Friday, March 03, 2006

Galloway remains a shit

Jeremy Brier links to the BBC transcript of an interview of George Galloway in which he not only repeats his celebration of the Iraqi "resistance" currently massacring their fellow Iraqis but also extends this by describing the Danish cartoons as worse than both 7/7 and 9/11. Anyone who views insulting cartoons as worse than violent deaths has clearly lost touch with even basic morality.

I had my own experience of Galloway lunacy when I went along, to do my bit, to a Respect event at the LSE. The high point was when he tried to defend, in the face of my question, his assertion that Iran was free and democratic. Apparently no one had been barred from standing in the recent elections. It became funny instead of tragic when, following our questions of Galloway a Respect activist stood up to congratulate him as our questioning was clearly evidence that the establishment feared his movement; three students turning up doesn't exactly suggest Whitehall is panicking.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


The Pro-Test organisation is great news; in the face of animal rights lunatics the defence of liberal society requires the silent majority to get a little louder. Animal rights extremists are a danger not just to progress but also to democracy, any movement which opposes them deserves success and support.

Its first protest prompted an absurd attack from the movement which represents the "mainstream" of the animal rights movement and evidently has far less maturity than the schoolboy it is facing off against. Equally the arrogance in their statement at the initially small pro-testing organisation backfired when the next Pro-Test march massively outnumbered them. The BBC was then stupid enough to buy their newfound commitment to an open debate.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Kinnock continues his descent into the world of the crank

Lord Kinnock, returned from Europe, is supporting a report from the UK Metric Association. This report calls, in a little too strident language, for the replacement of our measuring of distance in miles with a metric measurement in kilometres.

Some of the language is absurd. Kinnock alleges that miles "contradict the image - and the reality - of our country as a modern, multicultural, dynamic place where the past is valued and respected and the future is approached with creativity and confidence". The idea that continuing to use an old measurement implies placing less value on the past is clearly absurd. However, why do miles necessarily imply a lack of confidence or creativity when facing the future? It would seem, rather, to suggest a confidence in a future different to that imagined by Kinnock and sufficient confidence not to mind the overexaggerated costs of multiple measurement systems.

One cost suggested is that our education system needs to teach both metric and imperial units. This cost isn't entirely a result of UK Government choices, though, as there is a benefit to learning imperial measurements in an economy which does business with the US.

Equally the "contradiction" of using different systems is overrated. Using one system for temperature and another for distance is of little concern when few conversions are being made the two. Equally few people will regularly need to make feet/miles calculations and therefore the complication of the calculation is a limited concern.

None of this removes fact that the metric system is clearly "better" but the overexaggeration is a fine example of the broader crisis of specialists crying wolf. People are always inclined to accord great importance to an area they spend much of their time working on and the availability heuristic, assuming that events you hear about a lot are common, will lead you to overestimate the frequency of rare problems. The metric association actively goes looking for cases of metric-imperial confusion and evidently assumes that those it finds represent part of a broader reality, they probably don't.