Friday, November 28, 2008

Google Suggests?

Via b3ta a link to a blog called Sensonize that has found some interesting "suggestions" in the Google Suggests tool.

More here.

Brown leak dossier

Great post by Danny Finkelstein which chronicles the leaks that Gordon brown received and promoted in much the same way as Damien Green. Funny old world!

A what if....

Slightly adapted from a point made on Labour home
"Prime Minister John Major denied all knowledge of last night's police operation in which Robin Cook, Shadow Foreign Secretary, was arrested under a 300 year old law for receiving confidential Government documents.

The documents which were leaked to the press showed the Conservative Government knew that Coventry based Matrix Churchill were supplying arms to Iraq in contravention of UN arms embargoes."
Wrong if it had happened then, and wrong if - as reported - it has happened now.

Green's Westminster computers seized?

Apparently Damien Green's Westminster computers have been seized by the Police now. I expect they'll lose them.

Competent Government?

Some choice snippets of "information" provided by the Department for Energy and Climate Change ovre the past month in response to written questions.

How many staff does the Department for Energy and Climate Change have; where are they employed via; from what age range are they; what are their conditions of employment; are they consultants?
"Sorry, we just don't know" - 4th November 2008, 11th November, 17th November, 18th November, 25th November.
What is the budget of the Department for Energy and Climate Change?

"Well... we don't have one, we might soon, but we don't now. We're not sure you see. We run for free honestly." - 4th November, 5th November, 18th November, 20th November, 25th November.
What regulators and agencies is the Department for Energy and Climate Change responsible for?

"Look, will you please stop asking these questions. We just don't know OK! It might be my arse, or it could be his elbow. Either way we'll be sitting on his elbow. Happy?" - 4th November, 4th November, 5th November, 5th November.
Perhaps DECC should stand for Department for Empty-headedness and Complete Callowness instead?
Note: Answers in red may be comedic exagerrations of the actual words in the sourced links.

"We didn't know" from the Government is not credible

It's typical that I should be out at the theatre when the Damien Green story broke and then, by the time I got home, it was a bit late to be posting. However, having been listening to Today this morning on the way into London I was astounded to hear that the the Government is saying it was not made aware of the arrest and knew nothing about it.

Strangely the Police thought to call the Speaker, the Serjeant At Arms, David Cameron and Boris Johnson, but though not to call the Home Secretary at the very last and the most the Prime Minister? What a complete crock of bullshit that is.

After all, it would have been the Home Office that would have instructed an investigation to start in the first place I would've thought given it was dealing with leaks of embarrassing information. Add to this the use of counter-terrorism officers on a day when the security level in London must have been pretty high because of Mumbai and it all just stinks.

I really can't add much more comment because more than enough will have already said the same thing. It does however seem that wherever this was directed from in government it was meant as a signal to those who seek to embarrass and hold the Government to account. Don't do it. To that I suggest every single MP, including those on the Government side, stick two fingers up.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Brown Recession Is Over In.....

New widget on the right un the first set of link with thanks to the Crown Blog. Time to countdown the days to when Brown and Darling say the recession will be over. Click the options link to get the code.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The PFI Bombshell?

The whole point of PFI, if you believe the hype, is to deliver public service by shifting the risk to the private sector and then have the Government simply rent back the delivered project for a specified length of time at a premium rate to reward the private consortium for taking the risk.

So, why is it that no one has yet mentioned in the press that three of the key financial backers in the private consortiums are HBOS, Abbey National and RBS? That's significant because they are all institutions that are now partly in 'public ownership' thanks to an injection fo £50 billion in recapitalisation.

That means that the Government is not only propping them up, but it is also paying them premium rent for projects it got them to build and rewarding them for taking a risk that it is itself now liable for. In fact, the Government is now paying the banks to take a risk which they are no longer taking because all the risk is back in the hands of the Government as a significant, powerful and influential shareholder.

We're not talking about small picking either, they are over 600 signed PFI agreements that the Government has made, and quite a few of them are backed by the banks that the Government has pushed itself to bankruptcy to hold up. Now put this in context with new accounting rules that will be introduced in April 2009 to make PFI be "on balance sheet". At this point, assuming the Government do it, the books will be laid open and potentially the economy will crash even further.

If at this point the scale of the debt is revealed formally, then there is every potential that the Government could default on its payments to the banks for PFI (both the ones it has part ownership of and the ones that it doesn't); if one of those banks was then to collapse, what would happen to the schools, hospitals, defence installations, transport projects and all other manner of PFIs that have been agreed?

Seems to me that we might not just have a "tax bombshell" coming but rather a "PFI bombshell" that could cripple the country in a way not seen for a generation.

UPDATE: The bringing of the PFI debt on to the balance sheet in April would be a very good reason to hold a snap election before the roof falls in. No?

Anyone seen my security pass?

I know that data security has been a hot potato with Government in the last year or so, but another asepct of security that needs to be remembered is that of physical access by security pass right? Of ocurse, security passes, even in the private sector, get lost, or might be stolen when they're in a wallet etc.

Interestingly, most of the departments that have responded to questions on this matter have not really lost that many, the Cabinet Office for example has only had to issue one replacement pass over the past few years. Meanwhile some other departments have reported ranges from 10 to about a 100.

That is with one exception, the Ministry of Defence. Since January this year they have recorded the loss or theft of 5,313 security passes. That's about 15 security passes a day lost or stolen in the department that really ought to be the most anally secure.

Scary huh?

Hotel spending follow-up

A quick follow on for a post I did a few weeks ago about how much the Home Office spent on hotel accommodation in a year. The Department of Transport has released figures and they're running a close second behind the Home Office. They managed to spend £4,735,014 on hotel accommodation in 2007-08.

Now, whilst some might think, given the eye-watering figures on borrowing in the last few days, that £4.7m might not be alot, when you add up the figures for this sort of spending across the board you start to appreciate how much money gets squandered every year in areas where savings good easily be made.

Council Tax cut of 3% for third year running

Another year goes by and Hammersmith and Fulham Council show how it should be done by cutting Council Tax by 3% for the third year in a row and putting £145 back into the pockets of their residents.

Now, you'd expect the Labour Party locally to scream about cuts in services, which they will do with leaflets at Hammersmith Station and Barons Court (I work in the borough so I know), but H&F are still investing in schools, putting more police on the streets etc and lowering debt.

This is the sort of thing that really helps people out, and to be honest, perhaps it will come down to local councils taking action when the Chancellor won't.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

**** VAT TO RISE TO 18.5% IN 2011 ****

The Tax Bombshell is EXPOSED - it only took a day!

Guido's documentary scoop.

The ante was just upped!Labour's VAT Bomb
Get your own at Scribd or explore others: Government tax vat

Note: The 45% income tax hike will raise £1.5bn, this tax will raise £5bn.

The Osborne Slap Down Video

Via Tory Bear

Polly thinks 3 million unemployed is a price worth paying?

In 1991, when unemployment hit 3 million, Norman Lamont said, in what was widely considered a gaffe,
Rising unemployment and the recession have been the price that we have had to pay to get inflation down. That price is well worth paying. * Hansard, HC 6Ser vol 191 col 413 (16 May 1991)
Those last five words have been something which Labour has bashed over the heads of many a Tory to illustrate how uncaring they were/are. In fact, just this past Saturday Polly Toynbee wrote that Cameron had done a U-turn and taken the Tories back to the view that "unemployment is a price worth paying". It's a good soundbite right?

However, times change fast in the mind of Polly. We know this because she praised Gordon as a saviour, then slagged him off a no-hoper, then praised him as a savior again in the space of months. The speed of her U-turns has reached new heights now because today she writes,

Even if unemployment reaches 3 million, that still leaves 90% in secure jobs. Most people will suffer not at all in this recession: on the contrary they will do well as prices fall and the real value of their earnings rises.
Got that? All of sudden unemployment at 3 million is a price worth paying because those in jobs will have lots of cheap things to buy? Recession is good. Long live recession says Polly, and 3 million unemployed? That's a price worth paying says the stuck-up aristocrat who is in touch with the common people!?
Hat Tip: CoffeeHouse and Guido for link to today's Polly column quote.

Ministers to be given powers putting them above the law - the buried bad news?

Would anyone be surprised if whilst we had our head fixated on the Chancellor's mini-budget the Government would slip out some other announcements in the hope that no one would notice. I believe the phrase we have come to know this as is "burying bad news". Given the circumstances of the pre-Budget report, there was lots of bad news under which to bury some more right?

It seems that the unbeliavble news that was buried yestedray can be found here. It is a statement by Jack Straw on data protection and information security. Initially it all sounds very tough. There are lots of things about the importance of securing the data they hold on us, as well as stuff about hefty fines to be imposed when there are breaches. However, it's this bit on the end that is worrying and frankly quite disturbing.
In addition, to reinforce the framework within which we can safely share data and deliver benefits for the public, we propose to:

place a statutory duty on the ICO to publish a data sharing code of practice in order to provide practical guidance on how to share personal data in accordance with the requirements of the Data Protection Act and to promote good practice in the sharing of personal data; and

confer a power upon the Secretary of State to permit or require the sharing of personal information between particular specified persons, where a robust case for doing so exists.
Did you spot that? They're planning to introduce rules for how and when information can be shared (this is being done through one of those "consultations" with the public). Then, and this is the kicker, they plan to introduce an arbitrary power given to the Secertary of State which allows him or her to simply override the code of practice and the Data Protection Act by diktat.

Here's the thing though, anyone defending this proposal will say "there must be a "robust case for doing so" so there is a safeguard". However, and let's get this straight for a moment. They want to share sensitive data. In order to do that they must present a robust case. So... who is that robust case presented to and will it be public? Unlikely because guess what, in presenting a "robust case" there is going to be protected data involved.

What this ministerial statement effectively means is that the Secretary of State will be able to override the Data Protection Act, order the sharing of data with whoever he or she chooses, upon which the grounds for it will be restricted from public scrutiny because of... errr... the Data Protection Act.

Welcome to the secret state where ministers make themselves above the law.

Note: This little power thrown on at the end is given no mention in reporting in The Times or the Guardian. Why? Nor is any mention made that Straw said the powers were to "simplify the data protection framework and remove any unnecessary obstacles to data sharing". So much for strengthening data protection in Government!

Political Studies Association 2008 Awards - they're mad!

The Political Studies Association have just announced their 2008 Awards. Boris Johnson wins Politician of Year, Vince Cable wins Parliamentarian of the year, and Frank Field wins Backbencher of the year.

Strangely Steve Richards from the Independent won an award and was praised for "proper, fair-minded analysis of the problems created by – and afflicting – Gordon Brown, offering refreshingly insightful reading amid the mass of superficial writing on the subject."

Hmmm, this is the man who said voters were not clever if they didn't vote for Livingstone, had problems counting and other assorted amusement.

There was a classic response to the PSA from Guido on this, he simply said, "Steve Richards political journalist of the year? You are all mad." Too true. Too true.

Probably not the desired reaction?

Post Pre-Budget Report Comment - It's All Over

Having slept on it, watched, and listened to the coverage of the Pre-Budget Report I think a conclusion I drew yesterday when the National Insurance increases were introduced is more true than ever.

That conclsuioon was that the 0.5% increas ein NI had just lost Labour quite number of marginal seats. Now the dust has settled that seems even more likely because anyone earning £40,000 a year, which is not actually alot of money in the scheme of things, will find themselves around £1000 a year worse off under the changes.

That change is going to have a direct impact on the very people in the marginal seats that Labour took from the Tories in 1997 and that they need to hold on to to win the next election. I would say that the NI change alone will lose those seats for Labour. Of course, they are gambling that people will "understand" they have to "do their bit". I personally don't think people think like that.

When a recession is going on, when the economy is tanking, what people look at is not the so-called "wider picture" but instead they just see the bottom line of their net salary. When they see that drop by just under £100 every month they will react. Let's just put that into persepctive, that's a weeks supermarket shopping on VAT exempt purchases for a family of four.

What's more, the tax credit changes for those people, if they even choose to take them out represent little more than pennies in a month. This mini-budget as such not only spells the death of New Labour but the I'd say the death of the Labour Government for the next term.

Monday, November 24, 2008

What he didn't say..... alcohol and tobacco

Alcohol duty up 8% from Monday December 1st - HM Treasury

Tobacco duty up 4% from 6PM this evening - HM Treasury

This is dirty maths I accept, but if the VAT cut is 2.5% but the duty cost is 8% and 4% respectively, it suggests that things are going up but have been hidden away.

Live Pre-Budget Report blog

The live blog of the pre-budget report will appear here shortly. Bullet points as usual I expect. Am currently sitting in the Sky News NOC surrounded by monitors and its very warm.

  • It hasn't started yet...... be patient.
  • Chancellor has taken his seat. Brown is siting next to him looking suitably sombre as ever.
  • "Fair and responsible steps" is what is needed says Darling. Responsible like borrowing our way out of debt I guess.
  • Says we have "live within our means" and there are many laughs in the Chamber.
  • Everythign is America's fault. More laughing.
  • More pushing of the line that the world is working together. What I find funniest on this point is this ad populum argument that because lots of people in the world are doing it it must be right.
  • Says Brtiish taxpayer cannot be the "guarantor of last resort". Does that mean that he will now let banks go to the wall I wonder?
  • Yet again we are being told that we are in a "good position". Nobody really beleives that, and apparently the Government has fixed the schools and hospitals in Britain. Anecdotally on schools that is nonsense, Building Schoosl for the Futrue has delivered sweet FA compared to what it should have.
  • Output will continue to fall but has projected growth to recover but still be negative in 2009. The upward trend line.
  • Growth over 1% by 2010. So the recession will be over within the next 18 months according to the Chancellor. A hostage to fortune? Before or after the election? Sounds like tractor statistics to me.
  • Darling will do "whatever it takes" except have the taxpayer as the "guarantor of last resort"? A tiny white lie there from Darling methinks.
  • Has repushed the line that debt is down to 37% which the ONS disagree with.
  • Say we should have borrowing back to current level by 2015-16.
  • Borrowing to rise to £78bn to £118bn.
  • He's going to rapidly reduce borrowing in 2010 to 2015 and then will bring back the "Golden Rule" which clearly worked in the past.
  • Random fantasy figures. That's all I can think as he reads out lots of percentages.
  • Debt will be 48% next year. If you add the other stuff they have ignored like pensions, banks etc that figure is huge in reality.
  • Going to find £5bn in efficiencies in 2010-11. After the election? Why not do it now?
  • Is going to spend more money now, £3bn capital spending, to build new motorways and social housing. This has been lifted from the 2010-11 spending plans apparently.
  • Cutting VAT to 15% until end of next year from December 1st. I have already posted about how this won't really make much difference to people.
  • As expected he has made the temporary rebate for 10p tax losers permanent and made it £140 a year rather £125.
  • NI increased by 0.5% for anyone earning over £20,000. That will impact on a vast number of people on their gross salary. That's the home county marginals and other out-city suburbs lost for Labour. Not to mention in London.
  • Top rate of tax at 45% for over £150,000
  • Anyone over £100,000 has their personal allowance reduced.
  • Offsetting duties on tobacco, booze and alcohol because of the VAT drop. So no actual change.
  • No personal allowance for anyone on over £140,000. Don't aspire.
  • Deferring increase in small business tax. Not really much of a present really. No change so it's pretty meaningless.
  • Something about a new "four band" system for passenger air duty.
  • The insulation fo lofts will be paid for in 60,000 homes. Presumably they will be training people up and creating state jobs to do it. Bottom line? Buy stocks in fibre glass companies.
  • Nuclear energy has just been mentioned. Given the problem the Government has had with other consultation on this subject we may see some railroading of nuclear projects.
  • Apparently the GOvernment is going to tackle the issue of repossessions. By all account though this is actually something that the lenders have said they will do, not the Government.
  • £15 million for "free debt advice". You can get free debt advice already though. Don't understand that one.
  • Pre-redundancy re-training is going to be extended to all redundancies rather than just large scale ones that presumably fall under the TUPE type legislation.
  • Pasing in changes to car tax with an increase of £5 in 2009 and then in 2010 he will bring in his changes that are based on carbon output. Lots of people with old cars on low income will still be hit, just not right now.
  • Here comes the tax credit fiddling. He's going to pay his child tax credits increases early. Slight problem, the uptake of tax credits is appallingly bad.

George Osborne now:

  • Darling has failed to admit that national debt is doubling.
  • Goes on the NI rise. A tax direct on middle Britain.
  • "All Labour Chancellors run out of money. And all Labour Government bring the country to the verge of bankruptcy".
  • Attacks the report for being political.
  • Mocks the deferral of all the Chancellor's taxes.

Draper tells Hilton what to say

Sam Coates over at Redbox has rather amusingly taken the mickey out of the blogger Alex Hilton who in Sky news studio with me at the moment managed to post asking for people to give him "pro-Government" things to say.

Derek Draper has now left a comment on Redbox saying he's been on the phone to Alex for about ten minutes. Alex informs that OTR I am a "w*****" for drawing attention to this whilst he is sitting next to me.

The DFS Prime Minister?

Ben Brogan is reporting that the 45p income tax rate for those earning over £150,000 is not the really big deal in the PBR. He reckons that we should keep an eye on national Insurance contributions instead, which, unlike the 400,000 that would be hit by a new income tax rate will hit the otehr 22 million of us that earn money.

Of course, Brown has to very careful here if he plays with the other income tax we all pay - sorry, it's not an income tax, it's a tax on earnings, it's different don't you know. NI is meant to be hypothetcated to pay for the NHS, we all know it isn't. If he does decide to sting us all by proposing massive rises in the NI contributions we make to claw back his profligacy in spending, then he really would be walking into the Tory charge of a bombshell.

It seems incredible that he may be gambling that people will happily take sweeties for free today in the knowledge that they don't have to pay for them later. Perhaps we should rename him the DFS Prime Minister because it all sounds like a sofa sale.
"Buy now. Pay later. Nothing to pay for the first year!"

Mind you, isn't that exactly the attitude that got us into this mess in the first place?

Sky News Pre-Budget Report

For any of those interested, I will be on Sky News this afternoon sporadically between 3 and 6 casting my instant opinions on the PBR along with Alex Hilton from LabourHome. Will hopefully be live blogging throughout the speech, or making some notes at least if I cannot type fast enough.

Cameron and Osborne need to talk for the forgotten majority

Yesterday, I said that Cameron and Osborne have a difficult job on their hands today. They need to tread the thin line between opposiing the measure in the opre-budget report on the grounds that they are fiscally irresponsible, whilst maintaining that tax cuts in principle are good but should not be paid for by deferred rises.

The problem they have is making that case in a simple narrative. The "tax bombshell" works, but if, as expected, the Chancellor outlines his means for clawing his big giveaway back, then the "they're being sneaky bastards and you'll have to pay for this mess in the future but they won't admit it" line just becomes "they're being bastards".

At this point Brown can try and push his "I'm doing something and you're proposing to do nothing". Ideally what Osborne and Cameron need to be able to do is stand-up, respond to the Chancellor's speech by ripping it apart where it fails, but then proposing what he should be doing instead.

The key here I think - and this is based on the leaked information thus far and not the secret squirrel surprises that will be in there - is to highlight that Brown is hitting the top end to fund the bottom end but completely ignoring the majority in the middle.

Remember that Brown has made much of his "success" at raising incomes. This is actually one of his weaknesses because a great number of people have now moved into the forgotten middle section and are by no means "rich". If Cameron and Osborne this group that I suspect will be screwed over by the Chancellor, then the message will chime farther.

Having said all this, who knows what little con trick we might see in the speech. A cut of a penny in income tax perhaps but a freezing of thresholds? Giving with one hand and clawing it back through inflationary pay increases perhaps?

Kilroy doesn't know who the Chancellor is?

Having watched "I'm a Celebrity Get me Out of Here" last night I was amused to see the MEP, Robert Kilroy-Silk answer the quiz question, "Who is Chancellor of the Exechequer?" with the words "Diamond. Alistair Diamond".

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Whose advert is most effective?

This is the latest Tory campaign advert.

This is the latest Labour campaign advert.

Now of course, people will say I am biased in thinking the Tory advert is more effective than the Labour one. However, I'm interested to know what others think. For me the Labour one is pushing a concept and theme that is not as easy to plug-in to as the Tory one.

The latter requires the viewer to actually spend time and read it, the former has a message that simply speaks for itself.

Cutting VAT might sound good, but what about the real world?

Everyone and anyone is this morning talking about how the Government will reduce VAT tomorrow to 15% from 17.5%. This was of course proposed by Ken Clarke earlier in the week. Crucially though this will only be temporary and will be clawed back at a cost of around £12.5 billion. However, I personally think that for those of us that live in the normal and real world this sort of tax cut is, like tinkering with tax credits, a bit of a con. According to the Telegraph, the cut "could save the average family as much as £10 a week." So that's "could" and "average", what a nice and neatly hedged claim that is.

You can guarantee that Darling will note this in his speech tomorrow as well, but here is the problem with it. What we're talking about in reality is a cut in VAT that, based on many assumptions, might, could, just, if everything is uniform and wonderful, save some people money. However, things like food are exempt anyway so a reduction won't impact there, and importantly that is where normal, ordinary people, are actually experiencing the effects of recession and price inflation more and more.

Just to illustrate the point, I have a little game I always play at the supermarket and have done so for many many years now. A till receipt will always tell you how many items you bought. I try and aim to buy more items than the whole figure amount spent in pounds. If I spent £50 and bought 51 items I've succeeded. This has though been virtually impossible to achieve for the past two years, even if you try and "shop smart" and go to Aldi, Lidl and other shops that some might consider a bit "pikey".

Of course, I doubt very much whether Alistair Darling, Gordon Brown, or many other Cabinet Ministers have ever had to shop in this way, or for that matter do much of their own shopping anymore. This is one of the problem with politicians sitting in their ivory towers, especially those like Brown with his tractor statistics that inform you the world is great whilst on the ground you know he's talking bullshit.

The calculated saving therefore that an "average" family "could" get are nothing more than hypothetical assumptions that people will see a plasma screen reduced by £200 and think, "oh what the hell!" It's fantasy land economics for the vast majority of people that are really feeling the pinch because they don't have the expendable income to piss up the wall on VAT'd products anyway.

However, even if we took at face value the claim that the average family would save £10 per week, lets stretch that out to a year. If we assume by average they mean, two working adults and two kids (kids clothes are exempt from VAT too remember), then we're talking about a saving of £1040 per year at a cost of £12.5 billion which is hoped to be paid for no doubt by more people spending on VAT'd products thus increasing the receipts even though the tax has been cut.

As I said yesterday though, how about paying that £12.5 billion by scrapping the ID card project alone, which is not popular, and increasing the tax free threshold by £1000? That would be double the "saving" for an average family than the VAT cut "might" create, and it would be very real. You'd be putting money in people's pockets to spend as well, not just theorising that because some things are cheaper by 2.5% that people will suddenly throw caution to wind and splash out.

There is something else we should remember. Just last week the Chancellor acknowledged that people were "tightening their belts". Does he really think that because he's going to make the cost of non-essential - and in some cases luxury - items, we're all going to loosen the belts and go on some retail therapy goodness? How is that going to happen if people don't see more money in their pockets?

This is a crucial point I think in the so-called "real economy". People will not see a VAT cut and think "yay! I can but that new blu-ray machine I've always wanted now". If you want to get people to spend then you have to let them have more in their pockets. It is the Net figure on our pay-packets that we look at each month, not the possibility that fancy items we might not need but really want are going to be a couple of quid cheaper.

Cutting VAT is not so much a con as a sleight of hand to draw attention to the words "tax" and "cut" and the inevitable impact that will have on the headline. Last week Cameron said, quite rightly, that a "tax cut is for life, not just for Christmas" and a cut in VAT is at best only going to see a massive impact in what we spend in the next month or so.

Don't get me wrong here, I'm not saying that a cut in VAT is in itself a bad thing. The problem is that the cut, given it is a "temporary measure", is clearly being used as a ploy to create a "tax cutting" narrative around Brown much like he did with his 2p cut in the rate of income tax which was transparently a tax rise in reality from the start.

The Sunday papers have clearly all been trailed the big spin for tomorrow and they've bought it hook line and sinker without actually thinking about it very much. They've bought the line that this will represent a saving for the average and no doubt "hard working" family, and not one of them have said "assuming the average family goes out and decides to spend large on VAT'd products at the expense of raising food prices that will not be effected by the cut".

This is not to say that they won't catch up after the fact on Monday and start to pick apart the detail that has not been trailed to them by Downing Street. You know, the stuff at the back of the report which says things like "a freeze in the increase of the tax threshold for 40% earners" that sort of thing.

Cameron and Osborne have a big fight on their hands tomorrow in their response to the report if they don't get people to delve into the detail whilst the Chancellor issues his statement. When the 2p tax cut happened Cameron missed a trick in not leaping on it straight away even though analysts outside spotted the con instantly with dirty maths on the packet of a fag packet. They need to drill home that a cut in VAT might well help the situation, but to frame it as a benefit for the ordinary everyday geezer is disingenuous hypothetical bollocks.

This is classic triangulation by Brown, because it seeks to make the Tories oppose a tax cut, and attempts to make him look like a financial genius. They need to hammer home that every year when Brown was Chancellor his predictions were wrong and that svengali attempts to create the perception of tax cutting for those of that live in the real world are just cynical manipulations of what Peter Oborne called the "client media".

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Seeing it coming but going along for the ride?

There is a rather excellent posting on the Coffee House by Fraser Nelson noting that not only has Brown finally admitted he was mistaken to say "boom and bust" wa sover, but that the commentariat, in which he includes himself largely failed to spot the trouble coming either and bought into the myths that things were great.

He notes that there were lone voice that were treated like Lear howling at the winds who did spot it coming, Jeff Randell, John Redwood etc, but that they were considered "ideologically-driven mavericks". He is right on that point I think, and whilst I myself would never claim to be an economist, I have to say that I did often say in discussions online with my American friends long before this blog was started that things were going to end in tears.

I can remember as far back as 2001 arguing online on bulletin boards that the line "historically low interest rates" both here and in the US was a dangerous and pointless line to be taking. Low interest rates, the availability of easy credit, coupled with a seemingly insane boom in house prices, was a recipe for disaster at some time in the future. Low interest rates meant no one was saving and everyone was racking up personal debt instead.

Of course, whilst I was arguing this point with people like the guys at The Crossed Pond I was also going along with the ride and doing what everyone else was. Go me! Still, we're now in a situation where the economy is built on debt, and it does seem rather insane to say that the only way out of that is for the Government to borrow even more money in order to inject stimulus into the economy.

The real problem we have though is much more political I think though. The truth is we shouldn't, I think, be borrowing even more to pay for tax cuts today that will have to be repaid back with tax rises tomorrow. What should be happening is cuts in public spending but this is where the political problems comes in.

The last ten years have seen politics framed completely disingenuously by Brown and Blair. Thus a proposal to cut spending by £20bn ends up being portrayed as a "hospitals closing". It's complete bollocks of course. Take ID Cards, a £12bn project that is unnecessary, that could be cut and would pay for a massive rise in the tax-free threshold at the bottom of the income ladder, something which is much needed.

Will it happen though? Of course it won't. Every single penny of public spending is, sadly, considered to be essential for public services. No one really believes it when you take a look at the crappy non-jobs that get advertised in the Society section of the Guardian, but still it goes on. If the Government were to genuinely give people some of their money back people would start to spend it and repay off some of the personal debt they have accumulated in the bubble we've all just been in.

Keynes may be seen as a wonderful soothsayer and master of economics, but we all know where his views led in the UK. Slow economic decline that was managed by the Tories and Labour, both culpable until Thatcher came along and shook it all up. The worst thing is that now we're in this situation there are those saying it shows the failure of Thatcherism, which is simple not true. Britain's problems now are not because of an "ism" but because of failure in economic management by Brown.

Had Brown done as he said with borrowing and made it fall year on year, rather than rise we would not be having a PBR on Monday that proposed jam tomorrow that would be taken away from us the week after.

Spam Warehouse plans kicked into touch?

Interesting news in the Telegraph this morning. It appears that the Government's plan to have a large spam warehouse which will record the details of each mail we send and receive may never make it to the statute book by the time of the next election because of basic Parliamentary time constraints.

Of course, that doesn't mean it is being shelved but I would bet that it being kicked into the long grass simply because of the inevitable cost it would have and the fact that the Government has never delivered an IT project on time or on budget, thus committing to it and forcing it through may be a bit risky.

Having said this of course, the spam warehouse would only be monitoring the average bod. You're average techie, hyper-criminal and terrorist will instead be encrypting all their mail with a 256 bit DSA key pair and sending and receiving across an IPSEC tunnel which goes via a server outside the scope and reach of the proposed system and using non-standard TCP ports for extra measure.

Perhaps someone has had a persuasive word in the ear of the Home Secretary and pointed out to her that her little scheme will just end up being a giant and completely unsearchable dump for porn traffic statistics and 419 scam source addresses an recipients?

Friday, November 21, 2008

June Election 2009?

Interesting post over at the CoffeeHouse noting that specualtion is rising of a June 2009 poll held on the same day as the European Elections. James Forsyth has noted
importantly, holding the two polls on the same day would dent the Tory vote; the thinking is more Tory-inclined voters would vote UKIP in the general if they were voting UKIP in the Europeans that day. This could make the difference in some closely contested marginals.
I made much the same point back in March under the title "Is Brown preparing to split the Tory vote?". At that time the June 2009 date started to be floated around some of the papers and I noted,

Currently, if I recall correctly, there has been a polling tendency for some Tory voters to vote UKIP in European elections. If offered that decision on the same day as a General Election might we see a split in the Tory vote in key marginals?
It's a no-brainer really. A double-whammy day of polling with the General and European Election could make for some interesting results I think.

However, if people are really pissed off with Brown by this point perhaps they will not go for the slate and be more sophisticated calculating that Brown for another five years is worse than wasting a vote on UKIP?

Pre-Budget Report Predictions: Post them here

As it's the Pre-Budget report on Monday and many people are wondering what new fiddle the Prime minister and his Chancellor will come up with I thought I would do a post where people could post what they think he will do. As is well accepted and known, and tax cust on Monday will be deferred tax rises for the future paid out of borrowing. The thing is, I don't think either of them are going to be that headline grabbingly bold with the tax cuts they choose.

Brown is convinced, as are most Labour supporters, that tax credits are the greatest and best way to get money to "hard working families" so here is my prediction. They're going to propose changes to the tax credit system. The changes will be such that they will be able to stand up and say that the "avergage family will gain X poounds per week" thanks to their generosity, prudence, fiscal genius etc etc.

Meanwhile, the truth will be that hardly anyone entitled to tax credits takes them already because they don't want to spend the time filling in a ten page form with a 70 page booklets telling them how to do it. The result will be that Brown will be able to claim to have "cut" taxes for people by giving them extra-credit money back, whilst being fully aware that people avoid his system like the plague. The knock on of this is that he has more money to throw and waste at other things.

Any other suggestions for what they might do to in an attempt to con us?

Why I want a lobby pass *hic*

Everyone seems to be talking about bloggers getting lobby passes and being treated like proper hacks thanks to a Press Gazette article and a post by blogger Paul Linford who used to be part of the lobby.

Unlike Guido I won't turn up my nose at a Lobby Pass for fear of becoming part of the inside clique and compromising my integrity. If you're wondering why it's very simple. I would have it, but then never use except when I wanted to buy cheap alcohol.

Give me a pass now! I want to be able to buy taxpayer subsidised alcohol. I want to be able to pop into the bars at will and eat those nifty little free canapes they put out for everyone.

I've been paying income tax for the past 17 years and you know what? I want some of my money back!


In light of the news that the CIA and others think that the next 25 years will see us under the threat of nuclear attack everyday it seems approriate to post Armageddon by Altern 8.
Ahh those were the days!

Drug driving tests would punish people unfairly

If, as is being reported it is true that the Government plans to introduce roadside drug testing with saliva and the police will merely have to prove that you have taken drugs at some point to fine you then it is wholly, and completely the wrong approach to dealing with potheads and pillheads that stupidly get in their cars.

The reason is because if someone were to have a joint tonight then the saliva test would remain postive in days to come up to almost a week and potentially more. Clearly though they are not under the influence of the drug anymore. As such there has to be additional tests that can be done, just like with booze.

Currently, for booze, it makes sense to have a hangover time for being under its influence. If I get steaming drunk tonight and then get up at 6am tomorrow morning I may feel fine but the effects will still be there in my system impaairing me. However, if I got stoned and then didn't drive again until next Wednesday they would not be, that is a fact.

Illegal substances mainatin a presence in the body for a long period of time but do not influence the user for the time they mainatin their presence. That is a simple fact. Tetra Hydra Cannabinol can remain present in the system for up to a month after it's taken, but the idea that person is stoned under its influence for that time is nuts.

The obvious solution I would say is to have the ability for someone failing a saliva test to have a blood test and urine test as well that can determine the level of a given drugf and make an assessment according. Simply having the black and white of "is present/is not present" at the roadside will end up punishing people when they have not been dangerously driving.

Please note before anyone says that people should be breaking the law and taking illegal drugs anyway. Taking controlled substance is not illegal, it is the possession of them outside the person (in a pocket etc) that is. The presence of drugs in someones system does not mean that they must have been guilty of possession as well (they could have been spiked).

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Something 4 the Weekend?

Ahhh the Super Furry Animals what a band!

And yes, they are singing about taking drugs for fun.

Shameful huh?

Mandelson's departmental website ain't cheap!

The cost of Government websites never ceases to astound me. In a written answer yesterday, Pat McFadden at the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform informed the house that the departments website costs over a million pounds a year to maintain.
The Rhythmyx content management system (CMS). The CMS is used by staff across the Department and cost £1,029,474.83 in 2007-08. The forecast cost for 2008-9 is £1,180,000.

Provision and maintenance of the site's search engine facility by a third-party supplier, Open Objects. In 2007-08 this cost £15,784.2. The forecast cost for 2008-9 is £25,000.
There is no way the software they use can cost that much a year unless it has a really vicious licensing model so God knows what it goes on.

From Pickin’ Cotton to Pickin’ Presidents?

Via Strange Maps we have some freaky stuff. Beow are two maps separated by 150ish years. The first is a county level snapshot of Obama's wins in a section of the South. Blue being Democrat, red being Republican.

The second, as the title says, represent cotton production density in the same area of the South in 1860, where, clearly, those who would have been picking cotton were segrated former slaves of African origin.

Now take a look at the overlay.

Now I'm not making any correlated conclusion, but the maps is interesting nonetheless. Lots more comment about it on the original post.

Paying your gas bill with a spider drawing?

Without a doubt the funniest thing I have read today.

I quite like the little thing.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

So much for caring about energy prices?

Nothing surprise me from this Government when it comes to avoiding questions in Parliament. The standard response, as we all know, is to say that it would cost too much to answer the question. This is usually preceded by a comment about how records are "not held centrally".

In some cases this is actually a justifiable answer when it is being asked to a department that might have masses of offices around the country. However, what about when you ask the Treasury a simple question of how much the electricity, heating and water bills were for each of the last five years?

You'd think the Treasury, the department responsible for looking after the economy and the books for the country would have the answer to hand and it wouldn't cost them more than the £600 limit for a PQ right?

Yeah yeah, you know what's coming.
Angela Eagle: The information requested in respect of No 11 Downing street is not held centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.
Yes that is right, the Treasury does not hold records of how much money it spends on electricity, heating and water for the bosses house in Downing Street, and it would cost too much to find out. This raises a couple of interesting questions.
  1. Where the Hell are the bills being filed if not in the bloody Treasury?
  2. How can the Chancellor be expected to be the country's official bookkeeper if he doesn't even know how much keeping the lights on in his home is costing?
  3. How can they claim to be monitoring energy prices when they don't know monitor what they're paying?

Get involved.....

Did you know that today is World Toilet Day?

Get involved! Run to the loo! But don't hold hands with others when you do, it's a bit dirty.

Polly Toynbee says Tory blogs all funded by Tories?

Have just been watching Sky News, and, besides them showing a screenshot of this blog which was taken just at the moment when the top post had a typo in the title (typical of me really), Polly Toynbee has just been saying that the Tory blogs are all funded by the Tories and awash with money.

Polly, I'm not paid to do this. I'm paid to work elsewhere (not in politics) and this blog gets done in between that. No one is funding me, I'm skint. I have an overdraft, a huge credit card bill, and am facing possible negative equity very shortly as the house prices collapse.

Unlike you, I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I'm not of aristocratic blood. I didn't go to a private school. I didn't live in a giant house. I don't own property at home and abroad. Stop making bloody assumptions.

Should you be barred from a job for being a member of a legal party?

Having been listening to radio in the car for quite a while this morning, I see that a list has appeared online of the entire membership of the BNP (albeit out of date apparently). There are of course a couple of issues that arise from this.

The first is that the list is comprehensive and falls into the definition of "personal data" under the DPA which states that it "relate to a living individual who can be identified from those data". Having seen the list it includes, names, addresses, phone numbers and email address.

Had it just contained, for example, email addresses (assuming they were things like "") it would still be a story but the legal data protection issues wouldn't be there in the same way. The same would be true if it was just a list of phone numbers as there would be no means of identifying who the number belonged to from the number alone so it wouldn't represent "personal data".

However, the fact that this was "personal data" under the law, it means that someone, somewhere is probably going to get into a lot of trouble about it if the BNP and/or Police can prove that the person they suspect did in fact do it. There has also been suggestions that the BNP may have implied violence toward the guilty party, although their leader Nick Griffin, on Radio 4, said this was not the case.

Having said all this though, the second issue is of more concern I think - and I hate to say it's an issue upon which I actually agree with what Nick Griffin said on Radio 4 - is that membership of the BNP bars people from certain jobs and people may lose their jobs now.

It should not be the case that being a member of the BNP stops someone being a civil servant when being a member of the Workers Revolutionary Party does not. Or, as Griffin pointed out, you are not barred if you're associated with a known jihadist type-organisation.

Those sort of "thought crimes" are worrying. Whether one finds the odious white power socialism of the BNP repulsive, or if they support Trotskyte revolution, they should not find themselves barred from working in particular jobs, if they're the best person for the job. I realise some might say it is politicall incompatible for a BNP member to be a Policeman. However, the same is true for a WRP member but we don't bar them.

Of course, it's worth noting that Griffin seems rather pleased that it has happened because the publicity of the BNP having a wide ranging membership and not just skinheads is positive for their image. I also notice that the members being spoken to by Radio 5, whilst annoyed, were not that bothered really.

Update: Croydonian has a post on the Economic League which used to maintain a list to stop leftists getting jobs. It was killed off by Labour quite rightly. Banning people from jobs for political ideas is wrong, howevre odious the ideas might be,

Brown continues to avoid the questions on tax rises

Having just watched a bit of PMQs I see that Brown continues to lie to us all by the act of ignoring the question and quotes that are put to him. No one seriously believes that borrowing more now does not mean tax rises in the future. Not even members of Brown's Government who have said it on the record.

However, Brown's technique appears top be to simply ignore the question and avoid admitting that he will have to put up tax as a result of his "borrowing bombshell". Brown also seems intent on insisting that the whole problem is all America's fault.

Whilst it is true to say the storm began there, Britain's protection against the winds that blew across the Atlantic are clearly weak because he Brown, when Chancellor, consistently got it wrong with his own figures. As shown by the graph below which I posted earlier. Borowing has consistently risen under Brown whilst Brown consistently stood up in the House and said it was going down each year.

Click Image for larger Version

The bottom line is that Brown is going to have rise taxes when he borrows to reoslve the problem. Personally I think he has written off the next election and is taking the long term strategy that he will try to ensure the Tories have just one term by inheriting a mess that won;t be fixable in just four years.

Brown Predictions vs Brown Reality

Following on form the last post. Instead of looking at Brown's words and predictions as Chancellor here is a neat little graph that compares his fantasy land predictions with the reality of what he actually did.

The dotted downwards lines are his borrowing figures and his predictions for the coming years. The solid orange line that rises in an approximate 30 degree angle upward trend is reality.

Click Image for larger Version

Debt is not down, it has risen year on year whilst he stood up in Parliament and said it was always coming down. The man is a complete and total liar.
Thanks to Croydonian for plotting the numbers for me.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Why you shouldn't believe Brown on the economy?... Read his lips!

Let's play a game. It's called spot the anomalies.
"borrowing for this year and future years is therefore £27 billion (2003), £24 billion (2004), £23 billion (2005), £22 billion (2006) and £22 billion (2007)." Budget 2003
"borrowing for this year will fall to £34 billions (2004) and in future years fall further to £33 billions (2005), falling again to £29 billions (2006), then falling to £28 billions (2007), £24 billions (2008) and £22 billions (2009). Budget 2004
"[it] will be £34bn (2005) this year falling to £32bn (2006) next year, then falling again to £29bn (2007), falling to £27bn (2008), then to £24bn (2009) and then £22bn (2010)." Budget 2005
"[borrowing] will be £37bn this year, £36bn next year, then £30bn, falling to £25bn, £24bn and £23bn in 2010-11" Budget 2006
"the figure for [borrowing] this and future years will be £35 billion (2007) - over 1 billion less than forecast at the Pre Budget Report - then 34 (2008), 30 (2009), 28 (2010), 26 (2011) and 24 billion (2012)" Budget 2007
See that? £10bn leap in the first to second of the predictions, and then he is out by x billion each year except for one where his incorrect prediction for the previous year doesn't even manage to cancel out his earlier mistakes.

The man is making it up as he goes along. So the next time you hear him start banging on about debt - even if you accept his figures- you know that that he's been wrong consistently year on year for the past five. Why trust him now?

A list speaks a thousand words

British Foreign Policy in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Dubai as illustrated by those who accompanied Gordon Brown there recently.

We need oil - swap you nuclear for it?
  • Mike Beaumont—Foster Wheeler Energy Ltd.;
  • Malcolm Brinded CBE—Shell (Royal Dutch Shell)
  • Philip Cox—International Power
  • Tom Delay—The Carbon Trust
  • Philip Green—United Utilities
  • Dr. Tony Hayward—BP
  • Lady Barbara Judge—United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority
  • Sam Laidlaw—Centrica
  • Professor Keith Burnett CBE FRS—Sheffield University
  • Professor Malcolm Grant CBE MA LLD—University College London
  • Right hon. Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean
We'll sell you some nice planes with cool engines to go with your palaces.
  • Sir John Rose—Rolls-Royce
Then we'll build and manage the airstrips so you can land.
  • Christopher Hyman—Serco Group plc
Don't worry about the insurance premiums. We can do you a good deal.
  • Lord Levene of Portsoken KBE—Lloyd's of London
  • John Napier—Royal and Sun Alliance
The banks could do with some cash though and some business.
  • David Hodgkinson—HSBC Holdings
  • Peter Sands—Standard Chartered Bank
We can even install personal ATMs for you to access the cash from the banks in the comfort of your own palace.
  • Leo Quinn—De La Rue
We'll even build the banks for you and other nice looking offices. We like vegetable shapes in London you know.
  • Graham Cartledge—Benoy
  • Tony Douglas—Laing O'Rourke
  • John McDonough—Carillion
  • Mouzhan Majidi—Foster + Partners
  • Ian Tyler—Balfour Beatty
We'll make sure you have the technology to defend the tall buildings as well. Planes, trains, tanks, you name it! No one will fly anything into them... oh.
  • Angad Paul—Caparo Group
  • Dick Olver—BAE Systems
If all else fails we might even return some of the stuff we've "borrowed" all those years ago. Please be our friends.
  • Neil MacGregor—British Museum
  • Sir Nicholas Serota—The Tate
Don't worry about him, he's just making the numbers up for the rest of them.
  • Richard Lambert—CBI

The non-committal committal is born?

This morning, whilst driving into London in my 4x4 and happily polluting the planet there was a piece on the Today programme about the state of the american car industry and the big three, General Motors, Ford and Crysler wanting help from the US Government. They had some "expert" on who said (I paraphrase),
"I think it's clear that one of the big three will go and by that I mean either Ford or GM will buy them"
I thought it was a particular subtle comment to make and it made me snigger at how he expressed his opinion of the end game without actually doing so. We've heard of a non-denial denial, I'd call that a non-committal committal.

Where is the line to be drawn on contempt of court?

What exactly is the point of media injunctions in a world that has the Internet? There has in the last week been quite a lot of handwringing by some bloggers about links to archive articles in the Murdoch press about the Baby P case which were published before the injunction. Also the same handwirnging has occured because the BBC had two articles in their archive too.

When I called the BBC on Friday lunchtime about this I was told that the articles were being kept up because they were archive material and thus not in contempt of court by their presence. The guy who I spoke to (who I never bothered asking for the name of before anyone asks) said that they were not linking to it from current coverage and their legal advice was that it was OK to be left as such.

Clearly, since then, the BBC has decided to take both pages down, although why I do not know. The names of the mother, and the child are out there now anyway. I've just managed to find at least eight cut and paste copies of the BBC archive articles along with others on forums and Usenet. The BBC have also, bizarrely, left xml and wap copies of the page lying around - preusmably because no one has started screaming in moral indignation about them yet.

The thing is though, the foreign press has no such qualms about publishing names and details. A quick trip over to somewhere like Le Monde, Pravda, the Berliner Morgenpost, the Prague Post or any other daily nationals from mainland Europe or the former Eastern bloc* will elicit you the relevant information and then some.

Foreign news sources will provide not only names but tell you what the other case is that is ongoing - although to be fair you can find that out from open Court Records here anyway if you really wanted to know. The injunction is on reporting details and names, it is not on whether you are allowed to know the names and details. We do after all still have an open coirt system.

A quick visit to a Crown Court, say Belmarsh, will inform you that all cases ongoing are listed with court numbers etc. If you knew the names already you could easily find out where the case was going on and then just park your bum in the public gallery. After all, the injunction is not there to protect the individuals so much as protect the opinions formed by the Jury on the case.

I should know, I was on the Jury for a case with a media injunction imposed on it. That case also involved children, potential abuse and, in one part of a much larger case, a very high profile international celebrity. The injunction existed because there was going to inevitably be wide reporting of the trial. The potential therefore was that a jury member would be reading about the case they were hearing and may well be influenced by that reporting.

In fact, I was a member of the second Jury after the first was struck off. They were struck off because one of them went online and read the ample archive information about the case. Most of that infromation was widely inaccurate, and in many cases just plain wrong in the details of the incidents being heard in court.

That injunction, to my knowledge, still exists and, as with Baby P, there remains masses of foreign column-inches on the case and the resulting decision at the trial, along with names and other information. So again I ask the question "what exactly is the point of media injunctions in a world that has the Internet?".

Also where does the responsibility on publication really lie? If I directly linked to a foreign news article would I be in contempt of court? Would a foreign news agency see it's London office staff arrested for contempt? (I doubt). And lastly, does someone posting in an obscure Internet forum constitute contempt of court anymore than me walking into a pub and saying "Baby P's real name is ***** ********"? I may be wrong on this but I don't think the latter would.

Update: A comment has been left which says,
As far as I know, the injunction applies to the media.

I'm not media. I'm, just a bloke who blogs. Read their names and see their faces at my blog. Over 20,000 have already this week.
I have not linked to it because I'm not sure whether I am media or not. Technically it would take at least two clicks to get there. Is that enough to make me not responsible? I don't know. Am I "media"? I don't know?

Monday, November 17, 2008

£1 million a day to hold a public inquiry?

Should anyone a marvellous example of profilgacy in Government spending I draw your attention to the public inquiry into the Longdendale bypass also known as the A57/A628 Mottram-Tintwistle bypass.

The public inquiry opened on the 26th June 2007, according to the Government it has sat for 15 days since then and the total cost to the public purse so far is £16,000,000.

That's about a million pounds each month for one day each month.
More here at the local anti-bypass blog.

Labour MP abuses Parliamentary resources for political purposes?

Great little post over at Machiavelli. Seems the Labour MP for Hove, Celia Barlow, has been caught using Parliamentary resources for party political activities. Her office printed out a leaflet littered with pro-Labour and anti-Tory lines such,
"All the strong measures that the Labour Government has put into place..."

"We won't see families thrown out of their homes as we did in Tory years..."
This has all come to light, according to one source, because they sent the print job to the wrong printer. training required? Of course there are wider questions here. Why was Celia Barlow using Parliamnmetary computyers, printers and network resources for party political literature for a start?

As it happens this is not the first time I have heard of such things occuring. I know of at least one Labour MP (a blogging "by-election mastermind" in the Government), who's office resources were used for local Labour election campaigns.

Poltiics is always more important than not wasting taxpayers money right?

BBC apologises to smokers

The BBC, specifcally BBC Radio Northampton has had to issue an apology to the smokers pressure group Forest after a presenter compared smokers to alcoholics. It was during a discussion of a local council decision to bar smokers from fostering.

During the discussion, the presenter Bob Walmsley compared placing a child with foster parents who smoke to placing the same child with alcoholics. He went on to say that smokers were unfit parents as well. Walmsley issued an apology stating, "I gave an opinion comparing alcoholics to smokers. This was an unfair comparison to make and if this has caused offence I am genuinely sorry about that. It was not my intention."

In a press release from Forest, Neil Raffety welcomed the the apologise but noted that "Bob Walmsley crossed the line and exposed his own prejudice." Absolutely. I am a smoker and I smoke outside the house when my little boy is there.

Unfit my arse.

Geeks say the funniest things....

A snippet from a conversation in #programming on FreeNode.

[hypnosis] The human cell contains 75 MB of genetic information
[hypnosis] A sperm 37.5 MB.
[hypnosis] In a milliliter, we have 100 million sperms.
[hypnosis] On average, one ejaculation releases 2.25 ml in 5 seconds.
[hypnosis] Using basic math we can compute the bandwidth of the human male penis as:
[hypnosis] (37.5MB x 100M x 2.25)/5 = (37,500,000 bytes/sperm x 100,000,000 sperm/ml x 2.25 ml) / 5 seconds = 1,687,500,000,000,000 bytes/sec = 1,687.5 TerraBytes/sec
[jck_true] Sweet
[jck_true] DoS attack!!!
[hypnosis] a bukkake would probably be a DDoS then
[hypnosis] 11 men would give 17 petabytes/sec

Bless 'em!
Via qdb

Great Euphemisms of our Time

From the BBC
A crew has managed to record a whale shark - the world's biggest fish - expelling food waste, which was then scooped up for research.
Who'd have a thought a fish taking a shit could be so special?

Someone have a word....

Have just read a mildly amusing story on page 2 of the Sun (not online) saying that Gordon Brown has rejected the use of a BMW and will stick with Jaguar because he supports British industry.

I guess he must have missed the fact that Jaguar are owned by Tata, the Indian based car giant. He also presumably missed the fact that it was Ford - American - who sold Jaguar to Tanta.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Will STDs rise as pregnancy falls?

I must admit I was rather amused yestedray evening when I was on a bus in the London Borough of Greenwich. There were adverts all along the inside of the bus advising that the Council was now offering free "emergency contraception" to anyone under the age of 21.

It amused me for a number of reasons. Firstly, Greenwioch has some of the worst teenage pregnancy rates in the country. Clearly the Labour-controlled Council has given up on trying to educate the stupid and has gone for the next step along.

So, instead of promoting the use of a condom they've just decided far easier to let the girls of the borough know that they can get their rocks off when they want and all they have to do is pop along to Boots in the morning.

It will be interesting to see whether the rate of teengage pregnancy falls as a result whilst the rate of sexually transmitted diseases increases as even more people start having unproitected sex.

The other thing that amused was a semantic point about the phrase "emergency contraception". Contraception is clearly about contra (contrary) ception (conception). In other words it is about the prevention of conception.

The morning-after pill however is not about preventing conception. It works by getting rid of a conceived egg and sperm. It's not contraception at all. I should stress here I'm not saying I disagree with it's use. More that it isn't really contraception, and calling it such gives a bit of a dodgy impression.

Get a job and live first will you?

It is only very occassionally that I bother paying any attention to the student politics that is Conservative Future. When I do it's because they're doing what student politicians do, i.e. bitch with each other like petulent little turds.

It is important though that you keep an eye on what they're doing because Conservative Future refers to the future for a reason right? The people shifting the tectonic plates of "power"* in CF are the ones that hope they'll be best placed in the future to climb the greasy pole of politics for big boys.

The latest rumblings from the tory boys has appeared on Tory Bear with rumours that some kid called Owen Meredith is plotting for a push at the top job. Yes I know, you don't really care and neither do I, but it's his CV that makes for the most interesting reading. There is some brilliant experience of the world in it.... not.

I have to admit I'm starting to become minded of supporting the introduction of rules that means you have to have had a certain number of years doing a proper job in the real world before you can hope to get into Parliament or into serious positions of influence in politics.

I mean, I consider myself to be a bit of a political anorak, but compared to some of these CF people I'm nothing. Frankly, when I was at University I was to busy getting off my head to think about student politics. That's what being young is meant to be about right?
* Power appears in inverted commas for reasons of piss taking.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Save time on watching movies....

It was quite freudian really... wasn't it?

If you watch the video Brown says
"I do regret making a party political issue of this matter - I do regret that"
If you read Hansard Brown says,

I regret making a party political issue of this matter— [ Interruption. ] I do regret that
However, all everyone heard, be it Cameron, the press and bloggers was,

I do regret he's making a party political issue of this matter - I do regret that
Have we all not just auto-translated his words into what we think he "meant to say" whilst ignoring the fact that "what he said" was probably a freudian slip revealing his subconscious thought process at the time?

Just saying like.
Note: Depending on your political view this post may or may not be party political.

Curious data loss incidents

Have just spotted a response by Geoff Hoon saying,
The Department for Transport has recorded 27 personal data related incidents in 2007-08 in its resource accounts published in July 2008.

The equipment lost in relation to these incidents recorded was five laptop computers, five Blackberrys, one USB memory device, and one removable hard disk drive.
So that's 12 devices which amounted to 27 personal data incidents? Is that 27 piece of personal data? Personal to who? Curious.

What happens when you make a mistake with your law drafting

I have no idea whether we have the equivalent of "safe haven" laws in the UK but they have them in the US. essentially most states have these and what it means is that a parent can legally abandon their child at a hospital to be taken into care if they want to.

Usually they are written to cover just new-born children, but Nebraska it appears made a bit of boob in July when they drafted their law. This resulted in them suddenly seeing parents dropping off their teenagers at hospitals to be taken into care.

In typical Government style the state reacted by announcing in October that the law would be fixed to only cover new-borns in November. The result? A tripling of teengaers being dropped off.

Unintended consequences huh?
Hat Tip: Crossed Pond

Thursday, November 13, 2008

YouTube contest launched

Be afraid......

Watch out for the tell tale signs

Ken Livingstone's new friends

Not untypical I know, but Ken Livingstone's new project, Progressive London is hosting a conference and on the invited platform is Professor Eric Hobsbawm. For those who are unaware, Hobsbawm is basically an apologist for Stalin.

Johann Hari, who's writing I usually vehemently disagree with - has called Hobsbawm "the David Irvine of the left." Meanwhile, in an interview with BBC, Hobsbawn himself said that he thought the death of 15 to 20 million people would have been worth it if the Stalinist dream had been created at the end.

What is it about Livingstone enjoying the company of dictators, homophobes, and apologists for brutal murderous regimes?
Hat Tip: Croydonian

Clive Efford MP: Lame excuses that make him look like a liar?

Yesterday I posted and linked to this story about Clive Efford, MP for Eltham. He basically told a constituent the following in a letter dated the 10th November,
"I am unable to sign Early Day motions as I am now a Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS). Unfortunately, ministers and PPSs are prevented from signing Early Day Motions through parliamentary conventions"
According to the House of Commons Information Centre he isn't a PPS though. What's more what is this? An Early Day motion from yesterday, the 12th November, which Clive Efford has signed.

This raises a number of questions, is Clive Efford MP a liar? Has he broken the rules he so proudly espoused he had to follow? Or has he just used a lame excuse which has backfired?

Update: Clive Efford MP has responded to his constituent saying,
"The current list of PPSs have not yet been published as it is not yet complete.

As a PPS to a minister I am bound by collective responsibility and therefore cannot sign EDMs which call on the government to take action however sympathetic I might be to those EDMs.
Hmmm, the list was updated again yesterday and still nothing. The HoC Information Centre says they "aim to update this list within one working day of changes being announced" so let's see how long it takes.

Worth noting as well that his reply in November was to a letter written in August. He says, according to a comment, he was made a PPS in last couple of weeks.

Did the Indy just admit it was wrong?

Here is an article in today's Independent which notes that the "ban on ugly" fruit and veg is being lifted by the EU and shops could start selling the oddly shaped produce once more.

Here is an article from the Independent in 2004 about "EU myths" which says that there are no bans on things like bendy cucumbers.

Funny old world huh?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Obama is not the first Black President!

Great comedy genius.

Labour MP caught telling fibs to constituents?

Interesting blog post about my former local Labour MP, Clive Efford (I've moved). The MP for Eltham sent a letter to a constituent saying that he couldn't possibly sign an EDM because he is a Parliamentary Private Secretary.

However, according to the House of Commons, who updated there list yesterday, he isn't anything of the sort. I just gave them a call to check the list was correct and they assured me it was. Meanwhile, the MP's office says he is PPS to Margaret Beckett. The Commons don't even record her as having one.

What's more, if one takes a look at his record for signing motions, he was doing so just eight days ago. In fact he signed two in October, and a few in July. So unless he's been promoted in the last eight days and been sacked yesterday (as the list was updated a day before the date of the letter) someone, somewhere is either telling porkies or he's been breaking the rules and signing motions when he shouldn't be.

Full exchange also available here.

Brown loses PMQs by his crassness

Unbelieavble. Gordon Brown has just accused Cameron of using the death of Baby P for party political reasons and has refused to withdraw the remark. Hopefully it will be YouTube'd soon because Cameron said nothing party political and he's clearly really pissed off that he has been accused by Brown.

All Cameron did was ask a question about the complete failure of the local Council in the case of the child and Brown avoided the question more than once. When he was asked again Brown said "I regret that this has been made party political" and the place erupted. Labour MPs were cheering Brown on as well.

Brown and his whole side of the House should be ashamed of themselves. Truly, truly ashamed, but I doubt he or any of them will apologise and withdraw the remark even if the pressure to do so reaches boiling point. The man is an odious little ****.

Video from Sky News