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Posts Tagged ‘Fear’

MP’s Google Ga-Ga

March 20, 2010 Leave a comment

The country is in recession, the unions are getting away with murder and the people in charge desperately need to get a grip… so what does the MP for Hereford do? He tries to divert attention away from his abject failure as an MP by claiming Google Maps is going to put the SAS at risk from a terrorist attack.

It doesn’t help that Paul Keetch is one of the fattest and sleekest of MPs, a real local firebrand who promised change when he was elected in 1997, but who quickly went native and realised that the home of parliament wasn’t called a Palace for nothing, and who has been an outstanding non-entity since.

He’s also a member of the UK’s official luddite party, the Liberal Democrats, who recently intervened in the impasse over the Digital Economy bill and actually managed to make it worse just as it was about to become law!! God help the UK if these ignorant morons hold the balance of power in a hung parliament after the elections in May.

It’s quite clear that it’s election year when a sitting MP has to resort to such tub-thumping, jingoistic stunts like this, claiming that the cameras of American company Google will give potential terrorists assistance and encouragement to attack the base of the UK’s elite military unit.

Sadly Mr Keetch, like most MPs, hasn’t got a clue what he’s talking about, and is so out-of-touch, I’d be surprised if he even knew what Google Maps was.

He’s certainly never used it, if he had he would know that Google Maps only shows the user what can be seen from the public road which runs outside the base; nothing that can’t seen for the cost of a coach ticket to Hereford.

It’s also a sign of Paul Keetch’s blinkered self-obsession (another trait he shares with all his parliamentary colleagues) that he thinks Britain’s foremost military unit, one of the most feared regiments in the world, needs the protection of a fat, spineless buffoon like him.

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Fox News – The jihadists’ teacher

March 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Shock horror… Fox News are ratcheting up the fear factor again with another of their ever-so-fair-and-unbalanced reports … this time about GPS jamming equipment which could… only could you understand… be used to try and crash an aeroplane.

Having establish a tenuous connection, between GPS jammers and airline navigation systems, and said they can be bought ‘legally’ on the internet when every federal law enforcement agent they spoke to said “they’re illegal”, Fox then go on to tell you how they work and the potential disaster and havoc they could cause.

So any would-be terrorist doesn’t have to do any research, those kind folks at Fox News have done it all for them.

Of course what Fox don’t point out is that the only jammers with a signal that’s likely to be strong enough to affect a plane’s GPS system work off a car cigarette lighter … now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a car cigarette lighter socket on a plane … I can’t think why that might be.

Nor do they really highlight that fact that GPS is only one of the navigation systems used by aircraft, and that a plane wouldn’t fall out of the sky if its GPS system went offline – I wonder how many times that actually happens and the plane carries on normally under the control of ground-based air traffic control radar? Probably more often than you’d like to be honest.

The bottom line is a news story designed only to scare, and devoid of the facts that would make it not at all scary, and therefore, not news.

Maybe the channel should get a new catchline: FOX – Non-news written by non-journalists for non-entities.

Kiss your sanity goodbye

March 12, 2010 1 comment
The National Newspaper

Kiss & Tell story?

I’ve made many observations in the past about the stupidity of the law, and it’s now becoming clear that different laws and different legal systems are stupid for different reasons.

Take Sharia for instance. There are many people I know who believe it is a perfectly sensible system and who abide by it every day, and on the face of it, Sharia is no different to the Ten Commandments, upon which most common law is based – actually, it’s just common sense.

What’s not common sense is when a law is hi-jacked and used by extremists to impose their morals on others, or exploited by small-minded fools to hold back the development of a society.

Take this story pictured in the National newspaper in the United Arab Emirates, where a British ex-pat and a UK visitor were seen kissing in a hotel restaurant after having a drink, and as a result have been sentenced to a month in jail and then deportation.

Now, I have plenty of friends who have worked in the Middle East and who relate ludicrous horror stories like this every time I see them.

I have also visited the Jumeriah Beach Residence in Dubai and know that it is an ultra modern hotel which like many in the region, sells alcohol to ex-pats and foreign visitors, and feels entirely like any other luxury hotel anywhere in the world.

So here’s a few matters arising:

Some friends meet for a drink and a meal, in a place where food and alcohol are openly and legally sold to them.

Some woman, who has her kids with her at 2 o’clock in the morning, sees them kissing, but doesn’t see them well enough to be able to tell whether it is on the lips or the cheek, tells the authorities and suddenly these people are arrested and face jail time.

Now, if someone is jailed for having drunk alcohol in a place where alcohol is on sale, isn’t that called entrapment?

If you are taken into an environment where you are treated very much as if you were at home, and arrested for doing something you would normally do there, are you not being deliberately misled?

If I had my children in a hotel bar or restaurant at 2 o’clock in the morning, shouldn’t I expect to be arrested for child abuse and have my kids taken away by social services?

Unfortunately, this is all perfectly normal in the fairytale-land of the Middle East, and it tells you a lot about how the people of this region are simply not ready to deal with the West, despite claims to the contrary by it’s leaders, even though almost all of them have not been elected, and who treat their own people like children.

Cities like Dubai have spent jaw-dropping amounts of money on buildings and infrastructure, using an army of slave labourers from South Asia; they have enticed Western businesses with tax-free financing to set up shop there so they can point to these developments and say they are democratic and modern, and they build fantastic hotels and allow them to sell alcohol to ex-pats so as to encourage these businesses to bring staff over.

But underneath it all, the old laws remain in place – the laws that were developed in the Middle Ages still hold sway, and of course, ignorance is no defence.

And there’s the problem: Western people are encoraged to go into cities like Dubai, they are made to feel at home, given all the comforts of home plus tax-free wages, or stay in luxurious hotels where food and alcohol are freely available.

But technically, the laws still apply, even inside the hotels.

Add to this a swathe of local people who see huge amounts of money being spent on Western-style business and hotels and not on them, and you suddenly have an army of spies who are full of righteous indignation and happy to exploit the old laws to their own advantage to make life uncomfortable for any Westerner who strays.

If you treat people like children, is it any surprise that they act like them?

The same is true in the stone-cold sober world of business, and I have heard many a tale about Western business people held in the country they called home, against their will, because there is a dispute over their business dealings, usually because the local partner faces having to take some responsibility for their actions and like a pouting teenager would rather falsely blame it on the “corrupt” Westerner.

Again the local laws are little changed from the Middle Ages and in countries where you need a visa to leave the country, and where bureaucracies are still based on paper and fax, where there are no bankruptcy laws and where debtors go to prison (and the local labour laws prevent them from finding other work) and where the court system is as transparent as mud, there’s no wonder Western businesses find the cards stacked against them if things go wrong.

Until these iniquities are sorted out, the Middle East will never be a safe place for Western companies and executives to do business, and that won’t happen until these countries grow up and drag their people and their legal systems into the modern age, and start treating them like grown-ups.

Out-foxing the news fixers

June 14, 2009 Leave a comment

There’s been an interesting couple of articles over on The New York Times recently which look at the growing extremism in the US Republican Party, something I commented on last month.

Columnist Frank Rich provides a detailed takedown of what he describes as the “Obama Haters’ Silent Enablers” and the corrosive effect that they and their message are having on what passes for political discourse in the US.

Another writer, Paul Krugman takes a wider ranging view of reaction to the murder of Dr George Tiller by an anti-abortion fanatic, followed in short-order by the incident at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington in which a security guard was shot dead by a white supremacist and Holocaust denier.

Both point to what seems to be an increasingly worrying trend that incidents like this are on the increase following Barack Obama’s election as President, and that the right-wing media, including the Faux News Channel, bear some responsibility for this.

What’s worrying in the middle of all this is that having been trounced at the elections in November the Republican Party is currently leaderless, rudderless and clueless, as exemplified by the recent fiasco over whether Gingrich or Palin should speak at a fund-raising dinner – if they can’t get their guest lists sorted out you have to wonder whether they ever will re-discover the plot ahead of 2012, or whether they have already written that off and are concentrating in 2016.

Unfortunately nature abhors a vacuum, and so into that breech have stepped a whole swathe of unelected, possibly even unelectable, voices like so-called comedian Rush Limbaugh and actor Jon Voight, who told Faux News Channel and others that his devout wish was to “bring an end to this false prophet Obama“.  

This is exactly the kind of swing to extremism that the British Labour Party suffered after its humiliation at the hands of the Conservatives in 1979 – and by the time the next election came round in 1983, the Party was riven with divisions as it lurched to the left under Michael Foot.

Labour’s manifesto for the 1983 elections included abolition of the House of Lords, leaving the EEC (the fore-runner of the EU) and abandoning the UK’s nuclear deterrent, prompting one senior Labour MP to describe it as “the longest suicide note in history“.

It took the reality check of the Conservatives Party’s 1983 landslide to set Labour back on the road to electoral respectability, although it took them another 14 years to actually achieve their goal of regaining Number 10.

There’s no doubt the electoral roller coaster that is American politics plays out much quicker than the UK one, but one wonders whether the Republicans are already paying the price for allowing the extremism of the election campaign to get so out of hand, as evidenced in the Al Jazeera video I posted a few days ago

Frank Rich is already alarmed that no-one is reining in the “hard-core haters”:

The only voices that might penetrate their alternative reality — I emphasize might — belong to conservative leaders with the guts and clout to step up as McCain did last fall. Where are they? The genteel public debate in right-leaning intellectual circles about the conservative movement’s future will be buried by history if these insistent alarms are met with silence.

Hang on a minute, did he say McCain had guts – in classic sports broadcasting terms, let’s see that again…

So that’s having “the guts and clout to step up” eh Frank? We can clearly see McCain is embarrassed because he knows his campaign has been based entirely around Obama’s race and background, and now one of his base supporters has come out and said it and he’s got to agree with her without agreeing with her, knowing that if he gets the next few statements wrong, his whole campaign is doomed to be filed in a garbage bin marked “flip-flopper”.

So he fumbles, he humms, he errrs, and he comes out with something so remarkably anodyne that it can be read any which way you like; the only decisive thing he does is to get his microphone well away from the loony old trout.

McCain didn’t “step up”, he fell over, tried to stand up, managed to get his foot out of his mouth and then ran like hell, and in doing so he showed all the leadership qualities of a concussed bee.

What was needed was for McCain to walk slowly and silently back to the centre of the stage and then to deliver a quiet but stinging rebuke to anyone in his party who dared to make the rest of the campaign about race, to make it clear that the election should be about policy, and not about fearmongering – then he should have gone away and slapped down anyone on his campaign team who disagreed.

That would have been leadership, that would have been “stepping up” but he blew it, and so set in motion the course of events that lead us to where we are today, with right-wing extremism on the rise in the US effectively being encouraged by a leaderless and ineffective Republican party and egged on by loud-mouth shock jocks like Limbaugh, Beck and O’Reilly who really are the perfect examples of the inverse ratio between the size of the brain and the size of the mouth.

Someone needs to step up and provide the same kind of reality check as the Labour Party got in 1983; the problem is that if the American Right waits until after the 2012 election, how many people are going to die in the meantime?

Time for a real climate change

June 3, 2009 2 comments

There’s nothing that annoys me more than lazy, cut-and-paste, hype-ridden journalism, and no subject has generated more of this than Climate Change (or so-called “Global Warming”).

Some wonk somewhere produces a report saying so many thousands of people have died, or lost land, or been internally displaced because of global warming and the hype-mongers of the press are all over it like a rash with doom-laden white-on-black prophecies of impending catastrophe.

This happened the other day when the Global Humanitarian Forum put out a report claiming that global warming is killing 300,000 people a year; former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said it was a “silent crisis”:

Climate change is the greatest emerging humanitarian challenge of our time, causing suffering to hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

If leading world statesmen like Kofi Annan are saying this, it must be true, and of course the press jumped on the bandwagon.

But even in Kofi Annan’s comments on the report are the seeds of doubt. Here’s how it appeared in The Times:

Mr Annan said the report could never be as rigorous as a scientific study, but said: “We feel it is the most plausible account of the current impact of climate change today.”

In other words: “We haven’t a clue”.

What makes this worse is that this is not actually the Forum’s own report, but one that they farmed out to some “thinktank”, a consultancy group called Dalberg Global Advisers who themselves admitted their estmates had:

a significant margin of error

In other words: “We haven’t a clue either”.

The problem is that Climate Change is like the Cold War – our political leaders have jumped on it as a way to scare the bejeezus out of their electorate, and so the only way for scientists to get decent funding for new research is to claim it has relevance to Climate Change – just like in the 1960s and 1970s when the best way to get research funding was to claim some Cold War defense implications.

Of course the outcome of this research is often so spurious and theoretical that no-one really knows what it means and can put any kind of spin on it that they like; this is especially true of any Climate Change work done with atmospheric modelling, a branch of science which sometimes seem to owe more to Harry Potter than it does to any real world physics.

For example – we’re told that the Arctic ice cap is disappearing at an increasing rate. Now watch this video and ask yourself a simple question: “If the ice appears and disappears so quickly every year, how can they be so certain?”

So Kofi Annan’s comment about about rigorous scientific study is telling, because that is actually happening, although because the results don’t have BIG numbers or lots of dead, injured and displaced that fit neatly into a headline, the lazy hacks in our newsrooms don’t give a damn.

I saw this example over on another blog today: Lindzen’s Climate Sensitivty Talk: ICCC June 2, 2009 – not the world’s most inspiring headline, and it has a link to a powerpoint which is full of graphs and equations which would make the average person’s head spin.

To sum it up: Dr Richard Lindzen compared the main Climate Change predictive models to the real data, the observations of what has really happened, and he found the real world did not behave like the models said it would. 

What we see, then, is that the very foundation of the issue of global warming is wrong. There is little to be concerned about (due to our emissions).  Of course, climate change will always occur and we should be prepared.

Dr Lindzen knows which way the winds of political opinion are blowing on climate change, so he has a little afterthought for those who spend their lives neatly coccooned on Planet Politics:

In a normal field, these results would pretty much wrap things up, but global warming/climate change has developed so much momentum that it has a life of its own – quite removed from science.  One can reasonably expect that opportunism of the weak will lead to efforts to alter the data (though the results presented here have survived several alterations of the data already).  Perhaps most important, these results will of necessity ‘offend the sensibilities of the of the educated classes and the entire East and West Coasts,’ and who would want to do that.

Ouch!

OK, so this is just one report, and no doubt the ardent Climate Change supporters will pooh-pooh it, but that’s the way science has always worked, just remember some of the crap that Galileo and Copernicus had to put up with.

What’s more worrying is that underlying all of this is knowledge that this report will not get the same coverage as the UN’s spurious “finger-in-the-air” fearmongering did, because the majority of mainstream media journalists are too lazy, too stupid or just too ignorant to dig out the truth.

Just look at sites like this infotainment site from ABC News and ask yourself: “Apart from a few question marks in some of the headlines, where is the rigorous journalistic examination of the facts?”*

If our scientists can’t agree among themselves, shouldn’t THAT be the story the public are told?

*[EDIT/Update: Viewing the ABC News site further I found myself asking another question: “If ABC News had existed back then – what would they have foreseen for a fictional child born on June 2, 1909?” – if you think about this for more than just a second, and look at where we are at now, you’ll start to grasp just how ridiculous a once-great journalistic organisation has become.]

Air-Force One Photoshopped?

May 12, 2009 Leave a comment

Lots of huffing and puffing over on another blog about claims that a picture of Air Force One flying over the Statue of Liberty have been faked, or photoshopped by the White House.

Proof, if ever there were any, that the Obama administration is as bad as its predecessor, according to those who believe it.

The flyover is already controversial because there were no warnings about it, and in a city which collectively ducks every time it sees a low-flying plane after the tragic events of 9-11, it was a spectacular PR blunder by the new White House staff.

So of course, the conspiracy theorists, especially those with an axe to grind over Obama’s presidency, have jumped on the bandwagon; first there was whinging about the pictures not being released even though they were funded by the taxpayer. Then they were released, which shut those whingers up.

Now come claims that the pictures have been doctored, and that some allegedly slipshod use of the Photoshop cloning tool means there are two flag poles on the island beside the Statue of Liberty.

Doctor, Doctor, Gimme the news...

Doctor, Doctor, Gimme the news...

Except it hasn’t been doctored.

It took me five minutes with Photoshop to show that while there are two similar shaped objects next to each other, one of which is the American flag at the top of it’s pole, the object to the left is not a clone of the flag.

The cloning tool does exactly what it says on the tin, the individual pixels are recreated somewhere else on the canvas, so the pixels of the two objects should be identical. That’s the definition of cloning.

They are not. Having sampled the hue and opacity of all the pixels in both objects, they are very different, which means they cannot have been cloned.

What the claimant has also cleverly done is place a bright pink up-arrow (^) in the space where, if you examine the original, the bottom of the second flag post should be (but isn’t). 

Rather interesting that the original blog post was written by someone called “texasdarlin”, one wonders how close this person lives to Crawford, TX – if this is the best that the anti-Obama camp can come up with after he’s had 100 days in office then they may as well pack up and go home now, and write off the 2012 election right now.

Go back to your lives citizens, nothing to see here…

Grizzled Out-of-Touch Pathetic

May 8, 2009 Leave a comment

After yesterday’s posting about the American right being in denial, I expected a flood of approbium telling me in no uncertain terms how the Republican Party was turning the corner after their drubbing in November.

Boy how wrong was I? There is an old adage: When you are in a hole, stop digging. Sadly no-one at the GOP is familiar with this, as yesterday the details of their Keep Terrorists Out of America Bill were leaked.

The bottom line? They want to stymie Obama’s plans to close Guantanamo by forcing the details of every prisoner transfer into Congress so every Repulican can huff and puff very publicly about how suspected terrorists may be coming to your neighbourhood.

It seems the GOP really is still so far out-of-touch that it thinks the American people are going to fall for the same old politics of fear that characterised the eight-year disaster that was the Bush presidency.

Come on guys, McCain tried that already and got a right royal pasting at the ballot box for it. Maybe it’s time for some idiotic Republican wonks to Get Outta Politics?

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