Monday, 30 September 2013

Eden by Galaco

With just a month to go until Galaco's scheduled deactivation, I thought it a good time to share this version of Eden with you. It features a very well detailed Galaco model wearing two high quality outfits (though the first is a little too short to work quite as well as it might have done), each in turn.

As a matter of personal taste, I am not entirely sure about the optical distortions in parts of this, though it is certainly an original feature. No English words this time, but the significance of the moment and the sheer quality of the Galaco model (this can be switched to High Definition, for best effect) make it important to put this up now...

Stardust Utopia

It has been a long time since I first featured this song, and this time it has an English translation of the lyrics provided via YouTube's annotations facility (so leave 'annotations' switched on for this video).

Here the spectacular Luka exudes sheer class as usual, in a way that isn't usually even attempted with the other Vocaloid characters because they simply can't pull it off anywhere near as well.

So, with Luka wearing one of her very best outfits, and performing on a stage that is very well suited to this song, here is Stardust Utopia whose music and lyrics were written by Otetsu...

USA Today on Vocaloids

I saw this a day or so ago, but it didn't then have the embed code available (or I couldn't seem to find it), but now it has, so the clip appears below. Unfortunately, there is no obvious way to stop it auto-playing (and a thorough web search hasn't helped on this) so it might be advisable to pause it immediately, so that you can take the time to read these notes before playing the video.

 It's a good way to see how western media coverage of the Vocaloid phenomenon is going (I think they're getting better at it, through improved understanding of the subject) and it's fun to see the effect that delving into what is a whole new world to the reporters has and how they handle it.

The interviewees aren't the best or the brightest; and were I think picked for their costumes alone – but it's okay overall and worth watching once, at least...

The Power of Places

Back when I was more physically capable (i.e. before my 'incident' in April 2011), I always enjoyed campaigning, both canvassing and delivering. Sometimes this would be as a member of a team, often I'd be alone as others weren't available, yet the job needed to be done.

However much I found working within a team fruitful and with its own appeal (and I miss all of that nowadays), it was even more when I was working alone that it felt so good, jsut to be 'out there' in the real world, on the ground. As I have long been sensitive to places and their 'feel', when alone I could stop and pick up on the atmosphere of where I was at any time.

Thus I discovered numerous hidden gems – too many to mention here, but I will provide a few examples.

Back in the ward I represented for eight years (Rochester South and Horsted as it is called nowadays), Quickthorn Cresent in the Snodhurst Avenue area is one such, especially on a dry Sunday afternoon in late spring or early autumn.

It is wonderful: it always has its own character, but at these times one is likely to encounter someone out the front, tending the front garden or washing the car. To anyone delivering in Quickthorn Crescent I say: let them engage you in conversation if they wish to do so: it's usually worth it!

Where I now live, in Chatham Central ward, tucked away is Mitchell Avenue, another road with a surprising degree of individuality and character. I bet none of the (Labour) councillors representing the ward has much if any real idea about the road.

On that topic, more than once I have surprised Labour councillors here in Medway with snippets of information about some spot or road in their ward of which they were completely unaware. I could take this to extremes and embarrass them hufely, but I don't feel that is the best way to proceed, point-scoring as a goal in itself.

A couple of examples: the road where a non-English speaking young boy can usually be found out on the street, practising football, emulating his hero Ronaldinho (this is Thorold Road in Luton). Then there's the road that has more dogs than houses (Ironside Close in Wayfield). No Labour councillor, including those representing those areas, knew either of these things, nor many others that I know.

Last week I went back to the Labour heartland within Medway of Twydall as I had promised to do. It still had something of that bubbling-under feel that I found uncomfortable, and I was there only an hour or so (I had planned to be there for at least twice that long if possible), but it wasn't as strong this time.

It is no surprise to me that it is very much a Labour-held area, and I consider it now to be the worst of those as all the others show at least some promise of progress and change. Notwithstanding all of that, it is interesting to note that the years-old pavement damage I mentioned in my post on the earlier walkabout has now been fixed. The timing of this suggests that I probably embarrassed the Labour councillors there to act at last...

In short: every place has its own 'power', whether positive or negative. Most people seem to be largely insensitive to this, and fixate their attention and judgment upon events, incidents and reputations. One cannot blame them for this approach; but it is in appreciating what lies beyond the immediate and the merely physical that allows the more perceptive among us to perceive potential that might otherwise be missed.

I have mentioned this in respect of Wayfield before now: the place has the potential to up its game, to raise the bar, just as other communities have done over the last decade or so – urban Strood being a prime example, though they are slipping backward a little at the moment. Still, they are learning from doing that, I gather, so some good should come from it in the longer term...

Wayfield was a ward by itself until May 2003, when it was joined to Luton. This is somewhat unfortunate, as it means that the drag-down effect of Luton will make it very difficult for Wayfield to lift itself above the level of Labour representation – which, to be fair, was originally quite good, though it now seems to be flagging.

This is a problem with larger size wards, and diminishes the innate power of places to up their game by, in a fundamental shift, voting-in a higher grade of elected representatives. So many places around Medway (and no doubt in many other places around Britain) have already learned this and made their own moves.

Even Weeds Wood, of all places, has shifted away from lesser representation, and in a series of changes has now reached the point where it has only Conservative councillors. Admittedly, there is more to that particular ward than Weeds Wood alone, but the boundaries haven't changed in ten years and yet the rightward shift has been steady and noteworthy within those same boundaries.

In conclusion, my two big points are that places have power, and they can determine something of their own destiny. It is perfectly reasonable for a community to ask itself: why should places like Hempstead and Wigmore (okay, that one's a bit predictable), Princes Park, all of Rainham, Lordswood and Capstone, and the majority of Rochester – quite apart from the peninsula – be doing so well relative to out area?

Sooner or later they wake up to the realisation that it is the quality and outlook of their elected representatives that makes one of the single biggest differences, and they change their voting pattern significantly. This, of course, is what democracy is supposed to be about anyway.

So, for those content with mediocrity or, at best, a so-so, almost lackadaisical approach to local representation and (in)action, you don't need Conservative councillors. For the rest of us: well, the lessons that others have already learned are there for us to crib from without having to go through it all for ourselves.

It's not difficult to work out, is it?

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Excitement at Conservative Conference

A 'save our NHS' demonstration was happening outside the Manchester conference centre where the Conservative Conference is being held, earlier today. It was of a decent size, but nothing like the one tweeted by Labour's Andrew Gwynne MP and Angela Eagle MP, which was of an obviously completely different demonstration. It looks like an anti-war protest that was held during the Labour years (it was an anti-Iraq war demo!)

There was also some heckling during Philip Hammond's speech livened up what was a somewhat so-so first day at the Conservative Autumn Conference. I couldn't make out what the beef was; but Philip handled it very well, I thought, as did the security staff.

What a contrast to the Walter Wolfgang incident at a Labour conference a few years ago! Yjis was managed and dealt with in a vastly better way.

Here's today's incident, courtesy of ITN News via Telegraph TV...



For comparison, this is a BBC item on the Walter Wolfgang incident, from which most of the unpleasantness has (conveniently?) been edited out....

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Thatcher Tribute Video

This tribute video is quite well done, with some salient contributions; though the voice sounds levels are too variable and that should have been done better.

Despite that technical flaw, it is a good testament and well worth posting here...

Friday, 27 September 2013

Weekly Political Digest – 27 September 2013

In the week of the Labour party conference, there has been a lot to look at and report on, and some unrelated material too...

Labour Conference – Before and After

Ahead of the Labour conference, The Spectator's James Forsyth gave three reasons why Ed[ward] Miliband should not be written off. Now, it has to be said that these are primarily external factors (boundaries favouring Labour, and the UKIP effect) and not suddenly coming into being because of anything the Dear Leader has done.

The third reason, the Left coming together again, is mainly down to the big unions' 'barons', so still isn't anything like a direct result of Ed-M's activity or even presence. As I quoted last week, he remained at that time more of an absence than a presence.

Wind the clock forward to the end of the conference and his speech shows just how much presence he now has. Admittedly, this is the union chiefs' (and other Communists') agenda, and Mili-E was just the mouthpiece for what they have been dictating – and the Labour leader will, by his nature, be fully compliant with – but it certainly re-established his standing among the fawning Socialist classes. Predictable, yes, and of no value whatsoever to society (not even his faux 'energy price fixing' policy announcement) but it all focussed attention on the man.

He had already come back into the public eye (after having been invisible for so long) when he stated he was bringing back Socialism a.k.a. Communism – they are near-enough the same, as Stalin admitted and Lenin partly acknowledged, quite apart from the egg-pelting incident.

Of course, this conference was the proper occasion for actual firm policies to be announced, and they were announced in plenty. With little over 18 months to go until the General Election, and barely 18 months to the start of the official election campaign, this was the only time, realistically, when it would be sensible and appropriate to launch these policies into the public awareness.

Naturally, the commentariat dissected it all, and reaced the unsurprising (and correct) conclusion that, not only was this a severe lurch to the left for Labour, it was also a harking back to the 1970s. A lot of what was proposed in that speech fits in so very well with the failed policies of the Wilson and Callaghan governments of more than a third of a century ago.

What was revealed on this occasion was, if anything, even worse, including land grabs from private owners by government at one level or another – theft, in reality, just as the very worst of Communism and its ilk ever practiced. It's just an inevitable part of the route toward create a totalitarian State, which all Lefty outfits either desire or have already achieved. The Mail takes a suitably cynical view of it all, and is worth reading, although it involves a fair amount of scrolling owing to the quantity of large images embedded within the article..

The best way to deal with the potentially popular (though almost certainly disastrous) energy price-fixing policy is for the Conservatives to come up with a much better policy that will work and won't result in power blackouts. Some of us are old enough to recall the last batch of those, getting on for forty years ago, and it is not something that anyone should relish. Once again, Dan Hodges is on top of this and sees it for what it is: just Leftism, nothing more.

These just-announced policies will ultimately fail, if they are ever put into practice, and we are then likely to see a Thatcher-like long-term exclusion of Labour from national government for probably at least as long. It might almost be worth a single term of Miliband-ism just to get the British voters to wake up to the reality of the totally corrupt ideology that is the political Left, so that they do not repeat the mistake for at least a generation.

With any luck, there might this time be a widespread call for a prohibition of all Left-wing political movements, parties or otherwise, in Britain. Now that would be an interesting backlash (and backfiring!) in the wake of a Miliband-led one-term – perhaps even just part-term – national government!

Incidentally, the stage at the Labour conference was distinctly odd. Not only was there a long walk from the desk area to the lectern, the latter had even been placed off-centre to make it even further away than it needed to be. Let's hope the extra bit of exercise did them some good...


Labour Candidates

While we're with Labour, it's worth noting in passing that eleven failed MPs (i.e. who lost their elections in 2010) have been re-selected to fight the same seats next time. As Mark Wallace puts it at ConHome, this is directly contradictory to Ed Miliband's claim that his is a 'new kind of Labour.' and not a throwback to the past.

The list provided in that post includes Paul Clark, who was booted out of the Gillingham and Rainham seat (by Rehman Chishti), just along the road from where I live, in the adjacent constituency...


Open Primary

Also here in Kent, the retirement of the highly-regarded (and with good reason) Sir John Stanley has meant a new candidate for his Tonbridge and Malling seat needs to be selected. In a bold move, the local Conservative constituency association has gone for a form of 'open primary' style of selection, in which anyone from the area can vote to choose the new candidate, not just party members. It is a method that has operated successfully in a few parts of the world, most notably the USA.

Now, strictly speaking. it's not a full open primary, as the candidates themselves will still be only those approved by the party: a proper open primary allows anyone in the party to stand under the party banner, not just those on what is currently an 'approved list'. Whether one method is better than the other I do not know definitively, nor whether the circumstances here and there are sufficiently different to justify the varying approaches, but it seems to be a move in a good general direction.


Do Not Repay The Debt!

In a well-argued piece, Peter Franklin suggests that, once the deficit is eliminated so the situation becomes stable and known, we should not attempt to repay the resultant debt, even in part. The reason is that it will tempt some (future?) government to spend over the top again, seeing the ;spare capacity' (as it so often seems to be perceived).

I have considerably sympathy with this view, especially bearing in mind the way he has reasoned it out and its future cost, though it naturally goes against the grain of my natural inclination to clear any deby as soon as I am able. In my own case, I have the necessary discipline (though I haven't always!) but collectively a government and bureaucracy can never safely be assumed to be of the same nature.

Especially the Lefties, they love to spend other people's money if there is any scope to do so, mainly on their own pet projects – and that can apply to 'mandarins'at least as much as to ministers. Therefore, grudgingly, I have to accept the argument and support this idea of not repaying the debt – but it is a sad reflection on the nature of those holding the public purse strings that I have been compelled to come to this conclusion.


Muslim Brotherhood Expands London Operation

Something that is not widely known is that Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has run its admin from London for a while. Now, with the proscribing of the outfit by an Egyptiam court, their media operation is also moving here.

Why London? Why not somewhere more favourable to their world-view? I cannot see the purpose in their being here of all places, unless it's part of a longer-term plan to use our country for some inappropriate purpose. Admittedly, that would be consistent with the easy ride and complicit handling of anything involving those of that broad faith, as so many have been reporting for years. I could list (and link to) a number of well-reputed websites that each have a long history of including such material in their mix of material.

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Propaganda or Improper Gander

In this important Trending Central article, the Nazi-like use of propaganda – and most notably falsified news – by the Palestinian movement, the real face of the hugely-slanted big media presentation of the ongoing conflict is revealed. It is also shown how some of those big media sources are (it is claimed) complicit in the propagation of the falsified 'evidence'.

Meanwhile, Cranmer reports on the case of the Nun who exposed some of the falsification, for example by the same children's bodies appearing in photographs taken at various locations. It is especially telling that the likelihood is that those few children (and perhaps others we haven't seen) were killed by the Palestinians' own militia, firing upon civilians and the youngsters were 'collateral damage' as the military put it. The photographs reproduced at the Cranmer post show the fakery very clearly.

Do not think for a moment that this is a new feature of media reporting: I have seen numerous other examples of photographic fakery, often by suggestion through careful staging and framing, quite apart from the BBC/Guardian-style slanting and omissions, terminology manipulation and the rest. Indeed, back in 1996, the Babylon5 episode 'The Illusion of Truth' covered the topic even more strongly than it had done in the two-season-earlier episode 'And Now For A Word'.

We must always be prepared to evaluate and, where we feel it is necessary, challenge what we find reported in the media. It is why I am so selective in what I include here, not only second-sourcing where I can but also building up a comprehensive picture of what is (as far as I can determine, and with a 'confidence factor' attached in every case) to ensure consistency and thus credibility.

Even then, one's world can occasionally be turned upside down by new discoveries that pan out after investigation. Overall, I cannot guarantee that everything I present here is a hundred percent accurate, but I do go to lengths that most others never would to make that as likely as I can.


And finally...

Crick In The Neck

Well, I expect Michael Crick might well have a painful head at least, if not necessarily his neck, after this little caper by the now-notorious UKIPper Godfrey Bloom (hat-tip to Guido for linking to this)...

Miku v3 – Interviews

The boss and several staff at Crypton Future Media here tell some of the story behind, and aspirations for, the new Vocaloid-3 version of Miku Hatsune.

These include talking to Saki Fujita who provided the voice (and it's just so obvious when you hear her!) and cover some of the issues involved in producing the English version, and how they were handled. It's a very interesting video, actually; and perhaps others with international market ambitions could learn from Crypton's exemplary approach...

New Zunko Model

Zunko Tohoku now has a MikuMikuDance (MMD) model, which is really nice and is demonstrated well in this clip. This is apparently a 'school uniform' model, though this outfit isn't quite like any of the usual Japanese designs, of which there are three main types (the sailor-style, the maroon string-ribbon tie, and the neck-height bow of various styles).

The new model can be downloaded from a link about two-thirds of the way down this page. I am tempted, but have managed to resist the desire to download it myself. There are also a number of 'normal' and 'chibi' illustrations in two sizes each that are also accessible from that page. I now have a few of those for my library.

Zunko is a Voiceroid, so is like a Vocaloid but speaks instead of singing. In practice, it is possible (with some effort) to make either emulate the other's capability, and several producers have done just that in the past, so we can that it can be done.

In this case, it is so good, sound-wise, that it could even be just a human speaker and the character animated to fit the voice (as, I believe, is done with Synthesized Reality Productions' Yume) but there are a few moments in this that suggest it could well be genuine. One has to listen very carefully, and it is subtle...

Obviously, this is just a lot of Japanese, so few visitors here will be able to understand what Zunko is saying; nevertheless it is interesting to note her range of vocal inflections and to watch the MMD model in action...

Sinsy

Short for Singing voice Synthesis, Sinsy is another Vocaloid-like approach to exactly what it says on the tin: synthesizing singing. It works via a web-based interface, and has what appear to be be a form of voicebanks, including English by Xiang-Ling, and there is at least one other (as Xiang-Ling is numbered f002). This, along with Vocaloid and UTAU, means there are at least three such methods available. Until today, I was unaware of this one.

It is said that the system requires 'no manual adjustments', unlike the tuning that is often needed in Vocaloid editing, for example. Sinsy works via a web-based interface, and can also interpret MusicXML musical scores. Sinsy-ready MusicXMLs can be created in programs such as MuseScore, Cadencii or Finale NotePad.

In this first English language Sinsy demo, it is Xiang-Ling's English voicebank f002e that performs Lennon and McCartney's truly timeless classic Yesterday, and although it isn't perfect it is certainly very clear and near-enough unaccented British English. The minor issues with this demo seem to relate to the 'glitches' that at least one user of the system has reported, even though that system is now up to version 3.3 so should really have had the kinks worked out of it by now.

Despite the (relatively few) negatives, the system shows great promise, and I suspect just needs more work on the underlying web-based editor and/or the voicebanks. It is already impressive; and hopefully limitations such as the five-minute duration cap willat least be extended in time. After all, the last two songs for which I wrote the lyrics are each over five minutes long...

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Londo Plays his Strongest Card

Masterful handling of the material (as always) by Peter Jurasik makes this Babylon 5 scene even stronger than it might otherwise have been.

Watch and hear how he handles Lord Refa, who by now (third season) is in league with Mr Morden and his 'associates', after Londo had told Morden that they had "danced their last little dance".Mr Morden simply looked elsewhere within the Centauri hierarchy...

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Let Me Fly

This is a good demo for the new Miku English, which I hope to be able to buy myself soon. It isn't perfect, but it's early days yet and producers will need to learn how to accurately tune the new voice in their songs. That will take time, as the structure of the English language is considerably more complex than that of Japanese.

For now, though, Let Me Fly (by Daishi Dance) is a good demo track to be produced so soon after Miku English's release less than four weeks ago...

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Merli Demo

Now that Lapis' big sister Merli has her voicebank, it's time to release some demo tracks. This is the first, now available at YouTube, called Justitia, and I think the newcomer sounds really promising. Her more mature voice has been likened to Iroha Nekomura and even Ritsu Namine (who is male!) – at least in the VocaFarre-like scrolling comments in the video.

So far, as I understand it her voicebank has only one 'voice' in it, but others (like the Append voices that some others have) will be added when they are ready, and Merli will be released after that.

As a demo, this is only the first half of the song (or thereabouts) and no doubt the full version will become available at some future date. Meanwhile, here's the part we have today...

So, what is Synthesized Reality Productions?

Let Yume herself explain the basic premise of 'SRP', in under a minute...

Londo Mollari and the Boom Today

Lt-Cdr Susan Ivanova has been known to say, on Babylon 5, "No boom today. Boom tomorrow. There's always a boom tomorrow!"

Well, for Centauri Emperor (as he is by this time) Londo Mollari, dealing here with Mr Morden and his invisible 'associate', today's the day. This is from the sixth episode of the fourth season, Into The Fire, and is a significant moment regarding the Shadows, many of whose ships were by then based on the Centauri home-world after the sacking of their own home, Z'Ha'Dum.

There was a lot of excellent work from Peter Jurasik, playing Londo, during the first six episodes of that season, and here is one example of that...

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Precious Things

The latest song for which I composed the lyrics is now out, and here it is in a video form. Just a still image (a very striking one, too) with the words presented on the left; but it's all in (immaculate, hopefully) English, and easy to follow.

As always, very well done by neutrinoP whose inspiration it all was, and who put in something like nine-tenths of the work, probably more. Here, then, is Precious Things, sung by GUMI...

Monday, 23 September 2013

Brown Out-ta Here

James (a.k.a. Gordon) Brown runs away from answering an awkward question, as usual. Courtesy of Telegraph TV...

WaveFile by CUL and VY1

This short item (just over a minute and a half) illustrates an interesting feature of vocaloid CUL, who unusually was created as a character first, and her voicebank was added later.

Thus, in this video, we are actually hearing the vocaloid usually known only as VY1 ('Vocaloid Yamaha 1', but also codenamed Mizki) singing, mimed by the delightful LAT models of CUL, both the red and the black version. I am very taken with these, and much prefer them to the other design that tends to dominate but which I find unfeminine and not at all flattering.

These LAT models are soft, flowing and cute. What's not to like?

This voice business all stems from the time when CUL was used to introduce the Japanese television programme Vocalo Revolution, and the intro sequence to that was also with VY1 providing the singing voice. In a sense, then, CUL was produced back-to-front, as usually a visual character appearance is added as one of the last stages, when designing the product's packaging.

There are of course some genuine CUL singing performances now, and I hope to feature a couple or so of those soon. Meanwhile, here is WaveFile...

Super GT Racing 2013 Report

This video features the Good Smile Racing (GSR) team's Miku-decorated racing car, and also explains some of the unusual – and, in at least one aspect, unique – characteristics of this part of the racing scene and the GSR method of individual sponsorship.

Inevitably, we also meet a trio of Race Queens, for which the Japanese motor racing sector is famous. I suppose they're a bit like the American idea of cheerleaders, but with a more reserved Oriental style.

The Miku racing car is doing very well, as its driver explains; and other interviewees fill in more of the background to this whole initiative, which is now a few years old so well established...

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Kosh Reveals Himself – Sort Of

This memorable excerpt from the Babylon 5 season 2 closing episode, The Fall of Night, in where the Vorlon known as Kosh is put in a position where he (is he a 'he'? Who knows) has to reveal himself in a very public manner.

For some reason we don't at this point in the story know, he appears to each race differently, as a famous figure from that race – apparently a religious icon of some kind. The point the series' atheist author was trying to make was that the Vorlons had been manipulating the younger races via religion, no doubt suggesting that such faith systems were all manufactured by aliens.

Notably, Londo didn't see anything of the revealed Kosh – but that, we learn, is because he was by then in league with the Vorlons' opposites in their ideological conlict, the ones usually known as the Shadows. Apparently that either renders Vorlons in that 'form' invisible to yje likes of Londo (and perhaps to all Centauri, by extension) or Kosh somehow blocked Londo from being able to see him. I don't recall that aspect ever being explained...

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Coworkers in Slow Motion

This one-minute demonstration of the iPhone 5s slo-mo facility illustrates a supposed feud between two coworkers (or 'cow-orkers' as some on-line places term them).

I find I am not alone in thinking that this is going to become a big thing on YouTube and similar video platforms ere long...

Friday, 20 September 2013

Weekly Political Digest – 20 September 2013

We're now into the autumn conference season, with the Liberal Democrat event over, UKIP sandwiched in between that and Labour's conference beginning this coming weekend, and the Conservatives the following week. With just eighteen months to go before the official General Election campaign opening, this is a crucial moment for all serious political parties in Great Britain, and on a smaller scale the Northern Ireland parties as well...


Oborne Backs Miliband

Peter Oborne has come out strongly in support of Ed[ward] Miliband as a good Labour party leader. I can no longer find it, so wonder if it has been removed in the meantime, though I don't know why that might have been done.

His perhaps surprising stance, when all around – including within the upper echelons and elsewhere in the Labour party itself – are labelling their current leader as weak and even 'an absence rather than a presence' (to paraphrase something I quoted here recently, is quite well evidenced, at least if you take the claims at face value.

In a week when the YouGov daily opinion polls have the Labour lead at either one percentage point or nothing at all, the Oborne piece must be the only positive thing Ed-M can take to his party's autumn conference this weekend. Indeed, I imagine he is already on his way to Brighton, or might even have arrived by now.

Of course, this probably isn't Iain Martin's famous DUEMA (the 'Don't Understimate Ed Miliband Association') but may be nothing more than an attempt to swing the balance of opinion within Labour so that they won't ditch him in favour of a more competent individual.

I can understand such a ploy, if this is what it turns out to be: having Mili-E at the helm of Labour at the 2015 General Election offers probably the best hope of there being a Conservative overall majority in May 2015...


A Liberal Helping

As usual, the Yellows had the first of the major parties' conferences of the season, in Glasgow. I no longer regularly (one might have said avidly just a few years ago) follow the televised conference set pieces in the main venue, as they have tended to become less and less for members and ever more targeted at the only people who can afford the sheer cost – the professionals and other financed delegates, whether lobbyists or union officials.

There's little scope for ordinary members these days, largely because of hotel and travel costs. Therefore I now find it more useful to keep an eye out for overall summaries that appear in the big media, as those at least tend to be fairly accurate reflections of the general flavour of each event.

Thus it has been with the Lib Dem conference, which seems to have had two main thrusts to it: (1) how they now feel that they must always be in government (something of a change of tack!) and (2) how successful they have been while in government – but only in holding the Tories back by acting as an anchor. Put another way (as Isabel Hardman does in the first of those linked articles) party leader Nick Clegg 'loves blocking popular policies', and then goes on to list some of them.

When they do support something, it doesn't go down well with what is now very much a disunited party, as Mark Wallace could see at the conference as early as Monday. As a party, they still don't really fit very well into a real-world governance situation, and it shows...

Of course, a negative outlook like that is not only a drag on the nation's progress toward recovery and being able to better afford the kind of society we'd wish to put (back?) in place for our children. It also tends toward stagnation, especially when there are still other countries in the world, outside the Eurozone for example, who are continuing to leap ahead of us while we plod along as the Eeyore of the nations.

Thus the Lib Dems aren't actually 'helping' at all, despite early signs in this Coalition term that they could and would be. They will need to be jettisoned from government in 2015, otherwise we really aren't going to get anywhere near where we need to be during the years that follow.

Despite all this, the coalition itself is apparently operating 'very harmoniously', as James Forsyth writes – and he usually has a good handle of what's going on out of public view.


Economy With The Truth

Allister Heath (editor of City AM) has a very good and truthful piece in The Telegraph this week, showing once again that he 'gets it' better and more comprehensively than many others do. There is a lot of good material in there; but the single most significant point is, as its headline indicates, that success must be made available to all, and not focus attention on particular groups, whether it's support for some or additional taxation inflicted on others.

I shall say no more at this time, and urge everyone with any kind of interest in our nation's economic and societal recovery to read Allister's long (but not too much so) article.


Supporting Poorer Children

Also from Allister Heath, this time back in his 'home' of City AM, this piece, of a medium-length (just eight moderate paragraphs) looks at the new 'free school meals for all' initiative. He very carefully states that it is this government and not a specific party that is behind this (and, by implication, others) idea.

It is already public knowledge that this is a Liberal Democrat scheme, and no doubt there has been horse trading behind the scenes to get this one out, in exchange for Lib Dem voting in support of some Conservative initiative elsewhere in the legislative arena.

On this policy, it is the last sentence of Allister's opening paragraph that tells the whole story in a nutshell...
"Poor children are already eligible for free school meals, which means that this policy will only help better off parents."
Poor children are already eligible for free school meals, which means that this policy will only help better off parents.  - See more at: http://www.cityam.com/article/1379469230/we-must-help-poor-kids-not-subsidise-middle-class-parents#sthash.8NqAylvY.dpufPoo"
Poor children are already eligible for free school meals, which means that this policy will only help better off parents. - See more at: http://www.cityam.com/article/1379469230/we-must-help-poor-kids-not-subsidise-middle-class-parents#sthash.8NqAylvY.dpuf
Poor children are already eligible for free school meals, which means that this policy will only help better off parents. - See more at: http://www.cityam.com/article/1379469230/we-must-help-poor-kids-not-subsidise-middle-class-parents#sthash.8NqAylvY.dpuf"
Surely they must have realised this within Westminster? The Whitehall mandarins who put it together certainly will have done, and should have advised the relevant Ministers accordingly. Perhaps they did, and were ignored...

The bottom line is that the money for all this has to come from somewhere, and history clearly shows that we shall be subsidising this in higher-than-necessary tax, which will in all probability hit poorer families proportionally more than any other section of the population.


Beyond the Veil

The controversy over cultural dress within (typically) Muslim. communities – though, I am told, originating from the people's culture and not Islam – reached an odd point this month when a court decided to impose a half-and-half solution regarding a witness.

I can understand the thinking: any face covering must be removed while giving testimony (and, one might just as easily expect, at other times when authority figures, including law enforcement, have a valid reason to require it) in order to allow the judge, counsel and any jurors to be aware of that aspect of body language.

After all, they get that with all other witnesses, so not requiring it in such cases as this could be said to be a form of discrimination, and could even (in some cases) be prejudicial to a proper outcome of the case being prosecuted.

In other situations, such a requirement is not appropriate – and that too is correct. If we didn't like cover-up garments, then Nuns' habits and even – one could say especially – with regard to 'hoodies'. There was a controversy surrounding those in a shopping centre not so many years ago, so we've been here before, in a sense.

The Commentator has taken a somewhat dim view of the court ruling, but I think they haven't quite understood the predicament that I outlined above. As with so many things in life, it's more than one-dimensional, so no universal one-size-fits-all approach can work properly in all situations. It's awkward, especially for the tidy-minded like myself, but it's a fact of life. We have the intelligence to think it through and devise something sensible and workable.

The Adam Smith Institute has a good take on the topic, and usefully pictures a range of such cultural head coverings, from the Nun-like Chador to the full Niqab and Burka. As they rightly say, banning them would be illiberal and un-British, as they put it.

The writer also points the way to a better, more sensible way to proceed – and I anticipate that the Motion in Parliament will end up being modified considerably in that direction. He also usefully acknowledges that there are other places where at least face coverings might indeed need to be required to be removed, such as airports and banks.

It would make sense, and if handled that way would not become the thin end of the wedge that some are suggesting.


Even Sheffield Gets It

The recent diversionary tactic by Labour away from the economic recovery (now in much healthier shape than they'd like to admit) and toward their new wheeze 'levels of income' was not lost on the more perceptive members of the public. Even in Sheffield – hardly an anti-Labour part of England – a letter-writer to the Yorkshire Post hasn't been taken in.

It is perhaps an example of what I have been saying for a long time: that in time even the Labour heartlands begin to realise just how much they have been taken for fools – and once that lesson has been learned that generation is permanently lost to Labour.

It happened a decade ago, when many Labour voters turned the BNP, of all parties, as was fairly extensively documented at the time. These days, they are at least as likely to switch to UKIP, much of whose new support comes from disgruntled former Labour supporters.

This all ties in with the opinion poll mega-shifts, of course. After two years of coasting under their new leader, retaining moderate but unexciting poll leads of typically 12 to 14 percentage points over the Conservatives, that lead has more-or-less been completely wiped out in just one more year.

The public weren't prepared to wait any longer for Labour to get serious, and who can blame them? The party is now seen by a large proportion of the electorate as having significant internal issues – and with the present leadship having been involved with, or at least knowing of, last decades similarly nasty activities by Brown and Co to unseat Tony Blair, as are being revealed in Damian McBride's new book.

On top of that, the policy vacuum, reshuffles of the shadow cabinet, and the business with David Miliband, all add to the feeling that Labour is not a party fit for national government – and as those of us who have seen them from the other side are well aware, that is a correct deduction, and in fact has long been so.

No amount of diversion, wriggling, repeated spouting of 'the party line' or any other artifice can plug the leak in Labour's body of support. Not now; it's too late for that, and too much has happened on the present leadership's watch...


No Sweat!

Well, it should have been; but UKIP leader Nigel Farage was so obviously perspiring, and profusely, that several big media commentators felt compelled to tweet the news. Guido has helpfully rounded up some of those tweets, along with a photo of the melting Farage...


Drunk Tanks

This idea of 'tanks' where the well-inebriated causing problems in public places can be deposited in privately-provided holding places, and for which they will be required to pay., has received cautious acceptance-in-principle (for want of a better way to put it) from this county's Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), so Kent might start to see these in key spots around the county in perhaps a year or two. No decision has yet been taken, either here or elsewhere in the country, as I understand.

One can see the idea: there aren't all that many prison cells in the typical police station, and filling up a large proportion of them with drunkards is hardly a good use of a vital but limited resource. It also won't be pleasant for others being held in adjoining cells, some of which might have done nothing wrong and will be released the next day for all one knows.

I am unsure about the idea, but await further information, particularly on how the concept has fared elsewhere in the world (I gather it is in use in at least one other country), but at least it shows that someone is trying to tackle a long-standing and seemingly worsening (nationally) issue.

On the subject of alcohol consumption, it should as always be noted that those who go to the more extreme lengths are, for the most part, doing so because they want to be bold and over-the-top – it's their warped idea of 'a good night out'. Thus the drink is only a means to that end, and is no more a 'culprit' than any other substance that produced the same kind of effect.

Only recently we have been reading about so-called 'legal highs' for example, and we have long had meths and others as alternatives, so blaming the drink (which is often taken in combination with other substances, producing a dangerous but heightened-effect concoction) is not helpful, and misses the target completely.

FullFact have done one of their better looks into the topic of alcohol-fuelled crime, which although it draws no firm conclusions does at least go some way toward bringing some common sense to the debate. For one thing, it shows just how old some of the 'evidence' some are putting about really is: see the update in particular (at the foot of the report) to show that some goes back over a third of a century. Hardly useful or valid!


Dartford Crossing Toll

Staying in Kent... Although the country is not in a healthy enough state to scrap the Dartford Crossing toll at this time (and other parts of the country would ask why they are being, in effect, required to subsidise it thereafter if it were to be scrapped), at least a move in the right direction has been announced by the Transport Secretary.

I think this is a way to slow wind-down the toll so that it can be quietly dropped altogether a few years hence; but I can see why it needs to be done in this way. Meanwhile, regular users benefit, and it is what I read as a statement of longer-term intent. It's what I might have thought up under the prevailing circumstances.


That's it for this week: I do like to be able to end on a positive, ideally local, note!

1, 2 Fanclub

Now for some cuteness overload: we have Kozue Aikawa again, but this time with Rio (sometimes called Riorio) in very pretty – almost 'fifties-style – summer dresses, performing 1, 2 Fanclub by MikitoP, which they are in fact singing themselves: it is usually sung by Rin and GUMI. Bearing in mind there is Chinese in this, it's quite a feat!

In regard to the outfits: it is interesting to note that fashions that to us here in the west would be thought of as very outdated actually look very good even today on Japanese young ladies. I think it might have to do with the physics of the (by and large) slimmer and lighter bodies that allow for more graceful movement, which suits such fashions much better than modern western women, who tend to be generally 'chunkier' and less softly feminine in motion because of their sheer mass.

Technically, it's partly to do with build, which affects everyone, and partly the overall dimensions, as length is one dimension but volume is three-dimensional. The smaller the lighter: for convenience, let's take a factor of two, wherein a half-height person has half the length of (say) arms, and perhaps a quarter the power of muscles, but only an eight of the weight. Like a sports car, the advantage in agility and related movement is obvious....

The only fault with this video is that the exposure is about a stop and a half too high, somewhat bleaching out the colours: otherwise it's just about perfect, including the rather neat kitchen in which itwas recorded...

Viva Happy

A few weeks ago, I posted a dance duet that featured Danceroid's highly-reputed former star Kozue Aikawa who went solo a year or so ago. Well, here's Kozue in another duet, this time with 15-year-old Lilia (Kozue is in her twenties) performing Mitchie-M's recently released Viva Happy, sung by Miku.

It really is very good and ultra-cute; and it is impressive that the youngster is able to keep up with Kozue – something that has made observers of the scene sit up and take notice...

G'Kar the Unforgettable

This five-minute compilation of G'Kar secenes from Babylon 5 has been produced as a tribute to the late, great (and award-winning) actor Andreas Katsulas. The silly boy killed himself with tobacco drugs, resulting in lung cancer and death, but not before he had completed his hugely significant work in the five series of B5 – and single-handedly (okay, with some good scripting, but only Andreas could have delivered it in the necessary way) lifted the pilot of the (very poor) B5 spin-off Legend of the Rangers from dire to tolerable.

.This is a good selection, even though one needs to be careful of the dialogue as some is obviously (and deliberately) anti-Biblical in its composition; but the essence of G'Kar is all there. Do be warned that, although the sound level is unaccountably low for the most part, it suddenly wells up after the dialogue is complete. Be ready...

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Mr Bean at the Sale Queue

...Or is it really him? Here is a quick lesson in how to get ahead, literally, in this short clip that was uploaded a little earlier today...

Polling Blues for the Reds

The continuing trend on which I reported last week has today reached a landmark, in which a major polling company has reported a level-pegging result for the Conservatives and Labour.

This is YouGov in The Sun, and the four significant parties' figures are as follows...
  • Conservtives – 36%
  • Labour – 36%
  • Lib Dem – 10%
  • UKIP – 12%
It is the second time this has happened in recent months (there was exactly the same situation – 36%/36% – in an ICM poll in July of this year) though that was a one-off at the time. I suspect that this too is a blip, probably caused by a slightly higher than the current norm Lib Dem polling, which in turn no doubt stems from their conference that has just ended.

Of course, as I have mentioned on several occasions in the past, this is well within the widely-accepted margin of error of plus-or-minus 3% on any of those figures, so genuinely doesn't mean too much in isolation.

It will be a worrying time for Labour, though, as they prepare to go to their conference this coming weekend, and they must be hoping that at least one more poll will come out before their event opens that tells a better (for them) story. Remember: this is the Coalition's mid-term, and only a year ago Labour had a decent (though not all that impressive) 12 to 14 percent lead.

It could equally well go the other way, with Labour's lead not just wiped out but starting to reverse – and that really would affect the atmosphere at Brighton during those upcoming few days...

New SRP Website Unveiled

The new website of Vocaloid concert producers Synthesized Reality Productions (SRP) has now been revealed to the world. From the dates on some of the (few) items there so far, it appears to have been active for several days, but under wraps until now.

Obviously these are early days, so there isn't much there as yet; but there are already some photographs from an event and a poll to ascertain where fans are on/near America's east coast, as there are several events coming up from which SRP could pick the potentially most successful for them. That, of course, is essential if they are to be able to go on to produce more concerts in the future: they need to carefully target their efforts, especially in these early, formative times.

I have bookmarked the page and I suggest that others interested in fan-based vocaloid concerts do so too, and keep at least an occasional watch for new material appearing on the site.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Outnumbered – Karen and the Scottish Accent

Karen (played brilliantly as always by the delightful Ramona Marquez) has just a little difficulty understanding the family's Scottish guest in this short Outnumbered clip. Her final comment is just perfect...

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Shake It! in two minutes

Fairy Lapis shows us how to Shake It! in just a shade over two minutes, leaving fairy trails behind her. It's a nice smooth motion, which as regulars here will have picked up on, is one of my pet aspects of these videos.

The model is stated incorrectly, I think, at the video's YouTube page: to me it looks to be the Saboten model instead, which is my favourite, I think – though they are all very good. There are small differences in her outfit and skin tone between the various versions, which I have found the easiest way to tell...

Rin's New Friend

Meet Rin's new kitty. By the way, I gather the bones had been taken out of the fish and the two halves put back together, though I don't know how that is possible...

Indian Actors in Britain

I have (for the umpteenth time) remembered the late and excellent comedy actor Dino Shafeek, mainly because I just had a filled chapati, and there was a scene in It Ain't Half Hot Mum on board a train where Dino had to try to get his mother's meal-time chapati to her without the filling dropping out. If you ever saw it, you'll know what I mean...

It was a real shame to lose him at a comparatively young age; but we in this country have been blessed with a good sprinkling of high quality Indian actors, both comedic and serious. It was thus with some pleasure that, on checking at the Internet Movie DataBase (IMDB), I found that Saeed Jaffrey is still with us, at the grand age of 84, and still very much active in the profession.

Now, this is the man who has one award and two nominations (including one BAFTA) to his name, and is still working in one, two or three productions a year, every year. His short-lived sitcom Tandoori Nights was more a gentle observation than a real comedy – which probably was responsible for its being dropped so soon, and one can understand the TV executives' thinking here – and was a delight in its own way, if incorrectly 'pigeonholed'...

Those like me who are old enough to remember Gangsters, the freewheeling double-series that brought recognition to the late Maurice Colbourne (real name: Roger Middleton) before Howard's Way cemented that, might recall that there were several good Indian-origin (and similar) actors in that, including Ahmed Khalil (whose ethnic origin I have never discovered), Saeed Jaffrey again, and – for just four episodes in the second series – the wonderful Zia Mohyeddin.

 Anyone who saw that will recall his charismatic portrayal of Iqbal Khan (yes, a somewhat mixed name!) and his quest in that mini-arc at the start of the second season – and he was just so English somehow! I always thought it was an impressive performance, and a good reminder that there is actually scope for genuine acting talent originating from that part of the world.

By comparison, the mass-produced fluff from Bollywood (aimed at gullible peasants – and that's the industry's view, not mine) is absolute rubbish – as the Ivory-Merchant productions have also shown over the decades. The lesson is not to judge Indian actors and others in the business as if they were mere Bollywood types (although there are a few gems hidden in there too, such as Sridevi) – there are a fair number who are a lot better than that...

Asteroid Passing By

It's tiny, it's coming fairly close but at a safe distance, and even if it were to were to come at us rather than nearly 230,000 kilometres away, this approximately one to three metre long rock, named RZ53, would probably burn up in the atmosphere. Very little if anything would reach the ground – but it isn't heading for us anyway. More detail is available here.

This animation shows its trajectory, passing by at 2220 hours GMT (forty minutes before midnight current British time) tomorrow night (Wednesday). The asteroid is so small that it was first spotted just a few days ago!

Monday, 16 September 2013

Elected Spooksperson

Here's an interesting Twitter exchange beginning with my own local MP Tracey Crouch...
"OK I know I'm in v secure building but there are scary weird noises coming from corridor. Is Norman Shaw haunted? Actually don't answer that"
Joe Armitage replied...
"I stayed late once, until around 10pm and the doors opened and closed in my corridor but no one was there! Spooky.."
Tracey then responded thus...
"well that settles it. I'm leaving office now."
Scaredy Cat!

You Can Come Over

I am grateful to Alan W Collins (the one-time Twydall Tory) for pointing me toward this very clever campaign video on behalf of Romanians who feel that Britain's approach to them earlier this year was wrong-headed and unfair.

It was, although the underlying sentiment about being rather full-up in these small islands was and is valid – though that's because Labour let in a good four million new migrants during their dozen or so years running Britain. The consequence of that is that whoever was next in line – whether good, bad or whatever – was always going to get something of a raw deal.

This video, though, makes some telling points about the real Romania; and as my own Romanian friend has let out in his tweets and other comments, what it contains is confirmed to in at least some aspects (others haven't come up) by the 'man on the ground'.

Therefore I have some sympathy with this, and can see that although neither side in that controversy is at any particular fault, prevailing circumstances led, perhaps predictably and inevitably, to such a clash. Fortunately, the British governmental campaign has now been canned (it really was the wrong approach), but – as the video says (though, unaccountably, in an American-sounding accent) – we can still 'come over' anyway...

Orchestral Haruhi

Now this is what can safely be termed 'epic'! An orchestral concert of music from the Haruhi Suzumiya stories, complete with vocal solo performances by the original voice actresses and some in-character funny moments. Any fans of the series will recognise and understand those straight away!

It's in eleven ten-minute parts, so the easiest way is to go through one at a time, leaving it in your browser for a single-click continuation to the next part when you're ready. There's some tango and bossa nova in here, which you might not have expected, and some memorable and perhaps not so familiar themes in the mix

A tip: the solo violinist in Part 3 is superb, so that part well worth getting to before too long. Trust me on this...

It's a pity they didn't do God Knows or Super Driver, though, not even in the encore.

Anyway, we start with the 'Mikuru Beam' song, so come on: let's dance, baby!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Hare Hare Yukai – Live!

It has been almost five months since I last posted this lovely song and dance here, so why not push the boat out and have it performed live by the original Haruhi Suzumiya voice atresses live on stage? Even better, there are English subtitles!

So, we have Aya Hirano (Haruhi Suzumiya), Minori Chihara (Yuki Nagato) and Yuuko Gotou (Mikuru Asahina) effectively in character. As they say, it doesn't get much better than this...

Duet – PonPonPon

With just a month and a half to go before Galaco is scheduled to be deactivated, I thought it might be nice to feature her here again, this time in a duet with Mayu.

So we have two lovely ladies, two good voices which, though markedly different (most obvious when they do short solo parts, one after the other) and not handled quite as well as they might have been in this video, go very well together.

I hadn't encountered this particular Mayu model before: although it's very good, I think I personally prefer the Saboten that we saw in another duest a couple of months ago (Magnet, with SeeU). Her dress tend to hang lower, though, which is definite plus point. The stage is rather basic, but as a counter to that, the glitter effects work quite well.

Anyway, this is PonPonPon, without English words – but there aren't more than a handful of actual words, repeated a number of times, so it doesn't really matter. High Definition is available, and recommended if your system and feed can cope...

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Addictive New Game

This game, Vocalo-Dama, is just out in Japan, and hopefully elsewhere in the world in due course – though this isn't guaranteed. It is simple, but claimed to be "addictive", and is for iPhone and iPad only. It seems to be something of a branching out for Yamaha, who as far as I know have never produced any games before –  but then again, what do we in the west know of their product range for the home market? I suspect relatively little.

The idea is to slide the coloured rising balls in seven columns into the column with the same colour at its top. If the colours match, Miku sings to you.  It reminded me straight away of the seven columns above the stage at the Kansai concert earlier this year, in which text often rose up in a similar way.

Anyway, it's all shown in this short video (hat-tip to Vocaloidism for the heads-up on this)...

Miku's Sixth Birthday at Yokohama

Yes, Miku was back in Yokohama for her birthday, as last year, but not in water mist in the bay this time. Instead there was an indoor performance in one of those typical packed-with-thousands auditoriums that we have come to accept as the norm with Miku concerts. On this occasion there were some fifteen thousand in the audience. This was the Magical Mirai 2013 event I mentioned here recently.

For this song we have what seems to be a completely new staging of the Ryo (of Supercell) classic Odds & Ends, of which I am not a hundred percent in favour over the original – but there it is, and it certainly very lifelike in terms of Miku's movements. There are no English words this time, but we don't really need them and I have pointed to sources before. Note that there are actually six musicians performing over Miku's head: usually at such events there are four or five.

This video has just today been uploaded, some two weeks (and a day) on...

Weekly Political Digest – 14 September 2013

I have deliberately held this back for a day, so that those readers with a sensitivity to 'Friday the thirteenth' don't shy away from it. I know, I know...

These digests are proving to be very popular, especially the one two weeks ago which is still going strong, and now heading toward two thousand page views. Meanwhile, it has been an exceptionally busy week!


Unite? You Might? You're Not!

Inevitably the Unions-versus-Miliband saga rolls on. I don't wish to make this into a long-running overblown saga, so here are just a few links for those readers who are following all of this as avidly as I and at least some others are doing...


Young Eyes Look Right

This is an interesting and well-evidenced piece from the always-excellent (and probably underrated) Mark Wallace on a further example of the younger end of our society turning more to the political Right than their (mostly Lefty) teachers and lecturers tried to prepare them to do, or even to be..

There is always an element of this trend, in every generation, even since the days when the Communist-style teaching  profession in this country first took prominence within our educational establishments – something that 'Miss Snuffy' and others have divulged public in recent years, so we know from the inside what many of us realised already.

Occasionally, when even young and less experienced minds can see the (deliberate) harm being done to society by the Left, there comes a kind of natural re-balancing that largely – though nowhere near entirely – corrects the tendency for the upcoming generation to head leftward in their outlook.

Although when I was in that age bracket it was a hugely different world from that of today, we still tended to go that way – though I was never seriously pro-Labour myself. It is always encouraging to see that, no doubt aided by modern communications and on-line resources, the current younger generation is seeing more truths than were perhaps so readily available to those of us in a parallel position half a century ago...


Falkirk Fail Quirk

Oh dear! There seems to be a falling out between Labour MPs Tom Watson and Jim Murphy over the Falkirk vote-rigging allegations issue, as this highlighted tweet shows. The latter's message to the former reads (with shorthand expanded to aid readability)...
"You know how to get in touch away from Tory twitter eyes. Meanwhile I'll just get on with supporting Ed's plans for party/Trades Union reform."
Ouch!


Continuing to 'Ed' South

Still heading toward oblivion, along the road of irrelevance and via the town of Little Dooing On-the-Hole, the Labour leader continues to be seen as a non-entity by his own side's supporters at least as much as by his political opponents. Fraser Nelson covers the current state of play in more detail here.

This quotation of David Aaronovitch of The Times, by Iain (radio presenter of the year) Dale, is one of the most telling I have yet encountered – especially as I have known of Aaranovitch for a number of years, and realise just how strong this really is. Probably the most significant phrase is this...
"...politically he is not a presence at all, he is an absence."
Ouch again!


Food Banks

As with all schemes that are essentially hand-outs, the food banks that were introduced during the Labour years have gone, to some extent at least, the way of all such:  something to be exploited by the scroungers. Once this reaches widespread public awareness, the whole idea tends to become discredited, which – as with the other such ideas – does a disservice to the genuine and honest cases.

This from The Mail revolves around first-hand testimony of (wait for it) a Liberal Democrat former mayor, whose personal experience of what seems to be a fair number in Liverpool strongly suggests that many of them are using the handout nature of food banks as a way to subsidise a more luxurious lifestyle than any reasonable person might well expect.

The example given by the former mayor is of the preponderance of (very expensive!) iPhones that the claimants (for want of a better term) seem to sport. Lefties have, as usual, sprung to those claimants' defence, suggesting that perhaps the iPhones were 'gifts from friends or family'.

Oh, I can just see that happening in either my own family's equivalent generation, or others I know – not! Also, if these obviously ricj benefactors were even slightly aware of the person's situation (and wouldn't you be, in that kind of situation?) surely they'd opt for a cheaper 'phone and some cash to put dinners on the table, at least for a while. Yes?

When it comes to trusting the views of Labour's Luciana Berger or the insight of Michael Gove, most intelligent and insightful folk must surely go for the latter; and that seems to be what is gradually happening, thanks to this debate that was triggered by the Education Secretary's words on the subject recently.

Ultimately, the lessons to be learned are (a) accepting that some long-standing handout schemes probably cannot be changed materially, no new ones should be introduced, and more recent ones need to be reviewed to try to find a better way to tackle the underlying issues; and (b) if that can't be done for one or more specific schemes, at least make the criteria more intelligent and much less easy to cheat one's way in as a lifestyle choice at others' expense.

There is much public support for taking a more sensible line on welfare and related matters in the country nowadays, as even The Independent acknowledges, including admitting that this is benefiting the Conservatives at Labour's expense. Interesting reading, that!


Age of Education

On the subject of education itself (i.e. not just the minister!) there has been a proposal by a collection of Lefty 'experts' to move the school starting age to seven. Interestingly, it was that side of the political divide that formerly (while their people were running the country) supported early years learning.

Back then, they were able to indoctrinate our youngsters with their ideology at their most susceptible time of life, as I have covered previously, and as is evidenced in the famous Jesuit Fathers claim that I supect is familiar to most if not all readers of this 'blog, so needs no repetition here.

As Toby Young, a co-founder of the West London Free School, writes in The Telegraph, such a move would result in 'a generation of illiterates'. His piece is well-evidenced and is worth reading in full, especially by existing and potential parents

We have already seen the outcome of a dumbed-down education system in the Labour years, concentrating on non-subjects such as 'diversity' and 'citizenship' at the expense of genuinely useful areas, with the well-documented (and glaringly obvious to employers) result that we already have a generation of whom a fair-sized proportion are at best semi-literate and numerate.

This, of course, is the 'Plan B' idea of these self-styled 'experts'. If their people in government can no longer reduce future generations' education to largely worthless non-qualifications and lower-standard exams, then they might at least reduce the time for proper education by a few crucial years..The aim is the same, but now coming at it from the other end, so to speak.

As always, we should never let ourselves be fooled by anything Lefties attempt to foist upon us, however appealingly it is dressed up for public consumption. It's our children's futures at stake, no less – a point reinforced by this tale of Labour and Green councillors voting together to defeat a very promising looking proposal for a new school where it is genuinely needed in central Hove.

It seems that the Lefties there prefer instead to make the site into what is described as a comfortable environment for council staff. Interesting choice of priorities here, and as always with Lefties one wonders who they think should be serving whose interests...

On a not entirely unrelated topic (the need for more school places) it is Labour's 'time-bomb' caused by their deliberate flooding of the UK with some four million immigrants (as Daniel Hannan MEP reminded us in a tweet earlier today) that has now come around to causing a shortage of secondary school places.

Although in theory it should be possible for any council to see the problem coming in advance, and prepare for it, it doesn't seem that many if any parts of the country actually achieve this, at least not consistently over the years. I have seen it in my own area, and have been aware of it elsewhere; and the above-linked article just shows how big the issue is nationwide.

Lessons need to be learned by bureaucrats and councillors/MPs as much as lessons within the classrooms themselves, but also the immigrant tide needs to be stemmed so that we don't get a repeat of this potentially harmful (to the youngsters) situation arise again in the future.


Striking at Britain

The TUC-supported nationwide labour strike (once upon a time called 'industrial action', even though it involved inaction and certainly without any industry).was indeed accepted at the Congress's conference last Monday. Their main beef appears to be the public sector pay freeze, and the firefighters also have an issue regarding their pensions.

Indeed, it is (predictably?) the unions covering public sector – either exclusively or with some private sector membership as well – who are leading this, driven by their predominantly known Communist leaders. For them,.as always with their ilk, their foot-soldier members who will be called upon to lose income by striking, are merely pawns in their (purely political) game.

From the TUC's and the more moderate unions' point of view, there is a separate reason, and that is of having become less relevant during the past three decades, and seeing that trend continuing ever more since the change of national government in May 2010.

They need something, anything of significance, to rally the troops and help promote a dwindling overall membership (as I gather it is in reality, though not widely realised), especially while the public sector is now shrinking – which is where the mainstay of the active union movement resides in practice.

As a nation, we'll live through it all, just as we have done in the past as I well recall from my own experience.

When it's all over, or even before, although there will be a modest (but inflated in the reporting of the usual suspects e.g. BBC/Guardian/Mirror, no doubt) shift toward sympathy for the strikers, perhaps just one group such as the firefighters, this is likely to be hugely outweighed by the real public opinion. I've seen that before as well, and in much more favourable times for the unions and the rest of the political Left.

That will give the government all the 'ammo' it needs to further tighten-up union-related legislation, reduce public funding/support for them still further (way beyond the current 'Pilgrims' clampdown) and turn more public services over to the private sector. The TUC et al are playing straight into their hands, but are not bright enough to realise it. Well, they shall reap what they are planning to sow...


FullFact on Royal Mail

It is not exactly surprising that FullFact have taken a detailed look at part of the Royal Mail sell-off issue, though completely ignoring (except via a fairly short quotation from Business Secretary Vince Cable) the question of the service's future viability. Thus this is one of their more selective (slanted, one might even consider it) reports, and should be read with that in mind.

They have instead focussed the 'conclusion' end of their post on the opposition to the move by – well, one can guess before even reading that far down, it's so predictable. This is where one needs to be careful not to be lulled by FullFact's straighter reports into thinking they are impartial, as they claim. It is not that difficult to spot when they have an agenda, and this looks to be one example of that.


Medway A & E

Great news regarding the now well-overstretched Medway Maritime Hospital's Accident and Emergency department, as Medway MP Mark Reckless has blogged about here including a clip from his words on the topic in the House of Commons.

This significant grant – one of the largest being made – ought to make a real difference, though I doubt that it will be able to overcome all the reported issues all of the time. A&E is like that; though my own experiences on two occasions in the year 2011 showed that it was a well run outfit with no waiting outside in the ambulance and only quite modest delays within the department.

Indeed, my longest wait was the necessary time for some administered medicine to 'kick-in' (as they say there) and that was less than half an hour. I had no reason for complaint; and as I observed the workings of the place I noticed a calm but always on-the-go activity. I am no expert, but I couldn't perceive a problem on either of those occasions, at that time – barely thirty months ago.

Sooner or later, though, as populations rise and social trends can add to the pressures, something starts to give. From recent reports, it looks as though that has started to happen on occasion, so this is good if less than ideal timing for what one might term an 'enhancement grant'..


A Few Links

To avoid making this post too long , I am providing the following few links on assorted topics as a simple click-on list. None of them needs any significant comment from me...

?And that's it for another week. Hopefully next week will be at least a little lighter and not quite as busy!

Tweet of the Day – 14 September 2013

I haven't done one of these in a while, but this one, quoting Wilhelm Röpke, is sufficiently interesting to be worth featuring here.

Essentially, the (French) text in the image attached to that tweet is saying that...
"Between Communism and Socialism there is the difference from assassination to imprudent homicide."
In other words, they are both murderous ideologies. Now, it is significant that the writer died in 1966, so some of what was going on in places such as the USSR had become known to the wider world but much was still hidden. We certainly didn't have the awkward openness of the Internet that is so easily accessible by just about anyone in the free world these days.

Nowadays, and especially in the minds of those who caught the YouTube video of Stalin admitting to his party faithful that "Socialism is just the everyday word for Communism" before it was taken down, we know that there is essentially no difference in practice between the two. Socialism merely pretends not to be all-out murdering, thieving and oppressing Communism, using a wide range of propaganda and other techniques to camouflage its true nature.

This is the awkward (for them) twenty-first century, and we can now all see – if we pay even just a little attention – that there is no real difference at all. This is why self-styled Socialists tend to give the game away in unguarded moments, and we can quite easily see in due course that they are exactly the same as the Communists always were in outlook, attitude, and mindset in general.

That's just one reason of many why no truly decent person could ever be a 'Socialist', as they all support an ideology that (whichever way one looks at it) is murderous, among other undesirable and frankly downright nasty characteriistics. There are no exceptions to this!.