Thursday, November 30, 2006

A beautiful idea

Todays Ze Frank contains an absolutey wonderful image of American forces airdropping Segways and Rolexs, in a bid to devalue these luxury items. As these saturate the market, the value of goods such as food will rise, giving the working people of North Korea more power.

A truly delicious idea, exactly what we have come to expect of Ze Frank at his best.

Should Blair have apologised for slavery?

Tory MP calls for an apology for Henry VIII's treatment of women, as a satire of Blair's recent comments on the slave trade.

This, for me, raises an interesting question. The slave trade in Britain ended 200 years ago. This means that one has to travel back quite a few generations to reach an ancestor who was around at the the time. Leaving aside questions of whether what Blair said went far enough (though, let's face it, there was absolutely no pragmatic point in not turning his statement into a full apology. There was hardly going to be backlash), I think it is interesting to consider if an apology was necessary now at all. After all, neither he as a person, nor we as a country have had any direct contact with legal slavery and not much indirect contact either.

True, it can be said that as a member of the white middle class, I am enjoying this position because of historical consequences of the slave trade. But even if this is the case - and I'm not convinced that after 200 years it is, though I acknowledge that this is a largely subjective and unanswerable question - I did not chose to be born to white, middle-class parents. That I am in this context is nothing to do with me, it is an accident of birth. So if I do enjoy indirect benefits of the slave trade, it is not my responsibility and not my fault. Nor anyone else's. It is simply the way things are. So why should Blair have apologised for the actions of people he is not connected to in any way, except a sharing of geopgraphical territory over a wide time-span?

Did his statement change anything? I don't think so: no one who had previously been pro or ambivalent towards slavery, if indeed there are any such people, is likely to have been galvanised towards a change of mind.

This is not to say that I don't think actions aimed at neutralising or mitigating historical, social circumstances are anything but necessary, but I feel that an apology is irrelevant - Blairs semi-apology even more so.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Darwin Does Not Threaten God

US Group Truth in Science has supplied creationist teaching materials to British schools.

This debate has rumbled on for a ridiculously long time now. There is absolutely no way that Creationism should be taught in Science classes. It is not apropriate, by the very definition of science.

I won't go into this debate in any detail: everyone knows the details and everyone has a detail. But it just boggles my mind some times. I just can't grasp how stupid people can be sometimes. A merest flicker of thought allows one to see that Darwin does not impinge on Christianity. A further flicker to see that science should be taught in science classes and religion in religious education classes. Honestly, I despair sometimes.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

A Silly BBC Thing

via Jeff Jarvis

How in touch are the BBC with their audience? It is a question I ask myself daily. Well, now we have cold, hard statistical data:

It's a silly little thing that compares side by side what the BBC thinks we should be reading and what we are. If you ignore the slightly overblown paranoia of "what the BBC tells us" overtones, it's quite fun. Most worrying though, is the level at which most of the audience is reading. Over the past two weeks "Cruise" is second and "Cruise Holmes" third. Today, "Danish" and "Road Safety", the story about Danish road campaigns with topless models is fourth and sixth.

Naturally I also enjoyed the Danish article, but Tomkat? People are idiots.

Friday, November 24, 2006

A Nouse Article

The Trident II (D5) is a submarine-launched missile, armed with about 3 nuclear warheads. Their destructive power is estimated as that of eight Hiroshimas. The details of the British nuclear armament was only finalised in 1998 with Labour’s Strategic Defence Review and the Trident system was planned to be in service at least until 2024. So why is this a hot issue all of a sudden? As a programme to develop replacements for the Trident submarines would be a lengthy one, such decisions need to be taken long in advance. Tony Blair recently announced that a white paper would report on the issue in December and then, after a three month consultation, MPs will be voting. Naturally, this will not be a free vote for Labour MPs.

Gordon Brown, in stark contrast to his usually cautious fiscal policy, has publicly backed the most expensive option available: a full replacement for the Trident submarine force, warning against compromising on the British nuclear deterrent. But the truth is, this is estimated to cost anything up to £40 billion over its lifetime. The important question, then, is are we really getting value for money here? £40 billion is an awful lot of cash to be spending: it is £2billion more than this years’ total defence budget or, to put it in a different light, almost half an NHS. Frustratingly though, the answer is that a Trident replacement is a poor way, an unwise way to spend British tax money. The very notion of a nuclear deterrent is a hang-up from a forgotten era – one of towering superpowers and diametrically opposed, utterly incompatible ideologies across continents. During the Cold War, a nuclear deterrent was seen as vital – theories of Mutually Assured Destruction bounced alongside flashpoints that came scarily close to a full-scale war – the Cuban Missile Crisis for example. But the Cold War is long over and the world is a markedly different place – something which the proponents of a nuclear arsenal fail to recognise. The threat to national security no longer comes to us from large nations visibly hostile to our way of life. There is no USSR-esque bloc of territories that we can aim our guns at anymore. The “Moscow Criterion” no longer applies, even in spirit. The threat now, as our Prime Minister spends so long telling us, is from those ambiguous and elusive terrorists. If, God-forbid, a small cell of perhaps ten people manage to detonate a dirty bomb in a city centre, who should we send our retaliation to? Who should we bomb into submission? Terrorism is borne of alienation and nuclear weaponry is not the most integrating of things.

What else can £40billion buy then? Quite a lot really. Perhaps the best way to decide how to allocate this money is by examining the threats to our nation. Terrorism, yes. But I barely think that the 7/7 bombers had second thoughts when they considered the British Trident submarine patrolling the ocean. Surely an even more compelling danger is that of climate change – this much money would stand Britain in good stead to help tackle the problem and mitigate economic fallout as far as possible. Or maybe our ailing education or health systems could be helped out a little. More and more schools fall beneath Ofsted’s standards, more and more hospitals fail their patients. I’m sure that the fight on terror could use more resources, if security is your thing. There is only so much the intelligence forces can do on their current budget. There are plenty of better, more cost-effective ways to spend this cash.

It is not inconceivable to rid Britain of nuclear weaponry. Indeed, Labour have already started such a programme with the 1998 Strategic Defence Review. The numbers of warheads maintained was dropped by a third to 200; nuclear submarines were limited to 48 warheads, from 96 (though due to technological advances, this was actually a 50% increase on the Trident predecessor) and maintenance of other types of nuclear delivery systems, such as “free-fall” aircraft weaponry, was discontinued. True, this is a moderate reduction, but even this sadly strikes Britain out ahead of the other four permanent members of the UN Security Council – also the other four designated Nuclear Weapon States on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In fact, this is the very treaty that obliges us to reduce our nuclear holdings. The three pillars of the Non-Proliferation Treaty include disarmament, requiring a “treaty on general and complete disarmament”. Of course, none of the Nuclear Weapon States have done any such thing – any such discussion over the last three decades has been shelved on one pretext or another.

What would happen to Britain if she were to shed her nuclear capabilities? Would she be endlessly bombarded with nukes from manifold enemy states? Would she be vulnerable to invasion? Well, dang, the 186 UN-recognised non-nuclear countries seem to get by okay. And maybe if we can step out in front of the pack by disarming our nuclear capabilities, we can start leading the world towards a more peaceful future. Britain may not be a military superpower, but she could be a moral one.

Monday, November 20, 2006


Four on Demand, yo.

And about time. Since the advent of Bittorrent and YouTube, the internet savvy viewer has had a kind of illegal Video On Demand-lite version. Complete series of major American trash (24, Prison Break, Lost) and British comedies (Extras, The IT Crowd, Snuff Box) are ten-a-penny on the internet and the demand is high. It is shocking, then, that it has taken a major broadcaster so long to capitalise on this market.

I am a very important person. I have places to go and people to see. You know how it is. I am not always available to watch the sophisticated, highbrow television that I desire to. Nor, sadly, can I afford the luxury of Sky+ and it's fancy-schmancy capabilities. Even so, I do love to watch television. But only when I want to, not when a television executive wants me to.

In 2003, Google made £3.2 billion. Money on the internet is not a new thing. This year, Google is expected by some to outperform a major terestial broadcaster on UK ad revenue by £100 million.

Yet it has taken this long to bring together a captive and demanding audience, a lucrative advertising model and a product. Even the BBC missed a step here. They are leaders in the world of new media, even if they are a hulking behemoth of an organisation, and they should have realised a few staff blogs and a handful of podcasts just ain't enough anymore.

Well congratulations to Channel 4 for having the intelligence and courage to take a great big step into this brave new world. The floodgates are now open, and hopefully much more happiness will come pouring through.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


The month of nothing. November has to be the most depressing month on record. Nothing happens whatsoever. Hours, days, weeks go by, and what does one have to show for it? A half finished crossword and mountains of washing up bearing down on you. Already the stench of Christmas fills the air. Thoughts of children smiling and laughing fills you with more mundane thoughts. They are everywhere. I can't leave the front door.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Congestion 'Supercharge'

Fantastic. Finally some action is being taken against the most depressing sight on our roads, the hideous 4x4. The 'supercharge' for entering the congestion charge zone in London in these 'vehicles', is one of the best examples of some form of governance actually doing something about reducing the levels of pollution emitted by this unnecessary form of transport in our choking cities. There is no need for cars like this. Just an act of utter selfishness in an attempt to stand out from the general population. Or an attempt to emulate Jack Bauer, in which case I can't encourage enough...
Not coming from London, I have no idea what the extent of this problem is, or to what extent this will do to solve it. I just find happiness in the vision of these drivers feeling victimised. Idiots.

Good news!

Debenhams Christmas Two Day Extravaganza starts today.

It is the 15th of November.

People are idiots.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A thing that makes me do sick

Overzealous Sports Fans

It takes a certain kind of idiocy to shout at a televised sport.
I am not talking of the moans and cheers here when fortunes change one way or the other: this is an unavoidable result of engagement with the game. Even I do that. Rather, I mean shouting at the actual match itself. Encouraging one team or player. Berating the other. Berating ones own team. Berating the referee or umpire. Berating the commentator. Berating the crowd, even. So often, just generally berating.
This kind of behaviour surely implies an absence of some vital brain-function that allows one to differentiate between reality and moving images on a screen. Maybe this even demonstrates a defective theory of mind: the over-zealous sports fan cannot tell what does and does not possess consciousness. He does not understand why the pixels flowing over the television screen do not respond to his shouts. His stupidity is one so deep that he not only misunderstands the workings of a television but also to utterly fails to grasp how we can assign a mind to an object. This is a fundamental, metaphysical idiocy on a massive level.
I really detest these people. With their beer bellies and their Carling, I really detest them. Then I feel guilty, because they make up so much of the population. I feel like a bastard. But, really, I detest them and all of their ITV-watching buddies.