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Well, who could possibly have seen that coming?

[sarc] No, really, this is completely unexpected, isn’t it? [/sarc]

A series of hacks perpetrated against so-called “smart meter” installations over the past several years may have cost a single electric company hundreds of millions of dollars annually, the FBI said in a cyber intelligence bulletin obtained by KrebsOnSecurity.

The US law enforcement agency said this was the first known report of criminals compromising the hi-tech meters, and that it expected this type of fraud to spread across the country as more utilities deploy smart grid technology.

[…]

… insiders and individuals with only a moderate level of computer knowledge are likely able to compromise meters with low-cost tools and software readily available on the internet.

Sometime in 2009, an electric utility in Puerto Rico asked the FBI to help it investigate widespread incidents of power thefts that it believed was related to its smart meter deployment. In May 2010, the bureau distributed an intelligence alert about its findings to select industry personnel and law enforcement officials.

Citing confidential sources, the FBI said it believed former employees of the meter manufacturer and employees of the utility were altering the meters in exchange for cash and training others to do so.

“These individuals are charging $300 to $1000 to reprogram residential meters, and about $3000 to reprogram commercial meters,” the alert states.

The FBI believes that miscreants hacked into the smart meters using an optical converter device – such as an infrared light – connected to a laptop that allows the smart meter to communicate with the computer. After making that connection, the thieves changed the settings for recording power consumption using software that can be downloaded from the internet.

I’ve always thought there was a certain amount that’s pretty dumb about ‘smart’ meters but that they could be hacked – and let’s face it, illegal meter fiddling has a long and inglorious history anyway – I thought was a foregone conclusion. Personally I have no clue at all how to fiddle an old fashioned meter and I’ve only ever met one person who claimed to have done it, and I took that with a pinch of salt, but if anyone can download the software from the internet I’d expect meter fiddling to become much more common. This doesn’t thrill me much since I’m stupid enough to be honest and so I’ll no doubt be paying someone else’s share once everyone in Victoria has a smart meter and hacking the fucking things has made its way here too.

And the way some of them can be hacked… oh dear!

The bureau also said another method of attacking the meters involved placing a strong magnet on the devices, which caused it to stop measuring usage, while still providing electricity to the customer.

“This method is being used by some customers to disable the meter at night when air-conditioning units are operational. The magnets are removed during working hours when the customer is not home, and the meter might be inspected by a technician from the power company.”

A magnet, FFS.

Because the meter continues to report electricity usage, it appears be operating normally. Since the meter is read remotely, detection of the fraud is very difficult. A spot check of meters conducted by the utility found that approximately 10 per cent of meters had been altered.”

Palm, this is face. Face, meet palm. I don’t suppose we can call a halt to the roll outs now, can we?

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PETA jump the shark

Except it must of course be a free range shark rather than that poor thing in the cage that the Fonz jumped over, or so I’d assume from this.

A JUDGE for the first time in US history has heard arguments in a case that could determine whether animals enjoy the same constitutional protection against slavery as human beings.

US District Judge Jeffrey Miller called the hearing in San Diego after Sea World asked the court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) that names five orcas as plaintiffs in the case.

Now I’m not a fan of orcas and dolphins in captivity and won’t pay a cent to go see them (and I have paid well to see them in the wild). If the orcas themselves had squeaked and clicked at a lawyer and sued Sea World I’d be barracking for them, but since the orcas are animals I just hope that people get over this kind of thing and Sea World gradually diminishes. They may be very bright animals but as with the iPad apps for cats thing the other day I think it’s anthropomorphising to go much further. Any being that’s clearly able to speak up for itself and complain that its rights are being infringed I’m on the side of, and ownership of such a being is slavery or something very much like it. But as far as I know the only such being is a human being, and even then not all of them qualify. Children need looking after while they are still children and while we don’t own our kids as such that can’t really be said to own themselves either.

Animals, even very bright ones, are a different story, but it’s a story that PETA seems not to have not heard.

“This case is on the next frontier of civil rights,” said PETA lawyer Jeffrey Kerr, representing the five orcas.

It’s on the next frontier of something, alright.

Sea World’s lawyer, Theodore Shaw, called the lawsuit a waste of the court’s time and resources. He said it defies common sense and goes against 125 years of case law applied to the American constitution’s 13th amendment, which prohibits slavery between humans.

As I’ve indicated, I’m not all that keen on supporting Sea World in keeping orcas but I think he may just have a bit of a point here. Look at what it says in the US Constitution:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

‘We the People’ not ‘We the People and Cetaceans’, and nor was anyone involved in drafting, signing and ratifying the Constitution a member of any species other than Homo sapiens. That’s not a one-off use: even before we get to the Bill of Rights ‘the People’ are mentioned again in Article 2 where it talks of membership of the House of Representatives, and even in California dolphins do not have the vote. In the Bill of Rights itself the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 9th, and 10th Amendments all explicitly refer to people (in the first person in the case of the 5th), the 3rd doesn’t but must as well because it relates to land ownership, and it can be inferred in the remaining three amendments since they relate to judicial proceedings such as excessive bail, impartial juries and so on, and you wouldn’t expect anyone to put a dolphin on trial. Later Amendments, such as the 14th which refers to citizenship and the rights and liberties that come with it, again refer to people and there’s no mention in the two that extend suffrage beyond the 19th Century ‘white guys only’ model refer only to race and sex respectively. ‘Species’ doesn’t get a mention because – duh – animals physically can’t vote anyway, and in fact both speak only of citizens so we’re back to the 14th and people again. In fact it seems so blindingly obvious that ‘duh’ could almost be the whole argument if lawyers weren’t all prolix bastards that put me to shame.

“With all due respect, the court does not have the authority to even consider this question,” Mr Shaw said, adding later: “Neither orcas nor any other animal were included in the ‘We the people’ … when the constitution was adopted.”

Quite, and probably as close as a lawyer can come to ‘Well, duh’.

The judge raised doubts a court could allow animals to be plaintiffs in a lawsuit, and questioned how far the implications of a favourable ruling could reach, pointing out the military’s use of dolphins and scientists’ experiments on whales in the wild.

Sounds like he’s trying to find a more official legalese version of ‘duh’ as well. Incidentally, I wouldn’t shed a tear if the military stopped using dolphins but I’d rather it was because of human ingenuity producing something that does the job better or, at a push, statute law forbidding it.

Mr Kerr acknowledged PETA faces an uphill battle but said he felt positive after Monday’s hearing.

“This is an historic day,” Mr Kerr said.

“For the first time in our nation’s history, a federal court heard arguments as to whether living, breathing, feeling beings have rights and can be enslaved simply because they happen to not have been born human. By any definition these orcas have been enslaved here.”

Big deal. You can go to court and argue that Elvis came from the stars and therefore his will was invalid and Gracelands should become public property, but that doesn’t mean you’re not talking bollocks. Bottom line, the Constitution is a document for and about human beings. Call that speciesist if you want, but that’s how it’s got to be unless you want to extend human rights and citizenship to non-humans, which might raise further problems for some of Sea World’s orcas.

Click for linky

A SeaWorld killer whale has snatched a trainer from a poolside platform, thrashing the woman about underwater in its jaws and killing her in front of a horrified audience.

It is the third time the animal, named Tilikum, has been involved in a human death.

[…]

A marine conservationist at the American Museum of Natural History believes the whale’s actions at SeaWorld were intentional.

Extending human rights to animals, even bright ones, cuts both ways. Humans have responsibilities as well as rights, top of which is the responsibility to other humans. Many of us fail to respect that and there are legal sanctions for those who do so. In much of the US, including in Florida where the Sea World trainer was killed, those sanctions include the death penalty. But of course nobody would consider an animal that’s killed a human is a murderer because they’re not human. Well, apart from PETA who seem to think you don’t have to be born human to have a human’s legal status.

I wouldn’t ascribe malice to it myself, but that’s not the point. If it was a human doing it there would be an investigation and, if appropriate, charges. If the orcas are to be treated as if they are humans then that must mean treating them exactly as if they’re human, in all respects.

And what else might this mean? Sea World could then be sued, probably into bankruptcy, for many years back pay for the orcas, who’d doubtless have another self appointed PETA lawyer insisting that they be recognised as employees in the entertainment industry. Which achieves what? The orcas physically can't open bank accounts so it'd need to be a cash lump sum, and the taxman will complain that it's wet when he comes to get his share. And because the pools are half full of banknotes Sea World, assuming it's still there, will get sued again for poor living conditions and again when one of the orcas dies from some $100 bills getting lodged in its blowhole. All because of a bone headed insistence of treating animals not simply with respect, but as actual people.

And why would it stop there? Other dolphin species are just as bright if not more so, which means they'd have to be treated the same way. And then there are dogs, some breeds of which can be pretty bright and are used as working dogs on farms and in police departments and so on – hey, you with the guide dog, you slaver bastard! It probably means every dog in the US that's been taught to fetch, and I'm sure PETA are fine with that too because they're on record as being opposed to domesticated animals including pets and livestock.* Bee keepers are fucked.

This opens a massive can of worms – except it mustn't because the worms have rights – as it has the potential to be extended to every other living thing. To me that should include fungi, soil microbes and plants, especially those that are grown with the express purpose of being cut down and exploited as a food source. Which is something I doubt all the vegans and veggies at PETA have considered or would agree with, but hey, exploitation is what it is and all life is related. If a dog is a rat is a pig is a boy then surely it's also a wheat plant and a tasty mushroom and a vegetarian sausage and case of strep throat – and how many microbes did you massacre in the shower this morning just so you could smell nicer, you genocidal bastard? All life consumes and exploits other life, PETA, and vegetarians are no exception even if they do self righteously refuse to eat anything even vaguely cute and start pouring piss about keeping animals being slavery.

That's taking PETA's arguments to extremes but ad absurdum or not I think it’s a fair point. This is about where you draw the line, and while most people are happy to draw it around our own species PETA want to draw it around the whole animal kingdom. The interesting thing is that I cannot believe they expect to succeed. I cannot believe that they expect to reach a point where having a few beehives is seen as being as bad as having fellow humans in chains working fields, and I doubt they really expect to persuade a federal court that the document which is the United States’ highest law and refers explicitly to people also includes a large species of dolphin whose last ancestor shared with us would have died many millions of years ago and wouldn’t have faintly resembled either of us.

In fact I suspect PETA expect to lose but hope to drum up a lot of publicity in the process, which is inevitable when you’re in a court arguing that a twelve tonne sea mammal that can rip a shark’s face right off is the same as you and I. Not worthy of respect or kindness, but the same. They’re going to lose but they’re going to gain PR out of it.

Hang on. Doesn’t that mean PETA are exploiting these beautiful creatures too? You utter bastards, PETA.

* They also advocate vegan diets for domestic cats despite all cat species being obligate carnivores. Their reasoning? Cats eat some plant matter. Hey, fuckwits, just because cats eat some plant matter does not mean they don’t need any meat.

Can Cameron really be this stupid?

Click for linky

Dave? Do you think that this might possibly have something to do with the fact that you haven’t stopped spunking away money by the billion as fast as you can tax it off of the current workforce and borrow it on behalf of their children? Fucking hellfire, in the last couple of days we’re told that you’ve blown half a billion on the Northern Rock sale, granted perhaps unavoidably, and that you’ve decided to throw almost the same again at the building industry while underwriting all the mortgages of first time buyers. Not only have you not cut public spending you’re actually spending even more than Labour did, and incidentally failed to get the public sector to stop thinking of that as a cut as well as failed to get them to stop hiring for bullshit jobs instead of people who actually provide useful services. You’ve carried on taking money that could have paid down some of the UK’s eye watering debt and handing it to the EU, IMF and international aid, and you’ve continued Labour’s wars at significant cost and embarked on a military adventure of your own. The bonfire of the quangos was at best a barbecue of a handful of them – one of those small barbecues made of thick tinfoil that you get from petrol stations, and for which you probably paid in cash and told the attendant to keep the change from a million quid. And you’ve failed to create growth because you’ve refused to provide the conditions for it to occur. That’s just off the top of my head and I’m sure I could think of more given time and find out more still if I started looking. And here you are scratching your arse – it apparently being interchangeable with your head – and wondering why the plan’s not working.

I’ll tell you why, David. It’s because it’s basically the same fucking plan that Gordon Brown was using, you hopelessly inept cunt. How the hell did Britain come to this? It’s had some dim politicians and not a few dim PMs, but how in Christ’s name did it get landed with you: a PM whose extraordinary dimness must surely result from being so dense that light can’t escape if it falls into his head? It’s not madness that is doing the same thing and expecting different results, it’s stupidity. And that’s actually the generous alternative because if I thought you knew what the fuck you were doing I’d be describing you as evil.

I hate to go all Private Frasier again, but if these fuckwits aren’t dragged out and chained to something solid where they can’t do any harm – the Lusitania for example – I really do think the UK is doomed.

The bleeding obvious

Another example of the journalistic art of stating the perfectly obvious, this time courtesy of The Australian reporting on the sad death of a 15 year old girl at a railway crossing, the latest in a series of railway deaths recently (my bold).

The girls’s death comes a week after a three-year-old boy was struck by a train in regional Victoria and died in hospital the next day.

Last month, a 70-year-old woman was killed by a train at a level crossing at McKinnon railway station.

Police believe she was standing on the wrong side of the pedestrian safety barrier when struck by a city-bound train.

Oh, you think? Hard to see how the train could have been travelling on the wrong side of the barrier without the article being about a deadly derailment. Oh well, I suppose it makes a change from wildly inaccurate or inappropriate picture captions.

The Law of Unintended Consequences

It’s a funny one, the Law of Unintended Consequences. It’s one of those laws that is beyond any possibility of repeal, but it’s one that most governments, if they ever stop their furious production of arse gravy for long enough to think about things for a few minutes, must wish they could do away with quietly because they keep falling foul of it. These days the poor, stupid things seem to be particularly prone to unintended consequences when trying to give themselves a veneer of greenishness, and so it is with the latest example from this part of the world.

A couple of years ago, in a move reminiscent of the current drive for Australia to lead the world by introducing mandatory plain tobacco packaging to make it easier for counterfeiters and chop-chop dealers to compete with the legal tobacco industry, South Australia led the nation in banning plastic carrier bags. This would, it was claimed, reduce waste sent to landfill – though quite why that’s a problem in a state of more than a million square kilometres and only 1.6 million people, three-quarters of whom live in Adelaide, I’m not quite sure. Nobody likes to see plastic bags littering the place, but SA is not short of room to bury shit is what I’m saying here. Now I know that you can probably emit some carbon dioxide down any street of any city in the developed world and be sure of warming at least half a dozen green zealots by a fraction of a degree, all of whom will tell you that plastic bags in landfill won’t decompose for about eleventy squillion years, and hyperbole aside they’re probably right. So far better to ban the nasty things and force everyone to buy those reusable ones, right?

Wrong, as any member of any household that used to reuse their carrier bags could have told them. We do use the reusable bags but we tend to make sure we get a few carriers on shopping trips for use in small pedal bins and for clearing up after pets, and since many SA pet stores will surely sell bags for that it’s not like the bags are completely banned in SA. It’s just that the supermarkets aren’t allowed to give them out, or even sell them, for you to take your groceries home in. And since South Australians also used them for more than that the ban has had an effect that you probably needed to be in government to have been unable to foresee.

BIN liner sales in SA have doubled since free plastic shopping bags were banned more than two years ago.
And most bin bags are made of thicker plastic than traditional bags, which means they take longer to break down in the environment.

But… but… surely there must be some mistake because, as the article mentions, none other than the head of Zero Waste SA (a state government quango by the looks of it) said at the time that there wouldn’t be a significant increase in bin bag sales. Exactly what he thought South Australians would be lining their bins with I don’t know, but clearly it wasn’t expected to be bin liners. So this must be coming as a bit of a shock.

Woolworths (one of Australia’s big two supermarket chains – AE) says SA sales of plastic kitchen-tidy bags of a similar size, capacity and shape to single-use plastic shopping bags, are now double the national average.
At Coles (the other big supermarket chain – AE), sales of kitchen tidy bags increased 40 per cent in the year following the ban in May 2009.
Bin bag manufacturer Glad reported a 52.5 per cent jump in kitchen-tidy bag sales in the first year of the ban, compared with a 5.5 per cent increase nationally.
In SA, 48 million Glad bin bags were bought in 2008, rising to more than 73 million in 2009 and 84 million last year.
The figures have raised concerns about whether the plastic bag ban has been effective in reducing waste sent to landfill.

And it gets worse, since both paper and reusable bags are heavier, meaning emissions if you believe in warble gloaming, and costs if you don’t, are higher per bag you transport since you’ll get far fewer of them on the lorry. This is going to be at least partly cancelled out if a lot if people do reuse them but it turns out that there’s more bad news on that score – they have to be reused a hell of a lot before they make up for the extra energy used in their production.*

HDPE bags are, for each use, almost 200 times less damaging to the climate than cotton hold-alls favoured by environmentalists, and have less than one third of the Co2 emissions than paper bags which are given out by retailers such as Primark.
The findings suggest that, in order to balance out the tiny impact of each lightweight plastic bag, consumers would have to use the same cotton bag every working day for a year, or use paper bags at least thrice rather than sticking them in the bin or recycling.
Most paper bags are used only once and one study assumed cotton bags were used only 51 times before being discarded, making them – according to this new report – worse than single-use plastic bags.

And ironically this means that I, as a warble gloaming sceptic, can use the allegedly eco-friendly bags with a clear conscience, while the eco-sustainability types should be marching on the South Australian parliament house to demand the evil polythene ones back. Clearly then, the policy makes no sense at all, and it’s really a bit of luck that the South Australians have found out about these unintended, though not unforeseeable, consequences in time for other states and territories to avoid the same trap.

The Northern Territory and ACT are now introducing their own bans.

/facepalm

* Tip of the Akubra to Cracked.com.

Another sensationalist headline brought to you by…

The Mainly Fail.

And I love the way the caption, assuming we can’t see for ourselves what’s in the picture, spells out that an armed officer is holding his gun right over the actual head of a waittaminute…

Perhaps the article needs a subheading, something like “Well, obviously not the precise moment it’s pointed at his head unless teenagers literally have their heads up their arses these days, but if any guns were actually pointed at heads rather than just chests or torsos or whatever than it was probably a moment quite near then”. Because I’m sure The Mail wouldn’t be beating the story up or have a grasp of anatomy so poor that they’d think that gun was aimed at the kid’s head.

Tip of the Akubra to the Ambush Predator.

The reliability of waterboarding

From The Age:

The mastermind of the 9/11 attacks warned that al-Qaeda has hidden a nuclear bomb in Europe which will unleash a “nuclear hellstorm” if Osama bin Laden is captured, leaked files reveal.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed told Guantanamo Bay interrogators the terror group would detonate the nuclear device if the al-Qaeda chief was captured or killed, according to the classified files released by the WikiLeaks website.

And it was very sweet of the Americans not to catch him so that nobody would be embarrassed by the complete lack of nuclear explosions in European capitals that would no doubt have resulted. I imagine that in terrorist circles to threaten that sort of thing and not come good on it is nothing short of social death, and unfortunately that’s not the kind that comes with 70 odd virgins as an upside. Very odd virgins, possibly, but I can’t see much of a queue forming for that.

The German weekly Der Spiegel, also citing WikiLeaks, said that Sheikh Mohammed had told his interrogators he had set up two cells for the purpose of attacking Heathrow in 2002.
[…]
Der Spiegel noted that his “confessions” should have be treated with caution as they could have been extracted through torture. Sheikh Mohammed is known to have undergone the method known as “waterboarding”.

Look, of course it should be treated with caution. Does anyone imagine that if they had a nuke they wouldn’t have let the bugger off by now? Clear and present bullshit! If this stupidity is the kind of intelligence water boarding people generates I think they should try something else. Would a perpetually looped tape of Rebecca Black be over the top?

And we never suspected

Iraq. It seems – and I realise this will come as a shock to many people – oil was a consideration before the invasion. Yeah, I know, me too. But apparently it was.

Government ministers discussed plans to exploit Iraq’s oil reserves in the months before Britain took a leading role in invading Iraq, documents have revealed.
The secret papers, obtained by an oil campaigner and published by The Independent, are minutes of meetings between senior oil executives and Labour cabinet members, and highlight for the first time the hollow nature of Western governments’ public denials of national self-interest in the decision to invade Iraq.

Still, at least it’s all coming out in the open now, eh?

Oh, wait, no it isn’t (my bold).

The documents, which have not been provided to the continuing Chilcot inquiry into Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war, appear to contradict statements made by Shell in 2003, just before the invasion, that reports of meetings between the oil giant and Downing Street about Iraqi oil were ”highly inaccurate”.

And it sounds like it wasn’t just the British government with it’s eyes on the black gold.

The published papers cover October and November 2002 and show that just five months before the invasion, Baroness Symons, then the British trade minister, told BP that the government believed British energy firms should take a share of Iraq’s enormous oil and gas reserves as a reward for Mr Blair’s military commitment to US plans for regime change.
The minutes reveal that she also agreed to lobby the Bush administration on behalf of BP because it feared being ”locked out” of discussions and deals purportedly being thrashed out between the US, France and Russia, and their oil companies.

Now I’m sure it wasn’t the only consideration – I expect some really thought Saddam had a hand in 9/11, and some really thought it’d be good for the Iraqi people, and some really thought we needed to finish the job left over from 1991, and some really thought they had weapons of mass destruction, and some really thought that Dubya was right to go after the man who tried to kill his ‘daddeh’.* In hindsight it doesn’t look now as if any of them were actually very good reasons, and a lot of people didn’t think much of them beforehand either. Oil got mentioned a lot from the word go but everybody in industry and governments alike protested that it wasn’t, no, really it wasn’t.

You can admit it now, fellas. It was a bit about the oil, eh? Might not have been the prime concern but it was a sufficiently attractive side benefit to have ministers bouncing about trying to broker the best deal for their nation’s companies. I’m sure that’s a great comfort to the families of dead coalition servicemen and women.

* One day the world will discover how to type in cod accents and the internet will be better for it.

Royal Air Fail

Having never served in the military I’m far from being an expert in such matters, but I’m reasonably sure that it’s considered normal practice for an air force with ground attack capable aircraft to employ aircrew who do actually know how to drop a fucking bomb on someone. This is apparently not the case with the RAF in 2011.

The Ministry of Defence announced last week that RAF Typhoons would drop bombs on Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s tanks and other ground targets.
But so far this has not happened, because the planes’ pilots are not considered to be properly trained in ground attacks.
In a further embarrassment, laser targeting pods for the Typhoons, which cost £160 million, have been left in packing crates because the RAF has not been able to pay for its pilots to train to use them.

And here I’ve been taking the piss out of Cameramong for his sabre-rattling at Mad Mo early last month with, to mix metaphors, a nearly empty gun cabinet, and it turns out that what’s left in there can’t be used because not enough people know how. Did you know that when you were talking tough, Dave? Did you actually ask the RAF what they could and couldn’t do first? Or did someone at the RAF tell you ‘Bombs? Oh, yeah, sure, we can do bombs’ without checking and let you make a complete tit of yourself? Because committing the UK to action for which it does still have the equipment but lacks the rather important component of trained personnel means that someone has fucked up.

Eat this, Gaddafi! Bombs awa… oh shit, wrong button. *

And remember that with all this scaling back and cost cutting hitting the UK’s ability to defend itself and its citizens, almost the only thing I think it’s worth having a fucking government for in the first place, money wise the country is still chest deep in the shit and continuing to sink. The national debt is, as we all know by now, both eye watering and understated thanks to the Brownian practice – a little reduced by the Cobbleition – of pretending some things don’t count despite still having to pay for them, and since overall expenditure is continuing to rise the deficit isn’t shrinking either. A huge amount of money is being spent, and clearly a fair bit of it has to be going on interest on the mountain of debt Brown ran up as PM and Chancellor, but that’s ‘only’ 47 billion quid or so.** Public spending is £702 billion and rising, and the rise is across most areas of spending (including defence, oddly enough). What the hell are they spending it all on?

Head of Quality & Efficiency Services
Salary: £57,288 – £66,762 pa
Following the realignment of Quality and Commissioning a new service area, Quality and Efficiency, has been created. We are now seeking to appoint an inspiring Head of Service to join the talented senior management team.

Lead Manager Policy and Strategic Partnerships
Salary: £60,192-£75,897 per annum
Part of the Chief Executive’s Office and reporting to the Head of Policy and Performance, you will lead on all corporate policy and strategic partnership issues. This will include:

  • working across the Council and with partners to develop innovative ways of improving outcomes for Surrey residents while reducing overall costs; and
  • maximizing the benefits of the Coalition Government’s approach to local government in Surrey.

Member Insight& Engagement Manager
Salary: £50000 – £60000 per annum
Morgan Hunt are looking for a Member Insight& Engagement Manager for a top government organisation until the end of December 2011.

The successful candidate will have responsibility for the following deliverables and activities:

  • working with the Head of Member Engagement to develop the member engagement strategy and plan
  • developing a deep understanding of key member segments and acting as a champion for their needs, both within the Department and across the organisation
  • Working with the marketing communications team to brief and deliver member engagement content and products
  • Planning and managing targeted communications to key member segments
  • Working with the Insight & Analytics team to deliver the 2011/12 member research programme

Oh yeah, I was forgetting. Well, I’m sure everyone will be happy that the country can still afford these and an Associate Director of Integrated Community Services when it wants someone to empty the bins, a Media & Stakeholder Relations Manager when it wants a nurse or a doctor, a Delivery Assurance Director when it wants a cop or a prison officer, and of course 300 or so town clerks calling themselves CEOs… when it needs someone able to drop a bomb from an aeroplane without missing the fucking ground, much less the target. A great comfort, I’m sure.

Frankly it’s becoming increasingly difficult to decide whether the end of Britain is going to come as a result of being turned into the EU’s second most western district, being invaded as a result of being forced to defend itself with nukes and shotguns and having kept next to nothing in between, or being taken over after all the loans are called in. What we can be sure of is that until Cameramong and his Cobbleition chums sit down and work out what the fucking essentials are and what the UK really cannot afford as a result of their predecessors’ profligacy – QUANGOs and aid to countries wealthy enough for a space program and their own nuclear weapons, for instance – one of those situations seems increasingly likely, though to use the phrase of the late Douglas Adams, it is possible that this has already happened.

‘Kinell.

* I found this photo of a Typhoon releasing flares on a UK airshows forum. The photographer – and I can’t credit him or her with any name other than their forum ID, GyRob – has posted a number up there and to my eye they’re rather good. If you like images of fast aircraft doing their thing click the photo I used above to be taken there for a look.
** Say it fast enough and it doesn’t seem so bad. But it is though, really it is. It’s not just money they’re going to take from you to pay for their profligacy, it’s Keynesian wealth redistribution the Keynesians don’t like to talk about – taking money from middle and low income earners who are the majority of the tax base and giving it as interest payments to those who are wealthy enough to loan money to governments. Incidentally, the £47 bn spent on interest is nearly as much as is spent on the ability to defend Britain’s borders and citizens.

Drugs question

THE number of middle-aged users of ecstasy in Australia is rising sharply, as those who started using the drug at dance parties in the 1980s and ’90s begin to enter their 30s and 40s.

Ecstasy is the second most commonly used illicit drug in Australia after cannabis, with the number of users rising steadily over the past 10 years.

But underlying the trend is a dramatic increase in the number of older adults using the drug – particularly Generation X, born between 1964 and 1981.

Report author Dr Rebecca McKetin said it was clear from the results that Generation X was continuing to take ecstasy as they aged because there was little evidence people began to use ecstasy after the age of 30, or that former users returned to use once they had stopped.

”The increase in the number of older ecstasy users is explained by ecstasy users who started using in the ’90s, when the drug first became popular, and who have continued to use into later adulthood,” she said.

But… but… but how is this possible? Surely if the horror death scare headlines were right they should all be dead by now. Yet if it’s not the instant danger that kills more or less on the spot as we were all told (my parents bought The Daily Mail regularly) then why is it illegal?

Losing the sarcasm, it does make me wonder about the future. Alcohol is a harmful drug that is accepted and legal partly because taxing it is a revenue earner for governments and partly because nearly everyone in those same governments uses it. Perhaps as Gen X ages and some of its E using members become politicians themselves there’ll come a time when a government will ask why a drug that is widely used, non-addictive, can be taken for years and doesn’t turn users into slurring, staggering, vomit fountains with hair trigger tempers, and has been used regularly by some of the people actually in the government, needs to be banned when alcohol isn’t.

Or perhaps the fake charities will have banned tobacco and reintroduced Prohibition by then and we’ll all be concentrating on the fallout from that backwards step instead of liberalising drugs.

Unintended consequences

Victoria is one of those places that have decided that people conceived through sperm donation have a greater right to know their biological parents than that biological parent has to anonymity, and predictably enough it’s creating problems with supply because there is also a ban on importing, er, gentlemanly fluid. Not into the country, just into the state.

VICTORIA is so short of sperm donors that some women are flying interstate for IVF treatment, prompting calls to ease restrictions on importing sperm.
Fertility doctors say demand for sperm has surged since laws giving single women and lesbians access to IVF were brought in last year, with some patients waiting up to nine months.
The removal of anonymity has also made some men reluctant to donate, and restrictions that mean they can only give sperm to 10 families have also increased the need for more donors.

Now I’m quite sure that these rules and laws were well intended. I’m sure that public health issues were in the thoughts of those who banned imports, and that human kindness was considered when anonymity was scrapped (though considered only for one party), and that simple fairness and possibly even a touch of liberty was the motivation for allowing single women and lesbians to have IVF. But surely, surely someone involved could have noted that the combination of the three was going to push demand up and reduce supply and lead to what can best be described as a black market for wanking, with all the problems that implies.

With just 184 registered sperm donors left in Victoria, fertility doctors say some patients are resorting to DIY inseminations using unscreened sperm, which carries the risk of infection.

Melbourne IVF director John McBain said the regulator was being too strict with the rules.
”The shortage is as bad as it’s ever been and when the wait is so long to get access to a donor it just pushes it underground again and people seek their own remedy using uncounselled, unconsented donors and unquarantined sperm,” he said.
”The worrying risk of that is chronic viral illness infection with either hepatitis B or HIV because a lot of single women tend to source gay men as their donors.

So the combined effect of controlling supply on health grounds is forcing desperate women to unhealthy sources. Oh, great. Give yourselves a fucking pat on the back, you idiots.

Federal laws prohibit paying donors for sperm, although reimbursing costs is allowed.

But payments will be made for sperm and it’s naive to think otherwise. There’s already a black market for breast milk as I blogged last September. Can anyone seriously think it isn’t going to happen with sperm? If there’s a demand someone will supply it, legally or illegally. That’s just how people are.

Fortunately we have the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority on hand to solve the problem. Oh, wait, no. They’re just explaining why we have to have the bloody problem and put up with it rather than go back to anonymous donations or import sperm from elsewhere in the country or even, such as a clinic in Brisbane, from the USA.

”The guiding principles of the act are that the welfare of persons born as a result of treatment is paramount, and they have a right to information about their genetic parents.
”There would be no regulatory body in the US ensuring that their donor’s details are kept up to date because there is no central register like there is in Victoria.
”There’s a growing body of evidence that young people want to have the choice to obtain information about their donor when they become adults, so it not just the matter of supply.”

Oh, well, fine. It’s not going to solve a damn thing unless a lot more men answer the predictable request for more sperm donors at the end of the article, but I’m sure knowing why it has to be this way will make everyone feel a lot better.

Wankers.

Crash landings

I can barely bring myself to write on this lunacy.

Up to 100 student pilots will be told the news on Tuesday with some of them only a few hours away from becoming fully qualified to fly fighters, helicopters and transport aircraft.
The cuts will mean the waste of an estimated £300million already paid for training the pilots, plus the cost of redundancies. The training of RAF pilots can cost up to £4million a man.

And this is not the end of the problem.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Graydon, a former head of the RAF, warned that the cuts would leave the Air Force with a “black hole” of pilots in future years.
“If you don’t have a steady stream of youth, you will end up with a shortage of people,” he said.
Commander John Muxworthy, the chairman of the UK National Defence Association, said the defence cuts were now into the “seed corn” of the Services.

Which should be blindingly obvious to everyone.

Jim Murphy, the shadow defence secretary, said: “The harmful human impact of the Government’s defence plans is becoming clearer by the day.”

True, but to be fair let’s just remind ourselves which cunts spunked away all the money. Still, it must be said that it seems like an insane place to try to make savings. In terms of a sports team it would be like hanging on to everyone that has got maybe a season or two left plus the current crop of regular players, but abandoning all investment in young players and cutting loose the ones you have trained and made ready to replace those older ones soon to swap the sporting scrum for the media version. Like some American sports Aussie Rules football operates a draft system which gives the bottom placed club each year the first opportunity to pick young talent. Such is the focus on young players – and bear in mind that some may not play a senior game for a year or two – that clubs that have done particularly poorly are occasionally accused of doing it deliberately purely to get better draft picks. Such is the interest among supporters that the draft night is televised. It’s understood by everyone that youth with potential literally determines a club’s future ability to win, and while I don’t claim any military expertise whatsoever I’d be astonished if what applies on the sports field doesn’t also apply on the battlefield.

So what the fuck is Britain playing at binning these young pilots, pilots that will be needed rather than might be needed, if only to replace those older ones who leave? What’s the plan, keep them on past the time their knees can’t take the G’s and sorties hold less appeal than SAGA cruises? And why is this happening at all when, as I keep saying, the UK isn’t actually cutting expenditure? It certainly fucking needs to but this is pinching pennies when there are massive gold bars’ worth of savings that could be made elsewhere, starting with Britain’s £50 billion quangocracy that the Cobbleition’s axe largely bounced clean off without leaving a mark. And this hurts, it really does. It hurts at a time when Britain is engaged in combat operations (needless or not, it’s a fact), and will mean worse hurt in the future and beyond as you have fewer pilots both to fight if needed and to pass on knowledge to the next lot of young pilots. It certainly risks more than giving the Spanish Archer to some arts quangos and overcompensated town clerks calling themselves chief executives. Britain may end up with comical abilities as far as air power go but it’ll proudly lead the world in twinning towns and conceptual bollocks art made, perhaps literally, from shit.

Anyone ever see Aliens? Do you remember the bit when the Colonial Marines are in the tunnels under the giant atmosphere processor? When someone notices that firing their rifles in there will damage the cooling systems for its nuclear power source, eventually causing a very, very large explosion? Remember the reaction of the Marines when they have to hand their magazines in and sling their rifles?

What the hell are we supposed to use, man? Harsh language?

I suppose it’s too much to hope that any senior RAF officers have quoted that verbatim to the Defence Secretary, Chancellor or PM.

When the cat’s taken away…

So government gets a stupid idea that it has a right to dictate what people put in their own bodies and ban a potentially harmful substance that’s been taken in vast amounts but linked only to a small number of deaths (not terribly conclusively in some cases), and thinks that having removed this risk everyone who would have taken it will party down safely and while wearing flat shoes. And then it acts all surprised when clubbers decide that they still want the effect and either carry on anyway or start looking for something else.

The report, the key findings of which are to be published this week and is the first authoritative survey of mephedrone users since the government added the drug to the list of banned substances in April 2010, reveals that more than half of those questioned had noticed no change in the availability of the drug in their area.
It also shows that 44 per cent of those who have used mephedrone said the ban made them more likely to use the Class A party drug ecstasy instead.

Not that E is the killer the government and tabloids beat it up to be either, but Jesus Christ on a speedball, are these people so fucking dense that they can’t see this coming? Are their memories so poor that they forget this happens every single time they ban something? Is it so far beyond their comprehension that from point of view of a clubber wanting to get high you might as well be hung for a cat as a kitten? You ban opium and laudanum and people begin injecting heroin instead. You crack down on heroin and they break into clinics and pharmacies for morphine and methadone. You crack down on cocaine too and they start taking crystal meth. You notice party drugs and ban Ecstasy, only to find later that they’re on GBL and Miaow-miaow now. You ban those too and then sit wondering why it is that people are either still taking them or going back to E.

I’ll tell you, shall i?

It’s because they’re waiting for the next legal high to come out. And when you ban that too you’ve gone full circle and it starts all over again.

Twats.

How many times must it be said?

What fucking cuts? The Cobbleition is actually going to spend money that Britain hasn’t got even faster than Labour, though marginally less fast than Labour would have done. How can spending even more money than the drunkenly profligate McSnotty government be in any way a cut? Persuading a lot of innumerate lefty students and comfy rent seekers to keep saying it is simply doesn’t make it so. Far from cutting spending, which I think it desperately needs to do, the government is instead committed to Labour’s plans of further increasing debt. That it’s doing so to a lesser degree is not a substantive difference.

It’s infuriating that the rent seekers and all these various vested interests are still insisting not only on having cake and eating it but also on a generous round of coffees with poncy mints, liqueurs and expensive brandies, and it’s so close to the point everyone is going to have to finally look at the fucking bill and realise that the pretentious and fuckwitted mongstrosity who insisted on ordering for everybody had no money of their own in the first place.

Was it something I said?

I don’t generally go in for looking too much at my visitor stats, being the fragile soul I am and unsure if my delicate ego can take it if neither of my readers show up one day (hi, Mum). But as I mentioned earlier I have looked today just out of long dormant curiosity about what search terms people have been using, and while they were a bit boring by comparison with some of the lunacy that takes people to some other blogs I did notice that I’ve had an awful lot of visitors in the past 24 hours. Much of it is from the US and it’s mostly going to one F-bomb strewn post about the increasing levels of airport security theatre in general and those bloody airport body scanners in particular.

I’d like to expand on that earlier post a little by telling you about the moment when for me airport security jumped the shark so hugely that there was room for several full grown Megalodons tucking into an eight course whale banquet underneath. This was at London’s Heathrow airport in early 2003, just a few month after someone shot at (and missed, thankfully) an Israeli airliner with surface to air missiles as it left Mombasa airport in Kenya for Tel Aviv.

… it was the missile attack at the Mombasa airport that sent shivers around the world, even though the stingers missed the Tel Aviv-bound plane with 271 people aboard.
Israeli Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it “a very serious escalation of international terrorism.”
“Today, they’re firing the missiles at Israeli planes. Tomorrow, they’ll fire missiles at American planes,” he said.

Whether it was some concrete intelligence or whether it was just a feeling in Britain that if it could be American planes then it could as easily be British too, and so began what seemed to me to be the most high profile but completely fucking pointless security operation at Heathrow airport. From the BBC:

The deployments of troops at Heathrow Airport has once again highlighted the danger to airliners from shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles in the hands of terrorists.

Although there has been no confirmation of the specific threat to UK airports, speculation is rampant that the current state of alert has been sparked by fear of a missile attack.

The Daily Mail:

Meanwhile, a heavy military presence was in place at Heathrow as London remained on a heightened level of security alert amid fears of a possible terrorist attack.
Scotland Yard has refused to reveal the substance of the threat but terror experts said it pointed to a possible missile attack on a plane similar to the one carried out by al Qaeda terrorists in Kenya last year.

The Indie:

The plan seems to have been to fire a shoulder-held anti-aircraft missile at a commercial airliner taking off from Heathrow. Members of al-Qa’ida are known to possess the Russian-built Strela-2 missile, better known as the SAM-7, which has a height range of 3,000 feet. They have used the weapon before in attempted attacks, most recently when two missiles were fired at an Israeli charter aircraft taking off from Mombasa airport in Kenya last November. The Strela-2 can be fired from more than three kilometres away. It was also possible that they had obtained a Stinger air-to-surface missile made in America, which is even more powerful.

The Teletubbygraph:

A suspected Islamist plot to fire a missile at an airliner prompted the largest security operation at Heathrow for a decade yesterday.
Tony Blair personally authorised the use of 450 troops, with armoured vehicles, to back up more than 1,300 police officers.
Soldiers from the 1st Bn Grenadier Guards and Household Cavalry, carrying semi-automatic weapons, patrolled the terminals and the 17-mile perimeter road.

Al-Qa’eda is believed to have a stock of shoulder-launched surface-to-air (SAM) missiles, some capable of reaching targets at a height of 10,000ft and up to five miles away.

Assuming that they’d want to shoot at aircraft landing or taking off, five miles from Heathrow’s runways means attackers would have something like the red area in which to shoot from, possibly a bit more or a bit less depending on how quickly planes departing or arriving at the airport pass in or out of that 10,000 foot ceiling. So potentially all of Staines and Ashford would need watching, plus the outskirts of Windsor

Click to enlarge – 

Egham, and Slough. And then there’s all of Hounslow and Isleworth too. And all those fields and roads and so on. Whether they’d want to attack from a rural location where they’d hope to remain unseen or an urban area where they might hope to disperse or near a main road for a fast escape, there’s a lot of choice.

So what protection did Heathrow get to deal with this threat and cover the 150 or so square miles it might come from?

… 450 soldiers at Heathrow, using armoured Scimitar and Spartan reconnaissance vehicles, were deployed throughout the airport from dawn as the first of the day’s 150,000 passengers began checking in.

So about three soldiers per square mile if they were evenly spread, but since they were all hanging around the fucking airport the real average beyond the airport itself must have been close to zero.

Click images for links to Life originals

And excuse my layman’s ignorance but what the fuck were they going to do there? Seriously? The Scimitar is an armoured reconnaissance vehicle with a 30mm cannon firing a variety of ammunition up to 4,000 metres and a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun in case you only need to make something lightly dead. While I’d be very reluctant to get on the wrong end of either of them I highly doubt that they’ve been used to shoot down many surface to air missiles, particularly if launched from a site and at a target beyond the 4,000 metre range of the Scimitar’s main weapon. So as far as I can see deploying troops in Scimitars was, to quote Malcolm Tucker, as much use as a marzipan dildo. The Spartan, being an armoured personnel carrier with just the machine gun, wasn’t even that useful.

So I ask again: what the fuck were the troops and armour for? Had the worst happened and some young lads with full balls and empty heads, too hopeful of getting laid in the next world to settle down and enjoy this one, actually got hold of a couple of Stingers and downed a plane – because the troops didn’t seem to have anything that would have stopped it – what exactly were they going to do? Presumably they could use their vehicles’ speed across country to close within range of the wreckage and… er… look at it for a bit until the fire brigade showed up and began hosing down the burning debris. Perhaps you might be thinking that there was an unaired possibility of a car attack like the one at Glasgow airport in 2007, but if so I still don’t see what good they’d be. Let me put it like this: hands up anyone who likes the idea of machine gun fire and 30mm cannon shells flying around one of the world’s busiest airports.

Anyone? Anyone at all?

No, thought not.

So it seems to me that their purpose was never to be an effective counter to possible missile fire but to be seen, to make the threat seem credible, to make people think it was being taken seriously if the Army was being deployed, and to give everyone the illusion of being safer.* And look, who knows? Maybe there was a lot of other stuff going on with the police, Special Branch, MI5 etc behind the scenes to make sure a missile wouldn’t be launched in the first place. That seems likely to me but it certainly wouldn’t require the support of 450 soldiers in light tanks hanging around outside the terminals who weren’t equipped for doing much in the event of an attack but standing guard while someone else swept up the fucking wreckage unless, by some miracle, a spectacularly stupid terrorist chose to set up to fire a SAM within range of a 30mm and without any innocent civilians in the way.

So that was when and where I stopped taking it seriously, and I’ve looked at it all with a critical eye ever since. As a practical matter I don’t worry about flying because the odds are really very good for each individual passenger, but I’d feel absolutely no safer as a result of all this crap we’re put through before we’re allowed to fly and certainly not from seeing troops equipped for battle with Soviet patrols blocking the entrance to the fucking car park. As I keep saying, the Israelis don’t bother with this bullshit and they’re surrounded by people who want them dead. More to the point, I object to being treated like a suspect when there is no earthly reason I should be. I doubt I look or act like a loony bomber and I imagine the only profile I fit is that of an annoyed bastard who objects to having to turn up so early for an international flight because of all the fucking security procedures that it’s fast becoming possible to spend more time in the fucking airports at either end than in the fucking air between them.

And here’s a thought – almost certainly neither do you! And if we don’t then why the fuck are we having to pay for the privilege of being treated this way?

Well, I won’t. Flying doesn’t scare me but it does bore me, and these days it also offends me. For that they should be paying me to get on the fucking plane! Until something changes I simply won’t fly unless circumstances absolutely force me to. This is a bloody big country and that choice sometimes means either a long drive or bus ride or a slightly faster but very expensive train journey, and obviously all international trips would mean a very long swim. So the bastards know they’ll get me on a plane now and then – for my last trip to Perth I didn’t have time to go overland and had to grit my teeth through the bullshit, especially when I forgot about shoe checks and showed up in hiking boots – but if at all possible I’ll drive straight past the airport, window down, arm extended and middle finger raised to the unfriendly skies.

And I recommend it to anyone.

Edited to add: link fixed. Thanks for the heads up to Sadbutmadlad.

* And maybe, just maybe, to build the foundations for people to accept far more expensive and intrusive security theatre later.