Thursday, August 31, 2006

Bugs in wheelie bins? What about the ones on supermarket food?

Recently, a number of bloggers have been commenting on a report in the Mail on Sunday about spy-bugs in wheelie bins. However these bugs in wheelie bins are rather large and cumbersome compared to the bugs that are on the many products we buy daily from the High Street. If you're wondering what I'm talking about, they're called RFID tags.

If you've not heard of RFID tags don't worry, I can pretty much guarantee you've seen one. They usally look something like the picture on the right. That one came off a tub of Philadelphia.

What are they? Think of something like Oyster cards for the Tube. They're radio frequency transponders that hold unique identifying data and they can be easily tracked. They can even be sewn into clothing these days. Technically they aid stores in stock management.

However, the real concern is that there is little to no regulation of RFID tags at all. What that means is that you could buy a pair of RFID shoes, with RFID tagged money (did I mention RFID tags can be embedded into cash too?), you leave the shop and get into your car which has tyres on it with RFID tags in them. We could become mini-homing beacons for all manner of tracking.

Of course, I'm not saying that it's happening - not unless you're a terrorist anyway - but as it stands, RFID tags make bugs in wheelie bins the least of our surveillance society worries.

Victor Hugo Islamified?

According to the Turkish Daily there has been a little bit of uproar that a publishing house reponsible for prodocuing books for state schools inserts Islamist ideology into books which include Victor Hugo's, Les Miserables. Characters in Pinnochio and Heidi were made to appear Islamic, and Aramis in Alexander Dumas' Three Musketeers converts to Islam.

Lee Rotherham interview on Anyone But ken

The other blog I write for Anyone But Ken has managed to score another interview, this time with Lee Rotherham, the fourth of the potential Tory candidates for Mayor. you can read the full interview here

Shoot the Messenger

Last night finally saw the screening of Shoot the Messenger on BBC2. The screenplay, is by Sharon Foster, and won the Dennis Potter Screenwriting Award, which after last night I persoanlly think was a well-deserved award. The drama was heavily trailed in the press with a lot of column inches about whether it was the right or wrong way to tackle the issues of the British black community. Some said it was racist, other said it wasn't.

The tale follow Joe, (David Oyelowo), who is a teacher that wants to help black kids help themselves out of the world of gangs, crime and constant underachievement. However, it all turn wrong when a boy accuses him of assault, he loses his job, goes insane, and decides he hates black people.

Sharon Foster herself says it "is a reflection of debates which are ongoing within the black community, and questions some of the stuff that black communities tell themselves and their children. It's like a fable. Some of it may be uncomfortable for people to hear, but ultimately it's about learning to accept and love people as they are."

For me it was more than just that though. One of the fundamnetal things that leapt out at me was that it often appeared to pitting the leftist, Hegelian master/slave dialetic view of the world - the "all black people are victims" argument, against the rightist individualist view, that we all of us make our own history and personal responsibilty takes precedence over a re-directed blame mentality. That, for me at least, was the colour blind message within the drama.

Is Des Browne sitting on his elbow?

James Cleverly has highlighted a truly spectacular display of incompetence by the Secretary of State for Defence, Des Browne. It seems Browne has penned an article for the Guardian in which he says that 2 Para, rather than 3 Para, are deployed in Afghanistan.

His article tries to make a general point that everything in the British Army is just peachy and troops are actually very well funded - funny, but I'm sure the other Brown has been slowly cutting their budgets. As James quite rightly says "if you don't even know who you are sending around the world you should really ask yourself if you are in the right job."

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

How a police officer made me laugh

On monday, Ellee Seymour drew attention to a blog called Pc Bloggs. Now I know I am merely repeating her plug but PC Blogg is quite possibly the funniest site I've read for a long time. Today top story is the first part in a Solicitors' Guide and has the following hilarious matrix for how to decide what to advise a client.

Click image for viewable version

Email snooping

I've just spotted a story in the local Cumbrian press about Allerdale Borough Council which caught my eye. The headline is Email snooping inquiry continues and refers to a senior councillor who apparently boasted that he could produce files of emails written by fellow councillors to use against them.

Obviously, as a techie this sort of thing interests me. These days everyone is paranoid about emails and snooping. The thing is it all really depends on the method for sending and receiving email that defines the scope of that snooping. For example, in the case of most Council offices they will likely use Microsoft Exchange or Lotus Notes server. If you send and receive all your mail through that then the administrator can - technically - read all your emails.

The question in those cases comes down to ethical practice though. A sysadmin in charge of a system that has hundreds of users, frankly, has better thiongs to do with his time than read your email. The Bastard Operator from Hell is a parody of the power we have, not a reality of the way we pratice and execute that power.

Something that everyone should remember when it comes to email is that if you don't encrypt it, it's visible to the world (technically) the minute it goes out on the Internet on it's way to the recipient. It could, theoretically, be intercepted. Without encryption an email is not really much different to a postcard. The moral of the tail? The truly paranoid encrypt their mail.

Blocking information on the Net is not easy

Croydonian has posted about a story in yesterday's Guardian which says the New York Times has blocked British readers from accessing this article. Hitting the link states:

"This Article Is Unavailable: On advice of legal counsel, this article is unavailable to readers of in Britain. This arises from the requirement in British law that prohibits publication of prejudicial information about the defendants prior to trial"

Having read the article by hitting the link I can't honestly say, like Croydonian, whether it is prejudicial or not. However, the way they've "blocked" it is stupidly easy to circumvent. As a result it can be read by doing a quick blogger search anyway.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Thatcher named best PM of 20th Century

According to an article in BBC History Magazine today, Margaret Thatcher is officially the best Prime Minister of the 20th Century based on an assessment of their impact. The agrument put forward is that she "took one sort of society, and turned it into another sort of society.... Today few people under 40 remember a time when trade unions were a real force in the land; when the public sector controlled large swathes of the economy; when local councils controlled education and other local services; when benefits were considered rights of citizenship."

Unsuprisingly, I entirely concur with that assessment. It is quite interesting really how Thatcher became such a hate figure for so many, and yet the condition that many of those people now find themselves exist primarily because she was brave enough to break the Atlee consensus which was causing the gradual decline of Britain.

Churchill was pipped in the poll into joint third, mainly because whilst he had a incredibly important and significant period in office during the war, he did go on to lose in 1945 and was not the same man when he retruned to office in 1951. No doubt the Labour rank and file will be outraged that Thatcher has been according the honour.

Ask a silly question.....?

There is nothing like a silly question on a form to get me both apopletic with rage and chuckling with hilarity at the same time. For example, the Visa Waiver programme in the US requires everyone to fill out a landing card.

The card has some yes/no tick box questions on it such as, and I admit I paraphrase from memory, "Are you a Nazi war criminal?" and "Do you plan to commit terrorist acts against teh President or the United States of America?". I've always wondered if anyone has actually ticked "yes".

This said I discovered an equally silly question yesterday on a Public and Commercial Services Union application form (no i am not applying for a job with them). There was a box where the applicant had to detail their "Commitment to the application of Equal Opportunities policies and practices at work".

Seriously, what's the point asking that question when the person is applying for the job? They're hardly likely to say "I'm a member of the White Power movement and refuse to sit next to foreigners, in fact if I have too I'll spit on them" are they?

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Top 100 Conservative Bloggers

Iain Dale has posted saying that he is going to be drawing up a list of the top 100 Conservative bloggers to hand out at Conference. Sadly I won't be going as I shall be on a techie training course. Politics is cancelled for me that week. Fingers crossed I might get on the list though and have a presence in spirit instead.

Ruth Kelly says very little

If you were to read the headline on you'd get the impression that Ruth Kelly had made a significant and large announcement. But when you actually look at what she said she said very little.

The official line is that she said Islamic schools that promote isolationism and extremism should be closed, but that it would be wrong to have a blanket ban on all Islamic schools. So, reading between the lines, if an Islamic school is officially designated as a school and is foundd to be promoting extremism it will be closed. What a out the ones that are not?

Basically, Kelly said nothing particularly new in her statement. If an ordinary school was found to be promoting Nazism it would be closed as well. The problem though is not the schools for the most part, it is the lessons that are external of the educational system where the problem occurs.

Ruth Kelly may get headlines for appearing to be "tough", but really she's hasn't said anything that wasn't alreayd the case, and the "policy" will do very little to tackle a problem that occurs beneath the radar of the Department of Education.

Stephen Byers pipes up again

How odd, we hear absolutely nothing from Stephen Byers for months and then suddenly he pops up two weeks on the trot to basically challenges the assumption that Brown is the automatic successor to Blair.

In today's Times, Byers has written a Comment piece which is a direct attack on the Old Left of the Labour Party and argues against "sectional interests" turning back the clock. The best part though is the end of the piece which closes by saying that the "time for coded criticism is over". Riiiight. And that wasn't a coded criticism at Brown for his coded criticism was it?

As the Conferences draw nearer it looks like the only one that is going to be seriously united will be the Conservative Party's. Labour appears to be heading for a divisive leadership battle that will simply expose their ever-growing splits, whilst the Lib Dems, well, who are they again?

Terrorist attack at Turkish holiday resort

Well I was going to post about the terrorist attacks in Turkey last night. My intention was to be flippant and ask the question, how long before this is blamed on Iraq and thereby America in some way? Sadly before I managed to log in some left winger on the Today programme managed to do it. I'm not sure who it was, although it may have been a Labour MP.

Basically, they said that they didn't think it was in the character of the Kurdish separatists the PKK, so could not be, and I quote, "justified", on those grounds. They then said it's more likely due to Turkey's support for America and their tacit support for the war in Iraq.

What is it with the way those on the fashionable Left appear to think? For start, nothing can justify terrorist attacks which deliberately target tourist resorts. Nothing. There is a world of difference between motive and justification. Second, why does it have to come back to America and Iraq all the time? Turkey is hardly a major player. If it's all about Iraq and supporting America why not go after the countries that actually provided troops like Poland and the Czech Republic?

Sunday, August 27, 2006


Last night I finally watched Kidulthood. It was written by, and starred, Noel Clarke (Mickey from Dr Who) and is the tale of the darker sides of life in inner-city London. Drugs, sex, parties and guns. Whatever one's views on those things, they are very very real, sadly, to so many young people today.

The film has an extremely realistic feel helped along by a superb soundtrack featuring some of the best UK hip hop and dance. Admittedly it is a little stylised, but then you realise that is the case from the outset. What they've managed to do though is have a stylised look whilst maintaining a raw edge. Admittedly, I'm no movie critic, but this film will be a British cult classic like Scum, if you get a chance, watch it.

First step for Tory Pension policy?

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, the Shadow Chancellor Geroge Osbourne has proposed that stamp duty on shares should be scrapped as part of a package to help boost pensions and increase competitiveness.

Sounds great to me. The state of pensions in this country these days is terrible. This has then been helped on by the inequity of Gordon Brown's tax credit system which discourages saving as a fundamental principle.

The result is that those with pensions have concerns about their valus, whilst many simple don't bother as saving money means they lose tax credits. If the system remains like that for much longer we won't have a pensions crisis, we'll have a pensions catastrophe.

An interesting feature article on multiculturalism

Have just the read this feature article in the Sunday Telegraph. It's about a former headteacher who had to "retire" in the 1980s because he dared to criticise the conventional orthodxy of multiculturalism in schools. Specifcally he questioned whether allowing pakistani children months off to go "home" to Pakistan was good for their education and society as a whole. After his article was published in The Salisbury Review in 1984 he received death threats and was brandished a racist.

The feature's point is of course obvious from the outset. This man was hounded out of his job as a racist and this week that same group of people have just satrted to question the validty of that orthodoxy that led them to accuse people of being evil bigots. IN light of Ruth Kelly's echoing of John Reid's U-turn it would be nice to think that the subject of the feature article, Mr Honeyford, and others like him would be admonished by those that once villified them but I doubt it will happen sadly.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

MPAC's views are "crap"

That nice jihadi Islamist organisation MPAC appears to be rather upset again, this time with Phil Woolas after he allegedly told MPAC that their views were "crap". As you can imagine, MPAC were outraged by this and have sprung into action sending emails and demanding an apology.

Interestingly, MPAC doesn't detail exactly what they said in order to achieve the response they did. But having heard the excitable little chap on radio, I imagine it was probably some tirade full of logicial fallacies all delivered with a smug smile and air of zealous righteousness.

According to Recess Monkey there was a comment in the thread that said "What can we expect of Woolas when his creed teaches him that we Muslim Gentiles are ‘Amalek’, who deserve to wiped off the face of the earth, inc our women and children?" However it doesn't appear to be there anymore.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Bloggers Golf Tournament?

I have no idea if this will actually attract much interest, but I know that Iain Dale (like me), enjoys playing golf, so I'm presuming there are other players out there. The idea is simple, a Bloggers Golf Tournament. A one day deal (probably a weekend), probably doing 27 holes, 9 in the morning as a Texas Scramble and then 18 Stableford if we have enough numbers. Obviously it would be in the South East I'm afraid.

What has the News of the World got on Matthew Taylor?

The question Tim Roll-Pickering is asking this afternoon is "What has the News of the World got on Matthew Taylor?" He's asking this because of something he found in his server logs, clearly it's a slow blog day. In answer to your question Tim, I can think of at least one thing, but my lips are forever sealed.

All your blog are belong to us

It may have happened because of a glitch but I'm going to milk it for what's worth. Mr Dale, consider yourself beat! :-)

Football branded laptops

I've just been directed to Nice PC who are selling football branded Fujitsu laptops. Now they only do four clubs at the moment, Everton, Celtic, Tottenham and Aston Villa, but there have been reports that the Villa one is persistently under-performing and crashes at crucial moments.

Unfortunate surnames

I heard something worrying in relation to the latest British businessman threatened with US Extradition on fraud charges. Besides his surname being Crook, his US lawyer is apparently called Mr Law, and his girlfriend is called Miss Bills. Clearly he's doomed.

Nick Clegg joins the Acquiescing Popular Front

There is something about Nick Clegg that I just cannot work out. Sometimes he says things which seem sensible (usually Orange Book type things), and then in the next breath he will say things that are just silly and remind me why I don't support the Liberal Democrats. Today it seems is no exception.

In response to Ruth Kelly's speech about "multiculturalism" yesterday (which I mentioned here), the Cleggmeister has said that "any attempt to reach out to disaffected members of our Muslim communities must also incorporate an honest debate about this governments foreign policy".

I have to ask myself the question why? What purpose with having a debate serve exactly? We already know that the "disaffected members of our muslim communities" don't like British foreign policy and want us to change it. We don't need to talk about it anymore. The only reason we might do so is on thebasis that we might start changing our actions in response to concerns.

Correct me if I'm wrong here, but I was under the impression that this country acted abroad on the basis of her democratic foundations in relation to Parliament and its make up. I don't recall the Constitution saying that her foriegn policy should be shaped to fit the interests of a minority religious group which makes up less than 5% of the population.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Bob Piper on the Subjugation of Women

The other day Bob Piper decided to have a pop at James Cleverly for making the rather benign comment on ConservativeHome that:

"I am not convinced women, especially mothers, are as willing as men to put their families into second place to fight an election."

There is nothing particularly controversial in James' comment, but Bob has decided that it's evidence of revolting nasty Tories who all hate women. You can probably bet that had James made a comment about black people in politics he would've been accused of being racist too.

What I do wonder though is why I cannot find anything on Bob's blog about his concern for the subjugated women around the world. Funny that, Tories are nasty and revolting, whilst Iran doesn't get a mention. Go figure.

Multiculturalism, immigration and EU accession

It appears that Ruth Kelly is set today to finally admit what many on the Right have known for some time. Multiculturalism, for all its supposed benefits, actually creates and extenuates difference between groups. Following on from John Reid's U-turn that accepted the Tory 2005 election campaign slogan that talking about immigration is not racist; Kelly is set to say that it "is not racist to discuss immigration and asylum" and that there should be a debate about multiculturalism and "whether it is encouraging separateness".

Why the sudden about face you may wonder? Well it clearly has nothing to do with the headlines of the last few days that showed that the Government's estimates on the number of immigrants from accession countries were horrendously wrong. Back then the Government rubbished Migration Watch UK and effectively accused it of tacit racism, oh how things change?

Having said this of course, I don't particularly have a problem with Eastern Europeans coming to work in the UK. Frankly, there are far to many lazy arrogant British people who refuse to take the jobs that many of these economic migrants are taking. The real question we should be addressing is why so many young British-born people won't take the jobs?

Now I'm the first to admit this maybe a wild leap, but we now have an education system in this country that is apparently producing more and more young geniuses. A quick conversation with many of them tells you that's probably not really the case, however an unintended consequence of ever-higher exam grades may have actually been the increase in an attitude of "this work is beneath me" amongst many young people. I have zero evidence to back that argument up, but there must be reasons why British-born people don’t take up the non-skilled jobs many Eastern Europeans do?

There is of course one vital problem with the so-called "debate" on immigration in respect of EU accession countries though. Whether we introduce "rules" to restrict Bulgarians and Romanians immigration to the UK or not, it won’t do anything to stop them coming here as tourists and then working illegally. Once they're members of the EU club, the EU becomes their black employment market playground.

Funnily enough I pointed this out to my Polish and Lithuanian colleagues this morning and I asked them how it feels to be talked about in such broad terms in the newspapers. Their response was enlightening. They said the papers were right and that Bulgarians and Romanians should not be allowed to come and steal their jobs. They also said that Bulgarians and Romanians were lazy and mostly gypsies. This made me wonder; if immigrants talk about immigration is it racist?

Uncle Sam says "you may not come quietly"?

According to the papers today, even if you want to voluntarily face charges in the US you must be extradited in manacles. That is the fate of Jeremy Crook, the former European vice president of U.S. software firm Peregrine Systems, who has requested his passport from the Home Office so that he can travel to California voluntarily for the bail hearing in a serious fraud case.

Crook chose not to contest the extradition process and instead wished to go voluntarily int he hope that being cooperative with investigating authorities would help his case. This is hwoever apparently not the case. The US has said that he must be extradited and transported to the US accompanied by US Marshalls in a way that a jury could quite easily perceive as someone resisting arrest. As Mr Crook todl the Telegraph, "I really have to be seen to be co-operating with the US. But the only chance I have had to co-operate has been removed". Besides refusing to give Mr Crooks his passport with restrictions on travel to the US only, the Home Office appears unwilling to comment on the matter.

As such, Mr Crooks it seems is now set to face the same fate as the Natwest Three and be swallowed up by the US system. Perhaps one good thing that might come out of this is that the papers will start talking about the Natwest Three again, remember them? Since they were hauled off to the US on charges that they defrauded Natwest Bank (even though Natwest Bank say they didn't), they have become a bit like the disappeared of Ulster, out of sight, out of mind I guess. For anyone mildly interested, they're now not only facing criminal charges but civil ones as well whilst they are held in a Texan jail.

Over on ConservativeHome there is currently a camapign to find 100 policy ideas for the Conservative Party in the future. Perhaps renegotiation of our extradition agreements with the USA should be one of them?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

New Culture Forum September Event

The New Culture Forum, which I mentioned the other week has announced the details for its September event. Speaking at the event will be the former BBC journalist, Robin Aitken, on the subject of his new book, provisonally called "Can we trust the BBC?".

Those interested in attending should go here for further details.

Celsius 7/7

In the past few years I've read so many bloody books and articles on the War of Terror©, Iraq, Afghanistan etc etc, that the information within them has all kind of merged into a mess.

However, I've just finished Michael Gove's Celsius 7/7 and it's been a book of succint and wonderful clarity on the problem facing the West today.

The central thesis of the book is simple. Islamism (not the same thing as Islam) is a dangerous political force with totalitarian aspirations and it has the West clearly in its sights.

The West, through policies of appeasement and weakness over the past 15 years have strengthened Islamism's belief that the West is weak and that is can subvert the freedoma nd liberty of the Enlightenment to its own end.

The argument is slick, consistent and provides an assessment of the threat that's often overlooked by the mainstream media. If there is one book you should read this year it's this one.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Learning from localism in Canada?

In today's bi-weekly bulletin from Direct Democracy there's an interesting piece by Hamish Marshall talking about "Localism in Canada". As some might know, the Conservative Party in Canada currently holds power in a minority Government after fighting back from a near wipe-out which left them with just two MPs. They did it by promoting a localist agenda along the lines of their provinces which held far more resonance with an ever cyncical electorate sick of centralised government. Marshall argues that lessons can be learnt from Canada and applied to Britain.

"Attacks should be made, not simply on Labour's mismanagement of the centralised system, but on the very idea of the centralised system. Point out rules and regulations that make no sense in certain local circumstances. Show that Westminster is only interested in Westminster and not Manchester or Leeds, much less Norwich, Stafford, Durham, Perth or the Wirral.

Develop local proposals, not around parliamentary constituencies, whose boundaries are arbitrary and little known, but around counties and cities. Selling a conservative localist message has two components: speaking to people about the communities they live in and identify with, and telling them why the central government can never get it right. Give it a try, my friends: it worked for us."

I can't say I disagree with the argument. The ever increasing centralisation of power to Westminister under successive governments - Tory and Labour - has led to definitive detachment of the electorate. This, in addition to the insidious spin and media manipulation of the past few years, has led to a significant air of cynicism which views politicians, and politics in general, with contempt.

Re-attaching the electorate to the political process is certainly not something that can happen overnight. However, if we apply genuine principles of subsidiarity in policies, and ultimately legislation, we should see an increase in local engagement and thereby begin to tackle the cynicial view that "if voting changed anything it would be made illegal". The Conservative experience with localism in Canada undoubtedly holds lessons for not just UK Tories, but anti-statists everywhere.

Meme of bloody 3

It appears that James Cleverly has tagged me in the "Meme of 3" doing the rounds. Like pretty much everyone else I would normally never complete these things, but I'm going to do it just this once. If the Daily Pundit is reading this he should scroll to the bottom :)

1... Things that scare me
  • Islamism
  • The thought of a fourth term for Labour
  • The thought of a first term for the Lib Dems
2... People who make me laugh
  • Robin Williams
  • Chris Morris
  • Frank Skinner
3... Things I hate the most
  • HTML email
  • Internet tests
  • People that include entire email threads and simply say "hehe" at the top.
4... Things I don't understand
  • Moral relativism
  • Soviet apologists
  • Cliff Richard
5...Things I'm doing right now
  • Hacking shell code
  • Testing ReactOS
  • Writing emails
6... Things I want to do before I die
  • Visit all the continents
  • See the earth from space
  • Write a book
7... Things I can do
  • Annoy people
  • Moan like Victor Meldrew
  • Swear a lot
8... Ways to describe my personality
  • Persistent
  • Argumentative
  • Arrogant
9. Things I can't do
  • Fly a plane
  • Drive a train
  • Read Assembler
10...Things I think you should listen to
  • Any album by Me first and the Gimme Gimmes
  • CJ Bolland's The Analogue Theatre
  • The Prodigy Experience
11...Things you should never listen to
  • George Galloway
  • Busted
  • Take That
12...Things I'd like to learn
  • The answer to "what is consciousness?"
  • How to play the stock market and actually win
  • Assembler
13... Favorite foods
  • Chicken Jalfrezi
  • Fajitas
  • Piri-piri chicken
14...Beverages I drink regularly
  • Stella Artois (also known as "wife beater")
  • Coffee (not instant)
  • Water
15...Shows I watched as a kid
  • Grange Hill
  • The Legend of Tim Tyler - why did it take 20 weeks for him to realise all he had to do was bet he could laugh?
  • Mr Benn
16...People I'm tagging (to do this meme)

Labour's finances and state funding

Over the past few days there have been a lot of stories doing the rounds about the financal situation of the Labour Party. According to some of those stories they're so strapped for cash they might not even be able to pay their salary bill this month. Today's news looks no better as the Telegraph reports that they've sold their previous offices in Old Queen Street for around £6 million (which gives them only about £500,000 profit).

Daniel Hannan, in the Comments section of the same paper argues that all these finaincial problems are merely a sub-text to forthcoming proposals for state funding of political parties, and he goes on to argue a very persuasive four point case against us taking that route.

The most salient of points he makes for me is he last where he suggests that merely the cheek of suggesting it is grounds for rejection. As, "caught breaking their own rules", the political parties demand that the rest of the country should pay them with sufficient generosity to remove them from further temptation."

There is certainly something very odd about arguing the case for state funding on the grounds that without it you might be tempted to bend the rules. It's a bit like a burgular knocking on your door and telling you that you've an obligation to give him your valuables in order to save him from the moral nightmare of committing a crime.

Personally I hope that state funding doesn't become a reality, and it does worry me that the Conservative leadership has been making noises to suggest it might support the move. Taxing us for the privilege of choosing who taxes us would be absurdity verging on idiocy.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Stephen Byers has a point

I never thought I'd agree with Stephen Liars but he's absolutely right about inheritance tax. However, the question for me is does he really believe the tax should be scrapped or is he just firing the starting gun in the Blair/Brown conference battle that is looming?

I prefer the latter to the former as explanation for his motives. However, I do hope the former becomes a central plank of any future Tory manifesto (at least in some way). I realise that we're being very careful right now not to mention specific tax cuts, but scrapping, or significantly raising the inheritance tax threshold would be a sensible move.

Inheritance Tax thresholds are the most blatent example of fiscal drag on the part of the Chancellor. They're a very clear indicator of how he has slowly increased his take of individual's wealth by stealth. There probably is an argument for inheritance tax on the "mega-rich", but many today get stung simply because the housing market has risen so much. Having a highly valued proeprty is no longer a genuine indicator of wealth.

British equipment found in Hizbollah bunker

Apparently, Israel have discovered night-vision equipment in a Hizbollah bunker stamped "Made in Britain". The chances are this was part of a shipment of equipment that Britain sold to Iran in 2003. I'm not sure which is worse, the fact that we sold equipment to Iran, or that Iran appear to have shipped it on to their proxy-fighters in Lebanon.

The public don't trust blogs

According to Telecom Express the public trust media brands far more than they trust blogs. Apparently, TV news and newspapers have far more credibility than blogs.

My better half found this quite amusing and said "but the newspapers and TV just report what all you bloggers report, they just do it later".

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Getting more women candidates?

It seems that there are going to be more changes made to the selection process for Tory party candidates in an attempt to get more women selected. Iain Dale has said that reports about it appear in both the Mail on Sunday and the Sunday Times. The changes will apparently require that on second round shortlists of six, three women are included, and, crucially, that there must always be at least one woman in the final selection meeting.

Personally speaking I do find this sort of tinkering worrying. I fully realise the argument that our candidates (and hopefully MPs) need to have more women amongst their contingent. I understand that the more we're seen to be a male-club the less appealing we are and the more Labour will make outrageously silly charges of sexism.

However, this proposal appears to me to be the introduction of the worst sort of "positive" discrimination, as we're introducing quotas. I find that even more anti-meritocratic than all-wimmin shortlists. At least in the case of picking a shortlist which has nothing but women on it they're picked on the basis of who is the best. When you introduce quota's meritocracy goes completely out of the window all together.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Armour of God!

Where would I be without B3ta to provide me with the amusement and merriment that is the Web? This week they;ve managed to find a site which sells kids pyjamas inspired by the Armour of God as described in Ephesians 6:10-18, see here.

I'm not sure what is more scary. The kids dressed up for the Crusades or the fact that there is a market for it. No doubt the people that buy the stuff are all paedophiles (see comments here to get that joke).

Those expensive potatoes

I took on board what people said this morning and checked the price of loose baking spuds just to be sure. The cheapest I could find them was 49p per lb. I took three average size ones to the scale (smaller than what you'd use for a "jacket spud" but big enough). They weighed 3.1lb, thus would've cost approximately £1.50. Inflation is deifintely back.

It's cheaper than Grittish Bass

Another post about an advert that caught my eye, PowerGen. It's not the first time that PowerGen adverts have caught my eye, I always liked their one that said they were "the power behind power". There latest advert is clearly part of a media strategy tied to their recent price hikes (funny, British Gas did the same thing).

In the advert, there are a couple of blokes in a pub talking about different beer and one of them says "it's cheaper than Grittish Bass". All very clever I know, but just like British Gas, you have to pass judgement on the sheer front of a company that hikes it gas price by 18.4% and it's electricity price by 9.7% and can only use the line of "we're not as expensive as the other lot" to justify itself it.

They may very well be cheaper than British Gas, doesn't change the fact they're still too bloody expensive. It all makes Gordon's "Winter Fuel Payment" to pensioner pretty worthless.

Annoying PCWorld adverts

As many will now, when I'm not writing something about politics I'm working with computers. I am a genuine geek and very proud of it, there is nothing I like more than technology.

As you can probably guess I don't particularly like places like PCWorld. Besides them charging over the odds for equipment, the information they often give out to customers is nonsense, and, unsurprisingly is designed to make them more money. Their tv adverts are a case in point though.The latest advert has the PCWorld guy extolling the virtues of Intel's Dual Core cpus. When asked what it means he says "It means you can download email whilst uploading tunes at the same time". Funny, I've been doing that for years.

Basically, places like PCWorld take the consumer for a ride by trying to make technology sound far simpler than it is. The result is bad analogy that are simply nonsense. Of course, the avergae consumer is going to glaze over if they start explaining the concept of worker threads and cpu tick scheduling. But telling them dual core means you can do something which single core can do to, is a case of most blatent lying.

Welcome to the football season

Today it begins. Everton vs Watford and the local team Charlton take on the Hammers. I hope Bent scores.

Update: 'ave it Bent! That's points for my fantasy team. Sadly cancelled out by Ferdinand in defence probably.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Aliens use Firefox

Hat Tip: El Reg

Oh look.. more people want pardons now!

What a surprise, less than two days after the Government set's a dangerous precedent relating to a blanket posthumous pardon for 306 soldiers show for desertion or cowardice in WWI, there are now calls for more pardons.

Admiral Byng, executed on the quarterdeck of his own flagship after he failed to failed to retake Minorca in 1757 is one of the front-runners. Yes, 1757. What's more, the Labour MP, Ann Begg, is calling for 191 soldiers from WWII to be pardoned for disobeying orders and mutineering.

The mind boggle at the second example, it really does.

An evening with Croydonian drinking...

As the man from Croydonsays, last night we had a few drinks and chewed the fat about all things political (extremely good discussion incidentally even I did tend to ramble occassional). The result was the idea of a bloggers' convention of some sort somewhere in London. Obviously it sounds more glamorous than the pub crawl it actually is.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The future's bright, the future's censorship?

The other night whilst I was looking at the logs for this blog I noticed that I'd been receiving hits to this page from the following keyword search "Inigo Wilson racist". The curious soul that I am decided to have a look at what else Google was throwing up and discovered a thread on the Muslim Public Affairs Committee forum. As you can no doubt see from the thread, it's pretty clear that an exceptionally small minority of people had taken a rather hysterical offence to two specific entries in what was meant to be an amusing look at the way the Left has appropriated language in a pernicious way.

The two entries in questions were, as you've probably already guessed, about Islam or issues surrounding the subject. Specifically Wilson's piece pointed out that the phrase islamophobic has a tendency to be levelled at "anyone who objects to having their transport blown up on the way to work". The deeper point of course being that whilst the phrase has value, the inaccurate usage of it by the Left actually leads to it being devalued. However, according to the nice people over at MPAC (many of which openly support Hezbollah (a terrorist organisation)) this definition of islamophobic was itself islamophobic.

The other Lexicon entry that upset the people at MPAC was Wilson's definition of Palestinian. What Wilson said was that the term is used by the Left as the definition for the archetype victim. He also said that, for the Left, they are "never responsible for anything they do" no matter how many people may be killed. According to the people at MPAC this statement was racist. However, when you place this and the other "objectionable" entry in context with the totality and purpose of the article, the two charges are, to be utterly frank, spurious.

This has not however stopped the members of MPAC's internet forum springing into action. They decided to leap on the fact that Inigo Wilson works for Orange, and started an email campaign targeting Orange with the express purpose of getting Inigo Wilson sacked. The result of that campaign, as Guido and Iain Dale have posted, is that Inigo Wilson has been suspended by orange pending an investigation. The irony in this of course is that MPAC claims to be the leading Muslim civil liberties group, presumably freedom of speech is not something that consider a liberty worth protecting.

There are undoubtedly though two issues here. The first relates to freedom of speech generally, and the second relates to where free speech is protected. It's true that Inigo Wilson must be protected from having his work censored, and, as it stands I'm not aware that's going to happen, as the Editor of ConservativeHome, Tim Montgomerie, has made absolutely clear.

The second point though is slightly more difficult. For whilst we have freedom of speech, it may not follow that that gives us freedom to say what we like whilst being perceived as a representative of a corporate entity. Let us not forget that whilst Inigo Wilson did not write for ConservativeHome on behalf of Orange, the biography in the article linked him to them, and we must acknowledge that for some corporation's perception is enough.

Of course we must defend Inigo Wilson's freedom of speech at all costs, but that act - I think - manifests itself in supporting Tim and ConservativeHome to ensure they are not pressurised into removing Inigo's post. It is they, not Orange, where the threat to freedom of speech genuinely lies. Unfortunately, however much we may dislike Orange's decision to suspend Inigo, the argument that they're infringing on Wilson's free speech is I think an invalid one. A better argument would be that Orange should assess Inigo's post in totality and context rather than the comments in isolation as the MPAC members beleive.

Inigo Wilson, as Iain Dale rightly says, does need our support in relation to Orange. We should all take the opportunity to write to Orange and express our concern that such blanket, and arguably libellous, charges have been made against him by MPAC members and point out why. The issue of free speech is hugely significant, but it should not be misdirected towards Orange, as whatever they do the article will remain online and Inigo's freedom of speech will therefore remain intact.

Update: As Prodicus points out in the Comments, Iain Dale gave out the email address of the responsible person at orange. Do feel free to email him your thought.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Revised "Built to Last"

A new revised version of Built To Last has been released today by the Conservative Party. In the revised version David Cameron calls for a "responsibility revolution". The revised document sets out what the aims and values of the party mean in today's world. Download the pdf here, there is also a response document to the original "Built to Last" document available here.

Who is controlling history?

It has been widely reported in the news today that all 360 soldiers executed for cowardice or desertion in WWI are to receive posthumous-pardons. The trigger for this has been the case of Private Harry Farr who refused to go back to the front after the Battle of Somme and was shot for "misbehaving before the enemy in such a manner as to show cowardice".

Now, certainly it appears that in the case of Private Farr there was medical evidence presented at the time that suggested he was suffering from shell shock, so arguably his case can be reviewed. However, according to the Defence Secretary Des Browne, a group pardon is the best solution even though "the evidence just doesn’t exist to assess all the cases individually". The primary driver for this is apparently the need to end the "decades of shame" for the families of these men.

I may be going out on a limb here and being somewhat controversial, but what exactly is the point? After all, these men were shot for cowardice and desertion within the historical context of the time. Also, the fact that we will be arbitrarily pardoning all men whilst acknowledging we have no evidence to suggest that in all cases the justification for execution was not accurate, we are, are we not, altering history in a way that sets a dangerous precedent?

The claim that families have suffered "shame" is an emotional plea that seems to me to not stand up to scrutiny in today's world either. After all, it is well known how utterly horrendous WWI was for the men who took part in it. The idea that people look down on the second and third generation of those shot for cowardice is nonsense, most would be honest and say "I don't blame him for not wanting to walk across no-mans land".

This issue may though raise a wider question. After all, if we can give out posthumous-pardons on the basis of appeals to emotional consideration, would not the same argument be valid for posthumous-convictions? Is not the 40 year old man abused as a child justified in demanding that his long-dead abuser be posthumous-convicted for his crimes? That seems to be the logical conclusion of the rather dangerous legal precedent the Government is setting.

To paraphrase Orwell, he who controls the past, controls the future, and he who controls the present controls the past. Should we really be playing with history in this way?

Tory Radio interviews David Gold

The ever excellent Tory Radio has a new podcast interview up with the Tory PPC for Eltham, David Gold. David was selected as PPC via the first Open Primary in London. Hopefully I shall be able to help him campaign in Eltham over the coming years.

Shutting down debate

I'm probably not going to be the first to say this,but John prescott's argument that David Cameron's speech threatens "political unity" on terrorism is nonsense. The logical conclusion of such an argument tells us more about John Prescott's own opinion on political discourse than it does about so called "political unity". When Prescott speaks of "political unity" what he's actually talking about is the shutting down of political debate.

The stock charge of "playing politics" being levelled against Cameron is utterly absurd as it suggests that the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition is not allowed to pass comment or judgement on Government policy and highlight where he/she thinks it is failing.

It is quaintly amusing though that Shahid Malik, one of the MP's in the Acquiescing Popular Front, should have the audacity to attack David Cameron over this matter. Whether the Conservative Party has opposed previous Government measures is a spurious argument as it does not preclude him being right now.

As Iain Dale quite rightly points out, the reaction by Prescott et al "almost goes to prove that [Cameron] is on to something"

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Company Identity Theft

Identity theft is not, it seems, just limited to individuals having their bins rifled. According to a warning on the Federation of Small Businesses there have recently been a spate of calls from people claiming to be from Compnaies House.

The fraudsters are apparently calling small businesses and attempting to get hold of their Companies House authentication details. Once they have them they can login and steal files which could be later used to set-up companies and secure money, good and services.

These kind of hacking social engineering tricks are not particularly new but it is really is amazing the number of people who trust the person at the end of the phone asking for their secure details. Apparently Companies House have put a notice saying they will nevr ask for people's details. Personally I think it's rather sad that they even have to do such a thing.

If someone knocked on your door and said "I'm fron the Gas Board, can I have the key to your house so I know you really live here" you wouldn't give it to the, The same applies on the phone.

Sadiq Khan explains why he signed that letter

There's an interesting article in today's Guardian, which says the Muslim MPs that signed the "do what the terrorists say" letter over the weekend are going to warn John Prescott that they should not be treated as "patsies" to defend unpopular foreign policies. The Labour MP for Tooting, Sadiq Khan is quoted as saying:

"It is foolish to suggest or even expect us to go around defending government policy that is extremely unpopular in Muslim communities. We just would not have any credibility in trying to sort out the problems we are facing."

Wouldn't it have been easier for him to say "This will lose me votes and my seat is a marginal"? Less words, same meaning.

I notice also that Shahid Malik MP has a comment piece in The Times which basically says he was never suggesting the Government should change it's foreign policy [you were] which is then followed by a big long "but" section.

Google wouldn't be evil would it?

What do you do if your brand becomes so good and so successful at what it does that it morphs into a verb? That appears to be the question on the lips of Google's top people right now, and it looks like they're solution is to call in the lawyers and go after what they see as the genericide of their brand. If you're wondering what on earth genericide means, think of how you call your Dyson a Hoover, or how you calling sticky tape, sellotape.

In some ways though, is not the fact that people now talk of "googling" to refer to the generic act of searching the Internet (except for my wife who, having called it Goggle since 1999, is "goggling") the ultimate testament to Google's total ownership of the concept of searching the Internet? What's more, is there really anything a company can do once a word enters the lexicon in these ways?

Of course, Google can probably make sure dictionaries cite the corporate origin of the verb, but once the generic term becomes commonly used (as it arguably is now) what are they going to do? Sue everyone that utters it without citing the origin? That would surely be evil wouldn't it?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Biometric polygraph tests next for airports?

If you think that not being allowed hand luggage, or being subjected to body searches at the airport is annoying and takes up time just wait till the next technology arrives. According to reports, an Israeli security company has now produced a biometric polygraph system.

The system, known as Cogito, apparently uses polygraph-style techniques to detect emotional response of a subject under questioning. Within 5 minutes, the company making it, Suspect Detection Systems Ltd, say it can determine whether someone should be further questioned by authorities.

Further details available in the Wall Street Journal

That open letter to Tony Blair in full...

Dear Prime Minister

If you change your foreign policy terrorism will go away. We don't know what that policy should be but it will probably have something about withdrawing from Iraq. If we do this then terrorism will ease. However if it doesn't then it will still be your fault for deciding to withdraw from Iraq without finishing the job. We also suggest you pull out of Afghanistan should terrorism continue. However please note that you will officially replace the Soviets as the primary - and only cause - for the problems in the country. As such any further terrorism from there will also be your fault, sorry that's just the way it is.

Basically, if you don't do what we say then it will be your fault when people get hurt. It will also be your fault even if you do do what we say, we'll find a reason when and if the time arises.


The Acquiescing Popular Front

There is a wolf, and it's actually quite nasty

The other day, Guido posted and seemed to be suggesting that the events of last week at the airports were little more than a cry of "Wolf" by the UK and US governments. Obviously I don't beleive that and to be honest I'm not sure if Guido really does.However, the idea that it was all part of what some people call the "politics of fear" is certainly not a unique belief.

Mind you, just because a large number of people believe something to be true, it doesn't make it so. I did however learn something over the weekend that suggests that this was anything but a wide conspiracy to scare us all whilst simulatenously trashing the economy for fun too - cue Illuminati conspiracy theorists explaining how it's actually all the doing of the Jews.

Apparently those nice people at Aldermaston were assessing the risk and impact associated with liquid peroxide weaponary detonation on civil aircraft in the week preceding the brown stuff hitting the proverbial on Thursday. Thursday did not come as much of a surprise to the white coated scientists in Berkshire from what I've heard. Why would they be investigating such things if there was not a serious and genuine threat?

They could of course all be unwitting patsies in an elaborate plot to strike fear amongst the British public, but you'd have to be pretty silly to beleive that against the much simpler truth that there are some very crazy people out there who want to cause chaos and destruction on an unimaginable scale and will use whatever argument is most convenient at the time to justify themselves.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The New Culture Forum

I thought I would take a quick opportunity to plug the New Culture Forum. The forum was set up by Sunday Times journalist Peter Whittle and it's goal is to revive the national debate on matters of politics of culture. As the site says:

In the last quarter of the 20th century, the Right decisively won the important economic arguments. At the same time, few would demur from the view that in the so-called Culture Wars, the Left were ultimately victorious. More and more are dissatisfied with the effects of political correctness and cultural relativism. The New Culture Forum has been created with the aim of energising a much-needed national debate on culture and politics.

There is certainly something worthwhile in these goals. In recent years the rise of cultural and moral relativism as the default position for mainstream views is disturbing. It's particularly disturbing as Paul Feyerabend - the father of relativism - argued that his philosophy of science was not applicable to moral and cultural situations.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

John Snow calls local councillors "monkeys"

In Tony Benn's "Interviewing the Interviewers" this evening, I was surprised to hear John Snow say that local councillors are monkeys to the central government organ grinder. Don't get me wrong, it's true that local government is weak, and in many cases policy is driven from the centre.

However, I think it's wrong to assume that local councillors are some kind of meaningless part of the process. In many cases they serve an important function for their local communities and do real things impacting on real lives in that world outside of Westminster.

I found Benn's programme interesting, I thought John Snow came across as a Westminster Village arrogant smartarse, especially when he said he considered himself of small intellect effectively making him more in line with his viewers.

I don't care what you say, inflation is coming back

There is no doubt about it, inflation is coming back. I don't care what the Government claims about inflation being at all time low. The manner in which Gordon Brown calculates inflation is hopelessly unrealistic to what ordinary people see on the street. The Price Index used for inflation conveniently misses indicators that we nobodies use to gauge how good things are. It doesn't take house prices into account, nor Council tax or child care costs. For anyone who is childless and thus unaware, the average cost of childcare is about £50 a day. Now multiply that by five and again by four and you'll discover it's like a second mortgage repayment each month.

A quick walk around a supermarket will show you how much prices are going up. Three baking potatoes will cost you at least £1.50, a small tube of Colgate toothpaste is nearly £3. Even the budget tins of beans (50% liquid) are now over 20p (having been as little as 9p a few years ago). Petrol is nearly £5 per gallon. There's no doubt about it, prices are rising, and they're rising much faster than the supposed 2.5% inflation rate.

I've no doubt that someone in the comments will probably point out how I'm actually wrong and cite lots of key figures that show the world to be fluffy. The problem is, normal people don't use the figures they use their experience. It's the same with the NHS, the Government can tell us how much better it is, but people tend to remember their last experience. I think this kind of things get called "isolated incidents". Anyhow, inflation is definitely rising at a greater rate than the Government would have us believe and you only have to pay attention to the prices on the shelf to know it's true.

It would be awful if Parliament is recalled

I do hope Parliament isn't recalled. I'm not particularly sure the current situation in the Middle East warrants it. After all we don't see calls for recall about Iraq or Afghanistan where our troops are deployed, so I'm not sure why we should do it where we have no direct involvement at all.

That's not to dismiss there is a problem there of course, I'm just not sure what recalling Parliament would actually acheive other than costing a lot of money, and possibly creating the bizarre situation whereby each back bench supports the other side's front bench.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Happiness is a girl called Nikki

Such triviality after posts of such seriousness feels wrong, but it's good that Nikkie got voted back into Big Brother, I'd stopped watching it since the crazy woman left. I'm a hopeless romantic at heart, and Nikki and Pete make a great couple.

The first casualty of war is truth

Hat Tip:Iain Dale

It is much more deeper than Iraq

As I walked toward the newsagent this morning I chatted with my wife about the whole arrest, muslims and airports thing. I said to her that I imagined by the end of the weekend the "mainstream" media would have talking heads on it suggesting that the timing of these twarted attacks were "convenient", this would be followed by "wag the dog" movie references, not to mention references to past incidents as justification for cynicism masquerading as scepticism. I was wrong, it took less than a day for it to happen.

This evening, as I read my Friday Standard I came across an op-ed piece saying that Londoners were not so much afraid, as angry. We - apparently - are angry at Blair and Bush and our foreign policy. It's all about foreign policy you know. If we hadn't invaded Iraq none of this would've happened you see. Forget the fact that 9/11 pre-dated the two wars, it's about foreign policy, oh yes and Israel too. We are angry that we now live in fear because of them!

In fairness this sort of nonsense started last night on Channel 4 News. I didn't really count it though, as I wouldn't expect anything less from them. They had some talking head American professor telling us that 95% of suicide terrorists are acting for political reasons. If we solve the political, the expert says, it will all go away.

And there we have it again, that flawed analysis. Yes, no doubt these people are influenced by political events, but as the Times leader pointed out today, it does not define them. Ideology is what defines these people, they don't believe in democracy, they don't believe in liberty and they certainly don't believe in any god but theirs. They have no room for tolerance. You're not with them or against them, you're with them or dead. It doesn't take a genius to realise that you can not take on medieval zealotry like that by applying Enlightenment assumptions. These people are not rational actors, there is no game theory applicable to them.

As Iain Dale quite rightly points out, it's time for those sane people that exist in the Brtitish Mulsim community to stand up, start being counted, and genuinely act. That doesn't mean just saying something over the next week and then forgetting about it. That means real, tangible action by the Muslim Community. It's time for the Immans to teach that the Muslim identity of Brotherhood does not apply to these fanatical throwbacks.

There is absolutely nothing that we can do to stop these people thinking the way they do. Whatever we do, be it in domestic or foreign policy, it will be wrong for them because the underlying ideology allows nothing else to be the case. Those that think that we just need to understand their grievances and then change our actions to accomodate them, really have failed to "get it".

The rise of the flat-earthers

Apparently I've been "brainwashed by the press". That was the protestation of a colleague of mine this morning when I said it was wrong to draw a moral equivalence between Israel and Iran, given the former is a liberal democracy, and the latter is an oppressive theocracy. I also, admittedly in a raised and angry voice, pointed out that Iran is committed to the "annihilation" of Israel and has made it quite clear that the country "cannot continue to exist". What's more the subjugation of women in Iran is reminiscent of something from medieval Europe.

The response, however, was quite telling. Iran's theocracy was not a problem and there is nothing to say that it is any better or worse than us. Also, just because Israel doesn't say it, it doesn't mean they don't want to kill all muslims and annihilate Iran. Sadly, there is little one can say when faced with a conspiracy theory, as they are - by virtue of their inherent fallaciousness - impenetrable.

The discussion though did not end there. There was also, shall we say, a quite heated discussion, whereby the bottom line for my colleague was that all opinions are "equally valid". Sadly, this kind of moral, cultural and intellectual relativism has reached a point now where it seems to be blindly accepted. In acts of flagrant sophistry all arguments, regardless of physical and known reality, become equal.

The result has been a legion of flat-earthers arguing against, for example, action in Afghanistan, on the grounds that the Taliban's cultural differences are valid even if we don't like it. For the flat-earthers, values such as liberty, equality and freedom are not exportable because - and they say this with a straight face too - it is wrong to say that others are wrong.

Such a paradox, which rejects moral absolutism through the use of a morally absolute statement, is not unique though to my colleague. It's an expression of the sophistic state that the West has now found itself in.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Could this be just the first?

With all the kerfuffle at Heathrow today the resignation of a Government PPS in the MoD over Lebabnon policy seems to have passed off quietly. Jim Sheridan, MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South, on quitting said,

"I don't expect my resignation will have any significant impact on the prime minister's objectives in the Middle East, which I genuinely believe to be honourable on his part, but I don't believe they reflect the core values of the Labour Party or indeed the country."

At least he knows his place I guess. Wasn't Robin Cook's resignation preceded by a couple of low ranking PPS's resigning? Beckett next?

Why I think Malcom Rifkind is wrong

In an article in this weeks Spectator, Malcolm Rifkind, calls for Cameron to admit that Iraq was a mistake, and to move away from Blair's "simplistic belief that all Muslim terrorism is part of a single plot".

It seems to me though that Rifkind actually commits the same error that he accuses Blair of committing. Whilst critiquing the supposedly black and white worldview that Blair holds in relation to Muslim extremism, Rifkind simultaneously appears to talk about the Iraq war being a mistake in similar terms. Rifkind argues that Iraq was a mistake because it has heightened the terrorist threat and made Iran the power in the region.

It's undoubtedly true that the post-Saddam planning of Iraq has been an almighty cock-up. However, it also remains true that the conflict would've happened irrespective of our involvement from the outset. In both circumstances we would have a military presence in Iraq today as part of the current UN mission, and in both circumstances Iran would be the power in the region. Britain's role, in or out, would not have changed the situation on the ground today.

When placed in this context you have to ask yourself, what really is it that Rifkind can cite as the mistake over Iraq? I guess it could've been our decision to support the US's stated policy aim. Or it might be the desire to remove a totalitarian Stalinist? One may have a problem with the first reason, but can one honestly say they object to the second?

According to Rifkind we should only be engaging in military action on two conditions. Firstly, if our territorial integrity has been attacked, for which he cites the Falklands as an example. Or secondly, if we have a treaty obligation to act, where Poland in 1939 is the case in point. Is it just me or is the implication here that the policy should be one of either inaction or appeasement? Is that not a throwback to earlier Conservative policy, which saw us outrageously fail to act in time over Bosnia?

Continuing with the "mistake" of Iraq, Rifkind appears to be arguing that the Iraq war has fomented and increased the possibility of acts of terrorism against Britain, ergo, it was a mistake and we shouldn't have done it. The problem with that analysis is that it's based upon the assumption that if we'd not gone into Iraq then acts of terrorism towards Britain were less likely to happen, which is of course a complete unknown.

It's surprising that such an intelligent man as Rifkind would make such an intellectually dicey analysis to be honest. After all, there is nothing to say the threat of terrorism towards Britain was not increasing anyway. Prior to the invasion of Iraq we were engaged in Afghanistan and there was already a growing anti-war movement around that deployment. The news today from British airports could be inspired as much by Afghanistan as by Iraq.

On the issue of Afghanistan - and I admit I have not yet read Rifkind's piece in full - I'm interested to know where that fits into his analysis. Does Afghanistan fall within Rifkind's treaty obligation rule because of Article 5 in the NATO Treaty? As I recall America rejected NATO involvement and so Britain acted as a coalition partner instead. Was Afghanistan a mistake because it breached his rule?

Putting the formal affairs of states aside though, Rifkind also attacks the view that "Muslim terrorism is part of a single plot". As far as I can tell, I don't think that Blair, or Bush for that matter, holds that view at all. There is a clear acknowledgement of the disjointed power network of the extremist Islamofascist groupings. What Blair, Bush and other believe is that the ideology that under-pins the extremism of these people is consistently the same. An honest appraisal of the words coming out of these different groups is evidence of this.

Rifkind, however, cites the war in Chechnya, as an example of where the situation is not one of terror versus freedom, but instead Chechen nationalists against Russian nationalists. There are two problems with this argument for me. Firstly, it ignores the reality of the Islamic element of Chechyan terrorism. Yes, there are nationalist involved, but there are also Muslim extremists who are using such political arguments as cover for their warped view of Islam based upon theocratic values. Second, the argument is not that it's about "terror" against "freedom"; it's about regressive islamofascism against the Enlightenment. Putting it simply, we ignore the roots of the Islamic element of this (and the other problems) at our peril.

The conclusion is simple it seems. In Malcolm Rifkind's world, people like Stalin, Pol Pot, Pinochet, Franco, Mao, Hussein, Mugabe, Milosevic et al are perfectly acceptable as long they don't invade us or invade someone we've agreed to protect. We should also be ignoring their anti-Enlightenment basis for hatred and instead apply Enlightenment ideas of self-determination as grounds for appeasement. High-minded yes. But, ultimately flawed because it ignores reality.

Many commentators have said Rifkind's aim was to exploit the apparent vacuum on foreign policy in the Conservative Party. However is offering a foreign policy based upon "doing nothing" any different to not having one in the first place?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Lib Dems go for localism in the NHS?

Apparently the Liberal Democrats are going to propose a localist agenda in their NHS reform plans. Orange Booker and Health spokesman, Steve Webb told ePolitix, "if local people set local health priorities they should also be able to the determine the scale of local services."

Personally, I don't have a problem with this sort of idea in principle. The notion of local accountability for local services which serve local priorities makes perfect sense when placed against the current status quo of centrally planned and organised healthcare provision.

Internet VS. Real Life

A must guide for all Internet newbies.

Labour blogger wooed at taxpayers expense

A blogging Labour councillor, Antonia Bance has made much of her trip to Budapest at the taxpayers expense. She was apparently contacted by someone in the Department for Communities and Local Government to go on three-day jolly to Budapest to talk about blogging.

Antonia does warn us that her blogging might slip and we should "bear in mind that the fluffy pillows on which I slept and the wine I drunk at the evening reception was paid for by the great British taxpayer, helped out by a variety of corporate sponsors, so I may fail in speaking truth to power."

It's good to see our money being spent so well. Check out the pictures of the hotel, five-star apparently. Note as well that she thnks the Evening Standard's coverage of her was all about trying to make a "cronie" link with David Milliband, rather than the outrageous way she's boasting about wasting taxpayers money on wine and fancy hotels.

Update: It appears that the lovely Ellee Seymour was the first blogger to pick this story up, good job Ellee.

Institutional tokenism

Yesterday I asked whether meritocracy had died after reports that the number of ethnic minorities employed by a company relative to the population where it was based would impact whether a contract was awarded by the Government. Now, besides there being the problem that this scheme is predicated on the assumption that a company that does not meet a quota is somehow institutionally racist there are is another objection which Nurdeep Dhaliwhal raised in the Standard yesterday. Institutional tokenism. For Dhaliwhal the scheme sends out a message to the ethnic minorities that they cannot get along in life with out a leg-up from "whitey". He is of course absolutely correct. Positive discrimination is, by its very nature, divisive on multiple levels. Merit should achieve people employment and nothing more.

There is something else that should be pointed out though. The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) which came up with this policy is a 15 member board. It's make up is 12 white men, 2 white women, and 1 member of ethnic minority. They're based in Canary Wharf, which, if I recall correctly, has significantly more than 6% of the population from the ethnic minorities. Anyone fancy a job?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Labour launches summer website offensive

I've just received an email from the Labour Party which is promoting their new Family Matters site. Presumably this is the beginning of their summer offensive about all their acheivements.

I don't really have enough time to go through the site right now, but one thing that did jump out at me was that it said "Schools will be given extra cash to dish up better school dinners and more training for dinner ladies". Still promising jam tomorrow I see.

The most amusing section is the one dedicated to "Real Lives, Real Stories". Real as in, members of the Labour party no doubt. The main story has a beautiful sub-text, it's basically "premature babies will die under the Tories".

Changing the speed limit on B Roads

Given I grew up in the countryside and learned to drive (read, boy racer in a mini cooper) on the winding roads of the Shires, I couldn't help but have an opinion on the plans to reduce speed limits on rural B roads. I'm going to be blunt. It won't make a blind bit of difference. People will still drive fast on such roads and without a massive extension of speed cameras into areas where they will fail to recoup their own costs it will be completely unenforcebale.

The most effective and safe way to reduce speed on rural B roads is to remove the white line in the middle. It's amazing how well it works. If you remove the conofrt zone of the middle line drivers become much more aware of their speed and position.

Did meritocracy die today?

Last week on ConservativeHome, Inigo Wilson had a Lefty Lexicon published which examined the language of the Left and provided the meanings behind the doublespeak. One of the omissions, which was mentioned in the comments, was positive discrimination, which means "all discrimination is evil unless it's against those nasty white evil oppressors, in which case it's wonderful." Of course the irony of saying such things these days is that you'll probably find yourself accused of being a white power lunatic by the very propagators of the phrase. Such is the circular elegance of the Left's assault on language.

I mention this because the notion of positive discrimination has reared it's head in a very formal way about the provision of future Government contracts. It has emerged that as part of the decision process for awarding lucrative contracts for 2012 Olympics work, companies will be assessed on their ethnic diversity. What that means in practice is the number of people working at the company from the ethnic minorities will be counted and calculated to a percentage. That figure will then be compared to the make up of the local population where the company is based. Should there be disparity between the figures it could impact on the decision to award a contract.

This seems to me to be rather odd to say the least. By taking a decision to award a contract of the basis of ethnic minorities employees relative to the local population the process has within it the default assumption that the cause is racial discrimination of some sort. Putting aside the objections to the notion of reverse discrimination somehow being "positive" this seems to be a much wider objection. As a result of this policy a company’s reputation will be brought into question on the basis of little more that raw statistics and inferred conclusions.

A company has the right to hire whomever it believes to be the best person for the job. If that means they employ a blue skinned, one-legged lesbian with a speech impediment over the clean-cut middle class white mail graduate then so be it, but who you hire should be based on merit, not the colour of your skin or your social grouping.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Ellee Seymour relaunches with Word Press

Quite possibly the First Lady of Tory Blogging, Ellee Seymour, has moved away from Blogger to Word Press. Her new site looks slick and very professional. I realise I recently moaned about Word Press, but I did it from a purely professional geeky perspective. I didn't like what their code did, but that didn't mean it isn't functional.

Congratulations on the new site Ellee.

Road charging for Stanstead

There have been suggestions in the past few days that road charging of some sort, be it a toll or congestion charging may be introduced by the Government in the roads approaching Stanstead Airport. Tory-run Essex County Council is making a bid for £2.5m Department of Transport funding for research and development. As part of the funding bid, the M11 and roads around Stanstead would be made toll roads to encourage people to use public transport to get to the airport instead.

I'm going to presume that the people thinking this would be a good idea either don't have a family or rarely take them abroad. Moving a family with small children is, in itself alone, like raising a small army. Doing it on public transport at 3am so you can catch your Easyjet flight to Tenerife would be a nightmare. Such a scheme won't encourage people off the motorway and onto public transport, it will make money though. I imagine the hauliers that go between London and Cambridge will be hit hard by it (and Ellee Seymour too).

The Encroaching State

In George Orwell's 1984, surveillance was a reality for everyone except the proles. Compare that with what might be Gordon Brown's 2010 and no one escapes it seems. That might sound horrendously alarmist, but the ideas that were floated by "sources close to Brown" this weekend about the extension of the ID cards scheme really do constitute the ever closer reality of a society in which every actions is watched and recorded by the state.

These sources have spent the weekend briefing journalists that Brown intends to take ID cards and extend them to the point that biometric information about everyone would be shared with businesses, banks and stores. On the rather dodgy premise that it will aid in the fight against crime, peoples' every action would have direct links into a centralised system able to identify their location so the state could act upon the infromation if it felt the need. The examples floated include the Police being instantly alerted when a wanted criminal used a supermarket loyalty card, or a cash machine.

The breifings also claimed that people objecting to these systems in the political sphere, fail to realise that in the future, such system will be "absolutely commonplace in the private sphere". There is a difference between the two of course. In the private sphere people make a choice. They're not forced to have their data recorded and, in fact, legislation exists to ensure they have an opt-out option in cases where data may be used and stored. The ID card system, and its extension, has no such option, and will entail no such choice.

The lack of choice is fundamental here as well. By implementing a wider-system predicated upon the use of unique biometric information we effectively increase the surveillance to the point that the biometric data becomes little short of a barcode tattooed on one's wrist. If the proposals as floated came to fruitition it would mark a fundamental shift in the relationship between the individual and the state toward frigteningly Orwellian proportions.

I don't doubt some people might think I'm being paranoid. I've often heard the line "we'd never use the infromation in that way" as a justification for ID cards and other surveillance tools. However, I can't forget the historical fact that a certain leader once said the same thing about a piece of legislation called The Enabling Act. The issue though is not whether such things will happen, it is the principle that such scheme make them possible, and, that they infringe on our very notions of individual liberty. The state becomes the arbiter of individual actions, not the individual.

During the past nine years we've seen a gradualist encroachment of the state into individual liberty and action. Whether it be interferring in parenting; attempting social engineering in education; encouraging financial dependency on the state; introducing extra-judicial justice; attempts to abolish habeus corpus; the abolishment of jury trials in some cases; or the so-called "re-balancing" of justice which effectively means guilty until proven innocent in many cases; the concept of liberty has been slowly eroded. A little here, a little there. Alone they seem insignificant, but the sum of their parts makes a much larger whole. As Edmund Burke once said, "the true danger is when liberty is nibbled away, for expedience, and by parts".

Beckett the Environmentalist?

This morning, many of the papers have carried a story about how Maragaret Beckett is hitting back at the critics who say she's not a very good Foreign Secretary. The critics are of course but that is not why I'm posting. What caught my eye today was the picture alongside the story in the Telegraph.

The picture showed the Foreign Secretary standing with her beloved caravan about to go off on her French touring holiday. I couldn't help but notice the car towing the caravan. A Range Rover.

Yes, the former Environment Secretary who famously banged on about carbon emmissions whilst hopping on a plane for short trips has chosen to use one of the biggest gas guzzling cars on the market to tow her tiny little caravan around France.

Given there's a speed limit you can go whilst towing a craavan who face it tipping over it's not likely she need to torque from the Range Rover. What's the betting that as a Cabinet minister she's exempted from the Congestion Charge too?

Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

Apparently John Reid has now decided it's time to "tackle immigration" by setting limits based on the economic requirements of the country. He's also said that we should move away from the "daft, so-called politically correct notion that anybody who talks about immigration is somehow a racist".

Please be aware that the Home Secretary is not blowing a dog whistle here. Nor is he accepting a Conservative election manifesto plank. His proposed limits based on the economic value of applicants are not the same as the Conservative limits based on the economic value of the applicants.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

What if we sent weapons to Lebanon?

Whilst doing a little browsing of Google News I spotted a story about four arrest made at Prestwick Airport. Basically, three women and one man broke into the airport to protets about the possibility of US planes being refuelled on their way to Tel Aviv. They quaintly called themselves "citizen weapons inspectors".

The thing I've been wondering though is whether they'd have broken in to the airport and protested if we'd been sending weapons to Lebanon? Something tells me that if we were arming Lebanon against Israel then the moral outrage expressed by those on the Left and the chattering classes would disappear.

Incidentally, I just read over at Iain Dale that David Cameron has repeated Hague's comments about Israel acting "disproprtionately". I have but one question. Why is it that interviewers faced with the "disproportionate" line never ask "what would a proportionate response be?"

We're all doomed!

Tony Blair appears to have "signalled" that he's going to stay for a little longer yet by telling his aids to pack his programme full of work for his retrun from the family Caribbean holiday.

According to the reports "authoritative sources" are saying he's going to take on his critics in the Cabinet and propose more reforms to education and health.

God help us.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Why is this not being reported?

Yesterday, 100 mullahs attacked the British Embassy in Tehran with molotovs and stones, yet literally no one in the British media appears to be reporting it. Why? What's going on? ABC News, Forbes, most of the Middle East press, Reuters and the Irish media are all reporting it. Apparently, no one was hurt, but given the situation in Lebanon at the moment, surely a crowd of 100 mullahs attacking a British embassy is a significant story? It's worth a column in the Foreign News section at least isn't it?

52 related articles on Google News

Who runs the Internet?

In an earlier posts comment section, Chris Palmer, said he wanted to know why adomain registrar receives money for the registration of an Internet domain and basically by what authority.

I actually wrote a long post on the inner working of the Internet to explain this but it became horribly technical. Basically, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (or as they're more commonly known, ICANN) run the show. They're a non-profit international organisation that manage the IP space allocation, along withthe Top-Level Domain (TLD) system. In the case of country code TLDs they are usually delegated out to each country e.g. Nominet for .uk.

Who get's the money for your domain registration? The Registrar that told ICANN etc that you had registered the domain. WHy do tyhey get the money? Admin cost of managing your DNS entry for the world to see. I could go on but I expect people would glaze over, I used to be a DNS Hostmaster you see. If people really must know more then mail me.