Friday, February 29, 2008

Prison Sentences

I have mentioned a few times that I am generally against prison, especially the way we use it in this country. However when we do use it it has to be used effectively and not brought in to disrepute.

I was therefore saddened to read this post on The Magistrates blog:

As Jack Straw looks desperately for a way out of the prison crisis (one that is mostly of the Government's making) there is talk of extending the early release scheme to free a few more spaces. So here are the numbers as they stand today:
Maximum sentence available to magistrates: 6 months. Let's call that 180 days. Defendant pleads guilty (most do) so one-third reduction. That's 120 days. That is automatically reduced by half, leaving 60 days. Current early release is 18 days, leaving 42 days to serve. That's six weeks. Prisons don't release at weekends or on bank holidays, so those with sentences expiring then are released the previous Friday, possibly knocking 2 more days off the sentence. If, as suggested in the press, early release is extended to 30 days, then the most that magistrates can hand down will be effectively 28 to 30 days - roughly four weeks. Hardly Judge Jeffreys is it?

A six month sentence lasting 4 weeks does nothing but bring the Magistrate and their court in to disrepute by making them look weak and irrelevant. If we consider why we use prisons:

1. As a punishment - 6month reduced to 4 weeks is hardly likely to cause any inconvenience to those who have got to the point where they are committing crimes that need a stiff sentence. Indeed I am sure anyone given a six month sentence and being released after 4 weeks will be a laughing all the way to the pub to tell their mates. This means that..

2. As a deterrence - said mates are going to here stories about how easy it all was (embellished no doubt but that doesn't matter) and hardly be deterred.

I have experience from my Army days that leaves me to believe that these types sentences can even even be counter productive.

I'd always understood the Magistrate's court system was about local people dispensing with local petty and less serious crimes, so that justice could be seen to be done and local circumstances considered. All this will do, IMHO, is push more cases to the Crown Court and cost us all a lot more money.

The more I read on the Magistrate's, and similar blogs, the more I realise that our legal, judicial and penal systems are degenerating in to farce, which isn't good for anyone.

I wish I knew the answer to this, but whatever it is it surely doesn't involve politicians - or at least if it does it has to be to impose some sort of control on them so we don't get knee jerk reactions every time the Sun's leader writers so boo.

Seven Good Things

I have been tagged by Mark Wadsworth to list 7 good things. I've only done one of these before as I find a lot of them a banal, but as this is good things I'll give it go.

Apart from the first one this is in no particular order

1. Family
2. Friends
3. Technology - but as a user and as I make my living out of it
4. Democracy - despite the best efforts of our current bunch of clowns both in Westminster and Brussels it is good to live in a democracy
5. Alcohol - Wine, beer and single malts being my preferred versions.
6. Tobacco - When I smoked I enjoyed it and also because smokers pay such huge amounts of sin tax it does relieve my tax burden a little bit
7. Sport - Golf and cricket as favourites but just general competitive sport is the best entertainment around, as participation and as a spectator

If anyone else want to have a go, consider yourself tagged and leave a note on the comments so we can all share your pearls of wisdom.

On this day

We have a leap day (29th February). As these occur every 4 years there isn't aren't many events of note.

In 1868 Benjamin Disraeli became British Prime Minister. Which reminds me that the first every LP I bought was Disraeli Gears by Cream.

And just because its Friday and I've left work early to work from home, here's one of my favourite Cream tracks to keep you company.

And here they are a lot of years later and in colour with another:

Thursday, February 28, 2008

On this day

in 1931, having left the Labour Party, Sir Oswald Mosley formed the "New Party" which he said was dedicated to turning parliament "from a talk-shop into a workshop". The party later evolved into the British Union of Fascists.

Seems that Labour likes to spurn fascists, its just that they aren't leaving now.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Turkey to take a step towards modernising Islam

The beeb has been running this story quite a bit today:

Turkey is preparing to publish a document that represents a revolutionary reinterpretation of Islam - and a controversial and radical modernisation of the religion

If this is true then it can only be a good thing. I have felt for some time that the real problem with Islam was the conservatives of its leaders. Its the same problem christian countries had in the past as well. I am sure we can all pick parts of the bible that we are glad aren't taken literally.

If it does go as far the beeb were claiming then there is bound to be a bit of a backlash from the psychopaths who will lose out, so lets hope Turkey holds its nerve.

Help for Heroes

This charity has just been brought to my attention:

What is H4H all about? It’s about the blokes. It’s about Derri, a rugby player who has lost both his legs, it about Carl whose jaw is wired up so he has been drinking through a straw. It’s about Richard who was handed a mobile phone as he lay on the stretcher so he could say goodbye to his wife. It is about Ben, its about Steven and Andy and Mark, its about them all. They are just blokes but they are our blokes; they are our heroes. We want to help our heroes."

If you read that bit about Richard without it bringing a tear to your eye you're a hard man.

On this day

in 1812, Poet Lord Byron gave his first address as a member of the House of Lords. He argued in defence of Luddite violence against Industrialism in his home county of Nottinghamshire.

I had realised that the celebocracy had started so long ago. He may have been a good poet (I flunked English big time so won't judge) but he was certainly no economist

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Defenders of Michael Martin

It hasn't been possible to turn on the BBC news without a coterie of friends of Speaker Martin being paraded to defend him and his conduct. All the defence I heard was about him personally, not once did anyone say he has been an excellent speaker and friend of the backbencher. The most memorable of the defences seem to have been:

He was picked on because he was from the Gorbals and was a sheet metal worker.

When his critics pointed out that Betty Boothroyd had a humble start to life and was a dancing girl it was dismissed because she was a woman and couldn't be victimised. Well, IMHO she was a great speaker because she controlled the house with fairness, humour and diplomacy. She went out of her was to support backbenchers where as Speaker Martin seems to be a sock puppet for the Labour front bench.

Then there is George Thomas who became Lord Tonypandy. His was hardly a silver-spoon-in-the-mouth start to life:

The son of a miner who died young, Thomas grew up at Trealaw in the Rhondda and was the pride of mother Emma Jane, his beloved "mam" to whom he was devoted.
he was, probably better than Betty, but only shading it.

When it comes to those expenses, especially his wife's taxi rides, he is defended because he hasn't done anything wrong in the strict sense of the term as far as parliamentary rules are concerned. That the rules are open to such abuse is his fault in the first place as he controls the committees that set them. This is no defence, the man has the morals of the worst kind of chav if he can't see what he was doing is orally wrong.

So, lets get this straight, Speaker Michael's is unpopular because he is crap at the job and deserves the criticism we hear about

We, the poor down trodden electorate, need a good speaker. The position is the last line of defence against the abuse of parliament and its procedures by the executive. Not one person has defended him for the way he has carried out that role which is why he should go and go now.

If he hangs around too long he could be controlling a hung parliament - now that is a scary thought

ID cards, DNA databases and political activism

I was chatting to the sprog (well he's 21 and has a level politics) about the control freakery of this Government and modern society in general. We started the discussion because of the calls for the national DNA database to solve crimes.

Whilst we may come from different parts of political spectrum we both agreed that this is the worst kind of state control. What he really wanted to know was why wasn't the general public up in arms and demonstrating at the barricades as they were in the '60s. This was a fair comment and I did point out that it was the equivalent of his generation that did all the demonstrating - so where are they. The upshot of the discussions was, as far as I can remember, were:

1. The demonstrations in the 60's were anti-USA/capitalism, using Vietnam as a pretext, although some were generally only demonstrating about Vietnam. Nothing new there then.

2. That generation who did the demonstrating are now the ones in control! This is the real scary bit - from radical to fascists!

3. For some reason the police have moved from being part of the defenders of freedoms to being the ones calling for more controls. As someone pointed out on another blog, apologies but I can't find it again, the police didn't call for a national fingerprint database in the 50's as a matter of policy. Indeed few politicians did either.

4. Politicians are scared to hold principled positions and want to be popular. The best way to do this is to follow the herd and echo their moo's louder than others who want to be politicians.

5. The will of the people has been knocked out of them through statism and constant tales of nightmares to come that can only be averted by giving politicians and the self important leaders of quangos more power.

It looks like we could both be voting the for the nascent Libertarian party if they get out to us by the next election

On this day

1935, Robert Watson-Watt first demonstrated Radar (radio detection and ranging) at Daventry, Northamptonshire. Which led to the posters telling people people to eat carrots as cover for pilots having radar

Monday, February 25, 2008

On this day

in 1913, English suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst went on trial for a bomb attack on the home of David Lloyd George, Chancellor of the Exchequer.

I wish I had known this earlier today when at a small family gathering we said farewell to an old Aunt who was 94 when she died. This means she was born at the time of the Suffragettes. She was a very strong willed woman who worked hard all her life and I reckon had the Suffragettes still been going as she grew up shoe would have joined them. Now that would have been something to reflect on at the service.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

On this day

in 1969, The Jimi Hendrix Experience played its last British concert before breaking up.

A scoll friend's brother went to the Isle of Wight concert just to see Hendrix, he got stoned, fell asleep and missed the whole thing! So here's a taster of it for him and others who didn't get there:

Saturday, February 23, 2008

On this day

in 1820, British police uncovered 'The Cato Street Conspiracy', planned by Arthur Thistlewood, to assassinate Cabinet ministers. Five of the eighteen conspirators were publicly hanged outside Newgate prison on May 1st 1820, six were transported to Australia for life, and the rest were either rewarded or released due to their status as spies, agent provocateurs, or men who had turned King's Evidence.

Far be it from me to repeat what you are thinking, I don't want to get locked up ;-)

I have to confess I hadn't heard of this until today and neither had the sprog, who has A level politics!

Friday, February 22, 2008

That DNA database, again (2)

I hadn't finished and hit the publish button by mistake - and I hadn't been drinking! Anyway, apologies to anyone getting these the wrong way round.

So, rather than worrying about creating an unworkable and hideously expensive database to solve crime, how about this novel thought - lets spend the money on prevention instead.

Prostitutes are a prime target for psychopaths because they tend to operate outside the law and norms of society. Wouldn't it be better to legalise the trade and put them in a controlled, safe, environment? It would also help to control STD's.

As a large number of prostitutes appear to be using prostitution to feed their drug habits there is a good chance they could be looked after better as well. Better still, lets legalise drugs, that should also prevent a number of crimes as well, and have the double whammy of saving money on jails, which could then be used for real criminals.

All this and I haven't even considered the libertarian aspects of the database. I'll leave that for those who are more eloquent than I.

That DNA database, again.

So yet again we have the siren calls for a national DNA database to solve crimes.:

The Chief Constable of Lincolnshire, Tony Lake, speaks for the association on DNA.

He said: "If there was a national database of everybody then we would solve more crime, of that there is absolutely no doubt.

Apart from the statist crap about controlling the citizens: Lets look at the practicalities:

How are they going to take 60 million samples without making a mistake?

How much will it cost? A private legally recognised paternity DNA test costs £399. Now this is for collecting and comparing 2 samples. Lets say, for the sake of argument, collecting and storing 1 sample costs £100. That's a total of £6Bn, before we start. I don't know about anyone else but that's a lot of money to be squandering on a database that probably won't work.

Next we have the process. We are often told DNA matches are a "1 in a million" chance. Unfortunately the hard of thinking means that it means that the person matched is guilty "dun'it". Really it means that there will be at least 60 matches in the UK, give or take a few.

So what will happen next? Assuming the police get some DNA from the scene and get 60 matches are they going to round them all up and make them prove their innocence? Given the likelihood of false positives and mistakes, it could be that the "guilty" person isn't even arrested.

Its one thing for the average citizen to be calling for these simple solutions but the police should no better.

On this day

in 1956, the first football match to be played under floodlighting in Britain took place at Portsmouth. The home side lost 2-0 to Newcastle United.

Newcastle fans must feel like that was the last time they managed to win anything of note.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Northern Rock, Granite and MP's

I have tried really hard to keep up with the NR saga. I have a passing interest in finance and personal investments and up to date I have just been able to keep my head above water. However this Granite SIV and its implications is starting to get fiendishly complicated.

On the one hand we have Watt Tyler over at BoM saying its a mess and we tax payers are holding the baby. For example:

Are we all up to speed with Northern Rock's offshore financing vehicle Granite? It has featured heavily in the debate this week as it finally dawned on everyone that a socking great chunk of NR's mortgage assets has already been pledged to Granite as security for its wholesale borrowings, and they are therefore excluded from the assets being nationalised.

Now John B has a detailed post explaining how its not a problem:
The good folk of Commentisfree have gone even further to town, uniting socialist idiots and right-wing idiots alike in a chorus of “someone somewhere has carried out a rather large fraud and I would like that someone prosecuted“-type comments.

There’s only one tiny problem with this kind of commentary: it’s bollocks. The mortgages in Granite are exactly the same quality as the mortgages that stayed in NR, nothing untoward took place anywhere along the line (well, not involving SPVs), and NR isn’t liable for Granite’s debts.

These are just 2 examples from the blogosphere but if you turn on a radio TV or open a paper their is similar analysis, although most of presented in soundbite form.

I'm quite happy to let these 2 slug it out as they both have professional connections with the finance industry; but they can't both be right can they? And as an outsider with a bit more than a passing interest and a reasonable head for figures how should I work out who is right or even whether they are both wrong

Now, if I am confused how is the average MP supposed to decide whether or not taking NR in to national ownership is a good move or not? I have met many a city banker and they are all extremely sharp characters and this sort of arrangement is fairly easy for them. I have also met a number of MP's and civil servants. Well meaning as they generally are the vast majority have nowhere near the intellectual capacity of a city banker.

So, do we really want the Government, of any persuasion, dealing with something this complicated?

On this day

in 1995, a man found a 40lb pike in a flooded bunker at Wetherby Golf Club in West Yorkshire while he was searching for a ball. The fish was set free in a river.

If is ball had been in the flooded bunker he could have dropped anywhere withing the bunker that wasn't flooded, without penalty. If he couldn't find anywhere to drop then he could drop outside the bunker with a penalty shot. Not that he would have cared as he now had a story to tell in the 19th that would alst a lifetime.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

On this day

in 1982, US entrepreneur John de Lorean’s luxury sports car project in Belfast set up with over £17 million of British taxpayers’ money, went into receivership. On his return to the US he was asked bluntly, ‘Are you a con man?’

We don't learn do we? Politicians picking winners and shovelling our money at them has never been successful

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ron Sandler is a nondom

and so his his deputy, accoreding to BBC radio news this evening. You really couldn't make this up.


PS I have no problems with nondoms, but Labour seems to have as they are trying to drive them out of the country

Poor Darren Minnikin

I made the point about the first Rocker to be evicted yesterday would cause a bit of a stir and now Guido is reporting that a Mr Minnikin is going to get his 15 mins of fame in a way that he probably wasn't expecting:

Government to Make Darren Minnikins Homeless

In Bishop Auckland right now the "People's Bank" is attempting to make Darren Minnikin homeless.

Claim 8PA12900:
Northern Rock plc versus Mr Darren Minnikin

Congratulations Mr Minnikin. You are the first victim of socialist economics today...

If this gets stopped you can expect the loan book to look a lot worse very soon now as the rest of the mortgage holders start to miss payments

On this day

in 1878, Thomas Edison received a patent for his phonograph.

We haven't had any music for a while so this gives me the opportunity to indulge in some ELP because I am in need of something lively. I have this piece as my ring tone

Monday, February 18, 2008

I want a referendum

I have recieived this email which I will share in full although the information is also on their sites

Dear Supporter,

Hundreds of you have registered for the mass lobby of Parliament on Wednesday 27 February. But we need thousands of people to make it a real success.

If you can make it to London on Wednesday 27 February, anytime between 11am and 6pm, to tell your MP that you think there should be a referendum on the revised EU Constitution, then please do sign up now, by sending a quick email to

Within a few days of the mass lobby, MPs will be voting on whether or not there should be a national referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. Don't miss this last chance to persuade them to vote yes!

Remember: you don't have to be an expert - you just need to be willing to ask your MP a few questions. The main focus of the day will be a queue outside the Houses of Parliament, where we will be waving banners and balloons and generally creating a pro-referendum atmosphere that MPs and the Government will find impossible to ignore.

I Want a Referendum has published a short guide to the lobby, including suggested questions for your MP. Click here to read it:

Getting to the lobby

Several of our supporters are organising coaches and lifts from various locations around the country. Please check the transport notice board for details of people who may be organising transport near you:

In addition, we have organised for 4 double-decker coaches to come to London from around the country. There are 400 places available in total. Donations towards the £6,500 cost of the coaches would be very gratefully received during a collection on arrival in London.

Pick-up points and departure times:

Coach 1

Manchester - 07:00 - Chorlton Street Opposite the Main Coach Station
Birmingham - 09.00 - Hilton Park Services Jct 10 M6 Southbound JCT 10
Warwick - 10.00 - Warwick Services M40 Southbound
Oxford - 11.00 - Oxford Services M40 Southbound

Coach 2

Leeds - 06:50 - Leeds City Train Station
Sheffield - 08:00 - Woodall Services Southbound M1
Nottingham - 09:45 - Trowell Services Southbound M1
Leicester - 10:15 - Leicester Forest East Southbound M1

Coach 3

Bournemouth - 08:30 - Bournemouth Train Station
Southampton - 09:30 - Southampton Train Station
Basingstoke - 10:30 - Basingstoke Train Station

Coach 4

Plymouth - 06:30 - Plymouth Train Station
Exeter - 07:30 - Exeter Services JCT 30 M5
Bristol - 08:45 - Gordano Services JCT 19 M5 Northbound
Swindon - 10:15 - Membury Services JCT 14 M4
Reading - 10:45 - Reading East Services JCT 11/12 M4

Please note these times are dependent on good weather and driving conditions. They are formulated with a view to arrive in London by approximately 1pm. The coaches will leave London again at 6pm from the same place you will be dropped off.

If you would like to use the coach please call the Coach Hire Booking company on 0845 0944 620, Monday to Friday, between 9am and 5pm to book a seat. Seats will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. When you call, please state that you are calling to book a place on the 'I Want a Referendum' coaches, specifying where you intend to board the coach. Please do not call unless you definitely intend to travel on the coach. And on the day, please make sure that you are at your pick-up point on time as the coaches will not be able to wait for you.

Unfortunatelt I can't make it but please feel free to pass on this info to anyone you think might be intersted.

Northern Rock

I didn't catch it all of Darling's interview on Radio 4 this morning but what I did hear was dreadful. He tried to make nationalising NR sound like the only reason he was doing it to protect us, the tax payers, and that what had gone before was irrelevant. It didn't occur to him that it was Labour's incompetence, and especially that of his former boss that got us in this mess in the first place.

Darling and the rest of New Labour proved the Peter Principle when they drew their second breath.

Does anyone seriously believe that the new management team will really be left to get on with running the business? Apart from the deluded fools who think that Brown was responsible for 10 years of economic growth.

Can you really see foreclosures being allowed when people default on their mortgage? Just wait for the first one to hit the headlines, it will probably be some hard done by single mum with 3 kids and a sob story, and this shower of shit for a Government will be round at the bank before you can say PR disaster telling the managers what to do.

The there's the job losses; are they really going to happen? Well, given this mess was about protecting jobs I thing we can safely say no to that one.

This has got 60's and 70's wild cat strikes and other protests written all over.

On this day

in 1981, Oxford University announced that Sue Brown would become the first woman cox in the history of the University Boat Race.

This question came up at a quiz night I was at on Saturday and I learned another little factoid about women at Oxbridge from someone who was involved. Apparently the first woman to represent either University in a men's sport was a golfer and she played for Oxford a couple of months before Sue Brown's historic outing. She played off the full course, white tees, and under men's' playing regulation.

PS I suppose from now on this day will be acknowledged in these types of posts as the day Labour shed the New bit and showed its true socialist colours by nationalising a bank and setting in place legislation that allows it to nationalise more banks.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

More on global cooling

That assortment of AGW deniers, lunatics, flat earthers and scientific charlatans who believe the great big yellow ball in he sky somehow controls our climate are it it again:

I’m writing this after doing an exhaustive search to see what sort of solar activity has occurred lately, and I find there is little to report. With the exception of the briefly increased solar wind from a coronal hole, there is almost no significant solar activity.

The sun has gone quiet. Really quiet.

See, told you, the sun does nothing, what idiots.
Given the current quietness of the sun and it’s magnetic field, combined with the late start to cycle 24 with even possibly a false start, it appears that the sun has slowed it’s internal dynamo to a similar level such as was seen during the Dalton Minimum. One of the things about the Dalton Minimum was that it started with a skipped solar cycle, which also coincided with a very long solar cycle 4 from 1784-1799. The longer our current cycle 23 lasts before we see a true ramp up of cycle 24, the greater chance it seems then that cycle 24 will be a low one.

No wonder there is so much talk recently about global cooling. I certainly hope that’s wrong, because a Dalton type solar minimum would be very bad for our world economy and agriculture. NASA GISS published a release back in 2003 that agrees with the commonly accepted idea that long period trends in solar activity do affect our climate by changing the Total Solar Irradiance (TSI).

Some say it is no coincidence that 2008 has seen a drop in global temperature as indicated by several respected temperature indexes compared to 2007, and that our sun is also quiet and still not kick starting its internal magnetic dynamo.

What a load of mumbo jumbo trading as science eh? What do they know about these things, they're only amateurs looking at another planet. How dare they contradict the great one, Al Gore.

PS I like the first comment:
Could all that CO2 that AL and others speak of have such an effect on the sun? WOW.

PPS did these dates mean anything to you "which also coincided with a very long solar cycle 4 from 1784-1799"? That was the period when the Thames regularly froze because the world was a lot colder than it is now. Have a look at the graph in this story from Climate Skeptic

H/T EU Referendum

EU and emergency numbers

I'm a bit late on this one from EU Referendum -it seems the EU is getting itself worked up about having a common emergency number and wants member Governments to make more effort to condition us to use 112.

Today is 11 February which, expressed in numerical form is 11/2 – something which the EU commission could not let pass – 112 being the single European emergency number.

It has therefore launched a new initiative, calling for "EU citizens" to be "better informed" about the number.

As usual this is a complete waste of time and money and another case of the EU focusing on something for cosmetic reasons in the name of "integration". To understand why we need to look at some history and techie stuff, but I will simplfy it.

You need to know that the telephone exchange provides the power for your phone to work by putting a voltage across your line. In the normal condition the circuit is not made (open) and therefore no current flows. The first telephone systems used currrent pulses on the line to tell the exchange what number was being dialled and they did this by the telephone dialler making and breaking the circuit to the exchange and so drawing current pulses at a set timing interval.

You may remember that early telephones had rotary dials and for the exchanges to work the dialer had to release at a constant pace so the exchange could detect the pulses correctly. This type of operation is susceptible to "noise" from lightening, car engines, early vacuum cleaners and even lights being switched on. This noise can, and did, cause mis-dials or even phantom dialling of emergency numbers.

Selecting the emergency number therefore became a trade off between how long it took to dial the number and the risk of spurious and/or mis-dials. For speed we would want 111 to be the emergency number but this is prone to being dialled by spurious noise. On the other hand 999 is slow to dial but not prone to phantom dialling.

So when telephine systems were fists eing built, rightly or wrongly UK telecoms engineers chose 999 for the emergency number, in the USA 911 and in parts of Europe 112. This is only a problem because in an emergency people will revert to what they were conditioned to dial and not what they had been recently told to dial when entering a country.

Whilst pulse dialling still works, fixed telephone systems moved to a system of Dual Tone Multiple Frequency (DTMF) dialling some years ago which meant push button telephones and all numbers being dialed at the same pace. Dialling is now faster and not prone to noise, so the trade off for emergency numbers has, by and large, become redundant (remember though that pulse dialling still works so we cave to be careful). Most of us have been conditioned from an early age to dial a certain number in emergencies and as all numbers are now dialled at the same rate it was pointless changing the emergency number.

So why not use all these numbers in a country? Well, yes, but old analogue exchanges were expensive to set up numbers and because of a lack of standardisation in the early days other country's numbers may have been allocated to other functions. However modern exchanges are now really easy to provision and we have standardisation work through the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

Over the years the ITU has standardised numbering eg UK is always 0044 (+44 on your mobile). It is therefore quite easy for the ITU and national regulators to move towards common standards and insisting that all countries accept other country's emergency numbers, which they have done on their mobile networks and most with their fixed networks.

So, the EU should forget its fantasy of getting everyone to remember and use its favourite number and save money. If they are really worried what they should focus on is working on the ITU and regulatory bodies to make sure all countries recognise the main emergency numbers eg 999, 911, 112 etc because it really is quite easy to set these up.

And a final point, the EU has set itself up as the super regulator when it comes to telecoms and is almost in a position to do this by diktat, which is what they really like.

On this day

in 1914, Women suffragettes in Britain turned violent. They set fire to the Lawn Tennis Club and broke windows at the residence of the Home Secretary. I suppose that would make them torrorists now.


in 1972 Patliament voted to join the Common Market. If only they'd been honest with us about what "ever closer union" really meant.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

"Cell" Phones

This one from The Magistrates Blog made me laugh:

It is reported that after the second time that a mobile phone had rung in the public gallery the Judge put down his pen, and glared across at the flustered-looking owner of the phone. "If that happens again" said His Honour, "you may discover why they are known as cell phones".

Our Judges do have a sense of humour

Another social services failure leads to baby's death

I haven't been able to get this story out of my mind since it was featured on the news the other night:

Health bosses should take responsibility for the murder of a baby by her father, an MP has said.
Jessica Randall was killed when she was 54 days old in 2005 by her father Andrew, who also sexually abused her. He was jailed for life in March 2007.

A report into the death, in Kettering, Northamptonshire, concluded care workers, who visited Jessica 30 times, had failed to identify her as at risk.

Philip Hollobone, MP for Kettering, complained of "lack of accountability".

Northamptonshire Teaching Primary Care Trust confirmed Jessica died after 30 members of staff at Kettering General Hospital and the trust had failed to begin child protection procedures.
I was close to tears as the story unfolded and didn't want to blog until I had calmed down.

I suppose we can never take away the fact that it was the father who committed the crime, but having poured millions of pounds in to social services to protect children we have a right to expect better services. It isn't as if this is the first time this has happened, remember we had a whole Inquiry in to Victoria Climbie's death.
But what really appalled me about the whole thing was the way those responsible stood in front of the country's press and television and gave us platitudes about "learning from mistakes" and "it shouldn't have happened". Fucking right it shouldn't.
Mr Hollobone said: "I think the public will be amazed that the report has concluded that no individual was responsible, but if that is the case then those in charge of the processes, those in charge of the organisations, need to step up and take responsibility.

"All too often these reports blame collective failure but no one's job seems to be on the line and there's a huge problem with the lack of accountability in the way vulnerable children are looked after.

"If it is the case that no one individual care worker was responsible, if that is the case, then it should be the senior managers in charge of the systems and processes who should be taking the rap for the fact that these signs weren't picked up."

WTF is this all about - "no one individual" to blame? Every person who came into contact with that wretched child, or had management responsibility for those who did, should take a long hard look in the mirror and ask themselves why they are still working in any job in social and health services. They may also want to ponder why they aren't in jail for the corporate manslaughter offence that everyone want to foist on the private sector.

Its not as if they need to worry about the law of the land as they recently showed they were capable of taking a new born child away from its mother without bothering with nicities like court orders.

Then we get these platitudes:
Shaun Kelly, safe-guarding manager for NCH - The Children's Charity, said: "Protocols and procedures alone cannot be relied upon. It's essential that staff receive on-going training, management and support, particularly around safe-guarding issues."
The hospital said it had now trained its 2,000 staff on how to spot cases of child abuse.

FFS, why are they only training them now? Its 5 Years since the Lamming report was presented to Parliament.
Dr Brendan O'Malley, medical director at the hospital, said: "The report was not a whitewash.

"We looked very carefully at it and we really considered that it was the processes that were remiss."

It was the process to blame was it, well lets jail the process shall we? Listen, you half-wit, processes are written by people and are supposed to be checked by managers. Anyway, what process do you need to look at a battered baby and think "fucking hell, something is seriously wrong here" and do something. As managers you should all be charged with taking money under false pretences because you haven't even paid attention to the Climbie Inquiry recommendations.

And to think it is bastards like these bastards and their cheerleaders in the Guardian and Beeb who fall over themselves to tell me I drink too much, smoke too much and am over weight, using my money. Well, listen to this the fucking lot of you, until you can protect baby's from your own incompetence you should not get a single penny to spend on "health education".

On this day

in 1659, the first British cheque (for £10) was written by Nicholas Vanacker and is now in the archives of the National Westminster Bank.

Given all the ways of transferring money and paying for goods it is surprising how many people still use them. We have friends who only use cheques and often write them for as little as a few pounds. I suppose this will get harder as more shops and garages refuse to take them. Here's a few facts on cheques:

There were just over 4.9 million cheques issued each day in 2006, compared to 11 million in the peak year for cheque volumes, 1990. By 2016 there will be only 2.5 million per day.
In 2005 each adult made 1.6 cheque payments per month, compared with 4.3 per month in 1991.
The typical adult receives less than seven cheques on average per year.
Only 5 million adults still use guaranteed cheques on a regular basis, compared to 16 million in 1996.
Women make almost 52% more guaranteed cheque payments than men.
Only one in eight regular bills is paid by cheque, compared with one in three as recently as 1995.
By 2015 personal cheques will account for only 2.3% of all non-cash payments made by individuals.
The average value of a personal cheque payment is £223.
Only 4% of retail spending by value is still paid by cheque, compared with over 60% by debit or credit card.
Business cheque use peaked in 1997. Since 2001 business-to-business cheques have seen rapid decline as businesses increasingly move to the use of automated payments for their trade suppliers.

Friday, February 15, 2008

On this day

in 1901, Winston Churchill entered Parliament for the first time, as MP for Oldham. MPs of the period were unpaid and Churchill was forced to take a speaking tour in order to fund his tenure.

Perhaps our current batch of feather bedded MP's should be reminded of this.

Its also worth noting that this day in 1971 was "D" for decimal day.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Flood risk alamists

This is another story that has got the great and the good of Radio 4 bleating again this morning (you can tell I'm stuck in the car for 90 minutes!):

Hundreds of thousands of homes could be uninsurable and uninhabitable unless stricter planning controls are introduced, insurers have warned.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said a third of the three million new homes the government wants to see by 2020 will be built on flood plains.

OK, so we are going to build on a flood plain, nothing new there London is a flood plain and we have been building on it for over 1000 years. But that's not the point I want to raise, it is the way that it is being reported:
He said: "Insurers want to continue to provide flood cover, but poor planning decisions will lead to more homes becoming unsaleable, uninsurable and uninhabitable."

There's 2 points here, the first being that this looks like another company trying to get the Government to take on its risk. The second is the words used. Taking them out of order:

Uninsurable - As far as I am aware this is a commercial undertaking based on the levels of risk. I'll bet insurance would be available, whether the price makes it worth taking is another point

Unsaleable - Everything can be sold. Maybe the builders and/or owners won't make the killing they expected, but that is a different discussion

Uninhabitable - I'll bet those living in the slums of our cities would beg to differ.

I do wish the so called serious press would keep a sense of proportion!

On this day

in 1876 Alexander Graham Bell filed the first patent for a telephone.

It just so happens that this week is also World Mobile Congress in Barcelona where all the great and the good of the industry come together to look at the future of mobile communications. Just over 100 years after its invention the phone is now indespensible and is taken with us everywhere. Within 2 years technology will have developed to the poiint where making voice calls will be a minor function of the phone and you will be doing real broadband browsing or whatever takes you fancy. Search WiMAX and LTE.

Valentine Cards - unwanted sexual advances

According to Radio 4 this morning (I'm sure it will be on the web somewhere if you look,) sending a Valentine's card to a work colleague can be seen as an unwanted sexual advance and therefore grounds for sacking. Well of course it would be unwanted if the person receiving it decided so; in the same way that any advance can be seen as sexual and unwanted by those receiving them. But we should remember any advance to another person the way human relationships friendships and relationships start.

Now if someone, having been refused once or twice, continues with these advances I accept that it is harassment and employers should start to look at harassment. But before it gets to that stage the employer will probably be more concerned about the impact on efficiency.

Oh, and another point, do those who claim that sending a single Valentine's card can be a sackable offence realise how difficult it is to sack someone these days? Especially if it happens to be, say, a pregnant woman who is doing the harassing.

Its bad enough living in the unfriendly "darn sarf" where trying to strike up any conversation is seen by most as the work of a nutter without idiotic stories like these getting air time.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Global Warming Stress Syndrome Increasing, Psychologist Says

This is a great post and I strongly recommend that everyone takes the time to read it. It taster:

Dr. Hyde described typical symptoms: “A belief that mankind causes every bad event, excessive hand-wringing, frequent bowel movements, a tendency to lurk on Internet message boards and post things such as, ‘There is a consensus! There is a consensus!’, an irrational desire to measure one’s personal ‘carbon footprint.’” But the most worrying of all is the, “Urge to make idiotic comments in public tying global warming to any event.”

Braodband on Segways

This looks fun. I was talking to someone who had a go today and they said it was impressive.

More education nonsense

I would say that Government have taken leave of their senses over this new barmy idea for kids to spend 5 hours a week doing something cultural, but I don't think they've had any sense for about 40 years when it comes to education:

Schoolchildren in England are being promised high-quality cultural activities in and out of school and the chance to pursue creative careers.
The Department for Children, Schools and Families says each child will have access to "at least five hours of high-quality culture per week".

So if we consider this 5 hours plus 5 hours on sport plus 1 hour or whatever it is on sex education plus social skills plus every other diktat the governments passes down is there any wonder kids can't read or write.

When the Tories first discussed the idea of having a national curriculum for the 3-R's I applauded as it would focus on the core skills a child needs. This was soon hijacked by the education establishment and they added music and every other subject that the education establishment deemed critical to bring up well balanced children. Sadly nobody wanted to add more hours to the teaching day and the reasons for the national curriculum were lost forever.

Don't get me wrong, I think these subjects are good for kids, but not at the expense of the core subjects of maths and English. By all means take kids to the theatre, opera and museum, but as extracurricular activities or once they have mastered the core subjects.

Mosquito on kids

Warning - personal story alert - may be boring!

I was appalled by this latest story about the product that screams at kids but can't be heard by adults. We seem to spend all our time denigrating kids and tarring them all with the same brush. Well from what I have seen through the sprog and his mates we are in safe hands.

Its not as if kids hanging around is anything new and from personal experience I believe if treated properly it isn't a problem. Let me tell you a boring story from my youth.

This New Year I spent a few nights in a hotel in a small North Yorkshire town with the Great Wiseone and some friends. It just so happens that this town happens to be where TGS spent his teen years in the late 60's and early 70's. There is a large roundabout in this town and despite having an access to a very well equipped youth club we preferred to hang about at this roundabout - messing about and watching the world go by.

There were complaints and the local copper used to come by regularly and occasionally move us on, but we just returned. I am sure, no I know, older people found us intimidating but that wasn't our aim. We all had long hair as this was the fashion, and don't forget this was new, and some wore leathers.

Of that group most have done very well for ourselves and have brought up children responsibly. Those kids also went through similar phases.

Ah, but today's kids are worse, they swear and drink alcohol some would say. Well they have got this from their parents so we can't blame the kids. I'll never forget moving to Ealing in London for a few weeks in the early 90's and hearing groups of women stood in the road effing and blinding in general conversation whilst their toddlers stood around listening. We reap what we sow.

What we need is more PC Plods wandering around engaging with the kids, not more rules and abuse of them.

UPDATE: The Dude says it all a lot more succinctly that I here and here. Please find the time to read them, they are good.

Danish Islamic Cartoons

Busy as I am I can't let this one pass. Well done the Danish media.

Danish newspapers have reprinted one of several caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad which sparked violent protests across the Muslim world two years ago.
They say they wanted to show their commitment to freedom of speech after an alleged plot to kill one of the cartoonists behind the drawings.

On this day

in 1633, Galileo Galilei arrived in Rome for trial before the Inquisition.

Galileo's championing of Copernicanism was controversial within his lifetime. The geocentric view had been dominant since the time of Aristotle, and the controversy engendered by Galileo's opposition to this view resulted in the Catholic Church's prohibiting the advocacy of heliocentrism as potentially factual, because that theory had no decisive proof and was contrary to the literal meaning of Scripture.[7] Galileo was eventually forced to recant his heliocentrism and spent the last years of his life under house arrest on orders of the Inquisition.

I have commented a few times that climate sceptics are more like Galileo than "flat earther's" as claimed by climate alarmists.

I suspect it won't be long until climate skeptics are rehabilitated in the same way Galileo was.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

On this day

in 1808, a mortar-fired lifeline was used for the first time to save a person from shipwreck, at Gorleston. It was invented by George William Manby who lived in the Norfolk village of Hilgay.

One of those inventions that is blindly obvious in hindsight.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Blogging light

Unfortunately I am working in central London (Mayfair) for what is looking like all week. This plays havoc with my routines as I waste 4 hours a day travelling and have to go to the gym in the evening. I have to drive as well so this really buggers up any spare time I have.

On this day

in 1895, the lowest ever UK temperature of -27.2°C was recorded at Braemar in Aberdeenshire. This record was equalled, also at Braemar on 10th January 1982. Minus 27°C was also recorded at Altnaharra (Highland) on 30th December 1995.

Not very well worded but I think we get the gist.

I suppose if we are to beleive the climat alarmists this will be a record never to be broken. On the other hand, if we beleive some of the new forecasts it may become common place:

Interestingly, in Canada, we are told that, back in 1991 before Al Gore first shouted that the Earth was in the balance, the Danish Meteorological Institute released a study using data that went back centuries that showed that global temperatures closely tracked solar cycles. To many, those data were convincing.

Now, Canadian scientists are seeking additional funding for more and better "eyes" with which to observe our sun, which has a bigger impact on Earth's climate than all the tailpipes and smokestacks on our planet combined. And they're worried about global cooling, not warming

Sunday, February 10, 2008

On this day

1355 The St. Scholastica's Day Riots began in Oxford when University students clashed with townspeople in a three-day street battle, following a dispute about beer in The Swindlestock Tavern. 64 students were killed and 30 locals. The dispute was settled in favour of the university with a special charter. Annually thereafter, on 10th February, the town mayor and councillors had to march bareheaded through the streets and pay to the university a fine of one penny for every scholar killed. The penance ended in 1825 when the mayor refused to take part.

Living near Oxford and having friends who live their I am often made aware of regular problems between Town and Gown, but nothing on this scale..

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Warmer and richer or poorer and colder

The AGW alarmists never give us the alternative position to global warming ie what happens if they are wrong or their proposals trigger global cooling? Being hot is an irritant for most, but we can learn to live with the consequences. Yes, some foods will change and yes there will be big impact on the way we live, but consider the alternatives.

EU Referendum has an interesting post looking at the cold weather that is being experienced around the world:

Tucked away now – because it is so common – the news of the global freeze continues to come in, the latest from Milwaukee in the American mid-west, where residents are rushing to finish digging out from this week's snowstorm, before the next batch of snow arrives – expected over the weekend.

So far, the major snowstorm has forced hundreds of schools and businesses to close and grounding hundreds of flights as snow piled more than 20 inches deep in some areas. Governor Jim Doyle called a state of emergency late Wednesday, sending National Guard troops to help about 500 vehicles stuck in a traffic jam behind semitrailer trucks blocking Interstate 90 south of Madison.
The worst hit parts of the China – the provinces of Anhui, Jiangxi, Hubei, Hunan and Guizhou – include important farming regions where winter crops are now destroyed. The impact on fresh vegetables and on fruit in some places has been catastrophic.

The Ministry of Agriculture has reported the loss of 14.4 million poultry, 870,000 pigs, 450,000 sheep and 85,000 cattle, that either froze to death or died from lack of food and water due to transportation hold-ups. The disaster, now being described as China's "Katrina" has smashed a hole in the government price controls imposed just weeks ago. According to he National Reform and Development Commission the price of vegetables in 36 cities rose by 30 percent between 25-30 January.(my emphasis)
That shows the impact of cold weather and a frightening prospect it is. Just in case you are wondering what a shortage of food can do remember MI5's controversial "4 meals away from riots" maxim:
MODERN civilisation may not be quite as safe as we thought. Britain’s security services have been privately warning their staff that western societies are just 48 hours from anarchy.
MI5’s maxim is that society is “four meals away from anarchy”. In other words, the security agency believes that Britain could be quickly reduced to large-scale disorder, including looting and rioting in the event of a catastrophe that stops the supply of food.
But going back to the original story there is one paragraph that raises the ever growing concerns amongst many "skeptics", and that is that (anthropogenic) global warming is wrong and in our desire to believe Gore et al and allow politicians and other assorted control freaks to dictate how we live, we are missing the real story and that we are heading for a cold period:
Interestingly, in Canada, we are told that, back in 1991 before Al Gore first shouted that the Earth was in the balance, the Danish Meteorological Institute released a study using data that went back centuries that showed that global temperatures closely tracked solar cycles.

To many, those data were convincing. Now, Canadian scientists are seeking additional funding for more and better "eyes" with which to observe our sun, which has a bigger impact on Earth's climate than all the tailpipes and smokestacks on our planet combined. And they're worried about global cooling, not warming.
The sun has always been the elephant in the corner of the AGW debate. No matter how much they shout and scream at us about CO2 and carbon foot prints, the biggest driver of the earth's climate is the sun. It doesn't have to change much to have a huge affect on us. As climate-skeptic points out in one of his posts, ignoring the sun in the global warming debate is like walking in to a hot room and asking people to turn off their mobile phones, whilst ignoring the radiators.

I'll go back to the EU Referendum story and use their final paragraph to finish:
Given the devastating effects even short periods of intense cold can produce, bringing one country to the edge of a humanitarian crisis, we had better hope these scientists' worries [about global cooling] are unfounded. If they are not, the "warmists" are going to have some explaining to do, as they will have been crying "dog", while the wolf is at the back door.

On this day

in 1540 the first recorded horse racing meeting in Britain; held at the Roodeye Field, Chester. Which is not the same as saying that is when horse racing started in England

"There is evidence that horse racing became a professional sport in this country as early as the 12thcentury, when the English knights returned from the Crusades with Arab horses. This is the breed of horse that is used in horse racing today"

Friday, February 08, 2008

House repossessions

On my drive in to work this morning BBC Radio 5's wake up to money and then the Today programme were making a big fuss about the number of repossessions last year, I've just had a look and whilst the situation isn't good, it isn't dire either. Anyway, I'll try to comment in more detail tonight.

Whilst every repossession is general tragic for those involved here's a couple of questions you might want to consider:

1. How many are because of divorce?
2. How many have had had mortgage equity release in the past 5 years and spent the money on cars, holidays and other none essentials?

Dr Archbishop Williams,

My, you do seem to have caused quite a stir with your comments on Sharia law being used in parts of this country; but as you are an intelligent man I am sure you knew it would. It is therefore quite refreshing, even inspiring, to see you exercising one of our longest and jealously guarded rights, freedom of speech, despite knowing that you would probably cause offence in many quarters.

Indeed, it is quite clear from the comments on the blogosphere that a large portion of those who believe in freedom of speech and the freedom of the individual are quite offended by your suggestion. As an intelligent man I am sure you can find them but here's a hint, do a search on Devil's Kitchen, Longrider, Mr Eugenides, Guido and Prodicus, to name but a few, and read their blogs. Just in case you think it is a small number of people, not that quantity matters, follow some of their links and you will find it quite a lot. The fact you also appear to have offened all three political parties, the Fourth Estate and even the BBC are offended is also to be commended.

So, given the offence you have caused to people's deeply held philosophical beliefs, I hope you forgive me if I point out it is somewhat ironic that recently you called for the curtailment of the freedom of expression of others when, in your opinion, their views offend you and the followers of your philosophy. Furthermore, I also find it ironic that you use your freedom of speech to suggest allowing another group to further curtail the freedoms of some its own believers, who are not allowed to renounce their philosophy on pain of death, and thus rely on the protection of the law of the land.

Interestingly, your comments do seem to have run in to the law of unintended consequences, at least I assume it is unintended. It seems that one group who have deeply held beliefs in the philosophy of self protection and the carrying of guns are supporting your ideas. Another who believe in the literal translation of parts your own philosophy, ie an eye for an eye, are also grateful to you for allowing them to reintroduce capital punishment.

Yours, etc


On this day

in 1969, George Harrison's tonsils were removed at London's University College Hospital. The tonsils were destroyed so they could not be sold. Interstingly his song My Sweet Lord was also #1 in the UK on this day in 1971

Thursday, February 07, 2008

I think I'll change my mind on being an organ donor

I know the dust is settling on the organ donor debate but courtesy of mediocracy this letter that was in the Indy is making me have second thoughts about being an organ donor:

How dead are organ donors?

Organs for transplant have to be taken from still-living bodies, bodies still perfused by their naturally beating hearts, warm and so reactive that muscle-paralysing drugs may have to be given to facilitate the surgery.

Their owners will have been certified "dead" on the controversial basis of bedside brain-stem testing, a procedure not sufficiently stringent to exclude some persisting brain-stem function and which includes no test for what may be abundant life elsewhere in the brain.
Many or even most of those who have put their names on the NHS Organ Donor Register may have thereby offered their organs to be taken for transplant purposes on the (mis)understanding that the wording "after my death" on the application forms meant that they would be dead in the commonly understood sense before their offers were taken up.
If so, they have made their offers on a false premise and those offers cannot be regarded as valid. [FT: I assume he means morally valid; I doubt anyone will be worrying about the legal validity.] Had it been explained to them that they would be dead in only a notional ("brain-stem death") sense, at least some of them might have wished to specify general anaesthesia to cover the organ procurement procedure. [Or got the screaming heebie-jeebies about agreeing in the first place.]
David W Evans
Sometime Consultant Cardiologist at Papworth and Addenbrooke's Hospitals, Cambridge
23 January 2008

Manifesto pledges

I suppose we all know instinctively that manifesto pledges aren't contracts because they are open to changes in landscape, but it still comes as a bit of an insult to have our noses rubbed in it by an expensive barrister and a judge. Especially when the judge makes the flippant remark:

Cecilia Ivimy, for the Government, said: "A manifesto promise is incapable of giving rise to a legally binding contract with the electorate. It is a point which is so obvious that I don't want to labour it."

Go on love, labour the point and explain it in clear terms because this really is an important issue.

So, if manifesto pledges or promises or whatever they aren't really promises then there is no need for the Parliament Act, which was used to push through the hunting ban on the basis that it was a manifesto pledge.

Told you so (1)

I haven't got time to dig out the posts but I always said the campaign finance staories would end up as "not being in the public interst". Well the first one has appeared, Guido is reporing this:

In respect of a possible offence under Section 56, the Commission has concluded that, while Wendy Alexander did not take all reasonable steps in seeking to comply with the relevant legislation, she did take significant steps. Having considered all the circumstances, the Commission has decided that it is not appropriate or in the public interest to report this matter to the Procurator Fiscal."

Next one will be the CPS saying same for Hain.


On this day

In 1974 Prime Minister Edward Heath announced a general election and appealed to the miners to suspend their planned strike.

And what a pompous, statist, arsehole he was. That period must have been one of the most miserable I have lived through; he and his Government were useless and Wilson was no better.

It would be another 5 years before we got some sense brought back in to our politics.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

What ever happened to being a straight forward "litter lout"?

This is bloody ridiculous for so many reasons:

The litter police were swift to act after an apple core was tossed on to a pavement from a parked car.

First they got a tip-off, then they traced the owner of the VW Golf - mother-of-three Kate Badger - via its number plate and sent her a £60 fine by post.

But then the case of the alleged phantom fruit-flinger ran into trouble, and could end up costing taxpayers an estimated £5,000.

Ridiculous: Kate Badger, who works in promotions, will go before a crown court jury for allegedly throwing an apple core out of her car window

Miss Badger, 25, insists that she is not the culprit and has triggered a legal battle that has already dogged her for 11 months.

The litter police are acting on a "tip off" and they just send a fixed penalty notice. Whatever happened to the need for evidence? She does right to tell them to get stuffed.

But she isn't even being charged with being a litter lout, no, in this day and age its all about being eco-friendly, so she has been charged with:
knowingly causing the deposit of controlled waste, namely an apple core, on land which did not have a waste management licence" under Section 33 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
FFS, an apple as controlled waste! I've got a garden full of the damn things rotting away, am I to be prosecuted?

Furthermore, I always dump by organic waste where it will rot away instead of filling bins. If these bastards follow me round the golf course they'll normally get me at least twice lobbing a banana skin into some bush or other rough land.

And now comes the real insult to democracy:
She denies that charge and a second charge of failing to provide information about who actually did throw the apple.
What's this about, she has to name someone else or be prosecuted herself? Isn't up to the law to prove someone is guilty with evidence and not on the basis of some "tip-off"? As for incriminating someone else of picking up the charge yourself that's Kafkaesque.

I hope that when this goes to Crown Court the jury send a resounding two fingered salute to the system and find her not guilty and ask the judge to make those who brought this prosecution pay costs out of their own pockets.

Democratic primaries getting a bit tasty

We could be in for some real fun if the latest predictions prove right. According to the beeb:

Hillary Clinton
8 states, 582 delegates
Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee,
New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Arizona, California

Barack Obama
13 states, 562 delegates
Georgia, Illinois, Delaware, Alabama, Utah,
North Dakota, Kansas, Connecticut, Minnesota, Colorado, Idaho, Alaska, Missouri

2,025 delegates needed for nomination. Delegate totals are latest Super
Tuesday projections from AP

However, what they don't tell us is that of the remaining delegates 850 are known as super delegates

Super-delegates (approximately 850 in 2008) include the following:
Elected members of the Democratic National Committee (~450)
Democratic US Senators and US Representatives (including
non-voting delegates)
Distinguished party leaders (current and former
Presidents and Vice Presidents; former Democratic leaders of the Senate and
House; former DNC chairmen)
Unpledged "add-on's" chosen by the DNC


It has been 30 years since the Democratic Party had a cliffhanger going into the Convention. If there is no clear winner after state primaries and caucuses, then the super-delegates -- who are bound only by their consciences -- will decide the nominee.

So how do these super delegates stand so far? I can't find a single site with all of those who have declared so far but Clinton seems to have the edge.

We won't see this being played out in public but I'll bet there's going to be some real dirty tricks and arm twisting going on in the background.

If they've nothing to hide..

This issue about bugging MP's won't go away and they do seem to be getting annoyed. Surely if they've nothing to hide they've nothing to fear?

On this day

In 1783 Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, the greatest English landscape gardener, died. His work lives on today throughout the great estates of England. He designed and assisted with many gardens, including Charlecote Park (Warwickshire) and Wallington (Northumberland).

He also designed the estate where I play golf and part of the course is on his original landscape which means we can't alter anything. This would be OK exccept we have a huge tree right in the middle of one of the fairways and no matter how I play the hole I lways hit the damn thing.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

What is our democracy coming to?

Is Labour so frit that it has to use any means it can to stop public protest?

A Labour council has been accused of "flying in the face of democracy" after telling children at a threatened school that they will have to pay to stage a protest march.

The schoolgirls' protest is supported by their head. Officials at Salford City ouncil insist that they need £2,500 to cover the cost of "traffic management", and say that pupils rather than taxpayers should foot the bill.

There was a time when Labour would have positively encouraged children to get politically engaged.

It couldn't be because these are well disciplined and behaved girls with obviously middle class backgrounds, could it?

On this day

In 1861 - Samuel Goodale patented the moving picture peep show machine.

Pornaography has to be one of the biggest drivers of inventions since man first picked up charcoal and scratched something on a wall. Just look at the internet now.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Bugging and the Wilson Doctrine

Interesting turn up here; it seems that bugging MP's is OK, but not tapping their phones. It appears that all those bright sparks in Parliament hadn't realised the significance of Gordon's statement on the subject when he said that the Wilson Doctrine applied to situations that required ministerial approval. Bugging prisoners doesn't require ministerial approval.

Anyway, who is to say the were bugging Sadiq Khan? If they were bugging the prisoner and Khan went to see him its not the same as bugging Khan. What if an MP rings someone who's telephone is being legally tapped?

I understand that in these circumstances the recording is to be wiped, but what if there is incriminating evidence or evidence of a crime to be committed? Maybe it the information can't be used in court, but those who hear the conversation can't unlearn what they have learned and certainly can't ignore it if they know a crime is about to be, or has been, committed, can they?

Furthermore, as Guido points out:

If the Labour MP Sadiq Khan has done nothing wrong, he has nothing to fear. Isn't that what the government and Sadiq told us about ID cards, CCTVing, finger-printing, phone-tapping, DNA swabbing, and database building. Too late to get all civil libertarian now they have come for him...
All this commotion is quickly looking like a severe case of SLOPS*

*Severe Lack of Perspective Syndrome. A phrase I first became aware of when a friend living in HK used it to describe the reaction of Europeans to the SARS outbreak.


To the kind reader who pointed out that as a Yorkshireman, I couldn't spell Yorkshireman! As a part Lancastrian he didn't even gloat, so thanks again. I must be honest and admit I'm not sure I could have resisted the urge in similar circumstances ;-)

Finally thanks for the kind comments as well.

On this day

In 1927, Malcolm Campbell reached over 174 mph in Bluebird on the Pendine Sands in Wales to set a new land speed record. A year later in 1928 at Daytona Beach, Florida, he reached 206.35 mph. Four years and one day later, in 1931, he reached a record-breaking 245 mph, again at Daytona Beach.

The current land speed record is 766mph (1233.704) set on 15 October 1997 by Andy Green in ThrustSSC.

This is a nice geeky site about the history speed records.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

On this day

1963 Britain's worst learner driver, Margaret Hunter, was fined for continuing to drive on after her instructor jumped out of the car shouting "this is suicide."

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Conway says he's no crook

Well I suppose in the strict sense you aren't because you haven't been found gilty in a court of law. But you aren't going to face a court because MP's are protected from feeling PC Plod's hand on their collars through some archaic rules.

How about this then Derek, you subject yourself to the normal legal process that most of us would face and let a court decide. And if you don't I and, I suspect, many others will consider you to be a crook.

And BTW I don't object to you or any other MP's employing your family as long as they are doing an honest days work, which they obviously weren't in your case because Parliament has censured you and asked you to pay the money back.

Egg's perogative

What a load of crap is being said over Egg's decision to withdraw service from some customers. Anyone would think they are some vital utility providing a life and death service. The BBC appears to have got itself in a real lather over the whole thing and has appointed itself as the defender of the downtrodden masses who been ground down by big business.

Angry customers of Internet bank Egg have hit out at its decision to cancel their credit cards.
Egg says 161,000 cards belonging to people whose credit profiles have deteriorated since they signed up will stop working in 35 days' time.

I suspect the 35 days notice is the contract period which they honouring, unlike those who don't pay their bills on time.
A Labour MP is asking the banking industry watchdog, the Financial Services Association, to investigate.

Nigel Griffiths, a former deputy leader of the House of Commons, said Egg's action was "unacceptable".

I don't know why but if Mr Griffiths is so concerned and thinks that the credit risk his so low then perhaps he could act as a guarantor?
The bank is not demanding immediate repayment of balances or making any changes to customers' terms and conditions or their interest rates.

The bank is not demanding immediate repayment of balances or making any changes to customers' terms and conditions or their interest rates.
So they are still getting their pay off period so no harm done there then.
Gillian Cox, of Farnham, Surrey, said she was "absolutely furious" to learn her credit card had been cancelled in what she described as an "unbelievable arbitrary action".

Mrs Cox said she and her husband are "retired, no mortgage, no debts" and "always paid the balance off in full each month".

She added that she had contacted credit reference agency Experian who said she was marked as having an excellent credit rating, "thus totally negating Egg's claim that this measure is about credit risk".

Yep, I would be pretty pissed off in this situation as well. But if this bank doesn't want my custom here's another 9 who will, assuming you have got a good credit rating.

But here's the other side of the coin and one which scares Egg, or its owners anyway. Do a Google search (or any other search engine) on IVA's. These are companies looking to help people get out of paying off all their debts. Even the BBC acknowledges there's a problem:
There were more than 44,331 IVAs taken out in 2006, compared with fewer than 5,000 in 1998.

The figures began to fall during 2007, but are expected to rise again during 2008.

Anyway, aren't the banks always held as being irresponsible by whenever debt levels rise and people can't repay?

Yes, Prime Minister

My favourite YPM is on tomorrow morning, 7:40am UKTV Gold (Sky Ch109). its the one where Jim takes on the Foreign Office over a small island in the middle of nowhere which is about to be taken over by Marxists. The FO isn't bothered but Jim is, for various reasons.

Anyway it ends up with a him getting a plan load of para's scrambled at short notice to secure the democratic president. Much to the annoyance of Humphrey, the FO and the civil service in general.

It is well worth setting the recorder if you can't get up at that time.

On this day

In 1990 South African President F.W. de Klerk lifted a ban on the African National Congress and promised to free Nelson Mandela.

I recommend de Klerk's auto biography as a good read. Whilst it is obviously self serving he does provide some interesting insights in to what brought the end of apartheid; the main one being business leaders persuading him that sanctions were working and the country was being brought to its knees.

This is where I confess to mea culpa. Whilst I was a vehement opponent of apartheid (I had been in Zimbabwe and seen the affect of racisim) I had been against sanctions on the grounds that they were hurting the poor, especially the elderly and children, rather than the rich whites.

When discussing this position with some former senior members of the MK, the military wing of the ANC, when I worked there in 1990/200 they were aghast. Their view, and they assured me the view of the majority of blacks, was that sanctions were a small price to pay to end apartheid.

So, with these two examples in mind I found myself supporting sanctions against Iraq, despite their affect on the poos and children. At the time this set me against, yet again, the left who opposed them on the grounds that they were hurting innocent people. Interestingly the same argument that they vilified me for holding on South Africa.

Which goes to show that, as a generalisation, the left don't take their positions on basic principles and analysis of the situation, but to suit their own, general anti American/Anglo-sphere, prejudices.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Lucy Kellaway on management consultants - where £2.8bn is wasted

In 2005/6 you and I and the rest of the taxpayers spent £2.8Bn on management consultants according to the NAO. This story is about the type of company and people that our money buys.

For those who don't know, Lucy Kellaway has a column in the Financial Times where she takes a sideways look, or more generally a swipe, at management and especially the reliance of senior managers on the latest management fads. One of her specialities is management speak and this week she is on fine form with a destruction of an internal email from an Accenture senior manager.

So what has this to do with our £2.8Bn? Well Accenture, and this manager in particular, are typical of the management consultant world.

This isn't the first time I've singled out Accenture for its work in the jargon space. A couple of years ago, I wrote a column about its annual report, which was a perfect snapshot of the ugliest business language of the time. Inside was an orgy of "relentless passion" and "delivering value". The point, presumably,was to impress clients. Yet Mr Foster's e-mail is more troubling as it shows top people write like this even when they think no clients are looking. His memo was addressed to "All Accenture Senior Executives" - though title inflation being what it is, this probably stretches to include the cleaner. Indeed as "group chief executive", Mr Foster is in a band of eight others with the same commanding title, and still has a couple of rungs to climb before reaching the very top.

/em>I've worked alongside management consultants and can assure you that this is how they really act amongst each other. She goes on:

The memo starts with some background to the announcement: " . . . wanting to give you continued visibility of our growth platform agenda . . ." it says. Visibility is the latest thing in business. Companies and executives all crave
it but, until last week, I didn't know that growth platform agendas
were after it too.

What is he saying here, I wonder? I think, though couldn't swear to it, that he wants to tell his colleagues how the company plans to make more money.

Just remember that these are the companies and managers who have their snouts in the trough of public funds.
And so to the meat of the memo. "We are changing the name of the Human performance service line to Talent & Organization Performance, effective

Before you marvel at the stupidity of the name change, note first that departments can't even be called that: they are instead "service lines". As for the name, the old one may have been no great shakes, but to take away the "human" (which was surely the point) and replace it with "talent and organisation" is not progress. As I've often remarked before, the word "talent" is a hideous misnomer as most people aren't terribly talented at all.

People like this are instrumental in reorganising government departments and they have the ear of ministers and senior civil servants.

Next comes the business rationale for the change. "With the rise of the multi-polar world, the task of finding and managing talent has become more complex, turbulent and contradictory than ever before."

This conflicts with two laws, the first of geography - there are only two poles - and the second of business - finding "talent" has always been hard as there isn't enough to go round. The only excuse for saying it is "complex, turbulent and contradictory" is to make it sound so complicated that the services of Accenture must be needed to sort it out.

Now, I am all for reorganising institutions like the NHS,HMRC etc, but I wouldn't wish this kind of bollocks on my worst enemy

His suggestion is frightening. I'm not sure I've ever seen quite so many waffle words crammed together in one sentence. Broad. Strategic. Focus. Highly. Integrated. System. Capabilities. Fundamental. Strategies. Indeed the only words here that are acceptable are "to", "and" and "on".

I will spare you further long quotes from this dismal memo, which contains much "stepping up", "blue water", "space" and "walking the talk". There is an obsession with capabilities. In four different places Mr Foster talks about "repositioning" them, "differentiating" them, "integrating" them and "evolving" them. This sounds like quite hard work, especially as I'm not quite sure what capabilities are anyway.

I think this needs one of those banging your head against a brick wall smiley thingies . But seriously, is there any wonder that, as Wat Tyler points out, we have poured billions in to the NHS, amongst others, and seen a drop in productivity:
The Big Picture is that since Labour turned on the spending taps, value for money has collapsed. In the most recent five years studied (2001-2006), spending increased by 54%, but output only increased by 19%. Which means that for every pound we spend, we're now getting nearly 30% less. Just imagine how long Tesco or M&S would survive if they served up that kind of value. Between 2001 and 2006, annual spending increased from £58.4bn to £89.7bn, a rise of £31.3bn.
Well the answer is obvious, to companies like Accenture.

Daniel Hannan on Today

Much has been said about Daniel Hannan's spat with EPP and EU Parliament, with Devil's Kitchen being amongst the cheer leaders, so I don't intend to comment further on the case itself. My ire is aimed at those imbeciles on the Today program when they interviewed him.

What little democracy there was in the EU Parliament is being stripped away on the whim of one person because they don't like being asked to justify their votes. Furthermore, the EU Constitution Lisbon Treaty is being rammed through against the wishes of the vast majority of the electorate n this country as as well as many others. I could go on but I am sure you are aware of it all. So, what do the beeb concentrate on in the interview? Hannan's reference to the way Hitler came to power by removing parliamentary rights and insisting he has offended people.

Well I hope he has because we need people to be offended so they might then look at what is really happening to our democracy and rights.

All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing. (Edmund Burke, although the exact words are disputed)

Anyone would think the beeb was funded by the EU the way they ignore breaches of EU Den=democracy and defend it at every step. Oh, hang on they are.

Well done Shell

Record profits should be cheered instead of having to defend yourselves:

Royal Dutch Shell has been forced onto the defensive after its announcement of record profits sparked calls for a windfall tax and complaints from motorists about soaring pump prices.

I just hope my pension fund managers were as far sighted as your managers have been and have invested in you shares.

As for those calling for another windfall tax, lets get the rope out. They really don't understand the problems in making the long term investment risks that these companies have to make in order to explore and extract the oil. So once in a while events conspire to give them a good time that is no reason to make up capricious taxes. Unless of course you are prepared to contribute to their losses if events conspire against them. Somehow I don't think that will happen.

I have little sympathy for either of these

A motorist who was texting on her mobile phone whilst speeding in a built up area killed a cyclist and has been told by the judge she faces a custodial sentence. I have very little sympathy and I hope the judge makes an example of her as much as a deterrence as a punishment.

The fact that the cyclist went through a red light may reduce her sentence shouldn't exonerate her.

As for him, it is no use cyclists claiming that it wouldn't happen if motorists paid attention and obeyed the law, jumping red lights at anytime is a really stupid thing to do and is inexcusable. the reason I have little sympathy is because I, along with most drivers, dread killing anyone even though its not our fault. I don't think I could live with myself if I killed a cyclist, no matter what the circumstances.

I would like to think this will deter other cyclists from idiocy, but I doubt it.

On this day

In 1977 the film "Genesis in Concert" premiered in London.

I never got to see them live but was always a fan, especially of some of the earlier stuff. This is from Selling England by the Pound. Very apt given the way the traitorous bastards in Westminster are selling out to the EU.

Apparently the first time they did this Peter Gabriel walked off stage before it started and came back on with a lawn mower and proceeded to "mow" the stage. He hadn't warned the band and they were stunned.