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Jul 132017
 

The BBC is celebrating the decriminalisation of “homosexuality” 50 years after the relevant law was repealed with a series of programmes entitled “Gay Britannia” which is fair enough. It’s certainly worth celebrating.

But there is one strange fact that you will not often hear mentioned: The trailers for Gay Britannia don’t mention it, and you have to look hard at Wikipedia articles to find it. And that is the fact that same-sex relationships between women have never been illegal in the UK.

This is of course a good thing. And neither is it any kind of accusation that lesbian couples had it easy – there would have been plenty of persecutions both large and small.

But it is also worth remembering that it was homosexual men who were executed, imprisoned, and chemically castrated.

In addition there is an interesting point made during the trial of James Pratt and John Smith (the last two men executed for being gay) – that the poor suffered disproportionately because the rich could afford privacy. We don’t tend to think of it today, but in the past it was only the rich who could afford privacy.

Jun 172017
 

So there has been a disaster at Grenfell Tower; who is responsible?

Ultimately the government :-

  • England requires that all new tower blocks higher than 30m must have sprinkler systems fitted (in Scotland the height limit is 18m). So for some reason new towers are unsafe without sprinkler systems and old towers are safe?
  • Allowing a tower block to be clad in a flammable material which has been linked to previous serious fires and is banned in the US. It’s use in a residential tower block is at best foolish. A government report as far back as 2000 suggested that “We do not believe that it should take a serious fire in which many people are killed before all reasonable steps are taken towards minimising the risks”.
  • The appearance of council tower blocks is more important (after all they’re next door to rich neighbourhoods) than the safety of residents.
  • The government believes that regulation and red tape are an unnecessary burden on business; to put it another way, the government would rather let rich people get richer than stop poor people being incinerated in their own homes.

There will be an enquiry into the fire, and undoubtedly the government will find someone other than themselves to blame.

But don’t forget that the ultimate responsibility for warehousing poor people in fire traps lies with the government.

Jun 172017
 

The election result is in, and the Tories have failed; specifically they failed to increase their majority and indeed no longer constitute a majority. Yet the alternatives have failed too.

The likelihood is that the Tories will form the next government propped up by the reactionary Unionists from Northern Ireland. We can crow over May not getting her increased majority, but she is still in number 10. Which means more years of Tory misrule.

So what went wrong?

Well we could argue that factors such as different attitudes to Brexit, doubt over the Labour leader’s leadership, etc. But there are two big factors.

Firstly the media lies by the Tory press (which seems to be pretty much most of them). Whilst the press is owned by a clique of super-rich Tory supporters, the good news is that the newsprint industry is slowly fading into irrelevance – no doubt helped by their ridiculous bias. And tasteless journalism – the sort of which led to the Sun being boycotted in Liverpool.

Secondly, and perhaps the biggest aspect is that a large segment of the working class has bought into the big Tory lie – that they support the ordinary working family and small businesses. In reality Tories support the super rich with their tax cuts, and don’t give a damn about the working class. The real working class.

Which is not what most people think of when they hear that phrase; it is not just the horned handed agricultural labourer and the worn out factory worker, but it also includes office workers, lawyers, “knowledge workers”, etc. It is everyone who works for a living, Somehow workers in the Tory heartlands are fooled into thinking that the Tories are on their side.

What the Tory alternatives need to do is to persuade these deluded workers that voting Tory helps only the super-rich, and not by painting themselves a fetching shade of blue (as New Labour did).

Jun 042017
 

Before we get onto the hysteria part of this semi-coherent rant, let me emphasise that last night’s attacks were terrible and that having religious nut-jobs (if that is confirmed; whilst it seems probable it could still be a false flag incident) running around attacking ordinary people on a night out is despicable.

But some of the reactions on #LondonBridge were pretty disgusting; whilst some were posting offers to house people stranded because of the attack, others were leaping to conclusions and demanding some actions :-

  • Many including the orange idiot were demanding the travel ban. Which would stop none of the terrorist incidents perpetrated by domestic muslims; and most of these incidents are by domestic muslims. The main outcome of a travel ban would be to alienate those targeted by the ban, and alienation is the first step on the road to radicalisation.
  • Blaming the whole of islam for the terrorism. With the muslim nurses, doctors treating the injured, the muslim taxi-drivers taking people home for free, the muslim shop-keepers opening up and offering food, drink, and a place to stay, there were more acts of kindness by muslims last night than there were acts of terror. Or are you going to blame all christians for christian terrorism?
  • Bizarrely bringing the Paris Accords into this incident.
  • Demanding action without specifying what action. Action is of course taking place each and every day, but terrorism is extremely difficult to stop.

The only mistake muslim made on the twitter last night was to claim that the terrorists were not muslims; that’s the No True Scotsman fallacy. It would be far more effective to claim that these terrorists are muslim heretics (or whatever equivalent term you would prefer).

Whilst the events last night were terrible, it is also important to take them in context – if you were to add up all the deaths and injuries from terrorist incidents they would amount to a small fraction of the deaths caused in London each year by air pollution (estimated at around 9,000 a year). Or to go the other way, one terrorist incident caused perhaps two day’s worth of traffic accidents.

That does not mean we should not take action against potential terrorists, but neither should we over-react and respond with actions that punish the innocent as well as the guilty.

May 312017
 

No, of course he isn’t. The Russian intelligence services would never allow an agent of theirs to behave in such a foolish way; at most he is a useful idiot. But whose antics are getting to the point where the idiot part is outweighing the useful part.

Even ignoring the political shenanigans of doing almost the complete opposite of what he said he would do (decimating public spending on health care is going to come as a bit of a surprise to many of his supporters) :-

  1. Trump allegedly tried to pressure several intelligence agency heads into stopping investigations into the “Russian connection”.
  2. Trump fires the head of the FBI whilst that head was involved in investigating the “Russian connection”; whilst this was allegedly done because Comey’s performance during the investigation of Hilary Clinton’s email situation was sub-par, it looks like an attempt to stop the investigation.
  3. Trump allegedly has private meetings with Russian officials in the oval office where he allegedly calls the former head of the FBI a “nut job” and that his firing takes off the pressure of the “Russian connection” investigation.
  4. Trump allegedly shows highly classified intelligence information to Russian officials in the oval office. Imagine this happening during the cold war era!
  5. Trump in trying to deny the above lets slip that the source of the intelligence was an Israeli agent embedded within ISIS; if that agent survives, he or she is owed a free slap at him.

This all goes well beyond political naivety and well into the realm of complete stupidity. It doesn’t take much sense to realise that interfering with an investigation into the “Russia connection” is a spectacularly dumb move. And releasing classified information and then to top that by leaking the source is criminally stupid and quite possibly treasonous.

May 312017
 

The title is not meant to be taken seriously except as a poke of fun at the notion that border between England and Scotland is set in stone and has always been there. It is essentially an excuse to counteract some of the anti-English propaganda found in films like Braveheart or TV series such as Outlander.  For example, the Battle of Culloden involved Scottish regiments fighting for the British side, and the Jacobite side had several regiments that suffered severely from desertion, plus a small English contingent; it was actually very little to do with England and Scotland, being rather more about religion and restoring the ousted House of Stuart.

But back to the borders …

The map above does not show Edinburgh, but it is on the northern edge of what is shown as Northumbria. The modern border is of course different; very roughly imagine a diagonal between the “Y” of Strathclyde, and a bit north of Bamburgh. The modern border was pretty much defined by the battle of Carham (or Coldstream) in 1018 when two Scottish kings (technically one was the king of Strathclyde) defeated an Earl of Northumbria. Later significant border changes worked out to be more or less temporary in nature.

This defeat (and loss of territory) was accepted by the kings of England partially because it has been alleged that the defacto border reflected the new border – England would have been quite weak in enforcing the “king’s peace” given it’s struggle to survive (essentially it didn’t being eventually conquered by the Normans which were essentially Danes or Norwegians with a French accent).

It is also the case that Northumbria would have seemed a remote part of the kingdom to both the Anglo-Saxon kings (most of whom were originally based in Wessex in the south), and to the Normans who were also distracted with “issues” in France. A case of not bothering when there were bigger issues at stake.

Which may very well have been a contributing factor to the North being somewhat grumpy and inclined towards rebellion; so much so that when Charles I raised his banner in the north to defeat parliament he was seen as a rebel.

So did those Northumbrians see themselves as Scottish after 1018? Almost certainly not, but they may very well not seen themselves as English or even Northumbrian either. The common people were far more likely to put more importance to their pre-medieval clan allegiances, and their medieval feudal lords. And those classified as clan chiefs or feudal lords would have pled allegiance to any overlord or king who was in a position to assist them.

To make things more complicated, the kings of Scotland often held the Earldom of Northumbria (thus were in theory required to swear allegiance to the English king) or Cumbria. Of course as an alternative to paying homage, the Scottish kings were just as happy to invade England – on at least one occasion reaching as far south as Dover.

And no medieval army behaved well on campaign – rape and pillage were considered standard forms of warfare at the time – so it is worth remembering that the English invasion in 1296 did not come in a vacuum. Yes the English behaved terribly in Scotland, but it was standard behaviour for armies at the time – soldiers expected to make money through plunder.

Trying to determine who invaded whom first is pointless not just because the conflict disappears into murkier periods of history, and because smaller scale “wars” (raids) probably occurred nearly constantly. The Scottish borders were a place of nearly constant raiding back and forth until at least the 17th century – there was even a special legal system in force in the borders (not that it helped much), and “real wars” were often raids on a larger scale.

So yes it is possible to argue that Edinburgh is English (and a great way to start an argument), but more importantly this all illustrates that nations are created and not natural. Someone from Berwick-Upon-Tweed could reasonably claim to be English, Scottish, Northumbrian, or even Bernician. If you look closely at history, you can actually see that nation-building happening with kings re-enforcing the notion of nation in order to protect their centralised power against magnates with ambition to replace them.

Just because nations are artificially created does not mean that they are meaningless, but it doesn’t do any harm to remember that they are artificial and that people on the “wrong” side of the border are different only in that some ruler from the distant past declared that they were different. Most national borders get fuzzier as you look closer at the people living near those borders.

May 232017
 

I woke up this morning to the news of the Manchester bombing this morning; learning about what was going on from a forum that had attracted some of the more rancid members of the far right. Who were busy blaming this atrocity on all muslims, but also on Syrian refugees; all this of course before anyone knew any facts because facts are irrelevant to the bigoted far right.

And a particularly nasty piece of work has labelled the victims “sluts” and “whores” (I’ve linked to a site that discusses his comments in order not to give him any extra ad revenue).

Now I am not in the habit of being sympathetic to any religious group – they all believe in imaginary friends. But they’re people and in many cases my fellow countrymen, so when a gang of pathetic little chickenshit cowards labels all muslims as terrorists, it is time to call them out on their bigoted bullshit.

Yes the evil scum who set off the bomb was a muslim; one born in Britain and not a Syrian refugee.

But :-

  1. It is almost certain that some of the 60 ambulances that attended were crewed by a muslim or two.
  2. It is almost certain that some of the police who were there helping people out were muslims.
  3. It is almost certain that some of those who opened their homes to accommodate stranded
  4. Some of the taxi drivers who turned off their meters and offered free lifts to those stranded were muslims.

Of course Mancunians of all faiths and none rallied around and helped out, but as muslims were being painted with the terrorism brush, it seems reasonable to highlight that many of those helping out were muslims.

May 202017
 

I just love messing around with run-time languages that I know relatively little about (and if your sarcasm detector isn’t flashing red about now, take it out and give it a good talking to).

The problem detailed here is something that you are unlikely to encounter unless you get into weird stuff like running an odd-ball window manager, aren’t content with the version of said window manager distributed with your Linux distribution, and are used to re-compiling things from scratch.

It all started when I upgraded Ubuntu on my work machine (to Zesty Zapus). The window manager version was upgraded from 3.5 to 4.0, which broke on my configuration file (3.5); not a big problem I thought, as I had already upgraded my window manager at home to 4.1 and reconfigured the configuration file. I copied the updated configuration file from home into place.

And it failed. Apparently I use 4.1-isms within the file. As I was not happy about tinkering with the file to downgrade it (in a language I know relatively little about), I decided to re-compile Awesome 4.1 instead.

Which failed with a weird error :-

» awesome --version
awesome v4.1 (Technologic)
 • Compiled against Lua 5.3.3 (running with Lua 5.3)
 • D-Bus support: ✔
 • execinfo support: ✔
 • xcb-randr version: 1.4
 • LGI version: [string "return require('lgi.version')"]:1: module 'lgi.version' not found:
	no field package.preload['lgi.version']
	no file '/usr/local/share/lua/5.3/lgi/version.lua'
	no file '/usr/local/share/lua/5.2/lgi/version.lua'
	no file '/usr/local/share/lua/5.3/lgi/version/init.lua'
	no file '/usr/local/share/lua/5.2/lgi/version/init.lua'
	no file '/usr/local/lib/lua/5.3/lgi/version.lua'
	no file '/usr/local/lib/lua/5.3/lgi/version/init.lua'
	no file '/usr/share/lua/5.3/lgi/version.lua'
	no file '/usr/share/lua/5.3/lgi/version/init.lua'
	no file './lgi/version.lua'
	no file './lgi/version/init.lua'
	no file '/usr/local/lib/lua/5.3/lgi/version.so'
	no file '/usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/lua/5.3/lgi/version.so'
	no file '/usr/lib/lua/5.3/lgi/version.so'
	no file '/usr/local/lib/lua/5.3/loadall.so'
	no file './lgi/version.so'
	no file '/usr/local/lib/lua/5.3/lgi.so'
	no file '/usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/lua/5.3/lgi.so'
	no file '/usr/lib/lua/5.3/lgi.so'
	no file '/usr/local/lib/lua/5.3/loadall.so'
	no file './lgi.so'

Which had me stumped for a while, and it turns out that DuckDuckGo didn’t have an obvious fix (one of the reasons for writing this).

Eventually I figured out that awesome was not finding the LGI module (I can be slow at times) which was odd because it was definitely installed. However it turns out that it was installed in /usr/share/lua/5.2/lgi. So despite having lua 5.3 installed, extra lua modules can only be seen if you have lua 5.2 installed?

The “fix” for this was to create an environment variable telling LUA to search for files in rather more places before starting Awesome :-

export LUA_PATH="/usr/local/share/lua/5.3/?.lua;/usr/local/share/lua/5.2/?.lua;/usr/local/share/lua/5.3/?/init.lua;/usr/local/share/lua/5.2/?/init.lua;/usr/local/lib/lua/5.3/?.lua;/usr/local/lib/lua/5.3/?/init.lua;/usr/share/lua/5.3/?.lua;/usr/share/lua/5.2/?.lua;/usr/share/lua/5.3/?/init.lua;/usr/share/lua/5.2/?/init.lua;./?.lua;./?/init.lua"

This was created by running lua from the command line and running print(package.path) to display the default setting, and adding the 5.2 equivalent for many elements.

As to whether it works or not, well I cannot be sure (I’m not going into work on a weekend just to check if the window manager fires up), but Awesome itself seems happy with the result :-

» awesome --version
awesome v4.1 (Technologic)
 • Compiled against Lua 5.3.3 (running with Lua 5.3)
 • D-Bus support: ✔
 • execinfo support: ✔
 • xcb-randr version: 1.4
 • LGI version: 0.9.1

So it can find LGI, but whether it can do anything useful with it remains to be seen!

May 172017
 

It may not be very funny, but the funny thing about WannaCrypt is that it is somewhat of a failure! Unless the authors are spectacularly stupid (not entirely impossible incidentally), they have no way to recover their ill-gotten gains. The pile of looted bitcoins they have acquired is fully visible, so any attempt to use those coins will almost certainly result in them being tracked down – they have attracted too much attention.

Which is another aspect of the WannCrypt malware – it has highlighted the vulnerability (MS17-010) and caused a huge vulnerability hunt. Which is causing those who wrote other malware (such as Adylkuzz) to gnash their teeth, because otherwise their malware would have quietly worked away in the background. The malware authors behind Adylkuzz have probably made more money than the WannaCrypt malware authors … and may well get away with their loot too.

Which is why other malware authors “wannacry” – the attention that WannaCrypt has gotten has ruined MS17-010 for them.

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