Linky links

Aug. 9th, 2016 08:34 pm
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
Blockchain really only does one thing well
The Conversation has been running lots of articles on the blockchain (or blockchains) recently but this is the first that has actually made some kind of sense to me.
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How Jeremy Corbyn won Facebook
Facebook creates opinion bubbles (we all know this). This article starts prizing the lid off the problem but stops short of a detailed analysis, but touches on a lot of issues I know a variety of academics are interested in tackling.
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More United
I see this and I think it's all very well but they say they will fund parliamentary candidates who sign up to their principles. But how do they propose enforcing compliance to their principles and, given the vagueness of their principles, who gets to decide if someone is complying with their principles and how will they manage change to their principles?
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LessUnited | Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!
Not quite the critique I'd have made, but highlights several points that contribute to my view that MoreUnited, as it stands, is ill thought out with a surprising lack of attention to necessary practicalities.
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Are white, working class boys the least likely to go to university? - Full Fact
The answer is essentially yes with a couple of caveats.
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Why Trump voters are not “complete idiots” — Medium
A lot of this seems to make sense (in application to Brexit voters as well as Trump voters), particularly the observation that, at the bottom end of the value scale, particularly at the moment, you are more likely to benefit from volatility in the system than stability.
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You're wrong about Leave voters - four surprising facts about the 52 per cent
However, following on from the above, this is one of several articles I've seen in the past week or two that attempts to cast a more careful eye over the exit-polling data from Brexit and draws more nuanced conclusions than that the haves voted Remain and the have-nots voted Leave.

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Are internet populists ruining democracy for the rest of us?
Having recently hand-wrung on this blog about the tendency of the Internet to polarise and simplify debate, it is interesting to see an article discussing this, albeit in a straightforward way and without offering any answers.
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Traumatic breastfeeding experiences are the reason we must continue to promote it
I'm not sure I'd describe my breastfeeding experience as "traumatic" per se, but we definitely discovered a shocking lack of actual support for breastfeeding when I was having difficulty with it, in sharp contrast to the breastfeeding propaganda that was pushed on us before G was born. As a result I find even now, 13 years later, I get quite irrationally upset by Internet memes and the like that suggest that if you don't breastfeed you are somehow lazy, or don't really care about your child.
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Jeremy Corbyn's media strategy is smarter than his critics realise
I've been thinking a lot, recently, about the apparent paradox of a media space in which traditional, specifically print, media is rapidly losing readers (or at least paying readers) and yet which seems increasingly powerful on the political stage. This article, while mostly focused upon Corbyn, does at least attempt to disentangle this a bit.
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purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
This was copied by younger self from, I think, Poems on the Underground which my mother owned.

Everything Changes
after Brecht, `Alles wandelt sich'

Everything changes. We plant
trees for those born later
but what's happened has happened
and poisons poured into the seas
cannot be drained out again.

What's happened has happened.
Poisons poured into the seas
cannot be drained out again, but
everything changes. We plant
trees for those born later.

CICELY HERBERT
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
I'd been thinking about having a stab at Throwback Thursday since, as an idea, it seems both pretty fun and fairly easy, and I've been looking into ways to post more regularly by being a little less ambitious in what I write about. I had my photo albums out and was thinking about posting a photo from back in the 1970s - maybe a group photo from my 8th birthday party.

But then yesterday we had the unedifying spectacle of the Battle of the Thames, pretty much proving that rational and reasoned debate about the EU referendum is an impossibility and the best we can hope for is a comedy battle using pop music and water hoses to decide the question.

Today we have the murder of Jo Cox, MP - which, I'm aware, may or may not have had anything to do with the EU, since her murderer may or may not have shouted Britain First, and even if he did, Britain First != Leave and it's perfectly conceivable he was more motivated by her work advocating for intervention in Syria or a number of other causes she campaigned for than her support for Remain. I'm not sure, however, that the precise reasons are more important than its probable reflection on the current state of politics, and the relationship between politicians and the public, in the UK.

In other news 20 children are among 34 people who died of thirst in the Sahara desert, having been abandoned by people smugglers.

I wonder what kind of a world we have built, those of us in that group photo, because it gets harder and harder to pretend that the current state of affairs is not in some part our responsibility. So Throwback Thursday, I find I just can't. Maybe next week.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
That's a headline from the Telegraph.

I feel there is definitely a double-meaning there.

Thanks to my history teacher, I am broadly Ricardian in the comfy sense that involves having only the most tenuous grasp of the evidence and no real investment in an opinion I didn't exactly personally form. I love me a good conspiracy theory though, and as conspiracy theories go, believing Richard III was wronged seems fairly harmless.

I'm mildly bemused by the level of interest the discovery of his remains seem to have raised though. Does having his actual body contribute much of anything to our understanding of the people or politics of the time?
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
Just got back from spoiling my ballot paper, following carefully the instructions* provided by [personal profile] spiralsheep.

I don't particularly object to the PCCs themselves, accepting the argument that senior police officers have been playing politics without accountability for pretty much as long as there have been senior police officers. However I do strongly object to the barriers that were placed in the way of candidates making their positions known to the electorate. I actually visited the official website where it was clear that the candidates in my area had been told they only had 500 words in which to state their case. Oddly enough they were all hoping to minimize the impact of budget cuts on policing (a non-policy since I can't imagine any candidate seriously putting forward a policy of maximizing the impact of budget cuts on policing).

While there are evils associated with unregulated campaigning, at 500 words it seems people have little choice except to vote according to party ideology which is, I believe, the opposite of the stated intention of these elections.

*There seems something terribly British and middle-class about needing instructions for spoiling a ballot paper.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
I have no idea why I am so completely mind-blown by the idea that there is daylight on Mars because, well, duh! - maybe it is growing up with all those pictures of the moon-landing against a dark sky. But I am completely mindblown by the idea that there is daylight on Mars.

Look! Daylight on Mars! )
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
On the 24th June the Olympic torch went past the end of our road - admittedly at 7.30am which was not entirely civilised for a Sunday morning. However in the name of small-children-present we dragged ourselves up and stood with a small crowd.

One of our neighbours thoughtfully took a photo and then, photoshopped other neighbours who were standing on his side of the road onto the other side of the road in order to capture the spirit if not the reality of the occasion:

Image under the cut )

I think the torchbearer is Muaaz Khan who apparently had a kidney transplant at the age of 10 and now works with children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

I wasn't actually aware of the torch relay's connection with Hitler but it was an event, much like the Royal Wedding and Jubilee about which I had somewhat ambivalent feelings. I hope, if I'd actually bothered to think about it properly, I'd have come to conclusions similar to this thoughtful post on the use of ritual in modern public life.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
I watched the start of Any Questions last night while completing some odds and ends where Prince Harry was the major topic of discussion, and I listened to a similar, though less vitriolic discussion on the Today program this morning.

Now my feelings about the Royal Family and the Military lifestyle are fairly equivocal (the former more so than the latter). I don't have as much problem with the invasion of Afghanistan as I do with the invasion of Iraq and I do believe that now we've gone into these countries and removed what stability they had we have a responsibility to do all in our power to help restore stability to at least its previous level*.

All that said, I believe that if Prince Harry is a member of our armed forces then it is his duty to serve wherever he is sent as much as possible as if he were any other soldier. What really struck me was that the word duty which I thought was key to the issue was never mentioned - instead Any Questions focused on how much he wanted to serve on the front line and the Today program focused on what an extremely competent soldier he was. No one seemed prepared to discuss how problematic it is if a member of the Royal Family is exempt from dangerous duty while serving as a member of the armed forces. So I have no problem with the British press concealing the fact he was there since it allowed him to do his duty without endangering his fellows (much).

However, like George Galloway (with whom I would otherwise appear to disagree on nearly all the above points), I am less keen on the fact that a BBC documentary crew went with him. I don't see how this documentary can do much more ultimately than cast the Royal Family, the Armed Forces and the occupation (its not an occupation, officially, any more is it? are we peace-keeping? I've lost track of the terminology) of Afghanistan in a good light. I'm sure it will be more subtle and balanced than the propaganda films of the second world war but even so, as a project, it does feel uncomfortably propagandist.


* although I accept that "all in our power" may amount to "going away and leaving the people who actually live there to get on with things".

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