Friday, November 30, 2007

Oh noes; I is all into Harman

Via Dizzy, this October-made animation amused...

It's the terrified wee creature at the end that really makes me laugh.

Oh, yes, and the reminder that NuLabour are imploding...


It's always fun, you know, when people try to dodge around the Islamist issue by insisting that there are "just a few extremists" and that the vast majority of people are not. ALthough I am reasonably sure that, in Western countries, this is true, there are times when it becomes a little difficult to maintain the charade.
Thousands of people have marched in the Sudanese capital Khartoum to call for UK teacher Gillian Gibbons to be shot.

Mrs Gibbons, 54, from Liverpool, was jailed by a court on Thursday after children in her class named a teddy bear Muhammad.

She was sentenced to 15 days for insulting religion; she will then be deported.

The marchers took to the streets after Friday prayers to denounce the leniency of the sentence.

The protesters gathered in Martyrs Square, outside the presidential palace in the capital, many of them carrying knives and sticks.

Marchers chanted "Shame, shame on the UK", "No tolerance - execution" and "Kill her, kill her by firing squad".

I do hope that these wonderful Religion of Peace activists have some cars to set fire to or they just won't be able to feel satisfied with the day's work.

Sometimes, I wonder about people, I really do. But I never wonder about the stupidity of religion in general and Islam in particular...

given this kind of behaviour, Brown could not have sent a better man than Lord Ahmed to negotiate. John Trenchard reminds us of some of the noble Lord's pronouncements.
This is a man who said of Salman Rushdie:
"This man not only provoked violence around the world because of his writings, but there were many people who were killed around the world. Forgiving and forgetting is one thing, but honouring the man who has blood on his hands, sort of, because of what he did, I think is going a bit too far."

This is a man who refers to the terrorist murdering scumbags of 9/11 as martyrs:
"What would one say if the Saudi or Afghan governments honoured the martyrs of the September 11 attacks on the United States?"
[in response to Salman Rushdie's knighthood]

This is a man who defends the suicide bombers of 7/7 and makes excuses for them:
On Monday, Lord Nazir Ahmed, the first British Muslim to be ennobled in the United Kingdom, actually told NPR's Robert Siegel that the London subway terrorists were suffering an "identity crisis."

He'll be an effective negotiator, I imagine...

Labour are Wii

I do not play computer games very often—although occasionally I do like to shoot things up and kill people in Unreal Tournament—and I certainly cannot get very excited about a gamestation that sounds like a bodily function. However, in the midst of all that, I did like this line from Caroline Hunt. [Emphasis mine.]
Labour suck, and the polls are showing it. But sadly I can't get excited about the fact everyone's realised we have a bunch of useless tossers running the country. It's too depressing to think about the fact that we have a bunch of useless tossers running the country.

I have a certain amount of sympathy with this position. Luckily, being the devilishly chirpy chap that I am, I have converted this negative emotion into something more positive with the result that I haven't stopped laughing for fucking days...

UPDATE: another classic quote from The Snob.
Gordon Brown's kecks must be like a Mark Oaten midnight fantasy at present.

My neighbours must think that I'm having hysterics...

To all my Scottish readers...

... and in memory of my decade spent in the fine city of Edinburgh, of course.

That'll be £125,000, please. My terms are at the bottom of the invoice...
Seen at the poor little Greek boy's taverna, this pithy comment by MrPikeBishop on Polly's latest piece of pro-Labour boilerplate.
Brown is not the man you thought he was, he's the man we thought he was.

I am just wondering whether I can be bothered to fisk La Toynbee today or not...

Pandering to supplicants

Gillian Gibbons has been sentenced to 15 days in prison for her part in the thoroughly evil Insulting-Islam Teddy Bear plot (as it will henceforth catchily be known). The Foreign Office are apparently unhappy with this.
The Foreign Office is attempting to secure the release of a British teacher jailed in Sudan for insulting religion after naming a teddy bear Muhammad.

Gillian Gibbons, 54, from Liverpool, has been sentenced to 15 days in prison and will then be deported.

She escaped conviction for inciting hatred and showing contempt for religious beliefs, and will now appeal.

Fucking hell, why? One would have thought that she'd want to get out of that hell-hole as soon as humanly possible.
The Foreign Office has been in contact with Sudan's government overnight and will repeat demands for her release.

Mrs Gibbons' son added: "I don't want the verdict to lead to any anti feeling towards Muslims."

Well, that's fine; I must admit that I don't really have any "any anti feeling towards Muslims" in general—just the Sudanese Muslims, especially the ones who wanted her to be executed. And to be fair, it's not really "anti feeling": I'd describe it as "contempt".
Foreign Secretary David Miliband has expressed "in the strongest terms" the UK's concern at her detention.

Is it just me, or does "concern" not sound like "the strongest terms"? I tell you what: here's what strong terms look like...
"Dear Sudanese state barbarians,

"In Britain, we have a tradition of protecting our citizens (rather than murdering them using deniable militias); indeed, we have mounted monumentally expensive expeditions for the sole purpose of doing just that. So here's the beef...

"Let our countrywoman go, right fucking now, or we will immediately cease all aid for the next year. This will cost you about £113 million. There will be no relenting and you can just fucking starve: besides, why the fuck the British taxpayers are spending £5.7 million on Governance Support on your mass-murdering, genocidal junta anyway, I just don't know.

"By the way, you know how we are pulling troops out of Iraq? Well, no one wants to be hasty but there are a hell of a lot of people in Britain clamouring for us to 'do something' about the massacres in Darfur. Just saying is all.

"Now she'd better be on the next flight, or we'll get all 21st century weapons tech on your arse."

And, let's face it, even that could be phrased more bluntly.

Look, there will be many who would argue that Mrs Gibbons has broken the Sudanese law (such as it is) and that she should take her punishment on the chin; after all, she got a lot less than was threatened.

But if we really want to get her home without her having to serve her two weeks in prison, let's not pussy-foot around here. So why am I convinced that Batshit has not used "the strongest terms"...?
I have written before about Lord Black of Crossharbour and, given my previous tone, it won't surprise you that I agree with Prodicus.

Besides, Humphrys is a total cunt.

2009 Commission

Jon Worth is speculating as to who will take Mandelson's place as the British representative on the EU Commission and what a splendiferous selection he has come up with.
  1. Patricia Hewitt
    A veteran of Neil Kinnock’s efforts in the 1980s to make Labour a pro-EU party, Hewitt has the government experience as a minister in the UK for almost a decade. She has no further career ambitions in UK politics, and I suspect Gordon would not be wanting to call her back after her troubles with the NHS. She’s currently leading on the Europe parts of the consultation for Labour’s manifesto for a 2009 or 2010 general election. She speaks French too, but she will be 61 in 2009, so that might count against her.

Note that Jon does not think that the fact that she utterly fucked up her tenure at the NHS and had to resign in disgrace will not count against her.

Still, she does have the advantage that there would finally be someone in the Commission more patronising, oleaginous and unpleasant than Barroso (who Jon thinks may be going for another term), a feat that many outside Britain no doubt thought impossible.
  1. Charles Clarke
    Probably the most pro-EU Home Secretary since 1997, he’s another member of the Kinnock modernisers and is a big beast of the Labour Party that Gordon Brown might be happy to send off to Brussels. His straight talking manner might be a good way to present EU matters to a sceptical British audience. He will be 59 in 2009, and speaks French, German and (Cuban) Spanish. But does he have the stomach for frontline politics any longer?

Well, he certainly has a massive fucking stomach, that's for sure. Note, again, that Jon does not think that the fact that he utterly fucked up his tenure at the Home Office and had to resign in disgrace will not count against him.

I reckon that he's a sure bet for the immigration portfolio, having proven his competence in this area already.
  1. Geoff Hoon
    A former MEP and Europe Minister, Hoon has been keeping his head down since the Iraq problems when he was at the MoD. He is thought to be a safe pair of hands as a politician and is intellectually sharp, although dour too. He will be 56 in 2009 and while I can’t find details of language ability it’s not in doubt that he can cope in the Brussels environment.

Oh dear fucking god, no! Geoff Hoon was notable for being Secretary of State for Defence at the time that we went into Iraq and was infamous for saying that the use of nuclear weapons would be justified "in the right circumstances". He was still in post at the time of the Dr David Kelly affair, during which time he was described as "slippery" and "dishonest".

Actually, come to think of it, he'd probably do rather well in the cesspit that is EU politics.
  1. Charles Kennedy
    When Gordon Brown appointed his cabinet he included some non-Labour people: Mark Malloch-Brown, Digby Jones and Admiral West. So what are the chances that Brown could do the same with the nominee for European Commissioner, and go for someone outside the Labour Party? The pro-European Tories (Heseltine, Clarke) are over the hill, but what about Charles Kennedy? He’s the new chair of the European Movement, he’s a like-able and communicative politician, plus it would divide the Lib Dems. He would be 50 in 2009.

Well, that'll drive him back onto the sauce. I generally liked Kennedy even though he tried, with a fair degree of success, to be all things to all men, and one never quite knew what he really stood for.
  1. Someone else
    Who else could be in the running? From within the Labour Party Gordon could choose one of the discredited Blairites - Milburn for example - but does he dislike the Commission that much? From within the Cabinet then perhaps Peter Hain or Hilary Benn, with their interest in international matters, might be possibles. I cannot imagine any of the younger cabinet members wanting the job - Miliband, Milband, Alexander, Balls, Purnell, Burnham, Cooper. Beyond that it’s hard to know what to suggest.

Given that—in common with all the other EU states—our government will sent the biggest political embarrassment and/or incompetent to be the British Commissioner, Jon's list look depressingly plausible.

In a way, I do hope that it is Patsy Hewitt; this is partly because I miss such an easy target but also because I feel that the British people will really identify her with the EU. In which case, they will conflate their loathing of her with a loathing of the EU and we'll have voted to get the fuck out approximately two hours after she's taken up her post.

And Patsy needn't think that we'll be letting her back in the country, by the way...

Climate Cuttings #14

Once more, our Ecclesiastical Eminence has risen to the climate change challenge and collected many of the latest stupidities from this particularly dodgy area. Before we start though, I'd like to point out that Tom Nelson has been pumping out tons of links to such stories so, if you are interested in this area, he is a good first port of call.

Now, onto Climate Cuttings #14, and the first item concerns the use of bristle-cone pine trees as temperature proxies.
We know that when you are making a reconstruction of the historic temperature from tree rings, you shouldn't use bristlecone pines (BCPs). This was the advice of the US National Academy of Sciences who observed that these species are thought to be prone to CO2 fertilisation—which is to say that increased growth might be due to more CO2 in the air, rather than temperature. Of course the IPCC doesn't care about this and uses BCPs all the time, most notoriously in the "Hockey Stick" graph. Now, a new paper from Craig Loehle finds that if you don't use any tree rings in your reconstruction, you don't get a hockey stick at all—in fact the medieval warm period looks warmer than the present. This is upsetting to "warmongers" who claim that the MWP was a local phenomenon.

As is par for the course, the Loehle paper was either ignored or attacked on the most spurious grounds.
Julien Emile-Geay, a colleague of hockey stick manufacturer, Michael Mann, gave a bravura performance in a thread at Climate Audit, in which he called the Loehle paper "pseudoscience" because, amongst other things, it didn't calculate error bounds. He become rather bashful when it was pointed out to him that none of his colleagues did this either. Nobody seemed to be able to explain how error bounds for this kind of reconstruction should be calculated. Which is odd, when you think about the idea that the science is apparently "settled".

As anyone who has been following developments in the science of this area—rather than the announcements by politicos (including Al Gore)—knows, the science is very far from settled. One of the really big problems that we have is measuring whether, in fact, the world is warming at all.
Loehle's approach to calculating a global temperature turns out to have been rather unique. The proxies he used were each calibrated against local temperature to give a reconstructed local temperature record. Then the reconstructed temperatures for each locale were averaged to give a global temperature. This is very different to the way this kind of thing has been done in the wacky world of hockey stick climate science. Here, proxies of different kinds, some calibrated, some not, are aggregated and then some kind of a global temperature signal is looked for by statistical means. The idea is that proxies will correlate in some way with temperatures elsewhere in the world by means of something called "teleconnections". This seems, shall we say, unconvincing.

"Unconvincing" is, I would suggest, a rather mild word for what is shoddy science of the very worst kind.
One of the proxies used in a recent temperature reconstruction was rainfall records. If you're wondering, these are thought to teleconnect to temperature, so you can look for a temperature signal in there. This sounds daft enough, but when you learn that the coordinates of the locations used were not correctly aligned with the temperature data, so that, for example, the rainfall in Philadelphia was compared to the temperature in Bombay, it sounds truly crazy.

But, really, it gets even better...
However the really amazing, fall-off-your-chair laughing bit, is that this error had also been observed in one of the author's previous papers, and that he had had his gaffe pointed out to him then! And the author? Hockey stick guy, Michael Mann! Who else?

You couldn't make it up! Well, actually, you can, as Mann so ably demonstrates. Is this sloppiness or an outright attempt to deceive? Well—given that Mann had had his error pointed out previously—your humble Devil would have to go with the latter option: it's fraud.

Lest anyone should wonder if Mann's "hockey stick" could be annihilated any further, I am pleased to report that, yes, indeed it can be.
Meanwhile a recent PhD thesis raises important questions about some of the bristlecone pine records. The hockey stick graph is driven by a surge in growth in bristlecone pine trees in the latter half of the twentieth century. One of the most important such records is the Graybill chronology from Sheep Mountain. The new thesis updates these records, but shows none of the growth surge that was previously reported. Unfortunately, no attempt was made to reconcile the two sets of records, but this would appear to kill the hockey stick stone dead. Not that this will bother the IPCC who will, no doubt, continue to use it.

I have no doubt that they will continue with this and the other frauds that it perpetuates upon the world. Seriously, everyone on the IPCC should be prosecuted for fraud and a deliberate attempt to stir up panic. Or however, you want to couch it.

Now, one would have thought that the recent court case might have convinced people that Al Gore's film was a hunk of shit, but apparently not; so, never mind, we'll just keep kicking the shit out of the rest of his crappy, lying film until the Nobel Committee take the Peace Prize from both him and the IPCC.
If you've seen Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth", you will remember the long, long graph with the surge in temperatures at the end, which was incontrovertible evidence that the Earth is warming in an unprecedented fashion... apparently. Gore claimed that the graph was from ice core records and that it therefore supported the hockey stick and refuted its critics. Except it wasn't from ice cores at all, it was just a reprint of the hockey stick itself. Yes folks, he made it up.

What a surprise! Not.

Still, even those of us who do not subscribe to this anthropogenic climate change bollocks do tend to think that moving away from a carbon-based economy would be a good idea. There are several reasons for this, but they are mainly political (we really aren't keen on the regimes that tend to control the oil) and supply-based (it'll all run out at some point). Luckily, there's options.
In the last edition of Climate Cuttings, I reported Tim Worstall's observation that the global warming panic should recede, now that the global economy seems to be following the Stern report's "warmer but richer" scenario, rather than the more unpleasant poorer one. Now Tim has also reported that the whole crisis should be over in a couple of decades because of the rapidly falling price of solar cells. The end of the carbon economy is is sight. Don't do something—stand there!

All good news, I'm sure you'll agree. Still, there's a few years to go yet: what about the disasters in the meantime, eh?
There is no link between global warming and typhoon activity.

Reports that sea level will rise when the Greenland ice sheet melts are less certain than previously advertised. The glaciers are sitting in a bowl of rock. It has been demonstrated that James Hansen at NASA knew this, but made his scaremongering claims of sea level rise anyway.

Don't ask me why these scientists feel the need to continually lie to us (although I have a few suggestions) but lie they do. Is anyone else angry yet?—after all, there are apparently children having nightmares about this shit.

Anyway, whilst the kiddiewinks' nightmares disturb their parents, the warming is still resolutely failing to occur.
According to satellite records, October was the second coolest month on record.

Northern latitudes should be warming fastest, according to global warming theory. Why then is there no warming apparent in the Baltic?

Global warming might thin cirrus clouds and release all the extra heat, according to a new paper.

Oh well, never mind, eh? The politicians are committed now and they are just going to forge ahead with all of their targets. No matter that a few billion people remain in poverty and another few million die unnecessarily; at least the scientists' reputations are safe, eh?

Once again, thanks to Bishop Hill for collating all of this stuff and for not getting stroppy when I quote virtually the whole thing verbatim; it's not my fault that he writes so damn economically that I cannot actually cut anything out...

An unsung duty

Via EU Referendum, this is from Michael Yon's latest despatch from Iraq; he is talking about Private Smith, who suffered severe burns in an attack on his Warrior vehicle.
Smith spent several months in the UK recuperating from his burns before returning to the war. Like the mechanics Burns and Miller, his courage under fire was unsung. As for recognition at home, the British soldiers say that it rarely happens, but they did tell me about one lady who gives them great moral support. They say she writes a handwritten letter to every wounded soldier in 4 Rifles. She writes a handwritten letter to every family of a soldier who is lost. She writes letters to the battalion often.

She is a wealthy woman who sends hundred-dollar bottles of scotch to wounded soldiers in 4 Rifles, and she will even present their medals on 14 December 2007 in the U.K. Who is this lady? She is Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall, wife to the Prince of Wales, the future King of England, and she supports 4 Rifles as their Royal Colonel. One soldier expressed the sentiment of many when he told me, "she’s so busy, yet finds time to handwrite all those letters to our wounded and families." Another soldier told me that she even invited the families to her home.

It is a timely reminder that some of our Royal Family—whether you believe that they should exist or not—take their duties as seriously as do our soldiers in Iraq, and that those duties—even something as small as writing a letter—often give a great deal of pleasure to people who are in, quite frankly, a crappy position.

A starker contrast with the dismissive and cavalier attitude of the fucking grand-standing politico shits who sent them there in the first place I can scarcely imagine.

More Union funding fun

The chaps at Little Man, What Now picked up on my Union funding piece and it is obvious that I didn't make myself clear enough.
Devil's Kitchen claims that contributions from trade unions to the Labour party can be seen as just as corrupt as rich individuals laundering their money through other people to make anonymous large donations to their political party of choice.

This is clearly not the case. In fact a union does the opposite: it groups together lots of small donations into one large donation. A corrupt individual splits a large donation into many small donations, which are then funnelled through proxy donors.

That's not quite what I meant, so I thought that I would clarify quickly.

It wasn't so much of a "claim" as asking why the Unions should be treated differently if their donations are, as those in the Labour Party would claim, merely lots of donations from individuals.

The point is that a number of Labour people have said that, for instance, donations from individuals (such as Ashcroft) and companies should be capped, but that this should not apply to the Unions because they are not really donations from one entity. Their excuse is that it is not the Union giving the money, but the Union members and the Union itself is merely one entity collecting donations and, for ease of admin purposes, giving them as one big tranche.

Regardless of the size of the original donations, this would mean that the Union is acting as an agent; so, does it have to declare the names and addresses of all its members?

One commenter on my piece pointed out that companies could be construed as multiple shareholders giving money; in which case, the shareholders' names and addresses should be supplied because the company is acting as a proxy. If, however, the company is seen as acting as an entity in its own right, entailing its donations being capped, then the Unions are acting in precisely the same way.

Actually, of course, we all know that the Unions do not operate as a proxy: they are, in fact, one entity donating to Labour so, if individuals and companies should be capped, so should the Unions.

More egregiously, as Guido has pointed out, the Unions deliberately launder taxpayers' money in order to provide funding to the Labour Party.

There's a lot more detail on this over at Matthew Sinclair's place.

UPDATE: just to clarify, I had seen the above two before and comtemplated linking to Guido in my original post, but they were conveniently found via Little Man, What Now's entry.

Every time that I think that I may be a geek...

... something pops up to remind me that I'm not even close. Usually it's Dizzy helping me out with some terminal script, but in this case it's a site, found via Fake Steve, detailing questionable iPod engravings. As you may know, Apple will engrave two lines of text onto the back of your iPod, and this one is just geek-tastic.
49 20 66 75 63 6b 69 6e 67 72 75 6c 65

What does it mean? Well, apparently, it means "I fucking rule" in HEX.

My personal favourite is this one (an old joke, but still amusing).
Trapped in iPod factory. Please send help.

And on the back of your humble Devil's black iPod? Well, it's a little obvious really:
Get your long spoon...

And no, it's not written in fucking HEX.

Harman: evil, hypocritical witch. And not in a good way.

Via Prodicus, this article by Iain Martin is a rather excellent dissection of Brown. But the finest quote surely has to be this one.
What an achievement. To inspire even mild feelings of sympathy for Harriet Harman, the personification of nannying, politically correct north London Leftism, takes some doing.

Privately educated at one of the country's top schools (St Paul's Girls') she has combined the extreme egalitarianism that ends up inflicting inner-city comprehensives on poor children - thus denying them the chance of the good start in life she enjoyed - with an unrelenting high moral tone. Unblinking and unyielding, Harman is quite exceptionally annoying.

The sheer hypocrisy of these fuckers is what makes them quite so massively unpleasant. You might mock this humble Devil for being a public school boy, but you can never argue that I would attempt to deny others the chances that I have had (even though you may disagree with the methods that I advocate to do so).

Harriet Harman QC and her husband—Labour Party Treasurer, Jack Dromey—are both lying shits and they should go forthwith. The only reason that I'd wish for them to stay on is because they will perpetuate yet more highly entertaining scandals; alas, my sides already hurt too much from laughing and, at this rate, I am going to keep on giggling until I'm sick.

Please go, Harriet, I can't take any more...
Shane Greer puts things in context. "What things?" I hear you cry.

Why the fact that whilst George Bush's approval rating is at 33%, the Gobblin' King has managed to garner just 23% in the latest YouGov poll.

A footnote in history indeed. Well, less of a footnote, more like dogturd to be scraped off your shoe...

QuestionTime is crap

I watched QuestionTime this evening; every time that I watch it, I wish that I hadn't, to be honest. Amongst other things, I find Dimbleby's smug fucking face a real irritation; taken in conjunction with his utterly unjustified air of omniscience—hey! Dimbleby! His name is Irving not Irvine—and his habit of letting guests balls on about nothing without telling them to shut the fuck up, it all adds up to a presenter who really grips my shit. And that's before we get onto the politicians or the audience.

I watched tonight's edition because UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, was on the programme; and I wasn't the only one who thought that he was effetively sidelined.
UKIP hadn't been on Question Time for 8 months, whereas in the same time, Peter Hain had been on four times, Ming Campbell four times, the token ethnic lady from the Tories was on again and again, a historian was on 4 times, there were 8 Daily Mail journalists on, and the same faces popping up again and again. The producer on QT said that they were 'booked up until Christmas' but after an angry phone call from the party, a reluctant Jenny Parks, who used to produce a sunday TV programme which UKIP were never invited on, said there was space for Nigel Farage this evening. Interestingly, they had not confirmed the panel for this evening until earlier today.

I hear that the producer refused to speak to him all evening and Dimbleby himself was very off hand, when previously he had been pleasant. I was not the only one to notice the was that Nigel was very much slighted by the BBC in what they clearly wanted to be a party political broadcast by the Labour Party. Why else would they have two Brown supporters on, including the nasty Paul Myners who donates money to the man who robs your old age and of course is a trustee of the Smith Institute.

Paul Myners is also, of course, "Chair of the Guardian Media Group, publisher of The Guardian and The Observer newspapers". And he was heartily pro-government: well, what a fucking surprise. And let's just say that I do not intend to take any lessons in political integrity from anyone who is a Trustee of Gordon's Private Thinktank The Smith Institute.

One thing that I did notice, amongst all the discussion over NuLabour's donation problems [snigger], was that Dimbleby absolutely refused to discuss the issue of state funding of political parties; oh, he allowed a couple of comments from both guests and audience members who were in favour of it, but refused to brook any real discussion—except, eventually, when it was forced by Farage. Even then it was a desultry affair, especially as Farage was anti- and pointed out that the other parties—no matter how much Alan Duncan may have protested his own personal disavowal—were very much pro-the taxpayer propping up their ailing finances.

Why should Dimbleby want to gloss over the arguments against state-funding? Could it be because the Beeb is... er... state-funded? As the old saying goes, I think we should be told.

But the rest of it? Sarah Teather came across as a boring, clueless arse, barely able to comprehend what was going on. She looks like she should be a Little Miss, although her greatest resemblance is as a dowdier Tara Fitzgerald, especially in the latter's role as the slightly buck-toothed and (initially) po-faced priest's wife in Sirens; I wonder if Sarah is as sexually-charged as Estella turns out to be...?

Alan Duncan was, in general, sound and actually rather impressive on the Oxford Union free speech issue; he did at least say that he would take part in a debate with Irving and Griffin.

This was in sharp contrast to Caroline Flint—her rat-trap mouth surely makes her one of the ugliest women in politics, by the way—who spent an awful lot of time blethering stridently about the importance of free speech and who then said she wouldn't take part in a debate with the terrible two; hardly surprising, really, that a NuLabour minister should feel themselves inadequately mentally and idealoically equipped to deal with Griffin and Irving. In the main, she came across as a total bitch who would not shut the fuck up, even when she had nothing to say; something that made Dimbleby's fawning praise and thanks for her "being the only Labour minister to stick their head above the parapet" even more revoltingly servile.

And that's all that there is to say; a typical BBC programme, with an overpaid and underworked presenter fawning pathetically at the feet of the government. I nearly threw the TV out of the window, only I couldn't guarantee that it'd hit anyone worthwhile.

The man who grew roots

Via Daring Fireball, this piece about "the man who grew roots" is absolutely extraordinary.
An Indonesian fisherman who feared that he would be killed by tree-like growths covering his body has been given hope of recovery by an American doctor—and Vitamin A.

Dede, now 35, baffled medical experts when warty "roots" began growing out of his arms and feet after he cut his knee in a teenage accident.

After testing samples of the lesions and Dede's blood, Dr Anthony Gaspari of the University of Maryland concluded that his affliction is caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), a fairly common infection that usually causes small warts to develop on sufferers.

Is it worth pointing out that we now have a vaccine for HPV, which is also responsible for many cases of cervical cancer?
Dede's problem is that he has a rare genetic fault that impedes his immune system, meaning his body is unable to contain the warts.

The virus was therefore able to "hijack the cellular machinery of his skin cells", ordering them to produce massive amounts of the substance that caused the tree-like growths known as "cutaneous horns" on his hands and feet.

And here's some footage.

It's extraordinary, I think you'll agree.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Harriet Harman: totally fucked

Darling Harriet's invitation: have you paid your £30 for the ticket of the year?
[Click to enlarge and see the full glory.]

I am amused to see that Iain has picked up some very useful information about Harriet Harman. One of the questions which was asked about the Kidd Abrahams donation was why she should have accepted the £5,000 after she had already won her campaign—especially as the fact that Gordon Brown's team had already turned it down? This would imply a degree of desperation on dear Harriet's part: why on earth should that be?
David Grossman has uncovered more about the reason Harriet Harman was so keen to accept money from David Abrahams Janet Kidd. She is in debt up to her very pretty eyebrows. Her campaign overspent to the extent that next week she is holding a fundraiser in Leicester Square, billed as "This is the last opportunity to raise funds towards the cost of our very successful campaign. Places are limited and tickets are available strictly on a first come first served basis.". Tickets are a mere £30. However, that's not the juicy bit.

It turns out that Harriet Harman has taken out undeclared loans to fund her campaign, which have not been declared to the Electoral Commission and the loans amount to a five figure sum. We already knew that she took out a £10k loan at the beginning of the campaign, which she was totally open about. Grossman is alleging that the further loans should have been declared to the Electoral Commission.

Indeed. And, as Iain has pointed out, David Grossman has a few questions for darling Harriet.
This lunchtime I filed a series of 11 questions to the Labour Party - I'm still waiting for a response
Here are the questions:
  1. How did Harriet Harman fund her campaign for the deputy leadership election?

  2. How much did the campaign cost to run in total?

  3. Is the loan for £10,000 pounds from the National Westminster Bank taken out on the 3rd October 2006 the only loan she has entered into to fund her campaign?

  4. Why is she still raising money for a campaign that finished on 22nd June 2007?

  5. Where will the money go that is raised at the event planned for 5th December 2007 at Sounds Nightclub in Leicester Square?

  6. If the money raised at this event goes towards settling campaign debts, where are the required records of those debts?

  7. Did she borrow money in her own name for the purposes of the campaign without declaring it to the electoral commission as a loan?

  8. Did she borrow money against any assets owned jointly with Jack Dromey for the purpose of funding her campaign?

  9. Why is Harriet Harman using her office in the House of Commons as a base from which to raise party political funds, in contravention of Parliamentary rules? (the initiation for her fund raiser on the 5th December invites people to send donations to Charlotte Montague at her office at the House of Commons)

  10. Is Charlotte Montague’s salary paid from Harriet Harman’s MP’s allowances?

  11. If Charlotte Montague is paid from Harriet Harman’s MP’s allowances why is she working on Harriet Harman’s campaign from Harriet Harman’s office at the House of Commons? Why has she not registered this in the relevant register of interests for MP’s staff?

Well, we shall all look forward to the answers, obviously. In the interests of good governance, you understand, and not from a sense of vindictive amusement. Well, apart from me, of course: it's vindictive amusement all the way, here in Hell.

As a quick aside, I do wish that the Labour Party would stop all of this crap about how they are going to return the donations; as UKIP found, the law is perfectly clear: impermissible donations are to be confiscated and handed over to the Treasury.

Meanwhile, dear Harriet's arse is about to be handed to her on a plate...

UPDATE: Iain is also reporting that Peter Hain accepted £5,000 too.
This is what the Press Association is reporting about a donation from Gordon Brown's chief fundraiser to the Peter Hain Deputy Leadership campaign of, er, £5,000...
Work and Pensions Secretary Peter Hain tonight admitted that he failed to register a £5,000 donation to his deputy leadership campaign by Labour's new chief fund raiser. Mr Hain blamed an "administrative error" for the failure to inform the Electoral Commission of the donation by Jon Mendelsohn. "In the light of recent events, it has come to my attention that a donation from Jon Mendelsohn to my deputy leadership campaign was mistakenly not registered with the Electoral Commission," Mr Hain said in a statement. "Jon Mendelsohn made a personal contribution of £5,000 at the end of June 2007. We wish to make clear that this was entirely an administrative error on the part of my campaign. "I very much regret that the donation was not registered as it should have been and I am taking immediate steps to do so." Mr Mendelsohn, who was not the party's fund raiser at the time, is already facing calls for his resignation after the disclosure that he was aware two months ago of the proxy donations to the party made by property developer David Abrahams.

The question Mr Mendelsohn will need to answer is this: was it truly a "personal" donation?

Oh dear. Chortle...

Jack Dromey is a liar

A few years ago, there was a NuLabour minister who utterly denied that she had any knowledge of her husband's financial affairs, especially pertinently in the matter of mortgages.
It says an awful lot about NuLabour that not only are we none of us particularly surprised at these allegations, but also that most people will not expect her to be charged either. She should be: she and her husband are patently lawbreakers and should be put on trial and then, if guilty, taken out and shot in the back of the head.

So irrevocably grubbied has the village of Westminster become under the tenure of NuLabour that I suspect that many people will not be unduly surprised if she keeps her job. People like myself would be truly amazed if she were to end up in the dock beside her husband.

No one was particularly surprised when she kept her job, although both myself and Craig Murray stated that she was a liar.

Now, another NuLabour husband and wife team seem to have got themselves in the shit, although the difference here is that they are both party officials. And at least one of them is a liar.
Jack Dromey claimed that he was the victim of “complete concealment” as Labour’s treasurer faced questions yesterday over how, for the second time, he had remained ignorant of hidden donations.

Mr Dromey was pitched into the row over David Abrahams when it was revealed that his wife, Harriet Harman, had taken money from Mr Abrahams through an intermediary.

Ms Harman insists that she did not know that the £5,000 she received from Janet Kidd had, in fact, come from Mr Abrahams, a Newcastle-upon-Tyne property developer.

In fact, Ms Harman might have guessed that the money was more than a little dodgy; after all, both Hilary Benn's campaign team detected the whiff of shit around Abrahams's proxies.

Either Harriet Harman is a fucking lying bitch—in which case she should be kicked out of office and prosecuted—or she is thicker than pigshit—in which case she should be kicked out of office and prosecuted—and she is certainly not competent enough to be ruling over the rest of us.

Let your humble Devil remind you all that these laws were introduced by NuLabour less than ten years ago and they have patently been, deliberately and with malice aforethought, circumventing their own legislation. The deceit demonstrated both in this case and in the cash for honours scandal is breath-taking; as with the Hayden Phillips Review, NuLabour's aim, all along, has quite obviously been to hamstring the fundraising efforts of other parties whilst building in loopholes that they themselves might exploit.

In any case, as with Jowell, is it conceivable that Mr and Mrs Dromey/Harman do not discuss business together at all? Is it really possible that Harriet Harman never discussed her leadership bid with her husband? Is it really possible that Jack Dromey was unaware that these donations might smell a bit odd?

After all, the man has form: he also denied any knowledge of the cash for honours enquiry.
In March 2006 Mr Dromey dramatically intervened in the cash-for-peer-ages affair, insisting that he had not known that Labour had accepted millions of pounds in secret loans, and describing them as “absolutely wrong”.

Mr Dromey, party treasurer since 2004, reprised the phrase when confronted by reporters as he left the couple’s home in South London. “What happened was absolutely wrong. The Prime Minister and the Labour Party have been right to act,” he said. “All parties have a responsibility to ensure the highest standards in public life, and that’s what I’ve always stood for all of my life.”

It is quite obvious that Jack Dromey is entirely unfit to be Treasurer; further, his hideous, toothy bag of a wife is not only utterly unfit to hold public office but is an affront to all senses of taste, decency, intelligence and aesthetics.

Not only has the row now been referred to the police—who will, in conjunction with the spineless CPS, no doubt do the wonderfully effective job that they did over the cash for honours investigation—but a number of sources are now alledging that Abrahams himself may well have been a conduit for the money.
Fears are growing within the party that David Abrahams, who hid his identity by using four intermediaries, may himself have been a conduit for another mystery benefactor, after senior Labour figures questioned his personal wealth.

This would tie in with Stephen Pollard's assertion that, by concealing himself, Mr Abrahams was acting severely out of character.
Everything about the current story smells. Abrahams' explanation of his behaviour makes little sense. Can he really have gone from being one of the pushiest and most self-aggrandising people I came across to being so afraid of publicity that he chanelled donations through other people? I don't think we have got remotely to the bottom of the Abrahams side of this story.

As for the politicians, I simply do not believe those ministers and Labour officials who have been round the block for all these years who say they do not know Abrahams. It is inconceivable that they have forgotten him: he has a manner one simply does not forget.

If his status as a donor was anonymous and no one knew who he was, how come he was in the front row of Tony Blair's farewell speech?

Make up your own minds whether you call that deceit or forgetfulness. I've made up mine. They know who he is all right; they must do if they have been at party functions. They just don't want to admit it.

The whole affair stinks to high heaven. Are we surprised?

Well, your humble Devil is never surprised at the depredations of politicians; almost all are corrupt in one way or another. However, once again, NuLabour take the fucking biscuit.

Cuddly Sudanese Teddy Bears

Sudan is something of a fuck-up, frankly, and now they have arrested one of our citizens for naming a teddy bear after the great fucking prophet, Mohammed (can we agree how this name is spelt in English? I know that Arabic doesn't have any vowels, as such, but seriously...); the pupil who named the bear has even, rather courageously given the barbarity of the country in which he is unfortunate enough to live, spoken as to why he suggested that name.
Gillian Gibbons, 54, from Liverpool, was arrested on Sunday in Khartoum, and could face charges of insulting Islam's Prophet after her class named the toy.

But one boy said: "The teacher asked me what I wanted to call the teddy. I said Muhammad. I named it after my name."

But the entire regime is about as unpleasant and rotten as one could imagine: John Trenchard reminds us of some salient points.
Let us remember that Sudan has an authoritarian government in which all effective political power is in the hands of President Omar al-Bashir. Bashir and his goons have controlled the government since he led the military coup on 30 June 1989.

During this time it has been the home of one Osama bin Laden, it has territorial disputes with Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Egypt. It has attempted to invade Chad and supports Morocco in its war against the Polisario Front.

But its continuing war in Darfur and Southern Sudan, noted for it brutality especially the actions of the Janjaweed,that have caused the most international concern. It imposes strict Sharia Law and has a terrible human rights record. It is also listed on the US watch list of nations that support terrorism.

So, you would have thought that the Sudanese government might be one that we did not actually want to support in any way, least of all with our tax money, right? Wrong.
So what does wee Dougie do? Well apart from his State visit to Sudan, pledging a further £6 million to support “peace” in Darfur and helping out with the Muslim Live 8 it seems that the ‘Sudanese people’ have been recieving quite a bit of cash from Gordon and Co, not as though they have noticed:

Common Humanitarian Fund Contributions—£35.0m
Contribution to ICRC and NGOs—£30.0m
Support to the humanitarian response in Chad—£6.0m
Multi-Donor Trust Fund Contributions—£17.0m
Basic Services Fund (South Sudan)—£4.0m
Capacity Building in Southern Sudan—£2.3m
Governance Support through UNDP—£5.7m
Promoting Safety, Security and Access to Justice—£4.9m
Support to the Darfur Peace Agreement—£1.4m
Fighting Malaria—£1.5m
Support to UNICEF on Water and Child Rights—£0.8m
Support to local recovery processes—£1.0m

Total DFID—£109.72m
Africa Conflict Prevention Pool—£3.6m



And where does all the loot come from I here you ask and why are we spending more on "Governance Support" than on water?

Good questions: why not head on over to Trenchard's place and find out?

Free speaking

Gary Andrews made me laugh in a post discussing the Harry's Place's article around the Oxford Union debate.
"I think there are people who are confusing this with an issue of free speech. It’s not an issue of free speech to offer someone a privileged platform from a prestige organisation."

Er, no. This is precisely an issue of free speech, and they’re being invited to speak at a debate on free speech. This couldn’t be more about freedom of speech if it chartered a hundred helicopters, hovered them above the venue, and waved 60ft high banners with the words: "This is about free speech."

Personally, I'm with Mr Liberty on this one. The Tories will be more of the same.

A report on the Lisbon Treaty

Prodicus has unearthed the summary of European Scrutiny Committee's report into the Lisbon Treaty. [Emphasis mine.]
27 November 2007


European Scrutiny Committee calls for Debate in the Commons before the EU Reform Treaty is signed

With two weeks to go before the signing of the European Reform Treaty, the European Scrutiny Committee is publishing a second, follow-up report on the European Union Intergovernmental Conference. This new report concentrates on the Intergovernmental Conference process, the imposition by the Reform Treaty of legal obligations on national parliaments and the durability of the Government’s ‘red-lines’.

In this new report, which follows the Committee's Evidence Session with the Foreign Secretary and the October informal meeting of the European Council, the Committee repeats its earlier criticism that the Intergovernmental Conference process could not have been better designed to marginalise the role of national parliaments and to curtail public debate. The Committee remains concerned that the Reform Treaty may have imposed legal obligations directly on national parliaments in respect of their proceedings, and doubts that the Protocol on the Charter of Fundamental Rights will prevent the courts of the UK from being bound by judgments of the European Court interpreting and applying the Charter.

Chairman of the Committee, Michael Connarty says, "Although the Government has secured the right to ‘opt-in’ in respect of justice and home affairs (JHA) matters it is clear that if the government opt in on any measure ultimate jurisdiction will transfer from the UK courts. There are also new and unquantifiable risks which may be incurred by future decisions by the UK not to opt in. These matters should be debated on the Floor of the House before the Treaty is signed."

Could it possibly any clearer? As Prodicus says...
Democracy, Mr Brown? Respect for Parliament, Mr Brown?

"Hello, is that the BBC? Out to lunch? What—everybody?"

Can we fucking well leave yet?
A quote that I saw recently...
"The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule."—H.L. Mencken

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Funding scandals and the Unions

Gordon Bean on holiday: "Damn it! I told you waves to stop. Don't you know who I am? Right, I am going to stand here until you go back out again. No, I'm not moving..."

Conservative Party Reptile takes Michael White to task over the Hayden Phillips review of political party funding. As the Reptile says...
What Labour tried to do was scupper Tory funding while leaving their own untouched. So long as the Union link remains, attempts by Labour to prevent large scale individual donations are hypocritical in the extreme.

Quite so. Now, of course, many Labour supporters defend the Union donations, protesting that it is merely a convenience mechanism: lots of people who are members of a Union want to donate money to the Labour Party and the Union is merely a helpful agent in all this, passing on the money as one big tranche and thus saving on administration.

But if this really is the case, then what is the difference between what the Unions do and what Mr Abrahams has done? Mr Abrahams gave money to three four third parties which was then passed on as a donation to the Labour Party.

In the case of the Unions, lots of people give money to one third party, the Union, which then passes on the money as a donation to the Labour Party.

As Guido points out, Peter Watt was reminded of his obligations over Abrahams's donations by the Electoral Commission.
If the original source of the donation is someone other than the individual or organisation that transfers the donation to the party, the individual or organisation making the transfer is acting as an agent for the original donor. Where a person acts as an agent in making a donation, they must ensure that the party is given all the relevant information as listed at paragraph 5.4 (s. 54 (6)). Transferring a donation to an agent rather than directly to a party must not be used as an attempt to evade the controls on permissibility and transparency.

So, do the Unions who donate money to the Labour Party supply the names and addresses of all of the members who have donated the money? Because the Union is, surely, acting as an agent to the Union members and should thus pass those details onto the Electoral Commission.

If this does not apply to the Unions, then why not? Is this not a simply a case of Labour, once again, exempting itself from regulations whilst laying down the law on what everyone else must do?

But, of course, whatever the reasons, the spectre of state-funding for political parties is once more hovering in the wings. But as Timmy points out...
However, yes, this will increase the pressure for State funding of political parties. To which the response is simple.

They’ve proved that they are crooks. You want them to have our money as well?

No, no I don't. In fact, I have to agree with one of Abrahams's agents, Mr Ruddick.
"I can't stand Labour. I can't stand any politicians."

I hear you, brother. Fuck them, fuck them all.

The Bloggertarian Monitoring Service

What is it about Lefties drives them to turn an argument into an obsession?
The Bloggertarian Monitoring Service

A like-minded group of concerned citizens dedicated to the study of arrested development in adult males and the obsessive ahistorical liberalism that many of them tend to promote on weblogs.

This behaviour and belief system is almost unknown outside of this medium.

Maybe amongst the circles you move in, old boy, but not amongst those with whom I mix.

Anyway, to answer my own question, I think that it is probably a lack of a sense of humour, frankly. Either that or massive insecurity. Probably both, actually.

They're just blogs, guys: grow up.
Via Dodgeblogium, I find this technical advice from Microsoft.
During normal operation or in Safe mode, your computer may play "Fur Elise" or "It's a Small, Small World" seemingly at random. This is an indication sent to the PC speaker from the computer's BIOS that the CPU fan is failing or has failed, or that the power supply voltages have drifted out of tolerance. This is a design feature of a detection circuit and system BIOSes developed by Award/Unicore from 1997 on.

What the fuck? Not exactly intuitive is it?

"Oh my god, it the haunting strains of Beethoven's Für Elise, what can it mean? Oh, I know: it must mean that my CPU's fan is knackered! Thank you, Microsoft Award/Unicore programmers, for making this exciting and valuable addition to Windows the BIOS rather than, say, flashing up a fucking dialogue box."

Fucking hellski...

A conversation...

... with Dizzy about this "owning your own life" axiom.
Diz: "Have you got on to body parts yet?"

DK: "Body parts? No."

Diz: "Who owns your arm?"

DK: "Me, surely."

Diz: "Who decides what your arm does?"

DK: "Me."

Diz: "So who owns the body that makes your material life?"

DK: "Me."

Diz: "So it's not an axiom at all."

Good point well made, I think. He then pointed me to a section of John Locke's Second Treatise of Civil Government.
Sec. 27. Though the earth, and all inferior creatures, be common to all men, yet every man has a property in his own person: this no body has any right to but himself. The labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property. It being by him removed from the common state nature hath placed it in, it hath by this labour something annexed to it, that excludes the common right of other men: for this labour being the unquestionable property of the labourer, no man but he can have a right to what that is once joined to, at least where there is enough, and as good, left in common for others.

Make of it what you will.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Devil Tarot: 18

The Moon represents drugs and addiction and madness.

The Moon.
© 2007, Devil's Kitchen.

The Devil Tarot is collected here: there are three left to create: The Sun, Judgement and The World...
Apparently, some MPs might just be getting wise to what the hell's going on with the EU, and a few of them appear to have grown a pair of fucking balls big enough to say something about it.
The "ambiguity" of parts of the European Union reform treaty is causing concern that the UK Parliament is giving away powers, MPs have said.

No shit, Sherlock.

In other news: bears shit in the woods, the Pope's a Catholic, water is wet and Gordon Brown's a cunt.

Sith Schools

The Dark Lord of the Private Sith Schools tightening his grip on university education, yesterday.

Now, I don't tend to get overly precious about some of the language used by the BBC; I think that much of it is merely subs attempting to make the pieces a little more interesting to read.

However, I cannot help but feel that this article—coming on top of many similar examples—is just a wee bit biased.
Private pupils grab top courses

Independent school pupils have increased their hold on places at the UK's 20 most prestigious universities.

Note that these pupils "grab" courses, and "increase their hold" on university places. It's all very domineering, the words of conquest, of strangulation and of aggression.
The acceptance rate for private pupils applying to Russell Group universities - which include Oxford and Cambridge - rose from 62.5% to 65.6% last year.

That figure, revealed by the Independent Schools Council, is five times the average success rate for applications to the elite institutions.

Wow! It makes you think, doesn't it? It makes it sound as though private schools are slowly taking over all the universities and, quite soon, there will be no places at the Russell Group for state school pupils, who must surely be in the minority now.
Only 54% of students at Oxford University and 57% of students at Cambridge are drawn from state schools.

Right. So, actually, the majority of people at Oxbridge are, in fact, not from private schools. Now, I know that private schools are in the minority, but how "over-represented" are they?
Independent schools have about 7% of the school population - but this rises to 23% of pupils in sixth forms.

Ah, right. Interesting that. So, not quite as over-represented as the BBC would like to make out. But why have private school pupils "increased their hold on places at the UK's 20 most prestigious universities"?
Provisional figures for this summer's A-level exam results show that 7% of pupils in comprehensive schools achieved three A grades, but in independent schools 30% of pupils achieved this benchmark.

What the fuck? You mean that those in private institutions get better grades! Well, Watson, I think that we have solved the problem of why so many top university places go to private school pupils. We can rest easy now.

Fundamentally, private school pupils get the grades required to get into top universities. I am not going to bother pointing out that state schools are shit (and also have the most difficult pupils, generally) but... Oh, bollocks, I just have pointed that out haven't I?

Oh, well, never mind. I guess that those evil, imperialist Sith School pupils will continue to bag those top university places unless something fucking radical is done to enervate the state schools.

Remove the schools from state control, fund them with vouchers and stop ruining the lives of millions of young people, you statist fucks. As I keep on pointing out, we have a successful blueprint over in Sweden: now let's implement it and allow people to realise their potential.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Classic Harding

There's an absolute stormer of a comment from Neil Harding on this post by Mark Wadsworth.
So you would have let Northern Rock collapse and the British banking system collapse with it? Millions of jobs would have been lost and our economy would have been crippled.

This is a joke, isn't it? No, it's just typical Harding hyperbole.

Companies go bust in various industries every day: they don't cause the collapse of their entire industry. How would one badly run bank going bankrupt cause the collapse of the entire British banking system?

Did the British banking system collapse when, for instance, Barings Bank went bust?

Er... no.

Free speech

There is a discussion of the Oxford Union debate at Harry's Place.
The issue basically comes down to this question: Are fascists entitled to free speech?

As Timmy says: the answer is "yes". To deny them free speech would be... well... fascist.
Moreover, why should fascists be given free speech when they would, if given half a chance, deny free speech to others?

Because we are not fascists.

As we all know, the media is far better than blogs because they do so much more fact-checking. Unless, apparently, that means that Newsnight researchers having to check whether the US stock trading markets are actually open. No doubt this is because of the unique way that the BBC is funded, i.e. through extortion.

Perhaps the combination of "USA" and "capitalism" makes Beeb researchers melt into a puddle of grease?


As regular readers will know, your humble Devil is a public school boy—or private school boy, for any US readers—and so tends to be characterised as "privileged" or "fucking rich" by people who know no better.

However, I would just like to highlight what is a severe difference in priorities as I see, via Westmonster, that people are paying stupid amounts for a computer game console.
A shortage of one of this year's must-have gifts is sure to cause tears and tantrums on Christmas morning.

And the children won't be too pleased either.

The Nintendo Wii—a computer games console designed to appeal to adults as well as youngsters—has sold out in shops across the country.

Chains such as Game, HMV, Woolworths and Tesco say they are receiving more stock only sporadically and the consoles are changing hands for up to £500 on internet auction sites - a huge mark-up on their list price of £179.

Even allowing for inflation, the list price is rather high. As a real-world example, the absolute high-end price limit for my Christmas present was £25. £179 was in the realms of fantasy and for my parents to spend £500 would be absolutely unthinkable (and still is).

To come back to the main point, I am indeed privileged in that my parents were able to even comtemplate sending me to a fee-paying school, but the point is that the greater part of the cash came through my father making foresighted investments prior to my birth and taking out fee-paying insurance plans immediately afterwards. And not spending £500 on a fucking gaming console (I was the first member of our family to buy a computer of any type, back in 1997).

As I said, priorities...


Via Casting the Net, I find this little essay entitled Why you don't need to be selfish to believe in capitalism, which makes an excellent point.
One thing that [Naomi] Klein does not seem to get is that there is a distinction between self-interest and selfishness. It is quite possible to do something that makes you better off but which does no one else any harm (and in fact may be benefiting them). To my way of thinking, this is not selfishness because that requires you to be causing harm to others. This is no semantic difference, it is key to how operates in practice. While self-interest is rewarded, there are laws to prevent selfish behaviour such as lying, stealing, bribery, breaking contracts and using violence. For the market to work there must be legally enforceable limits to the harm people can do to each others.

Quite so; Mark then goes on to articulate a concept that your humble Devil has advanced many times.
Smith might wish us to be entirely virtuous but he knows we’re not. He understood that to try to build a socialist utopia on such shaky foundations was futile and we would be better off trying to turn mans vices into virtues through the market.

Any system that relies on people being altruistic for its survival will never work because humans are self-interested at a genetic level; we are programmed in the self-interest of our genes and their interest is in propagation in the most favourable possible circumstances (in order to ensure maximum probability of survival).

The secret to swearblogging

It should come as no surprise that it was the poor little Greek boy who pointed this article out to me.
IT'S a green light for turning the air blue. Psychologists have discovered that using swearwords makes you more believable.

In a remarkable endorsement for celebrity swearers such as Gordon Ramsay and Billy Connolly, the researchers found that statements peppered with expletives were significantly more likely to be believed than clean versions.

Look into my eyes... Listen to my swearing... Agree with me... Feeeeeel the credibility...
An amusing line from Dick Pennis...
There are plenty of weird things in life. Eyeballs that secrete milk, salmon that travel thousands of miles for a shag, women who can fire ping pong balls from where the sun does not shine. But I think having Bernard Manning who is now dead presenting his own televised obituary has got to be at least up there with hermaphrodites.

I don't know: how about hermaphrodites on stilts...?

The sophistry of liberty?

Andrew Russell has posted a rather well-written critique of the philosophy of liberty.
Over at the Devil's Kitchen, where nuance fears to tread...

Why thank you. It does strike me that an awful lot of people seem to take this blogging lark very seriously; there have been an awful lot of people critiqueing the style in which this internet character likes to write.
... we are presented with nothing less than the philosophy of liberty [hat-tip] - in a Flash animation at that.

The whole thing starts with one of the most astonishing assumptions ever taken as an axiom:
"You own your life"

The great thing about axioms of course, is that technically you don't have to do anything as boring as support them with evidence.

Most philosophies start from an essentially unprovable axiom. And, yes, the philosophy of liberty starts with this axiom because without this there is no philosophy of liberty. Liberty simply doesn't matter.
However, anyone who might question this bizarre assertion is immediately warned of the perils with which they flirt:
"To deny this is to imply that someone else has a higher claim on your life than you do."

Dash it all, I was all set to argue the point, but now I realise I might as well just fetter myself and be done. What nonsense. To deny this axiom is simply to reject the absurd conflation of ownership with existence. I live my life. I am my life. But to claim that I "own" my life, presumably in similar fashion to the way I own this PC (which I bought), or my copy of Luther Bisset's "Q" (which was a gift) is meaningless.

I certainly didn't take it as meaning that you own your life like you own a possession, but that you own the right, when faced with a set of choices in your life, freely to make your own decisions. This is a premise that you must accept is you are to belief in any kind of personal liberty. If you don't accept this concept, that's fine; by all means say so.

But without this concept, there are no human rights at all and we can just return to the law of the jungle in which the strongest can dominate the weakest. Is this what you would advocate? Are you denying that you should be able to make your own informed decisions about how you want to live your life?
But it's the second assertion which really highlights a lack of serious thought: there are whole classes of people capabable of exchanging property voluntarily who must not be allowed to do so. Let's just pick one: minors. The kiddies, bless their little hearts.

Really? I had always taken it as read that the reason that we do not allow minors to live their own lives is because they are incapable of being able to make rational, voluntary decisions (which is why we have the concept of "an age of consent"). I had always just assumed that the animation applied to adults in their right minds who are capable of rational thought.

Evidently, I was just a crazy fool in assuming that people might understand that a rational understanding of the consequences of an action was a prequisite for making a voluntary consensual choice.

Of course, you could argue this another way, and say that—if this philosophy does include children (or any others that are deemed irrational, e.g. the insane)—that they have made a contract, through rational choice, to subsume some of their practical freedom for a limited time in exchange for protection and succour. As you like really.
You see? You thought you lived in a democratic society, which had collectively decided to a) submit to the will of the electorate...

"Collectively decided"? Ah, you mean that other people made a decision for me and never actually bothered to ask me what I think about it? That's the joy of collectivism, isn't it?

Libertarianism does, of course, allow for voluntary collectivisation, but the emphasis is on the word "voluntary", of course.
... and b) empower the government to collect taxes to provide a safety net for poor people, but no! You have empowered fine-hatted governmental officials to deprive others of their justly earned property; you have tolerated the initiation of force for your own ends.

Yes, quite. Your own end is that you think that the government should provide a safety net for the poor; this may be because you have a social conscience or because you are one of the poor but you are, ultimately, still doing it—voting for it, if you like—for your own ends. Otherwise, you wouldn't do it.

But since when did living in a society equate to empowering a state to provide a safety net for the poor (although that is not to say that I would not opt to do so)? Has the state provided a safety net for poor people for the entirety of human history? No. In fact, it is a relatively new phenomenon.

Essentially, in Andrew's world, we have all "collectively decided" (without actually being asked) to live in a democracy (the particular implementation of which, as of the last election, forces 78.4% of the electorate to "submit to the will" of the other 21.6%) and to "collect taxes to provide a safety net for poor people".

Still, at least Andrew is consistent, for this state of affairs is entirely at ease with Andrew's (assumed, on my part, I'll admit) belief that we should not have a right to make our own decisions about the choices in our lives.
What is perhaps worse: you have deprived the poor of their glorious failure, from which they could learn and grow. (The poverty of others is always a noble and inspiring thing, isn't it?)

For someone who entitled his article "the sophistry of liberty", this is taking something of... well... a liberty; the full sentence reads as follows:
Success and failure are both the necessary incentives to learn and grow.

Success and failure, you see? Not simply failure. Need we point to the various self-made millionaires, or those who have come from poor backgrounds to become successes (in whatever way they might measure that term).

Many of them—indeed, many of the born-rich—have even set up charities so that they might voluntarily help those who are poor or disadvantaged (demonstrating that the state is not the only agent that can deliver a safety net).

Is failure "glorious"? No; it's usually painful and humiliating. But it does teach. My last company was a failure, but I understand why it failed and, having learned from that, I now have now put much better options in place and am doing far better. Failure does teach, sometimes rather more so than success.

But, fundamentally, all that this exchange demonstrates is that, if you come from a different mindset, you can never agree. Andrew is, I assume, a collectivist: at the very least he will be more in favour of positive liberty than negative liberty. I favour the latter, so I can appreciate the philosophy of liberty as laid out in the animation; Andrew does not and thus denies the first axiom without which the philosophy is void. Fair enough.

But I would still challenge the idea that even if you believe in a safety net (in whatever form), that the state is the best organ for delivery. And for me, even if you do believe that the state is the best form to do so, if the state is taking more money from you than you would be willing to give voluntarily, it is still theft (or, rather, extortion with menaces).

And it follows that, if you think that the state is the best organ for delivery, it is because you do not believe that others would give as much as you; thus you are sanctioning the forced removal of property from others (even if not from yourself) and that you are, indeed, condoning the "initiation of force for your own ends".

You may think that those ends are noble, but fundamentally they are your ends and not the ends of others. For if others truly shared your motivation, you would not need to use the threat, or actuation, of force in order to make them comply. In effect, you wouldn't need the power of the state at all: it would merely be a mechanism for delivery.

And if the state is only a mechanism for delivery, is it really the most efficient mechanism that you can think of? With every pound going into the Treasury being worth roughly 30p by the time it comes out, not to mention the other problems (overpayments, underpayments, delaying payments, fraud, etc., that often most harm those that you are trying to help), then surely there must be more efficient means of delivering your largesse to the poor? I would suggest that there are.

In which case, if there are more efficient means of delivery that the state, then what is the point of the state (leaving aside issues of criminal law, etc. for the moment)? By this logic, there is no point to it, of course, apart from to curb people's freedom by forcing them to pay money in taxes in order to provide the safety net for the poor, etc.

So, either you believe that the state is needed because people would not voluntarily give (enough) money to the poor, in which case you must accept the premise of the animation that taxes are theft; or you should accept that you do not need the state (because everyone will give voluntarily) and thus accept the premise that people own their own lives and that they have the freedom to make whatever choices they deem best.

Unless, of course, you feel that some human beings are naturally higher than others and should be able to coerce them without the assistance and special powers of the state? In which case, I would love to hear the premises for that idea.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

All Is Full Of Love

I must admit to finding Björk a little over the top much of the time, but this song is rather beautiful.

I also find the video strangely affecting; perhaps it is because of my constant fascination with the concept of emoting machines. This may be why I anthropomorphise my Macs to such an extent too...

Web design

There's a rather good article at A List Apart (a sort of web designer's Mecca, if you like), on the subject of web design.
Web design is not book design, it is not poster design, it is not illustration, and the highest achievements of those disciplines are not what web design aims for. Although websites can be delivery systems for games and videos, and although those delivery systems can be lovely to look at, such sites are exemplars of game design and video storytelling, not of web design.

Quite so. Generally speaking, the design that I do on the web is very different from that which I do in print (we'll just take it as read that I am aware that I am hardly an exemplar of brilliant design in either medium).

In most kinds of design, the end result is usually the same one: to allow people to absorb the information that you wish to convey. However, the way in which one approaches it is different because the medium is different.

My theatre posters, for instance, attempt to be eye-catching and beautiful (in a slightly nightmarish way!)—indeed, the finest compliment that I have been paid is by someone who came to see Mr Punch "only because the poster was so beautiful" (it's present on my site in a sadly truncated form).

My web design tends to be very different. I prefer the plain and easy to navigate: The Kitchen is probably my most overtly "pretty" website, whereas I rather prefer the near-monochrome simplicity of Gronk's site. There are lots of very beautiful websites out there, but they often sacrifice ease of navigation and legibility on the altar of aesthetics; very many of them use Flash which often takes too long to load. Unless it's something really special, I've left before the site can begin telling me what it wants me to know.

But, of course, I am merely an untrained scribbler; what does Zeldman think that web design is?
Web design is the creation of digital environments that facilitate and encourage human activity; reflect or adapt to individual voices and content; and change gracefully over time while always retaining their identity.

Which web design is like that? For one, Douglas Bowman’s white “Minima” layout for Blogger, used by literally millions of writers—and it feels like it was designed for each of them individually. That is great design.

Essentially, web design should put function on a par with—and often higher than—pure artistic sensibilities. Which is why it often takes me time to switch between the two media: it requires a major shift in the way in which I design, and lay things out, and create.

NHS Fail Wail

I think that we can all agree that the UK's response to coronavirus has been somewhat lacking. In fact, many people asserted that our de...