Friday, 31 December 2010

New Year's Resolutions

Mirroring below the post by the newly-discovered (for me), Roland Shirk:
QUOTE:
As the new year comes upon us, most of us come up with projects for self-improvement, which typically center on health, exercise, relationships, or moral failings we want to address. I'd like to propose some ideas for what we in the movement to resist Islamic totalitarianism can do to advance our cause.

The "Lump of Labour fallacy"

I've been reading a bit about the "lump of labour fallacy" lately.
Here's how it's described by Paul Krugman in 2003, quoted by Tom Walker at Ecological Headstand:

"HK to become world genomics research hub"

Another in the irregular series of "things that Hong Kong is good at..."From the South China Morning Post, December 27

A year's end-compilation of random reports on Islam

Dwindling of persecuted Christians in Holy land most unreported story.  [Here].  Dec 30.

Bill O’Reilly’s Mindslaughter. [Here].  Dec 29.   Quote from the article...

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

If Ted Danson can't talk to "the fellas", what's to be done?

Some have commented that if I deplore Ted’s idea of talking to “the fellas” in his imagined lunch with Jesus and Muhammad, then what’s to be done?  Isn’t it better to jaw-jaw than war-war?

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

What Ted Danson hasn't learned











Picked up a copy of the latest Esquire, which has on the cover “What I have learned” talking to various mostly Hollywood types.  See, I do read some leftie mags, not just the Squire, but also The New Yorker,Vanity Fair (UK & US editions), Atlantic MonthlyThe Guardian…. ‘nuff said.
Ted Danson is one of the interviewees. [here].

"Leaning on Conspiracy Theories"

Letter to New York Times, which I covered in more detail in the post immediately before this one.  No doubt will not be published (for a start, they tend not to publish letters about other letters), as they have a very small letters section and don't like to publish stuff critical of Islam.  But, as ever, I hope that the sub-editors read them and that, if referenced and sane, that it may have some impact over time.

All conspiracy theories are the same. Not.

Below is a letter in the New York Times of 27th December 2010.  It does the moral equivalence bit, this time with conspiracy theories.  You see, we all have conspiracy theories, so don’t blame the Arabs for theirs.  They’re all wrong, these conspiracy theories,  so those about Arabs are wrong as well. 
Except that that’s not true, is it?

Monday, 27 December 2010

"Frankly we need a degree of secrecy" -- Re WikiLeaks

Letters noted in SMH on 13th December....

The breathless reporting of the Herald and the outraged responses of letters writers over WikiLeaks needs a reality check.

Friday, 24 December 2010

This too shall pass. Not. Islam in Switzerland

To the BBC

Your program just now on BBC World service TV about Islam in Switzerland had a fellow comparing the concerns ("intolerance"!) about Muslims to earlier concerns about Italian immigrants in the sixties ("they ate pasta and garlic"!).  The message being that "this, too -- 'intolerance' towards Muslims -- shall pass". Muslims will assimilate and be accepted just as were the earlier immigrant waves.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Heroic, Female, and -- incidentally -- Muslim

Check out Nicholas Kristof's column below, in today's New York Times.  It's the standard op procedure for Kristof -- take one individual and attempt to construct a general case, with the case usually being far too weighty for the individual to bear.  In this one a lady, Dr Hawa, who does good works.

"Scientists seek to unravel the mystery of IQ"

More in the panoply of interesting stories in today's South China Morning Post, is one about China using it's new-found status as owner of the world's fastest Supercomputers, to look into the genetic basis for intelligence.

"China takes the lead over the US in climate-change measures"

The second of the stories about China, noted from the South China Morning Post of 4th December:

Another exciting article - exciting for us here in Hong Kong, that is, being here in the new epicentre, as it were, of the new industries that are growing up around the need to control carbon dioxide emissions.

"Low-carbon lifestyle within reach, but will Hong Kong grasp the opportunity."

Yet another interesting and exciting article from today's South China Morning Post, with the above headline. It talks of the opportunities for Hong Kong developments to move towards zero carbon emissions. And that would be something to be welcomed on both sides of the climate, especially if you can build these developments even cheaper than conventional ones and they attract a premium in the market.

"At the centre of fast and furious growth"

Catching up on some notes I took while away in Thailand, some stories on China in one day's South China Morning Post of 4th December.  (written in iPad Pages app).  More in the series of "what China's doing right", aka "why China is on our side, as a nation that constructs, rather than destructs"....


South China Morning Post 4 December, a story about how high speed rail networks in China are driving inland economies.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Baseball bats, that really gets to 'em

Passing by Pacific Coffee on the way to Central, Hong Kong -- they have the day's quote, from the dozy leftie bint, Susan Sarandn: "I'd rather use words, than fists". Gee, Susan, no kidding? Me too, actually. But what if maniacs are belting the living shit out of you?
Woody Allen got it right:

On profiling and data dumps

A quick post to file a couple of recent articles that have caught my attention, all in the leftie New York Times, mind. And I'm doing this on my iPad as I wait for the ferry to Central, Hong Kong, so won't quite finish. Links to come, as it's rather too hard on the iPad.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Growing Pains

Coincidentally to the discussions about Sir Frank Fenner's views on the dangers of growth and "unbridled consumerism", BBC Worldwide's Peter Day aired a program on 29 November titled "Growing Pains".  It's rather good

The end is nigh; don't do anything....

Run, Run Run for your lives 
Swiftly take cover
We're paying the price 
The Sun, The Sun 
The Sun is falling down 
Out on The Sky 
I can hear the people cry
Prophet of Doomby Yngwie Malmsteen

Below, sent to a Canberra Coffee Club group, in response to the clip of the obit of Sir Frank Fenner, famous Australian medical researcher.

Sir Frank Fenner, Medical Researcher, prophet of doom

A friend sent a clip from the Telegraph obituary of Sir Frank Fenner.  My comments in a following post.
[photo: Telegraph]

Friday, 26 November 2010

A couple of cheap shots; of disasters and contributions

Reading about the horrible "Stampede horror" in Cambodia last weekend -- 378 killed -- I was brought up short by the chart in the South China Morning Post of 24th November "The deadliest crowd disasters of the past 20 years"(*).

"Hardliners seek Christian woman's death"

The article below from today's South China Morning Post reveals something about two issues in Islam: the difficulty of reform and the size of "fundamentalist" (or "hardline" or "extremist", or just plain "pious", take your pick) groups in Islam.
[photo: SCMP]

Profiles in cowardice

There's been a lot of fuss recently over the new security measures put in place by the US's Transportation Security Administration: you go through the full-body x-ray scan, or you opt for the full-body "pat-down".
Many -- on both Left and Right -- are upset at these invasive measures.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

My view on Climate Change

Here's where I stand at the moment, having read around the topic from both sides over recent years and more intensely in recent weeks:
The globe is warming.  Part of the warming is owing to emissions of Carbon dioxide, which absorbs reflected infrared.  Part is due to natural causes, such as the bounce back from the last ice age.  The proportion of the two causes is not known exactly, but 50/50 might be about it.  Reductions in Co2 will help mitigate the warming, but the cuts will need to be drastic: perhaps 50% of current levels and below that may not have any effect (this point has been made, if I recall correctly, by Jim Hansen, the "father of global warming").
I have a few questions still:

Friday, 19 November 2010

The Bible is just as violent as the Koran. Not.

A recent reader's comment on the Bible and the Koran,  along the lines that the Bible is just as violent as the Koran.  Since this is an objeciton I often get, I thought I'd post my reply here, so I can refer to it later.  My comment first and then the commenter's.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Krispy Kream creamed in Oz and Hong Kong

A touch of smug self-satisfaction on reading of the demise of Krispy Kream in Australia
We had considered buying the franchise for Hong Kong some years ago.  That was after we’d already bought, in 1999, and established the franchise of the Wall Street Institute in Hong Kong, the first in Asia -- and which is just now celebrating its tenth anniversary(*) --  so we thought we knew something about US franchise operations (because we did…).
The thing that stopped us buying the Krispy Kream franchise...

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

One Law for All: Passion for Freedom private viewing on Saturday 20 November

One Law for All is pleased to present a private viewing of an art exhibition in London on 20 November 2010 from 18.30-21.30 hours in which a group of international artists address the controversial subject of religion and human rights. The exhibition includes pieces on the veil, female genital mutilation, child ‘marriage’ and women’s oppression.

Monday, 15 November 2010

"Part of the Whole" thoughts on mother earth, by Cormac Cullinan

Below is a piece in today’s South China Morning Post by a fellow called Cormac Cullinan, titled "Part of the Whole".  It’s not available except by subscription, so I’m posting it whole, with my comments interspersed.
I certainly agree with moves to control commercial fishing – we’re in serious danger of massive collapses of key fisheries.  And in favour of people eating less; and of food labeling, especially with info on calories; and of eating less meat; and of eating less (especially me); and of cutting back on consumption generally.   All good stuff.
The problem with people like Cullinan is that they look to major government involvement in the process, and that always worries me for I’ve seen what it can do in China.  Grim.

The case against Keith Ellison

The case against Keith Ellison:
This post is based on Lucy Ash’s interview of Keith Ellison (D, Minnesota), America’s first Muslim Congressman, on BBC Outlook, on 13 November 2010.
At 4minutes 30s Ash says, about Islam:
“So you felt it was a religion that promoted, wholeheartedly, social justice.”
“Absolutely,” says Ellison (or “Keith” to the giggly in-awe Lucy), rather taken with such an overly flattering formulation that even he hadn’t dared to voice.  (Did he feel he might have been gilding a rather limp lily?).
Goodness me, talk about putting words into the interviewee’s mouth!
What are the words with which the young and giggly Lucy did not think to question Ellison?  Why did she not ask him about:

Friday, 12 November 2010

Birds and Bees in Hong Kong

Greater Coucal

It's cooling down here in just-tropical Hong Kong, getting down to 19 C at night, brrrrr.   That means we can turn off the a/c and leave the window open, and that, in turn means we're woken by the music of the birds in our garden: magpie robins, bulbuls, olive-backed pipits.
I left early this morning and flushed out a Greater Coucal, usually found in the rain forest or scrub on the mountains just behind our house, not so often near humans.  It squawked its cuckoo-call, thrashed through the low bush and took off over the banyan trees.
Here are some of the birds I've identified in our garden, up the mountain, or the park right behind us:

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Sharia Finance op-ed: more than a "moral hazard"

The article below was an op-ed contribution to the South China Morning Post, which I sent out last week.  They liked it but preferred it for publication as a letter of 500 words.  I did the letter version, though in the event they didn't run that either. 

Islamic finance is hazardous to one’s health

It’s very odd to see a former Chairman of the Securities and Futures commission, Andrew Sheng, spruiking for Islamic finance and its alleged “ethical” prohibition of interest. [1]. 
Even more bizarre is his claim that Islamic might offer “great service to the rest of the world”, assuming it solves “moral hazard”.
Just a moment professor Sheng!  Islamic finance is a hazard to much more than one’s morals.
Consider some of the “hazards” of Sharia finance:
First, the Sharia hazard.  It is self-evident that Islamic finance is a part of Sharia, since “Islamic finance” is often known as Sharia Compliant Finance, or simply Sharia finance. [2]  Sharia jurisprudence is made up of often-draconian laws inimical to freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, and the equal rights of women and minorities.   The “Reliance of the Traveller, Umdat al-Salik”, the authoritative Manual of Islamic law makes this clear. [3]
Second, the hazard of funneling of money to terrorism.   A portion of profits from Sharia finance must be donated to Islamic charities and some will find its way to terrorists.   We know this will happen because: (i) it has already happened --  the recent Holy Land Foundation trials in the US identified 27 Islamic charities as funnels to terrorist organisations. [4] And (ii) it is called for in Sharia law –12.5% of money donated to Islamic charities must be used to promote Jihad.[5] Promoters of Sharia finance (such as professor Sheng) may play down the terrorism link, but the evidence is clear:
The 9/11 Commission Report:
“Donations [to al Qaeda] flowed through charities or other nongovernmental organizations.” [6
Stanford University:
“…terrorist groups such as al Qaeda have traditionally relied on Islamic charities for much of their funding.” [7]
The US Navy Center on Contemporary Conflict (USCCC):
The crux of the matter in combating the exploitation of Islamic charities by terrorist organizations comes down to the fact that… there is a recognized religious duty in the Muslim world to donate a set portion of one's earnings or assets to religious or charitable purposes, which in turn must donate 1/8th to Jihad activity.  [8]
USNCC provides a flow chart of how Islamic charity flows to terrorist organisations. [9]




Some observers have speculated that the clear and documented links to terrorism, via Sharia finance, may lead to legal challenges of Sharia products such as Sukuk bond, at least in US courts, for it is clear US policy to prohibit financing of terrorism.
Third, the inefficiency hazard.  Muslim professor of Economics Mahmoud El-Gamal says Islamic products, such as Sukuk bonds, are “poorly designed … grossly inferior and poorly constructed products for profit”. [10]
 They provide no innovation or economic alternatives, only exclusions.  Professor Timur Kuran has written at length about the outdated and inefficient nature of Islamic finance and documented how it has kept Islamic societies from robust growth.  And contrary the claim that Sharia finance weathered the Global Financial crisis, it has performed badly: see “Sharia finance a ‘huge flop’ in the UK” [11]. Why would we in Hong Kong want to pay for the creation of a system innately more inefficient? 
Fourth, the “ethical” hazard.  Much is made of the alleged “ethical character” of Sharia finance, and professor Sheng joins that chorus. We are supposed to buy the concept that the prohibition of interest is “ethical”, when in fact the time-value of money has underpinned western finance, (and recent ructions should not lead us to promote a system demonstrably inferior).  But there’s more to Sharia finance than prohibition of interest, or pork or alcohol products.  Sharia compliant “Sukuk” Bonds, for example, are prohibited from investing in products or construction that benefit non-Islamic religions; any project that promotes equal rights for women and gays; western defence industries (but not Muslim ones); western books, films, TV and radio.  And, of course, from any company having links with Israel. [12]
Fifth, the cost and policing hazards.  Proponents of Sharia finance such as Zaid Ibrahim & Co of Malaysia, emphasise that laws and regulations will need to be changed and that this will be an “on-going” and long-term process. [13] Laws to be amended include tax,  property, insolvency and securities laws; such amendments cost time and money.  Moreover, Zico stress there will need for Sharia finance law enforcement.  Is it right that the taxpayers of Hong Kong should pay for the creation of a religious financial system?   And that we should then police these religious laws? The Financial Services Authority of the UK has rightly decided that it ought to stay out of the minefields of promoting any one religiously-based financial system. [14]  It does so, it says, because it is secular and not a religious regulator.  Hear, hear to that.

Perhaps some of these hazards of Sharia finance are understood by the Hong Kong government.  For we have heard little of Sharia Compliant Finance since the announcement that it was planning to promote it in 2007. 

If so, then the policy of benign neglect of Islamic finance should continue, and ignore the likes of professor Sheng who is merely parroting Sharia-compliant progaganda.  To promote it is hazardous to our economic and cultural health.
Peter Forsythe was a senior Australian diplomat in Asia and founder of the Wall Street Institute in Hong Kong.  He is Director of Excel Associates, managing private portfolios.

References:
[1] “The new challenge to Wall Street?”, South China Morning Post, 30 October 2010.  See full article below.
[2] Shariah’s “Black Box”: Civil Liability and Criminal Exposure surrounding Shariah-Compliant Finance.  David Yerushalmi. Utah Law Review, No. 3, 2008.
[3]  Reliance of the Traveller: The Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law Umdat Al-Salik, Amana Publishers, 1994. Available here.
[4] United States Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Texas, May 27, 2009.
[5]  Reliance of the Travelleribid, h8.17: “The seventh category [of distribution of Islamic charity, or Zakat] is those fighting for Allah,meaning people engaged in Islamic military operations for whom no salary has been allotted in the army roster.” (emphasis in the original).
[6] The 9/11 Commission Report, p 55
[7] Victor Comras, “Al Qaeda Finances and Funding to Affiliated Groups,” in Jeanne K. Giraldo and Harold A. Trinkunas, eds., The Political Economy of Terrorism Finance and State Responses: A Comparative Perspective (Stanford University Press, 2006).
[8] Looney, R.E. (2006) ”The Mirage of Terrorist Financing: The Case of Islamic Charities”, Strategic Insights, Volume V, issue 3. Here.   And Reliance, ibid, h8.17
[9]  ibid
[10Have we learnt nothing? Here come the “Islamic Credit Default Swaps”, Mahmoud El-Gamal, January 3, 2010.  Here.
[11] Sharia finance a “huge flop” in the UK, Battle of Tours, 15 August, 2010.  Here.
[12] Information from of a Doha-based Islamic finance expert, who has worked with Islamic Banks and Islamic finance with the World Bank, Islamic Development Bank and the African Development Bank.  May 2010. 
[13]  Demystifying Islamic Finance, Zaid Ibrahim and Co, May 2010. Original from Zico website here.  Copy here.
[14]  Financial Services Administration of the United Kingdom, January 2010: “The FSA’s attitude towards Shariah finance is that they will not provide any hindrances for it, nor will they provide any encouragement. This is because the FSA is secular in nature and not a religious regulator.” Here.
********

The new challenge to Wall Street?
South China Morning Post, 30 October 2010
Andrew Sheng
Since Donald Tsang Yam-kuen announced Hong Kong's ambitions to be an Islamic finance centre, in 2007, there have been great advances in Islamic finance. I was in Kuala Lumpur this week attending the Global Islamic Finance Forum, which was attended by the whole glitterati of the Islamic world.
In the 1990s, Islamic finance was a fledgling, fringe industry. Today it has grown from roughly US$150 billion to about US$1 trillion. This is still small relative to some of the largest global fund managers and universal banks, who manage more than US$1 trillion each. But the double-digit growth and potential size of the market cannot be ignored. Some pundits think the market will reach US$2 trillion in the next five years.
There are roughly 1.3 billion Muslims in the world, with 138 million in India and roughly 30 million in mainland China (plus 200,000 in Hong Kong). These are growing markets in terms of income and wealth. Since the Muslim community wants to invest in interest-free banking, Islamic funds have been growing in leaps and bounds. There are roughly US$800 billion in Islamic banking funds, US$100 billion in the sukuk (or Islamic bond) market and another US$100 billion in the takaful (Islamic insurance) and fund management business. In 2008, Hong Kong sought to attract Muslim investors by introducing the Hang Seng Islamic China Index Fund, which complies with sharia law.
With oil prices remaining at high levels, Middle East producers continue to generate surpluses that must be parked somewhere. With Western markets and economies under pressure, some of that money has moved eastward.
Will Islamic finance be a serious challenge to traditional Wall Street finance? That question deserves a good answer.
First of all, thanks to the good work of Bank Negara Malaysia and the central banks of Persian Gulf nations, the infrastructure for Islamic finance has been laid. It includes the establishment of an accounting standards authority (the Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions); an international organisation to set regulatory standards (the Islamic Financial Services Board) and the Institute for Education in Islamic Finance. (**)
The basic principle of Islamic banking is the sharing of profit and loss, and the prohibition of usury. Simply put, interest is prohibited, but profit sharing is not. The distinctive elements of Islamic finance are its ethical aspect (the prohibition of usury and exploitation of the borrower), the preference for trading in real assets (rather than synthetic products), partnership between the investor and investee, and its governance structure (requiring a sharia council).
The point to remember in Islamic finance is that there is no Islamic global reserve currency. Although Islamic banks are growing rapidly, there is no assurance that they will not be subject to the problems of non-performing loans and bank runs that are endemic in commercial banking.
This week saw the launch of the innovative International Islamic Liquidity Management Corporation (IILM). It aims to help institutions that offer Islamic financial services to manage liquidity more efficiently and effectively. It addresses a fundamental problem of Islamic financial institutions: providing adequate liquidity in times of stress. Once an international lender of last resort is in place (to supplement national facilities, not replace them), there will be better confidence in the liquidity of the Islamic financial services industry.
The IILM is expected to issue high-quality, sharia-compliant financial instruments at both the national and cross-border levels, to enhance the soundness and stability of Islamic financial markets.
The signatories to the IILM Articles of Agreement are the 11 central banks or monetary agencies of Indonesia, Iran, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mauritius, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Multilateral organisations participating in the initiative are the Islamic Development Bank and the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector.
Islamic finance has come a long way, but there is still a long way to go, since US$1 trillion is still small relative to US$232 trillion in conventional financial assets (excluding derivatives).
The real test for any challenger to Wall Street finance is whether Islamic finance will be the more efficient, more ethical and more stable of the two. Islamic finance fulfils the needs of the Islamic customer. Ethics aside, there are two crucial problems in finance - information asymmetry and the principal-agent relationship. Because markets are not completely transparent and information is unequal among participants, we tend to rely on trusted institutions such as banks (the agents), to act on our (the principals) behalf.
The recent Wall Street crisis demonstrated how complex financial engineering enables very smart bankers to make profits at the expense of the public purse. When they fail, the public bears the losses because they are too large and too powerful to fail. This is the 'moral hazard' created in the absence of the level playing field that is a precondition of free markets.
The real question is, given our unequal access to information, how do the savers and borrowers know when the banks have shifted the risk back to them, because of moral hazard? Islamic finance faces exactly the same dilemma. If Islamic finance theoreticians can solve this problem, they would be doing a great service to the rest of the world. Then we would truly have an alternative to Wall Street.
Andrew Sheng is a former chairman of the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission and current adjunct professor at Tsinghua University's School of Economics and Management, Peking
********
** PF comment to para 6 above: Oversight bodies of Sharia finance include a number of known Jihadists.  Mufti Taqi Usmani, for example, is Chairman of the Sharia board of the Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions, AAOIF, the Sharia finance accounting standards body.  Usmani he has been banned from travel to the United States and the UK for his financial ties to Jihadist terrorist organisations.  Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi sits on the board of some major Sharia finance institutions.  He also runs the charity Union of Good, which the US Treasury has designated a terrorist entity. Qaradawi has called Sharia finance “Jihad with money”.  There are many other gentlemen (it's always men!) of similar outlook sitting on Sharia finance bodies throughout the world, including on the very regulatory bodies professor Sheng lauds.

Monday, 8 November 2010

"Geoengineering: Lift-off"

I've written before about geoengineering (here and here) -- that is, the concept of engineering a better climate.  Kind of fighting fire with fire.  If we messed up the climate by our industry, we can use our industry, perhaps, to fix it up, or mitigate the effects of our mess up.
The critics are understandably concerned: fighting fire with fire might just enflame the fire.  There are unintended consequences, it might take our eye off the ball -- the need, they see, to reduce carbon dioxide output. [photo: courtesy Economist]
On the side of the geoengineers:

Human Rights in Islam

Posting below, for the record, a recent-ish email to a friend and occasional reader of this blog, in response to his request for comments on a talk he's to give on the above subject.
[Click on image of book on the left for link to PDF of an Islamic view of Human Rights in Islam]

High Anxiety: the fear of naming the unnameable

In the wonderful 1977 Mel Brooks movie, High Anxiety, there's a cute and amusing opening scene where Dr Thorndyke (Mel Brooks), the new administrator of the Psychoneurotic Institute for the Very, VERY Nervous, arrives at the train station, met by his new driver Brophy (Ron Casey).  Brophy goes to lift Dr Thorndyke's trunk: "I've got it, I've got it, I've got it", he says as he huffs and puffs the trunk half way up, then, Thump, down goes the trunk: "I ain't got it".  He tries again, ""I've got it, I've got it, I've got it", and thump, "I ain't got it".  One more time, till thump, "I ain't got it".  Dr Thorndyke rolls his eyes, puts his coat on the trunk and picks it up himself, hefting it easily.

Friday, 5 November 2010

"How to keep terrorism grounded"

How do you view profiling?  Something common-sense, or an infringement of human rights?
I watched a TV show while in Koh Samui in June this year.  I forget which channel it was on, but it was a several-part series on Al-Qaeda and the pre-911 work on tracking terrorists in the US. It was a pretty good program, nicely balanced, I thought.
One of the comments by an FBI guy stuck in my mind.  Commenting on the suggestion that the FBI should have monitored people taking flying lessons -- the suggestion being that that could have stopped the plot -- he said something like "well, you know there are just so many people taking flying lessons at any one time, we just couldn't justify the time and effort to do that."

And he was not challenged on that by the interviewer.
[cartoon thanks to Dry Bones]

"Student convicted in anti-war attack on MP"


"She looked friendly. She was smiling, if I remember rightly," said [Stephen] Timms, who has made a full recovery. "I was a little puzzled because a Muslim woman dressed in that way wouldn't normally be willing to shake a man's hand, still less to take the initiative to do so."
[full article below]
I wonder if  Stephen Timms will be a touch leery next time he meets a "friendly" woman dressed "in that way"?  Would that be understandable?
[Muslim convert Choudry, above in a court drawing]



Hong Kong: the tippler's paradise

When I first came to Hong Kong in 1976, the proud boast were that we had the most number of Rolls Royces, though I guess that was per capita.  And the most amount of cognac drunk per head.  I don't think these are true any more; at least seeing all the Rollers in London's Mayfair during a recent visit.  And cognac?  I think we've moved on.
Lately we've had the most expensive bit of residential real estate: per square foot that is, on the Peak.  And the most expensive retail space is still, I think, at Causeway Bay.
Then we had a while back some measure that alleged that we had the "most intelligent" population in the world.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Anti-jihad lefties

In a recent post, I wondered about the disparity between critics of Islam and Jihad who are from the Right of the political spectrum and those on the Left.  It seems sometimes that those on the Right are the only critics, and that's not good if the Right gets conflated with the nihilist nutters on the Tea Bag far-right.  I noted some critics on the Left, including Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Chrisopher Hitchens.

There are many more, of course, and I came across a partial list on the New English Review, in an article by Rebecca Bynum.  She is discussing an attack on the anti-jihad movement by one Bob Smietana, a paid up member of the Left, writing in the The Tennessean.

Stop the Stoning: One Law for All

From the UK's One Law for All


Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani still faces execution
Global protests must continue
3 November 2010

According to reports received today, global protests have managed to prevent the execution of Iran stoning case Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani as of now. However the threat of imminent execution remains.




Wednesday, 3 November 2010

"Confounding Fathers"

I hadn’t realised till recently just how kooky is the right in America.  Sure, there’s Sarah Palin, who would make foreign policy from her patio (“I can see Russia from my backyard”).  And then the fruity Tea Baggers, sure.  But just how nutty were they?  Just constitutional troofers?
I’ve just read “Confounding Fathers” in last week’s New Yorker Magazine (Oct 18) which is an eye-opener.  There’s Glenn Beck, a founder Tea Bag, who recently converted to Mormonism.  That’s puzzling. I can understand how someone brought up in Utah in a Mormon household would be a Mormon.  But convert

Monday, 1 November 2010

Cruising in Chinese waters

Welcome and intriguing news on the weekend that Zhuhai, just up the road from us Here in Hong Kong, is going to allow visiting yachts without the usual paperwork hassles. Other ports like Shenzhen, are considering doing same.
[photo here: nearly, but not quite, Zhuhai.  It's Big Wave Bay in eastern Hong Kong, with waves not quite so big, but real surfies taking real waves, last sunny Sunday]


Zhuhai smooths the waters for owners of luxury yachts
Coastal city aims to become regional hub for pleasure boats
Fiona Tam and Ng Kang-chung
Updated on Oct 30, 2010
Luxury yacht owners, Zhuhai welcomes you.

Friday, 29 October 2010

BBC reports on anti-Muslim attacks; not one mention of the rising tide of crimes against Jews

My post headline above: that's the strength of the just-aired piece on Malmo, Sweden, reported by Tim Mansell.  Not one single mention of what's been going on there for some years: namely the flight of the small community of Jews, attacked in rising number of incidents, by "immigrants" (aka Muslims).  That's people like Judith Popinski, above, who has been in Malmo for 60 years, but is now threatened.

As far as I know, there has not been one single report of this in recent years -- and I listen to the BBC every day.  As soon as there's a nutter out there, shooting at Muslims, it's all stops out.  Of course shootings are crazy, stupid, reprehensible, abohorrent, and all that.  Also more newsworthy. I grant all that.  But the burnings of synagogues? The desecration of Jewish cemetaries?  They don't count for even a mention?

A billion just ain't what it used to be....

Kind of related to the post immediately below, about the Hong Kong and ASX/Sing exchanges, there's the news that China minted 49 new US Dollar Billionaires this year: mostly because of huge IPO's all via Hong Kong -- accounting to so much now of the HKex turnover and size.
49!  That's 49 new ones!  In one year!! I wonder how many in total there are in Oz.  I could google, but I'm rather too lazy.  I feel sure we don't have 49 in total.....
It's no wonder we're feeling the influence: eg in the property markets in Hong Kong and Australia.  In Oz, not always pleasantly, as a mate here from Oz tells me that there's a lot of angst about the soaring price of property there, pushed by Chinese money (media reports seem to confirm that) -- often not even to live in or to let out, just to buy and hold.
That's a fair concern, I reckon, even as we've been recipients of the benefits, owning property in Hong Kong.  But what about the poor folk just coming into the market.
I read that the Australian government made changes to policy just last year, to make it easier for foreigners to buy property in Oz.  I wonder why?

Aussie-Singapore Stockex merger not threat to Hong Kong

There's been a fair bit of publicity about the proposed merger of the Singapore and Aussie exchange.  Actually, it seems more like the Singapore exchange is buying the company that runs the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX).  Much of the comment here is on the threat it may pose to Hong Kong's exchange.  Well, for a start, even the so-called "merged" exchange is not as big as Hong Kong; and in any case, they continue to operate independently, not really "merged".
That's pointed out by Tom Holland, in the South China Morning Post, always worth reading his Monitor column. 

I'm copying herewith, with thanks to Mr Holland:

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

"A foundation of fear", comment on "Dutch culture wars"

The letter clipped in the photo here (click to enlarge), might, at first glance, seem very reasonable, a call for tolerance and an attack on "hatred" and "xenophobia".  But that's only if one knows nothing about Islam and the sorts of issues Europe is now dealing with.
My letter to the International Herald Tribune, the international version of the New York Times, below.  There's no chance they'll run it, but one hopes that many write in, so that in time they might carry some of the valid, cogent and logical criticisms of Islam and Islamism.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Roger Cohen: "Turkey steps out"

Perhaps a better structure of the above sentence might be "Turkey out of step".  For it is out of step with European values and culture.  Whatever Cohen says.

Roger Cohen
International Herald Tribune (international edition of the New York Times) 26th October 2010:

Cohen shills for Turkey yet again: Turkey "can be the West's conduit to the Muslim world", if it is allowed to join the EC.But this is "wish as policy", just the same as British PM Cameron's, wish/hope that Turkey can form a "bridge".  To wish it to be so, does not make it so, no matter how powerful might be the bridge metaphor might seem to be, when you look at the map....

James Carroll "Xenophobia on the Rise"

James Carroll "Xenophobia on the Rise".
International Herald Tribune, international edition of the New York Times. 26 October 2010.  (here, in the Boston Globe, as "The rising tides of xenophobia").

Carroll says
"...anti-Islamic prejudice [in the US] has been sparked by the war on terror,...".  

"Prejudice" means to pre-judge (Latin, praejudicium -- to judge before), to judge before you have all the information.  If Americans are "anti-Islamic" (I'd prefer "anti-Islamist"), it is not a matter of pre-judging, but of post-judging. Judging after the attacks of 911, after the earlier attacks on the USS Cole, after the earlier attacks on the WTC, after the  many attempts on US soil by Muslims, killing Americans, or trying to kill their fellow Americans, and calling out "Allahu Akhbar" and stating, clearly, explicitly and repeatedly, before and after the events, that their acts are done in the name of Islam.  It's only after all that that Americans -- indeed citizens in all countries -- are post-judging Islam and finding it wanting.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Workers of the world -- take aim: shoot foot!

Actors' Unions in New Zealand demanded wage levels for local actors in the new "Hobbit" films be the same as their "international colleagues", rather than accepting those based on local standards.  Sound logical?  Well, yes.... if you're greedy.  
Warner Bros have quite rightly told them to stuff their "Hobbit" up their Frodo, and will take the production elsewhere.

In a stunning piece of insight and self-reflection, Actors' Equity committee member, Robyn Malcolm, says  

       "If it does go offshore, it's going to have nothing to do with New Zealand actors.".  

Riiiight...

An Associated Press report sums up the background to the dispute:

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Laundering a TRILLION dollars through Saudi Banks...

"The fraud and money laundering that I wish to address 
involves the sluicing of approximately $1 trillion since September 11...."


Attorney Eric Lewis
House Financial Services Hearing, Sep 28 2010

Wow!  A trillion dollars and no red flags!! Thanks to Money Jihad for the lead, which seems to have been ignored in the MSM, apart from one report in the BBC.

Terrorists are not Muslims..... Except for the 94% that are!

Later: 98% of religiously-based designated terrorist organisations are Islamic.
--------------------------
It may not be seemly to argue over which religion or ideology is responsible for the most number of terrorist acts in the world.  But I didn't start it!
This post is in response to an article by blogger Danios of Loonwatch.com.  His piece is titled "All Terrorists are Muslims.... Except the 94% that Aren't".
He comes to this conclusion by drawing on an FBI report "Terrorism 2002-05".[which actually covers 1980 to 2005]
One of his key conclusions is that Jews are responsible for 7% of terrorist acts, Muslims for 6%.  So Jews commit more terrorist acts than Muslims!!  And Latinos for more than either.
Problem is that the stats go back to 1980 and the Jewish terrorist acts ended in 1986.  (moreover, those acts were aimed at specific targets, not randomly at innocent citizens).  And the so-called "Latino" terrorist acts ceased in 1998.
It would make about as much sense as taking the stats back to the seventies and concluding that the crazies of the left, the Baader-Meinhof Gang and the Red Brigades, were responsible for most terrorist acts. [I guess he's been reading the book above, though maybe he's just a natural at massaging the figures...]
A more detailed critique of Danios' claims follows:
Today there’s a major effort to paint Islamist extremists as an “extreme minority”, despite the fact that 25% of Muslims around the Muslim world – according to the impeccably left-liberal Pew Research Centre – think that Osama bin Laden is “good for the world”.  (For bin Laden's world view, see “The Al-Qaeda Reader”).   
Allied with that effort is a new effort: to suggest that most terrorist acts are not carried out by Muslims: for example, the post “All terrorists are Muslims.... Except the 94% that Aren’t” by Danios at Loonwatch.com.
Drawing on figures from an FBI report, Danios concludes that of all terrorist acts in the period covered 6% were Islamist and 7% Jewish.  Actually, that’s true, for the period (I’ve checked and get 7% and 8% respectively, so that's close enough).  
But the leap he makes is the implication that Jewish terrorism is something that is being underreported today:

Danios says:
According to this data, there were more Jewish acts of terrorism within the United States than Islamic (7% vs 6%).  These radical Jews committed acts of terrorism in the name of their religion.  These were not terrorists who happened to be Jews; rather, they were extremist Jews who committed acts of terrorism based on their religious passions, just like Al-Qaeda and company.

Yet notice the disparity in media coverage between the two..... It is to such an extent that the average American cannot remember any Jewish or Latino terrorist; why should he when he has never even heard of the Jewish Defense League or the Ejercito Popular Boricua Macheteros?  Surely what he does not know does not exist!

These seemed pretty strange stats and statements to me.  "No media coverage of Jewish terrorism"? What was going on here??  I had a close look at the figures he drew on.  They’re available in raw form here.  And in pdf of the spreadsheet I have made of them here.


Here are my conclusions:

Old News

Why would we never have heard of the Jewish Defence League?   Why is there a “disparity in media coverage”, as Danios claims?
Well, it could have to do with the fact that the last time the Jewish Defence League carried out any terrorist act in the United States was in 1986.  Now it’s true that there are those who will never forgive Jews –   “the descendants of apes and pigs” according to the “prophet” –  but even for the New York Times, bombings of 25 years ago are hardly “news”.
As for the “Ejercito Popular” movement, the last time it carried out a terrorist act was in 1998, so again, 12 year-old-story does not news make.  Moreover, the Ejercito was very much a locally-based separatist organisation: aiming for the independence of Puerto Rico – all but two of its acts were in Puerto Rico.  It was a territorial-independence outfit.  It was not  based on the aim of subverting the Constitution of the United States and overthrowing western enlightenment culture, as are today’s Islamist ones (eg, see Times Square Bomber court statements).

Danios says (referring to the Ejercito Popular movement):

Can you imagine the reaction if I said that Latinos should be profiled because after all they are the ones who commit the most terrorism in the country?

Why would anyone want to profile Latinos, when the last “Latino” terrorist act was in 1998? 

Non-Islamic terrorism in the news

As for other acts of “non-Islamic terrorists”, that Danios says are not covered in the media, in recent times these are the so-called “eco-terrorists”.  Any quick search will reveal that they get plenty of coverage, including in the New York Times.  A Google search of “Earth Liberation Front”, or the wonderfully-named “Revenge of the Trees” will reveal this.

Types of terrorism: tree spiking vs mass murder


Then look the types of terrorism.  The only non-Islamic terrorism that appears to be happening in this decade is “eco-terrorism” such as of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF and its cutesy “Elves”), the Earth First Organisation or Revenge of the Trees(!).  And what are they up to?  Apart from fire-bombing the real estate of the hated “globalist-capitalist” system – and trying specifically "not to cause harm to animals, human or non-human” --  they spike trees and release minks into the wild.
Now, my friend says that freeing minks can cause real damage to indigenous fauna.  And I worry about that; I do.  But somehow, to me, that doesn’t seem to present the existential threat of an ideology that seeks the world dominance of its own religion or death to the non-believer.  I’m somehow not as worried that a tree (or "Tree") will seek to wreak its Revenge on me -- not even a Banyan tree with its creepy aerial roots ("Roots") --  as I am by airplanes used as missiles, or by bombs in the Subway.
I also note that while the "eco-terrorists" may have been responsible for 22% of terrorist "acts" (and one could argue whether or not they should have been classified as "terrorism" at all, but still...) they were responsible for 0.0% of deaths in the period (and none since).

The fallacy of range


A big problem with the stats Danios quotes is their range: 1980-2005.  Admittedly this is not his fault; it’s the way the FBI has reported them. And they do not appear to have a more recent report in the same format: the only one being a report of terrorism internationally, of 2008.
In the early eighties there were plenty of left wing and a few right wing organisations, some carrying out terrorist acts.  Omega 7 is one such (they're the Cuban paramilitaries, not the fatty acids, though of course they may be the same thing....).  But even when it was active, Omega 7 apparently only had a handful of people -- "less than 20" [!] according to Wikipedia. It’s been out of action since the mid eighties.  Ditto the Ku Klux Clan and various other sorry outfits of Left and Right.  But they do bulk up the number of terrorist acts.  And the only way Danios has counted terrorist acts –as if they are all the same – is in number.
The stats could have gone even further back, to the seventies, and taken in the Baader Meinhof Gang, and the Red Brigades. 
That would have bulked up the numbers even more and diluted the Islamic numbers.  But it would have diluted the Jewish numbers as well. Making a range that goes back to the eighties does the job: it dilutes the Islamic numbers and brings in the Jewish Defence League of the eighties, resulting in numbers that allow Danios to claim that Jews commit more terrorist acts than Islamists. 

The results of terror acts – measure by death….

Even using the FBI report and its accepting its range (1980-2005), we have the following figures:

Number of Islamist terrorist acts: 6% (Danios), 7% (me)
Deaths by Islamist terrorist acts: 94%
Last Islamist terrorist act: Yesterday, Today (and tomorrow).  Average 5/day since 2001 (source).


Number of Jewish terrorist acts: 7% (Danios), 8% (me).
Deaths by Jewish terrorist acts: 0.09%
Last Jewish terrorist act (FBI stats): 1986

Latest FBI Report on terror acts: international 2008

Danios does not refer to the latest FBI figures on terrorism worldwide.  They show the clear majority of Islamic terrorism.
Here’s what they report for worldwide terrorist acts:
FBI Report on Terrorism, 2008, p45

Total: 15,765 dead.(some double counting, due to joint claims).

Update, 3 Feb 2012: FBI, National Counterterrorism Center, 2011 Report on Terrorism, 30 April 2011.

Terrorist acts stopped

In the FBI reports, you can read about terrorist acts that have been thwarted.  They don’t summarise those in tabular format, but in the reading of them, they are all, bar one or two, Islamic.  
That's not to mention those acts that simply failed because of incompetence of the Islamic bombers, but which would have killed thousands if "successful": the underwear bomber, the Times Square bomber, the Dallas bomber.  And the one that did succeed, Nidal in Fort Hood, bringing up the Islamic average with 13 deaths...

29 of 30 "Most Wanted Terrorists" are Islamists.

Only one on the Most Wanted Terrorist List is non-Islamic. Check out the list here.

Of course, at the end of the day, the numbers of people killed by terrorist acts in the United States is minuscule – just one or two a year. Without downplaying the threat, it’s also clear that one should keep the actual danger of death by terrorism in perspective.
It is clear, however, that to the extent that terrorism is a threat to life – as opposed to property, which is the eco-terrorist focus ---  it’s almost entirely Islamic.
More important is this point: that the Islamic threat is much more than just terrorist.  More insidious, quieter and yet just as determined, is the threat of “stealth jihad”, the slow and steady pressure to insinuate Sharia into the west, which is documented in many books and blogs.

The bottom line story on terrorism and the threat of stealth jihad is pretty simple: it’s Islamic, stupid.