Sunday, January 31, 2010
Politically it is potentially disastrous if the television stations lead on the allegations tomorrow- it is hard to imagine what could make someone look worse than a revelation that he physically man handles secretaries who displease him and has the temper of a five year old. The fact that he doesn't seem to lose his temper so badly with people who would be in a position to fight back, cabinet colleagues for example, is revealing.
I suppose those who called him the Prime Mentalist can feel vindicated.
Update: Apart from the Daily Mail no publication is picking up on this story. Have the lawyers been wheeled out?
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Okay I'm guessing they aren't really intending to have blind taxi drivers being guided by dogs in the front seat and it is probably just an automatic braille translation services that they offer for all official forms.
Of course severe visual impairments are practically a requirement in the minicab industry.
Friday, January 29, 2010
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Welcome to the United States of Europe, where incompetence is a way of life. According to Article 13199 of the Pan-European Constitution, “No person shall be prejudiced from employment in any capacity, at any level, by reason of age, race, creed or incompetence.” In other words, knowing how to do a job is no longer a prerequisite for being hired...and not knowing how to do it can’t get you fired.The real world:
Employer told not to post advert for 'reliable' workers because it discriminates against 'unreliable' applicants
This is a very strong correlation and I think an important point can be inferred from it that needs reiterating. Whilst public discussion of crime rates focuses on things specifically related to crime, such punishment, policing and rehabilitation, and teenage pregnancy rates are discussed in terms of sex education, family values and access to contraception; there is clearly a common factor at work that does not appear to directly relate to either problem.
I don't claim to know what that factor is, but assuming that we don't think that abstinance programs decrease stabbings or that the death penalty has an effect on whether teenagers have unprotected sex there is clearly something else at work. It could be the economy, education or something I haven't thought of but that isn't the point.
I just picked two indicator to compare but I'd guess that if other social indicators were compared we'd find more examples of good things correlating with other good things and bad things with other bad things.
Society is complex and trying to evaluate the causes and effects of ideas is extremely difficult to do. It is not effective to try to ascertain what causes x cannot be done soley by looking at things which were explicitly done to effect x.
It possibly shines a light on dog evolution, if domestic dogs didn't exist then the "beggars" who have attuned themselves to human feelings would be good candidates for domestication.
Neuronov says there are some 500 strays that live in the metro stations, especially during the colder months, but only about 20 have learned how to ride the trains. This happened gradually, first as a way to broaden their territory. Later, it became a way of life. “Why should they go by foot if they can move around by public transport?” he asks.
“They orient themselves in a number of ways,” Neuronov adds. “They figure out where they are by smell, by recognising the name of the station from the recorded announcer’s voice and by time intervals. If, for example, you come every Monday and feed a dog, that dog will know when it’s Monday and the hour to expect you, based on their sense of time intervals from their biological clocks.”
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Breaking up banks into smaller entities isn't going to prevent one bank collapse destabilising the rest. If small banks were the solution to economic stability then the Great Depression with it's unit banking laws and a separation of commercial and investment banking ought to have been a golden age, which as the term "Great Depression" it really was not.
“It is always difficult to say ex ante that you would never intervene to save a particular sort of bank,” he said. “In Lehman, for example, there wasn’t a single retail deposit, but the then American administration allowed it to go down and that brought the rest of the system down on the back of it.
“You could end up dividing institutions and making them separate legal entities but that isn’t the point. The point is the connectivity between them in relation to their financial transactions.
“Equally, the large-small thing doesn’t run. Northern Rock was very small in global terms but systemically it was quite important when it got into trouble.”
He asked: "If it's thought that it's the right of adults to see drama that reflects their lives, then why isn't that a right for children too?
It's not a right of adults to see drama that reflects their lives, so the premise of the question is wrong. Although if it is a human right then charging for the licence fee must be a violation of that right.
Anyway the fuss over American culture being represented by children's television programmes to the point of crowding out British culture seems misplaced. First of all there is precious little incentive to make programmes for children when advertising to them is heavily restricted. Secondly this sort of cultural exchange works both ways, the success of Harry Potter has probably influenced American culture at least as much as British culture has been influenced by American imports. I don't see any complaints about that though.
27%- Strong automatic preference for white people
27% Moderate automatic preference for white people
16%- Slight automatic preference for white people
17%- No automatic preference
6%- Slight automatic preference for black people
4%- Moderate automatic preference for black people
2%- Strong automatic preference for black people
When I took it it I scored a "Slight preference for white people", which means that at least 61% of the population have more prejudons than me. Obviously I'd hoped to to register "no preference" but my result isn't bad.
On the other hand when a liberal hand wringer who is zealous about using heavy handed measures to punish racial transgressions takes the test he discovers that he has a “strong automatic preference for European Americans compared to African Americans”.
So this is my first hypothesis; the people who are most obsessed with the idea that the general population are a simmering cauldron of racists whose prejudices need to combated by endless 'anti racism' campaigns, community outreach and all that crap are assuming that everyone in the population shares the deep felt racial prejudice that they themselves feel.
Here's my second hypothesis; the constant focus on race and racism, serves to deeped and entrench racial attitudes.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Alien life, if it exists at, all is likely to be just like us, a leading scientist has claimed.This seems more or less plausible, given how convergent evolution tends to produce remarkably similar looking species to occupy similar ecological niches in completely different parts of the world it seems logical that the same principle would apply to other planets. What I don't understand is the "leading scientist's" next statement:
However he also thinks that because much of the Universe is older than us they would have evolved further down the line and we should have heard from them by now.
He believes it is increasingly looking like they may not be out there at all.
"It is about time they turned up," he said. "It is very, very quiet out there. Suspiciously quiet. Where on Earth are they? I personally don't think that there is anything out there."
If they look like us, how does he know that they aren't already here?
Sunday, January 24, 2010
In a series of highly controversial remarks, Mr Duncan reportedly told a prisons conference:
- It is ‘repulsively simplistic’ to say that prison works.
- ‘Lock ’em up’ is ‘Key Stage 1 politics’.
- Prisoners should be ‘met at the gate’ on release from jail.
Naturally his criticisms, as reported at least, don't actually contain any actual arguments about what the likely effects of prison policy will be, but are primarily about ingratiaitng himself with the people who despise the voters who actually vote for him. This also applies to his numerous appearances on panel shows.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Since 1990, more people around the planet have emerged from poverty than at any time in the whole previous history of the human race. They did so not under red flags and with clenched fists, but by buying and selling in the international economy.
Years of neglect or heavy-handed western 'aid' have left Yemen destitute and unstable. We must share the blame.There's a "head we win, tails you lose" quality to this. Neglect and heavy handedness are almost mutually exclusive so it's difficult to see how we could avoid either .being one or the other but equally difficult to see how we have committed both sins.
I'm pretty sure this is a cookie cutter Guardianism that can be applied to any poor country that is in the news, in fact the article may well have been about Haiti when the writer began it.
Direct flights from the Yemen to Britain will be banned as a key part of new anti-terrorist measures following the failed attempt to blow up a transatlantic airliner, Gordon Brown announced yesterday.Whilst I'm not an enthusiast for travellers from Yemen, how is banning flights from that nation on the tip of the Arabian peninsular a response to a failed attempt to blow up a transatlantic flight?
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
The recent decline in the fortunes of Barack Obama suggests that this might not be such a bad thing, the enthusiasm that Obama generated in some quarters was never likely to be fulfilled by actually governing, so the reality has disappointed many of his supporters.
Keeping expectations realistic is a much more likely route to maintaining public goodwill in the long term.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Whatever the rights and wrongs of going to war, and I believe the case for removing Saddam was persuasive, there can be no justification for going to war knowingly unprepared. Blair always seemed to like being hailed as an international statesman by committing British troops to action but was unwilling to make the political sacrifice of confronting his Chancellor in order to secure the funds to pay for it.
There is no justification for going to war incompetently and this is the real reason why the war has become so unpopular not the arguments about the legality. The public were largely supportive of the war when Baghdad fell to the allies and previous wars of similar legal status have been generally supported if they are successful.
Most of the above also applies in spadesto the inept American handling of the invasion too, at least under the mismanagement of Donald Rumsfeld.
Monday, January 18, 2010
It seems to me that any society has three choices in dealing with this small question of religion.
The first is to elevate an approved faith to the point of dominant status over all other belief systems. It is formally woven into the legal, political and social system, every sphere of public life and as much of private life as possible. An extreme example might be Afghanistan under the Taleban; a more moderate one, Britain at earlier and less enlightened times in its history.
The second option is, in many ways, equal and opposite. It is based on the view that faith is all dangerous, divisive mumbo-jumbo. No good can come of it so, if it cannot be eradicated altogether, it must be chased from the public sphere, confined to a place of worship or the home, upstairs under the bed with the pornography. An extreme example would be Stalin’s Russia; a more moderate one, the French Republic.
If we really believe in freedom of thought, conscience and religion, this must include the right to the faith or belief of one’s choice, the right to no faith and to be a heretic. Proportionate limits on this precious liberty don’t arise because a minority causes irritation or even offence. We interfere when someone is harming others, or in the workplace when, for instance, their faith or clothing prevents them doing their job.
This seems a sensible approach. Religious beliefs should have no special place in a secular society but they should not be specifically opposed by the state either. Obviously I believe that private organisations should have the right to allow or disallow any symbols they wish, but their behaviour has still been extremely foolish.
What they've done, and if you haven't seen the film this is a spoiler, is with some time travel jiggery pokery made the entire future history of the Star Trek universe, from Captain Kirk's birth onwards, null and void.
This must be distressing for Trekkies, it's almost as though all that time memorising lists of Klingon chancellors was wasted.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Saturday, January 16, 2010
The most famous witch trials in North America were of course those of Salem in the original puritan colony Massachusetts. So it is perhaps not a surprise to learn that one of the two candidates for the state's senate seat left vacant by Ted Kennedy's death, was a leading witch hunter who happily destroyed the lives of wholly innocent people.
Martha Coakley* does appear to be tanking in the polls, which for a Democrat in Massachusetts is extraordinary, but not for any reasons to do with her behaviour in persecuting people accused of satanism. It just seems extraordinary to me that the people involved in these kinds of ridiculous prosecutions are not only not laughed out of polite society but are actually considered serious candidates for higher office.
* Her involvement in the 1997 prosecution of Louise Woodward certainly makes me rethink my previous assessment of that case, which I had assumed the British media were spinning as an "innocent abroad" case but now think she may have actually been innocent.
Friday, January 15, 2010
"As you know, as part of our economic action plan, one of the things we’ve of course done is to step up government advertising. One of the purposes of that has been to support media outlets during the recession that have been particularly hard-hit."The government in question is the Canadian Tory government. I doubt that our Tories will be much better after the election.
John Bercow says:
“Why shouldn’t we have live music in the Commons? Parliament has a chance if reconnecting with the country if it shows an interest I things that matter to people across the country.
“This is the first concert of its kind here. I suspect there will be many more in the future.
“I think this is a milestone. Parliament should be proud of its traditions and ready to glory in the beauty of its architecture and of course to continue with the litany of traditional events which we enjoy, but also ready to evolve, adapt and move on.”
Twat. I can just see him visiting schools and telling the children that he isn't one of the squares and he's a hepcat who's totally into popular beat combos like the Eurythmics and Simply Red.
Next week Speaker Bercow uses the House of Commons as a bingo hall to continue his mission to make parliament relevant to the public.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
However most people don't behave like that whilst intoxicated, in most countries the scenes observed in British town centres every Friday night are not the norm. Alcohol itself does not make someone violent. Studies* have in fact shown that people become violent and agressive whilst drunk have very particular personality traits whilst sober- they tend to be those who blame their misfortunes on external forces rather than taking responsibility themselves, thus being drunk becomes an excuse to behave badly.
If anti-drinking campaigns emphasise the role of alcohol in turning people into antisocial yobs it could actually reinforce that behaviour by encouraging them to attribute the harm they to to the drink rather than to their own decisions.
* I'll dig up a reference later.
Should we invade Iceland?
YES! They took our money.
YES! They gave us Bjork.
NO! It's all Brown's fault.
NO! They won the Cod War and could probably beat us again.
On the plus side a plurality rejected war purely because we would probably lose rather than for legal or ethical reasons.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
The group is already proscribed under two other names – al-Ghurabaa and the Saved Sect or the Saviour Sect.
So they were banned before , but reformed under a different name which is exactly what they will do again. If the purpose is to marginalise the group then it won't work but if the purpose is to make Alan Johnson seem tough then it may well be effective.
Monday, January 11, 2010
"So, Doc, you're saying that Bristol Palin gave birth to both of those babies?"
Burns -- the Atlantic crime lab's gynecologist -- took off his stethoscope, put his face in his palms, and slowly rubbed his eyes.
"No, Loads, you fucking idiot. That's the exact opposite of what I'm saying. The human gestation cycle is 9 months, and the human female is physically incapable of completing two separate birth cycles within an 11 month period. The odds of an 18 year old female having a Down's Syndrome baby are more than 100,000 to 1, compared to 30 to 1 for a female in her 40s. It is an anatomic, physiological impossibility, never before seen in the history of human medicine."
"Ahhh... I catch your drift, sawbones," I said, looking up at the fluorescent panels of his exam room. "You're saying... you're saying that the Palins may not actually be humans! Dammit! How could have I been so blind no to see all the obvious clues? Do you suspect they may be a sleeper cell for intergalactic invaders?"
The medico looked at me with a blank stare for a few minutes. I could tell he knew something, but was too afraid to talk.
"Inspector Loads, do you use marijuana frequently?"
"Depends. Is five or six times a day frequent?"
* Actually Sullivan was a conspiracy theorist long before Palin came on the scene although he hasn't persisted with his other ideas to the same extent.
** I'm not a kneejerk Palin booster, I certainly don't think sane critics of hers like David Frum or Heather Mac Donald should be forced out of the conservative tent. However many of her critics, like Sullivan, are literally insane.
Teenagers have been warned they are becoming unemployable because they use a vocabulary of just 800 words.
Sounds shocking and there are inevitably calls for "urgent action" to make them use more words. However the details aren't nearly as clear cut:
The majority of teenagers should have developed a broad vocabulary of 40,000 words by the time they reach 16.
Linguists have found, however, that although they may understand thousands of words, many choose to limit themselves to a much smaller range in regular conversation and on a daily basis could use as few as 800 terms.
So it isn't as if they only know 800 words, but they only use 800 different words on a daily basis which is a very different thing. I've probably used fewer than 800 words today yet it doesn't mean that I am unable to use more words if I so choose.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
It does raise a dilemma that the equally spectacular implosion of Iris Robinson this week also brings up- when a politician you detest blows up spectacularly for reasons entirely unrelated to one's reasons for disliking them is it a cause for celebration?
I don't like seeing people destroyed for their personal failings because everyone has some personal shortcomings*. I suspect most people know it's wrong to destroy people over their private lives so they tend to find some hypocrisy angle to justify their prurience even though the argument is often rather tenuous- "Tiger Woods talked about his wife therefore we have every right to publicise his affairs".
It isn't that I think a politicians private life is completely off limits, the self destructiveness which they demonstrate in having such risky affairs is something we should know, but schadenfreude isn't an attractive trait.
* Mine include finding articles about people I dislike to be "delightfully malicious".
Saturday, January 09, 2010
"I would rather have a prime minister who is the cleverest person in the room, than a prime minister who looks good in a suit."Hmmm. Gordon Brown is only the cleverest person in the room because he is sitting in an empty office having scared all his colleagues off with flying mobiles.
"I think David Cameron is a terrifying prospect," added the 38-year-old star.Yeah I mean he might lead the country into financial meltdown and a couple of mismanaged wars or something.
Friday, January 08, 2010
In 2007 Peter Robinson's predecessor as DUP leader and First Minister, Ian Paisley, resigned after months of controversey about his son's involvement in property deals. To lose two leaders over the sleazy behaviour of their families ought to persuade the DUP to stop acting like a family business run by two clans and to actually become a normal political party.
Thursday, January 07, 2010
The mockery is fun on it's own but the funniest part of ridiculing people with chips on both shoulders is their reaction. When someone believes they shouldn't be laughed at, it makes them an irresistible target. Which is why the hundred or so enraged comments here are so hilarious who fulminate against being laughed at whilst congratulating themselves on their great sense of humour.
If all the senior Labour figures who know Brown is useless- Clarke, Hoon, Hewitt, Milburn, Purnell, D Miliband, Field, Byers, Hutton & Flint among others- had acted in concert either to challenge Brown in 2007 or to oust him at the 2008 conference they could have stopped him. Instead they come out one at a time and do enough to wound him but not deliver the fatal blow.
It seems I was right to ignore it.
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
Back in 1987 Michael Fish famously dismissed the possibility of heavy storms- right before the heaviest storms in living memory devastated southern England- and has held a degree of notoriety for this erroneous prediction ever since.
No one ever pays a price for an excessively scary prediction, think of the Y2K experts, but failing to spot a problem earns an unwanted place in folk memory. Hence weather forecasters are more likely to overstate the severity of the weather than to understate it.
Anyway there is a poll in the sidebar on the subject of whether we should teach them a lesson.
His cartoon depicted the prophet Muhammad in a turban with a stick of dynamite protruding from the top. Muslims failed to see Westergaard's cartoon as satire. Instead, they saw in it a defamatory and humiliating message: Muslims are terrorists.So naturally terrorism was the only response.
Humiliation is a devastating feeling. But most people who are insulted will accept an apology. If an apology had been forthcoming from the then prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, that probably would have been the end to it – but none came, and the humiliation was compounded.Why should the Prime Minister of Denmark apologise for someone exercising their freedom to express themselves? Salman Rushdie apologised for the Satanic Verses but fanatics still want him dead.
Three months later several imams packed their briefcases and laptops and booked flights to the Middle East. They carried with them a 43-page document, created by a group of Danish Muslim clerics from multiple organisations. This so-called Akkari-Laban dossier was designed to present their case and solicit support for their outrage. Denmark became an "enemy of Islam" and this resulted in the nation's worst foreign policy crisis since the second world war.She is missing one important point about the dossier, they included bogus defamatory images of Mohammed that never appeared in any Danish newspaper. In other words the people who made the dossier implicitly acknowledged that the original Mo-toons weren't actually very offensive at all.
Why did the editors of Jyllands-Posten want to mock Islam in this way?To make a point about freedom of expression.
Danes fail to perceive the fact that they have developed a society deeply suspicious of religion. This is the real issue between Denmark and Muslim extremists, not freedom of speech!?
The free society precept is merely an attempt to give the perpetrators the moral high ground when actually it is a smokescreen for a deeply rooted prejudice, not against Muslims, but against religion per se. Muslims are in love with their faith. And many Danes are suspicious of anyone who loves religion.When the people who love their religion use it as an excuse to attempt murder the suspicions don't seem to be unreasonable.
Where exactly does the Guardian manage to find all these Danish citizens and residents who are such complete doormats?
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
Yeah they use that method of bottle opening in several Bangkok bars today I believe.
As one of Britain's favourite kitchen goddesses, Delia Smith is better known for dishing up failsafe recipes than for risque secrets.
But the BBC stalwart revealed another side to her character today, when she told how she used to be reprimanded for flashing at restaurant customers.
The former swimwear model worked as a waitress in London in the 1960s, when mini-skirts were all the rage.
And her method for opening wine bottles shocked her bosses at the Singing Chef restaurant in Paddington, where she started her food career.
Update: I should add that whilst I think that they are trying to make it sound more scandalous than it is, it's possible that I'm simply a vile pervert.