Saturday, July 30, 2005

Basic Physics, the Monarchy and the Scotsman

Picture your steadfast and dauntless Pedant-General enjoying a moment of quiet reflection, complimentary copy of the Scotsman unfurled, as he sits on the very comfy sofa at "His Hair" - the marvellous old-fashioned barbers on Lynedoch Place. The eldest and middle masters Pedant-General were strapped down securely whilst their hirsuteness was attended to. A happier and more peaceful scene one would struggle to imagine, I am sure you will agree.

But not for long. This letter in the Scotsman practically knocked me off my feet. Given that the bandits that run this shoddy excuse for a newspaper have taken to charging for everything except the most mundane elements of only the current edition, I reproduce the offending letter in full:
Castle's hydro power

You report (25 July) that Windsor Castle is to have 200 kilowatts of electricity - about a third of its consumption - supplied by a hydro electric plant. But the electrical consumption for my modest house was 520kwh for May.

Perhaps its extraordinary low consumption of electrical power shows why the House of Windsor still seems to be stumbling about in the Dark Ages.

On a more constructive note, could we be informed as to how long it will take to recover the costs of this £1 million investment? This would be a more meaningful figure and reduce the pressure on myself to turn off lights when I leave a room.

St Margaret's Road
North Berwick, East Lothian

Well, Mr George R Graham of St Margaret's Road, North Berthwick, permit me to disagree. The clue, as is so often the case, is in the units. 200kW is a substantial local generation capacity. 520kWh is indeed a modest quantity of energy consumed in the course of a month. In fact, a 200kW turbine running at capacity will churn out 520kWh in rather less than a month. It will do so in 2 hours and 36 minutes if we are being picky.
Perhaps its extraordinary low consumption of electrical power shows why the House of Windsor still seems to be stumbling about in the Dark Ages.
Actually, your total ineptitude towards the most elementary calculations shows that the Dark Ages jibe is a little misdirected.

So, I hear you say, "man with apparently little education or intelligence makes unfounded jibe in provincial newspaper" - Big Deal.

Wrong. This is a big deal. The "big deal" is that the Scotsman printed it. That Mr George R Graham of St Margaret's Road, North Berthwick might make such a schoolboy error - the term could hardly be more fitting - in order to support an anti-Monarchy rant is of little consequence. The same cannot be said for the letters editor at the Scotsman.

This is very, very poor.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Economic Nonsense

Given the clarity - nay, purity! - of the stream of knowledge and harmony that is mathematics, your monoglot Pedant-General is exceptionally loathe even to paddle in the stagnant, murky and polluted sewer of economics.

However, he is thrilled, not just to spot a montrous howler as this, but to beat Tim Worstall to it at that.

So, here we have "the Director-General of the Federation of Tour Operators" castigating scheduled airlines in general for their failure to have an ATOL type scheme in place to support stranded customers. This is, perhaps, a fair comment, assuming we leave aside the incredibly onerous obligations and regulatory hoop-jumping required to get an airline operator's licence.

What is NOT fair is his proposed remedy:
"... a simple £1 levy on all air tickets to fund a similar system for airline passengers."
In order to provide a contigency fund against a one-off event - that of the failure of an airline - and of a largely fixed liability - that of the total number of passengers that an airline could carry at any one time - he proposes an entirely variable surcharge.

This seems to be a staggeringly basic error.

However, when we contrast this with the mechanism used by ATOL, we find that the ATOL bond is, errr..., a fixed amount lodged with the CAA and which is dependent upon, err...., the carrying capacity of the tour operator, it would appear that there is possibly some other motive at play on the part of our illustrious letter writer.

What would an additional £1 per ticket do to, say, Ryanair's attractiveness to holiday makers? Probably the same as Ryanair's fares have done to ATOL's market share.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Freedom and Rights

Far be it from your muddled and poorly-educated Pedant-General to criticise any of the extraordinarily eminent writers of samizdata.

However, in his, otherwise extremely pertinent analysis of a particularly nauseous statement by the safety elephant, he makes a stonking howler:
Freedom used to be what was left over when other people's rights to their choices were taken into account.

Permit me to disagree. Freedom must come first. What is the "right to live" if it is without free will, that is the freedom to choose?

This maxim should be tempered only by the accepted wisdom that one should not impinge upon or obstruct the freedom of others. This is crucial because Freedom is at the top of the hierarchy and well above any "rights".

This is, in turn, because Freedom is something natural, innate, inviolable. Rights are granted and could be revoked. This is not so of Freedom: It is Freedom that makes one human.

A conspiracy theory

Back from hols.

Anyone reading this will be entitled to ask tricky questions about Mr Seat and your elusive Pedant-General in Ordinary.

Have they ever been seen together?
Are they perhaps the same person?

I think we should be told.

Monday, July 18, 2005


the charabanc is packed (well nearly, and not without some colourful language) and courtesy of those nice people at Superfast Ferries, the Pedant-General and his family are off to warmer climes and to visit continental relatives of Lady P-G.

Until then, Toodle Pip!


P.S. Perhaps we ought to introduce a new valedictory: "Light Posting!" has a cheerful ring to it, methinks.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Moral Equivalence from Nosemonkey

Now we all know that, whilst normally erudite and well-read, Nosemonkey is prone to the occasional - and forgivable - lapse of concentration and/or judgement.

This, however, is not forgivable. Clearly, he is cross, but he is also mistaken:
But if there is any truth to these suggestions - if it does turn out that politics has been played with our national security - impeachments alone won't be enough. This would be gross, irresponsible negligence of the highest order. A blase disregard of people's safety and lives resulting in the maiming and death of scores of innocents. And for what? Power, plain and simple. If this is true, our leaders will have become as bad as those they are supposed to be fighting.
Various commenters have attempted to temper this suggestion, but Nosemonkey is unrepentant:
Consciously not preventing something terrible when you could have done is obviously not as bad as actually causing the thing in the first place, but as far as I'm concerned it's as near as damn it - especially when it's your JOB to get involved in such situations. It's like a policeman ignoring a burglar or a fireman ignoring a fire.
I'm sorry, but this is unacceptable. I refute it thus:

Nosemonkey: you suggest that - if these allegations are true - Bush et al are as bad, as reprehensible, as condemned to burn in hell as the terrorists who planned and carried out their attack. Note that I do not stress especially the "if". I have no beef as to truth or otherwise of the allegation. I would have no problem with impeachment, or even jailing the tosspot if necessary.

My gripe is with your logic. Consider this: you suggest that they are as bad as each other. Turn this around and ask yourself if they are as good as each other. If the slate for the US presidential election in 2004 had Bush on the one side, and the terrorists on the other, whom would you wish to win? Perhaps you get a different answer now. That you cannot see this is very, very disturbing.

For evil to triumph all it takes is for good men to do nothing and all that.
True, but evil will certainly triumph if we allow ourselves to succumb to the moral equivalence that can only serve to blur our view of the real enemy.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

You Verb, I Punish.

Your jingoistic and "gung-ho" Pedant-General is an ardent supporter of HM armed services and the courageous men and women who take HM's shilling.

He is less enamoured with the snake oil salesmen who purport to be their political masters. The current minister of defence (scroll to 4th letter or so) is a n exemplary case in point. This man wouldn't recognise integrity or duty to your men if it came up and slapped him on the top of his bald head.
On not one of these occasions has The Daily Telegraph bothered to News the praise that I have heaped on our soldiers.

What???? It is clear that this vile excuse for an inverterbrate knew what he was doing because he choose to render his "verbed" noun with a capital letter.

P-G Prescription: A month or so, on compo rations and patrol in Camp Dogwood.

He wouldn't last a second.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


Many people have had a go at the horrors of life under ID cards.

This one is particularly good.

Light posting for the next few days. Don't wait up.

Monday, July 11, 2005

7/7 Roundup and Others

The inestimable Nosemonkey has a charity/legal problem. He has set up a paypal account to allow the grateful public to donate to a beer fund for the emergency services and wants advice on how to disburse it properly.

Meanwhile, if ever there was an outpouring of everything that makes one proud to be British, it is this.

But spare a thought for poor old Boris. His weekly comment article at the Torygraph is published, weekly, on a Thursday. His entire magazine, The Spectator, is published, weekly, on a Thursday. He is doomed forever to be behind the curve. Not content with missing the outcome of all General Elections in the UK, he has contrived to miss the latest big event to hit London also, even if he has managed to scramble out an update to the front page article for the online edition this week.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Anarchists, ID Cards, Liberty and Terrorism

Following on from my little rant on the topic of these blasted anarchists, I had been meaning to post a little more thoughtful something. Events have overtaken me...

Now that it looks - mercifully - as though London has survived to tell the tale, I feel that it is worth bringing you some thoughts on a number of loosely related topics.

Firstly, liberty and discipline. These are normally considered to be polar opposites. My old chum Field Marshal Sir William Slim has a different take:
If you get up from that chair you are sitting in [to bring this up to date, one really ought to add, "in your pyjamas"] and take out your car or bicycle, you can choose where you want to go. That is liberty. But, as you drive or ride through the streets towards your destination, you will keep to the left of the road. That is discipline. You will keep to the left without thinking very much about it, but if you do think for a moment, you will find that there is a connection between liberty and discipline.

First of all, you will keep to the left for your own advantage. If you insist on the liberty to drive any side ofthe road you fancy, you will end up, not where you want to be, but on a stretcher. And there's not much liberty about that. So you accept discipline, because you know that in the long run, it is the only way to get to where you want to go quickly and safely.

Equally, other people have as much right as you have to go where they want. If you career all over the road, you will get in their way, delay them and put them in danger. So for their sakes - to preserve their liberty - you keep to the left.

But it will be no use your keeping to the left if others on the road don't do the same. You will expect them to. You will rely on their discipline.

Lastly, even supposing you are tempted to go crashing about on the wrong side of the road, you probably won't. At the back of your mind will be the thought: "If I do, the police will be after me". In the last resort, there must be some force which can punish disobedience to the law.

There are, therefore, FOUR reasons why you keep to the left:
  1. Your own advantage;

  2. Consideration for others;

  3. Confidence in others:

  4. Fear of punishment

Whenever we put a curb on our natural desire to do as we like, whenever we temper liberty with discipline, we do so for one or more of these reasons.
So far so good. This is why the anarchists are contemptible. They appear to believe that we can all enjoy complete liberty without even a cursory nod towards reasons 1, 2 and 3.

But the late, great Field Marshal continues:
It is the relative weight we give to each of these reasons that decides what sort of discipline we have. That can vary from the pure self-discipline of the Sermon on the Mount to the discipline of the concentration camp - the enforced discipline of fear.
At which point, one cannot avoid the topic of ID cards. The good Sir William has supplied us with the "four tests" against which we should measure any proposed legislation to curb our liberty. Even today, just 36 hours since the wanton and purposeless carnage was wreaked upon central London, it is worth applying them:
Test 1: Will the use of ID cards be to your own advantage? I am struggling to see how they can be.
Test 2: Would I submit to the use of an ID card in consideration for others? Not really. No. If I cannot see that an ID card is useful to me, I fail to see how my use will be beneficial to anyone else.
Test 3: Do I have confidence that others will subject themselves to this loss of liberty, thereby making the scheme worthwhile? Definitely not. The people who need to conform to this most (criminals, terrorists, benefit fraudsters, illegals) are least likely to do so.
Test 4: Fear of punishment Fear of Punishment? Bring it on.

So that has dealt nicely with the nonsense plaguing us up here and the nonsense that the "safety-elephant" wants to inflict on everyone on both sides of the border. Job done: we can all be back in the mess in time for tea and medals.

Not so fast, laddie: this swam into my ken this morning.

Over the last few years - possibly more, certainly since Murdoch turned to the dark side prior to the 97 election - the independence of the analysis of The Times, and hence its quality, has suffered. It would appear now to be craven lobby fodder for the No. 10 propaganda machine.
It is, of course, vital that civil liberties are not trampled in a rush of draconian legislation. It has to be conceded, though, that new legal powers may be required to combat terrorism and that will have an effect not only on those suspected of terrorism sympathies but the broader public. Ministers should not reach for the statute book with undue haste, but citizens must also understand that the security situation today is hardly normal.
I cannot believe that it has plumbed such depths. London and Londoners have done this whole country proud. It is simply laughable that the murderers assumed that London would be gripped with "fear and panic". We do not need new legislation. Democracy in the United Kingdom is bigger, uglier, messier and far, far more resilient that The Times would suggest.

Their leader writers should be ashamed.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Bombs PLURAL in London - Nosemonkey covering it

Nosemonkey is Live blogging

A Little Light Relief

I recall the long faces of the purveyors of SRU merchandise last time Scotland were up for the Grand Slam, only to have it (and the Calcutta Cup...) snatched away at the final match at Murrayfield.

How I feel for the Parisians. [Tries to stifle snigger. Fails]

Would you like some haggis, Monsieur Chirac, to go with your humble pie?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

These blasted anarchists

The moonbats appear to be a couple of CS gas cannisters short of the full riot and have no grasp of human nature, irony, logic or acceptable standards of decency and hygiene. But your docile and warm-hearted Pedant-General was prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt. Bless the little darlings.

A peaceful protester enjoining us to create a happy sharing community of equals

Let's have a look at some other reactions to the G8 protests:

Mr Seat has plenty of good roundups.

David Farrer has plenty of delightful photographs.

This gentleman has to deal with the detritus after it has been arrested.

And here's a nice one. The author has encountered a "wee man" in the road, bleeding profusely from the head. If the anarchists had their way, how would he be helped?

One of the commenters hits the nail on the head:
"I can't imagine many 'autonomous ambulances' driving around, and I've yet to meet an anarchist (Medical) Doctor."

This chap is a visiting American. Probably a Democrat as well. He seems to have got the measure of things though:
The anarchists were in disarray, with most of the girls screaming, and most of the men assiduously not helping them.

But let us not judge too harshly without seeing what they are up to and hearing from the moonbats themselves. How about this? Skip through to about 23 secs in to see a masked, black-clad thug set about a parked car with a crowbar and gay abandon. Ask yourself, how many starving children in Africa will that particular action save?

Here is Gill Hubbard from "G8 Alternatives":
"The people of Scotland are on our side."
Do you know, I am so pleased to have you here, defending our democratic right to have unemployed middle-class swampy loser-types wandering about the quiet and blameless villages of this country smashing up cars at random. [/sarcasm]

As I'm sure you have chanted many times, Ms Hubbard: NOT IN MY NAME!

But let us return to our visiting American. What does he have to say about the sound thumping delivered so diligently to the anarchists on our behalf?
"It was a fearsome sight, seeing the lines clash. The outcome was never in doubt: some of the kids were trampled, some thrown bodily back a surprising distance, some fled in pure fear. All deserved it."

They really truly do.

Live Blogging the Protests

Your up-to-minute Pedant-General is first with the news.

I have just received an anguished call from Lady P-G, reporting that she has failed to deliver the eldest master P-G to his appointed place of education.

It seems that the moonbats managed to block the A90 inbound this morning.

Lady P-G is returning to the fray and will report in due course.

Absolutely nothing showing up on Google news for this: You heard it first here!

UPDATE: 11.35am
Lady P-G has returned to the grace and favour apartment. Appears that L&BP's finest have done their stuff. Nadics is back up also.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Red Ken and the Met in the Grauniad

Red Ken has a letter in the Grauniad which I presume to be loosely related to the "hurt feelings" piffle, mentioned in passing below. I doubt that avid readers of this blog will be sitting on the edge of their seats wondering on which side of the fence your impartial and scrupulous Pedant-General will alight in this matter. Indeed, the only surprise to be registered is that dear old Kenneth Robert Livingstone has not graced these pages already.

So here he is, and there are rich pickings to be had:

Crime 1: Preferring Equality of Outcome to Equality of Opportunity
More than a third of Londoners are of African, Caribbean, Asian or other ethnic-minority heritage. Yet only 6% of police officers in London are black or Asian.
Ken implies that this apparent under-representation is the fault of some institutional failure on the part of the Met. But, given that service in the Met is not compulsory and is therefore down to the decisions of individuals, the relevant comparison here is not with the ethnic mix of the background population, but that of those individuals who actually apply.

Now I haven't done any research on this (and I am more than happy for someone to shove a link in the comments box), but I suspect that the reason Ken has not supplied this statistic is because the proportion of applicants to the Met from ethnic minorities is around, oooh, something like 6%, or not far off it.

Ken needs to show that the Met actively discourages applications, or that a disproportionately or unreasonably high number of ethnic minority cadets fail during training. He does not do this.

[UPDATE]There is, in fact, a larger error here: it is safe - though nonetheless regretful - to say that recruitment and retention of officers from ethnic minorities has been poor in the recent past. The two populations in question (Londoners and the Met) have not therefore been in balance. This situation takes time to correct. Even if recruitment levels are corrected, it will take time to adjust the whole population, as only the new recruits reflect the changed balance.

Crime 2: Lumping People into ghettos
All Londoners pay the taxes which fund the police and other public services and all Londoners should have the right to be policed by their peers.
Less generous and kind-hearted folk than your gracious Pedant-General might frown at this and mutter about double edged swords and things. They might mutter that the ethnic mix of the tax take is not exactly in line with the ethnic mix of the population, and that the ethnic mix of consumption of the service provided does not exactly correlate either. Rest assured that your high-minded Pedant-General does not stoop to such low-grade bean counting.

No. My gripe is with the use of the word "peers". If I were to be mugged on the streets of London - an event which would appear to be getting more and more likely if this is the man with political control over the Met - would I refuse any support from the police until they could supply a PC with suitably Celtic credentials? God forbid that the Duty Sergeant that took my statement should be a Welshman.

Crime 3: Just Talking Rubbish
A police service which reflects London's diversity will be more effective in tackling crime because it will command the confidence of all of the communities it serves.
[Raises eyes to the heavens and implores] The Son of Man on a velocipede! (Note to our American cousins: that's "Christ on a bike")

The Met will command "the confidence of all of the communities it serves" if it is impartial, diligent and does a good job of keeping the peace. As an aside, it stands a better chance of commanding "the confidence of all of the communities it serves" if the Mayor of London doesn't spend his entire life briefing against it.

In fact the Met is more likely to command "the confidence of all of the communities it serves" if it does practically anything other than staring up its own ar*e and worrying about its "diversity".

But these crimes, heinous though they evidently are, are as nothing compared to this last indiscretion. Oh yes, Ken: I've got you this time....

A poll, conducted by Mori for the Greater London Authority in June, found that 73% of Londoners want the police service to better reflect London's different communities.

Gotcha! You're going down, newt-lover.

Now that I have got that off my chest, here is an interesting little report.

Water Metering and Incentives

This man needs a smack:

Sir, Metering of water supplies (letters, July 1) would not necessarily reduce consumption. We had a meter installed some two years ago, and it immediately halved my water bills.

I may have changed my pattern of use for a month or so but, because of the drop in cost, I admit that I no longer give it a thought.

Net result is a reduction in income to the water company and no observable reduction in water usage.

What would he have said if his bill had doubled overnight? Fool.

Digging, Economics, Religion and Compensation

If you have not been, I urge you all, in the strongest possible terms, to read Bill Deedes' account of his time as a Company Commander shortly after D-Day. Tim Worstall has commented on the - almost inhuman - pettiness of the dockers at the time. My attention was grabbed further on:
"Funny thing this digging. On exercises, the men loathed it and would never do a hand's turn."
I can relate to this. I vividly recall an exercise on Salisbury Plain where my company was to set up a defensive position. That, as any infantryman will tell you, means digging. We found barely 3 or 4 inches of topsoil before hitting solid chalk interspersed with flint. Digging through this - by hand, in silence, at night and at 10 degrees below freezing - is not for the faint-hearted.
Now they've had some shells near them, they dig in preference to bed, which is pretty remarkable. The Germans produce all the unpleasant explosives they can …
As Tim would say, incentives matter.
… but a nice deep hole is surprisingly effective.
Lord Deedes is right. It is astonishing how a trench provides protection against the truly awesome power of artillery. But then...
As our padre remarked: 'There's no such thing as an atheist in a slit trench.'

And I doubt the occupant would be worrying about his hurt feelings either.

A Dress Code for Anarchists

If you have been given the impression that Lady P-G is a force with which to be reckoned, it is as nothing to finding yourself on the receiving end of the disapproval of your stalwart Pedant-General's mother - the venerable Dowager Duchess of Custard and Artichoke.

Yesterday morning, I chanced to speak to her on the telephone - an instrument that she has only recently had installed (partly because she does not need it for local calls) and still treats with a heady cocktail of contempt, suspicion and fear - and the topic of the various protests in Edinburgh could hardly be avoided.

As is her wont, she asked the pertinent question:
"If one is an anarchist and wants to disrupt things, why would one dress in black and not wash and generally mark oneself out as a trouble maker? Wouldn't they be better to hide amongst the crowds until the right moment to pop out and lob a brick as they pass Starbucks?"
I think she may have hit upon something here. Ought we to add anarchists to the ranks of spies and private detectives in that they have to confront a frightful dilemma every morning in deciding how to dress? But then I suppose that being an anarchist does not correlate well with top quartile intelligence. Let us just be grateful that the Wombles et al do not have her organisational skills. Sorry. That is an obvious oxymoron. Anarchists and Organisation. Silly me.

And there was more:
"And I saw that George Monbiot on the television this morning. He seemed jolly steamed up. Almost frothing at the mouth."
she fulminated and then dropped her bombshell:
"His eyes were going round and round."

So there we have it: a bona fide "swivel-eyed lunatic". Hurrah!

Friday, July 01, 2005

ID cards

Gah! I'm supposed to be all sorts of more worthwhile and productive things than surfing. But what can one do when this comes your way. (Hat Tip: Andy

It strikes me that satire is a peculiarly British - and effective - means to register protest. Let's have more of this.

Christenings and Pedantry

I have been meaning to post a little pictographic something for a little while. I shall keep you in suspense no longer.

Last Sunday saw the Christening of the most recent addition to the barbarian horde that infests the grace and favour apartment.

As one has come to expect, Lady P-G pulled out all the stops and produced an absolutely staggering feast. The cake (see picture, left) was simply delicious, laced as it was with a small bottle of this, which we had liberated from its place of origin at the end of a delightful trip earlier this year.
Here is the good Lady P-G herself, attending to her signature dish - the incomparably exquisite tarte au citron. Michael Winner, to pluck a name entirely at random, would be compelled to describe it as "historic".

Which brings me neatly back to weightier matters - pedantry. You will forgive your "keen-as-mustard" Pedant-General a small leap of joy when he saw this. I couldn't resist adding my ha'p'orth. Indeed, the author saw fit, subsequently, to give me a plug, which is extraordinarily kind of him. Many thanks, Andrew: Your stuff is first rate too.
And here is the candidate himself, basking in the fond attentions of one of his charming Godmothers. She surpassed herself, being the sort of Advertising/ Creative/ Marketing/ trendy types that she is, by giving him a "time capsule" as a Christening present, the contents of which all date from his year of birth. Amongst the many items therein was this.

Fantastic! The child is comfortably short of his first birthday and already he is equipped to distinguish between "may" and "might", or "elder" and "older", or even "extempore" and "impromptu".

Truly, he is a master Pedant-General in more ways than one.

I am also indebted to Katie - see 8th comment or so here for raising the topic of that venerable body of men: the Royal Company of Archers. As you can see, we had the privilege of the protection of the Queen's Bodyguard for the duration. Mr Seat, who knows about these things, declares that they only parade when HM is in town. Either he is wrong - which I hold to be unlikely - or Lady P-G isn't telling us something about her royal heritage.

Either way, I think you will all agree that the hat is indeed magnificent.

But wait! The sharper of the readers of this blog will spot that this post is incomplete. We have had but TWO references to pedantry.

It would be a crime to suggest that this is just making up the numbers. Bystander always writes well and gives us all a remarkable insight to a world that, I suspect, many of us never see. A worthy tributary into the river of human knowledge.

Now, if you will excuse me, I must return to the preparations for the onslaught this weekend. If I am not mistaken, that is the gentle tinkle of the doorbell. It is the postman, with my consignment of landmines. Just in time!