Day 83: Geneva

March 14th, 2014 § 0 comments


(I’ve adopted the practice of headlining to deal with readers who can’t get beyond the first line.)

You asked:

1. Is Edward Snowden a refugee under the terms of the Geneva Convention? 

On the face of it, it’s a no-brainer. As we all know. the 1951 Convention says a refugee is someone who has a ‘well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it‘. It fits Snowden perfectly: the treatment of Chelsea Manning shows that a fear that people with his political opinion get persecuted in the U.S.A is well-founded.




Richard Falk, who knows a great deal more about the law than I ever will, finds it unreasonable that Snowden should even have to ask for asylum. No one (e.g. Putin, who one must admit is a bit unpredictable) should accede to a request for extradition if the crimes involved are political. Time magazine claims that ‘Snowden isn’t being persecuted for holding a political opinion, he’s being prosecuted for violating U.S. law’ (they would) – therefore he isn’t a ‘Convention refugee’. This supports Falk’s claim that the real issue is about whether a country is required to extradite him for a political crime. While I agree, I wouldn’t take a chance on it, and the asylum-seeker’s lot is the best of a bad bunch – until some Russian Farage comes along to try and cut down on their number.

I’m lucky in being able to refer to Sepet and Bulbul, (2003) UKHL 15 – the case of two Turkish Kurds who had committed a crime in Turkey (viz. refusing military service), but were deemed to be Convention refugees by the House of Lords. For useful comments on this case – and on the stance of the British courts – see Colin Yeo’s article here. All the same, I don’t advise Snowden to try his luck in the UK right now.

2. Does the Higgs particle have an anti-particle? (Another Geneva question insofar as it relates to the LHC.)

I hoped to get a Nobel prize for this insight straight away – you know, hypothesize it and wait around for some nuts-and-bolts physicist with dirty fingernails to find it. My reasoning went:

a). Every particle has an anti-particle (someone told me this, it seems obvious enough).

b). So the Higgs particle must have one, the ‘sggiH’ boson you might say.

higgs‘Computer simulation’ of a Higgs. Why not the real thing? Too shy?

Or rather, as the Higgs is popularly named the ‘God’ particle on account of its role in creation, the sggiH should be known as the ‘Satan’ particle and associated with destruction. This brings us almost directly to Freud’s ‘Beyond the Pleasure Principle’ (1920) and its positing of the death instinct or ‘Thanatos’; and I’d allow Freud to share in the Nobel prize except – see earlier posts – he misses out by being dead.

However, on checking the web (did you know that the French call it ‘la toile’?), I found a confusing variety of views. Do bosons have anti-particles anyway (as opposed to fermions, who do for trivial reasons of some kind)? Some say yes, some say no, and I’ve forgotten all I learned in Elementary Particles I. If you believe some well-respected sources e.g. Wikipedia, the Higgs is its own anti-particle. This would, instantly, solve the theological problem of evil on which I’ve written before since acts of Satan are also acts of God.

3. How can I totally destroy the internet?

This also is an interesting problem. It’s pretty hard  to get information on how to design even the smallest and gentlest viruses let alone totally lethal and universal ones (I suppose you could get it by using Tor, but that’s a bit beyond my ability). But here’s a useful tip, which I copied from the invaluable Wired magazine: Don’t write the code in C++.

I know everyone thinks that C is old hat and has forgotten how to write anything but C++; but apparently C has been


A fragment of DuQu (I think)

used by the intelligent writers of a virus called DuQu (who called it that?). Says Wired: ’DuQu’s old-school programmers might have preferred C over C++ [for] its versatility. When C++ was initially developed, it was not standardized and wouldn’t compile in every compiler. C was more flexible. DuQu was delivered to Windows machines using a Microsoft Word zero-day exploit. But Raiu (hugely important overpaid geek) thinks DuQu’s programmers might have chosen C because they wanted to make sure that their code could be compiled with any compiler on any platform, suggesting they were thinking ahead to other ways in which their code might be used.

“Obviously when you create such a complex espionage tool, you take into account that maybe some day you will run it on servers, maybe you will want to run it on mobile phones or God knows what other devices, so you just want to make sure your code will work everywhere,” he says.’ (I hope I’ve frightened you enough by now.)

I look forward to learning that the best viruses are written in Sumerian and compiled on clay tablets. This introduces a rather obvious pun on the word ‘tablet’. ‘My tablets! meet it is I set it down…’ (Hamlet)

sumerianSumerian computer

A side issue: while researching the above, I discovered that the biggest unit of information so far was called, rather inelegantly, the yottabyte (1024 bytes). Quickly seizing the back of an envelope, I devised some more names which I hope will stick:

1 Jehovahbyte (Jb) = 1000 yottabytes

1 Walhallabyte (Wb) =1000 Jehovahbytes

1 Nirvanabyte (Nb) = 1000 Walhallabytes, or  1033 bytes.

 (Copyright © Luke Hodgkin 2014)

Quiz for Londoners.

Where in London are:

1. Mordechai Vanunu House.

2. C. L. R. James House

3. Marcus Garvey Library

4. The Ho Chi Minh blue plaque (and what was Uncle Ho doing in London?)

We have people out there who can check if you have gone on Google to answer these questions, and if you have, not only will you be disqualified from winning the prize (a family weekend in Hackney with our author), but your computer will develop a mysterious dysfunctionality. You have been warned.

Lesbian Poet Comeback Shock!

According to some sources, which I’ve missed,  Sappho’s ‘Brothers Poem’ and ‘Kypris Poem’ have been around, talked about at classicists’ dinner-parties for awhile – say ten years; but their scholarly publication by an Oxford prof called Dirk Obbink seems now imminent and you can find versions all over the net with translations by people who claim (I quote) ‘my Aeolic Greek is pretty rusty’.

SapphoSappho – I think

What are they teaching in school these days, on wonders? Mandarin Chinese may be good for trade (and have billions of living speakers), but it would be a crime to see Aeolic Greek dropped for base commercial considerations. Come on, Mr Gove! Raise standards where they need it!

In support of this campaign, I’m asking readers to submit a poem – in Aeolic Greek, and in the Sapphic metre, naturally – appealing to Aphrodite to destroy the European neoliberals and their bootlickers in the Greek government. The prize will be an all-expenses trip to Lesbos, once Aphrodite has done her work and the said neoliberals have been destroyed. In the meantime, here is what you’ve been waiting for, the ‘Brothers Poem’ in which Sappho discusses sibling problems:

ἀλλ’ ἄϊ θρύλησθα Χάραξον ἔλθην
νᾶϊ σὺν πλήαι. τὰ μέν οἴομαι Ζεῦς
οἶδε σύμπαντές τε θέοι· σὲ δ᾽οὐ χρῆ
ταῦτα νόησθαι,

ἀλλὰ καὶ πέμπην ἔμε καὶ κέλεσθαι
πόλλα λίσσεσθαι βασίληαν Ἤραν
ἐξίκεσθαι τυίδε σάαν ἄγοντα
νᾶα Χάραξον

κἄμμ’ ἐπεύρην ἀρτέμεας. τὰ δ’ ἄλλα
πάντα δαιμόνεσσιν ἐπιτρόπωμεν·
εὐδίαι γὰρ ἐκ μεγάλαν ἀήταν
αἶψα πέλονται.

τῶν κε βόλληται βασίλευς Ὀλύμπω
δαίμον’ ἐκ πόνων ἐπάρωγον ἤδη
περτρόπην, κῆνοι μάκαρες πέλονται
καὶ πολύολβοι·

κἄμμες, αἴ κε τὰν κεφάλαν ἀέρρη
Λάριχος καὶ δή ποτ᾽ ἄνηρ γένηται,
καὶ μάλ’ ἐκ πόλλαν βαρυθυμίαν κεν
αἶψα λύθειμεν.
[. . .]

Oh, not again – ‘Charaxus has arrived!
His ship was full!’ Well, that’s for Zeus
And all the other gods to know.
Don’t think of that,

But tell me, ‘go and pour out many prayers
To Hera, and beseech the queen
That he should bring his ship back home
Safely to port,

And find us sound and healthy.’ For the rest,
Let’s simply leave it to the gods:
Great stormy blasts go by and soon
Give way to calm.

Sometimes a helper comes, if that’s
The way Zeus wills, and guides a person round
To safety: and then blessedness and wealth
Become one’s lot.

And us? If Larichus would raise his head,
If only he might one day be a man,
The deep and dreary draggings of our soul
We’d lift to joy.

I’ll postpone the ‘Kypris poem’, eight lines more in what I think as more Sappho’s usual style – all square brackets and ellipses (note particularly line 7: ‘ ̣̣̣]α̣ ̣α̣̣[̣̣]̣μμ̣̣ο̣[̣]περης[‘ ) till I get a hold on what the hell it’s about. I’ve signed up for the refresher Aeolic Greek course at the City Lit, but more may be needed.

Since everyone is celebrating C. P. E. Bach, aged 300 last weekend, I’ve taken a rest from rap and reggae and posted his piano sonata in A, W. 55 no. 4 – the whole lot!


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