Thursday, 29 August 2013

Bombing Syria... in a truly kind and gentle way...

... why doesn't Obama send Assad the GPS coordinates of his targets in Syria?  After all, that's all he's left out so far....
His spokesman has provided all the rest.  Jay Carney says the action will be....
‘“limited,” perhaps lasting no more than one or two days. The attacks, which are expected to involve scores of Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from American destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, would not be focused on chemical weapons storage sites, which would risk an environmental and humanitarian catastrophe and could open up the sites to raids by militants, officials said.
‘The strikes would instead be aimed at military units that have carried out chemical attacks, the headquarters overseeing the effort and the rockets and artillery that have launched the attacks… the initial target lists included fewer than 50 sites, including air bases where Syria’s Russian-made attack helicopters are deployed. The list includes command and control centers as well as a variety of conventional military targets. Perhaps two to three missiles would be aimed at each site…’
 As Melanie Phillips notes:
What kind of Commander-in-Chief publicly announces in advance details and targets of his proposed strike? A Commander-in-Chief who is going to war not to defeat an enemy but, cynically and opportunistically, to win plaudits at home.
Weird...  

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

China's Plan 9 from outer space....


In the "Oh my God, here-we-go-again" category: China's own version of "Plan 9 from Outer Space", Ed Wood's cult classic, often voted the "worst movie of all time".  (Do have a look at the trailer above; it's a hoot).
China's version is titled "Document 9" and issued by senior party leaders, endorsed by by none other than China's new supremo Xi Jinping, and sent out to all Chinese officials "for study" (read: to hew to the line of).
So, shattered are the vague hopes that Xi, who has spent congenial times in the US, would be a liberalising force. Quite the opposite, it now seems.
We now have zombie ideas, the shop-worn cliches of the early days of communism.
Oh, dear.  This can't be good for China, for China's people, for the "China Dream" that Xi talked of earlier.  It also can't be good for Hong Kong, if Document No. 9 hardens China's leadership against such bourgeois things as universal suffrage, for which we are now fighting in Hong Kong.
So the Bo Xilai trial showed up not so much fissures in the Party between Left and Ultra-left  -- as I'd suggested earlier --  but rather between Ultra left and Ultra-ultra left. Not between, say, Leninists and Maoists, but between Stalinists and Maoists.
Stanley Lubman writes about China's Plan 9, er, Document 9, here.  I met Stanley a few times during my so-called "China watcher" days in the Australian Embassy in Peking, back in the late 1970s.  Stanley is a knowledgeable and safe pair of hands on this issue:
The headline-grabbing trial of Bo Xilai should not be allowed to divert concern from a forceful attack on the rule of law by the Party leadership that began this spring and became public earlier this month.  As articulated in Document No. 9... the threat of Western democratic ideals to Communist ideology and the principle of Party leadership is being taken more seriously than any time in the recent past....
It identifies seven threats in a “fierce” struggle, and the first threat on the list is “[A]dvocating Western Constitutional democracy. Seeking to negate the current leadership and the government system of socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
The document describes the offensive Western ideals as “the separation of three powers, a multiparty system, a system of universal suffrage, independent judiciary, a military belonging to the nation, etc.”... [some] threaten the system by "holding up the banner of 'defending the constitution' and 'governing the country in accordance with the law' to attack the party leadership..."
Quotes from the Plan 9 Trailer above, seem apt:
"They came from the bowels of hell..
A transformed race of the walking dead...
Zombies guided by a Master Plan, 
for complete domination of the earth..
Plan 9 from Outer Space!
Starring the most nightmarish cast ever...
What earthly power can stop this terror?"

It's too perfect a fit.  It's also too scary a scenario. For it's real. They come from the bowels of hell! These Zombies guided by the Master Plan, Document 9!  These "appalling old waxworks", these pusillanimous apparatchicks, these Ultra-ultra lefties stuck with stale ideas and staler policies, their only vision the continued power of the Party.... What earthly power can stop this terror?
Oh dear...  Come back, Ed Wood, all is forgiven!
************************
LATER: Summary of the five days of Bo Xilai's trial.  Good read.  From South China Morning Post, Mandy Zuo and Li Jing.
LATERER (30 August):  Dissident Artist Ai Wei Wei Wei's in... "Ai Weiwei on China's Trial of the Century."

Islam's choice

Quote:
Just when you thought things couldn't get worse in the Middle East, along comes another coup. Not just any coup, but a power grab in Cairo, the most populous Arab capital. Not that precipitous regime changes are novelties in the Muslim world; coups have a better history than democracy in Arabia and elsewhere. Indeed, the Roman Empire may have been the last memorable vestige of tolerant republicanism in North Africa and the Mideast.
...
Withal, voting is often confused with democracy. But the vote, as we see now again in Egypt, is just so much sand in the wind.  None of this seems to matter to wishful thinkers in the West. No matter how many regimes abort, no matter the silly rhetoric of jasmine and spring, no matter how many Muslim psychotics kill in God's name, no matter the body count, the West still clings to the illusion that Jeffersonian democracy will be the default setting after every Muslim upheaval....
G. Murphy Donovan is an ex intelligence analyst who blogs here.
Read the rest of his article above, here.
As I said before, what Egypt really needs -- and I'll wager most Egyptians would agree -- is clean, open, capitalist government; the rule of law; stability, and the chance to make a decent living.  Democracy, Jeffersonian or otherwise, can come later.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Michael Scheuer: Bin Laden was not (just) about the grievances, stupid!....

Omar bin Laden, third son of the arch-terrorist, seen here with his wife,
provides an insider's account of childhood with the al-Qaeda leader in 

Growing Up bin Ladenincluding tales of his father's abusive behavior.
Michael Scheuer, who pursued bin Laden for years from within the CIA's dedicated bin Laden unit, which he himself set up, is uniquely qualified to write a biography of his quarry. [source]
Yes, but:
Scheuer argues for instance that al-Qaeda is only engaging in defensive jihad when in fact anyone who has read Raymond Ibrahim's The Al-Qaeda Reader[17] cover-to-cover (which Scheuer acknowledges as an important but incomplete text) knows that both bin Laden and Zawahiri have taken great pains to disguise as defensive their plainly offensive jihad. Nonetheless, Scheuer accepts bin Laden's jihad as a defensive one largely due to the latter's portrayal of a U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia (beginning with Desert Shield in August 1990) as an "occupation."
And:
The driving principle behind Scheuer's bin Laden narrative is the argument that the "status quo U.S. foreign policy generates Islamist insurgents faster than they can be killed" and that only a change in that foreign policy can change the situation. But again Scheuer is selective in his evidence. A glance at bin Laden's 2002 diatribe, "Why We Are Fighting You," shows that foreign policy is indeed a problem, for the polemic focuses about half of its attention on U.S. foreign policy, especially vis-à-vis the Israeli-Arab conflict. But the other half is devoted to matters that touch at the core of America, matters such as personal freedom, which bin Laden sees as our insufficient submission to God, the fact that Americans "separate religion from your policies," and U.S. law's refusal to prosecute people for "immoral acts of fornication, homosexuality, intoxicants, gambling, and usury." He complains that women in America are allowed to work and that sex is sold and traded "under the name of 'art, entertainment, tourism, and freedom.'" All of these complaints and others add up to bin Laden's lament that America is "the worst civilization witnessed in the history of mankind." The only solution he offers is that Americans convert: "The first thing we are calling you to is Islam." Scheuer seems earnestly to believe that a change in U.S. foreign policy will end al-Qaeda's war, but he arrives at that conclusion by selectively focusing on parts of bin Laden's program while ignoring others that do not fit his narrative. Sometimes he allows this stance to blind him to reality as when he claims of bin Laden's jihad: "The war is being fought, for now, only on Muslim territory."
I've written before about Scheuer. It's a shame. A man with such knowledge of the subject allows his vitriol for Israel to falsify his conclusion about what Bin Laden was -- and his acolytes now are -- up to.  For that's as much hatred of the west and its freedoms, as it is grievance about US policy and the existence of Israel.  Scheuer ignores at least 50% of the motivation of Jihadis, and arguably the most important part at that.  For even if the US were to throw Israel under the bus, and withdraw from all Muslim lands, the jihadi war against the "worst civilisation... in the history of mankind" is going to continue.
In that sense, we really are at war, at least with that faction of Islam....
Read the whole article here.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Trinity college vs Muslim Nobels: "Spurious use of data"? The definitive version...

*******************
Richard Dawkins' tweet about the number of Nobel prizes won by Trinity College vs those won by the Muslim world sparked a kerfuffle with pro/con splitting about 50/50.
Many of the articles about the controversy quoted Faisal Islam, pretty much exactly as follows:
Channel 4 News Economics Editor Faisal Islam questioned Prof Dawkins' "spurious use of data".
I wondered about this.  What did Faisal Islam mean by "spurious data"?  So I Googled that phrase:
" Faisal Islam, spurious use of data ".
And what I got were pages and pages of pretty much the same story.  Bounce around, boing-boing, echo echo of the internet.  Same story, recycled. (I do the same, I know, but then I'm not the Independent, or Telegraph, or the Guardian...)
So, off to Channel 4 site... but nothing there in any of Islam's publications. Direct to Twitter then.  This gave these several tweets from @faisalislam:
Well, see what he says, not "spurious use of data", but "spurious data points."  Now it's clear.
What F-Islam means is the classic "fallacy of range", whereby you can prove just about any agenda you want to, depending on what beginning and end points of data you choose.  The most (in)famous perhaps is in climate science, where the use of different starting and end points in annual temperatures can prove either warming or cooling of the globe. (note: whatever you do with those data, the longterm warming trends are ineluctable)
But what of this case?  Faisal Islam claims Dawkins uses spurious data points.  But Dawkins data points are from the beginning of the Nobel prizes (1895) to today. What on earth is wrong with that?  Nothing I can see; perfectly logical and fair.
Instead F-Islam picks his own data points!  He picks the last two decades.  Why that?  Why not pick the last five years or the last 50?  His own choice is purely arbitrary, it strikes me, and not at all more logical data points than Dawkins' full-range data points.  Even then, F-Islam gets the numbers wrong: it's not 8 Muslim Nobels in the last two decades, it's 7.  Then again, Dawkins also made a slight error, in that the number of Peace Nobels by Muslims for all time, is 6 not 5....
Then F-Islam says that Dawkins' should "strip out" Economics Nobels, because they "aren't quite real".  Not "quite real"?? This is from the Economics Editor of Channel 4!  Still: strip out the Economics Nobels, even though they are labelled-- by the Nobel Committee --  "Economics Sciences".   Then surely we must also "strip out" the Peace and Literary Nobels as well.  For they are surely even less "real" and after all, the point Dawkins was making was about Science.
So, here it is, the full version spreadsheet.  Trinity College vs Muslim Nobels, for all time, and for the last two decades.  And with differing combinations of non-science prizes stripped out, for comparison:
Looking at this, it's clear that you have to really wrestle with the figures to make them come out favourably for the number of Muslim Nobel prizes.  Faisal Islam does so only by making his own -- arbitrary -- choice of "data points" and then by getting rid -- again arbitrarily, and oddly for an economist -- of prizes for Economic sciences.

Spurious moral equivalence: why pick on Islam?

The Dawkins Nobel kerfuffle also inspired an article by Murtaza Hussain in the AlJazeera website. He worries about Muslims being unfairly picked out. Why not make the Dawkins claim about other groups - Hindu, Blacks, Chinese -- who similarly don't have as many Nobels as Trinity College? Dawkins covers that very point here.  He says it's because (i) Muslims often talk about their huge and growing population and (ii) we are told that we should "respect" Islamic sciences.  No other group makes those two claims together[*]. Hence the focus on Islam and Muslims.
Ignoring Dawkins' logic for his tweet, Hussain then asks us to do a "simple test"
If you're ever unsure whether a statement about Muslims is bigoted, simply substitute the name of another minority community [Hindu/Black/Chinese] into the same sentence. If it sounds uncomfortable or even heinous to you upon doing so, rest assured that the original statement is probably just as malign.
This formulation appeals to many Islam apologists. "Aha!" they say, "yes, I see what you mean!  It's just as bigoted to make statements about Muslims as it was about Jews or blacks in the past."
But this formula doesn't hold water if you do a simple test on Hussain's own "simple test".
For example, a common statement about Muslims:
"Most of the terrorist acts in the world are done by Muslims".  
This is a true statement -- though some try to deny it... by changing data points!  Still, many Islam apologists find this statement "bigoted".  Do the Hussain "simple test" and you see that the opposite claim is nonsense: "Most terrorist acts in the world are done by Hindu/Black/Chinese".  "Bigoted" or not, more importantly, it's simply FALSE.
Similarly:
"Most Muslims want the countries in which they live to by ruled by Sharia law"
Many polls show this statement to be correct.  But substitute "Hindu/Black/Chinese" and the statement is incorrect.
One could go on; but won't.
Hussain's false moral equivalence doesn't wash, no matter how beguiling.
What's really needed, instead of claims of Muslim victimhood, is for Muslims to address the issue. Given the paucity of Scientific achievement in the Islamic world of the last 500 years, why is that?  Could the fact that boys are only taught to memorise one book, the Koran, and girls are kept at home, have something to do with it? Well, golly, I suspect it does.  As does the Islamic concept of Bid'ah, innovation, which is "haram" (forbidden) in Islam.  That might have something to do with it. Then there's the concept of the literal omnipotence of Allah, which means that you can't -- as a mere human --  you state scientific laws, since that would constrain the omnipotence of Allah.
(For more on this, see "The Closing of the Muslim Mind, How Intellectual Suicide Created the Islamist Crisis", by Robert Reilly)
In conclusion, to quote the wonderful, late, Christopher Hitchens:
What is needed from the supporters of this very confident faith is more self-criticism and less self-pity and self-righteousness.
*****************
[*] China also has a large population and less than stellar performance in Nobel prizes.  However, it does not make an issue of making the two points that are made by many Muslims: a large and growing population and the need to "respect" their science.  Quite the opposite: China tries to limit its population (and that's a whole other issue...) and it tries to improve its science performance by "studying from the west" and sending hundreds of thousands of its young abroad to study the latest in scientific discovery. In the years I lived in China, they constantly downplayed their science prowess, said they needed to study from the best in the world and to try to catch up.  That's in stark contrast to Islam, which asks us to "respect" contributions to science, which are now centuries in the past.
We should also recall that China had three "wasted decades", as it went through the ructions of the "Great Leap Forward" and the "Cultural Revolution", which pretty much put paid to any science from the 1950s to the early 1980s.
Even so, and using Faisal Islam's arbitrary last two decades of Nobels, China has twice as many, in the sciences, than does the Islamic world....

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Bo Xilai in the dock

Bo at trial.  Note the taller police.  I've looked Bo
in the eye and he's about my height, nearly 6'4" (192cm),
so they must have got real giants, or they're standing on
boxes, specifically to reduce his stature, bodily and political. 
My old mate Bo Xilai's trial started yesterday and it's in all the international media: IHT, BBC and so on. The best report of the events leading up to his days in dock is in the local South China Morning Post, which has the best English language in-depth reporting on China, full stop.
For example: The rise and fall of Bo Xilai, by Keith Zhai. [pdf]
A new Class Struggle?
The trial has also raised the spectre of renewed "class struggle", that we thought had been put to bed in the recent decades of rapid economic growth.  But here it is again, the struggle between left and ultra left, (or "right", take your pick) vs the ultra-left?  (Leninists vs Maoists? Authoritarian bureaucrats/meritocrats vs old-guard ideologues? "Capitalists" vs "Communists"?  "Constitutionalists" vs "Party supremacists"?, or whatever….).  Not good for the future of China, methinks. 
The basic struggle seems to be revolve around two issues: "Constitutionalism" and the "civic society". The ultra left, as represented by the "Bo faction" is against both of these.  In other words against the Rule of Law ("Constitutionalism") and agains "civic society", that is development of the sorts of NGO organisations, charities, and citizens groups of all sorts, which those in the ultra-left see as a threat to the Party's unchallenged rule. Still, the ordinary citizen seems to like what he did, not just in Dalian, but later in Chongqing.
A good summary of this, again in the SCMP, is this one: What propaganda against constitutionalism tells us about China's 'new' government. ("Recycled Ideals" in the print version). [pdf

My meetings with Bo:
I know Bo and, more to the point, he knows me.  That is to say, if one asked him "do you know the Australian Peter F..?" he would certainly answer "yes".  (Though I doubt that I'm high in his mind at the moment...).
How I know this is that when he was Commerce Minister in 2004, he came to Hong Kong for a few days. He had a lunch at which he invited various local luminaries, including Taipans like Li Ka-shing (Asia's riches man), property tycoon Lee Shau-kee and the heads of various other major companies in Hong Kong, maybe 100 in all.  And me.  Sat in between a couple of these major worthies.
Bo first walked round the room chatting to the guests, in Mandarin.
When he came to me, I mentioned the time we'd met in Dalian in 1995, and said that in addition to opening the Austrade office there, a "joint venture" had resulted from the visit: namely that I'd married the person that I had introduced to him there, and that the result of the "joint venture" was my marrying her and that we now had a son...
Bo stood up to make a speech, which he did in Mandarin.  He started off by singling out various of the guests for a few words.  And the first -- the first! -- he mentioned was me!  Holy fall-off-chair, Batman! He mentioned the story I'd just told him, in the same terms -- of the successful "joint venture", asked me to stand and take the applause of the guests.
A memorable moment, I tell you!
Well, as I said in my earlier post about our first meeting, it was my wife who was right about him from the outset. She'd said -- in 1995 -- that he would come to grief sometime, both because of his "too western" way of politicking, and because of his leftist-nationalist leanings, which even then she'd intuited.  In 2004 Bo was on his way up and still going places, so at that time I'd seemed to be the one getting his career right -- that he'd make it to the very top. He very nearly did. Just a few stupidities by Neil Heywood, by Bo's wife Gu Kailai and by Bo himself, toppled him.
And whatever his feisty contention [pdf] of the charges against him, he'll do time, no doubt.
And whatever the BBC and other media are saying about the relative "openness" of the trial, it doesn't measure up to that of the Gang of Four trial in 1980-81 was far more open -- even allowing live TV coverage, which this one does not.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Stop the anti-women gag rule

I'm not all that big on Avaaz.org, but when they get behind an issue they seem to have huge impact.
Here is some more info on the issue, with a link to their petition.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Shanghai Street Studios

SSS from luke Casey on Vimeo.
I know Michael from my efforts to get a beehive in my kitchen garden in Hong Kong. He came out to scope the place and we're in discussion about what sort of hive and how many bees....
Here's the email that came with the video:
Good afternoon,

Hope you're having a nice afternoon.

We're pleased to inform you that we've recently collaborated with Luke Casey, a UK photographer and videographer currently based in Hong Kong.

Michael met Luke a few months ago through a very talented mutual friend called Hannah Waldron. Many years ago when Michael was living in London, he had a Christmas market next to Hannah at Somerset House. Hannah is thrilled to hear that Michael and Luke get on and have worked on a project together.

The project is a short film shot in Shanghai Street Studios with a rare Velvet Underground song as the soundtrack. The name of the song is borrowed from the last film directed, written, produced and scored by Charlie Chaplin. 

It's refreshing to see how Luke sees the space. This short film will the beginning of many more projects with Luke:


Enjoy,

Michael and Martin
SSS

Princess Di killed on grassy knoll by SAS on orders from Prince Phillip....


And now: Scotland Yard takes seriously the rantings, as hearsay, of a disaffected (and dodgy) ex SAS officer. Shame on them...
Tina Brown debunks.
I recently met a woman here in DB who believes the moon landings were faked. For a while I thought she was pulling my leg.  But no, she had the whole thing pat -- no-one had landed on the moon; it was all done in a film studio somewhere in the Hollywood hills; Buzz Aldrin not believable, didn't know anything about moon rocks (or what she would no doubt call "moon" rocks...); how could the flag flutter, when there's no wind on the moon? (she knows science, see...), etc.
When I pointed out that if you directed a powerful telescope at the moon, you could see the bits of the lunar module left behind and the flag ("fluttering" on the wire that held it up) she was thoughtful.  Wondering, perhaps, how it was that one could imprint that scene on the lens of a telescope to fool we dupes....

What Egypt needs...

Two articles make the same point, one more colourfully than the other.  Clean Capitalism, not democracy.
Something like Hong Kong, then: not fully democratic, but free and capitalist.  And the rule of law....
I'd reckon that that's what most Egyptians would want now, a return to some form of normality, of tourists, the opportunity to set up businesses and run them without being squeezed by corrupt officials.
Till then, Egypt continues to plunge into a state of Middle East.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Oh.. goodness me....


A new review of 63 scientific studies stretching back over decades has concluded that religious people are less intelligent than non-believers.  
From the Independent.

An Ode to Kepler, the Planet Hunter

Kepler Launch
When astronauts first sent back pictures of the whole Earth, historians say it changed the way people behaved down on the surface of the planet. Where will Kepler's discoveries bring us? 
Today, NASA announced that the Kepler Space Telescope, which had been malfunctioning, will not be able to be repaired. Kepler may be used for other scientific operations, but its life as our country's planet hunter is effectively over, having successfully completed its prime mission.
More ....

Friday, 16 August 2013

Protect Nahla Mahmoud

I posted yesterday about this, now have the following email in from One Law For All.  Anyone reading this, ought to go over there and sign the petition....
Following her interview on Channel 4 on Sharia law, Islamists have threatened Sudanese secular campaigner and Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) Co-Spokesperson Nahla Mahmoud with death, calling her a ‘Kafira’ and ‘Murtada’ who has offended Islam and brought “fitnah”. The threats have been reported to the police who have advised that nothing can be done about the particular threats made by Salah al Bandar who has until recently been a Lib Dem Councillor. The police have even urged Nahla not to “anger” him further.[!, my emphasis.  Is it right that police should say this? Surely not...].
Hundreds of individuals and groups have already signed on to an open letter calling for the authorities to take action. You (and/or your organisation) can read more about the specific threats made and sign the open letter here. 
After receiving a number of complaints from CEMB supporters, Spencer Hagard, Chair of the Cambridge Liberal Democrats, has written to al Bandar seeking an urgent response from him. Pending the outcome of his enquiry, the link between al Bandar's webpage and the Cambridge Liberal Democrats website has been temporarily discontinued.
The Lawyers Secular Society is providing support and looking into various options available to address the matter.
Clearly, everyone has a right to religion or atheism without fear and intimidation.
This is something al Bander and his Islamist friends need to learn.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Islamic Apostasy Laws – A Big Disgrace in the 21st Century

nahlamahmoud
Protect Nahla Mahmoud

It is absolutely ridiculous in the twenty-first century to have laws where one could be criminalised and punished for thinking differently or expressing an opinion.
A great article by Nahla Mahmoud, in leftfootforward.org. Calm, factual, spot on.  About time there was something in the media of the Left about the craziness of threatening death -- death! --  for choosing to think your way out of a religion....
The loony Loonwatch.com, an Islam apologist site, still maintains that there is no punishment for apostasy from Islam.  That's just failure to be tethered to reality. After all, as Mahmoud points out, fully 19 Islamic states and Muslim majority countries have criminal -- criminal! --  penalties for leaving Islam.
Mahmoud concludes:
We are indeed facing a long battle against religious dogma and discrimination until these disgraceful laws are dismissed and attitudes are changed.  But let’s ensure that in the meantime authorities, groups and individuals who use these labels as weapons to silence others or to justify their existence are also challenged and embarrassed in public. There is no gray area here – you either condemn apostasy or you don’t.
Later: Ms Mahmoud is herself a Muslim apostate.  Read here the shocking story of the death threats she has received -- just this last week -- after she did a story on Sharia law.  The main threats are from a Muslim councillor of the Lib-Dem Party (!).  Yet, the police have closed the file, saying "nothing could be done" (!!).  Nahla seems to be in the mould of her brave countrywoman Ayaan Hirsi Ali, herself a Sudanese Muslim apostate and herself the subject of death threats to the extent she is constantly accompanied by a body guard.  Such are the dangers of questioning the violence inherent in the "Religion of Peace"....
NOTE: you can add your name to the list of those calling for protection of Ms Mahmoud.

Cannabis safe, but Hong Kong unmoved

Uruguay is legalising marihuana entirely, while many states in the USA are decriminalising its use.  But nothing moves Hong Kong, reports the South China Morning Post.  Not even the interesting lower chart at left, which plots the level of harm to oneself against harm to others (click to enlarge).
See where alcohol is: high on both scores; indeed higher than any other drug legal or not.
I know the argument that just because we allow alcohol, which is more harmful than, say, cannabis, that should not be an argument for allowing other drugs. But neither is it an argument against legalisation; indeed it's less so.  Especially when one considers the the crime and corruption associated with anything illegal, in the case of drugs, in the trillions of dollars since the beginning of the US's "War on Drugs".
The article is here (pdf).

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

State Dept. Spokeswoman Psaki Denounces ‘Enemies of Islam’

Oh dear....
As horrific as these bombings are, obviously fueled by sectarian differences, it’s troubling to see that the Obama administration has now put the U.S. government in the business of denouncing “enemies of Islam.”
Read on....

Richard Dawkins kicks goals... again....

You have surely heard something like the following two statements, often uttered with a measure of truculence:-
 1. “There are 1.6 billion Muslims, nearly a quarter of the world’s population, and we are growing fast.” There is even, sometimes, a hint of menace added. In the words of Houari Boumediene, President of Algeria, “Le ventre de nos femmes nous donnera la victoire” (the belly of our women will give us the victory).
2. “Islamic science deserves enormous respect.” There are two versions of this second claim, ranging from the pathetic desperation of “the Qu’ran anticipated modern science” (the embryo develops from a blob, mountains have roots that hold the earth in place, salt and fresh water don’t mix) to what is arguably quite a good historical point: “Muslim scholars kept the flame of Greek learning alight while Christendom wallowed in the Dark Ages.”
Dawkins then goes on to respond to the many tweets he had in response to one of his, on the paucity of scientific achievement in Islam.  
On the second point above -- keeping the flame of Greek learning alight -- one might add, to Dawkins' own ripostes (below), that of A.C. Grayling in "The God Question": namely, that if indeed Islamic scholars kept the Greek learning flame alight, then shouldn't we be paying our homage to that Greek learning, not to those who simply passed it on?  Dawkins' point on this issue is: if they did indeed keep the Greek flame alive, why didn't they do something with it in the 600 years since?
Read the rest of Dawkins, it 's good and sound stuff.
With thanks to Rob Anderson, for the link.

Dawkins, Islam, the West and the Saidists

An interesting article.  I've read most of Edward Said, including his "Orientalism" and agree with the conclusion about its deleterious effects..... Still, many many on the left remain in awe...

A tweet by Richard Dawkins: "All the world's Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though."

Norman Geras, The Unrepentant Jacobin, defends Dawkins against charges of racism:

Both parts of that tweet are demonstrably true. And yet it was the object of the usual derision and hostility from those who appear to hold that any criticism of 'minority' cultures is racist and prejudiced by definition, irrespective of its accuracy. Especially when said criticism is expressed by a 'privileged' white Western male, who---it is alleged---harbours a racist agenda to embarrass and humiliate the Muslim world.


The rest here.

Friday, 9 August 2013

7 years jail and 600 lashes for insulting Islam

People often wonder why there aren't more "moderate Muslims" calling for reformation of the more violent aspects of their faith.
Here is one answer.
Badawi founded the online platform in 2008 “to encourage debate on religious and political matters in Saudi Arabia,” according toHuman Rights Watch.  The group also said that the judge affirmed that “liberalism is akin to unbelief.”
For that fine and moderate, and liberal, aim, he gets lashed and thrown in jail.
In Saudi it's a crime to disobey your father; to leave Islam; to criticise Islam or even to encourage debate about it; to love someone of the same sex; to be Christian; to be Jewish; to be Zoroastrian; to drive a car, or leave home without a male relative if you have two X chromosomes.
And so on, and so dreary on.
This is the US' principal "ally" in the Middle East.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

We're saved!

Even if governments do nothing to support renewables, it seems that market forces will come to our aid.  The cost of solar is dropping dramatically with growth rates are in the mid 40s to 50s percent range.  Meantime, something the same is happening to wind.
By my calculations, we'll go from the following mix today, for electricity production:

That is, Fossil 56%, while Wind and Solar are 6% and 2%... to the following in 2031:

That is Fossil down to 7%, while Wind and Solar are 47% and 18%.  Water -- i.e., HEP -- stays pretty much the same (16%) while Nuclear goes down from 20% to 11%.
This is a dramatic change, and looks not unlikely to happen (my natural civil service caution kicking in there....)
This is from some projections I made based on current figures, with sources in the original Excel sheet...
No one, not even the climate denying right, ought to be against this trend, as it will clean the air, while providing jobs.  Of course the climate denying right will be against it on the grounds -- they will argue -- that there will have to be massive subsidies to achieve this outcome, and that this will affect global growth.  That whole subsidy issue is a fraught area, but I think the weight of evidence is that subsidies to renewables are likely to be no greater than subsidies to Fossils, and may well be less.  There appears to be a genuine technical revolution going on, especially in solar, that will keep on reducing costs relative to fossil. EG: Concentrated Solar Power, which gives 24/7 power.

Good news on Muslim integration?

Well, let's see, and follow Roubaix...
"A French Town Bridges the Gap Between Muslims and Non-Muslims".
My bet is, in due course, there will be calls to apply Sharia to the town.  I'll be happy if I'm wrong, down the line, which I'll make within two years from today...

Don't blame the immigrants...

Have been meaning for some time to find reference to Andrew Neather, the Labour (UK) staffer who revealed some of the thinking behind Blair and Co's wide opening of UK borders. Here I find the reference, in a Peter Hitchens article:
The opening of our ports had "a driving political purpose: that mass immigration was the way that the Government was going to make the UK truly multicultural". 
Even this apostle of modernity [Neather] was a bit worried. "I remember coming away from some discussions with the clear sense that the policy was intended – even if this wasn’t its main purpose – to rub the Right’s nose in diversity and render their arguments out of date. That seemed to me to be a manoeuvre too far. 
"Ministers were very nervous about the whole thing .  .  . there was a reluctance elsewhere in government to discuss what increased immigration would mean, above all for Labour’s core white working-class vote." 
I [Hitchens] happen to think this brief glimpse of the truth was the most important political revelation of our time. I believe the ideas behind it still rule.
Read more

Monday, 5 August 2013

Michael Scheuer: wrong then, wrong today

Email to BBC Radio World Service:

Michael Scheuer claims (BBC World Service here in Hong Kong) that all will be well if the West just addresses various Muslim grievance: Palestine, Afghanistan, support for Israel, etc. 

He claims that the narratives of Cameron, Obama, Merkel, etc are "duplicitous" when they say that the Islamists hate the west's freedoms, its liberty and way of life.  

But that's exactly the case: the Islamists DO hate the west, its freedoms, liberty and way of life[*].  Sure they may also have their grievances, which exacerbate their hate of the west.  But the point remains, that if we gave in to all their demands, threw Israel under the bus, and so on, we'd still be left with the existential issue: that they aim to overthrow the west and its infidel ways.

See here, for the argument and the proof.  (Scheuer claimed the same thing in 2009 -- also on your World Service. He was wrong then and he's wrong now)

Yours etc,
Peter F....

[*]Added later, as an example....
Does this look like they value the west's freedom?  From here.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

"Who's afraid of free speech?"

"How we know Islam is irrational"

Interesting new site I've just come across, news24.com: one where you can post an article freely (so it seems) and get plenty of page views and comments.  Might just try it out one day.
Courtesy Google Alerts on Islam, which links to an article on news24.com by one Peter Allebone, though the first paras indicate he hasn't done much reading on Islam. For example, Muhammad did indeed claim that Allah said he was the perfect example for mankind, e.g. in verses 68.4 and 33.21.
Still the rest of his thesis is interesting -- that Islam effectively dismisses 50% of humankind (women) and is therefore, ipso facto, irrational.