Saturday, 14 March 2009

Saturday 14/03/09

Are the Continuity IRA perchance part-time BBC continuity announcers?

Managed to get through the whole of Red Nose Day without a single person haranguing me for money. Mind you, that’s par for the course. Even if someone did manage to ask me the answer would be no, as I rarely carry cash around with me. I can literally go from one month to the next without touching the stuff. Guess I’ll have to phone in a donation.

Hay had a full check-up yesterday. She’s pleased as Punch now as she was told she has the metabolic function of a 29 year-old. Not bad for someone who is 44. I’m quite excited that I have a 29 year-old partner!

Take a look at this video on the accelerating pace of technology and information. On first seeing it I felt somewhat overwhelmed and even motivated by our achievements and the rate of progress. In a way I felt quite hopeful that mankind could solve anything that was thrown at us. However, when you look at the progression, it’s all to do with speed and not necessarily quality. I now feel more apprehensive than motivated. As the video says – what does it all mean?

I want to start a pressure group that lobbies for the inclusion of spurious characters in web and e-mail addresses. Just imagine how much more creative web addresses and e-mail addresses could be if we were allowed to include the humble ampersand. You could have a sensible e-mail address for a couple – Geoff&, for example. How about including character string 32 – the extremely useful white space? The above address could then be Geoff & Gillian @ Mon – eminently more legible.

What plonker decided to throw out half the characters available on a keyboard when it came to using the internet? I can understand the slash and backslash as they are used for navigation within directories, but not others, except possibly from the perspective of some of them being used as instruction symbols within programming languages.

Benyam Mohammed will doubtless be justifiably (from a legal perspective) claiming compensation for being tortured. According to his claims he was in Afghanistan to see Muslim countries with his own eyes and to cure a drug problem – having gone there with no visible means of support. Now if I has a drug problem, the last place I’d go to have it cured is the very country that is the very source of the majority of the world’s opium and where drug addicts were regularly topped by the Taliban in a zero tolerance regime. The NHS can cure you quite adequately at no cost to yourself and without you risking being beheaded by a pyjama wearing beardie with a bandage round his bonce and an AK47 over his shoulder.

He is then caught in Pakistan boarding a plane to the UK with a forged passport. Why on earth would he need a forged passport and try entering the UK under another name when he was already a citizen of the UK?

Regardless of whether one agrees with torture under extenuating circumstances or not, I can’t believe people were put in Guantanamo without plenty of circumstantial smoke being around, even though there may have been no evidential fire. That’s the problem with terrorism – the normal standards of evidence don’t necessarily apply. I don’t think it’s wise to play by the rules all the time, because sure as hell your fanatical enemies won’t. Sometimes circumstantial evidence has to be enough - you just have to try and ensure that those who engage in clandestine or underhand operations are managed by a responsible agency rather than being freelance. Even James Bond with his licence to kill had political masters.

There again, if you do engage in torture, then perhaps it’s a bit facile to become a signatory to a protocol that says you don’t. Better to let the enemy guess and not sign anything that’s unequivocal. In a way, the Americans are engaged in a propaganda effort – officially denying they use torture, but allowing the leaking of information about torture being used. It makes the enemy think twice.

The argument that torture doesn’t work simply doesn’t wash if you read the evidence of state torturers of the past, like Paul Aussaresses, Paul Van Vuuren and Gideon Nieuwoudt. The only people you hear saying torture is not effective are those who have never tortured or been tortured. If it didn’t work, then Sheila Cassidy would not have identified priests who had helped Chile’s socialist opposition.

The first secret of effective torture is not divulging to the victim exactly what you want to hear. If you tortured me and told me to admit to a killing or being a wizard, I’d tell you exactly that. If I didn’t know what your preconception was I’d have greater difficulty second guessing you. The second is to try to avoid torturing someone who is blatantly innocent, as they will admit to anything.

Later: just realized I sound like an expert torturer with ‘previous’. There again, I’ve been married twice and seen experts in action.


The Irascible Fairy said...

Some time ago - and in another forum - I told you of the "Singularity" - this is about the exponential progression of science and information technology. see and - Your greatest fortune and your greatest tragedy is that you will know what happens because you will live through it - My greatest regret is that I will not.

Richard x x x

The Irascible Fairy said...

Torture is never, ever acceptable in any form or case.

We pay a price for living in a free and democratic society and that is that sometimes planes will fly into buildings, bombs will explode on tube trains and tiny Moslem minorities will hurl abuse at soldiers. And so we have a choice - we can stop all the terror by so proscribing travel, choice and the lives of our citizens that everyone is safe, we can browbeat and torture our people so that everyone is too frighted to do anything and we'll all be safe.

Or we can accept that "Shit Happens" and value our freedoms enough that if someone blows up a bus we know that is a small payment for those freedoms.

I know which one I society I would want to live in and it isn't the one where Mr Smith gets the rat cage on his face.

Richard x x x

Chairman Bill said...


In a civilised society, is spying acceptable? Are covert operations acceptable?

No - but sometimes they are necessary.

Pragmatism is often preferable to an ideology cast in stone.

The Irascible Fairy said...

In fact the answer to your question is a resounding NO - at least not within a democratic society that values its freedoms.

Most covert operations/wars/torture etc are designed to protect the interests of the ruling classes not those of the population at large - Thatcher and the Falklands, Blair and Iraq etc.

It is the ideology cast in stone that demands the protection of covert operations, torture and the ubiquitous and constant recording and watching of its citizens.

Richard x x x

Chairman Bill said...


Our participation in WWII was in support of the ruling classes?

You're using specific instances (with which I happen to agree) to produce a generality applicable to all cases. That's a logical fallacy. It's the 'thin end of the wedge' argument.

The Irascible Fairy said...

Actually yes - When WWII started the ordinary man in the street probably couldn't have cared less about Poland - However those in power could see that if Germany was allowed to continue, although GB might well have been left alone to become another Sweden, they would have lost all power both financial and political, thus Jingoism and the call to war for "freedom"

Richard x

Chairman Bill said...

//GB might well have been left alone //

So - an iron-clad guaratgee then?

The Irascible Fairy said...

No but my reading of most histories seems to suggest that Hitler was always surprised that GB went to war with him and that he didn't want to make war with us.

There are no guarantees of course - and tomorrow the Welsh may rise up and drive the English out of Wales - but there are degrees of likelihood and I have always thought that Hitler invading GB was unlikely.

Richard x x x

Chairman Bill said...

Not if we torture them first.