Thursday, July 31, 2008

Lack of posting....

This is due to illness involving rushing to the smallest room in the house regularly. Hopefully be back tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

McDonnell allies begin canvassing?

Interesting post over on the Real Machiavelli blog. Seems John McDonnell's former researcher has started to canvas for support through Facebook and various social media outlets. As I saiod this morning, I don't think Brown will go, but I don't think these leadership games will go away either.

Gordon makes little girls cry

You did this Gordon! I hope you're ashamed of yourself!


Update: Apparently this blog made this joke yesterday and I stole it. Far be it from me to simple notice a high rating video on YouTube. Such is life.

In the bunker after Glasgow-East

Am wiping the tears away from my eyes. Superb! If you don;t like reading naughty words in subtitles don't watch.

Via Guy News

Gordon will continue to limp around Aintree

Has the leadership challenge to Brown begun? All the commentators seem to think so now that David Miliband has written an article for the Guardian saying that there is still hope for Labour at the next General Election, failing to even mention Brown, admitting lots of mistakes, whilst attacking David Cameron and appearing to set out his vision of where Labour goes next.

Of course, the notion that this is a push by the Foreign Secretary has been denied by him, sorry, I mean by his friends. Miliband will not, says his friends, wield the knife, but if someone else does he will stand. You can almost understand the rationale for this. If he does the killing then he probably won't make it through to win due to the adverse exposure of his ambitious side.

However, on the flip side, by making it clear that he would run if only someone would do the dirty work to give him his chance, he effectively admits that he is indecisive, weak and lacking the quality that a leader must have if he hopes to successfully lead. Interestingly this seems to be the position for almost every possible challenger that the commentariat see as viable.

Yesterday Harriet Harman confirmed the trusim that one should believe nothing until it is officially denied by stating that she never said "this is my moment" and then went on to deliver a devastating backhanded compliment to Brown saying she did not accept that "it is over". It's an interesting strategy to take where you support someone by reinforcing a view that you claim you don't think people should be thinking.

What however is Brown to do about any of this? He's been castigated for his obsession with working all hours of the day and night (usefully coined by him as "getting on with the job"), to the point where people say he should take a holiday. He then takes a holiday and everyone starts manoevering around him. If he acts he confirms the workaholic obssessive tag and if he doesn't he's screwed as well. One might almost feel sorry for him but only for a nanosecond.

Some have suggested that what he needs is a damn good reshuffle, perhaps even to the extent of his own "night of the long knives", but even the smallest of reshuffles will be fraught with dangers for his own survival. After all, Brown will have his fair share in the Cabinet of what John Major called "bastards". The names being floated around Westminster as sucessors cannot be easily demoted or removed lest they do a Geoffrey Howe on him.

The key to Brown's problems are actually Brown himself and the history of his journey into the helm of power and leader of Her Majesty's Government. Along the way he has calculated, controlled, manipulated and basically just pissed off so many that the cliche that it's "lonely at the top" has become true for him much faster than it has for others.

Contrary to the argument of Peter Riddell in this morning's Times, I don't think even devolution of power away from Dowing Street will not help him now. In fact, giving a free hand to departments and Cabinet ministers will more likely result in yet more open warfare and perceived spats in the top echelons of Government.

Trust and faith in Brown is not only gone amongst the general public, but it looks to be ebbing away amongst his own colleagues at the top of the Cabinet table too. The voices of support clearly ring hollow when set against the anonymous briefings. When your Cabinet not only start challenging your authority but then start to airbrush you out openly as Miliband has done today, surely it becomes clear that the proverbial game is up.

Having said this, what is the liklihood of Brown going quietly? It's been well noted across the comment sections of the press that it is by no means easy to remove a Labour leader and all the biographies of Brown, along with comment by others that have worked with him, suggest that his character is one that heads for the bunker even when he knows that it's all over. Tom Bower's biography illustrates this character flaw in Brown brilliantly.

Simultaneously, the election that never as showed the country that Brown is totally risk averse when it comes to taking big decisions. The possibilty of a Major style "back me or sack me" confidence vote seems therefore to be out of the question. The most likely scenario is therefore that he will just go on to defeat. The leadership mutterings and shifting "tectonic plates" will go on as each person lines themselves up for the electoral aftermath.

The electorate should be, I'd say, prepared to watch a very long, slow and painful death for the next two years. It will be like a Grand National horse falling at the first, breaking a leg, refusing to give up, whilst the stewards have a sudden moment of compassion and refuse to put it out its misery as it limps around Aintree.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

He was clearly in the way!

This is the first time I've ever heard of something called the Critical Mass bike ride, but apparently it is a monthly celebration of cyclists over car drivers and goes through major US cities.

It all sounds horribly irritating to me as a pedestrian. Clearly when it went through Times Square in New York on July 25th it upset another pedestrian too. Only problem looks to be the uniform he was wearing whilst he was walking.

The really good news is that he arrested the cyclist too.
Note: This post is laced with deliberate sarcasm

Update: The officer in question has had his badge taken away. Meanwhile the NY Post thinks there is more to the story than what the video appears to show.

Making people like Vista?

Microsoft Vista has been quite a PR disaster. So many people have had what they consider a "bad experience" with it that word of mouth has spread that line out. The general assumption is that Vista sucks.

In my personal opinion that is totally true. It's eyecandy is pathetically behind OSX wehich is also way behind Compiz under Linux from what I can see for a start, but I digress.

Microsoft, realising it has a mountain to climb, has decided to run a little confidence trick on users. It has been showing them a new OS code-named Mojave which is actually Vista, and guaging their reactions to it after they said they believed Vista was rubbish. They have yet to release the formal results of thier con-trick.

Free the already free data!

Back in early July there was a Commons motions tabled that ended up with a vast array of signatures (68 in fact). The motion simply stated

"That this House believes that the Register of Postcodes is a national public asset and should be freely available."
As Puffbox noted at the time, it was mostly Labour MPs signing it, and he made reference to different campaigns to "free our data" and wondered if there was momentum for the campaign. Simon Dickson at Puffbox also then noticed strange things happening with the motion,

UPDATE: OK, strange things happening now. ‘The Status of this EDM is Suspended,’ according to the Parliament site. Anyone?

UPDATE 2: Now showing as ‘withdrawn’. Curiouser and curiouser.
I think I may have an answer which I considered writing at the time the EDM was live but got distracted by something else. Postcodes are already freely available and have been for ages.

Methinks that the most likely reason it was withdrawn was because someone pointed this out. It's good to see that so many MPs are in touch with reality and don't just sign any old motion huh?

Passports stolen but are "unusable"?

The report on the BBC this morning is that the Foreign Office have had 3000 passports and visa stolen. I did enjoy the bit that said

However, the passport service said the stolen documents could not be used by thieves because of their hi-tech embedded chip security features.... The passports were the new electronic variety which contain a chip replicating the data printed on the document itself. The Identity and Passport Service said the security features would make them unusable on the black market.
Would those be the security features that German security expert, Lukas Grunwald manage to hack some time ago by any chance?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Can't stop sniggering....

Have just received a press release from the Office of Fair Trading that states,

The OFT has obtained assurances from a Latvian company that it will no longer promote and sell its impotency product, 'STIFF Strips', in the UK. S.I.H.N sent mailings to UK consumers under the name of 'Reprohealth'. The mailings claimed that STIFF Strips were 'five times more powerful than any other impotency pill, spray or cure' and offered packs of STIFF Strips for up to £45 for 168 strips.

Described as a 'new discovery' containing 'powerful anti-impotency agents', mailings made claims about the efficacy of the product, guaranteeing its effects within five minutes and including claims that 'with STIFF Strips you can make love for hours'. The mailings used explicit language to describe the effect of STIFF Strips and testimonials from men who claimed that the product had dramatically improved their sexual performance. The mailings also claimed that the product 'works on women too'.
I just want to say that when I read that I sniggered like a schoolboy. I have nothing of value to add whatsoever other than reading it again has made me snigger once more.

A bit like I sniggered everytime I heard a Sky News presenter say "nazi-style sex orgy" last week even when I was sitting next to them. How they don't crack up sometimes is beyond me.

That new band and their new single

The other day I posted about Hamfatter, the band that made headlines aftyer appearing on Dragons Den. I said then that I would write a bit of review of the single they gave me. Well this is it. Basically it's really very good.

When I was chatting with the lead singer he mentioned that they'd been compared to Pavement and Badly Drawn Boy. They certainly have that Badly Drawn Boy sort of sound to them. Funnily enough I thought of the Lightning Seeds when I heard the single (not a bad thing). The single is definitely catchy and upbeat. There is a kind of happy go lucky feel to them that has been missing in recent years from many of the usual suspect indie outfits.

Think I may have to go and see them gig. The real question is whether I can blag a guest list place, although I would pay anyway, not been to a gig for a while! Anyhow, here's the video and if you have a chance to listen to Sziget (We Get Wrecked) then do it, great track too.


Hamfatter Official site
Hamfatter on MySpace

How much furniture did Brown break?

As many people will be aware, Gordon Brown is alleged to have a habit of going a bity mental resulting in the throwing of mobile phones, the kicking of tables and just general acts of violence against inaminate objects.

With that in mind I couldn't help but wonder what to read from figures given out by the Treasury about its spending on furnishing and fittings in the last five years. You see, 2003-04 it was a mere £69,000, in 2006-07 it was just £4,000 and for the past financial year it was £51,000.

What about the years in between from 2004 to 2006? Well in that time, at the height of the crazy tensions between Brown and Blair, they spent a staggering £1,075,000. Now far be it from me to suggest the Prime Mentalist may have gone a bit postal, but like I said, I can;t help but wonder.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Did they use a conference call service?

This morning's papers will make horrible reading for Brown. The Sunday Times is reporting that Jack Straw's minions are gathering names of supporters, whilst other papers are saying that there have been late night calling amongst senior Labour ministers to discuss the planned coup severity of the situation.

This got me wondering, when they have these little chit-chats with each other do they use a conference calling service? If they do, is it the one that Gordon is now advertising in the place that was the location for his leadership website? I mean, they could make him some money for his retirement as a kind of golden goodbye to sweeten the bitter of their plotting! ;-)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Tony meets Obama first whilst pressure mounts on Brown

So let's get this straight, Barack Obama arrives in London, he won't be doing a press conference with Brown because of protocol after he didn't do that with McCain. But the first person Obama meets when he arrives in London is Tony Blair. Talk about being overshadowed by your predecessor.

At the same time, Sky News is reporting at the top of the news that Brown is facing a 'full scale rebellion" whilst the BBC says "Ministers get behind Brown". Apparently Jack Straw has backed Brown whilst telling papers he is very "concerned". My favoiur quote has to be this though

"It's not much fun being in supermarkets being shouted at by people.....That is very new after 10 or 11 years."
Brown only has two months according to the Times, the Telegraph says that Cabinet ministers are plotting.

Woman E speaks to Sky News

So... "Woman E", the lady in the Max Mosley S&M orgy that filmed the scene has decided, after not testifying in the privacy case, has come out of hiding to do a TV interview about how terrible she feels and how it has ruined the spook career of her husband.

What I find most amusing is that she was paid by the News of the World (News International) to do the sting, and now she's on Sky News (News International) presumably being paid giving an interview which the NOTW have reacted to by rejecting what she has said.

I always remember reading in Piers Morgan's diaries that there was massive competitiveness between the Sun and the NOTW, which each trying to nick the others scoops. I wonder if the same is true with Sky and the papers in the News International Group?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Soy reduces your sperm count!

Oh lordy my hair was a mess!

Ich bin ein CND member?

Ordinarily I would not have the opportunity to watch a Barack Obama speech live in the early evening because I would be traveling on the Tube, but as I was in the Green Room at Sky last night waiting to fumble my words on Sky News (video to follow) I got to see the whole thing.

There is no doubt about it that he is inspirational speaker, and his decision to do a little tour of European countries, starting with Germany and Berlin, and going to Britain and France to try and bolster his foreign policy credentials is probably a good one for the need of his domestic electorate.

What struck me as amazing were the number of people turned out to watch him. Officially it was reported that they were mostly Germans, but the cynic in me wonders how many were ex-pat military types stationed in the country. However, it was not just the crowd but what he said that surprised.

For a start the speech was littered with lots of fluffy cliches like "this is our moment, this is our time", but also buried inside was a call by Obama that he would seek nuclear disarmament of not just the usual suspects like Iran, but the US as well.

As he said I actually exclaimed the word "Jesus" because as strategies go it seems to be a crazy one. OK, so he was playing to the German audience who are not big fans of nuclear weapons, but this speech will be played at home as well where it really matters.

If you're a Democrat you can, fair enough, talk about ending the war in Iraq and other things and there will be floating voters across the spectrum that that message will appeal too. However, implying that one of your foreign policy objectives is to disarm your nations ability to defend itself along inter-continental is way out there.

I would be very surprised if the Republicans do not produce an attack ad on this point. In Obama's favour is time I guess, if he doesn't drill that message home too much again then it may get lost amongst the other platitudes and arguments that are yet to come.

It will certainly be interesting to see what he says in Britain and France, two nuclear nations, on the subject. If he doesn't say it again then it will be seized upon as him being shallow and playing to an audience. If he does, he sets himself up as potentially trying to bind the Governments of France and Britain in advance of an election win.

What should be kept in mind of course is that if he wins then it is likely things will change. Being out of office and calling for disarmament is easy. Being in office and having the 3am phone calls from the DoD or State Department often have a tendency to change most residents of the Oval Office.

Brown and out?

In the years to come, 2008, I have no doubt, will be of major significance to the politics undergraduates of the future as they analyse and look at the premiership of Gordon Brown and where it all went wrong. In fact, it might even get worse and the study of this single year will become key to the demise of Labour after it swept to power in 1997.

It started in May with the loss of the London to the Conservatives, then followed up later that month by the destruction of the 7000 majority to Labour in Crewe and Nanwich, also to the Conservatives, and then on July 24th into the 25th, with a 22% swing to the Scottish Nationalist in one of the safest Labour seats in the country.

The question is what happens now? Gordon Brown is arguably a great asset to the Conservative Party, regicide is not a tradition in the Labour Party, or more correctly has not been in the past. Will they now turn on their man? Privately ministers are thinking about it, we know that, but will anyone wield the knife?

More correctly though, it is not who takes over that matters, but who is willing to take over and more than likely lose the next election. A change of leader, and consequentially a change of Prime Minister during a Parliament without a General Election is not unprecedented. However, doing it twice in the space of little more than a year would be.

If that happened then it would be very difficult for them to not call a General Election. It is unlikely that the public, let alone the media, would let them get away with it. The problem that faces Brown and Labour this morning is how much they take on the extrapolation of by-election results to the national scene.

As many will say, you cannot do straight forward extrapolation, but if you play fantasy politics, and use Scotland only, the Tories will have a majority. Add in the expected swing in England and it could imply complete wipe out for Labour for a very very long time. I imagine Brown is not going to have a good holiday, and will be stewing from now until the Labour Conference (assuming he can hold on).

They should have listened to John Hutton

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Will their ham get fatter?

This evening whilst in the Green Room at Sky News I met two members of the band Hamfatter. Some may have heard of them as they appeared on BBC Dragons Den the other night and successfully pitched Peter Jones to invest £75,000 in them.


It appears that certain sections of the music industry have not taken to kindly to the manner in which they went about funding their career by sidelining the labels. I say fair play to them and good luck. They kindly gave me a copy of the single which I will be listening to later and will review in the morning.

Fraud by staff at the Driving Standards Agency

It looks like the Driving Standards Agency has some sort of problem in its recruitment process if figures released today by the Department of Transport are anything to go by. Apparently over the last three years they have had an incident of civil servants defrauding the Department at an average rate of one per month.

Sadly the figures do not provide any details on the waht the defrauding actually was. One presumes it was probably something like filling out dodgy expenses claims perhaps? Charging Starbucks to the taxpayer? Who knows!

Zimbabwe dollar worth more on Ebay

How I love the Internet! The entrepreneurial spirit of eBay is too be cherished. take for example the fact that the £100 Billion Dollar bill in Zimbabwe will only buy you a loaf of bread but on eBay would can sell it to a collector for around £35.

Funnily enough I will be talking about this on Sky.com News tonight at around 19:30 along with some other stuff.

The wesbite vanishd!

OK, this is actually very cool indeed. A new service caleld Vanishd which loads sites liek YouTube up for you and lets you view them hidden behind work friendly website.

Tarring users with the same brush?

I guess it was inevitable that I would write something about the news that ISPs are going to start sending out warning letters to people file sharing, but what strikes me as impractical about this scheme is precisely the same concern I had about the idea that the Government would start to monitor Internet traffic.

When I wrote that piece in the Times I came in for some flak from some people saying it wasn't about storing data at all and I said I would follow it up explaining the point I was making in more details. I failed to do that until now, so hopefully my fellow blogger Unity will be reading.

Here's the problem, how does the ISP know you have downloaded illegal content with inspecting and storing the data at the same time? Let's take one of the most popular of filesharing utilities, Bittorrent. This network system works on the basis that peers share parts of a file. Often there is only one single seed that has the whole file and the rest only have bits of it.

The protocol works by downloading chunck of binary data that alone are useless until it completes and merges them all together into the original thing that was wanted. An ISop therefore cannot easily 'know' what is being shared without mirroring the download itself from start to finish. This becomes even harder if say the torrent file being used requests a file with an innocuous name that is really the latest REM album.

Given this problem, what actually appears to be being proposed will be a blanket assumption that if you connect to Limewire, Bittorrent etc then you must be doing something illegal. It ignores the fact that many commercial operations now use these methods for distributing their software as it takes the pressure off their own bandwidth consumption.

I personally download a number of images online that are perfectly free and legal to distribute, but without the ISP reconstructing that data all they see is "bandwidth hungry dizzy, must be up to no good". The evidence of an IP address connecting to another IP address is not evidence of what was going on.

This is the point I would have loved to elaborate on in my Thunderer piece. Think about it for a minute, if a log records that I sent traffic from IP A to IP B, where IP B is a suspected criminal, it does not follow that the traffic contains illegality without inspecting it in full.

On the point of filesharing as well, there are networks out that that are DSA encrypted. Unless the ISP monitors from the personal pc, i.e. they put software on your pc so than can see what the end result of the encryption is, then they cannot know that was being shared or transferred was illegal.

I imagine that there will be many test cases on these proposals if they come into being. There will be people who will say "I did not download illegal content" and unless the ISP has a copy of what they did download, then simply stating "you connnected to Limewire and downloaded lots" is not proof of copyright infringement.

In short, this sort of proposal will only work if (a) ISPs start inspecting the content of traffic as well source and destination which has all sort of privacy questions around it, or (b) they take the blanket assumption that a bandwidth hog is being dodgy and tar everyone with the same brush.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

How long does it take to replace four plugs?

Before you start thinking I mean the electrical variety I don't. No... I'm talking about the things you put in sinks to stop the water from going away and I come to you with some useless and mind numbing trivia about plugs in Portcullis House.

Did you know that there are 112 basins in the bogs, bathrooms and tea points of Portcullis House? Well if you didn't you do now, and I'm sure you'll be most please to be aware of it, in fact, you'll probably sleep peacefully knowing that there are sufficient means for our Lords and Masters to wash their hands [insert corruption joke of your choice here].

However, I also bring grave and shocking news, because on July 17th a survey was carried out in response to a question to the House of Commons Commission by Tobias Ellwood. He wanted to know how many of the basins didn't have plugs (presumably for some personal reason currently unknown), and I hate to have to say this but there are four missing.

Yes that's right, there are four plugs missing in the basins of Portcullis House! [insert poor taste fetish joke here about an MP stealing them and playing games]. It gets better though, the Commission assured Mr Ellwood that "work is in hand to replace them". That's what they wrote back to him yesterday saying, honest.

Yes, almost a week to source four plugs. I imagine there are a number of forms that need to be filled in, along with a health and safety risk assessment, then the PO needs to be signed off. Why one of them couldn't pop to B&Q over the weekend I don't know. It's wonderfully comforting to know that the people behind the running of the country are so efficient isn't it?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Changes afoot........

Over the next few days there will be changes afoot on this site. I've been beavering away on a redesign. No doubt you'll all hate it and complain in the comments to let me know. If you do then I can only give you a patented Dizzy response of "bugger off".

It's been over two and half years since this blog was set up. It was done on a whim, the design was hacked on the back of a fag packet. You'll be glad to hear that the new look has been hacked on the back of a fag packet as well.

Thankfully, as this is my site, I don't need to make changes to it under a process of change*, I don't need to open a ticket, and I don't really have to care about user experience. All you need to know is that if anything looks odd it's because I'm playing around.

All the posts will remain, things might just occasionally go a bit screwy as I move stuff around. C'est la vie, this transition will however be fraught with problems I'm sure, but you can guarantee that I won't send you all an email telling you what a roaring success it was!**
* Missus will be amused by that. Go on, admit it, it made you smile right?
** Email me if you spot anything iffy in certain browsers, resolutions etc.. no guarantees though!

The future of knife crime for £200?

The Wasp Knife. Designed to freeze and explode the internal organs at the click of a button.

How long before we hear of someone taken out by one?

What lefty blogs didn't mention......

I thought I'd take the opportunity now that lunch is over to make a comment about the Charity Commission report into the Sith Smith Institute. The reason I've no real comment on it until now is because is it Guido's little bag, and I consider him a mate who deserves to bask in his own ego over this one because he, quite rightly, initiated the investigation into the "think tanks" activities that was alleged to have crossed the line from impartial charity to party political strategy policy vehicle.

What is interesting is the way that certain bloggers on the Left have decided to read the Charity Commission's report with myopia and suggesting that the whole thing was a "busted flush" and have now moved to open another front based on pure ad hominen circumstantial conjecture. What is most intriguing is the complete lack of reporting of another report that was carried out at the same time.

You see, for those unaware, back when Guido kicked off the whole "Smith Institute" bag a counter-complaint was made against the centre-right think-tank, Policy Exchange. This was led in the blogosphere by people like Unity and my favourite loon, Tim Ireland. their argument went like this. Policy Exchange has links to the Conservative Party. Iain Dale was a trustee. Ergo, Policy Exchange is just like the Smith Institute, these Tories don't just eat babies they are hypocrites as well.

The thing is, whilst they've been eagerly typing away about how the Charity Commission report on the Smith Institute was meaningless (which it clearly wasn't if you read it), they've failed to mention the report into the think-tank that was investigated in a tit-for-tat manner.

This couldn't be because the report , unlike the one into the Smith Institute, found "there was no evidence of party political bias towards the Conservative party or any other political party" could it? Make you wonder where the real "busted flush" was huh?

Blogging will be light this morning.....

Come back after lunch....

Monday, July 21, 2008

Funny how things happen... or don't

Some time ago, Celebrity Big Brother caused a stir with the public over issue of racism. Jade Goody called Shilpa Shetty "Shilpa Poppadom" and the country went crazy, even resulting in a diplomatic incident with India (mor e info here).

Fast-forward a year to the latest "normal" series of Big Brother and we have a housemate from Thailand called Kat who is every little bit the stereotype of a south-east asian, right down to the way she pronounces her L's.

What I'm wondering is where the outcry is over this? You see, it seems rather obvious to me that the producers picked her precisely so we could all laugh at her. Or more correctly so we could all laugh at the sterotype that she portrays via their editing.

I guess the silence must be due to people thinking that they are just laughing at her as a funny person, not laughing at her because she fulfills all our prejudices and makes us laugh at the same time.. oh yes, adn she's not a celebrity (yet).

So much for happy hour?

According to the news this morning there are plans afoot to ban "happy Hour" in pubs and also crack down on sueprmarkets selling multibuy options on booze. The argument goes, and I'm sure it would please the Portman Group greatly, that traders are not being "responsible", and that essentially we're all turning into a nation of alcoholics.

It's all in the name of our health because we are not responsible enough to make the 'right' decision (ergo what they want us to do) ourselves. We're all victims of the evil suppliers of alcohol who tempt us away from the path of light straightheadedness.

Yet it seems that no one in Government has a grip on the market driven reason for the rise in cheap booze and happy hours. Nor do they have a grip on the unitended consequence of their own actions having a direct role in creating the thing that they now see as a problem to be tackled.

Think about this for a minute. Why are pubs increasingly using Happy Hours to attract customers? It's pretty obvious that you do not start selling off your stock on the cheap unless you have a business issue where you are not making enough money. If you can get them in they might stay or they might eat etc.

So why are the pubs needing to do this though? Well, over 1300 public houses have closed in the last year since the smoking ban was introduced. Smokers leaving the pubs has had a detrimental effect on business in many parts so they need to lure people back.

The Happy Hour; doubles for the price of singles and other offers becomes ever more popular. At the same time, all the people that have left the pubs beacuse they cannot smoke have started drinking at home.

This shifts the competition in the market to the likes of Teso, Morrisons, Asda and Sainsbury, who are all competing for those people to come and spend there money with them. So they all start offering crazy offers on booze.

What is the Government's repsonse to a situation that it has created? Easy. Ban Happy Hours and legislate to stop supermarkets selling cheap booze. You know what that is in reality? Price control by proxy, yet another parallel between Brown's Government and the 1970s.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Me love you long time

To be an aide to Gordon Brown and get yourself caught in a "honeytrap" by a female Chinese spook and have your Crackberry stolen when you take her back to your hotel is a pretty serious security issue.

I could go on about how the Government are utter incompetents at handling data and security but instead I cannot help but think about how this guy was pulled by remembering the scene from the Kubrick classic Full Metal Jacket.

Spook: Well, baby, me so horny. Me so horny. Me love you long time. You party?
Aide: Yeah, we might party. How much?
Spook: Fifteen dolla.
Aide: Fifteen dollars for both of us?
Spook: No. Each you fifteen dolla. Me love you long time. Me so horny.
Aide: Fifteen dollar too boo-coo. Five dollars each.
Spook: Me suckee-suckee. Me love you too much.
Aide: Five dollars is all my mom allows me to spend.
Spook: Okay! Ten dolla each.
Aide: What do we get for ten dollars?
Spook: Everything you want.
I'm sure it didn't really happen like that, but you can't let an opportunity for a joke pass you by now can you?

Cameron and colleague in Pigs in Shit™ scandal!

In the past few months on Sundays, Guido has been delivering for his readers a Sunday round-up of sleaze with his Pigs in Shit™ rating for what politicians are doing with their snouts in the proverbial trough. It was thus with much personal amusement that I spotted something in the Register of Members' Interest about the Tory MP for Banbury, Tony Baldry.

Before anyone gets too excited about the potential of some new sleaze scandal, I should say that looking at the listings of MPs expenses on the main Tory website that Tony Baldry claims very little money from the taxpayers pot, however, back in April he did register the following with the House authorities under the 'gifts' section.

Two pedigree Gloucester Old Spot sows as a gift from the North Oxfordshire Conservative Association to mark my having been in Parliament for 25 years.
I'd say, on Guido scale that surely counts, quite literally, as two Pigs in Shit™ no?
Pedigree Pigs in Shit™ actually, and their names, should anyone be interested, are Harriet and Hazel. I can't begin to imagine why Tony didn't put their names on the Register of Members' Interests! Don't they just look so cute though?

Note I: Apologies if this is an old story but it amused me greatly.
Note II: Pigs in Shit™ images shamelessly taxed from the Guiness loving, Claret sloshing Irishman.
Note III: Cameron/Baldry image from Old Spots.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Illogical liberal conspiracy

A few years ago I bought a book, it was called How to win every Argument: The Use and Abuse of Logic by Madsen Pirie, President of the Adam Smith Institute. It is, without doubt, one of the best book I've bought and/or read. What's great about it is that you can just dip into it anywhere and remind yourself of the techniques in argument that are entirely commonplace in political discussion.

The reason I mention this is because I've just read a piece by Unity on Liberal Conspiracy which, unusually for Unity who I have significant respect for (even if I do have trouble reading his posts to the very end sometimes), is little more than one great big fallacy. The parts in question relate to his conclusion about some obscure organisation called the "Centre for Open Politics". Unity points out that

In reality, the two founding members of the ‘Centre for Open Politics’ are Harry Cole, formerly the Vice-Chairman/Treasurer of Edinburgh University Conservative Future, and Amanda O’Brien who, earlier this year, was listed on campaign blog of Michael Rock, the current national Chairman of Conservative Future, as the Deputy Chairman of Essex Conservative Future.

Moreover, as an article posted at Conservative Home in July 2007 reveals, Cole spent much of last summer working out of Conservative Central Office with the previous Chairman of Conservative Future, Mark Clark, and Justine Greening MP, on the preparations for Conservative Future’s national Fresher’s Week recruitment drive and was even given his own e-mail address on the official conservatives.com domain.
He goes on to draw the conclusion on his own website that this impacts on the credibility of any argument they might make. This is the classic ad hominem circumstantial fallacy at play. Rather than taking on the argument it takes on the bias of two people and draw conclusions about the validity of an argument they make upon those circumstances of the arguer.

From a logical point of view this is a really crappy argument. The bias of a person does not itself make an argument made by the person invalid. Just because two people have been involved in X in the past it does not follow that their involvement in Y is linked to X as a 'false flag' operation.

This does not negate that the Centre for Open Politics might actually be what Unity says it is. The point is that the argument to justify the assertion that Unity is making is logically fallacious. Unity goes on to say that he will be contacting
the Electoral Commission, myself, to advise them of Cole’s undisclosed background in the confidence and advising them that there is ample evidence to suggest that Cole has submitted a wholly vexatious complaint.
All the "evidence" he refers to however is circumstantial. Again I stress, this is not an argument that Unity's conclusion is wrong, it's an argument that his route to reaching the conclusion is a logical pile of poo and essentially vexatious reasoning.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Is it good to be with the PRU?

Ben Brogan is reporting on the Labour MP John Mann's calls for investigation into the Parliamentary Resources Unit and a certain number of Tory MPs that are using expenses to pay for their subscription, and whether a total of £2million+ should be paid back.

The questions that have arisen are whether the PRU is a engaging in party political activity or not. It does, after all, state that it "provides briefing, research, correspondence and related support to 150 Conservative MPs and front bench peers wholly, exclusively and necessarily in support of their Parliamentary duties."

However, as Brogan also notes, "Cameron made sure that the information published yesterday was bomb-proofed by Chief Whip Patrick McLoughlin". Was it bomb-proof enough? Is it likely that all these MPs have been breaking rules on claiming expenses for something they should not, with an organisation that does itself operate inside Parliament? Instinct makes me think the practice will be stated to be above board because of what the PRU produces for its subscribers.

However, if the opposite is true it not only brings into question the use of taxpayer expenses for party political work where it should not be happening, but also brings into serious question the competence of the Parliamentary authorities that have allowed the PRU to operate since 1998 quite openly, and presumably receive and make money in this way.

Official: The War is Over

The 'Irish Yellow Pages' says so.Via b3ta although they found there were no 'sober people' in Ireland.

Brown splashes out on new Number 10 website

Below are some screenshots of the latest beta version of the Number 10 website (link goes to current ugly version). Not sure how long it's been in development but I have no doubt questions will be raised when Parliament resits about how much it cost the taxpayer.
It looks like it's going to have a lot of flash embeded videos and things, and to be honest it certainly looks cleaner and better laid out then the current design.
More screenshots on Flickr

MoD admits laptop theft is double what it thought...

Over the past few days in Parliament, the Ministry of Defence has made some quite revealing admissions about data security and computer loss. For a start they have managed to have 87 USB removable storage devices stolen or lost which have contained classified material since 2004.

However, it is on the subject of laptops that the seriously worrying data is. In January 2008 the MoD said, in a written answer, that the total number of stolen laptops since 2004 was 347. However, yesterday it was revealed that after a review of the process of reporting they've actually had 658 laptops stolen.

That's nearly double the original figure. Now you'd expect a department like the MoD, which has access to seriously classified information, would be both good on security and crucially good at tracking issues like this. however, it is only as a result of a review after the HMRC debacle that the true figures came to light.

Makes you wonder what the figures for the other departments are truly like if the MoD's are so widely out doesn't it?

India and Pakstian on brink!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Proof that education has gone to the dogs?

From today's Times an example of two 11 year old class mates SAT answers for English.

Child A: “If he wasent doing enthing els heel help his uncel Herry at the funfair during the day. And had stoody at nigh on other thing he did was invent new rides. Becoues he invented a lot of new rides he won a prize. He didn’t live with his mum he lived with his wife.”

Child B: “Quickly, it became apparent that Pip was a fantastic rider: a complete natural. But it was his love of horses that led to a tragic accident. An accident that would change his life forever. At the age of 7, he was training for a local competition when his horse, Mandy, swerved sideways unexpectedly, throwing Pip on to the ground, paralysed.”
Child A got a higher mark than Child B. Seriously. Apparently it all came down to him having better "composition and effect" I kid you not!

The headmaster makes the point in the article that this is an extreme examples, and thankfully has requested for them to be re-marked. The question I have is who the hell marked them and are they going to be fired?

Another Major moment from Brown?

Way back in the olden days of the last Tory government there was a constant, consistent and absolutely correct criticism made by Tony Blair and the Labour Party. Crime statistics being used by the Government were out of step with available data from Police records. The Government of the day used the British Crime Survey which dealt with attitudes and perceptions towards crime as well as extrapolation of figures of total crime from sample sets.

At the same time, Blair and the Labour Party said that the BCS under-estimated the crime figures when it was held up in comparison to the actual recorded crime figures held by the Police. That criticism remains as correct today as it was then. The only difference is that Labour in power have decided the opposite. The British Crime Survey contains good news at a time when teenagers are killing each other on an almost daily basis.

So, as the Times lead story reports today, the Government intend to announce, using the BCS, that we've never had it so good when it comes to crime actually. They have succeeded where the Tories failed will be the line. I can hear the voice of Jacqui Smith or some other minister already. 'Yes, we have a problems in certain areas, but actually, overall crime is dramatically down and that's because of the long term tough measures we have put in place. Measure which the Opposition have failed to back'.

Of course, no one will believe the statistics, and when I say no one I mean ordinary people many of whom don't see the point in voting anymore anyway. Just like with the NHS, no amount of tubthumping from the Government will detract from what people's personal experience is. Try and tell a law-abiding family living on one of the worst estates in the country that crime is actually down and they will laugh at the absurdity. This is the problem Brown and his Government now face.

Trust in politicians being at an all time low feeds into this of course, but the Government has lost its way because it has to rely on speaking in statistics that are contradicted by the electorates real world experience. This is especially the case on crime. It is also not helped by the Government's response to the issue of knife crime. By reacting with fanfare and a 'something must be done' attitude they simultaneously undermine their own claims about crime.

In fact, underneath this we can actually see a defining theme for the Brown Administration. It is moving along, but unlike a car which can turn whenever its driver chooses, it is more like a train where the track becomes the news agenda and it has no control over. When a junction comes up it can only go the way the junction is set. The Brown Administration has become reactive rather than the proactive administration of Blair.

This is also where it shares much in common and parallel with the fate of the Major Administration. As the country repulsed at the Jamie Bulger murder and the Dunblane killings, the Government was in reactive mode and was holding up the BCS to say that things were not as bad as all that whilst simulatenously trying to be tough with rushed out legislation. Thoughout this Blair capitalised and expressed what everyone was really thinking.

The country is now leading Brown rather than Brown leading the country, and shouting out about achievements are increasingly falling on deaf ears, especially on the issue of crime. Cameron on the other hand is tapping into what people are genuinely thinking and actually doing the "leadership" thing that Brown is not.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Just one cost of a reshuffle

The picture on the right is of a house on the market in Luton (uurgggh) for £200,000. That is approximately* what could have been bought for the money Gordon Brown spent, on a whim, changing the Department of Trade and Industry to the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform.

The brief stayed pretty much the same, the staff remained in place, the political master changed of course, but the Prime Minister chose to throw what many of us of struggle to attain up against the wall at the drop of a hat. The question on anyone's lips after a reshuffle should really be, how much did this actually cost us?
* £214,063 to be precise

"Home Secretary I think I've been skanked"?

Yesterday in Parliament, the Tory MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, Tim Loughton asked the Home Secretary,

"what estimate her Department has made of trends in the average street price of skunk cannabis in the last two years.
I know it's awfully cynical of me, but my first thought was "is he trying to figure out whether he had been skanked?"

Either way, whilst the response which listed prices for an ounce did fluctuate mildly, the truism remains that it costs around £15 for a Henry, but only if you're buying in bulk now. Gone are the days of Red Seal, soap bar and slate. It's all about the smelly stuff now.

Incidentally, has anyone else noticed the phenomenon whereby potheads get on buses with a bag of skunk in their pocket and seem oblivious to the fact that it stinks to high heaven?

Frankly there is nothing more amusing than saying quite loudly - and this requires a traveling companion - "Christ! Someone has a big bag of skunk in their pocket". At this point you can watch said stoner squirm and actually see the paranoia rippling through their body.

Should you ever find yourself in such a situation (possibly with an MP on the bus if you're lucky), following up the comment with "Oh damn I left my warrant card at home" can have tremendously amusing effects.

Celebrate good times.... come on!

If ever one needed to be given a good example of why so many politicians produce useless pieces of news one only has to look at the obsession with having yearly celebrations of the obscure or conceptual.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure that the potato is a very important thing, but do we really need to spend money having the United Nations celebrating the root vegetable for a whole year?

You see, I ask this because I find myself looking to the sky and screaming "why?" when I hear of the latest celebration. Let's get something straight, they're not celebrations at all, no one has a party, no one cracks open the bubbly and toasts the potato (they'd do it with vodka I imagine).

No, what actually happens is that a bunch of politcos and bureaucrats funded by politico decision makers splash out cash on a fancy logo, put out some press releases, or raise a motion in a legislature, telling us to celebrate. The result is that everyone either ignores them or just shrugs their shoulders and thinks "whatever".

Thus when I read a motion in Parliament that

notes that 13th July marks the birthday of the much loved English poet, John Clare, who was born in the village of Helpston in 1793; further notes that there is at present no date on which England's rural heritage is celebrated; and therefore calls upon the Government to establish 13th July as the day to celebrate both John Clare's life and the English countryside in summer.
I couldn't help but think "that all sounds very lovely but what's the bloody point?". I mean, John Clare may very well have been an important poet. He may have written wonderful pieces of sublime poetry. But seriously, how many people in normal culture (or what the intelligentsia might see as "low" culture) actually give a crap or know who he is?

What's more, how many people living in the back end of Shitsville UK are going to wake up on July 13th and think "oh my, we must celebrate the English countryside today!" without first being told they have to celebrate by their newspaper?

Putting aside the fact that once every six years the 13th of July would be a Friday, all these sort of things do is provide copy for newspaper editors to fill some missing column and give some politician the ability to get quoted about how marvellously dandy something is.

Of course, with the the example there is the problem of there being 365.25 days in each year. Quite a few are already gone with official celebrations already. Then there are those days that cannot be used for anything lest it be in poor taste, 11/9 or 7/7 for example. We couldn't use the 4th July because it might cause a diplomatic row with our brethren across the pond. What next, celebration by the minute?

What we actually get are MPs being seen to be doing something and celebrating something that in reality no one is actually going to celebrate at all. It is telling is it not that for all the "Year of the X" and "Day of celebration for Y" that the big ones like a monarch jubilee are the only ones that draw attention.

Has this desire to cherish and celebrate the obscure and conceptual been born out of the collective myopia, and the wholesale collapse of social camaraderie that once existed? I don't know the answer but I'm off to make a speech and toast to the humble potato now... gawd bless it!

Grumpy Gordon

Let the video download and then fast forward to the end to watch Gordon Brown angrily slam himself down on the bench and look immensely miserable at the kicking he got from Cameron.

Just look that face for a still that doesn't really do justice to the stroppy fit he was clearly about to have.

I sincerely fear for his mobile phone, the desks and the poor woman that makes him tea. Mind the flying cup!
Video via Politics Home

They say size doesn't matter....

But sometimes it's important to compare things like your laptops.
Working from home today.

Stalin - man of the nation?

We have seen in recent weeks how the British Government is squaring up to Russia and how intelligence sources are worried about the seemingly anarchic state. As such we should take this news with seriousness.

When Russians en masse decide that Stalin - a man that made Hitler look like a pussycat when it came to killing his own population - should be the face of the nation one should realise that whilst the "Cold War" ended, the thaw has yet to really take place in the grassroots.

Tipping....

On Tuesday the Independent launched another of its campaign, this time on the issue of tipping in restaurants. As I read it, all that sprung to mind was Mr Pink in Reservoir Dogs.

Personally I'm with Mr Pink. I only tip if its worth tipping, I don't do it as a matter of course. What's more, those that complain about how the tips are used to top up to minimum wage I would say this.

If it is wrong to pay someone minimum wage as per the law then change the minimum wage to compensate for it. Obviously with inflation like it is that will rise quite quickly, but hey, business makes the economy roll, and of the "exploiters of labour" fold then it will become even worse.
N.B. Crazy Thatcherite market fundamentalist post

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Free strawberries and cream at Parliament

How wonderfully civilised! The Parliamentary Information Technology and Communications department are having a jolly little summer party for all the staff and members before they go away (called "Setting You Up For the Summer").

Were I a terrible sysadmin cynic I might think they were trying to suggest that staff and members are not very wise to the world of basic IT security and really were setting them up, however I digress..

Just pop along to the Jubilee Room in Westminister Hall anytime between 10.30am and 4.30am and you can nab yourself a free encrypted memory stick, a remote access token (presumably RSA) and they'll even set your laptop up so you can use wireless connections to browse porn at Starbucks work on the move.

I should be fair and say that the freebie sticks are of a "limited number" and only members are allowed them (they don't get enough free stuff already after all (Hazel Blears should pick one up just in case she gets robbed for the thrid time)). After the freebies have gone they'll cost you £32.30 so they can't be very big capacity ones.

Still on the megaplus side, anyone attending gets to meet CESG which will be a barrel of laughs and they get free strawberries and cream too! Let's hope no one leaves they're laptop on a table and gets it nicked huh?

It does worry me that the PICT department seem terribly nice and helpful. I can only presume that after the party the techies will be swapping tales about what idiot MP said what to the other. Should any of them be reading this do let me know if someone said something stupid (like my coffee cup holder on my PC is not working anymore), I will sdo my best to be discreet.

Kids are evil supporters of the arms trade... And Cameron too!

There are no stupid statements, just stupid people. Thus goes the lifted and slightly altered truism from South Park the Movie. And so it comes to pass today as I read Pandora in the Independent which notes that the anti-arms group, Campaign Against Arms Trade is not amused or happy with David Cameron.

Why? Well apparently he went to the Farnborough Air Show which they say is actually an arms fair, and this makes him a hypocrite on the subject of knife crime. Tell me, truthfully, and honestly, has anyone that wasn't a complete moron of the highest order ever considered a fun day out for kids and adults alike with candy floss, fairground rides and lots of cool aircraft showing off ever considered it an arms fair?

Of course, some of those 'sophisticated' types that do would probably consider this response a rabid reactionary Daily Mail one. Personally I prefer to say that it's a 'not living in cloud cuckoo land' response. Planes are cool and enjoying watching a Typhoon do crazy acrobatics does not make one complicit in the bombs they might drop expect in the dodgy world of idiot fallacious reasoning that so often goes hand in hand with single issue campaigns.

What is 'in Government'

Splendid cock-up from David Aaronvitch in this morning's Times. On the question of taking people who carry knives to see stab victims in hospital he said that 'no one in Government was suggesting any such thing'.

Meanwhile a few pages previously the following transcript from Jacqui Smith on Sky on Sunday is quoted where she is asked, 'one of those proposals is that people caught carrying knives should be taken to see people in hospital who have been stabbed, or to meet th familes of victimes, is that correct?'. Her response? 'It is'.

I guess it is possible that Aaronovitch doesn't consider the Home Secretary to be a position 'in Government'.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Do they watch whilst they drive?

Errrrr... really?

Mr. Maude: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport to what premium Sky, digital terrestrial or cable television channels (a) her Department and (b) each of its agencies subscribes; and at what yearly cost in the most recent period for which figures are available.

Jim Fitzpatrick: At the Department’s two main London HQ buildings CNN is received via Sky and Virgin Media (formerly NTL). Sky Sports is provided as an additional channel for Ministerial Drivers and is received via Sky. The total annual estimated cost in financial year 2007-08 was £9,357.
Shouldn't they be driving rather than watching the latest transfer gossip on a premium subscription channel?

Praise for the Government (SpAds)

A rare moment where I get to praise the Government for not evacuating urine up the proverbial wall on expenses. Apparently since the Department of Transport's inception in 2003 the amount "claimed in reimbursable expenses by special advisers" comes to the grand total of £371.23.

Having said this, the department did manage to spend £566,767.88 on subscriptions to magazine, newspaper and "other publications". Nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more, a nudge is as good as a wink to a blind man!?

Remote access to the "secure" intranet?

Working from home is great when you can do it. Personally I find I get much more work done when at home than when in the office mainly because I aware that people assume you are skiving off.

Of coruse, having remote access to work is usually done through a VPN for added security, although if your computer is already compromised, using a VPN can be complete pointless.

As such you really have to restrict the number of people you give remote access to for added security. I say this because I was surprised to learn just how many people have remote access to the Government Secure Intranet (GSI) across Whitehall.

At DEFRA there are 2000 people accessing the GSI from their homes, in the Ministry of Justice it is 4000 (although they say the laptops are "encrypted" but they give no detail on what that actually means.

The Department for internetaional Development has 1788 people accessing the GSI from remote locations. Are they doing this abroad I wonder and what is the potential for intercept of senstive communications I wonder?

The Treasury has 564 people accessing the network remotely, whilst Cultrue, Media and Sports has 125. If the numbers are like this in just a few department I wonder how many potential leakage and access points there are, in total, to the Government's "Secure" Intranet?
Source: Hansard, multiple days last week

Friday, July 11, 2008

Unnecessary censorship

It's not what they say that is wrong it's your dirty mind. Just remember that.

Via b3ta

The right to discriminate...?

And so it came to pass that on the seventh day identity politics was shown to be the most absurdly contradictory and inherent upholder of all that it seeked to destroy. If you're wondering what I'm talking about it's the news that an orthodox christian registrar in Islingtom has has had her claim of discrimination on religious grounds upheld by a tribunal after the council said she could not refuse to carry out same-sex civil partnership because she considered them sinful.

The gay rights movement is inevitably outraged by this. Outrages Peter Tatchell that it was not a victory for religious liberty but a 'victory for the right to discriminate'. Meanwhile Stonewall's head says that because the women is public servant she can't choose what public services she will do. Thus we now have two distinct identity groups claiming discrimination and each wanting to discriminate. Whoever had won the other side would be claiming the right to discriminate had been upheld for the winner.

What makes no sense is how nobody seems to be able to see this absurdity or dares to question it. What has happened to this country?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

RZZRS PLS ITS 'N MRGNCY!

There seems to be a rather popular motion laid down in Parliament which quite a few MPs have signed up to about blue light emergency services. It states

That this House notes that there is no facility to allow people to use text messages to contact blue light emergency services and believes that such a service could assist people needing to contact the emergency services when unable to speak; and calls on Her Majesty's Government to encourage the mobile telephone industry to come up with a text message 999 number through which blue light emergency services can be contacted.
This got me thinking about what such messages actually say given the prevalence of "txt speech" which removes vowels or replaces words with numbers, or simply has completely new language in it. For example,

I AV JST SEEN SMN SRVNG UP A ENRY 2 KDZ ON TE CRNR. SND TE RZZRS ROUND QCK!!!
I NEED A KBB BCAUS I AV NO MNY, BT HV NO STB VST OR PLC ESCRT. DSTRSSD OF PCKHM!?!
HLP FTHRS FR JSTC R ON MY ROOF MKNG A SCN. WTF?
I ave to say I do love te bit about people needing to contact emergency service wen unable to speak. Picture the scene, you witness gang violence and hide. You can't call the Police for fear of being seen. You text the new service and they reply but your phone is not on silence.

Feel free to come up with your own using this handy translator.

Number crunching

Given the news that a significant sum of benefit fraud committed in the UK is done by people in prison (£3m a year), and that fewer than 7,500 out of 200,000 benefits cheats went to court last year, I found it particularly amusing to read that the DWP spends just over £6m a year on its "No ifs. No buts" campaign to tackle beneift fraud.

Communists in the Ministry of Justice?

According to the Ministry of Justice, they pay £6 per week for the Morning Star. A veritable publication to be sure! Apparently these go to the Private Office so I'm just wondering which of these comrade are the secret communist sympathising reds under the bed?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

ID card "yoof" site forum backfires

Just a quick follow up, but the Home Office's attempt to get down with the kids on it's "My Life My ID" website appears to have backfried if the forum is anything to go by. This includes gems such as

Ah... a site to reassure us that the government ID scheme will be technically sound...

Which has crashed 3 times today and gives a fantastic and unexplained Access Denied error...

Which has an irrelevant method of verification (choose your age... please don't lie to us... pleeeeeaaaasse)

If a simple forum can't be effectively contracted what chance would a huge database which has to be intelinked [sic] and accessible by thousands of organizations every second got.
El Reg picked up on the story at lunchtime too. All very amusing. The site admin has posted saying "This forum is certainly not meant to be propaganda", shame the site has a little emblem stating that it is being run on behalf of the Home Office.

Using the kids to push ID cards

The Government has launched another website, this time called My Life. my ID which is pushing the ID cards policy with specific reference to minors. They like to call them "young people" but given most of the kids interviewed are at a post-16 college, they're actually minors.

The most disgusting part of the whole project is the video with Jacqui Smith in it. In it she says the Government wants to get "young people" involved with ID cards first. The translation of that is, we set the precedent with the kids making them have one by compulsory stealth, and then we just sit and wait for everyone else to die.

Jacqui Smith also talks about so-called "myths" about ID cards, whilst completely missing the point that many of the concerns are about the risks of future Governments. The site also says the card will only cost £30. Let's watch that figure increase.

Someone doesn't know their Berlin

Johann Hari in this morning's Independent has written another of his slightly confused and contradictory pieces, this time it's about the difference between negative and positive liberty, noting

The philosopher Isaiah Berlin said there was an irreconcilable divide between those who believe in "negative liberty" and those who believe in "positive liberty." He was right. The divide survives.....

It's become as fashionable as a Jean-Paul Gaultier handbag to say that the old left/right divide is dead, and from its grave has risen a new divide between libertarians and authoritarians. But this ignores the reality that the left and right have these clashing, conflicting visions of freedom.
My guess is that Hari has only breifly skimmed his Berlin, because if he had read it properly he would be aware that Berlin himself made clear that the clash between negative and positive liberty was a clash between libertarianism (classsical liberalism) and authoritarianism. He also warned of the dangers about the evangelical pursuit of postive liberty.

You can't start a piece praising a philosopher for being right, and then proceed to argue the complete opposite of what the philosopher said, you just make yourself look silly. Having said this, according to Hari, believing in negative liberty is just pandering to the "whack-back-the-state paranoia of the right."

The spook that will haunt Gordon?

"On a matter of principle, I cannot support 42 days' pre-charge detention.... I don't see on a practical basis, as well as a principle one, that these proposals are in anyway workable". Thus spoke Baroness Manningham-Butler, the former Head of MI5 who stood down last year and made her maiden speech in the Lords yesterday.

Such a short, succinct point made by the spook that was in charge of MI5 during July 7th and subsequentterrorist investigation, is, to use a cliche, a 'hammer blow' to Gordon Brown. After all, she should know, right? This does pose the question, what will be the Government's response to this. They're unlikely to rubbish her as being out of touch with new realities, after all, once a spook always a spook. You may not officially work for Five anymore, but you never leave, especially when you get to that level.

There is also the question of 'sub-text' in her words. The current director of the Security Service has been careful to express that he and the service has no view on the proposals. Absolutely righht of course because he's a civil servant who doesn't want to get into the politics. However, Manningham-Butler is not a civil servant anymore, and you have to wonder if when she speaks of 'her' view she is also actually speaking of the services' view as well?

I would be surprised if her words do not come up in PMQ's today. The response will be interesting if it does. After all, I don't think Gordon is doing them given is Japanese excursion for the G8. How will Harriet Harman (assuming she does it) brush aside the view of someone that cannot be easily brushed aside?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Broken (Nihilist) Society?

The cut and thrust of politics is so painfully predictable that when a Tory, in this case David Cameron, notes that social background is only one part of the cause for low outcome (and that we cannot ignore the choices some people take on their road to, for example poverty) that the same old arguments are trotted out from the other parties in response.

Thus, Nick Clegg suggests that Cameron has 'debased' the argument, which is not actually a counter-argument and actually debases the concept of argument. Meanwhile, Denis Macshane rolls up saying its reactionary. Putting aside the reactionary nature of that instant reaction, what is interesting in the criticism is the complete failure to get to grips with the point being argued and instead to argue past it.

So, when Cameron says that we spend too much time looking for external factors for obesity rather than telling the fat brigade that they're eating too much, he is lambasted for his pure evilness. What surprises me most is that when a popular comedian makes exactly the same point no one appears to give a toss. In fact they laugh at the funny joke, and were you to prompt them the phrase "it's funny because it's true" would not be far from their lips.

I know it's just politics, but this tendency toward extrapolating and decontextualising speeches is a little bit tedious and even more so intellectually bankrupt. Instead of engaging with the arguments the response is to assume the electorate is stupid and misrepresent what is being said in as best way possible. This actually has a role to play in stoking the anti-politics that is rife in Britain today.

What Cameron chose to say about obesity, poverty and more crucially right/wrong, good/bad, was actually bang on the money, and his argument is one that, in my personal experience, transcends this Left versus Right stuff. We do have a culture today where judgement is frowned upon, where the phrase "who are you tell me what is right and wrong" is commonplace, and it has come about, dialectically, between competing forces of the Left and Right.

On the Right you have the indvidualism of the 80s (which although generally assumed to be economic was also cultural) , whilst on the Left there has been the pushing of ever greater respect for 'the Other'. So we now have the bizzarre situation where someone expresses their individuality whilst simultaneously never judging others because what is right and wrong for them may not be for others. Thus the glue that has held society together becomes unstuck.

As the glue has melted away 'society', if you can call it that, has gone from believing in something collectively to simply believing in nothing collectively, and so, 'society' becomes broken. Individualism in the 80s and moral relativism in the 90s has brought about nihilism in the 00s. Until we challenge that 'intellectual' underpinning - which is exactly what Cameron was doing yesterday - society will not be fixed.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Blogging will be light to non-existent....

In a meeting for most of the day

Sunday, July 06, 2008

What's good for the goose....

Have just read this post over at Iain Dale's and I have to say I don't agree with all of it. What I do agree with is the point Iain makes about some people on the Left who think anyone who is not white and a Tory has somehow sold out. It's pretty regressive and largely depressing that the politics of race can be reduced down to such low levels.

However, where I disagree with Iain is the general theme that Ray Lewis is a victim of the media mob and that is a sad state of affairs. It is not a sad state of affairs but is what the 24/7 news world has created today.

When the Tories were last in a position of significant power the level of scrutiny was very different. We see this sort of thing happen to Labour politicians all the time, do we complain? Of course not, we join in because it is the other side. Ray Lewis, and any Tory politician for that matter should expect the same.

The way I see it, what is good for the goose is good for the gander. What makes this more interesting I think is that Iain has also posted about a Comment is Free article noting the difference between right and left wing blogs. The general thrust of the CiF piece is that right wing blogs are successful because they are in opposition, and that things will change when they are not.

I don't think that is necessarily the case. It certainly isn't for me. When the Tories are back in Government, and it will happen one day, if this site is still going I will continue to pour over Hansard, submit FoI's and generally moan about "the Government".

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Interesting name for a shop

The other day I was in Milton Keynes and I went past this store (pictured).
Was it wrong of me to imagine a marauding swarm of prostitutes charging people for the privilege of being assaulted?

Friday, July 04, 2008

The Website is Down

The Counter-Counter Culture

There is a brilliant piece from the Evening Standard by Nick Cohen the other day.

Today's young are breaking the cliché that you get more conservative as you get older. Council officials I spoke to were struck by how anxious they were for tough measures to be taken against the gangs which persecute them.

When the new generation grows up and takes over this country, liberals should prepare themselves for a shock. I'm sure they will be more tolerant than their parents of many things, but not, I think, of crime.
Is the Counter-Counter Culture coming?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Blaggers Guide to the US Presidential Election 2008

The dangers of auto-replace

Quite possibly the funniest thing ever. It appears the American Family Association (who don't be liking those gayers) have been doing some auto-replacing on their AP feed for their OneNewsNow site. One such auto-replace is to change the word "gay" to "homosexual" which is not very effective if you're an athlete called Tyson Gay.


Hat Tip: Croydonian for sending me the link.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Ironed Sardines

Note: If you do not care about the left versus right wing blog stuff do not read this. If you want to see someone made to look silly, then read on.

Every now and again in life someone surprises you and today that has happened to me. That someone is John Hirst, the blogger that goes by the name JailHouseLawyer. He's come in for quite a big of stick over the past year or so in the comment sections of some blogs. This is because he was convicted of manslaughter, served his sentence and took the Government to the European Court of Human Rights.

The usual attacks on him have consisted of the words "axe murderer" and the like. He's also had a pop at me more than once on my blog, but I've always just took it as water off a ducks back really, had a little flame war and left it at that. This is because it's just the Internet, and a bit of argument and name calling is just that.

I've rarely agreed with him that's for sure, and to be honest, sometimes he has said things that I've personally found offensive. That said, I don't have the right not to be offended so you just let it go. Today I have seen a side of John Hirst (who for all his faults in relation to where I disagree with him) that was both honourable, honest and basically thoroughly decent. So let me explain with a back story first.

Last November, a certain blogger by the name of Tim Ireland was engaged in a one of his campaigns against a Tory. In this case it was Nadine Dorries MP and related in someway to abortion and something she had said or written. The left wing blogosphere - of which Tim belongs even though he proclaims himself politically neutral - was raging against Nadine.

To be totally honest I can't really remember what all the fuss was actually about apart from that Nadine turned comments on her blog off and it caused lots of chest puffing and indignation. The detail is meaningless to tell you the truth, because it is what followed that this post is really about.

You see, an anonymous blog appeared by the name of Ironed Sardine (an anagram of Nadine Dorries) which carried potentially actionable content about Nadine's private life. At the time, Tim Ireland, posted about the site, and made an insinuation (rather than an accusation) that it was me that had created it.

The theory went like this. I or some other nasty evil right winger, and ergo a friend of Nadine's, had set the blog up and posted about it on left wing blogs in order to associate the Left wing blogosphere with it and thus frame them and hopefully make Tim link to it and become liable. The basis of Tim's insinuation was that because I was online arguing on his blog a few hours before the site appeared I was "in the frame".

As soon as I saw Tim's post I telephoned Nadine in order to assure her that the site was nothing to do with me and to also offer my support and help to her if she needed it on anything relating to her website and the like. I did this even though she's a Liverpool fan and her great grandfather was a founder of Everton.

I didn't bother saying anything at the time because I didn't see the point, Tim's hinting at his view was bollocks anyway so why bother? However, today, Tim Ireland has posted once again about this subject, and in his usual style has done so in a way that implies I had something to do with the site which has since been removed and issued a challenge to me about it.

He's done this because I have published the email exchanges he had where he tried to set me up, and, being so convinced of his theory about the fake Nadine blog, has pondered upon why I have "so far managed to contain [my] outrage about that attempted set-up". The reason is of course simple, there was no set up unlike his attempt directed at me. Here are Tim Ireland's own words about this today

The creator [of Ironed Sardine] was attempting to pose as an opponent of Dorries under comments on several weblogs, thereby establishing those bloggers as co-bullies and publishers of links to clear libel. If it were left at that, it would be potentially damaging to all opponents of Dorries.

If I blogged about the joe-job and/or followed the trail that was so obviously dangled, there was clear risk of repeating the libel myself and making false claims about the person(s)/organisations using the relevant IP address.

Now, I wish to stress here that this was an effort to damage the opponents of Nadine Dorries with no thought for the damage it might cause her; the claims made about her sex life were quite specific and quite explicit.
The IP address in question was 87.102.42.211. A quick whois informs you that it is part of a dynamic broadband pool owned by Kingston Communications. Those unaware, Kingston Communications are basically like BT were, only their monopoly is/was purely in Hull and most people there use them (or have no choice).

Now, as already mentioned, Tim has challenged me saying "What are your thoughts on the unknown author of the 'Ironed Sardine' weblog?". Presumably he is expecting silence, because I'm guilty, or I know which evil right wing bastard is right? Well I'm afraid to inform him that whilst I do have a thought on the unknown author of the 'Ironed Sardine' weblog it wasn't some nasty right winger.

The guilty party emailed me today you see, he is a regular commenter on Tim's blog, he's also someone who regularly attacks the same people Tim does. In fact, Tim, on his "Guido 2.0" blog even went so far as to write lengthy posts defending him. So with no futher ado I hand over to John Hirst's emails.
Hi Dizzy

I don't know what your thoughts are on this...
[link to Tim's post today]

It is not clear whether Tim is suggesting that you were somehow implicated in the setting up of the Ironed Sardine blog.

In any event, I was the author of that blog. The joke backfired. Initially set up as an anagram of Nadine Dories, and attack the Right, the Left instead got upset and I closed the blog.

JHL
Did I mention that John lives in Hull? Anyhow... I replied to John asking him if I could publish the emails (after having a little problem with Gmail) and his response was as follows,
Hi Phil

No the original email did not get through. (Now 2 have followed this one, must have been sent first!).

If you want to run with it, it's up to you. I stick by my original email as being the author of Ironed Sardine.

I am at a loss at to Tim's research over the IP address and my being anonymous. I have a lot of time for him. However, if he is blaming you, he's got the wrong bloke, and I don't like to see the innocent accused of wrong doing especially as in this case I am the guilty party.

John
This evening John has also kindly sent me an old Statcounter traffic report for "s20ironedsardine". That is the traffic counter that Tim saw his IP address in. At the time Tim also sent an email to the Kingston abuse department and today noted he "got nothing back from that report, BTW." That is because abuse departments don't reply to the person filing the report, it's standard practice, but I digress, let's get back to the plot.

One of the things I have quite regularly said is that Tim Ireland deals in pure conjecture. Today he also insinuated that I was making dropped calls to his home when his wife answered and suggested that I would not respond to such questions beyond "screaming 'conjecture'". Funnily enough I did respond to him via email saying
Fuck all to do with me mate. I don't expect you to believe that of course, and clearly I cannot prove a negative, but I suggest having your telco provider bar withheld number at their switch for a start. You have my landline number so feel free to have the records checked. I have called you on two occasions with six calls where we have both hung up on the other. That was one day in March and then one day in June. That's it. Feel free to publish this email if you want, and also feel free to say that you don't believe me if you must.
At the time of writing he hadn't published it, presumably because I did not scream conjecture. However, right now I'm not going to scream that word I am going to calmly explain what it means. You see conjecture occurs when presumptive and defective evidence leads to dangerously flawed inference, and that, I'm afraid to say, is what Tim Ireland has done here.

So I guess, what I'm trying to say to Tim in this post is that my "thoughts on the unknown author of the 'Ironed Sardine' weblog" which smeared someone I consider a friend is that Tim.... you're a great big numpty.... me old mucker!

The lyrics to 'It's A Fact!" seems appropriate again at this point.


With thanks to John Hirst for his honesty

Update: John Hirst comments

Update II: Mr Ireland has admitted his mistake whilst refusing to apologise. He has again suggested that I have been calling him constantly as well, which is completely untrue, but hey ho, I would expect nothing less.

Oh, and Tim, just to clear up this little thing about how I got your phone number. I told you before, someone gave it to me. I didn't say that I hacked a database, or anything like that. That was yet another of your inferences. What I said was merely that there is no such thing as an ex-directory phone number and you have leapt to the conclusion of a changing story.

Now, seriously, let it go and move on.


 

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