The Shambles of Stratford Common

Firstly to any foreigner, notably Americans, who didn’t understand the opening ceremony, read this: “the Johnny foreigners guide to British humour“.

It would seem that Dan Boyle’s opening ceremony was not to the liking of the Tories, apparently some Tory peer described it as “leftie multicultural rubbish”. I presume he was pissed off by the tribute to the NHS, or the fact Chakrabarti (founder of Liberty) was seen carrying the Olympic flag. I thought to myself, well how could we make it too his liking? perhaps by getting it to pay tribute to some Tory policies.

Of course many Tory policies aren’t the sort you’d want to celebrate in front of a international audience (I doubt the Argie’s would be happy with a renactment of the sinking of the Belgrano, or the Germans with the Dambusters march). So I suppose we could have had a scene which re-enacts Thatcher stealing milk off of children? Or how about a lot of bankers dressed as pigs swilling around in vast trough of money like some sort of freak Dita Von Teese tribute act? Or how about “Porky” Pickles kicking disabled people out of wheel chairs? Or Osborne whipping Pasties out of the mouths of builders? Rather than Mr Bean we could have Harry Enfield doing one of his characters (Loadsa Money or Considerably richer, but not Tim-nice-but-dim, as Boris has sort of stolen that act, while David Cameron seems to be in the process of stealing “you-don’t-want-to-do-it-like-that….”), or have a scene where Jimmy Carr is cramming bank notes under a carpet….in the shape of Jersey! The simple fact is, the Tories, aka “the Nasty party” haven’t really done a lot to be proud of.

But it wasn’t just Tories who didn’t “get” the opening ceremony. NBC in America cut the tribute to the July 7th victims, presumably because the director was Muslim (they no doubt assumed he must be promoting terrorism rather than condemning it! I wonder if anyone’s tried the trick of selling them tower bridge).

Ticketing

But of course the big story so far, aside from a lack of British medals, is rows and rows of empty seats in some venues. I seem to recall predicting this months ago. Much like the Chinese, the British have been forced to draught in the army and teachers (again clearly this is a panicky reaction, as the Tory’s are just guessing that teachers have nothing to do over the summer….ah no!). So we’ve seen a lot of bored squadies for example showing up at the Gymnastics events (hint, Army squaddies aren’t that interested in Gymnastics, shooting, archery, wrestling, boxing, etc., yes! But not gymnastics….navy boy’s might be interested…if you know what I mean!). And it is not really surprising we’ve seen this given the Byzantine system of ticket allocation and booking that the organizers set up.

Take my example, I never booked tickets myself because when the ballot went through I had no idea what I’d be doing come the games, and I baulked at some of the ticket prices and the forms that had to be filled in. And of course the ballot meant I could wind up with thousands of pounds worth of tickets which I might not be able to pay for and ultimately not be able to attend (depending on my circumstances come games time). And I don’t seem to be alone, as a couple of comments on the Beeb (or indeed any major news outlet) shows.

Now while I can see the concept of a ballot for people who are mega organised, but the bulk of tickets should have the distributed the same way you distribute tickets for anything else – put them on sale at a price people can afford to pay. A price window of say, £10 to £35 is well within the income of practically everyone in the country, so tickets on general sale at that price would ultimately have sold out.

Furthermore, in order to get around the problem of people booking tickets and not attending, then you would have a condition attached to the ticket that any “no shows” or failure to return the ticket in advance (say at least 48 hours) would result in a fine being imposed (say twice the ticket’s face value, so if you bought a ticket for £15 and failed to show up you’d get no refund and another £30 charged to you’re credit card). This is similar to a policy used in sports, including my sport of mountaineering, where you sometimes get problems with people booking, say mountain huts, and then never showing up, generally because they got put off by a bit of snow or rain (leaving those who couldn’t book forced to sleep outside in the snow!). While policies vary (unfortunately some clubs turn a blind eye to it, notably the French alpine huts) many will fine you for a “no show” or if it happens more than once, they’ll not take any further bookings for you or you’re club (and cancel all you outstanding bookings, and likely call you a big girls blouse on the phone!). One or other of these conditions would easily get around the problem of people booking tickets and not showing up.

Furthermore, everybody means everybody! The bulk of those empty seats seem to be those allocated to Olympic officials, the media and corporate sponsors. Now while the IOC and corporations seem to be pointing the finger at each other, clearly the buck stops with one of these two groups. And again, the simplest solution would have been to make clear to all groups that fines would be applied if they failed to fill seats, or hand back tickets well in advance.

Indeed, I wonder if the large number of tickets that the IOC and corporations were awarded which aren’t been taken up may have something to do with the fact that one or two of these were caught by the media trying to sell Olympic tickets on the black market, earlier in the year. My suspicion is that quite a few corporate sponsors and IOC cronies got there hands on lots of tickets that they never planned on using, but instead selling on the black market, but when they realized that the British tabloid media were on the prowl on this matter (and that some of they’re potential buyers were likely to be undercover journalists), they stopped trying to sell them, hence the empty seats.

Queues, Queues, Q’s?

Then there’s the food shortages at some venues and the long queues for drinks fountains. This can be blamed squarely on the draconian security measures being imposed, due to the government’s fear that someone wannabe jihadi will attempt a suicide attack armed with a tuna sandwich and a squirty bottle of water. Inevitably, you have people stuck in a venue for hours, you don’t let them bring in enough food and water, what are they going to do? Go looking for water/food! Do you think the authorities would therefore lay on more food/water to cope? Fat chance! That would be thinking!

But no doubt the government will warn, but what if that bottle of water turned out to be a bomb? As I’ve pointed out before, and The register deals with here, all this hype about liquid bombs is just media paranoia that anyone who knows anything remotely about chemistry can debunk (while I’m an engineer, not a chemist I know enough about the topic to see the obvious flaw in the gov’s paranoia). There are good practical reasons why the military or industrial users of explosives prefer to use solid explosives – because they are easier to handle and “safer” (i.e. they don’t go off except when they are supposed too, in war its most unprofessional to kill you’re own men, its considered far more sporting to let the enemy do that!). Also, liquid explosives (or flammable liquids in general) tend to come with very pungent odors, as anyone whose ever handled acetone, hydrogen peroxide or hydrazine will know (i.e. they stink to high heaven and in some cases the vapours are actually toxic!). Indeed, even petrol or kerosene stinks. Is someone seriously going to tell me that some Jihadi (likely covered in chemical burns and puking his guts up from the fumes) is going to sneak something like this through security in a little plastic bottle? No chance!

Government by SAPS

Ultimately what we see here is an example of trying to run something by committee. A group of ill informed save-ass types make a arbitrary decision more to cover themselves than anything (what I refer to as Save Ass Policy Scheme or SAPS for short), which has huge knock on effects, which they are then left to deal with later, by the usual running around in a last minute panic.

Ryanair fills their planes, hotels regularly achieve near full capacity in high season and numerous music venues regularly sell out acts that most of us would rather eat the album cover than attend (such as Madonna!). If they can do it, really, selling out the Olympics should be a no brainer!

21 Trillion dollars

A shocking revelation yesterday was an estimation of the amount of cash the wealthy have hidden away in offshore tax havens. Potentially some $21 trillion dollars (or up to £13 trillion) has been taken off the grid. That’s the equivalent of the entire US and Japanese economy combined!

This merely serves to highlight a point I’ve long been making, a good deal of our deficit problems could be solved, by getting the super rich to pay more tax….or perhaps more to the point, actually paying they’re taxes! It beggars belief that some of the super rich can pay less to the Inland Revenue that the maid who vacuum’s their living room.

And if there’s one thing that infuriates me, it is these right wing faux patriots (see my article on “the patriot tax” from last year), who seem to be quite happy to wrap themselves up in the US or UK flag, be made “lords” or knights of the realm or appointed government adviser’s, yet they seem unwilling to put they’re money where they’re mouth is and pay their taxes. Now in a different era such behaviour would be considered tantamount to treason. Indeed Edward Longshanks, in the built up to his crusade, threatened to emasculate any noble who failed to pay his dues. So perhaps by me just asking the nouveau-nobles too pay they’re fair share I’m being too kind.

There is also a capitalist element to all this also. Much of this hoard of cash is essentially “dead” money. It’s money that isn’t being invested in businesses here in the UK (or US) and helping to pull the world out its current recession. This serves to yet further undermine the argument of the conservatives. They argue that we shouldn’t go after tax cheats because they’d punish us by not investing the money in the country….that’s exactly what their doing right now! Clearly there is an urgent need of governments to crack down hard on this form of aggressive tax avoidance.

Now as I’ve also pointed out before, yes it is not possible to just “tax the rich” and that alone will magically solve all the world’s financial problems. But it will certainly help a lot more than the current policy of aggressive austerity, which all the indicators are is actually stifling growth and pushing up borrowing costs.

Study in Britain – Home of Bungling government

A few weeks ago the Home Office Minster made a speech encouraging foreign students from beyond the EU to come to the UK to study….and many lecturer’s like me responded by shouting the bloody check of ya!

Since coming to power the UK government have gone completely Daily Mail on students and have cracked down hard on them with all sorts of new rules being imposed. Right now we’re being asked to carefully monitor students and we’re supposed to know where they are at all times (just a reminder we’re talking about students here, at home in bed or playing X-box! I think 70% of the time would be an accurate answer and the rest of the time the answer would be “down the pub”). If we fail to do it the uni can loose its UKBA license, which given how UK universities have become dependent on the financial contributions from foreign students, this has serious financial implications.

Now that said there are situations where uni’s have been rightly caught out, Glasgow Calley for example, while the University of Wales was caught out running a fake degree and visa scam. But even so the UKBA needs to cut us some slack and realise that not every student coming to Britain is a Terrorist/Illegal migrant. I think its fair to assume for example that Masters and PhD students (who we’re having to meet weekly and fill out forms to record what they are doing) can be trusted not to have entered the country just to get a job flipping burgers. After all they already have degrees and could get a good well paid job back home. Even if they wanted to get a job here, they’d probably not find it hard to get a company to sponsor a working visa application, so why waste time and money sneaking into the country on a student visa?

Similarly, a number of our undergrad students are here having paid many tens of thousands of pounds a year to come here and study. I think its reasonable to assume that someone whose paid that much money, isn’t going to squander it by getting a low paid permanent job (they are it should be noted often entitled to work a limited number of part time hours). Now, granted students who clearly aren’t showing up too class or applying themselves and we clearly get the impression that they are here to either party or work should be followed up, but its a matter of taking it on a case by case basis, whereas the UKBA seem to want us to treat alls foreign students as potential fence jumpers (guilty until proven innocent).

Of course this has meant that many of these students have tweeted home to their buddies not to come to the UK to study. Foreign student numbers are apparently down significantly which could leave a gap in the budgets of many universities, something that could be made worse if, as widely expected, the government’s rise in Tuition fees also puts off home students from attending university. Apparently most universities are planning around the assumption of less first year students next semester. Of course once those universities start making layoffs, then we’re going to see an immediate knock effect into the wider economy.

Government by Bungling
In essence, what we’re seeing here is another example of the current government’s policy of governing by bungling and basically creating a crisis, then go running around in a panic with you’re hair on fire while trying to improvise a hasty solution.

Typically the government will do something, often penny-pinching to “cut costs”, such as cutting back on immigration staff at the UK border, then realise they’ve not got enough to cover the Olympics, queue panic as more temporary staff are drafted in, existing staff forced to work longer hours on overtime pay (costing the government more than its saving) and finally said remaining staff get sick of being treated like a commodity and go on strike.

Or in another example, the government advises G4S to go skimpy on wages to security staff at the Olympics, with the result that they fail to hire enough staff (ask yourself, if you’re a trained security guard and you can get, say £10 a hour guarding a local Salisbury’s, or £7 guarding the Olympics, which would you rather do?) and the army and police have to be drafted in, over stretching two forces that the government also plans to cut the numbers of (how fortunate for them that the army and police can’t go on strike also). Or how about that submarine that got grounded up on Skye and had to be rescued by a boat the government had just cut funding for and they had too hire out again! And let’s not even mention the mess regarding the petrol tanker strikes that ultimately never was.

Of course oddly enough for a government supposedly committed to cutting public spending the government has recently been spending money like a sailor on shore leave. They’ve announced many new improvements to the railway lines, new nuclear reactors, an airport in the Thames estuary and now a whopping £50 Billion in cash for no specific purpose.

What’s going on here is that the austerity measures taken after coming to power have started to slow the economy, driving us into recession and this has meant tax receipts are now falling. Already the signs are the government is going to have to borrow more in future, essentially proving that the government has made the deficit worse not better by its policy of austerity (as I warned would happen last year). Aware of this, and also aware that if such facts were to become obvious to the public that the Labour Party would be laughing all the way to Downing street come next election. The result is a panicky scramble by the government to essentially throw money at any project with enough zero’s behind it as part of a desperate effort to jump start a haemorrhaging economy.

Its a case of the government costing the country millions due to its miserly efforts to save a few penny’s. These “thrift” people cost themselves more money than they save! Nick Clegg and David Cameron are starting too look like an extended version of Laurel and Hardy, I’m just waiting for Cameron to turn to Clegg and say “now that’s another fine mess you’ve…” while Clegg starts fiddling with his hair and crying.

So I’ve a suggestion to the government – from now on before you cut anything or bring in a radical new policy, pause for 5 minutes and think, why did the previous governments (both Tory and Labour) do it this way? Why did the UKBA seemingly have all these extra passport officers that they maybe didn’t have working at 100% hours all the time (to insure cover in peak times?). Why should private security staff be paid more? (cos then they might show up for work!). Why did the previous government go for Jump Jet’s off the carriers and want long range maritime patrol aircraft? (cos they though that come an actually shooting war it might be useful to have some kit that worked and was in service rather than some photoshoped images of stuff they’d like to get in a few years time).

A lot of the time I suspect you’ll find there’s a good reason to leave things well alone.

Driven too Distraction

I’ve recently acquired a car here in the UK and I have to confess there is a case of getting use to the UK’s roads and driving habits.

For example, a Sat-Nav is next to useless in Ireland (as we don’t have postcodes and our road networks been changing so much during the boom, its unlikely to be up-to-date and some of our roads you really don’t want to drive down as there’s no guarantee you’ll ever emerge again!), while in the UK it is essential. In Ireland the road network is reasonably straight forward to navigate by map. Well to us Irish anyway, to tourists maybe not, indeed this is why Ireland has no real proper army as we know that if anyone invades they’ll inevitably get lost, run out of petrol and have to surrender to the local postman ;D.

By I digress! In the UK a working Sat-Nav is an essential item, as there is literally nowhere on the UK road network to pull in and consult a map. And of course any map in the UK just shows you a maze of lines around major towns (the streets inside of course being a network of one-way streets with no-right turns in odd places interconnected by roundabouts 88|), so that’s not much good. Asking for directions isn’t much good either as English people don’t speak to each other – if you’re lucky enough to find someone who is local! So you need to have a Sat-Nav. Indeed it should be part of the UK MOT in my opinion….which means my car is currently failing!

Another thing is driving styles, for example, I see a pot-hole, I’ll try and swerve around it (a practiced skill in rural Irish roads that every Irish driver quickly learns). Obviously, I’ll only do this in a way that doesn’t cause any danger, but Brits seem to react with horror when they see you doing this.

Also parking. In Ireland parallel parking is less common and it wasn’t even part of the test when I did it, so my parking skills are going to need some practice. Indeed I remember once seeing this guy double parked in Kerry (worse all the other cars were perpendicularly parked so he was blocking in about 4 or 5 cars). Along comes a cop, I think oh! Here comes trouble. What does the cop do? Parks next to him and wanders into the pub! That’s Ireland for you!

I love this “passing places” you have on narrow single lane roads. We don’t have those in Ireland despite the fact that single lane roads (well you could call boreens “two lanes” as there’s grass growing down the middle usually!) make up a large part of the Irish rural road network. So how do we Irish get past one another? We just play chicken and drive towards the other driver with out any hesitation or sign that you indent to stop and wait for him to pull over. If he doesn’t (or you’d don’t blink first) they you end up bumper to bumper in a bit of a Mexican standoff while ye work out who is going to reverse and let the other pass (note to tourists, if you’re not local then usually you’re the one who has to give way….that is unless you want an encounter with banjo equipped Irish hill-billies |-|)

Also flashing people with you’re lights and haz-lights. Often in Ireland this is taken as a courtesy signal, e.g. “I’m letting you out don’t just sit there!” or “ta for letting me pass” but the brit’s don’t seem to get that.

Please Signal
And speaking of “flashing lights” I’m not sure if some other drivers realise that they have these little yellow lights on the corner of the car. They are called “indicators” and they are used to inform other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians of your future driving intentions.

It really infuriates me when I see people maneuvering without indicating first, especially when you’re on a bike as this can put you in quite serious danger. When I’ve been in a car with someone who doesn’t signal (such as my dad) his excuse is, oh I only do that when I have too/see someone.

That just winds me up even more, as it suggests to me that anytime I’ve seen some maneuvering without signalling they’ve not seen me. Indeed the whole point of signalling is for the benefit of drivers who you haven’t seen, as well as the rest of us mere mortals who lack the clairvoyant powers to know what you’re planning to do next.

Just so we’re clear the rules of the road, in both Ireland and UK state that “signalling is a declaration of intent. It does not confer right of way”. A lot of drivers seem to think signalling means “get out of my way”. No it doesn’t! If I’m going straight on and you decide to turn right across my path the judge ain’t going to entertain the “but I wz signalling guv’nor” excuse for one minute. I had right of way and was entitled to assume you won’t be stupid enough to swerve in front of me (and again the whole point of signalling and rights of way is defence in depth against accidents, I might have been distracted by the actions of another driver and simply not seen you in time….or swerving around a pot-hole! :>>).

Similarly it would be useful for some motorists, particularly those driving Merc’s, Audi’s or BMW’s, to respect it when other people signal to manoeuvre (it occurs to me that these cars must come with a certificate stating that the driver owns the road, as it could well explain a lot of their behaviour). I almost had a bump coming off the motorway the other month, went to change lanes (left), checked mirrors, signalled left, check my mirror again, started manoeuvring only to hear the horn blaring behind me. It would seem some jack ass in a BMW had come flying down the off ram and decided to undertake me (i.e. I did not seem him because he was sitting in my blind spot when I looked in the mirror the second time) and so no reason to stop.

Now I realise that the with car he was driving (a BMW) brake pedals and indicator lights are sort of optional extras (given that I rarely see BMW drivers using them :))). But he would be well advised to learn that other drivers do use them from time to time. Then again, BMW drivers are, according to the Telegraph the country’s worst and angriest drivers.

And I wonder why car insurance rates are so high!

Home Advantage

So with the Olympics just around the corner no doubt the UK’s athletes are limbering up to get going….at least those lucky enough to have been selected! There have been some claims however that the British team have been a bit harsh in their selection standards. Its been claimed that they’ve pushed the bar too high, well above the minimum standards required by the International Olympic committee, as well as being extremely inconsistent (i.e. rigidly applying the rules with one sport, yet bending them to let in a no-hoper in another discipline).

For example, despite they’re being several athletes within the qualifying time for the women’s 800m only one will be running in it. This is due to the fact that the selection committee made some arbitrary discussion that the one women selected, Lindsey Sharp was “on form” but because she was only a grade B athlete, the IOC rules said a mixed team of B’s and A’s (which included the three other women who had run faster times) could not be submitted. So in essence 3 A class athletes were sacrificed for one B class athlete. Similarly Richard Kilty (men’s 200m runner) has been left out in the cold despite achieving the A class time.

Now if it was Ireland hosting the Olympics I guarantee you anybody who could run the 800m, or 200m and make the qualifying time (down hill with a tailwind! :DD) would be selected and stuff the IOC rules! I mean what are they going to do, move the Olympics to France with a week to go?

I suppose I have to ask the question as too whether this is another sign of our miserly government trying to save the pennies by cutting the number of athletes, despite having spend many billions on the Olympics to begin with?

On the other hand, the athlete they don’t want competing, Dwain “druggie” Chambers, is still on the team. If they can make such arbitrary decisions for one athlete, why not another? Again this won’t be a problem in any other country. In Ireland, it would be made clear that he was persona-non-Grata and that every possible barrier would be put in place to stop him competing (and I mean we’d lay the concrete in his lane just before he started running sort of stuff! :))). He would not get sponsorship (it would also be made clear to any potential sponsor that they so much as gave him a pair of trainers and they could expect a very in-depth tax audit next year).

I think it hasn’t clicked with the Brits yet that host nations take home cricket score worth of medals, not because they’re athletes magically run faster at the Olympics just because they’re being held in East London (then again, I’d run faster in East London, only way to stay one step ahead of the locals!), but because these nations have taken advantage of, well home advantage. That means bending the rules here and there as necessary.

I’m not saying ye should cheat or anything. But gently bending the rules to give your athletes every possible chance. Other host nations have done far worse in the past, and gotten away with it. For example, in the Moscow Olympics there were two large doors at the end of the stadium that always seemed to be open when a Soviet athlete was throwing the Javelin or Discus. There are rumours abound that a number of US athletes (including Flo-Jo who ran the fastest ever 100m in 1988, tho she only won sliver in 1982) either got caught doing drugs, or missed one too many tests in the lead up to the games (which effectively counts as a fail) but fortunately the evidence to prove this got “accidentally” destroyed by a US Olympic official (I mean how easy is it to get a fax machine and a shredder mixed up! :>>). The Australians and Chinese made sure their aquatics centre’s and cycling tracks were open well in advance of the games, to give they’re athletes plenty of time to train on them, and “learn” the route.

But trust the British to screw things up and go all honest. Just don’t be crying come mid-August when you’re left with a handful of medals to show for it all.

King Canute of North Carolina

I once heard a story about how Alabama tried to legislate that the mathematical constant of pi should be rounded down to exactly 3. I always discounted it as some sort of urban legend, as even Republicans are so dumb as to believe that you can chance scientific facts by just passing a few laws….or are they?

North Carolina is now considering legislation with regard to the construction of coastal defenses that will only consider predictions of future sea level rise based on “historical” trends and ignore recent accelerations in sea level rise, i.e. that which is caused by global warming (which inevitably as Greenland and mountain glaciers continue to melt will lead to a further acceleration in rates of sea level rise). So the Republican strategy for dealing with climate change is again to bury their head in the sand (quite literally in this case!). Like King Canute, they seem to believe that you can control the seas by shear force of will.

And there was us chicken little’s in Europe thinking we had to “prepare” for, or attempt to mitigate climate change. When all we should have done was just ban it, and presumably burn all books on climatology! Not since Galileo’s time have we seen such willful ignorance.

Now without wadding into the whole climate change “debate”, its worth remembering that when it comes to flood defenses its always important to consider the worse case scenario. A flood barrier that is over-topped by just 1 inch still fails. Consequently this legalisation will leave areas of North Carolina’s coasts (well known for its beaches which draws in many tourists each year) inadequately defended to resist future storms. And the seas are rising, as you’ll see in this nice video from “climate crock”. I particularly like the bit where the Naval officer (hardly the fluffy tree hugger types) points out how important this is to the navy…given that they’re sort of based at sea level!

And there is an element of history repeating itself here. With Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. The penny pinching Bush administration which was essentially allergic to “the environment” ignored the fact that a combination of sea level rise as well as pollution and development by the oil industry (notably the dredging of shipping channels through the Mississippi delta) had increased the vulnerability of the city to storms. Furthermore warmer waters makes for more violent hurricanes, which meant the assumed “100 year storm event” was probably more likely to be a 50 or 30 year storm. As a consequence New Orleans simply wasn’t ready for the storm that struck it.

It is ironic of course that North Carolina’s Republicans have tried to argue that they are “protecting business” with this ruling. I think business would rather they built adequate storm defences. There is after all not just the disruption caused by flooding to consider but also the issue of insurance.

While republicans may not “believe” in global warming (the same way they don’t “believe” in evolution yet still take the drugs developed by those atheist scientists often using the medical knowledge that came from it), the insurance industry certainly does. And they are still reeling from payouts post-Katrina and here in Europe from the many flooding incidents over the summer of 2007. As anyone who has renewed their insurance recently will know they are starting to get very picky about the issue of flood damage (I renewed recently and even thought I live on a hill and to the best of my knowledge in an area that’s never been flooded, they insisted on doing a background check of my area’s history to see if this was correct).

If you live in a flood prone area, then whether you will get flood insurance and how much it costs is often a factor related to the reliability of local flood defences. If the insurance industry deems them inadequate (which in the future they may well do to parts of NC), then they either will hike up you’re premium to eye-watering levels, or they simply won’t give you insurance at all. And the business costs of that are high. Post-Katrina a number of home owners who either found themselves with too low a payout to replace or repair their house or were subsequently told they would not be insured in future and saw the value of their property plummet. So business is certainly not being “protected” by this legalisation, instead their being encouraged to move out of state.

And at the end of the day, climate change mitigation is about “risk management”. Yes there is a tiny change it might be down to natural variation. Or it could be due to carbon emissions, but something else will come along in the next few decades and start cooling the planet and offset it all. But blindly assuming this is the case represents gambling on the science being wrong, and the lesson of history are that people who bet against science tend to loose…badly!

I’m not sure if Republican’s remember the biblical parable of the guy who built his house on sand. And perish the thought of what will happen to the US if Romney takes over in October. No doubt he’ll be launching airstrikes against a future Hurricane, or threatening it with sanctions.

Group 4 Insecurity – Part II, corporal punishment

Yesterday a House of Commons select committee hoped to get to the bottom of the bungling of security arrangements at the Olympic sites. They had hoped to interview Nick Buckles the company’s chairman, but instead a 16 year old public school boy, complete with satchel and pencil case came instead. There was a brief delay while he tripped over his own umbilical cord, and while the established his identity, although it was later realized that he was fact the head of the company.

Headmaster David Winnick told him that his homework was “a humiliating shambles“, that he’d been late for PE and that all in all he had been a very naughty boy. He was told to write it out on the blackboard 100 times how sorry he was, before collecting his bonus check of £57 million on the way out…

Really organised crime, H-Boss the world’s local money launder

In the last few months we’ve all been accusing the bankers of this and that and being little more than a champagne and sherry swilling mafia clan in pinstripe suits. Well today those claims were proven to being a little truer that we thought. HSBC was accused of aiding the Mexican drug cartels in laundering money, as well as helping out terrorists with their funding.

In some respects its not really surprising, as I mentioned in a previous post, the narcotics trade is one of the world’s largest and most profitable businesses. Given how greedy we all know bankers are, not to mention the fact that they happen to be a significant consumer of “Colombian white” themselves, its perhaps no surprise that the banks have been involved in this trade. I mean if they’re prepared to screw over the whole global economy just to make a few bucks, why won’t they work for the drug cartels?

I’m wonder if they’re going to put that in those adds of there’s they do (you know the “world’s local bank” ones). They could do one where a knife wielding Mexican gangster (I’m thinking of that Machete character in the Tarantino films) meets with some mustached Colombian in dark glasses called Raul and they visit a H-Boss to transfer the cash (with the lady behind the counter even taking it in the back and dry cleaning the blood stains out of it while providing a calibrated weight scales for the coke).

Jokes aside, what’s the bet that they’ll still be looking for the bonus cheques?

Although I would note that if these allegation’s prove true, then the bankers may have bitten off more than they can chew. Gangsters tend to prefer to settle matters “out of court” if you know what I mean. For them the choice between “whacking” a few bankers and doing twenty years to life isn’t a choice at all….especially given they know how unpopular bankers are and how they have a good chance of a jury (bitterly remembering the last time they got turned down for a mortgage) letting them off if they get caught! So we’ll learn the truth of these allegations not as a result of any parliamentary inquiries, but the rate at which bankers start to just “disappear”….or wake up with a horse’s head in they’re bed!

Group 4 insecurity

With the Olympic circus in full swing, today was the day that G4S, otherwise known as “Group 4” were supposed to “lock down” sites…but only a fraction of their staff actually showed up and the police and army were called in to cover for them, no doubt at considerable expense. Indeed it has to be annoying for the army and police to be called in to do a job for an industry, when the government clearly has designs on outsourcing more of the UK’s security to private companies (both in terms of privatised policing but also in the use of mercenary’s to fight future wars).

I would argue that what recent events demonstrate, there are things that the private sector can do and do well. Using them to guard certain buildings and events which are operated in the private sector seems sensible. But relying on them for operations such as the Olympics or securing government property is clearly a bad idea. And as I mentioned in a prior post, such policies have been tried and failed in the past. The government is fooling itself if it things it can save money this way.

And this is not the first time Group 4 have let the country down, you will recall that after they took over the job of transporting prisoners from prison to court, their name became synonymous with prison escapes (on one occasion a prisoner simply told the group 4 guards he’d been let off by the judge and they released him!).

Then there was the business a few months back involving another private security firm, where a number of people who the local dole office had “volunteered” (its called press-ganged in other parts of the world…or just slavery!) to work for free on a corporate “welfare chain gang” were left to sleep under a bridge in London (having brought in to provide security for the Jubilee regatta).

And speaking of saving money, there is also a report out about the UKBA and how its attempts to save money by letting go of staff (what class of a fool sacks staff in the lead up to a major event like the Olympics?). Instead, they are now having to get the remaining staff work overtime and hire in temporary staff to cover the shortfall. These “thrift” people cost themselves more money than they save!

Katie Holmes tunnels out

It would seem that young Katey Holmes has finally succeeded in tunnelling out of the Scientology’s OSA (they’re the cult’s secret police) prison and sprinted into town. I was always wondering how long it would take a lady from a strict catholic upbringing to crack and make a break for it.

Then again, in Scientology terms what she did was perform a “disconnect” from Tom Cruise….Although in the process she’s likely become a “suppressive person” or at the very least a PTS (Potential Trouble Source), consequently the danger was the church would consider her thus “fair game” as they’ve done to previous critics of their cult (look at how John Sweeney of the beeb fared). Indeed John Sweeney has an article out here about what Katey Holmes can expect.

Now while I’m not usually the sort to go for Hollywood gossip it seems that she planned her runaway with a fair degree of precision (apparently the first Tom Cruise knew about it was when her divorce lawyer handed him the notice). She seems to have got a fairly good and quick settlement, keeping the kid, but that’s hardly surprising. I mean does Tom Cruise want her testifying about all the weird stuff he and his Thetan buddies get up to behind closed doors? I doubt it!

There’s a good collection of articles on Scientology in this website here.