Saturday, 29 August 2009

In Praise of Alex Hilton

OK, I know he's bound up in Labour politics, but his little Baltimore stunt is worthy of some praise.

Why? Because it exposed yet again the utter falsehood about journalists as steady, careful, scrupulous fact checkers. The Independent, The Guardian and the BBC all got caught out.

It wouldn't take much to check. Google "Mayor Baltimore" would have shown it wasn't the site, maybe emailled the Mayor (Hilton left the email addresses as the original ones) or perhaps checked the domain name.

Would I have gotten caught out? Maybe. But then, I don't make any claims about my journalistic abilities.

The one thing that might have got me wondering about it is the fact that Baltimore is a very violent city. I knew this for some time, but I just looked it up and it's the 5th most violent city in the USA. I'd be surprised if the mayor of Baltimore decided to go on the defensive about it's level of violence in such a way as to compare it with Midsomer. And that the YouTube channel only had 1 video might have made me wonder about it.

But how long would it have taken for journalists to do a WHOIS on the website? That will tell you exactly who registered it (and Alex Hilton is right there).

Friday, 28 August 2009

Powell and Kennedy

From The Telegraph:-

Gordon Brown has described Senator Edward Kennedy as "a great internationalist" who inspired social progress around the world as he joined tributes to the leading Democrat.

You know how Hannan (and the Conservatives) have been labelled as racists because Hannan said that he was influenced by Enoch Powell (despite the fact that Hannan has said that he didn't agree with his views on immigration)?

Can we therefore assume that Gordon Brown thinks that getting drunk and leaving dead women in cars to drown is OK?

Naked Sushi

From The Sun:-

Eating raw fish off a naked woman might not be to everyone's taste but it is the latest craze for stars all over the world.

Most people just prefer a tuna taco.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

High Speed Rail

From The Independent:-

Under the proposals, the new trains would run from London and travel to Birmingham, Manchester, Warrington, Liverpool, Preston, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Passengers could reach Birmingham in just 45 minutes.

The thing is, I'm quite sceptical about that "Birmingham in just 45 minutes" thing. The fastest TGV service, TGV-Est takes 45 minutes to travel from Paris to Reims. Paris to Reims is about 90 miles, where London to Birmingham is 110 miles.

Now, there's no doubt that high speed constantly gets quicker, but over relatively short distances there is so much time in acceleration and braking (as well as limited speed in suburban areas) that the room for improvement is slight. The thing that almost no high speed advocates recognise about France is the scale of the country and the distribution of cities.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009


OK, set aside the question of privacy, should we have so many of these? From The Telegraph:-

Fewer than one crime is solved by every 1,000 closed circuit television cameras, the Metropolitan Police, Britain's biggest police force, has admitted.

So, to solve one crime, we have to fit, install and support 1,000 CCTV cameras? How much does that cost?

A large proportion of the cash has been In London, where an estimated £200 million so far has been spent on the cameras. This suggests that each crime has cost £20,000 to detect.

I can't help thinking that maybe hiring a few more coppers on the street might be more effective.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Envy of the World...

.. yea, right.


The Rest of Us Spend Our Own Money

BBC Spends £11,000 on Leaving Party for Jenny Abramsky

The BBC spent more than £11,000 of licence payers' money on a leaving party for executive Dame Jenny Abramsky, it was revealed today.

After 39 years of service, the former director of Audio & Music was thrown a lavish do at BBC Radio Theatre in Broadcasting House.

The extravagant celebration included a food and drinks bill of £8,130, £575 on invitations and £1,320 on event management, according to figures quoted in the Daily Telegraph.

So, an £11K party for 540 guests for someone who's leaving?

In the big long list of "things you're doing wrong", one of the first is doing anything for people who are leaving. You don't have to stop them leaving (obviously) or motivate them in any way.

OK, I'm not against a send-off, but the fanciest one I ever went to was for a head of IT at a large company. His send off was in the big conference room, and the catering staff put out glasses of champagne and orange juice and some crisps and nibbles. It certainly wouldn't have cost £20 each to put that on. The "event management" would have involved his PA sending out an email to everyone.

'After such a long period of distinguished service many people wanted to show their respect and appreciation for Jenny's outstanding contribution to the organisation and this was reflected in a guest list of 540 who were invited to the event.'

If you want to show your respect and admiration, do it with your own goddamned money, not mine.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Cameron on Hannan

"He does have some quite eccentric views about some things, and political parties always include some people who don't toe the party line on one issue or another issue."

Eccentric? Look, Hannan's views aren't eccentric. Apart from the bit about "it makes people iller" which was a bit extreme and his opinion that lots of people didn't like it (tragically, they do), everything that he said about the NHS was factually correct.

What I really want to know is exactly what the Conservatives are going to do that's going to reform it to make it a whole lot more efficient than what's there now. While telling me that my local hospital is terrible might make me better informed, if I am still stuck with being sent there, it doesn't make any chuffing difference.

Thursday, 13 August 2009


I've been on Twitter looking at various people talking about the NHS and how much they love it.

"Without the NHS, my little boy would have died in premature birth".
"Because of the NHS, my gran had a hip operation".

Now look, you fucking idiots. It's not because of "The NHS" that those things happened. It's because you, me and everyone else in this country got money taken out of our pay packet. And as a tax contributor, I'd frankly appreciate a few #ILoveIndependentRamblings hashtags around, thank you.

The NHS don't even pioneer or do things better. Cancer survival rates are worse than Poland despite the fact that we spend much more (why don't we just send people to Poland for treatment?).

The NHS is actually a bit shit, to be frank. If you turn up and start expecting anything more than they are prepared to give you, you are treated like a cunt.

The problem is that most people in the UK think it's great because they've been repeatedly told how great it is. Most of them have no idea about systems in Germany, France or Switzerland that deliver better outcomes while providing universal coverage.

Illegal Spice

Before anyone starts to panic that this is a story about an old band reforming, I'm referring to the government's idea to make a "legal high" called Spice illegal.

Now, I know that there's perhaps a potential risk of harm to people and all that, but wouldn't it be better just to let it run its course and see what happens. as a bit of a social experiment? See if it does become a serious problem, if the hospitals end up full up with the victims of it or not?

We already have a legal psychedelic drug in this country: khat. It gets flown in and consumed by Somalis and Yemenis. Society has not collapsed because of it.

Let it run its course, give us more data and I'm sure it will show that on balance, legalising is worthwhile. Or at least, the data will inform us better.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

What Oldham Needs: More Unemployment

I used to have a client who were based near Oldham. It's one of the most depressing places I've ever visited in my life. A complete dump.

So, you'd think that they'd be quite desperate for any shreds of economic activity. But no...

Tony Allen, Oldham's licensing officer, said: "The price of alcohol became so cheap that it was attracting people who didn't have a lot of money to spend.

"That type of clientele was attracted to the town and that, we think, led to more violence and more issues concerning that over-consumption."

In case you don't know, Oldham is about 5 miles from Manchester and connected by train. I'm guessing that people looking for a cheap night out get on the train and go to Oldham to get pissed.

Now, Oldham wants to raise the prices and turn the pubs into fun free zones. Can we guess what's likely to happen?

People won't get on a train from Manchester to Oldham and will instead find somewhere closer to drink.

OK, so on the upside, Oldham will lose some trouble and mess. But the downside is that jobs will be lost in their pub, taxi and doner kebab businesses. And the fact is that the tax on alcohol more than covers the violence that it creates.

(from The Telegraph)

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

A Degree in Comedy

What do you call the most pointless qualification imaginable? A Degree in Comedy.

OK, it's not much of a joke, but a degree in comedy is.

Really, I can think of nothing more stupid. Some of my favourite comedians are the following people:-

- Steven Wright. OK, he's got a College qualification.
- Richard Pryor. Expelled from school.
- Eddie Murphy. Started writing comedy at 15.
- George Carlin. Dropped out of school.
- Paul Merton. Left school with an O level in Woodwork.
- Woody Allen*. Was writing at the age of 16.
- Mel Brooks. Comedian is a child.
- Chris Rock. Not sure.

In other words, it really doesn't take much education to be a great comic, and certainly you don't need any qualifications.

Miss George, from Ventnor, on the Isle of Wight, said: 'It is fantastic to be the first girl to complete the course and I think it shows that women can compete with the guys when it comes to comedy.

No, it doesn't mean shit. You've got a piece of paper, which frankly, you've wasted 3 years of your life and thousands of pounds on. It doesn't mean you're the next Eddie Murphy or the next Joan Rivers.

You get a mic and make people laugh more than other comics. That's when you prove you can compete.

There are just too many degrees in subjects that aren't degree-worthy, where traditionally, other routes were taken which served them just fine. Comedy is a mixture of watching others, developing your own style, and some mentoring by more experienced comic writers.