Archive for Evil Corporate Bastards

The US Oil Spill

Posted in Almost Beyond Words, Rantings, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , , , , on June 8, 2010 by awickerman

I’ve avoided this one as there didn’t seem a lot to say, everyone seemed to be trying to stop it and it probably would be better to wait for the investigation and all the facts to come out. Admittedly that hasn’t stopped politicians mouthing off about blame and so on, but honestly what did you expect? (Actually based on Piper Alpha I had some hopes. That was the disaster were a US firm in the North Sea badly, badly fucked up and killed 70 odd people and didn’t get criticised and threatened with death till after the investigation proved they were guilty as hell. But then American politicians do have an addiction to double standards and hypocrisy)

Anyway I’m commenting on the subject as I’ve recently found out quite how far the US government is going in it’s efforts to make things worse. First off the much hyped ‘Presidential panel’ gathering the finest experts in every field except oil production, therefore denying it of any possible relevant knowledge or experience. Now you may argue you want off-the wall ideas and fresh thinking, it’s a bad argument but you could make it, in which case why censor the panel? Now professor Katz does appear to be thoroughly unpleasant (complete with a Brass Eye-esque belief in good/bad AIDS) but someone must have thought he was an expert worth consulting, yet he was instantly dropped once it emerged he was a arse. So either this is a genuine utter disaster where you need everyone OR you can drop him as it’s not that bad, in which case tone down the rhetoric and threats.  Is consistency so much to ask?

The second point is if anything much worse as it damn near had a practical impact. To disperse oil you need a dispersant and in general they are not especially nice chemicals, hence why they all need EPA approval. The BP choice Corexit has been on the EPA list for over 20 years and was used on the Exxon Valdez spill and dozens since so is a well understood and tested choice, hence it was stockpiled in vast quantities on the Gulf Mexico in preparation for any problems. So what happened a few days into this spill? A few previously anonymous politicians and green groups (well I’d never heard of them) started whining about it and eventually got the EPA to threaten a ban. Ignoring the annoyance that anyone took them seriously you do have to ask why now? Are the US government actually trying to make things worse or do they genuinely think Louisiana will look nicer with a nice skim of oil on it? (On which note I also found out that 80%+ of state revenues in that state come from the oil industry, I therefore sincerely hope the fisherman who turn on the news get their wish and the industry is banned. I think mass unemployment and even larger taxd bills would be a just punishment for their ill-informed whining.)

So there you go, a tad more proof of Regan’s old saw

The ten most dangerous words in the English language are “Hi, I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

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Shock! Horror! Absence of Surprise!

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Even Stevie Wonder Saw That Coming with tags , , , on May 17, 2010 by awickerman

Compare and contrast two big US investment funds;

Pax World Balanced (PAXWX)  – The fund follows a Sustainable Investing approach, combining rigorous financial analysis with equally rigorous Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) analysis in order to identify investments.

Vice Fund (VICEX) – Normally invests at least 80% of net assets in equity securities of companies that derive a significant portion of their revenues from alcohol, tobacco, gaming and defense/aerospace.

And who do you think did best over the last 8 or so years? Re-assuring to see the Devil does indeed pay the best wages.

Excellent News!

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, The Underground, Tunnels with tags , , , , , , , on May 9, 2010 by awickerman

The Tube has now fully returned to national ownership, Boris and Transport For London (TFL) have brought out Bechtel and Amey and nationalised TubeLines. While this is bad news for me as a tube user and taxpayer it is outstanding news for me as a tunneller.

On the bad side there is a £310 million hit this year to buy them out (this is pure extra money and so will have to either come from the LUL budget or somewhere else in London) and there is the problem that TFL can’t manage a contract to save their life. All in all I expect to see less improvements costing even more money, hardly a good sign.

However on the plus side we wont have to deal with Bechtel, they are hard arsed contractual bastards and really squeezed their sub-contractors and stuck to deadlines. Tube work on their lines will become a great deal easier and a great deal more profitable for us tunnellers, which is always nice. Sure it wont be as easy as the good old days under Metronet (they were not only inept but also very, very dodgy) but it’ll be close.

I suppose it is technically possible it could work out, there are a few million quid that could be saved on Bechtel’s secondment rate (basically the outrageous rates they charged for using their staff at TubeLines, a fairly cunning tax dodge and PR ploy to artificially lower TubeLines profit while still making money). But that does assume that TFL will raise their game massively and start doing the job to the same high standards, the evidence from their work since Metronet’s nationalisation suggests they’re at best average.

Still those of you who use the tube or  have to pay for it should hope that happens, personally I’m just looking forward to a less demanding client who’s easier to bluff and confuse with long words.

Safety Priorities

Posted in Almost Beyond Words, Irregular Features, Rantings with tags , , , , , , on May 4, 2010 by awickerman

A somewhat regular feature round these parts is the railways and the general ineptitude of all involved. However of all the idiots found on the railways I reserve a special hatred of Bob Crow, a man who richly deserves his place in the Wicker Man.  My problem is not that he only cares about his members to the detriment of everyone else, that is after all his job as a union leader, no my problem is that he doesn’t even care about the safety of his members. I hope this example illustrates why;

This circular recently came round from Network Rail, one of their regular safety advisories telling everyone who ever works on the railway what the latest dangers/accidents/f*cks up are. Normally these are fairly useful but not too shocking (though occasionally they are just outright hilarious, last year we were all officially warned about adders. Snakes on a train anyone?).

This one though shocked the hell out of me, the lookout warning system was so badly designed that a low charge battery would fail the self test but leave the display frozen saying “Status OK”. Given anything on the railways has to go through horrifically expensive and exceptionally drawn out type approval lasting months or often years (hence why it all costs an utter fortune and there is never any choice in what to buy) they really should have caught this. Particularly as the Hun who make it specifically mention hot swapping batteries as a feature. On top of all this the unit was prohibited from all rail operation for many years after a string of dodgy accidents, hell just last year a warning was issued about it’s very counter-intuitive control system. All in all it is not a good unit, it’s hard to use and clearly not properly tested. Frankly it’s dangerous, which is a shame as conceptually it’s a damned good idea, certainly it’s better than blokes with flags shouting and blowing whistles, which is the current NR system for much of the country.

So has anybody from the RMT said anything about this threat to their members? Demanded proper type testing? Perhaps attacked management for sending them out with unsafe equipment? Decried privatisation forcing cost-cutting on safety? Of course not, not even in the specialist press has anyone heard a peep about this. If Bob actually gave a damn about his members safety he might have mentioned it, if nothing else it could be used to support his argument that Network Rail’s modernisation plan rests on untested and possibly dangerous technology, but he clearly doesn’t.  He’d much rather spend time shouting about the evils of rail franchises than actually working to keep his members safe, truly the Wicker Man is too good for him.

Of no connection to anything

Posted in Alas the Mystery Remains Holmes, Almost Beyond Words with tags , , , on April 29, 2010 by awickerman

I do believe a new record for inexplicably tasteless and morally wrong adverts  has been set, from India a new challenger has emerged to plump new depths just to sell you anything.

It is in foreign so bonus points if you can guess what it’s all about, answer after the jump.

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Politicians are Idiots #481 – US Edition

Posted in Almost Beyond Words, Mining, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , , , on April 13, 2010 by awickerman

A return to my mining roots for this story, while most of the platitudes uttered are fairly standard post-disaster boilerplate one thing didn’t stand out;

“We cannot bring back the men we lost. What we can do, in their memory, is thoroughly investigate this tragedy and demand accountability,” Obama said.

“… we must take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that all our miners are as safe as possible so that a disaster like this doesn’t happen again.”

First off there is an alarming presumption that there is someone to hold accountable, underground mining is fundamentally dangerous and shit does happen down there. Now while there certainly are accidents where management is to blame for skimping, the vast preponderance are either an individual making a mistake, the natural danger of underground or normally a bit of both. Like this one for instance. So if the report comes back and says ‘One of the miners skipped on a time consuming procedure and caused the accident’ should we hold one of the victim’s ‘accountable’? Somehow not what I think the President intended, but hey it’s a good sound bite and isn’t that what actually counts?

The second part was just as bad, the one thing I can utterly guarantee is that disasters like this will happen again so long as their are underground mines. Coal mines are by their very nature stuffed full of explosive materials like methane and coal dust and have no shortage of ignition sources, hell the last big disaster, the Sago Mine explosion, was caused by lightning strikes at surface setting off methane in the closed (and flooded) portion of the mine. As the old saying goes the only safe mine is a closed mine. Though on this one this could be what Obama meant, I doubt he’s much in favour of dirty but functional coal mines. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d prefer them to all be closed and replaced with trendy (if useless) windmills.

Final thought for the day, a cheering insight into the attitude of miners. The US Mine Safety chaps have coined the marvellous term  “Fatalgram” for their ‘Why someone died’ updates they issue to the industry.  There is something reassuringly irreverent about that.

Doing the Government’s Job For Them

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Rantings, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , , on March 31, 2010 by awickerman

While looking for new car insurance these terrifying goons offered a quote. The deal being they will fit you with a tracking box so they know how many miles you do and charge accordingly. Looking into the FAQ it emerges that there are ‘peak times’ they charge you double for (so it’s time and distance logging) and that it it also works as an anti-theft device (so real time capable).

Is it just me that finds that alarming? That people will voluntarily let a random company put a tracking box into their car that will know where they are, where they’ve been, when and how fast they were going. Because you just know it wont be long till the government will demand the police have full access to these devices  for counter-terrorism reason or the ‘war on speed’ or just because ‘the innocent have nothing to hide’, which remains one of the most terrifying phrases in the English language.

About the only silver lining is that the next government can’t be as authoritarian and anti-civil liberties as Labour without actually being dictators, but I’m not sure it will be enough. If people will volunteer for this sort of stuff I doubt enough fuss can be kicked up to stop it.

And the worst part about it? Well, tempted as I was by their bald statement that they own the box “but you have our permission to have the box in your car” (must be a contender for cheeky bastard of the year clause) I think this must be a winner;

Q.21 If I decide I want to change from coverbox in the future do I have to pay to get the box removed?
A.21 No, we can just leave the box in your car.
So they will continue to track you but you don’t even get the benefit of cheap insurance or an anti-theft device. And you can’t easily (or indeed legally) remove it because (a) they wont tell you where it is and (b) they still own it and haven’t given you permission to remove their device from your car.

Next time you wonder why people aren’t fussed about ID cards or a national DNA database just remember this.

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