Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The Lord Howell solution

So an unelected Tory MP suggested that, while fracking would obviously be awful (I mean, absolutely ghastly, old boy) in nice parts of England, it would be fine in the North East because the whole region is a post-industrial wasteland inhabited by ugly inbred morons. That's what he really thinks. He later apologised, but that's just marzipan - his first remarks reveal his real thoughts, the apology reflected the fact that there's at least one Tory marginal in the North East.

Lord Howell is a piece of work. He's a former Thatcher minister, he's George Osborne's father-in-law, and he went to Eton and Oxford. He's a classic example of a posh bloke who started climbing the power ladder about three rungs from the top and still failed to amount to much. Another upper-class mediocrity who - because he's gone through life pretty much getting everything that matters his own way - thinks of himself as quite the clever chap. Whereas in fact he's a stupid bastard, but one so well-connected that his stupid bastardy can't do him much harm. Like Boris, Cameron, and the rest of them.

Well, so what? Big deal. The Tory mask slips so often these days that anyone who doubts they are a party of amoral chancers who worship money and power just isn't paying attention. Cameron's desperate attempts to whitewash the essential posh-boy shittiness of the Tory brand isn't working well, partly because he's a crap leader and partly because the right-wing press keeps revealing the deep-seating homophobia, racism, and misogyny that have long characterised the Tory brand. No surprises there.

However, Lord Howell's brilliant suggestion does raise another issue. Gas fracking is all very well, but we need some kind of non-fossil fuel energy source for the long-term future. Despite massive bungling in high places nuclear power is still an option, not least because it can produce lots of lovely electricity round the clock. Sure, there are risks of accidents and contamination and a nuclear plant nearby isn't going to do property values any good. But let's take a dispassionate look at the harsh economic realities right-wingers love to talk about.

Nuclear power is needed most in the South of England. London and its environs need more and more power, and nuclear energy is the best way to ensure that power is provided. Since a lot of power is lost in transmission through the grid it makes no sense to build a power station in Sellafield to cater to Southwark. No, nuclear plants in the South East would be the most efficient option. So where should they be built?

First, choose an area of moral desolation. Lord Howell and those like him went to Eton, Oxford, and then into the City. Nuclear plants in those areas would not threaten many decent human beings, and in fact an accident might well increase the basic decency of the nation. As a bonus, the chilling effect on property prices across the entire South East would be a tremendous boon for young couples seeking a first home. Oh, and if accidents became fairly common enough it might deter all those economic migrants Londoners seem to hate so much. It's a bargain bucket of radioactive win!

Monday, 29 July 2013

Trollbusting in Twit City

Imagine you live in a city, one where there are lots of stupid, thoughtless, sometimes dangerous people, but where - on balance - most people are reasonably civilized and decent most of the time. Now imagine that somebody comes into town and sets up a new shop. This emporium sells disguises, in the form of masks and costumes. The shop soon becomes popular with people going to parties, putting on plays, and so forth. 

But then a disturbing trend arises. Individuals and even gangs of young men start putting on disguises and hanging out in public places, where they routinely abuse and threaten passers-by. Because they are all young men, women are often the targets of their unpleasant antics. Sometimes an irate person grabs the mask from an abusers and punches him in the face, usually to widespread applause. But sometimes a masked mob descends on a person and beats him or her senseless. The city constabulary struggle to deal with the increasing disorder linked to the mask craze.

The mayor decides that Something Must Be Done. But what? A debate is called in the forum, but before it can get properly under way a masked mob bursts in and starts shouting down the speakers. Once again fights break out. The constabulary, yet again, have to intervene to prevent worse bloodshed. When all the masked intruders have been ejected and the seriously injured taken to hospital, the debate proper can begin.

Some argue for an outright ban on masks. 'Let everyone go barefaced!' they declare. 'If these troublemakers want to say anything controversial or inflammatory in public, let them be man enough to do so openly, not skulk in disguise like cowards!' Another group of councillors who think themselves wise counsel caution, arguing that depriving people of the right to wear masks infringes free speech. The 'unmaskers' ask why some should need disguises to freely speak while others seem to do all right without them? 

And third school of thought holds that people should be allowed to go in disguise if they wish, but should be deprived of the protection of ordinary citizens i,e. if an unmasked person encounters one or more masked persons in a dark alley at night, they former should be allowed to take any defensive action he sees fit, up to and including shooting them all.

Finally, after long deliberations, a vote is held and... 

Silly, but...

Monday, 22 July 2013

The inevitable happens inevitably again

Do you Regret having Tattoos and Piercings? - UK   Other : Do you Regret having Tattoos and Piercings? - UK

NEW Katie Piper Beauty Series - Channel 4
Casting no. 479017     All regions, United Kingdom
Do you Regret having Tattoos and Piercings? - UK
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Remarkable are making a new exciting primetime Channel 4 series about beauty fronted by former beautician, Katie Piper.

We are producing 6 x 1 hour shows looking at the reasons and motivations for have beauty procedures, cosmetic or non- cosmetic, done or undone.

We are looking to feature people who may want to change their current look for any reason. E.g. Trends have changed, they have grown out of the look or it has hindered them gaining employment.

So, from flesh tunnels to tattoos to any other body modification

Location: London, United Kingdom

Payment details: Expenses and cost of reversal procedure covered

Okay, what's a flesh tunnel? No, on second thoughts, don't tell me.

Sunday, 21 July 2013


Amazon reviews of things yet-to-be-released can be great fun. Since the BBC is advertising a DVD for the third series of Sherlock, which hasn't been shown yet, you can bet that some wacky dudes and dudettes have decided to offer their own opinions on what it's all about. Or might involve. Or something.

Who'd have known that Mrs. Hudson was actually a man? And that scene where John practises giving oral satisfaction on a banana?! Cracked me up. I'll have to say, Bendybumble Cucumberbatch turning out to be Robert Downey Jnr. at the end made me happy. Great actors.

Now that was unexpected. Sherlock gets hit by a car on leaving the cemetery and wakes up in 1881, where he has to deal with a strange case that resembles one he worked on back in the first season? A stunning idea, and it's almost a shame that it only lasted for the first two episodes. I'm sure that concept could be extended to a longer series....
I must say, it was a master stroke to combine two shows - I never expected the TARDIS to show up while Sherlock was in mid-fall, allowing him to be saved from certain death, then returned just before the point of impact, being lowered gently to the ground and playing dead for Watson. Plus it allowed Benedict Cumberbatch to go off and be the Doctor for four years before returning to Sherlock without anyone noticing.

Well! I didn't see that twist coming! The fact that Sherlock Holmes is actually a 14 year old girl called Chantelle, who has spent the last 5 years in a mental asylum, and all the characters are her multiple personalities! Blew me away! I started to suspect something was not quite right when John moved out, and Barney the Purple Dinosaur moved in, but I thought, heck, I'll go with it. And by the time Sherlock and Barney had got married I was totally gripped! Moffat, you genius, you've done it again!

Wow. Bringing Keyser Soze into the third series was an inspired move, even though Sherlock traditionalists may have some reservations. Also, revealing that Watson was Moriarty in disguise all along - WOW. Masterful twist.
Also watch out for cameos from Harvey Keitel, Michael Crawford and Simon Pegg.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Could you invade us instead, please?

Egyptian Boy Talks Some Sense

Has he been coached? Well, I think if it's possible for a 12-year-old to formulate immensely complex theories on superheroes or Doctor Who - and they all can, by and large - then a 12-year-old should be able to figure out what's wrong with a draft constitution. I particularly like the way he nails the hypocrisy of the Islamists on women's rights. He may be a prodigy, but if enough young Egyptians agree with him, there's some hope.

It's been a good month for young Muslims.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Two Forms of Levitation

One involves the familiar use of magnets, which is effective but problematic because of energy requirements and some other stuff. However, once we have room-temperature superconductors, we can build Moebius monorails and have all sorts of fun.

Then there's levitation involving sound waves, which works well but has the obvious drawback of being quite loud. Apparently the way round that is to use 24 kilohertz, above the range of human hearing. Annoying for dogs, though. Anyway, in the absence of sound-levitated monorails that upset Fido, scientists use this amazing technology for manipulating liquid droplets and stuff. Useful if you want to avoid contamination, which is a risk if you're wielding a pipette. Anyway, here's sodium and water drifting together, whereupon wackiness ensues.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Lies, Damn Lies, and Opinion Formers

The Royal Statistical Society has found that most people have no clue about the real percentage of under-age mothers, Muslims, or benefit fraudsters. One particularly significant area is the political equivalent of the Ark of the Covenant - pension spending.
Job-seekers allowance: 29% of people think we spend more on JSA than pensions, when in fact we spend 15 times more on pensions (£4.9bn vs £74.2bn).
Some of the misperceptions are astonishing, and show how far down dishonest politics and downright bigoted journalism can get you.
Immigration and ethnicity: the public think that 31% of the population are immigrants, when the official figures are 13%. Even estimates that attempt to account for illegal immigration suggest a figure closer to 15%. There are similar misperceptions on ethnicity: the average estimate is that black and Asian people make up 30% of the population, when it is actually 11% (or 14% if we include mixed and other non-white ethnic groups).
Gosh, it's almost as if some powerful ideological faction had spent decades telling white people they're about to become extinct.

The RSS is a touchingly naive organisation:
‘Our data poses real challenges for policymakers,’ said Hetan Shah, executive director of the Royal Statistical Society. ‘How can you develop good policy when public perceptions can be so out of kilter with the evidence? We need to see three things happen. Firstly, politicians need to be better at talking about the real state of affairs of the country, rather than spinning the numbers. Secondly, the media has to try and genuinely illuminate issues, rather than use statistics to sensationalise. And finally, we need better teaching of statistical literacy in schools, so that people get more comfortable in understanding evidence. Our getstats campaign is trying to create change at all of these levels.’
Firstly, I'd love to live in a world where politicians talk about 'the real state of affairs of the country', but that would involve asking why government policy always seems to boil down to handing lots of taxpayers' money to corporations that end up employing ex-MPs. It's a corrupt system and it doesn't want to be scrutinised.

Secondly, I dare say some sections of the media 'genuinely illuminate issues', but they are mostly bloggers and the like. Expecting the national press to do this raises the prospects of imminent porcine aviation - they are a slowly dying industry that survives by advertising, not honesty, and sensationalism is vital to get people looking at those ads.

Thirdly, teaching statistical literacy is a lovely idea and I'm sure the Germans do a fine job. In this country good teaching of hard topics is not genuinely valued by government because it requires the teaching of genuine critical thinking, and that would lead to a smarter electorate.

We are screwed. We have an establishment that, whatever it says it wants, thrives on ignorance. In the long run this will destroy our country as we fall disastrously behind younger, cleverer nations. But in the short term a policy of promoting ignorance works for the politicians and their paymasters. The next time you wonder why education 'reforms' always seem to be idiotic, consider this - perhaps their is an unconscious (or semi-conscious) desire among the pols to make them that way.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

The fragile feelings of fascists

Yes, it indeed a terrible thing when a man's controversial political views lose him his job. Andrew Walker, a BNP activist who taught in County Durham (just up the road from my domicile) has been banned for life from teaching in the UK. He was annoyed:
He said: "This sets a dangerous precedent. We're talking about the realms of thought crime. 
"What I make of it is it may not necessarily be someone like myself - it could happen to anyone who might hold any type of views that do not fit in to the politically correct way of thinking. 
"We may have teachers who are on the extreme left wing, who attend demonstrations against people with my views, we may have Muslim extremists in the classroom. 
"I have never taken politics into the classroom."
Which sounds almost reasonable until you read the actual facts, whereby we discover that our racist hero took politics out of the classroom to the extent that he chased a group of boys aged 10 to 12 in his car, and then slashed the tyres of their bikes. The boys' offence had been to take the piss out of a teacher who was on a BNP march i.e. they exercised their freedom of expression (and showed fairly good judgement). Anything else? Well, there's this little insight into Wanker Walker's fitness to act in loco parentis.
He was given a six-month suspended prison sentence and lost his driving licence for 12 months after he admitted dangerous driving at Durham Crown Court last September.
Oh, and since Walker had been disciplined for making racist remarks in 2010, he was 'taking politics into the classroom' every time he walked into it, because after his first little transgression everyone knew he was a fascist, right? And I understand kids today get taught stuff about Nazis and the bad things they did, so...

It's funny how these defenders of our traditional rights are so quick to ignore the right we all have to judge them by their words and deeds. If a teacher goes Morris dancing, you can bet the kids will know about it and take the piss to some extent. Same goes for extremist politics, or having Jason King sideburns, or - God help you - poor personal hygiene.

Teaching is obviously not for poor shrinking violet karate instructors(!) who can't take a bit of verbal stick from 10-year-olds.

But the BNP is, apparently.

So, in conclusion, no actual thoughtcrime has occurred in the northern sectors of Airstrip One. Pity, I went to the trouble of learning all the words.

A conservative you can trust


See what I did there? It's a dumb idea to have a referendum on EU membership because...

*TARDIS noise*

Yes, it's the FUTURE and stuff!

TV PERSON: Well, with the results finally in, we find that the people who voted have decided, by just over fifty per cent, to stay in the EU. The referendum cost eleventy million pounds - roughly half a hospital - and tied up our entire politico-media culture for the best part of a year. We're all heartily fed up with it, and some of us now have failed marriages because of a shock dispute over fisheries policy. So, Euro-sceptic campaign spokesman Nigel Farnsbarn, the people have spoken, will you accept their verdict?

NIGEL FARNSBARN: Well, Jomanthia, I think you'll find that, given the turnout, less than a third of people actually voted to stay in, which is simply not a democratic mandate...

TV PERSON: *noise of some sort*

NIGEL FARNSBARN:  Please do me the courtesy of letting me finish! And of course the wording of the question was far from ideal. It should of course have been 'Did our brave boys die at Gallipolli just so stinking foreigners could ban smoky bacon crisps and establish a Fourth Reich run by gay Muslims?' So, in answer to your question, No, Nay, and thrice Nope! We will not be folding our tents and stealing away. Tomorrow begins the new campaign for a proper referendum, one that will get the correct result. And if the next one doesn't, well, we'll  keep going...

TV PERSON: Oh, for fuck's sake get a life! *pause* Sorry, did I say that out loud?

And so on, year in, year out, until the EU is as irrelevant to our lives as the Schmalkaldic League.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Fair Play to France

Got to concede it, you won that revenge war back in the 1770s. Got us back for that Seven Years' of malarkey. The Spanish helped you out, of course. Oh, and the Americans.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Final Frontier? That'll Do Nicely

Splendid article here on why all the private enterprise spaceship stuff going on is so much flummery nonsense. I mean, Virgin Galactic is obvious bullshit, but it's worth reading just to see how fatuous the media coverage has been. And there's a deeply unfashionable but rock-solid point at the core of it all.

What we are meant to believe is that private firms managed by brilliant entrepreneurs can and will take over responsibility for human space exploration from government agencies. We will soon be touring the solar system—or is it the galaxy?—all thanks to the magic of free enterprise. 
The problem with this particular millennial vision is that private firms do not open new frontiers. States do. Private firms profit from frontiers after they have been opened by states. The reason for this division of institutional labor is that opening a new frontier involves accepting high risk and absorbing unrecoverable cost. Businesses hate both. That’s why they wait for governments to do the heavy lifting. Mind you, if the real space frontier that lies beyond low Earth orbit is ever reopened to human exploration and opened to economic development, private investment will have an important role to play. However when humans return to the Moon and if they land on Mars for the first time, count on a state to have paid the freight. The real question is not whether but which state will be writing the check.

Yep, that's what you won't hear about Branson, Musk, et al, even from the dear old BBC. None of these guys are going further than low-earth orbit, if that. Rich men and their toys con't conquer the solar system. I doubt any of them will even risk orbiting hotels, to be honest. Too dangerous, too limited in appeal, and above all too expensive. But when you're sucking up to tycoons, pretending they're brilliant pioneers is always a good line to take. And not a word about the real heroes and the real achievements.

Monday, 1 July 2013

It's So Easy...

It's so easy to email dozens of people a picture of your wedding tackle, isn't it? I mean, we've all been there, haven't we guys? Guys? I mean...
The embarrassing incident occurred around 7:15 a.m. June 21 after Gerard Robson, a project manager for private contractor FJC Security, responded to an airport parking-lot fender bender involving a security guard’s car. 
Robson had hoped to alert his bosses and PA execs to what happened by taking photos of the cars and e-mailing the images with his company-issued BlackBerry, sources said.
Seriously, if there's one thing you should never do with any picture-takin' irons, it's snap your genitals. And while the unpleasant mental imagery conjured up by that last sentence lodges deep in your subconscious, here is a song.