Friday, 2 September 2005

Really from the Front Line

Events in Iraq seem to have dropped off our radar. What does get to us is generally negative. The daily life of a soldier there is rarely detailed in our media - and when it is, they seem to concentrate on the negative. OK - please go and read this guy's item from last Wednesday titled Gates of Fire.

Loss of a child

I mentioned back in Speak now or forever... the parents of the child lost in a cornfield. That child was Sarah Payne. I realised I did not know of any developments in the law they wanted to introduce. I see that Mum announced her pregnancy and there were signs that she and her husband were having difficulties in their relationship. They subsequently split up. The murder of little Sarah received immense publicity and her parents were involved in additional media coverage with their demands for something they called Sarah's Law. It seems that they devoted so much to this that they let their marriage slip. One might say that articulating the effects upon them did little to help.

Loot vs. Found.

I found this very strange. Apparently a news organisation posted two pictures from NO. One showed a black man and referred to looting whilst the other showed a white man and spoke of his finding goods. The racial Gestapo have forced the removal of these photographs. Now, I enjoy only average intelligence but it could be that this is accurate reporting. Say the black guy went into a store and filled his black sack whilst the white guy found his black sack abandoned somewhere. Looted and found would then be quite appropriate. But no; the thin skinned p.c. crowd will always look for an interpretation that suits their agenda. On further digging, seems the two photographs came from different agencies and were captioned by two different people. Hardly a planned discrimination.
Oh - and here is another example where the discrimination ghost-busters got on the wrong foot. I quote to save you having to click a url

"New Study Undercuts Claim of "DWB" (JW Note DWB = Driving while black. Not an offence but used to allege a state of mind of the police officer)
From the DOJ's Bureau of Justice Statistics comes
a new study on traffic stops by police which concludes:"The likelihood of being stopped by police in 2002 did not differ significantly between white (8.7%), black (9.1%), and Hispanic (8.6%) drivers."Also of note: "In 2002 the vast majority of the 45.3 million persons who had a contact with police felt the officer(s) acted properly(90.1%)."Those are the seminal finding of the study. What caught some media coverage was the study's finding that "Black (10.2%) and Hispanic (11.4%) motorists stopped by police were more likely than whites (3.5%) to be physically searched or have their vehicle searched."But the survey's authors concede that:
while the survey data can reveal these racial disparities, they cannot answer the question of whether the driver's race, rather than the driver's conduct or other specific circumstances surrounding the stop, was the reason for the search. The survey asked few questions about circumstances or driver conduct. For example, having drugs in plain view of police is a circumstance that would normally warrant a legal search of the vehicle. But since the survey did not ask drivers whether any drugs within plain view were in the vehicle, the analysis is necessarily limited.Thus it seems that race is not really a factor in whether a vehicle gets pulled over by police. This is further supported by the very high percentage of people reporting that the police acted properly in stopping the vehicle. I'm sure this will be disappointing news for some who constantly suggest that racial bias is pervasive in American policing"

And the world rolls on.

First, a small PS to yesterday's moan about retributive justice. Ms. Harman has admitted that she intends that killers should stay longer in prison if relatives of the deceased can persuade judges to order the increase. Another idea is that she will in fact recommend cross-examination of their statements by defence counsel. This is really sick. They will act out how the child they lost was the apple of their eye. The defence will then refer them to everything that might, possibly, perhaps, could be taken as less than loving treatment of the kid. I get the impression that her plans initially consisted of letting those who had lost relatives have a say - some sort of psychological relief. Bits have been added as her staff have pointed out the problems one by one. Rather like a sieve having holes patched up so that it may float.
We're also getting sad updates about NO and the adjacent areas under the flood and flattened by the high winds. The actions of the looters are holding back the rescue efforts. The rescue efforts are hampered by the fact that there is no suitable facility to accommodate those taken into what might be considered care. It does seem to be taking a long while for relief to get into it's stride.
We are now seeing a spell of good weather here. The days end with a humid atmosphere and there is some rain most nights. This keeps things nice and fresh and clean.
After using the same microwave for about two years, I had to undergo re-indoctrination from SWMBO when it failed and we bought a new one. I failed to detect anything that had altered but still had to test drive it the first few times with her at my elbow. Eventually, my heating milk procedure was accepted and I am now a Class 1 driver again. Why is it that someone who lacks all mechanical understanding and empathy becomes a engineering wizard just because something is used in a kitchen setting?
I've finally managed to fill my iPod! Seeing the piles and piles of now redundant CDs really brings home the wonders of digital science. 3500+ tunes should mean that I do not have to change anything already recorded. I have a neat little thing that makes the iPod broadcast to any adjacent radio so as to listen but avoid that teenager thing of ear plugs. The other clever bit is a remote control that means I can leave the iPod where I am likely to find it again but still be in charge of volume and killing a tune if it does not then appeal.Having seen the benefits of something really small that I can control (and use selfishly just for me), I'm thinking about a portable DVD player. Something to write on my note to Santa I think.
Small dog had another rabbit today. Not such a triumph as it is now certain that myxi-whatever it is, is in the family at the picnic place - humane destruction really. She doesn't quite understand so we still have to have five minutes discussion of how clever she is, what a fearsome hunter she has become, blah blah blah.

Thursday, 1 September 2005

Katrina chaos

I suppose it is just too easy for us safe here in UK to wonder just what the hell happened in NO and why things seem to have gone awry. There are some people trying to adjust our perceptions - I think they make very valid points.

Things CAN get worse

No wonder old Bushy is showing a lot of concern reference neworleans. Just the sort of news we DO not want to have.

Speak now or forever ..........

Constitutional affairs minister Harriet Harman unveils proposals to allow the families of murder victims to tell the killer's trial how they are suffering. The scheme, which has been inspired by a similar system in the United States, will give families the opportunity to speak out before sentence is passed. "What we are proposing is that after the conviction, but before the sentence, they should have an opportunity to say something about how the offence has affected their lives," Harman told the BBC. But a Labour Party election pledge to give rape victims their own barrister in court appears to be absent from the plans.

The Guardian has some comments on this . Such a procedure exists in America. There is an interesting article about this sort of thing which, while relating to tribal affairs amongst Native Americans, explains the concept quite well.

Harman’s proposal is a dangerous step. It is mixing the politics of the gladiatorial arena with administration of justice. Individuals’ reactions to death vary immensely and have no place in a court of law. I was much impressed by the way the family of the black teenager victim of the axe murder conducted themselves. A while back we had the parents of the little girl who disappeared from a cornfield. There was no doubt as to the effects of their loss but they obviously held their grief for private moments. There have been other public appearances where victims’ relatives have displayed great emotion. Different people handle death differently. Their attitude may vary over time. There can be no doubt that these reactions could affect sentence even in the highest tribunal. More importantly, they would lay the ground to suggestion that a killer had received a greater sentence due to the display of families in court. Coming after sentence, there would be no opportunity for rebuttal to anything they said. Taking an extreme case such as Shipman, the serial murderer doctor. It would be impossible not to be influenced by a veritable march past of loved ones.

The loss of a loved one is not quantified by any violence associated with their death. We have cases pending regarding the right to life of very young children where medical opinion is that they are in a persistent vegetative state and life support should be terminated – something that the parents oppose. Where may this couple demonstrate their loss?

The idea may have been deemed a potential vote winner at the time the Manifesto was written. It ‘seems’ right. One has only to think back to the loss of Diana to realise how universal is suffering and pain to those who might never be involved in any shape or form in a murder trial. The laying of wreaths, teddy bears and other supposed memorabilia from – by and large – those unconnected with a victim is now so widespread and intensive that it has been deemed a road traffic hazard. The axe murder victim guy I mention above drew over 3,500 church mourners. There were more outside the cathedral. Do we really believe that all of these actually knew the lad?

It is the mixing of this sort of emotion with the respect for facts in a due process that is wrong. For myself, in the dreadful event that I might be involved in such a procedure, I would decline. I fail to see the point. That is not to say that I would not see the point of finding the killer in a dark alleyway. Maybe that is why my personality finds the proposal to be so wrong and, indeed, dangerous.

Wednesday, 31 August 2005

D Y I - Do Yourself Injury

Those of you who have bought IKEA furniture will appreciate this letter of complaint. Indeed, I am sure it will strike a chord with anyone who has ever purchased anything in flatpack,
I did it - just the once and never again. It is even funnier when the instructions consist only of badly-printed illustrations about the size of an economy-size stamp. That is after laying out all that is in the pack with the forlorn hope that everything you need is indeed there.

Tuesday, 30 August 2005

Daisy Hill Puppy Farm

1803 - 1873
A prolific Victorian novelist, editor of the New Monthly Magazine, member of Parliament and Secretary of State for the colonies; he coined the expression "the great unwashed" and the phrase "the pen is mightier than the sword." He also inspired Snoopy in the Peanuts comic strip with the opening line to his 1830 novel Paul Clifford: "It was a dark and stormy night...."

"It is a wonderful advantage to a man, in every pursuit or avocation, to secure an advisor in a sensible woman. In woman there is at once a subtle delicacy of tact, and a plain soundness of judgment, which are rarely combined in equal degree in a man. A woman, if she be really your friend, will have a sensitive regard for your character, honour and repute. She will seldom counsel you to do a shabby thing; for a woman friend always desires to be proud of you."
Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Detailed planning and pornography

New Orleans has been tested and, whilst there are losses of life and considerable damage, things are not as bad as they could have been had people just been left to their own devices – as we do in the UK.

This American ability to plan down to the teeny-weeny nitty-bitty detail has impressed me since I worked for Occidental Oil. At the time in 1979 when the US Embassy in Tripoli was burned down, I was given the task of evacuating all wives and dependents from Libya, through to London and onto any worldwide destination they chose. This had to be achieved between 3 a.m. when I got the instruction and midnight the next day. As it was such an emergency, I was told that I could throw money at it. In a US oil company there is a lot of money when it is needed. Having achieved the desired result and then some, I was tasked with writing evacuation plans for all out-of-USA locations but without the luxury of flying dollars. Being a founder member of Pedantics Anonymous this was right up my street but even I was amazed at what was thought necessary in the way of instruction to those likely to be involved.

The ability to plan deeply is commendable but it seems to have gone overboard where banning pornography is involved. Strikes me that all this will do is increase illegal pornography that does not comply with the controls. This will mean that the material will just naturally become more pornographic. Same result as with Prohibition really.

Reading back through this as I write, I realise I may have let the pornography genii out of the bottle – insofar as this blog is concerned anyway. I suppose the main concern is with exploitation of children by pornographers. There are some details – a little out of date maybe but it is almost certain that the situation has not improved very much.

Google into various aspects of pornography comes up with an extremely large number of hits. The majority of these cancel each other out. Some aspects are interesting – what porn is generated and distributed by organised crime as a means of laundering money? What controls could be imposed? Indeed, even the definition of porn is confused. It can be extreme hard-core distributed under the counter to extremely unbalanced people (and police officers at Friday night parties) to the soft-ish material available as in-room movies at a hotel. My own police background hardly helped and my working-policy conclusion was that those I found with pornography were marginally more likely to have some other criminal interest. No more than ‘likely’.

To confuse things further, some of what appears almost without comment as a blog may be pornographic. Some perverts are turned on by the weirdest things and reading these blogs might well serve to give them their kicks.

Oh - breaking news just in
"The government today launches a new consultation on banning obscene pornographic and sexually violent images on the internet. Home Office minister Paul Goggins said that the government wants to create a new offence of deliberate possession of violent and abusive pornography. The move comes in response to calls from the family of murder victim Jane Longhurst, who was killed in 2003 by a male friend obsessed with violent sexual pornography. "This is material which is extremely offensive to the vast majority of people, and it should have no place in our society," the minister said"

But, note - even this anally retentive government speaks of 'violent and abusive' So, images more suited to a gynae. lecture hall will be freely available in newsagents and the better class of male public lavatories.

Monday, 29 August 2005

Oh God - a woof mine!

Whilst wandering about doing background on the stupidity of the war in Iraq, I came across this. My twisted mind was amused at the idea of these damned things dashing about a battlefield with 30-ton tanks retreating in horror.
“Dog Anti-Tank Mine. The simplicity of the dog mine must have been appealing concept in 1942 when the Russian army was still hard pressed fighting to keep the German invaders in check. The basic idea was that the dog carried on it's back a wooden box or packets containing explosives strapped on with a harness. The dogs were then trained to run underneath enemy tanks and in doing so they would tip back a vertical wooden lever on their backs, which would detonate the explosives, much to the surprise of the German tank crews and the dogs.
This however, was one simple idea that did not work terribly effectively in combat. As the dogs were trained by placing food under Soviet tanks they would run to the familiar smells and sounds of any Soviet tanks in battle rather than the strange smells and sounds of the German tanks, and with hindsight, one would also expect that in battle a dog would run anywhere but towards a moving tank firing overhead, and in doing so become a menace to everyone else on the battlefield.
The German army quickly learned of the Soviet hundminen and so spread throughout the ranks information that all Russian dogs likely to be encountered were probably rabid and so should be shot on sight. As a result all dogs virtually disappeared from the Eastern Front in the ensuing few days, making the use of dog mines all the less feasible.
Dog mines did have some success, but once their dangerous drawbacks were realised they were not used after 1942. Some reports on the Soviet Army after 1945 still contained references to dog mines however, and there were also reports of dog mines as having been used by the Viet Minh (fighting in Indo-China) in the late 1940s”

What we could learn

This comes from a guy I’ve mentioned before. He seems to have the ability to say what he thinks in a manner that I find leaves little doubt as to his meaning. This is about America but applies with equal force in our modern-day England (and Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). Too late for me to adopt his solution but it sort of ties in with what the Army resettlement guys told me was the right job for me after my psychological evaluation; herding sheep somewhere North of Wagga Wagga.

A Matter Of Allegiance. And Why One Might Wisely Withhold It
May 29, 2005
I wish to propose a salubrious anarchy, a deliberate renunciation of fealty to country, society, and government, an assertion of independence from folly and moral decay. Permit me to offer a taxing political idea: When a society ceases to be worthy of support, it is reasonable to withdraw support. The time, I submit, has come.
Here I do not mean to urge crime or counsel treason, but to suggest quiet renunciation of the national disaster. Ask yourself how much of American life pleases you. The schools are run by fools to manufacture fools, government grows more intrusive by the day, and culture is determined by the triple cloacae of New York, Hollywood, and Washington. Freedom withers, not only in the ominous encroachment of police powers, but in the loss of control over schools, church, hiring, daily life. We are no longer our own. The United States is not the country we are told it is, and not the country it was.
How to escape? The beginning, and the most difficult, is a moral distancing. Those who care must disentangle themselves from the cobweb loyalties and factitious duties with which we have been unconsciously encumbered. From childhood we learn patriotism, that one must vote, that if our way is not perfect it is at least best, that we must support anything however bad because were born in a particular place. Why?
Let me suggest that one owes loyalty to one's family and friends, to common decency, and to nothing else. Render under Caesar what you must, keep what you can, and swear allegiance to nothing. Here I do not mean just the government, but the zeitgeist, the miasmic fetor of trashy culture, the desperate consumerism, the entire psychic odour of a society in decomposition.
Begin with things so fundamental as seldom to be reflected upon. For example, do not imagine that you are under an obligation to marry, or to have children, or to raise them as the government requires. Procreate if you choose, but only if you genuinely want to procreate. It is not your job to perpetuate a civilization that is daily less deserving of perpetuation.
But: never let the government have your children. Once they are had, your responsibility is to them. Teach them at home. Better yet, go abroad. Other countries do not force you to pay for an academically retrograde moral cesspool and then to drown your children in it. You might be astonished to know Argentina, for example.
Ask not what you can do for your country, but what it can do for you—you ought to get some of your taxes back.
Do not tie yourself to…anything. The price of freedom is poverty: freedom grows as your needs diminish. Less apothegmatically, if you believe that you need a vast house in a prestigious suburb, then you will need a lucrative job to pay for it. Having tied your psychic contentment to such an abode you will also believe that you need impressive cars and will therefore be tied to a retirement system and, bingo, the door of the trap falls. This, we are told, is the American Dream. I fear it has become so.
I lived years ago in a second-hand house trailer in the woods. I do not know what it cost, or would cost today, but perhaps fifteen thousand dollars. It was perfectly comfortable, warm in winter, air-conditioned in summer. Mornings were blessedly quiet unless you regard birdsong as noise. A brick barbecue provided a place to produce ribs and drink bourbon and water. A couple of companionable dogs rounded out the ensemble. They had the run of the trailer, as was right.
Now, living in a trailer is to the consumerist sensibility simply too degrading and so…I mean, my god, how could you face the neighbours? (There weren’t any.) But aside from damage to a servile dependent vanity, what is the drawback? A couple of hundred dollars buys a remarkably good stereo, music is free, libraries are good, and I for one am more comfortable in jeans and tee shirt than in Calvin and Klein trappings.
When your expenses are few, your susceptibility to economic serfdom is small. You do not need to work miserably in a pointless job for a boss you would gleefully strangle. Yes, you need money. The first principle is never to work in a job that you cannot afford to quit. (Emphasis added by John W - damn right) This means avoiding any job with a retirement, of which you will become a prisoner. The second principle is to work at something portable that you can do independently and, preferably, without capital. Retirement? Save.
Dentistry pays well but requires pricey equipment, and it is not easy to build a clientele. An automotive mechanic is always in demand and the employer will usually provide the tools. Writing is a serviceable gig and can be done from anywhere. Many varieties of technicians readily find jobs. Remember that white-collar work, aside from tending strongly to entangle you, gets boring. Get a commercial-diving ticket, take a serious course in the repair of marine diesels, and spend your life in the Pacific.
Here again the obstacles are fear, inertia, and vanity. If you come from a family on the suburban-death track, the thought of being a mere mechanic or dive-shop owner or what have you may be disturbing. "Don’t I need a college degree to hold my head up?" Look at the universities, at what they have become, and ask the question again. (Anyway, respectable in who’s eyes? Your own are the only ones that count.)
Finally, work the system. The government, if you let it, will take roughly half of your income, give much of it to useless bureaucrats, much to various forms of welfare, use much to bomb countries you may have no desire to bomb, and much to force upon you services, such as horrible schools, that you do not want. The central question regarding government is whether you can take more from it than it takes from you. It is much better to receive than to give. Live cheap, work only as much as you like, enjoy life, and keep your taxes down.
You will still read of the rot and running sores of a declining culture, but it will bother you less. These things are your problem only to the extent that you feel yourself to be part of the society that produces them. Don’t fight the government, as it will win. Don’t try to reform society, because you can’t. Laugh at it. Live well. Read much.

Sunday, 28 August 2005

Hello darling

The British Army had a group at the Gay Pride March over the week-end. Cannot see why it was called a March - more of a mince I would have thought. Seems strange that they do not allow women in front line in case it distracts the men in any fire-fight. What if Adam is worried about Steve?

Llama or alpaca?

schnoodlepooh asked whether my llama in a recent Forward the Canon photograph was an alpaca. Good question. In that state where ignorance is bliss, I had always thought they were the same genus but knew no more than that. However, our old friend Google came up with the goods Problem is, I did not make a sufficiently detailed examination of my model to decide. On balance of probability related to what I have read, I think it is most likely a llama. The image with this post is said to be an alpaca and seems to reinforce my deduction.

Guess I don't like the French

PARIS, France -- Lance Armstrong's record setting seventh Tour de France victory, along with his entire Tour de France legacy, may be tarnished by what could turn out to be one of the greatest sports scandals of all time. Armstrong is being quizzed by French police after three banned substances were found in his South France hotel room while on vacation after winning the 2005 Tour de France.The three substances found were toothpaste, deodorant, and soap which have been banned by French authorities for over 75 years. Armstrong's girlfriend, American rocker Sheryl Crowe, is quoted as saying "We use them every day in America, so we naturally thought they'd be ok throughout Europe."Along with these three banned substances, French authorities also physically searched Armstrong and found several other interesting items that they had never seen before, including a backbone and a testicle.
Not my writing - hi-jacked I'm afraid.