Friday, 25 July 2008

Gordon Gets It All Wrong

Following the disaster of the Glasgow East by-election, Gordon Brown continues to get everything wrong: "Coming from ordinary families as we do and have done, we know what it is like when people go to the supermarket and find that the price of milk, and the price of bread, and the price of eggs have gone up dramatically in recent months," he said (MSN).

Who is this "we"? And what "ordinary families" do they come from?

Thursday, 24 July 2008

NHS Cost Cutting

On a local note: the Lincolnshire Health trusts are planning to close the microbiology lab in Lincoln and expand the one at Scunthorpe, leaving the county with only two labs (the other being in Boston).

This is no doubt a simple cost-cutting measure. Apparently the health trusts have said it will be an 'improvement'. The same kind of 'improvement' you get from closing down libraries, post offices and fire stations.

It's ridiculous that a major hospital in the capital city of the county, in the centre of the county, should have its lab taken away from it. Lincolnshire roads are notoriously dangerous. You can get from Lincoln to Scunthorpe in under an hour if you put your foot down and don't mind risking death by collision with tractors or lorries; and the same for Boston, in 45 - 50 minutes (provided you actually avoid going into Boston during peak hours).

Apart from which, it can take bloody weeks to get a result from a test in Lincoln as it is. Not much point adding a couple of months to that.

Who Are The Real Pirates?

'Six of the UK's biggest net providers have agreed a plan with the music industry to tackle piracy online.' (BBC). The plan is to target illegal file-sharers and slow their broadband down, among other things.

Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the BPI, which represents the music industry, said: "All of the major ISPs in the UK now recognise they have a responsibility to deal with illegal file-sharers on their networks."

I don't agree with that. Why should the ISPs take any responsibility for what goes through their pipes? The big recording companies are always keen to claim that it's their artists who are being ripped off but we all know it's their own profits they're really concerned about.

Nothing like this was ever proposed when we all used cassettes and were busy taping stuff for ourselves and our friends. Nor was it proposed when video recorders and players became available. In fact, what other reason could manufacturers have had except to make machines which would copy programmes and films from the TV and other sources?

I can understand why artists and companies want to prevent their products being pirated for profit, ie being downloaded, copied and sold. Where no money is involved, however, I think it's a different matter. This kind of bullying by big companies, lawyers and the damned EU only complicates things.

What we are watching is part of the inevitable move by big business and government to establish total control of the internet. Neither group likes the idea of something as powerful and global as the internet being out of their control. We are well past the beginning of the internet wars in which business, government and vested interests are determinedly depriving the individual and associations of individuals of their freedom to use the internet according to their own desires.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Ed Balls It Up

Re: the SATS fiasco and ETS, here's Ed Balls response c/o The Telegraph:

'Mr Balls admitted yesterday that he was effectively powerless to sack ETS over the Sats fiasco.

In a letter to the Commons schools select committee, Mr Balls said he shared “the frustration and anger of teachers, children and parents about the delays in the release of test results”.

But he insisted that ministers could not intervene to rip up ETS’s £154m contract to mark papers because the deal was brokered by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the exams watchdog.

Mr Balls said: “The contract with ETS Europe was drawn up and has been managed by QCA, at arms length from ministers, to ensure the independence and objectivity of the testing regime. Any discussions about the contract are legally a contractual matter for the QCA and ETS Europe.'

In other words "Not me, mate, it was him over there," combined with the subtext, "when it comes to dealing with business we're such a bunch of useless fuckwits that we couldn't drive our way out of an empty garage."

Or, as I believe Ball-Brains has said, he's "accountable" but not "responsible". Go stand in the corner, you dunce. And read a bloody dictionary, while you're there.

Handing Over Health To The Beardy Bastard

Branson, the beardy bastard, is sniffing around the health service for easy profits.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Exams Marking Fiasco

The American firm, ETS, was awarded a £154 million, five-year contract (though some confusion here - is it three or five years?) to mark school tests for 11 and 14-year-olds. This is the first year of its operation and it is proving a disaster.

Sats Company Faces Bill Over Delay.

ETS Europe - The Company Behind The Marking Fiasco

English schoolchildren are tested more than any other pupils in the world. This idiotic system, introduced first by the Tories in the 1980s and cretinously embellished by New Labour after them, has spawned a multimillion pound industry. It has also proved stressful, pointless and against the educational interests of children.

When chaps such as I went to school back in the Dark Ages of decent education, pupils were tested at the end of each year by the school and marked by their teachers. I suppose the crude premise was that since your teachers were teaching you day in, day out, for years, they had a pretty good idea of how well you were doing. Results were made known to the parties involved and did not contribute to a ridiculous league table system. Teachers did the marking as part of their work and no money was paid out to external companies or individuals.

The simplest, most reasonable and most equitable system - and the cheapest - would be to abolish all such modern testing in its entirety and revert to the earlier set-up: external marking only for GCSEs and A-levels.

It is appalling that private companies (whether flying under the 'non-profit' flag or not) should be raking in public money for a pointless activity, and doing it so badly.

Friday, 11 July 2008

ID Propaganda Aimed At Young People

The government are obviously very keen to convince young people that ID cards, etc, are a Good Thing and that they ought to join in the fun. So much so that they've set up a website mylifemyid, which they bill as 'the site where 16-25's can have their say about identity issues in the UK'. No doubt they can have their say and be ignored, as is par for the course with the government's 'consultation' practices.

This is obviously part of a long-term plan, ie, get them young and you've got them for life, kind of thing, along with Mrs Pudding Face's PR campaign earlier in the year pitching ID cards at students. That's either bold or deluded, considering the government will be out on its ear in a couple of years.

It's a pretty disreputable tactic, given that the rest of the population are deliberately kept uninformed or misinformed about the ID-database policy. Virtual Surveys Ltd, however, are obviously happy to make a few quid out of the project. Our money, of course. You can't say this government doesn't encourage entrepreneurs.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

EU Happy To Hand Over Our Details To The US

Why not just have all our telephone, banking, travel and internet activity automatically sent to the government, the EU and the fucking Americans as well, just to make sure we have no privacy, no protection and no rights at all?

US licence to snoop on British air travellers (Telegraph)

Brussels to sign away our private data to US (Times)

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Fuck Off Gets You Marks And Other Mad Stories

Sometimes I have to check that it's not April 1st when I read various stories in the UK press. As far as I can tell, the following are all correct.

Pupil gets marks for writing "Fuck off" in GCSE exam. Apparently, if he had correctly added punctuation, in the form of an exclamation mark, he would have earned extra points. Punctuation, however, is not high on the agenda of contemporary schooling.

Community copper forbidden to ride his bike until he has taken official course. A spokeswoman for Kent Police said: "If you have a civilian driving licence you can't drive a police car. The same applies to a bike. Poodling up and down the road on your bike is very different from riding a bike on duty." Somehow I don't see riding a police bicycle is so different from riding a civilian one, do you? And I think she meant "pootling", not "poodling".

Gateshead Council decided that the salt-shakers in their local chippies had too many holes in them. In the interests of health and safety, of course, this could not be allowed. Read on...and in case, you don't trust the Daily Mail (and why should any sane person?) here's the proof.