Tuesday, November 30, 2010

'Teachers don't need to be able to spell' says Union?

In response to the Donaldson Review in Scotland which accuses teacher training institutions of letting incompetent and illiterate staff into the teaching profession, Tony Axon, of the lecturers' union UCU told BBC News,
"People may complain about spelling and grammar but these days we sit at a computer which works out much of that for you. Are those skills really as important as they used to be?"
Not entirely sure what can be said about that mind boggling comment really.

A genuine question for Lefties on the NHS....

I don't expect many lefties will answer this question here as they probably don't read this blog, but if they do it would be appreciated. I have just read a post on Liberal Conspiracy titled "Worried about NHS being privatised? You should be" which details some sort of arrangement in Cambridgeshire.

Anyhow, the specifics are not really relevant, rather what I want to know from those on the Left who tend to get terribly excited at private involvement in health care provision is this. What is more important to them? That people receive treatment, free at the point of use with no bills to pay, or the structure of the delivery of those services?

This is one of the thing that has always bemused me about the "anti-private" reaction from the Left about the NHS. It seems to me that they care more about the structure being ideologically pure than the service it provides being (a) free* for those using it and (b) the best it possibly can be.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that private will be, by necessity, rather I'm confused by the visceral reactionary attitude to changing the structure that delivers a service to people where they are not expected to pay a bill etc. I really want to understand the position of those that oppose change.

So again, what is more important to the Left? That everyone who can currently use the NHS can carry on using the NHS as is without finding they have to pay for it? Or ensuring that the structure remains owned by state at all cost irrespective of whether the front-end user-experience remains the same in both cases?

* When I say "free" I obviously mean "free" in the sense that no bill is presented. Clearly it's not free, as it's paid for through taxation.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Students target Topshop

Apparently, students have now decided to target TopShop. Dressed as prisoners in a chain gang (they're "enslaved to debt" you see, ain't they clever?), are protesting at Topshop in Oxford Street.

The organisers have put out a press release, embargoed until 13:30 - ooops did I break it? - which basically bangs on about the things like the "marketisation of higher education". Oh yes, they also don;t like Philip Green because he earns lots of money, but his wife, who lives in Monaco holds much of the business empire so his tax bill is low.

Apparently, this latest round of radical stduents,
contend that the government proposals for our education system are ideological and seek the privatisation and commodification of education.
Notice the way they're using "ideology" as a pejorative? I wonder if they realise their own position on the edumacasional system is ideological too? After all, the concept of commodification is one born of Marx and later ideas about s-called semiotics.

Some extra-special self-awareness going on there for sure.

Updated: As pointed out in the comment. Will they continue this offer once they find their shops targeted and/or trashed?

Lefties in "failure to pay attention" shock!

Great post over on Political Scrappbook whjich notes an observation by left wing journalist Adam Bienkov on Twitter that stated,
Good to see the former campaign director of the Taxpayers' Alliance is no longer hiding his party allegiance http://bit.ly/hJLfoQ
The link takes you to a piece on ConservativeHome by Mark Wallace.

Where Scrapbook and Bienkov have failed slightly though is their ability to pay attention to the fact that Mark Wallace has been writing on ConservativeHome since at least 2007 even when he was Campaign Director of The TaxPayers’ Alliance.

Today the "Bleeding Obvious" dominates the headlines

What a strange Monday morning. Normally, I would think I would be shouting for joy and the wonderful transparency that Wikileaks brings, yet this morning I can't help but thinking that this time it could eventually turn out to be pretty irresponsible.

Having said this, the current headlines are making a meal out of very little that we so far know. The knowledge that Saudi and Jordan rather fancied the idea of the US bombing Iran's nuclear facilities was guaranteed to get people talking, but honestly, should we really be surprised and is it really a big deal?

The idea that two gulf states don't particularly like the idea that another state in the region might have nuclear weapons is hardly rocket science now is it?

Then of course we have news that Hillary Clinton ordered a spying operation on UN diplomats. Naturally this will cause some consternation amongst some people, but again, is it a really a big deal to learn that states have done what states do? Probably not.

No doubt more will come out over the coming days. The bigger worry is how on earth the alleged "single source" could get their hands on so many documents, no?

Understanding the EU economies and the bailouts

The Aussies get it.

Hat Tip: Dizzy Senior

Friday, November 26, 2010

Harman says she does not "walk the talk" on womens issues

Not that it's unusual for Harriet Harman to say something eminently stupid, but she's taken the biscuit today. In a speech marking the "International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women" she said,
"We are challenging [the Government] to ensure that they make some changes and ensure that at least one of the DFID ministers is a woman. It really is not good enough for Britain to be sending a men-only team around the world talking about the empowerment of women in developing countries.... The government must walk the talk. Patriarchal politics has no place in 21st Century Britain."
Presumably Harriet has forgotten that whilst she was the Acting-Leader of Opposition and Labour Party, her shadow International Development team consisted of Douglas Alexander, Gareth Thomas and Lord (Bill) Brett, all of whom have a willy.

So not only is she sexist, she's a complete hypocrite too. Go figure!

Met police deny horse charge, 16 images that prove them right

Even better than Sunny Hundal's hyperbole earlier, we now have this.
The only problem is that the images show nothing of the sort. What the images show is a line of police at the beginning at the side of the road with people in front of them.

The images then show horses coming down the road to the side of the same people, and at no point do we have a picture showing anyone in front of the horses as they canter through, although they do show one guy, standing calmly in the street with his hands in his pockets as the horses go past him. See here and here.

So let's get this straight, the horses charged what appear to be pretty much no one, and the only person we can see is someone quite calm and relaxed with his hands in his pocket as they "charge" at him (and miss)?

Some more lefty hypocrisy

Following on from the last post, which was essentially about how some left wing bloggers complain about things they then themselves do, I just wanted to raise another case in point. The other day, Tim Ireland of Bloggerheads, posted the following to Twitter,
Sarah Palin summed up in a single image http://j.mp/hNpr01
The link takes you to a blog with an animated gif on loop of Sarah Palin pulling a silly face.

Now, it's quite obvious what the implication here is meant to be(1), that Sarah Palin is a mentally deficient retarded tool(2). Basically that she should probably be taking part in the Special Olympics rather than high politics.

Now, just imagine for a second what would happen if I, or some other right-wing blogger posted an animated loop of Ed Miliband or some other lefty looking like a bit of retarded nutter and said it summed them up. The reaction would be that we were,

(a) shamelessly using the serious subject of mental deficiency to smear someone, and
(b) showing our true colours about what a nasty bunch of evil cunts(3) we really are.
I do believe the idiom "practice what you preach" may apply here.

(1) I did email Tim for comment but he's ignoring me
(2) Quite possibly true.
(3) Apologies for using a rude word this early in the morning.

Hyperbole of the Day: Sunny Hundal

Sunny Hundal, Editor of Liberal Conspiracy, seems to be featuring alot these days on my blog. To be fair this is because Sunny constantly complains about hysterical reporting and hyperbole in the right wing press and then proceeds to engage in it himself with hilarious results. Yesterday was a good example, where he said in relation to student protests,
Police action yesterday was just short of totalitarian
Methinks Sunny needs to put the koolaid down and take a quick reality check on totalitarianism - either that or we must accept that he's just a bit of a cock.

Seriously, Sunny, pop off to North Korea for a while and have a lok at what totalitarianism is. Actually, if you can't afford that then go and buy a history book on the Soviet Union, paying particular attention to the purges and terror under Stalin.

Then we move onto today, and Sunny's publication of a video with the title Shocking video: when police charged into students on horses. Sunny tells us to go 1 minute in, at which point we see, in the distance, a group of Police horses cantering along the street and the people in the foreground, quite oddly, running out of the way.

Now, if we had aerial footage we might be able to tell with certainty if they were running into people, but from the video posted, there is no way you can say this was a "charge". We then witness a horse trotting quite slowly with a camera shoved in its face. Amusingly Sunny then says,

There’s been no mention of police using horses at all in the media.
OMFG! No mention of it!?!?! Come on Sunny, stop taking people for fools, you live in London, and you know full well that mounted police, even when there is not a protest wander around Westminster. The reason it wasn't reported is because it's nothing new or unusual.

It can't be long now before Sunny compares the UK to Nazi Germany, can it?

Yay for iffy passive smoking logic!

Passive smoking 'kills 600,000' worldwide, that is one of the headlines this morning on the BBC News and elsewhere. Of course, it's not until you actually read the story that you discover the figure is an "estimate".

Don;t get me wrong, I'm not saying it isn't right. It might be right, but it might be wrong too, because its just an estimate. I'm not quite sure how they worked it out, but from reading the reports it appears that it's based on the deaths of non-smokers from things that can be "smoking-related".

The problem there of course is that it doesn't mean the things are smoking-related, rather that they might be so best to assume that they are, right? Thus the logic seems to be, that if smoking causes X, and a non-smoker has X, then its cause must be passive smoking instead.

This can be alternatively expressed as, all blackbirds are black, therefore all black birds are blackbirds.

Now please excuse me, I need a fag.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Invasion of Privacy?

Here's a thought. If you seemingly masturbate openly on your porch for all to see and Google Streetview cameras capture a snap of you, does that amount to an invasion of privacy on Google's part?

Click Image for Larger Version (safe for work)

Just asking.

Sarah Palin *face palm*

Jesus wept.
"This speaks to a bigger picture here that certainly scares me in terms of our national security policies. But obviously we've gotta stand with our North Korean allies--we're bound to by treaties ... "

- Sarah Palin on Glenn Beck's radio show, talking about North Korea and South Korea. Beck steps in with the correction.
Via The Atlantic Wire

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tom Watson: Doublethink is doubleplusgood

Rather amusingly, there is an Early Day Motion that has been tabled by Tom Watson, that, on the face of it, could be considered to be quite worrying, it states,
That this House notes with serious concern that the pages of the NHS Choices website allows third-party advertising and tracking companies, including Google and Facebook, to track people's internet browsing habits; believes that it is inappropriate for advertising and social networking companies to observe what an individual is viewing on a Government website that deals with sensitive medical information; further notes that the sharing of personal data of its users with companies outside the European Economic Area and with for-profit advertising companies may render the NHS in breach of its data protection obligations to the Information Commissioner's Office; and calls on the Department of Health to review its policy to ensure the privacy of all users of its websites is protected.
Tom did make a rather amusing point about genital warts -a strange choice but then maybe he knows a rumour about another Honourable Member and he's alluding to that in a subtle way?

Anyway, he noted in Parliament,

Imagine for example, if you or a close colleague had an embarrassing ailment, say genital warts. The current settings of the site allow third party applications to know that you have visited the part of the NHS site that lets you know how to treat genital warts.
He also wrote a letter to Andrew Lansley about it the other day.

Now, could this be the same Tom Watson who, in 2008, bigged up NHS Choices because it was a shining example of using technology to gain customer insights?

Could this also be the same NHS Choices that, back in 2007 after it was launched and ever-since, has been using the very same "third-party tracking" system hosted outside the EEA (statse.webtrendslive.com) that today is of massive concern to Tom?

Why yes it is!

Don't get me wrong here, Tom is making a salient point. However the issue didn't seem to bother him when he was in Government and the site was launched.

Funny how Opposition makes politician engage in blatant doublethink init?

Value for money? Are you joking?

Yesterday, on the Radio Five Live Drive show, there was a corporate spokesman for all the rail companies trying to justify the the massive hike in prices. One point he made that was good, was that much of the problem comes from the fact that 50% of the fare we pay is subsidised by the taxpayer. The implication being here that really, if we paid the proper whack, it would be double the price, so we ought not moan.

The problem is that the guy - who I should add hilarious had a "Welease Woderwick" issue with his pronunciation of "r" thus making me snigger every time he said the word "wailway" - then went on to argue that rail journeys were actually good "value for money" and tried to claim that "value for money" was not all about price.

Let's get something straight, the railways are not good value for money when compared to driving a car. Fact.

A return ticket in peak times (i.e. on the way to and from work) from London to Swindon will set you back around £60. The journey by car is about 160 miles round trip, which, in your average car is about 4 gallons of petrol, which will set you back approximately £20. Throw in £8 congestion charging and you've still got £32 left for parking assuming work can't offer parking.

Of course you might choose to park on the outskirts and get the tube/bus on the final leg. Either way, unless you're doing exceptionally short journeys, it is cheaper to drive than get the train. Take a look at a ticket price for London to Newcastle that is not book six months in advance and tell me that driving isn't more economical?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Oooooh Android... that tickles!

Available in the Android Market at last, Masturbator Pro - phone may require water-proof casings.

Now 100% sure what the extra-features of the "Pro" version are mind.

Note: Also available for other mobile handsets.

Did you know....?

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has a dedicated civil servant working on the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012? Not particular shocking really, but there is an oddity.

According to an FoI release, one of the roles of this civil servant is the development of equalities impact assessment for the Queen's celebratory bash. Why does a celebration for one person need an equalities impact assessment?

Mind you, as an eagle-eyed reader put to to me. Perhaps it's because she's (a) a woman, (b) a pensioner, (c) dependent on state benefits, and (d) married to an immigrant?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Euro-wanking in the House of Lords

Quote of the Century?
Lord Gilbert: I regard the decision on the A400M as the most bone-stupid in the 40 years that I have been at one end or other of this building. It is an absolutely idiotic decision. We have a military airlift fleet of C-17s and C-130s. We have total interoperability with the United States... six or seven countries altogether will be flying the A400M. Flying the C130, which it is intended to replace, are 60 countries, with 2,600 or so C130Js currently being used. That is the interoperability that we are losing.....

Why on earth are we doing this? I once described this rather vulgarly as a Euro-wanking make-work project and I do not resile from that. I hope that this time Hansard will leave that in and not take it out. It was in the next day's version but Hansard funked it and took it out of the Bound Volume. I hope that this is all on the record. - Hansard
From this day forward all EU inspired spending must, I think, pass the "Euro-wanking make-work" test. No?

Via El Reg

Why oh why oh why oh why?

I have no doubt that the Daily mail has this morning embelished the reality somewhat of its story on weekend schools for Islamic extremism. By that I mean that when BBC Panorama broadcasts it is likely to be slightly more tempered.

However, what I find fascinating is that "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" continues to be pursued and used as a text by people convinced that the evil Jews are intent on taking over the world. Whether it be insane Islamists, or nutty Nazi's (go me with the alliteration huh?), this entirely fictional document written in Russia remains a powerful tool in the "Jewish Conspiracy" world.

No doubt if you point out that it was completely made-up the response by those who are convinced by it will be "ahh but that is what they want you to think!"

*** Expenses scandal ex-MP goes to jail ***

Is Lembit an omen for the others?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Island for Sale - €900bn

Click Image for Larger Version

Via imgur.com

Dear Santa, please can I have a Spastic for Christmas?

Whoops!... comes with stunticons too though!

Hasbro says, rather embarrassedly: “Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention and for the opportunity to respond. The TRANSFORMERS brand intended no offense by use of the name “SPASTIC” for one of its products which has not and will not be available via traditional retail channels in Europe, including the UK."

Via bitterwallet.com

Greg Mulholland: 2010 Parliamentary Grinch

Greg Mulholland: That this House condemns the move by a number of major supermarket chains to slash their prices for alcohol over the festive period; notes that this is yet another example of irresponsible behaviour by large supermarket chains with regard to the sale of alcohol; is outraged at the fact that pubs across the country have stopped irresponsible promotions whilst supermarkets continue to behave in such a manner; further notes the appalling example of a large supermarket chain selling two 70cl bottles of brand spirits for 20, resulting in a per unit cost of 37.5p, an unacceptably low amount; further notes the damage that is being done to the pub industry by large supermarkets which are able to sell alcohol at a loss; and calls on the Government to introduce stricter rules governing the below-cost sale of alcohol and for it to do all it can over the festive period to support the pub industry, which is being undercut by large supermarket chains which can afford to sell alcohol below cost.
Can i just say thanks for the tip on what offers are available *hic*!

Lorley Burt wins "fastest motion tabler" award

Congratulations to Lorley Burt MP who appears to have won the race to table the first "royal wedding" Early Day motion,
That this House congratulates HRH Prince William and Kate Middleton on their engagement; and wishes them a long and happy marriage.
As if the whole wedding wasn't going to cost the taxpayer a small fortune already, it's could to see Lorely Burt wasting money on printing some words on lots of paper that no bugger in the real world will either know of or particular care about.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Coalition tries Labour's "Abolition of Parliament" trick?

There is, quite rightly for once, concern from Liberal Conspiracy about a Bill the Coalition is trying to bring forward in Parliament called "The Public Bodies Bill". The purpose of the Bill officially is to enable to abolition of quangos, but according to the House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, it also has clauses in it which extend the power of the Executive to,
rewrite the statute book, with inadequate parliamentary scrutiny of, and control over, the process... The Bill confers powers on Ministers to make very significant changes. All orders under the Bill may amend or repeal any Act of Parliament.
I agree that this should be stopped, but it should also be noted that we've been here before. Back in 2006, the last Labour Government tried to introduce the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill which also gave ministers similar powers. Then a couple of years later it was back with the Draft Constitutional Renewal Bill which gave ministers' the power to,

amend, repeal or revoke any provision made by or an Act
This is an old trick and it deserves, absolutely, to be stopped. However, Labour supporters really ought to acknowledge the reality that the Labour Party, just like the Coalition, were guilty of trying to slip these sort of powers onto the statute books too.... twice.

Frankly, they're all power-grabbing bastards.

Halal chicken served up in the Commons!

According to the House of Commons Commission,
it has recently come to the attention of the House of Commons Catering Service that it has unknowingly received supplies of poultry slaughtered using pre-stun halal methods, and consequently customers have not been made aware of this fact.
Whatever will the poor souls do now that they know their chicken tikka masala might have been blessed before he had its neck sliced?!

[sarcasm mode: OFF]

Work experience staff handling immigration?

The Public and Commercial Services Union might be on to a winner here. Apparently, the UK Borders Agency is taking on up to 7500 work experience staff whilst at the same time looking to cut 7000 from its employed head count at the UK Borders Agency.

Now, don't get me wrong, saving money by cutting head count is an a no-brainer. However, you're probably on shaky ground if you claim roles are redundant whilst at the same type taking on short term free labour to carry out,
"immigration enquiries and correspondence, include dispatching immigration decisions and documents back to applicants, and data entry of applications for all foreign nationals wishing to enter the UK."
What's more, should we really be taking on free work experience staff to handle matters of immigration when immigration is such a hot potato issue?

The mind boggles at this one.

What happened to patience?

You have to love the Daily Mail sometimes, this morning they have a screaming headline (no doubt buried deep inside the pages of the main paper because someone got engaged) that says Revealed: The broadband blackspot map of Britain, which provides a map showing how some poor people are getting just 1.3Mbps connections, noting that
In Farningham it would take 45 minutes to download just one music album and a dismal 12 hours to download a movie.
Now, as someone who started online with a 14.4Kbps modem, I find myself asking, why is everyone so bloody greedy these days?

Seriously, complaining that it will take 45 minutes to download an album? Big deal. Set you're downloads to run overnight then. As for downloading a movie, well, I don't know anyone who does that legally anyway, but if you do, then again, do it overnight.

I simply do not understand this "give me too me faster, now now now" attitude.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Town council pimps sex toys

Quality services are on offer these days from Maldon Town Council. There is more, but it would be highly inappropriate to tell you what.

Methinks their blogging platform may be "compromised".

Liberal Conspiracy rejects the rule of law?

I'm becoming increasingly bemused by Sunny Hundal, the Editor of Liberal Conspiracy. Sunny and I have spoken via email and in blog comments before, having debates, argument and so on, and whilst I've often thought he was wrong, I've never thought he was one to excuse violent protest or actively support people trying to break the law, that was until last week.

Last week, I posted a quote from Sunny where he dismissed the violent conduct of hundreds of student protesters as "silliness" and suggested those that thought chucking a fire extinguisher off a six story building into a crowd was a bit much were "wusses". I put his attitude down to silliness on his part at the time.

However, this morning, Liberal Conspiracy has posted an article titled Police take down FitWatch site; bloggers angry. This refers to a a group who monitor the Police at protests with what appears to be the default starting assumption that all coppers are brutal bastards.

Anyhow, the Police have apparently had this site taken down for "attempting to pervert course of justice". Outrageous? Errr no. Not if you look at the Google cache here and see why. Sunny notes, oddly,
it’s rather worrying the Police took down that post without any explanation, without warning and without a court order.
Is it? really? Did Sunny not read it?

The post in question is a detailed advice list for protesters involved in violence at Millbank on how to destroy evidence. It's hardly rocket science as to why it the Police requested it to be taken down is it?

Surely what is more worrying here is the stance Liberal Conspiracy appears to be taking on violent protests and the rule of law. No?

More at the Guardian.

Damn you Tom Harris MP!

I hate you Tom. You're one of the few Labour MP's that I actually like, and what do you do? You quit* your blog. Don't misunderstand me, I'm not suggesting that I agree with you and that you're always right, I don't and you're not - the only person that is always right is me after all (*hush* you naysayers in the comment and repeat after me "Dizzy is always right", do that and enlightenment will be achieved).

Anyhow, digressions about how brilliant I am aside, Tom will be sadly missed in my view because, unlike so many politicians he was always willing to push his humourous side at the expenses of the "line" (perhaps that is why he called it a day?). Politicians today, with only a few exceptions, are expected to be automatons, spouting the line and never ever offering their genuine opinions (not until they've spouted the line for long enough that they can get away with it anyway).

Tom was never afraid to point out when all sides in some debate or the other was talking utter bollocks. That is, frankly, what made him unique, and now there really aren't any like him left. Don't get me wrong, there are blogging MPs who are engaging and interesting, but none of them do what Tom did/does.

A real shame I think, and you know you were having an impact when the pious Guardian-reading loony left state calling you a "rioht wing blogger" as they did last night.

* Please note that as a general rule online, be it in a forum or on a blog, no one should ever do a "last post" post because you will be back. The Internet is like the Hotel California, you can check in but you can never leave. Tom will be back, we just don't know when.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Do want to consolidate your debt?

Debt consolidation with a few extra quid on the side Mr Burnham?
Name of lender: Kevin Lee
Address of donor: private
Amount of loan: £10,000
Date the loan was entered into: 9 July 2010
Date the loan is due to be repaid: by end of Labour Party leadership campaign
Rate of interest: 0%
Whether or not any security has been given: none
(Registered 14 July 2010)

Name of lender: Kevin Lee
Address of donor: private
Amount of loan: £11,493.05
Date the loan was entered into: 1 October 2010
Date the loan is due to be repaid: indefinite
Rate of interest: 0%
Whether or not any security has been given: none
(Registered 29 October 2010)
Just saying.

The Clegg Effect....


Random observation.....

Anyone noticed that the Coca Cola Christmas advert has started?

Anyone also noticed that when watching it on a 16:9 wide-screen TV it remains in a 4:3 aspect ratio with black lines either side?

Coca Cola's marketing department are both lazy and tight-fisted?

Friday, November 12, 2010


There is nothing more I can add.


Then and now

Original images by Cracking My Knuckles in Public

Don't blame the judges or the state. Blame the medium

Morning all, today is a very important day, because today is the day where the technological step-backward in online communications that is Twitter, killed humour and conversation dead in its tracks.

Let me start by explaining what I mean when I call Twitter a step-backwards. You see, there once was a wonderful age of T'Internet where people used to gather and communicate with each other using Internet-Relay Chat (IRC).

You used to login into IRC and join a channel, #Ilovebigboobs for example. Yes, that's right, the Twitter "hashtag" is a bit of appropriation, you didn't think it was unique to Twitter did you?

Anyhow, once in the channel you chatted with everyone else in there. You weren't limited to what you could say, but being able to type and keep up could be a challenge for some.

Crucially, everyone in there could see what everyone else was saying, and so there was thing called a "conversation" which also had this wonderful little thing called "context". Thus, when someone said something that was amusing it could be contextualised within the conversation. For example,

[Infe] what happens if you try to recharge an alkaline battery
[HomerJ] blows up
[Andrigaar] Don't they explode?
[Andrigaar] I wonder if it's violent or just some leaking battery acid.
[Infe] i think it's all a scam to get you to pay more for 'rechargeables' and ---

Now, if you were to strip the whole thing as individual lines and present them as such, they'd either not make sense, or, quite possibly, could be construed as offensive, aggressive, worryingly dangerous or just downright odd.

That, people, is where we are today with the backward step called Twitter. You're in a massive chat room, but not everyone is listening to the whole conversation. It's a bit like listening to one half of a phone conversation, you fill in the blanks, and that can be quite dangerous.

We have two striking examples in the news today. The first is the poor sod who, thanks to snow delaying flights, made a joke on Twitter about blowing the airport in a conversation to the person he was off to meet, and the joke was lost, and he got charged and convicted of threatening some sort of terrorist attack.

Then we have the Tory councillor, arrested yesterday, after he responded on Twitter to something he had heard Yasmin Alibhai-Brown say on the radio. His comment was a sarcastic one about stoning her to death that was really just mocking the sheer idiocy of the argument she had been making.

Not only did we lose the context of his comment thanks to Twitter, but we also had the age old classic assumption that is too often made online in general. That being that when you say something, everyone everywhere in the whole wide world will actually know what you're talking about.

This sort of thing, to be fair, happens a lot with online communities. They tend to assume that they're exceptionally important and that what they say or discuss must be known by everyone else because hey, they're discussing it right? They got it trending on Twitter dammit, it's gone viral, everyone knows! Errrr... no they don't.

Just like the loss of context (and irritating time delay) that Twitter has provided to the once great medium of online chat, so too has it created this disconnect with reality, where the importance of something in the virtual world of Twitter is merged into reality and automagically equated with the same importance even when it isn't.

In other words, not only can a councillor, or some random guy say something in jest in an elongated chatroom where the context is lost, but that thing they say can leak out of the edge of VR and be given prominence that it really doesn't deserve.

Just imagine for a minute a world where everything you said to anyone was recorded and analysed in isolation by the state? A world where you made a joke, but the tone, the intonation and sound of your voice was removed and your words were simply displayed and interpreted literally? That's where we are right now with Twitter.

Of course, there are some out there that argue that this is because of a paranoia about terrorism, that's its all because of the state changing our way of life. They might have a point, but no one seems to be spotting the elephant in the room. It's not a changing a state that's to blame, it's not because of an assault on liberty, its because Twitter itself, by design, has created this situation.

Whilst everyone has got carried away with the idea of "social networking" they've all missed fundamental design flaws of many of the platforms and the unintended consequences they bring. If you have a system of communication that not only limits how much can be said, but also works on a broadcast principle where contextualisation of conversation's can be lost, then what we see in the news today is the result.

The online text-based world has always been fundamentally flawed because tone and intonation of what is said can be lost. However, at least in the old world of bulletin boards, forums and IRC, you could follow the flow and build the missing tone of what was being said in real-time, on Twitter you can't. It lacks the real-time dimension and produces little more than isolated snippets lacking not just the tonal flow but the context too.

Like I said at the beginning, Twitter has killed humour, but it's worse than that. Twitter has killed conversation too.

Imagine there is man with an infinite tape recorder that is omnipresent. We let that man record everything we say, everyday and every minute. He take those recording and breaks them down into 3 seconds chunks, and then, because he's super clever and powerful, plays them through every PA and speaker system in the world, but he does it totally randomly.

That man is Twitter.

That man killed humour.

That man killed context.

That man killed conversation.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Offensive To All?

True equality is about being offensive to everyone right?

Click Image for Large Offensive Version

Via /r/pics/

Dear Students......

Flippant thought for you but....

There are approximately 2 million University students in the UK. Currently fees are no more than £3000 per year. So, if you were to give the Trotskyites what they want, i.e. free University education, then you need to find, £6000,000,000 (that's £6bn) every year to pay for it. The Department for International Development has a total budget in excess of £7bn per year.

Quid pro quo?

Note: Something tells me lefties wouldn't buy the end of international aid in exchange for free education.

Quote of the Day: Sunny Hundal

Incredible comment from Sunny Hundal.
pah! at violence. There was just a few kids being silly. It’s hardly armageddon. The Tories, police and media are wusses. - Liberal Conspiracy
Fire extinguishers thrown from sixth floor of a building into a crowd of people; fires being lit inside buildings; doors and windows kicked in; police hit with sticks of woods connected to placards; bricks being thrown... but hey it's all just a bit of silliness and anyone mildly concerned about it is just a wuss.

Grauniad: Headline and Report Juxtaposition

OMFG! Tory Tory!..... no wait..... errrr.

Were Special Branch and the Met properly informed?

Today, the morning after the crazy day before, I imagine that NUS President Aaron Porter must be wondering whether he's about to follow one of his predecessors (Phil Woolas) into political career oblivion. He was, naturally, very quick yesterday to run down to the Millbank TV studios and condemn the so-called "tiny minority" (numbering many hundreds) that were taking The Damned's "Smash It Up" just a tad too literally, however, in the cold light of a new day, is it enough?

If you organise a protest, if you put the permission forms in and you sign them yourself, then you are responsible for what happens on the day and the organising you do. As yet, part from saying that the people that kicked off were despicable, we're yet to see any sign from the NUS that they'll even acknowledge they themselves have a role to play in casting the blame around.

Yes, undoubtedly the Police were unprepared, but the question that needs to be asked is why? Why is it, that the Metropolitan Police, a force that is used to dealing with anarchist and trotskyite nutjobs, so hopelessly prepared for a possible trouble at a protest with at the very least 25,000 people present?

Was it sheer incompetence on their part? Or were they misled about the scale of the protest by Porter and the NUS? If they were misled was it deliberate or simply incompetence on the part of Porter and his organisation (I prefer the latter option)? Can the NUS really claim ignorance of what appear to be violent extremist factions within their organisation?

We now know also that, the Tory Party Chairman, and Minister without Portfolio, Baroness Warsi, was in CCHQ during the time of the rioting.

That's a member of the Cabinet who, if I recall correctly, would be afforded some sort of Special Branch protection. Were Special Branch even aware of the potential threat before it occurred? If not, was it because the Met just forgot to tell them a march of students was walking past the front of the office, or was it because the Police were not properly informed by Porter and the NUS?

Perhaps I'm not being fair here, but I'm finding it difficult to believe that a force as experienced in crowd control problems in London as the Met would be so unprepared. After all, we normally hear that they're too heavy-handed, not that there's not enough of them. This begs the question of whether the were so unprepared because Porter and the NUS failed to engage with them properly in the first place?

If that is the case, then Porter might have to fall on his sword before the day out.

Update: More from Tory Bear who asks another question. "Can Aaron Porter be sure that no NUS hacks were involved in the destruction of Millbank Tower and 30 Millbank?" If anything appears that implicates NUS people in the violence then Porter is screwed.

Image listed from Guido

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pizza Express: Cause and Effect?

Interesting discount offer at the NUS website here.

Something tells me that smashing up a Pizza Express may mean the offer ends soon.

Tip via reader

Students fail to do their research

So it seems the students protesting against tuition fees today have gone to London and kicked off by targeting Millbank Tower, home of CCHQ, and smashing windows.

Slight problem, home of CCHQ isn't actually in Millbank Tower, it's on Millbank. They used to have back office staff in there but haven't for a while now.

So the students have managed to attack completely the wrong building anyway. The state of education in this country is horrific isn't it?


UPDATE: Guido is saying on Twitter that the students are storming CCHQ lobby now. Perhaps they've realised their mistake?

Early Day Motion - Cost Redux (2010 Edition)

Back in 2005-06, the amount of money that the House of Commons erupted up against the proverbial wall on Parliamentary graffiti in the form of Early Day Motions celebrating the life of a celebrity chef's dog and calling for more maggots to be available on the NHS, was in the region of £600,000.

So, where are we now in the "Age of Austerity"© with those costs? Up? Down? The same? Stupid question really because you know the answer, it's up. Actually, it's almost double now. In the year 2009/10 the total cost of Early Day motions came in at a princely sum of approximately £1 million. According to Sir Stuart Bell,
Most of this cost was accounted for by printing and publication of early-day motions, amendments to them, and names added to them, under the House's contract with TSO. This cost nearly £776,000 in 2009-10.

Expenditure is incurred on staff time to process and input notices relating to early-day motions, and to index that material. Staff who deal with EDMs also undertake other duties, but a rough estimate of the full salary costs incurred from the estimated amount of their time spent on EDMs, including employer's pension contribution and national insurance, is of the order of £150,000 for 2009-10.

In addition, technical support for the EDMi database and the Table Office's software application for processing EDMs cost approximately £87,000 in 2009-10.
Yes, we really do have to spend £150K alone on the salary, pension and NI contributions for the poor sods that have to sort out the latest self-congratulatory bollocks that our MPs want to spout off fruitlessly about.

One such recent example would be the ever amsuing Kerry McCarthy MP, who tabled the following about Bristol City FC's proposed new stadium,

That this House wholeheartedly supports England's bid to host the 2018 FIFA Football World Cup; recognises the need to have a range of geographically-widespread, high-quality stadia to attract the bid; supports the A City United group, which is campaigning for the construction of a stadium in Ashton Vale, Bristol suitable for hosting World Cup matches;welcomes the proposed designation of a wetlands and wildlife area on the Ashton Vale site; and calls on the Government to support Bristol City Football Club's new stadium as part of the FIFA World Cup bid.
Why highlight this? Well Kerry seems to be calling on the Government to support something which it is already supporting, given that Ashton Vale is a candidate stadium already - not the Government has any actual power over which grounds get used anyway.

A total waste of money EDM to be sure, although it does give Kerry some free* PR in her local press.

* When I say "free" I obviously mean free in the sense that the taxpayer funds it.

Note: "Age of Austerity" is copyright of GideonOsborne Inc

Update: Edited to correct my misreading of words as per comment below.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Lawyers still get their Vol-Au-Vents

Good to see that some Labour MPs are taking Opposition seriously in order to probe the Government and look for a story. Ian Austin, the MP for Dudley North, has been busy trying to establish how much Government departments are pissing up the wall on vol-au-vents and champagne reception int he new "age of austerity".

Of course, should he find anything his angle would be slightly different to mine. I imagine he would take the view that the evil baby-eating Tories were quaffing it up whilst the put the poor on the breadlines. I on the other hand would be outraged that they were quaffing it up in general with my money irrespective of whether we were in good times or bad.

I might also point out the Vol Au Vent League Table 2006-07 just to illustrate that the previous Government excelled themselves at hospitality on the taxpayer, but that is besides the point.

What Ian Austin has found out is that in the two months leading to the CSR (September and October), which was a prime time for department to have one last splash of the cash as it, pretty much no one actually bothered (a good thing).

Well no one apart from Ken Clarke at the Ministry of Justice, who spent £13,176 on opening the "legal year breakfast", the annual jolly where the lawyers get together for another year of making money from others misery.

In the age of austerity the lawyers are still the only winners huh?

Thought for the Day

I see that "torture" is back in the news again this morning after George Bush talked about his memoirs and has said that his decision to condone the technique of "water boarding" was because the White House lawyers advised that it was legal under the US Constitution.

Now, naturally, there will be those in the US that dispute that on the basis of an alternative interpretation of the Constitution, but then there will also be those who dispute it on the basis that the practice is "illegal" under "international law", however I wanted to throw a thought out for a second.

If you were to pop along to Hereford for a chat with the SAS, or perhaps contact the likes of Andy McNab and ask them about many of the alleged "torture" techniques (we're talking sleep deprivation, wall standing here as well as water-boarding), I'm guessing, based on reading McNab's Immediate Action that they'll tell you that they train for them.

Now, you could argue that they do this because the enemies they face are not as enlightened as ourselves so we have to assume that they'll resort to such thing, however, isn't the reality far more that we train our very best soldiers to be prepared for this sort of thing because we know only too well that we'd use the similar techniques to break someone if we really needed to break them?

Anyway, I digress. The real question and thought I have is this. Why is it we are so quick to condemn ourselves and call for legal recourse sometimes on an international scale in respect of the likes of George Bush and "war crimes", yet at no time was there ever a call for a war crimes trial for the likes of Saddam Hussein who authorised far worse in his time?

is the outrage when our own soldiers have been subjected to these techniques

Monday, November 08, 2010

History - amazing how it affects political discourse

Most people who's spent a brief time online will be aware of Godwin's Law, which states that "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1."

The same is of course true in political arguments in general, on or offline, and I couldn't help notice that it had come to fruition over Iain Duncan-Smith with this t-shirt after he said - gaffe or otherwise - that work would set people free.

Now, just in case you're an ignoramus, or you were to busy sniffing Tippex thinner during history lessons at school, the phrase "work sets you free" is a rough translation of the German, "Arbeit macht frei", which is what it said over the gates of Auschwitz and other assorted Nazi concentration camps.

Anyhow, the reason I mention this is because it's occur ed to me that the reaction to the notion that "work sets you free" from the Left is a bit odd, because the notion that work leads to freedom is, in fact, a core elements of Marx's theory of historical materialism.

Yes yes, I know, I just essentially said that Hitler's phrase of choice was Marxist in its origin, but whilst this might upset some, I find it fascinating how a single philosophical phrase can be vilified by those on the Left when it is, the same philosophical argument made by the father of the Left.

You see, if you take the time to read Marx (yes I have, it's true) the whole basis of materialist history is that man produces through labour. Crucially, the means of production changes over time through small revolutions, from tribal production, to feudal, to guilds, to bourgeois, and then eventually to the wondrous free utopia where the proletariat own the means of production and are lifted from the false consciousness of capitalism and finally achieve true freedom.

In other words, work sets you free. Nah, it is a necessity if you are ever to be free for Marx.

Funny how four words that perfectly illustrates the ultimate left wing endgame are no longer associated with them because of history huh?

Note: Before anyone gets excited thinking I'm saying Marx or people on the Left are secret Nazis, I'm not. I'm just making an observation about how Marx's theory of history is completely in keeping with the notion that work leads to freedom, yet it is not something that you ever likely to hear because of the historical connotations around the phrase.

Bribery is not "official" policy in Afghanistan

Put your hand up if you believe this?
Philip Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his policy is on offering incentives to (a) tribal leaders and (b) other individuals or organisations in Afghanistan to secure the safe passage of convoys.

Dr Fox: Ministry of Defence policy is not to offer incentives to any individual or organisation in Afghanistan in an attempt to secure the safe passage of its convoys.
/me keeps his hands firmly down.

Working for the dole - sound idea, poor on detail

Every now and again you find yourself wanting to smack your own face with the keyboard in frustration. For me it usually occurs after reading the obsessive rantings of my favourite online loonies, but more often these days it occurs when the Coalition trailed a new policy which in principle is a good idea but falls flat on its big arse in implementation and detail.

Only a few weeks ago I blogged about how unemployment benefit ought to come with a responsibility to do a few hours work each week for the state. Nothing to big just litter picking, cutting grass, keeping the local community tidy. They do it in other countries, many with socialist governments.

It seems that such an idea is in the offing from Iain Duncan-Smith, which means I'm either well in there in the influence stakes or far more likely I've been lucky with my prescience. Anyhow, enough of how fabulously brilliant I am because it seems that that brilliance has not rubbed off on IDS as the implementation and detail of the new plan looks to be yet another of those "take gun, shoot oneself in the foot" moment.

You see, the principle of making the long-term unemployed get off their arse and do something is not a bad thing. In fact, for all the supposed "fury" that will come from the usual quarters it's another of those sort of policies that will resonate very well with the vast majority of taxpayers who, on the occasion they may be sick from work, find themselves swearing at the "scum of the earth" slackers that appear on Jeremy Kyle.

The problem though, is that the plan, allegedly, intends to make the long-term unemployed do a four week work programme at 30 hours per week for their £65(ish) dole money - that's less than half the minimum wage so it doesn't take a genius and in fact a complete spaz would probably be able to spot the problem.

Now of course, one might say "fuck it, they're lazy and shouldn't expect more" but this is politics, and in politics you need to be clever and not give your opponents ammunition. This si why the policy would be far more sensible if they said the long-term unemployed at to work the relevant number of hours that matched the minimum wage.

Hey ho, let's watch and see if they backtrack.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Dear Chris Morris... this is your fault!!!

This surely has to be bullshit? (excuse the semi-pun)
ISLAMIC terrorists tried to down a US cargo plane using exploding BULLDOGS, it emerged yesterday. Two animals, stuffed with bombs and detonators, were found by US officers at Baghdad airport. The bombs had been primed to explode during the aircraft's flight to LA.
If it isn't nonsense then the only person to blame is Chris Morris, right?

When life imitates satire?

Friday, November 05, 2010

Thursday, November 04, 2010

I saw Saw 3D

Last night I went to my first Orange Wednesday and watched Saw 3D. It was also my first proper 3D film with the "dark glasses" technology, although I did once see some Michael Jackson short at EuroDisney back in the 1990s that used the same technique.

Anyhow, I have but one question. What's the bloody point in it? There are scenes that are so obviously created just for the 3D "magic" whilst the rest of the film isn't. Think blood splattering out, weapons of death flying out of the screen etc, but other than than that the rest of it is basically 2D.

Don't get me wrong, when it's done well I imagine it's great, but frankly the best bit of 3D was the bit before the film where they told us to put our glasses on and effective "showcased" the technology. That was real "wow" factor stuff, same the film wasn't.

Oh, I;m sorry, you want to know about the film? Standard fare really. Starts with random unconnected trap with excessively graphic gore. Moves onto where Saw VI left off, people get trapped, people die horribly, you wait for the twist and unlike the early days you go "oh yeah, like I didn't see the coming".

Blast from the Past: Abortion

Given it seems there is talk about abortion again going on in the political discourse, with the usual rabid lunatics on each side generally calling the other stupid, I thought I'd revisit a post from 2008 for any new readers (I'm also being lazy):

Dipping a toe into the abortion question? - May 2008

This whole abortion debate has become very odd. Apparently it seems that if you support reducing the time limit on abortion from 24 to say 22 or 20, you are, invariably, just a secret anti-abortionist, in bed with anti-abortionists, or worse still are not being honest with scientific knowledge or what the 'medical profession' says. Oh yes, you're probably a God Botherer too.

Now you may be wondering why I chose to use quotations around 'medical profession' and there is a simple reason to be honest. The phrase, just like the language that is used when talking about climate change, is being thrown out in this argument with the subtle subtext that there is that mythical type of knowledge called 'scientific consensus'. If you listen or read the things being said about abortion you will always see the phrase trotted out as if its presence alone can make an argument right.

The problem is, having read too many articles in the last few days on this subject, what I can see is not the overwhelming view of the 'medical profession' being in agreement. There have been things said and things written which do not all sing from the same hymn sheet. As such whilst one should read and assess what is being said, it would be unwise to stand up and say the medical profession says X, when evidently they don't.

Of course equally I'm not saying either side is right per se. Just that to pretend there is consensus is to misrepresent the reality of the diversity of view amongst doctors and their peers. The question we should be asking therefore is why the differences? Can it all really be explained away by the easy and lazy ad hominen arguments of 'pro-life loony', 'religious nutjob', or 'secret anti-abortion agenda'? I don't think so, because there are some of us in the middle who actually have views that are based on the ethical questions of 'how do we define viable?' and 'what rules should apply to our actions when we have defined what viable means?'.

Laying my cards on the table I should say that I have always been rather proud of the settlement that Britain achieved on abortion. Rather than muddying the waters like Roe vs Wade does in the US, the matter was resolved by agreeing that abortion should be illegal if the child can survive outside of the womb (as well as some other exceptional circumstances of course). The argument today for me as it stands is about that question, not about whether some of the people supporting a reduction in the time limit secretly want to end it altogether.

We have heard over the past few days, from the likes of Dawn Primarolo and assorted commentators, that the 'survival rate' for a child at 23, 22 or 21 weeks has not changed since 1990 when the time limit was reduced from 28 weeks. In today's Times David Aaronvitch argues that if 'viability' has not changed then people supporting a reduction just "don't like abortion". I'm not sure anyone could be more wrong if they tried frankly, because there is a slightly more sophisticated way of looking at this.

The way to look at this is best illustrated, ironically enough, by an anti-death penalty argument. Given that the most ardent of pro-choicers (who incidentally wind me up just as much as loopy pro-lifers) tend to be ardent anti-death penalty advocates as well, so it seemed rather fitting. You see, when it comes to capital punishment, the miscarriage of justice, the mistake, the hanging of just one innocent man is a powerful argument against its presence. The argument is made that the risk of that happening, and we know it has, is to great for the state to commit homicide.

Now take that principle and think about viability in conjunction the 'survival rate' of premature babies. Surely, unless the rate is zero, then that is evidence that a foetus can be viable. Don't get me wrong, that doesn't mean that all are viable, after all, not all babies are even viable when they're born normally, although the majority are of course. The thing is, if we take the principle that one mistake in the matter of capital punishment is a risk to far, then should we not be applying that same principle to how we define the very notion of 'viability'?

If just one premature foetus survives at 21 weeks, then is it not correct to say that a foetus can be viable at 21 weeks and as such the state cannot take the risk of making a mistake like it does with its fully developed adult population when it comes to criminal justice? You don't have to be anti-abortion or a pious religious nutjob to support reducing the limit at all. After all, if it is better to let a guilty man go free than to execute an innocent man, shouldn't we take the same view on the matter of whether a foetus is viable?

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The world is not going to end...

Apologies for not posting yesterday, was a little busy, and may will be today, however, just wanted to pass a little comment on VAT. I heard someone this morning bemoaning the rise in VAT to 20% saying given that the reduction in VAT under Labour in the recession "worked" and got people spending it stands to reason that the rise in VAT to 20% in January will have the opposite effect.

To this I call bollocks.

Look, something that cost £1.175 that suddenly cost £1.15 didn't make people rush to buy it. Likewise a rise to £1.20 from £1.175 won't stop people buying it. Yes, the more expensive the item the more the VAT, but let's be serious for a second, we're talking in most case a few pence more on the cost.

Don't get me wrong, I don't support a VAT rise, in fact I think VAT is annoying in general, I'd prefer it didn't exist at all, but lets drop the hyperbole. No one goes is going to go into a shop on January 1st and say "oh no, I can't buy that because it's £2.50 more than it was yesterday.