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Archive for December, 2009

Though you’ve failed to meet the standards, we’ve a place where we’ll reform you

December 5, 2009 Leave a comment

I’m not even going to comment; this is too good, and too close to the mark:

AGW and helicopters

December 4, 2009 4 comments

Quick lunchtime update: a new piece I wrote last night has just gone up on LC (it’s taken the editors the morning to remove my sarcastic footnotes, apparently…).

It’s on an obvious point that tends to be missed from the debate on anthropogenic global warming: the people who’d benefit from the enormous, co-ordinated scam required to present a false AGW theory as true across the scientist community are small in both numbers and power (and it’d be a very hard thing to do), whilst the people who’d benefit from smearing a true AGW theory as false among newspaper, politicians and bloggers but not scientists (and we already know big companies regularly use the above channels to promote their interests), are large in numbers and enormous in power. Read the whole thing.

Quick digression before I return to working out scripts to automatically convert Word documents to XML (ENVY MY LIFE): why the hell is there an enormous black twin-rotor military helicopter hovering over the City and South Bank? Are the vested interests coming to get me…?

Mmm, tempura morays

December 2, 2009 Leave a comment

From Ars Technica, enlightening the ‘net neutrality’ debate, a piece on the corrupt institutions and robber barons who hijacked the Victorian equivalent of the Internet.

This digression was interesting:

The result was the infamous Credit Mobilier scandal of the 1870s… Rather than license the construction of the Union Pacific railroad to an independent contractor, its Board of Directors farmed the work out to Credit Mobilier, a company that was, essentially, themselves. In turn, Credit billed the UP vastly more than the actual cost of the project. To keep Congress quiet about the affair, the firm offered stock in itself to Representatives and Senators of any political persuasion at bargain basement prices.

The piece compared the scandal to Enron. But for some reason (and I’m struggling to work out why the thought hit me at this point), I started to wonder whether any Treasury politicians or officials in place in the early 2000s were granted generous share options or shares in Atkins, Balfour Beatty, Bombardier, EDF or Thames Water…

Visa card [*]

December 2, 2009 3 comments

I’ve long approved of a semi-referendum for the reintroduction of the death penalty, under which only people who vote in favour actually face it as a punishment option (this would work well, as “being a crazy violent idiot” is correlated both with “supporting the death penalty” and “committing murder”).

On the basis of this, do-as-you-would-be-done-by, principle, I’ve come up with an excellent new rule, inspired initially by my annoyance with visa requirements from assorted countries that have visa requirements solely to annoy people who make those countries’ nationals jump through annoying and stupid hoops to get visas [**].

Simply, it involves a plebiscite voting on “do you think all immigration from everywhere to everywhere else should be allowed, or are you a stupid bigot?”. Then, if you tick “stupid bigot”, you’re never allowed to go further than 10km from your hometown ever again, and if you don’t, then you’re allowed to roam the whole glorious world in which we live.

This would be applied on a local area basis, such that areas which have a majority of idiots are cut off (although they’d be allowed to have a separate referendum desperately begging for business travellers and tourists to be allowed to visit, if they liked). Meanwhile, anywhere that wasn’t in the “majority bigot” camp would be thoroughly visitable and liveable for all concerned, subject to “if you try and claim benefits or do crime before you get a passport then you can piss off and never come back” requirements.

Yes, there’s some satire in some of these provisions, but ultimately if they were adopted the general migration scheme would actually be noticeably less rubbish than the current one…

[*] in the Northern British sense of “card” meaning “person who thinks they’re a great wit”.

[**] let’s be realistic, India is lovely, but the reason a UK passport holder requires an advance-acquired visa to go to India isn’t that the Indians are terrified of being swamped by British immigrants…

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The wrong 1980s Liverpool injustice

December 1, 2009 2 comments

Scepticisle disagrees with my comments on the case of the (appallingly tasteless, Hitler-trivialising) Sun anti-Scargill front page from the miners’ strike which was blocked by the print unions.

My take was that either content should be illegal to publish, or people who want to publish (and are willing to set up presses to publish on – this isn’t a “Griffin on the BBC” point) should be allowed to publish. Even though this particular literary work was of no merit at all, it doesn’t justify overriding that principle to give a small-C-conservative-small-S-socialist cartel, with a massive interest in preserving union power, the power of veto over all nationally published voices. Which really was the case before the print unions were broken.

But that isn’t actually what I’m going to talk about here.

Obsolete also uses The Sun’s equally vile Hillsborough coverage as an example of something the unions might have prevented. In the context of writing about tabloid vileness, there really ought to be a Godwin-equivalent for Hillsborough and the Sun… but even so, the end-point on that one is surely:

1) the Sun is considered appalling and vile
2) the Sun’s accusations about pissing on and robbing the dead are discredited in the eyes of absolutely everyone
3) any suggestion that the Liverpool crowd’s behaviour might, even unwittingly and non-maliciously, have contributed to the tragedy that unfurled is pretty much off the radar of acceptable commentary.

…I’d say that was Liverpool 1, Sun 0?

However, a few years beforehand, when a slightly less fatal, equally badly managed by the cops, both-sides’-fans-equally-at-fault episode took place that also involved Liverpool, the net result was an official decree that Liverpool fans were evil (domestically and internationally), English fans were evil (internationally), and that football fans in general were evil (domestically). Literally unbelievably to anyone under about 30, all English clubs spent five whole years banned from European football.

And yet, even though Liverpool basically wasn’t scapegoated for Hillsborough, and yet massively was scapegoated for Heysel; even though the English football community basically wasn’t scapegoated for Hillsborough and massively was scapegoated for Heysel, it’s the former rather than the latter which is brought up as an example of Liverpool being misrepresented by the authorities and press.

Which is silly.

At Heysel and at Hillsborough, the primary cause of the deaths was the incompetence and complacency of the officials and police supposedly responsible for guaranteeing safety. At Heysel and Hillsborough, the behaviour of the crowds (Juventus and Liverpool fans alike at Heysel, Liverpool fans alone at Hillsborough) was a contributory factor that the authorities should’ve foreseen.

The difference is, the UK authorities (both football and public safety) have some degree of professionalism and non-corruption in retrospect [*], hence investigated Hillsborough properly. Whereas UEFA and the Belgian authorities stuck to the, pretty much criminally complacent, line that “Only the English fans were responsible. Of that there is no doubt“.

Yes, obviously I’m aware that the difference between the two events from a Liverpool perspective is that in one, the people who died were from Liverpool and in the other they were from Italy. The conclusion to draw from that is an interesting one: the stereotype of Scousers of being chippy whingers is actually rubbish.

If they were, then Heysel would be the event that was brought up [**], because it was the one that Liverpool was blamed for and which was properly lied about whilst the guilty went free. So it’s just not the gross injustice that saw Liverpool being blamed and punished for others’ failings that causes upset – it is, actually, grief at the fact that 96 of their people died, horribly and preventably.

And so while the Scum lives up to its name, as does Kelvin MacKenzie, I’m really quite sceptical that “THE TRUTH” headline has quite the impact it’s alleged, any more than staged videos of Palestinians dancing in the street had a significant effect on New Yorkers’ response to September 11.

The important and terrible thing had already happened; the rest was irrelevant.

[*] at least when it comes to investigation, compensation and recommendations for future action; I’m aware that punishment of officials who fail is disappointingly far down the line. However, the South Yorkshire police got a hell of a lot closer to the inside of a courtroom than anyone responsible [***] for Heysel.

[**] it’s interesting that “it was the Scousers’ fault, nothing to see here” seems to have satisfied the families in the Heysel case, despite being transparently false. I suppose “it was partly the authorities’ fault, partly the Scousers’ fault, and partly their own bloody fault” isn’t as satisfying as “the English bastards murdered them” to a grieving relation.

[***] looking lairy, red-and-white and a bit scary on CCTV doesn’t count as “responsible”, even if some kangaroo court does give you 18 months probation on jumped-up ‘manslaughter’ charges.