10 January 2011 (Monday) - Blackmail

There was a charity collector outside Tesco’s today. I don’t know what he was collecting for – I made a point of ignoring him. Perhaps I’m being mean, but I resent the way that these people get in your face, rattling their tins and generally using emotional blackmail to get you to support whatever they feel is a worthwhile charity.

Talking of emotional blackmail, my cousin’s commented (on Facebook) that she gave cash to a beggar yesterday. Not because she felt sorry for the beggar, but because she felt sorry for the beggar’s dog. My immediate thought was how could a beggar afford a dog – they cost a small fortune. The initial purchase runs into hundreds of pounds. And the food bills aren’t cheap. By the time you’ve forked out for the vet bills as well, a dog costs thousands of pounds.  If someone is begging to finance a dog, then clearly they can’t afford that dog. And the dog cannot be receiving the treatment it deserves. Where are the R.S.P.C.A.?
Mind you, so many beggars seem to have a dog with them. Is a dog a vital part of begging apparatus these days? I can’t help but think that if the beggar has a dog and is using it to blackmail passers-by into giving him cash, then the animal should be taken from them. Circuses are no longer allowed to exploit animals, why should beggars?

Another form of extortion which boils my piss (to coin a phrase) is the world’s inability to deal with piracy on the high seas. I can understand how highwaymen get away with their crimes. They can hide in the forests and lurk unseen before they pounce out shouting “Stand and Deliver”. But with pirates, it’s different. Ships out at sea can see pirates coming. On a good day pirates can been seen from miles away. And if it’s dark or foggy, then they have radar to detect the pirates. I got to go on the bridge of the ferry when we went from Newhaven to Dieppe. The radar is really good and picks up every little vessel.
So why is piracy still a problem? Sadly the answer is that humanity clearly and demonstrably actually want piracy to remain a problem. Take for example the latest anti-piracy measures. Having seen pirates coming, the potential victims of piracy are to be issued with a bright light with which to dazzle the pirates. Now I don’t want to be sarcastic in any way, but surely pirates have heard of sunglasses?
Am I being so reactionary in suggesting that all merchant shipping be equipped with torpedoes? I really don’t think it would be necessary to sink many pirates before the International Guild of Piracy (patent pending) got the message.

Meanwhile, following on the astronomical theme from the weekend, here’s something to make you sit up and think – an amateur astronomer in Cambridge has been taking astro-photographs that are reportedly every bit as good as photos obtained by NASA. I’m slowly getting the urge to have a go at astro-photographing. After all – you never know what you might find – only last week a ten year old girl found a supernova

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