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   Monday, September 15, 2003

So, Sweden has voted no for the euro, despite the tragic death of the Swedish foreign minister Anna Lindh - and despite a campaign which apparently outspent Dubya's presidential election. (When the EU wants, the EU throws money until it gets).

The vote wasn't as wide as I would have liked it, at 56% no to 42% yes, but then I'm wary of the next vote a few years down the line. 56% saying no? That's not crushing enough to rule out repeat performances. If it was 70% No thats pretty damning, as it is I guess there will be another attempt in 5-8 years.

My cynicism aside, this bodes well for the Eurosceptic cause here in the UK. The UK is even more firmly eurosceptic than Sweden is, and I imagine Tony Blair paid close attention to what happened in Sweden. He would really be running uphill if he called a referendum here - which is, of course, why he doesn't want a referendum on the European constitution, and why he's hemming and hawing over the promised referendum on the euro. Because he knows damn well he'd lose both. All those in the US who think Blair is a great humanitarian, think that over a bit - such is the respect that this man shows for the Will of the People with regards to seeking public consent for the first written constitution this country has ever had.

Fortunately, as I predicted long ago, the pressure being put upon Blair by a well organised, highly motivated pro-referendum campaign is having the desired effect. I said it before, and I'll say it again, by hook or by crook, we'll have our referendum on the European constitution.

Best of all, I am inclined to think that any referendum intended to seal a pro-EU agenda will inevitably go the eurosceptic way in this country. The Times notes the vast resources commanded by the pro-euro lobby in Sweden to no avail, to little effect, and in the UK we actually have an Opposition who oppose (on this issue at least) so it'll be a far rockier ride for Our Tone on the referendum trail.

All EU, All Day!

   Thursday, September 11, 2003
A trade union is, apparently, a

"commercial entity consisted of employees or workers having a common interest, such as all the assembly workers for one employer, or all the trades workers in a particular industry. The union is formed for the purpose of collectively negotiating with an employer (or employers) over wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment. "

A laudable enough aim. However, that doesnt' appear to be what British trade unions talk about. British unions are just a front for communists, Trots and extremists, they (well, some of them) don't really give a damn about bettering the lot of their members. Have a look at this for example. I think they defy the encyclopedia's definition of what a union is...

   Wednesday, September 10, 2003
I don't always agree with what the War Nerd writes, but he's put up a good post here. The man has a point.

The occupation of Iraq is, in truth, going swimmingly well by any standard. Compared to any other military occupation in human history, this Iraq thing is going great. The tempo of conflict seems to be at about the same rate as Ulster at the height of the Troubles - well, given Northern Ireland is much smaller than Iraq, and not every Irish household had an RPG-7 and an AK under the bed, that tells me that, comparatively speaking, the situation in Iraq is relatively good.

I have been long sceptical about the Iraqis suddenly becoming peaceful democrats literally the next day after Saddam is ousted. That was never, ever going to happen. Americans who I accuse of naivete counter by saying they are just being optimistic - perhaps. However, these same optimists cannot be fair weather optimists - there is a distressing tendency from some optimists to mutate into pessimists at the very first hurdle.

Realism must be the order of the day. The Iraqi policy is worthy of our support. It will only fail if we, the voters, let it. Progress, very good progress, is being made every day. If the occupation takes less than a year, and it may just do that, it will be a stunning, brilliant success. It is far more likely to take several years - we must all be prepared for that. I have a pessimistic streak, and I expected at least a year of painful occupation - at the very least - and still supported it.

You must go into war with both eyes open, and when you hear terrible news, as you will for war is a terrible business, you must remember the circumstances which caused the war. If you had both eyes open you made the decision that it was worth it, and you must have the strength of will to persevere until the bitter end. Once you have started, you cannot easily stop without doing far more damage. If we pulled out of Iraq right now, the damage - political, economic, and to our own security - would be incalculable.

In other musings on libertarianism in general, I came across a thought I found vaguely amusing. Victorian England had extremely low taxation (I hear it was around 1 percent of GDP before World War 1 permanently wrecked this country), laws which would be considered liberal compared to today (carrying a firearm was considered normal - for all except the police, surprisingly, apparently they on occasion borrowed firearms from passers by!), and a very laissez faire sort of government - I have heard that the Irish potato famine was exacerbated by the Peelite view of goverment being strictly hands off, the government was so small that it simply could not have tackled the problem effectively with that 1 percent of GDP if it tried. Also apparently, in defiance of nationalist Irish myth, they did try, but thats by the by. The government of the 19th century seemed more concerned with eradicating slavery and policing the Empire than anything else.

So... it sounds like a libertarian paradise, no?

I found this thought amusing, because I think (thought?) Victorian England is about as far from being libertarian as you could get. It was not a period of time known for live and let live after all, with strict Victorian social values. A very strange dichotomy, it seems to my modern eyes.

Now, I know I am a right winger, but having read this I think maybe my soul is dead or something. I considered myself to be a Tory on the libertarian, as opposed to authoritarian, wing of the Right, but having read this, maybe I was wrong.

My first reaction to this article is not shock at our rights being eroded by dubious anti-terror legislation being used to stifle legitimate protest. It is more annoyance at a handful of peaceniks holding up several busy Tube stations and making other peoples lives miserable, and pleasure at the thought of cops moving these troublemakers along.

I am forced to do a little self analysis here. I am all in favour of the right to protest, but surely the right to protest does not include impeding other people from going about their daily business? If I was on the Docklands Tube when these jokers were pulling their stunt, I would be livid with anger. I am sure the chief exec of Vickers, or Fabrique Nationale, or whatever other companies were held up by their antics, were also livid.

Is this an authoritarian or libertarian right wing, viewpoint, that is the question... Or is it neither?

   Tuesday, September 09, 2003
It is with some pride that I point out that the Spectator had a very similar article for last weeks leader as my last blog entry. I only just got a chance to read the Speccy today, so I was a bit surprised, and happy to see that others of higher public stature than my humble self are on the same wavelength as me.

The Spectator's latest issue was actually very good in my opinion, better than the norm I would say. Dark predictions are made about the falling worth of Tony Blair - I can't say I'm totally convinced that Blair's situation is as gloomy as the Spectator paints though. This is perhaps Blair's Westland Affair, but that happened in 1985 and Maggie soldiered on for another half decade even with that hole below the waterline. The lack of a credible Opposition is part of the problem - I'm sorry, and I think IDS is a man of unusual (for a politician) integrity, but he is ill cut out to be an effective politician. Sad to say, but Iain will have to go before the Tories can be elected - he just doesnt have the required charisma.

There is also an argument about Israel, its not a new one, but the Speccy puts the case in a particularly clear and compelling way, I think.

   Friday, September 05, 2003
Which brings me to point #2. Doctor David Kelly is the second point. With the BBC aiming to blow a hole in the government's case for an Iraq war, the BBC span their own story out a little to sensationalise it, making out, by implication, that the Government acted in defiance of the advice from it's own intelligence staff, of which Dr Kelly was a member.

However, it turns out that Dr Kelly himself was absolutely convinced that war was necessary. He was not some peacenik Guardianista, like was made out at the beginning of this tragic affair. Dr Kelly may have thrown a cat into the pigeons by saying that the Government intelligence dossier was tripe, but when Lord Hutton digs away to find the truth we eventually find that Kelly himself was in fact pro-war, which is not the impression the BBC ever gave, in it's quest to find anti-war propaganda.

This is something we have to remember. We've cut out the middlemen, Campbell and Company, and we have, as a side effect of the Hutton inquiry, come across the honest opinion of the one of the weapons inspectors themselves, before it's been screened and sexed up by a media management team. If it were not for the unfortunate train of events which eventually led to this inquiry, we would never know Dr Kelly's honest opinion. It turns out his opinion was pro-war. We must not let the irrational peace-at-all-costs people hijack the inquiry to "prove" an anti-war case. Thats giving in to the likes of Andrew Gilligan, who seems to have behaved at least as despicably as the somewhat callous Government in order to find his anti-war story. The inquiry seems to have proven that the current Government is addicted to lies and spin, but to be honest, we of open eyes knew that already. Just remember that the man who committed suicide which all this is about was himself pro-war. Don't let the BBC obscure that fact. Kelly disagreed with the lies the Government felt the need to utter, but he would have agreed wholeheartedly with what actually happened in Iraq.

Now, we just have to tough it out until the job is done. The coalition forces hold all the cards. We will only lose if we blink and give up due to our own, mostly utterly unfounded, doubts.

A couple of things to say today.

Firstly, the lack of blog activity on this site. It's been caused by work, yet again. Regarding work this week, there is a sorry tale to be told.

It has been revealed to me that I must be, in a vague sense at least, an "engineer". My official job title, as it happens, is that of a "software configuration technician" which roughly translates to lowly Visual Basic slinging minion. What I do is juggle databases and allocate I/O signals for a rather large LAN-in-development, which when it's done will control an oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea to Sangachal in Turkey via remote.

Normally what I do is pretty abstract. However, what I do is eventually built according to specifications which are in part made up by my good self, though I am sufficiently remote from the actual hardware for this fact to slip past me every so often. Anyway, to explain this sorry tale, you must first understand that every wire in this LAN is given it's own address so you can find it - makes sense, no? The address consists of the facility code (pumping station 1 for example), followed by the station (which cabinet the wire goes to), the module (which I/O module within the station it goes to) and the channel (which socket on said I/O module). So a wire might have an address of PSG1-2-101-3. Which would be Pumping Station Georgia 1, Station 2, Position 101, Channel 3.

Easy enough thus far. However, it turns out that, while in the middle of designing a chunk of IO, it was revealed that Station 1 is reserved in the software, and we have to start with station 2, somewhat counterintuitively. So we had to increment the numbers of all the stations in this pumping station - originally there were stations 1 to 14, now there are 2 to 15.

Easy enough. Until... a few weeks later, on Monday this very week, when we looked in a cabinet to check that what was built matched what we needed. Everything looked right, and we were feeling proud of ourselves, when we noticed the ferrels - the little pieces of plastic stuck on each wire with a label in it showing the wire address.

The labels had not been incremented. And thus were wrong. And there were... rather a lot. Which now have to be unpicked and relabelled, at great expense...


This is why I know I am at least in part an engineer. I design something on a computer, and eventually it becomes a real object, sitting in a workshop, a tangible thing. And if I make a mistake, it's built incorrectly, and unlike a purely software based system, hardware cannot be changed so easily... Engineers (even such lowly ones as myself) have responsibility for a lot of money.

So given this bungle which was due in large part to my own mishap, I have been chastened enough to not be in the mood for blogging this week. Even Alastair Campbells resignation (Yay!) which would normally be cause for celebration and rowdiness was unable to stir me from my bungle inspired penance.

Hopefully from now on this blog will slowly return to something like it's original productivity.