Thursday, 31 March 2011

RDNDNT: The Day of The Cull

Today being the last day of the 2010/11 financial year, this will be the last day in service of all the unfortunate wretches in the public sector whose jobs have vanished as a result of the coalition Government's financial policy, aimed at reducing the 'structural deficit'. Losing these jobs gives  savings for the 2011/12 financial year, notwithstanding that many of the poor sods will have to sign on and start claiming benfits of one kind or another. Unless, of course, the Chancellor's 'Budget for Growth' produces some quick results and they can get new jobs in the private sector. You never know; stranger things have happened at sea.
El Presidente has the privilege of being employed by our local authority and sufficient luck to protect her from the first wave of cuts; the funding for her job is in place for at least 2011/12, but who knows thereafter. The unit in which El Prez works provides 'non-statutory' services so they've been first in the firing line and 16 out of 39 staff are being shown the door today. Technically, they are all taking 'voluntary redundancy' but actually the choice is volunteer or be fired anyway.
It will be a somewhat bizarre occasion. We are all used to people leaving or retiring and having a farewell 'do' of some sort with an embarassing speech by the boss. But I wonder how the boss is going to handle saying farewell to 16 people all at once? If he gives each a little speech, it will take upwards of an hour so maybe it will require a more imaginitive approach. But in any case, El Prez has baked some cakes to take along so it won't be totally glum.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Oh! What A Lovely War!

So. Here we go again. A no-fly zone which is in no way intended to bring about regime change and ensure future oil supplies are maintained, but is aimed purely at 'protecting civilians'. Hmmm.
The UK is employing Tornado GR4 aircraft, manufactured by BAE Systems, for its air strikes in Libya. It is difficult to obtain precise details of how much each of these airplanes cost, given the problems in attributing historical development costs and the natural tendency towards secrecy amongst The Powers That Be. But in 1979, James Wellbeloved, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State advised that the Tornado 'air defence variant' unit production cost was  £10.7 million (Hansard HC Deb 21 February 1979 vol 963 c185W). Adjusting for inflation using the RPI gives a comparable figure for 2010 of £41 million. The Ministry of Defence calculate the cost per flying hour for the Tornado is £35,000 (Hansard HL Written Answers 25 November 2010HL 3481,3482). So that's a pretty penny or two we've spent in sending aircraft to Libya from the UK, even before we count the cost of the munitions and training the air crew. I accept, of course, that these aircraft are not used solely for bombing Libya but to bomb other places too, so the costs should be seen in a broader bombing context.
The UK has also been firing Tomahawk Cruise Missiles, manufactured by the Raytheon Company at their Tucson, Arizona facility, from its submarines. According to the US Navy, the cost to them for these little beauties is $569,000 but I would guess that excludes development costs which would take it up to $1 million or more. I have not been able to find out how much the USA charges the UK for each missile, however. And who knows how much it costs to keep the submarines going?
Tomahawk missiles are snazzy; you simply input some GPS coordinates into its computer and off it goes. But let's hope its Sat Nav system is better than most and avoids low bridges. Moreover, you can reprogram the missile in-flight, and it can report back via an on-board camera on target conditions. One thing worries me though; it uses Windows software, which gives a whole new meaning to the phrase 'Blue Screen of Death'.
Libya has been ruled by the Romans, the Venetians, the Ottoman Turks, the Italians, the British and the French. Meanwhile, they've fought amongst themselves and for many years were famous for making a living as The Barbary Pirates. The USA launched a war against them in the 19th Century. Modern Libya was established by the Italian colonists and, after World War II the Brits and the French established a Kingdom which Gaddafi rebelled against as a 27 year-old. Ethnically, they are Arabs, Berbers, Touaregs, and Tebou consisting of some 140 tribes and/or clans most of whom are Sunni Moslems of one sort or another. Gaddafi is a Berber from the Qaddadfa tribe, apparently. But it seems Libya has never been what one might call a democracy, or even that the concept means much to yer average Touareg. But the UK has either been selling them arms or buying their oil, or both, intermittently since 1943.
So there you have it. All that money and all that technology to protect one lot of Libyan tribesmen from another.

...ho hum

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Who's That Up There With Todd?

As you know, it is our policy at Xorg Inter-Galactic to remind everyone periodically of the existence of Todd Rundgren.  He is pictured here in 1974 helping out a struggling English blues guitarist who over-reached himself during a concert in Madison Square Gardens and began to run out of frets.

Friday, 18 March 2011

I Don't Want To Worry You But...

You know about the major earthquake in Japan and so forth, but if you go here you can follow the progress of various disasters that are happening in assorted locations around the Earth. It seems that earthquakes are happening all over the place: the West Coast of the USA, Alaska, New Zealeand, Greece and the Balkans, Portugal, Kazakhstan etc etc. The symbol with the white squiggly lines means earthquake. That seems like a lot of tremors in one day...
The site is run by some Hungarians: the 'National Association of Radio Distress-Signalling and Infocommunications', abbreviated to RSOE. Not only do they monitor earthquakes but they also note other mishaps such as volcano eruptions, hazchem alerts, technological disasters and floods etc. Apparently, a bunch of teenagers in Minnesota are hospitalised as a result of a hazchem disaster after imbibing some chemicals bought over the internet, and there's been a bee swarm or two elsewhere. A tropical depression looms off Madagascar.
Not much happening in Scandanavia.

Harry and Carlo Sherlock

Footballers and their managers are reknowned for their insightful and erudite comments  about the game, the administrative authorities and the relative merits or otherwise of individual players, managers and referees.  Occasionally they will muse upon the meaning of life and things in general, and some have been known to probe deep philosophical and sociological issues. A minority might even go on to make a living out of joining two or more sentences together into a coherent whole, without assistance. But we doff our caps today to a couple of sparkling geniuses who have not only  contributed much to the mangling of language but who have also revealed a rare ability to state the bleeding obvious in order to keep us up to date with the intricacies of a knockout tournament.
Harry Redknapp (blessings be upon him) tells us that "We're in the last eight and we're looking forward to the next round. You can't pick who you draw - we were in the toughest group but we won that." And Carlo 'The Eyebrows' Ancelotti affirms that "The draw will decide which team we have to play."
There you have it. The teams left in the contest are drawn randomly against one another and have no choice in their opponents!
Well Done, My Footballing Sherlocks!

[prompted by Annegrump]

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

26th March March

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) is organising a protest on 26 March in London against the Coalition Government's programme of spending cuts, and in favour of alternative approaches to rectifying the so-called structural deficit. (See box in the top right-hand corner.)
The essential elements of the TUC's alternatives are:
  • a crackdown on tax avoidance
  • a Robin Hood tax on banks and finance
  • policies and time to let economic growth and full employment raise the tax that will close the deficit
You can read a .pdf setting out the TUC's case more fully here.

Seeing as Mervyn King (ohnot'imagain!) agrees  that the public sector is not the underlying cause of the financial crisis, and that it is unfair that those who did not cause it have to pay for it, perhaps we will see him on the 26 March march. What would be extra interesting is to see how the Police respond to the protest now that they too are being told they've got to pay for it through reductions in pay and allowances. Perhaps they'll join the march rather than enkettleify it.

Well Done, Sherlock! - Mervyn Strikes Again

The estimable Mervyn King has established a record in the Xorgosphere. Within three days of being awarded the Well Done, Sherlock! award, Mervyn did it again and made a further statement of the bleeding obvious that the rest of us had twigged several centuries ago! Apparently, Mervyn has just noticed that banks tend to 'exploit gullible or unsuspecting customers'.  Moreover, Mervyn has spotted that banks take a short term view and merely want to maximise profits.  And  they meanwhile carry on paying themselves big bonuses regardless of the the problems they have caused because they know they are too big to fail and will be bailed out by the state. A staggering insight, Mervyn.
You have to laugh...

British Pie Week

This is basically a marketing activity  by Jus-Rol, the manufacturers of ready-made pastry, but this week is British Pie Week.  Marketing ploy or not, we here at Xorg Inter-Galactic like pies and  wish to encourage everyone to indulge themselves and make and eat more pies.  I realise this may  raise a quandary for people of a traditional fundamentalist Christian bent as today is the first day of Lent and you're supposed to be fasting and self-sacrificing and so forth. But there you go, you pays yer money and you takes yer choice.
Some people might be put off the idea of making pies because they suffer from pastry-anxiety. Well, there's no need to - you can buy pastry ready-made. You don't have to use Jus-Rol pastry, other brands are available.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Well Done, Sherlock!

Some people catch on quick, others take a little while. I know I'm not exactly Mr Dynamo when it comes to speed of thought but I (and many others) had this one figured out some time ago:
Whilst being questioned by the House of Commons Treasury Committee yesterday, Mervyn King, the Governor of The Bank of England, said that people made unemployed, and businesses bankrupted, during the [financial] crisis had every reason to be resentful and voice their protest. He told the Treasury select committee that the billions spent bailing out the banks and the need for public spending cuts were the fault of the financial services sector.
"The price of this financial crisis is being borne by people who absolutely did not cause it," he said. "Now is the period when the cost is being paid, I'm surprised that the degree of public anger has not been greater than it has."
As reported in The Guardian, King has repeatedly pointed the finger at the City since the crisis erupted in 2007, but this was the first time he blamed bankers for the coalition's spending cuts.  Flash Mervyn thus gets the Well Done, Sherlock award for pointing out the bleeding obvious. 
So, it wasn't the previous Government, or public sector pensions, or benefit scroungers after all.  Wouldn't it  be nice if The Treasury Committee were to act on this and suggest to the Government that perhaps the financial sector should be paying more taxes to make good the public spending cuts rather than paying themselves ridiculous bonuses?
Meanwhile we shall award Mervyn the inaugural special sub-category for distinctive achievement entitled What Took You So Long?

Cheer Up, Mate! Could Be Worse!