Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Nothing to see here....

Whilst I did go to conference yesterday, today I am back at work, and there will be no further posts today unless I get a spare minute. Am currently playing around with agentx and MIBs which is far more exciting than politics. Have to go for an snmpwalk now.

See you all later. Enjoy.

Nadine Dorries to quit blogging?

Yesterday at Conference (am now back in London) I did an event with Guido, Devils Kitchen, Iain Dale and Nadine Dorries. During the discussion Nadine announced that she is considering stopping her blog because of time constraints. Newspaper diary columns lose another vital source?

I realise that some might say she's not a "propa blogger" because she turned off comments (after threats were made to her and her family), but at the end of day it would be shame if her diary disappeared.

Note: Croydonian blogged this news live from the event.

UPDATE: It;s been noted in the comment by Unity that Nadine did not turn ocmments off because of threats but because she ran away scared from lots of bloggers who accused her of making statements about a journalist falsely. What Unity has failed to realise is that it is perfectly possible for the faslity against a journalist to be true simulatenously with the threats against her and her family. Of course, if you instantly assume that anything someone says is a lie then an acceptance of logical reality will never work anyway.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Some Tory Conference Thoughts

OK, having been to Tory Conference for a day (got blisters that crippled me), I have two simple comments to make. First, why the fuck, and yes I did use the word fuck, do they not have day passes for the event?

Seriously, I realise that you have to take security seriously, but surely it would make sense to allow those of us normal people, and by normal I mean working people, the ability to pop in for just one day on the off chance like?

Ifyou want to appeal to a wider audience other than sad political anoraks, then how about making it possible for people who have an interest in politics but who are not "anal retentive, never had a job morons" get in without having to pay quote so much money?

This is politics after all. The allocation of values for the masses. So shouldn't it be more accessible to the masses? Not to mention students of course. Take this weekend, the conference has been held in a Uni town, wouldn't it make sense to offer day passes?

The second comment is this. Why is it that I have an MEP yet there is no conference to tell me what the party has been doing in the EU? As my representative on matters which impact my life I have to sod off to various fringe events to hope against hope that one will give an indication of what is coming down the line.

Would it not make more sense to have an extra day at the beginning added to conference that is dedicated to the European Party representative rather than the National one? After all, things the MEPs do tomorrow are things that MPs will have to deal with in the EU the next week (shortened time lines is artistic license).

So let's start having a day of conference that is dedicated to the MEPs and an update of what they are doing. After all, in some cases, they actually exercise more power than the Prime Minister.

Conference: Iain Dale and David Davis have a chat

Am currently watching Iain Dale interview David Davis in the Freedom Zone about his civil liberties campaign. He's just come on to the issue of Britishness, citing Gordon Brown's obsession with it and how to define it. He noted that once, the directory Liberty, Shami Chakrabati, thought that for Gordon Brown the campaign would have to be called "Make Liberty History".

Davis also said that he has never had a regret about doing what he did on this issue, and at no point has he ever thought "what the bloody hell was I doing?". Apparently, when he resigned the conversation with Cameron was a two minutes rushed conversation about the risk.

Davis also said that he believes if the House of Lords holds it nerve on 42 days, that the issue of civil liberties will be high up on the agenda as the Parliament Act is likely to be needed to push through the policy, this is apparently why the issue seems to have gone quiet for Davis in the last few months.

UPDATE: Davis thinks that Cameron is probably going to have the worst economic handoff from Brown since 1979. Never a truer word spoken I think. Davis is, he says, not interested in a Government job because he doesn't see anyone that he could replace. There was however, in essence, a "never say never" which is understandable I think. Davis has also conceded that h got one thing wrong in the leadership campaign, and that was he got Gordon Brown wrong, and didn't think he would be as bad as he has turned out to be.

When asked if he would have done anything differently, Davis said that if he had been leader he would "not let my shadow Home Secretary resign"

EXCLUSIVE: Chelsea and Fulham tapping up scandal?

Word reaches me that last night, Alex Hilton, the founder of Labour Home and Recess Monkey tried to tap up Michael Ashcroft for £50,000 towards his campaign for Labour's challenge on the Chelsea and Fulham seat. The response was apparently "send me a business plan".

You have to love a tryer don't you?

Freedom calls

Am up in Birmingham at the moment for the Tory Conference sans pass, so I will be hanging around in the Freedom Zone which does not require a pass, plus I am speaking on a panel with Guido, Dale, Nadine Dorries and the Devil. Should any gossip be heard I will let you know. Now I have to go outside and smoke as I'm not allowed to in the Freedom Zone. Go figure.

Hello Alice, welcome to Wonderland

The 21st Century should also be known as the "Through the Looking Glass Century" shouldn't it? I say this simply because I've just seen a picture in todays Independent (not online) that shows protesters in America not happy with the bailout of banks.

The thing is, these are no0t rabid market fundamentalist right wingers protesting, these are people from the Inetrnational Action Center, who, if you have a cursory glance at their website appear are a grassroots coalition "to oppose U.S. wars abroad while fighting against racism and economic exploitation of workers here at home". Pretty clear from that these are basically Stop the War type trots right?

Yet, here we have them opposing the US bank bailouts, alongside the market fundamentalist. The IAC of course says "bailout people not banks". But isn't it a bit weird to have right wingers opposing the bailout because it is affront to free market capitalism, whilst the hard Left oppose the Government taking a stake of capitalism into their ownership?

Confused by the 21st Century? I fear you and the undergraduates of the future will be too. Wars against brutal dictatorships where the opposition are those who claim to care about human rights, and now we have trotskyite lefties opposing the Government taking ownership of huge capitalist monsters that are driven by, what they would say, the exploitation of workers.

Marx woulod be turning his grave surely?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Saturday Question

If a bank does go under and is not saved, for example Northern Rock, what happens to those people that have mortgages with the bank? Specifically what happens to their property? Who do they owe the money too?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Dangerous dogs exploded by bomb squad

How I love Fridays, and how I also love the USA for providing gems of the most bizarre and amusing kind. This for example via CBS3.
The discovery of several hot dogs in packages outside Citizens Bank Park brought the bomb squad out and forced the temporary evacuation of the stadium Wednesday evening.

According to police, Pattison Street between Darien and 11th Streets was shutdown as officials investigated the discovery of several suspicious packages near a ticket office.

Fans inside the stadium were evacuated, but players remained on the field during the incident.

Bomb squad members further investigated the packages and determined they were simply several hot dogs in foil wrappers. Sadly, the wieners were detonated as a precaution.
Better to be safe than sorry I guess.

Man sues doctor for amputating his penis

Oh yes, really. A guy went in for a circumscision, the doctor says he found cancer so he thought it best to cut the guys knob off. The guy then woke up and presumably said "WTF?!? Now I won't see it even if I'm really thin! I'm suing the wanker because I can never be a wanker again!"

What amazes me is how the news presenters didn't laugh. Watch the video, not even a titter. What professionals!

Head of Skate?

It freaks you out the first time

It was about a year ago that I had my first visual migraine and it was a most bizarre and freaky experience. I'll be honest, it got to a point where I thought I might be having a stroke, or that someone had spiked my tea with LSD. Many people have asked what it was like and as mentioned in the link below, it's difficult to describe, but not anymore!

It doesn't come on quite a fast as this, but happens over 20 to 30 minutes and really does feel like coming up on a trip. Then it stops and you have a bastard headache.

Anyway, serious hat tip to this blog for doing the flash. Have rehosted it so as not to nick his bandwidth.

Is Purnell clearing out his skeletons?

Interesting stuff over here. Another of James Purnell's little helper has resigned under a cloud of dodgy blogging, wikipedia edits. etc.

Oh yes, and there was also a little thing about getting a blogger arrested who has subsequently been let off.

New Tory Website goes live

Hopefully I may have some technical details about it shortly.

Taking smack or crack takes commitment too

If you only read one piece of commentary today then it's going to have to be Martin Samuel's in the Times on the subject of drugs because he is so totally right.

Personally I am sick to the back teeth of hearing this crap about how some aging popstar is influencing kids into crack and/or smack addiction. As Martin Samuel says, it takes real commitment to get to the point where you're shooting up.

To be pefectly frank it also takes effort to get yourself a crack addiction too. You're average dope dealer is unlikely to have a supermarket array of choice so that one day you can progress up the class rankings of narcotics. If you want crack you're going to have to get to know people, visit the right estates and/or places, probably rely on an introduction.

Basically, if you're going down that route you're going to put some effort in, which suggests, as Samuel puts it, that it's not about a gateway anymore, you're actually already "through the gate and on to the open highway". Reading Samuel's piece I am reminded of Thomas De Quincy's "Confessions of an English Opium Eater" in which he talks about being a professional opium eater.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

How is crime down?

Over the past few days, the political editor of the Spectator, Fraser Nelson, has been doing a sterling job pointing out how Gordon Brown has basically been lying (Brownies) about the level of debt because the official statistics from the Government say the complete opposite to what he does.

Now, I've never been a brillaint mathmetician, I get by, nor was I particular good (or more correctly "inspired by") statistics. However, I am, I think at least, able to see trends and/or spot bizarre anomolies in sets of data that do not chime with what politicians might say is true, and I'm thinking I've spotted one.

Take the following two tables of data on "Police Manpower" from Hansard. The first lists the number of police officers per 100,000 population in each region of England and Wales between 1997 and 2008. The bottom line is that there are moe police officers now than then against an also growing population.

The second lot of data (split into two tables) shows the total offences per officer from 1997 to 2008. The bottom line of this dataset is that there are now more crimes per officers now than there were back then. So here's where I get confused.

If, according to the Government, there are more police officers per 100,000 of us since 1997, and there are also more offences committed per police officer since 1997. How can it be that crime is, also according Government, down? That doesn't compute. In fact it must mean the upward trend in crime is even greater than it appears because there are more coppers.

I simply cannot see how crime can have gone down whilst the number of police officers and the number of offences they have dealt with each has gone up. It doesn't logically work does it? Or am I missing something?

Is this party political?

I don't know whether you could consider this party political, but having read Government press releases for a while now, it is not usual practice to make mention of political parties in them. Especially as V is a Labour linked charity.
Only asking, not saying it is. Just suprised me to see reference to Labour in a Government press release.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Kelly to resign before reshuffle

So Ruth Kelly has decided to jump before being pushed in a reshuffle, and Gordon tells Today that there are no political differences between them. It;s the age old, "I want to spend more time with my family" line.

She;s going to lose her seat at the next election probably anyway, but I do wonder, if as is being suggested, she has been disllussioned with the direction of Government for some months, why she is going quietly?

Has she been offered something in the post-politics world so she doesn't cause problems? I know it's cynical of me, but I just can't help myself. Of course, having this resignation now gives Brown an excuse for a reshuffle without it looking like a panic. Backbench rebel leader maybe?

At least they're being honest

"In line with current Cabinet Office guidance, the Home Office does not always encrypt personal data before transferring it by disc." - Liam Byrne

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

It's all to play for in the wank stakes

According to the Wonderful Wankometer it's all to play for with Cameron's speech next week. Thus far, Cleggy leads with his speech scoring only low on wank.

Gordon has managed to give a speech with "considerable" wank in it.

Is the most wank the best, or the least wank the best? Who knows?

Update: For the record, I produce "considerable" wank, a badge of honour I am very proud of.

He said what?

This is from the Labour Party press release website. I am confused.

Click image for larger version

What did he say?
Hat Tip: Croydonian

Did Gordon's speechwriter not watch the West Wing?

During Brown's speech today he said,
"Over the next decade we can lead the way in beating cancer"
Now, as a reader has noted, does anyone remember an episode of The West Wing called "100,000 AIRPLANES" where Jed Bartlett is talking about what should be in his State of the Union speech? It went like this.

BARTLET: So I ask you, why shouldn't I stand up and say we are going to cure cancer in ten years?

Silence in the room. No one responds.

I'm really asking.

Well, how close are we to really being able to do this?

Nobody knows.



It'll be seen as a political ploy.
Nuff said?

I can't take anymore of Brown's Speech

I'm sorry there is no rolling thread on Brown's speech. I have been lsitening but I have turned it off in disgust. The guy is just lying through his teeth and doing the expected general hypocrisy. Highlights include:
  • Demanding that financial accounting be transparent and unhidden. This from the man that has put over £100bn of debt off-balance sheet using PFI.
  • Randomly chose number of creating 1 million new jobs.
  • Claiming that he's created 3 million jobs without actually noting that those are linked to immigration.
  • Saying that he doesn't use his chidlren as props (see previous post)
I have to go now, there are needles on my desk and I intend to stab myself in the eyes with them. It will be more enjoyable.

Brown: "My kids aren't props"

Oh really?

Flying in and out for a Council meeting?

Last week I posted about a sudden emergency Council meeting that had been called in the London Borough of Greenwich, and the possibility it migth have been to ensure that a councillor, Danny Thorpe, could attend his one meeting in six months by returning, allegedly, from Australia, where he's supposedly been living whilst representing his ward.

The councillor duly turned up, and news reaches me that he has apparently flown back to Australia. Bloody expensive trip if true huh? Wonder who paid for it? Local Labour Party? Taxpayer funded Councillor allowance? Local democracy in action without a doubt!

Cherie and Charles Show at the Tory Conference

The Real Machiavelli reports that Cherie Blair and Charles Clarke have agreed to speak at the Sun's fringe meeting. I give 1/2 that they put the boot in on Brown.

Caption Competition

Update: Jim Carey in "Dumb and Dumber".... scary.

U.S Constitution auctioned on ebay - payment in goats accepted

What a bargain!

The Sales Blurb:

America is having a fire sale! We've dusted off all our old documents we're not using anymore and this includes the U.S. Constitution. Due to the forced bailouts of private companies by the U.S. taxpayer we can no longer afford the storage of our documents. Our loss can be your gain!

Written in 1787 and drafted mainly by James Madison it is now only on display as a quaint relic. Notice the detailed handwriting presenting the noble concepts conveniently ignored by the Federal government. Use it as a patch to block cold wind from blowing in! Have it be a conversational piece in your home! Use it as a bookmark! Don't like the Tenth Admendment? Forget about it and write your own! The possibilities are literally endless. Act now and we will throw in the Federalist Papers for free! Shipping is free! No refunds and no returns. Trust us, we don't use it anymore!

Please pay in EUROS only since the dollar will soon be worthless. Or an alternate method using the Biblical bartering system. Goats accepted.

Hat Tip: Rojas at The Crossed Pond

Juxtaposition of the Day

Comparing the "Latest" headline to the picture I can't help but wonder if Miliband is looking at some surgical handiwork.

The Plan

Tomorrow will see the launch of a new book called "The Plan: Twelve months to renew Britain" by Dan Hannan MEP and Douglas Carswell MP. The general thesis of the book is that in order to sort out at the country we do not need a government that promises to do the same sorts of things as now, but more competently. Instead, what is needed is a "revolution". According to Hannan this means,
a wholesale shift in power from the state to the citizen, from Whitehall to elected councillors, from Brussels to Westminster"
The book outlines what steps need to be taken by a Tory administration and has been written with the input from former parliamentary clerks and sets out the 30 - motions, orders in council or Bills - that would be needed to bring this agenda to fruition within just one year. Some of the ideas within the book include:

  • Scrapping all MPs' expenses except those relating to running an office
  • and travel from the constituency
  • Selecting candidates through open primaries
  • Local and national referendums
  • "People's Bills", to be placed before Parliament if they attract a certain number of signatures
  • Placing the police under locally elected Sheriffs, who would also set local sentencing guidelines
  • Appointing heads of quangos, senior judges and ambassadors through open parliamentary hearings rather than prime ministerial patronage
  • Devolving to English counties and cities all the powers which were devolved to Edinburgh under the 1998 Scotland Act
  • Placing Social security, too, under local authorities
  • Making councils self-financing by scrapping VAT and replacing it with a Local Sales Tax
  • Allowing people to pay their contributions into personal healthcare accounts, with a mandatory insurance component
  • Letting parents opt out of their Local Education Authority, carrying to any school the financial entitlement that would have been spent on their child
  • Replacing EU membership with a Swiss-style bilateral free trade accord
  • Requiring all foreign treaties to be re-ratified annually by Parliament
  • Scrapping the Human Rights Act and guaranteeing parliamentary legislation against judicial activism
  • A "Great Repeal Bill" to annul unnecessary and burdensome laws
The book also argues that the Internet has changed everything except politics. That political parties have tried to shoehorn the Internet as a tool into their traditional models rather than understanding how the Internet disintermediates poltics.

To put it starkly, the political party as an organism – a complex structure bringing together local branches, clubs, activists and sympathetic newspapers, professions, trade unions, churches and pressure groups – is dying. The modern political party will be protean: a series of ad hoc, issue-by-issue coalitions. To put it even more starkly, the distinction between political parties, newspapers and pressure groups is blurring.
The political party that realises and "gets" the above will be the one that starts to do so called "digital politics" in Britain correctly. You can buy the book here and I am not on commission or a retainer.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Did Andy Burnham complain to the conference Chairthingy?

I'm not sure who the Chair of the Labour Conference is, but she has (obviously) been in charge of picking delegates to ask questions and speak. Over the weekend she made a passing remark about how she was clearly biased towards the colour red as she kept on picking people to speak that she could identify by that colour.

Today she announced to the conference, and I paraphrase, that she had received a complaint from an Evertonian that she should not be biased against the colour blue and so she was trying her best. I wonder whether that complaint was received from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Andy Burnham?

Burnham is after all an Evertonian, which means that regardless of his wrong politics (and apparent natural eye make-up) makes him an all-round decent chap worth listening to occassionally. God, what a horrible thought, if he stood for the Labour leadership I would have to decide between football and politics.

The youth of today?

What on earth is going on with the youth of today? In my day a rolled up tenner was more than sufficient, and if you were really skint then a straw would do too.

The Hoover Snorter

Has JK Rowling been fed some Brownies?

The other day, with much trumpet and fanfare, JK Rowling donated a million pounds to the Labour Party. When she did this she said,
"The Labour government has reversed the long-term trend in child poverty, and is one of the leading EU countries in combating child poverty."
Presumably she got this information from Brown, because its a load of bollocks, as I imagine she would not want to knowingly lie.

After all, June 2008, the End Child Poverty said "End Child Poverty disappointed as child poverty figures rise". In March 2007 they said Disastrous rise in child poverty shows Government failing to meet their targets". Meanwhile Community Care in March this year noted that "the UK still has a higher proportion than any other EU country".

Has someone been telling JK Rowling Brownies?

How the Google censorship in China looks

Click image for larger version

Via Wikimedia

Will the Fed bailout British banks too?

Interesting news via Politco. Treasury Secertary HenrY paulson seems to have indicated that foreign banks with significant operations in the US may well be subject to nationalisation bailouts too.
"If a financial institution has business operations in the United States, hires people in the United States, if they are clogged with illiquid assets, they have the same impact on the American people as any other institution.... That's a distinction without a difference to the American people. The key here is protecting the system....

We have a global financial system, and we are talking very aggressively with other countries around the world and encouraging them to do similar things, and I believe a number of them will. But, remember, this is about protecting the American people and protecting the taxpayers. and the American people don't care who owns the financial institution. If the financial institution in this country has problems, it'll have the same impact whether it's the U.S. or foreign."
I'm sure that something like this will please Gordon Brown, not to mention Barclays, HSBC and the Royal Bank of Scotland.

The chipmunk's backhanded attack on Brown

I just can't imagine who she is refering to when she talks about people reciting lists of achievements and rambling on about what the Tories did 14 years ago.

That little firey chipmunk is scary I tell thee!

Ask the PM and don't get an answer

For the first time I have just watched an "Ask the PM" video. This person asked Brown why - if cannabis is being reclassified because it is harmful - isn't tobbaco illegal? Fairly straight forward question right?

Brown's response (below) was to say that cannabis is very dangerous and unacceptable, and then he went on to explain why alcohol, even though it causes harm, is legal.

At no point does he mention even mention tobacco, even though the Dowing Street web team responsible for the YoUTube channel titled the original question video "Ask The PM - Why Is Tobacco Legal?"

Isn't it good to know that when an oridinary person asks Gordon brown a question he ignores it and answers a completely different one instead? Had he been honest he would have said "well look, if it wasn't for tobacco tax revenue we'd be really really screwed rather than just screwed".

Also worth noting that on the Dowing Street Channel they say that Brown's responses have been posted by a user called "askthepm" which links to an independent YouTube site.

The profile for the site Dowing Street are bizarrely linking Gordo Brown to is one who's profile says

DowningSt doesn't allow party political questions - but we do! Everyone can post videos or comments here without censorship. So go ahead ... Ask the PM anything here. If you're looking for the official 'approved' site then search for downingst.

Seriously, can these people get anything right? First they get Brown to respond to a question by not even bothering to address it (that may just be him rather than them in fairness). Then they link Brown's responses to a site set-up to take the piss out of the "Ask the PM" features.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Tory councillor accused of terrorism for taking a photo

If you've ever been concerned that the Terrorism legilsation in this country is dangerous and could be easily abused you only have to listen to this tale from the London Borough of Greenwich.

Last week, the Tory Leader of the Opposition on the Council was stopped by Police and accused of being a terrorist whilst he took a photo of the local Police station for a ward by-election campaign leaflet.

This is not a joke. Councillor Spencer Drury (pictured) was out in Plumstead High Street to gauge opinion on the issues down there in advance of a ward by-election next Thursday. He was also taking photos and when he got to the Police Station he took a photo of it.

After doing this a Police van pulled up, an officer got out, and then asked what he was doing. Cllr Drury explained that he was a local politician and that he was taking pictures for literature in the upcoming by-election. The police officer however did not believe him and demanded identification under the Terrorism Act.

When Cllr Drury asked if the officer thought he was a terrorist he was told the answer was "Yes". Council identification was produced, radio communications made and an embarrassed police officer (who presumably got a bollocking) let them go on their way.

Now, you have to wonder what the world is coming to when a local politician takes a photo of a Police station and then gets told it is believed he is a terrorist meaning that the Terrorism Act can be used to force him to "show his papers".

Standards Board for England wastes its time and our money

Of the councillors I know, most think that the Standards Board for England is a giant waste of money, and is generally only used for political purposes by one party against another in local politics.

The official idea behind the Standards Board is to make local authority politician face the same sort of ethical scrutiny as national politicians, but it has often led to decisions made against politicians from all parties that have been quite spurious.

The question is, is there any basis for saying that it is a waste of money? Well, I've just done some number crunching on two tables published by the Government that list how many cases the Board has dealt with over a number of years and how much the average cost of a case was. The results suggest that it is indeed a great big waste of money.

Between 2004 and 2008, the Standards Board for England investigated a total of 2937 complaints. Of those 2344 either had "no evidence of breach" or "no further action". That means that 80% of the complaints that were made were, for want of a better word, spurious and/or baseless. The total cost of investigating these complaints was £21,024,225 of which £16,274,604 was spent on the spurious or baseless complaints.

Is there, or can there be, a justification for the existence of quango that spends 80% of its time investigating things with no outcome at a cost of £16.2 million? I'd say there isn't.

Source 1: Average cost of case.
Source 2: Total numbers of cases and results.

Another Gordon Brown lie

Fraser Nelson and others at the Spectator Coffee House have been running its "Brownies" feature for some time now. Basically when Brown tells a whopping great lie and pretends to be telling the truth.

I've just been watching his party conference Q & A and he's been at again. He's just told the Labour Conference that the Conservative Party supports deserting the North based upon the Policy Exchange Think Tank report. Funny, if I recall correctly it was rejected as an "insane" idea.

In other news, Brown also seemingly told his conference that he was going to do0 something about big city bonuses.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Are Fujitsu/IBM profiting from the disclosure of DVLA records?

I've written about the DVLA selling charging private companies a couple times before here and here. Essentially the DVLA will provide details to private companies that wish to enforce a traffic enforcement notice and charge £2.50 "administration charge" each time for a record, and as the links provided shows it brings in revenue of around £9.5 million over a short period.

According to the DVLA they make no profit from this, and they also reject the idea that they are "selling" the data to these private companies. However, if you have listen to these three conversations (1, 2, 3) it becomes rather clear that someone might actually be making a profit from this, and it isn't the DVLA.

According to the DVLA representative in the third conversation, the electronic portal that provides virtually instant access to the DVLA database of information for registered companies is managed by Fujitsu and IBM. It is these companies that charge the DVLA via contract for running the system and handling the requests. Is it likely therefore that the £2.50 per record charge does not carry a margin mark-up for these requests? I think not.

It wouldn't be in their interests to manage a system for the DVLA that was revenue neutral for them. As such, whilst the DVLA can hide behind the "it's an administration cost" what they actually mean is that it is a administration cost that has to be paid to Fujitsu for providing the means for companies to get information from the registers. Put your hand up if you honestly believe that those companies are not making a profit from this?

At £2.50 a pop, on 1.5 million requests a year that is just short of £4 million. Given the information in the audio downloads, it suggests that somewhere along the line a profit must be being made for this information disclosure. Worse still, after six months a company can go electronic and the chances of any oversight of their requests is minimal.

Click the links below to listen to the DVLA.

Audio 1
Audio 2
Audio 3

That LabourHome poll. A comment and confession

Sorry about the lack of update yesterday, I was busy building a new ssl-enabled ftp platform and was banging my head against a brick wall trying to get TLS working. As always I forgot to set the permissions to 600 on the cert, so once I remembered it was all fluffy. After that I spent sometime writing some management tools for it as it was using Berkeley database for authentication. All good fun!

Now, onto politics, I see that there has been much excitement about the Independent's front page yesterday and the fact that it commissioned LabourHome to do the poll of the Labour grassroots. Unity got pissed off that it wasn't a proper poll and unscientific; Tom Watson was not amused with the founder of LabourHome Alex Hilton (a PPC) agreeing to it, nor was another Labour blogger, Luke Akehurt.

Meanwhile, Iain Dale thought it all very amusing, which inevitably stirred Tim Ireland to call Iain a hypocrite because of Iain's own poll where his readers, and readers of other political blogs, voted for their favourites. On this point, the really funny thing is not actually the Labour Home poll but instead what Tim Ireland wrote.

You see Tim, when he isn't engaging in one his email bombarding or phone call making campaigns, is a great titan of the blogosphere who takes newspapers like the Sun and Daily Mail to task for distorting the truth. I

t's richly ironic then that Iain Dale's post - which simply quotes some of the blogs I mentioned and says that they hold "a sentiment [about Alex Hilton] many of us can easily concur with" - has been turned into a post titled "Iain Dale slams dodgy poll. (No, seriously.)" and says
Iain Dale hahahaha frowns on hahahahaha fellow 'blogger' hahahahaha selling out hahahahahaha with unscientific poll!

Ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.... *breeeeeathe*... ahahahahahahahahahahahaha!
Having read Iain's post to check a few times I don't see the slamming, and I don't see him saying that the poll was unscientific, nor does he accuse Alex of selling out. So basically, a guy that complains about distortions by bloggers and newspapers all the time has willfully distorted something. Now that really is funny.*

Anyhow, putting that aside I have a confession to make right now about the Labour Home poll. You see, I took the poll. In fact I took the poll on numerous occasions from numerous locations. I kind of figured that all I had to do was say I was a Labour member to make sure my answers would be included.

For the record, I said I thought Brown should stay. He is the best asset the Tory Party has right now.

* Please note, this attack on Tim will be be interpreted by him as coordinated by Iain Dale because is my mate, and I am apparently a thug. I do not write independently of Iain or Guido you see, I only do their bidding.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Man fined for flicking cigarette ash out of car window

Yes seriously. It was littering even though he had evidence to the contrary.

Lib Dem PPB uses actors and admits it?

Unbelievable, just watch and wait for the Voxpops and see how each "ordinary person" is described.

Alternatively, if you can't be arsed to watch it, you could just watch this amusing video that has appeared on YouTube and edited by a user called not winning here and just shows you the best bits!

Startling honesty from the Lib Dems there. Another day, another gaffe!

Update: Just in case they remove the original you can download the flash video here

Brown takes the piss out of injured soldiers

On Saturday I will be going to Twickenham for the Help for Heroes rugby match. The purpose of Help for Heroes is to provide decent funding and compensation to those servicemen and women who have beenw ounded in action and who receive little to no help from the Government led by Gordon Brown.

Amazingly, Gordon Brown has decided to pay tribute to the charity which has raised £10.8million for injured soldiers since it started less than a year ago. Does he not realise that the chairty only exists because of his funding decisions over the past 11 years?

What's worse is that he muscled his way into a photo-op done which is now plastered across the pages of the Daily Telegraph? The man's brassneck is truly breathtaking, it really is.

Hat Tip: Confessions of a Rugby Referee

Labour don't want union members to know about the political levy

As most people know, the Labour Party is, for the most part, about 90% in the red with the trade unions. If the trade unions pulled their financial support the party would not only have a crap leader it would be well and truly knackered.

The thing to remember of course is that much of that money actually comes from trade union members through the political levy. No one has to pay the political levy, thanfully the opt-out is a regulatory right. However, the trade unions do very little to let their members know this.

When the Government was asked if they would bring forward changes to the regulations to make it a requirement that members be told they can opt-out of the political levy and not, in effect, make a donation to the Labour Party you can guess the response.

Pat McFadden said "[w]e have no plans at present to extend the regulatory requirements further." What a surprise! Hardly likely to change the rules so people actually become aware they're funding the Labour party at a time when the party is at all time low now are they?

Is the figure embarassing?

Given all the mess and problems with the "beta" Number 10 website, I was amused to see this question in Parliament, and it's "answer".

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Prime Minister how much the most recent redesign of the No. 10 website cost.

The Prime Minister: The No. 10 website has been updated to include more news content, videos and in-depth features. The costs associated with the redesign will be included in the overall running costs of the website. Figures for the financial year 2008-09 will be available when the Cabinet Office annual resource accounts have been audited.
Translation: You will be lucky to get the figure by August 2009.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Has Gordon left the building?

Ooops! Someone forgot to redirect 'prime-minister.gov.uk' to Gordon's new Number 10 website. Is it an omen?

Update: Checking on Thrusday 18th and it's been fixed.

Is Gordon in a paper bag?

Brian Cullen over at the Spectator Coffee House has an excellent round up of which Cabinet ministers have given unequivocal and equivocal support to Gordon, along with thos that has remained tight-lipped and held their cards to their chests.

I'm currently reading Anthony Seldon's Blair Unbound so would like to add another quote from it, attributed to an unnamed Treasury mandarin talking about Brown.
Gordon hadn't the faintest clue how to get himself out of a paper bag
Nothing more to add really, I just read it on the bus and chuckled given the current predicament he is facing.

My Cabinet Minister choices.....

My money for the Cabinet ministers to quit are as follows bu in no partiuclar order. Des Browne (Defence Secretary), Ruth Kelly (Transport Secretary), Paul Murphy (Wales Secretary). This I based purely on the fact that these three chose to abstain on the Human Fertilsiation and Embryology bill, as did David Cairns and Siobhain McDonagh.

It's therefore abundantly clear that it's actually a vast Papal conspiracy against our glorious Presbytarian leader. Please pass me the tinfoil for my special hat to protect me from the evildoers and x-rays.

**** BBC & Sky: Cairns to Quit ****

BBC says he is going.

as do Sky News

Will any more follow as the day goes on?

Did Downing Street start the David Cairns rumour?

This morning we had the rumour from Nick Robinson, that David Cairns - the Minister of State at the Scotland Office - might be the first ministerial resignation. Robinson wrote on his blog
As I write, Downing Street say that they have not been informed of his intentions and we are trying to contact him in his Inverclyde constituency. If he does go, Team Brown will point out that he is closely linked to the MP whose public call for a leadership contest began this whole business.

Reading Robinson's words suggests to me that "Team Brown" (Damian McBride) had already told him what they would say if he did. At 11am there was an update saying,
A source close to the Scottish Secretary Des Browne has insisted that David Cairns, Minister of State at the Scotland Office, has "no intention of resigning".
The question is, where did the "word on the street" as Nick Robinson called it, come from in the first place? Could it be a bit of smoke and mirrors by Dowing Street again? After all, over the weekend there were allegations that the leaking of the list of names of those who had requested nomination papers came from Number 10. Specualtion is that this was designed to flush them out as few in number and of no significance.

Now jump forward to today. Is it feasible that Number 10 are feeding out the lines about those they suspect of being plotters in the hope of flushing them out into the open and forcing them to make denials? Probable? Unlikely? Who knows?

However, there is a rumour that this is the case. That the "David Cairns might quit" rumour was sourced in Number 10 precisely because "he is closely linked to the MP whose public call for a leadership contest began this whole business". This smoke and mirror type stuff against those that are not trusted is the modus operandi of Team GB, and has been since long before he entered Number 10.

Update: Cairns is quitting say the BBC. If the rumour did start in Downing Street has it backfired like many said the leaking of the list did on the weekend?

HBOS going down?

Apparently HBOS shares have dropped by 40% today. That doesn't sound like good news is on the way.

Is it going to be Caroline Flint?

Ben Brogan over at the Mail says the rumour mill is that Caroline Flint is going break cover and be a stalking horse Cabinet resignation. I still don't think Brown will go anyway. The only way I can see him agreeing to stand down is if he's defeated by a confidence vote in the Commons.

Government advertises online dating service?

Press release from the Department of Health.

Did they ask Match.com if they could reference them? Did they pay them? Or is it free advertising?

How to have a secure ID database without Big Brother?

Sometimes, when you're bored and on the way to work you start to stumble around in your mind with ideas. For some strange reason this morning I started thinking about the Government's ID register and ID card scheme whilst on the Circle Line.

I then had an epiphany on how you could have such a scheme that really was about identity affirmation only, was also secure (usual caveats apply to the use of that term), and which would resolve civil liberty and security concerns about the Government storing our data.

To set the scene, and this is a very high-level view, the current ID register, and subsequent cards/passport technology works in a match based scenario. So, you register for a passport, they take your information, name, address, date of birth and your biometric data. They put this on a database and also on your card, and then when you come to identify yourself a match check is done.

So, when you identify yourself, which is what the Government says the scheme will enable you to do, the logic flow is as follows. Scan fingerprint. Does fingerprint match that on card? Does fingerprint on card match existing record on ID register. If yes, all good. If No, flash red alert lights. The key here therefore is not just in the match but in the fact that the ID register exists as a datasource readable by the state.

What this means is the autonomy and ownership of your private data is transferred to the state and the register. When you identify yourself you ask them to match you to an identical record they store and they confirm identity on that basis. There is however another way of doing this which would mean the register would hold no data on you that was useable by the state because it works like this.

When you go to register for a passport and/or card (assuming they were brought in), you provide your information as normal. The difference comes with the biometric part. Your biometric data, fingerprint or iris scan, is used as a private key in order to generate a public key. That public key is then used to encrypt the data about you that will live in the register. The biometric does not get stored anywhere. This means only you, with your fingerprint or iris scan can unlock the data.

Crucially, each individual record on the database would be uniquely encrypted effectively with a one-time pad starting point in the form of your biometric. If the database was compromised it would be useless as a result because it would require the private key (biometric) of each individual on the database to unencrypt each record on the database. The public key that encrypts the data is useless for decrypting it without its private key pair in the form of the individual.

Additionally, by using the biometric as a private key, it would be the random entropy of nature, rather than a random entropy of a computer processor that generated it. If you then used the public key generated by the private key to encrypt the data held on the database only the indivudal and not the state could unlock and read the data. So, no more Big Brother database where the state holds our biometric data and information.

Instead we'd have a database that on its own is useless. A database that can be used to identify yourself when you present your private key in the form of your thumb print to it. A database that uses biometrics to identify yourself, but does not store biometric data. A database that cannot be used by the state for further data mining and data sharing. A database that, if lost, would be of no value to anyone. A database where the ownership of the personal data remains with the individual and not the state.
Reference: Asymmetric cryptography

Update: Of course, the current Government does not just want an identification system, they want it to do much more. A future Government on the other hand looking to reassure, for example, people with passports, that their data is safe and that they (the Government) have no access to it, might prefer to do something like this.

Please also note that I am not arguing in favour of ID cards here. This is about the ID Register which the Government want to use with ID cards. The register however also exists for things like biometric passports. This idea would basically move the biometric data back to the owner whilst still exploiting its usefulness for identification affirmation.

Update II: Raised in the comments and privately to me, this is just an idea about flipping the ID register on its head and making it based upon individual record asymetric encryption that can only be decrypted by the subject of that records content. It assumes that biometrics are more reliable than they are currently considered to be. The key here is bringing back the autonmy of the individual over their data, rather than having the status quo where the state in effect appropriates ownership.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Told you so......

So I said 10,000 at 3pm, the actual, now officially confirmed figure at 5:15pm on the BBC is 18,000. No doubt there will be more, there always is. At the end of the day people are stupid, no matter how much the Government might claim they're not.

Nothing since April/June 2007?

I'm confused and have been for some time now about why the Department of Work and Pensions has not published a single freedom of information request response on its website since April 2007. DEFRA is just as bad, not having published anything since June 2007.

Perhaps I am missing something though, perhaps they have published something and I just can't find it. All the other departments seem very good at publishing things, Transport is really good and updates quite regularly, but I find it difficult to believe that the DWP really hasn't released any information for 17 months.

I realise some might think it's not that big a deal, but if you're going to have a publication scheme surely it should at least have an archive that looks plausible. Someone, somewhere, must have asked the DWP or DEFRA something in the past year or so surely?

Ninja Cat

10,000 NHS employee bank details lost?

According to a source, the Department of Health/NHS (it's difficult to tell who is responsible these days) has lost yet more data. This time it's alleged to be somewhere in the region of 10,000 names and bank details of NHS employees.

No denial was forthcoming from the DoH press office and a generic data loss position statement was given (below).
"The NHS locally has legal responsibility to comply with data protection rules. They are expected to take data loss extremely seriously, be open about incidents and about the action taken as a result. This month David Nicholson, Chief Executive of the NHS, has written to all senior health managers reminding them of their responsibilities following the level of public concern in the wake of data losses."

Idiots of Eternity

I meant to post about this last week but forgot. When reading about the whole Large Hadron Collider business I saw the words,
William Hill celebrated Man's continued existence. It had taken £119 from punters willing to bet that September 10 2008 would see the end of the world.
Why would someone do that? Why?

Could February and October 2009 be like 1974 in reverse?

Whilst we all get excited about a rumbling coup against Brown, we all ought to take a step back and pause for thought on it all. After all, based on Gordon Brown's previous record and character, it's very unlikely that he will step down. I accept that I could be wrong on that, but reading biopgraphies of the guy suggests that he will put his head in the sand and fight to cling on to the bitter end as I have posted about before.

Added to this, the domains labour2010.org, .com etc have already been registered by Dave Briggs, a webby type consultant linked quite heavily to the civil service and public sector. Dave has told me that he is planning a "campaign trail following" type blog and that there is nothing more to it than that, but I'm still naturally suspcious.

However, the question is, what would happen if the Labour Party did force Brown out? After all, it is going to be at least the end of October before they could feasibly have a new leader (or the same leader for that matter if he stood again). If a new leader did emerge there would inevitably be calls for a General Election too.

The problem is there would not be the scope for an election this year. It would be well into November (not to mention the Glenrothes by-election at the end of October) and become unfeasible because of the weather and nights drawing in. That would then push us into 2009 and February at the earliest. The last time that happened the incumbent Tories lost to a Labour minority Government.

So, playing the "what if" game for a moment. Let's say there is a leadership election and lets say Brown loses. That would most likely mean a proto-campaign before the real campaign between November and Feburary. If history really does repeat itself then could the incumbent lose, resulting in another election later in the year to reaffirm the February result?

Can you be a London Councillor whilst living in Australia?

Last week, a Liberal Democrat on Camden Council had to resign after it was discovered that he had buggered off to Arizona, 5,200 miles away, and was still claiming his £700 per month allowance to represent his constituents. The official line was he was experimenting to see if it was still possible to do the work.

I mention this because allegedly a councillor in Greenwich (where I currently live) has been living in Australia for the past few months whilst still collecting an allowance and special pay for failing to attend committees. It's also been alleged that the councillor has hurriedly flown back to the UK.

It's also alleged that the return to Blighty for a conveniently timed emergency full council meeting which would mean the coucnillor achieved the minimum "one meeting in six month" rule. This would, so my source tells me, avoid a resignation and an unwanted by-election in the councillor's marginal Shooters Hill ward.

If the allegations are true, I imagine the local MP, Clive Efford, will not be best pleased. He needs to keep his vote in the ward to stand a chance of holding the constituency seat in Parliament.
Update: It appears the Last Boy Scout blog has a source too. Kudos to him for posting first.

Who will Lehman's take down by proxy?

I have no doubt that the official line, whenever they may be asked about the collapse and filing for Chapter 11 of the investment bank Lehman Brothers, will be somethign like "this is a problem that has started in the US and hit the whole global economy, Gordon is getting on with the job and the right man to take us through these troubled and challenging times".

Meanwhile anyone with half a brain will be going "oh fuck, if Lehman Brothers go under who next? Merrill Lynch?" Yes they may just be an investment bank but that makes it all the more scarier because what and who do they own? Or more correctly, what businesses have liabilities tied up with Lehmann and whoever else might follow?

Whilst Gordon Brown faces all sort of leadership questions, the far greater stroy of the day right now has to be what the knock-on of Lehmann going belly up will be. There is an interesting point on this in relation to Brown in the Times today by William Rees-Mogg. He noted that Brown was stupid to claim he would end "boom and bust" because it showed he didn't understand global economics. Too true.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Labour Christmas Special - predictions?

The pace with which politics moves is, personally speaking, one of the most exciting things about. It's like Eastenders in the Ivory Tower of power. Every year we have the Christmas Special, the only difference is that it happens in September at the annual conference. The whole family gets together, usually in some seaside resort for some bizarre reason, and all the old feuds rear to the surface over the four days bitchfest.

They bubble away with briefings and coded insults to ensure they don't get barred from the Queen Vic, and then, right near the end, if you're lucky, a Peggy Mitchell or Pauline Fowler slaps someone round the face, pulls some hair, and Christmas ends with everyone buries their differences for another year.

Sometimes, just on occasion, the differences don't get buried though. Sometimes they extend to New Years Eve with the ultimate climax of a main character being brutally murdered in the pub by a fellow member of staff, maybe even their wife. And boy do we love it? We just can't get enough of it, and you know what. The Labour Christmas Special 2008, to be held away from sea in Manchester may just be the best political party Christmas Special since, well, since before I can remember.

Over the past decade the Tory Party has been winning in the Christmas Special ratings wars, but it's now looking likely that the script writers for Labour are stepping up to the plate and saying "No more! For years it was out party that had fire and fierce debate, and we want that mantle back even though it cost us power for long all those years ago".

The question is, where will the fight start? I don't mean the backstabbing and bitching, I mean the end game, that bit before the drums go at the end of Eastenders. Who will swings the slap across the face, who will blink first? The scene is being well set up for a glorious orgy of politically motivated violence, the legal work has been done, the only thing left is the timing for hostile takeover of the soap opera's community pub, a tenancy that changed hands only a year ago, but which has seen the pub's takings drop and more people leave in disgust at the grumpy old landlord.

Will he die (politically)? Will he be buried in the cellar of the drinking establishment? Will he just pack up his bags and walk? Will he have a one-man lock-in and refuse to budge, blaming everyone and anything other than himself for the turnover of the pub taking a nosedive? No one knows. In true soap opera style might we even have a moment where the landlord wakes up and finds the previous leaseholder in the shower, back from the dead?

I don't know about everyone else, but I can't wait to see who does the slapping!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Beards and sandals

Dale is off to the Lib Dem Conference in Bournemouth. I do hope he has grown a beard and has his sandals with him!

McCain gaffe leads to reverse analysis

You have to love the way US presidential politics works. Obama makes a comment about "lipstick on a pig" (which he has apparently used before long Palin and her lipstick/pitbull comment came along) and it gets interpreted by the McCain camp as a sexist attack on Palin.

Now we have McCain essentially making reference to experience and Obama saying "I am prepared. I am prepared. I need no on-the-job training. I wasn't a mayor for a short period of time. I wasn't a governor for a short period of time." and it becomes McCain attacks Palin's experience.

Politics huh? Don't you just love it?

The Ministerial Code and Brown

According to section 9.3 of the Ministerial Code, "Every effort should be made to avoid leaving significant announcements to the last day before recess". On July 22nd this year,just before recess, Gordon Brown published statements on the following subjects.
Special Advisers
Ministerial Travel 2007-08
Ministerial Gifts (2007-08)
Advisory Committee on Business Appointments
UK Visits 2007-08 Made by the Prime Minister
Official Hospitality (Chequers)
Official and Charity Receptions: 10 Downing Street
Council of Europe and Western European Union
Security (Annual Reports)
National Security Strategy
When he was asked in writing by Norman Baker what steps he took to ensure that the ministerial code had not been breached, his response was simply,

The information was published when it was ready
I shall now be blunt and say in some of these cases that is patently bollocks. Take for example the official hospitality at Chequers, or charity receptions at Number 10.

On numerous occasions over the past year questions have been asked about this and each time, anmswering has been avoided. When I have posted about this in the past I have asked the same question, how difficult is it to look at a diary?

Now I'm not saying Brown has breached the ministerial code, but the fact is, much of the information published as been asked for by a number of MPs over the last year for specifc periods and the answer has always been that it will published as a full list later sometime.

That doesn't sound like every effort is being made to avoid dumping stuff on people when they all go holiday now does it? The dismissive tone of the answer as well, and the idea that the information was not "ready" at earlier times when it had been asked for seems to me like nonsense.

To be totally fair, Blair used to do this too, and don't expect it to change whoever is in Number 10 and whatever party they are leading.

Saturday Observation

If you're a junior member of the Government and you openly call for a leadership challenge against Gordon Brown by asking for conference nomination papers (which happens all the time according to the bunker and so is nothing to worry about) then you get fired. What a great show of strength by the leader.

If you're a senior member of the Government and you call for a leadership challenge in code by positioning yourself as the only person that can save the fortune of the governing party then you're kept in your job and everyone including the leader says that there was nothing wrong with what you did. What a great show of strength by the leader?

The question is, what will be the next move? The vultures are clearly circling for the gathering conference which might actually make it mildly interesting. The other day Ben Brogan noted that Miliband will have to make the speech of his life too at conference since his newspaper article. I'm left wondering upon what the rest of the beauty parade for the conference will be like.

Will the likes of James Purnell make their move and position themselves against Harman and her call for class war at the TUC? What will the Fringe event hold as former big beast choose to speak more candidly about how they feel? Will Nick Robinson spot what is happening?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Well worth watching....

The Daily Show immediately after 9/11 and Jon Stewart making quite an emotional statement.

See the whole thing here.

Paying kids for good grades

I have no idea how I feel about this, essentially the idea of rewarding kids for getting good grades is nothing new from a parenting perspective, however idea of it coming from local Government seems odd.

Apparently the Chicago local education authority is going to pay kids $50 for an A, $35 for a B and $20 for a C. The sceme is called "Green for Grade$". Apparently it is being funded with a $2 million pot from private sources not the taxpayer.
More in the Chicago Tribune

9/11 from the International Space Station

The following was taken by crew on the International Space Station on 9/11 and was posted yesterday's image of the day on the NASA website. Must have been very weird thing to look at.

High Heels for Babies?

Oh my, oh why, oh my!

Criticise the Pope, go to jail?

OK, sticking with the religious theme slightly, what on earth is going on in Italy? Some actress says that the Pope will "go to hell and be pursued by two big, gay and very active devils" and she now faces up to five years in prison for it? How very enlightened.

Freaky Friday?

What can I say, you get up Friday morning, buy the papers and start to think "oh my that's awfully trippy" when you see headlines like "Leading scientist urges teaching of creationism in schools" and "One in 10 pupils believes in creationism", and then run to leaders and commentary akin to what you wrote the previous morning. Talk about being mildly prescient!

On the point made by the Anglican clergyman and scientist at the Royal Society though, I do actually get what he's trying to say. If there is indeed a growth in children either not being taught about evolutionary science, or just being taught that the world is 10,000 years old, then those sort of ideas should be discussed in the context of understanding what science is, and in that sense can exist in a classroom dedicated to scientific inquiry.

They don't have to be presented as an "alternative theory" in order to do this either. If the science curriculum took the starting point of outlinging what makes a theory scientific compared to what doesn't, and then took on - with the intent of identifying types of theories - the question of the evolutionary origin of the species in comparison to the contrary philosophical and/or theistic arguments, then it would do wonder for improving critical thinking in schools.

For me the instinctive opposition to having the discussion of non-science (and for that matter pseudoscience) in science lessons seems rather odd. After all, science has nothing to fear from such arguments because it can distinguish itself as a body of thought and method which has the ability to strengthen its position over time through experimentation unlike the linguistic formulations and argumentation which cannot.

Incidentally, and purely as an aside, I also find it odd that those that oppose these sort of changes of approach on dogmatic principles about what science is, rarely complain about the concept of "social science", which is of course not science at all in the sense of the theories it produces (no doubt that statement will put the cat amongst the pigeons for some people too). If philosophical or theistic arguments about origin cannot be discussed in science lessons beacuse they are not scientific, likewise "social science" should not be named as such.

At the end of day I think we should have schools that teaches kids how to understand what science is, and actually get to grips with what the purpose of an experiment is. Let's start teaching them that they're not trying prove something to be true, but are experimenting to test whether a theory is wrong. If they cannot produce a test for a theory to show that it is wrong then the theory is not a scientific one.

Outline the philsophical basis of science early, and then bring in those theories, like Aristotlian rationalism, Intelligent Design, Creationism and others, and have them criticially assess their value as scientific theories. In depth discussion of these things can be left for other lessons like philosophy and religious studies of course, but that doesn't mean they should be excluded from a biology lesson because their presence can actually further a greater understanding of science and excite young minds into further inquiry.

The one thing we don't want is for this issue to become a wedge one like in the USA. If we take the approach of outlining the philosophical basis of science, and then otuline the limitations to our understanding of "truth" then that can only be a good thing for the advancement of pupils. Rather than regimenting kids with "facts" we should be explaining the ideas and methods that led to how we consider those "facts" to be our strongest understanding of how things are. Philosophy (the angle to which I am coming from on this) and science have always gone hand in hand. Without the probing questions about reality by the first, we would not have reached the method and finding of the second.

Also, and one final thing on the whole evolution, ontology question. Let us not forget that the random chance of things coming together in such a way as to create the conditions for the evolutionary process to begin is currently as untestable as the idea that some form of intelligence kickstarted the whole thing dame thing with a specifc purpose. We can know that a process existed, but the cause of that process still comes down to two untestable positions. Random Chance, or desired purpose. There is of course a third option that it was both. Who knows, an intelligence might have decided to have a random throw of the dice whilst playing with the Universe ;-)

Anyhow, it's Friday, let's do some less serious posts.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

What's wrong with classical rationalism?

Morning all, I wish to moan so if you'll please excuse me whilst I do I will try to get it over with as quickly as possible. What I want to moan about is the coverage I keep seeing in papers and blogs about Sarah Palin that says she is a "creationist" and wants to teach "creationism" in schools.

Now some may say I'm splitting hairs here but she isn't a "creationist" nor does she want to teach "creationism" in schools. Creationism is the literal interpretation of the allegory in Genesis which says God created the heaven, earth, man, woman and beast in six days and had a kip on the last (no surprise there I would have a kip too after all that work).

Sarah Palin on the other hand is an advocate of Intelligent Design which is, I;m afraid to say entirely different. Of course, for those attacking from the Left (which is where most criticism comes from (understandably)) ID and Creationism is exactly the same thing. The problem is that analysis is clearly lazy, and even more sod ignorant of ontology and general Enlightenment ideas.

This is, I think, particularly ironic, because those that attack Sarah Palin claim to be on the side of reason and science, and yet seem to be blissfully ignorant of the fact that Intelligent Design is just classical rationalism, as advocated by the likes of Plato, written about in Aristotle's Metaphysics, and developed further with the watchmaker analogy by Descartes in his Meditations, and Discourse on Method.

Don't get me wrong here, I'm not saying I'm an advocate of Intelligent Design, I'm just saying that it isn't the same thing as Creationism, and nor is a particularly new idea. It seems the only reason there is any reaction to those who advocate in fact is because they also tend to be religious. I guess this is why no one ever points out that some of the greatest philosophers in history argued, from a hefty intellectual standpoint, that the nature of being could have rational scope for the existence of a higher being.

Even more so, what is wrong with teaching Descartes, Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero et al in schools alongside Darwin? After all, the latter deals with the how from a single starting point whilst the former attempt to answer the question, through rationalist argument, of whether something else kicked off what Darwin observed. Whilst I'm on the subject of schools though, why can't we start advocating the teaching of the philosophy of science as well? This would be worthwhile because there is a huge gulf between how science actually works and what the vast majority think about how science works.

Most of those that criticise the rationalism of ID theory are also falling into the trap that Hume identified as the problem of induction. We often hear about how Darwin has been "proven", how climate change is unequivocal. However "science", and by that I mean proper "science" does not make statements of certainty, it only puts forward hypothesise and invites experimentation to disprove them. The more you cannot disprove a theory the stronger it becomes, but it never truth.

As I say, I'm not an advocate of Intelligent Design per se. But I am willing to acknowledge that it is a rational theory based on deductive reasoning about the nature of existence and where things come from. I also don't think such a theory has any clash or contradiction with Darwin's argument either, because Darwin was dealing with "how" things got to where we are, not the "where". Equally, there is no contradiction between the idea of random chance bringing about life and Darwinian Theory. In fact, random chance is an equally rational deductive argument to make as that of the watchmaker.

I guess really the attacks on Sarah Palin's beliefs are more about politics than intellectual honesty. However, there might be a bit of ignorance about the history of ideas thrown in there too for some of them. As I’ve already said twice, I’m not an advocate of Intelligent Design; I am however quite relaxed if someone chooses to accept the rationalist reasoning of Descartes or Aristotle. I also don’t see why they shouldn’t be taught in school either.

OK, moan over.

Update: For those reading this who may feel the need to comment about whether ID is science, I have not, at any point in the above suggested it is. In fact it isn't, however that does not make it, by necessity wrong. It just means that it is not falsifiable. Just because a theory is not scientific in those terms it does not follow by necessity that it is a wrong theory. And again, I stress here that I am not saying ID is right either, just that it cannot be tested and disproven because it isn't a scientific theory in the first place, it is a philosophical rational theory that is ancient.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Interesting job....

I wonder what the going price for a mouse is? Is there a discount if you sell them in bulk?