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Saturday, December 20, 2008
Why are Swiss glaciers shrinking?

I mused over an interesting item, this morning.
Swiss glaciers are melting away at an accelerating rate and many will vanish this century if climate projections are correct, two new studies suggest. One assessment found that some 10 cubic km of ice have been lost from 1,500 glaciers over the past nine years. The other study, based on a sample of 30 representative glaciers, indicates the group's members are now losing a metre of thickness every year. Both pieces of work come out of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.
What will the Global Warming cabal make of it? Rather too much, if I am not mistaken. The graphs at the end of the piece - in which glacial decay since 1880 is shown – would seem to make a powerful argument supporting the whole schmear of Global Warming. Before we jump aboard the bandwagon, lets see if there's another explanation. Could there be something special about Switzerland?

Consider this report:
No charges will be brought over the death of a paralysed rugby player in a Swiss [my italics] assisted suicide clinic… After the accident he tried to kill himself three times. His parents were at his bedside when he died at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland [my italics] on 12 September.
Or this one in which a suicide is allegedly actually shown on TV. (As a decent, God-fearing person, I dared not watch it; hence the 'allegedly')
The wife of a man whose assisted suicide was filmed for television has defended a programme about his death. Motor neurone disease sufferer Craig Ewert, 59, from Harrogate, died in Switzerland [my italics], having been helped by the controversial charity Dignitas... Mary Ewert told the Independent newspaper it would help people "face their fears" about death. Sky has also defended the programme.
Do you see the link here? The glacier shrinkage is nothing to do with Global Warming: it's a clear warning from God to Switzerland to stop this assisted suicide business (or 'murder' as we evangelicals call it). We carry on mocking God at our peril. Just imagine what he'd do to Airstrip One if we were to consider following Switzerland's example; he might even send us a recession.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Credit where credit isn't due

Curiously, only the other day, I was thinking of one of Private Eye's funniest covers, based on what is arguably Phil’s most famous utterance. The Duke of Edinburgh is saying to Brenda
‘Our children have all done pretty well,' he says.
‘Yes, they’ve all become princes or princesses,’ Brenda amplifies.
Lo and behold, this great perception has just been trumped by Dick Cheney:
In his first television interview since the presidential election in November, Cheney displayed no regrets and gave no ground to his many critics within America and around the World. He summed up his record by saying: "I think, given the circumstances we've had to deal with, we've done pretty well."
You can read the full article here. Here is some more from the sage Cheney
He referred to a comment from Hillary Clinton likening him to the Star Wars character Darth Vader. "I asked my wife about that, if that didn't bother her. She said, no, it humanises you."
Some human!
But his lack of any introspection over the decisions made under his watch – in contrast to Bush who recently said he had been sorry about the false intelligence over Iraq – will renew Cheney's reputation as a combat[ive] and uncompromising vice-president.

Though no weapons of mass destruction were ever found, he insisted that Saddam Hussein had had the capability to produce them.

"He had the technology, he had the people... We made the right decision," he said.
As a point of information, in no meaningful way is this quoted assessment correct. It never was. It's probably best to let one of the former Weapons Inspectors – Scott Ritter - deal with another of Cheney's more extreme, self-serving remarks. This comes from Ritter's Grauniad piece titled 'Dick Cheney's fantasy world'
Cheney defended the invasion and subsequent removal of Saddam from power by noting that "this was a bad actor and the country's better off, the World's better off with Saddam gone". This is the argument of the intellectually feeble. It would be very difficult for anyone to articulate that life today is better in Baghdad, Mosul, Basra or any non-Kurdish city than it was under Saddam. Ask the average Iraqi adult female if she is better off today than she was under Saddam, and outside of a few select areas in Kurdistan, the answer will be a resounding "no".
I have been saying this sort of thing for many years, haven't I Myfanwy?
Invading Iraq and removing Saddam, the glue that held that nation together as a secular entity, was the worst action the US could have undertaken for the people of Iraq, the Middle East as a whole and indeed the entire World. For Cheney to articulate otherwise, regardless of his fundamentally flawed argument on WMD, only demonstrates the level to which fantasy has intruded into the mind of the vice-president.
Here's the link to Ritter's full article. People who claim that Iraq under the religious nutcases is better than Iraq under Saddam, in virtually any way at all, have serious perception problems. Or is it that they actually enjoy lying?

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Friday, December 12, 2008
Away in a manager

I frequently find myself typing the wrong word; most of the time, it involves a transposition of letters or the omission of one. I am beginning to wonder if this example of human frailty is catching.

Given the state of the country's finances, I thought I would consider offering my services to help get Airstrip One out of its current hole. Never having worked in my life, and feeling that simply the addition of my name to someone's letter-heading might well bring about a total reversal of fortune, I therefore determined to find out something about the world of work. Where better to start, I thought, than to look at some job advertisements and see what workers have to do these days. Accordingly, I found myself wondering about the nature of a few jobs to be found in the pages of the highly literate, glitch-free Grauniad.

Being from the leadership class, I eschewed anything that smacked of servility, serfdom or service. (I find Acts of Service totally beneath me.) There were no vacant positions for 'millionaires', or even 'retired millionaires' so I was more or less forced to look for managerial positions.

Here are three examples
The first one is for an Account Manger - Corporate PR. Here's the link

The next one's for a Project Engineer, Manger and Scheme Project Mangers. Here's the link

And yet another. This time for a Design Project Manger. Here's the link
The list goes on and on. I know it's getting near to Christmas, Myfanwy, but you can have too many mangers, you know.

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The De Menezes verdict

I have just heard the verdict of the jury in the De Menezes inquest. This is how the Guardian reports it
The jury at the inquest into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes today rejected Scotland Yard's claim that he was lawfully killed as part of an anti-terrorism operation.

Banned by the coroner, Sir Michael Wright, from returning a verdict of unlawful killing, the five men and five women returned an open verdict – the most critical that was available to them.
Not much of a surprise, then, given the coroner's instruction. I wonder what other instructions the jury was given. It looks at first glance as though the jury have returned the most critical verdict available to them
In a series of answers to a list of crucial questions, they dismissed the testimony of the senior firearms officer who shot De Menezes, suggesting they did not believe that he was acting in self defence.
But I think the jury were perhaps unfairly - and perhaps illegally - directed. Many years ago, I attended most of the inquest into the 'Friendly Fire' deaths of nine British soldiers killed by US airmen, during the First Gulf War. Here is what I blogged subsequently
After the Gulf War, the inquest on nine British soldiers killed in the notorious friendly fire incident returned a verdict of ‘Unlawful Killing’. Under normal circumstances, such a verdict would result in a criminal prosecution. The report on such a prosecution seems to have escaped me.

Geoffrey Robertson, appearing on behalf of the bereaved families, showed that the procedures used for confirming target references, even given the technology available at the time were a total mess. In a ‘normal’, e.g. commercial, environment, the officers responsible for such a mess would be out on their ears…

…At the inquest, the MoD claimed that it was important to maintain secrecy about procedures. This was to prevent interference by the enemy in the target identification process. So it was all right to use sloppy procedures which, besides making target finding open to human error, was quite likely to lead to tragedy….

…The coroner was generally scathing about the Ministry of Defence’s conduct in the matter.
There was a lot of discussion at the time as to what verdicts were available to the jury; these included 'Unlawful killing, 'An open verdict', 'Accidental death', and 'Lawful killing'. However, it was generally agreed - with the jury being instructed accordingly - that they were completely unfettered and could have devised their own verdict, using their own wording, had they so desired.

When I compare the two situations, it would appear that there was even more culpability in the case of De Menezes than with the 'Friendly Fire' incident: both involved mistakes amounting to more than criminal negligence.

While an open verdict is clearly – and rightly – implicitly critical of members of the Metropolitan Police, it does not carry the force of 'Unlawful killing'.

During the 'Friendly Fire' inquest, Geoffrey Robertson several times blatantly disregarded instructions from the coroner. Perhaps you have to be an eminent human rights barrister to be able to get away with such disobedience; it would have been a powerful blow for British justice had the de Menezes jury been similarly bold.

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