Middle East Solution

I have the answer to the Middle East conflict. Move Israel to Texas.

Geographically it works. There’s plenty of room: Israel is about 22000km2, Texas is over 268000km2. They are both deserts. They both have oil nearby.

Politically it works. The USA can demonstrate their implacable support for Israel without having to bother anybody half way around the world. Both countries only observe UN resolutions when it pleases them. If anybody who currently lives in what becomes New Israel doesn’t want to stay, then the Americans have experience of this. The dispossessed can live in “reservations”.

Militarily it works. Texans like guns, Israelis like guns. It will also be much easier to ship Patriot Missiles to New Israel from Alabama.

There would be very little language problem – all the Israeli spokesmen I hear already speak “US lawyer”, so they’d fit right in.

There might be a small setback if New Israel still want to compete in the Eurovision Song Contest, but I’m afraid everybody has to make some sacrifices and I would willingly suffer this as a contribution to world peace.

I think I should get the Nobel Peace Prize.

Let’s Talk

Hazel Blears, the Labour Party Chair, sent me an email.

This Thursday, the Prime Minister and I are holding an event in Bristol, discussing crime and civil liberties with an audience of party members and people who have experience of crime, anti-social behaviour and representatives of organisations that work in the fields of crime and civil rights law. This is one of the biggest issues facing us today – and I want to hear the views, experiences and ideas of as many people as possible. This discussion is live right now – and I’d like you to be part of it.

There were four questions, and I answered them mostly off the top of my head. I thought I’d put them here as well, in case Labour isn’t really listening.

Question 1: Do you feel the law is on your side?
That depends on whether the law thinks that I should carry an ID card to prove that I am innocent. It depends whether my choice of recreational drug happens to match the current knee-jerk reaction to the latest Daily Mail outrage. It depends on whether I want to protest about the current knee-jerk etc by peacefully protesting in the street. It depends on whether my safety is more important than the perception of some terrorist threat in the mind of an armed policeman. It depends on whether I express my opinion on people driven to violent ends when all else has failed. It depends on whether I am the president of the United States.

Question 2: Does the criminal justice system provide the correct balance between the protection of civil liberties and the rights of the victims of crime?
It used to, but the knee-jerk responses to the latest Daily Mail outrage are in danger of sending us back into the middle ages. I seem to remember that at least part of the slogan was “Tough on the causes of crime”: the poverty, deprivation and school for criminals which our over-crowded and under-resourced prisons have become seem to be causes left untouched.

Question 3: Do the police, courts, probation service and prison service work in favour of the decent law-abiding majority?
What an odd question. The police and courts should not “work in favour” of anyone – they should be impartial and fair. The probation service and prison service should have no contact with law-abiding people, “decent” or indecent.

Question 4: What changes do you think should be made to the criminal justice system to better protect the public?
Bring back the right to silence. Abolish the religious imbalance and de-criminalise blasphemy, so that all myths and beliefs are treated with equal contempt. Stop using the threat of terrorism to take away our freedoms. Stop locking up drug users. In fact, make all drugs legal, instead of just tobacco and alcohol.

Renew for Freedom

The Identity Cards Act 2006 introduces the database state, and your passport is the key the government is using to start the ball rolling.

When the Conservative Lords “compromised” by allowing you to opt out of having an ID card when you get a passport, they didn’t let you opt out of paying for it, having an interview (where you will be “pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed and numbered”) or being entered into the database. The Register, as it will be known.

However, there is nothing to stop anyone renewing their passport now, giving 10 years respite. I’ve done it. The online form is rather good for a government site, I must say, and all you will need is a printer, a credit card and a passport photo. Or two, I’m not entirely sure about that.

£51 for ten years – if nothing else it will probably save you money.

Foreign Criminals

I can’t understand this current fuss about non-deported criminals, other than from the point of view that it’s a good stick to beat the government with. Now, the government do need beating with a stick, but every time we’ve replaced an apparently bad Home Secretary, the next one along has been even worse. I thought Jack Straw was a dangerous nutter, but then we got David Blunkett. He seemed more right-wing than Michael Howard, but along came Charles Clarke and Bingo! Identity Cards and the database state. I tremble to think what new horror John Reid will introduce.

Still, back to Johnny Foreigner. They’ve not been let out early. They’ve not escaped. These people are ex-cons. They have served their time, paid their debt to society. If they were good old-fashioned British criminals then that would be an end to it: lesson learnt, wrists slapped, “sorry, guv, bang to rights, won’t let it happen again”. You could bleat about lenient sentences, excessive time off for good behaviour, etc. but the punishment, fitting or not, is done.

Not so the Foreign Criminals. Inherently untrustworthy, they must be shipped off back to “whence they came” lest they relapse into their bad ways; or, worse, the ultimate threat, become terrorists.

Is the real world visible in any of this?


For a long time I’ve disliked the sensationalism of the BBC Panorama programme, but this sloppy finish to a serious article on the BBC website really takes the biscuit:

In the end, as Operation Kratos reached its deadly final act, it turned into a Greek tragedy like its eponymous name.

What on earth were they thinking? Of course its name is eponymous!

As they said at the beginning, Cratos “comes from the ancient Greek meaning might, power or strength.” (To be precise, Cratos was a Greek god who was the personification of Force or Might*.) Not a Greek play, then, tragic or otherwise.

In sloppy journalist land, if it’s Greek it’s a tragedy, if it’s sad it must be tragic, and every article has to end with a stupid throwaway sting.

*Stewart, Michael. "People, Places & Things: Cratos", Greek Mythology: From the Iliad to the Fall of the Last Tyrant.

Signals & Messages

What is this obsession that politicians and commentators have with “sending out messages” and “giving the wrong signals”? Do they not speak the same language? (Well, in a sense, no – but it is all broadly classed as english.) I mean, I’m sitting right here in the car listening to you on the radio – why not tell me instead of sending a signal?

The most common version of this is doing “one thing” whilst sending out the “wrong signal” indicating precisely the opposite. Who are these people sitting around receiving signals and wilfully misinterpreting them? What medium do they travel through? I never receive them, but maybe that’s because I am borderline autistic (apparently).

Best to give an example: “downgrading of cannabis from Class B to C could send the wrong signal” UN condemns UK cannabis laws in The Observer. Is cannabis legal now? No, that would be declassification. Is it less dangerous than heroin? Yes. See Class B and Class A drugs. Looks like another signal gone over my head.

Beautiful Experiments

A philosopher at New York University asked physicists to nominate the most beautiful experiment of all time, and the results were published in the New York Times.

My first blog post from Digg. I can’t resist playing with the new stuff.

read more | digg story

Just in case that link should disappear, here’s the list:
1. Double-slit electron diffraction
2. Galileo’s experiment on falling objects
3. Millikan’s oil-drop experiment
4. Newton’s decomposition of sunlight with a prism
5. Young’s light-interference experiment
6. Cavendish’s torsion-bar experiment
7. Eratosthenes’ measurement of the Earth’s circumference
8. Galileo’s experiments with rolling balls down inclined planes
9. Rutherford’s discovery of the nucleus
10. Foucault’s pendulum

Cheese Juice

Cheese Juice
Originally uploaded by DerekL.

In Asda at Pilsworth, in the aisle next to the buttermilk, I noticed that they were selling cheese juice. Unusual, because they used to have an aisle labelled “foreign food” (including such exotic specialities as “spaghetti” that wasn’t in a tin with tomato sauce) and I would definitely class cheese juice as foreign. Probably needs refrigeration, though, and “foreign food” was dry or tinned.

Bloody Badminton

Who’d have thought it was such a dangerous game? Well it is, especially in the hands of a rank amateur.

The plaster came off the clinically fractured scaphoid, and although extremes of movement hurt that was to be expected after seven weeks immobilised. So a week later, I went back to badminton – determined to play carefully and not try too hard thus avoiding any falling over scenarios.

And I slipped. Just from a standing start, my foot slipped on the floor and I fell straight down and of course landed on my poorly hand. It hurt. I got up. I finished the game. I then realised that somehow I’d also twisted my ankle and that was starting to hurt too.

When it was time for another game I couldn’t really play with the twisted ankle, so I came home and sulked. Stupid game.