Friday, 25 November 2011

Internet censorship

It appears from this news item that Nominet, the official registration authority for .uk internet domains, has been secretly taking down web sites by withdrawing domain names, and they have been doing so solely at the request of the police serious crime agency (Soca).

I’m quite prepared to believe that some of the sites probably deserved to be removed, none of us want malicious sites that infect our PCs or steal our credit card details. What I am not prepared to accept is that sites should be removed and registrations cancelled at the request of the police with no controls, no appeals procedure, no oversight from the judiciary and no accountability. It is particularly worrying that there seems to be no public list of domains that have been removed and no explanations of the reasons for any of the removals. The articles suggest that many are simply low level crime sites selling counterfeit goods, and of course nobody knows how many may have been removed because they were simply an embarrassment to the authorities or the police. Perhaps someone can explain the difference between such covert actions here in the UK and those of autocratic regimes elsewhere in the world? I can’t.

Fortunately a group of Internet users groups including The Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA), the Open Rights Group and London Internet Exchange (Linx) have called Nominet out on the practice and asked them to explain themselves. It also seems clear that Soca and Nominet have been acting illegally, flagrantly in breach of EU rules on freedom of communication.

Interestingly The Government’s Digital Economy Act, (the work of Peter Mandelson after being wined and dined by the publishing industry, no lobbying there then!) through which publishers recently obtained a high court injunction to force ISPs to monitor web traffic and block certain peer to peer sites like Pirate Bay, also appears to be in breach of EU communication rules.They can block sites with judicial authority but cannot filter web traffic as the act intended, although a slightly different take on it here makes the blocking unclear too.

While I am fervently anti EU I have to admit that some good can result now and again, credit where credit is due, this is not the first sensible ruling about communications freedom from the EU. I note that if the government withdraws from the European Court they may be free to deport benefit cheats but will also be free to play such censorship games, we should sometimes take care what we wish for.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

An alternative way to fund political parties

Personally I am strongly anti political party and I regard the main parties and their apparatchiks as having become cancerous parasites squatting on our representative democracy. I would have no problem about banning them completely and having a person chosen by a separate public ballot or agreed on by the full house of parliament after they have assembled in Westminster as PM. Choosing by MP's votes would make it easy for the whole house to unchoose anyone who strayed from the parliamentary consensus. Likewise the inner cabinet should be chosen by free votes in the whole house. Automatically making the leader of the biggest party into the PM is as far from democracy it it’s possible to get.

Sadly it won’t happen so here is a quick fix idea based on simple payment by results.

Parties write their manifesto and the promises in it, of these 10 issues should take the form of legal promises. These legal promises are valued at 10pence per voter who voted for their party. If the party members vote for (or against) the issue exactly as they promised in the manifesto then the party get their 10pence per voter. They may not succeed in achieving their manifesto promise of course, they may get outvoted in the house, but they get rewarded for keeping the manifesto promise of how they will vote. If the party default on a promise by acting in an alternative way or avoiding an issue altogether then they lose 10 pence per voter. 

It’s easy to see how it works. Tories elected on a platform of lowering taxes – tax goes up so no party payment and a fine instead, tax indeed gets cut - they get some party funding. Repatriate working hours from the EU. Do it the party gets rewarded, don’t do it and the party gets fined. 

You think it sounds daft? It couldn't work? Why on earth not! That would make them keep their word!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

I want one!

A month or so ago I had an estimate to fit solar PV panels on my roof. To be fair to the salesman he fully agreed with me that the ‘green energy’ and CO2 stuff was a complete load of rubbish, so all discussion was done on the basis of financial gain – free power and feed in tariff.  (At least it was until we got bored and progressed to Neil Young and guitar techniques.)
On the current (soon to end) 43p/KW tariff the figures worked out quite well in that an installation on my roof paid for itself completely in around 10 years and thereafter lots of free electricity and an income even if the efficiency reduces over time. But I had a number of problems with going ahead. Ironically I had just firmly decided against when the government announced they were to halve the feed in tariff.

My reasons were that when the AGW/CO2 scam is properly and publicly recognised, which can’t be far away now, I believe there will be a serious backlash. I don’t trust the government not to reduce the ludicrous 43p early tariff on early installations, and if they don’t reduce it I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if some hotheads didn’t take it into their own hands to vandalise installations. I happen to have a super south facing roof but I recognise that the whole system is a gross injustice, offering house owners lucky enough to have a good roof a 10%+ return, all paid for by people without a suitable roof, which tends to be all the less well off consumers, who might reasonably get angry when the truth is out.

My other reason is that I don’t believe the projections on future energy costs.  They are certainly high and rising fast at the moment but over 25 years, or even the 10 year solar PV installation payback period, lots of things can happen. Since when have any experts on any subject correctly predicted 25 years ahead?

If public pressure on fuel prices heats up as a result of the AGW scam the government, whichever lot survive the next few years that is, will eventually have to allow shale gas extraction, which could halve prices. Alternately thorium reactors, much safer and cheaper than traditional uranium ones, are under scrutiny and even the diehard AGW/CO2 armageddon proponents can’t fault them.

But what I really want is one of these E-cats. As yet there is still controversy whether they actually work. Yet companies are being set up and early pre-orders are being taken, which suggests something significant is indeed happening. One of these little boxes sitting in the garden producing electricity night and day, rain or shine, seems to me a better bet than counting on government subsidies and sunshine in the north west of England. They have the potential to allow individual affordable cheap to run generators, or for streets and villages to club together and become totally independent of the power grid. Let them try and collect a green renewable energy levy if that happens!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

And more good news

So the Duke of Edinburgh describes wind energy as a fairy tale and useless! I never thought I would be in agreement with him but on this one he is for once spot on!

I had thought this was turning into a strange week when Clegg spoke out against the US UK extradition treaty. But I dismissed that as his being desperate to try and find something (anything!) sensible to say on any topic whatsoever, plus a realisation that it was simply his anti-americanism streak showing because if he really meant it he would have lambasted the even more grossly misused EU extradition treaty as well.

There have been a number of sensible comments filtering into the news this week on the EU and energy fronts, which has to be a slight cause for limited optimism that a few people are thinking in a more sensible direction.


Yes! Please do, off you go and make it indefinite. Every little helps.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

A suggestion for the scrap metal hunters

Look you lot it simply isn’t on. Ripping out phone lines and railway signal cables and stuff to sell for scrap is dangerous to both you and the rest of us. The returns hardy pay for the time taken in stealing them yet it costs us a small fortune to replace these items.

So why not pack it in and go and do something socially and environmentally useful. Here is a suggestion.

All over the country there are useless tall white columns with fans on top. These columns are made of good quality materials with high scrap value. At the top they have electrical components rich in copper, aluminium and all sorts of rare and expensive elements. You will find them dotted all over the landscape, and most importantly they are very commonly located in areas of low population where they are untended and nobody will see what you are up to. As they don’t work very well anyhow nobody will notice a few less. I suggest you go for the ones that are not turning or on a still night.

So please, get some cutting gear in your vans then go and do the landscape a favour and get to work. Leave us to enjoy our internet, telephone and the useful infrastructure and start clearing up these eyesores. It's a win-win for everyone.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Our digital world

This week has been so full of stupidity, dishonesty, illegal political takeovers, ignorance, financial misdealings and political deceit that I simply don’t know where to start. So I thought I would try and stand back and take a sideways view.

I grew up in an analogue world. Radios, for example, had simple round knobs on the front, one for volume, one for tuning and for the better off listeners ones for bass and treble. Need a bit more treble? Just jog the knob round a bit until it sounds right. Moving out of radio range from one fm transmitter to another? Just jog the tuning knob.

As we moved from our analogue environment into the digital environment everything became more complicated. Need a bit more treble on the car radio? Hold down and repress the setup button and select the treble setting. Check what number is shown. Press a different button to increase the number by one or two.  Moving out of range of the transmitter while you drive down the motorway? Did you programme the next region on a button? No, then find the tuning menu? Enter the frequency or scan? Up or Down? Thus a simple analogue action, which had instant feedback judged immediately and directly by our senses, became more complex and came to require a decision requiring much more knowledge. How many adjustment steps are there? How do we access the menus? Get out of the menus? What do all the buttons do?

For many older people many things that used to be easy like the simple analogue telephone, kitchen appliance, radio, TV have become a trial of memory. Of course the appliances do much more now, often do it much better, but the mental cost is significant. 

But changing to digital thinking may have helped create a far more insidious change, one of attitude. In an analogue world there are shades of grey, there are nuances. You don’t have to choose two or three, you can have two and a bit. You don’t have to follow a rigid selection sequence to get something done. Digital thinking and design has vastly increased functionality and accuracy but at the cost of freedom. To use digital equipment you invariably have to follow a correct sequence of actions, in the right order, then you have to choose one of a range of pre-ordained options. Digital equipment forces simplistic pre-ordained alternatives and is inherently authoritarian.

Looking at society this structured, limited choice scenario has leaked into almost all walks of life. Years ago if you parked on a yellow line Mr Plod would come along and find out why.  If you were thoughtlessly blocking the traffic you got a ticket, if you were picking up great aunt Mabel from the opticians in the pouring rain you probably wouldn’t. Nowadays the CCTV sees you stop, the operator sends a fixed penalty. No nuances, no balance of needs, no humanity in the process, just box ticking yes or no. The questionnaire from the prodnoses asks do you drink, expecting a yes/no choice. No chance to say only on your birthday and Chrismas, you must make the binary choice, a drinker or an abstainer.

Thus I believe we have moved from a society that treated people in an holistic way to one that increasingly defines people, and controls them, in a simplistic and often very unfair tick-box manner.

OK, I’ll try and get back to more mundane stuff soon.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Strictly Come Politicking roundup.

Last week’s programme saw the shock removal of two contestants from the competition. 

Papandreou was firmly ousted from the series, the judges deciding that his routine, although high in dramatic effect and with a bold democratic story line did not have enough time in hold while the steps were clumsy, rushed and broke the rules.

It’s unusual for two contestants to leave in the same week but Berlusconi was also eliminated. The judges were not impressed with his abandoning the usual format of dancing with a real adult woman in favour of dancing with a retinue of anonymous young Italian tarts he had picked up at a party. Despite believing his claims that they were all over 18 and accepting that the women had some stunning moves the judges felt that they were not appropriate moves for a prime time family programme and did little for the formal elegance of the Viennese waltz.

Of the survivors the pairing of Von Rompuy and Cathy Ashdown also came in for serious criticism. The judges castigating Von Rompuy for his heavy handed approach, lack of musicality and absence of charisma, while also noting that yet again his partner had failed to appear. In fact nobody had seen her at all since the series began and doubts were expressed about her aptitude and enthusiasm for the role. 

The highlight of the week was very clearly Sarkozy and Merkel. There were some ongoing difficulties associated with the difference in stature, Sarkozy not displaying the strength or gravitas to lead his partner. His having problems being pulled around the floor when attempting swings and bailouts meant he never looked in charge of the dance. Nevertheless the judges were strongly impressed by the fancy footwork and sleight of hand used to effortlessly remove Greek democracy during their European smooth routine and felt that Angela especially had put in a lot of preparation.

Some viewers voiced a lingering disappointment that the intended partnership of Clegg and Cameron had failed to enter the competition. Rumours suggest that they couldn’t decide who would wear the trousers as neither had the machismo or determination to take the male lead role and they were present only in the audience where they significantly failed to heckle.

We await the results of the viewers’ votes with interest.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

What I said before about shale gas

A while ago I put forward an opinion that we in the UK would not be allowed to see the benefits of abundant cheap shale gas, basically because it nullified the elite's plans for centralised taxation and made mincemeat out of all the green renewable energy nonsense and expenditure they have enforced in the past decade.

Being in Normandy for a couple of days I noticed this bit of news which seems to have escaped publicity in the UK. I think it reinforces my earlier crystal ball gazing and demonstrates the international scope of the carbon scam. Seems like the French have actually revoked existing licences.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

How to make the country cleverer

As always when there is real news happening, stuff like the Euro going down the tubes, countries like Greece and Italy being taken over by German bureaucrats, we get bombarded by trivia on the BBC and in the MSM. Maybe this is what the BBC regard as ‘balance’, one idiotic nonsense story for every serious one?

One topic has been the changing the clocks saga. Personally I hate the change back to GMT, this first week of November always feels like jet lag, being hungry mid morning and mid afternoon, evening twilight starting before the day has properly brightened up and the whole not helped by November typically being a time of thick dark cloud cover so I feel the whole afternoon has been stolen.

This week I just wanted to scream at the ‘blame the Scots’ rhetoric and the imbecilic comments on the BBC. I think many of these people actually believe that altering the clock somehow magically modifies the laws of physics and astronomy and creates an hour of extra daylight. 

I don’t see why we can’t just leave the clock alone and modify working and school hours as appropriate. Counties like Kent that are South and East of Greenwich might then choose to keep school hours of 9 to 3. Places like Northern Ireland where the sun rises later and the day is shorter might want to change school hours later, say 10 to 4. Businesses would follow. Scotland could even consider reducing the school hours in November, December and January and lengthening the school day between Easter and Summer – how’s that for an alternative safety strategy to save the kiddies travelling in the dark?

But I digress. The other piece of BBC trivia this week has been the hours devoted to a study that declares children born in August perform worse than those born in other months. They are youngest in their school year group, less developed and therefore worse at sports, and they end up low in confidence. It makes some logical sense I suppose although I doubt the idea is worth what we paid for it.

However it does lead me to my method for making the UK cleverer. What we do is leave the clocks on GMT. That will prevent so many people being bored and depressed by the early darkness and fewer will go to bed so early. Therefore they will have less sex. Less sex in November means fewer under-achieving August born babies. Thus the nation gets increased educational achievement levels. Is that brilliant or what!