Wednesday, December 31, 2008

End of year blogging lists...

There is always a risk that bloggers end up talking to bloggers, but there is no denying that other bloggers also tend to be the most avid (and amongst the most intelligent) readers of blogs too.

As such, vain though it may be, your humble is proud to have rated first in a few "blogs of the year" lists. The first was over at The Nameless Libertarian's place...
  1. The Devil's Kitchen: Sometimes too much, sometimes wrong, sometimes just too much but always worth a read. Not so much a blog as a force of nature.

The next privilege is in heading up The Cynical Dragon's awards...
Best Blog Award 2008

Devil's Kitchen—Libertarianism and freestyle swearing. Who could ask for more?

And finally, your humble Devil is honoured to be in the top spot in Question That's Top 50 Festive rundown.*
  1. The Devil's Kitchen is, for anyone who has somehow remained unaware of it, a libertarian blog run by the eponymous DK. It is the original swear-blog, DK having begun venting his rage here just under four years ago. Although the fire and fury on display here in the first couple of years has been sanitised somewhat, it's still written with a genuine passion. As well as DK's trademark ranting, The Devil's Kitchen features guest posts from a variety of other writers, not all of whom share DK's consequentialist libertarian worldview—occasionally leading to some vituperative comments, which are never moderated. The Devil's Kitchen was the greatest inspiration for my decision to begin blogging, and remained such throughout the time Question That was online. As such, putting this blog at the head of my top 50 was an easy decision.

    Read The Devil's Kitchen—'Oh yeah? How, exactly?'

Your humble Devil is... well... humbled, especially as my blogging this year—especially since I became full-time employed in April—has been more hurried and less frequent than in the previous ones. That is likely to continue for at least the first half of this year, though I shall attempt to do more fisking—which I thoroughly enjoy.

Whether I shall have more time to write after the release of our software (sometime in the next few months) I don't know, as I am already drawing up plans for the next stage of the company's product development (which will be equally exciting, but in a different way to our current work).

I may recruit some more writers—I'd love to see commenter Ian B write a post or two—but whatever happens, rest assured that The Kitchen will continue, in the usual sweary vein, into 2009 and beyond...

Thank you all for reading, writing and commenting, and the very best for 2009. Unless you are a member of the NuLabour government, of course, in which case I hope that you read this, come to your senses, realise what you and your cronies have done, and hang yourself.


* UPDATE: it seems that, for personal reasons, that is to be IanQT's last post, as he is ceasing to blog as of today.

Recommended reading...

This article over at Boatang and Demetriou, detailing those petty details, annoyances and injustices which are now common-place in NuLabour's Britain is thoroughly excellent.
I’ve had enough of it, I really have. Can no-one see how utterly insane modern life in Britain has become? The random, arbitrary authoritarianism, the big government, the stifling EU super-project interfering in peoples’ existences, the arrogant top down approach, the encouragement of favouritism to some causes and groups and intolerance of other causes and groups.

And you know what? My workplace didn’t even fucking acknowledge Armistice Day last month. The 11th November came along, 11am came and went and nobody batted an eye lid. People still chatting, phones still going, no email or message on the intranet, nothing.

How very fucking apt. A million British people died and a million and a half were injured during World War 1. Around half a million British died during World War 2. They did that, in order to save our country and the world from the jaws of tyranny and to preserve civilisation. And the fuckers round me won’t even spare 2 fucking minutes in a year to fucking acknowledge that shit.

Profoundly depressing. And the most depressing thing is that the Tories will be no better: in many cases, since they are pro-EU, they cannot be any more liberal.

And here we go into yet another year of this shit: merry fucking new year...

Semantic confusion

Occasional Kitchen contributor Martin Kelly is having a bit of a rant about libertarianism over at his own place; it's not entirely unjustified, although I think that he concentrates far too much on the views of Rights Theorists rather than Consequentialist minarchists such as your humble Devil.

However, methinks that he has had a little semantic trouble with this sentence...
If there is no such thing as a free lunch—how can there be such a thing as free trade?

In terms of the "free lunch", Martin links to this definition:
The economic theory, and also the lay opinion, that whatever goods and services are provided, they must be paid for by someone - i.e. you don't get something for nothing.

Now, there are several meanings of the word "free"; in the above quote, "free" is quite obviously being used in the sense of "gratis", "complimentary", "costing nothing".

However, when we talk about "free trade", that is not what is meant at all. It is not about whether the trade costs anything, but whether the participants are free to do it. We are using "free" in the sense of "able to act at will", "not hampered", "not under compulsion or restraint".

There may, of course, be a cost element in debating whether or not free trade is, in fact, "free": trade tariffs or regulations may hamper trade or provide a restraint. But then that is not free trade anymore, is it? And that is rather the point.

Does that answer your question, Martin? Or, since you must be aware of this distinction, were you trying to make another point entirely?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Murphy's Law #9: Tim Worstall is the Devil

Tim Worstall is going to eat your babies, and your kittens. Or at least that's pretty much what the disgusting, socialist moron, Richard Murphy, seems to think.
Tim is a clever chap, I will not dispute it. There is, however, something very unpleasant about his methods. He tries to engage as a reasonable person on this blog, and then goes back to his own blog, hurls abuse and waits for his sycophants to come back with ad hominem, crude and sometimes blatantly inappropriate comments, all of which, I am sure, fuel his ego, but more sinisterly, fit into a pattern of political behaviour most commonly associated with the far right. The BNP work in this way, for example. I’m not suggesting Tim has anything to do with them, or their racist opinion, but Nick Griffin also seeks to appear reasonable in public debate, but relies upon working his audience of thugs behind-the-scenes and in his own domain to secure his support.

The object of the aggression ( and it is much worse on some other sites whose authors have chosen to comment here in the past) is simple. It is to frighten people away from the debate to secure the space for the far right. This is the work of extremists.

I seek to work in the mainstream. No one in the mainstream would allow the type of comment, attack, or abuse that Tim Worstall allows onto his blog. As a result I am satisfied that he is an extremist working outside the mainstream of UK politics, but who has intention to undermine it.

It is why I have decided to ignore his comments from now on. It is why the mainstream needs to eliminate this type of attack, which also seeks to suppress debate on sites such as the Guardian’s comment is free, if only by overwhelmingly out-posting these people, and it is why we need to name the likes of Tim Worstall for the extremists they are.

No doubt Tim will have a lot of fun abusing this. I can live with that. Someone has to name him (and his like) as a threat to democratic debate. I do.

Poor, poor Richard. I would say that he has lost his fucking marbles but, let's face it, he lost them ages ago. Still, that's socialists for you: once they've lost the debate, they just stick their fingers in their ears and shout, "la la la la la". For Tim to be called an extremist by someone like Richard Murphy is, I imagine, a badge of pride.

Blitz Spirit

Apparently Gordon is demanding that we in Britain show some of that good, old Blitz spirit.
The recession is a test of character the British people must pass, Gordon Brown is set to say.

In next week's New Year message, the prime minister is expected to urge the public to "display the same spirit" as their predecessors did in World War II.

So, knowing that Gordon "Prudence" Brown will, of course, lead by example, via Lord Elvis, let's see how we should adopt this Blitz spirit, shall we?
MORE than £320,000 of taxpayers' money has been spent on flat-screen televisions, hi-fis and DVD players for Whitehall departments, the Standard can reveal.

The Tories said today that the figures, released in Parliamentary answers, were an "insult" to the recession-hit public.

The biggest spender was Lord Mandelson's Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, which ran up an £87,000 bill for stereo equipment, DVD players and flat-screen televisions over the past three years.

The second biggest bill was at the Treasury, which spent £42,000 on televisions, £25,000 on DVD players and £9,600 on hi-fis - despite Treasury Minister Yvette Cooper's claims to be leading a "war on waste" across government.

Nice. Still, it's indicative of the goverment's entire attitude to this crisis: let's spend lots of money that we don't have—stolen from the people of this country under threat of violence—and spunk it up the wall.

I don't have a wide, flatscreen TV: do you think that Mandy's got any going cheap?

Luckily, Gordon's own department is, indeed, practising prudence by refusing to waste money on fripperies.
Other departments, including the Prime Minister's Office, claimed that the information could only be made available "at disproportionate cost".

Fucking hell, Gordon Brown really is a total cunt.

Open Source: closed for business?

Open Source efforts have steadily gained traction over the last decade or so: as more and more people become connected to the web, the opportunity to contribute—or even just to download free software—has grown rapidly.

But is this movement stuttering slightly? Via Old Holborn, I see that Wikipedia has now published a begging letter from its founder.

Rather more worryingly, OpenOffice seems to be struggling too.
It is clear that the number of active contributors Sun brings to the project is continuing to shrink, which would be fine if this was being made up for by a matched increase in external contributors, sadly that seems not to be so.

So, it should be clear that OO.o is a profoundly sick project, and worse one that doesn't appear to be improving with age.

Crude as they are - the statistics show a picture of slow disengagement by Sun, combined with a spectacular lack of growth in the developer community. In a healthy project we would expect to see a large number of volunteer developers involved, in addition - we would expect to see a large number of peer companies contributing to the common code pool; we do not see this in Indeed, quite the opposite we appear to have the lowest number of active developers on OO.o since records began: 24, this contrasts negatively with Linux's recent low of 160+. Even spun in the most positive way, OO.o is at best stagnating from a development perspective.

Now, your humble Devil uses the dedicated Mac equivalent, NeoOffice, partly because OpenOffice wouldn't run on a Mac for years (apart from in X11, which is a pain to use and not at all Mac-like), but this is a slightly worrying trend for those of us who espouse the benefits of Open Source projects.

And Obnoxio highlights the wider problem inherent in this trend. [Emphasis mine.]
I wonder why this is? Are people becoming disillusioned with maintaining open source? Is the novelty wearing off, are the zealots moving on to "proper jobs"? Is the cachet of being an open source developer becoming too diluted now that there are so many millions of open source projects going?

Whatever it is, it's an interesting and somewhat worrying development. Because if it can happen to Open Office, surely it can happen to any open source project? The death of such a visible flag-bearing open source project would probably chuck a bucket of ice cold water over any IT manager looking to move towards open source software for anything.

Of course, it doesn't necessarily mean that these projects are going to die, but it is certainly true that the innovations are going to be slower and less impressive.

As to where the developers have gone... well... if I were, say, a Linux developer, I know what I would be doing now: I would be writing small, elegant bits of software for the Mac. Why? Because porting it is extremely easy, Mac users are used to paying for software and they are grateful for the massive increase in applications that have become available since the release of Mac OS X.

Seriously, as far as really useful pieces of cheap, easy-to-use, innovative software go, I think that the Mac is now possibly the best platform. Over the last few years, there seem to have been enormous numbers of applications released that do just one thing really, really well and cost, say, $30–$100.

My favourite coding aplication, for instance, is not the massive, hundreds-of-pounds behemoth that is Dreamweaver, but the light and innovative Coda ($99, and a review); I am also currently testing (and liking) the rather super Espresso.

I now often use VectorDesigner ($70) rather than the expensive Illustrator (which also, in my opinion, is pretty close to having the worst interface design I have ever used). For those who want a Photoshop-style programme, though I haven't used it myself, the $50 Acorn has come very highly recommended.

I do all of my estimates, time-keeping and invoices with iBiz ($50), and I have already mentioned the large number of browsers that have also appeared.

There are a number of other little apps that I use, all of which are useful and which follow the same pattern: they do one thing really well, integrate beautifully with the Mac system, and are affordable for the ordinary punter.

More and more often, I find myself enthusing about pieces of software as solutions to friends' problems—this morning I was recommending iBiz to a lawyer—and then find myself having to stop, realising that they are Windows-based.

That's not to say that there aren't similar applications for Windows and that I don't know about them: it's entirely possible. I am merely saying that this trend is particularly prevalent—when it never has been before—on the Mac at this time. And, from reading Mac and tech blogs, a lot of the people developing these apps were previously developing for Linux and other open source OSes.

DISCLAIMER: I own an insignificant number of Apple shares.

So what's the fucking problem?

Apparently, this practice of making criminals wear clothing that declares that they are criminals is hurting their poor wee souls.
Criminals wearing orange jackets while working in the community have been abused and jeered at by members of the public, according to study by leaders of the probation officers.

Good. Since ASBOs and tags have apparently become status symbols amongst the varied and assorted scrotes of this country, I have long advocated punishments that involve public humiliation—such as being put in the stocks, naked.
Napo said that opposition was normally on the grounds that wearing the vest demeaned the criminal or that doing unpaid work in the community was punishment itself without offenders having to wear jackets.

Nope: I think that these jackets are a great idea. Apart from anything else, they make a nice, clear distinction between those who are genuinely helping out in the community voluntarily, and those who are doing it because they are horrible criminals who are being punished.
Mr Fletcher said that since the vests were introduced at the beginning of the month there had been several instances of abuse being shouted at criminals. In one case a group of youths shouted “smackheads, lowlifers” at a group working in the community and in another instance cans were thrown at offenders.

Oh, my bleeding fucking heart: the poor wee fuckers. Not. And the fact that a whole bunch of limp, hand-wringing public sector wankers won't take people wearing jackets is their problem, frankly. Fuck 'em.

Personally, I think that these criminal bastards should be grateful: they are getting away quite lightly considering what I would do to them...

Gaza: "the globe's largest sink-estate"

At the risk of bringing down another shitstorm, I'll admit that I have a slight tendency to back the Israelis generally. Partially it's because I admire the fact that they have managed to take a shitty bit of nothing-much desert and build a decent economy and standard of life, as well as resisting three attempted invasions by nominally superior forces (and no, that doesn't mean that I unthinkingly back everything that they do, OK?).

The rest of the reasons for my bias are admirably espoused by Counting Cats, particularly this one.
  1. Israel is a civilised first world country. Gaza is a dark-age nightmare. I think Ayn Rand had something to say on always backing civilisation against whatever and Gaza is most definitely whatever. I can easily imagine holidaying in Israel and I bet you can too. Honestly can you see anyone in anything resembling their right mind booking a fortnight in the Gaza Hilton? I’d rather spend a fortnight in Paris Hilton.

Yes, it may be slightly facetious (and that last line made me laugh out loud) but I think that it does address where some of my bias comes from.

And the rest of the post is pretty spot-on too (at least from my point of view) and I recommend that you read it in full...

Operation: Long Rescue

Apologies for the lightish blogging: I spent a good deal of yesterday trying to get Longrider back up and running. It's a surprisingly difficult process: WordPress's XML import only allows file sizes of 2MB and, even after hacking the script to allow up to 22MB, Longrider's 19.5MB of data just kept ensuring that the webpage timed out.

Eventually, I had to go into the database administrator on my server and paste in the SQL dump. However, this caused issues on its own (different admin backends, I suspect) and it was only after three hours or so of removing corrupted tables, hacking out unused data and generally cleaning things up that I finally managed to get things up and running.

And this morning a corrupted table brought the whole thing down again. Might I advise those running WordPress not to install a plugin called WP-User-Online; it was this that was causing a lot of the problems, with both my own server and with Longrider's original hosts.
Update: I wrote the original post two days ago – but it became lost during the recovery. Since then, someone called Jonathan has replied [from LR's hosting company]:
I’ve spent some time reviewing the Slow MySQL Queries logs and what I’m seeing, up until the 26th when there appears a query should the addition of a Cache plugin, before this point resides thousands of slow queries, each suggesting use of Whos Online plugins, as well as other plugins that are poorly constructed, and have simply been running rampant on the server.

Who’s Online plugins make database hits for each request made to the server, this counts for the same visitor refreshing the same page, viewing images, as well as any CSS, Javascript, external php files, pretty much everything loaded in association with your site, so with one page load, the Who’s Online plugin can log up to a thousand database hits easily, if there are lots of assets involved, and when we talk more than one visitor at the same time, the whole mess can get out of hand on an exponential level.

Yikes. Seriously, one should be very careful of all of these plugins: many, indeed most, are pretty robust, but it only needs one rogue to bring down your installation and, probably, your host's servers...

Driven to distraction

One would have thought that, given the current financial crisis, that the government would have enough on its plate, but o no. It seems that these NuLabour fucktards just simply cannot leave anything alone—and this time they're coming for your driving licence.
Drivers will have to declare every 10 years whether they are medically able to get behind the wheel, according to proposals to be set out early in the new year.

For the first time, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) will issue a series of minimum physical and mental requirements motorists must fulfil including eyesight performance and reaction times.

On the face of it, this isn't entirely unreasonable; an American acquaintance of mine points out that, in that country, a basic medical is required upon renewal of a driving licence. However, the fee is, apparently, about $15. What is our government proposing to charge?
Tests, costing up to £80, will be offered to drivers to check whether they are fit to drive

£80? Look, I shall invoke the spirit of the blessed Tim Worstall here, but if we, as a society, think that this measure is a good thing, then we, as a society, should pay for it, i.e. the cost should come out of general taxation. This is simply another way for a cash-strapped government to raise more cash: that is all.

Besides, who the fuck is going to do these medicals? It would surely have to be a qualified medico, no? And it isn't like we are rolling in a massive flood of doctors hanging about with nothing to do (despite the impression that the god-awful BMA might give). So, do we assume that these tests will be undertaken by the Nurse Quacktitioners of which Dr Crippen is so fond? Or will it be some unqualified nitwit in the DVLA?

Oh, but there is more fuckwittery to come...
The move is designed to weed out tens of thousands of motorists – many of them elderly – who use their cars while suffering from conditions which could make them a danger to themselves or others.

"We are trying to improve road safety and help drivers fulfil their obligations. What we have now doesn't work," said a Whitehall source.

Right. Why?
"At the moment the DVLA is sifting through a large number of medical records and simply ends up giving people their licences back.

Riiiight. So, what you are saying is that those fucking idiots at the DVLA are unable to do their jobs effectively? That, although people are declaring their illnesses, the DVLA are unable to cope with the time required to assess whether or not, from a simple declaration on a form, these people should be driving?

Then what the fuck makes you think that these bureacratic nitwits will be able to cope with everyone coming to them with a full medical test every ten years, you stupid cunt?
"The DVLA is not getting at those drivers who should be letting it know about their medical conditions. We really want people to take responsibility."

People are taking responsibility, you utter shitbag; they are declaring illnesses. But you state employee cunts are not doing your jobs properly, are you? Fucking hell, but you people are a bunch of incompetent, mendacious cuntbags, you really are.

This isn't even the standard NuLabour (and Boris) tactic of punishing the innocent for the crimes of the guilty: this is the state punishing the innocent for the failures and laxness of their own employees and systems!
Anyone who chooses not to take the tests but declares themselves able to take to the roads will be committing a criminal offence if they fail to meet the established standards.

Oh, right. So, it will be voluntary initially, will it? And then, of course, there will be a few incidents, and these tests will become "voluntary", in the NuLabour (and Melanie Reid) interpretation of the term, i.e. compulsory.

Does anyone think that this move won't be a complete and utter clusterfuck? After all, just about everything that NuLabour has touched has turned to turds.

I think that we should elect governments on, say, five manifesto pledges. And they would not be allowed to start on another pledge until they could prove that the steps that they had currently undertaken had actually benefitted people. One step at a time, you see. If these cunts brought all of government to bear on one project at a time, they might just get it right.

I wouldn't fucking bet on it though.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Israel's Christmas present to Gaza

Israel has caused yet more outrage by launching attacks on Gaza. Whilst your humble Devil deplores the loss of civilian life, he has to agree with Iain Dale's article on this matter (not something that happens often). Whilst Iain's article is fairly comprehensive and worth reading in full, for me it is the following paragraph that sums up the issue.
Hamas broke the ceasefire by firing more rockets into Israel. Imagine if this had happened here. Imagine if France fired rockets onto Dover from Calais. Would the British people expect its government to stand idly by and do nothing? Of course not.

The simple fact is that Israel endures near-daily rocket attacks from Gaza; let's face it, when the Israelis withdrew from the Gaza Strip, it took less than a week for Hamas to start firing rockets into Israel.

As Iain points out, many people blame Israel for the appalling living standards in Gaza.
They are wrong. Hamas is to blame for keeping its people in abject poverty. Israel handed over the governmental administration of the Gaza Strip in 2005 to the Palestinian Authority. They had an opportunity to run it themselves. Instead, since Hamas took power, they have done everything in their power to keep their people in poverty and use it as an excuse to radicalise those who are inclined to believe their propaganda. But even despite this, Israel was providing huge amounts of humanitarian aid to Gaza - more than 4,000 truck loads a month as well as fuel and electricity (despite the ongoing rocket attacks). Conditions were by no means good, but there was no humanitarian crisis, according to Khaled Abdel Shaafi, director the United Nations Development Programme in Gaza. He said this month that "this is not a humanitarian crisis... It's an economic crisis, a political crisis, but it's not a humanitarian crisis. People aren't starving."

Whilst it is appalling that civilians are being killed, as with Hezbollah in Lebanon, there would be far fewer casualties were Hamas not firing their rockets from civilian areas. And whilst one could argue that this is not the fault of the Palestinians, one could equally argue that if the Palestinians did not condone these attacks then... well... maybe they should not have elected Hamas to the be their government (although I admit that the choice at the time was, roughly speaking, between a fresh turd and a slightly less fresh turd).

If, of course, Hamas gave two shits about the people of Palastine, one would have thought that they would at least allow them to receive medical treatment but apparently not.
Egypt says the Hamas militant group, which controls Gaza, is preventing hundreds of wounded Palestinians from leaving for treatment in Egypt.

Cairo says dozens of empty ambulances are at the Rafah crossing - the only one to Gaza which avoids Israel.

And as David Davis at the Libertarian Alliance points out, if Hamas actually gave two shits for the people that it is supposed to represent, then maybe they should look at their spending priorities?
If they can afford rockets, they can afford food, which is much cheaper!

Quite. Still, why bother, eh, when the European Union is busy bunging them large amounts of our money in order to buy more rockets educate Palestinian children into thinking the Jews are lower than animals legitimately develop their government spending programmes?

There are any numbers of "on one side but on the other" arguments that one can have about this situation but, for me, there really is only one relevant point to make: do you think that Israel, given that it has for some 60 years now, have the right to continue to exist?

Yes, one can say that it should never have been set up in the first place, but it was and it now exists: given that, does Israel have the right to defend itself? Did Israel have the right to defend herself when the Arabs tried to invade—three fucking times?

If you think that Israel shouldn't exist (given the above conditions) and thus has no right to defend herself, will you please have the balls to say so. Thank you.

UPDATE: Old Holborn has a debate going on over at his place, and he has published this rather revealing map.

It is, of course, a little disingenuous, since this map only goes up to 2000 and thus reflects none of the concessions that the Israelis have made since then. Just to throw fuel on the fire, here is the comment that I have left over at Old Holborn's post.

Let's leave aside the Bradford question, shall we? It's a little bit silly.

Let us instead consider what you would do were France – or, indeed, Ireland – to launch rockets, thousands of them, on London.

Let us also consider concessions that have been made by the Israelis over the last few years (for I notice that, somewhat disingenuously) your happy map only goes up to 2000).

They gave back (partially, admittedly) the Gaza Strip. The Knesset removed Israeli settlers from there, and parts of the West Bank (provoking the opprobrium of their own people). One might say that Israel is at least trying to make some concessions, no?

Or would you not?

I would say that they are: the things that you say that they have not allowed in the Gaza Strip – a port, or an airport, for instance – are fairly fucking sensible, no? If you were Israel – constantly under attack – would you simply allow your enemies to bring in fuck loads of weapons by boat, or allow them an easy launchpad for airstrikes?

If you are, you are a tactical numpty and I hope that you never become a Defence Minister for this country.

If the transfer of Gaza had gone well, and rockets had not been launched within three fucking days of it being "returned", then I am sure that more concessions might have been made.

As it is, the Israeli government would be fucking stupid to allow any kind of major trade route into Gaza that by-passed Israeli checkpoints because then the amount of weaponry would increase exponentially.


The Bradford question is silly: four people from Bradford killed 54 people on the Tube in the name of a religion and in protest at our invasion of another sovereign country. No doubt, in Old Holborn's eyes, these deaths were justified—have we given Bradford their own port, airport or tax system? No, damn it all: we haven't!

Come people of Bradford: rise up and start firing rockets at London: Old Holborn says you can!

As I have said, I don't necessarily condone Israel's actions, but I do understand them.

UPDATE 2: another gentleman has left a decent, non-rabid and pretty historically accurate comment over there (which I reproduce in full).
I apologise, but this is a little long.

An unbelievable amount of crap is burning my computer screen here, from garbage about mixed-marriage children being deported from Israel, to "Palestinian" land being appropriated. It's normal to support one side or another in a war even when they're both pretty rank (I'm talking about Bosnia, stupid), but that doesn't give anyone free rein to spout a whole lot of lies. A little basic knowledge would be helpful, instead of visceral hatred from people who "have no problem with Jews" but detest "ZioNazi Israelis", "especially the women" (you wish, Max-I-mean-Ampers). You yourself, OH, referred to "Yid moneylenders" in a recent post but hey, if you're offended, don't come here, right? Right.

In spite of the the crap on the map, there has never, ever, ever been a state called Palestine, nor a nation of people called Palestinians. They exist in the same way as, for example, Yorkshiremen (among whom, of course, there are now many Muslims). Gaza and the West Bank were part of Egypt and Jordan respectively from 1948 to 1967. They, and the rest of the territory, were part of a wider British Mandate until 1948 when Israel became independent. They were occupied in 1967 when some bastard neighbours used the areas to attack Israel.

Secondly, no one ever pushed anyone out of the region called Palestine. In 1948 the Arab states warned the people living in the area that they would attack the fledgling state and that for their own good it would be as well to get out, at the same time expelling almost 900,000 Jews from cities such as Baghdad and Damascus, who had lived there for over a thousand years. Many of these people, unsurprisingly, came to Israel and instead of living in "refugee camps", they built things like houses and cities. This may help dorks who call Israel a "racist colony" understand why there are over a million Muslim Arabs in Israel today, including Muslim MPs and a Muslim cabinet member.

Now that we have the facts straight, we have to look at the realities. The Palestinian leaders have wasted 60 years and squandered every dollar and opportunity given to them. They have as much chance of getting their homes back as the Baghdad Jews do of getting theirs, but the leaders are divided between messianic religious fundamentalism and corruption on a massive scale, and the Europeans, who created the problem in the first place, pay lip service to both and prolong the agony.

But the ordinary Palestinian sees a white, mainly European, almost totally highly educated and middle-class people living across the border and he doesn't like the skank he seems to have to put up with on his side of the border where he has little chance of either a decent education or a decent job outside the "security forces". So to give his life meaning after he's watched the 15th rerun of Dynasty, he goes out and stabs a Jewish child or launches a rocket (courtesy of the mullahs) from the nearest school playground. What? You mean they didn't tell you?

It must be obvious to anyone that the only way out of this is a) to get rid of Hamas and b) for the Arab states to sign a peace treaty with Israel and pour money into setting up a state with a high standard of living. The first is possible; the second unlikely as even in their own countries, there is an enormous underclass, so we are not going to see a new Dubai or Sharm-el-Sheikh, let alone the fabled Singapore we all hoped for. But there is no point giving up trying, unless we want to see all the states in the region come toppling down and turning into new Irans.

If you have been, as the man said, thank you for reading.

Thank you for writing.

UPDATE 3: do feel free to wander over to Old Holborn's place and see him attempting to wriggle out of his ridiculous Bradford analogy (by the simple expedient of trying to pretend that he never said anything about it).

Oh, and have a giggle at his less than subtle "Israelis" equals "the Nazis" hints. Oh, and see him justify Hamas "throwing fireworks over the fence" because they are "a democratically elected party", but attack a democratically elected party in Israel for lobbing some back.

Can anyone say "hypocrisy"...?

UPDATE 4: Chris Gilmour has been good enough to update Old Holborn's map to 2007. There's rather more Palestinian land than there was in 2000, reflecting the fact that... [drum roll]... the Israelis have been attempting to make concessions.

In other news, D-Squared comments on the actual rules on proportionality in military conflicts.

Neal Asher interview

Those of you who are sci-fi fans may have encountered the books of Neal Asher. Neal blogs and is also a fairly regular commenter at The Kitchen (and was kind enough to send me one of his books a few months ago).

Neal has done an interview with Sci-Fi-London website, which you can watch should you so desire. It is interesting to hear an author talking about how he creates his books, and the characters and worlds therein.

From your humble Devil's point of view, I was gratified to hear the interviewer point out that Neal is a "supporter of the Libertarian Party" (about 9 minutes in)...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Just to say, your humble Devil has been exhausted and he is now on the road to... well... not being so exhausted.

He will be back in the saddle again—both blog and work wise—on Monday morning. See you then...

A quick word on browsers

Indulge me for a bit (or skip this post if you have no interest)...

Over all platforms, we have come a long way from the dark days when the only web browsers available were Internet Explorer and Netscape. This trend has been especially notable on the Mac—following the trend of software generally since the move to a Free BSD-based OS (Mac OS X)—and there are now a plethora of browsers to choose from.

One that we do not have to choose is, of course, Internet Exploder: Microsoft stopped development of IE Mac earlier this decade, after Apple released Safari as the Mac's default browser. I cannot say that I am disappointed: all versions of IE have dodgy rendering of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS: the code used to control the appearance of web pages), and IE 5 Mac was simply another headache—since the MS Mac development team is mostly independent, IE 5 Mac rendered completely differently from IE 5 Windows. Having said that, of course, IE 5 Mac was the first mainstream browser to add any kind of support for CSS, and so the MS Mac team should be thanked for that!

Of course, although there are now many, many browers to choose from, there are only a few rendering engines and, as a CSS designer, this is what matters to me. Broadly speaking, there are four main rendering engines in wide usage: Gecko, Webkit, Trident and Presto.

The most insignificant (though not without its fanatical followers) is Presto, a proprietory engine used by the Opera browser.

Trident is the collective name for all of the various rendering engines used in the assorted releases of Internet Explorer. I think that my readers will know the loathing with which I regard IE and that it pisses me off, every day of my life, that I have to hack my beautiful, simple and elegant CSS in order to cater for its defects.

Most interesting at present are the two remaining engines, the first of which is Gecko. The Gecko engine obeys most CSS standards and the latest version (1.9.x) adds support for some non-standard code too, e.g. CSS rounded corners and drop shadows. Browsers that use Gecko include Firefox (and the next version alpha, Shiretoko), Camino (my favourite all-round browser, with new Camino v2 beta), Flock and the Seamonkey application suite.

Camino is my personal favourite browser and I would highly recommend it. It is a Mac OS only browser and, since it is build specifically for that OS, is far faster than Firefox—it just feels less like wading through treacle. Sure, it doesn't have the add-on architecture that Firefox has, but it does most things that I need to do anyway and it doesn't take 83 million years to open a new window. The main reason that I still use it is simply because I have for years, however, and I have yet to make the leap to a far more exciting browser...

For, as a web developer, one browser beats them all: Webkit. Webkit came out of the KHTML rendering engine and is both the name of the rendering engine and of a browser.

Webkit is the Open Source project run by Apple and the rendering engine's progression is regularly reincorporated into the Safari browser. However, the Webkit browser is what you want to use if you want to see some seriously cutting edge CSS stuff such as reflections, masks, gradients, transforms and animations, all controlled through CSS. For exciting developments in CSS, no other rendering engine comes close.

Since Webkit is, like Gecko, Open Source, it has been incorporated into numerous other browsers; each one is pretty unique—each one attempting to bring new functionality to their browser.

Some are simply a proof of concept, like the Google Chrome-emulating Stainless; others provide novel interface enhancements, like Shiira or Cruz (this latter has the potential to be stunningly good).

And, of course, Google's Chrome (although it has yet to arrive on Mac OS) is already gathering a considerable amount of market share, considering how recently it was released.

There are probably many more that I have missed (and I have only really tested the Mac OS ones, obviously) but the point is made: there are a huge number of small companies releasing great browsers that obey W3C code standards.

Actually, they are better, for the browser developers do not move at the glacial pace of the W3C—it seems likely, for instance, that widespread use of CSS rounded corners will be implemented long before the official CSS3 standards are agreed (and thank fuck for that: flexible rounded corners are an absolute bitch to simulate properly with images).

It seems that drop shadows, too, will also be widely done through CSS (and they are, in some circumstances, utterly impossible to do properly): Webkit already supports them, and the next edition of Firefox will also (the current version already does text drop shadows).

It's all looking like we developers will be able to do a lot more, with a lot less effort. Now, if people would just get rid of IE and move to a better browser (or if IE would simply buck its ideas up), then we'd be laughing.

Oh, and everyone would get faster-loading, nicer-looking and better-functioning websites...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Yet another fusion experiment

It seems that nuclear fusion is all the rage these days: here's another type of fusion—laser-ignition—that is about to be tested.
In the spring, a team will begin attempts to ignite a tiny man-made star inside a laboratory and trigger a thermonuclear reaction.

Its goal is to generate temperatures of more than 100 million degrees Celsius and pressures billions of times higher than those found anywhere else on earth, from a speck of fuel little bigger than a pinhead. If successful, the experiment will mark the first step towards building a practical nuclear fusion power station and a source of almost limitless energy.

At a time when fossil fuel supplies are dwindling and fears about global warming are forcing governments to seek clean energy sources, fusion could provide the answer. Hydrogen, the fuel needed for fusion reactions, is among the most abundant in the universe. Building work on the £1.2 billion nuclear fusion experiment is due to be completed in spring.

Scientists at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in Livermore, nestled among the wine-producing vineyards of central California, will use a laser that concentrates 1,000 times the electric generating power of the United States into a billionth of a second.

The result should be an explosion in the 32ft-wide reaction chamber which will produce at least 10 times the amount of energy used to create it.

Although, of course, this is another American effort. Whilst they look to the future, here in the UK, we are still toying with windmills, the energy-generating efforts of the Middle Ages...

Bloody Devil #19 and the comment of the year

The Bloody Devil Award is for people who fisk objects of public derision but who also pepper the post with gratuitous but intensely satisfying insults.

Lots of people have roundly condemned that fucking wanker, Andy "spiv" Burnham, for his piece-of-shit comments on censuring the internet.

Two of the best are the line-by-line fisking by Harry Haddock, and the howl of fantastic rage from Counting Cats In Zanzibar. So excellent is this latter rant, that it entirely deserves the receipt of Bloody Devil #19. Here's a sample...
I am now forced to use one of my Gran’s phrases, “It’s neither fair nor right - like the darkie’s left tit” because Andy Burnham’s idea is neither fair nor right and frankly I’m gunning to get CC R18 rated. What precisely is he worried about the children seeing? Oh, and “think of the children” is the first refuge of the scoundrel. That’s the first thing that’s wrong with it.

I have no idea what sort of bizarre world Mr Burnham imagines the bubble-wrap generation are growing-up in. Mr Burnham is quite simply a Righteous wanker. He is self-fellating himself over a non-issue and trying to make life a little bit more miserable for us for reasons of his own self-aggrandisement.

They are utter scum and (in a sane World) possibly more to be pitied than laughed at. Think of this: the greatest exponent of AGW is a politico who knows fuck all about fluid mechanics, helioseismology, climatology, computer-modelling or anything to the purpose. He even won a bloody Nobel Prize! This is The Endarkening folks. Please hold on tight and obey seat-belt rules…

Your humble Devil will get around to giving that evil cunt Burnham a fucking kicking soon enough but, in the meantime, I'd like to leave you with a comment from Ian B (an occasional and welcome commenter at The Kitchen) which appeared over at the Counting Cats post.
So, anyway. What’s going on?

It’s not much use thinking in terms of Left and Right. What we call the “Left” have always been friends with those we term the “Right”. The communists are gone, wiped out in the 80s. So what we’re left with are upper class social authoritarians, fabians, whatever you want to call them. And as the book I linked to above shows, they have always gone hand in hand with business interests. Most obviously, look at whose names those big charitable foundations who have been so crucial to the success of the modern total state operate- Rockefeller, Carnegie, RW Johnson, Ford… both “the left” and Big Biz pushing constantly for the hive society, in which we subjects are moulded by the school system to be servants of that corporate (in the broadest terms) state. Free-marketeers, genuine ones, libertarians, get little support from big business for that reason. They don’t want free citizens, they want good little workers churned out for them by the schools. And so on.

Our ruling junta are technologically and scientifically ignorant, yes. But they’re ignorant about everything they wish to control- human nature, economics, everything. It doesn’t matter.

Controlling things means pushing those things into the hands of elite-insider corporate groups. Taking the internet, their goal is to kill the small, independent site. By heaping on compliance costs, they can simply force the small website owner (like me) off the web. At the moment, I can run a website for a few pounds a year- I can buy a domain name in a few minutes, some shared hosting, I’m up and running. That horrifies them. It’s so difficult to control.

Once it’s gone, it’ll be almost impossible to get back, like the High Street killed by the out-of-town development. As the small websites vanish, the business infrastructure that supports them will disappear too, such as webhosts. Web presence will be consolidated into the hands of those who can afford the compliance- big business, big charity, NGOs, governments. Anyone else will be forced to ask for a voice at sites run by corporations- “you may have a blog if you follow our AUP”. And those corporations, even those not actively part of the Big Guv movement, can be easily brought to heel- a few people to be called in for a chat with the minister.

I don’t think there’s anything really we can do to stop this. They have, for the moment, won. I haven’t seen a single useful suggestion of strategy for stopping The Enemy, in all my travels on the web. There are blogs moaning like buggery, but nothing practical being done, because these people are ignorami at everything useful, but incredibly organised and skilled at political control- because that is all they care about. They can have a scare up and running and everyone screaming for Something To Be Done before we’re even out of the pub. They know we’re beaten. They know that there’s nothing we can do. They know that we could get ten million people marching through Trafalgar Square (licensing permitting) and it wouldn’t get mentioned on the news and would have no effect.

Probably the key historical thing about the ascent of Blair to the purple was that that marked the historical turning point when they had won; when they had reached that critical mass of control of the hegemony they had been working towards since the Webbs began their little society. They have bulldozed every resistive attempt out of the way; they know they cannot now face a mass revolt, for they have successfully remodelled the population to such a state that that cannot happen. Yes, there are still a few angry stranglers yelling swearily about it, but they can be cheerfully ignored. The memory of what was is now down the hole; even those few resisting have no personal experience of a free society and can only try to piece together narratives of how things might have been; for the rest, the past has been refashioned as such a terror that none now would dare return to any aspect of it. Even many who think they are resisting cling instead to something they call conservatism which when analysed reveals itself as nothing but a desire to return to the earlier stage of progressive authoritarianism when cruder force was used.

We’ve lost. We’re not losing. It’s over. It makes me sad, it makes me incandescent with fury, but there’s nothing I can do. The barbarians aren’t at the gates. They aren’t inside the gates. They’re in the palace, and most of the population are convinced that barbarianism is just what the place needs.

And just personally, I feel a grim sense of “I Told You So” that cheers me not a whit. Ten years ago I was saying, the governments will take control of the internet and destroy its freedom, and all I heard was utopian bollocks about how it routes around censorship and can’t be controlled and we’d be free forever now and technology had saved us. And I was saying, enjoy it while it’s here and dismissed as a depressive Eeyore. Well, the information society is going to be, already is in many ways, a tyranny of degree unimaginable to past generations, a tyranny of which historical tyrants could only dream. The first society in which there is truly, absolutely, no place to hide. We’re on its cusp now. Fun’s over, kids.
"It will soon be possible to assert almost continuous control over every citizen and to maintain up-to-date files containing even the most personal details about health and personal behavior of every citizen, in addition to the more customary data. These files will be subject to instantaneous retrieval by the authorities. Power will gravitate into the hands of those who control information."—Zbigniew Brzezinski, 1970

This is how your humble Devil feels in his darker moments but, nevertheless, I shall continue to rant and rave and argue that my position is right; I shall continue to shout and swear and try to convince people to, at the very least, think about their political beliefs.

It may be futile, I shall not go gentle into that dark night and I shall "rage, rage against the dying of the light."

Friday, December 26, 2008

Fusion of cheapness and power

As regular readers will know, your humble Devil has been following the progress of the current experiments, being undertaken by the Emc2 Corporation, with the Polywell Fusor fusion reactor.

Last time that I reported on this, we were waiting to hear on the latest round of experimental results from the WB7 reactor which was reported to be running "like a top".

As reported by the IEC Fusion Technology blog, the current results appear to be encouraging.
Alan Boyle at Cosmic Log announces the results of the WB-7 Bussard Fusion Reactor (BFR) experiments. And the results? No show stoppers so far.
An EMC2 team headed by Los Alamos researcher Richard Nebel (who's on leave from his federal lab job) picked up the baton from Bussard and tried to duplicate the results. The team has turned in its final report, and it's been double-checked by a peer-review panel, Nebel told me today. Although he couldn't go into the details, he said the verdict was positive.

"There's nothing in there that suggests this will not work," Nebel said. "That's a very different statement from saying that it will work."

By and large, the EMC2 results fit Bussard's theoretical predictions, Nebel said. That could mean Polywell fusion would actually lead to a power-generating reaction. But based on the 10-month, shoestring-budget experiment, the team can't rule out the possibility that a different phenomenon is causing the observed effects.

"If you want to say something absolutely, you have to say there's no other explanation," Nebel said. The review board agreed with that conservative assessment, he said.

The good news, from Nebel's standpoint, is that the WB-7 experiment hasn't ruled out the possibility that Polywell fusion could actually serve as a low-cost, long-term energy solution. "If this thing was absolutely dead in the water, we would have found out," he said.

If Polywell pans out, nuclear fusion could be done more cheaply and more safely than it could ever be done in a tokamak or a laser blaster. The process might be able to produce power without throwing off loads of radioactive byproducts. It might even use helium-3 mined from the moon. "We don't want to oversell this," Nebel said, "but this is pretty interesting stuff, and if it works, it's huge."

Further, the results have been peer-reviewed (in that that means anything).
First of all, our work has been peer reviewed. An independent panel of experts has looked at these results. I don’t believe that there was anyone on the panel who has less than 40 years experience working with magnetic confinement. It included senior professors and people who have managed the fusion program. We asked them for their honest opinions and that’s exactly what we got. We are proceeding with our program in line with their recommendations.

Secondly, the talk-polywell blog has a large variety of people who post there. There are Phd plasma physicists as well people from the general public. I think that’s a good thing. Science needs to be accessible to people.

Rick Nebel (Sent Saturday, December 20, 2008 12:08 PM)

Yes, there are neutrons and the numbers are consistent with the plasmas we are measuring. However, neutrons can be deceptive. A lot of fusion researchers have gotten in trouble in the past by relying on these types of measurements. You need to know where they come from and that's difficult to measure.

R Nebel (Sent Saturday, December 20, 2008 4:31 PM)

Discussed at Talk Polywell.

So, the next step, as far as I can tell, is a slightly larger version of the WB7 to see if the results can be replicated (or bettered) on a larger scale. As has been pointed out before, the Fusors are very cheap and easy to build, so we should see the next version up and running before too long. For more on the whole process, and links to both technical and non-technical explanations and expansions, do visit the IEC Fusion Technology post.

As I have said before, cheap fusion reactors are the Holy Grail of energy generation: if Emc2 can stick to their schedule, then life could get very exciting, very soon.

Meanwhile, in the UK, the government are still pissing our money up the wall on massively expensive, useless, pointless, piece-of-shit windmills...

UPDATE: and as if by magic, Bishop Hill went for a little walk on Boxing Day...
Fifteen turbines I counted, and guess how many were actually operational, at this, the peak time of year for electricity demand? Well, when we arrived, none of the windmills were actually operating at all. After about half an hour, one of them ground into action, so it's not like there wasn't enough wind, although it was a still day. A little later a second one started to rotate a little hesitantly. It didn't last though. A few minutes later, first one and then the other ground to a halt again and it was all still. None had moved again by the time we left.

It's been said again and again that wind farms don't produce power when it's needed and that they can never produce enough, and here is real world evidence of just that. Wind farms are a means for politicians to divert funds to their client companies in the renewables business (in the shape of subsidies), from where it is diverted back to the politicians by means of political donations.

Corruption, pure and simple. And it spoiled my walk.

And that's in Scotland, for fuck's sake, where strong wind is near to being part of the culture...

More asinine alcoholic bollocks

Apparently, people who drink more than the government guidelines face a large hike in life insurance costs.
Middle class drinkers who consume more than their recommended weekly intake of alcohol face paying higher life insurance premiums.

Official guidelines say women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week, and men 21 units – with one unit equivalent to half a pint of beer, a shot of whisky or a small glass of wine.

But the reality shows that many drink far more, with 10 million adults – 20 per cent of men and 30 per cent of women - drinking at a level which is "hazardous" to their health.

Insurers say they are reacting to increases in health-related problems such as cirrhosis of the liver, heart problems and certain cancers.

A woman who drinks 21 units a week, not far above the Government's guidelines, could end up paying an extra £50 a year.

A man drinking 35 units, equivalent to two and a half pints of lager a night, could pay extra premiums of up to £100 a year.

And a man who admitted consuming 50 units a week could see his premiums double from £150 to £300 because his drinking would be categorised as "harmful".

Now, one could argue that this is all fair enough: insurers are simply calculating risk, as they should be. And, of course, those people who choose to drink more should pay more.

Others will argue, of course, that those insurance companies who "admit refusing to pay out claims if they have evidence that they were drink-related" when no such provision was made in the contract are a bunch of evil cunts who should be burned to death.

Both positions have merit, I think.

But what really pisses me off is the measures that insurance companies are using. Let us remind ourselves of some facts—rather than speculation—about alcohol consumption, shall we?
  1. The government figures were plucked from the air, as was reported well over a year ago.
    Guidelines on safe alcohol consumption limits that have shaped health policy in Britain for 20 years were “plucked out of the air” as an “intelligent guess”.

    The disclosure that the 1987 recommendation was prompted by “a feeling that you had to say something” came from Richard Smith, a member of the Royal College of Physicians working party that produced it.

    He told The Times that the committee’s epidemiologist had confessed that “it’s impossible to say what’s safe and what isn’t” because “we don’t really have any data whatsoever”.

    As such, the insurance companies are basing their assessment of safe consumption on flawed data. Well, actually, they are basing it on no data whatso-fucking-ever.

  2. Some reports suggest that drinking more than the government guidelines is actually healthy.
    Subsequent studies found evidence which suggested that the safety limits should be raised, but they were ignored by a succession of health ministers.

    One found that men drinking between 21 and 30 units of alcohol a week had the lowest mortality rate in Britain.

  3. Whilst a man drinking 50 units a week may see a doubling of his premiums, we assume that teetotallers will see no rise. An assessment that insurance companies might start to regret.
    Another [report] concluded that a man would have to drink 63 units a week, or a bottle of wine a day, to face the same risk of death as a teetotaller.

So, if you find that your life insurance premiums are rising (and you need to have life insurance to get a mortgage, remember), you might like to start the preparation of a civil case against the government, Richard Smith and the Royal College of Physicians for deliberate dissemination of inaccurate data, i.e. lies, formed with no basis whatsoever and which has caused you material damage.

Because these are the facts: in order not to look like a collection of know-nothing fuckwits, the Royal College of Physicians—an interfering bunch of fucking medicos who couldn't shut the fuck up—pulled some figures out of the air.

Despite knowing this, successive governments have continued to peddle these lies, using them as the basis for more and more draconian legislation, petty sanctions and illiberal policies.

And because of this consistent, and quite deliberate, lying, you are now being harmed financially.

The government must learn that lying doesn't pay: how are we to teach them this? Other than stringing them all up, of course...

To Miss With Tough Love

Miss Snuffleupagus has decided that Scrooge may have a point.
However, I have always found myself agreeing with Scrooge in one instance and whenever I say so, the people around me roll their eyes. Bob Cratchit requests Christmas Day off. Or rather, Scrooge says to Cratchit, 'I guess you'll be wanting tomorrow off then,' and Cratchit normally responds with something like 'Well, it's Christmas,' and 'It's only once a year.' Scrooge snaps back, 'That's a poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every 25th of December!' Scrooge then points out that Cratchit simply expects his employer to pay him for a day's work, when he hasn't done any work at all.

And you know, every time I hear Scrooge say this, I tend to think, 'But wait a minute... Isn't he right?' (I can hear my readers' deep sighs at this moment.) I mean, what is Cratchit saying after all? He expects something for nothing. And why? Because 'it is Christmas' and it is 'only one day'.

As a matter of fact, as I watched the Alastair Sim version of Scrooge on Christmas Eve (now, bizarrely, in colour, it seems), I thought much the same thing—we are, in fact, picking our employers' pockets when we have a holiday (not that I take very much).

As Miss Snuffleupagus point out, it may be good business practice to give your employees some paid holiday—"a happy staff will work harder and better. One might simply want to give them time off to be nice. As an employer, one may choose to throw lavish Christmas parties in order to thank everyone for their hard work throughout the year"—but that does not alter the fact that, as an employer, one should be able to choose how one wants to behave towards one's staff.

After all, we all sign on the dotted line, do we not? We all read our contracts very carefully, didn't we? (That's why I have had so much time off over Christmas: I realised that I had nearly a week left to take, and my contract stipulated that I could neither carry them over nor take pay in lieu.)
But, let us not look at Scrooge for a moment, but at Cratchit instead. What I cannot bear about Cratchit in this instance is his sense of entitlement. Interestingly, as the story was written in 1843, Bob only feels entitled to Christmas Day. I wonder what the modern day Cratchit would expect? Well, a 35-hour-week to start and the right not to do much work in the job. I guess a year's maternity leave, a redundancy package perhaps for when one gets 'fired' for being so poor at one's job, oh, and then a flat to house the new family, free healthcare, free education, free school meals, free books and pens, free visits to the theatre and museums, free travel. Have I forgotten anything?

As an employer, I would have given Cratchit a day off: it makes him happy and, since everyone else is likely to be off too, very little work could be done. This is one of the reasons that I like Christmas—it is the only time of year when one can be reasonably certain that one will not have to deal with (corporate) clients and so one can actually relax.

Still, all of this does segue into the debate in the comments on my 48 Hour Week post, in which various people bemoaned their working conditions and whined about how evil employers are and how bad they themselves have it (believe me, my eyes remained entirely dry).

For the record, I do not get paid for overtime—although, at present, I probably work at least 50 hours a week and often more. Why do I do this?

First, I love what I am doing: I want to work on it.

Second, I want my company to be successful: if it does well, then so will I.

Third, and following on from the above, although I do not get directly paid for overtime, my company have made it very clear that they are willing to reward me for my efforts, and have demonstrated that they will make good on that promise (my six month review saw me get a very generous pay rise and a number of other bonuses).

Many of the commenters on the thread were utterly unable to see this point of view: they could only see it in terms of eeeeeeeeeeevil employers exploiting poor, downtrodden employees (thus marking themselves out as people that I would never, ever employ: it is almost the very definition of "having the wrong attitude" as far as your humble Devil is concerned).

Throughout those comments, the theme of "entitlement" runs right through. Here's one Anonymous, for instance...
If you want to work for yourself work all the hours you want, but you shouldn't be able to pressure someone into working longer than 48 hours a week.

These laws ensure that we're entitled to a personal life as well as a work life.

Your argument is equally as valid against the minimum wage, as in, "why should anyone tell me I shouldn't work for under £5.60 and hour etc..." yet that solved the problem of people being paid a pittance.

First, people have to decide whether or not they want the job that they are being offered for the wage that they are being offered: this applies both to the conditions and the wage itself. My contract, for instance, states that I have "no normal hours of work", although it then stipulates what would be considered "office hours".

As for the minimum wage... well... we all know that the minimum wage is great, as long as your labour is worth £5.73 per hour. If it isn't, you cannot get a job. And since you cannot get a job, you cannot increase your human capital to bring your labour up to the required standard. Which is why, of course, we have such high levels of youth unemployment.

But the real kicker is, quite obviously, this line.
These laws ensure that we're entitled to a personal life as well as a work life.

No. These laws, once again, take away the responsibility that you have to ensure that you have a personal life as well as a work life, and makes it the gift of the government instead. And the point is that it is another one size fits all solution: I couldn't really give a shit about my personal life, and I like working; others do feel differently; what I regard as a decent work/life balance is probably different from yours but, as has been said so many times, the law is a blunt instrument.

If you want a personal life, then might I suggest that you read the contract that you are signing and ensure that it allows for this? Might I suggest, in fact, that you take responsibility for your own life and stop applauding laws that screw up mine?

But all too many people simply cannot see this at all—their sense of entitlement blinds them. And now, of course, they are so used to responsibility for their lives being handled by the state that they cannot even conceive of how they should do it themselves.

Via The Englishman, this Hugo Rifkind article puts the point quite succinctly, in fact.
Have you noticed how you don't really hear the phrase “nanny state” any more? It seems to have fallen out of fashion. This could be mainly due to a very deliberate shift in Tory cultural linguistics (Dave and Sam, of course, would only ever talk about au pairs) but I fear that there is something altogether more insidious going on. We don't talk about the nanny state because the nanny state has won. It has seeped in.

In years to come, I reckon, historians will look at the first decade of the new Labour government, and marvel at the extent to which petty legislation actually managed to change the national character. I doubt they meant it to happen. They just wanted to be responsible for everything. Basically, and to bring my degree in philosophy into play, they didn't think that we could be entrusted with duties. They had to turn them all into rights.

Once you stop resenting nanny, you start to rely on her. If nanny tells you to stop smoking in pubs, you probably stop smoking in pubs. But, in time, you also stop thinking about whether you ought to smoke in pubs or not. And worse, if somebody else lights up next to you, you expect nanny to do something about it. It's not your business or even really his. It's just nanny's business. You've both become morons.

A sense of entitlement leads to people looking for someone to give that entitlement; and, since it has a monopoly on force, that "someone" is usually the state. And once the state has handed you one entitlement—why!—it may as well hand you some more. And it may as well make those eeeeeevil employers pay for it, eh? After all, every employer would be a Scrooge if they could be, would they not?

(Well, they would be if labour conditions were not subject, like everything else, to the laws of supply and demand. Which, of course, they are although all of these employment laws (as well as HMRC strictures on "benefits in kind") are making the scope for movement far less wide.)

What we libertarians would like to see is people understanding that if they want to have a personal life then they must make sacrifices elsewhere; and not to demand it as some kind of entitlement. It is not an entitlement: it is not some kind of natural right.

But as everyone clamours for their own special interest, and looks to the state to grant their "entitlements", they simply put themselves further in hock to the state. There is no such thing as a free lunch and even the state wants something in return.

People with half a brain have always understood this; the last ten years have made the slightly less agile-minded comprehend this; unfortunately, the morons—who are in the majority—are still shrieking for their entitlements, and they will damn us all.

Murdering your darlings

No, this is not a post about murdering Alastair Darling and his entire family (that's a treat for later) but rather a post on the creative process—whether than be writing, design, or anything else of that type.

The post comes from The Ministry of Type (one of my favourite design blogs), who has this to say...
This article on writing by James Patrick Kelly should be required reading for anyone involved in any creative activity. I read it years ago, and though I forgot the exact phrase, I’ve followed its basic principles ever since; whenever I’m stuck on a design I remove the thing I like the most and continue to develop the design without it. Almost every time it’s that thing, that darling, that is holding me back, distracting me from the design. I find that what I’m doing is trying to adapt the rest of the design to fit with this thing, rather than than developing the design as a whole. Even if it wasn’t that thing, the act of removing something from the design, that act of subtraction is what frees up my thinking again. The article addresses this nicely, and you can see how it applies to more than writing:
Some writers like to fix problems by addition rather than subtraction. First they layer in just a little more complexity to develop a rounder Aunt Penelope. And then they expand the garage scene, so it will foreshadow the car chase. Last they have Biff’s lawyer explain the rules of evidence to his secretary after the trial so that slow readers will get the end. If these writers worry about wordiness at all, they might tighten a few lines here and there. Drop a “he said,” on page two. Major surgery is for beginners, right?

Nowadays it’s become (almost) a natural process and I find myself peering suspiciously at something that’s just too shiny, too perfect, too lovely, too early in the process. This isn’t to say I remove everything that’s nice from my designs, far from it, but what I tend to do is to move through versions very quickly.

This is a method that I used to use quite a lot when designing. As I have got lazier and, most importantly, more short on time, I have tended to simply go with what works early on. As a result, I think that, although my skill with the applications has increased, my designs have been less immediately eye-catching and less durable.

I think that—when I get some time to do some more artwork—I might consciously adapt to the above as a strategy and see if it works. Because I certainly can't be arsed to do it for my writing...!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

My favourite Christmas present...

Harold Pinter has finally popped his clogs, and I was going to write a pithy and vengeful comment on the tedious little tit. Luckily, Perry has saved me the trouble.
But I must say my favourite gift today was learning that Harold Pinter, a loathsome apologist for oh so many of the most vile mass murderers of modern times has finally dropped dead.

Good riddance and a pox on anyone who mourns his passing.

For me Christmas just got even merrier.

And darling Harold has, no doubt, just joined the express elevator to Hell...

Golden Brown

So this is Christmas, as massively pretentious arse John Lennon once sang (badly), and what have we done, eh?*

Good fucking question: it's been yet another year of political ups and downs, with only one thing remaining constant: the mendacity, stupidity, ignorance, venality, corruption, illiberalism and pure fucking uselessness of our elected representatives remains determinedly unabated.

The cunts.

The biggest story of the year, of course, is the endless hand-wringing and cowardly bailing out of the banks that has constituted the so-called Credit Crunch, and it was only this year that we started to realise the full extent of the financial institutions fuck-ups.

As usual, our government has leapt to the rescue in the only way that they know how: by throwing our hard-earned cash at those who least deserve it. Incredibly, altogether too many of the morons that populate this country seem to think that Gordon Brown—the man whose policies (mainly of spending and spending like it's going out of fashion) were largely responsible for the extremely bad position that the UK finds itself in—is now some kind of financial wizard.


I should, at this point, mention the Tories' sensible policies, not to mention the decisive lead that they have taken in these desperate times, but unfortunately I can't. Because they don't really seem to have either.

And I would summarise the LibDems' exciting progress, but I haven't really seen any. In fact, since Clegg took over, I have even less idea what it is that they stand for than I did before.

Of course, the first of January this year saw the launch of the UK Libertarian Party and that has grown steadily over the year. LPUK have not only sorted out a full manifesto but also made waves with the unofficial party blog.

Your humble Devil (plus assorted LPUK officers) has also spoken at Oxford, Farnborough, Cambridge (twice) and at a Libertarian Alliance dinner, all of which have, in general, been well received; further engagements are being lined up for next year, with your humble Devil's first being in Brussels at the end of January.

We have yet to trouble the MSM or the ballot box (although, in the latter case, our inexperience stymied the efforts that we have so far made) but we hope that new strategies, being adopted next year, yield fruit in both departments.

(Your humble Devil remains reasonably certain that he himself is unlikely to stand for office just yet; my stock reply to those who ask is usually along the lines of "but if I actually got elected, I would have to despise myself." Still, never say never...)

The biggest news on the personal front, of course, is my new job, which has occupied more and more of my time since I started there in April. This is likely to continue until the new web software that I am working on is launched (there's some time to go yet) and probably after, as I start to push the development of the other ideas that have been brewing in my head for the last few years.

Suffice to say that I love what I'm doing (in general), and I hope to be able to reveal more to you all at some point in the first half of the new year. It's going to be pretty amazing, I think, and I and my colleagues are incredibly excited about the direction that we're moving in.

Here at The Kitchen, despite posting being somewhat sporadic of late, the readership continues to grow (some 45%–55% up on this time last year); this blog turns four on the 13th January 2009 and verious writers will certainly have added to the 4,646 posts that currently adorn this blog. But for helping to keep The Kitchen fitter and healthier than its founder, I remain immensely grateful to the contributors, commenters and readers. Please, raise a glass to yourselves!

It only remains for me to wish you all a very merry Christmas and—yes, I shall wish you this, for it looks like we are going to need all the wishing we can get—a happy and prosperous new year.

Chin chin!


* In your humble Devil's case, what I have done is the world's worst caricature of Gordon Brown. However, I am sure that you all appreciate the sentiment. Now, does anyone want a slice? It's mostly fat, piss and wind, unfortunately, but it's the thought that counts...

Guido says, "up yours, Carter-Ruck"...

It seems that Guido has received an injunction, concerning the email accounts of Zac and Sheherazade Goldsmith, from Private Eye's favourite lawyers, Carter-Fuck. Guido's reply seems to be pretty much along the lines of Arkell vs Pressdram...
Guido believes that he is not the only leading blogger to receive the injunction. He is however the only one willing to break it. Unfortunately for Carter-Ruck they seem to have forgotten that since 1922 the orders of British Judges have been happily ignored by us Irish in our own country.

Your humble Devil is, naturally, unable to say whether or not he received any such injunction from said lawyers. Had he received said injunction—as a PDF attachment to an email, for instance—he would have been utterly unaware of what the hell it was all about.

But, like Guido, it might well have alerted him to something of which he was previously unaware; one might even say that it would have been an entirely counter-productive move on the part of the lawyers.
So Carter-Ruck have merely tipped Guido off to a case of which he was previously unaware and Guido will, as a consequence, now share what little he knows with with his co-conspirators as a Christmas treat.

Now, your humble Devil knows nothing of all of this, of course, but if you do want some enlightenment, you might choose to wander over to Guido's place and find out...

P.S. Guido writes...
So we will have a situation where offshore bloggers broadcast the truth to Britons in much the same way as Radio Free Europe get the citizens of the Soviet Empire informed. The legislation won't succeed, only Chinese style internet censorship will prevent the truth getting out. Is that the path politicians want to go down?

Yes, obviously. The waters are already being tested, both by our government and, more importantly (since it has more power than our own government), by the EU. Whether we poor serfs want to go down this route is, of course, as irrelevant to them as the Irish "no" to the Lisbon Treaty...

Monday, December 22, 2008

A 48 hour week

Well, isn't it generous of those nice MEPs to decide that we humble serfs should work no longer than 48 hours every week?
Britain has moved a step closer to being forced to limit the working week to 48 hours for all employees.

Euro MPs have voted in favour of ending Britain's opt-out from the EU working time directive.

If Britain is forced to axe its opt-out, the law will come into force in three years' time.

Fuck you, you scum-sucking sons-of-bitches: who the fuck are you to tell me how many hours I may work, eh? Most of you were not even elected by the voters of this country.
Britain is determined to keep the opt-out and will now start talks with EU ministers in an effort to keep it.

The UK does not have a veto on the issue but it is expected to join forces with other countries who back its position in order to get its way.

A decision is expected early next year following "conciliation" talks with the European council of ministers.

Oh, whoopee-fucking-do! We have to start grovelling to other countries and their god-awful representatives to decide whether or not the people of Britain should be allowed to work the hours that they choose: well, that makes me proud to be British, I must say.

The correct response should be: "fuck you, sunshine. It is none of your business how many hours individuals choose to work. In fact, it is not any business of the UK government's, let alone that of a parliament the majority of whose members are not even British. Fuck you: fuck you right in the ear, you scum."

Naturally, this won't happen. Because our leaders have all had their testicles removed, the shitbags.

No 10: in my fridge

I note, from Dizzy Thinks, that there is a load of merchandise on sale from Number 10. These include fridge magnets, possibly of the Number 10 logo.

I want a Number 10 fridge magnet: I could pretend that my fridge door is actually the entrance to Number 10 Downing Street.

This would bring me comfort because, given the state of my fridge, I can honestly say that I believe that there are more intelligent, competent and less repulsive things growing in my fridge than there are behind the door of the real Number 10.

Madoff: not the biggest Ponzi scheme ever

I was amused to note that Bernard Madoff's massive fucking Ponzi scheme is being heralded as the biggest ever fraud by a single person, being worth some $50 billion (£33.7 billion at today's price). And so it is.
The FBI claims that three senior employees of Mr Madoff's investment firm - once a towering presence on Wall Street - turned up at his apartment on Wednesday to ask questions about the company's solvency. Two of them are believed to be his sons, Andrew and Mark, who have worked for their father for two decades.

Mr Madoff told them that he was "finished", that he had "absolutely nothing", and that "it's all just one big lie". He said the investment arm of his firm was "basically a giant Ponzi scheme," and that it had been insolvent for years.

A Ponzi scheme, named after the swindler Charles Ponzi, is a fraudulent investment operation that pays abnormally high returns to investors paid from money put into the scheme by subsequent investors, rather from real profits generated by share trading.

The FBI complaint states that Mr Madoff told his sons he believed the losses from his scheme could exceed $50 billion. If that is the case, his fraud would be far greater than past Ponzi schemes and easily the greatest swindle perpetrated by one man.

It is not, of course, the biggest Ponzi scheme ever perpetrated; Madoff's little earner was only worth some £33.7 billion over four decades. It's absolute peanuts compared to the biggest Ponzi schemes...

... which are National Insurance Schemes. I don't know enough about such schemes in other countries, but the UK National Insurance scheme will net the government a forecasted £104.56 billion for the 2008/09 tax year [PDF], dwarfing Madoff's four decade take.

For, as I have pointed out many times, NICs is a massive Ponzi Scheme.
Does this sound at all familiar?
Ponzi was bringing in cash at a fantastic rate, but the simplest financial analysis would have shown that the operation was running at a large loss. As long as money kept flowing in, existing investors could be paid with the new money, but colossal liabilities were accumulating.

As with NI, the money was not actually invested: it was simply used as income and the liabilities were paid out of that income. The Ponzi scheme was a massive fraud, and so is NI. As with tax—or, as I prefer to call it, extortion with menaces—if it wasn't the state doing it, the whole scheme would be illegal.

So thank you to Bernard Madoff for reminding us that, in the hands of a private individual, a Ponzi Scheme is a massive and illegal fraud (quite rightly so) but when conducted by a government, it is socially responsible.

And whilst others had the choice of investing with Bernard Madoff (and lost. Well, if something seems too good to be true then it probably is), we do not have that choice: and whilst it is Madoff that will go to prison for Ponzi Scheme fraud, here in Britain it is we investors who will go to prison if we choose not to invest in the UK government's Ponzi Scheme.

Fucking hellski.

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...