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

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.



The prime minister added: "I was making some very insightful points about Fred Goodwin's pension, but he just kept looking at that watch and I'm thinking, 'gosh, it must be a really good one'.

Funny. Oh how he must be seething inside - Bliar got all the bells and whistles, Jonah brings the wind and snow. Then gets a quick chat before he's shoved out the door.

I say this not in Brown's defence, but Obama really isn't the messiah. He is not the panacea to the world's ills. He is, however, the President of the USA, and this whole sorry affair makes Brown look far more like the poodle we thought Bliar was.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

As much as it galls me...

While I normally have very little patience for the Daily Mail and its offensive school of journalism, for once (and perhaps this is because I'm severely peeved at some jobsworthian witch for reasons that I have tweeted elsewhere), yes, for once I agree with Littlejohn.

If Harriet is so keen on the 'court of public opinion' all of a sudden, let her and her cohorts be hoisted by their own petard.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Nanny stating my booze

Via the Scotland on Sunday (the Hootsmon's sabbath-day edition), it transpires that the SNPs are planning on engaging in a little bit more nanny-statism, clearly taking the lead from their ZaNu Lab counterparts in England. As if the Smoking Ban wasn't enough, apparently we have a drinking problem - and they think that the problem is that booze is too cheap.

'MINISTERS are to press ahead with a crackdown on sales of cheap alcohol in a move that could be fast-tracked through Parliament in as little as six months, Scotland on Sunday can reveal.'

Hold up a second, why? We already pay a daft amount of tax on a bottle of wine (as I have blogged before) - now you want to make it even *more* expensive?

'The measures are set to spark a furious legal battle with the retail trade and alcohol industry, which claims the laws will hit customers' pockets, damage the industry, and do little to stop problem drinking.

If minimum pricing is introduced and promotional offers are banned, many of the offers at supermarkets and off-licences would be outlawed immediately.

A minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol, as advocated by health campaigners, would result in rocketing prices. A two-litre bottle of cider, currently priced at around £3, would cost £7.50. Wine would also increase in price, with a £3 bottle of wine possibly rising to a minimum of £5. Multi-packs of beer – which are regularly discounted – would also rise in price.

The moves are being pushed through despite concerns within the SNP that the Government should not seek to increase the financial burden on consumers and retailers during an economic downturn.'
Oh holy mother of Dorothy. Where to begin? Now, I can’t remember the last time I spent less than £5 on a bottle of wine anyway, but if a two litre bottle of cider is suddenly going to cost £7.50, how much is a bottle of vodka going to jump up to? Well if Smirnoff is your poison, at 37.5% that equates to just shy of 30 units, therefore about £15, so at worst that’s going to cost you two or three quid more.

Scotland on Sunday neglect to mention who these health campaigners are, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn they were Alcohol Concern, which DK has identified as a fake charity - funded primarily by the Government (and therefore, indirectly, you and me). If it is indeed Alcohol Concern (or one if their ilk), we’re talking about a ‘charitable’ lobbying group funded by the Government to lobby the Government. Everyone see the problem there? Yes? Good.

‘...Scotland on Sunday understands that ministers may seek to place some of the measures – such as the ban on "Buy One Get One Free" deals – in the existing 2005 Licensing Act, which is due to come into force in September.

The Act enshrines "protecting and improving public health" as a key objective of all licensing decisions, so the Government may argue that it gives the power to ban cheap drink offers. The same logic could also be applied to plans to impose minimum pricing.

Such a tactic would enable SNP ministers to push the reforms through more quickly, but it would also prompt accusations that they were deliberately dodging debate. One retail source said last night: "If they use the Licensing Act, it would be simply about rail-roading these plans in a bid to avoid proper parliamentary scrutiny. It suggests that Kenny MacAskill knows how unpopular it is to push up prices in this economic environment."’

Actually I’d say that’s exactly what it means. Worse yet, it’s enacting a Nanny-state agenda avoiding the parliamentary process along the way. Hardly democratic. Besides, pushing up the price of alcohol is not going to help solve the problem. It’s going to hurt people financially, but again, root causes people! Why do Scots have a drinking ‘problem’? Is it because booze is cheaper here than anywhere else in the country? I think you’ll find the answer is no, it isn’t. It’s no less expensive here than anywhere else. Is making it more expensive going to fix what is clearly a cultural issue? Again, clearly not.

In the meantime, as our Southern cousins do the booze cruise to Calais, we'll just have to start a cruise to the Tescos in Berwick-Upon-Tweed.

I won't, of course, since I long ago worked out that given the daft amount of duty on a bottle of wine, if I spent less than about £6 on the bottle, after costs I would be getting the cheapest quality of wine the producer could crank out, but that's another matter entirely...