Digital Cabinet

Polevaulter Donkeyman's rants, raves musings and flame wars

Posts Tagged ‘BBC

Way to Hide the Ball BBC

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The BBC in an article about whether social media is another dotcom bubble:

Henry Blodget, editor-in-chief of Business Insider, believes the excessive valuations put on some social media companies were partly due to weakness in the economy in recent times, which left investors desperate for opportunities. …

But he says the good news is that the current technology bust is unlikely to be as serious as the one in 2000.

“To call the social media situation a bubble in the same way as the dotcom bust is almost an insult to a real bubble,” he says.

He played a controversial role promoting internet companies at that time and so is well placed to comment.


No shit, BBC. Blodget publicly bigged up stocks which he privately disparaged.[1] As the SEC stated in its settlement with Blodget:

Henry Blodget, a former managing director at Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Incorporated and the senior research analyst and group head for the Internet sector at the firm, will be censured and permanently barred from the securities industry, and will make a total payment of $4 million to settle the charges against him.

The regulators charged that, among other things, Blodget, of New York City, issued fraudulent research under Merrill Lynch’s name, as well as research in which he expressed views that were inconsistent with privately expressed negative views. Blodget’s conduct constituted violations of the federal securities laws and NASD and NYSE rules, which require that, among other things, published research reports have a reasonable basis, present a fair picture of the investment risks and benefits, and not make exaggerated or unwarranted claims.


Footnotes


[1] Blodget’s internal e-mails

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Written by Polevaulter Donkeyman

August 15, 2012 at 11:46

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“The Ship of State is the Only Ship that Leaks from the Top”, or Why “Yes (Prime) Minister” is the Greatest Political Show Ever!

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Thanks to Brian Doherty at Reason, Wired on the US government’s mounting campaign against leakers:

The NCIS’ continued interest in an unclassified document posted over five years ago comes amid a new push by the Obama administration to crack down on leakers. The effort has been Kafka-esque from the start. It started when a pair of books revealed that the White House is intimately involved in approving drone attacks and cybersabotage operations against its foes. Days after the leaks, President Obama scolded the secret-spillers — even though the books’ authors were granted officially access to the highest levels of the administration. Congress has also stepped in with its own legislationthat would punish leakers of classified information. But the bill, recently passed by the Senate Intelligence Committee, exempts from reprisal most senior White House and administration officials — and, of course, members of Congress, as well.

As always Yes Minister anticipated this nearly 30 years ago

The Ship of State, Bernard, is the only ship that leaks from the top.


Your Lobbying Bad, My Lobbying Not … So Bad?

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Tamasin Cave, of the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency on the Today in Parliament for March 2, 2012:


Note:

  1. Tamasin Cave neatly sidesteps the lobbying by the BMA and the Royal College of Nursing
  2. Ms. Cave correctly points out the first order relationship between the lobbying for NHS reforms and the size of the NHS budget (around 100 B GBP).
  3. However Ms. Cave then fails to see the second-order relationship i.e. lobbying is directly related to and caused by the power of the government to grant special favours. As long as government has the power to dispense such special favours, groups will continue to lobby it.
  4. If you want to reduce lobbying, if you want to control it, then reduce the power and size of the government to dole out special favours.


Because of the enormous benefits that can be won from the political process, it is rational for interest groups to spend large sums on lobbying for special privileges – an activity known as ‘rent seeking’.[1]

[1] Butler, E., Public Choice — A Primer, The Institute of Economic Affairs, 2012, p. 16

The Greatest Generation

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There is a reason why they are called The Greatest Generation

Written by Polevaulter Donkeyman

August 4, 2012 at 02:35

Why Yes Minister is vastly superior to The West Wing

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From the BBC Radio 4 Documentary of the Week of March 2, 2012

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Sexing up Sherlock Holmes

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Updated August 3, 2012

Due to the Copyright Act 1976 in the United States, a few of the later Sherlock Holmes stories are still under copyright. That has led the publishers to offer a slightly modified version. Changes include:

  • A Study in Scarlet — A Stud in Scarlet
  • Sherlock Holmes — Hemlock Bones
  • John Watson — Tom Hotson (Genius!!)
  • Baker Street — Laker Avenue

It also seems that due to the similarity in the names, trademark law will preclude the sale of this book in the US. Rest of the World, however, may breathe easy.

Update over


From Clandestine Classic’s Sherlock Holmes: A Study in Scarlet

Teaser:

When Dr John Watson takes rooms in Baker Street with amateur detective Sherlock Holmes, he has no idea that he is about to enter a shadowy world of criminality and violence. Nor does he anticipate falling in love with Holmes and having his sexual needs attended to in a way he had only previously dreamed about.

Excerpt:

In the year 1878 I took my degree of Doctor of Medicine of the University of London, and proceeded to Netley to go through the course prescribed for surgeons in the army. It was a somewhat difficult time, being among so many men, with me being who and what I am. I suppose people may have guessed… I did not join in the rather ribald conversations regarding women, talking about their breasts and cunts as other men did, telling one and all I wished I had a buxom female to curl up to at night. It was a revelation, that time, learning perhaps what I should have been thinking about, what I should have wanted, and realising I wanted no part of it. Could not have any part of it. How could I explain that the softness of a woman did not appeal? That the swells on their chests were not something I wished to explore? That I preferred the flat planes belonging to a man, the smaller nipples that I longed to flick my tongue over? And their private parts… Those did not excite me either. I did not relish, as my fellow companions did, the thought of pushing my fingers inside a soft, wet slit. No, I found pleasure in the thought of grasping a cock, knowing exactly how it would feel having palmed my own every night. To bring another man to the brink, knowing he enjoyed my touch as much as I enjoyed touching him… That was what I wanted.


Would Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss please, please, commission a TV adaptation starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman?

Oh and one more thing, I hope Mrs. Hudson does not get involved in any hanky panky.


Written by Polevaulter Donkeyman

July 19, 2012 at 12:43

Bad Analogy

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The February 29, 2012 episode of the Moral Maze on BBC Radio 4 focused on the morality of sex-selective abortions. One of the panelists was Melanie Phillips and one of the guests selected to defend current abortion law over attempts to make it more restrictive to prevent sex-selective abortions was Kate Smurthwaite.


Smurthwaite drew an interesting analogy between denying a pregnant women an abortion and thus forcing her to carry a foetus until birth and forcing a person to donate an organ again their will to a recipient who will otherwise die without the donation.

For some reason I was not too satisfied with the analogy so I decided to explore a bit more:

  • In Smurthwaite’s analogy the pregnant woman is equivalent to the donor
  • The foetus is equivalent to the intended recipient
  • We don’t force donors to the donate organs to recipients who need them so how can we force pregnant women to carry their foetus to term?
  • But there is a difference:
    1. The natural course of action (without any intervention) in the pregnant woman’s case is that the foetus will be born. The natural course of action (without any intervention) in the organ donation case is that the recipient will die.
    2. The foetus will live if not interfered with. The recipient will die if not interfered with.
    3. The pregnant woman has to affirmatively make the choice for abortion. The donor does not have to undertake any such affirmative action.

Therefore I find Smurthwaite’s analogy a little unsatisfying. But what if we switch the analogy and consider the pregnant woman and the organ recipient as equivalent?

  • According to Smurthwaite the women suffers physically and mentally if the abortion is not carried out. In the same way the recipient suffers physically (and mentally, surely) if the organ donation is not carried out.
  • If the donor is someone like Terri Schiavothen is it moral to harvest an organ from them? Is such a donor equivalent to a foetus?
    • Obviously an embryo with no neural development is not equivalent to the donor.
    • What about a 30 week old foetus?
      • It is viable ( > 95%[1])
      • It can, if not aborted, enjoy a life. Unlike the donor who is in a persistent vegetative state
  • If the health[2] of the pregnant woman can be privileged over that of the foetus, can the health of the recipient be privileged over that of the donor who is in a persistent vegetative state?

One important question of course is at what stage of the fetal development do we consider it a person? Reasonable people can disagree. For some[3] birth is the marker. Others choose a different time point.[4]

A Digression Regarding Mental Health

Regarding the effect on the mental health of the woman, in case abortion is not carried out, can such fears for mental health be extended beyond birth? As Giubilini and Minerva[5] point out:

Actual people’s well-being could be threatened by the new (even if healthy) child requiring energy, money and care which the family might happen to be in short supply of.

Giubilini and Minerva also tackle adoption as an alternative:

Why should we kill a healthy newborn when giving it up for adoption would not breach anyone’s right but possibly increase the happiness of people involved (adopters and adoptee)? … On this perspective, the interests of the actual people involved matter, and among these interests, we also need to consider the interests of the mother who might suffer psychological distress from giving her child up for adoption. Birthmothers are often reported to experience serious psychological problems due to the inability to elaborate their loss and to cope with their grief. It is true that grief and sense of loss may accompany both abortion and after-birth abortion as well as adoption, but we cannot assume that for the birthmother the latter is the least traumatic. For example, ‘those who grieve a death must accept the irreversibility of the loss, but natural mothers often dream that their child will return to them. This makes it difficult to accept the reality of the loss because they can never be quite sure whether or not it is irreversible’

If mental health is a suitable reason for abortion can it also be a suitable reason for an after-birth abortion?

Eugenics

Melanie Phillips raised the issue that Smurthwaite’s position is identical to supporting eugenics. In my opinion Smurthwaite has it right when she says:

Eugenics is where the government decides what characteristics it considers desirable in the next generation and then forces some women to have children (often with men they don’t want to have children with) and others not to. What I’m advocating is the opposite of that, where the government butts the hell out and lets women choose for themselves. Of course individuals selecting for themselves what genetic traits they’d like their kids to have is as old as the hills. That’s exactly what is going on (subconsciously or consciously) when a woman looks across a crowded bar at a guy and thinks “nice eyes”. She’s picking traits that she thinks might help her offspring. But of course then she also gets to know the guy and is highly likely to change her mind if she finds him stupid or unimaginative. Of course he’s doing the same to her, checking out her genes. And great news – science is getting much much better at helping us do this. Increasingly we can actively allow wannabe parents to select embryos to be implanted during IVF to avoid hereditary diseases where it may not be obvious in the bar whether the object of your desires is a carrier of the gene. In a few generations, at least in the west, this is likely to mean much lower incidence of things like sickle cell anaemia and Huntingdon’s disease. It would be unspeakably cruel not to allow that sort of progress to be used to prevent suffering. And if it became possible to select embryos for hair and eye colour too then firstly – that would be pre-implantation IVF embryo selection – not abortion.

The question though does arise, would Smurthwaite be OK with pre-implantation IVF diagnosis which screens for homosexuality (if possible) such that parents can reject embryos which show markers for homosexuality (and thus the probability of the embryo growing up into a homosexual man or woman is high)? Based on her answers to the question of sex selective abortions I am guessing she would be OK. I don’t think I will (just like for sex-selective abortions).

Some more final points:

  1. Re: Honour killing and abortion. Honour killing and abortion are not comparable because honour killing is a crime? That is circular reasoning. Once can reasonably say that honour killing is a crime and abortion is not because the two are not comparable.[6]
  2. Just because one believes an act is foolish and that one wouldn’t do it, does it automatically follow that that particular act should not be made illegal? I may find reckless or drunk driving foolish and I wouldn’t drive recklessly or drunk, but does it follow that they should be legal?
  3. Melanie Phillips needs to work harder to understand analogies. Nowhere in Smurthwaite’s analogy does it make any sort of equivalence between the donor organ and the foetus.

[1] Information for parents of preterm babies less than 30 weeks gestation, p. 4

[2] Physical and mental. However while indications of threats to the physical health of the pregnant women are objective, is the same level of objectivity present in the evaluation of the mental health?

[3] 44 minutes into the video

[4] At around 24 weeks of gestational age a prematurely born fetus/infant has a 50% chance of long-term survival outside its mother’s womb. Cite.

[5] After-birth abortion: why should the baby live? J Med Ethics, 2012

[6] One involves killing a human teen/adult and the other may involve the termination of an embryo (though the later stages provide a more difficult situation to rationalise).

Written by Polevaulter Donkeyman

July 17, 2012 at 12:15

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Mr. Brigstocke, what’s wrong with free movement of capital and labour?

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Marcus Brigstocke on The Now Show of June 29, 2012 in a rant titled “Thank You and Goodbye!” (around the 20’40” mark)

…I’ve had it with bankers, multimillionaires and businesspeople and the rest announcing their imminent departure from the UK every time they are held to account by those of us who pay our taxes and vote. They are like teenagers who’ve had a row with their parents. <In an angry teen’s voice ranting> So for those threatening to leave when they are asked to pay their share of living here … GO. <Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive> Yes and once you’ve gone we will survive very happily. In fact I will happily drive any of you to the ferry terminal and push you off it. Here’s a thought, just so we don’t have to keep coming back to this tiresome discussion, its a simple honest decent proposal: <drumroll> Everyone has to live where their money is. See — easy! Now off you go …

If everyone has to live where their money is, what about people who have invested money in different places? Say they live in Manchester and have invested in a business in London? What if they live in Hull and their pensions are invested in e.g. BP? Mr. Brigstocke’s solution is simple enough.

Around the 25’30” mark:

I only wish that low income workers were able to hold the government to ransom by threatening to leave the country when they’re challenged. Just to wake up one day to a country where the only people at work spend their days moving fictional sums of money from one screen to another in the hope that the sums get bigger and they get a bonus. And somewhere in the distance as the streets lie unswept, unpoliced, shops shut, hospitals empty, schools boarded up, they hear “Goodbye Goodbye…<Some song which I cannot identify>

What is left unanswered is that if the current low income workers in the UK follow on their threat and leave, why would low income workers from other countries, whose income is vastly smaller,[1] not emigrate to the UK and sweep the streets, police the streets, open the shops, staff the hospitals and school?

Footnotes

[1] The UK defines poverty as income less than 60% of the median household income. In 2007-08, this was calculated to be GBP 115 per week for single adults with no dependent children. Source. In 2004-05 a fifth to a quarter of India’s population, around 200 M – 300 M (compare to UK population of 62 M in 2010) lived on less than GBP 2 per week. Source

Written by Polevaulter Donkeyman

July 10, 2012 at 11:07

This Explains A Lot

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David Cannadine explains FDR’s antipathy to capitalism and the free-market

Like his earlier presidential cousin Theodore, Franklin D Roosevelt felt a strong patrician disdain for big business and upstart wealth. This was partly because the Roosevelt clan was never very rich but it was also because in terms of their lineage and their lands, they were about as close to being aristocracy as it’s possible to get in a country, which came into being by proclaiming that all men were created equal.

Audio here

This lends support to Deirdre McCloskey‘s thesis of Bourgeois Dignity

According to McCloskey, our modern world was not the product of new markets and innovations, but rather the result of shifting opinions about them. During this time, talk of private property, commerce, and even the bourgeoisie itself radically altered, becoming far more approving and flying in the face of prejudices several millennia old. The wealth of nations, then, didn’t grow so dramatically because of economic factors: it grew because rhetoric about markets and free enterprise finally became enthusiastic and encouraging of their inherent dignity.

Written by Polevaulter Donkeyman

March 8, 2012 at 14:55

Luddism, sigh . . .

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In an article BBC travel writer Huw Cordey heralds new technology as a mixed blessing for travellers. He laments

It may be a cliche but there is no doubt that technology makes the world feel a smaller – and less interesting – place . . . You crave more of it but, deep down, you know you would be happier with a lot less.

I just wish he would realise how technology has been so important for Wilberth Matamoros and Jenny Neeve. Huw does write

Until the internet arrived, he talked to Jenny virtually every day from his mobile. Half the time she would call him, the other half he phoned her.

Unfortunately that sort of love did not come cheap. Wilberth was spending nearly half his $500 (£300) a month salary talking to Jenny.

Now with the internet and Skype, communication is free which means that they can talk for as long or as often as they like, and the money he saves he can spend on flights to actually see Jenny.

Does Huw think that Jenny and Wilberth would be happier with a lot less? Does he think that their relationship would last in the absence of technology?

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March 8, 2012 at 14:38

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