Blogathon 03/17: Not all it seems to be

In the 1873 play ‘The Magnificent Ambersons’ (turned, in 1942, to an Orson Welles period drama of the same name), the author Booth Tarkington has one of his characters say ‘Politics is a dirty business, for a gentleman’.

This is a sentiment that I feel is more pertinent today than it was in the early half of the 20th Century, and applies, now, to people of all genders and all social platforms.

Less than one hundred years later, we have newspapers and news channels that openly lie about all shades of politics (and politicians) to their audiences.

In the UK every single news outlet is biased, from the outright purveyors of lies (The Daily Mail, Daily Express, The Sun, et al), to the unjustifiably biased BBC.

They’re all at it.

And that leaves us, the public, floundering for the truth.

Who (or what) are we supposed to believe, as we sift our way through the sewage discharge of filth?

Where do we put our bait of credence, in the hope that it will return a tiddler of truth, instead of a shark of a lie?

And isn’t this serious for me?

Well yes, it is, but there’s a reason, so please bear with me.

There can be no doubt that the political landscape across Europe and the US is changing.

Because of these changes, and because I have an interest in the world in which I live, I am closely following political news updates from across the world.

So when someone I know, someone I went to school with, someone who lived in the same tiny Welsh village as I, when this person is extensively reported on across international news outlets, and is reported on in front page and banner headline fashion, it makes me sit up and take great notice.

Actually, not only does it make me sit up and take great notice, the reportage makes me read not just the headlines, but the background stories.

And then I read the supporting ‘lifestyle’ interviews in newspapers and magazines.

As a result of reading those things I despair.

No piece of background reportage has achieved 100% accuracy.

Many of the features didn’t even come close to that lofty ideal.

So what chance does truth have, in the here and now reporting, if the outlets can’t even get the background stories right?

Really, what chance?

If I sound as if this has got me wound up, it hasn’t.

What all this has done is make me disbelieve everything that I read/or hear/or see, even more than I already do.

So to Penny Clarke (as was), formerly of Llanover, and late of King Henry VIII School, Abergavenny, I raise my mug of hot chocolate in solidarity.

America: where the one-eyed man is king?

You know the story by now?

The so-labelled ‘San Bernadino guman’ (Syed Rizwan Farook) went on a killing spree and, very tragically, killed 14 people in San Bernadino, California.

There has been a great deal of vigorous discussion in the US, following this terrible event.

But, puzzlingly, what has been exercising branches of the US Government and US Judiciary has been a discussion around the security and privacy of Syed Rizwan Farook’s mobile phone.

There has been no discussion about the ability to buy weapons of mass destruction (and 14 fatalities is, to any sound and sane mind, a horrific event of mass destruction) so freely in the US.

It’s almost as if the Americans think that Farook’s mobile phone could somehow have stopped these deaths.

But it couldn’t.

The US Government is somehow fixated on the post-aftermath information, instead of fixing the pre-aftermath problem.

Because, surely, legally buying, legally encrypting, and legally using a mobile phone didn’t cause these 14 people to lose their lives?

No, of course not.

But legally buying high-calibre weapons did.

When the Founding Fathers sat down and wrote the US Constitution, and when their antecedents wrote the Second Amendment (which, by the way, was in 1791), the right to bear arms referred to rifles like this:

Rifle of 1791

Rifle of 1791

I can’t help feeling that there would be far fewer shootings in the US, if the politicians, and vested interests, had kept the intent of the Second Amendment intact, instead of updating it.

I also believe that the Americans would spend their time in a richer, more productive manner, if they looked long and hard not at the security of a mobile phone, but instead looked at the deep-seated insecurity of the American public, in that they still feel the need to arm themselves as if the US was somehow rooted in the 1700s/1800s.

Blogathon 22/16: In. Out. Shake It All About

It has long seemed to me that the organisation known as UK plc has a load of terminal fuckwits at the control.

The current hoo-hah about the UKs EU membership is a stunning case in point.

David (I have a dodgy relationship with the truth) Cameron has artfully negotiated his way in to an unwinnable fight.

And in the other corner is the motley political crew of Nigel Farage, Michael Gove, Ian Duncan Smith, Chris Grayling, Boris Johnson, and John Whittingdale (let’s just remember right now this is the politician who is in charge of the BBC, and its purse-strings, and will be calling the BBCs financial shots for the next few years).

During Glastonbury weekend, the British public will be asked whether, or not, they want to stay in the EU, or join an exclusive club of European nations who aren’t in the EU.

This post isn’t about that, at least, not directly so.

This is about the ‘what if?’ scenarios that could conceivably arise, given the poisoned chalice that the terminal fuckwits in charge of UK plc have determined to hand to the voting public.

Scenarios like:

  1. What if the wealthy south of the UK votes to leave the EU, and the impoverished north votes to remain? Will we then have an actual north/south split, with the phrase ‘little England’ actually meaning ‘a littler England’?
  2. What if the majority of people in the UK vote to remain in the EU, but those who live in the south-east of England don’t? Will the mainstream media which, let’s face it, is entirely based in the south-east of England anyway, start bleating on that although the majority of the UK voted to stay in, there’s no real mandate to actually stay in, because they – the mainstream media – say there isn’t (and then they’ll grumble about the result for the rest of our lives)?
  3. If the vote is close – let’s say 51% of those who vote choose to remain in the EU, but 49% of those who vote say they want to leave the EU, but a mere 40% of the electorate actually turned out to vote, will we see a campaign to change our voting system? Or will the losers – those 49% of the 40% turnout – just acquiesce and accept the result (yeah, we know they won’t, don’t we?).
  4. If, by a slim majority, the UK votes to leave the EU, but the overwhelming majority of voters in Scotland and Wales vote to remain in the EU, will Scotland and Wales be within their rights to have referenda on leaving the UK (because they want to remain in the EU, and it’s really only England that doesn’t)?
  5. And in that instance, if a significant number of voters in England do vote to leave the EU, in contradiction to the wishes of the majorities in Wales and Scotland, have the English just voted to break up the United Kingdom?

These are big questions. These are interesting times.

Personally I’d like to see scenario 4. and 5. occur: Wales and Scotland becoming independent nations outside of the UK but in the EU, and England going it alone outside of the EU.

I think in that situation we would see a very close economic and business alliance formed between Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

Mind you, I can’t help wondering how those 2,250,000 British pensioners, who currently live in Europe, will be voting.

Brits in Europe

Brits in Europe

That’s another interesting situation I’d like to keep an eye on.

Money, and how not to save it on the front line

It is quite difficult to voice my thoughts on this in a cool, calm, dispassionate manner.

And that is often the way when the topic is something we feel very strongly about.

Right?

Those that know a little of my history will know that for a good lump of time I wore a light-blue uniform.

For over 80% of my time in the RAF I was stationed overseas, on front-line, nuclear strike, airbases.

Operating in near-war conditions (the motto of one of my places of work was ‘The role of this station in peace is to train for war. Don’t you forget it’) 24/7 and 365 days a year, is wearing.

Working in top secret installations, and working with information so sensitive, that public disclosure of it could destablise the planet on which we sit, is wearing.

Being called out in the very early hours of a Sunday morning, because there’s an unidentified blip on the radar, is wearing.

Carrying a live weapon around, 24/7, because of a rumour, is wearing.

Having to work with substandard equipment – with hardware that our neighbouring NATO allies would decline as being ‘not fit for purpose’ – is wearing.

Doing all these things without question (but with the customary Armed Forces griping) is wearing.

Being paid substantially less than our NATO colleagues for a 24-hour day, is beyond wearing.

The Forces do a job.

Their job is to sort out messy situations that politicians have created.

The job of the Armed Forces is to fly to a distant part of the world and attempt to make things better, whilst people of a different mindset are intent on attempting to bomb, shoot at, and blow them up.

Do you want to see the conditions that the government feels are acceptable, to fly member of the Armed Forces around the world?

Like this:

The inside of an RAF C17

This is the inside of a typical RAF C17 on its way from Afghanistan to RAF Brize Norton.

The head of our government (The Right Hon. David Cameron, Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury and Minister for the Civil Service) doesn’t feel that he has enough in life.

David Cameron feels that being forced to travel around the world, on his international junkets, on aircraft of the Queen’s Flight (a squadron of rotary and fixed-wing aircraft that includes more than one executive jet), isn’t good enough for him.

Our Prime Minister now wants his own version of this:

Air Force One

Wow.

But the Rt Hon David Cameron doesn’t want to put the country to the expense of paying for a brand new aircraft.

In these times of global austerity, David has told us that he is going to do this in such a way that the British taxpayer will be saved lots of money.

Yes indeed.

Dave is going to take a fully serviceable A330 Voyager air-to-air tanker, used to refuel front-line aircraft on operational missons, and have it converted, as his executive jet.

Here’s a photo of an A330 in executive jet fit-out:

A330 executive jet fit-out

Nice, eh?

And here’s a reminder of how our troops travel:

The inside of an RAF C17

Some difference, eh?

Oh well.

I suppose Dave is our Prime Minister, after all.

However, let’s just look at the financial argument behind Dave’s logic.

We have been told that spending £10 million on converting an RAF A330 Voyager from an air-tanker to the Prime Minister’s executive jet will save the taxpayer money.

Because spending £10m on a conversion and an executive fit-out is cheaper than buying a fully-executived (it is a word, I checked) factory-fresh aircraft.

That’s what we have been told.

But really?

Are we that stupid?

Do we look that gullible?

The budgets of the Royal Air Force are tight.

They are so tight that down in the South Atlantic we have two – just two – Typhoons on air defence duties in the Falklands.

This is territory that we paid for in filled bodybags.

That’s how tight RAF budgets are.

Does anyone, for a single moment, imagine that the RAF has any A300 Voyagers that are surplus to requirements?

That we have a number of these aircraft just sitting around, rusting in the corner of a British airfield?

Really?

You think that’s true?

Of course we don’t.

Our Prime Minister (First Lord of the Treasury and Minister for the Civil Service) is going to take a fully serviceable A300 Voyager out of the fleet of RAF air-tankers.

And in doing that, he’s going to create a £ multi-million hole in our already stretched defences.

And then he’s going to make that £ multi-million hole even bigger, because you and I are (the taxpayer is) going to spend another £10 million having this air-tanker converted to an executive jet.

Just so he can swan about the globe.

Because the aircraft in the Queen’s Flight aren’t good enough.

The government line – that the press are echoing without thought and reasoning – that Dave’s executive jet will eventually save the country £700,000/year is just nonsense.

I could tell you how much nonsense it is.

But what’s the point?

David Cameron is going to have his private executive jet and that’s all there is to it.

Regardless of what the real cost to the taxpayer – and to the Armed Forces – is.

And that’s sad.

Not voting Green (by a member of the Green Party)

In which a fully paid-up, card-carrying member of the Green Party sets out why he will not be voting Green in the 2015 General Election.

And in which the same fully paid-up, card-carrying member of the Green Party will be resigning his membership as soon as the 2015 General Election is over.

I’d like to set a scenario before you.

Imagine that you found a political party that you agreed with.

Imagine that the more time you spent reading about the same political party, the more you found that their core ideals and stated political goals chimed with your own personal, social (and political), values.

Imagine that you move beyond the certainty of voting your support for this party in the 2015 General Election.

You read this parties election manifesto.

You love it.

You became a member of the Party.

And then…

Imagine, some months later, you stumble across some Party policies that are not in their 2015 General Election manifesto.

But these policies are Party objectives.

One of the policies you discover says:

TR320
Smaller, low powered vehicles are generally preferable to most cars (especially those with a single occupant) as they take up less road space and are more economic consumers of fuel. However, the Green Party does not wish to see increased use of cars because they emit pollution and noise and can endanger road users. The aim is to encourage much less use of high powered machines and for low powered machines to offer an alternative for those who currently use cars and could not transfer to more sustainable (transport) modes.

That’s blatant vicitimisation.

Picking on just one form of transport?

This is a vote losing policy.

Is that why this policy is not in the 2015 General Election manifesto?

What car-owning (or car-driving) voter is going to vote for a political party that has stated it wants to see all cars reduced to tiny, limited output engines?

You dig on in to the party Policies and find:

TR321
The Green Party would take measures to encourage a transfer of car manufacture and use from larger, powerful machines to less powerful ones. These would include setting and enforcing strict noise limits and, for higher powered machines, speed limiters

Well, any person who uses a car for any form of transport is going to support this party, are they?

Now the thing is, these policies are not 100% accureate.

But with one or two minor edits in these policies, each of these political objectives are Green Party objectives…

But not for cars.

For motorbikes.

Yes, this is the Green Party singling out motorbikes for wholescale legislative curbs, yet leaving every other form of road user untouched.

These are those two Green Party policies, unedited, and with one more policy included:

TR320
Smaller, low powered motorcycles are generally preferable to cars (especially those with a single occupant) as they take up less road space and are more economic consumers of fuel. However, the Green Party does not wish to see increased use of motorcycles because they emit pollution and noise and can endanger road users. The aim is to encourage much less use of high powered machines and for low powered machines to offer an alternative for those who currently use these or cars and could not transfer to more sustainable modes.

TR321
The Green Party would take measures to encourage a transfer of motor cycle manufacture and use from larger, powerful machines to less powerful ones including scooters and mopeds. These would include setting and enforcing strict noise limits and, for higher powered machines, speed limiters

TR322
For the safety of other users, the Green Party does not feel it appropriate for motorcyclists to be able to use any priority measures put in for pedestrians and cyclists, including those shared with public transport.

These are the most blinkered, uneducated, short-sighted, stupid and illogical transport policies.

These policies fail to recognise motorbikes as part of the solution of our increasingly congested roads.

These policies penalise motorbikes through the use of inaccurate sweeping generalisations.

These policies fail to understand the benefits of motorcycling over the use of cars.

These policies lack all manner of comprehension of the problems that British roads face every day.

These policies are why this Green Party member will not be voting for the Green Party in the 2015 General Election.

These policies are why this Green Party member will be resigning his membership after the 2015 General Election.

That these policies are hidden, that these policies are not in the Green Party 2015 manifesto is beyond dishonest.

The Green Party needs to be called out on this blatant victimisation.

One can’t help wondering what other nasty, victimising, policies the Green Party might have tucked away, that are also not highlighted by their 2015 manifesto.

Politics: dead to me now

Well that’s it.

I’m done with any kind of an interest in British politics.

The reason?

Maria Miller MP

  • Maria Miller has a home in her constituency, a mere 45 minutes on an excellently-serviced train route to Waterloo
  • Maria Miller was investigated by the independent parliamentary standards commissioner for stealing public money (what you or I would call fraud)
  • Maria Miller failed to cooperate adequately with the investigation
  • Maria Miller openly threatened the investigator
  • Maria Miller was found guilty of ‘overclaiming’ (a euphemism for ‘stealing from the taxpayer’) a subsidy of £45,000 for a second home in London
  • Maria Miller didn’t live in this taxpayer-subsidised home, even though this is what the parliamentary rules clearly state must happen
  • Maria Miller’s parents lived, rent free, in this taxpayer-subsidised home
  • Maria Miller’s report from the independent parliamentary standards commission was altered by a not independent committee of vested-interest MPs
  • The committee of vested-interest MPs decided that if Maria Miller paid back just £5,800, and said ‘sorry’ to parliament, justice would have been done

And yet, despite this extensive catalogue of wrongs:

  • Maria Miller has been given public support by the Prime Minister (Cameron, D)
  • Maria Miller has been given public support by Ian Duncan Smith (who called the journalistic investigation ‘a witch hunt’)
  • When journalists began investigating the Maria Miller affair, one of Maria Miller’s aides rang the investigating newspaper and made not very veiled threats in relation to press regulation

So that’s it.

I’m done with politics.

I am now convinced the only thing that will give us the MPs we need to have, will be a complete change of our political system, because the current one is broken beyond repair, is unfit for the purpose, and does not serve the public – the people who it should serve.

What we need to happen is:

  • the abolition of the political party system
  • stopping candidates from standing for office
  • moving to a system where MPs are chosen from the list of voters, on a lottery-based system
  • MPs banned from being in office for more than three terms

Until we take away the cosy little clubs, the gangs, the wheeling, the dealing, the influences, the vested interests…

Until all of these things happen, we will never have a fair, balanced system of political representation from a group of people who are supposed to be working for us.

The Maria Miller affair has been the final nail in the coffin of my political interest.

The stench of corruption, the rancid smell of favour, now permeates every single level of our Government.

Who has publicly supported this act of thievery?

  • David Cameron
  • Boris Johnson
  • Nick Clegg
  • Theresa Villiers
  • Ian Duncan Smith
  • Craig Oliver (David Cameron’s press chief)
  • Jo Hindley (Maria Miller’s special advisor)
  • Mary Macleod (Maria Miller’s parliamentary aide)

When the head of this country exhibits such a tremendous lack of judgement just to support someone in his party, when members of the Cabinet are wheeled out to support an MP so corrupt that every single member of the public can see it, but the MPs think they can just ride out the storm, when parliament sees itself as not needing to be accountable…

When these things happen in such a blatant manner, it is time to pull the plug.

I have been disenfranchised by the sleaziest, most crooked, corrupt, bunch of self-serving, loathsome hypocrites I could ever have imagined.

These people have nothing but contempt for the public, and a complete disregard for the rules they are supposed to observe.

They are also immoral beyond belief.

Until the system changes – wholesale – I’m not participating any more.

Because under the current rules, no matter who I vote for, the government always gets in.

BkYzAGHCIAAVGEj

Blogathon 27/14 – lunatics/asylum

Just when you think the people at the top couldn’t get any more stupid…

In October this year (2014) the DVLA are going to stop issuing tax discs for all motorised vehicles.

The brain surgeons in charge of collecting revenue from road users have decided to stop the requirement for displaying pieces of paper to verify that we legitimate road users have paid our tax.

Instead, we still have to pay the road duty, but no tax disc will be issued.

Our vehicles will just appear on a database (as they have been for the last five years), which the law enforcement agencies can check, on the spot.

This is stupid.

What the idiots in charge of vehicle tax should have done is get the Treasury to add 0.3p to the price of a litre of fuel, and then just collect 0.3p times the number of litres of fuel sold in the UK per year, from the Revenue.

Doing this would have presented the taxpayer with three huge wins:

  1. the bureaucracy would have been kept to an absolute minimum
  2. it would be impossible for people to not pay tax (and, as a sub-win, the cost of running a legal system to deal with vehicle tax avoiders would have been saved)
  3. the heavy road users would pay more, the lighter road users would pay less

But no, this simple logic is too much for the brain donors in charge.

They’ve come up with an alternative bureaucracy; a system that requires people to pay for a thing, a revenue stream to process the UK public paying for lots of things, and an enforcement/justice system to catch and then deal with people who don’t pay for a thing.

Fucking stunning.

But the ill-considered logic doesn’t end there.

The new system is not transferable.

Under the current system you tax a vehicle, right? And then you sell it. You have a choice of what happens to the remaining tax, you can either get a refund on it or you can let it go with the vehicle (adding it to the value of the vehicle you’re selling), and when the new owner gets it, the vehicle has some tax on it already.

Well, under the new system, when you sell a vehicle the tax becomes invalid. You lose the tax you’ve (essentially) prepaid. And the new owner has to start again.

So not only have the turnip-headed morons in charge saddled us with an inflexible system that carries an in-built overhead, they are inflicting a flawed system – one that requires a tax-evader-catching process and legal system – to run alongside it.

This is taking idiocy to a whole new level.

Well played, DVLA (and the government minister who runs it). Very well played.

Idiots.

Blogathon 7/14 – fish, water, out of

I do enjoy watching people who have been promoted above their ability, failing to grasp the meaning of the words they are uttering on camera.

The Director of the Government’s Coding Initiative (who can’t actually code, but we’ll let that slide right by us) has claimed that teachers could be trained how to educate students in computer programming “in a day”.

And yet the Director of the Government’s Coding Initiative (who still can’t actually code, but we’ll let that slide right by us once again) has said she will learn to code “over the next year”.

Not today.

Not tomorrow.

Not one day next week.

Teachers, she feels, can learn to code to a standard sufficient to teach children in one day.

But she, she feels, will learn to code “over the next year”.

Marvellous.

I don’t want to pick on the clearly floundering, but these quotes in particular are marvellous pointers to this woman’s grip on reality:

“At school I was taught how to wire up a light-bulb”

“You can do very little in a very short space of time”

“I think (teachers) can pick up (coding) in a day”

“Every pupil from the age of five will learn how to code”

Some of the Twitter comments on this article are priceless, but I particularly like that from Laura Hammond.

Blogathon 5/14 – a long way up (and down)

Bloody hell, I’m completely tired.

I’m more tired than a very tired person from a very tired town, in the middle of the tired countryside, who has been busy doing things and getting very very tired.

Yes, I’ll stop now.

I noticed a few peculiar things on my roadtrip to Darlington and back.

A significant number of drivers have dangerously defective vehicles

  1. Indicators appear to be an unbought optional extra
  2. Steering wheels don’t work, leaving motorists stuck in the middle lane for hours on end
  3. Mirrors (see 1. above)

But it was a good day.

Productive.

I got there, I did proper professional stuff with proper professional people; it was positive and beneficial, and then I came home.

So.

There were a couple of l-o-n-g stretches of the M1, on the way down, that had temporary speed limits.

One very long stretch – over 20 miles – had a limit of 50mph imposed.

But there was nobody working on the road.

I don’t mean there were people about, but nobody was working.

There

Was

Nobody

About

So here’s my thought.

We live in the 21st Century, right?

This is the age of portable electronic communication, and apps, and smartphones, and WiFi and Bluetooth, and intelligent systems, and all that stuff, right?

So.

Why does the Highways Agency (or its contractors) not have electronic speed restriction signs, which they can activate when people are working on the roads?

Why does the temporary speed limit have to be set all the time – 24 hours a day – (and therefore not that temporary), when people aren’t actually working on the roads 24 hours a day?

Why?

Eh?

No, go on.

Why?