Thursday, March 27, 2008

Fingerprinting At Heathrow. Or Not.

With the opening of Heathrow's Terminal Five, BAA were trying to introduce the compulsory fingerprinting of every single domestic passenger who entered the lounge. They claim that this was to stop someone - presumably a wannabe terrorist - from flying through the airport on an international stop-over and swapping tickets with someone on an internal flight, thereby avoiding some levels of security check.

Let's just ignore the improbability of that for a moment and ask why Heathrow (and other UK airports*) mixes domestic and international passengers at all if there is any chance of a security risk. Well, funnily enough it's to extract money from them for the least possible outlay of cash. Have one shopping area and make sure all passengers have to pass by it, then reap the rewards of making people turn up to an airport three hours before a flight and not let them take any open liquid (or more than 100ml of any other liquid) through the security checks.

The usual method of ensuring that the passengers are who they claim to be isn't the obvious "check the name on the ticket matches the name on the photo ID they need to show before getting on the plane", but by use of CCTV cameras taking a photo of each passenger when they enter the terminal. The passenger then gets a card with a barcode on it, and this barcode is scanned as they leave the terminal and the photo compared to make sure it's still them. While I think this is an over the top way of doing it, the Information Commissioner considers it reasonable.

The IC doesn't consider the taking of fingerprints to be at all reasonable however and BAA have had to delay the start of their biometric checking while the arguments between them go back & forth. BAA do insist that they will take fingerprints in the future though, despite the protestations of the IC and various civil liberty groups.

Note, this is for internal travel within the UK. Where you live and pay taxes. Not for going overseas. This is a separate system to that employed for flights to the US or Japan. Although it would obviously be easy to link the system so that the US gets a nice collection of fingerprints for everyone who travels in the UK by plane via Heathrow Terminal 5.

BAA insist that the data is encrypted and destroyed after 24hours. Which could be entertaining if you get to the airport 24hours before your flight leaves - or your flight is delayed or cancelled due to bad weather, for example - as there'd be no corresponding data showing you are who you were when you arrived.

Not that you'd really want to travel through there anyway, seeing as there's been glitches on their first day. Not an auspicious start to the "building site with its own airport".

* On a recent flight from Newcastle to London Gatwick, I was horrified to discover - only when we landed mind, not before we took off so that I could have decided to travel by another method - that photos were taken so you could be compared at a point three hundred yards down the corridor. There's no mention of this on Gatwick's website, so I'm not sure it's entirely legal.

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Welcome To Dictatorship

There is a Bill going through Parliament which will allow the removal, revoking or repealing of ANY Act of Parliament by order of a Minister. As has been pointed out on Guido Fawkes's site, this is actually more dictatorial than the Nazi's managed.

According to Jack Straw, the Bill would only have five parts (see paragraph three, here), but part six is where the kicker is.

Part 6
43 Power to make consequential provision

(1) A Minister o the Crown, or two or more Ministers of the Crown acting jointly, may by order make such provision as the Minister or Ministers consider appropriate in consequence of this Act.

(2) An order under subsection (1) may --

(a) amend, repeal or revoke any provision made by or an Act;

(b) include transitional or saving provision.

(3) An order under subsection (1) is to be made by statutory instrument.

(4) A statutory instrument containing an order under subsection (1) which amends or repeals a provision of an Act may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.

(5) A statutory instrument containing an order under subsection (1) which does not amend or repeal a provision of an Act is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

And before you go slightly mad trying to work out just what that means, may I recommend the excellent SpyBlog's dissection of the true meaning.

The abuse of the catch all, excessively broad wording "amend, repeal or revoke any provision made by or an Act" means that even the Constitutional Acts like Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights 1689, Habeas Corpus, the European Communities Act, the Human Rights Act, the Civil Contingencies Act etc. can all be repealed or amended without the need for a full debate, or for new Primary Legislation, simply by Order of a Minister.

Such an Order could be passed, after a "debate" of about 40 minutes with 15 or 20 minutes for the actual voting through the lobbies, by a quorum of MPs as small as 40 i.e. only 21 Government MPs needed to rubber stamp an Order by a single Secretary of State, if the Order is even debated on the floor of the House of Commons.

It could also be rubber stamped by an even smaller committee of MPs, without any members of the public or the media present.


If this Bill goes through unamended, there is essentially no need for Parliament, no need for elections. While we've not been living in a democracy for quite some time, this would move us into the land of dictatorship.

UPDATE: Apparently this isn't as bad as SpyBlog are reading it. The Head Of Legal gives a different version of the interpretation here

However, revolution is still the only way to bring about change.

I am the revolution.

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Man Born Woman Pregnant

From today's Register, a story about a man - who was born a woman, but has been undergoing treatment to become a man - who has become pregnant.

It seems that s/he underwent sex change surgery to become a man 10 years ago, but chose to retain his female reproductive organs, just in case. Which is a very weird sentence to write. Turns out though, that this was some kind of woman's intuition as his wife then needed to have a hysterectomy, and so they've used his uterus for the foetus to live in.

Funnily enough he feels he's experienced some prejudice from the Doctors and Nurses who he has come into contact with.


Good job you're American though, so the waist of general population isn't too dissimilar from the one you currently have.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Going After Smokers Again

There was a report yesterday that the Government are considering removing cigarettes from view in shops, and vending machines from pubs. All of this in an attempt to stop children from taking up smoking.

I have a few issues with this.

Firstly, how does removing a product from display stop someone from wanting it? I don't recall there being huge adverts for cocaine anywhere, but the demand for that seems to be increasing. Surely the fact that the cigarettes are only available from under the counter would make them seem more appealing? "Oooh, these must be really exotic and dangerous, I'll simply have to try some" etc.

Secondly, this doesn't actually stop them from being sold to people under 18. Enterprising children can still pool their cash and persuade someone who is over 18 (someone homeless for example, in exchange for booze or drugs) to get the cigarettes for them instead. If you want to stop children from smoking, try making them all smoke a pack of cigars at the age of five: that should put most of them off. Alternatively, invite people suffering from smoking related lung cancer to go round schools and explain what has happened to them and why.

Thirdly, it's already illegal to sell tobacco to under 18's. Enforcing the legislation that is already in place, rather than bringing in yet more pointless laws and red-tape would seem to be a more reasonable idea, don't you think?

Also, why are the Government actually bothering with this? The amount of money they make from the taxes on tobacco more than covers the cost of the NHS care smokers receive. The extra money goes towards pensions, and dead smokers won't be needing a pension. Less people smoking means less money from taxes, and larger numbers of people expecting pensions and health care into their old age.

The Government should actually be encouraging people to take up smoking.

And while I'm ranting, why not have pubs for over 18's only? No children whatsoever. Then you wouldn't need to remove the vending machines. And since everyone inside was old enough to decide things for themselves if they understood the risks, have the landlord decide if the pub is to be smoking or non-smoking. Pubs then start making money again (which goes into the Government coffers eventually), people continue to die young (saving Government money in the long run) and I stop having to endure other people's children running around screaming when I'm trying to have a quiet pint.

Oh, and I wouldn't keep feeling like I'm living in a fucking Nanny state.

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Do Not Buy

A splendid heads up warning from Devil's Kitchen about the heavily advertised (or perhaps I just watch TV shows that have a high geek profile, who knows) Western Digital 1TB My Book Network Storage Drive.

There's a PC World advert saying what cracking value it is - at £149 - and how useful it would be to store all your photos and stuff on. Well, this is kinda true, and could probably be considered excellent value if you weren't planning on sharing those files with anyone else.

You see, the My Book has been crippled. You CANNOT share MP3, MP4, AAC, AIFF, AVI, DivX, WMV, WMA, OGG, and QuickTime files using this drive. Which does make its purpose seem completely pointless. Cunts.


Apparently there is a hack for this if you're feeling adventurous in Linux.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Compare And Contrast

US President George W Bush has today made a speech where he hails the "victory" in the war in Iraq. Not for the first time, but I'll let that pass. No, I'm more interested in the synchronicity happening to me at the minute. I seem to have become a probability sink.

Earlier today I read the piece by Evan Davies that I linked to below. In it there are some descriptions of how people will always pay attention to evidence that supports their view of an argument and ignore anything that contradicts.

This afternoon, I wrote an email suggesting that this was what was happening to people in the UK with regard to revolution: people will only pay attention to news that supports their belief that everything will be okay, but at some point they will have to notice the insurmountable contrary evidence (or "the tipping point" as I described it)

And now this! Despite all evidence to the contrary, G W Bush seems intent on telling the world that the Iraq war has all gone swimmingly.

It's almost like he's read this piece and decided that it was all true! And if you have time, do read some more of Heresy Corner, as it is very, very good.

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Nice piece today from Evan Davies about the seemingly cyclical problem with the housing markets.

I was most amused that he's managed to start with reference to Homer Simpson and end it with a reference to Flanders! Unfortunately the Flanders he's on about isn't Ned (or "Stupid" as Homer calls him) but Stephanie Flanders, who is to be Evan's replacement as Economics Editor.

Evan himself will be moving to presenting Today on Radio 4. Have fun with the early morning starts Evan!


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Today Is A Good Day To Die

Or so it seems. Following on from the earlier news about Anthony Minghella dying, two slightly less unexpected deaths.

Legendary writer and sci-fi predictor, Arthur C Clarke died at the age of 90, after a respiratory illness.

And the actor who used to play Captain Birdseye, John Hewer, has died at the age of 86. In a slight case of "too soon", today's Guardian Fiver email suggested "A BURIAL AT SEA IN A CRISPY BATTERED COFFIN FOR JOHN HEWER, PLEASE"

And yes, I'm just annoyed someone else came up with that gag before I did.

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Making A Fortune Out Of A Crisis

I heard yesterday that some people are suggesting that the disappearance of Shannon Matthews was a ploy to gain financially from people's potential donations. This was seemingly due to the fact that she was "hidden" by a relative and was apparently unhurt.

If you recall there was, after just two weeks of Madeleine McCann's disappearance, a reward of £2.5million for her safe return. With Shannon Matthews, the reward after the same period was somewhere in the region of £25,000. While not as high as the McCann case, it's not an insignificant amount of money. Particularly to a family on a low income, living on a Council estate.

Interestingly, the BBC Editors column has recently been fielding questions from viewers and listeners about the way the two cases have been reported. As I mentioned at the time, it was fascinating just how much coverage the McCann case received and I wondered whether there would have been the same coverage had the child been black and/or working class. Turns out the answer is "no, no it wouldn't".

And in many ways, I'm sure the parents of Shannon Matthews are very pleased about it. Not only have they managed to get their daughter back, but they haven't had quite as many obvious front page tabloid theories that they were involved in her disappearance. Or swingers. Or had killed her. Mind you, it's not entirely obvious how Shannon Matthews's parents could quite as easily be described as negligent in her disappearance to the same extent as those of Madeleine McCann.

Did they leave Shannon in a holiday apartment while dining and drinking away with friends? No. Did they leave two other, younger children alongside her? No. Did they fail to take advantage of a freely available nanny service that would have also checked in on their children? No.

Not that that appears to have stopped the McCann's from taking (and winning) legal action against several newspapers. Oh dearie me, no. From tomorrow, The Daily and Sunday Express, along with the Daily Star and Daily Star Sunday are to pay a "substantial" sum in damages and print front-page apologies.

It is reported that the damages will go directly to the Find Madeleine fund. Which makes it sound like the parents aren't going to directly benefit from all that lovely money. Until you read the following on the "Fund Objectives" section of the website:

"1.1.3 To provide support, including financial assistance, to Madeleine's family."

Quite vague, don't you think? Almost makes you wonder if there are questions being asked about the wrong family benefitting financially from the disappearance of their child.

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New Post On Becca Bob!

Had a mail from Becca/Bob's dad, Peter, earlier today. A lot of the projects that were started after Becca's untimely death last year are coming to fruition.

DVD aimed at children explaining the threat of skin cancer, Stara Woods, Kevin's paintings & music, and a bursary being given for a Yoga course. All of these things can be found here.

And, so you know, March 24th would have been Becca's 36th Birthday. So please have a drink to her, and smile.


The English Patient Did Not Recover

Sad news reported by the BBC today, Anthony Minghella, director of "The English Patient" (among many other films and theatrical productions) has died aged 54.

I hope the afterlife presented to him is slightly more enjoyable than the one he conveyed in "Truly, Madly, Deeply".


Next Domino To Fall?

Following on from the failure of the Northern Rock in the UK and Bear Stearns in the US, CNN are reporting that Lehman may be the next victim of the credit crunch.

The brokerage firm saw its shares drop as much as 39% in early trading in wake of JPMorgan Chase's $2-a-share purchase of Bear Stearns. Monday's sell-off took Lehman shares to $24.50, down from $39 Friday, before they staged a mild recovery. The recovery mirroring the general up turn in the Dow Jones.

The collapse of Bear Stearns has fueled fears of a widespread breakdown in the U.S. financial system. Lehman, like Bear Stearns, has been a big player in the mortgage market in recent years and investors worry that its exposure to now-toxic mortgage-based securities, combined with its relatively small size, might be fatal. Lehman is the fourth-largest U.S. player on Wall Street, behind Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley.

I've also heard, separately, that the Fed are considering a 0% interest rate - like Japan did in the late 80s and early 90s, although they did go to negative rates at one point - in an attempt to kick start consumer spending again. As people are being told "there's a recession coming" so they start to save their money. Unfortunately, this actually speeds up the recession as there's a reduced demand for goods and services, leading to lay-offs and closures. Which prompts more people into saving.

You can see the spiral, can't you?

As far as I am aware, the Bank Of England has no plans to follow suit, although this is more likely due to the inflationary effect such a policy would have on the UK's housing market.

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Getting Them One Way Or Another

Following on from yesterday's post - about ACPO distancing itself from collecting DNA from children deemed most likely to offend in the future - the Government are pressing ahead with their "baby ASBO" plan.

Trouble makers as young as 10 years old are to be asked to sign a good behaviour contract to stop them going off the rails. About 1,000 of the "most challenging" children will be expected to stick to the order, or risk a criminal record. Of course once they've been questioned or charged their DNA will be taken anyway.

Children's Minister Beverley Hughes said that "the best form of prevention is cure... We can spot early warning signs in young people and families where things are going wrong - poor parenting, lessons skipped and complaints about behaviour... To change, rather than just contain, we need tough action on the underlying problems." She denied the measures would replicate work already being done.

And that is something I have levelled at the Government before and I shall level it here again.

There are already provisions in place for truancy officers to stop children who are not in school and to return them. There are already provisions in place for parents of regular truant children to be fined and in extreme cases imprisoned unless the child's attendance improves. There are many, many provisions for Social Workers to step in if they feel that a parent is not bringing a child up properly.

Just because the Government isn't allocating sufficient resources - or setting quantitive rather than qualitative targets - to the right people doesn't mean that we need another whole raft of legislation put in place at a cost of £218million. The only purpose of which seems to be to get more people onto the DNA database at an earlier stage in their lives.

Making children feel like criminals will, in my opinion, only speed up their progression to becoming actual criminals in later life.

I do, however, agree with the sentiments of youth worker Shaun Bailey (who is also Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate for Hammersmith) who said "We need to change the notion around parenting. So many parents up and down the country believe it is their divine right not to parent their children properly and there is absolutely no come-back."

As I have said previously, are you sure you need a child?

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy Not St Patrick's Day

While March 17th is traditionally the celebration of St Patrick's Day, this year's should have taken place on March 15th (what was my wedding anniversary, fact fans - oh, and Happy Birthday to Vixen for then as well) as today falls in the Holy Week of Easter.

For some crazy reason the Catholic Church don't like to have too many drunk people eating chocolate (or something) so this year's St Patrick's was moved. It'll be happening again in 2160. This is not the worst bit of moving that has happened to St Patrick, in 1940 his day was moved until April 3rd.

Still, good excuse to be drunk for three whole days, isn't it?

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Can You Hear Squeaking?

That would be the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) back pedalling from comments made by their own spokesman about collection of DNA from children who "exhibited behaviour indicating criminality in later life".

Gary Pugh, Scotland Yard's director of forensic services, told the Observer: "If we have a primary means of identifying people before they offend, then in the long term the benefits of targeting younger people are extremely large."

He added: "You could argue, the younger the better. Criminologists say some people will grow out of crime; others won't. We have to find who are possibly going to be the biggest threat to society."

An ACPO spokeswoman said that although they believe the National DNA Database is "an invaluable tool", they do not support DNA profiling for children. She said: "Gary Pugh has yet to take over as the ACPO lead on the National DNA Database...If Gary has expressed the views reported in the media this morning, they are his own personal views and not that of ACPO."

I can only congratulate ACPO for their decision to distance themselves from Gary Pugh's comments.

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UK Basket Of Goods

The Retail Price Index (which is a method of calculating inflation in the UK) uses a "basket of goods" approach. Things which are being purchased more frequently are included and things that have gone out of fashion are removed. The price is compared year on year (so Feb 2008 with Feb 2007 etc). And the changes in the cost of the goods is considered to be the retail price inflation.

The BBC has a story about the latest changes. Notable inclusions this time are USB memory sticks, muffins and smoothies. Going out are frozen vegetarian meals, stubby bottles of lager and 35mm film. The initial report from the Office of National Statistics is here.

All well and good.

But there is - as usual - a slight problem with this method. First of all, the one used in the UK does not include mortgage repayments. So the RPI is actually a lot lower than real inflation. Secondly, as consumer electronic goods generally get cheaper over time, any comparison with them included also means that the overall inflation rate is lower than it actually is. Thirdly, taking consumer electronic goods once more as an example, it gives a false impression of the true inflation rate for the elderly or the poor - just how many iPods a year do you think your Granny buys in comparison to food and heating bills - as the weighting is not adjusted by age of consumer.

In August 2006, Clerical Medical's report (available for download here) showed that in the previous 10 years, pensioner inflation was 34%. In the twelve months to August 2006, it was 3.9%. The Telegraph reported in December 2006 that the rate for pensioners had gone up to 9%.

As I blogged earlier this year, This Is Money were reporting in January that the true inflation rate for pensioners was running at 7%. Since January - as you may well have noticed - the cost of food, gas, electric and petrol have gone up rather a lot, so this rate is likely to be MUCH higher now.

If you are interested in knowing what your personal inflation rate is, the Office of National Statistics has a calculator here. Although whether you could use this as a basis for negotiating a payrise is doubtful, it is still worth a look.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

One Is Unfortunate, Two Are Unlikely, But Three?

In the past week, three police officers have died in suspicious circumstances, two of whom have apparently committed suicide.

Most notably, the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, Michael Todd, was found dead at the bottom of a cliff in Snowdonia.

On the same day, Sergeant Richard Fuller, the chief of security for Camilla (as in Prince Charles and) is believed to have shot himself, despite no outward signs of depression.

Late yesterday evening, Inspector Neil Munro - a Section Inspector in command of the North Bournemouth area - is believed to have fallen from a cross channel ferry on his way to France. His body was found this morning under a jetty outside a property on "Millionaire's Row" in Sandbanks.

My condolences to their families. I just hope there's nothing else linking these men apart from the unfortunate coincidence of their deaths.

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Snouts Further Out Of Trough

Following on from the earlier post(s) about MPs expenses, the BBC are reporting that MPs expense claims from the past three years are going to be published.

Seeing as MPs have been able to claim £10k for a new kitchen in their "second home", £6k for a new bathroom and various other expenses, it could be very revealing about just how much the UK Taxpayer has been subsidising these cash grabbing bastards.

In further great news for politicians, the Joint Committee on Human Rights has slammed the Government's lax position on Data Protection.

"The report said this did not "inspire confidence" in controversial plans for a National Identity Register."

No shit.

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What White People Like

Been reading this wonderful site daily since I discovered it through somewhere - probably b3ta, but can't be sure.

It's things like this;

There are a lot of cultures that like wine, but the way white people like wine is on a whole different level.

Within white culture, you are expected to know what a good wine is, what wine is not acceptable to like, and the names of prominent wine growing regions.

But because there are thousands of wineries, thousands of wines, and a limited time to try them or learn about it, often times, white people need to fake knowledge. If they are exposed as not being knowledgeable, they will look like fools and their peers will consistently make jokes about them liking Boone’s Farm, Thunderbird, Steeler, or Lakeport. This humiliation can crush a white person for years.

When a white person offers you wine, you take a small sip and then say “ooh, that’s nice. What country is it from?” then they will say the name of the country and you say “I love wines from that country, I would love to get a villa in the wine region there.” White people will nod in agreement as they all want to have a second home in a wine region like Napa, Tuscany or Santa Barbara.

It is also a good idea to say that your favorite wine is from a small winery called [make up name like ‘Spotswood,’ ‘Red Duck,’ Random Spanish name] in [Australia, Argentina, France, California, or Chile] that is hard to get in whatever country you are in. White people will be impressed that they have not heard of this wine and consider you to be a very smart person. They will also make a note to try to find that wine, and when they can’t find it, your status will rise even higher.

Wines that are acceptable: Red, White (less so)

Wines that are unacceptable (unless to be consumed in an ironic fashion): White Zinfandel, wine in a box, Rose, Fortified Wine, Arbor Mist, Chinese Cooking Wine.


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Bible Is Bullshit

From the rather wonderful Penn & Teller, an expert dissection of the Bible.

Once again, I am proved to not exist. Dammit.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008


The BBC have handily published a guide to what exactly constitutes treason in the UK and what the punishment is. Contrary to popular belief, it is NOT a capital offence - although you can be imprisoned for life. I can imagine though, that if you are successful, you have no need to worry about any sentencing.

Well just so you know, I am - according to the list - committing treason.

I have no desire to hurt or cause alarm to the Queen. I have no intention of having sex with a female member of the Royal Family outside of wedlock. These are technically treason, but not what I am planning.

What I intend to do however, is to overthrow Her Majesty's Government.

And that is treason.

My argument, should I ever be put on trial for this offence is a simple one: they started it and I defended myself.

Since 1997 (unbelievably a time of hope and optimism after the fall of the Conservatives) the Labour Government have deliberately and repeatedly sold out the people of this country. They have been abetted in their actions by a weak and complacent opposition.

They have acted recklessly with our money - selling the Gold reserves *before* the price rose dramatically, refusing to pay back the National Debt when in a position to do so - and rewarded themselves handsomely for it, while denying the Police the full payrise they were awarded.

They have endangered the lives of everyone in the UK by invading Iraq with an injust and illegal war that supported a corrupt American regime's chase for oil, and ignored UN resolutions that stopped them while citing other UN resolutions they felt supported their cause.

They have removed the civil liberties enshrined in the UK's legislation since the time of the Magna Carta - such as the right to trial by a jury of your peers - in the name of protecting the population from terrorists who would not be as interested in us without their foreign policy actions.

They have made promises on their election manifestos - the introduction of student top-up fees, a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty - and reneged on them once they have been returned to power.

They have overseen a huge redistribution of wealth away from the poor, the old and the sick through direct and indirect taxation, while feathering the nests of their own families by giving them special positions within Government and paying them for doing nothing.

They are the ones who started it. We are the ones who can end it.

I am actively calling for a campaign of civil disobedience directed entirely against Government. This is not a war against the Police or the Armed Forces, this is levelled solely against the politicians who have brought this country to its knees.

Stop paying your Council Tax. Refuse to pay Income Tax. Wherever possible, barter for goods and services and deprive them of VAT.

Take every opportunity to protest against the Government.

When asked for your name, tell them one thing: "I Am The Revolution"


Snouts Slightly Out Of Trough

MP's are now expected to produce receipts for every expense over £25 - rather than the present £250 - from next month the BBC is reporting. Office expense petty cash claims are also to be reduced from £250 to £50 a month.

This is a step forward to open and accountable MPs, but is still some way short of the levels they - through HMRC - expect of the British public. Pretty much every single company in the UK, including those in the public sector, are expected to produce receipts for every expenditure claimed.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

The Labour Party vs The People

Now, I think we've all come to realise that the Government of this country holds the electorate in a great deal of contempt. It's something that a lot of people suspect of all politicians, across the spectrum.

So this (re-posted here from Guido, as his blog moves fast) should come as no real surprise.

Q. Which party appoints a double-barreled, privately educated, graduate of Oxford and Stanford, ex-McKinsey turned City grandee and co-author of "The New Capitalists" as chief?

A. David Pitt-Watson of City fund managers Hermes is the new general secretary of the Labour Party.

He also gave £2,500 to Gordon's leadership non-campaign.

UPDATE : If he has been brought in to clean-up Labour's finances post the Abrahams scandal this will be tricky. Chris Grayling points out that he was a secret just-below-the-£1000 reporting threshold donor of £990 to Wendy Alexander’s campaign. He was, with Peter Watt - the disgraced former Secretary-General of the Labour Party - director of a fund which has donated £110,000 to the Labour Party, and a leading figure in an unincorporated association (LFIG) which has given hundreds of thousands of pounds to the Labour Party without revealing the original sources of funds - just like the Tory supporting Midlands Industrial Council. Does that fill you full of confidence that Gordon really means to be more transparent and straight about political funding?

It shouldn't come as a surprise, but it leaves a certain bad taste in the mouth

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Calling Time On Pubs

In a report today, CAMRA said that 57 pubs a month are closing permanently. Last week the British Bar & Pub Association claimed that the figure was 27 per week. For argument's sake, let's call it three a day.

So, three businesses per day are closing. Three multiple sources of revenue (Business Rates, VAT, Duty, Income Tax etc) for the Government, gone. Three sources of employment for their local community no longer there. Three more reasons why a beer delivery company could lay off a driver. Three less places needing a window cleaner, a garden furniture company or an awning manufacturer.

It's not just a pub. It's a local business. It's the centre of many a community.

As I predicted many moons ago, first the Government went after smokers, next they'll go after the drinkers.

And drinkers, they've already started.

This week sees the Budget. It is widely predicted that taxes on whisky - kept at a constant level under Brown - will rise under Darling. Pints are expected to close in on a frankly unbelievable £4 a pint. The Tories have said they want a 50p tax on alco-pops*.

Do me a favour, pop into your local this month. It may be the last chance you get.

* - This goes to show how out of touch politicians are with reality. Who really still drinks "alco-pops"? Kids these days would prefer the numbing quality of vodka with the punch of Red Bull, or the soothing appley goodness of a "premium" cider.

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Doing A Delia

I am, admit, confused.

Just watched Delia Smith on BBC2 this evening, and she seemed to be advocating cooking everything from packaged products. Tins of this, jars of that, ready grated parmesan(!) and weirdest of all, frozen mashed potato(!!)

Now I'm not entirely sure what's happened to dear Delia, but wasn't she the woman who just a few short years ago, explained to people how to boil eggs? The woman who single handedly turned Britain onto Balsamic Vinegar? The ever so slightly drunk woman who shouted "Let's be having you" over a microphone at a football game?

What has gone on? Jamie Oliver is now doing recipes from first principles and showing you what vegetables look like when you take them from the ground, and Delia is cooking stuff out of tins. To quote Will Durst, "there's something wrong with the world when Oliver North is doing concert tours and James Brown is in prison"

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10/3/2008 Is Not 3/10/2008

Congratulations to the Americans, and specifically Microsoft for the following delightful "Welcome" to MS Office Online.

You'll note, if you click on the picture to make it bigger, that Microsoft seem to be under the impression that British Winter Time (or GMT as we call it) will be starting very soon. That is, I'm assuming, if you're the sort of stupid country that does its dates the wrong way round.

For the record, British Summer Time will begin when 1am on 30th March becomes 2am.

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Garfield (Minus Garfield)

There is something strangely hilarious about this Garfield cartoon strip once you remove Garfield from it.

As the site says, "Who would have guessed that when you remove Garfield from the Garfield comic strips, the result is an even better comic about schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and the empty desperation of modern life? Friends, meet Jon Arbuckle. Let’s laugh and learn with him on a journey deep into the tortured mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness in a quiet American suburb."

I'm particularly amused by Feb 24th's offering, shown below. And I have no idea why.

Weirdly b3ta are doing something similar for their weekly image challenge. This is my favourite:

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When They Came For Me

In the old allegory of "when they came for the Communists I did not complain as I was not a Communist" etc, the final line is "when they came for me, there was no-one else left". It seems the Government are fully aware of this.

In news today (also leaked yesterday) it seems that the Government are planning to push ID Cards onto airport workers. They claim that this is because of the potential terrorist threat. But it seems an odd place to start as airport workers are already subjected to stringent security checks before they're allowed to go air-side. As is often pointed out, the people responsible for the 7/7 bombings would have had ID Cards if they'd been enforced, and that wouldn't have stopped them in the slightest.

I'm also interested to know how they're planning to force crews from foreign airlines to adopt this policy, but I digress.

The Government have also announced that they will press ahead with the previously mentioned plan to give ID cards to teenagers to "ease" application for bank accounts, student loan applications etc. Now this to me smacks of enforcing the card onto anyone who wants to go to University. Or get a job.

This is yet another attempt to introduce ID Cards by stealth. And if we don't all complain about it now, then by the time it comes for the debate about whether the card should be forced onto the "general public", everyone will have been enforced to have one anyway.

Big brother has been watching you for a very long time.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Prince Harry And The Taliban

As you may have been aware, Prince Harry hasn't been doing shots in London clubs as much as usual recently. No, the third in line to the throne has been shooting terrorists in Afghanistan instead.

I shall point you to the following blog piece about the strange glorification of Prince Harry's brief tour abroad. An excellent read, addressing as it does the lack of any questioning of why "we" are in Afghanistan at all and the almost pro-war stance of the media.

Add to Afghanistan the strange situation in Iraq. We in the UK went - despite the protestations of perhaps a million people - to war with a country because they had the capability of launching weapons of mass destruction at us within 45 minutes. Except they didn't and they couldn't. But they did have quite a lot of oil, handily.

And while we were there, we removed a dictator who was a sponsor of the attacks of 9/11 and the Axis of Evil. Except he wasn't and there is no such axis. But he did have quite a lot of oil, handily.

Oh, and now the Iranians are building a nuclear weapon and may need the might of the "world's greatest democracy"(tm) to teach them a lesson or two. Now the question I have is, do they have oil?

Why do we and America need to keep having wars with people? It's almost like that once the population get used to being at war all the time, they'll put up with stuff they wouldn't do in times of peace; like the removal of civil liberties and the branding of anyone not toeing the party line as a traitor.

War is Peace

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Killing In The Name Of

First jolly old Doctor Harold Shipman murdering his way through the elderly. Then Nurse Beverley Allit and her killing of children.

Now we have a new member of the health services to add to the list.

Colin Norris was today convicted of killing four elderly patients in his, er, "care", at two Leeds hospitals. The police believe that it was their early intervention - at the request of a Doctor - that stopped Norris from becoming as prolific as Shipman.

Which does make you wonder just who wants to get into medicine and why, doesn't it?

Now obviously, there are thousands of medical personnel who are committed to making people well and ensuring their care while in hospital or other places of trust. A trip to the hospital shouldn't be made more scary than it already is because you feel you might get killed by one of the staff. You're actually MUCH more likely to be killed by the various infections than the people who work there.

But it's not just hospitals where you're not safe, apparently. There are now TWO Jersey Children's Home investigations into abuse and probably murder.

Best stay at home, eh? Where the Government know where you are. Not out there on the streets, getting attacked by everyone, taken to a hospital where you'll be murdered while your children get taken away into care to be buggered by perverts. And while you're indoors, just keep watching the news to keep you feeling scared. Keep you feeling safe only if you stay in the house, keep yourself to yourself and not get involved.

Ignorance is Strength.

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Too Many People

Was kind of listening to Sir David Attenborough on BBC's Breakfast News this morning pushing the final episode of "Life In Cold Blood". He was discussing his lengthy career and said something quite startling. Since he has been making wildlife documentaries - some fifty six years - the population of the planet has increased threefold.

Having been surprised by this, I've had a look around, and it seems he is correct: Following on from the Second World War, there was a population of around 2.1 billion - there are now approximately 6.6 billion people on Earth. The UN estimates that world population will peak in 2200 at 10 billion. As Attenborough himself noted this morning, all these extra people place a strain on the Earth.

The drain on the planet's resources are increased to feed them, while previously natural landscapes are reduced in size so that these extra people have somewhere to live. I'm not especially interested in the "Natural World" - although I have previously been charmed by Attenborough's own work (initially with "Life On Earth" in the late 1970's) - so this isn't a WWF/Greenpeace type warning on the diminishing number of species. No, I'm less involved in looking at & after animals than these more vocal activists.

My concern is from a more, shall we say, personal point of view. There are too many people on this damn planet and there's a very simple way to stop the problem getting worse.

Stop having children.

Instead of thinking "Well done us for having a child", maybe start thinking "Do we really need one?". If you can honestly say that, hand on your heart, you *need* to have a mewling ball of vomit and faeces crawling round your house and disturbing your sleep for 18 years, then - and only then - can you start to look at the options.

Perhaps you do sleep too well and too much. Perhaps you do have too much money. Maybe you like the smell of dried milky vomit on all your possessions. It's possible tha you and your partner really do hate your friends so much that you'd like to stop seeing them for about five years, except at times that suit your babysitter. Who really needs to go on a cheap spontaneous holiday abroad ever again?

But do *you* NEED to have children? Could you perhaps adopt a child? Can you give fostering a go and see if you're cut out for it? Would it not be better to just be an Aunt, Uncle or Godparent?

No? Well how about, if you're not working, not contributing to society or just too damn young, what about getting a six year sterilization and see what you think when you can contribute to the kid's up keep? When you aren't a kid yourself? When you realise that there might have been things you wanted to do in your early 20's that didn't involve changing nappies?

A couple of weeks back, there was a report on the BBC about an Argentinian girl who had given birth to her second set of triplets. She's 16 and the mother of seven. Today, I read of a boy in the North of England who has fathered seven kids to seven different girls by the age of 21. Funnily enough, he's not working and isn't living with the latest pregnant bint.

Now. Do you REALLY need a child?

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