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May 242018
 

A day or two ago, I bumped into someone online that used the phrase “elitist expert” in a negative context; either a troll or a spectacularly dumb person. He isn’t the only one; there are plenty of people who show a similar attitude.

Hell, the whole Trump government is riddled with that attitude.

There are two parts to this attitude – the notion that “elitist” is wrong, and the notion that “expert” is wrong. And I will attack those attitudes in reverse order.

An expert is simply someone who knows what they’re doing in one particular area – not necessarily just one. That could be an expert in economics, coal mining, carpentry, plumbing, etc. There is no reason why ordinary working people cannot be experts in what they do; in fact many of them are.

Imagine if you will that a plumber inspecting your pipework suggests that some of the pipes need replacing. If you totally ignore him, there is a word to describe you: “idiot”. Sure if it costs lots of money, getting a second opinion from another plumber is a sensible precaution, but to totally ignore the advice of the expert? Surely that’s stupid.

So don’t ignore experts – by all means get advice from other experts too, but to ignore them is stupid. Of course if you consult 1,000 experts and 995 of them say the sky is blue and 5 say the sky is purple, you should probably side with the majority.

As to elitist, well it is usually a bad thing – treating one person better than another for whatever reason is almost always wrong. But in at least one case, elitism is just common sense – my opinion on a plumbing problem is worth less than any plumber much less a plumber that other plumber go to for advice (“Man, that’s a tricky one; you’d better ask Jo.”).

Why do I use a plumber as an example rather than say a climate scientist?

Because there are two other factors in play :-

  1. The notion that “book learning” is inherently wrong.
  2. The notion that practical skills are worth less than intellectual skills.

A plumbing expert is just as useful to society as a climate scientist, and visa-versa. Of course they are valuable at different time scales – if there is sewage spewing out of your toilet, you need a plumber right now, and the services of a climate scientist are rarely that urgent.

Follow The Path

 

 

Apr 142018
 

In the USA, a considerable number of states (30 counting 16 years as “adult”) allow the marriage of underage children under certain constraints. And these marriages do happen; whilst proportionally they are a tiny minority, to those victims it is nothing less than state-sanctioned child sex abuse.

In terms of numbers, Unchained at Last (via Wikipedia) found that between 2000-2010 there were 167,000 children in marriages; 13% were boys (I mention boys because most articles start with the girls). But weren’t they all children marrying each other? Only in 14% of cases.

The USA government condones and supports child sex abuse.

The overwhelming majority of not just the rest of the world, but even third-world countries are better on the marriage loophole allowing child sex abuse. Trump: For the victims of those marriages, USA is the “shit-hole”.

The Bench

Mar 182018
 

I recently scanned a blog entry claiming that Russia’s nerve agent attack on two people in Britain (plus the innocent bystander) wasn’t that big a deal, and that the reaction to it has been excessive. Well, perhaps.

But that blog went on to claim that militarily Russia is a bit of a pushover :-

  1. It’s less than a third the size of the Soviet Red Army. Perhaps but it still has 1 million active personnel and 2.5 million reservists. Not a size you can discount!
  2. It’s weaponry is obsolete. I can’t point to anything other than Russia spending $70 billion a year on defence to say otherwise, but “modernisation” crops up regularly in an discussion of the Russian military. And not in the sense of something that is required, but in the sense of something that is happening.

Lastly there was a reference to something that makes any student of history stare in amazement, and students of military history fall about the floor laughing. That is that Russia’s territory is flat and indefensible – ideal territory for mass tank battles (and indeed previously mass cavalry battles).

The Russian military knows this.

The last successful invasion of Russia whose territory has always been “ripe for invasion” was in the 13th century by the Mongol hordes.

There have been four major invasion attempts that failed to a greater or lesser extent :-

The Swedish military genius Charles XII tried in 1707, and was sounded beaten by the Russians assisted by the Russian winter.

Napoleon gave it a go in 1812, and the Russians inflicted a military disaster on him, again aided by a Russian winter.

Germany fought Russia during WWI, and managed to capture a considerable amount of Russian territory aided by the Russian revolution. But no major Russian cities were lost.

Again Germany tried in WWII, and Russia inflicted a major military defeat on them, with the assistance of the Russian winter.

The notion that anyone will try invading Russia is a bit ridiculous anyway (at least whilst Trump is Putin’s puppet).

So the threat from Russia is supposed “only” from cyberwar; which could be a damp squib or far more exciting than we believed possible. The fact is, we haven’t seen a full scale cyber attack against the UK, and don’t know what the results might be. Given the example of attacks against the Ukraine, we could expect wide-spread power blackouts, but it could be a great deal worse.

To be fair, I think the term “cyberwar” is a bit deceptive; attacking a nation’s connected technology is a tactic in a more widespread scheme of disruption and even war. There again, calling it “cyberwar” is a legitimate means to get funding for defences against such attacks.

The Window

Mar 152018
 

One of the strangest things about the US is that one of the government’s most popular programmes is Medicare, which is in effect a socialist programme. As recently as 2015, 77% of US citizens approved of Medicare making it the second most popular US government programme (the most popular was Social Security which is even more socialist).

Yet tell most people from the US that socialism is alive and well in the US, and practised by US government, and you’re likely to be answered with astonishment. Of course the US isn’t tainted by that evil socialism!

Perhaps it would be better to call it “community-funded programmes for all”, although the “for all” would have to wait until Medicare is extended.

Audio Windmills

Mar 112018
 

Or did it just get a fresh coat of paint?

The news that a former Russian agent has been killed; almost certain by the Russian FSB. Think about it – who else would it be? Nobody else wanted him dead and Russian Today has been talking about how traitors in the UK will meet their end.

Russia has been subjected to secret police gangsters since the Tsarist era (the Okhrana). And yet whilst in the past, Russia’s leaders have supported the secret police, today’s leader (Vladimir Putin) is an old Chekist himself. Thus today’s FSB have less inclination to restrain themselves than any time in the past, and they didn’t show much restraint then!

Russia is today a rogue state prepared to resort to the kind of tactics that can lead to war, and it is not just their practice of killing traitors on foreign soil. Just look at their interference with the US election (we may not have a smoking gun, but plenty of Russian hands smell of cordite), the Ukrainian “adventures”, and suspicious activities in Syria.

In practice there is little we can do to change Russia; it has to come from within. All we can do is keep our defences up, try to avoid antagonising them, but not kowtow to their gangsterism either (a difficult line to balance).

Yes that means conventional arms, and unconventional defences too – Internet warfare can be dangerous or at the very least disruptive. And yes the spooks in the old-fashioned trenchcoats also need to get tooled up.

It also means not expanding NATO any more than it has already been.

Walking The Beach

Feb 262018
 

So quite a while ago now, another mass shooting took place in a school in the USA; it’s gotten to the point where it is easy to get confused about which mass shooting is being talked about. Thus the “Film at 11” comment (which is hacker slang, for same old stuff).

The world is in a poor state when someone can get confused about which mass shooting is being discussed, or that implying that school children being killed is somehow boring.

US politicians did their usual thing – offering thoughts and prayers whilst assuring their NRA “supporters” (owners) that nothing would be done.

The difference this time, is that the victims have decided that they are not going to accept the status quo that nothing will be done about the rampant gun violence in the USA. They have set up a campaign organisation (NeverAgainMSD), and are actively campaigning for gun control.

Much to the consternation of the senile old farts in power.

It seems that these young people are not going to accept the status quo, or kow-tow to the inane stupidity of the US political elite when it comes to any “action” on gun control. Today gun control in the USA seems impossible; tomorrow it seems to be inevitable (much as us old farts hate it, the young will inherit the earth).

I have a certain level of sympathy with those who like playing with guns in a sensible way – and that is probably a majority of those who own guns. I would personally find it quite fun – I certainly enjoy putting arrows into a target. But a slim majority of people in the US want stronger gun control, and that level is increasing over time.

Rather than simply deny any possibility of gun control, it would probably make the most sense to look at forms of gun control that would leave the maximum amount of freedom (and perhaps even get additional freedom) whilst satisfying those who want to prevent mass shootings.

Obviously looking at mental health here is a good idea. Hell, it’s a good idea even ignoring the whole gun issue – people with untreated mental illnesses are likely to be more problematic to society that people with treated mental illnesses.

But in terms of gun control, what is wanted is a means to control the usage of guns; you want to make it difficult for a lone gun nut to take a gun into a crowded environment to carry out a mass shooting. One obvious way to do this is to make guns more difficult to obtain; and that’s a valid method.

Another way is to make it difficult to use guns without supervision. Imagine if you will that the only way to use a semi-automatic rifle is to go to a gun range, check it out of a locker, and use it at the gun range. Or if you want to take a high-powered rifle out hunting, you have to check it out of a community gun safe as part of a group (i.e. no hunting alone).

Sounds horrendous? It might just be better than not being able to play with your toys at all.

And yes I said toys. You could make a reasonable argument that reasonable hand-guns or reasonable shotguns can be used for self-defence in the home, but semi-automatic weapons are either toys or aimed at mass-shootings. And hunting is an entertainment too.

Crooked Church

Feb 062018
 

About 100 years ago (being somewhat pessimistic about how long it will take me to write this), the Representation of the People Act was passed. Understandably enough, there’s been a whole bunch of comments regarding women getting the vote; and it was certainly a significant reform because of that.

But you have to hunt long and hard to realise that it also enshrined the one man, at least one vote principle (some University graduates could vote twice). Due to the previous property qualification, before 1918 only 60% of men could vote.

Which is almost as significant as giving women the vote.

Women got the same rights as men 10 years later in the 1928 Representation of the People Act.

The Bare Family

Dec 242017
 

The behaviour of the US during the last week has been exceptionally dysfunctional and indeed puts it alongside rogue states. For those tuning in late, the US has recently announced that it is moving its embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Now there are all sorts of reasons why this is a dumb move and incredibly provocative in a part of the world that does not need any more provocation.

But here we are looking at the US and the UN rather than the move itself (however dumb it was).

The UN decided to call for a resolution that in effect says “We think this is a dumb move.” and the US reaction has been more or less along the lines of what you would expect a spoiled brat and a bully to react like.

Before the vote, the US spokesperson was grumbling about how its friends shouldn’t countenance such a resolution, that those who receive US aid should be careful, and how dare the UN put forward such a resolution when the US pays for the UN (hint: it doesn’t).

And afterwards, the US announces a party for its friends, and that nobody who voted in favour of the resolution was invited. So there!

Just like a spoiled child.

First of all, organisations like the UN need to be funded or they don’t exist. And the way that the UN is funded is based on every member’s ability to pay except that there is a ceiling on each individual’s level because the US threw a tantrum a while back. The US pays approximately 22% of the UN’s budget, so about $2 billion which is considerably less than the cumulative total of the countries that make up the EU (a roughly comparably sized block) which pays approximately 27% of the budget ($2.5 billion).

And a big chunk of that UN budget is spent within the US because the UN headquarters are in New York.

Frankly some of us are a little tired of hearing the US whinging about how much it pays.

Secondly the UN is there to do lots of things, but one of the most important is to allow countries collectively and formally tell another country that it is doing something dumb – and if a resolution passes with 129 countries voting for it, you can be pretty sure you’ve done something dumb. Sure that you are right despite that many votes against you? That’s a sign of overweening arrogance.

Threatening (“We’ll remember who are friends are”) people to vote in your favour is dangerous in the extreme. People remember bullies and the stench of it remains for a very long time.

Dec 072017
 

Roy Moore is a despicable piece of rancid scum from the surface of a putrid pool, and almost certainly a child sex offender too. There are those who say that he is the victim of some sort of conspiracy and that these accusations are false.

Bullshit! Not only are there the accusers but a considerable amount of supporting evidence that he’s a sexual predator of young girls. And let’s be honest here, Moore is a self-proclaimed politician so of course he’s lying – it’s a surprise when any politician tells the truth. The claims are so credible that his own political party (Republicans) are deserting him; at least the Republicans with more than a gram of self-respect. One has even donated money to his opponent’s campaign!

Yet it appears that people in Alabama are still keen on voting for him. Given the number of available choices – vote for the Democratic candidate (probably something a Republican supporter would find hard), vote for an independent, or not vote at all – it is inexcusable for anyone to vote for Roy Moore.

In fact anyone who does so, has an unusually high toleration of child sex abuse. Enough that they should be suspected of supporting child sex abuse and perhaps should be investigated for it. Or added to the child sex offenders list (in the “supports child sex abuse category”).

Of course it isn’t possible to identify Moore voters (except perhaps from the scrapes on the knuckles), so we’ll simply have to lump everyone from Alabama together and treat them all as suspected supporters of child sex abuse.

Alabama’s new state motto: “Home of the Child Sex Abuser”.

Unless of course sanity returns and the voters in Alabama vote for anybody other than Moore.

Through The Doorway

Nov 292017
 

According to some trustworthy sources, Donald Trump has been caught out re-tweeting three far-right videos by those well known reprobates that make up Britain First. This either makes Trump an imbecile or a member of the far-right; quite possibly both.

For those who don’t know, Britain First is one of those vile groups that shows up on Facebook from time-to-time usually re-posted by a contact who should (at this point) know better. They were well known for producing posts that on the surface seem reasonable until you look closer; until you got to know that Britain First is a bunch of fascists.

So it’s time that the US realised that Trump is an embarrassment and kicked him to the curb.

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