"teh basement cat iz in ur screen, stealin' ur blogz..."

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Political Bias rears its head again at the Beeb...

I shall be brief, as I have to go be all bartendery shortly.

The BBC repeatedly refers to the BNP as Right Wing. It equates fascism with the political Right. This is a fallacy. The Nazis, similarly are confused with the Right. This is incorrect. The Nazis were (wait for it) The National Socialist party. Socialist. Anyone get that last word there?



So. The BNP have very similar economic, political, and dare I say it, social policies to those of the now defunct National Socialist Party of Germany circa 1933-1945. The Nazis were actually not that far from the Communists in economic terms - really, Stalin and Hitler would have agreed on quite a lot were it not for their racial loathing of each other - particularly from old Adolf's point of view.

Both were left wing. The BNP, who espouse the same nationalist, protectionist and exclusionist policies of the fascist Nazi party (as well as other loathesome policies formed around a general dislike for anything other than Caucasian Heterosexual Men and their doting stay-at-home Women) are also left-wing. They are Left-Wing Authoritarians.

Will someone in the BBCs political editorial department PLEASE take note of this?

That is all.

Monday, 5 October 2009

CPC '09 - 05/10

All in all it looked like a good day for the Conservatives at the Manchester party conference. Tomorrow bears watching, though, after Alastair Darling pulled a fast one announcing a Government demand for public sector pay cuts (top earners only, of course) the very night before George Osborne was expected to speak on *exactly* that topic. Funny that.

What undermines this move is that this conflicts with the pay deal that Labour had agreed with the Civil Service pay review boards (such as the First Division Association). Best move George could make tomorrow is to make that very point. Labour are so desperate for ideas that they steal from the Conservatives at every opportunity, even when it means reneging on the deals they had already struck. They are a Government which cannot be trusted to uphold their agreements (Lisbon referendum, anyone?) and resort to cheap tricks to attempt to undercut their opponents. They fight without honour.

Let's see how George fights back against this breach of political trust.


If Labour's charge is against youth, energy and enthusiasm, then do you know what? I plead Guilty."
-David Cameron, 5 Oct, CPC 2009 Manchester
Cameron gave one of his rallying cries today, one of the few things I was able to catch given Sky News is about the only channel I can get from out here in Lagos that is actually covering anything. Worse yet the t'interweb keeps dropping out, which is less than ideal! Sounds like Boris had a few words of direction for Osborne and Cameron as well, hopefully a sign of the things to come.

Anyway, I'm out visiting my Dad in Lagos for the week, flew out on the 1st so that I could take part in the Badagary Creek boat race on the 3rd and 4th - a two day sail up from Lagos to Badagary and back. It was until a few years ago in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest inland race - now surpassed by something in the UK, I believe - and I will post some of the highlights from the Log I kept once I've typed them all up. OR I'll get lazy and post the whole thing. Undecided yet.

Hoping that the internet connection in the compound will keep steady for the next few days - I have to take a numerical reasoning test for a graduate application I'm working on and it would suck sucky things if it dropped while halfway through...

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

When games blur with reality...

I may have mentioned on here before, but I play Warcraft. I used to be a little bit shy of mentioning this, since it is essentially an RPG, and RPGs, classically, are for the geeks in the basement with some dice, a compendium or two, square glasses two inches thick and hair that would fit right on to one of the orcs or elves that they dream about.

Of course, that's the stereotype that the mainstream media has always portrayed and, scarily enough, as someone who in his younger years collected and played a lot of Warhammer, I can vouch for some of that stereotype. Fortunately, not everyone is like that. These pocketbook geeks come in many shapes and sizes, and tend to be very creative, intelligent people who really enjoy the chance to exercise their imaginations together. Added to that, these are the sorts of people who have a mind for strategy. The modern computer game counterparts are much the same.

I hear that parents often berate their children for sitting indoors at their computer screens playing these MMOs, or Massively Multiplayer Online games (some of them have the MMORPG moniker, such as Everquest, Warcraft, Age of Conan and so on and so forth). Why don't you go and make some real friends, they complain. They have failed, I fear, to grasp and understand how the internet has revolutionised social interaction. Some of these people they play with, whom they have never met, are as real friends as those at school or at work. Through all their online trials and tribulations together, they can come to trust one another enough to confide in and to seek advice for 'real life' troubles and share 'real life' successes.

It can't, of course, replace real world social interaction, but it is not without merit. In Warcraft, I play on Draenor (EU) and am a member of a guild known as Elite Addicts. We haven't made the most progression overall in terms of content, nor do we have the most members. We're not looking to achieve either, either. (On a tangential note, I love that the English language allows you to do that!) Elite Addicts are a Social Raiding guild, which means we raid the high-end content, but we're don't have strict attendance rules like some of the full-on raiding guilds. That may not mean much to anyone who doesn't play WoW, but I say this to paint a little picture of what this group of individuals are all about.

The Social and Raiding aspects extend to the Ventrillo server (an online chat server) that we use to communicate during raids, and also just for a chat when we're in the mood. As such we've had a lot more than typed conversations, and some of us have got to know each other pretty well.

As it happens, we have something pretty unique about us, which is that some of the core raiders actually know each other in the real world. In fact, they live in York. This led to someone suggesting offhand that it might be a nice idea for us to get together one weekend and meet up - a real world Guild Meet.

So we are.

About 15 computer game playing self confessed geeks shall be descending on York this weekend coming to put faces to names, have a bit of a party and *not* play the game for the entire time we're there. Which is kind of the point. Booze may be involved, but not for Shezelle, he's only 16. Some are driving up from the South East and are co-ordinating a lift so they can travel up together. We've got people coming not just from the UK, but from the Continent as well. They're literally flying/eurotunnelling in just for it. It's going to be quite the get-together.

You might be wondering why I'm blogging about this. In part, it's because I know my parents read this blog from time to time and I know they still have their preconceptions of computer games, so I want to illustrate something to them. In part it's because I'm really bloody excited about it.

The only weird part is that we tend to refer to each other by the names of our main character in the game, so we may need name badges, otherwise they're going to be calling me 'Kael' all the time...

Saturday, 18 July 2009

"...I swear those girls are gonna kill me."

Reasons that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a good film adaptation:
  • Good character development. You get a real sense of the bonds forming between our protagonists.
  • Draco Malfoy has finally stopped looking like he is suffering from a wasting disease and puts in a strong performance, much less 'generic weasel' and more 'tormented soul'.
  • Crams a very big book into a good movie story. If you don't know the book, you won't be left wondering what it's all about.
  • Manages to cram in humour and emotion.
  • Definite sense that our heroes have grown into themselves and are much less whiny kids.
  • Maggie Smith now has shoulderpads. This should not be underestimated.
  • Cloaks Snape in ambiguity, just as it should.
  • Permenant shroud of darkness clouding Hogwarts, lending an ominous feel of impending disaster hovering above everyone's heads as life goes on.
  • Excellent sountrack underscores the film brilliantly, holding to the motifs we have come to know and love.
  • Helena. Bonham. Carter.
Reasons why Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is not a good film adaptation:
  • Misses a magical meleé through the halls of Hogwarts as is described in the novel, although this does serve a dramatic purpose in showing the vulnerability of all within its walls.
  • Despite being called 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince', Harry seems remarkably unconcerned with finding out who the Half-Blood Prince is, so when it is revealed at the end, it's somewhat anti-climactic. In fact, by that point most of the audience had probably forgotten about it.
  • They have tried to cram a lot in to the story, but as such never really develop any of the threads fully, so while not leaving anything incomplete, nothing is really explored either.
  • Really needed to see the full depth of Harry's rage - he's meant to be trying to cast unforgiveable curses at the aforementioned Prince as he chases him down, instead he just throws Sectum Sempra at him. Again, this is sort of understandable given that it provides a context for the Prince to reveal his identity, but c'mon!
Most of this is quibbling. I really enjoyed the film on first showing, and I'll be going back for a second viewing to help make up my mind. More than anything else, however, it sets up well for the next in the series.

And Cormac McClaggen is hot.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Up, down, left, right A + Start

We often hear that those of advanced years (old-folk, to you and I) reminisce about the past. Things were better back then, we respected our elders. Cars were made to last, and they knew how to mix a proper bloody martini.

All of it is bollocks of course, the past isn't just viewed with 20-20 vision, it's viewed through a lovely pair of prescription sunglasses with rose-tinted lenses and sparkly glitter on the rims. We all wax nostalgic. Past times are an untouchable refuge from all the things in the present that we don't like or approve of. Back in the day you boys would have been shot for touching each other like that. Really? Well make mine a shot of tequila, thanks.

Our obsession for our younger years is why NOW! compilations from the 60s/70s/80s/90s/00s (delete as appropriate) sell so well. Or used to back in the day when people actually went to a shop to buy music. Ahh, those were the days, when you actually got some service rather than all this one-click-buy nonsense... wait... now... where was I?

It seems a little ironic that many of the people who obsess over the latest iPhone and digital widgets are often the same people who obsess over their childhood music, television and games. For all the latest gadgets and zhuzhy graphics in the latest computer games, we all remember the first ones we played. Often they are enshrined above all others not for their amazing looks, but for the core upon which they were built in lieu of pretty graphics - wit, storyline, or insane object puzzles. Ehm... sorry, as Rincewind once said: Clever lateral thinking exercises. And you needed to play Discworld 2 to get that one.

Simple as games were, we loved them for all those things. As times and platforms have changed, so have the games we play on them. Point and click adventures (such as Sam & Max Hit the Road, Monkey Island, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Day of the Tentacle, etc. etc.) have passed into legend (which is odd, since my 286 didn't have a mouse, so I can't see why the interface isn't really easy to translate to console), and the days of the awesome space simulator games (think X-Wing, TIE Fighter, Freespace 2 and the ilk) have no modern equivalents. We hunger for the games of the past but we very rarely go back to play them because we know that ultimately the 8-bit graphics are going to disappoint us, no matter how clever the games were.

I don't think I could tell you with a straight face that the old games were better than those that we play today. Oh, they were good. They were better than good, some of them were groundbreaking and downright amazing. Frontier: Elite II was without par. X-Wing was story-driven space combat in a FUCKING X-WING. The sequel, TIE Fighter had an even better story and the chance to fly for the Empire. Mostly, I admit, against Imperial splinter groups (perhaps blowing up too many of Wedge's buddies was against the LucasArts moral code), but still. Dark Forces was late in its genre but Jedi Knight was amazing. Alone in the Dark was scary as hell. Any point and click adventure from LucasArts (with the possible exception of Full Throttle) was a sock-blowingly hilarious and enjoyable immersion in a world of puzzle-solving genius. The original Civilization. Theme Park. System Shock. Freespace 2. These games set precedents.

Much of what we nostalgic gamers really want is those games back again, updated and shiny so we can play them again with today's technology, or better yet, a continued storyline. We... okay, fuck it, I admit it, I want Freespace 3. I want more Monkey Island. I want more X-Wing.

Fortunately, on one of those points, things are looking up.

LucasArts are apparently more benevolent gods than I had previously assumed. While I doubt I shall ever see another space combat simulation that will grab me so thoroughly as X-Wing, Freespace 1 & 2 and TIE Fighter did, I've been hoping that I would get to see another point and click from LucasArts. My prayers to the Dark Gods of Gaming were answered this month.

Engaging with a company called Telltale Games, LucasArts have released the first installment of a new Monkey Island game: Tales from Monkey Island. Split into five chapters to be released monthly and downloadable through Steam, this is an exciting turn of events for those with fond memories of Guybrush Threepwood, the pirate whose sole talent is that he can hold his breath for ten minutes.

So a new game with old favourites. Nostalgia is indulged, but not sated. As if reading my deepest darkest wishes, the creators of Monkey Island thought: Hey, you know what, we're releasing a new game, but the first one was amazing. Do you think we could make that accessible to a new gaming generation?

The first game in the series, The Secret of Monkey Island, was released way back in 1990. I played it on my 286 - my parents refused to buy me a console, and instead would only buy me clever games where I had to solve insane object puzzles. Sorry, clever lateral thinking exercises. Monkey Island and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis were the first two computer games I played (excepting a demo of Secret Sam or whatever that 8-bit spy-based Platform game was). Monkey Island is cult. LucasArts have re-made it with hand drawn art, new voiceovers, and a good dash of nostalgic love. You can even flick between the original 8-bit graphics and the new hand-drawn one at the touch of a button. It's the same game, but pretty (and cheekily ham-fisted) enough to appeal to the old-school gamer and newcomer alike. Plus it cost me less than £7 from Steam.

We, (well, I) would like more of that, please.

Now excuse me, you fight like a dairy farmer.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009


Gosh... you can almost hear the tumbleweed rolling across the face of this blog. A desolate strip of packed earth and sand with not a single green shoot poking its head tentatively above the soil. No fresh loam, but coarse and barren land.

I have, for various reasons, been otherwise occupied. Ironically I've had all the time in the world, however for a rationale best understood only by myself, I have neglected my little corner of the world.

Given the past few weeks there is no shortage of ammunition for me to base a few posts on, but if I'm brutally honest, the current affairs of the UK have been somewhat depressing of late. The election of the new speaker, for example, has been a bit of a let-down. A red tory (forgiveable) whose expenses track record hardly screams reformist (unforgiveable) has replaced a grumpy old lefty whose expenses track record was 'take what you can, give nothing back'. Wow. Well, that is a breath of fresh air.

Terribly disappointed that Richard Shepherd didn't get the job - his speech was curt and damning, but then again, perhaps given that it is little wonder.

So, anyway, just a quick one (hello, yes, still alive thanks).

Monday, 8 June 2009

Ehmm... lolwut?



You what?

I mean... really?

Well you won't see me anywhere near Betty's Tea Rooms now.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Purnell turns on his master

I hope you all did your bit for democracy yesterday. I heard a few comments going around that abstention was the only way to register your protest with the system, with politicians, and while I understand their frustrations, I disagree entirely. Not voting, in my view, dishonours the sacrifices that went before you to allow you the ability to vote. Fair enough that you can argue those people fought and campaigned just as much for your right not to vote as your right to vote, but I think in those circumstances, with all the parties available to you, there must be at least one that represents your views enough for you to tick next to their name?

In most things I am somewhat libertarian in my views. Freedom is the highest and most sacred right of all, but sometimes, I think the Australians have got it right, making it a legal requirement to turn up to vote, even if you then choose to abstain. Of course, I disagree on general principle, but the idea holds a certain appeal!

Overshadowing the elections last night, however, was the resignation of James Purnell. I seem to recall a few favourable comments from some of the Labour crowd a few days ago, including some from LGBTLabour on twitter. I bet they're seething now... David Cameron carpe'd the diem with this:

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Some post-match analysis

Overall impression of PMQs was one of disbelief. Cameron had plenty ammunition but seemed on first viewing to lack the stomach to use it. Nick Clegg fired off some good shots, but got laughed down by Labour's backbenchers. I smell some Hubris coming their way. I think Cameron is playing a tactical game here, and from an electoral perspective I can understand why.

Spectator has a pretty good breakdown, which I think makes good sense. What I think they're missing is that Cameron doesn't want a mortally wounded Brown, just a grazed one. I suspect we just saw a calculated salvo aimed not to kill. If Brown has confidence he'll stay in No. 10, and that means a much surer chance of victory for the Conservatives at the next General Election. A new leader means facing Labour in a honeymoon period of sorts, and that might be enough to rescue a few seats.

The fact Brown won't be called on an election shows he still thinks he can turn things around and improve on the polls. He'll hold out as long as he can in the hope his political currency can rise. Cameron wants an election now because that would mean facing Brown, not a new Labour leader. For him, the longer Brown holds out, the greater risk someone in Labour will grow the cojones to challenge him.

Wordle Cloud

Wordle: May/June Blogging

A wordle cloud of the last couple of posts on this blog. Pretty clear what's been on my mind, then!

David Cameron: Why we need a referendum on Lisbon

All the more reason to vote Conservative in the European Elections. UKIP aren't the answer (or WE-KIP, as Jury Team have dubbed them), Libertas seem pretty lightweight, and Labour as we all know don't think you deserve a choice in the matter. Let's not even mention the crazy neo-fascist left wing nationalist party. The signals coming from Hague and Cameron at the moment are the best I've heard with regards to Europe for some time now. Finally, some sense.

Bleary eye'd, but bushy tailed?

So that's it, Hazel 'Chipmunk' Blears has announced her resignation after Gorgon described her claims as 'unacceptable'. Hardly a shocker that he should do so, the man has been looking for an excuse ever since her 'youtube if you want to' moment. Our (vain)Glorious Leader does not take criticism, implied or otherwise, well.

The BBC alludes to her timing as suspect, perhaps an attempt to further destabilise Brown in the wake of Jacqui Smith and Tom Watson's announcements yesterday. Her statement is absolutely loaded. On the face of it, she is simply saying that she feels that she should return to focus on her constituents and their needs, but her wording is nothing short of devastating.

"The role of a progressive Government should be to pass power to the people. I've never sought high office for the sake of it, or for what I can gain, but for what I can achieve for the people I represent and serve."

Her implication is clear. The Government has clearly failed in that role (although as I've indicated before, left wingers never really want to give power to the people, since they know better than the people), and her colleagues who shall remain nameless have sought power for the sake of power. Perhaps a reference to the Son of the Manse? Who can say?

Only hours before an already awkward PMQs, Hazel retreats to the backbenches. I'm sure Iain Dale will be pleased to see his favourite feisty little chipmunk still has some fire. This can only intensify the infighting, and when it comes, it will make it clearer than ever that it is time for a new Government. One with an elected Prime Minister, would be nice.

Belshazzar was SLAIN!

You'll have to excuse the Biblical reference, but it is the Son of the Manse, that great scion of Presbyterian conscience and moral authority, to whom I refer.

Gordon Brown's refusal to confirm whether or not Darling or Blears have a future in the Cabinet was telling. It was the closest he had yet come to announcing that a cabinet reshuffle was indeed on the cards, and while you might perhaps forgive him for letting Blears drift, Darling has been a loyal chancellor - so loyal that he has gained the unenviable caricature of being his sock-puppet. Yet even Darling has on occasion 'overstepped' his master's authority with comments that diverged from the Prime Minister's chosen tune. Perhaps it is not so surprising that past loyalty is no protection when your master is backed into a corner fearing for his political life.

Ultimately, though, the suspense was broken by Jacqui Smith when she announced she would be standing down at the next reshuffle. Admittedly, she failed to fall on her sword as thoroughly as we would have liked by resigning as an MP entirely. With her slender majority of just over two-thousand, however, my suspicion is that she hopes to save her seat by showing some penitence. Smith's resignation could not come too soon, in my eyes. In her two years in the job as Home Secretary she has seen the Government's plans for increased terrorist detention defeated and has presided over massively unpopular plans for authoritarian DNA databases and ID cards. The Liberal Democrat's Chris Huhne branded her a failure even on her own terms. Throw in her expenses, her attempts to make prostitution even more open to abuse (a total lack of appreciation for the law of unintended consequences) and husband's predilection for charging his porn films to the taxpayer, and her position really was untenable.

Her attempt at damage limitation is, as ever, too little too late. What it has served to do is put the writing on the wall for Gordon Brown. If more nails were required for the proverbial coffin, Tom Watson added another with his resignation, and now the SNP are teaming up with Plaid Cymru to use their time next week to force a debate on the dissolution of Parliament . Nick Clegg has thrown his support to the debate, and William Hague has called the SNP's bluff by announcing on Sky News that if dissolution were debated, the Conservatives would be in favour. Should it come to this, Dan Hannan and Iain Martin have both postulated that the Queen might need to exercise her unwritten constitutional right to dissolve parliament. This may yet come to pass.

For all Parties involved, this could be a case of 'be careful what you wish for'. The expenses debacle has battered Parliament, and the European Elections will be a litmus test for voter's intentions. While I doubt strongly that fringe parties would stand to gain much in a General Election, I have found it difficult to divine whether anger is directed equally at all MPs, or if the ire is concentrated on the Government. My suspcion is the latter, if only because the Conservative's reaction to the 'revelations' has been far more decisive, and with the greatest of respect, no one really cares too much about the Liberal Democrats anyway. They are, if anything, Labour-Lite.

From what I have gathered from those I have spoken to, people distrust Cameron simply for being a Tory. They fear he is just another Blair, but blue. Yet if you ask people to take Iraq out of the equation, you'll find a grudging admission that they really liked Tony, at least to begin with. Blair had energy, authority, and anger. He wanted to change things. Watching Cameron, you can see that same passion, and you can sense the barely contained fury as he watches a Labour majority do untold damage to Parliamentary democracy and worse, to the population of Great Britain. In that, at least, he captures the spirit of the nation.

My Labour-minded friends tend to be blinkered in their devotion, it is that classic tribalism which leads them to hold fast to their course even as their ship sails off the edge of the world. Slavish devotion to their party can only be tolerated so long as the party has the best interests of the nation, and of the individual, at heart. As soon as it begins to believe it knows better than its electorate, it deserves no longer to form a Government. That is a lesson Cameron would do well to remember. He speaks now of returning power to the people, a truly libertarian sentiment (ironically, Socialists often claim the same, however what they mean is power to the establishment, because they're smarter than you), and I sincerely hope he means it.

The European Elections will be the opinion polls to end all opinion polls for this Government. Even taking the anti-political contingent out of the equation, I suspect strongly that Labour are going to be pummelled.

As with Belshazzar, Gordon's days are numbered. The writing on the wall is the same now as then, and come election time, this unelected Prime Minister will be told as much: "Thou art weighed in the balance and art found wanting."

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Le quote du jour

"Your ministers have failed you, Ma'am: send for better ones."

- Dan Hannan MEP, The Telegraph

Dan Hannan has suggested, respectfully, in his blog that it is time for the Queen to step in and exercise her constitutional role on behalf of the people of Great Britain by dissolving Parliament and calling for an election. He is right, to my knowledge, that this is one of the few constitutional powers she still has. In a case whereby the population have lost faith in their government and recent economic events have rendered the manifestos on which they were elected obsolete, this would seem to be the appropriate opportunity.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Crock of Brown

I'm not going to say too much on this, and I try and avoid using this blog to rant, but Gordon Brown is really taking the piss over this expenses debacle.

'Gentlemen's Club'? Oh, fine, play your little class-war game. It's nothing like a gentlemen's club, because guess what? They contain gentlemen, who behave as such and seek not to exploit the club and are generally more concerned with fair play and the spirit of the rules rather than their letter. What you're thinking of, Gordon, is a Trade Union, where people seek to get as much as they possibly can at the expense of other areas of the business, and are generally advised to take whatever they can get.

No wonder Michael Martin was so comfortable there.

The only leader who sounds out of touch on this issue is you, Gordon, because you're playing class and party politics. At least Nick and Dave are playing moral politics. You wouldn't have the first clue about those, since your Moral Compass seems to do nothing but spin.

Go to hell, you sanctimonious, misguided, arrogant, fool. Get out of Downing Street before we throw you out.

Maybe it's a sign of the times, but every time you open your mouth I can see his poorly concealed Machiavellian plots to weaken his internal rivals and strengthen his position. I even feel a little guilty calling them Machiavellian, since I think the author of The Prince would approve of his intention but be appalled at his execution. Divide and conquer, sow discord and fear...

Anyway, crowbarring back onto track, an external committee or regulator is not the answer. External regulation destroys the concept of the spirit of the rules, making it all the more about 'what can I get away with'. Creative accounting will become even more the norm, just as it does with tax. Any private businessman with a few beans to his name uses an accountant to maximise his earnings and get away with as much as he feasibly can. Do you really want to encourage that in Parliament?

Of course you do. It makes it look like you're taking action.

Primus inter podex.

Okay, rant over.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009


Yes yes, I realise I've been a bit quiet lately. Been locked away studying.

I'll be back in a bit, promise...

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Quote of the day

"Gordon Brown has been tested and found in want of almost every attribute a leader needs. Squalid dealings by his poisonous inner circle were exposed to the light of day; yet at the same time he lacks a leader's necessary political cunning. Many hoped that the end of the rivalry with Blair would see Brown cast off his myrmidons. He didn't. In the tussle between his better and his worse selves, too often the lesser man won."

-Polly Toynbee, The Grauniad
That, ladies and gentlemen, is called irony.

Some perspective

Maybe I'm just a little numb to the whole MPs expenses furore, but this little interviewette with Stephen Fry is the most sense I've heard all week.

Don't let it stop you voting. In fact, your vote matters more than ever.

Monday, 11 May 2009

...Where no one has gone before.

It's brilliant, and you all need to go see it. Now.

That is all.

Friday, 8 May 2009

To Boldly Go...

I'm obscenely excited. The last time I saw a Star Trek movie in the cinema was First Contact, at the Guildford Odeon many moons ago. I still remember watching the opening credits and hearing the entire cinema go 'Who?!' when helmsman Ensign Expendable's credit appeared. Sure enough, he was expended.

Tomorrow is going to top all that. My mate Tom and I are making a day of it and leaving the craggy glamour of Edinburgh to journey to Glasgow, there to experience the new Trek movie at the Glasgow IMAX. I'm not sure if it's the IMAX or Star Trek part that thrills me more. I haven't been in one before, so either way it will be an experience.

Following Trek lore, this film should be one of the 'disappointing' ones. It follows as an odd-numbered movie in the pantheon, even if it is a 'prequel'. The odd-numbers have historically been the 'less good' films, where the even ones have been the really good ones. Take Wrath of Khan against Search for Spock. Khan good, Spock bad. Generations vs. First Contact; Generations is viewed as being a bit iffy, First Contact is viewed as being a bit awesome. I happen to disagree on Insurrection and Nemesis, as I think they were both good, but the Trek community at large thought both were the series equivalent of a cinematic warp core breach.

There are a number of signs that this will buck the trend. Primarily because it is being directed by J.J Abrahms, creator of Lost and Fringe. With that pedigree, the only person who could possibly do it any better would be Joss Whedon or possibly Bryan Singer, and I think Whedon is better suited to comic-book style shows than Star Trek, but I'd gladly be proven wrong. To be fair, a screenplay written by Whedon and directed by Singer would pretty much be the equivalent of a cinematic orgasm for me, but I digress.

I have very deliberately avoided all mention of the story and possible spoilers. In fact, I've watched the trailers, and that's about it. When Phantom Menace came out I bought the graphic novel and kept it in a box, looking only at the front cover and resolutely refusing to read it until I had seen the movie. With an extraordinary, superhuman and some would say Jedi-like force of will, I succeeded and refrained from devouring it until after I'd seen the film. At which point I ran right back to the cinema to see it again, because I didn't remember Darth Maul getting cut in two and falling in pieces down the shaft. I even spotted a little mist of red bloody haze, cauterised on the Lightsaber's blade. How I missed that the first time I'll never know.

So, I go tomorrow blissfully unaware of the plot and knowing only that it's going to have some awesome special effects and the guy playing Kirk is clearly going for an 'I am James (Dean) Tiberius Kirk' look. And it has Romulans in it. We may get to see Romulans in a vicious 'what Vulcans would be like without restraint' light, which has always been sorely missing from the series. Any time Spock or Tuvok went a little schitzo, we got an insight into the mind of a being with terrible power, a rage incandescent the restraint of which showed the strength of their character. Romulans were supposed to be Vulcans who embraced their emotions, yet we never saw that rage, passion or fury, just another humanoid race with pointy ears who didn't like the Federation much.

Still, I remain convinced that I'll be screaming at Kirk to watch out, it's Sylar and he wants your brains.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Timmy, you just made my day

A big thanks to Tim Worstall for saying it so very well:

"You see, because if companies don’t pay their taxes then the money just disappears. There’s no such thing as an opportunity cost in lefty world.

Now then, out in the real world what does happen when the capitalist bastards manage to dodge taxes? One of two things.

1) The company has a higher retained profit which it then uses to reinvest in the business. More jobs, higher wages, economic growth, Hurrah!

2) The company pays it out to their fat cat shareholders who simply engorge themselves on the lucre extracted from the sweat and blood of the poor. And investments in companies working in poor countries are seen to be paying higher returns. Which leads to more capital being invested in companies working in poor countries so more jobs, higher wages and economic growth, Hurrah!

It is of course possible to argue that direct spending by governments will do more for the chances of the poor than more foreign direct investment. But to argue that if the money is not paid in taxes then it simply disappears as far as the poor are concerned is simply nonsense."

The reason capitalism works is because it is about generating wealth, and to generate wealth one invests the wealth one has made into making more, which means more jobs, profits, better pay, economic growth and happiness all around for those who endeavour to sieze the opportunity. Hand up, not a hand out - but then we can't even deal with that culture at home, can we?

Petition Watch

From the Number 10 Website, we bring you the 5 most popular petitions to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Great Britain and Ireland. Good causes, mostly. Except for the last one:

Five most popular open petitions

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to…

Nuff said.

Aporkalypse Now

Dr John Crippen has an article in todays Grauniad. It is one of those rare occasions that the publication speaks sense (this is, after all, the newspaper who gave us such delights as Polly Toynbee and ran a campaign against legitimate tax avoidance whilst simultaneously legitimately avoiding said tax itself).

Essentially, he puts this swine-flu pandemic in withering perspective with this:

"We met at lunchtime, not to talk of heart attacks and Lego, but of flu. There have been deaths in Mexico. There has been one in the US. Our Indian partner said: "There were 2,000 deaths, mainly children in Africa and Asia, yesterday."

Our medical student looked shocked: "I didn't know swine flu had reached that part of the world." "It hasn't," said our partner. "I'm talking of deaths from malaria. But that isn't news, is it?"

We were silent for a while. Time to get things in proportion."

For all the black humour doing the rounds (and highly amusing references to Pooh and Piglet), the aporkalypse is not going to kill us all any more than Avian flu did. As Dr Crippen rightly points out, there are many, many more deaths every day from far nastier diseases, but the western world is protected against malaria. We don't get it here in Britain. Why should we care?

As cynical as my views are on Comic Relief and the pantheon of Entertainment Fundraisers, this year an good amount of time was spent discussing Malaria. So for one night only, we cared enough to donate more money than we ever had before, hurrah, because every year we do. And then it was forgotten. Noses off, a few pub discussions about those hilarious sketches, but were we talking about malaria? Or AIDS? No, of course not.

We might catch the flu though, and what then? I've read the advice I received in my office from the Department of Health. It tells me nothing I didn't already know about normal flu. At risk groups are the young and the elderly, and it's the secondary infections that will put people at most risk. You are at greater risk of catching it than you would be of normal influenza, but death is not the only possible outcome. In fact, if you treat swine flu the same way you would treat a little old lady with 'normal' flu, guess what! You'll be fine. I do not wish to belittle the Mexicans who have died, nor the Texan child. Loss of life is tragic, especially in the young, but your memories are being abused by the political classes.

Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised at all the fuss. The media exists to sell the news, and big stories make big sales. Governments can use their 'initiatives' to combat it to distract from the real, day-to-day issues that actually matter. Brown and The Golden One must be basking in their relief, a crisis they can use to show themselves caring men of action.

Enough. Do what you need to do, send some of our Tamiflu stockpiles to Mexico if you must - goodness knows their medical standards almost make the NHS look bearable - but please drop the pretense that you are somehow acting to protect us from this hamdemic.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Moar signatures pl0x

At present counting there are now 23,276 signatures on the Number 10 petition for Gordon Brown to resign.

That's just over a signature for every £1 of debt we owe as our share of the national debt.

Add your paw prints here.

Think he'll take the hint?

Monday, 27 April 2009

Pigs in blankets

Pig Flu, eh? Well that's a swine and no mistake. Ugh. Can't believe I a) just typed that and b) have decided not to delete it on grounds of good taste. Although pig does taste good, and now I want a bacon sandwich.

TB has it right, it's 28 Days Later all over again - in the words of a very scared guy: "ohmygodohmygodohmygodwe'reallgonnadie..."

It's funny (funny weird rather than funny 'haha', obviously) because not so long ago I seem to remember we were all supposed to be dead by now of HN-51 (Bird Flu), and about ten years or so ago we were all at considerable risk of CJD (Also known as Denny Crane Syndrome, or Mad Cow). I wonder which animal disease we'll have next?

Rat Flu, perchance? (Oh, wait, we've done rats. Black Death). Maybe Dog Flu. Bee Flu? Don't see nearly as many bees around these days, maybe they've been killed by a virulent strain of bee flu. Cat Flu? Or Fish Flu - mum always said to keep warm and dry or I'd catch something, Fish do neither. Prime candidates, I'd say.

Anyway, since it's clearly very serious, I'd best stop off at Sainsbury's on the way home and stock up on water and tinned goods. With a mask on, you know, there's other people there and one of them might be from Mexico. When the epidemic strikes I don't want to be caught out, and it must be serious, the guy on the radio said so.

UPDATE: James Delingpole says it brilliantly. Oink.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Extrordinary Measures

A friend of mine posted an article on Facebook containing the assertion that a large number of Americans were not opposed to torture, or at least that opinion was split. His comments were that supporting the use of torture made these people idiots. We had a few comments back and forth on the issue, because my gut stance is that in certain circumstances (i.e. the 'ticking bomb' scenario), use of torture can be justified. Unenlightened Commentary has posted on this before; the US application of torture was unjustified because it was:
"[to]... confirm the Bush administration's preconceived notions of Iraqi - Al Qaeda links, which is both a retarded way to interrogate anyone and renders arguments over whether that the ends can justify the means rather moot, as there were no credible ends in the first place."
They were not used for the prevention of an imminent attack, they were used to confirm a rather spurious supposed 'connection' to justify a war. In that regard, it was a despicable act. What if, though, we have serious reason to believe that someone has information regarding an act which could result in the deaths of thousands?
"When it comes to coercive interrogation techniques like water boarding, regardless of whether it is torture or not, there is a legitimate discussion to be had about whether it is justified in a ticking bomb scenario. It is unpleasant but not seriously harmful so whether that outweighs the potential mass slaughter that may be prevented by water boarding someone like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is a dilemma."
I think dilemma is the right word. I have said before that I believe in the basic freedom to conduct your life as you wish, so long as you do not cause harm to another. That's fine and fair, but what about if you actively seek to harm others? Does that then render your right to be free from harm invalid? That in itself is a conundrum, since whoever then caused harm to you would alienate their right to be free from harm.

Putting that aside, however, there is something more germane to be dealt with. My friend asserted that torture does not work, as the information you extract under duress will never, he claimed, be reliable. Unenlightened Commentary refuted that by pointing to this story, where a kidnapper successfully 'tortured' bank details out of his victim. The argument against is that people will say anything under pressure, therefore it is not a reliable tool, ergo it should not be used. A religious ideologue, he argued, was perfectly prepared to die, therefore would not give up his plan to torture.

The point of torture, however, is not to kill. Faith, no matter how strong, cannot stand up against the natural survival instinct forever. Push someone to the very brink of their mental endurance and they will break. I can surmise that the reason the kidnapped woman gave her real bank details is because she knew giving false information would result in further torture, further pain or mental strain. Waterboarding, as much as the public decry it, is non-lethal and causes no lasting damage. It forces the brain to panic, thinking death is but a heartbeat away. In normal circumstances, using that sort of technique to extract information is unthinkable, but what if thousands of lives hang in the balance?

My friend again argued that no such situation would ever occur. His precise words were that:
"The ticking time bomb is a red herring. First it would never happen. Second if it did happen, American security procedures and policy have already failed. Third, torture NEVER gives you reliable info so it is, as it always is, a waste of time. Besides, a religious ideologue who would be involved in such a thing would cave? I think not. And in torture he would say ANYTHING to end the pain. Thus the STUPIDITY of it all."
My counter was that you can't possibly say that a ticking bomb would never happen. It's an illustration, meaning simply that an atrocity or attack is imminent, and that you have someone in your custody who knows about it and refuses to tell you. First, it could happen. In fact, it has happened and I'll come to that in a minute. If security procedures had failed, does that mean that you should just stop, roll over, and let people, thousands, millions, however many, die? We have already shown that accurate information can be extracted under torture, and even if not, would you risk the lives of thousands by not taking that chance?

Is the ticking bomb really a red herring, though? Is my theoretical scenario truly so impossible that it renders any further thought on the subject invalid? After all, those things do not happen outside of Hollywood, right? People don't plant nuclear devices in cities, of course, except in Hollywood. They don't fly planes into skyscrapers except in Hollywood... oh... wait...

Fact is that the 'ticking bomb' is, as I said above, a metaphor for an imminent attack which will cause catastrophic loss of life. The events of the 11th September bear that out. If the US Government had heard about the plot and had captured a ringleader who knew about it, but had chosen not to torture him, the planes had crashed and it then transpired that they had failed to use every measure at their disposal to prevent it, what do you think the public would have said? Oh, jolly good, you sacrificed thousands for your morals. Bravo.

I thoroughly dislike the idea of torture. The use of waterboarding or any similar coercive interrogation techniques is, I believe, amoral and wrong. As much as I loathe the practice, however, I cannot accept that it is worse than allowing potentially thousands of people to die if there is a chance, however small, that it could prevent it. The old argument that 'it makes you as bad as them' I don't think holds any water - you can't compare the torture of an individual to save many more to mass murder.

Still, dilemma is very much the right word.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Time to put democracy back in action

Just getting ready to head out and unseat Alistair Darling, campaigning in Edinburgh South-West and spreading the good word with some of the Scottish CF crowd. In the meantime, I thought I'd draw your attention to this petition, to request that Gordon Brown leave office.

Guido, Iain Dale and Dr Crippen have posted on this, and Guido seems to think that this could have a lot of potential. So, if you're tired of ZaNuLiebour's authoritarian, thieving and generally disgraceful behaviour under the captaincy of the Prime Mentalist, I urge you to take a minute, head over, and sign the petition.

Right. Now I'm off to rally the troops in the fight against Badger Brows (and his) Baleful, Barmy, Bad Budget.

Far too much alliteration for a Saturday morning...

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Time for gin

I have just read through the Budget (again) in the hope that maybe I was in a quantum temporal time loop singularity thing and in fact it was April the 1st all over again.

Sadly not.

So. 50% Tax on people earning over £150k, a raid on their pensions, more Government borrowing, etc etc, a lot of overly optimistic projections and a budget so very political and so very uneconomical.

I had planned for this eventuality. The bottle of Gin on my desk at home is primed, my boston shaker iced and my glasses chilled. I shall drown my sorrows in Martinis (Dry as a bone, ofc). Good job I bought it before midnight tonight, eh?

In the meantime, I refer you to David Cameron, who prepared for this eventuality with a withering critique.

There is a solution

Via Dizzy, Gordon Brown goes into advertising:

Hilarity. :)

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Happy B'day HMTQ!

Best birthday wishes to Her Majesty The Queen. Hope you're having a tip-top day!

The Doctor is a libertarian

This Sunday gone I indulged in a bit of a duvet-evening watching my way through Season One and Two of Doctor Who. The Doctor is one of my geeky pleasures; one of many. It’s classic BBC science-fiction at its very best: just a little bit crap but absolutely enthralling for it. David Tennant remains brilliant and I’ll be sad to see him go at the end of the year. He’ll be a rather tough nut to follow, I’d wager.

Anyway, to cut to the point, two lines uttered by The Doctor – one as Eccleston, one as Tennant, suggested that the BBC is projecting its leftie tendencies on to the travelling Time Lord in his little blue box. I point you to season one, ‘The Empty Child’ and season two, ‘Tooth and Claw’. Both are pretty incidental, but they did set me thinking.

In ‘The Empty Child’, the Doctor introduces himself to a group of vagrant children living in the blitz. Following an elder girl who acts as a ringleader and mother figure to the kids, he cheerfully declares their household invasions to feed themselves as ‘Marxism in action’. So, a ragtag group of individuals heroically take from another group of individuals in order to feed themselves. The scriptwriters justify this action by painting the aggrieved party (the bourgeois family) as morally depraved. The father is having a secret affair with the butcher to get extra rations, therefore getting more than his due. I suppose I can kind of see where the scriptwriters were coming from, but it basically boils down to ‘rob from the rich, give to the poor’.

Was the State telling them to do this? Well, clearly not. It was a bunch of kids stealing to survive. That’s not Marxism. It made for a nice line, but a Robin Hood gag would have been more appropriate.

Ooh, hang on... does that mean Robin Hood was a Marxist?

I’d say these kids were instead capitalising on an opportunity in a very enterprising fashion.

So, on to the second leftie moment. ‘Tooth and Claw’. The TARDIS has landed in what The Doctor and Rose believe is 1979. As he rattles off a list of great things that happened in 1979, he says ‘Thatcher’, catches himself, and shivers.

Oh, frak right off.

The Beeb just LOVES to demonise her. Even Doctor Who doesn’t like her, apparently. Because she only saved and rebuilt the British Economy after Labour trashed it and led us into the Winter of Discontent. Yes, the Government wasn’t perfect, yes, they were a bit on the authoritarian side (but not nearly as much as ZaNuLab), but please. It’s always plucky working-class types and evil corporations.

Still, however much the scriptwriters try to make The Doctor an extension of their leftie agenda, they have created a paradox in so doing. You see, The Doctor is an optimist. He doesn’t have much truck with authority, he also loves humans; our idiosyncrasies, our drive, our spirit, our enterprise. He believes in our innate good and our boundless sense of invention and adventure.

In short, The Doctor is a libertarian. He might even be a little left-wing, believing that the poor should be protected by the rich and helped, but he would never think it right that anyone could force you to do it. He believes in freedom and liberty, in peace, and protecting others, but allowing everyone to choose for themselves.

To my rather rudimentary understanding, the libertarian, especially the right-wing libertarian, is an optimist who believes in human endeavour and enterprise. Helping each other through trade and hard work, free to profit, but also free to choose to spend that money on helping those who have less – be it through employing them, or through philanthropy. The point is that he who has much will choose to help he who has less, but no one can or will force him to do so. The libertarian capitalist is the ultimate optimist, believing in the good of everyone and that ultimately we will want to help others, because others will want to improve themselves.

So to commit the fallacy of affirming the consequent and pretend it’s really modus ponens: The Doctor believes in the ultimate good of humanity and in liberty. A right-wing libertarian believes in the ultimate good of humanity and in liberty. Therefore, Doctor Who is a right-wing libertarian.


Monday, 20 April 2009

Funniest thing I've read all day...

Oh oh oh... but this did make me giggle. This one is going on my blogroll...

Friday, 17 April 2009

Fizzle be interesting

Courtesy of the BBC I learned today that one innovative French vinyard, Duval-Leroy, will be introducing metal closures on one of their Champagnes to 'test market reaction.' They plan to debut their prototype bottle at this year's London International Wine Fair in May.

Those that know me are well aware that I view the Stelvin Closure as one of the best things to happen to wine since the invention of the grape. Anyone who whinges about the authenticity of a bottle of wine without that little 'pop' from the cork can be silenced simply by pointing out that eliminates the chance for cork taint due to TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole) in the bottle. This means you will never have to worry if the wine has gone off prematurely, so long as it has been stored correctly. As the closure has only been in widespread use since the 1990s (it was rejected by punters in New Zealand and Australia in the 1980s only to be re-introduced), it is very difficult to do much more than theorise that the complete seal on the bottle (thus preventing any oxygen from tainting the wine) will aid in the ageing process. Oxygen does play a part in the aging of the wine, this is true, but Stelvin Closure should allow for longer aging. This could be either a good or a bad thing, depending on how soon you want to drink it, I suppose.

Nevertheless, what the BBC have failed to explain is how this metal closure will work on a bottle of Champagne, or whether the risk of taint will be removed. The chief reason the TCA taints the wine is because the cork is ill-fitting and too much oxygen gets to the wine. In a bottle of Champagne, this is borderline impossible. Whereas in a normal bottle of wine, the cork is simply squeezed into place and has no force acting on it other than the bottle's neck, a Champagne cork is under a great amount of pressure. Champagne was nicknamed 'the Devil's wine' back in the late 1600s because it often caused the bottle to explode from the pressure. Over the years the glass was thickened to contain the vivatious liquid, and a modern day champagne bottle exerts around 90 pounds per square inch (psi), or 620kPa, which is roughly equivalent to three times the pressure in your car tyres. That is a hell of a lot of pressure on the bottom of the cork, and explains both the effectiveness of the rather glamorous Sabrage method of opening a bottle, and why it makes a hell of a mess when they shake up the bottle on the podium.

I have, therefore, two reservations. One, how they will create a detatchable metal closure that won't be dangerous, and two, why the BBC claims that Champagne suffers a risk of cork taint. That may well be the case, but bearing in mind that an 'ill-fitting' cork wouldn't stay on the bottle for long, right? Well I'm not so sure. A cork that failed to seal the bottle by a hairsbredth might allow the slow escape of gas (and pressure), and therefore let oxygen in to help kill the now, rather flat, sugary contents. All in all, a bit of a disaster.

With all that in mind, I'm deeply curious. I freely admit that there's something very glamorous about the pop of a champagne cork, and a really old wine uncorked is much more emotive than a really old wine unscrewed. Emotive only lasts til you sniff the cork and realise the potentially fabulous vintage you just opened has been tainted owing to a foul cork, something that a screwcap entirely avoids. Plus, you never have to worry about a corkscrew. I've been treated to some fantastic wines in screw caps, and it's not just cheap-seats suppliers who use them now. New World wines are now leading the way in Stelvin Closures, and I defy you to drink a bottle of Pegasus Chardonnay and claim it would have been better with a cork.

Still, I remain very interested. Let's see if this idea goes off with a bang.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Sleepy Cat

Blogging will be light if slightly non-existant for a few days while some slight glitches are worked out of my PC.

For those who are so minded, I started crashing out of some applications - it started with Windows Live and Firefox, then spread to some of my other apps (and games). To begin with it was just the applications, then Vista started giving me BSOD. Eventually, I realised a complete clean reinstall was the most efficient way forward, which led to me deleting and recreating my RAID array and encountering an exceptionally irritating CLI/MOM failure when installing my graphics drivers. I have an ATI 4870 X2, but apparently this is a fairly common error. Should anyone else be having this issue, there are two strands of official advice: the first is to use a legacy driver (which is the path I took, ultimately), the other I just discovered this morning and is strikingly frustrating in its simplicity, just right click the driver file and select 'Run as Administrator'. This hadn't occurred since my account *is* the Admin one, but I'll be trying it with the most up to date driver when I get home...

Anyway, I'll be concentrating on fixing that in all my spare time, so if I'm quiet, that's why!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

When the mind wanders to tax and economics

Having a curious little thought about tax and the economy, so bear with me.

This little thought comes from a very important question: given all the waste in the public sector, where is all this money going?

Here’s a hypothetical. I’m directing a big IT project at the HMRC. Let’s say a nice, civil liberty infringing database, something perhaps to do with ID cards. These things seem to be all the rage these days anyway. I appoint some Programme Managers and Project Managers, but since we have very little in-house experience, we’re going to need contractors. So we tender the project and appoint a consultancy. Let’s call them Capcenture, for arguments sake.

Capcenture come in, look at our hastily drawn requirements and make some suggestions, the requirements are changed and we then go out to hire a load more contractors to help us develop it – coincidentally, most of these people are one-man-band ‘consultancy’ companies going through an Agency, taking advantage (barely legally) of IR35 to pay as little tax as possible (and who can blame them?). Already the bill is looking pretty swollen, but the project is underway.

Then, someone goes back to the original specifications and decides that there’s more functionality they need out of it. Development has already started, so this means more modifications, and the timetable slips. The budget doesn’t cover for that kind of slippage, so they revaluate the project and go back to the purse holders talking about sunk costs and the importance of this government approved initiative.

More contractors are hired at £500 per day to help with the development. The Consultancy is called back in with their specialists each at £1500 per day. The bill goes ever higher, and the project will run for ever longer. All this money gushing from the purse of the public; but where is it going to?

The Government is giving it to private sector companies, whose tax receipts will funnel some of it back to the Government. The rest they will invest in staff, or save, or spend as is their wont. The shareholders off all these companies will reap the dividends. The consultancies all know this. That’s why there are armies of ‘Public Sector Account Managers’ and specialists. An entire business stream has built up on selling to the public sector, because it is the ultimate cash cow – and they always pay their bills. If it sounds a lot like stealing from Peter to pay Paul, you’d be right.

Where has the money gone? Into the private sector; waste or not, you can’t deny that people have profited from it, even if it is the few rather than the many. Hold up a second there. Did we just say the few rather than the many? Isn’t the point of socialism and social democracy the many rather than the few? Isn’t it about redistribution of wealth and all that stuff? Our taxes have gone to pay for a project that lines the pockets of the evil capitalist piggy things! By extension, the Government has stolen from the many to give to the rich few.

Yikes. Who’d have seen that flaw in their logic?

Anyway, it seems to be something of a merry-go-round of money. I think of it as being that there is ultimately a finite source of cash in the economy. This can occasionally be increased in terms of numerical amounts, but the ultimate value of the cash pool cannot change. In my very simple understanding, this is why we get inflation – you can print as much of the stuff as you want, but that only devalues what you have. 100% split into thousandths is still 100% when you add it all up. Growth, and an increase in the base value of the money pool, can only occur when new products are created or resources made/discovered.

The only difference is who determines where that money goes. Is it me, or is it the Government?

The Devil’s Kitchen has for a while now been hunting down, naming and shaming what he identifies as Fake Charities. These are pressure groups and lobbyists that receive significant funding (more than 10% or at least £1m, I understand) from HM Gov. Notwithstanding that I find the principle of the Government choosing to pay my taxes to a ‘charitable’ pressure or lobby group with whom I disagree to be a total affront, the funding for these groups should come from those who support them, not the body politic.

I do not agree with what the Anti-Drinking/Alcohol lobby say, therefore I am appalled that my taxes are going to fund them. I may sympathise with the Anti-Tobacco lobby insofar as I like not having smoke in my face, but the fact they push to actively remove the rights of others to do to their bodies as they please means that I would never willingly give them money. As you can imagine, I’m not best pleased that the Government does on my behalf. Even for charities of which I approve, such as Stonewall, I do not agree with the Government funding them, or indeed any public sector body. Public money should not fund a pressure or lobby group, however admirable their aim.

The Government has decided that it knows best where to spend our money and to whom to donate, therefore these ‘charities’ receive money to advance their arguments to the Government. Right or wrong their arguments may be, the decision of who to support should be mine. On no grounds, be it health, social welfare or civil liberty, should taxpayers cash go towards a pressure group. Unfortunately, it does.

Charity should be private and personal. Charities and political lobbying groups can lobby me for my cash all they like. They certainly should receive none from the treasury.

The State colossus, Big Government, our massive and bloated Public Sector, are the manifestation of that denial of choice. They are testament to a belief that our leaders know best how to spend our money. Which, given the way they throw it around, shows a complete lack of respect for the people from whom they take it on threat of imprisonment. I apologise if that all seems melodramatic, but New Labour scare me and I don’t trust them with my money. Imagine if the Government let failing industries fall. What do you think would happen? My belief is that if there is no market for goods, the companies are on borrowed time anyway. If their departure creates an opportunity, someone with savvy will fill it.

At the heart of all this is one basic difference. One approach assumes that the populace is too selfish or too stupid to spend its money, the other believes in the intelligence and natural altruism of the human spirit. If you like, socialism is the ultimate form of political pessimism. Libertarianism, and to a degree, Conservatism, believes in the ultimate good of humanity and in our ability to decide for ourselves.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Draper is draped. Again.

Courtesy of John Redwood, Derek Draper makes himself (and his party) look silly. Again. This time over the economy. I really wonder how New Labour have achieved the level of self delusion over their handling of the economy while they have been in Government.

As an aside, I noticed that Gordon Brown said at PMQs on Wednesday that the Tories would cut pensions. At least I think that's what he said. I was a bit too busy spluttering my coffee to be sure. Excuse me for having a woolly memory, but something about a change in the tax structure in 1997, something about raiding private sector pensions... Wasn't that you?

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Setting cats on a pidgeon

From the sound of it, Brown has been savaged in PMQs... Can't wait to get home and watch the replay online.

You almost had me...

Capitalists@Work have, I suspect, just played an almost believable one.

It is the 1st of April, right?

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Up to my eyeballs...

I'm steeped deeply in contract law at the moment. Blogging services are on the back burner.

Watching the Jacqui Smith car-crash and expenses fiasco that seems to be spreading like a bush-fire in the dry season is quite amusing, though...

Might I humbly suggest the application of an expenses litmus test for MPs: if you think you might get fired for doing it in the private sector, don't bloody claim it. Stop giving Parliament a bad name, you'll destroy all credibility in the system.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Blowing the budgets

Iain Martin’s blogpost over at the Telegraph this morning discusses how the latest poll results suggest that voters are broadly in favour of cuts to public spending, though not at the expense of core services. It is a bit woolly to think that you can simply cut administrative costs or jobs and all will be well – many of the support roles are critical to front-line delivery – however this does take the somewhat naive view that the boys and girls on the front-line are all doing sterling jobs. I don’t doubt that many are, but I also suspect that the threat of some cuts there would work wonders for productivity.

I eschewed my normal bike ride to work in favour of my car today. It’s the first time I’ve driven to work this year, and thinking about it, the first time in about nine months. As a result, I had the delights of Wogan for fifteen amusing minutes this morning. Nearing my office, the traffic report finished and Wogan jested that there will be lots of roads being dug up, because March is nearly over and all the Councils will be looking to spend all their budgets before the end of the tax year, lest the Government reduce their budget for the next year.

I’ve come across this before. It is something of a universally-accepted fact of the Public Sector that if you don’t spend your budget, next year’s will be cut back, and nobody wants that. When I worked for a recruitment company, we discovered all sorts of projects suddenly kicking off in Feb/March as IT managers suddenly needed extra hands to roll out new desktops and so on. It was a theme repeated year-on-year, as my manager explained, and was a great little boost to business.

That was a discovery I found despairing. Even at the time, I had a little shiver, and wondered why on earth people entrusted with public money could be so utterly irresponsible as to spend it for the sake of not getting as much next year. Profligate spending like that is an utter disgrace, and that is one of the reasons public sector spending is so out of control – they have a use it or lose it mentality, and rather than thinking of how they can make a little go a long way, the public sector seems determined to spend it lest they get a smaller budget for the next year.

One of my contractors had once worked on a few assignments at North Yorkshire County Council, based in Northallerton. He told me about their IT stores room, where they apparently had a stash of unused laptops. These were the sort which were meant for heavy duty activity; water-resistant, shock-resistant, hard-wearing. It transpired they had been purchased a few years ago, and had never been used, but that hadn’t stopped them ordering more. Someone clearly thought it would be nice to have some, so spent some of my taxes and their council tax levies on some IT Hardware which would gather dust, unused.

I remember my manager being delighted, because one of his NHS accounts had actually signed off budget from 2007 and paid us in advance of any actual requirement just to get rid of it before the year end, with the view of using it when the next project came live. That might seem efficient enough, but he wasn’t doing it for efficiency, he was doing it to ensure he got as big a budget next year as the year past.

David Cameron, should he win the next general election, is going to have a lot on his plate. The public sector needs a cull, and it needs a change in mentality. Somehow it needs to be reminded that taxpayers money is something you have to be responsible with, and blowing through a budget for the sake of spending is a poor show indeed.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

On Gilts, PMQs, and a good old-fashioned roasting

Is the end nigh?

Gordon's Gilt sale has failed to find any buyers out on the market. It can't have been helped by Mervyn King challenging further spending by the reckless Brown, plus the UK isn't the only Government issuing debt, but this ought to be scaring the bejeezus out of the Treasury. I don't see Gordon getting too worried, he is after all, off playing Superman, and will probably think of some excuse to console himself.

Meanwhile, Hattie was demolished by a laconic Hague and Cable in PMQs today. Shame that Hague didn't stick the knife in and twist with is usually rapier wit, even if he did score a few points. More telling was Hattie banging on about "do nothing Tories" and a "millionaire's manifesto". Though the informed (or remotely intelligent) will see through them as the utter fabrications that they are, the lowest common denominator has an uncanny knack for buying in to cheap soundbites. It worked for Tony long enough.

Speaking of demolishing people, Dan Hannan 1 - Gordon Brown 0. After his speech at the EU Parliament, the PM was skewered, basted and roasted in the space of three sweet and incisive minutes. I know I'm a little late to the party on this one, having been covered elsewhere, but if you fancy seeing an intelligent man dismantle a deluded one, click here.

The Thought Police score again

This is a disgrace.

If you need to ask why, then there really is no hope left...

Free speech includes the right to criticise, to offend, to question, to debate... for heaven's sake, this is stifling. Incitement to hatred? That may not be desirable, but it is a *right*. Do I just believe too much in innate human decency?

One by one, new Labour's thought police are taking away our freedom to express ourselves, whatever our views. It's unacceptable, undemocratic, and it scares the hell out of me.

I've got a bad feeling about this

Anyone else have a suspicion that Jacqui Smith might be about to lay one on us?

All this talk of dirty bombs is making me nervous, and not because of terrorists... that woman has form.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Leave it out

Just for the record.

She is not Princess Diana. She did no great charitable works. Even if she did, I wouldn’t get it. Her story is no more tragic than the soldiers who died fighting for us in Afghanistan; actually, it’s less tragic. Three mothers lost their sons on Mother’s day, and we devote a whole host of column inches to a woman who made her money from being a bit thick on the television.

Why is it sad? Because a young woman died, leaving behind a family. Oh, but guess what, it happens all over the world, every day. People die young, long before their time. She doesn’t matter any more, or less, than they do.

If anything, we see the hypocrisy of the media circus, who damned her, loved her, damned her then loved her as soon as they heard she was going to shuffle off this mortal coil. Give over, please, and get some perspective.

The politicians chiming in should be ashamed for using this as a nice vehicle for showing they are connected with the people. Were you personal friends? No. Then you have nothing to say. Any Doctor will tell you a smear test on a late teen or early twentysomething is more likely to give a false positive than a definitive, so don’t go punting that line.

When Diana died, in the media storm that followed we almost missed the deaths of Mother Theresa and Sir George Solti. I dread to think what we will be distracted from now.

Her death is tragic, but it is a tragedy for her family. Just try and remember what you thought of her before you knew she was dying – be it good or ill – and don’t kid yourself.

Jack is back

First time I’ve had a chance to blog since returning from France. Events of note – faceplanting at Formigal (hilarious), Vin Chaud at Gourette (sticky sweet delicious) and Bloc du Foie Gras de Canard with a succulent Jurancon Doux (so wrong but so right) in front of a roaring fire. Great snow, glorious sunshine, good time had by all. Up until the day of departure, that is.

Attempting to fly back on Thursday 13th March presented a small problem. The entirety of the French Public Services were on strike. Including Air Traffic Control. Which was pesky, as I was meant to be meeting a good friend at Edinburgh Airport on Friday morning.

What followed was a marathon relay drive where brothercat and daddycat took turns with basementcat to hurtle up the Autoroutes of France and the Motorways of Britain (give me French roads any day). Departing Pau at 12.45pm on Thursday, we arrived in Edinburgh at 06.00am on Friday, a rather impressive time, if somewhat exhausting.

For the record, the Frogs were on strike because they wanted higher public sector pay, and wanted the Government to raise taxes in order to achieve this. I think we all know what my feelings on that would be...

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Gone Skiing

The basementcat has jumped on a flight for France for a week of fantastic wine, artisanal cheese, and most importantly, a couple of days on the piste attempting to kill himself.  Hopefully without success, but you never know...

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Gross injustice

Released after 15 days in the clanger after an appeal?

Are we forgetting that he KILLED someone? Accidental or not, he was driving dangerously, crashed and committed manslaughter.

I'm enraged. He's a peer, he should be setting an example. At the very least he should take his sentence with the solemnity it deserves, he took a life owing to his misjudgement and has the moral imperative to serve the full term. Instead, he gets his lawyers to wrangle him out.

Another disgraceful NuLiebour peer; he's not fit to hold any position in the parliamentary or legislative process.

Very good question...

Why is nobody asking questions about this?

This could be a chance for the Tories to give Brown both barrels, yet they seem remarkably quiet on the issue. Load up your shotguns, boys, because there's a hell of a lot of ammunition to spare and a great fat target to hit.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Judgement by Video Conference

Just an aside, but in a supplier meeting with Cable and Wireless today, I learned that they are providing a VC service for the Ministry of Justice down in Englandshire. Prisoners who are pleading guilty will no longer have to be shuttled from gaol to court to deliver their plea, but will simply be linked up by video conference - system they are using I think is Cisco Telepresence.

Saves on time, police effort, and reduces security risks. Now *that's* what I call efficient use of technology!

Monday, 9 March 2009

I want to emmigrate.

I just caught the Wall Street Journal's interview with New Zealand's PM, John Key.

New Zealand has great wine, good skiing, amazing scenery, temperate weather, and apparently a free-market focused leader who favours small government. And they have Hobbits. What's not to like?

At least ONE Prime Minister in the world seems to know the right way to deal with the recession...

Chocolate Tax and Speed Limits. Give over...

DK has already given this both barrels, and Dr. Crippen agrees with him.

Some Doctor in Lanarkshire has put his head above the parapet to deliver us his esteemed opinion. Apparently, since chocolate is unhealthy, we should tax it to fight obesity. I’d love to take this one apart, but the Devil already has, with far more vitriol than I can muster on a Monday.

Given that the SNP are talking about introducing a minimum price on alcohol, now a Scottish doctor is getting above himself and pressing for a chocolate tax, you might think that we’ve filled our quota for illiberal and misguided ideas for the month, but no, elsewhere, another Scot has come up with another way to infringe upon civil liberty.

The Times reports that Jim FitzPatrick, the roads minister, is supporting a plan to reduce the speed limit on roads from 60mph to 50mph. Obnoxio is not impressed. Neither am I.

Just what is it with Scotsmen acting like illiberal pillocks at the moment?

On all three counts, booze, chocolate and driving, we see the heavy hand of the state thinking that people can’t decide for themselves, so must be told. If you can’t see the problem here, then quite frankly I weep for the future of our children, for they will be brought up in an authoritarian, nanny state where choice and liberty are but a distant memory.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Englandshire rules the waves

A fellow twitterer directed his followers to this article on the insidious and devious path by which the EU is attempting to dismantle the United Kingdom. Reading on through the comments, I stumbled upon this... well, essay, for wont of a better word:

Briefly, England is the greatest country that the world has ever seem. We are greater than the furthest expanse of the 1st Chinese Empire, more powerful than the Egyptians, more influential than the Greeks, and more organised than the Romans. We have proved this by first silencing our troublesome neighbours; Scotland, Wales & Ireland (to some extent) all of whom were and probably still are, jealous of our freedoms, our independence, our genius and our power.

We adpapt very quickly and this makes us almost unbeatable in war - unless we are fighting ourselves - of course! Since we have this indispensible capacity, we have been fortunate enough to use it wisely not only to ensure our survival, but the survival of our way of thinking, our generous attitude, our benevolence, our warmth and fairness, all of which are far far more important. This is our real culture and this what we will die for. For we know how to accept that which we cannot change and subdue that which attempts to change us.

Because since our establishment here in Britain ovr 1500 years ago, we English have turned the basic British way of life into an enigmatic novelty and we have imposed our language, our culture and our glorious traditions on these war-like elemetals who have been forced to accept us, mostly against their wills to begin with, and gradually, to accept us by tollerating the benefits they have received from us over the years.

Under the British flag, we the English, have led the peoples of this island to economic conquests and dominance all over the world, and we have forced all peoples to learn our ways of living and our ways of prospering over and above their own, and for their own good, which most, now accept with few provisos. The gun has been a big part of this, and without it, our culture would not be as dominant all over the world, as it is today, in every country and in every culture and in every continent: in fact, almost everywhere on planet Earth!

We are the people who have subdued and civilised and educated this whole planet into our way of thinking - but the work is not done. There is still some work to do - because our children, the USA, Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and others have been blinded by anti English propaganda which demonises us for creating riches where there were none, organisation where there was chaos, a sense of jutice where there was only force and brutality, an aim of healing where there was only suffering, and healthy living where there was predominantly sickness and pain.

This is what it means to be English and this is the weight that every English person carries with them on their shoulders, not as a yoke (as our enemies would have it), but as a burden of responsibility which must not be released into the hands of others, or the world that WE have created will fall into a dark age, far darker than any dictatorship, far darker than any cowardly gutless obedience, far far darker than any state imposed unfair laws, and more obscure than any futile war of greed.

Criticisms of our desired way of life and our peaceful tolerant society, come from the enemies of our civilising influence and from those who would rather not have what we have given, but instead the nihilism and barbarism of the ignorant which must be anathema to ourselves and to our English people.

Without an England, the world must implode upon itself and be subdued by the land of darkness which hangs over us like shadow of the re-introduction of the wolf into our peaceful forests, the dismantling of our Hadrians wall which has kept us safe for centuries. It currently lies almost abandoned and can’t keep wolves out for too much longer. Lets start to re-man that wall - and keep an eye our for those blood-thirsty wolves!

They are there, and they are coming; and they will take what is yours unless you stand up and do something. Now.

Adrian Thurston| 12.21.08 @ 9:32AM

Smashing stuff, what? I wasn't sure if this might have been a superb work of irony in the truest, English vein, but as I reached the end I swear I was almost humming Rule Britannia. The man is completely without hinges, but full marks for effort!

Mandelson's Ghostbusters Moment

Part of me (the part that wants Nu Liebour put in the stocks and pelted with rotten veg) was amused to hear about Mandelson getting slimed.

Unfortunately, I find such displays to be tantamount to assault - the acts of the raving lunatic lefties for whom decorum and debate are as alien as soap once was. Except that the environmental protestors these days are as likely to be called Sloaney as they are Swampy, and will have a bottle of Corton Charlemagne in their hamper next to the smoked salmon sandwiches. Just look at the students at Edinburgh University, who arranged their anti-Israeli love-in complete with MacBooks and Blackberries. If I were Edinburgh, I'd just have cut power to the building and shut off the WAP...

By lowering herself to this level, Leila Deen may have gained herself a few column inches and amused smiles, but it hardly gives the green lobby any credibility. Plane Stupid? Couldn't have thought of a more apt name for the lot of them.

Oh, and Mandy? Send her your dry cleaning bill; actions have consequences, after all. Maybe it's time she learned that.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Guardianistas to Hug-A-Tory

After reading this on ConHome the other day I was brewing up a post, but Iain Martin over at the Telegraph has done such a fantastic job that anything I were to add would seem superfluous. Some of the comments make for interesting reading too...

Nail. Head. Hit.

Jonah Meets the Messiah

Commentary on Brown’s visit to the US has chewed up the column inches in the MSM as well as the blogosphere these last few days, even The Economist’s Bagehot felt compelled to comment on what has been widely perceived as a snub to the British PM. In his eyes, this was no snub and Downing Street should be pleased with the outcome. Whether or not that is the case, Britain at large thinks otherwise.

One reader on Conservative Home yesterday left a comment to the effect that he may be an idiot, but he’s our idiot, and this was no way to treat the Prime Minister. You salute the rank, not the man, after all. Tim Montgomerie tweeted to the same effect today – whatever glee Brown’s opponents may be enjoying at seeing Jonah Brown embarrassed, we must remember that he is there as a representative of Britain; how he is treated might very well be interpreted as a manifestation of the Obama administration’s attitude towards Britain.

Iain Martin of the Telegraph takes this perspective – that he’s the Prime Minister of the nation with whom the US have a so-called ‘special relationship’. That relationship has been the subject of much analysis lately. Just how ‘special’ is it? Do we presume we are equal partners? I suspect that we’ve always been aware that we are the lesser player and are occasionally treated as such, but that does not mean that we expect our PM to be sidelined on a state visit.

Brown, however, has done little to engender warm feelings towards him from the White House, let alone the US as a whole. His grandstanding leaves one thinking of an empty vessel, and surely his repeated mantra (this is not a British problem, it started in America) has not gone unnoticed. His determination to pin his flickering bulb to Obama’s popular rising star has made him appear desperate.

Perhaps it is simply because Obama knows that Brown is unpopular at home, and doesn’t expect to have to put up with him for long. Perhaps he is trying to distance himself from all the Presidents before him who embraced the ‘special relationship’. Perhaps he had no desire to listen to a failure dictate economic policy. Whatever the reasons, I hope the next time a Prime Minister of Great Britain gets on a flight to Washington, he is received with the respect that should be accorded to one of the only nations who has stuck by the US when few others would. We share a history, and the Obama administration would do well to remember that.

That won’t stop me chuckling quietly; it may be rude, but Gordon Brown deserved no less. While I may take perverse enjoyment out of knowing Downing St had to beg for time with Obama, I am disappointed; the Prime Minister deserved more.