Saturday, 27 February 2010

The Poetry of Reality

Having spent the last week immersed in the application of science and engineering, professionally speaking, I was pleased when a colleague sent me a link to this. Just thought I'd share. Have a great weekend.

The Symphony of Science project lives here

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

An offer of assistance...

News comes to my silo that Christine Pratt the boss of the National Bullying Helpline, a fake charity dedicated to passing potential Employment Tribunal claimants to her husband's business which represents them in employment tribunals with 'consultants', is digging herself into a hole quicker than a mole on meth-amphetamine.

I've been involved in the tribunal system on and off over the years, and there is nothing qualified Lawyers, on the claimant's or defendant's side, like better than to be faced with an unqualified 'consultant' in court.  The smile that splits their handsomely remunerated faces in two on discovering that their opponent is represented by a self-appointed idiot tells it all.  But that's an aside.

The BBC reported Mrs Pratt last night as "going through her email" in what looks like an increasingly desperate attempt to prove that she was indeed contacted by the entire staff of Downing Street regarding bullying.

I have one bit of advice for you Mrs Pratt - try the search function - you should find anything within a couple of minutes. Just how you had time between entering a search term, pressing the search button and getting the results to call the BBC to announce your intention to search your email box does confuse me slightly.

Or could it be that you are just incompetent?  If you intend to go through every email you have ever received manually, or print the entire contents of your inbox, you probably are.   So in the spirit of egalitarian support, even for idiots, please let me extend an offer of help - just send me the entire contents of your mail folder and I'll have a look for you - just zip it up and send it to

Rest assured, I promise to adhere to the same high standards of confidentiality as your own organisation...

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Urban Gunfire

Recently I've spent quite a bit of time thinking about the casualties of war; specifically voluntary war waged by the west in far off lands.  These wars are covered by media embedded within one side of the conflict, our side.  It's apparent that our infantilised sensibilities, and the politicians who exploit those, wish only to consider our losses, the brave-hero-soldier-volunteers, rightly afforded dignified ceremony and reams of paper and ink.

But what of the the innocent victims?

Biased casualty coverage is the new propaganda machine, to quote the Wachowski brothers "It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth." Politicians in cahoots with our media, the media we deserve, expediently neglect civilian deaths - civilian deaths have considerably outnumbered military deaths in every conflict, this is the true price of war.

This current war, like the others we have waged, is a good war we are told - as Orwell saw it "War is peace, Freedom is slavery and Ignorance is strength." One sided reporting and the military's "we don't do body counts" policy are transparent tactics to secure our support without disturbing our fragile sensibilities. The uncomfortable truth is that around 200,000 - 500,000 civilians have died in Iraq and Afghanistan (some estimates are higher), 3400 civilians died in well documented terrorist attributed attacks in the USA and Europe, attacks used to justify the military action against these countries - how many of their civilians will we kill before we call it a day?   What ratio would you say was fair?  Well don't you worry yourself, there are no official civilian body counts, and no reliable reporting in the mainstream media - so we can all sleep well in our ignorance...

As I've mentioned before the foremost Scottish poet, in my most 'umble opinion, is the incomparable Edwin Morgan.  Obviously Edwin felt the need to express his discomfort with the much neglected reality of war, and of course does it with his characteristic incisiveness and economy of language.
Urban Gunfire

‘Civilians’ are not really, truly, people.
As regimes fall, they’re only ‘caught in crossfire’.
Expendablest of the expendable, they
crawl, or if they’re lucky someone drags them,
to doorways where they slump and shake till nightfall.
How great it must be not to be civilian
or anything but gun in hand, young, mobile,
slogan-fuelled better than machines are,
you cannot even hear the shattered housewife,
far less see her blood and bags and bread, it’s
bullet time between you and your sniper,
hot streaks go shopping, nothing else goes shopping,
no one is out there in the open, we are,
we are it and it is where they vanish
like a clapped piece of tawdry human magic,
too feeble to be seen by psyched-up fighters.
Their cries are in another world. The trigger
is steady as they roll about the tarmac.
And it goes on as if it could not finish.

© Edwin  Morgan
from Sweeping Out the Dark published 1994.

If you want to find out more about Edwin Morgan the Scottish Poetry Library's archive is here, his official website here, or if you want to avail yourself of one of his publications then get on over here.

I recommend all three...

Friday, 19 February 2010


It's been a long week; I've rebuilt mail servers, carried out radio surveys, attended meetings, written reports and finally got around to some billing - mustn't grumble, after 6 months of searching around for any bit of business that would fit my repertoire it's nice to be gainfully employed.

The choices made for me by a well intentioned guidance teacher at 14 set me on this course "No arts! Science and maths - that's what you'll study" my choices of music, art and history binned at the stroke of a red pen.  Although I haven't quite 'lived to regret' that decision there are times, quite often these days, when I wish I had chosen another career - but hey no regrets, at least I have a modicum of marketable skills.

My last appointment of the week was to deliver a younger member of the clan to Glasgow Caledonian University for his degree interview.  I was up at 6:00 this morning to deliver him safely, after dropping him off I drove out of the city centre intent on a walk around Hogganfield Loch to kill some time.

I haven't been there in years, Hogganfield Loch is one of those little idylls in Glasgow, one which I have fond memories of: Playing with brothers and cousins, rowing boats, ice cream and family picnics as I burned in childhood summer sun, you know that sun - the childhood one; hotter, brighter and set in a perfect blue sky, the like of which we never seem to fully recapture as an adult.

This morning couldn't have been further from those distant days (well I'm old for one thing) - it was misty and below freezing, the island in the middle of the loch hidden by mist's gray curtain; occasionally peeking around its veil to show me the vague outline of a denuded winter tree as I circuited the loch's shore.   The confused waterfowl were clumsily skating on the ice capping the loch, stopping to beak-butt the glassy surface in a vain attempt to access the larder below, then skating off to what they believed might be a more rewarding location only to repeat the whole comical beak-ice interface thing again.

I got to a-thinking not only of long gone perfect summers but of the exciting adventure my young charge was embarking upon.  He is being interviewed for admission to a BA course in Journalism, his enthusiasm for this opportunity inspiring to witness.

He has worked hard on his Highers; having given up a sought-after engineering apprenticeship (against the wishes of several family members) and is returning to study in order to pursue this dream. This was the right thing to do, in his case a mature decision based on real life experience.

View this in its stark contrast to the 14 year old high school student choosing subjects that will determine their future, with no life experience and more importantly work experience.  Is it any wonder we have so many colleges and universities offering beauty, health, sport, fitness and other pointless over-subscribed courses - these are students studying subjects based on childish choices, informed by immature interests.

Furthermore is it any wonder we have a population of unhappy, poorly motivated adults and record numbers of mature students?  I have no idea what the solution is, if there is one, what I do know is that to restrict a 14 year old through the imposition of academic blinkers in a second rate target driven education system is damaging to any modern society and the best interests of the individual.

I'm just glad some of us manage to fix the damage before it's too late, perhaps I'll pick up a prospectus from the faculty of arts - now what is it to be, gel nail technician or personal trainer?

This post is dedicated to you R - good luck honey, I'm jealous...

Thursday, 18 February 2010

The fear of death, the undiscovered country, laughing at it and emotional immaturity

I noted with alacrity that another blogger took exception to my guest post - expressing, in no uncertain "holier than thou, self-righteous" terms, his immature attitude to the one irreconcilable fact of human existence.  To call my fellow author a cunt is just fine, I defend your right to self expression; of course he is also somebody's son, as the commenter is - as every man, good or bad, is - and in the case of the dead, was.  What's the alternative for your average male?

I know that son, and his sons.  That son has experienced death, in particular the loss of both of his parents in the last few years - he conducted himself with good humour and a resigned acceptance of reality.  Sour faced Mr Cunt Caller may wear big pants when commenting on a blog, but would he call him a cunt to his face?  Would he really?  When confronted by a good humoured, intelligent human being - a father and a son who has the advantage of being able to find humour in death, rather than self indulgent life limiting fear.

I wonder?

Friedrich Nietzsche famously suggested laughter to be a reaction to the sense of existential loneliness and mortality that only humans feel.  Nietzsche put together a very compelling argument that all abstract thought, and in particular laughter, exist only as a result of our mortality, sentience and our inability to accept the inevitable.

This is not a new philosophical stance; past examples include; Shakespeare's human 'being' life and death analysis, in that powerhouse soliloquy in Hamlet Act 3 scene 1 - and the ubiquitous 14th and 15th century dance of death carvings and engravings, which extend us an invitation to laugh at death as an encouragement to live in the moment.

Interestingly both were aimed at inhabitants of a time we now believe to be simple in comparison to us with our sophisticated-modern-intellects.  This was an audience who were more accustomed to witnessing death close at hand and understood its fundamental significance.  They 'simple folks' exhibited a considerably more mature attitude towards death than our contemporary self-indulgent, hotline-backed, childish rejection of the reality of existence.

The very essence of an adventurous spirit, one drawn to the Scottish mountains in winter in this case, is exploration of the unknown and the thrill and challenge of just such.  Such adventures, like life, have a simple binary outcome:

To die


To live another day, and die later

To find death, "the undiscovered country" is the very apotheosis of the adventurous spirit; walkers and climbers, like soldiers, accept that price - no qualms, no cowards.  Those around them who cannot accept their death are unable to accept the simple truth, and rather than celebrate a life worth living they give into the dark shadows of loneliness and mortality.  By illogically and immaturely giving into melancholy and refusing to accept death they negate the value of a positive life and the privilege of having lived and died - is that a suitable mark of their love?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all
Final word to Mr Richard Dawkins
"We are going to die and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place, but will in fact never see the light of day, outnumber the sand grains of Sahara. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA, so massively outnumbers the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds, it is you and I in our ordinariness that are here. We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred."
 Get over yourself, who are you?  The Mutaween?

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

too fuckin close to the edge award badge

This is not Polaris, I've hijacked her blog while she recovers from having to work a little - puir lamb. Boy will she be pissed wi my post!

Congratulations !!! to Stephen Young.... First Scout to receive the prestigious "Too fuckin close to the edge award badge" dib dib dib

I am hopeless

This morning I was up at the first peep from the bedside alarm; coffee machine on, freezing bathroom, bra and knickers inside-out on the first attempt. Pour freshly made coffee on cup in which I've put a spoon of instant - Yeuk.

I've got a day of surveying a client's site; I do hope it goes better than my morning so far.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

When two galaxies collide...

It's Valentines day, if you haven't heard (yes guys), now I don't put much store in all that patron saint god bothering nonsense but it's nice to see the old axiom that "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts" applies equally to the universe and love - and it's heart shaped!

Friday, 12 February 2010

Everything changes, everything stays the same...

I knew I was getting old when I realised that this work of prescient genius was released in 1986 - seems like yesterday - in oh so many ways...

Over to Matt Johnson (The The) performing 'Heartland' - proving, if proof was needed, that nothing changes...

Thursday, 11 February 2010

On Anarchy

I've been rather busy, what with real world work and the like, consequently my blogging has been rather light - let's fix that.

For some time I've been mulling over whether I should air my politics publicly, they are to say the least, unconventional.  The more observant of you may have noticed the little collection of anarchy symbols that adorn my blog on the left hand side, couple that with my obvious adoration of religion, organised systems of control, our political system and the individuals who inhabit those spaces - you've probably guessed but please permit me a little explanation.

After years of political indolence interspersed by engagement - through those periods of frustrated inactivity modulated by almost manic participation in organised politics it became apparent to me that our natural born expectations of freedom and happiness appear to run contrary to conventional political structures.

Nothing I tried quite fitted, I couldn't quite put my finger on it - the differing cuts of the parties and systems just pinched in wrong places. Its been a long journey which has concluded in my belief that, no matter how passionate or motivated an activist is to join a political party and attempt meaningful change from within, the existing structures cannot deliver empowerment and freedom; this is no more realistic a prospect as my very real desire as a child to fly.

'Change from within' - that oft expressed desire of those who are politically motivated - is an acknowledgement of failure; an admission that despite many decades of trying, our democracy has failed miserably to deliver what feels naturally like equitable freedom. If democracy was such a success story, as some would have us believe, why would change be needed? A success would not require new laws every parliamentary term, new legislation on old legislation restricting freedoms further, it would not take human lives, be indifferent to suffering, raise armies and be so open to corruption.

A prison called democracy; that's how I see our political system and its manipulation of our society - it locks us, our desires, passions, natural rights and freedoms in a constructed environment, one that gives our undeserving jailers free reign to exploit their unhealthy passions for power and acquisitiveness.  We are born in prison and we die there; in an unhealthy political system so cocksure and certain of its veracity, its unquestioned superiority, that it will brook no dissent, no discussion required, no debates called for - whilst all the time failing to represent its constituent's rights to basic freedoms.

You got it, I think - I'm an anarchist, I think...

I don't however have the answers, a better system?  Sure let's discuss that seriously, it's important, more important than anything else, ever, anywhere - we have but one life; to spend that in chains in a version of freedom dictated to us by our 'betters', who all the time suspiciously reassure us it's the best we can expect, is wrong.

What I do know is that our current structures, the accepted truths, seem all too often to mitigate against freedom, maybe less so than others, but that is no excuse for refusing to discuss change - what sane man or woman would compromise their life, accept second best?  Life is our only one and true possession of import.  Why would we surrender a worthwhile and free existence to others?  Why is there no serious discussion of exactly how we organise society and politics for the maximum benefit of the individual, now and in future.  Have we accepted this because we are told by others that this is the best we can expect?

The last word goes to Emma Goldman from her essay "Anarchism: What it really stands for"
To achieve such an arrangement of life, government, with its unjust, arbitrary, repressive measures, must be done away with. At best it has but imposed one single mode of life upon all, without regard to individual and social variations and needs. In destroying government and statutory laws, Anarchism proposes to rescue the self-respect and independence of the individual from all restraint and invasion by authority. Only in freedom can man grow to his full stature. Only in freedom will he learn to think and move, and give the very best in him. Only in freedom will he realize the true force of the social bonds which knit men together, and which are the true foundation of a normal social life.

But what about human nature? Can it be changed? And if not, will it endure under Anarchism?
Poor human nature, what horrible crimes have been committed in thy name! Every fool, from king to policeman, from the flatheaded parson to the visionless dabbler in science, presumes to speak authoritatively of human nature. The greater the mental charlatan, the more definite his insistence on the wickedness and weaknesses of human nature. Yet, how can any one speak of it today, with every soul in a prison, with every heart fettered, wounded, and maimed?

John Burroughs has stated that experimental study of animals in captivity is absolutely useless. Their character, their habits, their appetites undergo a complete transformation when torn from their soil in field and forest. With human nature caged in a narrow space, whipped daily into submission, how can we speak of its potentialities?

Freedom, expansion, opportunity, and, above all, peace and repose, alone can teach us the real dominant factors of human nature and all its wonderful possibilities.

Anarchism, then, really stands for the liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion; the liberation of the human body from the dominion of property; liberation from the shackles and restraint of government. Anarchism stands for a social order based on the free grouping of individuals for the purpose of producing real social wealth; an order that will guarantee to every human being free access to the earth and full enjoyment of the necessities of life, according to individual desires, tastes, and inclinations.
...rant fin

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

That's like a breach of my human rights or summit...

Me and Chesney, we're best mates, since she got back from the social with a grant for a washing machine wot we spent on booze and fags - what a larf, I haven't had as much fun since we marched to that paeds house and put dog shit through his door.  Chesney told me the local paper said he was like a children doctor or somethin' and he was pissed off, but I said "even doctors can be peeds, innit?"

Her house is better than mine cos she told the housing that the guy up sooo gave her the creeps and they moved her to one of those new ones that were meant to be posh houses till the credit crump.  She told me to do the same, it's not as if we have to give rent or summit. Her house is much bigger, and she hadn't told
buff, innit, thats like,

Monday, 8 February 2010

'Bat'leth in Bridgeton Cross?

Following on from this post of last year I hear that Strathclyde Police intend to add further to their impressive standard side arms issue which currently includes; pepper spray, a chib and Tazer.

Scotland's largest force have set a number of impressive firsts for policing in the UK over the years, being the first force to include baseball caps in their standard uniform and offer Buckfast in force canteens.

The head of Strathclyde's elite firearms unit SRaD (Square gos, Rammys and Doin's), Superintendent Bob Nesbitt announced the introduction of the Klingon sword the 'Bat'leth at a press conference held in the Scotia Bar last night.
"Tazers are all very well, but given the preference of our clients for inflammable sports gear and industrial quantities of alcohol, our trials of this weapon have shown that the average Glaswegian is more flammable than your average Molotov cocktail.  There have been a number of unfortunate incidents involving individuals helping us with our enquiries being burnt to a cinder before we could beat a confession from them in the back of the van"

"After a review of available technology, and given the fact that the average PC already dresses like a Klingon leaving an arms fair, we have decided to issue 'Bat'leths.  These are purely a non-lethal visual deterrent, like CCTV cameras.  I have an assurance from the force training instructors that our officers will be trained to wave their swords about and shout Klingon expletives to ensure compliance in tricky situations."

"Our research shows that the 'Bat'leth is perfectly safe, the manufacturer, CBS Studios, assure us that in the thousands of deployments there has been no record of fatalities."

When the First Minister, Alex Salmond, was asked to comment on Strathclyde's plans he is reported to have said
"Glasgow? Where the fuck is that?"

Sunday, 7 February 2010

European Economics: Statistics Standard Grade

Section 1. - Graphical Interpretation
Q1 (mandatory): Please read the following definitions, using this information and the graph below use one word to sum up the likely financial outlook for the UK, Spain, Greece, Ireland and Italy.
Note: Compound words are permitted
What Does Fiscal Deficit Mean?
When a government's total expenditures exceed the revenue that it generates (excluding money from borrowings). Deficit differs from debt, which is an accumulation of yearly deficits.

What Does Gross Domestic Product - GDP Mean?
The monetary value of all the finished goods and services produced within a country's borders in a specific time period, usually calculated on an annual basis.

What Does Debt Mean?
Bonds, loans and commercial paper are all examples of debt. For example, a government may look to borrow £1 million so they can invest in infrastructure or go to war. In this case, the debt of £1 million will need to be paid back (with interest owing) to the creditor at a later date.

Supplementary question Q1a (optional): What does incompetent mean?

Original definitions courtesy of Investopedia
Chart hattip Olivetree Securities via Financial Times alphaville

Pay a bribe to atone for a bribe...

Okay time for a serious post after a few days of ⌘C and ⌘V - intellectually indolent fun posts are just not enough to quell the torrent of rage I struggle to hold at bay. 

BAE Systems, the UKs largest manufacturer, have agreed to pay the UK government £30 million, and astonishingly the US government the princely sum of £257 million in largess payments to make amends for bribing decision makers, usually foreign governments, to secure lucrative arms deals.  I covered my feelings on BAEs position in this previous post.  Friday's announcement is a cynical move that fails to recognise the reality of doing business, particularly when securing large value contracts within the public sector.  BAE now find themselves forced to pay these additional bribes, thinly disguised as fines, imposed by the SFO and the US Dept of Justice in order to allow them to continue to bid for US and UK government contracts - that sounds like bare faced extortion to me.

As for the US involvement in this case, it doesn't take long to establish just how much the US foreign policy manufactured Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts have benefited their world-dominating military industrial complex - one rule for their indigenous arms manufacturers, steel suppliers, aircraft manufacturers, security and service companies, and another for any cheeky foreigners that might have the temerity to compete with them.

Norman Lamb, a Liberal Democrat MP, is quoted as saying: "I'm deeply concerned that there are very serious allegations of corruption that are not being pursued. There is a very serious question mark over why there has been this apparent capitulation."  This is the same Norman Lamb that claimed just over £1,000 per month in mortgage interest payments for his second home in London. He also claimed £1,826 for refurbishment of a bathroom.

If I understand him correctly Norman is asking when did we replace criminal accountability with bribes to the state? Oh wait, yeah, erm - that would be when we allowed MPs to pay back fraudulently obtained expenses with impunity.  

I'm not fooled by the decision to hang four of their number out to dry, that's a cheap concession to public sentiment, the needs of the many requires a scapegoat, four of the most deserving but least significant of their number were chosen for public sacrifice - a simple, and transparent, self-preserving diversion.  If a decision to prosecute was made fairly all 300 or so fraudsters would be "had up" in front of the beak in the morning; just where is Hazel Blears, Baroness Uddin, Jacqui Smith, the Right Honorable Dirty Moat and Duck House MP Esquire?  Oh yeah, they paid back the state's munificence or made pleadings that satisfied the scrutiny of their peers, an admission of guilt in itself - but prosecution was not in the public interest, why not? I'd be interested.

Since when did the criminal process work this way?

Finally, given the public and spittle flecked MSMs desire to make an example of leaders in the public eye; demonstrated neatly by the John Terry affair (sorry) - a man who was punished for nothing more than a non-criminal personal transgression.  How can cutting Brown, Clegg and Cameron a bit of slack be tolerated - surely they should have set the superlative example when it came to expenses?

The message we should all take from this?

It's okay to steal, so long as you pay it back if you are caught - or if you are wealthy enough; you can pay the state an indulgence to atone for your sin.

Don't even get me started on the (mis)use of public money and facilities by MPs, Lords and MSPs to benefit themselves financially and professionally...

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Geeks nearly destroy space-time continuum

This is an abject lesson in why geeks should not be given control of anything important, imagine if this wasn't a simple live webcast but a nuclear weapon control panel.

You shouldn't just press buttons because they're there boys...

Edit: I would like to thank somebody for correcting my spilling...

Scottish parents struggling with confusing and contrary public health messages

WTF, how did this even happen?  All those millions of pounds spent on health education by the sanctimonious, and Wayne and Waynetta still don't get it, that chair just doesn't look suitable for a toddler - no straps, sides or anything?!

Friday, 5 February 2010

"Anything you say, we know you're guilty"

It's Friday night, and I'm chillaxing (is that how you spell it?).  This is 'Evidence' by the powerhouse that was Faith no More - dedicated, with love, to thieving MPs and my best friend.

Please leave a message after the high moral tone...

I've been an antitheist for most of my life, for those of you who haven't heard the term, an antitheist is like an athiest - without the indifference.

I was raised in the bosom of 'good' west of Scotland religion, firstly the Church of Scotland and then the local Baptist church - the teenage move to happy-clappy baptist bullshit the first indication of my burgeoning discomfort with the hypocritical morality that permeates religious belief and its evil child, blind-faith.

Finally the penny dropped, religion possessed no redeeming features, it was simply a tool used to control the masses - one whose message had been finely honed over centuries to fit fear and ignorance, cynically exploiting our unhappiness with the human existence condition to the benefit of the ruling classes.  In short complete bullshit of the finest quality; sticky, stinky and impossible to swallow without gagging.

As I age, gracefully of course, my cynicism towards all things religious grows; the assumed ownership of the moral high ground and the use of religion to justify all things good and evil (Haiti a good case in point) are hard to stomach - atavistic notions that contribute nothing positive to the undoubted struggle that defines the life of man.  How can anyone justify a military padre or a religious war?

Battles between religious stupidity and realism abound, primarily in the publishing world.  If you haven't read Richard Dawkins bestseller 'The God Delusion' or the wonderful Jerry A Coyne's 'Why Evolution is True', you really should.

On the other side of the debate I recently came across Rick Warren's book "The Purpose Driven Life", a book (and I use that term advisedly) that sets out its ambitious agenda as "A groundbreaking manifesto on the meaning of life" - never in my life have I read such a meaningless pile of drivel, religious mumbo jumbo replete with complete speculation and inspired near-insanity - it is entertaining though.  "The Purpose Driven Life" is heralded by the believers as the most significant book since the bible - personally I wouldn't argue with that; if ever you needed convincing that religion is simply man made cretinism this incoherent jumble of language should do the trick.

Over to Bill Maher to make the same point in his much more relaxed and entertaining style:

Edit: If you wish to read Mr Warren's book Amazon currently have 591 used copies, available from 26 pence - seems a bit expensive to me.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

The best we can do?

I find myself increasingly depressed by the lack of real options for change in the forthcoming general election, particularly as a Scottish voter. Scotland is the land of inherited voting and gang mentality political immaturity.

Scots are as likely to change their voting habits as a shark is to choose to start swimming backwards or Amy Winehouse to come out as an evangelical drug-free tee-totaller.

So it's New Labour or the SNP, in terms of policies you couldn't force a one-atom-thick planar sheet of Graphene between them; a fact that on the surface may appear to run contrary to the grotesque posturing we are treated to on a daily basis - dear reader, don't be fooled.

Witness the bizarre stage show, SNP vs Labour - akin to some sort of mating ritual involving the first two males of a new species who have yet to realise the futility of their never ending circular dance, squawking at their respective superficial plumage colour differences whilst stealing coy glances at one another's genitals.  Ultimately pointless and boring to watch.

Honestly what's the difference between them?  Badminton based spot the ball would be easier. 

Nationalists might cite bridge tolls and prescription charges.  Oh well, way to go SNP - that's compelling in a country riven by class division, a failed (once mission critical) financial sector, a public sector that employs more people than the private sector and the fiscal growth potential of the Gary Glitter fan club.  As for New Labour - listening to them reminds me of the talking doll I had as a child - the one whose voice mechanism broke leaving her to repeat the same phrase again and again until I had to drown her. Take your pick of the Labour phrase, if you read Yousuf then 'Glasgow' or 'GARL' would be a nice starter.

If there are any Labour or SNP activists reading this blog I have news for you, that subtle undertone of frustration you may have detected is not limited to me.

Only the bittersweet aftertaste of a hollow victory is to be found on a minority turnout - the complete indifference of the majority of the electorate should be ignored at your peril, it is a symptom of acute disengagement and indifference inspired by insipid idlers in coloured rosettes who appear on doorsteps, begging, every five years or so.

Is democracy, specifically the version we have, really the best we can do?  If it is then I guess it's time the other inhabitants of this planet had a whip round to save our species, we do it for them after all...

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

"Fear the Boom and Bust" a Hayek vs. Keynes Rap Anthem

My apologies if you have seen this before, but it is too good not to share - probably the first ever economics lesson delivered through the medium of rap...

Hayek and Keynes in da hood - both right and wrong. Economics is the only field in which two people can share a Nobel prize for saying opposing things...
More here

A speech about a vote on a referendum about voting reform for elections...

Torygeddon is looming, as New Labour continues its deserved inexorable slide towards defeat...
...deploying my impressive gifts of foresight augmented with simultaneous hindsight I feel pretty confident that's how things will shake down over the next few months. It's not a pretty prediction, and like many commentators I am torn between a natural suspicion of the stench of privilege and patronage that permeates the Conservative party and a solid conviction that the failed New Labour experiment has to be stopped, dead in the water, as soon as possible; for the sake of our ragged and torn country.

Despite the looming head shot of electoral defeat, the one that will finally dispatch him to wherever the undead rest, Gordon Brown continues to stumble blindly (well perhaps just lacking depth perception) zombie like onwards; undeterred by putrefaction and disintegration he makes like it's "business as usual" in post apocalyptic "New Britain's Labour" - or wherever the fuck he thinks it is.

His speech at the ippr today will no doubt centre on a great new idea to ensure a glorious Labour future - electoral reform.  It appears Mr Brown's intention is to rush through a preference voting system and a clamp down on non-UK taxpayers sitting in parliament.  Whether a transferable preference voting system will benefit Labour long term is anybody's guess, although it is likely to divide his already fragmented party in the run up to the election.  However the non-dom reforms will certainly punish the Conservatives in the short term, a cynical move that can be guaranteed universal approval, playing well to the anti-toff sentiments of traditional Labourighteous.

It appears to me that Labour are increasingly desperate to refresh their image in the run up to the election - this 'vote on a referendum on voting reform' is nothing more than a pointless attempt to play the "Labour's still working" card, despite the very opposite being considerably closer to the truth.

From memory no mention of these reforms were made in either the Queens Speech or Labour's legislative program - what has been mentioned, repeatedly, was an accountable and elected second chamber.  Replacing the anachronistic House of Lords with an elected second house would constitute a considerably more significant contribution to democracy than any tweaks to the voting system, who knows perhaps ordinary people might even start voting again - would politicians want that?

Then again what does Gordon care for democratic process? He inherited his job...

Picture courtesy of the talented David Forward at Tractor Stats

Monday, 1 February 2010

So What

Politics - it stinks, words fail me; frustrated and Kind of Blue here, some music to salve the tortured soul is in order - so over to the king of blue...

Mandelbrot just goes on and on and on

For fractals sake, what is Labour's sinister henchman up to now?  Not content with playground games and threatening behaviour he is now asking us to believe that he is able to predict the future.

He claimed yesterday that a Conservative government will "strangle the recovery at birth" - I'm not going to dwell on the insanity of describing a 0.1% improvement in finances as a "recovery" other than to point out that I have a suspicion that the New Labour machine would have reported a 0.0000001% improvement in joke shop sales as heralding the beginning of a recovery - such is their desperation to find a positive outcome after 13 years of blind incompetence.

Now given that New Labour 13 year track record of being unable to predict anything accurately how can Mandelbrot be sure of anything?  Events happen, politicians are caught napping, governments are reactive not proactive - the government of Blair and Brown, Dumb and Dumber if you prefer, epitomise this axiom.

If the Dark-Lord-of-Everything believes for one second that we can trust his confident predictions of impending Tory doom and incompetence he is truly delusional - why should we, how could we? By his trademark arrogance he simply reinforces that which is obvious to all - New Labour's desperation oozes from every pore and the stench of death is overwhelming, it's pitiful.

Chaos - you just can't predict it, it's a bugger innit?

The Scottish Suppression of Information act

Kevin Dunion, our improbably handsome Scottish Information Commissioner is smarting from a severe wedgie delivered at the hands of public bodies.  After the initial hand clapping and plaudits that greeted his appointment in 2003 and subsequent successes; including MSPs expenses, mortality rates and health expenditure, Mr Dunion said in the last few days that “we now have ample evidence that as a matter of course civil servants are turning away perfectly valid information requests which are quite inexplicable.”

He went on to observe that the Scottish Government has adopted a “rather restrictive view of it and is now issuing, almost as a matter of course, refusal notices saying requests are invalid if they make reference to documents."

Just to clarify this, Kevin is smarting at the inability of the public to secure the release of information if it is contained in a document, yes a document - really... If you should make a valid request for the release of information and foolishly make mention of a "document" your request is now deemed invalid.

After a hyper-illogical FOI-emasculating ruling by the Court of Session recently which stated people had the right to information but not the documents which contained that information, the Scottish administration and public bodies are routinely denying every FOI request that makes reference to a document - electronic, hand written or blood on skin parchment, it doesn't matter - you can only request the information in obtuse and tangential ways and without reference to a document.

This insane situation presupposes that you know the answer you are looking for, and I suspect should be based on the press releases, news items and the positive spin and propaganda, rarely critical of the incumbent, that public bodies choose to make public in the first place.  Do you suppose for a second that they have something to hide?  Like the £2million paid in bonuses to Scottish Government staff in 2008-9?  Or perhaps the FOI exempt publicly owned private companies through which millions of pounds of public expenditure are unaccountably routed, such as the Edinburgh City Council owned Transport Initiatives Edinburgh, or Edinburgh Waterfront - not to mention Housing Associations and the vast estate of other ruses adopted by politicians to dilute public expenditure and accountability.

Our Information Commissioner's perineum is obviously red raw by now, so rather than reaching for the E45 and complaining Mr Dunion, what about using some of those powers you have?

Or could it be that you quite like crushed bollocks, a sore arse, the £80-85,000 per annum salary (a 10% increase on 2006), generous pension and an increasingly pointless department that costs us £1,500,000 every year?