Due to the move of the blog to Wordpress posts from Jan 2012 onward will have commenting disabled (when I remember to do it)
Cheers - AE

Sunday, 7 September 2008

More lost data.

Computer disk containing prison officers' data goes missing. About 5000 prison officers apparently, who I'm sure must be absolutely ecstatic at the thought that their personal details have gone walkies perhaps as long ago as July 2007. I'd have thought Jack Straw must be farting sparks as well since it took until July just gone to be reported to the Prison Service and Straw himself is only finding out about it now.

Is there anyone left in Britain whose details have not yet been lost by the government or its contractors? And how would we know?

Met Office gets it wrong.

From Watts Up With That? there's a nice chronology of the Met Office putting its foot in its mouth.
In 2007, they made several notable predictions, starting with this one on Jan 4.“2007 is likely to be the warmest year on record globally, beating the current record set in 1998, say climate-change experts at the Met Office.”

On April 11, 2007 they issued this press release stating “there is a high probability that summer temperature will exceed the 1971-2000 long-term average of 14.1 °C ….. there are no indications of an increased risk of a particularly dry or particularly wet summer.” This was interpreted by The Guardian as “Britain set to enjoy another sizzling summer.“

It was colder than average and fairly shitty. For 2008 they predicted warmer than average temperatures and "near or above average" rain. Result? Colder and shittier than 2007. Seems about as reliable as my footy tipping ability (also based more in hope than expectation).

Has David Cameron seen the light?

According the the Telegraph today David Cameron would like to see a reduction of the state:
>The battleground of British politics is changing. As the economic news continues to get worse, and the Government has to borrow ever more gigantic sums, the central issue for the electorate is no longer: which party can best protect public services? It is: how can the size of the state be reduced?

Or as some of my favourite bloggers have put it, it's no longer a matter of right and left but a matter of libertarian or authoritarian government. However, the Telegraph's concern seems to be more about the cost of a huge state apparatus rather than whether it's good or bad in principle.
That has become a key matter of debate for many reasons. The effects of the credit crunch mean that individuals and families are increasingly concerned about their ability to pay their household bills, never mind their ever-increasing taxes. The colossal sums that Labour has spent on public services have failed to generate the kinds of improvements that were expected. And Labour's failure to set aside money when times were good in order to fund Government spending when times are bad means that, if nothing is done to cut back on the size of the state, Government borrowing will soon escalate to unsustainable levels.

Gordon Brown insisted, as Chancellor, that his watch-word was "prudence", and that he would never spend more than the state's income from tax-receipts generated. His actions have been revealed to be at variance with his words. We are all paying the price of his imprudence.

Well, yes, all true. But really it's just having a dig at the inefficiencies of the state rather than the iniquities that naturally come with it. The financial cost is certainly a relevant part of the debate but let's not ignore forget the state's nasty authoritarian streak, the we-know-better-than-you nannyism and particularly IngSoc's NuLabGov's Orwellian streak.

But is there a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel?
In [the financial] context, David Cameron's insistence, in his interview with The Sunday Telegraph, that - should the Conservatives win the next election - "the state will be taking a lower share of the national income in taxes", is extremely significant. It demonstrates his commitment, which at some points had seemed in doubt, to diminish the size of the state and to cut the burden of taxation.

Mr Cameron has signalled his intention to cut state spending and taxes. His reluctance to tie himself to definite numbers, or to a definite date when he will start wielding the axe, will disappoint those who hope to see a return of the ideology of the "minimal state" that played such a prominent role in the aspirations of the Conservative party during the Thatcher years.

Mr Cameron clearly understands the importance of having an effective, credible plan for reducing the size of the state. He also realises that the state cannot be reduced overnight: the struggle, not just to diminish the annual growth of state spending but actually to reduce it, will be every bit as protracted and difficult as it was when Margaret Thatcher attempted it in the 1980s (and she managed only to reduce the rate of increase in state spending).

Had seemed in doubt? Still is from where I'm sitting. Look, it's all very well saying Cameron saying this and it's good to hear it, but does he really mean it? The guy tried to ditch the Tories' nasty party reputation by jumping on the eco-bandwagon (drawn by huskies of course) and making noises about keeping Labour's spending plans if elected, and now he seems to think that Gordon has been pissing money up the wall and that the state is costing way to much money. Well, it is of course, but has Dave experienced a Damascene conversion or has he just found a new bandwagon to jump on? I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt and think this is genuine, or at least evidence that he's falling back on natural Tory instincts (which isn't necessarily good news, but you have to wonder if this is just his latest fad. I'm sure he and his advisors look at what's written in the press and blogosphere and maybe they're sensing a mood of anger at the cost of the state, the waste involved and the abuse of the powers it's granted itself under NuLabGov. The fact that he's only talking about the cost of the state just adds to my scepticism. The Tories are paternalists. Are they genuinely concerned about the big state or do they just want injustice and government interference in the lives of all citizens to be more cost efficient?

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Follow up to 'Why not UKIP?'

Devil's Kitchen talks about UKIP and how they're having a touch of the handbags at the moment. Having written about UKIP last Monday and why I wouldn't vote for them I found it an interesting read. But what most got my attention was a good argument in favour of voting for UKIP, if only in the European elections.
Whatever the state of the party, I would also urge you to vote for UKIP at the Euro-elections: although The Huntsman disagrees, urging a Tory vote, he is absolutely wrong. If we wish the next Conservative government even to start negotiating a withdrawal, we need to show them that there is the wish and the will in this country to start such negotiations.

And, realistically, the only way to do that is to vote for withdrawal; and, because General Elections are decided on a great many issues other than the EU, the only real chance that we have to vote solely on this issue is at the Euro-elections. We need to send a message to our Lords and Masters in Westminster that there is popular support for withdrawal, and that they must stop swithering, take their balls in their hands and start the process of withdrawal: the only way to do that is to vote for the only credible party advocating such a move—UKIP.

He's got a good point. The EU is deeply unpopular with the British people and no party seems particularly keen on listening or offering an alternative to steady and increasing integration. Personally I don't think a federal Europe is necessarily a bad thing if it was libertarian, truly democratic and happened naturally because it was what all European people want - might even have come about on its own in a century or two. But this undemocratic politburo style executive that runs Europe is basically bad news and is worth keeping a very long way away from (I recommend Australia as a comfortable distance). Now, it looks almost certain that barring a spectacularly catastrophic fuck-up on the part of Cameron or one of the other Tory high-ups the Conservatives will win the next election. But the Tories have had any number of opportunities to put a bit of space between them and IngSoc NuLabGov on the issue of Europe and have fucked up just about every time. In fact when they were in power they managed to enmesh the UK more deeply. They are probably the largest Eurosceptic party by numbers in Westminster, and some of their Eurosceptic MPs and MEPs may have a lot going for them. The problem seems to me to be the party leadership, which is a term to be used fairly loosely as far as the EU goes. As the Devil says, if a Tory government is going to be persuaded to change anything substantial as far as Europe goes they need be sent a strong message before the next general election, preferably one that leaves a lot of hard to shift underwear stains. A big vote for UKIP in the nest European elections seems like just the thing.

Thank fuck I left the UK, in association with Ealing council

This is one of the most stupid things I've ever heard.
Children as young as eight have been recruited by councils to "snoop" on their neighbours and report petty offences such as littering, the Daily Telegraph can disclose.

The youngsters are among almost 5,000 residents who in some cases are being offered £500 rewards if they provide evidence of minor infractions.
One in six councils contacted by the Telegraph said they had signed up teams of "environment volunteers" who are being encouraged to photograph or video neighbours guilty of dog fouling, littering or "bin crimes".
The "covert human intelligence sources", as some local authorities describe them, are also being asked to pass on the names of neighbours they believe to be responsible, or take down their number-plates.
Ealing Council in West London said: "There are hundreds of Junior Streetwatchers, aged 8-10 years old, who are trained to identify and report enviro-crime issues such as graffiti and fly-tipping."

Aside from the creepy nature of using impressionable children and dangling large (for a pre-teen) amounts of money at them as an incentive, this is another example of a nasty snitch society developing in the UK to partner the surveillance society. On top of which they're children for fuck's sake! Eight and nine year olds aren't even legally responsible for their actions but Ealing council are happy to use them as trainee secret police. What fucktard dreamt that one up? And I think children are sometimes brighter than adults give them credit for. Eventually some enterprising young soul will see the financial opportunity here. You report your mates that are also under 10 and you'll get 500 quid for each one you shop, but since they're too young the law can't touch your mates and you can split the money. What sort of person is naive enough to think this couldn't possibly happen? Only the sort of prize winning gold plated cunt who'd think it was a good idea to use children under the age of criminal responsibility to gather evidence of crime in the first place.

Whoever is responsible for this needs firstly a promotion to the human race, and secondly a fucking good slapping.

UPDATE: Also in the Telegraph's Comments section. It's worth quoting the lot.
It has become a cliché to describe many of the developments in modern Britain as ''Orwellian": the CCTV cameras, the databases, the cloying bureaucracy. Yet the news that children as young as eight are being recruited as local authority snoopers really does come straight from the pages of 1984. In Orwell's dystopian nightmare, the children are encouraged to denounce their parents. When Winston Smith, the book's anti-hero, is being interrogated in prison, his work colleague Parsons is brought in for shouting ''Down with Big Brother".
''Of course I'm guilty!" cried Parsons with a servile glance at the telescreen. ''You don't think the Party would arrest an innocent man, do you?"
''Who denounced you?" asked Winston. ''It was my little daughter," said Parsons with a sort of doleful pride. ''She listened at the keyhole. Heard what I was saying, and nipped off to the patrols. Pretty smart for a nipper of seven, eh? I don't bear her any grudge for it. In fact, I'm proud of her. It shows I brought her up in the right spirit, anyway." Using children to shop adults to local bureaucrats is the hallmark of totalitarian despotisms down the ages. In East Germany - as in 1984 - it was considered a sign of ideological purity rewarded with elevation in the ranks of the party. Here, children are being offered £500. It is grotesque. Orwell's novel was meant to be a warning, not a policy document for a future Labour government.

There's really nothing to add to that except to note, as has at least one person commenting on that piece, that the phrase about 1984 being a warning not an instruction manual has been used for quite a while in the blogosphere, including many of the blogs I like to read. That noise might be the sound of a penny dropping with the mainstream media.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Bristol Palin...

... should she be all over the papers because she's got one in the oven? This is just a guess but I reckon the number of people in the entire world for whom this is genuinely relevant is under a hundred, yet the way some papers are banging on it's as if she's running for President instead of McCain. She is only the daughter of someone who is only going to be Vice President, and only if McCain actually wins. So I really wouldn't give a shit about it even if I was an American, which I'm not, or if I lived there, which I don't. She's completely irrelevant, neither a reason to vote for Obama nor a reason not to vote for McCain. If I had a vote that is, which of course I don't so she's an even bigger irrelevance. Yes, America is the most powerful nation in the world and when it sneezes we all catch a cold blahblahblah, but assuming McCain becomes President what does the love life of the daughter of his VP have to do with anything? Bugger all.

Move along please, nothing to see here. Move along.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Why automatic policing by numbers isn't a substitute for sensible policing by coppers.

From the Sydney Morning Herald: Police drop bridge crash fines.
As motorists were forced to use the Harbour Bridge transit lane yesterday - the only way past a crash that clogged Australia's busiest road for six hours - highway patrol officers recorded their details. They would be sending them a fine for $189.

It so incensed the Police Minister, David Campbell, that he called on the Police Commissioner to show some leniency and cancel the fines.

Five of the bridge's eight lanes were blocked for more than two hours. That left just two lanes northbound and one south bound - the transit lane. It was not until midday that the traffic backlog cleared, demonstrating how easily a main city artery can be thrown into chaos.

It just happened that the police highway patrol was conducting a planned operation on the bridge. The officers started booking drivers who moved into transit lanes to get around the crash. A police spokesman said the operation was called off as soon as officers realised what was causing the disorder. But it was too late for some.

Nice to see that the officers involved realized (albeit after some fines had already been issued) that drivers were taking the obvious option of using the transit lane and weren't simply piss takers, that the Police Minister recognized that fining drivers for being sensible was unfair and wasn't going to be popular, and that the Commissioner agreed and is canceling those tickets that were issued. Commonsense all round, but it does show that reliance on black and white interpretations aren't always the best option and that automatically issuing tickets regardless of circumstances, whether by automated systems or by human operators simply ticketing everything in sight, ignores that fact.

I'm no lawyer but I'm told that many motoring laws are absolute offenses - you are either over the speed limit or you are not, you either entered the transit lane or you did not, and so on. In the case of speed limits and transit lanes these boundaries are arbitrary. Change the limit on a particular road from 50kph to 60kph or vice versa and what has changed in the real world? Nothing. But suddenly 55kph has become legal/illegal where once it was not, and the risk presented by driving at 55kph in that place need not have changed. This is why I like real coppers enforcing laws like this. A trained traffic cop will look and evaluate and decide whether words need to be had or fines are deserved or perhaps even that a driver's action deserve a court appearance. Say someone exceeds the speed limit to overtake a road train... should they be fined because they decided that it was worth speeding in order to spend less time on the wrong side of the road? Is that situation fundamentally different from the situation on the Sydney Harbour Bridge? A camera just takes a picture and sticks a fine in the post, and that's the same whether it's a fully automated fixed camera or one with a human operator. Yes, there's the chance that a copper might be a vindictive sod having a bad day and willing to show no more mercy than a camera would have, but I'd like to think most join up for vocational reasons rather than the power and the gun. I'd rather have more coppers patrolling the roads (marked or unmarked cars, I don't care) and less reliance on cameras.

Make of this what you will.

The MOD - where good kit costs more.

I notice the Telegraph are blaming Gordon Clown for this personally.
New figures released by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) show that Gordon Brown's personal decision as chancellor in 1998 to lease the four Boeing C17 Globemasters instead of buying outright was the more expensive option.
Buying the huge transporters outright would have cost £520 million, but instead the MoD paid £769 million to lease the aircraft for eight years and an extra £220 million to buy them afterwards, a total of £989 million.

The MoD said the decision to lease the aircraft instead of buy them was taken to meet short-term operational requirements.

Is that the same thing as not thinking ahead? And would £500 mill have helped with this?

Driving bans - the solution to everything.

Obnoxio the (scary) clown has picked up on this (my emphasis):
A man found guilty of illegally keeping wild birds in his garden shed has been banned from driving for four months by a district judge.
Police and RSPCA investigators found 22 linnets, goldfinches and chaffinches at his property in Margam, Port Talbot.
Bobby Jenkins, 59, ran a small business buying and selling birds. District judge Jill Watkins said as he was on benefits and a "man of limited means" she would punish him with a driving ban as a deterrent to others.

Jenkins had denied three counts of possessing live wild birds under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 but had been found guilty at a trial. He had claimed he had bought the birds "in good faith" during a trip to Belgium. But he had not been able to provide any documentation to back up his claims.

Sentencing him at Neath magistrates' court Judge Watkins described the subsequent trial as "lengthy and wholly unnecessary" and said she was "troubled" by many aspects of his evidence.
"You were not able to provide any documentary evidence even to confirm where they were purchased," she added.

Sounds like a piss easy prosecution when it sounds like the police have to do virtually fuck all other than establish possession and accused is expected to provide evidence of innocence. Looking around the room I'm sitting in I can see half a dozen things that I'm reasonably confident we didn't bother keeping the receipt for, but I'm reasonably certain no-one would assume we'd got them illegally. Here in Australia we have something called the presumption of innocence* which I'm fairly sure was a concept brought over from British law. Still, maybe the Wildlife and Countryside Act is worded in such a way as to make any possession of the bird species which this loon was keeping illegal without certain licenses and documentation, but from the Beeb report it sounds suspiciously like this law can make an accused guilty until proven innocent. I find that just a little bit distasteful, not to say worrying. I just hope that the police really did have evidence that he trapped the birds or otherwise came by them illegally, and that the Beeb's report has simply glossed over that aspect to concentrate on the weird idea that a driving ban is an appropriate sentence.

And that really is pretty weird. It reminds me of Stuart Harding, the guy who made a warning sign up to let drivers in Farnborough know that the police had a speed trap 300 yards down the road, and who was charged with obstructing police. Aldershot magistrates banned Harding from driving for a month and, rather nastily in my opinion, refused to suspend the sentence so that by the time he could appeal it (presumably on the grounds that while the circumstances were tenuously related to a motoring issue the charge itself had square root of fuck all to do with driving) the ban would be over. Now magistrates are advised by a clerk of the court and we could suppose that maybe the advice they got that day was particularly unfavourable to Mr Harding, but in the case of the Birdman of Port Talbot it was a judge, an expert in the law, who decided that a driving ban was a suitable punishment. Obnoxio notes that the judge felt that a driving ban was appropriate since the Birdman had limited means, but then hit the guy with £1000 costs. Being of limited means in the UK mustn't be too bad these days if you'd typically have a spare grand handy. Obnoxio also wonders if Judge Watkins was off her dial and asks:
How is a driving ban in any way, shape or form, a relevant punishment for keeping birds illegally? What's next, a Chinese burn for littering? A donkey punch for failing to stop at a traffic light?

For failing to stop at a traffic light maybe Judge Watkins would ban you from keeping pets. But how a driving ban is relevant is kind of, er, irrelevant. When I googled Stuart Harding just now one of the links was a local news story about Mr Harding's appeal, which went to the House of Lords. The interesting bit is in the last few paragraphs (my emphasis):
[Viscount Falkland] said: “Could the minister (Baroness Scotland of Asthal) allay the fears of the House and the general public by confirming that this is not the thin end of the wedge and that young people will not have to look forward to a future when they will receive driving bans for not separating their rubbish or for smoking in public places?”

But ex-Labour MP Dale Campbell-Savours, now Lord Campbell-Savours, spoke in favour of the new power and said “a very large body of public opinion is highly supportive” of using driving bans instead of fines, which were often not paid.

The Minister, Baroness Scotland, said the power to slap a driving ban on anyone convicted of an offence was granted in 2000 and “may be seen as an additional deterrent in the context of anti-social behaviour, environmental crime and other offences when a case has a link to the use of vehicles, such as kerb crawling.”

She said it was entirely up to the discretion of the judge or magistrate to impose a driving ban. “The sentence is available to the court if the court deems it appropriate for that particular offender.”

Not exactly shocked to see environmental crime in there, another fucking buzzword of a political generation. But from that it seems like the courts have the power to hit someone with a driving ban without having to justify it in any way or the crime having to be a motoring offense. If they think it's alright then a ban it is. How fucked up is that?

*But possibly not for speeding. The Australian police are even more worked up about hammering speeding motorists than their counterparts in the UK, and since there's pretty much a presumption of guilt for speeding in the UK now I wouldn't be surprised if it's the same here. Hopefully I won't have to find out.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Unlikeable council CEO

Spotted on Nanny Knows Best:
Those of you who are wondering if our beloved local councils provide us with value for money, may care to consider what Dr Allison Fraser (CEO of Sandwell council) is doing with their council taxpayers' money.

Dr Fraser has decided that it is necessary to spend £5K to go on a self-awareness training course in Germany and Florida, to teach herself to 'like herself'.

The courses in the Avatar Professional Course will teach her how to become 'more likeable'. is a simple suggestion Dr Fraser, to make yourself more likeable, don't waste £5K of taxpayers' money on self indulgent crap!

Quite. And a complete waste of money. She might end up liking herself a bit more but I for one can't stand the silly bitch, and I'd never even heard of her an hour ago. Nanny Knows Best points out that she earns £140,000 and suggests Fraser stump up the money herself, but let's remind ourselves that her £140K salary is paid for by the taxpayer in the first place... and on top of that she pisses away more taxpayers' money on this crap. Unbefuckinglievable.

Why not UKIP?

Saturday's Hobson's Choice post has attracted comment from a UKIP member, Vindico, who suggests I have a look at their website to find out more about their policies. On Saturday I said:
UKIP are at least well known and might be worth a vote, but are they interested in much beyond getting the UK out of Europe? What do they plan to do about the various abuses of power, the creeping legislation, the databases, 42 days imprisonment without trial, the extension of police powers to non-police etc? Like the Tories they don't really seem to have a policy of changing it.

I admit that I'd only looked at the policy summary and hadn't downloaded the PDFs for the details, but it strikes me that if they were really concerned with the issues of abuse of power, creeping legislation, databases, 42 days imprisonment without trial, and extension of police powers to non-police then putting something in the summary about what they intend to do about it might have been a good idea. But Vindico did mention that some more policies would be announced soon during UKIP's conference, so we'll wait and see what turns up.

In the meantime I'm sifting through the PDFs for the details and some of what I see I like, and some I don't. And some of what I'd hope to see I haven't found at all. Here's a few examples:

UKIP are strongly monarchist and in principle at least I'm a republican. A very small 'r' republican as far as the UK is concerned since the Royal Family really costs so little the issue is pretty low priority for me, but when it comes up again in an Australian referendum (as it surely will) I'll be voting yes to becoming a republic providing there's no repeat of the Parliament appointed President option that John Howard offered. But as a matter of principle I'm not keen on the issue of the monarchy being off limits for debate, reform and possible abolition. The Libertarians wiseIy don't mention the monarchy in their manifesto so presumably the possible abolition of the monarchy is not taboo. As I said, really not a big deal but some points for LPUK there.

I think UKIP, like LPUK, are right to propose a voucher system for education. But strangely UKIP don't feel strongly enough about it to mention it in the policy summary - it's buried in their education policy document - while LPUK mention it in the precis of the education section on their manifesto web page. It's a good policy and I believe both parties are right to include it, but LPUK are the ones shouting it loud and proud. Points to LPUK again.

Immigration is a matter on which I have strong feelings being, as I said on Saturday, an immigrant myself. UKIP's policy summary states that they'll freeze immigration for five years, and it's the second item on the list and also mentioned on their "vision" page ("Our party has a full range of policies including a firm line on immigration") so presumably it's something they feel pretty strongly about too. I've not yet come across the details in the various PDFs but the tone makes me suspect my strong feelings may be rather different from UKIP's. LPUK on the other hand favour the principle of "free movement of goods, capital and people" (my emphasis), but believe that it is not yet practical to apply that to immigration (due to British welfare-itis and non-libertarian governments elsewhere) so propose a points based system until the time is right (sounds a bit Aussie from where I'm sitting). Points to LPUK again, and possibly points away from UKIP depending on the details.

I was pleased to see UKIP are against things like control orders allowing imprisonment without trial, though like the education vouchers I found this in the middle of a downloaded PDF whereas the Libertarians are again pretty vocal about it. But it seems that UKIP are at least mildly opposed to the sort of authoritarian legislation and policies that are commonly used in Britain today, and I give them credit for that. But again, if it's a big deal for them should it not be in the policy summary? And so far I've found nothing about repeal of Britain's ridiculous gun laws, prostitution, recreational drugs etc*. All things on which Libertarian party have a position I broadly agree with, in spite of the fact that I believe they'll have an uphill struggle persuading the British electorate that the gun laws have achieved bugger all for public safety and firearms in the hands of responsible law abiding citizens are nothing to be afraid of, that the sale of sex is illegal more for prudish reasons than because it does society harm, and that the choice to waste your money on mind altering substances to stick in your veins or up your nose should have nothing to do with the government. Points to both UKIP and LPUK, but more to the Libertarians.

UKIP, if you want to describe yourselves libertarian I'd suggest being a little more, well, publicly and vocally libertarian. I think I read or heard someone call UKIP the real Conservative party, and that might not be so far from the truth. Certainly the current Tories strike me as being overly centrist, scared to say anything that might alarm voters, and a bit opportunist when it comes to the media. With no Libertarian Party UKIP would get my vote. But here's the big problem - having ruled out the big three parties I'd be voting for someone who might not even win a seat in the short term, much less someone who might be in the party of government. So why vote for a party that is merely going to be the largest of the parties to not have any MPs rather than the one that is most closely aligned to my own views and opinions? UKIP has got a lot going for it, but the way I see it the choice is between voting tactically and voting my principles. In the former case someone like myself might as well vote Conservative and done with it, and there would at least be the satisfaction of having cast a vote that helps get rid of Gordon Clown (though from this side of the world it looks like no one is working harder to get rid of Gordon than Gordon himself). UKIP has the advantage of having been around a while and becoming well known (not always for the right reasons - Robert Kilroy-Sulk and the Vanitas business, Tom Wise), but frankly that's not a good reason to support a party that you don't fully agree with unless they had a genuine chance of forming a government in the not too distant future and you felt they were at least a good few steps in the right direction. For now at least LPUK is a better choice.

*Since I'm still reading through some of the PDFs I downloaded from UKIP's site I may come across these later, in which case I'll update this post accordingly.

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Become a government informer #2

'Environmental volunteers' will be encouraged to spy on their neighbours.

It's very late and I'm really too tired to put much into this, and really nothing needs to be said that hasn't been said before except that some power obsessed self righteous little shits no doubt will volunteer for this. Bastards, bastards, bastards, bastards.

Thank fuck I left the UK, in association with South Yorks Stasi

From the Mirror via the LPUK blog (also in Metro and the Yorkshire Post in a bit more depth):
Thirty under-age teenage drinkers have been arrested by police using anti-terrorist legislation.
Youngsters who use borrowed, stolen or forged IDs to get into pubs and clubs are being held under the new laws - which makes it an offence to misrepresent documents for ID purposes.
In six weeks 30 youngsters have been held. One case has gone to court.
Police said they have the backing of licensed traders.

Insp Neil Mutch in Sheffield, South Yorks, said: "It is one way of trying to keep kids out of clubs. The act was brought out for terrorism but it suits us very nicely."
But children and legal campaigners fear the youngsters could end up with Criminal Record Bureau checks ruining future careers.
The Children's Rights Alliances said yesterday: "We ask why there is no alternative to using terrorist legislation which wasn't drafted with this intent."

No, no, no Insp Mutch, we know the police and the government like to use legislation like this to go after trivial offenders but you're not supposed to fucking say it in public. And as for the local traders who support this shit, you're all cunts of the highest order and I hope your businesses go tits up in spectacular fashion, your spouses leave you, your

But going back to Inspector Mutch... well, who knows? Maybe he's an honest copper who doesn't like the misuse of anti terrorism laws to catch teenage pissheads and took the opportunity to stir up some shit by talking about it openly. Or perhaps he's an idiot who can't think of any other law to use (seriously, what the fuck did the police do before? Stand around scratching their balls because there wasn't an applicable law? Bullshit.) as well as a revolting authoritarian who sees nothing wrong with abusing the power that a law gives the police.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Hobson's Choice... again.

Vicki Woods writes in the Telegraph on ContactPoint, ID cards, creeping authoritarian legislation and not-police-policing, all things that have wound me up lately. When did Labour become the nasty party, she asks. Some comments suggest that they may have become nasty as recently as a certain lunch in the Granita in 1994 to as long ago as the Fabians, but really it's beside the point. What do we do about it is a more pertinent question, and one that Vicki Woods isn't asking loudly enough, though she does seem to be looking forward to IngSoc NuLabGov getting kicked out on their arses.

Now if David Cameron was in the news every day speaking out against the increasing authoritarian style of government and making a commitment to repeal as much of it as the Tories physically have time to if elected then I'd be looking forward to IngSoc NuLabGov getting taken apart in the next election, but this doesn't seem to be happening. Some long time Labour voters I know bitterly complained at the end of the 90s that the Blair government was so similar to the Major government it replaced that they wondered why the hell they bothered voting. It probably wasn't helped much by people like my father, a life long Tory voter and for many years a Conservative party member, saying things like Blair was one of the best Conservative Prime Ministers they'd had (I'm sure they were just twisting the knife a little). The point is that the parties have become so close now as a result of squabbling over the centre ground that there really is little to choose between them. Yes they're different in the details, but sometimes the devil isn't hiding in the details and instead stands proudly in general areas. And in the general area of individual freedom there really doesn't seem to be much advantage to voting for the Tories.

So as an ex-pat who retains a vote where should I use it? IngSoc NuLabGov under Gordon Clown doesn't even bear thinking about, and frankly I can't think of any serious contenders who might take over from Gordon before the next election that deserve any more trust than the wanker in chief himself. The Tories? As said, is there any real evidence that they'd change things? They may make some noises of protest here and there but do they actually intend change things back? Without any firm policy and with little sign of commitment from Cameron I don't hold out much hope. For all we know there's a little group in Conservative Part HQ working out what use NuLabGov's most repellant creations can be put to in Tory hands. The LibDems? Well, I'll give them some credit as some of them seem to have looked up the word "liberal" and noticed that they haven't been particularly liberal since, well pretty much since they formed after merging with the SDP. But they're still very pro-EU, which means the LibDems now need to get the dictionary out again and find out what "democratic" means as well.

So that's the main parties pretty much ruled out, which means voting for a likely non-winner. UKIP are at least well known and might be worth a vote, but are they interested in much beyond getting the UK out of Europe? What do they plan to do about the various abuses of power, the creeping legislation, the databases, 42 days imprisonment without trial, the extension of police powers to non-police etc? Like the Tories they don't really seem to have a policy of changing it. Likewise the BNP, but as an immigrant myself (though from the UK rather than to it) and someone who believes immigration can be beneficial can I support a rabidly anti-immigration party? No, and it's not the only reason either. The only party I'm aware of, and I didn't become aware of it until after I left Britain, that has pledged to repeal authoritarian legislation and making Britain a more genuinely free society is the Libertarian Party of the UK. But so far they haven't even contested a seat despite recent by elections. Okay, the party is less than a year old and it's early days, but who knows if they'll even stand for more than half a dozen seats in a couple of years time. Well, I think I'll register as an overseas voter and pick a constituency where someone can proxy vote for me, but frankly if there's no LPUK candidate I may not bother voting for the very first time in my adult life. Of course I'll probably be compelled to vote here under Australian electoral laws which famously make voting compulsory. Fortunately there is a libertarian party here too, the Liberty and Democracy Party. While I doubt many seriously expect them to win they've been around longer than the LPUK and since they've fielded candidates in a few elections they are beginning to get noticed.

It may be unfair of me but I'm going to have a little bet with myself. Here in Australia the LDP will continue to improve their share of the vote and life in the UK will continue to become less free, government more authoritarian and the British people more pissed off. Whether the LPUK can make the most of it and become a force for change is probably up to them. I wish them luck.

Friday, 29 August 2008

HIP replacement

I'm quite pleased with the Christmas cracker quality pun of this post's title, though I'd be amazed if it's not already been used by at least one tabloid. Anyway, the Telegraph feels that it's time to get rid of Home Information Packs, and it's hard to argue. I've not spoken to one ex-pat who has sold up and fucked off out here who has a good word to say about them. Or anyone else for that matter. The promise was to simplify the process of buying a house, but as soon as the details of the Seller Pack/HIP proposal started to come out it became clear it would do nothing of the kind. There is additional cost and complications for sellers and no practical benefit for buyers, end of. It's just another example of the retarded belief in political circles that to improve something government needs to get involved more, whereas the opposite is usually true. A real improvement might have been to imitate simpler systems in use in other countries. Australia might be one possibility but many in the UK point to the Scottish system which, being largely composed of Scots, the government ought to be pretty familiar with. So why don't they admit it was a shit idea and change it? Well, some say because the government are getting VAT on the HIPs (though fucking up the housing market probably means not a lot of people are ordering HIPs at the moment), and others claim that the EU are behind it and Westminster is powerless to get rid of them. Both may be at least partly true but as the cliche has it, there's no need to suspect a conspiracy when stupidity can explain it. And political ego of course. How likely is it that NuLabGov will admit they fucked it up and that HIPs are useless? If it happens before the next election I'll print this out and eat it.

UPDATE: Gazundering is back in fashion. HIPs really are pointless.

Was that noise the sound of a penny dropping?

Well done Gordon! How perceptive of you. Yes, competitive sports at schools can produce winners. Give the man a fucking prize someone, now that it's allowed to have prizes again. Bit of a shame, as the Telegraph points out, that NuLabGov didn't honour it's manifesto promise to stop school playing fields being sold off. And an even greater shame that there's virtually no chance that you'll apply the same thinking, that competition is good, to education in general. Give the man a prize did I say? Well if this is genuinely a Damascene conversion then maybe a very small faux bronze medal - you're still a way off anything nearer a gold in my opinion Gordon. But if this is just more political grandstanding on the back of Olympic success then about a hundred weight of scrap dropped from a height would be more appropriate.

Windfall taxes are for idiots

Being British I have a natural fascination with the weather. Talking about it, guessing what it's going to do next, looking at the forecasts, complaining when they get it wrong. It's natural, and fortunately the weather in Victoria in general and Melbourne in particular is just as changeable as in Britain, so no one thinks I'm a weird pom for wanting to look at what's going on with the weather back in Blighty. Or everyone I know is just too polite to say so.

But the long and short of it is I'm aware the British summer has been a bit of a let down and many people are looking ahead to autumn and winter without a lot of enthusiasm. There seems to be some worry that it's going to be a cold one (and the winter here in Oz has been the coldest for ten years or so according to some, so Britons may well be right to be worried). Of particular concern is the fact that the economy looks like it's going into the shitter, money is tight and gas prices have gone up. Actually let's not mince words, they've fucking shot up. So, it's without much surprise that I've seen stories of a possible windfall tax to batter the energy companies with ( Telegraph here and here, and Grauniad letters for example).

Well, it's no shock that NuLab like the idea, good old fashioned wealth redistribution that it is. But look, it's a really fucking stupid thing to do. Let's say I ran an energy company, say for example one that's just put prices up 30% or so and is being ripped to bits in the media for pulling in a zillion pounds a minute. Let's also say, just for the sake of argument, that in spite of this the wholesale price of the energy source the company supplies has gone up and as a result the profits are actually down 30%. Now, how do I feel about a windfall tax when profits are down? Do I feel like re-investing in future supply to hep the business and its customers down the line, or do I think that now isn't a good time in spite of a looming energy crisis on the distant horizon? And how do the shareholders feel? Now, those of a wealth redistributionist persuasion might well think that the me and my shareholders, rich bastards to a man and woman, can all go fuck ourselves and the little people can be put first for a change. Well, true, there will certainly be plenty of rich bastards, but the little people should first want to know whether any of their pension or super* fund is invested in that energy company, and if so how much and whether it's going to suffer as a result. They should also want to know how likely I am to increase prices even further to protect those reduced profits and/or shareholder dividends. If it was me the answer is very likely.

The attraction of a windfall tax is that it looks like it's going to be the wealthy who pays, but in reality that's naive. The ripples spread out and nearly everybody ends up contributing to it. It's human bloody nature to pass costs like this on to customers, and in the highly unlikely event that doesn't happen anyone who has invested directly or indirectly pays. In either case re-investment is hurt, and that seems like a really bad idea when Britain is going to have to shut down a bunch of power stations in the next few years and has done almost, but not quite, sod all about building new ones.

So the question isn't whether the energy companies are making so much can afford to pay a windfall tax. It's whether Britain's cold and poor can afford it.

*Australian for pension.

Peter Garrett - hypocritical twat or honest convert?

Peter Garrett, one time front man of right-on lefty activist rockers Midnight Oil and now Australia's Environment Minister, is a bit of a puzzle to me. On the one hand in his music career he sang about uranium mining, how bad it was and how nasty mining companies are and how they trample on the rights of the rest of us with government approval. On the other hand he's now just given his personal approval - and being a minister it's also a government approval - for expansion of a uranium mine in South Australia.

Now in some respects it shouldn't be a huge surprise since he's said before the Australian Labour Party even won the election that he'd toe the party line. However, some Midnight Oil fans, and some who weren't really fans and maybe even hated the music, reckon Peter Garrett is a hypocritical twat who's sold out on his principles to get a nice job in the government. Garrett himself has said that people can change their minds on an issue, though in this case it seems he's merely going along with a party policy that he personally disagreed with and voted against but that was approved by the majority.

So while I'd normally lean towards my stack of hypocritical twat labels, because as a pop star campaigner turned politician he seems likely to deserve one on both counts, I'm really not sure he deserves it, at least not for this. Could it just possibly be that he values the principle of democracy slightly higher than the principle of not digging up uranium? Without being able to take a peak inside his head who can say for sure except Garrett himself? Perhaps he shouldn't have accepted the job of Environment Minister since he must have had an inkling that sooner or later he'd have had to do something that might not fit to well with all the Oil eco-protest anti-corporatist stuff. Certainly some eco-types in Melbourne wish he hadn't, and some would probably like to force feed him every Midnight Oil CD smashed into little spiky bits because he approved the dredging of Port Phillip Bay. But if he really has modified his position on some environmental issues as he's got older, and lots of people do (including me), then why should he not take the job?

Still, while I think the hypocritical twat label might be unfair, having seen some Midnight Oil stuff on YouTube I will say he comes across as a self righteous prick and possible Michael Stipe wannabee. I thought the music was shit as well.

ContactPoint database delayed

From the Telegraph, an update on the ContactPoint story. The good news is that someone has woken up to the data security issue.
The children's minister, Kevin Brennan, told fellow MPs: "We have identified some issues as a result of recent system tests which we are working urgently to address.
"I have therefore taken a decision today to postpone deployment until January 2009 to allow sufficient time to continue to test the system."

The bad news is that it's only been put back a few months due to some "glitches" that showed up in testing rather than being binned altogether. And that presumably the vast numbers of people with access to the database will remain the same. And that being a C-list slapper or a politician will in all probability still be enough to keep your kids off the database. And presumably it will still not have details for children of violent and abusive parents/guardians... kids not unlike poor Victoria Climbie, whose murder prompted this pointless and intrusive fucking exercise in the first place.

In short there is a delay while some "glitches" that may or may not be security related are fixed, and government data losses are in the spotlight at the moment so I can't believe even IngSoc NuLabGov is stupid enough not to want to make sure they're not heading for yet another public relations disaster. But all the other issues seem not to have been addressed at all.

Wannabe coppers? Where are all the real ones?

Various council employees and security guards are getting limited police powers, as reported in the Grauniad here, here and here (virtually the same article written three times), BBC here and Telegraph here. It's actually more true to say that even more non-police are getting police powers since privately owned parking firms have been handing out fines for quite a while now, and it's been a few years since the first PCSOs walked British streets.

Now aside from the fact that I personally would be none too chuffed at being ordered to pay a fine by one of these, er... not quite police officers and "accredited persons", I have to wonder what they're needed for. Doesn't IngSoc NuLabGov keep telling us that crime is going down and that there are more police officers than ever before? So why the need for all these people who are not police, are not trained as police, are less accountable than the police and, with the exception of PCSOs, far less identifiable than real police to have even limited police powers? And where the fuck are all the real police and what the fuck are they doing?

I think the Tory shadow Home Secretary is missing a trick here. Yes, he's right to bring up the unjustified extension of powers and NuLab's love of doing things like policing on the cheap. But he's barely touched on the big one for me:
"The public want to see real police on the streets discharging these responsibilities, not private firms who may use them inappropriately - including unnecessarily snooping on the lives of ordinary citizens."

I don't disagree, but the question needs to be screamed at everyone in the Home Office from Jacqui Smith on down: why is this necessary when you tell us crime is falling, and where the fuck are all the real police? It doesn't add up.

NuLabGov's response?
A Home Office spokesperson said: "Community Safety Accreditation Schemes enable Chief Constables to designate limited powers to employees of organisations who contribute towards community safety.
"CSAS supports Neighbourhood Policing by building links, improving communications and helping in the delivery of effective policing to neighbourhoods. Accredited Persons have a key role to play in the delivery of Neighbourhood Policing and are an important part of the extended police family."

Oh look, another fucking anonymous spokesman. Where are all the real police and where's Jacqui bloody Smith? Other than that a fairly typical meaningless answer. What the fuck does it mean, "building links, improving communications and helping in the delivery of effecti..." zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Honestly, it's the sort of bullshit people put on a CV for a job they did years ago and they think isn't going to be checked. But also the sort of bullshit everyone is used to from NuLabGov after eleven years.

Australian bike champ in trouble with the anti-smoking lobby

From the West Australian:
World MotoGP champion and Young Australian of the Year Casey Stoner is being named and shamed in an aggressive campaign by anti-smoking groups which have labelled him as a “high-speed drug pusher”.

A high speed drug pusher? Really? How so?
They say images of the 22-year-old non-smoker and his bike covered in logos of Marlboro cigarettes while racing and in the media are sending the wrong message to his fans, particularly impressionable young children.

Oh for Christ's sake, give me a break. Is he riding around the track selling drugs? Er, no. Is he riding around the track selling tobacco then? Nope. Does he occasionally sell tobacco standing still? Does he even have any tobacco? Well, since he's a NON-FUCKING-SMOKER I'd say that's vanishingly unlikely, so calling him a high speed drug pusher is wrong on any factual basis a rational person could use. All he's doing is wearing clothes with Marlboro on. Look, the guy just wants to race motorbikes and has a talent for doing so, but he's unlikely to have pockets deep enough to self-finance racing so he has corporate sponsorship. Motorbikes can be dangerous but I notice none of these Helen Lovejoys are having a pop at Ducati or calling for him to ride slowly in case children (oh won't someone think of the children) are influenced to pedal their bicycles too fast. Hmmm... actually give it time and they probably will do just that, and perhaps even demand that he changes his name because it's exactly the same as a nickname for someone who smokes a lot of pot.

I'm glad to see that Casey Stoner himself doesn't agree, and in fact his response I find worthy of admiration:
But in an emailed response to the anti-smoking groups a week ago, Stoner said that while he understood their views and as a non-smoker agreed that children should not smoke, he did not believe Philip Morris’ sponsorship of Ducati was about attracting children to smoking.

“At the same time I firmly believe that every adult human being should retain the right to make his or her own decisions in life, whether correct or not,” he said.

If I was a woman I'd want his babies for that remark. As a bloke I'm just slightly jealous that he seems to be a wiser man than I was when I was 22. Every adult human should indeed retain the right to make his or her own decisions in life, and they themselves would also bear the responsibility for making poor decisions from time to time. It's called freedom ASH and Smarter than Smoking - a word you may need to look up in the dictionary as I'm not sure how familiar you are with it. While you're about it let me remind you that, as pointed out in the West Australian, tobacco advertising and sponsorship is banned here in Australia despite being a product that is still legal to buy, sell and use, and your complaints that
...images featuring him plastered in tobacco logos in other countries are still readily seen in the media and on websites...
come close to demanding web and media censorship. Even though I am a smoker myself I concede that it's an unpleasant and anti-social habit (and for that reason I don't do it where I'm asked not to) and I probably should give it up. But I find censorship, ridiculous emotionally laden accusations and the desire to control other people's lives a far more disgusting habit than smoking. Oh, and this authoritarian control freakery of ASH and Smarter than Smoking has wound me up so much that I had to smoke a fag to help me restrain the urge to punch my laptop screen. That's a cigarette I wouldn't have smoked but for your evil influence, so sleep sound tonight in the knowledge that you've pushed me a little closer to a tar soaked grave, you bastards. Oh, does that sound ridiculous? Accusing you of influencing me to smoke? Well, yes, it's a fucking stupid thing to say, but no more so than saying that Casey Stoner is a high speed drug pusher.

My opinions, for what they're worth, are that four wheels are better than two, bike racing doesn't flick my switch, if I was into bikes I'd probably have a Honda, and Marlboro are shit fags, and in fact if Marlboro were the last cigarettes I could buy I really would give up smoking. Casey Stoner isn't going to change my mind by winning races on a Marlboro sponsored Ducati motorbike. Yes, I'm in my 30s and children might be more easily influenced, but the spectacular thing about bike racing is hurtling round a track faster than anyone else. Kids will be way too busy going wow at that to give a shit what's written across Casey Stoner's shirt.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

This weeks "Thank fuck I left the UK" moment is brought to you in association with ContactPoint

Today's Telegraph, or from where I'm sitting it might be yesterday's, reports on ContactPoint, yet another government database. They've really outdone themselves this time. Every child, yes every single person under 18, is going to be on the database. Everyone.

Why? Well apparently the tragic death of Victoria Climbie in 2000 prompted a certain amount of navel gazing on the part of HM Government which resulted in the realisation that the police and social services, among others, may just have fucked up a teensy bit. Clearly the solution had to be yet another fucking database. Not firing the incompetent twats who failed to notice that the poor kid was being physically abused, or who had noticed but did fuck all about it, and then making sure you don't have any other similarly incompetent twats or hire twats in the future. Nope. A database... that'll do the the trick! Oh sure, some people were disciplined and reprimanded, and a couple of people were even fired and banned from working with children (though the bans were later overturned on appeal). But that's by the by - what fucking good would a fucking database have fucking done when the fucking fucktards failed to fucking act on information they fucking already had? What fucking good will a database do now or in the future when nobody has the first fucking clue how many fucktards remain in similar positions and would fail to act on similar information? Is the database supposed to go round and kick in the door of an abusive parent and gather up the child in its protective electronic embrace? Obviously not going to happen, so to be of any use at all it's still reliant on imperfect human beings who may fuck up from time to time, and unless you've got people involved who might think that being hospitalised twice in one week was a cause for some investigation and to ask if any was being done instead of assuming that someone must be looking into it.

However, more worrying than a new database with no guarantee of improving things is the scope and potential for misuse. Let's remember that everyone under 18 is on it. Then let's look in detail and see that in fact it's not just everyone under 18 but everyone under 25.
The records will be updated until children turn 18 then kept in an archive for six years before being destroyed, meaning they can be accessed until a young person reaches 24.

Well, I make six years after an 18th birthday inclusive of 24 with destruction of the records presumably being on the eve of someone's 25th birthday, but I'm nitpicking. The point is that you can be a working, tax paying, shagging adult with kids of your own before you're off the bloody database. In fact you can be working, shagging, paying taxes and have a sprog of your own before you're even 18 and the bastard record keepers have stopped updating your own records.

And who has access to this database?
An estimated 330,000 people ...

Do fucking what?
An estimated 330,000 people will have access to the data stored on ContactPoint, which is due to launch this autumn despite fears the Government's poor record on data security will mean it puts children at risk from paedophiles.
330,000 people - including police, doctors, care workers, head teachers (what the fuck?) and council workers (WHAT THE FUCK???) - with access to this monstrosity? Fuck me ragged. And while I don't see pervs round every corner the point about data security and the government's piss poor track record is well made. Some Googling reveals that celebrity kiddies won't be on the database, nor will children of violent parents, presumably because of the risk to their safety if the secure database isn't quite as secure as everyone had thought. Er, hang on. Did I read that right? Children of violent parents? Aren't they the ones the database is supposed to protect in the first place? It's supposed to protect them by not including them on it? Did I say "WHAT THE FUCK???" already? Thought so.

However I'm more immediately concerned with why 330,000 people including police and council workers (sorry but I just have to say WHAT THE FUCK??? again) need access to it. What the fu... ok, you get the idea. But what are they planing to do with the information.
Little-noticed guidance published by the Government discloses that ContactPoint users can request administrators to give them archived data for a number of reasons, including "for the prevention or detection of crime" and "for the prosecution of offenders".
The disclosure has led civil liberties campaigners to warn the entire database will be open for investigators to trawl for evidence that links young people to crime or anti-social behaviour.
Ah. It looks like we have a case of RIPA-itis. Bring something in with benevolent sounding intentions that will please the tabloids and/or the Helen Lovejoys, and then start seeing what else you can do with it.

However, a bit more Googling lead me to the Children Act 2004 in which we read that there is to be a Children's Commissar Commissioner and that among other things the Commissioner is to be concerned with the views and interests of children and their physical and mental health and emotional well being. So if you're under 18 and mature enough to be concerned or offended that the government is keeping information about you on the ContactPoint database there is something you can do. Since the Commissioner is concerned with your views write to him and tell him that all this is adversely affecting your mental health and emotional well being, and tell him to shove the database up his arse a circuit board at a time.

UPDATE - Also mentioned in the Times.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Security mean never having to say "Oops, I'm sure I had them a moment ago".

Personal details lost by the government now 4 million and counting. That's in one year by the way.

Fucking hopeless.

This weeks special offer.

The Telegraph talks money again, this time speculating that the MOD can't afford all the Eurofighter Typhoons it was committed to ordering and is looking to shift as many as half, possibly to the Saudis. The MOD's line at the moment is that all this is pure speculation but on the other hand Typhoon costs overran a fair bit and the damn things were late in service as well. Worth watching to see how many of the 144 aircraft the RAF actually end up with in say five years or so.

I'm not the first to say this but you have to wonder why the UK government insists on being so heavily involved in developing really big military systems. I'm no military expert and for all I know there are valid reasons for having your own designs of submarines, ships, aircraft, missiles, rifles and so on, and I can see that at least the UK has shipbuilding experience and has the expertise to build some things itself and that doing so provides jobs. But then look at all the cock ups. The SA80 rifle with all it's problems (according to a soldier I spoke to a year or so ago it's now a great rifle, but it took a while and a lot of money to make it so), wrong boots and body armour, ineffectively armoured vehicles deployed in someone else's war zone, Nimrod, the special version of the Chinook that can't fly unless conditions are just so, and of course the Typhoon. Surely some of these and more could have been ditched cheaply at an early stage and a proven off the shelf product bought instead. It's not as if it doesn't happen sometimes anyway - the Apache helcopter is a British built licensed version of the American original with probably just a few tweaks here and there, and the RAF has long used Sidewinder missiles, Chinooks, Hercules transport aircraft and now Globemasters as well. All designed by and in some case made by Uncle Sam. Say what you like about the Americans, they do give good death machine. So it seems to this Angry Stingy Exile that buying from abroad a bit more often might have saved time, money and maybe lives.

And on buying from abroad I was in the crowd at this year's Australian Formula One Grand Prix a few months back and watched the RAAF doing fly pasts in their (American) F18 Hornets. Impressive stuff, especially the low level pass with the landing gear and tail hook sticking out. Tail hook? Australia doesn't have any aircraft carriers. I suppose it's not like ordering a BMW and ticking the box marked "delete sunroof".

* I understand one problem with the SA80 has never been solved - you can't use it left handed. As a right handed person who shoots left handed for eye dominance reasons I thought this was fairly insignificant. I learned to shoot the other way round and thought it would be the same thing... until it was pointed out that clay pigeon shooters rarely need to fire round the corner of a building but soldiers in built up areas might have to, and for them it would be nice to have a gun that is easy to shoot round both left and right hand corners.

Nice work if you can get it.

Also on the subject of filthy lucre, and once again from the Telegraph: Quangos: the runaway gravy train. It make interesting if depressing reading. It's not as if it isn't common knowledge that there is indeed a gravy train and that many people have managed to get themselves season tickets on it. So no actual new news there. But the Telegraph's Rob Watts brings up something that should be carved into the street outside Number 10 so Gordon Clown has to look at it every single fucking morning of the rest of his hopefully-not-too-long stay there:
It was January 12, 1995 in Westminster: a fresh-faced shadow chancellor, who would one day be prime minister, stood up and delivered a speech shot through with confidence - a speech that is about to come back and haunt him.
"The biggest question… is why our constitution is over-centralised, over-secretive and over-bureaucratic and why there is not more openness and accountability," said the younger Gordon Brown. "The real alternative is a bonfire of the quangos and greater democracy."

Mr Brown's words were not spoken in isolation. Back in the mid-1990s, culling quangos was at the heart of the New Labour project. The party's 1997 manifesto railed against the Tories for supporting "unaccountable quangos" that were "opposed to the idea of democracy". Shortly before entering Downing Street, Tony Blair even boldly pledged to consign "quango state to the dustbin of history".

Well, we shouldn't be too shocked that he was bullshitting us all in opposition since he's been bullshitting a fair bit since, and besides he's hardly the first politician to make promises from the safe zone of the opposition benches and then kind of forget about the actual delivery in office. But after more than ten years in Downing Street and over a year of that in Number 10 far from have merely done fuck all he's at best allowed the situation to get worse, if not actually encouraged it.
But more than 12½ years later the great "bonfire" Mr Brown spoke of remains unlit. In fact, the cost of executive agencies, advisory bodies, independent monitoring boards and other quangos has mushroomed under New Labour. Spending on such agencies soared to £167.5billion in 2006, up from £24.1bn in 1998.
Sweet Jesus Christ - how much??? I mean £24 billion was a shitload of cash to start with but to increase by a factor of nearly 7. To put it into perspective the new aircraft carriers the Royal Navy has ordered are expected to cost £4bn or so (it'll probably go up as usual but they'll have to go some to overspend by a factor of 7). For what gets spent on quangos the Royal Navy could have a dozen of the bloody things and still have plenty of change left for the support ships, planes and things that go bang. In fact they could probably just buy a substantial chunk of the US Navy. £167.5 billion! How the fuck did that happen?
Research revealed for the first time this weekend shows that over the past two years ministers have created 200 quangos. The new study, which will become available online to the public this week, has been put together by the Economic Research Council, Britain's oldest think-tank. By trawling through a forest of government accounts, the ERC has created a database that allows users for the first time to see how the quango state has grown since 1998 and how its payroll - and its pay - has grown exponentially.
Ah. The fucktards have created a load more quangos, that's how. On top of which, the article goes on to say, they've increased spending on some of the pre-existing ones. Couple of examples given: in 1997 the Milk Development Council had four people working in a little London office and now has 44 staff in new offices in Cirencester, a construction quango called Construction Skills has grown from 900 staff in 1998 to 1400 or so today, and numerous quango bosses get far more pay than they did before NuLabour came to power. Six times more in the case of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority - yes, the very same QCA that oversees what passes for school exams. Six times more money for achieving square root of fuck all, though since probably no-one under 25 can work out what the square root of fuck all actually is the cunt will probably get away with it. Not only that but these overpaid underachieving busybodies are getting in the way. Watts points out that the Milk Development Council
...spends £7 million a year extracted from dairy farmers, plus a further £5 million from taxpayers and businesses.
The most visible manifestation of the council's work is a high-profile, long-running advertisement campaign featuring celebrities sporting milk moustaches. The model Nell McAndrew, the tennis player Andy Murray and the teen pop band McFly have all featured in its adverts. The posters are part of the MDC's market development work, which is, apparently "all about making people feel good about milk, putting milk back on the agenda and in a positive light".
...At a time when dairy farmers are being squeezed by supermarkets, the Government obliges them to pay the MDC an annual levy, typically about £466.
So for a compulsory fee of £466 each dairy farmers got a bunch of celebs that looked like they'd just given blow jobs and not swallowed. Between tax payers and farmers this bunch blew (haha) £12 million and this was the best they had to show for it.

Some interesting opposing views from different sides of Parliament:
"Cutting quangos isn't very difficult - the problem is that ministers get initiative-itis," says John Redwood, the former Tory minister and architect of the Conservatives' new plan to slash red tape and regulation by £14 billion.
"They have an idea, and they set up a quango to implement it. They have one idea, then they have two, then 20 and then 100 - and 100 new quangos to make all these ideas happen."
"Public bodies are only established where this is the most effective and efficient method of conducting government business, and they are closed down when they are no longer required," said a spokesman for the Cabinet Office. "Ministers are accountable to Parliament for the setting up of such bodies. In turn, public bodies are subject to robust and transparent governance and accountability arrangements."
Make your own mind up who to believe - John Redwood who thinks that every other half baked idea a minister has generates a quango or a an unnamed spokesman who would have us believe that quangos are effective, efficient, transparent, accountable and closed down when no longer needed. Despite him being a politician I agree with Redwood and sound the bullshit alarm on all five points, particularly since his comments are largely echoed by Corin Taylor of the Tax Payers Alliance:
"Often we are seeing quangos created just to give the impression that the Government is serious about doing something," says Corin Taylor, head of the pressure group the TaxPayers' Alliance. A good example is the School Food Trust. In 2005, the school dinners media storm served up by the television chef Jamie Oliver goaded the Department for Education and Skills into establishing the trust with the aim of "transforming school food and food skills". It employs 10 civil servants, including a chief executive paid £85,000. At least £60 million has already been allocated to the trust.
"It's as if ministers feel that they can just make a situation magically better by setting up a new quango," says Mr Taylor. In reality, he says, the running costs of quangos eat into the limited government funds available to solve such problems.
How fucking true. I hope Watts is correct in his prediction that Gordon's words are about to come back to haunt him. In fact I hope they bite him somewhere painful.

Every breath you take, every step you make, they'll be watching you.

This is something that I saw about a week ago and which got me wound up enough to want to start blogging in the first place, though enough other things have happened since that I've only just got round to it. The Grauniad and Telegraph both report on the Interception of Communication Commissioner Sir Paul Kennedy's comments that ISPs and phone companies had data requistioned by various UK authorities on over half a million occasions last year, and that the process should be made easier (his report here in PDF). Easier? Christ! As if it's not worrying enough that the UK has an Interception of Communication Commissioner he wants more access to everyone's inbox more often. The Home Office is making sure it happens with plans to force phone companies and ISPs to keep details for two years. This is being introduced by means of a Statutory Instrument, thereby cutting MPs and Parliamentary debate out of the equation, confirming an EU directive. Surprise surfuckingprise, it's the UK's real government again, although it seems that the EU want data retained for between six and twenty four months and typically the UK's Westminster government is going for the full parcel. On reading this I had another one of those "thank fuck I left the UK" moments. I generally have at least one a week.

It's not much of a surprise either to find our old friend RIPA rearing it's bastard ugly head again. I don't usually credit the Grauniad with much apart from giving me a bloody good laugh at George Monbiot's and Polly Toynbee's stuff, but it was one of the first places I read about RIPA back when it was still the RIP Bill and they were slamming it back then. It certainly has become the snooper's charter that everyone was worrying about. Just a few reminders:

  • Poole Council used RIPA to monitor a family trying to get their kid into their preferred school as the council suspected the family might be pulling a fast one over the catchment area (which they weren't) - H/T Nannyknowsbest.
  • Gosport Council used RIPA to investigate, and I wish this was made up, dog shit - Nannyknowsbest again.
  • Durham used RIPA to look into dodgy trader issues such as counterfeit goods - The Register (who mentioned some more local council shit fetishism in the same article).

    This is legislation sold at least partly on its use in combating terrorism, as shown by its initial use being restricted to the security services and so on. Only a few years on, and much as those worried about RIPA predicted, it's been expanded to several hundred bodies including all the fucking local councils gobshites who want to stick their noses into your bedroom and rummage through your rubbish bins and read your text messages and emails. Why? Well you wouldn't want someone getting away with atrocities like claiming the single person's council tax discount would you?

    Free country my arse. Bastards.
  • Hobson's Choice.

    The Telegraph again (well, I always used to buy it in the UK so I keep looking at the online version), this time with a sleaze story about Caroline Spelman, the Tory party chairman woman thingy.

    Oh dear, seems they just can't wait until they actually get into office before going after the money. Will the wheels ever come off the gravy train? What a choice voters have - both main parties now have histories with plenty of financial sleaze. Tony Blair's promise of squeaky clean government came to nothing in the end as I suspected it might at the time. I hoped to be wrong but I wasn't surprised to be right. And the Tories look like they've learnt little from the scandals of the Major years and a more than decade in opposition.

    Disenchanted and disenfranchised. They're all useless.

    Do as we say, not as we do.

    Also on the subject of policing, and also from the Telegraph, we have this gem.
    Man arrested for challenging police who ignored no entry sign.
    A man was arrested and locked in a cell for five hours after he took a photograph of a police officer who had ignored a no entry road sign.
    I know, the mind boggles.
    Andrew Carter, a plumber, has now received an apology from the officer and from the Deputy Chief Constable Rob Beckley, of Avon and Somerset police.
    I should fucking well think so too. As is clear from the article this guy saw a police vehicle pull up and reverse through no entry signs into a one way street. Yes, they were on police business but no, it wasn't an emergency. They were just going to view some CCTV footage and were too fucking lazy to drive around the block and/or had seen a parking space and were keen to get it before someone else because... well probably they were too fucking lazy to walk that far. It might also be said too fucking thick to work out that one of them could get out and save the space while the other drove around the block, but ooooh maybe it wasn't a nice day and they might have got their hats wet or something. Instead the attitude seems to be that the law... well, fuck it, that's something we apply to the little people, innit? Hypocritical bastard wouldn't have thought twice about doing an ordinary motorist, and rightly so. But this guy seems to think that his uniform is a license to do as he likes and then arrest anyone who points out the hypocrisy:
    Mr Carter, 44, said he pointed out the 'no entry' sign to the officer who swore at him and told him he was on 'police business'.
    The passerby then took a photograph of the van through the window of the chip shop.
    He claimed the officer smashed the camera from his hand. He was then handcuffed, arrested and bundled into the back of a van. It was alleged he had "assaulted" the officer with his camera, resisted arrest, and was drunk and disorderly.
    "When I took the photograph he came running out, battered the camera from my hand onto the floor and arrested me for three crimes, none of which I had committed. All I had done was to photograph these police officers doing something illegal."
    Mr Carter, who has not been charged with any offence, was taken to a police station where he was kept for five hours before being freed on police bail.
    When he returned to answer bail the following week, with his solicitor, he said he was kept at the station for another five hours.
    I'm sure the majority of coppers are fair minded professionals and I do hope they're all decently appalled by this. But at least the officer was disciplined and the DCC's letter of apology says:
    We expect the highest standards of our officers and PC Farooq fell below what was required. I know that his colleagues feel he let us down and he has learnt a difficult lesson.
    "He realises his actions were totally unacceptable and he could and should have apologised to you much earlier.
    "His performance will be monitored in the future. I will be meeting him in the next few weeks and will reinforce our expectations of his behaviour.
    Doesn't sound like he's done his career prospects any favours, but then his reaction to a member of the public who'd noticed him break the law was to arrest the poor bugger on trumped up charges. Over a fairly minor offence too (though certainly not worth committing in the first place). So pointless and probably avoidable if he'd accepted what Mr Carter had said and apologised. Knob.
    Mr Carter said he was "relatively" happy with the apology but he pursuing a claim for compensation for wrongful arrest.
    "As long as the police officer acknowledged what he did was wrong and apologised to me then I didn't want him to be sacked," he said.
    Fucking good. I hope he is properly compensated for having his camera smacked on to the floor, being sworn at, being arrested on trumped up charges and held for several hours. I'm not such an Angry Exile that I'd want the guy sacked either, but Mr Carter was treated like shit on the baseless accusation of an arrogant cop and amends should be made.

    Become a government informer, betray your friends and family, fabulous prizes to be won.

    From the Telegraph, an article that reminded of the Red Dwarf episode where they find themselves in a totalitarian fantasy world where dobbing people in is officially encouraged.
    Villagers are being encouraged to inform on speeding drivers so that police can send them warning letters.
    Residents in Swarland, Northumberland, have been asked to note down registration numbers of cars they think are over the speed limit.
    Northumbria police will then issue a letter to the alleged offender, and store their details on a database.

    Lets first get the obvious point out of the way. Northumbria Police obviously can't be arsed to enforce driving standards in the village themselve, I mean it's not like they're paid to do this sort of thing is it? Oh they are? Well fuck me, who'd have thought it? Then there's the issue of handing it over to untrained and unequipped locals. Christ Almighty, when it comes to speeding offences the word of a single copper isn't taken even if they're a traffic officer with twenty years of experience. I was once told (by a traffic cop) that when it's down to human judgement and its subjective nature two officers must agree that a car is speeding, which is why they've been given all these gadgets for determining speed - to take error prone human judgement out of the loop and bring in mechanical objectivity that will stand up much better in court.

    An aside on this point - one thing that I believe the judgement of a trained traffic cop does much better than radars and lasers and cameras is assess whether or not someone is driving like a twat. I feel that there's an over reliance on gadgetry related speed enforcement which is starving genuine traffic policing of resources. Apart from the fact that the accuracy and use of various speed guns and other devices has been called into question (and if you want to know more about it Google is your friend) it's pretty clear that someone can be driving badly well below the speed limit, or for that matter over the limit but still safely. Too often speed enforcement is treated as a panacea - get people to stop speeding and the roads will be safe for everyone. It's politically attractive, but unfortunately it's bollocks when in practice the guy driving a 10mph over the limit on an empty motorway may be fined while the retard tailgating you at 65mph in the rain is generally left to get on with risking everybody's necks. When someone invents the twat camera then traffic policing can be left to automata. Until then trained professionals should be the backbone.

    However, not content with concentrating mainly on speed at the expense of all the other forms of bad driving this bunch of knobs wants to get citizens involved. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against someone ringing up the old bill and letting them know the reg of a car that's being driven badly - I've done it myself once - but for fuck's sake don't fucking turn it into something the police rely on. If there's a traffic polcing issue somewhere stop polishing the chairs, get out there and fucking police it. Don't wait for a registration number to crop up a certain number of times before you tackle the issue, and don't tackle the issue by writing a fucking letter. If I tell you that XYZ123 is hairing round the neighbourhood like the driver has a death wish I want you to come out and fucking stop 'em, not wait till two or three other people have called and then send the cunt a postcard. And finally, as the Telegraph points out, don't rely on untrained unequipped people who might have an axe to grind over the height of someone's hedge to not use this as a means of carrying out a petty vendetta, and for that reason alone don't keep a permanent record of it on yet another fucking database. Let's get this absolutely clear, when there is nothing more than an allegation of something that isn't even sufficiently serious to get the police of their arses to investigate it is plain fucking wrong to make a permanent record of the supposed crime. Put down the donuts and do what you're fucking paid for, and if there's something to it then go to court with it and make a record if you get a conviction. But only for serious stuff, right? Let's remember that even speeding fines are forgiven and drop of your licence after a few years... or are they? Who knows these days?

    Monday, 18 August 2008

    And it's gold for Britain.

    Well it didn't take long for Gordon Clown to emulate his old not best mate Tony in trying to bask in the reflected glory of successful British sportsmen and women. I suppose since Tony sucked up to the winning Ashes Rugby World Cup teams he sees no harm in doing the same, and compared to everything else making political capital out of sport is pretty insignificant. I suppose he'd be slammed as a discourteous bloody misery if he hadn't said anything, and since voters have the Hobson's choice of keeping Gordon or replacing him with almost as unpalatable alternatives I quite like him being damned either way.

    But cheer up Gordon, I have some good news for you. An award for you and you alone that's been achieved entirely on merit. Yes Gordon, you are the winner of the inaugural Jeff Buckley Medal for being hopelessly out of your depth.

    Sunday, 17 August 2008

    Illogical, inconsistent and inaccurate.

    Three stories today from the pen of Christopher Booker, and well worth a read.

    The first relates to the apparent readiness of the US, and for that matter Europe, Australia, New Zealand and pretty much the whole developed world to commit economic suicide, all based on the theory of global warming which in turn is based largely on the output of computer models. Friends and family who are believers consider me a climate denier, but aside from that argument being dangerously close to the nonsensical one that vegetarianism is bad because Hitler was a vegetarian it also fails to take into account that the debate isn't over. As for the computer models... I've got a computer model that clearly shows that a girl with unfeasibly large tits called Lara can heal her own bullet wounds by picking up boxes with red crosses on. It works that way because the computer has been told it does. It strikes me that crippling economies on the strength of computer models that even the modellers admit don't actually make predictions (in which case you have to wonder what the fuck they're any good for) might not be a great idea, and that it'd make more sense to find out what really is going on first.

    The second story Christopher Booker writes about, not for the first time, is that of three small time fishermen. Naughty fishermen. Baaaad in fact. They've - and you should probably sit down for this - used up some of someone else's fishing quota because... well, because it wasn't being used up, was supposed to be redistributed by the government, and they didn't see any harm in it. Now they have been prosecuted and properly screwed under the Proceeds of Crime Act, an Act designed to clobber drug dealers and organised crime rather than clobber fishermen over quotas and permits (that should have been redistributed because they weren't being used remember). Aside from the all too familiar use of legislation brought in for a totally different purpose Booker contrasts the draconian punishment inflicted on the fishermen - loss of houses and boats to pay the fines, or two years inside - with the suspended sentences the same judge gave to a paedophile and a postmaster who stole £15,000 ($32,250) as well as the six months a third man got for bashing a 76 year old pensioner. Maybe there were sound reasons, maybe the judge is a twat. But the real worry for me is that we have yet another example of legislation brought in to deal with one thing being twisted for ad hoc use.

    The final part of Booker's piece might ring a bell with Brits fed up with council bullshit about putting the right sort of waste in the right sort of bin and fining those who don't sort it out correctly. In San Francisco the mayor wants to fine people US$1000 for this. A thousand bucks! And so unnecessary too. Here in Melbourne we have two bins - one with a yellow lid into which anything and everything with a recycle logo can go, and one with a green lid for non-recyclable household waste. Big stuff can be picked up by arrangement or you can pay a few dollars to drop it off round the local transfer station (or "tip" as I used to call it). Both bins are emptied every week and I can just leave 'em in the road the night before. (Do you hear that British councils? Every week, and none of this crap about not putting them out the previous day.) Anyway, if Brits are annoyed about being fined 80 quid or so for putting an envelope in the wrong bin the fact that residents of San Francisco may soon have it very much worse should not be taken as cause for relief but as a sign of things to come. Consider yourselves warned.

    But the bit that really got me about that last part of Booker's article was this:
    As one American explained to me, "San Francisco is a very liberal city". We see what they mean.
    It look like someone needs to fucking carpet bomb San Francisco with dictionaries. Since it's America I'll refer to Websters rather than the O.E.D.



    1. Showing or characterized by broad-mindedness; "a broad political stance"; "generous and broad sympathies"; "a liberal newspaper"; "tolerant of his opponent's opinions".

    2. Having political or social views favoring reform and progress.

    3. Tolerant of change; not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or tradition.

    4. Given or giving freely; "was a big tipper"; "the bounteous goodness of God"; "bountiful compliments"; "a freehanded host"; "a handsome allowance"; "Saturday's child is loving and giving"; "a liberal backer of the arts"; "a munificent gift"; "her fond and openhanded grandfather".

    5. Not literal; "a loose interpretation of what she had been told"; "a free translation of the poem".


    1. A person who favors a political philosophy of progress and reform and the protection of civil liberties.

    2. A person who favors an economic theory of laissez-faire and self-regulating markets.

    I'm dying to hear how the moron Booker spoke to can justify the use of the word "liberal" to describe the San Francisco proposals, but then Americans seem to have a very funny definition of "liberal" in normal day to day use. It seems to mean what I'd call "illiberal except where it fits the agenda". Blackwhite in other words.

    What an asshole.
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