Long view

Pseudopunks Green Day have hit on the best ever scheme for making money in the digital age: selling blank CDs printed with their album artwork, which people can burn downloaded album tracks onto. The cost of the blanks isn’t much, but it’s still more than Green Day would get from a legitimate album sale.

I imagine their record label are deeply, deeply pissed off. And that all new artists’ contracts are going to involve the company owning artwork copyrights… (via New Links)

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*bangs head against wall*

News from Iraq: the US administration planned to use the CIA to fund its preferred candidates in the forthcoming elections. The plan was only derailed by principled opposition from the Democrats, who felt that some kind of democratic election might be preferable.

Every day we find out more and more about the clowns running the world’s most powerful nation that makes clear they should be impeached, imprisoned and executed. And yet there’s no rioting in the streets of Middle America, and sane, educated Americans who agree that George Bush has lied and cheated still worry about voting for John Kerry because they don’t like his flip-flops. What gives?

Sorry. I’ve just been informed that it’s the liberal professors of political science who hate America and should be imprisoned, not the gang of thugs, crooks and bigots ru(i/n)ning the country. Apologies to the thugs, crooks and bigots.

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More US polling

Mark Blumenthal knows good opinion polling, being an American opinion pollster with 20 years’ experience. This means that his blog is probably the best place for US opinion poll analysis – making him the transatlantic Anthony Wells, I guess.

Most opinion poll interpretation in the press is nonsense, because most journalists either don’t understand statistics or polling methodologies, or don’t think their readers will. Obviously, most bloggers are even worse (I don’t just mean the mindless idiots here – even those of us who understand what we’re talking about tend to let our political views bias the stats we select, hence my focus on Economist/YouGov and Harris polls and pro-Bush bloggers’ focus on Gallup).

Mr Blumenthal (and/or Mr Wells, depending on your geographical focus) are both strongly recommended if you care about why different opinion polls produce such different results, rather than cheering the ones that put your favourite party in the lead.

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Ad hominem

The Adam Smith Institute has its failings, such as its willingness to take US$34 million in government subsidy while campaigning against government subsidy. However, its guide to logical fallacies is one of the best such guides I’ve seen.

If you’re particularly bored, you could even use it to come up with a bingo game: pick a source, and see how many of the fallacies you can tick off from the previous week’s articles. Beginners should start at TCS or Medialens, with advanced candidates working the way through the rest of the blogosphere in order of credibility. True masochists should attempt this with someone like Jon Edelstein or Josh Marshall [*].

Alternatively, if you’re Christopher Hitchens, you can do this exercise as a solo drinking game, not very well, and have your columns published in print in exchange for large cheques.

[*] I’m trying to work out whether or not it’s coincidental that the two names that come to mind when I’m trying to think of a credible blogger are both liberal secular American Jews.

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Hostagery

I haven’t written on British hostage Ken Bigley so far, mostly because the relentless media attention is so out of proportion to the story.

Tony Blair has handled the situation correctly so far: in a place like Beslan, where hundreds of lives are at stake, the decision on whether it’s morally right to make concessions to terrorists to save lives is a difficult and horrible one. In this case, it’s an extremely easy and horrible one. The only question is whether the media’s daft sentimentalism will encourage Mr Blair to give in to the terrorists, which would be wrong but populist. Fortunately, it appears not.

One thought, though. Why does the possible death of a man who went to Iraq to acquire an enormous pile of cash get so much more attention than the deaths of journalists, aid workers or soldiers? Dying for one’s beliefs or one’s country seems a rather more praiseworthy thing to do than dying for one’s wallet.

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Coke stats

It would be interesting to see some statistics on the usage of cocaine and cocaine derivatives, by country, with value and volume sales broken down by end product, income group and ethnic group.

Why? I’d like to know to what extent the stereotypes of crack being a drug for low-income black people and powder being a drug for high-income white people [*] are true, whether low-income groups pay a significantly lower price, and how much usage of either comes from groups who aren’t stereotypical consumers.

Working out this data would actually be quite a similar project to the work I’m doing at the moment, except that the ‘interviewing people in the industry and asking them to describe market conditions’ side of things would be somewhat less feasible. And to make any cash out of the project, the results would need to be written as a mass-market book, not a database sold to people in the industry. Unless the world is even stranger than I believe it to be.

So… if anyone who isn’t an international drugs baron wants to pay me to spend a year working on this, then I’m open to offers.

(vaguely inspired by some Harry Hutton Killer Facts).

[*] ‘People’ is used purely as a biological descriptor in this context, and shouldn’t necessarily be taken as assigning any of the positive qualities normally associated with ‘personhood’ to the group under discussion.

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Mmm, contaminated waste

According to New Scientist, nuclear group BNFL plans to ship 1.8m kg of waste from its Springfields nuclear plant to Kyrgyzstan, using a company called RWE Nukem. This sounds like even more of a pisstake than, err, BNFL’s history…

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Friday afternoonage

I’m going to have to spend this Friday afternoon working harder than ever before, which is an annoyance. Oh well. If you don’t, then the Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy adventure game (yup, the original 1984 one, now online) wasted several months of my time back in the early 1990s. I recommend you let it do the same to you now…

I’ve had a request to post a photo of insects being extracted from a man’s eye, which I might do another time if the situation warrants it… In the meantime, here is an evil mind control cat:



(from the Tipton Asylum)

Final thought: do people who use the phrase ‘tired old cliche’ realise what they’re saying?

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