Wednesday, 31 December 2008
Most accident prone politician:
Winner: Blunder Woman - Jacqui Smith; the woman who lost everything, and threatens to take every liberty we enjoy
Runner up: David Cameron; who wants us to entrust our country to him, but can't even look after his own possessions - namely attach his bicycle to, well - anything
Most terrifying political wannabe:
Winner: Sarah Palin; the thought of this gun totin, folksy, 'mavericky', right wing religious nutter taking control of anything larger than a BB gun terrified me for months
Runner up: Tina Fey; the Saturday Night Live comedian and impressionist for her astonishing potrayal of Sarah Palin, which in no small part helped the voters of the USA see Sarah Palin for what she was - and made us all smile at the same time
Worst song of the year:
Winner: The Ting Ting's 'That's Not My Name', a song that won by far - easily the most annoying and persistant plastic pop song in decades
Runner up: Anything by Scouting for Girls
Best album of the year:
Winner: Kings of Leon - Only By The Night
Runner up: Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
Honourable mention: Glasvegas - Glasvegas
Biggest waste of money:
Winner: All unaccountable Quangos/NDPB/Agencies
Runner up: The expenses and bonuses of elected (and unelected) officials and public office holders
Honourable mention: The Princess Diana inquiry
Winner: Tom Paine, The Last Ditch - a thoughtful and insightful blog that undoubtedly benefits from the analytical objectivity only an ex-pat can employ
Runner up: The Devil's Kitchen - a terrifying blog that covers an astonishing range of subjects with an informed passion and a rage against the machine that leaves me in awe, and to be honest feeling a little inadequate
Honourable mentions: Old Holborn, Ideas of Civilisation, AMW - thanks...
Worst technological advances:
Winner: Micrsoft Windoze Vista, and Server 2008 - and the missing 2008 SP2, like that would help polish a turd...
Runner up: Despite my love of OSS and Apple hardware the Apple iPhone - "all the parts of the internet are on the iPhone" - yea except Flash and Java (so says the Advertising Standards Authority), and how shit is touch screen?
Monday, 29 December 2008
As a regular recipient of Holyrood magazine, 'Scotland's leading political publication' I would like to get back to them with some constructive reader feedback.
Given the fact that they do not respond to posts or comments I guess I'm left with no option but to post it here.
So here goes:
Your magazine is a poor excuse for an insightful political publication that takes the establishment to task. A lightweight political journal of the most sycophantic editorial line; regurgitating press releases verbatim and offering virtually incomprehensible tracking information.
Did I see the editor kissing Jack McConnell or was it hugging Alex Salmond?
Depends who is the ruling party in Holyrood I guess.
As for the interviews, sigh!
I resent the 'girly' bonhomie (if that is actually possible, gender 'notwithstanding') that results in Alistair Campbell being a sex symbol and Nicola Sturgeon being reduced to a reproductive body clock - spare me please from media editorial women in positions of power that undermine generations of hard won equality milestones through reductive pre-feminist recidivism. Not to mention the annoying 'pretend' third party tone that the balsa light questions are couched in!
And another thing, why do they employ so many journalists (I thought periodicals employed writers?) to produce so little, about 22 issues per annum to be exact? I reckon the ex-editor could do that on his own and still hold down his job at the Sunday Herald...
And another thing - why is the design so shite? It's like trying to read the Beano with random column flow. Why are there so many typos? Why are the supplements (oh sorry 'Special Reports' à la Economist now) sold as a separate publication when they are bound in? Why are the sales people so downright shifty? Why are their predictable and lightweight conferences patronised by Ministers?
Well Scotland, stand and up and be counted, our foremost political publication with it's < 2000 subscribers is a disgrace, and a bit of a laugh - just as well we are so good at doing that, you know - laughing at ourselves. Mind you I suspect I suspect somebody at Holyrood magazine is laughing at us.
Guess i'll have to cancel my subscription, or perhaps not - the renewal is only £195.00, or is it £99.00 or £79.00? Who knows what it's worth? Nobody in Holyrood magazine that's for sure...
Of course I could read it on-line for nothing, but that's still too much.
Hey that's what this blogospherical thing is about I guess...
My response to Iain Dale's post of this morning in support of the Israeli position in the burgeoning Israel/Gaza standoff.
No surprise the Palestinians feel hard done by then?
50% of the Scottish parliament's token green streak Robin Harper is calling for an end to the shooting of seals around fish farms this morning. He cites research from the SMRU (Sea Mammal Research Unit) to backup his claim that the seal population is declining.
There are so many things wrong around this claim:
First of all and why is he targeting the fish farmers?
"Those flagrant murderers of lovely sea mammals?"
Fish farming came around in response to the green lobby's hysterical insistence that conventional fishing was destroying our wild fish populations, and our need to find alternatives. I suspect that now that it is a commercial business venture, it's fair game for the greens. This is just another example of the knee-jerk rejection of technological solutions to solve environmental problems, whether real or as in this case imagined, and how dare they protect their investment? tut tut!. The environmentalists natural aversion to technology and business shows itself in this.
Read this, interestingly not published by the SMRU as reported, but by the SCOS (Special Commitee on Seals). It is the official definitive study of seal population, and documents that despite the devastating effects of two outbreaks of phocine distemper virus (PDV), largely among harbour seals that occurred in 1988 and 2002, the seal population is in rude health. It's an in-depth 93 page scientific publication that shows quite clearly that estimated seal pup production has increased from 7326 in 1966 to 39727 in 2006. The other tables show a similar increase in populations across the board, I cannot find one set of figures that backs Mr Harpers claims of impending doom. Sure populations have shifted, but the trend is definitely in the "more seals not less" direction.
Robin, stop picking "route of least resistance" publicity seeking press releases and campaigns. You know that with their big eyes and cute faces the general public cannot help themselves; the wholesale anthropomorphising of cute animals is a trademark of our increasingly numerically illiterate and non-scientific society, you know this and are exploiting it for maximum publicity!
Pass me an AK47, i'm off to hunt me some single issue politicians...
Wednesday, 24 December 2008
I would like to wish you all a very merry Christmas/Xmas/Winterval, or whatever your preference is, and a prosperous and happy new year.
Special thanks go out to the small group of followers who have regularly visited my "scrawl on the wall and the extraordinary community of erudite bloggers who inspire me, it's been fun, thanks...
Have a great one.
Monday, 22 December 2008
Now I don't quite know what difference a motion in the Scottish Parliament will make to AC/DC, but having watched bemused Crap Holyrood Chat's ever growing list of pointless motions in the greatest "Wee Parliament", I suspect very little.
Angus and Malcolm Young's family emigrated from Scotland to Australia in 1963 (aged 8 and 10 respectively). Bon Scott's family emigrated when he 6 years old. The band was formed in 1973, and they went on to stupendous success characterised in the early years by Bon Scott's powerful vocals, original driving guitar riffs and Angus's wild head banging SG lead guitar style - not to mention legendary stage antics. The band members readily acknowledged their Scottish roots and even recorded a cover of a traditional Scottish song in 1976. To say this proposed recognition is belated is a bit of an understatement, even Melbourne named a street after the band in 2004 - the aptly named ACDC Lane.
Christine Grahame is way off the mark if she thinks that a motion in the Scottish Parliament will make one iota of a difference to a group of anarchistic rock musicians, even the memorial to Bon Scott in Kirriemuir is pretty questionable - particularly given his legendary sociopathic tendencies and ultimate demise through alcoholic poisoning, although he was quite stereotypically Scottish I guess.
Smells a bit like another attempt at self-aggrandisement by association with the famous to me.
It's not big, it's not clever and I doubt if it is really a good use of parliamentary time Christine, go and carve yourself a reputation for outstanding achievement rather than vicariously...
Or buy their albums, that's how I marked my appreciation; and a much more sincere mark of appreciation it is methinks.
Sunday, 21 December 2008
It was an inspirational afternoon, with fast moving piebald skies and wind inspired mania best enjoyed with some Cullen Skink inside to warm your cockles and a stoic determination to make the most of the waning year; well wrapped up against all that mother nature can throw at you - the classic Scottish winter afternoon.
For a change I dragged my camera along, and thought I might share my pics with you.
Enjoy - and in the spirit of the 'net no reproduction limitations apply...
Have a great Xmas all..
Both Iain Dale and AMW have recently run stories regarding Bridget Prentice's proposed changes to the libel laws and in particular the impact this may have on the blogosphere, I orginally posted the following as a comment, but thought it might be useful to air it here. I have been involved in advising website owners on DMCA legislation, and providing investigation services over the last 5 years, so I am pretty sure that this is how it would play out:
Well here's my tuppence worth on the proposed changes to the law, as it stands Bloggers are not exempt from the libel laws see here.
And I guess that's just a result of our civil law, any individual who has the resources can raise an action against another, which must be defended - as to the rights and wrongs of buying law and at what cost, that's another debate.
However comments are in the first instance the responsibility of the individual making them, not the blog owner, and as such a valid defence if the commentator can be identified. Whether the commentator can be identified or not the blog owner or his ISP will be served with a removal order by a complainant, and if not compliant with that, may only then subsequently be sued in lieu of the commentator (Godfrey vs Demon).
As such the only decision a blog owner has to make is whether they want to use moderation or not - this does not make one iota of difference: if a valid email address (or tracked IP address) is associated with a comment then the commentator will be found and sued, and the blog owner served with a removal notice however if anonymous posts are accepted the only action available to a complainant is to serve the blog owner with a removal notice - and only then if it is ignored will the complainant be in a position to sue the blog owner.
So in summary, lawyers get more work serving removal orders, and every blog has only anonymous posts which would be removed if objected to - problem solved Bridget...
Thursday, 18 December 2008
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has backed plans to bring a pair of giant pandas to Edinburgh Zoo.
Surely this is an outstanding example of diversionary tactics, akin to the magician in Little Britain insisting you "look into my eyes, not around the eyes".
Gordon, there are one or two other things I would like you to pay attention to that don't involve trying to save an animal which the head of the RSPB once referred to as "an evolutionary dead end". He went on to express his frustration at it's use by those who should know better as "a cutesy flagship symbol for conservation", finishing on the perfect flourish that if he could divert just a small percentage of the funds that have been spent on Panda conservation he would "happily eat the last surviving one".
Let's organise a campaign to offer a Chinese zoo the loan of Brown, Balls, Darling, Blears, Mandelson and all...
Tuesday, 16 December 2008
Monday, 15 December 2008
The more I stare at my research the hotter I get under the collar - cartoon like; steam is coming out of my ears and there is a whistling noise, much louder than my usual stress induced tinnitus.
Scottish Water, well to be precise its privileged exec and non exec members (who freely acquired previously publicly owned assets and were given tacit sanction to plunder their worth) have surpassed themselves. In an unashamed exploitation of the most basic of essentials, they continue to line their pockets at our expense, and it has to stop.
Now I have lived in Scotland for all of my life and feel secure in asserting that the one natural resource we have in abundance is water - from the Borders to Caithness the unique topology of Scotland ensures that this water is available in natural lochs and, if necessary, easily dammed glacial valleys.
Water treatment and disposal is also a relatively straightforward engineering process, and since the "Great Stink" in 19th century London, accepted as a necessary - easily cost justified through it's health benefits; particularly when offset against the alternative disease, suffering and death.
So why the hell are we on course to pay more £1,000,000 in bonuses and pension benefits between now and 2011, this on top of already generous remuneration packages, to those who are doing what one could simply interpret as the job they are paid for? To run a state owned water company.
And if they don't make bonus? Does that mean the rain stops falling, we let sewage back up on our streets and our lochs and shores became polluted? Is that the implicit threat if we don't pay bonuses, if so it sounds like hollow threats and extortion to me.
Really, just get rid of the exec and non-exec members and appoint a management team of technically competent professionals with a sense of civic duty, pay them a decent salary, and even a good pension. Scottish Water is not a commercial company forged in the white heat of competition and innovation, it is a necessary public utility, indeed the most necessary of them - and I resent its exploitation for individual personal financial gain, or should I say downright greed!
Sunday, 14 December 2008
Okay I know that I am pretty cynical about most things, but the story regarding the defection of Colin Deans from the SNP to Labour has left me bemused...
Fellow Scottish bloggers Indygal and AMW both come to the same conclusion, for different reasons, that this defection heralds the demise of Labour, whilst Scottish Unionist is concerned over the arrival of Councillor Deans and his controversial views to the Labour Party. On the other hand most Scottish Labour commentators assert his defection is a good thing, and a sign of happier times to come.
I think we are all missing one fundamental point here; if you stand as a party candidate in an election you should accept that, if elected, it is on the understanding that you are the representative of that party - for better or worse. There are few politicians charismatic or compelling enough to transcend their party membership - particularly in local politics and I seriously doubt Colin Deans is of that ilk.
Both parties involved should be advocating a local by-election, and Colin Deans should resign to accommodate, simple as that...
Saturday, 13 December 2008
"Git panzers", "Chelsea Tractors" whatever you want to call them, they're one of the main targets of attavistic green activists; who blame them for all evil and in part justification for their call for a shift in society to some vegan de-industrialised non-technological dark ages that will save us from anthropogenic climate warming, hmmmm...
I have a sneaking suspicion that much of the venom reserved for owners of large vehicles derives from poorly disguised jealousy, but I digress...
If we are at "the end of days" as we are told, then I think we all need to consider our vehicular transport; and surely the environmentalists who assiduously assert that we are past the point of no return, climatically speaking, should be looking for suitable survival strategies other than hemp clothing, allotments and soil toilets - such as, say 4x4s?
Can we do it? Search me. Reviewing the new evidence, I have to admit that we might have left it too late.
What I think I need is a floating, hybrid powered 4x4; with solar recharge and a diesel engine, optional sails and that's capacious enough to live in - the bigger the better.
I want to survive Armageddon, and this is the tool for the job. I would personally like to thank the evangelical Grün-Kirche for the heads up on the imminent flooding and climatic turmoil; I am now in the market for a low mileage diesel 4x4 and some welding gear; time to give up my little saloon car. I don't trust them, I don't trust the politicians I don't even trust the deniers, so I will do what any self respecting geek would do, find a technological solution for the problem myself - just in case.
NB: The ideal solution would be a flying 4x4, I did find one here - If only Gaia can hang off until 2009 before exacting her revenge.
Tuesday, 9 December 2008
Few things are better worth a cynical smile than a politician solemnly declaring of some trouble spot that he has been 'to see for himself'
Never a truer word -
Witness John Swinney's visit to Hawick on the 3rd July 2008 to support textile workers facing redundancy.now
Witness John Swinney's visit to Hawick on the 8th November 2008 to support textile workers facing redundancy.Well his visit obviously made a big difference, thank goodness we have such an influential Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth. John's summer intervention seems to have sealed the fate of even more workers despite his assurances that
"What the government will do is make sure that every support that we possibly can make available to individuals and the wider Hawick economy will be available,"
and his observation that
However, he said the textiles industry as a whole had a "very good future".
"There are a lot of strong textile companies in the Borders," he said.
John a bit of advice; please don't visit any other business or regions facing financial decline, I really don't think the Scottish economy could withstand it! And drop the uncanny psychic like predictions whilst you're at it.
I guess the borders rail link due to open in 2013 won't be carrying freight then, just unemployed textile workers attending call centre interviews in Edinburgh.
If Mr Swinney really wants to get away from it and investigate something worthwhile can I suggest we despatch our clumsy and accident prone Cabinet Secretary to investigate the plank of wood discovered on Mars. That should keep him out of trouble for a while.
Monday, 8 December 2008
Part of my motivation in starting this blog was to explore my own feelings about politics and the burgeoning disconnect, confusion and dissatisfaction I felt towards traditional rightwing vs leftwing politics over the last few years. I was, as mentioned in a previous post, easily identified as a bit of a Marxist leftie in the past. Now many years on I was pretty amused to find my blog classed as an English Right Wing blog on the Total Politics blog list, but not at all upset...
I've recently discovered "Libertarian" and read with some interest this post by The Devil's Kitchen, finding myself in agreement with him and many other bloggers who self identify as Libertarian.
I decided to test myself on "The Political Compass" website, and lo and behold I guess I might have discovered that I'm a Libertarian, as you can see from the graph above - of course given my natural cynicism about online tests maybe I just wasted 5 minutes of my life.
Now the only dichotomy I need to resolve is my natural aversion to joining a gang!
Guess I can give up blogging now, him indoors will be glad!
When I have calmed down, finished compiling my hitlist and found a way of conducting an impact analysis that will contribute positively to the debate I will return to this post - without sounding like a fuming idiot.
In the meantime, just ponder this; it is not about a now very old image (1976) of a pre-pubescent girl, taken with her guardian's permission and obviously a unique piece of album art, intentionally chosen for it's shock factor. There are after all thousands of similar images from classical art to modern manga.
However if you want the general (non-thinking) public to support unfettered government Internet censorship this image is a great target to choose; just publicise the censorship and ask them why shouldn't we ban this? Then ease us into a new era of darkness, and we can sleep soundly knowing that our government is "taking care of business" online:
By taking it all offline...
And another thing: Politicians and the IWF who obviously have such a poor understanding of the nature of the Internet and the 1000s of alternative ways of viewing this image have just encouraged the small number of sick puppies who "need to see" this image to seek out and add a copy to their collection. How did that help?
1. The impact of global warming on the vast Southern Ocean around Antarctica is starting to pose a threat to ocean currents that distribute heat around the world, Australian scientists say, citing new deep-water data.OR
Australian scientists warned last month that waters surrounding Antarctica were also becoming more acidic as they absorbed more carbon dioxide produced by nations burning fossil fuels.
Acidification of the ocean is affecting the ability of plankton — microscopic marine plants, animals and bacteria — to absorb carbon dioxide, reducing the ocean's ability to sink greenhouse gases to the bottom of the sea.
2. Melting ice may slow global warming
Scientists discover that minerals found in collapsing ice sheets could feed plankton and cut C02 emissions.
Professor Rob Raiswell, a geologist at the University of Leeds, says that as the sheets break off the ice covering the continent, floating icebergs are produced that gouge minerals from the bedrock as they make their way to the sea. Raiswell believes that the accumulated frozen mud could breathe life into the icy waters around Antarctica, triggering a large, natural removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Environmental science (Art?), you got to love it!
Saturday, 6 December 2008
We are all entitled to that and more, and perhaps the best stab we have made at defining freedom is contained in a knee jerk document hastily drawn up at the end of the second world war, when the powers looked around the world and realised what a mess had been made less than 30 years after the "war to end all wars". There are 30 simple statements in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the most translated document in the world. Most people I know have never read the declaration, and certainly it would appear that the bulk of our politicians are unaware of this fine document, and it's dignified, aspirational, hopeful and respectful message that rose from the ashes of a tired and war torn world.
Take the time to read it, if only once in your life - and answer me this; wouldn't the universal adoption of it's principles be the best seasonal gift any of us could ask for?
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
- Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
- No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
- Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State.
- Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
- Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
- This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
- Everyone has the right to a nationality.
- No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.
- Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
- Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
- The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
- Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
- No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
- Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
- No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
- Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
- Everyone has the right to equal access to public service in his country.
- The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.
- Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
- Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
- Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
- Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
- Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
- Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
- Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
- Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
- Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
- Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
- Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.
Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.
- Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
- In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
- These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.
Every time I read the declaration I am inspired, and on the other hand bewildered - why has democracy consistently failed to deliver these simple objectives?
Here's hoping for 2009, I remain an optimist...
Friday, 5 December 2008
It is a well observed, but rarely expressed, comment on the injurious state backed institutionalised neglect of children in the UK and speaks volumes of the decline of a great civilisation.
In my student days, oh so long ago now, I marched happily under the ANL banner, attended peace marches at Faslane, sent money to the ANC and generally believed that society, our British society was a shining light of liberal left wing goodness and democracy - and felt secure in that...
Now I find myself distraught and empathising with what, as a student, I would have written off in a trice, as fascist propaganda - to applause from like minded students. I spent my student years in the same city as our Prime Minister, in his time a much admired left wing radical. He opted to join the Labour Party, I on the other hand, always uncomfortable with the somewhat conformist feel the membership of a political party implied, opted to get on with my career and put politics aside; we were going to be looked after by our nurturing liberal democracy after all.
Oh brother Brown what has happened since?
I would argue that I have remained true to my beliefs and that Gordon has circumnavigated that circle - you know the political compass that has a left and right side, and in the middle, at the top is liberal centre, and at the bottom is totalitarianism; state centric institutionalised non-meritocratic apparatchik paranoid politics...
I still maintain a healthy loathing for all gang membership, particularly political parties, but if the truth be known, I always nurtured a secret love for Labour and had high hopes of a period of rebalancing after the Thatcher era - how wrong can you be?
I cannot stand alone in the disbelief I feel for what the Labour party has transformed itself and our country into, and to echo Will Hutton's apt book title "The State We're In"...
Thursday, 4 December 2008
I apologise wholeheartedly for my criticism of the press, it may be in some small way I have contributed to the decline in print media consumption by the Scottish population
It makes complete sense for three titles owned by one company to be printed on separate horse driven Gutenberg presses each approximately 53.74563 miles apart. The papers then delivered daily by blind orphans on their way to the workhouse
I understand that the company standing "Canute like" facing the tide of technological advancement whilst screeching into the onshore gale; "we will not invest in our online presence -
Wednesday, 3 December 2008
We should all sing along with the well worn playground refrain - "It wisnae me, a big boy did it and ran away".
A radical idea: what if we had politicians, and that is what the speaker is, who admitted that they were guilty as departmental head for wrongdoing within their department and resigned with immediate effect?
Really, how can an individual with so little understanding of the law and so little control over their own department preside daily over the business of Parliament?
Or is it that he is the smart one?
The so called anti-virus program actually contained a payload combining a choice selection of Malware; that is malicious software designed to steal personal details, drive traffic to commercial websites and increase your PCs susceptibility to further compromise - I guess you could say dumbing down your PC and influencing it's behaviour to meet the ends of the programmer. Malware is often coded to stay below the anti-virus scanner horizon, whilst wreaking damage that is as bad, or worse, than that inflicted by most viruses.
Good anti-virus software is analogous to the role of the press in a free democracy - informing us of threats, compromises, one thing disguised as another - allowing us to interpret and deal with these, whether real or perceived; however as I digest the infuriating diet of regurgitated press releases, speculation, conjecture and vanity offered to us daily by the British press I've come to the inevitable conclusion that they have more in common with the aforementioned XPAntivirus malware.
Has anybody got a good removal program?
So in order to fill the gap, and give you an indication of what has taken my interest, I would like to catch up by venting my spleen over:
the insane Damian Green affair and it's handling by an incompetent administration, the build up to the pointless Queens speech - wheeled out by the BBC as an affirmation of a positive democratic tradition, the waste of resources and time spend in compiling what will be the most ignored publication in Scottish history - The Calman Commission interim report, Jacqui Smith's absurd proposals to solve sex trafficking...Yes I know it's just a rant, but thought I'd check the neurons are still firing. I refer you to the blogosphere for informed comment on all of the above and more...
Wednesday, 26 November 2008
"The thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment asserted the fundamental importance of human reason combined with a rejection of any authority which could not be justified by reason. They held to an optimistic belief in the ability of man to effect changes for the better in society and nature, guided only by reason."
How low can our politicians go to get credit when it's not due?
Mark Lazarowicz MP, has since 2006 indulged himself ad nauseaum, in a repeated attempt to self-aggrandise by association with James Clerk Maxwell and I am sick of it! This latest motion emphasises his inability to understand nature of scientific research eloquently characterised by the phrase "Pigmaei gigantum humeris impositi plusquam ipsi gigantes vident"* immortalised by Isaac Newton. His 2008 motion is also just a lazy MPs regurgitation of the same laughable assertions made in 2006.
This in particular riles me:
"his discovery of the nature of electromagnetic waves paving the way for radio, television, radar and the mobile telephone"Mr Lazarowicz is dangerously close to implying that through James Clerk Maxwell's description and characterisation of electromagnetic phenomena he was directly responsible for the invention of the mobile phone, or was it that through his research in optics and that famous first colour photograph that he invented the camera phone? And why stop at radio, television, radar and mobile phones, surely we should credit him with everything that involves electromagnetic fields - and that really is pretty much everything.
There are many thousands of significant scientific steps of discovery, interpretation, understanding and engineering from the polymath Maxwell's ground breaking research to what we understand as modern electronics and communications technology. By extending this flawed understanding and lazy logic we would be equally correct to credit the understanding of all of the physical world, to Einstein, Faraday, Newton or Aristotle - but of course that would be silly as we would have to mention all those responsible for all of the incremental steps wouldn't we? And what of the rather important relationship between Engineering and Science, the subject of much debate in the scientific community. Lazy, lazy, publicity seeking Lazarowicz...
Mr Lazarowicz's inability or reluctance to understand the nature of the real significance of Maxwell's work and to express it in an accessible way speaks volumes...
What really gets me though is that Labour have presided over an unprecedented dumbing down of education and society that would have had the fathers of the Scottish Enlightenment indignant, outraged, spluttering and reaching for their quills to blog...
As Francis Bacon put it - "Science is but an image of the truth"
Politics on the other hand...
* Dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants
Tuesday, 25 November 2008
First of all the VAT reduction amounts to very little for the average household, figures of savings of between £3 and £10 per week are probably in the right range, and of course that saving is based on the very unlikely assumption that the cut is actually passed on to the consumer.
Having read the speech in full I am reminded of Private James Frazer in Dad's Army "we're doomed, doomed I tell you!". A comprehensive trawl through probably the most turgid pronouncement by a Chancellor of the Exchequer since Gordon Brown delivered his last budget leaves me wondering why Scottish chancellors persist in the belief that by behaving like a 1950's stereotype of a bank manager we will be convinced that they are competent? (Dad's Army again) [ref: Take a look at the decimation of the Scottish Flagship financial sector for further clarification on this point]
Alistair uses the word business or businesses 46 times in his proclamation.
Q. What is the extent of his assistance and commitment on offer to the SME business sector (in which 60% of us are employed)?
A. Support late payment of taxes, loan money to, reduce payments on empty commercial premises and protect overdrafts for unprofitable and unviable businesses.
It strikes me that an empty commercial property is not exactly an indicator that a business is in rude health. So it appears that he intends to 'do for' the SME sector what he did for the Banking sector: help prop up debt ridden unprofitable businesses, and allow them to erode the profitable, succesful and well run businesses through unfair competition.
Labour propped up failed financial institutions after they indulged in irresponsible lending at insane levels and now they encourage this within SME businesses - that's inspired...
I obviously occupy a different trans-dimensional space from Westminster; In my dimension cars are cheaper than ever, food prices have dropped considerably, almost every high street shop has a significant sale on (I cannot remember ever seeing so many "20% off sales") and petrol is at 2005 prices; not withstanding the correction we see in the, widely accepted as unsustainable hyper-inflated, housing market - things are actually not too bad.
Cue the defining act of breathtaking insanity that defines the NuLab inability to do anything "financial" correctly - they increase excise duty on fuel.
Before any of us get used to it, I guess...
This Labour "no more boom or bust" government reminds me of my friends partner who decided to service the gearbox on his functioning motorbike; 3 years on the bike remains off the road and he is still "tinkering", his progress looking more and more like mechanical entropy as he sits scratching his head amongst the chaos that was once a perfect gearbox.
Monday, 24 November 2008
There are so many people and things that need their come-uppance and soon:
I just wish the magic karma devil would get on with it dammit...
Starting with (in no particular order):
Liars and cheatsGlad I got that off my chest...
G W. Bush
Religious zealots of all flavours
Self righteous evangelical environmentalists
Toady journalists, who can't even spell investigative
The warlords of Africa & Asia
The Union of Myanmar
Political party apparatchiks of all flavours, joining a gang is not cool!
Self-congratulatory awards ceremony organisers & particiPANTS
Producers of "reality televison"
Intelligent design advocates
Alternative medicine practitioners
Lawyers who knowingly defend the guilty
People who include qualifications or awards as part of their signature
IT people with "Microsoft" qualifications, isn't that just a training course?
The corrupt and immoral
'Stuff like that', perspicuity defined in a single phrase
'Moving forward', surely you mean in the future?
'Transparency', surely you mean honesty?
You'd think we could all get along wouldn't you? It's a small planet after all...
Saturday, 22 November 2008
Good policing is essential to a society of worth, and over the last century the increased politicisation of British policing, reaching its apogee under Margaret Thatcher where police uniforms (not all filled by police officers) were lined up against strikers in a grotesque display of the use of policing as "storm troopers of the state" should concern us all.
Regional police forces are essential to representative policing that supports society and it's values. Police forces were originally set-up by local communities to serve them. A now retired Chief Superintendent impressed me when he told me, after disciplining two CID officers involved in an unforgivable driving accident, that "Those officers are guilty of forgetting that their role is to serve the public, not imprison them. Local policing is 80% social work and 20% law enforcement, and it's not The Sweeney".
Paddy Tomkins spent his early career on an AP path culminating in him being promoted to Chief Constable. He then moved into the executive policing environment where senior officers spend more time with politicians than their own men, and funding is centrally controlled. What happened then? Witness his bizarre campaign calling for the formation of one Scottish police force and hollowly echoing the fear agenda of politicians by calling for a "supra-force" with emphasis on counter-terrorism, firearms support and traffic.
The rub for me is this; if we accept the reduced crime figures, why is it that the fear of crime has gripped our society - to the point of us becoming so risk averse our children suffer and OAPs spend years without leaving their homes? I would argue the restructuring of Scottish policing in 1975 as a result of the Local Government Act (1973) is the key contributor to this illogical situation. Local stations remain closed in evenings and weekends (Portobello & Girvan are good examples), even divisional headquarters are deserted in some regions outside office hours, people do not feel that local policing exists, and in turn feel vulnerable. You will not solve this disconnect between the general public and policing by reducing the number of forces, but by devolving real management to divisional level and increasing the number of forces.
In Scotland even Strathclyde Regional Council, a legacy of the aforementioned and discredited regional council experiment, has now been replaced with 12 unitary local authorities, widely accepted as more representative in terms of local government. Strathclyde Police Force however struggles on, trying to meet the widely differing requirements of deprived gang and crime dominated urban areas with those of rural Argyll and Ayrshire.
Paddy Tomkins you were wrong, sure we need some national services such as the fingerprint and forensic services; but we need to give control back to local communities, Chief Constables and their officers - and many more of them please...
Thursday, 20 November 2008
I think it's fair to say that mankind took a while to get going, a bit like the slow kid in the class who took a bit longer to tie his shoelaces, but boy is he convinced of his own supremacy in the field of shoelace tying now he's mastered it.
But don’t for a moment imagine that the bicycle-riding, organic-hedgerow-grazing, self-denying, 40-watt miserablists are in fact selfless crusaders for the common good. Never underestimate the sustaining pleasure in a hair shirt. Just look at George Monbiot, and witness a man who couldn’t be happier about the imminent demise of life as we know it. It’s given him purpose, prestige and celebrity: without global warming he’d be a geography teacher.
Once upon a time there was nothing, or should I say nothing that we understand; no time, no energy, no matter and all (or nothing if you prefer) was peaceful. Until about 14000000000 years ago or so; when an inconsistency, an irritation perhaps, formed in this equilibrium resulting in chaos: Nothing expanded into everything, matter and energy, particles and waves, strings began rushing, chasing, creating existence as they filled nothing with everything. That is the "everything" that we humans understand, and all that we do not - the physical world.
After expanding for a while, 10000000000 years or so, in a corner of one of hundreds of billions of galaxies, a galaxy is a sort of matter club, a loosely aligned ball of gas and debris started to coagulate, was pounded by it's neighbours and began to bury away it's heavy elements, carbon, volatiles and stabilise. And for whatever grand design theory you wish to choose, or attribute to chaos as I like to, some chemicals took their first ATCG tango and up popped "Version 1.0, life on earth" some 200000000 years later.
For 3800000000 years since life has waxed and waned on Earth; through mass extinctions, mass blossoming and cycles of warming and cooling.
So tell me, really, who the hell are we to credit ourselves with the capability of destroying this planet and ending all life? We who have been tenants of this planet for perhaps 150000 years. We are undoubtedly capable of causing our own extinction and that of some evolutionary dead ends, the panda being a good example of an animal that can't take the heat of competition. But don't kid yourself, previous dominant species were guilty of the same.
Stop making me feel guilty with your pseudo religious environmentalism, and accept that:
a. Nothing will go on for ever
b. Only through investment in technology, science and engineering will we prolong our fragile and temporary tenure, on this planet or elsewhere.
c. You always wanted to be Geography teacher, or was it RE? But you were never very good at maths (commas left from the big numbers especially for you!).
Wednesday, 19 November 2008
I don't know if it's the wholesale anthropomorphising of the animal world, or just plain stupidity on the part of these misguided individuals, such as witnessed in August this year where we went overnight from Gorillas being dangerously endangered to "discovering" a population of 125-250,000 Western Lowland Gorillas, but I wouldn't trust anything offered as fact by anybody who prefers other species to their own. The recent unexplained massive "magically" appearing shoals of Humboldt Squid off the western US is yet another example of the inability of the "animal lobby" (is that an offence?) to offer any credible reassurance that they know what they are talking about. And of course if they can't explain it they join their equally emotional brethren in the climate change lobby to blame everything on a 0.3-0.8 degree Celsius increase in average global temperatures over the last 100 years (yes that's it!) , without bothering to adorn the "increased global temperature perceived wisdom" with an actual credible explanation of the mechanism (blind faith methinks).
So on this occasion we feel sure, in our waters so to speak, that we have overfished the oceans, which cover 71% of this planet. Now given that land accounts for the remaining 29% (minus freshwater seas) and we can miss a minimum of 125,000 Gorillas in that remainder, our native environment, perhaps we should question just how sure are we that our estimated fish stock figures are accurate? Did DEFRA conduct a comprehensive census in the North Sea or the Atlantic Shelf, and just how would you do that, exactly?
Really, how can we trust figures backed up by anecdotal evidence?
My other half did point out that perhaps if the 125,000 Gorillas were standing in a straight line when Dian Fossey and Sigourney Weaver walked by with their clipboards...
Tuesday, 18 November 2008
I tripped over the Football For All website the other day and was reminded of just how deep bigotry runs in Scottish society. The website appears to be an attempt to stamp out bigotry in football, its mission statement being
"Kick-out Bigotry is Scottish football's united campaign against sectarianism. It's time to blow the whistle on the religious bigotry, sectarian attitudes and behaviour that tarnish our national sport"although quite how a website is going to achieve this laudable aim is beyond me I do wish them luck.
I fear the "my gang not your gang" morons that ally themselves with a particular football team based on the subliminal influence of their supernatural magic worshipping inheritances are no more likely to pay heed to this campaign than vote, read a newspaper other than a tabloid or avoid deep fried food.
Unfortunately bigotry in Scotland is not the sole preserve of the knuckle dragging classes, as was ably demonstrated by a prominent Scottish QC a few years ago.
The fourth estate is also not immune from the spectre of religious bigotry, as was brought to my attention recently. Even PPA award winning feature writers for Scotland's leading political publication (whatever that means) are happy to express some pretty extreme opinions online. The post below was made on a pro IRA thread within the now closed libertyforum.org discussion forum last year by just such an individual:
What incenses me about this is that he is an Australian passport holder, albeit a member of the Irish diaspora, employed in Scotland on a work permit. A man who makes value judgements on the basis of "Taig or a Prod?" and happily participates in the folly that is the infighting within the Christian gang that has so damaged Scotland and Ireland. We have enough nutters in Scotland contributing to this seemingly insoluble problem without importing an Aussie with a skewed and romanticised take on the Irish/Catholic cause, and a privileged position in the media, how dare he?
Oh yeah who am I to comment on this? A peace loving atheist Scot with Irish, Scottish and English heritage and proud of it.
The best part is, his specialist portfolio: Justice
"There is no justice, just us"
"In 2006, Iran became the only country to legally allow individuals to sell their kidneys, and the market price is of the order of US$2,000 to US$4,000. The Economist and the Ayn Rand Institute approved and advocated a legal market elsewhere. They argued that if 0.06% of Americans between 19 and 65 were to sell one kidney, the national waiting list would disappear (which, the Economist wrote, happened in Iran). The Economist argued that donating kidneys is no more risky than surrogate motherhood, which can be done legally for pay in most countries."
Now this makes sense to me, and is surely a better way of solving the organ shortage problem. It's considerably cheaper than 12 months of renal dialysis. The NHS should pay us for our donations, I suspect there would be a much larger donor register and vastly reduced waiting lists if they did.
If it is a fatality that results in the donation, perhaps the payment could be made towards inheritance/funeral costs or a charity of your choice - hold that thought, a charity? Maybe they could just withdraw the money from the NHS cash machine and burn it...
Anybody for one of my livers?
Monday, 17 November 2008
That'll be the bulk of the unwashed Great Brutish Public then.
Try discussing an abstract concept with a tea biscuit, you might then get an idea of the uphill struggle our politicians and the fourth estate have in stimulating debate around politics with an average member of the GBP.
At this point it's probably timely to remind you that the GBP non-voting classes are the majority, alas this is not some utopian democracy we inhabit where the duties of citizenship are taken seriously. If only! But we cannot count on their reliability to not vote, I fear they can and will be motivated to break the habits of a lifetime on certain issues, and in particular emotive big issues such as abortion, the death penalty and nationalism...
This brings me on to my itch: How can we trust the non-voting GBP to make important decisions, in hypothetically speaking say referenda for example? And why would any sane individual dedicated to public service (okay that's unlikely to apply to most MSPs, but run with me) put the future of a country in the hands of "Infantilised, shopping and celebrity obsessed numpties"?
Just a thought; National conversation - Don't you require a vocabulary and basic cognitive processes to conduct a conversation?
I say let's just try and save what's left of our democracy before lowest the common denominators regress us all to the primordial ooze from whence we came; insist that politicians do their job and say no to referendums
Sunday, 16 November 2008
But really, how are we different?
We have the hills and lochs, urban deprivation, the highest murder rates in Western Europe, and we have the wee parliament in which "members motions" differ little whether they are verbal utterances or the content of the toilet bowl after a Chicken Tikka Masala and a bottle of Buckie (see http://crapholyroodchat.blogspot.com/ to get an idea of just how bad it's got).
The recent (antepartum economic implosion) comparisons of Scotland to the Scandinavian countries, Eire and then the unforgivable and insulting lumping in of "Iceland" to the group of countries to whom we should aspire ably demonstrates our lack of any clear national identity, and from an SNP administration too, tut tut! "Wha's like us?" anybody that is doing well in the eyes of Wee Eck and his bankers at any particular moment in time, even a country with a population smaller than Edinburgh and national debt beyond the dreams of avarice, with only fish and geothermal energy to back it.
Labour fair little better, blindly toeing the Westminster and national party line irrespective of how unpopular Ma Broon's gang is.
What's a Scottish voter to do? Really, what do I do? Represented by unrepresentative representatives, who cannot even agree amongst themselves what it is to be Scottish, despite picking up an unrepresentative salary for doing just that.
Guess I could take part in the Homecoming 2009 fiasco if I did... Cos that's gonnae sort out our identity crisis, innit?
What was I thinking? I found this picture when tidying up the contents of my laptop; glad to see the back of them both...
Extending the Rainbow analogy further, does this mean that Wendy's best mate Jackie Baillie is Bungo? She is the member for Dumbearton efter aw.
"Incompetent, what does incompetent mean?"
Saturday, 15 November 2008
Radio 4 reports today in a news piece that according to "Ma Broon", George Osborne is guilty of "talking sterling down"? Pot calling kettle black? I am no fan of the formulaic Tory economic policies reworked decade after decade but at least George's team did not preside over this inchoate economic downturn that if left to it's own natural course would have undoubtedly resulted in a "crash" to dwarf anything before, and according to those in the know, is still to reveal itself in it's size and potential for disaster.
On this subject, I do enjoy speculating as to just what would have happened if the Friedmanite free market policies, that Labour should hang it's head in shame for following, had been left to reach their natural conclusion. No additional taxpayers (or borrowed) money thrown at profligate bankers, no rescue plans, no prop for the smug self congratulatory discredited collapsing capitalist experiment. An experiment that was always as laughably lacking in viability as the now discredited Communist experiments of 20th century. Perhaps there is a streak of post apocalyptic survivalist in me, but I fear we may have missed a unique opportunity to rebuild a civic society and economy not centred on fanatical avarice benefiting the few, but for the benefit of all.
So we cannot talk about the plummet of our beloved sterling for fear of devaluing it? To extend this logic to it's natural conclusion is absurd, at least we can count on an injection of common sense in this "though shalt not speak it's name" madness: "Will Hutton, of the Work Foundation, and Conservative MP Michael Fallon, who is a member of the Commons' Treasury select committee, said it was clear the pound had fallen and there was no point in keeping silent about it."
Friday, 14 November 2008
Cue internal dialogue:
OK why blog?
It is a futile version of the scrawl on the wall isn't it?
That may be true, but I woke this morning with an itch that needed scratching, and scratch I will
Politics, politicians, civic society, environ-MENTALISTS, inequality, political corruption, toady journos, public sector jobs for the boys, technophobes, creationists, pseudo-scientists and Holyrood hypocrites beware, this itch is overwhelming me...