January 2005

31 January 2005
Quote of the day: Iraqi elections

Haven’t been going a bundle on this half as much as, well, everybody, but I did spot this:

Reporter Caroline Hawley said “The Iraqis have spoken, but we don’t know what they said”. Well, we know part of what they said - it was “Up yours, left-wing Western media”.

Scott Campbell for B-BBC.

Thought for the day: Blog Design

It is important that a blog should look the same as other blogs.  Readers of blogs are looking for certain features: title, permalinks, clear demarcations between posts, dates etc.  If they don’t find them they find it disorientating.

And if you think this rather contradicts the ethos of this blog you are probably right.

Taliban: “…as good a government as Afghanistan could reasonably expect…” - says Laban Tall. Hmmm. …link
 
The envy of the world

This is part of the puff for the Channel 4 Dispatches programme on the NHS being broadcast tomorrow night:

Secret filming captures numerous incidents of shocking and unacceptable practices, from a lack of basic hygiene and failure to implement adequate measures to protect patients against the Mrsa super bug, to the tragedy of forgotten patients left to lie in their own urine and faeces. The film illustrates how the morale of dedicated nursing staff is crushed by the behaviour of their colleagues, suggesting a profession in crisis and failing to provide the basic levels of care we have come to expect.

30 January 2005
Homeschoolers beat Oxford undergrads - in a moot …link
 
They pulled down my house to build a slum - and now they're going to do it all over again …link
 
29 January 2005
EU bans Cuban dissidents - makes me proud to be a European …link
 
ALF terrorizes families - but who is reporting it? …link
 
Maurice and Gerhard - ponder an EU without the UK …link
 
Quote of the Day: Drugs

That’s a disgrace. How can people have a sensible conference about drugs if they all belong to that half of the population that never takes them?

Comment on Copper’s Blog.

Racism, migration and global warming - LNBBCN takes aim …link
 
Labour playing the race card?

Guido thinks yes.  Pollard thinks not.

Holocaust blogging

Stephen Pollard doesn’t like modern uses of the word “genocide”:

...it means many things, each of them different, because the person using the word “genocide” redefines it to mean whatever he wants it to mean.

Meanwhile, Andrew takes issue with a couple of other words that have been getting a good airing this week:

Never again. Two little words that mean so little.

28 January 2005
More bad news from the former democracy of Belgium - they're not getting a referendum on the EU Constitution. …link
 
Influence

I get a namecheck from David Carr at Samizdata (which was nice) while he was wondering whether us bloggers were having any influence.  Not yet he reckons and I think I probably agree with him.  But I reckon it will come.  As I say in a comment:

For what it’s worth, I think it’s just a critical mass thing. The US is a bigger country and a richer country so it has more bloggers. Plus it has Instapundit. Plus a lot of US issues are, in fact, global issues.

Crawling out into the light from my Transport Blog cave I was amazed to see how vibrant the UK blogging scene was. It’s a lot bigger and better than it was two years ago. Tim Worstall, Laban Tall, Norm Geras, EU Referendum.

It’s only a matter of time.

Most of which I still (after a whole 10 minutes) agree with.

26 January 2005
Thought for the day: Germany

According to Theodore Dalrymple the Germans are looking for an identity that is not German. Europeanism is obviously silly but why not go back to the mini-states of the past? With a few abberrations - like the Thirty Years War - they did just fine and it is their ethos that can be considered the basis of the German economic miracle of the late 19th Century (that’s before the anti-economists got going).

You’re German, you’re stuffed - Theodore Dalrymple on the legacy of Nazism. (via A&L Daily) …link
 
Communism and Nazism are not the same - even if they do manage to kill millions. Not sure that it excuses wearing Che t-shirts though …link
 
LibDems good: Tories bad - just another day at the BBC. Or is it, I wonder? …link
 
Holocaust Memorial Day

Mark Holland doesn’t like it:

The point is, what exactly is Holocaust Memorial Day actually for?

To make sure such a thing doesn’t happen again?

Well, we managed without one special day per year to contemplate such a thing and we succesfully resisted the urge for 56 years. (Peter Cook is a special case.)

Peter Cook (as his alter-ego, Derek) being the man who, having watched the Holocaust TV series, claimed to have taken the bus to Golders Green and killed 17,000 people before he knew what he was doing.

25 January 2005
Quote of the day

Bo Derek:

Those who say money can’t buy happiness just don’t know where to shop.

From the ASI Blog

24 January 2005
Matters Arising

Jackie e-mails me to tick me off for using the date (see end of post) for the permalink.  She says it’s not user-friendly and I have to say I agree with her.  I think the permalink should say “permalink” and it’s not that long ago that that is precisely what it said.  The word “permalink” was a casualty of the addition of the In Brief columnExpression Engine is a many-splendoured thing but there are some things that even it can’t do.  Well, it could if… Hmm, let’s see if I can explain this…

When I sat down to design the In Brief column the key question was: “How do I get post A to appear on the main column and post B to appear on the In Brief column?” In other words: “How do I switch between the two?” The two basic options are to have a separate blog or a separate category.

Now the idea of a separate blog may seem a bit odd but it is in fact perfectly possible to have one blog display on another.  Perhaps this indicates a confusion with nomenclature.  The problem arises when you want to move a posting from column to column.  Now, this may seem like an odd thing to do and (as yet I haven’t actually needed to do it) but I can see situations where I flag up a post in IB only to find out that someone else has written something pertinent.  What I want to do there is to add an update to the original post and then move it to the main column. But if I have two blogs I can’t.

The alternative is to have a separate category.  The problem there is that funny things happen on the category pages (hope that makes sense).

The solution I arrived at was to have neither and instead to have a switch using a custom field (one of EE’s real strengths).  But that also has a drawback.  Up to then I had been using date headers.  A date header gives you the date only once no matter how many posts were posted that day.  I like them a lot.  Unfortunately, they don’t work well with my switch - date headers either appear on the main column or the IB column but never both.  Not good.

I regard dates on posts as essential so the only real answer was to separately date each individual post.  At the time (and without giving the matter much thought) I chose to replace the word “permalink” with the date.  I suppose my reasoning (such as it was) was that the bottom row of links would start to get a little crowded.  But maybe not.  It’s easy enough to change and I am quite happy to try a little experiment to see what readers prefer.

22 January 2005
Socialisation

The Ombre links to the Castle who would link to the Mrs but she seems to be down at the moment (on the Mr, perhaps?) Anyway this is what Tim (ie the Castle) has to say about the woman trying to interest him in state education:

The ONLY benefit of [his daughter] going to a mainstream school that was mentioned - and mentioned repeatedly was that of “socialisation with her peers”

Indeed.  State educationalists seem to have given up trying to argue that education provides, well, an education (however defined) and “socialisation” seems to be the fallback position/last refuge of choice (and not just here judging by the news from Germany).

The thing is, what do they mean by “socialisation”?  I asked someone once and they replied that it was: “rubbing along with other people.” A fine thing to aim at, for sure, but in that regard does state education really succeed and does home schoolling really fail?  And, how would you know?

Oaths

Tom Utley has certainly stirred up a hornet’s nest. He doesn’t like the government’s proposed citizenship ceremonies.  The way he sees it being a subject has worked just fine up to now.  Mark Holland and Tim Worstall are entrely in agreement but Squander Two begs to differ.  He thinks unwritten constitutions are rubbish.  Meanwhile David Conway thinks that oaths may be about to make a come-back.

Dom’s hard disk has crashed - and he would like to hear from anyone who knows about data recovery …link
 
Anti-economics - how a hatred of economics led to the Nazis …link
 
Homeschooling banned in Germany -  …link
 
Just when you thought you’d never have to shop in M&S ever again - they start selling Israeli goods …link
 
21 January 2005
Blondes have more fun - but not if they find images of dead vermin disturbing …link
 
Quote of the Day

An alternative reading is that Guardian readers are six times as gullible

Peter Briffa reflects on the survey finding that the Guardian is six times more trusted than the Daily Mail.

Dissident Frogman on strike - now, there's a piece of industrial action we can all get behind (via Jackie) …link
 
Snipers on the roof? - Richard North points to (yet another) example of BBC bias …link
 
The overlooked alliance - William Rubinstein precises Britain's relationship with the US …link
 
Prison works - says the Copper …link
 
20 January 2005
Airbus 380 not crap - says Boris Johnson (of all people) …link
 
17 January 2005
30-Second Theory: Language

He who controls the language controls the future.

I was put in mind of this by a couple articles on the Big Blog Company’s Blog.  In the first an MSM organisation attempted to ban the word “blog”.  In the second an MSM referred to the “so-called Blogosphere”.  I can’t help but think they find these very words disconcerting.

Quote of the Day II

Again via Commonsense and Wonder

Disagreements are inevitable whenever there are human beings but we seem to be in an era when the art of disagreeing is vanishing. That is a huge loss because out of disagreements have often come deeper understandings than either side had before confronting each other’s arguments.

Thomas Sowell.

Quote of the Day

“He was president when nothing much needed to be done and he had the good sense not to do it.”

P J O’Rourke on Calvin Coolidge.  From Common Sense and Wonder.

Letterman’s 10-point plan for CBS - oh, why can't it happen here? …link
 
Massive government improvement - Home Office figures only 65% out …link
 
16 January 2005
Dial M for myth - mobile phones are just fine ...link
 
Osama bin Laden is …not dead - Mark Steyn trys to eat humble pie ...link
 
Newsnight gets it completely wrong on the Geneva Convention
 
Blogging tip: Extended Entries

Don’t use Extended Entries (you know things marked “More” or “Continue reading such and such") unless you absolutely have to.  For the most part people can bear to scroll down much more than they can to follow a link.  And anyway, if you are finding that you are writing humungously long blog entries perhaps you should consider ways of breaking them up into manageable chunks.

This rule applies to all with the exception of Michael Jennings.

Mr Beelzeebub doesn't like one-minute silences. I mean he really doesn't like them.
 
Is the BBC getting better? Hopeful news from EU Referendum
 
Truth in film (reviews)

Eye of the Needle was on the box this afternoon and (as so often) I decided to look it up on IMDB and there I found a rather amusing review by some bloke called Gary.  So, I went off looking for some of his other reviews.  This is what he had to say about Taxi Driver:

...if all the prints of this film mysteriously burnt overnight, it wouldn’t be missed.

Quite. And this about Lawrence of Arabia:

Why we’re all expected to swoon over this film I don’t know. I always found it a colossal bore.

Heh.  And he’s not finished yet.  Here he is on the Silence of the Lambs:

Hackneyed dialogue, direction-by-numbers, corny music and silly performances make this one to remember.

And here he is on the Sopranos:

I’ve lost count of how many films have started to treat the mob as almost lovable and acceptable,… Boring, elliptical, nasty and mediocre, it hits the same note on the keyboard week after week and the psychiatrist plot is piffle. It’s so called insightful writing flatters to deceive. There is nothing ironic, funny or remotely interesting about it, it merely perpetuates the mindlessness of the viewing public who seem prepared to swallow the premise like so much sheep. Underneath it all is a moral cowardice. “Come in me old mafiosi, and have a cappuccino.” This series sucks up to criminals and smacks of appeasement, and all just for a corporate buck.

About Bloody Time.  And to that list, and from slightly different genres, I might add Ali G and the Office.

Mind you all this does raise some rather awkward questions about the things that get raved about.  Was it always thus or do we live in an age where people are particularly susceptible to Emperor-has-no-clothes-style Group Think?

15 January 2005
Gamekeepers jailed for firing at illegal rave
 
I'd always wondered why deadlocks were such a big deal and now, thanks to the ambulanceman, I know.
 
Quote of the Day

If this WSJ report was a blog posting, that line would have to include a link to supporting evidence. But it’s not a blog posting, so it doesn’t - and I don’t think the supporting evidence could be found anyway.

Jackie demonstrating how the MSM is just so much better than the Blogosphere what with all that fact-checking etc.

"Why does "moved on" so often make you hear "got worse"?" asks Brian. Likewise "modernize"
 
Brian reckons the distinction between public and private is getting rather blurry these days
 
People who have dressed up as Nazis

Freddie Starr
The Banshees
Keith Moon
Vivian Stanshall
Charlie Chaplin
Countless people in TV biogs and films
and now Prince Harry

The real question is who hasn’t?  And am I alone in noticing how poor a Nazi Harry made?  The shirt’s completely the wrong colour.  The Wehrmacht rank flashes (I think) should never be worn with the armband.  The swastika is at a very odd angle and is if that wasn’t enough he’s smoking a cigarette.  Has the young prince no idea how much the original Nazis were down on tobacco?

Incidentally, watching this week’s Beeb doc on Aushwitz I had to keep reminding myself that the Nazis were in fact and on balance, taking all factors into consideration, a Bad Thing.  That’s the problem with the Beeb these days: it’s so bad you instinctively take the other side.

Update.  Actually, someone has already commented on the incongruity of the flashes and armband.

Update II.  And Stephen Pollard reckons it’s going to lead to the abolition of the monarchy.  Silly boy.

Update III.  Adam Nicholson describes some of the things he got up to when he was 20.  And who he did them with:

The people I did this with are now senior figures in the management of television channels, in accountancy firms, in the law, in City banks, in global institutions in America and in the Civil Service.

And lest we forget an earlier Prince Harry.

Update IV.  And what about Spike Milligan (see comments)?

14 January 2005
Mark has a round up of Harry the Nazi postings
 
12 January 2005
Rob has a go at the Vicar of Dibley
 
Thought for the Day

Seeing as some people are thinking about Candide right now here’s my Candide thought: Dr Pangloss was right.

Safety is dangerous says Squander Two
 
What is the connection between Celebrity Big Brother and London's sewers? Draculette has the answer.
 
Norman Dennis on how the planners ripped the heart of Britain's cities
 
I (don’t necessarily) want to be alone (but I could survive it)

Jackie on relationships:

...most people who think and say that they’re after a romantic partnership are really after a parent. They haven’t given up the desire to be parented the way they wish they had been as a child, and they look to their partners to do the things they wish their parents had done: praise them, love them, and meet their needs. As the therapist quoted in the article says, adults meet their own needs, they don’t look for someone else to do it. And when these people break up with their partners because they don’t meet all their needs and read their minds, they end up feeling like abandoned children.

She says this isn’t new but it’s new to me.  And I think it’s right.

Word of the day - quadraspazz
 
EU Referendum

Brian thinks this might go horribly wrong.  Richard North doesn’t.  He thinks it will be the time when the internet in the UK comes of age:

We have said it before, but it bears repetition, that the coming EU referendum campaign will be the first internet campaign in our history and I remain convinced that the material on the net will have a decisive impact on the course of the campaign.

Christie writes about the exhibition of the works of political cartoonist, Strube
 
Private education - works
 
In Brief is here!

After a certain amount of fiddling about I got the column that you can see on the right working.  It’s actually quite a business adding a third column.  You have to decide how you are going to decide which posts appear there and which don’t.  You have to be particularly careful to make sure that it can be read on monitors with 800x600 resoluctions - these still account for some 30% of all PCs.  And you have to make sure that it also works for all the subsidiary pages.  Right now it works for the Archives but not the Categories.  In fact, the Categories don’t work at all.  Whoops.

One little rule I’ve decided to give myself.  If the item I’m linking to allows comments then my In Brief entry doesn’t and vice versa.  Point being that we don’t want feedback in more than one place.

Update - Categories are no longer quite so catastrophic.  However, In Brief items which are not specifically part of the specific category do appear on the page which is a shame.  I also think the third column does look rather anaemic.  But it’ll do for now.

11 January 2005
This is another test
 
This is a test
07 January 2005
In Brief

On Transport Blog I had a third column in which I placed short postings usually linking to something interesting I had seen.  I called this column “In Brief”.  It was something I liked having and more than one reader thought it was really good.

So, should I have one here?

I don’t have to.  Instapundit doesn’t and he does one-line links to all sorts of things.  And I’ve got away with it so far.  But, but, but… The thing is that I feel that if I had the third column I would be flagging up a lot more things than I do at the moment.  Just today there were a couple of articles that would have been ideal for an In Brief section but didn’t seem right in the main column.  Why, I do not know. But it’s a good enough reason in and of itself to go and do it.

06 January 2005
Tackling the BBC II

As regular readers will know one of my mini-obsessions is tackling the BBC.  Having been going all around the Wrekin on this one this week I am beginning to reach some conclusions.

But I’ll begin with a re-cap.  My criticism of Biased BBC is that it doesn’t scrutinise enough broadcast content. The reason is that there is nothing to link to.  Therefore, we have to create our own linkables.

This is what I have been trying to do recently.  Not particularly successfully, sadly.

There have been two problems with my approach.  The first is that I have insisted on one post per item.  The idea was that commenters would be able to comment on the specific bit of the broadcast they wanted to.  The problem is that this is too difficult in a live situation.  Often it is difficult to know when one item ends and another begins.  It also tends to take the anchor out of the equation.  There’s plenty they say that makes the eyeballs roll.

The second is that live blogging (or at least me doing live blogging) doesn’t really shift the goods.  Quotations have got to be spot on. Often in a live broadcast I miss things or forget the last few words of a sentence.  And if I am concentrating on listening and typing I can’t concentrate on the pictures.  What all this is leading too (apart from the need for a better blogger) is the need for a recording and and a second viewing.  Which, in turn, implies a delay between transmission and posting.  Not ideal but I think it’s the best approach.

05 January 2005
Reciprocal Links

On The Evangelical Outpost as linked to from Instapundit Joe Carter tells us all to include reciprocal links on our blogrolls.  In other words if someone links to you then you should link to them.

I disagree.  In fact I disagree with the whole concept of blogrolls.  As Instapundit says the thing that counts is the post not the blog.  The only reason I maintain a blogroll is for my own benefit.

But even if I had an ordinary blogroll I think I’d still object.  To my mind a blogroll entry is a recommendation.  It says: “I read this blog.” To dilute a blogroll with blogs you don’t read is to devalue that recommendation.

03 January 2005

"There was no crime because there was nothing worth pinching" Not true as Norman Dennis (in one of a succession of posts on the subject) points out.

Update.  This "succession of posts" may have something to with the fact that he has a pamphlet out.  Covered by the Telegraph here.

Schools, hospitals, clean water, policing, courts without the state.  Impossible?  Not only is it possible but it’s happened and not that long ago either.  Jay Jardine reviews the Voluntary City.

So, just how should the government convince us to stop going to McDonalds and eat tofu?  Dom has a suggestion:

image

Mark Holland has been having some difficulties with Jehovah’s witnesses.  He reckons the choice is between being rude and ruining your entire day.  But there are alternatives.

02 January 2005

Peter Briffa is on form:

Still, while there is life, this is hope. For all the suffering and evil they inflict, it is worth reminding ourselves that serial killers can provide a valuable social function, asking as they do key questions about how we relate to one another as human beings.

As he says.

Democracies win their wars, says Brad de LongDon't they just.

01 January 2005
Live Blogging Trial

A few weeks ago I described how one might monitor the BBC a bit more effectively.  The other night I gave it a go and you can see the results here.

I’m not entirely happy about it.  For starters, it looks a bit of a mess.  It does so because posts are in chronological order, in other words the exact opposite of the blog standard.

It is a gut feeling that separate items must have separate postings (in order to generate relevant comments) and that they must be in chronological order.  It has to be earliest first because that it is the earliest items in a broadcast that are the most important.

The problem is that you end up with the announcement that some live blogging is to take place at the top.  Announcements like this, of course, have to be in reverse chronological order and that means that announcements and live blogging sections have to appear in different places.  For the time being, at least, I can make announcements of up-coming live blogging sessions here leaving BBC Watch (or what it ends up being called) for just the programmes.

There are a few other things I am not happy about:

  • Obviously parts of the sidebar will have to be sorted out - it’s a direct lift from here.
  • I don’t like permalinks etc appearing on the same line as the title - as they do in many cases.
  • I think broadcasts do need an introduction but perhaps it should also be a summary.  “Overview” perhaps.  And it should also include some summary information: anchorman, whether the broadcast was any good etc.
  • I am not happy about the categorisation

There are also questions about how to live blog.  I can’t write it all down.  Well, I could.  I could write out a whole transcript but that would be hard work and anyway, would it be all that valuable?  When it comes to a TV report the important thing is not the actual words but the impression it leaves.  Which first, words or pictures?  I think the words are what we have to go for for the most part.  But even that might not be that important.  The important thing is not necessarily the quality of the hooks but the fact that they exist at all.  It gives people a focus for comment which is what is currently lacking.

Anyway, what I am going to do is to see if I can sort this out technically and then, having done that, have another go a live blogging probably sometime next week.

Incidentally, if any readers do wish to comment on any of the items you are more than welcome to but just be warned that this blog is pre-production and posts may well get deleted.

Update As you’ve probably noticed several things have already changed.  I’ve had a go at the sidebar.  I’ve also had a go at the categorisation which I am still not happy about.

Putin = Hitler

…says, sort of, Niall Ferguson