L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

03 November 2008 Blog Home : All November 2008 Posts : Permalink

Quote of the Day

This election has really served to demonstrate the importance of a free, independent and honest press and how unfortunate it is that we don't have one.
The Instapundit in the NY Post

03 November 2008 Blog Home : All November 2008 Posts : Permalink

Rods from the Gods

I've recently been looking at writing science fiction stuff - in fact I'm NaNoWriMo-ing this year and have already written about 3000 words. In the process of doing some preparatory work I needed to check some figures regarding satellites, orbits and how fast, and how hard, you can drop something from space and have it hit the earth.

This is known by a bunch of terms including the title of the post. The reason being that the easiest lump to dispatch from orbit is probably an iron rod.

Anyway the calculator is available for anyone to play with here. It seems to provide answers in the right ballpark but the orbital mechanics calculations were a complete bugger and I ended up doing a basic number crunching algorithm instead of more elegant algebra.

If you uncheck the "Use offical GM (μ) = 3.986x10^14 instead of calculating it" box you can tweak things so that it also applies to other planets. This may be handy for SF writers who want to invent other inhabited planets.

04 November 2008 Blog Home : All November 2008 Posts : Permalink

Why Islamofascicm is a Valid Label

I accidentally sloped over to the Grauniad today and in amidst their gloating over tonight's US election results (if Obama loses its going to be hilarious to see the backpeddling) there is a comment piece by one Anne Karpf about how unfair it is to compare Muslims with Nazis. She makes some fair points, in that yes it should be obvious to anyone that not all Muslims are terrorists, bad folks etc. and she manages the requisite anti-Zionist dig by exhuming the words of Menachem Begin. Then she has a fair stab at reducing the charges against one of the few clear cases of Nazi era Islamofascists, Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Palestinian leader known as the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. Finally she makes the point that at confusing Nazi anti-semitism with Arab/Muslim anti-semitism is not helpful.

All of this is fine and dandy - I might argue a little about the emphasis but I don't think she's utterly wrong here. But then she stops. And that's the problem. You see she somehow omitted to mention the groups that immediately spring to my mind when the word "Islamofascist" is used. Those groups are Hamas, Hezbollah, the Iranians, Al Qaeda and the Taliban. We know perfectly well that they are not representative of all Muslims and indeed anyone with clue knows that some of them are enemies of others of them. However what they have in common is that they all show the sort of totalitarian state ideaology that sounds remarkably similar to the rhetoric of Mussolini, Franco and Hitler.

Fascism is not defined by anti-semitism. True most Fascists are/were anti-semites but that wasn't the only thing that Fascists had in common. For the most part Fascism was about state control and conformity. It was about punishing the non-conformists and taking their goods to reward the faithful. When you look at fundamentalist Islam's ideas for Dhimmi and Jizya it doesn't sound too different. The prime difference between, say Hezbollah, and Hitler seems to be that Hezbollah ties its ideology to its interpretation of the Koran while Hitler was more atheist.

It is absolutely true that many Muslims are nothing like Fascists and hence do not deserve the tag Islamofascist. However many is not the same as all. There is a significant minority of so-called Muslims who do act in ways similar to Fascists and who therefore deserve the Islamofascist label.

04 November 2008 Blog Home : All November 2008 Posts : Permalink

Four more memes

James at Nourishing Obscurity tagged me for this:
Four jobs I've had
Four films I can watch over and over
Don't watch many films so I'm going to rewrite this one as
Four books I can read over and over
(er yes there's a good deal of cheating in here because 2 are omnibus collections - deal with it)

Four places I've lived
Four TV shows I love
Current TV programs? see films

Four places I've been on holiday
Four of my favourite meals
Four websites I visit daily
Four places I'd like to be right now
Four bloggers I tag
Nobody Important
AE Brain
The Remittance Man
An Englishman's Castle

(And doing this I realize I need to do some major spring cleaning of the blogroll because it isn't even close to uptodate)

05 November 2008 Blog Home : All November 2008 Posts : Permalink

Remember Remember

Remember, remember the fifth of November,
gunpowder, treason and plot,
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
should ever be forgot.

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes,
’twas his intent
to blow up the King and the Parliament.
Three score barrels of powder below,
Poor old England to overthrow:
By God’s providence he was catch’d
With a dark lantern and burning match.

Holloa boys, holloa boys, make the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!
Hip hip hoorah!

A penny loaf to feed the Pope.
A farthing o’ cheese to choke him.
A pint of beer to rinse it down.
A faggot of sticks to burn him.
Burn him in a tub of tar.
Burn him like a blazing star.
Burn his body from his head.
Then we’ll say ol’ Pope is dead.
Hip hip hoorah!
Hip hip hoorah!

The real lesson, and one that some depressed McCain supporters might like to bear in mind, is that blowing up governments doesn't work. If you get caught trying then you get clobbered as Mr Fawkes and his merry men demonstrated 403 years ago and which  Al Qaeda proved again just 7 years ago. On the other hand if you succeed then the resulting pogroms, riots and wars (see Archduke Ferdinand - 1914) make the reaction meted out to those caught seem minor.

05 November 2008 Blog Home : All November 2008 Posts : Permalink

Your Tax Quids At Work

One of those things that make you scratch your head and wonder is this news item from the BBC.

Cat and dog owners are to be told to provide "entertainment" and "mental stimulation" for their pets under new government advice.

The code of practice also includes advice on diet and providing "somewhere suitable to go to the toilet".

It says owners should watch for signs of stress and advises on introducing cats to dogs without the fur flying.

I know the UK is a nanny state but really, does Nanny Govt have to tell us how to look after our pets? Of course there's also the charming next paragraph;

Owners will not be fined for breaking the rules but failure to comply may be used in animal cruelty prosecutions.

So they publish these rules, you won't be fined if you're caught not following their advice, but if you don't follow it and the RSPCA decide to go after you, then you're screwed. I do sort of wonder whether an acceptable defense against an RSPCA prosecution will be that you follow these rules. I'm sure they will have been written so that you can abuse your pet while still following the letter of the regulations.

Oh and there there are the "Eco-towns", which pretty much everyone is criticising as pointless boondoggles, possibly because that is exactly what they are.

Personally I can see one way to make them better. Pass a law to forcibly relocate all greenpeace members to them. Now. And when the greenies whinge and point out that they are not built yet? Simply point out that any building structure would damage mother Gaia so they have to live outside. If the winter is a cold as I suspect it may be we'll soon solve the tree-hugger problem.

Unfortunately my Eco-town solution probably means I'll upset the Govt because I'm creating a "culture of cynicism". According to Hazel Bears

too much commentary is provided by a self-appointed political class that leaves "ordinary people" excluded and the mainstream media must adopt a "more responsible manner".

She will tell a Hansard Society conference political disengagement that blogs are mostly written by "people with disdain for the political system and politicians".

She goes on to make a couple of other rather more whiney points:

"The most popular blogs are rightwing, ranging from the considered Tory views of Iain Dale, to the vicious nihilism of Guido Fawkes. Perhaps this is simply anti-establishment. Blogs have only existed under a Labour government. Perhaps if there was a Tory government, all the leading blogs would be left-of-centre?

"Until political blogging 'adds value' to our political culture, by allowing new voices, ideas and legitimate protest and challenge, and until the mainstream media reports politics in a calmer, more responsible manner, it will continue to fuel a culture of cynicism and despair."

I think we can ignore the rest of her moaning as its quite clear that she's just upset that the blogs aren't afraid to point out the holes and the spin of ZANU Labour. It seems quite clear to me that bloggers such as Timmy, the Devil's Kitchen and other prominent ZANU labour critics are in fact "new voices, [allowing new] ideas and legitimate protest and challenge" and they (we) blog because the mainstream media didn't and doesn't let such new voices in until they made it in the blogosphere.

06 November 2008 Blog Home : All November 2008 Posts : Permalink

Jacqui Smith - Is She a Lying Toad?

According to the home secretary there are British sheeple who can't wait to be branded.

[Jacqui Smith said]: "But I believe there is a demand, now, for cards - and as I go round the country I regularly have people coming up to me and saying they don't want to wait that long.

"I now want to put that to the test and find a way to allow those people who want a card sooner to be able to pre-register their interest as early as the first few months of next year."

When I read this I was immediately highly skeptical, but I'll give the minister credit, at least she's says she wants to prove that its true.

One interesting question will be whether or not the lucky early sheep will have to pay for their branding. It occurs to me that if the early sheep have to fork over the £30 or whatever it is to get their nice ID fraud card then demand may be rather less than if the card is given away free to the volunteers. It would not surprise me to discover that, as in the airport "trial" the early birds get their brands for free.

It will also be interesting to see whether this early availability wheeze actually happens and whether they do in fact take money from the punters who sign up. It would not surprise me if a number of the early birds end up being names better known as Obama donors - you know like Mick E Mouse, or Adolfe Hitler. Indeed I would recommend that travellers in airport lounges and other anonymous locations sign up many times over for ID cards in the name of J Smith of 67 Birmingham Road, West Bromwich, West Midlands, B70 6PY as well as those of other ZANU labour apparatchiks (addresses generally available here).

It will be utterly fascinating to see whether they do actually launch the pre-register site and whether if they do, they crow to the roofstops about how many sheeple have signed up or not.

07 November 2008 Blog Home : All November 2008 Posts : Permalink

Friday Olive Tree Blogging

I just like the contrast in colours between the olive tree and the vines.
20081107 - Friday Olive Tree Blogging
As always click on the image to see it enlarged and don't forget to visit of the olive tree blogging archives for further reminders of how nice olive trees are.

07 November 2008 Blog Home : All November 2008 Posts : Permalink

Sharing the Wealth

Got this email:

In a local restaurant my server had on a "Obama 08" tie, again I laughed as he had given away his political preference -- just imagine the coincidence.

When the bill came I decided not to tip the server and explained to him that I was exploring the Obama redistribution of wealth concept. He stood there in disbelief while I told him that I was going to redistribute his tip to someone who I deemed more in need -- the homeless guy outside. The server angrily stormed from my sight.

I went outside, gave the homeless guy $10 and told him to thank the server inside as I've decided he could use the money more. The homeless guy was grateful.

At the end of my rather unscientific redistribution experiment I realized the homeless guy was grateful for the money he did not earn, but the waiter was pretty angry that I gave away the money he did earn even though the actual recipient deserved money more. I guess redistribution of wealth is an easier thing to swallow in concept than in practical application.

And then there is the excellent Rich Galen on GM etc.

07 November 2008 Blog Home : All November 2008 Posts : Permalink

Public Transport Costs Too Much

I have reluctantly decided that public transport outside major cities is a waste of money / time. Within urban areas it's great and cities that build enormous park'n'ride carparks on their approaches are to be strongly praised, asssuming they price things right (Milan is a good example of how this can work).

However in general it has recently come to my notice that even subsidized public transport, such as we have here in France, is still generally at least as expensive to the user than driving when more than one person travels. And it is typically a lot slower. Allow me to illustrate. Say the wife and I want to go to Nice for the afternoon/evening. We have three choices:
  1. drive
  2. take the train from the station c.500m away
  3. take the bus from the bus stop c.750m away and change once in either Cannes or Grasse
Here is a breakdown of costs and duration of the options. The distance is approxiamtely 35km by road, depending on where exactly we're going in Nice.

(2 people)
(one way)
Complete flexibility about when to leave/return
1h 30
Trains roughly once per hour last train back leaves Nice at 22:10
Buses roughly every 30min, but have to wait 15-20min to change
Last bus back 19:10 or 21:55 if you get a taxi from Grasse

Bus travel is the slowest, most inconvenient and cheapest. Note that if we want an evening in Nice we have to spend the night there because there is no direct way home after 7pm. Restaurants are just about OPENING at 7pm so a night out on the town isn't going to happen by bus unless we stay out clubbing until about 5am. If we want an afternoon shopping then we have to leave at about 11am and eat a sandwich on the bus. In this scenario we'd spend some 5-6 hours travelling for 3-4 hours in Nice.

Train travel is not much slower than driving, assuming I pick the right start time. It would take us 10 minutes to get to the local station then it's about an hour on the train to Nice Ville and then we've got a few minutes wait and then perhaps a 10 minute tram or bus ride to our final destination. Evenings out though are tricky because you need to leave the restaurant at about half past nine to be sure of catching that last train. Otherwise, as with the bus, you're looking at catcing the first train in the morning or getting a taxi from either Cannes or Grasse.

Driving is about the same price as the train but we can go any time we feel like it. We can return any time we want to. AND it is quicker.

*Driving cost, Worst case c. 70km @ 10km/litre and €1.17/l plus €5.40 tolls plus €21.40 parking - these are generous figures, I'd expect more like €25 to €30 since fuel is more likely 7l/100km (=14km/l) and parking more like €15. Adding 15 minues to the duration in each direction would allow me to skip the toll and save €5.40 so my minimum price is about €20
**Train. €7.50 one way to Nice / person (1 hour duration) plus two tram/bus tickets (€1 each) in Nice (15 min duration).

10 November 2008 Blog Home : All November 2008 Posts : Permalink

The English and Fancy Dress

Somehow (oh yes, via Old Holborn) I read this story of the utter idiocy of today's PC Plod.

A student who dressed as Rambo for a fancy dress party has been charged with causing public alarm – for carrying a plastic toy knife.

Anthony Radley sported Sylvester Stallone's characteristic red bandana, face paint, black vest and combat trousers after celebrating a 21st birthday when he was stopped by police. [...]

The 21-year-old said he was arrested, searched and put in a cell for four hours after the incident in Nottingham in February.

He now faces court on Wednesday next week to dispute the £80 fine he was given because of the 15cm (6in) toy.

So a bloke dressed up in a costume with a knife and gets arrested. As the commenters wonder, didn't Nott's police have any real crime to investigate? However that's more of a sideshow. A couple of days after that incident London's police decided to demonstrate that if you go for a stroll around certain parts of the city in fancy dress you'll be searched by dozens of policemen, tracked by (illegally parked) CCTV cars and generally hassled.

A brief stroll down Millbank and past Downing Street passed without incident, and it was on the corner of Parliament Square that the police&mdashmostly plastic policemen, in fact, who seem to be increasingly the de facto crowd control element (and always the most arrogant)—stopped us for "blocking the pavement".

The Guys were searched under the Terrorism Act; although reasons for doing so varied across the different slips, my personal favourite was "wearing a costume and mask in a public place".

Next thing people will be being arrested for "loitering with intent to use a pedestrian crossing" or "looking at me in a funny way". I'm glad I live in France where we don't seem to have this intrusive crap. Indeed in France they will cheerfully sell you a real non-plastic knife with a blade of well over 15cm with no questions asked and here you regularly have strolls in the countryside enlivened by gentleman carrying guns and allegedly* searching for wild boar and other game.

*I say allegedly because they don't seem to be very good at it. I think its more of an excuse to get away from the wife and kids and enjoy the autumn weather with likeminded others.

10 November 2008 Blog Home : All November 2008 Posts : Permalink

Government Sponsored Community Organizers

Alex Mortimer has a most excellent rant about Hazel Blear's and her feelings regarding bloggers. It's been linked by many and is far better than my humble offering.

However in the comments there is a link to this UK government website - Communities and Local Government - and to a white paper on it, which I think has now have become law. This document really scares me (and I've barely got past the Foreward - writer G Brown - and Introduction - writer H Blears). I'm sure my readers recall the quip that  "Orwell's 1984 is a warning not an instruction manual" and no doubt many are aware of the UKLP's project to send MPs George Orwell's book to MPs (and the hysterical overreactions by some of the recipients) but this document really makes that joke no longer funny.

These people are indeed implementing 1984 some 25 years after the date in question

We'll start with the glossy front cover where we have a semi-scruffy young woman and smartly dressed black man posing with signs about "real power" and "real people".
Real People? Real Power?
Then there's nice moslem lady in her headscarf telling you how to get involved. What can I do?

The first thing I thought was "how wonderfully multi culti". I mean you can't quite imagine ZANU labour getting a hoodie or a yardie to model the signs can you:
Real People
And the young lady with the head scarf. Good thing she wasn't the sort of fundamentalist who wears a burqa!

But then I figured I was criticising this for the wrong reasons. I mean yes it is indeed multi-culti but actually it's more than that. It is in fact subtly telling us who is welcome to be a "community" and who can fuck right off. And we know who the welcome ones are don't we? It's people from ethnic minorities who scrub up nice as well as enviromentalists, feminists and other campagning -ists who (also) aren't too mucky and who speak with an authentic (urban) accent. White people, males, upper class toffs, rural worzel gummidges (unless they are members of the 'travelling community') and NEETs and pramfaces from sink estates are not required.

That was just the three pictures on the first 2 pages. When we get past the boring copyright page there is the Table of Contents to give us a warning about what is coming next:
It is at this point that you realize that NewSpeak is indeed alive and well in Whitehall. Empowerment in my book implies self sufficiency not sucking at the government teat. Chapter 8 is a good one too. I translate that as how do I volunteer to be the fall guy when some goernment service screws up? If I were answering the questions that are in italics as subtitles to each chapter I think Ms Blears would be most upset at my cynicism. The white paper would also be a good deal shorter since I'd probably manage to answer most of them in a single sentence. Some sentences being short ones like "String them up from the lamp posts" or "You can't"

So lets move on to the Foreward from the Great Leader.

In the modern world there are many challenges that cannot be met by central government acting alone – and to address those challenges effectively, we need to harness the energy and innovation of front-line professionals, local government, citizens and communities.

I'm amazed that he admits government can't do everything. It certainly isn't how he acts. I'm curious about the "front-line professionals" though, does that mean PC Plod, Inspector Knacker and the other jobsworths who obstruct the rest from doing perfectly sensible things (or even silly things that harm no one)?

Among my first priorities when I became Prime Minister were the Governance of Britain proposals to enhance the rights of citizens and to make our institutions more accountable. But we need to build on this by empowering communities and citizens and ensuring that power is more fairly distributed across the whole of our society.

Apart from those huge chunks of power he handed over to Brussels that is so that really the UK doesn't have much to say except "Yes Commisioner"

Over the last ten years local councils have improved the quality of the services they offer local people, and as a result we have freed them up from central government control, with fewer targets and greater trust.

Brussels on the other hand has not. And while the trust may, possibly, extend to the bureaucratic jobsworths in the councils it doesn't seem to apply to the councilors who are, so far as I can tell, forbidden from voicing an opinion on anything that they happen to be knowledgeable about due to "possible conflicts of interest"

Now with this White Paper we want to move to the next stage in that process – enhancing the power of communities and helping people up and down the country to set and meet their own priorities. In this way we strengthen local democracy by increasing participation.

Now that we've cowed local government and turned them into loyal apparatchiks we are now prepared to move on to the next level of indoctrination

This is not about making people sit in meetings on wet Tuesday nights, it is about helping citizens to get involved when they want to on their own terms – paving the way for a new style of active politics that not only gives people a greater say but ensures that their voices are heard and that their views will make a difference.

As long as these citizens don't encourage rebellion or spread dissent that is. Something tells me that local citizens who voice discontent with the masterplan will continue to be ignored.

And it is an agenda for empowerment that reaches right across the board, from supporting people who want to take an active role in their communities to giving them better access to information and the chance to get more involved in key local public services. These themes lie at the heart of our public service reform agenda – the transfer of power both to front-line professionals and to users, who we want to be able to play a far greater role in shaping the services they use.

And what, one wonders, if the users say they don't want these services, or think that maybe they'd like to have rubbich collection every 2-3 days instead of every fortnight?

To help achieve those goals, this White Paper sets out concrete proposals for areas where both central and local government can devolve more power to citizens – giving local communities the power to drive real improvements in everything from the way their neighbourhoods are policed to the way that community assets are used. I believe it will help to build the vibrant local democracies on which our society and our public services depend.

Unfortunately the only use of concrete I'd like to see regarding this paper is using it to entomb the authors. How's that Monty Python line go? "Mr RS Gumby is now appearing as a central tunnel suport on the new Victoria line". And talking of how neighbourhoods are policed. Do you think that local communities who think their police force should stop filling in forms in the station and get out on the beat are going to be listened to? Or the ones who think that a Christian Christmas display with, say, shepards, a manger etc. would be a good thing to place in a local "community asset" will be obeyed?

And then if that pile of bovine fecal matter were not enough we have the bleating of Comrade Blears:

My 30 years in politics, as a community activist, councillor, Member of Parliament and Minister have convinced me that there are few issues so complex, few problems so knotty, that they cannot be tackled and solved by the innate common sense and genius of local people. With the right support, guidance and advice, community groups and organisations have a huge, largely latent, capacity for self-government and self-organisation. This should be the hallmark of the modern state: devolved, decentralised, with power diffused throughout our society.

Oddly enough without the government sticking its oar in community groups and organizations demonstrated their ability to self govern and organize for centuries before government got involved. So how about just getting out of the way and seeing if they can do so again?

PS is a community activist the same as a community organizer?

That people should have the maximum influence, control and ownership over the decisions, forces and agencies which shape their lives and environments is the essence of democracy. There are few ideas more powerful, or more challenging. People with power are seldom willing to give it up readily; people without power are seldom content to remain enslaved. We can see this truth being played out with terrible violence in a country such as Zimbabwe.

So clearly we should ignore all those irritating edicts from Brussels conserning the sale of bananas, the use of metric or imperial measures etc. So if, for example, a local community were to decide that really it would prefer to ignore all those stupid waste disposal rules from Brussels and landfill the contents of everyone's bin collected twice a week then would be just fine with you Hazel?

Actually one suspects not. Which means that this whole bit about empowerment sounds to me more like "fool them into thinking they have power so they won't complain too much, otherwise we'll have to hire bully boys like Comrade Bob Mugabe"

Our history is punctuated by great struggles for democracy, from the soldiers who debated with generals at Putney during the English Civil War, to the Rochdale families who took control over the food they bought by creating the first cooperative, from the families who gathered at St Peter’s Field in Manchester to demand parliamentary reform, to the Chartists who marched in their thousands at Kersal Moor in Salford, from the women who chained themselves to railings and went to prison to win the vote, to our grandparents’ generation who defeated fascism.

And the people who can't go for a walk in front of the mother or parliaments these days without PC Plod shouting "Ausweiss bitte!"

Ours is a government committed to greater democracy, devolution and control for communities. We want to see stronger local councils, more co-operatives and social enterprises, more people becoming active in their communities as volunteers, advocates, and elected representatives. We want to see public services and public servants in tune with, and accountable to, the people they serve. Democracy is not about a cross in a box every five years, but about a way of life. It should flow around us like oxygen.

Well yes indeed. We'd like to see "public services and public servants in tune with, and accountable to, the people they serve" as well. Problem is that until we're allowed to fire about 50% of their worthless butts they won't actually act that way.

We’ve taken some important steps forward in recent years, with devolution for Scotland, Wales and London, reforming the Lords, more investment and powers for local councils, and encouragement for innovative ways to get people involved such as participatory budgeting, citizens’ juries and petitions. But there is so much more to be done.

We're looking at citizens tribunals where they can conduct show trials of the undesirables for example

This White Paper takes us further on the journey, but this is not the last word. We are changing here the terms of the debate. We will continue to strive for greater reform, devolution and accountability, because that is what people will increasingly want and demand. And because it is the right thing to do.

But we won't simply remove huge swathes of government though because that would mean people might get the impression that they could survive perfectly well without government. If they ever think that we're out of job and in dnager of swinging from lamposts in a way that the HSE jobsworths would be really upset with even if they weren't swinging next to us.

I think I'll just summarise the rest of this white paper.  The government pretends to offer Britain the chance to participate and we probably pretend to take part. 

10 November 2008 Blog Home : All November 2008 Posts : Permalink

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month

Poppies in the fields of Provence

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Poppies in the fields of Provence

12 November 2008 Blog Home : All November 2008 Posts : Permalink

Open Source Science

There's been a bit of a brouhaha in the Climate blogosphere recently regarding what can only be described as an embarrassing mistake by the scientists behind the GISTEMP metric. Needless to say the error seems to have been spotted by the AGW-skeptical blogs and their commenters who not only queried the oddness but dug in and figured out what was wrong (basically in a number of locations September's data was used in place of October's)

The grown up response to this ought to be "oops we goofed and thank's for spotting it" but the actual response is rather more, umm, prickly. I'm not going to pick on the prickly author (or even make cheap shots) because a) others have already done it and b) it's not actually helpful. However in the comments of this prickly response there are some things that I am going to comment on.

First is this one:

Watts, exaggerates every finding he has, even when there is actual cause for concern; he also is trying to discredit every weather station in the country, as if no other data exists and suddenly every thermometer is impproperly placed and is not calibrated…funny really, and many people follow him as if he is the best bet to discredit AGW. I agree with Eyal, I wish this were all not true, however, scientists and science itself is not incompetent in this day and age to be wrong; should we feel good the science is good enough to offer warning or angry that it is correct and so little is being done?

Now I admit this is just a semi-anonymous blog commenter. Blog commenters are quite often more extreme than the actual owner of the blog so this commenter may just be a random kook, however I suspect the bolded bit is a not uncommon reaction. It is also extremely dangerous. Right now governments are passing laws restricting CO2 emissions and so on because they have been told that CO2 is causing global warming, that global warming is increasign at over 2°c per century and that if the world sees another century of 2+°c temperature rise it will be bad for mankind. I'm not going to quibble with the third assumption (I'll leave that to Bjorn Lomborg) but the other two are worth examining. If, for example the world is not heating up at 2+°c/century but something rather more modest (say 1°c) then the urgency for a fix is reduced. And if, as is not impossible, CO2 is not the main cause of any rise then curbing CO2 is not going to have any effect. The surface stations project is intended to try and get a feel for the accuracy of the measurements that report the 2°c increase. If this data is inaccurate then we're looking at GIGO and all the corrections and adjustments in the world won't extract the real signal.

So complaining about someone actually auditing the raw data sources sounds more like religion than science. it should be noted that what he and the other volunteers have found is that the surface station network is of mixed quality and that some of the automated adjustment algorithms seem questionable. This ought to be something that people welcome (and indeed some scientists do) yet many are like this commenter and apparently think this kind of questioning is akin to heresy.

Next there is

I think the complaints about GISS data-checking might be well-taken :-)

But I think that means that commenters should:

a) Write their Reps and Senators demanding that GISS’s budget be increased.
b) Send a check with every request for GISS to do more work.

1) How much more staff and $$ would you need to do all the things that RC readers here wish you to do?
2) If you had that extra resource, is that the way you’d spend it, or would other things have higher priority?

[Response: Good questions. 1) Current staffing from the GISTEMP analysis is about 0.25 FTE on an annualised basis (i’d estimate - it is not a specifically funded GISS activity). To be able to check every station individually (rather than using an automated system), compare data to the weather underground site for every month, redo the averaging from the daily numbers to the monthly to double check NOAA’s work etc., to rewrite the code to make it more accessible, we would need maybe a half a dozen people working on this. With overhead, salary+fringe, that’s over $500,000 a year extra. All contributions welcome! 2) No. Those jobs are better done at NOAA who have a specific mandate from Congress to do these things. With extra resources, I’d hire experts on ice sheet models, cloud parameterisations, model analysts and programmers. - gavin]

This comment and response are highly reminiscent of the arguments put forward by Microsoft and others with regards to open source software. And really they can be defeated in much the same way. A lot of ES Raymonds's "Cathedral and Bazaar" essay would seem to fit here. Instead of getting up tight and demanding a bigger budget for their own research, it seems to me a sensible approach would be to leverage the crowds of skeptics who are willing to pore through the evidence for free. The "surface stations" project being one example and the work by Steve McIntyre and his commentariat another. The McIntyre commentariat seem to be well on the way to doing precisely what Dr Schmidt (gavin) is asking for in terms of rewriting code. Of course they aren't rewriting all of it but they have rewritten chunks and no doubt they could rewrite (and audit) more if they received more cooperation from the owners of the code and the data so that they could check their intermediate results.

Currently the climate science establishment seems to be acting very much like Microsoft & co. with respect to their open source rivals and this does not fill me with confidence that the establisment is right.

14 November 2008 Blog Home : All November 2008 Posts : Permalink

20081114 - Friday Olive Tree Blogging

Back to the borries of Provence. I should have posted this picture a couple of weeks ago when I skipped a week but I didn't because I was lazy. Anywhere here it is, another view of borries, those weird drystone buidings that peasants used to live in, with some rather younger olive trees around them.
20081114 - Friday Olive Tree Blogging
As always click on the image to see it enlarged and don't forget to visit of the olive tree blogging archives for further reminders of how nice olive trees are. And if your curious here is the previous "Borrie and Olive" post and if you look here you'll see more Borrie photos.

14 November 2008 Blog Home : All November 2008 Posts : Permalink

Try Something New Today, Children

In the debate over Sex Ed for children and things like that you probably don't expect that you child will learn about the birds and the bees from their local supermarket. Yes Britain's J Sainsubry accidentally handed out a very interesting book to a visiting class of 8 to 9 year olds as the Daily Mail reports:

They probably expected a goody bag of some sorts as a going home gift after the primary school trip to Sainsbury's.

But what the 42 children  -  not to mention their parents and teachers  -  did not expect was to be given a book with explicit illustrations of sexual positions.

And the advice under the dozen drawings, which feature in a section about saving water by 'bathing with a friend', reads: 'Save water. Have fun. Just get out before everything becomes wrinkled.'

and goes on in similar vein. Something tells me that the kids probably don't want to hand the books back even though I'm sure their teachers and parents want them too.

15 November 2008 Blog Home : All November 2008 Posts : Permalink

The Siren Call of Socialism

Samizdata has a nice Mark Steyn quote:

Unlike those excitable countries where the peasants overrun the presidential palace, settled democratic societies rarely vote to "go left." Yet oddly enough that's where they've all gone. In its assumptions about the size of the state and the role of government, almost every advanced nation is more left than it was, and getting lefter.

He goes on to note that many of McCain's policies were at the very least statist of not explicitly leftist. I don't think he brings it up but the same goes for GW Bush and his "compassionate conservatism" not to mention his apparent love of huge sprawling bureaucracies.

Jerry Pournelle has written an essay that likewise mourns the apparent death of the small government Republican party and how it has turned itself in to Democrat LITE. The same applies in spades in Europe where the UK Tories have embraced statism in a way that would make Mrs Thatcher furious if she were sufficiently compos mentis to grasp what they've done. In Germany the CDU is much the same and the whole of southern Europe seems wedded to the idea of big governments and big bailouts. About the only place where big government is less popular is in the former Soviet east of Europe where they've endured decades of excessive government.

So the question arises. Why? Why are the politicians who are supposedly on the right and keen on individualism so wedded to collectivist policies. It should be noted that the politicians who get themselves into leadership positions aren't usually stupid when it comes to the popular mood. They may (indeed often are) wrong headed and prone to snap judgements about things they don't understand but their real skill is to get themselves elected and that means they are good at seeing what the majority of their potential voters want. Hence it seems likely to me that the reason why these pols promote collectivist ideas is because they are popular with the voters.

So the question changes. Why do voters want big government?

I think it all boils down to security and freedom from worry.

A friend of mine recently went to Kazakhstan and had a chat with a taxi driver there which I think is illustrative. The taxi driver (he was something to do with the soviet space program before communism failed) said essentially that the great thing about soviet life was that you didn't have to make major decisions. You were assigned a house. You had little or no choice in what to wear or to eat or where you worked and so on. Yet on the other hand you knew that you would be taken care of in the same limited choice fashion come what may. And that, for the most part, you would be taken care of as well as (or as badly as) everyone else. Oh of course it was horribly inefficient. The quality of life was pretty dire and so on. But you didn't have to worry because the government would look after you.

I suspect that much the same desire can be seen in the people who have loyally worked for GM or IBM or any of the other large bastions of capitalism who promised good wages and pensions in exchange for service. It isn't, in fact, a bad thing and I think that this desire to be looked after - the desire to have the major choices and worries made by others - is very common in the human soul.

In the long run it doesn't work and as the pyramid scheme gets larger we discover that it doesn't scale. But humans are very bad at making the risk calculation for distant events and hence they don't see the problem. I think it is the same desire that leads people to fundamentalist religions, in their case it is God and his prophets who tell you what the major choices are, but it is the same thing. Which means that, in some ways, the Christian right - or parts of it - have much in common with not only the Islamofascists but also the secular socialists.

The people who don't think like that are small business owners, authors, and other self-employed as well as those people who jump at the idea of joining a silicon valley startup, the survialists and so on. Put together we're a ragtag bunch. Joe the plumber, the founders of Google and long-haired weirdos who don't communicate with their neighbours and we probably disagree with each other as much as we disagree with the sheep who want their religion or government security blanket. About the only thing we have in common is our tendency to zag when others zig and otherwise herd like cats (which probably explains why libertarian political parties tend to have such "interesting" internal political feuds).

The problem is that I don't think there are enough of us to win elections except when the wheels come off the socialist wagon. And these days there aren't many places we can emigrate to. This may explain why so many of us are so enamoured with Science Fiction and Fantasy where the freedom we crave is possible.

16 November 2008 Blog Home : All November 2008 Posts : Permalink

Why Wall Street Blew Up

And London and everywhere else - Iceland included. This portfolio.com article is long but it explains the madness of the subprime mess beautifully. Somewhere halfway down there is this summary of the way the Wall Street folks managed to create something out of nothing, but really READ THE WHOLE THING:

That’s when Eisman finally got it. Here he’d been making these side bets with Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank on the fate of the BBB tranche without fully understanding why those firms were so eager to make the bets. Now he saw. There weren’t enough Americans with shitty credit taking out loans to satisfy investors’ appetite for the end product. The firms used Eisman’s bet to synthesize more of them. Here, then, was the difference between fantasy finance and fantasy football: When a fantasy player drafts Peyton Manning, he doesn’t create a second Peyton Manning to inflate the league’s stats. But when Eisman bought a credit-default swap, he enabled Deutsche Bank to create another bond identical in every respect but one to the original. The only difference was that there was no actual homebuyer or borrower. The only assets backing the bonds were the side bets Eisman and others made with firms like Goldman Sachs. Eisman, in effect, was paying to Goldman the interest on a subprime mortgage. In fact, there was no mortgage at all. “They weren’t satisfied getting lots of unqualified borrowers to borrow money to buy a house they couldn’t afford,” Eisman says. “They were creating them out of whole cloth. One hundred times over! That’s why the losses are so much greater than the loans. But that’s when I realized they needed us to keep the machine running. I was like, This is allowed?”

And then there is the bit a little earlier about the rating agencies and how they turned a collection of BBB rated mortgage securities into a AAA rated CDO

But he couldn’t figure out exactly how the rating agencies justified turning BBB loans into AAA-rated bonds. “I didn’t understand how they were turning all this garbage into gold,” he says. He brought some of the bond people from Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, and UBS over for a visit. “We always asked the same question,” says Eisman. “Where are the rating agencies in all of this? And I’d always get the same reaction. It was a smirk.” He called Standard & Poor’s and asked what would happen to default rates if real estate prices fell. The man at S&P couldn’t say; its model for home prices had no ability to accept a negative number. “They were just assuming home prices would keep going up,” Eisman says.

I begin to understand why the dodgy statistics of climate science look perfectly reasonable to many.

20 November 2008 Blog Home : All November 2008 Posts : Permalink

The Irritating Mr Stross

I like Charlie Stross - or rather I enjoy his website and many of his books even though I've never met him in person. However I'm sorry to say that I'm going to put part of this post as a negative amazon review because the latest book I read from him really really annoyed.

That book is "The Merchant's War", book 4 of the Merchant Princes series. The premise behind the series was kind of fun - parallel earths that are less developed than our earth combined with what you can do when only a few people with a certain genetic mutation can travel from world to world. Indeed this sort of half-fantasy/half-SF (what I think I've seen someone call 'hard fantasy') is a genre that I really like because while there is handwavium around there isn't much of it, there is the promise that at some point it may be explained, and for the most part you're left with humans doing stuff in comparatively real world environments. Hence, after I tried and enjoyed book one, I took the opportunity of my next visit to a bookshop which sold them to buy books 2 & 3 of the series.

They were OK. It was a fairly good thing that I bought the two together because the story had only a limited amount of resolution at the end of book 2. It wasn't a bad ending but you were left with the desire to know what happened next. Looking back however that was actually a pretty good ending as book 3 ended with a large explosion - literally- followed by the heroine being accosted by muggers. However it seemed like there could be resolution of at least some of the threads in book 4. Amazon.fr just shipped me Book 4 and it is worse than book 3 in terms of ending. At this point you need to read books 2-4 in a single session and you still end up with an almighty cliffhanger at the end of book 4. It doesn't help that book 4 shows us a possible way for stuff to be resolved in one plot thread that is then totally overshadowed by stuff in other plot threads that result in the final scene being a battle fought on two worlds plus a skirmish on a third. At the end of the book the battle has yet to be won and indeed practically the last sentence is (I paraphrase) "I have a cunning plan..." In other words if you thought the cliffhanger at the end of book three was annoying you ain't seen nothing yet.

Oh and that ignores the irritating political views that Mr Stross insists on parading before us. The problem in book 4 (and to some extent in book 3) is that the US government - in particular a lightly touched up GW Bush executive - gets involved. Mr Stross doesn't like Bush or any of his advisors or policies and seems to be intent on casting them as the baddies while other rulers in the books are far harsher in their treatment of dissent. Both the medieval usurper Egon - who seems like a sort of Vlad the impaler type - and King John Frederick III of New Britain - a classic authoritarian tyrant - kill suspected enemies in job lots and are far more concerned with their own survival than the welbeing of their subjects but yet we get sympathetic breaks for each one. We don't get this for "Daddy Warbucks" the Vice President and those reporting to him, depsite the fact that these people are in fact, unlike the other rulers, doing their best to protect their (US) citizens from nuclear bombs.

Although the politics irritates, Stross is a good enough story teller that I'm willing to ignore that bit, and your average Guardianista will probably agree with them so just because it doesn't meet my 'Ghengis Khan was a centrist wuss' political leanings is no real reason to skip the book or the series. Indeed in a number of ways this series is reminiscent of Eric Flint's 1632 books. Obviously it isn't the same but part of the challenge - to bring modernization to late medieval/early rennaissence cultures - is quite similar. And, for that matter, the other part of the book where people in this world try to get a handle on these world-walkers is good techno-thriller stuff. So in other words the concept is great. And while I find some of the characters a bit cardboard cutouty the main ones are all done well. So in theory this is a series with a lot of promise.

But it is seriously let down by the execution. To misquote Lady Bracknell to have one cliffhanger may be regarded as a misfortune, to have two looks like carelessness. I find it surprising that Tor actually let the books end like this because it seems pretty basic stuff to round them off better. On the other hand the Armageddon Reef series from David Weber has only moderate rounding off at the ends of the books so maybe this is a Tor speciality. In which case I'm glad I mostly read Baen books. You can go "Oh John Ringo No" as much as you like but he manages to provide closure at the end of each book even when he's had to split a planned book in to two because it has grown too long and the same goes for pretty much every other Baen author.

In summary: don't bother buying this series until someone reports that book 5 (or maybe book 6 or 7) has most of the plot threads resolved or unless you like being left dangling. But if you do like it or the others in the series please buy it by clicking on the link at this page...

20 November 2008 Blog Home : All November 2008 Posts : Permalink

The BNP, its leak and so on

The leak of the BNP's membership list is one of those events where you get to see the dangerous darkside of computers and the Internet. Now it has to be said that I find the panicked reactions of BNPers to the news that they may be unveiled to be distinctly amusing - reminding me of how vermin react to being disturbed raiding the kitchen. But I'm trying to restrain myself because the principle here is serious.

If people are to lose their jobs (and some may well do so) thanks to being unmasked then for these people it is no laughing matter. Now you may argue that they should have been smarter, shouldn't have jobs where people care etc. but there is a dangerous line here. In the US the Proposition 8 donor list reactions (and the reaction to some gay people to learning that other gays are republicans) shows that some people get very very intolerant of people who hold different political views and much the same could well happen in the UK. Indeed with the BNP list it very likely will.

This is a bad thing. It was a bad thing when we were searching for reds under the bed and it doesn't get any nicer when its the reds doing the searching either. Perhaps worse consider the allegation by Nick Griffin that some of the names on the published list are not actually valid. In this instance one suspects Mr Griffin may be providing a fig leaf for members who have been unexpectedly outed and need cover. However consider what might happen in the future if, to pick a non-political topic, a list of people purported to be paedophiles were to be released like this. If I wanted to get an enemy of mine in deep doodoo with his friends, workmates, family etc. I can think of little better than to accidentally leak a list of suspected paedophiles which contained his name. He might not get mugged, but I wouldn't bet against it, and I'm pretty sure he'd be placed severely out of pocket hiring security to protect his property and lawyers to clear his name.

Now to go back to the BNP itself. Thanks to the excellent author Liz Williams I learn some interesting BNP factoids. Firstly if you to their manifesto page you see that they like the idea of buying British:

Globalisation, with its export of jobs to the Third World, is bringing ruin and unemployment to British industries and the communities that depend on them. Accordingly, the BNP calls for the selective exclusion of foreign-made goods from British markets and the reduction of foreign imports. We will ensure that our manufactured goods are, wherever possible, produced in British factories, employing British workers. When this is done, unemployment in this country will be brought to an end, and secure, well-paid employment will flourish, at last getting our people back to work and ending the waste and injustice of having more than 4 million people in a hidden army of the unemployed concealed by Labour’s statistical fiddles. We further believe that British industry, commerce, land and other economic and natural assets belong in the final analysis to the British nation and people. To that end we will restore our economy and land to British ownership. We also call for preference in the job market to be given to native Britons. We will take active steps to break up the socially, economically and politically damaging monopolies now being established by the supermarket giants. Finally we will seek to give British workers a stake in the success and prosperity of the enterprises whose profits their labour creates by encouraging worker shareholder and co-operative schemes

Then if you click on the Excalibur advertisement site you learn that some of the product descirptions say things like:

Handcrafted in England from pewter

But critically only some of them and this appears to be because some of them are not handcrafted in England or even in Britain but have been outsourced to somewhere else. The website doesn't say where, but Liz Williams knows because:

And lo! A lot of the stuff they sell, especially the Celtic things, is not just like the stuff we sell - it *is* the stuff we sell.

It's made in China.

My sympathy for the BNP would be greater if they actually stuck to their principles....

21 November 2008 Blog Home : All November 2008 Posts : Permalink

20081121 Friday Olive Tree Blogging

One of the olive trees in the garden that doesn't usually get photographed. Now it does because it makes an excellent background for the flowering yucca
20081121 Friday Olive Tree Blogging
As always click on the image to see it enlarged and don't forget to visit of the olive tree blogging archives for further reminders of how nice olive trees are.

24 November 2008 Blog Home : All November 2008 Posts : Permalink

More on the Causes of the Credit Crunch

The Last Laugh - George Parr - Subprime - subtitulos
envoyé par erioluk

24 November 2008 Blog Home : All November 2008 Posts : Permalink

Webscription eBook News

Just possibly this is the moment we've all been wating for when Tor finally get their act together and start selling things via Baen's webscription service like they promised to many internet generations ago (i.e. last year more or less).

Just a few days ago we were enticed to buy The Jupiter Novel Collection by Charles Sheffield, Jerry Pournelle and James P. Hogan. This collenction, when you look at it closely, consists of books originally published some 10 years ago by Tor.

In other news (which I initially thought was Tor-related but actually isn't), today we see that John Scalzi's "Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded" is also for sale. Although Tor publish most of the Scalzi oeuvre this book actually appears to originate with Subterranean. Anyway when we combine this with the recent arrival of another small publisher Night Shade Books it begins to look like webscriptions is becoming the place to get your SF/F ebooks.

Let's hope more Tor turns up soon so that I can spend the money I don't have on real DRM-free electrons and thereby do my bit to keep my favourite authors in beer and necessities.

28 November 2008 Blog Home : All November 2008 Posts : Permalink

20081128 - Friday Olive Tree Blogging

In the corner of our garden there is an agave which is now about to flower and die. So here is it is with the olive tree that has seen it start as a little seedling and will now see its children grow up.
20081128 - Friday Olive Tree Blogging
As always click on the image to see it enlarged and don't forget to visit of the olive tree blogging archives for further reminders of how nice olive trees are.

28 November 2008 Blog Home : All November 2008 Posts : Permalink

Then they came for the MPs

As a general rule I think that people who leak government secrets and those who publicise the leaks should face some kind of trial because the leaking of secrets is often a bad thing driven by political infighting and a desire to stab some other politician or civil servant in the back. Hence the threat of punishment is a good thing and, IMO, leak enquiries should be held more frequently with the parties facing a possible lifetime ban on working in government when found guilty at a trial.

However, no government is perfect so the defence of "acting in the public interest" is one that I am quite happy to accept in those cases where a jury feels that the leaker exposed something that should have been exposed. Since ZANU Labour is a long way from perfect I reckon that many leakers would be found innocent. Oddly enough under ZANU labour very few leakers and leak recipients have faced arrest until yesterday when, as the BBC reports, a Senior UK [opposition] MP[was] arrested over leaks

Conservative immigration spokesman Damian Green has been arrested and released on bail in connection with a series of leaks from the Home Office.

Police say Mr Green was held on suspicion of "conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office". [...]

It follows a series of leaks, including:

Unless there are other leaks that have not been mentioned this looks like precisely the sort of leaking that passes my "public interest" defence. Arresting a member of the shadow cabinet for doing his job and calling the government out about things it would prefer us not to know is despicable. It is in fact, as the Cameroon, said "Stalinesque" and is a very worrying development.

Combine it with the recent BNP arrests for distributing party leaflets and you begin to see a very nasty trend.

In Germany they first came for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me —
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

28 November 2008 Blog Home : All November 2008 Posts : Permalink

The Gay Marriage Thing

I've been thinking about the whole gay marriage debate for a while now. In fact I've nearly posted something twice in the last month and not done so because I didn't think I'd got my own position straight,

Here's the most important bit. Gay Marriage is fine by me. Two men (or 2 ladies) wish to be married and I'm OK with them finding someone to tie the knot and pronounce them married. I'm going to be cheering them along. There are some corrollories to this position that may irritate readers which I'll get to in a bit.

But, and here is the next most important bit, I'm not at all OK with the tactics that the pro-Gay Marriage people seem to be pursuing as a result of the passing of Prop 8. My problem with the recent nastiness is that it is indicative of a state of mind which can only be called juvenile.

Let us review. Despite whatever claims may have been made no human culture in history (or at least no major one) has accepted marriage as any thing other than between heterosexuals and, for the most part, between one single male and one single female. Polygamy has generally been limted to the wealthy / powerful and polyandry to a few primitive tribes. This is a historical fact and it cannot be ignored. The reason for this is that, as stated in verious parts of the bible and almost certainly in other equivalent religious texts, the purpose of marriage is perceived to be procreation and the building of a family. There are a boatload of reasons why marriage has been linked to procreation, such as lack of contraceptives and the significant amount of time it takes for humans to mature, and not all of these reasons have magically disappeared in the last few decades. This is of course very different to the idea of permitting mixed race marriages because the banning of marriage between different sorts of people has been going on since time immemorial and has never lasted long because eventually the reason for the ban - typically to keep the wealth/power in one particular class - has never been sustainable. So to put it simply no one has taken away the right for gays to marry or denied them it recently, it isn't a right they have ever had.

Going on from this, the reason why many Christians, and other religious groups, are opposed to gay marriage is because of the link in their religions between marriage and procreation. You may say that this is stupid and point to the many childless married couples (e.g. my marriage) as evidence but this is a very slippery argument, and it must be noted that many religions and cultures allow divorce due to infertility but not for other reasons. Marriage has frequently been seen as a contract between families to produce offspring and if offspring are not produced then the marriage can/could be annulled in ways that sound similar to breach of contract civil lawsuits. Unlike a currently barren heterosexual couple, a gay couple flat out cannot reproduce without the addition of a third party (or parties) and hence ipso facto if marriage is tied to reproduction a gay couple cannot be married. You can say that this isn't fair and that the religious texts of 1000 plus years of antiquity should be revised, and indeed you can make a reasonable argument that they should be revised (or have this bit ignored) along with all sorts of other quaint practises that no longer make sense and which have, for the most part, been quietly jetisoned.

However you don't make that argument very well if you insult the religious and accuse them of being stupid primitive bigots. People are stubborn and generally object to being called stupid primitive bigots so their reaction when insulted is generally to push back. To put it bluntly you tend to win these sorts of arguments through honey not vinegar.

Then there is the fact that California is a democracy which allows direct participation by the electorate in the process. You can, entirely reasonably, be upset that more than 50% of those who voted felt that marriage is a heterosexual only thing but immediately doing lawyerly things to try and negate a clear vote is anti-democratic and a really really bad idea if it succeeds. Why? because California law is based on British common law and therefore precedents count. If the california courts can decree that propositions that pass may be ignored by the legislature and courts then the whole participatory democracy thing goes out of the window. You don't want to do that strategically because you open yourself up to having no recourse when the legislature does something that negatively affects the gay community and you can't get it changed. You don't want to do it tactically because it shows the same contempt that calling the religious bigots does and it uneccessarily makes enemies of entire classes of people who might have become your allies. It also may lead to other people thinking that all those stereotypes about homosexuals being hysterical drama queens might have something to them and therefore decide that said drama queens aren't suited to matrimony.

Finally of course bitching about all this shows a terrible lack of patience, which again reminds one of the temper tantrums of a little child rather than the behaviour of a mature adult. Why? because it should be blindingly obvious that the bare majority that opposed gay marriage this time is shrinking. Previous anti-gay marriage measures passed by 75%:25% ratios. This one passed by 55%:45%. The high likelihood is that in 10 years time a pro-gay marriage proposition will pass. So rather than try to flaunt the democratic will of the people today by various forms of rules lawyering why not just wait a few years and let the democratic will of the people reverse itself.