Monday 27 March 2006

An inappropriate business model.

One might think that Yahoo would be one of those organisations that have a pretty good understanding of the Internet. You know, what it is, how it works, that sort of thing. Apparently not:

A couple of days ago Yahoo sent me a notice stating they'd revised their Publisher Policy. Item '11.l' stated that I will not "display all or part of the Ad Unit to any user located outside the US". In other words, I can't allow users outside of the United States to view my pages if there is a Yahoo ad on the page!

This seemed insanely limiting, to say the least, and I wrote Yahoo to clarify this. Here is their reply:
Mar 21 2006 16:18 PT

In regards to your inquiry, as per section 11.l of the Terms and Conditions, you are in violation if your ads receive traffic from sources outside the United States. However, there are scripts and programs which you can initiate to block international users from viewing or encountering your Yahoo! Publisher Network ads. We do not recommend or support these methods, but we do suggest finding a method to block this kind of traffic so you remain in compliance with the Terms and Conditions.

I suspect that the only reason Yahoo have any pay-per-click customers left is that most of them can't be bothered trawling through the new terms & conditions to find out about this change. But I'm sure word will spread. I wonder how long the eejits will keep this up before they realise how disastrously stupid it is.

Sunday 26 March 2006

The Left move right. Again.

It's the big scandal over here at the minute. The Government are planning to introduce water metering, and the public are angry. There's a big we-won't-pay type campaign underway, led by the usual shouty bedreadlocked people with trestle tables in the street, but seemingly popular with the conservative blazer-wearing types, too. And I just don't get it. And not only do I not get it, but I don't get why the Socialists get it.

There is an argument to be had about whether the state are the best people to be providing a water network, but credit where credit is due: they seem to do it OK. I turn on my tap, and clean fresh water comes out. I flush my toilet, and the shit goes away. (Well, usually.) Reservoirs are maintained, burst pipes are repaired, etc, etc. And all this costs money. Lots of people do this work, and I believe that those people should be paid. And they are. As a general rule, Socialists believe that such people should be paid more and work fewer hours, yet here they are campaigning against water charges. Where do they think these workers' pay is going to come from, then?

We already pay for our water supply; it's included in the council tax. All that's going to be changed is that it's going to be separated out and metered, so that you'll pay more for using more water and less for using less. This is a Bad Thing, the Socialists tell us, because, er.... Well, I got a leaflet through my door from them yesterday, and, despite being covered in words, it didn't mention what's so bad about water metering anywhere. It just kept saying that it was wrong, and seemed to just assume that the reader would agree.

As best I can make out, the complaint is not that we are expected to pay for the water supply, but that metering will mean that different people will pay different amounts, and that people who have medical conditions that mean they need to drink plenty of water will kill themselves in order to save a couple of quid on the water bill. Hmm. Let's just reiterate the important bit there: Socialists believe that everyone should pay the same amount for their government-provided water, regardless of how much they use.

So here's the bit I don't get. Back in the Eighties, a prominent politician believed that everyone should pay the same amount for their government-provided services, regardless of how much they used — not just water, but all of them. Her name was Margaret Thatcher, and she introduced a tax based on those principles, officially called the Community Charge but known to all as the Poll Tax. And the people who are currently campaigning against water metering were so upset that they organised a nationwide campaign of mass civil disobedience, rioted, and kicked the hell out of London.

Like I said, I don't get it.

Bins: the saga continues.

Yes, come to Squander Two Blog for all your reading-about-bins needs. Fascinating stuff.

Anyway, yes, further to my generalised ranting about our new green bin

All the houses in this street have small gardens. I generate enough garden clippings to fill this bin maybe twice a year, and I do a lot more gardening than many people. So isn't coming out to collect this thing in a big diesel truck every fortnight a horrible environment-damaging waste of resources?

— things have turned out to be both better and worse than I had thought.

The only reason I didn't have a compost bin up till now was to save space in a rather small garden. Since the council have ordained that I have to have a compost bin in my garden, I thought, well, may as well make it my own one and get to keep the compost for myself. And not having to lug it out for collection every two weeks will be nice, too. So I rang the council to tell them that I'm going to get my own compost bin, so don't need theirs, so could they come and take it away, please? I also rang a different department of the council to ask for a compost bin, because it turns out that they will provide me with one if I want, free of charge. I'm skint, so this is good. In an ideal world, I'd give them less tax in the first place and I'd be able to afford to buy my own compost bin, but hey. I don't really object to this particular use of taxpayers' money: while the council are in charge of waste disposal, it's good that they take measures to reduce the amount of waste of which they have to dispose. I imagine that issuing people with compost bins actually reduces costs.

Anyway, so that's the good bit. The bad bit is that they won't be able to collect the green wheelie-bin for two weeks, due to demand. It's not the two-week delay that's bad, but the demand: so many people are doing what I'm doing that the council have a two-week backlog of bins to take back. This means that a huge number of big plastic things have been manufactured and distributed by big diesel trucks totally unnecessarily and are now being undistributed again totally unnecessarily in order to reduce waste.

Friday 24 March 2006

Busy, busy, busy.

Not blogged in ages. Sorry about that. Ah, the demanding life of a programmer. And the boringness of the news. Politicians corrupt? Spare me.

Anyway, can't find a link for this, but, according to Balance magazine, NHS hospitals are now insisting that no patients be allowed to administer their own medication, and that includes diabetics giving themselves insulin. When a diabetic is admitted to hospital, they are expected to give their insulin to the staff and rely on nurses to check their blood sugar and inject their insulin. This is a Bad Thing.

In our experience, the trouble is not merely that your average nurse or even doctor knows very little about diabetes, but that your average doctor or nurse is so keen on ignoring or overruling their absent colleagues. So, when you're on a hospital ward, the advice of your diabetic specialist consultant who's been treating you for years really carries no more weight than the opinion of the duty nurse who's known you for twenty minutes, because the nurse is there and the consultant isn't. This isn't a huge problem when you're injecting yourself, because you can in turn choose to ignore the idiotic advice of the ignorant nurse and do what your consultant advised you to anyway. But that, apparently, is no longer allowed. The people who don't know what to feed you, how much insulin to give you, or whether to put you on a glucose drip are now solely in charge of feeding you, injecting your insulin, and deciding when to put you on a glucose drip.

It will come as a surprise to no-one with any experience of the NHS to learn that this approach has so far killed two people.


Oops; turns out I was mistaken. This approach has so far killed two people in Northern Ireland alone. I don't know the figure for the UK as a whole, but I'm not sticking my neck out all that far in imagining it to be larger, am I?

Friday 10 March 2006

Three chords and the truth.

Ding Dong Twist is, frankly, a bit barmy. I'm not sure what to make of it all yet.

Somewhere in there, though, is this rediscovered, previously unpublished John Lennon song. And it's class.


Rob Hinkley is the undisputable king of nutter-finding. Even by his standards, my, but he hasn't half found a good'un: Thomas Daniel Clark, President of The Radiation Health Foundation and Star Haven Community Services. Unlike most nutters, he doesn't have a font overkill fetish, knows that there is a time and a place for upper-case letters, and seems to have been taught grammar and spelling. All of which, somehow, makes him much, much funnier.

I recommend reading his letter to Michigan's Attorney General.

A legal conundrum.

Yet again, I stop being informative for a minute to ask for advice.

In Scotland, there is no such thing as deed poll. If you want to change your name, you simply do so, with no lawyers necessary unless you change your name to "The Coca-Cola Company" and start selling fizzy brown drinks. As far as the law is concerned, your legal name is whatever you call yourself. I've always thought that this is fundamentally the right approach: it should be you who tells the authorities what your name is, not the other way around.

In the rest of the UK, the name on your birth certificate or adoption certificate is your name unless you get a lawyer to register an official change with the state.

So my question is: what happens if a Scot changes their name and then moves to England? Does their name legally revert until they go through deed poll? Or are they legally allowed to use the name that they had when they arrived in England, regardless of what may be on their birth certificate? And what happens if an Englishman moves to Scotland, changes his name, then leaves Scotland?

Oh, the problems of having two overlapping legal systems.

Tuesday 7 March 2006

Pin the hatchet on the donkey.

There's a bit of a controversy breaking out over that bastard George Galloway's comments that I mentioned the other day:

In fact, the cartoons published in Denmark did not surprise me because the Western states have been waging fierce attacks against Islam for years. These began by humiliation, insults and then occupation. Today they reached the point of ridiculing the prophet. This incident is worse than the 11 September attacks in the US and the 7/7 incidents in London.

In the comments, someone has provided a link to this post at Lenin's Tomb:

The mooncalves at Harry's Slaughterhouse have been remarkably quick in leaping onto BBC Monitoring translation of an interview with Respect MP George Galloway for El Khabar. Brimming with credulity, and eyes afire at the didactic delights found therein, one particular moo-head actually published the material twice, pausing the second time round to actually put the 'gotcha' moments in bold type. They're resourceful with their hypertext, those boys, and every bit as subtle as the average crow bar.

Not the ideal paragraph in which to criticise someone else's lack of subtlety, but hey.

The most arresting claim is that Galloway said the following:

Today they reached the point of ridiculing the prophet. This incident is worse than the 11 September attacks in the US and the 7/7 incidents in London. Therefore, today it is the right of Muslims to express their anger and to defend their right and faith.

Well, he didn't. The journalist who interviewed him has acknowledged that he said no such thing, and the paper has promised to issue a correction on its site. The tapes are being sent back to the Respect office, just in case any newspaper or television news programme tries repeating those claims.

Well, first off, El Khabar certainly did publish the quote — else why are they issuing a retraction? — yet "Lenin" reckons that the people to blame for the misquote are not those who published it (whom he criticises for not one second) but the people who read it. He defends this bizarre approach quite vigorously in his own comments:

Harry's Place published this guff without even asking themselves whether it was probable. They were willing to believe it, wholesale, without question, despite the fact that anyone who read and thought about the claim for half a second would be able to tell it was bollocks. They are credulous to the point of absurdity.

This from a man whose reaction to reading Socialist Worker was to join the Socialist Workers Party.

But is the quote really so improbable? Why?

George Galloway is on record as saying that the fall of Soviet Communism was the "biggest catastrophe" of his life, so he clearly has no problem with the mass killing of innocents in the cause of his favoured political causes: when that particular mass killing of innocents stopped, he was upset. So the alleged quote isn't improbable on the grounds that he wouldn't belittle 9/11 because so many people died that day. (There may be some other reason why he wouldn't belittle 9/11, but I honestly can't think what it might be.) Is it improbable that he'd say that Muslims have the right to express their anger? Hardly; he says that all the time. Is it improbable that he'd refer to Mohammed as "the prophet"? Again, no: say whatever else you like about the man, but he knows his Arab culture, and often speaks to Arabic audiences in their own terms; he calls Jerusalem "Al-Quds"; furthermore, since it's a translation, there's always the possibility that he did say "Mohammed" but it's been translated as "the prophet". These things happen. So why, exactly, would anyone even slightly familiar with Galloway's opinions suspect that quote as bogus?

And then the whole thing starts getting complicated. Someone called Lachlan has quoted the following passage here and here:

Do not take the words of George Galloway out of context. George was speaking in Algeria to a Muslim readership and to them an insult to the Prophet Muhammad is an insult to all Muslims.

Many have died as a result of these cartoons and taken into context with the war in Iraq which has killed over 100,000 people including 1000's of children 9/11 IS small in comparison (this is how Muslims will see it - your view is very Eurocentric.)
Number Of Iraqi Civilians Slaughtered In America's War? As Many As 250,000 at:

10,000's of children in Iraq died after the first Iraq war due to the US and European sauntions - many of us have not forgotten and nor do the Muslim world.
1000's of Palestinains have died fighting for their right to a homeland taken away from them by the UK and others.

These events are linked in the mind of Muslims and Socialists in Europe and the USA. Yes 9/11 was shocking and wrong but in terms of numbers as nothing compared to what the Muslim world has suffered by the Bush and Blair War on Terror (whose terror I ask?).

The issue of the cartoons is not seperate from the issue of Iraq, Palestine,Iran and the US agenda to dominate the world oil and trade markets in the eyes of Muslims - it is only in the UK/USA and Europe that we unlink these issues. In this context George was not out of order with his remarks about 9/11.


Neil Williams
Respect Blog:

Posted by NeilWilliams at February 27, 2006 05:00 PM

In the light of that post, we can make a couple of reasonable conclusions. Neil Williams is very familiar with George Galloway and his opinions — he puts out press releases for Galloway's party, and is posting on that party's official blog. And he was willing to believe that the quote was genuine, wholesale, without question; he read and thought about the claim for half a second, yet couldn't tell it was bollocks. Is he credulous to the point of absurdity? (Well, yes, obviously. But is he credulous on the subject of what George Galloway would or would not say?)

Secondly, we can now see that, regardless of whether Galloway actually made that comment, it is an accurate representation of the position of his party. One of his party's spokesmen has defended and explained the quote, in the process making its origin immaterial.

Which is all well and good, except that that post by Neil Williams is no longer on the Respect Party's blog. Hmm. Has it been removed? Did it ever exist? Difficult to say, now. Eyewitnesses would be appreciated. I find it unlikely that Lachlan would have made this up — not because I trust some stranger off of the Internet, but because, if he were going to make it up, he could easily have claimed that he heard Williams's justification on the radio or some other more difficult-to-check source, rather than providing a link to a page which doesn't contain what he says it does; and because, if he had made it up, I wouldn't have been the first person to spot its absence and there would have been loads of comments in both those threads calling him a liar before I even turned up — so I reckon the post has probably been removed from the blog. But, of course, I can't prove that.

(As an aside, I have to point this one out. Still in Lenin Tomb's comments, Dan Collins says:

Are the cartoons an abomination? Certainly no more than anything produced by Hanna-Barbera.

One of Galloway's fans immediately calls this:

Shamelessly stupid timewasting rubbish.

And, in a sane world, it would be. Sadly, it is in fact a pertinent comment on influential modern Islamic thought. But anyway.)

So the next question is: how likely is it that El Khabar would have made the quote up? Why would they have done that? When newspapers lie, they usually do it about their opponents. Why would they put these words in the mouth of a man whom they think of as a friend? I don't get it.

And the next question is: how likely is it that, if the quote were accurate, Galloway would claim otherwise if he thought it was bad for his image back in Britain and would try and persuade El Khabar to go along with his denial? Has he done such a thing before — denying saying something that he has in fact said? Well, yes, actually.

Back to the original "debunking": what do we see there? No links. Nothing to back up the claim that El Khabar have now said that Galloway never said what they said he said. We just take that on trust. At time of writing, the promised retraction has yet to appear, at least in English; the original interview remains uncorrected. In fact, the only place Google can find on the English-speaking Web that even mentions this retraction is, "amazingly", Lenin's Tomb. It's almost as if the information doesn't exist anywhere else.

Ach, make up your own minds. I know what I think.


Thank you to Mr Eugenides for pointing out that Neil Williams didn't post his explanation of Galloway's comments at his own blog, but in the comments of Mr Eugenides's blog, where it remains.

Just to recap, then, without any of my previous hedging....

One of Galloway's own political colleagues believed the remarks were genuine, which implies that to do so does not require a lack of familiarity with his beliefs.

Regardless of the provenance of the original quote, the Respect Party's defense of it proves that it does accurately reflect their thinking.

Williams goes on to make a further comment, which includes the quite wonderful assertion:

Socialists do not unlink events

This is why you can barely walk down the street these days without being accosted by some Socialist eager to explain to you how popular interpretations of the works of Karl Marx led to mass murder in Russia, China, Cuba, Cambodia, Vietnam, Germany, Italy, Palestine, Syria, Hungary, Mongolia, Peru....

Further update:

Finally, evidence of the promised retraction has appeared in The Times:

The People column recently (February 28) repeated comments attributed to George Galloway by the Algerian El-Khabar newspaper that the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad was "worse than the September 11 attacks in the US and the 7/7 incidents in London". Mr Galloway actually said to El-Khabar that Muslims are now more marginalised than ever before, "worse than the aftermath of 9/11, worse than the aftermath of 7/7". We are happy to correct the record and apologise to Mr Galloway.

Bizarrely, El Khabar have still not published an amendment on their own site. This is an odd situation. If a journalist goes to El Khabar's site and quotes what is published there, El Khabar will get in touch and tell them to retract the untrue allegations.

Anyway, so, once again, to recap:

The quote is fake: Galloway never said it.

Anyone who traces the quote to its source, El Khabar, will find evidence that it is genuine and no evidence of any retraction.

The quote, though fake, is sufficiently likely and realistic for Neil Williams, one of Galloway's political colleagues, to think it was genuine.

Neil Williams, a prominent member of the Respect Party, repeatedly defended the quote as reasonable and sensible. Regardless of whether Galloway said it, Williams thinks it's a reasonable thing to have said. There have, as yet, been no mass denunciations of Williams's opinions on this matter by other members of the Respect Party, Galloway included.

An odd and disgusting phenomenon.

The tulips were wilting, so I threw them out last night. When I took them out of their vase, an overwhelming stench of vomit filled the kitchen. It was so strong that it stomped out of the kitchen and made the air in the living room pretty damn unpleasant for half the evening. I didn't make the correlation at first: well, you wouldn't, would you? Tulips, vomit... nah. Suspect the dogs first, obviously. But, indeed, taking the tulips out of the sink and putting them in the bin got rid of the smell. Now the bin stinks of vomit.

While they were in their vase, needless to say, they smelt of nothing but tulips.

Funny old world.