Apologies for absence - work etc. Anyway I'm still alive and kicking. Today's picture is an illustration of what happens to an olive tree when no one prunes it for a few years, it gets rather shaggy and turns into a big bush. As always you can see an enlargement by clicking on the image and you can see the previous image in the series here. PS Additional olive tree images are at my flickr page in the Alpes Maritimes set
Thanks to our Irish friends I've spent hours in a tube in London wondering whether a bomb had actually gone off somewhere but without any other information. I know people who were at their desks when various IRA bombs blew up near them and so on. Bombs just annoy us, and after Sept 11 and March 11, this wasn't exactly a surprise so there isn't the same shock that we felt on Sept 12th. Christopher Hitchens makes the point vey clearly.
Probably most of the population will behave as they did after the IRA bombs and just ignore them, which is, arguably, the most annoying result for the terrorist scum. If it continues then at some point though, we'll get angry enough to ignore the woolly head brigade and their "culpa nostra", not to mention the appeasers and the other useful idiots and go after the perpetrators and those who support them. History suggests that the result will not be pleasant because the English are remarkably keen to fight even in todays degenerate times - witness the football hooligans, the happy slappers and so on - and dislike religions that they think threaten the realm. The last religion to be persecuted systematically was catholicism, in the reign of the previous Elizabeth and the result was not good for the catholics. Permalink
This photo is of trees near Salernes in the Var. The hearts of these trees are extremely old but during the 1950s there was a big frost which killed most of the trees, however the roots survived and grew shoots up around the sides. At some point the farmer cut out the dead cores leaving the strange groups that we see today. The trees are also pruned in a way that is a local peculiarity called the "coute au mouton"(sp?) basically the "sheared sheep look", which keeps the trees very short and thus easy to pick the olives. It does however rather limit the number of olives you can get from a single tree.
As always clicking on the image shows it enlarged and go here for last week's picture Permalink
So I received an email today telling a joke which I have adapted slightly by nicking today's "Day by Day" cartoon and modifying it a bit. It's almost as tasteless as boiled cabbage, watery potatoes and burned steak.
The most important news today is that approximately the first 90% of the work to give "Chez Nous" a new kitchen is complete. As eny fule kno that means we still have another 90% to go, but I think that just possibly there are vague indications that the remaining effort may not take up another 90% of the time, 85% at the outside I reckon, although the advent of "les Vaccances" could cause certain minor tidying up tasks to be postponed until September. Mind you having seen the "poseurs" - installers in English - scratching their heads and doing the slopey shoulders thing with the extractor fan I may just be indulging in further unjustified optimism. Trust me you really do not want to know about the extractor fan but if there are ever requests for gags for a Home Improvement series, then rest assured I'll be submitting it.
Still we can now cook things and wash things (there is a minor confusion about whether C is for Cold or Chaud) and throw them away in the snazzy new auto-opening bin under the sink so we're happy. It really is amazing how you take basic thiings like the kitchin sink for granted until you don't have one...
La Shawn asks what should we do. Rather than a short comment I'm going to make a longish post.
The first thing I'm going to say may sound shocking but it is worth bearing in mind (and it echoes commentary elsewhere). This was a pretty wimpy effort. Four terrorist bombs during peak times killed fewer people than a single derailment in Japan did a few months back. The Amagaseki crash killed 106 people, the four bombs appear to have killed a little over 50 (at the time or writing it is unclear how many bodies remain to be removed at Russell Square). Clearly we would prefer to have 0 terror victims but, compared to recent disasters such as the Amagaseki crash or the semi-regular Bangladeshi ferry capisizes, let alone the Boxing day tsunami, this wasn't a major incident in terms of fatalities. Indeed to put into context, almost certainly more people were injured or killed on British roads (some of the safest in the world by the way) during the last 30 days than were injured or killed (respectively) by the terrorists, or to put it another way the Swiss bus that fell into a ravine in April killed more people than the terrorists did on the bus in London. Hence there is quite a good argument that says that actually in terms of local defense there isn't much more we should be doing. And to put it bluntly most "high tech" solutions such as biometric ID cards or CCTV cameras everywhere aren't going to help prevent these attacks, and although it is possible that the latter will help catch the perpetrators, almost certainly standard forensics and human informers will be the most valuable sources of information.
There are however clearly a number of things that we shouldn't be doing, and one of them is to cover this event for more than a couple of days. The terrorists don't deserve any more attention than we would pay to a plane crash or ferry capsize in the Philipines so stop giving them the oxygen of publicity. Likewise stop giving time to the "culpa nostra" crowd loads of airtime and do be consistent and call these events and their perpetrators by the right names - e.g. terrorist attacks and mass-murderers not "militants" or "extremists" - oh and don't try and go back on the T word quietly once you used it either.
The "culpa nostra" lot talk about "root causes" and they are in fact correct, we do need to address the root causes of Islamofascist terrorism. However the root causes are not Iraq, Afghanistan or Palestine, they are the poverty and tyranny in the Arab world (primarily) and the generally uneducated and unemployable immigrants in Europe, not to mention the general unwillingness to challenge those who spread hatred of the west from within. This means that actually the invasion of Iraq was the right thing to do and the correct next steps are the encouragement of revolution in surrounding tyrannies. Likewise instead of paying unemployment benefit to the uneducated we let them find a job or starve. Either they die of starvation or they get a job and as a result begin to earn some self esteem, not to mention being too busy to actually plot terrorist acts. In similar vein we insist that mosques (and I'm prepared to add churches, synagogues, shrines, temples...) stop preaching sedition as part of their religion or face the prospect of being razed to the ground and the imam (and the mosque council) deported if not a citizen or put in jail if a citizen after a public trial. I'm not sure whether we need a new law here or not, but I doubt it, I suspect that existing incitement to commit crime laws would apply, perhaps with a minor modification about the laws of property seizure to permit the seizure of the land, destruction of the building and resale of its cleared plot.
In like vein we must insist that the Muslims clean house. We have to promise support to those who stand up to the Islamofascist minority and act on it when they do stand up. This includes, very much, standing up for Muslim women, providing them with shelters where they can flee if need be and with the opportunity to get an education and to get married as they please. Once fairly simple thing would be to ask all youngish women leaving the country to go in a separate room where they will be asked, without the presence of any family member, whether they really wish to leave, and if not provide them with an alternative identity instead. Ditto, in fact for women entering too for that matter. Standing up for and protecting Muslim women will probably kill the Islamic/arabic culture in the west, if not at home. We won't miss it any more than we miss the slave owning culture of the southern US or the cultures of the canibal tribes of Irian Jaya, and we will have a world that is ever so slightly less insane. Permalink
So I'm back for a week in Californicate, for the first time since the bubble burst. I was in Sillicone Valley earlier and now I'm down in La-la land. The fact that this is my first time back since 2001 is an indication of just how bad the tech smash was, no one had the do$h to pay for international business trips, and how much it has recovered in the past few months - my boss is back for his second trip in three months and I'm likely to be here again before year end as well.
There are changes (different bits of freeways are being rebuilt) and there is less wasteland and more and more housing. I guess the torrential rains they had this year demonstrated that the river defenses are adequate because there is a heck of a lot of housing being built in what is most certainly the floodplain (I know I used to live there) of N San Jose. However the big thing really is how little things have changed. Anyone who had been put in suspended animation for four or five years wouldn't notice the difference unless he looked really closely. Although I'm less familiar with La-la land, I'd say the same applies, certainly as you head out along 101 towards Agoura and Calabasas things look almost unchanged from my first visit to the area over a decade ago. One thing that most certainly hasn't changed is the Californian love of cars big enough to house a family of four in Hong Kong as the picture above notes.
And talking of Hong Hong, one thing that has changed, or maybe I'm just misremembering it, is the population mix in Silicone Valley. To put it bluntly: where are the white guys? there are Asians everywhere with entire mall complexes and supermarkets dedicted to serving them. This existed before - I was a regular at the McCarthy ranch one from the day it first opned - but it seems to me there are more of them, and tons of Asians, not to mention Hispanics, in every company in the valley. In fact at only one company that we visted did we talk to a native "WASP". Everyone else was an immigrant or child of immigrants, be they Indian, Chinese or something else. This is not a complaint you understand, just an observation, heck one thing I miss in the South of France is real Asian cooking and I may possibly have gone overboard in my dabbling in Asian cuisines on this trip. However if all the Silicone Valley startups are being powered by Indians and Chinese then I would think this says something relatively negative about the USA's native education and drive. It is great that immigrants can thrive in America, it is kind of worrying when it seems like they are the creative force with the native sons and daughters relegated to service roles.
Going back to motor transport - hey Detroit why are your cars so god-damn UGLY? the Ford Mustang is a case in point. It's no wonder that the only way GM, Ford or Chrysler can sell a car is by practically giving the thing away when it looks like that. Even assuming the US car had the same fuel economy and reliability as the Japanese or Korean one I still wouldn't buy it because I'd be embarassed to drive around in something so aesthetically displeasing. About the only good thing going for Detroit is that they seem to have slipped some of the same designers into the Japanese factories in the South - because the native built Nissans and the like are beginning to look bad too.
On a slightly more serious note, one of the reasons I'm here is because we are working for a company in the automotive space. Let me tell you, if there is a an industry that is more screwed up the the automotive one when it comes to sales and customer service I can't think of it. Revenues may be OK but profits are low and declining and show no sign of recovery. Needless to say with profits down on the sales of cars there is great incentive to start screwing the customer on the service side so we see higher prices and worse service there too. This trend has become more pronounced over the last year or two. The US car makers spend (between advertising and rebates etc.) well over $3000 per vehicle sold in marketing costs (GM in June spent around $4500), and while lower it isn't as if Toyota etc are not doing the same. Maybe they are only spending $2000/vehicle but that is still something like 5-10% of the actual selling price. This is not the end, their dealers chip in an additional $500 or more on average per car sold. Is it any wonder that the gross profit on car sales for dealers mostly comes from the "back end" i.e. warranties, financing and insurance? and is it any wonder that the parts and service sections of the dealership are the profit centers? Permalink
An item on the BBC's website today about the way countries ignore EU rules and regulations when it suits them is a pleasant surprise. Not for its tone or general bias, which seems to be more like "Brussels good, national governments bad", but for the blatent exmples of how certain countries (e.g. one beginning with F - 5 letters), seem to fail to grasp the concept with regard to their disobeying the rules that they themselves not only sign up to but expect others to follow.
The fine imposed on France by the European Court of Justice was the biggest yet - 20m euros ($24.2m) plus an additional 58m euros for every six months it continues to allow fishermen to catch small fish.
But the men in charge of French fishing have hardly sounded contrite.
"Tonnes upon tonnes of small fish are unloaded in Spain, Portugal," Pierre-Georges Dachicourt of France's National Fisheries Committee (CNPMEM) told France Info radio.
"There is fishing over and above the quotas in Scotland, Britain and elsewhere, and you never hear anything about it. People always point the finger at France."
The idea that France is being unfairly singled out does not really hold water.
It's true that there are infringements in every country - Spanish and Italian fishermen had the worse records in 2003 - but the reason France was penalised was that it had failed to enforce EU fishing law effectively over many years.
The European Court of Justice first ruled that the French authorities had failed to prevent the catching of undersize fish back in 1991.
The European Commission then tried to persuade France to resolve the problem for nine years, before taking the case back to the court.
It seems to me that a British government who feels that its position on, say, the budget was being attacked unjustifiably could quite simply say "not paying" and nothing would happen. Even after many millions had been spent in all sorts of stupid courts at the end of the day no one in the EU could actually enforce whatever judgement was found to be against Britain. There is a standard piece of advice given to military officers about never giving orders that you know will be disobeyed. Despite the fact that most of continental Europe has had compulsory military service for decades this piece of wisdom does not seem to have percolated into the consciousness of our leaders.
Of course the same lack of fear of punishmentis what leads to ghettoes in which the law of the land does not run. The EU referendum blog points out that this does in fact mean that the businesses that are in that ghetto now become unable to trade outside it because they aren't used to abiding by the rules the rest of us obey. Perhaps one of the better ways for us to solve the Islamic terror threat would be for the whole of Europe to ignore the yards of red tape about food, health, safety, fire codes and so on? Permalink
I'm on a trip to the USA and therefore spent much time in planes and awake at 3am, both of which provide ample opportunities to read books. Of the books I brought along two were Lois M Bujold's "Hallowed Hunt" and Wen Spencer's "A Brother's Price". Subsequently I also bought Catherine Asaro's new fantasy and I expect I'll review that after I've read it on the plane home. Anyway back to Lois and Wen.
In some ways there are a number of similarities between the two authors beyond their sex, neither is exactly prolific, but what they write is good, both seem able to write books in different genres and both spend time at Baen's bar, even though the books reviewed (and their most recent books published) are not Baen imprints, discussing the writing process and their progress to the next book. [BTW their presence at Baen's bar may seem like they are taking advantage of Jim Baen, but I don't believe that to be the case, Wen just handed a book in to Jim for publishing and Lois' Vorkosigan series is one of Baen's bigger sellers]. Indeed I would say that both share the strength that they write books that make the reader think. A part of me wants more facile pap about my favourite heroes and heroines but that is probably my impatient bit - the part that for us poor males provides a direct wiring between eyeball and penis. The rest of me is willing to wait until the story is fully cooked and not whine too much thst it isn't about the characters I enjoyed last time because really it is those stories which you reread over the years.
The Hallowed Hunt
The Hallowed Hunt is set in the same universe as "The Curse of Chalion" and "Paladin of Souls" but, while the other two shared characters and had the latter follow immediately after the former as a direct sequel, the Hallowed Hunt is somewhere and somewhen else. The background is the same but there isn't really much else in common. The main difference between the universe of these three books and our universe is that firstly the gods are undeniably present and secondly the theology behind them is unlike any that I know of in this universe. Much of Lois' work is about the conflicts inherent in how flawed people behave when their duty leads them one way and other influences lead them another. The Hallowed Hunt is no different with the hero facing the problem of how to lessen the punishment expected due to a woman who killed a prince when he tried to use her in a black magic ceremony. The question becomes more complex when one of his relatives turns out to be possibly threatening the kingdom, but possibly is actually doing his best to save it. The Hallowed Hunt is fascinating but I feel it suffers in comparison with its predecessors. I enjoyed it and I will reread it but somehow it left me unsatisfied. Perhaps the problem is that my expectations have been set too high by earlier works.
A Brother's Price
A Brother's Price is somewhere between science fiction and fabntasy. A Brother's Price is set in a world which is similar to this one with a technology level of approximately the mid 19th century. Yet this is real hard Science Fiction because there is one big difference, there are about 9 girls born to every boy. The result is that boy children are treausred by their families and a role reversal of sexes compared to our world with women doing most of the work and men left in the home to look after the children. However the reader is immediately transported into the action and the differences between this world and ou world do not intrude in the tale. It's a great adventure and whodunnit with believable characters and it is, in many ways, a remarkable romance too. The joy of this story is that the romance is entrhalling and helps to highlight the skews and impacts of the sex imbalance, because compared to our world the expectation about which sex does the hard work and which is the fainting hero(ine) is reversed. All in all part of the shock of this book is that it makes the male reader think about the probelms faced by women down history in cultures where for one reason or another women are effectively posessions. A Brother's Price isn't a political book in any way but I couldn't help think about how the culture described reverses the ugliness of Saudia Arabian or Iranian culture today. There are a few oddities in the technology permitted and there are a couple of other things that annoy such as some problems I had reconciling the ages of certain characters but on the whole this is a story that appeals at multiple levels.
Neither book is perfect but both are highly enjoyable and thought provoking so to put it simply I strongly recommend both books. However if you had to buy just one then I'm going to give the nod to Wen. Permalink
A bit early this week because I'm about to board a plane to fly back to Europe. This picture shows how olive trees really make a garden look more interesting As always click on the image to see it enlarged and go here to see last week's picture.
The BBC reports that a German TV channel has dicovered a lot of coke at the European Parliament.
Cocaine traces have been found at the European Parliament in an inquiry by one of Germany's main broadcasters.
The Sat-1 channel sent reporters to take 46 swabs from toilets and other public areas of the Brussels buildings. Nearly all tested positive for cocaine.
... A total of 41 of the reporters' swabs tested positive for cocaine.
However this doesn't seem to be cause for widespread alarm because
"It seems the findings are in line with findings in other public buildings," Ms Van den Broeke told the BBC News website.
"It is not a problem we are aware of at all."
But given the way the tests were carried out - with reporters coming in and taking swabs in toilets to be tested at a later stage - it was difficult to say how conclusive the tests could be, she said.
The parliament may look into whether the testing was legal as it was performed without its consent or knowledge.
I admit the spokeswomen does have a point - I wonder how many toilets in the BBC, to pick a broadcaster totally not at random, would also produce positive test results, and for that matter what the results would be in other legislatures. However it is interesting that rather than try and follow up and see whether the story is true, the prefered response appears to be to try and discredit the testing method and then claim that everyone else does it too. No doubt if the story gets more legs than it currently has an EU regulation will be passed banning such tests, because the usual EU reaction to bad news is to atteck the messnger rather than fix the problem.
Update:Tim W found the same story in the Torygraph with an excellent UKIP quip
The claims of drug abuse at the European Parliament complex was greeted with derision by Nigel Farage, an MEP for the United Kingdom Independence Party.
He said: "Given the stultifying boredom of committee work in Brussels, it is hardly surprising. But it could explain the decisions they come up with."
Up at Japundit there is a question about what is the vital vocabulary needed when visiting Japan. My answer is based on my belief that you should keep it simple. Hence the lessons are limited to very simple words/phases. Note that this is NOT going to make you fluent in Japanese, indeed it will cause you to mispronounce things slightly, nor will it necessarily be polite but it will get the point across.
The number one most useful phase in Japanese is this one
Onegai shimasu (pronounced mnemonically as Annie Guy She Mass)
which means "please (give me/take me to/connect me to/do this for me) ....". You state the person, action, object or destination you want then say "onegai shimasu" and your wish will be performed by the person you are talking to. Examples:
if you want to call an office and talk to Mr (or Ms) Suzuki, then when the phone is answered you say "Suzuki-san onegai shimasu".
if you want a taxidriver to take you to the "Tokyo Prince Hotel" then when you get in the taxi you say "Tokyo Prince Hotel onegai shimasu" (you would get additional bonus points if you remembered to pronounce Hotel as Hoteru)
if you wanted to buy the thing you are pointing at (food, present, ...) just say "kore onegai shimasu" (Kore is mispronounced korrie and means this)
The most useful words to go with onegai shimasu are
Beeru (bee rue) - Beer
Osake (oh sackey) - Sake
Akawain (acka wine) - Red wine
Shirowain (she row wine) - White wine
And when sobering up
Mizu (me zoo) water
Kohii (kor he) coffee
When answering questions (or listening to the answer):
hai (hi) - yes
ie (ee ye) - no
If you want to say something more complicated than your limited Japanese will permit then you probably want these phrases:
Eego dekimasuka? (Eh go deck ee mass ka?) - do you speak English?
Yukkuri kudasi (you coo ree could a sigh) slowly please
Go to any bar and the following phrases will help with "beeru onegai shimase" when you (want to) make some friends
Sumimasen (see ma sen) - Excuse me (good for attracting attention)
Arigato (A Ri[n]g A Toe) - Thank you
Doh-itashi-mashite (don't touch my moustache) - you're welcome
Kampai (Cam Pie) - Cheers
Also in the unfortunate occasion that some new drinking buddy is offering to buy you a beer but you must decline because you actually have to appear sober at work tomorrow there is this word
iranai ([h]e ran eye) - I don't need/want it
this isn't the most polite way of saying it but hey you and your buddy are half plastered at this point so you won't remember anything longer and he (she) will forgive you. It can also be used in other circumstances where someoone is offering something that you don't need from a blow-job to a piece of blow-fish . Also "mo" means more in quite a few cases so
fugu iranai (foogoo e ran eye) - I don't want any blowfish
mo iranai (moe e ran aye) - I don't want any more
beeru mo onegai shimasu - more beer please [gramatical pedants: yeah I know its not 100% right]
According to NARAL, and possibly others, Judge Roberts "is hostile ... to women’s reproductive rights" because he seeks to overturn Roe vs Wade. Now I know I'm probably being monstrously insensitive here, not to mention trivializing a serious issue, but ...
My recollection is that NARAL is the National Abortion Rights Action League and that Roe vs Wade is about the right to have an abortion. Hence once you decode their position what they are trying to say is that abortion is a reproductive right. Is it just me or do other people see something (oxy)moronic in that statement?
PS FWIW - I am OK with early abortions and become progressively less OK as the pregnancy develops, except in the case of a few people for whom I believe a post natal abortion should be mandated
PPS There is a lot of sense in this post, particularly the conclusion:
There are those of us who do not want to be pregnant, period. So adoption is not an option.
We are not public property, so lay off. When you get the urge to proclaim approval or disapproval for a woman's choice, do the opposite and shut it. Just shut it.
Because while abortion isn't horrible, enforced pregnancy is. As is pillorying women who refuse to be guilty for choosing differently than you.
although the problem IMHO is not so much that women are public property but that many husbands and families consider women to be their property and the rest of us prefer to not look too closely at what goes on inside the family. Permalink
I try not to let what is most convenient for me get in the way of the general good when I write about politics, particularly the politics of other countries. Hence I have had to double-check my logic before writing about calls for the ending of the US' visa waiver program for Europeans, because it would be exceedingly inconvenient for me to be required to obtain a visa before entering the US, despite the fact that I have in fact obtained visas to travel and work in the US in the past. However after that rethink I remain against the idea of ending that program, indeed I think it probably should be extended somewhat, for a couple of reasons. [Note that the second link (to an AEI/Weekly Standard article) has much to recommend it and I agree with almost all of it except for the bit about the Visa Waiver program.]
The first reason why I disagree with it is that it is unlikely to actually prevent anything. Although occasional terrorists/potential terrorists may be stopped (e.g. the 20th 9/11 hijacker) because of the actions of consular officials and border agents, the porousness of the US-Mexican border is such that any European muslim who felt like penetrating the US could simply fly on holiday to Mexico and then walk north and probably, with a certain amount of preparation, they could take a holiday in Canada and walk south. Even if the border patrols on both sides were given more funding etc. it is hard to imagine that they would be able to actually close the border tight short of putting in fences and armed guard towers every three miles to create a modern day Hadrian's wall. Given that the US Mexican border is about 2000 miles long and the Canadian border even longer (nearly 4000 miles excluding the extremely tough Canada/Alaska border) the price tag of such a border fence is practically unaffordable (not to mention the question of where you would find the border patrol agents to man it in an economy that is already at effectively full employment or how you would pay them given the US govenment's enormous budget deficits). Even if there were not the open continental borders there is the question of whether the visa application process would in fact weed out the terrorists. Given that, contrary to (European) public opinion/expectation, most terrorists are both relatively well educated and affluent, it is hard to see what would show up potential terrorists compared to their non-terrorist neighbours who are visiting as genuine tourists or businesspeople.
The second reason I disagree with scrapping the Visa Waiver program is the economic impact it would have. Of course the US should be sublimely uninterested in the effect it would have on Europe so I will ignore that, but I believe that its effect on the US would be non-trivial. In 2004 there were appoximately 10 million European tourists to the USA, approximately half of the total number exlcuding (Mexicans and Canadians) . Assuming that 50% of them spent $1000 on a ticket through a US airline and they spent an average of 1 week at motel 6 nights and macdonalds dining rates (say $50/day *7 = $350) then the total spend of European tourists with US entities is $5Billion (flights) plus $3.5Billion (accomodation) or $8.5 billion, a number which is almost certainly a significant underestimate of the actual total. Another way of looking at the data is to look at the expenditure total ($94 billion) and estimate how much of that is applicable to Europe - taking a SWAG (scientific wild assed guess) of 25% and rounding up a bit we get $25Billion. Given the existence of Eurodisney, cheap airlines etc. it seems not unreasonable to guess that something like 20% of the tourists wouldn't bother to come to the US if the visa process were expensive and/or complex (a non-complex visa process is effectively worthless so I'm going to assume that a complex one including a mandatory interview with a consular official would be implemented). This means that anywhere from $2 Billion to $5 Billion would be taken out of the economy directly at a minimum. The US annual GDP is around $10 Trillion so this is a pretty small sum in proportion but it would hit some parts of the US economy heavily and does exclude the indirect costs of such a program which would probably be far greater. It is unclear to me how many Europeans make business trips to the US, how much that would be affected by a visa requirement and whether Europeans would buy less of they found it harder to visit their US suppliers but even knocking a few percent off the €157 Billion that Europe imports from the US each year would be painful. In total the trade and tourism impact of a visa requirement could easily be $10 billion per annum (and I reckon that would be a low end estimate) and I could imagine this cost being exploited by all sorts of short sighted politicians eager to get (re)elected.
The problem in crude economic terms is how much would a terror attack cost the US and for that matter what is the life of a US citizen worth? Answers that come up to less that $10 billion (per year) mean that in strict cost/benefit terms implementing a visa requirement costs more than is gained by doing so. Given that I don't believe (see reason one) that such a requirement would actually stop determined terrorists anyway all that scrapping the program does is cause significant hit to the US economy for no gain what so ever. Mind you the DHS and TSA have implemented all sorts of "security" measures in the US post 9/11 which seem to have significantly raised the costs of travel for limited benefits so perhaps I shouldn't expect logic to be applied to this issue, but I can always hope. Permalink
There is an interesting article about the problem of finding British-born Imams on Yahoo/reuters today and how this lack causes trouble for Muslims in Britain:
Mohammed Rashid would like to employ a British-born imam in his Luton mosque, but limited resources and a shortage of candidates mean he has to recruit from abroad....
"We can't afford to pay our imam more than 300 pounds a week," Rashid explained as he stood in front of the mosque's well-kept, red brick facade, decorated with colourful flower baskets and topped by a minaret.
"If our young Muslims know they can earn 500 pounds in the private sector, then why are they going to work as imams?"...
There is a chronic lack of well-qualified, homegrown English-speaking imams in Britain and, even when they are available, many mosques -- funded solely by donations from local, often deprived communities -- cannot afford them.
They therefore recruit imams from abroad who accept low wages but speak poor English, preach a conservative strain of Islam and are out of touch with their worshippers.
I suspect that similar problems apply to other religions in the capitalistic west too and it is certainly an interesting hint that maybe all this talk of Islamic ghettoes is perhaps slightly overdone, after all £500/week is more than the dole and indicates that many muslims can in fact get a job. The other capitalist religion problem - the Televangelist - doesn't appear to have occured to Imams yet but I'm sure one will be along shortly. Update: I think it is probably worth expanding on the significance of this article. To the extent that "the enemy within" is the European Muslim community rather than the extremist elements of it, we need to have it prosper. Prosperity is precisely what will remove the ghettoization etc. that provides impetus to the extremists. I find it extremely heartening that, despite the mouthings of Omar Bakri Mohammed and the like, many influential Britishmuslims are willing to stand up against the extremists - contrary to what you read in some of the AmericanblogospherePermalink
Tim's anonymous "Dear Hugh" correspondent does the sort of analysis of the Koran with regard to paradise, martyrdom etc. that doesn't seem to have occured to those low-paid imams imported from poor countries, or at least if it has none of them have quite managed to put it quite so pithily:
... According to page 417 of The K, as we shall snappily now call it, “as for the righteous, they shall surely triumph. Theirs shall be gardens and vineyards, and high-bosomed maidens for companions: a truly overflowing cup”.
A few observations here.
One, I presume that calling a maiden “high-bosomed” is a diplomatic way of avoiding use of the “sag” word. So what does that tell us – that Paradise is full of plastic surgeons?
Or are all of the 38EE ladies herded off to some isolation wing of the Aftergarden where nobody will see them traipsing about tripping over their nipples?
Two, what is all of this “vineyard” lark? Who are the vineyards for? I thought the Believers didn’t drink. Or don’t the rules apply up there? I only ask because if everybody’s pissed off their face playing with high bosoms in the vineyards, then I can’t see the difference between Paradise and a lock-in at The Kings Arms when that bird who’s now gone to Exeter used to run it.
Three, as you may know The Koran is the infallible word of God as revealed to Mohammed by the Angel Gabriel (who was obviously quite the gossip). So which one of those three was having a laugh by punning “a truly overflowing cup” on the high-bosomed business? Was the Angel Gabriel in fact Max Miller wearing a sheet?
Four, and this is the page (70) that The Imploders would probably prefer us to skip over, or at least to pretend that the pages got stuck together after somebody got excited reading it with maidens in the vineyard – this matter of “the righteous” needs examination.
Because page 70 makes it perfectly plain that there is absolutely fuck-all “righteousness” to be found in blasting anybody with an unpleasant flying cocktail of Semtex and your bits. And I quote:
“It is unlawful for a believer to kill another believer except by accident….He that kills a believer by design shall burn in Hell for ever”.
Excuse me for being dense but weren’t there a few believers on (a) The Bus and (b) The Tube trains?
Sorry, I think you’ll find that there were. Don’t you boys come moaning to me with excuses about how you’d left your spectacles in Leeds. I don’t care if you didn’t notice them, those were believers. No bosoms for you; it’s straight to bed in Hell for you, my lad. Consider yourself smoted.
Oh and this is merely an extract - you should read the rest. Mind you I have one minor quibble. It occurs to me that the virgins thing (which is anyway well known to be a possible misinterpretation of a word that could mean raisin) isn't something that the average suicide bomber knows much about. It is no doubt true that a mature and experienced man would prefer to dally with an experienced lady rather than a frightened virgin who has to be shown what to do but that doesn't apply here. The majority of suicide bombers have probably only had one or two sexual experiences which didn't involve their right hand and therefore probably are effectively virgins themselves. If you are a young man with limited persoal experience of the opposite sex then the experienced woman of the world - the kind that tries to explain that sex can involve foreplay, that women like orgasms too and that sex can take longer than 10 seconds - is going to be rather scary, much better to dream of rogering some poor young thing that doesn't know any better and hence won't complain. Permalink
The National Review has an article which mentions Enoch Powell and follows that up with a piece in the corner blog. Given the recent bombs in London this is perhaps unsurprising since Enoch Powell is best known for his "Rivers of blood" speech, which is indeed what the article is about. Unlike the Baron, I was unable to hear the original due to being in my mother's womb at the time, and likewise I am unable to comment on Britian at the time, however as someone who subsequently grew up in multi-culti England thereafter I think I can comment on the accuracy of his predictions.
Firstly, Enoch Powell most certainly got a raw deal from the establishment and the press at the time, and his rhetorical style was not that of a popularist which meant that he was easily pigeonholed into the "eccentric old fool" category. Indeed as I grew up my general knowledge of his comment was along the lines of "racist, wrong, country not wracked with civil war", which is simplistic when looking at the speech itself. He was not 100% correct of course, but then few people are, and was I think overly pessimistic in terms of his expectation of a lack of integration, but he was certainly right enough in his identification of the drawbacks of what we now call political correctness and the like. Needless to say this part of the speech was not a part that was mentioned by the media, no doubt because they were precisely guilty of what he spoke:
There could be no grosser misconception of the realities than is entertained by those who vociferously demand legislation as they call it “against discrimination”, whether they be leader writers of the same kidney and sometimes on the same news papers which year after year in the 1930s tried to blind this country to the rising peril which confronted it, or archbishops who live in palaces, faring delicately with the bedclothes pulled right up over their heads. They have got it exactly and diametrically wrong. The discrimination and the deprivation, the sense of alarm and of resentment, lies not with the immigrant population but with those among whom they have come and are still coming. This is why to enact legislation of the kind before parliament at this moment is to risk throwing a match on to gunpowder. The kindest thing that can be said about those who propose and support it is that they know not what they do.
Indeed I would say that his speech was remarkably influential despite the near universal opprobium it received amongst the chattering classes. It is undoubtedly true that he was somewhat naive in terms of the sourcing of some of the material he based his speech on, and on the date when he chose to make it (the 79th aniversary of Hitler's birth), but it is also clear that he did indeed speak to the fears of many of the "non chattering classes" and that he spoke both out of conviction and out of the not unreasonable suggestion that uncontrolled immigration was going to cause trouble unless everything went perfectly.
I met Enoch Powell once a little over 20 years ago, when I was probably a bit young to appreciate him, and my father insisted that we discuss my stumbling comprehension of Herodotus and the Illiad in their original language (both Powell and my father read classics at Cambridge) rather than politics, whether concerning UK immigration or Northern Ireland (Powell was Ulster Unionist MP for South Down at the time). However I do recall he was able to use Herodotus to make a brief digression on how historically every race or nation sees itself surrounded by "βαρβαροι" - that is to say less civilized/capable foreigners and that hence the word for foreigner frequently becomes insulting. Although my father and Powell prefered to discuss theology and classics rather than politics, it was very clear to me that Enoch Powell was a gentleman and a scholar, and clearly someone so talented he would have made an impact no matter what he did. Had he turned to industry or commerce I have no doubt he could have made squillions, had he devoted his life to academia he would no doubt have been a huge influence in whatever university he taught. Compared to today's politicians (of any country or political party) he was an intellectual giant and I think that may have been part of his problem because I got the feeling that he expected his audience to be intelligent too and as a result he frequently omitted words of explanation that would have made his positions more justifiable.
Politically Powell was similar to Margaret Thatcher, and she claimed to have based her economic policy on his (to which he responded that it was "A pity she did not understand them!"). However he was considerably more of a UK isolationist being skeptical of both the US and Europe as his wikiquote page indicates. It is in fact interesting to note that he was against the first Iraq war and, for that matter, much of the cold war; something that I suspect that many of the people who call him to mind today as a result of the predictions in his rivers of blood speech would be rather uncomfortable with.
It is clear that a lot of his positions would cause trouble today just as they did during his life, however I think he would both have been a godsend to the blogosphere, as he was able to argue logically and consistently on controversial subjects, and a beneficiary of it, since bloggers are typically able to gather the required background to defend people such as Powell from the misinterpretations of a lazy, biased press. Moreover since Powell held positions that were mostly liberal (in a Manchesater sense) if not libertarian, he would have provided a certain amount of intellectual rigour to a part of the political spectrum that sometimes seems to suffer from being closely identified as idiotarian.
England made a start beyond their wildest dreams today as they bowled Australia out for 190 in a sensational opening to the Ashes series at Lord's
Then after all that hope came the depression as Australia not only fought back but in the shape of McGrath produced even more destructive bowling, leaving England at the end of the day looking like they would be lucky to get much more than 100 in their first innings. After the one day matches England was looking like it had a chance to do well in the Ashes. At lunchtime yesterday that promise looked to being fulfilled in the first test yet by yesterday eveing those chances looked about as likely as Zarqawi renouncing violence. This is a cruel mental torture far more acute than any at invented by those devious baseballer at Guantanamo bay.
I am not, by any means, a cricket fan - I have been heard to claim that it ties with baseball and paint drying for most boring spectator sport in the world - yet I would have loved to have seen yesterday's cricket. Test matches usually last 5 days, with it being common for one innings to last two days. Yesterday we nearly had two innings in one day and from the accounts they were sensational.
An article in the FT a couple of weeks ago (link is to a pay article) about the woes of Hollywood and the music publishers gathers together many of the points that should be accepted by all sides but yet it fails to draw the obvious conclusion. There is no doubt that file shareing programs such as Grokster do indeed facilitate the piracy of music and films, and there is no doubt that they do indeed threaten the comfotable livelihooods of those at the top of these industries. However the article fails to understand that the domination of content publishers is a comparitively recent phenomenon and one which exists purely because of the support of governments for a monopoly. It is entirely reasonable to argue that the monopoly of copyright is justified but that doesn't stop the beneficiaries of the monopoly from falling into all the traditional errors of monopolies though the centuries. Part of the problem for a monopoly is that it tends to lead to a lack of customer service or the ignoring of customer demands or overall trends.
This is precisely what has happened to the entertainment industry which has completely failed to grasp the impact of the internet and modern technology in general on the underpinning assumptions of its business model. Despite what should have been the wakeup call of the videocassette, the entertainment industry has, to date, utterly failed to adapt its business model to the new distribution and paradigms that modern electronics have provided. If they continue to do so then we will see some interesting times before some alternative publishing and entertainment producing entities show up.
For the most of the 20th century production and dsitribution of content has been a capital and labour intensive process that meant that it was possible only a few, well capitalized organizations could manage to distribute recorded audiovisual entertainment or even printed material such as books and magazines. The movement to digital recording permitted a drastic reduction in the cost of distribution but the providers, while they may have benefited from the resulting increase in profits they utterly failed to realize that their customers are both demanding other formats for their entertainment and a reduction in price to correspond with the reduction in cost. Moreover the bundling options used in the past, whether for one decent track on an album or a group of cable channels or whatever, are now being perceived as a way to sell second rate products on the back of the good stuff. Combine this with the way that there has been significant price inelasticity with regards to quality - CDs, movie tickets, books are the all same; good/popular ones cost the same as bad ones. In general no one denies that artists or writers should not be rewarded for the work they produce, however as an article at theregister.co.uk makes clear the problem with copyright law and publishing as it stands today is that we have a crisis over appropriate levels and methods of compensation and over the right of others to control the use of material we have bought.
The pigopolists, to use a register expression, still want to force apparently arbitrary controls on what we can do depending (for example) on where we happen to be - Star Wars III took months to arrive legally in Japan despite being available illegally on various filesharing networks since the day it was released elsewhere. Likewse author JK Rowling and her publisher(s)/agent(s) have refused to meet demand for an ebook version of Harry Potter. The result is that the latest HP was available for download on the web for free a few hours after its UK release - according to barflies at Baen's Bar this meant:
It was actually on the net before it was released here in the states. Since it was released at midnight that gives a big chunk of the world time to scan it in before it reaches midnight here.
Just out of curiosity I checked IRC the night it was set to be released. At 8pm CST when I looked chapters one through five had already been posted in a proofed format for people wanting to get the jump. Chapters six and seven also but not proofed. By 2am the entire book was posted in an unproofed edition.
There is a problem here that, as another barfly in the same thread put it:
I wanted an ebook version so I can read it again before September. And its SEARCHABLE!.
I would have paid a reasonable price for an ebook. I invested time instead, which gives no financial reward to the author. Silly author.
The evidence of iTunes, not to mention the statement above, indicates that consumers are looking for electronically storable versions of content for all sorts of reasons that have nothing to do with theft. Many of them are willing to either spend money to obtain such content from a legal source or if not spend the time to find it elsewhere. This is precisely the same issue that causes the smuggling of almost everything that has been smuggled from French Brandy to tea. There is a demand and entrepreneurs are willing to meet that demand with supply. Historically the prohibition of legal supply for something that is in widespread demand means that everyone winks at the breaking of the law in question and even begins to treat as heroes those lawbreakers who make the product available.As Jeff Jarvis notes, judging by an AP report, the pigpopolists still haven't got the message, prefering to make us all potential criminals rather than customers with a demand they won't meet.
I don't know why they do this because the evidence is that they would probably make more money by meeting the demand. It should surely be possible (trivially so I imagine) for someone to take something like the bittorrent code and create a version that allows you to mark certain streams as accessible only after the recipt of some payment and use of resulting access code. Of course the hackers will enjoy reverse engineering it but the point is that such people would never pay anyway. The vast majority of people will (witness starbucks vs generic coffee) pay money for a trusted reliable branded supplier. Disney etc. already have the brand, they could build on that to make a reliable, cheap download service (say $5-$10 per movie, $1 per music track) instead of forcing us to either look for the illegal versions of wait months for the legal but much more expensive DVD. In this hypothetical model they would almost certainly make money even if the download option ate into DVD sales. For example Amazon sells DVDs for between $15 and $30 (and sometimes less) and it is hard to imagine that the publisher and creators actually pocket more than $3 or so from that sales price when you take into account all the production and distribution costs, not to mention the cut that the retailer takes. With such an online model there is no reason why the price should not vary item by item, hour by hour depending on demand, age of product etc. so Harry Potter 6 could have started being priced at $10 then in 6-9 months depending on demand the price could have been cut to $8 then $6 etc. Since there is almost no distribution cost practically all the $x charged is available as royalty or publisher profit and if the barebones electronic format is popular then it may drive sales of the book/DVD/CD format that has the pretty cover etc etc.
This model is not completely hypothetical. Baen has just started to release "eARCs" - electronic Advance Reader Copies - of some of its more popular forthcoming works with a pricing model (for the eARC of David Weber's At All Costs) as follows:
Here's how it will work. You can get the complete =At All Costs= (when I get it up) for $15.
That price will be good until July 31 when the price will drop to $12 That price will be good until August 31 when the price will drop to $10 That price will be good until September 30 when the price will drop to $8 That price will be good until October 15 when the usual WebScription single version becomes available.
Note that this is entirely separate from WebScriptions. If you want the final corrected version you still have to buy the WebScription bundle or the final individual book.
The signs are that both the works currently available have had a good number of downloads and it is highly likely that the readers (including yours truly) will in fact buy the books again either in paper format or as part of our monthly eBook fix (or both). [For the curious Baen's webmaster reported 400 downloads on the first day at $15 each - when there was essentially NO publicity what so ever and many more since. My rough estimate is that the first day's eARC take basically paid for all the electronic proofing/typesetting for the book which means that al subsequent sales of both the eARC and the final eBook are at a gross margin of 100% less the trivial cost of the website and internet link] I can see absolutely no reason why similar schemes would not work for others but I am sure that the majority of publishers and authors would reject it out of hand and then, having spent gazillions on some awkward, proprietary eBook format, complain that there was no demand for eBooks, because their potential readership is unwilling to jump through the hoops that they want.
FWIW Baen seems to be (as I have noted before) one of the few publishing firms that makes a serious amount of money from eBooks - my recollection is that Baen sells over 2000 webscription bundles (of 6 books) per month at $15 per bundle. By my calculations that is a minimum of $30,000/month, or $360,000 per year - and it is probably considerably more, and once you deduct the cost of one salaried employee, a webserver and internet link, the remaining money is all profit to be split between publisher and authors. In terms of JK Rowling style blockbuster revenue this is peanuts. In terms of the average SF author's royalty take (maybe $10,000 at best) it is significant.
Some person called Jonathan Chait seems to think - for reasons that seem to indicate where the fat is in his body - that Bush has a fixation on exercise and thus the suitability of exercise fanatics for high office. Bryan the Junkyardblogger points out that at least some of the Bush cabinet are lardasses, which seems to swiftly dispose of the "must be fit to be part of my government" claim. Normally I wouldn't spend much more on this except for the fact that Chait demonstrates two classic idiocies.
The first is that he seems to think Bush should not encourage Americans to exercise:
Bush not only thinks so, he thinks it goes for the rest of us as well. In 2002, he initiated a national fitness campaign. The four-day kickoff festivities included the president leading 400 White House staffers on a three-mile run. As then-Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said: "When it comes to exercise, there are many people who just need that extra little nudge to go out there and do a little bit more exercise."
Perhaps Jonathan Chait hasn't noticed it, but the rest of us have most certainly observed that, epidemic or not, the US seems ot have more fat people than anywhere else and they seem to be more and more of them piling on more and more blubber. It is of course a little hard to tell how much this lard costs the nation in healthcare costs for chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, heart attacks, type II diabetes etc. but I'm going to guess that it is in the billions of dollars. If everyone did in fact do half an hour's exercise a day just maye the US would have solved its healthcare funding crisis.
The second idiocy is that he fails to comprehend the difference between "some" and "all".
The notion of a connection between physical and mental potency is, of course, silly. (Consider all the perfectly toned airheads in Hollywood — or, perhaps, the president himself.)
Some people who spend a lot of time exercising are stupid, therefore, according to Chait, all exercise fanatics are stupid. The fact that exercise does seem to help mental health by stimulating neurogenesis and endorphin release, seems to indicate that actually contrary to Mr Chait's hypothesis, "mens sana in corpore sano" is in fact more than just an old wives tale. Of course the required understanding of statistics and the like that would be required to understand why exercise is a positive indicator towards mental alertness but yet that positive inidcator does not mean that all fitness fanatics are mental giants is, I fear, somewhat beyond Mr Chait's limited intellectual grasp.
Muslim leaders have called on the police to explain why an Asian man was shot dead at Stockwell station.
The Muslim Council of Britain said Muslims were concerned there was a "shoot to kill" policy in operation.
A spokesman said Muslims he had spoken to this morning were "jumpy and nervous".
Inayat Bunglawala said: "I have just had one phone call saying 'What if I was carrying a rucksack?'.
"It's vital the police give a statement about what occurred and explain why the man was shot dead.
"There may well be reasons why the police felt it necessary to unload five shots into the man and shoot him dead, but they need to make those reasons clear.
"We are getting phone calls from quite a lot of Muslims who are distressed about what may be a shoot to kill policy."
He said in the current atmosphere Muslims were very afraid and other people were looking at them in a very suspicious manner.
From this I think I see some people seem either to be a little weak on the deductive logic front or are pretending such weakness. Do we really have to explain why (dark skinned) Muslim males are going to be treated as if they are potential bombers by the police and the general public? I prescribe application of a cluebat.
However this ethnic profiling, while a logical response to terror, is not necessarily the brightest move that the security forces can make as Bruce Schneier points out in twosuccessive posts. The point is that even if makes some sense to profile, what needs to be profiled is behaviour and attitude because the simple clues are likely to mislead.
I haven't commented on the Tour de France this year, but I think I should note that Lance Armstrong is ending his final tour on a high, having just won the penultimate stage - a 55km time trial - by a convincing 23 seconds at an average speed of more than 45km/h. Given that tomorrow is the run into Paris and the sprint around the Champs Elysées, Lance is unlikely to exert himself so today was effectively his last day ever as a competitive cyclist.
Going out on a win - that is the sign of a real champion Permalink
Harry's Place reports that the Grauniad has fired their junior terrorjournalist. Their media people (login firstname.lastname@example.org / grauniad - thanks to Samizdata) are rather unhappy at the way that bloggers got him binned and as a result do their best to spin history in a way that would make Messrs Blair and Campbell proud. Firstly they indicate that the enite flap was caused by American bloggers, conveniently ignoring - until the end of the article - the fact that the Indpendant, the Sun and (IIRC but not mentioned in the article) the Torygraph had all picked up on Dilpazier Aslam's past.
As for the bloggers, the fact that Laban Tall, Norm, Harry, and a host of other blogs from this side of the pond were jumping up and down in outrage is conveneiently ignored in the selective attribuations mentioned. Laban actually gets a mention but given that the article starts
Rightwing bloggers from the US, where the Guardian has a large online following, were behind the targeting last week of a trainee Guardian journalist who wrote a comment piece which they did not care for about the London bombings.
the fact that British bloggers, even leftish British bloggers, were also upset is something that it would be hard for a non-blogger to realize.
Scott Burgess, a blogger from New Orleans who recently moved to London, spends his time indoors posting repeated attacks on the Guardian for its stance on the environment, its columnists such as Polly Toynbee, and its recent intervention in the US presidential election campaign.
He pitched into Mr Aslam, who as it happened, beat him to the traineeship on the Guardian. Googling the 27-year-old Muslim's name, Mr Burgess picked up some articles the journalist had openly written in the past for Hizb ut-Tahrir websites and denounced him on his blogspot, The Daily Ablution, saying: "He is on record supporting a world-dominant Islamic state." [...]
Mr Burgess fished out a website article written by Mr Aslam before September 11 for Hizb ut-Tahrir. He quoted one line: "Establishment of Khilafah [the worldwide Islamic caliphate] is our only solution, to fight fire with fire, the state of Israel versus the Khilafah state."
I could be wrong but my recollection is that Scott has been in London for some years so the snark about recently moved seems somewhat misplaced. As does the "spends his time indoors", a regular reader of the Ablution would note that Scott has done a lo of travelling for someone indoors.
The fact that Dilpazier Aslam did more than write a few articles five years ago (or is that recently to the Grauniad?) but was in fact employed by them as late as June last year and refused to resign when the Grauniad asked him is nicely skated over, as are the other statements that he and Hisb ut Tahrir have made. And of course that doesn't include criticising the apparent anti-semitism inherent in the one statement they do print, apparently its OK to establish the Khilafah if it is to fight the Jews!
Likewise interesting was the way that they try to criticise the Sun's Littlejohn comment that "A Guardian journalist has been unmasked as an Islamist extremist". Given that Dilpazier Aslam is a member of an Hizb ut Tahrir, an organization that even the BBC calls extreme, and prefered (as noted above) to resign from the Grauniad rather than from Hizb ut Tahrir this seems to be an accurate label.
Such respect as I may have had for the Grauniad has now disappeared, particularly given that the piece is bylined "By a staff reporter" - indicating that the hack in question lacks the gonads to admit to writing this shameful piece. Permalink
Two excellent things from Portugal made their way into my awareness today 1. TimW's weekly round up of the good stuff in the British blogosphere 2. White Port - excellent as sundowner with some ice If you read the former while drinking the latter perhaps things get even better Permalink
As we have learned over the last couple of days, The Grauniad does have some standards when it comes to publishing articles - however they don't appear to have set the bar very high as this piece of bilge from Osama Saeed demonstrates (hat tip powerline). Indeed it's so bad it needs a fisking:
Back to you, Mr Blair
It is wrong to put the onus on British Muslims to defeat terror
Let us start with the sub head. I don't believe anyone, and certainly not Cherie "jiljab" Booth's husband, has said that only Muslims can defeat terror. What he said is that British Muslims need to stop shrugging their shoulders when they hear so-called co-religionists making statements that sound like they could be incitements to terrorist activity
Faced with the events of the past two weeks, it would be the easiest thing in the world for me to say the Muslim community must do more to combat terrorism. Many community figures have done just that.
Shahid Malik MP told the Commons: "The challenge is straightforward - that those voices that we have tolerated will no longer be tolerated." This raises the question: did we really hear people planning violence in this country but do nothing about it?
The position of Muslim organisations and mosques has been consistent for years. Killing civilians is murder, and a crime in Islam. We have consistently said that Muslims must help the police to track down those responsible.
The problem, Mr Saeed, is that hitherto there has not apparently been much assistence given the the police. Actions,as they say, speak louder than words, especially when the words are generally followed by a weaselly "but..."
This is why I've found it strange that many Muslim leaders have offered to look deep within our community now. It's a tacit admission of negligence that I simply do not accept. The prime minister has of course welcomed this attitude. Indeed he has led from the front, ratcheting up the rhetoric against Muslims, laying the responsibility solely on us. "In the end, this can only be taken on and defeated by the community itself," he said last week.
Blair is of course completely correct, terrorists need the tacit support of their neighbours to operate successfully. The classic examples of this being across the water in N Ireland. The fact that it seems that very few Muslims have to date dared to complain publically about the inflamatory speeches etc. of their co-religionists indicates that he could be correct. One wonders whether Mr Saeed is worried lest he be shopped for something he might have said or written sonewhere - Google shows up, for example, this article but it is more risible than anything else IMO
Mr Blair has attacked the idea of the caliphate - the equivalent of criticising the Pope. He has also remained silent in the face of a rightwing smear campaign against such eminent scholars as Sheikh al-Qaradawi - a man who has worked hard to reconcile Islam with modern democracy. Such actions and omissions fuel the suspicion that we are witnessing a war on Islam itself. If there is any thought that Muslims are fine but their religion can take a hike then Mr Blair should know that we will never be in the corner, in the spotlight, losing our religion.
Firstly - why not criticise the pope? you only have to look in the Grauniad a few months back to see all sorts of papal critcism. Secondly I don't think any pope since the 17th century (if then) has ever claimed that the entire world should become Roman Catholic and if they don't they should at the least be governed exclusively by Roman Catholic governors, law courts etc. Thirdly if al-Qaradawi is working hard to reconcile Islam with modern democracy he hasn't been terribly good at it, at least when it comes to the part of democracy open to those who are not male heterosexuals. While we are not at war with Islam, some parts of Islam, such as those run by that other Osama, do declare that they are at war with us. It seems not unreasonable that those threatened with war to establish a religious state should ask the co-religionists of said warriors whether they agree with the goals or not and explain that such a goal is counter to our way of life.
By putting the onus on Muslims to defeat terror, the prime minister absolves himself of responsibility. Muslims are not in denial of our duties, but who are we meant to be combating? The security services had no idea about all that has gone on in London, so how are we as ordinary citizens to do better?
So here we are - outright slopey shoulders. The police should be omniscient and it is not the responsibility of any Muslim to help the police. As for "who are we meant to be combatting?" what kind of a dumb rhetorical question is that? Just in case Mr Saeed is genuinely confused on the question the answer is people who prefer to blow up others rather than engaging in negotiation or political lobbying.
It is not Muslims but Mr Blair who is in denial. He was advised that the war in Iraq would put us in more danger, not less. Silvio Berlusconi has admitted Italy is in danger because of his alliance with Bush; Mr Blair should do the same.
And more slopey shoulders and "root cause" apologia for terrorism. Apparently it is entirely acceptable for cowards to blow innocent users of public transport because of their government's policies. The only reason why Iraq made Britian more of a target is because of appeasing statements by papers such as the Grauniad who seem to think that western nations must remove the speck from their own eye before removing the plank from that of another.
Jack Straw has just apologised for Britain's role in the Srebrenica massacre. This is a welcome development, but these apologies need to be extended to Britain's explicit roles in creating the injustices in the Muslim world - from the mess that colonial masters left in Kashmir to the promising of one people's land to another in Palestine. We need to recognise our past mistakes and make a commitment not to repeat them. Western leaders are outraged about London but show no similar anger for other atrocities across the world. What happens abroad matters to British Muslims as much as what happens here.
The difference between Srebenica and either Kashmir or Palestine is the way that in Srebenica unarmed Muslims relied on the global community to protect them whereas Muslims in both of those places where armed but still managed to be defeated in battle. Somewhat less culpability methinks. Of course it is interesting to note that Mr Saeed seems to deny the right of the state of Israel to exist.
The British Muslim response is to engage politically, as we did in our opposition to the Iraq war, when we tried to keep our country, as well as innocent Iraqis, safe. We'll continue to try to win the arguments.
As EU Rota noted a few days ago, most of the deaths in Iraq have been caused by Islamic terrorists not occupying forces. Combine that with the tens of thousands of Iraqis killed by Saddam Hussein it is hard to say that either the US or British governments are making Iraqis less safe.
Unfortunately, a handful of individuals have eschewed this to carry out the attacks in London. You can regard these acts as part of Islam, or as an irrational reaction to injustice taking place in the world. If it's the former you have to explain why this started only 12 years ago and not 1,400. To us it is evident that it is the latter, so we're batting the ball back in your court, Mr Blair.
Why 12 or 1400? how about 60? or 30? or some other number? And why should I judge these acts as being either a part of Islam or a protest? Given the bloody history of Islam over the past 1400 years I think you could make a plausible argument that Islam has always behaved this way. Actually I think that is generally wrong but I do think that the instigators of the terrorism believe that they are fighting for the same goals as Muslims did when the conquered Spain a thousand years ago - namely the establishment of a global muslim state, the Caliphate. I think that because the terrorists say that in their propaganda. Are we not supposed to take their statements at face value? The ball is most certainly not in Mr Blair's court, it is in yours because if you continue to tacitly support terrorism in favour of the establishment of a Caliphate you will be unwelcome in Britain where the vast majority of the inhabitants don't want to live under such a regime.
· Osama Saeed is a spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain
Osama Saeed is a embarassment to the Muslim Community in Britain Permalink
In the process of explaining one way to act as the chlorine in the gene pool without unpleasant side-effects such as ones own death or incarceration, this article at Kuro5hin points out that:
Don't kill fat people, they're hard to carry.
In other words you may be less likely to be murdered if fat. What is not pointed out, but which is undoubtedly true, is that beinjg fat may also make it harder for vital organs to be penetrated in a timely manner. On the other hand one disadvantage of being fat is that you may find it harder to run away.... Permalink
I am amazed that this article made it onto Reuters/Yahoo's World news feed. Perhaps it does so because it is able to point out just how many problems there are in Iraq.
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Already battered by an insurgency, Iraq's government faced a barrage of questions in parliament on Monday on everything from the fate of billions of dollars in donor pledges to garbage collection.
Reading long lists of complaints, National Assembly members were often cut short by the deputy speaker because they were taking too long to air grievances in the session televised live.
Yet I can't think of another country in the region (except Israel or Turkey) where MPs (or equivalent) would be willing to make such complaints of the government on behalf of their constituents, nor where, if they did so it would be broadcast on live TV.
The fact that Reuters doesn't even seem to see the irony here is an indication of just how far Iraq has progressed in the year since the coalition handed over control. The fact that Parliament is willing to air gripes is even more healthy because it indicates just how normal the country is becoming despite everything the "activists"terrorists are trying to do to destablilize the place. Permalink
With all the recent terrorist events it is interesting to look at terrorism as portrayed in Science Fiction and thus, right on cue as it were, comes a book on precisely that topic from Michael Z Willimason. The book is The Weapon ( ISBN:1-4165-0894-5, $25.00 Hardcover (August 2005) and as an ebook).
The Weapon is set in the same universe as Freehold, a book that I have raved about before and is a sort of complementary story to that one, in that some minor characters in Freehold are the major ones in The Weapon and vice versa. I expect the book stands up well as a stand alone, but I can't exactly give an opinion on that since I have practically memorized Freehold. Although the Freehold/Weapon universe is set some five centuries into the future, the government forms of the majority of the worlds are entirely recognizable today. Indeed many of them are only too recognizable being precisely the sort of failed state anarchies that we see today in Africa or the statist bureaucratic nightmare that we Eurosceptics predict that the EU is on its way to becoming. The one standout from this is the libertarian world of Grainne - a.k.a. the Freehold - and both books look at how such a world will likely appear as a threat to the statist rulers elsewhere and thus must be assimilated.
In The Weapon we get to see how a libertarian culture might react against terrorism and how that differs from a society where people are trained to expect others to look after them. The first part of the book is about how the hero becomes an "operative", basically some sort of special operations combat superman. This part of the book is similar to bits of (say) Heinlein's Starship Troopers or any other book where the hero trains to become a soldier before going out to battle - in some ways it is interesting to compare and contrast this book with CJ Cherryh's "The Paladin", which Baen put un the previous month's webscription bundle, because, while one is set in ancient China and the other set in an interstellar future the basic plot of hero plus small band fighting massive tyranny is the same.
The interesting part is when the training ends and the hero and his colleagues go out into the real world, where terrorism and the like are no less common than they are today. One of the things that happens is that a Grainne Citizen - one of the rulers (to the extent that there are any) - is killed by some terrorists and the hero is required to teach the terrorists not to do this again. Without giving away too much of the plot, the method chosen is to visit a level of frightfulness to the terrorists so that they decide to go after easier targets. One might consider this to be an American response that didn't happen when the Achille Lauro was hijacked and Leon Klinghoffer was killed by the PLO.
We also get two different examples of how easy it could be for terrorists with good preparation to use standard conman tricks to penetrate almost anywhere and then cause havoc. The book, as a fictional parable, makes it clear why security specialists such as Bruce Schneier or Joe Huffman are sceptical about profiling, ID cards and the like. Nothing that we see in Iraq, Egypt, Israel or London seems to disprove this and indeed the way that the Iraqi terrorists have evolved their tactics indicates that the surviving Islamist terrorists are quite capable of learning.
Finally we get to see the hero and his group commit the ultimate terrorism against the planet earth. There are two things to note here. The first is that although sucessful in megadeath terms, on its own even such enormous shocking terrorism would have failed to work without some other external acts. The second is that it repeats the observation above that it is extremely hard to stop determined terrorists at the point of terror and relatedly that this gets progressively worse in societies where civilians are conditioned to let the government do things rather than take responsibility themselves. This latter point is key when we look at how we in the west should react to terror. The root cause arguers have a sort of point - we need to remove the conditions that foster terrorism - but the way to do that is not, as the book also makes entirely clear, by giving in to the terrorists demands but by resolving the underlying environment that permits terrorists to gain support.
Back to more mundane matters, the Weapon is a great read, with good characters, flashes of humour and so on to make the story interesting. It isn't perfect, but I think most of my reservations are related to my discomfort with the subject matter rather than the story. In fact I believe this tale has something in it to annoy everyone, be they left wing, right wing, libertarian, communist or what ever and that is probably the best reason why everyone should read it, because those annoyances are the barbs that make you (re)think your positions.
Tim W has a piece up at TCS about Greenpeace's idiocies when it comes to books and paper. Of course, as I noted in my publishing article last week, Greenpeace is unable to propose that readers of Harry Potter read non-paper edtions of the book because the publisher/author has refused to put out a legal ebook, however one might think that this would be possible for other books.
Yet, curiously, a search for "ebook" on Greenpeace's website shows no hits and a search for "book" shows a great deal of stuff about using recycled paper and being "ancient forest friendly" paper without mentioning the possibility of buying eBooks. Of course I suppose that switching on a computer to read a book is contributing to energy use and thus to "glow ball vharmink", but I'm pretty sure that the joules of energy needed to either recycle or produce the paper and print the book, let alone the energy consumed in shipping any one of the millions of them to its reader, is far greater than that consumed by my buying an eBook and reading it online. And of course the paper industry, while far better these days than it was, still uses a lot of really nasty chemicals and thereby hurts the environment, something that the consumption of elections doesn't do.
I winder how long it will be before the penny drops? While I'm rarely in agreement with the green movement, if they got serious about promoting ebooks (and emagazines) then I might start being a bit more sympathetic. Unfortunately of course all they do so far is produce some inane ecological calculator that makes it seem like the whole world is losing all its trees for paper when, IIRC, world forestry cover is in fact increasing, particularly in the developed world. As a commenter at EU Rota puts it, George missed out a couple of words when he ended:
I have always had a certain amount of sympathy for Amnesty International, although sympathy was severely affected by their apparent surrender to the anti-war idiots over the last couple of years. However while their coverage of Iraq or Israel may have left something to be desired, their overall coverage of the abysmal human rights records of countries from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe kept me hoping that eventually they would do something about their coverage of the Middle East too.
While it isn't quite the report I would like to see the latest Amnesty Report on Iraq has got a lot of good stuff in it. Indeed while it weasels its way out of using the T word, and lists a number of US/Coalition abuses first, it also documents the direct attacks on Iraqi civilians by the various "armed groups" as well as the statements by that famous "moderate" cleric Al Qardhawi amongst others that appear to be supporting such slaughter.
On 23 August 2004, 93 Muslim scholars from 30 countries issued a statement urging Muslims throughout the world to support "resistance to occupation in Iraq and Palestinian territories". The statement said: "Islamic leaders from across the world condemn in the strongest terms all-time brutal crimes by occupation forces in Iraq and Palestine". It added: "We are in full solidarity with Iraqis and Palestinians in their brave resistance, and we call on them to close ranks against occupation away from collaboration, extremism or sectarianism."(42)
On 5 November 2004, 26 prominent Saudi religious scholars issued an open letter stating that "armed attacks launched by Iraqi groups on US troops and their allies in Iraq were legitimate resistance." The letter added: "Fighting the occupiers is a duty for all those who are able. It is a Jihad to push back the assailants… Resistance is a legitimate right. A Muslim must not inflict harm on any resistance man or inform about them. Instead, they should be supported and protected."(43) The letter also prohibited Iraqis from providing any support for military operations conducted by the MNF against strongholds of armed groups fighting against the MNF.
A conference held in Beirut on 18-19 November 2004 by the IAMS issued a communiqué, signed by Shaikh al-Qardhawi, stating that "helping the Iraqi people in their uphill struggle against the occupation is a duty on every able Muslim in and outside Iraq."(44)
These calls for resistance are said to have encouraged many, from inside and outside Iraq, to join armed groups fighting against the MNF in Iraq.
In late August 2004, Shaikh al-Qardhawi, speaking at the headquarters of the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate in Cairo, appeared to suggest that all US nationals in Iraq could be targeted. Following condemnation by many in and outside the Middle East he said "… there was a question about American civilians in Iraq and I only replied with a question: ‘are there American civilians in Iraq?’"(45)
While Amnesty does its best to appear non-judgemental as it docuemnts what it has seen, it criticises the "armed groups" and their leadership for their indiscriminate slaughter of civilians and makes clear that Amnesty finds no justification for either those attacks or those on international bodies such as the UN, the ICRC and so on.
On 18 May 2005, Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi defended the killing of Muslims in suicide bomb attacks against the MNF, according to an audiotape attributed to him. He stated: "The killing of infidels by any method including martyrdom [suicide] operations has been sanctified by many scholars even if it means killing innocent Muslims. This legality has been agreed upon… so as not to disrupt Jihad… Protecting religion is more important than protecting [Muslim] lives, honour or wealth… The shedding of Muslim blood… is allowed in order to avoid the greater evil of disrupting Jihad."(73)
Under international humanitarian law, members of the police and similar civilian security forces are considered civilians, therefore unlawful targets for attack, unless they take a direct part in the hostilities or have been specifically designated as part of the armed forces and could be described as "militia forces" -- namely have responsible command, carry distinctive insignia, carry arms openly, and respect the laws of war. Amnesty International is not in a position to determine whether each of the intended targets in the incidents described below met the criteria listed above. What is clear, however, is that the attacks were carried out in an unlawful manner, using indiscriminate means of attack or resulting in disproportionate harm to people who were indisputably civilians.
As a result, having set the stage Amnesty then minces no words in stating that the "armed groups" are committing crimes against humanity:
Crimes against humanity Under customary international law, as reflected in the Rome Statute, crimes against humanity are acts specified by the Statute committed as part of a ''widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population'', ''pursuant to or in furtherance of a State or organizational policy to commit such attack."(145) Among the relevant crimes listed in the Statute are murder, unlawful imprisonment, torture and other inhumane acts.(146) Acts that constitute war crimes may also amount to crimes against humanity if they meet the requirements of the definition.
Such acts have been committed by armed groups in Iraq as part of attacks against civilians that are widespread and systematic, and perpetrated as part of a publicly declared policy to target civilians. The attacks therefore satisfy the definition of crimes against humanity.
I am sure that the "liberals" who are consumed by their hate of Bush etc. will find ways to either blame this all on him or pretend that it doesn't really matter, but I hope that majority of people will see that "resistance" or "insurgent" is the wrong word to use for these scum. Although I believe it is a coincidence it does give extra strength to Blair's speech today.
"If it is concern for Iraq, why are they driving a car bomb into the middle of a group of children and killing them?" he asked.
"What is happening in Iraq is that ordinary decent Iraqis are being butchered by these people with the same terrorist ideology that is killing people in different parts of the world."
"It is time we stopped saying 'ok, we abhor their methods but we kind of see something in their ideas or maybe they have got a sliver of excuse or justification'.
"They have got no justification for it.
"And one other thing I want to say while I'm on this subject, neither have they got any justification for killing people in Israel either.
"There is no justification for suicide bombing whether in Palestine, Iraq, London, Egypt, Turkey, in the United States of America. There is no justification for it, period.
"And we will start to beat this when we stand up and confront the ideology of this evil. No just the methods but the ideas."
(Hat tip: Harry) Update:The BBC has more although one detects a certain gritting of teeth that they can't blame everything on "the US-led military presence." - via Norm Permalink
Please try not to be diagnosed with a terminal illness in England. Because if you do then the doctor may decide to put you on the Terri Schiavo diet even when you make it clear that this is against your wishes. That at least is my interpretation of this Appeal Court ruling.
Doctors Given 'Right-To-Life' Decisions
The General Medical Council has won its appeal against a ruling allowing a terminally ill man to stop doctors withdrawing his feeding tube.Lesley Burke did not want doctors to stop giving him food and water in the final stages of his illness.The ruling has wide implications for terminally ill people who want the right to die.
And it means that decisions over people's right to live or die are back in the hands of doctors, rather than the patients.
[... T]he GMC told the Court of Appeal it believes the ruling could put doctors in "an impossibly difficult position".
The organisation believes it obliges a doctor to provide treatment which the patient demands - even if the doctor believes the treatment will not provide any benefit or would be futile.
The GMC said the patient did not have the right to demand any particular form of treatment.
Is it just me who finds that last line particularly chilling? Update: The BBC has a different take saying that the original ruling opened a whole can of worms about doctors being forced to treat patients in counterproductive ways and I sort of see their point, although it occurs to me that the solution is for said Dr to say "If you don't want like my treatment then find another doctor". Tim W has a link to statistics about deliberate deaths in Holland which are also scary - although I'm haveing trouble accessing the individual article right now so you might want to go to the main page Permalink
Fortunately the French establisment are now firmly esconced on the beaches down the road here and unable to read any newspapers or watch news programs on TV. That can be the only reason why they have all failed to criticise France Telecom for buying the Spanish mobile operator Amena. After all if yoghurt and backwardly naive water are vital to one country's culture and future surely the cell phone network is vital to another...
Sarcastic? Moi? Well perhaps un soupçon.
By the way we invited our French neighbours over for aperitifs a couple of days ago. Their views on Chirac, and indeed most of the political class in France are pretty much unprintable. In their opinion Sarko is the only one with a slight clue and their basic statement was that if Chirac somehow thwarts Sarko candidacy in the election then they will vote for Le Pen. Roughly translated they said "We tried the crook and it has been a catastrophe, so if we have the same choice again this time we'll vote the fascist" Permalink
One of the interesting things about this part of France is the rules that are in place now about the preservation of olive trees. One could wish that other planning laws were as strictly enforced because the result is numerous gardens with olive trees. As always click on the photo to see it enlarged and be sure to visit the previous one if you missed it. Permalink
In my recent eBook/publishing rant last week I mentioned Baen's new eARC trick, where they release an unproofed version of the book a few months before official publication at a price that goes down the nearer we get to publication.
I noted that it seemed to be pretty successful. So much so that there are now 4 eARCs available and now, just to make sure that they get to maximise revenue they start spamming their addictsloyal readers to tell us.
ADDICTS TAKE NOTE
A Baen WebScriptions Special Advance Reader Copy available NOW online
The Dance of Time by Eric Flint and David Drake
SNERK ON THIS!!!
In the interests of maximizing the exploitation of our base audience (we've heard the word "profit" used in this context) and supporting their continued addiction to ebooks we provide here the first chapter from Dance of Time, by David Drake and Eric Flint.
C'mon, it won't hurt to take just a little look. It's not like we're the minions of Cthulu or something....
If blogging is light this weekend then one reason could be that I've just forked over $15 for the latest eARC....
I have decided to be resolute and not buy the eARCs of Resonance and Ghost, but I will shortly buy the Webscription months that include them (October and November respectively), and each one of those permits me to give a free trial to the first sucker who gives me their email address. Permalink
Once upon a time (some 20 years ago?), Private Eye used to have an illustation on top of its "Street of Shame" column of a drunken journalist peering at a computer screen with the words "Pissed old hack stumped by new technology". Maybe they should renew it for the next issue because the fall of heads at the Grauniad it promises to be a fascinating example of precisely that. As Scott reports today:
Albert Scardino, the Guardian's executive editor for news, has resigned as a direct result of Sassygate. My impression from that source's report is that his position had become untenable because of the split between Mr. Aslam's supporters and those who wanted him fired (the latter including, to his credit, Ian "Clark County" Katz).
According to that source, Alan Rusbridger has conceded that the Aslam affair and its internal repercussions constitute a significant crisis for the paper.
Despite the Grauniad being, generally speaking, an Internet aware newspaper with its own blog, they apparently seem unable to do basic things like google and show precisely the same arrogance that their transatlantic cousins - CBS/Rather and CNN/Eason Jordon - showed. There was a time earlier this year when various people were opining that the British were not going to see the same sort of blog effect that we saw last year in the US. I think the coverage of 7/7 and subsequent events has in general disproven that thesis and if there were any doubt, this event clearly shows that British blogs can be just as influential as their transatlantic cousins (even when their detractors do their best to paint the blogs as crazy-eyed Bush-loving yankees).
In the comments to Scott's piece and in this trade press article, linked in the comments, it is clear that there remains one more scalp - Seumas Milne - who seems at present to be passing the buck one way and the blame the other and not letting any of either fall on him. It will be truly fascinating to see how long he can last in the post 7/7 climate where the multi-culti-tranzi ideology that he espouses is suffering some severe criticism. Permalink I despise l'Escroc and Vile