chris Huhne plans to run for the Lib dem leadership. He will be using the same website address as last time at chris2win.org. Yesterday it was still a 123 Reg Holding Page today it is a "Site under Development" and it's being developed by Lib Dem e-campiagn specialists Prater Raines.

Hemming declares but with no betting price?

It's interesting to note that last night on Channel 4 News, the Lib Dem MP John Hemming declared that he was running for the leadership of the Lib Dems to Cathy Newman. He said, and I paraphrase from memory, that he was the man to lead the party and he was the man that could beat Cameron and Brown.

Even though he said this, he has no price on Betfair's market for the leadership. Does this mean the wisdom of crowds is so wise it knows there is no point?

Update: He has appeared on BetFair now as has Susan Kramer.

We have nothing to fear but fear itself

Fury and outrage is the reaction of the quoted to the Independent's front page story about James Watson, one of the two scientists that discovered DNA all those years ago. Never one to avoid controversy he has apparently said that black people are genetically less intelligent than their white counterparts. His choice of words in a newspaper interview about Africans were certainly odd and would inevitably cause the sort of reaction that has occured.

They become even stranger when compared with the argument made in his latest book which is, in my view, far more benign and simply notes that the assumption of evolutionary equivalence on matters of intelligence between races that evolved across disparate geographic regions may yet be shown to be wrong - this merely expressed what science and the acquisition of knowledge is all about doesn't it? The possibilty that there are as yet unknown genetic differences between races is hardly controversial, the problem with saying so and at the same time invoking such a potentially emotive thing as intelligence is where the real problems lies because it such a political affair.

Genetics will always have this problem of course because it is too easily and too often conflated with eugenics and this leads inevitably to analogous references to Hitler and the Nazis. If we pause for a moment though and put aside such arguments, as well as putting aside the scientific rightness or wrongness of Watson's words is there not a much deeper and far more dangerous problem here about Western Enlightenment in the 21st Century? What is the point of knowledge and its acquisition if the truths you appear to find are unpalettable? What if they are, dare I say it, 'inconvenient'? And how do we resolve a situation where science is no longer allowed to discover without first ensuring it is sufficiently in keeping with the current political and cultural orthodoxy?

What if, and this is a pure counter-factual, but what if one day someone discovers that people from South-East Asia are genetically more intelligent than the rest of the planet? What would happen if we discovered, and failed to falsify such a thing? Seriously. If science is to be a dispassionate study of nature then what happens if we find out things about ourselves that fly in the face of our contemporary political values? Would we suppress such knowledge? Would we actively attempt to discredit it because of our fear of the potential political implications?

What indeed does this say about the fragility of our faith in our own political values? Can political equality and potentially explosive genetic difference ever be reconciled should such a thing one day occur? In my view they most certainly can, for genetic difference, be it hair colour, or even intelligence based on race negate one important characteristic, the human will to endeavour. As such we should not be afraid of what science may or may not find out about what it means to be us on this planet.

Each and everyone of us is, undoubtedly, genetically flawed in some way, and yet a glance through history shows us that great men and women too have had these genetic disadvantages and yet still achieved great things. Albert Einstein was dyslexic, Emily Dickenson was a manic depressive, Ray Charles too suffered from mania as well as being blind of course (cause unknown). We should, I think, never forget that when, and if, genetics ever does throw up something that our politics make hard to swallow.

To steal the tagline from the movie Gattaca: 'There is no gene for the human spirit'

An Irishman gazzumped me and asked for my help to do it!

Well done to the exceedingly tall Irishman Shane Greer for spotting the website behind the domain. Amusingly Shane asked me yesterday about how one would go about doing this but did it with another domain and then I rushed off to a meeting. So I like to think that my words of wisdom along the lines of "you'll have to guess" made a little difference!

Seriously though, fair play to Shane, and there is a big implication for the Lib Dems here. After all whlst the pages have been removed now (what's the point?) the fact that the former Lib Dem MP for Sheffield Hallam should be registering and building a website for his predecessor Nick Clegg over a month ago suggests that, as I said back then, it as Sheffield Hallam wot done it!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Who's laughing now?

Back in January 2006, just two days before Charles Kennedy resigned his leadership of the Lib Dems a woman called Laura Willoughby from Islington registed multiple permutations of kennedy4leader.

I'm assuming it was Lib Dem Islington Councillor Willoughby. One might have said "sucker" back then, but could they yet turn out to be shrewd investments?

Potheads in Parliament

Apparently, since 2001 there have been three seizure of dope in the House of Commons since 2001, two of which were in 2005 and the other in 2006. The pot in all circumsatnces was apparently of a quantity "consistent with personal use"

This means that it was during the time of Charles Clarke's tenure at the Home Office. Some may recall that during that time briefings often floated the idea that what should be considered "personal use" rather than "intent to supply" should be raised. As such, the seizure could be anything from a sixteenth to twenty ounces*.

I wonder who the potheads were? Researchers perhaps, or MPs? If anyone knows do share the information with me!
* A lot of pot. Enough to keep a healthy student flat going for at least six months.

The future is not bright for the Lib Dems

If you believe the hype from those that kill it is said that the first time you do it is the hardest, the second time is much much easier. This is certainly true in the political world it seems where Cowley Street became the crime scene of yet another gang land stabbing incident in the capital. There was no hesitation, no mild stab in the stomach causing the victim to slowly bleed to death. No. This time it was a swift injection of steel into the base of the neck driving upwards. Dare I say it was textbook commando stuff?

The obvious question now is where next for the Lib Dems? Do they go Left or Right? They're biggest problem is that so many of them fail to realise that much of their success in the last election stemmed not from being a viable alternative but because they opposed the war in Iraq. That war, whether ongoing or not is no longer the potent political message of the day.

Meanwhile many of the votes they picked up were anti-Blair Labour voters. The polls, so the argument goes are now showing the Tories picking up Lib Dem votes. This is, I think, only partly true. The two main parties are in fact simply taking their votes back. The Lib Dems are not losing Lib Dems they're losing the people that floated over to them because they were either (a) Labour haters of Blair, or (b) still thinking the Tories were not presenting anything new. In both these circumstances the game has now changed.

The 1990s and early naughties have been a political aberration in the two party system. The third party's apparent success has been based not on principled political ideas but on general disaffection with traditional allegiances. The Lib Dems, whichever direction they go in, will not likely recover, or achieve any greater success nationally. Locally may be a different matter.

The two front runner choices pose significant problems though. If they go Right then their inevitable social liberalism will not appeal to many traditional Conservative voters, whilst their economic liberalism will keep the Labour voters away. If they go Left then they can kiss goodbye to disaffected Tories, whilst what Labour votes they might gain would easily be lost due to tribalistic fear of the Tories winning power.

In short for the Lib Dems, the future is not bright, and it definitely isn't yellow.

Monday, October 15, 2007

I wonder......

If that domain I posted about a month ago will come into its own now?

For a moment there I thought he was dead!

Anyone notice that when Simon Hughes and Vince Cable announced Ming Campbell's resignation the whole press conference and tone was done as if Campbell had died? Simon Hughes said "I'm now going to let Vince Cable say a few words about Ming" like he was offering someone up to give a eulogy.

OK I know it was a "political death", but on the basis of the tone and look on their faces, if someone turned on the TV and missed the words "Ming Campbell has submitted his resignation as the Leader of the Liberal Democrats with immediate effect" they might think the old man had popped his clogs!


 

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