Bits and Pieces

Monday, March 29, 2004

Where are my readers?

My name is Keith Taylor, and I am addicted to statistics.

Phew. It's good to get that off my chest. I've been holding it in for so long.

I've been blogging now for a little over a year, and not a day goes by that I don't rush to my PC as soon as I can to see how many people have visited, and where they came from.

An odd trend struck me the other day. As some of you know, I stopped blogging for a long break last year, and left the site in its old location to fester and rot. I picked it back up, brushed off the dust and moved house to Blogger at the start of February, and have not looked back since. The ease of use of Blogger has made me appreciate blogging in a new light.

Anyway, since I started blogging again I have seen my readership dwindle alarmingly. At some points in November and December of last year I was getting upwards of 150 visitors a day, which I could consider a success. At present I average about 25, which is definitely not. It amazes me that so many chose to read a blog that clearly had been abandoned, and then fled as soon as I started to write again. My prose isn't that painful to read is it?

A lot of this can be attributed to the fact that I changed the domain name and lost a few links as a result. I think, however, that most of my previous traffic was due to the fact that the domain name attracted a certain type of reader who was interested in nothing more than cheap Bush jokes and mockery, while the discussion of news and politics tends to attract a more discerning, if more elusive, audience.

Unfortunately this is my lot in life. I must accept that I will not be read by as many when I don't ridicule Bush, in the same way that the broadsheets must accept that they will never draw the same crowd as the National Inquirer.

Still, it sucks.

Sunday, March 28, 2004


I was out last night to celebrate the birthday of a friend's brother (any excuse) and I ended up drinking far too much (enough to maintain a full-Sunday hangover that is still sticking with me).

Anyway, on the walk home at about 1am I put the world to rights. Every issue was discussed, out loud, to the night sky. Luckily I was walking on a quiet road, so nobody was subjected to my drunken ramblings. And there was music.

As I was rounding the corner about 5 minutes from home, just after pausing to relieve myself in a bush, I came up with an idea for a post that would set the Internet aflame. Everyone would link to my post, hailing my genius as I used a logic that could only be described as sublime in dissecting the issues that face us in this modern world.

Worried that my genius would be lost in the fog of my failing memory, and lacking the paper and pen I required to protect my epiphany from the ravages of alcohol-induced amnesia, I fished around for my mobile phone and entered my wisdom into a text message. Saving it as a draft I congratulated myself on my resourcefulness.

And so to bed.

This morning, a faint nagging in the back of my mind made me pick up the phone and look in the draft folder, where I found a single word:


Unfortunately that's all I remember.

The post would have been great, though.

Eleven Messages

Tony Pierce has an interesting, if unconventional, audio post up. Consisting of a three minute burst from his answer machine, Eleven Messages is a welcome relief from the unstoppable wave of Richard Clarke articles smothering the blogosphere. Keep it up Tony, ya lazy bastard.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Sneaky Democrat Uses Secret Internet


PIERRE, S.D. - Republicans have accused Democratic U.S. House candidate Stephanie Herseth of maintaining a secret Web page to receive campaign donations raised from ads on liberal groups' Internet sites.

But a Herseth campaign official scoffed at the charge, saying the Web page is not secret and can be found easily with a standard search of the Internet.

Herseth faces Republican Larry Diedrich in a June 1 special election to fill the vacancy left when Bill Janklow resigned as South Dakota's lone member of the U.S. House.

Jason Glodt, executive director of the South Dakota Republican Party, said the Herseth campaign arranged the special Internet donation site to prevent most South Dakotans from knowing about Herseth's relationship with such liberal groups.

The Herseth Web page takes campaign donations from people directed there from Internet sites called "blogs," which are online bulletin boards that feature journals, opinionated articles and messages.

"There's a reason she's got that secret site. She doesn't want to advertise the fact she's doing this," Glodt said Thursday.

Now I've done a little research on this, and I've discovered that this Herseth character is running a secret headquarters at 3300 South Holly Avenue
Sioux Falls SD 57104. That's probably inside a hollowed out volcano.

But that's not all. Apparently Herseth is plotting the downfall of Larry Diedrich. Something must be done.

Incidentally, I often think I maintain a secret website.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Bush Blogger Gets Beat

A brawl erupted between opponents and supporters of President Bush last night behind police barricades a block from his fund-raiser at the Park Plaza Hotel.

Two Bush supporters, twin brothers Matt and Aaron Margolis, traded blows at the corner of Arlington and Boylston streets with several men who they said were union members.

The fight started after a man wearing an Ironworkers Local 7 sweatshirt, perched atop a subway entrance, repeatedly taunted the brothers.

"They told us to get out of here or we'd get beaten up," said Matt Margolis, 24, of Beverly.

"I said, 'I support your freedom of speech - please support mine. Come on down and we can have a conversation.'

"He jumped down and swung on my brother. Then they all jumped in and tore our signs apart."

I'm not buying it. Would a real person say "I support your freedom of speech - please support mine. Come on down and we can have a conversation"?

After reading a little of Matt Margolis' blog, I'm not at all surprised him and his brother got themselves beat up. Matt seems like the kind of guy people just have to hit. The first strike against him comes in the form of a large 'Boycott France' banner on the sidebar. Those buttons are a more effective marker of idiocy than one of those helicopter cap things.

It seems to me that these two guys walked into a group of left-wing union members decked out in Bush buttons and caps, waving banners. They went looking for trouble, and they found it.

Part of the Beltway Traffic Jam.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Thanks For The Encomium

I just won the True Patriot award over at Patriotblog. Sortapundit will now be known as the Award Winning Sortapundit. You must all stand and applaud whenever I enter the room, too.

Evil Monkeys Perfect Telepathy


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Scientists who trained a monkey to move a mechanical arm using thought alone said on Tuesday that experiments in Parkinson's disease patients show the technique may work in humans, too.
Electrodes implanted in the brains of Parkinson's disease patients transmitted signals that might someday be used to operate remote devices, the team at Duke University Medical Center reported.

Terrifying thought, isn't it. The evil monkey glares deep into your soul with its cruel, empty eyes. You feel your collar tighten and watch, powerless, as the deranged simian cuts off your airway with his evil monkey mind. The last thing you see before finally losing consciousness is the monkey bending down to whisper in your ear....

"It's our turn now..."

Frank J must be crapping himself.

Part of the Beltway Traffic Jam

"He's not the Messiah. He's a very naughty boy"

Good news, my friends, good news. Monty Python's Life of Brian is being re-released to celebrate its 25th birthday.

"Life of Brian" will open at the end of April in Los Angeles and New York before expanding to other cities across the country, Rainbow Film Company president Henry Jaglom (news), whose distribution arm is reissuing the film, said on Tuesday.

I just hope they have the good sense to release it over in the UK. Being a young sprog of 22, I never had the chance to see the Python films on the big screen. Instead I was doomed to watch them on a tiny black and white television that we had to wind up before use. While wrapped in a threadbare sheet. In a field. While being pumelled by angry dwarfs. It's grim up north.

Hat tip: OTB

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Bush Backs Sharon

The White House has defended Israel's assassination of Ahmed Yassin:-

"Any country has the right to defend itself from terror. Israel has the right to defend herself from terror. And as she does so, I hope she keeps consequences in mind as to how to make sure we stay on the path to peace," Bush said in his first public comment on Monday's assassination of Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin.

Now it's always pointless to attempt to have a debate about Israel, as we in the west seem to always fall into two groups. In the red corner are the 'appeasers' (as we have been branded) who hope that through some sort of compromise Israel can drum out an agreement with the Palestinians that would be acceptable to both groups. In the blue corner are the 'aggressors' who believe that Palestinians are violent heathens who need to be wiped from the face of the earth in order to allow a peaceful Jewish state.

God knows there is no easy solution to this problem, but in the long history of stupid ideas, increasing a cycle of violence rates near the top. Considering the future of this kind of policy, the only outcome that would ensure a cessation of hostilities would be the death of every Palestinian. How stupid do you have to be, not only to advocate such a policy, but to advocate it from the position of most powerful man in the world?

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

TTLB Ecosystem

Hey, I've reached Flippery Fish on the Truth Laid Bear Ecosystem. Climb the ladder, Taylor. Bide your time, keep your head down, and BAM! One day Instapundit will find he's in second place with a horses head under the duvet.

(time for the evil laugh)

Mua ha ha ha!

Richard Clarke

I'm not really getting this whole Richard Clarke story. So he accused Bush of failing to act on Al Qaeda before 9-11. Well, to be honest, they didn't really feature in my own list of things to worry about before that day. It would be hypocritical of us to act as if they should have been foremost in Bush's mind.

However, the White House is playing into the hands of those who want to make this a huge story (I couldn't open the Washington Post site, so I stole this quote from Kevin Drum:

President Bush's top aides launched a ferocious assault on the former White House counterterrorism official who accused Bush of failing to act on the al Qaeda threat before Sept. 11, 2001, and strengthening terrorists by pursuing a misguided focus on Iraq.

Admit it. Before 9-11, terrorism didn't figure in your daily life. You went to work in your office block and didn't give a second thought to the possibility that a plane could pound into the builidng at any second. Since then, the threat of terrorism has been seared into our minds, and we can't imagine a time when we didn't fear it.

Before Pearl Harbour, Americans didn't worry too much about WWII. While the war was raging in Europe you continued life as normal because it was none of your business. You weren't involved. After the Japanese rained fire on America, and you guys finally joined in the fight, did you take it out on Roosevelt? Of course not. Until '41 the US were quite happy to remain impartial.

The same applies today. The best thing the White House could do is ignore Clarke. By all accounts there is more to come, considering the fact that there are several book releases this year slamming Bush on his ineffectiveness during his administration. They should just tune it all out and hope it goes away. Drawing attention to the accusations give them a validity Bush can ill afford. Besides, the administrations actions after 9/11 are much more important.

Monday, March 22, 2004


I know this must make me some kind of evil jew-hater, but when are we going to finally say enough is enough with Israel? Sure, both sides are as bad as each other, but since Israel has the support of the most powerful nations on earth behind it they should resolve to take the high ground.

Assassination? Assassi-fucking-nation? That's going a step too far. The responses I'm seeing in the news are that the US is "deeply troubled", and the UK are "disappointed". If I was in charge I would be freezing all funds to Israel and making them go sit in the corner and think about what they've done. Aaahh, I'm too pissed off at the idiocy in that part of the world to write. I'm going to the pub.

Stupid Damned Hippies

It always gets on my nerves when I see morons protesting in anti-war rallies. Not that they are protesting, but that they choose such a stupid way to do it. I can imagine meeting these people at a party, and spending the next half hour trying desperately to get away from the up-their-own-ass lunatics.

Exactly how do these people think they are helping the anti-war cause by acting in such a ridiculous manner? The only logical explanation is that they are actually hardcore hawks who try to turn the anti-war movement into a laughable parody of organised protest. In that case they're doing a bang-up job.

These weirdos are but minor annoyances compared to people like this guy.

Now that's just sick.

Thanks to LGF for the pictures.

Identity Cards

There's a debate about national ID cards going on around here (kicked off by Nick Kristof at the NY Times (subscription required)).

I don't personally have a problem with ID cards. After all, I already carry a drivers license, several ATM and credit cards and my national insurance card. I have no doubt that, given necessary motivation, the government could track my movements quite easily. For that reason, I don't think a standardised ID card would have any effect on my personal liberty (incidentally, the concept of personal liberty has never elicited the kind of righteous anger in its defence on these shores as in the US).

Conversely, while ID cards wouldn't have a great impact on my liberty, I fail to see an advantage over the current system. With my current ID my employment and tax history can be tracked, my address can be found and my driving record can be looked up. Anyone who decides to search my person can even find all my bank details. In short, all of my personal details are up for grabs apart from, maybe, my blood type (and even I don't know that).

However, I am not the kind of person these cards would be designed to track. I am a young white man with a clean criminal record and no connection to the shady world of terrorism. And that is where the question of liberty arises. The group that would potentially lose the most liberty would more than likely be citizens of Middle Eastern descent. It seems that in today's paranoid society anyone who wears a beard is a potential terrorist. ID cards would probably come with a provision to allow police a broader 'stop and search' capability, and along with the reported institutional racism of the police force, this would just open the door for scandal and ask it to make itself comfortable.

So what do we really have to fear from ID cards? Some of the most vocal opponents are from demographics who would have nothing to fear - WASPs who pay their taxes, attend church on Sunday and have nothing worse than a parking ticket on their record.

So why the rabid opposition? Is it nothing more than a belief in their Constitutional right to privacy, or is it the fear that we are becoming a society more closely aligned with Orwell's dystopian vision of 1984 than the society the founding fathers attempted to frame. After all, we are already well on the way to Orwell's perpetual war. With your President of the opinion that there should be 'limits to freedom', and our Prime Minister following in his wake, can we trust that broad-scale identification would be used for the ostensibly benevolent purposes its advocates claim?

Friday, March 19, 2004

One Year On

Tonight marks the first anniversary of our entrance into Iraq. I also realised that I've missed my own first anniversary. I started blogging a little more than a year ago, but I'm not sure of the exact date.

A year on and my feelings are mixed. Our position today is better than I predicted on this day last year. I sat in this chair (actually, it was a different chair, but it was in front of this computer all the same) around the time that late at night segues into early morning, and watched on Sky News as the first bombs dropped.

At the time I predicted a disastrous campaign. With public opinion dead against the war in an astounding majority of nations, the unilateral approach undermining the UN, and my general mistrust of Bush, I expected - and in a morbid way, hoped - for a messy PR disaster that would end Bush's political career.

As it turns out, the actual campaign went off without a hitch (or as little a hitch as is possible under the circumstances). Baghdad fell without much resistance and the reporters got their pictures.

However, since Bush declared 'Mission Accomplished' we've found ourselves in a bit of a situation. Apart from the fact that we never did find those durned WMDs, we're still losing people over there. Just in the last week or so we've seen Bob Zangas and Scott Elliot's parents die. That's 3, count 'em, 3 civilian deaths in the blogosphere alone. In the past year we have lost 574 American and 100 coalition troops, along with over 6,000 Iraqi soldiers.

Financially it has been a disaster. The war and its aftermath have cost the administration billions - and will continue to cost - at a time when the US economy is not exactly robust. Not only has the war been expensive, but the pre-war prediction of $1.7 billion for the recnstruction of the country has proved to be not just inaccurate but insanely, unbelievably, astoundingly wrong. The current estimate places the cost at a slightly higher $75 billion - and that's just this year.

However, on the whole I'm not too disappointed. We do seem to have acheived at least some of our objectives, and we seem to be making some progress on the democracy issue.

The problem is that Iraq was just the beginning - the yellow fingernails we complain about while the tumour grows in our lung. Today George Bush gave a speech at the White House that spells out his opinion on the matter:-

The war on terror is not a figure of speech. It is an inescapable calling of our generation. The terrorists are offended not merely by our policies -- they are offended by our existence as free nations. No concession will appease their hatred. No accommodation will satisfy their endless demands.

It always annoys me when people make wild claims about the motivation of terrorists, as if they and they alone have special knowledge of what makes them tick. Terrorists are motivated by many things - some justified, some the result of a diseased, evil mind. to claim that the terrorists 'are offended by our existence as free nations' is to make two mostakes. The first is the vague usage of the word 'terrorist', seemingly implicating anyone who bears the slightest grudge against us; the second is to imply that they hate the fact that we are free - a defence used in many an idiot's argument.

Of course they don't hate the fact that we're free - they hate the fact that we drink Coke and eat McDonalds, and the fact that if we were to give any financial aid to their impoverished countries it would come with the condition that, hey, we'd really like you to try a Coke now and then. And while you're at it, why don't you just abandon your cultural heritage and way of life and adopt ours. We'll just leave this flag here and take that oil.

And then another bunch of them hate us because we're predominantly not Islamic, and we allow our women to wear skirts and go to work.

Another bunch of them hate us for our policy of supporting Israel.

Another bunch hate us because we colonised their country years ago, enslaved the population and stripped them of anything of value.

The rest are just weird and like to play with guns. You'd go a little strange too if all your food was covered in sand and everyone you knew, male and female, had a huge moustache.

The bottom line is that we can't just declare that they hate us because we're free. There are any number of reasons why terrorists do what they do; some that we are aware of, and probably some that would never occur to us in a million years. At the end of the day, how can we hope to prevail if our leaders don't even make the most basic effort to know our enemy?

Thursday, March 18, 2004



Tuesday, March 16, 2004

More Civilian Deaths In Iraq

As the blogosphere reeled from the news that Bob Zangas was killed in Iraq, Scott Elliot of Election Projection lost both his parents in an attack in Mosul yesterday.

Larry and Jean Dover Elliot, both working as missionaries in Iraq, were killed when guerillas opened fire on their car monday.

Rest in peace.

And The Winner Is...

Blogrunner has published a list of the 200 most influential bloggers in this here blogosphere. Somehow they missed me out. Guess I must be 201st.

I don't understand the reasoning they used to exclude me from the list. I have influenced millions, nay billions of people to avoid my site.


Bob Zangas, a fellow blogger, was killed last week while serving as a Marine Corps Reservist south of Baghdad. I'd never heard of him until today, and never seen his blog, but after reading a few of his entries it becomes clear that he was one of the good guys.

This is an excerpt from his final post:

"...It points out to the fact that this is a society that is in desperate need of everything. It is like pouring a cup of water out in a dry desert. The water disappears and you are left with the feeling of "did it do any good?" Sometimes the answer is "yes." Sometimes the answer is "no." Sometimes you wait for the flower to grow. I don't mean to sound depressed because I am not. I am enjoying this work immensely. It is very gratifying... as long as the flowers grow eventually. I have hope that they will."

Rest in peace, Bob.

Monday, March 15, 2004


I've been reading Jeff Jarvis' article about Blogads today. I have to say that the concept of Blogads appeals to me. The idea of my blog becoming self-sufficient, or even profitable (excuse me while I stifle a laugh) is a great daydream.

I figure that Sortapundit costs me about $180 a month. Wait, wait, wait, let me explain. My job is heavily commission-based, and the time I spend blogging and surfing the net cuts into my worktime heavily (OK, stops me from working totally). Now it could be argued that I'm not really losing the money as If I didn't use the Internet at work I'd have to spend the time gained working really hard, and that ain't gonna happen, but you see my point.

Anyway, one of my favourite diversions at work is to find sites that run Blogads and work out how much the owners can expect to make in a year. For instance, Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit is running 5 Blogads today at a price of $1000/month. At that rate he'll earn $60,000 this year from the ads ($97,500 if he were to run 5 ads each renting space for a week at a time, as weekly costs more).

On the other end of the scale, there are sites that cost as little as $15/month. Running 5 ads for a year would bring in $900 (not to be sniffed at considering that blogs aren't usually run for financial gain). $900 should easily pay for any server costs, and leave enough to buy a few decent meals.

On the whole I think Blogads are a great idea. They usually look pretty good (better than a nasty block of Google text ads, anyway). I only hope that in time my readership will grow to the point at which I can make a little money off this. If this quote is an accurate appraisal of Blogads, then I'll put a little more effort into grabbing more readers:

"I don't think the bloggers realized how much these ads are worth," he says. "Next year it will be much more expensive."

Planet X

Astronomers think they have finally discovered a tenth planet orbiting far out in our solar system, and I couldn't be less enthused.

We have been looking to the stars for countless millennia, first noticing the planets in our own system over 5 thousand years ago when the Sumerians saw Mercury shining in the night sky. The Greeks and Romans named the planets for their gods, bestowing upon them personalities and moods.

Later, when Galileo and his contemporaries turned their telescopes to the sky they discovered yet more planets, and the satellites that orbit them. The 18th and 19th centuries found the distant Uranus and Neptune, and the early 20th found tiny Pluto.

All of these discoveries brought with them a sense of excitement, a sense of achievement. Our solar system grew before our eyes as new planets and satellites appeared.

Today, however, we sweep the skies with huge radio telescopes that bear little resemblance to anything Galileo ever used. In the past half century we have found dozens more moons orbiting the planets, with more coming all the time.

Meanwhile, astronomers have searched for the fabled Planet X. Candidates have been put forth and rejected. Definitions have been argued to the point that we are unsure if even Pluto is a planet in the true sense of the word. Our view of the solar system has been muddied.

And now we think that we have finally found Planet X, and we wait for the inevitable bitter disputes and recriminations about whether it qualifies as a true planet. Where's the wonder? Where's the romance? Where's the sense of discovery, the sense that we're pushing back the boundaries of science? We already know there are hundreds of large objects out in the Kuiper Belt that could qualify as planets, floating in massive orbits around the distant Sun. Claiming that any of these are comparable to our 9 recognised planets sounds like desperate astronomers are trying to put their name on the map before it's too late. If they want to have a mid-life crisis, what's wrong with a convertible and a young blonde?

Our 9 planets lend the night sky a sense of wonder that shouldn't be played with. To reduce them to mere criteria is to steal the magic from them.

Leave me my 9 planets and I'll be happy.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Dust and Marble

Donald Rumsfeld is taking some heat for keeping a shard of metal taken from the plane that hit the Pentagon in his office. I find it hard to see what he did wrong.

Reading the article at Newsday I was reminded of something I read a while back about a bronze relief of Ronald Reagan that was attached to a piece of the Berlin Wall. I tracked it down here:

"Many of us who served during the Cold War remember what the Berlin Wall represented -- oppression, communism and a lack of trust between two super powers," said Captain Bill Goodwin. "This piece of the wall honors our namesake whom many people credit with ending the Cold War."

The people who took pieces from the Pentagon and the WTC (I hesitate to call them souvenirs) wanted something tangible to keep as a reminder of the tragedy. Is that not understandable? Our memories of 9-11 have been clouded in so many ways in the last couple of years that they now bear little resemblance to the actual events. If holding onto a piece of the wreckage helps to bring back a little perspective, to clear your memory and get in touch with what this is all about, then what's the harm?

Hell, I keep souvenirs of everything. They help bring back old memories. On the good side of the scale I'm looking at a wall full of photos of New York and Australia, and I always carry an Australian coin at the bottom of my bag. These mementos are great for digging up good memories on a bad day.

On the bad side of the scale I have a shard of glass I picked up on June 15th 1996, the day an IRA bomb tore my home town to pieces. It was Fathers Day, and the family had gone into Manchester to buy some Chinese food for tea. As you can imagine the blast took out windows up to half a mile away. I found the glass embedded in a cardboard sign, and took it home with me. I kept it in a box in my bedroom ever since.

Memory is a fleeting thing. We sometimes need things to hold onto to remind us of the past, good and bad. I don't consider myself ghoulish for keeping my shard of glass, and neither was Rumsfeld. He was just being human. In today's government it's always good to see evidence of that.

However, perhaps it isn't a great idea to hold on too tight to the memories of that day. Down that road lies anger and hate. I have forgiven the people who destroyed my town. We have since rebuilt bigger and better. We have defied those who sought to destroy us. Hey, we even made the new Marks and Spencer out of glass. We refused to live in fear of attack.

Ben Franklin said, "Write injuries in dust, benefits in marble". Maybe it's time to collect all our bad memories and put them aside. There's no need to allow our past to cast a shadow on the future. There's no problem remembering the past, as long as we bear in mind that it's only dust. The future has not been determined, and we have plenty of marble.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Literal Terrorists Give Away Clues

A group aligned with Al Qaeda, who have claimed responsibility for the Madrid train bombings, have sent an e-mail to an Arabic newspaper, Al-Quds al-Arabi, claiming that they are '90% ready' to launch a major attack against the US.

What interested me about the excerpt I read was that the Brigade of Abu Hafs al-Masri, who sent the e-mail, called the Madrid bombings 'Operation Death Trains'. Assuming that they name all of their operations in such a literal, unimaginative manner, the fact that they called their upcoming attack on the US the 'black wind of death' may give us a hint as to their plans. I would guess that 'wind of death' would refer to some sort of airborne attack, be it biological weapons or maybe another aeroplane attack.

Maybe it's nothing, but remember you heard it here first.

Politics For Dummies

I was pleasantly surprised this morning to hear a couple of young men debating politics on the back of the bus. They usually just smoke weed and compete to squeeze as many swearwords into their speech as possible.

The men were dressed in scruffy work clothes, and were obviously labourers of some sort. They were discussing the Madrid bombings as I got on the bus, and seemed quite well versed in the history of the ETA and Spanish politics in general. One of them mentioned that he had lived in Bilbao for a year. It's always good to hear unlikely looking people talikng about politics. I tend to be of the up-my-own-arse opinion that working class people don't care about politics, so it's nice to see my stereotypes shattered occasionally.

But no. No, no, no. I got it all wrong. They weren't debating politics, but planning an all-white Britain and a carpet-bombed Middle East. 'When the BNP get elected we'll all start speaking our minds more.' 'We should shut the gates and keep all the (insert name of race here) out.' 'I don't understand why we can't just load up with nukes and flatten Iraq. Men, women and kids, they're not even human anyway.' Yeah, that style of thing.

I don't think I've ever heard a guy with such a tenuous grasp on reality. It was hilarious, but also worrying to see his friend nodding in agreement. It was all I could do not to turn around and laugh in his face.

Anyway, the moral of the story is that stupid people shouldn't voice their opinions. They should sit quietly in the corner until I give them their instructions.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

The West Wing

The Washington Post have produced a really cool floorplan for the West Wing of the White House. You can see it here.

Damned Lying Tony Pierce

Ha. I have proved my point (or is that proven?). I Trackbacked a link to the Busblog and only got about 10 clickthroughs. Considering that fact that Tony gets a hell of a lot more traffic than I do must make that something less than a 1% clickthrough rate. Still, if you trackback to a lot of big-hitter blogs you are sure to get a little more traffic (and maybe catch the attention of some kings of the blogosphere), so I guess it's worth it.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

No Sleep 'Til London

I'm sorry to say that there will be no blogging tomorrow. Dear readers, you must find your fix elsewhere. Yes, both of you. I will be in London for the day, attending an exhibition in my official capacity as electricity broker for small to medium businesses. Yes, I know you envy me. The thrilling rollercoaster ride that is my life is one that you can only dream of. You once tried to get a ride, but you were thrown out of the queue as you are not 'this tall'.

Anyway, I will be rising before 5am in an effort to beat the traffic in the capital. As I live a good 200 miles from London it will be a nasty drive. Yes, I know Americans think nothing of a 200 mile drive just to get a decent taco, but we English live on a smaller scale.

I'll be home late, so I will return to you all Thursday morning with tales of the big city and a mild hangover. In the meantime, why not take a look at the links to your right? You may click on them if you choose.

Coca-Cola Suffers Tap Water Backlash

Last week it was revealed that the bottled water Dasani, bottled by the Coca-Cola Company, is actually sourced from Kentish tap water.

Coca-Cola, who have invested £7 million in the UK launch of the product, are desperately trying to undo the damage done by the news. However, they need someone to confiscate their shovel to stop them from digging themselves into an even deeper hole.

Coca-Cola have shifted their marketing of the product to extoll the virtues of their 'purified' tap water, that goes through four different stages of purification before it is bottled.

Coca-Cola says "reverse osmosis", "a technique perfected by Nasa to purify fluids on spacecraft", is then used to filter the water further before minerals are added to "enhance the pure taste".

Finally, "ozone" is injected to keep the water sterile, the company says.

However, the company that supplies mains water for Kent are unimpressed.

"Tap water is pure, and that's the opinion of the drinking water inspectorate, which carries out three million checks a year."

So. Coca-Cola have managed to present the image that they have deceived the British public in an affort to sell them tap water at a hugely inflated price - water they have already paid for in their rates - and then gone on to insult the water board that supplies their water.

The result? The newsagents on the way to work are selling Dasani at 3 for the price of one. If Dasani was an animal, it would be a crapweasel.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Teacher Testing

Fried Man has a very good post about teacher testing to improve teaching quality.

It seems obvious - impose qualification tests on teachers and you will improve teacher quality, thereby improving teaching.

Unfortunately, however, according to an NBER report last year, it doesn't work.

I was taught by some very good teachers in some very good schools - all state-run, nothing private. My teachers were good because they cared about us. They came into work every morning and for about 6 hours a day try to educate people who don't want to learn, then went home to mark homework done by kids who didn't want to do it, and then came in to work the next day to do it all over again.

It takes a special kind of person to do that. Teachers in the UK need to attain a PGCE , a qualification that takes a year to complete. In the vast majority of cases this comes after completing a 3 year degree course. After 4 years of education the majority of people move into the private sector for a higher salary. The few who decide to stay and teach should be hailed as gods, not subjected to the ridicule we heap upon them when our kids fail to get straight 'A's (the most recent example being Rod Paige's of the NEA as a 'terrorist organisation').

Teaching is a tough career and, yes, some qualified teachers can't hack it in the real classroom. However, these people are noticed early on and weeded out during training. We don't need to imply that our teachers are not up to their jobs by testing them every time little Jimmy drops a grade. The problem with the education system is that teachers are underpaid and unappreciated. Their commitment and dedication to the job should not be questioned.

My secondary school teachers urged me to go to college, and my college teachers urged me to go to university. At university they urged me to stay, even when I failed a year. I owe it to my great teachers that I have a college degree, and if you don't like it, you can kiss my ass.

Election Issues

Kevin Drum has a post at Calpundit about the timing of events to coincide with elections:-

It's true that presidents always try to time events to elections. Making sure the economy is humming along in an election year is a time honored practice, for example. But isn't George Bush carrying this a little farther than most?

We already know that he decided against a serious assault against Osama bin Laden's hideouts in both 2002 and 2003 and then suddenly decided to get serious in 2004.

I'm shocked that this isn't more of an issue. Appalled may be a better word. bin Laden is public enemy number one, a man who killed thousands of innocent Americans. What I don't understand is how Bush can get away with making his capture an election issue, a little boost before November to make people think 'Hey, that Bush guy sure can get things done'. He's had 3 years to catch bin Laden. 3 years! I don't want to make any snap judgements, but it seems like he had the opportunity during that time to make a move, and he held back.

Now I understand the benefits of good news before an election, but what would have been best for America - to catch bin Laden October 2004, or to kill the bastard October 2001? For the past 3 years Bush's main goal should have been catch him, catch him, and catch him. Anything less is a crime against America.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Melbourne, Part II

I was at a friend's house tonight, and he showed us some pictures that he'd taken on our visit to Australia. I hate to sound sappy, but whenever I think of Oz I get very nostalgic. In fact, whenever I watch the Secret Life Of Us I get nostalgic (watching it now). God damn it, I want to be back. Anyone got a few thousand dollars?

*Update* - I'm watching the Melbourne Grand Prix at the moment, the first F1 race of the season. As the camera pans over the starting grid before the race you can see my old flat. It's always funny to watch ther race, as know that a friend of mine, Jonny, once masturbated over pole position (don't ask). It always brings a smile to my face when I see all the engineers milling around the cars before the race.

Gas Prices

Angry Bear today complains about rising gas prices in the US. Considering that the average price for a gallon of gas in the US is $1.71 (93p) I think he should kindly refrain from complaining. In the UK the average price is $6.80 (372p) - exactly 4 times the price of Yankee gas. When you pay through the nose like us, feel free to moan.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Poor And Stupid - It's Like Looking In A Mirror

Here are fond memories from his old teacher, Yoshi Tsurumi, who is now Professor of International Business at the City University of New York:

At Harvard Business School, thirty years ago, George Bush was a student of mine. I still vividly remember him. In my class, he declared that “people are poor because they are lazy.” He was opposed to labor unions, social security, environmental protection, Medicare, and public schools. To him, the antitrust watch dog, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Securities Exchange Commission were unnecessary hindrances to “free market competition.” To him, Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal was “socialism.”

Via Atrios

Hmmmm... I'm not sure whether to believe this. 'people are poor because they are lazy' - could there be a more perfect soundbite to ridicule the Bush campaign (OK, assuming we're not gonna hear 'Of course there weren't any WMD's. We were just bored' any time soon).

True or not, I wouldn't be surprised to see this quote included in Kerry's ad campaign at some point.

Update - yes, i know that the punctuation is buggered up on this post. Blogger do a good job, but sometimes they try my patience. Still, it's free so there you go.

Clinton For Veep

There's an interesting debate going on in the blogosphere (Volokh and Matt Yglesias have picked it up) about whether Bill Clinton would be eligible to serve as Vice President on the Kerry ticket. The debate is about the interpretation of the 22nd Amendment - the pertinent passage of which is:-

"No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice"

This in itself is not a problem since Clinton wouldn't be elected President. If Clinton had to serve as President at some point during Kerry's term, he would not have been elected anyway. The problem is that the 12th Amendment says that:-

"[N]o person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States."

And so it comes down to interpretation. Interpreting the meaning of the Constitution is always a tricky subject, and one that is rarely objective. Yes, you could probably argue for a loophole that would allow Clinton to be included on the ticket. I for one think the idea kicks ass. It would be, however, a political minefield and probably not worth the bother. Anyway, the boss is giving me an evil look so I'd better get back to work.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

How Lucky We Are

As I was lying in an exhausted stupor last night, unable to sleep after taking an ill-advised nap earlier in the evening, I got to thinking about people I used to work with while I was a student. Many of these people, working in low paid jobs at unsociable hours, were immigrants from poverty-stricken nations.

The first guy who came to mind was named Frank, a very large man in his late 20's. Frank was born in Sierra Leone, and had lived in the UK for about 5 years. At this time, around 2000, abduction, rape and murder of civilians was an almost daily occurrence in his home country. Frank had not heard from his younger sister in a year, and had no way of knowing if she was alive or dead, and yet he came to work every morning and kept going.

The next person I thought of was a young woman named Abedayo Babakume, known to her friends as 'Dee'. Dee had left her family back home to seek her fortune in London, and later moved up to Manchester where I met her. At the time I knew her, Ivory Coast Patriotic Movement rebels had seized the north of the country and her family had been forced to flee to Nigeria. Again, Dee turned up to work every day with a smile on her face.

This behaviour baffles me. If my younger sister was missing or my parents had been forced to run from rebels I would be on the first plane back, worrying all the way. It amazes me that people can come to accept any situation as normal. I am lucky to live in a country that is politically stable, where the law can be upheld and I don't have to worry an awful lot about being slain in the street. I wonder what would happen if the UK was suddenly plunged into a bloody civil war. Would we adapt as many African people have, and accept the situation stoically, or would we collapse in despair at our lot? I suspect the latter is true.


I find myself unable to decide who to side with in the Haiti affair. That's not to say that my opinion matters in the slightest to the people of Haiti, but I have an uncontrollable urge to form an opinion on any subject.

Haiti is a nation with a troubled history. The US invaded twice (first in 1915 by Wilson, and again in the 90's by Clinton). It has proved difficult to maintain a stable democracy in the country, a problem most countries have had to deal with at one point or another. Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected in 1990, but soon proved that he had little interest in the good of the country. He encouraged street gangs to silence his critics and soon fell into disfavour. After a few short months in power he was ousted by General Raoul Cedras.

Aristide fled to the US, where he stayed until Clinton invaded Haiti to reinstall him as president, ostensibly to safeguard democracy in the country. He stayed in power until the end of his term in 1995, at which point his protege Rene Preval was elected. Aristide ruled through Preval until 2000, when Aristide was re-elected in suspect elections.

And so to the present. Aristide has been forced out of power by the rebels led by Guy Philippe, who has claimed the role of military chief. It seems unlikely that he will be allowed to retain any power as the country finds a new leader.

The question that arises in this situation is, 'How far do we go to protect democracy?' Aristide was democratically elected, suspect or not. Phillipe led a ragtag group of armed men to overthrow the president, and yet we stand idly by (or, as Aristide claims, we actually assisted in his overthrow).

Now I realise that Aristide was anything but popular in Haiti, and I have little sympathy for him. However, this brings up an interesting question about our own democracy. The US Constitution gives citizens the right to rise up and overthrow a tyrannical government. But what are the circumstances in which this would be acceptable? Do you have to have a majority in favour of revolution, or can you form a militia with, say, 10% and stage a coup?

And what about Haiti? Did we poll the electorate before we gave Phillipe our tentative support? Should we not support democracy in whatever form it comes? I don't support Aristide, but it seems hypocritical that we should champion democracy in one nation and support its destruction in another. What kind of message does this send?

Monday, March 01, 2004

Rudy Giuliani For Veep?

US PRESIDENT George Bush is ready to pull off the biggest shock of this year’s election campaign by naming Rudy Giuliani as his running mate at the Republican convention in Manhattan in September.

I didn't see that coming. Now I think about it, though, it sounds like a great idea to drum up some 9/11 memories to keep Bush in office. Giuliani is one of the most popular politicians in the US, and his reputation as a strong leader under fire may help boost Bush's reputation as a 'War President'. Cheney has picked up too much dirt over the past few years (and the name 'Dick' doesn't really help matters).

The biggest bonus of bringing Rudy on board is that he's more or less untouchable after his leadership during and in the aftermath of 9/11. Considering all the bad press the left have heaped on Bush, he could do with someone made of Teflon as a running mate.

I don't like Bush, but I can accept that this is a good move. Considering that polls have shown that 62% of New Yorkers want Giuliani back in office you could be forgiven for thinking that New York would be a Republican lock in November. Couple that with the fact that Giuliani is strongly supported as a Republican Presidential candidate his involvement could be nothing but positive for Bush. They're not all stupid, those crazy Republicans.

Lowly Insect

Cower at my incoming links, for I have been promoted once again to Lowly Insect on the TTLB Ecosystem. Is it just me or is Crunchy Crustacean sound a better rank than Lowly Insect? I think LZ Bear has it all backwards.
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