Friday, January 29, 2010

Public Service Announcement

All, as most of you know, Mrs Dizzy had a spot of bother health wise, the good news is that her surgery, which was at the beginning of the month went very well. Thanks for all the warm words and emails, sorry if I have not replied directly.

I'm taking the next couple of days off to fly Mrs Dizzy to the mountain Campo sun of Andalucia tomorrow, but will be back on Sunday. Normal blogging will resume then, have been back sort of over the last week but will be in full flow once more on Monday no doubt.

Comments will be published hopefully but if it takes a while you know why. Enjoy Tony Blair and whatever else might happen.

Happy Blairday

So today's the day for Tony Blair to appear before the Chilcot YABII and boy oh boy are people getting excited about it. Hell, the Daily Telegraph has even gone to the bother of employing PR people to pump press releases to bloggers to promote it's own live streaming with a clickable lie detector test against it (clever init?).

The Twittertwati will be ready to pump 14o character s around the country and world as Blair sits down, fully prepared to scream that he;s a war criminal, lied to Parliament, and engaged in an illegal war whatever he says anyway.

Yes, YABII will reach its true and orgasmic climax today of hot, juicy ejaculatory excretions where everyone who already has a view with have the same view at the end of the day. Nothing will actually be resolved, the nihilist self-loathing anti-war lobby will continue screaming for Blair's head on a plate.

They'll continue to be a red herring debate over what is and what isn't legal, whilst Tony - God bless him - will walk away smiling safe in the certain knowledge that Iraq, just like all his other wars, had the same level of "legality" about them but were driven by his own Gladstonian interventionist certainty.

He'll be restating what's been on the record for years already (with a possible "you know, I wish some people hadn't died of course, but I was essentially right to do what I did), and those that are seriously interested - which is basically the "not in my name" hypocrites who conflate issues in their protests and happily hold up placards saying things like "we're all Hamas now" and get in bed with Islamist loons - will carry on believing what they want to believe anyway.

The best bit though is this. At a time when the economy is on its arse, we'll have ended up spending millions of pounds on an inquiry which will not end debate but rather just give the "OMFG it's an illegal war!" bores yet more to bore us with as they argue over the minute detail of who said what when and how.

God I love this country!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Having a crisis of faith?

There is hope!
Am off out for the rest of the day now. Probably back later.

iPad Review

Concise and too the point.
That's settled then.

Note: I didn't make this image it was found on Imgur.com so the misspelling of 'absorbent' is not my fault before you pedants point it out.

Question (and Translated Answer) of the Day

Yesterday in Parliament, Chris Bryant was asked by Stewart Jackson MP,

reports [the FCO] received on the alleged donation by the former Soviet Union of funds to UK-based organisations between 1980 and 1989.
And the answer?

This information is not held centrally and to collate would incur disproportionate cost.
The translation of that answer couldn't possibly be,

Oooooh couldn't possibly answer that one mate or I might stitch up comrades in the 'movement'.
Could it?

Just how useful is the DNA database in crime detection?

There's a great set of figures from the Home Office in a written answer that blows a whole in the line that the "DNA database is a vital crime fighting tool".Over the past four years, crime detection that used DNA matching, represented between 0.6% and 0.7% of the total recorded crime in the country.

That's hardly a "vital" tool now is it? Of course, we'll be reminded that if it wasn't for assuming guilt and taking DNA samples of anyone you arrest then some murder from 25 years might not have been solved, but still, little more than a half of one percent of crime relies on the DNA database?

Is that a ringing endorsement of its importance?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

256 Returning Officers remain undecided on Thursday night count

Some may recall back in September last year there was a little fuss about the night of the General Election and plans to hold the counts the following day by some constituencies and local authorities. This produced a cross party supported campaign started by ConservativeHome to Save General Election Night!. The original reporting in the Sunday Times said,

Electoral returning officers in as many as one in four local authorities are considering abandoning the traditional Thursday night count.
Well, those figures have slightly changed it seems and it could be almost one in two now. The Electoral Commission it seems asked all the Returning Officers what their plans were, and has told Parliament that,

In summary, as of 7 January 2010, returning officers for 586 out of 650 constituencies had provided information. Of these, 52 currently do not plan to count ballot papers on the evening of polling day at the general election. A further 17 have indicated they may defer counting in the event that the general election is combined with local authority elections, and 187 were still undecided.
The official document which I presume details the constituencies has been placed in the Commons Library - not yet online - so it remains possible that if those 52 declared and a possible further 204 authorities decide to hold the counts on Friday we won't have a new Government until teatime Friday and possibly even Saturday morning if there are recounts.

The cross-party Facebook group designed to pressure Returning Officers not to abandon the traditional night count remains open. If you want to make sure the result is known as soon as possible I suggest writing to the Returning Officer in your constituency expressing your views and asking them to make a decision one way or the other.
Hansard Source
Electoral Commission

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

If GDP grows will the dissolution of Parliament come next week?

Yesterday, I posted about the latest gaffe about a May 6th General Election wondering whether three gaffes from three ministers (two in the Cabinet) might indicate misdirection rather than just stupid slips of the tongue. Some of you agreed with me, and some didn't, which is fine, but this morning there may be two other factors to consider in support of a March (or possibly even February), and not May poll.

At around 9.30 this morning, the GDP figures for the last quarter of 2009 will be released, and many expect them to show a return to growth. To be fair many were expecting it last time as well and it didn't happen, so it may yet not happen. However, if it does show growth, it could be just the ticket for pushing Gordon Brown into a February/March polling day.

For a start, he will have to consider the Christmas Factor. People spend at Christmas time, especially if shops are slashing prices because of a recession, then they stop spending in the next few months as they tighten their belts after their yearly splurge. The risk Gordon faces, if he goes for May and not for February/March, is that during April the figures for the first quarter come out and show the dreaded "double dip".

Suddenly Brown and Labour will be stuck. He must go to the polls by June, and there will be no further GDP figures to come before a polling day that might show an upward trend in the third quarter. Of course they might not show the double dip, but it remains a risk,especially when some economists are saying that even if growth returns for the last quarter of 2009, it won;t be sustainable into the first of 2010.

We all know that Gordon is risk averse. Is he more likely to take the risk of the figures going wrong during April; or take what he's got and campaign for a February/March poll on a platform of "Labour steered the way through recession and to recovery"? Then, of course, there is another factor, the Chilcot YABII.

Gordon Brown has said he will appear before the Chilcot Inquiry before the General Election. The Chilcot Inquiry has already said it will recess to avoid running during a period of high political activity that goes with a General Election. The thing is, the Inquiry, like everyone else, is working on the assumption of a May poll.

If, Gordon decides to go to the polls in March - say the beginning - he's going to have to make an announcement and ask for Parliament to be dissolved by the Crown in little over a week. If he does that, and manages to hold out confirming a date for Chilcot until that day, then Chilcot will have no choice but to go into recess, and Brown will not have to face the inquiry before the election.

According to the Guardian, the current thinking is that Brown will appear before Chilcot "towards the end of [February], or at the beginning of March". Would Brown take the risk of a backlash of not appearing before the election for an early election to cover his arse should the GDP figures dip again in April? Well.. this is the man who called off an election and then brazenly claimed it had nothing to do with the polls.

Who thinks he won't sit there and say "I have nothing to hide from the Inquiry and I will still face it, I just took he decision that it was the right time for the people of Britain to decide on the future of our country"?

It's a cliché to say "beware the Ides of March" but if the GDP figures show growth, the risk of "double dip" in April might just outweigh the negative backlash of not appearing before Chilcot before an election. Once an election is called the news cycle will move fast, any claims of him running scared from the Inquiry will be tomorrow's chip paper at double speed.

Of course, this is all pie in the sky if GDP doesn't show growth.

Meanwhile, let's remember for a minute how many times they got it wrong with GMTV Guy News special.



Note: From a betting point of view, I slapped a few quid on the election being before May a few days ago.

UPDATE: Economy grows by a whopping 0.1%. Let's see what Gordon does now.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Health and Safety first huh?

Via Imgur.com

Department of Transport encrypts FoI response?

No doubt this will get fixed at some point, but I was mildly amused, when browsing the Department of Transport's site to find a freedom of information response pdf that was encrypted.

Oh the irony! Apparently it contains details of spending by the department with a company called Portland PR.

Could May 6th gaffes be misdirection?

So yesterday, Bob Ainsworth joined two other ministers in making a "gaffe" and referring to a General Election on May 6th - allegedly the worst kept secret in Westminster after that other one about a high profile politician having an as yet undisclosed affair with another MP.

Now, I realise this is terribly cynical, and perhaps the last thirteen years of "spin" have led to me instinctively wonder upon what else might be being hidden, but what is the likelihood that the May 6th gaffes, which are coming thick and fast, are deliberate?

If you keep on having people that might be "in the know" making slip up saying one date, couldn't it be that they're doing it in order to lull others into a false sense of security and planning? In other words, plan for March, but keep letting slip it's going to be May, so that when you do finally make the announcement you catch the other sides unaware?

Could be - and probably am - wrong of course. Just seems odd to me that so many of them seem to be making the "gaffe". Than again, maybe I just watch to much Hustle and try to hard to look for possible misdirection.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Will the debates happen in a debate form?

To be honest, I'm not particularly surprised that the Leaders Debate for the forthcoming General Election have hit a brick wall in negotiations. On the one hand, Gordon Brown is apparently demanding the audience be loaded in his favour to reflect Tony Blair's his Commons majority, and on the other Cameron is allegedly demanding it reflect the opinion polls.

Both it seems are scared of being ambushed by activist's from the other side.

The result is now talk that there will not be questions from the floor to the Leaders at all, and that, presumably, questions will be submitted in advance on papers and the presenter will decide. There's also concern about clapping, presumably in that if the audience is loaded one way or another it will clap louder for one leader than another and thus push the view that their response is more popular.

All valid concerns I guess, but isn't it rather sad that the two men who would be Prime Minister are arguing about how they want the audience to be loaded in their favour anyway? It's like two football teams arguing that their goalposts should be smaller than they're opponents.

Surely the best approach is to simply have a lottery for the audience. Don't give any allocation of tickets to any particular party, and have some sort of independent verification that the drawing of names for tickets is done randomly, then let the leaders take their chances.

Of course, political activists will want to go and have their moment where they can say something clever and sharp, but the truth is that they're all in the minority in the country anyway.

This argument tells us more about the low esteem in which the normal non-politically active majority are held than anything else.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

How politics works and why people hate it so much

The following is applicable to whichever party is in power.

Click Image for larger readable version


Update: I appear to have had an absolute nightmare of typing problems today where I fix one typo and replace it with another. Am currently wearing two wrist splints. Apols.

Note: Flowchart was done online using gliffy.com which is actually rather cool.

Friday, January 22, 2010

It's Sofa King funny....?

Cute!

Image via Flickr

Obama speaks, British taxpayer loses millions?

Nice, Barack Obama makes an announcement about banking. The markets take a nose dive, causing a 4.59% loss in share price for RBS - a British taxpayer state owned bank (more money gone in a blink) and not one single British politician says anything much about that and instead generally supports the sage in the White House.

Hyperbole, damned hyperbole and statistics

Apparently, according to Sunny Hundal - he of Liberal Conspiracy that so hates dodgy hyperbolic reporting in the media,

The website publishing spoofing the airbrushed posters of David Cameron – MyDavidCameron.com – has become the most popular politics site in the UK.....

Launched only two weeks ago, ‘Airbrushed For Change’ had received 105,928 visits, of which 89,827 were absolute unique visitors..... [the] busiest day to date was Friday 15 Jan, when [it] received 20,343 visits.
Oh dear *facepalm* that's one epic fail on your own standards sunny boy.

Let me start out by saying, fair play to Clifford Singer who set up mydavidcameron.com allowing lots of people to duly take the piss out of a leading politician with much pant wetting and ejaculatory splurging some of which has produced funny jokes and others which have had low sperm counts.

However, lets be serious with Sunny's fantastical hyperbole and, dare I say, fantacising about such things as "most popular". What we have here is not mydavidcameron.com being "the most popular politics site in the UK" but rather mydavidcameron.com having a great big traffic spike causing a lot of visitors over a very short time period.

This blog has had traffic spikes too, for example this generated in a single day over 60,000 page impressions with over 25,000 absolute unique visitors by the time the day ended, didn't make me the most popular technology blog in the UK though and if I'd said so it would've been idiotic.

Statporn is lovely, but a sites popularity can not be garnered by taking a two week snapshot in the middle of a spike's downturn. Sunny's comment is the sort of nonsense that if a right wing blogger were to post it, it would results in someone like Tim (I'm not Mental!) Ireland or Unity writing a lengthy essay about what complete dicks we were (don't expect one form them though).

If you want to know what the most popular websites in a particular genre are you're going to have to take a much a longer view with your time-frame and look for consistency of traffic, you know..... find a trend? It's bit like the difference between weather and climate, something that Sunny and friends constantly remind the evil climate change deniers about.

Has mydavidcameron.com been successful in terms of generating traffic? Hell yeah, Clifford has produced a nifty toy for people to play with. Does mydavidcameron.com represent the hyperbole of Sunny "I only like serious journalism me!" Hundal's post? Err no it doesn't. It's about as accurate a statement as saying the most popular food in the UK is whatever food product sold the most in two weeks.

Footnote: Cue responses about how this post is all about jealously defending the beloved Church of Cameron, that "they don't like it up'em" and other such things.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Why the fox hunting ban must be repealed

Vicious bastards that they are! Think of the children!

How business news should be....?

Might be photoshopped, but hey, who cares?

data.gov.uk

I'm often rather cynical about Government websites, they tend to cost extortionately high amounts of money with little return value - the Department of Communities and Local Government is a case in point, where they spent thousands of pounds on blogs, wiki's and forums and pretty much nobody uses them.

However, the latest development, lifted from America (natch!) is data.gov.uk which is an attempt to provide an API entry points for Government datasets where others can code applications that bring things together in useful ways, e.g tellthemwhatyouthink.org* or one of my favourites whatdotheyknown.com.

In ponceyspeak terms this is what we hear called "mashups", where you join data from different sources to produce something more useful - something that relational databases have been doing for years in closed environments.

Anyway, lots of people are very excited about it, and there is quite a bit of fawning being directed at Sir Tim Berners-Lee because of his involvement (the man who created an acronym that has more syllables than the term it's meant to be shortening, "www vs world wide web" ain't it great?).

The question is will it work? The answer is yes, it probably will.

The commercial application of this freely available data is, to say the least, impressive. I expect lots of people will make lots of money from it. Obviously you have get yourself past some of the fluffy speak that goes with some of the current applications, for example, Where Does My Money Go which is an application,

promote transparency and citizen engagement through the analysis and visualisation of information about UK public spending
Or as I prefer to describe it, "a pretty picture of coloured blobs to help political nerds get angry whilst everyone else carries on looking at Page 3 and watching X Factor" (there goes my cynical side again).

Whether this sort of thing really does aid transparency is yet to be seen, but one thing it will do politically (in democracies at least), is provide opposition parties with the means to beat a Government over the head - expect the phrase "post code lottery" to become an even more common term when people can start to make comparisons across so many different areas of Government.

Crucially, the success of any of this relies entirely on a Government's willingness to publish data and its reliability or truthfulness when it is published - think tractor statistics and corn production in the Soviet Union. The risk is, garbage in gets you garbage out.

Is it going to change our world? Maybe. Is it going to focus the minds of those who pull the levers of elected and bureaucratic power? Undoubtedly. The words "creating a rod for your own back" spring to mind.

* You may be able to tell them what you think, but will they listen?

P.S. I wish they wouldn't call things "beta" when they make them live.
P.P.S. I wonder how long it might take before someone finds a nifty exploit in the APIs.

Former minister and "Curry Coup" plotter says Labour needs a "brand miracle"

Tom Watson tweets.

The liberation of sitting on the backbenches huh?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

DVLA Information Security revisited....

This morning, the Daily Mail ran a piece on the DVLA selling data, our names and addresses, to all and sundry in the private car penalty fines sectors. It was was also picked up by Big Brother Watch.

This is not a new piece of news of course, and is something I've posted about on not one, not two, not three, but four occasions, and it's the fourth that is worth linking to again as it contains some recorded conversations with the DVLA on the subject.

Audio 1
Audio 2
Audio 3


It's worth listening to the third audio, where, the DVLA representative talks about third parties such as Fujitsu and says "oooh careful what I say here", chuckled that it is not "our money it's taxpayers" and said that it would be bad if they were "challenged by the newspapers".

Wrong, puerile, but actually quite funny

No doubt it will annoy some sensitive souls, but you have to admit, it is quite funny in a "eeewww that's wrong but I still laughed" kind of way.


In other news: Hoax Swedish necrophiliacs set up Facebook group to bring back Swedish dead from Haiti in good condition for post-death rumpy-pumpy.*

Now please excuse me, I have to get in the lift which is going to Hell.

* Also very wrong indeed, but funny depending on how twisted you are.

Hat Tip: Grumpy Old Twat

Parliament helps you keep up to date with Clark County Wisconsin

Did you know that you can register for email alert updates from Passaic County, New Jersey through the UK Parliament website?


You can sign up here - you know you want too.


Also available, are email alert updates from the San Diego Cooperative Charter School (handy!); Burnsville, Minnesota (wonder if they have arson problems?); Cass County, North Dakota; Clark County Wisconsin, and the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District, MN. All available to you by clicking on to http://subscriptions.parliament.uk/service.

If you're wondering why these are on the Parliamentary website they're not really. It seems the Government likes to use an American company called GovDelivery to help it "engage", but they don't seem to know how to set up proper virtual hosting so that pages for random clients are not displayed on other clients domains.

Good init?

The cost of an empty building to the taxpayer

Back in October 2007, the House of Commons Commission purchased a lease on a property in Tothill Street, Westminster, since that time the building has stood empty, apparently having work done on it by the landlord which will be completed in October 2010.

And what has been the cost to us, the taxpayer, of having the right to enter this empty building in October this year? Well thus far we've spent £4.8 million (including VAT) on rent and £175,000 on business rates.

Cheap as chips for Westminster no doubt!

Passing comment on the latest UKIP nonsense

Being fashionably late is the only way to be so I just wanted to pass a little comment on UKIP's latest silliness about banning specifc clothing - namely the burka - now that the dust has settles. I've never been one to like social authoritarianism because it's a bit to left wing for my inherent respect for individual liberty, so as you'd imagine I'm not in favour of banning the burka.

Don't get me wrong, I don't disagree with UKIP's Deputy Leader, David Campbell Bannerman, that "moderate Muslims regard the burka as a sign of growing radicalisation", nor do I disagree that some (but not al I imagine) Muslim women wear the burka not through choice but rather because of pressure from a distinctly patriarchal culture.

I'm also of the view that seeing someone walking along the street and only being able to see them through a single eye slit is distinctly annoying, but hey, I think seeing kids walking along the street with their jeans halfway down their legs exposing their Calvin Klein's is annoying (and stupid) too but I wouldn't ban them from doing it.

If someone wears a burka then so be it, banning them is just silly. Sure, have rules that say if you go through a passport control checkpoint you have to show your face, I can appreciate the logic and sense of that - one of the failed Shepherds Bush bombers sneaked out of the country in a burka if I recall correctly. Private banks are within their rights to make people show their face - like they do by making you take off a motorbike helmet - but legislated dress codes?

What I find bemusing though is that UKIP, who like to say they're libertarians would be proposing such a thing, and then, making out through their Deputy Leader that it is about not being anti-British. Surely being British is about not caring what people wear. As to arguing, as Campbell Bannerman does that Turkey has already banned it so its not that bad a move really, that doesn't make it right.

What next, a ban on kids wearing head to toe ghost costumes on the streets on Halloween because they look a bit like burkas? It's just social authoritarian nonsense masquerading as principled patriotism - made all the more ironic by the charges that those who don't agree are somehow part of a Lib-Lab morally relativistic consensus.

UKIP would be better off coming up with policies to tackle Islamofascist ideology rather than skirting on the sidelines about banning clothing that is not British enough.

Update: Hilariously I have been accused of being surpine to Muslim rights and cultural sensitivities in the comments. This has, howevre, bugger all to do with Muslim rights and more to do with the idea that the UKIP think the state has the right to legislate upon the clothes that we wear - it's as stupid as arresting someone for wearing a "Bollocks to Blair" t-shirt.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

And the beat goes on... and on... and on

And so YABII rolls on, and, unsurprisingly, we still have lots of back and forth argument on some blogs on the whole "was it illegal or wasn't it illegal" - a question that will rage for decades no doubt. We've no reached the point where a commentator (Nick Cohen) called the "anti-war it was illegal" camp deluded, and the response has been to shout back anyone still supporting the war or in the "it wasn't illegal" camp is deluded too.

YABII produces "ya boo you too!" isn't it great?

Still, there is a very interesting point being made over in the latest thread (amongst lots more equally yawnworthy) at Liberal Conspiracy which is this. The people that scream about the war being illegal, when asked, will not answer they would have preferred to see Saddam Hussein remain in power, or the Baath Party in light of his execution, restored to power in Baghdad.

In a way it beautifully illustrates the nihilistic ends in the arguments that emanate from what is often called the "chattering liberal classes". It's not really about morality rather it's about relative morality which dictates the West (and by that I really mean America) must be the bogeyman in any given situation.

Thus, when Saddam was a friend of America's and was shaking hands with Donald Rumsfeld, he was a vicious dictator that the horrible and evil Americans were arse licking for their own disgusting ends at the expense of the poor downtrodden and brutally oppressed Iraqi people.

Then, when the same Americans decided that actually, he was a real bastard, and posed a threat to them be it immediate or desired in the future, he was no longer a hate figure to those who once opposed him, and, in fact, it would be a shocking and outrageous abuse of imperialistic American power to depose a sovereign leader in a country.

When you think about it really is quite funny how the moral outrage switches sides so readily.

Here's a little counterfactual to think about on that point. It is often said, in response to the interventionist argument in support of democracy, that if we invade Iraq we should invade Zimbabwe too. Imagine what they would be saying if we had invaded Zimbabwe and changed the regime.

Put your hand up if you think if they;d suddenly start saying things like. "Imperialist colonialism", "racist and illegal war against a sovereign nation". You can bet your bottom dollar they would, because at the end of the day, you'll always be in the wrong to a moral relativist.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Chrome OS Zero available...

Thanks to hexxah if you want to play with Google's Chrome OS, there is a build available to download which can b put on a USB stick and booted. I was sceptical when Google announced they were to take on Microsoft with an OS, and some said I was wrong. Having installed and run it, I stand uncorrected (currently at least).

It won't be an OS for me I think, but I can see some people, who just want everything in a browser and do everything online, it might be functional. Does boot fast though.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Woah!

What a headline and what a mind blowing story.

Full story on the madness here.

Gordon's Council Tax Bombshell coming on June 1st (if he wins)

The Sunday Express is reporting on an interesting little tender process that has been going on which suggests that Gordon Brown is planning to whack everyone hard within a month of the General Election with a massive council tax hike.

The details of the tender for contract by HMRC can be viewed here which is looking for someone to set up a database to

"support a wide variety of valuation purposes undertaken by HMRC's executive agency, the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), and specifically to improve the quality and accuracy of the Council Tax Lists in England and Wales.... The supply of service to commence by 1.6.2010, for a minimum period of 36 months."
Hilariously, Brown is trying to claim that he's all about aspiration and the middle classes now and that he's rejecting "class war" yet here we have, in pretty obvious terms, the beginning of a policy that will see hundreds of thousands of people screwed even harder by a revaluation of their property.

Just to put this in perspective for a second, when Council Tax was introduced in 1993, the average house price in the UK was £62,333 (1), by 2008 it was £227,765 (2). It has dropped slightly now, to £224,064 (3) in June 2009.

On the assumption that the banding is only changed slightly, the average house in England and Wales is likely to see itself shift into the top two bands. Apparently the Government's response to the disclosure of this tender and it's planning for June was to say,

“The Government has made it clear that a council tax revaluation in England will not take place during the lifetime of this Parliament.
Well considering this system is meant to be live in the next Parliament it's rather obvious what the intent is.

No more class war?

Sources:
(1) Department of Communties and Local Government
(2) Department of Communties and Local Government
(3) BBC News

Hello and hello again - Brown's short term memory issues

That Gordon Brown is a social misanthrope who comes across as a bit weird sometimes is not exactly new news, but today's serialisation of Peter Watt's book in the Mail on Sunday has a decent tale of how bad it can get. The following is a recollection of what took place just after the "Curry House Plot" (my emphasis added).

When Gordon arrived [at Labour HQ], he gave a warm speech and was received politely. It was all going quite well, until he decided to do a tour of the office. He wandered round the big open-plan room with a weird fixed grin on his face, shaking hands with the staff and saying ‘Thanks for everything you do’ over and again.

There was no variation and he never added any small talk. As he approached people’s desks, they would stand up, accept the handshake and wait for him to say something else. Each time there was an excruciating moment while they waited for him to speak and he just stood there staring back at them, before moving on to the next person.

It was all very wooden and embarrassing, especially when he forgot who he’d met and ended up shaking some people’s hands twice. They were forced to go through the whole ritual again, pretending they’d not met him just a few minutes before.
Can you imagine what he must be like at a big international summit? He's probably a laughing stock in the corridors of power around the world.

Why does the Left forget its past?

Whilst it's not gossip, this post from Guido is well worth a read because he's hit the nail on the proverbial head about the Fabians, and in general the way in which the Left seems to have a rather myopic view of its own history.

Whether it be, as Guido points out, that the socialists of old were big fans of eugenics. Or that the fascism and socialism are two sides of the same statist coin, it is rather odd how history is so often assumed to be black and white in that fascists are right wing and evil, whilst socialists are left wing and pure.

Mussolini after all was a very proud socialist determined to smash the capitalist system, likewise, Hitler regular made reference to the the evil bourgeoisie in his speeches. It's a strange quirk really how evil totalitarians born of the Left have become labelled as being of the Right.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The eyebrows have it!

Spotted this whilst out this morning.

Friday, January 15, 2010

They should have called it an Angel Dust Station instead

Government report lifts ideas from comedy show

Possibly one of the funniest things I've read all day, the Peter Mandelson's department have produced a report on the sort of jobs people will be doing in the future, one of which, says the BBC, is "vertical farmers".


As Mark Wallace at the Taxpayers Alliance points out, the idea of "vertical farming" is straight out of Chris Morris's Brasseye where foolish celebrities and politicians are conned into endorsing absurd things.

Not my campaign vehicle....

But I bet that somehow I'm distantly related to the fool and thus I hang my head in shame.


Originally posted on Wonkette

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My friend of a friend said that his niece's cousin's uncle said....

Earlier today I commented on the difference between the engagement between Labour and the Tories online, noting that where Labour had managed to get a massive 9 people to vote for the user submitted "campaigns" on their website, the Tories had managed 40,000+ votes on ideas about their Health Manifesto.

Since then a new campaign has appears on LabourSpace which states,

My campaign is against the Conservatives, they have told a person I know (that person has until recently been a member of the Conservative Party and was told by their leader, David Cameron MP) that they intent to abolish the NMW, apply charges like paying for borrowing books in libaries, using PC's in libraries, cut public services (including around 80.000 hospital beds) and raise the cost of some services, and people would have to start paying for health care and treatment once te treament is completed, and raise council tax in areas where the council tax is low - they think once in power thy can tell councils what to demand. I strongly object to those intentions, anyone else being of my opinion should help me with this campaign - Do not let David Cameron into No. 10.


Commentators keep saying that this is going to be an "Internet" election. From where I'm standing it's more likely going to be an election that sees Labour members randomly make stuff up and pass it off as a Tory policy on "teh interweb" - not that the official party doesn't manage it well already of course.

Did I tell you by the way that I met a bloke in the pub who used to be a member of the Labour Party who told me that he had been told by Gordon Brown that they intended to slaughter every first born child and feed the entrails to a pack of foxhounds that were baying for blood since the hunting ban?

Not a word of lie, I swear it to be true. This guy wouldn't lie he's a 24-carat diamond!

Are the Tories winning the "webby engagement" game?

Most politicians these days get worried about "engagement" and it's led to many MPs getting blogs or joining Twitter. Labour even created their own "Twitter Tsar" Kerry McCarthy MP, who regularly makes a complete fool of herself in 140 characters but I digress.

One of the areas that both parties have tried to tackle is engaging on websites, in the case of Labour it launched, then relaunched something called Labourspace of which our favourite misandrist*, Kerry McCarthy said the following,

I’m also particularly excited by LabourSpace. As a site it gives NGOs and individuals the chance to bring their campaigns to the direct attention of our manifesto coordinator, Ed Miliband, who regularly looks at the site and comments on there and then meets with the quarterly winners to discuss their campaigns in more detail. We need to do more to get people using the site but for me it’s a sign that the Party wants to use the internet for real engagement.
Real engagement huh? Currently there are five "campaigns" on the site open for voting from us, the plebs, over the next 77 days. Total votes? Well, look for yourself.
So, voting has been going for 13 days (since the beginning of January to be precise) and so far have had a colossal response of 9 votes (one presume that one would be from the campaign organiser and the rest from their mates).

Yay for engagement!

Now compare that with the Tories use of the "webby engagement" in relation to their rather disappointing Health Manifesto which I moaned blogged about at the beginning of January.

They opened their draft manifesto up for questions and comment at the same time that Labourspace's latest round of policy initiative started, for which 2,612 people have submitted 1,110 questions and cast 40,200 votes.


Quite an interesting comparison given the order of magnitude difference in their figures no?

Now, I don;t know what the Lib Dems are doing in this sort of game to be fair, I'm sure former staffer/blogger Mark Pack might be able to tell us of course (I know you read me Mark! ;)), but on the face of it between the two main parties at least it seems that the Tories are certainly getting something right in their strategy for engaging online.

The strategy by all accounts is something too, for the Tories at least, that comes straight form the top, as Cameron himself told Andrew Marr,
"We have got to open it up, and we’re going to try all sorts of ways – including using lots of innovative stuff on the internet – of getting people involved."
Fair play, really. He said they wanted to do it, and the evidence suggests that they have in comparison to their main opponent.

Of course, it could be that the 40,000+ votes and 1000+ are just activists talking amongst themselves and not your average bloke that does dreary day job that he wishes he didn't have too. However - even if that is the case - at least their base is involved, which is more than can be said for their opponents who appear to be running campaigns of the one, by the one and for the one.

* Note, Kerry McCarthy MP, when challenged over anything will, if her challenger is a man, simple brush aside that challenge as the spouting of a misogynist, so it's only fair to offer the same in response and refer to her as a misandrist. Tit, tat.... (more tit shurely, or is that misogynist? - Ed)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Yahoo! says you mustn't say N****ian

It seems Yahoo! thinks the word "Nigerian" should be censored because part of it looks like something else. Lucky he didn't come from the Republic of Niger huh?

Screenshot via Imgur.com

Hate country. Love the video!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Bryant announces election date

A story via Tory Politico, it seems, when speaking at Canning House to diplomats about British relations with South America, Chris Bryant has announced the date of the General Election saying,

"I hope that by the time of the general election on May 6, relations will have improved."
Nokia have been contacted to deal with the damage to phone in Downing Street.

Note: The first time I posted this it said 'Byrne' not 'Bryant'. This is because for some reason I get Chris Bryant and Liam Byrne mixed up. God knows why, but I do. What can I say other than "oops"? It also appears this wasn't a scoop as such and the Telegraph is running it, thus changed the first sentence to reflect that.

With legal?

Is the part of the title that says *** with legal *** on this Telergaph article standard practice or is there more to it?

Click Image for Larger Version

Has someone threatened legal action?

Mandatory "all-wimmin" shortlist, and "non-white" shortlists to be legalised?

Oh Lordy! The Times is reporting this morning that the Speakers Conference (a cross party review chaired by John Bercow) that was commissioned by Gordon Brown to investigate the under-representation in the Commons, has recommended that "all women shortlists" for candidate selection should be made mandatory to "up the numbers".

Even more bizarrely, the review has also called for the law to be changed so that political parties can exclude white candidates when drawing up their shortlists. Apparently, according, Harriet Harman, the Minister for Equality,

"We should take all the steps we can to increase diversity in Parliament, which must reflect the country in which we live and the public we serve."
And if that means discriminating against those that you think are over-represented on the grounds of gender or race, then so be it?

Seriously, my apologies for the Anglo-Saxon, but this is starting to become fucked up beyond belief now. Discrimination laws, racial, sexual or otherwise, were introduced in this country by Labour governments. We now have a Labour minister for "equality" who is more than happy to discriminate against groups to create "diversity".

It's starting to be beyond parody now, and frankly, it's actually getting a little bit worrying. It seems there is this belief that everything, even man, can be perfected in some way.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Sleep Talkin' Man provides entertainment

Have been a little busy today, hence lack of blogging, however, should you be particularly bored I suggest reading the following blog called Sleep Talkin' Man which is all about Adam, who sleep talks, and his wife has decided to share his night time witterings which contain wonderful quotes such as,

"I haven't put on weight. Your eyes are fat."

"I'd rather peel off my skin and bathe my weeping raw flesh in a bath of vinegar than spend any time with you. But that's just my opinion. Don't take it personally."

"Vegetarians will be the first to go. That's my plan. Vegans haven't got a hope. 'I eat air, I'm so healthy...' Bollocks!"

"I'm better than Superman. He's just a cunt.... in underpants."
For more crazy dream world rambling go here.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

KFC Australia dumps "racist" advert

If you ever wanted a good example identity politics being completely ludicrous and annoying then look no further than what's kicking off for Kentucky Fried Chicken over an advert its been running in Australia for Australians during the Australia/West Indies cricket matches. Here it is,

Apparently, it seems the advert made its way on to 'teh interweb' and some people in America saw it and decided that rather than it being about an Aussie cricket fan being surrounded by Windies fans and seeking to quiet things down, it was actually about some American stereotype that all black people eat fried chicken (news to me), and so, you guessed it, it's racist.


KFC have now dumped the advert in Australia because it upset some people in America who didn't get that it wasn't making using a racial connotation.


Note: Cue random aspersions about Aussies all being criminals, Yanks being thick and people from the West Indies smoking too much grass in the comments.

Tremendously sexist.....

But it still made me laugh.
Via Imgur.com

Best snowman (and woman) ever? (mildly NSFW)

Seen in Blackpool and presumably erected (sorry) in honour of the enjoyment so many political activists have had party conferences in the town over the years.

Any other amusing pictures of snow people/animals/minerals do send them over.
Via email

Amusing Juxtaposition of the Day

From BBC News I think this is what is officially known as covering all bases.

Click Image for Larger Version
Help! Do I use my mobile or not? Argggghhhhh!

Are the 'webby tectonic plates' moving against Brown?

Back in September, September 7th to be absolutely specific ( a few weeks before the beginning of the Labour Conference), someone registered a couple of domain names within five minutes of each other and enabled some privacy on their contact details.

The first was dmiliband.org for just one year. Five minutes later they also registered miliband.org for a year too. Whilst I've known about the domains since they were registered, I never bothered posting about them because they both just led to domain parking pages.

However, I mention them now, in light of yesterday's events (and David Miliband's luke warm support for Brown), as one of the domains has moved from being parked into a formal paid for hosting package.

It's the second of the two domains, miliband.org, which has suddenly become password protected and, after asking the server some polite questions, it told me that it now has a hosting control panel* set up on it (this will appear if you cancel the password protection login screen twice).


Wonder who is hiding what? Could it be David? Might it be Ed? It might even be nothing? All we can say is that someone has spent some more money on proper hosting and is working on something behind there.

All very curious!

* cpanel is used for installing software such as Wordpress, other content management systems, mailing list etc, as well as managing email accounts and the like if you can't do it using the command line.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

My "Chelsea Tractor"

At last some honest sanity about 4x4 cars, and from a Labour MP of places! Tom Harris has posted in defence of the so-called "Chelsea Tractor" noting that its essentially each to their own and also noting that the very name, "Chelsea Tractor" "betrays the class-oriented nature of the criticism".

However, I would like to pick up on some slight misconceptions and inaccuracies in Tom's post, not, you understand to have a go at him, but rather to correct often repeated nonsense about these so-called evil vehicles.

First off though, a declaration of interest, this is my car. Don't ask me why I've blanked the plates out, you can't exactly miss me (it says "Surf" on the side for Christ sake!). I should also point out that I do not live in London and will, later today, likely be asked to get to Luton airport via roads that I can do safely but others won't be able to pass.

OK, so on to Tom's post. Tom says of 4x4's that "their fuel consumption efficiency is obscenely low". This really isn't true and is a generalisation based upon what a car looks like and the assumption that it must therefore have crap fuel efficiency. Take for example, the Lexus RX400h - commonly seen on the streets of Kensington and Chelsea because it's not cheap at all - between 0 and 40mph it's electric.

Yes that's right, "Chelsea Tractors" can be hybrids. What about your beast you might be thinking. Well, its a 3L Turbo Diesel and the way I drive it I have managed to get around 37-40mpg out of it. That's also quite maintainable if you look after it and change the oil and fuel filters every 10,000km (sorry, work in kilometres for things like that because it's a Jap Import and that's what the odometer uses).

Anyhow, the fact is that fuel efficiency on the most popular models of so-called Chelsea Tractors, such as the Landrover Freelander, Honda CRV, Toyota Rav4 is little different to an average family saloon car when it comes to what they call "city driving". Please note at this point that a Porsche Cayenne 4x4 does not count.

Tom goes on to argue that because the fuel efficiency is poor "their owners have to pay through the nose for the privilege of driving one – and quite right too". Again this really isn't true, when compared to your average family saloon, if you're doing the "city driving" you're probably not going to see much difference and your tank size will pretty much mean filling the thing up will be much the same price.

Tom also argues that the extra cost is the same with road tax and that "Chelsea tractor owners pay a lot of money for their indulgence". This isn't really true either, that beast above has just cost me £190 for 12 months road tax. Now, that might sound like a lot, but it's no different to how much it would have cost me to tax 2 litre family saloon.

Anyhow, these misconceptions and inaccuracies aside, I do rather appreciate that Tom has written the defence that he has, which essentially follows the line of "if you own a big car you pay for having a big car so what's the problem?". This doesn't of course change the fact that many see these cars and think they're driven because of status, money or whatever.

If you want to know why I drive one it comes down to some practical and individual reasons. Firstly, it's a Hilux. The engine is bulletproof and essentially it's the car of choice for terrorists and warlords in the badlands of the world because it just keeps going (almost 200,000km on the clock and still going).

Secondly, I do a lot of motorway driving to the bottom of the M1 and around the M25 and want to be comfortable and relaxed when I get to the end of my journey. Thirdly, where I live the only way out is over hills, which, on days like today when the snow comes are treacherous, but it's just as dodgy when its wet.

Until you actually experience the difference of having all four wheels doing something, not just the front or the back, you won't understand how important it is for keeping your car on the road and not in a ditch. Ask a saloon driver with four wheel drive and they'll tell you the same.

Fourth, finally, I drive one because they really really annoy some people. Now that might sound selfish, and in a way you'd probably be right, but this reason is really only the icing on a much larger cake which has very practical reasons in its other layers.

Now I have to run off and get the snow cleared off the bloody thing, slap it into low four-wheel drive and experience the sheer pleasure of not getting stuck.

P.S. I have never ever lived in Chelsea and never could unless I won the lottery.
P.P.S. The import cost less than £3000.

Update: Have just come back rom somewhere and got stuck behind a fool in a rear-wheel drive BMW trying to go up a steep hill. He managed it, in about 10 minutes..... sideways. Why do people even bother with a car like that in these sort of conditions?

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Are we really this stupid now?

Every couple of weeks I have to drive around the M25 to the M11 and back again. Where the M25 meets the M11 there is a tunnel called the Bell Common Tunnel which the Highways Agency have been making pretty with our money. Inside, the tunnel has lots of new lighting and, every so many yards, it has a sign like the one to the right underneath which it says how many yards (yes yards, not metres) the exit is in either direction.

This includes, within spitting distance of each opening of the tunnel (which is only 500 or so yards long (clockwise you can see the exit from the other end)) one of these signs saying the exits are either 500 yards away or.... 25 yards away.* Now, according to the Highways Agency, the work is to "upgrade the safety equipment in the tunnel to current European Standards".

So... is telling me that the 25 x 15 yard gaping hole with the sky and road in front of me is 25 yards away* a requirement under European safety standards and we've just done it in yards to annoy them?

Or... is it just the case that they fear being sued by a stupid person that decides to run the wrong way and complains that without the sign they couldn't possible know which exit was closest?

Note: I wish I could take a picture of the signs but I'm usually doing 50+ mph through it and can't exactly stop to take a tourist snap.

* The measurements are also undoubtedly wrong. The last sign says the exit is something like 25 yards away when it's so obviously less than 10 and more like 5 to any golfer or football fan.

BREAKING NEWS: Qualified person gets job

Meet Amanda Simpson, she used to be a man called Mitchell Simpson but isn't anymore. She's just been given a job in the Obama Administration but the headline is not,

Highly qualified former test pilot and rocket scientist appointed to senior national security role by Obama"
Instead its essentially

Woman who used to have a cock but had it turned inside out and became a woman is appointed to Obama administration. Progessiveness reigns whoop whoop!
OK, so they weren't really quite so graphic as that, but seriously, who gives a crap about the identity politics and whether Amanda Simpson had a bit of "nip and tuck"? Isn't it utterly superfluous to her role and whether she's actual able to do it?

Why the need to define everything around what sub-group you are in?

Who ate all the π's?

Thoroughly geeky but truly subzero cool news people, a gentleman (am assuming it's a guy) by the name of Fabrice Bellard has just announced that on December 31st he created a new world record by calculating π on a single desktop computer to almost 2700 billion decimal digits.

Specifically it was 2699999990000 decimal digits, which would require about 1137 GB of storage should the number be contained in a single file. Some of the results can be seen here. The previous record of about 2577 billion decimal digits was previously published by Daisuke Takahash.

The new record took 131 days to compute.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Sending your neighbours a message through Wifi

Subtle.

Via Passive Aggressive Notes

Where's the decentralisation Dave?

The Tory party have just published their draft manifesto for the NHS as part of the pre-election election campaign. Frankly, on initial reading I think it looks uninspiring and also a little contradictory. For example:

The Tories say they will "scrap all of the politically-motivated process targets" (good) and "set NHS providers free to innovate by ensuring they become autonomous Foundation Trusts" (also good), but then they say they will "focus on the health results matter, like improving cancer and stroke survival rates or reducing infections (sounds like targets and centralised edicts too me).

They also complain that patients do not get effective treatment because the "system lets Ministers off the hook by blaming decisions on unaccountable bureaucrats in NICE", but at the same time say on funding they plan to "create an independent NHS board to allocate resources to different parts of the country" - this will surely create the same "off the hook" effect in funding allocation won't it?

Doesn't sound very "post-bureaucratic" or "decentralised" too me. Plus ça change!

Ghost Town 2.0!

Back in August 2007, the Department for Communities and Local Government had a big website redesign which, given it was the "communites" department meant it introduced lots of flashy Web 2.0 features such as forums, blogs and even a wiki.

I was cynical at the time about how worthwhile it would be so I think it;s time to revisit it and see what the state of play is one and half years on. Well, the wiki is now a defunct 404, the forums have managed a colossal 179 threads, and as for the blogs? Well poor old Hazel Blears's is archived and that's it.

So what conclusion can we draw from this? Yes, that's right, the entire redesign with bells and whistles and "engagement" as its key has been a complete waste of money because no one really gives a crap. The site is a ghost town!

Brown tops a poll.....

The worst dressed man in the world according to GQ.

Probably something to do with his inability to wear a tie properly. See here for details.

Compare and Contrast....

Remember when Nick Griffin appeared on Question Time? Remember the total outrage, hand wringing, screaming at the doors of the BBC by the anti-fascists and all the hand wringing demands of "no-platform" from the Left?

I ask simply because they all seem rather silent about the media presence of a certain Anjem Choudary, former top bod at the banned terrorist organisation Al-Muhajiroun and now running Islam 4 UK, an Islamist organisation that is "a platform for the global front Al-Muhajiroun".

Choudary is big buddies with Omar Bakri Muhammad, and, ironically in line with the BNP, really doesn't like Jews very much and would happily see them all exterminated. Yet there is silence, thus far at least, from places like Liberal Conspiracy.

I just don't get it, why does some complete fruitcake extremist who has made no bones about praising suicide bombing, get away with seemingly bugger all condemnation? I think the only place on the Left that actually holds all extremist loons to account these days is Harry's Place.

Why are they the only ones with the balls to be consistent though? More importantly, why does someone like Anjem Choudary get airtime with not a whisper of complaint from so many alleged anti-Nazis whilst his extremist loony equal Griffin causes so much controversy?

Surely both are bastards, worthy of their moaning?

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Privilege my arse

Excuse my language, but are Jim Devine MP, David Chaytor MP and Elliot Morley MP taking he piss? Apparently they' have lawyers working for them who are arguing that Parliamentary Privilege in the 1689 Bill of Rights protects them from being prosecuted for fraud over dodgy expenses claims such as taking taxpayer money to pay for a non-existent mortgage, or submitting receipts with fake VAT numbers on them.

If only us proles could use arguments like that when the Police and/or Taxman comes knocking?

Friday, January 01, 2010

John Prescott to hold a seance?

Tonight, John Prescott played a cameo role in the Christmas Special and final episode of Gavin and Stacey. He entered a Church for a wedding. Wonder if he got lost on his way to a seance in the Temple of Truth?

Click Image for Larger Version

Is there anybody there? Knock if there's anybody there!

Stop being boring and you'll be successful

Morning all, and Happy New Year, I do hope you;re sporting a decent hangover, or, if you're one of the naughty types, that the the come down isn't too painful. Now, onto some serious business, blogging about blogging, and, more specifically, putting my two penneth in on the question of whether 2010 will be the year of the left in blog.

The question stems from an article by New Statement deputy editor James Crabtree here and has already been discussed by Guido and Iain Dale, who largely I do both agree with but wanted to add some of my own too.

Until many of the left wing blogs stop being boring essay style sites, then they'll never "breakthrough" in terms of readership that is diverse and not just wonks and activists talking to each other. Don't get me wrong here, I think Will Straw's Left Foot Forward is great from a political nerdery point of view, but there is only so far that that can take you.

Guido summed it up quite well about how some of our political blogs have become so successful, it's all about doing stuff that can direct and influence the wider-media debate. Blogs are but one little cog in a large clockwork of other source, and the most successful draw crowds in when they discuss not just the ins and outs of detailed policy analysis.

You may not agree with me on that point, but I think the reason my blog has become successful is because I don't just do politics. I do technology too (from a geeky standpoint) and am quite happy to post other totally non-political stuff about Internet sub-culture, silly photos or whatever I fancy on a given day which has led to my traffic reaching what it has.

What some of the Left have to get away from is this idea that those of us on the Right who have been successful are somehow in the pay of and driven by orders from CCHQ. I know not all think that, but it is a common theme that we are. It's bollocks. As a commenter at Iain's blog notes,

I think it will take them [the Left] a while to realise it but in terms of his constant anti-government position Guido is someone the left will have on their side after the election.
Never a truer word spoken really, and the same applies here for the most part. I have often said, whilst in the pub with other bloggers or on those secret Tory-only CCHQ backed conspiracy meetings that I go too, that I can;t wait for the Tories to win the next election so that my many detractor on the Left will suddenly see me still having a pop at Government pissing our money away on things and generally buggering things up.

That's going to happen because this is my blog, I take no orders from anyone (apart from the Other Half when it comes to cleaning natch!), and I have bugger all desire to have a political career. So, if you're in possession of documents or leaks when and if the hands on the levers of power change, you can still send them my way and I'll wax lyrical on them.

That's the key to the success of the "Left" in blogs in 2010 and onwards. A willingness to be individual and not feel the need to toe any particular lines. Of course there are some blogs on the Left out there who already do this somewhat, the only problem is that they do it in a way that makes them look like absolute hypocrites.

Take Liberal Conspiracy as a case in a point. A group blog that is obsessed with the Daily Mail's shoddy reporting that tackles it by being just as shoddy and often making comments that fly in the face of their own self-proclaimed moral righteousness.

Anyhow, I know I don't do the monthly statporn like some do, but as it's the New Year, I would just like to thank the 531,848 absolute unique visitors I have received over the past 12 months. Onwards and upwards!

P.S. I agree totally with Guido. Twitter is just a tool. The Left needs to stop obsessing over it by thinking it is a method of out-reach. It ain't.


 

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