Friday, 3 October 2008

Ill met

So, Commissioner Ian Blair has resigned. I know this because I saw and heard him say so on the TV and in news broadcasts. He gave his reasons as, broadly, that he felt he did not have the support of Boris Johnson, the Conservative Major of London.
Now, we have the Labour Home Secretary saying that he was sacked for political reasons and that procedures were not followed. These say that the Commissioner cannot be removed except with the agreement of the Major and her. She did not just point out that no such process had been attempted - she was furious and more animated than I have ever seen her in the more important aspects of her role. She says he was sacked. And sacked for political reasons.
I am fully aware that those about to be pushed sometimes jump. Blair could have carried on regardless and basically challenged Boris to go see Smith and agree to sack him. We see what the likely response to that would have been. He could have asked to see Smith and seek her support and intervention with the Mayor. He did neither. I cannot dismiss the fact that there are matters other than support or non-support in front of him. He has three, possibly, four areas where he may well turn out to have been in the wrong.
My other concern stems from Smith assigning a political element to Blair and to the position of Commissioner. In his position, he is required to be apolitical and to exhibit a colourless stance. His relationships with the departed Major Livingstone and his priorities and statements suggested he was a Socialist. He who lies down with wolves gets up with fleas is something in the back of my mind.
For a Labour politician, Smith has overlooked one of her parties war cries. "It was in our Manifesto". Johnson discussed the Commissioner in his election campaign. A campaign he won.
The Guardian has a neat resume of his career and style.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Our language

I don't see this as a threat?

The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union, rather than German, which was the other possibility. As part of the negotations, the British Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5-year phase-in plan that would make the new language to become known as "Euro-English."
In the first year, "s" will replace the soft "c". This will make sivil servants jump with joy. The hard "c" will be dropped in favor of "k". This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter.
There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome "ph" will be replaced with "f". This will make words like fotograf 20% shorter.
In the third year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which has always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horibl mes of the silent "e" in the languag is disgrasfl and it should go away. The "a" in words speled with "ea" will be dropd; we ned not fer it.
By the 4th yer peopl wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing "th" with "z", and "w" with "v".
During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary "o" kan be dropd from vords kontaining "ou" and "eo", and so after ziz fifz yer, ve vil hav a rel sensibl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech oza. Ze drem of a unitd urop vil finali kum tru. Und after ze fifz yer, ve vil al be speking German, like zey vuntd in ze first plas.
If zis mad yu smil, ples pas on to oza pepl.

Makes sense to me

Hundreds of supporters of the U.S. National Federation of the Blind are planning to protest the theatrical release, tomorrow, of the apocalyptic thriller, Blindness The film is deemed ' offensive' to the sight challenged.

Then this:

A spokeperson for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind said, yesterday, that they had no plans to picket in Canada.
"CNIB is not planning any protest around the movie, Blindness. In fact, we haven't even seen the movie."

Big Ears helps police

I suppose it should come as no surprise to read about more central control of the population of China. " A group of Canadian human-rights activists and computer security researchers has discovered a huge surveillance system in China that monitors and archives certain Internet text conversations that include politically charged words"
What I do wonder is whether this is already operating here in the UK and, if not, when it will.

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IT Wall of China?

Habits of the terrorists

Most counterterrorism policies fail, not because of tactical problems, but because of a fundamental misunderstanding of what motivates terrorists in the first place. If we're ever going to defeat terrorism, we need to understand what drives people to become terrorists in the first place.
Conventional wisdom holds that terrorism is inherently political, and that people become terrorists for political reasons. This is the "strategic" model of terrorism, and it's basically an economic model. It posits that people resort to terrorism when they believe -- rightly or wrongly -- that terrorism is worth it; that is, when they believe the political gains of terrorism minus the political costs are greater than if they engaged in some other, more peaceful form of protest. It's assumed, for example, that people join Hamas to achieve a Palestinian state; that people join the PKK to attain a Kurdish national homeland; and that people join al-Qaida to, among other things, get the United States out of the Persian Gulf.
If you believe this model, the way to fight terrorism is to change that equation, and that's what most experts advocate. Governments tend to minimize the political gains of terrorism through a no-concessions policy; the international community tends to recommend reducing the political grievances of terrorists via appeasement, in hopes of getting them to renounce violence. Both advocate policies to provide effective nonviolent alternatives, like free elections.
Historically, none of these solutions has worked with any regularity. Max Abrahms, a predoctoral fellow at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation, has studied dozens of terrorist groups from all over the world. He argues that the model is wrong. In a paper (.pdf) published this year in International Security that -- sadly -- doesn't have the title "Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Terrorists," he discusses, well, seven habits of highly ineffective terrorists. These seven tendencies are seen in terrorist organizations all over the world, and they directly contradict the theory that terrorists are political maximizers:
Terrorists, he writes, (1) attack civilians, a policy that has a lousy track record of convincing those civilians to give the terrorists what they want; (2) treat terrorism as a first resort, not a last resort, failing to embrace nonviolent alternatives like elections; (3) don't compromise with their target country, even when those compromises are in their best interest politically; (4) have protean political platforms, which regularly, and sometimes radically, change; (5) often engage in anonymous attacks, which precludes the target countries making political concessions to them; (6) regularly attack other terrorist groups with the same political platform; and (7) resist disbanding, even when they consistently fail to achieve their political objectives or when their stated political objectives have been achieved.
Abrahms has an alternative model to explain all this: People turn to terrorism for social solidarity. He theorizes that people join terrorist organizations worldwide in order to be part of a community, much like the reason inner-city youths join gangs in the United States.
The evidence supports this. Individual terrorists often have no prior involvement with a group's political agenda, and often join multiple terrorist groups with incompatible platforms. Individuals who join terrorist groups are frequently not oppressed in any way, and often can't describe the political goals of their organizations. People who join terrorist groups most often have friends or relatives who are members of the group, and the great majority of terrorist are socially isolated: unmarried young men or widowed women who weren't working prior to joining. These things are true for members of terrorist groups as diverse as the IRA and al-Qaida.
For example, several of the 9/11 hijackers planned to fight in Chechnya, but they didn't have the right paperwork so they attacked America instead. The mujahedeen had no idea whom they would attack after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, so they sat around until they came up with a new enemy: America. Pakistani terrorists regularly defect to another terrorist group with a totally different political platform. Many new al-Qaida members say, unconvincingly, that they decided to become a jihadist after reading an extreme, anti-American blog, or after converting to Islam, sometimes just a few weeks before. These people know little about politics or Islam, and they frankly don't even seem to care much about learning more. The blogs they turn to don't have a lot of substance in these areas, even though more informative blogs do exist.
All of this explains the seven habits. It's not that they're ineffective; it's that they have a different goal. They might not be effective politically, but they are effective socially: They all help preserve the group's existence and cohesion.
This kind of analysis isn't just theoretical; it has practical implications for counterterrorism. Not only can we now better understand who is likely to become a terrorist, we can engage in strategies specifically designed to weaken the social bonds within terrorist organizations. Driving a wedge between group members -- commuting prison sentences in exchange for actionable intelligence, planting more double agents within terrorist groups -- will go a long way to weakening the social bonds within those groups.
We also need to pay more attention to the socially marginalized than to the politically downtrodden, like unassimilated communities in Western countries. We need to support vibrant, benign communities and organizations as alternative ways for potential terrorists to get the social cohesion they need. And finally, we need to minimize collateral damage in our counterterrorism operations, as well as clamping down on bigotry and hate crimes, which just creates more dislocation and social isolation, and the inevitable calls for revenge.

Toxic s.v.p.

Of course, it would be easy to use this as a starter for some racial abuse. I am not like that (!) so I will content myself by saying that after all these years it is nice that the French are noticing these things

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French complain of strange smells


Dawn does it

I have been watching this reporter for a while. The YouTube excerpt is typical of how she operates.

Be careful what you ask.

I find myself a tad confused by the legal appeal made by the woman with MS. She appears to be seeking clarification of the law in respect of her husband accompanying her to Switzerland where she would avail herself of the Securitas scheme for assisted suicide. She has gone into the finest detail - would he be allowed to lift her chair onto a train, hold a glass for her to drink, make the bookings.

I can see a very real risk here. It seems that so far 100 UK residents have gone down the path to Securitas. In a very small number of cases, relatives and assistants have been questioned on their return. No action has been taken. One might read this as indication that the Justice department has turned a blind eye to what is happening. My amateur reading of the law suggests that charges could have been brought.

By demanding some form of judicial review, the woman runs the risk that some jobsworth will say to her returning husband "Your wife went to great trouble to check this out. She lost. You went ahead. That makes you a criminal" Her wish for clarification could rebound on all others seeking suicide. An example surely of the adage 'let sleeping dogs lie'?

I do have another bee in my bonnet. I do not know what form of wedding service they went through; mine said that I would protect my wife in all sorts of conditions. Were I this woman's husband I would be very firm with her. If suicide is what she wants - and it is not that decision she seeks to test - then I would do all in my power to see she gets that dignified end. It is not as if there is a lack of options to determine one's life right here in UK. I assume she has painkilling medication - save it up. There are any number of ways she could choose.

Doubtless, if anyone does read this, there will be some who hold that suicide is wrong. I respect that opinion. I do not hold to it. My suggestion would be to suggest that the deniers wait until their life is unbearable to them with no relief in view. Come back then and tell me about suicide being wrong.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Where did all the money go?

I'm told that Nick Leeson is an interesting speaker even when things are running normally. Given the scale and manner of the current bank hardships his value will have gone up quite considerably; almost getting it from the horses mouth one might say.

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Keynote speaker at the third annual Yorkshire and Humberside Fraud Forum Conference in Wakefield on Tuesday 7th October 2008 is one of the world’s most sought after speakers, Nick Leeson. His presentation will include his role in the collapse of Barings Bank, expose the lack of accounting safeguards and detail his subsequent imprisonment.

Perhaps appropriately for the current economic environment Leeson says “I think rogue trading is probably a daily occurrence amongst financial markets. Not enough focus goes on those risk management areas, those compliance areas, and those settlement areas, that can ultimately save money.”

Contributors to the days events include a Keynote speech by Sandra Quinn from the Attorney General's Office and Chief Executive of the Development Team establishing the National Fraud Strategic Authority. Sandra will be available for interview regarding the strategic direction of fraud enforcement and prevention in the UK.

David Wall from Leeds University is Professor of Criminal Justice and Information Society. He is one of the leading experts in the field of Cybercrime and has written extensively on the subject.

Hear an expert economist, Clare Howarth, set out the current climate for fraud in the UK and Alex Deane from Companies Investigation Branch detail the threat to business from this insidious crime with recordings of genuine scam attempts.

The conference coincides with National Identity Fraud Prevention week, which commences on the 6th October. Identity Theft and Identity Fraud continue to increase and are an inherent threat to us all as individuals and as business operators and the YHFF lend their full support to this campaign.

Tony Booth Chair of the YHFF said, “ This is a great opportunity to listen to one of the most interesting characters in the world of high finance fraud and to hear from Sandra Quinn how the UK is developing its strategic response to the fraud issues that face us. We shall also be looking at the threats we face in this turbulent economic climate, e-crime, micro-fraud and identity theft. 

Low flying

I was reading about the Boris Johnson idea of a London airport on the Thames rather than extend Heathrow. One of the cons was aircraft noise I then recalled Kai Tak airport in Hong Kong. I pal of mine lived on the top floor of the flats shown in most of the clips. It was not just the noise but the air pressure and vibrations that resulted. I swear he had skid marks of aircraft tyres on the roof!

Six weeks wait

I do not support the Bill calling for 42 day detention of suspected terrorists. Not on grounds of human rights or freedom of activity but just because it is wrong to have this as a blanket measure. If the police have good reason to detain someone, I'd be happy with 42 weeks. I fully accept that there will be complicated investigations involving translation of foreign language documents, forensic examination of computers and location identification from mobile telephones. These should be few and far between. The State has some very sophisticated surveillance equipment and one might expect that a firm prima-facie case could be presented based upon facts established and developed from these assets. A similar situation might exist from intercepted telephone and Internet communications
It would be nice to have the situation whereby this evidence may be given by law but; even so, it is possible to have the conversations proven by inquiry. If one intercepts a call discussing a meeting at the place X, be at place X at the designated time and use the cameras and remote microphones. No need to refer to the intercept in any great detail. Treat it as if it were something received from an informer.
Holding onto someone for a period in excess of 42 days just because you can do so is counter-productive. It just introduces another element into a trial and allows defence counsel to add another "injustice" or "element of doubt" into their response to the case. It will also damage community relations, make intelligence gathering more difficult and possibly ruin the lives of innocent people .

Back home

I reckon on being here a bit more often. I have been writing for another blog but it seems they think I am monopolising the posts. The claim is that people spend so much time reading mine that they do not have time to write their own. The obvious solution seems to have deserted them; I cannot think that what I contribute is so gripping and excellent that it destroys the Do Not Read gene. I did spend a little time making no posts at all and, whilst one or two made posts, very few took advantage of time saved by not reading my stuff to contribute anything of their own.
I was asked to ration myself to not more than 5 posts a day. For a while, I did this but unilaterally broke the agreement when I saw the poor response to the free time the others gained. Five posts seems a strange way to measure volume. A post could consist of a cartoon or photograph with one line of remark by me. I could also write a very much longer item - still a post.
I have been in and out of the group a couple of times. Initially, I felt happy there but somehow or somewhere, it has lost what it was.
Because of being rationed on such daft grounds, I'll solve all their problems and write nothing there. The few people whose opinion I value and whose work I appreciate can read me here. Or stay where they are.