Friday, September 21, 2012

Last orders at The Devil's Kitchen

As regular readers might have noticed, your humble Devil has been struggling to comment on politics for some time—the last couple of years, really.

A number of factors have contributed to this: the loss of anonymity has, though my choice, has made a difference, of course; as has the fact that there are only so many times that one can write the same thing over and over again.

Further, when your humble Devil started blogging, those of us who were of different political opinions still adhered to certain standards of evidence and honesty: that sense of brotherhood has disappeared with the introduction of the financially-backed party political sites.

This has accompanied the ever-accelerating disappearance of those bloggers whom I considered a daily read: not because I agreed with them, but because they made me think, and they made me laugh.

Most importantly, unlike when The Kitchen first opened, I am actually happy in my personal life—I have a fantastic wife and a job that I love.

And it is this last item that has led to this final announcement: I now spend most of my life involved in my work, building and creating things that make people's lives better.

Shortly, I am to take an enhanced and, possibly (at some point), more public role in the business. This is, I feel, incompatible with maintaining The Kitchen—especially given the way that I feel about politics and political blogging anyway.

As such, I am giving my loyal army—of readers, contributors, enemies, political foils and brothers in arms—notice that, in the next couple of weeks, this blog will be retired. Initially I shall put it behind a login and then, after taking a back-up, I shall (probably) delete it.

The Devil's Kitchen has been running since January 13th 2005: in that time, there have been 6,005 posts; 3,776,324 page loads and 3,089,579 unique visits—with my best day (when I published a post assessing the state of the code released during ClimateGate) amassing 24,598 unique visits in just 24 hours.

I think that I can claim the rather more dubious accolade of coining—and embodying—the word "swearblogging".

I am also pleased that the phrase and concept of "fake charities" has also entered the blogging lexicon—not least through my setting up of the site that enabled people to check whether such organisations take government money. I hope to be able to upgrade and refine that resource soon.

Quite apart from the fact that the catharsis which The Kitchen enabled—and which kept me going through some very dark days—I have also met some incredibly nice people through this blogging lark, many of whom I have had great fun with, and who I hope that I shall continue to see.

However, despite all of this, I have felt for some time that politics is an utterly futile endeavour. For the last few years, I have found that my work has allowed me to make a real difference to people's lives (not least my own) in a way that politics—let alone the libertarian position that I occupy—can never do.

Remember, politicians only ever make your life harder—they never make it better, or easier: you have to do that for yourself. And I have found that this positivity is far more healthy and rewarding than wallowing in the stye of negativity and managed decline that is the political arena.

And so, for all of the reasons above, The Kitchen will close within the next couple of weeks. And for good this time.

I shall maintain my online presence through my portfolio site (and I might even update it occasionally!). I shall even still Tweet occasionally about politics. I am also (for those who are interested) pretty active, experimenting with interesting CSS, over at CodePen.

It is my intention, too, to start up a new blog: this will be concerned with technology, software development, management, the exciting developments in HTML5 and CSS3, and the web in general: those who might find such a thing interesting can drop me a line, and I shall let you know when it's up and running.

Until then, thank you—all of you: readers, writers, friends, enemies, colleagues and acquaintances. I have had so many opportunities that I never would have had without all of you. I have had the chance to meet some of the politicos that I excoriate, and the researchers who I slag off; I have had the chance to influence policy, and to drink enormous quantities of free booze. I have partaken of bad tempered political arguments, and still been stood a round; I have met people, both interesting and articulate, who made me very welcome in London when I moved from Edinburgh.

So, until we meet again, farewell to all my friends and enemies—it's been a blast!

UPDATE: thanks to all of you who have left comments, sent messages, etc. I am particularly delighted that I was able to introduce so many people to libertarianism: since I discovered that philosophy through the blogs of others, I am happy that I have been able to, as it were, pay it forward...

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Quote of the day...

... comes from a comment under this snobby Grauniad article in which some author called Joan Brady whines about big chain coffee-shops.

Here is Joan Brady, wittering on about those evil corporations daring to set up shops...
Three quarters of [Totnes's] population protested against Costa: Totnes already has more than 40 independent coffee shops. That many people agreeing on anything approaches a miracle, a landslide of public opinion. Costa isn't bothered. It hasn't bothered with the populations of other protesting towns either. But isn't this supposed to be a democracy?
... to which our doughty commenter—one davidwferguson—promptly replies:
And if your idea of 'democracy' is 'a system where me and my condescending arsehole chums get to dictate to other people what kind of coffee they're going to be allowed to drink', then I hope you never develop any kind of inclination towards fascism.
Pithily put, I think you'll agree; and it exposes the big lie behind all of these Islington so-called "liberals"—they are snobs, and authoritarian snobs at that.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

An economic solution I can get behind...

... comes from the Daily Mash...
DRINKING at least three pints of beer at lunchtime could put Britain’s economy back on track, it has been claimed.

As the country sinks further into a double-dip recession, economists believe the decline of lunchtime drinking could be the cause of its economic woes.

Professor Henry Brubaker of the Institute for Studies said: “Throughout the 80s and early 90s, office workers would flee the office like rats out of a trap at half twelve – twelve on Fridays – heading straight for the pub.

“However bosses fell under the influence of soulless foreign ‘business experts’, particularly Americans, who believed that drinking several pints of beer in the middle of the day could negatively effect productivity.

“But it’s only after the shift away from midday alcohol binges towards eating a sad little sandwich at one’s computer that everything went to shit.”

Professor Brubaker believes a mandatory minimum lunchtime beer consumption of three pints could restore Britain’s economic vigour.
Yup—I think that'll work very nicely!

As I always say, the glass is half-empty—and it's your round...

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Let's be Frank

Via someone on Twitter, I was directed to the Grauniad's pathetic hatchet job on Frank Turner (I hope that my post wasn't the trigger).

The article's author—Michael Hann—claims that he has reviewed Frank's albums in the past, but hadn't realised that Turner wasn't the greatest fan of the state. Presumably Hann skipped Sons of Liberty.

But here is Frank's heinous crime:
Turns out his libertarianism and belief in the power of the people to resist oppression aren't of the leftist sort. They're of the rightist sort.
Right. So, in the world of Hann, belief in individuals is fine so long as you label yourself "left-wing", but that same belief is evil if you don't.


Hann then responds to some of the commenters below his article:
The Guardian is a leftwing newspaper. What we do is disagree with the right.
Uh huh. And I thought that a "leftwing newspaper" might be for something. Like the betterment of the working man, or the empowerment of the masses, or better education, or something.

But no: apparently, "a leftwing newspaper" exists to "disagree with the right".

Which is just one of the reasons why normal people are so disengaged from politics: the whole charade is one bunch of highly privileged people disagreeing with another bunch of highly privileged people over rarified philosophies, the outcomes of which always screw the hard-working people of this country—treating them all, rich or poor, as nothing more than cash-cows for the expensive experiments of the pusillanimous, disconnected bigots that inhabit Whitehall, Westminster and Fleet Street.

Frank's reply to Hann can be found in full on his blog—I will quote the most pertinent bits.
My politics are based on principles like democracy, individuality, equality of opportunity, distrust of power and, above all else, freedom, including economic freedom. They’re not the same as when I was 19, or indeed 23 – a few more years kicking around the world has made me adjust my views a little, although the basic principles remain the same. Once I would have called myself an anarchist. These days I suppose the word “libertarian” does pretty well for me, though I suspect it’s a little over-intellectual as a description. I just think the world works better when people are left alone to do what they want as much as possible.

Incidentally, here’s some things I’m not: “Tory”, “conservative”, or “Republican”. If you don’t know the difference between these and libertarians, I suggest reading up a little before slagging me off. I don’t consider myself “right wing” either. I’m just not a leftist.

A lot of people have been treating this as some kind of reveal. Given that the journalist was quoting from an interview from 3 years ago[*] that seems a little odd to me. There’s something about it in the FAQ on here, and Poetry Of The Deed (2009) had a song on it called “Sons Of Liberty” which was about this kind of thing. As it happens, I don’t want my music to be particularly political (as I’ve been saying for ages) so I don’t talk about it that much. But it’s not like I keep it secret either. A lot of the fuss here to me seems to be because some people have had an idea of what they want me to be, and have discovered I’m not that. Sorry, I guess, although I’d say that it’s be much worse for me to pretend otherwise to please them, or sell records, or whatever.

At the end of the day, some people will disagree with my politics. That’s fine. I’m not trying to tell anyone what to do with their lives Most of my friends disagree with me, not least Billy Bragg and Chris T-T. But, being adults, we understand that intelligent people can disagree about stuff. Despite occasionally running my mouth (a bad habit of mine, which I’m working on) I don’t think people who call themselves socialists are evil, mad, stupid or deserving of being attacked; I just see the world differently. In everything I do, I try to treat everyone with equal respect and consideration. I’d hope that the way I’ve gone about my music career would attest to that to some degree. I’ll drink a beer with anyone.
I will state, for the record, that all of the above is absolutely true. I am not going to pretend a massive intimacy—we met through a mutual friend who knew that Frank read your humble Devil.

However, Frank and I have been for a few drinks a number of times and I will state, (again) for the record, that not only is the man himself thoroughly decent but all of those surrounding him—who are of a number of political persuasions—are thoroughly nice too. By their friends shall ye know them (or somesuch).

* In this interview, Frank actually mentions your humble Devil. I think that we had first met a few months before...
I dunno, I must admit I’m friends with a guy. Have you ever heard of The Devils Kitchen? It’s a libertarian political blog. The guy, Chris Mouncey [sic], who runs it became leader of the libertarian party, which is a really small political party. Now, I’m uneasy around fringe parties because it just seems like a fucking waste of time. Having said that, I do agree with what they say. I’ve been talking to Chris because I think they’re using the song Sons Of Liberty as one of their campaign songs or something *laughs*. I don’t know, fuckin’ a. You know what, if there’s a Libertarian party candidate I’ll probably vote for them just to make Chris feel better about his life. It’s difficult because, at the end of the day, politics is the art of the possible. The kind of politics where you sit around in circles discussing abstract theorisation of how society can be run is essentially pointless because it doesn’t change anyone’s life for the better. If you’re gonna take an interest in politics, you might as well take an interest in it that’s actually gonna make a difference to anything.
Well, I'm sorry to have let you down, mate. But—hey!—one can only try...

At best, I was a reluctant politician (I took the job of leader because no one else wanted it) but, then, the idea of being in government—or even trying to get there—is never going to sit well with a libertarian.

I do far more good—and benefit far more people—by doing my day-job well. Which is, after all, why this place has been so quiet of late.

So, all I can say to Frank is "ignore the Guardian and its armies of student wankers, and carry on doing your day-job well..."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

My favourite Olympics moment...

... was, without doubt, my friend Frank Turner going the warm-up for the Opening Ceremony with his song I Still Believe.

Why? Because it's a really good song but also because he stood and warmed up the crowd with the line "Come ye, come ye, to soulless corporate circus tops".

One can only admire his cheek!

I met him through a friend, and was thrilled to find that Frank was not only a fan of The Kitchen but also—though once embraced by the left—a thoroughly libertarian gentleman.

But don't take my word for it—just listen to Sons of Liberty (especially the coda)...

So if ever a man should ask you for your business or your name
Tell him to go and fuck himself, tell his friends to do the same.
Because a man who'd trade his liberty for a safe and dreamless sleep
Doesn't deserve the both of them, and neither shall he keep.
I have had lots of fun with Mr Frank Turner—I highly recommend supporting him. Apart from anything else, he's a very nice chap...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Jacqui Smith: Writing shit.

Please note: I am not the Devil

It has to be said that I am not the world’s biggest fan of Boris Johnson. Yes, I get that he has charisma in an era of politics where charisma is a rarity, if not an almost extinct, quality. But the reality is that, in power, his policies are at best anodyne and at worst asinine. And no manufactured façade or pointless post-Olympics euphoria* can change that.

However, nothing can make me buy into the incumbent London mayor more than a hatchet job from the former Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith.

It begins with Smith showing just the most basic awareness of what has been happening in her chosen field (politics):
Boris Johnson is certainly having a ‘good Olympics’. The newspapers are full of summer stories about his potential threat to Cameron’s leadership.
This opening is worth celebrating because, my good friends, it represents the very pinnacle of quality and writing ability in Smith’s article. All downhill from here, I’m afraid.
I’m not convinced that Mayor Johnson will become Tory leader or prime minister. First, as Steve Richards pointed out in a good Independent piece this week, there are major barriers to him even being in a position to compete. Would he remain so popular if he dumped his London role in order to get back into parliament, for example?
The counterpoint to this tired argument – which has been rehearsed again and again during the hype around the costly and over-rated Global School Sports Day – is so tedious that it is almost not worth repeating. But for old time’s sake as the Olympics are finally – and gloriously – over; Johnson doesn’t have to dump London in order to become an MP and thus get back into parliament. He could do both at the same time. Like a certain Labour former Mayor of London.
Second, while he is undoubtedly popular in London, I wonder how his style would translate to the rest of the country. Let’s not forget that David Cameron encouraged other cities to vote for an elected mayor on the grounds that ‘every city needs a Boris’. The result was hardly a resounding vote of confidence in the politician who personifies the role of elected mayor.
Oh, please. The failure of the “yes” campaigns in the elected mayor campaigns has little to do with Cameron’s rhetoric linking the concept with BoJo. It has far more to do with it being the policy of a government suffering with a chronic – if not fatal – case of the mid-term blues. But I love the failed rhetoric of the attempt to make Boris the personification of the elected mayor; what about Ken Livingstone, who served two terms as London mayor? Or the candidate in a monkey suit in Hartlepool? Or does Smith have such faith in the Boris brand that she thinks he has managed to wipe every other elected mayor in history from the popular imagination?
Third, while mayor of London is an important job it is arguably not as tough and nowhere near as serious as being even a cabinet minister let alone PM. Johnson remains untested through the grind of ministerial life and as a shadow minister he proved not only gaffe prone, but also not particularly interesting or innovative.
Funnily enough, “gaffe prone” and “not particularly interesting or innovative” could nicely define Smith’s time in the Home Office. And that’s when she wasn’t being authoritarian and draconian. And I also love the fact that Smith is able to judge the toughness and seriousness of being London mayor even though, well, she’s never done the job. I guess her get-out here would be the use of the word “arguably”. Well, arguably, Jacqui, it is fair to say that you have no idea what you are talking about.
Finally, I hope the Tory party and the British people will see through his facade. My challenge to Johnson is: why do you put on an affable, unworldly, untidy persona when that is so obviously not who you really are.
No doubt he is quaking in his boots at this challenge from a discredited, failed politician.

And even the most basic glance at Johnson’s career would show that he is more than just an untidy hairdo and a bumbling personality. Anyone fooled by his façade is a moron, really,
I worked with Johnson while I was home secretary. He proved utterly ruthless in cutting off Met Commissioner Ian Blair at the knees immediately after his election. I don’t believe people should make their way in politics by trashing other people, but that was his clear aim in getting rid of a commissioner who had led the Met during a time of falling crime and reform. Others have commented on Johnson’s lack of team spirit – I can remember him turning up so late for a COBRA meeting on Olympic security that the meeting was ending as he burst into the room.
First up, Ian Blair was an cunt on a cosmic scale whose incompetent ineptitude means he has blood on his hands. If BoJo was responsible for his fall, then he deserves a medal for cutting Blair off at the knees. Hell, it may yet be his greatest achievement.

The COBRA charge is more interesting – in fact, it may be the most interesting part of the whole article because, when deconstructed, it shows just how flawed Smith’s attempted rhetoric is. Ignoring the slightly sad attempt to remind us all that she used to hold and important office and had to go to important meetings about important stuff, what she appears to be doing is suggesting that Boris was in some way negligent on something so crucial as a vital meeting on Olympic security. Yet even the most basic fact checking shows that this meeting was very probably far from essential.

Let’s break it down, then. Boris was elected Mayor of London in May of 2008. Smith resigned as Home Secretary in June 2009. So there were 13 months in which this meeting – assuming Smith is telling the truth about is existence (sadly, a big leap of faith for our political class) – could have taken place. Crucially, though, the latest it could have happened was just over three years before the London Olympics was scheduled to take place. This removes a lot of the ersatz urgency on the meeting that Smith is trying to create. Perhaps BoJo was late because he had priorities other than trying to plan security for an event that was still years away. Yup, you can argue that this does show a lack of team spirit. But you can also argue that it shows a politician who can prioritise.

And given COBRA meetings are meant to be emergency responses to catastrophic events hitting the UK, the real question is why the fuck was it convened to discuss security for an event that was still years away? The answer, I’m guessing, is that Gordon Brown had a hard-on for COBRA, presumably because it reassured him that he was a very important person with lots of important power. The same goes for his shitty ministers
I know people are disenchanted with ‘traditional’ politics, but it is wrong to respond to this by suggesting that elected politics is something you can fit in between writing your lucrative newspaper column and appearing on television gameshows.
Oh, please. Who the fuck is making the sort of assertion that Smith cites here? Yes, if such a person existed, they’d be a dickhead. But to actually meet with someone who believes in what Smith writes here would be meeting with a straw man.

And if you want to know what most people do want to overcome their disenchantment with traditional politics, it is politicians with ethics, convictions and solutions to the problems the last Labour government created for us all. And preferably politicians who don’t use their expenses to pay for their husband’s wank material.
To become a senior politician, you will have put other parts of your life like your career and family on the back-burner in order to even get to a position where you can face the electorate.
Do you have any evidence that Johnson has not done this, Jacqui? Any at all? Because Johnson is currently a senior politician who has a mandate from over a million voters (as opposed to someone who could not convince thousands of people in Redditch to return her to Parliament less than 12 months after holding one of the Great Office of State).
Fighting and winning an election involves an immense amount of energy, stamina and quick-thinking as you meet and talk to hundreds of people each day.
Swing and a miss from Smith. Once again. Aside from the fact that taking advice on winning elections from someone whose recent electoral history would suggest that she isn’t the go-to person in this field, it is worth noting that BoJo defied electoral gravity this May by retaining his role as London mayor. Sure, he was greatly aided by the fact that he was running against an odious candidate who managed to alienate members of his own party with his execrable opinions, but if I was to run for office** I’d be more inclined to ask BoJo for advice than the loser that is Jacqui Smith***.
You need to have thought through your position on a whole range of issues or you will soon be caught out. And quite rightly. Being an elected politician is an immense honour and a great responsibility.
So, when in office, it might be best not to exploit, say, the expenses system to your own advantage? Or so your other half can have a cheeky one off the wrist?
You are a voice for those you represent; you embody the mandate granted in our democratic system. This isn’t something that you should suggest can be achieved lightly.
Don’t think anyone is suggesting this can be achieved lightly, Jacqui. But nothing beats a good straw man argument now, does it?
Acting as if you woke up in City Hall one morning and are now engaged on Boris’ Big Adventure; artfully ruffling your hair to suggest that you’re not really bothered about your appearance; turning up late to important meetings so that other important people have to wait for you are designed to make you stand out from the political crowd. They are a tactic as clever as any other political tactic and people should not be taken in by them.
What, a political tactic like claiming to be a “pretty straight kind of guy” or “not Flash, just Gordon”? And what makes Boris stand out is not so much his unkempt hair but the fact that he doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously and has a basic level of charisma. Perhaps this is Smith’s problem with BoJo, at the end of the day. Because she comes across as a po-faced authoritarian with all the charisma of decaying roadkill. And that’s before we factor in the fact that this article so wonderfully reminds us of the reality of Jacqui Smith, politician – an unashamed party hack, spewing forth the Labour line with the sort of unthinking devotion that would be humorous if these fuckers weren’t trying to run all of our lives for us.

*Which may well be dented by the fact that the closing ceremony – judging by the Facebook comments I read on the night of said ceremony – was a steaming turd served up with a hearty marinade of liquid shit.
**Rest assured, kind read, that this will never happen. Ever.
***Yeah, yeah, there were boundary changes etc etc. But if Ed Balls – who has the personality of an aggressive form of anthrax mixed with rabies – can carry his constituency at the time of a great big swing against Labour, then I don’t think it is too much to expect Smith to do the same, Of course, we can cite things such as the expenses scandal as damaging her chances. But whose fault was Smith’s tainting in the expenses scandal? Exactly.

Murphy's Law #94,000

Yes, I read Timmy regularly, so it's only inevitable that I should decide that we should look at tax-avoiding accountant Richard Murphy's latest prognostications, shall we?
Google is tax avoiding: by definition that means what they are doing is legal, of course. And it may even be that what Google is doing is within the spirit of EU law, although that is to simply miss the fact that EU tax laws have now been spectacularly rigged to advantage companies over people so that the spirit of the law has itself been corrupted.

But even that is not the real point of why Google needs to be in the dock over its tax. The real reasons is that Google has set itself the motto “don’t be evil”. That means that Google explicitly recognises it has choices about the way it does business. And by choosing to do business as Google does, in a way that ensures it pays little or no corporate tax on its vast profits earned outside the USA in almost any of the countries where they actually arise Google is saying it is willing to free-ride our economies.

What that means is that in my opinion Google is saying it has no interest in giving a return back to the societies that are letting it prosper.

That’s doing evil in my book.
Look, I am no stranger to calling Google out on its somewhat optimistic catchphrase; but—via Daring Fireball—let's just look at another side to the company, shall we?
Instead, Bock, who joined the company in 2006 after a stint with General Electric, blew me away by disclosing a never-before-made-public-perk: Should a U.S. Googler pass away while under the employ of the 14-year old search giant, their surviving spouse or domestic partner will receive a check for 50% of their salary every year for the next decade. Even more surprising, a Google spokesperson confirms that there’s “no tenure requirement” for this benefit, meaning most of their 34 thousand Google employees qualify.
Now, someone like Richard Murphy will shriek and scream about this benefit. The money that is going to the widows of people who actually added value to the company—people like Murphy will say—is actually owned to the millions of people who have added fuck all to the company.

But that is because people like Richard Murphy are, in fact, fucking devil-spawn. They are scum-sucking shit-holes, fit only for fucking with the most rancid cocks; they are like a three-week dead vagina with maggots and an unhealthy cockroach infestation.

People like Richard Murphy—though not, necessarily, Richard Murphy himself, you understand—are evil little bastards who, having saved huge amounts of money through their own tax-avoidance practices, would now deprive a company's widows and children of benefits so that Barry Wiggins down the council estate can buy another mastiff.

To describe Richard Murphy as a disgusting, hypocritical little cunt with all the morals of a weasel would, you might think, be utterly beyond the pale. And, of course, I am not doing that.

I will merely let you draw your own conclusions...

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Quote of the day #2...

... comes from the magisterial (and much-missed) Mr Eugenides, writing over at Think Scotland. [Emphasis mine.]
I am not a smoker. The first time I had an asthma attack was after a particularly smoke-filled birthday party in a long-gone student flat. These days, I am more careful; I carry my inhaler, open windows to let people puff away, avoid or ration my time in excessively smoky atmospheres. What I don’t do, and will never do, is tell other people how to run their damn lives, nor treat them like bloody children, nor give my backing or blessing to joyless, interfering busybodies who mistake pointless bansturbation for statesmanship. If there’s anything more loathsome than the smell of stale cigarettes, it’s the stench of hypocrisy and cant.

And, taken with Timmy's fisking of this load of old crap by authoritarian medico and Tory MP, Dan Poulter—could there be a worse combination?—I find myself, once again, concluding that we could go a long way to removing said stench by preventing doctors from pontificating about anything at all.

Doctors tend to be a bunch of arrogant wankers with a god complex as it is: we certainly shouldn't be electing the fascist little shits into positions of power.

Quote of the day...

... comes from Timmy, writing at the ASI.
It is right and proper that there is open government for we most assuredly should know what it is that they are doing to us with our money. But they should know little to nothing about us and what we do for we're free people in a free land and therefore it's absolutely none of their damn business how we decide to spend our lives.
As a succinct summing up of what should be the case, I can think of few better paragraphs.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Some people get it

I have, for a long time, pointed out that MPs should not be social workers for their constituents: there are 650 people in this country who can initiate law, and that is what those people should be doing.

I am glad that a couple of people—most notably Gawain Towler (UKIP press officer) and the ever amusing James Delingpole—agree with me in this podcast.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Your government: making you poorer

Over at Bishop Hill's place, I find that Gordon Hughes has submitted a report on the economics of wind power [PDF] to our lords and masters (on behalf of the GWPF).
The subject is wind power. It makes for horrifying reading.
His Ecclesiastical Eminence is not wrong: consider, for instance, this little snippet... [Emphasis mine.]
Meeting the UK Government’s target for renewable generation in 2020 will require total wind capacity of 36 GW backed up by 21 GW of open cycle gas plants plus large complementary investments in transmission capacity. Allowing for the shorter life of wind turbines, the investment outlay for this Wind scenario will be about £124 billion. The same electricity demand could be met from 21.5 GW of combined cycle gas plants with a capital cost of £13 billion.
Yes, alright, you'll have noted the qualifier of "capital cost" in that last sentence: however, if the government would stop fucking about and give the explicit go-ahead for unlimited exploitation of our shale gas reserves, the running costs could be considerably cheaper than otherwise.

After all, in just four years, shale gas has halved the price of electricity in the US.

But we, of course, are wedded to our ludicrous climate change targets, which Highes also comments on. [Emphasis mine, again.]
Under the most favourable assumptions for wind power, the Wind scenario will reduce emissions of CO2 relative to the Gas scenario by 21 million metric tons in 2020 - 2.6% of the 1990 baseline at an average cost of about £415 per metric ton at 2009 prices. The average cost is far higher than the average price under the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme or the floor carbon prices that have been proposed by the Department of Energy and Climate Change. If this is typical of the cost of reducing carbon emissions to meet the UK’s 2020 target, then the total cost of meeting the target would be £120 billion in 2020, or about 6.8% of GDP.
This is utter insanity.

If the lights go out, as Nick Drew observes, the government goes out. The Coalition will be screwed, but they will not be as comprehensively buggered as our economy.

This isn't the 1970s: if the power goes, then so does our entire infrastructure. Banking grinds to a halt, the internet is unreachable (and half of it down anyway), the vast majority of people simply will not be able to work at all.

But even if we do not have to start a series of rolling black-outs, the price of power has been climbing steadily. And power is required for everything these days: as such, as power becomes more expensive then so does everything else.

This government—and its predecessor—have been quite deliberately following a set of policies designed to impoverish everyone in the country. And, throughout all of the other insanities of this time, they have continued to prosecute this war against their own people.

Their aim is simple: to reduce power consumption—whether because of climate change or in order to avoid difficult decisions about building power stations, I do not know (although I have my suspicions).

The government's own report—you know, the one that showed that power would not be more expensive overall—relied on the country using half the electricity that it does now by 2020.

Reducing power consumption may be a laudable aim but it is, frankly, unrealistic in that timescale without a significant down-grading of our current life-style.

But I bet our lords and masters are going to be just fine and dandy, thanks. Even now, they are probably buying up portable generators and investing in every temporary power supplier in the country.

What a bunch of arseholes.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Libertarians and Drugs

Please note: I am not the Devil

Over at the Orphans of Conservatism Liberty we have a post entitled “Fantastic news for the drug-addled Libertarian!” Any such title was always going to get my attention, and this was merely compounded by the fact that the contents of the article appear to advocate the failed war on drugs – a somewhat bizarre position for a website nominally devoted to the maximization of liberty (or at the very least lamenting the ongoing incursions on our freedom).

But now is not the time to get lost again in the wider debates around the war on drugs and surrounding issues such as legalisation of narcotics for adults. Rather, I wanted to dwell on this paragraph:
And now I must prepare to be verbally flayed by those who just know that they can handle it, and whose philosophy is atomised freedom: the solitary individual, totally disconnected from all others, making his choices in a moral and cultural vacuum and unaffected by his physiology or subconscious compulsions.
Ignoring the pathetic opening that appears to acknowledge the controversy that this sort of post was always going to provoke in a sort of “pity poor me” kind of way, this paragraph seems to create an image of the libertarian that I cannot recognise – despite being a libertarian myself. Firstly, liberalisation of drug laws (including legalisation of narcotics) is not simply a hedonistic objective; it isn’t about what I – or anyone else – can handle. Not least because it would be a very naïve (or stupid, if you will) person who believes that they can handle repeated toots on the old crack pipe. Rather, the issue is one of freedom – of giving adults the right to choose for themselves what they put into their own bodies. And I have to say that any sort of liberal approach to this issue is going to favour less regulation rather than more – and will always turn its back on any rhetorical war on inanimate substances.

However it is the notion of “atomised freedom” and the subsequent portrait of someone with a liberal approach to drug use and regulation that bothers me the most. Here, the author of the post not only misses the point, but misses that point as it sails right in front of their eyes while singing “hello! Hello! I’m the point! Look at me!” Indeed, I am tempted to use this paragraph as the very definition of a straw man argument when I am next teaching first year undergraduates on how not to write a shit essay.

Put simply, I have never come across anyone who is “totally disconnected from all others” and existing in some sort of solipsistic vacuum. Not even those tedious Rand devotees completely remove themselves from engagement with others – even if that engagement is simply trying to best others. Nor have I come across anyone who truly believes that they are unaffected by their “physiology or subconscious compulsions”. Indeed, it is difficult to identify anyone other than a young child who might reflect this sort of description. Sure, this sort of straw man caricature may aid the author’s argument by painting the advocate of drug liberalisation as a sort of amoral creature centred only on the self, but in creating this tangibly false caricature the author severally damages their own argument.

Because you do not have to be an extreme individualist to oppose the war on drugs. Nor do you have to be terminally naïve about your own physical and mental limitations. Indeed, it is perfectly possible to look at the society around you and observe that, well, the war on drugs has not worked and has not achieved any of its objectives, really – and therefore some sort of alternative approach makes sense if one can step away from the “grrr drugs are evil” mindset for a couple of minutes. It is also perfectly possible to think that if cocaine was legal then I, as an individual, might be tempted to take more of it despite the effect it has on me physically* – and then choose not to do so for precisely this reason.

And that is at the very core of the argument for the legalisation of drugs – it is about giving individuals the choice about what they consume and how they act. It allows individuals to factor in a whole host of different interests and concerns, and then decide based on those concerns – which include those around them, wider society, and their own mental and physical limitations – what they choose to consume. It is basically giving adults the choice to decide on what they want to do; in short, treating adults like adults.

In the comments section of the same post the author makes this rather telling point:
And the challenge is with us, of course. But when temptation increases, so does the number of falls.
Absolutely; the challenge does lie with us. That’s the point; to paraphrase a cliché, the more power we have, the more responsibility we have. Some people will be responsible, others less so, and some will fail outright. But that is what liberty inherently brings; the freedom to succeed, and the freedom to fail, based on what you choose as an individual. It is, of course, possible to make the case that some things are too much for the individual to cope with, and therefore they need to be restricted. However to make that case is not to advance the cause of liberty; rather, it is to fall into the trap of the sort of statist paternalism that has changed vast swathes of our population into bovine, infantile, thoughtless cretins who cannot make their own choices without the rubber stamp of the state verifying that their choices are a-ok.

*Personally I can’t stand cocaine – it makes tedious people even more tedious, but in a sort of manically tedious way. Besides, in my experience a lot of people take it to prevent themselves from getting wasted when drinking. Whereas I tend to drink precisely so I can get hammered.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Olympics Tickets Balls-Up

NB: I am not the Devil

Still the whining goes on about Olympics tickets, and still no-one seems to have identified the problem.

Look. I was given a ticket for an event which I won't be attending as it has no value to me. Ain't I the hideous one, eh?

Its original price, according to what I can find out, was £87 if you were to buy it from the official site. I'd have sold it for a fiver and been ecstatic about it, except that I'm not allowed to by law.
The unauthorised selling of Olympic tickets is a crime under the Olympic Act punishable by a £20,000 fine, and police have warned they will take tough action against touts.

It therefore resided, until recently when the council picked it up, in my recycling bin.

We know very well why this approach was taken. It's because there is an attitude in our country which is so fearful of "the privileged" sucking up tickets by virtue of being rich, that every effort has been taken to stop them doing so. It's easy to concede that there is some merit in that, even if it can arguably be seen to be driven by ugly envy.

However, it's been done in such a cack-handed way that they have forgotten how good humans are at sorting themselves out and ending up with a mostly decent result.

The London 2012 organisers had already priced anyone without a massive deposit account from buying the vast majority of the popular tickets anyway, quite rightly too as they are obliged to get return for the tax cash they have spent.

But while those who seem committed to egalitarianism and (presumably) re-distribution of wealth, are happy to see the rich restricted from buying seats at the expense of the less well off, they have woefully overlooked the more important aspect of re-distribution of value.

The value I placed on that ticket was quite literally zero. I would have happily given it away but for the fact that I had no-one to give it away to as no-one in my social circle was interested in one adult ticket (the spectre of over-bearing security and oppressive restrictions on what is allowed on the day of 'celebration' may have contributed to the disinterest, I reckon).

Someone, somewhere, would place a different value on it, though. If I was able to offer it for sale - in a free market - the person who valued it most highly would be able to see the event and be just as ecstatic as I would be for receiving, say, a fiver for something I personally thought was worth nothing.

They might believe it's a steal as they were prepared to pay only half of the £87 asking price, but got it for a fiver. I'd be dead happy that I got £5 for something which wasn't absorbent enough for me to even find value by wiping my bum with.

If the organisers are so dead set against re-distributing the natural value of Olympics tickets - by way of brutal laws involving £20k fines, no less - how on Earth can they be surprised that they are left with empty seats all over the place?

The only possible result is that just about everyone is left unsatisfied. Except, oddly enough, the privileged and the rich who the rules were meant to frustrate in the first place.

Meanwhile, Mrs and Mr SportsFan are allowed to believe that it's a corporate failure, instead of a massive mistake by those who swallow our taxes and refuse to recognise that a free swapping of value could have put bums on many of those empty seats the BBC, and others, are scratching their muddled heads about.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

On Responsibilty

Please note: I am not the Devil.

The Aurora shootings have kicked off what some would call a debate, but what I would call the latest rehashing of tedious assertions that this sort of horrific mass murder always brings to the surface. Those with particular axes to grind seize on this sort of tragedy to justify their iterations of their personal prejudices. They seem to forget that people have died and people are grieving and instead use ghastly, evil acts such as these as an opportunity to score cheap political points. Stay classy, fucknuts.

But on and on it goes. So we’ve heard that this tragedy is about lax gun laws, missing the point that humans don’t need guns to commit evil acts. We’ve heard that this is an indicator of some sort of fallen culture/society; an idea propounded presumably by those who favour a better yesterday and this thoroughly and continually miss the point that such a yesterday never existed and violence has always been and remains very much a constant of human existence. They’ll also be those tin-foil hat wearing conspiracy types, who will mutter terms like “false flag” and then go on to explain – normally in a way that redefines the word “incredible” – how the shootings were all part of a government conspiracy to make us all eat more spam or other such shite. And then we hear that it is all the fault of the movie-makers.

A good example of the latter position comes from the Telegraph’s gobshite in chief when it comes to all things American: Tim Stanley. Stanley, one of the few people in the media in this country to treat Rick Santorum as anything other than a feckless fundamentalist (and thus showing himself to possess dubious judgment at best), writes that “movies like The Dark Knight Rises – which glorifies vigilante justice and wallows in sadism – could equally be accused of responsibility.” Evidently he has not seen The Dark Knight Rises, since it does not glorify vigilante justice (indeed, it seems to consider such justice an at best reluctant choice that deeply harms those who undertake it, and if it glorifies anything it is self-sacrifice) and, far from wallowing in sadism, it shows that pain hurts and is catastrophically unpleasant. Of course, that does not mean that movies cannot inspire negative actions from some; after all, the Emperor character in Return of the Jedi apparently helped to inspire Jeffrey Dahmer in his terrible crimes. The point, rather, is that Stanley – like so many others – is, from a position of basic ignorance if his comments on TDKR are to be taken seriously, taking this tragedy and twisting it for his own ends and to support his own purposes. And given this is a tragedy that has left people dead, wounded and in mourning, it is at best a cheap thing to do.

However, the quote from Stanley above does give us a crucial clue as to what all of these people are allegedly trying to do with their witterings – find out who is responsible for these heinous crimes. Which makes them stunningly myopic, in my humble opinion. Because it is very easy to find out what – or rather who – is responsible for these killings and woundings. Based on the available evidence, he’s in police custody: he’s called James Holmes.*

Seriously, he is the one who dressed himself in protective clothing, dyed his hair, put on a gas mark, dropped cans of tear gas into a crowded cinema and then started shooting. From all accounts, he acted alone. Therefore he is responsible for it as he chose to do it.

Of course, no-one exists in a vacuum, and there are all sorts of influences and pressures pushing us towards the choices we make. So maybe Holmes was influenced by the media, or by the easy availability of ammunition and weaponry. But that does not and cannot change the fact that the person who chose to commit these crimes was Holmes. I don’t doubt that there are those reading this blog who have, at times, been tempted to lash out at people they know or to physically vent their frustrations on those they don’t. But they choose not to. And that is the point; we are responsible for what we choose to do. Even if someone puts a gun to your head and says that they will shoot you dead if you do not kill the person sat next to you, you still have a choice. There may be mitigating factors, but you still make the choice and have to take responsibility for the consequences of that choice.

No doubt, if the defence team at Holmes’ trial has any sense, then they will raise the mitigating factor of madness. Now, it is more than possible that Holmes does suffer from some sort of mental illness. Then again, many people do, yet few resort to mass murder as a way of dealing with that illness. Plus, this was not a spur of the moment attack. Everything – from the equipment to the booby-trapping of his flat – shows a calculated, planned attack. Which then leads us back to the question of choice and the conclusion that Holmes was in control and therefore chose to do what he did, which then makes him responsible for it.

Now, I’ll hold my hands up and say that I have been savage at the top of this post with those who have sought reasons and influences on Holmes’ actions, and they could legitimately raise their hands and point out that they are just trying to reduce the risk of this happening again, which is a noble (if often misguided) aim. That may be true, but we all know what the road to hell is paved with. Furthermore, no-one at this point should be seeking to reduce the responsibility of the man who pulled the trigger.

The long and the short of it is this: Holmes could have gone to the cinema last week and enjoyed a satisfying, if overlong, film**. Instead, he chose to go back to his car, get his gun, get his tear gas, and unleash carnage on an audience of innocent people. It was his choice meaning that it is him – not lax gun laws, not a fallen culture, not a shadowy, manipulative government, not Hollywood – that is responsible for these terrible killings. It is both naïve and morally suspect to attempt – intentionally or otherwise – to diminish Holmes’s responsibility for his own heinous actions.

*Ok, ok, innocent until proven guilty. But, from what has been reported, there is a lot of proof heading in his direction to show how guilty that man is.
**I was going to publish a full review of it, but time is not my friend today…

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Morality and Politicians

Please note: I am not the Devil

Ahhh, I love the smell of rank hypocrisy in the mornings. Today’s moron of choice is Treasury Minister David Gauke, who has this to say on the notion of paying for work cash in hand:
"Getting a discount with your plumber by paying cash in hand is something that is a big cost to the Revenue and means others have to pay more in tax.

"I think it is morally wrong. It is illegal for the plumber but it is pretty implicit in those circumstances that there is a reason why there is a discount for cash. That is a large part of the hidden economy.”
So there we have it. If you have ever paid for something cash in hand, you are morally wrong. You shit, you.

Of course, it is perfectly ok to pay someone nothing in return for working for you, as Gauke’s advert for an intern proves. So here we have the warped morality of a Treasury Minister – cash in hand, bad. Not paying people at all, a-ok. Still, I guess there is a certain logic to this. If he is paying his intern the square root of fuck all, then they can’t avoid tax. On the grounds that they can’t pay any because they aren’t earning anything.

For what it is worth, I have no problem with the notion of paying for work cash in hand or with the idea of unpaid interns. When it comes to the latter, well, if you are dumb enough to go work for an MP for free, then good luck to you. As for the former, well, I have no issue with tax avoidance – for me, it is like harm avoidance; it may not always be possible, but that certainly won’t stop me from doing it wherever and whenever I can. After all, if it truly was a problem then Gauke and his odious ilk would surely legislate against it. Just like they do against every other bastard thing that does not entirely float their boat.

But these reflections are tangential to the main point, which is that politicians no longer (if they ever did) have the credibility to tell me how I should live from a moral perspective. They are mired in hypocrisy, cowardly compromise, intellectual vacuity, constant mendacity and stunning ineptitude. The very best a modern day politician can claim for in this country is a certain level of competence; anything more is ambitious to the point of stupid. And until we have a political class that is actually prepared to step out of the long shadow cast by that deceitful, dangerous fool Tony Blair and come to the table with their own sound, well-argued convictions, then you’ll have to forgive me, but I have no time for lectures in morality from those who ultimately serve no-one other than themselves.

UPDATE: Guido has more here. And here. And here. Clearly, this man is a cunt on a cosmic scale and just wading through the myriad hypocrises that surround him has made me want to go and have a wash. With bleach.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Doing no evil

"Don't be evil" has always been the semi-official motto of Google—to those who believe in the company, it probably still is.

However, those of us in the tech industry have been highly sceptical (to say the least) for some time, and a couple of incidents have recently been thrown up that I would like to highlight.*

The Children's Furniture Company has recently gone out of business, directly blaming the change in Google's search algorithms for the decision.
As we are a purely web based business, it has always been important to be somewhere near the top of Google for keywords such as 'bunk beds' and 'childrens beds'. Google is where all our customers look and up until May, that's exactly where we were - page 1. To get to that slot is highly prized and competitive and over the past few years we have both advertised on Google and like many companies, used SEO specialists (Search Engine Optimisation as it's called), to help move us up the natural Google listings. A company we used about two years ago put some external links onto our site that Google now considers as webspam and for this it has demoted us to nowhere land (along with 1,000's of other businesses as well).

It seems that we cannot take these links off and the only option open is to completely rebuild the site. Sadly this would take too much time and too much money, whilst not being able to sell furniture at the same time. So as we couldn't see how people would find us; and as we were about to have to invest in a heap more stock, we decided that there was no option but to shut.
This state of affairs was brought to my attention by an SEO professional writing at SearchWatch.
Were the Children’s Furniture Company a good company? Who knows? Certainly not Google. Nor did they care. What is it to Google if they fufilled all their orders, had great customer satisfaction and a satisfactory range of products? The algorithm trumps all and thus customer choice is lessened and another few mouths are on the dole queue.

If you think that the Google of 2012 is a search engine, you’re fooling yourself. It is an advertising channel. It was only yesterday that a screengrab was doing the rounds showing that just 14% of a Google search result is made of organic listings. The rest? Adwords and Google’s own properties—YouTube, News, Shopping and so on. Throw in the increasing personalisation and localisation of results and tie-ins with review sites you’re left with not much space for the little guy. Even the long tail has been ceded to such “quality” sites as eHow and Yahoo! Answers leaving the middle ground for people to fight over the scraps that fall from the top table.

And maybe that’s fair enough. Businesses used to close all the time because they couldn’t afford to advertise during Coronation Street and no-one cried about it very much. That’s an expensive way to get in front of a million noses and get your brand known that was always closed to small business. If Tesco decided they were going to start selling paint and rollers, then your little round-the-corner DIY shop was often toast by the time the 3rd ad for Tesco Paint was on rotation during Hollyoaks.

Google was supposed to be different: a leveller. If you sold paint out of your little shack on the A650, you could go toe to toe with Wickes, B&Q and any retailer in the world so long as you paid your dues, built a good site, offered good service and worked within Google’s guidelines. And for a while, that held up. It’s still the message they peddle.

But I think we can safely call bullshit on that notion now.
Indeed. And that is only to be expected: Google's responsibility is to its shareholders.

But there have been a number of actions by Google, in the last few years, that blow apart their claim to be an ethical company.

As I've said, those of us in the tech industry always thought that this "don't be evil" bullshit was... well, bullshit.

Let us be clear about this: Google is not primarily a technology firm.

Google derives 96% of its revenues from advertising: it is in Google's interests to provide you with free products, which enables it to show you adverts, which persuade you to buy its sponsors' products.

There is nothing wrong with this: and, assuming that I must be shown adverts, I would rather be shown adverts for products that I might be interested in.

However, in pursuit of this goal, Google has made a number of questionable technological and business decisions: decisions that might be understandable, but which most people would find difficult to reconcile with the company's "don't be evil" motto.

But what about Google's reputation as a hotbed of technological invention? Apart from its search—which is becoming more and more polluted by financial interests—what wonderful, successful technologies have they come up with recently?

Yes, GMail and Reader were built and deployed by Google themselves—and they remain very good products, integral to my daily workflow.

And I am writing this—ironic, I know—on a Google product. But Blogger was invented and deployed by others, and bought by Google.

I also use Feedburner—also invented by others and then bought by Google. And the same applies to YouTube.

Picasa? Mostly lost out to Flickr (and now, arguably, Instagram) but was, in any case, invented by Lifescape.

Google+...? Does anyone actually use it? Regularly?

What we did admire was the way that Google churned out good products: or bought them, made them freely available and improved them. But the reaction to Google's recent acquisition of Sparrow—a brilliant Mac OS email client—shows that even this reputation is at an end.

Daring Fireball has only this pithy comment to make:
Congratulations to the Sparrow guys, I guess, but this gives me The Fear for Sparrow’s future.
Sure enough, Sparrow will no longer be updated and developed. This is, as Matt Gemmell points out, a success for the Sparrow developers—its what, I imagine, they were aiming for. It is, nonetheless, an acquisition intended to shut down competition.

More damagingly, online tech magazine Boing Boing goes further—promoting this short but entertaining video.

The point that I am trying to make is that Google has lost whatever respect it had amongst many technologists—either for its technological prowess, or its radical attitude.

UPDATE: I knew I'd forgotten something—whoops! Android, of course, requires a post all of its own. However, there are two things to consider when assessing Google's way here:
  1. Google loses money on Android.
  2. Android looked very different before and after the launch of the iPhone.
  3. Android is a massively fractured platform that, with every iteration, is demonstrating why the Apple "walled garden" ecosystem—and control over carriers—is, in my opinion, better for consumers.
I will address these points in more detail on a later post.

The other product raised is Chrome: this is a browser running on the Open Source WebKit rendering engine, that is sponsored by Google—but also by Apple and a number of other big corporations. It is not a Google-alone product any more than, for instance, Blogger is. Although the V8 Javascript engine is also worth discussing...

* I realise the irony of the fact that I am writing this on a Google product, and using a video hosted on another Google product.**

** I also realise that the irony is lessened slightly by the fact that Google did not invent or deploy these products—it bought them. Yes—all of them: Blogger, Feedburner and YouTube were all acquired, not invented, by Google.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Get Real!

As some of you may know, your humble Devil's brother writes songs—many of them pretty damn good—and plays with a band known as Gronk and the Body Doubles.

Here's a video made for It's Not Easy—one of the jauntier numbers* from the forthcoming (self-released) EP, Get Real.

You can hear a selection** of other tracks on Gronk's Soundcloud page.

* Actually, in your humble Devil's opinion, it's a pop treat! However, I might be biased...

** I have 663 songs written or co-written by him in my iTunes. Even allowing for duplicates, live versions, etc., there are probably about 300 original songs, spanning roughly 15 years.

Monday, July 16, 2012

From hell

I was not able to catch Babies in the Office this evening, but luckily the Radio Times gives me a quick summary just long enough for me to vent spleen at this dreadful idea.
Imagine an office where toddlers clamber onto knees during management meetings, toys litter the carpet and it’s fine to bottle-feed whilst on an important phone call. Does it sound like professional heaven, or the very definition of hell?
It sounds like hell.
But could bringing baby to the office ever work for ordinary parents – and their colleagues? A bold experiment in one British firm, captured on film for a new documentary, looks set to find out.

When Liam Griffin, managing director of cab firm Addison Lee, announced that he wanted to try letting some parents bring babies into his company’s London headquarters, staff were sceptical. “There were two camps: mothers were very enthusiastic about it, and those people without kids were massively unenthusiastic,” recalls Griffin.
Well, there's a fucking surprise!

Look, I find babies' whinging, crying and shouting pretty much intolerable on a ten minute train ride—why in god's name should I have to put up with it for eight hours at work too.

My job requires me to spend hours getting "into The Zone" and concentrating really hard (just one of the reason I so rarely blog these days): this kind of mental effort is difficult enough to sustain anyway, let alone having to do so with your damn kid screaming and wittering on for half the bloody day.
More practically, the scheme was a lifesaver for staff struggling with nursery fees of up to 80 a day – or forced into painful choices by the cost of childcare.
For fuck's sake, my taxes pay for your child's education, its healthcare, your Child Tax Credits, your Child Allowance and it subsidises your childcare—how much more are you going to steal from me to fund your baby-bearing lifestyle choice?
“One girl wants to have a second child, but can’t afford to,” says Mitchell.
I want a really expensive made-to-measure suit—but I can't have it because I can't fucking afford it. Why should having children be any different?*
“If we could help her, she’s going to be so loyal to us as a business.”
Yeah? I bet the rest of your employees are already polishing up their CVs.

Or as Chris Snowdon tweeted:
Next time on Babies in the Office: Addison Lee goes into administration. #babiesintheoffice
But as long as the kiddies have "softened the mood" and everyone is happy in the land of unicorns and rainbows, who cares, eh?
More practically, the scheme was a lifesaver for staff struggling with nursery fees of up to £80 a day—or forced into painful choices by the cost of childcare.
Having children is all about making hard choices. Actually, so is life.

Anyway, if only because the idea of watching a car-crash at a taxi firm amuses me, I might now go and find this programme on iPlayer.

*Oh, by the way, if my company decided that buying me the aforementioned really excellent suit would make me "so loyal to [them] as a business", the government would slap a whacking great tax on it as a benefit-in-kind.**

** Yes, yes: I know that there is probably some work clothing allowance of some sort. However, I bet it doesn't apply to really fucking expensive made-to-measure suits.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The government we deserve

Whilst your humble Devil has never been shy of excoriating the government, I am one of the few bloggers that has consistently pointed out that, actually, the electorate are a bunch of fascist bastards too.
It's hard to imagine that this is the same public which proudly bosts of winning two world wars, isn't it? Limp, effete, and cowering like timid rabbits at a small cloud of water particles which float for a second before disappearing into history.
As V said, "if you're looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror."

Think about it. Understand it.

And change how you think and behave.

Stop trying to control people because you have been credulously sucked into the belief in any one of the fantasmagorical hobgoblins that the government and media have created in order to keep you stupid, scared and compliant.

In other words, stop being a cunt. Yes, you. Stop it.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Oh, do fuck off

Overweight Shadow Minister for Public Health, Diane Abbott: "I think it's quite shocking that McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Cadbury's, and Heineken are the main food sponsors [for the Olympics]".

This gross woman has decided that she is fit to lecture us all on our health: Chris Snowden disagrees in a fisking of yet another article by an example of the greatest threat to human freedom—a doctor.

Chris is right. Abbott is fat. Doctors are evil.


Sunday, July 08, 2012

Consultations—who gives a fuck?

A great number of bloggers are getting terribly worked up about the plain packaging consultation.

It is inevitable, of course, that because the government have not got the answer that they wanted from the "consultation" that they should "extend" the timescale to let all "stakeholders" respond.

None of this matters.

The power to "dictate the colour of cigarette packs, their shape, the trademarks displayed on them and any labelling" was handed to the Health Secretary solely back in 2009.

And you poor fucks think that we live in a democracy.

The consultation on this matter—just like the "consultation" on the display ban—is simply a democratic fig-leaf: the government simply wants to pretend that it is, in any way, answerable to the people.

Anyone who believes that our democracy is in any way "representative" is an idiot.

Successive governments have passed what your humble Devil called "mini-Enabling Acts" for years: the NuLabour government may have been the greatest transgressors, but that hasn't stopped the Freedom Coalition making full use of those functions.

When you are a disgusting authoritarian bastard, why would you not?

So, here is a prediction: plain packaging will be enacted. And it may or may not go through Parliamentary scrutiny. Regardless, it does not need to.

Many people—including MPs—whinge about how the EU is making our Parliament irrelevant. But, as I wrote some time ago, our Parliament does not need the EU to make it irrelevant: they are doing that themselves.
Once again, our MPs—either through malice or the usual fucking laziness—have voted to abdicate another part of the power that we lend them.

And there are hundreds of pieces of legislation with similar clauses. Parliament is reaching the point where it is simply irrelevant: the government could use these clauses to enact pretty much anything that it wants.

The government could suspend Parliament and carry on ruling as an oligarchy but it simply doesn't need to: why go to the bother of suspending Parliament and risking a revolution when you can simply by-pass the institution altogether?

Our jumped-up chicken Parliament is still running around and around—desperately pretending that it is somehow important—when, in fact, it has had its head cut off.
This is why—though there are a couple of decent MPs in the House—every single one of our lords and masters needs to be hanged.

For those who have not actively colluded in this state of affairs are, nevertheless, complicit in our enslavement.

Related posts:

UPDATE: contrary to what Dick Puddlecote may think, this post was not intended to have a pop at him or any of the other folks who are throughly annoying the government on this matter.

The intention was to highlight the fact that successive governments have quite deliberately attempted to neuter Parliament, and remove themselves from democratic oversight.

But, surely, we have the right to throw these bastards out—that's the point of democracy, is it not?

Well, yes and no. As you might have noticed—if you have taken an interest in politics over the last few decades—the ratchet only seems to go one way, i.e. in the removal of our freedoms. And I don't give two shits about the colour of the rosette worn by the scum who do so.

So, if Lansley has the power to impose plain packaging on tobacco, then he will do so. And the next government will not remove that power.

If you doubt what I say about the freedom ratchet, simply compare the Coalition's liberties-championing rhetoric immediately after the election with their actual record in government.

All of this, of course, means that making your feelings known in the so-called consultation is extremely important. But it is also no shock that the government have changed the rules of the game because they didn't get the answer they wanted: and if they continue to get the wrong answer, then they will simply press ahead regardless.

After all, if the government does not intend to use these mini-Enabling Acts—and really wants to restore our freedoms and the relevance of Parliament (as the Coalition claimed)—then why do they not repeal them?

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Engineering's cool!

I do have a lot of posts stored up—some inspired by the two weeks I have just spent in the USA, some not—but whilst I attempt to pull my thoughts together, here is a video of a train laying its own track.

So cool! And illustrative of the concept that human creativity is largely untrammelled...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Surface detail

As a Mac fan, you might be unsurprised to know that your humble Devil is pretty underwhelmed by Microsoft's new Surface tablet.* Although, to be fair, the video is not as cringe-inducingly embarrassing as Microsoft's usual promos.

It does underscore one important thing, of course—that Microsoft has understood that having control of both hardware and software makes it easier to create a great user experience. Further, Microsoft are trying to lock down some of the software elements too—restricting the choice of web browsers on the ARM version of Metro.


Many media outlets are hailing the Surface as Microsoft's competitor to the iPad. Whilst I think some serious competition to Apple's iPad is a good thing, I share Justin Watt's opinion that Microsoft is not, in fact, competing directly with the iPad as such.

Whilst I know from personal experience that people in businesses are loving their iPads and iPhones, as Justin points out, the "enterprise" IT-integrated iPad experience is very locked down—for reasons of "security", of course.

Basically, most IT departments that I have encountered are highly conservative at best: at worst, they can be lazy, hide-bound and arrogant. Personally, I think that many IT departments are signing their own death warrants**, but they will be around for a good long time yet.
Enterprise employees can be inspiring, but that depends on said enterprise that they work for. A place that fosters creativity, thinking outside the box, and new ideas leads to happy workers who are open to change if it means making their day to day routine more enjoyable. Let’s just say that having 30,000+ workers doesn’t make for an accomodating work environment for new ideas and embracing change. Integrating iOS and thinking of mobile development in parallel with desktop software development for this many users isn’t an easy or quick task and for that reason the Surface may succeed very well in the enterprise. It’s more of the same. Buried underneath that beautiful Metro interface is Windows. Pure Windows able to run that software developed in 1992, not needing Citrix remote desktop apps, and not needing 100’s of new apps bought to open Office documents that don’t format or display properly on iOS.

Goliath Wants Your Market

In enterprise, Apple is David. The Goliath in enterprise that is Microsoft wants Apple’s market in mobile enterprise. Apple hasn’t entrenched itself nearly deep enough in enterprise. Microsoft has the ability to successfully corner the mobile enterprise market just as it has with the desktop enterprise market. Goliath is bringing the Surface to the table and inside of the enterprise market, it has a fighting chance of succeeding.
I agree with this: the Surface will be largely adopted in enterprise environments.
Outside of enterprise, I think it’s a different story. I think the Surface will fail miserably, but that’s another post I intend on publishing later this week.
I'll look forward to that.

* For a start, there is no firm availability date, nor any indication of pricing.

** In the businesses that I work with, I am finding more and more CEOs and executives are becoming more tech-savvy. And, in all too many organisations, the IT departments are fighting the management.

The result: more and more outsourcing of entire IT functions. This is especially happening amongst many of the smaller, nimbler organisations but larger ones are also started to adopt this trend.

And, of course, if your IT supplier says that they won't support the CEO's shiny new iPad, then it is far easier to change them supplier than it is to fire your IT department.

Especially when more and more of your productive work environments are outsourced to web suppliers or Cloud applications.

It would be the next Eurozone

The idea that Scotland could possibly be independent and yet retain the British sterling is insane.
The former Chancellor said it was “surreal” that the First Minister can claim the remainder of the UK would willingly share control over the pound and interest rates without checking first.

In reality, he said it was difficult to imagine English politicians managing to “sell” this to their constituents. Mr Darling concluded an independent Scotland would be more like “serfdom than freedom” if monetary policy was set by a different country.

The Treasury confirmed that Mr Salmond has had no discussions with the Bank of England about a “currency union” after separation and an independent Scotland would have no influence over sterling.
And why would this be such a bad idea? Because, of course, currency union without fiscal union is precisely what has the current disaster in the Eurozone so inevitable.

To do the same between the UK and an independent Scotland would be the purest folly.

Scotland is not, of course, Greece or Portugal or Spain—it contributes about 9.4% of UK taxes but receives some 9.3% of government spending.

The UK has a 2012 GDP of an estimated $1,557 billion: Scotland contributed a mere £139 billion (or about 8.9%), but then it has only about 9% of the population too.*

Having said that, however, Scotland has the potential to become as bad as the PIIGs: a few years ago, some 56% of people in the country derived their primary salary from the state (I don't know what the figure is right now).

* UK figure converted from nominal US dollars derived from Wikipedia (and corrected—I know GDP is not 2,500 trillion!), at current rate of $1 = 63.5p.

Scottish figure from Wikipedia, in nominal pounds sterling.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A taste of their own medicine

After the expenses scandal a couple of years ago, the few actual convictions belied the fact that the entire body of our lords and masters were engaged in widespread fraud, in a scandalous conspiracy against the taxpayers who they are supposed to serve.

Further, all three major parties in this country have proposed spying on our every communication for no good reason at all, something that surely breaks the Data Protection Act's provision that all data held should not be excessive.

Given these two vignettes, it strikes me as being utterly hilarious that one of these corrupt bastards should complain about HSBC demanding that they hand over "sensitive information" in order to prove that they are not corrupt.
HSBC has targeted MPs with demands for sensitive private information as part of a crackdown by the bank on "politically exposed" customers. The move has left some feeling they will lose their banking facilities unless they comply.

A Labour MP who is a longstanding customer of HSBC contacted Guardian Money to say he had been asked by the bank to disclose information about his finances, including accounts he has with other banks, and his "sources of wealth".

At first he thought it may be a "phishing" scam, where fraudsters try to obtain people's private details by masquerading as their bank or an official body, but the letter was genuine, and was followed up earlier this month by a phone call. The MP, who declined to be named, says he explained to the bank that the information being sought was "inappropriate", and when he asked what would happen if he didn't co-operate, the suggestion was that his account may be closed.

The answer, it transpired, is that HSBC has decided the MP is in a category of high-risk customers known as "politically exposed persons", or Peps. Even though, according to HM Revenue & Customs, he definitely isn't one of those. And he hasn't been singled out for special (mis)treatment. It is understood that every MP who banks with HSBC is being quizzed – and, presumably, other public figures, too.

Aaaaaaaaahahahahahahaaaaaaa! Ahahaha. Ahaha. Ha!

How nice it is to see these thieving, snooping, authoritarian arseholes getting a taste of their own medicine!

But, of course, on a more serious note, you might be wondering what the fuss is about? After all, surely an MP is a politically exposed person—how could they not be?*

Luckily, retired international lawyer Tom Paine can supply us with the answer to that little conundrum.
When practising abroad as an international lawyer, I often had to raise with clients dealing with companies associated with local politicians the delicate issue of money laundering. You can imagine how the politicians concerned reacted when informed that English legislation required enquiries as to their past, and contractual provisions as to their possible future, misconduct. I rather tired of apologising for it. I can't quantify how much business was lost because of these laws, but let's face it, the counterparties had other, easier choices.

As I never had to deal with UK politicians, I did not realise until this morning that they had exempted themselves. Here is the HMRC guidance mentioned in The Guardian article (my emphasis);

In some situations you must carry out 'enhanced due diligence'. These situations are:
  • When the customer isn't physically present when you carry out identification checks.
  • When you enter into a business relationship with a 'politically exposed person'. Typically, a politically exposed person is an overseas member of parliament, a head of state or government or a government minister.
    Note that a UK politician isn't a politically exposed person.
  • Any other situation where there's a higher risk of money laundering.

Yes, that's right: as with the tax on benefits in kind, our lords and masters have exempted themselves from the rules which apply to others.

Once again, that old saw of "one rule for us and a different one for them" seems utterly appropriate.

This must stop. An MP is quite obviously a politically exposed person: further, MPs have proved themselves to be a body of people who are entirely untrustworthy every respect—those who are not actively thieves or liars are criminally stupid.

So, when this anonymous Labour MP whinges that his "financial integrity" is being questioned, my response is "well, whose fault is that? Cry me a fucking river."

And, given their plans to spy on everything we do, when this same anonymous Labour MP then asks...
"Why should they want this information, unless there's some indication that there is something amiss?"

... my reply involves motes, beams and "how the fuck do you like them apples, you totalitarian piece of shit?"
So, bravo to HSBC for giving me an excellent belly laugh this morning.

And perhaps this anonymous Labour MP might take a lesson from this; perhaps this Labour MP will drop his anonymity and start campaigning vociferously against the Coalition's plans to monitor our communications?

Or, more likely, he will continue to complain in the Tea Room and quietly continue to use his expenses to steal money from his constituents.

Either way, I am thrilled that he has been insulted and inconvenienced—it is the very least that he deserves.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Diesel exhausts do cause cancer

Yes, this is the announcement from the University of the Blindingly Obvious World Health Organisation (WHO).
Exhaust fumes from diesel engines do cause cancer, a panel of experts working for the World Health Organization says.

It concluded that the exhausts were definitely a cause of lung cancer and may also cause tumours in the bladder.
Whilst smoking has been the bete noire for lung cancer for some decades, the habit's portrayal in the media as the prime cause of lung cancer has never made any sense. Comparing per capita lung cancer rates with per capita smoking rates has seen the data move in opposite directions: whilst rates of lung cancer have increased, smoking has decreased.

Obviously, that is not to dismiss smoking as a significant factor in lung cancer cases, but it has long been obvious that there must be another, far more pervasive, causative factor—and car exhausts have always been a prime candidate (especially since tetra-ethyl lead was replaced with benzene as an anti-knocking agent).

As such, the WHO's announcement hardly comes as a surprise.

However, given that this shocking health risk has been confirmed, I now look forward to the WHO-driven lobbying for a ban on diesel car advertising—accompanied by health warnings on diesel car doors, a ban on driving diesel cars in public, diesel car display bans and plain paint jobs for diesel cars.

Because, with smoking, it is all about the health aspects, right...?
But director of cancer information Dr Lesley Walker said the overall number of lung cancers caused by diesel fumes was "likely to be a fraction of those caused by smoking tobacco".
Um. Yes. Possibly. Although, given the lack of evidence for health effects from second-hand smoke, quite possibly not.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Apple's Mac Pro update

At the World Wide Developer's Conference (WWDC) yesterday, Apple released a slew of hardware upgrades.

Many of them look very impressive—not least the flagship retina display MacBook Pro. However, your humble Devil has always been a Mac Pro user—I require the expansion capabilities that the power tower offers—and, in this respect, I can only echo Shawn Blanc's comment...
Not much new — no USB 3.0 ports like the whole MacBook lineup got today, and still no Thunderbolt. Why did Apple even bother?

Quite. This is the first update that the Mac Pro has had in two years, and Apple have elected to omit all of the pro hardware features.

I would like to think that Apple have given the standard model a small speed bump, and little else, simply to keep sales going whilst they prepare for a massively revised model later in the year.

However, I fear that this is not the case. Instead, this derisory update lends credence, I think, to the rumours of the Mac Pro's imminent demise.

UPDATE: I may have called that too soon. Via Daring Fireball, I see that MacWorld reports that a customer sent an email to Apple CEO Tim Cook, essentially stating something similar to the above, and Cook replied thusly:
Thanks for your email. Our Pro customers like you are really important to us. Although we didn’t have a chance to talk about a new Mac Pro at today’s event, don’t worry as we’re working on something really great for later next year. We also updated the current model today.
We’ve been continuing to update Final Cut Pro X with revolutionary pro features like industry leading multi-cam support and we just updated Aperture with incredible new image adjustment features.
We also announced a MacBook Pro with a Retina Display that is a great solution for many pros.

This is good news.

Regardless of the actual state of the hardware, I love that Apple executives reply to their customers directly like this: Steve Jobs did the same thing.

As far as I am concerned, if the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company can be bothered to respond to a customer via personal email, that is indicative of great customer service across the company.

UPDATE 2: to compound my annoyance, the latest OS X version—Mountain Lion—will not run on my 2006 Mac Pro. So it looks like I shall have to wait until next year until I can upgrade both hardware and software.

NHS Fail Wail

I think that we can all agree that the UK's response to coronavirus has been somewhat lacking. In fact, many people asserted that our de...