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Woman invoiced $5,488.51 for her own sexual assault

Lets play cave explorer

A New Mexico woman has reached a $475,000 settlement with the Customs and Border Protection agency after she had claimed she was subjected to six hours of illegal cavity searches.

The ordeal began when a drug-sniffing dog allegedly “alerted” on the ACLU’s client as she attempted to return from Mexico to her home in the U.S. Agents subjected her to a strip search at the border station, examining her genitals and anus with a flashlight. No contraband was found.

The agents nevertheless transported Ms. Doe to University Medical Center, where over the course of six hours she suffered an observed bowel movement, an X-ray, a speculum exam of her vagina, a bimanual vaginal and rectal exam, and a CT scan. These procedures were conducted without Ms. Doe’s consent or a search warrant.

Having found no contraband, CBP agents offered Ms. Doe a choice to either sign a medical consent form or be billed for the cost of the searches. Ms. Doe refused to sign, and was later billed $5,488.51.

The ACLU and lawyers acting on behalf of Ms. Doe obtained a settlement of $475,000 without any admission of wrongdoing.

The Independent and for additional reporting Texas ACLU.

I’m not quite sure what was most egregious, the fact that a mistake by Fido can lead to a cavity search or that having completed said procedure and taking 6-hours to do so, yet finding nothing, they billed this woman $5,488.51 for the costs of the invasive sexual assault they inflicted upon her.

That US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) coughed up without any admission of wrongdoing strongly suggests that they are completely happy with the process itself, just didn’t expect to get caught. It also suggests that in the same scenario CPB would do exactly the same again, which is also pretty repugnant.

For any ladies prepared to stand up for her civil rights, the opportunity to further embarrass the CPB (if such a thing were possible) and potentially make $475,000, bacon flavoured deodorant is available here: <link>

So, can we dump HS2 now?

HS2 High Speed Rail

The existing plan really is a dog’s dinner that’s built with considerably more expense than it needs - Professor Rod Smith

HS2 will be afflicted by the same delays and inefficiencies as the rest of the rail network unless its design is radically altered, a top railways expert has warned.

Professor Rod Smith, the former Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department of Transport, said linking the new high speed lines to the existing network would be a “disaster” that would “ruin reliability and punctuality”.

He said H2S could be delivered for just over half the predicted price of around £55 billion if it was built and operated as a fully separate network, as is the case with high speed rail in Japan.

The Imperial College academic, who supports the project in principle, pointed out that some of the train operators on the parts of the existing rail network that HS2 trains would use have extremely poor punctuality records.

High speed rail service HS2 will suffer the railways’ usual delays, expert warns

Quite simply, HS2 is one of those economic boon-dangles that we were in the process of building without any genuine clarity simply to appear to be “good Europeans“, certainly the overall business case for it was weak and gets weaker all the time and there is simply little support for it except from those expecting a piece of the action.

With a new PM and cabinet in the pipeline who have no political eggs in the HS2 basket, an incoming administration is exactly the time to place the entire HS2 plan in turnaround and unless it can be made credible, beneficial and workable it should be terminated.

There are far better ways of improving the capacity and reliability of our rail network than building new lines. Indeed sinking existing railway lines to accommodate European double-decker trains on suburban and inter-rail routes would do far more to ease pressures faced by commuters.

There’s a hole in my bucket…

… dear Liza, dear Liza. etc. [Repeat to fade]. Apparently all hell has broken out in Manchester because of a hole in the road. Except the Manchester Evening News prefers to refer to it as a “crater”.

Now this is a crater…

This, on the otherhand is a hole in the road…

Just look at the barricades! And why close both lanes? Why? And where is Prof. Quatermass when we need him?

Revolutionary Rocket Could Shuttle Humans to Mars

VASIMR VX-200 Plasma Engine:

A novel plasma engine could slash travel time to Mars — now approximately three years — to just 39 days.

By Steve Nadis|Friday, April 18, 2014

Traveling to Mars is not easy, which may be why no one has ever tried. It would take a good six to nine months to get there with today’s chemical-fueled rockets. Along the way, according to a 2013 study, you’d get dosed with the radiation equivalent of a whole-body CT scan every five to six days, increasing your lifetime cancer risk above the limits set by NASA. Upon reaching the Red Planet, you’d wait up to two years for Earth and Mars to be at their closest before your return trip, which would last another six to nine months. If the cosmic rays didn’t get you, the long layover might.

But what if there were a better way — a new kind of rocket that could transport you to Mars in less than six weeks?


Growing up in Costa Rica, [Franklin Chang] Díaz became fascinated with all things space in 1957, when the Soviets successfully launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite. He was 7 years old. Eleven years later, he secured a one-way plane ticket to the United States and arrived in Hartford, Conn., with just $50 in his pocket. He barely knew a word of English. He stayed there with distant relatives to attend high school. After earning an undergraduate degree from the University of Connecticut, Chang Díaz enrolled as a graduate student in applied plasma physics at MIT, where he began research in nuclear fusion.


To Texas, and Beyond

After receiving his doctorate degree in 1977, Díaz continued to investigate his rocket concept, while maintaining his interest in space itself.He was accepted as a NASA astronaut, on his second try, in 1980. When his training at the Johnson Space Center in Houston got serious, he found it difficult to keep up the monthly commute to MIT, so he moved his rocket laboratory to Johnson. He went on to fly seven shuttle missions, logging more than 1,600 hours in space over the next few decades, all while maintaining an active research schedule, devoting time almost every day to work on his rocket engine.

Díaz retired from NASA in 2005 to form Ad Astra, his rocket company.


Ad Astra’s 20-foot-high structure [in Webster, Tex., a suburb of Houston] is tucked behind a Japanese restaurant and flanked by a Brazilian steakhouse and a tattoo parlor. Its drab, gray facade blends in with the parking lot around it. The building’s interior looks like typical open-plan office space — until you pass through a set of double doors and enter the laboratory. That’s where you might notice something out of the ordinary: a metal cylinder, 15 feet in diameter and 35 feet long, big enough to drive a school bus into. The cylinder is a vacuum chamber that simulates conditions in space. Inside lies a smaller vacuum chamber — about the size of an MRI machine — that contains the rocket’s magnets.

[SNIP of lots more, including cool diagram and photos]

Diplomacy amidst the wreckage and the rhetoric

Malaysian PM Najib on MH17

Although not a fan of Malaysian PM Najib Razak, his approach to the MH17 disaster has been more diplomatic than the angry rhetoric of both the US and the UK. Indeed I would go further and say that it demonstrates the difference between Cameron and Obama, who are simply politicking and the governments of Malaysia and the Netherlands who are attempting to recover the bodies of their citizens and understand why MH17 is spread across 8-miles of a Ukrainian war-zone.


Craftsman of the Century: Louis Chenot and His Duesenberg

Louis Chenot

THOUGH Louis Chenot of Carl Junction, Missouri has produced several outstanding projects over the years, his finest effort to date is his recently completed 1:6 scale 1932 Dusenberg SJ. Some say this may be the finest and most complete model automobile ever built. Correct down to the smallest detail, even the tiny straight eight, 32-valve engine runs. Due to the significance of this achievement, the Joe Martin Foundation’s Metalworking Craftsman of the Year award has been renamed ‘Metalworking Craftsman of the Decade’ this year in Lou’s honour. Lou is the 15th person to receive the annual award, which was first presented in 1997. The award includes an engraved medallion and a cheque for $2000.00 that will be presented at the North American Model Engineering Society Expo in Southgate. The public is invited to see Lou and the Duesenberg at the show April 30 – May 1, 2011.

About Louis Chenot

Lou spent his 40-year working career as a mechanical engineer, with the last ten years as Director of Engineering for Leggett & Platt Corporation Automotive Group. He has restored full-size vintage cars including a 1930 Cadillac Convertible in the 1960s that was shown on the classic car circuit for years.

[SNIP of much more information. Here are some of the photos:]

And here are sme of the photos of the project with explanations, some the same, some different, from another site:

Inside the straight eight engine are all the correct parts custom machined to scale from steel, cast iron and aluminum. Here we see the block and crankshaft at the top. Arrayed below the block are the cast iron cylinder sleeves, pistons, wrist pins and assembled connecting rods.

Here is the engine removed from the model and sitting on its test stand. The transmission is in the foreground. Most running models are built at larger scales like 1/3 or 1/4. Working in the smaller 1/6 scale magnifies the problems caused by miniaturizing certain parts. Remember that scale parts are 1/6 as long, 1/6 as high and 1/6 as deep as real parts, making them 1/6 x 1/6 x 1/6 or 1/216th of the volume of the original part. Further complicating the prospect of building a running engine at that size is the fact that fuel molecules and electricity don’t scale. It is very difficult to get tiny carburetors and little spark plugs to work like the big ones. A video of Lou starting and running the engine for the first time can be seen at .

This is the dashboard and interior with the body primed but not yet painted.
Note the detailed instruments and engine-turned finish on the dash.

And more at this second site …. Enjoy!

Magnifying Specs…

I’m in the market for a pair of them magnifying/ illuminating specs for digging inside computers. Any ideas? If it’s avail. on Amazon that’s grand for I have vouchers.

PS. I just bought a new smartphone from Three. They put it in a bag clearly marked “Three” or in Charver “Mug that guy”. It’s a Motorola RAZRi which suits me. Thanks to all the folks who commented. I have often posted on personal consumer choices here and always been astonished and humbled by how good you guys are. Central Manc-land was panda-fucking-monium this after.

I overheard this gem from some geezer in the Carphone Warehouse. He was trying to flog a high-end Sony to an middle-aged couple…

“Well, it’s waterproof so you can take pictures of yourself under the bath water mind that depends on what assets you have to photo”. I just left. They seemed to think it OK. Yup, the possibility to photograph sodden genitals on 4G and upload to facebook and see if anyone “likes”. Magic. That is precisely what this tech was invented for.

About 18 years ago I bought my first PC – a Elonex 386SX clocked at 16Mhz with 4 Meg of RAM and a 120Meg HD. This bugger has (if memory serves) !Gb of working RAM, a 2GHz Intel Atom chip and 5Gb of storage (which is upgradeable by micro SD). The computer cost GBP350 (inc monitor) second hand. The brand new phone cost GBP150. In some bizarre sense I am aware of this progress and it repels me that a salesman might even suggest this wondrous technological advance is great so that a middle-aged man might take sub-aqua pictures of his cock. That and the salesman just sounded a sleazy git.

No matter. The nice lady in the Three shop made no crass sexual comments, was helpful and friendly and I now have more computing power in my top-pocket than a Bond villain had in his volcano. And no I didn’t ask if they’d throw in a Mao suit and a Persian cat. Or the fit birds with up-does, specs, lab coats and clipboards. Ah, well, I guess World domination can wait. I have to clean the bathroom anyway.

Having said all that about my spanky new phone the trip in or out of town on Northern Rail was Asoka. Not for the first time I fare-dodged not through any desire to do but because I simply couldn’t buy a ticket. Having said that I felt Turd World – especially when I entered the bog which was veritably Greek in standards partly because any quantity of junk had been chucked down it because there were no bins. The Dame Judith was… Well, if you’d bottled that Tony Blair would be off the hook over Iraqi WMDs. It smelt like their had been a fucking cholera epidemic localised to one train khazi. It was unbe-fucking-believable. But if Northern Rail can’t be fecked to sell tickets (one wonders what their gubbmunt grunt is?) I can’t be fecked to buy them. Or more to the point I just simply couldn’t. And I had the money on the hip.

Christ almighty! It is dismal. There was no way I could have easily walked-out of the Three store with my phone without paying for it but Northern Rail… Put it this way, which company would you buy shares in?

Hard Drivin’

Who are the most dangerous road-users in the UK (the UK at least)?

Boy racers in pimped Vauxhall Astras?

Ditzy lasses in Renault Clios twittering about One Direction?


It’s the crumblies. Oh, and the lycra-clad kamikazes that call themselves “cyclists” deserve an dishonourable mention too. The small burg I live in is wick with the buggers. I have had to leap into gutters to avoid them on occasion whizzing down the hills at the speed of heat*. I’m fairly sure on one occasion it was Barney Storey who almost made me a paralympic competitor as well. Equestrian types (other than their on-road “deposits”) are fine. But even cyclists pale in comparison to the biddies and codgers sucking their Werther’s Originals, through their falsies, hunched over the tiller of the Panzerkampfwagen XI (aka Nissan Micra) and Panzerkampfwagen XII (aka Honda Jazz). I doubt they have globally killed more than the Wehrmacht but if frustration, annoyance and minor bumps are “liitle deaths” then the aggregated toll…

You think I’m being unfair? Geriatricist? You ought to see them doing their “slow and steady” on the M6. You probably have. And no, it ain’t just the Micra and Jazz, there is also the “last of the hold-outs” in the Olde Worlde boxy Rover 214s with the driving gloves clutching the wheel like the icy fingers of death. They clamp the middle-lane like honey badgers on a treacled scrotum. You will have gone past them making their stately progress at a maximum of 60-65mph when every other bugger is doing 80mph+

And you just know that if the codger at the wheel pushes the speedo dial a merest hint above 65mph there shall be a repeated hand-bagging accompanied with the admonishment, “You’re not Stirling Moss, you know!” whilst the motor swerves randomly across three lanes as Mrs Biddie makes a grab for the steering wheel. My wife and I were once trapped on a 60mph limit road in the Lakes behind a horseless Micra with a full load of the most bidulent doing 25. Hell’s teeth they might as well of had a daft sod waving a red-flag in front of them. I could smell the exhaust. It smelt of shortbread with high-notes of Kendal mint cake and Sterodent. It’s like those folks who thought you’d asphyxiate on Stephenson’s rocket when it hit 20 mph.

So that is whilst driving. But the biddies and codgers also excel at parking. Not just any parking. Oh no. Within days of my wife getting the current Corsa some biddie managed to scratch it in her Jazz performing an act of parking of such epic crapularity as to beggar belief. But no! What really beggared belief was her denial of culpability in the face of not only the Highway Code but the basic laws of mechanics as outlined by Sir Issac Newton in the Principia Mathematica. Every Sunday I used to have to play car marshall. It’s got better since I got “lion tamer” on their crumpled asses. Apart from anything else it’s the thoughtless blocking-in not just of us but of the neighbours too. I’m a warden of a religious meeting house (Quaker) and part of my duties include maintaining cordial relations with the neighbours. Well, I say that but it’s just good manners really.  The same ageing moo (by which I don’t mean destined for MacDonalds but for a dodgy halal burger gaff in Gorton**) “young-manned” me over her horrendous parking. Put it this way, if she’d been a USN Hornet pilot she’d have put it down not just off the wire, not just off the deck but in the wrong ocean. It was parking of the most piss-poor standard I’ve ever seen and utterly dangerous so this “young man” (I must’ve been about 36 at the time!) guided her into the bay. Any thanks? Yeah right! And at the time I didn’t know she’d scratched my wife’s Corsa otherwise…

In any case that particular parking bay is directly opposite a house with a blind driveway onto the street. The folk who live there have a Range Rover. Unless a car parked in the bay is neatly tucked in (and the venerable Micra and Jazz jockeys don’t do that – unless I’m playing tick-tack man) leaving them projecting into the single lane er, lane) the Range Rover will go straight through it and down the bank and into the stream. Yes! We have posh 4x4s and streams round this neck of the woods. Welcome to Cheshire!

Of course nothing compares to the driving (or roads) on Malta. Nothing. Having said that the bus service was excellent and cheap and the old buses really cool. They did though have “private” decoration such as, “If you want to know the truth about the afterlife, try overtaking me.” Maltese bus-drivers look and act like something out of Top Gun. Well they did when I was there a few years back… It was kinda cool and dead handy.

Though I’m not sure if the emphasis ought to be on the “dead” or the “handy”.

I really liked Malta. And I’d rather have an affordable, well-organised bus system driven by lotharios in aviator shades with ante-deluvian buses and “nose-art” to put US Army’s 8th Airforce to shame than the drivel we have round here. Actually it ain’t too bad round here compared to other gaffs in the country. Perhaps dear Dr Beeching put his coffee mug down on East Cheshire/South-East Manchester and forget. A small point here is worth making. I had  a pint of something Czech in the local wine bar yesterday (I said it was Cheshire so obviously I’m stumblin’ distance from a wine bar – not a wet or cooked monger of fish but at least three tapas gaffs – for shame! ) and I overheard two lasses (one of whom had a boyf  down London way). Now I don’t normally earwig but this was dynamite. By which I mean  not so much the respect for privacy but my respect for not really caring but the lass with the squeeze in London opined that it is two hours from here to London on Virgin Pendolino. What she said subsequently (her boy doesn’t live directly opposite Euston station, natch, byt was like balm to me. Precisely! If they really want to make rail more attractive screw shaving a few minutes off the “headline” route times but spend that GBP80bn on a truly integrated network – or better yet let the market decide.

Of course I was wrong. It ain’t the biddies and codgers that are the greatest menace to transport (though they are a menace) but the government who just love big schemes when what really matters is the integration and not the “headline figures” between London, Euston and Birmingham New Street or Manchester Piccadilly but the actual door-to-door times.


*USAF slang for as fast as possible – technically being any speed between that of sound and that of  light. Usually used in the context of egressing a particularly tricky situation.

**Gorton Girls know all the words to songs by Chaka Khan. I used to live in Levenshulme. I’ll give it a thumbs-up mind for Aria Tech - where I still get my stuff. It is a true den of geek set-up on a shoe-string and a hope by a refugee from Iran. And Levy isn’t that bad.

Big schemes when what really matters is the integration and not the “headline figures” between London, Euston and Birmingham New Street or Manchester Piccadilly but the actual door-to-door times.


What’s really wrong with HS2.

It’s 1997 and coming up to Christmas and you live in Gateshead and your girlfriend lives in Atlanta.

Awkward? So whaddya do? This is what I did. I tried the internet (I was an early adopter – I still recall using Mosaic) and tried the phone lines and that was a hilarity. One numpty said, “No flights to Atlanta except we could try business class or possibly Concorde”. Concorde! Well, it would be nice mate but I’m a post-graduate student and we are not noted for being Entwhistled. He quoted me a fuck-off price – in the Northern regions of the 5K. So I phoned my Dad and he said, try BA direct. So I did and they had me on a DC-10 (yeah, a DC-10, not and MD-11, it was falling apart) out of Gatwick for 300 notes. Why BA hadn’t occurred to me given that Hartsfield – Gatwick via BA was her usual route over here is beyond me. Gods almighty there is a lot of the Atlantic and it’s fucking dull. And no ciggies but a terrible movie. And on take-off a flight attendant had to jam a magazine (perfume adverts, not bullets) between two overhead baggage holders because they were oscillating like bastards at a free cunting party. Or cunts at a free bastarding party. It was going like the minge flaps of the Whore of Babylon (drunk on the blood of the saints). I shouldn’t have even thought that, should I? But I said it. And ’tis true. I thought I was going to be dental records across Sussex if I was lucky. And don’t ask about Delta. I’d rather flap my arms very hard than go with those fuckers again.

So what has any of this to do with HS2?

Everything. At midnight I get on the National Distress Bus headed for Gatwick, from Newcastle, and the coach station stinks of piss and kebabs. At about 1AM a fat, sweaty, smoggie cunt wakes me up (My Dad had given me a Clancy to read and I had clearly fallen asleep with it over me). (POTUS said to CINCLANT and all that). What an unmitigated cunt. He poked me despite this and asked for a remarkable sum of monies for a foam thimble of some brown liquid that was allegedly “tea”. So I told him to piss off. And then there is a couple of hours hanging in Gatwick, and then an eight hour flight on something driven by Mutley (they had to jump-lead the cunt – literally). And then I have to get the Marta train up to Midtown and then the bus. Now the bus is interesting because it was the final phase (and I was dead – well wished I was or couldn’t tell the difference). I normally traveled with a ruck-sack. But not this time. My mum insisted I took a ginormous purple suitcase. God alone knows why I went along with that. I paid for the tickets. Anyway, I was 5 time-zones out of kilter and it had been a day and that fucker of a case almost destroyed the cab of the bus when it came to my stop in Buckhead. The driver said rude words but I was past caring by that stage. The bus did mind tie in very well with the Marta train. And the whole Marta system does through ticketing.

So what has this to do with a railway from London to Birmingham?

A lot. I spent longer on the National Distress than on the ‘plane – being poked in the ribs by the “Steward” when he was absolutely not the person I wanted any poking with – if you catch my drift. And aircraft being about 10 times faster than buses and all. I then had to get from Hartsfield Terminal Six to Northern Atlanta. Newcastle to Gatwick took longer than crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Hartsfield to Buckhead took… I didn’t know by this point – as you can imagine I was kinda excited so hadn’t slept the night before. I fell into her arms after having been even more discombolated by the vision of a life-size cardboard cut-out of Han Solo in the lobby. Her mum was a big Harrison Ford fan. A life-size one.

My point is almost nobody travels from X to Y. So what is the point of HS2? It shaves 23 minutes off travel between London and Birmingham. I used to live in London. I have relies living in West Brom. I lived in Stepney. Obviously the big ticket item of my trip to Atlanta that time was the DC-10 but it was the connections that took most of the time. You will take well over 23 minutes to get from Stepney Green tube station to Euston – I’ve done it and then from New Street to West Brom – Gods know. It makes no sense to destroy people’s property and spend a fortune on a rail-line nobody needs because practically no one travels between Euston and New Street. They go from Brixton to Edgbaston or some such. And that is the myth and flaw. 23 minutes means nothing when you take the connections into account.

And then there is the plan to extend HS2 to Manchester, and possibly Glasgow. I dunno about Glasgow but I know about Manchester. The commuter trains take twice as long as they oughta because they are stacked for entry into Piccadilly. And you know how the flying fuck can they increase capacity into Manchester? What will they have to demolish for a new station? Of course Dr Beaching took out the orbital railways of Manchester (and elsewhere) and they are now cycle tracks and this is deemed progress. It is progress the same way replacing F-15s with kites is.

A while back Paul Marks said something of interest to me (he always says interesting things but this really stuck). We need railway feeder lines was the gist. Even if Dr Beaching deemed this uneconomic he didn’t see the whole of the system. The supermarkets got it – loss-leaders. Get ‘em in for the cheap bread and they’ll stay for the sirloin. Time is indeed money. Nobody, and I mean nobody wants to shop around supermarkets. They want it done. It is Sainsburys or TESCO for moi. It used to be Lidl and Asda where I used to live. Convenience matters. In travel it is up there with price as a factor. Flash-bang super-rapid trains matter not a toss when the infrastructure to get you to the station is sub-standard. I think Branson gets this. The wankers who think London (10m) and Birmingham (3m) are worth connecting real fast and ignore the rest of it don’t.

Push-me Pull-me justice

If you’ve been paying attention over the last few years, it is clear how the elite see the rest of us.  We are little more than farm yard animals to be cajoled and compelled and banned from doing things, lectured and hectored at will, and above all taxed.  We maybe shot if it suits the government as poor old John Charles De Menezes found out, or slung in jail as any number are now finding out for speaking words the government don’t like, and above all we are to be frightened by bogey men.  Mencken once said “the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”


And thus the whole security theatre at airports (which I will take a bit more seriously when I see Obama’s daughters being abused by the TSA or Cameron being subject to a body search ~ hey who has killed more people after all?).  Terror threat?  For someone who grew up in the 1970’s when the IRA were planting actual bombs regularly, it’s hard to take this seriously.


But you might have hoped for some kind of intellectual consistency, if not from politicians then at least from the judiciary.


But in one of the most convoluted and tortured contradictions ever to vomit forth from a British courtroom, the residents who weren’t thrilled with having anti-aircraft missiles on their roofs (and from what I can make out, out there without permission, notice or compensation of any kind) have lost their case against the deployment. 


A judge ruled the Ministry of Defence was legally entitled to decide there was “no credible threat” and the siting of the missiles was both “legitimate and proportionate” because of the “unprecedented” circumstances of the Games.


Yep, you read that right, there is no credible threat and it is so severe that we need to put missiles on your roof. 


One of the residents has caught on, he said the clear implication of the judgment was that “the MoD now has power to militarise the private homes of any person” even when there was no war on, or state of emergency declared.


Yep.  Free speech is gone, the right to own handguns long gone, self-defence, forget it, wer are taxed* and regulated to death, albeit inconvenient regulations are done away with for the elite**.  Now property rights are crushed at the whim of the state because they find it convenient.


The Romans used to say Fiat ‘justitia ruat caelum’’ meaning “let justice be done though the heavens fall”  Not anymore. 


* Not for the elite obviously, for you.  They pay 8% tax on the money they extract from you at the point of a gun, while they make you pay 45%.


** I’ve read, (but cannot find a link) that some of the speed bumps in the Zill lanes are being removed, does anyone know if this is correct?

And so the madness starts…

More astute readers may have noticed I have been away for a week. Some may even have cared [/sob].

Anyway, I have been Elsewhere. Specifically the Lake District. Upon the return journey this afternoon (which was thankfully clear) overhead info boards down the M6 and M61 was displaying “helpful advice” for those planning on journeying to see the Sports Day at Boris Johnson Academy (Formerly Ken’s Comprehensive). They advised planning the journey and to leave in good time etc. How thoughtful of the Highways (Robbery) Agency! Indeed I’m sure Londoners who read this have already well laid plans to make an exodus up North or over to the West Country or to Timbuktu or the Faroe Islands or Alpha Centauri via any means possible: trains, planes and automobiles, buses, jet-packs, mini-submarines, pogo-sticks, roller-blades, dog-sleds, gypsy caravans, hot-air balloons, Segways, shanks ponies… I suspect someone will half-inch a Hansom Cab from the London Transport Museum and in true Sherlockian fashion promise the driver a shiny sovereign if he makes Welwyn Garden City by nightfall… It’ll be like the Wacky Races on the M1 and probably more fun than the 10,000m (an event nobody apart from Brendan-frigging-Foster can get excited over).

For myself I shall be watching one event. The men’s 100m final. And that only to see if Usain Bolt manages to violate The Special Theory of Relativity. Well, at GBP 20,000,000 / 62m and considering it’ll all be over within 10s I reckon that my edification from the whole shooting match will work out as only cost about GBP 32/s which I think we can all agree is excellent value for money. Except of course that doesn’t include the opportunity cost of the BBC (what we all pay for) showing this drivel for fifteen hours a day straight for the duration – i.e. anything else they might show.

Bizarrely, we have had a singularly exciting Premiership footie season (that’s the English Premiership – I pity the Scottish football fan*) and there is still life in the season yet!. And no, that isn’t just because I’m a Magpie. Now that all costs us… Well, whatever you want to pay for it! And, anyway it’s cheaper. Ah, Nick but it’s so nastily commercial. I say it’s so wonderfully commercial. I have Sky TV but not Sky Sports. Both my choice. And perhaps more to the point if “amateur” sport is really amateur why is every second TV advert showing very conceivable product as the official whatever of London 2012? And Gideon “The Artless Dodger” Dodger picking all our pockets to pay for the “Greatest Show on EarthTM“? Shouldn’t they pay if they’re getting something out of it? I mean PT Barnum not only didn’t require subsidy but became a very rich man on that schtick.

I really am getting angrier as this gets closer. And I’m not even going to comment on the uneasiness I feel about connecting national pride to individual sporting achievements supported beyond handsomely by a state desperate for national prestige…

*From The Onion a while back- “Police are investigating whether a pound coin thrown onto the pitch during a game at Ibrox was an act of hooliganism or a potential take-over bid”.

Let them eat cold pasties…

We really are supremely fucked. They (by which I mean Gideon, obviously) are putting VAT on pasties. Are we not cunticulated enough? Apparently (and this is weird) there is hell on about this in the South West of England despite the people who are really going to take a hit from this are Greggs who are from the North East. I do mean it is bizarre because the whole “above ambient temperature” clearly means If I buy a Cornish pasty in Stockport (which is the sort of thing I might do) then clearly it has had much time to cool down en-route from Cornwall. I know this because when I was a kid my parents rented a VW camper van for a holiday in Cornwall. It broke down, and when I say broke down I mean there was fire coming out of the engine at the back. I was the one who told my Dad who was driving – I don’t think I ever saw him more concerned – I mean the engine on fire is never a good sign. The AA took us home and lorks that was a grim ordeal. I mean if you live in Gateshead (as I did) breaking down three miles from Land’s End is double-plus ungood.

Anyway, enough of my woes from a quarter of a century back. I am quite recovered from it. But on another holiday up in the Lake District we stop at Tebay services and I (I ought to be shot) buy a Ginsters pasty. I only managed to grockle myself fully and feel human again by the M60. Terrible guts. For most of the M6 I would have kissed the hand of any humanitarian with a gun who offered to shoot me. And that dear readers is what Gideon wants to put Value Added Tax on as though it was a luxury. A pasty is hardly a luxury item like a Gucci handbag, it’s usually a grimnacious ordeal. I think that is why people are up in arms over the pasty tax. VAT started as a tax on luxuries and inevitably wound-up being a tax on almost everything in much the same way income tax was a temporary measure to beat Boney. Oh, and didn’t VAT start at like 8% or something. It’s now 20% but not on “life’s necessities” such as children’s clothes. Well, I’m not a child but I suspect if I wandered the streets stark bollock naked at the age of 38 I’d rapidly be scrobbled by the rozzers for some public order offense. Especially if I were also eating an untaxed pasty.

Let’s call a spade a spade here. They have taxed everything because they are broke. A few weeks ago I got a new sofa. Now there was an unexpected dividend. Before hiring a man with a van to fetch the new and take the old to the tip (that was taxed!) I slit it and 8 quid fell out. That is what Gideon is doing. The gubbermunt is so broke it is taxing pasties in a demented attempt to make ends meet.

And for what? The NHS? Welfare? No… I’m with Mark Wadsworth here. Mark is a chartered accountant so when he figures things on the back of his “magic fag packet” he is worth listening to. His point is that we are in the financial shit not because of the big-ticket items but the huge number of little things and the waste and chronic overspend on those little things.

Here is an example. I come from the Western Gateshead commuter belt. As a result of John Prescott’s ten year transport plan they built a new bus stop. This was epically top-down and therefore located on the grounds of Ryton Rugby Club. I know what they were thinking. On the road west out of Blaydon there are essentially two “villages”, Ryton and Crawcrook. I say “villages” with the quotes because they are essentially dormitory towns for Newcastle and I guess Gateshead. So, they build a transport hub (multi-modal transport was in fashion) at the epicentre of Ryton/Crawcrook. The thing is whilst it is at the centre of the two “villages” it isn’t actually that local for anyone in particular. The idea was that this hub would be fed by bikes and taxis. This of course flew in the face of reality. Public transport is a pain anyway but public transport with a change is an epic pain which is of course why people tend to spend lots of money (taxed of course) on cars. The entire hub nonsense doesn’t work. Put simply nobody gets a taxi to get a bus. So this monstrance lasted two years and other than bored kids skate-boarding was never used. They built a bus-stop in the middle of nowhere on the basis of a theory which would have been debunked by asking anyone who lived around there (like me) which they clearly didn’t because they knew better. It cost GBP 1.3m to build. It probably cost something outrageous to demolish and it actually harmed bus travel in the area. Now seeing as I had lived in the area most of my life did they think to ask me? No. Or any of the fifty thousand people this was supposed to serve? Did they fuck.

I almost fell off my chair when I heard the 1.3m figure for what was a glorified bus stop. It had a little hut with staff where you could buy travel cards and such but nobody ever went there. All it did was prolong my journey in and out of Newcastle by 2 minutes. Nobody ever got on or off there and there is a very simple reason for that. Why do you think Ryton Rugby Club is there? Because there are no houses because Ryton and Crawcrook can never join because there is a former coal mine between them so you can’t really build much. You can have prop-forwards scoring tries but obviously that is not the same as building a housing estate or a supermarket. Subsidence. And anyway prop forwards are ten a penny (well more than that because presumably they’re taxed too…)

So that is where it has all gone. It has all been spent on random shit in some form of Keynesian orgy. And that is why Gideon is taxing pasties. Because we are epically fucked and there is nothing else left to tax. And that is why this frankly bizarre issue for a revolution is going to run and run. Because quite simply we only get it when we see how utterly insane it is and it isn’t even just that. We get it when we see how fucking desperate the government clearly is. No pretence anymore. Fucked immaculate.

The Dead Budgie Sketch

I’ve just been down the road for a Coke and a packet of crisps. In the queue I glanced over the newspaper front pages. Paul has been proven 100% correct (see this and any number of other posts or comments by Paul here or Samizdata or elsewhere in which Paul regarded this budget as a test of the government’s political sanity). Gideon is being hauled over the coals in almost all the press over the epic 50% to 45% “giveaway” that isn’t. Now I have a feory. I don’t think Gideon is that smart. Anyone who has even vaguely followed British politics over roughly my lifetime (and probably before) must realise a terrible truth about how people perceive tax. And it is this simple. If you say “tax” to almost anyone their first reaction is to think income tax. It’s the headline grabber. It’s silly but that’s it. And a tax (by which I mean income tax – of course – people tend to ignore all the other forms) cut for the rich provokes ire. Gideon should have known this. Even if he isn’t the sharpest pencil in the tin you at least expect someone who rose to his exalted status to display low animal cunning. I think they politely call that “political ability”.

If I were chancellor I’d be sore tempted to scrap the fiction of NI in order to simplify the system and reduce bureaucracy. Let’s say I did that and left everything else the same but raised income tax to compensate in what would analytically be a neutral budget there would still be weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth and rending of garments throughout the land because the “headline rate” (why do you think it gets called that) of “tax” as perceived by way too many people would of course have gone up quite a lot.

Or it’s like the VAT hike from 17.5% to 20%. That really hit everyone but there was only mild grumbling. I don’t recall even the greatest champions of progressive taxation bitchin’ and pukin’ over what was essentially an increase in a flat tax in the sense that the duke and the dustman pay the same rate. I hazard a guess that if shops and restaurants displayed prices ex-VAT (as they do with sales taxes in the USA) people would have noticed more. I only really think of it when buying computer kit because my usual supplier quotes prices ex-VAT them dealing with trade and all.

Anyway, it’s all OK because the Duchess of Cambridge borrowed a frock from her mother. Now I leave as an exercise for the reader to work out how many daughters for how many years will have to borrow dresses from their mother (rather than buy a new one from say Monsoon) to pay for such fluorescent idiocy as HS2. Of course if you work in clothing retail you’re going to have to retrain (boom, boom!) as an engine driver but I’m sure Gideon has a magic money tree (a Fiscus fantasia I am led to believe) down Threadneedle Street to pay for that.

PS I have done my back of an envelope calculation earlier on HS2 here.

The Ugliest…

I have long held the ugliest motor vehicle ever made was the Vanden Plas version of the Austin Allegro. Not that the Allegro was pretty in the first place but that front-end – truly lipstick on a pig territory.

Look away now or experience the true horror (this is not safe for children or those of a nervous or vomitous disposition).


The Fiqh of Driving a Car

It’s quite long but well worth watching to get into the mindset of the salafi Muslim and the demented totality of their vision.

They are quite obsessed with sex aren’t they – the poor deranged bastards – so the traffic cop or the AA man shall steal your honour away. Dismal.

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