2015 turned out to be a pretty shitty year but friends and family have rallied round to support us. Let’s hope 2016 is a better year than 2015!
2015 turned out to be a pretty shitty year but friends and family have rallied round to support us. Let’s hope 2016 is a better year than 2015!
The British government will debate an English national anthem on 13th January when Labour MP for Chesterfield, Toby Perkins, will introduce hs English National Anthem Bill.
Lib Dem MP, Greg Mulholland, has tried to get an English national anthem before but the British are keen to keep England using the British national anthem otherwise they’ll never hear it.
It would be great to ditch God Save the Queen for England but I won’t hold my breath.
The Saturnalia tree is up, there’s a pagan holly and ivy wreath on the door and the kids are playing with their winter solstice presents. That can only mean one thing: it’s Zeusmas! Thank the FSM Hanukkah was early this year because it’s going to be a nightmare next year when it clashes with Kwanzaa on the 26th.
And this, my friends, is why people in secular countries all over the world say happy holidays. They’re not taking the Christ out of Christmas, they’re putting the Yule back into Yuletide, the Saturn back into Saturnalia, winter back into the solstice, the hog into Hogswatch and the FSM into ChriFSMas. There’s no war on Christmas, just an appreciation of the fact that most people don’t believe in the religion that claims the exclusive rights to the month of December to celebrate the birth of one of its prophets (who was actually born in spring but had the date moved to help Christianise the Roman Empire) and their insistence that the winter solstice be dedicated to their chosen religion.
Now I’ve got that off my chest, I hope you have a happy whatever festival you choose to celebrate and in honour of the pagan roots of the holidays get drunk, have fun and be as debauched as your significant other/chance festive acquaintance allows you. Having a good time and making your loved ones happy is more important than arguing about whose sky fairy has the biggest tonker, especially when we all know the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s noodly appendages are way bigger than Jehovah’s old fella and He’s got hundreds of them!
With irritating frequency people post crap on Facebook about Article 61 of Magna Carta and “lawful rebellion”, claiming to be able to legally avoid paying taxes and operate outside the law as long as they write to the Queen to pledge their allegiance and tell her they’re lawfully rebelling against the government.
The fundamental flaw in this lawful rebellion nonsense isn’t that the fascist state will deny people their constitutional right to rebel it’s that such a right doesn’t exist and hasn’t existed since 1297, if ever.
To understand why this lawful rebellion rubbish is … well, rubbish … you need some background. There have been four different versions of Magna Carta, each one being replaced by the next until the 1225 version was reaffirmed by decree of Edward I. There was an Article 61 in the original version of Magna Carta that was issued in 1215 but by the time Magna Carta was reissued in 1216 Article 61 had been removed. It lasted less than 12 months. Magna Carta didn’t actually end up on the statute roll until it was reaffirmed in 1297.
The lawful rebellion cranks come up with a variety of reasons why Article 61 should still be in force but they’re nonsense. A common claim is that parliament can’t repeal Magna Carta because it’s part of the Common Law. Parliament is sovereign, it can and does repeal or amend whatever it chooses whether it’s part of the Common Law or not. The universal right to trial by jury has been abolished and Habeas Corpus has been suspended by Act of Parliament several times. Whether it is considered to be part of the Common Law or not, Magna Carta became a statute in 1297 when it was entered onto the statute roll.
Another one is that Magna Carta is a treaty so it can’t be repealed by parliament. Magna Carta isn’t a treaty which is a contract entered into by sovereign states or international organisations. It was a contract under common law between the King and a group of barons signed at the point of sword. If it was a treaty – which it isn’t – then it was signed under duress and would be invalid under Articles 51 and 52 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. Magna Carta is a statute and parliament has jurisdiction over it in the same way it has jurisdiction over Acts of the English, Scottish and (pre-Republic) Irish Parliaments, Acts of the Rump Parliament and other proclamations and statutes from before and after the civil war.
The oldest statute still on the books – the Distress Act 1267 (otherwise known as the Statute of Marlborough) – predates the British Parliament and the Rump Parliament of Cromwell’s republic yet it is still in force. It doesn’t matter whether the law was made by a King, Lord Protector, English Parliament, Scottish Parliament, Irish Parliament or British Parliament – the law is the law and parliament has jurisdiction over all laws.
To put it quite simply, there is no Article 61 of Magna Carta and rebellion is unlawful. There is no smoking constitutional gun that means you don’t have to pay taxes or fines or obey the law. There is, in fact, only one way to lawfully rebel and that is to be on the winning side so you’re the one who decides what is and isn’t lawful.
Whether you choose to believe me on this is your choice. I have nothing to gain from telling the truth – it’s not like I’m asking for donations to spread the word after all. You can carry on reading the rubbish these cranks put on their websites, try your hand at tax evasion and end up in court where you’ll try refusing to stand for the magistrate to deny him his authority because the same websites tell you that the courts are operating under admiralty law and they only have jurisdiction if you stand up for them and end up getting fined anyway because none of this stuff works. But for the love of FSM, please stop posting this crap on Facebook, starting petitions and sending round robin emails trying to find more gullible people to keep it all going!
The rugby world cup has started so it’s time for the obligatory whinge about the English RFU using the British national anthem to represent England.
You wouldn’t bring a British flag to an England match so why would you sing the British national anthem?
I’m no stranger to being censored on the Guardian’s ironically named Comment Is Free but usually it’s for such heretical thinking as disagreeing with something they say or correcting one of their many, many mistakes, not for criticising an arts critic.
Guardian arts critic, Jonathan Jones, has written what I will generously call a worthless piece of substandard literary diarrhoea describing Sir Terry Pratchett as a “mediocre” writer publishing “ordinary potboilers”. He bases this opinion on never having read any of Terry Pratchett’s books and never intending to read any of them even if he lived to be a million years old.
Let’s just examine the facts shall we? Prior to the release of his final book, Shepherds Crown, this week Terry Pratchett had sold over 85m books in 37 different languages. He was given the OBE for services to literature in 1998 and knighted in 2009 for the same. He was the number one best selling fantasy/sci fi writer in the 1990s, won a huge list of awards, was awarded 10 honorary doctorates, was made an adjunct professor of Trinity College Dublin and big budget films were made out of four of his Discworld novels. The plays of his books have been performed the world over and a large number of his books have been recorded for radio and broadcast around the world. The books have spawned calendars, diaries, figurines, board games, computer games and other merchandise. Sir Terry Pratchett had a net worth of £42m according to the 2012 Sunday Times Rich List. He has been credited with inadvertently inventing the genre of comic fantasy. When he died, people around the world mourned his death and inspired by a quote from one of his books, Going Postal – “A man is not dead while his name is still spoken” – thousands of websites and internet servers gained a “GNU Terry Pratchett” header in the ultimate geek tribute. Even the Guardian website did it.
Jonathan Jones has written two books. You won’t have heard of them and you won’t have read them. He’s an art critic for the morally and financially bankrupt Guardian newspaper. He presented an TV series on art for BBC2 and although he has presented two prestigious arts awards, he has never won any award himself.
Jones isn’t even a has-been, he’s a never-was. He’s a literary snob exploiting the release of the last ever Discworld novel to gain some notoriety. He says that he’s never read a Pratchett book and that they’re so far down his list of books to read that he “would have to live a million years before getting round to them”. He says that he once flicked through a Discworld book in a bookshop “but his prose seemed very ordinary”. Ordinary!
Because he’s never read the Discworld novels he hasn’t watched the characters evolve over three or four decades until you know them so well that reading the next book is like catching up with old friends. He hasn’t experienced the hairs on the back of his neck prickling at spotting a strand of continuity in the latest Discworld novel that goes back 30 years or the pleasure in reading a book for the tenth time and still spotting something that you didn’t notice the first nine times. He can’t empathise with Commander Vimes’ struggle to reconcile his working class, republican man on the street background with marrying into the aristocracy and becoming a Duke or Granny Weatherwax’s constant battle to contain the “black” in her, knowing that if she stops fighting it a lot of people will get hurt (or have their heads messed with so they believe they’re frogs in a human body which is a lot worse then being turned into an actual frog). He won’t know that that Sir Terry (or Pterry as he’s known to fans) tackled such complex subjects as poverty, equality, bigotry and religious extremism whilst making people laugh. If that isn’t -ing genius then I don’t know what is.
I picked up my copy of the Shepherds Crown on Saturday (well, two copies actually – one to read and a slipcase edition to keep) but I haven’t started it yet. I’m reading another book at the moment that my wife ordered me to read and I don’t like leaving a book half read. I’m sure Pterry would have understood. I’m in no hurry to get through the Shepherds Crown because it means I’m at the end of the Discworld series. Once I’ve read it, the Discworld will be frozen in time and that saddens me. Throughout all the trials and tribulations of trying to survive as a hormonal teenager, through the traumatic loss of close family members, meeting my wife and having a family, through depression and dark times and the best days of my life Terry Pratchett has been there for me, providing a means of escape from reality and even a moral compass at times. We could all benefit from being a bit more Terry. For me he was the greatest author that humanity has produced and he will be without equal, at least in my lifetime. And Jonathan Jones? How many people he’s never even met will still be mourning his passing 6 months after he’s gone?
If you are thinking of commenting on Jonathan Jones’ article then just these three words will suffice …
GNU Terry Pratchett
We went to Broseley tonight to visit my parents. The storm hit just as we pulled up at the top of the high street to get food!
Matt Hancock, the British Paymaster General, wants to put unemployed young English people through a three week intensive programme he describes as a “boot camp” at job centres or they will lose their benefits.
The “boot camp” would be mandatory for all 18-21 year olds in England and would run to 71 hours of training on interviews and job searching.
The principal behind this – that people on benefits should be doing everything possible to find a job and not be stuck at home in front of the telly watching Jeremy Kyle – is a sound one but as usual, the British government have taken a good idea and come up with a crap implementation.
Only English youngsters would have to go to this “boot camp” in exchange for their benefits – unemployed Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish people will continue to get their benefits without having to attend a “boot camp” and English people moving over the border will be similarly exempt. What happens with Scottish and Welsh youngsters who are already claiming unemployment benefits and move to England will no doubt be as vague and unenforceable as the requirement that 16-18 year olds in England be in formal education which isn’t enforced against Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish youngsters who move here. And why is it only young people being targeted? It’s harder for a young person with little or no work experience to get a job than an adult who has a proven record and experience that you can’t teach in a classroom yet it is young people who are targeted by these schemes with the implication being that they are just workshy.
Not only is this scheme racist but it is ageist as well.
Everyone claiming unemployment benefits, regardless of their age, should be required to spend the working day looking for work, doing community service and getting an education and they should be supervised doing so. In some parts of the country and for some sections of society it’s not easy to get a job but that doesn’t mean that their day shouldn’t be spent productively. Councils are cutting back on public services to save money while the taxpayer is spending billions paying people not to work. If all unemployed people were carrying out community service we wouldn’t have filthy streets, fly tipping and graffiti everywhere and councils saying they can’t provide services because they can’t afford them.
There is a workforce of 1.85m people currently being paid not to work by those who are working. Let’s not stigmatise young people or get hung up on the irrelevant question of why people are out of work and just get them doing something useful for their local community until they find a job. And that applies to the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish as well – the English are paying for their benefits so why shouldn’t we attach some conditions?
I’ve been a Three customer now for over five years, having switched from Orange when they couldn’t be bothered to fix their abysmal network and repeatedly lied about the causes of their problems.
Over the past five years I’ve been a loyal and extremely satisfied customer. Not just a loyal customer, in fact, but an evangelist who has brought them lots of new business. Unlimited data, unlimited tethering, no extra charge for 4G and customer support people who don’t try and blame every problem on your phone, no matter how nonsensical that may be. What’s not to like?
Well, things have changed and not for the better. Unlimited tethering is a thing of the past and the One Plan that brought it has been withdrawn despite Three confirming on Twitter and by email that existing customers would keep it as long as they didn’t upgrade or change their account. The current price plans that have replaced it are quite inferior by comparison and more expensive too.
Currently I have the sim only One Plan. It gives me 2,000 minutes, 5,000 texts, 5,000 minutes of 3 to 3 calls, unlimited data and unlimited tethering for £19 per month. I’ve happily been paying my £19 for a year and a half but now I’ve got to change my price plan, put up my bill and tie myself into another 12 month contract to get less than what I get now. Obviously I don’t want to do this. The closest price plan to the one I have now is £27 per month – an increase of £8 per month, or £96 per year – and for that I can have unlimited data and calls and a relatively miserly 4GB of tethering.
Now, most months I can easily get by with 4GB of tethering but on occasion it’s nowhere near enough. This month, for instance, we’ve spent a week on a caravan site in Wales with no Wi-Fi so everyone used my phone’s Wi-Fi hotspot. I’ve used nearly 10GB of tethering already this month which would have added an extra £30 onto my bill at the standard charge of £5 per GB over the 4GB allowance. Like most kids nowadays, mine spend their lives on YouTube and online gaming and for my autistic son, not being able to get on the internet isn’t just an inconvenience when he’s bored, it’s the end of the world.
I’ve made a couple of calls to Three to voice my disappointment and see what options I have but nobody’s convinced me yet . I can get 8GB of tethering but only if I upgrade with a handset, putting my bills up even more and tying myself into a two year contract. I don’t need a new phone – I’ve only had my Galaxy S5 for about 6 months – but I looked on the website anyway to see if there was anything worth having and I was shocked at the prices. To get a Galaxy S6 (the model that’s replaced my S5) I’d have to pay £50 per month. To get the phone I currently have – last year’s flagship model – would cost me £44 per month. This values the Samsung Galaxy S5 at £408 when you can buy the phone from Samsung directly for £329. These are just ridiculous prices and makes staying sim only the only cost effective option with a price hike of £8 per month for less than what I’m getting now. You can see why I’m not happy.
Three’s price plans cost much the same as the other networks now and the only thing that really sets Three apart from the others is the unlimited data and customer services which, if you can demonstrate that you know what you’re talking about, don’t treat you like an idiot and are quite open with you about the issues you’re having even if that means they admitting blame. Anyone who’s tried convincing EE that a problem that’s affecting lots of people in the same area that you don’t need to factory reset your phone to fix it will appreciate what a big thing this is. That counts for a lot and it’s that more than anything – more than the unlimited data which I absolutely make use of on a monthly basis – that makes me reluctant to move elsewhere.
I’m torn really on what to do. I can get 4G most places I go but not at home and nobody will tell me the RFS date for 4G on my home mast. That’s irritating when it’s available in the next street but HSDPA+ is fast so it’s not a deal breaker just yet. I dislike EE because they have a no blame culture – as in, they are never to blame. O2 and Vodafone coverage round here is pretty poor and the least said about O2’s network the better. There is nothing that makes me think that any other network will give me a service that is better than what I get from Three, or even one that is just as good, but I do feel like I’ve been let down by Three who are rewarding my loyalty (I have another three contracts and a payg with them – for my family of course, I’m not a drug dealer) with contempt. I appreciate that I’m only one customer and I only have five connections out of 8m+ subscriptions but I still feel that I should be treated better. I don’t want the world, I just want the old Three back.
What is so surprising about the revelation that fingerprint scanners on Android devices are vulnerable to hackers is that people are surprised about it.
The irreconcilable flaws in using biometrics were exposed years ago when Tony Blair’s despotic regime was trying to introduce biometric ID cards and more recently in the context of mobile devices, by how unbelievably easy it was to lift a fingerprint off the scanner of an iPhone which could be used over and over again.
You see, the main problem with using fingerprints is that you have to physically touch the scanner glass and that leaves a residue that can be lifted using a piece of plastic film and turned into as many copies of your fingerprint as you want. Whilst the physical method of cloning fingerprints is the simplest it can’t really be done on an industrial scale so the real vulnerability is a man in the middle attack which intercepts the digital encoding of your fingerprint and provides that to the system comparing it to the one on file rather than a physical scan of a finger.
As mobster John Dillinger found out over 80 years ago, you can’t obliterate or alter your fingerprints and the only way to stop them growing back as your skin heals is to graft skin from elsewhere on your body. If hackers manage to get a digital copy of your fingerprint, what are you going to do? Or your iris scans or DNA? You can’t change your biometric data so once it’s compromised it’s personally compromised.
My current mobile phone (Samsung Galaxy S5) is listed amongst the devices that had a vulnerability with its fingerprint scanner. It’s been patched apparently but that was never a problem for me because I refused to set up the fingerprint scanner. I pledged to refuse to hand over my biometrics to the British government back in 2006 so why would I hand them over to the company that makes my mobile phone, Google and anyone else who has access to the fingerprint database?
The best way to keep your biometrics safe is not to give them away in the first place.
Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the SNP, has successfully prevented MPs elected in England from debating and voting on a piece of legislation that only applies to England and is devolved in Scotland.
The SNP announced before the election that they would lift their self-imposed ban on voting on legislation that only applies to England and today the managed to stop the debate on amending the ban on hunting with dogs in England by threatening to join forces with Labour and Tory rebels to vote it down.
Fox hunting is a devolved matter and the Scottish government introduced a ban on hunting with dogs before the British government introduced it in England. The Scots elected Members of the Scottish Parliament to legislate on hunting, their British MPs have no mandate to legislate on hunting in England and more than we in England can give our British MPs a mandate to legislate on schools or hospitals in Scotland.
Sturgeon said they made the decision to interfere in the English hunting ban legislation “in solidarity” with English people who were opposed to fox hunting. It wasn’t in solidarity at all – Sturgeon doesn’t give two shits about the English – it was a political statement to show Cameron that the SNP are prepared to do anything, no matter how dishonourable or undemocratic, to undermine the Conservative government.
Cameron says that they’re now going to wait until they pass their English Votes on English Laws measures – something they kicked into the long grass after the last election and again this month – before they bring it before parliament again. Except English Votes on English Laws isn’t really English votes on English laws, it’s English pauses for English clauses and any amended hunting legislation will still need to be voted on by all British MPs, including SNP MPs.
The British government had a bit of a chit chat about English Votes on English Laws yesterday with one Labour MP – Sir Gerald Kaufman – describing the idea of preventing British MPs from Scotland voting on things that only affect England as “racist”. Ironically, it was Sir Gerald who provided the sole voice of dissent in the late night debate involving a handful of British MPs who then voted to ceded Monmouthshire from England to Wales based on the rather flimsy pretext that it had lots of Welsh place names so he did have a sense of right and wrong where England was concerned at one time.
I’ve said many times that English Votes on English Laws is a nonsense – an unworkable, unconstitutional and insulting fudge – and I stand by that. Anything that costs money or has a perceived consequential impact on Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland will allow MPs from those countries to vote on so-called English laws. It just won’t work and it’s an insult to expect us to accept this half-arsed fudge when the Scots and Welsh are currently getting even more powers for their devolved governments.
When the Tories first announced this policy many years ago it was immediately blown out of the water by an MP elected in Scotland who said he would claim an interest in every so-called English vote that involved spending money because it would affect the amount of money available to subsidise Scotland. This will apply to the majority of bills that are supposed to be English-only.
The opponents of a fair deal for England (not that this is one) – which includes the SNP – claim that stopping MPs elected in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland from voting on things affecting England only which are devolved in their own countries and they thus have no say over, will create a two tier system in which the British MPs elected in England will have an advantage. But there is already a two tier system in place where MPs elected in England can only vote on the domestic affairs of the country they were elected in and where the affected voters can hold them to account through the ballot box and then there are MPs elected in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who can only vote on the domestic affairs of a country they weren’t elected in and where none of the affected voters can hold them to account through the ballot box. This English Votes on English Laws nonsense will create a third tier of British MPs being the MPs elected in England and Wales who can vote on the domestic affairs of each other’s countries provided that both those countries are affected by that matter!
This complicated and convoluted workaround involves the Speaker making a subjective decision about which lines of which bills should be restricted to MPs elected in England or both England and Wales and still allows MPs elected in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to debate, propose amendments to and vote on supposedly English laws. British politicians will still make British laws for England and England will still be the only country in Europe that has no form of self government. A much simpler, fairer and effective system is just to make England equal in the union with a devolved English Parliament made up of English parliamentarians elected to represent English interests in an English Parliament and make English laws for England. None of this faffing about with gentlemen’s agreements, forming grand committees to consider individual lines of a bill, arguing about whether something affects the money the rest of the UK gets so MPs not elected in England can have a say, buying 650 iPads to keep track of which MPs are voting which way, calculating English majorities and English & Welsh majorities on a line by line basis – just a simple devolved English Parliament with clearly defined areas of responsibility and a democratic mandate. Nothing crazy, nothing complicated, nothing scary and new, just the same setup that has been in place and tried and tested in Scotland and Wales for the last 18 years.
If the future of England and the democratic accountability of the people who believe they have a right to rule England wasn’t in question, the knots the British are tying themselves up in to try and make this unworkable mess work would be bloody hilarious.
So we’re now on day 3 of the solar apocalypse and against all odds I’m still one of the survivors.
The temperature got as high as 32 degrees yesterday which is the sort of temperatures we experienced some summers when I was a kid. Of course, 30 odd years ago a heatwave in summer was just called weather and people made the most of it with a day at the seaside whereas now it’s a killer solar apocalypse caused by global warming and everyone is advised to stay in their houses because they’re going to die the second they walk out of the house.
Day 3 of the solar apocalypse is a bit cooler and damper than the first two days. It’s still in the 20s but the light showers of cool rain must be bringing some welcome relief to the council workmen who are doing a stirling job clearing the mounds of bodies off the streets.
Meanwhile, here’s another gratuitous tabloid heatwave picture.
Well, day one of the killer solar apocalypse is over and I’ve managed to cling on to life against all the odds.
According to the Met Office and other experts the temperatures getting up to the same sort of level that holidaymakers inexplicably survive in their millions every year is going to be a killer with particular groups at risk including the young and old, active and inactive, healthy and unhealthy, fat and thin, gingers and depending on your religious persuasion, gays.
Despite ticking several of those boxes and the Daily Express suggesting I’m little more than a walking corpse, I took my life into my own hands and ventured outside a couple of times yesterday. I’m still here to type about it so I made it through day one of the killer heatwave; only time will tell if I survive to the weekend.
In the meantime, here’s a gratuitous tabloid picture of some young ladies sunbathing in a park to remind you the sun’s shining.
I spotted an email coming into my inbox from YouTube for a copyright dispute and I’m wondering if I’ve had any of these before and not noticed them.
The multi-billion pound, multi-national Sony Music Entertainment company has filed a dispute notice resulting in a video I took of Donnington fireworks a couple of years being taken down. The reason? You can hear the song “OMG” which Wikipedia informs me was a popular song by someone called Usher 5 years ago which someone nearby (probably a fairground ride) was playing.
Now, I have absolutely nothing to gain from having this video on YouTube. There are no ads on it and it’s just a video of some fireworks. It doesn’t have any sentimental value. But it irritates me that this mega corporation thinks that it has the right to have an insignificant video of some fireworks taken down because a song they’ve made tens, if not hundreds, of millions from is playing in the background with a sound quality so poor that nobody would want to play the video for the less than 2 minutes clip of the song that you can hear in it.
So I’ve disputed their dispute just to show those greedy bastards that they can’t just file vexatious take down notices without a fight. It won’t change the record industry and it won’t change the way Sony does business but at least I’ll have made one of their mindless drones do some bloody work.