Friday, August 31, 2007

UNCONFIRMED RUMOUR: What's happening on Tuesday?

Some crazy rumours flying around about Labour MPs rushing back from holidays, newspaper advert order being placed, and Number 10 driving something or other for a Tuesday deadline. Could be nonsense designed to get CCHQ into a spin over a bad poll, or is Gordon Brown about to really surprise everyone and blow-out the entire conference season?

Update: Iain Dale has an interesting bit about a rumour from the Department of Health that links in with the "Tuesday" rumour here.

Update II: A "No 10 source" has told the Times, "There is no election announcement next week, this is just a diversionary tactic in the face of the Tory meltdown".

What Boris Johnson really said

Today's Evening Standard has a report by Andrew Gilligan about the supposed Compass Dossier on Boris Johnson including a section on what he really said compared to what they said he said which I have selected from below. The rest of it can be read on the Standard's website.
What they said he said:
"That is why it is so important to persuade the public to snap out of their current curmudgeonliness [towards the prospect of war]."
What he said:
This phrase is actually part of a strong attack on the "cynical and ludicrous" attempts by the Government to "persuade the public to snap out of their curmudgeonliness". It condemns the use of "Whitehall-generated drum rolls of alarm" for which there was "no evidence whatever" and continues: "If we are really concerned about the weapons of mass destruction, then let the UN process work itself through."

What they said he said:
"America's performance in Iraq was formidable, and made Europe look ridiculous."
What he said:
This is taken from an article expressing concern about the consequences of American global dominance. The full quote is: "America's performance in Iraq was formidable, and made Europe look ridiculous. But in the hearts of many moderate people, the very lopsidedness of the world demands some sort of compensation."

What they said he said:
"After it [the deposing of Thatcher] was all over, my wife, Marina, claimed that she came upon me, stumbling down a street in Brussels, tears in my eyes, and claiming that it was as if someone had shot Nanny."
What he said:
The quote actually reads: "After it was all over, my wife, Marina, claimed that she came upon me, stumbling down a street in Brussels, tears in my eyes, and claiming that it was as if someone had shot Nanny. I dispute this."

What they said he said: "Not only did I want Bush to win, but we threw the entire weight of The Spectator behind him."
What he said:
As the use of the past tense might suggest, this is actually an extract from a piece in which Johnson bitterly regrets his support for Bush, describing him as a "cross-eyed warmonger" and "serially incompetent ... maniac" whose re-election was "the most dismal awakening of my life".

What they said he said:
"That is why we must explain to them [tax collectors] that their dismissal could be good not only for the economy as a whole, but also for themselves."
What he said:
This sentence is actually about how large-scale public-sector job cuts are supported by both Labour and Tories. The quote continues: "It should be explained, first, that the notion of weeding out some of the new public-sector jobs is accepted across all parties, and the loss of some 80,000 posts is envisaged by Labour's Gershon review."
Who'd have thought that they would take him out of context in such deliberate ways? Anyone might think that they're scared of him or something?

An "ask no questions" type of business?

Crazy Dutch!

Vote Labour or buy a kitchen. Whatever does one do?

I have no doubt that if you buy a kitchen from Paul Francis in Bedfordshire it will be marvellous. They look great even if the web design leaves a little to be desired. What I've found myself wondering though is how many Labour Party supporters or members have bought a kitchen from him.

Why would I think that you may be thinking. Well, thanks to my own fat fingered typings I've just discovered that the sneaky devil, or at least the person that registered his main site, also owns, and is redirecting to his site. I wonder how many hits he gets from it?

Did you know there's a global General Strike in two weeks?

Honestly, go to Strike 9/11 and look. A global General Strike planned against all the Western nations of the world who are being... err... Western. They have a Facebook group too with 15,097 memebers, so they've only go just over 6bn to go in ten days. I'm sure they'll manage it. Videos too.. look.

Go Trots! Woooooo!

ConservativeHome Editor threatened with defamation papers?

Two rather odd comments appeared on ConservativeHome last night it seems. In the "Tory Fightback" thread a commenter called GH said to the Editor, Tim Montgomerie,
"I hear you are about to be served papers for defamation?"
This was then followed up by someone called Syed who said
And yes I believe Tim you are about to have a very nice man deliver you the papers for defamation.... see you in Court".
However this comment was then overridden by the Editor stating that it was the same person as GH - presumably based on an IP address. A deliberate flame-bait slur lacking substance? Or something more substantial? Who knows. Odd thing to say though.

It's worth noting that other bloggers like Iain and Guido have been told in their comments that papers are going to be served on them which have then never materialised. This sort of threat I think will become more commonplace over the next year.

Update: As someone has pointed out in the comments, you can't just "server papers" without going through a particular process in law first. It's interesting that the person (or persons) making the threat don't give any more details. Like I say though, this sort of thing is, I think, going to become much more common over the next 12 months.

Update II: The Deputy Edtior of ConservativeHome has told me that as far as they are concerned there is no basis to this claim made in their comments. So I guess it probably was just another of those random idle threats that get made.

My opinion is that I am not expressing an opinion

This whole blogging lark is funny when you've nailed your flag to a particular poll of political isn't it? Today there is a YouGov polls showing a eight point lead to Labour (and there was another two days ago that had it as five points). So how do I write about it?

The joy of the Internet is the way you get comments, but the amusement is the way those comments are predictable. If you don't mention a poll lead to the "other side" - and this applies equally anyway - you can guarantee to receive a comment that says "I see you're not mentioning X poll". The assumption being that you're avoding it, even though you might actually be working, or have just not got round to it.

If you do mention it, unless you say "woe is me!" or put on your best John Laurie impression and say "we're dooomed!" you will find yourself accused of either ignoring reality, or trying to spin it. It really is quite funny how it works, and, as I say, this is the way of the world whatever direction a given poll may be going in.

As such this is an obligatory post that mentions the poll but casts no formal opinion or analysis on it because the response to such opinion are guaranteed to follow the above ruleset. Labour have an eight point lead in a YouGov poll, that's all there is to say.

Note: I wonder if anyone will prove my point in the comments?

The tools have changed, but composition remains the same

Do you know your Brahms from your Liszt? Your Schubert from your Mozart? Well I don't really. I may well be a classically taught violinist - who wasn't very good before you ask - but that doesn't mean I am an expert in 'classical music'.

I usually make educated guesses when the classical music round appears on University Challenge, and, often like the contestants, if my guess is wrong first time round I stick to it on the assumption that t will be right at least once and I can salvage some sort of intellectual snobbery at getting a question right.

Now for some, this shameful display of ignorance about classical music may make me a Philistine, for me it just shows that I am a contemporary of my time. After all, isn't classical music dying? This happens to be the question being posed in Octoebr by the New Culture Forum, with the added tag line of "if it is, should we care?"

In my view, if classical music were dying we should undoubtedly care. However, I'd say it most definitely isn't, it has changed its nature though. The real question for me here is not about classical per se, but rather instrumental composition though, which is, in most parts the reality of the genre that so-called 'classical music' actually in.

It may be true that the scope and reach of classical, or more correctly the traditional orchestral compositions has been narrowed into a smaller niche, but the orchestral composition, or even the single instrument composition, if you ask the question of what defines an instrument or orchestra is very much alive and well.

Classical music is no longer just about the graduate of, fro example, the Royal College of Music. It has shifted now to include the twenty-something with a soundboard and mixing desk. I imagine the purists amongst you may be balking at the very notion that electronic music could ever be compared to classical view of 'classical'.

However, if one stops for a second and listens to some of it (not all of it, there is always dross after all) it becomes clear that these new composers are creating the classical anthems of a different generation. All have rhythm, and all understand, and 'feel' music. They understand how to layer different sounds on top of each other to create what is today called a tune but in the classical sense might be called a symphony.

Not only are these original works of music - which very often are inspired by past masters - part of the changing landscape of the instrumental (and for some incidental) music world. But the landscape is littered with the reworking and remixing of classics.

Again the purist may bemoan the contemporary world's desire to take a past classic through a dialectical process to create something new. But when framed within the question of classical portending death, it actually strengthens the idea that it's breathing without life support. When the old inspires the new, it cannot be said that the old is dying

Take for example the truly masterful reworking of Barber's Adagio for Strings by William Orbit as evidence of 'classical' living on. OK, so some may say that Barber's work is populist thanks to it's appearance and mass promotion in the film Platoon, but Orbit's remix took a minor-key composition of deep melancholy and turned it into an anthem. The full 9plus minute version is a journey that is both Barber and not. It spans the void of melancholy into uplift and then back down again.

It seems to me at least that the notion that 'classical' might be dead or dying is simply untrue. It is very much alive and kicking, the landscape in which it now operates has certainly changed, and it being created with new tools. However, at its heart as an art form, the massive composition of multiple sounds coming together to form and instrumental spectacular remains the same.

Classical music is not dead. It lives on in film and television where incidental instrumental is an automatic requirement, and more crucially it is dialectical starting point for tomorrows history of music.

Three minute version of William Orbit's remix of Adagio for Strings.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Bleary-wiki and assorted web fun

At the end of July I posted about the Department for Communities and Local Government deciding to have a website redesign (again) which was planning to have forums as well as the usual Government stuff. Well the website has gone live.

True to their word they have introduced forums, as well as blogs, and even a wiki so you can help contribute to Government policy - or as I like to think of it, the Bleary-Wiki (it's going to end in tears isn't it?). I wonder when the chipmunk is going to have a blog up there, and I wonder how much the re-design actually cost?

P.S. Personally I think the whole site looks worse than the last, but that's just me. Difficult to please you see.

Cameron triangulates Labour on immigration

Lots of people are talking about the 45-minute interview with David Cameron on Newsnight which can be watched here. I watched it yesterday and I was quite impressed with the way he handled himself, and when Stephanie Flanders asked him about the married tax allowance thing his response was well handled.

However, it appears that the headline stuff from the interview across the papers is all about his comments on immigration. Most of the coverage is positive and there appears, at least to me to be very little of what you would normally expect when a Tory leader talks about immigration.

As most people know, there is a very quick knee-jerk tendancy on the Left and amongst Labour supportered to say that whenever a Tory talks about immigration they are actually doing so because of latent racism.

In the 2005 the party shot itself in the foot by saying "it's not racist to talk about immigration" because whilst the statement is true, it highlighted the subject of race at the same time, which I think, for many people actually had the opposite effect.

There's no doubt that the conflation of of immigration and racism whenever a Tory talks about is intellectually lazy but also politically expeident to do, but its interesting to note that even LabourHome have not started screaming racist (yet) and are wondering whether Cameron has detoxed the party brand enough to make it through.

The thing is they're actually missing a trick on this one I think. It's not about whether Cameron has made the brand better and so can talk about it. You have to look at what he said to realise that actually, it was a brilliant piece of triangulation against Labour and the traditional Left.

Cameron's decision to frame the question of immigration around the idea of its potential impact on the public services makes the possibility of the instant knee-jerk charge of racism very difficult for Left to do. After all, if they just reject his comments out of hand they are effectively saying they don't care about the quality of the public services, and they're not going to do that now are they?

What Cameron has done is take the immigration question, quite rationally, into the Labour heartland and framed it entirely around their totemic policy areas and goals. Asking what the impact of too much immigration has on the service quality of hospitals, schools, and housing - whilst simultaneously stressing that the question is not about current immigrants but newcomers only - puts the Labour Party in a very difficult position to disagree.

The result is that, the answer to the question LabourHome put of "Can Cameron hold onto the centre-ground whilst talking about immigration?" is undoubtedly, yes. The position he has outlined is one not based on "bloody immigrants diluting our Britishness" but "what will lack of control on these numbers do to our vital public services?".

It's a classic traingulated and centrist position, and an excellent piece of manoevering to nullify the intellectually lazy charge that whenever a Tory mentions immigration he must secertly be a member of Combat 18.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Krishnan Guru-Murthy does Chris Morris impression

I have just watched the single most hilarious thing ever on Channel 4 News. If anyone can remember Chris Morris's The Day Today, there was an episode called War once where Morris interviewed a fictional British ambassador and Australian politician who had just negotiated a peace settlement, and proceeds to get them arguing again with Paxman-like questioning and makes them declare war on each other.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy on Channel 4 News has just done an almost identical thing with the Prison officers strike to the point that I almost actually pee'd my pants. First of all he had the Prisons Minister, David Hanson MP in the studio and established that the Government position was that this years pay deal was non-negotiable and that they would only discuss next years'.

Five minutes later he cut to the top bod from the Prisons Officers union who read a statement out about how the prisons officers were going back to work after they had agreed on further discussions with the Government. Guru-Murphy says to him, and I paraphrase, "well we just had David Hanson, the Prisons Minister on here and he says the pay for this year is non-negotiable". Can you guess what the Union bod did?

It was absolutely hilarious, genuinely brilliant in fact. The Union official started going on about how it was disgusting that the Government were carrying out negotiations via TV interviews and talking with forked tongues and threatened to go back on strike in protest. I really really hope that Krishnan Guru-Murthy's colleagues present him with a big wooden spoon, because it was simply the most amusing moment of real-life imitating satire!

Update: The Day Today clip (thanks to flashgordonz in comments). My memory of the exact details of the two people in the sketch was misplaced, was about a trade agreement, not a peace settlement.

Beyond satire?

Ministry of Justice sends letters to striking prisons officers telling them that if they don't go back to work they could be sent to prison.

I shall frame this letter!

Anyone remember the 'Big Brother Project' in Worcestershite* and Herefordshire? I wrote about almost 5 months ago. For those not familiar with it, the project is funded through the Department of Work and Pensions and JobCentrePlus and provides a free makeover, free shopping trip, free lunch, free childcare and reimbursed travel costs to single unemployed parents in order to boost their confidence. There is such a thing as a free lunch (and more) you see.

Anyway, back then, the DWP appeared to have rather fluid lines about what it could and could not say about the cost of the project. At first they wouldn't say anything on the grounds that the information on the taxpayer cost of the project was "commercially sensitive", then when they were asked in Parliament about it they said the answer could only be supplied at"disproportionate cost" because the information wasn't held "centrally".

I decided to put a Freedom of Information request at the time to ask JobCentrePlus about it, and to be honest I had forgotten about it until today. What reminded me? Well, I got a reply - not bad huh? They're supposed to respond within 20 days of the receipt of the request, they did it in about 150. The letter was dated the 17th and arrived on the 29th so I guess they use 12th class mail, but I digress.

The response was very nice and pleasant. They apologised profusely for not responding to me and then told me that "the information requested is not held by this Department and could only be obtained at disproportionate cost". Quality. Sorry we didn't answer, but we're not going answer. An interesting answer if you think about it for a moment though.

The project is a JobCentrePlus project, they say they don't hold information on it, but they concede that they could get the information but that it would cost too much, suggesting, in fact, that they probably do hold information actually, otherwise why not just say "the information requested is not held by this Department" and tell me who does it hold it?

I do feel special now though, I have my first "disproportionate cost" response! I think I'll frame it!

* I could change this typo but frankly, it's too bloody funny.

Blogging will be light today....

Have been working all night. Did some posts over night though. See ya later.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Connect up with the people you hate

Well it had to happen. First there was Facebook that allowed you to link up with your friends, and now, thanks to the joy of the Internet we have Arsebook "an anti-social utility that connects you with the people YOU HATE." It will let you "upload blackmail material or publish lies" or "simply join a hate-clan to disturb people who live, study, or work around you".

Don't be a square, sign up today. it's where the cool kids are!
Note: This is not a real site. You can't really register. It's called a joke.

Miss Teen errr... where am I?

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. It's things like this that give the sneering attitudes of anti-americans ammunition.
Update: Having spoken to a Texan friend of mine about this video he said that the presenter "should have the option of euthenizing contestants on the spot" as it would be "far more entertaining if after 20 seconds of that drivel, Mario Lopez had pulled a revolver out and blown the air out of her skull". Quite!

It never rains but it pours for the Republicans?

Oh dear, the Republicans across the pond are not having a pleasant few weeks. First Rove quits, then the Attorney General, and now one of their Senators, Larry Craig, has apparently pleaded guilty to lewd conduct in a mens toilet in Minnesota airport.

The US blogosphere has it seems gone crazy with linking to this story, and the viewing rate of a video from 1982 where the same senator issues a denial about a sex and drugs scandal involving Government pages (I think that means interns) is now doing the rounds too.

Gummer and Goldsmith: 'sandal-wearing green crusaders'

Roger Helmer MEP has written a stinging attack on his blog about the leaked details of the Quality of Life report from John Gummer and Zac Goldsmith. In his response he calls Gummer and Goldsmith "sandal-wearing green crusaders" which made me chuckle. He's also given a response to Tory Radio, and I see that Iain is not best impressed either.

In other news, there is of course this crazy tale about the Lib Dems wanting to ban petrol cars. This shouldn't really be a surprise, the Lib Dems in the European Parliament are leading calls that will effectively outlaw cars which I posted about in June. I guess I should add that I'm pretty much in agreement with Iain, Helmer et al. The ideas sound silly, but then it is silly season. I note also that the war against a style of car (4x4s) goes on. On that point they can take their extra-tax and stick it where the sun doesn't shine with a carrot.

Is Alan Johnson stuck in timewarp?

When I went on holiday, the first pre-written post that was submitted was about Alan Johnson's deputy leadership campaign website and the fact it was still up and had yet to concede that he had actually lost.

Posts will be light during today as I am working tonight instead so am getting a bit of shut-eye in a few moments, but I just wanted to mention that it's still there with bugger all acknowledgment that the contest is over like all his opponents have done.

I guess though that this shouldn't really be a surprise. After all, last week the Evening Standard diary column pointed out that according to Alan Johnson's biography on his official website he "is now the Secretary of State for Education and Skills."

Clearly not heeding his own party's call from the last election of looking "forward, not back" huh?

Passport Office really does spend £1 million a month on consultants

Back in June, I posted about a strange anonymous SMS that had appeared in one of the free London papers. It claimed that the Identity and Passport Service was spending £1 million a month on contract consultancy fees.

It turns out that the figure is almost correct, they're actually spending about £1.14 million a month instead. But what's a hundred grand or so between friends huh? In figures released under the Freedom of Information Act it seem that over the past three years the cost of consultancy by IPS on the ID Cards and Identity Service has been £31.6 million.

Last year was the really big year where the consultancy cost was £22.2 million. The average pay rate as of June on consultants was, including VAT, £701 per day. At the same time the office was employing 82 consultants. That works out to a total monthly bill (based on a four week month) of £1.14 million.

Brown faces rebellion of 120 MPs

According to this morning's Telegraph, Gordon Brown is facing hs first rebellion by the back benches over the new EU Treaty which, apart from the Government, everyone else in the EU is acknowledging is pretty much the same treaty that was rejected by the French and Dutch.

According to Ian Davidson, a Scottish Labour MP, there are 120 MPs on the side of the rebellion, which is calling for large changes to be negotiated to the text or for a referendum. The Telegrpah reports Davidson saying,
"On the basis of the soundings and conversations I have had with colleagues, the support for a referendum is similar to last time round when well over 120 Labour MPs publicly or privately backed a referendum,"
Apparently the number s may even include senior members of the Government. Obviously the possibility of seeing Brown defeated by his party is enjoyable, but personally I think it's good to see the Parliamentary Labour Party being honest about its feeling towards the EU after ten years of pretending to be united.

I note that there remains the amusing fact that opposition on the left toward the EU is because they tend to think of it as a big capitalist club, whilst opposition on the right sees it as a largely socialist project. Weird huh? I bet Tom Watson must be busy on the phone at the moment.

Update: I see the Mail reckons the Government is hoping that 2005 will be repeated and some other EU country will reject the treaty and save us the hassle.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Independent promotes 9/11 conspiracy theories

I forgot to mention that on Saturday I read the single most hilarious Robert Fisk article ever. The piece was titled "Even I question the 'truth' about 9/11" in which Fisk hilariously asserts,
Let me repeat. I am not a conspiracy theorist. Spare me the ravers. Spare me the plots. But like everyone else, I would like to know the full story of 9/11, not least because it was the trigger for the whole lunatic, meretricious "war on terror" which has led us to disaster in Iraq and Afghanistan and in much of the Middle East. Bush's happily departed adviser Karl Rove once said that "we're an empire now – we create our own reality". True? At least tell us.
"I'm not a conspiracy theorist but....". Seriously, read the whole thing, it really is hilarious. He talks about all the conspiracy theories but frames them as "serious questions". What I find a strange is that a journalist who acts like he's well informed has not read Popular Mechanics or purchased their publication (cover pictured) which comprehensively rips apart every single one of the mentalists' theories about the supposed "questions" around 9/11.

I mean, I'm not a fan of the Independent's angle on the news generally. But what on earth is Simon Kelner and the Comment Editor playing at letting their paper be used to promote idiotic conspiracy theories that don't stand up to scrutiny? I mean, it didn't like being attacked by Blair as a "viewspaper", but on Saturday it published an article that made it something else entirely.

A-List US blog calls for military coup against Bush

What an interesting post there is over at the US based left-leaning news and blog the Huffington Post. If you don't want to read it I'll sum it up for you. They're calling for a military coup d'etat in the USA. No seriously, they are. In an open letter to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, they say that
General Pace - you have the power to fulfill your responsibility to protect the troops under your command. Indeed you have an obligation to do so.
  • You can relieve the President of his command.
  • Not of his Presidency. But of his military role as Commander-In-Chief.
  • You simply invoke the Uniform Code Of Military Justice.
Now, seeing as Article II, Section 2 of the US Constitution makes clear that "The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States" it is not possible to relieve the office of its command whilst allowing the holder of the office to remain President.

If you're President you're Commander-in-Chief, you cannot be President and not be unless there is a military coup, which, as much as they may think they're not doing, is what the Huffington Post is actually calling for. After all, calling for the highest ranking officer below the US President to arrest the President and take control of the Armed Forces cannot be described as anything other than a coup.

Government to breach its own data protection laws?

What is it with this Government and its desire to share information with every silly sod going? At a time when identity theft is already rife, and the Government claims it wishes to tackle it, why is it that it plays so loose and fast with our own information.

As the report in this morning's Times points out, access to the so-called "Information Share Index" which contains data on children and families is to be "extended beyond social workers, doctors and teachers to include a wide range of civil servants and children’s services" and will also include voluntary groups.

The database includes name, address, school, GP details, and other medical, educational or children’s services in contact with a child, along with parent details. Very useful information indeed if you wanted to be that person. And we're not talking about some pathetic attempt to pretend to be that person online here, we're talking about information that could be used for full scale fraud.

It seems to me that the Government has never heard of the principle of least privilege. When it comes to information security you don't widen access to information. The Government has said that access rights will be tightly controlled and you'll have to get an access code off the local authority and justify your requirements.

Simple question, who controls access to the access code once a third party organisation has been given it? What's more, under the Data Protection Act my data, and that of my family, is my data. It cannot just be shared with a third party without my consent. And just add to the madness, apparently some children will have their details concealed, especially if they have "celebrity status" according to Lord Adonis.

SO basically, we have a database that access to is being widened to include organisation that appear to have no control on who access the system once the organisation has been given access. There will be no consent sought it seems when the Government breaches its own data protection laws; and if you're 'lucky'* enough to be one Jade Goody's kids then your details won't be shared.

Now, just to address the obvious Labour arguments in favour of this. The first one will, I imagine, be along the lines of this being required to protect and/or help children. Therefore anyone that does not support it wishes to put children at risk and/or doesn't want to help them. In other words they're evil.

This argument is of course a red herring. The information being shared is information that can be given by a parent to any organisation it has contact with within the first five minutes of meeting them. Crucially in that case the autonomy of the information is respected, as the parent and child are the owners and ultimate arbiters of their information. They choose to give it out, they do not have chosen for them.

Another argument will no doubt be talk of "safeguards". This is a favourite words of almost any Government when it comes to them building databases. "The system will have safeguards" they say. What that means in this case is that a human being writes a letter to another human beings making an argument for access and a subjective decision is made on the basis of the request by a human being.

Human beings are not safeguards, and nor are processes under which they work. Human beings, when it comes to information security, are the weak point in an otherwise more secure chain. Once access is granted to organisation X, who controls and monitors the staff churn through that organisation and the control of access details?

It doesn't mater if the system has the most hardcore 20 character passwords generated by massive entropy engines, once the password is given out it becomes exposed to unknown security risk in third parties. That's not a safeguard at all, it's a bit like leaving a window open and hanging a piece of your jewelery out of it.

The next argument I would have thought would be a utilitarian one. That sharing this information will somehow speed up work. It won't though because every time a given organisation comes into contact with a new person/child they're going to ask for confirmation of their details- which is just like asking for them without knowing them first.

Finally, the argument of paranoia will probably be rolled out. Anyone who questions the need for an interlinked, shared database of this information is merely a tin-foil hatted loon. Now, it may in fact be true that some critics are conspiratorial nut jobs that make wild leaps of logic between unconnected points, but that doesn't make the criticism wrong.

What's important to point out here is this is not about saying you think Gordon Brown and the Labour Government are secretly trying to enslave us all in an Orwellian nightmare with the ultimate aim of destroying democracy. No, this is about asking whether the proposal passes the Stalin Test. Would someone like Stalin have found a system like this useful?

Just because today's politicians are not, or at least appear not to be, maniacal megalomaniacs, it does not mean that there won't be one in the future, and frankly it is naive to think that it can't happen. This means we should be exceptionally careful when we build the infrastructure of state that could so be easily used for purposes of political oppression.

The proposal is not only one that increases most of the nation's exposure to identity crime, but it is also one which a future tyrant would be most pleased to use to his or her advantage.
* 'lucky' is being used here in the loosest possible sense.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Vince Cable goes after Gordon's friends?

I may be completely wrong on this, but it looks like the Lib Dems, and specifically Vince Cable, are going to keep pushing the questions about non-domicile tax status, presumably with the intent of hoping to dig up information that will help them embarrass Gordon and his friends.

We already know that Lord Paul - who last week basically offered a blank cheque to Brown to fund an election - along with Ronald Cohen are claiming non-domicile status and exploting a loophole that Brown, as Chancellor, allegedly disliked.

Looking at the Question Book for October, Cable has six questioned tabled for Alistair Darling all of which could very well see some interesting information released about how the Treasury does, or does not, deal with non-domiciles that are blatantly exploiting the system

A conversation with my 'local' Police

This morning I had a rather interesting conversation with my local Police station. Well I say local Police station, it was actually just a local number but the call was routed through to a call centre of some sort which "looks after" the calls for the southern London Borough's apparently.

Anyway, at 6.30 this morning I went out the front of my little terrace house for a quick ciggy - the boy was up at 6.15. We don't smoke in the house because of the kids and the smell it makes, whilst outside I heard some of the most thumping techno I'd heard for... oh about 12 hours. I went to SW4 yesterday you see.

The music this morning was loud and constant and I'm pretty sure it was at least 250 yards or more away from my house. It had a muffled sound to it. At first I thought it was someone in a car but it never got louder or quieter and was just stable in volume.

Purely as an aside it was actually a really good tune, but that is by the by, it's 6.30am on a Sunday in residential area, not exactly neighbourly is it? So, I finshed the ciggy and popped in the house and called the local Bill. The conversation went (approximately) like this:
Me: I live in XXXX Road and somewhere down the road someone is having one hell of a party. I can almost feel the bass from the techno, I imagine the neighbours are not very happy about it.
Police: We have no power to do anything about noise, that's a matter for the local Council.
Me: Errr, surely this is some sort of breach of the peace?
Police: Only if they're having a party in the street. Otherwise it's a noise issue and you have to speak to the local Council, do you want the number?
Me: Are they likely to be there at this time on a Sunday morning?
Police: Every Council is different.
Me: Look, you do realise that if you go to this house it's gonna be full of people off their heads on pills and you'll probably find all sort of drugs there, right?*
Police: You can't make a sweeping generalisation like that.
Me: I can. It's 6.30am on a Sunday morning, do you think they've just woken up and decided to play techno really loudly?
Police: It's really a matter for the Council.
Me: OK, just give me their number and I'll call them.
Needless to say when I called the Council there was no answer. So basically, if you live where I live and your neighbours decide to whack up the volume on their 10K sound system and it's the weekend, the Police won't do anything and the Council aren't available.

* It's worth noting that whilst I remain someone who would rather just see drugs legalised and taxed, I was trying to appeal to the "anything for a collar" nature that The Bill has taught me exists in the Police Force. I will of course be writing a letter to ITV to complain about the way they misrepresent the Police to the nation - quite possible in CAPS and green ink.

Labour ministers admit they've failed on education?

JUst wanted to do a quick post about something on the Fabian's Fabians website. It's not about their recent poll on average earnings that Tory Radio and Croydonian mentioned yesterday, but instead their latest issue. It is an Education Special and runs with the headline "Can Gordon Brown fix education?"
After ten years of Labour government, can Gordon Brown fix education? This summer's education issue of the Fabian Review sees interviews with the new Education Secretaries, Ed Balls and John Denham, plus agenda-setting pieces from Tom Hampson, David Blunkett, Louise Bamfield, and Fiona Millar. Read the Fabian Essay on social mobility by John Van Reenen and Stephen Machin.
Excuse me? "Fix" education after ten years of Labour? Is that an admission that they've failed then? And if they;ve got "agenda-setting" articles by ministers are they too conceding that they've failed?

Is Castro Dead?

There seem to be quite a lot of rumours going round on the Internet that Castro has finally shuffled off. Not a bad thing if true, one less dictator in the world after all. The dictator of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, has publicly denied the rumours. What is it they say about never beleiving anything until it's been officialy denied?

In fairness I probably shouldn't call Chavez a dictator, after all, John Pilger reckons the guy is a bastion of democracy and freedom, and he would know right? America is the true enemy of freedom and democracy after all, and Chavez is merely being pilloried by the evil yanks in a smear campaign.

OK, putting my sarcasm aside, why is it that Castro and Chavez are heroes to so many Lefties? I know of at least one Labour person who regularly telsl me how great Castro is because Cuba has good health care. Apparently the locking up of political opponents and oppression of dissent are just lies - or maybe just something that he can turn a blind eye too because they have great A&E services?

If Castro is dead it probably won't make a difference. His brother will just take over, hold a rigged ballot, and then become the next hero against the evil American Empire

David Davis accuses Home Office of 'cover-up' on gun crime

Given that the BBC's own graph showed the reality of firearms crimes (excluding airguns) whilst maintaining that gun crime "overall" is down, it really doesn't surprise me that David Davis has written to Jacqui Smith pointing out that the Government is basically lying about the state of firearms crimes, and in particular firearms homicide.

The Home Office's own statistics show that gun-related killings and injuries (excluding airguns) has increased for a factor of four since 1998. David Davis letter to Jacqui Smith quite rightly points out that to therefore say that gun crime is down (simply based on a reduction between this year and last, is both "inaccurate and misleading".

I can imagine what the Labour response to such an accusation will be. It will either be, as Chris Paul tried to imply in the comments here, that if you include airguns in the data set then it's somehow not as bad (which is of course nonsense when you are being very specific about the type of crime - gun homicide has increased four fold). This is bit like the way Labour still insist on saying that because mortgage rates are not 15% that the situation of indebtedness in Britain isn't "as bad" therefore they ignore it.

The other response, at some point, that I would expect, is for someone to say that David Davis is playing party politics with the tragic death of Rhys Jones. That it is shallow and naked opportunism. This is the stock response to anything the Tories say eventually. They'll probably then roll out some 20 year-old statistics showing how it was much worse under the Tories, but that won't of course be playing party politics.

I could be wrong of course, but the arguments that Labour use have become so tried and tested for them that they've become rather easy to predict.

Update: I notice that Bob Piper has posted saying that anyone who blames Labour for the four fold rise in gun homicide is wrong and that you could as easily blame Thatcher as the parents were brought up under her and she was of course a baby eater*. What's funny is that Bob calls the people who link increases in gun homicide over the past ten years to failure of Government - ergo the party of Government - twonks.

Presumably he was deaf from 1993 onwards where his party continually made such connections about the Tory Government (and continued too for at least seven years of Government)? Or perhaps he's just being a tad disingenuous? Either way his post is utterly contradictory. You'll note that he has also made the "party political point scoring" argument.

This is how it works you see. Something tragic happens. You express your dismay at the tragedy and say why you think something has gone wrong, in this case the four fold rise in gun homicide over the last ten years, and your "playing party politics" if you don't support the Government. It's complete and utter bollocks. It's made all the more ironic when it's wrapped up by someone claiming to be taking the moral highground (that would be the same highground that also has a big ostrich hole in it for them to stick their head into).

Having a view contrary to the Government, and officially wearing a badge that says you're on the Opposition's side, means that any argument you make is closed down with glib responses like "point scoring". There is nothing point scoring about saying "err excuse me, I think we have a problem here, and I think you're not being honest about the scale of it".

Incidentally, I don't blame the Labour Party, I blame the amalgam of ideas that have flowed from the Left as whole over the past few years. They may not have intended it, but they've brought about a dominance of nihilism and relativistic sophistry. Is it any wonder that an eleven year-old boy gets gunned down randomly in cold blood as a result?

* It has been noted by Bob that he said nothing about the actual gun figures. This is true, I was paraphrasing his arguments into the context of the wider response that is often thrown back regarding "party political point scoring" or more usually called "opportunism"

Brown's first sleaze probe?

This morning's Sunday Times carries a rather interesting story about what appears to be Gordon Brown's first official sleaze probe and investigation by the Electoral Commission. Apparently, it involves a group called"Muslim Friends of Labour" and allegations that it is a front funneling secret donations by individuals to the Labour Party.

Given the furore that some Labour MPs attempted to cause about the Midlands Industrial Council and the Conservative Party, the word, pot, kettle and black spring to mind.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Quick Saturday Observation

The UK's own Janis Joplin in waiting?

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

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Day the Internet Crashed

Purely as a point of nerdiness it did sort of happen once back in the late 90s, and it has definitely happened in the UK. If I recall correctly, both times, someone misconfigured a peering router on an Internet Exchange which caused a broadcast storm. You may chuckle at the video (because it is really funny) but it really is quite simple (theoretically) to bring the whole thing crashing to it's knees.

Where's Bob?

Just a curious question really, but where is Robert Wareing, the MP for Liverpool West Derby which I believe covers Croxteth? I think there were some problems with his local constituency and they were trying to get him out by holding an open selection, but he was certainly vocal the other month about a computer game that had images of the Jamie Bulger case in it and he's still the MP.

Is he not being a little conspicuous by his absence. I mean I'm not saying he should be jumping up and down and speaking to the media about this shooting, but you'd think there would be some comment from him somewhere wouldn't you? Yet I can't seem to find any. Perhaps I'm just crap at looking though? Or has Bob been gagged?

Andrew Anthony is right

There's a rather good article in this morning's Times from Andrew Anthony the author of The Fallout: How a Guilty Liberal Lost His Innocence which, as I understand it at least is a book in a similar vein to Nick Cohen's What's Left which questions the direction the Left has gone in some areas over the past number of years.

The article certainly has a bold title, "Question to blacks: whats so wrong with coconuts? Talking about race shouldnt be off limits for whites" and argues that the consequence of identity politics and anti-racism is the reinforcing of racial stereotypes within the black community itself.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Alan Johnson MP and where???

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I have a habit of making typos (a lot). So I understand how annoying it can be, especially if your typo makes the word you mean to say something else. It's potentially quite embarrassing you know!

Clearly someone in the House of Commons has a similar problem to me, and, when typing out the entry for Alan Johnson MP on the Register of Members' Interest they made a slip entering the village of Fingringhoe in Essex with *cough* unfortunate consequences.

Either that or the typist thought they'd have a giggle at Alan Johnson's expense?

Update: Worth noting of course that even when you do spell the place name correctly it still makes me snigger like a school boy. I take pride in my puerility you see.

It's not up, it's down?

There is a rather good post by Croydonian here about the bizarre view of the BBC to its own graphs.

Apparently the graph on the right shows a downward trend in gun crime. Honestly, the BBC News says "the trend in gun crime overall has been going down".

Race for Prescott seat hots up with website preparations

Yesterday I mentioned the race for the Prescott seat and the former councillor and Labour blogger, Gary Wareing as a possible local candidate. It looks like Mr Wareing is taking it very seriously and has already registered his campaign site. Will the other runners catch up or do they even need too? Only the machinations of Labour Party selection processes can surely know!

I do hope he didn't spend too much on the domain and hosting!

So much for transformational government

Apologies for the lack of updates today, am exceptionally busy at work, however, I wanted to draw people's attention to YabGW.That stands for Yet another bloody Government Website if you were wondering. Apparently, according to Red Dawn Primarolo a new "web tool" has been launched today called the Health Inequalities Intervention Tool, which will "improve life expectancy in disadvantaged areas".

Yes that's right, not only does the web provide people in marketing with lots of made-up language so they can be pseudo-cultural philosophers, but it can extend the life of human beings too... especially if they're poor and you live in the right "Spearhead" area. So much for transformational government and the slashing of Government websites huh? I bet if someone asked some questions about how many new websites have appeared since the Government announced it was saving money by closing 551 the answer would be quite surprising.

Guns, knives and sauasges... but nothing is wrong

What an utterly bizarre days for opposing news stories? In the press today we have quite a bit of talk about David Cameron deciding to invoke a Sex Pistols song title and say that we're heading for "anarchy in the UK". In the mean time, the minister for children and young people, Beverly - resigned once already but back under the new politics of Brown - Hughes has said that it's "irresponsible scaremongering from an increasingly opportunist and desperate politician".

We then have the front page lead story of the Times and the BBC, reporting how an 11 year old football fan (pictured) called Rhys Jones was fatally shot by another teenager wearing a hood and riding a BMX. But of coruse there isn't a problem you udnerstand. Crime is down don't you know, these isolated incidnets of teenagers stabbing and shooting each other is not a sign that something is happening to our culture.

Jesus wept. David Cameron observers the rising trend of extreme violence amongst the young today based on hard and real empirical evidence like the fact that 17 teenagers have been stabbed or shot to death in London alone this year by their peers (that's about a two a month) and he's irresponsibly scaremongering and being opportunistic?

No, he's a father who lives in London. He also happened to be lucky enough to be in a position of being able to say what he's thinking (and what many other people are thinking) and actually get heard. It takes a staggering degree of deliberate ignorance on the part of someone like Beverly Hughes to act like everything is alright.

One only has to briefly search on YouTube to find all manner of videos and imagery of teengae gangs posing with their "crews" with a 9mm in tow to see that there is a growing problem. Meanwhile, whilst teengaers are shooting each other down we have the news that a 12 year-old boy was taken to court for assault with a sausage. It's a cliche to say "you couldn't make it up" but honestly, you couldn't.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Who will replace Prescott?

As noted by Guido, via the Hull Daily Mail, John Prescott will be be announcing that he stepping down as an MP on Saturday. It's quite likely that this time the Hull Daily Mail is right, unlike last time when they said it would happen two months ago. Guido has noted that "former Shipley MP, Chris Leslie, Jonathan Ashworth: a Tresury SpAd and Brownite loyalist, popular local councillor Steven Bayes and his spin-doctor son David Prescott" are all in the running.

However he missed one person out, former local councillor, Gary Wareing. He lost his seat in May and is apparently a strong local candidate and the Hull Daily Mail tipped him when it last ran this story. Who knows though? Guess we have to wait and see.

People in glass houses

Just want to point out the sterling work that the Spectator Coffee House blog is doing in relation to picking apart the so-called dossier of nonsense that Compass have produced on Boris Johnson. The Evening Standard Diary also commented on this last night. Compass' report esentially argues the to be right wing is to be in league with the devil whilst to be left wing puts you on the side of angels (*cough* Stalin, Lenin, Pol Pot, Mao)

In the ES Diary column they pointed out how Compass had selectively quoted Boris Johnson's articles and even have a section on how Boris insulted the Dutch. They quote one line and then leave the succeeding three lines out where he says Britain is rubbish and the Dutch are great. It's pretty clear from the straw clutching that Johnson scares them electorally, although of course they'd never admit it. This said, it's amusing that whilst they go after Boris, they completely ignore Livingstone's less than colourful past. For Boris, unlike Ken, has not got cosy, for example with, Sinn Fein-IRA, as Matthew d'Ancona points out.

Livingstone, the man who says he loves London, had no problem being friendly with Sinn Fein-IRA in the height of their bombing campaign on Londoners. Nor does he mind spending Londoner's Council Tax revenue on setting up offices in a dictatorships in South America. And let's not forget how he stood on a platform with a Islamist who thinks homosexual should be strung up and called him a moderate.

People in glass hosues and all that jazz.

Human rights have actually taken away our liberty

The state does not give us rights and I don't believe in human rights because they do not exist. There, I said it. This might cause outrage amongst some people. In fact for some I imagine it will be taken as evidence of my crypto-fascism. This is an unfortunate by-product of the intellectual atmosphere in which we now live (certainly in the UK) when the subject of those ever so emotional human rights are discussed.

To say you don't believe in human rights, so the argument goes, is to say that you don't believe in humanity and that you want to take people's rights away. Whilst this argument is played out though, the philosophical contradictions of the human rights agenda is ignored by deference to the emotive pull of their very conception.

But if we stop, and take pause to think about it for just a moment, it becomes clear that rights and human rights are, as Jeremy Bentham said, "nonsense on stilts". This is not to say that I’m advocating a Benthamite approach to politics based on utilty you understand, but when he said what he said he hit the mark of a hidden truth which, thanks largely to people not thinking too deeply about it, has caused a proverbial “shit storm” for us today.

To see this there are a few questions you have to ask yourself. Firstly, when it comes to political sovereignty where does sovereignty lie? It lies with the people who come together to form the state through the use of the ballot box. That is sovereignty's ultimate and collective end. We - as free men (and women) - under no power other than own, enter into contract with each other to form a collective power upon which we, not it, confer rights for the soul purpose of maintaining some sort of order. What are the rights that we confer onto it?

Well it can be expressed in one simple sentence: The power to take away aspects of our freedom and our liberty in order to maintain the order that we so desire and express towards through our collective action at the ballot box. We enter as totally free men and we say, collectively, that the state can make us less free. The state can never make us freer than we are when we enter, unless we enter as slaves, in which case we have no political sovereignty to give it in the first place. As we are as free as can ever be possible when we enter the state, the idea of giving us the right too, for example, "family life" becomes nonsense because unless we’ve told the state to take it away already it is impossible to give.

The only way it is possible to accept that the state can confer these rights is to equally accept that the state exists not because of, but despite of man. That the state is a thing in and of itself, upon which its existence is not brought about by the individuals that make it up, but by some other, ethereal form. If this were true though, then why is it that man can bring down the state through revolution? If the state exists outside of our collective action as individuals, then its destruction could so easily be brought about, and yet history and contemporary events tell us otherwise.

Secondly, if human rights exist, then do so thanks to one holding the value of being human. If that is true then where do they come from? Where do they exist before they are defined by man? By implication, if a right exists as a result of being human then they equally exist somewhere separate from our collective individual action that forms the state. They are, as Jefferson would say, "inalienable". If this were true, if they existed in some sort of Platonic form, then why does it require men to create them?

Thirdly under what sovereignty can human rights operate? What place can the state have if it creates rights that it has no power to create, but which undermine its very existence, and are placed above the political sovereignty it has had conferred on it by the individuals that come together and create it?

For the more perceptive amongst you, this last point elegantly illustrates the inherent philosophical contradiction that exists within the advocation of human rights. For what we end up with is an approach to rights that places the state externally of its constituent parts, then it creates a higher political sovereignty in the form of non-existent human rights that it has no sovereignty to create or confer, but which bring into the question the very ability that the state can exist separately from the individuals that created it.

The bottom line is this. The state cannot give us the right to something that it has not already removed from our liberty to do. Nor can it create rights that undermine the political sovereignty that we have conferred on it as individuals but which remains in our control. This is why rights and in particular human rights are nonsense on stilts. Rather than giving us anything, they actually take away our political sovereignty as individuals by creating that which we no longer have control over.

Human rights, and in Britain the Human Rights Act, has actually achieved the reverse of what it claims to set out to do. It comes in the name of liberty and freedom, but takes away our political sovereignty to act freely as individuals through our collective action as a state.

Update: I should like to make an addendum to this post. It occurs to me that a knee-jerk reaction to what I've written may very well be that I'm letting the state have the power to torture people. In fact, what I'm saying is, rather than the state giving us the right not to be tortured, we in fact should not confer the right on the state to torture us instead if we wish to stop it happening (assuming it does). For those that might see human rights as doing just that though there is actually a difference between the two positions.

The former assumes that the state has the right to do it if it does not explicitly give us the right to be free from it; the latter says we are free from it already and only we can give or restrict it, from doing it. I am saying that we are the ultimate holders of sovereignty, whilst the human rights argument assumes - wrongly - that the state is.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A message for Tim

This post is a message for Tim who I am now genuinely quite worried about. To explain, apparently I.... oh just watch the video (sorry about the shitty lighting).

So...errr. yeah. Expect I will be called a barefaced liar and what not now, accused of smearing Tim etc. Will also probably have a comment I made yesterday where I said,
"in fairness to Tim he isn't trolling at all. I am. I planned to write about this subject this morning, and basically saw an opportunity to highlight some weak reasoning at the same time. The dominance of this sort fallacy driven stuff from the Left is starting to get on my tits."
thrown back in my face as evidence of my lies. Hey ho. The conspiracy angle is loopy though, and that way lies horrible things. Anyways, not going to say much more on the matter, said my bit in the video, normal service will be resumed tomorrow morning.

P.S. Comments probably won't be authorised until morning now.

Pro Referendum Rally

I'm pretty sure both of these videos (the first one definitely) have been produced by the WestBrom Blog and they appear to form part of the Pro-Referendum Rally media output (YouTube is being slow to load for me so give it chance if the vids are not there yet).

They're quite good I thought (although the first one is probably bordering on copyright infringement) although I'm not really sure how successful the rally will be.

Sorry mate, I don't speak the Vlingo

This is a pretty nifty bit of mobile technology even if voice recognition isn't particularly new. Apparently it's not very good with Australian accents though. Just think of the possibilities though?

Not only would you have to listen to irritating teenagers playing tinny R&B on the bus, you'd have to listen to them voice txting they're friends too! Maybe it's not so nifty after all?

Hat Tip: TechCrunch

Deleting files is a breach of copyright?

Some people may or may not have heard of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act in the USA. We have an equiavlent in the EU but I cannot remember what it is called. In essence, the DCMA is about making it a criminal offence to breach digital copyright. Thus you are not allowed to copy certain things on computers. However, if this Wired story is anything to go by it looks like you're not only restricted from copying things on your computer but also deleting things from it too.

To explain, the company provides properitary software that allows the user to get coupons for products at major retailers. When the software install it creates an identifying key for your machine which it then shares with the company in order to track what coupons you have taken.

The problem is that this unique idetifier is merely contained within a few files and a registry key on the Windows machine running it. Find the registry key and files and delete them and the software generates a new key and you get the same coupons again. The person in the story produced a little application and posted it online that would delete all the application's files and he is now being pursued for breaching the copyright of the software he is deleting.

Now some might say he is commiting a deception (and there is an argument for that), however, if you install software on your machine, and you want to unistall it, are you really breaking copyright if you remove left over stuff from the application that you have removed? In fact, is not the uninstaller a deception in itself because it does not really unistall the application?

The essential of the case seems to be that you are not only not allowed to copy thing, but you're also not allowed to delete things. It also raises an interesting question about multiple machines with multiple installs, or if you reinstall the Operating System. Could we breaking copyright if we do that?

Mick Hume.... again

If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times. Mick Hume may be an old ex-Trot just biding his time for the proletariat uprising, he really does have these climate change campaigners pegged brilliantly. His analysis in this morning's Times is simply brilliant.
However, at the risk of sounding like a grey talking head on the “Grumpy Old Marxists” show, I feel obliged to point out that young eco-protester puppies today don’t know they are born, are degrading the good name of direct action, and would not know a police state if they found one in their muesli.

The news has been full of spokespersons from the Camp for Climate Action at Heathrow comparing their campaign of direct action with noble struggles of the past. One summed up the camp’s aims as being “to show it’s possible and pleasurable to live sustainably” (the joys of the composting toilet), and “to show that non-violent direct action works. Civil disobedience has in the past led to things like black people getting the vote.”

Grow up and get an education. The campaign against Heathrow expansion bears no comparison to those that led to “things like black people getting the vote”. Direct action is neither good nor bad in principle. It is just a tactic, used by all manner of protest movements. What matters most are the political aims and outlook informing the protests.

In the past, direct action was employed by people fighting to defend their own interests – working people struggling for jobs and better pay, women demanding the vote, black people seeking civil rights. The pursuit of self-interest was the driving force for political change. Others such as we on the Left supported their struggles, but we acted in solidarity, not as self-appointed substitutes for the miners or disadvantaged minorities......

The “grassroots” protest movement at Heathrow turns out to be an egotistical posture from self-appointed saviours who imagine that they are floating above the ignorant masses, acting for the planet. It might seem odd that such high-profile protests take place at a time of low-level interest in politics. In fact they are two sides of the same coin. Gestures of disengaged direct action, such as occupying the BAA car park in the middle of the night, are not trying to win an argument with anybody. They are media stunts designed to demonstrate that the protesters are parked on the side of the angels, armed with the (self) righteous sword of “peer-reviewed science” to smite anybody in their path.

This apparent taste for the dictatorship of an expert elite over the great unaware might be rather sinister if we took them seriously. But despite the high-minded declarations, these protesters are only playing at politics. There were not many clown outfits in evidence among the Sunday-best suits on the 1963 March on Washington.
Incidentally, if people are not away, Mick Hume is the editor of Sp!ked Online and it's worth a read. Sure its the successor to Living Marxism, but they're analysis really does nail it more often than not.

Where the doublethink goes next

A few years ago whilst discussing politics amongst friends I made a prediction. We were talking about the subject of the Iraq and the "anti-war lobby". I said to them that the problem with the anti-war/ Western/ globalisation/ Israel/ American/ capitalsim lobby (usually people on the Left) was that their argument shift to fit in withtheir "anti" position constantly. Essentially they engage in doublethink whenever the need arises.

Their attitude toward Saddam Hussein is a case in point of this. When Saddam hussein was a Western ally they hated his guts because he was a "Western stooge". They considered him a mad vicious tyrant who oppressed his own people. Shoot forward a handful of years to where Saddam Hussein has become a Western enemy, and all of sudden he is the victim of Western agression and imperialsm, bla blah blah and assorted dishonest claptrap.

As a result of this I made a prediction to my friends about what would happen when Britian and/or America withdrew their military presence from Iraq. As it stands the anti-war lobby blames every problem in Iraq on invasion, and they also continue to play loose and fast with linear extrapolation enabling them to make statements implying we should all feel tremendously guilty about a theorised untestable number that can never actually be shown to be accurate.

So, as rumours abound about possible withdrawal - which is what the anti-war lobby want - where does the doublethink lead to next? Well one thing is for sure, whatever form of words they come up with next it will still all be our fault. That's the way it works you see. Whatever happens in Iraq after we're gone will be - and I have no doubt in my mind about this - traced back to Washington and her "poodle" Britain. If Shias start slaughtering Sunnis it will be our fault, it will have nothing to do with the tribalism that has existed there for years, or a reaction to the dominance of Sunnis under Saddam Hussein.

No. It will be a direct result of the war criminals Bush and Blair, who will, I expect, find themsleves facing yet more pathetically stupid calls for trials of crimes against humanity (along with Israel of course) whilst the same people probably demand some sort of action in Zimbabwe (and then proceed to bleat about how whatever action might occur was wrong because of Western interfence). Dare I say it, I imagine it won't be long before the people currently calling for withdrawal will claim that we abdicated our responsibility by withdrawing. That's about the level of unthinking that this debate generates.

I have to say though, I'm actually quite looking forward to it so I can laugh at them.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Is the Foreign office being run by ostriches?

It seems I have a theme running through this morning's posts about honesty. mind you, when it comes to the Government it shouldn't be a surprise that honesty often goes out of the window, and I say that about all Government's in general, not just our Labour one. Take for example the proposed new EU Treaty. There is it seems, pretty much no one with the exception of our Government who does not consider the treaty to be the same treaty as before. We now have a group of to-level European politicians, some of which were involved in the original constitution, saying,
"The proposed new treaty and supplementary protocols take over almost all the innovations contained in the constitutional treaty. They only leave aside the symbolic changes which were introduced by the constitutional treaty – such as the title of the treaty or the symbols of the union."
Meanwhile the Government says "Let’s be clear, the Reform Treaty is not the Constitutional Treaty – in form or content." I'm not sure if the spokesman from the Foreign office that said that was actually an ostrich rather than a human being though.

Arggghhh... Police brutality!!!

Still on the subject of climate change and these protesters. I did find it rather amusing reading the coverage in the Independent. A double page spread about how the protesters were all peace-loving hippies oppressed by the bastard fascist police, which then carried a caption saying "protester attempt to break police cordon".

Excuse me for a moment, if they're so "peaceful" why did they try to surge a police line? And why are they screaming about brutality when they discover that the Police weren't joking when they said, "you cannot cross this line"?

I don't doubt there were some genuinely peaceful protesters there, all eating pulses just waiting for the day that we're all living in the stone age washing ourselves with cold water and pumice, but lets not be kid ourselves here. If the Police stand in a long line and say "you cannot go past us", what in God's name do you expect to happen if you then get together and attempt to get past?

I did however particularly like this intellectually vacuous statement. Apparently, the officer at the end of the video gives "a somewhat embellished version of events into his radio." This is based on the fact that because he said something that you don't see in the video it can't possibly have happened.

Apparently the video won't be shown on the news "because left isn't on the only bias that fucks with our media feed". Alternatively the reason that it might not be shown is because the pathetic inferred conclusion is equivalent to saying that when a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, it doesn't make a sound.

Who'd have thought it huh? Climate Change, protesters and intellectual dishonesty.

Update: Rather amusingly, my point is being beautifully played out now at the linked video above. I am, it seems, a "sceptic/denier/cynic/conspiracy theorist" for pointing out the intellectual vapidty of the inferred conclusion. Won't be long before I'm a fascist too I bet. See what I mean about playing the man and not the ball?

Update II: In a rare update on a day old post I just wanted to say that apparently this post from 8.30am yesterday was actually an exercise" in advance of a post that I somehow knew Tim Ireland was going to post five hours later. See, it's all part of a large conspiracy, as opposed to the fact that I thought Tim's reasoning was a big steaming pile of poo. I do own a time machine though, but I'm trying to keep that secret, so please don't tell anyone.

When did objective knowledge die?

Every now and again, usually on Monday mornings, I find myself pondering the same question. As I travel into work and digest the daily news I cannot stop thinking, what has happened to intellectual honesty? Whether it is the political gamesmanship being played out right now about tax and spending, or the whole environmental climate change agenda, there seems to be this dominance of intellectual dishonesty, often deliberate sometimes unwitting.

Take the "Camp for Climate Change" and its reporting this morning. We come, they say, "armed only with peer reviewed science". How wonderful that sounds, but how meaningless it is when presented as such. For they are in fact saying, "we come with what a lot of people believe to be the case therefore it is an unquestionable truth". Yet it is not truth at all. Even if we put aside the populum and verecundium fallacies they’re making, all they actually come armed with is hypothesis, not truth.

What is worse though is that our current cultural climate is such that to question the use of phrases such as "the science is unequivocal" makes one automatically a denier. In the eyes of the pseudo-scientific rabble you are denying the “inconvenient truth”. To question the intellectual honesty and the reject the politicisation of science, does, fro them, make you a fool; a killer of the planet; or a raving mad oil loving neocon. They don’t play the ball and instead always play the man.

How on earth did we get to this point? How did Enlightenment reach the point where not only is it hated for what it has achieved, but that it is cynically used against itself in the pursuit of near puritanical and flat earth ends? They come armed with intellectual dishonesty and they tackle those that point it out with yet more intellectual dishonesty. What exactly was the tipping point that killed humanity's pursuit of objective knowledge?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Milivlog plus Cabinet vlogs coming soon?

Back on Wednesday Guido brought us news that the Miliblog would live on but be run by baby brother Ed at the Cabinet Office (first screenshot). As if the prospect of banal postings about the Cabinet Office were not bad enough, is young Ed about to follow his buddy Ed (Balls) and give us Milivids to go with the Miliblog?

02 July - "Admin" says "hey boss, I set you up a blog!"
03 July - "Admin" says "Ooooh we should have videos too boss... they'll be really interesting!"

Then perhaps they had another idea and said "Hey boss, let's register one for everyone in the Cabinet with the same naming scheme!... we could have one for Hazel, Harriet, Ruth, John D, John H, Alistair, Jacqui, David, we did Jack yesterday, you should see the comments! Only problem is that someone already registered Gordon months ago.. *sigh*"

20th July - "Boss! We forgot Tessa. Easy mistake to make I guess huh?"

We're taking your unborn child

The following is a recording of a Social Services officer from a Calderdale Council informing a couple that the Council will be taking her unborn baby into care as soon as it is born whilst also saying there is "no immediate risk to your child from yourselves".
The Telegraph is reporting that the Council is threatening legal action and demanding the recording be removed from YouTube.

So why are they threatening to take the child away the minute it's been born? Well for a start the partially sighted mother has apparently had a depression and has a "personality disorder" and the social workers believe the child will suffer "emotional abuse". The neighbours have also complained that the couple are disorderly with their lives.

The most bizarre thing here is that the Social Services freely admit they have no reason to suspect the child will be physically abused, sexually abused, mistreated, and as he's say on the tape, is at "no immediate risk from yourselves". So errr...why are they taking it again?