Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Brownite Junior Minister posts comment on Iain Dale's?

Take a look at this thread over at Iain Dale's blog and pay particular attention to the comments. Someone has posted a comment stating they are the Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department for Transport, Tom Harris MP, and the profile links to his blog. A real comment by a junior minister or a hoax? Who knows?

If it is the former though it does, as Iain notes in response, show the state that Labour are now in what with the potential backlash (albeit much in the Westminster Village) of seemingly breaking tradition and holding a by-election for Crewe & Nantwich before the former Mother of the House has even been laid in the ground.

Interestingly, Wikipedia notes that Harris "was a keen supporter of John Smith and is reported to be more of a Brownite than a Blairite." It is somewhat ironic, from a mere observer perspective at the time, that the leadership election that followed Smith's death, and that Blair eventually won, was also alleged to have started before the body was even cold (could there be an emerging patten here?)

Of course, as I already said, the comment could be fake, but if it isn't, what might it say about the state of a Government where "the kaleidoscope has been shaken" and "the pieces are in flux"?

The firing gun goes off in the Chapel of Rest?

In a rare moment whilst sitting in Sky News' Green Room I got a moment to have a look at today's Sun and read The Whip column. The Whip comes under quite a bit of flak for lifting stories from the 'blogosphere' but there was one in there that I had not read today that caught my eye.

According to the paper copy I read (The Whip does not seem to be available online), on the official Labour Party website there was a feature that allowed users to leave tributes to the late Gwyneth Dunwoody MP. The diary column noted however that when you left a tribute the site asked for your name, address and email contact details amongst others thing.

Far be it from me to suggest that they may have been surreptitiously canvassing, but when you put together the news that the by-election writ is going to be issued before she is even in the ground, and the other news that the by-election 'mastermind' Fraser Kemp MP has told the Labour Party to effectively "sod off" in terms of the job of running the show, you have to wonder what state they are really in, don't you?

As much as some people might say that linking these seemingly separate events together is nothing short of party political opportunism, it does seem in rather odd taste that a by-election is rushed through before the funeral of the previous incumbent and that the party should start, or at least appear to start - campaigning before they've even issued the writ?

I was rather hoping that Fraser Kemp's so-called protegé Tom Watson MP might shed some light on the 'fun and games' as it were. However, it appears his site is down at the moment. Another victim of the hacker that took out Harriet Harman perhaps? Probably not, but it still made me laugh when I discovered his site was b0rken as I was writing this post.

The Parliamentary Tea Room Tax

I don't always agree with Nadine Dorries, on matters like abortion I am more pragmatic than emotional, although I do fully understand the moral and emotional attachment people place on that issue the world. Having said that, she hit the nail on the head here with a tale about staff in Parliamentary tea rooms who have just received their payslips since the scrapping of the 10p tax rate was introduced.

It really does express the problem for Brown brilliantly, because, for all the talk about how people are "better off" because of changes to tax credits, it is actually the figure in your pay packet that you look at as the bottom line of how you are doing. When you hit that, and you hit it in a way that means your visible tax bill doubles, you're on shaky ground defending yourself by saying that people can get it back if they just fill out a huge form and trust the Government to give it to them.
Hat Tip: Iain Dale

Media whoring on Sky.com/News

Have just got back from Sky News where I was on Sky.com/News. I wasn't talking about the Miley Cyrus story but I did do a post for them earlier which you can read on the Sky.com/News blog

Kate Hoey to join Team Boris

Have just receioved a press release stating that Kate Hoey has agreed to be in Boris Johnson's administration as a non-executive Director advising Boris on sport and the Olympics. That's an impressive catch by Boris to get her on side.

More crap from the 'Independent'

They may have a new editor but the Independent has excelled itself today with this. Take a look at the headline "Neo-fascist sweeps in as Rome's mayor". Then read the first sentence (emphasis mine),
A former street-fighting neo-fascist won a crushing victory in Rome’s mayoral election last night, crowning the victory two weeks ago of Silvio Berlusconi and the centre-right in the general election
Subtle isn't it? Call him a neo-fascist in the headline, but concede in just the second word that he isn't one actually.

Then we have the top of their leader on the same subject headlined "The demons of the far right raise their heads again". So now it's the "far right" even thoug within the report on the election victory it's the centre-right. You will also note that no metnion is made of the Red Brigade, it's all about the nasty right wingers who are the epitomy of pure evil.

Emergency Cash?

As much as banks make lots of money out of the money that goes through my account, they still all tempt me with account features and offers, and yesterday I received an update from Natwest Bank about the features on my account. I was very pleased to here that I had Green Flag breakdown recovery I must say, but then another feature screamed out at me with my ever-so hacker security conscious hat on.

I now have a feature called "Emergency Cash" which works by allowing me to, should I lose or have my card stolen, withdraw cash (£300) out of an any one of Royal Bank of Scotland linked ATMs without the use of a card. This morning, with that in mind I have done a little research to find out how this works and it goes like this.

Call the Lost and Stolen card line. Report card lost or stolen. Then you are offered "Emergency Cash". You then have to answer three security questions i.e. Mothers maiden name, the value of a direct debit, first and fifth letter of password, that sort of thing. You will then be issued with a PIN that is valid for three hours and one use only. Find an RBS linked ATM, press any of the six blank (numberless) keys on the pad and you are presented with an "Emergency Cash" screen.

Now, I'm not going to lie and say this is not a cool feature for a bank to offer, but on the flipside is this not a massive security risk that the bank is taking on. Let's assume that they're using a really good entropy type algorithm to generate the PINs, and still we have the weak link of a system in the bank. Take control of the banks system - not easy I know, but not impossible - you could generate numbers vast swathes of PINs and start having a withdrawal fest.

Next time I go to a Natwest machine or other RBS one I'm definitely going to have a look at getting the mysterious Easter Egg hidden features of the machine to display... I am a nerdy geek after all.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Rowan Williams sticks his foot in it.... again

What is it with the Archbishop of Canterbury saying stupid things? First he made some poorly judged comments about Islamic law being incorporated into the British legal system, now he's said that the Government should look into the "regulation of high salaries".

It's like he's a 1970s throwback or something. The Government has no place regulating how much someone should be paid in terms of setting upper limits of wealth. I can appreciate something like the minimum wage, and I understand it's pragmatic purpose, but earnings above that should not be set.

If you start setting limits on earning that what would that do for wealth creation? What's the point in trying to earn more money if a limit is set on how much you may earn? That's not even socialism, it's bordering on communism.

What will Lord Levy say about Brown?

The Daily Mail is reporting that the serialisation of Lord Levy's autobiography will kick off another bad week for Brown as it "detail some of the most brutal exchanges" between the Prime Minister and his predecessor, Tony Blair.

Whether it is anywhere as brutal and candid as the Mail is bigging up remains to be seen. After all, it's in their interests to try and boost the sales of the Sunday. Having said this I may just buy the Mail on Sunday for the first time in years just to have a peak.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Seriously cool....

Have just been emailed this link by a friend, it's something called WikipediaVision. It's using Google Map's API and shows you, almost in real-time, who is editing what Wikipedia page and where they are in the world.
That is so deeply cool it is bordering on sub-zero. I could spend hours watching it.

'Scrap the GLA' says Labour think tank

Isn't it really annoying when Lefty think tanks get something right? The New Local Government Network, led by Chris Leslie, who was behind Gordon's leadership campaign and involved in the dodgy donations scandal with Harman has said that the Greater London Authority should be scrapped because "[i]t is hard to justify employing 25 full-time politicians when local council leaders could scrutinise the mayor as effectively".

Hear hear! It ought to be the leaders of Council's the approve and amend the Mayor's budget rather than Assembly members who get paid very well for effectively doing very little. GLA members have larger constituencies than MPs. If you scrapped the GLA then Londoners would not have to pay for the ludicrous cost of renting the giant testicle that is City Hall.

Harman Hacked

Guido beat me to it (both of us having been emailed at around 4am) because he has two children to wake him up, whilst mine lives with his mum , but Harriet Harman has been well and truly "rooted" it seems - rooted means hacked. Apparently she is defecting to the Tories.
Looks like the website has been well and truly pw3nd doesn't it. Couldn't happen to a nicer woman. Presumably the people behind here spoof blog (where might I add I am called a 'perv' (that put a big grin on my face)), seem to know a lot about the changes too, hmmmm!

Read her whole 'resignation and defection' letter here as they're bound to be deleting it soon when they find out.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Livingstone: 'Olympics was a con trick'

Ken Livingstone has just said that the Olympics bid was a 'con trick' in order to get the Government to invest in London. But he never lies.... oh no! He claims the Olympics will cost £7.5bn plus £0.5bn for security 'that is certain' says Livingstone. Do you believe him?

The Best Song Ever Written?

I expect people to disagree. Tough!

Are the Tories closing in on a 20 point lead in the polls?

Here's a little juicy unconfirmed rumour that I've just heard. Apparently there is a YouGov poll due that will show the Tories with a 44% to 26% lead of Labour just seven days before polling in the local elections and the London Mayoral race.

As I say, this is just unconfirmed chitter chatter from the halls of power where the hacks talk amongst themselves. If it's true that would be an 18 point lead over Labour, and would certainly put (a) the wind in Cameron's and Boris's sails, and (b) give Brown yet another blow to his credibility and authority as a leader.

Update 20:00: This has now been confirmed as Telegraph YouGov poll just before 7pm.


Play Political

Livingstone claims to be able to see the future?

The image below is taken the from the Labour Herald in June 1982. The editor of the Labour Herald at the time was the London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, and the image depicts the then Israeli Prime Minister Begin* in a Gestapo uniform giving a Nazi salute whilst standing upon a pile of corpses.

According to Andrew Hosken's biography of Livingstone, Ken: The ups and downs of Ken Livingstone, it was Livingstone who personally insisted the cartoon be published. The cartoon is not itself "new news" but the what happened on Tuesday night is interesting.

You see, at the University of London hustings a Jewish member of the audience asked the Mayor if he would apologise for the offence he had caused at the time by publishing the image. Livingstone refused to apologise and then gave an interesting defence of the picture.

He claimed it was published in response to the Sabra and Shatilla massacres. The only problem is that event occured three months after the publication of the cartoon in September 1982.

So, not only did Livingstone mislead the audience of students and claim he published the cartoon in response to something that hadn't happened yet, but he also then refused to apologise for any offence, even indirect, he may have caused to the London Jewish community by showing an Israeli PM in an SS uniform, standing on top of a pile of corpses with the words "The FInal Solution" as a headline.

What a nice guy he really is! Not an anti-semite at all in fact. He could of course be the new Mystic Meg I guess!
* Begin managed to flee from the Nazis but found himself caged by the Soviets.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Brown says he's not been 'pushed about'

I have just watched Gordon brown's interview with Nick Robinson this evening. I am left wondering a few things. Firstly, how long is it going to take before everyone starts to get really pissed off with the phrase "long term decisions"? Has anyone noticed that it is rolled out constantly? This couldn't be because Brown and his handlers are depsrate to destroy a belief that in the end he is a short term Machiavellian tactictian?

Secondly, Nick Robinson really should have pushed harder on the incosnistencies in his recent interviews. I watched one of them last week and Brown was adamentm, and also hotly denied that there were losers from the 10p tax rate abolition. In his interview tonight he has decided that there are, but the concessions he has made are not, according to him a change in position.

He has also thrown the gauntlet down over the 42 day detention without trial issue. Having caved in once and blinked first in a showdown with his backbenches he's now pushed himself into a deeper corner where if he does sound tough his authority will weaken even more. The Labour rebels on 42 days must be rubbing their hands with glee knowing that they can push him around so easily even he hotly denies that he's been pushed.

Bloggers do not do this at their computer

Via Comment Central and El Reg we have the joy of the Office of Government Commerce's new logo.

Here is how it is meant to be viewed incidentally.

I do not do what the vertical view says at my computer ever - although I do have glasses. Clearly all the people involved in its design were woman or eunuchs.

A conversation via SMS with Nadine Dorries MP

As many will know I am a mad Evertonian. Nadine Dorries MP, who's grandfather was a founder of Everton however is not. She is a supporter of Liverpool for some bizarre reason.

Only the other week I expressed my regret that Arsenal didn't beat them and hoped that the blue of Chelsea would overcome the red terror from Anfield. And so it comes to pass this morning that I sent a txt message to Nadine.
Dizzy: Ticket for the match, £40. Train ticket to Liverpool, £20. Seeing Riise score an own goal in front of the Kop with 5 seconds to go during "You'll Never Walk Alone"? Priceless!! - I always knew blue was better than red, that's why I vote Tory! ;-)

Nadine: I will reply when I have composed myself.
Nadine insists that the scallies are still in the game and they'll rip Chelsea apart at Stamford Bridge. Let's wait and see.

This post was brought to you by Smug Evertonians R Us Ltd

Political put-downs

Hugo Rifkind has a great article in the Times about political put-downs. Personally, I've always liked the mickey taking that goes on in the Australian Parliament, especially when it has a former Midnight Oil rock star in the House.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

EXCLUSIVE: Brown snubs Germany and Russia and possibly more?

Just think, it's April now, nearly May in fact. Let's be honest it will be Christmas again before we know it and you will have to start getting your card list out along with stamps and pens. I wonder though who Gordon will be sending cards too this time round? Obviously he will send then to his mates (assuming he has any) along with his close personal protection staff I imagine, but what about other Heads of State and Government?

Back in February my regular readers may recall that I asked 'Who got a card then?' when Gordon told Parliament that he spent £1,379 on approximately 1500 Christmas cards in 2007. Well, thanks to the joy of 'Freedom of Information' I now know who. After much pondering it seems - two months in fact - the Cabinet Office have given me some information.

The response is truly hilarious I must say. First up, I am not allowed the private list because it might cause unneceesary harm to people without a public profile (which is fine and reasonable). It also says that 'releasing the names of those people who receive Christmas cards from the Prime Minister might offend people who did not receive cards when others did'.

They then proceeded to refer me to a judgement by the Information Commissioner in 2004 about publishing the list that said, they should publish the list of Heads of State and Government only. Given that, I'm not sure why they procrastinated on giving me a list, but the 'might offend people who did not receive cards' line certainly holds true.

Sadly I only have a pdf of a scan and currently do not have the means to edit it and remove some of the personal information, but I have just read, and re-read, the list multiple times and there appear to be at least two people missing that are of interest. There may be more but my knowledge of every leader of the world is limited I must admit.

Of particular amusement is the continuation of the Cold War. You see, I have checked many times, and Vladimir Putin didn't get a card, but Hu Jinto did? So the latter, a communist that probably doesn't do religion and Christmas got one (with blue suited bodyguards in Downing Street as return present?). The former gets the snub. Good to see we support Chen Shui-bian in Taiwan though (not).

However, perhaps Putin not getting a card explains why Neil Kinnock's son was arrested in January? Could it be that Vlad was a tad peeved that Gordon had not sent him a picture of snowman so decided to get his own back by arresting the son of a former Labour leader? Hmmmmm? Who knows!

Mind you, we all know that Gordon is a 'good' European (read europhile nightmare). After all, he signed the Lisbon Treaty (albeit late). And yet, no matter how hard I try when I read this list, Angela Merkel's name is not there. Does Brown have something against Germany because he is 'oh so British?". What did Angela do to suffer a great snub from the dour one? Gordon wasn't holding a grudge because he was being labeled a Jonah was he?

Update: Here is the list
Click image for larger version

Sky.com News

I think, according to the diary, I shall be making a fool of myself on the show on Tuesday 29th April at 7.30PM! It is a great innovation though, and deserves the award (but then I would say that because I;m on it from time to time!)

The New Labour approach to graffiti?

I am led to believe that these are not photoshopped (that is not to say that they'e not). Whether it is a genuine approach by my local Labour Council to tackle graffiti I respectfully approach such conclusions with extreme caution.

Still, even if they are faked (good job with the fonts and colours) they still made me laugh my head off!

Hat Tip: Greenwich Phantom

Galloway attacked on campaign tour?

Word reaches me that George Galloway's campaign bus has today come under attack in Holborn by members of the public throwing things at him. Apparently one person who was on the bus at the time was injured and treated by paramedics.

Frankly, throwing things at George Galloway ought to be an Olympic sport really. Shame what appears to be a civilian got in the crossfire of course, perhaps maybe next time someone might get a direct hit on the aging old Trotskyite apologist for dictators?

Can you Unlock Reality?

Have you ever wondered about the construction of the Universe? Apparently you can now know the answers if you just "Unlock Reality". This is the title of an underground "manuscript" which claims to explain the construction of the Universe in terms that anyone can understand, it is being quite heavily shared around the world using bookcrossing.

However, you won't find it quoted anywhere. Apparently the book asks people not to quote it and all the people that say it "changed my life" simply respect it. It appears to be quite the Internet phenomonon, with a chorus of people extolling its virtue. Or perhaps a growing number of online identities all shared by just one or two SEO types creating a viral meme for a laugh?

Why, you may ask am I blogging this? Well yesterday on the Jubilee Line, someone had been putting a number of stickers up to promote a site where you can purchase a copy of the manuscript electronically via PayPal. What caught my attention though, was the logo in the bottom right hand corner of the sticker.

Click Image for Larger Version

Is that just a naughty use of the London Mayor's branding I spy? Or could it be an official endorsement of a new age viral scam by Livingstone? If only I could Unlock Reality I woulod probably know!
NOTE: If it is an SEO viral scam then I have just helped it along a bit. Go me!

UKIP gets its first MP

I see the new this morning is that UKIP have their first MP. Bob Spink, who recently left the Tories has decided to join UKIP and not be an independent. Apparently they didn't woo him into joining though. According to a UKIP spokesman it was a "mutual attraction based on a wish to get out of the EU and have accountability and democracy again".

I personally can't say I disagree on the leaving the EU point, but I imagine UKIP will be ploughing some serious resource in to holding on to his Castlepoint seat at the next election. It will certainly be interesting to see how much personal vote he has compared to the old adage of sticking the right colour rosette on a donkey.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Burnham wants to criminalise football fans who sell their spare ticket to a mate

Am currently outraged by this latest press release from my fellow Evertonian, the Culture Secretary Andy Burnham. Apparently he wants to stop fans being ripped off for tickets to concerts, music events, football matches and like and is going to get the industry to help out.
These improvements can happen without the burden of new regulation, by criminalising fans who want to buy tickets for sold-out events or sell tickets that they cannot use.
Yes that's right. You bought a ticket to a gig and you can't go anymore and you want to sell it to a mate or put it on eBay? Well you're can't, you're going to be criminal for selling your own property. Even more so if you try to buy a ticket for a sold out event you'll be a criminal too.
Hat Tip: Croydonian

Update: Twilight Zone time! Have just been told that the Government has said it is not proposing new legislation at all. Interestingly the wording of the press release has changed and now reads,
These improvements can happen without the burden of new regulation, or criminalising fans who want to buy tickets for sold-out events or sell tickets that they cannot use.
What a difference one tiny word makes to the entire meaning? Quickest U-Turn in history? Or just a cock-up by a press officer?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Is Melissa Kite paying attention?

Has anyone read Melissa Kite, Deputy Political Editor of the Sunday Telegraph, column today? It's rather interesting. It talks about thirtysomethings, of which I am, but also talks about something called "Tony's Tories". These are people like me, socially liberal and economically liberal too.... personally I prefer to call them "Thatchers' Children" because that is what we really are.

However, what struck me was that my old friend, and arrogant blanker at conference, Mark Clarke, the PPC for Tooting - who I should add would not suffer my hatred were it not for what he did - is quoted in the article noting that,
"When I'm out on the doorsteps I say to people in their 30s 'have you ever voted Tory before' and they say 'no' and I say 'well, don't worry, it's not so bad after you have done it the first time.
You see, this got me wondering whether the "it's not so bad after you have done it the first time" also applied to getting jiggy with females columnists at the Sunday Telegraph or any other paper for that matter? I don't know, maybe it does? There are some hotties there after all!

The thing is, later on in the article Melissa, who is clearly "well in" with the machinations of Westminster speculates on a shadow Cabinet reshuffle saying that "Oliver Heald, and Theresa May have been tipped for demotion". Sweetie..... Darling...... Hottie(?). You do realise that Oliver Heald was demoted in July 2007 don't you? Did you just pick some random names out of the hat or something?

Obviously, what with me being a sad lonely type in his bedroom wearing his underwear (Calvin Klein I might add) I couldn't possibly be more clued in than you as a Westminster "insider". But I do read the papers and pay attention to the news at least, thus being able to point out when you're talking (or perhaps eating?) bollocks!

Lies, spin and deception over 10p tax abolition

I realise that I've already commented on this before, but I am finding this whole Labour split on the abolition of the 10p tax rate quite amusing and also surreal at the same time. Putting aside that it was obvious from the very moment the words came out of Brown's mouth that he had, essentially, told some of those on the lower income bracket to bend over and take it because he needed to cover his proverbial rear on his other spending commitments, the "revolt" in the Labour ranks shows just how cynically opportunist many of them are.

I can remember watching that Budget and blogging it live. When Brown announced, as his closing BIG moment, that he was 'cutting' the basic rate of income tax there were massive cheers from the Labour backbenchers. There was, as you'd expect, jeering too. They had - they thought - headed of any Tory revival on the issue of tax at the pass. They'd cut the head off the snake, and neutralised any possible problems. They were the tax cutting party that were also 'delivering' public services, they were also making people 'better off' at the same time. This cheering should not be ignored as insignificant just because it happened in the theatre of the Commons though.

What all that cheering indicated, and the lack of any comment about the abolition of the 10p tax rate until it was actually on the doorsteps, is exactly the the sort of hypocrisy and opportunism that turns people off politics. What it showed was that in the Chamber what matters is appearing to get a "scalp" and then, in the cold and very hard light of day many months later, all those Labour MPs have drunk the espresso and woken up to the reality of what they were trumpeting as a triumph. Thus we have the joy of watching the Parliamentary Labour Party fragment and split as the reality of marginal MPs losing their jobs sinks in.

As James Forsyth has pointed out at the Coffee House this shows just how much Gordon Brown's authority is waning in his own party. However, we also see just how poorly Labour MPs now complaining are at doing their jobs. When we read some of the comments they have made to the Sunday Times, it becomes crystal clear that they're tribalist and cynical. Take for example Russell Browne MP who said,
"We’ve got to find a way to sort out this mess. We need to take this whole fiscal package, which was meant to be revenue neutral, and put it back together again. Questions will be asked as to how the government got it so badly wrong."
Note the phrase "meant to be revenue neutral"? (emphasis mine). What this tells us is that this MP didn't think for himself on the matter. He just accepted what he was told about the change and didn't do the quick (and largely simple) maths on a piece of paper to realise it was a big con.

More so, it brings into question Brown's own line about his tax changes. He was on Channel 4 this week boasting about how he had managed to cut the basic rate of income tax to 20p which no one else had managed to do. Yet we have a junior aide suggesting that the line from, presumably the Treasury, was that it was a "revenue neutral" measure.

This suggests that the official 'for publication' line after the 2007 Budget was "Gordon has cut all our taxes by 2p in the pound"; meanwhile the internal Labour line was "don't worry, he hasn't really cut taxes at all, the shifting and changing of figures means we take the same amount of money from the public as before". Not only are Labour MPs waking up after a hit from the 'Brown Bean" (oh that is good isn't it? A reference to coffee, Gordon and Mr Bean in just two words!), but they're also showing how they're tribalism dictates their actions.

That surely can be the only explanation for why they have sat on their hands for a year and not mentioned anything about the abolition of the tax rate? It also makes the comment by former SpAd, Tom Clark all the more entertaining because in the days of Blair he says that Brown rang Downing Street over some policy about docking benefits for truants and allegedly said: "What kind of party are we becoming?"

The answer is simple of course. Brown is not becoming anything, he is New Labour. He was an architect of it. And it is defined by the short term goal of constant electioneering and the 365/24/7 campaign strategy. There is no rest.... only power and it's maintenance. Brown is very much a member of the generation that care about career self-preservation above anything else.

The abolition of the 10p tax rate was a short term tactic by that generation on the Left to triangulate the Right on the issue of 'tax cuts', nothing more and nothing less, but it has backfired. It wouldn't have last year though, because the key to that generation's triangulated success was having a leading figurehead that can pull it off. His name began with the letter 'B', but it wasn't 'Brown'. It could however be twisted into a clever (sort of) anagram to produce the word "Bliar".

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Blogging has been light....

Blogging as been rather light in the last couple of days. Crazy stuff at work and just general busyness in the real world. Off to Legoland today but will be posting again by tomorrow evening I;m sure.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Comments as a source for art?

This is not the first time I've seen a video on YouTube which has taken the proverbial out of the comments that the vlogger received, but it is the funniest thus far.

Via b3ta

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Is there a by-election coming?

Have just received a rather disturbing email suggesting a well respected Labour MP of long-standing and thorn in the Governments' side has passed away this evening. Nothing more to add to really.

Update: The news was confirmed last night on the wire sometime after midnight that Gwyneth Dunwoody MP died last night. She was a great Parliamentarian even if she was on the opposing political side to my own views. A genuine loss to Parliament.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The infestation of the Parliament continues

We all know that parliament is infested with some terrible things, such a piggies with snouts in the trough and greasy pole climbers. Then there are the cloth moths.

Apparently they're out of control and they've been desperately trying to stop the little critters eating away at the carpets and, according to the Facilities department "other items in a number of areas of the Palace".

Given that they like dried skin and hair too I don't really want to speculate or imagine what the other items might be. Nay, the thought online is enough to cause nausea. They reckon that the clean up job will take at least six months, the problem is they've found the moths "elsewhere" now.

"Elsewhere" you say? Gordon's wallet perhaps? Maybe Sarah's knickers? Oops. Did I just type that out loud? I think I may have to go and stand in the corner for lowering the tone. Shame on me. Can anyone think of less gratutious places "elsewhere" might be?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Total Politics tells us more

If you want to go and look at who is who at the new free periodical launching for elected representative then you might want to look at their temporary and very much alpha website totalpolitics.com

The new kid on the block deserves a chance. There are of course those that think sending out a periodical free to elected representatives is tantamount to spam and that it is a terrible moral wrong.

Of course, those that suggest such things know so much about being an elected representative that they are blissfully unaware of the amount that falls through the letterbox already by virtue of simply having a cross put by your name on one day each four years. Having said this, there is a difference between activism masquerading as politics, and actual real politics of course.

The Advisory Board consists of Lord Ashdown, Professor Brian Brivati, Shami Chakrabarti, David Davis, Guto Harri, Chris Huhne, Andrew MacKinlay, Angus MacNeil, Denis MacShane, Sir Simon Milton and Lord Trimble. An impressive mix from across the political spectrum there then. No doubt such a varied Advisory Board will be enough for the loons to leap up and down and call the whole project a giant right-wing conspiracy still though.

Politics Home distribute their distribution list

Have just received a press release from Politics Home about their latest Phi 100 survey showing that there is a big majority of opinion formers in Westminster who now think that Gordon brown is an electoral liability. Still that's not the interesting part. The interesting part is that the person that sent the press release forgot to use BCC.

Phone Call
D: Errr this is Dizzy, you just sent me a press release
PHome: Yes?
D: You didn't use BCC
PHome: Errrr yyyee errm yes we just realised.
D: Thanks for the hundred or so email addresses!
Phone: OK
D: Bye

I thought it mildly amsuing that the press release was titled "STUCK IN THE BROWN STUFF". The list included a number of hacks along with personal email addresses too. I received it twice because of that. What I really want to know though is who is "blowcheekblow@DOMAINREMOVED.com"?

Update: Am reliably informed that blowcheekblow is the UK Daily Pundit.

Update II: Look, I shan't lie, I am thoroughly puerile and childish and giggle at anything, especially something like this. So I found it all the more amusing to see my blog feed in the "unfiltered live blog feed" on Politics Home with the title of this post on it suddenly vanish. Perhaps I've been black balled for mocking? Thanks to the wonders of the 'Print Screen' button I saved it though.

Ed Balls admits Labour's Record is empty

There has been a shocking outburst of honesty it seems on Ed Ball's website. If you visit it and hover your mouse over the little green box that says "Local Issues" you will see a menu option titled "Labour's Record".

When you click you are presented with a page from the Labour Party's official website that says the following:
Not Found
Mind you, given that old Blinky has a get out of jail free card on accuracy, he can always say that the sudden moment of honesty was just a joke right?
Hat Tip: "Richard" in the comments of the other Ed Balls post.

Musical snobbery at its best?

Why is it that when Noel Gallagher complains that hip-hop has been booked to headline Glastonbury it is somehow big news? Gallagher of Oasis fame has apparently said that it is 'wrong' to go for hip-hop over 'traditional guitar music'.

This from the man that nicked most of hi best riffs from the Beatles? So much for tradition I say. The thing is, Glastonbury has not always had guitar music headlinging anyway. The Prodigy are not a guitar band for a start and they have headlined a night for a start. Glastonbury is music festival, it is not 'only certain type of music' festival and that is the whole point.

Cypress Hill have played at Glastonbury if I recall correctly, does Gallagher have a problem with that or is a band that has tracks like 'Hits From The Bong' and 'I want to get High' ok because they're singing about smoking pot?

There is little more irritating than musical snobbery, and when it comes from someone who has made his fortune from essentially mimicing just one band's sound and style it makes it all more amusing.

Don't be silly Darling!

Isn't it amusing that Alistair Darling has decided that the nasty banks are being nasty to borrowers by not passing on base rate cuts in interest rates and yet one of the key players not to do this is Northern Rock, which is, errrr owned by Government?

Monday, April 14, 2008

I lied...

OK so I said no blogging but you should really read this over at Iain Dale's. Seems that the Irish Yes campaign and Government is trying to stitch up the referendum on the Constitution Lisbon Treaty. All rather sneaky and cheeky.

Blogging light today....

There will be no posts until tomorrow. Had to work last night and I'm cream crackered. That is all.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

We're doomed!

Somehow or other I managed to miss Headcases last week on ITV, and this week I am working tonight so will miss it again. Thanks to the wonders of YouTube I did get to watch a little bit just now though.

Not as funny as I hoped, but it got a wry smile at least.

Think of the Children!

Given it is Sunday, which is supposedly the sixth day of the political week, I'm going to do a non-political post (sort of) and write about the utter surreal nature of Children's television. If you have a child you will know what I mean because you know doubt have to watch CBeebies which contains some gems of overt political correctness and diversity.

Take for example, Storymakers. The premise is pretty simple, two muppet-like puppets live in a library and every night they make stories with the help of a person in the form of people called such things as Shelly Wordsworth or Byron Wordsworth. Both Shelly and Byron are black, which isn't in itself a bad thing I should stress, but the stories they 'create' are almost invariably littered with politically correct subtext.

One of the character is Blue Cow. A cow that is blue. She is instantly defined as "different" from the rest because she "wonders". Blue Cow will go off on adventures to places and the other "normal" cows will dismiss her tales with the line "everyone knows that cows can't do X" followed by "but we know they can don't we?".

There is, without a doubt, a very subtle subtext playing out here about how ones colour and ones action are mutually exclusive. From a purely a scientific view that is largely accurate, the problem is that when put together as a whole package, the show just scream political message throughout. Then we get on to Balamory.

Ahhh Balamory, if you know then I hope I have put the theme tune in your head for the day, if you don't, then count your blessing. The show is set on a remote Scottish island and revolves around the teacher of a school Miss Hooley and the other people there. The weirdness comes with the characters though.

We have, as it was pointed out to me by a friend, a lesbian disabled couple that run the local sweet shop. Then there is the perpetual bachelor Archie who lives alone in a pink castle, wears a pink kilt, sings a lot whilst inventing things. Then there is butch Edie who just loves to drive and fix her minibus. The local policeman is PC ["sugar"] Plum who is as camp as Christmas, and being chased by the teacher Miss Hooley who is obviously a "fag hag" but doesn't quite know it. All very strange.

We probably shouldn't mention Lazy Town either, which is surreal at the best of times, but, as the same friend pointed out to me, is essentially where the basic conceit is that there are two paedophiles, a "good" nonce, Sportacus; and an evil child molester, Robbie Rotten. Who are both competing for the affections of an 10 year old girl called Stephanie.

Finally though we have my all time favourite The Wiggles. I defy anyone to watch the following video and not (a) find it terribly creepy (b) wonder what Class A chemicals had been consumed, and (c) honestly say that if you saw any of them hanging outside a school you wouldn't be surprised. I mean "Get ready to wiggle, wiggle will make you big and strong?"

Weird huh?

Update: Picture of Stephanie added for Guido (see comments). Apparently she was 15 when it was made.

Balls says he cannot guarantee accuracy of his own words?

Should anyone like a good chuckle and laugh I strongly advise taking a look at the "Terms and Conditions" section of Ed 'Blinky' Balls' website. Oh, but before you click the link you should be aware that Ed considers you to be bound by his T&Cs just for looking at the site, seriously, it says.
By accessing and using this Web Site you agree to be bound by the Terms and Conditions set out below. If you do not wish to be bound by these Terms and Conditions you should not access or use the Web Site.
Got that? If you want to look at the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families party political website, but you don't agree to being bound by his terms you can sod off now. Handy that the T&Cs are not the automatic first page you hit and are buried in a link at the bottom of the page isn't it? According to Ed's warranties, you, I, us, the "User" agree
(a) that they will only view the Information for their own private purpose and it will not publish, reproduce, store or retransmit any of the Information contained in the Web Site
Oops, did I just reproduce, store, and retransmit the information contained within in the T&Cs on the website? Naughty me! Apparently I've also agreed
(c) not to use the Information or the Disclosed Information for any unlawful or unauthorised purpose;
Oh damn, I didn't get authorisation to cut and paste that text. Better prepare for the letter from a lawyer I think. Ack! I think I may even be breaching the terms just by linking to him and giving the site a bit of publicity if you rather loosely interpret Clause 3(f)
(f) that it shall not use the Web Site to transmit any material for the purposes of publicity, promotion and/or advertising without the prior written consent of Ed Balls;
Maybe I should email him and ask him if he minds after the fact? He surely won't will he? Mind you, he probably wouldn't reply if this clause is anything to go by.
(i) and acknowledges that Ed Balls has no obligation to provide the Web Site or any Information
You have to love his exclusion of liability clauses though, it seems he has, in effect, covered his backside should he be caught out fibbing on the site. Many will know about his "Brownies" already, but it's quite a feat to give yourself a "get out of jail" card like this when you're an MP and Secretary of State isn't it?
4.1 Ed Balls provides the Web Site and the Information on an "as is" basis and makes no warranty or representation about the availability, completeness, accuracy, satisfactory quality, merchantability and/or fitness of the same for a particular purpose.
Actually, thinking about it, is he actually saying here that the T&Cs themselves are covered by this clause? They do constitute "Information" under the definitions, which means he's saying he wants you to be bound by them but he makes no warranty that they actually mean anything. Now I'm a bit confused!

Don't worry though, because even if Ed Balls, by some great electoral miracle, loses his seat (and no longer needs the website), just by simply looking at it once you are bound for the rest of your life by the T&Cs, even if the website is dead and gone. Honestly, it says so in Clause 5.
Ed Balls shall have the right to terminate this Agreement and/or suspend or terminate the Information, the Disclosed Information and the Web Site immediately and without notice to the User. In the event of termination or suspension the warranties and obligations of the User shall continue to apply beyond the lifetime of this Agreement.
Ed is not a control freak though, he's just trying to protect himself. OK, OK, he probably is a control freak but I'm just trying to be charitable. It is Sunday after all! Now... I wonder if posting a screenshot breaches the T&Cs?

Joking aside though, what we seem to have here is a Secretary of State who likes to bang on about how he is a man of the people, wants to engage, and, as his website shows in the side panel has a "Listening Panel Survey" (whatever that is). And yet, at the same time, he wants to enforce anyone who reads his website to be bound by the most absurd, and I imagine mostly unenforceable, self-contradictory gibberish.

In fact, under the T&Cs, I think that simply by me describing the T&Cs as "self-contradictory gibberish" I am in breach of them as I have both reproduced "Information" from the site, and "impaired" it too by representing it in a different way. Oh yes, and apparently I've agreed to pay his legal fees when he sues me for breach according to Clause 3(j). I'm skint Ed, sorry.

Of course, if he happened to publish something on the website that was embarrassing (the T&Cs excluded from that), and a newspaper picked up on it and reproduced it, is he seriously saying that he will fall back on the T&Cs saying he makes no guarantees about accuracy and then sue the newspaper for breach?

I can understand why you might have T&Cs if you were a business, but if you're a politician and supposedly a representative of the people, what does it say about you if you attempt to bind your electorate from calling you on bullshit when it inevitably comes out of your mouth?

I've just had a quick look at some other Ministers websites, and none of them have such huge legal disclaimers about what you can or cannot do with the information you find on their website. They certainly don't have a clause that restricts someone from even quoting what they've written. Interestingly, even Mrs Ed Balls, Yvette Cooper, doesn't have the control freakery going on.

Labour MPs in marginals seek taxpayer funded exit route from politics?

If you're going to read just one article in today's papers then this one in the Sunday Times about possible plotting for a coup d'etat against Brown is a must. There are some quite interesting paragraphs shoved in the middle to, that suggest some Labour MPs in key marginals (and facing defeat) are looking for a way to get the taxpayer to fund them after their political death.
If the morale of a political party can be measured in the number of inquiries made to the trustees of the parliamentary pension scheme, then Labour is at rock bottom.

"I know of many MPs in marginal seats who have quietly been in touch to find out how much their retirement income would be if they stepped down at the next election," one backbencher said. "Others are thinking about retraining to go back into the careers they left when they came into the Commons, such as teaching and social work."

MPs who retire on grounds of sickness are given special dispensation to claim their full pension before they reach the age of 65. Several have made inquiries about whether it would be possible for them to quit the Commons on grounds of ill health — before voters eject them via the ballot box.

For many that is an increasingly likely prospect. If the results of this weekend’s Sunday Times poll are replicated at the next general election, Cameron would be returned with an overall majority of more than 100. In the Commons tearoom, the talk is of Labour’s “lost generation”, the 100 or so MPs elected in 1997 on the back of the Tony Blair landslide who are facing the end of their political careers.
Brings a whole new meaning to pulling a sickie doesn't it? Will be interesting to see how many of them step down on grounds of health and then miraculously appear working again a few months after the election whilst claiming a great fat juicy pension from us.
Image shamelessly stolen from Guido.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Taxpayer funds Labour election campaign?

Shane Greer has spotted something on the Downing Street website over here. It would appear that Downing Street is now directing traffic to the Labour Party's official local election campaign website.

Where you get sent.

Yay for the impartiality of the Civil Service! Is it me or is Brown truly Mr Bean stumbling from one gaffe into another? I was under the impression he had recruited PR Gurus. More like complete idiots who have no control over what is happening.

From a blogging point of view Brown is marvelous. After all, his team of taxpayer paid gurus just seem to be creating stories left, right and centre (yes that was a deliberate joke about his indecisiveness).

Roll on 2010 I say!

Where does Ed keep his balls?

This wiki-vandals certainly have Ed Ball's sussed huh? Check out the link to him in Yvette Cooper's Wikipedia entry. It goes to something errrr.... different.
Just think, if Ed Balls was Lord Chancellor he'd have to sit on the wool sack.*
* Acknowledged as a terrible pun

Thursday, April 10, 2008

What about the indigenous homeless?

I don't really buy the Big Issue unless I'm absolutely desperate for something to read, but I've noticed something strange occuring with the vendors in recent months. For those that don't know the Big Issue is a magazine that the 'homeless' sell. I use quotes around homeless because there have been cases of vendors actually making a fortune and living very good lives, but I digress.

The trend I've noticed recently, at least in the places I go around London, is an increasing number of Eastern European people selling the magazine (that's based purely on the accent I should add). Now, I guess if they're homeless they can sell it as per the scheme, but I just can't help finding it odd that someone would migrate from their home country - for presumably a better life - and then become a Big Issue seller.

Were I to get all 'Daily Mail-esque', I might even suggest that they were all coming over here and stealing our homeless peoples jobs, but I shan't accept to do so with deliberately ironic undertones.

Some more pointless e-Government

It would appear that DirectGov have launched a new service whereby you can watch Government campaigns videos on your mobile.
Text 'VIDEO' to 64746 to download and share Directgov videos on your mobile. Standard network rates apply
Apparently you will be able to get videos such as "DVLA – Car Tax Evasion Campaign". Honestly, I'm deadly serious.

Now tell me this. What sort of person is going to pay to text the Government and then pay network rates on top to watch a video telling them that it is naughty to evade paying road tax?

Other videos include the "Think! - Road Safety Campaign". Presumably you must not download and watch this one whilst driving. Although having said that, how would you know it was dangerous until you watched it?

The power to take over power?

He did not disclose who the power company was, but Ira Winkler, a penetration-testing consultant, told an RSA audience that he and his team were hired by a power company to test their security, and within a day, using social engineering and a few browser exploits, they had total control of the network.
The penetration team started by tapping into distribution lists for SCADA user groups, where they harvested the e-mail addresses of people who worked for the target power company. They sent the workers an e-mail about a plan to cut their benefits and included a link to a Web site where they could find out more.

When employees clicked on the link, they were directed to a Web server set up by Winkler and his team. The employees' machines displayed an error message, but the server downloaded malware that enabled the team to take command of the machines. "Then we had full system control," Winkler says. "It was effective within minutes."
It's always the user that is the weakest link in the chain. Scary stuff really, and it makes you wonder how exposed the National Grid are to such things, or for that matters the GSI network. Of course, the "unhackable" ID register is a different matter right?

Read the full article here.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Now you see it, now you don't?

Emphaiss mine
"The National Identity Register, essentially, will be a secure database; ...hack-proof, not connected to the Internet...not be accessible online; any links with any other agency will be down encrypted links." - Meg Hillier to Home Affairs Select Committee (verbatim)
"The National Identity Register, essentially, will be a secure database; it will not be accessible online; any links with any other agency will be down encrypted links." - Meg Hillier to Home Affairs Select Committee (Hansard)
Can you say backpeddle from a stupid statement?
Hat Tip: Ideal Government

The wider problem of identity politics

Well the comment in Rachel Sylvester's Telegraph column yesterday that Jack Straw threatened to punch Ed Balls has gained a little traction this morning with the Times following it up. The Times is also reporting that,
Baroness Ashton of Upholland, the Leader of the Upper House, is said to be barely on speaking terms with Baroness Scotland of Asthal, the Attorney-General.

Lady Ashton is said to have taken offence when Lady Scotland, who is black, leant over to an Asian lobbyist at a meeting on forced marriages and said: "Don’t worry, these white people don’t really understand what we have to go through."
This has of course been hotly denied, as you'd expect, but I am reminded of a Darcus Howe documentary yet again where he looks at the phenomenon of inter-ethnic racism and also reverse racism towards white if I recall correctly.

This sort of comment, whilst being denied, is not an unusual thing in the wider world, and it is, arguably, the inevitable endgame that happens when identity politics has such a foothold in the cultural consciousness.

There is somewhat an irony here. After all, identity politics is the synthesis result of applying Hegel's dialectic to the master/slave, oppressed/oppressor relationship. What it has created as a consequence though is a role reversal of that relationship, philosophically at least. That is why the so-called "Culture Wars" are so important I think.

We need to break ourselves away from this view of the world that places people into special interest groups based upon different aspects of their identity. It actually creates more problems than those it is seeks to remove.

I'll give you an example to illustrate the point. I know of someone at a place I once worked that is known to be utterly incompetent at their job, and is also known to have skirted around dodgy ethical areas as well.

However, no one is willing to even dare to pull her up on it because she ticks so many identity politics boxes that they just fear the possibility of bad PR and a tribunal. She's not white, she's disabled, she's a single mum, and she has to take time off because her kid is often in hospital.

The problem is, not one of those things makes a difference or is a contributing factor in her just being utterly rubbish in the role that she has. The risk however of those things being cited as the "real" reason for action are just too scary for anyone to do anything. That is not a very good state of affairs for a political culture to be in I think.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Shaman Are Coming!

Now normally I wouldn't post a link to a feature article in Times 2 because I normally don't read them, but having been one of those people in years gone by that consumed his fair share of hallugingens, I find it difficult not to readsomething about crazy shamanistic religions in Brazil. The opening two paragraphs drew me in
I am deep in the Amazon rainforest, anxiously losing my mind as the world begins to disintegrate. Around me, all sense of distance is wrapping itself up like spatial origami, slowly shrinking until an entire dimension has disappeared. A moment ago, I was surrounded by 200 people dressed in white and singing like angels, but now they occupy the same space as me... if that makes any sense.

Wherever I look, that is where I am. I can see everything from every angle, all at the same time. In fact, I feel I am everywhere. Outside, in the forest, the thrum of frogs and cicadas drowns out the sound of shrieking monkeys. Below me, the floor is shimmering, vanishing in waves like a spent mirage. Behind, I feel a cold vibration on my neck and sense a growling malevolence. I turn and see a red door, bulging at the hinges. Overcome with dread, I push hard to keep it closed, and all the while I feel a horrible nausea.
The effects of ayahuasca sounds remarkably similar to the effects I once experienced with salvia divinorum (which is I should add perfectly legal in the UK and not a controlled substance at all). Crazy shaman, doing crazy things in the rainforest is always fascinating isn't it?

Anyhow, the feature article is well worth a read.

Boris launches his Party Political Broadcast

A pledge card is on it's way too where Boris pledges too
* Beef up police presence on our streets by cutting red tape and employing more officers
* Implement serious strategies to tackle gun and knife crime, working closely with community groups
* Make transport safer by putting more uniformed officers on buses and station platforms
* Protect our green, open spaces and encourage more recycling across the boroughs
* Stretch the taxpayer pound, axe waste and overspending and make City Hall spending transparent

Monday, April 07, 2008

Text Gordon a question!

Have just watched Labour forthcoming Party Political Broadcast with weird crazy smile one-eye jaw dropper Gordon Brown. Apparently you can text him a question "personally" and he will answer it tonight in a live web chat thing on the Labour Party website.

It's such a personal number that it's one of those services, so you have to text the word Gordon to 60022 and put you're question in. Wouldn't it be terribly childish and puerile if people started texting in obscenities? Find someone else phone first though.

Watch the video at Dale's

Konnie will be pleased!

How amusing, a Usenet poster by the name of "billybllockchops" has video captured Konnie Huq's appearance on BBC News and posted it for all too see on alt-binaries.videos.tv.shaggable-babes. He's even posted an image preview for the pervs to see how good Konnie really is.

Note: I was sent this by a shy reader. I would never dream of spending time on such a newsgroup. If the group doesn't have the word "erotica" as well as "binaries" in the title it's really not worth it!

Are Labour MPs a little retarded?

On the day of Brown's last budget I did a brief live blog which said
Oh look, here's the big one. A 2p cut in the basic rate of income tax to 20%. But given he's just scrapped the 10% tax rate altogether he's just off-set it and dragged a ton of people into the 20% tax rate. He's basically just increased income tax whilst making it look like he's cut it.
Now, how come it has taken Labour MPs over a year to figure out what was obvious from the minute the words slipped out of the dour weirdo's lips? What does it say about their intelligence or lack thereof?

The OFT Godfather?

Consider me rather amused by the news that Office of Fair Trading has a position in it with the title, "Senior Director of Cartels and Criminal Enforcement". Sounds like fun doesn't it, I have visions of some Godfather type figure keeping all the cartels in check with his enforcement lags.

Press Release of the Day

Oh they do try so hard don't they?
(BERR) New code to cut more red tape

The government introduced a new code of practice yesterday that will help save businesses time and money by improving the way regulators work with them.
So they've intorduced some red tape to errr....

And there is the twist!

Well I did say I thought there would be another twist and 'lo it has come to pass.
Police probing the alleged abduction of Shannon Matthews have arrested a woman in West Yorkshire on suspicion of perverting the course of justice. There are unconfirmed reports that the 32-year-old is Shannon's mother Karen but these are yet to be verified.
Let's see where this one goes next.

Quote of the Day

"The Left? The Left says it loves the poor. So it does. The Left loves the poor so much it creates more of them every time it gets into power" - Silvio Belusconi

Sunday, April 06, 2008

A blinking week

Second Blink 182 song I know, but I am having one of those weeks where one band seems to dominate and boy was it AWESOME driving down the B-Roads in Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire to this after 15 years of being away!
The national speed limit is 80 mph right?

The Political Sex Survey

Take the Political Sex Survey over at Iain Dale's.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Saturday Observation

Why is it that in supermarket car parks they have Disabled bays but don't enforce them? I'm not disabled, so I don't use them, but it never ceases to amaze me when I see some guy turn up in a sports car and park in them without a care in the world. What's the point of having them if the supermarket is going to let anyone park in them?

I don't even use the Family parking unless I have my boy with me, yet the number of people who take advantage of them because they have a car seat visible is commonplace too. Both situations almost rank up there with cyclists who treat pedestrians with bugger all respect. Not quite, but almost.

The Shannon Matthews oddities

Is it just me or does this whole Shannon Matthews abduction thing have a funny smell to it? We now have two further arrests, the mother of the step-father and another woman. The thing is, when they found Shannon it was just before I went off snowboarding. The only English paper we managed to find in Bulgaria was the News of the World that weekend and it carried a large interview and report on the news that she had been found.

Something that jumped out of the report was where Shannon's mother, upon coming out of the house after having seen her daughter, had a big grin on her face (understandable) and then alleged winked at her friend/family. That always seemed to me and my mate and really odd. When you add in the comments made during the search that not as much attention was being given to Shannon's disappearance as Madeline McCann because she was only working class, it all just seemed a bit weird.

Don't get me wrong here, I'm not making any direct allegations against anyone, I just wouldn't be surprised if over the next week there were not some more very bizarre twists to the case. I can't put my finger on it, but there's just a funny smell about the whole thing.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Some more on that Tube insanity

There is some more info now about my warm evening underground from the Daily Mail. Some blogger who's real name is Phil Hendren is quoted as saying
"Our train stopped 500 yards from the station. But we were in the carriages for over two hours before we were led out. It was boiling. The driver kept us updated at first, but then the PA system broke down.

"The Transport for London staff who came to lead us out headed the wrong way up the tracks. That's why it took so long. They didn't even know where the hell we were."
Word reaches me that this quote may have been edited somewhat as the original comments had the words "fuck" and "fucking" evenly distributed throughout.

It's not whether the source is open or closed. Get the development strategy right instead!

I see David Cameron has been talking about Open Source again as too has Tom Watson. Shame really that "Open Source" is seen as some sort of panacea solution for Government IT. It isn't. The key is actually the development methods and strategies that are used.

It doesn't matter if the software being produced is bespoke, or if it is closed, or if it starting from a GPL based and worked upon. Although I would say that it would be rather silly for Government to use the GPL for it's more important projects. Why would you want to develop a system where you then have to tell the whole world the way it works. Kind of silly from a security point of view isn't releasing the source of your systems?

What needs to happen in Government is the embracing of Agile methodologies as opposed to the current old-fashioned waterfall methods which spend time ind esign then implementation and don't deliver tangible things on the way. Whether the code you develop is open or closed matters not a jot.

First Date

Friday music fun!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Can you guess what it is yet?

Let's "Discuss" things on Downing Street

Looks a bit.... erm... familiar doesn't it? First Brown was called Stalin. Then he was Mr Bean. Now it seems he may be actively trying to portray his initiatives like part of the Third Fourth Reich? What next? Mao? Pol Pot perhaps?
Via: Iain Dale

Bloody Tube Swearbloggery

Transport for London and TubeLines I would just like to say that you're a bunch of fucking incompetent arseheads. Why you may ask am I angry this time. Well that's quite simple. I left the office at 5.15pm and I arrived home at, not 6.30ish, but 9pm. The reason? I was left, along with around 800 other people (as an engineer told me), on a Jubilee Line tube under the River Thames between Canary Wharf and North Greenwich for not one hour, but two hours.

Two hours, in a train with no air conditioning, emergency lighting, a non-functioning PA system and a driver who basically lied to us saying that we would be moving soon every 15 or so minutes until the PA system bust and then we just didn't have a clue what was going on. Eventually someone from the station appeared at the back of the train to inform us that they had not realised there was a train in the tunnel we were in and had instead been looking in other tunnels for us.

When we finally got moving it wasn't by train, it was by foot, up through the train and then walking through the tunnel to the station. A form was then slapped in our hands to apply for compensation. The thing is, handily enough, when Londoners are stuck in a can for two hours together they do actually start talking to each other. One of my fellow stranded worked for TfL and informed us that there are emergency procedures with time limits for leaving people in trains. It's meant to be an hour apparently.

Sure, I may have got a view of the tube that I'd never had before. It doesn't change the fact they're incompetent fucking wankers of gross fucking idiot proportions.

Update: According to the BBC report linked in the comments there were only 200 of us. That figure is complete bollocks. The train was packed and was terminating at North Greenwich.

When they finally found us the guy who entered the carriage from the back (I always sit at the back of the train) said that there were around 800 peope on the train in total. The back is always the least packed part, so when the space is limited there you know what it means for the rest of the train. I and some others ended up smoking and hanging around for 15 minutes before we even attempted to catch a bus because of the sheer volume of numbers.

The point really though is that the line had a catastrophic failure. A Jubilee Line employee I spoke to later on last night told me that there was 'complete chaos' when it all went wrong. The computer systems failed, the radios failed, and there was a complete breakdown of comms.

It beggars belief that the Tube network does not have the necessary repeaters in it to enable cellular signal to operate in the network. This is especially the case for the deep level lines where I can tell you now, it gets very very very hot. It was like a sauna.

Update II 8.15am: I have spoken to someone working at North Greenwich. A Jubilee Line train can carry 2000. Last night there were at least 700 people according to the member of staff.

Cheese, Cider, Chocolate and Dying!

It never ceases to amaze me some of the bizarre goings on in the House of Parliament. Now I have truly seen the light by browsing the list of All-Party Parliamentary Groups. The first to catch my eye was the All-Party Parliamentary Group Arms Length Management Organisations. There is something richly ironic for lots of members of the Government to be supporting arms length management when they interfere in our lives every day. Perhaps it is in charge Northern Rock?

How about this, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Cheese. Even better, lets play 'spot the pisshead' on the All-Party Parliamentary Cider Group. Anyone else notice how many of the membership of the All-Party Parliamentary Chocolate and Confectionery Group are either women, or shall we say, slightly larger males? No low serotonin in that one I reckon!

Not to worry though, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Dying Well (as opposed to Dying Badly (where is their representation I ask you!) will sort us out.

Livingstone withdraws from voluntary sector hustings

How amusing, yesterday Boris Johnson got slated by Team Livingstone when he was accused of withdrawing from a Time Out Hustings which according to Team Boris he had never agreed to attend. Team Boris have now noted that Livingstone has himself withdrawn from a Centre for Social Justice Hustings aimed at the voluntary sector. Livingstone has also refused to make a commitment to a No2ID event which is being attended by others in the race to be Mayor.

Tit, tat, and all the jazz!

Amusing April Fools Gag

Couple of days late, but this one from Pizza Hut is quite amusing. Such a service might even be something that they could make money on!

Thirsty civil servants?

It sounds like it is very thirsty work at the DWP. Since April 2006 they have purchased 5.3 million litres of bottled water. Apparently they're planning on introducing the use of tap water by summer 2008. Does that mean they don't have any taps already? How difficult is it to say "we're not buying that anymore, go use a tap"?

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

March stat pr0n.... not!

Look right, I don't do stat porn OK. I know I did it once with Alexa but I was bored and had nothing to post about. The reason I don't do stat porn is multi-fold really. Mainly, I am an old Bulletin Board/Usenet/Forum kind of guy. Stat porn is a bit like post counting. The more posts you do the bigger your name becomes in the "community" that you post and thus you get respect. This results in the "milestone post" where someone says "Hey I posted 1000 times! Go me!". It's a little bit like standing up in a pub and saying "I have emailed 1000 random chicks I don't actually know and will never meet on match.com. Go me! I'm dating!".

OK, so blogs are not quite the same, they're just websites, and with the growth of their usage, be it individuals or media, traffic is important. This is especially the case if you spend lots of money on it of course. You want to know that people are looking at the content after all. It's useful to know where your traffic comes from; it's useful to know how much traffic you're getting. In my job the latter is fundamental from a performance point of view. The problem is the assumptions that one can make about that data.

Now, the reason I raise this is because the irritant or as I like to call him the "Buy Canestan Cream!", of certain bloggers' existence - the ever so non-obsessive Tim Ireland - has posted a particularly good piece on the problem of stat porn. I'm not going to go into the detail, you can read it for yourself, but the key here is what his cheerleader Justin McKeating (no pom poms or short skirt included) has posted in the comments along with Tim's general point. You see, it's all about extrapolation.
I turned my servers AWstats on last month and in the last 14 days of March I got a total of 232,766 *hits*. Extrapolate that over 30 days and I'd have around 465,000.
Justin is of course absolutely right. Extrapolation, especially that which is linear, is universally stupid. It becomes assumption layered upon assumption, then wrapped within another assumption, at which point the idea that the answer is in anyway scientific, or dare I say it, truth becomes as risible as watching a man with only his right arm and leg taking part in a right-hand drive manual car race where everyone else has all their limbs. And no. I'm not ridiculing the disabled before you suggest it. Basically, it's called wit and you wouldn't understand.

Inevitable left wing non-obsessive criticism covered, I would like to take this opportunity to point out just slight - and possibly mild - inconsistencies in Justin's and Tim's posts about extrapolation. Whilst they're right to point out the very real problems with stat pr0n (along with the downwards, more serious, and statistically honest analysis of the figures), I'm still left feeling rather... shall we say... confused by their errant masturbation over their self-imposed genius.

You see, both of these "bloggers" (and I use quotes only because Tim does when describing anyone that does not fit into his view of what the definition is because he's not in anyway mad (or madder than me I should add)), are quite vigorous anti-Iraq war people. I cannot find reference on Justin's blog because his search facility is poo, but on Tim's he actively promoted back in August last year the "fact" that we must "feel the weight" of one million... yes 1 MILLION!... dead Iraqis and it was all out fault.

Where does that figure come from? Well... It comes from extrapolation that's where. It is based on nothing more that an extrapolated figure with another linear extrapolated figure rising upwards. You see it all began with The Lancet Iraq Body Count survey. The Lancet published a linear extrapolated survey of just over 1000 surveyed people asking them how many people they knew that had died a violent death in Iraq. Based on the response the extrapolation was made that approximately 600,000 people had died since the invasion of Iraq. Worth noting here that it was not an extrapolated figure because of the invasion, but an extrapolated figure since the invasion.

As one would imagine, the anti-war lobby leapt on this figure, and online they created a neat little time extrapolation that has increased the figure by piecing together random reports, records, and other 'evidence' to the point that the ticker rises as an almost constant. Put simply... it's bollocks. That doesn't mean that no one has died, it doesn't mean that lots of people haven't died either. What it means is that the figure is an extrapolated one based on a small sample, layered with further questionable evidence to suit a political purpose.

Now the latter point is absolutely fine in my eyes, the anti-war lobby is, after all, anti-war. They're fighting a political campaign and want to win, so I won't begrudge them doing their best with the data that they can find and manipulate to their political ends. This is politics right!? However, actively promoting extrapolated data whilst simultaneously complaining about extrapolated data elsewhere doesn't exactly place one in a strong position now does it? (I'm sure I've done it to on occasions I should add).

Don't get me wrong here guys though. I'm not saying you're wrong about the dangers and problems of stat pr0n. All I'm pointing out is that when you stand up and scream like big wet girls blouses about dangerous extrapolation and dishonesty - especially against those who are politically opposed to you - you should probably make sure that you've not committed the same sin yourself. It doesn't make you wrong on your point, but it does make you look rather silly, foolish, and some might even say big fat steaming great hypocrites (who are not very bight (maybe, I don't know?))?

Incidentally, before someone points out that because the Government has "accepted" the Lancet figure, that does not mean that it is right, or more correctly a truth. I'm not questioning whether one or 50 million have died in Iraq. I'm pointing out that the starting point for the figures is fundamentally flawed and so parading the figure as a matter of truth is bloody stupid. No. Actually. It's not stupid, it's retarded. I realise that calling Tim and Justin retarded might seem somewhat harsh, but whilst they might think they're on to a winner they're desperate quest for the "truth" misses two very core fundamentals, the first of which is hidden in Tim's own post about stat pr0n.
  1. No one really gives a shit. OK? Seriously. We've got lots of people reading us all. They care, but most people don't, and when they see a post like yours - or for that matter a post like this one - they just scroll on by. Click, click, click.
  2. More people will probably read this because they want to than will read yours. However, see (1) for how important that really is to the wider scheme of things.
P.S. Before it is suggested this is some sort of big defence of my blogging chums it's not (although obviously it will be for Tim because those are the rules of engagement and I understand that). The truth is, I just get overly irritated with people who can sometimes be quite clever being rather pointless tits (bit like me at the moment really without the preceding cleverness!). I also happen to have a soapbox upon which to shout about it (for no one to actually listen).

Here's a word of advice Bruce. Stick with issues you have about smears, and your (non-evidential) crap about sockpuppets. At least it had a modicum of intelligence to it (kind of) and you didn't have to contradict your own previous posts *wink*
Note: This is what is officially know on teh interweb as a 'flame'. I find Pinot Grigio helps.

Update: It would appear the battle of stat pr0n is now over at DK's. For the record, and if anyone is wondering, if you ask me face to face about my traffic I will give you a guesstimate. I'm rather pleased about it personally, for much the same reason as DK points out in the comments - sheer astonishment that it is as high as it is.