Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Chat with Dave

News of a forthcoming webchat:

David Miliband will be taking your questions on international affairs in a live webchat on 30 November from 13:45 GMT.

David was appointed Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in June 2007, as part of Gordon Brown's first Cabinet.
Anyone feeling so inclined could ask him why he is letting Iraqis die when they have helped our troops:
Here's an email exchange we had the other day. My questions are in italics.

1) Are you still in Iraq?

'Yes, I'm still hidden in somewhere in the hell of Basra.'

2) Is there any reason you cannot travel to the British Army base at Basra Airbase to ask for asylum?

'Of course, we cannot travel to BIA (Basra International Airbase) due to the militia keep watched all the ways to BIA and they got their own fake check points there although, we claimed for asylum through the internet (we sent our application to the claim office at BIA) . But we afraid that the British are going to take a long time to process our claims also we are very worried if they will offer just some money instead of asylum, please sir inform all the British people that we looking for asylum and just the asylum will save our lives, also we can't travel to Syria anymore to claim for asylum there as the Syrian government issued new conditions for Iraqis who want to travel to their country.'

3) Can you tell me how and when the militias threatened you?

'In 2006 I have threatened by militia that hated me because I work and help coalition forces in Iraq, I told my bosses about that but they said we can't do anything for you because we have nothing to do with civilian and we don't have any army rules or orders to help you, then I continued my daily work with British army, few days later the militia attacked my house trying to catch me but I was at the work at that time, they beaten my family and told them: we want your son or we will kill all of you!!!!

'Since that day I decided to leave my job and change my home place but until this moment the militia trying to find and kill me, I'm always changing my place trying to hidden from them, they know that I left my job but they don't care, they just want to kill me they called me collaborator and traitor and they asked everybody know me about my place, they told them: anyone know anything about (name) he should tell us immediately and also they said: we will never give up until we catch (name). They work for ministry of interior so they controlled most of government departments and they work under that cover.'

4) Do you have any family members who are also threatened by militias or who depend on you? If so, how many of them are there and how old are they?

'Of course, my family depends on me especially in the finance side as I'm the older son between seven sons and daughters they got, on other hand my parents cannot working as they are very old.'

Environmentalists and the gene pool

There's been a certain amount of hilarity around the web recently, following the reports that an environmentalist called Toni Vernelli had herself sterilised at the age of 27 because:

"Having children is selfish. It's all about maintaining your genetic line at the expense of the planet."
On the whole, people have complimented her on removing herself, and her stupidity, from the gene pool.

What's really unusual, for someone broadly on the left of politics, is that she did this to herself. On the whole, the modern left is characterised not so much by its wish to act in accordance with its principles, as by its wish to make other people act in accordance with its principles.

Ms Vernelli's radical alternative is welcome.

Australian election

I've been to busy to blog recently, so this is a bit after the event but, although I thought John Howard was an outstanding political leader, I'm not upset there was a Labor victory in Australia. The Liberals had been in power for a long time. An occasional change of government is necessary in democracies.

As an Australian (in part), I'm more worried about the integrity of democracy and the corrupting influence of power than I am about the prospect of a Labor term of office.

Free speech and the Oxford Union

Max Hastings makes some interesting points about the recent controversy when Nick Griffin and David Irving were invited to speak in Oxford:

Muslim extremists say worse and more dangerous things about Jews than Irving ever has...
Not just about Jews, by the way. Radical Islam is a superset of Nazism and Fascism.

There's another angle on this, though. If some speech is to be prohibited, who makes the decision? Who would you believe has the perfect knowledge of the past, present and future - and of the universe and everything in it - necessary to decide whether an assertion is, or will be found to be, true?

The reformed terrorists

The Saudi government has released 1500 Al Qaeda members from custody, on the grounds that they have been reformed, and that they promise not to wage Jihad.

Ah... not quite. They have been released in return for the promise not to wage Jihad on the Arabian peninsula.

That'll be a comfort for anyone they kill away from the Arabian peninsula.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Hamas First Aid

Mike at The Monkey Tennis Centre mentions the first aid lessons being offered to "all the Palestinian armed factions" in Gaza by the International Red Cross.

It seems he has gained exclusive access to some of their new training materials:

Lesson 1: Casualty with severed head:

1. Retrieve head from celebrating mob.

2. Carefully reattach head to neck as shown.

3. Remove video of beheading from internet.

4. Prop casualty up in a chair.

5. Call AP and Reuters, and get them to photograph the casualty, explaining to them that he's in excellent health, but has suffered mild whiplash in a car accident, and is having a nap.

6. When AP/Reuters have gone, remove head again.

7. Wait 24 hours.

8. Call AP/Reuters and tell them casualty has been run over by Israeli bulldozer.
Click through, there's more...

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm too busy to blog properly, but Happy Thanksgiving. Have a great day, if you're celebrating.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

International Jewish Conspiracy

I've linked to them a couple of times already, but in the occasional series here of posting about good blogs, I give you Simply Jews. Keep avoiding the medication, guys (you need to look at their tagline to understand that, so click through).

I've posted a few times about the appalling situation democratic, moderate, secular Iranians are facing right now, but this post is prompted by the most succinct encapsulation of the Israeli dilemma I've seen:

Slow bleeding by unending terrorist acts or a nuclear bang. What a choice...
Because even if the Iranian headbangers don't use their nuclear weapons immediately against Israel, developing them successfully would give them an enhanced presence they'd use to increase their support for the murderous attacks of Hezbollah and Hamas.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The courage and suffering of the dissidents

And while I'm on the subject of the extraordinary courage of dissidents in Muslim countries, let's spare a thought for Abdel Karim Soliman, the Egyptian blogger who was jailed for 'vilifying religion' and insulting the President - two things that ought to have earned him a medal rather than imprisonment. It's no surprise, in a country where dissidents can be raped anally with police truncheons, that he's being tortured in prison:

The Arabic Network for Human Rights information and Hisham Mubarak Centre for Law mentioned in their communiqué to the Prosecutor-General that the assault on Karim is manifested in the following:

* Being beaten inside ward Number 22 where he is imprisoned at the time of the assault, the battery was launched by another prisoner and a prison guard, in the presence of Officer Midhat Samir and under his supervision. Samir also gave the green light for the assault which resulted in a broken tooth "upper right canine tooth" along with a number of bruises and abrasions on various parts of the body.
* Transferring Karim to a disciplinary cell where he was handcuffed and had his feet strapped into shackles; he was beaten up again which caused him more injuries.
* Another inmate prisoner was brought over where they stripped him out of clothes and beat him severely in front of prisoner Kareem Soliman as they also threatened to inflict upon him the same punishment, if he didn't mind his own business.

Don't mess with my Tutu

I generally write negative things about religion. But on the other hand, there is Desmond:

In the interview, Archbishop Tutu also rebuked religious conservatives who said homosexuality was a choice.

"It is a perversion if you say to me that a person chooses to be homosexual.

"You must be crazy to choose a way of life that exposes you to a kind of hatred.

"It's like saying you choose to be black in a race-infected society."

Time to cough up

I almost feel guilty. But to start at the beginning, I signed a pledge to refuse an ID card and to donate £10 to a legal fund. I was planning to refuse an ID card anyway, so that wasn't such a struggle. Now it's time to pay up the tenner. I have an awful feeling this is going to cost me more than a tenner, though.

So why do I feel guilty? I also have an Australian passport, so if it really comes to it I'll be able to use that. I renewed my British one earlier this year to give me the maximum breathing space.

But, as I said to the smokers freezing in the garden of a pub a couple of days ago: we stand for it. Why?

Nasrallah located

But don't click through on a full stomach, unless you're on a crash diet.

A beacon of Islamic democracy

At least, that's what the BBC says of Iran:

Is Iran becoming a regional superpower, capable of withstanding pressures from the West and providing a beacon of Islamic democracy? Or, is her obstinacy with the nuclear issue going to lead to her further isolation and potential destruction?
Note that the word "or" is not followed by the alternative, that Iran is neither a beacon nor properly democratic. Just obstinate. And again:
Iran is, within narrow limits, a kind of democracy.

President Ahmadinejad won his election fairly, even though no-one who opposed the basic structures of the Islamic Republic was permitted to stand.
Still democratic. That's good. But mustn't oppose the basic structures, eh? What are they like?
Iran's constitution, ... gives the unelected religious leadership greater powers than those of the elected president.
All these quotes come from or trail content produced by John Simpson.

So, what's it like in this beacon of Islamic democracy? How is life for, ooh let's say a 21 year old woman who is:
... very much involved in teaching literacy to the poor and especially to the women in villages and used to hold celebrations for those women who overcame addiction in the ‘Azarmehr” association. The association provides the means for battered and addicted women to over ride their problems.

Hana and her friend Ronak Safar Zadeh, had set up collections to support destitute women.
Hana Abdi also got involved with a petition calling for improved women's rights in Iran. So, what's life like for a fine, philanthropic and democratically engaged young woman like that?
Hana Abdi, a 21 year old student of Sanandaj University was abducted from her grandfathers’ house by the Intelligence Ministry agents a couple of days ago and her were about is unclear, says her mother.
No reason has been given for the arrest.

But let's not be judgemental. Arbitrary arrest by a theocratic, sorry, democratic state of a young humanitarian is no grounds for criticism. Ask the Stop the War campaign::
I know Yassmine Mather [a critic of the Iranian regime], who is mentioned in the Independent article. I have known her from some earlier campaigns seven years ago, in the aftermath of the student uprising in Iran. She is a committed Socialist and definitely against any military intervention in Iran. If Stop the War Coalition refuses her to join the 'coalition' [on the grounds that she is a critic of the Iranian regime], then it really goes to show that the group's true agenda is nothing other than keeping the Ayatollahs in power.
I don't suppose Ms Abdi can be feeling much enthusiasm for the rule of the Ayatollahs. Nor is the expat Iranian blogger Azarmehr, from whom this information is gained. He is facing the prospect right now of seeing the country he loves bombed, with the possible effect of entrenching the Ayatollahs in power, knowing that people like Hana will be among the victims, as much as will members of the Revolutionary Guard. And there might be, there just might be another way:
Well for those who have consistently defended the Islamic Republic and turned a blind eye on the human rights abuses by the religious dictatorship in Iran, and repeatedly played down the potential of the pro-democracy movement in Iran, here are photos from the students at Alameh University today protesting against the arrests and expulsions of their student colleagues. The pro-democracy movement in Iran despite all the obstacles in its way is still alive and kicking, it just needs more help and publicity.
Click through for the images.

I consider it a privilege to make a minuscule contribution to providing some of this publicity. And I consider it an outrage and a humiliation that my tax money, through the television licence fee, is used by the BBC for the exact opposite purpose: that of deliberately and deceitfully minimising the horrors of the Iranian regime, painting a theocracy in the colours of democracy, under-reporting the immense courage and sacrifice of ordinary young Iranians like Haha Abdi, making the success of the pro-democracy students and campaigners less likely, confirming the Iranian regime in their belief that a compliant and cowardly West will watch them build nuclear missiles and very likely use them to attack our great but under-valued and sorely defamed friend among nations, Israel, and thereby making the likelihood of an attack to prevent this happening, by some country with a bit of spine, like Israel or the USA, far far greater.

Thus does the BBC betray the likes of Hana once by failing to report their campaigns, twice by failing to report their arrests, and the third time by doing everything they can to add the threat of military attack to their worries.

Undercover Mosque vindication

Channel 4 has been vindicated:

Channel 4 has been vindicated by the media watchdog Ofcom after police complained about an investigative programme that exposed extremism in British mosques.

West Midland's police had faced criticism for targeting the producers of the show rather than the controversial preachers depicted in it.

Ofcom added fuel to that debate by praising Undercover Mosque as a "legitimate investigation, uncovering matters of important public interest."
Time for resignations and dismissals in the disgraceful West Midland's Police.

Other related good news is that this documentary annoyed the Saudis.

Sex and the solo cyclist

It's hard not to laugh at this story, and that's part of the appalling harm that has been done to the victim:

A man caught trying to have sex with his bicycle has been sentenced to three years on probation.
I'm making a particular point, incidentally, of not reproducing his name. Here's what happened:
Mr [X] was caught in the act with his bicycle by cleaners in his bedroom at the Aberley House Hostel in Ayr.

Gail Davidson, prosecuting, told Ayr Sheriff Court: "They knocked on the door several times and there was no reply.

"They used a master key to unlock the door and they then observed the accused wearing only a white t-shirt, naked from the waist down.

"The accused was holding the bike and moving his hips back and forth as if to simulate sex."
Masturbation is very common and few people would wish their habits in this sphere of life to become public knowledge. This man took pains to ensure he would not be interrupted by anyone. He locked his door. This was opened with a pass key. What steps could he have taken to prevent that? Piling furniture against the door? And in what way is private masturbation with an inanimate object - any inanimate object - a crime?

Everyone involved in this sorry affair, except the man taken to court, is a disgrace. The cleaners who unlocked the door should have had the decency to tiptoe out and lock it again behind them. The hotel manager should have told them this when they reported it to him. The police should have told the hotel manager not to waste their time. The prosecuting authority should have told the police not to waste public time and money with such matters, the court should have thrown the case out and reprimanded all concerned - except the accused, whose identity should have been suppressed by court order.

Instead this harmless, blameless man has been branded a sex criminal. It is a complete travesty of justice.

Good blog

And one that shares with me a link with the seventeenth century. Englands Freedome, Souldiers Rights. Tagline:

"I am by birth a free Commoner of England, and am thereby intailed or intituled unto an equall priviledge with your selfe, or the greatest men in England, unto the freedome and liberty of the Lawes of England." William Thompson, 14. of December, 1647
You're damned right, William.

The blogmeister left an excellent comment on this post, which is how I came to read his posts. I don't agree with everything, but then that's probably mutual. Check it out, though. Independent mind.

New Year's Resolution - no coconut headphones

I've quoted Richard Feynman before on the subject of cargo cult science:

There is one feature I notice that is generally missing in "cargo cult science"... It's a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty — a kind of leaning over backwards... For example, if you're doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid — not only what you think is right about it... Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them.
But of course this applies to more things than just physics. For example, it applies to politics and economics.

There are (at least) two approaches. One, that you see almost everywhere, is simple tribalism. People go out of their way to avoid pointing out things that might cast doubt on their arguments. The other, one that brings such problems to light, that makes a point of pointing them out, can be found... er...

Well. it'll be found here from now on. I've been pretty tribal at times. I want to take a different approach. I want to try to get at the truth. Oh, I know we all think that, but are we really all levering ourselves out of the groove we've been running in? The evidence I see says we are not. There's even a political culture in which a change of mind is seen as a weakness or as inconsistency, whereas of course a complete absence of changes of mind is the badge of the fanatic. If we never change our minds we're never listening to arguments or burrowing, forensically, into evidence.

So that's my early resolution.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Monarchy and Republicanism

The only coherent (and a genuinely convincing) defence of monarchy, or rather of something a bit more complicated, I've come across so far was in a comment that I meant to address before my quiescent period recently. From Dearieme:

Yes, but you have to explain why in 1950 our Dane could point to the Socialist Republics - Nazi Germany, USSR, Mao's new China - huge slaughter machines. She could point to the dismal collapse of the French Republic, while the various British monarchies fought on - UK, Canada, etc. She would point, I presume, to the perpetually failed republics of Latin America. Meantime, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, NZ, Australia - far, far better than almost the whole of the rest of the world. Only the USA and Switzerland would be exempted from her scorn, had she been rude enough to express scorn. Of course, the real point is that you are tilting at windmills. The distinction that matters isn't between nominal republics and "monarchies", it's between, on the one hand, functioning republics, which includes the "crowned republics" of Scandinavia, the Low Countries, and the British and ex-British world, and the hellhole republics of much of the rest of the world. But still, if you want to make the case that monarchist Thailand is worse than Burma, or monarchical Malaysia than Indonesia, or even monarchist Japan than the Philipines, I'll watch with interest. But I think that you're just making a categorical error. Still, not as daft as the chap I read earlier this week who seemed to think that Her Majesty reigns by "divine right". Potty.
If I were arguing that our troubles would be over if we became a Republic, I'd be guilty of that categorical error, but I'm not. I'm arguing that monarchy is wrong in principle.

Having said that, it is quite plain that this wrong is not life-threatening. I suspect that the continued existence of monarchy in the countries cited above is evidence of a stability that has also led to the desirable consequences mentioned, and that the instabilities that swept away monarchies in some countries continue to have a malign effect.

But I think this comment belongs on the front page.

(By the way, Moriarty, in the Sherlock Holmes stories, has a habit of saying "Dearie me". For some reason, I always think of that when you comment.)

Libertarianism and blogs

The post by Paulie at DSTPFW that kicked off the recent debates about blogging 'right' libertarians did so for a simple reason: he had a point. Not everything he said was true, for example:

The bloggertarian exists primarily to criticise. They will almost never present a policy proposal of their own
This is wrong for two reasons. Obviously, solutions are often suggested by the targets of the piece. But more subtly, perhaps, in the point that if you think something ought to be a matter of personal choice, or in some other way should be in the personal rather than the public or political spheres, then of course you're not going to offer a 'solution'. Your solution is to leave it to others to decide for themselves.

But in other ways he was right:
For the bloggertarian, the term ‘libertarian’ is little more than a flag of convenience. It is a useful one as it is a position that appears to require no evidence in support of a statement.When bloggertarians are confronted with the consequences of a particular libertarian position, they will often rapidly retreat to either a standard set of Conservative Party prejudices, or occasionally, to the slightly ahistorical position of a lumpen intelligentsia Guardianista.

For the avoidance of doubt, the bloggertarian rarely has any real commitment to libertarianism.
There are far more people who are libertarian Tories - small-State conservatives with a liberal approach to social issues - than libertarians in the blogosphere. I recently debated the question of monarchy with DK. I'm actually incredulous that anyone could be a monarchist. But of course some people are. What this means, though, is that the individuals concerned are not libertarians.

The idea that someone who advocates personal freedoms and a small State could place at the head of it a hereditary autocrat with unlimited powers is completely ludicrous. The libertarian, as a rule, is willing to devolve some limited power to the State, but there can be no place for unlimited power, however it might be hogtied by constitutional arrangements. Most of all, people who take as the starting point for their politics the notion that we are the owners, the sovereigns, of our own selves cannot accept another, superior, sovereign.

What Paulie didn't point out is that the same problems exist, perhaps far more seriously, in the 'left' libertarian bloggers. David Farrer has been writing about this recently:
The trouble is that the enemies of liberty started to call themselves liberals. Why? Because people saw that liberty was good, so why not pinch its name? And now, in the English-speaking world anyway, liberalism means the opposite of liberty. It means government force.

Real liberals - faced with the theft of their good name - rebranded themselves as "libertarians". And people saw that libertarian ideas were good, just as the same ideas had been when they were called "liberal".

And now it's happened again. The enemies of liberty are increasingly describing themselves as libertarians. Or, rather, "left libertarians" - a completely meaningless concept under which force is freedom and coercion is liberty. Come back George Orwell.
Farrer is absolutely correct about this (though one of his colleagues at the Libertarian Alliance, Sean Gabb, is a declared conservative and monarchist, which I do find deeply odd and which, in my view, means that Gabb, despite his decades of campaigning, is a libertarian Tory and not a libertarian per se).

However, Paulie does also show what appears to be an inability even to conceive of some of the arguments he is confronting. He wrote:
it wouldn’t occur to the bloggertarian that a privatised replacement for a particular state function may establish intrusive restrictions of it’s own. For the bloggertarian, without government, there would be no such thing as CCTV and there would be no coercive forces that could intrude upon your privacy.
First, the replacement for a State function might be nothing. Nada. Zilch. Secondly, he doesn't explain how piecemeal private security and information gathering compares to the vast and legally-enforced apparatus of the State. Thirdly, and here I sympathise, even the bloggertarians he describes have their moments of unenthusiasm for big business. I sympathise because some of the libertarian Tories do need to go back to uncle Milton and remember that big business is just as much of a problem to the free market advocate as is the State.

And here's the irony. One thing J K Galbraith and Milton Friedman agreed on was that businesses try to subvert the market, are in fact enemies of the free market. And it is absolutely true that of their admirers it is the Friedmanites, the libertarians, who have forgotten this. The corporation that showed this pernicious trait most clearly in recent years, Microsoft, has a zillion 'libertarian' defenders. It's ludicrous, again.

Simply advocating a smaller State, especially if this is done purely because you don't like the policies of present State, is not libertarian. Advocating a smaller State because an all-encompassing one is plainly inefficient is not libertarian. Objecting to top-down 'managerialism' because it is inefficient is not libertarian. At heart, Libertarianism is what used to be called 'left wing'. As I wrote recently:
The left originally favoured laissez-faire economic policies and free trade, for example. Today, that's a Liberal or libertarian position, and people normally call libertarianism "right wing" - even though the Tories remain mercantalists at heart.
And in this lies the weakness of the libertarian position. It has its roots in the long tradition of dissent and radicalism that opposed the existing power structures of the day. While there is some acceptance of libertarian ideas within conservatism, on the whole and at root conservatism is socially prescriptive, hidebound, mercantalist, discriminatory and wedded to privilege. But the left has been colonised by Marxists and has become the principle fount of totalitarianism.

So, what do I mean by 'totalitarianism'? It is the system of thought that lays claim to the totality of my being - my possession, my freedoms (to drive what I want, eat what I want, have whichever type of sex I want with whoever I want), my speech and my thought. There's an overlap with authoritarianism, which is found in conservatism, for example with sexual habits. These are treated differently by authoritarians and totalitarians but the principle - that someone's private life is in any way their affair - is the same. So it has been conservatives who are most disgusting about, say, homosexuality and it is the present Labour Party that proposes to criminalise people who like a bit of bondage and like to look at pictures of the same.

Calling the left 'totalitarian' doesn't mean there are concentration camps and thought police. But while both conservatives and the left want to limit my speech, it is only the left that wants to limit my thoughts, with the concept of 'hate crime'.

So on balance, while the conservative right and the Marxist left are both enemies of freedom, the worst of the two is the left - the modern, Marxist left and not the radical ancestors of the politics of dissent. These ancestors, informed by struggles with Monarchs going back to Magna Carta, by the intellectual revolutions we call The Enlightenment, and by revolutionary Europe, realised that since power corrupts, the only safe way forward is to limit power. That remains true today, and it is why I consider myself to be a libertarian.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

qmail security

Echo chambering here, but for anyone not reading Bruce Schneier regularly, he recently linked to a paper by Daniel Bernstein (djb) about lessons learned from ten years of qmail. You can download it here(pdf). It's an excellent read.

Background: qmail is a Mail Transfer Agent - an email server if you like. It was written in frustration at the security problems of the market leader, sendmail. Bernstein's openness about this origin led to some acrimony with the sendmail chaps, as you'll see if you look over Bernstein's site at the extremely cool url http://cr.yp.to. Bernstein offered a $500 reward to anyone pointing out a security hole in qmail and this has gone unclaimed in ten years - he just upped it to $1,000.

djb as he is known also offered a reward for anyone finding a security hole in djbdns, his replacement for bind, the leading DNS server. This has also gone unclaimed.

This is true despite, or because (depending on your view; I think it's 'because'), of the fact that both are open source programs and people can explore the code to find holes, as well as poke at the servers with various bits and pieces.

But this has led to a problem with qmail, and I stopped using it as my MTA of choice in ISP situations a couple of years ago (in favour of postfix) because the security guarantee also had the unfortunate effect of more or less freezing the program. It's much harder to modify an installation to work with other systems, compared with postfix, and this has seen usage fall away, so far as I can see.

This is not the case with djbdns, which has a configuration file designed to be machine readable first and foremost, which makes it a dream to drive from something like a database of customers' registered domains.

So, for what it's worth, my personal choice for an ISP grade hosting farm at the present stage of things is postfix, dovecot, apache2.2, djbdns.

Do keep up

Oh yes, and the, let's call them 'blogskyists', have got all pouty about what they call "bloggertarians' - libertarian bloggers. Quite right too. What they perhaps unconsciously realise is that the usurped terrain of social justice is slipping beyond the claim of the Marxist left.

Here's an example from Francis Sedgemore:

For a start there is the political and economic naiveté of right libertarians, and their simplistic distinction between the public and private spheres. Private corporations routinely collate databases containing the personal details of citizens. Often, but not always, in the guise of market research. Also, much of private industry is parasitic on the public purse. In the aerospace sector, for example, private industrialists are totally reliant on public money...
I adore accusations of naivety, and because I'm right wing I'm going to use the English spelling for the word. But, um... Francis... we don't care who it is that collates the intrusive databases. RFID used by corporations is almost as much a worry as the ID card. And the thing about the public purse? Well, guess what. That's one of the things we're objecting to - we've even got a term for it: 'corporate welfare'. Milton Friedman always made it clear he objected to 'big' government in part because big business always slips between the sheets and snuggles up next to it.

Then we have:
... and private industry has in general shown itself incapable of innovating on a large scale.
Yup, let's mouth a silent prayer of thanks for the government initiatives that drove the entire fucking industrial revolution.

Then we have:
One of the biggest failings of right libertarianism is its uncritical acceptance of the notion of corporations as persons. This is nonsense, as corporate entities are invariably greater than the sum of their parts. That applies at all levels, and there is in reality no rigid distinction between public and private, just as there is no sharp boundary between individual and community.
And this is where I lose the will to live. Legal persons. Legal persons, Francis. As in: 'can be sued'. As in: 'can be held responsible for their actions'. As in: 'can own property'. As in: 'can enter into a contract'. As in: 'can be held to the fucking contract'.

Sedgemore introduces his piece by referring to a:
particularly obnoxious sub-species of homo blogiens thoroughly deserving of a textual kicking
Further comment would be superfluous.

Note to the ASI

Nice site redesign, and it's fine to be proud of using Joomla. But change the favicon, chaps.

A penny earned...

The funniest development while I've been quiet has been the launch of a new website called Liberal Conspiracy. The word 'conspiracy' used ironically like that is at least as witty as it was when the first thousand right wing bloggers used it the same way, but that isn't why the website is funny. It's because the contributors apparently believe they are under represented in the contemporary media world. They really do seem to believe that. They also seem to believe that the word 'liberal' means 'one who believes in the removal of liberties from individuals'.

Self-pitying special pleading from the privileged is almost entertaining enough to be a spectator sport. Almost...

One contributor, Chris Dillow, posted there recently about unemployment. He has also posted on his own blog about this. These two posts should be read together, because then it can be seen that his argument in the first that the unemployed are not workshy because

"Of the 1.67 million officially unemployed, over 1 million have been out of work for less than six months and a further 269,000 for less than a year"
can be compared with the observation in the second that
"You might reply that work - even minimum wage work - is a stepping stone to better things, to better-paid jobs. But it ain't."
(the link suggests people who become employed at minimum-wage levels also become unemployed again rapidly), and then you'll be able to see that the underlying reality might be that the people in question are workshy, and that's why they are losing these jobs. That isn't proved by these figures, but taken in combination neither of Dillow's assertions are either. This is partial disclosure of information designed to prop up whatever argument is being made at the time.

The second of these posts touches on the poverty trap and I want to observe in passing that something I personally feel passionately - to the extent that I have gone hungry rather than sign on - the idea that a penny earned is better than a penny of charity (or indeed any other unearned penny), is not mentioned at all. It seems not even to cross the mind of the writer any more than it does those of the shifting pool of permanent or frequent claimants of state charity.

And I'll tell you something about that idea: it isn't right wing. Ask a member of the hereditary peerage. It isn't left wing: ask the contributors to Liberal Conspiracy. It is simply a question of self-respect. This self-respect can be found in every class, and is absent in every class. But it is most fiercely held as a view within the lower middle classes and the upper working classes.

And it's a damn fine thing.

Only the good die young

Sorry for the absence.

Someone was kind enough to mention the much lamented Drinking From Home in a comment and express a hope I hadn't similarly vanished. I haven't. Not that it would have been a loss like that of DFH and Scott Burgess, who seems now to have deleted the Daily Ablution site entirely, for some reason.

[violins] In fact, I split up with my girlfriend, and have been a bit demotivated. [/violins] But I've been wandering across the moor like Heathcliffe, only with much, much less hair, for long enough now.

So posting will resume.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Scam alert

This originates from a crime prevention officer in Lancashire, so probably isn't a scam about scams.

Warning 1:

If you receive a phone call on your mobile from any person, saying that he or she is a company engineer, or telling that they're checking your mobile line, and you have to press #90 or #09 or any other number, end this call immediately without pressing any numbers.

There is a fraud company using a device that once you press #90 or #09 they can access your "SIM" card and make calls at your expense.
Warning 2:
The Trading Standards Office are making people aware of the following scam:

A card is posted through your door from a company called PDS (Parcel Delivery Service) suggesting that they were unable to deliver a parcel and that you need to contact them on 0906 6611911 (a premium rate number). DO NOT call this number, as this is a mail scam originating from Belize .
If you call the number and you start to hear a recorded message you will already have been billed £15 for the phone call.
If you do receive a card with these details, then please contact Royal Mail Fraud on 02072396655 or ICSTIS (the premium rate service regulator) at www.icstis.org.uk

UPDATE: See the comments, this might be very out of date. However, the mail sent from the Lancashire police is dated a month and a half ago, so they seem to think these are current issues.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Monday miscellany

You know you're busy when you start work on a Sunday morning and keep going until 4:00am the next morning. I really don't have time to focus on this, unpaid, blogging for the moment, probably for about a week. It's a shame, because some interesting points were being addressed and my conversation with DK about monarchy was being picked up by various people like LMWN, Mr E. and Matthew Sinclair. But it'll have to wait.

As will my exploration of the way the right now includes those fighting for the freedom of individuals from tyranny, but that this was the definition of the left two hundred years ago, whereas now the left spends most of its time fighting for the greater oppression of the individual by the state. I think this matters because the old purpose of the left is used to defend the new.

But anyway. here's an account of the DARPA Urban Challenge.

And, via Benny Peiser's mailshot, a tale of water shortages and the evil West. Reuters reports that China has blamed water shortages on western-generated global warming:

China suffers a water shortage of nearly 40 billion cubic metres a year which Water Resources Minister Chen Lei blamed largely on global warming, state media reported on Monday.

"The changes have led to a combination of both frequent drought and flooding," the China Daily newspaper quoted Chen as saying.
That's terrible. But wait! What's this? A study that analyses Chinese rainfall:
for the period 1951-2000... The results indicate that there is little trend in total precipitation for China as a whole
No trend? It is true that there have been variations of the scope and intensity of rain throughout China, but this might not be the whole story. The Reuters report hints at some other possible factors in China's situation:
... rising consumption both by farmers and booming cities, as well as severe pollution, have compounded shortages.

Decades of heavy industrialisation have made water from some lakes and rivers so polluted it is no longer useable, and tonnes of untreated waste are pumped directly into water sources.
Ah, severe and large scale water pollution. Don't I remember that from somewhere else... some other large communist country?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Monarchy, constitutions and republicanism, pause

I was getting sidetracked. What began as a detailed explanation of the iniquity of monarchy started to move onto ground I find more interesting - how the radical political tradition was hijacked and perverted by the socialist left.

In fact, there's a very good case that socialism isn't left wing at all. The left originally favoured laissez-faire economic policies and free trade, for example. Today, that's a Liberal or libertarian position, and people normally call libertarianism "right wing" - even though the Tories remain mercantalists at heart.

The left was secular, but we have religious cultists in a Labour cabinet and socialist parties allying with extreme religious groups, while the Tories also remain wedded to the clerical establishment.

In other words, they're all right wing.

Faith appointments to the Lords

The Prime Minister has just responded to a petition:

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to remove the unelected bishops from the House of Lords."

Details of Petition:

"The number of people attending church declines year on year and those with a religious belief are probably now in a minority. The Church of England retains this archaic right which is both anachronistic and anti-democratic. The right should be removed."
The response (emphasis added):
The Government remains committed to completing House of Lords reform and will enact the will of the House of Commons in developing reforms for a substantially or fully elected House of Lords. The Government's White Paper, House of Lords: Reform, (February 2007, CM7027) proposed reducing the number of Bishops in a reformed House in discussion with the Church of England. It added that it would be impossible, in a fully elected House, to see how representation of the Church of England could continue. The Government has made plain it is committed to maintaining the establishment of the Church of England as long as the Church wishes it.

The Government believes in the principle of a more representative House of Lords to reflect the make-up of the United Kingdom, including representatives of other faith communities and those of none. Over the coming months, the Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor will continue to lead the cross-party talks on House of Lords reform with a view to bringing a comprehensive reform package, which will include the issue of the Bishops in a substantially elected House.
Far from removing clerical appointments to the second chamber, this reads as though the government intends to expand them to include representatives of other religions.

Of course, that's right and inevitable if the Church of England continues to send bishops to the House of Lords. You can't discriminate in favour of just one religion. This was the point behind this petition (which only gained 675 signatures).

An attachment to an appointed, undemocratic, clerical element in our system of government is about as extreme a right wing position as it is possible to imagine. Labour has become the Ancien Régime.