Sums, a la BBC

What with the Age of Austerity that’s upon us, the BBC has its wonderful way of dealing with numbers out in force.

My personal favourite is the do it yourself cul-ulator. Which lets you choose what to cut in percentage terms and then tells you what your cut means. I doubt some of its honesty though, for one or two reasons.

Reason 1: Defence

According to the BBC, if you cut defence by 30%, you’d be getting rid of 261,690 service personnel. Which is interesting, because apparently there are only 175,690 service personnel in the armed forces. To me, that arithmetic sounds weird: cutting 30% of funding shouldn’t really cut 150% of the armed forces, should it?

Reason 2: Public Order & Safety

Again, the 30% cut has a massive effect on manpower: in this instance, you would have 235,650 fewer police officers. Out of a total of 165,876. So taking away 30% of the money takes away 142% of the police. Which seems somewhat unlikely.

Reason 3: Welfare

Apparently taking 30% from the welfare budget would save £58.8 billion, which would be roughly £30 per week off the pension. But do the maths: 58,800,000,000 / (30 * 52) = a very unlikely 37.7 million pensioners. Which would put us right at the top of the ageing population chart, don’t you think.

Those are the three that immediately stuck out at me. Does anybody want to have a crack at seeing if the other categories add up any better? Because I’d guess they don’t. And I’d also guess that the BBC don’t care, as long as they show that any and all cuts are bad and will cause untold damage etc etc etc.

Don’t do it!

When you have a technically interesting product; when you have a market to sell that product to; when you have a strategy for success, there is one thing you shouldn’t do.

You shouldn’t meet with Gordon Brown.

Poor Gordon is something of an oddity; Guido has taken to calling him Jonah Brown because he curses anything he comes out in favour of. Be that a sporting team, the UK economy or some annoying Irish twins on X-factor, anyone and anything that gets the support of Gordon is due to fail, real soon.

So, my advice to B9 shipbuilding: cancel this meeting, ASAP.

A delegation from a Larne-based company developing eco-friendly cargo ships is to meet Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

B9 Shipping designs and manufactures cargo ships which are not dependent on fossil fuels. The first such vessel will be launched in 2012.

It was one of 100 companies invited to Downing Street on Thursday evening for “embracing the low-carbon economy”.

It’s common knowledge that I’m not particular a believer in the need to switch to low-carbon. But I recognise sense when I see it, and if you can do this economically and free up more oil for the rest of us, then that’s a good thing. So I’ll be sad to see these 100 companies succumb to the curse of Jonah.

Hence my appeal: all of them should pull out. Now.

Sectarianism run amok

Yes, this may be a brave new world; yes there may be peace breaking out and a new, post-chuckle brothers administration in place.

But if even the wild animals of the world are singing the Sash, what hope for the future?

A complaint has been made by representatives of the SDLP and Sinn Fein that a Panda
at Dublin zoo was clearly behaving in a blatantly sectarian manner.


Right, I’m done

The repair work has gone as far as it’s going to go; all of the comments left by my lovely readers have been lovingly restored. All of the posts have been restored. All of the comments made by the moron who went and lost it all have been mysteriously kept away, for it’s far too much effort to try and get them back.

Let that be a lesson to you all, though: failure to keep backups can make you look like a tit. And not in that good way.

No really, this time I mean it: Oh Poo

In blatant violation of good IT practice, I only take backups of this thing on a fortnightly basis.

My last backup was taken thirteen days, twenty hours and fifteen minutes ago.

And fifteen minutes ago, I totally corrupted the database.

Thusly, anything that happened here over the last two weeks did not, in fact, happen. It has been erased from history; it has been undone; it does not exist.

Yes, I am a fuckwit. Yes, this time I really did put my foot in it.


No connection, nosirree

T’other day, a brief conversation was had between a mate and myself. The gist of it was this: I thought that the SFO would be quite thorough in their investigation of BAe deals with Saudi Arabia, just so that the Attorney General could show a bit of impartiality which would be useful in the cash for honours thing.

OK, I was wrong, and the SFO isn’t continuing. Instead, they announced that they were stopping their investigation on the very same day that Blair had a friendly chat with officers in the cash for honours probe.

There are the obvious conclusions to be drawn, and Guido does that: that the best way for No10 to spin the police interview was to use the favoured “good day to bury bad news” approach.

But I’m thinking: was it anything more than that? Was the PM interview on that day to try and divert attention from the SFO? Because that was the first thing that struck me, and it would amuse me greatly. For two reasons: I don’t care if BAe have been bribing people; it’s part of the business culture in many parts of the world. And also, if Blair was the diversion, what would that say about his usefulness to the Cabinet?

‘course, it’s all just supposition on my part, and very likely to be bollox. But still, I can’t help but think…

He said what?

The government has been slapping it’s back a little recently with the success of the Freedom of Information Act. I have to say, my concerns about it don’t seem to have come to pass; the total pisstaking that I thought might happen didn’t.

But apparently things may have been a little too successful. And, surprise surprise, it’s costing a bit of money. So the government is considering trimming back, so that they can refuse to supply information if it costs too much to vet it, rather than to assemble it.

As it stands, if a request would cost £600 or more to answer, then it can be left unanswered. But, under these new proposals, if the costs to answer and the costs of “reading time, consideration time and consultation time” add up to more than £600, then it can be left unanswered. What, pray, would £600 get you in the modern civil service? One person spending half a day digging up the information, then two people taking a couple of hours to check it, then three people OKing it in electronic form before releasing it? That sounds about right, and would cut off a hell of a lot of requests. Including, handily, anything that required the minutes of a meeting to be released: all you’d have to do is ask all attendees to OK the release, and *bang* there’s your six hundred spent.

Oh course, the best part of the whole thing isn’t even this little loophole. The best big is a little quote from Lord Falconer:

Freedom of Information has to be balanced with good government.

Well, if the current lot are trading off one against the other, they’d better produce a hell of a lot of Freedom of Information, because the good government has been in a state of drought for a good few years.


There are things I love and hate about the internet. One thing I love is that scale and distance are so unimportant. One thing I hate is that everything is much more tracable, thanks to St Google.

Put the two together, and you get the purpose for this post.

A few days ago, I wrote a post about a BBC article about a study. I didn’t read the study (it requires registration and payment to do so), and I even misread the article (thinking that a Dr Karan Omidvari mentioned was more of a talking head than the lead researcher). The BBC article has since been updated to correct that mistake. And this is what’s happening here.

Dr Karan Omidvari emailed me a couple of days ago, not pleased at my tone, my post, my assumptions and my attitude. Basicially. With good reason. I had, in my own special and small way, shat on his study because I didn’t like the spin put on it by a third party. For which I apologise. Dr Omidvari made assertions based upon scientific observations, and while I may disagree with those assertions, that doesn’t make it a bullshit study. Also, being misquoted is a pain in the arse at the best of times; being misquoted on international media outlets and webshites belonging to sneering wee Belfast shites would be a little bit worse. So, apologies all round.

Plus, anyone who spends his own time and money watching 447 movies and passing it off as work deserves respect…

OK, I was wrong

Some time ago, I said this:

Which is why I?m quite happy to see this. The National Trust have opened up Divis and Black Mountain for recreational purposes. Which is nice.

Not that I plan on using them, but, y?know, it?s nice to know that they?re there in case I ever wander up that way.

Yup, me and the elder sister went for a wander this afternoon up to the top of Black Mountain. Only about a three mile round trip, and it’s all easy going, so I can heartily recommend it. Especially because the views at the end are so spectacular. Belfast looks great from a distance, it has to be said. I took a couple of photos on the phone, but since a) the camera in my phone is crap, and b) the data cable for my phone is banjaxed, I don’t think I’ll be posting them here.

A confession

I know I’ve been blogging quite a bit about how much I hate the whole Live8/mph thing. And I still hate it. I don’t like the bullying, the preaching, the mass hysteria directed towards those who question it’s worth. I don’t like the bandwagon jumping. And I don’t like Bob fuckin’ Geldof.

I know I’ve said all that. But I would dearly love to be proved wrong: I’d love it if, in a sudden outpouring of goodwill, all African debt was cancelled, and the economic realities were suspended, and the resulting money was spent wisely.

I’m not watching the show. Tell you the truth, I really can’t be arsed, because I know that Gerrof would be preaching and that just ain’t good for me. Instead, I’m catching up on a bit of reading. And one of the things I’ve been reading is the Economist, which has a very good article about the whole thing.

The aid sceptics?some of them veterans of the industry, their palms calloused from many previous bouts of hand-wringing over Africa?have all the best lines in the debate. Everything has been seen before, they say, nothing has worked. But what do they mean precisely? Do they mean that the World Health Organisation should abandon its efforts to put 3m HIV-carriers on anti-retroviral therapies? Perhaps those already on the drugs should hand them back, lest they succumb to ?dependency?. Should Merck stop donating its drug, ivermectin, to potential victims of riverblindness? Let Togo reinvent the drug itself! Perhaps, in the name of self-reliance, Tanzania’s government should stop giving pregnant women vouchers to buy mosquito nets. Get sewing, ladies!

No one should be naive about aid. It cannot make poverty history, and it can do harm. But to say that nothing works is wrong. Cynicism is only the most common form of naivety.

It’s very easy to be a cynic about all of this, and naysay everything that’s suggested. It’s very easy to support mph/Live8 as well, and put a wee bit of HTML on your site and a bit of plastic on your wrist, while sitting and doing nothing about it. The cynics sneer at the supporters, saying that they’re naive, easily led and opportunistic. The supporters look at the cynics and call them uncaring, selfish, unwilling to support something just because it’s new, or because it’s popular.

I’m still cynical about the whole thing. I still hate Geldof. I’m still of the opinion that, no matter what happens in the developed world, only the developing world can pick itself up. We, on the outside, may be able to help, but it still has to come from within.

But … I’d love to be proved wrong.


A new study has decided that the UK media is far too biased in favour of Israel. Yawn, etc, another day, another steaming pile of bull wasting time and money and only there to give a university department some publicity before it gets stuck in a drawer…

Sorry. Wrong rant.

Anyway: what annoyed me was in the comments:

I am 14-years-old, and my school recognised this problem. So, what they did was revolutionize the history class and make it current events. We were given opportunities to debate and it was imperative that we followed the news. At the end of the year, almost all students (certainly those who were interested) knew and could understand current affairs. Now, we can all have discussions with adults about the news, so this problem is not a universal one. This may be the solution, to start learning it in school.
TheVerySamePupil, London, UK

OK, what the fuck. It’s history class. Do history. You want to teach a class how to understand current events, do it on your own time. If you’re in a public-funded school, then you’re spending MY money on indoctrinating pupils by teaching them current events (from your point of view, no doubt), when you’re supposed to be teaching them history.

So stop it. Now.

UPDATE: I’ve been informed by the person who made the above comment that they were actually in a social studies/history class, and at a private school to boot. So all that stuff about taking my money and messing up the curriculum with it? Ignore it. My bad.