Not Saussure

February 24, 2007

Truthiness

Filed under: Wingnuts — notsaussure @ 7:49 pm

Via Jon Swift, America’s most reasonable conservative, I discover what looks like a spoof on the lines of Uncyclopedia, but probably isn’t.

Tired of the LIBERAL BIAS every time you search on Google and a Wikipedia page appears? Now it’s time for the Conservatives to get our voice out on the internet! Conservapedia began in November 2006, as the class project for a World History class of 58 advanced homeschooled and college-bound students meeting in New Jersey.

Conservapedia has since grown enormously, including contributors nationwide. Conservapedia already has over one-half the number of entries as the Oxford Dictionary of World History. Conservapedia is rapidly becoming one of the largest and most reliable online educational resources of its kind.

Since anyone can edit the Conservapedia, it’s not completely clear how many of their entries are placed there by well-intentioned editors. I am not personally convinced of the reliability of the entry for the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus, for example: (more…)

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War on Terror: mad ideas and driving people mad

Filed under: Mental Health, Spin, War on Terror — notsaussure @ 1:37 am

Via El Reg, an interesting article about the Sky TV programme ‘24‘ (not Sky’s synopsis of the programme, I think) by one George Smith, a Senior Fellow at GlobalSecurity.org, a defense affairs think tank and public information group who writes the Dick Destiny blog, of which I was hitherto unaware. The article itself is an entertaining critique of the show, both for its technical lunacies — of the fact that the Bush administration supposedly ‘loves’ the show he writes,

Vexingly, that would seem to indicate some people in high places believe one can carry suitcase nukes under the arm and that computerized detonators for them are put in the trust of a teenager and stored in a shoebox hidden in a wall of a ranch house in the San Fernando Valley until needed. In this season’s story, terrorists have to go through a contortion to get one nuke to work, combining two separate parts, at which point it blows up Valencia. Despite that, in subsequent episodes no one really panics and the freeways and surface streets of LA are still clear for further high-speed chases

— and for its portrayal of torture. (more…)

Careless driving

Filed under: Law — notsaussure @ 12:09 am

I’ve blogged before about the new offence of Causing Death by Careless, or Inconsiderate — as opposed to dangerous — Driving, which will carry a penalty of up to five years imprisonment. Today I was involved in a case — an appeal against sentence — which perhaps highlights the problems involved in this offence, where the harm done is extremely grave but the degree of culpability is very minor.

The appellant was a middle-aged man who’d had a clean driving licence for over thirty years. He was driving with his wife one Sunday afternoon when he turned left off a roundabout onto a dual carriageway and went into the back of a woman on a cycle, whom he just didn’t see — or didn’t realise he’d seen — until he was almost on top of her. She went over the top of his car and suffered devastating injuries, including a broken back which has left her permanently paralysed from the waist down. It’s only by good fortune and the surgeons’ skill that she wasn’t killed. (more…)

February 22, 2007

Electoral Commission to bankrupt UKIP?

Filed under: Politics, UK — notsaussure @ 11:16 pm

Whatever you think of UKIP, this seems a bit harsh:

The UK Independence Party faces a crippling demand from election watchdogs to forfeit over £360,000 of donations, The Daily Telegraph has learnt.The Electoral Commission is due to announce tomorrow that it is launching legal action to recover 68 separate donations made to the anti-Brussels party by one of its main backers.

Alan Bown, a retired bookmaker, gave the cash between Dec 2004 and Jan 2006.

But election watchdogs have apparently discovered that Mr Bown, who also runs a bath-robe company, was not on the electoral register during that period.

Under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, individual donations are invalid if the donor is not registered as a UK voter when the money is given.

In a letter sent to Bruce Lawson, the Ukip treasurer, the commission confirmed that it “will be proceeding to apply to court for the forfeiture of £363,697 in respect of 68 donations from Mr Bown made during the period December 2004 to January 2006”.

A separate donation of £4,000 from a company called Nightech Ltd in May 2005 is also being pursued.

Under the law, any forfeited donations go to the Treasury and are not returned to the donor in question.

The threat has stunned Ukip leadership which admitted that forfeiting a third of a million pounds would effectively leave the party penniless.

John Whittaker, the party chairman, said: “Have we got this sort of money? Of course, we haven’t.”

They’re blaming it on a ‘simple clerical error,’ whatever that means, which maybe doesn’t say much for their ability to run things but putting a political party out of business over a cock-up — there seems to be no doubt that Mr Bown was a UK resident at the time, who could have registered to vote if only he’d thought to.

Mind you, it seems distinctly strange that someone should give all that money to a party and then not bother to get himself registered so he can vote for their candidates, but I suppose that’s his business.
Update:   Mr Eugenides makes the very fair point that

If UKIP are to be taken to the cleaners over what everyone agrees is nothing more than a technicality, then I see no reason why the Electoral Commission should not be lubing itself up to give the Lib Dems a brutal reaming, either

over the £2.4 million they received from Michael Brown.   The Times, I see,  reported back at the end of October that the Electoral Commission, following a High Court ruling, were considering demanding the money ‘within weeks’ which, since the Lib Dems don’t have that sort of money, would apparently make their party members liable for the sum.   I suppose it’s somewhat complicated by the fact that the Electoral Commission have, at least according to the Lib Dems, conceded that they had been misled by Mr Brown and

it was reasonable for the party to regard the donations from 5th Avenue Partners as permissible on the basis of the evidence available

that is, that he’d effectively made fraudulent representations to them that 5th Avenue was a bona fide company and they’d been taken in, but it does seem to be taking the Commission rather a lot of weeks to decide what to do.

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Another Downing Street Petition

Filed under: Books, Education — notsaussure @ 10:56 pm

Don’t know if it’ll do any good, but I’ve been asked to publicise this.

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to keep the British Library FREE of charge to users! Don’t cut its budget!. More details.

Submitted by Joanna Bryant – Deadline to sign up by: 07 June 2007 – Signatures: 10,620 (as of 22/2)

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Blair’s Iraq interview

Filed under: Blair, Iraq — notsaussure @ 9:11 pm

What is there to say about today’s performance (broadcast here; detailed write-ups here and here)? Benedict White pretty much sums it up in his piece. Time and again, Blair insisted that

I don’t think we should be apologising because we’re not causing the terrorism.
It’s being caused by internal extremists who are linking up with external extremists.

and that

These forces that are operating in Iraq at the moment are not the fault of a lack of planning or administration. It is a deliberate attempt [by] external extremists, like al-Qaida [and] like elements connected to Iran, who are linking up with internal extremists to thwart the will of the majority.

I don’t know why I’m surprised; it’s on a footing with the usual excuses. It’s not, for example, the government’s fault ASBOs aren’t working; it’s the fault of the teenagers who aren’t taking any notice of them. Though, somehow, I don’t think it will have gone down too well at today’s meeting on gun crime if the assembled folks from the police and the Home Office said, ‘We don’t what you’re all looking at us for — it’s those bloody people with guns who’re causing the problems. If it wasn’t for them shooting each each other…’. (more…)

February 21, 2007

Ooops

Filed under: Uncategorized — notsaussure @ 10:46 pm

Guy in Wisconsin is sitting in his apartment watching a porn DVD. His neighbour, James Van Iveren, is alone in the apartment downstairs when he hears screams coming from the apartment upstairs. Fearing that a rape may be in progress and having no phone with which to summon assistance, he grabs an old cavalry sword he has about the place (a family heirloom) and goes to help the lady…

“Now I feel stupid,” Van Iveren said.

Via Boing Boing

Anarchy in Iraq

Filed under: Iraq — notsaussure @ 10:01 pm

After a long absence, Riverbend, of Baghdad Burning, is back with an account of how a young Iraqi woman gave an harrowing interview on TV about how she had been raped by Iraqi security forces who’d arrested her.

Within 14 hours, Prime Minister Nouri al-Makiki had issued a statement exonerating the officers involved and announcing that they are to be rewarded.

Riverbend comments:

This is meant to discourage other prisoners, especially women, from coming forward and making claims against Iraqi and American forces. Maliki is the stupidest man alive (well, after Bush of course…) if he believes his arrogance and callous handling of the situation will work to dismiss it from the minds of Iraqis. By doing what he is doing, he’s making it more clear than ever that under his rule, under his government, vigilante justice is the only way to go. Why leave it to the security forces and police? Simply hire a militia or gang to get revenge. If he doesn’t get some justice for her, her tribe will be forced to… And the Janabat (the Al Janabis) are a force to be reckoned with.
Maliki could at least pretend the rape of a young Iraqi woman is still an outrage in todays Iraq…

This, of course, happened in Baghdad, but it gives a worrying ring to Blair’s words on the planned troop withdrawal:

“What all of this means is not that Basra is how we want it to be. But it does mean that the next chapter in Basra’s history can be written by Iraqis”.

It seems all too likely that it will be written in blood, or, rather, even more blood than at present.

I really don’t know what to make of it. On the one hand, I’m delighted that British soldiers are being withdrawn from a conflict into which they should never have been sent. On the other, it’s a terrible thing to walk away, knowing that the place will almost inevitably collapse into even worse chaos and civil war when we go. But, if that’s inevitable, then inevitable I suppose it is.

God alone knows what’ll happen when the Iranians get understandably fed up with a civil war and a massive humanitarian disaster going on next door.
Update:   I see Gracchus, who is looking after Imagined Community, shares my concerns about what happens next, though he expresses them far more fully and more eloquently than can I.     On balance, though, I think we should remember that the Turks, Iranians and Saudis aren’t complete idiots and that they’ve got even more incentive to avoid exacerbating the situation than have we, since it’s just next door to them.    I’m not saying Gracchus thinks they are idiots, of course; rather than we tend to forget that they’ve got a justifiable interest in what’s happening next door to their respective countries and can hardly make a worse fist of things than our American friends, with our assistance, have done.

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What do you do with a recidivist?

Filed under: Law, Mental Health — notsaussure @ 9:59 pm

Chap in the Crown Court yesterday for shoplifting £13-odd worth of groceries from a large supermarket. He’d pleaded not guilty and elected for a trial, as is his right, despite being clearly guilty — two members of staff saw him sticking the goods into a carrier, walking out past an un-manned till and making no attempt to pay, and leaving the store. He claimed he’d paid, though he had, of course, no receipt and no idea who he paid (‘a lady… can’t remember what she looked like’).

Turns out the chap is clearly suffering from some sort of psychiatric problems and he’s a thoroughgoing nuisance. He’s of no fixed abode — from choice, since he’s had several places in hostels arranged and just not turned up to take them — and has no income whatsoever. He’s spent most of the last five years in prison, serving short terms (a few months at a time) for shoplifting and minor assaults.

Unusually, neither drink nor drugs seem to be much of an issue — he just supports himself by shoplifting for a few weeks after his release from prison until he’s arrested again, is either refused bail or breaks his bail conditions by refusing to stay at a bail hostel, and eventually turns up in court. He’s obviously twigged that maintaining a not-guilty plea is his best policy, since remand prisoners enjoy various privileges denied to serving prisoners and, despite losing the discount for a guilty plea, the time he spends on remand means he’s out again in a few weeks anyway since there’s a limit to how long a court will give someone for stealing £10 or £20’s worth of groceries.

He’s now been warned that his sentences will go up each time he re-appears, but prison’s clearly no deterrent (he seems to prefer it to life outside, if anything) and I’ve got visions of him eventually being given 10 years for stealing a few pounds’ worth of stuff.

What do with such a person, though? It’s easy to say he needs help, but he clearly doesn’t want it. You can’t leave him wandering around helping himself from shops, but prison clearly isn’t doing much good. Probably is the only place for him, but it seems an awfully expensive solution.

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Mam, it ain’t fair, mam…

Filed under: Blogroll, Politics, UK — notsaussure @ 1:09 am

Via Devil’s Kitchen and Ellee Seymour, I discover not only that David Miliband has a blog and that Ellee is on his blogroll — I think this is a cause for congratulations to Ellee — but that The Labour Humanist is ever so upset about the composition of this blogroll. Labour Humanist complains that

it’s hard to understand the latest updating of his blog and the
almost total invisibility of the Labour leaning blogosphere in its
design and links. Hey David….remember us!?
Miliband’s site links to 11 blogs:

  • 3 of
    these are to journalist sites such as Nick Robinson (former chair of the young conservatives);
  • four link to Conservative
    sites including tory boys Guido Fawkes and Iain Dale;
  • there is 1 Liberal
    Democrat link;
  • leaving a mere 3 links to Labour supporting sites.

Ellee wonders if this is a case of sour grapes, while the Devil suggests it’s because Miliband’s webmaster hasn’t actually heard of many blogs and neither has Miliband (though he’s certainly heard of Guido Fawkes, which presumably explains Mr Staines’ presence there). As usual, there’s something in what DK says, though I suspect, too, that it’s because all the decent left-wing blogs I can think of (as opposed to the blogs by members of the ‘Decent Left’) attack the government even more bitterly than do most right-wing bloggers. The Tories’ attacks he can ignore rather more easily than those from what should be his own side, to my mind.

Anyway, in the interests of balance I think we should organise a write-in campaign to david.miliband@defra.gsi.gov.uk complaining about this neglect of Labour bloggers and asking him to link to some of the better Labour-supporting blogs such as those of Labour Humanist and Cllr Kelly.

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