Sunday, December 27, 2009

Copenhagen: Epic Fail

It's no surprise to me that Copenhagen was a damp squib. Expecting such, I had hoped that it would fail spectacularly in hissy fit walkouts and bitter recriminations. Instead they patted themselves on the backs and claimed credibility for an agreement which is worth nothing.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I've pretty much avoided the whole Joe thing, despite South Tyneside council being happy playing free and loose with my council tax to encourage the good people of South Tyneside to beef up ITV's bottom line, and line Simon Cowell's pockets. I bet the Taxpayer's Alliance don't touch that one.

However, I do have one thing to be thankful for. I had forgotten all about Rage Against the Machine's classic Killing in the Name.

Next stop, the iTunes store.

Update: actually, it's cheaper at Amazon.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Presumed guilty

Another photographer, another example of police overreaction. Grant Smith's only crime was being awkward, demanding to be treated with dignity and expecting to be treated like a free man.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Euro denial poster boy

Move over Nigel Lawson and Christopher Monckton, there's a new boy in town for the climate change Cult of Denial to pin their hopes on. Introducing Nick Griffin, BNP leader, who will be joining the EU delegation to the climate change talks at Copenhagen. Griffin, who already has form for his denialist tendencies over the holocaust, has hopes of challenging what he considers to be dodgy science in an attempt to suggest to the electorate that his party isn't only about racist bigotry, but that it's also a party of ingnorant anti science Luddites.

Now the top ten Tory bloggers who deny climate change, and our own local Curly, have someone in Europe to represent their views.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Stupido schools

South Tyneside is today celebrating being the focus of a grand modern experiment based on Victorian educational values, where those who are considered too thick to work in traditional North East industries like call centres and hairdressers will be given an opportunity to learn valuable career skills like filling out job centre applications.

The modern new South Tyneside Stupido will be based in a state of the art out of date run down school building.

Local councillor Bob Foreskin welcomed the initiative:

"The recession means that traditional cheap immigrant labour is leaving the UK for higher pay in countries like Latvia and Zimbabwe. The Stupido concept means we can plug the market with cheap high quality unskilled kids that no one gives a flying fuck for. And as they're not proper schools, we won't have Ofsted whingeing that the kids can't read."

The new schools, already affectionately known as 'chav academies' will seek to train those children the mainstream system has failed, in useful trades such as basket weaving, chimney sweeping, asbestos reclamation and chemical tank cleaning.

Schools minister Ted Gonads said:

"We need to manage the aspirations of North East children, and children from other downtrodden areas we couldn't give a shit about, to meet the lower expectations we have in order to focus investment in key swing voter areas like the South East. Not everyone can be gifted enough to be on the X Factor, but even X Factor stars need someone to collect their bins."

Local fat cats also backed the idea. A spokesman said:

"We couldn't believe our luck when the government announced the Stupido system. Not only do we get the tax payer to foot the bill for our training, we also get to employ daft kids at cut price rates. It's a win win situation. For us rich folks, that is."

Local Tory candidate Kat Anal commended:

"We are excited that there is a real opportunity be able to alienate another generation of losers from the North East, and welcome Labour's support in bringing back good old Conservative values of profiteering and exploitation of oik kids. Err, and grammar schools. Or something."

The South Tyneside Stupido school will join other Stupidos from around the country in areas the government has decided aren't worth bothering much about except for cheap populist stunts.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Rat Race Ale House

The Little Pub with a big heart

I've just spent a very enjoyable evening in a new pub. Bucking the trend of pubs closing, The Rat Race Ale House at Hartlepool railway station has opened with a very clear aim: good beer, good cheer.

I used to work with the pub's landlord Pete Morgan a while back programming old skool IBM RPG, but when he was made redundant from his job as an IT manager he decided to use his redundancy money to provide himself with a future he could enjoy.


A long time and lifetime member of CAMRA, Pete's love of all that is beer has found life in the Rat Race. He runs a free house so he's not tied to anyone or obliged to stock anyone's beers. That means no alcopops, overgassed lagers or insipid identikit beers. Pete is one of those guys for whom the phrase larger than life was invented for, and it comes through in his determination to provide a real pub experience. Many of the ales he stocks and plans to stock are beers he likes and from brewers he knows personally, and he is open to suggestions from customers for future guest ales.

The pub is unique - it doesn't have a bar. You enter and orders are taken at the table and you're introduced to the other customers. Once you have your drinks Pete moves among his customers like a host at a party. This is helped by the fact that the pub is small - it was once the Victorian station's waiting room and holds no more than 20 customers - so the atmosphere is intimate and friendly. The Rat Race is focussed on the beer; there's no jukebox, no bandit or quiz machine. If you do need distraction, there's two boxes of dominoes.

The main show is the beer and it's great. The temperature is perfect - many large real ale pubs and big chains don't get such a simple thing right. I enjoyed a couple of pints of the Kirby Lonsdale Jubilee Stout, about as perfect as a hand pulled stout can get. The Yorkshire Askrigg Ale was very popular and for good reason. The Jarrow Brewery's Rivet Catcher was also on the menu, but as it seems many of the customers were already familiar with Rivet Catcher the unfamiliar ales were getting all the attention. Although the pub's hours are short, the Rat Race also sells the beer in refillable cartons to take away to enjoy at home.

So if you're in Hartlepool, and looking for time to kill before catching the train, join the Rat Race.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Teh noob speaketh

There's a number of things which are guaranteed to make you look like a complete cock. One is to base your understanding of science on documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle. Another is to be a mayor and get snapped doing the X Factor cross with your arms.

A great way to look like a total nobend is to wind yourself up into massive moral outrage mode to criticise a console or computer game whilst at the same time have absolutely no clue about it, or gaming culture in general.

Cue Mark Bryant, the Bishop of Jarrow.

The bish, whose religion's core feature is the worship of a man who came back from the dead after a gruesome death, is complaining about a game essentially about people coming back from the dead after a gruesome death. True, Resident Evil's revenant baddies get whacked with extreme prejudice, normally by strong kick ass female characters, who despatch said resurrectants and assorted biologically mutated bad guys created by an evil multinational corporation.

But it isn't all about innocently shooting zombies in the face the bishop says:
"If people spend a lot of time in the company of games that are about the occult, then those influences are bound to rub off."
Wow. The occult. Believing in the supernatural. It's only right that a self respecting man of the cloth would challenge dabbling with spirits, the dead and the undead along with myths of mystical planes of existence. Oh sweet irony.


PS - an adult using l33t is a bit nobbish too.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Origins, Climate, Science and Ignorance

Today marks 150 years since Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species. The model of evolution through the process of natural selection was laid down so definitively within that book that the core principles are as firm now as they were then. The quality of that work set standards for scientific rigour and principle. Continuing research builds upon a huge body of knowledge.

However, since then those who have felt threatened by Darwin's work have desperately tried to discredit Darwin and his theory by cherry picking writings in letters and books which seemed to confirm their own evolution denial bias, a bias usually informed by dogma. Evolution deniers have ranged from claiming Darwin admitted God did it to Darwin was responsible for the holocaust. Even a story about a death bed recantation did the rounds.

So it's with some sense of ironic timing that the CRU email leak has the climate change deniers drooling. I haven't by any means read all the emails (frankly some of it was boring, some of it way above my head), but to me it seems like a storm in a teacup.

Admittedly there's no doubt that the leak is damaging to the perception of climate science, as the Cult of Denial has already started cherry picking quotes out of context as evidence of either a dastardly conspiracy to falsify the evidence to satisfy evil lefty political masters in their machinations to tax us all to penury, or of money grubbing Ferrari driving playboy scientists chasing after the next research grant to fund their lavish lifestyles.

Oddly though, most of blogland's Cult of Denial acolytes haven't actually referred to scientific evidence or even challenged it, instead the right wing blog hive mind seems to have decided to cross link to each other's rehashing of emails in a kind of free market fundamentalist mutual masturbation.

As with Darwin's theory, the deniers are cherry picking emails and phrases out of context to confirm their own wacky theories. Free thought and objectivity don't get a look in.

Let's face it, if any of the data produced by the CRU had been falsified, then a keen-eyed denial cultist would have spotted it long before now.

Sure, there's some personal score settling in some of the emails which is less than professional, but not particularly out of the ordinary, or as bad as some the current commentary on the right wing denial blogs. Most seriously though are the apparent attempts to silence sceptic research, which on the face of it is troubling. However, we haven't heard from the scientists themselves yet so any judgement on this issue is premature. That doesn't seem to stop some bloggers triumphantly cracking one off though.

It would have been great news if the emails contained definitive evidence that climate change science had been debunked, but the leaked emails are not the killer blow to climate science the deniers are wetting themselves about. Not even so much as a lightly smoking gun. Other than the damage from the media frenzy fed by the right wing deniers (and partially by a panicky and obtuse George Monbiot), the reputations of some scientists will have been soiled, their methodology will get a kick up the backside and their material re-examined.

So on the face of it, the Cult of Denial's inquisitors, despite their self righteous whooping, are so far burning only straw men. Unfortunately many will not see this and the emails will be permanently carved into their mythology of climate denial, and like their mindless hockey stick criticisms will continue to be a pain in the backside of those with respect for objective free thought.

The science is still strong but it doesn't stand still. Like all science, the current knowledge about our climate and our impact on it will continue to change as new research becomes available and new and better conclusions are sought. Like evolution, climate science moves on with advances in our understanding of the world.

The Cult of Denial can't accept that, instead loudly shouting down change, trying to drown out the rational voices of the science heretics who threaten their cosy dogma.

It's been 150 years since Darwin published his landmark work, and it's still an achievement to be celebrated. But 150 years later we are still facing the closed minds of anti scientific ignorance.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Geek hedonism

Work commitments over the last week have meant that I couldn't stray far from home for long, never mind enjoy the fruit of the vine and the grain. But this last week hasn't been a disaster. Far from it, I've been in geek heaven.

First, last Tuesday saw the release of the long anticipated console and PC game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Despite what gobshite Keith Vaz says, it's a fun way to pass a few hours, and not the moral quagmire the Vazman reckons it is. The section of the game in question is a key part of the plot, driving the context of what's to follow, and not playing it would be like skipping the cock scene in The Crying Game.

Admittedly, the offline campaign is straightforward and short, and whilst the story brought back some old friends, it's the online mode which most people have been waiting for.

A first person shooter addict, I've been a fan of Infinity Ward's Call of Duty games since the first one on PC in 2003. 2007's Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare saw me move from PC to console gaming as the graphic demands of newer games started to outstrip my wallet's ability to support the latest graphics cards.

New to the COD: Modern Warfare franchise is a 'Special Ops' co-operative mode, which is good for a short blast of fun with your friends against bot bad guys, but not as satisfying as say Rainbow Six 2's co-op mode, or playing with and against real people online, where kills mean points and points mean ranking up and weapons upgrades. Already at level 20 after four hours online play, I foresee some of my life sucked away working up the ranks.

Then yesterday, my preordered Blu-Ray version of the new Star Trek movie hit the doormat. Not only did it come in all it's high definition Blu-Ray surround sound glory (thank goodness I don't have neighbours), it also came with a 'digital copy' dvd, with a version you can copy to your iPod or onto Windows Media Player. This is a model I hope to see more of in future as it expands the flexibility of options to view your movie without having to jump through (or bend) digital rights management hoops to copy your purchase to other formats.

And the film was pretty awesome too.

Lastly, today saw an Xbox update with some new toys: Zune (Microsoft's media player), LastFM, Twitter and Facebook. Admittedly, most of these are little more than apps that tech heads have already seen on their iPod and iPhone, but it indicates that Microsoft have seen which way the wind is blowing. Sony should take note for the Playstation 3 or risk being left behind.

A quick test of LastFM revealed a stable and fast application (faster than the PC version) with a cleaner and more useful interface than its sibling iPod/iPhone app. Facebook was also competent, despite the lack of keyboard requiring some deft controller work. Once you've joined your Facebook account to your Xbox gamer tag, whenever you're on Xbox Live it shows your gamertag on your Facebook profile page. However, it is disappointing that you can't update your Facebook status with your recent game achievements (or at least I can't find an option to do this) in the same manner as the native Facebook games status update on the PC. Hopefully this will follow.

I'll have a play with Zune sometime, but I'm not sure I'll bother with Twitter yet as it's not something which has grabbed me. Maybe I'll set up an account to see what the fuss is about.

As long as it doesn't eat into the serious business of gaming.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Spooky goings on in the Alliance


Okay, I know I've missed Halloween, but I had a funny feeling come over me when reading the Alliance's announcement of their new prospective council candidate for Cleadon Park, Andrew Farrow. I'm not sure I would risk a bet on a Scooby snack, but is the local Rotary Club President also the same Andrew Farrow who was hexed by the evil spirits over cursed board game Ghosts?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Mail nailed

The Daily Mail published an article by columnist Jan Moir, which no doubt the Mail's editorial team felt reflected the views of its readership. Tasteless, vile and homophobic, the Mail and Moir are facing outrage and condemnation. And rightly so.

I'm barely aware of Gately's existence, so beyond the little empathy borne from simple common decency I find it difficult to really care. But the Daily Mail has taken advantage of this man's untimely death, and used the fact that he was gay, spiced it up with some moralising bullshit to imply impropriety - all in an attempt to normalise naked homophobia.

That the Mail's editorial team thought such shit is suitable for publication almost says as much about its readership as it does about the value of its moral framework. Zero.

Respect to Charlie Brooker for putting it much better than I ever could.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Round three to Singh

It looks like Simon Singh's defence against the libel case brought against him by the British Chiropractic Association has taken a turn for the better for him. His grant to appeal after the ridiculous judgement over the interpretation and context of Singh's original Guardian article by libel judge Eady has been successful. For now anyway.

There's some comfort in that Lord Justice Laws found Eady's judgment "legally erroneous", although to me it seems like a typically understated legal description of an outrageous affront to free expression.

The fact that practioners of treatments which are unproven can sue a critic seems insane, and an indictment of the easy tool that our libel laws are for wealthy interests to silence criticism. The BCA claims that its treatments can help children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying. Imagine if a church decided to sue over someone describing the uselessness of praying or touching a box of holy bones.

This case should never have hit the courts. In countries like the USA where freedom of speech and public interest have much more weight in law (constitution people!) Singh would already have won the case.

The case is far from over, but hopefully Singh will win out - and at the same time shine a light on the BCA's use of illiberal libel laws instead of countering Singh's criticisms with proof.

More on the case at the excellent Jack of Kent blog.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Move along, no free speech here

Obviously our government has learned from Beijing on how to use oppressive policies to keep an olympic event running smoothly and free from inconvenient things like free speech. Well, bill posters at least. Obviously not happy with giving the police all the fun, it looks like private boot boys can join in on the action too.

Apparently it's not to protect us from terrorists, it's to protect the likes of Budweiser and Coca Cola from other advertisers from muscling in on their olympic advert territory. So police, council workers and traffic wardens can smash in doors to seize any material deemed by those in power to be offensive to official olympic advertisers. It's a true UK Plc law.

Who said that this Labour government were the bitches of big business?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Wind loss

Despite enjoying the most bountiful wind resources in Europe, as a nation the UK is really poor at wind power. If this facility is allowed to fail, whilst our money is being pumped into a motor industry to fund business as usual, we'll see how green this government really wants to be.

Save Vestas

Cops stop chop hop

I really make an effort to see the good side in policing, then shit like this happens.

It's bad enough that they fucked up big time in going into mega overkill mode to stop some poor guy's birthday barbecue bash, but then they defended their blitzkrieg by describing it as an appropriate response. Lucky there were no Brazilian electricians about.

Bobble topped fuckwits.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Suffer little children

Sts Peter & Paul
St Aloysius
St Bedes
St Gregorys
St James
St Joseph's
St Mary's
St Matthews
St Oswalds
St Wilfrids

These are all schools in South Tyneside. These schools have a relationship with a corrupt foreign regime that meddles in the politics of states around the world. A regime with blood on it's hands. A regime that covers up child abuse in it's ranks.

Whilst we worry over the kids being sent off to Islamic madrassas in the Middle East and Pakistan, here at home we have schools aligned with a religion for which hate is hidden behind words like love and forgiveness and comforting phrases like 'gospel values'.

Hyberbolic? Perhaps. But this story of a 9 year-old Brazilian girl who became pregnant after being raped by her stepfather, and the response of the Roman Catholic Church is a sickening indictment of a religious authority which puts it's warped bronze age morality before humanity.

Punishing the people who saved this little girl's life with excommunication is pretty cold and heartless. To most of us, being excommunicated is no big deal. But if you believe in such shit, it's serious juju. Eternal torture in the fiery bowels of hell. How's that for a loving, forgiving deity?

The Roman Catholic Church defended it's inhumane decision as a 'doctrine of faith'. Well that's alright then.

Apart from allowing their children to be subject to the indoctrination of a hateful ideology, I wonder how many parents who send their children to these Roman Catholic schools know of this example of what the church which they trust to guide their childrens' religious schooling really thinks about children.

How many would really care?

How do they feel that a policy made by old men in dresses comes before the care of a child?

Word to The Well-Timed Period.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Flight Club

The First rule of Flight Club is: Aviation doesn't pull it's weight in the fight to reduce CO2 emissions.

The Second rule of Flight Club is: Aviation doesn't pull it's weight in the fight to reduce CO2 emissions.

Those are the rules according to the Miliband brothers.

Mili the Younger
Where I disagree with other people on aviation is if you did 80% cuts across the board, as some people have called for on aviation, you would go back to 1974 levels of flying. I don't want to have a situation where only rich people can afford to fly.
Mili the Elder
if we're going to fly more we've got to do much less of something else. Because what counts in the end is not whether emissions come from cars or homes or aeroplanes - what counts is that our carbon emissions are reduced.
So, what sector do the bros want to cut so folk can fly to Prague for a piss up and a shag? Health? Keeping houses warm?

Apparently, according to these guys flying is some kind of grand egalatarian right and deserves the state's protection. Most flights are populated by the well off or used to fly in kumquats (they are a fruit BNP readers), whilst being subsidised by everyone else through aviation's fuel tax breaks, money export and job losses abroad, not to mention the unaccounted externalities of climate change.

Protecting aviation is not about saving flights for the poor, it's about lining in the pockets of people like Willie Walsh and Michael O'Leary, whilst the poor around the world will be the first and worst hit by the unstable climate ushered in by short sighted policies like the ones the Milibands support.

9 out of 10 cats

...think their owners are morons.

I've got to admit that I tend to agree. This might cause outrage amongst fans of the feline form, but I've long held a theory that cat owners who swooningly claim their pet moggies are intelligent are actually conceding that their cats are more intelligent than they are. Whenever I voice my 'stupid human cat owners theory', I have faced either an almost holy righteous indignance or a deadly silence.

Now science has come to back my theory/prejudice, in the form of research carried out at the University of Sussex. The boffins have discovered that pussies use purr power to press their owners' buttons.

The evidence is in. These folk should drop their fascination with the manipulative bird murdering vermin.

And get a dog.

Dumber than a sack of hammers

That's Sarah Palin. Don't believe me? Read it here.

She clearly doesn't have a clue about supply-side economics.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Thought for the Day

I appreciate secular values, but I'm not sure about this one. I listen to Thought for the Day most mornings during the Today Programme, but I find it largely irrelevant and out of place in a news programme, despite it sometimes providing some early morning amusement at some of the eccentricities being espoused as considered religious thought.

There's an argument that if a publicly funded body is giving exposure to religiously influenced opinions, then it should also fairly give space not just to all religions, but to non religious positions too.

I think the best approach for a supposedly objective news service is not to promote any particular political or ideological viewpoint at all.

However, that's not going to happen anytime soon, so I think I'd rather that TFTD, whether including secular and humanist viewpoints or not, should be scheduled just before or just after the Today Programme, out of the way of the serious business of news.

Power politics

Given that Ed Miliband has been whoring himself to the CBI's energy wishlist over the weekend, should we pretend surprise when the government's new white paper comes out giving the CBI exactly what it demanded?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Scoundrel days

Reading Gordon Brown's sickening twaddle about Afghanistan today I was reminded of Samuel Johnson's famous quote:
Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.
Brown's statement had me filling with rage that he had the shameless gall to say it:
This is a patriotic duty. Of course people want to know if the action we are taking is the right action. It comes back to terrorism on the streets of Britain. If we were to allow the Taliban to be back in power in Afghanistan and al-Qaeda then to have the freedom of manoeuvre it had before 2001, then we would be less safe as a country.

There is a line of terror - what you might call a chain of terror - that links what's happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan to the streets of Britain.

A patriotic duty. Isn't that what desperate politicians demand of others?

That 'line of terror' hasn't been followed to it's source. It's not Afghanistan or Pakistan; they are just recruiting and training proxies for a much bigger and influential player.

There's a memorable line in the movie All the President's Men: follow the money. The line of terror money can be followed to Saudi Arabia. The Saudis supplied the money and the hardline Wahabi fundamentalism through sham Islamic charities to replace the indigenous Islam in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This has spread to some of Britain's mosques and helped breed the so called 'homegrown' Islamic terrorists. The July 7th bombers may have been British, but their radicalisation was born in Saudi Arabia.

But the Saudis are untouchable. Tony Blair stepping in to stop an investigation into bribery in the Al Yamamah deal, and Saudi billionaires using our anti free speech libel laws to shut down criticism - all examples of a culture of protection anyone for importance within the Saudi power structure. With Al Yamamah, we are unlikely to know where that slush money went.

We are in grip with Saudi Arabia - they supply oil, we supply weapons. Saudi buys US currency to keep it's value, the USA uses it's military might against anyone who might threaten OPEC's fragile status quo.

Gordon Brown conjures up patriotism to justify British deaths on foreign soil, fighting a proxy war against a proxy enemy. If Brown wants to be really patriotic and not the scumbag scoundrel we know he is, he should be cutting the mutually parasitic relationship we have with Saudi Arabia.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Electoral frauds

I've been following Craig Murray's election campaign in the Norwich North by-election and it has become a catalogue of attempts by various public bodies to silence him. The BBC has ignored him, the Post Office has dragged it's feet over delivering his election media (a dvd - that's a first I think) and local schools have tried to deny him a platform on the hustings.

If you didn't know, Craig Murray is a former British ambassador, and has been calling the government out over it's record on colluding with tyranical regimes abroad to torture people on behalf of the British Government, and has made some people in parliament (including our local MP David Miliband) very uncomfortable with the evidence he has collected.

The BBC's claim to be detached and objective is rendered laughable. Why are these bodies attempting to corrupt the democratice process?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Another day...

...another police whitewash. How long are the authorities who are supposed to keep the police in check going to ignore that the G20 policing was no accident but a premeditated tactical action?

Sunday, July 05, 2009

The ignorance of religion

...and the religious. Christian leader and bigoted pinhead Dr Michael Nazir-Ali reminds us what the religion of love is all about; stone age proclamations on sexuality.

National Express

Friday, July 03, 2009

Science not admissable in court

Facts are refused to be given in evidence and justice comes second to law. If any evidence was needed that the juduciary has become beholden to the string pullers of the status quo, it was in the case of the trial of the 'Drax 29 ' climate change protestors.

Like 'Justice' Eady's creative re-definition of the word 'bogus' to stack the deck in the bogus libel case against Simon Singh, 'Justice' Spencer similarly fixed the outcome of the case against the Drax train protestors by rejecting evidence about global warming as 'irrelevant', a key part of the defence. Spencer didn't make a legal ruling, he made a political decision, on behalf of a corrupt and dishonest government in thrall to a greedy power generator.

The filth beat 'em up, the beaks lock 'em up.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Cameron's new gay love

So Dave reckons he's sorry for being a complete shit over Section 28? He has just taken his party into a European grouping which loves gays like Nottinghamshire police loves dogs.

I don't believe Cameron, why does Stonewall?

Crunching the credit

One of the key ways that could be used to combat the insiduous effects of credit which the government could use to make life a little easier for people at the sharp end of the current economic crisis is very simple: introduce capped rates.

But as this report shows, the government considered it then quickly discarded it, citing false and unjustified concerns about people being forced to rely on unregulated loansharks. What a joke. What the white shirts in government don't get is that the legal and regulated doorstep and payday lenders are loansharks, some charging interest to the tune of thousands of percent, while proudly waving their consumer credit licenses.

The decision to simply ignore capping, especially without referring to countries where capping has proved to be successful in limiting the excesses of some lenders, is a decision that favours only the scum like the pawn shops and high rate check cashers, the gold scrapers and doorstep voucher men, pond life who profit out those at the bottom end of the income scale.

But capping won't work on it's own. So many people need to be helped out of the clutches of the blood suckers on the fringe finance industry. This is a time when the government needs to show some serious support for finance organisations like credit unions, who in some places are the only experts in finance in disadvantaged communities. Credit unions' provision for lending to small social enterprises and local businesses, a bedrock of the economy, could be expanded to encourage more local entrepreneurs onto a self reliant route to a sustainable economic success.

South Tyneside Credit Union

Murdering bastards 2

Motherfuckers. No one has been suspended?

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Murdering bastards

You may not think it, but I'm a big softy when it comes to dogs. We've always had them in our family, and the only reason we don't have a one in our family at the minute is because the emotional wrench which hit after we lost our last dog, a cutie black Labrador called Ebony, is still painfully fresh.

This softness is matched by an absolutely uncompromising attitude to people who don't take their responsibilities as dog owners seriously. That's why I think the retarded dumb fucks who leave their dogs in their cars in hot weather should be publicly horsewhipped and never ever permitted to own a pet again.

There is no fucking excuse.

Bill Wilson Memorial Shield: Primary School Olympics

A worthy event to honour Bill Wilson's name - a man who gave so much to school athletics.

Monday, June 29, 2009

G20 - Police not competent

MPs on the Commons home affairs committee spew apologia for police behaviour at the G20. Now our MPs have failed their responsibilities to the public over the G20 and found in favour of the police.

Principle among these apologists for corrupt policing is committee chairman Keith Vaz with a remarkably Orwellian abuse of reality:
"What's acceptable, what's within the police rule book - the use of distraction tactics, for example, slapping or hitting people - shocked the public, therefore, they need to look again at these tactics and consult the public to decide whether or not such tactics can be used again."
So beating citizens is a 'distraction tactic'? If any other citizen used that line they'd be laughed out of court and into the cells. Vaz is suggesting that extra-judicial punishments are justified when handed out by the police to those challenging a corrupt government. Soundbite crap about consulting the public is spectacular fuckwittery.

The excuse that the fault lies at the feet of inexperienced officers is bullshit of the highest order. It's little more than a variation on the 'bad apple' theory. The fact that the commons select committee let Commander Bob Broadhurst's story fly, despite the fact that most of the incidents involved highly trained territorial support group officers, indicate that they are either as dishonest as him, or too utterly fucktarded to sit on an important oversight committee.

Like the Kinsgnorth incidents, the behaviour of the police officers there was not out of the norm. The operations were clearly directed at a senior tactical level and supervised by mid level officers on the street.

This doesn't let those officers on the street dishing out violence to peaceful protestors off the hook - the 'following orders' excuse doesn't wash - and they should be facing criminal as well as disciplinary charges for gleefully acting as agents of government oppression.

Also, as the commander on the ground, Broadhurst's bollocks should be on a plate.

Keith Vaz standing down would be a bonus too.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cashing in on checking out

After Jacko croaked on Friday the mobile phone operators must have made millions out of the joke texts flying around. Now with re-entry into the charts, Jackson is making bucket loads of money again, and with the media only too willing to keep it hyped through speculation over his death, it looks like the cash registers are going to keep ringing for the moment. It looking like it's the best career move Jacko made in years.


After driving up the A1 and back this weekend, both times in fog, I can easily understand how crashes like those on the A19 yesterday can happen. On my A1 journey, several times I was overtaken by lunatics flying through the fog while I could barely see 50 metres in front of the car. Some couldn't even be bothered to switch on their fog lights.

Life is so fragile and can be snuffed in an instant, so I really can't understand what motivates people to drive like this.

The Branley Bunch in the White House

It looks like Allen Branley is trying to sell a line to voters in Westoe that he didn't lose his seat but is instead involved in some kind of crusading David Davis moment.

Chances are he would win a bye-election, and continue to mock democracy.

Word to Curly.

Friday, June 26, 2009


To Gordon Brown issuing a statement about Michael Jackson.

This will be a good day to bury bad news. Now we've got at least a week of Jacko media frenzy to face.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Order, order!

Not in South Tyneside's big house it seems. The Alliance is turning local politics into a chimps tea party in more ways than one.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Killer costs

I've seen first hand the effects of an asthma attack - the desperate gasps for breath, the terror in the eyes. Asthma can be a killer, but fortunately one which can treated. So today's news that financial worries causes some people to think twice about using their preventers should be a warning for us all.

Many people who suffer long-term illnesses like diabetes receive free prescriptions, but most asthma sufferers have to pay. However, this inconsistent approach is unlikely to be resolved by this or the next government, given the huge numbers being bandied around about budget cuts. Some interesting chronic euphemismia from David Halpern (along with David Miliband one of Blair's Third Way architects) is worthy of note:
"Billions of public spending can be saved, for instance, if services for those with chronic conditions like diabetes are redesigned around self-care."
As we've seen today with the asthma study, self care begins to fail when cash becomes tight.

Both the Tories and Labour will choose to target cuts in areas which won't affect their vote negatively, aiming to keep the affluent and middle class South East voter happy. That means the disenfranchised who are less likely to vote or whose votes have little demographic influence, like those on low incomes, will be hit hardest. And with an NHS hemorrhaging cash as a result of the failure of the Tory and then Labour PFI con job, it's likely that healthcare will take a big hit.

Whilst business, like the banking and motoring industries are being feather-bedded, chances are that those hardest hit will be those who most need essential services like socialised healthcare.

Missing inaction

As Curly has already reported, it looks like Allen Branley has dropped off his electoral perch and stood down as a councillor. This came after criticism that Branley was visible by his absence.

Now Allen Branley has been cut from the list of South Tyneside councillors on the council website (despite his name is mentioned on a council press release about a surgery on Saturday) which supports Curly's hot news.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Repression in the UK

When the police are seen acting like thugs, often we hear the defence that it's only a couple of bad apples.

The policing operation at Kingsnorth last year had already raised doubts about the bad apple theory. Kingsnorth revealed a systemic culture of repression towards demonstrators, with police officers regularly abusing the law and using violence to shut down protest, under the watchful and no doubt approving gaze of senior officers.

The same contempt towards civil liberties was repeated this year in London at the G20 protests, when without provocation police charged peaceful protesters at the Climate Camp in Bishopsgate. People were beaten by those who are meant to defend the law, and one man who wasn't even involved in the protest died after an encounter with violent police officers.

Today's revelations in the Guardian show that the Kingsnorth story isn't over. Thanks to the police's forward information team (FIT) recording the demonstrations and Freedom of Information requests aquiring the video footage, we are able to see a police eye view of what went on, and through hearing their own words, get into the minds of the people who are supposed to be entrusted with protecting our persons and our civil liberties.

The language used by the FIT officers, the hiding of police identification and the violent behaviour towards someone who simply asked for their numbers illustrates that these police have nothing but contempt for the public.

It's easy to blame it on the bad apple theory, but it doesn't wash. There are too many examples of anti social police behaviour now to defend that argument. A quick search on YouTube is all it takes.

In Kingsnorth, these officers were supervised and this video footage has probably been examined already by senior police, but nothing has happened to these men who put innocent people into dangerous neck grips and hog tied them before throwing them into a police van, arrested on manufactured charges.

These police are not our defenders. They have no care for civil liberties and clearly get off on violence. They are enemies freedom and democracy. They have been given too many powers by successive governments through laws which are constructed in such ambiguous terms that the law can mean whatever a police officer says it means. We rightly agonise over the corruption of the law makers in Parliament, but the abuses by the law enforcers on the streets should meet similar ruthless scrutiny. At the minute, how can we trust the law with either body?

There needs to be a serious reform of the police and a new system of accountability, and offences investigated by a body with more powers than the pathetic and toothless Independent Police Complaints Commission.

There needs to be a start to regain public confidence. These officers at Kingsnorth need to be brought to justice. Watch the video. Every single one of them involved should be dismissed.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Aiming high

Ah, the art of spin. A super new school is ahead of schedule - despite the fact that the old school is still standing and the local residents who will be impacted by the works haven't been informed of the changed timetable.

But more worryingly, why will the new school have a frickin hair salon? Is this some new policy where students will be encouraged to keep their career expectations low? Will the economy need hairdressers and beauticians?

And I thought Mortimer's enforced dance curriculum was bloody stupid.

As long as our kids can do a jig and do their highlights then the future must be bright. I suppose we should all thank Labour and South Tyneside Council for the next generation of X Factor hopefuls.

Come fly with me

If you have to fly somewhere, which airline do you fly with?

Personally, I would choose the one paying their staff, particularly the aircraft maintenance crews.

Sweet smell of ermine

Roy Sydney George Hattersley, aka Baron Hattersley of Sparkbrook, has had a go at the hereditary monarchy, in particular Prince Charles, for committing the cardinal sin of criticising one of (Lord) Richard Rogers' proposed works.

There's a sweet irony when folk like Hattersly and Rogers complain about the very establishment that has ratified their titles.

If Hattersley and Rogers have such a problem with the interference of priviledge and patronage, perhaps they should abandon their seats in the Lords?

Sunday, June 07, 2009

European Election Results for South Tyneside

BNP 4433
Christian Party 401
Conservative 5147
English Democrats 957
Jury Team 548
Lib Dems 4313
NO2EU 699
Libertas 185
Socialist Labour Party 743
Green 1999
Labour 9263
UKIP 5449

Friday, June 05, 2009

Brown's Sugar

The clever rats don't join sinking ships, so why is Alan Sugar joining Brown on the bridge? I can see why Brown chose Sugar - Susan Boyle is having some problems at the moment.

Sugar was already in the engine room of Gordon's business brain trust, and as his company Vilgen won a £30m government contract to supply computers to the NHS, association with Brown so far has been painless.

Of course, as someone who enjoys the 'Suralan' tag, a peerage must be very attractive, especially since the telly bully will only have to tip his forelock to Brown for another year at most.

It seems only right that a wealthy man, who is given a job to help the rich stay rich, will be called a 'Tsar'. Now what happened to the last Tsar?

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Labour's inaction on climate change

Joan Ruddock's hilarious defence in the Guardian of Labour's complete failure to get to grips with climate change, and the following responses, illustrates two important points:

1. Joan Ruddock is off her trolley.

2. Everyone knows it.

True, there'll be more than two points, but on every issue that Ruddock has tried to claim victory, Labour has failed miserably or fallen short of the required standard. The craven dishonesty even goes so far as to imply that Friends of the Earth's Big Ask campaign was somehow a Labour idea:
It's a model that Friends of the Earth campaign for other countries to adopt in their Big Ask, a sign perhaps of greater optimism and ambition than the Green party demonstrates.
Utterly utterly dishonest. The Climate Change Act was a result of FOE's Big Ask campaign, not it's progenitor. Parliament set about watering down the original Big Ask aims to such a point to make a Climate Change Bill just about toothless, except as PR fodder for Ruddock's rancid propaganda.

Dishonest. Fail.

Gone to pasture

That's the Dairy Farmers of Great Britain. That's the cooperative that is contracted to supply most of the North East's primary schools with milk.

Back in 2007 South Tyneside Green Party reported that the cooperative had stopped supplying school milk in the traditional 'third' glass bottles because its bottling machine was broken, instead supplying the milk in 'tetra' cartons. When the company decided not to repair the bottling machine, South Tyneside parents were handed an increase in the cost of milk as supplying the milk in cartons was more expensive. Essentially the council tax payer was subsidising the company's change to a less sustainable mode of milk distribution.

But this wasn't just a problem in South Tyneside - schools and parents all over the region were affected.

The loss of Dairy Farmers is seriously bad news for farmers. The loss of the cooperative will increase the power the large supermarkets can exercise over the farmers.

In hindsight, it seems like the cooperative's decision not to invest in repairing or replacing the machine may have been an indicator of much more serious financial problems within the cooperative.

No longer walking the earth

Goodbye to the king of kick ass kung fu coolness David Carradine, found dead in a hotel room in Bangkok. A generation of 70s kids like me were brought up with his chilled 'Grasshopper' Caine in Kung Fu and reintroduced to Carradine as the icy and ruthless Bill in Tarantino's brilliant Kill Bill. Ostensibly an action tv series, Kung Fu was threaded with an absolute ethical imperative and displayed a model of personal social responsibility.

An unconventional life ended equally unconventionally.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Cameron taking the PiS

There's an aphorism that says something like you are known by the friends you keep. Now that David Cameron has taken the Tories into a political bloc with Polish right wing party PiS and is wooing other East European parties, we are given an insight into what's really eant by 'compassionate Conservatism'.

Punkscience has already called shenanigans on Cameron's trustworthiness.

Now Cameron has got into bed with folks who are no strangers to homophobia, climate change denial, rabid nationalism, racism and religious fundamentalism.

These guys make the BNP look moderate.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Allen and Miliband: South Shields' Arse n Elbow experts

After her obviously heartfelt sympathy for those suffering from bingo tax, Tory hopeful Karen Allen has picked another populist target in beer tax, but I would bet that she has never been in the Cranny. If she had she would know the real reason why it's losing business.

It's a shit hole.

Decent people don't drink there. It's windows are regularly smashed. On sunny days like today it's customers will be standing outside intimidating passers by and laughingly casting sexual innuendo at children.

Complaints have been made to local councillors and the police so it's surprising that our local MP David Miliband is also equally clueless to the Cranny's shortcomings when he says that the pub is the lifeblood of the community.

Obviously local knowledge is neither candidates' strong point, but at least as a former resident of South Shields Allen should know something or know someone who does.

Thinking outside the box

Judging by the response in the Gazette you'd think the old police phone box was a holy relic, not a neglected and rusting piss post for dogs. If Councillor Gibson and the local people thought this was such an important feature, why did they allow it to deteriorate and not raise money for it's upkeep? Why do many people expect the council to do everything for them?

What happened to taking the initiative and taking responsibility?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Beam me up

I've not long returned from seeing the new Star Trek movie, a 're-imagining' of the original series. Loud, fast, colourful, tons of action and with a hefty pinch of tongue in cheek. The science is nonsense, so is the plot and the skirts are back in the Sixties. After the tedium of last week's Wolverine, the new Trek is a real hoot.

It won't win any Oscars and will offend some die hard Trek fans, but the general consensus of people leaving the cinema was positive. It's fun and doesn't mess too much with the original franchise despite some slight changes to the Trek universe.

Best thing? Something that hasn't happened after a movie for a while - I'm still grinning like an eejit.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Flying off the handle

Reactionaries of all colours will be spewing self righteous rage after it has been revealed that the Foreign Office has asked for tenders for a contract to provide charter flights for the Foreign Secretary. Some of the perennially offended will play the environment hypocrisy card, hand-wringing over the damage to David Miliband's climate karma by choosing to fly instead of sending a hemp-powered email. Others will agonise over the expenditure.

And as if by magic, Matthew Elliott of Tory black ops propaganda front group the TaxPayers' Alliance, said:
"David Miliband would do a better job if he remembered he is there to serve the people, not live a life of luxury at our expense."
This cynical approach illustrates the utterly partisan position of the Taxpayers Alliance. By the time such a contract comes on stream there's a fair chance that David Miliband may not be Foreign Secretary, either through reshuffle or change of government. Perhaps the Taxpayers Alliance think the Foreign Secretary would better represent our country by arriving on a flight after being packed in with drunken stag and hen bender tourists?

It's no fun working away from home and family for any length of time, and a job like Foreign Secretary will no doubt require a lot of hours in hotels, airports and on planes. No matter how luxurious the trolls at the Taxpayers Alliance think it is, being away from your family for extended periods can be soul crushing.

I'm no fan of David Miliband. His role so far as Foreign Secretary has proven to be one of ethical corruption and dishonesty. To be fair though, I doubt we have ever had an honest and moral Foreign Secretary, which suggests that the role could be something of a poisoned chalice.

But he's our Foreign Secretary with a job to do for a nation which has always punched above it's weight, no matter how much we disagree with his moral vacuum. I don't begrudge flying our representative around if it means he is fit to fight in the shark tank of foreign politics, and can quickly get back home to his family afterwards.

Happy Birthday Pete Seeger

Sunday, April 19, 2009

JG Ballard

Great writer. Intelligent, provocative and thought-provoking stories. A sad loss.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Rossinisbird's rubber rage

This is one of those small things that wazzes me off. It shouldn't, but like shitty Ocean Finance adverts it does. These red rubber buggers are an elastic litter on pathways and pavements, like little red worms kissing their own arses.

But now the authorities are planning to make posties pick them up under fear of a short stretch, or a fine at least.

My plan for the rubber band ball world record is now in jeopardy.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

From the mouths of babes

Sixteen years ago this impassioned plea was made at the Rio Earth Summit. Judging by the G20, the leaders still aren't listening.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

How fucked are we?

The geniuses at the MIT Global Change Program have looked at the scenarios for climate change - what kind temperature change we can expect if we do something and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, or what we are looking at if we don't.

Take a gamble on the wheel of misfortune here.

An interesting analogy used on the site is one of taking personal responsibility to mitigate risk:
Human-induced climate change is a problem of risk management. It can not be proved that the outcome will be dire or shown with certainty that it will not. As with other problems we face in private life and public policy, from controlling your cholesterol level to defense against epidemic disease, uncertain dangers can warrant reasonable measures to reduce risk.
The answer - take care of the biospshere, like taking care of your heart - do something about it.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Uppity Curly

Motherfuckin cracka!

Troops dying for phony war

Many British soldiers have lost their lives in Afghanistan. Osama Bin Laden hasn't been caught, and now the Afghan people are again to be made subject to oppressive theocratic laws to bolster Karzai's position. It looks increasingly like the Taliban never really left.

If we're not helping, what are we doing there?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Back to Year Zero

The start of the trial of Kaing Guek Eav, known as 'Duch', is a timely reminder of one of the most shameful episodes of the Thatcher years.

Unpublicised by her army of misty-eyed apologists, is her disgusting collaboration with the Khmer Rouge and its cronies, providing them with both political and military support.

Whilst Thatcher's brutal fiend friend Pinochet escaped justice, Duch will probably face execution for his part in the Killing Fields. Gordon Brown rewards Thatcher with tea at number 10 and a state funeral.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


Thanks to Punkscience for the alert on Craig Murray's attempts to be heard by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights. Sent an email. If you want the truth then please do the same.

Monday, March 02, 2009

The great coal con

I wonder if the Gazette is being paid for advertising space, when I read tonight's shamelessly biased article calling for the return of coal mining. It's not the first such article to appear in the Gazette. When South Tyneside Green Party tried to respond to the last piece on carbon capture and storage (CCS) with this press release, the Gazette spiked it.

Tonight's piece is one of the most shocking examples of industry PR masquerading as journalism that I've seen for a long time. Claims are unsubstantiated and hyperbolic terms such as 'trailblazers' indicate an uncritical approach to coal. And frankly, the Gazette is wearing out the 'King Coal' brand.

has already covered the excellent U.S. this is reality campaign highlighting the simple reality: there is no such thing as clean coal.

Here is this is reality's new video, created by film gods the Coen Brothers:

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Speaking of local-ish MPs

It's been awhile since I've been actively involved with Friends of the Earth, but I still get mail.

Friends of the Earth have run several campaigns, where constituents fill out postcards to send to their local MP on eco issues from the Climate Change Bill to the Marine Bill, to a call for a moratorium on biofuels. It can be hard work for the FOE volunteers to encourage people to get sign up but they do, in all weathers. So far it's proved a successful campaign technique.

Unfortunately, not all MPs are that interested in their constituents' concerns. Step forward Hexham's Tory MP Peter Atkinson. After several such campaigns 'Postcard Pete' wrote to Friends of the Earth asking them to stick their postcards where the ballot box don't shine, and instead has asked FOE to send Atkinson's constituents a letter he has drafted.

The letter, instead of directly addressing the concerns of the campaign just spews standard Tory greenwash.

Such arrogance is breathtaking.

It's difficult to imagine clearer evidence for the often heard accusation that many politicos only care about your opinion at election time.

Then I suppose since he's leaving the job at the end of this term, why should he care what his constituents think?

Peter Atkinson letter 1

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Speaking of local MPs

As I said in the previous post, there's been little support for Jim Cousin's EDM. Perhaps it will come.

However, whilst others are trying to save Tyne & Wear's public transport, Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn has been busy sniffing out information for accidents on the A1. It's no secret that Hepburn is one of the cheerleaders for dualling the A1 in Northumberland, and his enquiry through Parliamentary questions over accidents and deaths on the A1 looks like a continuation of his campaign of sucking up to the Journal.

Normally, his Parliamentary questions precede one of his regular Gazette propaganda pieces so don't be surprised if one on A1 dualling turns up soon.

Hepburn dimissed the government's own studies as "multi-modal rubbish", so it looks some like barrel scraping is going on to build a case.

Looking at the figures he's been given, it looks like there's nothing for Hepburn to use to justify dualling the A1 in safety terms, unless he takes a creative view to interpreting them. The figures given broadly support the European Road Assessment Program's (EuroRAP) assessment of the A1 as low to medium risk. The A1 doesn't even appear on the last 2006 report of Britain's most dangerous roads.

Here is a quick picture of the Parliamentary road safety stats:

The long term accident trend is downwards, but what I would find disconcerting is the proportionately higher number of deaths to accidents in Northumberland compared to Tyne & Wear, although this may have something to do with emergency services response times and distances to hospitals in rural areas. If an argument was to be had here it would be for an expansion and public funding of the Great North Air Ambulance Service, instead of it having to rely on charitable donations. That I would support.

But on terms of dualling the A1, nothing much here to see.

Keep Metro public

One of the few Labour MPs with any principles, Jim Cousins, has raised an Early Day Motion, EDM 792, calling for the Tyne & Wear Metro to avoid the greedy clutches of privatisation. The interesting thing about the EDM is the remarkable dearth of North East MPs - only three North East MPs have signed up to the EDM.

The PR bods at Nexus have been desperate to deny there's privatisation afoot, but any effort to move a function of the Metro infrastructure from the public to the private sector is privatisation.

I fail to see any benefit privatisation of the Metro would bring for the people of Tyne & Wear. Given the current economic climate, presumably the financing would have to come from government, either directly or roundabout via bailed-out banks. As the EDM describes, bidders include corporations from Hong Kong, the Netherlands and Germany, which means a key part of our local transport infrastrucure will be in the hands of board room directors in other countries.

Our national rail system is a shambles and the disastrous Metronet farce in London illustrate just how poor privatised rail can be.

Given that public transport systems like Metro also feature heavily in policies aimed at reducing car use and reducing climate changing emissions, it's irresponsible to hand it over to external bodies.

I'm back

After an odd week - a few days poorly feeling sorry for myself and a couple of days away on holiday, I'm catching up with the world. If I haven't replied to you yet - I promise I will!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Police, camera, action

So our cops are getting cameras. The timing couldn't be better. From Monday 16 February 2009, a police officer could arrest you under anti Terrorism laws for photographing them.

This yields a huge irony. They can film you, but after Sunday try to film or photograph them and you could end up having a very bad day.

It's not just police officers. Armed forces personnel and spies are covered too.

Technically, it could mean that at Remembrance Day marches, the Great North Run or any other events where police officers and/or armed forces personnel may be in attendance, photographers are fair game for the cops with cameras. Photographing the army recruitment van at the Sunderland Air Show or on King Street could get you your collar felt.

Given that the identity of those in the intelligence services is secret, you could photograph one of our spooks and not even know it. But publishing an image of them could technically land you in clink.

I'm sick of using the phrase 'police state'. It sounds paranoid, overwrought and emotive, but I can't think of a better term for what our government has taken us into. We've seen similar laws, like the Protection from Harassment Act, worded so vaguely that they can be used and abused by the police time and again.

This needs to be reversed. No government or police force should have these kind of powers.

DUP creationist cretin

Well, I suppose finding douchebags and dumbasses in the DUP is like shooting fish in a barrel. First there was mad Iris Robinson and her Christian 'cure' for homosexuality, and earlier this week we had numbnuts Sammy Wilson (an environment minister no less) joining the climate change denial cult.

The ignorant anti science muffins have now got another contender for the Dumbest DUP Dickwad award. Mervyn Storey chose Darwin's 200th birthday to make a holy scene. He wants creation myths given a platform alongside evolution at Belfast's Ulster Museum. And if it doesn't happen, he's going to sick the law onto them.

There's a host of things that make creationists look stupid, but this is classic theodiocy. Instead of bothering with the earthly courts he should go straight to the big guy; pray for his god to smite, send thunderbolts or a nasty rash to see those pesky scientists and their facts off. Yes. Pray to your god. That's bound to work.


Happy 200th birthday Chuck

Darwin's 200th birthday seems to have generated some interest. As well as the Darwin Day website, the BBC has an excellent resource to follow their BBC natural history series and even a huge Facebook group is in on the act. Even the Vatican is joining the 19th Century and getting in on the evolution loving.

This year is a Darwin double whammy as it also sees the 150th anniversary of On the Origin of Species, which had the most profound and fundamental impact, not just on biology, but for many people on the perception and relevance of a belief in a god.

There's some freebies too. You can download the ebook here, and Open University is giving away Tree of Life posters.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tory rottweilers

Today seems to have been a day for Guardian commentators to take apart the dishonest and the dodgy. Polly Toynbee, who I normally can't stand, has done a reasonable job of lifting the stone to uncover the Taxpayers' Alliance. The group is used by the Tories as a kind of off-balance-sheet PR group to bash the civil service or just moan about anything where tax is spent on stuff they don't like.

Often, their claims are repeated in the news media and on blogs without the kind of intelligent skepticism that should be employed with such narrowly focussed special interest groups. Their tactics closely follows those used by similar groups linked with the Republicans in the US. Their purpose is to generate media outrage and provide an opportunity for Tory spokesbods to get their mugs on the telly.

Whilst they rightly challenge public sector profligacy, they are relatively silent when it comes to tax evasion. Don't want to get off message with those donors do they?

It's no surprise that the Taxpayers' Alliance has aligned itself with fundamentalist road group the Association of British Drivers. The ABD, another group not unfamiliar with getting itself in the press, is pretty much against anything they consider to be anti driver. The ABD has bought into the religion of climate change denial and rabidly challenges any road safety initiatives which could slow down drivers.

Like the Taxpayers' Alliance, the ABD is named so as to give the impression that they represent a body of society, when in reality they have no such remit. Like the Alliance, their press releases are treated with undeserved reverence and unquestioned trust by the media.

Lobby groups like these are formed, or used by, political interests to build an angry and outraged consensus. They offer simple messages which are easily picked up and cut and pasted into articles, where real context, too complex to fit into the average news story, is lost.

Perhaps many journalists and bloggers don't want to, don't have the ability or don't have the space, to critically examine the output of these groups to an adequate extent. Or perhaps they are so blinded by political allegiances that such material, no matter how badly manipulated, is too good to waste.

Go George go!

Gah! Punkscience and Bryan beat me to it!

This response by George Monbiot to Hazel Blears is probably the finest and most articulately angry piece of political writing I've read this year, and reminds me why the Guardian, for all its weaknesses, is still the best newspaper in the UK.

I follow our local MPs Stephen Hepburn and David Miliband's Parliamentary action on George's comments could equally be applied to our lot here in South Tyneside for their continuing ability to put party before principle and ethics.

And if that wasn't enough, in the same day George reminds us why micro wind turbines are useless on the urban home, and how the Tories tried to sex up their green credentials by putting so much store in them.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Silvio Berlusconi is an evil bastard

The Sunday papers sometimes prove to be excellent source material for illustrating the insanity and immorality of organised religion. In this story of Eluano Englaro I wish it wasn't the case.

Silvio Berlusconi's rationale to keep Englaro alive is terrifying, claiming that she is "in the condition to have babies".

After 17 years in PVS, it's unlikely that Ms Englaro would be in a physical state to carry a child, and will never regain consciousness to give consent anyway. Berlusconi is favouring rape, and possibly borderline necrophilia.

His position is based on advice from the Vatican, although I wouldn't be surprised if Berlusconi's real objective was to leverage other legislative changes to his benefit as part of a package. Yet Italians keep voting for the evil corrupt twat, and he remains a hero of the right.

Many ignore religion on the assumption that it's harmless and doesn't really effect our lives. The influence of the Vatican on this case, which could see a hurried change in Italian law, shows that the Medieval ethics of the stupid and the ignorant is turning Italy into a theocracy, forcing the dogma of faith on those who don't want it.

The UK is different, yet here religion also constantly vies for influence. Constitutionally religion has power. Bishops sit in the House of Lords and our head of state is ordained by God. Our national anthem is God Save the Queen.

Religionists regularly claim that their religion gives them a moral code. The evil bastards that favour such suffering as inflicted on Eluano Englaro and her family can keep it.

Give me humanity and compassion any day.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Pied Piper Peston

Today, BBC journalist Robert Peston sat before MPs and denied any responsibility for the start of the run on Northern Rock.


The BBC reporter's breathless exclusive of Northern Rock's application for a loan facility from the Bank of England started the media frenzy and subsequent run on the Newcastle bank. I remember the Newsnight and early morning Radio 4 Today programme where Peston was wetting himself with glee at the attention. I'd never heard the word 'unprecedented' used so much by one person. And to think the shit the Today programme got for the 'sexing up' Iraq affair.

From then on, if there was bad news in the finance industry, Peston was the man to deliver it.

There's no doubt that Northern Rock's board and executive ran a risky and ultimately unsustainable business model. Borrowing short to lend long is always going to come unstuck, especially when borrowing from the developing basket case that was the US financial sector. But while the money rolled in and share prices were healthy no-one complained.

Peston's mealy mouthed excuse that the run was exacerbated by what he claimed to be poor branch capacity and website infrastructure doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Few, if any, retail banking organisations could stand the sudden onslaught of a media driven panic that Peston wrought. I remember on the morning after that first report television journalists hanging around outside Northern Rock branches asking customers if they were worried and thinking of closing their accounts. This was wag the dog reporting in action.

Peston's evasions in the committee today suggest that he was fed the Northern Rock loan story. He's certainly not facing the possibility that his exclusive was intended to bring Northern Rock down to be picked up by another hungry bank at a bargain basement price.

There needs to be a full accounting of the whole debacle, from the lax regulation, over confident boardrooms and fickle and greedy investors, to the media panic machine fed by the likes of Peston, and the people who fed Peston his exclusive.

Peston wasn't responsible for the run, but he holds some responsibility.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Poopy power

Whilst our local councils are trying to get 'value' from our waste stream, Treehugger has reported on this research for the National Grid which proposes harnessing sewage, animal and food wastes to produce biogas.

Biogas is nothing new. I've got a book from the 1970's by self sufficiency guru John Seymour where he described a design for a home anaerobic digester to produce your own biogas, and he tells of farmers using such simple designs since the Second World War. As well as producing the gas, the digesters also leave solid and semi-solid materials which can be used as fertiliser.

Much of our natural gas comes from foreign lands so such an initiative would be ideal to reduce our reliance on gas imports; a win in political, sustainability and economic terms.

Given the billions budgeted for ID cards, foreign wars and nuclear weapons, not to mention the welfare payments given to the feckless banking and car industries, £10bn seems like a small price to pay and with a tangible return.

Monday, February 02, 2009

North East Top Guns

I've been busy over the last few days so this is a bit belated, so respect to North East Labour MPs Jim Cousins, Newcastle upon Tyne Central, and Chris Mullin, Sunderland South, for having the cojones and principles to vote against the government in last Wednesday's Heathrow debate. Top blokes.

Asshats to those other North East Labour MPs, like our own Stephen Hepburn and David Miliband, who voted for a project intended to increase London's economic dominance at the expense of the regions.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Common Sense

It seems timely that so soon after the inauguration of a new US president we have the anniversary of the birth of one of the fathers of the American Revolution. Thomas Paine, born 29th January 1737, left Britain, a country riven with the corruption of class and monarchy, to helped to inspire the American colonies to revolution. A hero of reason, democracy and individuality.

Over 200 years later and here in the UK we are not citizens, but still the subjects of a tribal chieftain class, stained by the perversion of an unelected upper house.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


For a government with a working majority of 63, winning tonight's vote, on the Tories' motion that the government should rethink the Heathrow plans, by only 19 votes is a thin margin indeed, and is another illustration how far out of touch with people this government is - and how close to BAA. Yet again, this Labour government has no doubt whored itself out to the sectarian fuckwits in the Democratic Unionists to win a close vote.

This isn't helped by some Labour MPs who claimed to be against the third runway but stayed away from the vote to avoid being seen supporting a Tory motion. Where's your principles you fucking cowardly hypocrites?

Whilst the Tories will claim a kind of moral victory, there are still some in Cameron's ranks who support the third runway.

Oh, and Geoff Hoon is a complete tool.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Oh Lord!

The really surprising thing about the crooked lords story is that everyone appears to be surprised. For some reason there seems to be a meme which says that all those who get into the top house do it through hard work and sacrifice and for purely altruistic reasons.

Not shy of grabbing an opportunity to bash the opposing teams, Blair clone Nick Clegg demands that peers caught with their trousers around their ankles should be kicked out. Not to be outdone, Tory toff leader David Cameron wants the peers behaving badly expelled. The lords must be shitting themselves. These guys call themselves leaders for change?

If these bozos really want change then let's bin the House of Lords. Being based on favour and reeking with priviledge, the concept of the lords is corrupt. Democratise the seats in the upper house and force it's members to be selected through trial by election instead of seats passed on by papa or given for favours and cash.

What more fitting way to start introducing proportional representation than by removing the least representative body in Parliament?

Monday, January 26, 2009

DEC for Gaza

These folks, an umbrella group of aid organisations, were instrumental in the recovery after the Asian Tsunami, and this is the video which the douchebags at the BBC and Sky refused to air.

The blame game

The Guardian presents a list of "25 people at the heart of the meltdown", listing those thought culpable in providing the environment for the economic tits up we're all enjoying.

One question, where's the prophet of profit Milton Friedman? Just because he's dead we shouldn't let the evil bastard off the hook.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Supermarket weep

Years ago I worked for ASDA, at the flagship store in Boldon, when it was still part of Associated Dairies. Staff were part of the organisation, sharing in its success with annual dividend bonus payments. The union recognised by ASDA, the GMB, was generally respected and staff felt safe in their jobs.

Shortly after I left ASDA however, things changed. There was a management cull, where all middle managers had to reapply for their jobs. Those who had a history of sick leave, were in disciplinary measures, or were considered to be difficult could say goodbye to their jobs. The atmosphere had changed and the feeling of family and mutual respect had gone.

Friday night I was with some ASDA employees from the current South Shields store who were worried that they weren't guaranteed a job at the new Coronation Street store opening in the summer; victims of the same technique used all those years ago.

South Tyneside Council has been very close to ASDA. The Boldon store has been permitted to expand to the point that it's the company's biggest store. The new store in Coronation Street is the Council's retail jewel in the crown, with a lot of hopes resting on the store's success. And political reputations.

Forcing employees to reapply for their jobs is unjust. Don't expect the Council to worry about this - as long as councillors can share in the glory and get their mugs in the Gazette they're unlikely to demand that ASDA respect their employees and guarantee each of them their jobs in the new store.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Gazette photographer strikes again

The Gazette's photographers have an expert knack of getting pictures of people from unusual angles or timed to snap just at an inopportune moment for the subject. Some photographs or images have a habit of following people around for years. Remember Neil Kinnock's dash in to the sea?

Hopefully, Gazette reporter Angela Reed won't suffer too much gyp from tonight's feature photograph... but a few teas must have been spluttered in South Tyneside tonight.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Brrr, it's cold in the Antartic

But not as cold as it used to be. To many in the church of climate change denial ("climate scientologists" I think Curly calls them), Antarctic cooling has been the elephant in the room. To many deniers, a gap in scientific knowledge on the issue discredits anthropogenic global warming. Even climate scientists have acceded the point that there was a gap. Honestly reviewing the issue, the IPCC concluded in 2007 that:
"It is likely that there has been significant anthropogenic (human-induced) warming over the past 50 years averaged over each continent - except Antarctica."
Whilst some parts of the Antarctic have been getting cooler, the average across the continent shows a warming trend over the last 50 years. But those pesky scientists at who prepared the work and have submitted their paper to Nature have been cautious in pointing out that:
"Our paper — by itself — does not address whether Antarctica’s recent warming is part of a longer term trend."
But it does address that gap in the IPCC's 2007 assessment.

It looks more than ever that the denial position is to climate science as the desperate "God of the gaps" philosophy is to physics and biology.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Shields Gazette: inaccurate and misleading

Part 1 of the Press Complaints Commission's Code of Practice states:
"The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures."
In this article in tonight's Gazette they've clearly broken this guideline with this statement:
"A CALL to expand Newcastle Airport has been given cross-party support by all South Tyneside's political groups"
Note "all South Tyneside's political groups". Well, that's quite a bold claim since only three local political groups, Labour, Tories and Alliance have been quoted in the article. Nowhere to be seen are the Lib Dems, Progressives or the Green Party. I don't know about the Lib Dems, they're schizo on matters environmental, the Progressives would probably love the idea but the Green Party definitely doesn't support the expansion of Newcastle Airport. Quite the opposite.

Plans to increase flights at Newcastle fail on both environmental and economic grounds.

The "sustainable jobs" and "more efficient and cleaner types of energy" claims from Coun Anglin are laughably nonsensical and stand up as well as used toilet paper. And smell as shitty too. David Potts may love the idea of flights to New York, but shouldn't expect many New Yorkers to come to the North East on lavish shopping trips. Ahmed Khan, as spokesman for the party that's not a party, is spouting the same development and trade bullshit that framed the arguments for concreting Fellgate. It's touching that all three councillors were so quick to jump together into the palm of professional lobbyist and Labour old boy Brian Wilson.

So much for opposition.

But given the Gazette's current editorial embargo on dissenting press releases, and careful news management for its chums, don't expect any real voices of opposition to appear in its pages any time soon.