Sunday, October 28, 2007

An ever sillier union

So, Malcolm Rifkind thinks that we ought to have an English Grand Committee.

...Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman told the BBC the government would not support plans that threatened the UK and that what people really wanted was more "regional accountability".

She added: "I think this is a very, very dangerous line of argument that the Conservatives are pushing.

Well, she would, wouldn't she. Labour only retains power thanks to the Scots and the Welsh and without the whole of parliament deciding on taxation they won't get the subventions from the English to continue their mass bribery of the other nations of the UK. Simple electoral calculation tells us that with an English Grand committee, the NuLabour hacks would be hamstrung. No surprise then that they resist with this sort of language?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The European Union is disgusting and depraved

There is nothing new in this statement. For anybody who cares to exert even a small amount of effort to check a few things, it's obvious. What you should be wondering is how all the politicians are recruited into this glorious, free-wheeling, continent-spanning scam. The answer can only be the power of the `inner circle'. It's a bit like one of those conspiracy/freemason/illuminati thingies.
`Now listen Gordon. It's very simple. All you have to do, Gordon, is walk backwards around a pentagram, chanting `respect the red lines, respect the red lines' and smiling for the cameras and you will become a member of the innermost Jean Monnet club. You will mingle, nay, you will hob-nob with the political stars of the Project. You will speak words of power unto the peons of Europe. No more geek boy, Gordon. No more Mr Referendum. No more waiting for power. It will be yours. And we'll teach you the secret signal. You know, the complicated one with the feet.
Go on. You know you want to. Do it. Sign now.[cue insane laughter, the sound of thousands of marching boots and crowds screaming "Gor-don, Gor-don, Gor-don"].'

Well, Brown's day has arrived. The geek from the manse did us proud.

To quote Richard North:
But what do you do when your politicians tell you bare-faced, brazen lies and, against all the evidence, keep repeating then and repeating them and repeating them? How long can we continue calling them liars, before we ourselves get sick of the sound of our own voices?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

How galling!

Somehow, when one tries a silly pop quiz like this one, one doesn't expect such a goody-goody result.

Hat tip: Done With Mirrors

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The state is your dietician, not your friend

Individuals can no longer be held responsible for obesity and government must act to stop Britain "sleepwalking" into a crisis, a report has concluded.

The largest ever UK study into obesity, backed by government and compiled by 250 experts, said excess weight was now the norm in our "obesogenic" society.

Dramatic and comprehensive action was required to stop the majority of us becoming obese by 2050, they said.

Clovis looked at his watch: 6.32. That meant only another 28 minutes on the treadmill and then he could eat his Primaroloburger. After that it was 25 minutes handwashing the bedclothes and then a sprightly walk to work at NISA (the National Institute for the Suppression of Alcohol). He ran a little faster as he thought about the bonus he’d get from reporting his neighbours. He was almost certain he’d seen the husband sipping a sherry last night. Well, fairly certain. Anyway, if he was wrong it didn’t matter much. The man would only get a mandatory extra eight hours on the treadmill.

He laughed as he thought about the fusses over green issues there’d been before NuLab sorted it all out. God, but Millibland was a genius. Who else would have thought to solve both the obesity crisis and the CO2 targets crisis by getting everyone to generate their own (and the nation’s) electricity.

And he’d never felt so fit. The left knee was a bit dodgy, though. Best not to mention that to the doc at the annual fitness review. Everyone remembered Smithy. Fit as a fiddle one day, then gone the next. Failed his appraisal.

There’d been a good turnout for the secular service afterwards. Several people, including the Assistant Reserve Secretary for Exercise, had said nice things. How thin Smith was. How he never touched a drop of alcohol. How he’d never been a drain on the State until his last few minutes.

The policy came in after the last election. Such a good slogan. `Six weeks to save the NHS’. So clever. Peter Sandalman’s idea. Of course he’d had to go later. High health risk. What did they call it? An insufficiently risk-averse lifestyle choice.

Clovis remembered the sound of the shots from the doctor’s office and shivered. Always two. There’d been some talk recently of stopping it. He was against it. There were limits, after all. Pol Pot may have been a great moderniser and a real `fresh-slate’ man, but using the rifle butt to save on ammunition was going a bit far for a liberal democracy like the EU(UK region).

Not that Clovis was against progress. He was all for it. He remembered when things had been different. Obese people on every street corner. Washing machines. Dishwashers. Waste. People driving everywhere. Foreign holidays. Aircraft. Pate. Claret. Stilton. Disgusting really. All that indulgence. All that fun. Bad for you, though. And Mr Brown really didn’t like fun. He liked saving money though. All that money freed up from the pension funds. Massive reductions in the cost of the NHS. Lucky they had such a prudent president for life. With the worldwide depression after Kyoto 2 and the obliteration of Israel, they’d needed some savings.

Anyway, enough running. Perhaps he’d skip the burger. He was sick of the taste of soya and he thought he’d seen a rather lethargic rat in the garden. If he got a move on, a barbecue might be on the cards. And if the rat was sick, well, as he always said, `you only die once’.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Why do I still listen to the BBC?

It's the absence of ads.

There are interesting paradigms for free-to-air media, but they mostly involve advertisements. I can't take the audio ones. It must be inadequate filters in my ears. I'm fine at whiting out the visual noise but someone gabbling about the latest must-have silver-plated electronic dog-hair clippers drives me insane.

Of course the BBC is not immune. Despite the enormous income it gets from a captive audience, it still has awful trails and puffs. Then it spends a significant amount of time threatening people with dire consequences for not buying a television licence. Generally however, the quantity of such ghastliness is smaller than commercial media.

However, in contrast to many of the commercial media, it increasingly does an appalling job. We (the audience) actually find it quite easy to disentangle positive bias (of the `this man is not called Adolf, but he does look rather like Hitler and, although he's not frothing at the mouth now we'll light him so that he looks like he is' style). What we can't deal with is the `missing data' bias. If the Beeb chooses not to report something, we have to work to find it. That's difficult both because it entails extra work and because you have to look for what isn't there.

All this is a long wind-up to this from Biased BBC (and Newswatch):

Newswatch spent fourteen weeks prior to the European Council meeting in June monitoring Radio 4's Today programme for balance in their coverage of the run up to the EU reform treaty ...involving minute analysis of over 240 hours of material.

... it turns out that Today's coverage of the EU Reform Treaty was far from comprehensive, and that what coverage there was was biased, unimaginative and plain sloppy.

Some highlights from the Newswatch summary:

  • This was a period of major EU activity, But coverage of EU affairs on the Today programme slumped to a record low of 2.7% of available airtime for most of the 14 weeks, despite high profile promises by BBC news management in the wake of the Wilson report that EU-related output would be boosted, and claims by the Director General that it has been;
  • On June 23, the day that agreement was reached, Today devoted four times more airtime to the Glastonbury Rock Festival than to coverage of the eurosceptic case against the revised working arrangements. Coverage of the eurosceptic case amounted to only seven interviews (22 minutes and 40 seconds of airtime) over the entire 14 weeks;
  • UKIP, a main conduit of views about withdrawal and further growth of EU powers, was not asked any questions at all during the survey about the revised working arrangements. Remarks by UKIP spokesmen in four appearances by the party occupied only around five minutes out of 238 hours of programming. On the sole occasion when there was a debate about UKIP concerns – relating to whether the EU brought benefits to the UK - the UKIP spokesman was treated unfairly;
  • BBC correspondents, in their reporting of the moves towards the new treaty, regularly articulated the negative sentiment within the EU about Britain’s reservations, but very rarely explained or even mentioned eurosceptic concerns. On some occasions, BBC Europe correspondent Jonny Dymond, the biggest contributor to Today’s coverage of the revised treaty document, appeared to push the EU perspective on events disproportionately, to the point of bias;
  • The case for a referendum on the new working arrangements – which, according to polls was supported by 80% of the UK electorate - was handled sparsely, unfairly and ineptly. There were only two dedicated interviews on the topic. In each, there were elements that contravened BBC editorial guidelines. James Naughtie treated Ruth Lea, the guest who put the case for a referendum, more toughly than Professor Jo Shaw, who argued against one being held.
  • Coverage of EU affairs in general
  • in the 14 weeks of the survey was mainly outside peak programme listening hours, with evidence that negative EU stories were regularly placed in the 6am-7am slot.

It's a sad comedown for a once great institution that this sort of rubbish goes on. Having said that, it's been going on for some time. You might read Human Voices by Penelope Fitzgerald to get an idea.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Cat kills at least nine in Nigeria

I read this online and wondered what was going on.
At least nine Christians were killed, churches set on fire and businesses and homes destroyed in the Tundun Wada area of Kano State, Nigeria, over the weekend. The violence was committed by Muslim youths and followed unspecified allegations that Christians had blasphemed the prophet Mohammed.
No mainstream reporting, no explanation of what constituted the blasphemy, no context.
Then I found this at Isaac Schrodinger:

Offensive Cat Leads to Death

News from last week:

Over nine people have been reported killed while churches and houses owned by Christians have allegedly been burnt down. Shops belonging to Igbo traders were reportedly set on fire while three pastors have been arrested and kept in custody.


He said an internet cartoon emanating from a 20-year-old Muslim boy from Bangladesh had apparently sparked off the crisis.

Salifu said, "Information available to me is that almost all the churches within that local government area have been razed down and shops belonging to Christians have been razed down and in houses where they dwelled in, we have been told that they have been ejected and their property brought out and burnt.

3rd World View via Gateway Pundit:

Still somewhat cryptic. What, after all, has a cat to do with it?

Next we have to go to Mahmud's Weblog and the light begins to dawn:
I can't reproduce the cartoon -- after all, it is banned. But here's the exchange it depicts. A tall man in a cap asks a young boy holding a cat, "What is your name?" The kid says, "Babu." The man says, "You're supposed to say Mohammed before a name." And he asks the boy again, "What is your father's name?" The boy says, "Mohammed Abbu." Then pointing at the cat, the man asks, "What's that in your hands?" You can guess the rest.
It is a cartoon drawn by a young (Muslim) cartoonist in Bangladesh. But what's the business with every name having to begin Mohammed?
Enlightenment is available in one of the comments:
we should recall how the most south Asian Muslim name bears Mohammad as first name. During British rule in Indian subcontinent, Muslim and Hindu cultured mixed together and Muslims were taking Hindu names. That’s why scholars at time suggested keeping “Mohammad” as first name. So, it was purely religious matter to distinguish from Hindu. You won’t find this trend in Middle East countries.

Now the why question. Why does this stir up the Muslims in Northern Nigeria?
Here's The 3rd World View's take on it:
Good question. Because quarters like Hizbut Tahrir tries to keep this issue alive with protests in London apparently to amplify their demands like estabishing Sharia rule and Khilafat.
The brief article goes on to give a link to this in Ummah News Links:
The question is: how could a cartoon, allegedly offensive to Muslims, drawn in a far-off land―that too, by a Muslim―anger Muslims of Nigeria to such an extent that they go on killing any non-Muslim come within their reach? A similar savagery by Muslims took place in India in 1921 CE. When the Ottoman caliphate was facing the prospect of collapse, the Muslims of India, then under British rule, started the Khilafat Andolon (Caliphate Movement). Its aim was not only to protect the integrity of the Ottoman caliphate, but also to integrate India into that caliphate, after ousting the British rulers. And unsurprisingly, our Mahatma Gandhi happily joined this movement.

However, as the Ottoman caliphate faced a definite collapse, it hurt and angered Indian Muslims so much that the Mopla Muslims of Malabar (Kerala) vented their anger upon their Hindu neighbors. They went on a barbaric spree of killing, rapes and pillage leading to thousands of deaths and rapes of the Hindus. This episode became known as the Mopla rebellion.

The 3rd World View describes this commentary as `a bit harsh against Muslims' but predicts more such `because of these opportunists who are destroying the image of Islam.'

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Scots away!

Well, maybe not. We haven't heard much about this in England recently but, according to the SNP's leader, the referendum on independence for Scotland was to be in 2010. Now things seem to be changing:

The white paper sets out what the SNP sees as the three main realistic choices for Scots.

These are:

  • The present devolved set-up;
  • Redesigning devolution by extending the powers of the Scottish Parliament in specific areas;
  • Or full independence.

The white paper also includes the draft wording of the ballot paper for a referendum.

This asks voters whether they agree or disagree "that the Scottish government should negotiate a settlement with the Government of a United Kingdom so that Scotland becomes an independent state".

However, Mr Salmond said he was relaxed about the possibility of a multi-option referendum, even though he admitted that "might not" be his preference.

Then again, the subtext in this Independent article is that it's all a power play:

Scottish independence was put back on the agenda yesterday by Alex Salmond, the First Minister for Scotland, in a White Paper paving the way for a referendum on the break-up of the Union.

Opposition parties accused Mr Salmond of using the White Paper for " nationalist propaganda", while the SNP leader himself claimed the " tectonic plates" were moving in Scotland and said he wanted a referendum for voters by 2010 on the Union.

But Mr Salmond may already be close to achieving a compromise, which will see more power devolved from Westminster.

I'm more inclined to believe this. Salmond is well aware that the majority of the Scots aren't behind him on independence. Moreover I think he knows they enjoy being the tail that wags the dog as far as British politics are concerned. Why seek independence when you can have the best of both worlds?

Global Incident Map

Here's a link to a realtime (updated every eight minutes) map of `Terrorism Events and Other Suspicious Activity'.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the Dutch Government

It seems that the Dutch government, and in particular former deputy PM Gerrit Zalm and current PM Jan Peter Balkenende, really know how to keep their promises:
Hirsi Ali was persuaded to run for Parliament, and to become the world's most visible and imperiled spokeswoman for the rights of Muslim women, on the understanding that she would be provided security for as long as she needed it. Gerrit Zalm, in his capacity as both the deputy prime minister and the minister of finance, promised her such security without qualification. Most shamefully, Jan Peter Balkenende, the Dutch prime minister, has recommended that Hirsi Ali simply quit the Netherlands, while refusing to grant her even a week's protection outside the country during which she might raise funds to hire security of her own. Is this a craven attempt to placate Muslim fanatics? A warning to other Dutch dissidents not to stir up trouble by speaking too frankly about Islam? Or just pure thoughtlessness?
Some other points of view have been aired (this is Dymphna at Gates of Vienna):
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a formidable woman, but she isn’t perfect. Her mistakes have been costly to herself and others. I do not think any government has an obligation to provide security for her — this protection would not be necessary if she had not, of her own free will, made that mediocre movie. Actions have consequences, and this one is hers.

Though I don’t agree with her socialist political philosophy and I find her militant atheism without nuance, I would be willing to donate money to a private fund designated for her protection. However, it is not a government’s job to protect its citizens from their own folly. If any such fund is started, I’ll be glad to publicize it and to make a donation.

Personally, I don't agree. Perhaps, if she was allowed to bear arms, I might.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Climate Change and the IPCC

Here's how modern intergovernmental politics is done. Lie.

Kevin Trenberth, coordinating lead author of IPCC 4th Assessment Report, WG1 Chapter 3, says:

In fact there are no predictions by IPCC at all… they do not consider many things like the recovery of the ozone layer, for instance, or observed trends in forcing agents…
none of the climate states in the models correspond even remotely to the current observed climate. In particular, the state of the oceans, sea ice, and soil moisture has no relationship to the observed state at any recent time in any of the IPCC models.
I postulate that regional climate change is impossible to deal with properly unless the models are initialized.
Therefore the problem of overcoming this shortcoming, and facing up to initializing climate models means not only obtaining sufficient reliable observations of all aspects of the climate system, but also overcoming model biases. So this is a major challenge.

My suspicion, as a statistician, is that they merely sought for doomsday scenarios even though the most loopy computer models couldn't get them there from current conditions. Then they fixed the initial conditions so that those outcomes were attainable.
Oh look, that's exactly what he says:
The IPCC instead proffers “what if” projections of future climate that correspond to certain emissions scenarios. There are a number of assumptions that go into these emissions scenarios. They are intended to cover a range of possible self consistent “story lines” that then provide decision makers with information about which paths might be more desirable. But they do not consider many things like the recovery of the ozone layer, for instance, or observed trends in forcing agents. There is no estimate, even probabilistically, as to the likelihood of any emissions scenario and no best guess.
Even if there were, the projections are based on model results that provide differences of the future climate relative to that today. None of the models used by IPCC are initialized to the observed state and none of the climate states in the models correspond even remotely to the current observed climate.

Why are we taking this stuff seriously, never mind skewing whole economies on the basis of it?

Vicar machine-gunned gently

I'm not surprised that Richard Dawkins' campaign of malevolence and dishonesty is bearing this sort of fruit:
National Churchwatch, which provides personal safety advice, says vicars are attacked more often than professions such as GPs and probation officers.

Why do I suspect that, yet again, no one on the `atheism is bright' side of the argument will pause to check their constatntly reiterated statements about religion being the source of violence? It's not about truth, it's about bullying.
Of course it could be that some of the vicars are a little unworldly:
One vicar, from Willesden, north-west London, said his vicarage had been machine-gunned - but still did not believe he had experienced violence.

Presumably it would require a small thermonuclear device to constitute `violence'.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

If men are from Mars, I must be from Uranus

I have been much distracted over the past few days by things like the start of the academic year and students not knowing whether to call me "Professor Clovis", "Mr Sangrail" or "hi, i'm your tutee and I need you to sign this cheque" (I don't know how I know that these ones don't use capital letters but I just do). First lectures have been perpetrated, timetables torn up, vice chancellors abused (in absentia) and secretaries canonised.

Somewhere, in a galaxy far, far away, politics has been happening.

I know this because this afternoon, Gordon apparently "bottled it".

What he has bottled is not quite clear. Coming to the matter rather late in the day, my conclusions are weak. I observe that, since he's a son of the manse, he won't have included alcohol. As a father, he may have used fruit. I'm sure that prudence dictated that it should be bottled. Tinning or otherwise preserving it, whatever it is, is clearly right out. Unfortunately, this doesn't pin it down much (if one can pin down something which has been bottled). I'm guessing a home-made chutney, but only time will tell. Perhaps we could call it Brown sauce?

In other recent news, Brown is, we are told, considered a "feartie" by those north of the border. Some of them also confirm that he is bottling it.

Having been educated entirely in England I'm not quite clear what this `feartie' word means. Some sort of relative of the kelpie, perhaps? A strait-laced water sprite with a hint of pooka? Someone on the wrong side of the West Lothian question? I don't know. It's all Dutch to me.

I've also learnt that, in a massive split with tradition (and one which, I am sure, will confirm him as the arch-moderniser) David Cameron has said `let the people decide'. This unashamed descent into crass populism is a real departure for Cameron. Heretofore he's been known as `one of us' and `pretty dry', and it's obvious that this approach is unlikely to win much approval from the electorate. Most sensible politicians will obviously distance themselves from this radical position. After all, it would never have worked with Europe, and I'm guessing he'll be eating his words in the near future.

Anyway, I've clearly missed a lot and need to do some serious catching up.