Friday, 30 November 2012

What is Freedom?

I think this week is a good time to review the current threats to freedom, as its being attacked from a number of directions.

The big story of the week is the publication of the Leveson report and its insistence on an "independent" body to regulate the press. The famous faces, the great and the good, the victims of press "hacking" (for want of a better description) are happily braying away insisting on full implementation of the report's recommendations. Emotions are running high and are being directed towards press regulation.

Those in favour of Leveson say that the "independent" body is necessary and will be independent, so thats ok. The government won't control it, so what's the problem?

The problem is that it will be MPs (Parliament, AKA The Government) who will have the power to appoint the head of the body and by doing so, they will set the agenda. That is state regulation. Never before have so-called independent bodies with Government appointees actually been truely independent. The body suggested by Leveson whatever it gets named, will be no different.

Even more importantly for internet users is the fact that Government never misses an opportunity to widen the remit of legislation, so its entirely plausible that powers to regulate social media would be incorporated into the powers of any body created, as well as visual media such as television. After all the elite always conflate social media with publishing and from publishing its not a big jump to media; any media, like radio and TV.

Would you like the freedom to buy alcohol at whatever price you and your local stockist agree on? Well, this is another freedom under threat, with the announcement this week of minimum alcohol pricing. Yet another freedom under threat: the freedom for companies to set the price at which they sell their goods and the freedom of customers to choose at what price they buy goods.

The common thread with those is the suggestion that entire groups of people (drinkers and journalists) should be subject to increased Government legislation and reduced freedom because of the acts of a infinitesimally small proportion of those groups (News of the World Journalists and Binge Drinkers). But of course lets stir up the emotion and demonise them all to push through some overbearing legislation.

Would you like the freedom to buy energy at as cheap a price as you can? The Government have plans to stop that, by adding yet more tarriffs to our energy bills to subsidise supposed green energy projects.

Would you like the freedom to continue to live your life unhindered whatever political party you support? It seems in Rotherham that's not the case. As in Marxist countries, you need to support THE party in order to live an unhindered life. To support any other condemns you to pariah status. And you just know that behind closed doors, many in government think the same way.

We've already lost countless freedoms, but these assaults, all in the space of a week show the quickening pace of which erosion of freedom is happening.

The chipping away of freedom has now changed into a flood. Its done in plain sight thanks to previous unhindered acts: the freedom to smoke indoors in public denied, the freedom to freely associate denied, the freedom to have a jury trial denied,  denied, denied, denied, the freedoms fall as so many dominoes.

The thread underpinning them all is Lazy Legislation. Lets regulate the whole press because its too difficult to write legislation to attack the small proportion of miscreants. The same for alcohol: lets artificially inflate the price and affect all drinkers, rather than legislate to attack the binge drinkers and drunken trouble-makers. We already have laws to deal with them on an individual basis, but I guess it must be too difficult or too expensive to do that, or the government isn't collectively intelligent enough to use existing laws, or draft targeted new ones, so they go for ill-conceived blanket legislation.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

The Rotherham Council UKIP Fostering Fiasco.

Any sane person would deride the decision of Rotherham council to remove the children from the UKIP supporting couple. My personal opinion is, whether the children were Eastern European, blue, black, or any other non-British White person, foster care by an experienced couple is a magnitude far better than being taken back into council care.

Even if the couple supported UKIP's policy to control immigration into the country, that doesn't make them racist.

Even if the children were of Eastern European origin - exactly the group of people UKIP would like to control the immigration of, UKIP's policy is to abide by all current open immigration laws, whilst stating its a loony policy and it needs changing. That's not a racist policy, just a policy that would allow more control over our own labour market.

However, there is one aspect of this story that hasn't been picked up by the media: Just how did Rotherham Council Find Out the Foster Parents Were UKIP Members?

I mean, were they tipped off? Did they go snoop on the couple's mail and see the membership info? Did the couple themselves volunteer the information?

I don't think the couple would give out the information as its not something you'd consider relevant. Nor would anyone report the couple for being UKIP members for the same reason. So what means did the council use to obtain the information on which to base their decision? Are we looking at another abuse of anti-terror laws?

UPDATE:

Reports state it was an anonymous tip-off, but who would feel the need to report such a fact? Who, of their neighbours would assume UKIP membership is just cause to have the children removed? And especially why would the council agree with that opinion and take the children away?

Personally, I don't buy it. We now have two excuses from the council: A judge said they needed to consider the children's ethnic needs and now it was a tip off that led to the removal.

I'm reminded that under cross-examination, people caught out often change their stories.

UPDATE 2:

Trawling the internet it seems Joyce Thacker is linked to other stories. In Rotherham and also Bradford where she worked before she moved to Rotherham. Interesting stuff and seems to show her calibre and competence.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Saville: An Agenda Being Pushed?

I said in my earlier post that I believed that the net result of the Saville debacle would be sweet fanny adams.

Quite a while later and with the ability to review the life of the media frenzy and the subsequent reaction, I'm not so sure the result will be nothing.

I'm more and more forming the opinion as I noted posting comments on Anna's blog that the result will be more legislation. What form that legislation will take is hard to say at the moment except it will possibly involve state control of children, as underage sex or the abuse of power by those charged with looking after children seems to be the main focus of the agenda at the moment. The side issue (which is pushed by the media as the main issue) is that of the BBC itself, with people taking the opportunity as always to bash the corporation.

Of course such an emotive subject as underage sexual assault is ideal to pass legislation that wouldn't normally be passed, as to speak out against it would be to ally oneself with perverts..

Emotive subjects like this are generally used to push through legislation that severely erodes freedoms that were gained centuries ago. Habeus corpus, double jeopardy, jury trials.... a substantial amount of law that protects the citizen from the state has been taken away and modified or just plain cast aside.

I'm more convinced than ever that the Saville affair and the subsequent inquiries will eventually end up with some form of legislation that won't be to the benefit of the common man.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

The Bank Bailout: How Have we Benefitted?

Its been a few years now since the credit crunch and Gordon Brown was forced by his mates to hand over large wads of cash to stave off a huge recession.

But the thing is, we still had the recession, the prophecies of doom and gloom the banks used to leverage billions out of the government have still come to pass, so all in all, what did we the taxpayer gain?

Would letting the early failing banks go to the wall signalled to them a wake up call to be more prudent?

All I know is I'm suffering economically, while the rich get richer and not by the slimmest of margins can I see  any benefit coming out of the bank bailout.

Is there anyone out there that can explain how I'm better off, or how worse off I'd be if we didn't pump billions into the bankrupt banks?

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Jimmy Saville: Smokescreen?

Right, I'm amazed and to some extent pissed off at the amount of attention given to the Jimmy Saville sex offences row.

What the hell is going on? I really can't fathom it all. Its blown too far out of proportion to be created naturally, so there is an agenda at work here. Someone is stoking the fire for a reason, especially when some of the reports smack of jumping on the bandwagon, with women sobbing, reporting that "he touched me on my shoulder" or "he touched my leg". If there were serious offences like rape, why were they not reported and prosecuted at the time? Especially given the sheer number of complaints now.

If it was sexual harassment, why are the police investigating them?

Who has the motive to have a pop at the BBC?

Is there something going on that should be in the news, but isn't because of all the noise generated by Saville?

Why now, if sex offences perpetrated by Jimmy Saville and others at the BBC was such a widespread and well-known issue at the time, why bring it all up now?

Is the eagerness to be included in the mass of victims something to do with a possible payout from the criminal injuries compensation scheme?

Is there a morass of corruption linking the Government, BBC and the Police in some way? (Hang on, I think I know the answer to that one already).

The whole affair begs so many questions. If its such a huge problem how come it didn't hit the mainstream sooner. Why in fact, didn't it appear in the online rumour mill sooner?

One thing is for sure: there will be an enquiry lead by one of the self-same political elite implicated in all of this and they will come to the usual conclusions and words will be written saying that lessons need to be learned and nothing will ever actually be done.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Which One's the Blind Guy?

A 61-year-old blind man, carrying a white stick (as you do when you're blind and have to feel your way around), was tasered by a Police officer, after reports of a man carrying a samurai sword.

The simple question is: shouldn't the Police Officer also be carrying a white stick because its pretty obvious there's an issue with his eyesight?

I mean, he had time and (one would hope for a Policeman) the ability to exercise due diligence in making sure the "sword" was indeed a sword and not for instance, a blind man's white stick. If necessary employing superior technological means in order to aid his identification of the "weapon", such as a torch. Or glasses.

But no, the calibre of Police thug we employ these days charges in with size nines, shouts a lot and then deploys weapons in order to bully the "suspect" into compliance. Witness the number of quite innocuous drunks I've seen wrestled aggressively to the floor for no particular reason other than they're to drunk to put up much of a fight.

It rather makes me think that in order to be a successful applicant for the Police, one has to have a raft of previous psychological issues that can be deployed against the population at a moments notice.

IT HAS TO STOP!

I'm sure we're all confident that this new Police Commissioner scheme will address issues like this aren't we?

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Power of the Smartphone

After resisting the temptation and being happy with my old  Java smartphone, a bit of extra money meant I could upgrade to an Android phone.

I've just got hold of a Galaxy SII and its frightening to see the amount of power there is in a mobile phone these days.

Its only a week into the relationship, but already its beginning to scare me.  Its like uncorking an all-powerful Genie that I think exists to serve me, but instead serves another master.


I mean, I can understand the advantage of having certain applications on your phone, like maps maybe, social media or even GPS.


The problem comes when they're all combined. I don't think for a second that the people on Facebook that automatically got added to my contacts really understood their phone numbers would be sent directly to someone they don't know very well's contact list.

I can now for instance, if  I so wish phone up my cousin's ex-wife, or a friend of a friend without them ever handing me their phone number. The information is sucked out of Facebook into my contacts as a default setting without any prompting from me. There they plonked themselves, complete with profile pictures, should I wish to know the face of the person I'm about to stalk.

Supermarkets are falling over themselves to get me to put their app on my phone. My local Tesco now has free Wi-Fi, so I can receive the full on-line smart-phone experience and be guided to offers whilst in-store.

The Tesco app handily shows the barcode of my clubcard, but I imagine waving a mobile phone under the barcode scanners now fitted to their petrol pumps may get me in a bit of trouble with the tannoy lady behind the counter.

I now have a barcode scanner that handily nips off and trawls the internet and tells me what I'm holding in my hand, I've a QR scanner so I can now join in and scan those square blobs that appear on everything from magazines to white vans these days. Although trying to scan a QR code on the side of a moving van must be a tad difficult.

The latest app is Google Goggles, which is the freakiest app going. Take a picture of something, anything, and it will identify it for you if it can. No scrolling through pages in a book, or even web pages in a browser. Google Goggles takes all of that away from you and you're instantly presented with results. Handy for students who can't recognise that thing pictured in a textbook: no research needed, just Goggle it and up pops a raft of information about it.

The world of the smartphone is one where life is fast-paced, where companies bombard you with offers to consume their wares, where reality isn't enough; it needs to be Augmented, where academic research isn't needed: there's an app for that.

I'm not altogether easy about the merging of technologies, to deliver in my palm something that hands me so much, yet also takes so much away. I can understand the hobbyist applications, the star charts and the like, but its the slick, corporate apps that try and seduce me into using them, all the time gathering data about me in order to facilitate even more consumption that put me on edge.

This is already turning into a love-hate relationship...

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Olympics Opening Ceremony

When we won the Olympics, I did say that it would be a disaster.

Well, it wasn't quite the disaster I predicted, but then it wasn't the spectacle it could have been either.

There were glimmers of brilliance, like the change from a pastoral scene, to celebrating Britain's role in creating the modern industrial age, and the forging of the Olympic rings in the air (although it would have made more sense had they lifted from the "forges" into the air, but for me that was the high point of the evening.

Less impressive was the deadening hand of political correctness throughout the whole affair. Did we really have that many coloured Victorians? Couldn't Britain's broadening ethnicity over the ages be truely represented and celebrated?

I'm not sure what there is to celebrate about the NHS, after all its not unique and not really spectacular enough to be celebrated on a global stage. Not sure either why Great Ormond Street Hospital  was singled out for a mention.

What completely ruined the whole thing though was the BBC's coverage, which insisted in concentrating on close camera work enforcing the diversity meme, as well as the usual creepy PC obsession with children.

The close shots failed to reveal the brilliance of the NHS and GOSH logos made out of carefully placed illuminated hospital beds, failed to widen the shot to include the yellow submarines following a group of people dressed in Sargent Peppers, failed to show other elements of the parade around the outside of the stadium depicting Britain through the ages, which tied the narrative together.

All the while we had a bland commentary, just about raising itself above the crassness we had to put up with during the Queen's Thames pageant. However, there was one interesting point in that viewers watching 3D content on the BBC HD channel were treated to a higher quality and better informed commentary. Why was that I wonder?

Close but no cigar is the rating I'd give the opening ceremony. Not quite the epic mess that the millennium dome was, but I suspect Danny Boyle had to fight hard to not let his vision get diluted too much.

Finally the disappointment of the evening was watching the empty shell that is now Muhammed Ali paraded in front of the world. I remember him in his heyday and its really a shock to see him like that.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Morally Wrong?

So treasury minister David Gauke thinks its morally wrong to pay tradesmen in cash does he?

Well, it was morally wrong for politicians to defraud the taxpayer on a wholesale basis over expenses, did we hear him speak out over such illegal practices? Well, I stand to be corrected, but a quick Google search says no.

So he went along with the patently illegal staus quo, didn't speak up against it and now he's trying to lecture the rest of us on morality? Time he took a running jump.

Currently there is nothing illegal or immoral about paying for services in cash, as as long as that stands then I won't feel the least bit of shame. What the person I'm paying does with that money is not my concern.

While we're on the subject, Isn't it morally wrong that the government wastes vast sums of taxpayer's money?
Isn't it morally wrong they don't make the most of the money they extort from us?

Isn't MPs voting on policies in favour of companies they then become board members of on retirement morally wrong?

Isn't MPs and Lords asking cash for questions morally wrong?

Hasn't prematurely pulling out of wars we started in Iraq and now Afghanistan leaving the population in a world of shit morally wrong?

When the government are whiter than white, get their shit together and act with the utmost propriety, then they can lecture us about what's moral or not. Until then the whole lot of them can fuck right off.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Close to Incandescence

In this post I'll swear a lot, be warned....

Okay: The media have been reporting (with some glee it seems) on the comments made by David Cameron about celebrities avoiding tax. The case of comedian Jimmy Carr has been all over the radio all day.

How and why the fuck has David Cameron made comments about a person's individual tax affairs? And when the fuck has legally minimising one's tax allowance been "morally wrong"? It is not a "scam", it is not illegal. If tax law allows it, then it is within the remit of anyone to benefit from that ruling once it has been found. Call it a loophole if you like, but its still legal and above board.

How the fuck any politician can claim the moral high ground after the expenses scandal and who continues to live permanently ensconced in a subsidised envelope of parasitical privilege defeats me.

It smacks of total and absolute greed. They want ALL our money; no exceptions, no minimising your tax bill, that's morally reprehensible in their eyes because given the chance they'd take all your wage money and give you fuck all back.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Curious Spanish Euro "Victory": Sounds More Like Defeat to Me.

According the the BBC the Spanish Prime minister has hailed the agreement to bail out Spanish banks as a "victory".

For who exactly? The bankers who will get to keep on paying themselves huge bonuses? The politicians who agreed to the package who will eventually end up in the boardrooms of those selfsame banks?

Since when has being rescued from bankruptcy a good thing?

This statement, alongside the hundreds of other delusional ones since the crash of 2007/8 shows how completely fucked up the political elite is in Europe.

Right now, David Cameron should be saying if the Eurozone can't get its act together soon, we will cast ourself adrift and let the whole sorry ship sink. Its time for him and the Odious Osborne to stop bitching and whining about how the Eurozone is affecting us and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!


Thats what true leadership is all about. Not hanging onto the coat-tails of a political elite bankrupt of ideas and  doggedly hanging onto a failing dogma.

Right now, I don't fancy the Conservatives chances of re-election at all. I just hope and prey that the voters remember its Labour that put us here in the first place. I doubt it though, all they'll remember is the easy benefit money on offer and hang the consequences. Being an adult and choosing the difficult path rather than the easy money is a no-brainer for our no-brain population.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Reflection on 60 Years of Our Queen.

The Golden Jubilee celebrations currently under way allow some reflection upon the reign of Elizabeth the Second.

I've often said of politicians that you should judge them by their deeds and not their words and the same goes for the monarchy.

The Queen appears to brand herself a staunch upholder of the British constitution, upholding history and all the pomp and ceremony that we British and a fair few foreign tourists revel in.

However, despite the fa├žade, over her reign she has presided over the wholesale destruction of our democratic constitution. To the point now that she is a subject of the European Union and has to defer to their wishes in matters of state.

Not only that, she has sat idly by while the house of lords, the last bastion of sense in Parliament, has been weakened and reshaped by government for their own ends.

In effect she has sat idly by while our sovereignty and democracy have virtually been abolished.

She may say that its down to the wishes of the people, because elected governments are elected by the people and enact the policies the people voted for. But in an age where governments are elected by a minority of the people, where a huge majority refuse to vote for the smug, self-serving  slimy toads that infest political parties, where effective democracy has ceased to exist, when huge long-reaching changes to the constitution are enacted without referenda, it's saddening that her madge has consistently stayed quiet.

Of course the role of monarchy changed to that of token figurehead changed during the first world war, when the Windsors came into being to distance themselves from the inter-woven, interbred bloodline of European monarchies. Unfortunately the name-change seemed to work: they became "our" monarchy, not linked with the Kaiser, whom we were at war with, nor linked to the Russian royal family and their untimely end during the bloody revolution.

Nope, instead our royal family became tokens, positive discrimination for the posh and privileged, a tourist attraction wheeled out in  times of crisis to serve as a distraction to the slumbering masses.

Well sorry, I don't identify with the pomp, ceremony and the high constitution that in essence is "Brand Windsor". I see a monarch that has had very little positive effect on this country, allowing her cabal of cohorts to destroy the lives of those they chose to bring into the family, a monarch that has sat and watched idly as her power has been diminished by various governments in the thrall of large corporations, I see her turn a blind eye as checks and balances in government are destroyed, as the rights of the common man in the law courts are eroded in her name.

I don't see any reason to celebrate her 60th year as monarch, as there isn't much of anything to celebrate at all.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

This Evening's Question Time Programme.

I'm currently watching BBC's Question Time programme. The abiding theme is do we have austerity or growth and how do we achieve either?

The real issue is the problem is much greater than those essential questions. The big question is one of control: who, once the course is plotted or the plan made, has the power to enact those plans and steer that course?

The answer is, in the UK, no-one has the power to do much of anything about the problems that are killing our country. You'd think our sovereign government in Parliament would have the power to solve the issues. But the problem is they don't: so much power has been given away to supra-national organisations that Parliament has all the power of a Town Council.

In order to control unemployment, we need to have control of immigration, in order to limit the influx of people from outside the country. That way we can have some idea of how large the population will be and plan accordingly. Those plans fall apart when we have uncontrolled immigration adding a huge influx of people  into the job market.

But of course we don't have control of immigration, the EU does. We can't stop immigration from other EU countries, so its impossible to prepare and plan for the future.

You'd think our sovereign government would have control over fiscal measures, but no, the EU is increasingly making grabs for power in this area too. During the worst economic period of the last century, the EU Commission actually demanded increased contributions from member states. No state can contest these increased demands and so we have to pay up despite being on our uppers.

Now we have the spectre of increased fiscal control from the EU, with the EU Commission moving towards having the power to control the budgets of member states.

There are other areas of competence that have been surrendered to outside control, making it virtually impossible to control what happens within our borders.

Without our hands on the levers to control huge swathes of our country's legislation means we are truely out of control.

Recovery is virtually impossible until we can control our own destiny. Relying on others (i.e. the Eurozone) to drag themselves up as well is not a proactive strategy. You don't win a 3-legged race by tying yourself to a corpse.

There is an air of self-delusion about all of this.

The EU political elite is deluding itself that it is benefiting the EU member states with its governance.

The UK political elite is deluding itself that it is still in power and can do anything about our current problems.

We are deluding ourselves that we can trust the other two groups to sort it all out for us.

Its about time we started making our own decisions to benefit ourselves, our children and our country.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

A U-Turn on a U-Turn: The Full Circuitous Cycle of MOD waste

The Government has U-Turned on a previous U-Turn decision to pull out of buying the STOVL Version of the F-35 JSF, with millions of taxpayer's pounds being thrown away for no gain.

They had previously decided to drop the STOVL version and go for the Cat- & Trap equipped version, alongside modifying the new QE Class carriers to carry Catapults and arrestor gear.

I've blogged about the operational difficulties of having two dissimilar-equipped carriers, but this decision is wrong, mainly because it rules out the maximum interoperability with other navies. Sure, the F-35 can work off our carriers and any Navy equipped with VSTOL or STOVL aircraft can also work off our carriers, but more capable catapult aircraft such as the F-18 will be unable to.

Being locked into the VSTOL/STOVL operational concept means that all our naval air assets have to comform to the platform type. Including, as I've said before the Airborne Early Warning assets on board the carriers. Cue that massively over-complex and expensive to buy and maintain V-22 based AEW platform (love the program name for the radar/sensor package of TOSS) currently being mooted. We could go for a Merlin-based AEW platform, but the flaws with the airframes of boih these aircraft are well known.

The other fly in the AEW ointment is the limited operational envelope of rotary aircraft, especially the lack of cabin pressurisation and limited ceiling. An AEW asset really needs altitude to see further over the horizon and see threats further away.

It seems that we're taking the worst of all options and hobbling our future Naval Air assets for decades to come, when cheaper and more capable platforms could be had instead.

All that needed to happen was for our government to have a bit of gumption, some foresight and the tenacity to stick with a plan that would have delivered the possibility to operate world-class naval air assets.

Instead I assume the RAF, feeling "well jel" got the rug pulled from under them.

So much for our defence departments working together for the security of the nation. Instead we get departmental back-biting and infighting, attempting to preserve old rivalries.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Crazy Idea that Dinosaurs Produced Global Warming

You know people are clutching at straws to push the warmist meme when something like this appears in the news.

Some guys associated with a University (note the lack of any academic qualification noted in the article) decided so see how much methane dinosaurs (giant lizards) produced by scaling up the output from cows (big mammals). Actually I'm being a bit harsh: the guy is called Dr Wilkinson, but there's no mention of what his doctorate is in. Spurious claims at a guess.

I'd like to unscientifically point out that there are significant differences between the two, like for instance they're completely different species, with different metabolic rates and digestive tracts. So really you can't compare the two pound for pound.

Again we have some unscientific conjecture given a patina of science, by associating it with an academic body and some bloke with an unspecified doctorate trying desperately to prove that a "greenhouse" gas is the cause of global warming.

At least this time they're blaming it on methane and not CO2 I suppose.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Politics...

I've decided that I feel so apathetic towards politics because the whole thing is so fucking warped and corrupt.

So, fuck 'em. Fuck all politicians, local and national. Fuck their staff, the lobbyists and all the self-interest groups that influence government, excluding those that really matter on policy: us, the people.

That BBC F1 Coverage Again....

Well, ignoring the rights and wrongs of actually holding the Bahrain Grand Prix in the first place, I'd just like to congratulate the BBC on royally buggering up coverage of yet another race.

Not only are the highlights of the race not actual highlights, instead its just an edited mish-mash of clips, with none of the real action covered. Randomly editing huge chunks of the race with no regard to the action happening during it are not "edited highlights". End of. Doing things as they are currently is total crap.

The next gripe is the F1 forum, which for the past couple of seasons has been the most insightful and delightful to watch parts of BBCs F1 coverage. From embarrassed presenters being offered alcoholic drinks live on air, to them being thrown in Red Bull's swimming pool, its great. However, on "highlights" weekends, the BBC seems locked out of running the forum directly after the race has been run. Instead we get the forum in (usually) the dead of night, when all the pits are packed up and being shipped out and the teams are eating their supper. The Bahrain GP was no exception, but meeting up with ex-BBC-now-Sky presenter Martin Brundle and his sarcastic comments re the late timing of the forum just highlight the poor quality of the BBC coverage.

As it is, for the non-live races, the BBC seriously need to raise their game.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Meh...

Sorry for the lack of posting recently, I'm in a bit of a "Meh" mood at the moment. Things that interested me or stirred my passions I no longer care much about at the moment.

Things may change, possibly.

Meh, I dunno....

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Formula 1 Fans Comprehensively Shit on By the BBC.

As a fan of formula 1, I was concerned by the BBC selling off half its coverage to Sky. However, after the excellent coverage last season, I reserved judgement.

But today has really shown how much the BBC management have cut what was one of their flagship sporting events. All I can say is the coverage is now shit.

All I can say is the BBC had better reap some bloody good rewards for the move to the regions. I'd hate to think that the recent reduction in coverage and programming quality alongside the loss of some famous staff members (not only in F1 but elsewhere) is at the expense of some dogmatic socio-political decision  to try and create jobs in the regions.

UPDATE:

Seems that the BBC may be going anti-car. Looks like Top Gear has had a budget haircut too, seeing as the current series has already lapsed into episodes reviewing the last series, after only a handful of new episodes.

If I wanted to watch Top Gear repeats BBC, I'd go and watch Dave.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Whats Happening With the Conservative Party

Hmm, within hours of each other, there have been a number of resignations from the Conservative party, along with some defections to UKIP.

Are the rank-and-file seeing the true nature of the faux euro-scepticism, hypocrisy and rank opportunism within their party policies? I do hope so.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

MOD & Government STart to See Sense On New Carriers?

This report by the BBC says that the MOD and government is reviewing the type of aircraft used to equip the new aircraft carriers under construction.

Already there are plans to modify one carrier to operate cat & trap aircraft to support French co-operation, but if one carrier is being fitted out for cat & trap, then why not the other? It makes sense as they can be operated in rotation, without impacting their operating status.

The report says that the government will possibly dump the STOVL version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and move to the cat & trap version instead, which makes sense as the STOVL version is more expensive  and is taking an age to develop.

What's not being said of course is that by moving to Catapult-equipped carriers (ostensibly to support French Naval Rafale Fighters), it also opens up the possibility of ditching the F-35 altogether and equipping the Navy with the Rafale as well, thus sharing not only the carriers but the air platform with the French. Of course we could go our own sweet way at more expense and develop a naval variant of the Typhoon, thus keeping the UK military aircraft industry going. But can we justify the expense?

Establishing a de-facto European standard naval air platform could in all seriousness be a key driver behind all of the expensive changes being made to our carriers. I say expensive, but certainly not as expensive as having to develop aircraft that can fly off two different types of carrier.

Along with carrier and aircraft interoperability, the E2 Hawkeye early warning aircraft is being considered to replace the ageing Sea King early warning helicopter. Both the US and the French use this aircraft, adding yet another common platform. Plus it only has cat & trap capability, so unless both carriers are modified, only one carrier would have long range early warning capability, an enormous operational flaw. Well, fingers crossed they modify the carriers to suit the aircraft, as reports suggest the early warning version of the expensive and complex V-22 Osprey is also being considered, which would be able to operate off both carriers if only one is modded for C&T, but god knows how long we'd have to wait before it entered service, nor the final cost.

Its relevant to note that the Rafale and the E2 Hawkeye are already in service, neatly sidestepping the issues surrounding the F-35. After all, even America is having doubts about it, due to ever-lengthening development time, increased costs, design flaws in prototypes and a host of other issues.

Common sense says ditch the expensive, over-complex and flawed F-35, modify both carriers for cat & trap, allowing both to enjoy the same levels of operational capability, source common aircraft off the shelf, such as Rafale, F/A18 Superhornet and the E2 Hawkeye.

If the MOD decides on having only one C&T carrier thus being forced to continue with with the F-35 and then go on to procure the V-22 AEW variant, expect to be digging very deep into those taxpayer pockets, all because the MOD couldn't see the idiocy in a policy of operating two carriers with totally different operational  capabilities.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Is this as close to a Climate Wobble the BBC Will get?

The BBC have this article, considering Solar Data and its links to terrestrial climate. 

Now considering that the BBC is firmly in the warmist camp, the fact that it mentions Solar Climate effects at all is surprising, because as we all know, their line is that current and future climate changes are exclusively down to nasty old humans.

So for the BBC to give any time to the Solar driven climate theory (albeit with a healthy dose of warmist alamism) is akin to the BBC sitting on the fence (scientifically speaking).

Is the warmist case crumbling, or is this just an aberration to cover the bases? I just wonder if this is a move to be able to say in the coming years if solar driven climate trumps man-made global warming that they were there at the start. Or it may just be a nice try at showing they're unbiased.

Well, no. Despite the tone of the majority of the article, the dig a The Register for promoting Solar Driven Climate science and the last few paragraphs actually show the BBC is just as vehemently behind the corporate-driven warmist agenda as ever.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Head of Care Quality Commission Resigns

Cynthia Bower, head of the CQC has resigned. She says its time to move on (no doubt she's found a more lucrative public sector non-job somewhere else)

Not before time, as all the organisation has been doing since it's inception has been re-inventing the wheel. Or if you'd like another analogy, a spinning wheel with no traction.

Replacing already working, workable and good practices with dogmatic, unworkable regimes isn't the way to improve care, especially as it entails taking one's eye off the ball. That particular ball being actually improving and regulating the standard of care in the country.

With a number of high profile failures over its life, it was about time someone at the top went. Unfortunately I don't imagine for one second that things will improve, given the types of people employed in the higher echelons of the CQC.

Steeped in the public service culture they are about as out of touch with reality as you can possibly be. My disdain for such people stems from my dealings with them in local government, social services and other public agencies. A professional committee member is a professional committee member, even if their roots were more practical.

Heaping more and more paperwork on healthcare professionals isn't the way to improve care: all it does is take hardworking people away from the job they should be providing, it adds costs to healthcare without benefits and because paperwork is so easily managed to provide a rosy picture even in the worst run homes, it doesn't prevent poor care standards.

Its about time the CQC got it's act together and started to improve the quality and depth of it's inspections and started routing out the bad establishments that I know for a fact exist and continue to run despite (and probably because of) the CQC and its ineffective executives.

UPDATE:

The Ranting Penguin has an idea where Cynthia Bower may crop up next.

How Long Before Greece's Military Act?

Greece's military have prior form for taking control of the government in the past.

All it would take would be the will of the people to be strong enough to ask the military to act on their behalf and wrest political control away from the corrupt government and the EU-imposed puppet Papademos.

Especially if there is any truth in the rumours of the terms of the latest "bailout" (read buttfucking) of the Greek nation. Especially as it appears more than just a bailout. Its a wholesale asset strip of the country and a real and malevolent attempt to rub the noses of the Greek people into the dirt.

Just when will the Greek people say enough is enough and demand military intervention in order to protect their national assets and put those responsible for the rape of their country and the death of their democracy on trial?

Or have Greece's military been seduced by the junkets, hookers and easy money available on EU expenses like all the rest of the elite?

Sunday, 19 February 2012

More on Tidal Power

Interestingly the BBC today have an article about tidal power.

Its interesting for quoting Tim Yeo, chairman of the Energy and Climate Change Committee sounding off about how the UK is in the lead globally on tidal power and how we invest in it in order not to lose the lead.

However, also quoted in the BBCs report is the committee's report titled The Future of Marine Renewables in the UK only concentrates on the sort tidal power that uses propellers inserted into the tidal stream to generate electricity.

For some unfathomable reason, the report body-swerves around tidal barrages, which is curious. Except when you take into consideration the ecological impact. I'm sure a barrage looks hideous to an ecologist and the fact that the tides in the estuary or harbour are disrupted, which will put the twitchers up in arms. But the submerged propellers aren't free from ecological impact either: what about the fish swimming through the devices, especially prized and rare species? What about mammals such as seals and dolphins? How will they fare when the devices are installed in their territory?

The omission of barrages is curious because tidal barrages are more efficient and although initially expensive to engineer, are most likely cheaper to maintain. They are more efficient because all of the water is harnessed, all of the tidal stream is used to create energy. The propeller devices have the tidal stream spilling past them, and they only use a tiny fraction of that tidal energy. Of course the propellers, being submerged are harder to maintain. In fact they have to include expensive raising mechanisms to haul them out of the water for maintenance. Compare that with a nice, dry turbine hall housed within a concrete barrage.

So, we know they are inefficient so guess what? Yep, they'll be hideously expensive (the article states 5 times more expensive than onshore wind). Hideously expensive translates as "unprofitable without subsidies", which in essence is what the Committee's report is saying: the taxpayer should stump up billions in subsidies to keep us at the forefront of an inefficient technology that no-one can afford and that those less ecologically inclined will ignore in favour of more efficient barrages.

Makes you wonder with all these subsidies for all of these unprofitable technologies; the companies involved must have bloody good lobbyists....

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Minimum Price for Alcohol Isn't Necessary.

First, let me state some facts: I have never smoked, ever. I also rarely drink.

So, you'd think it was strange if I was against the anti-smoking laws and against minimum pricing on alcohol.

With the smoking laws, I think its too draconian. It would have been far better if public establishments were allowed to make up their own policies on smoking. Once the policy is made, its up to employees as to whether they work in a smoking or non-smoking environment. The phrase is informed choice. A normal adult should assess the risks in any activity they partake in and then decide themselves if they do it or not.

The same goes for minimum alcohol pricing. The problem is binge drinking. However, I don't see much of it on Havant high street, nor do I personally binge drink. So why should I, or any of the people in Havant be punished for a problem they aren't causing?

The answer is nanny knows best: we're all being treated like kids, because there's a section of the population that refuses to grow up. You see it in schools and even in families: collective punishment. If one of you can't behave, all of you get to suffer. 

However, we already have a law covering alcohol abuse. Anyone in public who is drunk and incapable should be liable to a being drunk and disorderly. So why aren't people that binge drink and cause trouble (the supposed reason for bringing in a minimum price) charged with that existing law? Why do we have to have yet another law that punishes everyone instead of specifically targeting the law breakers and trouble makers?

Now I have heard that alcohol pricing might fall foul of EU anti-competition laws, effectively installing a tariff on alcohol that restricts it's sale and is therefore restricts free trade. It would be an interesting court case.


Ed Milliband: Dead Man Walking.

Well, its just a matter of time before Ed Milliband is ousted by Ed Balls, as EdB has started his bid for leadership in earnest.

However, I'm not altogether sure that his his entourage have much of a plan. Agreeing with everyone about everything isn't a way to win hearts and minds. It just makes him sound like a grade A jerk.

And we haven't forgotten Ed Balls was part of the government that got us in this mess in the first place.

He didn't speak up against Labour's excessive borrowing then did he? He didn't agree with Tory "cuts" then did he?

But I'm sure enough Labour activists will be cajoled to vote him in as leader, especially since everyone in Labour have finally noticed EdM's total lack of charisma. 

Ed Balls is the least qualified person to get us out of this mess, given his wholehearted support for everything Labour did even as it drove us off the rails.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

This is a "Very Good Day for Northern Ireland"??

A £580 million investment in Northern Ireland is supposed to "potentially" sustain 3,000 jobs.

That's over £193,000 per job, an obscene amount in anyone's eyes. Now, either the N.I. assembly is completely incompetent, or the jobs don't actually cost that much.

I just wonder how much of that £580 million is going on consultations, surveys, executive salaries and all the other associated perks for the privileged that soak up public funds and finance the governmental gravy train...

Monday, 13 February 2012

Being Bold With Renewables.

Its now dawning on an increasing number of people that the renewable energy sources of choice aren't going to hack it in the future.

Wind power only produces its full capacity for a fraction of its availability. Usually, when its very cold outside, we're experiencing a high pressure system with low winds. We very rarely have Arctic-style blizzards, where it's extremely cold and windy. Most snowfall and frost for instance is coupled with low winds.

Solar experiences similar issues: cold weather happens in winter (obviously), but in winter we have short days and long nights, so energy production is curtailed. Happily for solar, we sometimes experience cold weather with clear conditions, which at least helps with energy production. Sadly in winter the sun is low in the sky and is extremely weak.

Wave power could be worthwhile, if it could be harnessed in a safe manner. Unfortunately we often experience huge storms which threaten wave power installations.

So, what do we do?

We look at a naturally occurring naturally cyclic phenomenon: the tides. The Severn barrage has been on and off for years, generally opposed by the bird-loving naturalists.
Well I'm sorry, there isn't anything there that can't fly off and find another feeding ground elsewhere along the UK coast. Its time the strategic national interest was put before a bunch of birds.
Lets start thinking of us for a change and get something in place that will generate regular zero-emission energy. The major upside of tidal energy production is its predictable, so that conventional fossil fuelled power stations know when to be online to take up the slack when the tide has gone out.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Interesting New Predictions for Global Cooling at WUWT.

I've ranted on this blog and elsewhere for years that the current CO2-driven global climate models were wrong. I've always maintained that we are at the mercy of our closest star, that ball of burning gas at the heart of our solar system, the Sun.

I'll tell you for why; its because I know the awesome power of the Sun. I'm a lapsed Ham Radio operator and one of the crucial things in obtaining reliable global contacts using short wave radio (in the days before satellites) was to be up to date with Solar Activity and where on the solar cycle we were. The sun you see is so powerful, even 93 million miles away, that it energises our upper atmosphere in such a way that you can bounce radio waves off it, just as you can bounce radio waves off a solid satellite dish. Imagine: a layer of gas and particles so energetic they have a similar property to a sheet of metal... that's pretty energetic! Mind you, that's just the invisible effects. All you really have to do is sit out in the sun on a sunny day, or get into a car left out in the sun to understand there's a fair bit of energy being pumped into that small space from its origin, so many million miles away.

So its a no-brainer for this Johnny average to assume that there is so much energy hitting the Earth from the Sun, that changes in the Sun's energy output would far and away swamp any man-made effects, such as the increase in CO2.

This report by David Archibald at Watts Up With That on the Norwegian paper is an interesting one, especially for it's predictive and apparently quantative nature. If global temperatures do change as predicted by 0.21C per year of solar cycle, it would (a) be immediately provable and (b) historically provable by previous solar observations. It will be interesting to see how this theory fares in it's predictions.

The sceptic in me says that temperatures are hardly likely to fall in such a steep way, due to the heatpump effects of the oceans, but along with this report by Dr Nicola Scaffetta, the Solar-activity-based models seem to be making a better job of reporting global temperatures than the CO2-driven models.

As an aside, and sort of linked to this thread, are the ongoing studies to see if particles from the Sun have an effect on cloud formation. CERN's cloud experiment is one such example. Water vapour is the most prolific "greenhouse gas" we have and even moderate effects on its production will overwhelm the CO2 models.

Only time will tell of course, but all the while we are pumping billions into what may be one of the largest global white elephants in history.

Here's a parting though: Instead of pumping billions into the reduction of CO2 at source, why can't we pump billions into the reduction in the need for energy at the point of use? If for instance we put those billions to use insulating existing and future houses to Arctic standards, we would reduce the need for energy which satisfies the CO2 proponents and also guard against the global cooling predicted by the solar observers. Hedging your bets and picking options that cover both scenarios would be the sensible and logical option, but naaa, governments don't do sense.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Bailouts: Where does the Money go? QE: does it make sense?

All of this money we've borrowed to bail out Greece and others, including the latest failing Bank or whatever, just where does the money end up?

Are we just pushing money into dodgy banks that instantly gets handed over to good banks? Are we being robbed blind to support the uber-rich?

Just saying.

Because no-one in the media has ever explained where the money eventually ends up.

I also have a question about quantative easing: if we make more money available basically out of thin air, doesn't that devalue the currency already in circulation? For instance if I had £10 worth of hard assets, if I'd lent out £10 in cash to 10 people (each effectively having £1) each person would have effectively £1, but then if I decided to lend out another £10 to another 10 people, wouldn't that original £10 be worth half its value, because I've still only got £10 to repay to people(effectively £10 spread across 20 people is 50p each)?

Of course QE hits me personally, because if the pound is effectively devalued, then it makes imports from Japan and China more expensive, which hits the business I work for. It makes foreign sourced parts more expensive and reduces margins, therefore it puts importers out of work. Of course the upside is our exports become cheaper. But then again, whos buying? China? Maybe for now, but when their industry masters quality control and starts to manufacture proper quality luxury goods, we'll be well and truly buggered.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

About that Met/FBI Phonecall Hack....

I'm not going to get into semantics about the legality of the call etc.

What is curious about the call is the interaction between the two sides. The information seems to be flowing in one direction only. Its clear that the UK side is supplying info, for the most part of the call, yet the US side gives nothing much at all. I hate to label the UK guys chumps, but surely in such a call there would be a free flow of information in both directions?

Again the law seems to be one-sided with America and its agencies working across sovereign borders without reciprocation.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

More on the Benefits Cap...

I may be banging on about this, but benefits is a huge business in the UK and the current generosity with benefits makes life for those like myself, on low wages difficult.

I've already outlined the perks you get on benefit, that someone like myself doesn't get like free school meals, free prescriptions, etc. The way the system works is that one benefit unlocks another: you have to be receiving benefit in order claim another.

There is no assessment of need, or means testing. You receive such and such benefit, you are then entitled to x y and z benefits too.

We came a cropper on this a couple of years back when the wife was employed and I was out of work. Now because I wasn't working, I stupidly assumed that we'd get some help like maybe council tax relief, housing benefit, or tax credits, or maybe something to offset the fact that 90 percent of the wife's wage was actually going on paying the rent and keeping a roof over our heads.

In fact we got no benefits, other than my jobseekers, which ran out after 6 months.

Actually much worse than that... the council assumed that because we were so badly off, we would be entitled to some housing benefit and started paying us. Only 3 months later to send us a letter demanding all they'd paid us back, because we weren't claiming or entitled to certain other benefits. I'm actually still paying that back in small instalments. And while I was out of work, we survived by not paying bills such as council tax, gas and electricity. Mainly because we couldn't pay them! Again, I'm still paying off a few of those debts, which doesn't help.

This is where the system is totally wrong. Had my wife left her job, then we would have been able to claim all the benefits under the sun. But being proud and my wife actually likes her job she didn't want to give it up just to sponge. Or if I'd moved out, splitting up a perfectly functional family we would have both received benefits in our own rights. But being together with just one person working, we got penalised.

There should be no circumstances in any system of benefits for the non-disabled, where it is more advantageous to be on benefits than it is to work.

Actually the system of benefits we have in the UK hugely skews certain markets. Take for instance rented accommodation; with the demise of council houses, the rented sector is now the domain of the private landlord. Because of housing benefit, rents are pushed to the absolute upper limit, rather than what the market would normally stay at. That's because its the government paying a large proportion of rent to private landlords. Its pretty obvious when you look at the discrepancy between true social rents and private rents that the ability of the government to pay no matter what, pushes up the cost of rents by around 50-100%. I've seen some horrid homes rented out for stupid money by unscrupulous landlords, but the local councils still pay  the money. Of course in that situation the tenant has no hold over the landlord like the option of withholding rent if certain work isn't done to maintain the property. Its a pretty shitty cycle of no maintenance and landlords getting inflated rents for doing sweet fa renting out shitty houses that get shittier over time.

Its a cycle that also has to stop. State-funded rents need to be capped to bring down rental costs across the board.

Monday, 23 January 2012

The Benefits Cap and Caveats.

I've heard much hand-wringing and wailing about the government's proposals to cap benefits at £26,000.

Now to me, having to work full time and only bring in £15,000 before tax (more like £10000 once tax has been prised from me), £26,000 (before or after tax equivalent) looks to be heaven.

Given of course the disparities between the two.

For instance, someone on benefits gets free prescriptions, I pay 8 quid for each item the doctor prescribes me. The person on benefits pays no council tax, I pay the full amount. Etc, etc ad nauseum.

The thing is, the wife is a carer and get paid a similar amount; her wages solely go on paying the rent, with a bit left over for things like clothes. We had to tailor our housing expectations to the amount we could afford, not the other way around. The same should apply to someone on benefits. There should be no god-given right to live in a particular area, or in a particular size of house. You get given a budget and that's what you work with. The rule should apply across the board.

On my pay I'm expected to buy food, pay all the household bills, and run a car so as to be able to transport myself to work 5 days a week. Just running the car costs me over a third of my wage these days.

So for around £20,000 (lets be generous and say £22,000) take-home pay, me and the wife can rent a house, pay the bills and run a car. I'm not saying its's easy, as things have to be prioritised; we don't have holidays, we make-do and mend when necessary and if we need something, we save for it. We are always prioritising and by no means are comfortable. But by no means are we on the poverty line.

But then again by no means do we get any of the "perks" of being full-time on benefit either: we pay for everything and receive nothing.

My daughter is at college and has had a weekend job since she was 15. She uses it to pay for transport to college thanks to EMA being scrapped last year. Yes, we are above the threshold for her to receive any help towards her education, something again the child of someone on benefits would be entitled to.

This is the grey area that government is addressing, the thousands of people that are low-paid and see those on benefits getting more money, more perks and.... just more.

There's a guy at work with a sister who is long-term unemployed. Her partner is also unemployed. The sickening thing is that on benefits his sister can do more, buy more than he can, yet he faithfully turns up to work every day and wonders if it would be better on benefits. Its that environment that is  killing this country and the government is right to readjust.

Now of course I'm not a wholehearted enthusiast of the government's benefit reforms: I'm dead against the restructuring of benefits for the disabled from DLA to the new PIP.

One interesting fact before I start is the lack of reportage of the proposed transition. Compared to the number of articles about the benefits cap the change in disability benefits has very few articles of the BBC website. Strange, especially as they are a known mouthpiece for the left.

Why is it that disability issues are so poorly represented on  the BBC news? I'd love to have an answer.

Anyway, back to the DLA reform. The government have stated that their target is a 20% reduction on the disability budget. To me that says that the government will deliberately remove people off DLA and offer no alternative.

Some of my older readers will know my older son is disabled: he has Asperger's Syndrome, one of the shades of the Autistic Spectrum. The best way I can explain autism is that parts of a person's personality refuse to develop over time. For instance in my son who is considered a higher functioning autistic, he can talk to you normally, he loves video games and mostly can lead a normal life. Yet there are aspects of his personality that haven't developed, so much so that he needs a support network in order to keep him safe.. One of his major problems is he does not think through or link actions and consequences. He also avoids confrontation and consistently says what he thinks the other person wants him to say in order to be (in his eyes) friendly.

I can imagine him attending a benefits interview and saying "yes, I'd love a job" and have not a clue about how much trouble that one statement would get him into. Especially as there is very little chance of him holding down a job as he doesn't understand the consequences of not being punctual, for instance.

Its exactly the sort of person, with complex needs that will be ensnared by the DLA reform, as benefits officers are given that target of 20% of people to dump. Of course those that are on DLA as a way of staying on long-term benefits, those the government want to kick back into the jobseekers environment will understand this and be a lot more canny on making sure they stay on whatever disability benefit is available in future.

My son on the other hand, will not understand why he loses the money that allows him to live a relatively independent life.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Costa Concordia: How Could it Happen?

We are a hundred years away from the Titanic disaster and you'd think that the maritime industry would have learned lessons from that tragedy and all of the other since, to be able to make a truly safe ship, but last week's sinking of the Costa Concordia shows that even with modern technology the sea can claim lives.

However as with most disasters, its probably not just one thing that causes the eventual tragedy, but a chain of normally unrelated issues that join up to form an eventual catastrophic conclusion. The Captain of the ship has lots to answer for starting the chain of events, but others such as the designers of the ship must also bear the responsibility of not providing a break in the chain of catastrophe.

EUReferendum hosts this video by John Konrad showing the last moments of the Costa Concordia. Last week I also looked at the AIS data form the ship and was amazed at what I saw. To bring such a huge ship into such close proximity to the shore is a best risky and at worst dangerous. I live in Portsmouth and I regularly see the huge liners heading out into the channel from Southampton. However there is a very clear route they must take in order to stay within safe, deep water. In such close proximity to the shore its imperative for masters of large ships to be situationally aware at all times, otherwise groundings can occur. Even the QE2 went aground here in the Solent, but luckily we only have mud and sand, not rocks.


So, we know its relatively easy to be distracted and start the chain of events. But what of the ship itself and it's ability to survive a grounding? Its quite easy to see from John Konrad's video how the Costa Concordia was probably holed on both sides of her hull first from the initial strike on the rocks, creating the damage now visible in the side of the hull on the port side, but also the second strike as she finally runs aground holing the starboard side.

This of course still doesn't answer the issue of the capsize, as damage even this bad should be survivable given the amount of compartmentalisation that should be built into such ships.

However, there may be several flaws in her design and flaws in her operation that combined to doom the ship. First, her compartmentalisation may have been compromised by not securing watertight doors: she was just hours out of port and the necessary procedures to close watertight doors may have not been taken, allowing water to enter a larger area of the ship than you would expect. Another possible black mark for the Captain and his Officers in not making sure safety procedures are followed. Such things have happened before though, for instance when the Herald of Free Enterprise capsized, the bow doors were left open as the ship sailed out to sea.

Next, the power blackout may have been due to saltwater getting into areas containing the generators or motors. More than likely an area of the ship containing high current electricity, which tripped the breakers and rendered the ship powerless and therefore unable to use pumps to remove some of the inrushing water. I'm not sure where the machinery is located on the Costa Concordia, but the power blackout and the subsequent loss of important systems seems to indicate that water got to those vital systems. Its possible machinery was located very low down in the ship in order to reduce the transmission of noise to the cabins, thus making it vulnerable to problems due to flooding. Its possible the designers mitigated the risk caused by machinery and seawater mixing by the assuming proper compartmentalisation would be in place all the time.

So, just to pause here and reflect, we have a ship with over 4000 people on board, run aground by its Captain, possibly holed on both side, without power and most likely without adequate compartmentalisation or pumps to deal with the flooding. Is the ship doomed? Well, possibly, but even if that's the case, the ship should take a while to sink. Unless of course other factors come into play to increase the rate of flooding.

And that's what I believe is the next step in the chain of the disaster, where further design errors contributed to the disaster.

On the Marinetraffic.com website study these pictures of Costa Concordia's sister ship, the Costa Serena. Look closely at the stern of the ship. You can see that pretty low down to the waterline there is an open deck used for mooring. Note especially how much lower than the lifeboat deck it is. Now look at the picture on this BBC page showing the Costa Concordia listing. The lifeboat deck is close to the water already and its easy to see the open deck must by this time be under water. If the compartmentalisation hasn't been carried out, it's also not much of a step to assume that the doors to that mooring deck are still open and allowing more water into the ship, possibly in new areas that the initial flooding hadn't affected, but certainly increasing the rate of water inflow.

In the liners of old, the stern was at the same height as the bow, making it harder for water to get aboard, but also making it harder to haul ropes aboard for mooring. I just wonder if the convenience of a lower mooring deck cost the ship dearly.

However, by now we know that all these issues combined to doom the ship and a number of it's passengers.

The lack of an organised evacuation may also have caused confusion and loss of life, such as the people who perished, still grouped at the muster station below decks, or the Korean couple rescued alive still in their cabin.

The whole maritime industry must look a the Costa Concordia incident and learn the lessons. The sea is a hostile environment  and safety at sea should not be taken for granted, nor should we become complacent about it.

UPDATE:

Looking at yet more photos of the stricken cruise liner, the gash in the hull appears to be in the hull right below the funnel. This would be where all the machinery would be and in fact there is one close-up photo of the torn hull in which you can see white-painted machinery through the wide gash. Another interesting feature of the hull is it looks to be incredibly thin steel plate for so low down in the hull and only single-skinned.

Friday, 20 January 2012

America: the Biggest Cyber-Criminal of Them All.

Just what is going on in the world?

Just as Americas SOPA and PIPA laws are being heralded as anti-competitive, anti-trade and downright nasty, we have a rash of US-instigated piracy-related arrests in the UK and New Zealand.

I blogged before about Richard O'Dwyer, but now we have the Megaupload arrests in New Zealand, with word that they to will lead to some for of extradition request.

Now don't get me wrong, copyright theft should be illegal, but I'm pretty sure that in the UK and New Zealand there are perfectly adequate laws to prosecute those arrested, without the need for extradition. So again the question is why is extradition being sought? Are the accused being deliberately brought to a country where they will find it difficult to defend themselves? Is that justice, or is it just a desire on the prosecutors to ensure a successful prosecution at any cost?

Its quite clear now that US lawyers assume that US law applies around the world, across the boundaries of sovereign states and to be honest it looks like those that don't apply US law above their own legislature are considered enemies of the US.

The fullest indication of this is the SOPA law, which will make US law apply across the internet, no matter where the servers you host your site are located. The burden of proof is lowered by SOPA, so just an allegation can result in the closure of a site.

SOPA is bully-boy tactics laid bare, with the only arbiter in any dispute being the US courts; a step too far for many businesses.

An example I'll supply is directly relevant to me as I work for an internet-based company. Say we take a picture of a part that we have made in China, that we designed and have rights over, but the Chinese company also supply to a US company without our knowledge. If the US company say they have the copyright over that item, or any images of it, then our site can be ordered to remove that image and/or part from our  site, or they can request the removal of our site from the Internet. We would have to contest the action in US courts and prove our rights to supply the item or even have images on it on the internet.

Given the huge cost of contesting the action in the US, it would be a feint hope to successfully prove our right to sell worldwide, or even to just sell in the UK. I would imagine that there would be plenty of malicious lawsuits that end up with US companies grabbing exclusive US rights to internet content even when they really have none, as "foreign" companies negotiate a way to continue to stay trading and earn a living,.

Its almost like state sanctioned highway robbery and hopefully through all the recent publicity will be dropped or at the very least, restricted in scope. In my blog about global conflict, I also wonder whether SOPA would be considered as a first shot in a global trade war, or the first spark that ignites a bigger and more real-world conflict. I really wonder if proponents of SOPA and PIPA understand the true implications of their proposals?

One thing is absolutely clear in all of this: the law has been appropriated by those who envision a unified global order. Our sovereign Parliament, our centuries-old system of justice count for nothing when they are steamrollered by the EU commission and US law.

Our country is not our own, and it makes me so sad that the traitorous faces that have sat in power over the past four decades have systematically robbed us of our sovereign rights and heritage.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Tough Times for Retailers? More firms seek Administration.

Well, yes, trading is really poor at the moment, but it seems that clothes retailers are being hit hardest, with Peacocks being the latest firm to go into administration.

The thing is, this winter I believe clothes retailers have committed a cardinal sin. In times of recession clothes tend to be bright and inspiring or flamboyant, to take our minds off the troubles of the economy. This winter the clothes have been dull and drab, totally uninspiring, impractical and unsuited to lifting spirits. The drab greys and browns this winter, along with the totally impractical fabrics on offer show totally fail to boost morale. Its no wonder there are rows and rows of unsold clothes that fail to sell even in the sales.

Of course this may be a reflection  of companies employing young buyers who think they know better or don't remember history.

Its about time we saw some colour in fashion. Its too late for the summer season as buying decisions have already been made, but hopefully next winter we can look forward to some inspiration.

Then maybe the fortunes of the fashion retailers can turn the corner.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Extraordinary Extradition?

A judge has agreed that Richard O'Dwyer, a young guy who set up a web site that pointed to (but didn't itself host) copyrighted material is to be extradited to the U.S. to stand trial.

Now I'm no lawyer, but I'm clueless as to how justice is best served by extraditing the guy to face trial abroad. First off, did he actually commit a crime? Sure, his site kept links to copyrighted material, but he didn't copy the material himself. However, he may have unwittingly left himself open to a conspiracy charge. But, any crime he did commit was committed in the UK, not the US. As a UK citizen residing in the UK and subject to UK law, there should be no circumstances where he is liable to be subject to US law unless he committed the crime in the US. Hmm, just where was his website hosted I wonder?

So why are those that want to prosecute him wanting to do it in the US, when there is a perfectly good law in the UK to cover the crime and the crime (if the crime actually covers his activities) was committed in the UK?

Is it because a jury in the US would be less sympathetic to a foreigner in the dock and the chances of a successful prosecution are higher? Is it because he won't be able to mount a successful defence due to the expense? Is the prosecutor's aim to crush any opposition to the charges and establish case law for further future prosecutions?

Talking to people they are astounded that such a minor offence warrants extradition. They understood that extradition would be used in serious cases, such as murder, terrorism and large fraud cases. They are uneasy seeing it being used just as a tool to ensure a successful prosecution. Such malicious extraditions should be resisted by our judiciary, especially when there are adequate laws here.

To my mind Mr O'Dwyer must have had a pretty crap legal team, because surely he should have been able to resist the extradition.

The thing is, if the law is being extended to relatively minor offences, what next? Will we find ourselves being extradited for jaywalking, or unpaid parking tickets in future?

There are a few salient points from this case:


Make sure you chose the servers hosting your website well. If you're hosted on American servers, better prepare for sharing a cell with Bubba if you so much as type anything out of line.


All laws suffer from mission creep. Whatever the original spirit of the law, if the wording of the law allows lawyers to extend it's use, they will do. 


UK law is subservient to any other law in the world. This supposed bastion of justice now bows to its US and European masters. Justice in the UK is now the purview of anyone but the UK public.


I feel less and less like this is my country. Its more like living on the premises of some global conglomorate.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Don't Take Your Eye off the Ball.

One of my pet hates is when people slag off the banks and blame them for the credit crunch.

Why? Because I tell them not to blame the banks, but themselves. Most people don't understand at first, but after I explain, some get it, some unfortunately don't.

When I say they should blame themselves, its because they took their eye off the ball and became disinterested in Politics. Yes I know its a dusty, uninteresting subject, but it IS important.

If people had been paying attention to the huge deficits government had been running, been aware of the huge line of credit it had been using and understood that deregulation of banks was dangerous, we wouldn't be in this mess now, because the politicians would have been pulled up about it years ago.

Instead people though politics uninteresting, dull and not at all relevant to their lives. They couldn't be more wrong.

To me the first step to the recovery of this country and the path to reclaim it from the elite is for people to become aware just how important it is to be aware of what our politicians are up to nationally and locally.

We need to start making people aware of the machinery of politics and how and why it is relevant to their lives, get them interested and involved. Until we do, we're doomed to sail to nowhere on this rudderless ship, controlled by its unaccountable crew.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Countdown to Catastrophe?

Well, the clock has counted in 2012 and I just wonder whether it will mark a new era in Western Civilisation.

In my post about recession I blogged about the UK cutting its cloth according to its ranking in the world, but the same goes for the rest of the highly indebted western countries.

I've actually been impressed by how persuasive our political elite have been in conning investors into conning the public that all is rosy even when its most patently not. I thought the whole house of cards would collapse many months ago. I've been predicting it for the past couple of years and somehow the politicians are able to keep extending their credit, more than likely by raising mandatory retirement ages and therefore making us more productive over our lifetimes and therefore able to secure more capital against our future value (just how close does that come to the definition of slavery I wonder?). However in 2011 the cracks started to show, as we saw politicians lose their jobs, as their economies outstripped the cash cows they could milk. Possibly a trend that will continue for 2012.

But just how much longer can the political elite do the smoke and mirrors act and fool investors that all is rosy, when it most obviously isn't? You see, the West is no longer the powerhouse it once was: that mantle has passed to the second and third world countries, who have not exhausted their natural resources or have huge numbers of cheap labour.

The Euro is faltering mainly because it was a flawed political project rather than a sound financial one, but its also faltering because of uncertainty as to whether the richer European countries can afford to keep it running.

The thing is, what happens when eventually the elite lose their grip and we slide into the abyss? Will the German public blame their politicians or the lazy Greeks for the decimation of their economy and will they demand reparation? Will the Chinese sit idly by as their labour costs rise, making them uncompetitive and India starts to utilise its cheap labour force to overtake them? Will the Chinese retaliate by putting the price up of the rare mineral resources they've been buying up around the world? Will the American public stay quiet as they realise China has bought all the rights to the rare minerals required to produce cheap electronic goods and started to increase prices to anyone but Chinese companies?

In past global conflicts, the English-speaking world has been the bastion of stability, prevailing through two world wars. I'm pretty sure this time around we have neither the resources nor the will to win that we once had. Did I say global conflict? Well, global politicians have been deluding themselves and the public for so long, the consequences have now outstripped mere local issues.

Its interesting that the safest place globally would seem to be South America, as their various bankruptcies have already done the bulk of financial realignment for those countries, plus their various mineral resources are starting to come into play.

Our leaders are too busy attempting to prop up the past rather than planning for the future, making any realignment of power all the more drastic and dangerous.

At some point over the next couple of days I'll review my predictions for 2011, see how I did and make some  new ones for 2012.

Happy New Year Everyone.