Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Quote of the Day

by Charles Pooter

“This is one of the things that makes me hesitate to get a Mac when I get my first laptop next year. Spec-wise a Macbook would fit my needs perfectly, but I’m just not sure I want to become part of the Mac demographic. Unfortunately, said demographic tends to intersect with the irritating-smug-people demographic and I don’t want anything to do with that. I like Macs, but I wish the company was secure enough in its betterness to present itself simply as creating great products, not as a creating products that are better than everything else.”
- “Margaret”
…left as comment to this post.

On the Monarchy, Republicanism, and Why it's Fundamentally Personal

by Edwin Hesselthwite

Over on Devil's Kitchen an interesting argument about The Monarchy has kicked in, primarily between DK and Peter Risdon of Freeborn John blog...

They've both taken pretty classic-traditionalist angles on the issue: Risdon has gone for the historical and philosophical justification of republicanism, DK has gone for a utilitarian argument for the monarchy (if it were stronger and if it did its job better), as a voice of reason when politics gets out of control. Problem is, no-one in the debate ever wants to deal with issues of personality, and when you're talking about a figure who will be in a position of influence for decades the tone of their leadership is vitally important. As happens so often in ugly arguments about politics: it's all about the people.

The amusing thing is that DK's argument (a monarch who vetoes actions she considers unconstitutional) is pretty much exactly how Britain's political system is ideally supposed to run, and the single biggest factor in preventing it being that way is the actions of that harridan herself, Queen Elizabeth II. When you put personality in there, and have them in charge for decades, the settlement becomes a matter of temprament.

Or, as I put it in The Devil's comments thread (somewhat over-enthusiastically, and it has been edited).

Nice argument Mr Devil... And it made sense - in the 18th century...

Read old Tom Paine's Common Sense (I'm sure you have), and you'll see this is pretty much precisely the system described as being the operative/ideal one in Britain at the time. The problem is we have to put up with whatever monarchs we get, and The Saxe-Coburgs are all vermin. Back in Tom Paine's day he was railing against the House Of Hanover, a likeable bunch with solid urbanist-democratic credentials... Liz here on the other hand has managed to repeatedly, and unquestionably, neglect the responsibilities she has to intervene in the political system... The problem with your ideal is that it doesn't allow for work-shy, parasitic, deference-obsessed cowards like Elizabeth II.

The fact that she's had the throne for 50 years has hidden the insidious influence of the harridan from the historic eye. She has, on numerous occasions, abdicated major constitutional responsibilities where her role was for consultation... and allowed them to reside in the hands of her constitutional enemy, the Machiavellian PM.

Some examples:

WWI was declared by the king, it is only a recent innovation for it to be declared by parliament.

The UK National Government of '31 - '40 was formed by Ramsay Macdonald under the guidance and suggestion of The King.

The Leader Of The Conservative Party was chosen by the Queen up until Ted Heath.

The Dismissal crisis in Australia was caused by exactly the type of Royal privilege influence you describe, problem was she had her eye off the ball completely and allowed her governor to make a complete pig's ear of the whole business, so she'll never be able to do it again.

And before you say this is politics, not her... Any of these would have been affected by the tone of a different leader.. Her hands-off non-managerial style has led each of these occasions to be treated as a relic, rather than a duty. See, she doesn't actually give two shits about the constitution, and has neglected her job on this every single time that a situation has arisen where she has to... I personally would say The David Kelly affair was a key time for a third party to take the reigns... But the woman prefers to dote on her offspring, follow through her tedious hand waving meet-and-greet responsibilities, and demand that her money and deference is maintained.

I have absolutely no faith that any member of the verminous Saxe-Coburg Clan would be capable of doing the job any better...

Now the old Devil, much as I love him, decided to respond to this by strawmaning me for using the name Saxe-Coburg as opposed to Windsor (a village, not a family), and dismissing me for favouring the EU for exactly the job he's described... But I stand by it... The problem with The Monarchy, is we have to deal with the bastards as people. And some of them just wont die.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Dark Matter and the Luminiferous Ether

by Charles Pooter

I wouldn't be surprised if these guys turned out to be correct:

Moffat compares the modern interest with dark matter to the insistence by scientists in the early 20th century on the existence of a “luminiferous ether,” a hypothetical substance thought to fill the universe and through which light waves were thought to propagate.

“They saw a glimpse of special relativity, but they weren't willing to give up the ether,” Moffat told “Then Einstein came along and said we don't need the ether. The rest was history.”

Saturday, 27 October 2007

The Last Place We Can Put David Hockney.

by Edwin Hesselthwite

"Out in the sun they slave away,
While we devotin'
Full time to floatin'
Under the sea"

The air is foetid at the best of times, but you don't even notice. Your days are spent trapped in a tin can, with refrigerated food, and where there can be no communication with the outside world. The birth of a senior officer's son is accompanied by a short message "Victor born", anything more is inappropriate. The first atmospheric air you breathe upon the end of a tour is so sharp it drives home like chlorine to your lungs, for a second you prefer the recycled air breathed by the lungs (and rank with the feet) of 132 men. Such is the life on board Britain's nuclear deterrent.

Thank God you can have a fag down there.

The Royal Navy's submarine fleet (well, 4 Vanguard class subs based in Scotland, and it made my skin itch to use the word Royal) are among the few places to have an exemption from the smoking ban, which means their already ripe air is by far the worst left in any British work environment... Research published in 2002: Norris, W. Attitudes to smoking on submarines: Results of a questionnaire study indicates that 32% of crews are smokers, and 31% ex-smokers, and that it is an almost perfect 50-50 split between those in favour and opposed to a smoking ban.

I, for one, am rather glad that a third of the crew of the most dangerous vehicle on Earth are not suffering from violent chemical withdrawal. But as policy inflation leads us to photographs of tumorous lungs on cigarette packets, and an 18-year age-threshold for purchasing tobacco products, I remain suspicious. Even after they have managed to win the war on smokers, I am sure some health wonk has their eye on this final exemption. Still, for the present, this is the last vestige of Britain's smoking culture. Deep beneath the ocean, next to enough warheads to turn Australia to black glass (please God, one day), they are living it up like a jazz club circa '56.

More Das Boot than Starship Enterprise... Which raises the question: are the Russians allowed a crafty fag on the ISS?

After sating one urge with a dashing Slavic beauty, Bond lit up... The guys with harpoons could wait.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Capitalist or Socialist Fires?

by Charles Pooter

…Using their means of rule, the State, they keep the price of land (and, therefore, housing) artificially high by holding vast swathes of land in reserve under pretense of “public” ownership…Although [Lew Rockwell] blames “socialism” and I blame “capitalism”, what’s really going on is that we both blame statism.
Read the rest of this nice little rant about the California fires from Brad Spangler.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Filming the Police

by Charles Pooter

Sean Gabb on the Libertarian Alliance Forum posted a link to the following YouTube clip:

A strong precedent needs to be set in this country that it is OK for citizens to film the police. I suggest that anyone encountering the police should immediately use the video recording function on their camera phone to record the encounter and make it known to the officers that you are doing so. You should also make it clear that there is no law preventing this.

If we lose the right to watch the detectives, we will be another step down the road to hell.

Monday, 8 October 2007

An Ultimately Pointless Debate

by Charles Pooter

“Join us tomorrow when our topic will be religion: Which is the one true faith?”

Friday, 5 October 2007

One for the Ladies

by Bertrand Boer-Waugh

There has been interesting confirmation of what all right-thinking people have suspected for a long time: that progress for women has cost them much of their happiness. This is a grievous point for me—Mrs Boer-Waugh labels me ‘the most committed feminist’ in her ken because I feel so strongly about women's rights.

Technically, she is wrong. I am not specifically a feminist. I am against discrimination of all varieties because, intellectually speaking, I find it to be utter wank. There is no place for it in the society that our generation aspires to. Practically, however, she is very right—I do think that more needs to be done in advancing women's rights.

This happiness research indicates a fair amount of it. Women have got the choice to be career-focused or family-focused or both. But women who are also committed mothers usually have a lot more responsibility in order to fulfil both of these roles. This is a great loss because we miss out on a lot in our society by not giving this flexibility. I don't just mean to women, either. It should be open to either parent.

On top of that, women are still judged on looks and sexuality first to a much greater degree than men. It may be the choice of the individual women who work in the sex or glamour industries, or who exploit their sexuality to gain advantage in everyday situations, but it is not the fault of women overall—who still suffer from it.

One frequently misunderstood angle to this is that equality of rights and choices does not mean being exactly the same. Women and men are different, and should not feel the need to behave the same just to be given the same rights. Those differences should be celebrated without succumbing to prejudice or discrimination.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

NHS Propaganda

by Dom Corrigan

When we see politicians meeting surgeons in theatre, the doctors are normally wearing surgical scrubs, including a hat. If we were able to see their feet, they'd be wearing clogs - footwear just for the theatres and meeting rooms, stores and corridors of the surgical unit. For reasons of hygiene, one is not permitted to enter a surgical unit unless so attired, a bit like a lab clean room - it is a technique that works to keep a percentage of dirt away out.

Unlike in wards, where the cross infection is mainly associated with high patient turnover and bed occupancy, in theatre doctors are in a position to ensure levels of cleanliness. Gordon Brown was on TV in theatre today. Why politicians are allowed into theatre in "normal" attire of suit, and outside shoes against protocol that actually works is beyond me. Perhaps it's to avoid this sort of thing:

UFO Music Video

by Charles Pooter

I commented a while ago on the rather artistic Issac/CARET UFO hoax. The craft and effort that has been put into this masterpiece of post-modern Barnum-esque trickery obviously inspired Kris Avery as well. He has produced a rather wonderful music video using CGI to bring the Isaac/CARET imagery to three-dimensional life:

Via UFOMystic, where Kris swears blind he wasn't responsible for the original hoax material. ;)

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Den of Thieves

by Charles Pooter

Mr Pooter is going up in the world. The other day I was invited to a reception at the Houses of Parliament to mark the retirement of a senior member of the institute for which I occasionally do some work.

After a few glasses of parliamentary claret (English legislatures know how to look after themselves), some volauvents and a few worthy speeches, I mentally prepared myself to step back out into the miserable London weather. As I walked towards the cloakroom a feeling of horror rose within me. My umbrella! I searched in vain, under the benches and behind the coats. No, it had gone.

Outside, as I shuffled past the statue of Cromwell, shoulders hunched, rain soaking through my new suit, I gave a silent prayer that we will one day see his like again.

“I tell you we will cut off his head with the crown upon it.”

Fractional Reserves: Rothbard's Felines.

by Edwin Hesselthwite

That's a very nice beer you're holding there. Are you offering it to me? You are? Excellent, Hoenbraff I believe. Good old Germans, they certainly know how to ferment grain. Now, let me guess: you want to know what happened to Felis Catus, and the barman suggested you come and talk to this sozzled wino over here... Well, I am happy to explain, happy to explain indeed.

Way back before you were born, an old friend of my family — we'll call him Fred — was a little unsatisfied with his job. Worked for a few years, earned a fair sized pile of capital, decided that the time had come to cut out on his own and do something he loved — something with animals. People always like to go on holiday, he thought, so he bought a big house just in the country with a fair amount of land around it and began to develop it into a cattery. His heart and soul went into it: making the cats comfortable, getting them the best food, making sure they got light, and that cats with bad tempers were kept well-separated. He put so much work into that cattery that customers came from far and wide to leave their cats with him. It wasn't long before the money was rolling it, and in no time at all he was running at capacity.

He was trying to work out where to expand to when a smartly dressed local man turned up... This man had been troubled by a mouse problem, heard about the success of the cattery, and had come to enquire if he could rent a cat. Fred was a little taken aback, they weren't his cats after all, so his first reaction was pretty hostile. But when the man handed over some solid references, offered him an affordable rate of return, and guaranteed the cat's well-being against his home... Well, Fred thought it was worth a go. Eight days later the purring cat went back to its owners, contented and with mouse-tail between its teeth. Reflecting on this that evening, Fred began to realise he may have hit gold — and when he followed it up it turned out lots of people had mice problems that a 2 week cat rental would resolve. Soon he was lending out cats left and right, and in no time at all he was getting a pile of cash for looking after the little fur-balls, a pile of cash for hiring them out as predatory carnivores, and had an empty barn out back.

The county council had just instituted a food waste recycling scheme, and within weeks the vermin population of the city had blossomed. Fred's business was being treated as a necessity, and with this many mice, there was simply no way Fred could supply the demand for short term cat rental. With a heavy heart he went to the nearest University and hired a token genius (a physicist with white hair and wide eyes) to help him out. The physicist sat down, scratched his head, thought for a long time and declared "I can solve it for a spherical cat in a vacuum". Immediately he got to work, and after 2 weeks of banging, clanking and sputtering in his subterranean laboratory, he emerged with machine that looked a bit like a centrifuge but took 3 identical boxes and ran on liquid nitrogen. He would place a cat in the first box and bags of flour of identical size and shape in the other 2 boxes. When the machine was turned on, the instrument span at high speed, and upon their final buzzing back down to a stop, the resulting boxes could all be treated as cat-containing. As long as Fred kept one of the boxes closed and in reserve for the original owner (while piping food and water inside, of course), he could give the other two away to people with vermin problems... And everyone was happy — aside from a few slightly dizzy cats.

Well this worked superbly, in fact it worked quite so well that before he knew it Fred was adding more boxes to the machine, and lending up to 5 cats out for every cat deposited. And even with Fred running the best cattery in town, there was space in the market for competitors.

A brief length of time down the line, it was obvious that this was where the trouble had started. One of these start-up competitors had been lending cats to people with less than favourable references, and a cat had been left alone, mistreated, and died of starvation. It became apparent that when one loaned cat dies, all the other cats of that cat-cluster died as well. The disfavoured cattery had 6 dead cats, a sobbing original owner and 4 unhappy renters. When this hit the local-press it was a disaster, and people were returning from their holidays early just to get their cats out from catteries, any cattery. The cats were running you see, and in less than a week all the catterys had seen their business get hurt, hundreds of cat-renters had defaulted on their loans, and the whole thing was a shambles. "Something must be done!" the press said... "Something must be done about the catterys!".

The local council wrote a bi-law, and amongst a paper of stringency and cat care regulations the real guts was that a cap (initially of 4) was applied to the number of cats that could be leant per deposited cat. This cap would be controlled by an independent commission mandated to make sure the cat-supply was optimum (people had become utterly dependent on loaned cats). The Government had acted, the wheels of democracy had ground-fine, and the press were silenced.

At first Fred grumbled about this ugly government intervention, but actually he realised pretty soon that it was solving one of his problems. With unlimited cat-lending he'd been finding it harder and harder to get a good price per loaned cat. There had been so many cats around the town that one house's cat was killing the mice in the neighbouring houses, reducing the overall demand. Much as he hated to admit it, cat lending had been losing its grip.

Well as he got back to business, the local government began to hail this intervention as a triumph. There were enough cats for everyone and stability has been brought to the catonomy. While some experts grumbled about inflation, most people were too happy to care. In an effort to keep his profits up, Fred began negotiating to buy the neighbouring land, reckoning that more cats would equal more profit. And yet, as he expanded, the market-value of cats began to drop again, each cat he added to the total number he held resulted in 4 more cats being added to the economy. He managed to take a nice profit home, but it circumvented the spirit of the government regulations adroitly. As his business grew (and everyone was in favour of his business growing) the loss in value of cats began to snowball. Worse still, his catonomics began to get really lax when one of his assistants — in a particularly dirty piece of sharp practice — started encouraging cat-borrowers to redeposit their rentals and borrow them again. The three extra cats were profitable, and no-one was likely to complain, but no one could make sense of it all any longer.

As double-layer-cat borrowing got more and more common, it became increasingly hard to tell whether any cat was genuine, or a replicant, or even a replicant of a replicant. Yet at the same time, due to the local garbage contractor going bankrupt and the resulting rat problem, the need for cats had never been greater. No one was willing to burst the bubble. As long as Fred and responsible catteries could keep expanding, everyone was happy to find a place for them to keep their 4 to 1 reserves, even if it required shipping cat-boxes across the countryside.

It all came to a head one cold day in November. A man we will call Alex — a tired motorist desperate to get home for dinner — was a little slow on the breaks on the regions main arterial road. With Alex's ABS playing up, he skidded on a patch of ice and drove into the back of one of Fred Associated Catteries's cat-carrying trucks, and the damn thing overturned in the middle of the motorway. A school bus came crashing into the mess, and pretty soon 3 lanes were on fire, with cats screaming in the midst of a raging inferno.

Throughout the land pets and mousers began wailing in agony. They jumped, they bit, they screamed and they screeched. And after the world had washed out its collective ears — and bleeding knees and thighs had been cleansed with alcohol — it became clear that there had been less than half a dozen independent cat-clusters left before the pileup. In a time period of under a day, every cat that anyone knew had died.

As the rats brazenly walked the streets in broad daylight, the people searched the countryside, they contacted their neighbours, every telephone in the district was ringing as the hunt was on for any remaining felines. Finally, in a remote moorland shack, a fat tom called Jack was found, owned by a surly farmer with an old shotgun. Jack's owner was the sort of man who had no need for anyone - he said the old tom helped him flush pheasants — and he had no intention of helping anyone without lubrication. Well after a big, big sale that gave him enough money to coat his older stuffed cats in gold, he was persuaded to trade the old tom over to Fred... And Fred managed to produce an army of surly Jacks, who waged war upon the vermin problem, and ended the rat threat forever...

Happy ending, you think? But a day came three years down the line when Jack died of old age, and a thousand cats vanished instantly. And since that day all we've had to remember Felis Catus are those gold coated stuffed toms, since there will never be another.

So there it is boys, now while we are at it... I happen to have a remarkably successful ferret farm down the road, do you by any chance have a mouse problem?

In tribute to Murray Rothbard's The Mystery Of Banking.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Because he really wanted that .1 mooch point

by Edwin Hesselthwite

I'm a big fan of the website Bookmooch... Introduced to it by Charles here, it is basically an internet book-sharing site. Where for the price of throwing a book to the collective, you get 1.2 books in return (.1 is given immediately for listing a book for sharing, and .1 for acknowledging receipt of a book). For the economists amongst us, this may sound inflationary, and it is. But it tends to work itself out due to the inherent inefficiency in a charity based system - most people give away more books than they take, and their credits stack up unused. At present I advertise this site here in the aim of gaining access to more peoples books: I suspect Little Man, What Now? readers of having book collections I want to co-opt. Nonetheless, we shall all be wary of the impending abookalypse, when hundreds of moochers stand outside John Buckman's house desperate to get their books out now. And the British Library and Library Of Congress stand poised to throw a mountainous pile of Terry Pratchett's Discword and Clancy's Jack Ryan volumes in as lenders of last resort.

Anyway, as one trawls Bookmooch daily you sometimes across an offer that just makes you laugh out loud. As I did today:

Immortality Inc by Robert Sheckley

ex library book with canceled stickers and stamping inside covers. spine is slightly torn and binding doesn't look too good.
This is one to read and then mooch on or throw in the bin me thinks.
only listed it because no one else is offering it else I'd have thrown this out.
However the pages are legible even amidst the spilt coffee stains.
lol I'll be amazed if anyone wants this, but as its the only one available the choice is yours.

I'm unemployed due to illness and have limited funds so there may be a delay in posting, but i shall inform you if that's the case (maximum delay could be 2 weeks).
I cannot afford to send hardback books abroad as a rule but contact me regardless because if nobody is mooching from me that week i may make an exception if i can afford to (if not then maybe a mooch angel can help us out).
Any questions by all means e-mail me.
Don't think I'll be taking that one Mr Moocher... Maybe some other day.