Sunday, December 31, 2006
Whilst in the measuring stakes with the ruler I don't come close Iain and his 1.2 million uniques, I can't deny that I'm still astounded, and to be fair, shocked, with my rather more humble 110,000 uniques.
Tonight I am, sad to say, on-call for my employer. Such is life working in the ISP industry that is 24/7/365. Having said this I am being paid well for it so I mustn't complain too much. This does of course mean that like so many others I won't be getting hammered though. Mixing root and alcohol just wouldn't be wise.
Anyway, Happy New Year to everyone, and if I may, I'd like to raise a virtual glass to the end of the Labour Government in 2007. The sooner it happens the better off we'll all be.
The mainstream media outlets all reported that scenes from the pre-execution had been broadcast on Iraqi television, and, to my knowledge, few of the western mainstream oulets has carried that footage at all, instead simply reporting on it. Matt Drudge has linked to footage of not just the pre-execution but also, taken by a camera phone the execution itself.
Not surprisingly (to me at least) the video is freely available for all to see on Google Video, and given that it was first leeched by someone on the Something Awful forums, it's undoubtedly also been grabbed, mirrored, and cross-posted to alt-binaries.gore and all the other Net sub-culture sites out there that enjoy that sort of thing.
Now... we don't do public execution in the West, and yet the viral spread of Hussein's execution video (it's been viewed a lot) suggests that, at least in terms of sheer morbid curiosity, if such things are available to see people will view them. Saddam Hussein not only appears to have gone viral (at least in the interim), but his execution - as user-generated and distributed content - is truly "Web 2.0" too.
Kind of creepy huh?
Update: I've been watching the referrers and monitoring the search engines over the past hour or so and it looks like the viral nature of the full execution video has gone absolutely crazy. The search term "Saddam Hussein execution video" appears to be very popular right now. What does that say about us?
Saturday, December 30, 2006
The growth of these browser based web services represents a significant threat to the likes of Microsoft in terms of the licensing model they currently use for Office. Application Service Providers are not particular new, but with the growth of ever higher bandwidth, and the development potential that AJAX provides, makes me think Microsoft will have to do something very special in 2007 to cope with the threat to their market dominance in the office software space.
- There will be a General Election.
- Iran will find herself facing Osirak II. The "international community" will condemn Israel whilst secretly being happy she had the balls.
- US and UK troops will still be in Iraq by this time next year.
- Someone will face the possibility of a prison sentence over "Cash for Peerages"
- Blair will publish his memoirs and humiliate Brown on almost every page.
- Alastair Campbell will publish his diaries and humiliate Blair on almost every page.
Friday, December 29, 2006
Oh yes, there were some other minor celebrities on the list too like Former Vice-President Al Gore (why?) and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
However, in response to this, Mayor Livingstone rejected the proposal and implied that the Council was trying to buy votes in the ward as a part of an orchestrated act of corruption similar to that of Westminster Council in the 1980s. In his press statement on the the GLA website he said,
"Hammersmith's actions have the stench of Shirley Porters regime at Westminster Council in the 1980s."The 35% requirement that Livingstone cites as his reason is important here. If Livingstone really cares about it that much why is he not acting in the same manner with Greenwich Council in South-East London who are also not meeting that requirement? Especially given that the per capita wealth in Greenwich is far lower than in Hammersmith and Fulham. You'd think that he would be all over Greenwich Council like a rash yet he isn't.
This couldn't be because Hammersmith and Fulham is a Tory Council whilst Greenwich Council remains one of the last bastions of Labour strength in the capital could it? Is it right that the Mayor of London should behave with such blatant party political hypocrisy? What's more, is it befitting of his office to makes utterly unfounded implication of deliberate corruption at a time when the party he represents is under investigation by Scotland Yard for the very same?
How exactly a station that is upfront about not being impartial is an insincere spin machine I'll never know. The article is also a little inaccurate, as to my knowledge Alex Story no longer works at Doughty Street and hasn't now for about a month.
I still like The Register though.
Now besides the rank hypocrisy of such actions, what exactly does this say about the authority of Blair over his Cabinet? To have Cabinet ministers openly rebelling against the impact of policies they're collectively responsible for suggests that discipline within the Blair cabinet is non-existent.
They say that when the cats away the mice will play, but don't the actions of Blears, Reid et al suggest that far from being the cat, Blair has in fact become little more than a stale piece of cheese in the corner of the Cabinet room in Number 10? Clearly the Cabinet is in open revolt.
What struck me as I watched was how all the "new" features in Vista were things that Linux had been doing for years. For example, Vista allows you disable USB ports. Now, besides being able to do that in the BIOS of most systems anyway, the hot plug system under Linux as been able to do it for years with a simple line added to one config file.
Microsoft then showed off it 3D desktop features. Again I found myself thinking that Linux, and OSX for that matter, had been doing what it was doing for some time, and what's more, they were doing it better, and the demos didn't crash.
Thus I come to the compare and contrast between Microsoft Vista and Linux. The contrast between an expensive clunky proprietary operating system and a free, open source community driven operating system. Linux remains way ahead of the curve when it comes to eye candy (and incidentally I call it eye candy because that is all it is. No one is actually likely to use the features on either desktop for any functional reason).
Here is Vista.
Here is Linux
The latest idiocy appears to be a plan for the formalisation of mobocracy in the Magistrate Courts. Effectively, the mob, sorry, the "community" will be given a say in sentencing.
According to the Government, there will now be scope for something called "Community Impact Statements" in Magistrates Courts. This will let local people tell the court how the convicted person[s] has blighted their lives and community. They will then be allowed to put forward how they think the convicted should be sentenced.
By all accounts, that suggests that the a Magistrate is no longer actually being a judge at all, the mob is.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Apparently, "up to 19% of cigarettes smoked in the UK are illicit". Saying "up to 98%" would be just as valid a statement mind. I bet there was a discussion over coffee by press officers about what arbitrary figure to slap in there.
What's more, to dissuade all the tobacco smoking addicts to quit they warn us that counterfeit cigarettes have "80% more nicotine". Surely to your average smoker that's a good thing?
* the illicit cigarette trade funds serious organised crime, including the drugs trade and people smuggling.Shifted blame guilt-tripping, nice! I wonder when they will start to argue that we should stop using gas supplied by Gazprom because it helps to maintain Russias oligarch mafia bosses reign of terrors in the Urals?
* an illicit tobacco market allows low level criminality to gain a foothold in a communityActually, having less real police officers and ignoring low level crime due to increased priority for "hate crimes" and centrally driven targets does that.
* the illicit cigarette market will undercut honest traders and can drive them out of businessTranslation: Our department gets less of your money.
* the illicit cigarette market is wholly unregulated - smugglers don't care if their customers are children.Neither do many shopkeepers, and looking at certain African states neither do some of cigarette companies.
How long is it before the Department of Health puts out a press release like this claiming that people who smoke smuggled ciggies are actually responsible for the cash shortage in the NHS? Let's not be under any illussion here, HMRC doesn't want people to quit smoking, it just wants us to quit smoking things that it isn't taxing.
There is also, apparently, the possibility of airline passengers who have already been subjected to this extra £5 per head since the Pre-Budget Report making a claim back on the Government for not having legal power to take the money in the first place.
I do hope that happens, hell hath no fury like a British taxpayer scorned!
Apparently we should all keep ponds if possible - assuming of course we follow all the health 'n safety regulations about it. We shouldn't buy new monitors for our PCs, the environment is more important than that CRT refresh rate damaging your eyes. We should also only use wood from sustainable sources - our tax credit increases will pay for it (assuming they didn't make a mistake). We should consider using eBay - better not do it too much though or the taxman might consider you a business.
We should all try and get gas ovens, even though they are relatively rare today and far more potentially lethal. We should buy the most expensive fridge freezers (again your tax credits will pay for this). Oh yes, and buy more fuel efficient cars, it's only £8000 on the road for a nice shiny new motor that will lose half its value when you drive it out of the showroom. What do you mean you can't afford it? Have you not heard of tick?
It doesn't stop just with the guide though, the press release goes on to say that a "carbon calculator to help people find out how much carbon they emit annually from their actions is also being developed". What better way to tackle environmental issues than by spending development time and money on something that already exists in bucket loads out on the Interweb?
Of course there is always a mildly amusing part in any Government press release. It's usually the part where the Government makes some claim about it's own self-righteousness which evidence shows to be utterly ludicrous. In this case it says that the "Government is also taking action to reduce its own emissions."
Now, I invite you to take a walk around Westminster in the evening, and in particular past DEFRA, and you shall see an array of empty, yet thoroughly lit buildings. You will also see through windows desktop computers clearly left running, and the gentle hazy light being emitted from monitors on standby.
Now, would anyone like a cup of tea? I made it in this Government approved black teapot.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West) (Con):On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is there nothing that can be done about lawyers who are somewhat used to being paid by the hour and, as a consequence, take an inordinate amount of time to ask a question and even longer to answer one?The thing is, is it appropriate for the Speaker to be providing tutoring for Ministers on how to answer questions?
Mr. Speaker: I have been giving some tutoring to the Under-Secretary, because I know that she came from the courts to Parliament. I would not say that she took too long today; it is just that she is improving, and there could be more improvement.
This is not the same thing that was announced six months ago in June. In that case the forty worst areas were to be called "Respect Areas" which is clearly totally different.
3-2-1 you're back in the room!
Sunday, December 24, 2006
The response was certainly interesting, the general consensus was that Ming Campbell was not up to the job and would need to be replaced before the next General Election else it would not play out very well for the Lib Dems. So, that's rumblings from Lib Dems about the ability of their leader at Christmas. What is it they say about history? If the noise for a snap election next October grows, might we have yet another leadership contest?
Peter Gutmann, of the Computing Science department at the University of Auckland has written a cost analysis of Vista's content protection system which certainly cuts to the chase in highlighting it's problem. Well worth a read, although it is quite technical.
The reason I'm posting about this is because this argument that religion causes tension, division and war is simply not true. The cause of tension, division and war, is mankind acting politically in the pursuit of maintaining some sort of power through ideology. Religion is merely a symptom of that root cause. One only has to look at Stalin or Mao, to realise that even without religion, man remains just as brutish (if not even more some might argue).
It's actually an intellectual cop-out to simply blame religion for the world's ills. We find it much easier to search for organisations to blame, rather than taking a deeper look at the fundamental reality of man's condition. It's much more palatable to blame organisations that believe in a supernatural deity than to acknowledge that human nature is the real cause tension and division.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
"[The Democrats] aren't the ones who won the midterm elections, nor are the Republicans the ones who lost. Rather, the Mujahideen -- the Muslim Ummah's vanguard in Afghanistan and Iraq -- are the ones who won, and the American forces and their Crusader allies are the ones who lost"Ayman al Zawahri goes on to say the Democrats should negotiate with bin Laden and not anyone else in the Islamic world.
Friday, December 22, 2006
Anyways, here are the seven best things I did this year.
1: Started this blog.
2: Discovered the johnson4leader domains.
3: Turned 600+ lines of bad code into less than 100 lines of elegant code.
4: Became "published" in the Little Red Book of New Labour Sleaze.
5: Stood for Council, lost, but had bloody good time winding Labour up in the process.
6: Read Homer
7: Appeared on 18 Doughty Street.
I'm in a cheeky mood, so I think I will tag Ed Vaizey and Boris just to see if they'll do it, and also the man from Croydon, and that bloke in Prague.
The Westminster section contains the obvious two, Guido and Iain, but also contains the Devil's Kitchen and yours truly. I'm not really sure what to say to be honest, its been a rather peculiar year for me, especially the growth of this site. Cheers.
Do check out the rest of the list here.
However, the rules state that he must pass a resolution in Parliament to do so. As Parliament has now risen it means that there is no legal requirement for the airlines to collect the extra duty, nor is there any obligation on travellers to do so.
This isn't the first time that the Government has thought it has the power to do things which it can't. People may remember when Blair, in his rapid evening re-shuffle, scrap the office of Lord Chancellor. It was only later that same day that it was pointed out to him that he could not just scrap the position of Lord Chancellor on a whim because it would require amendments to literally hundreds of pieces of legislation first.
Read more from Iain here.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
When I first discovered the site I wondered why it went live with so little Government boasting. After all, it's a successful Government IT project, and they are few and far between. Then I discovered the awful truth.
It is wise that they've not promoted it to much. The site is running on a Windows server using IIS 5.0. This is bad. This is very bad. IIS is now officially at 6.0 and whilst it remains utter rubbish as a web server it doesn't at least have quite the wealth of "how to hack IIS" guides as 5.0 does.
I'd be surprised if it isn't attacked by scriptkiddies at some point, although in fairness it's likely to fall over before that if gets a sustained amount of traffic from lawyers etc. I should add too that this has really lightened up the day in my office. We're all rather amused that such a system could go live. The question on our lips is if the front-end is running IIS5.0 what the hell is the database running? *shudders*
Update: I'm sure the ID cards database system will be very secure though.
Update 2: It has just occurred to me that should this site be compromised I will be the first port of call for the Old Bill. For the record, I am not encouraging any criminality, I am highlighting the fact that the Government has launched a system that is inherently weak in terms of security, and it clearly needs to look at it's processes in relation to security review.
The latest example is from Health Minister Lord Warner, who has "today announced 44.5 million in funding for four new community hospitals and health centres". Read on though and it becomes clear that this is money from an already allocated pot of 750 million.
[insert reference to Dead or Alive tune here]
"The oppressive powers will disappear while the Iranian people will stay. Any power that is close to God will survive while the powers who are far from God will disappear like the pharaohs.... Today, it is the United States, Britain and the Zionist regime which are doomed to disappear as they have moved far away from the teachings of God," he said in a speech in the western town of Javanroud.... It is a divine promise."How quaint to appeal to a Jacksonite-style manifest destiny whilst simultaneously predicting the demise of the USA!
Harsh, but probably fair for the vast majority of blogs. I do think though that if you remove the noise it may not be quite a starkly put. After all, and certainly in the case of the UK, I'd say the the core actors within this theatre are clearly people who, IRL, were already working in the media, think tanks, and/or political parties. They are not ranting and raving loonies that make up the bulk of what passes for comment. They often break stories, and they certainly influence the political agenda within their respective parties.
Having said all this though, clearly I'm a fool and you're an imbecile.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Now, besides giving a whole new meaning to the phrase "running a car into the ground", why exactly would you want to make the hull of a boat out of biodegradable material? Forgive me if I'm being a little cynical here, but would you get in a boat if you knew the hull might spring a leak by design?
The Tory MP, Anne McIntosh asked the Transport minister what assessment had been made on the "likely effect on congestion of increases in fuel duty". Stephen Ladyman's response was that responsibility for making such impact assesments was the Chancellors, but went on to say that "raising fuel duty would be significantly less efficient than road pricing as a means of reducing congestion".
Given that Gordon Brown claimed his recent increase in fuel duty was about the environment and congestion it's certainly interesting that the Department of Transport is so willing to state that he's wrong. I wonder if Ladyman was speaking for wee Doogie in his answer?
The most vocal opponents in the UK happen to be motorcyclists who already ride with their lights on so they can be seen. If every vehicle on the road suddenly has it;s lights on, motorcyclists become lost in the mass of light, and it will likely increase the danger to them. There is also of course the issue of using more power, ergo carbon, with this proposal. Joined-up thinking and all that stuff.
However, the reason for this post is to highlight, to the EU's credit, the fact that they do pretty much publish anything they receive in representation. Specifically I refer to the submission by Mr John Crippetts here, who said,
Subject: Can't see in broad daylight?Mr Crippetts, I salute you.
Try eating more carrots. Cars could have them feeding from the steering column for driver to nibble at when stopped in traffic jams.
Meanwhile, if you can't think of how to fill the day, why not take the gravy train on a fact finding tour to Timbuktoo or somewhere far away rather than make up silly new laws.
Starting with "lower risk", what Reid is really saying is less risk of overrun in costs due to poor estimates at the outset. However, from a data integrity point of view, using already existing systems, which are known to hold inaccurate data, and are accessed and updated by separate groups under different protocols, is actually an increase in risk.
There is more potential for information leakage, failures, and, most fundamentally, a wider net of loosely controlled human beings affecting data that could significantly impact on people's live if mistakes are made. Let's not be under any illusions here, mistakes will be made. I don't say this for political reasons I say it in operational terms.
Large-scale databases, especially those that carry out masses of transactional queries and updates will always have problems. "Fixing" data is a necessary fact of operational life. Place that reality in the context of multiple databases under multiple theatres of control, and you have a very risky situation indeed. Especially when it is about a card that, if introduced, will apparently become the de facto point for all manner of access to services, and other general day-to-day living.
The idea that such a system will also be more "efficient" is, to say the very least fanciful. I imagine that the argument is based on the notion of efficiency when related to data gathering. Why gather lots of data you already have in other databases that are already able to be easily queried? However, the problem of efficiency, again from an operational understand is highly questionable.
Again, the disconnected management of these discreet systems to be used, means that multiple layers of bureaucracy will stifle operational administration. In Reid's proposal, when a mistake occurs which effect data integrity, the process for rectifying it will be wholly inefficient and laborious. The consequential impact on those who mistakes impact could potentially be massive.
Take for example if the ID card becomes a requirement for receiving medical treatment. What happens when data integrity is lost for someone who can then no longer be managed through the pervasive all seeing system of the state? What happens, when due to a failure in one system, a person becomes effectively a non-person for a period whilst the bureaucracy grinds on between the different stakeholders to rectify that situation?
Finally, one has to assume that when Reid claims the system will be "faster" he is only referring to the idea that they can get it all up and running within their given deadlines. However, there cannot be a serious argument that the system itself, once running will be faster when it will make multiple access and query requests to multiple databases in multiple locations across saturated bandwidth networks? Throw on top an overhead for encryption (which one assumes must be planned), and it's pretty clear that this system will be anything but faster than the original proposal.
There is of course a little bit of political trickery and triangulation going on here as well though. After all, opposing the Reid U-turn proposals on the grounds that it will not be lower risk, efficient or faster than the original plan, suggests, consequentially, that one is supporting the original plan - this is not necessarily so. There is also something else we should note in Reid's comment though. He claimed that "[d]oing something sensible is not necessarily a U-turn".
Putting aside the absurdity of this argument regarding the U-turn not being a U-turn, these proposals are not - it seems - actually sensible at all. The system that will be produced now, will - if it ever manages to become operational - be high risk, inefficient and slower. There is nothing sensible about Reid's statement, but then that doesn't surprise me in the slightest. He's a politician trying to talk about IT without having a clue about what the real implications are.
Hat Tip: The Spine for the image
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Importantly, what this means is that we might yet see Linux with OpenOffice.org and the multitude of free software available out there in schools instead of the insecure, overly bloated, and stupidly expensive Windows.
Now, I wonder if there is any chance of convincing people like the Home Office that having thin client based Linux systems will make more sense than Windows Vista? Tux the Penguin looks better than the Windows logo too.
I wonder what its usage statistcs are? I bet the per usage cost ratio doesn't represent significant value-add. I don't deny I may be a tad cynical, but can you blame me given the fact that even Government minister's admit they are incompetent at IT?
The official Downing Street line has been to dismiss the memo by saying it was not written by any of Blair's staff, or Labour Party-funded staff in his personal office. There has been no denial of the memo's existence or of it's validity.
Whilst Downing Street's line is what led Iain and Guido to Gould, are there not a number of political appointees who work on the Civil Service side in Number 10? Wouldn't these be people who fall between the gaps of the very specific groups in the PMOS's official statement?
It is pretty much an accepted truth these days that Gordon Brown will takeover from Blair as the next leader of the Labour Party - thereby becoming Prime Minister. It is also a well known fact that Brown very much has his own "team" in the Treasury that will inevitably move next door into Downing Street when the time comes.
Could it therefore be that this memo emanated from those who fall through the cracks in the official line who known that they are about to lose their jobs? Was the memo actually a plea by those that know they have no future salary prospects in Downing Street for someone, anyone, to stand against Brown?
Obviously the contents of the memo is astonishing, and in my mind quite an accurate reflection of how poor the Government actually is. But rather than it being by someone like Philip Gould, might it just be by a bunch of disgruntled employees who really are not looking forward to the hatchet man next door ruining their summer with compulsory redundancy?
You'd think they'd all be in a Union for their own protection, wouldn't you?
Now, besides that being an excellent way of avoiding answering politically sensitive questions, you have to wonder how they calculate when a question will actually cost more than £700. The reason I say that is because of two unanswered questions that seem so simple as to beggar belief that they will cost too much to answer.
Both questions were put to the Ministry of Defence, the first asking which of the 10 consultancy fees charged to the MoD since May 1997 "were most expensive", and the second simply asking what how much was "spent on the Territorial Army in the last period for which figures are available; and what percentage that figure represents of total defence spending in that period."
Both responses start with the line that the information is not held centrally. Can this really be true? Does the MoD really not have a single budget ledger listing the figures it spent on 10 different consultancy charges? Is it genuinely conceivable that the MoD, the central organisation, does not keep a record of how much money it allocated to non-regular Army provision?
If it is true that these figures are not held centrally, then doesn't that imply a fundamental and serial failure in accountancy management in the Ministry of Defence? Wouldn't a call to the Treasury be able to access the figures for less than £700? If a business acted in this sort of way it would fall foul of all sorts of FSA rules wouldn't it?
I can accept that sometimes there will be difficulties in answering some of the granular questions that are submitted about matters of accountancy. However, these two questions are brilliant examples of very non-granular questions that should be able to be answered quite quickly. Hell, the question about the Territorials only asked for the last set of figures available, it gave massive leeway for the failure to provide information and yet still the question wasn't answered.
Given yesterdays news regarding body armour and the fact that the Secretary of State has to sign off things (and failed to do so), is it not fair to ask whether the MoD is fit for purpose when it comes to fiscal accountability? Or perhaps I'm being naive and that question should be asked of the entire Government?
Monday, December 18, 2006
I shall of course being offering a contribution for consideration.
Now, whilst I cannot (yet) establish whether this is money that's already been announced, what is hidden away in the press release is the announcement that the amount of money the Government plans to spend in 2008/09 and 2010/11 will be cut.
The final paragraph of the release states that "[i]ntegrated transport allocations totalling £1,769 million across the country for 2008/09 to 2010/11, subject only to next year's spending review, are also included in today's announcement."
Crude maths I know, but that means the Department of Transport plans to spend £700 million less over the two years following 2007/08. You have to love obfuscation really. When they're not obviously re-announcing money, they're burying budget cuts in the detail.
According to the report in the Independent on Sunday, the nomination forms show that they were put forward as a result of their public service, including making donations to City Academies. The implication here, if the nomination forms are genuine, is that Blair has misled, or possibly even lied, to the Police when he was questioned. How long will it be before the door to Number 10 gets another knock, this time for the benefit of the tape?
Please be aware though this is not the same policy that Frank Field advocated when he said Labour should "think the unthinkable" in the build-up to 1997. This is a completely different policy, just as the abolition of the CSA was a completely different policy to the one that has been talked about for years and never happened.
It's coming to something when the Government - in need of grabbing the news agenda after the week that saw the Police at Downing Street, and the "shambles memo" - has to re-announce (again) a policy that it's serially failed to implement over the past nine year.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
The Information Age is ours and we control it with our content, our networks, and our lives. YouTube, Blogger, MySpace, LiveJournal, Bebo, AIMPages have given the ability to the non-technical to easily and freely communicate their content to the world, and 2006 saw an explosion of it's usage worldwide. Congratulations to everyone I guess.
Saturday, December 16, 2006
What a brilliant week this has been! I particularly like this bit from the memo,
"The Government is seen as a shambles. It is not just Labour internal conflicts but a lack of grip and competence on key issues. Iraq is a potent and raw issue, so is the NHS, immigration and crime. We have lost control of the big issues and are not delivering"Oh happy days!
Giving Taylor the benefit of the doubt, I guess he must be absolutely shocked and stunned that such a good friend of his would be struck by a stroke. I send my condolences.
Friday, December 15, 2006
According to a written answer from Prescott, his department's website has had only 2,771 unique visits since August, and a mere 6,836 page impressions.
Update: Seeing as that very nice man Iain Dale has linked to me and boasted about his traffic, I thought I ought to boast a little too. Whilst I'm not a patch on the Blogfathers, I have had 37,752 unique visits and 49,656 page impressions since the August. You'll note that my unique to page impression ratio is far better than Iain's, hence I win.
Hat Tip: Croydonian for the post title
Thursday, December 14, 2006
What does that actually mean though? Would Yates bother presenting a report if he didn't think there was a case? Or is presenting a report standard practice.. especially given the high profile nature of the whole thing?
More importantly, why is no one talking about the fact that the world's tallest man has saved a dolphin's life by using his long arms to reach into their stomachs and pull out dangerous plastic shards?
It's a wind up watch, and as it ticks away the PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR majestically waves her[sic] hand.Perhaps Tony should get one to count the seconds before she leaves?
You've got to admit that's not bad considering everyone said they were rubbish, and sales are bearing that statement out to be true. I'm going to wait until I can get a copy at a car boot sale for 50p. Shouldn't be long.
According to following reports, in for example, the Daily Telegraph, some classic old school hacking techniques are coming into play. In the hacking world it's called social engineering, the extraction of information from someone without them realising they're doing it. For example, the person mentioned in the Telegraph story rang BT pretending to be another BT call centre agent who's system had crashed. He then asked the agent to give him details of a customer. Thankfully, and maybe unusually, the agent was quick enough to be suspicious of such a call.
Based on what Iain posted and the other stuff in the media, it's probably very likely that information was not just gained through the use of social engineering though. At the very worst end of the scale we are talking about the potential of information leaks within Government agencies. Anyone who reads my blog regularly will know that information leak and the supposed argument about "safeguards" is not one I trust. This revelation from Iain via Michael Ashcroft initially merely strengthens my view on that point.
There is though an important educational issue here. In the past I have written about banks which call people and request personal information for identification purposes. That practice remains commonplace today. The result is that people are all too easily manipulated into giving out information that they shouldn't. Ironically, we hear that there is a "trust issue" today between the public politicians, yet many of these breaches suggest that perhaps we are far too trusting.
Iain's biggest point on this issue was that because the papers were being fingered as culpable parties in the practice it was unlikely they would print the the story. Whey print something that slags yourself off. It would appear that he is right on that matter, the only papers to print the story thus far are those not implicated, the Telegraph and the Guardian. There is deafening silence from the tabloids. What a surprise!
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
The Register makes an interesting point though regarding whether such laws might extend into the area of role-playing games, they argue that, "[b]izarre as it is, on the much-hyped VR environment Second Life, some subscribers represent themselves as children, in the expectation of being abused."
Something that springs to mind as another grey area would be Japanese hentai which, like it's less sexually explicit Anime cousin, has a tendency to portray it's characters as particularly child-like in appearance (although not in action in either case). I guess we shall just have to wait for the Home Office's consultation paper on the issue.
The Fink is reporting that his petition has now gone live so I thought I'd check my mail and see if my petition had gone live yet. The great news it has, here. I wonder if many people will sign it.
It should probably be no wonder that DEFRA has to cut the Waterways budget though. Not only is there the problem that it has totally balls up the single payment subsidy to farmers, but it was revealed in a written answer that since 2002 DEFRA has spent a staggering £169,146,043 on management consultants.
Who needs canals when you've got consultants?
Thankfully I live in the poorest postal district in London, so this is great news for me. I do wonder about the increase in cars parked on the side of road as all those people deemed "rich" stop draw money out.
Even though I will probably beneift from this plan, I have to admit I think it's rather silly. For example, pensioners who bought their homes in what was once a poor area and is now a rich area will find themselves punished. People on low income who decide to treat themselves to a day out may find themselves charged for cash withdrawal simply because of where they went out for the day.
The claim is that it is about finanical inclusion, but the reality is that the so-called "rich" people will just find the ATMs that don't charge them and the banks and cash machine operators will find themselves having to claw back the operating costs through other means.
Whilst the scheme claims to be voluntary, its the opt-out that is voluntary, thus for many people who do not follow the news daily and have employers who don't provide financial advice, it is likely that it will be too late before they find out they are quite literally giving thousands of pounds away to the Treasury.
The most worrying thing though is that the report also quotes the Pension Reform Minister, James Purnell acknowledging that 10% of pensioner households in the scheme "may not see any benefit from saving" by 2050.
The Government claim that 10% is "only a small group of people", but given the well-documented fact that the population is aging, that 10% will undoubtedly be a significant real number when the day comes. Of course, in the short term Brown wants the money, so presumably that makes it alright.
[i]f drugs use is made more difficult, there will be fewer pushers. If there are fewer pushers then life will become harder for those further up the food chain.... there would still be tarts, and there would still be people who kill tarts. There would probably, though, be gratifyingly fewer of both.Now, forgive me for being naive here, but I was under the impression Heffer was a Thatcherite? So why has he ignored the power of the market in his argument I wonder? In his scenario the drug supply won't disappear, the price will just fall, and as the price falls, those "tarts" will get more smack for the shag as it were. What's more, what about the sex market? He may not like it, but it's not considered the oldest profession in the world for nothing.
Isn't it all so tremendously postmodern? A piece screaming for moral clarity in today's world which then cites drugs, rather than the killer[s] as the real cause for the slaughter in Ipswich. Not only has Heffer failed to realise the power of the market when it comes to drugs and sex, he also seems to have conceded the cultural war is lost to the Left's view of blame shifting. He'll be saying he likes Polly Toynbee next!
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Mr. Hayes: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister which 10 consultancy fees charged to his Office since its establishment were the most expensive.WTF?
The Deputy Prime Minister: Since its establishment, my Department has not let any consultancies.
Having said this, the amusing thing is that an explanation of the acronym SERA doesn't actually appear on the site. That couldn't be because it stands for "Socialist Environment and Resources Association" could it? How very un-New Labour sounding. I wonder if the Blairites' who are members demanded the name purge?
Those that known such threads will also know that people who say their leaving rarely do. They lurk for a while and then all of sudden re-appear. The "I'm leaving" thread is then thrown back in their face with the usual flamers and bile that comes with the Internet.
Another rule of the Internet is never, under any circumstance, announce you're going (especially in advance if you are a Prime Minister). Such actions will inevitably come back to bite you, because, if you've spent a long time posting online, either on boards or blogs, you'll never leave, the pull is to great.
Why am I posting about this? Well, it is with much regret that Bob Piper has just posted an "I'm Leaving" thread on his blog here. I do hope he's joking. True, the online virtual world has breached it's wall and spilt out into the real world for him, but as much as he may say the two events are not connected, he should not allow it to cloud his judgement.
Bob, for all his left wing ideological faults, has provided a service to his readership but also to those of us on the other side of the fence to snipe at. It's part of the game and it's part of the fun of it all, and the UK political blogosphere will not be as rich a place for debate without him in my opinion. He also recently did a lot of work changing his blog's look and appeal, to leave now would be a waste.
This is not to say he didn't make a misjudgement over the past few days. I think he did. However, that is no reason to announce a departure in my mind. His post is actually titled "Time to Reflect", he's right about that. He needs to reflect on his decision to post that he is leaving. The cynical Internet geek in me knows that he will be back, but that doesn't change my disappointment that he posted saying he was going.
The DWP it seems is much cheaper than DCMS, having spent only £1,987,000 on television advertising for the Targeting Benefit Fraud campaign. However, that figure did come with some caveats.
The figure represented media spend only, and did not include production costs, direct mailing, public relation and something mysteriously vague called "other costs". The figure was also net of VAT.
When you add VAT to the figure it's just short of £2,335,000 million. My limited understanding of TV suggests that production costs would be considerable, and lord know how much you can lump in "other costs". I wonder what the total TV advertising spend across Government departments is in one financial year?
Monday, December 11, 2006
"The pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the Western world, its financial grips. I think they have probably got a certain grip on our party."Something that hasn't been wildly reported in the UK that I can see, is that last week she resigned as a trustee from the Christian Aid board at their AGM. There are also rumours that she may have been forced to resign precisely because Christian Aid no longer wanted her views associated with them.
I wonder what Flello's motivation is for such a question though? According to TheyWorkForYou he never rebels against the party in Parliament. Good this be a planted question in advance of some announcement about the so-called "double-devolution" plans for local authorities? After all, you wouldn't ask such a question unless you either believed in it, or you knew something about the answer already would you?
The very idea of yet more professional full-time politicians should make anyone wince really. The best thing about councillors currently is that they are normal people with real world experience (most of the time (at least Tories anyway (usually)). If we started to have full-time elected councillor we would see the rise of the political class at a local level like we have in Westminster. I'm looking forward to seeing the response.
The problem is that this is like a sticking plaster masking the issue. People will see this Kitemark and falsely assume that their children are now safe. You can just see it now, little Johnny has been groomed and abused by someone online, and his parents go on the news and say "we bought a Government Kitemark product and it didn't work".
Frankly this policy, besides being clearly driven by headlines (you can't beat a good "Government crack down on Net pervs!" story in the tabloids), will not actually protect children. In fact, it is dangerous because it will lull parents into a false sense of security. This kind of software is only as good as the person that administers it, and, as technology changes, many will become obsolete very quickly. Many parents though will not be aware of such things because they "have a Kitemark product, so everything is OK".
Sunday, December 10, 2006
"I assume and hope that they (the council) will immediately ask him to take it down and possibly take some disciplinary action themselves. If they do not then there's the option of taking it further.... I am sure the Commission for Racial Equality would be interested. It just shows a spectacular lack of judgement. I know that Bob Piper represents a reasonably diverse and ethnic area - what could he be thinking of to post this up on his blog?"A reasonable point made by Grant really. The leader of Sandwell Council is also quoted as saying
"I think it overstepped the mark quite frankly and I will be taking measures to see Councillor Piper as soon as possible"For me the biggest issue is that if someone from the right had produced the same "satire" the reaction would've been total outrage from the Left with accusations of racism. There is something worrying with this intellectual position that many on the Left have which asserts they are not capable of racism because of their ideological purity. It's bollocks.
I have to say I think the argument is compelling. The portals of the world are now established, and it is highly unlikely that any players would start spending large amounts of money to enter such space. The only genuine revenue streams in portals are ads, and most web users are starting to block such delivery.