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Showing posts from 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 va…

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…

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 her…

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

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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 bothbin 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 i…

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

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[Later: "Dawkins gets a break at last".  And, a bit Laterer: "Richard Dawkins is not an Islamophobe"] ******************* 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. …

Bo Xilai in the dock

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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: "Co…

Stop the anti-women gag rule

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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.

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. 

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...

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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.

Oh.. goodness me....

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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

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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 ....

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 …

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

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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 w…

Cannabis safe, but Hong Kong unmoved

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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).

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 …

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.

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.

We're saved!

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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 …

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 gli…

Michael Scheuer: wrong then, wrong today

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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 late…

"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 68.4and33.21.
Still the rest of his thesis is interesting -- that Islam effectively dismisses 50% of humankind (women) and is therefore, ipso facto, irrational.