Saturday, February 28, 2009

Hate Site Hassle

Ever since my 12th January post about the Prince Harry brouhaha (the last one), I've had mails from various readers pointing out that their employer or local authority web filter software now classifies me as a 'hate site'. At the time I presumed it was because I'd actually used the word that Prince Harry used in the post, rather than asterisking it out - so I asterisked like a good-un, yet (I'm told) the status remains.

The very excellent FilteringFacts site has a page of test-it-yourself links, where you can see how various companies classify various sites. So Laban's had a look to see what various filtering companies make of the blog :

Blue Coat : "Media/News"

Cleanfeed seems to be defunct - a/c/t Wikipedia it now only targets dodgy images, but I couldn't find a site.

Fortinet : Category: Society and Lifestyles

Netsweeper : Journals and Blogs, Category result okay

Secure Computing : Hate site. I've mailed them and left feedback to ask why. There's also a 'Reputation' tag, whate'r that be - mine is currently 'Neutral'.

I see they're now owned by McAfee.

OpenDNS - I presume this is one of those co-operative open source endeavours - Hmmm.

It's 'Tagged for Review' and the 'Screenshot may be offensive' !

Someone called sesom, who has apparently submitted over 390,000 domains (must be a busy boy), has flagged it as a hate site. And someone calling themselves therossfamily has recently flagged the site as Adware, Forums/messageboards, Parked Domains, Lingerie/Bikini, Nudity and Pornography as well as the more reasonable Politics. I think someone's being malicious.

This is one of those Wiki-like sites where moderators have influence and votes also count. I've signed up and objected to the tags - we shall see.

SurfControl : "categorized as Blogs & Forums"

Websense : not sure, because you actually have to register and download an evaluation copy of the software. Anybody got one and can tell me what the site's categorised as ? But a/c/t Wikipedia Websense now own SurfControl, and I'm kosher/halal/cushti on that.

A fair few of my posts are devoted to liberal idiocy, and its effects upon (among other things) people's free speech. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to find myself a target. Perhaps it means I'm getting up the right noses.

What do you think ?

How Hateful is Laban's Blog ?
Innocent as a new-born babe
As mild as a wee lambkin
Eminently Reasonable
Somewhat combative
Downright Rude
Sinister Overtones
May incite hatred against people it's not OK to incite hatred against
Spittle-flecked ranting of the worst sort
Makes 'Der Sturmer' look like the Guardian's 'Society' section
Arrest that man at once ! free polls

UPDATE - I guess shooting the messenger or attempting to silence those voicing inconvenient truths is a long and dishonourable tradition.

"The glass is falling hour by hour, the glass will fall forever,
But if you break the bloody glass you won't hold up the weather"

Friday, February 27, 2009

Sacrificial Fat Cat ?

In medieval days Fred Goodwin might have been hung, drawn and quartered, in modern China he - and the board who approved his termination package - might have got a bullet in the back of the neck.

Today - and for weeks to come - he'll have to listen to a lot of hot air from HMG and their allies. And that'll be about it. The chances of the money being retrieved are near zero. He'll get away with it because he can.

It may seem to me and thee amazing that RBS could have approved such a deal - with Freed shovelling RBS cash out of the back door even as HMG prepared to pump the stuff in through the front door - but we forget the cosy cartel by which everyone sits on everyone else's remuneration committees, a mechanism which has been driving up top directors pay by 15% a year for the last 20 years. Don't stop the back-scrathing, lest your back be unscratched when the time comes. Didn't Merril Lynch approve a slew of last-minute bonuses even as insolvency loomed ?

But the Government hope he'll serve his purpose - as a lightning-conductor for public disquiet while yet more taxpayer cash is thrown at RBS on easy terms. If he didn't exist they'd have to invent him.

UPDATE - Jeff Randall, one day later :

If the inappropriately named Goodwin did not exist, the Government's Department of Propaganda would need to invent him. By casting Sir Fred as the pantomime villain – the credit crunch's Dick Dastardly – the unholy trinity of Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling and Lord Mandelson has been able to deflect attention from Labour's calamitous stewardship.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Sound of Stroud

Youtube is a wonderful thing. As you may know, I'm fond of the female voice, and She Moved Through The Fair is one of my very favourite songs, although I think my favourite version is that of Tommy Dempsey on his Green Grows The Laurel LP, which is alas another casualty of the Great Trailer Disaster.

Here's Alex West and Mark Wilderspin, aka Wildewest. Sing out, sister !

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ivan Cameron

Oh little body, do not die.
The soul looks out through wide blue eyes
So questioningly into mine,
That my tormented soul replies
"Oh little body, do not die
You hold the soul that talks to me,
Although our conversation be
As wordless as the windy sky."

I'm by no means the guy's number one fan, but you wouldn't wish the loss of a child on anyone. I was surprised how choked I was by the news that the Camerons had lost their son Ivan. Got home tonight and found that Susan had been in tears when she heard.

May Ivan rest in peace, and may his parents and siblings be able to say of him "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you".

Royal Mail Ructions

This is one of those weeks if we find out if there's anything at all left worth preserving in the Labour Party.

The Royal Mail pension fund is in danger of collapse if ministers do not press ahead with plans to sell a stake to a private company, trustees say.

In a letter seen by BBC News, Jane Newell, the chair of trustees, warns its deficit is "significantly larger" than the £5.9bn in the Hooper Review.

The Pension Protection Fund would struggle to support it, she adds.

Government plans, based on the Hooper Review, are due to be introduced in Parliament on Thursday.
The Royal Mail is one of those organisations that was set up in Victorian times as an instrument of what would now be called social cohesion, with the same cost for a letter between two London addresses or between London and Scotland. It's been whittled back over the last 30 years, mainly by the Tories - but New Labour seem as keen on trashing it as any Tory. After so long in power, the private companies who want the business are closer to Nu Lab than even their traditional Tory mates.

Martin Kelly, you won't be too shocked to learn, don't like it :

This is a disgusting tactic intended to get what you want by putting those more vulnerable than yourself into what one might a call a state of fear and alarm and distress; the precise moral equivalent of a protection racket telling an elderly shopkeeper that their business might suffer fire damage unless they pay up. Pay up or burn down - go private or lose your income.

But neither do the arch-capitalists at City Unslicker. It's worse than a crime, it's a blunder !

Regardless of whether the privatisation of the mail is *ahem* the right thing to do, it seems an unbelievably bad political strategy.

What kind of strategy is this?
At a time when banks are being given billions every day, and bailouts for companies in the red is the new black, a few billion to clear the deficit would go almost unnoticed. Dressed up as "British jobs for ..." or "Keeping employees in work is our main aim during this.. etc."

To pick a fight with your core voters {public sector posties}, your backbench MPs, former and current cabinet ministers{Peter Hain is absolubtely against and BBC reporting a split in the cabinet and Daily Mail running the story too} is bizarre.

Harriet Harman, one of the PM's frontrunner replacements, apparently involved in the row, so Gordon is giving her more room to position to oust him.
Upsetting the CWU, a £1 million+ backer, who may just decide to give the money to the Lib Dems, further angering the rest of the Union bank rollers, splitting the public on an issue, privatising a company that is Labour to its core? When its likely that the Tories would do it for you after 2010, driving voters towards, rather than away from Labour.

At a time when the polls are showing a collapse in support and a party clinging to just its core heartlands with just 28-30% rating, having to beg the opposition to bail you out of a vote, that your own supporters are against. The outcome will almost certainly be strikes. Timed to coincide with the June euro / local elections no doubt. Postal votes..forget them. DHL can't deliver the voting forms as Royal Mail deliver the final mile.

What kind of political strategy is this?
Is TNT or DHL giving a bung {er..I think you mean donation} to the party?
Have the printing presses jammed and there really is no more cash?
Is Mr Brown having an Iraq moment where its become a leadership decision and can't be altered?

They're both right. How much more disgusting can this government get ? What depths remain to be plumbed ?

The Teachers, Of Course, Were Told That Years Ago

"Parents told: avoid morality in sex lessons"

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Two Teensy Vignettes

A whole world in two sentences :

Mr Heyes, 20, of Bray Road, Speke, Liverpool, denies manslaughter.

John McDermott QC, prosecuting, said Mr Heyes, who also has a 16-month old son, was left alone with his newborn after Ms Pike, 32, went out to collect her giro.

And another villain faces justice :

A 63-year-old woman has been convicted of assault after using rolled up church papers to hit a teenager she suspected of damaging a village sign.

Another Villain Put Behind Bars

I noticed this story when I was up in Scotland last week.

A sheriff was condemned yesterday for jailing a vigilante who stormed into a drug dealer's home and threatened to kill him before flushing a stash of heroin down the toilet. Peter Drummond, 26, took the law into his own hands after his brother-in-law became addicted to the drug.

He went to the home of John Nellies and berated him for causing misery to families before flushing five bags of heroin down the toilet, Perth Sheriff Court was told.

Drummond, who was reported to the police by one of Nellies' customers, shook his head in disbelief as he was jailed for two months by Sheriff Robert McCreadie.
Once he might have been commended and awarded £50 from public funds. Now he's in jail. Sheriff Robert McCreadie is a greater threat to his country than any number of smack dealers.

Ms Bates told the court: "He (Drummond] continued to shout and swear and threatened to kill Nellies if he continued to supply heroin to members of his family. He recovered five bags of heroin from the living room and flushed it down the toilet in order to prevent other persons from obtaining it."

Steve Lafferty, Drummond's solicitor, appealed to the court to have his punishment limited to a fine due to the "quite unusual" circumstances of the case.

He said that Drummond, who admitted a number of previous convictions, had no other criminal charges pending.

But Sheriff McCreadie ignored the plea and told Drummond he should have contacted the police. "You can't take matters into your own hands the way you did," he said.

The sheriff is right. If there's one thing our rulers hate it's being shown up.

Allahpu Akhbar ?


A man sprayed a mixture of urine and faeces in two supermarkets, a pub and a bookshop in Gloucestershire, a jury at Bristol Crown Court has heard. Sahnoun Daifallah, 42, of Bibury Road, Gloucester, is alleged to have caused damage estimated at £700,000 last May.

Mr Daifallah pleaded not guilty to four charges of contaminating goods and two of damaging property. He also denied possession of material to contaminate goods and possession of an offensive weapon.
Nice chap. Seemed to target alcohol, pubs (and barmaids) and frozen chips. What could his motivation be ? There's more that the BBC don't see fit to report, including that the bookshop attack concentrated on the children's section, and the chap's nationality (Algerian).

On searching the house they found messages scrawled all over the walls with what the prosecution say are fantasies about biological weapons.

One message said: "The ants get out to every direction to get food, then they bring it back to Tesco and Asda. If you poison those then you kill the ants."

Police also found a camcorder bag containing sachets of excrement each labelled with the name of a city or town – Bristol, Cheltenham, Birmingham, Worcester, Cardiff and Gloucester. Bottles containing faeces and urine were also found in his kitchen and car.

Daifallah told police that someone else had written the messages on his walls and said that he used the spray for his garden.

Mr Dent also revealed that Daifallah had been questioned by police about four incidents in February last year when brown liquid was sprayed in the toilets and around the tables of four pubs in Stroud.

Vaguely reminiscent of this story.

Two shop-owners were today fined for selling chocolate cake - which had been sprinkled with human faeces. A horrified customer ate the foul-smelling gateaux but noticed that it didn't taste or smell "quite right" and handed the cake to public health scientists.

The analysts soon established that the sweet treat was covered in faeces and legal proceedings against the shop owners were started. Shop owners Saeed Hasmi, 25, and Jan Yadgari, 23, were fined £1,500 for selling food unfit for human consumption.

The pair - who ran the Italiano Pizzeria in Roath, Cardiff - admitted the charge but did not say how the chocolate cake was contaminated.

The takeaway is a favourite with late-night revellers and students living around the takeaway close to Cardiff University.

Amazingly they weren't prosecuted for anything else and no DNA samples were taken.

More Crunchy Things ...

The economic crisis is the most important feature of the political landscape, and is likely to remain so for the next year or so - unless or until the political fallout of said crisis starts to grab the headlines.

The bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2000-2003 sent the FT100 down to about 3300 - a level which this far more serious crisis has yet to achieve, hitting a low of about 3800 in November. But as I type the Dow Jones has dropped another 250 points or 3.5% to around 7100 and the FT closed at 3850, only 70 points off the November low. Given today's Dow fall, the FT may well hit a new low tomorrow.

It may be, as CityUnslicker says, that the dominos fall slowly, but there's been nothing slow about the stock market fall. The dot-com collapse saw a drop from 6900 in Jan 2000 of about 700 points by Jan 2001, a further drop of 1,000 points by Jan 2002, 1200 points by Jan 03, and another 700 points by March 03. This crisis saw 2,000 points off the FT in 2008, most of it in the last four months of the year.

Anyone in IT could see the dot-com bubble for what it was. I remember, when Dixons freebie net access provider Freeserve was valued at several hundred pounds per subscriber, wondering how that could ever be a realistic valuation. Where were they going to make that sort of money ? The average Freeserve user in 2002 probably didn't spend more than £100 a year on the Web, and although more sophisticated users might be spending several hundred, how was the provider going to get even a small percentage cut of that, let alone the hundreds of pounds that could justify the share price ? I looked at the FT's 2000 level and moved my AVC pension pot into cash funds - one of my few big and correct calls (I then failed to switch out in 2003 !).

There were enough financial professionals calling the credit crunch over the last two years - yet it still came as a shock to the rest of us. Not being in the banking business, I wondered vaguely how they kept declaring multi-billion-pound profits and put it down to the hefty spread between the interest rate on savings accounts and that charged to the credit card. I couldn't work out why Iceland seemed to be buying up the High Street, either.

I digress. What does it all mean ? I've already noted that Labour's solution will be to rob the pensioners via inflation in order to a) bail out their director mates b) bribe the vibrant youth not to riot, by stopping their mouths with outreach workers - but a few other observations.

i) the Western European countries deepest in the brown stuff seem to be those who swallowed whole all the stuff about the global goodness of mass immigration, ever-rising property prices and financial services - to wit, the UK, Spain and Ireland. Demographic basket-case Spain now has millions of immigrants and millions of unemployed, mass-immigration Ireland is in deep doo-doo.

ii) in the UK it's likely to accelerate a shift of votes to the BNP, enabling them to reach the Holy Grail of Euro-funding. Something our rulers aren't too keen on, but they're running out of options to prevent it. The obvious solution - stopping mass immigration immediately for say 5 years while the emphasis is put on integration - is unthinkable, so I guess we'll just get lots of get-tough stories coupled with zero action and perhaps more harassment of BNP activists.

iii) the Govt fear rioting in the streets.

iv) any future spending cuts are likely to be aimed at the non-rioting classes - i.e. the people who've been paying in for 40 years.

v) at this stage in the lifecycle of the Major government there was great, Obama-size hope in Tony Blair and New Labour. I had it myself. They came to power with a huge amount of goodwill. Cameron, and still less Osborne , don't - and won't have that. Would you trust either ?

Interesting times.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Back ...

Took me all day to unpack, wash ski gear, dry out soaking gloves/hats/scarves/skisuits, walk dog - by nine o'clock and a hot bath a tired Laban was just ready for some serious blogging when I got a call from my eldest - the car had died. Went out with Susan to collect him and his passengers and check out the problem (looks like the alternator has packed up). It was nearly three hours before it could be towed home - got back at midnight.

So just a quick mention of

a) the whistleblowers tale (links don't work properly, but this is the full story).

Whistle-blower Graham Milne of Lloyds TSB came to the view that the Circular illegally misled policy-holders. He was duly suspended and, one year later, fired – sound familiar ?

Just before he was fired, the FSA responded to his claims, dismissing them - doubtless to the satisfaction of Lloyds TSB. The FSA Managing Director responsible was Carol Sergeant, a personal appointee of Gordon Brown’s – sound familiar ?

Just as Milne was being fired, guess what happened to Sergeant ? One month after she dismissed Milne’s complaint, she was hired as Chief Risk Director at … Lloyds TSB ! Six months later, for good measure, she was awarded the CBE: and then made a Trustee of the charity Public Concern at Work (motto: Making Whistle-Blowing Work). After all, she’d been responsible for launching the FSA’s whistle-blower policy !!

I am not making this up.
The only thing I would add is that it appears the SW policyholders were due to take a hit on the company's Guaranteed Annuity liabilities come what may, whether they stayed mutual or not. But Milne is correct that the exposure should have been fully explained in the demutualisation documents. If that's not a material fact I don't know what is.

Elsewhere - Pub Philosopher and Blimpish on Red Toryism.

PP :

It's almost as if a tacit deal was done.

"You can have political correctness, multiculturalism, gay rights and the abolition of corporal punishment in schools if we can have deregulation, tax loopholes, offshoring and outsourcing."

Got it in one - in some cases more of a devil's compact (eg Murdoch's services to dumbing down/pornification and the Tory Party) than a tacit deal. And it started, remember, in the 80s. Thatcher lost the culture war as completely as she won the economic one - although I'm never quite sure that she even realised the existence of the culture war.

More later. I see the FT and Dow continued to fall last week, more US banks are in trouble - as City Unslicker would put it "the dominoes fall slowly".