Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Climate Change peer review FAIL

A couple of years ago, I did a post that climate change activists at the "Camp for Climate Change" were campaigning against so-called climate change deniers with the argument that they were "armed only with peer reviewed science", something which was always a silly thing to say, and now it's been shown to be the case.

The Register reports that at least eight Academic papers which used tree ring data to plot a historical record of temperatures are flawed, and peer review failed to pick up the errors. Some of the papers are from quite senior climatologists at the British climate research centre CRU at the University East Anglia.

Now, before someone screams that I'm a "climate change denier", I'm not. However, I'm also not a "climate change believer". What I have never accepted is the argument that there is a "scientific consensus" on the subject and therefore I must accept it as true. This news of peer review failure on climate research simply validates that view. Anyhow, the article is quite long so off you go and read it .

Is Kerry McCarthy delusional or just a n00b?

I'm seriously starting to worry about the sanity of Kerry McCarthy MP. No, I'm not suggesting that she's on tablets or anything like - although some of the things she is saying do sometimes make me think "put down the crack pipe love" I must admit. You see, Kerry McCarthy is the Labour Party's "Twitter Tsar". She's in charge of getting Labour to engage with "teh Interweb", and, like a typical n00b, she's appears to be getting somewhat lost up in the influence it, and things like Twitter, actually have.

This sort of thing happens quite a lot when people first start talking online heavily. They start to merge VR and RL and forget the demarcation. They start to think that what goes on in VR is known about by everyone in RL and actually has a massive influence on the non-VR world. This has led Kerry McCarthy to say that "proper politics" is happening on Twitter, where a user can post a message with a maximum of 140 characters. As Iain Dale has noted, on the news that Sun had backed Labour, she also said "Labour doesn't need The Sun. We've got Twitter."

The thing is, a quick look on Tweetminster will show you that MPs, Labour, Tory and Lib Dem alike, have an average of around 400 or so "followers" of their updates each. Cabinet ministers have a tendency to be in the low thousands, but what does that really mean when you have a constituency with an average of says 60,000 voters? Not a lot I would say. The chances are for Cabinet ministers more of their followers are not from their constituency than are. Now compare this to the circulation of national newspapers.

The Sun has a readership of around 10,000,000 (according to them), that's over 15% of the entire country, including children who cannot vote, take the children out and it's even more. Throw in the circulation of other papers, and the reach and influence they have makes the influence of Twitter negligible at best, and laughable at worst. Yet here we have Labour's supposed Internet guru thinking that Twitter is the tool to save them. She's not just bought the hype, she's riding on it like a wave.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the Internet doesn't have an influence. The impact of Google results in conjunction with widely read blogs, can mean that individuals can shift and move agendas. Likewise, Twitter can have a very small role. However, the idea that MPs and political activists posting 140 character messages on an unmoderated streaming service where they are essentially talking to each other is not anything like as powerful Kerry McCarthy thinks.

The unmoderated point is important too because messages can be good and bad. Twitter has the wonderful thing called hashtags which allows users to group messages together under a subject. Over the summer we had the #welovethenhs tag which soared up Twitter and hit the mainstream news. However, I believe even the Labour MP Tom Watson - who is a geek at heart - noted recently that Labour actually killed that natural development on Twitter by jumping on the bandwagon, because it was never meant to be about party politics.

If Kerry McCarthy seriously believes that (a) "proper politics" can happen in 140 character messages which are often devoid of vowels to save on space, and (b) that Twitter is more influential on party politics and elections than the mainstream media, then I fear she is becoming delusional. Saying that though, she is still a n00b, and as I said, this sort of merging of VR and IR is common when you get started in the big bad world of online communication.
VR = Virtual Reality
RL - Real Life

Brown takes on the BNP by adopting their policies

It's interesting to note that yesterday, Gordon Brown praised Harriet Harman and said that there should be no place in British politics for the BNP - which got masses of applause - and then proceeded to push proposals for what have been described as 'gulags for slags', or my own choice 'slut reception centres' which will deal with teenage mothers.

The policy got a massive round of applause too from the audience, yet I wonder whether they're aware, as revealed by Guido, that just like "British Jobs for British Workers" a year ago, this shiny 'new' policy is also straight out of the BNP policy handbook?

Is this what Brown meant when he said he would take the fight to the BNP and squeeze them out of the British democratic process? To scream and shout about what vicious ignorant bastards they are and then lift their phrases and push their policies as dog whistles to snare back the voters that have left them for the BNP?

Can you imagine what Labour would have said if a Tory stood up next week and proposed this for teenage mothers? There would have been consternation and outrage.

In the cold light of day this morning, I expect we'll see yet more of this speeches' policy announcements and statements pulled apart. Whether it's shifting figures by 100,000; offering "change" by saying he would have policies from the 1997 manifesto' or proposing "change" by re-announcing policies or taking from those he says he despises. The speech was full of holes.

It's going to be an interesting few months to May.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

* The Sun doesn't come up for Labour *

They say that the world ends when the sun doesn't come up. It hasn't come up for Labour, but it has come up for the Tories.


"Some people are on the pitch... they think its all over!... it is now."


Update: The Sun editorial can be read here. It appears that last night the Sun did a round-robin email to bloggers with the cover. An interesting development.

Did Labour pay royalties?

Spotted by the ever sound Torybear. Labour have this poster in Brighton.

And the people that do the 16-25 railcard have this.

Hope they paid the royalties.

Gordon Brown's "porky pie" speeches

Another little porky pie from Brown

And by changing the way the courts deal with repossessions and by guaranteeing help to homeowners in difficulty, we have helped 300,000 families with advice with their mortgages and have helped thousands to stay in the homes they’ve worked so hard for and were in fear of losing.

Gordon Brown speech to the TUC, September 15th 2009

And then we faced the mortgage choice –to do nothing as repossessions rose or save the family homes people have worked so hard to buy. 200,000 homeowners given direct government support to stay in their home.

Gordon Brown speech to Labour Conference, September 29th 2009
Make your mind up on your figures Gordon. You're dissembling is on this subject is sounding like when you talk about apprenticeships and borrowing/debt.

Gordon Brown Conference Speech - Live Blog

More follows shortly

  • Gordon gets the wife to introduce him. How sweet. She's introducing a video about people who know Gordon well - kids by any chance?
  • Apparently Sarah's love for Gordon makes him the "Man for Britain" - pass the sickbag
  • Labour Government's make the country better - forgot the 'winter of discontent' has she?
  • Music is "Move on up" - it would be inappropriate to make a joke about uppers.
  • Funny, where was Blair in that video?
  • Change change change - Bowie moment?
  • So here we go as trailed. Its all about "change" and "fight".
  • So... let me get this straight. He's all about "change" but everything he's done is good. How does that work?
  • Thanks Harriet Harman for being sexist.
  • Arse licks Alistair 'unsackable' Darling.
  • A "special relationship" joke about Peter Mandelson. Wasn't that said a couple of days ago too?
  • Says no British savers lost money.... errr Iceland?
  • Says more in work than in 1997 - ignores unemployment figures.
  • Lies about mortgage figures again. Says 200,000 people helped but at the TUC conference he said it was 300,000. Slight problem, his own Government's figures dispute him here on both counts.
  • Here we go, he's talking about apprenticeship.. bet he makes some figures up again.
  • Apparently, the NHS is a liberation.
  • Government will be on people's side - so why interfere in people's lives so much?
  • Change has reappeared again.
  • Wants a new model for the economy - thus to be new he's using Keyensianism which is errrr old.
  • Says invention from Britain must be manufactured in Britain - until India does it cheaper of course.
  • Says spending will increase in schools. Contradicts Ed Balls no?
  • Going to have 10,000 new internships - bet they;re on less than minimum wage.
  • Will raise tax and National insurance - NI raise will screw everyone. Nice.
  • Talking about the grants for 16-18 year old to stay in school and says everyone will have to stay in school. Bet he cuts the grant.
  • Restoring earning link for state pension - re-announcement
  • He's going to take kids that have kids into care - for reeducation? - nice attack on single mums.
  • He's basically listing his manifesto with pie in the sky uncosted plans. The Tories will surely skewer the proposals?
  • Genius! He's going to give local authorities the power to ban 24 hour drinking - a law his party introduced!
  • There are going to be "action squads" who will have monthly meetings about what to do. Efficient!
  • He says there will be no compulsory ID cards for British citizens - isn't that the policy at the moment and its already a U-turn?
  • Brown does the West Wing cancer speech..... again!
  • There is going to be free elderly care in the home for all. I thought that was called the District nurse and already existed.
  • Brown makes a commitment to PR referendum in the Labour manifesto - like the commitment of a Lisbon Treaty/EU Constitutution referendum?
  • 1997 Labour manifesto : "We are committed to a referendum on the voting system for the House of Commons." - YOU decide.
  • Here we go, he's doing the crap extrapolation of taking a figure and making it equivalent to X number of policeman.
  • Tory bashing is back now, after his re-announcements of old policies including 12 year old promises.
  • "Never stop believing in the good sense of the British people" - hope he remembers that when he loses.
  • And we're done.
Summary:

Re-announcements of commitments made in the 1997 Labour manifesto. U-turns announced on 24 hour drinking. General expected Tory bashing. Further continuation of lies over mortgage holders helped by the Government.

Final Note:

Brown left the stage to M-People's Moving On Up, released in 1994. Given the rehashing of 1997 manifesto commitments, it really is clear he and Labour are living in the past.

Dale launches Bracknell campaign site...

Anyone reading Iain Dale's blog this morning will have seen he's posted something titled Why I'd Like to be MP For Bracknell. If you're were wondering where the banner on his post is from, it's from what is his official campaign site for the Open Primary hosted on iaindale.net.

I guess these sort of campaign websites to become the candidate, before a campaign website as the candidate will start to be a lot more common if open primaries are taken up by the other parties as well and so become the norm.

It's kicking in Brighton!

A thrilling conference clearly, this is what the BBC showed us whilst Sheila Bearcroft, President of the TUC, was droning on.

Taking things literally....

I found this response to a Freedom of Information request rather amusing,

I refer to your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 for information asking: -
  • How long have you been doing your job (taken to be a question addressed to me)
I started in my current position on the 25 September 2006.
  • How would you as an individual define theft (again taken to be a question addressed to me)
This information is not held by the Department for Transport as it is my personal opinion
on the matter.
  • How many times in the past has the job of Secretary of State for Transport been held by a House of Lords representative and the length of time the job was held
The Department for Transport was formed in May 2002. One House of Lords representative has held the position of Secretary of State since then. Andrew Adonis was appointed on the 5 June 2009 and is the current Secretary of State for Transport.
Something tells me the person submitting the request was addressing the first two question to Lord Adonis. I bet the civil servant that answered knew it too but laughed when he responded - I would have.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Labour social media tsar says Mandelson is a liar?

What do you mean Kerry when you say "Mandy shd know?"
Hmmmmm.

Funny because it's true....

Might my warped sense of humour have got the better of me?

Oh dear, what might I have done? Back in April, at the height of the expenses scandal, some may remember that Gordon Brown put a video on YouTube. When this appeared I posted saying he looked bonkers and was "bouncing about like fucking Tigger.".

The following day, I was working from home and I was listening to Nirvana's Nevermind, and in particular the track "Lithium". I had what I considered to be a flash of brilliance and posted this which took the piss out of Brown and suggested that he was on lithium.

In June, I then posted this which made a joke about ecstasy and said "Perhaps this explains the manic gurning and smiles in his YouTube videos. He's been off his box on pills!".

I mention this because I've just had a conversation with a Guardian journalist who is researching the genesis of the "Brown is on medication" rumour which appeared here and Guido linked too after Matthew Norman in the Independent picked up on it.

The Guardian hack asked me, and this is no word of lie, whether my posts about tablets contained some sort of subliminal hidden knowledge about the rumour. As I said to him then, and I'm saying now should anyone suggest otherwise.

It was a joke.

Quite a funny one in my opinion I have to say. After all, Gordon Brown, when he does his YouTube videos, does look like he's on something. Bouncing around, smiling at the wrong time, licking his lips etc. If he had chewing gum and a bottle of water in his hand he wouldn't look that out of place in a rave.

Just wanted to clear that up in case I find my rather warped, yet thoroughly unique sense of humour, blamed for starting something. I severely doubt I have that much influence though.

Update: Krishnan Guru-Murphy has interviewed John Ward about his post.

Liam Byrne's unwitting pop at Baroness Scotland?

Liam Byrne has just told the Labour Conference that,

"we cannot and will not forget there are 5 million people in this country who still earn less than £6.67 per hour"
Wonder if he's going to have a word with Baroness Scotland about the rate she paid her illegal immigrant housekeeper?

Angela Smith is lying

Angela Smith is lying, as Fraser Nelson has pointed out. Last night she vehemently stuck to the line, perpetuated by Brown who is also a liar, that Gordon Brown paid down debt before the recession, he did not.

He borrowed and increased debt before the recession faster than a whore would open their legs for a punter. He even told us he was doing it in each of his budget speeches when he did it, and no one, not the Tories or the media seemed to bother pulling him up on his dissembling.

Back in November 2008, I posted a list of quotes from his budget speeches which showed each year how is previous statements were false. I then had them plotted as a graph just to illustrate it. The red line is the real path of borrowing debts, the dotted lines are what Brown predicted the borrowing debt would be on the following years. He may have said borrowing debts would go down, but they didn't.

Click Image for larger Version
It is truly astounding that Angela Smith and others including Brown would continue to push this 100% bullshit deceit on us. The fact is, Brown kept standing at the Dispatch Box saying his debt would go down, and yet it went up.

The one single year that borrowing debts went down, it still placed it an order of magnitude higher than his starting position. Gordon Brown, Angela Smith and other are plain and simple liars. Debt was not paid down in the years preceding the recession, it was increased rapidly.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Lord Lea and the lovely exotic dancer....

This is the Labour life peer, Lord Lea of Crondall, on a Parliamentary junket/fact finding mission on Climate Change in the pacific islands during August. He's going to be one of a number of politicians featuring in tomorrow's Dispatches on Channel 4, MPs, Planes and Gravy Trains.

If you're wondering, yes, he is placing money on to the oily body of a local woman whilst being up on stage with her. It's OK, its a "traditional" dance apparently. I hope he hasn't got a pacemaker!

Who do you think paid for this little "fact finding mission"?

On THAT question.....

I have to admit I was as surprised as most to hear Andrew Marr ask Brown about the prescription medication rumours. That said, I think the denial from Brown was, when framed with the question, not necessarily the end of it, this is what was said,

Andrew Marr: "A lot of people in this country use prescription painkillers and pills to help them get through. Are you one of them?"
Gordon Brown: "No."
Now - and it may just be my overly cynical mind seeing this I admit - but what Brown did was deny he was using prescription medication to help him 'get through'. He did not deny that he might be taking prescription medication.

Just saying.

Update: Reading the papers this morning (Monday) it seems that this is all being dismissed as an "extreme right wing" smear from the Internet. I just had a look back in my archive and see the first time I suggested he was on pills was that it was ecstasy. Odd though, I'm sure the actual references to it all started in the MSM comment sections.

Who will be Cain and who will be Abel?

Labour Conference starts, and, on cue, the leadership specualtion begins. Apparently, "sources" say Peter Mandelson would support Ed Miliband to replace Brown, if, as expected, Brown loses the next General Election.

Meanwhile, a Cain and Abel style showdown is brewing as David Miliband, once again on the eve of a conference, has given an interview to the Independent on Sunday which is describes as his "pitch" and he's making all those noises he made last year - will he blink again though?

We'll know by the end of the week, because if the rumours are true, there may soon be political fireworks.

In other news, Gordon Brown is trying to tell people he's a man for the middle classes and will always do things in their interests. The price of bacon just went up too.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

I predict Iranian silliness!

The news that Iran has admitted to having a secret uranium enrichment plant - presumed to have been admitted because the news was about to go public thanks to Western intelligence - certainly places Iran's credibility in saying it only wants nuclear energy in serious doubt.

However, if you want a good laugh at a Noam Chomsky-esque piece which blames it all on American, Israel and the outposts of evil American imperialism in the Middle East, then do read Adrian Hamilton's take on the subject in this morning's Independent. You see, apparently this whole thing with Iran has merely been "busily stoked up by Israel, some of Iran's Arab neighbours and the American right".

I bet very soon the "Stop the War" coalition will spring into action, with the hilarious consequence that a group including pro-nuclear disarmament activists and anti-nuclear environmentalists will be defending Iran's nuclear ambitions from the evil Western hegemony.

Oh how I love this mad, bad and crazy world in which we live!

I'm so bored with BBC bias conspiracy theories

You know the dying days of the Labour Party in Government are upon us when the Culture Secretary, Ben Bradshaw (former BBC employee on the Today programme if I recall correctly) accuses the BBC of being biased toward the Tories. Of course, "BBC Bias" is a common complaint in UK politics. Most is usually directed from the Right towards the Left it must be said.

Sadly though it is a subject that rarely gets looked at properly because when the accusations fly, it is often dressed up as if it were a genuine co-ordinated liberal conspiracy - this as I understand it was one of the reasons that the site Liberal Conspiracy was so named i.e. that it was mocking the Right's protestations.

The problem though is slightly more complex than that but, in the classic hyperbole that passes for political debate on the subject the complexity tends to get lost. You rarely see the sophisticated argument about BBC impartiality put forward that says the BBC is not impartial but it's also not intentionally biased.

There is, for some strange reason, this misplaced belief by many that it is possible to be "objective" when analysing politics and/or social matters. However it is a myth, deftly expressed by Karl Mannheim in Ideology and Utopia and is commonly called the Mannheim Paradox.

The paradox notes that political and social analysis, which is essentially ideological based analysis, is always produced by a subject who in turn is subject to the same ideological scrutiny they perform on others.

At the BBC, as pointed out by the former BBC man, Robin Aitken, in Can we trust the BBC, there are a majority of people of self-declared left-leaning stance, it therefore follows that, through no fault of their own, their analysis with have a tendency towards bedrock assumptions that the group accept as self-evident.

This is why I don't think the BBC is intentionally biased. After all, if you have a group of journalists who all generally accept, for example, that public spending is a good thing, then you're analysis will display that bias, unwittingly, in the way reductions in spending are seen in their negative impact.

We're all set to see it in its full glory soon as the election draws nearer. Watch and listen to the way proposals of cuts will be reported with a dominant analysis about their negative impact rather than their positive impact on the general health of the balance sheet and the economy.

As I say though, it's not some big conspiracy where a cabal of BBC journalists get together and plot to push their agenda. It's just the impossibility of objectivity in social and political analysis with the added bonus of groupthink. If everyone has much the same world view and bedrock assumptions, then critical analysis of those assumptions won't happen, nor will they ever likely be discussed.

Of course, there is a structural problem at the BBC that doesn't help this, and that is the conflation of news and comment which is far more the norm these days. News is often reported with follow up comment by a correspondent. The demarcation between facts and opinion has become blurred.

This isn't just a problem for the BBC though, nor is it a problem that is only about the Left and media. If the BBC had a majority of right wing journalists the coin would be flipped. The most obvious example where the Right is dominant would be Fox News - which rather hilariously tries to calls itself "fair and balanced".

The reality is the BBC and other media is not objective. In some cases it can be deliberate, but most often, and I think this is certainly true of the BBC, it is unintentional. There is no big conspiracy of bias, but bias there is.

And yes, for the clever amongst you, this post and my view is subject to the same paradox mentioned above, but in my defence, I never claimed I was being objective.

Friday, September 25, 2009

This picture is photoshopped....

What picture? Hah.. caught you! The post title is because of this little story about the French Parliament considering a new law that will legally require anyone publishing images that are photoshopped to state they are photoshopped. In other words, they want you to know something has been airbrushed.

Incidentally, I just committed trademark infringement by using the word "photoshopped". Adobe says so,

The Photoshop trademark must never be used as a common verb or as a noun....

Trademarks are not verbs.

Correct: The image was enhanced using Adobe® Photoshop® software.
Incorrect: The image was photoshopped.
You have been warned! If you're wondering how I know this I googled it! ;-)

Nazism 2.0?

The world is truly coming to an end when fascist dictatorship and Internet culture come together like this.

*smashes head into keyboard*
Via franklicio.us

Update: How positively charming, Stormfront have linked to this and are no doubt privately discussiing getting one themselves. *head* *keyboard* *smash* *again*.

If in doubt, pat your own back!

The Department for International Development did it, and now the Cabinet Office is following suit. What am I talking about? That would be declaring yourself the best in the world at something and putting a press release with a headline that suggests someone else might have said it about you.

You see, back in April, the DFID told us a report had declared them a "world leader" only to go on to say that the report was written by the Government about itself.

Today, the Cabinet Office has put out a press release titled, Britain's third sector - "the best in the world". It goes on to say,

Britain's charity and voluntary organisations are the "best in the world", says Angela Smith, Minister for the Third Sector
Well that certainly proves it, the Minister said so.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The cost of - Scottish - politics

Having a quick break from Tomcat so thought I would present a random factoid. David Cameron has said quite a bit about the "cost of politics" and I was surprised to just learn what the cost of Scottish politics is to the British taxpayer.

Over the past five years, according to information released under Freedom of Information, Scottish MSPs cost the British taxpayer - in salaries and expenses - £78,582,000. The price of devolution huh?

Village Notice.....

Whilst I have almost fully recovered from what may very well have been swine flu, I have lots of things to build* today so there will probably be no blogging until late this afternoon if I'm lucky.

Sorry.

* By "build" I mean servers etc and computamaboms.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: Demon Internet/Microgen distributes 3000+ usernames and passwords

This morning, it appears that Demon and/or a third party supplier have made a serious security breach. An email has been sent out relating to Demon's new e-Bill system, which is provided by a company called Microgen. The email advises what appear to be business customers of their new username and passwords for the system and states,

We have attached an easy guide on how to access your documents.
Sadly, they also included another attachment along with the "easy guide on how to access your documents". It's a comma separated value file (csv) called thurs.csv which contains 3681 customer records detailing - amongst other things - names, phone number, email addresses and user IDs and passwords.

These include gov.uk accounts such as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Audit Commission. and a large number of local councils. Someone using the details would, potentially, be able to login into the billing set-up for these organisations and gain detailed sensitive information.

I believe the phrase "whoops" applies.

I am currently trying to contact Demon about this, and have spoken to Microgen and waiting for a callback. I am still trying to establish if this cock-up occurred on the Demon or the Microgen side.

UPDATE: The above has been corrected as the "easy guide" was also attached and this file appears to be an additional attached file.

Update II @ 10:06am: Microgen are currently looking into this with Demon.

Update III @11:45: The Register is reporting that Demon are changing people's usernames and password.

How do you do that?

*confused*

Note: This post has been moved below the Demon one.

Ahh bless... look at the children!

I'm confused. Whilst I personally think that Lord Ashcroft taking over more than a 50% share in ConservativeHome is a bad thing for ConHome simply because it has prided itself as independent of CCHQ and this funding will always make that position questionable.*

However, what I don't understand is this mass resignation from answering a daily tracking poll question on PoliticsHome - which Ashcroft also now owns part of. Apparently a really bloody stupidly rich Tory buying a stake in the site previously wholly owned by a really bloody rich Tory is just a step too far dammit!

Now, I could understand this, perhaps, if PoliticsHome was in anyway a site that contained masses of its own original content, but it isn't. If, for example, ConservativeHome had this panel from across the spectrum and they all resigned I could understand that too - as already mentioned, I think ConservativeHome's independence from CCHQ will be forever questioned now.

Iain Dale has called the reaction the very worst kind of gesture politics. I would go further and say rather than it being gesture politics, it's exactly the sort of political nerdery masquerading as some sort of principled stand that normal people - in other words, not political nerds - think is childish. Although that assumes that normal people are even paying attention, which to be fair they aren't.

I guess it makes those resigning all feel fluffy inside though as they take a stand against the evil and terrible news aggregation site that has such Internet reach and depth. Frankly I think it's brilliant to see that they've made a principled distinction between an owner that is filthy rich and one that is filthy-filthy rich. I wish I had that sort of courage and conviction!

* Note I say 'questionable' because it is not necessarily true that the editorial policy will be compromised. Only a complete idiot would deploy such circumstantial arguments as factual realities.

Monday, September 21, 2009

That t-shirt already exists Eric


Apparently there is an official Tory competition taking place for some new Tory slogan t-shirts. One of the entires is a "Don’t blame me I voted Tory" t-shirt.

Why it's so original that I've had one for three years already. You can have one too.

Book now?.... maybe not

I'm not sure what to say about this website (pictured) other than he's not very convincing.


In other news, I was mildly amused to see that someone has, in advance, registered impeachdavidcameron.com. Presumably it's been done in case Cameron starts some wars that vast numbers of unwashed nihilistic moral relativists think are illegal.

Nothing to shout home about....

I understand they have to do press releases, but this one is hardly something to be too pleased about,

Civil servant John Brian Agdomar and an accomplice, Olanekan Omatayo Ogunmekan [whilst working at the DWP], are today behind bars after being caught out by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) investigators. Between them the pair fabricated more than 1,400 fictitious children, hijacked hundreds of identities and illegally claimed more than £1.2m in tax credits.
What they;re basically saying is that the security procedures in the DWP are rubbish, and any silly sod working there can easily scam the taxpayer for over a million and if he's a little cleverer he can probably not get caught.

Onwards to three weeks of extended silly season

They say silly season ends with the beginning of September, but lets be honest, it doesn't really end until party conferences are over, right? That's the time where, for three weeks solid, we get to hear the top line policy ideas and then the mad cap stupid ideas that usually generate from the great unwashed membership of either sandal wearing hippies in the case of the Lib Dems; donkey jacket wearing shop stewards in the case of Labour; or blue rinsers screaming for the internment of pikeys.*

And so we start this week with the Lib Dems, who have thus far proposed a tax on all homes worth over a million pounds, where you have to pay 0.5% on the difference between a million and the value of your home. The Lib Dems say this will raise a billion or so. How, exactly, you can predict the amount of cash raised from a tax on the difference between one million and a value that is constantly moving because of the housing market I have no idea, but Uncle Vince is apparently going to say you can.

I wonder too what calculation they've done on the administrative cost of taxing someone 0.5 pence on a house worth £1,000,001? More so, who decides what the value of your house is each year? surely the only time you know the value of a house is when you sell it, or the day that you buy. At all other times it's a matter of pure speculation based against a market. Are we going to see tax inspectors become house valuers? Is it going to be a case that they get three valuations and arbitrarily take the highest?

Like I said, silly ideas for the extended silly season. I expect there will be more during the coming weeks. This is politics after all.
* Yay for across the board stereotyping!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

James Macintyre calls New Statesman readers "freaks"

Should anyone be interested in reading some weak argument by a professional journalist, followed by the same professional journalist throwing his toys out of his pram when his readers tell him he's wrong, then I can highly recommend a blog post at the New Statesman by James Macintyre.

The post has been pulled from the New Statesman website (presumably due to shame), but currently sits in Google's cache here (including comments). It gets especially funny when Macintyre responds to what he considers abuse by sugessting his readers by asking them if they're "scared of daylight" and "only come out at night", and then suggetss they're probably not "normal".

Friday, September 18, 2009

Why can't the Telegraph be as nice as Private Eye?

No, I'm not back, I've only just surfaced for Lemsip and will be sleeping again shortly, but I just wanted to post because a piece in the Telegraph has been drawn to my attention. It';s written by Tim walker (edited by Richard Eden) and is titled Does leadership website disclose David Miliband's true intentions?

If you read my one and only post yesterday it may sound familiar to you. That's because it's a rewritten version of my post. Imitation, flattery etc etc. I wonder though, why the Telegraph can't be as nice as Private Eye when it comes to using posts?

Back in July I did this post. At the beginning of August, Private Eye got in touch and asked if I minded if they used. I cheerily told them they could use it, without credit no less, if I could have free subscription, which they duly arranged.

Now that is surely the way it ought to work. I was quite chuffed really, as I can now write into the Editor of Private Eye and threaten to cancel my subscription in disgust as per the contractual requirements of subscription holders to said organ. Anyhow, must log off now.

P.S. FYI to the Telegraph hacks. The invoice is on its way ;-)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Did Harman have a role in June's failed coup?

On June 4th 2009 that James Purnell stunned many of his colleagues and dramatically resigned from the Cabinet starting rampant speculation of an orchestrated Cabinet coup against Gordon Brown.

During the frantic period following his resignation there was much talk about who would follow him. There were rumours that Miliband would resign as well, forcing Brown into an untenable position. Miliband, as you will recall, did eventually come out and support Brown.

Within a matter of days of Purnell's resignation, reports were surfacing that Purnell was furious at Miliband's capitulation and lack of cajones. There were claims of betrayal on the part of Miliband by sources close to Purnell, suggesting that some sort of plan had been hatched and then, presumably, been ruined by Miliband bottling it.

However, what I can reveal is that just two days before Purnell resigned, on June 2nd, the former web manager for Harriet Harman's deputy leadership campaign, Jon Worth, registered and began work on a "Miliband for Labour Leader" which can still be seen at miliband4leader.org, and is hosted where Worth hosted Harman's campaign website, along with the official GLA Labour website amongst others.


Was this merely a speculative site, set up with rather fortunate coincidental timing to the coup by a web designer with exceptionally close links to the Cabinet?

Or was it set up in the knowledge that Miliband was meant to follow Purnell out of the door and take a push at the leadership?

Did Harriet Harman know that this site had been set-up? Was it done with the hope that its timing - just before the coup attempt happened - might show Miliband in a poor light as a schemer and allow her to present herself as the unity candidate for the Labour leadership?

Was Harriet Harman herself involved in the moves against Brown in June? Did she hope to orchestrate a leadership contest? Was there a plot within a plot?

God knows! So many questions!
Note: I would call Jon but I don't have a number for him and I'm still coughing up phlegm and sneezing.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Not swine, just flu

Should anyone be wondering where the post are today, I have been ill, and still am ill. Have been sleeping all day and am going back to bed shortly.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My sincere apologies......

I realise you may not get the time back but you know you want to click.... go on CLICK!

I pity da fool!

Most WTF? video I've ever seen.

Tory domain squats on Harriet and Huhne?

Should the rumours that Harriet Harman is push-polling against Brown and mobilsing, perhaps she might want to look at getting her domain names sorted in preparation too? She currently runs her site from harrietharman.org and harrietharman.org.uk. However, harrietharman.com is for sale.

She could try and get harrietharman.co.uk though which currently looks like.... errr..... this.


Yes, that is Chris Huhne. If you're wondering, it doesn't redirect to his real site, rather it goes to chrishuhne.co.uk.

Both domains are owned by a guy called Andrew Rossell who lives in Beaconsfield. This may or may not be the same Andrew Rossell that is a researcher for the Conservative Friends of Bangladesh and looks after their website which was also registered in errrr... Beaconsfield.

The battle of ideas has been conceded by Brown

So it seems that Brown is finally going to do the mother of all U-turns today and use the word "cuts". There is much commentary on this, saying that the battle lines for the next election are, as the Guardian put it, "a choice between nice Labour cuts at some undefined point in the future against nasty Tory ones now."

The thing is, when you think about it for a second, hidden within the language of that argument there remains the same original battle line. After all if Labour are going to have nice cuts, ergo cut less, then they can still make the claim that they're spending more. Tory cuts versus Labour investment remains intact, it's only the words that have changed.

In a strange way though, the change in language is almost like a repeat of the Tories 2005 election argument. Back then they tried, and failed, to argue that they would increase spending only do it slower than Labour. We now appear to have Labour trying to argue that they will cut spending only do it slower.

It's quite a nuanced argument which makes it a risky strategy. Especially when you couple it with the inevitable arguments that will be leveled against Labour - that they recklessly spent in the good times, so why should anyone trust them not to continue to be reckless in the bad times? There is also another positive side for the Tories in this change of language.

If Labour are now going to talk about cuts, it effectively neutralises one of the standard play book attack line that its specialised in for the last 15 years, the formula of which looks like this.

Ul = c \ uc
That is, an argument will be deployed that talks of an arbitrary unit loss (Ul), which is calculated by taking the value of a proposed cut (c) and dividing it by the unit cost (uc) of the given arbitrary thing. For example, if the unit cost of one teacher is £1, and a cut of £1000 in back office functionality in the Department for Children, Schools and Families is proposed, then it will be argued that the cut means a loss of 1000 teachers.

Whilst it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Labour would continue to use this formula to extrapolate a nastier endgame for a Tory cut than their own, it seems unlikely. After all, are they really going to want to have an argument where they say "ahh yes, but we're only going to lay off 9,000 policeman unlike those bastards over there who are going to lay off 10,000"?

By switching tack and trying to make the dividing line one of nuance, between who can cut less but still cut, what they've actually done is show that they're losing the argument and having to follow the lead of others. That I would imagine is the line that Tories will take to Labour now.

It's not going to be "cuts vs. cuts" as some say, but rather "leadership of ideas vs. subordination to those ideas". Where Tony Blair famously in Opposition said to Major, "I lead my party. He follows his", in 2010 the battle line switch by Labour means Cameron can say, "I lead my party. He follows mine".

Monday, September 14, 2009

Did she buy a turkey baster?

Well? Did she?Source

Did lots of people get fired then?

Anyone know what might have happened at the Food Standards Agency. Currently they're recruiting for advertising for the following:


Bit odd too have so many senior board level posts available all at once isn't it?

Election Guide website hacked by Dark Wizard

It appears the Dark Lord is back and trying to interfere with elections.


Hat Tip: Croydonian

Burnham lays groundwork for "diverted blame" policy

According to this morning's Telegraph, Andy Burnham is planning on introducing new measures which mean budgets for hospitals will be allocated on general user experience of the service. In other words, if a hospital gets lots of complaints about the food then it will lose some money.

Presumably the theory here is that the potential loss of money will be an incentive for bad hospitals to become good hospitals. Please put aside the more realistic situation where hospital A has crap food, receives complaints; has its budget cut; spends less on food because it can't afford more; has its budget cut etcetera etcetera.

Reading between the lines though, the policy seems more like a cheap political ploy. It's about (a) being seen to acknowledge that the NHS can be crap sometimes in the wake of reports showing it to be the case, and more importantly (b) passing the blame for any cuts on to hospitals and moaning patients.

Quite clever really.

Friday, September 11, 2009

She who must not be named?

Pretty unbelievable that a British Government department would produce a document Women in Power: Milestones which named the woman from politics around the world and the dates of their influence with the exception of naming just one, who happened to hold the highest political office in the land for over a decade.

Click image for Larger Version and look at 1979

Clearly Harriet Harman has delusions that she's Hermione Granger and Thatcher is her Voldemort. Do they whisper "she who must not be named" in her office?

Hat Tip: James Kirkup

Tackling the cokeheads....

Brown avoids the question again....

From Hansard on Wednesday

Mr. Hurd: To ask the Prime Minister for what reasons the comment facility on his video on Parliamentary expenses reform posted to the Downing Street YouTube portal is not enabled.

The Prime Minister: It is not possible to post comments on any Downing street YouTube video. My Office does however receive and respond to many other comments each year through e-mails, letters, ePetitions, webchats and Twitter.
I think what he meant to say was "Comments are disabled because I have big enough mental problems already without the users of YouTube telling me I look like a gurning freak".


Note: The video joke above was originally made way back in April.

When will Gordon comment on the most popular petition?

Yesterday, Gordon Brown issued a statement about the way Alan Turing was treated just because he was gay - which is fair enough. He did it in response to a petition on the Number 10 website that got 30,870 signature and said,

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to apologize for the prosecution of Alan Turing that led to his untimely death.
Isn't it a shame that Brown will only comment on the fourth most popular petition but completely ignored the most popular one?
Maybe it's the tablets causing his duplicity?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Peter Lilley spams his followers on Twitter?

Either his Twitter account has been compromised; he clicked ona dodgy link; or he's started a local advertising company in his consitutency.

I reckon it's the first or second option. Twits, twats etcetra.

UPDATE: Sam Coates (not the one from the Times) says the account is a fake. Someone should tell Tweetminster to remove it.

God give me strength!

There once was a time that if a Labour MP said something like this I would know instinctively that it was a joke, but for some reason I don't think that way anymore.

I wonder - if Labour lose the next election which is before the World Cup - whether they'll blame the Tories?

Who does Google think you most likely want?

The ego will no longer be landing, it will be taking off for orbit!

Obama sings on healthcare

Lib Dems propose more of the same...

Glad to see that Nick Clegg has surpassed himself and his party with a universally stupid idea. Apparently he wants to reverse the VAT cut immediately and introduce a paid three month intern scheme for 18-24 year-old who are not in work, education or training - i.e. on the dole.

How it will work is that that these 18-24 year-olds to be paid £55 per week to do it, and the businesses taking them on would be obliged to help them search for a permanent role. Spot the two glaring idiocies? First, that on the basis of a 35 hour week the interns will be on £1.55 per hour; and second, the businesses will be obliged to help them search, not provide, a permananet job.

This is going to be just like the sticking plaster called the "New Deal" which provided businesses with dirt cheap employment without any requirement to provide ongoing work after the time period. Before the New Deal it was called YTS.

Same old, same old.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

I lost a few hours.....

What's been happening in the world? I lost a few hours I can't get back!

Go jump jelly.

Fox News presenter reacts.....

A week ago I noted there was a rather obvious smear type campaign against marmite Fox News presenter Glenn Beck. Seems, according to Drudge that Beck has bitten the bait and tried to get the meme stopped.

Not really that sure why he's bothering though. After all, it's not, that I can see, risen up Google and it was obvious bollocks anyway.

Republicans push poll their supporters

Love the first question! Surprised there isn't one that says, Do you like fluffy kittens or are you an evil Socialist?

Bercow officially disowned?

Yesterday, the following job advert appeared on Work for an MP.

Today however it looks like this.

Definitely not the Conservative Party candidate then?
Note for Idiots: Cock-up, not conspiracy, if you've not figured mout when I'm being a sarky git then its time to move along.

Andy Burnham and others' server share arrangements

This is entirely puerile I know, but I've just learned that Wendy Morton, the Tory PPC for Tynemouth; David Borrow, the Labour MP for South Ribble; and Andy Burnham, the Secretary of State for Health, all have something in common.

They all, so it seems, share server space for their websites with a company called Stunners who provide male strippers, pole dancers and drag queens to the corporate and private world.

Made me snigger anyway.

There's updating your blog regularly and then theres.....

Shaun Woodward MP

No doubt he was just busy for nearly nine months.

Punctuation in the autocue is essential....

Otherwise this happens....

Update: Seem Liberal Conspiracy posted this the other day. Oh well. Still funny.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Note.....

The post that was here has been removed because I need a new glasses prescription and missed a "£" symbol in a table in Hansard. C'est la vie. My fault.

To compensate for my error, here is a picture of Bethanie Mattek chatting with a ball boy at the US Open. As you can see, he was very interested in her level conversation, as no doubt we all would be.

Why is Harriet Harman not bemoaning Ben Bradshaw?

Over the weekend, some of you may have heard Harriet Harman doing her usual best for the sisterhood by bemoaning the terrible pay gap after a report she commissioned found bonuses int eh city for women were lower than men. Putting aside the dodgy data, Harriet said,

"Despite many actions taken by the government since 1997, inequality and discrimination still exist, which is why we are introducing tough new measures in our Equality Bill including gender pay reporting and proposals to ban secrecy clauses which are particularly prevalent in financial services."
Now the reason I mention this is because there is quite a famous saying, it goes like this. People in glass houses shouldn't thrown stones.

Whilst Harriet Harman runs around burning her proverbial bra screaming about equality, perhaps, just maybe, she should have a word with some of her Government colleagues about getting their houses in order before they judge others?

Just for example, take the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Woman are in the majority over men by 53% to 47% at Deputy Director level. Yet men are paid, on average, £151.60 per week more than woman. That's £7276.80 a year more for those with biological dangling appendages between their legs (source).

It's all well and good for Harriet to say something must be done about discrimination in the workplace, but why is you never hear her mention the Government itself failing to meet its own alleged standards?

Government gives up on long term care

Did you know there was a "Big Care Debate" going on about long term care in the form of a consultation on a new National Care Service for England? Neither did I but it was going on yesterday according to the Google cache.

However, it appears that overnight the Government have given up.

Just wanted to let you know in case you cared about long term care!

Monday, September 07, 2009

Has Vince Cable breached the communication expenses rules?

The rules on the use of the Communications Allowance are very clear when it comes to MPs website. For a start, MPs cannot use the allowance to pay for a website where the website carries out "party political activity or campaigning."(1) Likewise, you're not allowed to use the Communication Allowance to fund a website " to encourage people to join a particular political party."(2)

So it's interesting to see the self-appointed "shadow chancellor" for the Lib Dems, Vince "I saw it all coming don't you know!" Cable, should seem to be breaking these rules flagrantly on his own website. As the boxes below show, he not only has a links section of "other sites" which are pure party political Lib Dem sites, but he also has a "Join the Party" link on every page linking to a secure form.


Ahhh but I hear you say, "how do you know he's using the Communications Allowance?". Well that is rather simple, his own expenses section lists the website cost, and his own "redacted" expenses on the Parliamentary website show the following.



Don't expect anyone to do anything about it. Saint Cable appears to be untouchable. When a complaint was made to the Parliamentary Authorities about this, after been sent around the houses between different people to speak too, the Director General of the Department of Resources at the House of Commons eventually just insisted that Cable

"privately funds his website and has done so since September 2007. His website is therefore exempt from the rules governing the Communications Expenditure."
The funny thing is, a quick look at the Wayback Machine on Internet Archive, shows that he was still promoting links to only Lib Dem party campaigning sites, and links to "Join the Party" in August 2007. So even if what the Commons Authority says is correct, then he was in breach of the rules prior to September 2007 anyway.


Some may remember that during the expenses scandal, it was revealed that Cable asked if could backdate 4 years of allowances to the tune of nearly £10,000 because he didn't realise he could claim it.

And this guy wants to be in charge of the nation's finances?

I guess we'll have to wait and see if Cable makes any claims for his website when the 2008/09 Communications Allowance expenses are published, but it seems clear he broke the rules in the past if what the Commons authority says is in fact true.
(1) Section 6.12.2 Communications Allowance
(2) Section 6.12.4 Communications Allowance

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Miliband predicts Birmingham population will boil to death by 2080

If you live in the West Midlands move... and move soon. According to Ed Miliband's Department of Energy and Climate Change, the entire population of the region will literally see their blood boil by 2080 due to climate change. It say's so here,

by 2080 the temperature for the hottest day of the year in the West Midlands could increase by a scorching 100 C
And to think they wonder why some people get a bit suspect about climate change predictions? They can't get the weather right next week, but they'll happily put out statements effectively saying that the rivers and canals, if they have any water left, will be of temperatures exceeding boiling point.

Still, at least we won't need kettles anymore, so that'll help the carbon footprint!
Spotted by eagle-eyed reader

Friday, September 04, 2009

Google patents its home page?

Google now owns the idea of having a giant search box in the middle of the page, with two big buttons underneath and several small links nearby. WTF?
As Valleywag notes, Yahoo! and it's simple search page could be in trouble!

Less than ten words that made my day

w00t!

Gov. Schwarzenegger (Schwarzenegger) is now following your tweets on Twitter.
Time to go and play on a soundboard methinks! I'm one of the select 85,481!
Note: I have now followed Arnie in return.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Go Nigel Go!

As a Buckinghamshire lad, the news that Nigel Farage is planning to stand against John Bercow in the next election in his constituency of Buckingham is both hilarious and delightful.

If I lived half a mile up the road I would be in the constituency, and I would happily campaign/vote for Farage over Bercow.

It does seem a big task to overturn one of the safest Tory seats in the country, but wouldn't it be funny if a second Speaker was ousted in twelve months, only this time by the electorate?

Update: Could this effort from Tory Bear be used by Farage. Hope so!

Introducing "random guy"

I've just visited the Department of Health website and they appear to have a smiling random guy on their banner.

WTF is that all about?

HMRC phising site on gov.uk domain

Would appear that a gov.uk domain, in this case, Sefton Council, has been compromised and is directing people to a fake HMRC phishinh website.


The full story is available on Netcraft News

No one has the balls to fix the NHS

I see the NHS is in the news again this morning as a result of a no-brainer report which says if you want to save £20bn of NHS spending then you're going to have to cut some jobs. The report, which one presumes was paid for by the taxpayer, has been dismissed out of hand by the Government. This is because it is not politically acceptable. No matter if it might in fact be right of course.

To be honest, the way in which it has been dismissed, and I expect it will be dismissed by the Tories as well, perfectly illustrates the biggest single problem that the NHS has. It is driven by producer interests, not patient interest. Of course, there are many that would reject that, but it is the sad truth.

The structure of the NHS, which means that the Government own the hospitals and employ the staff, means that no amount of sanity will ever prevail when it comes to assessing headcount. It is just like the problem of MPs salaries. MPs won't shout for more money because they can't politically do so. Likewise, saying you want to cut some NHS jobs - however useful or otherwise the jobs maybe - is a complete no no.

Everyone talks about reform of course but the reality is that you will never be able to reform it because it's a monster. It is an anachronistic structure out of place with the contemporary reality of Britain. However, and to quote Blair, the "forces of conservatism" in Downing Street, the Department of Health and the wider Left will never let it be changed.

Likewise, the "forces of political fear" on the Right in CCHQ will never really let it be properly addressed in a radical way. It will be tinkered with on the margins instead. More money here; less money there. More staff thrown in for something; no redundancies only restructure.

There is this myth that the general public "love" the NHS. Actually, what they love is the universal nature of its service, they couldn't care less about the structure that delivers that to them. Sadly though, no one has the balls to get serious. Ideology or political fear rules the day, and it will continue to do so for many years to come.

Is this the Downing Street teddy bear?

Someone has kindly sent a mock-up of what they think the teddy bear sold in the Downing Street gift shop looks like.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Nuke it!

Bored? Ever wonder what damage you can do with a nuclear weapon of your choosing at a taregtting with optimum wind speed? Well now you can find out.

The Downing Street Gift Shop saga comes to an end....

The saga is over. Almost 10 months ago I sent a Freedom of Information request to Downing Street about its gift shop. I asked what products were on sale and how many of each product they sold. At first they just gave me a list of products and ignored the question about sales figures, but, today, finally, they've told me how many of each product they have sold in the last twelve months.

I praise them for being fast under their FoI obligations and responding to a request in only 280 or so days longer than is required by law. A most impressive performance of which I doubt the sudden quick responses have anything to with Newsnight taking the piss out of them.

Mugs are popular (313 sold in a year). The expensive Number 10 door model is not (grand total of 2 - was one for Gordon?). Oddly, they managed to sell 87 branded blank cards at 40p each. Presumably this was when post-it notes ran out. The lack of wallet sales has already been discussed and they were obviously embarassed by it seeing as they tried to avoid answering on the subject in Parliament in June.

I'd love to see a Downing Street teddy bear though. Anyone got a picture of one they'd like to send me?

Time to think about some more meaningful FoI research now. Probably on the massive waste of money they spend on websites that nobody bothers looking at.

Government launches pro-tax propaganda website for "da kidz"

The Government have launched yet another bloody website, this time called Tax Matters and it's for the kids. It has three modules – which cover Income Tax, National Insurance, and Tax and Society - for teachers to use in Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education (compulsory subject from 2011).
The site is, sadly, a piece of pro-tax propaganda. It evidently has the stating assumptions that all tax is good; all tax is necessary; and effectively pushes the myth by insinuation that less tax will mean less services.

There is also the not so subtle "Government is watching you stuff", just like the benefit theft and tv license adverts, where the modules give handy facts about how you're going to jail if you work cash in hand and don't tell the taxman.

Question: I wonder how much of taxpayers money was spent on building the website?

Update: Quote of the Day from Guido on this subject: "Tax buys guns to kill kids in the third world."


 

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