Wednesday, 7 December 2016

it's not been a good year

Compare and contrast the composition.

Person of the Year 2016

Person of the Year 1938

Sunday, 4 December 2016

repeating an untruth makes it a truth

We need more like Grayling!

[Sorry about the ghastly buffoon-fest picture accompanying this – the stuff of nightmares!]
How you can turn a lie into a truth (according to the sinister Brexit playbook) 
I hesitate to use the term, but ‘coup’ comes to mind in relation to what has happened with the Brexit referendum. UKIP and the minority of the Tory party in Parliament knew they would never get a Brexit by Parliamentary means or at a general election; but at long last, having made life hell for every Tory Prime Minister since Edward Heath, they succeeded in getting one of their leaders to promise a referendum. And they then went to town with those manipulating lies and distortions – such as the £350million promise for the NHS, and massive misinformation about immigration – helped by their non-resident billionaire newspaper-owner allies. Having achieved a very small majority of votes cast on the day, actually constituting only 37% of the total electorate (26% of the British population), they have run with it as vigorously as they can, claiming it as an ‘overwhelming’ demand by ‘the people’ that both mandates and binds the Government to take the UK out of the EU. 
On the principle that repeating an untruth makes it a truth, they repeat and repeat their over-inflated claims about the support for Leave, trying to hustle everyone past the point of no return. The attempt by the Government to trigger Article 50 in haste without parliamentary debate is a stark indication of what coup leaders, who have been given responsibility for Brexit, are trying to do.




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Saturday, 3 December 2016

non-binding, advisory and consultative only

Three cheers for Grayling!

The reply A C Grayling got when he wrote to Parliament (and how he reacted) 
... the Government does not have a duty to implement the result of the referendum of 23 June. Briefing Paper 07212, sent to all MPs and Lords on 3 June 2015, in advance of debate on the 2015 Referendum Bill states unequivocally that the referendum is non-binding, advisory and consultative only, and imposes no obligation on the Government to act on its outcome. 
Likewise, the Referendum Act, which the Bill became, contains no clause obligating the Government to act on the outcome of the referendum.



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Sunday, 27 November 2016

Umberto Eco on Ur-Fascism

Charlie Stross recommends a 1995 essay by Umberto Eco on the original Italian fascism, and the underlying core features of fascism.  Over 20 years later, read it with a horrifying feeling of déjà vu.
Mussolini did not have any philosophy: he had only rhetoric. ...
... The Fascist Party was born boasting that it brought a revolutionary new order; but it was financed by the most conservative among the landowners who expected from it a counter-revolution.  At its beginning fascism was republican. ...
... It was not that the men of the party were tolerant of radical thinking, but few of them had the intellectual equipment to control it.
...  think it is possible to outline a list of features that are typical of what I would like to call Ur-Fascism, or Eternal Fascism. These features cannot be organized into a system; many of them contradict each other, and are also typical of other kinds of despotism or fanaticism. But it is enough that one of them be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it.
1. ... the cult of tradition. ... As a consequence, there can be no advancement of learning. Truth has been already spelled out once and for all, and we can only keep interpreting its obscure message. ...
2. ... the rejection of modernism
3. ... the cult of action for action’s sake. Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, any previous reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation. Therefore culture is suspect insofar as it is identified with critical attitudes. Distrust of the intellectual world has always been a symptom of Ur-Fascism ...
4. ... In modern culture the scientific community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge. For Ur-Fascism, disagreement is treason.
5. ... exploiting and exacerbating the natural fear of difference. The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders. Thus Ur-Fascism is racist by definition.
6. ... the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups. ...
7. ... the obsession with a plot, possibly an international one. The followers must feel besieged. The easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia. But the plot must also come from the inside: Jews are usually the best target because they have the advantage of being at the same time inside and outside. ...
8. The followers must feel humiliated by the ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies. ...
9. ... pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. It is bad because life is permanent warfare. ...
10. ... contempt for the weak. ... Every citizen belongs to the best people of the world, the members of the party are the best among the citizens ...
11. ... everybody is educated to become a hero. ... The Ur-Fascist hero is impatient to die. In his impatience, he more frequently sends other people to death.
12. ... machismo (which implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality). ...
13. ... a selective populism, a qualitative populism ... one follows the decisions of the majority ... There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People.
14. ... Newspeak. ... use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning. But we must be ready to identify other kinds of Newspeak, even if they take the apparently innocent form of a popular talk show.
We must keep alert, so that the sense of these words will not be forgotten again. Ur-Fascism is still around us, sometimes in plainclothes. It would be so much easier, for us, if there appeared on the world scene somebody saying, “I want to reopen Auschwitz, I want the Black Shirts to parade again in the Italian squares.” Life is not that simple. Ur-Fascism can come back under the most innocent of disguises. Our duty is to uncover it and to point our finger at any of its new instances—every day, in every part of the world. Franklin Roosevelt’s words of November 4, 1938, are worth recalling: “I venture the challenging statement that if American democracy ceases to move forward as a living force, seeking day and night by peaceful means to better the lot of our citizens, fascism will grow in strength in our land.” Freedom and liberation are an unending task.

[My bolded text]
Read the whole thing.  Lest we forget.


Saturday, 26 November 2016

an aberration and abomination

More journalists like this, please!
No, Trump, We Can’t Just Get Along 
You are an aberration and abomination who is willing to do and say anything — no matter whom it aligns you with and whom it hurts — to satisfy your ambitions. 
I don’t believe you care much at all about this country or your party or the American people. I believe that the only thing you care about is self-aggrandizement and self-enrichment. Your strongest allegiance is to your own cupidity.


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Friday, 25 November 2016

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Eliza has better conversation

A chat-bot recently passed the Turing test, but I don’t know how:
I think that countries will not do that to us. I don’t think if they’re run by a person that understands leadership and negotiation they’re in no position to do that to us, no matter what I do. They’re in no position to do that to us, and that won’t happen, but I’m going to take a look at it. A very serious look. I want to also see how much this is costing, you know, what’s the cost to it, and I’ll be talking to you folks in the not-too-distant future about it, having to do with what just took place. 
As far as the, you know, potential conflict of interests, though, I mean I know that from the standpoint, the law is totally on my side, meaning, the president can’t have a conflict of interest. That’s been reported very widely. Despite that, I don’t want there to be a conflict of interest anyway. And the laws, the president can’t. And I understand why the president can’t have a conflict of interest now because everything a president does in some ways is like a conflict of interest, but I have, I’ve built a very great company and it’s a big company and it’s all over the world. People are starting to see, when they look at all these different jobs, like in India and other things, number one, a job like that builds great relationships with the people of India, so it’s all good. But I have to say, the partners come in, they’re very, very successful people. They come in, they’d say, they said, ‘Would it be possible to have a picture?’ Actually, my children are working on that job. So I can say to them, Arthur, ‘I don’t want to have a picture,’ or, I can take a picture. I mean, I think it’s wonderful to take a picture. I’m fine with a picture. But if it were up to some people, I would never, ever see my daughter Ivanka again. That would be like you never seeing your son again. That wouldn’t be good. That wouldn’t be good. But I’d never, ever see my daughter Ivanka.
What is this I don't even

Read the whole thing, if you dare.

Despite it winning a recent competition, people have complained this chat-bot has too restricted a vocabulary.  But that’s not the problem.  The problem isn’t even the fractured syntax.  It’s the total lack of any semantics that means this bot should have failed. AI can do so much better than this in 2016.