If the UK has a guardian angel or a god(dess) of common sense then he or she did sterling work yesterday. The ZANU labour government's attempt to remove an Englishman's Right to say what he pleases was defeated in one critical section by one vote because PM Tony Bliar had buggered off home for a horlicks.
TONY BLAIR’S authority was shaken by two surprise defeats last night that weakened his Bill to create the crime of inciting racial hatred. Key measures were lost by a majority of just one after he failed to stay for the crucial vote.
In a humiliating blow to Mr Blair, who has a 65-seat Commons majority, 21 Labour rebels voted with Opposition MPs while at least 40 more were absent or abstained.
It soon emerged that Mr Blair had returned to Downing Street after being told by Hilary Armstrong, the Chief Whip, that there was no point in staying for the crunch vote after an earlier measure was lost by a majority of ten.
In what proved to be a disastrous miscalculation, however, Mr Blair’s absence will be blamed for the loss of key clauses designed to combat “abusive and insulting” behaviour inciting religious hatred.
Of note though is that Gorgeous George Galloway did manage to turn up and vote for censorship, thereby marginally increasing his woeful tally of attendence at the Mother of Parliaments. (Hat Tip. An Englishman's Castle).
The Danish prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, stood firm in his defence of free speech, after ambassadors from 10 Muslim countries complained to him about the cartoons. As he put it: "The government can in no way influence the media."
Our Government takes a rather different approach. The new law will ensure that it will not just be Satanic Verse-style protesters who will try to silence critics, but the British state itself, which will have the power to lock up those who dare to mock Mohammed.
Be in no doubt about the purpose of the legislation. It is those who criticise Muslims who are the target, not those who mock Christians, Sikhs, Hindus or Jews. No other religion has demanded such a law. The Muslim Council of Britain has, however, been lobbying for it since its inception in 1997, and got its way in November 2001, with a clause in the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill outlawing incitement to religious hatred. It was explicitly included as a sop to the MCB.
Such is the nature of the fight to defend Western values - half-hearted and supine. The right of a newspaper to publish unfunny cartoons about Mohammed, Jesus or any other religious figure is not a distraction in the defence of freedom from terror. It goes to the very heart of what must be defended.
France Soir denounces in the same way the intolerance of the "Moslem Brothers, Syria, Islamic Jihad, Ministers of Interior Department of the Arab countries, Islamic Conférence" who demand the "citizens of secular democratic societies, to condemn a dozen caricatures considered to be offensive for the islam".
"No, we will never excuse ourselves [the right] to free speech, to think, believe... Since these self-proclaimed doctors of the faith make a question of principle of it, it is necessary to be firm. Let us protest as much as it will be necessary to demonstrate that one has the right to caricature Mahomet, Jesus, Buddha, Jehovah and all the variations of theism. That is called the freedom of expression in a laic country ", affirms the leader-writer of the newspaper.
Would the English speaking media like to demonstrate a similar spine? Or are they going to remain in craven Dhimmitude? Permalink
France Soir originally said it had published the images in full to show "religious dogma" had no place in a secular society.
But late on Wednesday its owner, Raymond Lakah, said he had removed managing editor Jacques Lefranc "as a powerful sign of respect for the intimate beliefs and convictions of every individual".
Mr Lakah said: "We express our regrets to the Muslim community and all people who were shocked by the publication."
The president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), Dalil Boubakeur, had described France Soir's publication as an act of "real provocation towards the millions of Muslims living in France".
This is irritating because France Soir had done what I consider to be a sound piece of journalism in that not only did it print the cartoons it also commissioned an editorial from a leading Muslim to explain why the cartoons were offensive. Mind you the quote above from Dalil Boubakeur is accurate, publishing is a provocation, it is a provocation to think and to realize what a secular society means. This and much more (including a picture of the France Soir front page) is explained in one of the latest articles at the Brussels Journal.
Anyway those of my visitors who haven't yet seen them ought to see the Mohammed Image Archive which depicts images of the prophet going back centuries as well as modern versions from decadent western nations like Iran. There is also the Islam comic book which illustrates a number of Koranic passages. What is also key is to realize that in addition to the 12 genuine cartoons a number of primarily arab sites have published three additional caartoons. These three additional ones (here, here & here) are far more crudely drawn (a hint as to their fraudulence), more offensive and not at all humourous. It seems that some Muslims decided that the originals were not enought to build outrage and so added some others (link in Danish). Permalink
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is an organization which is generally on the right side of the debate - particularly with respect to copyright and internet security. However it is also suing AT&T for cooperating with the NSA's anti-terror activities which is damn stupid. The Inquirer links to this article from Ars Technica which gives the details:
...The EFF has elected to try a different tactic, choosing the class action route in an effort to hit the NSA's largest private collaborator where it hurts the most—in the extremely large wallet. AT&T Inc. was recently formed by the absorption of the original AT&T Corp. by SBC Communications, making it the largest telecommunications company in the United States and one of the largest in the world.
State secrets privilege, the use and abuse of which has been on the rise as government ineptitude becomes more visible in the information age, is based upon a legal precedent set in a 1953 case, and allows the executive branch to prevent the release of information on any "military matters which, in the interest of national security, should not be divulged..." With state secrets already having been invoked by the Bush administration for much smaller issues, it seems to me that the AT&T suit is ripe for some executive intervention. The only likely scenario that I can see to preclude such action is a possible desire on the part of the government to avoid such a blatant smackdown as we head into an election year. If that's the case, the EFF suit will probably get a chance to run its course while legal teams on the other side try to hold off any politically damaging revelations until after November.
It seems to me that this lawsuit is nothing more thana publicity stunt and waste of time since AT&T had effectively no choice but cooperate with the feds in the first place.
Ars Technica clearly don't think much of the NSA's program and have in fact come up with an interesting explanation of why it is a bad idea. I don't in fact believe their article is correct, in particular it seems that the NSA program is mostly about call detail record analysis, which rather holes their listening argument. However I haven't seen too many other attempts to protest the program other than invocations of controversial statutes such as FISA so it is worth reading, and is I think correct if the NSA program were the program that the Ars Technica writer thinks it is. The argument is correct when it comes to ID scans and the possibility of false positives but incorrect in this instance because the whole point of the data mining is to weed out such data.
In one of my comments threads is this. I don't particularly agree with everything written but I think it is fair to say that had the majority of Moslem reaction been like this the cartoons would have been ignored and/or treated as a desperate publicity stunt by a Danish newspaper. The fact that much of it is not anywhere close is why we in the secular west consider this to be such an important event.
Really this is an excellent opportunity for all muslims to expose and teach others what is Islam and what was the life of prophets Muhammed (pbuh). I have seen some of them reacting inappropriately. Insulting prophet Muhammed is not a new thing, as it was happened on the time of prophet itself. Study how the holy Quran replied for such insults and we have to follow that way.
Most of the Westers have been taught Islam from its enimies, not through the Holy Quran or the life history of prophet Muhammad. That is why they say 'the founder of Islam is prophet Muhammad'. But actually, Islam is the religion of all prophets, like, the first human on earth Adam & Havva (Eve), Nuh, Abraham (Ibrahim), Ismail, Ishaq, Soloman (Sulaiman), Moses, Jeses (Essa), and the last prophet Muhammad. There is no difference between one prophet to another, but the only difference is that Muhammed is the last prophets and the holy Quran is the last text from God.
The holy Quran revealed for all mankind until the last day. The safety and originally of the holy Quran is guaranteed by God Hiself throgh the Quran. And we can see there is no change in it, as it is the same that it revealed to Muhammed. There is close relation with Muslims, Christian and Jews, as they are all the people of God's Books, and a muslim man is permitted to marry the chaste women from Christian and Jews religion.
It is obligatory of all men on earth to believe in the holy Quran and live a life in accordance with its directions, as it is the last text of God.
Wester people are not the enimies of muslims, but most of them are not aware and studied what is Islam. The duty of muslims is to show them what is Islam by witnessing them as the best people on earth. Only by name as a muslim, there is no benefit, if only they lead a life in accordance with the directions of Allah and prophet Muhammed, a man become a muslim. A real muslim will never keep hate and prejudice in his mind, but sympathy upon ignorance and tolerance upon mistreatment and try to teach them through their excellent behaviour and work, as the holy Quran orders, defent evil with good.
The present cartoons are nothing to bother, as they can never defame Islam or muslims, if muslims lead a good life and stand as a witness for excellent deeds, no body can create misunderstanding in the minds of others.
But one thing is important, all the good men should make their voice upon these kind of bad behaviour as this is making split in the hearts of various religious people and it creates damage to the smooth life and culture.
I appreciate this site and the opportunity to express our opion through this site. THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR THIS EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY GIVE TO ME AND ALL.
I hereby advice the editor and publishers of this magazine to study Islam and the life history of prophet Muhammed, which may provide benefit and blessing to them in this life and hereafter.
May God's peace and blessings upon every body, today V.A. ABDUL AZIZ, KOOLIMUTTAM
This one is the ultimate evening shot, with one branch of an olive tree turnign gold in the very last ray of the sun As always click on it to enlarge (and see the airplane up above) and don't forget to look at last week's one if you missed it Permalink
After quite an eventful day or two - this year it seems that sharing a flight with me is going to lead to the plane being cancelled or delayed - I have finally returned and caught sight of the news.
I have decided to remove cartoons because
The point has been made - well - by many many others
As some way to show my sympathy for the vicitms of the Egyptian ferry disaster
I hope everyone will continue to read my blog though even if I move to less controversial topics for a while...
Update: Also as you may have noticed the site disappeared yesterday due to it exceeding all possible bandwidth limits. It has now returned but under a strict bandwidth diet and the cartoons will not be returning no matter what simply because of the bandwidth issue.
So having decided to remove the cartoons, I've been getting comments about being a coward. Err well no. Such commenters miss the point just as badly as the Muslims who sent me hatemail. Allow me to explain: I have received something like half a million visits to the cartoon page and probably had a lot more people try and see them; as far as I'm concerned that is plenty of freedom of speech. In particular, as people who tried visiting yesterday will have noticed, I have hit some fairly solid upper limits on bandwidth. Being approximately the number 5 hit on google for "cartoons Mohammed" or similar means that I have had literally millions people making attempts to visit as well as a fair few idiots attempting DoS attacks.
So since I don't particularly want to insult islam, now that the point has been well and truly made I'd like to move on to something else. Moreover, in addition to the hate mail I have had a lot of polite email requests from people asking me to stop showing the cartoons as well as some well written (especially from people who do not speak English as their first language) comments that make good points in their requests that I stop hosting the cartoons. I prefer to reward the people who feel very strongly and ask politely. I think this is the equivalent of the gallery owner deciding that he doesn't need to continue exhibiting a "Piss Christ".
However I will say that while I have mainly had polite emails, there has been plenty of evidence of what I would call unhinged behaviour in my inbox and comments. I'm not publishing the inbox but I'm leaving the comment threads up for posterity so that the world can see the threats, hate and bile that some so-called Muslims consider to be the appropriate response to these cartoons. This leads me to some other thoughts about Islam and I hope the thoughtful Islamic readers/commenters of this blog will accept these comments as an attempt to provide constructive criticism.
The Brittleness of Islam
The cartoon affair has thrown in to sharp relief the essential brittleness of Islam today and the immaturity of some of its believers. There is an English saying that "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" however there is a significant minority of people who claim to be Muslims (if Islam is a religion of peace as it is frequently claimed then I'm not sure they are real Muslims) who seem to prefer killing as the answer to any perceived slight. This is not in fact a sign of strength or self-confidence it is a sign of extreme weakness. It is essentially the strategy of the spoiled child when his parents tell him to eat his spinach and he throws the plate on the floor.
As a number of what I call the real Moslem commenters have said, Allah and Mohammed can defend themselves. If there is an afterlife then Allah will no doubt punish those who deserve it. If Allah considers that a cartoon of his prophet is a sin then no doubt the sinner will go to hell for eternity. Allah does not need help from people on earth to make this choice. The same argument goes for those who indulge in other barbarities in the name of Allah. Consider so-called "honour killings": if your family's honour is so fragile that it is threatened by a sister or daughter deciding to leave then it is not honour but the wounded pride of a jailor who has seen his prisoner escape.
If Islam is so good then people will turn to it voluntarily as Allah will make it clear that Islam is best. If, on the other hand, you have to force them to do so then it is surely a sign that Islam is not so good. At the time of the Mongols the holy men of Islam convinced the Mongols to become Moslems in competition with representatives from a number of other religions, indeed it does so today with missios in various countries in the world. However if Islam is to be a religion not a prison then it has to allow people to leave and to be exposed to alternatives. An Islamic state like Saudi Arabia or Iran is not a sign of strength and the fact that both must employ special religious police to enforce the rules shows it. Islam, at least as practised in both nations (and yes I know one is Sunni and the other Shia), is a state religion and it will fall with the state.
Adapt Islam or Die
Despite my decision to remove the cartoons I certainly believe that the "clash of cultures" between the Secular/Christian West and the Muslim world is real and that the Muslim world must adapt or die. This is not a threat that they will be nuked or otherwise killed by military action, it is a statement about the long term durability of the religion.
When Islam was the leader of the civilized world it was more tolerant and open to the possibility that it could learn from others. Indeed at the time Christianity was the closed intolerant religion and the result was that Christian countries were backward and superstitions. Now Islam has become closed and it will whither away unless it can reform in the way the Christianity did. I think you can draw many parallels between the Islamic states like Saudi Arabia and Iran today and Spain in the 1500s. Spain had enormous plunder from South America in the same way that oil provides enormous wealth to Iran, Saudi Arabia etc. today. The short term gain that Spain received from its empire allowed it to sit out the reformation and that gain has been overshadowed by the centuries of essential irrelevance that followed. Precisely the same fate will befall the Islamic oil producers as the world decides it can use other sources of energy.
When the oil money stops the heart of the Islamic world will need to find an alternative source of income. This will require either a war to conquer other countries and get them to pay tribute or finding something else that they want to buy. In either case the Islamic world will need to have a population that is educated in science and/or engineering and able to turn that education into usable product. In the war case, the events in Afghanistan and Iraq have shown clearly what should have been learned by the various attacks on Israel, and that is that superior technology beats superior numbers. An educational system that praises the memorization of the Koran is NOT an educational system that produces people who can invent things or even one that produces people who can operate compley modern technology. In a war with a literate well-trained army backed up by high technology weapons an untrained army is merely a large number of targets who will survive purely because their opponents get sick of killing them by the thousand.
As for peaceful means of gaining money they too require people who are literate, numerate and able to be creative. Islam, at least as practised in the oil rich parts, seems to actively punish those who seek to create new things. The result is that this part of the world is filled purely with consumers of high technology made by others as witness this photo. Compare with China, India or even Malaysia and the diffierence is clear. These countries may buy some high technology products from Europe or America but they also make many other high technology porducts that they sell to Europe and America. They can do this because their education and culture welcomes and rewards creative effort.
If Islam remains in the form it is in the Arabic world then will become dependant on the charity of the rest of the world. If Islam persists in producing suicide bombers and other terrorists then that charity is going to be in short supply.
The truth behind the cartoons
One reason, it seems to me, why the cartoons were objected to with such fury is that they pointed to unpleasant truths within Islam. It is a fact that apart from some drug-related violence in Latin America and the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka the worst terrorist attacks are produced by so-called Muslims. Unlike the Tamil Tigers or the drug violence so-called Islamic terrorsts have attacked people who have nothing to do with any perceived oppressor. Indeed these so-called Islamic terrorists seem as happy to kill their coreligionists (for example Darfur, the bombs in Morocco or many of the attacks recently in Iraq and Afghanistan) as they are to kill anyone else. When you have people who do this sort of thing then Allah and his religion have an image problem. This problem is compounded in the eyes of the West by the inequalities of Islam. If we are to treat the Koran with respect then Islamic countries need to stop mistreating the Bible. If we are to stop discrimination against Islam in the West then Islamic countries need to stop attacking churches, Christians and other non Muslims in their countries.
Also if Islam wants to be trated with religious respect then - to put it bluntly - it needs to stop being a mode of government. In the West we have found that censorship of government criticism and political satire are in the long run bad. The so-called Muslims who support Osama bin Laden and others like him wish to see the restoration of the Caliphate. This is a government and it makes as much sense therefore to criticise the founder of the school of thought that leads to this government as it does to criticise the founders of communism or Nazi-ism or any other -ism.
One frequent response to the cartoons has been that "we should have known better and expected threats for this sort of behaviour". It is possible that some Muslims think that having a reputation for such behaviour is a sign of strength but it is not. Firstly those who make that response are treating Muslims as if they are immature children or mentally ill. If Islam wants real respect then it does not want to benefit from people humouring them because they are considered to be disabled. Secondly having a reputation for attacking critics means that you are more likely to be discriminated against. No one is going to trust you to behave properly so you won't get a job, you will be hassled more by the police and so on. This is not racism it is simple common sense. The fact that Hamas and co attacked Israel via suicide bombers has directly influenced the economy of the Palestinian territories because Israel has very simply decided to respond to its security threat by stopping contact and hence jobs in Israel and exports through Israel have come to a halt.
Playing into the hands of the racists
The reaction of Muslims to these cartoons is of course a gift to those racist scum that want to rid the world of Arabs and other immigrants. In the UK these protests and particularly the outrageous Muslim placards saying "Behead those who Insult Islam" or "Britain you will pay - 7/7 is on its way", play right into the hands of the BNP. Perhaps worse Muslims who attempt to force silence on their moderate critics leave the field open to the extremists. Today's "Business" has an excellent editorial on the subject:
AFTER being acquitted of incitement to racial hatred last week, Nick Griffin proclaimed his trial to have been the best publicity for his far-right British National Party. He was wrong. A stronger advert was the protest outside the Danish embassy in London against a newspaper that ran cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. Their chant – “UK you will pay, 7/7 is on its way” – made front-page news.
Anyone wishing to portray Islam as a fundamentalist religion that threatens British culture would have been delighted. But what would have pleased Griffin most was the silence from mainstream British political parties.
Last week, Muslims marched in the centre of London chanting "Freedom go to Hell!" There could be no more graphic illustration of the paradox at the heart of the cartoon row. These protesters were exercising - and in many cases abusing - the freedom of protest and freedom of assembly that are foundation stones of British democracy. Yet, even as they exploited these hard-won liberties, they were calling for them to be abolished.
This newspaper would not have published the cartoons of Mohammed at the centre of this controversy, images which we regard as vulgar and fatuously insulting. But - and this is the crucial point - we reserve absolutely our right to make our own decision, free of threat and intimidation. The difficulty is that what started as an issue of editorial judgment has become a question of public order. The protesters in London with their disgraceful slogans - "Behead those who Insult Islam", "Britain you will pay - 7/7 is on its way" - have made it all but impossible for a genuinely free debate on this issue to take place. All such debate is now being carried out in the shadow of murderous intimidation.
[...]The problem is that militant Islam is not seeking a level playing field - equality before the law, for instance - but special treatment. Muslims expect, as they should, the benefits and protections of British pluralism but, in too many cases, baulk at the duties that are their corollary. One of those duties is to accept that, in a free society, there are occasions when each of us is bound to be offended. "Everyone is in favour of free speech," remarked Churchill. "Hardly a day passes without its being extolled. But some people's idea of it is that they are free to say what they like - but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage." There is no excuse for gratuitous offence, of course. But some Muslims might like to consider how insulting their own views on women's rights, theocracy and Western practices are to many non-Muslims. The offensiveness of these views is no reason to close British mosques or Islamic newspapers.
If Muslims continue to over-react like this then they can expect that every racist who wants to cause a riot will run off a few of these pictures and start plastering them on street corners in Muslim areas. And when a riot occurs as a result sympathy will no longer be for the Muslims because it will be felt that they have brought it on themselves. In London on Friday the Muslim protestors were protected from their critics by the police. It would not take much for this situation to be reversed.
The BBC reports that some scientists from my alma mater, a minor fenland seat of learning, have made some very interesting hypotheses about the universe and gathered some evidence to bolster their case:
Using the biggest telescopes in the world, including the Very Large Telescope facility in Chile, the group has made detailed 3D maps of the galaxies, using the movement of their stars to "trace" the impression of the dark matter among them and weigh it very precisely.
With the aid of 7,000 separate measurements, the researchers have been able to establish that the galaxies contain about 400 times the amount of dark matter as they do normal matter.
"The distribution of dark matter bears no relationship to anything you will have read in the literature up to now," explained Professor Gilmore.
"It comes in a 'magic volume' which happens to correspond to an amount which is 30 million times the mass of the Sun.
"It looks like you cannot ever pack it smaller than about 300 parsecs - 1,000 light-years; this stuff will not let you. That tells you a speed actually - about 9km/s - at which the dark matter particles are moving because they are moving too fast to be compressed into a smaller scale.
9km/s is very fast indeed - to put it in terrestrial terms it is something like 25 times the speed of sound (~0.34 km/s) . and it completely changes a number of assumptions about dark matter, which, hitherto, had been considered to move at speeds of millimetres/second (a million times slower).
In their citation the international jury say that “one person has done more than most to catalyze political and public opinion to an understanding that the environment is a fundamental pillar of sustainable development That person is Mr Kofi Annan”.
They note the various reports, requested by the UN Secretary-General in the run up to the 2005 World Summit in New York including “A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility” and “In Larger Freedom”.
The Zayed jury also noted the personal leadership of the Secretary-General at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 in South Africa that addressed the Water, Energy, Health, Agriculture and Biodiversity (WEHAB) themes.
“Five years ago, recognizing the potential threat that environmental degradation posed for people around the world, Mr Annan also called for the first-ever international scientific assessment of the health of the world’s ecosystems,” says the citation. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment reported in 2005, again in the run up to last September’s World Summit.
‘Mr Annan has emphasized the importance of the multilateral system in all facets of his work, convinced that global environmental challenges require global cooperation,” adds the jury.
Klaus Toepfer, chair of the jury and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said: “The jury was faced with many outstanding candidates for the Zayed prizes. But when you look at the overall global impact on politics, business, science and civil society of Mr Annan’s environment and sustainable development-related initiatives, we came to the conclusion he is deservedly the global winner”.
Still its nice for Mr Annan, since at $1 million it should help with any pension shortfalls.
Back to the conference. This seems like a UN attempt to make the world conform to the EU's REACH directive and an attempt by the eco-luddites to spread FUD around and the BBC (a previous winner of the same Zayed prize) is only too happy to go along with them:
According to UN figures, around 1,500 new chemicals are produced each year, adding to the 80,000 the world currently produces.
And those figures are only going to rise.
It is estimated that over the next 15 years there will be an 85% increase in the manufacture of chemicals globally.
Many, says the UN, have not been tested fully or are insufficiently labelled, particularly in the developing world.
The UN is hoping to get agreement on a new approach to managing chemicals, so minimising their effects on human health.
There is indeed a problem with lax enforcement of safety standards in developing nations (and even from time to time in developed ones) but this has very little to do with the number of different chemicals produced. Last year's Songhua river pollution was caused by a spillage of benzene, which is not a new chemical, and this is entirely representative. From Bhopal to Yilin/Harbin the causes of chemical pollution and deaths are lax enforcement of existing safety regulations not the development of new chemicals which is precisely why the key statement of the entire BBC article is:
Signing an agreement is one thing, but the UN and its leader know it will take further leadership to put that agreement into practice.
The UN and its leader are unable to enforce any environmental agreement. What are they going to do? impose a fine on China for pollution? don't make me laugh. This concference is clearly a complete and utter waste of space and time.
(A screech is the proper collective noun for blog posts, like a pride of lions, a murder of crows, an exaltation of larks, or a piteousness of doves. Other well-known collective nouns include: a pillage of Goths, a Depeche Mode of Goths, a bombast of senators, a keg of Kennedys, a garble of Bushes, a smear of Democrats, a revolt of Republicans, a loot of lobbyists, a buck of banks, a condescension of Clintons, a lout of Lotts, a misery of mullahs, and a process of Palestinians.)
Given the utter spinelessness of Her Majesty's Government along with the Metropolitan Police Comissioner and its Hate Crime unit, I believe that he forgot one collective noun - a coward of Blairs. One member of the coward, Anthony, has allowed his foreign secretary to make remarkably spineless comments and has otherwise remained silent with merely a spokesman providing the BBC with quotes:
The behaviour of some Muslim protesters demonstrating in London over cartoons of Prophet Muhammad was "completely unacceptable", Downing Street has said.
A statement from the prime minister's office said police would have "our full support" in any actions they took.
The other member of the coward - Sir Ian - has said even less despite receiving over one hundred complaints about his police force's handling of the protest march. This is not because his police force were unwilling. As a source of the EU Referendum blog notes:
Has Police Hate Crime Unit gone deaf?...
A demonstration where Muslim extremists carried banners inciting murder – whilst Metropolitan Police stood by and did nothing. In fact, despite the clear and blatant law breaking the hundreds of Metropolitan Police officers present were clearly under orders not to arrest anyone – despite feelings to the contrary by many a good copper on duty!
Last month I noted the homophobic hotwater that Sir Idiot Sacranie landed himself in, surely if the hate crimes unit can pull a man in for saying homosexuality is "harmful", then it should be pulling in some of these guys. As both the EU Referendum and Scott's Daily Ablution note, even the Grauniad is upset:
"For centuries, English law has been crammed full of legal powers to arrest people who threaten violence or murder in public, or who go around terrifying ordinary people. On Friday, dozens of prima facie examples of such offences were committed during protests against Danish cartoons which offended Muslims by depicting the prophet Muhammad. One man was dressed in the garb of a suicide bomber, arguably an overt attempt to terrify of the kind that has been illegal in this country since at least the Statute of Northampton in the time of King Edward III, in the 14th century. Others carried placards demanding 'Massacre those who insult Islam', 'Butcher those who mock Islam', 'Europe you'll come crawling when Mujahideen come roaring', 'Britain you will pay: 7/7 on its way', several of which appear to breach the law dating from Victorian times that outlaws soliciting to murder. A toddler on the march was dressed in a hat that said: 'I love al-Qaida.' Many adults on political marches over the years have been convicted of breaches of the peace for much less than that."
Fortunately, some of Britain's Musim leaders, including Sir Idiot's MCB colleagues, agree with the Grauniad and not with the coward of Blairs as the same BBC article notes:
Inayat Bunglawala, a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, said there would be "no sympathy" among Muslims for those who waved "incendiary" placards or banners.
"Those extremists who were inciting violence were trying to hijack genuine feelings amongst Muslims for a more violent agenda," he said.
Given the recent attempt at prosecution of Nick Griffin for calling Islam a "vicious wicked faith" the apparent double standard is striking and, as I suggested in my essay yesterday, plays right into the hands of racists like him. The coward of Blairs might like to think through the consequences of their inaction Permalink
The French trades unions take the "I'm all right jack screw you" award for 2006. As you may recall, at the same time as the initial protesters about the Danish cartoons were rioting in Århus, there was also a little disturbance in La Belle France with a load of mainly uneducated and unemployable petty crooks and druggies publicising their new sport - the Car-B-Q. One result of that was that Vile Pin and his boss l'Escroc announced plans to fix the terrible levels of youth unemployment by making it easier to fire the incompetant.
Well the unions, being unable to understand the concept of risk/reward and how that might apply to employers deciding whether to risk hiring a layabout from the banlieues, decided to go on strike today to protest this minor loosening of the red tape that kills enterprise in France.
So if this law doesn't pass when we see another series of Car-B-Qs be sure to lay the blame at the heart of the selfish leaders of the French Trades Union movement, a group of people who have never found a protectionist practice they couldn't embrace and extend. Permalink
Last night, as I was in bed falling asleep, it occured to me that the "right wing nutjobs" (such as the Grauniad) who claimed that the Muslim outrage about those cartoons of Mo was manufactured have missed some clear evidence in their favour.
As eny fule kno, I was hosting the cartoons on this very website for the whole of January and as some of my earlier comments showed I was surprised to see that it was being viewed by people from Saudi Arabia.
This is partly interesting because I thought that the thought police in Saudi Arabia had blocked access to google, but also perhaps a tad worrying because if the SA techies have done their job someone will be having a look at my page and perhaps sending a note to the boys to send someone around to explain things. So if you hear of a terrorist attack on the Riviera or even a mysterious and motiveless attack and also note no more activity on this blog then just possibly the two are linked....
In fact if you look at my page's stat counter in recent days you will see visitors from practically every Muslim nation on earth. This is truly fascinating because, as I said earlier, internet access for most of these countries is carefully regulated so that citizens are unable to download porn or search for inflamatory topics like "christianity". Yet, despite that the cartoon page was visible and indeed, as I discovered with a little log investigation, clearly cached at the firewalls of these countries (I know that because when I made a couple of modifications to the page I suddenly got a spike in 404 errors all of which came from surfers from Arabic lands attempting to access pages that had moved). Furthermore at one point I had a number of visitors referred to my site from sites that appeared to be official news websites in Saudi Arabia (I can't read Arabic so this is mostly just a theory although there was a Riyadh based English language news site whose URL I have subsequently lost)
Now doesn't it strike the independant reader as odd that a nation which is dtermined to protect its citizens from obscene and blasphemous images should actively promote images which are so insulting to their religion that riots occur?
If anyone wondered why many people in the West consider Islam to be a barbarous intolerant religion full of fanatics ready to blow up at a moment's notice then perhaps they should read the news. Today is Ashura and the BBC has three stories about Sunni fanatics deciding to disrupt the celebrations of their Shia brethren:
Many Muslim apologists try to say that this is no worse than Christianity behaved during the reformation and the point to shameful events like the crusaders who sacked Constantinople but I think this is a bogus argument, there is no reason why Islam should repeat all the mistakes that Christians made in the same time period. Given that the world has developed a great deal in the last 500 years surely Islam could develop a bit faster? Permalink
One of the problems that the world has is that there are too many car makers makign too many cars. Last month Ford bit the bullet and decided to cut a chunk of its manufacturing space. Now the two French car makers: Renault and PSA (Peugeot Citroen) have announced truly horrible drops in profit and sales. PSA reported yesterday:
PSA Peugeot Citroën reported Wednesday that second-half profit slumped 56 percent as slowing sales of its automobiles and Picasso van forced Europe's No. 2 carmaker to cut output and prices. Earnings will be little changed in the first half.
Peugeot's fourth-quarter vehicle sales in western Europe fell 5.5 percent to 597,500 cars and vans, exceeding the market's 2.9 percent drop. Customers were drawn away from the aging 206 and 307 models and Picasso van to more recent competing models including the Golf, made by Volkswagen, Europe's largest auto company, and Renault's Clio subcompact.
The fact that the European market as a whole dropped 2.9% is not good. The fact that Peugeot dropped more is probably less interesting given that it will no doubt be coming out with newer models to replace the older ones. Renault today showed the same problem:
Renault SA, the French carmaker headed by Carlos Ghosn, said second-half profit tumbled 16 percent as sales for the Megane line of compact cars slumped. The company said operating profit this year will fall from 2005's level.
Sales last year of Megane models, which include the Scenic van, fell 8.9 percent worldwide to 820,526 vehicles. In western Europe, demand for the Megane fell 12 percent in 2005 to 619,462 cars and vans.
Renault booked an extra 700 million euros in costs from ``commercial efforts'' last year compared with 2004 as it discounted cars to try to attract customers, Moulonguet said, without providing a total figure.
What this last bit is saying is that even with discounts it is proving hard to shift cars, a classic sign of an over supplied market. This is something that I can confirm through anecdotal discussions with car dealers as a result of part of my day job. The European dealers report a significant amount of what we in the high tech world call "Channel stuffing", i.e. pushing manufactured product into the distribution channel even though the distribution channel has sufficient to meet demand.
There are some good reasons why car makers are in trouble, particularly in Europe. Firstly there is the overall economy which is less than robust with high unemployment, high taxation and no growth, leading to a decline in disposable income. Then there is the slow but steady improvement in quality of cars made in places like China or Romania which means that those based in higher wage economies have a problem since labour costs are a major cost factor. In addition it is arguable that car makers are victims of their own success in improving the safety and reliabilitiy of their product. In the 1970s cars would rust away or otherwise suffer problems that meant that after five years or so it was usually worth throwing them away and buying a new one. These days most cars run just fine for ten years or perhaps longer. Since the (European) population isn't growing much even though the percentage of people owning cars is gradually rising this doesn't counteract the huge improvement in quality of the product.
Most people can find out here - but people in France and maybe some other countries where google video is not supported will have to go here instead (NSFW unless you have earphones). The second link is a trick I have learned of courtesy of the Blue Witch where you use the google translate service as a proxy. This is intended to solve the "some censor is blocking my internet access" problem but it also seems to solve the "country is not the USA" problem that affects a few websites and that is what I'm using it for.
If you drag this ProxyURL link up to your Mozilla/Firefox Personal toolbar or Internet Exploder's equivalent then whenever you hit content that is blocked for either of the two reasons above you can click on the link to get a proxy copy. You get a chance to edit the link before it is submitted. This is so that either you can paste in an entirely different one or because the proxy software decided to redirect you to some whiney error page and you need to remove the first part of the URL. Permalink
Japan is well known for its desire to hunt whales and eat them. Unfortunately while the Japanese may still like hunting them, this AP report notes that they are increasingly unwilling to eat them:
TOKYO - Japan has enticed children with whale burger school lunches, sung the praises of the red meat in colorful pamphlets, and declared whale hunting "a national heritage."
But Tokyo has a dilemma: by rapidly expanding its whale hunt, Japan now kills more of the giant mammals than its consumers care to eat.
The result is an unprecedented glut of whale meat. Prices — once about $15 a pound — are plunging, inventories are bursting, and promoters are scrambling to get Japanese to eat more whale.
It's a tough sell.
"To put it simply, whale meat tastes horrible," said 30-year-old Kosuke Nakamura, one of the diners at a Hana No Mai restaurant in Tokyo who turned their noses up at whale meat.
The result is that there is a bit of a whalemeat mountain:
Some 1,035 tons of whale meat hit the market in Japan last year, a 65 percent increase from 1995, the Fisheries Agency says. And sluggish demand means inventories have almost doubled in five years to 2,704 tons in 2004.
You might think that if you had 2700 tons of the stuff sitting around uneaten then you would cut down on the production, but you'd be wrong, despite prices dropping and tons of supply Japan is apparently intending to increase its whale harvest by some 40%:
But the glut of whale meat hasn't stopped the harpoon guns. Tokyo plans to kill — under a research program — some 1,070 minke whales in 2006, over 400 more than last year. Japan will also hunt 10 fin whales, and a total of 160 Bryde's, sei and sperm whales, fisheries official Kenji Masuda said.
I guess the government is going to have to do a lot more marketing since, apparently, the idea of ceaseing whaling is not on the agenda. There are times when I like Japan and think its government is right in being assertive but this is definitely not one of them.
New Sisyphus writes an interesting summary of Huntingdon's Clash of Civilizations which contains in part:
First, Huntington defines a civilization as the highest order of a social group to which a person will readily identify himself. For example, an Italian man in a cafe in Rome would probably identify himself, in ascending order, as: a Roman, an Italian, a European, a man of the West, while a similar man in a cafe in Cairo would identify himself as a Cairo-ite, an Egyptian, a Muslim. With that definition in hand, Huntington identifies seven major world civilizations active today, with their "core state," that is, the leading state or states that stand for and defend the given civilization:
1) West: Non-orthodox Europe, U.K., Ireland, Iceland, Greenland, Canada, United States, Australia, New Zealand (I would add Israel to this list; Huntington does not and, in fact, barely mentions it at all in his book, largely, one suspects, because it is a civilizational unit of its own that would tend to muddy the waters of his high-level overview).
Core States: United States of America, United Kingdom, Germany, France
5) Sunic: China, most of Southeast Asia, Korea
Core State: People's Republic of China.
7) Japanese: Japan. The only one-state civilization left in the world.
And then he says that one of the challenges for the West is
5) to slow the drift of Japan away from the West and toward accommodation with China;
I wrote a comment disagreeing with this which I think is worth expanding on.
Firstly the question is whether Japan is still a separate culture/civilization. Or to put it another way is Japan more different to the USA than say France or Iceland? 150 years ago there is no doubt that the answer to that would be yes. Before the Meiji restoration Japan resembled its Asian neighbours Korea and China in that it had a decadent inward looking government. The key difference is how it reacted when it learned of the results of Western industrialization. My knowledge of late 19th century Korea history is poor but to the best of my knowledge only Japan (after a certain amount of civil war) decided to remodel itself on the new Western model. Certainly if other East Asian states attempted to do the same they failed. In roughly 30 years from 1865-1895 Japan sent teams of students to Europe and the USA and borrowed what seemed to be the best of what was on offer. In the process it formed strong and lasting ties with key western institutions such as the Royal Navy, ties which lasted at least until the 1920s.
In 1894/1895 Japan showed how much it had learned by fighting and winning the first Sino-Japanese war and in the process conquering Korea and receiving Taiwan as war spoils. It is my contention that the Triple Interverntion of Russia, France and Germany at the end of that war was in fact a contributing factor to Japan's subsequent single-minded militarization and hence to its involvement on the wrong side in WW2 - a war which was primarily a war of competing ideologies within the West. However all of that process was very much in the Western tradition. It is I think reasonable to suggest that Japan looked at the major colonial European powers and imitated them rather too well in that it also failed to recognize that Empire was in fact a bad idea, however given the world as it was in the latter half of the 19th century it is hard to see what other conclusion could be drawn.
Today it seems to me that Japan is philosophically Western. This doesn't mean that it wears baseball caps or even that it plays baseball, although it does both (something that France does not) but that it is fully capitalist and democratic, albeit somewhat dirigist (as is France), and secure in its identity as a nation (again like France). Just as with France it contribites more than just industrial product to the west, it also adds cultural product, from Sushi to Anime, and absorbs in return the output of Hollywood and the luxury goods of Europe. Moreover thanks to its brief colonial period it faces a legacy discontent from unhappy former colonies that is shared only by the West and, to the extent that it has left, Russia. This legacy also means that it is highly unlikely to actually return to the Asian fold because its near Asian neighbours were the ones who suffered the most from its attempts to become a "Great Power".
This means that the challenge above "to slow the drift of Japan away from the West and toward accommodation with China" is bunk and the wrong question. Japan has attempted to become part of the West since 1865 and has remained loyal to this dream despite rebuffs from the West in 1895, 1919 and the 1940s and it still is doing so because Japan has looked at the world and seen that over all the Western ideology provides the greatest success. The more interesting question, alluded to by Plunge recently thanks to this FT article, is to what extent can Japan spin other nations out of the Chinese orbit - particularly Taiwan and Korea.
The PRC today could not really do more than they do already to make both Japan and Taiwan nervous and look to common interests. Although there are some minor border issues between the two in the main both are far more concerned by the activities of their large neighbour than about disagreements with each other. So long as the PRC makes bellicose statements both countries will fail to come into the Chinese orbit. To a lesser extent I think the same could be said for the Philipines which also considers that these days a mercantilist Japan is less of a threat than a warmongering PRC and where, while Japanese occupation was bad, the longer US occupation seems to have been more resented.
The tricky country is Korea. N Korea is currently firmly under the Chinese thumb and S Korea seems to be behaving in precisely the way that Japan didn't after WW2. Although Korea still has much US influence and indeed considerable common interests the S Koreans seem determined to pick fights with the US and with Japan despite those two countries being the ones that a neutral third party would think were its natural allies against N Korea and the PRC: To some extent this is the growing pains of a newly democratic nation and I think the comment I heard in Tokyo nearly 15 years ago that S Korea is just like Japan 20 years earlier is probably mostly correct and probably still holds true despite over a decade passing. Obviously the analogy should not be stretched too far but it does hold in terms of internal market liberalization and general acceptance of the idea that foreign companies could own large Korean ones. Unfortunately the Japanese politicians in the process of thumbing their nose at China also manage to piss off Korea and this is bad for any attempt to fully integrate Korea into the West. Permalink
Last year 3GSM bowed to reality and quit the cramped quarters of the Palais des Festivals in Cannes so this is the forst 3GSM congress in Barcalona. Just as Barcalona is a far bigger city than Cannes, so 3GSM here is a huge increase on 3GSM in Cannes. However that hasn't sopped the overcrowding of the exhibit halls which are still mostly jam packed with visitors.
Given the prices charged - €600 for an "on the day" registration for the exhibits only and far more for conference attendees - if the FT is right and its prediction of 40,000 attendees is correct then someone is making some serious money. I begin to understand why the conference organizers might be ever so slightly miffed that the 3GSM forum is going to organize the event itself next year and just outsource the logisitics to the current organizers. Given the fact that both attendees and exhibitors pay there seems like a lot of money to go around so I have no doubt that the rumours that additional "commissions" were payable by exhibitors who wanted a better position are utterly unfounded.
The buzz at the conference revolves around two ideas
GPS and related location sercives
Digital TV (DVB-H and 5000 related acronyms)
Neither of these things is new precisely but both are now apparently practical. There is of course mention of 3G speeds and speed upgrades such as HSPDA but both these and the other buzzword of last year - Wifi/3G convergence - seem to have entered into the lexicon of "problem solved - boring roll out and implementation". This is probably healthy because it is the applications like DVB that will make people pay for 3G.
Location is interesting: although there are GPS chipset vendors there don't seem to be that many phones that contain built in GPS: Unlike, say, camera phones a couple of years ago, GPS chipsets are not being integrated everywhere although the services are being hyped far and wide. As far as I can tell the idea seems to be to have an external (bluetooth connected) GPS receiver to provide the location information.
Something that I noticed last year is even more true this year and that is that the "fizz" is back. There ia plenty of money to spend on marketing gimmicks and that formerly endangered species - the booth babe - has returned.in strength. Outside of the "adult content" section the booth with the biggest babes to real person ratio appears to be CBOSS. Last year in Cannes they had plenty and they seem to have decided that twice the booth area requires twice asmany scantily clad young ladies. CBOSS make software to run on mobile hardware but their marketing strategy seems to revolve around (the overwhelmingly male) visitors desire to ahh run their hardware in CBOSS's mobile software. I'd love to say they are wrong but I fear that they have judged their market well even though we all joke about it.
There is still a lack of Americans. Not none, but it is clear that 3GSM and related technologies are not dominated by the usual USA + Taiwan/Israel/India group that seems to run other parts of high tech. Also notable is that both Huawei and ZTE (leadig mainland Chinese vendors) have decided to graduate to the big money and their booths are as big and as hyped as those of Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung etc.Last year their stands where in the smaller halls whereas this year they are in the big vendor hall.
3GSM does not seem to be very concerned by the threat of displacement by WiFi or WiMAX. There are both WiMAX and WiFi vendors present and planty of people offering test equipment and UMA (converged WiFi / Cellular) offerings, such as Cicero Networks or Kineto Wireless, but it seems clear that the consesnsus is that these technologies will not replace cellular but may well complement it. Permalink
Due to a minor issuette with the Spanish DSL network that I am using while at 3GSM, yesterday's post was unavailable (anyone in Spain who wishes to have the function of critical network elements such as the DNS explained to them is invited to contact me and for a small sum I will explain). However just as with day 2, day 3 was busy with deals and sicussions happening everywhere.
Anyway to get down to the niitty gritty, it was suggested that I explain what I meant by giving the "Booth-Babe" award to CBOSS, I trust the image below is sufficient - note the large open space completely unfilled by CBOSS marketing folks keen to extol the benefits of their wares.
Other minor amusements concerned German giant Siemens. Firstly there was the intriguing joint venture to provide sponsorship of the roof support with Nokia
Then there was the case of Huawei & the Shanghai Maglev, which is the fastest ground based public transportation service in the world.
Huawei, as any reader of the trade press knows, demonstrated an interesting attitude to Intellectual Property rights with regard to the routers of a little company called Cisco and, although it seems that they have subsequently recognised that copyright and patent are indeed important ideas that deserve respect, they still seem unclear on the concept of correct attribution. As the photo illustrates they appear to be taking credit in their marketing material for the works of others since the Shanghai Maglev technology was developed and the lead parts constructed by a large German company beginning with S and so far as I know Huawei contributed nothing to the porject.
One thing that did most definitely strike me was the absence of certain companies. Last time I mentioned that Americans were thin on the ground, this time I think I'll be more specific. Firstly Google was absent from the exhibition hall (although I believe it did have a private meeting room somewhere). Now Google is not exactly a mobile phone supplier but it certainly is a mobile content provider and hence, given that 3GSM is the leading gathering for Mobile Operators one might have expected a little more publicity. Given that Skype has made all sorts of remarks about WiFi and VOIP and given that even giants like Nokia got around to annoucing WiFi and VOIP enabled phones Skype's absense was also rather surprising. I think it is true that Skype is hyped a lot but its absence allowed ts competitors free rein to say what they will without fear of contradiction.
The most common prize giveway at the show is an iPod - despite the lack of Apple A common and highly valued freebie is a USB flash drive - PS thanks very much Scottish Development International for both the flash drive and the wee drams but no thanks for the piper.
SDI, by the way, seems symptomatic as there are a lot of county or region specific booths where government development departments have sponsored the space to present what they hope are promising startups. As well as Scotland there were also country booths from at least Ireland, the UK, Finland, Sweden, Holland, Hungary, Iceland and two regions of France: Brittany and Sophia Antipolis. Permalink
I just realized that I actually failed to post my usual Friday Olive Tree picture - so here it is. This photo is taken near Fayence in the Var on the way to Mons, but it could be anywhere. These irrigation tanks are ubiquitous. As always click on the image to see it enlarged and click here to see last week's image.
Michelle Malkin states that her site has been the subject of a DoS attack because she has published the cartoons as has zombietime. [FWIW they are not alone, this site has been the subject of DoS attacks because of my Danish cartoon page, although (and not criticisinng Michelle or her hosting company) since my hosting provider and I both understand TCP/IP and everything related, the only time the site was off the air was when we were literally attempting to serve millions of genuine visitors on a bandwidth budget that expected hundreds - you want DoS proof internet sites call us ]. This is almost as counter productive as the banners in London, Pakistan or wherever with their slogans about "Behead the cartoonists" or "Free Speech is Western Terrorism". If the Islamists wish to convince the rest of us that their religion really is one of peace then they probably need to work on their PR skills.
I understand that these abusers of Islam are a minority, although one that seems to be distributed through most of the Islamic world, but that doesn't stop me from thinking that they should be restrained and denounced by their co-religionists. Let me be clear I have no problem with demonstrations or marches or people boycotting Denmark, or even, arranging trade sanctions against it or the EU or anywhere else, indeed it seems to me that this is the hallmark of reasonable protest. I think it is misguided protest but I don't see why people who feel strongly should not do it. Others may feel that my boycotting of Sony becuase of their DRM attitude is just as misguided. Where I have a problem with these so-called defenders of Islam is that they seem to prefer to use violence and coercion rather than persuasion. As Flemming Rose - the editor of the Jyllands Posten - wrote in the WaPo recently:
One cartoon -- depicting the prophet with a bomb in his turban -- has drawn the harshest criticism. Angry voices claim the cartoon is saying that the prophet is a terrorist or that every Muslim is a terrorist. I read it differently: Some individuals have taken the religion of Islam hostage by committing terrorist acts in the name of the prophet. They are the ones who have given the religion a bad name.
What gets me even more annoyed about the Islamic world, at least as portrayed here in the West, is that people seem more concerned by the depiction of Muhammed than about the hundreds of deaths in man-made disasters in the middle east over the last few months. Firstly there was the annual carnage during the Hajj when, as every year it seems, hundreds of pilgrims were crushed to death in stampedes and more killed when a hotel collapsed beforehand. Then there was the 1000 or so Egyptians who died when their ferry sank. Then there is the ongoing mess that is Iraq, the plight of the Kashmiris who lost everything in the earthquake in October, regular attacks on Christians in Nigeria, Pakista, Indonesia and (on Shias too for that matter) and so on. Somehow it seems that none of these are more important than the dishonour and/or blasphemy of 12 Danish cartoonists. I think that sort of attitude - if it is the real attitude and not that invented by Western media - is truly stupid and I don't think I am alone. This excellent Kuro5hin article puts it very well:
A lot of us in the West are bewildered. We understand the repugnance in your reaction, we just don't understand the ferocity and scale of it. Which of course, is an observation that can be turned on its head: maybe you can be equally bewildered as to why we are so nonplussed by a vile insult to a great world religion. And upon that essential misunderstanding, so much bedeviling of the world right now turns.
The bridging of these two positions is what I am getting at: your tolerance is more necessary than our restraint. Not because the West will respond to your lack of restraint, but because you will reduce yourself, you will weaken yourself, no matter what the West says or does. What arrogance is this? Who am I to speak? I am a secularist from the West. I respect Islam. I revere the Muslim world for the great advances in science- algebra, alchemy, etc., that the Muslim world made while Europeans were busy with tribal warfare.
The advances the Muslim world made centuries ago were made in an environment of enlightenment. Enlightenment is not about disrespecting religious teachings. Enlightenment is about allowing the mind to go to places that religious teachings might not wholly support. It is in this environment of tolerance to new ideas, some bad, some good, some possibly blasphemy, but not necessarily so, that man's creative energies have the best chance to enrich our lives. Islam in its golden age did very much enrich mankind. What happened in Europe after the Middle Ages was the enlightenment the Muslim world already knew, but it seems that the Muslim world stagnated while Europe picked up where the golden age of Islam let off.
PS Holocaust Denial = Danish Cartoons
A couple of comments on my blog have noted the apparent double standard of Austria in that it crimminalizes Holocaust denial but not other forms of hate speech. Let me make it clear that I join with allthoseothers in the West who think that the Austrians are wrong. I think Holocaust deniers are at best stupid and misguided and at worst evil but I see no reason why they should be forbidden from stating their beliefs. Just as I see no reason why some of the British intelligensia should not be permitted to deny the megadeaths due to Comrades Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot etc. This gets right back to the problem that the kuro5hin article articulates: tolerance leads to development, intolerance leads to stagnation.
BTW the above are by no means alone in suffering from this intolerance problem: one problem I have with Creationists, Intelligent Deisgn believers etc. is that they mostly end up in precisely the same dead end. By not admitting the possibility that they could be wrong they stifle research that could prove them to be correct.
Not content with sucking up to the Communists in China, the Register reports that Yahoo is limiting the use of Allah in email names although curiously it does not seem to be terribly consistent about what it will or will not allow:
...Yahoo! will not accept any identies which include the letters "allah".
Nor will Yahoo! accept yahoo, osama or binladen. But it will accept god, messiah, jesus, jehova, buddah, satan and both priest and pedophile.
It's a bit of a blow if your name happens to be Callahan or you like the idea of using a nickname like "Desk Wallah" or indeed any other sort of wallah...
There are many charming aspects to Shimaneken, which is one of Japan's least spoiled and least populated prefectures. In addition to containing my in-laws (and hence providing me with free board and lodging) it has numerous beautiful natural and cultural treasures and, thanks to lavish central government pork, is remarkably well supplied with roads, DSL and the other trimmings of modern life. Not only that, it has the sort of food that is a Japanophile gourmet's delight with "Kobe" beef at half the price of the real thing, fresh fish from the Japan Sea and delicious locally grown mushrooms, soba etc etc. I enjoy visiting the place and would love to figure out a way to live there and get paid to do so, and als love to figure out how to get foreign tourists to visit because it really is the sort of rural Japan that foreigners hope to find but rarely do because they can't afford more than a week of the standard "TokyoKyotoHiroshima plus maybe a day at Nara/Nikko/Kamakura".
Unfortunately despite all the above it also contains local politicians who seem to be about as clueless as it is possible to be. The prefectural legislature has declared that today is "Takeshima Day" in celebration of Japan's official seizing of the islands known to most of the rest of the world as Dokdo (or Tokdo) in 1905:
(Kyodo) _ Shimane Prefecture will mark the first "Takeshima Day" on Wednesday, which the western Japan local government designated in March last year to claim the disputed group of South Korean-controlled islets in the Sea of Japan.
Several memorial events will be held with the attendance of Gov. Nobuyoshi Sumita, despite South Korean calls to cancel them.
The designation of the memorial day has led already strained bilateral ties to deteriorate further, with Japan insisting Takeshima, which consists of two small islets and numerous reefs, is part of the prefecture, while South Korea argues the islands, which it calls Dokdo, are part of North Gyeongsang Province.
The Shimane prefectural government says the ordinance is aimed at raising public awareness about the Feb. 22, 1905, issuance of a prefectural notice that declared the islets as part of Shimane.
These islands are Korean and the only claims that Japan has to them are based on the same sorts of legalistic parsing of treaties that leads us all to hate insurance companies when we want to make a claim. Their incorporation into Japan in 1905 was part and parcel of Japan's conquest of Korea and its general wiping out of competing local powers like Russia.
According to the two countries' agreement concerning fisheries that went into effect in 1999, neither country is to establish an exclusive economic zone around the island, and they are to jointly administer the area surrounding the island by designating it as a provisional area.
But Japanese fishing vessels have been all but excluded from the area, leading frustrated fishermen in the prefecture to back the ordinance.
I am about 99% certain that the Koreans violated the fishing agreement out of basic greed - as Japundit also explained last year - and given that Shimane has a lot of fishing ports (see pictures below) it should be no surprise that the local legislature is keen to support its fishermen but I think "Takeshima Day" is probably not the right way to do this. In fact I would say that it is precisely the wrong way to do it because it gets a whole bunch of nationalistic morons on both sides worked up and inspires sheeplike politicians to take stands that will impede sensible negotiation. Permalink
We went down to New York for the long weekend. Despite the 16-degree weather, we walked down to Times Square - all the bright lights lured us the ten blocks from our hotel. When we got there, we stood like, well, tourists, gaping at all the electronic billboards. And then, across the square, I saw it: the world's largest Windows error message - on a two-story high e-billboard (I guess everything really is bigger in New York). It was the only billboard in the entire square with absolutely no movement - since the PC running it had obviously frozen.
For those that don't want to click the image is below:
My post yesterday about Yahoo banning Allah names is no longer correct if it ever was - you can verify this by emailing me at email@example.com . BTW I chose the nickname and the yahoo.co.uk domain deliberately to see if there was something about insults and allah that might be rejected and discovered that there isn't and to see whether this was a UK vs US thing (likewise it isn't). After the next couple of days during which I shall use the address as a test and will reply to people who want me to prove it I shall no longer use the account for anything except as a test to see how much spam it harvests.
The 2 minutes of journalistic research needed to verify the accuracy of this story was done first by Pete Blackwall aka allah4500231 - linked to by the Instapundit. My excuse for not doing the same first was that I read it in The Register which is usually reliable.
Instant update: The Reg has a new story stating that Yahoo have unbanned the name Allah
Yahoo! said in a statement: "We continuously evaluate abuse patterns in registration usernames to help prevent spam, fraud and other inappropriate behavior. A small number of people registered for IDs using specific terms with the sole purpose of promoting hate, and then used those IDs to post content that was harmful or threatening to others, thus violating Yahoo!'s Terms of Service.
Given my choice of id as noted above I wonder if this will last... Permalink
OK this isn't funny really. No really it isn't. Snort. Snort.
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - A teenage guitarist got so carried away while bouncing up and down on his bed mimicking a rock star that he flew out of a third floor window to his death, a Singapore newspaper reported Wednesday.
The Straits Times said Li Xiao Meng, a 16-year-old from China who was studying at Singapore's Hua Business School, was a keen musician who liked to jump up and down while playing his guitar in his hostel room.
"But on November 17 he took things a bit too far," the newspaper said, reporting on a coroner's court findings.
Ruling death by misadventure, the court said evidence "points to the deceased unintentionally falling out of the window to his death when he was hyped up with exhilaration, jumping up and down on the bed placed against an open window while mimicking a rock guitarist."
Anyway it makes a great Darwin award winner for 2006
So here is one from our garden one evening earlier this month. This is actually the top of my favourite regrowing olive tree that has featured in numerous previous photos because it shows the basic resilience of the species. From a mere stump six years ago this is now a sapling about 3m/10 ft tall and I'm considering pruning it this year for the first time. As always click on the image to enlarge and don't forget to visit the previosu image posted err earlier this week
One of the three cartoons below has caused riots; one is causing a newspapereditorbig trouble with the government and one is just par for the course. Anyone want to take a wild guess at which is which.
Personally I find the last one to be probably the most insulting to Arabs but yet you can just tell that no one is going to riot about it... or even care. Permalink
There are many things I dislike about the BBC and its news and current affairs coverage which is frequently, IMO, biased and reflexively in favour of big governments, transnational bureaucracies and against America, Israel and self-sufficiency. However the BBC is not uniformly bad and, of all the MSM outlets, it does seem to be one of those that really "groks" the blogosphere and the Internet and what this means for the MSM.
Today's example is a "From Our Own Correspondent" article about the USA and the Democratic Party. Read it all, it is clearly one journalist's opinion and I disgagree with him in parts but yet on the whole this is probably the most refreshing view of the sad state of the Democratic Party that I have ever read, partly because it is clear that the author is a "liberal" and sympathises with the Democrats. Some excerpts:
But the [bumper] stickers which have caught my attention and which I think are part of a noteworthy political phenomenon here are those that say, in bold letters, "Re-defeat George Bush".
These, of course, refer to the election of 2000 in which more Americans voted for Al Gore, but which was awarded to Mr Bush by the Supreme Court after that voting snafu in Florida.
The stickers were part of the campaign of 2004, but were answered, it seems to me, by the result of that election.
The nation plainly elected Mr Bush - he won more than 50% of the vote - something Bill Clinton never managed.
So why is it that Democrats can't move on? The answer is that they don't know where to go.
On the Iraq war, for instance.
Are they for it or against it?
When it goes badly they are against it, but in the few months last year when elections were first held in Iraq they were rather for it.
Now, there are plenty of Americans who still hold those [liberal/progressive] views, but the arteries which once fed them into the nation's vital organs, have been clogged or cut.
The universities do not have the power they did, professorial authority is less respected.
Most importantly, the worlds of entertainment and news (which used to pipe a vaguely left-wing message into the nation's homes) have been blown to bits by technological changes which render them powerless.
There are 600 channels on my television. I never watch any of them.
But if I did the chances that my neighbour has watched the same thing (particularly when you add the broadband internet options now available) have shrunk to virtually nil in the past few years.
The Democrats need a message and a new way of communicating that message to a mass audience. They have neither.
Majikthise has some thoughts about the "War on Drugs" where she is proposing to adopt the techniques of the "far right" to get her vision implemented - I'm not going to quote it because you should read it all. I think this is a great idea and one that I support for lots of reasons. I am, along with a significant proportion of the "conservative blogosphere" completely against the "war on drugs" as it is fought today. Whether I count as far right is debatable - I'm pro-choice on everything and anti-big government - as are the Insta- and Vodka-pundits and a whole host of others. The problem I have with the "liberals" and "progressives" is that they seem unable to understand incentives, the law of unintended consequences, and the idea that the best help is self-help. Oh and don't get me started on love affair with bloodthirsty communist tyrants, their generosity in spending other people's money and their general inability to connect cause with effect. Anyway I think that Majikthise is onto a good idea and one that in fact stands a chance in splitting off the libertarian right from the big government religious right at a local level.
There are however a few points that I wish to make in the spirit of constructive criticism. The first is that local union idea is potentially a bad one if, as I recommend, you want to get the libertarian right on your side. Unions, particularly public school unions have a horrible reputation with the right of all stripes because they are seen as being comunist dinosaurs. The reason why we libertarian sorts dislike these unions is not so much because of their communism as their disdain for things like personal responsibility and their protectionism when it comes to their members whoich means that they campaign to increase the size of the public trough and reject sensible measures to cut it such as school vouchers.
The suggestion to get a more liberal drug policy acepted as common wisdom is, on the other hand, a good one. There is a strong libertarian case for this as well as lots of common sense and historical precedent (see Prohibition). Regulating and taxing the supply of currently illegal drugs would be far better than the current solution and would probably significantly reduce the crime rate. However the key needs to be to also look at the generally failing "illegal but tolerated" policies of Europe which have made it easier for the middle classes to snort cocaine but not really helped the poor to escape from drug-related criminality.
On a related note - it may also help to reframe the debate about the "evils of drugs" if you act a bit more tolerant of the currently legal drugs tobacco and alcohol. There is a significant chunk of the world which sees (second hand) smoke as being far less unpleasant that mainlining heroin so seeking to ban smoking while also proposing to increase tolerance of other drugs is clearly inconsistent and hypocritical. That's bad for the case and is another area where unions tend not to help. If you want to get people to sympathise with your position you have to be consistent (Note Majikthise doesn't mention 2nd hand smoke and she may be consistent here but I note that a lot of "liberal" people aren't consistent on this issue).
In addition, something that the conservatives have done well is seek to build alliances - the whole Iraq war effort is an example - as indeed is the "cartoon war" coverage. But it is possible to build broader alliances - the bipartisan blogospheric attacks on the FECs blog/web regulation is a good example of how it is possible to get people who are not normally friends on the same side. The important thing here is to deliberately seek out people that you would otherwise disagree with and to make it clear as I am trying to do in this post that in some issues you can work with people that you otherwise disagree with. Heck do it right and you might manage to reverse the current republican sweep of the government by splitting off the part of the republican big tent that is nervsou about those fundemntalist Christian sorts. Permalink I despise l'Escroc and Vile