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Mar 152018

At pedestrians crossing (except for zebras), there is this strange box with a big button on it. When pressed, it announces to the traffic system that you want to cross the road.

Stating the obvious, but it seems that this is necessary. A strangely high proportion of people seem to amble up to a crossing and wait there hoping that the signal will change; it may do (especially if someone else pushes the button), or it may not.

There are rumours that at some crossings, the button is merely a placebo; fair enough. But at the majority of the ones I know well enough (and I know quite a few that well), a button push is required for the little green man to show up.

Expecting someone else to push the little button is laziness taken to the ultimate extreme.

And whilst we’re talking about it, the little green man that lights up is supposed to mean something – when he is green, you can cross the road; when he is red, you don’t. And yes I’m well aware that he’s red more often than not.

Through The Gateway

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 142018

Today came the news that Stephen Hawking has died, which is a loss to England, Britain, the United Kingdom, and the whole world. Well worthy of having a spot in Westminster Abbey. Yet as soon as his death was announced, we had bad christians (and at least one muslim) crowing about how he was going to spend all eternity in hell.

Yes, atheists know that christians think we’re going to hell. There’s no need to shout about it on twitter.

Apart from anything else, it makes christians and muslims look bad – is it any wonder that religion is losing ground to secularism when we have such noxious examples of the religious?

Now I’m not one of those atheists who thinks that all religious people are evil; a bit deluded perhaps, but not necessarily evil. But we do not see enough religious condemnation of bad christians from the good christians, or bad muslims from the good muslims.

It’s always worth remembering that evil words and deeds speak louder than good words and deeds, so good christians and good muslims need to flood their bad co-coreligionists with enough condemnation to drown out their evil words and deeds.

Rusty Anchor In The Sky


Mar 082018

There are tons of stories about poor unfortunates being caught out by the weather last week – in both Storm Emma, and it’s predecessor – and whilst they no doubt had a terrible time being stuck on roads or trains, should we be uncritically sympathetic?

As an extreme example, Friday brought stories about the poor motorists stuck on the M80 overnight. Yet to get stuck, they would have to travel during a red weather warning. And these warnings were not exactly difficult to find.

And the reason for travelling?

  • Making deliveries. Very few deliveries are so urgent they cannot wait 24 hours.
  • Trying to get to the airport to catch a flight for a netball competition. Sorry, but a netball competition isn’t more important than your life.
  • Travelling home from work? Get a hotel room.
  • Travelling to catch a show? Really??

It would be interesting to see the media start questioning people in such circumstances a bit more. Just ask them why did they travel, and whether it was important enough to ignore the warnings.

Grazing In The Misty Morning

Mar 082018

It sounds silly doesn’t it? Two people are crossing a pedestrian crossing; one walks straight across and the other walks a bit faster in a diagonal because they are turning left (or right) after they’re over the crossing. And the later crosses the path of the former, interrupting their crossing.

Dangerous? That’s going a bit too far.

Annoying as hell? Sure is.

The Window

Feb 272018

In days past the current spell of somewhat chilly weather would be called a “cold snap” rather than the intentionally scary “beast from the east”. When did we start having to make the weather scary?

Now don’t get me wrong – the cold weather is not entirely pleasant, but there is not much we can do about it other than turn the heating on, work from home if we have that option, and take care when out and about.

But what purpose is served by making the weather scary? What is the purpose behind getting a bit wimpy about the weather?

It’s nasty out there. Get over it already.

Pentland Hills

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

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 262017

Just seen something daft on the idiot-box (also known as “television”) where a character claims to not be an atheist because she believes in good and evil.

Which is weird if you think about it. We atheists pride ourselves on paying attention to the evidence, and there is plenty of evidence for the existence of good and evil deeds. What there is not evidence for is the existence of some cartoonish personification of good and evil; those characters sometimes called “god” and “the devil”.

It isn’t necessary for good and evil deeds to require some mysterious actor who lives in the clouds; people are quite capable of both good and evil deeds without help.

Evil deeds are carried out by broken people, and personifying evil as a mysterious actor is a way of absolving us from finding the broken people and fixing them.

Light’s Shadow

Nov 252017

The scariest predictions of robotics and artificial intelligence reveals a desolate future where almost everyone is unemployed because machines can do it better and faster than people. That will not happen simply because the economy would break down if that were the case – if people are unemployed they are too poor to be efficient consumers.

Of course the most rabid Tories will try to cling to the outdated economic model of capitalism beyond the point of sanity so they will try to bring a great deal of pain.

To give you a flavour of what Artificial Intelligence might bring, they are talking about machines replacing lawyers, solicitors, and barristers; which is not all bad. Legal fees are high enough that most people cannot bring civil suits beyond a point where only the simplest decisions can be made. Imagine a future where a civil suit can be automatically handled by machines battling it out at all levels from the County Court all the say up to the European Court in minutes and at a cost that almost anyone can access.

Of course if you work in the legal system, you might well disagree!

The most obvious way of dealing with a future where nearly everyone is ‘unemployed’ but still needs to be an efficient consumer is to use the basic income idea where everyone gets a reasonable income. The most immediate reaction to this is of course the belief that it is too expensive. Except that some basic maths shows that it is possible: the UK population today is around 65 million, and the UK economy is worth £2 trillion; a simple division shows that we could give everyone £30,000 per year.

Of course that would mean a few less amenities – the NHS, defence spending, etc. So in reality the basic income would be a great deal lower than this, but it is broadly feasible given some rather radical changes.

Does everyone deserve a basic income like this? No, of course not. But this is not about what the worst people in our society deserve, but making sure they function as efficient consumers. And as a bonus, by ensuring everyone has a basic income, you can be sure that nobody slips through the net.

This does not mean the end of jobs and industry, but it will radically change it. Imagine for instance that you do not get a salary, but a share of the profits – instantly the cost of labour is removed allowing a company to compete with low labour cost countries. But if that share is too low, people are likely to sit at home.

And of course work will have to be made worthwhile without (or at least minimising) the annoyances we find at work today. Get in the way of what people work to do, and they will disappear in the direction of somewhere else.

Essentially this is almost returning to pure capitalism – companies are free to get rid of workers at whim, and workers are free to leave at any time. That has always been one of the biggest problems with capitalism – workers are not free to leave work with many things keeping them at a potentially abusive work-place.

Those with more than half a brain will realise that housing costs are a big issue here; and a solution needs to be found or all of the above will only apply to those who get their housing costs for free (i.e. almost nobody). Any potential solution comes in two halves – what to do about those with mortgages and what to do with those who rent.

In the former case, the government can simply pick up mortgage payments when the house ‘owner’ cannot afford them. In return, the government gets a proportionate share of the freehold, so when the house is sold, they get their share back.

For those who rent, the government can also pick up the rent payments for those who cannot afford those payment and can decide what a reasonable rent is. Plus no landlord can kick out a resident for non-payment.

The Bench

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