Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Bush and Blair and interfering in peoples' lives

So you've got Tony Blair: a man to be greatly admired for his
principled stand on spreading democracy in the Middle East and getting
rid of loathsome tyrants, yet a man (the moaning of the hardcore
Labourites notwithstanding) overly enamoured of the idea of the State
as a positive force in the lives of its citizens, and a force which
should consequently be made larger over time: the latter is of course
a Bad Idea and the person holding it is not to be admired on that

And then you've got George W Bush, a man to be greatly admired for his
principled support of Tony Blair's stand on spreading democracy etc,
such support notable for going well beyond mere moral encouragement,
yet a man given to pork binges that would make a Democrat blush, were
they capable of blushing, and again not a particularly admirable

What to make of the parallels? Is there in fact no contradiction, that
the actions in the external and internal sphere are both of a piece?
Could it be that the principled stand is nothing more than the
overweening desire to interfere in the lives of other people, and that
we who find it admirable, do so chiefly because it is happening to
other people and not to us?

I ask this particularly in view of the fact that the situation in Iraq
seems to be rapidly moving towards a resemblance with the situation of
the Palestinian Arabs, where leaders promise to crack down on
militants who carry out atrocities, yet these same militants form a
significant part of the leader's support, and everyone knows the
promise is as much action as will ever be forthcoming. So as things
degenerate into Business As Usual in Arabland, it's hard to escape the
conclusion that the outside interference of the Iraq war was as
pointless and counterproductive as any other state intervention. The
fact that all the usual suspects who have in the past urged more state
intervention in the domestic sphere, were in this case against this
particular state intervention, should not have blinded us to the
truth: that, whatever the moral reasons for doing so, interfering in
the lives of ordinary Iraqis was a profoundly Big Government thing to

Now there certainly was a moral case for the removal of Saddam: of
that there is no doubt. And there is a moral case for staying the
course and finishing what has been started. But I just find it
interesting to think about whether there really is a contradiction at
the heart of Bush and Blair, or whether they are actually the True
Prophets of universal interference in peoples' lives, at home and

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Pigs flying and all that

Don't look now but there's some (gasp!) non-doctrinal thinking posted on the Guardian's Comment is Free blog from time to time. For example, this eloquent puncturing of the earnest arguments in favour of doing something about global warming: A Convenient Truth

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Inconsistency, thy name is Microsoft

So I just found out yesterday that the universal window-focus-rotation method on a Mac is the Command-~ combination. That's to rotate the focus on the windows within a single app, whereas of course Command-Tab rotates through your apps. (Yes, I have had a Mac for nearly two years now. What's your point??) So I'm happily rotating through my windows in Firefox, and Photoshop, and then today, I have Excel open, so I'm happily rotating through the... WTF! It doesn't work!

Turns out that window-rotating in Excel for Mac works exactly the way it does in the Windows world: Ctrl-Tab. Now what you need to understand about Microsoft Office for the Mac is that it's not a straight port of Office for Windows. Hell no. It's a completely fookin different application (although it can share docs with the Windows one). But virtually everything is different, including all of the fargin keyboard shortcuts in Excel. Now when you've been using Excel in Windows since the friggin thing was invented, you get certain keyboard shortcuts more or less burned into your brain. Alt-= for the sum command, for example. F2 to edit the cell. And just hitting return to paste. Does that work in Excel for Mac? Fark no. Why would it? The famously hard-core Mac team at Microsoft have completely rewritten Excel for the Mac, dude! None of that Windows crap here!

Except for... the one thing where it makes SENSE to change, to fit in with the system-wide Mac way of doing things... oh, maybe we'll leave that in.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

If it's not OK at home, it's not OK here

Just thinking about Mugabe's promise to continue to meet protest with violence:
Addressing a rented crowd bussed to Harare Airport, on his recent return from addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Mugabe said he would continue to sanction the beating of labour leaders who disregard police orders.

Here we have the perfect example of why the UN is a failure. You can have thuggish dictators like Mugabe and Chavez stand up in New York and hand out the most outrageous abuse of their hosts, while no-one in their own countries is permitted a whisper of free speech. Refusing to look into the way in which the representatives of states achieve their status makes a mockery of the democratic procedures of the UN. What is the point of allowing a gangster free speech and a vote at the UN, when the people he supposedly represents did not vote for him and do not trust him to advance their aims? No representative of a government should be allowed to speak at the UN unless his government allows free speech at home. No representative should be allowed to take his seat at the UN unless his appointment is made by a government duly elected in free and fair elections.