Jul 142018

Liam Fox has claimed that Trump protesters have “embarassed” themselves by protesting Trump’s visit to the UK. He claims that we have a tradition of being polite to guests (at least until they throw up on the carpet, piss in the wine, and try to have sex with the host).

Well, I didn’t invite that jumped up rancid little toad who is Putin’s lickspittle and quite possibly the closest thing we’ve seen to a major free world leader being a Nazi. So I am under no obligation to be polite to the bankrupt crook.

Besides which, with his unreasonable and unhinged attack on NATO, Trump has been pissing in the wine, so it would not be unreasonable to slam the door in his face. Of course I’m not being “diplomatic” but I’m not a politician so I’m not being paid to be polite to the kind of person resembling that which you instinctively scrape off your shoe.

To USians who might feel a bit insulted by how their president is being treated; well if you did your job properly and didn’t elect someone with the brains of a pea-sized petrified panda turd who separates children and puts them in concentration camps then we might treat them with a bit more respect.

Apr 052016

During a recently on-line rant about anti-abortion terrorists, I happened to trip over some statistics on the rate of mortality during childbirth (the “Maternity Mortality Rate”) from the WHO. And being the kind of person that statistics interest, I spent some time looking into them; indeed I got so interested I transcribed some of the raw figures to generate a pretty graph :-


This obviously excludes many countries – what we could call the developing countries. The countries included (which you’ll have to peer closely in order to see – sorry about that) are all rich. At least relatively speaking.

Just look at the USA! Down with the also-rans amongst what could be called the relatively dysfunctional countries at the fringes of being considered “developed”. Now you could argue that there is something special about the reason why the USA doesn’t have a single-digit MMR like the overwhelming majority of developed countries. I can think of a few possibilities myself :-

  1. Perhaps the USA is the only country in the world to tell the truth about it’s actual MMR and all the other countries are lying. Perhaps. I am not going to argue there isn’t a bit of shady practices going on with the figures in some cases, but these figures are produced by statisticians and as an overall group statisticians don’t like lying about numbers. Yes there is the old saw about “lies, dammed lies, and statistics”, but the source of that distrust is the twisting that politicians apply to statistics to support their lies.
  2. Perhaps the USA didn’t read the instructions from the WHO properly about what kind of deaths to include in their returns and they’re including deaths that other countries wouldn’t include. But whilst I’ve not read the instructions from the WHO about this, I have read other instructions on statistics and they usually go into excruciating detail about what should and should not be included. It’s possible that the USA handed this little job over to a complete dumb-arse, but it doesn’t seem very likely.
  3. The WHO is anti-American and decided to inflate the figures. This is just laughable – the WHO isn’t going to risk getting called out by doing something so obvious even if it really was anti-American.

Sometimes the most obvious reason is the real reason – and here the most obvious reason is that the US health care system sucks.

There is additional evidence to show that – the WHO figures cover years other that 2013, and the US figures are consistently bad and getting worse.

But how can this be? The USA is one of the wealthiest countries in the world that spends a ridiculous percentage of it’s annual GDP on health care. It also produces many healthcare innovations and undoubtedly has improved maternal care at some point with some new technique. The really rather obvious (although it really needs to be tested) is that healthcare in the USA is divided into three.

There are those who have full insurance, and this group probably gets pretty good healthcare.

There are those who are covered by government schemes and this group probably gets reasonable healthcare.

And there are those who fall between the cracks – they’re not covered for various reasons – and their care is abysmal and probably limited to emergency care only. Which can sometimes be too late.

But when you come down to it, if you are pregnant it may be worth avoiding the USA until you’ve given birth. And if you’re already in the USA, it may be worth thinking about a long break somewhere where they have a healthcare system that doesn’t suck.

Apr 152014

One of the interesting aspects of Heartbleed are some of the criticisms of OpenSSL, the relevant developers, and open source.

Isn’t this the fault of the OpenSSL developers?

Yes, but …

Whilst it is very easy to blame the OpenSSL developers, and ultimately they were the ones who made the mistake of introducing this vulnerability, it is not quite that simple.

What has become clear is that the OpenSSL is chronically underfunded with less than four active developers (only one of whom is full time). This is despite the fact that OpenSSL is probably in roughly 1/2 of all software products including products from technology giants such as Cisco, IBM, HP, Lenovo, etc.

If OpenSSL is underfunded, everyone who makes use of the library in their products should look into why they should not be contributing towards the product. Surely every one of the technology giants could afford to contribute the cost of one developer each towards the project?

Isn’t this the fault of the open source methodology?


Every time a vulnerability crops up, someone blames the development model for the vulnerability. But when you come down to it, both open source and closed source projects contain vulnerabilities.

In theory it is possible for open source to be more secure. Because the source code is publicly available, it can be audited by independent researchers. And that is effectively what seems to have happened – a Google researcher found the vulnerability and informed the OpenSSL developers of the problem.

What went wrong is that the audit happened after the release of the code. To be more secure than closed source, open source needs to be audited before the code is released. Perhaps some automated system that checks every code check in.

Is it the fault of the C programming language?

No, it’s the programmer’s mistake.

But C does make it easy to make mistakes with memory handling although we have to remember that half of this bug was a different sort of mistake – trusting user supplied data. And no matter what kind of language you are using, if you trust user supplied data then attackers everywhere will be chortling.

Back to C’s memory handling. C is a very old programming language and expects the programmer to safely deal with memory management. The best programmers can do this safely, but even those programmers have the occasional Friday afternoon and most programmers are not that good.

A more modern system programming language such as Go or Rust would be very helpful in reducing the possibility of certain types of errors, and there’s a great deal to be said for switching to one or other.

But OpenSSL is written in C, and switching now would be very difficult especially as the OpenSSL library needs to maintain compatibility with hundreds or thousands of programs written to call functions within a C library. Even if that compatibility problem were overcome, rewriting OpenSSL in some other language is an enormous amount of work which is hard to do with just four developers.

Mar 132014

When atheists start poking fun at religion, we constantly get told that we should stop insulting the sensitivities of the religious. And we should stop trying to convert them. But :-

  1. Trying to “convert” the religious to atheism (or stop believing in infectious imaginary friends) is exactly the same as what the religious constantly try to do to atheists.
  2. Atheists think they have evidence to show that religion is at best morally neutral, and at worst has a definitely negative effect on humanity. If you see an evil in the world, isn’t it your moral duty to try and minimise that evil?
  3. You guys started it first. Which is what this posting is all about …

You will burn in hell.

Ignoring for the moment that hell doesn’t exist, threatening someone with eternal torture is going to wind up even the most placid. It may well be that your religion promises eternal punishment but we know about the obsession gods seem to have with torturing unbelievers. It’s probably best to concentrate on the less unpleasant aspects of your religion.

Have you heard of Jesus?

To quote another atheist: No, I was born under a fucking rock.

What with people banging on your door asking whether you believe in Jesus, people shouting about him in the local shopping centre, constant mentions of religion in the media, etc, it is impossible to escape the ever present blanket of religion. Unless of course you are as dumb as a rock. 

Do you believe in Satan?

What? So because we don’t believe in your infectious imaginary friend, we might believe in your infectious imaginary friend’s imaginary enemy? Nope. We don’t believe in any imaginary friends (gods, devils, other spirits).

Where do you get your morals?

From society just like you do. We (and society) teach children by example and punishment that certain behaviours are not acceptable – “don’t hit your school friends”, etc. Most of those morals can be found in holy books, but the books aren’t essential.

There are no atheists in foxholes

This one is insulting to my family because my grandfather was an atheist; and possibly became so whilst fighting with the rear guard at Dunkirk. It certainly didn’t make him a believer. 

atheism is the ultimate intellectual suicide

I’m not entirely sure what this is supposed to mean, but it’s pretty sure that it’s  fancy way of saying that atheists are thick. It’s perfectly reasonable to think so (if wrong in many cases), but coming out and saying so is unnecessary. 

The supplied link is quite amusing as he goes on to prove that atheists don’t exist. I guess I must have disappeared in a puff of smoke, so I wonder how I carried on writing this? A question: There is no proof that Trolls exist and there is no proof that Trolls do not exist. Do they exist?

Kill Atheists

Now it’s pretty certain that the kind of religious nutters who advocate killing atheists are on the lunatic fringe of all religious people, but it contributes towards a climate of hate towards atheists. 

Feb 272014

The Daily Mail has decided to attack Harriet Harman in relation to her involvement with the Liberty organisation when it was known as the National Council for Civil Liberties (it is still formally called that). Liberty (in the 1970s) allowed an organisation called the Paedophile Information Exchange to affiliate with Liberty.

Personally I feel it is more than a little unfair to target Harriet Harman in this way, and I’m not exactly one of her fans.

In retrospect, it is clear that Liberty were very mistaken in being associated with PIE (and PAL). But their support was not unconditional – it is clear that their support was limited to suggesting that society should consider whether consensual sex between an adult and a child was necessarily damaging.

Or in other words whether a 16-year old woman who sleeps with her 5-year old boyfriend should be painted the same colour as a predator such as Jimmy Saville. However it seems that many of PIEs leaders were the kind of predator that would have gotten along well with Jimmy.

Liberty terminated their relationship with PIE by 1983 and the current head of Liberty issued an apology for the relationship: “It is a source of continuing disgust and horror that even the NCCL had to expel paedophiles from its ranks in 1983 after infiltration at some point in the 70s.”

So like many organisations, Liberty made a mistake in the 1970s and have apologised for it. But what about Harriet Harman?

Harriet Harman was the legal officer for Liberty at the time – she didn’t head the organisation and probably had no more than a small say in the direction of the organisation as a whole. If she knew about the connection to PIE, and objected, she would probably been told the liberal lefty equivalent of “shut up and soldier on”. Picking on Harriet Harman is unfair … it is the organisation that was at fault not her.

And indeed Patricia Hewitt‘s apology for Liberty’s association with PIE clearly indicates that Harriett Harman had very little say in whether Liberty accepted PIE’s affiliation or not; and indeed her work had nothing to do with PIE.

As always we can see the Daily Mail is conducting little more that a witch hunt against those who hold views not on the extreme right.

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