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Current location: Scotland
Member since: Sun Sep 6, 2009, 11:57 PM
Number of posts: 5,212

Journal Archives

Windows XP spotted on Royal Navy's spanking new aircraft carrier

Ooh look. The Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier The Queen Elizabeth is using Windows XP.

The ship is a year from completion, so there is plenty of time yet to bin it for a more up-to-date and secure version of the venerable operating system.

The Ministry of Defence is not returning our calls, but this could always be, as one reader says, “comedy wallpaper on a technician’s laptop...”

You can check out the BBC News report about The Queen Elizabeth here. The XP wallpaper makes its appearance at 1m.25s.


Now, my eyes aren't sharp enough and I'm not familiar enough with newer Windows desktop appearances, to confirm that this is what that mix of laptops and desktops is running (not to mention how integrated they are into the rest of HMS Queen Elizabeth's systems), but even if I take them at their word, it's not that unusual for the military to use older, tried-and-tested OSes.

But still ...

‘Britain Has Got Its Mojo Back,’ Osborne Tells U.S. Audience


“My message to you is that Britain has got its mojo back and we are going to be with you as we reassert western values, confident that our best days lie ahead,” Osborne told the Council on Foreign Relations.

Osborne admitted that the defeat Prime Minister David Cameron suffered in 2013 when lawmakers were asked to back military action against the forces of President Bashar al-Assad was a “striking moment.”

“It was a moment when Britain was unable to follow the lead asked of it by our prime minister and the government,” he said. “It is for me a source of real pride that actually a couple of years later the House of Commons has voted by a big majority to take part in the action already being directed against this terrorist organization Isis or Daesh in Syria.”

The effectiveness of air strikes should not be underestimated when supported by Syrian opposition forces on the ground, he said. There was no public appetite for deploying British or American ground forces to fight Islamic State, he said.

“I don’t think it would help the situation on the ground and it would possibly be a cause of further radicalization and grievance,” he said.


These remarks were in contrast to his other comments at the same meeting about Scotland, where an insurgent force of some 100,000 ground troops deployed under the banner of the Scottish Conservatives are looking to annex what's left of voters for the rump of the Scottish Labour Party and become the official opposition to the SNP.

This campaign is supported by airstrikes from media entranced by Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, who in May successfully led her party to its worst election result in Scotland since 1865. Seen here last April decorously straddling a tank barrel, she hopes to repeat her own remarkable performance in the 2010 Scottish elections, when she came fourth in a constituency election in Glasgow North East. Davidson's main hope of seizing power in 2016 is a "safe" regional list seat in the Scottish Parliament if she fails to charm enough voters in a directly elected seat in douce Edinburgh, where she has now decamped along with her ambitions, and possibly the tank.

Osborne left no one at the the Council on Foreign Relations in any doubt who he sees as the real enemy and a threat to the existence of the UK:

Mr Osborne, who was speaking in New York to the Council on Foreign Relations, said the success of the SNP in previous Labour heartlands left the door open for the Conservatives to make gains north of the border.


The Chancellor said the SNP’s expanded caucus in Westminster marked a shift in Parliament.

“They are a noisy and aggressive bloc in the House of Commons who are not trying to be part of the UK Government and that is a departure,” he said.


The SNP's antics of course strike a shameful contrast to the decorum with which the Conservative benches comport themselves in Parliament and beyond, and they should be thoroughly disgusted with themselves for obstructing the shining path to the bountiful future not-at-all-nationalist, and certainly-not-socialist, Chancellor George Osborne envisages for these sceptred isles: one people, one country, one leader.

Tory bullying scandal: Mark Clarke 'used connections with Guido Fawkes blog to threaten opponents'

The stink around the Tory bullying scandal that's yet to attain full -gate status continues to spread, the Independent reports:

The “Tatler Tory” at the centre of allegations of bullying in the youth wing of the Conservative Party allegedly used his personal connections to the scurrilous Guido Fawkes political blog to threaten people who challenged him, according to claims being examined by lawyers hired by the party.

The Independent has been told by several people with knowledge of the alleged bullying and blackmail scandal engulfing the party that Mark Clarke used his friendships with individuals in the media to intimidate his opponents, and those who threatened to expose him.

There is no evidence that the Guido Fawkes gossip blog – required reading for Westminster followers – ever ran untrue smear stories pushed by Mr Clarke, the Conservative campaign director who has been banned from the party for life following the suicide of young activist Elliott Johnson. However, sources close to Clifford Chance, the law firm appointed by Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) to investigate the scandal, confirmed that they would explore Mr Clarke’s media connections as part of the probe.

That last paragraph has a whiff of the Indie's lawyers about it.

Mr Clarke, 38, a consultant at Unilever, denies all the allegations and is not commenting until the conclusion of an inquest into Mr Johnson’s death. However, Mr Clarke is close friends with Harry Cole, who was previously employed by the Guido Fawkes blog (alongside its founder Paul Staines) and now works at The Sun newspaper. Both men previously belonged to the Young Britons Foundation (YBF), the so-called “Conservative Madrasa” founded by Donal Blaney, who is currently the chairman of the right-wing pressure group Conservative Way Forward (CWF).


The Guido Fawkes blog has been avidly covering the furore surrounding Clarke. The lucky boy even has his own tag there - http://order-order.com/people/mark-clarke/ - which includes a video of Cole commenting on Grant Shapps's resignation and aiming pointed questions at Lord Feldman on 28 November, so it'll be interesting to see whether Paul Staines lets his blog cover or respond to this latest development. So far, all the Order-Order.com-associated Twitter feeds have been silent about it.

Nor does it stop there, as the Indie's on a roll tonight:

Tory bullying scandal: Pressure grows on Lord Feldman as memo warned Mark Clarke was 'sociopathic' and 'dangerous'

Pressure on Conservative party chairman Lord Feldman to quit has risen after it emerged that senior party officials were sent a memo in August warning that the campaigner at the heart of the Tory bullying scandal was "dangerous" and "sociopathic".

The document, produced by a then-party official, alleged that Mark Clarke's "bullying tactics are well-known... it would literally be impossible to list all his crimes here".


ETA: Anyone who wants to follow the Harry Cole angle further down the rabbit hole might do worse than check out this Byline article:

EXCLUSIVE-“Worse than Militant”- The Gang of Four caught in Tory Bullying Allegations, with Freemasonry links


ETA FURTHER DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE: Zelo Street has been covering the role of Staines et al. and Cole in posing as covering the affair while instead serving up distractions, not just from their own relationships with Clarke, but the implications for a wide range of Tory Party figures. See Zelo's Policing tag - http://zelo-street.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Policing - as well as some posts under Politics - http://zelo-street.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Politics

Michael Gove scraps criminal courts charge

Judges and magistrates will be given greater discretion in imposing financial penalties, Michael Gove has promised, after he scrapped the mandatory criminal courts charge.

The justice secretary’s abrupt U-turn – in response to the protest resignations of more than 100 magistrates – ditches a money-raising scheme introduced by his predecessor Chris Grayling, which only came into force in April this year.


Gove had given broad hints that he intended to do away with the highly unpopular measure, which even the lord chief justice, Lord Thomas, had condemned as putting access to justice beyond the reach of most people and “imperilling a core principle of Magna Carta”.

Gove’s overturning of Grayling’s initiative is the latest in a series of policy reversals. The former justice secretary’s plan for a secure college for young offenders, a ban on books for prisoners, outsourcing the enforcement of court fines and a prisons training contract with Saudi Arabia have all been scrapped.

Imposition of the criminal courts charge is due to end on Christmas Eve. The mandatory charge was levied on any defendant who pleaded guilty or was convicted, on top of the victims’ surcharge, prosecution costs and fines. It started at £150 for those admitting guilt at magistrates court, rising to £1,200 for those found guilty at crown court – creating a financial disincentive to risk the uncertainty of a jury trial.

The swift decision implies that early returns from the criminal courts charge did not deliver the anticipated income of up to £135m a year that Grayling’s officials initially promised.


Just the latest supposed "money-saving" measure that hasn't delivered as promised, but in its brief existence has caused much misery and suffering, and in this case, no doubt miscarriages of justice.

Writing in the Independent, Labour MP Tulip Siddiq pledged to continue to press the government, posing four key questions:

First, will those who have already paid towards the charge be given the money back, and given no obligation to pay further? I have heard nothing from the Justice Secretary about this.

Second, I will be pressing for the Justice Secretary to confirm that all outstanding debts will be waived. Had it been fully implemented, the charge would have built up an additional £200m in outstanding debt to criminals, and under certain circumstances it is a criminal offence not to pay the charge. The Government’s own calculations factored in an additional £5m spending for prison places from it. I hope these debts will be cleared.

Third, what about those who have already built up additional debts trying to repay the charge? Many may have been forced to borrow money at high interest from payday lenders and others. No account has been given to the plight of these people.

And finally, what about those innocent people who may already have pleaded guilty because of the charge? We need an inquiry to identify these individuals.


Don’t side ‘with a bunch of terrorist sympathisers,’ Cameron tells MPs

The Prime Minister has told Conservative MPs not to side with Jeremy Corbyn and ‘a bunch of terrorist sympathisers’ ahead of the vote on air strikes in Syria.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn gave his MPs a ‘free vote’ on military action following pressure from his shadow cabinet, and both he and Hilary Benn will give alternate arguments at the debate tomorrow. Mr Corbyn warned that bombing raids will lead to civilian casualties, and told his MPs there was ‘no hiding place’ on the vote.

David Cameron previously said he would not call for a vote unless he was confident of a victory. He was worried a defeat would tarnish Britain’s reputation among its allies and serve as propaganda for Isis.

‘I will be making the arguments and I hope as many Members of Parliament – across all parties – will support me as possible,’ he said today.


Dangerous Dave just pissed off a lot of MPs - and a not inconsiderable number of the electorate - from all sides of the House by channelling his inner Flashman again. The boy just can't help himself, and he's sounding desperate as a large number of Labour MPs are indicating on social media that they will vote against the motion to authorize air strikes on Syria, and there are rumours that some higher-ups in Labour are looking for a graceful way to back down from their previous support for it.

The Lib Dems have announced that they will support the motion. The SNP will vote en bloc against. That leaves as the main uncertainty how many Tory rebels will vote against and how many what now appear to be becoming Labour "rebels" for. Presumably if Dave was confident of his own troops, he wouldn't have lost his cool.

Meanwhile, that well-known rabble of terrorist sympathizers the Foreign Affairs Committee will no doubt be next to be roasted like crumpets à la Tom Brown's Schooldays:

David Cameron has failed to justify Syria airstrikes, MPs' committee says

David Cameron’s hopes of building a consensus behind military action against Islamic State in Syria has suffered a blow after parliament’s foreign affairs select committee said he had failed to justify airstrikes.

The prime minister had made his case for military action in response to a critical report earlier from the committee, setting out what he claimed was a “comprehensive” approach to the crisis in Syria. The committee’s Conservative chairman, Crispin Blunt, had already given his personal view that Cameron had gone far enough and indicated he would support military action.

But in a meeting on Tuesday, the eve of the Commons vote on military action, the committee voted four to three in favour of a motion that Cameron “has not adequately addressed concerns”.

The vote came amid a row over Cameron’s claim that there were 70,000-strong moderate forces in Syria prepared to fight Isis after a senior army general declined to confirm whether they included members of Islamist groups.


Advance copies of the motion released on the eve of the debate make no mention of these 70,000 cavalry.

Scotland to train female Syrian peacemakers in conflict resolution

Nicola Sturgeon announced she has accepted an invitation from the UN special envoy for Syria to host an international women’s summit, which will offer female peacemakers training in negotiation and communication.


Sturgeon said: “In particular, he has asked for our support in training Syrian peacemakers in negotiation and communication skills to best prepare them to maximise their role in the talks.”


“Scotland is playing its role in welcoming refugees into our communities and we have also provided funding to help support aid agencies responding to the crisis in Syria and surrounding countries. However, we are also open to exploring other avenues to assist where we can.”

The exact details of the initiative are yet to be finalised.

Sturgeon said: “This is work which I hope can involve politicians across the political spectrum in the Scottish parliament, but most importantly can also play a small but important part in helping the people of Syria find a lasting peace.”

[Special envoy] De Mistura said: “Women’s leadership and participation in conflict resolution are critical for sustainable solutions. The engagement of women in shaping the future of Syria is more important now than ever before.

“I am, therefore, glad that the Scottish government has agreed to work with the United Nations on this initiative.”


Some background on Staffan de Mistura here: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/30/staffan-de-mistura-man-with-toughest-job-in-world-syria

Somewhat more detailed report here (monthly view-limited paywall): http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/14110767.Sturgeon_accepts_UN_invitation_to_host_international_woman_s_summit_for_peace_in_Syria/

Grant Shapps resigns: International development minister steps down amid Tory bullying scandal

Grant Shapps, the Minister of State at the Department for International Development, has resigned after claims emerged he failed to act over allegations of bullying by a Tory campaigner when he was party chairman.

The father of Elliott Johnson, the Tory activist who is believed to have killed himself, said his son would still be alive if the party had acted on complains about Mark Clarke's behaviour.


This had been signposted by Cameron refusing to give Schapps his full backing. This is unusual, as such resignations are usually preceded by the prime minister expressing full confidence in a minister.

This is at least the second major humiliation for Schapps, who was sacked as Conservative Party chairman in May and demoted to the junior ministerial post from which he's just resigned:

Just before the election campaign he was accused of editing the Wikipedia pages of his Conservative rivals and allegedly changed his own page to delete embarrassing references to his past.

Mr Shapps categorically denied he had any involvement in editing the pages and said he was writing to Wikipedia over the fact that one anonymous editor was being reported as "speaking as if it's Wikipedia itself" and "being somebody who is with authority".

Schapps's Wikipedia page has already been updated to reflect this latest development in a career best characterized as "controversial". One of his claims to fame is to have hired Lynton Crosby as Tory campaign strategist.

Ministers lose £80m in revenue after scrapping car tax discs


The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) ended the need for drivers to display a valid tax disc in October 2014, saying that the move would save the taxpayer £10m a year by making the system more efficient. However, that decision looks to have backfired, after official figures published on Thursday showed that the exchequer has lost as much as eight times the intended saving.

... The Department for Transport (DfT) estimated that about 560,000 vehicles were untaxed. Motoring organisations claimed when the measures were announced that the abolition of the tax disc after 93 years – part of the government’s purge on bureaucracy – would fail.

The move, which suffered a number of admin problems at the start, also led to thousands of innocent motorists having their cars clamped. Many of those who have not taxed their car may well have failed to receive official notices reminding them to get their tax renewed in the post. Under the old scheme, the tax disc provided a visual reminder when it was due. It was also easy for police to spot untaxed cars – something that it is no longer possible.


Oliver Morley, the DVLA’s chief executive, said: “Almost 99% of all vehicles on the road are correctly taxed: that’s around £6bn in vehicle tax passed to the Treasury every year. We write to every registered vehicle keeper in the UK to remind them when their tax is due, and we have introduced a range of measures to make vehicle tax easy to pay. At the same time, we are taking action against those who are determined to break the law.”


As far as I can recall, I set up a direct debit when the new system came in. Maybe I should check that I did, and that the payments have been going through. As it is, I'm reliant on DVLA's bureaucracy to keep me honest and avoid my car being pulled over or clamped or towed away.

I once met a guy whose company set up the previous online payment system, which was impressively efficient and seamless.

Also, if I sell my car to some sucker, or buy another one, I'll have to bear in mind:

While most motorists know that tax discs are no longer required, what is catching out many is that vehicle excise duty is automatically cancelled if a car changes ownership – even if there is a valid disc in the window.

Previously, anyone selling a used car could post adverts saying “Taxed and MOTd” until a certain date. But now when a car is sold the tax, even if it has many months to run, automatically expires and the new owner has to tax it again. It is this change that is exposing drivers to clamping by the DVLA and large fines.

The DVLA says it has worked with motor traders and written to new owners to make them aware of the change, but plenty of motorists have found their vehicles clamped or towed away after being given a taxed car by a relative, or even swapping cars within a family. Those who are caught out have no right of appeal to an independent body and say that the DVLA is acting unfairly.



'Twas retweeted. I don't do Facebook (nor do I have a Twitter a/c). If I'm after a fight, I can always come here.

Blimey, even the FT's getting in on the act:

Cameron’s cunning plan for bombing Isis in Syria
The questions over extending air raids answered in 43 key points


Here, then, are the key things you need to know about UK intervention in Syria.

1. British contributions to the air campaign against the Islamist militants will make absolutely no difference at all.

2. No, really, none.

3. You know all those bombs already being dropped on Isis? Well, now there will be a few more.

4. But not that many more.

5. And many of those that will be dropped on Isis in Syria would have been dropped on Isis in Iraq instead.

6. What do you think we are — made of bombs?


8. It is important to stress that, before the decision to bomb Syria, there was absolutely no plan on how to defeat Isis.

9. And there still isn’t.

10. But something must be done.

11. And this is that something.

12. These people are really evil.

13. I mean super-evil. Horrible.

14. So we are all going to feel a lot better about ourselves because now we are going to be in there socking it to them as well.

15. I cannot say this will beat them but I can say it will degrade them, which sounds like something.

16. We are doing this to make Britain safer from the threat of Isis.

17. Even though we cannot offer a single reason whatsoever to believe it will achieve that goal.


22. We know that these attacks have to be part of a clear and coherent strategy for isolating and defeating Isis. But we do not have the luxury of waiting for one to emerge.

23. So any ideas on a postcard please.

24. Our military strategists make clear that there can be no ultimate victory over those foul butchers in Isis without “boots on the ground”.

25. But none of those boots are going to be ours.

26. We think that stuff is best left to the military forces in Iraq and Syria that have been doing such a bang-up job fighting Isis up till now.


31. We are absolutely clear that the long-term political settlement for Syria does not include Bashar al-Assad.

32. Which is a bit of a pity because Russia and Iran are clear that it does.

33. Syria’s future must lie with the moderate anti-Assad opposition.

34. The ones that Russia has been bombing.


39. We recognise that there are people in this country with doubts about the wisdom of this action.

40. But, since those doubts are going to be articulated by Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, we are not too worried about that.

41. We further recognise that stepping up bombing raids could increase the number of refugees fleeing Syria.

42. But they’re not coming here.

43. Because this regional problem requires a regional solution.


I may just end up outsourcing all my posts to Twitter:

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