Thursday, July 31, 2003

Heads they win: Britain's executives get rewarded for failure.

Crikey, I reckon even I could successfully run a company into the ground and take more than my fair share. £7m a year - that makes them 500 times more "valuable" than the average employee. Really? Are you serious?

Here's the link

and the full list of shame:

Jean-Pierre Garnier
Chief executive of GlaxoSmithKline
The deal: Earned £7m last year and is in line for £22m pay-off if the company is taken over. Even so the company is trying to get him a pay rise, even though GSK shares have fallen, along with its profits, since he took over in 2000.

William F Aldinger III
Chief operating officer of Household International, new US offshoot of HSBC
The deal: £37m pay package over the next three years, including guaranteed annual bonus of £2.5m and free dental care for life for Mr Aldinger and his wife, even if he is fired.

Bob Mendelsohn
Ousted as chief executive of Royal & Sun Alliance last autumn
The deal: Pay-off of £2.44m and annual pension of £354,000 despite a 90% collapse in R&SA shares and 12,000 job losses.

Ian Lumsden
Chief executive of Standard Life
The deal: 26% pay rise to £619,000 and £260,000 performance bonus even though the insurer lost £4bn in its share dealings last year and slashed the value of pension and endowment mortgage payouts.
* Lost £4,000,000,000 and still gets a pay rise? I could do that, gis a job.

Eric Daniels
New chief executive of Lloyds TSB
The deal:£1.6m, including £350,000 relocation allowance and free school fees, even though profits fell 18% and dividend is expected to be slashed.

John Weston
Former chief of BAE Systems
The deal: Weston was ousted last year with a £1.5m pay-off and £3.7m pension pot. The group was forced to issue a profits warning in December and its shares are at a 10-year low

Sir Brian Moffat
Departing chairman of Corus
The deal: Will receive £300,000 a year pension after overseeing a £400m slump into the red, a 99% slump in the share price and 12,000 job losses

Alan Smith
Former chief executive of Somerfield
The deal: Ousted with estimated £600,000 pay-off after issuing a profits warning.

Sir Geoff Mulcahy
Former chief executive of Kingfisher
The deal: Received total pay of £1.4m last year including a £502,000 pay-off. He also gets a £15m pension pot, which will generate £790,000 a year. The shares have fallen from 719p to 200p in recent years.

Helen Weir
Finance director of Kingfisher
The deal: £334,000 relocation allowance to move her home 41 miles from Hampshire to Buckinghamshire, taking her total remunderation package to £910,000.

Ian Harley
Former chief executive of Abbey National
The deal:Received £1.7m, comprising £1.1m in lieu of notice and £560,000 in pension benefits even though the bank turned in a near £1bn loss, had been forced to cut its dividend to save cash and has since done a strategy u-turn.

Michael Dobson
Chief executive of Schroders
The deal: Salary and bonuses of £2.9m even though the company shed 500 staff last year and its shares lost 26%. Dobson is guaranteed £10.5m over three years and his investment company is among those supposed to monitor executive excess elsewhere.
* Obviously doing a good job of curbing excesses in the boardroom.

Matt Barrett
Chief executive of Barclays Bank
The deal: Received £2.7m last year as the bank's profits fell 6%. The main point of controversy is the £5m cheque he will receive if Barclays is taken over.

Sir Phil Watts
Chief executive of Shell
The deal: A 55% pay rise to £1.8m and an additional £1.2m pumped into his private pension pot, at a time when the company plans to lay off 4,000 staff and its share price dropped 27%.

Bart Becht
Chief executive of Reckitt Benckiser
The deal: £5.1m pay deal , but shareholders are more concerned about his pay-off should he be fired or the company is taken over. Then he would get a lump sum of 1.5 times his salary and double his bonus.

Brian Gilbertson
Former chief executive, BHP Billiton
The deal: Was paid £1.9m last year before being fired in January. He is expected to receive an £11m pay-off, even though he was in the job at the newly merged company fewer than six months and is said to have fallen out with the chairman.

Tony Ball
Chief executive of BSkyB
The deal: Basic salary of £743,545 and a bonus, including living allowance, of £1.25m. He has a two-year contract and guaranteed bonus which will be paid regardless of performance. Last year the company made a £1.2bn loss.

John Brock
Former chief operating officer of Cadbury Schweppes
The deal:Received £3m last year, including £701,000 pay-off when he was passed over for the top job at Cadbury. Fifteen days later Brock was appointed chief executive of brewing group Interbrew.

Steve Russell
Former chief executive of Boots
The deal: Likely to receive pay-off of £750,000 after being ousted despite championing a diversification strategy which has resulted in hundreds of job losses and cost Boots £300m.

Graham Wallace
Former chief executive, Cable & Wireless
The deal: Wallace is demanding a £1.5m pay-off, even though when he left C&W shares hit their lowest point for 20 years and the company was fighting for survival after a £10bn spending spree backfired.

Brendan O'Neill
Former chief executive of ICI
The deal: Resigned last month after issuing a profit warning which wiped £700m off ICI's value. Is expected to receive a £650,000 pay-off. Was paid £1.02m last year, including a £361,000 incentive payment. ICI shares fell 75%.

Sir Richard Giordano
Chairman of BG Group
The deal: Earns £490,373 as part-time chairman, but the most controversial aspect is an agreement for him to keep an office, secretary and driver for five years after he leaves.

Tim Byrne
Former chief executive of MyTravel (previously known as Airtours)
The deal: Fired with £1.2m pay-off after "accounting irregularities" resulted in £73m loss. The shares collapsed, up to one in 10 staff are being sacked and the company still faces an uncertain future.

Richard Harvey
Chief executive of Aviva (formerly CGNU)
The deal: Took home £1m in a year when Aviva cut its dividend by 40% and sliced 12% off the value of maturing policies. The share price collapsed, reducing the value of Aviva by £8bn.

John Stewart
Former deputy chief executive of Barclays Bank
The deal: Left with a £1.7m pay-off after realising he was not going to get the top job at Barclays. One month later he popped up as £485,000-a-year boss of National Australia Bank.

Adam Singer
Former chief executive of Telewest
The deal: Banked £1.8m when he left the cable TV company, despite taking the firm to the brink of collapse. The shares crashed from £5.63 to 2p and 1,500 staff lost their jobs.

Steve Morrison
Former chief executive of Granada
The deal: Ousted with a £1m pay-off after a 50% slide in Granada's share price and presiding over the ITV Digital fiasco, which cost the group's shareholders £1.2bn.

Charles Allen
Chairman of Granada
The deal: Received more than £1m last year, despite the ITV Digital debacle. The shares have dropped from 270p to 70p and Mr Allen will get at least £2m if he loses his job as a result of Granada's current plan to merge with Carlton.

Tom Glocer
Chief executive of Reuters
The deal: Received £477,000 relocation allowance, and an apartment in Mayfair. He was paid £1.7m, including a £600,000 bonus in a year when the company reported its firstloss and plans to sack 5,500 staff. The shares fell 80%.

Brian Staples
Former chief executive of Amey
The deal: Earned £460,000 in his last full year at Amey and was awarded £361,000 after being ousted. His strategy had taken the company to the brink of bankruptcy and the shares fell 90%. It has since been taken over.

* The worst thing about all of these is, of course, that they force their staff to count paperclips or worse, lay them off while adding to the problem of falling profits. Why don't they sack themselves (without compensation, natch) and see how they do in a proper job? That way they would save their company millions and actually do something useful.
Another press release from the socialist lot -

"Achievements sustainable as Labour passes record

This Saturday, 2 August, Labour achieves its longest continuous period in government. The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, marked this achievement at his monthly press conference in Downing Street. He said: "After 6 years in office Britain has the lowest inflation, interest rates and unemployment for decades, half a million children have been lifted out of poverty, there's been record investment in the National Health Service and schools, which have improved results significantly, crime is
falling, and Britain is stronger in the world, so there's an enormous amount still to do, but those achievements are real and I believe will be sustainable." He paid further tribute to public service workers and thanked them for their efforts in working with the government to improve public
services. The transcript of his press conference can be read here:

Get this: after being in power for about a third less time than the Tories, we have already got the lowest inflation, interest rates and unemployment for decades. The Tories regarded unemployment as "a price worth paying". By whom, and for which purpose we were never told. It is often the poorest and most disadvantaged which become unemployed, and while the minimum wage isn't perfect (the Tories said it wouldn't work. At all) it stops many people falling into a poverty trap.

The Tories represent the rich and the landed. They have untold power over the media in this country, and will even release new magazines to tell us how wonderful they are. Labour represents the other 98%. Whether people realise that, or not, shouldn't matter. But without a Labour government unemployment *will* rise, and things *will* get worse. Worse than you can possibly imagine, if Iain Duncan Smith became Prime Minister. Think Major or even Thatcher was bad? Pah!

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Sorry, not much blogging today. But an item of good news, I've passed the magic thousand mark so somebody (sniff!) must love me.

Thank you to all my readers and to everyone who has made kind comments or allowed me to blatantly rip off content from their site. Most of my best ideas are actually someone else's.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

"Parents should have class webcams" - full article here

No. Parents would not see a lot, and as there was no sound, there would not be any context for their unruly offspring.

Webcams should be all over police stations, and especially in the cells. If webcams are to be anywhere, then the unedited footage *must* start from the places of work of the politicians who suggest it, and the offices of the police and other forces. Allegations of bullying in the Army - send in the cameras. I'm fed up of the people who want to impose cameras on the rest of us getting away without being contantly monitored. What do *they* have to hide?

Personally, I don't agree with cameras anywhere but if we have to have them, then they should be "watching the detectives".
Well, quite a lot has happened since I last blogged. Bob Hope died. That Tony Martin came out from jail and so did one of his victims. Of course, one of his victims will never go anywhere again.

I'd just like to review the law pertaining to property as it relates to England and Wales. You are not allowed to use deadly force to prevent someone tresspassing on your property. Self defence is allowed, but it is exactly that - defence. No waving of guns and suchlike. No electric barbed wire or landmines outside your property.

One might wonder how such laws came about, as English law is usually pretty draconian. I think it must have started about the time of the various Enclosures acts - the greedy landlords didn't want any legal opposition to their quasi-illegal occupation of common land. If a peasant used violence to defend their land, it was so much easier to cart them off to jail. Unfortunately for the large landowners, that does mean that there is little they can legally do about tresspassers, but as they usually own large tracts of land, the problem was not very pressing for them - and it was usually easy enough for them to dragoon the police into preventing "breaches of the peace". Wouldn't it be nice if the police weren't always being used in a party political way. Hey, I can dream can't I?

Friday, July 25, 2003

New viral outbreak hits America.

Epidemic Of Good Sense Strikes The US, Republicans Quickly React

WASHINGTON D.C. (NewsHax wire) -- The US Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Richard H. Carmona, held a press conference this morning addressing the Good Sense epidemic. For the past two months, infected Americans have reported experiencing doubt in authority figures, compassion for the homeless, and, in some cases, severe dissatisfaction with the status quo.

"Particularly at risk are Americans who hate reading, drive SUVs, or support war as a means to end conflict, real or imagined," the Surgeon General said. "And that's not just Republicans," he added. (More...)

Arrrghh!!! Blogger is playing up! I can't stand it! I just can't stand it!
Having problems with my template - Blogrolled links will be back on the right hand side as soon as I've worked out what part of the previous post is causing the problem.
Thanks to Brad De Long's Semi Daily Journal for this graph

Partial Graph of the U.S. Income Distribution. The graph represents the population of the United States lined up, left to right, according to income. The height of the graph at any point is the height of a stack of $100 bills equaling that person's income.

Consider this picture:

Imagine the population of the United States stretched across a football field in order of income, from poorest to richest. Now imagine a stack of $100 bills representing each person's income. (A 1-inch stack of $100 bills is $25,000.) The red line represents the heights of those stacks compared to a football field. I call this graph the "L-Curve."

The red line in the first picture is the beginning of the U. S. income distribution. On the scale of the football field the line slopes gradually from zero on the left to less than 2-inches high at the 50-yard line ($39,000), to about 4-inches high at the 95-yard line ($132,000). On this scale the entire graph is less than one pixel high, up to this point. It is not until you are well past the 99-yard line that you hit the $1 million mark: a stack of $100 bills 40-inches high. There were over 144,000 people who turned in IRS returns in 1997 with adjusted gross incomes of $1 million or more.

It is impossible to show the whole graph meaningfully on a single diagram.

More at the L-curve

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Actually, re-reading that Torygraph piece made me wonder about his science education. Obviously he did not receive one as he would otherwise know that metals such as aluminium, magnesium and so on barely interact with electromagnets. Indeed, the iron in one's blood barely registers. The complete list of aluminium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, chloride, fluoride, nitrate, potassium, sulphate, copper, iron - only iron is regularly found with any sort of magnetic effect, due to its lone electrons (high spin d5 transition metal). Also, he bangs on about how dangerous water is - yet cigarettes kill half of all the people who take them up. Worldwide, cigarettes are a major killer. His list of the ingredients of cigarettes - benzene, formaldehyde and cyanide are all known carcinogens. His comments about blowing up the Houses of Parliament are, of course, sedition and he should be arrested with immediate effect.

Ahh, such a humourous piece. Especially since he is likely to die (fifty:fifty) twenty or so years before he should do, due to his cigarette addiction. Sometimes, there is poetic justice.
Here's a piece that I found thanks to Private Eye, but was originally published in the Torygraph:

"You can see it in the visit that I had at my desk this week from a lovely woman called Daphne, the company nurse. She wanted to make sure that I had the right sort of chair, that my computer screen didn't flicker in a way that would be bad for my eyes and that I was able to tilt my keyboard to make typing comfortable.

The idea of all this was to make sure that I didn't contract what used to be called repetitive strain injury - although I could have told her that nobody with Tory leanings has ever contracted RSI. It is a disease that afflicts only socialists and union activists."

Now, the interesting thing here is that several people working on the Telegraph have recently come down with RSI - some with very bad cases. Also, as the letters page subsequently pointed out, there *are* Conservatives out there who suffer from RSI. But I think we all understand the main thrust of the article - socialists and trade unionists get RSI because they are the only ones who actually do any work.

Work, for Tories, is something someone else does. Who needs to work when you own most of Hampshire (for instance)? For all they bleat on about being the party of business, the simple fact is that they destroyed much of our manufacturing industry while in power, and spent our oil money on tax breaks for their friends.

Discuss I'm a Conservative and I work quite hard, actually
Many thanks to Pen-Elayne for drawing my attention to this wordsmith:

(Speaking about the supposed virginity of Britney Spears)

"And now, the void. The abyss. The waiting. The tragic lack of someone to fill her Astroglide-stained ruby slippers, a nubile grinning gyrating blank-faced pop-icon canvass onto which we as a perpetually sexually perplexed culture can project our odd double-edged need for innocence and virtue and sweetness coupled with debauchery and heat and mad throbbing desire. You know?"

Read the whole article here - if you dare

So, a painting by Raphael has been "saved for the nation". That will be the famous Bert Raphael, who used to paint in Billericay in the middle ages then. What? He wasn't even British? And all that money £11 million, thank you very much, won't be going to a good cause but to an already incredibly wealthy landowner?

To top it all, there is the possibility that it is a cheap fake, only worth £6,000.

This is a travesty of a farce of a travesty. Yes, its an interesting painting. But the country has countless interesting paintings - mostly in private collections getting tax relief.

Art is a luxury and should be taxed as such.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Politics makes strange bedfellows, they say. I never thought I would end up agreeing with Hunter S Thompson.

This piece is stolen in full from the Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

Quote for the day

Yesterday I came across the following quote from Hunter S. Thompson. After some investigation I discovered it is from an essay in his latest book "Kingdom of Fear : Loathsome Secrets of a Star-Crossed Child in the Final Days of the American Century".

We have become a Nazi monster in the eyes of the whole world--a nation of bullies and bastards who would rather kill than live peacefully. We are not just Whores for power and oil, but killer whores with hate and fear in our hearts. We are human scum, and that is how history will judge us....No redeeming social value. Just whores. Ge out of our way, or we'll kill you.

Well, shit on that dumbness. George W. Bush does not speak for me or my son or my mother or my friends or the people I respect in this world. We didn't vote for these cheap, greedy little killers speak for America today--and we will not vote for them again in 2002. Or 2004. Or ever.

Who does vote for these dishonest shitheads? Who among us can be happy and proud of having all this innocent blood on our hands? Who are these swine? These flag-sucking half-wits who get fleeced and fooled by stupid little rich kids like George Bush?

They are same ones who wanted to have Muhammad Ali locked up for refusing to kill gooks. They speak for all that is cruel and stupid and vicious in the American Character. They are the racists and hate mongers amon us--they are the Ku Klux Klan. I piss down the throats of these Nazis.

And I am too old to worry about whether they like it or not. Fuck them.

-Hunter S. Thompson, 2002

The essay in full is here.

Stolen from Velvet Rut

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Go through the window of the Total Perspective Vortex and you get this.

Neil Kinnock, who is now so unfashionable it hurts once said (and I paraphrase) get involved in your local democracy. It doesn't matter which party you join, as long as it isn't a fascist one, get involved. Things aren't right - don't complain about it. Do something about it.

I'd also add: always, always vote. You have no moral right to complain if you didn't even try to make your voice heard. People who say "I never vote because they are all the same", listen to yourself. No-one cares what you think because you don't vote!

For instance, I wouldn't even knock on your door so you could complain about Labour policy because we know who voted last time. Not how you voted obviously (unless you tell us), but even then we make educated guesses. Rude people tend to be Tories, pot smokers Lib Dem, nice people Labour, in my experience. The man in a soiled vest shouting the odds and drinking heavily is, in my experience, a Conservative. The harrassed mother with children and two jobs tends to be Labour. Yes, there are exceptions. But years of canvassing do give you an insight into democracy. Try it some time. You will be amazed.

Discuss I've been canvassing and you are wrong!
This is an interesting story "Astronomers count the stars" In it they point out that in our brightly lit towns, we can see maybe 100 stars (or worse, in some towns) and in very dark places you can see about 5000 with the naked eye. With their telescopes, the Australian scientists calculate that there are around 70 sextillion stars. That is 7 with 22 zeros after it. Or, about a tenth of Avogadro's number. So there are as many stars in the visible Universe as there are molecules in about 2 grams of water.

Makes you think, doesn't it? I find it strange that people are about "halfway" between the two extremes - I remember reading somewhere that a star is to a human as a human is to an molecule. It sounds about right. It also makes you wonder about the Total Perspective Vortex.

From Wis[s]e Words:

"Do it Yourself

An interesting story in the Denver Post about the growing number of pop musicians who move over from the mayor record labels to the independents or self-publishing. Since the major labels aren't interested any more in anyone who sells less then a million records in the US market, a lot of artists feel they're better off elsewhere:

After 18 years, folk-rock singer Natalie Merchant parted ways with Elektra Records (a division of the entertainment giant AOL Time Warner) to start her own Myth America label. On Aug. 12, she'll release a new solo album, "The House Carpenter's Daughter," through her website and select retailers. Her break-even point will be about 50,000 discs - a tenth of the sales threshold the major labels generally require.

"On a major, you might make a dollar a record, and you have to pay back the costs to make that record," Merchant said. "As an indie, you can make $10 a record."
What intrigues me is the way the big labels chase after the million sellers while neglecting what could be the bread and butter artists: people who won't sell millions, but whom you know will sell 50,000 or 100,000, don't need much promotion and whom you can make a reasonable profit from. What if your carefully groomed million seller turns out not to be? It seems so short sighted.

But then, it is short sighted. It's an artefact of the way the stock market rewards hyper succesful companies and is satisfied only by growth, growth, growth. The only way to fulfill the stock market's expectations is to chase after the big money: the million sellers. So you get a climate in which a record company depends on a handful of carefully groomed and promoted superstars and doesn't want anything to do with those who may be still profitable, but not profitable enough. Trouble is, if your big superstar fails, you're in far more danger as a company, because it takes so much money to create million sellers, that you have to sell that many more records to recoup costs and make the profits you need. Hence, if you fail, you fail big --and there are only so many chances you get. All of which creates the record industry's version of the Red Queen's Race: larger and larger companies spending more and more money to get bigger and bigger sales of less and less artists, just to survive.

No wonder so many artists say "fuck that" and do it themselves."

(some edits). The record industry is in a mess. If you make $9 a record and sell a million - that is NINE MILLION DOLLARS pure profit. Goodness knows they have never spent that much promoting artists (at least in this country), and heaven forbid they should *ever* cut prices (Tubular Bells, for goodness sake, is still being sold). Even restaurants don't mark up their merchandise as much as the media companies - and you are free to recreate their meals at home afterwards, if you want. The analogy with take home pizza is actually not bad - they expect you to take the CD home, play it once and then have to buy another one. Meanwhile, you can bake your own pizza for 10p - but if you do, it is illegal. Scary. And you can eat your pizza in public, without falling foul of the laws.

So, come on record companies. Stop being such terrible inspiration sapping money junkies and actually try and do yourselves a favour. Otherwise I may have to start my own label. And that would be trouble.
A little quizette, thanks to Fembat:

LOVE is your chinese symbol!

What Chinese Symbol Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

How could I disagree?
Here's a piece from the Pagan Prattle:


"This year's Pride Scotia march went ahead in Edinburgh yesterday. The march would not have happened at all if Tory candidate John Smart had not called for such events to be banned back in April. The march was dedicated to him, and Smart's contribution acknowledged on the website and in the event programme. But, despite his presence at previous marches, armed with Biblical banners, this year the fundie protestors were completely absent.

Posted by Brother Bimbo del Doppio Senso"

As I commented on the comments page, it is so nice to see the Tories sticking up for the right of free assembly, the right of free speech, the right to live free of intimidation no matter what your sexual orientation and the right to protest.

I fully expect him to become the next Tory leader.

Discuss You're the boss!
Blogger seems to have lost half my links, so I've just reinstated them. Apologies for any inconvenience caused.

Monday, July 21, 2003

Good to know that they didn't just rush into war without making sure they had all the background information. As the Washington Post reports
"Warning in Iraq Report Unread
Bush, Rice Did Not See State's Objection

By Dana Milbank and Dana Priest
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, July 19, 2003; Page A01

President Bush and his national security adviser did not entirely read the most authoritative prewar assessment of U.S. intelligence on Iraq, including a State Department claim that an allegation Bush would later use in his State of the Union address was "highly dubious," White House officials said yesterday.

The acknowledgment came in a briefing for reporters in which the administration released excerpts from last October's National Intelligence Estimate, a classified, 90-page summary that was the definitive assessment of Iraq's weapons programs by U.S. intelligence agencies. The report declared that "most" of the six intelligence agencies believed there was "compelling evidence that Saddam [Hussein] is reconstituting a uranium enrichment effort for Baghdad's nuclear weapons program." But the document also included a pointed dissent by the State Department, which said the evidence did not "add up to a compelling case" that Iraq was making a comprehensive effort to get nuclear weapons."

Link thanks to Maru, again

Good to know that they didn't just rush into war without making sure they had all the background information. As the Washington Post reports
"Warning in Iraq Report Unread
Bush, Rice Did Not See State's Objection

By Dana Milbank and Dana Priest
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, July 19, 2003; Page A01

President Bush and his national security adviser did not entirely read the most authoritative prewar assessment of U.S. intelligence on Iraq, including a State Department claim that an allegation Bush would later use in his State of the Union address was "highly dubious," White House officials said yesterday.

The acknowledgment came in a briefing for reporters in which the administration released excerpts from last October's National Intelligence Estimate, a classified, 90-page summary that was the definitive assessment of Iraq's weapons programs by U.S. intelligence agencies. The report declared that "most" of the six intelligence agencies believed there was "compelling evidence that Saddam [Hussein] is reconstituting a uranium enrichment effort for Baghdad's nuclear weapons program." But the document also included a pointed dissent by the State Department, which said the evidence did not "add up to a compelling case" that Iraq was making a comprehensive effort to get nuclear weapons."

Link thanks to Maru, again

I suppose everyone and her husband is talking about Dr Kelly now. My wife and I reckon there is something more going on that we haven't heard about. The Prime Minister has been blamed, the BBC has taken some responsibility, the view taken so far is that the Commons Committee questioned him too hard. But none of it adds up - why would a Government scientist (who presumably is used to tough questions) take his own life? Surely he would realise that like most of these things, it would all blow over?

It all seems so senseless. I hope this judge can come up with some answers, and not just daft allegations against the Prime Minister. As far as I can tell, Tony has done nothing wrong.

Friday, July 18, 2003

I know there is a lot of cynicism out there, so please skate on by to this Tesco web page to see what I'm going on about with the price of CD's. On the net - reasonable prices because they know we can get CD's from the US at knock-down prices. Retail? £12.99, £14.99 - I even saw £15.99 for a Massive Attack album. That's $25.42 with the current exchange rate (£1=$1.59)

Now, would US readers tell me, have you ever paid $25 for a single CD album?
At least, I should be using my proper blogname now...
Many thanks to Maru at Wi[s]se Words for the link

America's forgotten revolutionary past

Lucy Ella Parsons - website
American Revolutionary: circa 1853-1942
"more dangerous than a thousand rioters" - The Chicago Police department

Lucy Parsons was an African, Native and Mexican-American revolutionary anarchist labour activist from late nineteenth and 20th century America. Emerging out of the Chicago Haymarket affair of 1886, in which eight anarchists were imprisoned or hung for their beliefs, Lucy Parsons led tens of thousands of workers into the streets in mass protests across the country. Defying both racial and gender discrimination, she was at the forefront of movements for social justice her entire life. She sparked rebellion and discontent among poor and exploited workers wherever she spoke, and her fiery, powerful orations invoked fear in authority nationwide.

- if only there were her like around today. Mind you, they would probably have been shot by a lone gunman, who has yet to be caught by the FBI.
Well, it's nice to see one of the good guys winning for a change. A US Conservative idiot said on live TV that if Hillary Clinton's book sold a million he would eat his shoe and tie. Now, the gracious lady has made the pundit eat his words - but in the nicest possible way as she presented Tucker Carlsen with a chocolate cake in the shape of a shoe.

Now, that is style. She has had to take all manner of rubbish and unfair criticism and downright lies told against her - yet she still has a sense of humour. If the Americans have any sense at all, they will make her their President in 2008 or 2012.

Good on you, Hillary!
Thanks to The Blue Bus again for a wonderful link to the Top Ten Conservative Idiots which this week, at number four stars...Ari Fleisher! Here's what they say "First up, Ari tried to defend his boss last week by suggesting (apparently seriously) that it was up to the people who thought there weren't any WMDs in Iraq to explain where they've gone: "I think the burden is on those people who think he didn't have weapons of mass destruction to tell the world where they are," said he. "

Now, this is old fashioned logic to me, and is rather akin to Christians asking Atheists (Brights) where they think god has gone if he doesn't exist. The whole point is - it was never there.

Personally, I don't know whether WMD were there or not and frankly, I don't really care. I didn't oppose the war because I knew it was inevitable and I don't like lost causes. On the other hand, we were told a lot of bullshit about being only 45 minutes from attack, and how Iraq was positively seething with WMDs. I still think the only good thing to come out of this whole debacle is the overthrow of a vicious dictator but until the coalition forces start making things better, they are going to come under fire from all sides. Frankly, I don't like the fact that all the reconstruction work goes through one US company that is strongly linked with the Republican party. That sounds like bribery and corruption to me. Iraq needs rebuilding now.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Pretty quiet today. I got my new laser printer working at home last night, it was a dream to set up. So I would like to thank Samsung for a good setup procedure. I managed to download my first pictures from my first digital camera too - that took a bit longer because of all the software they bundled on the CD, but it still went through quite smoothly, if a little slowly. So I was prettty impressed with the technology last night - the digital camera is well cool. I love being able to see the photos before I print them. You can even make little movies - very cool.

I know this is all old hat to you technophiles out there, but it is new to me and I'm really enjoying it. I did surf by to Blogtree, and told them my heritage - the bastard child of Victoria, Scaryduck and Silflay. So it is all their fault.

Discuss You're the boss!

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

I know that people come over here to have a look sometimes - I can see the old coffee cups and pizza boxes. If you get a chance, you world weary internet hoppers, do have a look at this wonderful animation. It is about two lovely cats called Snowdrop and Mittens.

Are you a Bright? Come out as a Bright, if you think you're bright enough! What is a Bright? A humanist or atheist or agnostic - someone who does not believe in the supernatural. Remember too, that there is no such thing as a Christian child, only a child of Christian parents. You wouldn't talk of a New Labour or Conservative child, would you?

So - you know its right to be Bright.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Interesting that with polls, it only really matters what questions you ask. Take this poll, for instance. To me, it indicates that a majority of people do not believe the royals can continue as they are. While a "mere" 16% want the royal family abolished, this should be set against the fact that it is still illegal to call for the abolition of the monarchy. Obviously, when the royal lands are returned to public ownership, the Government will never have owned so much land before. House prices could well fall to a reasonable level and first time buyers afford a property.

There's a slogan for you - Abolish the Monarchy, Afford your own home!

Monday, July 14, 2003

Betty Bowers speaks to US lawmakers:

How to Spot Atheists and Report Them to the FBI

"I don't know that Atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God."
-President George Bush

Unless you're Catholic or have been living in a cave for the last 20 years, you already know that Landover Baptist's Pastor Deacon Fred and Brother Harry Hardwick are the world's foremost Christian experts on the disease, Atheism, and its carriers called, Atheists. Both Pastors have risked infection and death to speak at countless Atheist conventions. Pastor Hardwick recently remarked as a guest on "The No Spin Zone:" "As long as there's twenty-four hour room service and they pick up my first class airfare, I'll give my 18.4 minute inspirational presentation to Lucifer himself! Besides, a relaxing walk through the parking lot outside an Atheist convention can harvest hundreds of car tag numbers for the FBI's computers. And with Mr. Ashcroft paying a dollar a tip, that can add up to a complimentary tour of the hotel gift shop, my friend."

When not bringing financially sound believers to the bosom of Christ, Hardwick and Fred dedicate their lives to ferreting out and publicly exposing hell bound, godless liberal trash. And outside of the demon-possessed folks at the mental hospital who fling their own excrement up your nose, Atheists are the worst kind of unsaved trash a decent Christian will ever have the displeasure of rebuking. Thankfully, there are not that many of them.

"I've got to tell you," says Pastor Deacon Fred, "that from what I've seen in the last few years, there are roughly 300 active Atheists living in the United States. I know that sounds like a lot of godless nuts, but I'm not exaggerating just to get your attention. Atheism is becoming a very serious epidemic because our projections show that within a mere eight years, our country will no longer have prison space to hold all of them. And that's not even taking into account the many folks who don't have the guts to admit at the family dinner table that they are Atheists, but spit in Christ's face in secret by failing to get down on their knees and repeat all the compliments He demands to hear. Most of the uncounted Atheists are in the closet and are too sissified to handle death threats from their Christian neighbors. "They say they don't believe in stuff they can't see, but they are the very same people who tell you that Ben Affleck and that harlot, Jennifer Lopez, have talent!" Brother Hardwick added, "Most of these closet Atheists are so ignorant, it isn't worth even worrying about them. Before they know it, their so-called Constitutional right to run around thinking for themselves will soon be taken away from them. My guess is that once George W. Bush comes through on his daddy's edict, that most of these selfish little renegade Atheist bastards will pick Jesus over Jail in a heartbeat."

"We are no longer talking about that tiresome 'free speech' thing," Mrs. Betty Bowers testified before a closed session of Congress last Wednesday. "The coin of the realm is rather emphatic in declaring, In God We Trust. By denying the Lord, these willful Atheists are rebuffing our nation's sacred currency. I don't know about all of you, but I can't think of anything more un-American than refusing to accept legal tender! Clearly, we have ourselves an issue of national security. As all of you have enthusiastically endorsed by default, we are now waging a Christian war against nations with gods that unfairly compete with our own. How can an Atheist be counted upon to raise a weapon and kill men, women and children for Christ? They can't! That's your answer. Every one of them is just an act of treason waiting to happen. I ask all of you, since our country has taken to killing non-Christian Arabs during interrogations, why have our own domestic non-Christians been allowed to get off scot-free? I can tell by the nodding of your heads that most of you see where I am going with this and I thank you in advance for your courage and faith."

Complete article
I hear that those record companies are whining again about people copying CD's. I have a simple message for them. STOP RIPPING US OFF ON THE PRICE OF CD'S. Now, for someone like me with access to a CD burner and colour printer can make a very nice CD of my original music for something like 50p each - and that is retail.

I went into Asda yesterday and CUT-PRICE SINGLES cost £2.99. Now, I wouldn't dream of not using the full 74 minutes or near enough on any CD I was going to sell. When full price CD's cost about £14.99 you begin to suspect a rip-off - especially when you realise that US radio stations PAY NO NEEDLE TIME!!!

What is needle time? This is when a radio station pays a small amount for the privilege of broadcasting a CD. Perfectly reasonable, you would have thought. Music helps sell the station, the station can then get additional advertising, everyone is happy.

Instead, the record companies decide to make windfall profits in Europe over their totally overpriced CD's. No wonder people are ripping them off the web - it is better than being ripped off in a record shop or supermarket.

CD singles shouldn't cost more than £1.99, and I think that should be refundable if you buy the album. As someone who bought low quality vinyl for years, I resent having to pay over the odds for my CD's. I think as a goodwill gesture, the record companies should have either a) given away free CD players. b) given trade ins on old vinyl records c) stop making crap records or d) lower prices on CD's immediately. Why is it that CD's, which now cost less to make than the old vinyl records, now retail at a higher price (£4.99 in the old days, £14.99 now).

For crying out loud that is TWENTY US DOLLARS!! You can buy a pair of JEANS for less than a record. Crikey, you can buy a meal for SIX for less!

The record companies are rip off merchants. We deserve better and I refuse to buy any more CD's until they see reason. I urge everyone else to do the same until prices come down.
Well, I am now officially an old fogey now as today is my big four-oh - 40. Already I can feel carpet slippers slipping around my feet and my favourite armchair luring me. No doubt at lunchtime my head will slump onto my shoulders and a thin line of drool will fall from my mouth. While driving home this evening, I will feel a tremendous urge to wear a flat cap while driving the car and once I get home I will immediately fall into a sleep in my armchair.

So no change there then.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Here's an idea: abolish agricultural subsidies. For years, British farmers have been telling us how efficient they are - now is their chance to prove it. Without subsidies, they can grow what they like, how they like (with certain commonsense ecological and environmental safeguards) and my shopping gets cheaper. The added benefit of course, is that I stop subsidising the rich. Yes, that's right, it's the old "only 6,000 people in Britain own 70% of the land" thing again. But the plain fact is that most of the current EU subsidy, yes, that is the same EU that the farmers hate so much that they all vote Conservative - goes to the landowners or as you and I know them, the very rich.

Anyway, here's the original article in case you think I make all this stuff up.

Discuss Abolish Subsidies, Aid Third World Farmers!
File to the "Those Americans Are Crazy"   archives

Article in the latest New Scientist magazine:

The US Congress is close to passing a bill giving gun makers immunity from liability for deaths or injuries caused by their products; legislation that would place gun makers in a uniquely privileged position. The move highlights the special place granted to guns in US culture, whereby the heavy toll of death and injury that guns inflict is normally viewed as a social and political problem, in which the need to tackle gun crime and accidents is set against traditional rights and freedoms to bear arms.

Complete article here

But look on the bright side: at least a bit of Darwinism is taking place. People who keep guns in their homes are 72% more likely to get killed by firearms, and are 3.44 times more likely to commit suicide.

What's that? Americans are TWICE as likely to commit suicide than Britons? It really *must* be a better place to live, I shall move right away...
Here's something from my mate Garry:

George W Bush goes to a primary school to talk about the war.
After his talk he offers question time. One little boy puts up his hand, and the President asks him his name.
"And what is your question, Billy?"
"I have three questions:

First - why did the USA invade Iraq without the support of the UN?;
Second - why are you President when Al Gore got more votes?; and
Third - whatever happened to Osama Bin Laden?"

Just then the bell rings for recess. George W. Bush informs the kiddies that they will continue after recess. When they resumed, The President says,

"Okay where were we? Oh that's right - question time. Who has a

A different little boy puts his hand, George points him out and ask his
"And what is your question, Steve?"

"I have five questions:

First - why did the USA invade Iraq without the support of the UN?;
Second - why are you President when Al Gore got more votes?;
Third - whatever happened to Osama Bin Laden?;
Fourth - why did the recess bell go 20 minutes early?; and
Fifth - what happened to Billy?"

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Kill looters, urges archaeologist

Maev Kennedy
Wednesday July 9, 2003
The Guardian - original link

An American archaeologist yesterday urged her compatriots to kill the looters who are pillaging archaeological sites in Iraq.
"I would like to see some helicopters flying over these sites, and some bullets fired at the looters," Elizabeth Stone, head of archaeology at Stony Brook University in New York, said in London yesterday. "I think you have got to kill some people to stop this."

Professor Stone, who directed major excavations in Iraq in the 1980s, is a speaker at an international conference on the archaeology of the region, being held this week at the British Museum.

The war and its aftermath dominated the conference, which was planned long in advance of the hostilities.

Prof Stone said the systematic looting of major archaeological sites and the destruction of artefacts such as broken cuneiform clay tablets, discarded by looters as worthless to collectors than intact tablets, but which could hold priceless information for archaeologists, may prove a greater disaster than the well publicised looting and destruction at the national museum in Baghdad, and the museum in Mosul.

"At least to a certain extent we know what was in the museum, but we don't know what has been taken from the sites, and that knowledge has been lost to us forever."

Donny George, head of research at the museum service, said gangs of up to 300 were systematically ransacking archaeological sites, many untouched by archaeologists. The country has more than 10,000 registered sites, ranging from a few square metres to the huge sites of some of the oldest cities in the world. "They are armed, and they will shoot," he said.

Muayad Damerji, senior adviser at the culture ministry, said local sheikhs should be recruited and paid to protect the sites.

Dr George and the Baghdad museum director, Nawala al Mutawwali, emphatically denied that any museum staff were implicated in the thefts from the collections. Both have been the target of repeated accusations that some staff at least colluded with the looting, and then exaggerated the scale of the destruction.

Half the stores have now been searched - the work was hampered until electricity was restored only a few weeks ago - and they said 13,000 objects were definitely missing, around 10% of the entire collection, including all the oldest cylinder seals. Other thefts include small ivory and metal objects, and ceramics.

In the main galleries only 47 objects were stolen, but four important Roman statues were smashed, and their heads stolen. In the stores thousands more objects were smashed, including ceramics which are piled in fragments knee-deep on the floor of one of the stores. Some of the most precious ivories, from Nimrud, which were stored in a vault at the central bank, were stained by sewage-contaminated water which flooded the basement when the city was bombed. British Museum conservators are to study them to see if they can be cleaned without damage.

My take on this is: whose heritage is it anyway? If Iraqis want to loot their own country's artefacts, really who are the Americans to stop them? This attitude of killing people to get your own way is bullying at its worst and will win the US no favours. This archaeologist should be made to apologise for her stupid outburst, and emphasise that she wants to work with the Iraqi authorities for the safe return of the artefacts.

Discuss You're the boss!

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

A quiz I found over at the Spag Blag Box

You are...

Tender & Kind

Your listen with your heart and are not afraid to ask the right questions to troubled individuals. Time and again, you have proven your compassion and selflessness when someone is in need.
How Caring Are You?

Now for a bit of kulcha:


I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed,
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

-Percy Bysshe Shelley

Still my favourite poem. I wonder what that says about me?
Jed Clampett is dead. A real American success story, I like many other people worldwide used to tune into the weekly documentary into these archetypal "nouveau richesse". For those who are too young to have watched the programme, Jed came from a poor family which nonetheless had enough money to spend on firearms. After shooting for game across his estate, Jed found he had shot into some black stuff which was not cess pool remainder. Through selling the petroleum on his land, Jed and his family were able to retire to a place in California. The documentary, which was endlessly cut by a vicious American right-wing media to make the kind and generous Clampetts appear folksy and untutored in their new home in Beverley Hills. Even someone from whom you would expect exemplary, non-judgemental advice - their bank manager - seemed to be attacking the Culture of these erstwhile mountain people.

So today the mood on Mars is sombre. We mourn the passing of a true working class hero, who did not let money taint his beliefs.

Monday, July 07, 2003

Not many posts today, sorry. Wallybrane Junior was throwing up all last night and kept us all awake the poor mite. He seems better this morning but I feel really, really tired. zzzzz.

Discuss You're the boss!

Friday, July 04, 2003

RAF Lyneham is to close. I wonder why? I spent five years of my life living in Lyneham and they were happy times. My father was in the RAF there and he seemed to like it too. I wonder how the old place is? A sad day.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Landmark legal recognition for gay couples

Lesbian and gay couples are to get new rights if proposals announced this week become law. Under a civil partnership scheme registered partners would gain legal recognition for their relationship and a comprehensive range of rights and responsibilities, equalities minister Jacqui Smith said. "This is not about being 'PC' but about bringing law into line with the reality of people's lives". More: here

Revealed: the Tory plan to break up the NHS

Chancellor Gordon Brown outlined in no uncertain terms the real threat posed by the Tories to Labour's proudest creation - the National Health Service. He told the TGWU conference that the Tory pledge to cut public service investment by 20 per cent would lead to the break up of the NHS. Gordon Brown said: "Imagine the Tory election pledge card: to sack nurses and doctors, to axe schools and to remove the child and pension credits." More: here
Lula steps up land reform Pssht! I don't know what these Brazilians are complaining about, at least their ancestors were never Enclosed. Land distribution is actually *more* equitable in Brazil than it is in the UK - which is why we have the highest house prices in Europe. So I don't know what all the fuss is about in Brazil. Surely their social security system - what? Oh, ok. Well, at least their health. Ah. That too.

Maybe these peasants have a point.
US Meterologist speculates that a pipeline is being built from Iraq to Kuwait to export Iraqi oil. Thanks to Free Pie for the link. Does this mean that the Iraqi oil embargo has been lifted now?

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Hello. Come in, sit down, make yourself comfortable. Would you like some tea? If the world has all got too much, just remember that someone, somewhere has it worse than you - and here he is. This deserves reading - you start giggling about halfway and go on from there.

Legal tax avoidance, that's what bothers me. From the Inland revenue itself selling its buildings to an offshore company, through to this story of tax avoidance on a massive scale - yes, I think I'll have a few of those missiles and launchers for $52.03 each thanks - I think the Revenue are cracking down on the wrong people. As is pointed out in the article, the poorest are paying high marginal rates of tax - even higher when you consider that "luxuries" they spend their money on - booze, petrol and fags - attract the very highest rates of tax. What we need is a private jet and helicopter tax. A tax on aviation fuel too.

I'd also like to mention Dodona, who has very kindly added my site to his blogroll. Many thanks!

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Put a number of links from my blogroll onto a more permanent footing.
Man in Manchester plagued by calls asking if he's god. I thought everyone knew God was an Englishman? He has to live somewhere, and Manchester is okay. But really people, there's no need to keep calling him. He doesn't answer prayers, why the hell do you think he should answer phone calls?
MP's have voted for an outright ban on foxhunting again. I don't know how many times they will have to vote until the unelected, undemocratic, unaccountable House of Lords gets the idea that most people in this country do not want our rare wildlife tortured to death. Of course, if people knew how much land the Lords have, and how many foxes each and were (perhaps) allowed to visit some of the thousands of square miles owned by the landed gentry then they might get a different view.

But seeing as nearly all of us are squashed onto a mere 7% of the land in this country, I doubt the Lords will get much sympathy. Certainly none until they are seen to be supporting something popular, like improving something for a change. I think it is about time our House of Lords was elected 100%. Or at least to have the system my wife proposed. "Lords" would be selected like juries from the general public and would sit for a year after training. They would be handsomely paid for their duties - almost as much as the Lords get now! - and would be duty bound to examine Government legislation line by line. After a year, a new batch would be selected at random.

If government legislation is rejected three times by three different "Lords" then it falls for seven years.

There. That's put cat among pigeons.
Yes folks, the scaremongering has begun! The nuclear lobby, through their plaything the ICE have started the pro-nuclear propaganda machine. By using a lot of supposition and knee-jerk reaction, they reckon that the lights could go out by 2020.

What nonsense! Even the projection that we will have to start importing gas within three years I find difficult to believe. The drilling companies may bring extra capacity online and who knows what remains to be discovered? Personally, I hope by 2020 that demand for electricity is a lot less - the tendency is for modern appliances to be more energy conserving. I also find the attitude of the engineers - that the government will not meet its renewable target of 10% by 2010 - highly annoying. It is as if they think that their guesswork is better than that of the government, with all the resources that government had. Because, make no mistake, if we do not meet that target then ministers will be looking askance at the people who implement such things - the civil servants.

I must admit I see no excitement in central government among the civil servants for renewables - even though renewables are pretty much terrorist proof, bring electricity to remote communities with no fuss, and tends to be reliable.

I cannot understand why a country whose oil and gas is running out is not making huge strides to harness the huge percentage of Europe's wind energy that blows across her. Instead of importing uranium and not knowing what to do with the remains for 500 years or so, let us make slightly less impact than those mobile phone masts. I think it is about time planning restrictions were lifted for wind turbines, too.

Discuss You're nothing but hot air

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