Saturday, January 14, 2006

World Cup proving popular

World Cup ticket orders heavily oversubscribed

"Orders for 250,000 tickets for this year's World Cup in Germany on offer in the final sales window are set to be oversubscribed about 18 times, organisers said on Friday, two days before applications close."

And in other breaking news, sun rose in the east, astronomers report.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Kennedy still in denial

Hat tip to Iain Dale who pointed to yesterday's Inverness Courier article about Charlie Kennedy, The I'm no alcoholic, says Charles, the bit that caught my eye was this bit in a rambling explanation of why he should still be leader.

"...the week before Christmas, in a council by-election, we won a safe conservative ward with a 70 per cent swing in our favour - after David Cameron has taken over as leader of the Tory Party."

I've been doing some checking on the ALDC site and I can't find any LD win with 70% swing at all. This is the FULL list of all elections in December with the LD-Con swing. I assume he means the Forest Heath DC by-election in Red Lodge which was a gain with a swing of 37.8% which is superficially impressive unless you realise that the previous election was Conservative 56%, Independent 44% and the Lib Dems didn't stand.

Also it would be ignoring the Bournemouth by-election in Littledown & Ilford on the same day where this in 2003

Liberal Democrats 50.9%
Conservatives 30.9%
Independent 11.9%
Labour 6.2%

into this a week before Christmas

Conservatives 67.8%
Liberal Democrats 20.0%
Labour 8.3%
BNP 3.8%

That's a 34% swing LD to Con

If he's going to take individual council by-elections as a vindication of his performance, Kennedy ought to make sure the facts match the spin.

Oh no, not Donkey

Weebl and Bob reach number 100 (warning very big file)

Alito confirmations

Alito, at Hearing Pledges an Open Mind on Abortion

Hang on, a nominee for the highest court in the US reckons that he doesn't have a view on abortion rights. Has the man been living under a rock since Roe vs Wade? Assuming that Judge Alito is an intelligent and well-read man, which surely he is to be on the verge of the Supreme Court, he has surely lied to the Senate Judicary Committee.

But I don't blame Alito, I blame the system that has produced it. To be confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice, you have to pretend to you have never thought about abortion rights. Alito's lying, the Senate knows he's lying, but if he had spoken his true mind in either direction his nomination would be dead.

It's getting like that here, the public say they prefer politicians who speak their mind but actually elect the wishy-washy, can't say anything that might make anyone less likely to vote for me type politico.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Life on Mars

Just watched Life on Mars and I was blown away. Is it all imagination? I think it so, but because it's obvious might mean it's not. With Lost finishing this week, I think I've found another reason to own a TV.

Another day, another policy ditched

If I were a Tory, my head would be spinning. A week after shelving the patient's passport, Cameron has ended the Tories opposition to university tuition fees.

I love this quote

"You want to go to universities that are well-funded, [with] good tutors, good facilities and I want as many people who think they're going to benefit from university to be able to go.

"If you want those things - and as you also know we've also got to keep taxes down in this country - the money's got to come from somewhere."

Welcome to the real world, Dave.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Tory wants state help for greedy people

Posted this in response to Iain Dale's plea for big government to protect middle-class investments So Your House is About to go Over the Cliff

I'm sorry Iain but that sob story just doesn't cut it with me.

Di has been unlucky in that she's the one in possession of that property when it disappeared but she cannot be considered blameless.

Di probably got the property for cheaper than the going rate. In the article there are the examples of the Isle of Wight properties going for £65k when similar properties not threatened by erosion are worth 5 times that price. She was told at the time that it was safe for 100 years, but you can't predict the weather for 100 years. All it was and all it should have been treated as was an estimate.

If it had been really 100 years and in the 26 years since only a quarter of the garden had gone, then Di would have been happy. But she took a gamble against the weather and now the weather's won, she wants the state - me and you to pay out as if she'd won. As she herself says "Even then we thought someone would stop it before it got to us... I thought I'd be able to sell up and enjoy a nice retirement." Well, she can have a nice retirement, she can have a little council flat and a state pension like millions of other people have no choice but to do.

Also I have difficulty believing Di's account - David Will says that he's been concerned about Happisburgh since the 70s - that is during the time when Di lived in Happisburgh but before she bought the doomed houses. Note two houses - I would have more sympathy if it was just a home, but it was an investment.

And despite his concern David Will's still selling bungalows near the cliffedge. They are safe for 25 years he says, but as we both know, a bad storm this winter could cut that time in half. Will you be campaigning for state money for those new buyers too ten years down the road?

This is sadly typical of you, Iain. Antipathy against poor people but if middle class property owners might lose a bit of money then you want the state to step in. What about all the people who will never be able to buy property - near a cliff edge or not?

Galloway - wrong again

I saw on BBC George Galloway repeating that old chestnut defending his decision to enter the Celebrity Big Brother house.

"More young people vote during Big Brother than in the general election. I hope they'll all be voting for me over the next few weeks."

I've blogged about it before and that myth was demolished by the BBC last May. Closing paragraph:

"But next time a politician appears on television claiming Big Brother is more popular than the general election among young voters, it is worth bearing in mind that they are almost certainly wrong."

Incidentally, if they vote for you this week, they'll be voting to evict. Don't you mean "I hope they'll all be voting for me, but not yet"

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Kennedy resigns

Well, he's gone and no surprise, but I feel immensely sorry for him. Living in Yeovil for the past nine years I have come to despise the two-faced character of many Lib Dem politicans (though I do respect a couple of them). Today Kennedy has fallen victim to the gutless cowards in his own ranks.

I think that after the next election, there will be many Lib Dems who will have that nagging doubt in their mind that they will have done better with Kennedy at the helm.

Friday, January 06, 2006


Just on the arithmetic with 24 MPs out of the Lib Dem 62 putting opposition to Kennedy on the record means he’s probably politically toast. But I do think that the way senior Lib Dem MPs are behaving is cowardly in the extreme.

Kennedy’s decided to issue a Major-style put up or shut up challenge to his MPs. They haven’t put up, or shut up, they are putting pressure on Kennedy to resign because they don’t want to face him in an election.

Can’t just one of them show an ounce of guts and say that he or she will make a better leader than Kennedy and stand against him in a vote of the membership?

UPDATE: BBC now reporting 33 MPs against Kennedy, that's got to be the point that he has to go.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Where's Happy Harry's money from?

From the Guardian:

Arkady Gaydamak, the father of Portsmouth's new co-owner Alexandre Gaydamak, was yesterday questioned by Israeli police on suspicion of money laundering. It was the third time the Russian-born billionaire has helped with investigations in the past six weeks and he is not free to leave Israel while the inquiry continues.

In a separate and significant twist police reportedly advised the Jewish Agency, an Israeli state organisation in charge of the relationship between Israel and diaspora Jews, not to accept a donation of $50m (£28m) from Gaydamak. Police said it would be unwise for the agency to take money from a suspect source, according to the Israeli newspaper Maariv.

Redknapp’s not so picky

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Ariel Sharon

Ariel Sharon may be a complete c**t, however for the sake of the Middle East, I hope that he makes a full and speedy recovery from the stroke he suffered tonight. He seems to me from this distance to me the only Israeli of any note who is hawkish enough to be able to conclude an equitable peace with the Palestinians.

First Rabin, now Sharon, it almost seems that God doesn’t want the conflict to stop.

Laws the hypocrite again

Our local MP David Laws received a letter from me early December asking for him to sign the early day motion supporting the pensions deal. He never even bothered to reply. No surprise there. What has surprised me is this comment which I missed at the time in the Independent.

"It is also time to reform public sector pensions to make them both fair and affordable."

I assume that reforming to make them affordable isn't going to make them more generous.

Maybe David Laws ought to be looking closer to home, When he was working for Barclays Bank, he enjoyed a pension scheme that was both more generous than either the Local Government (LGPS) or NHS pension schemes but also cost less to the employee. When they later closed the scheme to new employees Barclays did not force existing employees to switch schemes as Laws insists should happen to public sector workers. But when he joined Parliament, he hit the jackpot.

For David Laws, he doesn't have to wait until he's 60 for a pension like in the NHS, or follow the rule of 85 as the current rule is in the LGPS but when his age and years service add up to 80, in other words David Laws can retire when he's 57. Not only that, but while NHS and LGPS staff have an accrual rate of 1/80th and Barclays used to have 1/60th, MPs have an accrual rate of 1/40th. So Lucky Laws can not only retire three years earlier than a nurse can, but his pension has grown twice as fast.

Ah, but maybe he's principled and fought against such a generous provision for himself and his colleagues? No, when the change from an accrual rate of 1/50th to 1/40th took place in 2001, soon after Laws was first elected, the majority of Lib Dems and the majority of Labour MPs opposed the change which was passed due to the overwhelming majority of Tory MPs. What did Lucky Laws vote? He didn't bother to turn up.

What gives him the right to attack pensions for hard working public servants when he wallows in a pension that is far more generous? Maybe because he's a hypocrite?

Goodbye Patient's Passport

According to the BBC, David Cameron is set to announce that the Tory “patient’s passport” policy is to be scrapped. About time too, but there’s not much information on what’s going to replace it.

The Patient’s Passport was clearly a bad idea, a means of redistributing wealth from the poor towards the middle-classes. That was why it was popular with the Tories so I can’t see this announcement going down well with them.

From the BBC report:

Mr Cameron rejects such calls but he will also use his speech to claim he would go further than Labour on reforming the NHS.

He will say he wants to give hospitals more autonomy and "break down the barriers" between private and public sector providers so the NHS becomes more efficient and effective.

I’m not sure how more autonomous than foundation hospitals trusts can be and breaking down the barriers sounds like something someone would say when they’re not really certain of what they are talking about. Much like a lot of David Cameron’s soundbites in fact.

There is a little bit of red meat thrown to the Tory base by Andrew Lansley who says there would be no limit on the amount of private companies being used as providers of NHS services. Maybe surprisingly, I completely agree, I can only speak about my experience here in East Somerset, but I know that given a level playing-field, there’s no private company that would be able to match us.

My fear is that private companies will be allowed to negotiate an artificial floor on the amount of business they get. So even if there’s patient choice and no-one chooses the private provider, they are guaranteed to receive the minimum payment. An example in the Health Service Journal (free registration required) shows Ashton, Leigh and Wigan PCT paying Netcare nearly £500,000 for 688 surgical procedures, but only 67 patients wanted to be treated there. Result, Netcare were paid for 621 procedures that they didn’t have to perform.

I have no philosophical objection on private providers in a free at the point of need NHS. If private companies can provide a more efficient service then it would be churlish to object. But if everyone else is expected to stand on their own two feet and get paid by results, then the likes of Netcare must be subject to the rigours of the free market too. Why don’t the Tories agree with that?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Review: WWE Know Your Role!

published by Comic Images, 144 pages hardbound, £24.99 or thereabouts.

To be honest, this was a bit of a joke, some money burning a hole in my pocket at GenCon and a cheesy game to buy. But then I read it and it does not deserve the derision that a WWE roleplaying game usually attracts.

144 pages isn't a lot for £24.99 but it's well put together and well presented, full colour throughout. I'm not convinced that the binding will be up to serious use though, my copy is just starting to fail a couple of months after I bought it.

First things first, it's a D20 game in terms of the basics, weight classes from Light Cruiserweight to Ultra Heavyweight take the places of races and the classes are 5 types of wrestler and a manager class. The Wrestler classes are split into Power, Aerial, Rough, Technical and Savvy, each associated with a different attribute.

So we've got a game of hand to hand combat, using Dungeon and Dragon rules, what's to stop the game being hit, miss, miss, hit? That's where the cunning action count system comes into play. In the book there's around 100 different manoeuvres (also split into different classes) and an easy system for designing new moves. Manoeuvres are rated on difficulty from +6 for a simple pin attempt on a prone target to -3 for something like a Tornado Slam. Each wrestler announces a manoeuvre and rolls a d20, plus attack bonus, plus the rating of the move. Then the highest score is the move that takes effect in that round, the losing player's move fails.

I've done some practice bouts with this system and it really adds to the atmosphere of the game. Players don't tend to try for finishing moves immediately, because it's difficult to pin an opponent, it's best to stun them first, or to build up Heat from successful moves to cash them in for a special move.

That's the heart of the system and it swiftly becomes more complex, rules for distracting a referee (which could be run by another player) before doing an illegal move, the classic pick up a chair move and the getting another character to run in to help out. Rules for promos, vignettes, interviews and even getting a movie role are included, adding to the game's long time success.

Campaign-wise, the game's divergence from basic D20 is most apparent. Each player is encouraged to create at least 5 or 6 characters to populate the roster and also the campaign does not need a GM, it can run easily without one, abiding by a group consensus to resolve any rules conflict.

So I like the game, but I'm just not sure who will play it. Older roleplayers will tend to scoff at anything so childish as the WWE and younger roleplayers may be intimided by the complexity of the system, which could have been better presented. Still for those players, like me, that embrace their inner geek, the game might fit the bill.

* lost points for occassionally contradictory rules and for the book being less than well-bound

Overall 8/10

Monday, January 02, 2006

Darts, yes really

To avoid the crushingly boring round of TV over the Christmas period I've been watching quite a lot of the World Championship Darts. Normally when the final comes around, I'll cheer on whoever's playing Phil Taylor, he's just won too many times already - but this year will be different.

His oppponent this year is Peter Manley, so I'll have to cheer on Taylor. Manley's a good player, he hit a 3-dart average of nearly 100 in his defeat of Wayne Jones. Noticably, as he was outclassing Jones he didn't have to resort to his usual backtalk. So it's not something that's just Peter Manley, it's something he brings when he's in a tough match, as against Adrian Lewis and against Dennis Smith. Muttering and swearing to an opponent about to throw is not acceptable and not the sign of a worthy champion.

So come on the Power.

Update: Phil the Power never gave Manley a sniff and won 7-0 and a prize of £100,000.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy 2006

2006 will be a transitional year for me, I'm stepping down as branch secretary at the end of January and hopefully I'll be able to move back into my old job full-time with little problem. One of my new years resolutions are to make better use of my time and that includes blogging. Let's see how long this will last.