Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Friday, February 26, 2010

Age Bin - Dubai

Focus, people, focus! If the Israelis had been stealing Australian passports because they were shy about delivering lovely birthday presents to little Palestinian children, I at least would have been prepared to cut them some slack. As it is, they seem to have been exercising what they regard as their unfettered right to kill anyone they like at any time in any country without trial, and surely it's this that we should regard as offensive. Who do they think they are, Americans?

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Reading the blogs linked to the never-to-be-too-highly-praised Fafblog, I find a general unwillingness to tolerate the evasions of Obama. Throw the rascal out, seems to be the feeling.

Just to put the opposing view, here's what Charles James Fox said in his History of the Early Years of the Reign of James II:
"...where spirit was not wanting, it was accompanied by a degree and species of perversity wholly inexplicable, and which can hardly gain belief from any one, whose experience has not made him acquainted with the extreme difficulty of persuading men, who pride themselves on an extravagant love of liberty, rather to compromise on some points with those who have, in the main, the same views with themselves, than to give power (a power which will infallibly be used for their own destruction,) to an adversary of principles diametrically opposite; in other words, rather to concede something to a friend, than every thing to an enemy."

Similarly, I suppose, for Rudd, though with more reluctance.


Now there's a nice word; to diffide, the verb from diffident. We should diffide our own opinion and defer to that of others. Used by Charles James Fox in his history of the reign of James II.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Age bin - Deveny

Catherine Deveny is quite right. It is a sad humiliation for a woman to bear her father's surname when she could otherwise proudly boast her grandfather's surname.

The Case of the Red-Headed Dwarfs, part 11

Another ludicrous scene occurred while Mr. Tinklebury Snapdriver, for the prosecution, was crossexamining Mrs. Tasker.
Mr. Snapdriver: Your name is Rhoda Tasker?
Mrs. Tasker; Obviously, or I wouldn't be here.
Mr. Snapdriver: I put it to you that you were once known as Rough-House Rhoda?
Mr. Hermitage: No, no, m'lud, Rough-House Rhoda is another lady, whom I propose to call - a Mrs. Rhoda Mortiboy.
Cocklecarrot: What a queer name.
A Dwarf: 'You are speaking of my mother.’ (Sensation.)
Cocklecarrot: Is your name Mortiboy?
The Dwarf; No. Towler's my name.
Cocklecarrot: (burying his head in his hands) I suppose she married again.
The Dwarf; What do you mean, again? Her name has always been Towler.
Cocklecarrot (groaning): Mr. Hermitage, what is all this about?
Mr. Hermitage: M'lud, there is a third Rhoda, a Mrs. Rhoda Clandon.
Cocklecarrot (to the dwarf, sarcastically): Is she your mother, too?
The Dwarf: Yes. My name's Clandon.
Cocklecarrot: I think, Mr. Snapdriver, we had better proceed without this Rhoda business. My nerves won't stand it.
Mr. Snapdriver: My next witness is the artiste known as Lucinda - a Mrs. Whiting.
(Everybody looks at the dwarf.)
Cocklecarrot (with heavy sarcasm): And, of course-
The Dwarf; Yes, she is my mother.
Cocklecarrot (roaring): Then what is your name, you oaf?
The Dwarf: Charlie Bread. (Laughter and jeers).
Cocklecarrot: Clear the court! This foolery is intolerable. It will ruin my political career.

Tiny violin time

Hannoush informs me that he no longer blogs at all, having gone on to twitters; as does Chris Samuel. That's two of my four readers gone, making it even more clear that the blog has become an old-fashioned relic of a more gracious age, like the villanelle or the jellygraph.

Smile and smile and be a villain

Actually, the comment spammers are getting slicker. Look at this one:
This might be a bit off-topic but I believe there are a lot of smokers here on I have recently decided to find a good vendor of e-cigarettes. I'm done with paying so much for tobacco smokes.A friend recommended [url=http://www.fuckyou.html]Shitbreath[/url] According to their website this is how they described their product:
"Shitbreath offers quality Electronic cigarettes with disposable cartridges that produce the highest smoke volume in the industry. With a collection of flavors and nicotine levels, Shitbreath's™ patented technology offers convenience and performance that is unmatched. Shitbreath products have been independently tested for safety."
I'm thinking of buying them. Anyone else have experience with this e-cigarette?

Really quite plausible, the bastards.
All names changed to protect the site, of course.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Moderation in all things

For no particularly good reason I have, a day after explaining why comment spam on this blog disadvantaged nobody, gone over to moderated comments to eliminate it. I will simply have to hope that none of the very few genuine commentators suffer from poor response to delayed gratification.

I hereby pledge, anyway, to delete nothing except spam; please be as uncivil as you wish.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Why we love her

"I think, kind of tougher to, um, put our arms around, but allowing America's spirit to rise again by not being afraid to kind of go back to some of our roots as a God fearing nation where we're not afraid to say, especially in times of potential trouble in the future here, where we're not afraid to say, you know, we don't have all the answers as fallible men and women so it would be wise of us to start seeking some divine intervention again in this country, so that we can be safe and secure and prosperous again. To have people involved in government who aren't afraid to go that route, not so afraid of the political correctness that you know -- they have to be afraid of what the media said about them if they were to proclaim their alliance on our creator."

Have to say,in the Bible divine intervention isn't something you want to invoke lightly. God chose the Jews, after all, and has apparently been acting in their best interests all along; I'm not sure that at all points along the route your average Jew-in-the-street appreciated the attention.

The burdens of fame

I'm now getting an increasing dribble of spam (mainly, for some reason, in chinese, japanese, and russian; does my readership really overlap with these groups?) in the comments posts to this blog. I haven't been particularly worried, in that
(a) nobody much reads me,
(b) those that do tend to comment quickly; the comment threads have a median length of about 0.03, administered overwhelmingly on the day after (that is, I know of no instance of Blog, comment, spam, comment, as opposed to Blog, comment, spam, spam) ;
(c) I cannot believe that there are many people who come to the site, are so moved by my eloquence that they go back to read everything I've ever written here and the comments on it, and are thus irritated by the spam.

So if any of the last group do exist, tough shit.

Persistent little cuss, isn't he?

Response to a NYT article on the latest PVS recovery case:
So why are people surprised? PVS was always a dodgy business, and since Andrews et al 1996 (K. Andrews, L. Murphy, R. Munday, C. Littlewood, C. Misdiagnosis of the vegetative state: retrospective study in a rehabilitation unit. BMJ 313 (1996) 13-16; found that 75% of the patients in that study who had been diagnosed as being in PVS were eventually able to communicate) should from a scientific standpoint have been discarded altogether. In practice, of course, it makes us uncomfortable to believe people are suffering and we adopt schemas and diagnoses that obscure this.
For a fuller account, see my article (Borthwick CJ, Crossley R., Permanent vegetative state: usefulness and limits of a prognostic definition. NeuroRehabilitation. 2004;19(4):381-9), online at
It may also be worth noting that the term "persistent vegetative state' has been discouraged in the medical literature for at least the past fourteen years, researchers now favouring the the usage of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) (1996) which refers only to the "vegetative state', the "continuing vegetative state', and the "permanent vegetative state'. The NEJM article, for example, refers only to 'vegetative or minimally conscious state'. The fact that the NYT automatically reverts to 'persistent' is yet a further example of a fossilized meme.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Chickerty Chick La La

And just to add to Mr. Zelinsky's quote from Jack Chick early in the thread, the section immediately following shows how difficult it is to refute conspiracy theories by demonstrating internal incoherence:

"To us, the conspiratorial theory makes far more sense than the accidental theory. The conspiracy claims Rivera has made are by no means extreme and paranoid. Indeed, many respected and thorough researchers have, after many years of painstaking research, come to the conclusion that there is a conspiracy at work which desires to control the world by controlling the banks, commerce and the media.

I give you here the titles of eleven books in which the authors... make their conspiracy beliefs known.


While we do not agree with all that these men have written, nevertheless, the one common fact on which they all seem to agree is that there is a conspiracy at work in the world. These conspirators, they conclude, are attempting to manipulate and rule the world through their control of the banks, commerce and media. So, in that respect, they agree with Rivera's claims.

The one area where Rivera differs from them is the powers behind the scenes. The other authors basically blame the Illuminati, the International Bankers or the Zionists. ....
Rivera, on the other hand, takes a more Biblical stance and blames Mystery Babylon, the city on seven hills (i.e., Romanism) as understood by the great Protestant Reformers.

Surely then, Rivera is not alone in his view, but rather is just one among an almost endless line of respected authors, including modern writers, who are saying much the same thing."

You say the world is controlled by the Elders of Zion, I say by the Catholics - potayto, potahto. Let's not get nitpicky.

The protocols of the elders of Yugoslavia

[carried over from an interesting discussion of conspiracies at Slacktivist]

"Just to add to the list of actual real in this world conspiracies, there's world war one; springing from the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand by an agent of the Black Hand, a secret society devoted to ... freeing the south slav populations from the yoke of Austria, which, by the way, they achieved, creating Yugoslavia. For a while, at least.
There are conspiracies, but they may well be small, localised, and (for certain values of sensible) sensible and straightforward conspiracies rather than worldgirdling totalizing all-or-nothing Illuminanti overreaches.

And if you want worldgirdling totalizing theories, the whole point of Marxism was to construct a theory to explain how a class of oppressors such as the bourgeoisie could act effectively in unison without having to resort to clandestine meetings and secret handshakes."

Someone had already quoted what I regard as the key text in understanding why people believe in conspiracies;
The most blatant example of this sort of attitude being seen as a positive thing comes from

where Jack Chick's compatriots say in one of their FAQs on conspiracy theories about the Roman Catholic Church:

There are only two ways in which world history can be explained:

1. The accidental theory. All events, such as those world depressions, revolutions, wars and political plots are the results of pure chance. Such a view is as ridiculous as belief in evolution!

2. The conspiratorial theory. World events such as mentioned above, take place because some influential people want them to happen and make them happen. People with power meet behind closed doors and work out plans to achieve their aims. The most precise way to describe such conduct is - conspiracy.

To us, the conspiratorial theory makes far more sense than the accidental theory

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

How Time Flees

For a fifteen year old today the second world war is as far back in time as was not the first world war, not the second, but the Matabele war of 1896 when I was fifteen. Complaints that kids today don't know their history seem to be based on the view that history should stop dead at the point it was when they learned it, leaving all relative importances exactly as they were then.
Another way to look at it, I suppose, is that history is easier to learn when you have a five-year world war every twenty-five years: you just have to count on your fingers and say "Uh, 1970? Third! Laying the groundwork for the 4th in 2000."

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