* Posts by I ain't Spartacus

5486 posts • joined 18 Jun 2009

It came from space! Two-headed flatworm stuns scientists

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Re: Didn't I Tell You Baby I'm Zaphod Beeblebrox

He hates it when one head is more drunk than the other...

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Voyager 1 passes another milestone: It's now 138AU from home

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Re: Middle Age

Yeah, it's getting away from Mr Sun and all his radiation. But it's also getting away from Mr Sun's protective magnetic field, so it's getting hit by interstellar radiation instead. Which, by definition, creates an even more interesting class of mutated superhero.

It's also a bit worrying that I'm older than these spacecraft, even though they've travelled an unimaginably long way, although admittedly not so unimagineably long as to have actually got anywhere yet.

The universe really is quite spacious.

Does anyone fancy a piece of fairy cake...

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Ever wonder why those Apple iPhone updates take so damn long?

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From my experience of owning iPads I'd say that:

iOS 1 = Windows 3.1 - limited abilities but worked well

iOS 2 = don't really remember it but let's say Window for Workgroups

iOS 3 = Windows 95 - did more, had bugs. Didn't like WiFi or Bluetooth much.

iOS 4 = Windows ME - oh how my WiFi fell over! Oh and now I have to reboot to make Bluetooth work.

iOS 5 = Windows Vista - turned my iPad 1 to treacle. To be fair it was OK on faster devices.

It's all been mostly indistinguishable since then. At least there's been no Windows 8 - although there was that time they changed the icons, in a way that I barely noticed, but some people got really angry about.

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Re: Using your customers as testing and QA

Lazy and stupid you say? Oh dear. Perhaps we shouldn't do it.

Cheap? Oh, OK then. Go ahead, that sounds great!

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Re: plug your [i]phone in and forget about it for 30 minutes.

The time is fine. The testing on user devices without permission on the other hand - not so much...

The data is also important. Apple's update process is incredibly data hungry, which is even more annoying for those on metered data when they use them for testing, and so chuck out extra.

Also Apple literally made every iPhone and approved every single app installed on them (except the jail-broken ones which they don't have to cover for warranty anyway). So they ought to have a much better handle on what exists and testing it.

They've always been pretty cavalier with iOS updates though. When I got the original iPad, every single iOS update I had for it, broke the WiFi - where it was flaky and would keep dropping the network. And it was only after I upgraded to the iPad 3 that WiFi remained stable after iOS updates - so it took them 2 years to get that right. On devices they utterly control.

Finally, I'd say control here is the issue. Apple have the arrogant belief (admittedly not alone amongst Silicon Valley companies) that they still own my device, even though I've handed over folding money for it.

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Re: @SuccessCase

Well, you're partly right. In that El Reg writes snidey article is basically their business model. But you're being a little special snowflake, in that they don't just do it to poor ickle Apple... In fact, can anyone think of a company they appear to actually like?*

Also they do have a point. It's all very well for these rich companies to just assume that everyone has unlimited internet, but lots of people don't. And a couple of GB could be a significant part of someone's data allowance for the month. So if Apple sorted their updates out to not have massive unneccesary extras in it, those people might be happier about it. Additionally would they be replacing any older kit that it bricked? Sure Apple are sometimes quite generous with their service, but only in Apple's usual capricious manner. As sometimes they outright break consumer laws in the coutries they operate in and reduce your consumer rights. They certainly did in the UK when I had to get 3 out of our batch of 6 iPhone 5s fixed for crap power sockets. Finally why can't they fix their fucking updates so they only download the files they need? Surely each iOS update needn't be over a GB?

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* Actually they're usually pretty nice about SpaceX. But then again, they're not doing product reviews of their stuff. Although I'm sure they'd be even nicer, and positively promise to kiss arse if SpaceX promised them a review model.

You can just imagine the review now. The rocket blew up, killing our reviewer. But on the plus side, nobody liked him anyway, and it made an awfully pretty explosion. Please can we have another one? 9/10 - Editor's Choice.

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From landslide to buried alive: Why 2017 election forecasts weren't wrong

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Re: As Liberal Party of Old would have told you

Actually your right in your comparison of pollsters to economists. Both are unfairly maligned and have their results misused by everyone else. Only to have those same people complain when the results they failed to bother to understand turned out never to have been saying what they thought they did.

So both polling and economics are inexact sciences - requiring good use of statistics but also a lot of judgement in how to use them. In a world when good statistics don't actually exist because they're too expensive, and often literally impossible, to gather accurately. Also the stats are usually out of date when you get them, meaning you're trying to forecast the future when you don't even have the information to know what's happening in the present - only the past.

Oh and proper scientific testing is impossible, without access to a parallel universe.

If you're careful, both economics and polling can tell you useful things. But you must know the limitations of both.

Journalists will ignore all the caveats, then complain when the stuff they were told about and ignored, happens.

If you compare the errors in everyday polling to the high levels of accuracy of the exit poll and the British Election Survey and British Attitudes Survey, you'll understant what can be achieved with the right resources.

The BES for example got the result of the 2015 election broadly correct. Now admittedly it was done after the election, but when the pollsters re-contacted their samples after the election they still got the wrong results. Showing they had a sampling error problem, not a people lying to them problem.

However, the BES knocks on people's doors. Semi-random houses picked to give good demographic coverage. When they first knocked on the door, they also got the result wrong, as crudely most of the Conservative voters were out. But they went back up to seven times, until they got to speak to the person from the electoral roll they were after. Something pollsters can't afford to do.

I suppose Lord Ashcroft could, as he's a billionaire who's interested in polling. But it would make a significant dent in even his cash to do it regularly.

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Re: First Past the Post

Another minor niggle. The number of times we hear usually the Brexiterrs moaning about the unelected EU commissioners (they are elected of course.)

kmac499,

EU Commissioners are not elected. They're appointed by each EU government picking one and the EU Commission President then giving them a particular portfolio. There's then a hearing into each one from the relevant committee of the European Parliament, though they don't actually have the power to reject them. However the Parliament does have the nuclear option of rejecting the whole Commission, so usually if someone is particularly objectionable the Commission President goes back to the relevant government and asks for a new candidate.

So they're basically appointed in exactly the way you object to with cabinet ministers. Even though the majority of them have been elected to Parliament individually. As well as maintain a majority support in Parliament or the government falls.

The EU Commission President is appointed by the Council of Ministers (heads of government of the member states), although also subject to the approval of the Parliament.

In an odd twist, at the last elections a bunch of the Parliamentarians got together and created a new wrinkle in the system. Without authority of the treaties they asserted the right of the Parliament to pick the Commission President. In order to either insert some democratic legitimacy, or assert some power for themselves. Or both. This was called the Spitzenkandidaten system, as I think it was dominated by German MEPs. Each European party therefore picked a candidate, and said they'd veto any other the governments picked, than the one from the largest party. The Council of Ministers chose not to fight this, hence we got Juncker, as the candidate of the EPP. Even though the EPP didn't stand in all members of the EU.

It's not particularly democratic, partly because the Commission can often ignore the Parliament, but mainly because it's so remote from the people, who aren't really heterogeneous enough to form a demos anyway. On the other hand, it's clearly not an anti-democratic outrage either. Anyone using EUSSR so misunderstands the system as to be worth ignoring, in the same way I ignore all comments using "sheeple", "MMT", "Lamestream media" etc.

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Re: First Past the Post

It depresses me how many people said they were voting for May or Corbyn when they are actually voting for their own local MP.

There's a difference between the constitutional niceties and reality. In reality was are voting for the Prime Minister. Has there ever been a case of a party winning an election and changing leaders five minutes later? No. And for the same reason. They can, but the public would be pissed off with them if they did. Who the leader of the party is has always mattered, and always will matter. And there never was a golden age when it didn't, until you go back into the distant days of a loose party system, tiny electorate and still large influence for the king.

The PM in this country is very powerful. There's an argument for having a separate election for PM and Parliament I suppose - although the only places I can think of that do that are Presidential systems. Oh sorry, Israel has elected the PM directly for about 15 years now. It was done on who could form a coalition in the Knesset before.

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Yes. That was a point I was going to make, but got sidetracked. The polls in the US weren't too bad either. Although some of the state level polling wasn't so hot. The Dutch polls recently were about right as well.

To be fair, it's always hard to know whether the polls are accurately following the voters changing their minds. For example, as polls tend to be sampled over 2 or 3 days, and you can't publish them on election day after 7am, polls are always crap at picking up late changes in voting intention.

They're also not good at showing tactical voting when an election isn't due. As although they ask "who do you intend to vote for at the next election", most voters seem to interpret that as what party do you currently support. Some pollsters ask twice, once to capture that, and then a second time concentrating on the voter's constituency, to try and pick up tactical voting trends.

But for some reason UK polling is rather off at the moment.

Partly it's a problem because the pollsters still do joint Welsh, English and Scottish polling, rather than large enough samples in each area to have a decent margin of error. And voting patterns are totally different.

Partly it's because our turn-out is changing quite a lot at the moment, with GE turnout going up, and the two recent referenda being very well attended. The AV one, not so much.

But in general, I think the pollsters learned the wrong lesson from 2015. They tried to correct their samples statistically, even though they know their samples are bad. Because it was too hard to get new, more accurate, samples. And to be fair, the post-mortem final report was only issued a couple of months ago, as they thought they had time until the next election.

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Re: Sample size

The exit poll is different to all the other opinion polls. It's why it was so much more accurate in 2015. I think it's only been really wrong in 1992.

Other opinion polls ask a sample of the population, then check how well that sample compares with the known demographics and try to correct for errors by weighting accordingly. You can fudge the sample a bit in face-to-face polling by making sure you fill out your quota or older and younger people, by approaching more of them. But most polls are done online or by phone, as it's cheaper.

The exit polls is done at certain set wards in set constituencies, where they poll every election. This gives them a much better knowledge of the trends, as they're broadly polling the same people every election cycle. Obviously boundaries change, as do safe seats - so they may add/remove the odd place each time, but they try not to. This, and the fact that you're asking people a few seconds after they voted, makes it much more accurate. They'll poll some marginal and some safe seats in each area, as it gives a much better idea of differential swing / differential turnout.

You'd be amazed, but there's a gradual "winner" effect. The further you get from an election, the more people remember voting for the winning party. Obviously they can check this now with online panels, where they have records of how people answer each poll they participate in.

Anyway the exit poll is, as I said, very different. It's much more expensive to do, but the broadcasters all pay for it, as if they didn't they'd have nothing to talk about between 10pm when the polls close, and when results start coming in.

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Re: For better or worse, this is a period of voters punishing incumbents

The French election was very similar. Macron is being regarded as the continuity candidate, because of relief that Le Pen didn't win.

But the socialists went from government to something like 7% in one election! And it looks like they're about to get slaughtered in the Assembly elections too. The right might have won, had not their candidate got mired in a corruption scandal. So of the top 4 candidates in the run-off, who all got about 20% we had:

Macron, an independent who started his own party only 2 years ago. Although he was briefly a middle ranking minister in the Socialist government, but brought in as an outsider.

Le Pen, from the anti-establishment (possibly ex-fascist) right.

Valls, from the Republicans, standard opposition right wing party.

Melenchon, quite far left anti-establishment. Nicked most of the Socialist's remaining voters that Macron didn't get.

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Re: First Past the Post

Labour and the Tories might be against PR for reasons of self-interest, but I think there's a pretty good argument to say that so are the voting public. I admit that some called AV a miserable compromise, but even so - there was no public appetite for it. Hence it went down in the referendum. And PR doesn't appear on any of the top ten (or even top 20) policy priorities, when you ask voters.

Also, as the Lib Dems found out, our voters don't seem particularly patient with the policy compromises that PR forces. In first-past-the-post you get less control of who and what you can vote for, but you get a known manifesto at the end of it. You are also able to vote for the anyone but so-and-so candidate, so it enables you to kick out the people currently in power.

PR doesn't give you that negative (but I'd argue really important) option and also leaves you mostly with a coalition government, so you don't even know what policies you're going to end up with. That also has its advantages of course, but to claim that PR is a panacea for all our voting problems is just silly. It has as many problems as any other system.

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Re: As Liberal Party of Old would have told you

That's all conspiracy theory bollocks. The press don't pay the polling companies enough to make a profit on political polling, they only use it to give them some relatively cheap things to talk about. The pollsters are doing it as a combination of public service and advertising their wares. So if the political polling is way out, it makes them look bad. Unfortunately there isn't enough money in it to do really top-notch polling.

Although even when Lord Ashcroft spent some serious cash on a couple of hundred constituency level polls in 2015 (the first time this had ever been done) - they didn't turn out any more accurate than polling nationally.

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Re: Getting the wrong demographics adjustments

It's impossible to predict voter turnout. Because many opinion poll respondents "overestimate their likelihood to vote", as the pollsters politely put it. And they've done this for decades. So the pollsters can only make a guess. Although the ones who got closest (eg Yougov) were the ones who adjusted their models at the last minute to dial down their previous accounting for differential voting between young and old.

With margin of error, the polls will always struggle to call a close vote. And with something like a one-off referendum they're even less reliable, as they've no precedent on which to base their models.

You also need to know what the polls are showing. So if lots of people made their mind up about Brexit at the last minute, it could be that the polls were right, as they had the result going more leave towards the end and called it close. The final sampling is done over the last few days of the campaign, so can never fully capture late swings.

But anyway, on Brexit the polls were withing the ballpark. On Trump they were correct (not wrong as many people claim) as they called Trump losing the popular vote correctly - which he did.

As this piece says, getting the overall percentage of the vote correct still doesn't account for the vaguaries of a constituency system, where non-uniform swing can lead to people piling up large majorities in some constituencies and losing others narrowly.

However the UK general election polling for the last two elections has been rubbish. Which is a problem. And young people turning out this election is an excuse, but the sampling errors of 2015 were purely down to the pollsters.

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Boeing preps pilotless passenger flights – once it has solved the Sully problem, of course

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Re: There's something fundamentally important they're missing.

Price. For an airline, removing the need to hire, manage, keep trained, handle payroll, benefits, retirement, pay for hotel rooms between flight legs etc of a whole corps of pilots is going to save a lot of money.

It's going to save some money, sure. But I doubt it's very much in the grand scheme of things.

Lets say you pay your pilot £100k a year. That works out to about £50 an hour. Quadruple that to cover admin costs, a lower paid co-pilot and some expenses and you get £200 an hour. So even on a long-haul flight that's going to end up being less than £5-£10 per passenger added to their ticket price.

Compared to the massive costs of fuel, maintenance and the horribly expensive planes themselves - or even the in-flight catering (if available) - it's just not that much. You're still going to require cabin crew, until the cattle passengers are loaded on drugged in coffins "sleep crates" - so you're still stuck with all the admin and expenses.

Thinking about it, I wouldn't be surprised if landing fees cost as much as the pilots.

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Can't we keep the stewardesses, and make the piloting self service?

Everyone gets on the plane and it's taxiied to the end of the runway by one of the stewardesses. Meanwhile all the passengers are playing Microsoft Flight Simulator (or possibly Ace of Aces off the Amstrad CPC464) on their seatback entertainment systems. The one who scores highest, gets to fly the plane.

What could possibly go wrong?

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Has riddle of the 1977 'Wow!' signal finally been cracked? Maybe...

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Devil

The article never mentioned whether there were aliens driving the comets or not.

The intergalactic version of Uber have been illegally testing driverless comets in this sector of the galaxy unfortunately, but only a few planets have been destroyed, and none of them had voters on, so it's not too much of a problem.

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Re: The finest scientific processing software

If it wasn't done in Powerpoint*, I'm not buying it!

*Displayed in Comic Sans naturally...

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Re: Arthur C. Clarke quote

The odds of there being a viable short-cut across the gulf between the stars are exceedingly low.

Another thing they couldn't stand was the perpetual failure they encountered while trying to construct a machine which could generate the infinite improbability field needed to flip a spaceship across the mind-paralyzing distances between the farthest stars, and at the end of the day they grumpily announced that such a machine was virtually impossible.

Then, one day, a student who had been left to sweep up after a particularly unsuccessful party found himself reasoning in this way: If, he thought to himself, such a machine is a virtual impossibility, it must have finite improbability. So all I have to do in order to make one is to work out exactly how improbable it is, feed that figure into the finite improbability generator, give it a fresh cup of really hot tea... and turn it on!

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and people yelling at each other in languages from the Galactic South.

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay

My, oh, my, what a wonderful day

Plenty of sunshine headin' my way

Till a Dyson sphere blocks it, and gets in da way.

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Who will save us from voice recog foolery from scumbags? Magnetometer!

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Re: Next version will use camera

It's not that hard to chop ears off...

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Re: Condescending much?

That's what my economics teacher used to say to me. "Yes, that idea is very interesting. However..."

I don't believe he ever used the word "wrong" in any of his lessons. But I soon learnt to make the word substitution automatically.

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Personally I place a thin sheet of metal over my own head, cunningly fashioned into a hat. This has the bonus that not only will nobody ever be willing to get close enough to me to record my voice, but also blocks the voices of the alien lizard overlords that I can hear when not so-equipped.

The only problem is that they're still putting stuff in the water, and the only way I've found to combat that is to only drink whisky. Or meths...

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Donald Trumped: Comey says Prez is a liar – and admits he's a leaker

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Re: Why The Fuck

You are aware that you don't actually have to read the article? And that El Reg even give you a clue as to the contents, in the form of a headline?

You don't need to thank me for solving your problem for you. You can just move on to the snarky articles abotu Apple, and carry on with your day in peace.

The Register has always been about whatever the hell they want to write about. Which includes astronomy, why everyone should hate/fear/despise/mock Facebook/Wikipedia/Google/Apple etc., stories about Australians getting blow-jobs at 90mph, killer robots, spaceplanes launched from balloons...

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Re: "Upvoted purely on that. Excellent work Sir!"

Comey himself said that he only had something like 3 one-to-one meetings with Obama. A last minute arranged dinner on a Friday evening sounds pretty odd. Actually dinner sounds pretty odd. A working lunch or breakfast I can well believe, but dinner seems a lot more serious and formal.

Though you do have to account for the fact that Trump isn't a professional politician and doesn't do things the normal way.

However at senior political level meetings would normally be conducted with trusted civil servants / advisors. People who keep a note of proceedings, and arrange the follow-up meetings, points to be actioned etc.

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Re: Puzzled.

In a word: Deniability.

If you're intelligent and want to do something that's going to get you into trouble, or is even illegal, you don't ask someone to do it directly. You allow them to form the impression that you want this situation dealt with, and leave them to make their own decisions. And of course encourage those who fulfill your unspoken desires by promoting them for it.

You also have meetings with people one-on-one, so evidence of anything will only be your word against theirs, so it would require at least two people to give evidence against you for a conviction.

The downside is that your underlings may sometimes draw the wrong conclusion if you lose your temper about a situation and spout off about it. Then go and do something you didn't actually want.

Hence Thomas Becket. Or maybe not. Henry did pennance anyway, to make up with the church, whether he was guilty or not. Walked on his knees for a mile, while the Canterbury catherdral monks whipped him. Although I'm sure that it was made clear to them in advance that he was still the bloody king, and there'd better not be more than the token amount of blood drawn to give the neccessary impression.

Perhaps Trump could walk naked down Central Avenue while being pistol-whipped by FBI agents in robes?

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Re: @ Sparty...

Ian Michael Gumby,

What point are you trying to make? That Hilary Clinton was soft on Russia because of... Something non-specific from emails that we get through the source of possible Russian hackers via Julian Assange? Some specifics would be nice.

We already have Clinton's policy record on Russia. She wasn't soft on the Russian regime, they hated her (hence attempting to help Trump to beat her) and this is all public knowledge.

Trump was the one saying nice things about Putin, hence the allegations that he might have ulterior motives to do so.

You need to come up with clear points, or it just looks like you're throwing round shit in an attempt to distract from Trump's obvious wrong-doing. Bog-standard irrelevant whattaboutery.

Not that I'm accusing him of having taken Russian bribes. I think his support for Putin was shallow, and was about differentiating himself from Clinton, as well as his general ignorance, stupidity and lack of foresight.

But sacking Comey in order to try and stop his administration getting investigated is wrongdoing. It might not be bad enough to be criminal, but it's still the wrong thing to do. Trying to get political influence and "loyalty" from the head of the FBI is wrong. It's not how the system is supposed to work. Various US Presidents have done things like this, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon all used the IRS to investigate political opponents for example. But those actions are all wrongdoing.

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Re: The nub of the biscuit.

It didn't take pressure on the intelligence agencies to get them to report that Iraq had a chemical weapons capability. Iraq had repeatedly used chemical weapons throughout the 80s, that they had developed themselves with a massive indigenous program on an industrial scale. Iraq had chemical weapons on the front lines in the war in 1990/91. The UN had destroyed abut 2/3rds of the Iraqi stocks during the 1990s. Iraq spent the whole of the 90s denying that there were any more, until the UN inspectors found the next batch, then they'd admit to that batch and just a little more, which would be destroyed only for the whole process to start again.

What Iraq didn't seem to get is that a couple of British inspectors had seen a bunch of the ministry of supply's purchase records in 91, when they got to Baghdad. However they were held hostage in the ministry carpark until they gave those records back. What Iraq didn't seem to notice is that they held out for 2 days in that car, and had a copier or a satellite fax in the boot.

So the UN weapons inspectors reports from the 90s show what they actually destroyed against what chemical supplies Iraq had bought, and calculated the difference to be what Iraq had left.

Plus, Iraq still had the scientists who did all the work. So whatever they did with those remaining weapons, re-building the program (given their vast oil wealth) was easy, once the sanctions came off.

They were also under UN Security Council sanctions until they gave up their long range missile program, which they never did.

So basically what you got was groupthink. Everyone just assumed they had chemical weapons. Whether they'd completely got rid of the program or not. Though it was much less clear whether they still had the program, or actual usable weapons. It didn't help that they weren't cooperating with the weapons inspectors, even though Hans Blix said that he didn't think they had cheical weapons.

Of course Hans Blix had a slight credibility problem. In that he was just about to sign-off on the report saying Iraq didn't have a nuclear weapons program, when he was head of the IAEA in the mid-90s. Then the CIA found it, and the IAEA had to do a quick u-turn and wander back to Iraq to supervise its destruction.

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Re: @eldakka Impeachment?

This is why you really don't have obstruction. Comey admitted that Trump didn't say go do X which would have forced Comey to do X, or resign because to not do X would be insubordination. Many don't understand the law, and those in Congress who do are willfully being ignorant for their own political gain.

Ian Michael Gumby,

You've got the sequence of this wrong. Having a private dinner at short notice with the head of the FBI whose substantial content is about an ongoing investigation into your administration is almost certainly not grounds of any kind of criminal proceedings. It's stupid, probably immoral and was almost certainly aimed at interfering with a criminal investigation - but almost certainly not enough for normal court. Let alone the higher standard of an impeachable offense which needs Congress to fire the starting-gun.

However, when you later fire that same guy, because he didn't do what you wanted (at least assuming we believe his account of the meeting), then suddenly that looks a lot closer to something like obstruction of justice.

The fact that Trump then stupidly put into his letter firing Comey that he was pleased Comey had told him that he wasn't under investigation just makes him look even guiltier.

And of course, Comey has some credibility when it comes to testimony, Trump doesn't. He's flat denied saying stuff that he said on TV a couple of days before.

I still doubt this will meet the standard of evidence required to get Congress to take the extraordinary stop of launching an impreachment. But don't rule out that Trump will do something even more blatant and stupid in the future, or maybe he's even done it already and it just hasn't come to light yet.

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Re: @Mi Tasol

His recollection of the events differ from those of Trump. Since they were the only ones present this becomes a he said, she said issue.

But Trump has a problem here. He has zero credibility. He has been repeatetedly caught lying in public. His whole political schtick is basically damn manners or the truth, I'm just going to spout my shit. And you either like the cut of my jib, or hate me (in which case I don't care).

Well that's all very well for winning an election on a minority vote, against a rubbish candidate. But when it comes to whether people believe your given word, it has some serious drawbacks.

Whereas Comey has used the lawyer's/investigator's habit of writing a note of what happened straight after the meeting.

By the way, in a he-said-she-said situation, the courts will put more weight on the person who wrote it down at the time than the one who didn't.

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Re: Lies, damned lies and Trumpy's declarations

And you end in a situation where some people are more equals than others. What is the justification to the fact that if you live somewhere your vote does not have the same weight as if you live somewhere else?

Some countries have constituencies. This is not a difficult to understand or unusual system. And most federal systems have mechanisms to balance the power of more populous/powerful states.

I agree, it was designed so the most conservative part of the country is overrepresented: it's stability by conservatism

How would the writers of the US Consitution have been able to predict which states/areas would be more conservative than others 250 years into the future? Especially as they only represented 13 colonies/states, not the 50 that the USA has now?

The system was designed to limit the powers of the federal government as against those of the states who joined together to form it. As well as to have counter-balances to those states with larger populations.

Ancient Egypt was not a democracy, nor operating in the modern era. Nor particularly stable when it came to changes of rulers / dynasties.

The US has managed to keep, while gradually evolving, the same constitution for 250 years. In a modern, much faster moving, era. Very few other countries have managed that level of stability.

Even if you discount the French revolutionary and Napoleonic periods (when they got through about 7 different constitutions in 20 years), France has had two different constitutional monarchies, one empire and 4 republican constitutions since 1815. So that's 6 goes at it in only 200 years.

It's hard to create a stable constitutional settlement - and there's no such thing as a perfect one.

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Re: Lies, damned lies and Trumpy's declarations

No. The US system was specifically designed not to allow pure majorities to elect the President.

Otherwise huge states like California, New York, Florida and Texas would get to run the country. As they've got more than half the population between them.

It's the same reason that the US has a Senate with equal representation from each state, even though some are much tinier than others.

It's still perfectly democratic to have checks-and-balances within a system to stop larger constituent units of a federation from totally dominating its political life.

I'm no fan of Trump, but him winning is a fault of the voters and the other politicians for being so shit. Not a fault of the system.

The US Constitutional system has lasted for a long time, compared to almost any other country's political system. So they must have got a few things right when they wrote it. Even if it's obviously not perfect.

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They may not be meaningless political points.

My personal suspicion is that Trump won't turn out to have any direct financial links to Putin. It seems to me that he's too loose-lipped, incompetent and lacks the attention span to carry out a proper conspiracy.

And he's probably only pro-Putin in the sense that he's ignorant of global affairs, it gets him points with some voters with more extreme points of view who seem to favour Putin (on both left and right), and it's a way of thumbing his nose at the establishment.

This seems to be further confirmed to me by the complete lack of any progress at all in relations with Russia. Trump is too unstable a partner.

I'm sure lots of him campaign team have dodgy links in various places, because the people without a shady past wouldn't work for him. And everyone remotely senior in Washington circles will have met the Russian ambassador.

So my feeling is that the most likely explanation is cock-up rather than conspiracy. And that Russia were working against Clinton, so had congruent interests with Trump.

However it's vitally important that this be investigated. Because the type of people who successfully pull-off conspiracies (genuine ones being quite rare) are the type of people who currently run Russia. Ex-KGB / FSB officers. So it might be true.

Trump is totally untrustworthy, so you can't just ask him. Not that he might not get himself into some other scandal first. He is, after all, on tape admitting to sex-crimes.

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Re: "Leaker"? No !

That's a bit like the distinction from Yes Prime Minister:

Leak is an irregular verb.

I give confidential press conferences,

You leak

He has been charged under section 3a of the Official Secrets Act

Anyway in normal political-speak to leak is to put out an unauthorised communication to the press. Most specifically when it involes documents or accounts of conversations with several parties. So if an account of a conversation involving an appointee and the President comes out that's definitely a leak.

I rather doubt that "leak" is a legal term - and so I'd be surprised if it has a technical description. It's obviously not a crime to leak non-classified information though, but could still be grounds for dismissal.

Not that I'm any supporter of trumpety-wumpety. Or whatever bollocks legal statements he puts out. It's never a good sign in politics when you have to get your lawyer to attempt to rebut a story...

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Whisky snobs scotched by artificial tongue

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Re: Holy s**t 10K-135K Euros a bottle

I only clicked to post something pedantic about tongues, so I'll do it here.

I'd be surprised if anyone could tell much about whisky with their tongue. Almost all taste comes from the nose. Hold your nose, and you can't tell the difference between apple and onion.

Now as some whiskies are sweeter than others, I'd imagine that you can tell those apart with tongue alone. But almost all the other distinguishing features are going to need your nose.

So I reckon I might be able to tell the difference between a Balvenie and a Bells with tongue alone, but doubt I could tell a Balvenie from any given speyside.

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Science megablast: Comets may have brought xenon to Earth

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Mushroom

Re: Comets? Why bloody comets?

We need to stop publishing these articles!

If we don't, Jeff Bezos is going to read about useful things being delivered by comet, and he's going to upgrade the Amazon drone program. Given he's already building Blue Origin, this could mean a cometary capture mission in as little as a decade. Then even Bruce Willis won't be able to save us!

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In detail: How we are all pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered – by online biz all day

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Re: The Prisoner is currently showing on Freeview 'True Entertainment'...

Edge of Darkness was truly brilliant. A wonderful piece of telly. Must dig the DVD out and watch it again.

The Prisoner is too hit and miss for my taste. It's got some good bits (or at least so I remember from watching the box-set with a mate years ago), but I've no patience for the self-indulgent bits in between, of which there are far too many.

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Live blog: Fired FBI boss spills the beans to US Senate committee

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Re: Honest question

As I've told a few people (and done myself), if ever you think you might end up in court, write stuff down at the time! Notes of phone conversations, with time and DATE. That's the important bit. Courts give extra weight to contemporaneous notes, as they're almost bound to be more accurate than later recollections from either side.

Plus courts are run by lawyers, and that's what lawyers do.

Obviously it gets sticky if both sides have done it, and disagree. But that's a good reason to follow up a conversation with an email saying what was agreed, then if they don't disagree at the time, you've got them.

In this case, who'd trust Trump, over anybody? He's a lying arsehole?

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Kremlin hackers' new target: Montenegro

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Re: Montenegro

I saw it on ITV a few years ago, and they dubbed it to Trigger. Not very well. But last time I saw it, they'd left it alone.

However I heard Peter Jackson interviewed and he said that it just wasn't worth the arguments with the money people and the studios. It really doesn't matter what the dog's called, so it's better to change it rather than needlessly offend people. It's not like this is a serious attack on his artistic freedom. Or just write the dog out of it.

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Re: Montenegro

My Nan used to buy wool for knitting in "nigger brown".

I'm hoping that's been changed in the last few decades...

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Meteor swarm spawns new and dangerous branch

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Happy

Re: This is true!

Could I get something to pipe all this glorious sunshine to me here at ground-level? Say a 20,000 foot long tube with mirrors inside. We could call it a sunbrella. Hold it above your head, while walking down the street, and be bathed in sunshine, whatever-the-weather.

Right, I'm off to email Dragon's Den. Offering them 0.001% of my company for ONE MEEELLION POUNDS!!!!!

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Happy

FAKE NEWS!

The regular and often-unspectacular Taurid meteor shower

I would like to object to The Register publishing fake news such as this.

I live in England. There is no such thing as a spectacular meteor shower!

Perhaps someone needs to publish some research on the power of astronomical events to cause cloud cover. It's almost as if they're hiding...

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Devil

Re: I welcome our new meteor overlords

I'll have heaps of pepperoni, spicy beef, ham, salami, chicken, basically all the ones for carnivores.

The meteor the better.

This is true. The problem is it's also likely to be topped with a lot of long-pig.

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Busted Russian casino hackers had an appetite for drugs and chocolate

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Would be very disappointing if all that chocolate wasn't happily boiling away in a big vat without lid (tsk! Health and Safety fails again!), just conveniently positioned for some poor minion to get thrown into it.

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Obama's intel chief says Russia totally tried to swing it for Trump

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Happy

Re: Trump,WUN

I'm having a flashback to reading Feersum Endjinn.

Bring back amanfrommars, all is forgiven...

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Re: erm

The problem with Trump is that appearances actually do matter in politics. As do stupid words.

Admittedly the orange with weird hair thing would matter much less if he wasn't a total arsehole. Though would still be used by opponents, because people are just like that.

This is a reality that he seems to stupid to realise. He thinks that he can just tweet bollocks to his heart's content, and this won't have any effect on actual policy and diplomacy. I guess because he thinks it's just business, which is all about the money. But of course now he's playing in politics, which isn't all about the right decision, it's also about appearances, perceptions etc.

Also business isn't all about the money anyway. As anyone who's ever negotiated can tell you. You can get a bit more by being difficult sometimes, but that tactic can equally blow up in your face and get you less than just asking politely.

There's an argument that it's all just noise, and the little stuff obscures the big stuff. Plus the crying wolf argument. That's the game Putin plays relatively successfully. But on the other hand, there's so little evidence for these Russian links allegations that if Trump wasn't such a monumental arse, it might have died down by now. Obviously there was hacking and fake news, but I suspect very little in the way of direct, provable links to Trump's team. I'm sure Clinton's team will have had meetings with the Russian ambassador too, it's actually part of an ambassador's job to meet the teams of all the likely candidates before an election.

Also trust matters. Putin is in strife in international relations because he thinks he can make a deal, then break it, then laugh in people's faces when he admits lying to them. Because they eventually will have to deal with him. But that game has a very limited lifespan, and that's why Russia is still under very painful and expensive sanctions 2 years after they invaded Crimea, even though there's clearly a deal to be done because they've got stuff we want from them.

Power is important in politics. So is trust. And so are appearances.

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Re: This is getting a bit tiresome

And you don't think there are any valid worries about Russia's various policies at the moment that are worth reporting on?

It comes up in the news, because it's an issue.

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Re: Shit-for-brains

Isn't Bahrian a naval base though, and Qatar where they base a lot of the aircraft? Obviously aircraft are more important for dealing with ISIS than ships. Admittedly there are other bases, but Turkey are not proving the easiest to work with at the moment.

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Russia is struggling to keep its cybercrime groups on a tight leash

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Re: Comparable in intent but not execution

Russia has been arguably braver (choose your own adjective here) to push the envelope of developing an aggressive capability (in this case, not defensive; separate question) which has greater rewards and some risks.

Russia is much poorer. They ranked 12th in the world on nominal GDP last year - smaller than Italy, Canada or South Korea. Although obviously labour costs are lower - so for something manpower intensive they're at much less disadvantage.

There's an ex diplomat that I read sometimes, Charles Crawford. And one of his sayings when talking about Putin's policies is, "chaos is fair". Hadn't realised it was a quote from The Joker until I looked it up.

The idea being the the Soviets lost the Cold War on the economy but if the ex-KGB people running the place can be cleverer, then unleashing chaos knackers everyone equally. But they're willing to take more pain (well inflict on their own citizens who have no choice in the matter), than the West is - and maybe they also bet that they can dance better...

There's a bit of a 1930s feel to the Russian leadership, we didn't lose the Cold War, we were betrayed. The German 1918 "stab in the back" thing again. Because I guess the alternative is admitting that the system they served was both evil, and useless. Even though I doubt many were believing communists, as the KGB even then was plugged into organised crime.

They also profitted from the chaos of the Yeltsin years, so why not again? The same playbook two, making money via criminal gangs, or via exploiting the privatisation of state enterprises - or later stealing those off the people who originally stole them, to entrench their powerbase.

The question is, do they have an objective? Or is more a case of fuck the lot of you, if we can't have everything we want we'll screw it all up for you as well? I suspect they're quite a nihilistic lot. They joined the Communist party in the 70s, when it was already clear to many how badly it was going - but that was the only way to get ahead. And the way to get luxuries (or even neccessities) was corruption and the black market.

So I guess this is just their normal playbook now. And damn the consequences.

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