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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in adarisa's LiveJournal:

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Friday, January 13th, 2012
3:49 pm
Historyposting
As an outgrowth of my discussion of the relative incompetence of Major and Chamberlain (first few comments in the thread) with Daniel Hannan and various others, I started thinking slightly more about the most catastrophic decisions made by British politicians of the 20th century, to see if I could work out which order they came in. I settled on this top five. There is at least one repeating theme throughout it. Currency unions are for muppets.

Five great mistakesCollapse )
Thursday, August 11th, 2011
12:34 pm
Classical Liberalism and Social Problems
...very briefly, in response to atreic's recent post.

Reading it, I was somewhat irresistably reminded of Ronald Reagan (with whom I disagree on almost everything but who was very quotable - "One legislator accused me of having a nineteenth-century attitude on law and order. That is a totally false charge. I have an eighteenth-century attitude.")'s famous line that "The ten most dangerous words in the English language are "Hi, I'm from the government, and I'm here to help."

I don't pay much attention to social policy - everyone has at least one or two areas they don't have time to be properly informed about, and I find defence, national security and foreign policy fascinating enough to devote a lot of time to it, social policy less so. So I'm not remotely an expert. But one thing that is clear from a national security and foreign policy perspective is that civil unrest is in large part an economic problem. The Palestinian territories are a pressure cooker of disorder because there are almost no jobs there, an already bad situation exacerbated by the Israeli blockade and happily connived at by the rest of the world who pass aid packages on to the PA and are thereby willing to support the West Bank and Gaza in perpetual unemployment. In Jordan and other territories with large Palestinian populations, the Palestinian people are stereotypically considered to be active and energetic businessmen, so it's probably not their fault.

And, indeed, the only successful urban regeneration projects have been those based on economic recovery and job creation - the London Docklands and Salford Quays spring to mind. Tony Blair, after the 7/7 bombs, remarked that "There is no hope in terrorism, nor any future in it worth living. And it is hope that is the alternative to this hatred." Similarly by providing people with the hope of a better future within the system than outside it then they're more likely to play along. Austrian economics, which is the foundation of classical liberalism, could be summed up with the phrase "incentives matter" - which explains the generalised mistrust of most benefits, because it's pretty obvious what the problem is with paying people who are out of work. Not that there's much of an option unless you're willing to let people starve.

Unfortunately, unemployment is always going to be found in clusters, unless you can achieve unheard-of levels of labour force mobility, which seems unlikely. You can increase it by investment in transport, or by providing relocation grants for people chasing work - which we ought to be doing, but people will still not want to move away from where they're happy (I'm slowly resigning myself to working in Hampshire since it seems 85% of materials jobs are there, but I'm not exactly overjoyed about it). Equally, you're always going to have unemployment at some level in a nation of 60 million people. But you can try to regenerate these areas, concentrating on bringing new industries in, increasing competitiveness, and of course sorting out education. The last of these is, naturally, the trickiest, not helped by the fact that teaching unions oppose every reform, and I can't believe that they've all been bad.

Now, I'm not sure to what extent this actually applies to the riots. The demographics of those appearing in magistrates courts are not as simple as you might expect - something which, to me, makes talk of marginalised communities harder to apply as a cause of the rioting since the rioters do not appear to be particularly communal in a general sense.
Thursday, March 10th, 2011
4:43 pm
On American Politics, and why it isn't British Politics...
There's a large amount of lazy reporting in the national press about American politics, which largely fails to provide sufficient context about the US political system and leaves a British reader to implant their own assumptions as to the wider meaning of an event, which, if they are based on familiarity with the British system, may be widely off track.

So it might be a sensible thing to write something about how the US system isn't the British one, and also to cut it because of excessive lengthCollapse )
In conclusion, then, there's two major things to bear in mind when comparing American politics to British:

1) American parties aren't monolithic entities and really shouldn't be thought of as having corporate opinions on all - or even most - matters; and
2) Cultural and historical reasons push political debate in the US some way to the right of that in Britain and a long way to the right of continental Europe.
Saturday, October 23rd, 2010
11:35 pm
Strategic Defense and Security Review Review, Preamble
There has been, and there will be to come, a fair amount of comment on the government's comprehensive spending review. From what I can read, left-wing organisations (Guardian, BBC News) hate it, right-wing organisations (Telegraph, Sky News) call it "about the best that could be expected from a coalition government". Time will tell. My understanding of economics is somewhat rudimentary, but it does broadly seem to be the case that some form of cuts/tax rises was necessary, and the government has prioritised keeping things which have a good return on investment, which seems like a good enough plan.

Anyway, I'm not really very qualified to comment on it all, and lots of other people already have, so I'm not going to talk about it much further. There was another review published last week, though, and that one was in a field I'm much more knowledgeable in, and also one where I'm interested in what my friends think, so a good topic to post on.

So, the Strategic Defence and Security Review. Before getting stuck in to what the review actually says (next post), it is probably worth my time to frame my debate by examining the various strategic postures a country can adopt in the current environment. Strategic posture is the first decision you make when considering the build of the armed forces - what capabilities are necessary to protect our people and our interests?
PosturesCollapse )
My personal opinion is that Britain should attempt to remain an expeditionary power. The North Atlantic Treaty requests member states to maintain a defence budget of 2% of GDP, or approximately $43.5 bn for Britain; but for a variety of reasons including maintaining a credible claim to our seat on the United Nations security council, the fact that much of our wealth is still based on international trade, the requirement to defend territories such as the Falklands, the ability to respond to crises in the Commonwealth (such as the intervention in Sierra Leone), and the fact that retaining a navy capable of power projection while still engaged in Afghanistan will be difficult to do on a reduced budget, maintaining something closer to our current 2.5% ($68bn) seems like a better idea to me. The possibility of reducing the budget for a short period of time to increase it later is an option, but savings greater than $10bn are probably irresponsibly risky with the defence budget (which is in any case much smaller than Health, Education and Social Security, where the real savings are to be found). There is a side-effect that the armed forces, as an employer, are useful in times of recession, since they are happy to relocate people from high-unemployment areas.

Non-preamble to follow after I finish reading the actual review, probably tomorrow.
Sunday, September 12th, 2010
10:44 pm
Playing Truant, I/?
So, have some fiction. This is entirely senji's fault inasmuch as I created the character for a roleplaying campaign of his which he then apathied. So I had to have something to do with Francis and this was the result, or at least the first part of it.

This is kind of Amber fanfiction, inasmuch as Francis is an ADRPG character and so I'm using the Amber Cosmology, but there's no real appearances from any of Zelazny's cast yet. Bonus points for working out who Francis is narrating to, though.

Oh, and if you think you've met (or indeed are) the sisters who sort of co-star in this...you haven't, really. "Very loosely inspired by" (and "stolen the middle names of") is about as close as it comes.

Playing Truant, Chapter One. Amber fanfic, sort of.Collapse )

Current Mood: artistic
Friday, May 7th, 2010
2:10 pm
Election Analysis: Once More, with Feeling
It's like buses: you wait five years for a general election, and then two come along at once.

Yes, we'll be back at the polls within six months, I predict.

Why? Well, here's a good guess at the result:

CON 308
LAB 258
LD 57
DUP 8
SNP 6
SF 4
PC 3
SDLP 3
GRN 1
ALL 1
IND 2

Now splitting into blocs. The winning post is actually 324, because the House will only have 646 sitting members (Sinn Fein's 4 won't take their seats):

I regard a Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition as unlikely. For the Conservatives to go for a referendum on electoral reform would very definitely be turkeys voting for Christmas - I would expect the Conservative Party to cease to exist within a decade of a proportional system being adopted. Conversely, I do not think Nick Clegg could bring his party with him on any deal that didn't involve some kind of PR , and he'll be actuely aware of the danger of fracturing his party on something like the old Liberal/SDP lines.

Conservative and Unionist:
CON 308
DUP 8
IND Unionists 2
318

Progressive:
LAB 258
LD 57
SDLP 3
ALL 1
GRN 1
320

I suppose with the nine nationalist MPs either side could get to a majority, but that would be insanely unstable. A Conservative minority administration, then? I think they're about five MPs short of that being workable. They'd be able to peel of probably five or so Lib Dems and a couple of Labour MPs (Kate Hoey, Frank Field) for many votes, but that still leaves them dependent on the Unionists, and I doubt whatever other support they can dredge up will be impressed with the bribery which will probably be the only way to hold the DUP in line.

Can either of these minorities work without the nationalists torpedoing them? I doubt it. The necessary severe cuts in public expenditure will disproportionately affect Scotland and Wales simply because a greater proportion of the economy in the Celtic regions is in the public sector. So the SNP/PC will stomp their foot.

So it'll be back to the polls in, oh November maybe? Hope you like voting in the cold and wet. Of course, 1974 is pretty much the upside here. In terms of major financial upheaval going on, we could well be looking at 1910-11...
Monday, May 3rd, 2010
9:04 pm
Election outcomes
I am curious as to why the news media only considers two major outcomes - Conservative majority or "no overall control, massive horsetrading involving the Liberal Democrats to follow".

There is a third potential outcome, probably worse than either of the above in some ways.

There are 650 constituencies. The Conservatives will likely only need 323 for an actual majority because five of them will probably return Sínn Fein MPs who will not take their seats. That's certainly within the upper boundary of what they might get, which I'd put at 350 or possibly a bit more, especially given that it may well rain on Thursday.

So outcome 2.5 is "Conservatives don't strictly have a majority but actually do because SF aren't around to vote in Opposition".

Outcome 3 also involves Northern Ireland. There will be somewhere in the region of 10 Unionist MPs returned; (one of them will probably actually be a Conservative/Ulster Unionist). If the Conservatives end up with 320 MPs they may well be willing to chance a coalition with the various Unionists, who are more or less uniformly more right-wing than the Conservatives are. Nobody seems to be talking about this which seems a bit odd to me given I'd give it at least a 15% chance of happening.
Thursday, April 22nd, 2010
9:35 pm
The second election debate gets real
Heh. Nick Clegg invokes "Force for Good", a concept that I doubt he knows was introduced by the 1998 Strategic Defence Review and is basically regarded by everyone in the defence debate as unaffordable.

Brown apparently planning to redefine European Geography, so that Britain is no longer on the margins of Europe.

Ah, let's argue about the Lisbon Treaty. Or let's not, because Labour and the Lib Dems would rather you didn't remind them about the whole referendum thing, so we'll rapidly change the subject...

Sigh. The European Conservatives and Reformists are arguably less extreme than the European People's Party. Cameron should probably say something about this.

Brown sounds almost Bush-like when talking about terrorism. Strange for a Labour politician. I'd actually like to hear him on greater length about some of the gung-ho stuff he's saying with respect to Somalia and Yemen.

Cameron is really, really good on Afghanistan. I am somewhat amazed by how much he knows what he's talking about.

Trident is, as Clegg suggests, mostly a red herring. I wish they'd shut up about it. That goes for you too Nick.

Oh god. Shut the hell up about Trident already. Thank you, moderator.

And then Bush said "addiction to oil". He's been replaced by George W Bush! It's a conspiracy!

So if it takes a long time to build Nuclear, Clegg, why not start now? I don't really understand Energy policy, but it doesn't really makes sense to me that you can actually do a long-term energy balance without nuclear policy.

"Anti-Europeanism?" Is that even a word? Is it like antidisestablismentarianism?

Oooooh, curveball question. Clegg clearly wasn't expecting this one. Cameron might have been, that was remarkably slick for an ad-lib. Brown decides he wasn't getting any of the Catholic vote anyway so may as well start off on the front foot.

Cameron just didn't say "genetic engineering", presumably because he thought the majority of the electorate wouldn't know wtf he was on about. Brown on the other hand was happy to talk about the specifics of the Human Fertilisation and Embyrology Act. Interesting decisions both ways...

I'm getting better at telling Clegg and Cameron apart by voice.

Oh stfu Clegg. I'm beginning to get annoyed by random mudslinging here. That includes you, Murdoch press. #NickCleggsFault, but only partly.

OOOOH someone mentions primaries. I wish you'd brought them up sooner, Cameron, they're a fantastic idea.

Assert your right to party.

David Cameron mentions bottom-up nation-building, but fails to actually do anything other than mouth platitudes.

Mr Clegg, the Liberal Party was founded in 1859. The Labour Party was founded in 1900. The Conservative Party doesn't really have an official founding date as such - the term was in use from 1834 I guess. Either way "the two old parties" doesn't seem to mean who you think it does.

Nobody should be standing at this election if they are not transparent. In other news, Invisible Man elected Prime Minister.

I am beginning to wonder if there are any issues we didn't go over last week. Bored now. I mean I find debates about social services intrinsically boring because I basically don't understand the issues so it mostly goes over my head but even so all this sounds like a rehash.

Awesome question about a ministry of the talents. Also awesome is that the guy was from Witney, which is Cameron's constituency. Cameron was probably smart not to acknowledge that.

Clegg's council of financial stability obviously needs Stephen Hawking on it given that he wants it to tell us how long it will take us to fill a black hole.

Is Brown capable of answering a question without making it about the economy? One-track mind. I'm sure I've heard almost all of this before and if it didn't change my mind last time...

Clegg's speaking manner could do with improvement. "There are thousands of people who came here illegally who are now still living [long pause]...[rest of sentence, which was about amnesty]" I genuinely thought for a while that he was about to propose execution of illegals rather than deportation.

This one...Cameron won the first half hands down, actually impressing me on national security which I didn't expect at all. The second half, shrug. I was tuning them all out from time to time. Cameron's closing statement waved the flag well, I guess. Nick Clegg had the best Obama impersonation. Gordon Brown...well, yes. Never mind.
7:29 pm
Because it's more fun than actually thinking about the election campaign...
(which thoroughly depresses me - the Lib Dems are running a good campaign based on bad ideas, the Conservatives a bad campaign based on good ideas, and Labour a bad campaign based on bad ideas)

So instead of bothering with the whole election thing, I'm just going to temporarily and through the use of extravagant fantasy, usurp dictatorial power and appoint my own Cabinet. It's a much more fun activity.

The first thing I'm going to do with this power is un-frobble the various ministries and return to something like the Cabinet that John Major and Tony Blair in his first term had. The fact that we don't currently have a Department of Education is more than a bit silly. After that...
As much Cabinet as I can be bothered to appoint. I should have someone at DEFRA but I can't think of anybody who I dislike enough to give the job toCollapse )
Thursday, April 15th, 2010
10:12 pm
Debate observations
Cameron's being in the middle does remarkably well for him. He looks the happiest to be here too.

Cameron: "When new states join the European union, we should have transitional controls so they can't all come here at once"
Err, I know what you meant (and I agree), but you could have found a better way of saying it. I don't think they're all going to come here at once.

Leaders debate immigration. Everyone agrees with everyone else. People argue about whose fault it was. Cameron says for the first time "you've been in power for 13 years and you've only just started doing this now?". It'll be back. Arguments about a cap. Interested to see what the Conservatives are actually planning with regards to
practicalities.

Law and order up next. Cameron starts off by stating the obvious. Clegg joins in. Brown tops them both by stating the obvious with hyperbole. Err. Yes, Prime Minister. Suing the police is the obvious way to increase accountability. Who on earth came up with that idea? Clegg wins the award for the first interesting statement of the debate.

I wish everyone would stop with the "I was talking to $RANDOM_MEMBER_OF_ELECTORATE" stories.

Each politician is much more convincing when attacking everyone else's policies than when they're putting forward their own.

Clegg wins the Ashcroft Cup. Does anyone else think right of recall has the potential to be really fucking stupid? I don't feel like voting fifteen times in a row.

So far I think Alaistair Stewart is winning the debate.

Stop grinning, Brown. You look intolerably smug.

Oh god. A law for deregulation. When I suggested having a ministry of deregulation it was a joke, not a prediction. Nick Clegg is a madman and must be stopped. And no, they don't sound the same to me. Perhaps you should try listening more. Actually, I've mostly got my back to this, and it's Cameron and Clegg I'm having trouble telling apart. Of course the Scottish accent does help with Brown.

Endless arguments about spending. Nobody is really going to convince anyone here I suspect. No, Clegg, the important thing is not being open about the economy here, it really isn't. I actually don't care
what the Exchequer says provided it does it well.

Brown amuses me. He tells me that taking £6bn out of the economy is a risk. He doesn't tell me that not cutting the deficit is a risk.

Clegg, on the other hand, thinks the single biggest issue isn't the issue (I do, in fact, agree with him that we can't afford Trident - at least not Trident and the Queen Elizabeth class). Brown and Cameron are ignoring him at this point which can't be good for the Lib Dems.

"I want to go on wasting money now so I can put up your taxes later" is probably the best zinger so far.

Oh god it's an argument about the Armed Forces. My suspicion is that none of the candidates has any idea what they're doing here. Well, what they're doing is building armed forces to fight the current war. This is a horrendous argument because what it comes down to is "we made a strategic mistake, let's build our forces around a situation which we should be striving to avoid". If we have a large proportion of our forces deployed in counterinsurgency and nation-building roles then we're committing to a high (and extremely expensive) operational pace and essentially to fighting a war we're not going to win. The US now seems to have this essentially figured out - Anglo-American forces aren't going to succeed at impersonating a sovereign government, they can only help to prop one up. High-intensity, not long duration. Cameron's right here about the need for a new SDR. Yes Brown, the Taliban changed its tactics (actually its operational model). Why haven't we?

OK, now we're rehashing. Bored now. Am curious as to why Cameron is saying "It's what you get out, not what you put in", everywhere except the NHS. Well, no, I'm not, it's because he doesn't want to commit electoral suicide. I can't really blame Cameron for the entire country being fucking stupid.

Someone needs to restart Clegg's record, he's answered the last three questions the same way. I've certainly stopped listening to it.

Overall? Debate should have been half an hour shorter, we've started repeating ourselves. Overall I give Cameron the edge, though there's not a huge amount in it. Everyone is Obama-ing it up and I'm not
terribly in favour of that, because frankly nobody ever delivers "a different kind of politics" (certainly not Obama). Cameron's invocation of "hope" is slightly less annoying than everyone else's of "change", probably because I've heard it less.
Thursday, March 11th, 2010
5:18 pm
Err (arguably fanfiction for something I've never read...)
The layout of the New Cavendish laboratory at the University of Cambridge has been variously described as "confusing", "impossible" or "labyrinthine", depending in large part on the degree of eloquence the speaker has been moved to by becoming lost in its many corridors.

Many have wondered why a body so obviously possessed of intelligence as Cambridge University would construct a building that was so confusing. The answer is, of course, obvious - some things are not meant to be easily found.

For example, halfway down one of the slightly stranger corridors is a door marked "Seminar Room 3". It would be entirely unremarkable were it not for the fact that despite not having a lock, it only opens between 2:50 and 3:05 on Wednesday afternoons, and it is through this door that we now go.

The room is rather dull given the door traversed to get there - it is appointed as a small lecture theatre in the modern style, with a couple of television cameras relaying a picture of a precisely-arranged array of mirrors on a front desk dividing the lecturers from the students. An elderly gentleman, his wavy grey hairline now receding from his bespectacled face, addresses a decidedly mixed array of attentive but clearly puzzled students.

"Good afternoon. I don't know how many of you will recognise me in this day and age, but I imagine most of you have still heard my name. It is, after all, an excellent cautionary tale. Professor Brian Josephson, Nobel Laureate at thirty-four, frittered away one of the most brilliant minds of his age because he didn't know what to do next, and didn't understand the difference between the sort of questions that science is and isn't capable of answering. As I said, it's really a very good story with an excellent moral and you should all take it to heart.

"I really don't think the fact that it's not quite true matters at all, it's not as if we don't teach plenty of other gross oversimplifications which are nonetheless perfectly accurate enough should you ever need to use them.

"Your Tripos marks indicate that none of you were sleeping during your 1A lectures or your 1B practicals, so you should all recognise the apparatus in front of you and on the screens here. It is a Michelson interferometer, the device developed to detect the Earth's motion through the aether but which instead delivered a heavy blow to the idea of its existence. As you can see," he noted, gesturing expansively to the identical interference fringes displayed on each display screen "we too are failing to detect the aether - and, I might add, with equipment substantially more precise than Michelson and Morley had available."

"This is, however, a temporary state of affairs. Reginald?"

The lights dimmed in the theatre, and an awkward looking twentysomething redhead stood up from his position off to the side of the lecturer. Producing a thin, eight-inch rod of teak, he passed it once over the interferometer, quietly exclaiming "Visiorum!" as he did so. To a collective intake of breath, the interferometer lit up briefly and the pattern on the left-hand monitor shifted, just perceptibly. A low hum of whispered conversations began to build, cut through by the Professor's voice.

"This behaviour is, naturally, replicable, and those of you who I see noting this down will be pleased to know that it does indeed correspond to the 4% predicted by theory...at least under most conditions. If you choose to continue with this course and then to join the Mind-Matter Unification Project, you'll learn about how the aether works and how it can be manipulated, and what effects these have. Unfortunately the ability to directly manipulate the aether seems to be controlled by a complex mechanism of genetic inheritance factors and is rather rare, so you won't be doing any of that yourselves - trust me, if you could, you'd not be here.

"Oh, and finally, I really wouldn't recommend talking to anybody outside this room about what you've seen today. That's not a threat, it's just friendly advice. You do remember the cautionary tale of Professor Josephson, don't you?"



A note for the reality impaired: this is fiction. Brian Josephson is nuttier than a kilogram bar of whole nut chocolate with extra nuts in, and I am relatively certain there are no arcane doorlocks in the Cavendish, though it's hard to be sure.
Friday, July 24th, 2009
10:01 pm
Women in Politics
Chloe Smith MP (she is an MP even though Parliament has yet to return from recess, see here):

Is

Cute
2(33.3%)
Not Cute
0(0.0%)
Very Cute
0(0.0%)

This is

Not an appropriate reaction to the election of an MP
0(0.0%)
An entirely normal reaction on seeing a picture or video of somebody for the first time
1(14.3%)
Something I should feel guilty about even considering
0(0.0%)
Inappropriate but inevitable given how goshdarned cute she is
0(0.0%)
Tickyfeminism
0(0.0%)
My Great Aunt was smothered to death by parliamentary kittens, you insensitive clod!
0(0.0%)

So, yes, bit worried about my reaction to this bit of news.
Wednesday, January 21st, 2009
1:00 pm
Politician becomes US President, world overreacts
Seriously, people. Barack Obama was a fairly good choice for President of the United States. He wouldn't have been my first pick or indeed my second, and I'd actually have preferred the man who is his Vice-President. He gives a pretty good speech, though I didn't think the inaugural was a particularly good one - a bit too stark for the occasion.

He's not some kind of messianic figure, and he's certainly not the liberal icon some ill-informed people in Europe are promoting him as.

He promised to filibuster the FISA amendment bill to allow warrantless wiretapping during the democratic primaries. After securing the nomination he not only voted in favour of cloture but actually voted for the bill itself.

He opposes investigating members of the previous administration for war crimes, despite the fact that there is near-irrefutable evidence such crimes took place, and despite clear treaty requirements that the US do so. In fact, he's still considering allowing evidence gained through torture to be used in prosecutions and had to be shamed into not appointing a pro-torture CIA director.

He
claims that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons despite the fact declassified US National Intelligence Estimates and the IAEA both say that they're not.

He backtracked from a position of supporting gay marriage because, y'know, it's not politically a very smart thing to support in the US.

He threatened to veto any attempt to block or delay the release of $350bn into the Wall Street bailout, despite the fact that Congress is extremely unhappy with the lack of oversight and the Treasury hasn't even spent all the first wodge of cash yet (though it has earmarked it all).

And he naturally parrots the predictably entirely pro-Israel line of the US establishment during any major middle east crisis.

Yes, he's an improvement on Bush and he might even manage to be better than Clinton, but don't look for a radical new direction from the United States or a return to pre-2001 values, because one doesn't appear to be forthcoming. Obama is a politician - one who played the Chicago machine well enough to rise to the national level, and he thinks and acts like one. Every indication would be that this first term will be a study in the art of the possible.
Wednesday, November 5th, 2008
3:39 am
Whilst waiting for returns...
As the curtain slowly falls on another Presidential term, now may be a good time to look back on the previous eight years, charting the course of the American ship of state as it has tried to lead the free world, frequently in somewhat less than line astern, through the rather turbulent waters of the early 21st century.

For the reality-impaired, this is alternate historyCollapse )
Friday, October 10th, 2008
4:27 pm
It is easy, in the chaos of the 24-hour news cycle and probably the greatest financial collapse since 1929, to read and react but not think. Doubtless this applies as much if not more so to the speculators and politicians as it does to the onlookers. Add national pride and 'stolen' money to the mix, and we have a situation where nobody is really responding with much beyond emotion.

The Iceland crisis, then, does not appear to be a time for sober reflection. The basic facts are simple enough - Iceland's banking sector ran up a debt several times greater than the country's GDP (the reasons for which are complicated, but Iceland's growing wealth as a banking centre lead to diversification of much of its money outside the country, so when the American and European markets crashed they took the Icelanders down with them) and as a result the Icelandic government took over several banks. When it did so it conspicuously failed to guarantee that accounts held by British customers would remain intact.

The British government screamed blue murder, seized over £7bn Icelandic assets (using anti-terrorism legislation, unsurprisingly without a terrorist threat in sight) - almost two-thirds of the country's GDP - in the UK and threatened to sue the government to get its money back. The response of the markets was predictable. The Icelandic Krona, already in trouble, lost almost half its value overnight before trading was suspended. It is true that Iceland was in severe financial difficulties prior to Britain's intervention; but when you encounter a man in difficulty on a precipice, do you push him over the edge?

It gets worse. Iceland, not being notably temperate, depends on food imports as a country and the crash of its currency will make these increasingly expensive, driving the price of food up and doubtless sending sections of its population into poverty. Iceland was a friendly country, a NATO ally. The British Government has just contributed, in no small way, to its ruin.

Why has this been wrought in our name?
Friday, September 26th, 2008
9:48 pm
Musings on the Windflower law...
For those of you who haven't played the RPG Nobilis, a brief explanation is in order. The players take on the role of one of the Nobles, semi-divine incarnations and defenders of a concept. They are charged with protecting their concept (known as an Estate in game terms) from all harm and promoting the will of their Imperator (a godlike being who made them into a Noble in the first place).

There are, however, certain rules these beings are expected to follow. One of these is the Windflower Law, which in its simplest terms says "Thou Shalt Not Love Another". So I thought "Well, um, what about the Power of Love?".

And the following is my answer - a rather disputative Domina of Love, the chaotic and irrepressible Iolanthe (yes, the Gilbert&Sullivan character...), predictably sticking her oar in...

May it displease the courtCollapse )
Tuesday, December 25th, 2007
12:10 am
Um, this might kind of be a year late...
So, I said I was going to write this for enismirdal's Christmas present last year, only I kind of wrote myself into a corner and...um...I got distracted, and, yes, it's kind of a year late. Ah well. Still Christmas, innit.

As ever, if other people want to write anything using this setting they should feel free. I even have a page of author's notes somewhere if you're really interested.

Title: Ex Astris, Ultio: The Tales of the Dread Pirate Eni
Part: Chapter One, The Dragon's Lair (2/?)
Length: 4,945 words
Copyright: Copyright is owned by Stuart Fraser. You are granted the right to copy this for personal use only, and may not distribute it in either electronic or printed form without my permission. This is a work of original fiction. Well, about as original as Sci-Fi gets nowadays anyway.
Other: See above, also please feel free to tell me how useless I am. Or even be nice about my writing ability, if you're that way inclined.

Merry Christmas, EniCollapse )

Current Mood: late
Sunday, June 10th, 2007
10:11 pm
Things I don't talk about
The Master would not discourse on mystery, force, rebellion and deity
- Analects 7.20
When Ji-lu asked how to serve the spirits and gods, the Master said: "You cannot serve men yet; how can you serve the spirits?"
"May I venture to ask what death is?"
The Master said: "You do not understand life yet; how can you understand death?"

- Analects 11.12

Some debate topics recur with all the inevitability of death and taxes. Perhaps in Benjamin Franklin's day people were more original in their topics of conversation, or maybe Franklin had a greater boredom threshold (or a defective memory). Maybe he just had a good ear for a proverb and decided to stop his list while he was ahead. In any case, topics of religion and philosophy are discussed with remarkable regularity in the circles in which I move (ie, you lot).

People who know me are probably aware that I rarely hold back from expressing an opinion. Yet I rarely (I'm not going to say never as then I'm sure somebody will manage to find a counterexample from a time I was more bored than wise) make any comment on these matters. I suppose it is about time I explained why not.

Part of the answer lies in the Confucian teachings quoted. I broadly agreed with Master Kong on topics in Lun Yu on which I had preconceived notions when I read it; consequently I am significantly more receptive to the remainder of his ideas. In the broader sense, I have come to accept the existence not only of questions which are unanswerable, but also of questions which are unimportant.

The former class can readily be formulated in mathematics and computer science, and so thanks to Alan Turing and others I am spared the burden of proving this. The second category will I fear (and hope, since anybody who writes a post like this and claims not to want people to comment is lying) prove more controversial. I think to illustrate what I mean by unimportant I'll stay in the general area of logic, and drag something out of an old IM conversation with Senji:

adarisa: I suppose if it's undecidable as to whether or not it is undecidable it is, in fact, undecidable.
senji: No, because that would make the decidableness decidable.
adarisa: Only in a logical sense. This is the RealWorld
adarisa: Because practically if it isn't decidable whether or not it's decidable obviously you can't decide about it.
senji: Because otherwise you could decide the decidability by deciding.

I am sure that to logicians and philosophers this is a symptom of a terribly limited and terrestrial mind, but I'm an applied physicist. Perhaps it's my way of getting back at them for misunderstandings of quantum mechanics. Most metaphysical issues are of similar importance. I am aware that it is questionable as to whether or not this is actually real, but it doesn't matter because I have no way of experiencing "reality" if this is not it, so what's to stop me from calling this "reality"?. Likewise, the question as to whether or not I have free will is irrelevant to my ability to experience the sensation of it, and the difference between two indistinguishable sensations is surely unimportant.

Entities are defined by how they interact with the world; entities that do not interact with the world may exist, but as they have no effect on anything I have done, am doing or intend to do, they are abstractions I don't need to consider. Is this a particularly unusual position to take? Nobody else seems to be saying it...
Tuesday, November 21st, 2006
12:24 am
Albatross, Session 2
Resplendent Albatross, at anchor in an island in the Bordermarches north of The Neck,
16th Descending Fire, RY 765

My dearest Falcon,
Session 2Collapse )
All my love,

Flame

Current Mood: excited
Wednesday, November 8th, 2006
5:12 pm
Albatross, Session 1
So I decided I'd write some of these, in-character as Flame, since nobody else seemed to be writing session reports for The Albatross. I do not believe anybody is likely to know about this. The journal is written in Flame's native Old Realm, probably. We (that's senji and I) assume that Skullstone's children are taught to speak in Old Realm by ghostly tutors, since this seems to fit with the archipelago's general intermixing of life and death.

The writing style is scattergun because Flame tends to write as he thinks, not as would make sense. Flame has excellent personal presence but rather worse writing ability.

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