Wednesday, 28 April 2010

What's my blog rated? "General Audiences" Yeah, right.

A few bloggers have picked up on this new 'service' which appears to be advertising by meme/viral, which claims to rate your blog.

It appears to have started with (as far as I can trace it back) with AngryTeen who discovered, that had this facility been used to censor restrict his internet access, then he wouldn't be able to access his own blog. And as pointed out, Facebook has been given a 12 rating, when Facebook themselves don't want anyone under 13 using it.

So, what of this blog? As I write:

Yup. On the censored internet, this blog should be accessible to under 5 yr olds without parental supervision. Despite the actual name of the blog having the word bollocks in it. Quite how that works I don't know, but I'm certain it'll change soon.

Or it'll go down in waves of raucous laughter.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Over the rainbow...

.. well at least John Smith fans weren't...

The 'cliffhanger' moment in Dr Who when some idiot at the BBC decided to advertise their tatty show Over the Rainbow where some sad girls/women prostituterate themselves in front of the cameras for the chance to star in Lloyd-Webbers latest production.

According to The Fail, 5,000 people complained. The BBC has since apologised... for the timing of the advert.

Not for thinking it was a good idea to put it there to begin with.

Nor, also, for thinking that producing a show based on auditions is a good idea. Taken to its natural conclusion, what these West-End shows should be doing is opening up the auditions and the subsequent rehearsals for paying customers - they'd rake in a fortune.

Hazel Anderson (Tory, Gateshead) is keen to hear your concerns...

Hazel is always keen to hear your concerns, either about local or national issues and can be contacted in the following ways:
<postal address>
<phone number>**
<email address>
<blog address>*
(I sent an email to the address on this leaflet 12 days ago. No reply was forthcoming.)

While it's nice to see that prospective MP's and councilors are keen to hear our concerns, it's usually accepted that having heard them, they actually put in the effort to reply to them.

One would also have thought that prior to an election all prospective candidates would be pleased to answer questions in order to try and persuade their voters that they're taking the prospect seriously.

In both the local and general election this year, I decided to email candidates that pushed their leaflets through my door about some local issues (like why is the 'Get Carter' car park still not demolished yet [current]***, and why Tesco's/local council are dragging their feet over the issue,) and (where appropriate) some national issues (such as why the tax payer should be funding homeopathy on the NHS [current] and why the government in the wash-up period prior to dissolution of parliament debated with less than 15% of MP's, and passed with much greater number, the shambolic 'lets make everyone a criminal if they have WiFi' Digital Economy bill.)

Of all the candidates that I emailed, all but one replied. Not all indicated that their views are in line with mine, but at least they had the good grace to read, and reply to, emails sent to the email addresses they put onto their literature.

As a floating voter, at least it helped me decide who not to vote for. If Hazel Anderson (standing for MP for the Conservatives in Gateshead) is unwilling to answer emails to the email address she promotes on her literature, heaven knows how well she'll listen to her constituents should she become an MP.

* Having visited Ms. Anderson's blog [current], I found that people are unable to leave comments to her posts. Hardly encouraging of two-way communication. In fact, at first blush, no contact details, however I did find this after ringing their constituency office** - the lower image is what's visible after a Select All (Ctrl-A):
In fact, so keen that Hazel Anderson is to hear her prospective constituents' concerns that she also has this second a third email address on the Conservative's web site [current] (I'm assuming this is genuinely their site and not one of the oppositions): As of writing, the domain is just a placeholder for someone who's cyber-squatting on the domain, and no email sent to this address could seriously be expected to reach Ms. Anderson.

** A telephone call to the constituency office (a plus, there was someone there at 1830 to answer it,) didn't elicit a promising reply when I suggested that she should reply to her emails. "I'll pass the message on." No effort was made to ask what I'd emailed about etc.

*** Last update there? 2008. And it still looks like a building site. Apart from the undemolished car-park that is.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Halifax paying your Council Tax.

Halifax! Paying half your council tax!!

Only if you have one of their mortgages though[current]:

No catches, no asterisks, no diesis, no... Oh.

Unless your council tax is more than £1,500, and only for the first year.[current]

And only if you get one of two products [current]

That's why if you get a first time buyer or home mover mortgage we'll pay for half of your council tax (up to £750).
The council tax offer is not available on the following mortgages: Halifax staff mortgage scheme, expatriate, buy to let, mortgage free special, retirement home plan, no product fee mortgages or remortgages. Terms and conditions apply.

Council tax is a UK property tax, ostensibly to pay for local services, based on the perceived value of your property some time ago. Contrast to, say, income tax or national insurance which are more centralised taxes. Each council have some lee-way as to how much they can increase it each year.

There are currently 8 'bands' in England, with the lowest band representing houses of a nominal value of £40,000 and below (i.e. back in 1993) and the highest band representing houses of £320,001 or more (again, the nominal value back in 1993.)

While the nominal values haven't changed for a few years (they were due to be reviewed in 2007, but in 2005 that was put off until after the next election in 2010,) the tax charged for each band has steadily risen, and certain home improvements will trigger a re-evaluation of any particular property (usually upwards to the next band.)

Thus, to take an example, Council tax rates for 2010/2011[current] in Gateshead in the North East of England a Band D home (£68,001 - £88,000 in '93) would charge a council tax bill of £1,600.04.

Slightly further south in Durham [current - may break] we have in Sedgefield (Tony Blair's old constituency)  £1,643.17 for a Band D, and just before that £1,531.51 for a Band C property in Seaham (£52,001 to £68,000.)

Now, according to the National Office of Statistics[current] in 2008 (the latest year for which figures are available,) there were 23,830,164 houses considered for their survey of properties eligible to pay council tax. Of these:
Band A: 5,831,148
Band B: 4,660,373
Band C: 5,170,221
Total: 15,661,742

So, back in 2008, 65.7% of the housing stock was in band C or below.

Some of those houses will be in Band C's that now charge more than £1,500. (Admittedly, there will be some Band D houses that charge less than this.)

A substantial number of houses passing hands these days are those already on the housing ladder and are thus likely to be 'upsizing' (along with an expected upsizing in Council tax band that will come with it,) with new buyers few and far between due to the substantial deposits being required to get a decent interest rate on the mortgage.

Just exactly how many people falling for this won't actually get half their council tax paid off by Halifax?

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Humberside police.

Humberside Police. Protecting Communities Targeting Criminals
Humberside Police Pledge to the Community[current]
For the first time Our Policing Pledges gives you a clear minimum standard of service.

Well, allegedly.

Mr Graham Taylor, on having his shop robbed, gave chase to the shoplifters, and then saw a policeman parked up. What would you do? Go over to the policeman, and expect him to either help or radio in for help? Or would you expect to be asked (in the words of Mr Taylor):
"First he asked if I had reported it to the police, then asked if I had rang the police.
"He was the police, was I not reporting it there and then? Why do I need to ring the police to tell them when I told a police officer."

So, Humberside police has at least one officer not protecting the community or targeting criminals. "At least one" you ask? Well, when Mr Taylor did ring it in, no-one turned up. Because:

the officers in question missed the radio call as they were celebrating a colleague's retirement inside the station.
Mr Taylor said he went to the station and was met with a car adorned with pink balloons and shouts and cheers coming from within the building. 

As you might expect, Mr Taylor has complained. Only to be, so far, told:
It is disappointing to hear that Mr Taylor feels he was given a poor service from Humberside Police. 
Strange how they can seem to make it seem like it was Mr Taylor's fault. I'm left wondering what this particular spokesman would consider poor service, given they clearly think Mr Taylor's experience wasn't.

Also appears in Yorkshire Post and The Sun.

Monday, 5 April 2010


Update 7-Apr'10 1300UTC: As expected, they've climbed down on this one, and removed the post claiming people were taking 3 of the sentences out of context. They have, in what they claim to be transparency, 'relocated the post,' but not the comments that were made against it, though for the moment, they appear to have omitted to delete those on the original post.

Original post:
What Greenpeace claims they do[current]:

We defend the natural world and promote peace by investigating, exposing and confronting environmental abuse, and championing environmentally responsible solutions.

Which is a load of bollocks really; what they're actually planning on doing[current]:

If you're one of those who have spent their lives undermining progressive climate legislation, bankrolling junk science, fueling spurious debates around false solutions, and cattle-prodding democratically-elected governments[1] into submission, then hear this:
We know who you are. We know where you live. We know where you work.
And we be many, but you be few.

So nice to see that Greenpeace are promoting peace by invoking barely contained threats of violence. Of course, as pointed out elsewhere, this sorta smacks of people who are losing the argument.

[1] Not that Greenpeace themselves aren't above a little "cattle-prodding democratically-elected governments into submission" themselves:

While the protestors[sic] make Greenpeace’s actions look like people power, their team of lawyers mount legal challenges against the plans of government or businesses wishing to build [power stations, and transport.]
Greenpeace’s actions have threatened energy production in the UK. They have mounted challenges to every attempt at fuel exploration and production, or the construction of conventional power generation plants, and to nuclear processing and power generation. Through decades of lobbying, protest, scare-mongering, direct action and legal challenges, Greenpeace have contributed to the UK’s failure to maintain its energy infrastructure. The result is that what we have left is in imminent danger of collapse, and energy experts warn that we face imminent shortages. Increasingly weak governments have given in to the pressure from these bandits. And as we can see with Cameron, he’s given in to them before he’s even taken office. Expect things to get worse.