Friday, 24 December 2010

Happy Christmas to you all

...and sincere thanks for visiting, and for commenting.  I've enjoyed the debates, and the arguments, and the banter.  I hope you all have a good Christmas, and that you all remember why.

No music on offer this year, as some of you get a little over-excited ;-)  You can have some recommended reading, though.

Please help me on this one



As Dizzy notes, the.... delivery.... is... quite.... awkward.  I kind of find it hard to believe that this is a real, natural human delivery.

However, if it is not, that would suggest that someone has trained him to do this, which is equally laughable.

Clearly, there must be a third explanation.  But what??

Spot the difference

Tommy Sheridan, socialist, found guilty of lying.

Phil Woollas, socialist, found guilty of lying.

Tony Blair, socialist, still at large.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Arrrghh Snow Panic Nightmare Arctic Chaos

Travel chaos caused by the UK's freezing weather continues as anger grows over major disruption at Heathrow airport.
Thousands of people face further disruption to their Christmas travel plans as cold weather continues to grip much of the country.
Southern England and south Wales were among those in the "firing line" for Monday, said BBC weather forecaster Helen Willetts, with 5-10cm of snowfall that could coincide with both the morning and evening rush hours.
No, sorry.  This is rubbish.

The UK does not have a problem with snow.

I'll say that again.

The UK does not have a problem with snow.  

What it has a problem with, is idiots.  People who were given a driving licence despite their IQ being less than their shoe size.  People who cannot realise that if you set off in an unsuitable car then you may well get stuck.  Therefore, either be prepared to get stuck, or don't go.  It's really not that hard.

Equally, airlines often have problems when the weather is difficult.  This is not news.  It has been known widely since, err, airlines started operating.  So, if the weather is iffy, be prepared to spend a long time in the departure lounge.  Or don't go, if your journey is not important enough.

I speak as someone who, a year ago this week, managed to get his car thoroughly stuck in snow. Someone who, a month ago, spent a considerable time in departure lounges trying to get on a flight for a Hearing that, yes, was important enough (despite the fact that I lost).  Did I demand an apology from the Minister for Transport?  No.  I made my own way home and prepared myself better next time.

So wake up, people.  Just because we can make the pretty moving pictures appear on the magic box in the corner, just because we can let you talk to Aunty Hilda in Australia even though you're in the checkout queue in Tesco, doesn't mean we can actually do magic.  It doesn't mean that your little life can be totally divorced from physical reality.  It doesn't mean that you have an absolute unfettered right to get anywhere you want, on time, without additional effort, whatever the conditions.  Grow up, and learn how to drive in snow.

(Yes, the Land Rover worked well today, thanks...)

Update 21/12/10: In support of my argument that the drivers of this land are idiots, I give you this photo.  Spot the problem... no prizes on offer, sadly.  (Or... is it just BMW drivers?)  

Thursday, 16 December 2010

A Social Media Christmas

@measured linked to this in a comment earlier today. It *really* does deserve a wider adience.

Enjoy.

Is that it?

So, The Great Wikileaks Scandal has told us that:

  • Politicians say one thing in public and another in private
  • Their civil servants do essentially the same
  • Prince Andrew is a bit of a twat
  • err, that's it.
Was it really worth the hassle, Julian?

Friday, 10 December 2010

Tory Scum and Proud of It

Simon Cooke, reminiscing the 80s Militant Tendency and noting aspects of it once again in yesterday's riots:
For me, yelling “Tory Scum, Here We Come” is an admission once again of socialism’s defeat. There is no rational, intelligent argument in this dystopic, dehumanising creed’s favour so its advocates must resort to insult – to hurling abuse, to fear, aggression and destruction as a substitute for debate and discussion.
Absolutely. You always know when a socialist's arguments have failed; they resort to personal attacks of a quite surprising vehemence.  We capitalists are, to them, worthy of nothing but hate; we are evil, greedy, selfish.

We're not; we just want people to be free to support themselves, where and when they can.

Tuition fees - a simple lesson

Blue Eyes has written the post that I (shamefully) haven't got round to writing yet.  It is on the subject of how to fund University courses without ruining the official budget and without requiring Nanny to tell all students what they can and cannot study:
Instead of raising the cost of everyone’s degree, why don’t we concentrate on subsidising degrees which actually have some sort of relevance and use? The reason the budget is so ****** is because the taxpayer basically wrote a blank cheque to young people and promised that whatever nonsense they wanted to study would be paid for. No, my solution is much more subtle. The taxpayer should concentrate on paying for those degrees which disproportionately benefit “society”. Anything else would be down to individual decisions.
So simple.  It recognises that there is a benefit to us all from the study of the proper academic subjects - physics, medicine, english, languages, history, chemistry.  These graduates go out into the world and either enrich our lives artistically or help our economy move forward, generating jobs, income for all, and tax revenue.

Nevertheless, if someone wants to study Golf Course Management, then they would be free to do so if they thought that the cost was worthwhile.

This is exactly what I have been thinking for the last week or so, wondering why the Coalition cannot do this. It works, it is sensible, and it would save Nick Clegg's postbox from all sorts of abuse.  Clegg even said in an interview (apologies, can't remember where) "We could of course just cut down the nuber of courses that are funded" in a way that suggested a "but that would mean..." was following, but no disastrous scenario followed.  I was left thinking "Yes, you could.  Why not?".

I especially like this idea:
Anything with the word “science” in the name would be out

Thursday, 9 December 2010

These people are deciding our future?

From the Watts Up With That blog, an interesting pointer as to the quality of scientific knowledge amongst the COP16 delegates at Cancun.

Asked to sign the infamous petition to ban the chemical known as dihydrogen monoxide, also known as DHMO, "almost every delegate" agreed.  As is usefully set out at the campaigning site http://www.dhmo.org, DHMO is a potentially risky substance:
Each year, Dihydrogen Monoxide is a known causative component in many thousands of deaths and is a major contributor to millions upon millions of dollars in damage to property and the environment. Some of the known perils of Dihydrogen Monoxide are:
  • Death due to accidental inhalation of DHMO, even in small quantities.
  • Prolonged exposure to solid DHMO causes severe tissue damage.
  • Excessive ingestion produces a number of unpleasant though not typically life-threatening side-effects.
  • DHMO is a major component of acid rain.
  • Gaseous DHMO can cause severe burns.
  • Contributes to soil erosion.
  • Leads to corrosion and oxidation of many metals.
  • Contamination of electrical systems often causes short-circuits.
  • Exposure decreases effectiveness of automobile brakes.
  • Found in biopsies of pre-cancerous tumors and lesions.
  • Given to vicious dogs involved in recent deadly attacks.
  • Often associated with killer cyclones in the U.S. Midwest and elsewhere, and in hurricanes including deadly storms in Florida, New Orleans and other areas of the southeastern U.S.
  • Thermal variations in DHMO are a suspected contributor to the El Nino weather effect.
Except, of course, that dihydrogen monoxide is, err, H2O.  Water.  Yes, COP16 attendees have happily signed a petition to ban water.  These people, tasked with considering a theory that relies for its authority on an alleged scientific basis, do not even know the chemical formula for water.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

And Finally...

Also in the news tonight, evidence has been found of Albert's early modelling career...

(Boney M jokes? Feeble...)

Spectacularly Missing the Point

So Assange is remanded in custody without bail, and teh Interweb is up in arms.

Why?

The decision to deny him bail is so blindingly obvious that even the wonderfully-named Judge Riddle had no real choice but to do so.  To summarise, from what I have been able to extract from the noise, Assange is not a UK citizen, has no permanent base here, has no family or property ties to the UK, has a history of moving from country to country, and arrived here in a manner that is vague and unclear. He is currently running a web service that is doing its utmost to avoid any form of legal jurisdiction.  To say that he is a flight risk is to somewhat understate the matter.

What is potentially scandalous is the fact that the rape allegations are suddenly being revived, coincidentally just after he embarrasses a major government.  Or, if the rape allegations are serious and substantial, that they were not pursued originally.  Or, in either case, that he is being held at all under a warrant for questioning when he has (according to his lawyer) repeatedly offered to meet the Swedish prosecutor to discuss the case.

The fact that he has been denied bail is utterly trivial and entirely unremarkable.  So all those whinging about it should grow up and try that "thinking" thing that people keep talking about.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Wikidribbles

I've been struggling to reach an opinion on the Wikileaks issue since it erupted.

On the one hand, I am firmly in favour of openness in government, and firmly against many of the abuses that Wikileaks and others have uncovered.  If secrecy allows governments to engage in such abuses away from the watchful (?) eye of the voters, then disclosure is good, surely?  It has also amused me to see the governments who assured us that if we had nothing to hide, then we had nothing to fear from disclosure, suddenly demonstrating that they seem to have something to hide.

On the other hand, I do accept that some information does need to be kept secret, and that doing so is in all our interests.  Who is this Assange person to assess this, I wonder?  I also worry that the whole affair is developing into a personality cult around Assange, and wonder whether the ultimate aim is to knock down the unnecessary curtains around abuse or build up the podium under Assange?

But David Allen Green has clarified it a little for me.  He has the same dilemma.  On the one hand:
Transparency in diplomatic and governmental matters is important, for behind the cloak of secrecy and plausible deniability can lie malice, selfishness and incompetence. Open access to reliable information enables us to participate effectively in a democratic society: in particular, voters can get beyond the self-serving spin of politicians and media outlets. In the wise words of Louis Brandeis, one of the greatest jurists in American history, sunlight is the best disinfectant.
...but nevertheless:
But transparency is not the only liberal value. There are others, and these are important, too.
For example, there is the value of legitimacy: those who wield power in the public interest should normally have some democratic mandate or accountability.
However, no one has voted for WikiLeaks, nor does it have any form of democratic supervision. Indeed, it is accountable to no one at all. One may think that this is a good thing: that with such absolute autonomy WikiLeaks can do things that it otherwise might not be able to do. One could even take comfort that WikiLeaks represents the "good guys" and is "doing the right thing".
There it is; there is the source of my unease.  It is an unease that flows form the process, not the disclosures themselves.  It is that Wikileaks has set itself up and is trying very hard to operate in a way that cannot be overseen by law.

This is wrong.  This is an issue in which a fine balance needs to be struck, between the benefits of disclosure and its cleansing effect on the activities of governments, and the harm that could flow from uninhibited disclosure.  We have institutions, independent of government, which are set up with the express remit of reaching such decisions; they are called Courts.

That is where this matter should be taken; there should be an immunity law allowing any official or their proxy in possession of information to take it, anonymously, to a Court and apply for it to be disclosed.  If the information is above a threshold of triviality, then the administration should be invited to explain why the information should be withheld.  The Court should then be tasked with looking critically at the administration response, rejecting it unless clearly justified, and be given the power to grant immunity to the official allowing him to publish (perhaps in a redacted form).

(Yes, yes, none of us can use the Courts because it is too scary and expensive.  But that is another argument, one for reforming our Court system.)

In this way, Wikileaks could operate within the law, and be subject to an oversight that would give it legitemacy.