Friday, 30 October 2009

Home truths

My first home truth is for big-state socialists. You firmly believe in "equality", your interpretation of which is that it is unfair for people to earn significantly more than you. You also believe in high levels of Government spending, now roughly 50p in the pound. Now, assuming you pay 22p tax and 15% VAT on the rest, i.e. a total tax payment of 32p in the pound, if you don't approve of high earners, where do you expect the other 18p to come from?

Second, change activists - when you switch with ease from claiming that "everyone agrees, so the debate is over" to claiming that "all those many, many who disagree are deranged", does it make your brain hurt?

Any other suggestions?

Thursday, 29 October 2009

More Hypocrites....

The Green Party, this time. This odd picture:

is in fact a thermal image of the headquarters of the Green Party. Red indicates an area with a high rate of heat loss, blue a low rate. Overall, this shows that they are wasting £172 worth of energy per year.

This, let us remember, is the party whose leader said that flying was as bad 'as stabbing someone in the street', explaining that 'People are dying from climate change [...] It's incredibly irresponsible.'

She also said, of other parties, that 'They're talking green but not acting green'. So, what did similar images of the other parties reveal?

  • Constituency office of Nick Clegg, so keen yesterday to ask about climate change: £148
  • Constituency office of David Cameron: £108
  • Constituency office of Ed Milliband (Climate Secretary) £94


Monday, 26 October 2009

Latest Climate Change News...

... we will all have to eat our pets.


Victoria University professors Brenda and Robert Vale, architects who specialise in sustainable living, say pet owners should swap cats and dogs for creatures they can eat, such as chickens or rabbits, in their provocative new book Time to Eat the Dog: The real guide to sustainable living.

The eco-pawprint of a pet dog is twice that of a 4.6-litre Land Cruiser driven 10,000 kilometres a year, researchers have found.
Oh, of course. Completely plausible.

This can only mean one of two things. Either there is a monumental wind-up being played in order to discredit the green movement, or the Toyota Land Cruiser is a lot more environmentally friendly that has been suggested.

In which case, my little 3.6 litre toy must be near-negligible in its impact. Whatever, I'm smiling...

Right Hand/Left Hand

This new £3,300 tax on the price of a new car, in order (presumably) to deter us from buying new cars and harming the environment ... is that before or after the £2,000 scrappage allowance introduced in order to encourage us to buy new cars and help the economy?

Just wondering.

Sunday, 25 October 2009


In celebration of my 911th tweet, here she is; my Stuttgart Mistress:

She has her own little place that I provide for her:

where she is cared for with a range of creams and lotions for her body:

... and, in fact, for pretty well every inch of her:

She is regularly taken to see specialists to ensure that all is well:

... but she likes it best when we go out to play:

I'll end with a joke, if I may: What's the difference between a Porsche and a hedgehog? ... The hedgehog has the pricks on the outside....


The Science Museum has launched a site with a poll that is clearly intended to gather support to lobby the Government to take a strongly pro-climate change stance in Copenhagen.

They put forward the proposition:

"I've seen the evidence. And I want the government to prove they're serious about climate change by negotiating a strong, effective, fair deal at Copenhagen."
and invite you to opt to "Count me in" or "Count me out".

As I type this, 513 people have asked to be counted in. Unfortunately for the organisers, 3436 have asked to be counted out.

Interestingly, if you ask to be counted out, it asks you to say why (after accepting your vote). I don't know if you are asked to justify a decision to be counted in; if anyone does wish to be counted in then I'd be interested to hear. My reason?

As a Cambridge science graduate who studied the History & Philosophy of science, I find it insulting to be told that "the science is settled". First, science does not settle; that is not its nature. Second, science that contradicts observation is not "settled"; it is "wrong".

Update - It seems that the climate change believers have tried to manipulate the poll. The real results? As of 1620 on 28 October, 5984 votes were cast, with 764 asking to be counted in and 5220 asking to be counted out, i.e. very nearly 7 to 1....

Saturday, 24 October 2009

In Which Master Patently Turns Criminal

We went out shopping this afternoon. Master P caused quite some concern by producing a gun at the till. I was immediately summoned by the Manager, who was understandably nervous.

You see, the plastic toy gun that he wanted to purchase cannot be sold to someone of such tender years. My presence was needed, in order to make the transaction legal. Apparently, and this is the crucial point, if a not-very-convincing replica toy gun is sold to a child in the absence of his parent, he is likely to use it to hold up a bank. My presence at the point of sale means that it is now impossible for him to put the toy to nefarious use.

Or something.

I was quite disappointed. I wanted to call in at the bank to see if pointing a plastic gun at them would make them give us some monopoly money.

Friday, 23 October 2009

But No Progress?

The consensus seems to be that the BNP leader was roundly whipped last night on Question Time. The other panellists and the audience treated him and his views with the contempt he deserves, and he left humiliated. The Spectator certainly thinks so, although Leg-Iron is not so sure.

I'm not sure that was the best way to handle it.

Let's think about this for a moment. Griffin represents a disaffected group who feel left behind by 12 years of inclusiveness. They feel that taxpayers' money has been lavished on non-white groups, that established British practices have been abandoned in favour of a multi-cultural approach. They see "inclusiveness" as including "anyone but them", and "multicultural" as "any culture except British". In short, they feel shunned by the UK political mainstream.

What they seem to have watched last night is the UK political mainstream shunning Nick Griffin. Is that likely to persuade them to abandon him?

I don't think so.

Update: Here we go; Griffin is pleading for the sympathy vote, and the Spectator now seems to agree with me.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

In Favour of the Postal strike

Yes - you read that right, I'm in favour of the strike scheduled for this week by the Communication Workers' Union.

Not because I am persuaded of their cause - to be persuaded I would have to understand it, and as no-one has been able to explain why they are striking, I have the distinct impression that no-one else understands it either. No, my desire to see the strike go ahead is purely in order to watch the CWU be forced to change its name to the Communication Worker's Union.

You see, I practice from the Oxford area. The Oxford sorting office was renowned as one of the more militant offices; the very instant that an unreasonable request was made by management, the whole lot would walk out. Of course, as their definition of "unreasonable" seemed to extend to such things as Pete being asked to deliver Bob's round while Bob was off instead of just sitting around until his shift finished, this caused some irritation locally.

I understand that things were so bad that the Oxford sorting office was closed, and the staff transferred to Swindon*. This left no-one in Oxford to sort Oxford's mail, so the management transferred the task to Swindon. One almost wants to grab Royal Mail's management by the lapels and yell at them that the problem was not the building, it was the staff in it...

So, in an argument between Royal Mail staff and Royal Mail management, I truly have no allegiance. So far as I am concerned, both are useless.

It was with no great surprise, then, that I found myself wondering what to do about the strike - how to cope. What surprised me was the answer; nothing.

You see, the local sorting office has gone on strike so often, at such short notice, that we have become so used to coping that we no longer regard the letter as a default. Most of our clients send and receive communication via email. Sometimes, an original document needs to be conveyed, but for some time now there has been nothing on earth that would persuade me to entrust an original document that could not be easily replaced to the tender mercies of the postal system, so all such mail goes by courier.

At home, the position is the same. The people that I know, and from whom I want to hear, use telephone, email, or twitter to contact me. All I receive through my letterbox is junk mail and bills. I order quite a bit from Amazon and the like but they mainly use Citylink instead of Royal Mail. Now, I am no great fan of Sh**tyLink, but at least they don't lose stuff as regularly, and their depot is on my way home.

So, frankly, if the strike is short-lived, then I won't care either way because it is nothing out of the ordinary. If it lasts long enough to kill Royal Mail off, then I will be pleased; that might (at last) open up the market to let in a proper, reliable daily postal service.

Which would, actually, be quite a nice thing to have.

*Note; I have not been able to verify this.

Is the Pope Catholic?

A reasonable question, I think, given the announcement of special provision for Anglicans who want to convert to Rome while preserving aspects of Anglican liturgy (although obviously toungue-in-cheek).

This is, of course, being reported as something that the Catholic Church is doing, but I think that is the wrong perspective. It is now (I think) 17 years since the Anglican church decided to admit women clergy, and those outside the Church are just beginning to notice the more subtle effects of that step (i.e. the effects other than the slightly greater likelihood that an Anglican priest will have an effeminate air...). That step took place just a few years after I switched from Catholicism to Anglicanism, welcomed in by by a receptive local church and supported by the firmly Anglican family whose daughter I had fallen for. At the time, it seemed to me to strike a discordant note; the Anglicanism that I had thus far encountered was in line with the Catholic doctrines that I had learnt (the distinction between Catholicism and Roman Catholicism was eagerly pointed out to me), so my new Church had seemed to be merely a somewhat more tolerant version of what I was used to. I confess that I did not then understand why the change was being made.

Since then, I have learnt that the Anglicanism I met was in fact one end of the spectrum. Various changes of house and job took me to different areas of the country, and to different parishes where a different flavour of Anglicanism was offered. I do miss what might be called the "high point" of my experience of Anglicanism; it now seems impossible to find in any of the churches local to me.

And there, I think, lies the real significance of that decision 17 years ago. It was a decision taken by one wing of the Church with the full knowledge that it offended the firmly held beliefs of another wing. That victory - and it was nothing less - gave that wing a confidence. Since then, the Anglican Church has (from my observation) moved from an assumption that all views within it are valid to an assumption that tradition and reverence are unnecessary - and that the evangelical, happy-clappy, arms in the air, close your eyes and feel God in the room approach to a Sunday service is the only correct one.

My opinion on the subject will be obvious from the words that I have chosen to describe the change. But that is not the point; I do not criticise Evangelicals because I think they are wrong. If they find that form of service uplifting and inspiring, then I am pleased that they wish to worship and am happy for them to do so in that way. My criticism is that they seem to think that I am wrong because I disagree, because I don't want to stand up in the middle of the Mass and shout out how God touched me this week.

So this is not actually about women priests. It is about tolerance; a tolerance of other views that used to exist in the Anglican Church but which does no longer. Women priests were merely the "Clause 4" moment that gave licence to henceforth ignore the traditionalists.

This, like all good sermons, leads neatly to the closing homily. If an organisation wishes to change its nature, then it must be free to do so. But those that drive the change forward must not be surprised if they leave a sizeable chunk of people behind.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Unequivocally Wrong

Leg-Iron posted on the "Climate Camp" at Ratcliffe on Soar power station. A greenie decided to take him to task. Not a good idea. Leg-Iron decided to reply.

The whole post is worth reading, but I'm going to focus on one part. As a former student of the History & Philosophy of Science, there is one aspect of the Climate movement that drives me utterly nutty, and Leg-Iron deals with it admirably.

First, the relevant part of the protester's comment:
- but the science is unequivocal [...], so that's why I'm doing everything I can to stop the burning of the most damaging fossil fuel - coal.
In response, Leg-Iron comments:

I qualified as a scientist in 1981. When did you qualify? Your statement that 'the science is unequivocal' is a parroting of the thoughts you have been told to think. Science, by which I mean real science, is never unequivocal. Never. All of science is open to question at all times. When you stop that process and declare that you have the Ultimate Truth and that any who oppose you are mad, you are not talking science. You are talking religious cult. Which is, I'm afraid, what you have unwittingly joined. Those are not scientist's voices you are listening to. The real scientists have been branded 'barking mad climate deniers'. Why not just call us all 'heretics'? That is the level of debate I hear from you all.

Look at the real science from the real scientists. The ice caps were retreating, but for the last few years they have been increasing year on year. The oceans are cooling, not warming. There are more polar bears now than there were thirty years ago. Those are real findings by real scientists. Why do you think your thought-controller switched you from 'global warming' to 'climate change'? It's because there is no warming. It is not happening.
Well said, Leg-Iron.

Monday, 19 October 2009


Tory Outcast has kindly posted the video that preceded Cameron's speech to conference:

Powerful stuff, and well done. But... it not sad that it was possible? Is is not sad that Labour have handed all that ammunition to the Tories?

Glad as I will be to see the back of Labour and, especially, Brown, it is deeply depressing that he has had to inflict such damage on the UK in order to make it so.

Sunday, 18 October 2009


We have been regaled for quite some time with tales of the dodgy European allies of the Conservatives. With whom, one wonders, are New Labour allied?

Well, to tell the truth, I didn't. It never ocurred to me. It did occur to others, though, and Tory Bear has kindly set them out for us.

The Labour Party sit with the European Socialists grouping (PES), a bunch of nuts lefties that make Blair and Brown look slightly to the left of Hannan. Labour can try have a half-hearted smear attempt at the tory groupings, but it is a national embarrassment that the governing party of the day consort with communists, terrorists, murderers, anti-semites and 9/11 deniers.

Well, quite. Mind you, that is New Labour these days - a national embarrassment.

(Hat tip: a certain honourable Lady from Essex...)

Friday, 16 October 2009

Retrospective? I think not...

I'm quite surprised to see that even normally intelligent sources such as the Spectator are still continuing to claim that the Legg conclusions are based on a retrospective re-interpretation.

As Tory Bear pointed out, there is and always has been an explicit statement in the MPs' expenses guide, that all expenses must be

"wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred for the purposes of carrying out their duties as an MP."
That is, of course, the proper reason for any expenses claim in any other field.

Legg has merely placed a upper figure on what can be considered wholly, exclusively and necessary for the duties of an MP, which makes clear sense if you think about it for a brief moment. It may well be necessary to clean a second home, but it is clearly unnecessary to clean it on the hour, every hour. Therefore there must be an upper limit, and (frankly) Legg's limit seems quite generous.

So, to use TB's phrase, stop whining and get out the chequebook.

Voltaire would be proud

Climate change activists are not high on the list of people whose opinions I respect.

The Guardian has, over the years, similarly failed to impress me with the quality of its reasoning or the correctness of its conclusions.

But Voltaire was right; I do not agree with what either the Guardian or the average climate change apostle has to say, but their right to say it is - or at least should be - absolute.

That is why I am very concerned that Chris Kitchen was held under anti-terrorist legislation in order to prevent him from attending the forthcoming United Nations summit in Denmark. Now, I don't know Mr Kitchen, and I don't know what he planned to do in Denmark. Indeed, I see from the Guardian report that he has an active past, including having "taken place (sic*) in a number of peaceful acts of civil disobedience". Of note, however, is the word "peaceful". He is not, it seems, a terrorist.

As the police officer is alleged to say, however, terrorism "could mean a lot of things". Precisely, officer. That's what worries me.

(Hat tip: Ben Goldacre, author of Bad Science, and someone whose views I have rather more respect for)

*Dear old Grauniad .... bless ...

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Quick link

... to Leg-Iron, purely for using the simply excellent phrase:
There are so many nails in Labour's coffin now, there's barely room for the corpse.
I wish I'd thought of that.

One sector is still doing rather well...

Constantly Furious is, err, quite annoyed. With good reason. He has looked into the latest unemployment figures:

Labour spinners gleefully leapt on the latest unemployment figures - yet another triumph! Jim Knight proudly announced that "These figures show a significant slowing in the rate of increase of unemployment" ..... What's that supposed to mean, Jim?
(Yes, I thought that was a rather convoluted turn of phrase, too...)

Where, pray, have the job losses been? Well, the private sector shed 230,000 jobs between March and June. And how many jobs were lost in the public sector during that period, would you think? Nearly a quarter of a million 'normal' jobs lost, how many from the taxpayers' payroll? How many?

The answer isn't 'None'. Oh no. That would be ridiculous.

In fact, it's worse, far worse than none. In that same period, the number of public sector workers rose by 13,000.
And, as CF puts it, it doesn't stop there

"public sector workers received a pay rise of 3.4 per cent in the three months to August compared a pay rise of just 1.5 per cent for employees in the private sector"
I have to agree with CF:
If this was a satire, it would be derided as excessive. But no, tragically, this is ****ing real.

This bastard, ****witted government is still, in the face of huge recession, and a mounting debt that our great-great-grandchildren will struggle with, creating more jobs in the public sector. More seats on the gravy train.

And, not only that, they're giving those in that sector, with their jobs-for-life and their gold-plated ****ing pensions, above-inflation pay rises too.

Gordon 'desperate' Brown would doubtless have us all believe that the 3.4% increases went to "nurses 'n' teachers","teachers 'n' nurses", but you know what? They ****ing didn't.

No, they went to the endless pen-pushers and prod-noses who sit on the hundreds of ****ing Quango's that blight this country, sucking the liberty and the cash from us all.

They went to all the Outreach Co-ordinators, Diversity Managers, Community Space Challenger Co-ordinators and Enviro-Crime Enforcement Officers that sit around all day thinking of more ways to ruin our day.

Gordon Brown incessantly accuses the Tories of being the party that would make "slashing" cuts. If and when CallMeDave takes the reins, Gordon warns us he'll make "deep, savage" cuts in the public sector.

You know what? The sooner the ****ing better.

Bring it on.
Yes; Dave - bring it on. Do it. Slash it. Then, we might have a real recovery. You'll also relieve the NHS budget of the cost of blood-pressure pills for me and CF.

Chipping Away at ActionAid

I posted a while back about ActionAid and their somewhat crass venture into the field of intellectual property. I included a copy of my email to them; they have now replied.

If you recall, their article said

To highlight the injustice of patents on food, ActionAid 'invented' a ready-salted chip, nd filed for a patent. If successful, could be granted legal rights over the ActionAid hip, and any chips that have salt added to them. So we could demand that chip shop owners throughout the UK pay for a licence to add salt to their chips. With 300 million servings of chips sold each year, we could stand to make millions
New patent rules allow companies to get exclusive rights over basic foods and even ature itself, simply by adding something to it or modifying it in a way that has not been done before.
My email to them pointed out that this was somewhat misleading and asked for further details or a retraction. Their reply is:

Thank you for your email regarding the spoof patent application made by ActionAid on 2002, ‘The ActionAid Chip’. I am sorry to hear that you find the article you have read regarding this misleading, as that was certainly not our intention.

As I have mentioned this spoof patent was part of a campaign run by ActionAid in 2002 and is not related to our current work. We apologise for any confusion and we have now amended our website to make it clear that this is a previous campaign.

Please see the amended webpage here:

This spoof chip patent application was a campaign device to highlight and draw attention to the issue of patents on food crops. We were very clear at the time in our press releases and materials that this was spoof application to draw attention to the issues.

We did the application at the time of the deliberations of the Commission on Intellectual Property Rights (CIPR) which was set up by the Department of International Development (DfID), and which was looking at the implications of IPR rules and development policies.

Many of ActionAid's key concerns were reflected in the final report by this CIPR in September 2002, and we felt that the investment of under £100 in the spoof chip patent application was a good and cost effective use of our precious resources.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for contacting us, should you have any further queries then please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely

UK Supporter Care Team
Well, I'm not impressed. Here is my response:

Thank you for your reply. Whilst I note that the "Previous Corporate Campaigns" page refers to the chip as a past issue, the page itself does not, and still refers to "new patent rules". The potential for confusion is still significant, therefore, if readers are sent to page by a direct link (as I was).

You do not identify the application in question, but I now understand it to be GB2384968, filed on 11 February 2002 by Shalil Shetty. Please confirm whether this is the case. Assuming that it is, this allows me to be somewhat more specific as to my concerns over your article, viz:

"If successful, [we] could be granted legal rights over the ActionAid Chip, and any chips that have salt added to them. "

First, of course, the application was not successful. I have asked the Patent Office for a copy of the file, but for now it is clear that examination of the application was requested and that the application was terminated some time later. It seems, therefore, that the application met with objections. The statement is therefore misleading in that it does not make clear that the application will be subject to a critical examination intended to weed out applications covering known or obvious subject-matter.

The statement is also untruthful in stating that the patent, if granted, would cover "any chips that have salt added to them". The closest claim to this is claim 1, which refers to a chip that is "imbued" with the flavour of salt. Whilst this term is regrettably unclear, it does not (to my mind) cover a chip with an external sprinkling of salt - the salt flavour must be within and throughout the body of the chip in order to be "imbued".

A patent resulting from your application would not therefore cover "any chips that have salt added to them", nor would it cover conventionally salted chips. Your statement is untruthful.

The same applies to:

"So we could demand that chip shop owners throughout the UK pay for a licence to add salt to their chips. With 300 million servings of chips sold each year, we could stand to make millions"

The application as drafted would not cover the normal activities of chip shop owners, and would not grant you the right to claim royalties. The statement is untruthful.

Your article also fails to mention section 70 of the Patents Act, that would allow any person aggrieved by threats of infringement proceedings or demand for royalty payments to seek an injunction preventing you from doing so, and the various fora (including low-cost fora such as the Patent Office) through which the validity of a patent can be challenged.

Your article fails to set out the content of your patent application, and this (at the time) would have prevented third parties from challenging your conclusions.

Your article therefore gives the false impression that the patent system allows the monopolisation of known processes (such as salted chips) and the extortion of royalties from honest traders. I find this most insulting. In nearly 20 years of work in the patent profession, I have specialised in acting for small to medium companies, and in using the patent system both to secure for them the proper protection for their innovation, and to defend them against unjustified claims. I believe that I have been successful in doing so, particularly in securing resolution of disputes in a cost-effective and proportionate manner. Often, the patent system has been the only means for such companies - especially the small ones - to defend themselves against competing large corporates with greater commercial clout.

Your article is, in short, crass and untruthful and gives a completely misleading impression. I ask you to amend it so as to recognise:

(a) that your application was refused by the Patent Office acting in line with normal principles of patent examination, and

(b) that, if a patent had been granted, it would not in fact have given you the rights to which you refer.
I'll post any further news on the subject...

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Can we make this go viral?

The Telegraph may have found the holy grail of life-improvement:

A decade ago, I set out to investigate luck. I wanted to examine the impact on people's lives of chance opportunities, lucky breaks and being in the right place at the right time. After many experiments, I believe that I now understand why some people are luckier than others and that it is possible to become luckier.
It seems to work, too:

One month later, the volunteers returned and described what had happened. The results were dramatic: 80 per cent of people were now happier, more satisfied with their lives and, perhaps most important of all, luckier. While lucky people became luckier, the unlucky had become lucky.
(Hat Tip - Stuart Sharpe. And yes, the title is a deliberate reference to a well-known television series)

Monday, 12 October 2009

What we are doing wrong

An ambititious headline, I agree. But here goes nothing.

Any parent will tell you that children need to be given freedom if they are to flourish. Constrain their every move, and they either rebel or submit. Neither is a good idea over the long term (although one is more pleasant in the short). Give them the freedom to choose, and whilst they may not do what you expected (or hoped) they will explore and learn.

Unsurprisingly, adults are essentially the same.

We can therefore take one of two approaches to the construction and regulation of a proper society. One approach is to set out in detail the path that everyone is to follow - to lay down how they live their lives, decide things for them, and generally act as Nanny. The other is to set down what is expected of people in terms of a minimum standard of behaviour, and to ensure that, generally, the individual meets with the outcomes of their actions. We are, of course, currently testing the former system to destruction.

These are not just differences of degree, or nuance. They are fundamentally different approaches that result in different policies. For example, take the BMA fuss about alcohol advertising. We could, as is being proposed, assume the mantle of responsibility for the health of the individual and protect them from persuasive advertising, raise the price of alcohol to something that is beyond their means, and generally keep them away from stuff that is bad for them. Or, we could take the latter approach, leave the price of alcohol to the market, and regulate only for those who cannot make their own decisions (such as minors). If people get drunk, they will suffer a sore head. If they get even more drunk, they will suffer a sore head, neck and shoulders; police cell floors are not comfortable places to sleep. If they get hopelessly drunk every night, they will lose their job. If they then lounge about, complaining that benefits aren’t enough to live on what with the price of Special Brew, our collective response can be “Tough”.

The “problem” with both approaches is that they have knock-on effects. The Nanny approach, for example, can deal with alcohol in this way, but will then face calls to deal with other harmful products, such as (of course) tobacco. Once both are dealt with to Nanny’s satisfaction, its gaze will be drawn to meths (or whatever substitute the alcoholics turn to). Then, of course, we face a logical difficulty in allowing the continued sale of other products that can be abused, such as solvent-based adhesives, kitchen knives, rope, petrol, nails, knitting needles, pins, frying pans, and so on. Eventually, all that we would be allowed to purchase without an official certificate of our goodness and general trustworthiness is cotton wool*.

The other problem is that whole swathes of the population are criminalised for minor infringement of Nanny’s regulations. Market traders who offered apples for sale by the pound are an obvious example, but I'm going to opt for a more contentious example. What is actually wrong with selling a vegetable knife to a responsible 17-year old** who then uses it solely for culinary purposes? Should that retailer be a criminal? And if the 17-year old does stab someone, surely that is the youth’s fault, not the retailer? Would the retailer’s actions have been morally different if he had waited a month (or two), until the youth was 18?

And what of the youth who managed to evade the knife sale regulations, and the alcohol sale regulations, and killed someone in a fit of drunken aggression? Nanny then sees him as a victim, of course. It does not say so outright - that might cause offence (another no-no that must be avoided), but in its response to the incident Nanny implicitly assumes that the regulations were at fault; the cause of the killing was that he was able to obtain a knife and a drink, not that the youth was wrong. The remedy, therefore, is for Nanny to impose more regulations (maybe the limit should be 21?) or to come down harder on the retailers who infringed. The youth, as befits a victim, needs help; Nanny will educate him, train him, help him to understand that killing someone is bad. Nanny will not realise that if he can't work that out for himself, he probably won't understand the lesson.

Think about it; when was the last time that the official response to a tragedy was purely along the lines "Someone evil did something awful and will be punished for it", instead of "The prescribed checks failed in this instance. Procedures have been reviewed in order to identify shortcomings, and the administrative staff have been reprimanded/retrained/added to". Blue Eyes found a post by 200 Weeks describing exactly this.

The knock-on effects of the latter system, on the other hand, is that people might go to jail for quite significant periods. One has to ask, though, whether that is a bad thing. If these people were found committing serious crimes, such a knifing someone in an unprovoked attack on a Saturday night out, then surely they should be?

Equally, others might do very well indeed. A retailer who consistently obtains products that are desired by the people living near him, and sells them at a fair and reasonable price at which he can make a profit, may well become exceedingly rich. Again, is that such a bad thing? You might say that it is, if he is supplying vicious knives to teenagers, but (if you noticed) our example was a vegetable knife. If we supply these more widely, then maybe people will choose to cook. Maybe they will then eat some fruit & veg (maybe even 5 pieces a day...!). Also, if we lock up anyone who misuses a knife, then perhaps the demand for knives for less innocent purposes might decline...

So there you have it. A recipe for a fairer, healthier and more prosperous society; sell knives to teenagers, but punish them if they misuse them.

*actually, I bet you could smother someone with cotton wool, if you had enough. Better legislate a maximum pack size.

**In England, NI & Wales. In Scotland, it is apparently safe to sell knives to 16-year-olds. Either colder darker winters make teens more trustworthy, or we have chanced upon proof that the whole thing is totally arbitrary.

Scientific Discovery - Governmentium

News just* in - Lawrence Livermore Laboratories has discovered the heaviest element yet known to science.

The new element, Governmentium (Gv), has one neutron, 25 assistant neutrons, 88 deputy neutrons, and 198 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312.

These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.

Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert; however, it can be detected, because it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A tiny amount of Governmentium can cause a reaction that would normally take less than a second, to take from 4 days to 4 years to complete.

Governmentium has a normal half-life of 2-4 years. It does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places.
In fact, Governmentium's mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes.

This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a critical concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as critical morass.

When catalyzed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium, an element that radiates just as much energy as Governmentium since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons.

*Actually, Vetnurse posted it ages ago and I've only just noticed...

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Hislop the Hero

Quick link - Hislop takes Yvette Cooper to pieces.

In one clip, I'm persuaded of the merits of including non-politicians on the Question Time panel. They don't talk the code ... they talk like the rest of us.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Global Warming - Mann-made?

This is serious. Look at the graph, below. It shows global temperature variations over the last 2,000 years or so.

(Original here)

As James Delingpole explains:

The scary red line shooting upwards is the one Al Gore, Michael Mann, Keith Briffa and their climate-fear-promotion chums would like you to believe in. The black one, heading downwards, represents scientific reality.
The black line, scientific reality, clearly shows no overall warming.

I'll say that again: no warming.

The theory of anthropogenic global warming was sparked off by Al Gore's infamous "hockey-stick" graph, that has been thoroughly debunked as fictional. Never mind, we were told, there is ample other data that supports AGW.

Now, it seems, that other data is suspect too. Climate Audit broke the story, but it has been picked up by Delingpole (above), Bishop Hill, The Register and the Spectator. The BBC and The Guardian, usually quite interested in climate-related stories, seem to be ignoring the issue. Indeed, BH reports that The Grauniad is actually deleting comments that refer to the Yamal issue. Perhaps they are only interested if the stories point in the "right" direction.

I'm very worried, for two reasons. First, that the biggest news story of recent years, and the biggest political movement since the collapse of the hard left* could have been an elaborate scam. More seriously, that resources may have been wasted on a truly monumental scale, resources that could have genuinely helped so many.

*an interesting co-incidence, I have always thought

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Welcome, Mr Blue Sky

If you want to know what I think about politics, what approach I think government should be taking, and what I would like to hear from the lips of the Prime Minister of this country, go and read this.

The link is to Cameron's speech today. I heard snippets during the day, and liked what I heard. So I've now read it in full, and wholeheartedly support it.

I heard during the afternoon that this had been the introductory music:

So, just for fun, before I set off home from the office, I downloaded a copy and put it on the iPod for the journey home. And what an inspired choice it was by the Tories:

"Mr Blue Sky, please tell us why
You had to hide away, for so long, so long
Where did we go wrong..."

And then it hit me. I realised what has happened to me over the last 12 years. Initially, I disliked Labour. I thought they were wrong, misguided. But slowly, surely, I grew to hate them. Now, that is not a word I use lightly, but here I mean it; I really do. I hate, viscerally hate, what they have done to our country and its institutions. A government founded on lies, on hypocrisy, on vanity, on idiocy. A government that I hate.

Worse, it is a government that has insinuated itself into every nook and cranny. Every part of the life of this country has been touched by their hypocrisy, their incompetence, their idiotic controllery. Only last Sunday, I looked at the note inviting Master Patently to a local boys' event, and saw the apologetic comment that, sadly, the organisers could not arrange lifts. Everywhere I look, I now see Labour. In every part of the public life of this country, I see the object of my hatred.

And that has meant that, slowly, I have grown to hate this country and what it has become. I am not proud of my country; I am not proud of what we have done or what we have achieved, because I do believe that we have done the wrong things and achieved little.

How sad, to hate the country of your birth; the country that, when I was young, I wanted to fight for, to offer my life for. What a lonely place to occupy.

So the imagery of a blue sky opening up ahead did not just strike me as clever (which I think it was), it told me that there is now a chance to start to like this nation again. A chance to feel proud of my homeland, proud of what I am, proud of what I stand for.

Hope is a very powerful emotion.

I drove home in tears of joy. Which means I'm glad I didn't go to Conference...

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Cameron's Challenge

Stuart Sharpe has drawn my attention to a Heresy Corner post on Cameron & the EU, in which some sense is at last shown in the nightmare that is the Lisbon/Ireland/Cameron/Referendum issue:
It is a sign of the unreal nature of political debate in the country that the result of the Irish referendum should be seen mainly as a headache for David Cameron. And, of course, it is a headache for David Cameron, if only because until this weekend it was possible to Tories to close their eyes and imagine that if they wished hard enough the whole Lisbon Treaty might just go away. Now they are faced with the stark reality that, barring a miracle, the new system will be up and running before Britain finally has its general election; and that will be that. A referendum in such circumstances would be an absurdity. Cameron and William Hague know this, and most Conservative members, if they’re being honest with themselves know it too.
As I see it, if the treaty comes into force before we can vote on it then of the previous range of options, i.e.
  • accept the Treaty
  • refuse to ratify and require a renegotiation
  • leave the EU

we have only lost one. There are still two left.

The problem, of course, is that one option is the nuclear one, and the other is abhorrent to a section of the populace. Therefore, whatever happens Cameron will need to have a referendum of some sort on an EU-related question, simply to lance the issue properly. Given that the Conservatives appeal to a mix of Europhiles and Europhobes, the election of Cameron will not give him a mandate either way, so he could not use an electoral sucess to justify either extreme. A referendum will therefore become the only way to either show the UK's dislike of the EU project, or show the Europhobes that they are a minority and should shut up and stop whinging.

If he doesn't hold a referendum on either the Lisbon Treaty or EU membership in general, the issue will rumble on. If so, it will either destroy his government (a return to Maastrict, anyone?) or kill whatever faith remains in our political system. Either way, he will go down as a failure.

Holding a referendum, and then use the result either to close down the Eurosceptic fuming or extricate us from the EU, and he will reserve his place in our history books.

Also relevant, though bound to be missed, is HC's ending note:

After all, he can't do anything unless he gets elected. And despite what most people assume, that is far from being a foregone conclusion.

Wise words. Cameron is not in No.10 yet. There is plenty of time still to go; I remember the 1992 election well, and fear that Brown could still secure another 5 years in which to continue his programme of destruction. At least I will still 20 alternatives to choose from, though, in that case.

Labour's Lost List?

Gordon gave us a list of Labour's achievements during Labour's 12 years in power. He missed half of it, though.

How kind of William Hague to finish it off for him:

- £22,500 of debt for every child born in Britain
- 111 tax rises from a government that promised no tax rises at all
- The longest national tax code in the world
- 100,000 million pounds drained from British pension funds
- Gun crime up by 57%
- Violent crime up 70%
- The highest proportion of children living in workless households anywhere in Europe
- The number of pensioners living in poverty up by 100,000
- The lowest level of social mobility in the developed world
- The only G7 country with no growth this year
- One in six young people neither earning nor learning
- 5 million people on out-of –work benefits
- Missing the target of halving child poverty
- Ending up with child poverty rising in each of the last three years instead
- Cancer survival rates among the worst in Europe
- Hospital-acquired infections killing nearly three times as many people as are killed on the roads
- Falling from 4th to 13th in the world competitiveness league
- Falling from 8th to 24th in the world education rankings in maths
- Falling from 7th to 17th in the rankings in literacy
- The police spending more time on paperwork than on the beat
- Fatal stabbings at an all-time high
- Prisoners released without serving their sentences
- Foreign prisoners released and never deported
- 7 million people without an NHS dentist
- Small business taxes going up
- Business taxes raised from among the lowest to among the highest in Europe
- Tax rises for working people set for after the election
- The 10p tax rate abolished
- And the ludicrous promise to have ended boom and bust
- Our gold reserves sold for a quarter of their worth
- Our armed forces overstretched and under-supplied
- Profitable post offices closed against their will
- One of the highest rates of family breakdown in Europe
- The ‘Golden Rule’ on borrowing abandoned when it didn’t fit
- Police inspectors in 10,Downing Street
- Dossiers that were dodgy
- Mandelson resigning the first time
- Mandelson resigning the second time
- Mandelson coming back for a third time
- Bad news buried
- Personal details lost
- An election bottled
- A referendum denied

(Hat Tip: LabourLost)

Monday, 5 October 2009

A chip on their shoulder?

ActionAid have published an article on the patenting system which has disgusted me.

They want to establish that the rules on patenting are unfair, and allow companies to "get exclusive rights over basic foods and even nature itself". To highlight this, they have applied for a patent for a ready-salted chip.

I think that my feelings on this are best summarised by the email that I have sent to them:
Good morning. I write to you as the owner of the Patently Rubbish blog and a practising UK Patent Attorney.

Your article concerning the ActionAid Chip was brought to my attention. In this article, you state that:

To highlight the injustice of patents on food, ActionAid 'invented' a ready-salted chip, and filed for a patent. If successful, could (sic) be granted legal rights over the ActionAid Chip, and any chips that have salt added to them. So we could demand that chip shop owners throughout the UK pay for a licence to add salt to their chips. [...] We have done this to highlight the injustice of food patent rules.

Your assertions are misleading. It is highly unlikely that a patent will be granted, as the "invention" clearly lacks novelty and/or inventive step in view of the routine salting of chips by fish & ship shops for many decades. If, by some accident, it is granted, then although you could "demand" royalties (as you could even without a patent), the patent will not entitle you to obtain royalties as a Court will
immediately revoke it for lack of novelty/inventive step.

I therefore challenge you to take one of the following courses of action:

(1) To acknowledge that the rules governing the validity of patents are in fact fair and reasonable, and that your article is misleading. To publish this on your website and/or elsewhere, with equal prominence to the Chip article, and to add a link to the acknowledgement from the Chip article,


(2) To stand by your claim that the rule are unfair as highlighted by your example, and to

(a) provide me with the application number and filing date of the Chip patent so that an appropriate legal challenge can be brought,
(b) issue a demand to me for payment of royalties

In respect of 2(b) above, I wish to admit to you formally that I have in the past requested of fish and chip shops that they add salt to chips cooked to my order. I am therefore guilty of inducing a third party to infringe. I intend to continue doing so in the future and, despite knowledge of your patent application, refuse to cease doing so. If your argument has any merit then you should accordingly demand royalties of me.

Your response is awaited.

I'll let you know what comes back.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

The Election is On!

On Wednesday, Gordon told the Today programme that:

"There is a time for discussing debates, but we are not in an election. I have decided in my own mind.

I am not going to go into that today because basically there is a time for deciding these issues and the time for me at the moment, where I have got to spend my time, is going round the country as I have been doing over the last few months to explain to people the policies that we are engaged in."

Now, on, Gordon says:
"It is right that we set the issues before the British people. Others can work out the details but what's important for the country is that there is a wide ranging series of television and radio debates with party leaders"
So, on Wednesday it wasn't the time to say whether he would get into a debate with the other leaders because we weren't in the election. Now, it is the time to say whether he will debate with them. So ... we must be in an election?

Which leaves only one more question: WHEN?

When do we get to throw you out, then, Gordon?


Or can you not make your mind up on that, either?

Friday, 2 October 2009

Friday Fun

I love Sniff Petrol. Consistently silly - perfect for some of us. Here are two of their recent fake adverts that hit the spot.


And so, two of my recent subjects suddenly combine in one news story.

The Spectator is suggesting that British Aerospace should not be prosecuted merely "because it operates in a trade that is oiled by tarts and overpriced champagne". It says:

The Czech Republic is a close ally and will object to the intimation that ministers were bought with a combination of 8 course dinners, the finest booze known to man and a procession of energetic escorts, exactly as the Saudis were.
The suggestion is that bribes (as such) were not in fact paid to officials in order to distort their decisions; BAe merely entertained a series of potential clients.

This brings to mind the recent fines imposed by the OFT on building firms who engaged in "cover pricing". Now, there may be more to this than has met my eye, but as reported much of this "cover pricing" merely consisted of hiking the quote for a job that they didn't want to do. Yes, sometimes the eventual winner paid the losers, which strongly implies anti-competitive behaviour of a serious nature, but this seems to have been a minority of cases.

So, the SFO says that corporate entertainment is corrupt, and the OFT says that you can't put in a high quote for work you don't want. I'd better wait for the prosecution, then; I do both routinely. If I want someone's work, then I'll try to get to know them. Lunch is a good excuse for a chat*. If I don't want the work, then I'll up the quote to a level at which it is irresistible if offered.

What, exactly, is wrong with either of these practices?

And then, at the end of the Spectator article, is the sting that proves the Attorney General must resign:
I hope that the Attorney General ignores the SFO’s overtures; in this context, slush funds are the equivalent of not paying the congestion charge.

*though I tend to pass on the "energetic escorts", I have to admit.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Your Winnings, Captain Renault

Let me try and get this right.

British Aerospace is being threatened by the SFO with prosecution in respect of its alleged history of giving government agencies huge lumps of cash in return for favours.

However, the SFO (an arm of government) say that if BAe gives it a huge lump of cash and promises faithfully never ever ever to give government agencies huge lumps of cash in return for favours ever again, the SFO will conveniently forget all about the whole idea of prosecuting them.

No, sorry, I still don't understand....

Clarification: If BAe used to bribe their way into contracts, they deserve to be strung up. Or as close to that as you can for a company. I just happen to think that if the SFO has evidence of that then they should take it to a Court. The idea that one bunch of civil servants can take it upon themselves to be the prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner is frankly offensive. And verging on corrupt.

Sharpe Words

Stuart Sharpe is annoyed.

Now, he's not the sort to rant. I am. I rant a lot. I get annoyed with what Labour do. Not as annoyed as some people, who get quite furious, but still really rather annoyed. But not Stuart. So when he gets annoyed, it's time to sit up and take notice.

He's annoyed because Labour want to incarcerate single mums and enact an openly racist immigration policy. And he has a point. Go and read his post, if you haven't already. The single mums' workhouses proposal by Labour is, quite simply, possibly the most illiberal announcement that they have made to date - and that is saying an awful lot. Brown seemed to assume that it would be voluntary, to "help" them in the way that only The State can, but Balls confirmed that it would be mandatory. You will accept The State's help, whether you want to or not.

I hadn't commented on these announcements. I think I dismissed them as so obviously incredibly utterly stupidly wrong both in principle and in practice, so they just left my conciousness without leaving a mark. But Stuart is right; that Labour could even consider announcing these is simply appalling.

They must go. They really must go.