Thursday, July 30, 2009

Quote Of The Day.

Have you been wondering what the connection is between swine flu, plane crashes and innaccurate seasonal weather forecasts? Well wonder no more, under the comments to this story one reader says what we've all been thinking:

Call me paranoid but I got the distinct impression that we were being persuaded into not travelling abroad this year. The unprecedented number of aircraft accidents or problems, combined with the swine flu and other scares, it is as though we were not advised to fly.

Question Time.

Here is another previously unpublished post. It's actually a test that I saw elsewhere which I found quite interesting, so if anyone wants to try and answer it, feel free:
Only one of the following assertions is true about a particular hand of cards:
There is a king in the hand, or an ace, or both.
There is a queen in the hand, or an ace, or both.
There is a jack in the hand, or a ten, or both.
Is is possible that there is an ace in the hand?
I'll put the answer and explanation of why it is interesting up later.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Reheated Blog Post.

Looking deep into my blog archive just now I came across posts that I didn't actually publish for some reason, but left in the editing stage. This is one from 2006 which I thought was quite good:

It Can't Be Very Good Then:



"Chameleon" Snake Found in Borneo Forest.

That Will Teach Them To Clean Up Industrial Waste.

It's possible that I've been taken in by one side's public relations but this verdict seems to fly in the face of science:
A group of 18 young people born with deformed hands and feet after their mothers were allegedly exposed to toxic materials before their birth have won a group action lawsuit against Corby Borough Council.
According to the council various epidemiological have shown that the rate of birth deformities is not particularly high at least not to the point where it is anything other than a statistical blip.

As I say I could be mistaken about this particular verdict but the principle is clear enough. If cleaning up an industrial site leaves individuals or institutions responsible for any random clusters of illnesses that subsequently arise then fewer people are going to risk taking part in the decontamination process.

A similar process has already occurred with obstetricians and the makers of vaccines reducing the services they provide rather than become easy targets for lawyers backed up with junk science.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Paying The Piper.

A bill is going through parliament to ban our intelligence services from paying bribes. Presumably they will now work on the basis of moral exhortation. Previously our intelligence services were to have been exempt.

Bribery is wrong but it can often prevent greater wrongs, in Afghanistan part of the reason the Taliban collapsed so quickly outside their heartlands in 2001 is because we paid off their formerly allied warlords. It has been claimed that the Allies bribed some of General Franco's advisers during the Second World War in order to keep Spain neutral.

This would be illegal nowadays.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Coincidence?

Has anyone else noticed that these calls to cut pensioner poverty seem to have coincided with a move to legalise euthanasia?

Quote Of The Day.

John O'Sullivan:
There have been five-and-a-half periods of Labour government since 1923. Ramsay MacDonald’s nine-month 1924 minority Labour administration is the half; it scarcely counts here. Of the five following governments, including the long Blair-Brown administration, four will have left office amid major economic and financial catastrophe when Brown does so. The voters may begin to notice a pattern.

Bouncers!?

According to Harry Potter Henry Porter the police in Norfolk have granted the power to issue fines to nightclub doormen. Leaving aside that the profession has a reputation for attracting people who have extensive criminal records there is also the small problem that there is no standard bouncer's uniform- so anyone with a suit and no neck could demand an 'on the spot' fine at will.

I didn't even know that police officers could subcontract their powers out at will.

The Ivory Tower

The Guardian has published a defence of the BBC, by a number of BBC scriptwriters. One of them in particular stands out- Billy Ivory. DJ has already said much of what needs to be said about him but that is no reason not to pile on to Mr Ivory.

It's not just his ridiculous attempts to show what a working class hero he is- "the middle classes always want to claim the good art, the thoughtful art, the liberal art, for themselves...... especially in the criticism of BBC drama is an example of that same insidious snobbery."

It's not his addiction to buzzwords- "consistently evolving", "ambitious", "enabling", "aspiration", "passionately committed", "empower", "passionately" (again), "innovate"

It's not even his addiction to the most absurd cliches to evade criticism- "misty-eyed remembrance of times past is inadequate".


No what I find objectionable is his complacent insularity- "British TV drama is still the best in the world, (NOT American, where we see but the tiniest fraction of a huge trench of stuff, most of which makes CBeebies look like Tolstoy)". So how many BBC TV programmes would be good enough to be on this list? Life on Mars, The Office and maybe a couple of others over the last few years but not many, certainly none of Ivory's output which appears to consist primarily of lovable ex-cons who decide to go back into a life of crime at which point assorted japes occur, would make the list.

It is one thing to say that the lessons of US TV can't simply be imported directly over here, but quite another to airily dismiss the output of a country that judged by either viewing figures or critical acclaim is streets ahead of its rivals is just smug.

Update: One BBC series I have seen and liked recently, which I'd recommend watching when it next show, is Being Human.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Extreme Extremists & Their Extremism.

Nick Cohen joins the long line of left wing and europhile commentators denouncing the Conservative Party's new European allies. Cohen isn't a crude partisan charlatan like others who have made these claims- Denis MacShane for instance.

His insinuation that Poland's Law & Justice Party is antisemitic- in particular the leader of the European Parliamentary group, Michal Kaminski, looks weak. Judging by the enthusiasm of the editor of the Jewish Chronicle for Kaminski I doubt the smears will work either.

Some of these continental parties have their share of nutters no doubt, however in order to make a case that leaving the EPP is a mark of extremism then you don't simply have to demonstrate that the new bedfellows are unsavoury but that they are worse than the previous allies, or the allies of other parties.

The supposedly moderate EPP for example includes:
  • The Alleanza Nazionale of Italy who are the direct descendants of the Fascist party and whose Mayor of Rome has promised to expel all of the capital's gypsies from the city.
  • The German CDU who have campaigned on slogans of "Children Not Indians".
  • Poland's Civic Platform party who support removing children from Lesbian mothers.
So those are the moderate right wing parties Nick Cohen wants the Tories to hook up with. How about the Labour Party's allies in the European Socialists:
  • An Irish MEP who used to be in the IRA
  • The Self-Defence of the Republic Party of Poland, whose leader has praised Hitler and has received honorary degrees from the antisemitic Interregional Academy of Personnel Management, who are connected with David Duke.
  • An Italian Truther
  • The successor parties to a number of Eastern European communist parties.
  • A Turkish party with links to the PKK.
You might think it would be hard for the harmless bearded Lib Dems to sit with nutters, but their Irish allies Fianna Fail are currently trying to get a blasphemy law on the statute books. Jorg Haider was in their group for a long time.

Contrived alliances with ideological extremists is an inevitable result of the structure of the European Parliament and the fact that it only becomes an issue when those nutters are less than 100% committed to an ever deeper European Union suggests that it isn't their extremism that it the issue.

Update: There is a great comment from Marko Attila Hoare, who is not a Conservative or on the right in any sense, in the comments at Harry's Place:

The pot is calling the kettle black.

The Labour Party in the Council of Europe belongs to the Socialist Group, which includes Russia’s Liberal Democratic Party of Vladimir Zhirinovsky - a Russian counterpart of the BNP. The Socialist Group also includes Aleksandr Babakov, the former leader of the Rodina party - whose members in the Russian Duma called for all Jewish organisations in Russia to be closed.

......

Sarkozy and Merkel are a disgrace to Europe - responsible for denying a NATO Membership Action Plan to Georgia and Ukraine last year; then muting European resistance to Russia’s invasion of Georgia. It’s totally understandable that David Cameron wants other allies. Unfortunately, he isn’t exactly spoilt for choice…

The last point is true, it isn't a case of the Law & Justice Party being great, they aren't, at best they are extremely chauvinistic and reactionary, but a case of whether they are markedly worse than the alternatives.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Fun With Numbers.

Is the Guardian taking maths lessons from Gordon "0% rise" Brown. I only ask because I read this:
Teenage pregnancies and syphilis have risen sharply among a generation of American school girls who were urged to avoid sex before marriage under George Bush's evangelically-driven education policy, according to a new report by the US's major public health body.
They are referring to this report from the CDC and I don't think that they have understood it.

For example they claim that teenage pregnancies have risen sharply, but these are the only figures the CDC gives, in table 29, show the rate of pregnancies among 15-19 year olds getting continuously lower:
2000- 84.8
2001- 80.4
2002- 76.0
2003- 73.7
2004- 72.2
This is what the Guardian describes as a sharp rise in teenage pregnancy.

I think I know what they have done, but I'll let readers guess for themselves.

(Report via Letters from a Tory)

Update: I suppose everyone is on tenterhooks waiting to hear my opinion on abstinence only education. If not then tough because I'm going to share my view anyway. I don't think it works well however neither does regular sex ed. I suspect that teaching children English, Science, Foreign Languages & Mathematics properly would have a greater effect in reducing teenage pregnancy than any form of Sex Education.

Update 2: I've compared the teenage pregnancy rate from 1972 to 2004 with the homicide rate for the same year. The correlation between the two sets of figures is .85, which for the benefit of those not familiar with statistical jargon means that there is an extremely strong correlation.

Who knew that murder rates were so strongly influenced by sex education programmes?

Update 3: At least 70 blogs (according to google blogsearch) are covering this story but I appear to be the only person who has spent 5 minutes to actually look at the figures.

Magic Dogs, Stupid Juries & Cynical Prosecuters.

What the hell?



As someone who's in favour of both juries and elected prosecuters cases like this are seriously challenging.


{via}

OJ Syndrome.

I wish I was a celebrity. Not in order to have my private life splashed over the pages of OK & Heat, but in order to have complete impunity to launch unprovoked attacks on strangers even when the attack is caught on camera.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Something Fishy.

Haddock in court over 1997 murder

But you should have seen the one that got away.

Why Institutions Exist.

Markets, the mechanism of choice, are designed to allocate the spoils to the winner. That's OK with supermarkets and car makers – it's not OK for the state. We can't have and can't allow schools and hospitals to fail and be replaced by the fittest.
Yes we can. Hospitals and schools don't exist for their own benefit but for that of patients and of students. If patients can be treated more effectively by closing down a hospital and replacing it with a new one then why not do it?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Alan Milburn Has A Good Idea.

Further to my previous post, I don't want to suggest that everything Alan Milburn says is wrong, some of it is very interesting, more so than what the Tories are coming up with. Melanie Phillips criticises him for one of his better ideas:

So he is expected to condemn 'positive discrimination' that gives preferential places to applicants from poor schools.

Yet at the same time, he is said to want universities to offer places to such pupils with lower grades, backed up by aptitude tests.

This seems like a pretty good way of identifying the most intelligent pupils who haven't had a great education but have developed some of the intellectual skills needed for higher study. Interestingly whilst she denounces it as an act of an unreformed left winger, in the USA where aptitude tests are widely used by higher education institutions, notably in the form of the SAT, it is largely the right that supports them and the left which opposes them. I don't think Melanie Phillips is even being internally consistent:

But a key factor behind that shameful situation was the destruction of the grammar school.

This was Britain's historic engine of social mobility. Selective education is the single most effective vehicle ever devised for propelling poor children out of disadvantage.

What was the 11+ if not an aptitude test? If it is a good system for identifying talented 11 year olds why is it class war to apply it to college age students?

Update: Here's a suggestion for a Thinking Skills Assessment that would act as an aptitude test for British Universities.

Glass Ceilings & Closed Shops.

Am I the only person who can't stand the phrase "glass ceiling"?

Former minister Alan Milburn has chaired a study for the prime minister on widening access to high-status jobs.

He says young people in England should have access to much better careers advice to boost their ambitions.

Mr Milburn told the BBC: "We have raised the glass ceiling but I don't think we have broken through it yet."

He said the professions had a "closed shop mentality" and "have become more and not less exclusive over time".

The use of the word 'glass' to denote invisibility demonstrates that there is no actual evidence of such a barrier. If I want to believe in the presence of an all powerful force that no one can actually detect then I'll become a vicar. The phrase 'ceiling' suggests that it is those right at the top of their professions who are trying to keep others out. In fact he implies that professionals are actually trying to keep certain people out, despite the absence of evidence for such a proposition.

I would be surprised if any occupational group has undergone such a strong demographic transformation as doctors, who 40 years were overwhelmingly white and male, but who are now disproportionately female and Asian. Yet we are supposed to believe that they are preventing the poor from following in their footsteps through some kind of 'closed shop'.

Milburn shouldn't worry about the glass ceiling and instead look at the concrete front door.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Quote Of The Day.

We need to foster peculiarity, idiosyncrasy, stubborn-mindedness, left-of-centre thinking.
BBC drama commissioning editor, Ben Stephenson.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sickening Self Promotion

How many blogs have had guest posts from Liam Donaldson, Gordon Brown and the whole blogosphere. How many blogs produce wearisome crap day in day out regardless of whether there is anything worth saying? How many blogs also produce ponderous posts that no one actually reads but the author takes quite seriously. There is just one, this one. So vote for me before my 'community activists' come round to visit.

1. You must vote for your ten favourite blogs and ranks them from 1 (your favourite) to 10 (your tenth favourite).
2. Your votes must be ranked from 1 to 10. Any votes which do not have rankings will not be counted.
3. You MUST include ten blogs. If you include fewer than ten your vote will not count.
2. Email your vote to toptenblogs@totalpolitics.com
3. Only vote once.
4. Only blogs based in the UK, run by UK residents are eligible or based on UK politics are eligible.
5. Anonymous votes left in the comments will not count. You must give a name
6. All votes must be received by midnight on 31 July 2009. Any votes received after that date will not count.

My votes shall naturally be cast in a wholly corrupt manner that rewards linking to me rather than any greater merit.

Swine Flu- A Suggestion.

Why not put some of those bottles of alcohol hand gel that you get in hospitals out and about in all sorts of public places? If it works in hospitals shouldn't it work elsewhere?

Optimism Vs Pessimism*.

On the subject of the nature of optimism and pessimism in political outlooks, John Derbyshire is promoting his forthcoming book with the cheery title 'We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism'. His interview at the Economist's Democracy In America blog is worth reading. His policy proposals include:
Abandonment of "nation-building" exercises. Abolition of the federal Department of Education. A 1924-style immigration freeze. Repeal of No Child Left Behind. End of all federal subsidies to "community groups". End of all federal subsidies to arts and culture. End of all foreign-aid programmes that are not plainly and obviously bribes for pro-American behaviour. Restart construction of neutron bombs. Full-bore federal-subsidised research on missile defense. Withdrawal from the UN, followed by razing of all UN structures on American soil and sowing the ground with salt.
I don't agree with them all but it is refreshingly frank and also enjoyable to watch the reaction by the Economist's commentators. As Derbyshire says himself after responding to some of the objections they raise in the comments:
I've shot fish in a barrel before, but dealing with Economist.com commentators is more like shooting tortoises in a glue trap
* I prefer the term 'realism' to 'pessimism'. By being realistic about what can be accomplished genuine improvements can be made.

Misunderstanding Human Nature.

Polly Toynbee writes about why she is on the left:
To live on the left is to live optimistically, believing in progress despite setbacks, hoping despite frequent disappointment, urging progress against rightwing nostalgia for illusory "better yesterdays". Life on the left means trusting that the better side of human nature can prevail against selfishness and greed. Good argument can always persuade enough people to see that a more socially just society is in everyone's best interests.
Whether human nature can somehow prevail over such innate qualities as greed and selfishness is dubious and policies that rest on that assumption will be disastrous. It would be a cheap shot to say that Toynbee hasn't quite managed that feat herself, despite her belief that changing human nature on a societal scale is a reasonable objective. It is no surprise that anyone who gets human nature so wrong is likely to misinterpret what the likely effects will be of massive increases in welfare spending that often provide incentives for poor behaviour.

If you assume that greed and selfishness are inherent parts of human nature then you can begin to devise policies that direct those impulses to useful ends. If you make no allowances for such impulses then it is hardly surprising that 'setbacks' will constantly occur.

Whilst greed and selfishness aren't the most attractive traits, despite being universal, they aren't as destructive to a society as envy and resentment.

Stop Poultry Smoking!

I for one support these efforts to stop Turkey's smoking:
Turkey smoke ban extends to bars

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Courts Out For Summer.

Do Italian courts routinely break up for a summer recess? It doesn't seem the most efficient process for a notoriously slow legal system to take.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The School Vetting Affair.

It's the story everyone is talking about-or were talking about yesterday- the decision by Phillip Pullman and other children's authors to refuse to submit to the governments vetting procedure for people who visit schools. I asked some of the leading figures in the debate to explain their positions:

Phillip Pullman, Children’s Author:

I’m sorry whilst I do appreciate that this scheme must apply to the little people, but do you know who I am? As Britain’s leading children’s author I shouldn’t be made to feel that I am being treated like a sex offender, or even worse an ordinary member of the public. It is preposterous and degrading.

We children’s authors should be exempt from the Vetting and Barring scheme, and we should also get a free pass for avoiding airport security and using the bus lane during the rush hour.

Ed Balls, Schools Secretary:

I understand the frustration felt by writers like Mr Pullman, but child safety is the number one priority for this Labour government. In my role as a cabinet minister I visit many schools and have been frankly dismayed at some of the people who hang out near them. At one recent visit to { name of school deleted in order to deter sex offenders} I often see sinister looking men lurking in the corridors with bulging eyes staring who terrify the children. I have since asked for all mirrors to be removed in future.

Beatrix Campbell OBE, Child Protection Expert:

If it is worth letting someone check your body and examine the contents of your bag at an airport, then it is worth letting the computer check whether you've committed crimes against children before you are allowed to attract their attention in their schools.

However as I have previously demonstrated most police officers in Britain are part of a giant conspiracy to abuse children and are likely to allow their fellow satanists off scot free. Therefore we need a more reliable method to ascertain whether unconvicted sex offenders like Mr Pullman are guilty. As we need an objective method that can't be compromised. If Pullman really wants to skulk around in schools then he should register with social services then we can set up a system where he will be tied to a chair and dunked in a lake- it is well known that Satanists float in these circumstances.


Maud Flanders, Cartoon Character:

The Children!!!! Won't someone please think of the children?

Gary Glitter, Musician:

Whilst Philip Pullman rightly raises the inconvenience cause to innocent people like him, the impact of the Vetting Scheme is felt even more strongly by us actual sex offenders. Instead of being able to wonder into schools to talk to/ molest the children we now have do so outside of school premises.

Julie Bindel, Lunatic:

The voices protecting someone like Pullman who I am not accusing of any crime are louder than those that speak up for his victims. Philip Pullman may not have been caught and convicted molesting any children yet but lets not be complacent. Unfortunately the legal system is set up to protect and perpetuate male violence so we can't simply ban all men from going within 100 metres of children.

Surprisingly I live at home with my cat, who has to wear a bell on her collar so that she can't sneak up on any birds or rodents, is it really too much to demand that men be required to wear these bells too. Are children less important than sparrows?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Euroweasel.

When David Cameron announced plans for the Conservatives to leave the European People's Party he essentially left two ways open for Tory Europhile MEPs to protest. They could either register their objection to the policy before the election and announce they they wouldn't join the new Euro grouping- thus putting their fate into the hands of the electorate. This would be a brave and honourable method of registering their disapproval.

If they aren't brave or honourable then Edward MacMillan Scott's approach is much less risky- you stand on the popular Eurosceptic platform for the the election, but then once you are elected and have your snout in the trough for the next 5 years you announce that you cannot in all principle go along with what you promised to do during the election held less than a month previously and jump ship.

EMS can't even go through the whole "my party left me" stuff that defectors usually engage in because David Cameron quite specifically waited until after the European election to withdraw from the EPP, had he done so beforehand the likes of EMS could legitimately claim that they were staying true to the principles they were elected on.

Dogs That Haven't Barked.

Despite the intervention of Al Qaeda and the Turkish Prime Minister the reaction of the fabled Muslim street to the ethnic unrest between the Muslim Uighurs and the Han Chinese has largely been a dog that hasn't barked.

A lot of issues negatively affecting Muslims get ignored by the Islamic states- Zimbabwe bulldozing mosques, the Kosovan war and of course the dozens of countries which persecute their own populations. On the other hand there have been comical over reactions to Danish Cartoons, Miss World, papal speeches, alleged mishandlings of the Koran and of course Mohammed the Teddy Bear.

The muted disapproval over the treatment of the Uighurs demonstrates once more that anti Western feeling isn't motivated by actual Western slights, but some incidents get taken as a pretext to cultivate a sense of victimhood.

A Lucky Man.

For someone who was too crazy to know what he was doing, you have to admire Kenneth Erskine- The Stockwell Strangler- for his sheer luck in:
  • Selecting victims who were unlikely to be able to defend themselves.
  • Doing his killings, which he had no control over, in private where no one could intervene to stop him.
  • Setting up a web of different back accounts to launder the stolen money through in order to avoid capture.
If his mental illness didn't diminish his capacity to plan his killings in such a way as to reduce the risk to himself, then it doesn't seem like much of an illness to me.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Book Review: World On Fire.

Instead of just posting links to my book reviews at Amazon every once in a while, I'll cross post anything I write there to here, because if I go to all that effort I might as well make use of it. Here is a review of "World On Fire" by Amy Chua, which argues that:

"As global markets open, ethnic conflict worsens and democracy in developing nations can turn ugly and violent. Chua shows how free markets have concentrated disproportionate, often spectacular wealth in the hands of resented ethnic minorities - 'market-dominant minorities'. Adding democracy to this volatile mix can unleash suppressed ethnic hatred and bring to power 'ethno-nationalist' governments that pursue aggressive policies of confiscation and revenge.":

My review is as follows:
I'll assume that most people reading this are familiar with Any Chua's basic idea of `Market Dominant minorities' and the hostility that they receive. When I first read this a few years ago I thought it was fantastic and explained so much. However rereading it recently I have doubts.

The phenomenon certainly does exist in much of the world, the overseas Chinese (of which her family is part) have achieved enormous economic dominance in much of South East Asia and been the victim of mob violence repeatedly as a result over the course of many centuries. The Lebanese in West Africa, Indians in East Africa and Jews in Eastern Europe are also examples of ethnic minorities vastly out performing the indigenous population.

However there are some things that leave me unconvinced, Chua claims that these resentments are likely to be inflamed by democracy and free markets. It is certainly true that free markets exacerbate the differences but World On Fire gives examples of this kind of mob violence going back centuries, to well before the era of democracy. Some of the outbreaks of violence, such as the anti Chinese riots in Indonesia in 1998 were concurrent with democracy, but surely this is because the same forces that weakened the grip of the dictator, Suharto, weakened the states control of law and order.

Secondly she tries to fit the Market Dominant Minorities idea to too many conflicts, for example she emphasises that the Croats were much wealthier than the Serbs as a possible cause of the bloody Yugoslav wars. Yet Serbian nationalist propaganda and violence was initially directed to a much greater extent at the impoverished ethnic Albanians.

Thirdly think her concept needs refinement. Early in the book she refers to the violence against the Indians in Burma and in East Africa, interestingly though there wasn't a similar level of persecution of the whites, who were even higher on the economic ladder than the Indians. In Nigeria the Ibo suffered badly however the Yoruba, who are also quite wealthy weren't persecuted.

Thomas Sowell's concept of middleman minorities explains this better than Chua's idea. Sowell argues that the two factors which inflame particularly inflame resentment are when minorities act as economic middlemen and when they were once very poor but overtake the majority population economically. This refinement explains the outbursts of violence much better than Chua's idea in my opinion.

Lastly while the end notes demonstrate that she has been very broadminded and undogmatic about who she has used for the source material I do wonder whether there are quality control issues, particularly with the journalistic sources.

Update: I didn't say in the review, but the recent riots in East Turkestan do appear to be very similar to the outbursts of violence against the Han Chinese elsewhere in Asia. The Chinese have come in and been much more successful, economically than the Uighars. The success can't really be considered to be down to the prejudices of the Chinese state when the same pattern has occurred in countries where the Chinese have little political power.

Labour's Core Vote Strategy.

Labour are trying to limit the scale of defeat by attempting to create dividing lines to shore up their core voters:
  • Professional Northerners- An end to the terrible problem of anti-Northern discrimination.
  • Disgruntled Muslims- Arms sales to Israel stopped.
  • Class Warriors- Charitable status of public schools could be revoked.

They've given up on winning the election.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Arise Sir Gok!

The Cabinet Office, which oversees the honours process, has told Whitehall departments submitting nominations to ensure that their lists include more female and non-white candidates.

....

In her letter, sent to John Ransford, the chief executive of the Local Government Association, Mrs Harris also made clear that there should be more candidates from two specific ethnic groups, "Black African" and "Chinese", which had allegedly been "under represented" in the past.

Oh ffs! If the Chinese or Africans want gongs than can damn well donate to the Labour Party like everyone else. Is there really a urgent shortage of Chinese OBEs anyway?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Alternative Approaches To Baby Dangling

An angry crowd in southwest China beat a suicidal man who threatened to jump off a ledge with his two-year-old daughter, state media reported.

More than 100 people attacked the man, 34-year-old Hu Binjun, after he had dangled his daughter from an eighth-floor window in the city of Chengdu, in Sichuan province, according to the China Daily.

"He deserved the beating because he was so inhumane to his own child," said a woman at the scene, according to the report.

Those crazy Chinese, don't they realise that dangling your baby out of a window is a sign of an eccentric genius?

Ali G, Bruno & Borat.

When Sacha Baron Cohen's creation Ali G first appeared on television it was one of the most brilliant satires in years. It wasn't so much the send up of the moronic elements of hip hop culture (although that is a target rich environment) or the phenomena of middle class white kids aping Jamaican culture badly, it was the reactions of the people he interviewed.

They were members of the establishment and were almost universally highly accomplished and very intelligent. Yet when they were faced with a Yoof TV interviewer who was clearly a halfwit they refused to pass judgement on his stupidity or his outrageous attitudes. If anything they largely pandered to him and sought his approval. There were a few exceptions to that rule such as Tony Benn challenging his references to 'me bitches', Donald Trump walking out as Ali G proposed a stupid idea or when Andy Rooney got sick of his idiocy here:


Borat was amusing but didn't really show anything that hasn't been done a thousand times before, be it dumb rednecks or funny foreigners. I haven't see the Bruno movie yet of course but as a TV character he hardly broke new ground as a flamboyantly camp fashionista and I doubt the movie will either. It may well work as comedy but it is a waste of talent for someone like Baron Cohen to do John Inman meets Zoolander when he has shown he is capable of making cutting satire that says something about society.

I think the difference between Ali G in 1999 and Borat and Bruno since then is that Ali G was exposing the cant and hypocrisy that was practiced by the sort of people who watched him, whereas Borat and Bruno don't hold up a mirror to the audiences own shortcomings but instead point and laugh at the little people.

Pressing The Reset Button.

It's too early to say that President Obama's foreign policy in in crisis. However the policy of building bridges, engaging and entering dialogue without any conditions, with countries that had fallen out with the USA needs rethinking.

It is one thing to repair some of the silly and pointless rifts that emerged between the USA and some European countries during the Bush administration. However applying this idea towards the likes of Russia and Iran isn't going to work. To present the Russian government with a symbolic reset button implies that the tense atmosphere between Russia and the USA was the result of US actions and had nothing to do with Russia's actions over the last few years.

Similarly his unconditional offer to engage with Iran not only undercut the EU 3 who had been trying to end Iran's nuclear programme with assorted diplomatic sticks and carrots it has also seems to have led the US government to react slowly to the ayatollahs election stealing antics for fear of imposing such preconditions.

The policy seems to have come about as a result of a gaffe in a debate with Hillary Clinton, but because a lot of his party's primary voters could only see foreign policy in terms of domestic politics- by which I mean they assumed that because they didn't like Bush, that any fraught relationships the USA had under his administration must have been the result of his failings- the gaffe became a very popular idea.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Nothing To See Now, Move Along.

I am impressed by the heroic efforts of the Times to play down the illegal bugging affair that their stablemate, the News of the World, has been caught up in. Let's see:
  • Whereas all the other newspapers as well as the BBC have it as their top story, the Times relegates to the number four domestic story.
  • They make no mention of Rupert Murdoch, who appears to have a greater right to anonymity than Nightjack.
  • They focus the story on how it effects David Cameron, as his spin doctor is the former NOTW editor, Andy Coulson.
  • The normal comments facility is disabled, despite working perfectly well on all other stories.
Still their coverage is better than the Sun's, who have decided not to cover this celebrity filled political scandal for reasons of space.

Death By Chocolate

They say it's an accident but apparently the victim had a Bounty on his head.

Sorry I know that was in bad taste I shouldn't Snicker especially as his colleagues must really need a Boost right now, he wasn't just some Drifter.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Pure Television Genius.

This is truly outstanding:




I take back every criticism of the BBC I have ever made, 'cos at least they don't produce "Deadliest Warrior".

I Can Read

I've added a couple of reviews to my Amazon page- Jared Diamond's Collapse along with Noel Malcolm's Kosovo- A Short History. I may add a couple more in the next few days depending on how much time I have.

Modern Witch Hunts.

After writing about she who must not be named, I've been thinking a bit more about the whole topic of the bogus Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) scandals, concocted by an alliance of Freudian Quacks, Evangelical Christians and Radical Feminists. The obvious comparison to make is with medieval witch hunts.

Witch hunts were quite common in the middle ages but by the early modern period they were confined to just a few sects- notably the puritans. Whilst there is a puritan influence on the UK it isn't geographically concentrated enough to separate it from other cultural effects. In the United States however it is different because one part of the country, New England, was settled by puritans and their descendants spread across certain regions of the country- through New York state, the Upper Midwest, the Pacific North West and parts of coastal California. So if the SRA is a modern version of witch hunting then one would expect the cases to be concentrated in those areas. This dialect map gives some idea of what I'm talking about because language is a cultural marker:

So using lists of these cases from Imaginary Crimes, Wikipedia and any other source I came across I'd estimate the distribution of the cases to be:

New England- 4 cases
Upper Midwest- 6 cases
Pacific North West- 6 cases

New York City- 2

Midland - 3

California- 5 cases


South- 11 (3 North Carolina, 3 Texas, 4 Florida* & 1 Mississippi)

Rockies- 1

By my estimate of the 37 cases (which often involve multiple suspects) at least 16 are from areas shaped by the puritan diaspora. Puritan influence was also present in shaping the culture of California and the Rockies, so that's another 6. All of which backs my hypothesis that the ritual abuse scares are secular reinvention of witch hysteria.


* Three of the four Florida cases were from Miami, when the future US Attorney General Janet Reno was the State Attorney responsible for prosecutions.

China's Wild West.

The Han Chinese rioters in Xinjiang look remarkably well disciplined, they look more like fun runners than an angry mob. I almost sent them sponsorship money.

There isn't anything that the West can do to influence what China does in a landlocked province in the the middle of Asia other than cluck loudly in disapproval. There are only two ways that the situation in Tibet and East Turkestan (Xinjiang) will be resolved- Independence at some point in the future or more likely the swamping of the territory with Han Chinese.

Here's a good article from 1999 which more or less predicts the current situation.

It is still not widely understood in the West that Mao Tse-tung's greatest achievement was the re-creation of most of the old Manchu Empire. Less than half the territory of the People's Republic is ethnically Chinese. A quarter is Tibetan; a sixth is Turkic; a tenth is Mongolian.
..
Of all these territories, it is Eastern Turkestan that is most populous, most productive, strategically most important, and most fractious. Occupying the westernmost part of the People's Republic, Eastern Turkestan is home to several million non-Chinese peoples speaking Turkic languages and practising Islam. By far the largest group is the Uighurs. Precise numbers are hard to state because Chinese statistics on minority populations are deeply unreliable. Officially there are 8 million Uighurs; there may in fact be more than 13 million. They are rapidly being swamped by incoming Chinese, most recently by more than 100,000 peasants resettled from west-central China as part of the Three Gorges Dam project. All this is of course deliberate policy by the Peking government, as is revealed by occasional lapses into frankness in the Chinese press. Da Gong Bao, Peking's mouthpiece newspaper in Hong Kong, reported on June 2nd this year that official policy was "to adjust the proportions of the populations of different ethnic groups in Xinjiang". ("Xinjiang"-- which means "New Territory"-- is the Chinese name for Eastern Turkestan. It is an abomination to the Uighurs, who say: "It may be 'New Territory' to the Chinese, but it's been our homeland since the beginning of time!") This population policy is augmented by parallel strategies for cultural annihilation that will be familiar to followers of Tibetan affairs: forced abortions, religious persecution, outlawing of local languages, suppression of any truthful discussion of the region's history, and so on.
Obviously rioters who murder the Han shouldn't be treated sympathetically but the way the Chinese government has behaved was always going to end in violence.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Extraordinary Sighting.

This is quite unusual:
A snow white Bengal tiger has become the first of its kind to exist in the wild today after being born without stripes.
However I saw something even more impressive yesterday- two zebras without stripes. They were dark brown!!!

Quote Of The Day.

The schools secretary, Ed Balls, today called for an investigation into the number of parents who lie about where they live to secure school places for their children.

Lying about where one lives is pretty wicked and I for one am looking forward to MPs framing a new law which makes it a criminal offence across the board to falsify one’s address for personal or family gain. There may have to be a few exceptions to such a law, and the House of Commons is just the right institution to decide what they should be.

North North-Wester here.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Ronnie Biggs & His Private Island- Not Eliciting That Much Sympathy

Michael Biggs, son of Great Train Robber Ronnie, is campaigning to have his father released, in this sob story he reminisces:

Michael and his father remained close. Together, they bought a house, a yacht, a restaurant, a disco - and even a private island. "They were great days," Michael said. "We were best mates. People always said, 'It's amazing, how can you be such good friends with your dad?' But we were."

Reading about all the fun he had with the proceeds of a brutal robbery really makes me feel bad that the government could be so cruel as to expect Ronnie Biggs to serve his sentence. I mean if I'd realised that they would enjoy the cash so much then who could have begrudged Biggs helping himself?

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Mainstreaming Loonies.

I don't want to go on about Beatrix Campbell OBE, but I really do find her an extraordinary figure. By rights someone who has spent decades promoting absurd conspiracy theories about satanic ritual abuse ought to be an obscure and marginal figure. Her views on almost every single subject are laughable and usually motivated entirely by extreme political ideology with little connection to reality. Her Marxism is ridiculous enough but at least that's a 20th century superstition whereas her witch hunting is utterly medieval.

Yet instead of being looked at as a David Icke type figure, she is treated with the utmost seriousness by the powers that be, as her OBE demonstrates. She is for example a member of the "Women's National Commission", a quango set up by the government a few months ago which is "the official and independent advisory body giving the views of women to the government of the United Kingdom." Right.

There are a number of reactions this raises, firstly why are the government still funding quangos when WE HAVE NO FUCKING MONEY. Seriously stop wasting our money on providing sinecures to political fellow travellers. A large proportion of the WNC's members are associated with the Labour Party or organisations to the left of Labour so I'm not sure what right they have to claim to be giving 'the views of women'. I don't know if any of the other members have been involved in anything as despicable as Campbell's attempts to destroy innocent people with ridiculous allegations but they are plainly not representative of anyone but themselves.

The government's agenda on 'equality' is directed by Harriet Harman who appoints a bunch of people with identical views to her own to an 'independent' quango to advise the government. This is more dangerous now than it would have been before the economy collapsed because the government's scope for effecting radical policies is going to be limited to areas that don't involve immediate spending increases. There is also an argument that hanging around wih people of similar views tends to push people to even greater fanaticism which considering the starting point for Bea Campbell is alarming.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

F1 Volk, F1 Reich, F1 Fuhrer!

Bernie Ecclestone says..... sorry let me rephrase that- Labour Party donor Bernie Ecclestone praises Hitler and also says that his long time colleague Max Mosley would be a good person to lead Britain:
Max would do a super job. He's a good leader with people. I don't think his background would be a problem.'
Sure, but given the problems our country faces- an deep economic downturn, a war in Afghanistan and assorted other problems- why would he want to lead Britain, is he some kind of masochist?

Friday, July 03, 2009

Witch Finder General Denounces Witch Hunts.

Exposing hypocrisy by Beatrix Campbell OBE is easy but is worth doing anyway. Today she writes:
When David Cameron says "sorry" for the witch-hunting section 28 passed by the vengeful Tories in 1988
Now if there is one person who shouldn't be accusing others of 'witch hunting' it is surely Beatrix Campbell. Witch hunting is often used as a metaphor, as Campbell uses it here or as when it was to describe the McCarthyite anti communist accusations. However Bea Campbell wasn't simply involved in metaphorical witch hunts, she literally claimed to be uncovering conspiracies of people carrying out ritualistic abuse in order to please Satan!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Painful Cuts.

Ouch:
A man who gave himself a DIY circumcision using nail clippers was taken to hospital for emergency treatment.
This is why I'm not a fan of DIY.
"This is something we would advise men never to attempt,"
Where would we be without medical advice?

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Musical Interlude

Swine Flu Parties.

Some parents are so awful that even Joe Jackson thinks of calling social services on them. If this isn't an urban myth based on one jokey message board post, then these parents are in that category:

Parents were warned yesterday not to take their children to 'swine flu parties' in the hope of getting them immunised from the virus.

Some mothers have suggested deliberately exposing youngsters to the virus now before it mutates into a more potent strain, according to the website mumsnet.com.

Okay swine flu kills around 1 in 1000 victims. That really makes it quite dangerous and subjecting your child to a 1 in 1000 chance of dying is insane.

Isn't the rationale behind exposing children to infectious diseases to prevent them suffering from it later on? So why would anyone risk infecting a child with a disease that has been around for a few months and will probably diasappear in a few years anyhow?

How Hard Can Driving A Red Truck & Pointing A Hose Be?

This seems rather patronising:
It is (to put it mildly) far from clear that fire departments are compelled by necessity to place a heavy weight on multiple-choice exams when making promotion decisions.
Yeah because unlike journalists ( or whatever it is you call someone who rewrites political propaganda so it can appear in newspapers) fire fighters never have any cause to have to make tough decisions under pressure.

This is the principle expressed in the Dilbert cartoons by the pointy haired boss that anything he doesn't understand must be easy.