Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christmas Song

From the Spectator (via Andrew Sullivan)

A Christmas Song

Why is the baby crying
On this, his special day,
When we have brought him lovely gifts
And laid them on the hay?

He’s crying for the people
Who greet this day with dread
Because somebody dear to them
Is far away or dead,

For all the men and women
Whose love affairs went wrong,
Who try their best at merriment
When Christmas comes along,

For separated parents
Whose turn it is to grieve
While children hang their stockings up
Elsewhere on Christmas Eve,

For everyone whose burden
Carried through the year,
Is heavier at Christmastime,
The season of good cheer.

That’s why the baby’s crying
There in the cattle stall:
He’s crying for those people.
He’s crying for them all.

Wendy Cope

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Water of Life

Doctors save man with vodka drip BBC 10 Oct 2007

Sed Contra II

The human experience of evil is a major problem for polytheists, dualists, and atheists. It's also a problem for monotheists, but one I think they can address best.

Polytheists do not face the same problem (since they can believe in conflicts between gods), but as far as I am concerned polytheism is a trivial answer to the problem of evil.

What clearly does work as an answer is radical dualism, i.e. the view that there are two opposing first principles. Variations on this theme which ascribe evil to a created devil figure do not really provide any answers. Note that while some historical dualisms have posited evil as a conflict between spirit and matter are not the only possible versions. In some forms of Zoroastrianism the Good Principle creates the physical world as an arena for the battle between good and evil. The problem with dualism is that while it does explain a conflict, it does not explain why one principle is good and the other evil. To provide such tags requires a level of meaning more fundamental than the two first principles, which are thus not first principles.

Atheists have perhaps a greater problem with evil. Let me be clear, many, perhaps most, theoretical atheists are highly moral people. Indeed, I think the whole argument that one needs to believe in God to be a good person is off kilter. In practice I suspect habit is the major guide in life to being a good person, and a habit of virtue is the way to be a good human being. (Such a position is entirely consistent with theories of behaviour in many varieties of Catholicism and Judaism). But faced with raw evil, atheism has nothing to say. For atheism, theoretical ethics must be nothing more than a combination of innate instincts and contingent social constructions. It is quite possible from such a point of view to condemn certain acts as destructive of social goods, or to come up with a theory of law. It is much more difficult to say certain acts are absolutely wrong. And it is impossible to see as evil the impact of natural forces. Atheists simply cannot coherently say that pain and suffering are evil.

The problem of evil for monotheists is this:- If God is an all powerful then God could create any possible world. There is a possible world without pain and suffering (and even if there is no possible world consistent with free will that has no pain and suffering, there is surely a possible world with much less pain and suffering than this one.) If God could have created a better world than this one, but did not, then God made evil. If God was not able to create a better world, then God is not omnipotent (and thus not, in an important sense, God at all).

There is no easy answer to this, but I think monotheism does provide better answers than the alternatives presented.

First, with God as the unique ground of being, it is possible to identify goodness as identical with Godness. Goodness is simply that which is accord with God. Evil is what is opposed to God.

Second, there is at least one theoretical explanation for evil possible with theism which allows both that human experience of evil is real and yet consistent with God as the ground of being. This is Augustine's notion that evil represents lack of actualisation of God's will. I don't find it entirely convincing as an argument, but it is better, I think, than any other.

Third, actually existing religions try to grapple with evil in an honest way. The Book of Job in the Jewish Bible (i.e. the Christian Old Testament) in a novelistic form addresses the reality of evil as it occurs in a human life. Job presents evil as real, random (i.e. not a proportionate response to some human sin), and ultimately inexplicable. It's only real statement is that the will of God is beyond human comprehension. This is scant comfort, but rather more comforting in fact than an easy answer. Christianity could be said to provide an explanation for evil with it's idea that evil is the result of sin. Now, I do think that the current band of published atheists such as Dawkins avoid the quite real issue of human sin, but I don't think myths of Satan tempting Eve provide much of an answer either. What is striking in Christianity is that it's central story - God incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth - does at least involve God in all the muck and mess of evil in the world.

The Christian version of monotheism does not provide an answer to the problem of evil, any more than does the Book of Job, but it does address the reality of evil (and does not try to cast it as an illusion like eastern religions), and states that God is involved in the mess. That, to me at least, provides some comfort.

Sed Contra I

To begin to try to reply to the difficulties I set below.

Whatever science discovers there remains the quite real problem of why anything exists rather than nothing at all.

Some religious traditions have not taken this as a major issue - the Buddha supposedly said that if the house was burning down (i.e. if suffering exists) why bother to find out who built the house. Nevertheless, the question of why something rather than nothing remains important.

Note that, even if certain far eddies of science manage to show that we live in one of many universes, or that all matter and energy were created in a kind of random quantum action, the question would remain as to why anything rather than nothing. I suppose that it might be possible to reject all notions of causation.

If we take the position that the ultimate explanation for there being anything rather than nothing is X, then that X would be insufficient if it were not the explanation of its own existence. It is this X that I and other religious people want to identify as God.

Note that any notion of a god who is responsible for this Universe, but requires an explanation for its own existence is not the God of western theism.

It is true that there are very many different varieties of credal religion, but the God who is the ground of being, to use an old phrase, is the same universal God of ALL varieties of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Zoroastrianism; the same God as the God of philosophers such as Aristotle, Plato, Plotinus, Spinoza, and Kant; the same God as the God of Stoics and Deists; and the same notion of the absolute found in certain forms of Buddhism (i.e. the Adibuddha concept). In other words, I would claim that assent to the idea of such an argument for God cannot be put down to mere issues of an individual's upbringing.

The X as answer to the ultimate question can not, on this consideration alone, be understood as the personal God of Christianity, Judaism, or Christianity. Belief and faith in a personal God requires further considerations. But, in so far as the question of why anything exists rather than nothing at all remains a serious question, then intellectual assent to the idea of a ground of being is also a serious answer.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

God Does Not Exist

I am a believer in God, but not a very good one.

How I actually act in the world seems to have more to do with habit, the usual mix of good desires and bad desires - all affected on a daily basis by genetics, psychology and the pressure of living. Plus, I am not very good at prayer.

Once upon a time I used to be able to set aside time and really try to "practice the presence of God." That does not really happen any more.

Nevertheless, I will still affirm as true that the world has both a creator and a meaning, that God was incarnate in the historical individual Jesus of Nazareth, and that God is manifest in the world through the emanation of grace, seen above all in the sacrifice of the altar - that "God was man in Palestine/And lives today in bread and wine" (Betjamen).

But, so as to be fair in argument, I want to try to come up with the best arguments against faith in God.

[I am not interested in the discussion about "religion." Religion is the area of my academic study. Religion is a sociological universal. It has good effects and bad effects. It will continue to exist whatever the current arguments conclude.]

1. Science has produced better and better descriptions of the universe. Not everything is explained, but unless one is willing to make the untenable statement that "science has reached it's limits", there is no reason to suppose that the explanatory power of science might not increase *without limit.* As an outside observer (three years of high-school calculus almost killed me), it seems clear that we are in a time of massive scientific advances in understanding without parallel in human history. Science is THE great intellectual adventure of our time. Nothing should be done to hinder it in any way. Science (especially physics/neurobiology) may make God unnecessary.

2. It is morally repugnant to make God the author of all good in the world (beauty, great virtue, mother love) and yet to excuse God for all the real suffering in the world. This is a typical Christian approach.

3. If God, (as I believe) is best know through revelation, why are the so-called Holy books such awful texts? The Koran *appears* plagiarized; the Old Testament is almost completely fallacious as history; the New Testament presents no real problem in the Synoptic Gospels, but the Gospel of John is (almost) from another religion entirely. Buddhist and Hindu scriptures (admittedly not "revelation") are, to an honest westerner, simply tripe.

4. Joseph Smith. Mormonism is (apart from the anti-Gay bit) a really NICE religion. It encourages group solidarity; it does NOT condemn all non-Mormons to hell (just a less nice heaven); Mormon architecture is on the edge of the camp and inspiration, but it is pretty great over all. Despite all this, I think Joseph Smith was a fraud from upstate New York. Why don't I think this about all founders of religions?

OK, that's my best, most honest, set of reasons to deny faith in both God, and specifically Jesus.

Despite all this, I affirm my real and deep faith that Jesus of Nazareth is God.

Now, I invite atheists to come up with the best reasons they can think of to oppose their position.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Dawkins Again

I am not the only one who sees something repulsive in Richard Dawkin's arguments. I do not mean his arguments against the existence of God, which are not very good, and which have certainly been made better by other people. Rather, it is his views on religion in society which are bothersome.

See Theo Hobson in the Guardian 1 Oct 2007

The truth is that Dawkins does not want equal rights; he wants what he says that the Jewish lobby has: disproportionate influence. If atheists had more political power, "the world would be a better place". He wants the gospel of atheism to spread; he wants it to change the culture.

I have been chided in the past for referring to the "militant" atheism of Dawkins and his like. But the desire for one's creed to spread, in order to make the world a better place, surely merits the label. Atheists reply that there is nothing dangerous or sinister in the desire to see more rationality, less superstition. Really? Dawkins was asked what he hoped an atheist bloc in the US might achieve, and this is the first part of the answer he gave: "I would free children of being indoctrinated with the religion of their parents or their community." Is this not amazing? I have seldom read a sentence that has induced such a sharp shiver of revulsion. This man evidently dreams of a state in which it is illegal to take one's children to a place of worship, or to say prayers with them as one puts them to bed.

Do I overreact? What else does he mean by wanting to "free" children from a parent's ability to "indoctrinate" them? He wants a culture in which saying bedtime prayers is considered child abuse. Presumably in this bravely rationalised new world, atheist teachers will encourage children to inform on their parents.


Other people have picked up on the Dawkins problem:


Daniel Finkelstein, The Times 5 Oct 2007

Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Dish 5 Oct 2007

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Condeleeza Rice: A Lesbian

That seems to be what Paul Schindler is saying here.

Hmmm. Condi may be a Dyke!

I suppose that will make her the perfect running partner for Giuliani against the Clinton-Obama ticket.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Is Richard Dawkins an Anti-Semite?

"When you think about how fantastically successful the Jewish lobby has been, though, in fact, they are less numerous I am told - religious Jews anyway - than atheists and [yet they] more or less monopolise American foreign policy as far as many people can see. So if atheists could achieve a small fraction of that influence, the world would be a better place."

The Guardian Oct 1 2007

I have discussed before whether Richard Dawkins might be ant anti-Semite because his if put into practice his views would lead to the disappearance of the Jewish people. In his defence it could be argued that this was simply a by product of his desire to see the demise of all religious groups.

But with this comment in the Guardian this morning, I am increasingly worried. While there is a strong pro-Israel lobby in the USA (just as there are strong lobbies for many other causes), American Jews do not constitute a "they" in the sense Dawkins implies. Very many secular, and indeed atheist, Jews are strong supporters of Israel, whereas the largest group of (ultra)-Orthodox Jews (the Satmar Hasidism) actively oppose Israel.

Citing "Jews" as a group that monopolises American foreign policy is often a sign of anti-Semitism, as for example in the case of the politician Pat Buchanan.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Star Trek in Turkish

I am not kidding...

NRO linked to this.

It's reworking of The Man Trap (the first episode in Star Trek the Original series) according to Wikipedia. [Say what you may, there would have been no easy way to work this out before Wikipedia was launched.]

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Next President

I just watch Hilary smash down Tim Russert at the Democratic candidates debate.

She may be scary lady, but hate her or love her, you have to give here this, she is damn good at debates.

One of my correspondents noted that she got this skill "probably from talking to Bill whenever he came home...."

I suppose that Hilary has lived and learned from life's experiences.

I am quite sure, for example, that when she is president she will not be found in a corridor off the Oval Office with an intern and a cigar.

The United Kingdom under Labour...

....true heir of the American Revolution.

We [the American colonists fighting in the War of Independence] have shed our blood in the glorious cause in which we are engaged; we are ready to shed the last drop in its defense. Nothing is above our courage, except only (with shame I speak it) the courage to TAX ourselves.

--James Madison, 1782

[Just think how many of the world's problems could be solved by a US President and Congress which would impose a 50 cent a gallon tax on gasoline.]

Turkey: The Most Bangs for Your Buck least according to this survey.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Andrew Sullivan, for whom I have the highest regard attacked the picture above as blaphemous. (Indeed the site has now changed it).

Dan Savage has the perfect response.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Proud to Be An American

The United States scored an impressive goal yesterday, when Columbia University's (much protested) invitation to President Ahmadinejad of Iran was not interfered with by the US government.

It was a glorious victory for the US system.

The Iranian President was allowed to speak and he hanged himself. It was an almost perfect demonstration of the virtue of allowing free speech.

Furthermore, as others have pointed out, Columbia itself, both facilitated the event, and bore witness.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Reasons to Love Britain 7


Hard as it may be to believe but almost everywhere in Britain it is possible to receive two distinct classical music radio stations.

BBC Radio 3 [Wikipedia: Radio 3]is almost certainly the best classical music radio station in the world. Not only does the BBC provide classical music around the clock, but the organization supports and pays for and supports five symphony orchestras.

But, to be frank, Radio 3 is sometimes a bit preachy. It wants to make you like songs by Michael Tippet even when they sound like screeching.

ClassicFM is indescribably perfect to just have one, at any time, in the background, to make life more acceptable.

Of course classical music has a higher goal and rationale than that. But making life acceptable is no bad thing.

More Liberal Than You

I took the test at [It's a current internet hit. See Andrew Sullivan on the subject here.]

Well, my results are as above.

Apparently I am more liberal compared to most liberals than most liberals are to Conservatives.

Hmmmm. Makes me proud.

The scale you completed was the "Moral Foundations Questionnaire," developed by Jesse Graham, Jonathan Haidt & Brian A. Nosek at the University of Virginia.

The scale is a measure of your reliance on and endorsement of five psychological foundations of morality that seem to be found across cultures. Each of the two parts of the scale contained four questions related to each foundation: 1) harm/care, 2) fairness/reciprocity (including issues of rights), 3) ingroup/loyalty, 4) authority/respect, and 5) purity/sanctity.

The idea behind the scale is that human morality is the result of biological and cultural evolutionary processes that made human beings very sensitive to many different (and often competing) issues. Some of these issues are about treating other individuals well (the first two foundations - harm and fairness). Other issues are about how to be a good member of a group or supporter of social order and tradition (the last three foundations). Haidt and Graham have found that political liberals generally place a higher value on the first two foundations; they are very concerned about issues of harm and fairness (including issues of inequality and exploitation). Political conservatives care about harm and fairness too, but they generally score slightly lower on those scale items. The big difference between liberals and conservatives seems to be that conservatives score slightly higher on the ingroup/loyalty foundation, and much higher on the authority/respect and purity/sanctity foundations.

This difference seems to explain many of the most contentious issues in the culture war. For example, liberals support legalizing gay marriage (to be fair and compassionate), whereas many conservatives are reluctant to change the nature of marriage and the family, basic building blocks of society. Conservatives are more likely to favor practices that increase order and respect (e.g., spanking, mandatory pledge of allegiance), whereas liberals often oppose these practices as being violent or coercive.

In the graphs below, your scores on each foundation are shown in green. The scores of all liberals who have taken it on our site are shown in blue, and the scores of all conservatives are shown in red. Scores run from 0 (the lowest possible score, you completely reject that foundation) to 5 (the highest possible score, you very strongly endorse that foundation and build much of your morality on top of it).

Police: Sometimes They Tell Lies and Often They Over-Charge

CNN has put the Police Report on the arrest of the University of Florida student who was tased online.

It is quite possible to see on video everything that happened. Yet the police are trying to lay a felony rap on the guy for *resisting arrest.* And the reason given for the arrest - that he "was inciting a riot."

We need the police for social protection, but here is a basic truth. Some policemen and women lie like they breathe.

Even when, as in this case, they know there is a video of their actions, they cannot help themselves.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What's Wrong with America 3

Americans don't know when to stop wearing blond wigs.

A Commercial

My dad and Uncle Dave run a truly horrible business.

They sell hot sauces. It's such a straight thing, a gay man like me can hardly understand the concept. (We prefer hot Mormons.)#

But, since my dad managed to get hit on his motorbike while on his recent beer tour of Belgium, I have been helping him pack some of his sauces.

If you truly want the hottest hot sauce in Europe, try The D'Evil's Kitchen..

If you know straight boys who equate masculinity with burning their tongues off, my dad can help.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Very Upsetting Things about Britain 3


It's all true!

People with missing teeth audition for TV talent shows. Politicians have perfectly black lines between each tooth. Educated professionals flash crooked teeth. And a fair number of people seem to go shopping in ASDA without their teeth in.

Worst of all. Perfectly cute people in bars smile, and, well one doesn't want to be condemnatory, but....

Some things are better in America. Like Teeth.


What's Wrong with America 2

Mormons are taking over.

What's Wrong with America 1

They have too many gay websites.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Very Upsetting Things about Britain 2


At least in Manchester, young people, and some no so young, have adopted a very odd hairstyle. The back, sides and top are short (or spiked with gel), but the front is long, cut in a wedge shape, quite possibly dyed, and plastered with gel to the face.

Britain did not win wars with it's young people looking like they had just fallen into a bucket of wallpaper paste mixed with bleach.

Very Upsetting Things about Britain 1


For some unknown reason, British people have taken to decorating there houses with vases (sometimes very big vases) of dead twigs.

I think the look is meant to be minimalist, but it all looks a little IKEA.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

This is Just Wrong, but Right in a Very Odd Way II

So, YouTube took down the video of Jake doing drag.

OK How about Dr Who in Drag?

Also see here and here. [American readers please note that Catherine Tate is going to be the Doctor's new companion.

[Meanwhile, American readers should look up 'John Barrowman' on YouTube for some fun. Sandy - that means you.]

Athiest Brownnosing

Read Richard Dawkin's review of Christopher Hitchen's God is Not Great.

A truly astonishing piece of brown-nosing.

There are lots of good arguments against religion, and those who want to read them should perhaps read Bertrand Russell's Why I am Not a Christian.

What is so annoying about Hitchens AND Dawkins is their belief that they are somehow rigorous and academic thinkers, and that the vast erudition displayed by thinkers of all religious traditions is simply tosh.

So lets get this straight: Hitchen's book is shallow (with constant flip comments and use of easy targets. Two examples within a few pages could be greatly multiplied: at one stage Hitchen's attacks a auxiliary bishop for denouncing condoms, two pages later the man has become "Archbishop of Rio"; a page later Hitchen's claims that most historians accept Jesus must have been born after 4 AD (in fact, the usual consensus is that he must have been born before 4 BC). These are, in themselves, minor points, but are entirely typical of the sloppiness and lack of erudition of both authors.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Same Sex Marriage

I have no idea who can really object.

Andrew Sullivan, with whom I often disagree, but always read, deserves to have found his Aaron.

Here are the pics

Congratulations, Andrew.


Forget Nessun Dorma, but believe the hype.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Reasons to Love Britain 6

"Britain is a tolerant country with a widespread acceptance that prejudice has no proper place in civil society".

The Guardian

Now I am going to look at some of the bad things....

Monday, August 20, 2007

Free Speech in the UK

In the UK there is a considerably greater range of commonly-expressed opinion than in the US, but one of the things I have noticed since I returned is that legal protections for free speech are rather less than under the US system.

For example "incitement to hatred" charges are used in the UK to prohibit all sorts of speech about racial and religious groups that would be considered protected in the US. In general, I prefer to know who hates me, and hence prefer the US system.

I am not, by the way, a liberal. I would define myself as a Democratic Socialist (in terms of class and welfare politics) with libertarian tendencies (in terms of personal behaviour such as sexual practices, drug use, etc.)

Dawkin's The God Delusion

Like a lot of people this summer I have read Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion.

My take? The books consists of lots of cheap shots, and an myopic idea of what rationality, erudition, and culture consist of.

And here is a problem: Dawkins rightly criticizes religious intolerance, and repeatedly refers with historical accuracy to Christian Antisemitism (for instance his peroration on the case of Pope Pius IX and Edgardo Mortara). But Dawkins' prescription - that children not be brought up as part of the the religious community in which they are born(*) - if applied to Jews would lead to the immediate destruction of all Jewish communities everywhere. If he wants a world without Jewish children, then he wants a world without Jews,

Now, what do you call a person who wants a world with Jews?

Of course, Dawkins is not "Antisemitic" in any vulgar way. It's just his prescriptions would lead to a Jew-free world. Nasty.

(*) In an odd oversight, Dawkins neglects to mention that the one group he attacks most often - American evangelicals (a group that, in general, I have little truck with) - do NOT teach that their children are Christians simply because their parents are.

Baptists and Pentecostals (e.g. Assembly of God, the Church of God in Christ) insist that all members must make a personal decision *at an age of sentience* to join their churches. The Amish, another group he attacks, specifically release their children into the world after high school and require them to make an adult decision. Dawkins on this issue has either not done his homework, or simply twists his facts to suit his agenda. Given the methodology of the rest of the book, it is likely he is doing both.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Reasons to Love Britain 5

Deep Fried Pizzas

This is Just Wrong, but Right in a Very Odd Way

Reasons to Love Britain 4

I had many fine friends in Florida, but the ability of the average Southern politician to be a homophobic bigot is massively greater than anything now possible in the UK.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., Aug. 15 — The uproar began last month, when Mayor Jim Naugle said that installing a single-occupancy restroom on a local beach could deter “homosexual activity.”
Mr. Naugle's recent remarks have led to protests by local gay advocates and calls for a tourism boycott.
Mr. Naugle, a six-term mayor in this city that draws legions of gay tourists and residents, went on to tell a local newspaper that he preferred the word “homosexual” to “gay” because he believed many gay people were “unhappy.” Soon after, he criticized a plan to house a private gay book collection in a public library because it contained pornography.
Outraged local residents called for his resignation, started a “Flush Naugle” campaign and organized a protest rally that brought hundreds to City Hall in late July, a time of year when South Florida usually verges on comatose. That day, Mr. Naugle announced that he would issue an apology.
And he did — to “the children and parents of our community,” for not being aware of “how serious the problem was of the sexual activity that’s taking place in bathrooms and public places and parks.” He questioned whether Broward County should continue telling tourists to “come on down,” citing 2004 statistics that found it led the nation in new AIDS cases.

New York Times 17 August 2007

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Moving Home is Like Learning a New Language

Moving back to Britain after twenty years has required me to learn what is, in effect, a new social language.

For example, one pays for things in the oddes tways here. For electricity I have a meter into which I have to insert a payment card which I can 'top up' at any convenience store: for pay-as-you go cellphones (called mobile phones in the UK), I can pay at my bank's cash machines. If you one doesn't have a credit card one can pay by 'SMS', which means your cellphone is debited for certain payments.

No one here grasps how odd all this is.

And don't get me started on SCART cards or how plugs, sockets, and fuses work.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Reasons to Love Britain 3

After 20 years in the US, you gain a new respect for the sheer local intensity of history in the UK.

I am now living around 6 miles from the centre of Manchester in an old mill town called Radcliffe. Just down the road is the Parish Church of All Saints Manchester. It's a spectacular early 19th century Church that in the US would be a major monument. Here, literally noone seems to notice it. In the centre of Radcliffe, a mile away in the other direction, is another spectacular 19th century church. And then a mile outside is another Anglican Parish Church - St. Mary's Radcliffe, which is on a site used as a church since Anglo-Saxon times and which today has a church building which dates from the 15th century.

There are literally hundreds and hundreds of such buildings within a 20 mile car journey. Very few people here seem to even notice them.

After 20 years in the US, I am stunned.

In fact I feel a new website coming on - a Medieval Manchester site to accompany my Medieval New York site.

Reasons to Love Britain 2

Everyone complains about the Royal Mail, But it's because it has reached only 90% next day delivery with standard first class mail.

You send a letter here for 34p and it gets to its destination the next day. Amazing.

Where You Live is Entirely a Matter of Choice

Here I am, at a desk, at a keyboard. The world around me is created by the media I consume.

Since I have moved back to the UK, I am sedulous in consuming/following the British media (The Guardian/the BBC/The Manchester Evening News etc.)

But, as a matter of FACT, I could equally choose to live in a US, or even Jacksonville, media world.

Right now in fact, I am listening to Diane Rehm (on WJCT, but from WAMU), and I can watch CNN/I, listen to NPR, read the New York Times and skim the Florida Times-Union. I can even watch CBS and NBC nightly news, and get the Jay Leno show. I choose to go with cable TV/Broadband, but if I had chosen Sky Satellite, I could also get the Fox News Channel in its full unabridged US glory.

For the time being, I have chosen to live in two worlds.

The Sub Prime Mess in the US

In one of my less successful ventures, I worked/trained as a mortgage broker in Jacksonville FL in the fall of 2006.

I could have predicted everything that is happening now to the US housing market, but, alas I didn't. What I can say is that I don't think even the tip of the iceberg has been touched

For instance, the press is still talking about sub prime new loans. What has not emerged yet is that on a local level mortgage brokers, when getting home-owners to refinance typically induced the homeowner to refinance the entire loan, not just get a second mortgage (since the payoff to agent was much greater in a complete loan refi). "Hey, I kept refinancing a crack user to bankruptcy" was one line I heard from a trainer.

The upshot is that a lot of mortgage brokers, and Mortgage Broking companies, were
taking massive immediate payouts while moving very marginal clients into very bad situations. The only thing that kept the whole near-Ponzi scheme afloat was rising house prices.

That now seems to be over.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Memories of Florida 1

An odd story from The Miami Herald 26 July 2007

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Reasons to Love Britain 1

Dr Who.

Time to Start Blogging Again....

...After almost a year away (the less said the better), I am back in the UK.

Here goes.