Bush finally made a good decision

Wisdom and a desire to avert a full-blown Third World War aren’t characteristics normally associated with George Bush. So it was a shock – but an enormous relief – to see that Bush’s refusal to go along with an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities seems to have saved the world for a bit longer at least.

The Guardian reported today that

Israel asked US for green light to bomb nuclear sites in Iran
US president told Israeli prime minister he would not back attack on Iran, senior European diplomatic sources tell Guardian

The Guardian article says that

the US position was unlikely to change as long as Bush was in office

(That’s not very long then.)

Faking everything

Photoshop is so much of a celeb product this week that it may now only appear in public in an airbrushed slimline version of its own packaging.

The big Photoshop story was the picture of an Iranian missile firing that had been digitally enhanced to look like more of an explosive occasion. The BBC editors blog had to admit to having failed to spot the fakery.

The great Photoshop Disasterssite got lots of submissions of this image:

Not only do Iran’s missile pictures reveal a shocking gap in that nation’s ability to use the clone tool, our patented Extra-Contrast-O-Vision shows how clumsy they are at comping (from Photoshop Disasters)

Aleisha Dixon made a BBC3 programme about how all magazine pictures are Photoshopped to within an inch of their lives. (No, I don’t know who she is, either, sorry.) The objective was to get a picture of her on the cover of a magazine without enhancement. The idea behind the programme was to show the credulous public that these images of perfection aren’t real and, especially, to convince young girls that they aren’t hideous if they are just human.

However, this was a bit of an unfair test. She is (a) extremely good-looking and (b) was wearing about 5 kilos of makeup when they finally persuaded a magazine to agree to shoot au naturel. So, she was basically already greatly advantaged as well as airbrushed at source. But still, respect for trying.

I hope it was TV fakery when she told school girls that every magazine photo is retouched and they all acted astonished. I’d sort of assumed that everybody already knew that anything that can be retouched will be retouched.

Partly, it’s obvious because the digitally-enhanced world is often so much uglier than the real world. My favourite misuse of Photoshop is this picture of Clive Owen, advertising an anti-ageing cream for men. We don’t normally see this sort of Xtreem- Airbrushing done to men. In the effort to improve him, it manages to make an averagely good-looking man look even more alien than most of the women’s images that we see every day. Clive Owen on photoshop disasters (Pinched from Photoshop disasters)

Obviously, it doesn’t have the same global significance as Photoshopped missile tests.

But, I’m sticking with the comedy Photoshop angle on the missile portrait, because I don’t want to have to think about:

  • What these images mean in terms of a potential war against Iran
  • Whether they are even genuine Iranian productions
  • Why the Iranians would feel obliged to airbrush their missile-testing programme, when you’d think that down-playing any such activity might be the safer course
  • If there is any chance of avoiding another insane and suicidal/homicidal war about oil and Israel

Things for the USA to attack

TW’s last post referred to the New Scientist report that archaeologists are displaying common decency and refusing to list monuments to be protected in the event of a US strike on Iran.

Clearly, America hates anywhere that starts with the letters “IR”

And needs help to draw up attack maps. I will do the job that the archaeologists are too humane to do and list places that the US might like to attack:

  • Iraq (Sorry, too late, they already thought of that )
  • Iran
  • Ireland
  • the Iroquois nation (Sorry, too late)

Well there’s only Ireland left. And I don’t think it’s overburdened with recognised world-class archaeological sites to obstruct the handily disposable population. Be very afraid, people of Dublin. (Dublin museum has some fantastic Viking era relics but the site they came from has already been dug up, with an office block stuck over it. The artefacts are all in the museum, in handily lootable form.)

Don’t worry, USA. I checked your own states and only 4 even start with the letter “I” (Idaho, Illinois,Indiana, Iowa) However, I don’t want to worry the citizens of these states but you may be next in the frame after Ireland. Or at least, after wars have been waged against Italy (Luckily for Italy, it has way too much archaeology to be a first strike choice), Iceland, Indonesia and the Isle of Man. Oh, and Israel… (well maybe not that one.)

A few more suggestions for quick and easy wins, thanks to online dictionaries and wikapedia:

  • Irish stew (an Irish excursion should do for this without using any extra firepower)
  • Iridium (some sort of chemical. No idea if this is actually part of weapons tech but that would be killing two birds with one stone if it was)
  • Ira Gershwin (He seems to be dead though.)
  • Irenaeus 2nd century bishop of Lugdunum, Gaul (He’s likely to be already dead too. He may even count as archaeology.)
  • Irapuã – a municipality in São Paulo state (seems to have population of 6,000 or so, barely worth the effort)
  • Irony
    (Not much good. You can’t wage war on an abstract noun, can you? Oh sorry, yes, you can. Terror. Drugs. Obesity, even. Ok irony stays in)


I dont have a huge amount of online time at the moment so I cant do these two news items justice. However, I still think people should read them (both from New Scientist)

The first link is a depressing indictment of a society that has allowed itself to be tricked into thinking there is an even argument betwen Evolution and Creationism. This is madness of the highest order. The concept that “teaching both sides” is a good thing only seems to apply against evolution, but still no one notices the weirdness. Shame on the nation that allows this sort of thing.

The second is worrying. Not so much that Archaeologists seem willing to allow world heritage sites to be hit during an attack but the implicit assumption there will be an attack.

Not a good day.


In keeping with the world’s recent life-imitating-art forays (see previous posts- Wallace and Grommit and 1984) the latest imaginary universe to get dragged into reality is Quake.

The Register has a piece with the title USAF flying deathbot power-grab rebuffed. This links to an earlier Register post that claimed:

Everyone knows about the current rise of the aerial killer robot. These machines are now in operation across the US military, and have already reaped a deadly harvest in Southwest Asia.
But the big deathbot battle isn’t, in fact, in Iraq or Afghanistan; it’s between the various branches of the US armed services, regarding who will be in charge of all the new flying slaughter machines and spy-eyes.

(Who really cares which branch of the US forces controls the deathbots? )

I’m not “everyone” to the Register then, because this was news to me. These Quake-esque machines are all called suitably sci-fi names: “Predator”, “Reaper”, “Sky Warrior”. The language just oozes harmless sci-fi gaming:- dramatic uber-manly words with minimal connection to reality.

It must be much easier to deal death and destruction if you never actually get to see your enemy face to face. There’s a lot less chance of getting mentally messed up for life if you are dropping bombs rather than bayonetting someone who you have to look in the eye. (Obviously, being on the recieving end is just as unpleasant in either case but at least one gives you the chance of fighting back.)

How much more detached would you be from the consequences if you just press the Start button on a deathbot and let it go off to do its own natural thing. Even easier if the whole experience is just like playing an computer game.

Saying that modern warfare is becoming like a PC game is a cliche point, repeated ad nauseam in workplaces all over the UK a few months ago, when the TV stations released video footage of a “friendly fire” event (friendly fire always sounds so chummy and innocuous, itself). This looked for all the world like a recorded “video” from a Quake 3 tournament.

This depersonalising war doesn’t make it any less deadly. In fact the numbers of dead and injured people involved in modern wars defy the imagination. Not that anyone seems to count numbers as representing human beings, once they get beyond about half a dozen. Hundreds of thousands of people don’t mean anything to us because we can’t actually see the bodies. The notoriously bloody medieval conflicts probably wouldn’t even merit a mention on the main News if we matched the numbers today.

The Guardian
today reported that the head of the UN Nuclear agency was warning of the dangers of war with Iran, following a disturbing “Brace yourself for war” comment from the French foreign minister.

“There are rules on how to use force, and I would hope that everybody would have gotten the lesson after the Iraq situation, where 700,000 innocent civilians have lost their lives on the suspicion that a country has nuclear weapons.”

I’ll take that 700,000 as an accurate count of deaths, just because I have no way of testing it. I certainly can’t form a mental picture of that number of people, alive or dead. A small city’s worth of people? A couple of really big football crowds, to adapt the traditional “football pitch” measure of area? (which is always wasted on me because I can’t really picture a football pitch area, either.)

The whole point about death in a computer game is that it is just a minor irritant. At worst, you respawn somewhere without your best conceptual “weapons” and have to dodge the opposition players camping there, who are waiting to kill you again.

Unfortunately, in the real world, it’s “war” itself that keeps respawning. Once a human player loses an eye or a leg or their life, that’s it, they are out of the game for good.

Mid-knight’s Children

Salman Rushdie’s knighthood has caused some very predictable results in Pakistan and Iran.

I can’t help being suspicious over the timing of this. There have been plenty of opportunities to honour Rushdie since the Ayatollah’s fatwa was placed on him, but it seems the UK wasn’t too keen to antagonise Iran.

Until now.

Do you have to be a conspiracy theorist to see this as unfortunate timing?

I normally draw a pretty rigid line against the idea that the US is led by people so demented they will blow up the Twin Towers or whatever to justify a war, so I’m normally all for applying Occam’s Razor. (Explanations based on normal RealPolitik usually suffice and are usually grubby enough.)

However, applying Occam’s Razor in this instance, it is quite hard to believe that our leaders are so naive that they thought “Oh Gosh, that nice Salman Rushdie. We haven’t shown him how good we thought Midnight’s Children was” without remembering that he was still subject to a death sentence for blasphemy based on the Satanic Verses.

So the kinighthood thus comes to look like an act designed only to stir up more fanatical suicide bombers and to enrage Iran even more, thus opening the way for the war with Iran that we’ve all been dreading or looking forward to (depending on the number of shares we hold in Haliburton or oil companies.)

Still, I remain impressed that you can apparently now get a honour without handing over a few million in loans to one political party or another.

Tell me it’s not true?

Quintessential Rambling posted yesterday to say that he/she? thinks war with Iran is about to happen on the basis of an order for massive upping of missile cones, as seen before the last two rounds of global “Risk”.

This post has the horrible ring of truth. So I am just saying to the full pantheon of all deities, spaghetti-monsters, tooth fairies and all “Please, let this be too paranoid a conclusion”

The Armageddon-meisters on any of the constantly shifting sides in WWIII tend to be quietly confident that:
(a) they won’t actually have to do any killing or dying themselves. Lots of young men and women in the armed forces and millions of civilians who happen to been unfortunate in where they chose to be born will do that for them.
(b) they will be rewarded after death anyway when the big magic man rewards them for doing his righteous smiting.

I don’t suppose they care, but some of us are quite pleased to be alive on this planet. We’re not remotely convinced that we’ll be anything except wormfood when we’re not here anymore.
Basically, only having one shot at this life, some of us may value life a bit more than those people who think they’re going to a better one.

British sense of humour?

Apparently, a subtle Iranian disorientation technique involved likening captured Brits to Mr Bean.

I can see how that would work. It would be hard to think of a more devastating putdown.

Mr Bean is beyond repellent. But he’s just an example of the criminally unfunny programmes that Britain makes as comedy and sells around the world. The Simpsons did a brilliant bit in one episode where they had the writer of Bridget Jones complaining that Americans don’t get our subtle irony. (Obviously taking the piss, this being the Simpsons, that always comes with a side order of extra irony.) (Continued after the fold)

Continue reading

Royal Marine, Royal Navy, Publish and Be Damned

 (Update: It seems this has been added to Digg)

I am not sure why I have strayed into current affairs as a topic for debate here, but I promise this will be the last blog post I make on this topic (for a while at least…). Previously, I have ranted about the supposed “outrage” over the 15 sailors and marines held hostage by Iran being allowed to sell their stories, and about them wrongly being called cowards or a disgrace.

For people outside the UK, this may come across as little more than a parochial spat and, to be honest, I am amazed there is so little going on in the world that this is actually headline news. Again, today, I have spent most of the day listening to the radio. This is never a good thing, and especially so when I spend time listening to the Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2 (he gets callers to call in on current affairs topics). I am also very aware that they will screen callers to ensure the cranks get more air time than they deserve.

Knowing all this doesn’t stop the idiocy and bigotry winding me up though. (Again, this is long so most is below the fold)
Continue reading

Poor Sailors and Marines

Today’s radio news headlined with the supposed “outrage” that the 15 sailors and marines detained by the Iranians were being allowed to be paid for for their press reviews. Apparently The Sun newspaper (no, I will not post a URL to them…) has offered them a “six figure sum” [*] for their stories. From the breakfast radio news, this has caused outrage. People like Bob Stewart, Tim Collins and numerous other people were being mentioned as “outraged” over this decision by the MOD. The BBC news website had a lead article titled “Iran stories sale criticism grows” which explained the Head of the Army has banned all Soldiers from selling their stories following the Navy personnel being allowed to make some money off the story. Different media outlets have similar stories — all pretty much saying the same thing. The TV news had vox pop interviews with people in the street, mostly saying they “thought it was wrong for them to sell their story.”

The sheer barefaced hypocrisy, tinged with basic madness, of all this amazes me. I am (almost) at a loss for which parts of the nonsense to start with… Continue reading

Good response to armchair warrior journalists

Yes, know this topic has been done to death, but it seems impossible to look at a newspaper or a topical web page without some armchair Rambo sounding off about the British captives having somehow done a disgraceful thing (a) by getting themselves captured and (b) by smoking and eating on Iranian TV.

So it was refreshing to see some pure sense expressed – in devastatingly precise English – about the British sailors held by the Iranians.

The at largely blog answers some colonel who’s been mouthing off in the right-wing media. Apologies for quoting huge chunks of this. He just says it so well. The fact that he seems to be a “Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy, retired” makes his characterisation of the illogicality and inconsistency of the Rambo position all the sweeter.

He characterises this as a “Pavlov’s Dogs of War approach.” This is a phrase so good that I intend to plagiarise it in my every fifth sentence for the next few days.

A few salient points.

Some of us think that the British sailors and marines played the situation as smartly as it could have been played by anyone…..
……By committing themselves to a battle that would have led to their certain slaughter, the British boarding party would have created a far more shocking international incident than the one that actually occurred. Mr. Bush might have used such an incident to justify a full scale naval and air strike on Iran……
…And it’s obvious to anyone familiar with prisoner of war resistance techniques that the sailors and marines who made taped statements were sending clear verbal and physical cues that they were speaking under duress. ….
…. Thanks to the level headed thinking of a small team of junior British troops, led by a Royal Marine captain and a Royal Navy lieutenant, they did not turn into a cause for war by getting themselves killed in a hopeless battle….
……Jacobs is an old soldier who thinks we’re still fighting World War II, the kind of warrior who still thinks that “brave” and “smart” are mutually exclusive virtues, and who likes to hide his lack of intellectual integrity behind his combat decorations.

Crazies Who Comment

No, not the kind, sane, rational people who comment here! My post on “Writing from Ignorance” was largely based on having read the paper edition of the Guardian today. Out of curiosity I visited the online version to see what sort of comments people came up with. Wow. For a while, I had felt I was being harsh towards Marina Hyde and had tried to give her the benefit of the doubt. Not so some of the people who commented.

Now, there are zillions of comments and I read very few of them — mainly the first and last as I find that is the best way to get a feel for the debate when there are loads of comments. Here the majority of insane posts come from people claiming to be Americans. I truly hope they are either lying through their teeth or they do not present a representative sample. Some blasts of wisdom are: Continue reading

Writing from Ignorance

The false authority fallacy is one which rears it’s ugly head on a regular basis. I used to labour under the suspicion that this was more a problem for the right wing extremists, religious zealots on the like. Sadly, I have had my eyes opened somewhat.

In the most basic form, the false authority fallacy is most often invoked when a person, an expert in one field, is used to provide expert testimony in an unrelated field. We get it on a regular basis in the UK news (and I assume this is a global phenomenon), when (for example) Surgeons from the GMC pass opinion on anti-crime legislation. They may be wonderful surgeons, but what do they know about criminology or social control? Note: They may also be excellent criminologist or sociologists — but this is not something which can be assumed by their status as a surgeon. This fallacy happens all over — although they understand the grief, what special insight do the parents of murdered children have into law? — and it often manifests itself in a variety of mutated forms (Creationists are specialists at this). Recently, I have seen a new variation.

Continue reading