Saturday, June 20, 2009

cromwell on parliament - quoted in guardian review of book today

"Ye sordid prostitutes, have you not defiled this sacred place, and turned the Lord's temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices? Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation; you were deputed here by the people to get grievances redressed, are yourselves become the greatest grievance."

couldn't say it much better could you...?

Friday, June 19, 2009

liberty in the age of terror

new fine book by AC Grayling - Liberyy in the age of terror - essential reading

2 things struck me while reading this (and I'm not talking about pieces of a flying suicide bomber or a policeman's truncheon:)

1. "nothing to hide, so nothing to fear" - why is this bogus

well one reason is actually that hte elasticity needed in a multi-cultural society needs space between differences - in some sense, ignorance (not in the sense of not knowing of something's existence, but not wanting to know the gory details) is bliss - while
I hate the things some people do in their privacy of their homes, I defend to the utmost their right to do those things - but in private. I'm squeamish...the only way this works is if we don't shine a spotlight into every corner of the world (panopticon/prison/bentham style). you need some grey areas, some slack, some DMZs in life....

2. the "what if the bad guys take over" is a weak argument - a more direct argument is that a surveillance state requires a lot of eyes - those eyes have absolute oversight, which means they are tempted. If you tempt enough people, you will systematically corrupt some of them (c.f. MPs expenses) - this is an all too easy intro into the "absolute power corrupts absolutely, but the technology is not magic - surveillance, control and so on will attract large numbers of the exact wrong types of operators, and they will misuse their positions and without guardians to guard them, nothing will stop rapid mission creep (police action during recent G20 demos etc etc)....the better solution is to ring fence their powers in the first place and time limit any special powers (as Grayling proposes)....otherwise we don't need to wait for the BNP to become national socialists,. we will simply be training our own everywhere

Thursday, June 11, 2009


so in my usual bombastic way I overstated a couple of things in conversations with people yesterday

thing 1 was the size of the english language/vocab - if you get any
english/foo v. foo/english dictionary, you can see the asymmetry in the vocab
(for french, spanish, german, italian etc) - i think that english (according to OED) just made its 1 millionth word....

but when i say this, people assume I am making some moral superiority claim - I'm not - its just an observation - there is a cultural point (english survives by adaptation and laguages who have defense organisation like the Academie Francaise are doomed)

thing 2 was that a program which proves something cannot be patented and shouldn't and given in some senses all programmes are of this nature, then this should stay true - again someone decided I had some political agenda in saying this - i was merely commenting based o na shed load of law case transcripts I've been reading recently that it would be nice if the law wasn't just the product of a random walk through the set of cases that those people who can afford to bring against each other, and was, instead, actually thought out

Monday, June 08, 2009

british politics are now truly a fight between 4 or 5 dysfunctional families

having completely lost trust the tories and whigs can go jump - i blame them equally for the fiasco we now have of nazis and losers like bnp and ukip "representing" us
in europe

what a bunch of low life scum....and the bnp and ukip aren't a lot better either.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

simon singh's libel problem...

In general, I support the idea that a medical (i.e. scientific) claim should be supported by objectively verifiable (or falsifiable) evidence, and that claiming some nostrum is bogus should not give rights to someone to declare open season on the critic - the normal laws applying to arguing whether something is true on a balance of reason, should suffice - whereas libel law quite clearly reverses the burden of proof in a weird way

however, I think there's another, stronger reason that one should support simon singh against the chiropracters (well, specifically, the British Chiropractic Association):-

unsupported medical claims endanger lives. there's a process which has a bunch of checks and balances for deciding which therapies are appropoved - sure, there are complimentary therapies (mostly they have some sort of value if you believe in them), but there are serious problems claiming a therapy will address something (e.g. asthma) which can have deadly consequences, when there are mainstream medical producedures which have efficacy, nd yo umight take attention away from them.

I would claim that false claims about an alternative treatment, just as false claims against an established treatment (e.g. MMR) are actually a crime, since they are effectively 1. appropriating medical expertise which the claimants don't have (this is a crime in the UK) 2. could be construed as criminally negligent, if they do not position the claim correctly in the ranking normally afforded to different current scientific theories

so aside from the possibility the Judge has made a mistake technicall in the current finding (that is being appealed) AND aside from establishing a new set of legal stuff in and around science, I think one could counter sue the BCA for risking peoples' lives - I am not a lawyer, but last time I looked at something similar, I asked a lawyer and was told that this was in principle do-able.

see sense about science for the background and lots of details.
usefully primary source is the article, annotated with primary sources and the BCA's press releases

Note that wikipedia's entry on Chiropractic clearly claims it is "not based on solid science."

So is the BCA going to sue wikipedia too?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Tai Ping - martial art with pen&paper

with nothing more than pen and paper we can wage war on a welter of witless with
mish-takes (a cornish pasty of concrete like rigidity) and agile use of the tittle-tattle-tottle (an ancient essex version of the namchuk)