Friday, August 21, 2009

Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi freed by Scottish Government

So, they let Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi go.

On the one hand you have the fact that had he been any other prisoner then he would almost certainly have been released, given that he has terminal cancer. On the other hand, he killed 270 people in a hideous, cynical mass-murder the like of which the world has rarely seen. Well, I understand about compassion, but surely this must also apply to the families of the bereaved as well as the murderer and I simply cannot see the basis on which the decision to release was made. Releasing this man will have caused deep pain to hundreds of people, the more so because of the predictable street party of his arrival. It is all very well for Alex Salmond to now say that public celebrations in Libya are 'inappropriate', but what did he expect? His words just make him seem foolish and out of his depth at his administration's first real foray into international relations. Was the welfare of one murderer worth the hurt to so many people and the damage done to Scotland's reputation in the US and elsewhere? It takes a great degree of moral certainty on someone's part to think that might be the case. One wonders who is looking in the mirror today and burnishing their ego on being on such a higher moral plane than most of the rest of us, because that is what I suspect is going on. Certainly no rational process would have led to the release of someone like al-Megrahi. In fact a rational process would probably have led to a last cigarette and a blindfold instead of a prison cell.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Election Prediction

From Electoral Calculus:
A new prediction has been posted on 16 August 2009 at

During July, the support for all three major parties has increased as support for
minor parties decreased by 4%. But the relative positions of the major parties has
remained fairly stable with the Conservatives continuing to have a big lead over Labour. ICM (Guardian) has a 14% lead (up from 12%), Populus (Times) sees a 12% lead (unchanged), Ipsos-MORI has 16% (down from 17%). ComRes (Independent) has 18% (up from 11%), and YouGov (Daily Telegraph) has 14% (down from 16%).

Overall, the Conservative lead is 14%, which is unchanged from last month.

The current national prediction is that the Conservatives will have a majority of 72 seats, winning 361 seats (+7 seats since 7 July 2009).

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Internet Piracy clampdown after Mandelson's nice lunch

I have just bought a DVD box set, which is loaded with dire threats against video piracy and copyright notices you can't skip past. The effect is very irritating and conveys the very strong impression that the DVD publisher regards me as a criminal. It is also characteristic of the industry approach to piracy, which is to threaten and then victimise their own customers. What is surprising is that they think this will actually work. Don't get me wrong, information piracy is deeply wrong and no-one should engage in it, but if you actually want to prevent it then assuming all of your customers are evil is clearly not the way to go. It doesn't work because it weakens the moral position against piracy and it doesn't work because it is far behind the pirates in technology terms. Continuing with the theme of attacking their own customers, according to the Sunday Times industry figure David Geffen has told Lord Mandelson that Internet Service Providers need powers to identify video pirates and then cut off their internet access. The plan is to to criminalise the six million or so British citizens who make illegal downloads, which is at least consistent with an industry that hates its own customers. So, the moral distinction between the pirates and an industry that seems to regard Orwell's 1984 as a guidebook becomes further blurred and, worse still, it wouldn't even work. I am not going to discuss the technical issues here, suffice to say the trend of the mass entertainment industry running five years behind internet technology continues.

New Labour has a dismal track record when it comes to civil liberties and workable IT solutions, so I think that Geffen's urgings will probably fall on fertile ground. Hopefully, the Conservatives will demand a rather higher standard of policy.