Thursday, January 29, 2009

Spot the difference


Survey: Scientists Agree Human-induced Global Warming is Real
A group of 3,146 Earth scientists surveyed around the world overwhelmingly agree that in the past 200-plus years, mean global temperatures have been rising, and that human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures.


I hate to take issue with his Eminence, but no, it's only too believable.

Worstall's return

You'll have to re-subscribe to the feed, I think, but Tim's blog is back online.

UPDATE: The Feed is back too.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Contrarian times


The Englishman and Shuggie don't normally agree, but they agree that Scots is a dialect of English. It isn't really. At least, not of mainstream English. It developed from northern Anglo Saxon independently of the southern English language. That's because the Anglo Saxon settlements stretched deep into modern Scotland.

So can we have that land back? After all, if it was Anglo once, it should be forever Anglo.

UPDATE: Right Wing Prof, a proper linguist, has posted about the difference between Scots, Scots English and English here. Recommended read.


getting very cross about the idea that the families of dead terrorists should be paid compensation along with their victims. The problem is that this equivalence is the whole basis of the current peace* in Northern Ireland. It's what allows former terrorists to be ministers of state over there.

If anyone is paid compensation, and I'm not sure why they should be, then the existing logic means they all should be.

* I decided not to use scare quotes for this word. But it isn't really peace. It's just a more acceptable level of violence than the last one.

Post of the day

Couldn't be bettered. Cello-scrotum hoax from J. F. Beck.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Question of the day

... if consumers really do buy organic products because they don’t contain synthetic chemicals then why? Why the hell do you care whether your ammonium sulfate was ripped off the side of a pristine geological formation or synthesized in a factory? Are you just stupid?


“The Washington Times notes today that many of the recipients of federal bailout funds are also major political donors.”

This is not so much a stimulus, as a massive transfer of wealth from the politically unconnected to the politically connected.

In theory

The ritual of smudging can be defined as "spiritual house cleaning." In theory, the smoke attaches itself to negative energy and as the smoke clears it takes the negative energy with it, releasing it into another space where it will be regenerated into positive energy.
This theory is passed on to us by Phylameana lila Desy, who is:
... certified in Usui Shiki Ryoho Reiki and the Science of Intuition from the Holos Institutes of Health. She is an energy medicine practitioner, clairvoyant, intuitive counselor, flower essence consultant, and owner of Spiral Visions.
CounterKnowledge reports that Phylameana thinks the White House needs a damn good smudging after Bush's occupancy.

Spiral Visions is a website, rather than a disorder of sight. (Presumably, she'd have healed any sight disorders.) Scrolling down the page, you can regress to the Dark Ages if you like, and read about the "elements" of fire, earth, air and water, or you can be guided by the author's shopping tips and buy crystal chakra soap, a Pyramid Reiki timer or a deck of cards that will help you "intuitively heal yourself".

Halfway down the page, there's a blog roundup - the Carnival of Healing. My favourite link so far is an explanation from a Reiki Master of her "healing box" in which she places small cards with people's names and "issues needing healing" written on them. Then:
Every so often (i.e. every few days, or sometimes twice daily) I read through all the cards in the box and send distant Reiki to all people in it, all at once, to help them heal. As I hear back from people with their healing progress, and using my own intuition, I remove some of the cards afterwards as they are ‘done’.
If you'd prefer one-to-one distant Reiki, that can be arranged, for a modest fee, from her website. A one-hour treatment costs just $69 Canadian, C$35 buys up to thirty minutes distant healing for your pet.

Distant Reiki for your pet is unusual, as a complementary therapy, in that it could be trialled properly. Complementary therapy, like religious ministry and communicating with the dead, is fertile terrain for the unscrupulous but, in all these cases, what keeps most of those involved the right side of the fraud laws is that they actually believe in what they are doing. That's as it should be and it's the same with commercial fraud: selling investments that go wrong isn't fraudulent. Belief is the key.

Drug manufacturers are not allowed to sell products that have not been trialled and shown to be effective. Should it be lawful to sell a therapy that could be tested for efficacy, if such testing has not been carried out? If so, should this also be lawful for drugs companies? Why should there be a double standard?

It is to overcome the absence of genuine validity that quacktitioners flourish titles like "Reiki Master", or diplomas in the "Science of Intuition". In the UK, there's now a regulatory framework that will confer institutionally-sanctioned bogus authenticity on evidence-free therapies, the Complementary & Natural Health Council.

And the process of setting up this body has already cost the UK taxpayer £900,000.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Little Wing:

Fast food acapella

Subway acapella

UN Human Rights meeting expels journalist

Last Thursday, Caroline Fourest and her cameraman Xavier Liberman were thrown out of a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. They had been filming a programme for the (excellent*) Franco-German TV channel Arte.

For some reason, on her blog and in the original post at Rue89 this was headlined: "Caroline Fourest et Arte censurés par la Russie". Rue89 later amended this to "ONU: Caroline Fourest et Arte censurés par un diplomate russe". "Censored by Russia" was changed to "censored by a Russian diplomat".

Tribune des droits humains has more detail:

le président de la réunion, le diplomate russe Yuri Boychenko, leur a donné l’ordre de stopper le tournage à la demande de deux groupes régionaux. Selon des sources diplomatiques présentes dans la salle, il s’agirait des groupes africain et asiatique.
That is, the chairman of the meeting, Russian diplomat Yuri Boychenko, ordered them to stop filming at the request of two regional groups. According to diplomats who had been in the meeting, these groups were from Africa and Asia. The report continues:
L’Agence France Presse (AFP) mentionne, elle, plus particulièrement l’Organisation de la conférence islamique (OCI) dont les membres font partie à la fois du groupe asiatique et africain.
The Organisation of the Islamic Conference has members from Africa and Asia.

Ms Fourest and her colleagues have been, in my opinion, a little too circumspect. They were not censored by Russia, or by a Russian diplomat. The broad hint from AFP is that they were censored by a grouping of Islamic states. In Europe.

That is, it seems possible that a European journalist, working in Europe for a highly reputable European media organisation, was censored by a grouping of Islamic states.

A clue as to why the request was made that these journalists were expelled from the meeting is also given:
L’interdiction est tombée, alors que les débats devenaient très vifs sur la question de la liberté d’expression et de la diffamation des religion
They were discussing freedom of expression and the defamation of religions.

From the fact that they banned even journalistic coverage of their discussion, their attitude to freedom of expression can be guessed at.

UPDATE: Caroline Fourest has given more detail today (25th Jan). Pakistan, the current chair of the OIC (OCI in French), seems not to have been part of the request that she be prevented from filming. It seems to have been more a group of African countries led by Nigeria. She was later allowed to resume her coverage of the meeting.

The "lively" discussion that led to the ban, as well as dealing with defamation of religions and freedom of expression, also touched on the subject of holocaust denial.

Fourest is waiting for a complete list of the countries that made this request. It still seems to be the case that they were members of the OIC, but that this was not a unanimous request from members of that organisation.

*Better than the best bits of BBC2 in the 1970s.


From the comments at Simply Jews:

Compare this:

"I am standing in a queue waiting to buy a train ticket from London to Canterbury. A well-dressed lady standing behind me informs her friend that she “can’t wait till Israel disappears off the face of the earth.” What struck me was not her intense hostility to Israel but the mild-mannered, matter-of-fact tone with which she announced her wish for the annihilation of a nation."

And this:

"Intelligent woman, on being offered a book dealing with antisemitism and German atrocities: “Don't show it me, please don't show it to me. It'll only make me hate the Jews more than ever.”

Is there a significant difference between the two women? The first quoted could easily be the grandaughter of the second one. Same sort of animus.

Could this sort of loathing and hatred be really motivated by humanitarian concerns for Palestinians?
Before reading that, I commented:
"I am absolutely certain that as an organization Guardian carries the same "background level" of anti-Semitism as it could be measured in the whole of Britain"

That's not my experience, though I'm not saying we don't have a problem. We do have a problem. The Guardian is past the centre mark, by quite a long way.

What worries me, really, is not so much that a smallish percentage of the population are anti-semitic, it's that nobody else seems to have noticed. Where's the sense of crisis that should accompany the recent resurgence of 1930s style hatred?
And I am really, really worried by that. Where is the sense of crisis, now that open Neo-Nazis have demonstrated outside the Israeli Embassy in London?

And Hamas supporters are the true Neo-Nazis. There is a continuous thread connecting them with the Nazis of the 1930s.

For what sin?

I humbly suggest you read this post from Bob from Brockley.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Colonialism, climate change and religion

Now the ice has come... no one can sail by the old route without risking death
Those were the words of a fourteenth-century Norwegian monk, quoted by Fernand Braudel.

I'd never really thought about who my intellectual heroes are, before I answered the questions for my recent Normblog profile. To my surprise, the list of five names included two French historians, Marc Bloch and Braudel.

Bloch's analytical approach to the structures of mediaeval society resonated with me when I was a teenager, showing the importance of an approach to history that went beyond both Kings and battles on the one hand, and the minutiae of ordinary life on the other. His courage with the Resistance during WWII, courage that led finally to his capture, torture and execution just a fortnight before the liberation of Paris, deserves a different sort of admiration. But this post isn't about Bloch.

There's an interesting summary of Braudel's views in Wikipedia. It says he:
argued that capitalists have typically been monopolists, not, as is usually assumed, entrepreneurs operating in competitive markets. He argued that capitalists did not specialize and did not use free markets. He thus diverged from both liberal (Adam Smith) and Marxian interpretations. In Braudel's view, under capitalism, the state has served as a guarantor of monopolists rather than as the protector of competition usually portrayed. He said capitalists have had power and cunning on their side, and they have been arrayed against the majority of the population. Few historians have followed up this lead.
In fact, Braudel was not so isolated as this suggests: Smith, Marx, Galbraith and Friedman all made arguments that had common ground with him, and with each other, including, between them: that capitalists or some synonym for capitalists tend towards monopoly, that their individual interests are not served by a free market and that they seek to undermine free markets, that governments can create or reinforce privileged positions for them. When concentrations of capital meet government, the rest of us have a problem.

But what really strikes the reader of Braudel, especially of his three volume Civilisation and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century, is scale and detail. His mind soared above continents and swooped down to examine the metal bread ovens that travelled with European armies in the eighteenth century, or the habit of drinking hot water instead of tea, when tea could not be afforded, in rural China - and the Chinese disgust at the habit of European travellers of drinking cold liquids. It's a long time since I read it, so I started volume one again, a couple of days ago.

It begins, as it should, with a consideration of the nature of the available evidence and of some of the questions that a global approach might raise. After surveying it briefly, Braudel invites the reader to contemplate the colonialism of the eighteenth century - not European colonialism but the internal colonialism, the settling of previously unsettled internal spaces, in all of the world. This phenomenon had been identified locally by others. For example, Postan considered it in terms of the usage of primary, secondary and tertiary land before and after the Black Death of the fourteenth century and noted that some "tertiary" land was not resettled in England until the nineteenth century. But Braudel noticed it happened more broadly:
The real question is: why did these phenomena occur at the same time throughout the world when the space had always been available? The simultaneity is the problem. The international economy, effective but still so fragile, cannot assume sole responsibility for such a general and powerful movement. It too is as much consequence as cause.
His answer was one we are all more familiar with now than was his audience when he wrote:
One can only imagine one single general answer to this almost complete coincidence: changes in climate.
As a historian, Braudel's evidence was concentrated in certain regions of the world: the literate ones. Or perhaps that should be: those regions from which written records survived. This meant that outside Europe and the regions Europeans visited, and Asia generally and China in particular, there was and remains a scarcity of evidence.

The important point, though, is that for every region where there is evidence, there is evidence of simultaneous climate change at certain periods in the past. This directly falsifies some of the modelling on which the United Nations IPCC has relied in the past, especially Michael Mann's hockey stick graph. Today, there is evidence from other regions that some periods of cold and warmth were indeed global. There is no evidence, as opposed to modelling, to the contrary. And as another of my intellectual heroes, Richard Feynman, said:
It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong.
Mann's model does not agree with experiment.

Braudel concluded his brief exploration of climate change as follows:
It is amusing to think that men of former times would not have been put out by this climatic explanation, implicating as it does the heavens.
To them, climate came from God, or from conjunctions of the stars. There are contemporary echoes in that. Climate alarmism has been compared to a religion; does the absence of a God lead to a transference of blame to Man? Are climate sceptics reverting to an older form of explanation?

I think there's more to the first possibility than the second, but then I am a climate sceptic, and an atheist, so the second doesn't make sense to me. I mentioned it for balance.

But both would really just be forms of name-calling. The more rigorous conclusion would, surely, be that there have been changes in climate in the past and they have been global in scale as well as local, and therefore any climate models that suggest otherwise fail Feynman's test.

It could also be added that this has been known for decades.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Early nineteenth century environmentalism

Here's an interesting essay at the ecofascism website:

Environmentalism is the social movement of the “landed interest” – an interest parallel to that of neither business nor labour. “Environmentalism” is readily identifiable in early 19th century Britain. This essay draws from the best-known writings of the era’s three most influential intellectuals for a portrait of an anti-democratic, anti-liberal social movement based in the aristocracy but claiming to represent the masses; a movement permeated with the ideas of over-population theorist T. Malthus; a movement benefitting from restricting land supply and suffering from advancing agricultural technology; that fought a cultural civil war using literary Romanticism and monkish asceticism; that was militantly protectionist regarding agriculture; that constrained industrial progress and spread fear of catastrophe.

Via CCNet.


Sorry about the infrequency of posting. Work pressures. Might ease a bit now.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Normblog profile


Things that challenge things I believe

This is, of course, the most interesting class of things.

I'm reading Power and Plenty at the moment. I generally think protectionism is a bad thing. But on p.347 it is argued that Britain's rise to wealth during the Industrial Revolution owed something to protectionism: that the imports of raw materials were allowed freely but those of manufactured goods restricted, which boosted the nascent manufacturing sector. That does, in fact, seem logical - though of course a cost would have been borne by consumers who would have been forced to pay artificially higher prices for manufactured goods. However, so great a benefit as a successful Industrial Revolution, one that enriched everyone, is a powerful counterweight to this disadvantage.

That does, of course, rely on the assumption that these restrictions on imports had a significant effect on the course of the Industrial Revolution, and that isn't quantified in the book.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Wicked King George

Andrew Roberts argues here that:

In the avalanche of abuse and ridicule that we are witnessing in the media assessments of President Bush's legacy, there are factors that need to be borne in mind if we are to come to a judgment that is not warped by the kind of partisan hysteria that has characterised this issue on both sides of the Atlantic.

The first is that history, by looking at the key facts rather than being distracted by the loud ambient noise of the 24-hour news cycle, will probably hand down a far more positive judgment on Mr Bush's presidency than the immediate, knee-jerk loathing of the American and European elites.
Reputations are made not just by the actions of the person. We've had some appalling kings in England, and latterly Britain, but even the tree whisperers and divine-right megalomaniacs have survived the assessments of future generations; monarchs remain willing to name their children George or Charles. But two names have been been shunned for almost a millennium: Stephen and John.

Wikipedia quotes Winston Churchill on John:
"When the long tally is added, it will be seen that the British nation and the English-speaking world owe far more to the vices of John than to the labours of virtuous sovereigns"
That's a complicated accolade, or insult, depending how you read it. But the implication that John was not entirely calamitous as a monarch, and that there have been worse, is a fair one.

The same is true of Stephen, who was much liked and admired in his time. I've written before about why his reputation has become sullied, and won't repeat myself here. In the context of George W. Bush and his likely assessment by historians of the future, John makes a more interesting study.

John's reputation comes to us mainly from two writers, who succeeded each other in reality, in their office in a particular monastery, as well as metaphorically. The first was an adult contemporary of John, the second was a teenager when John died. The second drew almost entirely on the writings of the first, a man named Roger of Wendover. Wikipedia tells us that:
Roger of Wendover’s work is, however, now valued not so much for what he culled from previous writers as for its full and lively narrative of contemporary events, from 1216 to 1235
This is slightly misleading, since John died in 1216. Wendover's work was also our principle source for the idea that King John was Wicked.

The work in question was a chronicle that was taken up by other hands and has become an important source for the period, mainly because those other hands were attached to a writer who was, in the main, a serious historian by the standards of the time. What you won't learn from Wikipedia (yes, I know I can edit the article myself if I'm unhappy with it) is that Roger was not a very reliable source. If anything, Wiki spins in Roger's favour:
The Revelation of St Nicholas to a monk of Evesham was composed in 1196 but the author is unknown. In an abridged form, it is found in Roger of Wendover’s Flores Historiarum under the year 1196. It is a curious religious allegory, treating the pilgrimage of a soul from death through purgatory and paradise to heaven. The monk, conducted by St Nicholas, is taken from place to place in purgatory, where he meets and converses with persons of various ranks, who relate their stories and their suffering. From purgatory he advances slowly to paradise, and finally reaches the gates of heaven; after which he awakes.
Abridged and, I believe, embellished, this tale sits in the same narrative as the description of John's misdeeds. It includes accounts, told with absolute seriousness, of a washer woman sucked dry of blood by a small black pig and of loaves that ran with blood when cut because they were baked on the Sabbath.

John came into conflict with the Church as well as with the Barons. That isn't necessarily a bad point against him, but it did prejudice the view of clerical chroniclers, like Roger. Henry II, John's father, also came into conflict with the church and this also affected the views of chroniclers (they were all clerics). Yet Henry's reputation was good. Both were Plantagenets, the family descended, it was whispered, from a she-devil; the family that was famous even by the standards of their times for the violence of their rages and the heat of their lust. Only John has been reviled. His brother Richard, a man whose company small boys were well advised to avoid and who almost bankrupted the country with his constant wars, has become a symbol of monarchical greatness. There was no Wendover for Richard.

If I'm making a comparison that poses George Bush as King John, then Wendover stands for the sort of contemporary chroniclers of events who hysterically attribute the most base motives to Bush, seize on his every verbal stumble and ignore anything good he does. So let's say Wendover is the Guardian newspaper, or the New York Times. What, then, of this later pair of hands, those of the writer who picked up Wendover's work and made it history?

They belonged to a man named Matthew Paris. In 1217, the year after John died, Paris entered the monastery in St Albans where Wendover worked and about twenty years later, when Wendover died, he took over as chronicler taking over, in the process, Wendover's chronicle. It is because Paris is taken seriously that Wendover's lurid accounts of John's misdeeds are taken seriously.

So if George Bush is King John, and The Guardian is Roger of Wendover, who will be Matthew Paris? Oddly enough, it will be Matthew Parris.

Well, it will be Parris and others who, like him, have sober and reasoned voices that are held in wide and non-partisan respect. At the moment Parris looks upon Bush with a jaundiced eye:
The fate of [Obama's] predecessor George W.Bush was to test almost to destruction the theory of the limitlessness of American wealth and power - and of the potency of the American democratic ideal too. With one last heave he pitched his country into a violent and ruinous contest with what at times seemed the whole world, and the whole world's opinion. He failed, luminously.
Like Paris, Parris echoes some of the hysteria of lesser chroniclers. Will he continue to do so in the future?

It's not up to Bush, it's not up to Obama and it's not even, entirely, up to Parris and his fellow writers of the first draft of history. Al Qaeda also has a vote. Since 2001... this can be phrased in different ways. Since 2001 Bush has kept America safe. Since 2001, Bush has been lucky. It is fair, I think, to suggest that if he was lucky after 2001 this was not due to the good will of the enemies who had been attacking America for a decade or more beforehand. It is not really likely that this was luck. No President has ever relied so much on the benevolence of an enemy as will Obama. If I were American, that thought would make me uneasy.

Obama - the man who had Corinthian pillars erected on stage to frame a speech - has planned a coronation so lavish that Washington has already had to declare an emergency just to pay for it. If Al Qaeda aren't very, very nice to him, this will seem - to history - as a part of the most misguided, absurd display of hubris by a President, and Bush may be regarded as a man who kept his people safe for seven and a half difficult years. "May", because even for the Parrisees, it is hard to go against an already established narrative. And they certainly have their Wendovers, should they choose to follow them.

A non-economist's view

Brad DeLong's "economist's view" of Liberalism and Libertarianism starts like this (emphasis added):

Let me give you what I take to be an American card-carrying modern liberal economist’s take on classical liberalism--which I think is broadly an updated version of Adam Smith's take. It is, in short, that modern liberal economists are wanderers who have been expelled from the garden of classical liberalism by the angel of history and reality with his flaming sword...

It starts with an observation that we are all somewhat more interdependent than classical liberalism allows. It is not completely true that it is from the self-interest and not the benevolence of the butcher that we expect our meat. Self-interest, yes, but benevolence too: a truly self-interested butcher would not trade you his meat for your money but instead slaughter you and sell you as long pig. So this opens up a gap between the libertarian view and the world.
That's silly on several levels. The first is just a logical failure: if the butcher's self-interest were really best served by converting his customers into meat, to whom would he sell the meat? At what point would his self-interest be better served by selling rather than slaughtering? If DeLong's premise is granted, there would come a time, at least periodically, when the butcher's self interest would lie in supplying the fruit of his macabre labour to paying customers, assuming they'd buy long pig. If not, the butcher's self interest would have been better served from the start by simply sticking to the conventional meats.

Even trying to discuss this as though it were a serious argument is ridiculous.

There's a big and widespread fallacy underlying DeLong's argument - the idea that it might be in the self interest of anyone, except perhaps a tiny minority of powerfully-built psychopaths, to live in a world where you might be butchered when you went shopping. The purely pragmatic principle of reciprocity means that if we wish not to be butchered ourselves, we should not butcher others. This isn't a benevolent impulse, it's entirely selfish.

In fact, most people are deeply concerned to live in a peaceful environment. We pay taxes willingly for policing, complaining only that the policing isn't effective enough. We are generally happy to pay for military defence, though often less so for offence. The "we" in those sentences includes classical liberals and libertarians. Even those who would privatise policing and form a militia themselves want to see these functions performed.

Among the few legitimate activities that libertarians allow the state are the preservation of peace at home and the protection of citizens from attack from elsewhere. If a long pig butcher were to set up shop in a libertarian society, he would be one of the few people on whom the full weight of the law would fall.

Adam Smith's famous idea about the butcher, benevolence and self interest survives DeLong's assault.

There's more in the linked-to argument. It suggests that liberal economists were "mugged by reality" and changed their views, and it iterates some of the ways this has happened. These are all debatable but let's keep this brief. Liberal economists would disagree with all or part of the arguments put forward and they have, of course, remained vocal. Milton Friedman is an obvious example, as are Hayek and von Mises, and the blogosphere is full of the sound of liberal voices. If they have been in the minority, that is not necessarily a reflection on the worth of their views.

What has happened, though, is that people who are not liberal - DeLong, for example - have taken to applying the label to themselves, for some strange reason.

That is not an argument against the liberal position.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

We are all individuals

Azarmehr reports on an anti-Israeli demonstration in Iran:

In this clip, the mob leader with the tannoy shouting the slogans, warms up the flock with the usual 'Death to Israel' and 'Death to America' to begin with but then his zeal takes over his brain cells and he shouts 'Death to Palestine'. Few of the mob twig on and start laughing but the rest simply repeat the leader and shout accordingly 'Death to Palestine'.

Absolute classic :))

Monday, January 12, 2009

Sharia Law

The government has responded to an online petition that read as follows:

“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to stop Islamic Sharia Law being used in Great Britain.”

Details of Petition:

“The most senior judge in England and Wales has said that aspects of Islamic sharia law could be used in the UK, provided they don’t conflict with existing laws. I say that Islamic sharia law should not be used in the United Kingdom and the Prime Minister should do everything within his power to stop it being introduced.”
The Response:
Shari’a law is the code of personal religious law governing the conduct of Muslims. It can extend into all aspects of people’s lives – personal, religious, family, civil and criminal.

Shari’a law is not part of the law of England and Wales. The Government does not intend to change this position in relation to the whole or part of the United Kingdom. However, provided an activity prescribed by Shari’a law does not contravene the law of England and Wales, there is nothing to prohibit it. Muslims can, for example, wear traditional dress and follow dietary rules. They are completely free to worship in the way that they want.

There can never be reliance on the fact that an act is permitted under Shari’a law as a justification for committing what is, under the law of England and Wales, a criminal act. Nor, for example, could someone expect a civil court, in reaching a decision on a contractual case under English or Scottish law, to apply the principles of Shari’a law.

Criminal matters, both small and serious, will always be heard in a Crown or Magistrate’s Court in England and Wales, and in Sheriff’s Courts in Scotland. The decisions made in an alternative court will not be recognised.
It would have been more significant to refer to matrimonial than contractual cases, but it's a good response.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Ex-footballer welcomed

Graffiti on a wall at a Jewish cemetery in north London:

But fruit extracts are still unacceptable.

UPDATE: Whoops, credit missed. Nicked from the Anorak.

Photography Freedom Day

This seems a sensible suggestion:

Henry Porter, one of the few journalists to "get it" has an excellent article today about how people are being lifted by the police for photographing things - cycle paths, derelict buildings, railway stations and the like. They are then whisked off to the police station and their fingerprints and DNA taken. As our Henry says, something really has to be done.

My idea would be to have a "Photograph a Potential Terrorist Target Day", in which everyone goes out with their cameras and snaps away at any state-owned building. It doesn't actually have to be a terrorist target, any state owned building would do, but the point needs to be got across that this kind of behaviour is normal and acceptable and should not be an excuse for the police to meet their arrest targets by simply lifting people of the streets.

In fact, while we're about it, maybe we should start photographing state officials at work - including particularly policemen.
Anyone care to suggest a date?

Porn industry bailout

Fox Business News reports:

Girls Gone Wild CEO Joe Francis and “Hustler” magazine publisher Larry Flynt have said they will petition Congress for financial aid along the lines of what the Big Three auto makers are getting.
And why not? It's just like the banks:
Francis said he and Flynt would also be willing to discuss the possibility of the government buying equity stakes in their companies, as was done with financial firms.
I have resisted the temptation to make gratuitous puns, you'll notice, or to suggest it was tongue in cheek.


Israel and Hamas

Lisa Goldman writes from an anti-war Israeli perspective.

Daniel Finkelstein explains why Ruth wasn't supposed to have a notebook.

Snoopy translates a piece that argues a ceasefire now would simply be a promise that the killing of Jews would start again tomorrow.

News report that Israel has accepted an outline ceasefire proposal from France and Egypt.

In Iran there were attacks against Egyptian assets and demonstrators called for the murder of Mubarek - as they did in Indonesia.

JuliaM on anti-Semitic attacks in the UK. She suspects the Jehovah's Witnesses may be behind them.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Drugs and the media

For the last forty years and more, the British people have been systematically lied to and mislead as to the basis on which the country’s laws and policies relating to the recreational use of drugs have been been formulated and drawn up, not only by the government - and that means every government since the late 1960s - by by our supposedly independent and free press which has actively colluded in a lie of gargantuan proportions.
That's part of the conclusion of a long and detailed post at the Ministry of Truth. I have a small anecdote to add.

I had lunch with Dr Betty Tilden some time around 1995. A retired consultant psychiatrist, she had latterly specialised in religious cults (I was investigating a Catholic movement called the Neo Catechumenate). She moved into the study of the effects of cult membership on the mind from the study of narcotics on the mind, and felt there were similarities. In 1968, in the middle of her drug specialisation, she had acted as a sort of semi-detached advisor to the Wootton Committee, which was considering Cannabis and the law.

As the release date approached, there were leaks and a controversy developed. The Wootton Committee couldn't, in fact, find much wrong with Cannabis, and yet they didn't recommend it be legalised. They were criticised, by different people, for both these things.

Dr Tilden was working in the Maudsley Hospital in South London as the leaks began, and she was telephoned by a journalist working for the London Evening News. She hadn't, at that time, seen the report. He read to her various parts of the leaked document; she realised when she did finally see it that he had been, to be polite, highly selective.

When he asked for her comments she replied mildly, "Well, it sounds like a bit of a junkies' charter". The next day, this quote from her was in headlines around the world. She was represented as a leading expert who had condemned the report.

Her view, in fact, was that Cannabis should be legalised - not decriminalised, legalised - and, she emphasised, taxed. In other words, her view was the exact opposite of that suggested by the media.

The response of the Home Secretary to this report was to raise the level of penalty for cannabis possession.

The government and the media colluding in a lie? I'd say Unity has a point.

Supra long Finnish chronology

A tree ring record stretching back 7500 years.

Why it matters

My post here about Old Holborn had a point I didn't make. I was more preoccupied with demonstrating that I have some kind of basis on which to speak about the problem with anonymity. But here's the point.

I'm saying: my name is Peter Risdon and I'm a freeborn Englishman.

I will not carry an identity card, but I will require agents of the state to carry them.

I will not restrict my speech in any way, but I will require my servants, the agents of the state to do so, commensurate with their role as agents of the state.

I will not justify my speech to them, but I will require them to justify their words to me.

I refuse to justify my actions to them, but I require them to justify their actions to me.

My property is my own affair. How they spend my taxes is also my affair and they'll account for it.

My private life is my own affair. They aren't entitled to any knowledge of it whatsoever.

I am entitled to protect my self and my property, and to bear arms if I choose to do so in the furtherance of that. But I am entitled to tell the state, in its local manifestation, how I want them to protect my person and my property.

Now, right now I can't require any of that. But I'm going to stand here, in my own name, until I can. Bitching from the sidelines under an assumed name isn't going to cut it. You have to get to your feet, as yourself, and make a stand.

An appeal

... anyone know any support groups for Jews who are also feel that they are lesbians trapped inside a man's body?
Rob Farrington, in the comments here.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Anonymous blogging

After a meteoric rise, the "Libertarian" blogger "Old Holborn" has hung up his keyboard because:

Today, a fellow Libertarian decided to post my name , address, email address, business address, photo of me and my children on the web. Because he was angry with me over my stand on Israel.

Tonight, my wife and family have read the consequent death threats and insults to them that have poured in and asked me to close this blog.

Many people now know where I live, where my children go to school, how I earn my crust and I will not put my family at any further risk.

So I am closing my blog.
He has blamed Obo, but wrongly, it seems. He had, in a short career, made a habit of doing things wrongly. But that was his prerogative.

I started this blog anonymously, posting as Freeborn John rather than Peter Risdon, some time in 2005. I've deleted all those posts now and if they were cached anywhere it would be a waste of disk space. I never really found my voice and it all petered out. Then at the end of 2005 the Danish Motoons affair kicked off and because no UK media would publish them, I decided I should do so myself. But to do so anonymously seemed to defeat the object so I changed the settings to use my real name.

Since then, my address and telephone numbers have been published on the web. First by me, then by a criminal who set up a sort of attack site - I hope he didn't pay anyone to get the information because it was in the public domain already. I had a death threat from a member of the BNP (after which a Muslim organisation very kindly offered me a safe place, which I declined), and from radical Muslims - including one rather surreal telephone conversation while I was driving. After a lengthy explanation of why it was his religious duty to kill me, I interrupted to say I had arrived and had to go into a BBC studio for something. He was extremely polite and ended the call, not wishing to make me late.

Paint stripper was thrown over my car.

And without wishing to be grandiose, I'm in the process of doing something that involves a risk of some Joe the Plumber type smearing in retaliation. But I think it's the right thing to do, so I'm doing it. More on that later.

All of which pales into insignificance when compared with the bile that ordinary working journalists have to deal with every day of the week. People as different as Nick Cohen and Melanie Phillips have buckets of ordure poured into their mailboxes and voicemail all the time. Threats abound. Both - and I just picked two names of the dozens that anyone could think of - keep their lines of communication open.

Blogging isn't some kind of especially risky frontier. It's just self-publishing. The risks are the same. Bloggers are in jail, but not here. Journalists are in jail in the same countries as bloggers.

My advice to Old Holborn - a man who was enough of a tough guy to write about getting shotguns to ward off the underclass - is this: grow a pair. Use your own name and write things you are willing to stand for and by.

The death of satire

This is a genuine news report. It's not meant to be funny or ironic:

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has declared that capitalism is dead because of the credit crunch.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, 76, made the astonishing claim at a lavish fund-raising dinner at Claridges...
The four course dinner, with a champagne reception, had been provided free of charge by Derek Quinlan, the property developer, who owns Claridges who is worth an estimated £60 million.
The assembled capitalists had just pledged hundreds of thousands of pounds to the Catholic Church.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Anti-Semitism in Europe

The relationship between the Danish-Palestinians and the Danish Jews are now so strained that the principal at Humlehaven school in Vollsmose (Odense), Olav Nielse, will be very careful about signing up Jewish students. 30% of the students at the school have a Palestinian background.

Olav Nielsen doesn't have students of Jewish background just now, but if he were to be approached by Jewish parents he would ask the family to think it through whether they want their child to start in the school. He says that Humlehaven school is a public school and that therefore everybody is welcome, but at the same time he will advise the parents to find another school for their children.

He fears that a Jewish student will have serious problems among the many Arab children.
Oh, and it turns out that:
the principal in question is listed as a supporter of the Danish Boycott Israel campaign.
Well, I feel like boycotting anti-Semitic bigots.

I was spared the 1930s but sometimes I have asked myself what I would have done had I been alive during that time of casual dinner-party anti-Semitism and rising attacks against Jews and Jewish property.

I guess now I can find out.


Fibre to the door

Dizzy writes of a David Cameron promise:

So, if we're going to have "fibre to the door" how will a Conservative Government "do everything it can to make it happen"? Does this mean breaking up BT Openreach's maintenance monopoly on the final leg loop between exchange and door? Or does it mean increasing it? Or is it just a pointless promise that will soon become a mere aspiration?
The great Bill Deedes suggested a solution to this problem, years ago, and his idea happened to be something I'd been suggesting myself at the time, to anyone who couldn't get away quickly enough.

Deedes suggested a new industry be created - conduit provision. Put it to tender, make bidders buy bundles of high and low density population areas so every part of the country is covered. Dig the roads up once more, but only once more. Provide a network of multi-chambered conduits in which every supplier of existing and new services has to rent space. It would be a huge upheaval, but thereafter any new type of service would have a significantly reduced cost of provisioning supplies to domestic and/or commercial properties.

There's an analogy in the (botched) privatisation of the railways in the UK. In that case, the tracks on which trains run were sold separately to the train services themselves. What was missing was competition. The rail tracks should have been sold to a number of suppliers so individual companies could fail and have their franchises taken over by the more successful. A similar pattern has been successful in the field of regional independent television franchises.

Despite the flexibility of wireless communications, wired ones still carry significant advantages, especially of bandwidth. If new technologies, and improvements of old ones, could be rolled out through existing channels (literally) the barriers to their introduction would be significantly reduced.

There's also an economy of maintenance and provisioning available: it must be cheaper to maintain a single conduit system for telephone & internet, cable TV, electricity, gas, even water (we still use a lot of Victorian water pipes for distribution and there's a lot of leakage) than separate ones for each.

It's an idea of Victorian scale, ambition and confidence. But then, Deedes in some ways might have been the last Victorian.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Butter update

Further to this post, a reader emailed me from Israel to report that the butter in their hotel is Lurpak, labelled in Hebrew. This provides the perfect solution. I can stick with buying Lurpak, but spread it on toasted bagels.

Supporting Israel and Denmark is a tough job, but someone's got to do it.


Michael J Totten:

The American response to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor went well beyond sinking an equal number of ships in a Japanese harbor, for instance. And European Jews certainly were not entitled to execute six million German civilians after the Holocaust.
Read it all.

Is there an Israeli brand of butter?

I've been buying Lurpak since the Islamic boycott of Danish brands began after the Motoons shenanigans. Now that the General Guide (the what?) of the Muslim Brotherhood has called for a boycott of Israeli goods, I feel an urge to switch.

Or maybe I should just buy the troops a pizza.

The founding Charter of Hamas claims land for reasons of religious supremacism (emphasis added):

The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine has been an Islamic Waqf throughout the generations and until the Day of Resurrection, no one can renounce it or part of it, or abandon it or part of it. No Arab country nor the aggregate of all Arab countries, and no Arab King or President nor all of them in the aggregate, have that right, nor has that right any organization or the aggregate of all organizations, be they Palestinian or Arab, because Palestine is an Islamic Waqf throughout all generations and to the Day of Resurrection. Who can presume to speak for all Islamic Generations to the Day of Resurrection? This is the status [of the land] in Islamic Shari’a, and it is similar to all lands conquered by Islam by force, and made thereby Waqf lands upon their conquest, for all generations of Muslims until the Day of Resurrection.
Once some territory - part of Spain, say - has been conquered by a Muslim army at any time in the past it must remain Muslim for all time. God says so. Women do not need the authorisation of their husbands to fight and even slaves must play their part. Authorisation...? Hang on. Slaves??? Yes, slaves:
... a woman must go out and fight the enemy even without her husband’s authorization, and a slave without his masters’ permission.
They have no interest in peace, just in conquest:
[Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement.
Hamas is at war with Israel because it chooses to be at war. It declared war. Israel has an absolute right, not to respond "proportionately" to rocket attacks, but to defeat its enemy.

The dead and dying Jihadis are victims of this disgusting ideology. Deceived by promises of celestial orgies, they are losing the only lives they'll ever have. The civilians, Israeli and Palestinian, caught in the fire are more so. Young Israeli soldiers - and it's always the young - are fighting through boobytrapped streets as I type. If I were religious, I'd pray for their safety. The blame, both consequential and moral, for this lies entirely with Hamas.

Their vision of the future is clear:
Safety and security can only prevail under the shadow of Islam...
The shadow of Islam is a very dark one. Israel's battle is also our battle.


Saturday, January 03, 2009

Quote of the day

If I see one more corporation declare itself ‘green,’ I’m going to start burning tires in my backyard.


Person of the Year

I don't do this sort of thing as a rule, but Ezra Levant's defence of freedom of expression and his clarity in defining the relationship between the state and the individual defined him as a great classical Liberal.

Here he explains why he doesn't answer to the state. If you haven't already, watch his whole extraordinary interrogation.

Is economics a science? Part Two

Part One looked at a structured and meaningful consideration of this question. Here's a much less serious one:

If economics is a science it is a very poor one. Let’s look at some of the assumptions it requires to ensure it works as one:

1) Perfect knowledge of the future

2) Certain knowledge of current preferences which will never change

3) Mindless pursuit of self interest in the face of conflicting goals

4) No externalities i.e. everything of value can be priced, with certainty

That’s not science: that’s mumbo jumbo.
This was a comment written by Richard Murphy at his own blog. As Tim Worstall, in a subsequent comment, pointed out, not one of these points is assumed by anyone at all, outside the writer's imagination, to be the case, let alone necessary for economics to be a science.

Mr Murphy followed this exchange with a post in which he further argued his case. Having read his post, I have to concede that he makes a convincing (if limited) case, albeit inadvertently. Economics is most definitely not, in his hands, a science.

It would be redundant to point out that he appears to know nothing about the serious considerations of this subject that have been around for decades. He knows nothing, from the look of it, of arguments that have been put to him there on his blog and to which he is, ostensibly, replying. He debates with himself, throwing up points he imagines others have made (they have not), then arguing against them.

So why bother to mention this blogging equivalent of the sort of poor soul who walks along the street, shouting at an invisible antagonist? Firstly, because he is influential:
Richard has written widely on taxation and accounting, including for the Observer. He has appeared in BBC radio and television documentaries on taxation issues.

Since 2000 Richard has been increasingly involved in taxation policy issues. He is a founder of the Tax Justice Network and director of Tax Research LLP which undertakes work on taxation policy for a wide range of clients including governments, government agencies, commercial organisations, aid agencies and pressure groups in the UK and abroad.
And that's troubling.

Secondly, because he has, effectively, accused Tim of being some kind of Nazi because he allows offensive comments to remain on his blog. Well, yes he does. I don't think anyone has better cause than I to be aware of this; a very large number of defamatory comments about me have been left, anonymously, on Tim's blog. We've corresponded about them privately*, from time to time, and neither of us is in any doubt who is responsible for them, but I have never asked Tim to remove them, and nor would I.

Murphy decided to prevent Tim from commenting on his blog. He's entitled to do that, the right to free speech does not carry with it a right to be given a platform by others. Here's his reasoning, if that's the word I want:
The object of the aggression [in comments at Tim's site]... is simple. It is to frighten people away from the debate to secure the space for the far right.
It is why I have decided to ignore his comments from now on. It is why the mainstream needs to eliminate this type of attack...
Got that? Murphy is saying that it's wrong to try to exclude people (he agrees with) from debate, and that people (he disagrees with) should be excluded from debate. That's a bit more sinister. And so, as of this episode, is Richard Murphy.

[*Update: I should have stated that I mentioned private correspondence with Tim's prior permission]

Is economics a science? Part One

Mathematics has actually been used in economic theory, perhaps even in an exaggerated manner. In any case, its use has not been highly successful. This is contrary to what one observes in other sciences...
That's a quote from the top of page 3 of this edition of one of the most important economics texts of the mid-twentieth century, von Neumann and Morgenstern's Theory of Games and Economic Behaviour. It has stuck in my mind because the second part of the first sentence is one of the best examples of understated academic cattiness I've ever encountered, and it made me laugh out loud when I first read it.

The chapter in which it occurs, Formulation of the Economic Problem, is an important reference for anyone considering the question of whether or not economics is a science. In trying to apply, in the 1940s, a new branch of mathematics, Game Theory (which von Neumann, one of the most important mathematicians of the twentieth century, had begun working on in 1928) to economics the authors had first to consider whether or not such an exercise would be appropriate.

They compared economics with physics and found that there were similarities, especially between economics at the time of writing and physics of an earlier age. Economics, they felt, was still at a stage when the work of painstaking measurement and description was very incomplete; with physics that work was more advanced. They suggested that the application of mathematics to physics from the late sixteenth century on, and to other sciences at other times, helped the development of rigour in measurement and description. So might it be with economics:
The precise measurements of the quantity and quality of heat (energy and temperature) were the outcome and not the antecedents of the mathematical theory. This ought to be contrasted with the fact that the quantitative and exact notions of prices, money and the rate of interest were already developed centuries ago.
So why had the application of maths to economics theory (we are not talking here about the use of statistical methods in information gathering and assimilation) been so unsuccessful up until then? The authors suggested two reasons:
... economic problems were not formulated clearly and are often stated in such vague terms as to make mathematical treatment a priori appear hopeless because it is quite uncertain what the problems really are.
... the empirical background of economic science is definitely inadequate. Our knowledge of the relevant facts of economics is incomparably smaller than that commanded in physics at the time when the mathematization of that subject was achieved.
By the seventeenth century, there were observations, especially of astronomical phenomena, that stretched back a couple of millennia. No such record exists in economics.

To the authors of this book, economics is a science, but it is an immature one. That didn't mean that the attempt to develop a theoretical framework, as had happened in sciences like physics, chemistry and biology, was inappropriate, but it did mean that the results that could be expected initially would be likely to be modest:
It is essential to realize that economists can expect no easier fate than that which befell scientists in other disciplines. It seems reasonable to expect that they will have to take up first problems contained in the very simplest facts of economic life and try to establish theories which explain them and which really conform to rigorous scientific standards. We can have enough confidence that from then on the science of economics will grow further, gradually comprising matters of more vital importance than those with which one has to begin.1

The field covered in this book is very limited, and we approach it in this sense of modesty. We do not worry at all if the results of our study conform with views gained recently or held for a long time, for what is important is the gradual development of a theory, based on a careful analysis of the ordinary everyday interpretation of economic facts. This preliminary stage is necessarily heuristic, i.e. the phase of transition from unmathematical plausibility considerations to the formal procedure of mathematics. The theory finally obtained must be mathematically rigorous and conceptually general. Its first applications are necessarily to elementary problems where the result has never been in doubt and no theory is actually required. At this early stage the application serves to corroborate the theory. The next stage develops when the theory is applied to somewhat more complicated situations in which it may already lead to a certain extent beyond the obvious and the familiar. Here theory and applications corroborate each other mutually. Beyond this lies the field of real success: genuine prediction by theory. It is well known that all mathematized sciences have gone through these successive phases of evolution.

1 The beginning is actually of a certain significance, because the forms of exchange between a few individuals are the same as those observed on some of the most important markets of modern industry, or in the case of barter exchange between states in international trade.
That was published in 1944. Why, then, has so little progress been made since then? Economics has not undergone the sort of structural revolution the authors thought possible.

The answer must be that so many people come to the field not to discover the reality of the world, but to find plausible justifications for their pre-existing political views. Economics is like an early science - alchemy, say. Too often, it combines activities that look a bit like serious work, with religion.

That's why there's a second part to this post.

You know you're tired when...

... the reason your new DNS server "isn't working" is because you haven't opened port 53 in the firewall. Time for a break. Blog post. Then back to it.

Strange fruit

I'm not sure anyone would give a song this title now. But watch Billie Holiday's eyes. If you turned the sound off, the whole story would still be there. But to turn the sound off would be a sin.

Friday, January 02, 2009


A very good version of this Leonard Cohen song won the X Factor this year, but this is better:

Hit by the truck

Which newspaper did this appear in?

[The NHS] sentences thousands of critically ill people to death by putting them on waiting-lists a year or more long, or by denying them life-saving drugs made in Britain and exported elsewhere. Those told they may have cancer often wait months for diagnosis and months more for treatment, delays that mean curable cancer becomes incurable for thousands of people. The NHS forces poor people who have spent their lives paying tax to sell their houses to pay for private treatment. It forces doctors to lie to their patients, telling them there are no drugs that can help them, when it is just that the NHS won't pay for them. Britain has the worst survival rates for almost all forms of cancer of any Western country.

IF YOU NEED a hip replacement, you will have to live in pain, even if you are incapacitated, for years before you have any hope of treatment. One in 60 of the British population is on a waiting-list. One of the first stories I had to write was comparing our waiting-lists to those in other countries. It was a short piece: most other countries don't have waiting-lists - you are diagnosed and then treated.

Our revered system strips the world's poorest countries of nurses and doctors they can't afford to lose, and sends old and sick people on planes to get treatment in countries far from their home and relatives. It overworks, pressurises and underpays staff so much they retire early, emigrate or simply leave the profession. It manages the remarkable feat of ensuring within the same country a critical shortage of nurses with an army of trained nurses too demoralised to work in the profession. We have fewer doctors per head of population than any country in Europe except Albania. During the flu season, we end up with just two spare intensive care beds, and patients shuttled across the country in search of somewhere to stay. Occasionally, they die en route .

It is institutionally cruel, callously inflicting unnecessary misery. Thousands of patients undergo the stress of preparing for a long-awaited operation only to have it cancelled after they have arrived at hospital, not just once, but twice and more. Patients don't eat because they cannot reach the food put at the end of the bed.
The Guardian. Because:
... two years ago, I became health editor of The Observer , the very same day that Alan Milburn became Health Secretary. And what I have learnt about the health service and its workings has appalled me and completely eroded my faith in the NHS.

[I can't find where I saw a link to this. If it was you, let me know and I'll link back to your post.]

This holiday I have mostly...

... been working. Hence the lack of posts. I've been re-factoring a manufacturing control system I began writing about three years ago, so a company that, literally, put their factory on the back of a fleet of trucks and shipped it to Poland could continue to design products here - they're metal bashers, making vehicle roll-over protection - and have them made, immediately the design is approved, in a location that initially had almost no communication links. A laptop with a GSM card in Poland could access fully-indented, illustrated bills of materials and manufacturing instructions that had been completed minutes earlier in the UK.

Then purchase order processing was added. Then sales order processing, then invoicing. Then manufacturing control (so the sales people in the UK could see where on the factory floor in Poland an order was, in real time)... but since it was being developed, often experimentally, while being used for production (don't try this at home, people) the scripts wound up containing a large amount of spaghetti.

So I've been re-factoring a lot of procedural stuff into properly object orientated structures, templating it, adding proper internationalisation and so on. Will probably launch it as a product next year.

To add to the festive gaiety, a 100% price rise in a data centre led to my having also to move a small hosting system - web, databases, mail, webmail, online backup, snapshotted archiving etc - to another location. After a bit of tooth-sucking, I decided to move it into Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), with a bit of help from their Simple Storage Service (S3). Wow. What a pleasant experience that's proved to be. The hosting system in question has maintained 100% uptime for the past four years (99.9% the four years before that [99% is crap, three and a half days out per annum, so these are the percentages you need to be achieving]) and that includes this last migration period. No downtime whatsoever.

The Amazon systems are a pleasure to use. Nice clean API, good tools and a firefox plugin if you just want to click to create a server instance, click to create a storage volume, click to give it a DNSable ip address. It's the way forward for small to medium systems, and for the hosting system in question represents an enhanced infrastructure with costs running at about a third of their pre-price-rise level. Everything charged by the hour, so you can add capacity when needed, and get rid of it when it's no longer necessary.

I have no vested interest in the Amazon system. But it's recommended.