Wednesday, 26 November 2008

By association with the famous...

"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

"Tinkerbell" it's broken and you can't fix it!

Now I know that our Chancellor is tying himself in knots trying to stave off the effects of the economic downturn, and yesterday's "tinker par excellence" of an across the board VAT reduction is, in his opinion, the salve to soothe the wounds of the broken economy - you will be surpried to hear that I have my doubts:

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

bortaS bIr jablu'DI' reH QaQqu' nay'

I have a friend who swears by Karma, you know the magical process that's often (incorrectly) summed up as "what goes around comes around". Well this karma thing is broken, it is an "ex-philosophy" and just isn't happening quickly enough for me, or her...

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 cheats
Thaksin Shinawatra
Robert Mugabe
G W. Bush
Tony Blair
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!
Cat owners
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?
Glad I got that off my chest...

You'd think we could all get along wouldn't you? It's a small planet after all...

Saturday, 22 November 2008

More not less

I hear that HMCIC Paddy Tomkins is to step down in April, and I join the officers and support staff in the inevitable wave of relief that rang around the 8 police headquarters in Scotland as news reached them.

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

Environmental piffle & hubris

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.
AA Gill
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.

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

There's plenty more fish in the sea

In the words of the song there are plenty more fish in the sea, although that is not the case according to the BBC this morning. I fear this may have been another example of unsubstantiated assertions by state backed environmental warriors without credible research to back it, they are after all so often wrong - on a laughable scale.

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?

I don't.

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

Magic and superstition

I am not a football fan but, as I always say when asked about last nights mind numbing TV in casual conversations "I may not be a fan of popular cultchur but I am aware of it"; I am aware of football and the grip it holds over a significant percentage of the population. This popularity is even more of a conundrum when you consider how lamentable our football team(s) seem to be although I'm on dangerous ground with that observation and acknowledge that I'm not exactly talking from a position of authority.

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 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"

Kidney for sale

Quote from Wikipedia:

"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

Infantilised, shopping and celebrity obsessed numpties

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

This is Scotland, that is Engerland - and we are different

Just caught Neil Oliver trailing his "A History of Scotland" series on BBC Scotland a few minutes ago, in which he spits out the "we are different" quote I use for the title of this rant. The series so far hangs together quite well and Neil acquits himself well, despite his slightly alarming delivery.

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 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?

Separated at birth?

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

Too close to the bone?

How very dare you

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."

Politics are life, and no politician should dictate to us what we can and cannot discuss, whether you are the Shadow Chancellor or Joe the Plumber. Climb the political barricades and proclaim the "emperor has no clothes!" if that's how you see it, i'll be right beside you!

Friday, 14 November 2008


Timing is everything, as the luvvies would have us all believe. In that case I'm destined to fail I guess; just as everybody tires of blogging and scrabbles to jump the good ship blog and swim off to the latest socialinteractionwebtwopointzerofashion website, I get a blog.

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...