04 November 2007


Bitter disappointment this morning when I went to timesonline.co.uk looking for my weekly dose of Clarkson. He's not on every week, and evidently this is one of the 'off' weeks.

But it's not all bad, because the Times always dishes up some really good writing on a host of subjects. This week, f'rinstance, we get:

a semi satirical look at what happens when science gets out of control: Elephants
on Acid
. It'd never happen here with the Research Quality Framework and, of course, Ministerial interferenceinterest in the uses to which public moneys are

an inevitable Britney Spears story - all about the misuse of money, of course (more on this always fascinating subject in a minute). What interested me was in the comments where someone stated that (Spears) "smells nice". One can only assume that the commenter has been within sniffing distance. Bizarre, no?
irate investors send death threats to a market analyst who downgraded their stock. There are so many angles to this story it's difficult to know where to start, so in the time-honoured way of Chateau VVB we'll make do with some off the cuff value judgements. First, it seems the claim that the stock market as the arbiter of all that is pure and influenced by government or any other interference may as well be an elephant on acid. With the undisclosed links between analysts, the firms they analyse and the inevitable imperfections in information between investors), I reckon it's more of a lottery than many people think already.
Second, death threats? What is happening to people? You get a crime committed, may be something perfectly awful, and now we get baying mobs at the courthouse, screaming for a lynching. The veneer of civilisation is wearing pretty damn thin in places. Finally, she married a pro wrestler. And now he drinks beer from a glass. That's restoring the veneer of civilisation, yes?

I wonder why I'll spend so much time perusing the Times online but barely skim the hard copy Weekend Australian that
we still get. Answers on the head of a pin, please.

Just like the recent protests in Burma and the inevitable crackdown by the ruling junta, Pakistan displays a history of feeble attempts at civilian rule interspersed with military dictatorship and suspension of rule of law, and it's just happened again. The British Foreign Secretary said they should embrace democracy, so we can confidently expect that to start on Monday. Simple, really. They say that previous behaviour is the best indicator of future behaviour: on this basis any ruler of Pakistan, whether civilian or military, is likely to overlook the needs of the people and do they want, safe in the knowledge that a few deaths is seen as the price.

When we lived there, the daily newspaper always carried an article in which some politician or other always said "we have to find ways and means to solve the problems facing the people." Insightful, really - the focus is on the ways and means, not the people, who are two degrees
removed (with the problems in the middle). So as long as opposing forces bicker and fight about ways and means....

More on the misuses of money. With the regular shitfight erupting in Victoria about the public subsidies going to Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone to keep holding the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park, I was struck by the telecast of the Bahrain Desert 400, on the TV behind me. A new track, it's enormous and - particularly striking - it's wide, so you can get overtaking moves nearly everywhere, not just some corners as in most
narrow Aussie tracks. The other thing is, just as the V8 Supercar race in China earlier this year, the stands are pretty well empty.

Obviously they have a lot of money to throw at things in Bahrain and, I would imagine, fewer restrictions on government about where it gets thrown.

Private money, on the other hand, always finds the highest and best use, or so we are reminded with infuriating regularity because,
as this story shows value, like beauty, is all in the eye of the beholder.

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