Thursday, May 29, 2008

Terminal 5

Okay, so Mrs S-E and I have survived our first trip through the 'largest free standing building in Europe'.  More impressively, our luggage made it through as well.

So good things - the overall place seems well designed and the BA lounge is nice (although the music is too loud).

Bad things - the bookshops - there is a small Smiths and a couple of the Irish chain "Hughes and Hughes".  They are too small and the selection is uniformly terrible - absolutely useless. Stanstead is much better served, for example, with its larger Smiths and a Borders land-side and air-side.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Is there really a "banking crisis"?

Okay, a bit of a foolish title. Northern Crock, Bear Stearns, damn nearly Société Générale. There is certainly a problem but a crisis?

I'll admit that I am not trying to refinance my mortgage just now but I got my RBS Final Dividend cheque through the post a few minutes ago. This was a bit unexpected as I was expecting shares but there we go - I probably forgot to post some form or other. It was more of a surprise when I looked at the value - just under a fifth of what they want from me (but are not going to get) in the rights issue. Remember that that is diluting the share capital by 11/18ths, albeit discounted - and that there is also an interim share dividend (about 1/3 of the total).

So, all in all, this emergency £12 billion cash injection is on the order of 3 years customer dividend. Lots of money, indeed, but, hardly, considering how many companies don't pay a divi, the crisis some are making it out to be.

Friday Triviatics

Via RFS, that scourge of the obese faux-socialist, "Are You A Republican?"

I am:
"Congratulations, you're a swing voter. When they say 'Nascar Dad', they mean you. Every Republican ad on the TV set was made just for your viewing pleasure. Don't you feel special?"

Are You A Republican?

Nice to see I am maintaining my middle-of-the-road credentials (when it comes to Yank-o-centric fun polls)!

From the same site and with due reference to Wednesday's discussion of crappy sci-fi (as per Scientology), "Which Science Fiction Writer Are You?":

I am:
Samuel R. "Chip" Delany
Few have had such broad commercial success with aggressively experimental prose techniques.

Which science fiction writer are you?

Not one of my favourite authors, certainly, and a quick check of the library and Amazon doesn't provide me with any confidence I own any of his books (clearly, I had heard of 'Nova'). I wonder if the Welsh Tourist Board book is by the same guy!

And, trying it again, I couldn't make myself come out as Hubbard - the nearest I could do was (the non-scamming) Jerry Pournelle:

I am:
Jerry Pournelle
This old-fashioned writer may be the most unapologetic capitalist in the field. He has also been influential in many other fields, from space policy to the computer industry.

The real Jerry Pournelle once took this quiz, and it told him he was Robert Heinlen (sic).


They call on the Celts: "Rise Up and Vote Labour!"

Annabel Goldie and her merry band of inadequates are under attack from all sides. From Labour for voting for the Government (SNP) budget and from the SNP for claiming some credit for supporting the popular work for what used to be the Scottish Executive.

The latter is reasonable if somewhat cheeky (Ed notes: sorry, pay for link). The Tories had no part in the SNP manifesto and the main policy of the SNP remains independence for Scotland - this is opposed (although hardly the main policy) of the Tories. However, in a minority administration, it is the role of the smaller parties or blocs to support those bits of the main work of the government they do not fundamentally disagree with, in return for government support for bits of their manifesto or more recent commitments. This is politics as normal - somewhat different from the craven submission of the Lib-Dems to the previous nu-Lab brawl.

However, why the attacks from the Labour?

Labour, never mind reeling from the blast at Crewe, can do electoral maths. If they wish to keep their rotting pseudopods on power at Westminster, they need MPs from the Celtic fringe. The threat here isn't really the Tories (although they are doing much, much better) - it is the Nationalists and, especially, in Scotland where wee Alec has not made fools of himself or his team (unlike Wendy, and her uncertain relationship with the GCF). If the SNP can convince the red-rosette sheeple that they have successfully run those parts of Scotland they control, then Labour could be wiped out as a force in Scottish politics. There are Tories here - anti-European, governmental minimalists, social conservatives, economically prudent - there are (what call themselves but aren't) Liberals under rocks everywhere - pro-Europe, bansturbationary, a paler shade of green; but the fight for the heartland, the socialist and wedded-to-it (as well as paid by it) vote is between the SNP and the peculiarly Lanarkshire flavour of nu-Labour.

Just look at the venom put out by those epitomes of Jock-Lab bloggery, the Kellys - attack, after attack, on the SNP (and Kezia is, although obviously less grotesquely obnoxious, really* not much better!) Whether this is organised (or just encouraged) corporately, it is clear that Scottish Labour are running scared. Really scared of being cornered into irrelevance by a properly left-wing, competent and populist SNP, with no monocular cretin in Number 10 to drag them down.

It may well be fun to watch, in a rather sick way, from a libertarian and unionist distance.

* At time of writing, she has 6 posts on her front page - one is pro-Obama, one is pro-choice, the other four are, or contain, attacks on the SNP.

Regionalised Aid

Martin Jacques (h/t Mr E), writing on "Cretinous & Feeble", has produced considerable dissent with his "Hands Off Independent Myanmar, You Evil Imperialist Swine" diatribe. Not surprisingly, given his communist politics and work profile, he hasn't exactly made many friends.

More surprisingly, once you dig under the "I hate the West, the Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, and all it stands for1" nonsense, there are actually some limited but valid points there.

I believe that aid should, where possible, be provided from within the local region. Immediately neighbouring countries may not be entirely practical - regional enmities may make a wider focus more appealing but, as Martin states, there is ASEAN2. There are clear advantages with local culture, local food (remember American maize flour, from yellow maize, being rejected in Africa because it was so different from the local white maize - never mind US rejection of British emergency rations in the aftermath of Katrina, due to BSE concerns3 and, to localise it - the inappropriateness of possibly meat-based European rations in a largely Buddhist community) or merely not being white (let's be honest, the colonial record, whether we are British, Spanish, French, American or, especially, Belgian, is quite reasonably held against us in many parts of the world.)

He, among others, also has a point regarding the "invade and distribute" idiots. Burma is a military dictatorship - their Army may not be doing much on the disaster relief front but they seem to be doing a reasonable job at catching journalists and, I'm sure, could make any invasion quite a difficult proposition. And, given the success we are having at 'Military Aid to the Civil Power' in Iraq and Afghanistan (as opposed to simple military success against conventional or near-conventional opposition), recent history suggests that we would make such a great job of it.

Except, there is one important factor, for local aid to work, the local organisations or countries need to be able to provide it. Often, although it wasn't too bad in the specific case of Burma and Cyclone Nargis, they have suffered from the same disaster as the poster-child country. Very often, they also are poor and need the food, equipment and skilled people for their own projects and issues. And when they can deploy, they don't come up to standard. African (OAS) troops for African conflicts hasn't worked well. Third World troops on UN deployments have done the remarkable and worsened the reputation of the light blue beret / helmet.

The ICRC was founded in Geneva, Oxfam in Oxford, Médecins Sans Frontières in France. Aid, at the moment, means either the UN or the West. And the UN has all the problems of any large bureaucracy. The people of Burma need aid. The West should and should be both allowed and encouraged to provide it. And if that offends a Burmese General or two? Fuck them with a schiltron full of 15 foot pikes (either the not-quite-a-spear or the fish, I don't care!)

1. Except Marx and Stalin, of course, and, even then Mao and 'Brother No 1' did it better.

2. Go on, why .org? This sort of organisation is exactly what the .int domain is for. And it's even free!

3. Not fit for starving Yanks, therefore foisted on to the developing world - the mind-boggling (lack of) ethics of aid!

1 Down, 350 to Go.*

I suspect there will be an awful lot of very nervous Nu-Lab politicians conspiring over their lattes this morning. This was a result entirely deserved by the Great Clunking Fist and his troupe of barely-trained media baboons. Unfortunately, we are unlikely to see the 17.6% swing reflected in a General Election but this is giving formal notice that the normal people of the UK are now completely sick of them, their spin, their taxes and their horridly statist mismanagement of this country, its economy and our freedom.

The Tories threw it away in 1997, by in-fighting, corruption and the arrogance of being in office for so long. Gordon is throwing it away now because that is all he is capable of doing.

What a lovely morning!

* And, it should go without saying, all 78 UK MEPs (or the 72 we'll have to appoint to their sinecure next time round.)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Preaching from Ignorance

Johann Hari, from Monday's 'Independent':

More amazingly still, Britain's weapons do not have a secret launch code. They can be fired or detonated by the commander in charge of them simply by opening them up manually and turning some switches and buttons. Every other nuclear power has an authorisation code known only to the country's leader, which has to be read out to the soldiers in charge of the weapon before it can be used. Not us. Whenever the British government has tried to introduce this basic safety procedure, the Navy has got huffy and refused to participate, saying it is "tantamount" to claiming their officers are not "true gentlemen".

Now, I have to be careful here because, unlike Johann, I actually know what I am talking about, so all this is open source material:
  • Johann is not talking about a "secret launch code" - of course these exist (and change, regularly), he is talking about 'Permissive Action Links' - PALs - in American parlance. These don't stop the weapons being launched or dropped - they are part of the warhead interlocks and stop them going bang. And, it must be admitted, some countries have them fitted on their warheads and the UK doesn't.
  • "Every other nuclear power" - just utter bollocks. Israel, India and Pakistan? I doubt it. I don't think the French have them either.
  • "known only to the country's leader" - Nope. The Soviets had them known to the Political Officers (Zampolit) - not just to the President. In the USA, although the President is the "National Command Authority" when alive, the "National Airborne Operations Centre" (formerly known as the "National Airborne Emergency Command Post" - less formally as 'Kneecap' and before that as 'Looking Glass') is available to take over in the event of mass untimely death* of politicians by means various. They have the codes available.
  • Part of the role of the submarine deterrent force, regardless of which country it belongs to is 'retaliatory strike'. This means that if you attack us with Weapons of Mass Destruction, we will rain buckets of instant sunshine down on you, even if you have killed all of the political leadership. As Jonty Powis (more famous for his part in the rescue of the crew of a Russian mini-sub) pithily but inaccurately put it (I believe on television), we listen to the Today programme and, if we don't hear it, we get worried. Without the expense of NAOC and Airforce One (remember the 'Blairforce 1' farce - and the 'Queen's Flight' is not appropriately equipped), you cannot use PALs in that context.
  • Gentlemen? I believe (and was certainly indoctrinated) that Naval Officers are not considered to be gentlemen anyway. Something to do with Queen Victoria and us hanging a load of mutineers after promising them we wouldn't. Hence the carried swords (as opposed to the Royal Marines and the Army who have them on hangers or on a Sam Browne) etc, etc.
  • And the killer: "They can be fired or detonated by the commander in charge of them simply by opening them up manually and turning some switches and buttons." Utter, utter crap. While not actually requiring everybody on the submarine to take an active part, missile launch requires many people to co-operate, has numerous interlocks and specifically requires keys held under '2-man control'. And that is just the rockets. The warheads themselves have additional safety features.
Hari, you are an utter fucking cretin.

* Is this actually possible? Or, walking away from the nuclear option, would 'timely' for our political classes be 'three score years and ten' (i.e. McCain is well up for it), as opposed to piano-wire garrottes, candiru fish and sharpened cockroaches at the hands of a riotous mob of libertarian bloggers? Just musing.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Yes, it is! No, it's not!

Scientology? A cult? Hmm - but, despite the opinions of a couple of my betters, I really don't think so.

You see, the term 'religion' is not the only rational alternative to the term 'cult'. And Scientology certainly isn't a religion. It is a deeply unpleasant con-trick, which splits families apart,and was designed by a crappy writer in order to make money more easily than selling books. Which it does do - extremely well. And well enough to pay for lots of lawyers.

It isn't well written sci-fi, either (as you would entirely expect from Hubbard, whose ouvre, frankly, sucks. When you consider that some of the greats of the genre were writing around that time - Asimov, Clarke, Dick, Haldeman - apologies to the rest of the alphabet - or even entirely competent and readable journeymen such as Herbert, Heinlein or 'Doc' Smith - how did Hubbard ever get published?)

However, regardless of the rights or wrongs of the appellation, City of London Police are not doing the job they are expected to. Back to Peel's Principles, Mr Mayor?

Updated to add: The Germans, unusually, have entirely the right idea about how Cruise, his fellow inmates and their criminal warders should be dealt with.

Update 2: H/t to John B who pointed out that it is the Corporation of the City of London, hence the Lord Mayor rather than 'BoJo', who are nominally in charge of these jokers.

Friday, May 09, 2008

What an utterly stupid woman

I don't normally post on the rantings of Nadine Dorries, MP for Mid Bedfordshire, 'blogger without comments', and "Mad Nad" to her many fans.  This is not because I agree with her but because Ben, Unity and John do a far better job of it (and can be bothered to go and look up the correct statistics).

She may be a wonderful constituency MP but, as far as pretending to govern the country is concerned, she is a one-trick pony.   She doesn't like abortion.  Of itself, not a dishonourable position to hold.  However, instead of campaigning for an outright or an 'except in these special circumstances' ban, she is mendaciously trying to force through salami slicing reductions in the maximum permissible foetal age for terminations.  

As well as her blog article linked above, she also appears in today's Torygraph*, reported as saying:

I think this report insults the intelligence of the public and MPs alike.  No improvement in neonatal care in 12 years?  Really?  So where has all the money pumped into neonatal services gone?  This report is the most desperate piece of tosh produced by the pro-choice lobby.

Referring, of course, to the University of Leicester report, lead by Prof David Field, into 12 years of premature births & survival rates in the Trent health region. 

I have a number of basic points to make:
  • Judging by recent history, I do not think it is possible to insult the intelligence of MPs.
  • You seem to believe in the managerialist politicians' delusion that throwing money at a problem must result in improvements.  It 'should' but, especially in the public sector, it rarely does.
  • You ignore, in your insistence that the only important group of neonates are those born before 24 weeks - those which further your cause, the 30% increase in the survival rate for babies born at 24 weeks - clearly a valuable improvement.  The fact that such an improvement was achieved without any statistically significant improvement for your preferred group, is actually quite telling.
Let's be honest here or, at least, I will be, because you seem to be constitutionally incapable of it.  With your utter pig-headed refusal to recognise facts, your mendacious twisting of scientific evidence and your clear inability to accept criticism, an invitation to join Gordo's Government of all the Talentless must be just around the corner.

* The Telegraph's search engine is crap - I actually initially couldn't find this online then got it as link 3 when googling David Field. The mind boggles.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

And the bloody Torygraph

Who is Mary Riddell? What is a fan of the great clunking fist doing writing in Telegraph Comment? I mean:
When did decency become the mark of Cain on an honest politican?

is a reasonable enough question. But asked of our inglorious Prime Minister, the Great Ditherer himself? Hero of the War on the Low Paid?  Decent and honest? Damn fool of a cretinous and credulous hack. Get back to ghost writing for Terry, I say.

Ed notes: She's actually a columnist for those well known conservative and (classically) liberal journals, the Observer and the New Statesman.  And a professional quango-crat leach:
Outside journalism, she sits on a number of commissions and advisory boards for organisations advancing justice and liberty, including Smart Justice and Rethinking Crime and Punishment. She is also a patron of the Children’s Rights Alliance for England.

Get thee hence, foul witch!

A note for "London Lite"


Your front page headline, yesterday, is crap: no matter how well trained, a drunk with a shotgun is not a "sniper".

Sniper implies long range (not achievable with a shotgun) and accurate (although a small amount of an appropriate sedative may improve accuracy, alcohol is unlikely to be the cheat's choice - the blurring of your distance vision really does your grouping no good at all.)

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Oh, what a glorious morning!

Well done Boris, well done James, well done all 3154 (ish - Sky has it at 3156) of the councillors, new and old. Well done everybody who voted for them (actually, well done everybody who voted.)

Matthew Parris, constrained by the politesse of the "Times of London", considers voters telling the monocular spiv and his cronies to "push off". I don't think so.

There is some vaguely appalling film* being advertised on the Underground at the moment with a picture of a large club with rusty iron spikes driven through it - a common man's mace (no, this not this). What voters have told the bunch of statist control freaks is to fuck off, right now, or we will anally rape you with as close as we can make to such a device before the (new-traditional) candiru fish, spectacular group bondingage exercises, quick trips to France, or, bluff old traditionalist that I am, the piano wire comes out.

* Updated to add: "Doomsday" - apparently made with £300k of public money. Nice 'work' if you can get it.
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