Monday, 27 October 2008

Video Of The Week (43)

Video of the Week 21/10 - 27/10: Zombies!

Just in time for Halloween. How about this for an attack ad?

Seen Elsewhere (22)

Cross-posted from Defending The Blog

Time for another roundup of the best of the Blogpower blogs over the past week...

Here in the UK, much of the media's attention has once again focused on links between oligarchs and politicians. Ordovicius looks at the reaction on the Tory side, and Labour councillor Bob Piper takes a more generally cynical overview. Tuscan Tony makes short work of Peter Mandelson.

Mike Ion takes a look at the problems facing David Cameron; Never Trust A Hippy the troubled Tribune newspaper. On a tangentially related note, Norfolk Blogger argues for driving tests for over-75s.

Government waste and stupidity are two perennial blog topics. Andrew Allison has an example of the former; Ellee Seymour news a possible mitigation of one of the most notorious examples of the latter - the EU's disastrous fishing policy. There's details of a new liberties campaign at Looking For A Voice; this is placed in a wider context by The Last Ditch.

This week's star Letter From A Tory is addressed to US Vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, while The Fake Consultant discusses Barack Obama's running mate.

Bearwatch has, as you might expect, been posting some very interesting material during this bear market, such as this post. Critical Faculty Dojo looks at the bailout from a taxpayers' point of view. Pub Philosopher opines on the regulation of corporations. Brummie Republic and No Clue offer different perspectives on poverty.

Some more philosophical blogging over at Calum Carr, who discusses the morality of suicide; and An Insomniac, who considers the argument that environmentalism is a form of religion. Crushed By Ingsoc offers his own unique perspective on sex education.

Here's Nobody Important, making me relieved that I never got into the virtual world of 'Second Life'. Corporate Presenter has some tips on interviewing celebrities; Sempiternal Horizons on writing short stories.

On that specific form of writing we are so familiar with: Miss Wagstaff Presents the 7 Deadly Sins Of Blogging. The Thunder Dragon asks: Is blogging dead? Bearwatch has a particularly funny American version of a joke that has done the rounds of the blogs a few times.

Around the world with Blogpower! From Las Vegas (Deeply Blasphemous), via Banff, Canada (Finding Life Hard?), over to Niger in Africa (The Poor Mouth), all the way to Australia - where the sensible ones can take in a cup of coffee (Cafe Grendel) while the not-so-sensible can have a go on the high wire (Adelaide Green Porridge Cafe).

This week's post illustration was provided by Sally In Norfolk. On behalf of the Blogpower community, the flowers come with best wishes to Welshcakes of Sicily Scene, who had to go to hospital last week.

Friday, 24 October 2008

There's Probably No God

The British Humanist Association's bus advertising campaign, comprising posters with the message "There's probably no god, now stop worrying and enjoy your life", has certainly ruffled a few feathers.

Ariane Sherine's article on Comment Is Free attracted over 2000 comments, which as far as I am aware is a record for that site. A follow-up posted yesterday afternoon has already attracted over 600. Many of these are supportive, but others seem to be seriously put out by the campaign.

Goodness knows (pun intended) why. After all, atheists have put up with public proselytising by Christian and other religious groups for many years - the advertising of the Alpha Course is particularly prominent at present - with very little in the way of protest. But god forbid (yes) the non-believers begin to fight their corner!

In related news, I bought a ticket today for a music & comedy night at the Hammersmith Apollo on 21 December, entitled 'Nine Lessons & Carols For Godless People', with Richard Dawkins, Mark Thomas and Ben Goldacre among others. If you fancy joining me there...

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Quote Of The Day

"Only the most warped collectivist could argue that individuals must be kept alive against their will." - Simon Jenkins
Go read the rest of the article...

Monday, 20 October 2008

Video Of The Week (42)

Video of the Week 14/10 - 20/10: Anyone Can Be VP

There's quite a few humorous songs and animations about the US election and in particular John McCain's running mate Sarah Palin around, but for my money this is the best of the bunch. A front-runner for political YouTube clip of the year.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Seen Elsewhere (21)

Another round-up of interesting postings from elsewhere in the 'blogosphere'...

  • Booting up the surveillance state: Longrider on Geoff Hoon's inane fearmongering in defence of a massive communications database. Devil's Kitchen on proposals to register everyone who buys a mobile phone (!) - as Henry Crun remarks, its as if they are trying to anger those of us who care about privacy and civil liberties...

  • ...Which brings me on to the protests against this creeping totalitarianism. Guthrum (Looking For A Voice) plans to send a message to MPs with the help of a £5 book; Old Holborn with an anonymous walk.

  • Charlotte Gore has an amusing take on the bank bailouts. Mark Wadsworth has more serious commentary as the debate rumbles on.

  • Snuffy (To Miss With Love) suggests 20 changes to make education better. Agree or disagree - some are rather controversial - there's no disputing that this is someone who has been there and done it.

  • Counting chickens? Aaron Heath at Liberal Conspiracy on the 'collapse' of John McCain's presidential campaign, and John Demetriou on its having gone 'tits up'. Political Betting reports that Paddy Power have paid out on an Obama win.

Mini-Blogpower roundup

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Happy Birthday To Me

Yes, it's exactly one year since the first post on Question That.

As a way of marking the anniversary, I thought I'd have a look back over the 320 posts I have written here since 18 October 2007. Here are what I consider to be five of Question That's highlights...


Eco Chamber: As well as having one of my favourite post titles, this is the post I have linked back to most frequently since it was written. My first posting on a perennial QT subject, the faults of environmentalists.

Substantial Grounds: In November and December, QT was part of an ultimately successful bloggers' campaign to save Jahongir Sidikov, an Uzbek dissident, from deportation. In this post I set out the human rights case.

Ken vs Boris On The Issues (4): Local Environment
: I could have chosen any one of this series of 5 posts on the London Mayoral Election that I wrote in March. The election - like so many nowadays - was dominated by personalities and smears, so I endeavoured to assess what a Ken or Boris mayoralty would actually mean for London.

Did EU Ban Calling Bar Staff 'Darling'?: In which a tabloid headline led to an in-depth investigation of Statutory Instruments and EU directives.

Illegal Images Of Legal Acts: This is by some distance the most visited post on Question That, after it was featured on Reddit and Digg. It discusses the 3rd reading of the Criminal Justice & Immigration Bill, and in particular the 'Dangerous Pictures Act' ban on extreme pornography.

Friday, 17 October 2008

The Writing's On The Wall

Via Ambush Predator, this is one of those stories that really makes you wonder...

A council in Cornwall, built a £3,000 wall so that local youths could "practice their graffiti artwork without vandalising local property". However, one anonymous resident wasn't too impressed with this use of their council tax money.

IMAGE: Telegraph

So far, so funny. What's next defies belief (bolding mine):

"...It is now going to cost the taxpayer, as we will have to crime it, investigate it and paint over it." - Sgt Robin Moorcroft
Investigating the crime of writing graffiti on a graffiti wall. Well I never.

Alternatively, they could follow up the suggestion of Ross, a commenter over at JuliaM's:
Couldn't they just build a second wall for angry taxpayers to express their dissatisfaction with building the first wall?

Thursday, 16 October 2008

How Things Stand

Yes, this is a real photo, taken at the end of the Presidential debate in New York last night.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Quote Of The Day

"Well, I don't know much about this terrorist group Barack used to be in with that Weather guy but I'm sick of paying for health insurance at work and that's why I'm supporting Barack." - Anonymous, US Midwest
As one of the commenters in the thread puts it:

" They know everything is fucked up and they may be somewhat confused about what happened, but they know the Repugs [Republicans] did it and that's all that matters."

Monday, 13 October 2008

Video Of The Week (41)

Video of the Week 07/10 - 14/10: That One

By far the most talked-about moment of the first two US Presidential debates. With a dismissive wave of the hand, John McCain refers to Barack Obama as "that one".

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Seen Elsewhere (20)

This week's round-up of interesting blog posts...

  • Conservatives for Obama! Here's Iain Dale writing in the Telegraph, here's Christopher Buckley in the American e-zine Daily Beast, and here's Wick Allison of Dallas' D e-zine.

  • Bearwatch is a blog whose time has come. Here Sackerson has found himself having to revise pessimistic predictions of stock market values after a week of panicked selling. Here he revisits the perennial 'gold standard' question in the light of events.

  • Is the bailout approach to the financial crisis, which has spread from the USA across to Europe trading short term gain for long term pain? Jim Rogers thinks so (via Patrick Vessey at LPUK blog). From the same blogger, why are supposedly 'pro-free market' think tanks failing to criticise this use of taxpayers' money?

  • Dave Osler defends councils who put almost a billion pounds into Icelandic banks. The Devil's Kitchen responds, while Old Holborn follows up with a Freedom of Information request to the chief executive of his local council.

  • The world may be headed for recession, but Gordon Brown is smiling for a change. Is Brown the right man for a crisis, asks Bob's Head Revisited. On the other side of the coin, Political Betting ponders whether Brown could be nearing retirement.

  • It's a rollercoaster life, being an MP blogger. Last month Tom Harris was voted #1 left-of-centre blogger. This month he has been sacked from his job as Transport Minister and returned to the back benches. Here is an interview he gave with the BBC.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Blogger's Update

I haven't posted much recently, and for a few reasons that is likely to continue for a while yet.

On the blogging side of things, the topics that are on most people's minds including my own at the moment - specifically the credit crunch/financial crisis and the US Election - are topics on which it is rather difficult to be original or insightful on a blog like this, so there is not the need to get thoughts out into the open that there has been at other times when the landscape of discussion has been more varied and less beholden to events outside all of our sphere of influence (tenuous as that influence may be in the vast majority of cases, right now it is non-existent).

As for myself, I am coming to the end of my three years of PhD study. Yes, I don't talk much about science on this blog (deliberately, in order to keep blogging and work in strictly separate domains), but if all goes well then in a few months' time I will be Dr. Ian_QT. This means that at the moment more of my time that might previously have been spent reading blogs/mulling over blog posts/writing blog posts is having to be spent writing my thesis and tying the last loose ends of my scientific work together. In addition, I need to find myself a job for once those three years are up!

This is not the end of Question That, and I will certainly be keeping the regular series 'Seen Elsewhere' and 'Video of the Week' going unless things get really hectic.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Video Of The Week (40)

Video of the Week 30/09 - 06/10: Pink - 'So What'

Number one in this week's UK Singles Chart is one of the most enjoyable pop songs I've heard in some time, with a video to match.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Seen Elsewhere (19)

Just a quick one today as I'm at 'home from home' this weekend. So: Ten posts from the blogs I selected a while back (not sure exactly when, TBH) as 'Ten To Watch'...

  • Alex Lockwood only wrote one post this week, an interview with a manager at the BBC.

  • If Sam Tarran Were In Charge... He'd have seen Ian Blair off too.

  • Mac Uaid discusses poverty in the shadow of the City of London.

  • Can Labour win a fourth term? Mike Ion outlines a possible strategy.

  • Obnoxio excoriates the Congressman who used the 'emergency' Bailout Bill as an opportunity to get all kinds of tax breaks into US law.

  • James at Scribo Ergo Sum on American perspectives on Europe.

  • Sinclair muses over the creation of a new Government department of Energy & Climate Change.

  • The Fake Consultant compares American and Egyptian electoral politics.

  • The Landed Underclass on why Virgin Galactic are appropriately named.

  • Are taller candidates more likely to be elected? Unenlightened Commentary ponders this and related questions.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

The Best Of 'The Best Of Shrdlu'

I'm away at my folks' this weekend, so taking a little bit of a break. So, instead of commentary on the latest goings-on in the financial markets and the US Presidential Race, here's some funny misprints instead. These are all from a book I found on my bookshelf there entitled 'The Best of Shrdlu'...

10. Fair Test

Dear Madam,
With reference to your blue raincoat, our manufacturers have given the garment in question a thorough testing, and find that it is absolutely waterproof. If you will wear it on a dry day, and then take it off and examine it you will see that our statement is correct.

Your obedient servant,
Blank & Co, Drapers

9. Covering All Bases
Do not wash the plastic ear pieces of your stethoscope with fragrant, floral scented soaps. If you do, bees will fly in your ears looking for honey.
- New England Journal of Medicine

8. Tasty Paws
Whichever method is used for cleaning the dog's paws, make sure that the paw is thoroughly washed with lukewarm water and is thoroughly dried. Spread with cayenne cheese. Place 2 or 3 asparagus tips on each and sprinkle on a little cayenne pepper.
- South Wales Gazette & Newport News

7. No Shit, Sherlock
During the past few days, three bicycles have been stolen from Exeter streets. The police consider that a bicycle thief is at work.
- Western Morning News

6. Sock It To 'Em
The manufacturers of this sock MUST be washed in LUKEWARM water, NOT HOT, and well rinsed to remove soap.
- Instructions with Pearlustra socks

5. How Many Surrealists Does It Take To Write A Crime Report?
'The vast majority of those in the sports world are honest men,' Brickley said. 'The fact that a relative few have had contacts with alleged betting ring could be serious or something relatively innocent. Maybe stupid, but relatively innocent.'
Another man who was arrested said 'On the far side of the moon the crust was thick and solid and meteorites merely blasted craters.'
- Oakland Tribune

4. I Should Hope Not
In the handicrafts exhibition at Wordsley Community Centre, the contribution of the Misses Smith was 'smocking and rugs' and not 'smoking drugs' as stated in last week's report.
- The Stourbridge County Express

3. Well That's That Proven
Recent tests conducted by a zoologist prove that grasshoppers hear with their legs. In all cases the insects hopped when a tuning fork was sounded nearby. There was no reaction to this stimulus, however, when the insects' legs had been removed.
- Corning Glass Works Magazine

2. You're Under Arrest
By an unfortunate typographical error we were made to say last week that the retiring Mr D___ was a member of the defective branch of the police force. Of course this should have read: 'The detective branch of the police farce.'
- New Zealand paper

1. Don't Think About Food!
'I was the hippiest girl in weight naturally. Without town,' said Wanda Dawson of harmful drugs, too Ayds are Jacksonville, Florida, when she available in a chewy vanilla weighed 223lbs. Her husband caramel, in a plain chocolate even called her a short bale of fudge type and a minty choco-cotton. Finally her boss lady late fudge.
- Advert in Binghampton Evening Press

Friday, 3 October 2008

Well, Wall Street Got Their Bailout...

...So why has the Dow Jones gone down 250 points since 6pm?

Could it be that it's been a con all along, eh?

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

John McCain's Aspiration

Watch this clip of John McCain talking to the Des Moines Register about the failure of the Bush/Paulson Bailout Bill to get through Congress. Listen carefully around the 01:41 mark...

Scary or what?

NOTE: Just to pre-empt one anticipated response to this, I'm aware that what McCain says in this clip could be interpreted in an alternative way. However, if that alternative interpretation is to be believed, his choice of words is strange to say the least - 'Drafter' would have made much more sense in that other possible context.

Bush/Paulson Bailout: For & Against

To summarise a week of reading about the Bush/Paulson bailout:

Reasons to oppose this Bailout:

  • Section 8 of the Bill hands quasi-dictatorial powers over the US economy to Paulson (Link); there is no trace of oversight.

  • The amount of US taxpayers' money available for use in the purchase of mortgage related assets is not limited to $700 billion. (Link)

  • The Bailout is a sticking plaster, not a cure (Link) - yet the provisions contained in the Bill are not time-limited.

  • 200 economists have signed a petition denouncing the bailout as unfair, unclear in its effects, and dangerously short-termist (Link).

  • The Bailout creates a significant moral hazard: Banks that have acted irresponsibly to gain enormous profits during the boom must also bear the losses, or there is no disincentive to a future repeat of the events of the past decade, since risk-takers will be confident that Mommy Government will be there to pick up the bill should their gambles fail to pay off.

  • The above problem would be ameliorated rather if the terms in some way punished the executives of banks and financial institutions that are 'bailout'. This is not provided for; apparently this is not Paulson's intention. (Link)

  • It does nothing to assist (or even 'bail out') the homeowners who have been foreclosed or are at risk of foreclosure because of the same bad mortgages that are at the root of this 'crunch'. (Link)

  • Republicans as much as admitted that their support for it was a ruse to snare Barack Obama and the Democrats into taking blame for the effects of its passing. (Link)

  • The American people oppose the Bill, because they see it - not without justification - as handing their money to 'fat cats' on Wall Street. Its failure in Congress was a demonstration of representative democracy functioning correctly. (Link)

Reasons to support this Bailout:
  • PANIC!!!!!!!!!!!

Cross-posted at Daily Kos

UPDATE (01/10): Shortly after this post was written, the text of the new Bailout Bill, HR-1424, that will be voted on in the Senate later this evening, was made public. It could scarcely be more different - this new Bill is 451 pages long! At a brief reading of the summary, it looks like although there are improvements in some of the areas mentioned, it remains a decidedly poor deal for average Americans, particularly if the 10% surtax amendment fails.

22:02PM - Wow, Obama is really trying to sell this new Bill to the Senators and the American people! I haven't heard a statement like this one for a long time. "If American taxpayers are going to finance this, they should be treated like investors".

Update Hat-tip: Boatang & Demetriou

Republicans Attack Bailout

Via Daily Kos

The Republican National Committee put out an ad attacking the bailout for using taxpayers' money to rescue Wall Street.

Unfortunately for them, they didn't count on 95 Democratic members of Congress voting down the disgraceful Bush/Paulson Bailout Bill, and apparently intended to attack a plan that passed into law against the wishes of a majority of the American people.

The ad attacks Barack Obama for being prepared to spend "a trillion dollars" of taxpayers' money on alleviating the financial crisis, but makes no mention of the fact that Republican Presidential candidate John McCain also backed the Bill.

See the ad: