News from the valley of the trolls

I often wander through the comment sections of the Tellytubbygraph just to see what the denizens are up to, and occasionally dropping my own world weary words into a comment. My favourites have to be Delingpoles blog, and Christopher Bookers articles because of the fruitloops they attract. A mere handful of commenters wage their own little war of words which I take the odd pot shot in just for fun.

One of the things I’ve been made aware of is the use of people actually being paid to troll opinions on said blogs. Well I’m wondering if all those paid trolls are aware that what they are doing may be illegal. Yes, that’s right, against the law and all that jazz. Now I wasn’t aware of this little point of law, but it appears that the paying of people to post opinions, or commission false reviews etc, known as ‘Astroturfing’ is actually illegal.

I almost fell of my chair laughing.

Oh, and my kids Uni exam results are in; decent 2:1’s for both, which is a vindication of everything we’ve helped them out with. All ahead smirk factor 12. Engage!

Justice, Facebook style

The overweight soprano fat lady has not yet begun her dressing room vocal warm up over the post Canucks defeat riot. Pictures of rioters are appearing on Facebook pages, and at least one has been suspended from their prestigious sports team over their behaviour. Another one fired for suggesting that ‘Vancouver needed remodelling’.

This is before the cops and courts have really got into their stride. It’s real community in action stuff. Neighbourhood clean ups are being organised. All via Facebook and Twitter.

Now I’m not normally a fan of Facebook, but on this occasion the applause goes to the people who love the place they live in enough to do this. Many cyber pats on virtual backs are due.

In some ways it’s not surprising. ‘Social Media’ is huge over this side of the continent, and people actively use it. However, I think this is one of those ‘only in Canada’ moments. There’s a freshness of thought and positive attitude over here that makes it all possible. I can’t see this sort of thing gaining much ground in the it’s-someone-else’s-bovver-mate-nuffin-to-do-wiv-me UK. Although I’d love to be proven wrong on that score.

Not that I’m even slightly tempted to think of going back you understand.

Vancouver rocks!

I have to say this. When the riots hit after the Canucks Bruins game the other night, my virtual heart had sunk into it’s dinky little cyber boots. My first thought; had leaving the UK to find a new and better future for me and mine been a hopeless quest? Had we just worked so hard to get here just to find the same old same old?

However, the local press and media today is full of stories where ordinary people stood up to the rioters, and are even actively helping to track the guilty down. Vancouverites demonstrated ownership of their own streets against hostile elements with messages of peace written on boarded store fronts, and handing videos of whack jobs smashing store windows to the Police to do what the cops should with said malefactors. There’s currently a big name and shame thing on Facebook where pictures of the offending low lifes have been posted.

Now I’m sure some tricksy defence lawyer might try to argue that this coverage makes a fair trial impossible, but I’m inclined to say that anyone trying to cop a ‘not guilty’ plea in the face of overwhelming evidence like that should serve double penalty anyway. I just hope the local judges and cops see it that way.

Today my rose tinted specs are sitting firmly across my face, and all I can say to the folks who stood up for their neighbourhoods in Vancouver against the vandals is; guys, you rock! You own your streets. God bless you.

I can only wish that if ever in the same situation I’d have the guts to do what you did. Thank you.

The sound of shattering illusions

Well there go my rose coloured glasses. The Vancouver Canucks got trounced at home, on their own ice, by the Boston Bruins 4-0. What happens? Well, this. What a bunch of sore losers.

Next time the Canucks get into the playoffs for the Stanley cup, I hope Vancouver doesn’t bother with any facilities for Hockey fans on the taxpayer dollar. Especially if this is how the ‘fans’ repay such largesse.

I thought the violence was supposed to be kept on the ice. Looks like I was wrong.

Expanding my reading

Of late I’ve been delving into the works of Paine, Plutarch, Cicero and others in order to fill the gaps in my very patchy education. A friend and fellow whiskey snob pointed me in the direction of Jacob Burckhardt, a 19th Century Swiss Historian who came up with the following gem;

“the state incurs debts for politics, war, and other higher causes and ‘progress’. . . . The assumption is that the future will honor this relationship in perpetuity. The state has learned from the merchants and industrialists how to exploit credit; it defies the nation ever to let it go into bankruptcy. Alongside all swindlers the state now stands there as swindler-in-chief.”

What was true then still seems to be the case.

Ah, me. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Safe in their hands, not

Yet again, another public body chucks sensitive personal data about like so much electronic confetti as seen from this item. 241 ‘Vulnerable’ adults had their personal details and difficulties e-mailed to 361 Taxi, Bus and Minicab companies. Guess who by? A member of Surrey Councils ‘Adult Social Care Team’. For this said council have been fined 120,000GBP of taxpayer funds. There was not one incidence, which might have been forgiven, but three in a year? By the same department? Sheesh.

Back in the days when I worked in IT support there was a saying that certain people should no more be let near computers than a baby be handed sweating Dynamite. Having supported Social Service departments in the past (Oy vey!) I’ve seen them ‘working’ and come across some seriously weird shit. Personed as these departments generally appear to be by arts and social science graduates, this does not come a complete surprise. Well, not that much, although just when you thought the Social Workers had come up with something stranger than fiction, along comes the next jaw dropper. These guys seem(ed), although it seems that little has changed, to have all the tech savvy of a heavily sedated Three Toed Sloth, although that might be considered harsh judgment as far as the Sloth is concerned. I mean, comparing them to UK Social Services, that’s hardly fair, is it? Sloths generally speaking, are far more mentally adept and quick thinking than the average on duty UK local government employee. Probably more IT literate than the average UK arts graduate too from all accounts.

To highlight my case; at the University of Warwick, many years ago there was a graffiti in the Engineering blocks men’s toilet. I think it was on the third floor. Time and alcohol dim the memory, so I can’t be sure (Not that I ever studied there – it was at a party I think). The specific little missive was scrawled next to a toilet paper dispenser and read; “Social Science Degree – please take one.” It would seem little changes. In addition there was once a satirical magazine called ‘Punch’, which went under in 2002 once attracting writers like Alan Coren. During my formative days, home always had a pile of said doughty publication to peruse on rainy days (Including the complete Diaries of Idi Amin). I recall one of Alan’s satirical pieces from the 1970’s about the drive of the then UK Labour government (History repeating itself? Anyone?) to send more people to University. He had two Woolworths (Another fading memory – modern equivalent think Wal-Mart) sales assistants discussing the poor quality of ‘redbrick’ Arts degrees, and how the only person with brains enough to get a job mopping the floor at Marks and Spencers had a double first from Kings College Oxford. So devalued was the educational currency even then.

The funny thing is that organizations recruit people with such qualifications and never give them any relevant basic training with their working tools, to wit email etc. Then they wonder why they get massive cock-ups like being fined for cavalier treatment of people’s personal data. No wonder no-one with a functioning brain cell trusts the UK public sector with their data any more.

Ah me. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Keynesian Stimulus or sedative

I’ve been watching all the lending and ‘stimulus’ packages being implemented across the Western world. Essentially what a ‘stimulus’ comprises of is a raft of measures to pay off crippling debt for large scale employers. It was tried in the UK to save the Steel and Motor industries in the UK back in the 1970’s along with bouts of printing money and it didn’t work. Our friends down south are in the middle of a very similar exercise, but that’s not working either. This time it’s been the motor and financial sectors in receipt of Government (a.k.a. Taxpayer)largesse. So why isn’t it working?

All very Keynesian. With predictable results. The downturn turns down even further. Inflation up. Unemployment up. Taxes up. Debt accelerating. Yet the big political brains can’t figure out why their economies aren’t recovering. Which kind of makes you wonder about how big their brains really are. They don’t see that the problem exists within the very nature of large corporate or governmental institutions.

Now having worked within the lower levels of local and national government institutions, I’ve seen the root of the problem first hand. It’s not that individual departments aren’t efficient, it’s just that they perform too many conflicting internal functions rather than effectively cooperating. In essence feeding off themselves, delivering very poor bang for buck. Within such structures the cost of non-core business functions like compliance and outreach is immense. Such is the case with public institutions, but because they don’t have to show a profit, only spend a budget, this on-cost is exacerbated tenfold and then some.

There is the mistaken idea that Governments can, like when Dick Dastardly implores his sidekick Muttley to “Do something!”. Well they can, and then again they can’t. The bigger government gets and the more functions demanded of it, the more complex legislation becomes. The more complicated the legislation becomes, the more bodies are involved with ‘Compliance’ of the legislation. The more conflicting departments and agencies are formed to ‘combat’ a specific issue, the worse the issue becomes because of all the issue and human conflict avoidance that goes on within such organisations. All of which eats up money and GDP removed from the productive sector in taxes like a nest of hyperactive mega-termites. Thus acting as a drag on (or even completely undermining) the rest of the economy.

What Keynes discovered, a little late in the day, is that Government eats money. Government does not generate the substance of money, which is the economic activity and value underpinning a currency, except by printing more. Simply printing more money leads to excessive (With the risk of hyper) inflation, businesses closing because the money supply is out of control, and so greater unemployment. Hiring more people in non-productive (e.g. ‘Government’) work only exacerbates the problem.

In 1946, ten days before his death, Keynes was heard to say;

“I find myself more and more relying for a solution of our problems on the invisible hand which I tried to eject from economic thinking twenty years ago.”

Referring to the work of Adam Smith, author of ‘Wealth of nations’. Keynes seemed to have understood, albeit latterly in 1946, that his theories of economic practice were failing. So why do governments still utilise the practices he advocated? Especially when it has been repeatedly demonstrated that Keynsian policies only extend economic downturns rather than aid recovery?

I would argue that the ‘stimulus’ type activity by governments acts only as a stimulus for the public sector, and as a sedative for the private sector it feeds upon.

Where the private sector fails is where more successful people (In both private and public sectors) dehumanise others because they only see them as numbers on a balance sheet. Where it succeeds is treating people as a non-renewable resource, and delivering good customer service. Government can do this too, although not very often, as anyone who has contact with bureaucracy (in general terms) can testify.

Where large institutions and Governments fail is when personal initiative is subsumed to the monolithic implementation of an ever more complicated ‘Rule Book’, rather than successfully addressing specific issues. This is the current situation, and so long as the ‘Rule Book’ mindset remains in place, this will continue. There is too much wastage in the system of large corporate and governmental institutions for it to be otherwise.

Thus will Keynsian policies continue to sedate rather than stimulate economies.

Ivan Reitman once made a movie called ‘Dave’, where one of the characters, an accountant, vouchsafed; “If I ran my business this way, I’d be bankrupt in a month!”. The rest of said hopey changey movie is economic twaddle. Great fun, and one of my all time favourites, but still twaddle.

Nuclear Explosion time lapse 1945-1998


Picked this up off the Dailymotion video site. Over two thousand nuclear tests between 1945 and 1998 (and look at how many the ‘Cheese eating surrender monkeys‘ have detonated). Sobering, yes?

Well it would be if WordPress would cooperate with the embedding.  Looks like the title URL is too long. Correction; WordPress doesn’t seem to support MP4 Embedding. Will correct after work today. Found a copy on YouTube.

Christchurch NZ magnitude 6.0

Christchurch NZ earthquake 13th June 2011 Latest news following the last rather large teeth rattler in Kiwi land is that no one has been hurt and disruption is minimal. There’s a twitter feed here for those worried about road, rail and airport disruption. There’s also been a lot of 3+ magnitude stuff going on.

Screengrab as usual from the excellent Christchurch Earthquake map.

Update: Still a lot of 3+ magnitude, but today three broke the 4.0 mark and there was a 5 magnitude, all these larger shocks recorded around the Port Levy / Pigeon bay area.

Expatriate expostulations from Canada; a.k.a. A Sarcastic man abroad trying to stay in the middle of the road without getting run over.

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