Via "Let's set a new standard" I discovered Goodhart's law. I've long been arguing, err, OK, ranting that the setting of targets in an organization is usually counter-productive, because people will very soon learn to game the system, meeting the targets without actually doing what the organization is supposed to be doing. Think SATs, hospital waiting lists, arrest figures, the list goes on.
It's nice to know that the effect has a name.
I was well aware that Adrian Holovaty is a very big name in the Python world. He's one of the two original developers of Django (my personal favorite web-app development framework) about which he's written the book. He's since used it to power some very cool mashups; chicagocrime.org and everyblock.com, amongst others.
Adrian's talk was inspiring, both to the few techies in attendance and to most of the journalists, who made up the bulk of the audience. His central idea is that we should ensure that the information that the journalists have collected is stored in a structured way wherever possible. It's hard, skilled work gathering that valuable information, but full use is not being made of it. If it were stored in a structured fashion (rather than just in the text of a story; in a "blob" as Adrian put it) it could be made use of in many different ways.
Another interesting strand to Adrian's talk was the automated collection of data. The Washington Post runs a congressional voting record site, almost all the data for which is collected automatically. everyblock.com is another example of this kind of thing.
Explorability is crucial. Think how often you get stuck in the Wikipedia, 'cos there are just so many interesting links to follow. You go in to read one article, and find yourself with half a dozen tabs open all containing apparently unrelated corners of the 'pedia that you've stumbled upon, all of which you want to read. Don't you want your site to be like that?
Jemima Kiss has written up Adrian's talk better than I ever could here: Future of Journalism: Adrian Holovaty's vision for data-friendly journalists. Well, she is a pro.
The creepy stalkerish twitter-scanning side of this aside, this so reminds me of New Labour. Whenever some New Labour apparatchnik appears on TV to discuss an unpopular policy, the line always seems to be "we accept that we have to work harder to get our message across". The idea that we all understand the message perfectly well, but don't like it, doesn't seem to occur.
I was appalled to read about my colleague Megan's battles with medievalism in Women without a country. It's shocking that this kind of bigotry is still enshrined in law.
Megan, my heart goes out to you. Good luck.
Chris Morris is missing the point in The absurd world of Martin Amis (in response to this). These concepts are more complex than Amis would have us believe, he says, but doesn't go on to point out what any of these complexities are, nor why they effect Amis' central thesis - Islamism is a problem.
To reveal my own biases: I take a dim view if any kind of systematic irrational thought of belief, and a dimmer view still of organisations based upon them. On the whole, I don't care much about the details of the irrationality. I don't care which particular flavour of invisible friend people chose to be obsequious to.
But we can't totally ignore the fact that religions do differ in the extent to which they tolerate those who do not share their delusions. You don't get Jain suicide bombers, for instance, and I don't believe that that's wholly due to economic or political circumstances.
In Tulna's case, it's probably also due to not wanting to get blood on her Jimmy Choos. But I digress...
Certainly, we shouldn't single out Islam - the Christian Zionists have more than their share of blood on their hands too.
Of course, the majority of the followers of these belief systems don't use violence. The books at their centers contradict themselves, and people can take very different messages away from them. I suspect that people take away whatever suits their temperament. But that doesn't mean that the non-fanatics aren't part of the problem - they are legitimising the belief system upon which these atrocities depend. We should just leave the whole sordid lot in the history books where it belongs.
I've just been reading Hitchens again. You might have guessed. ;-)
Lost in the post - 25 million at risk after data discs go missing. Bloody hell. Sounds like the HMRC's teches need some DPA training sharpish before any more of them get themselves sent down.
Why was someone able to do this anyway? Few of the places where I've worked with personal data were so lax.
Though there was that one time someone took a subset of production data to use for testing at a bank. For testing their credit agency reporting application. Naturally, someone screwed up, and the credit agencies ended up being send details of entirely fictitious unpaid debts for real people. Puts the famous Dear Rich Bastard story into perspective, doesn't it? (This was pre-DPA, so no one went to prison - they weren't even sacked!.)
Oh well, there's good advice here: HMRC Security Breach: What You Can Do to Protect Yourself From Us. "You should, without delay, change your date of birth."
Stone me - that caught everyone on the hop!
I'm sorry to see him go in a way, but he wasn't attracting much support, and the Lib-Dems need a boost if the Tories are to get the stuffing they deserve next time, so new blood is probably a good thing.
I'd imagine it's because climate change is likely to be a major cause of conflict over the next century. What with shortages of basic resources such as fresh water and arable land, and mass migration due to flooding and so on, it's going to get ugly.
Let's just hope that Gore is actually able to accomplish something to justify the prize.
The Great Firewall of China test. Are you blocked? I seem to be, though strangely Mum isn't, in spite of her not infrequent mentions of what's going on in Tibet. She'll be spitting. In a tranquil, Buddhist sort of a way, that is,naturally. ;-)
The Stern Review might, just might, if we are very very lucky, save the world. Scientists and environmentalists have of course been pointing all this stuff out for years, and have been almost totally ignored. But if Stern, an economist, can convince the fat-cat capitalists that it will cost serious money if nothing is done, that it's in their own selfish interests to stop polluting, well, something might happen, and damn what the proles think - or the politicians, for that matter.
BTW, the Indy took up its first 10 pages covering Stern today. Top.
After the crash? After?
People seem to feel that they have a right not to be offended these days. I think it's worth pointing out that there is no such right.
So, of you don't like the play, don't watch it.
And what's more, as Richard Dawkins rightly points out, there really is no rational reason that religious beliefs should be entitled to any more respect than any other beliefs. (The archaic blasphemy laws, which currently grant special protection to Christian beliefs, should be scrapped rather than extended to cover other religions.) There is no such thing as "different kinds of truth". A thing is either true, or it isn't.
Prompted, as I'm sure you've guessed, by Jack Straw's perfectly reasonable comments, that he was uncomfortable with people not being willing to show him their faces, and that veils probably serve to inhibit cultural integration. Lucky your Religious Tolerance bill never made it to law, eh Jack?
The Buncefield fire was apparently caused by "a mixture of air and petrol". What, a fire at a petrol storage depot involved the flammable liquid stored there in large quantities? And who'd have thought that there's be air there, on the surface of planet Earth?
You can see why they need experts for this sort of work. I had assumed that the fire was caused by a mixture of orange juice and custard.
So, that's it. We are all doomed.
Well, he may be right, but that's no reason not to try to save the world. But what's the best way? Go nuclear? Improve energy efficiency? Renewable? Depopulation? Even the experts don't seem to agree - though the common sense approach of trying all of the first three at the same time doesn't seem to get many press inches.
Anyway, perhaps it is all useless, what with the Asia-Pacific pact leaving it all to the barely regulated market to sort out. If China, India, and the US don't cut emissions, nothing the rest of the world does will make any difference.
Perhaps I spoke too soon - The Daily Express had a go at snatching the small-mindedness crown from from the Daily Mail with this fabulous headline; Registrars fear flood of bogus gay weddings by asylum seekers.
I noticed while listening to the report about gay and lesbian marriage on Radio 4 this morning that they were playing Lady in Red in the background. Does this mean that gay and lesbian people are now allowed to have appalling taste, too? This would be another great step towards true equality - gay and lesbian people deserve to be free from the terrible burden of having to be stylish and cool.
Back to the marriage thing - let's not be too down on the civil partnerships, but I do think it's a shame that the legislation didn't go the last yard and allow total equality. I do like the concept of the civil partnership - I'd be happier with that than marriage myself - but I think that both marrage and civil partnerships should be available to all, regardless of orientation. Still, it's a move in the right direction.
The headlines in the lesser newspapers were a little snitty, I felt - "Here Come The Brides", "Mrs. and Mrs.", that kind of thing - but not out and out bigoted, so again, progress.
Bloody Hell, the Tories are talking tough on climate change. Do they mean it?
But, just as a thought experiment, what if they did mean it? What if, going into the next election, they were actually promising to take some drastic action, and I believed that they'd fulfill those promises?
For me, climate change is the number one priority by a long way. Health, education, justice, all very important, but climate change dwarfs all of these. If we don't get it sorted out, we are looking at gigadeaths, and the end of civilization as we know it. These would be Bad Things.
So even if I disagreed with every single other policy they had, an electable party serious about climate change would be...
Nah, forget it. It'll never happen.
Well thank heavens for the Law Lords. The government may hold human rights in little or no regard, but they do, and they've blocked the use of any evidence obtained by torture. It's the second time within 12 months that they've twarted the government in its attempts to ignore fundamental human rights - last year they ruled that imprisonment without trial is illegal.
It's a bit of a shame that we have to rely on the unelected Lords to point this sort of thing out, but there you are. Here's to you, your Lordships. Perhaps there's some hope after all.
Take that! Hah! Now start listening to people.
Lords consider 'torture' appeal'. I don't even understand why they even need to consider this.
Forget all the practical arguments against admitting this evidence - evidence obtained via torture is unreliable, the European Court is unlikely to stand for it, and so on. All true, but irrelevant. We shouldn't be using this evidence because torture is wrong. Duh. If evidence obtained via torture is admissable, it'll be a stain on British Justice.
Commenting on two week old news. How cutting edge am I?
And we should stop worrying about all this anti-terrorist legislation, too. It's only being used against perpetrators of the most horrendous crimes at the moment, such as, uh, hecklers and pedestrians. Who can object to that? I'm hoping that they extend anti-terror legislation to cover people who eat noisy snacks in the theatre, or wear backpacks on the underground.
Update: Oh yes, and those photographers, too.
This is the man with his finger on the button. Feeling safe?
Update: Bush denies it. God probably told him to. "Keep the revalations to yourself, Dubya, or they'll all want one," said the voice in his head.
I see the US govornment are still nowhere being getting a clue. Of all the people to call as an expert on climate change, Michael Crichton? I ask you. Two class five sttorms in a month and NASA's clear warning will all be ignored in the face of testimony from the guy who created ER. I mean, he's made loads of money, so he must know what he's talking about, right?
My theory is that one day, the US will realise that all the extreme weather that they are getting isn't just a matter of chance, and the truth will finally dawn on them. Katrina and Rita can't be shown to have been caused by global warming, true, but as atmospheric average temperatures increase, there will be more and more storms. Americans are pretty good at getting stuff done once they pit their collective minds to something, so they'll slash emissions very fast. They'll also define large scale CO2 emission as "climatic terrorism", and bomb the living crap out of anyone doing it. Question is, will they realise in time?
Ha! Got the bastards!
On the whole, I'm rather worried that the new anti-terror laws will be abused. While I have little sympathy for the fuel protestors, I was horrified when the gfovornment suggested that anti-terror laws would be used agains them. Tunnel-visioned morons they might be, but terrorists? By no stretch of the imagination.
These so-called animal rights protestors, OTOH, certainly use violence to intimidate people, so I don't object to the new laws being used agains them.
Hey, you at the back. Yes, you. Stop smiling.
Gives you a real feeling as to how will this ID card biometrics thing is going to work, doesn't it? I can see it now: "Retinal Scanner: Please insert retina into the slot below to proceed."
(Note : Joke stolen from some Paranoia book or other circa 1985.)
Look, I can appreciate that they have to discourage this kind of thing, but five years? Seems a bit harsh.
There are reports of 'incidents' at various tube stations, and on a bus. It's early to tell, but it doesn't look very serious from what we can see at the moment.
It appears that there have been very minor explosions, designed to scare rather than to cause injury. Is someone pulling some kind of perverted practical joke or something? If so, they are going to find themselves in a world of trouble when, and I do mean when, they are caught.
All the mobiles are getting turned off now...
Update 14:15: At least one person injured, phones are back.
Anyway, there are still a couple ways in which the terrorists can have some measure of success. One is if there is an anti-Muslim backlash. That would be handing some of what the extremists want on a plate. They want Muslims to be isolated from everyone else.
The other is if some ill considered anti-terrorism makes its way onto the statute books. Personally, I doubt that there are really any changes needed to the law, but if any are made, I hope that there's nothing too draconian or knee-jerk. If our rights are impinged, then the bombers will have succeeded in affecting our lives in a way that I think they shouldn't - and history shows us that draconian measures like internment are counter-productive.
To his credit, Charles Clarke isn't using the attack as an excuse for garner more support for the ID card bill. Let's hope it fails...
London beats Paris to 2012 Games. Oh bugger. That'll be £20 on my council tax bill then, and it'll be bloody murder getting in to work. Assuming I'll still be in London by then.
Err, sorry. But very much in his style, don't you think?
Anyway, every cloud has a silver lining. Anything that upsets Carol Vorderman can't be all bad. I'm just sorry that it wasn't her.
Update: I've just been having a Carol Vorderman rant at work. I seems that some people in the office weren't aware that she's an anti-MMR campaigner, and since she seems to have some utterly spurious scientific credibility for some reason that I utterly fail to fathom, people listen to her, causing a diminution of the herd immunity to Measles, and thereby risking an epidemic, which would cause the deaths of many very young children. Well, they are now.
I've not yet touched on her advertisements for dodgy loan sharks, or that anti cholesterol margarine, which they fail to mention is as bad for some people as it is good for others, instead irresponsibly selling it as generally healthy. Bloody woman.
Bizarre - no hits for "I hate Carol Vorderman". Well, I'll be the first.
It was a bit of a shock tuning in to Radio 4 yesterday morning, and hearing Charles Mingus in full flight. Not a nasty shock - I'm a fan of Mingus - but I was looking for Today. I fiddled about with the tuning, looking for it, but it wasn't there.
There was a picket line at the front on my building last week. As a one-time man of the left, you might think that I'd be unhappy to cross the line. But the dispute had nothing to do with my company whatsoever, and besides, I never saw a single person on the picket line, ever. They came late, and left early. If they can't be bothered to man the picket line, why should anyone take any notice?
It was a disappointing night, though not a surprising one. I was hoping that the Lib Dems would get 24% to 25% nationally, and get at least an extra 20 seats or so. They managed 23% and 16 seats. They are, unfortunately, in a bit of a Catch-22 - people don't vote for them because they can't win, and they can't win because people won't vote for them. Sigh.
Still, there must be some tipping point where their share of the vote goes high enough that they are seen as realistic contenders.
Don't forget to vote tomorrow, compatriots. Let's see if we can't give the good guys a boost, and stuff the liars and the bigots. And even if you don't like any of the big three, you should vote for one of them as a vote against the paranoid flakes, the narcissistic megalomaniacs and the truly evil.
On a lighter note, this is very satisfying, in a childish sort of a way. ;-)
What are you? Post your URLs...
I don't see what people are whining about all the time. If you don't speed, you don't get a ticket. Simple.
Now, if you want to argue that the speed limits are wrong, we can talk. It's not OK to just ignore laws that you don't like, but lobbying to have them changed is fine. So how's this for a deal - you can have higher speed limits on motorways, if I can have a rigorously enforced 20 mph speed limit on residential roads. OK?
It was, in my opinion, only right and proper that the BNP party were granted a Party Political Broadcast. After all, free speech is only free speech if you give it to the arseholes too.
None of which means that I had to watch the bloody thing, though. I had better things to do...
Who should I vote for?
Your expected outcome:Liberal Democrat
Your actual outcome:
|Liberal Democrat 38|
|UK Independence Party 8|
You should vote: Liberal Democrat
The LibDems take a strong stand against tax cuts and a strong one in favour of public services: they would make long-term residential care for the elderly free across the UK, and scrap university tuition fees. They are in favour of a ban on smoking in public places, but would relax laws on cannabis. They propose to change vehicle taxation to be based on usage rather than ownership.
Take the test at Who Should You Vote For
Not much surprise there. Except, that is, that the UKIP came out positive. I can't imagine how that happened...
Via badly dubbed boy.
Congratulations on the birth of your first child, Charles. I hope mother and baby are doing well. If Donald brings you half the joy that my children have brought me, you'll be a lucky man.
Clearly, you're going to take a bit of time off; it's the right thing to do. But time's tight right now, so we need you back as soon as possible. We're relying on you to beat the liars and the bigots. (Or to give them a bloody nose at least. I know that hoping for a win is a bit unrealistic.)
Tube closure bombshell. Bugger. That's going to be inconvenient, to say the least.
Update: Well, that's the Colliers Wood residents' view covered, then.
Time for a Manhattan Project to combat global warming. I would have linked to the original article if it wasn't behind a paywall.
I don't like it much, but I have to agree with Lord May - in practise, we need to go nuclear. I mean, yes, in theory, if we adjusted our lifestyles enough, and invested enough in renewable power, we could do without it, but I really can't see it happening.
Can you? Really?
You can see why they were concerned - prior to the scare, they had a superb reputation. I mean, complicity in genocide-or-is-that-just-crimes-against-humanity is pretty trivial stuff, right?
As if the British honours system wasn't in enough disrepute; Microsoft's Gates being knighted. What next - a posthumous lordship for Robert Maxwell? A Nobel Peace Prize for George W. Bush and Tony Blair?
(And yes, I know that Henry Kissenger already has a Nobel Peace Prize. Satire is dead.)
Channel 4 is running a poll to decide which of the UK's vilest buildings should be demolished. The Tower in Colliers Wood is currently topping the poll.
I walk past The Tower (or The Brown and Root Tower as long-time Colliers Wood residents still call it) at least twice every day. And it's true - it is hideous. But it's been there for as long as I can remember, and I've lived in Colliers wood, on and off, since I was four. I remember using it to find my way home when I was lost. So, I have a funny kind of affection for the thing.
Besides, there's just about zero chance of it actually being knocked down - it would take out the tube line beneath it if you just blew it up - so it's all a bit of a waste of time really.
It's far too little, China and India don't have to cut their emissions for ages, and the world's largest polluter, the US, aren't even playing.
Still, it's the first time that there has been any legally binding agreement to cut emissions, so it's still good news. It might just be the first step in saving the world.
OK, so I've done religion. Now for a bit of politics. ;-)
Livingstone. Hmmm. Well, I think that his choice of language and metaphor were, uh, well, unwise would be putting it far too lightly.
But while I think that he shouldn't have chosen to speak the way he did, I don't think that he should apologise unless he genuinely thinks that he was wrong. And in fact, I think that his assessment of the Mail and the Standard is correct in essentials; they are both appalling crypto-fascist rags.
My paper of choice, The Indy, has a woeful online presence. No RSS, and password protection on old content. A real shame. It's not like they are likely to be making money online, after all. It hurts me that The Bigot is ahead of The Indescribablyboring online.
The Indy's science and technology editor seems to be pretty clued up, on the other hand. He's a blogger, after all - Charles on... anything that comes along. Perhaps he'll drag them into the 21st century? But I doubt it. Wise words from the techies seems to have no effect on the PHBs in my experience.
Still, no, Scobie, Newspapers aren't dead. The BBC and the like might well compete on pure news, but when it comes to editorial, opinion and background, I've found nothing online that competes with real papers. And even if I could, I still wouldn't be able to read it on the tube.
Or at least I try to. I can't help but spot the headlines on the tube now and again. It rarely fails to make me apoplectic. The Bigot is the single most malign influence on British life, on my opinion.
Chaos at Ikea opening. Ikea's always like that, in my experience.
Update Thursday the 9th: What's up with the news this week? Testicle removal story number 2.
Her bare hands? Ow!
Police extended their thanks to four teenagers for helping them resolve the situation, along with their large Great Dane. The 42-year-old Polish perpetrator said: "And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn't for those meddling kids".
This would make me one - Prince Harry dresses up as a Nazi.
Prince Harry urged to visit Auschwitz. Good idea, but leave the uniform at home, eh?
Berlusconi forgives attacker. Yeah, well I don't. A "minor injury behind his right ear"? Put a little effort into it, man!
112,000 and rising. Given how many places are still cut off, the slow progress of rescue operations, and poor communications, this could easily double, God forbid.
Not much to say, really, is there? Other than that there are still many people at risk who need your help.
If you can stomach it, the BBC's online coverage is excellent.
I have to say, I'm sorry that Blunkett has been forced to resign over such trivial matters. His relationship with that vindictive witch Quinn was a purely personal mistake. (I must say, she sounds like a particularly evil psycho bitch from hell - and trust me, I know what I'm talking about here.)
The accelerated visa? Naughty, naughty. But not really that serious in the greater scheme of things. I mean, who doesn't make use of the people and facilities at work from time to time? Only this week, for instance, I used my company's bandwidth to download a ridiculously large device driver from HP, and used an office CD burner to burn it onto (my own) CD. Should I resign?
After all, it's not like he started a war on false pretences or anything, is it?
No, I wanted to see Blunkett resign over the introduction of imprisonment without trial, the end of the right to trial by jury, the introduction of ID cards, and generally being
a fascist the most authoritarian home secretary we've seen in half a century.
"I'm innocent", says Blunkett. Hmm, well, yes, that may be, but I think we'd better throw you in prison unless and until you can prove it, to be safe.
Freja is a torrent of questions at the moment. I do my best to answer her as best I can, no matter how wearing it gets, but when she asked me why there are seat-belts in cars and on planes, but not on busses or trains, I was at a loss. Now it seems there is no good reason.
Even if they were optional, they'd still save lives. I'd probably wear them, and I'd make the girls wear them without a doubt.
I'd like to thank Kimberley Quinn for a genuinely novel experience - feeling sorry for David Blunkett.
Not satisfied with dumping him and denying him paternity and access to his children, she wants to destroy his career for him, too. That's women for you.
Can we expect to see measures allowing the indefinite detention without trial of vindictive ex-mistresses in one of his new bills?
Jokes apart, it would be superb if Blunkett lost his job, over this or for any other reason. The man seems not to value civil liberties at all. But don't hold your breath - we all know what happens when this lot set up an investigation...
I've had my say about fox hunting and country affairs before, and I've not changed my mind.
The thing that strikes me at the moment, though, is that I seem to find myself in violent disagreement with whatever is said by any of the politicians or faction leaders involved in this, whichever side they are on. It's almost as if I'm always on the side of whoever is keeping their mouths shut for a change.
When one of the
bumpkins country types is banging on about how city folk should stop interfering with their lives, I'm ranting "Yeah, and we'll start by ceasing to interfere with your economies - no more agricultural subsidies or loss making public transport for you lot, then. See how you like that."
Then Gerald Kaufman pops up, and I'm shouting "Did you know that children in care in this country get an average of one GCSE each? What kind of a future do you think they are going to have with that? Oh, and remember the war in Iraq? How many people are being killed over there? And you are worried about bloody foxes. What a shameful waste of parliamentary time."
Makes me sick, it really does.
Don't worry, perfectly safe for work - just not safe to eat. Hardee's Monster Thickburger More Porno Than Ever. They are bucking the trend, clearly, but who's to say the trend will last? And I must say, that looks like a mighty tasty burger.
I mean, just to make sure that there isn't a cubic millimetre of the burger that might be healthy, they even butter the bun. Now that's what I call attention to detail. ;-)
Update: Picture here.
Before we rant about stupid Americans, it behoves us to remember that there are two Americas. Well, there are several - but there are two USAs.
Is it just me, or is the Great Western Main Line suffering more than its fair share of accidents? Southall, Ladbroke Grove, and now Ufton Nervet? I mean, I know it's still far safer to go by train than it is to go by car, and I'm not going to stop using the train to pick up the girls from Reading, but I'll admit to being a bit uneasy.
Anyway, I didn't have the girls this weekend, so I wasn't anywhere near Reading at any time. I rang early on Saturday morning, as soon as I heard the news, and the girls, Cath, Dan and Ruben weren't on the train either. This was as I suspected - they drive everywhere - but I wanted to be sure.
My thoughts are with the families of those killed, and those injured, and with Amanda, for whom this must be a horrible reminder of her nightmare.
Update: Girl, nine, among rail crash dead. Horrible.
If, as it appears, this was a suicide, then there's almost certainly nothing that could have been done to prevent it. I know that a lot of people will be seeing this as the ultimate in selfish acts, but I don't think that that would be quite right. Thoughtless, yes, but I doubt that it occurred for a moment to the poor suffering individual who caused this that they might take anyone else with them. In the unlikely event that they gave the matter any thought at all, they probably assumed that only they would be hurt. After all, that's the case in the overwhelming number of level crossing incidents.
Not that I believe in IQs, you understand, but still, this is fantastic.
Update: Simon Schama: The Divided States of America.
Straw: war on Iran 'inconceivable'. And the wouldn't lie to us. Would they?
I was living in Reading during much of 1999, and commuting to London each morning by train. The train that I usually took was the one before the train that crashed at Ladbroke Grove - but it wasn't unusual for me to be running a little late. I probably caught it once a week or so. But by October, I had moved to Colliers Wood.
I never read about Ladbroke Grove without a shiver.
Arrrgh! Have you noticed that the only people who talk about PC these days are bigots who want to use "not being beholden to political correctness" as an excuse for spouting their offensive reactionary shite?
BNP activists admit to race crime. Well, there's a surprise. Still, well done the BBC - the more light is thrown on these nasty racist thugs, the less likely it is that people will be taken in by the new, moderate image that they are attempting to fool us all with.
I own three items of foot-ware; a pair of sensible smart black leather work shoes, which I never wear, a pair of blue plimsolls, and a pair of tan leather boots. All three of these are Cats. This may be a coincidence, or perhaps I just like their style. Hmmm, that last one sounds unlikely - I don't do style. Whatever.
Thing is, now I find that we should be boycotting Caterpillar Inc. Bugger!
It's OK to keep wearing what I already have, isn't it, just so long as I don't buy any more?
I certainly hope not; the odeous Robert Kilroy-Silk.
Via mad musings of me.
OK, so, it looks like everybody lost this round of European elections; It's Labour's worst result since 1910, the Tories were down by 10%, and the Lib Dems were pushed into 4th place. And a good result for the UKIP is a loss for all of us.
OK; let's see if I can nurse my poor, crippled blog through making a new post.
Via Andy, and just about everyone else who was at NotCon '04 on Sunday, I discover the wonderfull new TheyWorkForYou.com - basically Hansard in accessable form. You can even get an RSS feed to keep you up to date with what your MP is up to!
Tomorrow is election day. You must vote - the mainstream parties aren't all the same, and even if they were, you need to vote to keep the Nazis out. Many of our elders gave their lives to keep the Nazis at bay; all we have to do is to vote, so there's no excuse for not doing so.
And let's kick the the UKIP into touch too, for that matter.
London Underground staff have voted "overwhelmingly" for strike action in a dispute over pay. Never mind the bloody Olympics - how am I going to get to work? And indeed, how am I going to get back in time to vote?
Update: Hmmm. I'd forgotten that I'm not in work that day - I'm off to Reading to help my ex move. Getting to Paddington might be interesting...
Firing "warning shots" at a crowd - with a tank gun. Not even the Israelis can justify this, not even to themselves, surely?
Looks like the Yanks are trying to keep up, though.
God Hates Fags? Do people really believe this stuff?
(Oh, BTW, don't for a moment think that I'm tarring Christians in general with this brush - I'm well aware that these bigots are a tiny minority.)
The House of Commons has been suspended during Prime Minister's question time after what appeared to be purple powder was thrown at Tony Blair. How the hell did the perpetrators get past security? That powder could have been anything. Given the current state of terrorist alert, it's staggering that this could happen.
As for Fathers 4 Justice, well, I have some sympathy for them. I'm not in their shoes; I'm a seperated father, but I get plenty of access - most weekends, in fact. But I very easily could have been, so I have a good idea how they might feel.
But this was just plain stupid.
Why it's in the US's best interest to start taking note of international law: We're Number Seven!
Talking of mind boggling - you'll be able to get around the UK's proposed ID card system, provided that you are willing to lie about who you are. Andy'll love this.
Bank Holiday Fridays are bad enough...
As the days go by, we are hearing more and more about appalling human rights abuses by coalition troops in Iraq, both American and British. (Whether the Mirror pictures are genuine or not is pretty much irrelevant, so far as I'm concerned. The pictures themselves may well be fakes, but abuse certainly took place.)
Now, clearly, there is no excuse for the perpretrators of this kind of thing. They should feel at least partly responsible for the killing of Nick Berg. Nevertheless, I think it's important to establish whether this abuse is just the result of a rogue element being poorly managed as General Taguba claims, or whether it was encouraged from the top.
I suspect the latter. The US turned its back on the Geneva Convention some time ago, as their treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay shows. And Geoffrey Miller, the man who ran Guantanamo, now runs Abu Ghraib prison.
It's impossible to tell how many of these "terrorist suspects" are really dangerous before their incarceration without trial, and how often it's just paranoia.
All is forgiven.
You can try and take the piss out of Blunkett, but the man is beyond satire: Blunkett charges miscarriage of justice victims ‘food and lodgings’.
This creeping sickness. Whatever happened to The Land of the Free?
On one sense, the argument as to whether global warming is a more serious threat than terrorism in the coming century is a sterile one. Both are huge problems, and the steps we should be taking to resolve them are orthogonal.
Or, rather, they should be orthogonal. And here's the rub. The UK government seems to believe that in order to fight terrorism, it needs to stand foursquare behind the American government. Criticism of the US's environmental policies would, according to this viewpoint, dilute the vital anti-terrorist alliance, and must be suppressed.
This would be dangerous even if the US was actually succeeding in damping down terrorism. Given that Guantanamo Bay, the Iraqi invasion, blind support for Israel's illegal activities and so on seem to be exacerbating terrorism, this is doubly mad. So far as my children are concerned, I'm far more concerned that they won't have a working ecosystem to keep them alive than I am that they'll suffer at the hands of terrorosts.
Pupils could learn about atheism in RE. Brilliant - about time.
For a short time - and very much against my will - my eldest was in a C of E school. At one point, she asked me what I though God would think about something or other, and was totally scandalised when I told her that I didn't believe in God. "But Daddy," she said, "you have to believe in God. You're not allowed to not believe in God and the baby Jesus." I told her that she shouldn't let anybody tell her whether to believe in God or not, nor in which God to believe. Not me, not her mother, not her teachers, nobody. She should make her own mind up.
Now, she seems to believe in God about half the time, and not the other half. Which is just as it should be for a seven year old, I'd say.
Me, I'm an Atheist, and I have been for as long as I can remember. It's just the only thing which makes any sense to me. Any kind of God seems to require more of an explanation than It/He/She can provide. (And just don't bring up Pascal's Wager. Just don't.)
But I'm not a Dawkinsite. I admire the man as a scientist, but I don't actually believe that religion is a positive source of evil as he seems to do. For me, religion is mostly morally neutral. Good and bad people behave as they wish, regardless of their religion or lack or it. Good people can find rationale in their religion for doing whatever it is they would have done anyway, yes. But then, people seem to be able to use religion as a rationale for anything.
In a further hardening of his earlier proposals, Home Secretary David Blunkett has proposed that suspected terrorists be convicted on the basis that a representative panel of Daily Mail readers "doesn't really like the look of them". He went on the point out that "honest, decent citizens need not worry about these proposals, since they will naturally only apply to darkies. Oh, shit, did I say that out loud?"
Robert Mugabe responded: "When I said that I'd teach the British a thing or two, this wasn't what I had in mind."
So, a large organisation has, probably inadvertently, mislead the public. The management of this organisation stuck by the initial report, whereas they should have launched an investigation into the report's accuracy. Having failed to do this, the men at the top fell upon their swords.
Hmmm. I can think of another large organisation which might have mislead us. Our government. One might charitably believe that this was also inadvertent, but mislead we have been. And we went to war, and a lot of people have been killed. I wonder if the men at the top will do the honourable thing this time?
I doubt it.
Good luck to the National Crime Squad's new online paedophile trap scheme, Project Pin. I have a feeling that the technically adept will be find ways around this easily enough, though, and the online paedophiles seem to be nothing if not technically adept. Anonymous browsing isn't rocket science, for a start. Still, it'll hopefully sweep up a number of dangerous people, and perhaps the Project Pin people have a few tricks of their own. Lets hope so.
(I have heard the argument that users of paedophile pornography aren't actually doing anything wrong - as opposed to those who abuse children directly. This is, of course, bollocks. Users of paedophile pornography create a market, children are abused to fulfil this market, and they are heavily responsible for this abuse.)
I've heard nothing to indicate that Ian Huntley was active online, so Project Pin wouldn't have identified him even had it existed. But we see now that he had a history of allegations of sexual offences, so background checks should have prevented him from working with children in the first place.
There are certainly human rights issues to consider here. If someone is not convicted of an offence, is it right that it should stain their character? It's a tough one. I think that when it comes to the compilation of a register of those who might pose a risk to children, a civil standard of proof should be sufficient. That is to say - a person cannot (and should not) be convicted of a crime unless the evidence proves guilt beyond reasonable doubt, but that this information should be available on the register if the preponderance of evidence indicates reason to be concerned. Clearly, by this standard, Huntley would have been on such a register.
When I say 'available' here, I do mean available to those who have a good reason for needing to know - those who employ people to work with children. If this information were to be available too easily, vigilantes would certainly make use of it. (It might distract them from attacking paediatricians, I suppose.) There should also be an appeals process.
And the there's Michael Jackson. Sigh. I just don't know what to think about this. I can quite believe that there was something untoward going on - after all, his childhood would be enough to screw anybody up. But then, on the other hand, I can equally believe that the allegations were fabricated, motivated by greed for publicity or cash. I suppose that we'll never know - the chances of a fair trial must be just about zero.
But let's keep this whole predatory paedophile thing in perspective. Parents: if you are worried about your child's safety (and all of you are), teach them to cross the road. Over 300 children were killed crossing the road in the UK in just one year (according to the 1999 figures, the latest that I've been able to find online). Whereas the danger of your child being murdered by a stranger is tiny - according to The Sunday Times (6/8/95): "Despite the scepticism of parents, the murder figures look relatively reassuring. Between 1983 and 1993, on average 86 children under 16 were killed each year in England and Wales, mostly by their parents and minders. But the number murdered by strangers has been tiny, averaging five a year... children are not becoming more vulnerable to homicide". And this figure is pretty static, too: it's not on the increase.
The number of parents I see dragging their children across busy roads appals me. What do they think they are teaching them? I always use a pedestrian crossing when I'm with the girls, if there's one available, and I always wait for the green light. (I wait for the green light when any children are around, in fact.) If there's no pedestrian crossing, we do the full 'green cross code' thing, and I make the girls tell me when they think it's safe to cross.
Deep breath. Deep breath.
OK, rant over.
Well done, chaps. You got him. (My cursory reading seems to indicate that the X-Men were involved in some way.)
What to do with him? Well, the vast majority of his crimes were against the Iraqi people, so it seems only just that they be allowed to try him. And while I don't approve of capital punishment, I'm not going to shed any tears on his behalf should his erstwhile victims decide to get medieval on his ass.
No, I don't believe it either, but it's an excellent conspiracy theory.
George W. Bush thinks he can hide from an angry public. He's wrong.
In common with everyone else in the UK with an Internet connection, I know what the current "Royal sex scandal" is all about. Whether the allegations are true or not I neither know nor care.
I will say this, though - that Prince Charles is always really nicely turned out, isn't he?
The SchoolTool project isn't making too much of a wake at the moment, but I suspect that before too long, there will be a bit more buzz around it.
Mark was at last year's Python UK conference. He was already planning this project at that time, and he was looking for people to work with. He basically wanted someone with strong Python skills, and lots of XP experience. Since I don't really fit the former category, and I don't even remotely fit the latter, I wasn't the man that he was looking for. Which was a bit of a shame. But I though I knew a man who was - Steve Alexander, whom I'd met at a previous Python UK conference.
Bizarrely enough, I bumped into Steve on a crowded train to Reading just a couple of weeks later, and I mentioned Mark's project to him. Steve was (and is) working in Lithuania, so it seemed to me unlikely that Steve would be able to join the project. I was under the impression that Mark wanted the it all be based in London. But, with Steve's permission, I passed his contact details on to Mark anyway.
Clearly I was wrong, since Steve is now on the SchoolTool team. Cool! I suppose that these days, there's little reason why a project needs to be based on any one place, after all.
So, anyway, if you want to contribute to a truly worthy open source project, SchoolTool could be your man. I wish it luck.
... and it looks like the Liberal Democrats won. ;-)
Via Ned Batchelder.
The numbers by themselves mean nothing at all. As Ned points out, placement the centre lines is entirely subjective. But it seems to me that relative scores might have some meaning - so, for example, I'm a little less left wing then Ned, and a little more libertarian.
But is it a good test?
What do you score?
800MB, per person, per year. Blimey.
But, the BBC uses the terms 'data' and 'information' interchangeably in this article, and they aren't the same thing at all. Data are just the raw material - information is meaningful and usable. I doubt very much that all 800MB could really be called information...
I'm not going to comment on the whole "Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor" thing. I don't live in California, so it's none of my business. Besides, I couldn't care less.
I did want to point out this comment from Jay Leno, though. It made me laugh out loud on the tube this morning. "For the first time in his career, critics are calling him an actor." ;-)
The American Traveler International Apology Shirt. Why wear your heart on your sleeve when you can wear it on your chest?
The comments page was accurately summed up as:
US: We're awsome!
Everyone else: You suck!!
US: We're awsome!!!
Everyone else: You suck!!
Repeat to infinity
But there are some gems in there. I liked:
When the Great British empire controlled half the world we didn't have these problems. We let some tax dodging religious zealots have their own way and look what happens.
I was listening to Today this morning, and heard Kenneth Adelman (one of President Bush's defence advisers) claim that it's OK that no WMDs have yet been found in Iraq, because Saddam Hussein was himself a weapon of mass destruction.
Do they really think that we are stupid enough that they can get away with this?
Also, I'd like to point out that they haven't found him yet, either.
I have profoundly mixed feelings about this.
On the one hand, I really can't say that I see any advantage to GM foods, at least not in the hands of Monsanto and the like. The current momentum towards GM is all part of the intensive high-yield low-quality agriculture industry which, along with the madness of the CAP and the like, are starving the 3rd World and costing the 1st in both money and choice.
But on the other hand, I have to say that I feel that the public's opposition to GM is driven more by ignorance and the naturalistic fallacy than by any informed objections.
None of the food that we eat is remotely natural - we've been genetically modifying our food for thousands of years, by selective breeding. Modern livestock and crop plants are so different from thier natural ancestors that it's doubtful that a present day farmer would even recognise them.
People have been eating GM food in the US for many years without any health problems at all.
Where real dangers may lie are in the environmental impact. Genes are known to transfer from species to species quite readily in the plant world, so care needs to be taken, and research needs to be done.
As is so often the case, in the end I think that people should be allowed to make their own choices. I remember thinking during the BSE scare that banning beef-on-the-bone was, well not exactly an over reaction, but too prescriptive. I think that food labelling would have been a more appropriate response to BSE, and also for GM foods. If you don’t want to eat GM foods until sufficient research has been done on the environmental impact, or indeed if you are worried about health risks in spite of the evidence, then strict labelling would give you the option.
Binge drinking 'costs £20bn'. Wow, now that's what I call a session. Three sheets to the wind, arrr!
Well, clearly he isn't, but Sadie is.
What's going on? Look at these proposals:
See a pattern?
I scored 8/10 on this Britishness quiz - I missed questions 4 and 5, at both of which I'd guessed wildly.
Anyone think that it's a coincidence that this news comes out in the middle of the Hutton enquiry? No, me neither.
I was stuck on a tube just outside Tooting Broadway for well over an hour. Power came back after half an hour or so, but my train's radio didn't work, and it took a long time to confirm that it was safe to move.
It wasn't too bad - the emergency lights worked OK, and I had a seat and plenty to read. From Tooting, I walked. Via the Traf, naturally. ;-)
Update: It least I wasn't nearly killed.
Interesting obituary of Idi Amin. Lots of stuff about his early years I didn't know about.
Not, I think I can safely say, a nice chap. It's only a shame he didn't see some sort of justice before dying. Let's just hope he died in pain, eh?
0.1 grams? When he was 18? Not exactly Pablo Escobar, was he? Who cares?
It could be argued, I suppose, that this is the thin end of the wedge, and that freedom of speech might end up being unacceptably curtailed.
It could be argued, but not by me. I think the bastard deserves everything he's getting.
This is seriously sick. Sex symbol aged eight.
I'm lost for words, really. This kind of person doesn't need egging on.
Via Rececca Blood.
Utterly unimportant, yes. But we like Ms. Kidman, and we don't like The Daily Mail, so this is good. Yes?
Britain has by now lost its sovereignty to the United States and has become a client state. Scary, especially given the US's current rogue nation attitudes.
The erstwhile owners of New York's World Trade Centre are arguing with their insurers. Was each plane a separate attack? Or was did both constitute a single coordinated attack?
This matters, because there seems to be a maximum pay-out per event. So if there was only one event, the maximum payout would be 3½ billion dollars. If it were two, then it would be $7 billion.
It seems to me that, since you certainly couldn't consider both planes striking the WTC as a coincidence, then it must be one event. But then, I'm not a lawyer. And where there is 3½ billion dollars at stake, I'm sure that you can find lawyers who can prove just about anything, or go down trying.
And if you think the whole argument is ridiculous, I can tell you, from my exposure to the insurance industry, that this is by no means the most insane thing going on...
WTF is happening here? Did he kill himself, or did someone else kill him? (I think that we can rule out coincidence.)
Who would want him dead, and why? He's already spilt the beans, hasn't he? Or was there more to tell?
I didn't think that the US or UK governments did this sort of thing any more. They use the F16 or Tornado for their summary executions these days, don't they? But perhaps I'm not paranoid enough...
And even if he did commit suicide, no one will believe it. This'll be fueling conspiracy theories for years.
Update, 2:35 p.m.: According to the BBC's timeline, he went for a walk at three yesterday. Which tells us nothing. If he wanted to kill himself, it sounds like the ideal excuse to get out of the house.
But on the other hand, if he was a regular walker, then an assassin could have been waiting for him. And they would probably try to make it look like suicide.
Me? I do think suicide is the more likely explanation. Partly because he wasn't used to press attention, and he was in trouble with his bosses, the MOD. But mainly because I can't see any motive for anyone to kill him. Am I missing something?
One thing I am sure of - we'll never be sure of the truth.
Not all of it is that scary, mind you. Quite how the world is put under threat by the fact that the US has only a dozen super-carriers, (as opposed to the 15 which would allow them to intimidate the whole world at once) I don't know.
But there are developments here which aren't getting the attention that they should.
Spotted on Slashdot. I know, I know.
Ageism hits Generation X? Well, that explains a lot.
Via Little Blue Fox, whose comments could be my own. (I would point to her comments, but her her permalinks are broken.)
We are in danger of tunnel vision here. Things are happening in parts of the world other than Baghdad.
Somehow, I missed the fact that at least 966 men, women and children were killed in the Congo earlier this week. No one knows who did it, and no one seems to care.
Going to do anything about this, Mr Bush? Mr Blair? No, I thought not.
A very interesting article over at The Register - Al Jazeera and the Net - free speech, but don't say that. The Register are mainly a techie news outfit, but they are sometimes at their most interesting when they go off topic a bit.
It seems that Al Jazeera are finding themselves being blocked from Western audiences.
A couple of bits I'll quote verbatim: We should also clarify something regarding the footage of the prisoners and the dead servicemen; military spokesmen to the contrary, reproducing such images is not a breach of the Geneva Convention. The Geneva Convention is directed at governments, and does not cover news organisations. Al Jazeera has arguably broadcast images of the Iraqi Government breaching the Geneva Convention, but that is not the same thing.
To get this into perspective, note that one of the most striking pictures from the Vietnam war was of a South Vietnamese officer shooting a prisoner - do we argue that this should not have been published? If Al Jazeera had footage of an Iraqi shooting a British prisoner, should that be broadcast? The other way around? Are our standards today different from those of the 60s, or do the criteria differ depending on the nationalities of the participants and/or the audience? The answers are not straightforward, nor should they be.
Rupert Cornwell: Don't mention the V-word
Osama Bin Laden must be rubbing his hands with glee reading the news these days.
See also: Robert Fisk: Sergeant's suicidal act of war has struck fear into Allied hearts
Not for long, though, I'll be bound. She'll get the chop as soon as the dust settles. Blair won't trust her in future, and she'll have lost credibility amongst backbenchers, too.
Cook went, as predicted. Good speech, too.
We can expect that Robin Cook will go. As will Claire Short, if the has an ounce of integrity, which I think she does. Military action, what, tomorrow, Wednesday?
After that, who can say? I should imagine that the US will go through the desert quick enough - air power will see to that. But once they hit the cities, it could be really bad. If the Iraqi troops put up a real fight in the cities, the casualties will be horrendous, both military and civilian.
But will they? Obviously I hope not, but it's possible. Perhaps the Iraqi military feel that if they inflict sufficient casualties the allies will be forced to pack up and go home, a-la Vietnam. Given the lack of domestic support, this isn't totally impossible.
But I certainly hope the whole thing is over quickly. As always in modern war, it's going to be the civilians who bear the brunt of all this. It's at times like this that I wish I had someone to prey to.
Time to re-link to the classic God Angrily Clarifies 'Don't Kill' Rule.
Cars with TVs. Madness, sheer madness.
It's Robert Mugabe's 79th birthday today. Happy, birthday, Bob.
Now hurry up and die, you fucker.
What the French are up to, hosting a summit for a bunch of murderous old African dictators, I can't begin to imagine.
I wonder if The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams makes fun of the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Cormac Murphy O'Connor. "I've got 70 million Anglicans across the world. You've only got four million. Nyaaaaah!"
I don't want to get into a discussion about whether or not we should invade Iraq. For the record, I don't think we should act without explicit UN backing, but those who think otherwise have valid points of view.
Steve is right too, though - the US and UK don't look like they are even trying to win hearts and minds.
The angle which I haven't seen explored is the medium to long term effect on the UN. It seems to me that we might be looking at the beginning of the end.
If the French veto military action, the US will go it pretty much alone if they have to. (They'll probably have British support, though Blair might, just might, take notice of the pretty much overwhelming public opposition.) This will leave the UN looking pretty irrelevant. League of Nations, anybody?
Of course, one has to wonder whether it's appropriate for France and Britain to have a UN veto. Russia, China, and the US, the superpowers, I can see - the UN would be meaningless without their support, so it's necessary to ensure that it never adversely affects their interests. But Britain and France's positions on the Permanent Security Council is a historical anomaly, reflecting those nation's pre WWII power.
BNP takes fifth council seat. What's going on here?
I'm proud to be British, but the Britain that I'm proud to be a part of is a tolerant one. The current furore over asylum seekers sickens me. Britain has historicaly benefited from immigration.
Drivers should pay up and stop complaining. You tell 'em, Natasha!
A bit of background for non-Brits, well, non-Londoners, perhaps: London's roads are grinding to a halt. There is no room for any more roads, so public transport is the only answer. (Well, that and more bikes.)
In order to drive people off the road and onto public transport, London's Mayor, Ken Livingston, is introducing a 'congestion' charge, i.e. a charge for driving a car into central London. Naturally, drivers are up in arms about this.
I might say that I've lived in London for all but a couple of years of my life, and I've always found public transport perfectly adequate. And yes, I do have children.
New Year drinking times extended. I'm getting a headache just thinking about it.
I doubt that I'll post for a couple of weeks now, so, Happy Christmas and a Prosperous New Year to one and all. (Except for Bill Gates, who is quite prosperous enough already.)
What really pisses me off is that the bloody Tube drivers are on strike, too. Bastards. Getting to and from work has been a nightmare over the last couple of days.
I've read Iraq's weapons of mass destruction: The assessment of the British Government, and I find that I agree with David Aaronovitch - this is a case for action, not a case for war.
Vattekkat seems to be unhappy about mention of "some Indian companies". Having read the full dossier, I find mention of only one Indian company. The Indian government suspended this company's export license. You can find unscrupulous companies in any country - God knows there are enough of them here. The Indian government acted entirely properly. Why does Vattekkat think that this reflects badly on India?
Problem is, they are often not actually as liberal as all that. As I have said before, I think that politicians should stay out of peoples lives as much as possible, and not try to make decisions for people where it can be avoided. The Lib-Dems are nearly as bad at this as New Labour - always willing to make laws to force people to behave in what they see as a responsible manner.
It appears that Menzies Campbell (the Lib-Dems' foreign affairs spokesman) agrees with me - We often fail to match our words with deeds, Campbell admits. His philosophy seems to match mine exactly on this issue. Will words turn to action?
This Sunday, between 300,000 and 400,000 people (0.4% of the UK's population, approximately) came to London to protest against the government's handling of rural affairs. There seem to have been two main threads to the reasoning behind the protest.
Liberty. The government is planning to make fox-hunting illegal. The House of Commons has already voted this through twice, on both occasions allowing a free vote. On both occasions, the (unelected) House of Lords blocked the legislation. Assuming that a third vote goes against fox-hunting, the government is likely to use the Parliament Act to force the legislation through.
I have some sympathy with those who don't want fox-hunting banned. Not much, but some. I strongly disapprove of fox-hunting. I think that to hunt and kill an animal in a painful manner for pleasure is morally wrong. But, it is for the individual to decide on their own actions, and the government should stay out of it wherever possible. I think that the government should resist any impulse to legislate on matters of conscience.
Having said that, the ban on fox-hunting was in the government's manifesto, and the government won the election, so I suppose that they are entitled to legislate...
Livelihood. The farming industry in this country is becoming untenable. Subsidies are heavy already, and are very unlikely to increase, but farmers claim that is almost impossible to make a living.
Hmmm. Again, some sympathy here - no one likes to find out that their way of life has no future. Unfortunately, that's just the way it is. The farmers are, Canute like, fighting the tide of history, and they are bound to lose. The government couldn't change this if they wanted to. It seems that British farming as a means of mass food production is finished.
It must be said, this is not the first time that an industry has disappeared (or at least altered beyond all recognition). I can't say that I remember the farmers giving the miners much support ten years ago! Should the State keep obsolete industries alive? Can it? I think not.
If my skills go out of date, should the State support me? No, of course not. It is my responsibility to keep myself up to date and employable, and the same goes for the farmers. I suspect that farming can have a future in the UK, but as a producer of high quality produce for those willing to pay, not as a mass food producer. A smaller industry, certainly, but perhaps a sustainable one.
Personal observations - getting around London was a nightmare yesterday. The visitors have no idea as to tube-etiquette - pushing onto trains without letting people off first, mulling in large groups blocking interconnections, that sort of thing. One tweed-clad chap nearly crushed my little girl. I had to give him a firm shove to make some room for her.
Also, other than the tube, using public transport clearly didn't occur to people. The roads were chock-full of coaches, and I have never seen so many range-rovers parked throughout London's streets. I shudder to think how much CO2 was released! The train to Reading was nice and empty, though, as was the Science Museum!
The Science Museum is the best kid's day out in London by far, by the way. The girls and I go once a month at least - they pretty much demand it.
Now, encouraging immigrants to learn to speak English sounds like a good thing - I feel that different cultures can only really happily live next to one another if they can communicate. Making English language lessions mandatory appears a bit reactionary at first, but there are arguments that it can enable people to make choices that otherwise they might not be able to - certain cultures would not encourage women to learn English and to engage in life outside the home, for example. Now if a woman chooses such a life, then that is up to her, but giving her the tools she need to make her own decision can only be a good thing, and in the UK, a command of English is one of them.
But surely what language people choose to speak in their own homes is a matter for them?
The US along with Australia are now the only major industrialised nations to have failed to ratify Kyoto.
Bush will just do as he pleases, though, as usual.
David Aaronovitch is often a thought provoking read. He's not a knee-jerk pacifist - war is sometimes necessary. But the justification for an attack on Iraq has not been made public - or does not exist.
Will Blair go along with Bush? Opposition in the U.K. is mounting.
Not that Bush really cares about U.K. opinion, or anyone else's, for that matter, with the exception of his domestic audience.
From football stadiums to hospitals, daily life in Ulster remains blighted by historic hatred, an interesting piece by David McKittrick in today's Independent.
The peace process is working - so far as the number of murders go, the figures speak for themselves. But there is a long way to go...
Perfectly serious, and very thorough. All visitors to the UK should read it!
Growing before your very eyes. Scary.
This was Bill Biggart's final photograph. Very moving.
This is every parent's nightmare. It's at times like this that I wish I was a theist, so that I could prey for them.
Hamas' brutal murders last week and this show why it is vital that they are not given a veto over any peace process - they don't want peace. What they want is the destruction of Israel by violent means.
Hamas claim that these murders were in retaliation for Salah Shehadeh's assassination, but no excuse is possible for the deliberate murder of civilians.
Naturally, this isn't terrorism. Oh no, if the bomb comes from a warplane, it can't be terrorism, can it?
War crimes, then?
Hamas will strike back, as night follows day, and more innocents will die.
None of this is surprising, of course. Inevitable after the Bush proposal.
There are voices of sanity, but they seem to be few. "The use of violence as a means of solving problems is demeaning to us as human beings. Attacking civilians of any kind anywhere is totally unacceptable."
It's clear to be that both sides are in the wrong. If I'm a little more harsh towards Israel, it's because I am part Jewish myself. If the Jews havn't learned the importance of humanity, what hope is there?
This Excerpt from The New Rulers of the World, by John Pilger argues that the US is itself the ultimate terrorist.
5000 civilians killed in the name of peace.
Via my 2p.
Of course, the US is by far the most powerful nation in the world, so they cannot be coerced into behaving reasonably. But there is no point Americans wingeing about being unpopular abroad...
Update 4 July: Looks like the Mirror has been reading my site. ;-)
The anti-Euro campaigners have some top names on-board - Bob Geldof, Harry Enfield, Rik Mayall, Vic Reeves, and Johnny Vaughan, for example. The sketch was certainly in poor taste, but that isn't the real issue so far as I am concerned.
The big deal is that these people - who don't know any more about the issues than we do - are using their celebrity to push their politics. What's going on?
As for Geldof, well, as David Aaronovitch says, It's as though Gandhi had taken up the fight against road humps.
Then there is Livingstone talking absolute bollocks. I'm almost speechless with anger that this idiot is giving advice on a subject that he clearly knows nothing about. MMR take-up is already at dangerous levels. He'd certainly have lost my vote, but for the fact that he never had it in the first place. (To be honest, I can't remember who I did vote for. That is how much of an impression the Lib-Dem candidate made. Decent people, the Lib-Dems, but rarely exciting.)
Update 04 July: Jesus wept, George Michael is at it now!
Berkoff deported from US, because he overstayed his visa by one day five years ago.
Jesus. Talk about a jobsworth.
Well, just so long as we keep John Malkovich out of the UK until he stops issuing death threats.
So, when's the referendum? Bring it on!
I can see that Arafat has to go before there can be any chance of peace, but surely Sharon has to go too.
But the real problem, as David Aaronovitch points out, is that the President's proposal gives an effective veto to peace to just about everybody. The suicide bombers don't want peace. If bombing serves to block the peace process, then this will only encourage more bombings.
Robert Fisk is also well worth reading. He is somewhat knee-jerk anti-American and anti-Israeli, so you have to factor that into your reading, but he understands the Palestinians better than just about anyone. And most of the time he is quite justified in his anti-American and anti-Israeli writing.
A rather more important use of weblogs than mine...
I think that we in the UK don't really get the whole US gun thing. It's not so much that we don't approve of gun ownership (though most don't). It's that we really don't get why people want a gun...
I wouldn't mind having a gun when people let their dogs off the leash in my local park, I must say. Why is it that a farmer is allowed to shoot a dog which is worrying his sheep, but I'm not allowed to shoot a dog which is worrying my children?