Jul 032022

In 1973 seven dudes (the gender becomes relevant later) decided that US States had no right to legislate what women did with their uteruses specifically that States laws prohibiting abortion were unconstitutional. In 2022, four dudes and one women struck down Roe vs. Wade opening the floodgates to repressive State legislation.

On at least one point, the ruling is historically wrong – the make a big point about how many of the States had made abortion illegal in the 19th century; what they overlook (or gloss over) is that under English common-law, abortion was legal (and widely practiced) until the “quickening” (when it starts to move) of the foetus. Essentially that 19th century legislation removed a long-established right to abortion.

Of course the “pro-life” bunch are cock-a-hoop, although places where abortion is legal (and not just legal in name only where “pro-life” terrorists harass anyone visiting an abortion clinic) have fewer abortions than places where abortion is illegal.

Some of the reaction from the pro-choice has revealed some interesting misconceptions.

The first is the notion that this decision reverts the US back to the medieval era. It would be more accurate to say that when the States enact anti-abortion legislation, the situation becomes that of the early 20th century where abortion is illegal, but there are multiple campaigners. The medieval era was no shining light of liberalism, but abortion (before “quickening”) was legal or at worst treated by the church courts as a misdemeanor.

The second relates to gender – that this is men controlling women’s bodies. Well there’s certainly an element of truth there, but it isn’t quite that simple. Bear in mind that Roe vs Wade was enacted by seven old white dudes, and opposition to it is not exclusively male – those misguided justices that overturned it included one woman.

In addition, if we look at the wider US population support for prohibiting abortion, there is support amongst both genders – 40% amongst men and 37% amongst women (source: Pew research). A Gallop poll shows that 12% of women and 14% of men support prohibiting abortion in all circumstances.

No this is the result of a tiny minority of religious extremists having infiltrated the SCOTUS. They’re certainly misogynistic but it isn’t so much men as christofascists.

Dover Castle Gateway
Jun 292022

I have seen at least two or three Youtube videos by people of a certain age claiming that modern music is rubbish because of auto-tuning and other technology aids. I dare say there’s an element of truth to the accusation – certainly auto-tuning singing sounds a lot like cheating.

But people of a certain age have always claimed that modern music is shit – whatever era you choose. A certain Elvis Presley certainly had older people up in arms about this modern rock’n’roll rubbish back in the 1950s. And the Beatles in the 1960s, the Sex Pistols in the 1970s, etc. To a certain extent modern music is supposed to annoy people of a certain age – as far as young people are concerned that’s a feature not a bug.

What’s more, in every era most of the music of that era was just a little bit shit. We all remember the good stuff and forget about the dross. There’s probably no more rubbish today than there was in your favourite era of music (autotuning not withstanding).

HMS Mersey Arriving
Jun 022022

Captain Swing was a character that appeared in threatening letters during the Swing Riots. A series of riots across southern England numbering nearly 1,500 in number which in the end resulted in 19 executions (although nearly 250 had been sentenced to death). More people than were killed at the far more famous Peterloo Massacre, and who hasn’t heard of the infamous Luddites? Which went on longer and was perhaps more disruptive but less directly threatening to the land-owning ruling classes.

With the curious exception of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, a casual student of history could be forgiven for thinking that the South of England didn’t suffer any labour unrest or discontent during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Yet the ancestors of those Tolpuddle Martyrs had been effectively tenant farmers who had been reduced to day labourers within two short generations. To compare the English enclosures with the Scottish Highland clearances is ridiculous, but there is one common thing behind them – greed. And there is one common result – suffering.

“The law locks up the man or woman

Who steals the goose from off the common,

But lets the greater felon loose

Who steals the common from the goose.”

(Part of 18th century poem by Anon.)

Sometimes those on the left are accused of the “politics of envy” … perhaps. But it seems to me that historically it is often the rich who are guilty of the politics of envy – envious of what the poor have because they think they can make “better” use of it (in other words make more money).

Lighting The Sea
Jun 022022

It sometimes seems that every time I dive into a Youtube video promising “${N} Awesome CLI Applications” (or equivalent), that most of the suggested applications are not command-line applications. They’re TUI-applications – text user interface as opposed to graphical user interface – or to align with my bad habit of referring to GUI applications as gooey applications, perhaps tooey applications.

Now there’s nothing wrong with tooey applications; I use them every day. Especially nmon (just because I got used to it before I discovered htop). Or btop

Screenshot of btop running

But none of these are really command-line applications; by which I mean they aren’t used at the command-line even if they are (optionally) invoked there. A command-line application allows you to use the shell including pipes to produce an aggregate result. For example :-

» grep mike /etc/passwd | awk -F: '{print $5}'
Mike Meredith

That uses two command-line “applications” to turn a username (“mike”) into a full name (“Mike Meredith”). Yes it can be optimised into a single command :-

» awk -F: '/^mike:/ {print $5}' /etc/passwd
Mike Meredith

… which even improves the search, but makes the point less well. And we can do slightly fancier things too :-

Screenshot of a random URL being picked and turned into a QR code.

(don’t assume that QR code takes you somewhere nice)

I’m not suggest Youtubers should stop making videos about terminal-based applications; I’m not even suggesting they should concentrate on “proper” command-line applications. Just don’t call terminal-based applications “command-line” because they really are not.