July 2011

Dual VGA card

I\’m so far behind the technology curve it\’s embarassing. Last century, really.

I\’ve just decided that since I\’ve got two monitors, why not try having two monitors on one PC?

Woo, cutting edge, eh?

And so I go looking for a card that will let me do this. I obviously need to have a PCI 16 card with 2 VGA outlets. The Compaq I\’ve got (look, I know, but I manage to blow up a computer about once every 18 months. So whatever the supermarket has for €400 is what I have) uses a graphics chip set on hte motherboard, so adding another card with one VGA outlet won\’t help. Because the onboard graphics get cut off if there\’s a card in.

I don\’t need DVI or HEDACCDGAS whatever the new one is, because I\’m not running video or TV and have no intention of doing so. Also, the two monitors I have conveniently have VGA connectors.

So, a dual VGA card is pretty old technology. Certainly the shops here don\’t have them, Amazon and so on don\’t seem to. They\’re offering me £80 games graphics stuff which I just don\’t need. I was sorta hoping for something in the £5 range really……..

So, knowing that technical people are in fact pack rats, any of you readers out there got an old dual VGA PCI 16 card lying around?

Given that I seem to be so far behing the technological frontier that no one makes any more what is for me the next leap into the future?

Either Guido or Harry Cole are being very, very, stupid indeed.

As has been pointed out, those of us who don\’t trust the State to run libraries aren\’t really the poster children for the idea that the State will successfully identify those who should be killed.

But this argument ends up in stupidity:

It is a similar picture for cop killers, the public understands that the police put themselves in harm’s way on their behalf every day. If a criminal in the course of committing a crime kills a police officer it is invariably deliberate. Having the death penalty for cop killers will make criminals fear the consequences and give extra legislative protection to the police beyond a stab vest. Once again the public shows a two-thirds majority in favour of the death penalty for cop killers. Not because their lives are worth more than ours, it is because the police daily risk their lives to protect our lives.

Sigh, Recall what happened when we did have the death penalty for those who killed police officers.

If a police officer was killed then someone had to swing for it.

Derek William Bentley (30 June 1933 – 28 January 1953) was a British teenager hanged for the murder of a police officer, committed in the course of a burglary attempt. The murder of the police officer was committed by a friend and accomplice of Bentley\’s, Christopher Craig, then aged 16. Bentley was convicted as a party to the murder, by the English law principle of \”joint enterprise\”. This created a cause célèbre and led to a 45-year-long campaign to win Derek Bentley a posthumous pardon, which was granted partially in 1993, then completely in 1998.

The execution is within living memory and even Guido\’s second Summer of Love haze had cleared by the time of the pardon.

Arguing that cop killers should hang when hanging cop killers is exactly and precisely the reason that we know that we hung the wrong person is, well, it climbs the very bounds of stupidity really.

Fuck it

America\’s going to default, Greece is in the shitter, Guido\’s campaigning for the death penalty and the Murph is about to inflict a book upon us.

Perhaps we shouldn\’t forget that us roughly 1 billion rich world people are living higher on the hog than any group of human beings ever has done, that the last 30 years has seen the greatest reduction in poverty that our species has ever experienced, that the IPCC predicts, nay insists, that this is going to continue for at least the next century.

A wonderful world indeed.

Herman von Rompuy

Our Beloved Leader, the politician par excellence, speaks out.

Astonishingly, since our summit the cost of borrowing has increased again for a number of euro area countries. I say astonishingly, because all macro economic fundamentals point in the opposite direction. It cannot be stressed enough that Greece is in a unique situation, not comparable to that of the other eurozone countries. Italy will generate a primary surplus in 2011 and, with the additional austerity package just adopted will have a balanced budget in 2014. Spain has a low debt stock around 70%, below the EU and the euro area average, and has taken courageous measures to reduce its deficit and boost growth. In all these cases, the current market assessment of risks are totally out of line with the fundamentals and it is ludicrous that CDS-rankings put these countries in the top tier of default risk countries.

When markets disagree with politicians it\’s the markets that are wrong. Thus speaks the true politician.

A quite breathtakingly ignorant politician too.

Take Italy\’s primary surplus: that\’s actually a danger sign for default. For it\’s only when you\’ve got both a primary surplus and a large historical debt that it makes economic sense to default upon the historical debt.

How did we get such an ignorant man as the bureaucratic leader of a continent? And what can we do to get rid of him?

Matthew Taylor: start with the big lie

When David Cameron and Boris Johnson boasted that the Olympic venues had been delivered on time and \”on budget\”, international observers may have seen it as confirmation that the UK is good at big projects.

Umm, no, actually, we\’re not.

The budget for the 2012 London Olympics has risen to £9.35bn, Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell has told MPs.

The revised budget is nearly four times the £2.4bn estimate when London\’s bid succeeded less than two years ago.

Stating that something which is, at minimum, three times over budget is on time and \”on budget\” is known as a \”big lie\”.

But it\’s a necessary lie for Matthew Taylor, of the RSA, to use to promote his fascist technocracy.

Yes, strong words but bear with me.

As well as the successful Olympic preparation, this year has seen a hitch-free royal wedding and major global sporting competitions at Wimbledon, Silverstone and Royal St George\’s running as smoothly and profitably as usual.

You\’ll note that only one of those had any government involvement at all: and we\’ve had a thousand years of practice at Royal Weddings so even our State might be able to get those right.

It\’s not just events (which by their nature have to be delivered on time). The Channel Tunnel rail link, the renovation of St Pancras and the Jubilee Line extension show how we can get big projects right.

But we didn\’t get them right. At least two of those were hopelessly over budget, late, and with the rail link, arguably entirely unnecessary in the first place. A pissing contest of national vanity rather than economically sound infrstructure.

Why then can\’t we summon up the mixture of political leadership and public support needed to modernise and maintain our basic infrastructure? We are building houses at about a third of the rate needed, our transport system is outdated, our sewers are crumbling, our waste management is poor and question marks hang over our ability to develop an energy infrastructure which can deliver both sustainability and security of supply.

Me, personally, I\’d blame the fuckwits in politics. Get them out the way and I see few problems.

The consequences of our historical predisposition only to trust the state at times of national emergency (even then grudgingly)

Yes, that freedom and liberty thing. Such a pain in the bum for those who would tell us all what to do isn\’t it?

In line with a neo-liberal ideology which equated the private sector and markets with efficiency and virtue and the state and politicians with ineptitude, the notion that \”the customer is always right\” was translated into the focus group techniques of market research.

No, that\’s not \”neo-liberal ideology\”, that\’s empirical research. Only one publicly funded infrastructure or engineering project has come in under time and under budget since WWII. That was Polaris. Because we bought it off the shelf from the Americans.

Every single other project that we\’ve allowed the politicians to foist onto our wallets has been over time, over budget and an economic disaster of the first order.

But the voter isn\’t always right.

Which is where the fascist technocracy comes in. Shut up and do what I tell you, peons, I know better than you do.

Genuinely good governance moves us beyond our innate human tendencies to self-interest and short-termism to identify a coherent idea of enlightened public interest.

Again, shut up about what you want and do what bien pensants like me tell you you ought to.

But as America divides over a budget deficit built up despite a failure to invest in infrastructure, it is far from clear that a gridlocked democracy is better suited to tomorrow\’s challenges than a technocratic autocracy.

Guess who gets to be the technocratic autocrat? Ain\’t you or me, is it? No, no, someone already prominent in public life, one who has already shown that they have the public interest at heart. You know, perhaps someone running the RSA?

The Olympics show the public can get behind a major national project and that we have the management, engineering and construction skills we need.

At four times over budget, yes. And you\’d really be rather surprised at the percentage of the population who aren\’t all that keen on blowing £10 billion on an outdoor drug fest.

Look, could we please just get this right once and for all. Government is not about leading us anywhere, not about creating national projects, not about foisting upon the citizenry the brainfarts of London based think tankers.

It\’s about working out who picks up the rubbish. Who does the collectively necessary scut work of society. And that\’s it, no more.

So, once you\’ve done that please bugger off and leave us alone.

Wee Wully\’s blindness to his own arguments

China, as I once was memorably told by a group of lawyers in Beijing, is a volcano waiting to explode. It is difficult for those not familiar with the country to comprehend the scale of corruption, the waste of capital, the sheer inefficiency, the ubiquity of the party and the obeisance to hierarchy that is today\’s China. The mass of Chinese are proud and pleased with what has been achieved since Deng Xiaoping began the era of the \”socialist market economy\”. But there is a widespread and growing recognition that the authoritarian model has to change, a fact that every disaster dramatises.

The railway ministry is a classic example. It is a state within a state, making its own rules and with its own well-honed, corrupt hierarchy commanding unquestioning obedience. Charged with building 9,000 miles of high-speed rail by 2020, as well as developing an allegedly indigenous high-speed rail capability better than Japan\’s or Europe\’s, it has pulled all the familiar levers to achieve its task. Huge loans from state-owned banks, directed to lend to the ministry in effect for free, have been thrown at the project. Technology has been purloined and stolen from abroad. Productivity, efficiency and safety are secondary to two overwhelming needs: to complete the network fast, so creating crucially needed jobs, and to be able to boast that China\’s capability is cheaper than anybody else\’s.

To win the lush contracts, officials\’ palms have to be liberally greased. Rail minister Liu Zhijun, architect of the high-speed rail plan, was suspended pending a corruption investigation in February. Nor is there is any open system to see whether the technologies actually function properly. There is no back-up for any systems failures, because there is no structure of accountability or any penalties if there are mistakes. The only excuse has been that until now the system has delivered. But Japan\’s bullet train has been operating for nearly 50 years without a single death. Now China has 39 on its hands with a system only four years old.

It also has 10,000 kms of high-speed rail already built whose economics depends on the trains being full. But nobody trusts the technology or the integrity of the officials running the system. The government promises a full inquiry, but nobody has any faith it will be anything else than a fix. China is discovering that a sophisticated knowledge economy operating at the frontiers of technology is incompatible with an authoritarian one-party state.

Remember, this is the man who insists that the British State must have much more power over the British economy. Who argues, wee3k in and week out, that the State must be building more infrastructure. He can see the mote in the Chinese system but not the beam in his own recommendations.

The answer to this conundrum being of course that in Willy\’s version of England Willy will be the one doing the telling everyone what to do. And he is clever enough, omniscient, benevolent enough, not to ever fall into the trap of doing the wrong thing.

Kip Esquire\’s Law again: all those who advocate planning see themselves as the planners. And clearly immune to any of the mistakes that other planners make.

UK Film Council investments: you what?

OK, so the idea that extremely well paid luvvies need lottery money to remain extremely well paid is ludicrous in the first instance. But the way that the UK Film Council has been investing the money is insane.

No, don\’t look at the disasters they financed, look at the successes:

Predictably, The King\’s Speech, the hugely popular Hollywood-backed film starring Colin Firth, which won three Oscars, was a success for the council, having so far returned 95% of the £1m lottery money invested. A further 5% was returned by the council directly to the film\’s producers for them to invest in future productions.


They stuck a £ million in investment into a movie that pulled in $414 million globally, was in the top 200 highest grossing films of all time (note, before DVD and TV etc) and still managed not to make a profit?

Who in buggery do they have writing their contracts? Could someone give me their name? I want them on the other side of whatever negotiating table I next sit at.

Jeebus, Dear Lord Almighty, that\’s just insane.

Oh, right

Europe\’s leaders, including David Cameron, have been warned to adopt a more \”cautious\” approach when discussing multiculturalism. The Norwegian chairman of the Nobel peace prize committee has told them they risk inflaming far-right and anti-Muslim sentiment.

Yes, I see.

Some nutter goes postal therefore the politicians of an entire continent must not talk about things in a manner I don\’t like them taking about things.

\”Political leaders have got to defend the fact that society has become more diverse. We have to defend the reality, otherwise we are going to get into a mess. I think political leaders have to send a clear message to embrace it and benefit from it.

\”We should be very cautious now, we should not play with fire. Therefore I think the words we are using are very important because it can lead to much more.\”

I look forward to this principle being applied even handedly.

Given that every attempt to institute either socialism or Maxism has led to the deaths of millions and the impoverishment of everyone else I assume we can now hang all socialists and Marxists as conspirators to mass murder and crimes against humanity?

We can? Good.

We can\’t? Then free speech remains free speech, dunnit, and you can take your restrictions upon it back to your icy social democracy and stuff \’em up your hairy Viking arse matey.

Gordon the Supertramp: A campaign this blog fully supports

Yes, I know, it\’s a pity that London lost the Olympic bid to Paris*. However, now that it\’s happening we\’ll just have to do our best to make it an English event. Thus this blog\’s support for Gordon the Supertramp.

Everyone suddenly seems very optimistic about the Olympics, which isn’t very British. But there are reassuring signs of mischief afoot. In particular, thousands have joined an online campaign to get an elderly tramp to carry the Olympic torch.

Gordon Roberts, 82, is known as “Gordon the Supertramp”, because he always knows the time without wearing a watch. A bit of a local celebrity in Bournemouth, he has 20 fan pages on Facebook, and now 4,500 people have nominated him as a torchbearer.

To call it mischief-making is perhaps unfair, since his admirers seem sincere. “Gordon is just the nicest, most genuine man you could ever hope to meet,” says the petition’s creator. “When we saw an advert for local heroes… he was the first person who came to mind.”


And quite right, too. Other Olympic hosts seek to awe the world with their armies of synchronised drummers, their intemperate firework displays and swishy-swirly dancers. A British Olympics should celebrate the things we hold dear: eccentrics, underdogs and subversives. To see the flame paraded by an eccentric, bearded vagrant in an AFC Bournemouth scarf: now that would make me proud.


Let us be English about this. The ambitions of our Lords and Masters have forced us into spending billions on a holiday camp for drug addicts. The torch should be carried by our tramps, relay teams of Morris Dancers, rolled down Gloucestershire hills like wheels of cheese, 7 foot drag queens, when measured in heels and bouffants, can take it through Brighton (or Soho, Madam JoJo\’s can supply), the torch adorned with whippet flanges to cross the Dales, deep fry it in Glasgow, gurn at it in Egremont, let\’s show the world the real institutions of this country, those things that make us what we are, the things that we\’re proud of.

With the complete and ludicrous added joy that such would deeply embarass those Lords and Masters who are pissing away our money on their vanities.



*Joke nicked from Mr. Gillies in the comments to this blog.

Timmy elsewhere

At the ASI.

But that ignores the point that offshoring isn\’t where most jobs go to die. It\’s automation. If we push wages up over the cost of doing the same job by a machine then that job will be done by a machine and it\’s got nothing at all to do with offshore or globalisation.

Stupidity about commodity trading again

Yes, and it\’s Deborah Doane of the World Development Movement behind it again.

Deborah Doane, director of anti-poverty campaign group World Development Movement, which has been a vocal critic of what it describes as opaque commodity markets, said: \”The end result of trades like this is a volatile market that often has no connection to real supply and demand, wreaking havoc on consumers in the UK and in poor nations.

\”The UK Government has turned a blind eye and has aimed to block European proposals for regulating commodity markets that would bring this type of profiteering to a halt even though the light touch approach to regulation has been shown to be a complete failure.\”

So what\’s she being stupid about this time?

Traders told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism that Frontier bought all available May Futures contracts on the London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange (Liffe) in the period running up to the tender date in the last week of April. Feed wheat sets the benchmark price for wheat used in food.

In recent weeks, Frontier is believed to have taken physical delivery of approximately 225,000 tonnes of feed wheat now worth in the region of £40m in what has been described as an attempt to corner the market.

Frontier strongly rejected any suggestion of an attempt to manipulate the market. It did not confirm or deny it made the unusually large trades and refused to reveal its position. The company\’s trading director, Jon Duffy, stated that all the wheat contracts it took physical delivery for were made to secure enough grain to fulfil customers\’ orders.

\”We are not speculators, said Duffy. \”We are physical grain traders. We buy about 5m tonnes of grain. We buy it, move it, transport it and deliver it.\”

So, they used futures to secure physical delivery for their customers.

This would no more move the price than buying the same amount in the physical market would move the price. Less possibly, as the futures market is more liquid than the physical.

This is, umm, real supply meeting real demand and almost certainly in a manner which reduced price volatility.

So, she\’s wrong, as usual.

In fact, she\’s worse than wrong. Note this:

the temporary closure of a major bio-ethanol facility on Teeside, which uses almost 100,000 tonnes of wheat each month,

So that\’s one bio-fuel plant alone uising 1.2 million tonnes a year. What\’s the size of the UK wheat crop?

The UK currently produces around 15 million tonnes of wheat each year

So, that\’s 8% of the entire wheat crop* going into one single biofuel plant alone. You might think that would wreak havoc on consumers in the UK and in poor countries, no? Laws that insist that we should quite literally put the staff of life, our daily bread, into cars not people?

But Ms. Doane would rather complain about the dealings in offices she doesn\’t understand rather than this obscene nonsense.

Stupid damn cow.


*From what I can gather from a quick Google the biofuel consumption of wheat is approaching 15-20% of the entire UK crop as the third major factory comes online.

What\’s wrong with the East Coast?

The whole of the east coast and the rust belt are vast, shocking landscapes to which many Americans seem oblivious.


OK, large parts of US Route 1 are not exactly easy on the eye but the entire 1,500 mile strip is some ecological armageddon? The Georgia or Carolinas coasts? Chesapeake Bay? Northern New Jersey ain\’t all that pretty but the south is just fine.

What is she on about?

Not really a logical argument Mr. Vidal

Nuclear advocates say that only nuclear can now provide the quantity of energy needed for the next 40 years. But its critics point to Germany, Italy, Switzerland and possibly Japan, which have turned their back on the much-disputed power source.

Both can possibly be true: that some reject nuclear while nuclear is the only power source viable for the next 40 years.

Marilyn Monroe was not a size 12: can we put this myth to bed now?

It has been a slow crawl for the doll. In the 50s and even the 70s – the 60s were a tentative audition for today – a size 12, with hips and breasts, could make it on to a billboard or into a movie. Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell, Ava Gardner – all had flesh and interesting faces and imperfections. Russell\’s eyebrows looked like draft excluders and Gardner had a cleft chin you could topple into. They looked like individuals. No more. Models and actresses are tiny now, and curiously similar, with every trace of fat melted off, every shadow painted out.

I\’m sorry but she just wasn\’t. From the recent auction of her dresses:

Sharing a rotating mirrored platform with Hedy Lamarr’s peacock gown from “Samson and Delilah” and Kim Novak’s rhinestone- fringed show dress from “Jeanne Eagels,” Monroe’s costume was displayed on a mannequin that had been carved down from a standard size 2 to accommodate the tiny waist. Even then, the zipper could not entirely close.

But that’s just one dress. Perhaps the star was having a skinny day. To check, you could look across the room and see that Monroe’s red-sequined show dress from “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” was at least as petite, as were the saloon costume from “River of No Return” and the tropical “Heat Wave” outfit from “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”

Half a Person

In fact, the average waist measurement of the four Monroe dresses was a mere 22 inches, according to Lisa Urban, the Hollywood consultant who dressed the mannequins and took measurements for me. Even Monroe’s bust was a modest 34 inches.

That’s not an anecdote. That’s data.

The other actresses’ costumes provided further context. “It’s like half a person,” marveled a visitor at the sight of Claudette Colbert’s gold-lame “Cleopatra” gown (waist 18 inches). “That waist is the size of my thigh,” said a tall, slim man, looking at Carole Lombard’s dress from “No Man of Her Own” (a slight exaggeration — it was 21 inches). Approaching Katharine Hepburn’s “Mary of Scotlandcostumes, a plump woman declared with a mixture of envy and disgust, “Another skinny one.”

An American 2 is a British 6, a zero a 4.

It just ain\’t true that Monroe was Sophie Dahl sized. Can we finally kill this one?

Polly and evidence

Collaboration, not competition, that\’s what we need says Polly.

Quite ignoring the fact that markets are the way that human being collaborate. Sigh.

She uses as her example, as the way that collaboration works, the decline in deaths from heart attacks.

But destructive fragmentation is what the new competition system will do, Boyle says. He has stopped vainglorious consultants competing, except to become the single local centre of excellence. He was wrestling with reducing the number of child heart units as he left: the Royal Brompton, losing out, has gone to judicial review – to the NHS chief executive\’s reported fury at the waste of money – but specialism has to be concentrated. These are necessary rationalisations that can only be done by an overall authority bringing local doctors together: 500 consortiums are not the answer. He gives one example of how the new GPs\’ consortiums risk disrupting treatment with arbitrary behaviour: in every area one specialist hospital is always open on a rota for heart attack and stroke patients. Wigan and Whiston, nine miles apart, take it in turns. But one consortium refused to send its patients to the other town – so the system breaks down in fragmentation and daft localism. That\’s competition instead of collaboration. \”Look at our results. Now show me any evidence that NHS competition achieves as much.\”

Yet economists using econometric analysis say they can prove competition works – and that\’s what cuts heart deaths. What\’s more, they say their measurements of heart deaths hold good as a model for all treatments. Boyle ripostes that it\’s \”bizarre to choose a condition where choice by consumer can have virtually no effect\”. Patients suffering \”severe pain in emergencies clouded by strong analgesia don\’t make choices. It\’s the ambulance driver who follows the protocol and drives to the nearest heart attack centre\”. From 2002 on, \”groups of clinicians and managers across England have been working together, collaborating, to bring about improvement in outcomes\”.

But the thing is, those economists can show this.

\”Dr Cooper and colleagues looked at data for 433,325 patients who had heart attacks between 2002 and 2008 – covering the period before and after fixed-price competition was introduced – at 227 hospital sites in England.

They found that death rates dropped by about 7 per cent under the new regime, and fell quicker in “more competitive markets”. The number of patients being treated also fell.\”

Note the important point there: heart attack rates are falling everywhere, have been for years. So have survival rates been rising for decades. It’s that the improvement in survival rates was greater where there is competition.

It\’s not that the patient making a choice improves the treatment the patient gets. It\’s that the patient having a choice, whether exercised or not, reduces the manner in which the local hospital is a monopoly and thus improves the performance of said hospital.

Come on, it\’s hardly an unusual finding that a monopoly offers crap service/prices now, is it? In fact, I find it really quite worrying that there\’s quite so much doublethink around. The very same people who point to the big six energy suppliers ripping off their customers as an oligopoly insist that such could never happen in the NHS monopoly. What sort of cognitive dissonance do you have to suffer from to believe both those things?

We\’ve direct evidence that competition saves lives: yet still there are people who reject competition in the name of saving lives.

Raising the CAFE standards

It\’s one of the more stupid parts of the American political compromise. The CAFE standards that say what mileage cars must have.

The new corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards will increase from 2017 at 5% annually for cars and 3.5% for light trucks through 2021, with an overall target of a fleetwide average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Current standards were set at 35mpg by 2016 in 2008, when the auto industry was in a compliant mood after a $50bn government bailout.

There\’s a much, much, better way of doing this. Simply stick $1 on a gallon of gas as a federal tax and be done with it.

Blimey, the whole place is crying out for revenue, at least half of them have gone enviro-mental and a tax is hugely less distorting than this sort of nonsensical regulation.

Plus, of course, there\’s absolutely no proof that higher MPG will reduce gas usage. Jevon\’s Paradox you know, it makes driving cheaper so perhaps people will do more of it?

You need to make driving more expensive: thus a tax.


This isn\’t what Lord Stern said would happen, is it?

The Department for Energy and Climate Change believes that if the gas price falls, green taxes will increase the electricity price by 29pc to 58pc as renewable energy will be more expensive in comparison to the fossil fuel over the next two decades.

We were told that the total cost, all in, would be 1-2% of GDP. To srot everything out.

Looking a little low really, isn\’t it?