Archive for December, 2009

No matter who you vote for, the Government always gets in

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

No matter who you vote for, the Government always gets in” is the title old Neil Innes/Vivian Stanshall song, written in the late 1960’s.

http://lyricsplayground.com/alpha/songs/n/
nomatterwhoyouvoteforthegovernmentalwaysgetsin.shtml

Forty years later and it seems that today the lyrics of the Bonzo Dog’s humourous little ditty have become frighteningly relevant. Fact is that our once-proud nation is not far from becoming a dictatorship. Sure the faces in Parliament change from time-to-time. But the policies don’t. Neither do the lies and cover-ups. For example, have you ever tried to find out how much of our money has been wasted on say Iraq and Afghanistan? Basically you can’t because of “national security“. In fact, these are some of the least accountable and most opaquely funded wars in modern history.

Granted they’ll tell us about the dead, because it’s hard to hide flag-draped coffins. Besides, nicely-presented dead service-people boost national morale, according to some MOD “thinkers“. It makes people more enthusiastic about the wars(s), aparently. Personally I find that notion utterly obscene and it breaks my heart every time I see one. But you try to find out how many of our young people have been crippled for life? You can’t! It’s secret! In fact, everywhere you look, vital pieces of information are being withheld from us, supposedly “for our own good“. To compensate, we are fed a never-ending diet of soft porn, crime drama and reality TV by the very media whose job it is to keep us informed. That’s because in reality we actually have no real opposition to Government at all, if you think about it…

Over the last 20 years, we have seen a steady erosion of our civil liberties and freedoms, whilst our Governments and the corporations that line their pockets have robbed us blind and scared us into believing it is “for our own protection“. I’m not saying the proverbial grass is greener. I think actually it is worse in places like the United States where the so-called “anti-terror” legislation has given them the Patriot Act – meaning amongst many other things that librarians had to tell the Government what books you are reading! So much for the “Land of the Free“!

But the fact is that right here, right now in Old Blighty, we are sleepwalking our way towards a police state, whilst being forced to pay ever higher taxes for ever poorer services. Today we are expected to tolerate a level of corruption, obfuscation and incompetence from those that are paid to protect us, on a scale that was unimaginable even thirty years ago. Yet anyone who dares to complain is branded a “traitor“, “unpatriotic“, a “terrorist sympathiser” or told simply that he or she “should be grateful“.

Well I’m not!

Check out Ralph Nader’s “Corporate Fascism” video. Takes a few minutes to get going. But stick with it. This guy explains the phenomenon far, far better than I can:-
http://video.google.com/videoplay?do…76553130&hl=en

Honk! Honk!

Not a conspiracy theorist!

Saturday, December 12th, 2009

The other day, someone accused me of being a conspiracy theorist. So I thought as long and hard about this as my little goosy brain would allow.

You see, I really don’t subscribe to conspiracy theories. I think our present situation (e.g. the stupid, costly wars in Iraq & Afghanistan, MP’s fiddling their expenses, financial meltdown, banker’s outrageous bonuses et al) is better explained by cock-up theory – obviously with generous measures of good, old-fashioned greed, ignorance and stupidity thrown-in.

If one considers that Fiascos R US our Government, and many of those who run our “great” corporations really could not organise a proverbial booze-up in a brewery, and that primarily their main objective is fast, short-term gains, then it is hard to imagine that anything they conspired to do would ever have very much long-term success. Therefore, I believe it is cock-up and not conspiracy that really gives our current situation its lingering, dung-like aroma and consistency.

Honk! Honk!

The Broadband Tax – another Great British failure in the making…

Saturday, December 12th, 2009

Seems that once again, one of the most highly taxed nations on Earth, is about to suffer yet another tax. This time everyone who has a landline will pay £6.00 a year extra tax. And they will pay VAT on top of that. All landline subscribers will have to pay, regardless of whether they use the internet or not.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology…igital-britain

Granted, the so called Broadband Tax is small compared to many of the others that UK citizens have to endure and the scheme is correspondingly shabby and cut-price when you actually look at the figures. The aim is for 2Mbit/s line to 90 % of households by 2017 – which will seem decidedly third-world by then.

http://www.itproportal.com/portal/ne…broadband-tax/

If one studies the scheme in more detail then it becomes clear just how shabby it really is…

  1. 10% of households will still not have broadband by 2017 even if the scheme is a success – which is doubtful.
  2. The 2 MBit/s is notional. The lines are likely to have 50:1 contention meaning that real speeds could be considerably slower.
  3. 90% broadband by 2017 seems very third-rate compared with France’s “Haut Debit Pour Tous” or “Broadband for All” which it plans to have in place by 2012. http://www.fiercetelecom.com/story/f…ans/2009-12-09
  4. The tax raised, approximately £170 million, is chicken feed. To put this in perspective, it is just over a tenth of the £1.5 billion that the taxpayer is paying in bonuses to the senior execs of the failed City of London banks this year.
  5. Meantime, our national telecoms provider, British Telecom PLC (AKA BT) reckons it actually needs £5 billion to do the job properly.

Much of the blame for our hopeless telecoms system actually rests with BT in the first place. This is a highly privileged profit-making company, born out of Margaret Thatchers privatisation programme in the 1980s. Since then, it has become both a laughing stock and a national disgrace. BT is just as arrogant as it was when it was the GPO but with none of the public service ethic. It was clear in the mid 1990’s that our communications infrastructure was woefully inadequate. Yet BT once again put its short term profits before the long term needs of its customers and did as little as possible to rectify the situation.

What BT's logo should look like

Meantime the Government & its toothless watchdogs watched it all go pear-shaped but did nothing to stop it. Now, if we had a Government that actually stood up to useless greedy corporations such as BT, then it would legally compel BT to sort the mess out at its own expense. If BT failed to do so in a timely manner, then the Government could deploy a number of fairly major sanctions against it, for example:-

  1. Sackings, heavy fines or even prison terms for BT’s senior board members who failed to meet their legal obligations.
  2. Renationalise BT perhaps by confiscating the stock holdings of its major shareholders.
  3. Break up BT and allow its competitors to operate key areas of its business. Of course, competitors who took over BT’s businesses would face similar sanctions if they failed to deliver. This is to avoid another recurrence of Virgin Media Syndrome, i.e. “So what if we’re rubbish? We’re not as bad as BT, so there’s nothing you can do about it!

Now that would get my vote!

Real problem though is the Government has run out of money. It won’t actually say what it squandered on Iraq and Afghanistan, but it runs into billions. Added to which, Brown’s chronic mismanagement of the economy and particularly the banking sector has meant that cash that should be used for improving our nation’s crumbling infrastructure is being wasted propping up failed banking corporations (and paying their senior execs yet another £1.5 billion in bonuses). The financial services fiasco is currently costing an average of £5,500.00 to every family in the country and could rise to a staggering £40,000.00 in the near future.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/
finance/newsbysector/
banksandfinance/6722123/
Bailing-out-the-banks-cost-5500-per-family.html

Yet Brown and his hapless buddies at Fiascos R Us er, I mean the British Government continue to squander vast sums of our money. For example, MP’s of all parties still have their greedy, slobbering snouts very heavily embedded in the proverbial trough as they continue to submit their highly dubious expenses claims. Who can blame them? Brown’s much publicised clean-up, like so many of his policies, was as useless and ineffective as he is.

This means there are no water-tight guarantees that the money will actually go where it should anyway! Still, I guess an additional £170,000,000 would clean a heck of a lot of moats and buy an awful lot of new duck houses, flat-screen TV’s, flats for your relatives, porn videos, second homes, scatter cushions etc. etc. etc. A fact that many “Honourable” Members of the House have convincingly proven already!

Worse, it’s only 10% of what’s being donated by the taxpayer this year in order to pay the bonuses of those poor old failed-bank executives in the City of London. Now I foolishly thought it would be nice if we could use some of that money to update our Broadband provision rather than introducing yet another tax. But then I realised that we can’t have the poor little lambkins in the City going without their brand-new Porsches now, can we?

Of course, if we have a change of Government next year, then the Broadband Tax will probably be dropped anyway.

Honk! Honk!

Grim times ahead

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

I was browsing my way through a UK technology forum the other day when I noticed a couple of posts from some very bright young people who were complaining about their difficulty finding work. I did rather feel for them. Trouble is that it’s a hard time all round at the moment. Moreover, despite what our politicians tell us, I think it’s not likely to get any better any time soon. Therefore, rather than beating themselves up over this, I think we need all to stand back a little and take stock of what has happened to our once-great nation over the last few years:-

Main trouble is that we have squandered vast sums of money on two pointless Middle-Eastern wars – one of which was actually illegal, both of which lasted longer than World War II, and neither of which we stand the remotest chance of winning. Moreover, to hide his mismanagement of the economy, the one-eyed Scottish idiot in charge of this country, Gordon Brown, secretly flogged of huge chunks of the country’s gold reserves at a fraction of their value, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Meantime, he also allowed the banking system to fail to such an extent that he is now spending vast sums of money the Government does not actually have, in order to prop it up again. It is an unprecedented mess of near-biblical proportions. Don’t believe me, my little goslings? Take a gander at this:-

https://www.cia.gov/library/publicat…/2187rank.html

Compare the UK’s position with that of say Germany or Japan – countries that wisely avoided the Iraq fiasco. Even more scary, the nation at the top, China, has actually lent the nation at the bottom, the United States, 40% of what Bush was blowing on Iraq at the rate of $2000 per second! Basically the planet’s supposedly richest nation is now in serious hock to China with no means of ever paying back the debt.

Worse, the USA’s new president, despite his election promises, seems determined to continue with the economic and political suicide that is Afghanistan. Right now, he is busy preparing another 50,000 young Americans to be pointlessly slaughtered, injured or seriously traumatised there – all at the US taxpayers expense, and no-doubt underwritten by financiers in Beijing.

Our long-term problems here in Blighty are even worse than those of the USA. For a start, our economy is linked far too closely to that of the USA – much more than any of our rivals for bottom place on the CIA chart. Then you need to turn the clock back to when Thacher and her cronies destroyed most of our industrial base, back in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Meantime they flogged off all our national utilities to the highest bidder under the great lie of the time, “Privatisation would improve quality of service.

So today, key parts of our nation’s vital infrastructure is mismanaged by shabby privatised outfits such as British Telecom PLC – just as arrogant and untouchable as the GPO it replaced but with none of the public service ethic. And as a result, we have to put up with an inadequate telecommunications infrastructure that would not look out of place in sub-Saharan Africa. We have falling oil and gas reserves, mismanaged by gaggle of competing, often foreign-owned corporations, semi-regulated by incoherent and incomprehensible energy policies; road and rail systems that are a national disgrace… I could go on, but I won’t…

As a consequence, the bulk of our national wealth generation relies far too heavily on an American-led financial services sector, that is as incompetent as it is dishonest. And too many of its corporations and their senior executives now seem above the law as they go unpunished for fraud, deception and negligence on a mammoth scale. This alone has seriously damaged confidence within the business community. And despite taking billions of pounds of taxpayers money, and continuing to pay massive bonuses to their useless executives, the big banks are still not lending to the businesses that so desperately need it!

Of course, the true masters of dishonesty and incompetence are the self-seeking buffoons that make up our ailing New Labour Government. Its leaders, Blair and Brown have overseen levels of control-freakery, corruption, greed, sleaze, stupidity and total contempt for the electorate, to which the last Tory Government could only aspire!

So I’m afraid you young folks are in for a very hard time indeed – through absolutely no fault of your own. Moreover your children and possibly even their children will continue to pay for the legacy of the Bush-Blair-Brown-Obama era for many, many years to come.

Don’t have nightmares. Honk! Honk!

Another very good reason not to trust large American corporations

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

The other day, I exported a pile of OpenOffice.org documents to Portable Document Format via its built in PDF exporter.  When I sent them to a friend – who is sadly still saddled with Microsoft Windoze. She soon started moaning that the PDF’s I sent her had returned an “invalid colorspace” error in her Acrobat reader. I never noticed the problem. On my lappy, I have several open source PDF readers that all work fine. Besides, it seems that Adobe can’t be bothered to produce a 64-bit version of its reader for Linux anyway!

Nevertheless, I did a bit of reading around the subject:-

Turns out that the latest Adobe Acrobat Reader no longer reads PDF/a-1a, long-term-archive files as produced by OpenOffice.org. Now I wonder why that could be? Let’s see…

  1. Early versions of Acrobat reader worked perfectly and could read all PDF files produced by free, open source PDF creators.
  2. All the open source readers, Evince, kPDF et al also worked perfectly – and still do!
  3. Adobe has largest market share for PDF readers but is concerned by the increase in popularity of free, open source PDF creators because Acrobat, its own PDF creator costs an arm and a leg and is highly profitable.
  4. Suddenly Adobe brings out a version of its PDF reader that no longer reads PDF/a-1a, long-term-archive files, produced by free, open source PDF creators.
  5. PDF files produced by free, open source PDF creators are now effectively rendered useless, especially for long-term archiving purposes.
  6. Moreover the problem remains unfixed and ignored for many months.

I wonder if anyone can spot a pattern emerging here?

The moral of the story, my little goslings, is never, ever trust your data to the proprietary format belonging to a large American corporation!

Honk! Honk!