Daily archives: November 11, 2010

The sorry tale the GMP blimp

Greater Manchester Police had a blimp they used for surveillance. Sadly it didn’t work so well in bad weather, so now all the equipment has been scrapped or repurposed. I wish I’d known about it whilst they were still using it.

The report is structured to make us angry at the waste of money, but I can’t help thinking they’re trying too hard. Certainly, GMP lost some money on it, but they managed to recoup some of the blimp’s £80,000 cost when they sold it, and bits of the equipment are still being used. Without the proper figures we don’t know how much money was wasted on the idea, but it may well be less than the £4,400 per flight the M.E.N. claims.


For research purposes, the Wikipedia entry on HUMan INTelligence in espionage.

HUMINT, a syllabic abbreviation of the words HUMan INTelligence, refers to intelligence gathering by means of interpersonal contact, as opposed to the more technical intelligence gathering disciplines such as SIGINT, IMINT and MASINT. NATO defines HUMINT as “a category of intelligence derived from information collected and provided by human sources.”[1] Typical HUMINT activities consist of interrogations and conversations with persons having access to pertinent information.

Get off my road!

There’s something about news items featuring cycles, particularly stories with a bearing on safety, which brings out the idiots. John Paul Allen was hit and killed by a car on Liverpool Road in Eccles. Which is a tragedy in itself, so why must the morons pile on in the reports comment thread just to compound it? There’s a load of the usual rubbish- Red light jumping, riding on the pavement, etc.- cited even though nothing in the report suggests Allen was doing any of these things. Yet when someone says that perhaps the driver was to blame (statistically more likely by 3 to 1 and almost certainly the truth as revealed in other comments) one of the reactionaries gets defensive and starts frothing and complaining about being victimised.

A complaint rattled out repeatedly by some of the haters is that cyclists don’t pay Road Tax, so they don’t deserve to be on the road. Nobody pays Road Tax, it doesn’t exist. Roads are funded out of Council Tax and general taxation. Even I, currently earning so little I don’t pay any income tax, fund road building through Council Tax and duty on essential items such as beer. Demonstrating their continued incomprehension, one of the commenters suggests that even though Road Tax isn’t real he’s allowed to cite it because he thinks it’s real. Sometimes I’d like to be able to reach through my monitor and slap people.

Another thing which annoys me about reporting of fatalities on the road is the coyness about what happened- the cyclist was “in collision with a Honda Civic”. Who hit whom? “In collision with” makes it sound like the bike rode into the car, when it’s almost certainly the other way around. I understand that there may be a wish to spare the grieving family further pain (in which case why allow the nasty, anti-cycling, “he was asking for it” tone in the comments?) and the paper may not be allowed to give out details which could prejudice a future conviction. But I’d like to see blame in these accidents correctly apportioned. Occasionally it will have been the fault of the cyclist, but many, many times more it will have been the driver who made a mistake which killed another person whilst they could walk away.

As the Government’s transport policy stands to make us all, but primarily cyclists and pedestrians, less safe on the roads, we need to more loudly point out that drivers are not the victims they claim to be and they should get a sense of proportion.