Thursday, August 24, 2006

Sad story

Apparently the elder brothers of the ladder-carrying-humour duo, the Chuckle Brothers, (incidentally read the Wikipedia article, it's funnier than any of their shows) are also 'comedians'. That BBC story ends on a rather poignant note, which is their show was cancelled after just two weeks due to a lack of an audience.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Wembley Stadium

There's an interesting post here about the Wembley stadiums new and old. And lots more which is quite good if you are interested in London.

Over here and over-dressed

What is it about the Great British Public and its inability to judge what non-White people are wearing? Last summer we had the reports from eyewitnesses (and the Police) that Jean Charles De Menezes was wearing a huge overcoat, when in fact he was wearing a light denim jacket, and now apparently the two lads chucked off the Monarch Airlines flight weren't wearing heavy leather jackets, but light windcheaters.

I totally understand the difficulty of providing eye-witness descriptions after the fact, but this seems to be a problem at the time. They appear to be accepting it in good grace.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Pro-war shocker!

The Euston Group invite you to take a drink with them on the fringe of the Labour Party conference. As the boys over at AaroWatch have already noticed, in just one page of invite they manage three times to say it is not a pro-war group:

We took differing views of the war in Iraq.

Around half of us opposed the Iraq war.

Many of us opposed the war in Iraq ...

These are statements you often hear from the Euston Group. But are they correct? These are the eight signatories you can meet in the bar.

Nick Cohen - Supported the invasion of Iraq
Gisela Stuart - Supported the invasion of Iraq
Greg Pope - Supported the invasion of Iraq
Lord Soley - Supported the invasion of Iraq
Norman Geras - Supported the invasion of Iraq
Eve Garrard - Supported the invasion of Iraq
Alan Johnson - Opposed the invasion of Iraq
Jane Ashworth - Opposed the invasion of Iraq (I can't find a link but I believe she did)

I make that six in favour, two against. This is not half, or, I wouldn't say, even 'many'. Unless I have mis-labelled them, which is a possibility, she must mean something else - the 2300 signatories? I'd be surprised if she has done an analysis of all of these, and more surprised if half of them opposed the war, but it is the most likely explanation.

David Horowitz emails!

More worrying news:

A small but enormously powerful group of radical forces are undermining America's unity! And unless we get the word out far and wide, they'll fulfill their plan and come power in 2008.

Why? Because right now, as it did 40 years ago, the radical left in America has in motion a plan to cost the United States a victory in war and topple a President in the process.

The rest of the email is no better. The man is as loony as conspiracy theorist as they come, advertising a book called "Shadow Party".

Friday, August 18, 2006

Comments are Free but shouldn't Be

Oliver writes about the problem that is the comments on the Guardian's mega-blog, Comment is Free. Some posts tend to have good comments, but some, particularly those about the Middle East, tend to be near-deranged (Oliver gives some examples but there's many more to choose from). If you haven't visited CiF, imagine Harry's Place commenters after 20 cups of coffee.

What can be done? Would it not be possible to have a system where to comment you need to buy credits, say 100 comments for £2? I don't think the cost would need to be much higher than 2p per comment to stop much of the madness. Of course there could be many problems in the implementation - in particularly dealing with small amounts of money might be so costly administratively, the cost per comment becomes prohibitive. However I've used websites where you get credits and they seem to work OK, so perhaps these would not be insurmountable. My main concern is that such a commenting system doesn't seem to exist anywhere, which makes me feel there may be a major drawback I've missed - or perhaps experiments show the amount which scares off the loonies scares off all commenters.

Very suspicious

News that James Van Allen has died must cast doubt on the entire so-called Apollo Space program. Here was a man who identified a belt of radioactivity so intense that no human could ever cross it without losing their life. Yet Nasa have steadfastly refused to acknowledge this gaping hole in their credibility, and now the man who exposed their lies is suspiciously dead at the age of, er, 92.

Good news!

Feared terror attack on Huntington, West Virginia, turns out to be a false alarm.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

How clever am I?

We've all been at a party or BBQ when some youngster (or their parents these days) starts to brag about their 5 A-grade A-levels (see picture to the left). You splutter, "but they were harder in my day!", and half-heartedly they agree, before continuing "but really Six A-levels, isn't that an achievement?". With today's results again showing a gain, the problem can only get worse.

What you were lacking was a way to quantify just how much easier they have got, and thus what grades you would have received if you were sitting them today.

Now in its second year, this handy ready-reckoner means the end to that situation, as it tells you exactly what your grades would be worth in today's debased currency. In other words, it provides a real level of exam results, to allow historical comparisons to be made fairly. The method is simple - it assumes there has been no improvement in standards and thus all of the increase in grades is due to pure inflation*. . If you believe there has been some increase in standards you will need to lower the multiplication factor, but if you believe standards have dropped you will need to increase it**.

First, calculate your A-level points using the old-fashioned method of 10 for an A, 8 for a B, 6 for a C etc. So for example 2 Bs and a C would be 22 points. Then multiply that by the multiplication factor, which is the number next to the year in which you took your A-levels. So, for example, if you took them in 1995 multiply 22 by 1.29, which gives you 28 points. Hence you can officially upgrade yourself to 2 As and a B. There are two more examples below. If you took them before 1992 then there wasn't a great deal of improvement so perhaps multiply by 1.45.

* I used to add here how I don't believe standards have declined in any meaningful sense, and still do, but I think you get the point.
** Even if you do believe that all of the gain has been due to higher standards, then the multiplication factor can still be seen as telling you what position in 'class', so to speak, you would have got if you were doing your exams now.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A false start?

Is this cheating? Thousands of people have been waiting for a long time for these results, and to start a day earlier seems unfair. But yes, the Times has stormed into the lead with two blonde girls celebrating their A-Level results. And they're not even out until tomorrow.

Anyway, here's the form guide to tomorrow and Friday's papers based on last year . The Telegraph is the clear favourite, managing 6-7 in the two days, followed by the surprise runner-up, The Economist, on 5, then a rather subdued Mail and Times on two apiece, ditto the Metro and FT.

Update: Early indications are that it is going to be the Times' night. The Mail has begun disastrously, with four boys, a decision which must be casting doubt on the paper's chances. Of course tomorrow morning is the print editions big day.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

London in late 1940s

Some fantastic colour pictures here and if you follow the links (via Mark Holland). I've got some from a book about 1960 which I'll try to put up at some point.

I have decided on a new blog look - this currently is a work in progress so hold your horses before demanding the John Major look back.

David Kelly

Mel in this piece is essentially saying that agents of the government, or the Iraqi intelligence services (Saddams? The new ones?) or even terrorists bumped David Kelly off. Apparently this is based on research by Norman Baker, which has only been reported in the Daily Mail, as far as I can tell.

What conclusions do people draw? Is this the ultimate manifestation of the hatred of the government dripping from every page of the Daily Mail and Melanie Phillips' blog, or is there something to it?

Monday, August 14, 2006

The South Coast

I went on a mini-holiday to France for a day trip and then my friend's new house in Hastings. As is expected by the English seaside it rained almost non-stop, though the sun did briefly appear on Sunday when we visited Bexhill, and the De La Warr pavilion, which is now an art gallery and cultural centre (and from the list of activities I think the latter is a good description), but which also has a very nice cafe overlooking the sea.


Stephen Pollard calls Oliver Kamm an "oaf". The first Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of 'oaf' is "a stupid person" .

Not a description, of course, that could apply to Pollard himself.

There was the time when he declared that private pensions operated independently of the generation in work. And of course his breathtaking advocacy of the invasion of Spain by US troops for failing to invite President Bush to a parade. And who can forget that in the wake of the July 2005 atrocity he was invited to write something 'uniting' against terror, but instead wrote "it is imperative that those of us who believe in democracy and liberty stand up and fight. Not just against the obvious enemy, but also against the enemy within - those who claim to be on the Left, but whose views have nothing in common with the decency for which the Left ought proudly to stand"?

And those who have forgotten will remember another infamous outburst, that "The mainstream Left has demonstrated clearly which side of the battle to preserve Western civilisation and freedom it is on. The Left, in any recognisable form, is now the enemy.". That was part of his Maida Vale Manifesto, a competitor to the Euston Manifesto. Now, as everyone knows, I'm no fan of the Euston Manifesto. But it has got over 2000 signatures, whereas the Maida Vale Manifesto has at most about five.

It is also true that sometimes his accuracy, and how he combines that with understatement, lets him down. As the time he gave investment advice - the "dead-cert" that finished 5th.

So at a pinch, Pollard calling someone else, and someone evidently more intelligent than himself, an "oaf", could be seen as rather, well oafish. So could he be using Merriam-Webster's second sense of the term, which is...oh - "a big clumsy slow-witted person".

Update: Oliver writes (in the comments and by email) to say that Stephen Pollard's description of him as an 'oaf' was an in-joke, and that Pollard is 'no oaf'. I feel foolish with respect to the first point - Pollard on his blog describes Oliver as 'the master' and 'unmissable' - and thus I accept the first correction entirely.

I reject the second correction with even more vigour (though with the caveat Oliver is a friend of Stephen's and I've never met him). I don't think anyone who believes that one of the things that 'needs to be said' is "The mainstream Left has demonstrated clearly which side of the battle to preserve Western civilisation and freedom it is on. The Left, in any recognisable form, is now the enemy" can be given the benefit of the doubt. This is no less than a declaration of treason against about half the country, on the basis of a New Statesman cover and the actions of the Mayor of London. The only way I can see of squaring the circle of non-oafery with such a statement would be to claim it was another in-joke, but if we take that view then I fear, as with Melanie Phillips, we would have to declare anything Pollard said to be a joke. I realise there is a bit of a problem here for me, as this site relies on in-jokes to the extent I have very few readers, and even they don't like most of them. But even still.


As far as I can work out if this is correct, and the calculations remain the same, the US population will reach 300m people on the 14th October 2006.

Update: I was right!

The Blame Game

Some Muslim leaders have come under criticism for (rather stupidly) linking terrorism in Britain to Britain's foreign policy. I remember one of our most fearless broadsheet commentators making a similar argument a few years ago. Oh yes, it was Nick Cohen, of the Observer.

Nick Cohen, October 2001

British involvement doesn't merely endanger the luckless citizens of Afghanistan. Like so many others, I had resolved to be coy about the consequences for "homeland security" of British subservience - no one wants to be called a coward in wartime. I changed my mind when a New York radio station phoned. "Aren't the British scared that Blair is turning them into a target for Bin Laden?" asked a concerned interviewer. Well, yes, many are, I replied, astonished that broadcasters in New York of all cities were asking questions that the BBC dodged.

and again in November 2001

America is in Tony Blair's debt. Because Bush can barely be trusted to behave when he's let out in private, Blair has turned himself from British Prime Minister to American ambassador and willingly accepted exhaustion and humiliation as he tours the world on the President's behalf. He has ordered British troops to stand 'shoulder to shoulder' with the US military.

He has - and there's no point being prissy about this - pinned a large target sign on this country.

Peter Hitchens attacks America and Motorways

Quite a rant really.

And motorways.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


I am pleased that the News of the World is in trouble over phone-tapping.

I am concerned of the repercussions that the ousting of Cynthia McKinney as the Democratic candidate in Georgia will have for the party. As Jacob Weisberg says in Slate:

This is a signal event that will have a huge and lasting negative impact on the Democratic Party. The result suggests that instead of capitalizing on the massive failures of the Bush administration, Democrats are poised to re-enact a version of the Vietnam-era drama that helped them lose five out six presidential elections between 1968 and the end of the Cold War.

Btw, I can't agree with Weisberg when he says (of political extreme Democrats): "Many of them appear not to take the wider, global battle against Islamic fanaticism seriously. They see Iraq purely as a symptom of a cynical and politicized right-wing response to Sept. 11, as opposed to a tragic misstep in a bigger conflict"

I'll accept the first sentence, with reservations. But the second is unrelated to the first. There's a very good case to be made that Iraq was a cynical and politicised right-wing response to the 11th of September tragedy, rather than a tragic misstep. Believing that has no bearing on your view on the war against terror.

Finally I'm pleased that the drought conditions are leading to a 'carpet of toxi blug-green algae' in London's canals. That'll teach people to believe the marketing hype about 'luxury' or even 'landmark' apartments. Doesn't look so much like Venice now, does it?

Or maybe it does.

Airline security

The new airline security measures which essentially have restricted hand luggage to the bare minimum (can you not even take a book? What are you meant to do on long flights?) confuse me slightly. I thought hand luggage was subject to more rigorous security checks than hold luggge? Is the idea that only a small explosive would cause damage to the cabin but it needs a larger one in the hold?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The price of coke in London

At the newly opened Pelican pub on All Saints Road, the man next to me ordered a pint of lager and a pint of coke, and it came to £6.80. Apparently the coke was £3.60 a pint. Is that record? Or has anyone seen a £4 pint of coke?

These people, the Republican Guard of the excellent Martin's Money Saving Tips, would faint.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Greenhouse Gas Offsetting

Over here we've been discussing the policy of offsetting your carbon (dioxide) emissions though buying credits from someone like this lot. At the moment, for instance, to offset a flight to Berlin (return) the cost would be £ 1.69, based on emissions 0.23 Tonnes of CO2.

This seems rather cheap to me. Apparently the UK could offset its emmissions for about £3bn a year, whilst the world could do it for about $300bn a year. This is a large sum of money, but in the context of global GDP it is not so much, a little under 1% I think, and we're talking about 100% of the emissions. To reduce them by the Kyoto accord's 5.2% (on 1990 levels) we'd be looking at $5bn or so, and that's for the whole world, not just developed countries.

So is this the easy option?

I think this cost must underestimate the true cost. I'm not entirely sure why but I think this is the reason.

As I understand it offsetting works in one of three ways. Either a) the CO2 you emit is offset by something like some trees being planted which magically sucks it in whilst you're in mid-air, b) the CO2 you emit is offset by someone else not emitting it because they have been paid not to, so for example they've not taken a plane flight, c) because the money you have spent has reduced their emissions through greater effiency, ie you've built them a new power station and taken away their old coal one.

Even when described fairly the offset companies are a bit sceptical about (a). So its (b) and (c) which actually do work. But there's only a certain amount of offsets that can be done in this way at this price. At the moment there are some very easy projects - replacing coal-fired power stations with gas ones, certain (apparently) types of cookers, closing down East European industry. So it might be the case that you or I can take a flight and get someone else to stop producing enough CO2 to offset it. But this can only happen because so few people do it. The cost represent by the offsets is not a measure of the damage done to the environment by C02 emissions (if such a thing can be measured) but the cost of getting someone else to cut down their emissions. On the margin this is easy, but it's not in aggregate.

Is that right?

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Lords debate on homosexual law reform, 1965

Brushing interventions asidee like some importunate fly, he [Lord Montgomery] declared that the task of Parliament was not to help homosexuals but to build a bulwark against their evil influence. This sort of thing might be tolerated by the French, but we were British - Thank God.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Cycling Router

It's early days but this site might be interesting when it gets more popular - it shows peoples' favourite cycle routes.

This is the British Moment

From the Henry "Scoop" Jackson Society:

A funny thing happened at Thursday night's launch of the Henry Jackson Society's new foreign policy manifesto, the British Moment. A room full of two hundred of ‘the great and the good’ cheered to the rafters at the prospect of a huge increase in both the scope and frequency of British ethical intervention abroad over the coming decade. And this at a time when the nay-saying, doom and gloom-mongering and general negativity that has been heaped on the whole democracy-promotion movement in this country has never been greater (negativity, incidentally, that is largely based on the misapprehension that events in Iraq constitute the totality of that agenda rather than a small subsection of it). So what could possibly explain the dichotomy between the perceived atmosphere and Thursday night's reality?

Er...could it be that it is a rather biased sample?

Cohen confused

In today's rant Nick Cohen after arguing that worrying about planes is silly as we don't fight enemies with air forces anymore, he then turns tail and says:

Take the Type 45 destroyers. The navy was determined to spend money on them rather than aircraft carriers, even though Britain needs carriers to provide a safe base for fighters in combat beyond the reach of suicide bombers.

Over at Aarowatch we've been trying to understand what he means. Can anyone help?

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Tour de France and drugs

As expected Floyd Landis's second urine sample has tested positive for drugs, and it looks certain he will be stripped of his Tour de France title.

I don't really understand the mentality, but then again I don't really understand the drug testing mechanism, so . It seems to me Landis and other sportsmen caught out must be in one of three scenarios. :

1) They thought drug testing doesn't catch the guilty that often and they are taking a calculated risk
2) They thought drug testing does catch the guilty usually but if it does they plan to claim that it is 'natural' and still be allowed to win
3) They didn't take drugs and are innocent and unlucky.

Perhaps there are more. Certainly there's possibly a fourth, which is they took a substance they didn't know was banned. This has been used by Barry Bonds, the generally-thought-to-be-guilty record-hitting baseball player. David Runcimann has an article about him in the LBR (Subscribers), in which he suggests perhaps a fifth explanation, they do take drugs but have convinced themseves they are the victims.

The troubles of car ownership

Gosh owning a car (camper van) is expensive. In the last two months, there's been:

Diesel: I read in a auto industry newsletter than we'd soon pass the pyschological £1 a litre for petrol, which seemed slightly strange given I'd say 50% of the garages I've used in the last month have already passed that point (though I do use motorways a lot which might bias it). And diesel seems to be more expensive. And it does under 25 mpg, so we're talking nearly 20p a mile.

Road Tax: Apparently I'm in the high polluting camp, or at least the 'we have no idea what that is so it can go into the high polluting camp', though given the mpg and age they're probably right. That's £170 a year. I also forgot to pay it, and only found out when I also noticed a...

Smashed side window: Some vandal smashed in my side window, the replacement for which (the window, not vandal) had to be flown in from Japan, taking four weeks and costing £100 as my policy apparently has a £100 excess not the more normal £50.

Flat battery: As referred to here. That was £75.

Carbon Offsets - Apparently if you believe the theory, which I'm not sure I do, I could become 'carbon neutral' for $50.

And then there's insurance and breakdown cover and so on.


Apparently relations of some of our soldiers who have died in Iraq are going to stand against government ministers in elections. I don't think this is a good idea from their point of view, as I think they might be humiliated. But I do think it is a good way of protesting in light of our electoral system. Proponents of first past the post say that one of its main advantages is that the votes cast are for a particular MP. Furthermore Ministers are only able to be Ministers because they have been elected as MPs (obviously you still get Peers as Ministers but it is generally accepted they can't hold senior positions nowadays). If this is true then the sitting MP should welcome as much opposition as possible in order to prove how popular they are.

Friday, August 04, 2006

History in the making

It's been a long time since I visited this 'blog, which of course was the first blog in history, revolutionising onling publishing, and which still today gets more readers than the next 100 most popular blogs combined. Revisiting it reminds me what a brilliant blog it is - no wonder famous and influential people like George W Bush, Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton and luminaries like Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney and Tom Cruise all say it is the first thing they read upon waking.

Via Jackie

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Mel and Steve

Not the dear Times and Telegraph? Apparently so. Mel attacks the "supposedly pro-Israel Times", declaring "With friends like this on the Times, who needs enemies?". Worse, still, is the Telegraph, which has "sign[ed] up to the psychological pogrom against Israel" (with the slightly bizarre argument that if an air force 'leaflets' an area first it means anything that happens later is OK). Thank God for the Brooklyn Public Library, which has bought her rant, Londistan. Mel declares "Civilisation in Brooklyn has taken a small step back from the brink."

Pollard meanwhile has an article asking why the press refer to "Israelis" attacking and so on, rather than "Israel". Apparently you would never see the headline "Russians Pound Chechnya". Except perhaps in this Reuters story.

What a stupid man. I don't think he's ever been brought to account for his declaration that "The mainstream Left has demonstrated clearly which side of the battle to preserve Western civilisation and freedom it is on. The Left, in any recognisable form, is now the enemy.". To that end, I think every patron and signatory of the Henry "Scoop" Jackson Society needs to be contacted and ask whether they believe he is someone they wish to associate with.

Update: Pollard's "Maida Vale Manifesto" has four signatories, if you count 'yes' comments as signatories, after four months. At that rate it will hit the 1000 mark in about 83 years. So far I have emailed Michael Ancram and Paul Beaver to ask whether Pollard is representative of the H'S'JS - if they reply I will update.