Saturday, December 31, 2011


I'm not a Ron Paul fan but I can see why he gets support when mainstream Republicans are coming out with horseshit like this by GOP congressman Steve King of Iowa:

“To paint an image of what I think it looks like under a Ron Paul presidency, it would be Iranian nuclear missiles placed in Cuba and Katyusha rockets in Tijuana."

Friday, December 30, 2011

Prediction USA 2012

Back in 2008 I correctly predicted the outcomes of the Republican and Democratic primaries and the general election. In fairness my prediction of the British election was way off but like most people I am psychologically inclined to attribute my successes to talent and failures to bad luck.

The Republican Primary is much easier to predict this year simply because only one first class candidate has decided to put himself forward- Mitt Romney. There were other candidates who could have won, like Mike Huckabee and Jeb Bush, but they didn't run. Rick Perry should have put up a more impressive challenge than he did but that did not materialise.

Earlier this year I also predicted that Barack Obama would win a 2nd term, because of the weakness of the Republican candidates. However given how efficiently Mitt Romney's campaign has gone so far- with no sign of being perturbed by the succession of great right hopes who have come and gone- I now think he can overcome his history of ridiculous flip flopping to win against Obama.

So my final prediction is that Mitt Romney will be the president elect this time next year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Book Review: King Leopold's Ghost

I haven't written any book reviews for about two years. Partly because I have been reading fewer books (although probably more online material) than I did before and partly because I've been less interested in writing reviews of what I have read.

Here is a review of Adam Hochschild's book King Leopold's Ghost.. I am out of practice when it comes to writing reviews so forgive me if I ramble or repeat adjectives too frequently:
 A Forgotten Genocide

King Leopold's Ghost was written to remind the world of a forgotten atrocity- as such it is both highly accessible and informative.

The atrocities in the Congo included mass murder, enslaving the local population and working them to death and stealing and burning their. Much of the cruelty was officially sanctioned- with secret instructions to the authorities on how to enslave the natives. Some of it was done by individual sadists who were free to execute Africans for trivial offences or massacre villages at will if they refused to collect rubber.

One of the frustrations that Hochschild repeatedly refers to is that the tale largely has to be told from the point of view of foreigners, as the Congo's native population was not literate at the time and left few direct testimonies. However the records of the colonial authorities, missionaries, traders and diplomats are used to great effect.

The portraits of individuals involved in the story are well done, the story of ED Morel who initiated the international campaign against King Leopold's rule is particularly inspiring- a lowly shipping clerk who used his powers of deduction to realise that the Congo must be a slave state and then devoted his life to exposing it.

Whilst I was vaguely aware of the atrocities in the Congo I had not realised how much of it was the doing of King Leopold II personally. He was a deceitful, manipulative and immensely greedy man and his personal culpability in the genocide is established beyond doubt. He deserves to be considered along with Mao, Hitler and Stalin as one of the great monsters of the 20th Century.

Give Us Money- Says Guardian

The Guardian is droning on about equality in an editorial today.

It's full of all the usual intellectual fallacies that characterises the diversity industry concerning supposed pay gaps, role models, questionable ideas asserted as facts and things like that.

There is an implied threat that quotas may be needed if things don't become more diverse in Britain's biggest companies. Which is what made me realise that the piece isn't mere liberal hand wringing but a shakedown by Guardian PLC::
The McKinsey work found it wasn't lack of ambition that stops women, more a lack of confidence in being able to fulfil that ambition, and not enough role models showing them the way. Mentoring, coaching and sponsorship are all important to stop women taking another job, or going in another direction. So is dealing with embedded prejudices among senior managers about the risk of employing women.
Who would be doing this much needed mentoring and coaching. Who can challenge the embedded prejudices of senior managers?

Why diversity managers of course!

And where do you find diversity officers? The famous Guardian Jobs Section!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Vicar Fight!

This piece by a Church of England vicar, Nick Howard* on his fellow vicar- the brazenly antisemitic Stephen Sizer- is well worth reading. It seems extraordinary that Sizer is allowed to remain in his position when he is promoting racial hatred.

Especially at a time when the head of the Church is droning on about  bankers and speculators- which is perfectly legitimate but anyone with any sense of history knows that those professions have often been used as euphemisms for "Jews".

Maintaining an actual neo-Nazi in a job while making those kinds of attacks is very unwise in my view.

* Is that Michael Howard's vicar son?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Genocide, Gulags- No Bad Thing

If this is what is behind the Times's paywall then I am glad that I never see it. Writing about North Korea, Simon Winchester pays tribute to Korean uniqueness:
North Korea, for all its faults, is undeniably still Korea, a place uniquely representative of an ancient and rather remarkable Asian culture. And that, in a world otherwise rendered so bland, is perhaps no bad thing.
This is a regime that has let millions of people starve to death and runs gulags which whole families get sent to.

Winchester is an idiot, but he is repeating the argument of a more notable idiot, the North Korean apologist Bruce Cumings,  whose own version of the argument is skewered brilliantly here:
It seems to have slipped the professor's notice that many countries manage to stay independent without dragging children off to gulags, and that North Korea is a place where a lot of characteristically Korean behavior—speaking bluntly, for example—is punishable by execution.
He also makes the point that North Korea has been highly dependent on support from outside to prop up the Kim dynasty so is about as far from representing an independent Korea as it is possible to get.

Renowned Historians

I must admit I found the tone of the BBC interview with David Irving a little bit surprising:

The renowned historian David Irving has watched the revolutions of 2011 with excitement - and notes that it's now the middle class, not the working class, that is making waves.

He has lived his life in the shadow, or the glow, of upheavel.

Born just months before the Anschluss of 1938, he was a Nazi for most of his adult life - as well as an innovative and influential writer and thinker.

He has been a historian of revolution, and at times an advocate of revolutionary change.

Now in his mid-nineties, his continuing passion for politics is reflected in the title of his most recent book How to Change the World - and in his keen interest in the Arab Spring.

As you can probably guess I've changed a couple of details in the report.

ps. Is this a euphemism?
"I certainly felt a sense of excitement and relief," he says, talking to me in his north London home, which is strolling distance from Hampstead Heath.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Kim Jong-un Will Probably Be Crazier Than His Father

The new leader of North Korea is 28 year old Kim Jong-un.

When the US constitution was written a lower age limit of 35 was put in place for the holder of the office of president. This was partly because as the founders looked through history they noticed that the most completely crazy, paranoid and murderous rulers were often those who took office at a very young age.

Roman emperors are a good case in point- most of the really terrible emperors were those who took power at a very young age. For example this list ranks the five worst emperors and I have added their age at ascension in brackets:
  1. Caligula (25)
  2. Elagabalus (14)
  3. Commodus (19)
  4. Nero (17)
  5. Domitian (30)
The list is obviously subjective but broadly indicative of how things are seen. Getting absolute power while still young and full of the desires and immaturity that goes with that tends to be a very bad thing. In the case of Kim Jong-un he is part of dynasty that has held absolute power for 70 years and has grown up in an environment where questioning his authority is tantamount to treason.

This is not an environment in which openness and responsibility are likely to be nurtured.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Dictator Lemon Party*

Amy Winehouse joined the "27 Club" when she died at the same age as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin & Kurt Cobain. Which means that Kim Jong Il has joined the "69 Club" of dictators along with Saddam and Gadaffi.

* If you don't know what Lemon Party refers to, then do not google it.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Death Of A Journalist.

Christopher Hitchens was a first rate polemnicist and deserves to be remembered for a long while. His ability to skewer lazy and dishonest public figures was often used to devastating effect.

Having said that does anyone else think that the coverage of his death is probably an example of journalists finding the lives of journalists to be intrinsically fascinating. I will be surprised if the English language media give nearly as much coverage to the death of Vaclev Havel in the next few days.

Given his famous & brilliant denucniation of the Princess Diana cult that formed after her death, it's ironic that so many of his professed admirerers are going into full Dianaesque sentimental gushing over his life.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

SOPA Not Super

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is a bill going through Congress ostensibly aimed at stopping online piracy. In reality it looks like a payoff to big political donors in Hollywood who want to stop the dissemination of their products among people not willing to pay top dollar.

This is short sighted as people who download torrents and sample music are more likely to pay for the products at a later point than those who do not. In many ways their mindset resembles that of football club owners who for many decades resisted live televisions coverage of games because they didn't realise that it fueled the demand for tickets rather than replaced it. However they have the right to want their intellectual property protected by the law.

 The problem with the bill is that the powers to enforce copyright are so vague and punitive to advertisers and search engines that wealthy producers merely need to threaten a site to effectively kill it.

A committee seems to have delayed the legislation for now but it isn't dead yet.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cluelessness Or Comic Genius

The England rugby team's defence coach, Mike Ford, has quit. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph we get this:
Comments critical of Ford, given anonymously by some England ­players, were published, saying “his analysis was like a white wall of jargon”, “defensive and line-out drills were two to three years behind” and “he was full of pointless stats.”

Ford maintains these comments only represented “11 per cent” of the feedback and a number of players have been in contact to say as much. He is disappointed mostly because those who held critical views did not feel they could approach him.

{observation nicked from someone in the comments to the article}

Monday, December 12, 2011

Rapists & Lads Mags Not Too Similar It Appears

A few years ago there was a quiz inviting respondents to guess whether a particular phrase had been written by Al Gore or the Unabomber. The more alarming quotes were generally by Al Gore.

Fun though it was to point the similarities out, you didn't get very-serious-people in newspapers and academia arguing that it proved that Al Gore literally was like Ted Kaczynski or that he created a swamp in which the Unabomber could thrive.

That's because media and academic types basically approve of Al Gore. They do not approve of "lads mags" like Nuts and Zoo*.

So here the superficial similarities between cherry picked phrases uttered by rapists and those in the magazines is treated as though it means something by Britain's most hysterical newspapers (the Guardian and the Daily Mail). This is despite the fact that reading between the lines reveals some interesting findings:
A separate group, including women, the participants were asked to rank the comments on how derogatory they were.

The results found the magazine descriptions more demeaning than those from the sex offenders, reports the British Psychological Society's British Journal of Psychology.

If the comments by actual rapists were less derogatory than those by the non-rapists who write the magazines then doesn't that demonstrate that those kind of obnoxious quotes aren't indicative of being a rapist?

* Nor do I really, they revel in their stupidity and lack any redeeming wit that they originally had in the 1990s.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

David Cameron Evicted For Urinating In Street

The top story at the Northampton Chronicle & Echo is this:

BREAKING NEWS: David Cameron evicted after neighbours complain of drunken anti-social behaviour, foul language and urinating in the street

An important story to cover I am sure you will agree.