Monday, August 31, 2009

British killers for British people!

I couldn't help but laugh this morning when I read the Daily Mail story titled One out of every five killers is an immigrant. Without saying it explicitly it's obvious the angle that the paper wants the reader to take. That dirty foreigners are coming over here and stealing our lives. How dare they!

The thing that made me laugh though was twofold. First, that you really should turn the Mail headline on its head and read it as "Four out of every five killers is British". And second, that the Mail seems to be wanting to ensure that we have "British killers for British people".

Are they seriously saying that they'd prefer the statistics on murder and manslaughter to show that only the indigenous population was killing people? Would that make it better for them?

Straw briefs against Brown?

Interesting new developments of a domestic nature in the "Terrorist-for-Oil" story this morning. The Times, following on from the Sunday Times story in which Jack Straw took some serious flack is now reporting unnamed sources fingering Downing Street.
A source close to Jack Straw told The Times that the move to include Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi in a prisoner transfer agreement in 2007 was a government decision and was not made at the sole discretion of the Justice Secretary. "It wasn’t just Jack who decided this. It was a Government decision. Jack did not act unilaterally."
Isn't it fun to watch them all start blaming each other? I note that many are still saying that because Alex Salmond wouldn't relieve himself on Brown's grave it is unlikely that the SNP government would do the UK Government a favour.

Personally speaking, I've never thought they did. It's always seemed quite obvious to me that the Scottish Government genuinely believed that they took the decision to release al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds. So when Alex Salmond goes on TV insisting that is the case he's not lying at all.

What seems more likely to me is that the Scottish Government has been played. Essentially they've been manoeuvred into making the decision to release al-Megrahi in a manner that has let them think it was all on their terms. Hence we have on one side, adamant SNP politicians saying that it was their decision, and on the other, plausible denial that it had anything to do with an oil deal.

My guess is that this story will continue to have legs for the next few days at least now that unnamed source closed to Straw (we all know what that really means) have starting briefing that Downing Street was involved in certain decisions that Straw has taken the flack for. It's going to be interesting to see how Downing Street handles the story.

Nothing to see here, move along please

At the time of writing it appears the Daily Telegraph website says there is no news.

Argghhhhh! Whatever will we do!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Black gold - a price worth paying

I see 'Libyagate' is still rolling on a news story, and now the Sunday Times has leaked ministerial letters that suggest the decision was made in London to release Al Megrahi "in the overwhelming interests of the United Kingdom" which was actually linked to discussion of a deal between Libya and BP over a multi-million pound oil exploration project.

I guess this is the point where I say go me! for essenitally saying that I thought something like that was most likely reason for the release rather than the idea that the Scots had a moment of fluffiness and decided to do it themselves.

Basically it appears that Libya used their BP deal as a bargaining chip to get him released, and the Government, quite rightly, did the figures, thought about the strategic importance of the BP deal, and decided that the national interest of such a move was more important that the short term political fallout.

Mandelson is apparently still holding the line that the release had nothing to do with trade deals. Whilst the Ministry of Justice have admitted that trade was a factor in the negotiating of a prisoner exchange deal. Frankly I don't see why Mandelson is being so adament in his denials.

Wouldn't it be refreshing to see a politician stand up and argue that the importance of a massive oil deal far outweighs the importance of keeping a dying man in prison until he dies?

Pure realpolitik at its best, don't you just love it?

Déjà vu?

** Post bumped to top Sunday with update **

Mildly amusing, to me at least, but I've just seen a Tory press release from Tuesday titled,
It all sounds quite familiar.

Update: Now the Mail on Sunday has 'discovered' the news too. Only ten days late.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: Waterboarding picture

Source: Imagevat
Note: Sorry, if the headline got you excitd befroe you clicked through. I couldn't resist.

Excuse me Blue State Digital, but might that be a conflict of interest?

Ahhhh Blue State Digital. The heroes of the Obama online campaign. Much hyped masters of 'teh interweb' selling the ultimate dream of successful online political campaigning.

The thing is, in a business where you are managing campaigns for clients, and taking their money in the process, having conflicts of interest is not a clever way forward.

The thing is, it looks like Blue State Digital might just have one. Only a teeenyweeny one admittedly, but something rather4 odd is going on.

You see, the Electoral Reform Society has a campaign currently running called Vote For A Change.

It's a campaign for voting reform and is being done on the back of the anti-politician feeling out there since the expenses scandal. As you can see the idea is a countdown to the next election, amongst its supporters are Compass.

Now, a quick look at the hosting records for "Vote for A Change" suggests that the campaign is being run by a company called Soapbox Communications. However, and this the odd thing, unlike most sites which have their domain records on hosting provider servers, like for example, Soapbox itself does, the records say the "Vote For A Change" domain is managed by the server and

Now comes the slightly more curious part. There is another campaign that has recently been launched, called Power 2010. The campaign is a "countdown to a new politics" which intends to get support for, amongst other things, voting reform. Sound familiar? And who is looking after the Power 2010 domain? That would be errrr..... Blue State Digital.

Now, according to the privacy policy,
The POWER2010 campaign has been launched with the support of a wide range of organisations and individuals. Administratively it is a project of the Citizens' Inquiry, set up and funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd.
OK, so that suggests there is more than just Joseph Rowntree involved in the campaign, this seems especially the case as the address they give on the same page is not a registered address for Joseph Rowntree that I can find. The address for Power2010 is given as Southbank House, Black Prince Road.

Would that be the very same Southbank House, Black Prince Road where Compass is?

So, we seem to have one Blue State Digital campaign for the Electoral Reform Society (supported by Compass), and a second near-identical Blue State Digital campaign being run out of an office that shares an address with Compass.

Is it just me, or have Blue State Digital got a bit of a conflict of interest here? Is it not a bit off to be commercially involved in two near-identical, and thus rival, political campaigns at the same time?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

You'd be cocky too wouldn't you?

Not sure how old this actually is, but it's footage of the first person to win the full million on the US "Who Wants to be a Millionaire". Cocky, but also quite funny I thought.

Ethical question that I'm pondering

In any abortion debate you can pretty much always guarantee that the on the pro-choice side there will almost always be the argument put forward about the terrible circumstances where a female becomes pregnant because of rape. Now putting aside the abortion subject (please try to people, I only mentioned it because of what I want to get on to), if a man become a father, in the UK at least, he is legally obliged to pay Child Support and can be chased for it if he does not.

So, and here's the thing I'm wondering. If, in the case of rape there is a powerful argument in favour of allowing abortion to occur, is there also a powerful argument in the case of a man not being obliged to pay child support to a woman if it can be proven that he was raped? Now before anyone leaps on me thinking I'm saying I think there is, and that I'm making a judgement, I'm not.

I'm just wondering, in the very unlikely event that such a thing occured - and it's not beyond the realm of possibility - would the father have a justification to not pay child support for a child he did not want to have but was forced to through a criminal act?

The reason I'm asking should you be wondering, is because I've just a read a short online discussion about abortion and someone wondered whether a male rape victim ought to have some rights, presumably to request his rapist have an abortion if they became pregnant. Child support obligations seemed the next logical step.


A New Earth Deal?

Rather interesting, John Prescott has been all over the news today talking about the launch of New Earth Deal. I see that at the bottom corner of the website it says it is powered by "Game Changer".

Game Changer being a campaigning PR consultancy, who have as their MD and co-founder David Prescott. That would be son of the aforementioned John Prescott. The other co-founder is Alex Hilton (Labour PPC for Chelsea and Fulham).

The site seems to me to be a blatent party political campaign (see anti-Tory Twitter comments on it) masquerading as some sort of supranational quasi-Government campaign.

I wonder how hard the tendering process was for David Prescott's company to do a site that prominently features his Dad? A man who even more laughably is now a professor at a Chinese University on the subject of climate change.

Who paid? Was it European taxpayers? The Council of Europe logo is included after all and it doesn't run on pixie juice!

Update: Alex Hilton assures in the comments that it was all done as a big favour for gratis due to "passionately" believing in the project. Alex has also moaned that I didn't call him and ask my questions. Just as easy to do it here I say.

The Linux Baby Rocker

Got to love the use of a while loop!
Via Nothing to do with Arbroath

Army Humour.....

Don't know if this is from Afghanistan or Iraq but it still made me chuckle. Solider humour is always good because they take the piss so well, especially with friendly rivalry.

Via Imagevat

Ed Pledges to harvest your email addresses?

Can someone, anyone, explain exactly what the pledge is on Ed Miliband's site besides being a vehicle for banal Twittering and the harvetsing of email addresses by the Labour Party?

From what I can figure out, Ed Miliband is pledging to try and get a deal at a summit. Isn't getting a deal the whole point of a summit anyway?

It's a bit like saying "I'm going to sleep, I pledge to wake up, please give me your name, postcode and email address to show your support for my pledge".

UN issues guidelines on teaching masturbation to 5 year-olds?

Every now and then you have one of those moments where you just think "WTF?" and this morning is one of those since reading that the United Nations released a report in June titled "International Guidelines on Sexual Education" which notes that 5-8 year-olds across the world be taught that,
"Touching and rubbing one’s genitals is called masturbation” and that “girls and boys have private body parts that can feel pleasurable when touched by oneself."
As for 9-12 year-olds they should be taught,

"specific steps involved in obtaining and using condoms and contraception, including emergency contraception"
Now look, I'm not a prude OK, and yes, kids play around with each and experiment with sexual activity at a variety of ages. However, teaching a five year old how to have a wank? Isn't that just a little bit too early? Likewise, teaching a 9 year old how to get hold of condoms so they can get jiggy?

Whatever happened to letting a child be a child? And more importantly, by what authority does the United Nations presume to instruct parents and nation states upon what they should choose to teach their children?
Hat Tip: Renegade Parent
and Counting Cats

Why don't the Government treat Undergraduates like the adults they are?

Errr has the Institute for Public Policy Research gone insane? Apparently they are recommending student loans be means-tested and not given to someone with rich parents. Instinctive reaction? Errr it's a loan not a grant. It is not free money and the student/graduate is the named responsible person for paying it back, why should the amount of money their parents earn or have have anything to do with it?

Just because someone has rich parents it doesn't follow that they're good parents willing to shell out the cost of University. What's more, the undergraduates are 18 year olds. They are adults. They can drink, smoke, vote, shag and die for their country. Yet for IPPR they wouldn't be able to take out a loan if they had rich parents?

Of course, if they wait until they're 26 they'll be mature students and the amount of money their parents have won't matter. So how does that one work? Why is it that if you're an adult and still young, but not quite young enough, the amount of money your parents have will define whether you can get a loan to pay for a degree?

In fairness to IPPR, they have also suggested another way. Multiple interest rates depending on what your parents have. So you'll stil get a loan, but you as an adult would be punitively punished based on things you have never had a control over and are not responsible for. Talk about stifling aspiration.

One would hope that the Government will treat such an idea with the absolute disdain it deserves, but their statement about the fees review doesn't comment on the idea at all, so I would expect some sort of punishment for young adult voters parent's wealth to be included.

Recalling an old post in light of Ted Kennedy's death

Ted Kennedy has died this morning of a brain tumour. The news has reminded me of a post I did back in 2006 about a book which alleged a letter existed written in 1983 by Viktor Chebrikov, head of the KGB, to Yuri Andropov, General Secretary of the Soviet Union's Communist Party which made reference to contacts initiated by Ted Kennedy.

The allegation was that Ted Kennedy, through another Senator, made contact with the Soviet Union because he wanted to stop Reagan being re-elected as he felt his foreign policy stands against he Soviet Union meant nuclear war was likely. The alleged letters stated,
If the proposal is recognized as worthy, then Kennedy and his friends will bring about suitable steps to have representatives of the largest television companies in the USA contact Y. V. Andropov for an invitation to Moscow for the interview. Specifically, the board of directors of ABC, Elton Raul and the television columnists Walter Cronkite or Barbara Walters could visit Moscow. The senator underlined the importance that this initiative should be seen as coming from the American side.
The full memo can be read here. According to Free Republic the memo was found in the Soviet Archives by a Times reporter after the KGB files were opened.

Interestingly, the authenticity of the letter/memo has never actually been clarified that I have seen. There is the obvious reaction that it is merely a "Zinoviev Letter" designed to smear Kennedy. Although I'm not quite sure what (a) the purpose of smearing him in 2006 would have been, and (b) he was already a "Marmite" politician anyway given the infamous Chappaquiddick Incident.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

It's oh so quiet shhhhhhh!

As much as I stand behind the comment I made the other day that I'm sure there is more to the release of Al Megrahi than meets they - basically for those who missed the implication in my original post, I thought it likely we had cut a deal on lovely dark black stuff in return for his release - which isn't a bad thing per se (oooh did I really just say that?). I do find it staggering that Brown has gone to ground and won't even comment on the release.

The line that Brown is bound by the constitutional settlement which means Scotland can act independently is astoundingly funny as well, because what he's essentially saying is "this is a matter for Scotland not the UK", which would mean anything he did say had bugger all constitutional relevance and would merely be an opinion. Staying quiet doesn't exactly lend well either to the talk of a trade deal.

The FCO and the like can deny it all they like, but the longer Brown stay quiet, the more people will start to think that a deal for black gold has been done, leading to the inevitable cries of "for shame" rather than the more realistic "well there's an energy crisis, it will run out one day, we could do with securing the stuff at a price" (oops I did it again).

Of course, more crucially because of Brown's silence, he has pushed himself into corner where no matter what he does he looks like a complete tit. On the one hand if he remains silent, and then praises the Ashes win by letter, he looks weak because he's not even willing to express an opinion. On the other hand, if he now does say something he will be portrayed as weak and lacking leadership because he is just reacting to media pressure.

Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, even if he did a cut a deal for a commodity that one day soon will be rarer and rarer.

Government bans "legal highs"

No surprse really, but it seems the Government has decided to schedule as illegal substances a number of previous so-called "legal highs". Basically we're talking about some of the product range of the Herbal Highs Company who anyone that has been to a festival will have heard of.

For example, Benzylpiperazine (BZP) which is found in the product Super E will be banned, along with other piperazines products such as X4 Ecstasy. The Government is concerned because they can cause "agitation, vomiting and headaches" - obviously alcohol, which can cause all those things along with liver failure is not being banned, you didn't expect consistency did you?

Strangely they've not decided to ban the equally stomach churning/vomit inducing legal trips which, rather than containing man-made LSD contain a natural D-lysergic acid amide, LSA or ergine which basically comes from Morning Glory seeds.

One thing is for sure, no matter what they ban, herbal high producers will just find something else that produces similar effects that hasn't yet been banned.

Monday, August 24, 2009

How "computer people" do it.....

Funny because it's true....
Via xkcd

You know it's silly season when.....

The Ministry of Defence, via the Central Office of Information, put out a press release titled
"Forget Luton - Camp Bastion is among busiest UK-run airports!"
The release details how a dirt track in Afghanistan that manages combat operation, medical evacuations and logistics sustainment flights is quite a busy place.

Funny that! Who'd a thunk it?

Ooops... did you hit "Reply to All"?

Poor Sabrina!
Click Image for Larger Version
Via Imagevat

When will someone scrap working tax credits and make tax fairer?

OH my there is a genius article in this morning's Daily Mail that the editor must have had to mull long and hard over. Titled, "Cameron is urged to cut benefits for middle-class" with a line in it saying, "Limiting the credits to households earning less than £50,000 would mean 130,000 families losing an average £500 a year." I say Paul Dacre must have mulled long and hard over it because its one of those duplicitous type pieces where the Mail has to deal with two of its own little campaigns that contradict each other.

On the one hand, the Mail hates, quite rightly, the "benefits culture", that has seen the number of people unemployed (that is workless rather than dole claimers) soar to over 6 million. Whilst on the other hand it loves that its middle England middle-class readership as it were. Thus, it finds itself arguing for benefits for those that don't really need them, whilst simultaneously moaning about lazy bastards claiming at the bottom of the ladder.

The thing is, what should really be at issue here is not the currently set limits to which tax credits get paid to people, but rather the system itself. It's not the first time I've said it, and it won;t be the last, but if Cameron wants to be really progressive and radical in Government he should scrap the tax credit system for those who work, and redress the balance with changes to the amount of tax people pay.

Putting it in the simplest possible way, currently we all pay tax, and then some people fill out a huge form and are given some of it back after someone in an administration office processes the form. At the bottom end of the pay scale, what this results in that those who work for very little find themselves trapped by the system because if they earn a little more they lose a lot more in their returned credits.

What would make far more sense is to scrap the working families tax credit and simply raise the tax-free threshold of earnings to £10,000. In a single stroke you would see all those people at the bottom having far more money, and the "middle classes" that the Daily Mail is concerned about would have a boost too. At the same time you would then reduce the enormous operating costs of a system that is not about giving out benefits but is rather about trapping the lowest paid in low paid work.

It's not rocket science.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The booze cruise is doomed?

According to a report in the Grocer and reported by the Mail on Sunday, booze is so cheap in UK supermarkets it spells the end of the traditional booze cruise to France.

Well, I'm off to Calais next weekend as it happened on a booze cruise because I refuse to pay the supermarket prices here. Admittedly the report says that "middle class wine drinkers" are still going to France, and I am going to buy wine, but it won't be posh, it will be plonk.

The fact is though, if you go to Calais to buy beer, then you have to shop around properly. Don;t go to Tesco or Sainsbury for a start, go to Carriefour. The place itself stinks for some reason, but you can pick up plenty of the stumpy type beer are rock bottom prices.

The booze cruise is far from dead though, and you can tell that by the number of people you see on the crossing to France that you also see on the crossing back a few hours later. If you go to France and just buy what you would in the UK then yes, it's probably not worth it.

However, if you go there with a plan, take the time to find what you like and weigh up the prices, you can save massive amounts of money still.

Comment problems....

The site that hosts the comments for this blog appears to be having problems currently. I'm not sure when it started but I have received emails about it. As it's a third party it will just have to be a case of sitting and waiting. Besides, the sun is going to come out again today so go outside instead.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sickies and pay in the NHS

During the last week there has been quite a lot said about the NHS, and one of the subject areas has been the massive amount of time off with sickness that occurs for its staff. As one would expect this caused outrage for some, but what I've not seen mentioned, and admittedly it may have been elsewhere, is that the reason they have so much time off sick is because of their policies on returning to work.

As I understand it, and people may correct me on this if they like, if you go sick and you work in the NHS, you are not actually allowed to return to work until 48 hours after the last symptoms of your sickness occurred. This means that if you wake up one morning and feel rough, have a stomach ache, sneezes etc, you must, at the very minimum, take three days off work.

Now, I think that kind of puts thing into perspective when you look at the total figures that people have been talking about in the news. In order to stop cross-infection it makes sense doesn't it? This also puts into perspective, to some extent at least, the news in this morning's Telegraph that whilst off sick NHS staff get a better than basic pay for their time off.

Admittedly, it is a tad excessive to pay someone based on an average of their last three months of pay and overtime. But isn't it also unfair not to compensate someone a little bit more if at least two days of their sickness time off is actually only present because of an internal policy about returning to work?

Don't get me wrong here, I'm not saying that we should pay someone oodles of overtime on top of basic pay if they go sick for two months just because they did oodles of overtime in the three months before becoming sick. However, if someone is ill for two days shouldn't they be compensated for the extra two that they have to take off through no choice of their own at a higher rate than their basic pay?


Friday, August 21, 2009

Whose Government is it?

Paul Waugh has noted David Cameron's use of the phrase "my Government" in an interview with the Economist saying it sounds complacent.

This isn't the first time I've heard Cameron use the phrase, he did it last week during the #ilovethenhs rubbish. I heard him say it and all I could think was "I thought it was the Monarch's Government? I wonder what Madge thinks of that."

This makes me wonder, if the Tories win, will the first Queen's Speech hear the use of the phrase "Mr Cameron's Government"?

Wouldn't that wake you up?

This Japanese man is one double-hard geezer,
A 22-year-old Japanese man pretended to be dead for around three hours in a failed attempt to avoid being arrested for rear-ending a police motorcycle.

Yuji Matsumura collapsed and feigned death while being handcuffed after police apprehended him 400 metres away from the accident after he fled the scene.

Police called an ambulance despite Mr Matsumura showing a healthy breathing and heartbeat pattern, with the young man keeping up the act, even after a catheter was inserted into his urethra by paramedics.
Now I don't know about you but that would certainly wake me up. :-|

Cruel... but ultimately fair

Dealing with a 419 scammer who wants scanned copies of your ID.

Made me laugh.

Obligatory Lockerbie Post

I'm not quite sure what to say about the news that Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, the convicted Lockerbie bomber has been released from prison on compassionate grounds. I can remember the tragedy very well, but I also remember that the events of his trial were dodgy too. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I think he was a patsy and is innocent, rather that certain things that we know happened around the events leading up to the attack that were not allowed to be disclosed at his trial. I believe Private Eye catalogued much of the problems.

Given this it does, I'd say, make the whole affair not quite as black and white as one would it to be. This is not conspiracy theory world but rather that certain questions mean that the conviction may not have been safe. However, just because a conviction might not be safe it doesn't mean that i the meantime you let the person out of prison. However, when they're dying and they're foreign, there can be shade of grey that come into play.

If you then throw in some realpolitik foreign policy consideration, dilemmas around moral or ethical righteousness go out of the window in favour of national interest. We just don't know what sort of deal may have been cut behind the scenes that servers the national interest on this point. It is of course easy to scream about weak lefties giving into terror, but sometimes there may be something you might be getting in return in the backdoor world international affairs that might outweigh any concerns, and on this w just don't know I think.

Let me put it like this, I don't believe for one second that the Scottish Government made the decision alone. Nor do I believe for one second that Britain didn't get something of vital value in return. The simplistic view that this was either an act of compassion or an act of surrender just doesn't cut it for me, I think there are multiple shades of grey that are being missed and that we will probably not know for a very long time.

There has been some commentary, from people like Donal and Iain about how the decision (which as I say I don't believe was made by Scotland alone), will affect US/UK relations. In the interim it might have an affect, but long term I don't think it will, crucially though because I think there is more to this than meets the eye I don't see why it matters anyway.

A nation, when acting abroad, will always defer to its national interest in a situation. Supporting America in Iraq was, I still believe, in the national interest of Britain because of the vital long term strategic interests in the Middle East, yes I am talking about oil. Likewise, I'm 100% sure that there is more to the release of al-Megrahi than it initially seems, and whatever it is, its probably more important and long term than a brief public frostiness with the White House will be.

I'm not offering any evidence to support this view you understand, rather to quote Donald Rumsfeld, "there are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know."

As an aside however, I was rather tickled in a terrible sick joke way by this apparent picture of al-Megrahi's plane.

What fool chose steps for the plane that said that?

Hat Tip: JailhouseLawyer for the pic.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

"I'm a criminal get me in there!"

This is a prison in Austria.

Nice isn't it?

More pictures here and he's a short little film about what is apparently quite a controversial building given the plush luxury that is received.

Feel free to discuss or rant about how civilised/outrageous it is all is in the comments.

The cost of Communities clipart

Should anyone ever be wondering what a snapshot cost of all those fancy clipart logos for policy initiatives cost, then here are some figures from the Department of Communities and Local Government on what it spent on logos.

Homebuy: Gordon Brown's very own sub-prime 100% mortgage lending scheme.
Cost: £21,090 excl. VAT

HIPs: Meaningless documents that no one pays attention too.

Cost: £22,000 excl. VAT

Summit 2005: Three day meeting hosted by John Prescott.
Cost: £15,000 excl. VAT

National Housing and Planning Advice Unit: Quango you've never heard of that spends about a million and half a year.

Cost: £10,000 excl. VAT

Communitybuilders: £70 million giveaway.

Cost: £25,000 excl. VAT

Interim DCLG logo: This was the logo the department had when it first appeared. It's just text with some bold and a solid line.

Cost: £3,830 excl. VAT

Actual DCLG logo: "The brand" as it were.

Cost: £24,764.99 excl. VAT

Code for Sustainable Homes: Logo for documents about building houses that don't fall down.

Cost: £7,260 excl. VAT

There we have it, £103,944.99 on clipart in just one department.

Reading between the lines...

DFID Press Release: Students urged to apply for voluntary work abroad after A-Levels - You could spend 10 weeks in a developing country working on projects

Translation: Please bugger off out of the country if you havn't been able to get a University place because of our poor capacity planning. You'll be doing us a favour as we won't have to add you to the ever-expanding joblessness figures for at least a couple of months.

Who's expenses was it on Kevan?

I see junior minister Kevan Jones has been named by Guido as the man smearing Gen Sir Richard Dannatt, and being behind a plot to use the General enetrtainment expenses to embarass him.

Kevan Jones has, of course, hotly denied that he has done any such thing and publicly said that he and the General are virtually soulmates of chummy proportions.

Of course, if it turns out that Kevan Jones is behind the anonymous briefings, one presumes that he forgot about the time he was wining and dining on somebody's expenses with Gen Dannat as revealed through FoI's by the Ex RAF officer blogger Jess the Dog.

Seems Kevan had a nice little one hour drinking session with the General at the Reform Club. The question is who picked up the tab? You can bet it was the taxpayer.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Introducing the iGun

Ahh road rage huh? Note that this contains swear words.

Scientists show how DNA evidence can be fabricated

Remember how we're constantly told that a DNA database will help us fight crime? That DNA is the way forward in identity terms? That biometrics actually protect your identity? Well those lovely people in the world of science seem to have shown it to be absolute bollocks. The NY Times reports,
Scientists in Israel have demonstrated that it is possible to fabricate DNA evidence, undermining the credibility of what has been considered the gold standard of proof in criminal cases.

The scientists fabricated blood and saliva samples containing DNA from a person other than the donor of the blood and saliva. They also showed that if they had access to a DNA profile in a database, they could construct a sample of DNA to match that profile without obtaining any tissue from that person.
This news doesn't just undermine DNA usage in crime investigation, it also undermines any claim to the protection of identity through the use of DNA. If you can somehow gain access to a DNA profile then you could, in theory, create the means to pass yourself off as that person.

The world of Gattaca is not so fantastical anymore it seems. Let's see whether the Government responds to this with some line about how their profile dastabase is unhackable.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Back to work.....

Am finally back in the ofice, however have a huge backlog of mail and other stuff to do so blogging will probably light this morning.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The morons are at it again

I see the morons are at it again in the Observer this morning. Hilariously though this time they're missing a crucial point.

Currently, in the UK, if you work you pay taxation, be it NI or Income Tax, which goes towards the cost of healthcare under the NHS. If you don't work you don't pay it, but you still receive healthcare anyway. If you are unable to be treated in an NHS hospital you can be treated in a private one which is paid for by the NHS.

Now take a look at what the Observer is getting its knickers in a twist about. According to them, some terribly evil Tories have proposed a "new system of health provision in which people would pay money into personal health accounts, which they could then use to shop around for care from public and private providers. Those who could not afford to save enough would be funded by the state".

It doesn't take a genius to note that the current situation and proposal are effectively producing the same outcomes. The only difference is that where an individual is paying in and not being funded solely by the state, the latter proposal means the authority to allocate the monetary resources for those outcomes remains with the individual who paid them.

Sorry, perhaps I'm being a bit thick here, but what is actually wrong with that? You're not dismantling the NHS, all you're doing is changing from a single payer to a multiple payer system. Everyone is still covered with the same basic provision, no one is denied access because they lack the ability to pay, and private and public hospitals continue to co-exist as they already do.

If ever you wanted a great example of the infamous "forces of conservatism" that Blair talked about, all you have to do is look at those screaming about the "dismantling" of the NHS. They're not interested in ideas or reform. Preserving the structure is more important to them, than getting the best outcome for all.

They call themselves progressives, yet they're only interested in conserving. Ironic huh?

Quote of the Day

Asked whether terrorism could ever be justified the British Foreign Secertary David Miliband said,
"Yes, there are circumstances in which it is justifiable, and yes, there are circumstances in which it is effective."

Friday, August 14, 2009

Grow up you morons

“Fighting fire with fire”, now there's a brilliant cliché that illustrates the current spat going on between the two English-speaking sides of the great pond that is the Atlantic Ocean. In America, there is a battle raging about healthcare reform. Obama has proposed some sort of universal healthcare system and, like abortion, the death penalty, and gun control it has sparked a major debate.

There really ought not be so much surprise about the debate it has sparked. America is a nation, whose very foundation is individual liberty, and for so many, not just those on the Right it’s worth noting, the freedom to choose such things like healthcare is seen as a constitutional issue. The idea of a state imposed insurance system upon people through the tax system becomes a matter of political principle about the power of the Federal state.

Of course, if you believe some of the hype in the British press, the debate has actually been about angry (and usually labelled “ignorant”) right wing mobs taking over town hall meetings. Handily, since I've been off work recovering from an operation, I have had the joy of watching some of these debates on Fox, CNN and MSNBC. Consequently I’ve seen town halls packed by the electorate questioning senators and congressman. I’m yet to see anything like the horror stories being reported.

In fact, the opponents of the Obama plan I’ve seen have not been the stereotypical knuckle-dragging rednecks that the left-wing press and blogs have described over this side of the pond. They've been incredibly well informed, and have been asking in-depth questions of their elected representatives in a way that you'd rarely see in the UK.

I'm talking here about someone standing up and saying "Senator, I'm opposed to this plan in general but I want to know whether you are going to support section 4, sub-paragraph 6, clause 8 which has vague definitions which could imply xyz. What is your feeling on this?" I can't imagine you getting that sort of detail in a public meeting in the UK - hell I doubt you'd even get that many people to attend a public meeting in the UK let alone have them actually read the policy.

Whatever ones position is on the actual debate going on in the US - and it’s worth remembering that it has been caricatured to death here - at least their population is actually engaged with the political process. It’s richly ironic in my view to see how some of the British Left go apeshit about equality and anti-discrimination issues at home, but happily sneer with vague generalisations about stupid knuckle-dragging redneck yanks inter alia.

Of course, the sneering generalisations by Brits has been brilliantly illustrated by the alleged Twitter crashing #welovethenhs hashtag. I say alleged Twitter crashing, simply because I'm yet to see any evidence other than the British press simply saying it happened. Meanwhile Twitter's own status pages warn of system maintenance and service degradation during the time of the supposed “crash” inspired by an outpuring of love for the NHS.

I seriously doubt the hashtag crashed anything, rather the service was degraded anyway and a number of technically ill-informed people put two and two together and came up with 59. One should never let reality get in the way of correlation over causality, especially if it helps move a story during the slow news silly season that is August. Not to mention of course that the infamous hashtag which some think will actually lose the Tories votes, has been driven by silly black and white absurdity which I will come to in a moment.

Most people who have read about this story will be aware that it all really kicked off because some bad experiences of the NHS have been used by US commentators and campaigners to scare people into opposing Obama's plan. This then led to not only positive stories of people saying how the NHS saved their mum’s life etcetera, but also the usual claptrap along the lines that if you get hit by a car in America the ambulance won't pick you up and take you to ER until they see your insurance first.

This is one of the deepest and most delicious of ironies for me, because in response to what the Left over here has seen as terrible slurs and mistruths on the wonderful NHS, they have likewise cast equal bullshit right back across the pond. It’s been done with equal vigour and just a teensy ickle bit more snobbery. Basically, sanity has been lost in the mass hysteria of emotionally charged political discourse - uniquely fuelled on this side of course by typical knee-jerk anti-American tendencies – what I call the “bloody yanks!” reaction – and an irrational orthodoxy about the NHS.

Then, from a party political point of view, throw in the "issue" of Dan Hannan MEP it gets slightly more strange and amusing. Dan has upset the Left here because he's been going on the US networks expressing his view which they consider are "running down" the NHS. He's basically been telling them about the very real problems we have here which we read about everyday in the newspapers. Postcode lotteries; NICE not authorising certain treatments because of cost, that sort of thing.

More importantly for them it seems, he's committed what is considered heresy in the UK, and posed the question of whether, if we were starting from scratch, we'd take the same approach we did when we set up the NHS. By this I take it to mean, would we have a system that inherently tended toward producer-led interests? Would we have a system where the Government owned the buildings, the equipment, paid the staff directly and so on? Not unreasonable questions at all.

Personally, I think the answers are no-brainers, we probably wouldn’t have the structure if we built it today, and I say that not because I want to see a system like America currently has, but rather because I see systems in other European countries that are not structured like the NHS but have equal and better outcomes with lower central costs and less centralised bureaucracy. Interestingly, I rarely see anyone over here complaining about the harsh healthcare inequalities of Germany or France, but dare to say Britain might want to examine a route like that and you'll be hounded like a witch in Salem.

Sadly, unlike what’s going on in USA right now, the structure and delivery of healthcare services is not even a matter for discussion in the UK anymore. Instead, the snobbish and arrogant British superiority complex rears its head, and stupidly deems that the structure we have is the best possible. Bland, meaningless and nonsense statements about it being the "envy of the world" are rolled out, and the debate is simplified down to "spending more money is good, spending less is bad".

Essentially we have an infantile level of debate on the subject in the UK, and hilariously we have the balls to start trying to preach to a country on the other side of the Atlantic about how wonderful our system is and how terribly evil theirs’ is? Frankly, it's pathetic. On one side we have a system being caricatured and used as a political football, whilst on the other we have panty wetting screaming and shouting about how terribly unfair the caricature is, and equally silly caricatures thrown back. It makes everyone look like complete and total morons.

Some of the contradictions from this side do make me laugh though. Think of it like this, does anyone remember back in 2001 when George Bush rather stupidly said, "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists"? At the time it caused a rather eloquent criticism that Bush was not accepting that there might be shades of grey. For example, some countries might in fact wish to maintain their neutrality. Now look at the way this issue is being played out. The discussion has been reduced to the equally stupid black and white of "you either love the NHS or you're against it".

If you do not stand up and be counted as a “lover” of the NHS you must have some other feeling toward it that is negative? This was masterfully illustrated by the Lib Dem blogger James Graham who effectively said that if Tories didn’t say they loved the NHS that it was telling of their true feelings. Has rational and adult debate in the UK really been reduced to the same simpleton logic that existed in Bush’s 2001 speech? If it weren’t so sad it would be funny.

Worse than remaining silent though, if you make a criticism of the NHS or say you’re glad you have BUPA cover, and, horror of horrors you are visibly aligned to the Right, then you either instantly closed down by intellectually inept, but political savvy, dickheads like John Prescott, or others on the Right who fear that saying such things will lose the Tories votes. Then you see vacuous crap about how you’re intent on destroying universal healthcare. No discussion, just infantile screaming and shouting about evil Tories and their plans to destroy something that is considered some perfect utopian structure.

What a depressing state of affairs it is that (a) you now have to express your love for something lest be assumed to be intent on dismantling it, and (b) group think and orthodoxy dominates to the extent that no one can discuss the NHS without either falsely caricaturing it as perfect, or falsely caricaturing it as a third world system of Soviet proportions.

The people I real feel sorry for are the moderate types who are being squeezed out of the debate by the retards who dominate either with their scare stories of “death panels” or their infantile black and white hashtags and scare stories about the destruction of universal healthcare or the terrible dangers to the Tory vote of even mentioning anything that might suggest you don’t “love” the NHS.

It’s like watching the lunatics literally take over the asylum. It astounding what can actually pass for political discourse sometimes. The morons need to grow up.

Note: This is the only post I will be doing today. I know I said I was taking time off, it starts now.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Time Off

Taking the next few days off blogging. Back Monday. Comments may take a while to get moderated.

Clinton compares US democracy to Nigerian corruption?

It would appear that Hilary Clinton, US Secertary of State, has made another of those things in politics that get called "gaffes". Earlier in the week she got angry with a student mentioning her husband, now she appears to have compared the US 2000 Presidential election to Nigerian political corruption.

In a speech in Nigeria, she started musing upon how America has it's problems with democracy just like Nigeria does, and went on to say that the 2000 election was decided in one state (Florida) where the eventual winner's brother was the Governor of the state.

Now, as much as I love hanging chad scandals, it's a bit odd for the Secretary of State to be musing in a way that effectively suggest that Jeb Bush was somehow corrupt in the election of George W Bush.

Has she forgotten that the Supreme Court decided the result?
Thanks to Cheryl at Sky for sending me the video code

Labour MP gives me, Google and the world her password

It's funny what you discover sometimes when you're doing the daily trawl of things and looking for something to blog. Today was one of those days. I was scanning through the Register of Members' Interests and saw that Gisela Stuart MP had been paid for an article in the German weekly newspaper, Die Zeit.

I was curious what the article might be about, so off I went to Google. Slight problem though, I accidentally hit return on the keyboard before typing in the word "Zeit" and ending up searching for "Gisella Stuart Die" (unfortunate I know) and spotted a strange response at the top of the search.
Ooooo, "what's that?" I thought? Something has gone wrong there and Google has code instead of content and it looks like code for what to do when a connection statement to a database fails (hence the "die").

So I followed the link and 'lo, it came to pass! I had in my possession the username and password for Gisela Stuart's database and probably her website CMS too - worse still it was also in Google's cache.

At this point I did what any self-respecting blogging sysadmin would do. I called Gisela Stuart's Parliamentary office, then her constituency office, then handily I spotted the web design company was linked on the site so called them, The Social Media Partnership.

They took the matter seriously and have fixed it and changed the login credentials in less than half an hour - good work. However, there is an important lesson to be learned here.

Just think what could have happened with that information?

Update: The web design company has been in touch to advise that the cause of this problem was due to a data migration to a new platform and that 25 rogue entries which reference the previous system had leaked through the migration process and have now all been removed.

The credentials above are apparently no longer valid on any active systems and they say were not valid on the new platform after the migration. Nevertheless, the company also advised that they "take credential leaks very seriously and the system will be undergoing a security review this afternoon".

Fair play to them I say, and understandable too. Sometimes people have a tendancy to use the same password in places and this could, potentially at least, expose other sites to security failing. A review under the circumstances is perfectly sensible I'd say.

The Goonies - 20 years on

Bored at work? Want to play a game? How about this remake of the 8 bit classic movie spin-off game, The Goonies.

Available for Windows, OSX, Linux and in source to download. Awesome movie too, must find my DVD.

Douglas Hogg raking it in?

Back when the expenses scandal was running high on the agenda, one of the most infamous excesses which will no doubt go down in history was the news that Douglas Hogg MP has the taxpayer foot the £2,115 to have his moat cleared, something he insisted at the time was within the rules - natch!

Today we now have the news that the newspaper have discovered a video online - posted almost a month ago - where Alan Duncan MP rather stupidly talked about MPs being on "rations" and Nigel Evans MP is seen making jokes about second incomes and expenses.

Personally speaking, having watched the video, it all strikes me as typically British gallows humour, but the damage it causes, irrespective of whether it should be taken as serious views or not is the problem. Thus Alan Duncan is under scrutiny and pressure this morning in the Daily Mail and elsewhere.

However, returning to Douglas "I've got a moat and the plebs are paying for it" Hogg, I couldn't help but notice that his most recent entries in the Register of Members' Financial Interests states that he got paid £5,419.08 for 38.5 hours of work as a Barrister.

For those without a calculator, that's about £140 per hour. Probably the going rate for a barrister - possibly even cheap - but isn't it interesting that on top of his MP's salary and allowances he can make, in what is essentially a week, enough to have moat cleared twice, yet he still felt it right and proper to charge the taxpayer?

Oh how the other half live huh?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Osborne provides a choice Brown quote

George Osborne has an article in today's Times carrying on his theme that the Tories are now the progressive force in the UK. I must say I've often wondered why the Left - and I use the general term advisedly - lay claim to exclusive ownership of the term "progressive".

I guess they would argue that progressive and conservatism are opposites, but that is clearly not the case because conservatives have quite often changed things and moved the country forward. This said though, it is the beginning of the article by Osborne that caught my eye, as it quotes Gordon Brown in his 1996 conference speech just before he became Chancellor,
"I tell you we have learnt from past mistakes.... Just as you cannot spend your way out of recession, you cannot, in a global economy, simply spend your way through a recovery either.... losing control of public spending doesn’t help the poor".
When Parliament sits again I do hope Cameron reminds him of these words a few times as he bangs on about the need to spend more to get out of recession.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tom Miller: 'you balance a budget by borrowing and spending more'?

I've just read quite possibly the funniest thing ever on Labourlist. Tom Miller, the new Labour PPC for Woking has written some of the things he believes in, including this gem (emphasis mine),
I believe in balanced budgets, but I think the best way to do that is to make sure we come out of recession without having completely devastated our potential to recover. Increased investment and borrowing is needed, because it's a slow rise we need.
Got to love the contradiction there, he believes in balanced budgets and thinks increasing borrowing and spending, sorry "investment", is the way to achieve it?

That's a bit like saying "I believe in vegetarianism, now please pass me a hamburger".

Dyslexic cat gets owner in trouble

I'm assuming the cat actually wanted "kitty porn" but made a typo due to dyslexia.
JENSEN BEACH, Fla., Aug. 7 (UPI) -- Authorities in Florida said a man charged with possessing of more than 1,000 images of child pornography on his computer blamed the downloads on his cat.

Martin County Sheriff's detectives said Keith Griffin, 48, of Jensen Beach, was charged Wednesday with 10 counts of possession of child pornography stemming from the more than 1,000 images a detective found on his computer, reported Friday.

Detectives said Griffin told them he would commonly leave his computer on and his cat would download strange materials by walking on the keyboard. He was taken to the Martin County Jail in lieu of $250,000 bail.

Just in case you forgot how far it was....

I'm lovin it!

Via I believe in advertising

Legislating 'multibuy' won't address the root of the problem

I sincerely hope that the latest story in this morning's Times is a silly season wind up, yet I fear that it's really yet another of the scorched-earth type approach to policy that the Government is taking in the run up to the next election.

Apparently, the Government intends to threaten supermarkets with legislation unless they agree to stop selling two-for-one deals. Apparently, so the argument goes, this is about tackling the problem of food waste in the UK. As ever though this is one of those policy that desperately seeks to address a problem by failing to think a little further about what may have caused it.

I've posted about this before, but seeing as it's in the news again it's worth repeating. The giant food waste in the UK is not being caused by the supermarkets selling us two packets of bacon for the price of one, or three packets of fresh meat for a tenner. It's actually the unintended consequence of regulatory devices around food that infantilised a nation to the point that the regulation make individuals decisions for them.

If you're wondering what I am referring too, it's that little thing called the "Use by date" on perishable products. That is why so many people throw away food without eating it today, because the little label no longer provides advice on when something ought to be eaten before, rather it gives an order to the consumer, do not eat this after this date. The result is that people no longer look at food, or smell food, to establish whether it is good or bad.

Instead they just chuck it away and err on the side of regulatory caution. Yet here we are now, wondering why we throw so much away. In the pursuit of paternalistic nannying over individuals making an educated decision about whether food is OK to eat, we have created a throwaway nation that just follows the order that the little regulatory required label tells them.

So, as is typical of Government, the cry goes up "something must be done!", and, in the case of the current Government, rather than looking at the problem and wondering why people throw things away so much, they look at the supermarkets and blame them for selling the people too much. The answer to regulation is yet more regulation, it's the only way! If that means Government interference in the running of a business and the prices they can charge then so be it!

We've been in that place before where price control is directed by Government. The difference now is that rather than it being used in some sort of way designed, or intended to manage the economy of the nation, now it is being touted as a way of changing behaviour. Yet the behaviour itself is something that has been created by a reduction in the knowledge of the nation about food and what should and should not be eaten.

Take fresh meat for example. A piece of beef will discolour over time, if you cook it properly though you're not going to kill you or the others you may be dishing it up too. What about potatoes? They last for bloody ages. True they might sprout a little, but you can still cook them and eat them long past a "Use by date". Cheddar cheese can go mouldy and hard. You cut it off.

We don;t need yet more legislation, or pressure form Government to interfere in the price of the food we buy. We need to educate people about food again. We need people to start to smell what they're eating and make judgements on that. You don't need a label to tell you when the milk is off, you just need your nose.

Update: Melanie Reid in the Times is my new Goddess because she "gets it" too.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Fired on Facebook?

Class! Sheer beauty!
I think she's learnt a very important lesson there hasn't she?

When will the other papers follow?

I see Guido has spotted that the Independent has launched an iPhone app. One of the good things the Indy app does is download the entire content of the paper as soon as it launches so you can read it whilst offline.

I have no idea if they have plans for an Android version, but the Telegraph could learn from the Indy with their Android app. Currently it does not do the offline reading aspect which can be quite annoying sometimes, nor do they include the op-eds.

It's only a matter time now before a number of other phone manufacturers start producing Android devices, and I wouldn't be surprised if soon there will only be three phone OS's on the market, Android across the Sony, Nokia, HTC, Samsung, LG ranges; Blackberry; and finally iPhone on iPhone alone.

Given the Telegraph and Independent have taken the plunge into the market, how long before all the other papers follow suit and start making their content more mobile friendly?

The Tories shouldn't play party politics with peerage laws

I see this morning there is another story in the Telegraph about plans for constitutional change that could allow Peter Mandelson to get himself back in the Commons and then be in a position which would allow him to lead the Labour Party.

Interestingly, this time the story is about how the Tories plan to block the Constitutional Renewal Bill which would allow life peers to resign their seat in the House of Lords. The thing is, I'm not quite sure why they would really want to block such a change.

In principle, surely, it makes sense to have the equivalent of the Peerage Act 1963 for life peers? If someone is given a place in the legislature in order to bring them into a Cabinet or Shadow Cabinet type role, shouldn't they be able to leave that body if they wish to do so?

More so, wouldn't it address the democratic deficit that we currently have with the concept of patronage and life peerages? Take Alan "I'm a precious little flower" Sugar, he has been brought in the Lords in order to do a specific Government job (allegedly). So, when he stops doing that job why, pray tell, should he have a vote upon our laws for the rest of his life?

I'm not quite sure what the Tories fear about Peter Mandelson in the Commons rather than the Lords. I realise there is talk of a possible leadership bid, but let's be serious for a moment, Mandelson is known to be a decisive love/hate figure in his own party, if he did throw his hat in the ring it would probably become quite nasty the splits within Labour would be available for all to see.

Over its time in office, Labour have brought untold number of silly laws which it ought not to have, but for once, a law that allows for non-heridetary peers to quit their seats in the second chamber is surely one of the good and more sensible ones and shouldn't be blocked? If the Tories play party politics with it would be silly.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Remember the words of Sir Humphrey

I'm rather pleased that David Miliband has thrown his weight behind the idea of open primaries for candidate selection. The issue is, after all, a cross-party one, and the idea of open primaries, whilst resisted by the conservative type in both parties, is something that can enhance the connection between an MP and their constituent.

If ever there was a strong argument for why the system of selection ought to change toward a route where people have to compete in wider elections in order to stand for election it has to be the following observation by Sir Humphrey Appleby.

"The argument that we must do everything a Minister demands because he has been 'democratically chosen' does not stand up to close inspection. MPs are not chosen by 'the people' - they are chosen by their local constituency parties: thirty-five men in grubby raincoats or thirty-five women in silly hats. The further 'selection' process is equally a nonsense: there are only 630 MPs and a party with just over 300 MPs forms a government and of these 300, 100 are too old and too silly to be ministers and 100 too young and too callow. Therefore there are about 100 MPs to fill 100 government posts. Effectively no choice at all."
As with pretty much anything in politics, the opposition to open primaries is all about power.

Local associations or CLPs hate the thought of letting the ordinaries be involved. They'll happily take your vote on polling day, but woe betide anyone that thinks they might have the judgement to pick the right person to stand in the first place.

The most amusing thing for me is that those who argue about the importance of a local Tory association in candidate selection rarely seem to comment upon how open to abuse the status quo actually is.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Bizarre Political Campaign of the Day

And the award goes to LaRouchPAC who win's because of the masterful invocation of Godwin's Law with this,

And this

How times change

1 Gigabyte storage, 1980 vs 2009


Can Murdoch make online newspaper charges work?

Oh dear, he may be a media master, and massive mogul to boot, but the news this morning that Rupert Murdoch is planning to charge for access to the websites for his newspapers, that the Sun, Times and NotW for us in the UK is, to say the least, a very brave move.

It's been tried before of course, and it's failed dismally. I think the FT did it for a while, and the Independent tried, but eventually they all went back to the free model which presumably relies heavily on high traffic coupled with ad revenue.

The question is, if Murdoch goes for it across so many continents, might he has the sheer dominance that means other will start to follow? Perhaps that is the strategy? After all, like his titles or not, they are popular, and depending ont he pricing might it work?

As I say, it;s brave. It's been tried before and hasn't worked. So how it will be different this time I'm not sure.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Amen to that!

Via Imagevat

The NHS postcode lottery works both ways

This morning, there have been reports of a continuation of a postcode lottery for couples seeking IVF treatment. Interestingly, I've just discovered another postcode type NHS issue whilst trawling through the papers deposited in the Commons Library.

It seems that services for consultant referral are somewhat disparate in the NHS. That is to say, if you find yourself being referred to a consultant in the NHS, don't expect to be given an appointment in the area that you actually live.

In 2007/08, just over 40% of all out-patients in England requiring referral were sent to see consultants in NHS Trusts that covered an area they did not live in. Specifically that was 25,081,623 people out of a total 61,608,962.

In fairness the figure has come down slightly, in 2005/06 it was 57% (34,058,102 out of 59,758,473 referrals). Apparently they don;t have figures for 2006/07 because of a "known data quality issue".

Now I guess some might argue a positive spin on these figures and say that at least people are being seen. However, it remains pretty poor that if you need to see a consultant there is between a 40% and 50% chance that it will not be an appointment local to where you live.

I mean, it's OK if you have a car or other transport means of doing it easily. If you;re young it might not matter. However, if you're old, or frail in someway, or cannot drive, you're a bit buggered.

Seems the so-called "postcode lottery" also impacts the NHS's own ability to provide services based on postcode and not just deny them like with IVF.

Source: House of Commons Library

Everton wins something!

Last week, I sent a text message to Croydonian. The week previously we had been discussing the appalling new Newcastle away kit, and generally been lamenting about how the new West Ham home kit was horrible, and the new Everton home kit was equally wrong. The text message I sent to him said as follows,
Fuck, look at the new everton away kit
I'm pleased to say that my sheer horror at it has been confirmed today as it has been given the #1 spot by the Sun in its "Top 10 naff kits for 2009-10" ranking.

Frankly it is the worst kit I have ever seen any football team have to play in, and I have real sympathy for the players who will have to wear it during away matches. The home kit isn't much better, as it has tried to recreate a classic but failed to do it properly.

They look like blue bloody penguins and I won't be buying it.

Job Centres failing to handle increased numbers?

As is well documented now, the unemployment rate in the UK is soaring. Each day more people lose their jobs thanks to the economic downturn that has nothing to do with a failing Government or fiscal mismanagement over a decade but actually all started in America and is all their fault.

However, putting aside the problem of unemployment, can the Job Centres cope with the rise in numbers of those seeking work? I ask this simply because I've just read the following document which details the Job Centres in the current requiring estate work to allow them to handle an increased capacity.

As the document shows, there are hundreds of job centres across the country that will require more capital spending on them just so they can handle the numbers of people coming in. Wonder how much that will cost on top of everything else?

What the list does tell us is how bad the situation is starting to get. If you can't service the unemployed with the facilitiy to find jobs, then you're going to find yourself locked in a pretty vicious cycle.

What can the sale of MoD property tell us about their budget?

There has been a lot of talk over the past few weeks about the military not having the resources they apparently need, be it helicopters, Ridgback vehicles or whatever else. This led, yesterday, to the news that the MoD was proverbially pissing away billions on projects that were overdue.

I mention this because if you want to get a feel for the total decimation of the defence budget in the UK during a time when we're engaged in two hostile theatre abroad, then taking a look at how much property the MoD has chosen to sell off will help towards that.

After all, if you're selling off your property then that is money coming into your budget. If the rate of your sales is high and you still seem to be having problems buying things, then it would suggest that your operating budget is pretty bloody tight.

This assessment seems to be borne out by the figures for MoD sales. Since 2000, the department has been selling of property at a rate of around 3 properties every week. The total sell off figure since 2000 is 1584 properties according to figures in the Commons library provided by Kevan Jones MP to Susan Kramer MP.

What's even more scary about these figures in relation to an operating budget, is that the MoD was selling these properties off during the property boom. Sadly I am yet to find cash figures for these sale, but one would presume they were making quite a tidy sum from it.

Even if we say the properties were only worth £100,000 each (that's roughly a 1-2 bedroom flat, although many of the properties were in Central London so the figure would have clearly been more I imagine), they were adding on average about £20 million to their budget each year, yet they still didn't have enough money?

That is some squeeze I'd say.