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!
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.
Gone but not forgotten …
Smile at us, pay us, pass us; but do not quite forget,
For we are the people of England, that never has spoken yet.
Q: You’re in the bank trying to withdraw money without your wallet and no form of acceptable ID, what do you do?
A: Bring up your councillor profile on your website and stand here grinning with the phone next to your face!
This actually worked for me this week when I went to pick up a box of election leaflets and realised that I’d left the cheque book on the dining room table and my wallet in the pocket of my jeans at home. Probably not the most orthodox way of identify a customer in a bank but I got my money.
It’s that time of the year again where Christians celebrate Jesus turning into a zombie. But it’s important to remember the true meaning of Easter in these modern times.
Ēostre was celebrated by pagans long before the Romans started nailing Jews to bits of wood and was only adopted as a Christian festival when the Romans started hijacking pagan festivals and attributing them to events in the bible.
Easter is full of pagan imagery such as painted eggs and rabbits or hares. The eggs represent the sunlight of spring and the rabbits and hares are fertility symbols. The whole festival of Easter really has nothing to do with zombie Jesus, it’s all about celebrating the spring equinox and worshipping a pagan fertility goddess. So enjoy your chocolate pagan fertility symbols and don’t forget to say thanks to the goddess Oestera.
I was absolutely gutted today to hear the news that Terry Pratchett had died. I turned to Facebook to share grief with the world (as you do) and sat staring at my phone for half an hour. How do you distil your feelings about the death of the author you’ve read almost continuously for the past 25 years into a Facebook status? I’ve lived inside this man’s head for the majority of my life and it feels like losing a member of the family.
I started reading Discworld books as a young teen on the recommendation of my local librarian. He wasn’t an orangutan and he didn’t have a beard or pointy hat so he probably wasn’t a wizard. He was a great librarian though because he managed to track down every Terry Pratchett book in the county one by one and get them sent to our little library so I could devour them.
My collection of Terry Pratchett books is … comprehensive … and I read them all the time. My wife keeps telling me I should read something else and I do read other books from time to time but I go straight back to my Terry Pratchett books when I’m finished. Some of these books I’ve been reading for 25 years and I still find something new every time I read them. The continuity is amazing for 40 books written over 3 decades with characters that might have made only a cameo appearance in the first couple of books popping up 30 books later.
I was fortunate enough to accidentally (no, really) rent a holiday cottage in the next village to Terry’s house a couple of years ago. The housekeeper told me which pub he drank in and I thought about going a few times but I decided against it, figuring that his local is probably the last public place on earth he can go without being bothered by fans. My kids wanted to walk up the lane to his house and tell him how much of a fan I was but I pointed out that that’s stalking. He probably wouldn’t have minded but I felt like he’d earned what little privacy he had. I’m one of what I imagine to be a fairly small number of people who not only know where the Chalk is but to have seen the corner of Discworld that Tiffany Aching inhabits. The reason the Chalk feels so real in the stories is because it absolutely is – it’s what he saw when he looked out of his window.
Pterry’s genius has earned him immortality but a world with no new Terry Pratchett books is just too much to contemplate at the moment. Terry Pratchett and the Discworld have been a big part of my life for so long. No more books to look forward to. No more harassing the staff at Waterstones for pre-order dates when I know a book is due out soon. We’ll never know whether it’s Carrot or Nobby, what happens when a werewolf and a human make a baby, what really happened to Esk or where little Sam’s cow is. This makes me sad even though I know we would never have found out anyway because he didn’t know himself. He could have tied up all these loose ends with a few words but I think he liked to keep himself in suspense as much as his readers.
Terry had been suffering from a rare form of Alzheimer’s for the last few years which he referred to as his “embuggerance”. He died at home, surrounded by his family in a bed covered in cats. He went before the disease took his mind which is a small consolation. His death was announced on the Twitter account he shared with his assistant, Rob.
At last, Sir Terry, we must walk together.
Terry took Death’s arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.
The new First Minister of Scotland and leader of the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon, has announced that SNP MPs will start voting on devolved matters in England after the election.
Currently, the SNP have a self-imposed ban on voting on things affecting England that are devolved in Scotland. They have broken that rule from time to time but on the whole they have refrained from interfering in matters over which they have no moral or democratic mandate. However, this looks set to change in May and we can expect to see SNP MPs voting on things affecting England that they can’t vote on in their own constituency because it’s devolved to the Scottish Parliament.
Sturgeon’s argument that MPs elected in Scotland can claim a legitimate interest in English affairs because it affects the amount of money they get from the Barnett bribe isn’t a new one. A Scottish MP whose name I can no longer remember said the same on the day the Tories announced English Votes on English Laws as their policy many years ago and of course he and the SNP are absolutely correct – EVoEL is nothing more than a sop to voters to con them into thinking the British are righting a wrong without actually doing anything.
The only way to answer the West Lothian Question is to devolve power to England just as it has in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Not by reorganising local government in English cities and pretending it’s devolution but by creating an English Parliament with an English executive with at least the same powers as the Scottish Parliament and abolishing the outdated and discredited Barnett Formula. If devolution is needed at a sub-national level in England – and it probably does – then what is devolved and how it is done is a matter for the English Parliament to decide just like it would be for the Scottish Parliament to decide in Scotland, the Welsh Assembly in Wales and the Northern Irish Assembly in Northern Ireland. Local government is a devolved issue so it’s not an appropriate decision for the British government to make, especially as any devolved assembly within England would have to be subordinate to the English Parliament.
Sturgeon’s decision to start voting on devolved matters in England is a clever one because it will increase the already sizeable outrage on this side of the border at MPs elected in Scotland interfering with English domestic affairs. If the demands for change get loud enough the British will be forced to do something and that will go some way to closing the democratic deficit between England and Scotland. If the Scots think that they aren’t getting enough of an advantage over England then support for the SNP will increase. It will also allow the SNP to say that they had no choice but to abandon their principals and fight against the cuts in England to save the Scottish NHS which will again increase support for the SNP.
However this plays out, the SNP and Scotland can’t lose. As usual.
My trusty Vauxhall Zafira has finally gone to the great scrapyard in the sky. The MOT was up this month and it just needed too much work going to it – two new tyres, new clutch, new EGR valve, new brake pipes, new discs, new exhaust … and that’s just the things I knew about!
I’m now the proud owner of a Suzuki Wagon R+ VVT auto. It looks like Postman Pat’s van and it’s a bit of a grandad car but it’s surprisingly roomy, quite nippy for a 1.3 engine and it’s only done 30,000 miles in 9 years with a service every 6 months. It’s not the most exciting car I’ve ever had but I’m not quite ready for a mid-life crisis just yet.
I thought going from a manual to an auto was going to be difficult but I’ve only gone for the clutch a couple of times since I picked the car up on Friday.