Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Complete Delusion on ID Cards

"Harding is a moron, Harding is a moron, nana na na, nana na nah!"
OK, now that we have dispensed with the childish insults, let's get down to business.

In this extraordinary post, Neil Harding cannot understand why everyone with a brain is agin ID cards and yet, amazingly, he is not.
This made me think of two scenarios, either I am totally deluded in supporting ID cards or there is something unrepresentative about bloggers (remember opinion polls find a majority of the population in favour of ID cards).
I respectfully suggested that - because the research is not there to support his thesis - he is, indeed, completely deluded. I also suggested that he read the Register post on this topic. You can read it here. It is thorough and a jolly good read.

Neil then responded.
A MORI poll in April found 80% in favour of ID cards, admittedly a YouGov poll in July found only 45% in favour, but this still suggests that the 99% of bloggers in opposition to ID cards are unrepresentative.
Ah bless. As any fule know, giving the news report of research is not a link to the research itself.

Why? Because looking at the actual research (you know, doing some actual hard work and thinking and things) gives you the CONTEXT in which a question was asked.


The MORI Poll:
This was released in April 2004, not 2005. You can read the survey questions here. Does it show 80% support for ID cards? No. It shows 80% support for ID cards given that the Government are going to introduce them. These are not even close to being the same thing.

Let's look a little more closely:
Q1 How much, if anything, do you know about the Government's proposals to introduce a national identity card scheme for all UK citizens?

A: 73% only know "just a little" or less. Fully one third know absolutely nothing about it.
How do you support something if you know nothing (or even "just a little" about it? Not exactly an informed choice really...

The interviewer then explains the background:
Let me tell you a little bit about it. The Government is planning to bring in a national identity card scheme so that every person in the UK is uniquely identifiable. Current proposals are to start issuing cards in 2007/08. The Government says that cards will be phased in, with cards issued to people as and when other documents are issued such as new or replacement driving licences or passports. [my emphasis]
This is the preface to the support question. It is clear that ID cards are being presented as a fait accompli, which rather negates the whole purpose of the survey: the public is not being presented with a choice.

The kicker for me, though is the last question:
Q11 The Government is thinking of making the public pay for their ID cards much as we already do for passports and driving licences. How much, if anything, would you be prepared to pay for a national identity card?

A: 31% not nore than £25. And a stonking 48% would not be prepared to pay anything.
So the MORI poll can be summarised as follows: 80% support the plans for ID cards..... given that:
  • 73% of those sampled know little or nothing about those plans and...
  • half do not want to pay at all and...
  • 79% do not want to pay the £30 that the safety elephant wants to charge.
I would say that those are important caveats. In that they destroy the validity of the trumpetted result...

Let's go back to the moron Neil Harding:
... admittedly a YouGov poll in July found only 45% in favour ...
But Neil? How can this be? The public must be right, surely? MORI says 80% in favour, and yet YouGov finds only 45%. How odd.

What could be causing this extraordinary change in public opinion? Let's find out what YouGov actually says:
Q: Are you in favour of, or opposed to, the introduction of a system of national identity cards in Britain?

A: 45% in favour, 42% opposed, 13% don't know
No persiflage, no "given that ID cards are going to be introduced, what do you think about...", just the straight unadulterated question. My, my - a different answer....

Of course, we don't know the level of prior knowledge of the YouGov sample, but it strikes me that the crucial question in YouGov lacks the obvious bias in the MORI poll. In fact, the bias in the MORI question is so outrageous as to make it completely and entirely meaningless.

This is interesting as well:
Q: Do you think that, if [my emphasis] the government sets out to introduce identity cards, it can do so smoothly and efficiently, or would the introduction cause a lot of disruption and inconvenience?

A: Would probably be disruption and inconvenience: 84%
That doesn't bode well.

And so is this:
Q: The government has estimated that the total cost of introducing a system of national identity cards would be around £6 Billion. Do you believe that this amount of money should, or should not, be spent on introducing identity cards?

A: 66% thinks this money should not be spent on ID cards
Does this feel like 80% public support, Neil?

And it gets worse:
Q: Another estimate of the total cost of introducing a system of national identity cards is higher: between £10 billion and £19 billion. Do you believe that this larger amount of money should, or should not, be spent on introducing identity cards?

A: 81% thinks this money should not be spent on ID cards
81% against. Just think about that for a moment. 81% of the population thinks that the ID card scheme is not a good way to spend OUR money. Hardly a vote winner, eh Neil?

For good measure, let's have a look at what the Home Office thinks. Full pdf here (469k download)

This report is fascinating, mostly because of the way that it is constructed. Only the BME part of the study that actually looked at whether or not there was support for the cards per se. The UK population peice only looked at uses and costs.

Again this survey is ludicrously biased. Appendix 2 gives the interview script, which starts:
Q.1 As you may already know, the Government will be introducing national identity cards. Identity cards are likely to be coming in in a few years time, so what type of information do you think should appear on them?
Read: ID cards are coming. You have no choice.

Q2 then asks whether the interviewee has heard of the term "biometric information": fully 71% of the sample said "no". [Chart 12, page 31] This suggests to me that the sample doesn't know much about the ID card debate....

Never mind, let's press on and look at costs. The sample here was divided in two. Half were asked:
Q.7a A 10 year passport currently costs £42. If a combined passport ID card lasted for the same time, approximately how much would you be prepared to pay for it?
The respondents had to give a number for what they would pay. 69% said that [Chart 21, page 41] would pay the same or less for the combined passport/ID card than they currently pay for a passport.

The other half were asked:
Q.7b A 10 year passport currently costs £42. If a combined passport ID card lasted for the same time, would you be prepared to pay the same as this, more than this or less than this?
The respondents to this simpler question were considerably clearer: 89% [Chart 22, page 42] would only pay the same or less for the combined ID card and passport.

Let me rephrase that to be completely clear. 89% think that adding an ID card either adds no value or actually subtracts value from a passport.

Let's recap:
MORI: 80% support, given that three quarters of the sample know little about them and the sample has been told prior to the question that they are going to happen anyway, declining to 21% who are prepared to fork out the actual cash that Charlie wants to extract from you for the pleasure of allowing the state to declare that you exist.
YouGov: 45% support on a properly constructed unbiased question, declining to 19% support for this use of the actual sum of money likely to be extracted from taxpayers. 84% think the government will stuff it up. If nothing else, this last figure at least gives us confidence that the sample is reasonably compos mentis.
Home Office: Can't actually bring themselves to ask about support in the clear. Somewhere between 69% and 89% [either way a comfortable majority] do not see that it would be worth paying more for an ID card to be bundled with a passport.

80% support Neil? Do you really believe that? If so, don't let the identity register find out about your mind altering substance consumption...

So, Neil's 80% is shaky at best and declines sharply towards 20% support when the actual (or even out-of-pocket) costs become clear. But we are still some way away from the "99% against" of the blogosphere.

I suspect that we have a number of factors to consider here. Firstly demographics: bloggers are not representative of the population at large. They think about things a bit more. They are better informed (because they do things like finding the original research rather than relying on news reports) and are likely to have suffered a bit more education.

Secondly, it is just possible - crazy idea here, but I shall float it anyway - that ID cards are a bit like the EU constitution: the more you know about it, the more you begin to see that you don't like it...

YouGov supports this:
Do you support the introduction of ID cards? 42% No
Is it worth spending £6B on their introduction? 66% No
Is it worth spending £19B on their introduction (a more realistic figure)? 81% No
Do you have any confidence that this will not be an inconvenience? 84% No

Bloggers have looked at it more carefully than the population at large (remember your MORI poll with the 80% support? you know, the one where 73% said they knew little or nothing about ID cards) so their view is more likely to concur with the response levels once all information is taken into account.

Just one last thing: I suspect further that if a pollster were to ask:
ID cards reverse the relationship between the citizen and the state. Do you think this a good thing?
and I think you will see that the view of the general public might be uncannily close to that of the bloggers ...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


... is the only word for this kind of behaviour.

Being given the opportunity to command a Battalion of Infantry is probably one of the best jobs in the Army. This man's feeling of duty to his soldiers and obvious moral courage should give all of us mere mortals pause for thought.

A very brave man.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Pride comes before a fall

It had to happen really.

No sooner do you make a flippant comment like:
Celebrate today and Sink a Frenchman: Hurrah!
than you find that something like this comes along:

You Should Learn French

C'est super! You appreciate the finer things in life... wine, art, cheese, love affairs.
You are definitely a Parisian at heart. You just need your tongue to catch up...

Oh the ignominy....

Happy Trafalgar Day!

Presumably this fellow will be having a tot of rum at some stage today. I suspect that Brussels would be able to provide the other two components of that (in)famous Naval recipe if he were to choose to partake.

Mr Seat also has a suitably modern interpretation of Nelson's signal.

Celebrate today and Sink a Frenchman: Hurrah!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A Test Case!

Tim Worstall has a superb quote of the day, which you will all, of course, have read already - Tim being top of your reading list every morning.

It would appear that Libby Purves has been presiding over a cat-fight of unprecedented ferocity and the Telegraph gives us a report, the transcript and adds a leader for good measure, even if it is a model of fence-sitting.

But your entrepreneurial Pedant-General sees an opportunity. It is time to test my hypothesis...

The Scene:
A Radio 4 studio for the broadcast of "Midweek" - a mild-mannered review of arts and eclectica hosted by Libby Purves.

Joan Rivers: Outspoken New York style comedienne
Darcus Howe: "Outspoken writer and Social Commentator", or as the Torygraph puts it:
"... magnate of the race relations industry, droning on in his habitual psychobabble about the "narrative" of his broken marriage"

The relevant excerpt:
Joan Rivers: I'm so bored of race. I think people should inter-marry. Everybody should be part this, part that and part everything. Race doesn't mean a damn thing. Everybody should just relax, take the best of their cultures and move forward.

Libby Purves: That's a very American approach.

Darcus Howe: That's not an American approach. America is one of the most savagely racial places in the world.

Later ...

Howe: ... since black offends Joan.

Rivers: Wait. Just stop right now. Black does not offend me. How dare you. How dare you say that. Black offends me? You know nothing about me. How dare you.

Howe: The use of the term black offends you.

Rivers: The use of the term black offends me? Where the hell are you coming from? You have got such a chip on your shoulder. I don't give a damn if you're black or white. I couldn't care less. It's what the person is. Don't you dare call me a racist. I don't know you. I want an apology.
So... before we delve into the detail, we should remind ourselves of the rules regarding the giving and taking of offence:
  1. Offence can only be given, not taken
  2. In order to "take" offence, it is therefore necessary to be certain that offence was intended - that the "giver" intended to offend. This may be obvious, but where it is not, the motive of the "giver" should be questioned, but giving the "giver" the benefit of the doubt.
  3. The "taking" of Offence where none was intended is itself offensive: the taker assumes malice on the part of the unwitting "giver". Assumption of bad faith where none exists is offensive. Interestingly, there is no need to refer to rule 2 here. If A says something innocuous and B "takes" offence, A knows that B has broken rule 2: B did not clarify motive. A knows therefore that B has assumed bad motive and A does not need to clarify B motives. B has given offence.
There can be little doubt that Joan has taken offence, but was it clearly intended?

Let us look at the evidence:
Joan Rivers: I'm so bored of race. I think people should inter-marry. Everybody should be part this, part that and part everything. Race doesn't mean a damn thing. Everybody should just relax, take the best of their cultures and move forward.
Of course, we don't know the discussion that precedes this or causes Joan to pronounce [actually this is just laziness on my part - I'm sure we could dig up the "Listen Again" page from the BBC website] on this topic, but she has laid out her stall fairly clearly: she is, in the vernacular, "colour-blind".

The response is interesting:
Libby Purves: That's a very American approach.

Darcus Howe: That's not an American approach. America is one of the most savagely racial places in the world.
This is a throwaway remark from Libby. Darcus appears to be differing with Libby's interpretation, not with Joan's colour-blindness. Indeed, he could be said to be agreeing with Joan: Joan's declaration of boredom with the race issue is a tacit admission that race remains an issue. She thinks (and I agree with her) that it ought not be. However, this stance could be construed as a threat to Darcus's worldview - where race is at the root of everything.

So far so good: Joan's position is laudable, even if it is just an expressed aspiration rather than a commentary of the current state of affairs.

Then the kicker:
Howe: ... since black offends Joan.

Rivers: Wait. Just stop right now. Black does not offend me. How dare you. How dare you say that. Black offends me? You know nothing about me. How dare you.
Here, Howe declares that Joan is a gratuitous "taker" of offense. Howe breaks rule 3 above and Joan has no need to refer to rule 2 before taking him to task on it.

That Joan then continues for the rest of the program in a huff and says some fairly rude things about Howe is by now irrelevant. Howe made the first move by projecting bad motive onto Joan where it was completely clear that none existed. In the context of a discussion on race, I can hardly think of a more offensive thing to do.

P-G Verdict: Howe continues to assert that Joan is a racist for some time. A custard pie for him as a first warning. He is up for a flogging on the steps of whatever club would have him as a member if he is not VERY careful.

Libby's handling of the debacle - that this is merely a "language" issue - is also worthy of comment. She ducked the problem rather than challenge Howe to back up his ridiculous - and profoundly offensive - assertion. It is possible that Libby genuinely didn't see the offensiveness of his remark (in which case she is a subconsciously lefty-liberal hand-wringer), but it is more likely that she did not have the courage to challenge him, fearing a torrent of abuse in her direction and, which would be worse in the lefty-liberal hand-wringing world, risk showing up Darcus Howe to be the bigot that he is and more of a fomentor of racial tension than a campaigner for its reduction.

Some bedtime reading for Libby would be in order.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

I fought the law...

... and I won!

Technically, of course, I am also the law but only as relates to the splitting of infinitives and grammatical hairs, not parking tickets.

That's one in the eye for the Police State with a sharp stick and knobs on.
[Thumbs nose at authority and exits stage left with a swagger, saying "Ner ner ner ner"]

An Explanation for our American Cousins

The charming and polite akakakakaky posts a comment to my rather pleasingly perceptive prognostication earlier.
Now, just for information, you understand, who is David Cameron and what is he trying to win?

Suppressing the desire to wave dismissively in his general direction and say "Pshaw...", I feel that perhaps we owe an explanation to our insular and blinkered cousins across the pond. Here goes:

David Cameron is the "shadow home secretary": [UPDATE: actually he isn't: he is the shadow Education Secretary] that means that his job is to try to berate the govt minister in charge of the Home Office. The Home Secretary's remit covers the police, security, prisons, immigration, the passport office and just about everything else that is going to the dogs in this once-fair-but-now-benighted land. [UPDATE: no idea what to do about this passage. That it is not relevant does not detract from its underlying truth] It is a mark of his fantastic success in this role that you have never heard of him. [This still holds though...]

He (David Cameron that is, keep up at the back there) is currently bidding for the leadership of the Conservative Party (note the capital C), which is a little like your republican party, except without the frothing lunatic fundamentalist Christians. You will, no doubt, recall a certain Margaret Thatcher, who was Prime Minister until she was stabbed in the back in an earlier form of the leadership contest in which young Cameron is currently engaged. Margaret Thatcher was a Conservative.

Conservatives (in this country at least) tend ought [thanks DK] to stand for a small state, personal and economic freedom in the form of free markets so could classically be called "liberal" or more accurately "libertarian". They are not to be confused with the Liberal Democrats who aren't really liberal, but are certainly confused.


Right. Ummm... Gosh! Andrew notes that I may have been mistaken. Mea Culpa.

A few edits there. Nothing to see, move along now.

By way of apology, here is some more advice that your average redneck philistine any visiting Americans may find find useful on the rules of cricket and visiting the UK in general.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Inexorable March of the Quiche Eaters

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

Notwithstanding the many, many other incidents over the past weeks and months which have caused your redoubtable Pedant-General to pull a long face and go "GAAAAAH!", the arrival/announcement/photo-op of the new "Bond" really takes the biscuit.

Brian Christley gets pretty close to the mark in his letter to the ToryGraph this morning:
Sir - Seeing the new James Bond in a lifejacket (News, October 15) was like watching a member of the SAS eating quiche.
Somehow, I feel the lifejacket - ghastly as it undeniably was - is the least of the sins. The hairstyle, posture and sunglasses combine to give a sort of Clapham Common chic that was just too much to bear.

P-G Verdict:Not so much "watching a member of the SAS eating quiche", but more "seeing HM the Queen scratching her arse and sniffing her fingers afterwards."


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

A Prediction

Your noble Pedant-General in Ordinary is, as you all know, directly appointed following machinations of the utmost skullduggery and in circumstances of the greatest secrecy. Moreover, he has little or no time for the poisonous mire that is contemporary politics. He has, therefore, equally little understanding or sympathy for the poor benighted souls who submit themselves to the freak show that is the leadership contest for the Conservative Party.

However, amidst the learned commentary and fevered punditry, permit me to prognosticate:

David Cameron will win

How do I know this? Has your eminent and well-connected Pedant-General been talking to or even (God forbid) advising those in the know, the great and the good? At the feet of which oracle have I emptied my coffers?

No. My methods of divination are simpler - and require substantially fewer dismembered sheep - than that: His opponents are on the run.

You heard it here first.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Brit blog Roundup

Your humble and largely illiterate Pedant-General is simply thrilled to get a mention in Tim Worstall's Brit Blog Roundup for this week.


Friday, October 07, 2005

Offensive Spirit

In the wake of this piece of abject lunacy [thank you DK...], reported and commented upon ad nauseam, one would be tempted to roll one's eyes, shrug one's shoulders and mumble "whatever" in response to this.

You will get no such behaviour from your doughty Pedant-General. We have come to expect similarly doughtiness from the EU-Serf. He hints at the right answer in this comment to the Drink-Soaked Trots posting.

But where lesser mortals merely have a glimpse of the truth, your infallible Pedant-General sees the whole: I shall take a lead from Deogolwulf's excellent general case answer to the "root cause" rubbish put about by the apologist morons who beset this and other free societies.

Here, then, is the general case solution to the giving and taking of offence.

Giving and Taking Offence. The Correct Approach

People who are easily offended should be told to piss off until they can become civilised, rational, sensible people who understand that offence has to be intended. It is the intention of the person allegedly giving 'offence' that counts NOT the attitude or chippiness of the "victim" who goes out looking to take offence.

P-G Prescription: Gratuitous and unjustified takers of offence badly need a custard pie in the face. This has two starkly obvious merits:
1. It might cause said taker of offence not to take himself so seriously and
2. It allows the rest of us to point at him and snigger.


Oh alright: I need to justify this:

Giving and Taking Offence. A bit more detail

It is actually offensive to take offence gratuitously: it transforms good faith (no offence intended) into bad faith (an attempt to give offence).

Consider the following scenarios:

The Canyon Sundown Showdown
[We are standing on the southern rim of the Grand Canyon. (Bryce Canyon would work extremely well in this regard also, probably better but for the fact that the great unwashed have not heard of it.) The sun is setting and, as its lower edge appears to touch the horizon, the sky appears to be set on fire. The Canyon visibly changes colour to reflect it.

Two strangers stand, awestruck. They have not met and are ordinarily dressed (for the demands of the location - you won't find any bumbags or dusty sneakers in the Grace and Favour apartment, I can tell you).]

Stranger A [Filled, as he is and because of the natural beauty of the scene before him, with a general feeling of goodwill toward his fellow man and thus attempting to start a conversation]: What an amazing orange glow the sun gives off.

Stranger B [Who happens to be from Northern Ireland and of Catholic extraction and/or persuasion]: You Unionist b*st*rd, evil spawn of King William III! Are you trying to ruin my enjoyment of this scene, just like you trample down all the rights of my fellow men?

etc. etc. etc. Continued p94.

A: ???

The behaviour of 'B' is clearly out of order. This would be the case, even if 'A' knew that 'B' was Catholic and possibly even if 'A' knew that 'B's mother had been hacked into small pieces by those friendly neighbourhood representatives of the UFF or whoever. Why? Because the fact that the sunset is 'orange' is not loaded. It has no cultural significance. Sunsets would continue to be orange at the Grand Canyon, and possibly even in Limerick, even if the 6 counties were to come under the governance of Dublin.

Crucially, 'A' acted with goodwill and in good faith. 'B' chose to ignore this, assumed bad motive on the part of 'A' without clarifying that this was the case and attempted to portray him as an aggressor of some kind. As far as 'A' is concerned, an amicable gesture has been rudely rebuffed. 'A' has clearly been maligned here. Indeed, 'B' has deliberately caused offence.

But what of a flag? It cannot be said that the flag of any country or organisation has no symbolism or cultural context.

Let's try another example:
The Bacon Crisis
Stranger 'A' cowers inside a small bothy in the Scottish Highlands in the depths of winter. This bothy is the only evidence of human habitation for many miles around. A storm rages in the night outside. It is bitterly cold. Stranger 'B' staggers up to door. He is half starved and on the point of losing consciousness as a result of hypothermia. Stranger 'A' opens the door, helps him inside and sits him down in front of the fire.

Once gently and carefully warmed up [as we all know, many deaths from hypothermia are caused by warming the victim too quickly], it is clear that 'B' needs food.

However, 'B' just happens to be an orthodox Jew. To compound the problem, 'A' has been stuck in this bothy for some time and is running fearfully low on rations. He has only a single pack of streaky bacon left and there is no hope of replenishment for the next 3 days (or whatever).

'A' will survive this period without food. 'B' will not. They could just both survive if the food is shared. Oh, and there is a highly resilient independently powered web cam, hooked up to the internet broadcasting sound and video to the world - both know that their actions will be public knowledge.

So, given this scenario, and given that 'A' knows that 'B' ought not to eat the bacon, would it be offensive:
  1. For 'A' to offer 'B' any, or indeed ALL, of the bacon because he can see that 'B's need is greater?
  2. For 'A', mindful of 'B's abhorrence of bacon, to eat it himself and wring his hands whilst 'B' dies of starvation?
  3. For 'A' to refrain from eating the bacon to show solidarity (or whatever, in this case the guy must be a total fruit loop) with 'B'and wring his hands whilst 'B' inevitably dies of starvation?
  4. For 'A' to offer ALL the bacon and for 'B' to accuse 'A' of tempting him or otherwise acting in bad faith?
No need to send answers on a postcard for this little quiz. The answers are, I believe,
  1. No. 'A' is acting in the best interests of 'B'; namely to save his life. This is true whether or 'B' accepts the offer.
  2. Yes. This is true even though 'A's aim was NOT TO CAUSE offence. 'A' has allowed 'B' to die, which is a far greater offence against the person. 'A' is kidding himself if he thinks he is doing the right thing. Worse still, by refraining from offering, 'A' forces the dilemma onto the weaker party 'B': 'B' must now choose whether to ask for some bacon in order to save his own life which is a VERY different class of problem. 'A's behaviour is reprehensible.
  3. Well the answer is in the question: 'A' is clearly a nutcase. Either way, 'A' has allowed 'B' to die, so case 2 applies.
  4. Yes. 'A' acts in good faith and very obviously for the benefit of 'B'. 'B' is being monstrously ungrateful. One might even have a measure of sympathy if 'A'if he were to shove 'B' out of the door into the storm and tell him to take his chances with the weather.
So symbolism is not the key here: It is obviously offensive knowingly to offer a bacon sandwich to a rabbi, yet we have constructed an entirely plausible sequence of events where this 'obvious' symbolism counts for nothing. Indeed the deference to symbolism becomes a very real affront to human decency.

'A' ought not have to have the death of 'B' on his conscience for failure to offer. 'B', for his part, is under no obligation to accept. If his conscience dictates that he cannot take it up, that must be his choice and it would be frankly disgusting for him to project guilt onto others for that choice.

So we have now established that context and the spirit of the offer must be your guides. With this in mind, we can now examine the murky business of the English national flag.

We need, I think, to use another little parable.
The Grundies and the Grabbers
A long time ago, in a land far, far away, there lived two families, the Grundies and Grabbers. Each had a substantial castle and surrounding lands, so that each family was able to support its members and hangers-on without needing to encroach each upon the other.

The Grundies lived a blameless existence, in tune with nature, caring deeply for the farmhands and giving much to the community, yada yada yada. You get the gist. The Grabbers however, whose castle lay just across the valley from Grundie Castle, were lawless good-for-nothings of the first water. They staged raucous "house-party" weekends and invited similarly objectionable friends to stay. The days would be spent hunting and shooting and fishing. The nights were given over to debauchery, drunkeness and defilement.

Thus would affairs have continued, until one day, following a dreadful misunderstanding - whose precise nature is lost to folklore - the Grabbers felt that they had been wronged. The next party staged in Grabber Castle was turned on its head: the hunting was done by night. Under cover of darkness, fuelled by grog and loathing, the Grabbers crossed the valley and murdered the Grundies in their beds.

For generations, the feud continued but time did its healing job and over time, friendly relations were restored. Centuries passed and the dastardliness of the Grabbers lived on only as a story, a dark chapter in the history of the family. Indeed, they had mended their ways. For almost a hundred years, the incumbent at Grabber Hall was expected and known to be charitable, generous and welcoming.

(How close this is to the history of the P-G clan, I will leave others to speculate. I never mentioned anything about boiling up awkward local officials to make soup.)

So to the ante-penultimate generation and the marriage of a daughter of the Earl of Grundie to the eldest son of Grabber. Grand-Grabbers ensue, all living in or around Grabber Hall and in houses built by previous generations of Grabbers to bring us to the present day.

Then one day, the estate manager, a man whose forbears had been in the employ of the Grabbers for centuries, suddenly bursts into the great hall as the family sits down to supper. They are having a (civilised) party and the Earl of Grundie is present as a guest of honour. "I think there is something dreadfully wrong!" he stammers. "Many of you are descended from Grundies."

"Yes.... So what?" replies the great Grabber of Grabber.

"Don't you see?", he continues. "The Grabber crest is everywhere: it has been chiselled into the lintel above every front door on the estate. The crest of the man who murdered the Grundies in cold blood. We have to tear it down and replace it with something...
"not associated with our bloody past and one we can all identify with."

[end of parody]

The action of this, no doubt well-meaning, gentleman has precisely the opposite outcome of that intended:
  • It reminds the Grundies of long dead injustices;
  • It suggests that, despite centuries of peaceable relations, the Grundies should still be offended by the Grabber crest;
  • It would cause the Grabbers, fine and upstanding though they may have been for generations, to doubt themselves for no purpose;
  • It would cause every member of both families to question whether he or she is really a Grundie or a Grabber at heart; is one an offender or a victim? Is it possible to be both?
This is, in effect, what Chris Doyle is doing. He is inviting others to take offence at a symbol. As I have shown above, this is entirely self-contradictory, for three reasons:
  1. Offence cannot (or should not) be taken - only given.
  2. A symbol is offensive if and only if its use is intended by the user to be offensive, but his offer shows that he bears no ill will. Conversely, if he does bear a grudge, changing the symbol does not alter that fact.
  3. Anyone taking up your genuinely offered invitation to be offended is reacting negatively to a peaceable offer. This is, in itself, offensive.
That the filth of the BNP and others may have subverted the flag may be. Changing the flag for the rest of the country will not change their attitudes.

It is dangerous nonsense. It is madness.

Things Creationists Hate

Your enlightened Pedant-General, displacing his attention from some real work, has been following a circuitous trail, from Mr Seat, via the eponymous Second Breakfast, pausing briefly at the somewhat scary-sounding World Wide Rant (version 3) and onwards and upwards to this.

You will not have time to read it all, but I heartily recommend that you have a little dabble.

Given my views on this topic, I think this merits a little "linkette" in the sidebar.

That is all.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Guilty as Charged


Of course, if we are being REALLY pedantic, the FBI would not have sent the defendant an invoice. They would have issued a purchase order.

Hat Tip: Language Log

United in Divisiveness, or something.

DK waxes lyrical this morning about another load of bungling from Westminster towards our (real) political masters in Brussels.

This time, it is a proposal to impose a tax on financial transactions that would:
a) hit London hardest;
b) give the EU its own central source of revenue.

This is, obviously, a bad idea. (No hint of a prejudice here. Nothing to see, move along now)

So what approach will the best and brightest of our dearly beloved Foreign and Commonwealth Office adopt?
"We are trying to build a majority of European Union member states against this idea,' said one senior British Government source, 'but if it comes down to it, we will use the national veto."

Gaaah! When will these morons ever learn about how to conduct business at the European level.

The correct response is
"This proposal runs completely counter to everything that we hold dear. It does not matter what you or anyone else thinks about this. We will veto it. We will not deign to waste any of our time or effort or political capital negotiating to bribe people onto our side. If you want to spend months trundling this round, that's fine - you go and do so, and when it comes to a vote, we will show up, use our veto then retire to the pub. Got that?"

Don't let them discuss it and water it down and slip some of it through - don't threaten to use it: Declare that you will. Declare that you will have no part of any horse-trading. Declare that whatever proposals are on the table, you will ignore the lot and just show up at the vote and veto it.

Surely this is obvious?

There is, however, a more substantive issue in this. We would only have to persuade other member states to change position if they are not of the same mindset in this game in the first place. Errrmmm... So remind me: do we want to align our economic policy others whose views are diametrically opposed to ours?

This shows such monumental differences in outlook towards the operation of free markets that one wonders why this bluff is not called.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Tigged again

It was the venerable Mr Seat who got me into this mess in the first place.

This time, it is our benign Dictator-in-Waiting who has done the dirty deed. So be it.

This is the view from the P-G's desk in his office. No joking - this is probably the best view from a boring office desk in Edinburgh - possibly in the whole of the United Kingdom. There is a challenge for you.

The view from the study on the top floor of the Grace and Favour apartment is more modest. However, as it faces West, we are often treated to some delightful sunsets.

Inside, the view is also modest. Comfortable, business-like, moderately well-appointed, but nonetheless modest. You may admire the handy-work of your multi-talented Pedant-General: the shelf that you see burdened with case notes was nailed to the wall by my fair hand. It has the three key merits of any shelf:
1. It is level;
2. It is solid and adequately load-bearing;
3. It is at the correct height: it is low enough so that one may reach a file when sitting at the desk, yet it is high enough to avoid obstructing one's view or giving the occupant a nasty blow to the head on standing up.

A handy CD-shelf stacker thing to my left contains a ready supply of blank CD-ROMs for backing up all my vitally important correspondence and equally vitally important and earth-shattering photos of the young masters Pedant-General. It also serves as entertainment for the youngest master Pedant-General, who delights in taking them out and spraying them liberally (now there is freedom of choice, if ever there was) around the floor for me to tread on. This has had the added benefit that his vocabularly is coming along nicely.

Lady P-G's desk is another matter entirely. Whilst the desk itself is magnificent - it belonged to my grandfather and is a really proper thing, with a "roll top", a little ink well, a leather writing pad inset and secret drawers and all sorts - Lady P-G's use of it leaves something to be desired.

Beyond compare in so many fields as she undoubtedly is, nevertheless she has her faults. Filing paper, or more accurately her inability to file paper, is one of them.

If you will suspend disbelief for a moment, this is due to get worse: she is embarking on the writing of a sequel to her excellent first book. When work gets underway in earnest I fully expect to see the mounds of recipe books, scientific papers on nutrition and immunology and reams of vigorously defaced manuscript to gather and begin to lobby for their rights.

Lady P-G's laptop is important for one other reason: technologically it is the very centre of the Grace and Favour LAN. The printer (top right, on top of the desk) is shared and can be accessed by my laptop, Lady P-G and even the young masters Pedant-General from their bullet-proofed old Compaq DeskPro in the zoo downstairs. It supports the scanner. It has an external CD writer. It runs our own little automatic off site backup process. In short, it is pretty neat.

Would that we could say the same for her desk....

Nominations for my tigs to follow shortly.

UPDATE: P-G Nominations:
1. The Gorse Fox. This chap seems to like his sunsets. How nice.
2. Perhaps this little exercise would benefit from some alternative views. This gentleman will no doubt show us that blogging is a respectable profession on the other side of the pond, brought to a peak of efficiency by the merciless heat of capitalism.
3. This gentleman doesn't need the redirects from a mere slithering reptile like me. But perhaps he might show us whether or not he keeps his laptop in his kitchen: I know that Lady P-G is dying to know.

Toodle Pip!