Tuesday, 24 May 2011

The end of the world

I am not at all surprised the world did not end the other day, as had been predicted (1). I am not at all surprised, either, that those who didn't think it would (though I wonder how many of them had their fingers crossed behind their backs?) have made a lot of fun of those who did (a bit too much fun, perhaps; maybe as if they were secretly relieved?)

But the joke's on us, really. The faithful will continue to hold onto their faith. if you're demented enough to have believed in the last End Of World, you'll almost certainly believe in the next one, which should be being predicted anytime now. The joke's really on us, for wasting so much time on this very silly story.
1 - "'Rapture': Believers perplexed after prediction fails," unattributed story. Published by the BBC, 22nd of May, 2011. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-13489641)

Super injuctions

It's sad that misuse of super injunctions by multi-national corporation Trafigura, implicated in poisoning fishing grounds and people in Ivory Coast(1), passes almost unnoticed, but a footballer shagging around brings the whole concept crashing down(2). It's a victory for worthless freedom of speech.

The likes of Trafigura won't need to worry too much, people obviously won't be interested in their wrong doing even when it can be reported.
1 - "How UK oil company Trafigura tried to cover up African pollution disaster," by David Leigh. Published in The Guardian, 16th of September, 2009. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/sep/16/trafigura-african-pollution-disaster)
2 - "Ryan Giggs named by MP over injunction," by Patrick Wintour and Dan Sabbagh. Published in The guardian, 23rd of May, 2011. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/may/23/ryan-giggs-mp-injunction)

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Explosion at Foxconn plant

From the Guardian:
A spokesman for the company said people had been injured in a fire at the plant but that it had no details. The company is best-known for producing iPhones and iPads for Apple, but other clients include Nokia, Motorola, Hewlett-Packard and Dell. Employing up to 900,000 people in all, Foxconn has repeatedly been the subject of controversy over working conditions at its vast plants. The affected one is believed to employ up to 100,000 people.

A report on Chinese news portal Sina said the area had been sealed off after a blast ripped through the plant at around the time workers changed shifts. Police in Gaoxin district said they were called to the scene at 7.18pm and that the explosion seemed to have been caused by materials within the factory. A report on the China National Radio website said two were killed and 16 injured, three seriously. (1)
This is just another tragedy resulting from our hypocritical exploitation of the PRC's laissez faire attitude towards worker's rights, wages, representation and safety.

Foreign companies setting up in China should be required - or, better yet, insist on - basic standards of decency, in terms of wages, worker conditions and union recognition. We insist on these things for ourselves, it's absurd that we're happy to ignore them when it comes to the Chinese labour that makes the stuff that lets us enjoy a preposterous standard of living.

Of course, the whole thing's a shoddy trick to get us thinking we've still got it good based on cheap imports and never mind we've got no jobs, so perhaps I'm the one who is absurd for even making the point.

Liberty, equality and fraternity, or cheap vanity-baubles made by Morlock labour in China, who occasionally get blown up? Workers of all lands unite? Or workers of the developed world live like kings on the backs of the third world? It wasn't much of a contest.
1 - "Workers killed in blast at China plant of iPad maker Foxconn," by Tania Brannigan. Published in The guardian, 20th of May, 2011. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/may/20/foxconn-apple-blast-china)

This Ken Clarke / Rape nonsense ...

I wasn't going to say anything about Ken Clarke's blundering comments about 'degrees of rape' but the brouhaha doesn;t seem to be going away, so I might as well join the hysterical throng shrieking and gibbering.

First of all, the Labour Leader, Ed Miliband, was undountedly being opportunistic in focusing on this issue and calling for Clarke to resign. On the other it's been effective. Clarke has being forced from patrician bluster to sniveling apology, and Cameron has been exposed as a spineless PR obsessed vacuity who won't back his man. Clarke - one of the more sane members of the cabinet - is looking even more isolated than before. Good result for the boys, you might say, for all that it wasn't very sportingly done.

I'm much more perturbed that Ken Clarke, the Justice minister and an ex-lawyer, doesn't seem to know the rudiments of law:
Clarke, who is already under fire from the Tory right over his plans to reduce the number of prison places, sparked fury among victims' and women's groups when he tried to distinguish between more and less serious forms of rape.

In response to the comment "rape is rape" during a BBC interview, he replied: "No it's not – if an 18-year-old has sex with a 15-year-old and she's perfectly willing, that is rape. Because she is under age, she can't consent. What you and I are talking about is … about a man forcibly having sex with a woman and she doesn't want to – a serious crime." (1)
A 18 year old having consensual sex with a 15 year old isn't rape. It would count as some other form of sexual offending, but isn't rape. The sexual offenses Act 2003 defines rape as:
A person (A) commits an offence if—

(a) he intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person (B) with his penis,
(b) B does not consent to the penetration, and
(c) A does not reasonably believe that B consents. (2)
There IS an age limit below which the clause about consent is removed (meaning it is rape whether or not he/she agreed to it). But it is THIRTEEN:
A person commits an offence if—

(a) he intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person with his penis, and
(b) the other person is under 13. (3)
To count as rape-inspite-of-consent, Clarke would have had to cite a 14 year old having sex with his 11 year old girlfriend. That's a bit more quease inducing than the 18/15 scenario he described.

As I said, I'm more perturbed by Clarke's blundering with this than with the silly brouhaha surrounding his remarks. Pretty poor for the Justice minister and a former lawyer.

As far as I'm concerned, the only fuss is that Ken Clarke either doesn't have the foggiest about Stuff Relating To Things He's Responsible For, or is so sozzled by 7am he can't speak without rambling off into Stuff That's Just Not True. Neither is a good look for a cabinet minister, ex-lawyer, and one of the supposedly more excellent chaps in government.

The frightening thing is, other people seem to be blundering into the same error. Craig Murry - who I used to have some respect for , before he went all hysterical and ssilly over the Julian ASsange rape charges - also falls into the same trap:
Anybody who stabs someone or rapes someone deserves real punishment. But are all cases of rape or stabbing identical in quality? The notion is absurd. And the fact that a girl aged 16 years and one day is guilty of rape if she sleeps with her boyfriend age 15 years and 364 days is irrefutable proof of that (a point Clarke appeared to get slightly tongue muddled as he made it, talking of two 17 year olds). (4)
Murray is the one getting muddled, as he's continuing to repeat the error that an 18 year old having sex with a 15 year old is rape, under English law. Clarke, at least, had the vague excuse that he was talking ex tempore (though as the minister for Justice and a former lawyer, he should have known what he was talking about). Murray has blundered in cold blood, as it were.

As for the wider fuss, it's mostly beside the point. Clarke's proposals are actually quite sensible, and only extending an idea already presently recognized in law.

Calling for Clarke's resignation was shameless behaviour by Ed Miliband. But it's worked out well for him, hasn't it? Clarke chastened, Cameron exposed as a craven toady to the headlines. Clarke will probably be stood down after a decent interval, allowing some rightwing dolt to take over the portfolio, alienating the wittering limp wristed vote (who are the only one's who upset about Miliband's opportunism) and infuriating the Lib Dems, further 'tensioning' the coalition. Even rightwing tubes such as yourself must be slightly disappointed with cameron's failure to stand by his man, in the face of such a weak attack. But he caved in at the first whiff of SCANDAL and DISAPPROVAL in the headlines, demonstrating a lack of backbone that would make Tony Blair look like Horatio on the bridge.
1 - "Clarke forced to apologise for rape comments," by Alan Travis and Nicholas Watt. Published in The Guardian, 18th of May, 2011. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/may/18/kenneth-clarke-apologises-rape-comments)
2 - "Sexual Offences Act 2003," Section 1. (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/42/section/1)
3 - "Sexual Offences Act 2003," Section 1. (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/42/section/5)
4 - At the time of composing, Craig's blog appears to be down. I C&Ped the comment from another cite, but can't link back to the original.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Coalition scorecard - 50% cuts in GHG emissions

+2 ... Ambitious targets for carbon cuts, especially given general inertia and cowardice among developed economies.
OVERALL: 1/10. Brave and far sighted commitment to actually doing something about climate change brings the coalition back into positive territory. A particularly effective 'fuck you' to Labour, and especially Ed Miliband, who achieved nothing comparable as Secretary of State for the Energy and Climate Change.
1 - "Chris Huhne pledges to halve UK carbon emissions by 2025," by Fiona Harvey and Allegra Stratton. Published in The Guardian, 17th of May, 2011. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/may/17/uk-halve-carbon-emissions?intcmp=122)

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Old crap rehashed

It seems old bullshit never dies. Here's some I trod in the other day:
Former “alarmist” scientist says Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) based in false science

David Evans is a scientist. He has also worked in the heart of the AGW machine. He consulted full-time for the Australian Greenhouse Office (now the Department of Climate Change) from 1999 to 2005, and part-time 2008 to 2010, modeling Australia’s carbon in plants, debris, mulch, soils, and forestry and agricultural products. He has six university degrees, including a PhD in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University. (1)
David Evans has been regularly wheeled out as a 'credible scientist' who has 'changed sides' for years. I remember investigating a list of 13 scientists who had originally supported AGW and now opposed it, back in May 2007 (2).

THAT'S ALMOST EXACTLY FOUR YEARS AGO.

You'll note that David Evans is on the list, in with a bullet at number 4. So it's with some bemusement that he's still being presented as if he was a sinner who has just seen the light.

Which is all by-the-by if Evans was actually presenting new or interesting criticism of AGW. He indicates that he has some remarkable evidence that shows global warming isn't driven by greenhouse gases at all, and that this evidence has been deliberately ignored by the 'alarmists.'

But what is the 'empirical evidence' that he thinks disproves AGW theory? The lack of a tropospherical 'hotspot.':
What did they find when they tried to prove this theory?

Weather balloons had been measuring the atmosphere since the 1960s, many thousands of them every year. The climate models all predict that as the planet warms, a hot spot of moist air will develop over the tropics about 10 kilometres up, as the layer of moist air expands upwards into the cool dry air above. During the warming of the late 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, the weather balloons found no hot spot. None at all. Not even a small one. This evidence proves that the climate models are fundamentally flawed, that they greatly overestimate the temperature increases due to carbon dioxide. (3)
That's it. The hotspot issue has been gone over, many times. It's a bollocks argument.

The 'hotspot' isn't a unique 'fingerprint' of global warming. It's something that happens as a result of warming, regardless of cause. And that, undoubtedly has been going on. It doesn't matter if it is driven by greenhouse gases, solar activity or the Will of Cthulhu. It will lead to the creation of a tropical, tropospherical hotspot - because its fundamental physics that moist, warm air contains more energy, so the lapse rate (how quickly it cools) is lower.

The real 'fingerprint' of greenhouse gas forced warming is a warming troposphere (tick) and a cooling stratosphere (tick). That means the current warming can't be peredominantly driven by the sun, as that would cause both tropospherical and stratospherical warming.

Why this crap is still getting spewed over the interweb is almost as puzzling as Evans' continued status as anew convert to 'scepticism.' Clearly, recruitment must be a bit slow if they still have to hype his dubious credentials as an ex 'alarmist.'

Nothing to see here, move right along.
1 - "Former “alarmist” scientist says Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) based in false science," by Bruce McQuain. Posted on Hot Air, 15th of May, 2011. (http://hotair.com/archives/2011/05/15/former-alarmist-scientist-says-anthropogenic-global-warming-agw-based-on-false-science/)
2 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2007/05/more-crap-about-climate-change.html
3 - "Climate models go cold," by David Evans. Published in The Financial Post, 8th of April, 2011. (http://www.financialpost.com/news/Climate+models+cold/4579652/story.html)

Monday, 16 May 2011

Telegraph timeout

Well, the Telegraph has had over 48 hours to mention the comments of Steve Field, which is more time than they allowed the allegedly leftwing press to mention a letter submitted to the telegraph - a failure the telegraph's chief leader writer described as "a complete and rather shameful silence." (1)

The result? Not a peep about Mr Field from the telegraph - in spite of the paper publishing two stories on the NHS in the meantime (here and here (2)).

Ooops.
1 - "The BBC reports the news – just as long as it suits its agenda," by David Hughes. Published in the Telegraph Blog, 11th of May, 2011. (http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/davidhughes/100087445/the-bbc-reports-the-news-%E2%80%93-just-as-long-as-it-suits-its-agenda/)
2 - "David Cameron to come out fighting over NHS reform," by Patrick Hennessey. Published in the Telegraph, 13th of May, 2011. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/8514236/David-Cameron-to-come-out-fighting-over-NHS-reform.html). "David Cameron: 'We save the NHS by changing it'," by By Christopher Hope, and Robert Winnett. Published in The Telegraph, 16th of May, 2011. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/8515280/David-Cameron-We-save-the-NHS-by-changing-it.html)

Them cats they are a-bouncing

The latest Horizon poll shows a remarkable triple dead cat bounce, with ACT, Labour and Mana all recording gains:
The latest Horizon poll shows ACT party support up to 5.3 per cent after Don Brash's leadership takeover. The results are also good for Hone Harawira, whose Mana Party was at 2.3 per cent, ahead of the Maori Party's 2.1. A third of the Mana Party supporters had voted for the Maori Party in the 2008 election. Labour also made gains, up from 23.9 to 26.9 per cent. (1)
Still, the fundamental problems facing the three parties hasn't gone away, and there is no reason to think the poll boost is more than an anomaly.

In all three cases, the problem is the same - the party leader is an idiot, and idiocy is a slender base to build party support on. Especially when there is clearly a lot of competition for the imbecile votes.

I predict ACT will soon subside back to the level of support enjoyed before the brohaha surrounding the leadership change. It isn't like they've done much to change the brand identity by subbing Brash for Hide. They're still a party of rightwing small state nutters with a penchant for tub thumping to disguise the fact their policies are contrary to the interests of about 98% of the population. Under hide, the tub of choice was crime and punishment; now, since David Garrett's blown that tub up with his own petard, they've moved on to Brash's old favourite. Expect lots of quasi-racist dog whistling huffing about one standard of citizenship, attacks on 'privilege' and so on, from some of the most privileged and least socially connected persons in the country.

Mana have one blessing and one curse, and they are both embodied in Hone Harawira. If he holds Te Tai Toekerau - and I'm pretty sure he will - then the party will survive, but it will only every be a vehicle for Harawira's idiosyncratic brand of personality politics. Since, like ACT's, that isn't actually of much use to the vast majority of us, I think we can safely say the Mana tide has peaked, or the cat has bounced as high as it is likely to.

Labour are the worst off of the three bouncers, as the idea there is anything to celebrate in breaking above the 25% threshold illustrates how low they have fallen. I'm at a loss as to what they can do. There is no vision and no sense of leadership. Phil Goff can't compete with John Key in the likable bloke stakes. They can't come out all leftie, because Goff would just look silly trying to do it. Everyone would know his heart isn't in it. There might be a few votes to be clawed back with a modest "Protecting you / your / our" campaign, particularly with National not quite ruling some voter frightening possibilities altogether out, but even this modest program seems to be beyond the enervated Labour Party.

And, of course, there's the leadership issue. The job is there for the taking. But no-one wants to step forwards and risk being steamrollered in November, when the job is bound to come up in anyway.
1 - "Politics briefs - Monday, May 16: Good news on Horizon for ACT," unattributed article. Published by Stuff, 16th of May, 2011. (http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/5006789/Politics-briefs-Monday-May-16)

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Bin Laden murder wah wah wah

I had this steaming pile brought to my attention yesterday, and while I'm aware there is absolutely no point in trying to convince the conspiratorially inclined to reconsider, using such weak weapons as reason and evidence, I succumbed to the temptation to give it a more-than-cursory-dismissal (1). I suppose it can stand for all the other crap out there, as it is much of a muchness.

Well, I got as far as "Obama murdered Osama bin Laden," before I started to entertain doubts as to the piece's credibility. Unfortunately, that's the very first line. To advance such a claim, the author must have some remarkable evidence to back it up, showing that Bin laden was killed without provocation and the SEALS had no goal other than his death. Astute legal argument as to the legality or otherwise of his death could be expected. Yet, I note, not a single footnote citing a source for this.

In the second paragraph, we're assured, "there's no attempt to arrest him or bring him to justice," another remarkable claim given no substantiation. Yes, I know. He was shot. He wasn't carrying a gun. But he had after being challenged. He was the head of a terrorist network which glorifies martyrdom. He could easily have been wearing a suicide vest, or grabbing a grenade, or seeking some means to take a few of the infidels with him. The SEALS were justified in killing him. It's an unfortunate reality of military operations that people sometimes die. Just as people perceived as dangerous may be shot if they the resist police.

After that it turns into a standard whine about how everything would have been different under Bush - the left would have "protested Bush's violations of international law and basic human rights. They would have complained about killing the Al Qaeda leader before questioning him about possible terrorist plots. They would have demanded investigations."

Really? Plenty of things were done by Bush that the (sane) left accepted. It was only his egregious offenses that provoked protests. Of course, the insane left protested everything - just like they are doing now over the killing of Bin Laden. To justify the claim of hypocritical silence by the left, Rall would have to demonstrate that killing a legitimate target resisting capture was on a par with, oh, I dunno, illegally invading a country based on blatantly trumped up evidence. But Rall, as pointed out earlier, completely fails to make that case. It must be, because he says so, is what his argument amounts to.

Then we get more wailing about Manning's "torture" - though again, unsubstantiated. Not one authoritative source is identified as describing Manning's treatment as torture. PJ Crowley didn't, for example, didn't describe it in those terms, even though he saw fit to resign over it (2).

Then, towards the end, there's a logical howler. Rall states Bin Laden never claimed responsibility for 9-11, and even denied responsibility in the immediate aftermath of the atrocity. Rall dismisses various alleged admissions as CIA framing, or "trying to keep himself relevant for his Islamist audience." Sorry, but that sort of special pleading can be deployed to account for later admissions, it can also be used to account for earlier denials. Perhaps Bin Laden denied (direct) responsibility to avoid being handed over by the Taliban, or to buy time, or who knows?

But Rall isn't playing fair, or even playing unfairly but with-in the rules. He's just writing shit.
1 - "What If Right Made Might: Reimagining the Assassination of Bin Laden," by Ted Rall. Posted on Information Clearing House, 11th of May, 2011. (http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article28073.htm)
2 - "PJ Crowley: 'No regrets' over Bradley Manning remarks," unattributed BBC article. Published by the BBC, 28th of March, 2011. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-12886702)

Saturday, 14 May 2011

More about the Telegraph balance/bias bollocks

Meanwhile, the Guardian has interviewed Steve Field, who is in charge of the coalition's NHS "Listening exercise." He's described the idea of a 'free market' in patient care as unworkable:
"If you had a free market, that would destroy essential services in very big hospitals but also might destroy the services that need to be provided in small hospitals," says Field.

"The risk in going forward [with the bill] as it is, is [of] destabilising the NHS at a local level. It would lead to some hospitals not being able to continue as they are. If you were to say 'we're going to go out to competition for vascular surgery services', University Hospital Birmingham wouldn't be able to run their own trauma centre, for example, because you wouldn't have the staff and the skills on site to do things and the volume of procedures needed to ensure clinical standards remain high." (1)
Now, given that the Telegraph got all OUTRAGED about the Guardian's and the BBC's 'failure' to report, within 24 hours, on a letter submitted to the Telegraph, it will be interesting to see how the Telegraph addresses the comments of Mr Field.

Will we get "a complete and rather shameful silence," or will the Telegraph feel compelled to make some mealy-mouthed acknowledgement of his comments in the rival paper? I can hardly wait to find out!
1 - "Andrew Lansley's NHS reforms are unworkable, says review chief," by Denis Campbell. Published in the Guardian, 13th of May, 2011. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/may/13/andrew-lansley-nhs-reforms-unworkable)

Readin' and writin'

This might seem a bit a propos of nothing, but it originated in a discussion I had about the presence of scribes and readers to assist students, with limited reading or writing, in exams. The context was a discussion about their use in Britain, where they seem to be quite a new thing - or more likely, they're becoming more common now, and people are starting to notice them.

It seemed a fairly alien idea to my British counterparts, but scribers and readers aren't uncommon in New Zealand. The reasoning behind it is that if someone has crippling dsylexia / very poor handwriting or whatever, it may impact on their ability to perform to the best of their ability. Also, there's the question around what are we trying to assess? If we leave students who are struggling to read or write to do it themselves, every assessment becomes a de facto test of that - which isn't much use if the subject is geography and you're actually trying to assess their knowledge of African demographics, immigration push-pull factors and whatever.

That's why, in English for example, teachers and examiners are allowing 'non standard' English to be used in CERTAIN SITUATIONS. For example, if a student writes a brilliant elucidation on MacBeth's character, but does it in txtspeak, that would be permitted, because what is being assessed is the student's grasp of Shakespeare, not their ability to write formal English. In a formal writing assessment, of course, txtspeak would be right (or write) out.

Of course, in an ideal world, students would all be able to read and right adequately. But we don't live in that sort of world. Instead, we live in a world where handwriting is becoming rare. How are we communicating just now? How many of you write with a pen and paper as a predominant part of your job? How many kids grow up without using pens and pencils at home, because drawing and colouring in is just not something they're encouraged to do any more? That's where the problem originates.

The problem's a lot bigger than just pandering thick kids. There's a whole move away from handwriting, which will soon be a practice limited to the middle classes and above, as a status symbol. The filthy proles will go back to making their marks on important documents, just as they did a hundred years ago, or leaving thumb prints or DNA samples or something.

The idea that everyone should be able to read and write is actually very modern and anomalous. Historically, the majority have generally been illiterate. We're just returning to business as usual, after a brief, entirely laudable, experiment with egalitarianism.

I suppose the Daily Mail's next step will be a campaign questioning why we waste money educating these scum at all.

Telegraph vs balance and integrity

The Telegraph selected a strange story to give pride of place on its website, the other day, reserving that privileged spot for a report describing a letter the paper had received, signed by several doctors, expressing their support for the government's NHS reforms (1).

These reforms are controversial and have generated a lot of debate; but are we really to believe it deserved the prime spot at the very top of the website? I mean, was the fact that some Doctors had written a letter REALLY the most important news in the world that day?

While the Telegraph piece did acknowledge that the doctors who signed the letter were "all heads of recently-formed GPs' consortia" - that is to say, they're the ones who are going to benefit from the policy and thus would be expected to support it - the article neglected to mention that the person leading the campaign is a Dr Jonathan Munday. Dr Munday has extensive and long term connections with the Conservative party. He's posted on the Conservative Home website (2) and even lists 'conservative politics' (along with 'Freemasonry') among is interests on his website (3). He's also the former Conservative councillor and mayor of Kensington.

The Telegraph 'story' boils down to this: dyed in the wool Tories supports Tory policy that will benefit them SHOCKAH!

There is, of course, nothing wrong with any of this, not even the Freemasonry. But you would think a newspaper purporting to report fairly and objectively, without bias or favour, would have taken the few minutes necessary to check if the signatories of the letter were disinterested, or were acting as shills for the unpopular Conservative policy. The Telegraph didn't bother to do that, just regurgitated the propaganda.

Still, at least they didn't have the rank hypocritical self righteousness to accuse others of doing precisely what they were doing. that is, passing off politically biased propaganda as objective journalism.

Oh, wait a minute ...

David Hughes, the Telegraph's chief leader writer even wrote an incensed post on the Telegraph's blog, about how the supposedly leftwing media was ignoring the story:
There was not a word on this story in the news bulletins of our public service broadcaster. Just imagine what would have happened if the 42 had written a letter saying the reforms were all a terrible mistake and simply would not work. The BBC would have trumpeted it from the rooftops; talking heads would have been wheeled into the Today studio; we would have been in full Coalition in Crisis mode. Instead, we’ve had a complete and rather shameful silence. There is something unsettling about the national broadcaster choosing to ignore a major political story because it does not suit its own agenda. (4)
There was, of course, "not a word" in the Telegraph about Dr Munday's links to the Conservative Party. Once could almost describe this silence as "rather shameful." There is, indeed, "something unsettling" about a national newspaper "choosing to ignore" pertinent truths because "it does not suit its own agenda" to inform its readers. The Telegraph chose to let its ideology and factional support to betray its duty to report inconvenient truth along with the convenient.
1 - "Health reforms 'will benefit most vulnerable in society'," by Stephen Adams. Published in The Telegraph, 10th of May, 2011. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/8505943/Health-reforms-will-benefit-most-vulnerable-in-society.html)
2 - "A Federal Parliament," by Dr Jonathan Munday. Posted on Conservative Home, 15th of December, 2006. (http://conservativehome.blogs.com/100policies/2006/12/dr_jonathan_mun.html). The good Dr has contributed other pieces to Conservative Home.
3 - Dr Munday's batty website is - coincidentally, I'm sure - unavailable. However, a cached version can still be viewed. (http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:R93RwSMjKP0J:mundays.net/+Dr+Jonathan+Munday&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&client=ubuntu&source=www.google.com)
4 - "The BBC reports the news – just as long as it suits its agenda," by David Hughes. Published in the Telegraph Blog, 11th of May, 2011. (http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/davidhughes/100087445/the-bbc-reports-the-news-%E2%80%93-just-as-long-as-it-suits-its-agenda/)

Saturday, 7 May 2011

OUCH

Well, that hurt. I figured the AV referendum was lost when Peter Mandelson endorsed change, but I didn't think it would be rejected quite as savagely. Still, one benefit of being a leftwinger is you're used to defeat and deal with it. So the referendum is dead, long live reform!

One good thing to come out of this; we know how the anti-reform camp are going to fight attempts to chan...ge things. We can refine our tactics to take this into account. Remember, the goal isn't to introduce one system or another, but to achieve overall fairness. I'm an STV fanatic myself; but if AV can be defeated by Tories arguing it's too complex, then there isn't any point even thinking about trying to introduce STV any time soon.

The main problem for the AV referendum was a) it was tied to other elections, so it became largely a party political issue, and b) it was cobbled together in an ad hoc deal and then rushed through at short notice. A lot of people obviously have very little idea what the system actually entails, not really assisted by a shockingly disingenuous campaign from the 'No' camp.

The take home lesson is, probably, it probably doesn't need to be a referendum issue. the resounding message isn't so much that the public don't want electoral reform, but that they don't care how its done, as long as it isn't going to be a headache for them. A cross party electoral convention, looking at the system of election, the make up of the Commons and the Lords, all those things, might be in order. The system is Augean and needs a thorough clean out; unfortunately, I think the Tories will use this result as an opportunity to put it all to rest for a generation.

The good news is we've seen how the anti-reform camp are going to fight; we can now modify our tactics to take this into account. If they're going to attack AV as being 'too complicated,' we can anticipate that. Scrap AV (no-one really likes it anyway, apart from the Fijians and PNGians) and offer a FPTP-list hybrid, such as is used in New Zealand, though perhaps even a constituency vote and a party vote might be a bit too much for the British electorate. Keep it simple. One vote, with top ups to ensure substantial minorities are represented. Throw in the plans for real Lords reform, and you've got something that offers real change without fuss. And the British hate fuss.

I think a problem was how it became a choice over electoral systems: FPTP v. AV. The real issue should have been fairness - do you want a fairer system? I think that would have been a resounding victory. AV was rejected, and I'm not too sad about that. But the door seems to be open for the Additional Member system, which has three major advantages. One, it's simple, two, it is just a modification of the current system, and three, I hate it more than AV, so it must have some appeal to the demographic which rejected AV.

It's simple, like FPTP. One vote, like FPTP. The candidate with most votes wins, like FPTP. But less wasted vote, unlike FPTP. Thus: fairer, better.

And so far, New Zealand hasn't descended into Bat sh*t Anarchy, nor has it become a pissoir of political correctly correct identity politics parties.

(Note, that after years of searching, I've finally found the perfect collective noun for lots of political correctness.)

It would be nice to see Labour and the Lib Dems go into the next election with a pre-agreed 'renewal' platform, but I suspect the tribalists in Labour will move to squash any moves in this direction for a few years to come, clinging to the hope that FPTP will deliver them a turn at the wheel in due course.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Righties, stop pissing your pants

There's been an interesting response from some of the further reaches of rightwing lunacy about a statement by the Al Azhar Academy of Islamic Research, criticising the disposal of Osama Bin Laden's remains at sea (1).

I'm not talking about the predictable conspiracy crap, but another line of 'reasoning,' to whit, "Because the University of Al Azhar are proclaiming Osama Bin Laden to be a Muslim, they must be tacitly endorsing the atrocities of Al Queada. Muslims would have disowned him if they truly disapproved of his actions. Ergo, they are all terrorists or terrorist sympathizers!"

(That's just my distillation of various ravings I've seen on the web)

Well, no. Not really.

One does not get booted out of one's religion of choice for sinning. Bin Laden was repsonsible for mass murder, but that - even if he acknowledged as such - wouldn't 'cancel' his status as a Muslim.

Bin Laden could commit whatever barbarities he likes, and remain a Muslim, as long as he doesn't question Islamic doctrine. His personal wickedness is between him and God.

The same idea is common in other faiths; you can commit heinous acts and still remain within the faith, just not in 'good standing.'

Only formal excommunication or voluntarily renunciation put you out. The former doesn't usually happen as a result of individual wickedness. The offender may, after all, repent of their sins, and seek absolution. Hence confession, absolution, indulgences and so on.

If committing a sin lead to automatic expulsion, organised religion would never have taken off. As long as an adherent is just not very good at sticking to doctrine, but isn't questioning its legitimacy, he can remain in the club.

Just like a Christian can commit murder, and yet still be a Christian - they simply need to atone for their sin. Denying that there was any God given prohibition on murder would be unChristian.

Bin Laden would not denying the sinfulness of murder; he would argue the deaths he was responsible for did not count as murder, but 'fair play' in war, and part of jihad. By waging jihad inappropriately, he would deemed to be misguided, not heretical. If he denied that jihad was an essential aspect of Islam, then he'd be deemed an apostate.

Al Azher's endorsement doesn't signal approval of his actions, merely that he hasn't questioned doctrine, regardless of whether or not he's followed it. Words speak louder than actions as far as religion is concerned.
1 - "Bin Laden: Al Azhar, sea burial is a sin," unattributed article, published on Ansamed, 2nd of May, 2011. (http://www.ansamed.info/en/news/ME.XEF33040.html)

Lefties, stop pissing your pants

So, Osama Bin laden wasn't holding a gun when he was shot (1). This doesn't make it a 'revenge killing' as Idiot/Savant makes out (2). Not on currently available information.

Think about it reasonably, for a minute, chaps. Bin Laden was a fanatical terrorist. The SEALS may have been anticipating him triggering a suicide vest, intending on taking a few of the infidels with him.

That was a very real possibility, and in that case, any movement other than putting his hands up might have been enough to justify shooting him.
1 - "Osama bin Laden's final moments: America changes its story," by Ewan MacAskill. Published in The Guardian, 3rd of May, 2011. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/03/osama-bin-laden-final-moments)
2 - "A Revenge Killing," posted by Idiot/Savant on No Right Turn, 4th of May, 2011. (http://norightturn.blogspot.com/2011/05/revenge-killing.html)

Hopey-changey stuff

First of all, people are talking about a 'vote for change' based on the combination of Labour, Greens and New Zealand First. ‘Chan...