Tory comment deletion on a grand scale

There’s been a bit, well, a lot flying around the British political blogosphere about poor practices when it comes to comment moderation. People deleting the odd post here or there that they don’t agree with but as much as I’ve witnessed a few instances of this myself I do not believe that I have seen it done on such a large scale as this.

I introduce you to this blog. It’s the site of Paul Uppal the prospective Tory candidate for Wolverhampton South West. It’s not been going long, a couple of months but there are some interesting things to note. Up until about 3 hours ago the site had a large quantity of comments on it. We’re talking nearly 30 comments to an article in some cases. A lot were critical of Mr Paul Uppal and a Mr Carl Husted who apparently runs the site for him.

Now I’ll be honest, I haven’t really bothered with the site myself and only really had a good look at it last night when certain issues were brought to my attention but at some point in the past few hours hundreds of comments have miraculously disappeared from the site, including my own solitary contribution to the discourse.

Equally comments made by Mr Carl Husted who incidentally is the Tory’s candidate in the Park Ward of Wolverhampton this May that refer to issues and criticisms raised have also disappeared.

Here’s a little taster of what’s no longer available. What Carl Husted said regarding the critical comments on the site.

Paul Uppal site image

Oh, and my little contribution to the discourse, now of course no longer available.

Paul Uppal site image 2

My personal favourite is this quote:

“Also to put an end to the lies that comments have been deleted from this website. They haven’t. Stop repeating this lie you silly boys. You are liars and I can prove that no comments have ever been deleted from this website at any point.”

Well they have been now, hundreds of them. Of course the nice comments from good supportive parasites like PratTory are left plus the comment saying “Good site” that dear old Carl obviously hasn’t realised is comment spam as it says something nice.

What can we learn from this? Well, simple. Tories have proven themselves once again to be able to dish it out but simply can’t take it themselves. The first sign of criticism and they eliminate any sign of it.

One has to question what belief people who are quite happy to undertake such practices have for the notion of free speech. Or is it a case of free speech for some but not for others?

[I removed one word of profanity from the post on reflection]

A little bit of self indulgence

I’ve been a bit busy the last few days and last night in particular. Equally today would also have been quite busy as I planned to install some double-glazing, but due to the lack of supply of suitable plugs in Willenhall and deliveries due on Tuesday that job will have to be postponed. The reason I was busy last night was that I installed the latest version of Ubuntu Linux (edgy eft) on my computer, not sure why as the next release (grumpy groundhog) who thinks of these names, is released in April. Suffice to say it’s not as simple as the long term supported release of dapper drake but I was impressed with the startup and shut down times. 1m10 and 21seconds respectively. That on an old Celeron 1Ghz with 512Mb of ram ain’t bad in anyone’s book. (startup also includes the time it took me to log on and type my password of course).

That’s left me with a little time to do a bit of blogging while some DNS settings propagate across the net on a new project. So the subject for today is Google rankings and keyword referrals. Don’t worry, it’s not too techie.

As designing websites is one of the myriad of things that I do, I like to think I’m not so bad at what’s called SEO (search engine optimisation). This is what some web designers consider to be one of the darker arts of the techie but to be honest I’ve never really approached it that way. Yes, I know how to fiddle the system to get a site to the top of Google but I don’t, primarily because it’s cheating and will screw you over in the long-run anyway. I stick by the good practice route of developing well structured websites and a few other nifty but principled ways.

Partly it’s a technical challenge which is always something I’m up for but also a curiosity at what is possible. Now just a note for the first techie to point out I’m not using SEF URL’s, yes I know, there’s a very good reason for it and I’m still not overly convinced they’re as valuable to SEO as some people make out.

As these things interest me, I do tend to keep a close eye on the statistics of my site. Not in the way that self-important little idiots like PratTory do to impress about the vast numbers of people that find their little bits of writing interesting but I’m more interested in keyword searches through (primarily Google) that lead people to this site. BTW, Google ‘prattory’ Google’s got it right on that one.

So for a bit of amusement, here’s a few results from Google (.co.uk version, can vary slightly on other national versions). Some I’ve done a little bit of deliberate targeting on, others are simply accidental or sheer coincidence. All terms are specific, are relevant and true as of today when I double-checked them and I’ve put a bit of commentary in on some of them. I also want to clarify a few things as the last week or so certain people have been arriving at my site through specific search terms and I want to put the record straight.

“political penguin” 1st – Hey it’s the name of the site, I of course deliberately targeted this one, I do after all want people to find my site. I was however quite impressed it hit the no.1 spot within 36 hours of the site going live and hasn’t budged since.

“buying knuckledusters” 2nd – I did one post when I mentioned this, why I’m no.2 I have no idea. There are still an alarming number of people ending up at my site with this search term.

“Walsall MBC” 3rd – Thought this was quite strange when it first cropped up on Google and I’ve been slowly rising ever since. Interesting to think that one of the first impressions people might get of Walsall Council could be through my website. I’m sure that isn’t what all those marketing and PR people up at the council might want.

“Walsall politics/Walsall political” 1st – Quite proud of this one. Not deliberate I promise.

“Willenhall politics/Willenhall political” 1st – Again, same as the last one.

“Wolverhampton politics” 3rd – Given I write hardly anything about Wolverhampton this one is a bit surprising, but there you go. Equally I stand no chance with the term “wolverhampton political” Wolverhampton Uni has a political studies department, they like totally rule.

“deputy leadership contest” 2nd. Another real surprise given how little I’ve written on it, but there you go, not deliberate of course.

“peter francis walsall” 3rd.

OK, that’s the fun over. Here’s why I decided to cover this subject. The last week or so some interesting search terms have been cropping up from some interesting sources. Here’s the rundown.

“Ian Shires” 5th
“Ian Shires libdem” 1st – also works for ‘lib dem’ with a space.
“colin ross libdem” 3rd – also works for ‘lib dem’ as well.
“walsall libdem” 4th
“walsall libdems” 5th

For those who don’t know, Ian Shires is the leader of the Liberal Democrats on Walsall Council and Colin Ross is his assistant who is employed by Walsall Council and whose salary is paid for by the Council Tax payers of Walsall. Now for some reason these search terms have been popping up rather regularly over the last couple of weeks and this made me think I should have a look into it.

After a little digging it appeared that the search term for ‘Ian Shires’ was penned by someone on a Telewest broadband (now Virgin media) connection somewhere in Willenhall. It didn’t show up as the usual server for this side of Willenhall so I’m assuming it came from somewhere in Short Heath or Willenhall North – interesting that. What’s also interesting that they seemed particularly keen to check out everything that I’d written in my LibDem bashing section.

Now to be fair I wouldn’t have mentioned all this were it not for the fact that I’ve been getting more hits the last few days which is highly unusual. Coupled with an anonymous tip off to something going on up at yon council which I’m looking into and the fact that yesterday two of these referrals came directly from Walsall Council’s own webserver.

I guess if I’ve got so many people wanting to know what I’m writing about LibDems in Walsall then I better dig out the archive to keep them happy. Suffice to say, yes, a few things to come when I can put them together and see, I’ve even put this article in the LibDem bashing category so they know where to find it, aren’t I nice?

Being an arsie consumer and a sad day for Willenhall

Two days ago I got a letter from my Building Society (Portman) informing me that following their evaluation period their branch in Willenhall has been earmarked for closure along with branches in Albrighton, Bewdley, Bloxwich, Cradley Heath, Oakengates, Perton, Tettenhall and Wombourne.

This miffed me rather a bit, for two particular reasons.

Firstly, when the merger took place or takeover depending on your view between what was my Building Society (Staffordshire) and Portman we were all assured about the commitment to providing services and this wasn’t as some people expressed the view, a takeover and asset stripping by a bunch of southern arseholes (apologies to any readers from the South of England but such views were expressed).

I’ll admit I voted for the merger on the basis of promises made and perhaps a belief in the higher moral principle of the mutual sector which had been based on previous good experience.

However as it would seem, yes, it has been a takeover by a bunch of southern arseholes who don’t give a stuff about their Staffordshire customers. Notably they have not seen fit to close any branches on their own previous turf, just ours.

Equally now, thanks to their readjustment a nice big office block on the Wolverhampton ring road (the previous headquarters of the Staffordshire) now stands empty so this begs the question about what we as customers actually got out of this deal? Apart from a couple hundred quid sweetener. Personally I’d have preferred not to have the money and keep my local branch open.

Secondly, this means that Willenhall, for the first time in its history (post Building Societies existing of course) will not have a single Building Society in the town. I remember myself a time when there were five but sadly it seems that these days have gone. I could understand if Willenhall was some backwater village with half a dozen houses and a few sheep, but with a population of over 30,000 it’s hardly that.

Building Societies have long been the place where people on lower incomes have been able to save as opposed to banks who aren’t interested in such customers. Sadly this means that these people on low incomes and particularly pensioners will be hit the hardest.

For myself I’ve always been with the Staffordshire as have my parents. They set up my first account with them when I was born to put some money away and so did I with my son. I’ve always saved with them and even though it wasn’t the cheapest option I took out my mortgage with them as I would rather do business with a local company that puts money back into the local community and economy.

So what to do now. Probably a few years ago I would have accepted the situation but as I near 30 I’m increasingly vindictive with my consumer habits. If companies piss me off I simply won’t use them again and take my business elsewhere.

So that’s it, come the end of April when Portman merge with/get taken over by Nationwide, this customer will be treating them with the contempt for which his years of loyalty have been treated and taking the merger money and buggering off to the West Bromwich Building Society. At least they do a lot more community stuff and actually have far better customer service anyway.

It pays to shop around – Part II

The second bit of my adventure in Wolverhampton today, or yesterday as it was, centred around the procurement of a memory card for Mrs Penguin’s new Nokia N73 so that she can store lots of videos , photos and music.
I know I could have probably got the item cheaper from some independent shops and a particular one in West Bromwich but I wasn’t really in the mood for spending all day trying to get a couple of quid knocked off the price or waiting to have it delivered from somewhere on the interwebnet.
So I went to the following stores in the main Wolverhampton high street.
Vodafone, Phones4U, Carphone Warehouse and O2. Now these shops are all within about fifty yards of each other so we’d expect a bit of price competition, it being the free market and all with them all trying to out do each other for customers but what I actually found was that this principle of competition doesn’t seem to have made it to this marketplace.
So I’m after a 1Gb card for a Nokia N73. I actually started in O2, no particular reason and nothing to do with them being my operator. Spoke to a nice guy who gave me a price of

Where’s Walsall gone?

Today I went in search of one of the those signs that you find on the borders of metropolitan areas. You know the ones, welcome to so and so a place.
I live not too far from the border with Wolverhampton where Bilston meets Willenhall. There are two of these signs, one on Portobello island and the other on the island half way down the keyway.
Now my reasons for looking for one of these signs will become apparent later on tonight but suffice to say I didn’t find one. Nope, both have disappeared.
Is something going on? Is there a secret plot to erase Walsall from the map? Maybe it’s to stop any Government inspectors finding the place ala taking down road signs during the second world war? Or perhaps Walsall has been abolished altogether without anyone telling us?
Of course, they could just have been nicked for tat but that begs the question. The Wolverhampton signs are still up in the same place so why haven’t they been nicked too? Or do Walsall MBC stick the signs up with blu tack?

Did I dream this?

I haven’t seen this reported anywhere apart from I’m sure it was on one of the BBC television news but there’s no sign of it on their website or anywhere else.
Some school in Wolverhampton had the novel idea of issuing all the kids with PDA to do their work on. Networked them all up so they could share information and research, do homework on and submit it electronically.
The result, dramatic reductions in truancy and bad behaviour (especially from boys), an increase in science learning and contrary to what some might think, none of the PDAs got nicked.
Someone tell me I didn’t dream this. A lack of nicotine in the system can have strange effects on the brain.

Am I paranoid or is that black bloke behind me a mugger?

As a committed user of our public transport system in the West Midlands, the other week I found myself waiting for the bus home at Wolverhampton bus station.
Now anyone who has frequented this facility in the past few months will know what I’m talking about. When they upgraded the station they introduced a public address system of sorts which intermittently blurts out public information informing us that we can’t smoke there, etc etc. What got me thinking was the one that starts: “Oi you, yes you, with the mobile phone” or words to that effect which politely informs us that we shouldn’t show or use our mobile phone in public because the bloke behind is eyeing it ready to mug us.
On the ocassion in question as I’ve heard this announcement a few times now, I decided to eye up my would be mugger behind me. There stood a young gentleman aged in his late teens to early twenties of afro-caribbean descent. He smiled at me (this may have been something to do with me holding Little Penguin at the time – small babies bring out displays of affection in complete strangers for some reason).
Now, should I believe this bloke behind me is tooled up ready to give me a good kicking for my Nokia 6250i? Perhaps there’s an array of switch-blades and knuckle dusters secretly hidden in those sociology books under his arm? Or could it be that he’s just a student from Wolverhampton College/University on his way home or to see his girlfriend after a long day of mind-numbing lectures on social anthropology. (Just to note, I neither have anything against or believe social anthropology is mind-numbing, actually I quite enjoyed studying it myself).
This however threw me and made me think about the mindset of a mugger. Now if I were a mugger/street robber, use whatever terminology you like, then I would probably make a few assumptions about potential victims based on a good set of averages. Presumably, as I have never been mugged, in the UK anyway, the proceeding would go something like this:
Mugger approaches victim tooled up with a weapon or unarmed but with a few mates. Either grabs, corners or threatens with a weapon the victim and demands items to be passed over. Now the obvious is the wallet/purse (note to any potential muggers, mine’s always empty as I’m skint, so don’t bother). If the victim were a female perhaps items of jewellery or in the case of either sex, maybe a watch (I don’t own one of those either BTW). But for me, after the wallet/purse, my second item to demand would be a mobile phone as given that the vast majority of the adult and even younger population of this country own one, there’s a fair bet any victim is going to possess one.
So that brings me back to the announcement at the bus station. If it’s trying to prevent crime by getting people not to show that they own a mobile phone then unless the potential mugger has half a brain, he/she’s going to demand one from you anyway and even if they don’t, they’ll still nick your wallet/purse which doesn’t do anything to prevent crime in the first instance. However, what it does do is reinforce the steady drip drip feed of information propagated by our media and the like, to us, that we can’t trust other people. Other people are out to do us over, beat the crap out of us, rob us at any opportunity they get. Yes, there are sadly those in our society that do undertake such deeds but they thankfully remain a very small minority and for anyone who leaves their front door in the morning, the odds are that you’re not going to get mugged, shot, beaten about the head at some point during the day. So for now I leave you with this message, have a safe day, but be careful, that bloke behind you might want to nick your mobile. (that was irony for any LibDems or Tories reading)