Cartoon Criminals

Any of ye’s hear the news about another bunch of wanabe Jihadi’s being arrested for trying to attack the Danish cartoonists.

It’s very hard to not find the funny side of this, Al-Queda’s credibility rating is now little more that a joke, the 3-lions film actually portrayed them in far more glowing terms than the reality. I mean even if they had even succeeded what are they going to say, I martyr’ed myself for Islam, I could have gone after something big and pointy like a western nuclear missile site, or an airbase, or a power station, but instead we hit the west where it will feel it the most….by attacking a cartoonist for a small provincial Danish news paper. He’ll get his 40 virgins alright, problem is they’ll be a bunch of Gay leather bound bikers (like in the scene from Police Academy)!

“Danish Justice Minister Lars Barfoed said this is outrageous”……Outrageously stupid perhaps?

I might also note that the irony of this islamist obsession about Danish Cartoon’s and images of Mohammed is misplaced. The cartoon that caused the most offence was actually drawn by a French cartoonist caricaturing something else entirely, which got switched into the pile of images circulating the Muslim world (it showed a man with his face manipulated with the nose of a pig). Also the jury is out in Islam as to whether his portrayal is actually blasphemous. Numerous historic pictures of him by Islamic artists can be found.

Also, I’m pretty sure a caricature of him wouldn’t count as Blasphemy, as in any event, the reason why they don’t like images of Mohammed, is the Muslim aversion to iconography. In other words, so long as nobody worshipped these cartoons, it ain’t blasphemy, engaging in violent protest/plotting to blow people up on the other had I think pretty much counts.

Telly Addicts

As I’ve no TV at home, I’ve been catching up on my TV in Ireland. Saw a few interesting programs. I finally got to saw the end of the series “Pillars of the Earth”. While I wasn’t too keen on the Scooby Doo style ending to the series (let’s see who this Bishop Waleran really is.…why it’s the old man from scene 34!) I did like how they portrayed the ad-hoc nature of how things were built in those days. The Engineers and builders of the era literally made up the design of structures as they went along. The roof starts to crack due to heavy loading? Used a ribbed vault, and/or pointed arches (all based on the mathematics invented by the Ancient Greeks). The wind load in a storm causes more cracks? Flying buttresses get installed. It does make you realise that when you look at a historic building how much effort, both intellectual, artistic and physical brute force, went into building these things.

Given that it could take generations of builders to finish a cathedral or castle it also shows you how forward thinking people were back then. In order to meet our future energy needs for example there are a whole host of things we should be building right now, arrays of wind/wave/solar energy systems, deep underground repositories for spent nuclear fuel, new mines to extract rare Earth metals (so we don’t have to rely solely on China for them), new recycling facilities, large scale tree farming of hard wood trees (absorb more carbon dioxide & provides excellent building materials), building a HVDC network or a hydrogen distribution network, I could go on all day. But no, none of this is being built because if you try to get any of the above approved and you get questions about cost (and how costly will it be when the lights go out?), or it will spoil the view…etc. you have to conclude that are not as forward thinking as people in the middle ages. I also liked all those olde English Trade names, Tom Builder was a builder, the Butcher was called Mr Butcher, Mr Potter made pots….I don’t want to know what the Crapper’s, Nutter’s, Hoare’s or Cockers did!

Another interesting programme was strangely enough Upstairs/downstairs. Wha? Well I thought it was interesting in that they hinted at what I always assumed was a taboo subject in Britain – the “coup” of 1936. I don’t know if you, like me, have ever been entirely satisfied with the explanation for the resignation of King Edward VIII, i.e that the government blocked his marriage to an American Divorcee. While yes, I’m sure images of some ghastly American on the throne in the future (King Homer Simpson? Queen Sarah Palin?) probably filled the establishment at the time with dread, I think this was pretty minor compared to the concerns of them about the new King’s (and his future wife’s) overt closeness to certain goose stepping foreigners. In 1936 it was becoming clear (reoccupation of the Rhineland, invasion of Ethiopia, Spanish civil war) that the fascist regimes would probably have to be confronted in some way in the future, and it wouldn’t do for the UK to have a King friendly with the Gerry’s while they’re bombing the shite out of us (especially after the fiasco at the start of the 1st world war when the official name of the Royal family was still Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, they changed it to “Windsor” during the war….thought Mark Thomas wants it changed now to “lower Slough”).

While the excuse may well have been the wedding to a divorcee, I suspect that the real reason for the pressure on the King to resign was the concern about his politics. In essence it wasn’t so much an abdication but more of a coup, but a very British coup (“You’re Highness, you would mind doing us this small favour old chappy?…. Could you be so kind as to resign at once and fuck off to France, as we can’t have a goose stepping b@$t@rd on the throne at the same time we’re fighting the chap’s in Europe, now… can we?….And while I hate to impose on you, old fellow, but if you aren’t a good sport on this…I’m afraid I shall have to ask some of my Eton chums from GCHQ to push down some stairs….so if you’d be so kind, you’re majesty, what! What!”).

For comedy, I watched Fox news or Sky news. Well, its funny so long as you don’t take anything they say seriously, i.e treat it like people did Pravda in its day (the soviet newspaper called “truth” even thought it was well known for being essential absent of any). My favourite quote? They talked at one point of bringing back fox hunting “…due to a spate of fox attacks on people in recent years….” Wha?…..far as I’m aware there’s only been one confirmed case of a fox attack against a person in the last few decades, that being the juvenile fox that got into a kids bedroom last year (and it’s scratching the kid was likely accidental or an instinct of self defence). One “attack” hardly constitutes a “spate” of attacks.

There are plenty of reasons to hunt foxes, lets not start inventing them. And something tells me letting the horse & hound’s loose in the middle of a city centre (to go after urban foxes) would be a tad impractical (the Neds will be inventing a new sport of “toff hunting” chasing after the toffs in they’re Honda Civics with their Pit Bull terriers in tow). Personally, my objection to fox hunting is on the basis of efficiency: why does it take 50 dogs and twenty people on horses to do a job, that can be done equally as well by 2 dogs and a guy with a gun and a flash light? There is a recession on you know! Furthermore, the only reason why foxes are a problem is because the natural predators of foxes (birds of prey, lynx) have been eliminated and there is a surplus of prey species for them to feed on (birds, rabbits, voles, rats, mice, etc.) largely because of our elimination of predators, land use choices and in cities plenty of food waste for them to scavenge. People screwing around with the environment inevitably creates problems – go ask the Aussie’s or Kiwi’s. For example city centre litter means we now also have a problem in most cities with Seagulls…of course it used to be the same thing but with Starlings, city authorities launched a war on starlings…and the pigeons took over…. We got rid of the pigeons….and the seagulls took over! What next? We get rid of the Seagulls and have golden Eagles swooping down and lifting kids out of they’re prams? Get rid of the foxes and will we be overrun with rats? Better to deal with the source of the problem, i.e excessive litter and a lack of recycling of waste, then worry about the foxes.

Then there was 4 rooms, the Tarantino film that got all those bad reviews. Okay, it wasn’t a great film, but it certainly wasn’t a bad film. Don’t believe what you hear in the reviews. For example the latest Tarantino/Rodriquez outing, Machete, got also pretty rotten reviews. I think what the critics didn’t realise is it’s supposed to be a deliberate effort to imitate a bad 80’s B movie. Its sort of a case of rather than a film being good despite being so cheesy, its good, because its so cheesy & full of plot holes.

There was a documentary on Bill Hicks, some excellent quotes from him:

He was heckled by this guy after a joke he made about Flag burning “…Guy said to me: My daddy died fightin the Chinese in Korea to protect that flag….I [Bill] goes, we’ll that’s funny, cos you turn my flag over here and its say’s: Made in China..”

Or “what is it with Christians and crucifix, if Jesus comes back you guys are all screwed, cos I reckon after what he went thro the last thing he wants to see is a load of damn crosses… sort of like going up to Jacqueline Onassis with a little symbol of a sniper rifle around you’re neck…”

“These guys came up to me after a show and said “we’re Christians and we don’t like what you’ve been sayin about Christ-ian-aty”…so I goes, well then forgive me!”

Any of ye familiar with the Downfall internet Meme, here Hitler is informed he will have to fly Ryanair for his Christmas Skiing holiday

And here’s the new Ryanair safety video

Sheridan v’s Sheridan

Well between Vince Cable being stitched up and Tommy Sheridan being done for perjury it looks like it’s a very merry Christmas for Rupert Murdoch this year.

Course lets not forget that Tommy Sheridan’s being convicted for two reasons, one he (probably)lied and secondly, cos he’s an ar$e! Of course that doesn’t make the Murdoch’s any the less of a bunch of bast$%ds themselves. The point Tommy Sheridan’s been making about the Murdoch’s having way too much power and influence is still valid though. There ought to be a law forbidding anyone from controlling any more than one media outlet (even in multiple countries). As if we don’t have enough problems with loud mouth Aussies (i.e wikifreaks)!

Even so, least we forget, the whole reason why that article about Tommy Sheridan appeared in the (don’t laugh!) News of the World (its strange how they call it that, A. there’s no actual news in it & B. it really mentions the world, top story is usually about some footballer sleeping around or something!) was to try and get a rise out of the Scottish Socialists. And how it succeeded – effectively Tommy Sheridan and the Scottish Socialist party basically self destructed as a consequence of one article in a tabloid rag. While yes, there probably was quite a bit of snooping around by the Murdoch press, who were clearly out to get the knife in and anyone who believes that the editors of the NotW (or the Murdoch’s) didn’t know about this phone tapping going on, ya sure, pull the other one! But the bulk of the damage to the SSP was done by various ego-manics within the party itself.

There’s a lot of things we can blame Rupert Murdoch for (G. Bush Junior, Fox News, Tea party, Sarah Palin, the Rise of the Machines (just you wait!)) but bringing down the SSP isn’t one of those, they managed that quite nicely by themselves. Bloody socialists! they’re their own worst enemy! Put two of them in a room for 5 minutes & they’ll form 4 different rival parties who’ll despise each other to the point where they’d both vote Tory to stop the other fella getting in.

Here’s something else from the BEEB which may give ye’s a wee giggle :DD:

not dreaming of a white christmas

Snow nightmare! Christmas ruined by snow! That’s what the tabloid headlines scream

Now call me nostalgic but when I was a lad, a white Christmas was considered to be a great thing. Is it just that we all thought it sounded like a grand idea until we realised that its a tad impractical having all this slippy white stuff around while we rush around preparing for Christmas or is it just the habit of the media that they always have to find fault with anything? If they can make such a big fuss out of something as innocent as a little snow it might be worth while having a bowl of salt handy when you listen to the news next time.

Speaking of which, you may have heard about the great Vince Cable stitch up. Two reporters pretending to be constituents ambushed him, and goaded him in to saying various nasty things about the coalition. This has resulted in the decision on whether to approve the BSB merger being taken out of his hands and given to a conservative minister. If there’s ever been a more blatant political stitch up I’ve not come across it. Vince Cable being business secretary and overseer of Rupert Murdoch’s empire has been a major irritation for the Murdoch’s since the forming of this coalition. They have been trying to go after the lib dems and Vince Cable from day one and finally it seems they along with the Tory’s and they’re allies in the Daily Telegraph have finally pulled it off. A sad day for British politics. One love for some related to this to come out on Wikileaks…….


Well the snow’s on its way back to us, its going to get cold again soon. Personally I don’t care, I’m off to sunny….Ireland on Monday so all I care is that the airports are open and then it Scotland can become like seen in 2 days before the day after tomorrow.
Speaking of which, how many of you knew there was a climate conference going on in Cancun in Mexico last week? Are we still having those you may well ask? Didn’t George W. have all the climate scientists taken to Gitmo and waterboarded? Well, I didn’t pay it much attention either, numerous disappointments in the past has led me to know not to expect much from these conferences. And indeed I suspect you gave most climate scientists the choice between a good water boarding and attending another climate conference, they’d be dipping head straight into the nearest bucket. The conference was hailed as a success, because miracle of miracles they actually agreed something, yes everyone agreed the tea was served just a little bit too cold! Seriously thought, they did agree to some non binding cuts in carbon emissions with no fixed timetable and no penalties for anyone who doesn’t meet them with an agreement that they may well drop the whole thing in the future, if anyone feels like it. Also it was agreed a fund to be set up to help pay the costs of poorer countries to adapt to climate change.
For the non academics who don’t understand all this international politics and jargon you’ve probably been hearing about Cancun (or more than likely not hearing, as nobody in the media was paying it any attention, I mean what’s a more important news item, Lady Gaga, Wikifreaks (I told you this story won’t die!) or the ultimate fate of human civilisation….well clearly its lady gaga!). Anyway let me put it all in plain simple English: Suppose you were worried you’re house might burn down at some point in the future, you could a) install some smoke alarms b) purchase some home insurance to cover you against fire or c) put a fiver aside every week assuming that if the house burns down all those fiver’s will be enough to rebuild you’re house and replace all you’re stuff. In Cancun they choose option c).
The fund setup to help poor countries cope with the effects of climate change was woefully in adequate (a mere $100 billion, believe me a drop in the ocean on the scale we are talking about). The Stern report made perfectly clear that cutting carbon emissions now was going to be a lot cheaper than the costs of trying to adapt to climate change as it happened, nevermind the potential for the destruction of property, loss of life, etc. Furthermore, even if the sums promised were adequate we are assuming we can buy our way out of this problem. If an entire Pacific Island state disappears under the Pacific all the money in the world isn’t going to raise it back up above sea level. Where are these people going to go? If a big chunk of Sub-saharan Africa is rendered uninhabitable, money is not going to make rain fall in the right place or crops to start growing again. These people will need to be moved somewhere else, most likely into Western countries. Are we prepared to accept such numbers of climate refugees? If you think we have too many immigrants and asylum seekers in the country now, I hate to say it but this is but a trickle compared to what Europe will have to put up with in the future.
The simple fact is that the longer we delay taking action on climate change, the less time we’ll have to do anything (assuming its still possible to do anything, beyond a certain tipping point a runaway greenhouse effect is a possibility) and the more expensive it will be to take action. Kyoto in its day was heavily criticized by both sides for not going far enough and on the other hand for going too far. On reflection I’d argue it got the balance about right. Had the Kyoto protocol been followed (in particular by the US, Canada and Australia) and had this initially heavy commitment by Western states to carbon reductions was then used as a means of persuading India and China to join the club at a later date (round about now would do nicely!), then we’d be now well on our way to achieving the necessary cuts. It is clear from the countries set to meet they’re obligations to the Kyoto treaty (including many in the EU) that the neigh Sayers talk of doom and how trying to comply with Kyoto would bring down economies, and be hugely disruptive etc., hasn’t materialised, indeed certain countries have profited quite handsomely from it (the Danes with they’re wind farms, China with its growing solar industry, hence why I think they can be persuaded to join Kyoto, were the US in it).
But unfortunately Kyoto is in the past, it was a window of opportunity that was largely missed. Now, I suspect, nothing will be done about Climate change (or the related issues of peak oil, overpopulation and destruction of natural habitats) until its glaringly obvious and things reach crisis point, i.e a large hurricane wipes out a major city, like New York or Shanghai or Mumbai (and not just a poor black working class suburb as we saw with Katrina), or India misses a monsoon season or two, then gets both together the following year. Trouble is doing something about it at this future date will be very difficult, we will not have time to gradually wean our way off fossil fuels, and with the economic repercussions we won’t have a lot of cash to throw at the problem either. Renewable systems (or indeed nuclear reactors or CCS systems) take decades of planning to design, build and commission, especially on the scale we are talking about. By contrast it takes no time at all to simply flick a switch and turn off a few power stations (especially if post peak oil they are becoming increasingly expensive to run), or for all cars with say an Engine larger than 2L’s to be banned from public roads, or a ban on all short haul flights, etc. In other words we’ll have to fire fight these problems reactively rather than with any organised plan, something that will be very disruptive to our daily lives and indeed to the wider economy. And of course, far from being pessimistic, I’m assuming here that we have options in which to do something about these issues, as its quite likely it might be too late to do anything, as the US National academy on Sciences Panel concluded in 1979:
“A wait-and-see policy on climate is not an option, it will likely mean waiting until it is too late to do anything”
Of course mention this to most people and they go on about how its so cold and thus climate change can’t be happening (its winter….this may come as a shock to you but most climate scientists I’ve ever spoken to are aware that it snows in winter, they have accounted for this in they’re climate models). Or people will say its all the sun, or cosmic rays or natural variation, or at least that’s what the guy down the pub told me & how oh, I (or the guy down the pub) knows so much more about climate science by spending 5 minutes reading LittleJohn’s article in the Mail, than climate scientists who’ve spend they’re entire lives studying the topic. I might also note that this year is on course to be one of the hottest on record, yes! It may have been cold (in winter!) in Europe this year but go ask the aussies how cold they thought it was, or the Russians (both had heat waves). Furthermore, the reason why we use the term “climate change” is because it while generally the planet warms up, some parts will cool, weather conditions will become more extreme and erratic, etc.
Personally, it’s a matter of insurance, enacting the precautionary principle and covering ourselves just in case. The IPCC is 90% certain that climate change is man made, even the climate sceptics (those with actual academic qualifications mind) will generally say its closer to 30-50% likely to be caused by us. The chances of your house burning down or your car being nicked is a lot less likely than 30-50% nevermind 90%, yet most of us see it prudent to take out insurance cover of some sorts just in case. Regardless of if you “believe” in anthropogenic climate change or not (for starters its science not religious!) if you honestly think taking some mitigating action isn’t worth the hassle then I suggest you also cancel all you’re insurance policies too, and stop doing silly socialist things like looking both ways while you cross the road, or wear seat belts, etc!

Letters from America

In the US the Republicans are claiming they’re first major success in getting Obama to agree to keep Bush’s tax cuts to the rich in return for him getting to keep paying people on welfare due to the recession. Now, one of the few sensible policies of the Tea party & they’re Republican allies is the fact that they want to bring down the federal deficit in the US….anyone care to explain to me how lowing taxes and raising spending actually helps reduce the deficit. And of course, that’s probably the Tea party’s only sensible policy, noting of course that the easiest way to cut the deficit would be to cut out a good deal of the $700 Billion that the US spends on defence (they spend just over half the world’s entire global military budget more than the next 18 countries combined!), but given that this policy would mean many tea partiers losing their jobs it’s no surprise they don’t want anyone doing that…it would be “unpatriotic”, i.e I’ll get the sack! Fact is the Tea partiers or they’re Republican allies are only interested in cutting the bits of the deficit which don’t subsidise them, they want socialism for themselves and the neo-liberal rat-race for everyone else.

The tea party’s other policies of course include compulsory gun ownership (American Idol replaced by American Saloon Draw’s….well it would make good TV, especially when Simon Cowell gets his turn!), that the Birth certificates of all black men shall be verified by a anonymous panel of their white peers (who to preserve they’re anonymity will don pointed white hoods), the banning of “socialist indoctrination” classes in public schools (that’s what the rest of us call “science”) or indeed feck it! Lets just ban public schools altogether (Ron Paul the likely tea party candidate for president wants to shut down the Dept. Of Education, no joking!), allowing people to stock and use gold as units of currency is another favourite (why carrying a gun mightn’t be a bad idea!).

Anyway, one has to conclude that the very fact that this tax deal is being done signifies that the American political system is basically dead/paralysed. Getting the sort of meaningful change needed to prevent the US going bankrupt or to get America to wake up to the dangers of Climate change, peak oil or numerous other pressing problems, or indeed any sort of a major change in US foreign policy/domestic policy, is now likely impossible, not by any president (unless you do what Bush did and lie left, right and centre while ignoring the rules and accusing anyone who disagreed with you of being on the side of the terrorists) While the Tea party argue along similar lines, one must conclude they are more part of the problem than the solution.

Speaking of American nutters, that pastor who wanted to burn a load of Koran’s wants to come over to Britain to give a speech for the EDL (a neo-nazi group who think the BNP are a bunch of big girly socialist softies). Course he claims he’ll be coming to “spread peace and harmony”….I’m sure the nazi’s said something similar when driving they’re tanks into Poland. One thing though we credit him with making clear is how the West is going about this whole “war on terror” thing the wrong way. When the latest “stupid-icide bombing” perp (a word I just invented to describe the sort of hapless wannabe jihadi of the likes in the 4 lions film, or indeed the Glasgow airport “attack”) in Stockholm left he’s final message he basically said “stop drawing cartoons!” (I smell a Darwin award!)

Anyway, if we knew what we know now back in 2001, then straight after the 9/11 attacks, all the US would have had to do is, rather than invade Afghanistan, send a cargo plane into Kabul airport with a big pile of Korans (or indeed a load of old phone books, who’d know the difference!), and a GI with a petrol can and a box of matches & tell the Taliban to give up Bin Laden….. or else. Five minutes later, Bin Laden is led bound and gagged onto the plane. If than didn’t work a crack team of Danish cartoonists is next deployed (Operation Hagar ?) or a team of English school teachers armed with teddy bears, they wouldn’t know what hit them! Worried about wikileaks stuff falling into the hands of terrorists (or indeed any government document)? Simple! just draw a picture of Mohammed on it (even a stick figure with the word Mo written beneath it should do). Who needs expensive body armour whey you can just strap Korans to yourself (or again just phone books, they keep trying to deliver them to my flat and they way they go on, you’d swear they were Korans). Think of the billions of pounds that could have been saved!

Chinese takeaway

Ye all hear about the Prince of Wales car being “attacked” (well not really, no worse than you’d get driving through Paisley), like something from the French revolution, if you believe the media. The Queen I hear was terribly distressed – especially when she heard that both Charles and Camilla were still alive ;0
The talk now from the government of “lessons to be learnt about this lapse in security….” i.e. our security wasn’t tight enough….I’d tend to go the other way, excessive security is precisely the sort of thing which just encourages violent protest. Furthermore if you don’t bring in policies that are likely to provoke protests like this (what really got the students rattled was that both the conservatives and liberals had stated they’re opposition to tuition fees, if they’d had tried to play populist while Labour were in power), then you won’t need excessive security.

Speaking of police states, the Nobel peace prize is being awarded today….to an empty chair, why? Because the Chinese aren’t releasing this year’s winner (Liu Xiao bo) to collect the award. Now, that’s hardly surprising, what is clear is that many countries are bowing into pressure from the Chinese to not attend the ceremony. Now while this list of non attendees reads like a whose who of Totalitarian regimes, it does demonstrate how much influence the Chinese are getting in the world and how the West’s policy of appeasement to China on issues such as Human rights is clearly failing. If there’s one thing we learnt in 1939 is that appeasement of aggressors does not work, it just makes them more aggressive until eventually they demand something that you’re not prepared to give up on. Now while I’m not advocating a war with China, I am suggesting that we need to make clear to them that continued trade will be dependant on them adopting a better track record on human rights, both home and abroad. Indeed if we don’t the danger is that a war could eventually happen, most likely over something like Taiwan or the South China Sea.

In the case of Taiwan Chinese pressure has prevented the sale of any modern weaponry to the Taiwanese, such that they are now unlikely to be able to repel a Chinese attack (the US military reckons they’ll hold out for about a week without American intervention). This more or less guarantees that now if there is any confrontation over Taiwan, the US will be drawn into direct conflict with China, and possibly their allies too (i.e Britain, Korea, Japan and maybe the EU). Of course if the Americans & EU had told the Chinese to feck off, sold the Taiwanese whatever they asked for, then a war would be less likely (the Chinese know they’d risk loosing) and even then it would be a proxy war between China and a US satellite state rather than a superpower standoff (with the risk of WWIII). By the way, there is a law on the books in China saying that if Taiwan makes any move towards independence then China must take some form of military action, thought the exact action isn’t defined, it could range from a full scale invasion, a naval/air blockade….or they could have one soldier row over to Taiwan in a rowing boat, assault the Island and get promptly killed in the first 2 seconds!

So in short the likes of David Cameron doing a Neville Chamberlain when he was over there with a trade delegation a few months back, doesn’t do anyone any good, not even the Chinese. He say’s he did bring up Human Rights…during the trade negotiations, something like this I suspect:
“…now you’ll read in paragraph 5 about our high interest rate loads….Cough! human rights Cough!….which is payable over a 3 year period….”
or “now before you sign…human rights….no?….not you’re thing Is it? well nevermind, just make the Cheque out to…”)

The Chinese are responding to the Nobel Prize by announcing they’re own version the Confucius Prize…presumably awarded to bloody dictators who lecture their victims on the merits of philosophy, while they are being tortured.
Then again Confucius did say:
“Man who piss of big government, spend long time in big house”
One of Confucius less well known sayings such as:
“man who go to bed with itchy ass wake up with smelly finger”
“Man who drive like hell sure to get there quickly”
“Before you do bad to another walk 100 miles in his shoes…that way if he finds out and gets angry, you are 100 miles away and you have his shoes”
“Man who walk through airport door sideways is going to Bangkok.”
“Man who drop watch in toilet, bound to have shitty time.”
“Man who pushes piano down mineshaft get tone of A flat miner.”
(I’ll stop now) Actually what is interesting is the names of some of the countries who also aren’t attending, which includes…Afghanistan and Iraq…so that war a few years ago….oh, sorry! Still ongoing, its over something about bringing democracy and a respect for human rights, ya? Doesn’t seem to be working now does it? Why are Western troops fighting to preserve governments who have now sided with China on Human rights…oh ya! I almost forgot, cos they’ve got oil & gas, which of course the last two wars had absolutely nothing to do with.

On an unrelated topic, here’s a nice picture from a protestor last week, love the sign!

The Thaw

Well, the snow’s are melting, any of you’s know the clyde was part frozen over. Anyway, the bad news is a thaw means the risk of burst pipes rises, so for anyone in an old tenement building like me its time to worry. One or two of the houses down the road from me is already pissing water out the door. I tried to take good care of my pipework (whahoo!) but there’s little I could do for the stuff in the attic because (a) its locked (not that this was a problem in my last place, we just undid the screws, great security guys!) and (b) my ladders not tall enough. So a tense wait to see if I get flooded. I have my rubber ducky at the ready just in case.

Anyway the students were supposed to walk out of uni today in protest against the new tuition fees down in London….problem is its exam time so I doubt many students decided that the English paying tuition fees was a good reason to have to repeat a semester, a little forward planning next time guys! Anyway, half the students have bunked off to enjoy the snow and give themselves an extra months study I assume. Students these days don’t know how luck they are, in my day we didn’t even have any genuine grievance to go on strike over, not that this put us off!

On the topic I think the increased fees idea is a bad one. It’s going to lead to an American style system where only those who can afford to go to uni do so and students are feeling obliged to pick a course that will give them an income sufficient to pay off they’re loads rather than something they are genuinely interested in. If there’s one word of advice someone who lectures can give students, pick a course you’re interested in, cos you’ll be sick of it after 4 years. If you like physics, but do a business studies because you’re afraid you won’t get a job with a physics degree, chances are you won’t hack it and will drop out midway through the business studies course, probably right before you have to go through the ceremony pledging you’re soul to Beelzebub (or is that with law degrees?). This will also mean departments closing in some universities. All well and good, until we need them again. For example, if you’re in favour of nuclear energy (I’m not, but just saying), who is going to build and run these plants? There’s only a handful of universities in the country that do nuclear engineering, so not only will the UK have to get the French to build the damn things (and the uranium off the Russians), but it will be French engineers running the plants (Viva la France!). Arseytechure is now suffering due to the downturn, but it will presumably come back sometime, but not if all the architecture departments have closed.
Also a fee based situation puts pressure on lecturers to pass students, even if they know there work is sub-standard, as the lecturers know that people paying for education tend to kick up a right old stink if their years of tuition comes to nought (even if ultimately it’s the students fault for not doing the work). There was a big fuss about this a few years ago when several leaks came out of several leading universities revealing this was already happening with international students, so it’s a trend that will likely continue. The danger here is, standards will drop and you’re degree won’t be worth the paper its written on (or at least it won’t be perceived that way by industry).

On the other hand the status quo, or indeed wholly government funded tuition isn’t an option either. While I have no problem with it, there’s enough Daily Mail readers complaining about lazy students to make the idea unpopular and there is a risk that when government’s winds up in a penny pinching mood (generally whenever the DM readers are running the gaff!) the universities suffer. My suspicion is we need a bit of both, some government funding, but also some funding from students or industry. However, any student funding should be directly related towards ones ability to pay and not some random arbitrary tax.
£9,000 a year is way too much, when you consider how students living expenses for 4 years will greatly increase this figure (£40,000 in debt is a figure being banded around). A big problem right now is that nobody is saving, not for retirement, not for a rainy day, nothing. And with interests at 0.5%, and the fact that you get penalised for having savings by the benefits system why should you! And now that students are going to be finishing uni with ridiculously high debts around their neck this trend can only worsen. This does not bode well for nation’s finance’s as everyone’s going to be looking for a state pension and no one’s going to be able to pay it. That alone is good enough reason no to impose such a charge like this.
My advice, don’t retire…ever! And if you get a degree with the new system, you’ll only get taxed if you earn over £21,000 a year, so make sure you don’t get paid more than that… least anyway the tax man can see. Course while I’m just joking I can guarantee you the Phil Greens of this world will already be working out loopholes to avoid these tuition fees… maybe we should include a module on tax law which we teach to all classes and courses!

There was also a protest this week against “Sir” Green, owner of Top(tax dodger)shop, (un)British Homo stores and various other high (fraud)street stores. For those of you not in the know “Sir” Phil Green is officially resident in Monaco, flies in to London every Monday and checks in to a 5 star hotel for a few days (so as to not pay council tax) then jets back home. He pay’s no income tax and when the Beeb interviewed him about these protests he had the nerve to complain about the tax his company pays (i.e corporation tax and income tax), sure god love ya boy! Now the guy is an advisor to the government, along with his other tax shy buddy “lord” Arsecroft are now government advisors!(an aside, I know I’m from foreign shores, but to qualify for a title in this country do you basically have to be a lying, thieving Bast$%D of some kind or other?) And strangely enough they’re advice does not involve balancing the UK’s budget by clamping down on tax dodgers like them, now there’s a surprise!

And speaking of Health and Safety

I made it into Uni today to do some lab work. Realising that the exam supervision teams were understaffed I offered to help out. Midway through all this we get told that we’re all to go home a 6pm (forcing me to cut short my experiments) and that a new exam diet will be held in January to offset the effects of snow. This means the lecturers will have to write a new paper & I suspect those students who made a genuine effort to get it will be none to pleased others get an extra months study time. Also given many of the lecturers were not too pleased about the whole moving exams to before Christmas anyway, I suspect there will be some grumbling.
And of course we were sent home because of the snow…that would be the frozen water that’s all over the city. Why oh why does this country grind to halt because of snow. I know it’s a tired argument, and in part its cos we don’t have the right infrastructure but in part I also thing its because people realise they can just not bother to try and get by (bunk of work etc.), while in Europe they realise they’ve no choice.
Also there’s the small matter of the Health & Safety people. Why are so many schools still shut? Oh, kids might slip in the snow and injure themselves. And what are most of those kids doing now…playing in the snow and risking injury. But there is it seems, as far as those High Vis jacket wearing H & S types and ambulance chasing lawyers go, a world of a difference between being hurt in ones back garden or in the School yard. We live in a perfect world and whenever anything goes wrong it’s obviously someone’s fault, accidents don’t just happen.
Predictably some people are starting to panic buy, past some guy on the way into work coming from the supermarket with 6 loaves of bread under his arm and bags of shopping. Of course enough of these ejits start to panic and it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy, meaning the rest of us have to go without. It’s just a little frozen water, not the end of civilisation as we know it!
That said it is a reminder of how dependant we are on the transport network and getting lots of stuff from far away. Or how too many of us live an impractically long distance from where we work or shop. Such disruption is something of a fire drill for the post-peak oil era, except in the post peak oil era it won’t be a day or two’s disruption, it will be more or less permanent.

bothy blockers

Any of you who have visited bothies recently may have noticed a trend of the roof area sleeping platforms being closed off. I was told the last time I was out on the hills that apparently this is due to a new policy enforced on the Bothy Association by those Girly men over at the Health & Safety Executive. As many of these sleeping platforms are accessed by ladders they’re worried someone might slip and fall, and there’s the fire risk to consider, any upstairs sleeping area must have at least two exits.

These bloody, High-visibility jacket wearing, conker’s banning, kill joy’s! The sleeping platform in a bothy frequently represents 50% or more of its sleeping capacity, given that much of the downstairs is usually occupied by cooking space. And compared to the risks mountaineers take getting out to bothies, a slip from a ladder seems pretty small. Indeed by reducing the capacity of bothies the risk of someone getting stuck out in a storm because the bothy’s are full is now much greater. Another example of so-called-Health and Safety endangering lives not saving any.

I’ve a good mind to offer to lead the a few of these H & S guys on an expedition to a bothy to illustrate my point. Of course I’ll pick a day with a storm and make sure the bothy’s full when I arrive. We can then say “sorry guys but fire safety rules limit the capacity of this dwelling to a maximum of 8 people….still at least you’ve got you’re high visibility jackets!” (they’ll make it easier to identify the bodies). Of course they’ll no doubt cheat by calling in mountain rescue, thought with the recent privatisation of this by the tories they’ll want to have a credit card handy when the helicopter shows up. In any event I suspect once the RAF guys arrive and see a load of H&S people, they’ll just point out that “unfortunately the working at heights directive requires that you first erect a scaffold and safety net before we can winch you on board”.