HM Loyal Opposition goes AWOL


This is such an extraordinary picture that I am inclined to think it’s a spoof. The Prime Minister is making a statement to the House of Commons — about the strategic defence review, no less. In other words, about the future of the country’s armed forces. But the Labour Parliamentary party — and the Shadow Cabinet — have gone AWOL, leaving their Leader sitting alone on the Opposition front bench. I don’t care what these cretins think about Corbyn: this is a Parliamentary democracy and it only works if there’s a functional opposition. That’s what Labour MPs were elected to provide. Instead of which they are sulking in their tents because their party elected a guy they can’t stand.

LATER It’s not a spoof. Channel 4 News has a video showing them slinking away.

US foreign policy in a nutshell

From Bill Moyers:

“ISIS is seen in Washington as a grave terrorist threat with the potential to knock over the unpopular and unstable regimes of the Middle East (i.e., our client states) like bowling pins. Yet the Washington Consensus sees as the key to defeating ISIS the undermining of the regime of Bashar al-Assad, ISIS’s principal military enemy. If a US general in 1942 declared the only way to defeat the Wehrmacht would be for us to fight Nazi Germany and the USSR simultaneously, he would have been committed to a lunatic asylum.”

A confederacy of dunces

NYT editorial neatly sums up the Republican candidates.

It felt at times as if the speakers were no longer living in a fact-based world where actions have consequences, programs take money and money has to come from somewhere. Where basic laws — like physics and the Constitution — constrain wishes. Where Congress and the public, allies and enemies, markets and militaries don’t just do what you want them to, just because you say they will.

Start with immigration, and the idea that any president could or should engineer the mass expulsion of 11 million unauthorized immigrants. Not one candidate said that a 21st-century trail of tears, deploying railroad cars, federal troops and police dogs on a continental scale, cannot happen and would be morally obscene. Ben Carson said, “If anybody knows how to do that, that I would be willing to listen.” They accepted the need to “control our borders” with a 2,000-mile fence. Even Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, once an immigration moderate, endorsed the fence. Mr. Carson actually suggested two fences, for double security, with a road in between. Do these people have to be sent to the Rio Grande Valley to see how ludicrous a border fence — over mountains, vast deserts, remote valleys and private property — would be? And it won’t solve the problem they are railing against, which doesn’t exist anyway. Illegal immigration has fallen essentially to zero.

On foreign affairs, there was a lot of talk about not talking with bad people. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said his first act would be to tear up the Iran deal, throwing the nuclear race back to the ayatollahs and rupturing global alliances — but making a point! Carly Fiorina said: “What I would do, immediately, is begin rebuilding the Sixth Fleet, I would begin rebuilding the missile defense program in Poland, I would conduct regular, aggressive military exercises in the Baltic States. I’d probably send a few thousand more troops into Germany. Vladimir Putin would get the message.”

We get the message, and it’s scary.

Always read the T&Cs

The Ashley Madison saga continues to entertain and inform the watching public. For example, it turns out that the click-wrap T&C agreement warns users that they may be interacting not with real people but with feminised bots.

According to the Guardian, the relevant passage in the current T&Cs reads thus:

You acknowledge and agree that any profiles of users and Members, as well as, communications from such persons may not be true, accurate or authentic and may be exaggerated or based on fantasy. You acknowledge and understand that you may be communicating with such persons and that we are not responsible for such communications.

But it turns out that this formulation is toned down from a previous clause, present in February of this year, which was more explicit about the presence of fake accounts. The February version explained that the robot accounts were created “In order to allow persons who are Guests on our Site to experience the type of communications they can expect as Members”.

The profiles we create are not intended to resemble or mimic any actual persons. We may create several different profiles that we attach to a given picture. You understand and acknowledge that we create these profiles and that these profiles are not based on or associated with any user or Member of our Service or any other real person. You also acknowledge and agree that the descriptions, pictures and information included in such profiles are provided primarily for your amusement and to assist you navigate and learn about our Site. As part of this feature, the profiles may offer, initiate or send winks, private keys, and virtual gifts. Any one of these profiles may message with multiple users at the same or substantially the same times just like our users.

Our profiles message with Guest users, but not with Members. Members interact only with profiles of actual persons. Guests are contacted by our profiles through computer generated messages, including emails and instant messages. These profiles are NOT conspicuously identified as such.

Truly, you couldn’t make this stuff up. I shouldn’t complain, I suppose, because the Ashley Madison saga is a perfect case-study for the book chapter I’m working on at the moment.

EULA news


Some time ago, the Finnish computer security firm F-Secure set up a free WiFi hotspot in London and invited people to use it. Before doing so, they had to click ‘Accept’ to the Terms and Conditions. This was one of those conditions. Nobody balked — because obviously nobody read the T&C.


Refugees: back to the Middle Ages


Some of the photographs coming out of Turkey and Hungary at the moment are as striking as some of the pictures that emerged from the Vietnam war. My eye was caught by this NYT front page, for example.

Just look at the detail:


Not only is it ‘painterly’ in its texture, but it could be part of one of those allegorical paintings from the 1650s. Except that it’s much more moving. These are not creatures from a long-distant past, but our fellow-humans.