Friday, November 30, 2007

Politics May Have Just Got Interesting

In my circle of friends I am regarded as the most politically astute mainly because I take an interest all the time where they are attracted by key issues relevant to them. Try keeping my biker buddies quiet about the idea of road pricing for example.

Politics on a general level has been boring for most of our adult lives (being twenty-somethings or early thirty-somethings) due to the fact that it has been all Labour with no competition for over a decade.

Now the Labour Party is resorting to cannibalism in order to create an artificial image of strength for Gordon Brown (and failing) other parties are getting a look in. Slowly, the country is having to start to think that there has to be another way for the country to be run.

What makes this whole issue especially bizarre is that this most recent mess regarding donations and political campaign funding has only been able to cause the damage it has because of rules that the current administration introduced in 2000. With the impact of Cash for Peerages not yet faded from memory it is extraordinary that top-job holding ministers and aides have allowed this scandal to break because of their inability to follow their own rules properly.

The only sad thing is that the Lib Dems have so many problems of their own that they are failing to provide the 3rd alternative that we so desperately need from them. Vincent Cable is doing a fantastic job as acting leader and it is a great shame he isn't in the frame to take the role permanently. The two choices are interchangeable and neither look to be any more earth shattering than Cameron is proving to be for the Tories.

I wish that the situation was that politics has got interesting because everyone is performing so well. If has to be that their is a competition because each is as bad as the other then so be it. If it gives the public a means and reason to rethink the current state of affairs then I'm sure some good can be had from it.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Teacher Gets 15 Days Incarceration for Naming a Teddy

A British teacher working in Sudan has been sentenced to 15 days jail time for allowing a teddy bear to be given the same name as the Islamic prophet. This will be followed by deportation.

Alternative punishment could have been a large fine (being a teacher that probably would have hurt significantly), a year's imprisonment or 40 lashes. In that respect two weeks is a light sentence.

The general public perception in the UK seems to be that this whole issue is absurd and the Sudanese need to lighten up. There is a also the human need to turn the situation into something comparable that we here can understand. The equivalent is probably a non-faith state school class calling their teddy bear Jesus. (God has been suggested but the comparable would be Allah).

You can't tell me there wouldn't be uproar from many non-Christian sects if the story ended up breaking with the same magnitude. The main difference would be that we don't have legislation to cover the situation.

It's an unfortunate situation brought about by naivety. However, as is the case with British law, ignorance is not an excuse.


Lest We Forget Marriage Still Dominates Families

With all the talks of cohabiting couples and single mothers it is easy to think that the demographics of family life have changed so much that one of other of these is dominant in society. However the married couple family type makes up 71% of families in the UK.

It's changing, with a 6.5% reduction in the past 10 years and cohabitation taking up the slack, but there's a good few years of marriage heading the pack to go yet.

We can continue to expect marriage to be favoured and supported by government policy for a while to come.

Sources: ONS

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Lock Your PC or Learn a Lesson

I always make a tut sound when someone at work leaves their PC open when they move from their seat to perform an errand. You should be able to trust that nothing will happen in your absence but sadly people need entertainment or worse there may be someone that does not like you.

So, when your Word or Email starts performing tourettes style acts on you, maybe you won't leave it to chance next time.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Another Day, Another Composite Crisis in Government

Understandably, there are a few million upset parents shrilling with rage over the latest public sector blunder. This time the scale is massive as 25 million personal details records have been misplaced by delivery company TNT. The top head of the department responsible, HMRC, rolled earlier today when Paul Gray resigned.

Most anger is being directed at Alistair Darling saying that he should resign for the incident too. This is composite with the handling of the Northern Rock bank run and subsequent downward spiralling of the company's fortune.

It is alleged that the junior official that made the error was not acting in accordance with security protocol set for the task. What could the Chancellor possibly do to help that if that is the case? In 5 months on the job there is no way he could have drilled down to the level of detail of job knowledge to know about that single process, let alone the competency of the person performing the task.

The likelihood of the discs entering criminal hands is negligible. In order to get there the operation would pretty much have had to be done to order. In which case recorded mail would hardly solve the issue as it still possible to steal recorded mail. All normal mail has done is increased the probability that the CDs will be misplaced.

There are people at fault:
  1. The junior official for not sending by recorded mail which would have near eliminated the chance of misplacement
  2. The manager who created the process which has this data sent by disc when secure FTP or similar technology could be used for the task
  3. The manager who puts his name to the legal compliance of the department who should therefore ensure that processes regarding laws like the Data Protection Act are adhered to
I believe there are suitable punishments in place for the junior official and the most senior manager.

BBC News story: Darling admits 25m records lost
Other source: Channel 4 News

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Prison Crowding Question

BBC's current Have Your Say poll: How should we solve overcrowding?

A. Build more prisons (currently 73.24% of the vote)
B. Change sentencing policy (23.19% of the vote)
C. Not sure (3.57% of the vote)

So... nothing about doing something to stop people committing crimes in the first place then?

Now I didn't notice the poll that went up when the bank run on Northern Rock occurred but I can only imagine it went something like:
A. Panic
B. Panic
C. Not sure

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Buy Me a Megaphone For Christmas

It escaped my attention that this weekend (the weekend before, next weekend and the weekend after that) Basingstoke rail station is being torn up and put back down again. One hopes that one will feel the difference when coasting through that region of track in about six hours time however one has his doubts.

Either way, that meant earlier I had to get back home through the only remaining means: replacement bus service. The interesting result of which is about 1 hour saved on me walking the 15 miles. With the price of public transport that almost means I would save both money and another hour if I went to the nearest cycle shop and purchased a push bike for the journey.

The Andover - Winchester public transport mechanism is the most horrid of routes, made worst by the fact that both bus and train companies are in fact the same entity. How the Competition Commission let that one slip through I don't bloody know.

Supermarkets attract the biggest public attention when it comes to unfair competition. Sure, this is a Tesco town, but there is also a Waitrose, Sainsbury's and a M&S store lingering around. If I want to get out of town through public transport then there's only Stagecoach Group I can turn to. How on earth is that right? People may call me a Tory boy, but I'll happily say they screwed up royal with the privatisation of the rail network. Quick money in the bank whilst opening up a unfair market which is just as skewed as the telecoms market released a decade earlier.

This is all a horrible trail of thought for a man who is very much in favour of free markets and keeping government out of areas they need not be involved in.

Getting back on track (couldn't resist, not even sorry), there's two ways of getting to Winchester for me.
Bus, which takes over an hour as it pointlessly meanders through village roads that are too small for your average single decker, seldom picking up or dropping off passengers. It does come at a fair price of £4.40, runs 3 times a day Monday - Saturday.
Alternatively there is the Train. Fast, about twenty minutes to Basingstoke and same again from there onto Winchester. Regular, at worst every hour, and that includes Sundays. Ridiculously priced as it thinks that the unwanted excursion 19 miles away from where I want to be heading is a valued commodity and charges £11.10.

The trip from Winchester to Basingstoke really ate at me. The most expensive price to go on the slowest means of transport in a direction I didn't want to going in. Not to mention having to wait half an hour for the privilege. I was wearing a face like the devil just shat in my soup with a attitude to match. In the end I was thankful no-one looked at me funny.

I don't know quite how this works but life is somehow better when spoken through a megaphone. The passenger assistant wielding the device managed to shift me out of the real shitty mood I was in half way through my journey home today. Something about the contradiction in terms that is "fast bus to Andover" really chimed my funnybone.

How easy it is to play with emotions sometimes.

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Top Gear Top Tip - Cover Your Nuts

Jeremy Clarkson was in surprisingly educational spirit in tonight's Top Gear programme where the gang were challenged to travel through Botswana in a convoy of old bangers.

When considering which wildlife to be afraid of Jeremy introduced the Honey Badger. Always fascinated by tales of our kin, I had to check out if what he was saying could be substantiated. Not as such with hard evidence, but chances are there are badgers out there that will have your nadgers off.

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