Friday, January 30, 2004

Disposable DVDs not so popular after all, although due to economic reasons rather than ecologic.

So, assuming that we are now in a state of consumer individualism, we can see that success of a concept is weighted heavily towards the short-term gain of the individual. Duh. Question: Is it possible to use this narrow-minded immediacy to create either awareness of sustainability and broader society/influence, or to come up with a system that benefits said more than it benefits the individual? i.e., the consumer benefits and so the scheme stands a chance of survival, but the side-effect is also great.

This could be seen either as an unseen primary effect (where the secondary effect is actually the most visible to the instigator, but lesser on a larger scale), or as a moulding of non-individualism to natural capitalism. The two are are somewhat opposed, but more intertwined than inherently mutually exclusive, I think.

So can we exploit consumerism's primary objectives and fundamental machinations to be of greater benefit to "bigger issues" than current? First, we would have to readily admit that the effects would not be as significant as they would be in a non-capitalist, ideal state, but I feel it is harder to either force or try to convince people to do something when they have already been coaxed into a way of mind that is a). not receptive to such issues, and b). perhaps open to "exploitation".

So far, this is quite abstract, yes. But to take an idea that ties together and worked so well for Star Trek and martial arts, and apply it to economy and society has to start somewhere. It is about using the force present in a system to actually change that system. It can almost be envisioned as a form of momentum - by realising how best to apply further force to the right place, one can influence the behaviour of a moving object to something or somewhere quite different.

>> Shameless plug

Hmm, that's twice in a week I've effectively advertised here. Ah well :) A quick one for our very small MUD, Alternate Universe. There's also a lively forum for general discussion.

Do pop by and say hello.

Blunkett hints at more anti-terrorist powers

Summed up as "we must surround ourselves with as much monitoring and choked supervision as we can muster in order to prevent our overseas dabblings from repercussing against people who we now depend upon." The fact that he claimed "Our enemies who would seek to undermine and destroy our way of life" in India, after we went out there and killed all the locals, is quite delicately ironic.

Someone should sit the UK administration down with a copy of '1984' and a history of the British Empire and not let them rule the country until they've finished reading.

I shall have to read the whole speech over the weekend, link pending.

There's something almost disturbing about watching a dining-table discussion hosted by Mr Portillo, but the subject matter may prove to be interesting. The presence of Ms. Feltz should also be equally intriguing.

BBC 4 (TV), Thursday 5th February, 9.30pm
Dinner with Portillo: "At tonight's dinner Portillo's guests argue about whether or not a privacy law would be in Britain's best interests."

See, this is why I like the BBC...

Quote of the Day today sums up my thoughts so eloquently that I have to blog it...

"Liberty not only means that the individual has both the opportunity and the burden of choice; it also means that he must bear the consequences of his actions...Liberty and responsibility are inseparable."

Friederich Hayek
--The Constitution of Liberty

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Kuro5hin article on two of my favourite themes... Madness and Batman

Have added The Scribe's Warm Cocoon Of Light purely due to the coincidence of it being a). another Scribe, and b). the 10th Google result for my old nym, Laz. Woo! Random dissemination of value through linkage! (Cheers for the link, Phil. Good article.)

Nice summary of the Hutton Inquiry in the news - note the Sun's erstwhile and almost-hypocrytical (IMHO, of course ;) reaction, compared to all others'.

If the BBC undergoes major infrastructural changes, I shall be most downhearted. In my view, the organisation proves that a privately-owned business is not necessary for quality, and indeed that, so long as done right, the lack of pressure from stakeholders and economy can free an organisation to explore and investigate ways and means, rather than selfishly motivate it to new "heights". See Sky One for an example of where large businesses produce pap for popularity's sake, rather than any kind of social "pride".

I also find it interesting that people are claiming that the BBC claimed that the government "lied" to the people. In my mind, "sexed-up" is extremely different to out and out untruth. Exaggeration, embellishment (which I think the government tended towards) is something that falsification is not, and the gulf between the two should be emphasised in this case.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Quick glance at The Big conversation, as I've never really looked at it before. In particular, the Conversation starter page. I'll have to read through it properly later really, but saddening to note the instructions: "Download pdf of this chapter by clicking on image", below a square picture of Mr T Blair without any alt text. Very, very sloppy, and would never pass muster (mustard?) in any serious web agency. This is actually repeated just above, as well. There seems to be a huge rift between people that should be using the net as a communications channel, and the people that know how best to use it, at least in the public sector. None of the government sites I've seen are very good, and it makes me wonder just how serious they are about using the Internet. As always, I get the impression that there's far more emphasis on putting something on-line, and trumpeting the fact, than there is on making it something decent. I'm not really sure which is better - something or nothing, pending something good, but I'm not particularly impressed.

The other thing on that page is this sentence: "The challenge for public services is to provide universal services that are also personalised to individual need, in a consumer driven age."

Maybe I need to stop resisting the onslaught of consumerism, avoid thinking about it as something to steer around, and adjust it into my head such that it is most certainly somewhere that we are currently at, and that it makes more sense to work out how to move away from it. An acceptance in order to work out the best way to move on from it. Perhaps it's of little use to think about our society, and the changes that should be made therein, in terms of choosing between consumerism and alternatives. Perhaps it is more fruitful to decide that we have been drawn into a world of individualism and capital, and use that as a basis of deciding where to go next - keeping hold of the good parts, and discarding the bad.

A subtle change, but a useful one in terms of how we see ourselves. Kind of an "acknowledge there is a problem" attitude, rather than pretend there isn't one and end up struggling against it as a result.

Hence solutions and alternatives need to play upon capitalism - identify what works, and why it works, and build build build upon it in a way that caters to those factors. The path of least resistance.

This is getting somewhat amusing now. Or did it jut turn hilarious a few months ago?

Iraqi who gave MI6 45-minute claim says it was untrue

So, here's a brief summary...


  • The Sun claims that the Hutton Enquiry says that Andrew Gilligan acted wrongly, and that Dr Kelly did not say the dossier was sexed up.

  • It's looking more likely that the 45-minute claim itself came from a single source. From the article above:
    "Nick Theros, the Washington representative of Iyad Allawi, who headed the Iraqi National Accord in exile, said it was raw intelligence from a single source..."

  • Looking back at the Dossier, the entire claim was actually:
    "Iraq's military forces are able to use chemical and biological weapons, with command, control and logistical arrangements in place. The Iraqi military are able to deploy these weapons within 45 minutes of a decision to do so"



My take on it - the government didn't knowingly "sex" it up, per se, so the claims put forward by the BBC were perhaps a bit over the edge. But then, the govt are also guilty of the same thing that they accuse the BBC of - namely, citing information from an unreliable source that really should have been verified. Both parties got it wrong, both parties produced their claims as a supportive argument after the case had been made (IMHO, although the govt moreso than the Beeb), but the difference is that the BBC weren't making a case for International War.

Of course, the Dossier also makes the claim that "Iraq's chemical, biological, nuclear and ballistic missiles programmes are well-funded", which is true if you go with the argument that we supplied them.

So to summarise, the whole thing is full of hypocrisy, name-calling and blame-avoiding. They all deserve to go.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Comments enabled, thanks to Haloscan. Let rip ;)

Customers of Air New Zealand might not be able to queue for the toilet on flights, as the grouping of people might cause a security concern/freak out other passengers.

Grepped from the comments in the kuro5hin report on Samantha Marson being jailed after joking about having a bomb in her bag. Most of the comments seem to be that she deserved it.

Ok, I understand that there is a time and a place for jokes, and that she should have perhaps received some "wrist-slap" for her stupidity, but the fact that she's being held in Miami is just another brick in the wall of statist clampdown. This is becoming the norm, and it generates more paranoia as the people its affecting - the customers and the public and the innocent (as we should define them according to a civilised, "free" culture) - as they question it less and less. I've probably said it before, but once the authorities no longer have any accountability, and once the governed have no interest in how they are being managed, then the power will go to the wrong heads, and the public and the innocent will be the ones to suffer. What goes around, comes around.

Democracy, or any "organised hierarchy", is nothing without accountability, transparency and two-way communication between the governers and the governed. There must be trust, and there must be an audit trail. Without either, the solutions that the system sets out to discover are smudged and obscured, the leaders are not in a position to make decisions, and the people are not in a position to judge.

I have long realised that I am not an "anarchist" in the true sense. I believe in a flat hierarchy (flatter than we have in the UK currently), but I acknowledge that there are a number of pieces to the puzzle of a 'successful' political structure. Transparency is one.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Hmmnmn, Blogger announce that they're providing support for Atom, which could be interesting, especially if I can tie it in with my mail client.. :)

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Decided to add Sheepy Magna to my bloglist* for some reason. I enjoyed reading it just now.

* Uh, right down the bottom of the screen in IE, as widths are weird in CSS. Must fix.

Just noticed this:

MPs and Blogging

Public meeting looking at pros and cons of MPs keeping diaries -
Tuesday January 27, 2004
5.30pm
Boothroyd Room
Portcullis House

Dollar drags down Europe's firms

Hmm, intriguing - offshoring helps strong-economy countries in europe offset the cost of the plunging dollar:
"Some firms have managed to escape this effect by shifting some or all of their production outside the eurozone."

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Shock! Horror! Young people intrested in their community more than central government. Maybe someone will have the sense to listen to this, though, despite the ovious statistics:

"Those who watched the most television were least likely to volunteer, although those who watched a large amount of television news were most likely." (well, i think that's obvious, anyway ;)

"Students who were at schools with civic education built into the curriculum proved to be more knowledgeable about civic and political issues"

Lessons to be learned? Politics is about communities. Community is a natural thing. Politics should be simple, accessible and almost intuitive.

Perhaps we should attempt to apply approaches from other industries to politics. For instance, the rules that we try to adhere to with regards to interfaces could apply equally to "complex" systems such as our political infrastructure. Similarly, the evolution of modular and componentised techniques might go across well, too. Perhaps then, we'll see more people being encouraged to get involved in the system.

Wow, just saw this on Slashdot - According to the Guardian, York University are planning to trial high-altitude airships as wireless signal carriers. I love airships.

Irritating Java coding recommendation:

"When dealing with a known value and a variable, reverse the logic: Instead of variable.equals("known string");, write "known string".equals(variable). This makes it easy to avoid a nullpointer if variable is null."

This makes sense from a compiler point of view, if you have a language that separates out nulls from boolean testing, but goes against all of the english language. How often do people say "Is '0555 666 7123 the number of Mr Smith?" - never (ok, hardly ever), because we tend to hash things in a name-value look-up way due to the fact that a name is easier to remember than a generic number. Same thing goes for domain names.

Contrast this against the approach that, say, BASIC takes, or that Perl keeps in mind. A computer language is just that - a language, and so it makes sense to model it on grammatical constructs that we are familiar with. Thus, the evolution of the use of keywords such as "foreach", "while", and even Java's naming conventions, e.g. "isBoolean()". It makes sense that code makes sense when being read.

Hmm, that seems to irritate me more than it should. Not sure why. OK, it's out of my system now...

Quick plug. My mate Joe's band Seratone are playing at a Battle of the Bands at the Pav Tav in Brighton, this Sunday (Jan 25th). Should be good.

Finally got around to looking at The Public Whip, which is an easy-to-use reference site to how your own MP votes, as well as other questions/answers. Very interesting, very useful, very well coded IMHO. here's my MP.

This is off the back off an anouncement from Tom Steinberg, that 5 projects have been picked from all of the mySociety.org suggestions, and they're looking for coders for Your Constituency Mailing List.

One thing - i'm really not keen on all this "My" and "Your" stuff. It's so... patronising. "Our" might be better, but it still sounds so... wrong. Sites shouldn't try to promote themselves as separate or conjoined with the people they're trying to attract. It's backwards.

The death of Rocky Ryan, a media hoaxer - interesting, as it also explains why you should never trust what you read...

Today's politics round-up... courtesy of epolitix.com.

Commons Chamber


  • Presentation of backbench bill: Sustainable Communities Bill (will try to find link)


Lords Committees

  • Science and Technology Sub-Committee II: The practicabilities of renewable energy

  • Economic Affairs Committee: The state of the economy and economic policy, long-term and short-term



Also appears to be a few in the series of "Lessons of Iraq", but me not got time to get into that :(

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Anti-yob laws must be used, Blunkett tells police

The problem with Blunkett is that he seems to think that social problems can be cured through force. This rapidly plunges us into a police state to deal with problems that arise from more social causes, rather than purely disciplinarian aspects. I'm not someone to advocate love and despise fascist control, but I do think we need a balance of firm authority where necessary, and solid foundational society everywhere else.

Delinquency, or anti-socialism (hmm, a tainting of the dictionary by Nu Labour? ;), isn't completely caused by a lack of discipline. I think there is a lack of discipline involved, in terms of parenting, but this arises from a lack of communication across generations and across sectors.

As someone who had been in parliament for a while noted on Radio 4 the other day, the Prime Minister is now deemed to be directly responsible for all aspects of the lives of subjects around the nation. At Prime Minister's Question Time, questions regarding all aspects of how we live are asked directly, and aren't handed off to appropriate officers, which makes everything very centralised and extremely bureaucratic. He regarded the PM's role as concentrating on economic policy and international affairs, and that the operation of internal, day-to-day matters should be left to those in charge of them.

I think that I mostly agree with this - there is too much centralisation, and too much bureaucracy in the system. A single point of contact cannot handle the information needed to make healthy decisions, and instead our society is seen through unending charts and statistics. As a result, and combined with blanket media coverage that mirrors this attitude, we produce a system in which people no longer take control of their own lives, or aren't given the freedom or incentive to do so at least. It becomes the job of those seen to look after these things, yet who, ironically, are also in the worst position to make these decisions.

The end result of this is that people become disengaged, not only from government, but from the communities they live in, and from the world immediate to them. And without these bonds, there are no channels for socialising behaviour, the very channels that keep not just the young, but people in good check of each other. There are less and less examples which we can demonstrate to those looking to learn about how we live. There are less reasons to be social, and thus we fly apart, neither belonging to any particular circle, nor being taken care of by those we perceive as should be doing so.

So Blunkett's solution, to curb this behaviour through threats and force, through more police and tighter controls, will accomplish nothing. It will strangle yet further the society that, above all, needs to be let go, to be able to do its own thing without constant threat and without panoptic supervision. If we treat ourselves as children that can't be trusted, we will grow up as children.

OECD warns on UK budget deficit

Summary - increase taxes slowly to avoid consumer panic. Makes sense to me. Interestingly, "the OECD says that the UK budget deficit will exceed the limit set by countries in the eurozone of 3% of GDP by 2005."

We're still a service beyatch economy...

BBC NEWS | England | Shropshire | Bomb 'joke' student jailed: A BA spokeswoman said: "We will strongly advise all passengers not to make any remarks which could be misinterpreted. American authorities take this sort of thing very seriously."

Yes, this is only fair, because terrorists will ACTIVELY STATE THAT THEY ARE HIDING A BOMB. "Hi, I'm here to blow a plane up. Do you mind awfully?"

When the paranoid are the leaders, every citizen is a suspect. When the citizens accept they are suspected, the paranoid can do whatever they like.

The really really sad part about this story is that I can bet, upon re-telling it to friends, at least some of them will agree with the side of the airport authorities. Perhaps this is a lost cause. Or perhaps I have the wrong friends... ;)

>> Film review

Saw Lost in Translation last night at the local picture house. It's been sold out every night for the last week, so we went along early to get a good seat, and just as well - no exception to the rule last night, and a rustling full house settled into the darkness.

I wasn't really sure what to expect - people had told me it was a good film, but that was about all - which is generally the way I like it when it comes to going into a film. No pretenses. As the film went on (being careful about spoilers...) I waxed and waned between almost-seeing it as a nicely-performed cliche, and loving it, and when the end credits came up, I decided that on the whole, it was the latter, and I couldn't really fault it.

Without delving into the story, I found that the subject was played so delicately and subtly, the progression of emotions spliced with surreal and delightful shots of Tokyo and Japanese culture, without which the film wouldn't have been nearly as half as good. Things that a lesser film would have stated blatantly, or that would have been shown in intricate detail and close-up, were carefully avoided with a casual disregard that brought the real subjects, the involved characters, to the forefront in an almost easy-listening style.

This, all set against a great soundtrack - underplayed mellowings delving into dance at times - made up for a grand film that I'd recommend to anyone with an ounce of romantic spirit in them.

Big Fish next, just because it's Burton...

>> Politics Today

Commons Select Committees


  • Progress towards the knowledge-driven economy: Information Technology/Information Systems. (9.15am, Wilson room)

  • Progress towards the knowledge-driven economy: Research and development and knowledge transfer. (2.45pm, Wilson room)



Will try to dig out minutes from points highlighted yesterday...

Monday, January 19, 2004

I'm thinking about setting up another blog, only this time with a particular bent, a non-personal one. However, I think it's also an opportunity to perhaps experiment with content, and it'd be fun to splice the blog aspect in with a wiki, a forum, and e-mail.

So far, I'm thinking it needs...

- a blog-style front page, with entries that can be a). categorised, and b). commented on, and c). also blog entries. This would be like a specialised version of a "recently updated" wiki page, only specific.
- comments that exist as web-fora, wiki pages, and e-mail discussion lists.
- possibly a slashdot-style moderation/ranking system to allow the site's community to rate different blog posts/wiki pages/forum posts.

In fact, the slashdot code could be a good place to start. Otherwise, I could adopt a simple Perl wiki.

I'm thinking it could be like a uk-politics Slashdot, but I need the time to install and hack some code together...

Interesting, the Dollar extends rally against "most global currencies"...

Hmmm, good article on the effects a $ crash would have: US$ plunge could lead to full-blown financial crisis.

Supposedly Asian sectors would be hit harder than Europe, as they export more to the US. Does this mean that we in the UK would hardly suffer, as our exports are relatively low, and that we could actually *benefit* (as consumers) from the crash? At least, temporarily.

OK, prediction: we'll slump, rather than crash. People will probably wonder how it happened. Recovery will be slow. We'll be better off than others around the world. Of course, it could be the case that our trade deficit increases as a result, and we spend even more...

Looks like I spoke to soon... Go Gamecube, go Gamecube, etc etc...

Pick of Westminster today... Just need to find out where to get the minutes of all these from... ;) (Probably somewhere around here.)


  • Commons Chamber - Second reading of the Civil Contingencies Bill

  • Commons Select Committee -
    Subject: Difficult forms: How government agencies interact with citizens. (Public Accounts Committee, 4.30pm, room 8)

  • Lords Chamber -

    • Whether strategic communications networks functioned satisfactorily during the Iraq war

    • Topical question - in view of the shortage of well-qualified applicants for head teacher posts, what action the government propose to take to ensure that these posts are appropriately filled




Friday, January 16, 2004

 #   |.
###e#+.
     |.
If I were a NetHack monster, I would be a floating eye. I see and sense absolutely everything that happens around me. I just don't do very much about it.
Which NetHack Monster Are You?












Unauthorised Saddam photos make his capture look more like a family outing. Stupid smiley troops.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

I'm intrigued in the outcome of a survey of E-Mint members about the future of the "organisation", and how it should communicate. In particular, the role of e-mail and the web. This quote, for instance:

"Email is important. I have some issues with the questions,
but take the third option, it implies that for 89% of people a Web based solution is NOT fine.

[snip]

In an ideal world the email and web elements would mesh so that each person could take part in those topics/threads that interest them, in the manner that they prefer (be that web, or by email, and if by email, they need to be able to respond by email, not have to go to a web site).
"

I've always preferred e-mail lists to web forums for any kind of textual discussion. The web makes sense for archives and searching, but not, I find, for threaded reading. E-Mint is a gathering of community-involved people, so this bias towards the lowly inbox is particularly relevant, perhaps.

I like the idea of making forums platform-irrelevant though. A web forum generally (in its base terms) copies the make-up of an e-mail client - threads and replies - and there's no reason why content can't be accessed from a variety of different viewpoints, a la newsgroup readers and groups.google.com.

Moreso, I increasingly look to tying functionality into my e-mail, as for certain tasks I find that it's a lot simpler to get the info to my inbox (which is my focal point on the desktop), or to send an e-mail and then forget about the result until it gets sent back to me. In fact, perhaps this is it - the ability to separate out request and response, and to be able to change to a different context in the gap between.

Certainly, this doesn't fit all tasks, and for these a different, streamlined paradigm makes more sense. But I do feel that it's a shame that so much of the innovation of recent times has happened in the web browser when it may not necessarily be suited to do so.

Here's an idea. Now that Mozilla has XUL customisation a lot more easily accessible, could we see the development of "social" software that ties in with the e-mail client a lot more? Unfortunately, there are no plug-in standards for e-mail as there are with browsers, so clients (e.g. applications that bring up information about the mail sender in a separate panel) would have to be bespoke, and rewritten for different e-mail programs. But the potential opened up by this could make for interesting, if not heavily accessible (and therefore less popular) services, and cross-paradigm interfaces.

When I can control the world through my inbox, I'll be happy...

GameCube fights to stay in the game

Personally, I see this is a depressing victory of image over fun, although I suspect I'm biased as always ;) The Gamecube, just as with the Dreamcube, has (IMHO, natch) games that are more fun to play, harking back to the old Amiga/Atari days where games encouraged people to get together and have a laugh.

The playstation changed the gamer audience to those that would spend their money on similar "style consumerables" - shoes, clothes, records, etc., making gaming a drive for popularity rather than, well, gaming. And as markets tend to be a proportional, relative thing when it comes to success, so the power of Nintendo has faltered against those that know how to market themselves based on image.

It would be interesting to see research into how people see the role of games within a lifestyle. Gathering together 3 or 4 people is not as easy as having a quick bash at a game by yourself, and certainly we used to organise days of gaming. But it seems that the social side to games as it slides into an industry of hype and glitter is suffering immensely.

Poo to everyone.

The further entropification of organised religion

Interesting look at The State of Perl which, I think, manages to sustain my confidence in where Perl is going, and what it stands for, if anything. The main thing I get out of it is that in order to be a good Perlmonk, you have to get to know CPAN, just as much as any Java or .NET coder has to know the supporting APIs. Knowing what's available so you don't write it from scratch is the same across pretty much any language, and weak coders are the ones that don't know what they have avilable to them already.

It's also interesting to note some of the larger sites that use Perl - Amazon being quite a nice shock. And of course, Bugzilla always impresses me.

Nope, I'm defienitely excited about Perl 6, and I really need to start going through CPAN and seeing what can be done. Must code... must code...

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

OK, I'm intrigued by this thing called NBOR - "No Boundaries Or Rules". The website has a lot of TMs and marketing-style stuff, but there are some interesting concepts in it that make it worth a look at the free demo thing tomorrow (15th). Also looks quite expensive, but there will be a Linux version coming out, which is always good news.

We shall see...

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Scenes From A Sad Airport / Welcome to America. Please give us the finger. Smile for the camera. Now get the hell out. Excellent read.

UserFriendly presents... the "My Distro is Better" card game.

Bwwaaahahaha, hte hypocrisy of it all is so amusing that id I died now, I'd die happy. Microsoft slams HP's iTunes move

"Windows is about choice - you can mix and match software and music player stuff. We believe you should have the same choice when it comes to music services." - David Fester, Manager of Windows' Digital Media Division.

"We expect competition and it's good for customers. Over time, however, customers will want industry standard choices." - Dell spokesman.

Shut up shut up shut up before you look even more like fools. Please.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Roll up! Roll up! Low Slashdot ID for 100 bucks...

Yeah, yeah, so I said no more financey stuff. Damn me.

UK house prices drop, according to a relatively-new survey from the ODPM, in contradiction to what Halifax and Nationwide (who, funnily, probably make a profit on house prices...).

"However, Edward Stansfield, property market analyst at Capital Economics - who recently predicted that house prices would peak in mid-2004 and then fall 20% - said that the survey could not be written off as a blip."

Seems to be a day of "blips" - there's some debate over whether the yuletide rise in profit warnings was one too.

Of course, the US is still FUBAR - US bosses took on only 1,000 new workers in December, with the Euro leaping to new heights, somewhat rapidly, and Japan desperately selling to keep themselves lucid. It did strike me that the UK, as a mostly service-based nation, with a huge import addiction, may stand quite well as a result of a huge dollar crash. Or rather it's just a case of damage-limitation. If our exports are lower than our imports, then do we have less to suffer if the pound is so strong? Less than, say, Euro-based countries with a higher export rate.

I still guess that if the dollar dives, we'll get taken with it, and all the little people with less than no money will be wondering quite what happened. Squishy. 20% drop for house prices in late '04? Depends what the rest of the world is doing...

Net blamed for rise in child porn

More shortsightedness, and over-simplification. Why do these people assume that a). the matter really is that simple, and b). that technology is both the problem and the solution. Witness:

"He said: 'We do need more and better technical solutions, and this is really throwing a challenge down to the industry.'"

Gah. Needless to say, lack of enforced technology is not the problem. It's part of an answer, and part of a method, but it's certainly not a cause, and nor is it the rebuff to the cause.

The quicker people get this, the more able to cope with it all we shall be.

Blair admits weapons of mass destruction may never be found

Common Content - "an open catalog of Creative Commons licensed content". Not just magazine articles and music, but also images, movies and web sites. The Reference texts section looks particularly interesting, with articles from Shoplifting in Germany to Primary Colour Equations, amongst all the other technical guides.

HP mark themselves as first against the wall when the revolution comes. OK, 4th then. They're just jumping on a bandwagon.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Buesiness as usual:

UK trade deficit widens again: "Even taking into account services, the overall trade balance fell to a record £10.2bn deficit in the three months to November"

Average debts up by one-third: "The average British person now owes £4,426 through credit cards, overdrafts and hire purchase agreements." - but should level off.

So, consumption's going to be down, exports are way down, the US dollar is down ... one could say it's not looking good.

Anyway, I tire of all this financial stuff. Watching the sheeple spend their way into financial oblivion is fun for a while, but not really my cup of tea, and it makes me so depressed. Time to concentrate on the finer things in life. Ignore the rest of the world, and all that. No point in being dragged down by the chaff, or something.

This must be spam, as I never use my info@... address. However, it's possibly the second-best piece of spam I've ever had. Cypherpunk spam, mmm....


From: Good News
To: info exmosis dot net
Subject: Good News
Sender: Good News
Date: Fri, 9 Jan 2004 00:46:21 -0500

Hello,

Take a Stand Against the Madness; Stop the RIAA!
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)
is on a rampage, launching legal attacks against
average Americans from coast to coast.

Rather than working to create a rational, legal means by which
its customers can take advantage of file-sharing
technology and pay a fair price for the music they love,
it has chosen to sue people.

I'm writting you just to let you know
about a couple of applications that I fund
on download.com. Either one of them will keep
your identity, online activities, and personal
information safe and fully blocked.

Just go to download.com and do a search under
anonymous surfing


Privacy and security is your right.


Happy downloads!

Thursday, January 08, 2004

UK interest rates remain on hold

Slowly thinking I understand how it all works... The pound is quite strong, but mostly (at the moment) because the dollar is so weak, and getting weaker... However, if the dollar crashes, and UK interest rates get put up over the next year, then what does it mean? What does it meeeeaaan?? Will the UK economy suffer if the US one does? If it does, and consumer confidence plummets, how much damage will we take?

Ah well... Sun's out :)

White House 'distorted' Iraq threat: "The report says the White House approach to the war was based on what it called 'worse case reasoning', assuming that what intelligence agencies did not know was worse than what they did know. 'Worst-case planning is valid . . . [But] acting on worst-case assumptions is an entirely different matter.'"

Indeed, by their logic, I'm allowed to go and kill anyone I think might attack me, and replace them with someone a lot more friendly. I've always thought that pre-emptive punches on those supporting an unverified war were just.

Meanwhile... IMF say American economy shit, more on the UK Civic Contingencies bill, the FBI gets more super-draconian-SS powers, and we all suck, still. When will we understand just how much energy we're using, and just what it's doing? People think toasters work by magic.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Increased bankruptcy signals debt crisis

Very interesting. Personal bankruptcies up, corporate bankruptcies down. Kind of confirms the theory that "the masses are just the beyatches of the companies", at least for the time being. When the masses are forced to wake up (i.e. when they can't afford to feed their own families), the corps should come sliding into line a bit more.

"Neither a borrower nor a lender be."

"The reality is that in much, perhaps most, of our economic lives, consumer power is an illusion."

I'd like to add, to the labyrinthine pile of confusion presented, the whole business of no company being responsible, as per my difficulties with BT last month. It's happened again to my girlfriend. Details aside, it isn't enough to present your side of things to the company that you're dealing with - or, indeed, vice versa - as they're only acting on behalf of another company. This other company need to be contacted, but naturally they've passed the matter on to the company that's now dealing with you, so either a). it needs to be sorted out with them, or b). the "parent" company will let their "clients" know, but you'll be at the whim and mercy of their inter-company communication games.

I really wouldn't mind either a state-run affair, or a capitalist society, so long as the thing worked. As it is, they're both shit, on the whole.

Real-Life DoS attacks a-gogo! Woo!

Jinxed flight delayed again: "The latest delay came after the French authorities announced they were hunting an al-Qaida suspect who had booked on an Air France flight to the US on Christmas Eve but failed to turn up."

Pretty soon, I'll be able to bring the world to a stop too. Not because I'm joining a terrorist group or anything, but because everyone'll be so paranoid, I won't be able to not do it...

Hum, good. Some Civil Contingencies Bill changes, although I can't quite remember if the new amendments are the ones I read a fe months ago in draft form.

Disaster laws set for overhaul

More un-thought-out, overly-vague, fear-inspired nanny-statery in the guise of the UK Civil Contingencies Bill: Emergency powers plan published. Picked up on this a few months ago, didn't like the look of it then, and still haven't done anything about it. Curses, I'm getting slack.

American sheeple bend over and accept their shafting.

At first I felt like, 'Wait a minute, this is America.' But we also have to understand it takes everybody to pay attention. At first I was a little frazzled with someone knocking on my window at 8:30 at night, but the bottom line is this is a civilian who has tried to do his best."

And yeah, I can see why people think like that, but why don't they go the whole hog and ask why they have to go through it the first place? Actually, no, I don't see it. Why don't they take offence at the suggestion that they're a terrorist JUST BECAUSE THEY'RE A 10 YEAR-OLD CHILD ASKING ABOUT LEARNING TO FLY? Hnnng.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

The sheeple acceptance is overwhelming...

Pilots call for sky marshal deal: "Mr McAuslan said British pilots too still had 'a fundamental problem' with having weapons in a pressurised cabin, but accepted it was inevitable.

'Given that that's going to happen, then we have to look at the consequences of that and how do pilots and professionals minimise the risks involved,' he said.
"

Well accepted, now please bend over.

Fortunately, some do draw a line. How long for, though?

"...a spokesman for Thomas Cook Airlines said: 'For the time being, if a sky marshal presents himself, we will cancel the flight.'"

Consumer Debt More Than Doubles in Decade

"Mark Zandi, chief economist at Economy.com, points out that the rate of growth of card debt has slowed 'because people are using their homes as cash machines.''

But while refinancings have allowed upper income households to put their balance sheets in order, lower income families without that option are finding it harder to cope, he said.
"

Get in debt -> finance economy -> More jobs -> More people think they can spend more -> more get in debt?

Its. Not. Sustainable. The rich get richer, the poor remain trapped in the cogs. Still, it could be worse I guess. At least we're not being physically forced to buy things we don't want...

Follow up on FBI demanding Las Vegas hotel lists sans subpoena, for security reasons, just to remind you about what can be achieved through an environment of fear. When they start arming the streets and imposing curfews, all under the same vague umbrella excuse, who's going to do what?

Your Bank Account, Your Liberties

Originally posted at Warblogging.com, sent to me via Politech, and mirrored, George Paine runs a good, nicely written account/summary of the state of the nation, with regards to information access, and our "privacies". I went through the same kind of bank thing a few weeks ago, and it was kind of weird to be looking back over your life with someone else that you'd only met there and then.

Worth a read.

Monday, January 05, 2004

In this article (linked from /.) Outsourcing Programmers is Bad Strategy for Software Companies, Michael Bean argues that "the offshoring fad is bad for companies not because of the short-term programmer layoffs but because technology companies will lose their capacity to innovate."

Whilst I like chocolates, I'm not sure quite what this piece tries to say. I'd say that there's a more over-reaching trade-off that gets touched upon, between quality/innovation, and mass-production. But, as Phil points out, some barriers that exist today with regards to off-shoring may well not exist in the future, as advances in communications and educational/working methodologies make labour location less and less important.

From this, I'd say that the point the article misses is that off-shoring doesn't necessarily lead to lack of innovation - that's quite possible by simply having a company consisting entirely of under-imaginative and/or under-skilled drones that only know how to pump out code in a particular way. Innovation is much more than simply location and resource management.

Ministers defend plane disruption; we've definitely arrived at a point where we can just use fear of terrorism as an excuse for police powers, never mind either the validity of that excuse, or the causes of the causes of the disruption.

It's rapidly spirall(ed|ing) into a bureaucratic mess in which the solution has become one and the same as the problem. The fear we now have of those who maybe have a point (they might not, but we're not listening either way) leads to greater "defence", which leads to similarly greater offence. Unfortunately, the whole problem started because of an over-reaching offensive attitude to the world, so I don't think it's going to go away particularly quickly.

On the plus side, the more planes kept on the ground, the better, says I. What we need now is a homeland^W airstrip one "offensive" to keep people away from their cars - ID checks at toll points should be a good start, but doesn't hold enough fear factor. Maybe a few petrol station insurgencies would do the trick. The problem is that car travel is just so decentralised...

Interesting-looking article on What You Can't Say, but not got time to read it right now...

Friday, January 02, 2004

Three million burnt-out Britons abandon their high-flying careers in a search for the good life

Hmmm, not sure what to make of this, bizarrely, although the overall impression I get is that the rich kids are using their cash to retire early, which seems to be the dream that every oher fool has anyway, just most of them don't get to realise it. Now, if people just realise they don't have to do it in the first place then we might be getting somewhere.

Roll on 2004, and it still bemuses me that the mostr important aspects of news stories still only deem a single paragraph right at the end of the piece. From this BBC article BA flight to Washington cancelled:

"In December six Air France flights from Paris to Los Angeles were grounded, at the request of the US.
The French government now believes the FBI had wrongly identified six passengers as potential terrorists, partly because of mistakes translating Arabic names.
"

Fuckers. Fuck them all. A police state is one thing. A paranoid police state is another. And for the naively despondent, of course it happens one step at a time. How the situation this time next year compares should be interesting...

Other stuff... The Pope says something useful, re-advocating the role of the UN, and reform of a NWO. It also makes a note about one of his right-hand man's "pity and compassion" for Saddam Hussein, which came up on the Cypherpunks ML recently. It now occurs to me that this may not, indeed, be mutually exclusive to an attitude of apt punishment, which some seem to argue. It does, in fact, bear a resemblance to the positon posited by Lao-Tsu:

"The best soldier is not soldierly,

The best fighter is not ferocious.
"

The principles that should be applied to those fighting a battle, i.e. those of regretful necessity, and appropriate skill and respect, should also be applied to all aspects of war, rather than simply the bloodletting. In "our" capture of Saddam, there is nothing wrong with being both piteous, yet aptly severe. Unfortunately, the event has been surrounded by an atmosphere of indulgent mockery and arrogant bravado, spoiling any chance of "decency" that could have been held.

Meanwhile.. some interesting twists in the "hamster wheel of consumerism", as Will Self refers to it. Consumers now owe a total of £52.92bn on credit cards, which is just under 900 quid per person, assuming that a). we're using the smaller American billions, and b). every man woman and child has a credit card. What's interesting is that repayments are up, although it looks like this is being added to the cost of houses instead. Still makes more sense to me to just cut out the crap that you don't need.

Anyway, lots of other intersting stuff I've been thinking about over the Christmas period. Will hopefully write some of it up soon...