Sunday, January 31, 2010

Apple's iPad

Apple's iPad: a thing of beauty—but is it any use?

A number of people—commenting on the blog and in email, IM and physical conversations—have asked your humble Devil for my thoughts on the Apple iPad. Having had a few hours to digest the announcement, and glide around the web to see the opinions of others (most notably this superb rundown from Daring Fireball), I am now ready to unburden myself (with the usual disclaimer*).

First, I would like to say that it is quite obviously a thing of beauty. When Steve Jobs first held it out, between his two hands, I was unconvinced; once he sat down to use it, however, holding it in one hand, I realised that the proportions were exactly right.

Second, there are some features that are sorely lacking (although I expect them to be in the next release). The first is that there is no camera; no, not in the back, but in the front—surely being able to make video-calls via Skype or iChat is an obvious use for the iPad? I cannot understand why this would have been left out, as it would have been superb to demo too. As such, I shall have to put it down to a desire to keep something back for the next edition.

The next gripe here is the lack of multi-tasking—and I have two specific problems (which may or may not transfer to the final product). The first is with music: on the iPhone, some of Apple's applications do run in the background—I am thinking of the Mail programme and of the iPod element. As such, I can listen to music whilst doing other things, e.g. answering an email, etc. I have heard that one cannot do this on the iPad at present and it seems counterintuitive since one can perform these tasks on its smaller sibling.

Further, I have heard that one cannot have more than one Safari browser window open at a time: this, too, is a problem since one of my main activities—blogging—requires me to shuttle back and forth between windows, copying and pasting sections of text and URLs.

As I have pointed out, however, both of these features are present in the iPhone, so it may simply be that the software was not ready for the demo and that Apple intend to replace these features in the two or three months before the iPads actually go on sale. Or, of course, they may be provided in a software update shortly afterwards.

One of the other main criticisms is, of course, that the iPad ecosystem is, like the iPhone, entirely closed—even to the extent that you cannot see the file system. For many, this is, of course, a deal breaker but I am not sure that it entirely matters.

Why? Well, the iPad is clearly not intended, for most people, to be their main computer but an adjunct to it. As long as one can transfer files between the iPad and one's main machine (a Mac Pro in my case—this has relevance later) then this is not really a problem.

In fact, for many people, it might actually be a virtue—as Frasier Speirs notes in his excellent Future Shock article.
For years we've all held to the belief that computing had to be made simpler for the 'average person'. I find it difficult to come to any conclusion other than that we have totally failed in this effort.

I'm often saddened by the infantilising effect of high technology on adults. From being in control of their world, they're thrust back to a childish, mediaeval world in which gremlins appear to torment them and disappear at will and against which magic, spells, and the local witch doctor are their only refuges.

With the iPhone OS as incarnated in the iPad, Apple proposes to do something about this, and I mean really do something about it instead of just talking about doing something about it, and the world is going mental.

Fraser makes the point that many techies are up in arms about this because "secretly, I suspect, we technologists quite liked the idea that Normals would be dependent on us for our technological shamanism" but for many normal people, a computer can be a massive hassle.
The tech industry will be in paroxysms of future shock for some time to come. Many will cling to their January-26th notions of what it takes to get "real work" done; cling to the idea that the computer-based part of it is the "real work".

It's not. The Real Work is not formatting the margins, installing the printer driver, uploading the document, finishing the PowerPoint slides, running the software update or reinstalling the OS.

The Real Work is teaching the child, healing the patient, selling the house, logging the road defects, fixing the car at the roadside, capturing the table's order, designing the house and organising the party.

Think of the millions of hours of human effort spent on preventing and recovering from the problems caused by completely open computer systems. Think of the lengths that people have gone to in order to acquire skills that are orthogonal to their core interests and their job, just so they can get their job done.

If the iPad and its successor devices free these people to focus on what they do best, it will dramatically change people's perceptions of computing from something to fear to something to engage enthusiastically with. I find it hard to believe that the loss of background processing isn't a price worth paying to have a computer that isn't frightening anymore.

I couldn't agree more, and I think that the iPad is aimed at precisely this market.

It is also worth noting that a consensus is forming, amongst those who have actually used the iPad, that there really is no substitute for getting the machine in your hot little hands—here's Cruftbox on its power.
Well, I am lucky enough to have been at the Apple Event today. Deep within the Reality Distortion Field. I saw the demo live, not snap shots on a web site. I got to use the iPad and see how it worked in person. I talked with other people that had tried it.

And you know what, just like Steve Jobs said, you need to hold it for yourself. It’s a different computing experience. It’s intuitive and simple. The device is blazingly fast and obvious how to use. It is a third kind of computing between a smartphone and a laptop.

For those that have iPhones, you know the experience of showing someone the iPhone for the first time. The look in their face, when they first flick the screen or squeeze the image to zoom. The realization that this is something different, very different, than what they have experienced before.

I am a technology professional. For almost 20 years I’ve tested, used, broke, fixed, and played with all kinds of technology from broadcasting to air conditioning to software. I am not easily swayed in these things. But even with all my skepticism, I think the iPad is something different. A new way of computing that will become commonplace.

Oh Internets, I know you won’t believe till you hold one in your hands. You’ll bang on about features, data plans, DRM, open source, and a multitude of issues. You’ll storm the message boards, wring your hands, and promise you won’t buy one till ‘Gen 2’. The din will grow and grow as time passes.

And then one day, in a few months, you will actually hold one and use it. And you will say, “I want one. Iwant one right now.”

This lack of multi-tasking is massively offset by just how fast the damn thing is—applications launch instantly. John Gruber points out that a very significant development—not simply that the iPad is fast but that one of the reasons for this is that it's driven by an Apple-manufactured chip. This is extremely significant: Apple have never manufactured their own chips before—yes, they had financial input into the AIM chip group (before the switch to Intel) but they didn't actually design or manufacture the chips. Apple really do want to control the whole eco-system—because the company believe that this allows it to make better products (and thus more money).

Now, I know that very many people object to this—after all, they have popped up on this blog to criticise Apple's control of the far less closed Mac platform. And that's just fine—you don't have to buy an iPad (or a Mac).

But, your humble Devil simply isn't worried about such things: I am a designer, a graphic artist, a website coder, a writer, whatever—I don't want to get down and dirty with my computer. As Fraser Speirs points out (above), fucking around with my computer is not my Real Work—my computer is a tool that allows me to do my real work more efficiently. As soon as I spend even an hour fixing, hacking or otherwise configuring my tool then I am able to do an hour's less of my Real Work.

Do I really need to start mucking about in the guts of my machine? After all, as Jeff Lamarche succinctly puts it...
I'm a techie, but I don't need to be able to program on every electronic device I own. I don't hate my dishwasher because I can't get to the command line. I don't hate my DVD player because it runs a proprietary operating system. Sheesh.

And how much more exciting would websites be if the only browser that anyone used was WebKit? As it is, we will have to wait many years before we can use the amazing CSS advancements—such as CSS-driven animation—that the WebKit group have built in.

Unless, of course, you are designing websites purely for the iPhone or iPad—because they run WebKit as the rendering engine for Safari. In the same way that I currently design websites for standards-based browsers and then hack for those that aren't (yes, IE, I'm looking at you) can see myself starting to design websites for WebKit browsers, and then hacking for less-advanced browsers such as Firefox and IE. It's incredibly exciting.

Anyway, that is slightly off-topic and yet also relevant because, ironically, the iPad is also desirable to techies like me (and yes, this is where I answer the question, "will you get one, dear Devil?")—and, yes, I will get an iPad when they are available. Why?

It is because I am a power-user that I will get an iPad. Let me explain...

I have had Apple laptops but I never really used them very much. The screens were too small for me to do graphics work on them and, besides, the trackpad is not much good for that. So, I used to find myself carrying not only the laptop and its heavy power block, but also a mouse so that I could use it half-way effectively.

But still I didn't really use it—I had no real need to. With a bigger, more powerful machine at home and a reasonable one at work, I had no need to use the laptop in any meaningful way—it felt underpowered and, as such, rather frustrating (although this is partly because Adobe's software is increasingly bloatware). As such, I always felt that I was wasting its potential. And, of course, once it was nicked, I felt no need to get a new one.

In short, because I am a power-user a laptop does not have enough power for me—and yet it is too expensive and too powerful for me not to try using it for the power work.

Nevertheless, I do travel more and more these days—both for work events and for speaking engagements on behalf of the Libertarian Party—and, given the volume of it, I want to be able to get work done whilst I am travelling.

What I mainly need to get done is presentations or speech-writing: these are two activities which the iPad—equipped with the new iWork Suite—is admirably suited for. In fact, it gets even better...

One of the problems that I have is that I am constantly translating my Keynote slides into Powerpoint so that we can present them on the work's demo laptop—and, of course, a lot of things just don't translate tremendously well. Sure, there are other options, but at present I still need to spend the time to check and make corrections to my slides. But with the addition of a VGA-out dock, I can simply connect my iPad to the projector, thus avoiding all of the translation problems that I currently have—plus I can use a remote control to move my presentation along without breaking my rapport with the audience.

In addition, the iPad will do all of those other things that I want to do whilst on the move—although an iPad edition of Coda would make my day (hear that, Panic?)—and in a package that is smaller and, crucially, cheaper than one of Apple's (admittedly superb) laptops**.

In other words, the iPad does enough for me to use it as a mobile device, whilst being cheap enough for me to justify buying one.

Plus, of course, it is a thing of beauty—and, yes, I just want one.

* DISCLAIMER: I own an insignificant number of Apple shares, which have provided a pretty good return, i.e. 200%+ over the last few years. They have, as usual, fallen after the news of this announcement (they feel pretty heavily after the iPhone announcement too—and I picked up some more on the cheap) to a current price of $192.06. It's a good price since they were up at around $217 a few weeks ago. Not, of course, that I am giving anyone investment advice.

** This is not to say that I think that Apple's laptops are overpriced—I don't think that they are. It is just that they are too expensive for me to justify buying another one given the very limited use that I would get out of it.

Why won't Ed Miliband shut the fuck up?

Ed Miliband: bug-eyed twat refuses to sort out obvious thyroid problem—looks to kill millions instead.

Seriously, Ed, you bug-eyed moron, when you're in a hole, the generally accepted advice is to stop digging—especially when you don't seem to understand practical philosophy.
"Every­thing we know about life is that we should obey the precautionary principle; to take what the sceptics say seriously would be a profound risk."

Thus spake Ed Miliband, and it's bollocks. Look, Eddie-baby, the point of the precautionary principle is that actually doing something about the posited risk has little or no cost.

As I have pointed out innumerable times, that is simply not the case in this instance.

Counting Cats has pretty much filleted most of the rest of the article and, as always, is worth a read. However, there's another little point that I want to make—and it concerns these lines.
If the UK did not invest in renewable, clean energy, it would lose jobs and investment to other countries, have less energy security because of the dependence on oil and gas imports and contribute to damaging temperature rises for future generations.

It's this whole energy security thing, you see: I've seen it elsewhere. Now, where was it...? Oh yes—it was in this reply to a constituent by David Cameron.
Whatever your views are, we cannot afford not to go green. The UK economy is still dependent for more than 90 per cent of its energy needs on fossil fuels, which increasingly come from imports. With the era of cheap oil now well and truly over, our fossil fuel dependency is making us uncompetitive and vulnerable to geopolitical shocks.

We can build a secure, prosperous future, but only if we start the work of transforming our national energy infrastructure now, by increasing energy efficiency and reducing dependence on imported fossil fuels.

Being at the cutting edge of new technologies in the energy industry is precisely the action that is needed to prevent the power cuts the Government is predicting by 2017, and it ensures that Britain’s consumers and businesses are protected against the consequences of volatile and rising oil prices into the future.

We need to make the transition to a low carbon economy urgently, and I hope you’ll agree that our plans for a Low Carbon Economy will help create hundreds of thousands of jobs, raise skills and improve Britain’s competitiveness.

This is what the politicians are really aiming for—some kind of energy security. The trouble is that over the last few decades, successive governments have dodged the concerns about energy generation in this country.

We are in a bind: our nuclear stations are reaching the end of their lives (some have already passed their recommended limits) and energy blackouts are being predicted by 2014: any new nuclear station will take about ten years to come online—and we haven't even started building any new ones yet.

Any government that lets the lights go out is dead—and, right now, it looks like the Tories are going to be left with that particular turd.

Fossil fuel stations can be brought on-stream much more quickly, but Britain is severely hampered by the European Union's zealotry as regards climate change. In short, more fossil-fuelled power stations will earn us large fines.

As such, our politics are desperately casting around for some ideas. They must know that wind turbines are useless—they require some 90% conventional power back-up—and vastly expensive, but they are "green".

My guess is that a certain amount of investment in such pointless and expensive white elephants are necessary in order to earn some Carbon Credits—cash that might offset the fact that we are going to have to build more fossil-fuel power stations.

Whatever is the case, it is not good news that both Labour and the Tories are determined to pursue exactly the same doomed policies; it is even more suspicious that they are hanging their prognostications on precisely the same "energy security" hooks.

Meanwhile, the US keeps on funding research into sensible alternatives...

Breaking News: Alex Hilton breaks the US market!

I am very happy for Recess Monkey—our very own Alex Hilton (whose PPC site is very bare: perhaps he doesn't fancy his chances?)—who has, it seems, managed to break into the US music market, albeit in the children's category.

At least, I assume that this is what has happened, since now points to the website of Recess Monkey: "the acclaimed children’s music band from Seattle, WA!"

In all seriousness, I can only imagine that some nasty person has hacked Hilton's account since I am sure that a man who "knows a thing or two about blogging" and who is also "Director of Digital Engagement and co-founder of Game Changer" would not let his domain name lapse, would he?

Unless, of course, Mr Hilton feels that putting his shameful blogging past behind him might help his future prospects as the Labour PPC for Chelsea and Fulham? No, that cannot be it, for he mentions Recess Monkey—with a link—in his biography.

Who can tell? But your humble Devil might put in a request to be notified should the ownership of suddenly lapse...

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The loneliness of the long distance blogger

Charlotte Gore confirms what many of us had suspected—she has given up on this blogging lark.
It’s clear now that my blogging days are over.There’s a number of reasons, of course, but primarily the need to avoid repetition – not just of my own work, but what others write too – becomes exponentially more challenging with every post. Like so many others before me, I’ve said what I wanted to say in this format. I don’t have enough material in me to sustain a blog of my own any longer.

Which is a pity, but it's not unexpected—or untoward.

Your hunble Devil occasionally feels like the blogosphere is like life in fast forward. I have seen so many bloggers come and go that I have lost count.

I am far from being one of the first bloggers—nevertheless, I did start before the rise in popularity of British political blogging. Five years is a long time to be churning out an average of three posts a day, but I have carried on whilst others burned out or lost interest.

Back in the "old days" when a blogger announced their retirement (or just simply fell silent), someone you felt you knew quite well suddenly vanished—never to be heard of again.

"You're dead to me now" might be used as a statement of fact, not one of excoriation.

Things are slightly different now, since so many people are migrating to social media such as Twitter.

But it is still strange when yet another voice falls silent: one carries on regardless wondering who will be next—and when one's own time will come...

Police priorities

I rarely link to JuliaM's blog—mainly because I am usually reduced to paroxyms of rage after reading it. Not, I should point out, because JuliaM is herself annoying or because she does anything else than fillet, rather well, the articles to which she links: no, it is because JuliaM tends to chronicle the everyday stupidities and irritations meted upon people by the filth known as "bureaucracy".

Today, however, I thought that I'd use a piece to make a point about the police, as JuliaM looks at the shooting of some abnormally young Liverpudlian thug.
One woman, who refused to be named for fear of reprisals, said a petrol bomb had been thrown at the house where Lewis died just last week.

'There has been trouble between youths here for months,' she said.

Savour that. Even with the little scumbag cooling on a slab, this woman is too frightened to give her name to the press.

Indeed. Well, you know what it's like: the police have soooooo much to do these days. Plus, as Counting Cats points out, it is far easier to arrest motorists for blowing their noses, eh?

Think I'm kidding? I'm not.
A businessman has been fined £60 and had his driving licence endorsed for blowing his nose while stuck in a traffic jam.

Michael Mancini, a furniture restorer from Prestwick, Ayrshire, was given the fixed penalty and docked three penalty points after leaning over and pulling out a paper handkerchief to wipe his nose when stuck in Ayr High Street. Mancini said that his van was in neutral with its handbrake on, and that he was flabbergasted when he was signalled into a parking bay by an approaching policeman.

Matters became “a little bit surreal”, he said, when he wound down his window and was promptly charged by the stern-faced PC Stuart Gray, a man known locally as “Shiny Buttons” in recognition of his zealous attention to detail. “I honestly thought it was a joke,” said Mancini, 39, who was booked for failing to be in control of his vehicle.

“I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding’. But he was absolutely deadpan. He’s a policeman, so you’re not going to start shouting abuse at him. I thought, ‘What is the world coming to?’ You pick the papers up every day and they are full of horror stories — but this bloke has nothing more to do with his time.”

We have murders, rapes, robberies. We also have runny noses.
PC Gray earned notoriety for doling out a £50 fine to Stewart Smith, another Ayr man, who dropped a £10 note from his back pocket. Mr Smith was charged with littering.

Ladies and gentlemen we have ourselves a fascist! That is beyond human comprehension.

I think that it is time that the police are given a serious lecture on their fucking priorities, frankly. One of the Peelian Principles stated that...
  1. The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.

By this measure, many police forces—especially those in Liverpool—have failed. Utterly.

Another principle states that...
  1. Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent upon every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

By which measure, I think that we can honestly say that PC Gray has also failed.

There is a basic problem with priorities here, people. Some areas of Britain are riddled with crime—it is endemic. In other areas, the police are arresting people for stupid, non-crimes. There needs to be a re-alignment so that the police priorities are those of the general public's: for, as Peel's principles also state...
  1. The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon the public approval of police actions.

  2. Police must secure the willing co-operation of the public in voluntary observation of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public.

We need elected police chiefs and we need them now—oh, and Sir Hugh Orde and his corporatist Association of Police Chief Officers can go fuck themselves.

In the meantime, I suggest that PC Gray is deployed to Liverpool and let's see how fucking shiny his button stay then, the fascist cunt.

Thatcher and personal responsibility

The Last Ditch has highlighted a remarkable quote from Margaret Thatcher—revealed in the Margaret Thatcher archives that have opened recently—and quoted (as evidence of her inhumanity, netch'relly) in The Grauniad.
Morality is personal. There is no such thing as collective conscience, collective kindness, collective gentleness, collective freedom. To talk of social justice, social responsibility, a new world order, may be easy and make us feel good, but it does not absolve each of us from personal responsibility.

This is something that I absolutely believe. Don't get me wrong, I am aware that I was raised in a reasonably well-off home with parents who gave two shits about me and my progress in the world. Most people would say that this makes me unbelievably favoured—lucky, in fact.*

But I have never understood why someone who was abused as a child should become more likely to abuse their own children. If you did not like it when your drunken father came home and beat you and your mother half to death with whatever came to hand, then why the fuck would you do it to your own children, to your own wife?

"Morality is personal", and the fact that you had a shitty childhood "does not absolve each of us from personal responsibility". It is why someone's shitty upbringing should never be accepted as mitigation for their crimes.

To blame one's bad or evil decisions on one's parents is a cowardly thing to do; it is also indicative of a rampant self-deception: we all have the ability to think and to act for ourselves—this is what makes us human.

We are all individuals and we are all—all of us—able to make our own decisions, to make our own choices. Those who abdicate their decisions to others have no more moral right to the privileges enjoyed by adult human beings than some beast.

Less, in fact, for the wild animal lives or dies by its own decisions—those moochers in our society who derogate their welfare to others are parasites on society. They exist on the product of better people's hard work and offer only laziness, violence and misery in return.

Worse, they provide an existence—through justification and through the ballot box—for the armies of bureaucrats who regulate all of our lives in the name of those who claim to be able to take no responsibility for their own. And it is wrong.

There is another Thatcher quote, one that is usually taken out of context, which is also spot on.
They are casting their problems at society. And, you know, there's no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then, also, to look after our neighbours.

This last line was partly the inspiration for this off-the-cuff polemic, which included these lines...
For a moment, lay aside those dutiful thoughts of those starving millions beyond your gate, and think, instead, of those within your own household—within your own family: would you not rather protect them first?

Of course you would: they are your kith and kin and you would expect—would you not?—that everyone, like you, would defend theirs against you were you the one holding the gun.

The government has now utterly removed from you the means of protecting yourself and your family against the man with the gun: indeed, you dare not defend yourself because you fear that it is you, not the mugger, who would end up in the dock.

For the government is the man with the gun, demanding tithes from you: the government is here, at your door.

As I have constantly argued, the state is the cause of this "broken society"—whether intentionally or otherwise. After all, when you need not look to your friends and family for help in bad times, then you can be free to discard them at your convenience. If the state will pay you money, or treat you, regardless of your activities, then of course you will shun those difficult or distasteful decisions.

In short, the state makes it easy to live a hedonistic life, to ignore difficult moral decisions, because there are no consequences.

Thatcher realised, I think, that the state also stifles innovation and risk-taking, because it is safer to do nothing.
I came to office with one deliberate intent: to change Britain from a dependent to a self-reliant society — from a give-it-to-me, to a do-it-yourself nation. A get-up-and-go, instead of a sit-back-and-wait-for-it Britain.

Indeed. But it goes further than this because, as Tom Paine notes, people were once active in society because the state was not.
["social theorist" Jonathan Zittrain] mocks the people who "police" Wikipedia (always 45 minutes from destruction by spambots without their unpaid work). If there was a really big Star Trek convention, he sneers, "...who would be minding the store?" But those diligent nerds are doing what their ancestors did in meatspace, before Sir Robert Peel gave us our professional law enforcers. The hue and cry roused by a simple cry of "Stop, thief" was the only policing until then.

Libertarians are so often portrayed as cruel and heartless, but nothing could be more wrong. We believe in people. We trust them. The statists of right and left do not. They see humans as fundamentally evil; to be controlled at all costs. We see evidence everywhere (despite the odious exceptions on whom they focus) of humanity's essential goodness.

Indeed we do: we believe that people are essentially decent, that they will help others in need and that a society can be free, and rich, and the state curtailed without recourse to workhouses.

When I point out that Americans give far more money per capita to charity than those in Britain, many people admonish me. "Ah, but America has a culture of charitable giving that we, in Britain, do not."

Have you never wondered why that is? Or whether it was always so? After all, socialism has had a relatively short tenure in this country. After all, the seven great hospitals of London were all built by private charity, and maintained—to a large degree—by private subscription.

And we are all far richer—almost unimaginably so—than when those hospitals were founded. We used to have a culture of giving to charity—look how Scrooge is excoriated for refusing to do so in A Christmas Carol.

The fact is that we have forgotten charity, forgotten those in need. We have all abrogated our responsibilities to the state. This can—and must—change. But it will not happen any time soon, since our politicians like their position of power.

Even so, Cameron would do well to bear in mind another Thatcher comment.
To me, consensus seems to be: the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values, and policies in search of something in which no one believes, but to which no one objects; the process of avoiding the very issues that need to be solved, merely because you cannot get agreement on the way ahead. What great cause would have been fought and won under the banner ‘I stand for consensus’?

Perhaps this lack of principle is why the Tories seem unable to create a decisive lead in the polls. After all, I think that most people in the country will, at the next election, vote against Labour—but there is no appetite to vote for the Tories.

Not everything that Thatcher did was right, by any means. But at least she stood for something: she believed, fundamentally, in people's right—and ability–to rule their own lives and to fulfill their own desires.

Cameron seems to believe in nothing except his own fitness to rule—the coutry at large, it seems, does not share his conviction.

* And there are some who would like to tax luck—what should my surcharge be, Chris?

The Sun won't rise again

Daring Fireball notes the demise of Sun Microsystems, which has been bought by Oracle and thus no longer lists in its own right.

Sun was already pretty much irrelevant by the time that I got into computing—which was, admittedly, quite late. In the last couple of decades, the company had mainly been associated with a number of Open Source projects—which, it seems, weren't making any money.

So, Sun is dead and nothing much will change. Your humble Devil will just have to review the Apple iPad instead...

We've been here before...

It seems that the Tories have proposed that prisoners should be housed on prison ships.
Prison ships could be used to ease crowding in jails under a Conservative government, it has been revealed.

The move does not feature in the party's draft election manifesto, but officials confirmed that it is being considered as a means of meeting David Cameron's pledge to end the Government's early release scheme.

Britain's last floating jail, HMP The Weare, was sold in 2005 after eight years holding prisoners off Portland, Dorset.

The ship's temporary stint as a jail was controversial, with the Chief Inspector of Prisons denouncing it unfit for purpose because of the lack of access to fresh air and exercise.

This is something that NuLabour also came out with at one point, but it is Michael Howard's announcement of this policy that your humble Devil remembers—mainly because he has carefully kept the Private Eye cover inspired by the Conservative Home Secretary's proposal...

Anyone else getting déjà vu...?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Libertarian Roundup #2

The UK Libertarian compares capitalism with crony capitalism. He also shows how free markets help people to take care of themselves better. And he points out the nonsense of government "creating jobs".

Bristol Dave talks about the pointless raising of the terror threat level.

Boatang & Demetriou point out Labour's final betrayal.

The Adam Smith Institute has some empirical evidence that Britain is no longer free.

Jerub-Baal shows that we're not out of the recession.

The LPUK has attracted another former UKIP member. And announces another LPUK candidate for the election.

John Redwood asks what happened to that massive stimulus.

Capitalists@Work reflects on how the Chilcot enquiry shines a light into banks' murky boardroom dealings.

Jeff Randall highlights the insanity of quangos in the current economic climate.

Crazy Elmont sees history repeating itself.

That's all for this week. However, thanks to those chaps who offered to host the Libertarian Roundup, but I think that I'll keep it in one place for the moment—maybe we'll start a travelling circus later on (as happened to the Britblog Roundup).


George Osborne: sinister little bastard

George Osborne: looks like rats have nibbled the edge of his nostrils.

In a few months, there will be a general election—and the Tories will probably win. Whilst I agree with Jackart that the blue bastards will almost certainly not be quite as bad as the red bastards, there is plenty to fear.

For it seems that, in exchanging NuLabour for the Conservatives, we shall merely be substituting the iron fist for the velvet glove.

Whilst I am aware both that the article-writers are not responsible for headlines and that the Grauniad is not exactly sympathetic to the Tories, surely allowing the Shadow Chancellor's by-line to appear beneath an article entitled We will make you behave is hardly a good idea.

Still less good is the article's rampant inaccuracy and arrogance.

Let us take this little gem.
But perhaps most significantly, the crisis has finally put to rest the assumption, which underpinned Labour's entire system of financial regulation, that individual behaviour is always entirely rational and that market prices always reflect intrinsic values.

First, whatever the value of a product is to another person is its intrinsic value. And since markets are where humans exchange goods, then markets do show intrinsic value.

I would say, Georgie-boy, that you need to look to Uncle Milt's "four ways of spending money" to find a rather more prosaic, and accurate, cause of the problems within the financial markets—you might want to pay particular attention to the bit about using other people's money to buy stuff for other people.

The second point—about people not always acting rationally—is actually quite accurate. This is especially true over longer time periods and is known as "projection bias"—a problem which Chris Dillow wrote about (again) recently.

However, the way in which Osborne chooses to illustrate it is just barking.
However, it wasn't just financial regulation that was wrongly based on the assumption that people are always rational – public policy has also come to be based on this flawed premise.

A classic example is the way that Gordon Brown's tax credits system was initially designed. Obviously, we are in favour of tax credits, but when the system was first introduced it was assumed that people would promptly inform HM Revenue and Customs of any change in their income. That must have seemed so plausible on a spreadsheet on the then chancellor of the exchequer's desk. But of course, as it turned out, people don't quite behave like figures on a Treasury spreadsheet, and as a result billions of pounds were lost on overpayments.

Um... I think that it could be argued that people acted, in this case, entirely rationally. Those who deliberately omitted to update their earnings did so on the assumption that the government would not try to claw the money back and in the majority cases, they were quite right.

In doing so, these people were acting entirely rationally and according to the well-documented adage of self-interest. To use tax credits as irrational behaviour is lazy, idiotic and wrong.

And this man is meant to be one of our saviours. We're fucked.

Next, Osborne decides to delight us with some interesting speculation.
Evidence from behavioural economics and social psychology can't only help us meet our goals more effectively, it can also help us to achieve them more cheaply, and without intrusive and burdensome regulations. This is therefore a fundamentally conservative approach, which can help us to reduce government spending and get the deficit down, while at the same time building a more responsible society where people are in control.

I'm sorry, Georgie, but, when you say that these methods can "help us meet our goals more effectively", whose goals are you talking about, precisely? Because I bet that my goals are not the same as yours, you know.

Mind you, Georgie's next idea is not entirely dissimilar to one that I was mulling over the other day.
A Conservative government will require all public bodies that want to launch marketing campaigns to state precisely what behaviour change the advertising is designed to bring about, and an element of the advertising agency fee will be made contingent on achieving the desired outcome.

Really? Good. Can we go further...?

I think that every government that wants to make any law should pass a similar test: the government must detail what behaviour their law aims to change, what unintended consequences they foresee and how they intend to measure the success (or otherwise) of said law.

No government may pass any law until the effects from their last one is known, assessed and proved to have been worthwhile. And if the government makes three fucked-up laws, an automatic general election is triggered.

That ought to concentrate minds, as well as quelling the amount of bullshit legislation emanating from the House of Cunts quite effectively...

UPDATE: Timmy also tears into Osborne's stupidity and comes to the inevitable conclusion.
Jebus, if this is how the Shadow Cabinet thinks then we’re fucked, aren’t we?

Quite. Plus—and I admit that this might not be tremendously rational—there is something about Osborne that makes me think that he is a prime example of the very worst kind of sneaky, skanky, arrogant, unpleasant, dishonest little shit.

I think it's his face.

UPDATE 2: the wife is also unamused.
What the f*ck is wrong with you British people? Seriously, is every single one of you on crack?


I can’t believe that, in this once-great nation, the populace has created for itself the choice between authoritarian control-freaks and authoritarian control-freaks. Is this really what you want? People in absolute charge of you who all think they know better than you? People who think you need a cooling-off period, like a child on the naughty step, before you can make a decision about what to do with your own damn money? People who think you need to be told by public agencies how to use your own brains to make rational decisions? Do you really find life such a complicated hardship that you want a government to hold your hand from cradle to grave?

What the hell could possibly make you think George Osbourne knows better than you how you should live your life? Why on earth should people whose only skill is kissing your ass have this kind of responsibility? What set of facts makes you believe that the people who run your country are immune to irrational action?


Well, not all of us do put up with this crap. Unfortunately, those of us who would like to run our own lives are prevented from doing so by the fact that the great majority of the British people keep voting for these cunts.

Those of us who demand nothing from the state, or from society, are oppressed by those who demand that we play their game or none: this is the tyranny of the majority—this is democracy in a land of social democrats.

This is wrong.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Blog bleg

Is anyone out there a subscriber to the HSJ journal and would thus be able to get me a full copy of this article, please?
NHS IT's local future

27 August 2009 | By Dave West

The Department of Health has quietly turned away from central control of IT. But what will replace it? And what will happen if there is a change of government? Dave West reports...

Please email me if you can...

UPDATE: thank you, duly received.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

How many of me?

Via Timmy, whose score of 1 person is most impressive—especially since that person is probably the very same Tim Worstall...
LogoThere are
people with the name Christopher Mounsey in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

Monday, January 25, 2010

We'll just inflate away the debt!

Ah, well, no. That won't work, you see, as Timmy explains over at the Adam Smith Institute blog.
But the truly gargantuan problem is the supposition that inflation would eat away at the debt burden. Firstly, of course, what this really means is a hidden default on that debt. You know, sort of a "Tee hee...we'll pay you your money back but it won't be worth anything by then. Aren't we clever!". Well, no actually, this isn't big and it's not clever. Those gilts largely exist in the pension funds of us out here in the general population so that suggestion is really that you'll steal from us in our old age in order to fund your fiscal incontinence now.

Worse than that though is that it won't actually work. For markets have been stung by that inflation ruse once already and so matters are now different. Some 25% (so I'm told) of long term gilts are now inflation linked. Inflation does nothing to reduce that burden then. Short term gilts will of course need to be refinanced at the new, higher, (nominal) interest rates that inflation will bring. And the largest parts of government debt, things like the PFI exposures and the public sector pension plans are all inflation indexed. So inflation would be both a default upon those who are not inflation protected and wouldn't solve the debt problem either.

So, the solutions that we are left with are...?
Inflation simply won't cure the debt problem. We're back to either raising taxes so as to choke off new economic activity or firing some portion of the army of wastrels who consume the current tax take. Given my language choices there you can probably guess which course I regard as sensible...


More hits on the IPCC's credibility

When "Glaciergate" broke, the response of the IPCC Chairman—multi-millionaire businessman Rajendra K Pachauri—was unequivocable: "you can't say it's careless science ... it's one mistake".

You say one... I say more than one.

For starters, the IPCC's ARA4 seems to be many, many assertions that only cite WWF reports.
Many of those associated with the WWF are lovely human beings. But that doesn't change the fact that the WWF is not a neutral, disinterested party. It has an agenda, an ax to grind, a definite point-of-view. Rather than being a scientific organization, it is a political one. In the UK, the media aptly calls the WWF a "pressure-group."

The IPCC, on the other hand, describes itself as "a scientific body" that provides "the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of climate change" by assessing "the most recent scientific, technical and socio-economic information." [bold added]

Quite: the WWF is not impartial and it is not, actually, a scientific organisation. It most certainly isn't a reputable climatologist.

Additionally, EUReferendum has found that the assertion about glaciers actually made it into a couple of places in the latest IPCC report—and not all have been corrected in the light of recent mistakes.

In the meantime, the traditional media has been keeping up the pressure, with The Times claiming to have found yet another problem.
THE United Nations climate science panel faces new controversy for wrongly linking global warming to an increase in the number and severity of natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods.

It based the claims on an unpublished report that had not been subjected to routine scientific scrutiny — and ignored warnings from scientific advisers that the evidence supporting the link too weak. The report's own authors later withdrew the claim because they felt the evidence was not strong enough.

The new controversy also goes back to the IPCC's 2007 report in which a separate section warned that the world had "suffered rapidly rising costs due to extreme weather-related events since the 1970s".

It suggested a part of this increase was due to global warming and cited the unpublished report, saying: "One study has found that while the dominant signal remains that of the significant increases in the values of exposure at risk, once losses are normalised for exposure, there still remains an underlying rising trend."

The Sunday Times has since found that the scientific paper on which the IPCC based its claim had not been peer reviewed, nor published, at the time the climate body issued its report.

Okay. But what about after that date...? The paper might just have been held in the queue for publication—perhaps it had been mistaken for a sceptic's submission?

Ah. No. [Emphasis mine.]
When the paper was eventually published, in 2008, it had a new caveat. It said: "We find insufficient evidence to claim a statistical relationship between global temperature increase and catastrophe losses."

Well, that's a little inconvenient, isn't it? Still, what with the IPCC being such a noble organisation—dedicated solely to the disinterested advancement of the most precise science—they will have published a retraction, won't they.
Despite this change the IPCC did not issue a clarification ahead of the Copenhagen climate summit last month. It has also emerged that at least two scientific reviewers who checked drafts of the IPCC report urged greater caution in proposing a link between climate change and disaster impacts — but were ignored.

Oh. And what have the IPCC to say about these attacks on their credibility?
The claim will now be re-examined and could be withdrawn. Professor Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, a climatologist at the Universite Catholique de Louvain in Belgium, who is vice-chair of the IPCC, said: "We are reassessing the evidence and will publish a report on natural disasters and extreme weather with the latest findings. Despite recent events the IPCC process is still very rigorous and scientific."

Really? You are still going to assert that? I think that you're in dangerous waters, my friend, because hundreds of people the world over are going to start going through the ARA4 with a fine tooth-comb. Are you absolutely sure that you don't want to think again, Jean-Pascal?
The academic paper at the centre of the latest questions was written in 2006 by Robert Muir-Wood, head of research at Risk Management Solutions, a London consultancy, who later became a contributing author to the section of the IPCC's 2007 report dealing with climate change impacts. He is widely respected as an expert on disaster impacts.

Muir-Wood. Muir-Wood. That name rings a bell...
Muir-Wood's paper was originally commissioned by Roger Pielke, professor of environmental studies at Colorado University, also an expert on disaster impacts, for a workshop on disaster losses in 2006. The researchers who attended that workshop published a statement agreeing that so far there was no evidence to link global warming with any increase in the severity or frequency of disasters. Pielke has also told the IPCC that citing one section of Muir-Wood's paper in preference to the rest of his work, and all the other peer-reviewed literature, was wrong.

He said: "All the literature published before and since the IPCC report shows that rising disaster losses can be explained entirely by social change. People have looked hard for evidence that global warming plays a part but can't find it. Muir-Wood's study actually confirmed that."

Oooooh yes: the Muir-Wood paper is the one that was quoted in the Stern Review—the results of which seem to have magically been changed. Well, whadda you know?

The longer this goes on, the more the IPCC is compromised: these are not personal revelations about Pachauri (amusing though those are)—these are attacks on the very way in which the IPCC carries out its business.

As I wrote a few days back, the IPCC is catastrophic anthropogenic climate change: it is the Cochrane Collaboration of climate science. But, as is increasingly becoming clear, the IPCC is not only corrupted financially and politically—their very methodology is entirely suspect.
This kind of revelation strikes at the very heart of the CACC foundations because without the IPCC there is no catastrophic anthropogenic climate change. Let me explain...

One of the weaknesses of climate science is the relative paucity of raw data: despite the protestations of warmists, there is only one network of climate stations across the world; there are only a few trees suitable for tree ring proxies; there are only a few suitable ice core sites, etc. And all of the agencies doing temperature reconstructions use those same data. These agencies then apply their own adjustments to determine the information that they want (apart from GISS, which takes NOAA's adjusted figures and then add their own adjustments).

In the same way, most climate scientists do not collect their own data: they rely on the data and findings of previous papers. If those data and findings are wrong or compromised, then so are all of the reports based on them—which is the majority of them.

Think of the process as a massive inverted pyramid with the downward-facing point as the raw data and the ever-increasing mass on top as the multiplicity of reports based on said data. Obviously, if the data are wrong, so are all of the models, reports and prognostications based on them.

Similarly, the faith in CACC is based on the credibility of the IPCC simply because people do not have the time to do what the IPCC does, i.e. to collate and assess the many hundreds of reports on climate. And the IPCC is increasingly compromised.

To bring it back to Goldacre's analogy, imagine if it emerged that those who were involved in the Cochrane Collaboration were in the pay of the makers of infant steroids; not only this, but they had deliberately overlooked critical studies and included results that were mere hearsay to back up their report.

This is the situation that the IPCC is in—its credibility is increasingly being shot to pieces and, with it, the major underpinnings of the CACC movement. Once the lights are switched on and the IPCC god is shown to be nothing more than a man in a crudely painted suit, the entire CACC religion will come crashing down.

All of these revelations strike at the credibility of the IPCC and, as such, the entire CACC movement. And whilst many people have been concentrating their fire upon Pachauri and his pet projects, Counting Cats—amongst others—has started to look towards the mighty NASA.

And knowing what I already know about some of that agency's methodologies and predictions, if I were James Hansen—the disgusting, fraudulent little goblin at the head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS)—I'd be starting to get extremely nervous right now...

The Hockey Stick Illusion

Like The Englishman, my copy of Bishop Hill's chunky book, The Hockey Stick Illusion, dropped through the door on Friday.

I have barely begun to read it—I might take a couple of days off to get into it properly—but the first few chapters that I have perused have been clear, fascinating and eminently readable.

Like many of my sceptic colleagues, I have followed this story for some years—but only in bits and pieces and, often, the statistical and scientific has been rather over my amateur head. His Ecclesiastical Eminence's book promises to pull the entire story together—plus much of the data released in the CRU documents—and to make it intelligible.

This is going to be fun...

IPCC: corrupt to its core

The IPCC is a political institution—which means that it is utterly corrupt. Worse, it is part of the UN, a body which is basically only good for one thing—pimping children.

As such, the IPCC is a body that has been set up by an institution that, by its inaction, encourages the sexual exploitation of children by its officers, is paid for by governments (with taxpayers' money and without those taxpayers' consent) in order to lobby those same governments.

It would be institutionally corrupt, even without what we know of its operatives' methods.

However, the row escalating over "Glaciergate" (dear god, why?) is threatening to unseat the evil Pachauri and seriously destabilise the IPCC. The latter is, of course, a good thing: the former is not—for, with the hopelessly compromised Pachauri at the helm, the IPCC's destruction would be ever more ensured.

Sweeping statements? Yes, sure. Because these people are deceiving us, and expecting us to pay for their fortunes. You think the bankers are bad? They've got nothing on this lot.

I'm sorry, we've missed a bit. Let me expand...

As regular readers will recall, the IPCC was recently caught out in a total fabrication surrounding the Himalayan glaciers. Essentially, the ARA4 had reported—as scientific fact—the idea that the Himalayan glaciers would entirely disappear by 2035.

This information came from a New Scientist article that had merely reported a "speculative" view from an scientist in a conversation. This NS article was the only evidence for such an assertion—a forecast that was rejected by all of the scientist's peers.

As we now know—for NS was being very coy—that scientist was a man named "Syed Hasnain, a little-known Indian scientist then based at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi."

After this story broke, multi-millionaire businessman and chair of the IPCC, Dr Rajendra Pachauri, maintained that an Indian scientific study proving the falsity of Hasnain's claims was "voodoo science".

The IPCC has tried to defend itself, by claiming that the man in charge of the glaciers section of the ARA4, Professor Murari Lal, admits that he knows little about glaciers and that the whole incident was a mistake and an oversight—presumably of the sort that Catholic priests or UN inspectors make when they continuously protect and hide child molesters.

Of course, all of this was slightly undermined when EUReferendum revealed that Pachauri's TERI Institute actually employs Syed Hasnain—and has done for some years.
At the time of the announcement and for nearly two years, Dr Hasnain – the originator of the 2035 claim – had been working for Dr Pachauri and was to lead the TERI glaciology unit implementing the EU-funded research.

TERI had already been awarded a major part of a $500,000 grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, also to research the effects of melting glaciers, although this was not to be formally announced until 15 January this year.

As with the EU project, reference was made to Dr Hasnain's claim, with the grant award citation reading: "One authoritative study reported that most of the glaciers in the region “will vanish within forty years as a result of global warming…resulting in widespread water shortages." Again, as with the EU project, Dr Hasnain was to lead the research programme.

The issue of Pachauri using IPPC claims as a means of attracting funding to investigate melting glaciers was first raised by this blog on 17 December, his financial interest largely explaining his hostile reaction to criticism of Dr Hasnain's claim retailed by his own report.

Since the extent of the funding has become clearer, and the link with Hasnain have fully emerged, the response from both Pachauri and Hasnain has been denial and contradiction.

Now, with two heavyweight newspapers pitching in, the pair may find it harder to sustain their denials of what is very clearly documented evidence of conflict of interest and, on Dr Pachauri's part, a misuse of public office. His refusal to resign looks thinner by the minute.

Indeed. To your humble Devil, it seems vanishingly unlikely that—having employed Hasnain for some years—Pachauri was unaware that Hasnain's claim about the glaciers was totally "speculative". Or, as I like to put it, a lie.

But it gets worse—you'll remember Murai Lal, whose ignorance apparently allowed Hasnain's comment to be reported in the IPCC ARA4? Yep, he's now come out with a statement which is analysed by Richard North...
One can hardly admit surprise at the report in the Mail on Sunday which has the scientist "behind the bogus claim" on melting Himalayan admitted that the offending section "was included purely to put political pressure on world leaders."

This is from Dr Murari Lal, the lead author of 4AR's chapter on Asia. He also said he was well aware the statement did not rest on peer-reviewed scientific research. "It related to several countries in this region and their water sources," he says. Thus: "We thought that if we can highlight it, it will impact policy-makers and politicians and encourage them to take some concrete action ... It had importance for the region, so we thought we should put it in."

Lal, in making this admission confirms that which we have known, and asserted, for a long time – that the IPCC is not a scientific body. It is political institution, dedicated to delivering a highly political message in single-minded pursuit of its global warming agenda.

What we learn, therefore, ties in perfectly with the report from the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which sets out in detail the attempts to modify the Himalayas section, and the blank refusal of Lal to make any changes.

As such, the 2035 claim can hardly be called a mistake – or even representing of failure of the IPCC processes. Lal did what he was supposed to do, and then defended his work to the hilt, as indeed did Pachauri until forced to concede the "error".

And this is the crucial thing—the claim that the Himalayan glaciers would be gone by 2035 was not a mistake. It was an entirely deliberate fabrication by an employee of Pachauri, bolstered by Pachauri and his associates, and sponsored by the baby-fuckers of the UN.

And why?

Well, it would hardly do for me to replicate Richard North's series of posts in their entirety—indeed, it would take many hours to do so—but one of the key drivers is most certainly money. And the commercial imperative is also being embraced by Western companies.
In fact, there is little to go on, a yet, but already it is clear that the driver behind this particular scam is as much financial as it is political. And behind that is the lucrative re-insurance industry which sees in "climate change" several business opportunities.

One is the ability to dump its liabilities for what are defined as "climate related events", drawing instead on a newly-created global catastrophe insurance fund underwritten by the governments of the developed states. Another – already up and running – is the Global Index Insurance Facility (GIIF), a World Bank-backed scheme designed to allow developing countries to take out insurance against "the increased risk of climate-change related storms and extreme weather events."

The business agenda is scarcely concealed in the eagerness of Munich Re to talk up the effects of climate change and its heavy investment in research into insurance-related aspects of climate change.

Make no mistake, there is a lot of money to be made in the whole AGW market—and not only through the Carbon Credits market (worth £31 billion last year, and up to $2 trillion by 2020).

In the meantime, you and I are being stitched up by governments and multi-nationals in some kind of hideous, world-wide corporatist Armageddon.

It is in our interest to bring down this attempt at the comprehensive arse-fucking of ordinary people: we aren't going to fry but, if we are not very careful, we are going to be absolutely fucking screwed.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The British government lies—and then covers it up

Now, those of you who have been paying attention to the UK climate debate over the last few years will have realised that the Stern Review is quoted quite extensively. Most people who quote it are either unaware or—rather more likely—trying to conceal the fact that this review was absolutely slated by both scientists and economists alike.

And it was an economics report—it attempted to defend the current path taken by politicians against those who would rather adopt, say, the IPCC's A1 family of scenarios.

The IPCC's SRES A1 quite clearly suggests that the best route for humanity to take includes international free trade and technological co-operation which makes everyone so rich that we can adapt to any changes that AGW—if it is actually happening—might make.

This is not the route that politicians wanted to take—as such, they commissioned Nicholas Stern (now "Sir" Nicholas) to publish a review that would prove that the A1 family was wrong and evil.

The way in which Sir Nicholas attempted to do this was to compare the costs of mitigation—i.e. reducing carbon emissions—against the costs of adaptation, i.e. doing something about climate change if and when it happened.

The way that Stern did this was to take lots of worst case scenarios and to say that they were all caused by catastrophic anthropogenic climate change (CACC), e.g. hurricane Katrina, and that they were only going to get worse—and thus more expensive.

I am not going to cite the proofs that he was wrong—although the lack of at least one more Katrina-style event each year since 2005 helps this case—but simply to look at what has happened to his report since.

In order to justify mitigation over adaptation—the latter being the course that the IPCC itself recommends in the A1—one has to show that the costs associated with mitigation are considerably lower.

What Stern did was to throw in as much terror and destruction every year as was reasonably possible, and to calculate the costs of those catastrophic events, e.g. Katrina.

When the report was published, Stern used this chart to show the costs of Katrina-style events that would be triggered by the continuation of AGW.

As you can see, Stern assumes that the cost of increased hurricanes would be 1.3% of GDP. In this country alone, that would amount to about £15 billion.

However, via Bishop Hill, I have found Roger Pielke Jr's blog in which he has noticed that the UK government has—quietly, quietly—changed this figure.
As I was preparing this post, I accessed the Stern Review Report on the archive site of the UK government to capture an image of Table 5.2. Much to my surprise I learned that since the publication of my paper, Table 5.2 has mysteriously changed!

Yes, that's right: the figure has now changed—by an order of ten!

Now, you see, hurricanes will only cost 0.13% of GDP—or about £1.5 billion. As Roger Pielke says...
There is no note, no acknowledgment, nothing indicating that the estimated damage for hurricanes was modified after publication by an order of magnitude. The report was quietly changed to make the error go away. Of course, even with the Table corrected, now the Stern Review math does not add up, as the total GDP impact from USA, UK and Europe does not come anywhere close to the 1% global total for developed country impacts (based on Muir-Wood), much less the higher values suggested as possible in the report's text, underscoring a key point of my 2007 paper.

Consequently, anyone wanting to understand or replicate my analysis from the original source would no doubt be confused because evidence of the error in Table 5.2 was quietly changed after the publication of my paper. Had they noted the error it would have obviously led to questions about the implications, and ultimately the bottom line estimates of the costs of unmitigated climate change.

This may seem trivial, but it is not.

Stern wrote a review that aimed to prove that mitigation was less expensive that adaptation. Now the British government has apparently revised Stern's estimate of one cost down by a factor of ten—obviously this has a significant effect on the expense. Further, they revised this figure down without consulting the author of the original report, i.e. Roger Pielke Jr.

With enough of these revisions, this means that adaptation is less expensive than mitigation and, all things considered, adaptation becomes the better option.

So, the authorities have indulged in lies and obfuscation—just par for the course in climate science. And there is a lot more to come on this subject.

Watch this space...

Incestuous post

Whilst the wife has pointed out—at length and in learned detail—just why Evan Harris MP's totally fucking useless, piece-of-shit, idiotic, wank-arse attempt to change the way in which royal succession works is a pointless, useless, piece-of-shit, idiotic, wank-arse waste of time and taxpayers' money, my brother-in-law has made a point that is even more pertinent to the whole argument...
However, I feel I should point out that there is no better use of the MP’s time. If he weren’t dicking around with the royal family, he’d be free to fuck up something that actually matters. Count your blessings.

Quite. I think that the only real conclusion is that Evan Harris and the rest of those lazy, stupid, ignorant and downright illiberal cunts in the Commons are, in fact, a total waste of time and money and that the only output from their deliberations is pure evil and oppression.

Which is why your humble Devil supports a Parliament that is so utterly powerless that it matters not one jot which corrupt, disgusting bunch of gangland thugs are in office: so unpleasant are their aims and so unscrupulous their means that they should have the power to change absolutely fuck all.

For any person to claim power over another person because of the actions of others is wrong. And that is what democracy is—because 9 million people voted for Labour, that supposedly gives this government the right to oppress the other 52 million.

Fuck that. Fuck democracy. And, if you disagree, fuck you.

The rights of freeborn Englishmen vs. European law...

... as articulated, brilliantly, by Lord T.
It saddens me that in the bastardised ruins of what was once an educational system even children taught the importance of what happened at Runnymede are often told that the barons forced King John to grant rights, such as free speech, freedom from arbitrary arrest and imprisonment and the right to a fair trial. No, not quite so. The King was forced to sign a declation that he would not interefere with, nor abridge, those rights which were were the inherent rights of English freemen (and women too, Harriet) according to rank.

Our fellow Europeans may well enjoy similar rights, but they are rights which have their origins in constitutions and laws. The right of a German or Frenchman to free speech is a grant by law – essentially an entitlement rather than a right. Here, it requires a law to set limits upon that right, which in this Kingdom is (I’m sorry Professor Dawkins) the God-given right of an Englishman or woman from birth.

What I discovered during many days (and not a few nights) negotiating and dealing around the table in Brussels was that my colleagues were, with a few wonderful exceptions such as Count Otto von Lamsdorff, not just corporatist by nature, but inclined to the unspoken assumption that man was made for the state rather than that the state was made for man. At its worst, that became an assumption that whilst the citizen must obey the law and his rights were limited by the scope of the law, the state could do whatever was not specifically forbiden to it.

The basic assumptions underlying the two systems of law, English Common law and European law, are such that they cannot exist side by side.

Very true, all of it.

Sorry for the lack of blogging recently—the continuing pressures of work, alongside a traditional bout of blogging fatigue, have rendered your humble Devil voiceless for a little while.

I shall be back...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Libertarian Roundup #1

I thought it might be a good idea to round up some of the highlights of libertarian-minded blogging from the week before, or things I found interesting or amusing - just in case you missed them. Since this is my first one, I have gone back a bit longer than a week, because there was some good stuff I wanted to highlight.

And so, without further ado:

The UK Libertarian considers what a privatised defence force might look like. He also has a coruscating attack on the dangers of democracy.

Mr Civil Libertarian sorts out the burqa bullshit.

Dick Puddlecote has a look at "nudging" and why it doesn't always work and also ponders Britain's burgeoning Puritanism.

Al Jahom points out how a database intended to "protect the cheeeeeeldren" has already suffered major security breaches - and it hasn't even gone live yet! He also robustly fisks a CiF post about how we have too many civil liberties in Britain - go figure!

Longrider has a similar take on a similar article in the Independent.

The Salted Slug takes aim at ludicrously disproportionate reactions.

Anna Raccoon discusses butter bansturbation and how we won and lost our freedom. And highlights again how left-wing bloggers think it's all about the money.

Constantly Furious points out that Billy Bragg is an idiot. He also contrasts the effectiveness of the US and the EU response to the crisis in Haiti. (Mr Eugenides has an interesting video on the Haiti crisis as well.) CF explains the business of PMQ's to us all.

Rantin' Rab says that it's outrageous that we let the police harass us for no reason.

The Appalling Strangeness reports on the courage of Jack Straw.

Counting Cats writes a paean to Geert Wilders.

On a lighter note, the Cameron poster creator has provided literally seconds of amusement, while the Bloodthirsty Liberal suggests a way that outsourcing could really help America.

That's all for this week!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Two steps forward, one step back

As I have pointed out a number of times, education is a bug-bear of mine. As such, I have been watching the massively-foreheaded Cameron's plans for this sector with some interest.

It's a depressing exercise, frankly. In some ways, it is almost more depressing than watching Labour's pathetic flailing about. I mean, we know that NuLabour are crap and intellectually bankrupt; we know that those fuckers are more interested in everyone being equally mediocre than allowing bright kids to shine: we expect them to propose stupid ideas and ludicrously illiberal bollocks.

With Cameron, it is rather more of a roller-coaster of emotions—one feels a bit like a manic-depressive who's stopped taking the Prozac. Because, you see, every now and again, the Tories come out with a good piece of rhetoric—such as a voucher system for schools—and then, in the next breath, they wheel out a colossal load of old knackers which makes you realise that they still haven't grasped the fundamentals.

As a case in point, Conservative education policy seems to be inspired by Swedish free schools and the voucher systems that have been tried there (since 1994) and in the US; similarly, the accompanying rhetoric is all about setting schools free, giving Head Teachers more power over their schools and other good things.

On the other hand, the Tories' actual proposals are arse—they are little more than tinkering at the edges.

"Yes, we will free schools," they cry. "But only in really poor areas!"

"Yes, parents and other private entities can start their own schools, but they will not be allowed to be both owner and operator of the schools and make a profit."

"Yes, we will give Head Teachers more control, but we'll maintain the Local Education Authorities."

"Yes, we will free up teachers to educate, but we'll keep the National Curriculum."

It's a hideous mish-mash of crap showing that Cameron doesn't understand the fundamental reasons why the free schools work: it isn't because they are free at the point of use—because they aren't—it is because they are free to set their own entry requirements, free to set their fees, free to discipline children as they wish, free to set differing salaries for their teachers, free to reward work well done as well as to punish those who are useless: in short, they are called "free schools" because they are free to compete in the marketplace of educational attainment.

With every fresh utterance, Cameron shows us ever more clearly that he doesn't understand this at all; he doesn't understand that it is the state provision of schooling that skews priorities so badly.

Cameron needs to abolish the LEAs—they take about one third of the entire schools budget and deliver... what? No one seems to know. They certainly do not add value to a child's education—remove them and free up the money for the schools.

Then comes the abolition of the National Pay Deal for teachers. It is insane that a teacher in the wilds of Yorkshire can command the same salary as a teacher in vastly more expensive areas. For the same reason, automatic pay rises based on length of service must be abolished. These measures would also allow Head Teachers to pay good teachers more money, thus providing incentives to be... well, a good teacher—and attract better calibre people into the profession.

Having done that, Cameron should introduce a voucher system and remove of catchment areas—this will allow parents to elect to get children into the school of their choice. In terms of pure electoral strategy, this would prove popular amongst the working class who cannot afford to buy large houses in nice neighbourhoods simply to get their child into the local Good School's catchment area.

The next crucial step is to allow schools to make a profit, and to be operated by anyone. There may need to be safeguards in place to stop rapacious property developers, etc., e.g. any school so transferred must be operated as a school.

Finally, the National Curriculum should be abolished—or, at the very least, slimmed down to include reading, writing and basic arithmetic only. (This would provide the impetus to start making inroads into the abolition of Examination Authorities—but we'll leave that particular topic for another post...)

All of these would free the provision of education from the dead hand of the state, and of the unions; schools would be forced to compete against each other for pupils, and they would be able to teach as they saw fit.

So, in summary, David Cameron and His Merry Men need to make schools more free and more responsive to the market. So, does today's announcement about better teaching—reproduced, and for some inexplicable reason, praised by Iain Dale—do that?

No, of course it fucking doesn't.

Nope, what David Cameron wants to do is to make it more difficult for people to get into teaching. Worse, he wants to base the suitability of potential teachers on the basis of how many pieces of paper they have to their names.

The result will be an even greater shortage of teachers than there currently is, and thus it will be even harder to sack bad teachers because there will be no one to replace them with, you fucking moron.

And besides, just as having ten billion A*s does not make you a good doctor, nor does having a 2:1 make you a good teacher. It's about more than academic prowess, for crying out loud.

Perhaps, at this point, I should hand over to the lovely Bella who—being a teacher—has some insights that the Massively-Foreheaded Cunt™ might care to take on board.
Anyway. This is all just to reiterate my point: restricting teacher training to people with good degrees will simply worsen the teacher shortage, because most academically successful people (‘best brains’) don’t want to become teachers. It’s an unattractive profession to people who value creativity, resourcefulness, and freedom to innovate. And even if the best brains did become teachers, there’s no guarantee they’d be good. Many academically gifted people have trouble communicating the subject of their expertise at a level that is accessible to schoolchildren anyway; and probably the core skill involved in teaching is being able to synthesise patiently, to simplify complex ideas, to keep what you’re saying on a level kids can understand and in a way they can tune into.

Finally, I will say this. I teach Latin. I am not an expert in the subject, nor do I have a degree in it, nor do I have the faintest clue where my American university degree would fall on the degree-class scale used in the UK. I do not have a teaching qualification. And yet every time I apply for a teaching position, the school falls all over itself to hire me and to pay me well above the going rate for my services. I can’t be the only teacher like that. David Cameron’s plans will, by and large, make it harder for people like me to get teaching jobs. And for what? So that a bunch of smarty-pants graduates with 2:2s or better can have a ‘high-prestige’ career.

Camerhoon, school is not about teachers. It’s about children. And anyone who wants to teach, and can demonstrate that they do it well, should be encouraged to do so, whether they have fancy papers to qualify them or not, and whether they have the biggest brain in Britain or just a mediocre brain that happens to be full of passion and love of learning and dedication to showing kids how amazing the world they live in is.

Quite—it's really worth reading the whole of the wife's post. And this is an attitude that I am sure that Miss Snuffleupagus would also embrace (memo to Cameron: she too is a teacher, and she too cares about the children. Perhaps you should try treading her blog, you fucking Hoon).

What gets my goat about this is that Cameron has pinched my line: I had a good education and, knowing what a good education looks like—as well as the benefits that it brings—I would like to ensure that everyone gets that chance.

Unfortunately, my fat-headed fellow OE and party leader completely misses the point—again. Call Me Dave keeps banging on about making teaching "unashamedly elitist": no, you fuckwit—we need to make education unashamedly elitist. What matters is the quality of the education, the quality of the children coming out—not the quality of the teachers going in.

And having a First in Biochemistry does not necessarily make you a good teacher. Look, you idiot, you even admit that yourself!
Everyone remembers a teacher that made a difference – who through sheer force of personality and infectious enthusiasm sparked an interest, instilled a love of learning and set a life on its course. And the evidence backs that up.

Yes! Do you see? Do you see, Dave? Those teachers made a difference "through sheer force of personality and infectious enthusiasm", not because they had a fucking 2:1 in Gobshite Studies.

For fuck's sake, you are a product of the private school system—a system which, unlike the state one, does not insist that teachers have any kind of teaching qualification: don't you think that there might be some sort of a link there?

Yes, there are other issues—private schools can set teachers' salaries, can set their fees, can (to a large extent) control their own curriculum, and a myriad other things—but encouraging those who want to teach, rather than merely taking those who can think of nothing better to do, is a big reason for the success of the private sector.

The steps that I laid out above would go a good long way towards ensuring that every child in this country can get, at the very least, a decent education—if not an excellent one.

All that your measures will achieve is a colossal shortage of teachers and more highly qualified cohorts of crap.

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