Monthly Archives: July 2005

First things first: what happened in London last Thursday was horrific, unjustifiable and unforgivable. Faced with an outrage like the bus and tube bombings, it’s entirely appropriate to express respect to the victims, defiance of the murderers who carried it out and solidarity with the people of London.

What happened on Thursday was terror: “personal violence against non-specific targets, with the immediate goal of causing panic and alarm”. That word ‘non-specific’ is important here. Murder fuelled by personal hatred is a sad, grim thing, but it’s always on a human scale; Read More

I will at the
earliest opportunity, assemble in London in a public demonstration of
respect to the victims of the July 7 atrocity, defiance of the murderers who
carried it out and solidarity with the people of London but only if 2,500
other people will too

The streets belong to us not terrorists. Sign the pledge.

UPDATE: Help spread the word. Cut and paste this code into your own site. You’ll get a banner like the one at the top of this page.

It’s too early to say, but I’ll say it anyway. I hope and I believe that the attacks on London yesterday will be remembered not for how much they changed Londoners and the world but for how much they didn’t.

Firstly, where 9/11 changed everything, we have already changed, in large part because of 9/11. We’ve seen this coming, and we’ve had the arguments over war and terrorism. Secondly, I don’t think this will give Blair a mandate to turn around and bomb someone else like Bush did – for one thing there’s nobody identifiable to bomb, and even if Blair wanted to it’s unlikely he could muster the trust and support required.
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French TV just announced that London won the Olympic Games. Until a month or so ago, this outcome was unimaginable. It was certain that Paris would win. It already had an olympic-ready stadium, an olympic village, had already started the infastructure renovations, the town was festooned in IOC colours, shopkeepers had 2012 signs up in their windows, and stall-owners wore 2012 caps. The Queen herself said that Paris would win because Londoners weren’t behind the bid. She should know, her daughter is a voting member on the IOC.

So what changed?
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Before I set sail with this, let me get one thing clear. I respect Bob Geldof. I like the fact that he ruffles all the right feathers — as much for his favourable views on Bush’s record in Africa as for his soft-left activism. I agree, in different ways, with Jim and Squander Two. He should have sold those Live 8 tickets for a fat profit but, hey, that’s a quibble.

I also support protest; I’ve even been on a few. I endorse violent protest, given the right circumstances. Most of all, though, I like direct action.

direct action action… directly affecting the community and meant to reinforce demands on a government, employer, etc.
(Oxford English Reference Dictionary, 1995)
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There was a time when oil and gas reserves seemed endless…
Recent Shell advertisement

1965 was an incredibly significant year for modern civilisation. Because, although this fact went largely unremarked for three decades, it was the year in which our rate of crude oil discovery stopped rising and began to fall. It was the year of peak discovery, and since 1965 we have been steadily finding less.

It goes without saying that we must discover oil before we can extract it. It also goes without saying that if we extract more than we discover on a regular basis, that we will eventually exhaust any surplus reserves built up during the period we were discovering more than we were extracting. Right now the world is consuming four times as much as it discovers. And that has been the case for many years.
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Several years ago, an artist who didn’t appear at Live Aid pondered on the ways in which we expected the world to come to an end, and proposed another:

When you compute the time between an event and the nostalgia for the event, the span seems to be about a year less in each cycle. Eventually…the nostalgia cycles will be so close together that people will not be able to take a step without being nostalgic for the one they just took. At that point, everything stops. Death by Nostalgia.

If he’s right, then I suspect Saturday’s Live8 concert, or at least the coverage of it, may be the beginning of the end of the world.
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Chris Dillow asks, rhetorically, of David Cameron:

Can he point to a single thing the British state does better than the private sector, where comparisons are possible?

The first example I thought of is the BBC’s news website. According to Alexa, it’s the most popular UK-based news website, and the 3rd most popular in the world.

It’s unlikely that Chris Dillow thinks the UK state is dramatically less competent than states in general, so we can generalise this question to: Is there a single thing states do better than the private sector, where comparisons are possible? He evidently believes the answer to be “no”. But look at the medium for his message: he’s using the state-developed Internet network and the state-developed World-Wide Web hypertext system.

If the private sector really does do everything better than the state, then we’d be using a privately-developed computer network and a privately-developed hypertext system; it’s not as if there haven’t been many examples of each. Something to remember when blogs like Samizdata say that states do nothing well.