Friday, August 31, 2007

Labour running scared

I can tell from the wannabe-muckraking google searches that bring GLA employees and Labour Party sympathisers to this blog, because of my recent post about Boris Johnson, that the Labour machine is terrified of him.

Iain Dale points to a piece in that shows just how desperate they are becoming. The Labour ginger group Compass has produced a report:

portraying their likely opponent, Boris Johnson, as a "fanatical" member of the "Tory hard right" and "Norman Tebbit in a clown's uniform" [but which] is based on a systematic distortion of Johnson's views
That's an understatement:
One article cited as proving Johnson's "support" for George W Bush actually has him describing the President as "serially incompetent", a "cross-eyed warmonger" and "maniac" whose re-election in 2004 was "the most dismal awakening of my life".

A quote about his "fanatical" backing of the Iraq invasion comes from a pre-war article that condemns the Blair Government's "cynical and ludicrous" attempts to scare the public about Saddam's alleged WMD and says: "If we are really concerned about the weapons of mass destruction, then let the UN [inspection] process work itself through."

The report condemns Johnson's support for the Iraq war, nuclear power, more private finance in the NHS, and large-scale cuts to the civil service as a "real threat" to London's "progressive consensus" without saying these are also Labour Party policy.

If this is the best they can do, Boris can start getting measured for the Mayoral gown, and he knows it:
Johnson, whose campaign formally launches on Monday, said: "I think it is an abuse of the human rights of Ken's supporters that they have been obliged to read all my books. But I do very much hope that they can be persuaded to continue with this risible line of attack."

Islamic colonisation of Africa

Not everyone is unaware of this issue. Take two posts from black American conservative Shay at Booker Rising.

This one:

Of course Arabs living in northern Africa have a different agenda. For the overwhelming majority of them are not genetically nor culturally African, but Arab occupiers of black land. This is point lost when Arabs wail incessantly - and expect black folks to follow suit - about Israel's sliver of real estate in the Middle East. Yet if Arabs and their diaspora can call to push Jews out of Israel (their ancestral home) in order to have a Jew-free Middle East, then certainly Africans and us diasporans can call to push the Arabs out of northern Africa (which is not their ancestral home) and back onto the Arabian peninsula and further so we have an Arab-free Africa. Reclaiming this land should be a long-term goal of pan-African unity. However, I would argue that the Arab agenda is hardly hidden, as they've been trying to dominate Africa off and on for centuries.
And this one:
It is great that Africa is taking more of a lead on Darfur. As an American of Cameroonian, Chadian, and Nigerian descent, I am glad that two of my ancestral countries are in the mix. My only concern is whether the allocated troops are well-trained enough and have enough firepower to take down the janjaweed. After all, this may be the reason why the president of Sudan - an Arabized Muslim government that is backing the janjaweed as they wipe out the black population - is so supportive of this peacekeepers proposal.

Russia to build permanent manned moon station

By 2032:

Russia plans to send a manned mission to the Moon by 2025 and wants to build a permanent base there shortly after, the head of Russian space agency Roskosmos said Friday.


Via Benny Peiser, is Environmentalism a religion? You be the judge:

Dom Anthony Sutch, the Benedictine monk who resigned as head of Downside School to become a parish priest in Suffolk, will be at the county’s Waveney Greenpeace festival this weekend to hear eco-confessions in what is thought to be the first dedicated confessional booth of its kind.

Vested in a green chasuble-style garment made from recycled curtains, and in a booth constructed of recycled doors, he will hear the sins of of those who have not recycled the things they ought to have done and who have consumed the things they ought not to have done.

There is no Ummah

Ali Eterez is characteristically acute here:

The ads abound. “Indian parents of young woman seeking Indian, preferably Punjabi man…no other need apply”; “Syrian-Born stallion seeking beautiful girl from the homeland…No Lebanese Scum!”; “Morrocan Spanish speaker seeks Morrocan Mami…Evaluating Strictly.” This is the state of marriage among Muslims.

On the other hand, everywhere I look Muslims are brandishing the slogans of Universal Brotherhood, of Ummah, of a Unified Islamic State, of a Modern All Expansive Caliphate.

How can it be that as far as marriage and multiplication is concerned, Muslims have no interest in looking outside of their narrow cultural spheres, but when it comes to power they suddenly become eager beavers who throw aside all their differences for the sake of an Imagined Unity?
Our marriage patterns, therefore, demonstrate most conclusively that there is no ummah, just culturalisms and nationalisms and languagisms. Let’s stop faking the existence of a cultural ummah, and recognize it for what it is: a vague spiritual idea that not even the ultra-pretentious among the pietists live up to, prone as they are to plundering other Muslims over purported (im)piety (thus making my point doubly).

Now, an Ummah given to economic and social justice I can get with. But the pretentiouspietists will never get behind that sort of an ummah, because it is inclusive.
And makes an interesting point here:
Consider this: in recent years there has been no shortage of Protestant leaders deriding, mocking, and vilifying Islam. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson have often made patronizing remarks towards Islam, and have even directly insulted the Prophet. Even evangelical leaders, generals and bureaucrats have made anti-Islam remarks, all the way from suggesting that Mecca should be nuked, to that Muslims should be converted to Christianity by force. Yet at no point during these remarks did Muslims worldwide give the kind of response (or any response for that matter) as they did when Pope Benedict said something negative of Islam (in a scholastic speech of all places). This makes the essential point that in the Muslim world there is only one representative of Christianity, and it is the Pope. Neo-Conservatism, headed by George Bush, never commanded this kind of recognition in the Muslim world. It was seen as a bastardized version of colonialism and immediately distrusted. As such, any intervention from it was deemed by Muslims immediately suspect. On the other hand, Muslims are less likely to believe that the Pontiff is, or needs to, engage in geo-political posturing, or is driven by a lust for oil. As such, when the Pontiff puts forward his version of a compassionate global conservatism, he has a greater chance of being believed.
This last quote in the context of the Pope's Regensberg speech last year. Unfortunately Eterez doesn't yet grasp the full purport of that speech, which was actually a direct statement that the Muslim view of God is wrong, and that they should all become Christians.

Alternative medicine explained

By the barefoot doctor:

Dawkins seems to be stuck in the last century. He's a very entertaining guy, but he suffers from existential insecurity: everything has to be proven before he'll believe it.
Yes indeed, rationality and proof are so last century.

Almost Darwin awards

Some neds in Glasgow uploaded a video to YouTube confessing to a murder. They have been convicted.

Police are studying YouTube footage uploaded by two motorcyclists who filmed themselves speeding at up to 140mph, with a view to prosecution.

There's some pretty ugly stuff on the web, but the traceability of everything means that it all winds up, among other things, helping find and prosecute idiots. Like those celebrated in the Darwin Awards, people who use the web like this are helping take themselves out of the gene pool, even if just for short periods of time.

The political response?

Ivan Lewis, a health minister, who has some responsiblity for “inter-generational issues”, delivered a warning in Sunday’s Observer that companies should “do everything in their power” to prevent such material appearing online - a clear hint of how far concerns have reached at the political level. On the other side of the fence, David Cameron called for curbs on violent music and games, as the Tory leader strayed close to the issue of online regulation.
That's even more stupid - it's a recipe for three murderers to remain on the streets of Glasgow, and for motorcycles to continue speeding along the A38.

Ice free passage

The Northwest Passage has become almost ice free!

Once an impregnable forest of huge ice blocks, the Northwest Passage has — for the first time in recorded history — become almost completely ice-free and open to navigation. Researchers at the US National Snow and Ice Data Center recently announced that: "Analysts confirm that the passage is almost completely clear...
The source website, the Guardian put it more starkly:
The North-West Passage – the sea route running along the Arctic coastline of North America, normally perilously clogged with thick ice – is nearly ice-free for the first time since records began.
Since records began! What, since the turn of the century? The Second World War? 1842? 1726? 1938?

Analysts confirm that the passage is almost completely clear and that the region is more open than it has ever been since the advent of routine monitoring in 1972
1972, huh? How does that fit into Artic temperature anomaly patterns? Let's see now...

Click on that graph. The low point towards the right? The dip between two peaks? 1972, round about when the alarm was about global cooling - because temperatures seemed to have swung alarmingly low. The other high point? 1936, which fits the new data showing 1934 was the warmest year last century.

Out of interest, in what respect do these risings and fallings correlate with CO2 emission rates?

UPDATE: I meant to draw attention to the dishonest alarmism of the first quotation, from a site called treehugger. When did "recorded history" begin? Three thousand years ago? Fifteen hundred? Using this phrase makes it seem the Northwest Passage has never been this clear of ice, not since the dawn of time. Of course, the likelihood is it was at least this clear in the 1930s and for much of the Roman and Medieval eras. The only figleaf of accuracy that treehugger has is the strained truth that this particular set of recordings has a history that goes back just to 1972.

These people are just plain dishonest.

UPDATE: Strangely enough, this story didn't make the BBC website.

UPDATE: It gets worse. Much worse. Read this.

UPDATE: For people clicking through from the bird forum - the graph plainly shows the Arctic has warmed since the 1970s - there's no "denial" here, matey. Just an observation about the alarmist and dishonest way these things are reported, and the provision of some hard information to show that the Arctic is no warmer than it was in the 1930s. By the way, I love the commenter on your forum who says, in effect: I don't know why this is wrong, but I'll pop over to realclimate to get my prejudices confirmed. Oh, and while the graph is on the (excellent) junkscience blog, the data comes from James Hansen's NASA. So there.

Shock news

Just in - Labour voters don't want to vote Tory, even if the Tories have adopted Labour policies, and Tories don't want to vote Tory either, perhaps because the Tories have adopted Labour policies. I'd say that was predictable::

David Cameron is facing a landslide defeat with Labour winning a majority of around 100 seats in the House of Commons if Gordon Brown calls a snap general election, according to a YouGov poll for The Daily Telegraph.
Sean Gabb hopes for a collapse of the Tory Party, in order that a true Conservative force can emerge. Is Cameron a Libertarian stooge?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Intolerance in the Academy

In an interview with the New Statesman, we read:

[Simon Baron-Cohen, Cambridge professor of developmental psychopathology] would have been wary of speaking his mind for fear that demonstrators would churn up the grass of the quad at Trinity College and that his right-thinking colleagues in the social sciences departments would denounce him as some kind of fascist.
Crikey. What's on his mind, that might have provoked such a reaction?
Baron-Cohen is a greater heretic because he appears to be saying that men and women have different kinds of intelligence. Men are more likely than women to "systemise" the outside world, his argument runs. They are quicker to see patterns, create organisations and make predictions. Women are better at empathising with others, feeling their emotions and producing a sympathetic response. Autism, in his view, is an extreme "male brain", which allows autistics to pick apart systems while showing little or no understanding of the people around them. He hastily adds that when he talks about "male" and "female" brains, he is talking about averages. Women, like my friend, can have "male" brains and be brilliant financial analysts. Men can have "female" brains and be compassionate social workers. Gender isn't destiny.
But this isn't some bloke mouthing off in a pub; research has led him to these views. And if controversial, even iconoclastic views that are well-grounded in evidence can't flourish in a Temple of Learning, where can they flourish?

Cambridge, UK might just about be hanging on as a place where academic freedom persists (there have been problems even there), but across the pond, in that other Cambridge, things are less rosy. In 2005, the then President of Harvard, Lawrence Summers:
suggested, at a National Bureau of Economics Research (NBER) Conference on Diversifying the Science & Engineering Workforce, the possibility that many factors outside of socialization could explain why there were more men than women in high-end science and engineering positions. He suggested one such possible reason could be men's higher variance in relevant innate abilities, or innate preference. An attendee made Summers' remarks public, and an intense response followed in the national news media and on Harvard's campus.
Summers' pro-free market stance and scepticism about global warming alarmism had already attracted the disapproval of some of his colleagues. In March 2005 a motion of no confidence in Summers was passed by members of Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Summers subsequently resigned, although:
Influential psychologist Steven Pinker defended the legitimacy of Summers' January remarks. When asked if Summers' remarks were "within the pale of legitimate academic discourse," Pinker responded "Good grief, shouldn’t everything be within the pale of legitimate academic discourse, as long as it is presented with some degree of rigor? That’s the difference between a university and a madrassa. [...] There is certainly enough evidence for the hypothesis to be taken seriously."
Summers had stronger support among Harvard College students than among the college faculty. One poll by the Harvard Crimson indicated that students opposed his resignation by a three-to-one margin, with 57% of responding students opposing his resignation and 19% supporting it.


After the Harvard Corporation accepted Summers' resignation, hundreds of millions in pledged contributions were canceled by donors who were disappointed by the Harvard Corporation's failure to stand up to the college faculty. ... Summers' dismissal was viewed by many as an indicator that the humanities faculty at the College had power that was disproportionately large relative to their contributions to the University, and that they would seek to use their entrenched position as tenured faculty to block curricular reforms, championed by Summers, that would place greater emphasis on math and science.
(emphasis added) Baron Cohen wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times, in which he said:
But Mr. Summers was wrong to imply that these differences render any individual woman less capable than any individual man of becoming a top-level scientist.
Which is precisely what Summers, in speaking of "variance", didn't say. Shame on Baron Cohen. When they come for him, who will speak out?

Back in Harvard, one assistant professor spoke out stridently. Outspoken, conservative and a global warming sceptic himself, Lubos Motl published an account of the debacle on his blog.

Interestingly enough, the person who moved the motion in the first place, J Lorand Malory, shatters no stereotypes about Harvard's humanities department:
He’s a student of cross-dressing, a voodoo expert, a director of the ethnic studies department, an adviser to GLQ, a Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, a great admirer of matriarchy, and an apologist for the corrupt and brutal Nigerian dictator Ibrahim Babangida, about whom he’s writing a sympathetic book
Motl knew the vultures were circling him, too. And rumours of his resignation started to circulate. In 2006 his Wikipedia entry - copied at this address, was updated with the line:
Lubos Motl resigned his job under pressure as assistant professor of physics from Harvard in January 2006. He "tagged" Lee Smolin's and Peter Woit's books, which criticize string theory as too speculative and untestable, as themselves "crank" and "crackpot" on Smolin and Woit both hold faculty positions in good universities.
Yup, Motl used that language and more. His Amazon contributions are often rather pithy:
Al Gore's book, one of the most hysterical books about the climate on the market, follows the template of many fundamentalist believers who were converted to Christianity. For example, he explains that a car accident of his son has played an important role in his beliefs about global warming.
Rumours continued to circulate. In January 2007, Jack Scarfatti, who had adopted an adversarial position with respect to Motl, published a series of emails from Motl that included the following:
Fri, 19 Jan 2007
you were the first external person who has created a very
unpleasant situation for me at Harvard, and this has repeated itself lots
of times and this fucked up job has always been used as a tool to
blackmail me. I don't want to be blackmailed and manipulated like that all
the time. Best, Lubos

Fri, 19 Jan 2007
I don't depend on any grant but I just resigned. It's probably not your
business to ask, is it? Best, Lubos
Motl certainly uses strong, even inappropriate language when talking about other physicists, but that's not exactly an innovation in the world of academia. There were other campaigns against him. Here's an example. It ends:
So, my question is - if he's actually a professor here, isn't that kind of...unprofessional, to say the least? Is this something his students and the Physics department might want to be aware of? I'd like your input.
Sounds like a fledgling campaign, doesn't it? The piece is published as harvard=professor-racism.html

So, what was this unprofessional racism?
Dear Lucy,

I agree with you and admire your courage. Many reactions above make it very clear that your courage is highly non-trivial.

Someone said that there was racism because it was assumed that the people couldn't have been students. I think that it is indeed sensible to think that people who behave a little bit like animals could be someone else than Harvard students, after all. While this assumption may occasionally fail, it is still more reasonable than to assume that someone must be a Harvard student just because he or she is black.

If the party were white and the noise were similar, police would arrive, too. The intercultural foundation would complain that it is a proof of apartheid that the white people were not instantly dismissed from Harvard.

Keep on smiling and writing so well,
Lubos Motl
And - perhaps the killer:
Show me a single influential scholar in a department of women's studies who understands the very basic insight about that discipline, namely why virtually all of scholarly feminism is intellectual garbage. Show me a single director of a foundation for diversity who would protect a white person against a black person. Show me a single chair of a deparmental diversity committee who understands that the lack of conservatives at the universities is much more serious a problem that the lack of a certain skin color.
Well, a very great deal of scholarly feminism is intellectual garbage. Black racism against whites goes unremarked, and has become so commonplace it's hardly worth linking to example - even one of my favourite blogs, Booker Rising, includes casual references to "whitey". I have an upcoming post on this subject and will say more then. And Motl might have a point about the lack of conservative academics - both he and Summers have been forced to resign from one prestigious university.

What's going on? Australian reef specialist and - by a remarkable coincidence - climate sceptic Dr Walter Stark has a theory:
The ideal of scientific objectivity has been subverted — even in the world's most prestigious universities — by the pernicious and pervasive influence of postmodernism
He goes on:
The scientific method has been the most effective means yet developed to understand our world. It has resulted in longer, healthier, safer, more interesting and comfortable human lives than ever before. Essential to this success has been a philosophical approach in which understanding is evidence-based, logically consistent and subject to revision in the light of new evidence or more comprehensive explanation.

In science the highest goal has been a pursuit of truth as determined by reason and empirical evidence. Disregard for truth and false evidence are unacceptable for any reason.

The history of science has been an ongoing account of the discovery of previously unthinkable new under-standings of the world and the abandonment of previously accepted ones. A heliocentric solar system, a multimillion-year-old Earth, evolution, continental drift, relativity, quantum theory — every new perception that challenges established belief always meets strong resistance regardless of the weight of reason and evidence to support it. The core strength of science is that it fosters such challenges and demands their acceptance if they cannot be refuted.
Increasingly, however, the findings of science have begun to impinge upon the established order in the humanities. Postmodernism has been in large part a response to this challenge. It ignores the irrefutable success of science in permitting us to better understand our world; it rejects its authority as being simply a cultural artefact, no more or less valid than any other belief. Truth, facts, reason and objectivity are rejected because in practice the aim does not fully achieve the ideal.

Uncomfortable scientific findings are then "deconstructed" so as to dismiss or reinterpret them as desired. Into the vacuum of ethics and meaning it seeks to fill, this nihilistic pseudo-philosophy then inserts its own agenda, a new edition of the old leftist catechism re-branded as a form of moral righteousness we recognise as political correctness.

A battle for science isn't just an academic dispute. It's a battle for rationality, scepticism, freedom of speech and enquiry. It involves, not just scientists, but everyone. A world in which dogma has replaced truth would be... well, exactly the sort of world the reorganised hard left is trying to bring about - a totalitarian nightmare, impoverished, riven with dark age belief systems, in which only the bigoted and violent were safe.

It's a vision of the future much more terrible than the memory of the socialist past of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

I am writing to Baron Cohen, expressing my distaste at his failure to support a colleague, and his twisting of the man's words. It's not much, but I feel I have to do something. We can't just watch this happen, quietly.

The barbarians are inside the gates. It is time to ask them to leave.


A century ago, the rich owned carriages and the poor didn't. They wore completely different clothes, spoke almost a different language, had entirely different educational opportunities; in short, they lived in different, but adjoining, worlds.

Today, the rich own cars and the poor own cars. They wear jeans, watch football on television, drink the same things, study for the same exams (on the whole) and, while manners of speech are still varied, all different kinds can be found at almost all wealth levels. The "on the whole" is more meaningful now than it was three decades ago when they absolutely did study for exactly the same exams. Egalitarianism has devalued the currency of British exams so much that some of the expensive private schools now offer the International Baccalaureat or iGCSEs. But that's the fault of egalitarians, not the schools.

Sure, rich and poor own different types of cars and wear different brands of jeans, but the differences, not of wealth distribution, but rather the differences that wealth makes have been eroded to an extraordinary degree. The effect of inequality of wealth has been diminished significantly.

Fabian Tassano recently dissected an absurd screed from The Guardian. A sample:

... when being poor is defined as having less than 60% of average income, it will robustly survive any amount of wealth-creation.
Tautology masquerading as social commentary. Fabian pointed out the absurdities of this argument with restraint.

There is absolutely no evidence put forward in Guardian pieces like this in support of the pursuit of an even more egalitarian society, no examination of the actual consequences of wealth disparities and no recognition that social breakdown, as perceived by the writer, has developed in a period of increasing egalitarianism. Instead, there's just wittering like this:
... no one ever feels quite rich enough. This feeds a "need" for yet more economic expansion. But this is the very mechanism that leaves millions of people stranded on the desolate margins.
Dependency culture, generations within certain families who have never even contemplated trying to get a job, is what leaves people on the margins - and this is a culture that has been legislated into existence by egalitarians. What is depicted as endless dissatisfaction with one's lot is in reality a society composed of people who are trying to build better lives for their families but who go home in the evening and watch TV. Innovation and imagination is mutated into "a need for yet more economic expansion". It's dishonest, blind, drivel.

When, after half a century of egalitarian policies, an egalitarian commentator blames social changes on a lack of egalitarianism, there is a temptation to mock - to ridicule them for calling for a bigger, better dead horse to flog - a whole team of dead horses.

But actually, what is happening here isn't at all amusing. These people are willing to step over the bodies of any number of dead children in dogmatic pursuit of the very policies which, if they haven't actually done the killing, have certainly accompanied to a striking degree the social breakdown in which it is taking place.

Another one bites the scanner

The Wikiscanner fun continues:

A Dutch royal couple acknowledges altering a Wikipedia entry about a 2003 scandal that forced the prince to renounce his claim to the throne.
I'm not going to report the details here because it's gossip, really. But the scandal had blown over - now it's the cover up that makes the news. It's always the cover up...

Those ol' ip addresses, huh? Amazing what they can tell you.

Consensus news

Via Libertas, it seems the scientific consensus on global warming is, er... not a consensus. From the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works:

In 2004, history professor Naomi Oreskes performed a survey of research papers on climate change. Examining peer-reviewed papers published on the ISI Web of Science database from 1993 to 2003, she found a majority supported the "consensus view," defined as humans were having at least some effect on global climate change. Oreskes' work has been repeatedly cited, but as some of its data is now nearly 15 years old, its conclusions are becoming somewhat dated.

Medical researcher Dr. Klaus-Martin Schulte recently updated this research. Using the same database and search terms as Oreskes, he examined all papers published from 2004 to February 2007. The results have been submitted to the journal Energy and Environment, of which DailyTech has obtained a pre-publication copy. The figures are surprising.

Of 528 total papers on climate change, only 38 (7%) gave an explicit endorsement of the consensus. If one considers "implicit" endorsement (accepting the consensus without explicit statement), the figure rises to 45%. However, while only 32 papers (6%) reject the consensus outright, the largest category (48%) are neutral papers, refusing to either accept or reject the hypothesis. This is no "consensus."

The figures are even more shocking when one remembers the watered-down definition of consensus here. Not only does it not require supporting that man is the "primary" cause of warming, but it doesn't require any belief or support for "catastrophic" global warming. In fact of all papers published in this period (2004 to February 2007), only a single one makes any reference to climate change leading to catastrophic results.

The EU comes to America

Echo-chambering, I know, but this, from the Prof, is familiar to any European. The red dots on the map of Manhattan above... People who live there yet receive an agricultural subsidy. The big red dots? More than half a million bucks a year. It's almost like the EU.

Grass not growing

Under Apple Corp's feet:

U.S. computer company Apple Inc. and German automaker Volkswagen AG are discussing the possibility of building an "iCar" which would feature products by the producer of the ubiquitous personal music player.

An ancient murder

More research into "Oetzi" the iceman - the neolithic corpse found in the Alps, suggests he died of head injuries:

... radiologists, pathologists and other researchers, using new forensic information and CAT scans, now say they believe blood loss from the arrow wound only made Oetzi lose consciousness. They now say he died either from hitting his head on a rock when he passed out or because his attacker hit him in the head.


George Monbiot, you may not be surprised to learn, thinks that we're all going to die unless we transform the world completely:

... the rich nations must cut the emissions much further than anybody else, you realize that we are talking at a minimum of a 100% cut, and it looks like it might have to go to 110% or 115%.

You laugh but we're talking about sequestration and we're talking about such things for example, as growing bio fuel and burying it, simply for growing as much bio mass as we can and sticking it back on the ground....something..... anything to stave off this catastrophe.
This based largely on a paper written by James Hansen of NASA, and published on the website of the Royal Society for Global Warming Alarmism, as I hear it's being renamed. Or did I dream that?

Anyway, Hansen's paper includes sentences like this:
We take 500 years as a practical definition of forever because it is long enough for large responses from both the ocean and ice sheets. Resulting climate changes would be, from humanity's perspective, irreversible.
What on earth does this mean: "from humanity's perspective, irreversible"? That it'll kill us all? That we can't think in terms longer than this? Humanity has existed longer than 500 years.

The science in the paper might be good - though it seems not to be so to me; it's cargo cult science at its worst, with not even a glance at some of the problems with his view that have been arising. I'll try to be more specific when I have more time.

But whatever the merits of the science, the plain English is execrable - absurdly overblown predictions of doom with no attempt whatsoever even to be intelligible, to make the meaning clear, let alone offer supporting evidence.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Is "capitalism" synonymous with "the market"? Are these identical to the "free markets"? Must competition exist if you are to have capitalism? Are all these things infused with rapacious greed? Does job insecurity necessarily exist in a capitalist society, and will people have to work unduly long hours if they live in such a world?

I don't think so. Capitalism is, surely, a term that denotes the possible, though not compulsory, separation of ownership from management of businesses. If markets can be free, then they can be unfree, otherwise the word "free" is gratuitous. Neither relate to corporate financial structures, but rather to the relationship between consumer and supplier. Greed exists in any kind of human structures. And so on. Conflating these terms is silly.

But it's widespread.

UPDATE: I'm referring to the "silly" second comment, rather than Matthew's post, though I think he conflates capitalism and the market.

Surge perspective

Is the surge working in Iraq? Here's Michael Totten's summary, in 650 words. Totten writes from the vanishingly rare perspective of a journalist covering the country from embeds with troops, rather than his hotel room or web browser. Think I'm exaggerating?

Embedded blogger Michael Yon’s dispatch after the first day of battle noted that he and NYT reporter Michael Gordon seemed to be the only media in Baqubah. Yon’s next dispatch noted that he and Gordon had been joined by the L.A. Times, CNN, AP and Joe Klein from Time magazine. However, the AP would “stay only a few days”; Klein helicoptered in and out the same day. By July 5th, the media would consist of Yon and two others; two days later it would be Yon and a photographer.
This from a very detailed analysis at - if you have spare quarter hour, it's an essential perspective on the news you get from the mainstream channels.

Leftist ideals

For some strange reason, children of the people murdered by the Red brigades have taken exception to this:

[French actress, Fanny] Ardant said she admired the founder of the Red Brigades group, Renato Curcio, because he had never abandoned his leftist ideals, adding she "considered the Red Brigades phenomenon to be very moving and passionate".
I guess they're not idealistic enough.

A criminal reported

Indoors! In a public place! Jail her!

An iron-lunged pensioner has celebrated her 100th birthday by lighting up her 170,000th cigerette from a candle on her birthday cake.

Winnie Langley started smoking only days after the First World War broke out in June 1914 when she was just seven-years-old - and has got through five a day ever since.

She has no intention of quitting, even after the nationwide ban forced tobacco-lovers outside.
No intention of quitting? Hasn't she learned anything from Patricia Hewitt? It gets worse:
The 100-year-old, who is awaiting her telegram from the Queen today, said smoking helped calm her nerves during the two World Wars.
Sending the wrong message there, Winnie. But it's nothing an intensive course of re-education wouldn't cure.

Via OpenMarket

How to disappear

... up your own fundament:

While I haven't been hearing too much from the Conservatives about Ghurkas, wounded soldiers or Iraqi interpreters, they have managed to piss off even staunch pro-Cameron Tories with their greener-than-bile ban all the airplanes (except for us) crap.

Well done, chaps.

Three of the best

I'm no fan of compensation culture, but how fucking random is this?

The Ministry of Defence is reviewing compensation claims for service personnel suffering from multiple war wounds after an outcry over a soldier who was awarded payment for only three of his 37 injuries.
That's right, they pick the three worst injuries only when assessing compensation. Why? What earthly reason is there for that? Why three? Why not two, or seven, or five? It's surreal:
[His mother] added: “I wouldn’t have made a fuss if he had been given the maximum compensation, which is £285,000. But to be granted an award at that level a soldier has to be a paraplegic and blinded and to be in a persistent vegetative state.”
Well, I bet he's just wishing he were a vegetable. Who is her son?
Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson, 23, who served in southern Afghanistan with the 7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery, lost both his legs and suffered serious head injuries when a landmine exploded in Helmand province last September.
I'm so deeply grateful for Lance Bombardier Parkinson's service, and I say he's worth a hundred of the penpushing timeserving jobsworths who came up with this piece of shit of a regulation. No, a thousand. No... no number of worthless, smug, treacherous tossers can balance the scale against a paratrooper.

This isn't an isolated incident. The British establishment makes a point of betraying people who give us service. Peter Wright only wrote Spycatcher because the pension he was promised after joining British Intelligence from Marconi was reneged on. Klop Ustinov died in poverty, selling his books to buy food after giving great service to Britain during the Second World War.

More recently, we've had the case of Ghurkas whose bags I'd be proud to carry being refused visas to live in the country they have served with such extraordinary distinction. On what fucking planet does it not GO WITHOUT SAYING that if you're good enough to die for us, you're good enough to live with us? In the case of the Ghurkas, the question is, are we good enough to live with them?

Then there are the Iraqi interpreters our contemptible, parasitic political establishment are happy to turn over to the Islamist psychopaths in Iraq, to have their eyeballs, elbows and kneecaps pulped with electric drills before being executed, despite the fact that their services allowed these wankers to smarm on about how our experience in Northern Ireland made our troops better than the Americans, who incidentally are now winning hearts and minds in Iraq while our troops try to hide from the incoming mortars under their camp beds in Basra because they lack the political, logistical and physical support to succeed - because they are denied it by bespoke-suited buffoons who are too busy wiping grease from their chins in expensive restaurants to worry about what a squaddie from Newcastle might need. Mind you, there are a lot of chins to wipe, per person, so maybe we can understand their being a mite preoccupied.

We can, and should, try to help the interpreters, and I really do hope you'll click that link and pester your MP if you're British - and if you're not write to one anyway and tell them how this country is held in contempt by others for this disgusting betrayal.

But what should we do with the British establishment? It's tempting, I know, to say they should be swinging from the lampposts. But that would be very, very wrong.

If we did that, we'd still have to look at the fuckers. The answer is to put them all in sacks, tow them out to the middle of the Atlantic, and cut the ropes.

You think?

I like the word "suspected" in this report:

A suspected drunken driver crashed with a motorcycle and then left the scene, unknowingly driving away with the motorcyclist's dead body lodged in the rear window of his car, investigators said.
He got all the way home before realising he had a corpse lodged in his rear window.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

God is bigger than...

The latest links come in from Butterflies and Wheels. God is bigger then Amnesty International, according to the head of the US Catholic Bishops Conference:

A statement from the US Bishops' Conference said promoting access to abortion services undermines Amnesty's moral credibility, and divides the global work to protect human life and human dignity.

Bishop Skylestad said true commitment to women's rights puts does not pit one against their unborn children, but "calls us to advocate on behalf of both".
Amnesty has devalued itself simply by adopting a political agenda rather than supporting prisoners of conscience, and have created this rift needlessly. Other organisations campaign for abortion. Some people have called Amnesty's actions "mission creep". They aren't, they are mission change. Their original platform should have led to support for a persecuted anti-abortion campaigner, were there such a thing. Whatever your views, you should be able to express them without imprisonment or torture. And they've managed to make even me, a militant secularist, atheist supporter of abortion (as the least of available evils), sympathise with the Catholic bishops. Smart move, Amnesty.

Meanwhile, an Irish Sikh won't take up his job with the Garda (police) because he has been told to wear a standard issue hat, rather than a turban, on duty:
An association of Sikh police officers in London has strongly criticised the decision.

The Metropolitan Police Sikh Association said An Garda Siochana's uniform policy was 40 years behind the United Kingdom.

"The question is not one of cultural integration, rather of religious rights and freedom to practise an individual's faith, regardless of jurisdiction," the group said.
Sikhs believe... well, they hold that...

Oh bollocks. I don't give a shit what they believe. Equal treatment before the law. If a Catholic doctor can't take a job in a hospital because he won't perform abortions, he can piss off. And if a Sikh won't wear a policeman's hat, he can't join the police. Simple. It's time the religious were made to give ground, and not the rest of us.

God is bigger than Amnesty International, but that's the fault of Amnesty themselves. It never used to be the case. But God is not bigger than the law, and never should be.

I have a dream...

There's a fuss in America over the choice of a Chinese sculptor, instead of an African American, to produce a statue of a man who campaigned for racial equality, Dr Martin Luther King. From the campaigning website,

King’s message became universal because only the truly ignorant would not accept and acknowledge that all men are created equal and deserve to be respected and allowed the right to freedoms promised in this country’s Constitution. We are still fighting for those rights.
I guess we are.

How to judge a healthcare system

Was the recent shooting of a child in Liverpool a healthcare issue? According to the WHO it was. Cafe Hayek reprinted part of a column by John Stossel, in which he looks at why the USA did so badly in the WHO and Commonwealth Fund country surveys. They take life expectancy into account, which of course includes gun fatalities and traffic accidents - on both of which counts the USA does badly. But here's the best bit:

Another reason the U.S. didn't score high in the WHO rankings is that we are less socialistic than other nations. What has that got to do with the quality of health care? For the authors of the study, it's crucial. The WHO judged countries not on the absolute quality of health care, but on how "fairly" health care of any quality is "distributed." The problem here is obvious. By that criterion, a country with high-quality care overall but "unequal distribution" would rank below a country with lower quality care but equal distribution.

It's when this so-called "fairness," a highly subjective standard, is factored in that the U.S. scores go south.

The U.S. ranking is influenced heavily by the number of people — 45 million — without medical insurance. As I reported in previous columns, our government aggravates that problem by making insurance artificially expensive with, for example, mandates for coverage that many people would not choose and forbidding us to buy policies from companies in another state.

Even with these interventions, the 45 million figure is misleading. Thirty-seven percent of that group live in households making more than $50,000 a year, says the U.S. Census Bureau. Nineteen percent are in households making more than $75,000 a year; 20 percent are not citizens, and 33 percent are eligible for existing government programs but are not enrolled.

Law and order

I'll sleep more soundly tonight, knowing that you can get nine months in prison instead of a night in the cells for being drunk and disorderly. Tough on crime, eh?

David Cameron thinks we should all get involved in tackling crime, and not just people who've tied one on:

To me this is what social responsibility is all about. Not just sitting back and saying that the Government must act, but all of us saying: this is my country, my society, my responsibility - and I must play my part
Stirring stuff. Robbie Moran and Paul Yarwood must agree, as Steve points out:
Train guard Robbie Moran asked a teenage girl to take her feet off the seat. One of the girl's male companions then got up and shouted abuse at Mr Moran. After a short stand off, Mr Moran, thinking that he had calmed the situation down, returned to his guard's van. The youth followed him there and attacked him. When the transport police arrived, they arrested both the attacker and Mr Moran.
Another train guard, Paul Yarwood, was arrested after tackling a drunken fare dodger who had abused passengers and threatened to beat staff with a broom handle. His employer, One Railway, part of National Express, sacked Mr Yarwood for confronting the man

Commandments in court

From here, via here, I finally understand why they banned a courthouse in America from displaying the Ten Commandments:

You cannot post "Thou Shall Not Steal, "Thou Shall Not Commit Adultery", and "Thou Shall Not Lie" in a building full of lawyers, judges and politicians. It creates a hostile work environment.

Hateful and intolerant

Who might describe the following statements of principle:

· “the right of all people to live in freedom and dignity”

· “the freedom of the individual conscience to change religions or have no religion at all”

· “the equality of dignity of women and men”

· “the right of all people to live free from violence, intimidation, and coercion”
as "hateful and intolerant"?

I'll bet you were in the right general area:
Members of the Muslim Student Association (MSA) are up in arms over an announced event which they depict as a “hateful” assault against the dignity of Muslims everywhere.
The target of this ire is Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, and the sponsor is the David Horowitz Freedom Center. It will be held on more than 100 college campuses across the United States during the week of October 22-26, and will be the largest conservative student protest in American history.
UPDATE: Attribution omitted: Via USS Neverdock.

Soaring with the eagle

How cool is this?

Trapped in his tiny dark cell, Sampson broke every feather in his wings and tail trying to escape. Mr Marshall took him in, spent four months nursing him back to health, and gradually trained him to sit on his falconer’s gloved hand. “Over the time it took him to recover we built up a bond of trust and went hunting together like a pair of golden eagles would do in the wild,” Marshall said yesterday. “But I was on the ground with a leather glove while he was in the air. I just wanted to be up there with him; it was a natural progression for me.”

Over six more months, and using copious rabbit meat bait, Mr Marshall, from Barnstaple, Devon, finally coaxed Sampson to follow his microlight into the air and to fly alongside it.
UPDATE: Just for clarity, Sampson is a golden eagle, and soaring with the eagles is a rare thing nowadays.

Bussard fusion

Although I'm sceptical about global warming alarmism, I'd like to see a move to more nuclear power, and away from the burning of hydrocarbons. I'm actually quite radical about this, believing that government intervention to help speed the sort of technology shifts we need would be a good thing.

That's why this is such good news:

Robert Bussard the designer of the Bussard ramjet has an electrostatic fusion device that is supposed to be 100,000 times better than other electrostatic fusion systems.

He will get a chance to make an improved demo which if it works would be a prelude to a full system costing $100 to 200 million. This would be a bargain relative to the billions of dollars for 40 years for the International Tokomak Fusion system.

Anti American rhetoric

From a cabinet minister:

The decision to pull troops out of Iraq will be independent of the United States and based only on the "British national interest," the Foreign Secretary said today.
So we are going to make decisions without reference to our ally in this conflict? And that's supposed to be a good thing?

When considering the words of politicians you have to look for the effect they intend to produce rather than the words they actually use, and this is plainly an exercise in distancing the UK government from the USA.

The British government has been noticeably reticent when it comes to criticising Islamist maniacs, when they threaten the lives of artists, plan nuclear weapons and kidnap our sailors. The fact that anti-Americanism is thought to be the tactic most likely to succeed with the British public is sobering. We really are in a sort of timewarp back to mid 1930s.


Yup, when I look at the photos again this morning I'm sure we have the Shia'a Naomi Campbell. It's almost as though there's some kind of conspiracy that takes in Hezbollah, Iraqi militant Shia'as and, no doubt, their Iranian backers.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Not the show we went to get

Michael J Totten reckons someone should give Anthony Bourdain a prize. I think he's right. Bourdain went to Beirut last year to make a cookery show. Events intervened...

Here's part one:

Get the rest at YouTube

Oh, and maybe consider giving Totten a few quid. His embed in Iraq right now is funded purely by donations.

Are they by chance...

... related?

Something's been nagging at the back of my mind. Look at this photo - is it the same woman, or two different ones?

On the left we have the unluckiest property owner in Beirut, 2006 vintage, on the right we have the woman who gets shot at with undischarged rounds, Sadr City, 2007. Here are the full images:


Drinking From Home, the blog where the Beirut pics were spotted, made an image for comparison of two photos. There were the same mark under the right eye, and the same scar on the left cheek:

I've added the new one:

The mark under the right eye does seem to be there, the scar on the left cheek doesn't, but the face is turned away so it's hard to be sure. The face was puffier in 2006, but that was a year ago.

I'm not certain. But if I had to put money on it, I'd say this was the same person. [UPDATE - This morning, looking again, I am certain. This is the same woman.]

If that's correct, what do you reckon brings one of Hezbollah's assets from Beirut to Sadr City? Hmmm...

UPDATE: The back story, for those who don't want to click the links above. A series of photos from Beirut last summer, all purporting to be of a woman standing in front of the ruins of her house after it was destroyed by the evil Zionists, turned out to be of the same woman, in front of different ruins. The ruins were real, the photos staged and the captions baloney. Last week, a series of photos from Iraq of a woman holding up bullets that had supposedly been fired at her house were noticed to be of the same woman, and in one case the bullets hadn't even been fired. They were, in other words, staged.

The mainstream media reproduces these images uncritically, even though they have obviously been produced by propagandists.

Now, if I'm right, it can be seen that the same woman was used for these two sets of photos, a year apart, first in a Shia'a area of Beirut and then in a Shia'a area of Baghdad. I've asked for a second opinion, and the person agreed it did seem to be the same woman, pointing out what looks like a mole on the bottom lip as well.

Even if it isn't the same woman, we see that obviously staged images are offered with arrogance and a belief in the stupidity of the West that Western media organisations have done nothing to undermine.

But if it is, then the interesting question arises: who is the woman? Just a useful model? Someone who by coincidence happened to be used for propaganda in both cities? Or someone of greater significance?

Illiterate and violent

And that's just their school work:

The examiners’ report said: “’The Assassin’ again figured frequently as a title. This facilitated candidates to write in their own voice but within a very limiting framework, which allowed them to create and maintain a (sometimes sickeningly violent) atmosphere but provided few opportunities for character or plot development.

"Occasionally there was a sense that units were awarded marks on the basis of quantity rather than quality. Some work, which was riddled with spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes, was awarded incomprehensibly high marks.”

BBC man explains

Hearing all sides of an argument is misleading, apparently:

[Peter Horrocks, head of television news] said: "We have heard sceptics' voices very regularly on our programmes, but I think having this range of voices has made people think there is more doubt about climate change than there actually is."

Sudan flouts Darfur sanctions

Amnesty International blows the whistle:

New photo evidence shows that the Sudanese government is continuing to deploy offensive military equipment in Darfur, despite the UN arms embargo and peace agreements.

Amnesty International (AI) today released new photographs that show Sudan's breathtaking defiance of the arms embargo and the Darfur peace deals.

"Once again Amnesty International calls on the UN Security Council to act decisively to ensure the embargo is effectively enforced, including by the placement of UN observers at all ports of entry in Sudan and Darfur," said Brian Wood, Amnesty International’s Arms Control Research Manager.

Labour sleaze investigation

Interesting. What do they want in return?

LABOUR is facing an official inquiry into an alleged front organisation, financed by millionaire Muslim businessmen, which has donated more than £300,000 to the party.

Greer lunacy

It's been a gradual process, but Germaine Greer may finally have gone mad. Today, she attacks soft toys. Really. I was going to type "not physically", but can we be sure? A person is capable of anything if they are capable of writing the following:

Though it is 50 years since Elvis warbled about wanting to be someone's teddy bear, most people would reject out of hand the suggestion that a child's cuddly animal was its surrogate sexual partner. But I have certainly seen a two-year-old humping her teddy bear.
And wait for it... wait for it... drumroll...:
Shiver the Polar Bear, a spin-off from the movie Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus, can shiver, giggle and blush. It has fat, bright-red lips and false eyelashes. What it has to do with the majestic creatures that are drowning in the Arctic ocean because of global warming is less than nothing.
YES! A serious challenge here for the title of Most Gratuitous Reference to Global Warming (Would Big Al agree to present it?).

But are polar bears drowning because of global warming? There was a spate of stories about this a couple of years ago. Here's how the Times put it, in a piece headlined "Polar bears drown as ice shelf melts":
The new study, carried out in part of the Beaufort Sea, shows that between 1986 and 2005 just 4% of the bears spotted off the north coast of Alaska were swimming in open waters. Not a single drowning had been documented in the area.

However, last September, when the ice cap had retreated a record 160 miles north of Alaska, 51 bears were spotted, of which 20% were seen in the open sea, swimming as far as 60 miles off shore.

The researchers returned to the vicinity a few days later after a fierce storm and found four dead bears floating in the water. “We estimate that of the order of 40 bears may have been swimming and that many of those probably drowned as a result of rough seas caused by high winds,” said the report.
That's right - there had been a storm. Publishing in Nature (subscription required) earlier that year, 2005, the authors of this study produced one of the most perfect statements of AGW religiosity ever seen:
"We can't say at the moment that there is a trend for polar bears to drown," she says. "But we do expect to see more of this kind of event in the future."


Church was never like this when I was made to attend, as a schoolboy. I don't think I'd have believed, unless dancing is believing:

But wait. "You act like black men can't be responsible...":

Lew Lewis

Was one of the bluesmen from the Essex Delta - Canvey Island. For a couple of decades Lewis, along with Mickey Jupp, Dr Feelgood, and The Pirates, deserved the stadium, but rarely got out of the pub. I saw him play once, on a dream bill with Albert King and George Thoroughgood, at the Electric Ballroom in Campden. That was before his stage knee drops crippled him, and his reaction to penury - the pavement (armed robbery) - exiled him to prison, then the void.

But here he is (sound only) in happier days, playing harp for George Melly and The Stranglers:

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Another voice

I'm very close to thinking the Muslim veil should be prohibited, as it is in countries like Tunisia. But let's hear another voice - not especially forensic, but impassioned.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Not too much

Via Booker, Aayan Hirsi Ali interviewed in a Japanese newspaper:

... exercising my intellectual freedom got a price with it. Which is then that you understand the Jihadists will threaten you and some of them may want to kill you and that is for me a price I still want to pay, it is not too much.

Exploding heads

Just as an aside, and further to my post about animal rights, it's odd how so many people have no difficulty accepting that a dog's kidneys do the same thing as theirs, as does its liver, and its heart. But at the thought that its brain might, their heads explode.

Underwear ban

A Councilman in Atlanta wants to ban visible underwear.

That's Superman screwed, then.

[Thanks, Ruthie]

GNU tar exploit

Bad news:

GNU Tar is prone to a directory-traversal vulnerability. This issue occurs because the application fails to validate user-supplied data.

A successful attack can allow the attacker to overwrite files on a computer in the context of the user running the affected application. Successful exploits may aid in further attacks.
Malicious tarballs possible. Hey ho. At least they've patched rsync.

Criminal chic

Hand-wringing about rap music and single parents is all well and good, but while mainstream society panders to gang culture like this, we're not going to get anywhere:

Official Major League Baseball caps blatantly featuring colors and symbols for some of America's deadliest street gangs are turning up on store shelves in Harlem

Animal rights

There's a bit of a blog debate going on about libertarianism and animal rights. Here's my 2 old pennies worth, posted as a comment on the blog that started it off:

Whether there’s a libertarian argument for a certain approach to animals depends on what your arguments are for being libertarian. Objectivists have a predisposition to regard animals as property (at best) because this was Rand’s view. I don’t share it.

I call myself lib because I think our innate quality is autonomy. I don’t have a right to free speech - or indeed anything else - I’m autonomous and can do and say what I damn well please.

But because I don’t live in isolation, I accept some responsibilities towards others, especially in respect of guaranteeing as much of our respective autonomy as possible.

The questions are: who are those “others” and what responsibilities do I accept?

I include some other species in the word “others”, on a sliding scale, because I think that a rational view of the world based on current understanding, especially of evolutionary theory, makes that inescapable.

Dogs and humans have coexisted for millennia, perhaps even coevolved. I accept that my relationship with my dogs includes an obligation to respect their autonomy to the degree of ensuring they get out on walks with me, because I’m responsible for trapping them in a building the rest of the time and they can’t take themselves out because I don’t let them, and of course it extends to ensuring I don’t cause them suffering.

Because I’m depriving them of their autonomy in the first place (something early dog owners probably didn’t do), a breach of these responsibilities towards them would be as grievous as a breach of my responsibilities towards other dependent and powerless individuals, like children or the mentally disabled.

We live in a world, perhaps a universe, in which evolution is driven by predation. This isn’t a necessary evil, it’s a necessary good - species couldn’t adapt quickly enough without the engine of predation accellerating natural selection. Without it, higher life wouldn’t exist.

But I accept a responsibility to respect the autonomy of the animals I eat. So I prefer wild meat, and I won’t eat factory farmed meat, where the animals had their autonomy entirely denied to them.

Violent crime, part 2

While various commentators reprint Laban Tall's all-purpose Guardian editorial, I'd like to expand on a few of the points I made in my earlier post.

The relationship of migration to crime, while obvious, isn't in itself an argument against allowing immigration. Internal migration will have some of the same effect in a country - it's all about the movement of criminals to new territories and the resultant competition for market share. However, it is an argument for realism when contemplating the effects of opening territory up to new migration. You get the whole of the culture of new migrant groups - Jamaican patties, Reggae and Yardies - not some sanitised version.

Large scale government mandated migration also shatters host communities, although new structures will develop in time. The subsequent void is one in which crime will not only develop, but in which it will be harder to combat. Either you accept this, and honesty means this should be an explicit acceptance, or you develop strategies to mitigate it. "Empowering communities" by giving them government money to build more community centres will have no effect whatsoever. It would help if we handled asylum obligations by helping, financially and physically, countries that neighbour those from which refugees come to accommodate them. Refusing to allow refugees to choose their country of destination would also help. Both of these courses of action would safeguard the refugee while breaking down the structures that lead to crime and, incidentally, to false asylum claims.

Meaningful empowerment of communities would mean the relinquishment of control of settlement by governments. If it were up to a migrant to negotiate their way into the existing structures of a place, finding work with someone who is willing, personally, to employ them and buying or renting somewhere to live from someone willing, personally, to enter into this transaction with them, then a community would be genuinely empowered.

Police investigating the latest child murder have complained about a "wall of silence" from the local community, and they attribute this to fear. That might be a part of it, and it's something that is worth exploring in more detail, but it isn't the whole story. Over the past half century, the middle classes have learned, and come to use, the vocabulary of the prison yard. Violent criminals like "Mad" Frankie Fraser have been feted and asked to dinner parties, even to contribute to TV shows like "What I would do if I were Prime Minister". The normalisation of crime and the spread of the values of the criminal is a part of the problem, not in Croxteth but in Notting Hill.

The criminalisation of drugs is the main driver behind this. The first criminal I ever met was a hash dealer. Without this, I doubt I'd ever have met a criminal. As it was, I went on to meet many, many more and as time went on, and criminalisation became more draconian, these people changed from hippy smugglers* to former armed robbers.

Whoever helps the police in Liverpool, and whatever their circumstances, they will be called "grasses" - in an entirely pejorative sense. The police want their help. Necessarily, to have any knowledge of the crime they will be at least on the margins of it. And they'll be, at best, insulted for helping. And this attitude will extend into the printed and broadcast media. Middle class journalists, who have long printed hagiographies of criminals from Ronnie Biggs to the Kray twins will use the language and show the attitudes of professinal criminals.

This has nothing to do with rap music, which reflects rather than causes inner city circumstances. Cameron needs to heal himself, or at least his neighbours, before telling people not to narrate their own lives in poetry.

*UPDATE - While I like the thought of people smuggling hippies, that isn't what I meant.

The unfalsifiable theory

J F Beck points out that global warming makes the oceans both less and more salty.

Violent crime

You can track the story of migration to Britain from the crime reports in newspapers; from Yardies in the 1970s and 80s, to our contemporary Somalis and Eastern Europeans. The rise in Asylum seeking has made things predictably worse, bringing in people from increasingly violent or lawless societies, and guaranteeing that they cannot be deported if they break the law.

Under any circumstances, this would have led to a rise in violent crime, but the nature of contemporary crime amplifies this. Contemporary crime is extremely territorial, dealing as it does less in opportunities for robbery than in market share. But that's what happens when you criminalise consensual adult activities like prostitution and drug taking.

Children have long been used as bag carriers, with drugs and guns in the bags. By children, I mean people under the age of criminal responsibility. The reason is obvious: the consequences of capture are least for them. As penalties for, say, adult gun possession are increased, so the incentives for using children in this role are increased. It's very, very simple. Under the 2003 Criminal Justice Act, a mandatory 5 year prison sentence was introduced for firearm possession in the UK. This created an incentive for criminals to give firearms to children, to keep for them or to use as African child soldier type enforcers. A spate of murders of children by children has, inevitably, followed.

The authoritarian solution to these problems has some merits. Countries like Singapore have managed to maintain low crime rates. The introduction of capital punishment, corporal punishment, even the stocks, combined with restrictions on immigration and the automatic deportation of foreign criminals irrespective of the circumstances of their home countries would lower crime. I'd prefer not to live in such a society, but this approach would work.

Legalisation, and regulation, of prostitution and drugs and the liberalisation of guns laws combined with zero-tolerance policing for the, genuinely criminal, crime that remained would also work. That's the solution I'd prefer.

What won't work, is more of the same. Unfortunately, more of the same is precisely the solution offered by every major Uk political party.

Friday, August 24, 2007


The way to get rid of louse eggs is to run a candle flame along the seams of your clothes. They make a popping sound as they burst.

My maternal grandfather told me that, when I was about seven years old. A gentle, smiling man, he would reminisce about the trivia of life in the trenches of the First World War, but never discuss the rest. Four brothers volunteered. Two died, one took a machine gun bullet in the hip and the fourth, my grandfather, came through three years in the trenches unscathed. His gravestone stands now in a quiet place in the Australian bush, planted squarely in the harsh red sand.

He met my grandmother in Brussels. She was English too, and in 1919 it was rare for a woman to represent a company overseas. But they fell in love and took a land grant in Australia. The skeleton of the first hut built there by the first settler still stands, wooden poles without fill or roof, like a dead copse, stark against the sky.

They built a new house. And she hated it, moved away, taught piano in a city, and died, much younger than I am now. My mother and her brothers harnessed horses to a buggy and drove them to school, tying them up in the shade. She also left, when she was fourteen, moving to stay with my great uncle, my grandfather's brother, in Melbourne.

His hip still bothered him. Decades later, he visited us in England and marvelled at my tame ferrets - he'd kept them all his life but didn't know they could sleep across a boy's shoulders, under his jumper, with a drowsy face occasionally peering out enquiringly before grunting, disappearing, and curling tighter into sleep.

The hip was still a problem. He'd refused treatment at first, in 1917, on the grounds that others needed it more. By the early 1970s, his doctor had been trying to cut his leg off for years, but he liked to walk. When he was younger his wife would put his meal on the table, wait, then call him. He wanted it to be cool enough to eat before he came in. I liked him, but he was a harsh man for a fourteen year old girl to live with, back in the 1940s.

My grandfather worked, bought up the neighbouring farms, left them to his sons and travelled round the world every three years after he retired. He learned to dive for pearls on the Great Barrier Reef in his seventies. One morning, a decade after that, he got up, put on his suit, straightened his tie, and died. My cousin Bobby found him three days later. In a climate like Australia's, that wasn't such an easy thing.

I've lost pretty much everything I ever owned, at one time or another. But the thing I miss most is a tacky Egyptian head, a tourist trinket given to me by my grandfather during one visit that was a stop on a cruise that had stopped in Egypt. Cruises were the stuff of my early childhood. My mother still has a certificate the ship's captain gave me on my third birthday, as we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn.

Fifteen years ago, I went to the house my grandfather died in for the first time since infancy. I didn't recognise it at all, though it seemed a lot smaller than it should be. Especially the kitchen. My uncle asked if I remembered it. I said I didn't, and he smiled to himself as he put the truck in gear.

A musician has silence...

Where were you on Christmas eve, 1962? And what should J Edgar Hoover be reincarnated as?

Hunter S Thompson and Keith Richard explain.

You know you're a conservative when...


iPhone competitors

There's a good review of two competitors to the iPhone, the Nokia N95 and Helio Ocean, at Fox, written by Peter Svensson of AP.

And... yes that was just an excuse. I can't help myself. Via lgf, here's another competitor...

More on Wikipedia

We don't all agree about everything, and there's no objective viewpoint. A good writer of reference material tries to show the range of evidence and opinion that exists on a given topic, but arguably there's a better way.

Wikipedia entries, especially controversial political ones, are fought over by holders of opposing viewpoints. Take the entry on Israel. But also take the discussion pages and the article history. Anyone doing research, including school children, can see the full range of sentiment and disagreement, and read opposing viewpoints that range from the informed to the absurd.

No Wikipedia entry can be understood, or indeed used properly, without reference to these supplementary pages. But such additional material presents an opportunity to learn more about a subject, quickly, than has ever existed before.

What's more, by working in this way a person is placed in a position where they have to weigh and judge different, conflicting claims. And this, critical, approach to source material and the claims of historians, indeed to information generally, is in fact the true practice of history - not the uncritical acceptance of authority. That's why Geoffrey Elton used to call history a "bulwark against tyranny" - no reference, he called it this in my hearing during a talk, many years ago. Tyranny relies on misinformation and distortion, and critical thought and scepticism represent the first line of defence.

That's why the recent searches of Wikipedia edit histories have been so revealing. When someone at the GLA edits Ken Livingstone's entry, or someone from the Federal government in Australia edits that of John Howard, we see another aspect of this new medium for information. Tracks persist. So long as retrospective alterations of edit histories are not permitted - a big "so long", but one aided by third party storage mechanisms like Google cache and - any attempts to manipulate the past can be discovered in the future. And since you can download the whole of Wikipedia, which is what the wikiscanner developer did, you can place a brick in the wall that defends us from tyrants yourself.


No posts till this evening

Definitely. Deadline to meet.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


I'd like to say I don't believe this:

A leading Jehovah's Witness who was branded an "evil monster" by his own sister was spared prison today, despite being convicted of 24 counts of indecent assault and gross indecency on children - one of which was committed on an 18-month-old baby.

Michael Porter, 38, of Barnet, north London, was handed a three-year community rehabilitation order despite having admitted to using his trusted position as a ministerial servant in the movement to indulge his habits as a paedophile.

At Bristol Crown Court, Judge Tom Crowther said he had opted not to jail him after hearing he had undergone therapy.
But I do.


So, posting wasn't all that light after all. Why? Change of plan; I'm going to see The Simpsons Movie this evening.


Guido points out that bankruptcies and house repossessions are running at terrible levels - triple the level of the 1991-2 recession. They don't call Gordon Brown "Prudence" for nothing.

UPDATE: Tim points out in the comments that a recent change in bankruptcy legislation will change incidence - a very fair point. Since I was vaguely aware of this, it was a sloppy post. Looking it up, I see that bankruptcy has been made less onerous, which is likely to skew the figures upwards. It's still unlikely to be entered into lightly, I'd guess, but historical comparisons become less meaningful. I seem to recall, also reading some speculation that people with student loans - which have been introduced since 1992 - have declared themselves bankrupt in the (perhaps mistaken) idea that it's a get-out-of-jail-free card.

France to regulate American economy

At least, that's what they want:

France said Wednesday that the recent turmoil in credit markets had strengthened its case for tougher regulation of global financial markets and that it would press ahead with proposals at a fall meeting of Group of 7 finance ministers. …Lagarde said during an interview that she had not yet discussed the initiative with the United States or Britain, members of the G-7 who have been reluctant to ponder any regulation of financial markets in the past. But she said that France and Germany, two countries she described as being “at the heart” of the initiative, were determined to use the current crisis as a catalyst for a stricter global rule book. …”There is a growing case for better state involvement on a coordinated basis in various areas, one of which is stock markets and financial markets,” Lagarde added. …Economists and investors expressed skepticism as to how governments could enforce more transparency in markets that trade in such a vast variety of financial products, arguing that the correction in markets was a more effective way of forcing banks and investors to reassess and reprice the risk in their portfolios. …Lagarde…has blamed the crisis on the “typical excesses” of American capitalism. She said that a gambling culture in the markets was simply more widespread on the other side of the Atlantic.
Makes sense. The French economy just powers along:

H/T Cato and No Pasaran.

EU scolds Japan

For planning three hangings in one day.

Just kidding. Japan isn't America.

(Oh, here's the best bit. Japan did this to "ease overcrowding")

VMWare hole

Using VMWare to run potentially harmful software (like Windows 8-) ) in a sandbox? Whoops:

VMware's scripting API allows a malicious script on the host machine to execute programs, open URLs, and perform other privileged operations on any guest operating system open at the console, without requiring any credentials on the guest operating system. Furthermore, the script can execute programs even if you lock the desktop of the guest OS.

Social mobility

The Telegraph reports that:

Teenagers attending grammar schools are outperforming pupils from wealthy families who pay to go private, according to GCSE results published today.
There are currently only 164 grammars in England and Labour has blocked the opening of any more.
The consequence of this Labour policy has been lowered social mobility. Instead of being able to go to an academic school regardless of income or postcode, now most kids from poorer backgrounds are frozen out by house prices and an inability to afford fees.

Are they too old?

For years now they have been trundling on. Decades after their daring early days, now they are starting to look so tired and weary that we can be forgiven for hoping for gentle euthenasia.

Fatuous drivel about the Rolling Stones being superannuated has been dribbled onto newspaper pages almost since I was a teenager. It's time these space-fillers were gently led to their wheelchairs, and tucked up under a nice warm tartan rug while the greatest rock and roll band in the world storms on.

Mick, Keef and the boys are almost as old now as the musicians they tried to emulate in the 1960s. And they are making whole new generations of anal retentives squeal in outrage - though now it's tobacco rather than heroin and mars bars. Is there any more vivid sign of our decline into puritan authoritarianism?

Well founded

What exactly constitutes a well-founded fear of persecution - a test when asylum status is sought? How about this?

Pegah Emambakhsh is an Iranian national who sought asylum in the UK in 2005. Her claim was rejected and she was arrested in Sheffield on Monday 13th August 2007. She is scheduled for deportation to Iran on 27 August 2007.

If returned to Iran, she faces certain imprisonment, likely severe lashings and possibly even stoning to death. Her crime in Iran is her sexual orientation - she was in a same-sex relationship.

Ms Emambakhsh escaped from Iran, claiming asylum, after her lover was arrested, tortured and subsequently sentenced to death by stoning. Her father was also arrested and interrogated about her whereabouts. He was eventually released but not before he had been tortured himself.

Ms Emambakhsh has a more than well founded fear of persecution if she is returned to Iran. She belongs to a group of people - gays and lesbians - who, it is well known, are severely persecuted in Iran.

According to Iranian human rights campaigners, many lesbians and gay men have been executed since the Ayatollahs came to power in 1979.
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