Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Considering The Jimborg

Proposition 1: Wikipedia is ruined, as a reliable information source, by edit wars.
Proposition 2: Generally, edit wars happen when people care about the information.
Proposition 3: People care more about information with a high social, as opposed to factual, value.

Theorem: The value of Wikipedia as a reliable information source is strongly inversely correlated to the social value of the information sought.

1st Corollary: Smart-phone access to Wikipedia will be the death of pub quizzes.
2nd Corollary: Wikipedia, en masse, has a significant social value.

The Cynics View: It is often useful to know, not just the truth, but what the mass herd of human sheep believe. In countries where the Daily Mail is not available, Wikipedia has an role.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Dodgy BBC Graphic

Also known as - "Not even Gordon's that crap":

Look, I know it is just incompetence in Excel but, please, this is a major media organisation, funded by our money, not an independent. Editors, producers, graphic designers, a moral duty to accuracy, etc, etc.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Or is it? In real terms, remembering that this is US not UK law, it is just another formal step to take in the forensics process - i.e. get your warrant before you start your analysis. There is a much more detailed analysis of how this fits in with the 4th Amendment, 'zipless searches', sniffer dogs noses and 'reasonable expectation of privacy' at Arstechnica and a post on the Volokh Conspiracy which explains why anyone was looking at the computer in the first place. And you could always read the actual judgement which seems balanced and reasonable.

Hash table comparisons, both to exclude known material (NIST produce lists for standard operating system builds and application software installations) - leaving just items that may have been created or altered by the user, or to identify known bad files (malware as well as porn) are great tools for digging straight down into potentially relevant material. Couple this ability to rapidly identify potential evidence with the EnCase Gallery and Timeline views and you can often quickly include or exclude data sources from your case evidence.

The bit about platters seems to be a rather interesting aspect of an important element of US law - did the initial private citizen's viewing of a few images mean that a warrant was not required for a more comprehensive law enforcement search? (This, I suspect, is actually an administrative rather than substantive point for future investigation - would you be refused a warrant if you had a witness complaint of kiddie pr0n? I doubt it.) The contrast between the findings of the Runyan case - a search of a random selection from a collection of disks by a private individual was held to not permit a warrantless search of the whole collection - and this case where viewing some files on a disk does not permit the search of the whole disk is interesting. However, it seems to be based on a slight misunderstanding of technology - disks do not record sequentially on platters, which are an integral component of the overall disk rather than, as appears to have been believed, analogous to the individual CDs in a multichanger cartridge - the information will be scattered across them, therefore there is no reasonable belief that the initial private search did not view multiple platters. Having said that, that the EnCase search was "a search different in character from the one conducted by Hipple, and thus it cannot be defended on the grounds that it did not exceed the private party search" is obvious.

On the whole, it seems to be an excellent judgement, if of minor relevance to UK & European investigations. Anyway, it is back to the 1st rule of digital forensics - it is your evidential processes that will screw things up, not the (ab)use of technology!

Monday, November 10, 2008

More wrong than a very wrong thing ...

H/t to Tom Paine:

There Are 0 Gaps in Your Knowledge

Where you have gaps in your knowledge:
  • No Gaps!

Where you don't have gaps in your knowledge:
  • Philosophy
  • Religion
  • Economics
  • Literature
  • History
  • Science
  • Art

In 21 questions they manage to comprehensively categorise my knowledge? Clearly not. Art, music, sport, literature, economics (much to Mrs S-E's disgust) - all are areas where I am notoriously weak. Science, history, law & politics - I am generally better at. Some more specialist areas, I can 'Bore for Britain' on :(

Just remember - "Any day when you don't learn something new is a day wasted!"

"unimaginable sexual depravity"

Well, Dacre P has clearly either gone through life with his eyelids welded shut and his ears stopped with wax1 or is a screaming hypocrite for not being able to imagine a little bit of what 'charmingly' used to be called 'le vice anglaise' and that 'multi-millionaire' doesn't mean 'able to pay for it'. Guess which option, although I'm not convinced these are mutually exclusive.

Update: Sorry, I was busy this morning and didn't quite finish the first thought - where does a little consensual S&M (even if some of the participants are being paid) fit in, either "unimaginable" or "depraved" amongst the stories of paedophilia, sexual slavery, torture and other activities that the Daily Hate thinks is appropriately prurient entertainment for the common masses?

Okay, I do appreciate that I am taking a BBC News report on trust but I've done the same for the Daily Mail in the past so ... Update: And the full text is available here, in Word format - haven't these people heard of pdf? And the BBC report seems to be a reasonable extract (rather than any attempt at a summary - there is lots of self-congratulatory hubristic tripe about the excellence of the career of Dacre P not covered in the report) and, to be fair to the Beeb, they did also extract his moaning about their state-sponsored power and influence. But they missed this phrase, refering to Mosely: "the very abrogation of civilised behaviour of which the law is supposed to be the safeguard". I refer you to the paragraph above!

Whether Mosely's activities are seen as "perverted and depraved" is completely irrelevant when you consider "the crooks, the liars, the cheats, the rich and the corrupt2 sheltering behind a law of privacy". Mosely, assuming that none of what actually happened (as distinct from what was reported - even with the video evidence, the two not being as linked as journalists would like us to believe) was illegal has not committed a crime. Now, if I had evidence of a crime, being fairly old-fashioned about these things, I would expect to report it to the police3 rather than to the media - as the police can gather evidence rather than speculation and have people arraigned for trial in court rather than on the front pages.

But then I'm not a turd at the Annual Conference of Enormous Faecal Deposits trying to justify why I pong quite so much.

Update 2: If anybody from the "Society of Editors" does chance to read this, you are (technically, 'seem to be') way, way out with your Apache server updates - 1.3.33 is 6 versions out of date, 5 of which have had security functionality fixes4. If you can't upgrade to 2.2(currently).10 then you need to get your arses onto 1.3.41 sharpish.

1. I may be on to something here, though. You know, like blind people developing better hearing? Well, if you force yourself to be deaf and blind, maybe your voice develops a particularly penetrating screech? To 'toynbeeise' yourself, to coin a new and unpleasant word?

2. My joining. Which is probably not justified given the multiple use of 'the'. The 'rich and corrupt' are clearly a legitimate target for investigation (as would the 'rich who place themselves in the public eye' but why should the merely rich not have the protection of privacy? If you just happen to design a better widget, why is your door-step any more of prurient interest than anyone else's?

3. Unless, of course, the 'appropriate' police force is the Military Police (RMP or otherwise). In which case you tell either the miscreant's CO or, if a serious enough civil offence, the civilian police. It's just polite.

4. In case you are questioning the arithmetic, especially in the light of the post above, 1.3.38 never existed and 1.3.40, although it exists and does have two security fixes, was not released therefore I am choosing not to count it.

Friday, November 07, 2008

What to do about the BNP?

Trixy has had a little run-in with the British Racist Party, after she objected to them trying to cosy up to UKIP and claiming support from the Royal British Legion. It's early in the morning but it got me thinking.

  • The BNP are a legal political party, with quite a significant number of representatives at council level and a vague possibility of some Westminster or Brussels representation next time we waste our ballots.
  • Loads of organisations - police, schools, the ballet - will sack you for being a BNP member.
  • Loads of (il)liberals will start screaming for your head on a spike if they discover you have any sympathy with the organisation or even if you agree with their representatives on any specific point (and I have even agreed with Scots Nats on a variety of local issues.)
  • I doubt I am a screaming racist although I probably have some degree of xeno-phobia (the French for a sodding start) and, living the frozen North, am not going to lie to you as claim loads of black friends (or, for that matter, black enemies).
  • Whereas the generic 'we' probably don't hold, and may even deplore, the BNP's positions on many matters, this is the thin end of an extremely authoritarian 'thought crime' stick.
  • I happen to think that "Young Earth Creationists"* and "Intelligent Design" advocates are dangerous loonies who should be kept away from any involvement in the education system. Should my opinion about their entirely legal (if credulous and unscientific) beliefs be enforceable with the sack - especially if they keep it to themselves and don't try and ram it down the throats of their charges?
Clearly, anybody engaging in a crime should be suitably punished after a fair trial and certain motivations for crimes are given special additional punishment because of their corrosive effect on society (e.g. attacking members of the emergency services). But holding opinions, however unpleasant? Many people want to see the return of the death penalty (I don't - I don't trust our prosecution systems and courts to get things right, especially in the sort of notorious cases that would attract the death penalty) - something specifically illegal in the UK under HRA98. Should these people all be thrown out of their jobs (however better a read it might make the Daily Mail)?

If the statist cunts that are failing to run this country had the courage of their convictions (fat chance) they would actually ban the BNP and be challenged about it in court. In the absence of that, perhaps leaving them to fester in their own bile is the best idea and punish people for what they do or try to do rather than what they believe.

Having said all that - my sympathy for Trixy - but that is what you get for poking a wasp nest full of vicious fanatics with time on their hands.

* Like my 2nd Form Chemistry teacher. Oh joy - the basics of organic chemistry being taught by somebody who thought believed that Bishop Ussher may have been out by a whole hour! Or, apparently, by 60 years according to Alice - the joys of Google!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

What we know today

  1. Despite all the whining from the Europhilic liberal elite, it doesn't seem that America is as racist as they might like to portray.
  2. The invasion of Iran is (almost certainly) off.
  3. The electoral college system greatly magnifies relatively small differences in the popular vote. Sort of reminds me of the failings of the first-past-the-post system over here!
  4. The combination of the Smirking Chimp, Sarah Crockett and his age didn't help McCain.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

This blog can be read in Germany.

And, as Gerald Toben found out, you can be arrested in Britain for doing something in Australia that is a crime in Germany (but not in either Britain or Australia.)

Why is this relevant? Because this pseudonymous blog does not carry an "Impressum" - see examples here and here (from real companies) and here and here from 'real' blogs - one already in the author's name and the other otherwise pseudonymous (Ed adds: and one weird one from a - Disney - corporate blog - see what happens when you cross German authoritarianism with Yank legal paranoia.)

So you could argue that the lack of an impressum here, and in many other blogs - for example, we all know who DK and Guido really are, but neither blog carries an official impressum - is an offence against German and Austrian law (and I do occasionally visit Germany and have been to Austria once, although to the best of my knowledge I have never blogged from either country.) So, if I do something to offend the German authorities (frankly, there is so much need for offending the UK authorities, I can't see where I would find the time), I can be arrested in the UK or if I happen to have a business or private trip there (or my plane to somewhere else just diverts). And I don't want to get into the trouble RFS did. And, as ever, the lawyers are already circling around the nearly-dead body of common-law liberty (and, to extend the analogy, snatching a quick snack before the heart has stopped beating).

So, actually, we don't need cretinous Estonian socialists to invent new ways to restrict our liberties - we can be dragged away through totalitarian legislation already proxied into UK law (s3, Extradition Act, 2003). Be afraid, be very afraid.

Barbary Ape test
, everybody?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Isn't Schnadenfreude Fun?

Senator John McCain, who may (or may not) be a zombie, has been bitten in the campaign by the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. And Google told him/them to "bugger off".

After having several campaign videos removed from YouTube for alleged copyright violations, Republican presidential candidate John McCain wants the video-sharing web site to consider special takedown privileges for politicians and their ilk.

McCain '08 general counsel Trevor Potter yesterday sent a letter to YouTube execs claiming the site is too quick to remove their campaign videos based on "overreaching copyright claims." He wrote that on numerous occasions that the material in question was "clearly" privileged under the US fair use doctrine.

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! ROTFL. That's what happens when you create bad laws. You get bad consequences. Sympathy - in the dictionary between shit and syphilis. But, I really love this bit:

Warner Music Group, CBS, Fox News, and other media conglomerates have all sent YouTube takedown notices for McCain videos.

Warner Music Group demanded YouTube remove a McCain video that uses the 1967 Frankie Vallie song "Can't Take My Eyes Off You." CBS wanted a YouTube video removed that used a clip from Katie Couric. And Fox News had a similar complaint about a McCain video that used a clip about the financial crisis.

So it's not "all those people who are abusing the DMCA by bombarding YouTube with invalid takedown notices", it is a legal difference of opinion regarding the extent of the (common law) fair-use doctrine. Which should be tested, if necessary (especially remembering this is the United States of Lawyers) in court, between the (ab)user and the copyright owner. Not by Google who, rich and Kings of the Universe though they are, are not, yet, the legal system*.

Update: And, this, too! Well done, lawyers. Not.

* As we all know that may, or may not be, Wikipedia.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Gesture Politician

I had thought about venting about this yesterday, when I first heard about it, then calmed down and got on with some proper work. Then I read Sam's brief dit on the subject and have come crawling back to my virtual vomit.

Last time I mentioned Christine Grahame, spawn of all that is grotesque and evil in the pustulent boil that is the Scottish body politic, on this blog, I believe I was calling her a cunt. And, guess what, she still is. Spectacularly and publicly so.

So, she wants Mary, Queen of Scots body to be returned from Westminster Abbey to, well, somewhere in Scotland:
She was an iconic historical Scots figure and ultimately the victim of English plotting.

Given the House of Stuart's association with Falkland Palace, a place where Mary is believed to have spent her happiest days, that would appear to be an appropriate place to inter her remains.

Mary is, I am forced to agree, an iconic figure in Scottish history. A pathetic figure - affianced at six months to the child who would be Edward VI and then to the Dauphin, Francis, at 5, she was shabbily mistreated by the vermin that, even then, were flocking to the reeking cess-pit now sited at Holyrood.

Never mind that her happiest days were probably, when not seen through the yellow-tinted spectacles of the SNP, those she spent at the French Court between 1548 and 1561.

Never mind that her friend (and possibly lover but, frankly, who cares) was slaughtered, then her husband was strangled, then she was raped and imprisoned and forced to abdicate - all in Scotland and all by Scottish politicians (even though Darnley was born near Leeds and considered an English subject - albeit the son of a Scottish Duke) - before fleeing to England.

Never mind that England was just recovering from the slaughter and misery of the Counter-Reformation and Mary was seen by many as the Catholic pretender to the English throne (as Elizabeth herself recognised when she suggested Mary marry Robert Dudley and be acknowledged as Elizabeth's heir.) Although the facts of her, direct or otherwise, personal involvement in any of the plots* is lost to history, she was certainly a focal point for these and one of the purposes of a figurehead is to be separated from it.

Never mind that her grave in Westminster Abbey was built by her son, James VI & I, and placed near to Elizabeth's to show that she was as great a Queen as her cousin (although, being honest and despite acknowledging Elizabeth's many faults that tend to be glossed over, Mary was nowhere near as capable).

But, hey, if it gets a couple of the sheeple voting for them rather than Gordo, who cares about history, respect or dignity? Certainly not oor Chrissy.

See what we have to contend with up here? The only realistic alternative to the nu-Labour farce in most of this benighted land, from blasted heath to sixty's slums, are a bunch of dribbling bigots who make DK's 'Barbary Apes' look like statesmen of stature.

* Yes, Walsingham did probably invent or at least provoke the Babington Plot. But even though Mary might not have been eligible to be tried for treason (she wasn't English but the Treason Act 1351 does not specifically require you to be a Crown subject), a case under the Bond of Association could have been made and the prescribed penalty was still death.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The EU is a monstrous waste of money, an affront to democracy and MEPs and Commissioners, generally speaking, don't know their arses from their elbows

and under no circumstances should be allowed a say on legislation.

Stolen, with grateful and slightly inebriated thanks, from Trixy.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Dear Kezia

While your blog is yours (well, Google's lent out to you) and therefore your rules* apply (as long as you don't fall foul of their's), there are good reasons why many of us post pseudonymously or, even, anonymously.

For example, some of mine are:
  • The government thinks that the Human Rights Act Article 10 doesn't apply to me (or Jackart).
  • My employer does not necessarily share my opinions.
  • My fellow journalists.
  • I gain some limited mental release from indulging my potty mouth at the antics of our lords and masters.
  • I think the nym is cool.
Just musing - we are aware that the good Mr Worstall is now Press Officer for UKIP. I wonder whether his Ts&Cs are similar to Mr Towler's (or, even, if the money paying his salary has come in part from EC / EP funding?) I'd hate to see his "ironique et eurosceptique" blog disappear too.

Update: And see the comments on the it-might-just-be-a-kite-flown-by-the-Stasi EU Blogging Code here.

* From here sidebar: " I retain the right to delete those ... posted anonymously - If I'm prepared to publish in my own name you can too."

Monday, September 22, 2008

Just what does Google know?

Reading the ever interesting Mr Worstall, I noticed some slightly disturbing Google Ads links seeming attached to the name of our glorious Foreign Secretary and putative Brutus.  See for yourself:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Trampled under the Jackboot of

You see, it's not all a horrible conspiracy! Loony bug-eyed socialist bloggers get hammered by legal threats too (actually, Tim is definitely on the left side of sensible and Craig certainly reads that way. Update 2: and, of course, I had forgotten about the undeniably left-wing Harry's Place). But 15 minutes? I can barely pour, never mind drink, a G&T in 15 minutes, nowadays ...

Seriously, this is ridiculous. Although I am quite surprised that a fairly personal letter from the daughter of an SNP councillor to the First Minister and Leader of the SNP ended up in the hands of a gossipy Trot, you can never really tell what is going to crawl out the sack of rabid ferrets that is Scottish Politics*. So, kudos to Kezia for publishing, yah-boo sucks to Bannatyne, Kirkwood, France and Co., who, it has to be said, seem to normally make their money on the right side of the fence. Update: I notice you aren't suing the Torygraph and best of fucking luck having a go at wikileaks. I don't think they're going to be scared by you or by your mate Carter-Fuck.

Oh, and what I think about the 'good' Councillor - you were a turd before this, and a turd you remain.
Anyway, if you wish to read the letter and, frankly, it shows you what an excellent role model for a modern Muslim father Councillor Hanif truly is, you can read it here.

As an irrelevant aside, isn't it an interesting coincidence, apart from sheer serendipity that gives you the Kezia Bulldogs site (which could lead to all sorts of lipstick jokes), you also have the founder of "Scotland for Obama 08" sharing a relatively unusual Christian name with Obama's step-mother.

Update & *: Including, my bad, people who copy highly personal letters to the newspapers. And, if Cllr Hanif, or his representatives do read this, exactly which of the allegations against you are false? The guns? The violence against children? The 'promise' of forced marriage? Your misogynism, temper or racism? Just asking, as a concerned voter.

Monday, September 15, 2008

This is utterly evil

This is far worse than "Sarah's Law". That would be bad enough, given the manifest inability of the British public to behave sensibly in almost every conceivable scenario - I am fairly convinced that all that publishing the names and addresses of people on the sex offenders register would do is drive them underground. And, of course, it is not as everybody on that particular register is a middle aged man into raping toddlers - no, of course not.

Young men with a slightly unwise choice of their Friday night shag; people who have accepted cautions (Ed notes: yes, I know it is an old link - but what about the 6,200 people who were cautioned for offences not involving children or rape? What exactly did they do? And what the fuck is happening with people 'cautioned' for rape? Cautions for murder and high treason, next, will we? This is taking the "Sanctioned Detection Rate" culture beyond the fucking piss into lah-lah land); and shortly people in possession of "extreme pornography", victims of yet-another knee-jerk reaction from politicians faced with a distraught mother. (Ed notes, again: You probably wouldn't be surprised at the Google Ads "sponsored links" results for the search for the link for the legislation - please sing along with me, "The Internet is for Porn, the Internet is for porn ...")

No, you can argue whether or not Sarah's Law would be a bad thing - I think it is. But everybody who would be targeted as a result of that suggestion would have been convicted (or, it has to be said, accepted a caution) and would therefore, as far as we can trust our legal system, have admitted or been found guilty of a sex-related offence. This is much worse. This is apparently allowing access to the sort of material released on an Enhanced (i.e. child or vulnerable adult protection) disclosure. Which, even when given to sensible people with no particular axe to grind (and no suggestions of kiddy-fiddling) has caused stupid and hideous problems.

Teachers, particularly, seem to be vulnerable to false allegations of sexual impropriety but it can strike anywhere. So their details will now become public - most teachers I know are ex-directory, try not to live within their school catchment area, etc, just so they can avoid the sort of petty harassment the semi-feral youth would inflict on somebody who has dared to give them homework, or a detention, or failed an exam, or "dissed 'em". I am not saying, in any way, that allegations should not be properly investigated but, if that happens, and there is insufficient evidence for a charge or, even more emphatically, if someone is charged and found not guilty in court, why should that be used by the state to ruin the rest of their lives?

The Chief Constable of West Mercia police, who should know better, is reported as saying:

They talk through this and the subject is party to this, to get a third-party assurance to the clean bill of health which he claims to have.

Wow. What an introduction to state control of our relationships. Not only can we not have a drink without official permission but they are now licencing every snog or grope. What a bunch of statist interfering cunts. And all, ALL, they could possibly be "assuring", is that he - and it is 'he', isn't it - hasn't been caught. These fuckers should be taken out and shot.

I leave the final comment on the stupidity of it all to the police's own leaflet:

Even if a subject doesn't have a record for child sex offences it doesn't mean that he or she is not potentially a risk.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Catch 00010110

Next-door have a new computer. I couldn't persuade them to stump up for a Mac, so it's running Vista. Joy.

Anyway, I got it set up a couple of weeks ago and everything seemed fine. Then, a panicked text message - 'teh interwebs is broken'. Okay. So, I'm just back from my (thankfully brief) mission of mercy.

The box uses their wireless LAN to connect (a nice Victorian house - so no flood wiring) and I had it set up to use the manufacturer's (Netgear) connection wizard rather than the M$ standard one. The security software they had purchased and installed treated the Netgear Smart Wizard as a default-deny (not 'default-ask') application and shut it down as soon as it tried to start up. But, and here comes the irritating bit, to change the settings for the security application(s), they had to be registered / authenticated / whatever, and that required (as was explicit in the instructions) an internet connection. Which was not available because the connection wizard was default-deny. You see the problem.

So, having taken the security application round the back of the bike-sheds and given it a damn good kicking, they are finally back on the net. Why, why, do we (i.e. the security community) make this so difficult for people?

Eugene Kaspersky - you know who you are!

Friday, September 12, 2008

One rule for us ...

h/t The Shrink.

Okay, so, if you are suspected of being loopy, the Mental Capacity Act 2005 requires, s1(4):

A person is not to be treated as unable to make a decision merely because he makes an unwise decision.
Yet the interfering cunts have decided that we are not to be allowed to smoke (I don't but still, I should retain the freedom to do so if I felt like it) in our own homes, can be thrown out of parks for being a greenie in a penguin suit (not one of those either but it's her life), they're going to raise the price of booze and the age you can buy it, and all of the other statist meddling in what some politicians (and medics) might consider "an unwise decision"?

Time, as DK says, to sharpen the cockroaches and have at the fuckers.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Come friendly bombs ...

Well, okay Slough and Heathrow are close but not quite the same place ...

Like most of the commentators on this, I wasn't at the trial and I certainly wasn't on the jury. So we, the commentariat, do not actually know much about the evidence presented (but see a wider take on the statist, "we know better than you" official reaction here).

We know that the police thought it was great, they have told us so (but, then, they thought the Birmingham Six, Colin Stagg and Barry George were guilty.) We know that the CPS either thought there was sufficient to gain a conviction (their usual test) or, more sinisterly, were persuaded to go ahead with the case for political reasons - but stories of CPS incompetence are legion (eg here). We know that 'officials' were "'dismayed' by the verdicts" but they are probably a bunch of mendacious statist cunts. We know that Jacqui Smith praised the police operation but she is just egregious.

We also need to realise the huge difference between a 'Not Guilty' verdict where, until nu-Lab succeed in finally abolishing 'Double Jeopardy' things should stay put (e.g. the verdicts on both charges for Mohammed Gulzar) and 'Unable to reach a verdict.' Hence, despite the vitriol, the reason why a re-trial may actually be appropriate for some of those accused (and some of the charges.) There is also the contentious issue of the release of intelligence information to the court system - there may have been additional probative evidence held back from the jury because of the sensitive and possibly ongoing nature of the technical or human source(s) Ed notes: On the other hand, if there was exculpatory evidence held back by the prosecution (or the law enforcement and intelligence personnel assembling the original case) then this would be appalling but not surprising!

I would note that there were quite a lot of guilty pleas in this for it to have been the conspiracy in a pop bottle some have made it out to be (however incompetent or unlikely the explosives engineering may have actually been.) Not as clear cut, either as a law enforcement success or as a "was disliking the government while being Muslim" breach of ancient (but decayed) human rights.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Forgotten Heroes

I was hanging around the streets of power recently, waiting for an appropriate time to head for my next meeting, and I came across the Buxton Memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens.  So I took a picture.

Memorial to Sir Thomas Buxton

We're not taught that much about the abolition of the slave trade and what we are taught seems only to mention Wilberforce. It is obvious that it must have taken more people to drive such a radical idea (for anywhere in the world) through Parliament.  So there we go: Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, 1st Baronet.


Justin, at the normally excellent but recently quite quiet Chicken Yoghurt, is having a few problems:

This Account Has Exceeded Its CPU Quota

Please contact this site's webmaster.

Wait a few minutes and use your browser's "Back" button or click here to try again.

If you are the webmaster, your account may have gotten this error for one or more of the following reasons:
  • Your account has used more than its share of the cpu in the past 60 second sliding window.
  • Your account has too many concurrent processes running simultanously.
  • Your account has consumed too much memory.
  • Your site was recently very busy trying to run inefficient scripts.

The solution would be to optimize your applications to use less CPU.
Adding appropriate indeces to your SQL tables can often help reduce CPU.
Using static .html documents instead of painful .php scripts will practically eliminate CPU usage.

Despite the (completely accurate) comments of people like Tim at Bloggerheads, regarding the manifest limitations of Blogger* (especially when tracking down evil sock-puppets and other vermin of the great, but entirely hypothetical, right-wing blogging conspiracy), it is why I still stick with the Google Borg manifestation. Too much trouble, otherwise, it seems.

Update: It seems to be strongly intermittent. Say 3 out of 5 forced refreshes (i.e. so I am not getting the result from my ISP cache.)

* i.e. You cannot get the IP address associated with a specific comment.

Privacy on Employer Computers

There has been a recent ruling in the USA (strictly, a Supreme Court ruling in the State of New Jersey) that you have little expectation of privacy on computers at work. While I agree partly with Masons - the statement by Mr Docherty that the equivalent scenario (significant theft by employee) would allow a similar investigation in the UK, and the statement by Mr Malcolm that permitted personal use does create an expectation of privacy (but only in material covered by "permitted personal use" - i.e. not including theft from your employer or, for that matter, anybody else. Ed notes: Unless you are a lawyer, perhaps? Many people on the wrong end of a lawyer's bill consider that, like taxes, legally sanctioned theft!)

However ...

The Data Protection Act 1998, s29(1), exempts the processing of personal information for "the prevention or detection of crime"; SI (Statutory Instrument) 417/2000, where processing is "is necessary for the purposes of the prevention or detection of any unlawful act", exempts you from the explict consent requirements of Schedule 3*; and SI 2699/2000, the appallingly titled "The Telecommunications (Lawful Business Practice) (Interception of Communications) Regulations 2000", S3(1)(a)(iii) allows interception for "the purpose of preventing or detecting crime" and (iv) allows it for "the purpose of investigating or detecting the unauthorised use of that or any other telecommunication system".

So, actually, as far as investigation goes (as opposed to monitoring which is covered by the non-statutory Information Commissioner's Employment Practices Code - Section 3), you actually have a fairly free reign.

Mr Malcolm's suggestion that you should contact the police is interesting (and you certainly should if you think you are in possession of material that creates a strict liability offence of possession for you) but you will often be much better off (and have it sorted much more quickly) if you take legal advice and engage a professional forensic investigator. Not all abuses or malpractice are criminal and, in any case, the particular event or accusation you are worried about would have to be really quite significant (or merely high profile for one or more senior cops, if you'll pardon the cynicism) for you to be high up the priority list for the relevant police specialists.

Now, back to swearing ...

* Note that s2(g) of DPA98 makes information about "the commission or alleged commission ... of any offence" sensitive personal data.

No, No, Fucking NO!

Dear Mr Massie,

While I agree with you that our Lords and Masters, particularly those who are utterly fucking unimportant (i.e. work for the local council), are a bunch of statist control-freaks and prurient self-important jobsworths and, I also agree with you that the Anti-Terrorism Laws in this country are being abused, would you please stop making stupid mistakes?

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 is not an anti-terrorism law. Part I and Part II were brought in to place to bring common, existing police and other government investigative practice onto a basic legal footing (otherwise they would have been illegal under the Human Rights Act - Article 8, Right to a Private Life*, I believe.) Yes, Part III was sold to the fools collective we call Parliament because paedophiles (mostly) and terrorists (a little, but remember this was enacted before 911) were about to destroy the world through competent use of encryption but, still, accuracy please.

* The article contains the following relevant phrase:
There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law

Friday, September 05, 2008

I've tried Chrome

But I am not posting from it. Not because of the EULA, they've fixed that. But because my loverly "Open (All) in Tabs" has gone. So I'm a dirty rotten holdout then. Until they fix that, at least.

I just don't get these

From this article. Yes, I get that some fanatics consider that anything other than strictly theologically defined celebrations are sacreligious - this is not an Islamic monopoly - churches in England still bear the scars inflicted by the Puritans and as for Scots and Irish Presbyterians? They are entirely with the late Ayatollah Khomeini in the clerical wing of the Fun Police.

Nope. Understand that (if still not happy about it.) But what about this:

Sheik Abdul-Aziz Al Sheik "also heads the Presidency for Scientific Research and Religious Edicts". Didn't take them long to want to top-trump Mrs Palin, did it? Scientific research and religious edicts? The Most Rev Rowan Williams for President of the Royal Society? His Holiness Pope Benedict for Head of Research at NASA? Err, no, don't get it.

And on a lesser level ...

"Buthaina Ba-Aqeel, 51, said she used to throw birthday parties at home for her children, but they were low-key and not on the same day the child was born — to avoid singling out one particular day during the year to celebrate."

No, you miserable misguided fool. You used to throw parties for children. If they were "birthday parties" they would have been on or near (Saturday after seems normal for kids with natal days falling in school seasons) their birthday.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Imagine If

Dizzy got there first but I'm going to carry on regardless ...

Imagine if Iain Dale was composing a list of the worst 100 political blogs. Would we be entertaining any notion that a blogger could reasonably demand to be excluded, even on the grounds that they regard it as "damaging to their reputation"?

Just thinking, that's all.

Chrome - some questions

Okay, I've not tried Chrome yet, 'cause I'm working in London with my MacBook but I do intend to have a go once I get home and have a Windoze box to play with.

First, though, a couple of questions.

1. Is Chrome open source, as the Googlistas claim? Well, look at the licence:

"10.2 You may not (and you may not permit anyone else to) copy, modify, create a derivative work of, reverse engineer, decompile or otherwise attempt to extract the source code of the Software or any part thereof, unless this is expressly permitted or required by law, or unless you have been specifically told that you may do so by Google, in writing."

Looks pretty "closed source" to me.

2. After all the fuss about the stupid EULA clause (see here for a good explanation, here for the apparent retraction and here for some swearing), why (11:20BST / 10:20GMT-UTC*) does section 11.1 of the bloody EULA still read:

"You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services."

My emphasis, clearly. 

3. With this from the EFF as well, regarding the Omnibox, do any of you over-brained under-socialised fucking cretins actually understand what "Do no evil" actually means?

* Our more perceptive reader(s) and any associated pedants may quibble that GMT and UTC are actually different timing systems.  I do, of course, agree but would point out that as I am measuring in minutes (and it is 11:33ish BST now anyway) not fractions of a second, the difference is irrelevant.

Update: Fuck me, that was quick (11:40BST) - a refresh on the EULA now shows the following:

"11. Content license from you

11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services."

This, of course, is completely un-necessary in the licence agreement. I retain the property rights in my house too, without the permission of Google's lawyers. And, it has to be said again, I have few if any legal rights in the vast majority of what I view or read in any browser.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Now, the blindingly obvious

Thanks to DK, we have "The Geek Test".

98% Geek

As Homer would say, "Duh!"

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Accurate Propaganda in the War on Fat

I interrupt my self-imposed silence to bring you this important public service announcement - the BBC has posted something almost accurate on its web-news:
Obesity 'equal to terror threat'

The threat to Britain and the NHS from rising obesity is as grave as that posed by terrorism, a top expert says.
I said almost, because Comrade Professor Hunter then goes on to suggest 'ministers should be taking "bold action" now'. Apart from the ridiculous conceit that the current bunch of Gordo's finger-puppets are capable of doing anything bolder than "exactly what Nanny tells them", the reason that the threats to this nation from obesity and terrorism are equal is that they are both minimal (as far as the "nation" and, in fact, the vast majority of its denizens are concerned.)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Bird Flu?

Boggle does the mind:

Hope fine, My name is M.MOUNIR working with AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT BANK (ADB) OUAGADOUGOU BURKINA-FASO. During our periodic auditing this year, I discovered a dormant accounts with holding balance of (£5,000.000.00) {Five million British Pounds Starlings} this account has not been operated for the past years. As at this moment, I am constrained to issue more details about this business until your response is received.

My emphasis :)  Why do English plurals seem to be such a problem for 419ers?  Are they generally a problem for English speakers from African countries?  Not from my limited experience but ...

Friday, June 20, 2008

More on the EU blogger code.

Not surprisingly, this has attracted more than a little scorn from a few people.

But let us remind ourselves:

whereas weblogs are an increasingly common medium for self-expression by media professionals as well as private persons, the status of their authors and publishers, including their legal status, is neither determined nor made clear to the readers of the weblogs, causing uncertainties regarding impartiality, reliability, source protection, applicability of ethical codes and the assignment of liability in the event of lawsuits,
Okay, I'll try:
  • I suppose I am a private person - an interestingly undefined term - I am certainly not a public figure.
  • Hang on, I have appeared on TV a couple of times, I have given evidence to Parliamentary committees, I have been interviewed by mainstream media. Am I a 'private person' still?
  • Oh, no, actually, I am a 'media professional' - I do get paid (occasionally and generally late) for writing articles.
  • But it isn't my main source of income (not really even pin money).
  • But my blog does occasionally cover information security, which is what I write professionally about.
  • But I am not a member of the NUJ nor have I registered myself with the government as a blogger.
  • I am not impartial, clearly, but then neither are MSM journalists.
  • Source protection? In the USA this might have some legal standing, maybe, but not in the EU!
So, clear as mud then! Statist cunts.

The Inexorable March of the Code Napoléon

Well, it is really beginning to wind me up. As people keep pointing out, there is a very significant difference between Common Law nations, such as England1 and America, and Code Law nations, such as most of Europe - i.e. most of the fucking EU. Unfortunately, the egregious cretins at the Berlaymont never take any account of this difference.

I work for an IT company and they do quite a reasonable amount of UK national and local government work. We are now looking at bidding for some EU work - in my area - and I have been looking at the Pre-Qualification Questionnaire for this. It amazes me2:

3.1 Is the Applicant insolvent (or the subject of bankruptcy proceedings if an individual) or being wound up? Proof A or C required, see next page for further details.

3.2 Is the Applicant having its affairs administered by the courts?
Proof A or C required, see next page for further details.

3.3 Has the Applicant entered into an arrangement with creditors?
Proof A or C required, see next page for further details.

3.4 Has the Applicant suspended business actitivies?
Proof A or C required, see next page for further details.

3.5 Is the Applicant the subject of proceedings concerning any such matters referred to in 3.1, 3.2, 3.3 or 3.,4 above or in any analogous situation arising from a similar procedure provided for in national legislation or regulations?
Proof A or C required, see next page for further details.

3.6 Has the Applicant been convicted of any offence (if an individual) or judgement been made against it concerning its professional conduct by a judgement which has the force of res judicata?
Proof A or C required, see next page for further details.

3.7 Has the Applicant been guilty of grave professional misconduct?
Proof not required.

3.8 Has the Applicant failed to fulfil its obligations relating to the payment of social security contributions or the payment of taxes in accordance with the legal provisions of the country in which they are established or with those of the country of the contracting authority or those of the country where the contract is to be performed?
Proof B or C required, see next page for further details.

3.9 Has the Applicant been the subject of a judgement which has the force of res judicata for fraud, corruption, involvement in a criminal organisation or any other illegal activity detrimental to the European Community’s financial interests?
Proof A or C required, see next page for further details.

3.10 Following any other procurement procedure or grant award procedure financed by European Community budget, has the Applicant been declared to be in serious breach of contract for failure to comply with their contractual obligation and is the Applicant subject to any administrative penalty as a result of this?
Proof not required.

Now the questions themselves are probably not too unreasonable (although 3.9 is likely to exclude nearly all MEPs and many recipients of EU grants). What concerns me is the "proofs" that are required:

AProof regarding situations mentioned in points 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, 3.5, 3.6 and 3.9 in the form of a recent extract from the judicial record, or failing that, a recent equivalent document issued by a judicial or administrative authority in the country of origin or provenance showing that these requirements are satisfied. The extract(s) or equivalent documentation must be the most recent available.
BYour Imperial Overlords will accept a recent certificate issued by the competent authority of the country concerned as satisfactory evidence that the Applicant is not in the situation mentioned in the point 3.8 above. The certificate must be dated less than four months before the final date for submission of this PQQ.
CWhere no such certificates or documents are issued in the country concerned, they may be replaced by a sworn or a solemn statement made by the Applicant before a judicial or administrative authority, a notary or a qualified professional body in the country of origin of provenance.

Now, where, in a common law country, do you actually get such proofs? If you have done something, there may be a certificate saying that, or not. And "Proof C" is no proof at all - just bloody arse-covering!

Of all of the things I haven't done, I don't have a single piece of paper saying that I haven't done them3. It reminds me of the St Trinian's film4, where the Headmistress (IIRC) says "I'm the only person here with a certificate to say I'm sane!"

1. Scotland, interestingly, is somewhere in between. It does retain most of the aspects of Common Law although much of its early law was codified in the C18 and 'they' are trying to do it again.

2. Although not as much as the ones from pre-Boris London that asked us for the number of transexual lesbians amongst our staff and shareholders. Not information we gather!

3. I don't work with children and am no longer in a specified occupation, so do not have an Enhanced or Standard Disclosure certificate.

4. The 1966 "The Great St Trinian's Train Robbery", apparently (i.e. according to the great god, Google).

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Rule of Law and Other Things

While generally wishing to join in the near-ubiquitous and almost ritualistic praise of David Davis from the rest of the libertarian blogosphere, Rachel and the ukcrypto list (but with Trixy providing some balance?), I would like to make the following points:
  • Important though Magna Carta and habeas corpus are, constitutionally, historically and in demonstrating the utter disregard nu-Lab have for anything that doesn't fit in with their micro-managerial accretion of power to the central state, they are probably less relevant in terms of its constitutional impact on modern Britain than the Lisbon treaty.
  • For a politician to make a stand on a matter of principle is rare. For a high-flyer with, I suspect, a guaranteed seat in the Cabinet if (when, please, when) the Tories win the next election, is amazing.
  • But, you would also have to say and although I disagree with her violently on this, Anne Widdecombe also made a principled stand for 42 days. This is much the same as respecting the Dennises (Canavan and Skinner, not Denis MacShane - Ed notes: interesting google cache of his wikipedia entry: "Denis MacShane (born 21 May 1948) is a politician in the United Kingdom. He is Labour Race Traitor for Rotherham, and was the Minister of State for Europe ...") for standing by their principles whilst disagreeing wholeheartedly with them for being blithering socialist prats.
  • I don't think Davis is taking too much of a risk - a 5000 majority at the last election and the stunning unpopularity of Gordon's cronies?
  • It has let the spin machine distract the press from dumping on Gordon and Jacqui.
  • UKIP need to do something about Bob Spink.
This (h/t Harry Haddock) really makes me think:

Prosecutor Alex Mann said the police went to ensure everything was all right and spoke to Cocker who was 'co-operative and relaxed' and he assured the officers everything was fine.

'He only became worked up when the police asked for his details,' said Mrs Mann.

'The police tried to explain they just needed the name for the report but he became aggressive and started swearing at the officer.'

After the hearing Joan Codling, 57, who lives in the flat below and made the call to police, said she contacted officers after being concerned that he may have fallen ill.

She said: 'I was worried in case he was having an epileptic fit. There was a lot of noise and I didn't know what to do so I called the police.'

A police spokesman said Cocker became 'aggressive' towards the officers who feared for their own safety.

The spokesman said: 'Parva spray was used to stop any confrontation and was necessary to protect the officers and any members of the public who were around at the time.

'Within the circumstances, we feel we used reasonable force.'
So many things to say, although this is the Daily Hate report not a list of facts but as I don't actually have access to those ...
  • It is a sad reflection on the isolation of our communities that when a neighbour thinks that somebody may be in medical difficulties, they call the police rather than going and knocking on their door.
  • I suspect that Cocker was technically wrong in refusing to give his name (and that this is why he was convicted). Even PCSOs, I believe, can require you to identify yourself (one of their few statutory powers.)
  • If the guy was trying to shut his door, how on earth could the police fear for their safety? Surely they are safer on other side of a door from somebody they have unnecessarily pissed off than with no barrier between them.
  • Pelargonic Acid Vanillylamide - "primarily affects the eyes causing closure and severe pain." Lovely stuff.
And, finally, this. One of the problems we have in the UK is that we generally assume that rules have been put there for a sensible reason so, unlike the Italians or the French, will normally comply (hence our usual polite queuing - unless you live in Merton). Companies are scared to disobey the rules of the nanny state because the punishments are arbitrarily severe (and fighting them legally costs so much more than just avoiding the problem.) But, it has to be said, Tescos (corporately) are, as has been said here before, a bunch of prats.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Yet Another Voluntary 'Code'

From the home exemplar of cretinous suggestions - the European Parliament:
Suggests clarifying the status, legal or otherwise, of weblogs and encourages their voluntary labelling according to the professional and financial responsibilities and interests of their authors and publishers;

In this context the report points out that the undetermined and unindicated status of authors and publishers of weblogs causes uncertainties regarding impartiality, reliability, source protection, applicability of ethical codes and the assignment of liability in the event of lawsuits.

Actually, the report is only 8 pages and full of Euro-shit, so its "pointing out" consists of this unevidenced statement:
whereas weblogs are an increasingly common medium for self-expression by media professionals as well as private persons, the status of their authors and publishers, including their legal status, is neither determined nor made clear to the readers of the weblogs, causing uncertainties regarding impartiality, reliability, source protection, applicability of ethical codes and the assignment of liability in the event of lawsuits,

So, because some journos blog, then all the actual human beings who do so must wear a yellow star on their blogs (yes, sorry, Godwin)?  Would they just bugger off and die?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

No It's Not

A 'smurf attack' not especially nasty, that is.  It is, however, old news

The attack consists of a flood of ICMP echo reply packets generated by exploiting the "broadcast address" feature of the Internet Protocol.  It is defended against by dropping packets aimed for such addresses outside of local networks (i.e. at routers).  See here, as well as the CERT-CC advisory.

The 'fraggle attack' is a similar concept but using the UDP protocol rather than ICMP (after many people just started blocking ICMP at the firewall.)

Smurfs, on the other hand, are truly hideous.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Future of "Intrusion Prevention"?

Bruce Schneier has been one of the influential thinkers in the information security profession for much of its existence.  A professional cryptographer (he designed the common Blowfish algorithm and the Twofish algorithm that was one of the five finalists in the AES competition), he wrote what is still a key work in the field, "Applied Cryptography", but has been working in the wider security arena for some time - running his own intrusion detection outsourcing company - Counterpane - now part of BT.

In a recent CSO Magazine interview, he answered a number of questions on the changes in security, mostly concentrating on the anti-terror / airport security situations he castigates in his most recent book, "Beyond Fear".

However, much to my delight, he then said this, talking about security ideas from the insect world:

But the neatest story I've found is about how lima bean plants defend themselves. When two-spotted spider mites attack them, the plants emit a chemical distress signal. The distress signal helps in three distinct ways. One, it gets other, nearby lima bean plants to start sending out the same distress signal, even if they're not being attacked yet. Two, it repels other two-spotted spider mites. And three, it attracts carnivorous mites to land on the lima bean plants and prey on the herbivorous two-spotted spider mites. Yes, the plants have evolved to call in air strikes against their attackers.

My emphasis.  Yes, one of the gurus of computer incident response seems to have proposed active response by ground attack aircraft on suspected computer criminals.  Now, if we could just get this added to the Council of Europe Cybercrime Convention then incident response will become a lot noisier!

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Spread of Illiteracy

Whatever the failings of the British establishment, and they are many, varied and manifest, you always used to be able to rely on them for the graceful depth of their classical education, "le bon mot et le mot juste" and the correctness of their grammar. The V&A museum is as establishment as you get.  Hence my surprise at the surprisingly illiteracy of one of their posters I saw this morning; advertising their exhibition, "China Design Now".

As a Scot, I am quite sensitive to the pedantic distinctions between Scots, Scotch and Scottish.  Therein lies the source of my dismay.

"China Design Now" suggests the field of fine ceramics.  Perhaps "China: Design Now", suggesting the country, or "Chinese Design Now", suggesting the nationality or population, were considered too elitist or merely too correct for Brown's Britain? 

Thursday, June 05, 2008

BT Phorm Trial Report Leaked

The report is available here and Alexander Hanff has an analysis up here.  I'm not sure the Security section (3.7) is adequate but this does seem to refer to a much older version of the malware.  Equally, as this is a 'Technical Validation', there is little treatment of the legal, regulatory or ethical issues which, it has to be frank, are the biggest problem with this appalling idea, although there is a minimal mention in Section 4 (Broadband Terms & Conditions).

I particularly like this apposite (we say 'security', we mean 'Revenue Share') typo from the "Success Criteria" section:

An interesting iota of excrement from the great { Phorm / Webwise / 1-2-1 Media / evil spyware b*stards } debacle.

Boggles, Mind, The

Now, as a libertarian, I am against state interference.  As a humanitarian, however, I realise that some "parental choices" are simply a guise for child cruelty. But, why, oh why:

They declared: "It is the National Tax Board's view that Elvis is a first name of a masculine type and as such may, in light of standard practice, be considered clearly inappropriate as a first name for a woman."

The unfortunate nipper's mother has vowed to battle on and to "continue calling her daughter Elvis whatever the eventual outcome" of an appeal.

The Local notes that another Swedish couple, who last year locked horns with the tax authority over their daughter's proposed name, eventually prevailed and will now have to answer to young Metallica when she's old enough to realise just how daft her mum and dad are.

is it the "National Tax Board" who have control over the naming of children?  I could understand it being the Registrar or the local mayor's office but the Infernal Revenue? Even in Polly's socialist utopia, young Elvis shouldn't need to pay tax for another 15 or so years!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Idiots Just Keep Surprising Me

Well, he is a Yank and a lawyer, so that is two strikes agin him in the great lottery of life but:

Lane's attorney, Paul Rosen, said it was outrageous that his communications with his client might have been compromised. "You can't imagine the discomfort of learning that Larry Mendte, who is working for CBS . . . may have had access to her most intimate and personal communications," Rosen said.

Now, I'm not condoning any computer crime - even the relatively minor one of looking at somebody else's email but ...
  • Will people stop treating email as if it is some sort of secure system.  The analogy normally used is that it is like writing a postcard in pencil - trivial to read and easy to change.
  • "may have had access to her most intimate and personal communications" - no, no, no! Please, don't do this on email and, not picking on Yahoo specifically but, if you have to use email, choosing a major web-mail provider is even less clever.
  • "Lane's attorney, Paul Rosen, said it was outrageous that his communications with his client might have been compromised."  He needs to think about just how many ways email communication with his clients may be compromised.  Then he needs to start communicating sensitive information with his clients in a more sensible way.  This is, in the grand scheme of things - essentially trivial - a workplace dispute and 'hacking' that probably is no more technical than a guessed or shoulder-surfed password.  If Rosen was, for some reason, representing a suspected terrorist with FISA warrants and even more sinister espionage in place, his outrage is not going to balance the scales of justice.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Terminal 5

Okay, so Mrs S-E and I have survived our first trip through the 'largest free standing building in Europe'.  More impressively, our luggage made it through as well.

So good things - the overall place seems well designed and the BA lounge is nice (although the music is too loud).

Bad things - the bookshops - there is a small Smiths and a couple of the Irish chain "Hughes and Hughes".  They are too small and the selection is uniformly terrible - absolutely useless. Stanstead is much better served, for example, with its larger Smiths and a Borders land-side and air-side.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Is there really a "banking crisis"?

Okay, a bit of a foolish title. Northern Crock, Bear Stearns, damn nearly Société Générale. There is certainly a problem but a crisis?

I'll admit that I am not trying to refinance my mortgage just now but I got my RBS Final Dividend cheque through the post a few minutes ago. This was a bit unexpected as I was expecting shares but there we go - I probably forgot to post some form or other. It was more of a surprise when I looked at the value - just under a fifth of what they want from me (but are not going to get) in the rights issue. Remember that that is diluting the share capital by 11/18ths, albeit discounted - and that there is also an interim share dividend (about 1/3 of the total).

So, all in all, this emergency £12 billion cash injection is on the order of 3 years customer dividend. Lots of money, indeed, but, hardly, considering how many companies don't pay a divi, the crisis some are making it out to be.

Friday Triviatics

Via RFS, that scourge of the obese faux-socialist, "Are You A Republican?"

I am:
"Congratulations, you're a swing voter. When they say 'Nascar Dad', they mean you. Every Republican ad on the TV set was made just for your viewing pleasure. Don't you feel special?"

Are You A Republican?

Nice to see I am maintaining my middle-of-the-road credentials (when it comes to Yank-o-centric fun polls)!

From the same site and with due reference to Wednesday's discussion of crappy sci-fi (as per Scientology), "Which Science Fiction Writer Are You?":

I am:
Samuel R. "Chip" Delany
Few have had such broad commercial success with aggressively experimental prose techniques.

Which science fiction writer are you?

Not one of my favourite authors, certainly, and a quick check of the library and Amazon doesn't provide me with any confidence I own any of his books (clearly, I had heard of 'Nova'). I wonder if the Welsh Tourist Board book is by the same guy!

And, trying it again, I couldn't make myself come out as Hubbard - the nearest I could do was (the non-scamming) Jerry Pournelle:

I am:
Jerry Pournelle
This old-fashioned writer may be the most unapologetic capitalist in the field. He has also been influential in many other fields, from space policy to the computer industry.

The real Jerry Pournelle once took this quiz, and it told him he was Robert Heinlen (sic).


They call on the Celts: "Rise Up and Vote Labour!"

Annabel Goldie and her merry band of inadequates are under attack from all sides. From Labour for voting for the Government (SNP) budget and from the SNP for claiming some credit for supporting the popular work for what used to be the Scottish Executive.

The latter is reasonable if somewhat cheeky (Ed notes: sorry, pay for link). The Tories had no part in the SNP manifesto and the main policy of the SNP remains independence for Scotland - this is opposed (although hardly the main policy) of the Tories. However, in a minority administration, it is the role of the smaller parties or blocs to support those bits of the main work of the government they do not fundamentally disagree with, in return for government support for bits of their manifesto or more recent commitments. This is politics as normal - somewhat different from the craven submission of the Lib-Dems to the previous nu-Lab brawl.

However, why the attacks from the Labour?

Labour, never mind reeling from the blast at Crewe, can do electoral maths. If they wish to keep their rotting pseudopods on power at Westminster, they need MPs from the Celtic fringe. The threat here isn't really the Tories (although they are doing much, much better) - it is the Nationalists and, especially, in Scotland where wee Alec has not made fools of himself or his team (unlike Wendy, and her uncertain relationship with the GCF). If the SNP can convince the red-rosette sheeple that they have successfully run those parts of Scotland they control, then Labour could be wiped out as a force in Scottish politics. There are Tories here - anti-European, governmental minimalists, social conservatives, economically prudent - there are (what call themselves but aren't) Liberals under rocks everywhere - pro-Europe, bansturbationary, a paler shade of green; but the fight for the heartland, the socialist and wedded-to-it (as well as paid by it) vote is between the SNP and the peculiarly Lanarkshire flavour of nu-Labour.

Just look at the venom put out by those epitomes of Jock-Lab bloggery, the Kellys - attack, after attack, on the SNP (and Kezia is, although obviously less grotesquely obnoxious, really* not much better!) Whether this is organised (or just encouraged) corporately, it is clear that Scottish Labour are running scared. Really scared of being cornered into irrelevance by a properly left-wing, competent and populist SNP, with no monocular cretin in Number 10 to drag them down.

It may well be fun to watch, in a rather sick way, from a libertarian and unionist distance.

* At time of writing, she has 6 posts on her front page - one is pro-Obama, one is pro-choice, the other four are, or contain, attacks on the SNP.

Regionalised Aid

Martin Jacques (h/t Mr E), writing on "Cretinous & Feeble", has produced considerable dissent with his "Hands Off Independent Myanmar, You Evil Imperialist Swine" diatribe. Not surprisingly, given his communist politics and work profile, he hasn't exactly made many friends.

More surprisingly, once you dig under the "I hate the West, the Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, and all it stands for1" nonsense, there are actually some limited but valid points there.

I believe that aid should, where possible, be provided from within the local region. Immediately neighbouring countries may not be entirely practical - regional enmities may make a wider focus more appealing but, as Martin states, there is ASEAN2. There are clear advantages with local culture, local food (remember American maize flour, from yellow maize, being rejected in Africa because it was so different from the local white maize - never mind US rejection of British emergency rations in the aftermath of Katrina, due to BSE concerns3 and, to localise it - the inappropriateness of possibly meat-based European rations in a largely Buddhist community) or merely not being white (let's be honest, the colonial record, whether we are British, Spanish, French, American or, especially, Belgian, is quite reasonably held against us in many parts of the world.)

He, among others, also has a point regarding the "invade and distribute" idiots. Burma is a military dictatorship - their Army may not be doing much on the disaster relief front but they seem to be doing a reasonable job at catching journalists and, I'm sure, could make any invasion quite a difficult proposition. And, given the success we are having at 'Military Aid to the Civil Power' in Iraq and Afghanistan (as opposed to simple military success against conventional or near-conventional opposition), recent history suggests that we would make such a great job of it.

Except, there is one important factor, for local aid to work, the local organisations or countries need to be able to provide it. Often, although it wasn't too bad in the specific case of Burma and Cyclone Nargis, they have suffered from the same disaster as the poster-child country. Very often, they also are poor and need the food, equipment and skilled people for their own projects and issues. And when they can deploy, they don't come up to standard. African (OAS) troops for African conflicts hasn't worked well. Third World troops on UN deployments have done the remarkable and worsened the reputation of the light blue beret / helmet.

The ICRC was founded in Geneva, Oxfam in Oxford, Médecins Sans Frontières in France. Aid, at the moment, means either the UN or the West. And the UN has all the problems of any large bureaucracy. The people of Burma need aid. The West should and should be both allowed and encouraged to provide it. And if that offends a Burmese General or two? Fuck them with a schiltron full of 15 foot pikes (either the not-quite-a-spear or the fish, I don't care!)

1. Except Marx and Stalin, of course, and, even then Mao and 'Brother No 1' did it better.

2. Go on, why .org? This sort of organisation is exactly what the .int domain is for. And it's even free!

3. Not fit for starving Yanks, therefore foisted on to the developing world - the mind-boggling (lack of) ethics of aid!

1 Down, 350 to Go.*

I suspect there will be an awful lot of very nervous Nu-Lab politicians conspiring over their lattes this morning. This was a result entirely deserved by the Great Clunking Fist and his troupe of barely-trained media baboons. Unfortunately, we are unlikely to see the 17.6% swing reflected in a General Election but this is giving formal notice that the normal people of the UK are now completely sick of them, their spin, their taxes and their horridly statist mismanagement of this country, its economy and our freedom.

The Tories threw it away in 1997, by in-fighting, corruption and the arrogance of being in office for so long. Gordon is throwing it away now because that is all he is capable of doing.

What a lovely morning!

* And, it should go without saying, all 78 UK MEPs (or the 72 we'll have to appoint to their sinecure next time round.)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Preaching from Ignorance

Johann Hari, from Monday's 'Independent':

More amazingly still, Britain's weapons do not have a secret launch code. They can be fired or detonated by the commander in charge of them simply by opening them up manually and turning some switches and buttons. Every other nuclear power has an authorisation code known only to the country's leader, which has to be read out to the soldiers in charge of the weapon before it can be used. Not us. Whenever the British government has tried to introduce this basic safety procedure, the Navy has got huffy and refused to participate, saying it is "tantamount" to claiming their officers are not "true gentlemen".

Now, I have to be careful here because, unlike Johann, I actually know what I am talking about, so all this is open source material:
  • Johann is not talking about a "secret launch code" - of course these exist (and change, regularly), he is talking about 'Permissive Action Links' - PALs - in American parlance. These don't stop the weapons being launched or dropped - they are part of the warhead interlocks and stop them going bang. And, it must be admitted, some countries have them fitted on their warheads and the UK doesn't.
  • "Every other nuclear power" - just utter bollocks. Israel, India and Pakistan? I doubt it. I don't think the French have them either.
  • "known only to the country's leader" - Nope. The Soviets had them known to the Political Officers (Zampolit) - not just to the President. In the USA, although the President is the "National Command Authority" when alive, the "National Airborne Operations Centre" (formerly known as the "National Airborne Emergency Command Post" - less formally as 'Kneecap' and before that as 'Looking Glass') is available to take over in the event of mass untimely death* of politicians by means various. They have the codes available.
  • Part of the role of the submarine deterrent force, regardless of which country it belongs to is 'retaliatory strike'. This means that if you attack us with Weapons of Mass Destruction, we will rain buckets of instant sunshine down on you, even if you have killed all of the political leadership. As Jonty Powis (more famous for his part in the rescue of the crew of a Russian mini-sub) pithily but inaccurately put it (I believe on television), we listen to the Today programme and, if we don't hear it, we get worried. Without the expense of NAOC and Airforce One (remember the 'Blairforce 1' farce - and the 'Queen's Flight' is not appropriately equipped), you cannot use PALs in that context.
  • Gentlemen? I believe (and was certainly indoctrinated) that Naval Officers are not considered to be gentlemen anyway. Something to do with Queen Victoria and us hanging a load of mutineers after promising them we wouldn't. Hence the carried swords (as opposed to the Royal Marines and the Army who have them on hangers or on a Sam Browne) etc, etc.
  • And the killer: "They can be fired or detonated by the commander in charge of them simply by opening them up manually and turning some switches and buttons." Utter, utter crap. While not actually requiring everybody on the submarine to take an active part, missile launch requires many people to co-operate, has numerous interlocks and specifically requires keys held under '2-man control'. And that is just the rockets. The warheads themselves have additional safety features.
Hari, you are an utter fucking cretin.

* Is this actually possible? Or, walking away from the nuclear option, would 'timely' for our political classes be 'three score years and ten' (i.e. McCain is well up for it), as opposed to piano-wire garrottes, candiru fish and sharpened cockroaches at the hands of a riotous mob of libertarian bloggers? Just musing.
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