Archive | October, 2007

on halloween

31 Oct

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Halloween, originally uploaded by fabbio.

Tonight is Halloween.

Now you can call me an old-crank spoilsport if you please, but I just don’t get why we’ve bought into this American holiday (although, yeah, I can totally understand why retailers have embraced it). I know kids love sweets, horror and creepy crawlies, but usually, at least in our town, they’re older kids after cold hard Stirling.

“Sweets?

What? Haven’t you got any money?”

You see what I’m getting at? In many cases, Trick or Treat’rs are gangs of bloody teenagers crawling the streets hoping to get enough for a few cans of Old Wife-Beater – or Stella, as it’s more frequently known. It’s not about the spirit of festival or even a cheeky nod to our historical dalliance with witchcraft, it’s about fleecing people out of cash.

I’m sure when my kids are a few years older (or maybe even next year for the boy) I’ll be dressing them up and taking them down our street. But I’ll be conscious of so many occupants who dread the doorbell. Will it be a hand-full of *supervised* cutiepies dressed as skeletons, or half-a-dozen dickheads with a £1 plastic mask and their hoodies drawn up.

I know I sound terribly Daily Mail, but I’m just not looking forward to tonight. Maybe I’ll camp out on the roof with an air-rifle – that’ll really put the heebie jeebies up the little shits.

Happy Halloween.

rudy’s rightward lunge

30 Oct

The New Republic examines Rudy Giulaini’s economic ideology.

From the horse’s mouth: –

I don’t like mandating health care. I don’t like it because it erodes what makes health care work in this country–the free market, the profit motive. A mandate takes choice away from people. We’ve got to let people make choices. We’ve got to let them take the risk–do they want to be covered? Do they want health insurance? Because, ultimately, if they don’t, well, then, they may not be taken care of.

Rudy is a hard-nosed politician (and something of self-aggrandising wanker, but that’s one for another day), but I wonder if his desperate Milton Friedman-style economic reinvention will end up alienating the centre if he makes it past the nomination stage – after all, then, the smarmy-faced Republican will have to take his mandate to the country. Many millions of Americans simply cannot afford cover for escalating healthcare costs; they have been priced out of an incredibly expensive system.

American politicians must do something to help the vast swathes of the country without cover. A good start would be to open up a closed market to cheaper, foreign-sourced drugs (powerful Big-Pharma co’s have lobbied to ensure the market is closed, leading to an industry in drugs being smuggled over the US border). Remember, a free-market only works if it’s actually free.

More: rudy giuliani: foreign policy guru or international bullshitter?

meanwhile, elsewhere

30 Oct

Mike Power points out that the moronatrons at ConservativeHome have too much time on their hands.

digital hermits

29 Oct

An excellent – if quite fantastical – piece in yesterday’s Observer advises people on how to disappear from the nation’s growing network of computer databases, CCTVs and electronic registers.

Nick Rosen
, editor of the “Off Grid” website, argues that “thousands” of Britons are choosing a life without utility companies, credit cards, supermarkets, and cars in order to be invisible to an institutionalised web of data-collection points that track almost every facet of our lives.

Personally, while I have no desire to scream, “stop this digital world I’m getting off,” I do worry about my digital footprint. I have various online accounts with companies such as facebook, PayPal, MSN, and flickr that could – and in all likelihood will – enable them to create a profitable profile they could use or sell for marketing purposes (or, IMO much more insidious, pass onto government agencies). A good friend, Political Penguin, argues that this readiness to pass on my information to private companies is hypocritical in light of my opposition to the proposed UK ID Cards. He has a point, but then, to the best of my knowledge at least, flickr hasn’t been accused of flying its customers to Syria for “electric-aided interrogation” (with regard to MSN, I couldn’t be so sure).

Also, I actually trust certain web-based companies more than I trust public institutions. Many governmental departments are riddled with people happy to pass on your info for a nice backhander. As Rosen points-out, 300,000 people could be authorised to view your centrally-stored medical information (what would insurance and pharma companies pay for such info?). Yes, such economic realities apply to private employees too, but I have a little more confidence in data security based on corporate profit and customer confidence, as government rarely cares about such confidence in the civil service.

I guess we web-users have to trade a little privacy for access to applications such as facebook, and yes, we must also accept that “free” apps have to be paid for. The outrage at the increasing level of advertising on facebook is mislaid and somewhat idiotic. Social networks have huge amounts of traffic and these commercial enterprises have to generate revenues from somewhere. We all enjoy technological advances thanks to significant shareholder investment, and investors must be rewarded with growth and dividends.

Conversely, we’re also right to be suspicious of companies who hold our data, and this is where watchdogs are necessary – however the nature of the web means that any accountability is perfectly possible through nebulous web-based activism, rather than governmental intervention. Through technology and communication, consumers can hold the companies they use to account. Had a washing machine that survived its warranty by only a few weeks? Tell the world on an independent whistle-blowing site or post a review to a consumer forum. Technology empowers both the customer and the service provider, so it’s in the interest of the customer to embrace it.

if you’ve ever wondered about the british establishment…

26 Oct

…just observe the manner in which Private Eye is read, yet routinely ignored.

Viva La Revolución!!

a penguin goes diggin’

26 Oct

Remember all that bollocks about voting blue, going green?

up since four

26 Oct

More of this. Knackered today. Watching Zombie Hotel. Don’t ask.