Time to Celebrate!

GO TO CHURCH THIS CHRISTMAS. YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO!

Hark the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled”
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
“Christ is born in Bethlehem”
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ by highest heaven adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin’s womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Microsoft: “IE is a Legacy Product”

Never Internet Explorer
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The BBC has a report on a new vulnerability that has been discovered in all versions of Internet Explorer.

Microsoft’s notification of the issue is here.

The notification tells you that Microsoft is working on a permanent fix, but in the meantime recommend that those concerned use a protection system called the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit.

Ignoring for a moment that wonderfully “Microsoft” name, if you follow the link, it sends you to a Microsoft page that explains this Mitigation Experience Toolkit.

Here’s what it says:

By deploying these mitigation technologies on legacy products, the tool can also help customers manage risk while they are in the process of transitioning over to modern, more secure products.

Ho-hum. Are Microsoft admitting that IE falls into that category then?

Woops.

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It’s a Funny Old World

Peter Tatchell at the Cowley Road Carnival
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In 1983, Peter Tatchell was the Labour candidate in the Bermondsey by-election.

The by-election made the recent campaign in Oldham East and Saddleworth look like a civilised dinner party. Mr Tatchell was assaulted and received death threats and his home was attacked.

He was widely seen as a Left-wing extremist. However, in the end, he lost the by-election mostly because he was gay.

Even I, as a pretty robust young Tory, was embarrassed by the way the campaign against him was fought – although the Tories in that by-election were largely by-standers.

In today’s world, it seems amazing that only 27 years ago a candidate’s sexuality could have been such an issue.

The winner was Simon Hughes of the Liberal Democrats, who is still Member of Parliament for the area. Mr Hughes has been a prominent Liberal Democrat MP, and has achieved – well, not all that much really.

Meanwhile, Mr Tatchell has become a protestor on green issues, a campaigner against human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, and above all, a campaigner for gay rights. He was in the news again today, being associated with the European Court of Human Rights challenge to the law that says gay people can’t be married, but straight people can’t have civil partnerships.

You have to admire Mr Tatchell, whether you agree with his positions on all these issues or not. He has been consistent and fearless in fighting for what he believes in, and along the way, has achieved more than many ordinary politicians, like – well, like Simon Hughes.

It is strange how events that seem at the time to be defeats, can turn out to be critical parts of later victories.

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Free Advertising for Mortgage Middlemen from the BBC

Mortgage debt
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The BBC a month or so ago had an article today entitled “The Dark Art of Obtaining a Mortgage“.

The article was written by a mortgage broker.

He claimed it is very difficult to obtain a mortgage even if you can satisfy the criteria. If you’re scared, you see, there is always that friendly local mortgage broker who is there to hold your hand.

The mortgage broker who wrote the article doesn’t mention how much commission the broker makes on the mortgages he sells. Nor does he explain how it is that those mortgage brokers are so amazingly well-informed about the fast-changing mortgage market. Perhaps they use price comparison websites. Or maybe they just read the glossy leaflets they get sent by the mortgage providers.

Here’s that broker’s dark tale of fear to have a typical first time buyer trembling:

There are many tales of woe from seemingly decent borrowers who have either been turned down or, more commonly, been told that they can only borrow a lot less than they need…

There has to be more innovation in the 80% to 90% loan-to-value market.

Lenders who currently operate in this area, seem to make it very difficult for many borrowers to actually obtain the offer they request…

The first hurdle to overcome is the dark art of the lender’s credit score.

This can be tightened and loosened at will as a lender decides exactly when to increase or decrease their lending levels…

Decent independent mortgage brokers will know which lenders are moving quicker than others and what they are likely to ask for at any given time.

There are many good borrowers who are being turned away every day for reasons they cannot quite fathom.

Well, the clue to the reason for all this may be the paragraph near the top of the article:

Lenders suggest they are providing almost all their applicants with the mortgages they apply for directly.

Could it possibly be that one of those “reasons they cannot quite fathom” may well be that many applicants use mortgage brokers who don’t give a toss about them except as a source of a commission, and typically have less knowledge of the mortgage market than you could get from a comparison website?

Sensible advice for obtaining a mortgage is pretty similar to the advice for buying anything:

1. Don’t use a mortgage broker. They are middle-men who add no real value to the process for you, the borrower, and often mess things up.

2. Use a price comparison website to have a look at the kind of deals that are available. Or you could simply stick with your own bank, who will know your history and therefore probably need less documentation from you. And the saving from going elsewhere might not be that great.

3. Stick to reputable companies, preferably ones you have dealt with in the past.

4. Read the lender’s documentation carefully and provide the documentation they ask for. If you need help with this, don’t go to a mortgage broker. Instead ask the lender, who will be extremely happy to help you apply for one of their products.

5. And don’t, whatever you do, go to a mortgage broker. Whatever the BBC may tell you.

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Quick, Hide the Porn Lads, It’s Ed

Amanda Loveheart
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Oh, Ed, You’re So Masterly

At the tender age of just 42, son of a peer of the realm and novice MP Ed Vaizey has been in parliament only since 2005. With his second class degree in History, he speaks for the government on Culture, Communications and Creative Industries.

Mr Vaizey wants Internet Service Providers to stop pornography at source, unless the viewer can prove they are an adult.

The ISPs are none too sure this will work, the main problem being that your computer can’t tell what age you are, and if it could, might be lying.

But Mr Vaizey is having none of that.

This is a very serious matter. I think it’s very important that it’s the ISPs that come up with solutions to protect children.

I’m hoping they will get their acts together so we don’t have to legislate, but we are keeping an eye on the situation and we will have a new communications bill in the next couple of years.

Yes, Mr Vaizey is ready to kick ass. And he even managed to spout all this with a straight face.

But what of all those technical obstacles? How do you identify a “pornographic” site for example?

As Mr Vaizey said, “it’s very important that it’s the ISPs that come up with solutions”.

Because Mr Vaizey hasn’t got any.

Except the Chinese solution, which is to licence all websites hosted in the country and screen all sites from outside via a massive firewall. And you can bet that if the British Civil Service organised that, it wouldn’t even work.

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High Speed Money Burning

A Virgin Trains Pendolino and EWS freight trai...
Image via Wikipedia

The West Coast Main Line – One of Britain’s Three Lines from London to Birmingham

The BBC says it will cost £12 billion.

The Telegraph says it will cost £33 billion.

No, it’s not a bank bailout. Not at those paltry sums.

This is the government’s vision for our transport future. It is a new high speed rail line to whisk travellers from London to Birmingham in under an hour. That’s – ooh – quite a few minutes less than the three lines that already cover that route.

It’s a snip – just loose change for a government that has so much money to burn, and doesn’t have other priorities that need the money. Never mind investing in our kids’ schools. They might grow up uneducated – but they’ll have no less than four options when they want to visit their gran in Brum.

And all for just £500 per man, woman and child in the country. Assuming the project doesn’t go over budget.

Philip Hammond, the Transport Secretary:

We need to up our game to maintain our standard of living and prosperity. Construction will not begin until 2016 and it’s not just about high speed, it’s also about capacity. We will be out of capacity on the West Coast Main Line by the early 2020s.

It seems he has realised the “enormous” reduction in journey times is not much of an incentive to support the plan. Now it’s about capacity. And running more and longer trains on the existing three lines from London to Birmingham doesn’t have the glory of opening a shiny new high speed railway.

Anyway, the French have got one, so we should too. Can’t have those foreigners stealing a march on good old Blighty.

As a means of burning our money, this new scheme should nicely take up the slack once the fires from bailing out the banks have died down.

In fact, this is such a good idea, that Mr Hammond should announce that the private sector will be expected to pay for it, with no government subsidies. After all, that’s the line they have taken with the new nuclear power stations and with tidal power.

Who knows, maybe those bankers are now so confident that they would be falling over themselves to add their cash to the High Speed bonfire.

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