Subjective Objectivity – The Blog of The Reasonable Man

March 21, 2011

Housekeeping Open Thread

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 9:10 pm

Hmm. The blog is looking all messed up today, and I got my first insulting comment for a post I did months ago! What a ride.

Anyway, sorry for the light posting. I really prefer the world when its happenings are the marginal sort of bullshit that I can snipe at from the sidelines. But all this big world shit is crazy! Crazy, I tells ya! All this Middle East stuff, and Japan and the economy and everything. It drives a man crazy sometimes. Sometimes it’s just easier to unload on Twitter and let the collective inanity wash over you like a metaphor. 

Not sure what to about the blog text malfunction. To me it looks like Wingdings threw up on our blog, though that might just be my browser/eyes. I’m hoping that maybe this post will rattle the system a little, or that the problem will go away by itself, like this lump on my neck. 

How are you guys? Not sure why I made this an open thread, since we don’t yet have regular commenters, but all the cool blogs do it, so maybe that’s the trick.

Cross-posted at Something Quotable

March 10, 2011

A letter to the NHS

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 12:50 am

Dear NHS,

I received your letter today. I realise that it’s not your letter per se, but from University College Hospital, but given that we live in a country that will invariably conflate the two, herein lies my premise.

I should add here that I like you, even though you’ve not managed to correctly spell my name for the better part of two decades. That’s ok. I know you’ve got other concerns, and I’ve been satisfied generally with your service to date. Having met your cousin from the US, let me re-iterate my undying advocacy on your behalf. It’s in this spirt that I write this letter. 

I have an issue. If you are going to adjust my appointment date with a consultant for whom I had to wait an inordinate amount of time already, that’s ok. I’ve heard of appointments slipping by a day or two in busy periods. Deadlines get shifted and so forth. This is understandable. I’ve been there. 

I also understand that in certain circumstances, a two month shift might be necessary. That’s fine. We all have things. Your apology for the “problems [it] may cause” was noted. It will cause problems, but I’m a grown up, and this isn’t an emergency, so I can deal. I admit I was little bit irked by the fact that you went on to select me a second date sixty days after the original, and then proceeded with the following sentence “If you are happy with this option please attend at this new date and time”. 

Well, I’m not fucking happy with this option, to be perfectly frank, so am I unable to attend the fucking appointment? I suppose I am, and your poorly chosen phrasing was to give me the option to phone up and select a date sometime in 2012. You probably should have just said “the next available time is X, for which your appointment is now scheduled, if this is not convenient, please call Y to re-arrange.” 

But to be plain, my problem is this. When you chose to re-arrange my scheduled appointment at the point in time at which my consultant specifically said they would want to see me again for Reasons, you failed to give a cause for the delay. Maybe it was awkward, but you know, I probably would have accepted some sort of Orwellian lie. Transport For London have been dining out on “adverse weather conditions” since snow came back into fashion. Hell, I’d accept “staffing difficulties”. Just give me a fucking reason beyond “unfortunately” which is only really a recourse for abstract philosophers. I can shrug my shoulders and say “shit happens” without wondering if it’s because a member of staff in the clinic decided to take a holiday.

Naturally I shall endeavour to keep the appointment and will of course remain

Your devoted servant,

Pete

PS – If this is payback for me not saying that the upcoming reforms to the NHS will destroy the very fabric of our society, then I apologise and fully concede that they will undoubtedly destroy it for whatever reasons you are able to muster. I only hope that I get to attend this appointment before I am forced to purchase private medical insurance or die on the streets.

Cross-posted at Something Quotable

February 21, 2011

There is no “liberal” case against AV in May

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 1:48 pm

There are plenty of utterly wrong-headed reasons to oppose electoral reform. Read the Telegraph blogs if you want a rehearsal of them, apply logic and you should have an idea why they’re bunk. I can kind of get why you’d oppose it if you’re a die-hard partisan of the blue or red variety. Save for the last election, the First Past the Post system will deliver solid majorities for Your Side, so that they can Win. Why mess with that?

But more pernicious is a brand of so-called “liberal” opposition to the AV bill, putatively on the basis that it’s a compromise. To demonstrate this phenomenon, I’ll need a volunteer from the audience. How about David Allen Green of the New Statesman. Step right up and give us your two-cents:

There are two good reasons for any liberal to oppose the introduction of this proposed voting system.

For those unfamiliar, I agree with probably two-thirds of what Green says on any given day, and as a law blogger he’s usually excellent. Not the case here I’m afraid:

First, AV is not in fact a good form of proportional representation. Because it retains the single member constituencies, there is no inherent reason why the national shares of the vote would be reflected in Westminster. AV also does nothing to deal with the very safest seats – those where the winning candidate already gets more than 50% – and so, in such constituencies, the losing votes will be as “wasted” as before. And other seats will just be as “safe”, depending on whether the there is a natural Tory/Lib Dem or Labour/Lib Dem majority.

This is a shortcoming, I’ll admit. But is it any worse than the status quo? Nope. It doesn’t refelect the national share of votes at large, but I’ll let you into a little secret – a lot of people like the fact that local preferences are reflected in who gets to represent their area. Indeed, the retention of single member constituences is a function, not a defect, and the last time I checked, no one was callng it “proportional representation”. This is kind of like criticising an apple crumble because it’s not chocolate ice-cream.  It’s either no worse than, or beats, the current system, which is what I like to call “a net improvement”.

The appeal lies in the fact that a member of Parliament will have been elected to that position with 50% of the vote. At least that’s what I thought:

Second, the practical operation of AV is fundamentally undemocratic and offensive to the principle of equal treatment of voters. In the less safe seats where AV is triggered, the votes cast by those who favour the most popular candidate are not of equal value to the votes cast for less popular candidates. The second and third choices of the voters favouring the most popular candidate are just disregarded. If all second and third votes were given equal value then the overall result may well be different. The charge that AV means repeated bites at the cherry for some voters but not others is impossible to rebut.

Oy. “Fundamentally undemocratic and offensive to the principal of equal treatment of voters”? I’ll admit the use of this language is where he lost me, but let’s soldier on, shall we, and tackle the substantive argument here. The idea is that because my AV first choice is for the third choice candidate overall, I’ve been given the super-awesome opportunity to have my vote counted twice more. How about we strip it to its core. Here’s a helpful diagram, courtesy of Wikipedia that explains AV (or Instant Run-Off Voting as they call it, which is the same thing).

Seems reasonable to me. Of course the second and third choice of the voters are disregarded, because they got their first bloody choice to begin with. The person who gets his third choice may have had two more bites at the cherry, but he only got his third choice. Again, imperfect, but “fundamentally undemocratic”? Hardly, and still better than FPTP.

Indeed, no one really wants AV. It is a compromise. It may not even be a step towards proportional representation. AV retains many of the faults of the current “first past the post” system whilst treating the votes cast by voters in an unequal way. National shares of the vote may still have no national impact, and safe seats and wasted votes remain. AV is a rotten system, and so it should be opposed on 5 May.

Really? No one wants AV? Then I have no fucking clue what all those people from the “Yes To AV” are doing emailling me. Are they part of an audio-visual club? I guess their preferences don’t count. Maybe it’s because it’s their second or third choice. I’m not sure anymore. The point is, nobody ever wanted compromise in the history of anything.

Snark aside, so what if it’s a compromise? Green writes as if we’re choosing between AV and some other option for voting reform (Spoiler Alert: We are not). What Green doesn’t seem to realise is that there is lukewarm support for any type of voting reform in this country, and an actual system of proportional representation isn’t on the ballot for a reason. Aside from his weird “not all preference votes are equal” point, which I’m still not convinced stands up to logical scrutiny, his basic argument is that the liberal case for voting to retain the FPTP system is that the Alternative Vote isn’t proportional representation.

He’s right that it doesn’t necessarily lead to greater proportionality, but let’s be clear – if it is defeated, the spin will not be “the British public didn’t think it was a far enough move towards proportional representation” it will be “the British people stick by the good old traditional system of one-man-one-vote”. The opportunity voting reform will be gone for at least a decade (believe me, a Labour or Conservative majority government won’t pick up the issue again) if not more.

Perhaps I am being overly cynical when I wonder if some liberals, such as Green, would prefer an AV defeat for the effects it will have in destablising the current coalition government, which are potentially quite significant.  At the very least, they’re taking a very wrong-headed stance in terms of reform, and utterly miscalculating the prospect of actual proportional representation being on the books any time soon, as it’s only the peculiar dynamics of the coalition government that have even AV on the ballot this May.

Cross-posted at Something Quotable

February 18, 2011

In which I blog about Justin Bieber

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 1:55 pm

Hello Blog! Did you miss me? I missed you. Sure has been a wild ride these past few weeks, what with revolutions and the like. There was even a domestic coup for civil liberties, in case you missed it. Hell, a computer won Jeopardy, putting us one step closer to the inevitable obsolesance of humanity, assuming that a zombie outbreak doesn’t occur. But these are all contentious things, and with the exception of the latter, I wasn’t able to commit to a blogpost without it turning into an intemperate and ill-advised public essay. Then there was a series of economic news pieces so utterly depressing that the thought of writing about them through a haze of ignorance and bourbon was too much

But, dear Blog, one thing has brought me back to the fold and one thing alone. Our Lord and Saviour* Justin Bieber has spoken from on High with regards to abortion. To professional Catholic Telegrapher blogger, Christine Odone, this represents a huge coup for the pro-life lobby:

Justin Bieber, pop icon and every teeny bopper’s dreamboat, has given the pro-life lobby a totally unexpected and extraordinary coup: he has told Rolling Stone magazine that he thinks abortion is “like killing a baby”. The 16-year-old, a committed Christian, has actually come out and said that an embryo is a human being. Gasp! Gulp! From Montreal to Manchester, this is the most important person in a teenage girl’s universe. Whatever he says, she will listen – and even maybe act upon.

Gasp, and Gulp indeed Christine, but the question is when the shadowy Hollywood liberal Pharisees will conspire the subdue the Good Word of Bieber.

The pro-choice brigade are gnashing their teeth. Already, liberal women journalists old enough to be his grandmother have been raging against the “inappropriate” subject matter and suggesting that he’s too young to have an opinion on it. Cute, megastar, pro-life? Nooooo! That’s not a formula veteran Hollywood liberals are used to: the stars are far more liberal than ordinary Americans – aren’t they?

Their one hope lies in the showbiz establishment. How long before the elite that runs the pop industry shuts Bieber up? His unfashionable Christian values will irk the group of ultra-liberals who decide who should be promoted and who should be muzzled. They’ll be branding his defence of the rights of the embryo as a “PR disaster” and muttering darkly about how much MONEY this could cost the young star.

Don’t worry Christine, the Word of Bieber shall not be stifled, not while I can still blog, damn it! Here are those considered and sage Christian Bierberian values in full:

He isn’t sure what political party he’d support if he was old enough to vote. “I’m not sure about the parties,” Bieber says. “But whatever they have in Korea, that’s bad.” He does have a solid opinion on abortion. “I really don’t believe in abortion,” Bieber says. “It’s like killing a baby.” How about in cases of rape? “Um. Well, I think that’s really sad, but everything happens for a reason. I don’t know how that would be a reason. I guess I haven’t been in that position, so I wouldn’t be able to judge that.”

Such wisdom from one so young! From his deep thoughts on democratic principles to his espousal of that core element of Christian catachism, that brings so much comfort to the world – Everything Happens For A Reason. Including rape! I’m sure prospective Gospel author Christine Odone can explain that to rape victims everywhere. This sort of sarcastic rejoinder from Jill at Feministe is just wildly off-piste:

Yes, ladies, everything happens for a reason — including being raped and getting pregnant. Maybe next time the Beebs gets into an accident or suffers an injury, he should tell himself that everything happens for a reason, and so there’s no need to avail himself of Canada’s excellent health care system. Wouldn’t want to interfere with God’s plan. That’s what the Koreans do.

Poor Jill. Worry not, my dear, soon Bieber will show you the Way. You will Understand.

And of course it’s like killing a baby. How stupid could I have been, assuming that legal abortion wasn’t actually anything like killing a baby, for so many reasons that I can’t list them all here? Praise Bieber for showing me the Light.

Yes indeed, his collective thoughts are proof positive that these are the opinions of someone who has thought deeply about the world, and come to some stark conclusions about the nature of human morality and the personhood of the developing fetus. It is in no way the rather sad repetition of anti-choice boilerplate that proves he’s not even remotely concerned with the rights and agency of the woman who has to go through the labour of bringing the child to term.

As an example of what passes for Feminazism critique of the pro-life position, here’s a laughable piece from a man of all things, about the supposed “concerns” that women face in the birthing process:

It’s been some time since I read “What Hath God Wrought,” but my recollection is that in the mid-19th century men actually lived longer than women. As a society, the Western world has obviously made significant strides in reducing maternal deaths. (In Afghanistan some 1,400 women die per 100,000 births.) This is excellent news. But it can not obscure perhaps the most specific and nameable species of male privilege–of all the things that may one day kill me, pregnancy is not among them.
My embrace of a pro-choice stance is not built on analogizing Rick Santorum with Hitler. It is not built on what the pro-life movement is “like.” It’s built on set of disturbing and inelidable truths: My son is the joy of my life. But the work of ushering him into this world nearly killed his mother. The literalism of that last point can not be escaped.
Every day women choose to do the hard labor of a difficult pregnancy. Its courageous work, which inspires in me a degree of admiration exceeded only by my horror at the notion of the state turning that courage, that hard labor, into a mandate. Women die performing that labor in smaller numbers as we advance, but they die all the same. Men do not. That is a privilege.
Read the whole thing, if only so you can get a sense of how much better Justin Bieber and Christine Odone would be at managing the business of uterus’ like that of the author’s wife. What relevance have the experiences of Mr Coates in the face of their insuperable superior knowledge? The only reasonable answer is “None”.
The old Me (let us call my prior existence “Before Bieber”) might say “Fuck you Christine Odone for co-opting a 16 year old kid into your dogma on the right of women to choose how to exercise the rights they have over their own body. It might not be so bad if it wasn’t for the fact that the rest of his statement shows that he’s given virtually no thought to the matter beyond reading a placard at a rally somewhere or listenining to Bill O’Reilly. I’m inclined to give Bieber a pass, because at least he has the rather reasonable excuse of youthful ignorance for his views, whereas yours seem to be borne of the adherance to the doctrine of Church heirarchy notable for its misogyny and hypocrisy on the matters of the sanctity of life as well as rather pathetic desire to just piss off liberals.”
Luckily, Bieber has shown me the Light. And the Light is Good.

*SATIRE ALERT!

Cross-posted at Something Quotable

February 6, 2011

Dispatches from the Robot Apocalypse – Part X

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 3:44 pm

From today’s Observer, we’re gifted an insight into the next nefarious plan of The Machines. They want to take our game shows. Watch as Watson, schools a couple of trivia nerds at Jeopardy:

Crucially, according to IBM whizz David Gondek, Watson has the ability to learn, and so engineers have been feeding it with tens of thousands of books’ worth of information. “Just like the other contestants, Watson has been studying up,” said Gondek last month. He didn’t mention whether Watson had yet been exposed to military textbooks, or karate manuals – but the machine had been let loose on reams of information culled from the internet, especially to analyse human interaction and better learn how people speak. 

Because of its size Watson currently resides behind thick glass at IBM’s New York HQ, but the company is looking forward to a day when miniature Watsons will be commercially available. Future iterations, says Gondek, will be “smaller, use less energy… Everyone could have one.” The humanitarian ideal – and ask any sci-fi writer, there’s always a humanitarian ideal – is that the machine will one day be canny enough to aid busy doctors by diagnosing patients and assessing x-rays. No word about potential jobs at the Pentagon.

We have met our new ruling class, people.

Cross-posted at Something Quotable

January 29, 2011

Internet Culture Reclamation Situation (Inaugural Edition)

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 11:19 pm

So, Nick and I decided that is was hell of time that cool YouTube clips and the like got a re-airing. Sort of a nostalgia project for a medium that essentially wrestles away any sense of history beyond that which is being currently experienced. Here is my offering, and I hope it becomes a weekly thing. For the record, Nick will throw his twenty-seven pence in and it’ll be better. 

I’ve gone for movie trailer mashups:

And a little bit of Jack Nicholson

And some Old Testament for you too:

Cross-posted at Something Quotable

Coal. Yeah. What is it gooood for? Powering developing economies. Oh.

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 1:43 am

I’ve been meaning to post a link to this piece for a while, but it’s in the area of the environment, which ain’t exactly my wheelhouse (It’s Nick’s). But I got opinions, so here goes.

It’s by certified liberal James Fallows (whose blog over at The Atlantic is excellent) a man whose credentials on China are unsurpassed. It makes the case that “clean coal” whilst essentially an unpalatable sop to most advocates of reduced carbon emissions, are as good as we’re going to get in the short term efforts for global co-operation on the issue, and also highlights a promising area upon which the West and China can usefully unite.

Read the whole thing. Here’s as close as I could come to a money quote:

The proposition that coal could constitute any kind of “hope” or solution, or that a major environmentalist action plan could be called “Coal Without Carbon,” as one I will describe is indeed named—this goes beyond seeming interestingly contrarian to seeming simply wrong. For the coal industry, the term “clean coal” is an advertising slogan; for many in the environmental movement, it is an insulting oxymoron. But two ideas that underlie the term are taken with complete seriousness by businesses, scientists, and government officials in China and America, and are the basis of the most extensive cooperation now under way between the countries on climate issues. One is that coal can be used in less damaging, more sustainable ways than it is now. The other is that it must be used in those ways, because there is no plausible other way to meet what will be, absent an economic or social cataclysm, the world’s unavoidable energy demands.

Emphasis is mine. The reason I ain’t posted it before is because it contains the kind of thesis that someone might find abhorrent before considering. But it’s well written and researched, and worthy of debate regardless of one’s feelings on the particulars. It’s an actual piece of journalism.

For the purposes of balance (or really, supplement) I endorse what I think is the alternate effort that Fallows envisages, courtesy of Nick: 

“Based on our findings, there are no technological or economic barriers to converting the entire world to clean, renewable energy sources,” said Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering. “It is a question of whether we have the societal and political will.”

God, I hope so, but those last two are tragically key. At least it beats the idea that we all go vegetarian

Cross-posted at Something Quotable

January 26, 2011

Toby Harnden is the worst excuse for a journalist ever

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 8:08 pm

I must have typed the above in title box of a dozen draft posts, sitting on the edge of darkness like a man with a bottle of brandy and a loaded pistol, but this time I’m doing it. I’m living the dream. Because…

It’s Sarah Palin Month over at the Telegraph blogs! Here’s his prissy little attempt at anti-establishment humour:

So the celebrated DC wit and Washington Post columist Dana Milbank is boycotting Sarah Palin for the month of February, and encouraging everyone else to do the same. Here’s the case he makes. Well, it’s certainly true that there is a media obsession with Palin. It’s worth noting, though, that this is most pronounced on the Left. The Democrats want Palin (or Rush Limbaugh or Michelle Bachmann) to be the head of the Republican Party because they think that makes the party less palatable.

Certainly, Palin enjoys publicity. But she has been on the receiving end of some extremely nasty stuff, particularly Andrew Sullivan’s lunatic ravings about her son Trig’s parentage and, most recently, the blame laid at her door for the Tucson atrocity.

I’ve argued here before that Palin, for all her qualities, has made some serious mistakes and at this stage remains a flawed candidate for national office. That means she should not be obsessively covered by the media as if she were president. After all, she might well never run for the White House. At the same time, she has a significant following and a real contribution to make to her party and to the country. She deserves to be listened to.

So, rather than sneering fascination or a haughty boycott, how about a middle way in which what she does and what she says is reported on and analysed on its merits?

To this end, Telegraph Blogs has declared February “Sarah Palin Month”. Our US correspondents will cover the former Alaska governor throughout February in the fashion she deserves – and, moreover, other bloggers will make sure that Mrs Palin is mentioned every day, favourably or otherwise. I’m sure James Delingpole, for one, won’t need much encouragement.

I can just hear the collective snickering amongst his putrid co-bloggers, Nile Gardiner and the aforementioned Delingpole (confidential to Harnden, if you want lunatic rantings, you need look no further than your esteemed colleagues.)

But really, this is just pathetic. One guy, Dana Millbank is going to go through with this, but in Harnden’s usual faux homepsun logic about Real Reportin’ in Real ‘Murica, his response is to have a mention of her every fucking day. He conflates someone routinely mocked in the liberal blogosphere as the Dick Whisperer with the entire Washington press corps and the left. 

So, expect many a wild-eyed missive about how she represents the true feelings of the flyover states, and somehow channels the founders’ true intentions or something because of her half term served as Governor of Alaska. Or something. Because as we all know, the founding fathers were all simpleton yokels.

I could write the length of War and Peace on the Harnden-Gardiner-Delingpole Triumvirate of Hackery as regards US politics, but really, what’s the point? Their strategy is to hurl so much intellectual fecal matter at the window of journalistic discourse that any attempt to clean it up results in one being covered in shit.

Seriously. Toby Harnden gets paid cash money to do this. It is his métier. The mind boggles.

Cross-posted at Something Quotable

Post hoc ergo procter hoc – GDP Edition

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 12:01 pm

So the economy lost 0.5% in the last quarter. Or so the current estimates say. They can and probably will be revised (maybe even upwards! Who the hell knows any more.) Blaming the weather does sound like something from the annals of canine consumption of homework, but it’s actually credible, as it impacts on consumer spending, tourism and the construction industry all of which are key components in any recovery.

Now, my blogging colleague, queries whether this in fact is the result of the cuts being implemented as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review.

Two things I should point out, to the extent that this probably isn’t the case:

Firstly, this reminds me of an old latin maxim that is the title of this post. Those familiar with the West Wing, will know the phrase to roughly mean “Event Y is preceded by Event X, so Y must have been caused by X”. Chronology as causation, if you will. It is a tempting piece of logic, but is generally considered a logical fallacy. Now, it may actually be the case that there is a causal relationship between our two Events, but to assume it just because of this not advisable. This is especially true in the realms of mysticism known as Economics, where effects of changes to macroeconomic policy are usually staggered and tend not to impact directly on the attending business quarter, or even the following one.

Secondly, the cuts don’t actually start until April of this year.

That said, this Good News for Ed Balls and the Keynsian Method (my best idea for a hipster band name this year) who will argue with greater credibility that the government ought slow or delay its programme of cuts. Certainly the narrative looks just awful for George Osbourne right now. He’s going to need an upward revision on the -0.5% figure, and a complete reverse of the trend for this quarter.

And no more snow.

Cross-posted at Something Quotable

January 21, 2011

Say what you will about the Coalition…

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 12:37 am

But this happened:

Civil liberties campaigners have been celebrating after the Government announced controversial powers to detain terror suspects without charge for 28 days would not be renewed.

Home Secretary Theresa May will let the order allowing the detention period expire, meaning that from Tuesday next week the detention limit will revert to 14 days.

Don’t get me wrong, 14 days is still too long, but I’m pretty sure I’ve not seen the words “Civil liberties campaigners have been celebrating” since… well, ok, ID cards were abandoned. 

Naturally, that most Progressive of parties, Labour, welcomed the reverse:

Shadow home secretary Ed Balls, whose question forced the minister’s announcement, said: “This is a deeply arrogant way for the Government to treat this House and it is a shambolic way to make policy on vital issues of national security.”

Ed Balls basic premise is that a step in the right direction on civil liberties is bad because of the way it treats the body that attempted to make a very notion of the word liberty. For a man who was part of government that attempted to introduce 90 days of detention without trial, I think Mr Balls should sit down and have nice long drink of shut-the-fuck-up. 

Cross-posted at Something Quotable

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