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

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.