All posts by John Band

Da do ron ron ron da do ron ron

On reading of Phil Spector’s murder conviction last night, and the suggestion that it might devalue his (indisputably great) achievements, my first thought was ‘anyone who thinks that is a tit’.

That starting point got me thinking about historical figures who, despite providing unequivocal net good to society, were despicable bastards in their private lives.

In that frame of mind, I read this:

Once upon a time I was a communist, before that I was a catholic. Rather like Terry Eagleton I was able to make the transition between the two quite comfortably because I could do so without having to encounter liberalism along the way.

…and was reminded how grateful I am to random chance for the fact that Henry VIII happened to evolve where and when he did.

The rest of the piece is here, although sadly it doesn’t quite live up to that awesome line.

Top 5 Things That Have Made Me Happy Today

Still mblogging, so can’t face messing about with links. If anything intrigues and confuses you, google is your friend.

1) Stephen Frears’s High Fidelity. Best geeky boy film ever, one of best love stories ever, terrifyingly accurate insight into my past relationships ever, etc. I know Nick Hornby also relevant but I’ve boycotted praising him after the embarrassing nonsense that was How To Be Good.

2) Man skills. The power went off. I made it come back on. Woo!

3) My excellent flatmate. For being impressed by both 1 and 2, for making me move to the official Best Part Of World Ever, for general aceness, etc.

4) Getting messages from my 80something grandparents written in txtspeak. U R BTH DOIN IT RITE. I hope in 55 years time I’m equally able to use Direct Mindreading 4D Lasers as well as the average 15-year-old.

5) Being right about #amazonfail being nonsense. Come on people, corporations aren’t just evil for fun, and society has thankfully reached the point where hating t3h gayz is pretty much as mainstream-unacceptable as hating the Jews. If a big, mainstream, plc-not-fanatic-owned company appears to be banning all gay books of course it’s because they’ve been hacked/trolled/troll-hacked rather than because they’ve decided Do Be Evil is their new maxim.

(in a rare example of positivity, I’m not compiling a detailed ‘things that have made me unhappy’ list. This was made easier by the fact that #amazonfail, emailgate and the worst of my Holiday Weekend Hangover all happened yesterday.

Although grumpy new neighbour whose idea of a greeting was to say “all of this (apparently shared) terrace is mine, only the door and doorway is yours, go away” and slam terrace door is today’s main fail. What the hell need is there to be such a tool? Even if the estate agent lied and the neighbour is actually right, anyone who isn’t a ‘needs electric drill in head’ tosswit would surely go for something more like “Nice to meet you too. I’m sorry, this area is part of our flat and that’s in the deeds, but welcome to the building and would you like a cup of tea?”. Fuckmonkey.

They call me Black Stacey

As you may have noticed, I haven’t updated for a while, as I’ve been in the poorest country outside of Africa (*) with only a mobile phone for connectivity. And while my mobile phone is more of a mini-laptop, it’s not really conducive to full-on blogging.

And while I haven’t checked rates, I’m fairly sure GPRS roaming charges in the few bits of the country where GPRS works are a billion dollars per kB…

So my online presence has been confined to Twittering (I hate ‘tweet’ as a verb to describe anything other than bird noises). You can see the latest updates on the left of the scren, or you can follow me by clicking the link there.

When I get back I’m planning to blog on:
* amusing historic leaders of Hispaniola
* French versus English colonialism
* How nearly all the mistakes made in decolonisation were visible 150 years before in Haiti
* the Citadel and King Henry Christopher
* NGOcracy and the new colonialism – not a bad thing
* the death of solitude

That’s mostly so I remember and feel obliged to actually write at least some of them, although do feel free to critique and throw peanuts based on the titles…

* my phone suggested ‘outside of France’ as an autocomplete here, which is inaccurate but bizarrely appropriate.

Yes, it’s another exciting round of Easy Answers To Simple Questions

DK:

do you think it just slightly possible that [Polly Toynbee's] attitude, and that of her fellow [Guardian] commentators, might possibly have led to [advertisers] feeling—during these turbulent times, when costs need to be cut—that GMG, whose employees constantly attack said companies, can just fucking whistle for their business?

No. I would happily stake my life on the fact that absolutely none of the companies withdrawing advertising from GMG’s local papers have done so on the basis of the Guardian’s left-wing editorial stance. For one, that would obviously be insane; for two, the DMGT and Johnstone local titles are doing just as badly as GMG’s.

Worried about stabbings? Don’t be

Here’s a nice report by a real statistician on how London’s low murder rate is nothing to worry about unless you’re a gibbering paranoid ignorant fool.

Unsurprisingly, it’s received almost no media play at all. I mean, what news value is there in a study proving that the ‘OMG t3H knife crime!!!!’ narrative is bollocks and that there’s nothing to worry about…?

Barclayery

As far as I can make out with reference to the Grauniad/Barclays tax evasion dossier:

1) Barclays has done nothing illegal
2) Barclays hasn’t receieved any aid from the UK taxpayer.

…so this isn’t an issue.

Should Barclays request aid from the UK taxpayer at any point, its activities should, obviously, be taken into account when deciding how much of a haircut its shareholders deserve to be given. But at the moment, it’s trying to stop the UK taxpayer from making it take ‘aid’, which is kind-of the opposite…

A note to excitable conspiracy theorists

No-notice, turn-up-and-go international travel out of the UK will not, ever, be banned.

Rather than reading incoherent rants in half-witted newspapers and drawing conclusions from the information they leave out, read the actual details of the eBorders scheme:

[Passenger] data are only mandatory when they are requested to be provided at the time when passengers are on board in preparation for departure and it is no longer possible for further passengers or crew to join the service. When it is requested before that time it only needs to be provided to the extent to which it is known to the carrier.

In other words, the 24-hour rule for data communication only applies to data that the carrier happens to have, and there is no requirement at all to collect data right up until the point where everyone has boarded the plane, train or boat in question and it’s about to set off. The e-Borders programme will do absolutely nothing to restrict people’s freedom to travel – it just means that information on where they’ve been will be passed onto the government afterwards.

Fraser Nelson: ignorance and paranoia, in one simple package

RBS:

As part of our implementation of FSA guidelines around Anti-Money Laundering activities, we introduced questions on Politically Exposed Persons as part of our account opening procedures.

Genius financial columnist Nelson:

what on earth is a Politically Exposed Person?

The FSA anti-money-laundering guidelines, which have been in force for three years:

customers who, by virtue of their position in public life, are vulnerable to corruption

This isn’t earth-shattering stuff; any professional or financial services firm has to ask those questions of its clients, and RBS would be remiss for not doing so. Taking UK political party membership as an indication of PEP status was technically incorrect, but fair enough I reckon – if you’re a member of a UK political party, you’re either corrupt, stupid or massively over-optimistic…

Nelson then goes off into an insanely paranoid rant about banks asking people whether they occupy any political offices. Oh noes! A majority-government-owned institution is asking me whether I’m a political party member. The gulags surely do beckon…

If you’re worried about this, you’re a moron.

In defence of ad-hominem

One of the most tedious aspects of online debate is that, as soon as you call someone an idiot, or suggest that their argument is of the kind that would disgrace a retarded chimpanzee, they accuse you of arguing ‘ad-hominem’, which they believe to be a terrible thing.

As the holder of a philosophy degree from a mildly respected institution, I can confirm that this is bollocks.

There is a fallacy in argument called the ‘ad-hominem fallacy‘. It applies to irrelevant personal insults (or compliments) – “yes, Dave Smith is in favour of cutting the speed limit, but he drowns kittens in a sack so we shouldn’t”.

However, this is seldom the way the term is used online: normally, it’s used against two entirely legitimate forms of criticism.

1) If you make a revolting argument and I call it revolting, that’s legitimate comment, not ad-hominem (if you make a revolting argument and I call you fat and ugly, that would have been ad-hominem.)

2) If your background suggests strong and unreasoned partisanship for a particular cause, then it’s more reasonable for me to doubt the factual underpinnings of your case (clearly, not the logic of whether your conclusions flow through your premises) than for an impartial observer.

Since all real-life argument outside of thought experiment relies on accepting some evidence that you’re unable to verify yourself, this means that it’s reasonable to form different opinions on the same argument presented by two different people.

For example, imagine a discussion on lowering the age of consent, as presented by a) a well-respected child psychologist b) a notorious paedophile…