Saturday, 30 May 2009

Theoretically possible right wing libertarians

Oh god, I just can't let it lie.

Over on Craig Murray's blog, he's posted about the libertarian bloggerything and the Political Compass (as I previous covered the other day). He says:-
... right wing libertarians, though a theoretical possibility, do not actually exist in any significant number.
So off I scamper to my spreadsheet and google, trying to find the right-wing libertarians, as certified by the Political Compass.

I found a few.

So, it all depends on Craig's definition of 'significant number'. Including dead celebs such as Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman, I can find amongst bloggery there's Guido, Charles Crawford, Devil's Kitchen, Radioactive Liberty, A Libertarian's Perspective, Mark's Any Musings and Carl-Mikael Teglund and from comments on Craig's post there's Algernon, Guy Herbert, John, Julian Gall and from the comments on Dev's coverage of the same thing last year there's Mark Wadsworth, Longrider, Cleanthes, Roger Thornhill, 'Patrick', John Trenchard.

That's nineteen, how many does he need in order to prove their theoretical existence?

Its kind of like a black swan thing I reckon.

Maybe Charles Crawford is right that the political compass is stupid. But I like to take things at face value and run with them until the wheels fall off. How come there are so few famous folk in the lower right quadrant? Is there something in the nature of frothing at the mouth 9,-9 libertarian right wingers than makes them hide away from fame, success and notoriety?

Friday, 29 May 2009

Cutting the crap with MPs expenses and allowances

Rather jolly post over at Mark's Any Musings, which neatly cuts through the crap on the MP's expenses scandal. How its not so much about duck houses and claiming for third or fourth homes as its about MPs claiming expenses instead of getting a higher salary.
The first scandal is that they lied about what they are paid. Used "expenses" as a cover to make it look like they are paid less than they actually are.

The second scandal is the Blears & Hoon method of avoiding CGT. If you buy a property with an allowance called ADDITIONAL costs allowance, that seems like a definition of a second home to me. That is fraud, pure and simple whatever rules say (Parliament or HMRC ones) As the Gorgon said "Unnacceptable". This second scandal should be fixed by plod.

The third scandal is the targetting of some as guilty because of the flavour of their claims, while others esacpe scott free because they or their claim is less interesting, or they have friends in the right places.
If they get expenses instead of salary, then its under the radar, it's tax status as income is murky, its uneven.

The one's who played by the spirit of the rules and used the own moral judgement about how much to claim they go home with less than the dishonest who hide behind the letter of the rules and claim as much as they can as their entitlement.
So what to do?
1) Publish all claims, to take power away from the Telegraph.
2) Bin the whole expenses system.
3) Make employees salaried on HoC payroll.
4) Pay a fixed up-front allowance for housing & travel based on distance from constituency to Parliament.
5) Pay a fixed up-front allowance to run an office.
6) Call a general election and throw the bums out, but allow some time for a deselection process to run first.
I'd add the caveat to point 4), pay no allowance for housing and instead allocate MPs a room at the taxpayer-owner Olympic Village. If MP's find that inadequate, they're welcome to make alternative arrangements out of their own pocket.

And also, on point 5) I had this theory that it would cost more money to run an office for a really large constituency than for a really small constituency, having more people to attend to and more work to be done. So I ran it through my spreadsheet, ranking MPs by constituency size, and ranking all the various expense categories. Then doing Mark Reckons's quartile graph thing to see if there was any signs of correlation.

Nope, no sign of correlation at all. Running an office for 30,000 constituents looks like it costs about the same as running an office for 90,000 constituents. Flat rate office running allowances for all MPs then.

Blowing in the wind

Originally uploaded by manc_ill_kid
I saw this blowing down Kilburn High Road.

Thought I'd better take a photie of it and blog about how someone ought to be more careful with confidential documents.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Job vacancies update - 28-MAY-2009

Your weekly amateur analysis of the UK's job vacancies scene from ground-breaking attack blog illandancient.
Total vacancies in the UK 406,794
Up 0.28% from last week
Up 3.49% from last month
Down -9.10% from last quarter
Here's your regular graph showing how many job vacancies are listed on and the Job Centre Plus. A wee caveat about the JCP is that the total jobs listed on their site is updated in real time, so it varies depending on the time of day, contrast this with Reed who update their total daily.

Based on Gordon Brown saying there was 500,000 job vacancies in PMQs back in February, we can look at how the number of vacancies on the job sites have varied and we extrapolate it up to a total figure for vacancies in the UK.

We're on about the same level as last week, which is a little promising, its not getting worse and if you're optimistic you could say that the green shoots of a happier job vacancies scene are still doing whatever it is green shoots do.

Anyhoo, looking now at the breakdown of sectors on, which ones have grown and shrunk compared to last month:-
Leisure and tourism 19%
Banking 14%
Actuarial 12%
IT Contractor 9%
Transport and logistics 7%
Social Care 7%
Human Resources 5%
Manufacturing 4%
Public Sector 4%
Retail 4%
Purchasing 3%
Sales 3%
Recruitment Consultancy 3%
Customer Service 3%
Hospitality 2%
Legal 2%
Admin 1%
Financial Services 1%
General Insurance 0%
Multilingual -1%
Motoring and Automotive -1%
Management -2%
Media, Digital and Creative -3%
Education -3%
Temporary Work -4%
Accountancy Qualified -4%
Marketing and PR -4%
IT and Telecoms -5%
Graduate -5%
Health -5%
Construction and Property -5%
Charity and Voluntary -6%
Accountancy -7%
Scientific -11%
Engineering -11%
FMCG -13%
Strategy and consultancy -18%
Training -40%
I wonder if there's a nicer way I can display all this information.

That's it for this week. Good luck with the job hunting.

For the price of a cup of tea

Originally uploaded by manc_ill_kid
So, yesterday morning I stumble out at 10am to move my car, to avoid getting a parking ticket, and I discover that my wee side window has been knocked in and my first generation iPod Nano 2gb has been nicked.

I was quite pissed off.

Its just sensless. It just makes no sense. The sums don't add up.

The window will cost about £70 for Autoglass to fix, my car insurance doesn't cover contents, and the damage is within the excess, so I just have to pay up.

No the iPod Nano cost about £100 when I first got it three/four years ago, its an old old iPod Nano. Its not the latest model, its not cool, its black and very scratched and all it had on it was the audiobook of The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein.

So I was sat in my car calling the police and autoglass and clearing up the broken glass all over the drivers seat when the traffic warden, parking ninja walks past, eyeing me warily, he glanced at my reg plate and tapped on his handheld, and wandered away when he saw me watching him. This could be another parking ticket worth £60.

So in total the incident has cost me
damage £70
iPod £100
parking ticket £60
TOTAL £230

Was it worth it?

If the value of that that was stolen is more than the cost of damage?

Maybe, the parking ticket was incidental and since the iPod cost more than the damage to the car, then its just kind of possible, using some fucked up maths that the net gain of steal the iPod was £30.

But not quite.

Its an old iPod, most entry level mobile phone have better music playing powers. It's comparitavely as archaic as stealing a video recorder. Heck, a few houses down the street there's a computer monitor in the garden, and further down there's a 36 inch TV waiting next to wheelie bins. eBay tells me that the value of a second-hand black first generation 2gb iPod Nano is £15

It makes no sense.

Why break into a car to steal something so worthless?

I had a rant to my attractive young ladyfriend. She pointed out that it was probably just some crack-head in need of their next fix, so of course it doesn't make sense.

No, I can't handle that. Could the crack head have just thought "I need fifteen quid for my next fix, I could get a job!" or borrow money for some kind of junkie micro-finance firm, or borrow money off a bloke in the pub, or steal a wheel barrow from a garden, or anything.

Why the damage?


The loss of an iPod I can handle, Christ, I'd probably just assume I'd lost it down the back of the sofa. But the broken car window, why?

I'm so skint.

I'm so skint, I have less than no money, I have negative thousands on my credit card, that at some point in the uncertain future I'm going to have to pay off. And now £70 more in debt.

And I may never know what happens at the end of The Shock Doctrine.

Do the capitalists win? Does Naomi Klein make Uncle Miltie see the error of his ways? Are all free-markets overwealmed with protectionism and state control?

What happens?

And can I have a new iPod?

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Knitting project #12 - Knitting with carrier bags

I am no stranger to carrier bag knitting, but past attempted have all involved tying whole bags together, which is adequate for making hammocks or rugs, but not so good for more conventional knitting. So other techniques are required.

Here's my step by step guide to knitting with plastic carrier bags.

Knitting project #12 - Conventional knitting with carrier bags

I use ones from Sainsburys, they say on that to reuse them, I am. They also say there are made from 50% recycled material. Whatever I knit will be from 100% recycled material.

Knitting project #12 - Conventional knitting with carrier bags

To turn them into 'yarn' first pull them through your hands to make them crumpled into long thin things, handles at one end, cul-de-sac at the other.

Knitting project #12 - Conventional knitting with carrier bags

Now use scissors to cut them widthways into 1 incg chunks to make lots of crumpled rings. You can chuck away the cul-de-sac end and the handles end. I can't think of any use for these bits.

Knitting project #12 - Conventional knitting with carrier bags

Now unfold all the rings that you've just cut. Some of them might have split, chuck away the broken ones. There's probably a really neat use for reject bits of cut up carrier bags, I dunno what it is.

Knitting project #12 - Conventional knitting with carrier bags

Now join all the loops together, where you loop one ring into another them pull it back through itself. You're smart, you can figure it out. Don't pull it too tight mind, its not going to be going anywhere so it doesn't need to be really small knot.

That's you done with the 'yarn', I guess you can roll it into a ball or something. And then its just a case of knitting as usual.

Knitting project #12 - Conventional knitting with carrier bags

I think I'm going to make a shopping bag of some description. I'm using 7mm needles bought for 20p from a charity shop in Burnham-on-Crouch, in the past I've bought very cheap knitting needles from Oxfam shops and very expensive needles from John Lewis, whatever meet your price point I guess.

For this shopping bag I casted on 40 stitches, its probably a wee bit too wide. I did a trial run of 16 stitches and that looked less than half of the size I wanted. Suck it and see, and try again. I'm doing that knitting thing where its just row after row of purls rather then knit one purl one.

Knitting project #12 - Conventional knitting with carrier bags

I'll let you know how I get on.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

London Bloggers blookers?

Its that time of the month when I leave the flat and go and stand in a room full of people off of the internet.

Talks this month by Floyd Earl Smith about blogging books, he usually writes ... For Dummies books about websitey things and has sold over a million copies of his various work. Interesting stuff in the talk, how to write a blog as a book or a book as a blog, and get published. His next book is about crossing the climate change 'tipping point', which ought to be interesting. I myself have failed miserably in publishing bloggery things, and despirited enough to never try again.

Jaz from Jazamatazz spoke about Refugee Week and the Simple Acts Campaign which intends to change the way people perceive refugees, like making friends with them, trying foreign food, and so on. Refugee Week 2009 will take place from 15 - 21 June, some of the events taking place are listed here.

As is usual for me after these London Blogger Meetup, here's the first of many lists of London Bloggers that should be popping up over the London blogosphere as people write up the event, blogging about the evening, and adding to as they remember the names or find the links of people they missed.

Interesting folk I spoke to include:-
Chris qwagham
Tom from Tired of London, Tired of Life
Tom Flashboy
Andy Bargery
Aref Adib
Dr Zoe the Shaman
Bruce Bird
Alexa from Global cool
Celia Brooks Brown
People I made brief eye-contact* with include:-
Floyd Earl Smith
Jaz Refugee Week
Anthony Fresh Plastic
People who I didn't talk to or make eye contact with:-
Plummet Onions
(admittedly some of these aren't people as such, but are blogs written by people who I didn't talk to, make eye-contact with or otherwise recognise)

Ooh, on the way home, at Old Street underground, I bumped into two chums I knew from school in the 90s. Warm fuzzy feelings inside, and also nostalgic memories bubbling to the surface. Parties and underage drinking and stuff.

*I made an amusing funny, talking about running 10K by running round Regent's Park twice. The chap I was talking to pointed out that it was a bit repetitive. I responded that when you jog past someone then round the other side you jog past them again, then back on the second lap you pass them again and get the merest hint of eye-contact, its almost like going on a date.
I thought it was funny

Accusations of sexism in the MPs expenses scandal

I've added a new column to my MP's expenses database, this one for the gender sex of MP. So now we can look at whether female MPs or more or less honest than male MPs based on reports in the Telegraph and the blogosphere. I ought to add the caveat for comparative purposes that regardless of gender sex the proportion of fiddling MPs for each political party is LibDem 25%, Labour 26%, Conservative 29%

gender sex
Total MPs

And, cos I know you really love graphs which compare the three main political parties:-

So is The Telegraph picking on female Conservative MPs or are they more likely to be indulging than other colours?

Stepping down

MPs stepping down at the next election or announcing that they won't be standing at the next election isn't quite the same as resigning is it?

Like if you find a guest robbing your house, you don't wait for them to finish the job and then never invite them back. You hound them out and beat the crap out of them.

Staying in their position as MPs until the next election isn't quite the same as fucking right off, right now.

Unless of course, the next general election is very soon. IPJ reckons it could be as soon October and there was that flurry on twitter about the next election being only a few weeks after June 21st.

So maybe standing down at the next election has a similar timescale involve to fucking right of right now. But its still not the same thing.

If MPs have been found to be swindling the taxpayer, they should fuck right off right now. Aye?

My navel, it is here

Someone said I was a LibDem.

I don't recall ever asserting that I was. Its possible I guess, I've just never thought I was.

Being conservative has just always been my natural default position, until libertarianism came along.

I'm not going to rule out my LibDeminess.

This one time, when I had a job, they made everyone take the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator test thing. The tester person first explained what all the types were, then made us guess which we thought we were, then we took the test to find out what that the piece of paper said.

Out of the hundred or so people in the room, three people correctly guess their type on all four indicators, thirty or so guessed three types, forty guess two types and another handful only guessed their own personality type correctly on for one indicator. Out of the whole company, only one person was wrong about their entire personality on all four type indicators, and that was me.

So it is possible that all these years I've been innately a LibDem supporter, but voted for right-wing parties by mistake.

Just to be on the safe side, I took The Political Compass test

It looks to me like I judged my politics accurately. I'm a right-wing libertarian.

And crikey! on another page on the Political Compass website, it has the relative positions of the main UK parties. And bugger me, I'm lined up with the LibDems.

Bank holiday fun

I've been away for the past few days, driving round the south of England visiting in-laws and brethren, with only intermittent access to the internet, mostly on my blackberry.

Oh, the terror of finding people reading and commenting on my ill-advised and half-arsed rant about criticism of libertarian bloggerlists.

I've noticed a bit of a trend for people called Mark to link to this blog. It could just be co-incidence, but I'm grateful for any traffic this way regardless.

In gratitude I've added a new blogrolly thing to my sidebar specifically to blogs run by people called Mark.

I could have sworn that some other Mark linked to this site a few months back, but from scouring the internet, I can't find any signs of it. Sorry Mark.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Feedback loops

I used to have a rant about Gordon Brown doesn't drive and therefore is in a crap position over the past twelve years to preside over increases in fuel duty, the proliferation of speed cameras, road tax and car scrappage.

Whilst his advisers may have warned him of outcomes and complaints about various policies, there's no way his can appreciate them first hand.

When drivers fill up their cars at the pumps, and see the litre counter going up faster than the cost counter, or the rise in price for a full tank or less fuel for a tennern you get these little instant feedback loops about the cost.

When drivers are in a hurry and they know that they can go a little faster and get to their destination a little sooner, and evaluate the risk of getting flashed by a speed camera or not.

Driving full pelt and seeing the fuel gauge tick downwards and knowing that's going to cost you, but its worth it to get from A to B.

Whilst you can search online and book in advance for a cheap journey from London to Glasgow some point in the future by train or plane, if you want to travel right now, with no advance warning, hopping in your car will always be the cheapest and most efficient option.

Gordon Brown knows none of these things first hand.

Driving for him is someone else's problem. The price of fuel is not something he has to face. Deciding how fast to go is just a matter of ordering the driver.

Its not his problem.

I think last time I had this rant, it was in the company of anti-car people and didn't down well despite my reasoning.

Its like designers who design things that they themselves will never use, they never appreciate how annoying their wee design solution is.

Anyhoo, we now have revelations that nine members of the cabinet employ accountants at the taxpayer's expense to handle thair tax returns.

They have presided over a system that is so complicated and time-consuming that they are able to do it themselves, at the same time as expecting the rest of the population. To them tax returns are someone else's problem that they don't need to deal with first hand.

Same thing.

These people are in no position to govern us.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

Sunday, 24 May 2009

The libertarian menu

Elsewhere on the internet, Charles Crawford is sticking pins into Craig Murray about his post complaining at the right of the libertarian blogosphere.

The peculiar thing is, that these neo-con "Libertarians" have, by and large, little or no concern for civil liberties. Very few of these "Libertarians" blogged about the shooting of Jean Charles De Menezes, against detention without trial for 42 days, about police violence at the G20 summit. These "Libertarians" do not want to see Guantanamo closed, and are quite happy with extraordinary rendition and the use of torture. Not only will you search the large majority of them in vain for any condemnation of the use of torture in the "War on Terror", but some of them - like Charles Crawford, for instance - have actively blogged in favour of the use of torture.

Libertarians in favour of detention without trial? Libertarians for Guantanamo?

Libertarians for Torture?

Plainly the word "Libertarian" is being misappropriated by these people, and stretched beyond any natural meaning in the English language. Some of the most prominent "libertarians", like Paul Staines, have not only been completely silent on civil liiberties, but have flirted with racism in the past. Staines' site is very often homophobic, and is not the only one on Mickelthwait's list.

Libertarians against gay rights?

Libertarians against Immigration?

So, Craig has given us a list of boxes that must be ticked by each blog in order for it to fulfill his criteria to be 'libertarian'
  • The Jean Charles De Menezes shooting
  • 42 days detention
  • Police violence at the G20 protests
  • Extraordinary rendition
  • Torture
  • Guantanamo
  • Gay Rights
  • Immigration
So now I'm going through my spreadsheet of ranked libertarian blogs and checking which ones fullfill all the criteria.

Its going to take me a while to duplicate Craig's efforts in this area, there's a lot of blogs, 125, and a lot of blog posts. But hey, this is important.

However, I gotta say, it is a bit, prescriptive and arbitary. I always assumed that libertarianism was a broad church and you didn't have to agree with everyone, just as long as they subscribe to the policy of "Get the hell out of my way".

Also, would you really expect economics blogs like UK Housing Bubble and the Adam Smith Institute to post about Jean Charles Menezes? or are they exempt from that criteria?

It could be, to paraphrase Charles Crawford, that Craig Murray is full of shit.

But bless him, if he's a libertarian, then he's my brother, and if I have a barbeque this afternoon, then he's welcome to come round.

Okay, this going through blogs is insanely boring, but out of the top twenty libertarian blogs listed sixteen of them did blog about the Jean Charles De Menezes shooting, the 20% who didn't hardly constitute 'a vast majority'. Maybe when I go through the other hundred blogs, no one else'll have written anything, but its not likely.

Jean Charles
Menezes shooting
42 days detention

Guido Fawkes


Burning Our Money

Devils Kitchen

Daniel Hannan

UK Housing Bubble

Adam Smith Institute

Old Holborn

Craig Murray

Mr. Eugenides
Obnoxio the Clown

PJC Journal

An Englishman's Castle

Tim Worstall

Mark Wadsworth

UK Libertarian Party

Capitalists @ Work

Ambush Predator

Bishop Hill

Douglas Carswell

Friday, 22 May 2009

MP's self-published expenses

The other day I read some blogpost somewhere out on the internet saying that MPs who were publishing their own expenses were doing it in lots of different formats, some in PDF, some as google docs, some as just summaries and totals, and this was going to be a little bit of a pain for the public.

Indulge me for a moment, the only independent body who can regulate MPs expenses are the public. Not the general public, but people like the blogosphere and the people who make up the media and local constituents.

No QUANGO or arms length government body or private sector organisation is going to have the confidence of the public, parliament should be beholden to the public. We get to chose who is hired and fired. So the public needs the information in an easily processable form.

Sometime soon the House of Commons are going to publish all the expenses information, but as with most government things its going to be in a format that isn't the best for the peopel who will be using the information.

I don't know what format's best, Excel spreadsheets, CSV files, some kind of xml rss feed? I dunno. What I can suggest is that we look at all the MPs who've published their own expenses online and see what different formats they're using and which ones we like best.

I'm compiling a list of MPs who've self-published so far (with links)
Ainsworth, Peter - PDF (damaged and could not be repaired apparently)
Alexander, Danny - summary of quarterly claims 2008/09 html table, itemised 2009/10 googledocs
Allen, Graham - html summary of latest month's claims
Armstrong, Hilary - Scans of claims
Atkinson, Peter - Link to TheyWorkForYou
Austin, John - copy of TheyWorkForYou
Bacon, Richard - PDF of photocopy of claim
Baker, Normal - html summary and .doc
Banks, Gordon - html table summary
Burt, Lorely - html summary
Cable, Vince - html summary
Cameron, David - Conservative shadow cabinet googledocs
Clarke, Kenneth - Conservative shadow cabinet googledocs
Clegg, Nick - jpeg 2008/09 expenses
Duncan, Alan - Conservative shadow cabinet googledocs
Fox, Liam - Conservative shadow cabinet googledocs
Francois, Mark - Conservative shadow cabinet googledocs
Gibson, Dr Ian - PDF of photocopy of claim
Grieve, Dominic - Conservative shadow cabinet googledocs
Huhne, Chris - PDFs of ACA and IEP
Hunt, Jeremy - Conservative shadow cabinet googledocs
Lamb, Norman - PDF of photocopy of claim
May, Theresa - Conservative shadow cabinet googledocs
McLoughlin, Patrick - Conservative shadow cabinet googledocs
Mitchell, Andrew - Conservative shadow cabinet googledocs
Mundell, David - Conservative shadow cabinet googledocs
Paterson, Owen - Conservative shadow cabinet googledocs
Stunnel, Andrew - html prose summary and jpeg
Swinson, Jo - PDF of quarterly expenses
Villiers, Theresa - Conservative shadow cabinet googledocs
Willetts, David - Conservative shadow cabinet googledocs
Wood, Mike - PDFs of ACA, IEP and comms
Wright, David - Statement on expenses
Yeo, Tim - html summary of claims
Young, Sir George - table summary of claim in html
Its going to take me ages, there are lots of MPs and they all have their websites laid out in different ways.

Hmm, and for my own purposes, this is a list of MP's websites that I have checked that don't have self-published expenses data.
Adams, Gerry
Abbott, Diane
Afriyie, Adam
Ainsworth, Bob
Alexander, Douglas
Amess, David
Ancram, Michael
Anderson, David
Anderson, Janet
Baird, Vera
Baldry, Antony
Balls, Ed
Davis, Dai
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Rosie
Woodward, Shaun
Wright, Dr Tony
Wright, Iain
Wright, Jeremy
Wyatt, Derek
And MPs with no website
Ainger, Nick
Arbuthnot, James
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Ian
Bailey, Adrian
Barron, Kevin
Beresford, Sir Paul
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Elizabeth
Blair, Tony
Blunkett, David
Bone, Peter
Borrow, David
Boswell, Tim
Brown, Gordon
Brown, Nick
Browne, Desmond
Burnham, Andrew
Byers, Stephen
Caborn, Richard
Campbell, Gregory
Campbell, Ronald
Cash, William
Caton, Martin
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clark, Greg
Clarke, Charles
Clarke, Tom
Clwyd, Ann
Conway, Derek
Cormack, Patrick
Cousins, Jim
Cox, Charles
Cummings, John
Curtis-Thomas, Clare
Dalyell, Tam
Davis, David
Dobbin, Jim
Dodds, Nigel
Doherty, Pat
Doran, Frank
Durkan, Mark
Eagle, Maria
Etherington, William
Farrelly, Paul
Fisher, Mark
Gibb, Nick
Gildernew, Michelle
Gillan, Cheryl
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Goodman, Paul
Greenway, John
Hammond, Phil
Hayes, John
Heal, Sylvia
Heyes, David
Hogg, Douglas
Hollobone, Philip
Howarth, George
Howells, Dr Kim
Humble, Joan
Ingram, Adam
Johnson, Diana
Jowell, Tessa
Joyce, Eric
Kaufman, Gerald
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Jane
Laing, Eleanor
Lancaster, John
Letwin, Oliver
Lord, Michael
MacNeil, Angus
Mahmood, Khalid
Malins, Humphrey
Mallaber, Judy
Marsden, Gordon
Marshall, David
Martin, Michael
McAvoy, Thomas
McCartney, Ian
McCrea, William
McGrady, Edward
McGuiness, Martin
McNulty, Tony
Morley, Elliott
Mudie, George
Murphy, Conor
Murphy, Denis
Murphy, Jim
O'Hara, Eddie
Olner, Bill
Opik, Lembit
Owen, Albert
Paisley, Rev Ian
Palmer, Nick
Prescott, John
Reed, Jamieson
Rennie, Willie
Rifkind, Malcolm
Riordan, Linda
Robathan, Andrew
Robinson, Geoffrey
Robinson, Iris
Ruane, Chris
Russell, Christine
Ryan, Joan
Salmond, Alex
Sarwar, Mohammed
Seabeck, Alison
Sharma, Virendra Kumar
Shepherd, Richard
Simpson, David
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Geraldine
Smith, John
Smith, Sir Robert
Spicer, Michael
Stewart, Ian
Straw, Jack
Stringer, Graham
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, David
Tredinnick, David
Turner, Neil
Tyrie, Andrew
Vis, Rudolph
Walter, Robert
Wareing, Robert
Watts, Dave
Williams, Alan
Williams, Betty
Williams, Mark
Williams, Stephen
Wilshire, David
Wilson, Philip
Winterton, Nicholas
Wishart, Peter
Woolas, Phil
Wright, Anthony
Younger-Ross, Richard

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Job vacancies update - 21-MAY-2009

Your weekly amateur analysis of the UK's job vacancies scene from ground-breaking attack blog illandancient.
Total vacancies in the UK 383,170
Down -5.58% from last week
Up 0.87% from last month
Down -21.28% from last quarter
Here's your regular graph showing how many job vacancies are listed on and the Job Centre Plus. A wee caveat about the JCP is that the total jobs listed on their site is updated in real time, so it varies depending on the time of day, contrast this with Reed who update their total daily. Also now included is information from, which is a rolling figure for the past seven days.

Based on Gordon Brown saying there was 500,000 job vacancies in PMQs back in February, we can look at how the number of vacancies on the job sites have varied and we extrapolate it up to a total figure for vacancies in the UK.

So we're down a bit from last week, but still not as low as at the start of the month. Is this the result of the government's efforts to find jobs for the ever increasing armies of unemployed?

Anyhoo, looking now at the sectors which have growing number of vacancies compared to last month:-
Leisure and tourism 28%
Motoring and Automotive 16%
Transport and logistics 13%
IT Contractor 10%
Admin 9%
Hospitality 9%
Retail 9%
Public Sector 9%
Temp 8%
Social Care 8%
Human Resources 7%
Sales 6%
The worst performing sectors are
Scientific -5%
Health -6%
Strategy and consultancy -8%
Training -22%
I wonder if there's a nicer way I can display all this information.

That's it for this week. Good luck with the job hunting.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Baws deep in SQL once more

So, I've installed XAMPP and I'm pretty sure it all works. I've got PHP & MySQL for Dummies on my lap and a spreadsheet with all the MPs expenses and majorities data.

I used to dabble with SQL in my last job, using Open Office Base to try to create an MRPII system, but that was six months ago, things are different now.

So I've got me one new table, which looks a little like this:-

Afriyie, Adam
Burns, Simon
Cameron, David
Streeter, Gary
Devon, SW
Abbott, Dianne
2005 Majority
Wyatt, Derek
Expense fiddle link

I think keeps it all kind of simple, rather than having to add columns or create new tables everytime something new happens. Its probably some technique they teach you in first year database management, I swear I read some techy article about this sort of way of arranging databases years and years ago.

Anyhoo, whilst its easy to do a wee
SELECT Name, Value FROM mpinfo WHERE 'Attribute' = 'Constituency' ORDER BY Name
SELECT Name, Value FROM mpinfo WHERE 'Attribute' = 'Party' ORDER BY Party, Name
to get lists of each homogenous atrribute. I'm wanting to display a table which has columns for 'MPs name', 'Constituency', 'Party' and whatever else.

Lazyweb, can you help?

It should simply be a case of joining the results of the two previous SQL queries
SELECT Name, Value FROM mpinfo WHERE 'Attribute' = 'Constituency'
SELECT Name, Value FROM mpinfo WHERE 'Attribute' = 'Party'
ON Name=Name
But that's clearly not going to work, so can I run an SQL query that creates two new tables, one for each of the previous queries, then joins them, spits forth the desired information, and then drops the tables.

And can I do this within phpMyAdmin?

Photobomb plague

I was bored, and thought I'd play around with PhotoShop.
Evil photobomber plague 01
I'm sure I've seen this sort of thing before, or did I dream it.

Just used a random pic off of the internet.

We're from the internet, we're here to help (part 5)

The problem with yesterday's graphs and calculations is the assumption that if an MP's expenses are expensive, then there is something clearly wrong, which is a little flawed.

With the current expenses scandal, whilst public opinion is generally against MPs, its mostly been The Telegraph who are judging which expenses are fiddles and which aren't. Their editorial policy judges what to report. Here's their latest list of all the MPs they've reported on, the ones without links are generally cases where MPs have not claimed, and the ones with links are generally fiddles.

By my flawed counting, there are 136 current MPs who The Telegraph have reproted on.

Carrying on from Mark Reckon's groundbreaking work correlating MPs election majority with how much they fiddle, here is a table of number of fiddles by majority decile.

Number of
reported fiddles
Percentage of
reported fiddles
1st decile
(smallest majority)
2nd decile
3rd decile
4th decile
5th decile
6th decile
7th decile
8th decile
9th decile
10th decile
(largest majority)

Lets look at that graphically:-

And once more but with quartiles just to show off that correlation a little more clearly.

So what Mark Reckons already demonstrated the other day still stands with a few more day's worth of data.

I wonder if all three parties exhibit the same behaviour to the same degree...

1st quartile
(smallest majority)
2nd quartile
3rd quartile
4th quartile (largest majority)
Total Fiddles per party
1st quartile
(smallest majority)
2nd quartile24%
3rd quartile22%
4th quartile (largest majority)39%

And graphically...


It looks like Labour buck the trend amongst the three largest parties, their safest MPs haven't been outed by the Telegraph as much as safe Tories and LibDems.

It could just be that The Telegraph are being selective as to whilst MPs the cover, or maybe safe LibDem MPs really are twice as likely to fiddle their expenses as safe Labour MPs.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

We're from the internet, we're here to help (part 4)

Are they all the same? Are they as bad as each other? Is bad even the right word or is there something in their nature?

Politicians that is.

I'm still playing around with the expenses versus majority spreadsheet, my mind boggles. In lieu of having a job and any other productive thing to do with my time, I'm in the Brioche cafe in West Hampstead, I've had one cappucino, one hot chocolate, a glass of water and some apple and toffee pie and I've got some cool new graphs.

We've previously shown that in the great scheme of things MPs with very safe seats, with huge majorities tend to claim a little more in expenses than average and MPs with unsafe seats and very slim majorities tend to claim less than average.

But there are different types of MPs, some of them are Red and some are Blue, Labour and Tory. Now historically Tory folk have been rich land owning upper class and Labour folk are from the working class, so you'd kind of expect Tory folk to not claim much cos they don't need to and Labour folk to claim everything they can because they don't need to.

I'm not sure what to expect of the LibDems but hey, lets look at the graphs.

The old scatter graph still doesn't show anything clearly, its just a big noisy Jackson Pollock style thing. We've ranked all the MPs expense claims and ranked all the majorities, and plotted it with colours representing the parties.

If you squint, you can see that the orange blobs, representing LibDems, they seem a bit sparse the further you look to the top right. But other than that, I see nothing significant.

So let's do those quartile bar chart things for each of the parties.


I know what you're thinking, and you're right.

The graph for Labour shows some kind correlation. But right now, my head is mush, and I can't work out what it means.

We're from the internet, we're here to help (part 3)

Was there a point in me doing the table in the previous post? I don't recall, it took me ages and I lost track of my intentions.

Right, Mark Reckons, he's got all the MP's expense totals ranked and all the majorities ranked and he's done some quartile graphs that show a correlation, the more secure the MP, the higher their majority, then the more likely they are to claim huge expenses.

I've run pretty much the same data and here's a scatter graph with majority rank along the bottom and expense rank is along the side.

It ain't a straight line as MarkWadsworth predicted in a comment the other day. But MarkReckons found a correlation, and I'm going to find it too. You just can't see it from a noisy scatter graph thing.

So, my next graph shows the correlation in deciles, I guess they're like the quartiles of Mark Reckon's chart, but there's ten intervals instead of his four.

You can see there's a bit of a correlation, one end's lower than the other, but in the middle its all a bit wibbly.

So I guess, validating Mark Reckon's conclusions, the MPs with the biggest majorities are most likely to claim the most expenses, and the MPs with the smallest majorities are likely to claim the lowest expenses. And all the MPs in the middle, they're all wibbly.

We're from the internet, we're here to help (part 2)

Hi, my name's Chris, I am unemployed, I studied manufacturing engineering at university. We did one module in statistics, but now most of what I do it based on looking at what other people have done, scratching my head and thinking "I could do that".

A few days ago I swear I saw online a blogpost where someone had done a wee table with how many MPs had had expense scandaly things written about them in The Telegraph, and what proportion were Labour, Conservative and so on, I can't find that post now, so I made up the table myself, using data from The Parliament expenses pdf, stuff on Mark Reckons and The Telegraph's full list.

PartyNo. Expense MPsTotal MPsPercentage

Crikey, it took me ages to make that table, damn this crappy 'puter, and bah for not remembering where I saw the original table.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Job Centre rant of the day

Every fortnight we trudge along to the Job Centre Plus, clutching to our chests our 'Looking For Work' booklets, inside scrawled the six 'job search steps' we've taken, six jobs applied for, or agencies visited or websites signed up to.

As agreed to previous, for ten minutes before our Job Centre Plus signing on appointment, we play on the Job Centre Plus computer terminals, searching for job vacancies with potential in the surrounding area. Screening officers, Air Conditioning Engineers, Sous Chefs, Database Analysts, Assistant Audiovisual Technician, Student Office Assistant, Watch Technician.

For almost every job on the database, when you click through for more details and the job description, the text box starts with the phrase:-
This Local Employment Partnership employer shares
information about new starters with Jobcentreplus, for
statistical purposes only. See for more

Before going into details about the job itself.

Why? Why must I read this when trying to find about the nature of the job, any job, must I read the same information?

I'm guessing it was some guideline as a result of data-protection legislation, which has been implemented without fail on all applicable jobs.

Someone somewhere thought it was a good idea, but now it clutters up the job descriptions on the Jobcentreplus database.

Its inefficient, the same sentence copied and pasted hundreds of thousands of times.

Read with indifference by millions of job seekers every day.

For no good reason.

Read it again
This Local Employment Partnership
employer shares information about new
starters with Jobcentreplus, for
statistical purposes only. See for more information.

Has your life been enriched? Are you any closer to getting a job? Do you feel like your data has been protected?

Where are the damned statistics? I've wasted seconds of my life reading these dame lines over and over again.
This Local Employment Partnership
employer shares information about new
starters with Jobcentreplus, for
statistical purposes only. See for more information.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

From the internet

We're from the Internet, We're here to help.

In the wake of the MPs Expenses row, “The Troughalypse” if you will, Uncle David is starting to put all the shadow cabinet's expenses on the internet, on GoogleDocs, in real time.

I think this sort of thing is great, it means someone with a bit of knowhow can set up a twitter bot or some kind of script or anything to process the information in real time. A widget to sit on your blog clocking up the cost of your local MP, easy. Subscribe to the PM's expensebot on Twitter, no problem.

This is what the future should look like.

See something shady, you can ping it up on blogs, twitter, facebook anything and in seconds some poor soul in a constituency office somewhere will be putting out a press release explaining the cost, in real time.

I think this is a little kind of freemarketish, rather than Gordon Brown, David Cam, and Rick Clegg sitting round a table and discussing the reforms needed in the expenses system, and never agreeing. MPs just try anything, lots of different things, and the one which the public likes the best, the one with the most transparency and best visibility, the one that meets with most approval, that solution gets the respective MPs elected.

UPDATE 15:41
Oh, the limitless possibilities of the internet. The Many Eyes wiki thing has the Conservative Expenses data, its got the information arranged as treemaps and bubblecharts and tagclouds and bar charts, and its all interactive and you can click on things for more information and its all live and real and beautiful.

Could this ever have happened if left to The Commons Fees Office? I bet they didn't even know what a treemap is.

Its a beautiful, beautiful way of arranging data.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Job vacancies update - 14-MAY-2009

Crikey, I've been doing this for months and months now, three months in fact. So I can now bring you vague and unreliable data comparing the previous quarter.
Total vacancies are down 15% from last quarter.
Here's your regular graph showing how many job vacancies are listed on and the Job Centre Plus. A wee caveat about the JCP is that the total jobs listed on their site is updated in real time, so it varies depending on the time of day, contrast this with Reed who update their total daily.

Based on Gordon Brown saying there was 500,000 job vacancies in PMQs back in February, we can look at how the number of vacancies on the job sites have varied and we extrapolate it up to a total figure for vacancies in the UK.

All right, things have been looking up on the vacancies for the past fortnight now, green shoots indeed.

This graph shows the number of jobs listed in each sector on Its pretty difficult to see anything useful on the graph, except the descent of Graduate jobs.

This graph shows the percentage change in the number of vacancies compared with the previous month.

I'm sure you'll agree, its as near as damnit impossible to see anything on the graph. Except for if you squint slightly and see how there a little bit of an upwards trend in the swarm. Sure, most of those lines are negative, but they're less negative than they were, and there's more positive lines.

Anyhoo, the sectors that have the only growing vacancies compared to last month are:-
Actuarial 8%
Admin 5%
Hospitality 1%
Leisure and tourism 20%
Motoring and Automotive 11%
Transport and logistics 17%

The worst performing sectors are
Accountancy -15%
Engineering -18%
Strategy and consultancy -34%
Training -21%

I wonder if there's a nice way I can display all this information.
That's it for this week. Good luck with the job hunting.

Orders of magnitude

Over on Capitalists@Work and EU Referendum are covering the ongoing saga of the Eurofighter, where the government are committed to buying another 88 (or 92) redundant Cold War era fighter jets, which are of little use in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq at a cost of around £27 billion.

That's £27,000 million

Previously we figured that the MPs Expense row that's sweeping the nation at the moment costs about £16 million.

Lets process this just a little
Eurofighter £27,000,000,000
MPs Expenses £16,000,000


Eurofighter £27,000 million
MPs Expenses £16 million
That's near as dammit two thousand times more of a cost to the taxpayer, two thousand times more of a waste of money.

Lasy year I did some calculations to quantify government spending in terms of 'taxpayer hours' how long people would have to work to pay off various government expenditure. Back then I figured a taxpayer hour was worth about £4.80 per hour.

On that basis, the MPs expenses is 3,333,333 taxpayer hours and the Eurofighter shambles is 5,625,000,000 taxpayer hours (416,667 taxpayer days and 703,250,000 taxpayer days or 1,603 taxpayer years and 2,704,807 taxpayer years).

Erm, that's based on 2008 taxpayer hours. Things have changed.

Smarter people than me have it that Tax Freedom day was yesterday, 14th May, I must have missed it myself, I haven't been in paid employment this year, anyhoo so The Powers That Be take 37% of your average Briton's earnings. The mean weekly earnings are still last year's figure of £11.78 per hour. So a Taxpayer hour is now worth £4.36.

On that basis, the MPs expenses is 3,669,725 taxpayer hours and the Eurofighter shambles is 6,192,660,550 taxpayer hours (458,715 taxpayer days and 774,082,568 taxpayer days or 1,764 taxpayer years and 2,977,240 taxpayer years).

Its mind-boggling no matter how you chop it up.

Thursday, 14 May 2009


I have to put down my knitting, my fingers are hurting. itunes has been on random all day and it just came up with The Plimptons - Impulse Records (1979 - 2000) (extended version).

Its been years since I last heard that song, it's from a fuzzy period of my life. 2005, Glasgow. Maybe earlier.

The Plimptons had a monthly residency at the Tchai Ovna Teahouse, its a small pokey wee place, you could fit twenty people in, maybe forty with folk standing, they'd usually get in the former crowd.

Every month they'd invite friendly bands to play with them, mates bands, side projects, folk who'd begged for a chance.

There was no stage at the Tchai, just two broken amps and a couple of microphone stands, but for that size of crowd it was barely worth it. This one time MJ Hibbett played, he'd come up from Leicester with his guitar, he was the second act of the evening, after seeing the first act struggle to get the mics to work, he came up with a better solution. I was sat just at the side, next to the fire place, I remember his words "Instead of using a microphone I'm going to step a little closer to you, and sing a little bit louder, and it'll be great."

Back in those days, The Plimptons were a three piece, Adam, Martin and Soares. Soares played keyboards, the others took turns on guitar and vocals.

One particular night they were running late, the Tchai's manager stood at the back tapping his watch theatrically. The regular last song of the set at this time was Impulse Records, it was a great sprawling epic of a song when they were still figuring out how it should soung before they'd recorded it, still pretty fresh from Adam's pen.

Hmm, my memory's going fuzzy, am I thinking of a gig at the Tchai or was it a gig at Stereo? I'm not so sure any more.

The song sounds a little like mid-nineties Pulp, a pastiche even, there's a verse about hanging out with a girl called Deborah, anyhoo, its got this Pulp-like four-four keyboard all the way through. I remember Martin shouting out "We haven't got enough time, what are we going to do?"

From the side of the stage, my usual position as manager / roadie, I called out "Play it double time, doing two verses at the same time."

They barely missed a beat, the keyboard player, who I think at this time was either Soares, Paul from The Martial Arts or Craig Pulsar, starts playing double time. Adam and Martin both clutching the same microphone and start doing it, two different verses at the same time, double time.

The crowd, about 50% friends, 50% fans of the other bands, stand open-mouthed.

It was a shambles but it was stunning.

Those were the days.Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange