Monthly Archives: December 2014

Robot v Jamie

cricketmachine“This is not a toy”, it says on the sticker.

Nonsense.  It is a brilliant toy.

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Wining about Manners

Some people (my brother, for example) are very keen on hand-written thank you letters.  Personally, I almost never write them, for a number of reasons:

  • I grew up hating Christmas, largely because it meant being forced to write thank you letters afterwards. I would much rather people hadn’t given me presents for that very reason (apart from my parents, who always gave me the best presents and never expected a thank you letter).  As an adult, I prefer to leave bad memories from my childhood behind;
  • As a matter of literature, it is virtually impossible to compose a short thank you letter than is not cheesy. They are culturally

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Filed under Culture, Manners, News from at home

How to Talk Down to a Climate Sceptic

coby3A friend recently suggested I might enjoy looking at How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic: Responses to the most common skeptical arguments on global warming, a series of articles by Coby Beck.

I did. Mr Beck has a nice, rolling folksy sort of a style which makes climate alarmism seem really pretty reasonable, rather in the way that Garrison Keillor makes the American mid-west seem really quite interesting. He is not a scientist, but describes himself as a “former musician, turned tree planter, turned software engineer”. He is also a keen photographer, and evidently likes dogs (so he cannot be all bad).

What he does is take a series of reasons to doubt that we are in the grip of runaway global warming, and then seeks to knock them over. Thus Continue reading

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Inn Time for Christmas

Ian PaulFor all I know, Reverend Ian Paul, an Assistant Professor at the University of Nottingham, is a man with a dry sense of humour. In any event, he chose 22nd December to blog that, “Jesus really wasn’t born in a stable”. How can he possibly know that? Because the whole nativity scene thing has stemmed from a mistranslation of the Greek work kataluma, which does not mean “inn” at all, but “the spare or upper room in a private house or in a village”. So, even if you are the sort of bod who believes that the gospels are, well, gospel, the whole nativity scene that has become traditional is out the window.

This idea is not new; see eg Continue reading


Filed under Culture

Best Practice for the CIA

HVTA release that the US Senate did not authorise is the CIA’s 2009 document Making High-Value Targeting Operations an Effective Counterinsurgency Tool.  Its full text has just been released by WikiLeaks.

As its name suggests, if you follow CIA-speak, it is a “dos and don’ts” manual on murdering influential foreigners. Julian Assange might have read it with some interest, as just such a influential foreigner, or “High-Value Target” as the Americans like to call such people. The scope of the publication makes it clear that its intended audience is not just CIA operatives, but “policymakers”.  The politicians, in other words.

The paper aims to convey lessons learned, provide a framework for evaluating the strategic utility of high-value targeting (HVT) operations, and assist policymakers and military officers involved in authorizing or planning HVT operations. Most of our source information relies on clandestine and defense attache reporting, discussions with HVT practitioners, a CIA-sponsored study on HVT operations in counterinsurgencies, and our review of current and historical casestudies. (C//NF) Continue reading

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The American Way of Doing Things

CIAThe release of the United States Senate Intelligence Committee on the activities of the CIA (or, at any rate, the executive summary of it) is a welcome sign that the United Sates is growing up a bit. It demonstrates that the CIA’s practices of kidnapping (Extraordinary Rendition, in CIA-speak) and subsequent torture (Enhanced Interrogation Techniques) of people they are suspicious of have been not only commonplace, but ineffective.

Well, we knew that, of course. What is significant is that the US Senate is prepared now to acknowledge it.

It is good news for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. It is utterly absurd that the Swedish prosecutor Maryanne Ny will not interview Assange (that is all she says she wants to do) in London. It is positively obscene that the UK authorities have spent many millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on a 24/7 police presence to ensure Assange remains cooped up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. But all that said, it seems improbable now that Assange, were he to go to Sweden Continue reading

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Damned lies (statistics) and True Thinking

I noticed a spike in the number of people who look at this blog the other day. I am not an expert in social media at all, but I think it was caused by this retweet:

and retweeted a Tweet you were mentioned in
Nov 28:

: Don’t Mention the War – We are not out of the Woods yet ”Great article by a true thinker:

James Delingpole writes for the Daily Telegraph in London, so it was presumably his retweet that captured some attention.

Anyway, it is flattering to be regarded as “a true thinker”.  Thanks, chaps!

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Filed under Culture, News from at home