Thursday, February 25, 2010

Quote of the Day

From the good Mr Worstall, elsewhere:

the one where we start our economics by assuming that politicians are indeed lying weasel felchers right at the beginning.

The only thing I would change is to widen the concept by substituting 'thinking' for 'economics'.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Why the 'Scare Quotes'?

BBC:

NHS money 'wasted' on homeopathy

And, this is 'news'?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

True Labour

Somewhat tardily, from Tom Harris:
We can assume that, in an STV election, the minor parties (Conservative, Liberal, SNP, etc) would be represented among the seven MPs elected.

So, in the Tom Harris world (Glasgow-centric as it clearly must be), the SNP (current Scottish government and 7 out of 59 MPs and even one of the Glasgow MPs - never mind 5 out of the 17 MSPs) and the Lib-Dems (12 out of 59 MPs and Labour's quislings in the last Scottish Executive) are "minor parties"? Okay, yes, the Tories are ...

I can't be arrsed collating the vote figures but Labour's 6 out of 7 Glasgow MPs (especially remembering that one of them was unopposed, well, by anybody serious, at the last General Election) isn't looking like a safe bet this time round.

Just for info:
How Tom Harris voted on key issues since 2001:

Voted moderately against a transparent Parliament.
Voted very strongly for introducing ID cards.
Voted strongly for introducing student top-up fees.
Voted very strongly for Labour's anti-terrorism laws.
Voted very strongly for the Iraq war.
Voted very strongly against an investigation into the Iraq war.
Voted very strongly for replacing Trident.
And finally, a view on weegie politics via the WSJ.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Bloody BBC


Section title:

Cyber-warfare

Section:

Sir Stephen's comments followed speeches from his Army and Royal Navy counterparts.

He described his views on the future nature of warfare as "complementing and not contradicting" those of his fellow service chiefs.

His emphasis was on the uniqueness of air power, its ability to shape campaigns and the huge advantage it gives Britain's forces, not least in the current campaign in Afghanistan.

He made clear his view that the RAF's role was a much broader one than many realise - whether in a support role, intelligence-gathering, reconnaissance or close air support.

Go on. Which part of that addresses "cyber-warfare"?

Surprised?

Shocked even? This, from the BBC:

More than half of those of both sexes questioned said there were some circumstances when a rape victim should accept responsibility for an attack.

Now, that just shows both how difficult the debate has become and the wider issues surrounding "one person's word against another's" crimes - domestic violence, for example. And women who have been raped are appalled by the survey results.

It (the BBC article, the report, the questions in the research for the report or the questioned) also misses the fundamental difference between 'responsibility' (or as the subsequent comments have it 'blame') and 'contributory behaviour'. I would like to demonstrate with two much less emotionally charged or controversial examples:
  • I accidentally forget to lock my car when parking it in a city centre car park. Somebody steals the car, or something from the car. They are a thief and are criminally responsible for their actions. My behaviour in parking the car in the city centre is neither (unreasonably) contributory nor responsible. My failure to lock the car is significantly contributory. This should make no difference to the criminal case but might reasonably change the amount, for example, that my insurance company would pay out.
  • I am dismissed from my job for some heinous offence against good taste (I have a number of ties that should do the job.) My tie-disaster is so extravagant evil that they fail to follow the corporate disciplinary policy and summarily dismiss me with immediate effect. I go to Tribunal. It is, because of the failure to follow policy, automatically unfair dismissal. In a heroic devotion to justice and truth, one of the lay members of the panel asks to see the tie. As they are rushed away to Intensive Care, the Chairman declares that my behaviour contributed 99% to my dismissal therefore my compensation will be minimal.
'Blame' for criminal acts, whether life-changingly drastic like rape or trivial, lies with the criminal (unless they do not have the capacity for mens rea in an offence that requires it - in which case they need to be in, or under, some form of care.)

Yes, there are defences of, or similar to, provocation (e.g. self-defence) and there are pleas of mitigation - only the former of these shifts (or removes) responsibility. And I fail to see, under modern British law, how 'provocation' can apply to sexual offences.

Edited to add: Having reread this post, after reading Bella's comment, I can see how my two examples (where the contributory factor is high) might lead people to think I am excusing rapists or blaming victims. If you get that impression - please reread the third and second-last paragraphs of the original article, where I clearly didn't make it clear the difference between responsibility / blame on one side and low risk versus high risk behaviour on the other. No-one 'deserves' to be raped. Equally, if less significantly, no-one 'deserves' to have their car stolen. Regardless of the seriousness of the offence, 'high risk behaviour' is no excuse for the criminal.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Truth from the BBC? Never!

Yes:

Hamas is the Palestinian militant Islamist organisation that runs Gaza.

Only, it has to be said, because it's a journo that has been 'detained'. (Union) comradeship is thicker than ethics, perhaps?

Paul Martin is, of course, a freelancer for the BBC and has form locally.

Note: as a matter of simply feeling right about the world, not that that or any principle applies to journalists, I do hope that the Paul Martin who writes reasonably interesting articles about Palestine is a different Paul Martin to this one.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Probably Not the Last Word

So, Met Commander (previously a Thames Valley Police Chief Inspector) Ali Dizaei is finally convicted of something (in this case, 'perverting the course of justice' and 'misconduct in a public office'). It is almost certainly not the last we will hear of this, never mind that of his 4 year sentence (2 inside and 2 on licence, according to the judge's direction), he'll probably be out (even in the unlikely event that he doesn't appeal) for Valentines Day 2011.

A trained barrister1, with a PhD2 and in the "oh shit, we've no senior ethnics" reaction that most of the civil and uniformed services had in the 80s & 90s (as a reaction to their almost completely white male management structures - yes, institutional racism, just like the rest of society back then), he was probably a shoe-in for (reasonably) high rank. Now, I've never met the guy, so I have no idea whether he is the ignorant, bullying clown with dubious social connections portrayed in many of the comments on the police blogs and in some of the trial reports or whether, after so much investigation, the IPCC and CPS have merely demonstrated Richleau's maxim:

If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.


It has to be said that "misconduct in public office" and "perverting the course of justice" are scarcely rare amongst the ruling class of Blairs' Britain - witness MPs expenses, John Prescott, the endless and scandalous BAE saga and John Prescott. And I've never done any investigation where I haven't found something that could be considered dubious (even where there was no evidence that the suspects or their acquaintances were even loosely connected to the original alleged issue.)

But, regardless, a couple of things concern me:

  • Was this just the "entitlement culture" of the modern dictatorship, unbound by the endless 'getting away with it' (for any definition of 'it') that all of the previous investigations, the not-guilty verdicts and the compensation would have given anybody bar a saint, or did the man start out as a fraud (it must be admitted that he clearly started out as an effective self-publicist)?
  • Why is a Met Police Commander - a Royal Appointment and one of the most senior ranks in the British Police services - allowed to hold dual nationality and, let's be honest about it, dual nationality in a state that has repeatedly demonstrated its armed hostility to Britain and its interests?
Update: And, yes, as I suggested might just happen, we have an appeal against his "completely outrageous" conviction as a result of the vendetta the world has against him. Would he just get out of the JCB?

1. Yes, legally qualified - but some of the news reports have this 'trained barrister' in. He joined the police at 24 - PhD by then is quick but not unusual; cramming in another year 'taking dinners' is moving quickly. Did he then complete his pupillage? If so, which chambers?

2. On 'police racism', "The Thin Black Line" - according to the Daily Hate, which also implies he took it much later (completion shortly before joining the Met), as opposed to the Telegraph's timeline - "He was privately educated at Slindon College in Sussex, trained as a barrister and took a PhD before joining Thames Valley Police in 1986." Obviously, if he did his PhD part-time or sabbatical from the cop-shop, it makes the timings in note 1 more reasonable.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

And In Shock News, Today

Pope Benedict has acted as if he were a traditionalist Catholic. The National Secular Society object (but are probably too nice a bunch of people to shit in the woods.)

Richard Dawkins doesn't like Christians. The National Secular Society, unsurprisingly, say nothing.

And a very nice satire here.

Another day in the jungle.
 
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