Saturday, 20 December 2008


I oppose the death penalty but, as Clarence Darrow said, I often read obituaries with great pleasure,


Yeah - OK. It IS just a sick excuse to post pictures of naked ladies.

However, my serious point is that some things in the world are improving. In the days when I saw many young Asian ladies in the buff (don't all rush to condemn; I was a Vice Squad bloke), they all displayed signs of malnutrition verging on starvation. Chests were almost universally flat. Joke was that they spent the first five years of their life strapped to a board which gave them no swollen bits at all.
I'll acknowledge that what we see here may be the result of surgery* but my tired and aged eyes have seen much to suggest that - the ladies at least - they are getting enough food to develop fat layers. That has got to be an improvement in real life terms.

* OK gents - you may undertake a close examination to see if you can see any stitch marks!

Friday, 19 December 2008

Chicken entrails required.

The Rachel Nickell case has drawn attention to profilers. The common perception of these relies on the TV series Cracker and another recent series Wire in the Blood. The slightly older will remember Silence of the Lambs. For the sake of the drama and story line, these profilers were presented as complex characters almost as out of synch as those they hunted.

I came across some research on American profilers which puts them in the status of stage hypnotists or mind-readers. They have a low success rate - in the mid-nineties, the British Home Office analysed a hundred and eighty-four crimes, to see how many times profiles led to the arrest of a criminal. The profile worked in five of those cases. That's just 2.7 per cent success. I do not know whether this was communicated to those who used profilers - I suspect not but they certainly gained higher credence amongst investigators than they deserved.

A Father's anguish

These impact statements are common in modern day criminal trials but very few see he light of day outside the actual court room. Publication of the one prepared by the father of Rachel Nickell lifts the corner of the obscuring sheet.

It reflects something I picked up on in the lead-in to his repeating some of this on national TV. He said that he and his wife had moved on. Many - indeed, most - families say that they cannot achieve closure until the person responsible for their loss is detected and brought to justice. Nickell pere shows it can be done; even in the face of the sort of aggravation he outlines in his statement. Which follows :

Andrew Nickell's impact statement

Last Modified: 18 Dec 2008
By: Channel 4 News

A statement released by Andrew Nickell, father of Rachel, on the impact his daughter's murder has had on the Nickell family.

We have been asked to provide an impact statement to try and describe how Rachel's murder has affected us. This is a bit like trying to describe how you felt after being run over by a very large truck. In both cases you come out of a coma months/years later, having lived through a period when you were not really conscious of what was going on but you keep on automatically breathing and eating. When you come to, you gradually realise what you have lost.

The greatest loss is your future. All the things that any family hopes for and expects are completely smashed. There will be no daughter to talk to in our old age, no grandchildren to love and admire. At a stroke all this has been removed.

The next loss is your anonymity. Your life is trampled on by the media. You are "gawked at" in supermarkets. You are avoided by so-called friends who think some bad luck will rub off on them. Your son is devastated as he is very close to his sister. He avoids any close relationship because he fears losing someone else. Your mother, in her eighties, cries every day and wished she had been taken instead.

The greatest loss is your future. All the things that any family hopes for and expects are completely smashed.

Your daughter's partner retreats into pain and blame without the guidance and love of your daughter. After a few years he moves abroad and later you are stopped from seeing your only grandson. You become ever more wary of strangers. You reveal nothing because they might be media or have contacts with the media. Copies of your phone bills are obtained and friends abroad ring up to try to discover where your grandson lives.

You fight the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board for recompense for Alex for losing his mother in horrible circumstances and the loss of her love and parenting skills for the 15 years until he is 18. After seven years he is rewarded a derisory amount. The home secretary tells you that there is no appeal against this award.

You deal year after year with the machinery of the Crown and the ever-changing teams of police and specialists. Some of them care deeply, but they come and go. To say one man has destroyed our lives is too strong. But that one man has changed it forever. You learn to accommodate these changes, but the pain remains with you every minute of every day. Every day Rachel's name is mentioned, her photograph published or her home videos shown, everything comes flooding back.

We hope the man who committed the crime will spend the rest of his life in prison. That is the sentence he has given us.

Signed: A. Nickell

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Troops Out

Much is being made of the (politician's) promise that our troops will be out of Iraq - less a few there to train Iraqi forces - by the end of July 2009. I would like to think that the euphoria will not distract attention from the real need that the Nation deserves to know just why we went there in the first place. Blair and Bush have wavered on this for longer than the forces have been in Iraq. Weapons of Mass Destruction? The only weapons of mass destruction have been Bush and Blair. 45 minutes from launching an assault - total lack of any supportive evidence. It seems to me that, other than Bush and his claim about The Voice Of God, they just settled on the excuse 'It Seemed a Good Idea At The Time'. Well, lads, I'm afraid that won't do although I would accept it if they in their turn accept that their trial in an International Court for war crimes also 'Seems A Good Idea Right Now' They are just as responsible for the deaths and destruction in Iraq as those Generals with unpronounceable names were in Bosnia.
Doubtless they would squeak and squirrel away about having made genuine mistakes based upon duff intelligence given to them. Well, they employed the givers and assessors of that evidence and must be responsible for their ability and performance. I cannot see much sympathy for the driver who mistakes accelerator for brake and ploughs down a column of school kids en route to school. So it is for them. There is sufficient prima-facie evidence; the senior member of the Attorney General's office who resigned. The rejection of the first opinion when the senior law adviser was sent away to form another more favourable conclusion. Even that was a lukewarm statement:

" I remain of the opinion that the safest legal course would be to secure the adoption of a further resolution to authorise the use of force.... Nevertheless, having regard to the information on the negotiating history which I have been given and to the arguments of the US Administration which I heard in Washington, I accept that a reasonable case can be made that resolution 1441 is capable in principle of reviving the authorisation in 678 without a further resolution"

That further resolution was not sought despite it being identified as a 'safe legal course' . On the basis of what he was told, he accepts that there is a reasonable case ........ Blair chose not to accept the safe legal course - reckless at the least. Criminally reckless where the action he wanted was sure to result in loss of life. We now have reason to doubt what he was told so that destroys the basis for his secondary and grudging go ahead. He describes it as a 'reasonable case'. Not, notice, a stone cold certaintity. The final opinion given almost under duress needs to be revisited in the light of the true situation as it was when he gave it. There is further documentation for the AG's study. The Downing Street Memo. The "Downing Street memo" sometimes described by critics of the Iraq War as the "smoking gun memo", is the note of a secret 23 July 2002 meeting of senior United Kingdom Labour government, defence and intelligence figures discussing the build-up to the war, which included direct references to classified United States policy of the time. The memo recorded the head of MI6 as expressing the view following his recent visit to Washington that "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." It also quoted Foreign Secretary Jack Straw as saying that it was clear that Bush had "made up his mind" to take military action but that "the case was thin", and the Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith as warning that justifying the invasion on legal grounds would be difficult.

Blair has wormed his way into a strong diplomatic rank but no man is so superior that he cannot be brought to trial. And, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands killed and those families and dependants whose lives have been ruined, that is what should happen to him. And Bush as a joint conspirator.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Weird dreams

I had a great long dream last night. I do not know if the dream was trying to tell me something or was based upon my own thinking.
I was driving along a dual carriageway road. I could see for miles and miles ahead. There was no oncoming traffic but there were quite few cars ahead of me. We seemed to be all travelling at the same speed as the gap between cars did not shorten or get longer.
Along the road were traffic lights. Mostly they were green; the red lights there were seemed to have no pattern of dispersal compared to the green. After a while, I noticed that if a car was stopped by a red light, it disappeared. I don't remember seeing exactly what happened. There were side roads at the traffic light but I do not remember seeing any car turn off up one of these.
I had no sense of panic or fear. It did not really bother me that they went out of my sight; I seemed to accept that a red light just caused them to disappear. I did not worry about my getting stopped at a traffic light.
The obvious explanation of this does not take any degree in parapsychology or, indeed, any -ology. But I cannot see why this was being revealed to me at this time. I am free of my old mate The Black Dog; have been now for longer than I can ever remember. I am not conscious of death looming large in my mind other than the Dignitas debate recently. And, of course, Christmas was the time of my mother's death. If it was that, why nothing in the 25 years since that occurred? There was nothing in the DIY suicide that might have brought this dream about.

Bloody Grandma Edwards!

Dominoes and cards fall

The phrase House of Cards comes to my mind as we hear of more losses, arising this time from a fraud involving something around £50 billion. Would we have heard anything now of the latest if the sub-primes had not gone belly-up? But the system used by Bernard Madoff seems to have been nothing new and was one that would have been detected had the regulatory body made the usual checks and supervision. Maybe it was the sheer scale that kept them away? In amongst the identified losers based in UK are banks that are already in the midst of rough waters. HSBC Holdings plc has potential exposure of about $1.5 billion. Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc had exposure through trading and collateralized lending to funds of hedge funds invested with Madoff, with a potential loss of around 400 million pounds. City 'superwoman' Nicola Horlick has attacked US financial regulators after becoming a victim of a £33billion investment scam.
Glad I don't have money to lose on this scale.

The enemy within (government)

I make a point of following the writings of Fred Reed. I have some of his books as well.
Reading his latest, I wonder why it is that we have such bloody idiots engaged in running the country when men with minds and intellect such as his sit on the sidelines?

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Now will you pi*s off?

This appealed to me.
WILLMAR, Minn. — A 50-year-old rural Willmar man pleaded not guilty Wednesday to misdemeanor charges stemming from a homecoming week incident that allegedly included spraying toilet-papering teens with a squirt gun filled with fox urine.
Scott Edward Wagar faces charges of fifth-degree assault, theft and disorderly conduct in Kandiyohi County District Court for the Sept. 16 incident. He was released on his personal recognizance and ordered to have no contact with others involved in the case. His next court date is Jan. 20.
According to a complaint, Wagar reported to the county sheriff on Sept. 17 he had been in an altercation with another person near his property east of Willmar, and that he possibly had broken the person's finger.
He allegedly said he was fed up with his house being toilet-papered and had taken matters into his own hands. He was out along his property line the night before, between 10:30 and 11 p.m., and observed 15 to 20 people running toward his place through a soybean field. His observation was made through night vision goggles he had received from his son who served in the military. He said he told the group to leave, swore at them and sprayed them with a "supersoaker" squirt gun filled with fox urine.

While this was happening, he said, someone grabbed him from behind and they struggled with each other.

Later, a Sheriff's Office detective received a tip from a 16-year-old teenager who was in the group of people who had walked toward Wagar's property by following a drainage ditch and walking through the field. The teen said he was sprayed by the squirt gun and thought the liquid was human urine. The teen said he grabbed the squirt gun, and Wagar grabbed him and they struggled until another person started choking him and someone threatened to break his finger. He was able to free himself and run away.
During an interview with the detective, Wagar allegedly said he found a cell phone in the field, found out the phone number and called the father of the person who owned it. The man asked for the phone back and Wagar told him he could have it for $100. The man declined to pay the price and Wagar later turned the phone over to the detective.
The detective also interviewed the man, who said he had his son apologize to Wagar, but that the apology ended after Wagar yelled and screamed at the boy.

Well done that man!

I am amongst that clique of Grumpy Old Men who find little to praise in the youth of today. A gross exaggeration in itself; I have two exceedingly worthwhile teenagers in my grandchildren right now and I’m confident they will be valuable members of society when they come to be viewed and assessed as adults. Looking through my newsreader today, I discovered another one who seems to be made of the right stuff.
Seb Green spent a year of his life walking more than 3,100 miles around the UK with his border collie, Flash. He has raised more than £20,000 for two Dorset charities in a bid to pay back the local community for his behaviour four years ago.  

Seb was 15 when he and another teenager stole a Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) from Weymouth Harbour, Dorset, late on May 8 2004. The pair became stranded in mud in nearby Fleet Lagoon and a massive air and land search was launched. Both teenagers began shouting for help and Seb got out of the boat to walk to safety but became stuck up to his waist in mud.

A passer-by heard their screams and called for help. The Coastguard helicopter, Dorset Police helicopter, two Coastguard land based teams and two RNLI lifeboats were then launched to look for the missing teenagers.

They were taken to safety by the Coastguard helicopter half an hour later at around midnight.

Seb now plans to study biology and English A-levels before joining the Royal Marines. And good luck to him - he will get a lot of RIB riding there.


Nostalgia isn't what it was

Digging around looking for something car-related, I came across this Volkswagen advert.

I remember it caused a lot of nasty stuff from the then-powerful bra-burning sisterhood. Shame about that!
Then I recalled the name of the model - Paula Hamilton. She had a powerful self-destruct button or we might have seen as much of her as Ms Moss

Motivation is a poster I > U

The 'plane now leaving is for Dignitas

It is a criminal offence to 'aid, abet, counsel or procure' someone else's suicide. But last week the Director of Public Prosecutions said there would be no charges against the parents of Daniel James, who accompanied their son earlier this year to a clinic in Switzerland where, with assistance, he ended his life.

Also last week a TV documentary showed the last moments in the life of Craig Ewert. In 2006 he too had travelled to the Dignitas clinic in Zurich, supported by his wife, to kill himself.

The two cases are very different, not least because one of them was broadcast to the nation. Mr Ewert was 59 years old and terminally ill. Mr James, while tetraplegic, had, at 23, many years of life ahead of him. It was the diminished quality of that life that he could not bear.

To those who believe the ability to take one's own life is an inalienable right, such circumstantial differences hardly matter. The fact that assistance was required is purely technical. But the technical fact of assistance inevitably raises a unique set of ethical and legal quandaries.

Even if it is accepted that, in certain circumstances, mercy demands that a life of terrible suffering end, it is extraordinarily hard to envisage a law that effectively gives one person licence to kill another. How, for example, could such a law establish whether a person dying was of fully sound mind, or that their medical prognosis was so accurate that they could truly deduce there was no hope of recovery? How might the law reasonably investigate the motives of the person assisting the suicide, or of the doctor facilitating it?

Fear of the awesome complexity of those questions, and the passions they arouse, has stopped governments from heeding repeated calls by campaigners and some MPs for a new legal framework. But the fact that Parliament has failed to resolve this issue does not mean it will go away. Instead, the arguments will be played out in the media until political action becomes inevitable.

In surveys, at least 80 per cent of the population say assisted suicide should be legalised. To some extent, the precedent of the DPP's judgement on the Daniel James case has partially done that - but only for those who can afford to travel abroad.

The government must anticipate the need for a new law and establish a commission of enquiry to recommend what it should be. Otherwise, while the issues continue to be debated in the media, cases will come to court and conflicting precedents set on the basis of particular circumstances. But justice requires that, on such a difficult ethical question, the law be based on universal principles. The proper place to establish those principles is Parliament.

My own attitude is very clear. If, as and when I deem I wish to follow these two, my options should be no more limited than they are now. I really do not care where the suicide suite is in geographic terms "Go to the ends of the Earth" etc. etc" Obviously, if I need aid to get me there, it should be lawful for someone to accompany me. Any documentation should also be completed by another if needed.

The red herrings of external compulsion being used does not apply to me; I have next to no assets or enemies of sufficient determination to wish to kill me. I have the same scant regard for those who advance the religion case. I have never bothered God, or any 'Superior' being, so why should we be introduced to each other at the end of my present life here on Earth?

These attitudes are selfishly personal and I can quite accept the difficulty that would arise to draft legislation. Fine - leave things as they are now. If that debars me getting the assistance I need to get to Dignitas or some other "Exit Gateway" just balance me at the kerb of a busy road.

Just to clarify - I have no current intent to off myself. I just want to make provision now when I have some ability to make myself clear rather than wait until I have to communicate by flickering eyelashes.

Anyway - cheer up. At least I've been spared this sort of card!
Not all guitar music has to be senseless cacophony.