Why do browser cookies expire?

So, if I log into Gmail, Twitter, eBay, or my own blog on a computer, and opt to have my user information saved, then obviously I’ll want to log in using that information whenever I use those sites, for as long as I use the site and the computer is my computer.

If it stops being my computer at any point, even if I don’t reformat the hard disk, I’ll obviously delete all browser personal information.

So why on earth do Twitter and Gmail set their cookies to expire after a fortnight, and eBay in 24 hours? What possible use could there be in not just setting them to last forever?

It’s not a huge thing, obviously, as my browser still stores the passwords – but even causing me very, very mild annoyance seems bizarre when there is no benefit at all to me or the supplier from the mild annoyance caused…

When Good Contrarianism Goes Bad

So, I come up with a contrarian view on the BP issue that I don’t 100% hold, but which is a genuine aspect of the story and which has been completely neglected in any of the coverage I’ve seen. I mention it on Twitter, I spend a couple of days thinking about it, and then I write it up for a blog post.

…and then, the same bloody day, the sillier ends of the UK press have the same idea, although with far less research and more pointless nationalistic ranting. Had I known they were going to do that, I wouldn’t have bothered – there’s a difference between contrarianism where you float a viewpoint that nobody’s promoting, and Clarksonism where you float a viewpoint that lots of people are promoting and pretend that you’re being oh so brave and daring for doing so. The latter is no fun at all, and even the perception of the latter is a bit embarrassing.

Anyway.

There are elements of Obama’s public references to BP that can only be explained by Brit-bashing. The underlying problem in the US oil industry is regulatory failure, and if the US oil industry were to operate under the same regulatory framework that the UK oil industry adopted after Piper Alpha, then the disaster wouldn’t have happened. And the best way to deal with safety in general is the aviation industry’s one of heavy, preemptive regulation, with accident inquiries that avoid blame and stick to making recommendations that are enforced, rather than doing nothing until there’s a disaster and then throwing around massive amounts of blame and infinite lawsuits [*].

I’m in two minds about the US administration’s behaviour at the moment, though.

As I mentioned in comments to the other post, I don’t understand their strategy here: the incident is fundamentally George Bush’s fault, in that his government deliberately cut regulation from its already poor start and also granted permits for unprecedentedly deep-sea drilling, which the current government has had no time to fix. Any UK or Australian PM worth their salt would be milking this fact for all it was worth, and saying “unlike our inept, industry-beholden, corrupt predecessor, we’re going to create a proper regulator to ensure this doesn’t happen again”.

But assuming that slating former presidents is off the menu in US political debate, and given that the public are baying for blood, I can see what they’re doing on self-preservation grounds. And if it ends up with BP paying the expected actual cost of $20-30bn for the cleanup, compensation, and fines for any specific violations that led up to the disaster, and not being charged crazy punitive damages, expropriated, kicked out of the country, or similar, then that’s a reasonable outcome.

Whether the fact that the markets seem to think a worse outcome is likely is because there’s a genuine political risk that Obama is going to go Putin-y on foreign investors, or whether it’s because markets are paranoid beasts at the best of times, remains to be seen. I’m not sure it’s a good thing that the US president is using the kind of rhetoric that makes markets believe he might – but I’m not sure he has much of a choice.

In short, let’s see what happens. If the end outcome is a reasonable settlement, coupled with massive increases in regulatory requirements, enforcement and spending in the US oil industry, then bring it on and three cheers for Mr Obama.

[*] relatedly, my attitude towards dead oil rig workers is very similar to my attitude toward dead volunteer soldiers: “that’s sad for you and your loved ones, but it’s also why you were paid so much more than someone with your skill-base could have earned in a job that didn’t have a substantially elevated risk of death”.

On helping Americans to steal your pension

Let’s assume that, like most UK workers, you have a pension fund with a substantial part of its investment in FTSE companies, usually weighted by value.

What should you care more about:

1) the fact that the US government is attempting to steal a sizeable proportion of your money?

2) some fucking cormorants?

Clue: if you picked 2, you’re an idiot.

So could British people perhaps stop ragging on BP, or pretending the Gulf of Mexico spill is some kind of serious environmental disaster that’ll actually harm people (rather than making beaches look untidy for a bit and topping some fish and birds)?

The spill will cost about $20-30bn to clear up, including compensation for those directly affected, which is a sum that BP should have no problem in paying, and which would be the fair price for them to pay.

The fact that BP’s share price is below levels reflecting that cost, and that BP bond yields have increased to junk levels partly reflects market panic – but also partly reflects genuine fears that the US will do something truly vindictive, using its demonisation of BP as an excuse to steal its (i.e. ‘your’) assets beyond the cost of cleaning the spill in some form of punitive damages.

And everyone who brings out the whole ‘ooh, BP is so evil and unsafe’ saw (it is not; it is as evil and unsafe as the rest of the oil industry, whose levels of evilness and unsafety are set by national governments in oily countries. BP’s safety culture in its US operations is no different from ExxonMobil’s, Shell’s or Chevron’s – it was just the unlucky one this time round) is enabling that demonisation campaign.

The oil industry should be reformed. It won’t get reformed, because we’re too dependent on cheap oil, and the occasional disaster is collectively viewed as a fair price to pay for the ability to pay under $3 a gallon for petrol. Especially when the disaster in question doesn’t happen to Americans: how many people are even aware of Shell’s operations in Nigeria?

But the US’s anti-BP crusade has nothing to do with any efforts to reform the industry – it’s an attempt to distract Americans from the fact that the disaster is primarily their own fault (and that nothing will be done about it in the long term because the American people won’t stand for expensive petrol), and to steal some foreign assets into the bargain.

So unless you’re a stars-and-stripes-waving redneck, don’t join the anti-BP campaign just because you think the world would be a nicer place if companies were nicer…

Update: Turbo-LOL.

Jealous petulant snipery and the Labour leadership

There seems to be a fair amount of grumpiness and sarcasm going on around the Labour party leadership election.

Much of this is for sensible reasons (broadly “the only one of the candidates who isn’t a dull clone has no experience of managing anything ever, and David Miliband is a war criminal”).

However, there’s also a fair amount that’s come for the stupidest reason possible: “they all went to Oxbridge, so they aren’t representative”.

If you replace “Oxbridge” with “public school”, and “the Labour party” with “the Tory party”, this is definitely a fair point: you get to public school solely by having relatives who have large quantities of disposable cash, and therefore anyone who has been to public school has had at the very least an upper-middle-class upbringing [*].

For reasons to do both with a lack of state-school applications and variations in actual acceptance rates, Oxbridge still has a private school bias in its admissions. So it’s fair to say that a randomly picked Oxbridge person is probably from a privileged background, and is not particularly likely to be a good person to represent the working class.

But that isn’t what we’re being faced with here.

We know that Diane Abbott’s parents were working-class immigrants, and that she grew up as a black working-class girl in 1950s and 1960s London. We know that Andy Burnham’s parents were working-class Scousers, and that (while he doubtless faced less adversity than Abbott while growing up) he also had a working-class upbringing in 1970s and 1980s Warrington.

In other words, we know that two of the candidates for the Labour leadership are people who come from unequivocally working-class families and areas, and who – despite the fact that Oxbridge admissions tilt towards the middle- and upper-middle-classes – were good enough to beat the bias in the system and get in anyway.

Isn’t the correct response to that fact “it’s fantastic that two of the candidates for the Labour leadership are people who are that academically able and motivated whilst at the same time having a very strong understanding of what growing up without a silver spoon is like – this is exactly what we want from our political leaders”, rather than “meh, Oxbridge wankers, unrepresentative, blah blah”?

Well, unless you’re a jealous petulant inverse snob, that is.

[*] before we get any bleeding heart middle-class sob stories, yes, many parents spend a huge proportion of their disposable incomes on school fees and go without holidays, ponies, etc – but in order to for their disposable income to cover a couple of kids’ school fees they still need to be reliably making a lot more than the median wage, which makes them upper-middle-class.

What I’ve been up to, week ending 2010-06-06

  • #ebz The Stolen River that flows into the Unterzee – the one they used to call the Thames – passes thr… http://fallenlondon.com/c/98148 #
  • I wonder how many of the people fulminating about Laws are aware that if he'd come out and claimed for sharing with partner, he'd've been… #
  • …entitled to *more* money than he actually got. In other words, if you think the incident involves nicking taxpayer money, you're a tool. #
  • Good piece from @caronmlindsay on David Laws' resignation: http://ht.ly/1RXwu #
  • Meanwhile, Danny Alexander is getting shit for not only not doing anything morally wrong, but not even breaking any rules…! #
  • In Hell Freezing Over news, Iain Dale is right about something http://bit.ly/90Ht6N (via @mattwardman) #
  • Today's Word Of The Day is 'knoblolly': http://www.google.com.au/search?q=knoblolly (via @echobazaar) #
  • This piece from @flying_rodent is scarygood: http://tinyurl.com/33ntmrd #
  • The #mining #supertax advert is annoying. If Rio Tinto and BHP's shares are hit because $ paid to govt, the losers will be in London not AU #
  • (for non-AU readers: the govt wants to impose mining royalties, which would be a Good Thing; mining MNCs pulling out all the PR stops…) #
  • Via @daveraybould this is interesting, if not necessarily accurate – the IDF's version of the #freedomflotilla raids: http://alturl.com/6tyn #
  • SABMiller in "desperate World Cup cash-in press release" shock: http://bit.ly/ayPjlZ #theyvebeenplanningitfor6yearsFFS #
  • It'd be annoying to be @Martin_Carr. When I go out with former workmates I'm still friends with, nobody says "PWC REUNION ON THE CARDS?" #
  • Land-of-the-free-tastic fact of the day: it's illegal for an American to boycott Israel http://bit.ly/bXhGYq (via @sunny_hundal) #
  • We've now got @flying_rodent's excellent Israel's Biggest Enemy Is Itself piece republished on LibCon: http://bit.ly/coEqmA #
  • Fact of the day: the #freedomflotilla was originally going to be called the French Flotilla, but Americans objected. #
  • WW3 FTW! RT @LeonJaeger Turkey says more ships will be sent to Gaza, escorted by its Navy: http://bit.ly/92mpYm #flotilla #
  • Aaagh, I knew I shouldn't've read Mad Mel's take on #flotilla before bed. THE STUPID, IT BURNS… http://bit.ly/aRWfwL (via @CathElliott) #
  • Excellent piece on the parallels between Israel and North Korea: http://bit.ly/b5QKvQ #flotilla #
  • 9 News cameraman provokes "angry Muslim" footage by racially abusing member of the public: http://bit.ly/cBYOuJ #mediafail via @sunny_hundal #
  • Israel/North Korea update: rightblogger Mr Eugenides's defence of Israel is "Ah, but NK is worse". Srsly: http://bit.ly/bxCK8Z #flotilla #
  • I'm being followed by @LunaParkSydney. I find the concept of being followed by a funfair a bit disturbing. #
  • Aagh, #ebz have erased 2 days' progress due to a server disaster. SAME AGAIN! http://fallenlondon.com/c/96236 #
  • Ooops – Chinese World Cup promotional campaign is not made of win: http://bit.ly/9gQHiM #
  • Gonna be about 45 mins late to meet @chrissiem. Oops. And it's entirely my fault, *and* I know she doesn't have a working phone. Am bad man. #
  • Salon.com having a mobile edition is good. But redirecting mobile users who click regular article links to the mobile homepage is STUPID. #
  • Forgiven for lateness. Hurrah! Now home and #ebz-ing, of course. http://fallenlondon.com/c/97628 #
  • Dear Nokia: if I've got someone's mobile and home numbers stored in my phone, *which one do you bloody think* I want to send an SMS to? #
  • Number of mass gun rampages under Thatcher, Major & Cameron: 1 each. Number under Blair & Brown: 0 #justsaying #
  • I wonder if all the people blaming BP for the Gulf spill are going to sell their cars and ride bikes, or if they're just hypocrites? #
  • (I'm assuming here the spill is an inherent risk of deep-sea extraction rather than illegal behaviour by BP based on available evidence) #
  • If you oppose deep-sea extraction, that's just fine – as long as you're clear that the oil *will* run out rather soon without it. #
  • Damn, the bloke drinking an espresso on the Citi (AUS) "in my world" advert looks like a smug prat. Note to self: do not be in his world… #
  • We are stronger than Guido: http://bit.ly/b7tbd8 (yay). MENSA, Miller, Mailer, Plath and Pinter were sadly left out of the methodology. #
  • #ebz meh. http://fallenlondon.com/c/99058 #
  • Re London's mayor, I've been deliberately avoiding saying intemperate things like 'fuck Boris' up to now. Fuck Boris: http://bit.ly/bqXKB4 #
  • Yes. Awesome: RT @howespaul: A fantastic and very funny ad on the Resources Super Profits Tax – pass it on http://youtu.be/H4PcQfz0MfU #
  • I was distressed by the news that the # of temporary AUS visas was going to be cut by 50% – until I realised they meant visa *classes*! #
  • Daily Mail "are you posh" test: http://bit.ly/bYw51X – surely q11-13 are just "not being ignorant", though? (via @sarabedford) #
  • Pleased to discover that the Palace Hotel in Coogee is c.50x better than the Coogee Bay Hotel. #escalatorwin #
  • Can someone send me an email explaining what the fuck FourSquare does/is for? #confused #
  • This will be fun. Looking forward to the fireworks -> RT @libcon Peter Tatchell to present Pope documentary http://bit.ly/9TTi3J #
  • YES! This: http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2791 #
  • Saturday night in with #ebz – oh yeah, I rock. http://fallenlondon.com/c/101611 #
  • BEST THING EVER: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5qtoecVIo0 #
  • Worst article in ages: http://www.forward.com/articles/4184 – summary: "if you don't like Israel murdering people, you're an antisemite" #

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What I’ve been up to, week ending 2010-05-30

  • Haha, enjoying @BPGlobalPR – this is why having a real social media presence of your own is important… (via @Rooney83) #
  • I'm officially bored of factors driving premium product consumption. And it's bloody 9PM, and I'm not done for today yet… #
  • "The war may be staged, but the murder is real" #classicHoratioquotes #CSIMiami #
  • Boo! But g'luck. RT @jackschofield "after 25 years, I'm leaving the Guardian at the end of this month. I'll continue to write for Ask Jack." #
  • Watching a Kiwi doco about police – took about 5 mins to work out whether it was Aussie, UK or *other*. This describes NZ accurately… #
  • Some #ebz, then up early, then more work. Woo deadline week. http://fallenlondon.com/c/89488 #
  • If even half the Awl's take on Lost is right, I'm glad I gave up watching after a few episodes of season 1. Utter toss: http://bit.ly/cyKVjJ #
  • If true, I'm beyond comment. Tories are utter cnuts. RT @SamuelCoates Gary Newlove's widow, Helen Newlove, is being made a Conservative peer #
  • I don't support hanging, but I'd fully endorse it for the sadistic bastards in the CPS who brought this case to court: http://bit.ly/cBfgXN #
  • They're kids; they're playing a silly game; if you think that warrants a record as a sex offender, you are inhuman. (via @heresy_corner) #
  • RT @BBCLauraK Long term parly sq protester Brian Haw has been arrested <- @chickyog do I get points for this one? #
  • In other news, police confirm unicorns don't exist -> RT @libcon: Police finally deny England shirts were ever banned http://bit.ly/cJ4Z5g #
  • The Daily Mash is seriously on form re: the insane "kids playing doctors and nurses" show trial: http://bit.ly/aF6l6Y #
  • RT @intruth I had to quit my job manipulating the reproductive parts of flowers. I couldn't handle the stigma (via @msgracefh) #
  • RT @jtopper: I had no idea .jobs was a TLD. Research In Motion use it for their careers pages. http://rim.jobs/ Fnar. (via @dnotice) #
  • Work kinda done (for today). It's kinda late. Need an early night. #ebz and then that's it, as they say. http://fallenlondon.com/c/90931 #
  • Re anonymity for people accused of rape: worth noting that if LDs, Labour, PC, SNP and SDLP voted 'no' then it'd fail. #
  • Since Labour, PC, SNP and SDLP are likely to support 'no', it's worth lobbying your LD MP on this one… #
  • Speaking of insane laws, if you live in London it's probably worth reporting this to the Met to see what happens: http://bit.ly/c6V1wh #
  • This is aces: right-wing conservative Americans hate Muslims so much they've endorsed Sex & The City to annoy them: http://bit.ly/cGHDVh #
  • Really good explanation here of debt vs deficit vs cuts -> RT @jamesrbuk When chartporn goes wrong. http://is.gd/cpcrU (via @mudlarklives) #
  • WIN -> RT @ArmyofDave: Working on a book version of "The Human Centipede" in the style of "The Very Hungry Caterpillar". Sleep well, kids. #
  • Report editing proceeding like a steam train, oh yeah. #ebz then bed, then more tomorrow, woo! http://fallenlondon.com/c/92465 #
  • Jesus. The crow outside my window is the biggest I've seen. It's the size of a cat. And it's ripping tree bark off with its beak #thebirds #
  • Just set the smoke alarm off, having forgotten about my toasts. Oh noes! #breakfastfail #
  • I blame the crow. #
  • What the hell? "Foster’s has not flourished in the wine business" – well, apart from Wolf Blass, Penfolds and Rosemount http://bit.ly/aDUomm #
  • #Fosters demerger makes sense – wine would sit better in global spirits group, beer with global brewer. But who'll buy at current A$ rates? #
  • Enjoying editing someone else's report about alcohol marketing. The "health claims" section is particularly fun. #
  • I have not laughed this much at a film review in quite some time: http://bit.ly/aEWDha #satc2 #
  • The Apple Store in Bondi Jn still has no roof. The 9AM opening tomorrow will involve a serious night's work. I mean, *really* serious… #
  • Vodafact of the day: a friend worked on voda.au's roll-out as an IT contractor – job was so hideous he quit not only Voda but IT contracting #
  • Now he fixes mates' computers for petty cash – but as he says, he doesn't want to kill them or himself, so it's a step up. #
  • Feel rubbish. Have work to do. If I was employed, I'd call in sick #freelancewoes #middleclassdisasters #
  • I think I might be in love with two women at once: my excellent girlfriend, and also DCI Tennison. Hope this is OK. #reawakenedkidcrushes #
  • I thoroughly intend to rely on this in court RT @Helzbels Have few pints and the speed limit's 95mph. Excellent. #
  • Erm, yeh. "Nobody in the UK is poor because of the dole, so let's abolish it" -> RT @Old Holborn: Unchaining the poor http://bit.ly/9nqUv7” #
  • This man *is* a real journalist: http://bit.ly/c7qRrf – respect. #
  • RT @sadbearhandbook: I completely misjudged what waterboarding in Guantanamo Bay meant. I wonder if I can get my deposit back. #
  • In case you were worried, just to confirm the Tories *are* unspeakable bastards: http://bit.ly/aazD5n #
  • Feel like grim death. Consoling myself with #ebz http://fallenlondon.com/c/94437 #
  • My weekend is made primartily of ILL and SLEEP. This is irritating. although hopefully implies a week ahead of WELL. #
  • If you think there's anything wrong with what David Laws has done, you're a massive prat. http://bit.ly/bpwuBq #teacup #
  • Also, the Telegraph are massive bastards for releasing the evidence now, not to mention raving homophobes. Fuck them. Go Laws! #
  • RT @rockeye It amuses me that there's always more Eurovision commentary in my Australian stream than there is in my UK stream… #
  • Post-weekend, post sick-bed #ebz catch-up time, yay. http://fallenlondon.com/c/96982 #
  • CROWDSOURCING: has anyone paid using their own (ie not work, and not self-employed tax-deducted) money for a FT/WSJ subscription? #
  • Based on Twitter replies re FT/WSJ, the Times model *may* be a bit less shafted than I thought. I'm still tipping "shafted", though. #
  • Shit! Red Bull bosses will not be impressed. Good news for Button and Hamilton though… #gp #
  • RT at my dad's txt: Not sure what is F1 equiv of Alex Fergie's famous "hairdrier" bollocking, but Vettel & Webber will shortly find out #f1 #
  • This is good -> Chris Dillow @libcon The David Laws paradox explains why I'm on the left http://bit.ly/czUVLZ #

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Fear and West Lothian

It occurs to me that a major reason why a Lab/Lib coalition was a complete non-starter is simply that it would not have commanded a majority of seats in England, and the regional parties it would have required for support don’t vote on England matters.

Hence, it couldn’t have passed any domestic English legislation without Tory support. Hence, it would immediately have collapsed, and hence, it could never have happened in the first place.

Take-out: the West Lothian question is self-resolving, and a de facto English parliament already exists: there is no conceivable scenario under which a party or alliance without a majority of English seats could govern the UK.

Sure, formally (or, more plausibly given the UK constitution, ‘creating a tradition of’) taking away Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs’ right to vote on laws that are solely domestic English in nature wouldn’t be a terrible thing to do. But it wouldn’t actually have any benefits for anybody, either…

Quiz time, wahey!

OK, so what links The Pit And The Pendulum, Richard Dawkins, and the Botswana national football team? The usual prize of a Simply Red album and a broken wireless router to the winner. Extra bonus points to be gained from suggesting the fourth clue.

Unrelatedly, which punk song contains the lyric “I’m looking for you, oh my sweetheart”?

Danny Finkelstein: not a journalist

Rory Cellan-Jones has a good article on the BBC site about Murdoch’s paywall. Well, I say “good”; being on the BBC site and hence subject to Strict Impartiality Etc, it’s far too neutral about the paywall’s prospects of success (which are zero). But it’s informative.

Most informative of all is the final proof that Times associate editor Danny Finkelstein is not, in any meaningful sense, a journalist:

I asked Danny Finkelstein whether it bothered him that from now on none of his journalism would “go viral”, with the risk that he’d be left invisible on the sidelines as the online debate raged through news sites without paywalls. “No,” he insisted,”I want my employer to be paid for my intellectual property.”

In my current role as a freelance market analyst, I want my client to be paid for my intellectual property, because I write reports that are only of interest to the people who pay for them. Those reports can fairly be categorised as intellectual property, and my relationship with my client can fairly be categorised as one of mutual commercial advantage.

As a result, I tailor the reports I write to meet the client’s brief as closely as possible (having used my experience in the relevant sector to ensure that we can agree a brief that helps their commercial objectives). When I find information that doesn’t help achieve this, I don’t try to include it in the output I pass onto my client, even if it’s interesting – why would I? It doesn’t help the main goal, of ensuring my employer is paid for my intellectual property.

This, pretty obviously, is not journalism. It’s the opposite – I’m finding things out selectively, based on a commercial brief, and the things that I do find out will be kept secret and used by people who’re willing to pay for them.

My blogging (at least, the data/analytical stuff I do on LC, and the transport stuff that goes up here) is journalism – I find out new things, whether previously unknown or hidden in plain sight, and then try and disseminate them as widely as possible.

If, when faced with the choice of “shout as loudly as possible so that as many people as possible can hear what you’ve found or what you have to say” or “back the boss in his plans to make more cash by stopping people from hearing what you have to say”, you pick the latter, then whatever you may be, you’re certainly not a journalist.