Thursday, April 30, 2009

Convergence of the sane

It used to be prohibited to post links to Little Green Footballs at Harry's Place. Now each site cites the other. Quite right too. They have both been conscientiously spotlighting Islamist lunacy and anti-Semitism for years now.

Harry's Place is left of centre and LGF is still broadly right, but both are distinguished, in this sea of mire, by one salient quality: they're sane. Blair's Law states that all the lunacies of the world are converging into one vast lunacy. A glance at The Guardian's website will confirm that. If the world's sanities have started converging, that can only be a good thing.

So that's what it's for! (a boring post)

I've been accused of being borderline autistic, because I can focus obsessively on something until it's done. This is why I've been blogging very little (I think I've mentioned it before): I suddenly discovered I needed to write an accountancy program to combine with something else I was doing and because it was an afterthought I needed to get it out of the way quickly.

It's been about the only thing I've been thinking about recently, unless you count the scripted attacks on the Joomla sites I host that meant I had to do an emergency upgrade of the web servers to cope with a 'maxClients exceeded' prob.

But that was a mere bagatelle. Accounts programmes aren't so much difficult as exact. Click 'enter' and all these posting happen and if you've made a mistake, there's a rats' nest to untangle. Because of an error in the way I was finding a particular nominal ledger account reference, the sales ledger balanced, the purchase ledger balanced, the whole postings table balanced, but the nominal ledger didn't balance. Huh?

I'd based the database design on some ideas in a paper I found at the ICA website and it naturally enough included a journal, which I've always thought of as being somewhat superfluous. Nope. It isn't. The journal reference ties together all the ledger postings so they can be balanced as a group.

Ah. So that's what it's for. I guess my complete lack of accountancy training is showing.

Complaint to the BBC

Just filed:

During a discussion [on Radio 4's Today programme] about the first 100 days of the Obama presidency, Justin Webb explained the reasons for Obama's popularity.

Obama is the least popular president, with the exception of Bill Clinton, at this stage in his presidency, of recent times. The report was irreconcilable with the truth.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/apr/28/baracks-in-the-basement/
I'll post their reply when it arrives.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Petition news

There have been about 3,000 signatures this morning (I write at just before 1:00pm, including one from a Mr or Ms "want my money back you thieving scum". Why not sign too, if you haven't already?

Shock finding of the day

Homoeopathy causes "no serious adverse effects or drug interactions".

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Please go

The petition asking Gordon Brown to resign seems to be getting about 100 signatures an hour at the moment. If you haven't signed yet, please consider doing so.

Climate distortions

There's a buzz going round the environmentalist circuit at the moment, because the New York Times has suggested that the "Global Climate Coalition, a group representing industries with profits tied to fossil fuels" ignored scientific advice given to it by its own scientists.

Here's the basis for this, from the NYT piece. First:

“The role of greenhouse gases in climate change is not well understood,” the coalition said in a scientific “backgrounder” provided to lawmakers and journalists through the early 1990s, adding that “scientists differ” on the issue.
But its private advice had been different:
“The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied,” the experts wrote in an internal report compiled for the coalition in 1995.
The problem is, these two paragraphs are not contradictory. Combined, they argue that the scientific basis for the greenhouse effect is well established but the role it plays in actual climate is less certain.

I don't know whether the Global Climate Coalition was setting out to distort the public debate but in this reported example it doesn't seem to have done so.

Mitigating circumstances

Theodore Dalrymple:

It is curious how, when it comes to rape, the liberal press, and presumably liberals themselves, suddenly appreciate the value of punishment. They do not say of rape that we must understand the causes of rape before we punish it; that we must understand how men develop into rapists before we lock them away, preferably for a long time; that prison does not work. It is as if, when speaking of rape, it suddenly becomes time to put away childish things, and (to change the metaphor slightly) to talk the only kind of language that rapists understand.
His argument is that other crimes should be taken as seriously as rape:
Thus, the average cost to a burglar of a domestic burglary is approximately 1 day in prison. The question to be asked, then, is not why there are so many burglaries, but so few.
And makes the important, obvious and simple point that if someone commits a crime under the influence of alcohol or a drug, it should be seen as an exacerbating factor, and not as mitigation as is the present case.

Speaking of Dalrymple, here is an interview with the excellent Little Atoms radio show, in which he discusses some of the bizarre hyperbole that is talked about heroin addiction.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Where the hell is he?



Outtakes:



The hoax:

Signed

At the Number 10 website:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to resign
Already more than 5,000 signatures on this.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Prom dress rugby

Sorry for the scarcity of posts... working on something a bit different for this blog. In the meantime, why not relax with the UCLA women's rugby team annual Prom Dress match?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

An obituary

From the Telegraph's obituary of J. G. Ballard:

In 1973 Ballard’s obsession with car accidents came to fruition with the publication of Crash. The book put forward the unusual theory that only through intimate contact with a car (in the form of accidents) can humans achieve true eroticism...
[...]
After producing two more books of short stories, Running Wild (1988) and War Fever (1990)...
Crash put forward no such theory. It described a couple who become enthralled by a man whose deep and constant - and completely unusual - eroticism includes but is not limited to an erotic fascination with road accidents and disfigurement. Running Wild is a short novel, not a book of short stories.

This contemptible newspaper can't even be bothered to get basic facts right about one of the greatest writers in the English language of modern times.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Do nothing politics

Thomas E. Woods talks about the 1920/1 recession in America, arguing that this was short-lived because when it began the President was ill and unable to try to do anything about it and his successor in 1921 also did little.




Via the Irish Liberty Forum.

The other surge

Iraq The Model posts a graph of the movement of the Iraqi Stock Exchange ISX index monthly closing figures between November 2004 and February 2009:

Hacks savaged

At the time of writing, every single one of the 29 comments the moderators have allowed through is contemptuous of Gordon Rayner's disgusting hatchet job on Guido Fawkes, currently the top Editor's Choice in the degraded Daily Telegraph.

Hacks being savaged by their own readers has become a commonplace in this episode. Kevin Maguire and Michael White suffered the same entirely deserved fate.



If there was ever a moment for an alternative media to emerge, this is it.

Most valuable CD

This might be one of the 1,000 copies that were made of a charity disk on which Britain's Got Talent hit Susan Boyle sang Cry Me a River.

While her appearance on the TV show has received upwards of 25 million views on YouTube, this is already over the 2 million mark. With justice, she sings beautifully.

Quote of the Day

The "left" may joke and titter and wheeze about "fundy Christian wingnuts" but find someone lecturing you about your immorality, your materialism, your sinful pride, your lack of spiritual value and, most likely, they will be driving an old Volvo with the radio tuned to "Pacifica" and a GEORGE BUSH IS A LIAR bumper-sticker on the fender. Your average lefty is quicker to take offense than a blue-haired old presbyterian; they are constantly monitoring everyone for signs of racism, sexism, colonialism, anti-animal hate speech. They will criticize your car, your house, your synthetic fiber sweater, your swear words, your cigarettes, your sandwich, your choice of grocery bag, your skin color (if it is in the dusky pink range). Life to them is a laundry list of strictures, taboos and lamentations. They hate science, they fear Christianity, they think heterosexual porn is rape, they believe in magic, aromatherapy, tribalism; they scream about Bush killing children but fail to bat an eyelash at the consequences of "pro-choice". They cringe in disgust and embarrassment at the "black and white" moral distinctions of Bush (and Reagan in his time) when he speaks of the "axis of evil", yet no one uses the word evil more than leftists when describing the Bush Administration, capitalism, America, Israel. They mock and scoff at the president's religiosity, yet speak in reverential tones of Gaia, Buddha, Wicca, Yoga.
From a comment at Tim Blair's old blog.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Stability threatened

The New York Times:

DERA GHAZI KHAN, Pakistan — Taliban insurgents are teaming up with local militant groups to make inroads in Punjab, the province that is home to more than half of Pakistanis, reinvigorating an alliance that Pakistani and American authorities say poses a serious risk to the stability of the country.
We certainly wouldn't want to see the stability of Pakistan threatened.

The world's gone mad

Trenchant analysis from Harry Hutton:

If I said stuff like I’d probably be arrested under the Nanny State’s bonkers Racial and Religious Hatred Act, which makes it illegal to murder people for their religious beliefs.

Subsidised soup

Soup for 60p! This must be the only place in London where you can get such cheap fare apart from a soup kitchen.
Where might that particular bargain be had?

More on Channel 4 on Sunday.

Let it Rock

The Refreshments with Albert Lee:

The Stoning of Soraya M

From the YouTube page:

A drama set in 1986 Iran and centered on a man, Sahebjam (Caviezel), whose car breaks down in a remote village and enters into a conversation with Zahra (Aghdashloo), who relays to him the story about her niece, Soraya (MarnĂ²), whose arranged marriage to an abusive tyrant had a tragic ending.


Trap shooting

I've fired one of the last things myself (don't want to spoil the surprise) but there's no way I'd have hit this.



Via.

Praise where it is due

But busy or not, I ought to take a moment to compliment Blood and Treasure for managing, however tenuously, to give Margaret Thatcher some of the blame for the new wave of Somali Pirates. That deserves top billing in any list of the Things Thatcher is to Blame For.

Will resume soon

Sorry for the lack of posts. I've been writing an accountancy application and it's been a bit difficult to concentrate on anything else.

I needed an accountancy application that had an open API, so some other process or application could say to it "I need an invoice, please" and one would be generated, with the correct ledger entries being made. For example, a system managing hosting accounts has a process that measures disk space and bandwidth use for a period of time, calculates the amount and then sends a message to the accounts package. Or some consultancy is performed and the invoice needs to be raised. Or some physical goods are supplied. Regardless of the reason for the invoicing, any independent system can call on the accounts system to generate the invoice and make the book entries.

I was surprised that I couldn't find an adequate package out there, but I couldn't.

But then, if you've made the ledger entries for a supply, you need to be able to record a receipt of a payment. Purchasing is basically the same process with different ledger accounts being written to. Then some kind of interface for managing nominal accounts, customer and suppliers, and key accounts was needed. And so on.

Nearly finished now. I'm quite pleased with it. Documents like orders and invoices are generated as pdfs and emailed to the correct company automatically, there's the necessary client side logic in place to make sure things like receipts are fully allocated, and server side to make sure, for example, that only sets of entries that balance are processed.

Having taken it this far, it might be worth polishing a bit and releasing as an application. But that's for later. For now I need to get it finished and then start blogging again - with a couple of video blogs in the pipeline for a change, and maybe a little bit of news to break - though not remotely on the same level as this past week has seen from Guido.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

6 top lists at Beliefnet

I can see beliefnet.com is going to be the gift that just keeps on giving. Here are the six most emailed list-based articles at the moment:

10 Ways to Transform Toxic Thoughts
8 Irish Blessings for Luck
15 Hidden Health Secrets of Lemons
10 Uplifting Quotes for a Depressed Heart
10 Ways to Honor Thyself
8 Ways to Increase Hope
I like the 15 hidden health secrets of lemons best, so far.

Platitude of the day

Beliefnet (Inspiration. Spirituality. Faith) introduces its 10 Uplifting Quotes for a Depressed Heart as follows:

What is it about a short quotation that carries so much power? Anyone who has ever been moved by "I have a dream" or "I think, therefore I am" knows that a single, simple quote can change a day, a life, a world.
I think therefore I am?

For the author of this website, these quotations are like CDs of whale song or Peruvian nose flute music, soothing noise but nothing to focus on too sharply.

But the platitude du jour, which wouldn't be nearly so good with the definite article, is this part: "a single, simple quote can change... a world".

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Filming the Police

This is why it should never be made illegal:




The Guardian reports:

Dramatic footage obtained by the Guardian shows that the man who died at last week's G20 protests in London was attacked from behind and thrown to the ground by a baton–wielding police officer in riot gear.

Monday, April 06, 2009

FreeBSD on EC2?

From the EC2 FAQ:

Q: What operating system environments are supported?

Amazon EC2 currently supports a variety of operating systems including: RedHat Linux, Windows Server, openSuSE Linux, Fedora, Debian, OpenSolaris, Cent OS, Gentoo Linux, Oracle Linux, and FreeBSD. We are looking for ways to expand it to other platforms in future releases.
No public AMIs yet, I don't think, but this is very encouraging.

Green jobs

Subsidizing renewable energy in the U.S. may destroy two jobs for every one created if Spain’s experience with windmills and solar farms is any guide.
Via.

War on drugs

I leave you one last statistic. Cole says that in 1914, when the first federal drug law was enacted, the government estimated 1.3 percent of us were addicted to illegal drugs. In 1970, when the "war on drugs" began, the government estimated that 1.3 percent of us were addicted to illegal drugs. Thirty-nine million arrests later, he says, the government says 1.3 percent of us are addicted to illegal drugs.

Daniel Hannan gets it

I wonder how many of the people who were enthusiastically posting Hannan's smackdown of Gordon Brown will also be linking to these two blog posts of his. They are in exact agreement with two of my themes here, so I'm delighted.

The Parliamentarians were right during the English Civil War:

In their own eyes, the Roundheads were conservatives, preserving traditional English liberties against the dangerous innovations of a foreign-influenced court. As Robert Ashton showed in his brilliant study The English Civil War: Conservatism and Revolution 1603-1649, the parliamentary cause was rooted in the defence of local freedoms, property rights and English particularism. Its advocates believed, with justice, that they were fighting to protect a way of life against the absolutism that was then spreading on the Continent.
Incidentally, that also applies to the Levellers, who were called by that name by others as an insult, and found it insulting. The Diggers called themselves "the true Levellers" because they were indeed the equivalent of socialists, whereas the Levellers were what we'd today call classical Liberals.

Back to Hannan. The American Revolution:
Forget subsequent flag-waving histories of the War of Independence, and go back to what the colonist leaders were arguing at the time. They saw themselves, not as revolutionaries, but as conservatives. In their eyes, they were standing up for what they had assumed to be their birthright as freeborn Englishmen. It was Great Britain, they believed, that was abandoning its ancient liberties.

And here, my friends, is Britain's tragedy. The things those colonists feared - the levying of illegal taxes, the passing of laws without popular consent, the sidelining of Parliament - have indeed come about. They have come about, not as the result of Hanoverian tyranny, but in our own age, driven by rise of the quangocracy and the EU.

To put it another way, British freedoms thrive best in America, and British patriots should be campaigning to bring them home. I'll be staying here, Larry, working to repatriate our revolution.
Yup.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Our John goes potty

This story reminds me of the infamous Sun headline (from the 1980s, not online) Our John Goes Potty and Glues up his Botty, which described how a man neglected to put on his spectacles before rummaging in a cupboard trying to find his haemorrhoid cream, and mistakenly took out a tube of superglue.

This was put to a Commons Select Committee by some very serious-minded campaigners against the excesses of the popular press, as an example of popular press excess.

The effect was marred by the fact that, one by one, the members of the committee started laughing.

FRB and liquidity

I know that by measures of the money supply that include money in circulation and on deposit, fractional reserve banking (FRB) increases the money supply. But I've been mucking around with making economic models using javascript, so they run interactively in a web browser (for fun... how sad is that?) and from mucking around with models of FRB it strikes me that on a more limited view of money, one that doesn't double count the notional deposits and the loans they've in part become, what FRB really does is increase liquidity.

And I've been wondering why, for some commentators, liquidity is a good thing when supplied by markets and a bad thing when supplied by institutions.


UPDATE: That's badly put. I've been wondering why for some commentators liquidity is a good thing when provided by (stock) markets and a bad thing when supplied by (banking) markets. I guess there is some kind of argument to be had about regulation and what sort of % reserves regulators should require banks to hold, or indeed whether there should be regulation of this instead of allowing people to decide between higher-interest:higher-risk/lower-reserves deposits and lower-interest:lower-risk/higher-reserves deposits, if that is indeed the way these ratios are formed. Wisdom of lending might also enter into it.

FRB and printing money

I've been thinking of this clip while reading some of the wibble on the libertarian right about how bad fractional reserve banking is, and how terrible it is when a reserve bank prints money.

Uncle Milt again - perhaps a voice they'll listen to:



Friedman believed in intervention to prevent deflation and depression.

The price of a life

This is well worth the ten minutes. Milton Friedman, in a question and answer session with students.






I've also been watching the opening parts of Galbraith's TV series The Age of Uncertainty. Disappointingly, Galbraith contrasts Adam Smith's view, formed when he was at Oxford, that university teachers shouldn't be paid a fixed salary but rather on the basis of the number of students they attract with Smith's own willingness to accept a salary later as a university teacher, and implies this was hypocrisy, but he doesn't say whether or not Smith had the alternative of pay per view, as it were. That seems dishonest. (Smith actually tried to stop receiving payments from the Duke of Buccleugh at one point).

He also describes Smith's views about markets as his "faith", in a clear suggestion it was similar to a religious belief. That's tendentious and unworthy of a serious mind, which Galbraith plainly possessed.

Credit where it's due

From this republican:

Smith spent several months in the UK recuperating from his burns before returning to the war. Like the mechanics Burn and Miller, his courage under fire was unsung. As for recognition at home, the British soldiers say that it rarely happens, but they did tell me about one lady who gives them great moral support. They say she writes a handwritten letter to every wounded soldier in 4 Rifles. She writes a handwritten letter to every family of a soldier who is lost. She writes letters to the battalion often.

She is a wealthy woman who sends hundred-dollar bottles of scotch to wounded soldiers in 4 Rifles, and she will even present their medals on 14 December 2007 in the U.K. Who is this lady? She is Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall, wife to the Prince of Wales, the future King of England, and she supports 4 Rifles as their Royal Colonel. One soldier expressed the sentiment of many when he told me, “she’s so busy, yet finds time to handwrite all those letters to our wounded and families.” Another soldier told me that she even invited the families to her home.

TV Blog

If you have a spare year or two, you might like to start downloading classic documentaries from here.

Friday, April 03, 2009

The adventure of a lifetime

Giving the lie to those cynics who said carbon offsets were a contemporary version of indulgences for the rich, Safari Air offers:

... the world's first 21-day "Around the World Grand East Africa Safari." Designed exclusively for eight passengers aboard a luxurious Gulfstream IV private jet, this 25,450 mile once-in-a-lifetime adventure will depart from Orange County, California's John Wayne Airport and will circle the globe, making leisurely stopovers at world-class hotels in Quebec City, Edinburgh, Cairo, Agra-India, Hong Kong, Guam and Honolulu. The centerpiece of this amazing journey will be a two-week African safari by award-winning Micato Safaris beginning in Kilimanjaro and featuring one week in both Tanzania and Kenya at the finest tented safari camps and lodges.
"Unparalleled value" at just $144,500 per passenger. And it's carbon neutral:
"Safari Air is proud to purchase carbon offsets for each passenger mile and do our part to help reduce global warming," said Ken Jillson, CEO and founder. "And by flying relatively short daytime flights, jet lag is minimized, thus creating a leisurely eco-friendly around the world experience for our passengers. The added bonus of restful stopovers in five-star hotels is that our guests get to see amazing sights along the way such as the Great Pyramids of Giza, the Taj Mahal and magnificent Hong Kong Harbor.

Pork Injection

On The BBC news headlines on Radio 4 this morning it was announced that the G20 summit had decided to "inject $20 trillion into the world economy".

That's a straightforward lie, isn't it? There's no money outside the world economy. This isn't a matter of opinion or interpretation; to inject something into a system, it has to be outside it to begin with. There's no money in interstellar space, deep below the ice of Antarctica or tumbling in the stormy atmosphere of Jupiter.

This money isn't being injected into the economy. What we're really seeing is the greatest transfer of wealth from the people to the establishment in the history of the world. Money is being removed from the people who generated it, in the productive areas of the economy, and given to rich people in the developed world, and to rich people in the third world.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Burning at the break of day

JuliaM draws a comparison between the incident, reported yesterday, of police physically preventing neighbours from helping as a pregnant woman, her husband and their child burned to death in their house and the notorious occasion when Saudi religious police forced 15 schoolgirls to burn to death rather than let them flee the building "improperly attired".

When I first read her post, I thought the comparison was a stretch, but on reflection, she's right. In both cases police prevented other people from helping. The grounds on which they justified their actions are revealing of their societies. We know about the religious illness that afflicts Saudi Arabia, so what does this tell us about Britain?

The police said that the neighbours had to wait for the fire brigade because of "health and safety". As one neighbour pointed out, there was a time when you could have taken it for granted that the police would have been the first into the building. Now they consider themselves unqualified, and insist on waiting for people with the correct training.

This is, of course, credentialism - the idea that nobody should attempt anything they have not been specifically trained in. There's something characteristically British about this idea. It's a great an evil, in practice, as Saudi religious mania - people burn to death, screaming for help, as people who want to help are physically prevented from doing so - but it's an evil of utterly dull, boring, tedious, drab, unambitious, box-ticking, drizzly, overcast, stifling drabness.

I almost envy the Saudis their pantomime villains.

UPDATE: The title of this post comes from a Dr Feelgood song, All Through The City. Here it is, from a concert at the Kursaal Ballroom in 1975. I was at that concert, I remember the camera crews and one incident, a little cameo, at the door. Someone wanted to enter without a ticket, so sucker-punched the doorman in the gut, very hard. The doorman looked at the man, without any change of expression. The man nodded, turned and walked away to buy a ticket.



UPDATE: Whoops, didn't link to Julia's post. Now corrected.

The Tea Ceremony

Over at Old Holborn, there has been some debate about whether or not it's the done thing to put the milk in your cup before pouring in the tea. The answer is, nowadays, neither. Matters of social etiquette do not stand still.

The answer used to be that it's better to put the milk in before the tea, from the point of view of taste, but that to do so was a sign of being middle or working class. Toffs put the milk in second.

Originally, only the wealthy drank tea and it didn't matter. Then the institution of the tea break was introduced to British factories and the workers had no choice. They could only afford earthenware cups and these tended to crack if scalding liquids were poured straight into them. The habit developed, therefore, of pouring a little milk into the cup, then the tea into the milk. Those who could afford porcelain started making a point of pouring the tea straight into the cup, then adding milk, to show they could.

This actually affects the taste of the tea detrimentally, though not everyone would notice. Adding the milk to a larger volume of hot tea can scald the milk and spoil its flavour. But it was more important to be obviously well off. These habits persisted well into my lifetime, but by the late 1980s things had changed. In order to differentiate themselves from the middle classes, who had taken to adding the milk second, the upper classes started drinking tea weak, black and with perhaps a twist of lemon.

I was once offered coffee by someone whose daughter had married an Italian Count and to whom this was so important that she habitually called her daughter "the Contessa". I drink coffee black without sugar, and this happens to be socially correct at the moment, so there were approving nods. She then asked me how I take my tea. This was despite the fact that we were drinking coffee, and was to further probe my social acceptability.

As it happens, I drink different types of tea differently. I always have milk in Assam, and blends based on richer, maltier leaves, sometimes with Ceylon, never with Earl Grey or Chinese teas, and so on. This was not correct, and my standing fell significantly.

This sort of social manoeuvring, in which the higher social orders deliberately differentiate themselves from the middle and lower classes, but then find themselves being imitated and so change their behaviour to differentiate themselves again, is absolutely characteristic of class in Britain.

I came across another example with eye doctors and people who handle spectacles, when I was involved with them while challenging the Optician's Monopoly. Doctors were, traditionally, of the higher social classes while eye testers and spectacle salesfolk were middle class. Initially, perhapd a hundred years ago, an eye doctor was called an Optician. Then the middle classes started calling themselves Opticians, so eye doctors became Opthalmologists. Then Opthalmic Opticians appeared, creating a social problem that has yet to be resolved.