Sunday, November 06, 2011

Stop saying "flaming" is "trolling"

Recently, a piece was posted on the New Statesman website about the abuse bloggers face in their comments. Specifically though this was about the abuse female bloggers face in their comments. You see, being told that you deserve to die or be raped is, apparently, an area that is reserved solely for females.

Now, having been online since the 1992 I personally take issue with that assertion. Death threats, rape threats, vicious violent threats are not, in my experience, reserved for any one particular gender at all. I've been threatened with all manner of nasty ends from being anally raped to within an inch of my life, to being burned at the stake (amusingly enough when that happened I was trolling myself and posting provocative neo-Marxist arguments on a a message board full of rednecks).

Anyways, mentioning burning here is rather apt, as responding like that is called "flaming" when it happens, yet it seems now that the Observer has taken up the cause have decided that it's actually trolling, they note
The frequency of the violent online invective – or "trolling" – levelled at female commentators and columnists is now causing some of the best known names in journalism to hesitate before publishing their opinions.
Now, I must apologise here for being pedantic, but telling someone online that you hope they "DIE, DIE, DIE. I HOPE YOU BURN IN HELL!" or "I HOPE YOU GET RAPED......... TWICE!" is not trolling. OK?

It's an easy mistake to make if you think the word "troll" refers to ugly creatures that live under bridges. However, what it actually refers to is a form of fishing where where you cast a line into the water baited with lure, a spinner perhaps, and you drag it along hoping to catch a fish stupid enough to bite.

It is a subtle art where you post to a forum, a message board, a newsgroup, a blog, with the distinct purpose of making that community bite back at you. Your target is not the writer alone but in fact everyone that reads your words.

A good troll is one where the community bite and have no idea they've been had (see "oh how I envy American students" for details, a troll that kept getting responses for a year); a bad troll is when it's blatantly obvious the words are designed to cause trouble (posting a derogatory comment about Mohammad to an Islamic forum for example) and that is called flaming. See here for the legendary Ultimate Flame.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

If you're born in August you're screwed... allegedly

There's a great little piece in today's Daily Mail about a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) that has found "August born children" are disadvantaged at school by being the youngest in the Academic year. Apparently,
August-born boys are 12 per cent less likely than September-born boys to get good GCSEs and girls are nine per cent less likely.

In addition, August-born youngsters are 20 per cent more likely to ditch academic study and learn a trade from the age of 16. They are 20 per cent less likely to go to an elite university.

And it is not just their education that suffers as they are more likely to be bullied at primary school and have lower confidence in their academic ability.

As a result as teenagers, they are also more inclined to smoke, binge drink and take cannabis and fewer are in control of their lives.
Oh dear, am I alone in feeling that perhaps this an effect desperately seeking out a cause?

Lord knows how this sort of thing works for those kids who, by virtue of things like "rising fives" find themselves in the year above the year they should be in in school. They're probably on the scrapheap right? Well, except for say a certain lady I know who is a research scientist at Cancer Research and has appeared on the Today programme, but was always the "youngest in the year".

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Right wing former minister in links to other right wingers SHOCKER!

There's a real gem in this morning's sunday tabloid the Observer. In an effort to stretch out the story about Liam Fox resigning - he should've gone over a week ago really - they've done an investigative piece that has discovered that the Pope is Catholic and bears do indeed shit in the woods.
David Cameron has been accused of allowing a secret rightwing agenda to flourish at the heart of the Conservative party, as fallout from the resignation of Liam Fox exposed its close links with a US network of lobbyists, climate change deniers and defence hawks.
Noooo really? Liam Fox, the dfence secretary knew defence? Never! I don't believe it! You jest surely? You'll be telling me next that the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley knows doctors!

In a sign that Fox's decision to fall on his sword will not mark the end of the furore engulfing the Tories, both Liberal Democrat and Labour politicians stepped up their demands for the prime minister to explain why several senior members of his cabinet were involved in an Anglo-American organisation apparently at odds with his party's environmental commitments and pledge to defend free healthcare.
Hang on a minute, are you saying that some people in the Tory Party disagree with David Cameron and have been chatting with others who disagree with him? OMFG! Really? Seriously? God I wish the Labour or the Lib Dems were the sole party of power, they've never ever had a disagreement on policy ever. Shining examplesof unity are they!

An Observer investigation reveals that many of those who sat on the Anglo-American charity's board and its executive council, or were employed on its staff, were lobbyists or lawyers with connections to the defence industry and energy interests. Others included powerful businessmen with defence investments and representatives of the gambling industry.
Oh yes, the new puritanism has arrived, filthy fornicating gamblers in Atlantic City. Can someone, anyone, pleases explain to me (a) why its wrong that people on a board of a voluntary organisation have errr jobs? and (b) where the Observer investigation was about the links between Gordon Brown's Smith Institute and Fidel Castro? What you didn't know there was a link? Trust me, with the degrees of separation rules at play in the Observer's piece I bet I could find one.

Don't get me wrong here, Liam Fox was right to resign, but seriously, the Observer "investigation" is so pants it's not even worthy of the Sunday Mirror. They've exposed the square root of 1/5 of nothing and simply screamed that Liam Fox knew some people they don't like and therefore by association there is some sort of dark shadowy Illuminati at play here, illustrated brilliantly by Lib Dem peer Lord Oakeshot who said "Dr Fox is a spider at the centre of a tangled neocon web."

Pass the tinfoil.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Committed genocide? Come to Britain and get away with it

Quality extract in the Mail on Sunday from Phil Woolas's diary when he was Labour Immigration Minister
June 28
Back to Rwanda. We have four people wanted for genocide in Rwanda (there are 100 but the four are the test case). The magistrates had agreed to extradite them but the High Court had disagreed on the grounds that they would not get a fair trial in Rwanda.

I am advised that I should grant six months leave to remain in the UK ‘in the hope that the legal system in Rwanda improves’.

I had asked why we couldn’t try them in The Hague and was told as they were not British, I couldn’t send them there!

So a person accused of committing genocide in an ‘unsafe country’ (which country that has genocide is safe!) simply has to get into an ECHR country and they will get away with it. The ECHR is providing cover for people who commit genocide. Madness.
The mind boggles at that one.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Riots: Quote of the Day

From the Telegraph and Daily Mail
Looters formed an orderly queue outside JD Sports.
Only in Britain huh?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Amy Winehouse - posts from the past

I think Amy Winehouse's record sales are about to go through the roof given her untimely death due to overdose. Anyhow, here's some posts from the past.

Before Heroin - 9th April 2007

Sticking with the music theme of the last post, I;ve just seen Channel 4 News run a piece about Amy Winehouse and whether she should be up for the Mercury Music Prize or not because she's a smackhead.

It's worth noting how bloody good the critically acclaimed 2003 album Frank actually was and who she was before she became a household name because she likes to chase the dragon. This is "Fuck me Pumps", and I'm sure we all know the type of girls she's singing about, not to mention the mild irony given what's happened to her.

YouTube is still being slow, give it a chance.

Anyway, I'm not sure whether "Back to Black" will win the Mercury Prize tonight, but comparing this girl to Coldplay (as Nich Starling did last week) is way of the mark musically and lyrically. Shame about the smack.


Quick Saturday Observation - 25th August 2007 (horribly prescient)

The UK's own Janis Joplin in waiting?

N.B. Personally I think her first album is infinitely better than Rehab.


Today probably marks the birth of music legend. Whether she deserves to be one or not will be a matter of personal taste.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Perspective

Prime Minister: Tony Blair
Allegation: Accused of modifying government policy relating to tobacco advertising in sports in return for a donation of £1 million to his political party
Truth Status: Not proven - opinions on truth dependent on personal prejudices. Donation eventually returned (although modified policy remained in force)
What Opponents Said: Resign
Political Status: Survived and won following two elections.

Prime Minister: Tony Blair
Allegation: Along with his Director of Commmunication accused of lying to Parliament by embelishing and "sexing up" the case for the Iraq War. Presure intensified by the sudden, mysterious death of whistleblower leading to multiple inquiries and conspiracy theories.
Truth Status: Not proven - opinions on truth dependent on personal prejudices.
What Opponents Said: Resign
Political Status: Survived and won following election.

Prime Minister: Tony Blair
Allegation: That peerages and knighthoods were offered and exchanged for loans and donations to the Labour Party. Staff in Downing Street including the Prime Minister questioned by Police.
Truth Status: Not proven - opinions on truth dependent on personal prejudices.
What Opponents Said: Resign
Political Status: Survived

Prime Minister: David Cameron
Allegation: That he previously employed someone who has since resigned, who may have - as yet to be proven but alleged by a whistle-blower who has suddenly died - acted criminally prior to his employment; and to have met with multiple times on both personal and business terms (in keeping with his two predecessors), the Chief Executive of a newspaper business.
Truth Status: What exactly is the allegation? Opinion will depend on personal prejudices.
What Opponents Said: Resign
Political Status: To Be Confirmed (oddly)

Update: First example courtesy of Alan in the comments.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Election by September?

Sometimes you just happen to be in the right place at the right time to overhear something and then you have to make a quick judgement about what you hear and who said it. This morning is such an occasion so I offer the following health warning:
** This post is rampant speculation based on things heard and observed **
OK, that said, I got on my train this morning into London and sat on a bank of six chairs where three men were already sitting. They were chatting in a manner that suggested they knew each other quite well and possibly worked together. The discussion was audible but in hush tones.

It was evident quite quickly that the topic of discussion was News International. One of the men, who I'm sure I recognised from the press room at a Tory conference said,

"The only reason Rebekah is still there is because she knows where all the bodies are buried"
At this point, having referred to someone by first name only there was a look from one of the three to the man who uttered the words, and then the same man did that thing you do with your eyes to indicate something elsewhere... in this case... me. In other words it was a "shut the fuck up" with his eyes.

So anyway, the journey continues and the bloke that did the eyes starts to read his Metro. In the front page, top corner of today;s Metro is a box that says something along the lines of "Sun and Sunday Times now pulled into scandal". The "eyes guy" points to it and nudges the one who referred to "Rebekah" by first name and the following was said,

Yeah. They'll be an election in two months when the rest comes out.
Now, as I said at the beginning, this post carries a health warning. The only reason I posted it was because of the way in which someone was indicated to shut up because I was sitting there.

Make of it what you will.


Note: For those interested in reading other posts by me, I am now a contributer over at Dale & Co.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

This is a gay club for gay people...we'll have no straight ones here

Let's play a little game shall we. Imagine, if you will that you're a Tory councillor and you went out one night to a nightclub to see someone perform. Imagine to that you were standing in the queue waiting patiently to pass the bouncers and get through the door.

Whilst in the queue you noticed that they were quite a few gay couples queuing too, so, you get out your mobile phone, you fire up Twitter and you tell your 6000 or so followers that,
Resent the number of gay people in the nightclub queue. If you want to see [insert performers name] BUGGER OFF SOMEWHERE ELSE.
What do you think the screaming Left would be saying on Twitter? It wouldn't be long before you'd probably be "under pressure" from Leftie bloggers to quit. "Evidence!" they would scream of the vicious evil hatred of equality and sexuality differences.

OK, game over, now let's shoot back into reality just a few hours ago to see what a Labour councillor and former NUS President said last night.

Now..... personally I don't really have a problem with the comment in terms of its content and point.* What I do have a problem with is the inherent hypocrisy that exists within the comment given who is making it. You see, it illustrates wonderfully everything that is wrong with identity-based politics.

If you're going to go down the route of championing the rights and equal treatments of social groups, whether it be based on gender, who you have sex with, or skin colour, then you really ought to be consistent.

For example, if you're going to champion women and fight against sexism, then being sexist towards men isn't really going to put your argument on the moral high ground. Likewise, if you've been listed as one of the "50 most powerful gay people in British politics" it's probably not a good idea to start slagging off straight people.

I doubt of course that such hypocritical dickheadness will result in any newspapers article calling for this particular councillor (also tipped as a future Cabinet minister) to resign or apologise for being heterophobic - mainly because there is no such thing as heterophobia just as it not possible for a white person to experience racism.

* UPDATE: Just so it's clear here, I don't think Wes Streeting should be apologising for being "nasty" to straight people because I do actually understand his sentiment. The issue is (a) what would be his reaction if you reversed the words and a Tory councillor said them, and (b) the act of doublethink required on Wes Streeting's part to make such a comment in the first place.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Blogging has been light and will remain so...

Apologies for the lack of posts, the new role I mentioned a couple of months ago has now started in earnest so blogging is now taking very much a back seat whilst I get to grip with all sorts of Amazon cloudy type things.

However, if you're really bored and want some amusement I strongly advise reading the recent woes of Tim Ireland over at Bloggerheads and his battle with the Times Higher Education Supplement who seemingly decided to use the name "Bloggerheads" for a column or something.

It really chuckled me when I read it on the train the other day. Back in a month or so probably.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Will SamCam catch the "Dreamscape Flight" home?

You have to love a bit of mindless churnalism from the mainstream media, right? Especially when they fail to spot a rather obvious joke and then palm it off as something that is true. So here's something to make you chuckle - well maybe.

On Saturday, Guido Fawkes posted that,
the PM was on a crack-of-dawn flight to Ibiza this morning. He paid for premium boarding. Sam flew out yesterday, again on Easyjet taking the baby but leaving the rest of the kids at home. She also took Friday’s Easyjet 3043 which leaves Stansted at 6 a.m. and is know[sic] as the “Sunrise flight” in tribute to the legendary rave organisation.
On Sunday, the Daily Mail wrote up that,

The Prime Minister flew out on the 6am easyJet flight 3043 from Stansted – known as the ‘Sunrise flight’ in tribute to the legendary rave organisation which organised all-night dance music parties in the countryside of southern England during the late Eighties.

Whilst the Daily Telegraph noted that,

This time the Camerons are understood to have taken Easyjet's 6am departures from Stansted - known as the "Sunrise flight" in tribute to the raves of the 1990s.
At some point you would've thought they might have done their research on that little "tribute" and realised that it's a reference to event promoters, the PR officer of which was one Paul Staines aka errrr Guido Fawkes.

You might have thought the hacks would've also noticed that Sunrise stopped in 1993, two years before Easyjet were even formed, and 6 years before they started flying to Ibiza. Or maybe, just maybe they would've checked the flights to Ibiza and spotted the lack of choice about flying times?

It's either 6am (landing around 10am local time) or nearer 10pm (landing around 2am local time) - a no-brainer on which is preferable especially when you have baby in tow.

Yes indeed, apparently the "Fourth Estate" genuinely believes an early morning flight to Ibiza in 2011, on a route that first appeared in 1999, is nicknamed after one of very many many raves that went on a decade earlier that just so happens to have had a PR officer who was also the source of the claim of the "tribute" nickname.

Anyone with a half a brain ought to have spotted the rave reference was a piss-take, so I believe the appropriate words in the contemporary Interweb lexicon are "epic fail".

Incidentally, should any hacks be reading this, the late night flight to Ibiza is named the "Dreamscape Flight" in tribute to a place where ecstasy chomping ravers fall asleep whilst listening to music at 200 bpm.... honestly.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Dear Prime Minister... you're talking bollocks

I see our dearly beloved Prime Minister has made a passionate defence over the International Development aid budget. This was after the Daily Mail woke up to an argument the some made even before the Coalition was formed that you cannot credibly call for austerity at home and talk about tough times whilst simultaneously ring-fencing and increasing how much money you piss away to foreign countries in aid.

Now naturally, the knee-jerk reaction to making this sort of argument is that you are in some way "callous". One of the other thing you hear is that we're a rich country and so should do it. To that I say bullshit. We're not a rich country, what we are is in fact a country that has less debt that countries we're giving money we don't have away too. If you're operating in the red and giving away money to others in the red then you're not rich at all, you're just skint and shuffling credit around.

The fact is, there is nothing callous about reeling in aid spending whilst you get yourself back on your feet. As I said back in March 2010, if Cameron or whoever stood up and said "you know what, we're in a bit of strife ourselves at the moment, and we really can't afford to do this right now" everyone in the country of the non-tribal idiot persuasion would, I imagine, nod and say "fair enough". After all, if you had £1000 and you're total bill were £1000 you;re not going to say "I think I'll give £100 to charity".

It is not callous, it is not uncaring, it is simply deferral until you're have a sound footing to start doing it again.

We've heard a lot about cuts in the last years. Some of it has been true, some of it hasn't. The thing is it doesn't matter either way, if people think their losing something at home whilst pumping money we don;t have abroad to the same cut value they're not going to be up in arms of outrage if politicians say "actually we;re going to server you, not those for the moment".

David Cameron's obsession with detoxifying the Tory-brand is blinding his judgement. If he just took a moment to lead instead of following what he thinks would be the outcome he would, I think, find that much of the country would follow him and respect him.

It's a very simple question with an even simpler one word answer. Do you give money to charity when you have none? You'll be hard pressed to find anyone who says yes I think. Sadly though I don't think Cameron is strong enough to take that view. He likes to talk the talk about making "tough decisions" when it comes to his own country, but doesn't have the balls to do it when it comes to others.

Now before anyone does predictably call me callous and uncaring I say this. I'm not saying that foreign aid should be scrapped. What I'm saying is that we should only be spending on it when we can actually afford to do so, and not at the expense of whatever spending can be achieved at home. Get the finances and house in order first, then come back to the issue later.

Through the human rights looking glass

Morning all, I've been rather busy this week tying up loose ends and projects before starting the new role I mentioned a few weeks ago (long notice period you see). Anyhow, I have but one question this morning and it can be summed up in just three letter.

W.... T.... F?

So..I heard about this potential story the other day and thought much the same but never really thought it would end as it has. I, rather naively you might think, thought common sense might prevail.

I am of course talking about the news that a man who was convicted of burglary and dangerous driving resulting in an eight month prison sentence has been released after a month after winning an Appeal Court claim on the grounds that sending him to prison breached his human right to family life as he was the sole carer of his kids.

I must admit I;m still having a bit of trouble computing this, and hopefully more coffee will help. Apparently the affect of Daddy going to jail on the kids is now more important than the justice or victims of his offences. Now.. I don;t know about you, but I would've thought seeing Daddy going to jail for doing something wrong might actually be an important lesson to the kids of what happens when you break the law, but apparently not.

You might also be asking "errr where's the mother?"... she's not dead or anything. The five kids have been staying with her at the weekends for the last month and at the burglars sister's during the week. Apparently though that wasn't good enough better to free the guy huh?

Now here we have, once again, the irritating reality of the "human rights" agenda, but also we have a brilliant illustration of the problem of determining rights on the basis of holding the quality of "human" rather than the quality of "being a citizen of civil society".

You see, if you think about it, "human" rights, as defined in the Human Rights Act and the ECHR are ultimately flawed because they often sit in opposition with one another. On the one hand a burglar can have the "right to a family life" (Article 8) but it is in opposition to Article 5 relating to prison for committing crimes.

Worse still though, Article 8(1) which this burglar has used is even held in opposition to Article 8(2)
1: Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

2: There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
So sending him to prison for the "prevention of disorder or crime.... for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others" is allowed... or is not in this case.

It's becoming increasingly clear that the ECHR, written against the backdrop of 20th Century horrors is now becoming a rather silly document. The problem though is that its politically difficult to withdraw from it (and replace it with something else) however sound the course of action might seem. This is mainly because if you withdraw from "human rights" you're instantly a pariah and clearly in favour of torture.

We're not going to Hell in a handcart, we got there years ago and it's become so normal no one seems to notice anymore. What I don't understand is why so many of the other signatories to the ECHR don't have the problems we do.

Monday, May 23, 2011

EXCLUSIVE: Why Mr Speaker took the risk about the name being said

Why did this happen? Football revenge, plain and simple. Can't you see? It was a set-up!

Dr Who's Fleshy Dopplegangers are REAL!!!!

Comparison shot via here.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

"Football star" screwed by his lawyers

Jesus wept. If I were a famous footballer with an injunction to stop people publishing my name in relation to an affair I would hope that my lawyers would not be foolish enough to advise me to sue Twitter Inc but it seems some lawyers are as been well reported.

Of course, the lawsuit will mean money for them whether they win or lose, so it's in their interests, yet, perversely it seems to me me at least those are the only interests they're really serving, and they're certainly not serving their client to the standard he has served his team-mates with the ball over the year.

As TechCrunch noted quite astutely about suing Twitter Inc in the Washington Post,
Oh yes. They [the lawyers] are going there.
You see, the clue is in the "Inc". Twitter is not, as most will know, a business based in the UK but is actually based in the US.

That is significant for one major reason. The "football star" has just made a two-bit story about himself global, and attacked a business in a nation where freedom of the press and speech is enshrined into the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

We're talking about a nation where the "press" has been defined (Lovell v. City of Griffin as "every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion" (that would cover Twitter Inc), and also where for written words to be libel they must be false (New York Times v. Sullivan).

It is now just a matter of time I would've thought before the footballer is being named widely as suing Twitter Inc in US media - at which his injunction will become utterly worthless. And let's be fair, do he and his lawyers really believe they can overturn the First Amendment?

Seriously, the "football star" is either a complete idiot who believes he can win (possibly), or he's a complete idiot that has been convinced by a bunch of lawyers that he can win against a US entity with no UK presence.

Of course, there might be an argument to be made that Twitter Inc is being sued in a UK court which means the US Constitutional arguments are irrelevant. But even if they are, what happens if they were to win against Twitter Inc? Can a business based in San Francisco be compelled to pay damages? Unlikely.

All that is going to happen is his name will be plastered across media that UK courts have no control over. The exact opposite of what he wants. Even if the UK courts come down on his side he loses - and all because he didn't like people talking about him in what is essentially a cacophony of noise akin to a busy pub on a Friday night.

Note: Comment moderation is on. Everyone knows his name but posting it in the comments won't get through.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

EXCLUSIVE: Government and Opposition agree on less than two years for rape

So, let's get this straight. The Coalition and Ken Clarke have put a document out for consultation (also known as "floating a policy for a reaction first" and a classic Labour trick) which includes changes to the American concept of plea bargaining introduced by Labour, where you get less of a sentence if you put your hands up straight away the minute you get nicked for an offence you are guilty of.

Clarke et al would like to offer a 50% reduction in a sentence across the board from crime if you plead guilty. Not in my opinion a very good idea personally, but then I don't agree with plea bargaining at all unless we increase the statutory prison terms by the same amount the we intend to reduce the sentence by, but that is neither here or there.

As a result of Clarke's proposals, and massively commented upon in the media, this could, technically speaking, lead to someone being given the statutory 5 years for rape (not common see footnote), getting a 50% reduction to 2.5 years, then if they're good, being let out on licence with a further 50% reduction at 15 months.

Shocking isn't it? Just 15 months for rape. The wishy washy liberal bastards are soft on crime, not like those hardened realists in Labour and women's groups (because men never get raped don't you know) who are rightly outraged by this disgusting move, is it any wonder a Labour MP said Ken Clarke "supports rapists" yesterday on Radio 4?

No, those hard-nosed Labour types are "tough on crime". They think that rapists should server a further 5 months then be let back out on the street to terrorise their victims.

That, I'm afraid, is the reality of this synthetically outraged argument dripping with moral indignation.

As it stands you see, if one applies the uncommon and technically possible logic of the morally outraged horde, you currently could get 5 years, have a third taken off for pleading guilty early, so that's a 20 month reduction leaving 40 months to serve, then, if you keep your nose clean (assuming you've not been beaten to death inside) you could be out in 20 months on licence.

Dizzy Reality Check:
  • Headline in proposed world: LESS THAN TWO YEARS FOR RAPE!
  • Headline in current world: LESS THAN TWO YEARS FOR RAPE!
Yes that's right kids, the idiots of political policy and political commentary are arguing over five months, where the end result in both cases, if we apply the theoretical possibility of what could happen, is that rapists serve less than two years before they're out on licence.

If you were ever unsure of spotting fake and intellectually fatuous outrage, then look no further than this bunch of disingenuous childish pricks trying to point score over the relative merits of two near identical and thoroughly weak positions.

Footnote: Whilst 5 years is the starting point, the average sentence is actually 8 years, and the sentencing guildelines make clear the different levels of seriousness within an offence. It seems obvious to me that if we have 50% plea bargain reduction we should double the starting point for a sentence anyway, but that's just me.

Update: Please note that I am not particularly interested in the "gaffe" element of Ken Clarke's comments yesterday. That was, I think, merely a classic example of mangled a valid point. The more substantive issue is that all sides are arguing about a theoretical sentence that is pretty much the same.

For Vera Baird and Ed Miliband to pretend that they're outraged by 15 months when they support, by virtue of having introduced a theoretical 20 months for rape, is nothing short of lunacy and a brilliant example of what is wrong with politics.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The first millisecond.....

Apparently this is what the first millisecond after a nuclear explosion looks like.

From Wikipedia via Reddit.

Tory MP supports paedophiles... no wait... what?

Did you know that Nadine Dorries believes all children suffering sexual abuse from paedophiles are to blame themselves for it and in effect deserve it because they didn't say no? That might come as a shock to you but its what some are saying about Nadine Dorries - the replacement for Hazel Blears in the "Marmite MP" stakes.

There's even a petition calling for her to reisgn as she must clearly support paedophiles given that she thinks children that are abused would not be abused if they just said no to their pervy Uncles.

Anyhow, back in the world of objective reality where the absurdity of straw man politics is highlighted for the retarded thinking to which it belongs, let's take a look at what was actually said compared to what many think was implied by what was said. On television recently, Nadine Dorries said:
"If a stronger ‘just say no’ message was given to children in school then there might be an impact on sex abuse … if we imbued this message in school we’d probably have less sex abuse."
Now I'd say there are two ways of interpretting the meaning of what was said. On the one hand, if you are, for example a college lecturer in further education, you might say:

These comments amount to shameful victim blaming and have no place in modern politics. There is no grey area in sexual assault - a child cannot give informed consent and to suggest that a child giving consent in someway causes the assault is deeply offensive to the victims of these assaults.

The other option of course is to notice the bold highlighting in the Nadine quote that says "might" and "probably" and, instead of jerking the knee upwards ask the question, why "might" it do such a thing? What argument "might" there be that "might" see one thing have an effect on the other?

Let's think about that for a minute. When it comes to sexual abuse of children, which is horrific, wrong and morally evil, one of the key factors you often hear about in anecdotal reporting is that the abuser will often exploit the sexual ignorance of the abused. We all know the drill and have seen it portrayed in documentaries and other media all too often.

The abuser says things like "this is our secret", "this is a game" etc. In doing so they exploit the victims ignorance about what is and is not appropriate behaviour. So what "might" the consequence be if children were taught about "abstinence" in relation to sexual activity, which, in effect is the same as teaching them that certain parts of their body's should be, and are, off limits to others?

Might there not be an unintended consequence that children - unfettered by sexual ignorance - would no longer be as easily exploitable by those who seek to do such things because there would be a greater awareness that certain behaviours are simply not on?

Of course, it wouldn't stop or have an impact where things like fear and violence are used, but "might" it have impact on the level of sexual abuse, or at least an impact on the discovery and prosecution of sexual abuse?

We often hear about how the trauma to a child alone is terrible enough, but we also hear about children who have been abused believing what is happening to them is "normal".

Education therefore "might" have an impact. Not because the child might say "no" and it won't happen, but rather because abusers will no longer be able to rely on the ignorance that the victims have about the appropriateness the actions they're being forced to do.

Then again, perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps Nadine Dorries MP, mother of two, really is a vicious Tory bitch who thinks sexual abuse victims deserves all they get because they don't say "no". Mind you, I think I'd have to smoke an immense amount of crack to come to that conclusion.

Note: I expect that because I know Nadine Dorries there will be those of paranoid nature that will dismiss this post on the grounds that I must be writing it after taking orders from her. Such claims are of course bollocks. The post exists because I find it quaint that child abuse has become a political football and rationality has been thrown out of the window.

I should also add that I don't believe in God, don't go to Church, and have no issues with teenagers shagging like bunny rabbits. I also don't have any issue with telling kids to try not to shag like bunny rabbits either though.

NHS IT could have worked... maybe

After so many years the National Audit Office has finally said what so many already knew about the National Programme for IT in the NHS and the so-called "electronic care record". It's rubbish, a big waste of money and unlikely it can ever achieve what it originally set out to do. In the NAO's words,
"This is yet another example of a department fundamentally underestimating the scale and complexity of a major IT-enabled change programme. The Department of Health needs to admit that it is now in damage-limitation mode."
Now I can't argue with that, the system as proposed was a monster, and whilst it's design may have appeared simple i.e. central database with medical records that every NHS front-line service can access and update, where they've failed is realising that the programme was akin to painting the Forth Bridge. Even if they'd had infinite money and infinite resource by the time they'd have finished the system would be out of date with technology.

The thing is, it could have been so good, it could've even worked if they'd realised not just the scale, but also acknowledged a flaw in their starting assumptions. You see, in principle, the idea of being able to live in London but walk into a hospital in Manchester and that hospital have access to your medical records is not, per se, a bad one. Actually, from the point of view of pure efficiency its a no-brainer how handy such access would be. However, ask yourself this question.... how often would it really be needed?

If you take a pause for thought before getting excited by the wonderful national brilliance of an integrated national system, just think for a moment about how often people really move around great distance when it comes to healthcare. Many people stay in the same town all their lives and may move house but are still in the same geographical areas covered by the same PCT (or whatever the area healthcare coordinator is called at any given time). There will of course be people that get treate3d at different hospitals because of certain conditions, but they are the exception rather than the norm. For the most part people stay local.

This is where the Blair Government got it wrong. This is also where the proposed architectural solution went off the rails. You see, if you assume everyone is constantly moving around then the appeal of a centralised record system sounds more and more like the solution. Never mind the difficultly in migrating already existing data from a multitude of different systems, once you get the idea in your head of the need for a big national system to solve a problem that is not really there you're not going to stop and think about it anymore, you'll just go ahead, and that is exactly what they did.

So how Dizzy, you may be asking, could it have worked you smartarse? Well, without wishing to use too many political clich├ęs, if they'd gone for a bottom-up approach instead of a top-down, and thought about acting locally to affect nationally, rather than acting nationally to affect locally, they could have made the system work. If they'd acknowledged that the "moving patient" was an exception but not the norm, then the scale of the "national" infrastructure would and could have been minuscule, and the amount of investment at a local level with the divergent systems could have been reduced too, here's how.

There are only a few key pieces of information you really need in national infrastructure to make this work, and none of them actually include personal medical records. Everyone treated on the NHS has an NHS ID number, so you need that. Of course, not everyone knows their number without digging out the card, so you need some data to cross-reference it, i.e. a name, DOB and perhaps an address. Finally, you need to know where they're being treated, in other words, the system needs to be able to know where their records are being stored locally. There could be multiple locations but it simply needs to know.

At a local level, what you would have would be whatever system the local level wanted to use, which would, inevitably, also contain the same core information about a patient i.e. NHS number, name, address, DOB, but it would also contain the medical records for that patient. Now, however that system might look, what would need to be developed at the local level is a means of exporting that data to a single file format, and that single file for each customer, which would contain human readable information like pdfs etc rather than information held in a database schema, could be stored in a separate local system that the national system.

So, the situation would occur thus. You are treated at your local doctors and local hospital etc. Each night the local system updates its nationally connected system with a single data file contain everything mapped to an NHS ID. Around the same time the national system queries all these locally held but nationally connected systems and asks the question "do you have any new NHS IDs I don't know about?". If the answer is "yes" the national system updates the "where are the records for NHS ID X stored with the new location?".

The result would be a system where, if a new patient appeared, you could query the national infrastructure like a telephone directory. Rather than asking for the record, you ask where the records are, and you go off and get them yourself. Now, don't get me wrong, this system is not infallible, it is by no way perfect either. What's more you will have to find way to avoid having repeating data.

The point is, instead of having a centralised database with all the information on it and having to go through a lengthy migration by which time the system you've built is not fit for purpose, what you instead have is a system that is decoupled and local, but has the scope to provide information and talk nationally on the odd occasion that it necessary by making the "national" but be a type of middle-ware lookup-layer. The real beauty of this approach is it fits well with an agile type framework and gradual roll-out. You would be able to deliver workable solution rapidly with pilots, and introducing new local systems would not require intensive and massive data migration work for which the resource cost would be huge.

Of course, none of this is going to happen so I'm not sure why I wasted my time writing it :-)

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Code

According to Sky News Newsdesk on Twitter,
Coded warning issued of Irish Republican dissident bomb in Central London.
Now, here's something that always bothered, baffled and befuddled me.

What's the code? Who decides the code? How does the code get delivered to the people that need to know the code? Is there some sort of honourable back-channel communications between MI5 and the IRA/Splinter groups where they decide that if someone uses the word "orange" at the same time as saying there's a bomb then it's genuine?

I understand, I think, why the warnings are coded. It is so you can filter out the hoax call from the real thing. As I say though, that means at some level, somewhere, there is a gentlemanly chat where each side decides on what the code should be doesn't it?

I don't expect an answer from anyone on this. It just always makes me chuckle when I imagine terrorists and spooks agreeing on certain words to ensure the latters threats are considered credible.

Update: Just found this.

The procedure for organising codes has been long established. Codes alter periodically by agreement between the Provisionals and the security forces, both sides knowing that a failure in communications could be catastrophic. The IRA pass on a chosen name to the Gardai in Dublin, who in turn give it to the RUC Special Branch in Belfast. From there it is disseminated to forces on the mainland. Liaison is also held with a number of news organisations.

In Northern Ireland, however, the complication is that the IRA are not the only bombers. Because of the number of factions, up to six code-names could be in use at a given time.

None of the paramilitaries who wants to establish a bomb code is turned away.
I wonder if you can apply online in this modern world?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Nadine/Bloggerheads - the saga continues/ends

Via Nadine Dorries' blog,
Today I had a meeting with Bedfordshire Police. They informed me that under caution and recorded on tape at Guldford[sic] Police station, Tim Ireland, of bloggerheads, has been issued with a warning under section two of the harassment act.
For those wishing to read further here is Tim Ireland's response which I shall not quote due to its length nor summarise lest I be accused of manipulating it in some way or falsely interpreting it to deceive you. You are free to read it and make your own judgement.

Note: Comment moderation is on. Any comments relating to judgement of what has been written may not be approved as I do not wish to being engaged any further in dodgy allegations of smearing/misrepresentation/deception call it what you will. I'm also out for the rest of the day so may not approve anything until tomorrow.

The Kelly Conspiracy... again

Oh Lordy, here we go again with the "David Kelly" conspiracy. The Mail has a story todfay titled Mystery of the helicopter that landed at scene of Dr Kelly's death after his body was found.

Yes that's right people, we are now in the world of the "black helicopter", which makes me wonder if Paul Dacre has a secret hideout in the Mid-West stocked with water rations and guns ready for when the New World Order strikes.

It seems rather clear that yes, there are some odd questions about evidence and happening on the day Kelly died, but the one question I rarely see being asked is, if he was murdered by some shadowy conspiracy then what was the motive?

Seriously, I don't doubt that intelligence services the world over don't engage in a little "wet work" from time to time, but they've usually got a reason for it (note: not a justification but a reason for the decision to order a hit), and I just can't see one here.

Kelly had said some things to Andrew Gilligan. What he said has been poured over extensively and it didn't bring the Government down. Instead of asking the "ten questions" of mysterious things as the Mail and others do about events on the day etc and assuming a darker meaning, they ought to be searching for what a motive might be first, lest you end up in la-la land.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Huhne's slopey shoulders

Having just got back to the UK after a break, I was amused to see that the Lib Dems are getting all cocky and go in for the "slopey shoulders" approach to policy they helped formulate in many ways. Thus I come to the rather odd banner image on Chris Huhne's website which has this picture of him.
Now, can somebody, anybody tell me what in the name of all that is Holy is going on with his shoulders or lack there of?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Oil, interests, Iraq and reality

Firstly, thank you for all the warm wishes in my new venture, it's going to be an exciting ride.

Now, as I told you last week I will sporadically still post and today is such a day as I've just read the Independent's Secret memos expose link between oil firms and invasion of Iraq, which, as you'd expect has caused a little bit of screeching from the appeaser of brutal dictators on the Left with the expected "see we told you Iraq was about oil!"

There is however a rather simple response to that which is "so what?". When we look at the details of the story it seems that BP spoke to people in the UK Government before the invasion of Iraq. They noted that under the current "oil for food" deal in place at the time with Iraq, the French company TotalFinaElf stood to become the world single biggest oil supplier should the contract stay in place in a post-Saddam world and that wasn't in BP (or for that matter Shell's) business interests, and that oil contracts post-Saddam should be sliced up a bit.

Sounds perfectly reasonable to me. Is it really shocking or even wrong that a business should lobby Government about something that is of interest to their business because of a potential imbalance in the global market in which they operate? I'd say not.

Likewise, is it really shocking or wrong that post-Saddam, global oil producers would be going in and spending oodles of their own money to extract the black gold out of the ground so that we could all buy it given that we're so dependent on oil we needed it? Errrr yet another resounding no methinks.

Way back before the invasion of Iraq I can remember seeing a most salient point online by someone I knew on the "war for oil" line. It went along the lines of "why not have a war for oil when you also get rid of a brutal bastard who is controlling the stuff? It's win win surely?". He was right, it was a win win situation.

On the one hand you displaced a dictator who whether he had weapons or not wanted them and was a right git to the populace over which he controlled; and on the other you removed his control over massive oil reserves and stopped one single company dominating the oil market.

"What about the million who died?" will of course be the response to that. To which the easy answer is "that figure is a made up extrapolation" and secondly "would you have preferred to just leave the guy in place to kill people?" Of course, you won't win an argument about Iraq with anyone who was, is and remain anti the action. The argument will shift slowly along whilst they miss the odd nature of their position that means they were happy to allow Hussein to remain in place.

The thing is,what seems to be lost on so many is that politics internationally will always involve interests as well as other things. Humanitarian missions will always include those interests, and if they are no interests for a country then the humanitarian aspect is, however much it sucks, not enough alone to act. That's why there has been no invasion of Zimbabwe. If someone discovered masses of oil reserves there then you know what, it would be different. That is realism and that is how the world works now and pretty much always has.

As long as there is Government and/or nations, and as long as there are businesses and traders that work with that Government and/or nations, then it will remain the case that despots will be overthrown depending on what they've got. Wars are not fought over principle they're fought over resources, be it coal and steel between France and Germany, or simple straight forward territorial expansion and the resources that brings.

Yes, it's very easy to sit back and say "surely we can all get along and have a group hug and not do this?", but such views are little more than displays of naive ignorance towards human nature in the current geopolitical reality in which we live.

I imagine for some this will be a highly controversial and immoral view to have, but you know what, it's real life and don;t expect it to change. Hell, even if little green men came down from the stars and said "you're not alone in the Universe" we might unite globally but we'd still just expand the arena in which such realistic views exist so nations would be replaced by planets, a new and, dare I say it, final frontier (*pukes*) would open up and we'd carry on doing it again.

Ironically I'm not much different to the lefties who say "see it was all about oil, but we knew that already", the only difference is that I don't actually see what wrong with that per se. Yes, the unintended consequences after the fact may turn out to be regrettable and undesirable, but the judgment itself to act within your interests isn't inherently wrong, immoral or unethical, it's just realistic.

It is of course easy to sit on the sidelines and scream with moral righteousness thanks to 20/20 hindsight and philosophically flawed world views about production and capital. Things change though when you're the one making the decision and reality is laid out for you.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

This is not the end but it is a new beginning

Since this blog started in January 2006 I have had two Golden Rules. The first was that I don't do "Stat Porn" because measuring one's manhood publicly is exceptionally sad. There has been the odd time where I have alluded to hit rate when pushed by someone in comments suggesting that no one reads the site, but largely I have maintained Rule No1... well... until now.

Over the last five years this site has exceeded my wildest dreams in terms of page impressions and unique visitors and has achieved an average hit (not visitor) rate of just over 1 million per year. Not bad for a geek that just sits online all day I think.... but you may disagree.

Anyhow, you're probably wondering what Rule No.2 is - or not depending on whether you hate me with a passion although if that is the case I would say "why the fuck are you still reading this?" but that's just me. Rule No.2 is simple, never, under any circumstance, do an "I'm leaving" post because (a) you probably won't stick to it, and (b) when you don't stick to it some smartarse will say "I thought you were leaving?"

So this is not an "I'm leaving" post, but it is "Things are changing so don't be expecting many updates other than at the weekend perhaps, if I can be arsed" post.

As regular readers may remember, I recently alluded to a reorganisation and round of redundancies of over 500 at my employer. I've not been laid off, but what that did do for I and Mrs Dizzy (who works for the same company and has survived to reorg too) was bring into sharp focus our exposure to risk in the sense of having all our proverbial eggs in one basket.

So I took it upon myself to find a new role and mitigate that risk. Thus it is after over a decade working in telecommunication and IP service provision I have taken a jump and will in a few weeks time be starting a new professional adventure in the gaming industry doing cool new things inside Amazon's AWS cloud (note: I am not going to work for Amazon, rather I will be using their facilities in the "Infrastructure as a Service" world).

The point is I'm going to be really busy again and that is something I revel in, especially when I'm going to be involved in high-scaling system often with in excess of 5 million concurrent users, so blogging is taking a back seat, but its the very back seat in 7 seater Vauxhall Zafira if that makes sense.

As I say, this is not the end. I will still be posting sporadically, I will also be writing for another project in the pipeline - under my name rather than Dizzy - about whatever I fancy, but the eight posts per day days are well and truly over.

Thanks to everyone who has bookmarked me over the last five years, and thanks to Mrs Dizzy for being the most beautiful and strongest woman in the world. You are my rock babe!

Phil

Monday, April 11, 2011

How to form a political argument on the NHS

Back by unpopular demand, another in the "How Politics Works" flowchart series. This time to help you, whatever your political persuasion, form th correct argument for the media when discussing the NHS because of a news story about it. As you will learn, there are only ever three positions to take.

Click The Image For Readable Version

Friday, April 08, 2011

How to insult someone whilst supporting them?

I had to chuckle when I read this (my highlighting).
Early day motion 1719
PUBLIC ATTITUDE TOWARDS PEOPLE OF SHORT STATURE

That this House notes the continual lack of acceptance within all sections of society for those of short stature; notes that approximately one in 25,000 births to parents of average height is a baby of restricted growth; further notes that because of unfair stereotyping and the stigma associated with the disability, children and adults with restricted growth conditions and their families face thoughtless discrimination from the media, the wider public and some professionals and misplaced jokes and ridicule, including within this very House, which only serves to fuel ignorance about the condition; further notes the important work of the Restricted Growth Association, Short Stature Scotland and the Dwarf Sports Association UK in offering friendship and dedicated support and advice, and promoting public awareness of this widely misunderstood growth condition; and calls on those within the media, medical profession and in public life to challenge the stereotypes associated with restricted growth.
Translation: "You shouldn't take the piss out of short people, by the way, did I mention that Bercow was a shortarse?"

Monday, April 04, 2011

Nick "I'm a lazy bastard" Clegg

Oh dear, it would appear that Nick Clegg's means of ensuring work life balance by refusing to do any new work after 3pm has had an unitended consequences. From Hansard, Friday,
Mr Sanders: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) when he plans to reply to the letter from the hon. Member for Torbay of 6 December 2010 on work placement pay;

(2) when he plans to reply to the letter from the hon. Member for Torbay of 18 August 2010 on behalf of his constituent Mr Russell James on reform of the public sector;

(3) when he plans to reply to the letter from the hon. Member for Torbay of 22 July 2010 on behalf of his constituent Mr Keith Richardson on intrusive and unnecessary laws;

(4) when he plans to reply to the letter from the hon. Member for Torbay of 15 June 2010 on behalf of his constituent Mr Christopher Bunker on intrusive and unnecessary laws;

(5) when he plans to reply to the letter from the hon. Member for Torbay of 15 June 2010 on behalf of his constituent Jenny Hall on the Protection of Freedoms Bill;

(6) when he plans to reply to the letter from the hon. Member for Torbay of 16 July 2010 on behalf of his constituent Mr David Love on the statutory requirement for schools to hold acts of daily collective worship.

The Deputy Prime Minister: I answered my hon. Friend's correspondence today.
I do believe the words "lazy bastard" may be apt at this point. What's more, Sanders is one his own MPs too.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tom Watson does irony

From the graffiti board, Tom Watson MP (for it is he) has posted.
That this House notes with serious concern the Chancellor of the Exchequer's decision to purchase a new red dispatch box for this year's Budget at a cost of 4,300; believes the Chancellor of the Exchequer could have procured a cheaper alternative to the elaborate box he has chosen; and calls on the Government to give greater consideration to the amount it chooses to spend on similar items in future years.
He has a point, but is wasting £600 on tabling an EDM really the best use of taxpayers money either?

I do love it when MP's waste our money complaining about other MP's wasting money.

Blogging about blogging.....

For the sixth time in six years I moved offices this week. Hence lack of posting. May post something later, although don't be holding your breath or anything.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Gove is and is not for turning?

I'm slightly confused this morning - as is normal - after hearing the Government had apparently done a "U-Turn" on the Educational Bribery Maintenance Allowance. The confusion is because, as I recall it, when they announced the scrapping of EMA they said it would be replaced by a more targeted scheme and yesterday they announced the more targeted scheme.

How is that a U-Turn?

Incidentally, and purely as an anecdote that would no doubt be dismissed by some, I know a student who was absolutely gutted that his EMA was being taken away. The reason he was gutted was because it meant he would no longer be able to keep up the repayment for the 52inch plasma screen that EMA was funding.

Oh, if you're wondering they're studying "public services". The irony of using public money to cover the cost of a personal luxury was not lost on them either.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lefties, property and the definition of "violence"

The morning after the night before huh? Seems it kicked off royally in some parts of London as self-proclaimed "anarchists" went on the rampage annoyed that the Government wants to cut the size of the state. It's a bit like a group of anorexics going on the rampage in protest because there has been a marked increase in low-calorie food available in the shops.

Anyway, putting aside this utterly ridiculous situation of anarchists demanding more Government, there appears to be another rather odd idea doing the round for some lefties, that being that what happened yesterday was "vandalism" not "violence".

The trade unionist/parliamentary bag carrier and author of "Chavs - The Demonisation of the Working Class", Owen Jones, was busy yesterday on Twitter saying,
The media et al need to learn to distinguish between "vandalism" and "violence". You can disapprove of vandalism, but it's not violence[1]..... Violence is people getting hurt. Vandalism is property being damaged. They're totally different.[2]
Now I've no doubt that this sort of intellectual light-footedness goes down very well in seminars and lofty debates in Universities, but let's be serous for a second. Violence is the act of exerting physical force for the purpose of damaging something, be that be a person or an inanimate object. So, running at HSBC bank with a large metal bar and smashing the windows in is a violent act.

In fact, the only reason that one might try to play the little word game about it not being violent is if one wanted to use some sort of ideological political argument to justify the action or somehow excuse it, which we see in the second comment that tries to draw a distinction between people and property.

Property is theft and/or something immoral clearly. Therefore any act against it is somehow politically at least, excusable. However, I bet, if you went into the home of one of these "property is theft" type people and started using all the toothbrushes they'd be quick to scream about how it was their toothbrush, likewise if you took their iPhone they'd be very upset about their phone being taken.... no doubt that will be a different type of property though.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

March For The Forces of Conservatism #march26

Today a small minority of people, many of whom pay little tax, will converge on London to demand more money earned by those not present be spent on them, with added call for more money we don;t have to be borrowed and spent on them.

Of course, if you listen to some of the hype coming from those involved in organising "March For The Alternative" you might be fooled into thinking this is a mass popular revolt against the Government, such is the nature of politics and rhetoric that defies reality.

Currently, according to the organisers, the prediction is that there will be 100,000 people marching. On their website they have a pledge total for those that will march which is, at the time of writing, at 8,105. Let's be fair to them for a moment and take the TUC claim of 100,000 marchers on face value and ponder on what this represents.

According to Ed Miliband yesterday (who will be speaking to marchers at Hyde Park (assuming they all make it there and don't split up to cause any havoc)), the march is "the voices of the mainstream majority" making themselves heard. Mainstream majority?.... Really?

Let's see now, there are 650 constituencies, varying in size, but if we split the predicted 100,000 people across them evenly, that represents (give or take) around 154 people from each constituency on the march. That's pretty much a local political party membership with a few Union members thrown in.

Now, the TUC have anticipated that they will be dismissed as a minority and so have a commissioned a "poll" to "prove" otherwise. So, six days ago, 2,720 people (that's approximately 0.0045% of the entire population) who were active enough to sign up to do YouGov online polls at 50p per time answered some questions.

Once these were answered, a bit of extrapolation was done, a bit of maths here and there. Some assumptions about what the rest of the adult population probably, maybe, who knows but we can guess, think; and then the conclusion was drawn that 52% of all people agree with the march, and 48% of all people either disagree or don't really care. Thus Brendan Barber can say,
"I'm sure that many of our critics will try to write us off today as a minority, vested interest. This poll nails that lie."
*puts hand up* Please sir, please, please!? Can I just call bullshit first please? The "poll" does no such thing and anybody thinking it represents some sort of scientific truth is a gibbering idiot.

Don't get me wrong here, it might really be that if you actually asked every single person over the age of 18 in the country that the result would be the same. However, claiming that the poll nails a lie is in itself a lie because it doesn't.

The reality is that a small number of mostly politically active people will be marching today. The rest of the country will be watching the football, doing the weekly shopping and going about their daily life largely oblivious to it all, thinking about how on Monday they have to go back to work and earn money that is taxed once with NI, taxed again with income tax, then taxed again with VAT when we buy things, taxed again with fuel duty, tobacco duty, alcohol duty etc.

They'll be doing this whilst lamenting the lazy hypocritical bastards sitting on their fat arses who demand a job but never seem to take one and find it easier to complain about "bloody Eastern Europeans stealing all the work".

And here's the inherent irony of the March For The Alternative. It is a march by politically active people on the Left who are anti-racist, anti-discrimination, pro-multiculturalism and the like; and the "alternative" they're asking for is one where individual responsibility is stripped from everyone and the Government "keeps" you, with an unintended consequence that necessitates the use of migrant workers thereby perpetuating the very discrimination and racist views they're so against in principle.

The March For the Alternative is not about an alternative at all. It is about reactionary conservatism to change and the maintenance of the status quo. A status quo that ensures people are enslaved to and trapped by the state when they do not work freely. It is about conserving the client state built over the past decade that sees Government spending peoples money, not people spending their own money, as the only solution to all problems.

It is a March for the Forces of Conservatism not an alternative. It is about producer interests, not peoples interests, and many of those marching are little more than proverbial useful idiots helping those who are opposed to change and individual responsibility maintain their power-base.

Let's be under no illusion, the exploiters of the worker are not business or the Coalition, its the Union heads who talk the talk of socialism whilst quaffing on champagne and earning salaries their members can only dream of.

Take the NHS as a case in a point. It is not the service provision of health care free at the point of the use that is important to them. It is the conserving of the structure in which they have power that matters. They will tell you it is about stopping profit being a driving force in health care. What they won't tell you is that even if someone makes a profit you will still get the treatment you need with no bill presented to you at the end. Instead they'll have a march.

Rousseau noted that the great princess, when told the peasants had no bread, responded with "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche". Brendan Barber and his colleagues say "let them carry placards".

Note: Let's not forget too that the "cuts" are not really cuts at all.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Will's and Kate Commemorative Fridge?

I'm not quite sure which is more sad, that MSNBC's Today has a microsite dedicated to the Royal Wedding called The Windsor Knot, or the commemorative fridge from a General Electric design competition they've written an article about.
Beyond parody.

Dear Leader....

Via imgur.com

Yet another EDM about crap....

Quite literally about crap actually.
That this House notes the findings of Redway and Fawdar at the European Tissue Symposium in 2009 that demonstrates the ineffectiveness of warm air dryers and jet air dryers in reducing levels of bacteria on the skin; further notes that both methods of hand drying produce a mean increase in bacteria and that, for users of colostomy bags for whom sanitation is a paramount concern, the bacteria present through blow air drying methods are particularly hazardous when changing colostomy bags; welcomes the fact that certain major retailers are installing paper towels in all disabled toilet facilities; and urges the Government to make the installation of paper towels in a disabled toilet facilities a legal requirement to safeguard the health and safety of colostomy bag users.
Laws on paper towels.... real issues-based politics at work that.

Pole Dancing for Jesus

Words fail me.

Parliamentary ICT: The Great Naming Scheme Debate

Anyone who works in technology in the field of administration - be they NetAdmins (always the cause of failure), DBAdmins (always the cause of failure when it is not the NetAdmins fault), or SysAdmins (never the cause of failure because they're Gods unlike the other two) - will be aware of the timeless and eternally important question of "what should be the naming scheme for our devices?"

Now, you may not understand the importance of this. You may be thinking "surely making things work is more important than the name Mr Diz?", but you'd be wrong. As any thoroughbred geek knows, what you call things, and the scheme it follows is without a doubt the most hotly disputed and important issue in technology today.

Why? Well.. if you get your naming scheme wrong, you might end up with lots of devices with utterly stupid names. What;s more you might pick something cool as a scheme that sadly has a finite number of options.Say for example your naming scheme is based on illegal substances allowing you the ability to say things like "I'm working on acid today". There are only so many drugs you see, so eventually saying "I'm on cocaine6 at the moment" doesn't have the same effect really does it?

Celestial objects are often popular, the only problem there though is, as I learned once, any celestial object that tends to fall to earth, such a "meteor" tends to jinx the device so it then has a habit of going down all the time - especially if you're rolling out a version 13 of code onto it (sensible geeks avoid such versions and skip the number to 14 just in case... tempting fate and all that).

Of course, the naming scheme debate can be settled quickly if you want to be all prim and proper and highly professional. In that case you go for the old $location-$function format of name. When the former is an abbreviation of the device location or datacentre, and the latter is something like "mail" or "web"... that is boring though and well... just not cool.

So why am I telling you all this? Simple really. It looks like the IT geeks in Parliament have had this eternally important debate recently too, and "being cool" won the day over "being professional".

Click for Larger Version

Seems they've gone for famous mathematicians/Cambridge alumni or someone is making a subtle political statement by using a traditional Tamil name.

Either way, having a cool naming scheme beat the stuffy suits huh?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Don't I know your name?

I see Labour were on their toes quick yesterday putting out a press release slating - naturally - the Budget. Of mild amusement is the issue of the help for first-time buyers. Labour's press release (posted in full here) cites only one third party source, which is a comment by the Chief Executive of the charity Shelter, Campbell Robb, who said,
Today’s announcement will help less than one per cent of people struggling to get on the housing ladder, leaving them more likely to win the lottery than be helped through this small-scale scheme.
Now, is this the same Campbell Robb who headed up the Social Exclusion Taskforce for Blair in the Cabinet office, and was also appointed by the former Prime Minister to be the head of the Office for the Third Sector (in the Cabinet Office), reporting to the Minister for the third sector, one Mr E Miliband?

Roll up! Roll up! Get your "independent" anti-Coalition quotes here!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fair Fuel Price Fixing

Was a little busy, hence the lack of live blogging, but I did listen to the Budget. So the headline is going to be that fuel duty is cut by 1 penny from 6pm tonight and a fair fuel price fix stabiliser will be introduced.

Naturally, the Tory MP wannabe party arselicker line will be that it's effectively a 5p per litre saving on Labour's plan. This does of course require a suspension of reality on the viewers part by thinking that an unimplemented rise equals a saving of the same amount to the people that are paying.

No doubt such intellectually illiterate idiots would fall for a supermarket saying it had decided not to rise the price of milk from 50p to £1 with advertising of "Save 50p on a pint of milk".

Anyway, I digress. So George Osborne has canceled the automatic fuel escalator that puts a penny on a litre above inflation each year. Well, canceled at least until the price of oil starts to go down again at which point, if it stays low, the escalator will be reintroduced.

Sounds like price control to me.... all very Thatcherite huh?

How about a fuel duty rebate policy for business?

Fuel duty, now their a bitch. Personally, in an ideal world, I would see it slashed massively, but I have to be realistic right, so here's a thought for what really ought to happen, and it's not so much a stabiliser as a means of altering the relationship that Government and the Treasury assumes with those it fleeces.

The relationship I'm talking about for the Treasury is one that is perfectly explained in Yes Minister with the comment that,
"The Treasury does not work out what it needs and then think how to raise the money. It pitches for as much as it can get away with and then thinks how to spend it."
Never a truer word spoken, and fuel duty is a place where it ought to change. You see, the Treasury knows, roughly speaking, how much petrol is consumed each year based on its tax receipts, and when those prices rise it inevitably gets a lot more than it was expecting.

Now it's difficult to see how you could introduce a mean of only getting the amount you set out for at the beginning of the year in fuel tax from the ordinary consumer, as the ordinary consumer may not have a personal relationship with the Treasury in terms of tax, but a business does.

A business can already claim the VAT back on fuel, so the Treasury knows how much fuel business buys, and it also knows how much tax it gets from business for that fuel. So here's an idea, how about deciding each year, based on what is known, how much the Treasury wants from fuel tax, and then, after VAT returns have been submitted, doing a bit of maths and rebating that which has been paid above and beyond the desired figure for the year?

Now I imagine some would critcise such an idea noting things like inflation, and economic changes etc. The thing is, those things effect the current situation as well. However, I return back to the Yes Minister quote. Shouldn't the Treasury be deciding how much it wants and, where possible, seek to get that, rather than taking over and above what it actually requires?

I;d love to see something for ordinary consumers, but the truth is, haulage and commerce is being crippled by fuel prices. Deciding how much you want and then rebating those business will have a positive effect on their ability to trade and thereby grow.

Now... feel free to shoot me down in flames and call me a retard if you must in the comments.

Some (pre)Budget thoughts

  • The devil will be in the detail. Do not think that just because Brown et al have gone that the reality and critique of that Osborne announces today won't unravel in the next few days and cause much more debate.
  • Don't expect the immediate abolition of National Insurance and its merging with Income Tax. A consultation and an aspiration is far more likely, after all, if he did it, tomorrows headlines would be "base rate income tax rises to X%". an NI and Income Tax merger can't be done overnight and would require a lengthy public discourse to soften the feeling that people were paying more than the already are.
  • Heavily trailed already this morning is the rise in the tax-free threshold at the bottom calling it a tax cut. Don't be fooled to much. With inflation running at above 4%, and the likelihood of pay freezes in the private sector, any gain will be swallowed up by the time the change actually comes in.
  • Fuel duty is more than likely going to remain static and will be billed as "helping" motorists. It is, naturally, bullshit to claim that not implementing a rise on an already overtaxed product whose price is rising constantly because of external factors is an example of the Government doing us a favour (more on what ought to happen with fuel tax in the next post).
  • Finally we have the "big surprise rabbit out of the hat"... not sure what that might be but it could be that there is no surprise to make him distinguish himself as a politician that cares about the economy and not political positioning, handily positioning himself in the process!

Will try to live blog later, work permitting.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Monday, March 21, 2011

Tax is taxing... but let's not bullshit about the rates

If George Osborne really does decide to merge NI and Income Tax so as to make understanding personal taxation simpler then on the face of it it's pretty decent idea. After all, as Guido noted yesterday, no one believes that the Government taking a percentage of gross earnings is anything other than a tax.

However, there is something else that we need to watch out for in the argument, and that is the claim that when you chuck NI and Income tax together, the real starting rate of tax is 32%. What's more higher rate taxpayers are really paying 52% of their earnings in tax... however, this is actually and entirely misleading.

You see, we have, irritatingly, a progressive tax system. That means you pay NI on the gross before tax. Then you pay Income Tax on the taxable amount, which is the gross less the free 7Kish. Then you pay one rate on the next 20 odd thousand. If you go up into the 40% rate you only pay it on the amount you are in it by.

In other words, if you earn £1 over the threshold you would pay 40p to the taxman on that £1. Horribly confusing I know.

Anyway, the bottom line here is that not even someone earning £150,000 per year pays 52% of their income in taxes. In fact, someone on £150K (the 50% tax rate) will pay a combined amount of NI and Income Tax to the tune of £58,900, that 39% of their earnings in tax. Someone on £50K (the so-called 40% higher rate) will pay £13,910 in NI and tax, that's 27% in total.

Now don't get me wrong, I still think that is way too much. However, trying to win the argument for lower taxes on the basis of exploiting the confusing nature of a "progressive" system to make it sound much worse than it is is the wrong argument to be making because you'll be called on it.

A much sounder platform to be on is to make the case that the tax system is so utterly confusing that tax rates should be flatter, instead of this crap where you pay a percentage on the gross, then you get a pay one rate on one part, and another rate on another part, less your free part.

Note: It's not hard to find up to date salary calculators online that show you exactly what the breakdown of earnings and deductions is.

UPDATE: One thing I forgot. It is lie on the part of Lib Dems to say that they;re taking low earners out of tax altogether because the low earners still have to pay NI on the gross income. If you mereg the two into income tax only then there will be a massive loss that would need to be offset by the rest of us earning above the tax-free threshold to maintain the claim that no one on low earnings paid tax.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Oh look... it's all the West's fault.... again

I see, as previously predicted there has been an interesting reaction to the Libya/UN Resolution thing from the lefties over at Stop The War.

Prior to action happening Stop The War was saying there must be no action, that everything that was happening was all the fault of the West anyway, and that the best thing to do was use words to show solidarity with those trying to overthrow their dictator, but, crucially, we must let people with crap guns and old weaponry "settle accounts with their own rulers" (own rulers who have bigger guns, planes and what not).

Now that a UN Resolution has been passed, Stop The War, unable to call any action "illegal" are saying its a big stitch up by the West and other Arab despots to dominate Libya and seize control of its oil for BP and BAE, and, apparently, generic tomahawk missiles are now "weapons of mass destruction".

Of course, none of this should really be a surprise. For groups like Stop The War, it doesn't matter what happens as it will always result in a Noam Chomsky-esque argument that points out "the West" is merely doing whatever it is doing in order to dominate and enslave and is lacking in any moral credibility.

Incidentally, and as an aside, I understand that when the UN Resolution passed, the Libyan rebels were elated and started firing their guns into the sky along with artillery etc.

Now..... can someone please explain to me the logic involved where you're fighting against superior weaponry, superior numbers etc and when you get a bit of good news the first thing you do is waste lots of ammunition by trying to shoot the moon?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Is there a qualifying age for Bridge?

Welcome to the All-Party Parliamentary Bridge Group, who;s purpose is
To develop an awareness of the benefits of bridge (particularly for young people and for senior citizens) and to promote enjoyment of the game, and bridge events, with the legislatures of other countries.
20 members. 2 MPs, 18 Peers. Youngest member 51. Oldest member 88. Average age, 70.

Something tells me that promoting Bridge amongst the young is not going to be as successful as promoting it amongst pensioners.