Saturday, 26 June 2010

Everybody Research the Holocaust Day - 30 June 2010

As those of you with a calendar will quickly spot, this is a rather premature post. I'd promised to post something on this subject on my blog on June 30th, during a senior moment. I should have remembered I'll be in a tent, probably far away from a keyboard on that date. So here's my modest and rather too early contribution to this effort.

To recap the reasons for researching the Holocaust on this day - a few 'fearless Islamic keyboard warriors' got annoyed about "Everybody Draw Mohammed" day and decided to retaliate by declaring 30th June "Everyone Research the Holocaust Day". The agenda behind this group is clear enough - its manifesto describes the Holocaust as a 'secular cult' and urges people to 'reject being emotionally blackmailed by Hollywood tales and holocaust museums'. Clearly, in the Islamic Radical dictionary "research" is synonymous with "deny". Unity at the Ministry of Truth blog has noticed the emergence of this nasty little group and has set up an alternative Facebook group, urging people to research the subject from a non-conspiracy-theorizing-denialist perspective.

I don't think there's anything wrong in questioning about what we think we know. There seems to me no good reason to make exceptions to this rule, even in sensitive areas as the Holocaust. What I'm getting a bit bored with is the repetition. After all, the revisionist question (strong version "did it really happen?", weak version "was what happened any worse than other horrible things that have happened in history?"), has been already been asked and fairly comprehensively answered in court. Maybe what's worth reminding ourselves what happened when denialism had its day in court.

The accepted version of the Holocaust (the deliberate killing of approximately six million European Jews in a systematic programme of state-sponsored genocide) has survived the deniers presenting what I assume must have been their best evidence in a court of law. The case of David Irving v Penguin Books and Deborah Lipstadt was a golden opportunity for deniers to pick massive holes in the accepted narrative (and avoid substantial libel costs), assuming there was a robust body of hard evidence to support an alternative view.

In fact, despite a lifetime's obsessive study of Hitler and his regime, Irving's version of the Holocaust was packed full of startling conclusions that required massive suspensions of disbelief and shaky assertions that dissolved into equivocation and back tracking when challenged.

The real hard work has already been done by meticulous fact-checkers like Richard J Evans who have put Irvings's assertions under the microscope. The historical facts, as far as they can be verified, are the most important things here. There are, however, plenty of clues in the deniers' own questions and assertions that the questioning is isn't a disinterested search for historical truth, but a surreal dialogue with the reality-challenged. Some of the assumptions these people are working on are strange enough to be worth thinking about in themselves:

We reject being emotionally blackmailed by Hollywood tales and holocaust museums which legitimize the war crimes and crimes against humanity of the extremist Atheist regime of Tel-Aviv.

Come again? Israel ... an extremist atheist state? I'm assuming that in this person's head, any synagogues that tourists might have noticed are either elaborate Potemkin village-style hoaxes or hallucinations caused by too much sun. The interesting thing here isn't that some random person on Facebook is working from some pretty bizarre assumptions, but that the working assumptions of the more "respectable" Holocaust deniers have been almost as odd. For example, going back to Irving v Penguin Books and Lipstadt:

Irving does not dispute that Hitler was deeply anti-semitic from at least the end of World War I. But he claimed that, once Hitler came to power, he lost interest in anti-semitism.
Lost interest? Let's just recap. Nobody disputes that Hitler was "deeply anti-semitic" before he came to power. Here are a few of the things that happened after he came to power:

April 1, 1933 NSDAP encourages boycott of shops and businesses owned by Jews.

April 7, 1933 Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service, Article 3, section 1, "Civil servants who are not of Aryan descent are to be retired; if they are honorary officials, they are to be dismissed from their official status."

April 11, 1933 First legal definition of who is a Jew since the passing of the Enabling Act allotted to the Chancellor absolute powers, passed March 24, 1933.

Article 3 "A person is to be considered non-Aryan if he is descended from non-Aryan, and especially from Jewish parents or grandparents. It is sufficient if one parent or grandparent is non-Aryan. This is to be assumed in particular where one parent or grandparent was of the Jewish religion."

April 25, 1933 Law Against Overcrowding of German Schools

Restricts the proportion of Jews admitted to public education institutions to their proportion in the population.

September 15, 1935 Nuremberg Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour

Marriages between Jews and subjects of the state of German or related blood were forbidden. Marriages nevertheless concluded were deemed invalid, even if concluded abroad to circumvent this law. Extramarital intercourse between Jews and subjects of the state of German or related blood was forbidden.

Jews were forbidden from employing in their households female subjects of the state of German or related blood who were under 45 years old.

Jews were forbidden from flying the Reich or National flag or to displaying the Reich colours.

November 14, 1935 First Supplementary Regulation to the Reich Citizenship Law - a further legal definition of who was a Jew, emphasising that Jews could not be citizens of the Reich and could not vote or hold public office.

August 17, 1938 Regulation requiring Jews to change their names.

"Section 1

1. Jews must be given only such first names as are specified in the directives issued by the Reich Minister of the Interior concerning the bearing of first names.

2. Section 1 does not apply to Jews of foreign nationality.

Section 2

If the Jews bear first names other than those authorised for Jews by Section 1, they must, from 1 January 1939, adopt another additional first name, namely `Israel' for men and `Sarah' for women."

November 9-10, 1938 Kristallnacht riots

November 12, 1938 Regulation for the Elimination of Jews from the Economic Life of Germany

Article 1

1) From January 1, 1939, Jews are forbidden to operate retail stores, mail-order houses, or sales agencies, or to carry on a trade independently.
2) They are...forbidden ... to offer for sale goods or services, to advertise these, or to accept orders at markets of all sorts, fairs or exhibitions. [Source: Y Arad, Documents on the Holocaust. London: Pergamon Press, 1981,pp.115-16]

Funnily enough, the man in charge of the regime when these things happened used to be a bit anti-semitic. But according to David Irving he'd already lost interest in anti-semitism by that point - how ironic is that? As he was now completely uninterested in anti-semitism, Hitler must have been bored to tears by his own closing speech to the Nuremberg Party Conference in September 1938

When the question is still put to us why National Socialism fights with such fanaticism against the Jewish element in Germany, why it pressed and still presses for its removal then the answer can only be: Because National Socialism desires to establish a true community of the people…. Because we are National Socialists we can never suffer an alien race which has nothing to do with us to claim the leadership of our working people." (Adolf Hitler, quoted in N H Baynes, The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, Oxford University Press, 1942, Volume I, pp.735)
Strangely, for a man who was no longer an anti-semite, he had a lot to say about the Jewish question/problem after coming to power, too. The judge was unconvinced:

The evidence is incontrovertible (and Irving does not seek to dispute it) that Hitler was rabidly anti-semitic from the earliest days. He spoke, in his famous speech of 30 January 1939 and on other occasions, in the most sinister and menacing terms of the fate which awaited the Jews: they were a bacillus which had to be destroyed. The Defendants do not suggest that in the 1930s Hitler should be understood to have been speaking in genocidal terms. But, according to the Defendants, the position changed from late 1941 onwards. I was unconvinced by the strenuous efforts made by Irving to refute the sinister interpretation placed by the Defendants on Hitler’s pronouncements on the Jewish question from late 1941 onwards.

Not only was Hitler apparently no longer an anti-semite but, according to Irving, he had no idea what his immediate subordinates were up to. In particular, because no correspondence survives directly linking Hitler with the Wannsee Conference of 1942, Irving assumes that the planning for the most systematic phase of the genocide was done without his knowledge or approval:

As to the Wannsee conference, said Irving, Hitler was not present and there is no evidence that he was apprised of the discussions which there took place. Heydrich’s claim to have the authority of Hitler was either pro forma or a false claim designed to provide reassurance to those present.
It's an interesting assumption to make about Hitler, whose desire for control famously resulted in counterproductive attempts to micro-manage the conduct of the war.

Although Hitler might have been a better people-manager [than Churchill] in some ways, his tendency to attempt to micro-manage the Third Reich once the war broke out led directly to his downfall. Whereas in the years leading up to the outbreak of war Hitler took a back seat in terms of administration, after 1939 he insisted on taking decisions that ought to have been left to far more junior officers. At one point during the war in the east he wound up ordering small-scale maps and directing Wehrmacht troop movements all the way down to battalion level.

Irving's anxiety to distance Hitler from the Holocaust seems a little overdone, since he simultaneously asserts that the number of people who died must have been much lower than the generally accepted figure and represented one of the unavoidable tragedies of war, as opposed to the deliberate and systematic abuse and murder of civilians:

I am not familiar with any documentary evidence of any such figure as 6 must have been of the order of 100,000 or more, but to my mind it was certainly less than the figure which is quoted nowadays of 6 million. Because on the evidence of comparison with other similar tragedies which happened in the Second World War, it is unlikely that the Jewish community would have suffered any worse than these communities.2

It's a classic case of rather too much denial. In the words of Bart Simpson:

I didn't do it. Nobody saw me do it, you can't prove anything.

Interestingly, as Richard J Evans pointed out, a couple of years before coming up with a death toll "the order of 100,000 or more", Irving was, by his own admission, neither an expert in the total number of Jews killed by the Nazis nor particularly interested in what the actual number of victims was:

Until the late 1980s, Irving paid little attention to the numbers of Jews killed during the Second World War. In 1986, for example, while confessing that he thought 'the six million figure is probably marginally exaggerated', Irving described the minimal figure of 100,000 as being put forward by a 'school of thought' that was 'right out at the fringe', and added that 'I have to admit that I haven't examined the Holocaust in any detail.'1
During the course of the trial, Irving (sort of) stuck to his guns on the numbers killed, but had to concede that the killings were systematic and carried out with Hitler's knowledge and approval:

Irving accepts that the number of Jews who were executed was large but disputes that it occurred on the scale alleged by the Defendants. He accepts that the killing was systematic. After some hesitation he conceded that the evidence which he has now seen indicates that Hitler knew and approved what was going on.

The number of victims isn't precisely documented - however a number of sources point to a figure in the 5-6 million range - and Yad Vashem have so far been able to put names to around four million of them.

There is no precise figure for the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust. The figure commonly used is the six million quoted by Adolf Eichmann, a senior SS official. Most research confirms that the number of victims was between five and six million. Early calculations range from 5.1 million (Professor Raul Hilberg) to 5.95 million (Jacob Leschinsky). More recent research, by Professor Yisrael Gutman and Dr. Robert Rozett in the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, estimates the Jewish losses at 5.59–5.86 million, and a study headed by Dr. Wolfgang Benz presents a range from 5.29 million to six million.

The main sources for these statistics are comparisons of prewar censuses with postwar censuses and population estimates. Nazi documentation containing partial data on various deportations and murders is also used.

There's lots of detailed evidence to refute Irving's assertions, line by line and footnote by footnote. This has been done by people who probably needed an industrial-strength dose of mind bleach after picking though the combination of Irving's skewed logic and the seemingly endless records of the vilest of human behaviour. The good news is that you only need to skim the works of the deniers in a fairly cursory fashion and think about some of their basic assumptions and simpler assertions to see how contrived, flimsy and desperate their arguments are.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Gayest. Car. Ever.

Ford Mustang convertible. On a beach. With beach volleyball courts nearby so you can preen for your boyfriend in action shots.

Who am I to argue? To my knowledge, Jeremy Clarkson is the only other commentator with sufficient interest in the sexual orientation of cars to have expressed an opinion on the matter:

Media watchdog Ofcom ... decided that Jeremy Clarkson probably was being a little bit homophobic after a flood of complaints came from viewers outraged that he said of the Daihatsu Copen "A bit gay, yes, very ginger beer,” on a Top Gear episode. However, not all the complaints to Ofcom were about Jeremy Clarkson's gay jibe – around 20% of complaints pointed out that the sight of a lanky lighthouse-dwelling Genesis fan who went to the same public school as an Archbishop of Canterbury standing around in a pair of awful jeans and inexplicably deciding to talk in cockney rhyming slang is something that should never be seen on British television again.

The image of Clarkson and the future Archbishop of Canterbury, after lights out in the dorm, gossiping about the latest wheels they'd checked out on their gaydar, is way too entertaining to be dismissed lightly.

A filthy lie

...or just some special definition of the word "progressive" known only to PR professionals?

Monday, 21 June 2010

A word from our sponsor

As you may be aware, Tesco is the official supermarket of the England world cup team, though I bet you’re not aware of it if you happen to live in Scotland, Ireland or Wales. Elsewhere, the stores are festooned with tat and bunting.

Someone working for the Great Beast of retail tells me that the word’s gone out for people who fancy a bit of overtime to come in early Wednesday evening and take all the tat and bunting down: every bit of it, from deely boppers to vuvuzelas, though I suppose all those crappy t-shirts will be marked down for sale as fuel for the bonfires on which effigies of the traitor Rooney will be burned.

Every little helps. As a member of an almost invisible demographic, (heterosexual English male, not particularly interested in football), I don't normally have much to say on the subject, but one thing intrigues me - the inverse relationship between the staggering amounts of money spent by clubs in the English premiership and the performance of the national team. As an outsider, I've always assumed that the paradox was explained by the rich clubs buying in ready-made superstars from abroad, rather than spending the money on seeking out and developing home-grown talent.

The real explanation is probably more nuanced, but the graph in this blog post highlights the contrast between England's lacklustre performance and shedloads of money being spent on English football.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

From incitement to murder to silly swearing

Brief update. Once upon a time there was a Facebook group called Döda lars Vilks! (Kill Lars Vilks!), suggesting that the murder of the Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks would be an appropriate response to a cartoon Vilks had drawn, depicting Muhammad in a less than flattering light.

I don't think murdering people you disagree with is an acceptable way to promote your views, so I reported the group to Facebook. I have no idea whether it was my complaint that did it, but I'm pleased to report that the obnoxious idiot responsible for this group has now amended the name of the group to "[expletive deleted] Lars Vilks damn hard ice [sic - this is Google Translate's attempt at the English version] on Facebook".

A small victory for sanity. If you don't like something you can complain, write to the papers, rant, swear, set up a Facebook Group, wave a placard, even - here's a radical idea - come up with a reasoned criticism of the thing you don't like and overcome that thing by the having a better argument. But trying to bully people into silence with threats of violence and even death is the contemptible act of a moral weakling who is losing the argument.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Shock and awe

We may still be enjoying the deceptive lull of a phoney war, but we're clearly being softened up for a massive attack. Sounds familiar?

Think tank warfare

A couple of news articles caught my attention in the last week.

First, the biggie. Those axe-wielding Con-Dems are particularly keen to copy the budget-cutting example of the Canadian government in the 1990s. This will certainly hurt, but the pain will probably be counterproductive.

Second, the Con-Dem chopper also seems to have fallen on Chief of the Defence Staff , Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, who will be stepping down early. It’s not just the Con-Dems who are targeting Stirrup. The Parachute Regiment’s Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Tootal, who commanded the first troops sent to Helmand, criticised Stirrup for not sending extra helicopters and troop reinforcements into Helmand quickly enough.

Mmmm ... cuts... defence... That got me thinking. I've noticed that any fool can be part of a “radical” think tank, thinking the unthinkable, proposing painful cuts that will hurt other people, but have no direct effect on the think tanker. Some people even pay attention to this bunch of tankers. Well, if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em. Here goes. With my Frank Field hat on, and a research budget of a few minutes on Google, how can I find “efficiency savings” in Britain’s £36.9Bn defence budget?

Canadian examples are in fashion this season. As a dedicated follower of fashion, I'm relentlessly on trend, so here's an achingly hip, edgy, Canadian-themed concept. On 1 February 1968, the Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army, and Royal Canadian Air Force were merged into one unified service, officially known as the Canadian Armed Forces (AKA Forces Armées Canadiennes).

Living proof that countries don’t necessarily need three separate armed forces. Perhaps a medium-sized power like Britain would get better value from one unified defence force? The thinking looks sound:

One of the lessons of the Second World War, reiterated in one form or another by many senior military leaders, among them Field Marshal Montgomery and General Eisenhower, is that the scope and methods of modern warfare and defence technology have largely made the conduct of war by individual services operating in separate and independent roles an anachronism.

For some years military writers and defence leaders have been writing and talking about the integration and unification of armed forces. Many considered them an inevitable outcome of modern technology. Theory and principle were easily defensible. But here was a nation actually proposing to put the principles into practical application. Canada had taken the pioneering step.

Canada did not, however, embark on this momentous course for the sake of being first. This was not change for the sake of change. It was a move born of economic and organizational necessity. In the 1960s, with the increase in government expenditures on social programs and the rising cost of government in general, the defence budget was fixed at a figure of approximately $1.5 billion. Both the Navy and the Army needed re-equipping. Each service was bidding for the defence dollar without any means of ensuring that its slice of the financial pie would be adequate for its needs and within the best interests of the country as a whole. Maintenance and operational and personnel costs were taking an increasing proportion of the total defence budget and forcing a decline in the money available for equipment needed to modernize the forces. In 1963 a projection of operating and maintenance costs, taken as a percentage of the total budget, indicated that by 1968/ 69 practically no money would be available for the purchase of operational equipment.

Assuming that Canada intended to maintain modern military forces, there were only two possible courses of action—increase the budget or reduce operating and maintenance costs. In fact there was no guarantee that a larger budget would solve the problem; operating and maintenance costs as a percentage of the total budget would continue to rise unless a fundamental change was made. All means, therefore, of reducing operating and maintenance costs which did not prejudice operational efficiency had to be explored.

At the same time, since the White Paper had placed considerable emphasis on the need for Canada to maintain highly flexible and mobile forces in anticipation of continued, if not increased, participation in peace-restoring and peace-keeping missions, the structure of our forces had to be adapted to this policy. We needed a force structure which would permit us to operate effectively with our allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and in support of other commitments, including United Nations peace-keeping operations. We also recognized that we could not take full advantage of recent advances in science and technology unless we established a single top management for all three services. In short, the situation pointed clearly to the need to integrate the three services as the means of providing a defence force suited to Canada’s requirements and financial means.

Before 1964, each service—Navy, Army, and Air Force—existed as a separate, independent entity with its own headquarters and its own command, administrative, and support organizations. There was considerable triplication of functions among the services. We had triplication in logistics, communications, transport, recruiting, training, pay and finance, personnel administration and services, and even in such static engineering functions as building maintenance.

Writes Air Marshal Frederick Ralph Sharp. Sounds like they're on to something to me.

At the moment, Britain's limited defence budget is divided up between three rival services, each squabbling with the other two to grab the biggest share of scarce resources and to keep their own - usually late and vastly over-budget - pet defence projects alive. As, the Jock Stirrup/Tootal spat demonstrates, inter-service rivalry all often means that our armed services are fighting each other, not the enemy. That's a luxury we can't afford any longer. It's time for joined-up defence, the status quo is not an option [note to self: insert a few more clichéd calls to action here].

With the Con-Dems asking for our ideas, whilst preparing to wave their bloodied hatchet over the corpses of previously sacred cows, the time's right for change and to hell with the vested interests of all those Generals, Admirals and Air Marshals.

I haven't crunched any numbers, but on the basis of my ten minutes of in-depth research, I think this one's good to save a few billion, For the price of a modest research budget, I could knock up a paper. And if it all goes horribly wrong, you can always blame Canada. No brainer. So how about it, Dave n' Nick? My AnyFoolTM* think tank is open for business and waiting for your call...

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Credulous herbivores and useful idiots

Prince Charles isn't just a credulous ninny, but a dangerous one:

Once the hard-won principles of reason and science have been discredited, the world will not pass into the hands of credulous herbivores who keep crystals by their sides and swoon over the poems of Khalil Gibran. The "vacuum" will be invaded instead by determined fundamentalists of every stripe who already know the truth by means of revelation and who actually seek real and serious power in the here and now. One thinks of the painstaking, cloud-dispelling labor of British scientists from Isaac Newton to Joseph Priestley to Charles Darwin to Ernest Rutherford to Alan Turing and Francis Crick, much of it built upon the shoulders of Galileo and Copernicus, only to see it casually slandered by a moral and intellectual weakling from the usurping House of Hanover.*

Writes Cristopher Hitchens. Prince Charles may be an easy target, but that doesn't make him any less wrong.

Hitchins makes a good point here, although, judging by the comments on his article, far too many people just don't get it. So here's the short version - there are political arguments which appeal to evidence and reason. Those, we can evaluate and argue about. Some powerful individuals simply make pronouncements about how we should live, declaring evidence and reason irrelevant, insufficient or wrong. What tools do the rest of us have left to test or question such ideas? None. Testable, evidence-based ideas that rest on the power of argument are democratic and egalitarian. Dogmatic, unreasoning pronouncements, unsupported by evidence are authoritarian and profoundly undemocratic - which is presumably why they appeal so strongly to somebody who owes his wealth, power, privilege and influence to an accident of birth in a hierarchical society.


* Yes, I know that by the line of paternal descent Charles is a member of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (subsequently re-branded as Windsor), not the House of Hanover. No, I couldn't care less which family of German pincelings he traces his ancestry back to.

Friday, 11 June 2010

I am not a brand

Stop trying to sell everything about yourself to everyone. Don’t just hammer away and repeat and talk at people—talk TO people... Do it because it’s good and feels important. Put up more cat pictures. Make more songs. Show your doodles. Give things away and take things that are free. Look at what other people are doing, not to compete, imitate, or compare . . . but because you enjoy looking at the things other people make. Don’t shove yourself into that tiny, airless box called a brand—tiny, airless boxes are for trinkets and dead people.

These are the words of Maureen Johnson, who is a human being, not a brand.


Thursday, 10 June 2010

"Tough decisions"

What’s the greatest threat to our still-fragile economic recovery? Dangers abound, of course. But what I currently find most ominous is the spread of a destructive idea: the view that now, less than a year into a weak recovery from the worst slump since World War II, is the time for policy makers to stop helping the jobless and start inflicting pain.

When the financial crisis first struck, most of the world’s policy makers responded appropriately, cutting interest rates and allowing deficits to rise. And by doing the right thing, by applying the lessons learned from the 1930s, they managed to limit the damage: It was terrible, but it wasn’t a second Great Depression.

Now, however, demands that governments switch from supporting their economies to punishing them have been proliferating in op-eds, speeches and reports from international organizations. Indeed, the idea that what depressed economies really need is even more suffering seems to be the new conventional wisdom, which John Kenneth Galbraith famously defined as “the ideas which are esteemed at any time for their acceptability.”

Says Paul Krugman. Sounds depressingly familiar. Via.

Farenheit 451 - the self-help edition

Mmmm... Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

Especially bleak

Welcome back to the Eighties. Remember Maggie's recession and the three million jobless?

Government spending cuts will push UK unemployment up from its current 2.5m to almost 3m, a report has warned.

Deficit reduction would also stall recovery in the jobs market, employment group the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) said....

The CIPD had earlier suggested that the jobless total would reach 2.65 million this year.

But chief economic adviser John Philpott said he had now revised up his forecast, saying unemployment would climb to 2.95m in the second half of 2012, and remain close to that level until 2015...

"Although tough fiscal medicine is unavoidable and may boost the UK's long-run economic growth and job prospects, reliance on cuts in public spending rather than tax increases as the primary means of cutting the deficit makes the short-term outlook especially bleak for those individuals and communities already suffering the greatest hardship in society.

"Given what we know historically about the way in which the social burden of unemployment and stagnant average income growth is shared across individuals and communities, the prospects for those already suffering the most disadvantage seem particularly bleak."

Via the BBC.

Facebook incitement update

I don't speak Swedish myself, but according to "The Swedish Wire", the name of the Facebook group "Döda lars Vilks!" does seem to translate as "Kill lars Vilks!"

As the group's title is a direct call for violence, I've reported it to Facebook. Just to see what happens. Watch this space, but don't hold your breath...

Facebook etiquette

According to The Freethinker, the cartoonist, Lars Vilks just joined a Facebook group:

The controversial artist, who sparked debate – and attracted death threats – by drawing the “prophet” Mohammed with the body of a dog, revealed yesterday that he had joined Facebook’s “Kill Lars Vilks”group, as well as another anti-Vilks group.

Under the circumstances, it's quite sporting of Vilks to see the funny side.

I'm all for free speech, but it isn't a Facebook group calling for somebody's death just a teensy bit illegal? I might be wrong - I'm no lawyer - but it sounds like intentionally encouraging an offence to me. And what about Facebook's own terms of service?

Statement of Rights and Responsibilities

This Statement of Rights and Responsibilities ("Statement") derives from the Facebook Principles, and governs our relationship with users and others who interact with Facebook. By using or accessing Facebook, you agree to this Statement...

3. Safety...

7. You will not post content that: is hateful, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence...

10. You will not use Facebook to do anything unlawful, misleading, malicious, or discriminatory.

Call me old fashioned, but doesn't encouraging murder* tick some of those boxes?

* No doubt the perpetrator(s) of this group would argue that he/she/they didn't mean anybody to take them literally, but in the case of sombody who has already been assaulted by violent protesters, subject to arson attack and a failed assasination plot, it's reasonable to assume that some nutter might take the instruction literally.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

A big boy did it and ran away...

Dave came to Milton Keynes yesterday to demonstrate how a career in public relations has prepared him for high office. Without actually giving any concrete information about what his government was about to do, he told us that Tough Decisions would have to be made, but it was all somebody else's fault :

I think people understand by now that the debt crisis is the legacy of the last government. But exactly the same applies to the action we will need to take to deal with it. If there are cuts – they are part of that legacy.

I think we can see where the buck stops for Dave - anywhere but here.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Suicide protesters

Israelis are all too familiar with suicide bombers. Did the Gaza Flotilla activists on the Mavi Marmara include a hard core of suicide protesters? It's beginning to look that way. If so, they delivered an ironic propaganda victory for the serial human rights abusers in Turkey and the Arab world. As if that wasn't quite cynical enough, remember the Turks are still quite keen on buying Israeli weapons...

I still think the Israeli operation was terribly botched. With better planning, loss of life could have been avoided. The possibility that some of the activists actively wanted "matyrdom" just underlines how much more careful they needed to be.

Friday, 4 June 2010

A bargain from EasyJet

The ash cloud from the Icelandic volcano cost EasyJet alone £50-£75 million. They're testing infra-red ash-detection gear, as a possible alternative to shutting down huge areas of airspace. The pilot study - if it works - will have been a bargain at £1 million.

EasyJet Plc said it will fit a dozen aircraft with ash-detection gear within the next 12 months in order to minimize disruption from volcanic eruptions.

Equipment that uses infra-red technology to evaluate the density of dust particles in the air will be attached to the tails of the jetliners, Luton, England-based EasyJet said today at a press briefing in London.

The program will cost about 1 million pounds ($1.46 million), EasyJet Chief Executive Officer Andy Harrison said at the announcement, which was attended by Andrew Haines, the head of the Civil Aviation Authority, Britain’s air-safety regulator.

More about AVOID (Airborne Volcanic Object Identifier and Detector) here.

Pulled over by the Face Police

At last, an introvert speaks up:

Why do people ask introverts, “Are you OK?” just because we aren’t yammering on all the time? Who are these people who’ve appointed themselves the facial expression police? I can be at my desk, deep in thought, maybe trying to figure out a complex formula, and someone walks by and says calls my name, shattering my thoughts. I tear myself away from my calculation and focus on their face, getting ready to respond, then here it comes: “Are you OK?” To me, if I’m not in tears or screaming or otherwise outside the norm of calm office behavior, why would anyone imply that I had the incorrect expression on my face? “Are you OK?” is what you’d say to someone who’s stumbling, weaving, or having a seizure, not to a deep-in-thought coworker who’s intently staring at her screen.

Emily Roberts is an introvert who refuses to be stigmatized and put down. She's out and she's proud, and why shouldn't she be? In a noisy, shallow world that places an absurdly high value on image, instant reaction, gossip, grooming, spin, schmoozing, negotiating and networking, those of us who function by thinking things through and just quietly getting on with it get a shoddy deal.

Thought for the day over - time to put on an appropriate face for the Expression Police:

Winston turned round abruptly. He had set his features into the expression of quiet optimism which it was advisable to wear when facing the telescreen.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Victory signs?

The activists from the Gaza flotilla are trickling home. According to the BBC:

Some of the activists came off the planes waving flags and victory signs.

Victory? Not for anybody wanting to see an end to the insane cycle of violence, martyrdom and reprisal in the Middle East, it's not. Almost lost in the barrage of predictably unhelpful instant comment about this bloody mess, this perceptive but despairing blog post summed up why it was a disaster for everybody except the hardest of hard-line nutcases on both sides:

I'm now certain that the Israeli government is packed to the hoop with Iranian sleeper agents. Short of handing Syrian intelligence the launch codes to their nuclear arsenal, I really can't think of any way in which the Israeli political class could do their country more harm.

It's been clear for years that the Israeli right is utterly dependent on the looniest fringe of Palestinian society for their power and legitimacy, and that both sets of nutters use violence against the other as a means to cementing their rule. The basic situation over there is that both Hamas and the Israeli government are committed to policies that harm their populations but ensure their own continued rule. It's a godawful, mutual death spiral that's heading in precisely the wrong direction.

Shorter - there really is an urgent and perilous threat to Israel. It's called "the Israeli government".

Read the full thing here (a bit sweary, but it's pretty hard to encompass the enormity of this screw-up in temperate language). It's hard to think of anything that would actually be helpful at this stage although Netanyahu could do the decent thing and resign, along with those responsible for the planning and execution of the boarding (assuming that he's not really an enemy agent dedicated to the destruction of Israel).

That would be small a gesture sanity to the world after a crazy act. Sadly, like Anthony Eden's resignation after the Suez fiasco, it wouldn't come close to undoing the damage already done.


Life imitates the art of Gary Larson. One of a series of splendidly 'tooned Wikipedia articles by Greg Williams. Via.

The real Dunkirk spirit

The famous Carnival leads annually from January to March, the whole city in a real joy. A whirlwind of happiness, music, popular songs, of camaraderie and horseplay among the most unexpected guises. A gentle madness not to be missed! Good living, be home here! Enjoy regional dishes made with fish or fried mussels become an institution!

So says's breathless tourist guide to Dunkerque. The rather magnificent translation presumably owes quite a lot to Google Translate.

Guided tours: guides Dunkerque or at Malo-Les-Bains at sea are guided above all to greedy desire.
I've only just stumbled across this, so haven't checked out any other destinations but, with any luck, the lowdown on the rest of France is written in the same flamboyant style.