Monday, October 31, 2005

Round up all the Muslims and exterminate them

The title is what letter writer Vincent Zankin in last Saturday's Sydney Morning Herald thinks is John Howard's real agenda:

"It seems Muslims are neither welcome here, nor can they be trusted, because the Government's involvement in the war on terrorism means that this country is at war with the religion of Islam.

This is why Mr Daye was treated as though he were an enemy combatant, and the sooner we stand up to this gross injustice, then the sooner this nation will be spared the infamy of heading towards another Holocaust."

(The story about Mr Daye was that his house was raided by ASIO by mistake shortly after 9/11.)

Zankin(who has long suffered Howard Derangement Syndrome) has attracted many comments over the years in the Australian right wing blogosphere (check Google,) but I think the above letter is likely his all time personal best. (For moonbat dribbling hyperbole.) Of course, the reward for this is having your letter on top of the pile in the Saturday SMH.

The other letter from that edition (see same link above) that was so breathtakingly wrongheaded was this:

"Why not urge our Government to try making friends instead of alienating just about everyone except their powerful business and American cronies?

The refugee policy, the invasion of Iraq, the downgrading of support for the United Nations, the patronising attitude to South Pacific nations and the refusal to say sorry to indigenous people are just the beginning of the long list of ways in which this Government has put Australia "on the nose" for fair-minded people around the globe and at home.

No wonder it wants to hide behind repressive laws and razor wire. It has made a lot of enemies.

Michael McGrath Manly Vale"

Where to start? Let's see: which country exactly did our refugee policy upset? Invading Iraq: well I suppose it upset the then murderous dictatorship, but who else is now "our enemy" over it, even they think it was a mistake. Downgrading support to the UN: don't know much about that, but we did giving direct aid and assistance at much greater rate than the UN could after the asian tsunami. The patronising attitude to our South Pacific neighbours: I suppose like helping at least 2 of them (Solomon Islands and PNG) restore law and order by putting our Federal Police there in potential harm's way. For God's sake, even Phillip Adams praised the Solomon Islands effort. Failing to apologise to the aborigines? Like that rates as a big issue anywhere other than in the innner city enclaves of the Left in Sydney and Melbourne.

Relations with all those countries who are either physically near to us (such as Indonesia) or our trading partners (US, Japan, China etc) appear to have never been better. (And I love the fact that this must really annoy Paul Keating.)

The Howard government has only "alienated" those individuals, like McGrath, who would never have voted for it in the first place. Dill.

Pearson on IR reform, and minimum wages

The Australian: Christopher Pearson: No job? No cash? Sod off [October 29, 2005]

I just read Christopher Pearson's weekend column on IR reform (link above), and this part is particularly interesting:

"In the US, not only is there no social security safety net to speak of but the minimum wage is little more than 30 per cent of median full-time adult earnings. In Britain, which has a social security system similar to our own, the Low Pay Commission has set the minimum wage at 43 per cent of median full-time adult earnings.

In Australia, thanks to the AIRC, the minimum wage is 58.4 per cent of median earnings, the highest ratio in any of the 12 comparable Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development economies. It's worth noting that the AIRC, without conceding any adverse effect on employment from raising its cost, has belatedly let minimum wages fall by all of 2.2 per cent relative to median earnings since 1996.

The Howard Government is proposing that the last award by the AIRC become the benchmark for minimum wages, so that they will be eroded by time and inflation rather than any sudden intervention"


It sure indicates that the expected gradual lowering of the minimum wage to even something like the equivalent of Britain's is going to take quite a few years; which would have to be good politically for the Liberals at the next election.

Sydney Morning Herald - if it's anti Bush, it's in

The SMH today reprints Joe Wilson's column from the Los Angeles Times in which he has another go at the Bush Administration.

Of course, the most important thing about the whole affair - whether or not Wilson got it right on the Iraq uranium issue - is left completely out of the picture. (As is Wilson's own admissions about how he "misspoke" about when he saw the fake letter.)

In fact, Wilson still insists in today's piece that he is right and the CIA and British Intelligence were wrong:

"I knew that the statement in Bush's speech - that Iraq had attempted to purchase significant quantities of uranium in Africa - was not true. I knew it was false from my own investigative trip to Africa (at the request of the CIA) and from two similar intelligence reports. And I knew that the White House knew it."

Of course, many people will believe this because the White House itself, prematurely and rather strangely in hindsight (all to do with political infighting with the CIA, apparently), did back away from the claim soon after Wilson wrote his original column.

The best summary of all of this is, I think, on the Factcheck.org site, with its further links to other material.

Now the Sydney Morning Herald, if it had any interest in keeping its readers aware of what the facts are, and how Wilson has been largely discredited in his original claims, would balance today's opinion piece with an article which spells out the facts around Wilson's Iraq uranium claims.

In fact, I think it would be outrageous to let Wilson's paragraph above go uncontradicted.

But I am not going to hold my breathe waiting for the SMH to do this.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

More interesting than all that Plame stuff

I knew Gene Roddenberry deliberately made Star Trek into a unisex, equal opportunity version of the future, but I never knew that Sulu would turn out to be gay.

I guess no one on the Enterprise had much of a love life anyway, except for Kirk, Spock (sort of, in his "Spock on Heat" episode) and I am straining to think if any of the others may have had a love interest for one episode.

For what it's worth, the original series, and a few of the movies, were worth watching, but it always seemed to me that "Next Generation" and all subsequent incarnations were repeating the same sort of storylines. I couldn't be bothered watching them.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Who you going to call?

Lateline - 27/10/2005: Lateline Survey Of Australian Security Experts

See link above to the details of a "Lateline" survey of security experts on their opinion about the proposed anti-terrorist legislation.

Most have formerly held government positions relevant to security or defence; most also now seem to be in academic positions. Certainly, it would appear unlikely that any of them have any detailed knowledge of the information on which the Federal Police and ASIO currently briefed the federal and state governments.

But what makes me really laugh is to see Andrew Wilkie as one of the experts polled. As if he (who left the employ of the federal government in a huff, wrote a book called "Axis of Deceit", and then ran for Parliament in John Howard's own seat) was ever going to say anything supporting this government.

It's like polling Richard Alston on the question of left wing bias in the ABC.

Time for a series on Islam

The Australian: TV airs fiction that inspired Hitler [October 28, 2005]

See link above to a short story about a TV series being shown in Jordan (maybe elsewhere in Muslim middle east - it is not clear) which apparently is based on the "Protocols of Zion".

I suggest that if it as bad as alleged, someone in the West should do a soap based on the historical events surrounding the creation of Islam. I would be interested. I share a general Western semi-ignorance about the subject. I know there was a lot of camel riding in the desert, a lot of tribal fighting, several wifes, and many people put to death. As I think a lot of the true historic detail is a bit vague (or disputed), just take the juicy bits, and then make up some to fill in blanks.

Just his domestic life should be sufficient enough for a mini series. From Wikipedia:

"Muhammad's family life

From 595 to 619, Muhammad had only one wife, Khadijah. After her death he married Aisha, then Hafsa. Later he was to marry more wives, for a total of eleven (nine or ten living at the time of his death). Some say that he married his slave girl Maria al-Qibtiyya, but other sources speak to the contrary.

Khadija was Muhammad's first wife and the mother of the only child to survive him, his daughter Fatima. He married his other wives after the death of Khadija. Some of these women were recent widows of warriors in battle. Others were daughters of his close allies or tribal leaders. One of the later unions resulted in a son, but the child died when he was ten months old.

His marriage to Aisha is often criticized today citing traditional sources that state she was only nine years old when he consummated the marriage. (See Aisha for a discussion of other, conflicting, traditions). Critics also question his marriage to his adopted son's ex-wife, Zaynab bint Jahsh, and his alleged violation of the Qur'anic injunction against marrying more than four wives. For further information on Muhammad's family life and consideration of these criticisms, see Muhammad's marriages."


Now to be fair, I know that to show Mohammed is taboo to Muslims. I therefore suggest using a blue screen technique to blank out his body. You would just see his robes floating around on an invisible man. This, and a lot of the sword fighting, would get the kiddie audience in too. (Then again, not sure that the possible marriage to a 9 yr old is the sort of thing they need to see.) The voice - well I think they can create a fake computer generated one now, using a generic Arab accent.

There - no one should be too offended!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Drawing a long bow

The Australian: Ross Fitzgerald: Keatingesque hubris [October 27, 2005]

Ross Fitzgerald in the opinion piece above thinks that the Howard government is starting to "look more and more like the Keating government in its dying days." This is drawing a very long bow indeed.

The image of the last Keating government got off to a spectacularly bad start when TV shots of MPs and senators dancing at the celebration party were shown within a week or so of the election. (For some reason, I retain a clear image of Gareth Evans dancing with some female MP, but I don't think it was Cheryl Kernot.)

It was the perfect image of a party that was too much in love with itself and power.

For all I know, Howard's people may have done the same, but at least they have the sense not to let TV images of it be splashed over the media.

Fitzgerald thinks that Howard is too ideologically obsessed. In fact, I think that it was the ideological bent of the Labor Party (which indicated that no further substantial reform was coming) that led to its downfall. Sure, their major reforms under Hawke/Keating were a triumph over previous party policy, and good on them. But (as I recall it), it was pretty clear that it was not going much further by the time Keating took over.

And rigidity and "capture" by certain interest groups was certainly there in aboriginal affairs (when it was impossible for the Minister to ever accept the compelling evidence that the Hindmarsh Island affair was a fraud perpetrated by one subset of aboriginal locals.) I also remember Paul Keating being caught for a few seconds with his mind madly ticking over when he was asked in an election debate with Howard what he thought about gay marriage (or gay something.) As I recall it, while Keating's mouth was still frozen in uncertainty (as his privately expressed view that 2 men and a dog are not a family was, I think, already known,) Howard leapt in and gave an answer. (The answer being the conservative but moderate line he presumably still holds.)

My point is that the fact that the Howard government still wants major reforms is a sign of substantial life and vitality in it yet. The reforms are pragmatic as much as ideological, and that's how it should be. (The dissolution of ATSIC is certainly one example of pragmatic desire to improve aboriginal administration over the ideology of self rule.)

I don't think that there is any fair perception of the Liberal government as being held hostage by big business as an interest group; they may be happy with IR reform, but I didn't see them making that much of a fuss about it before the last election. (In fact, didn't the government had to prod companies to try and use the current regime of workplace agreements more frequently?)
As I see it, the primary government motive is not to "smash"unions, but rather a desire to improve pragmatic outcomes (decreasing the persistent level of unemployment, assisting productivity increases and flow on wage increases.) If unions get hurt in the process, so be it, as this government does not have to be concerned about dealing with them as part of their power base. Sure there is some "risk" involved, but as some commentators have pointed out, the failure of the extremely dire predictions against the GST to materialise must be making many voters realise that they need to be at least a little skeptical of the ACTU's worst claims. The unavoidable fact of demographics making workers increasingly scarce over the next decade must work in worker's favour as well.

The poor polls of this week are so far from an election they don't matter one iota. Fitzgerald knows that in his heart, I am sure.

A trilogy of nutters

This morning's peruse of the news was notable for 3 stories found in quick succession on men who could only be described as absolute nutters.

First: this story is horrifying. (Middle aged man in Adelaide - which after all, has a reputation for weirdo's that it has to keep up - found with child porn and material showing that he has even worse fantasies.) Not funny at all.

Second story: random ear biting attack in Sydney. Only sort of funny if you think how unlucky you can be.

Third story: (found via Drudge) - terrible if it happened to you, but otherwise so odd it is gross-out funny.

"A Dallas cab driver is in big trouble for getting caught on tape sprinkling dried feces on pastries.

49-year-old Behrouz Nahidmobarekeh is on trial for allegedly throwing fecal matter on pastries at a Fiesta grocery store.

Police said they found a pile of human feces by his bed.

He would dry it, either by microwave or just letting it sit out and grate it up with a cheese grater and then sprinkle it at the store, officials said.

Neither attorneys in the case is clear about a motive or why the defendant would resort to something so repulsive."

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Idiots with lasers

The Australian: Jet pilots targeted by lasers [October 21, 2005]

I meant to post on the above story a few days ago but forgot.

It's interesting to see the number of incidents of this in Australia recently.

The Maroochydore incidents I would strongly suspect as coming from a row of new-ish holiday apartment buildings running parallel to the runway, many of which have balconies with good, high line of sight to the approaches. Teenagers on summer holidays would be the most likely culprits, I expect.

I don't recall reading anything about these last summer, but maybe I missed it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Useless poll questions

Voters say yes to terror Australis - National - smh.com.au

The link above is about an AC Nielson poll in which 60% of the respondents apparently were against the police being given "shoot to kill" authority when pursuing terrorist suspects.

As I detailed at length a few days ago, the legal question about currrent police authority to use lethal force in an arrest is complicated. It relies on both legislation (that varies slightly from State to State) as well as common law. There is no way possible that this poll could have given the respondents sufficient background information for them to make a meaningful response. Even the use of "shoot to kill" in the first place (if indeed that is the phrase used; this story does not make it clear) was really so prejudicial as to make the poll results useless.

It is a "gut reaction" poll, but we shouldn't make law on that basis.

I told you so....(cats and madness again)

I did a post recently about my surprise that there had been research going on for decades about the possible (or likely) link between toxoplasma gondii (which people commonly catch from cats) and schizophrenia. I had stumbled across an article that was a couple of years old about this.

Turns out my post was rather prescient. An article today from Science Daily shows that there should be some concern about this disease. To quote:

McAllister, also a clinical professor of pathology in the U. of I. College of Medicine at Urbana-Champaign, made his case based on his review of numerous studies on the animal-carried pathogen during the past decade. His review, prepared for the conference, appeared in the Sept. 30 issue of the journal Veterinary Parasitology.

"Our profession needs to come to grip with the accumulating body of evidence about the tremendous burden wrought on society by toxoplasmosis," McAllister wrote. "Further research is needed to clarify the association between toxoplasmosis and mental health, but until such time that this association may be refuted, it is my opinion that the current evidence is strong enough to warrant an assumption of validity."....

In his review, McAllister noted a long list of maladies made worse by toxoplasma infection in people with suppressed immunity, and he cited a growing list of studies that link problems in people whose immune systems are not impaired. Among the latter problems are fever, enlarged lymph nodes, weakness and debilitation, damaged vision, or multi-systemic infections with serious complications such as pneumonia and hepatitis. Toxoplasma also is a causative agent of encephalitis in AIDS patients....

"Evidence is mounting to link toxoplasmosis with schizophrenia or similar psychiatric disorders (in people)," McAllister wrote. "Recent studies from three countries found that schizophrenic patients had higher antibody levels to T. gondii than did matched control subjects."

He also cited older studies that used a toxoplasma skin test that "showed highly significant associations between toxoplasmosis and psychiatric disorders." Recent studies also have linked infections with reduced average intelligence.

Gosh. This has just 3 links in Google News. You would think the MSM would run with a story about this.


In the news...

I suppose I had better post again, as my hit rate does slide away if I don't.

Of interest in the news today:

Abortion: I posted last week on the Victorian government's modest plan to require women seeking a late term abortion for "psychosocial reasons" to have a 48 hour cooling off period and counselling independent of that provided by the clinic that is providing this service. Given that a recent increase in the numbers of women seeking this service is largely among teenagers, who one might expect are the most in need of some independent counseling and time to think, it seemed to be a very sensible suggestion. Well, this is just all too much for Labor women, because it dares suggest that some women might not get want they want, regardless of the reasons they want it. Anyway, the Minister (a woman) is expected to drop the cooling off period, but still require the independent counselling.

It's better than doing nothing, but the militancy with which Labor women oppose any reform on an area that is a matter that most doctors find ethically challenging is what bothers me most.

Phillip Adams: in the Australia, has a go at Australians for not getting upset about the planned execution of Nguyen Tuong Van in Singapore for drug smuggling. It's all racism, he says. He draws comparison with Schapelle Corby. One big difference he fails to mention: Nguyen's lawyer said yesterday on Radio National that his client had never denied guilt and fully co-operated with police.

I don't think he should be executed either. The amount involved was relatively small, and he has apparently provided evidence that could be used to prosecute figures in Australia (if he is alive to give evidence.) In any event, drug smuggling is just not one of those offences that I would ever consider worthy of capital punishment.

But Adams' having a go at Australians for being racist by failing to take this case to heart is going to have the opposite effect from what he wants.

Gerard Henderson: in the SMH today has another good article on the supposed cynicism and alienation of the Australian electorate. (It's all a bit of a "beat up", basically.) Well worth reading.

Tony Parkinson (The Age) on the problem with Syria is good too.

The number of kid's deaths from driveway accidents now exceeds pool drownings, according to the Australian. That surprises me, and as I hate urban 4WD's anyway, my bias against them is further boosted. (Yes I know, not all of these deaths would be from 4WD.)

I would like to finish with something lighter, but haven't found anything yet...

Saturday, October 22, 2005

The spring theme continues


From our garden a short time ago. (Ignore the weeds please.)

Racing the pigeons

The recent news that imported Canadian racing pigeons were to be killed for having (at least) bird flu antibodies left me a little bemused - over the fact that there is hobby in Australia that I hadn't heard of for decades. I also wonder why they are imported from Canada. Presumably, it is one of Canada's claims to fame - if you are into pigeons. (This reminds me of Gonzo from the Muppets, with his intense interest in chickens.)

Googling "racing pigeons Australia" in fact brings up 15,700 hits (if you limit it to Australian web sites - 153,000 if you don't!) This could make a guy feel paranoid. What else is going on around me in this country that I have never noticed?

Things get a little weird when you look at the first link on that google search (entitled, oddly enough, "Racing Pigeons Australia".) It explains that the first section:

"is for the dedicated pigeon fancier who is only interested in viewing close up photography of pigeons eyes."

Wow. I suspect that getting stuck next to a racing pigeon fancier at a singles dinner party might be some girl's idea of hell.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Shooting to kill

Just to prove that I can be as even handed as the next right wing Aussie blogger, and even though I don't like to go out of my way to support grandstanding Labor State premiers, I think I agree with them that the so-called "shoot to kill" provision in the anti terrorism bill deserves either amendment or ignoring.

The Australian runs a not bad summary of the issue in its article here.

The proposed bill's section is s105.23:

"An AFP member must not, in the course of taking a person into
custody or detaining a person under a preventative detention order,
use more force, or subject the person to greater indignity, than is
necessary and reasonable:

(a) to take the person into custody; or
(b) to prevent the escape of the person after being taken into
custody.

(2) An AFP member must not, in the course of taking a person into
custody or detaining a person under a preventative detention order,

(a) do anything that is likely to cause the death of, or grievous
bodily harm to, the person unless the AFP member believes
on reasonable grounds that doing that thing is necessary to
protect life or to prevent serious injury to another person
(including the AFP member); or

(b) if the person is attempting to escape being taken into custody
by fleeingĂ‚—do such a thing unless:

(i) the AFP member believes on reasonable grounds that
doing that thing is necessary to protect life or to prevent
serious injury to another person (including the AFP
member); and
(ii) the person has, if practicable, been called on to
surrender and the AFP member believes on reasonable
grounds that the person cannot be apprehended in any
other manner.

This section in the proposed bill simply copies the power that is already in the Commonwealth Crimes Act. Also, to take one example, Queensland has a similar legislative power which is worth reading in detail by way of comparison:

"(1) This section applies if a police officer reasonably suspects a person--
(a) has committed, is committing, or is about to commit an offence punishable by life imprisonment; or
(b) has committed an offence punishable by life imprisonment and is attempting to escape arrest or has escaped from arrest or custody

(2) This section also applies if--
(a) a police officer reasonably suspects a person is doing, or is about to do, something likely to cause grievous bodily harm to, or the death of, another person; and
(b) the police officer reasonably suspects he or she can not prevent the grievous bodily harm or death other than in the way authorised under this section.

(3) It is lawful for the police officer to use the force reasonably necessary--

(a) to prevent the continuation or repetition of the offence or the commission of another offence punishable by life imprisonment; or
(b) to apprehend the person; or
(c) to prevent the escape of a person from arrest or custody; or
(d) to prevent the commission of an act mentioned in subsection (2).

(4) The force a police officer may use under this section includes force likely to cause grievous bodily harm to a person or the person's death.

(5) If the police officer reasonably believes it is necessary to use force likely to cause grievous bodily harm to a person or the person's death, the police officer must, if practicable, first call on the person to stop doing the act."

The difference is that the Queensland provision is talking about persons who are already suspected of having commited a serious offence (or are currently engaged in something that will harm others,) whereas the Commonwealth section is aimed at people who are the subject of preventative detention orders.

Now, such orders may only be granted in cases where:

"there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the subject:
(i) will engage in a terrorist act; or
(ii) possesses a thing that is connected with the preparation
for, or the engagement of a person in, a terrorist act; or
(iii) has done, or will do, an act in 1 preparation for, or
planning, a terrorist act; and

(b) making the order would substantially assist in preventing a
terrorist act occurring.

(3) A terrorist act referred to in subsection (2):
(a) must be one that is imminent; and
(b) must be one that is expected to occur, in any event, at some
time in the next 14 days."

Clearly, the proposed bill may be used to allow the police to nab people who may be seriously dangerous, so serious powers relating to arrest are needed. However, you would have to suspect that the very fact that a preventative detention order has been made will make the police more ready to assume that lethal force is necessary to "...protect life or to prevent serious injury to another person (including the AFP member) ". The Commonwealth section, although almost certainly intended to cover necessary steps if the danger is immediately present at the time of the arrest, does not spell that so clearly.

Frankly, I think the wording of the Queensland provision is better and clearer in that it's emphasis in section (2) is obviously more clearly on the "here and now" of the arrest: the person "... is doing, or is about to do" the thing that will cause death or gbh.

There was no nefarious intent in the Commonwealth drafters in putting the current Crimes Act provision in the Bill, and the Premiers have been guilty of grandstanding on this. But, it is still the case that the Commonwealth power is left a little ambiguous when you try to apply it to arresting someone for an possible future offence, not one that is already committed. The wording of the Commonwealth provision should therefore, in my view, be tightened.

But frankly, I doubt that it would matter much if the States just all keep their own laws on "shoot to kill" anyway. I am no expert, but I think that their provisions are not going to work dramatically differently to the AFP's. It just takes care and common sense (and good police training onrecognizingg quickly when the different levels of force are needed).

There, I have done it. Supported Labor Premiers. (Sort of.) Now must have a shower and come to my senses!

Other people's blogs

I don't recall how I stumbled onto neo neocon, but it is a particularly good little personal blog on all things neocon, and best of all is the reasons the author gives for her creating it:

"I'm a woman in my fifties, lifelong Democrat mugged by reality on 9/11. Born in New York, living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon. My friends and family are becoming sick of what they see as my inexplicable conversion, so I've started this blog to give vent to my frustration. I have a background as a therapist, and my politics make me a pariah in my profession, too. Little did I know that I moved in such politically homogeneous circles."
Tim Blair should link to it. But then, he should link to me too!

Next, I sometimes click on a random blog name on the "blogs updated" list that scrolls continuously on the Blogger site. That is how I found this one, from a Malaysian guy who hates his boss and has a strange turn of phrase. From his first post:

"Work wise, currently I'm attached to an investment company. The work description and job scope sound very dynamic but most of the time I'll be swinging my two beloved balls."

??

The next post, about his cat, notes:

"I guess female cats are not interested in him since he has no balls, secondly he can't swing his balls when he's not doing anything like I enjoy doing during office hour hehe...(He was already castrate when I adopted him)."

What exactly is he doing in his spare time in the office??

Another post complains about how tired he is because of Ramadan (it's true, then, as I had a previous post about this.) He complains:

"Not only that, the eyes feel so heavy too. So heavy that you would not care even if there is a bare stinky butt beside your face."

Next, he is posting that his wife is pregnant and it is a girl. What a worry. Just remember, I read it so that you don't have to.

Finally for now, while not really a blog as such, Newsbusters seems a pretty good professionally run conservative site on "liberal media bias" in the States.

Really, really trivial news

MSN-Mainichi Daily News: National News

See link above if you want to see a Japanese poodle crossing the road very safely on two legs.

"Passersby contacted police afterwards, saying the dog had given them renewed recognition of the importance of road safety.

Pluto walked on his hind legs into an office at Ise Police Station to receive the honor. Station head Etsujiro Kurachi addressed the canine saying, "Thank you, Pluto," and handed over the dog food prize."

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Songs you don't normally expect at a wedding

In Mali, women debate circumcision

See link above for interesting story on female "circumcision" in West Africa. To quote:

"Female circumcision -- also known as female genital mutilation -- is widespread in West Africa, despite a smattering of national laws and campaigns to eradicate the practice. In Mali, for example, almost 92 percent of women of childbearing age have been circumcised, according to a recent government study.

But Mali is now spearheading a new regional initiative against female circumcision using an unusual medium: Griots like Gamara, who exert a powerful and indispensable role in traditional West African culture."

A Griot is a "member of the cast of traditional singers and storytellers" in that part of the world.

"Pitted against the anti-circumcision movement are powerful social and religious forces. Although the tradition of cutting off part or all of a girl's clitoris before marriage was practiced long before Islam arrived in Africa, many Muslim adherents describe it as a religious necessity.

Others, like Gamara, argue that female circumcision is hygienic, even though it can cause major medical problems if unclean instruments are used."

Hygienic?? What do they conceive the clitoris as doing to make a woman unhygienic?

""At the beginning it was very difficult to decide to sing against circumcision," recalled Kida, a nationally renowned singer and griot who often appears on Malian TV. "People said, 'Assitan, you shouldn't meddle with that. Because circumcision is part of our culture.'

"But I said no," Kida added. "Even doctors are telling people to stop."

Kida herself has been circumcised. But her three young daughters have not. She is currently recording a CD that includes songs promoting children's rights and speaking about the problems of female circumcision. But she says she approaches the subject gingerly when she sings at weddings or at other public occasions.

"I never sing about it in an aggressive way," Kida said, adding that she usually approaches the subject of female circumcision at the end of her act. "And often people will come up to me and say, 'This is good. What you have sung about circumcision is true.'"

Wedding receptions are a little different there...

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Dumb question

BBC NEWS : Should Saddam die?

The BBC story above puts the two sides to the question of whether Saddam should be executed.

There is no great inconsistency, in my view, in being opposed to capital punishment as a possible consequence of ordinary domestic crime, but allowing that it should be available in the case of crimes against humanity. The argument for it in Saddams case is overwhelming, in terms of the on-going "hope" his life gives to domestic terrorists who are willing to take countless civilian lives to prove precisely nothing.

The Human Rights Watch guy cares more about procedure than anything else, and the idea that the death penalty is a "cruel and inhuman punishment."

"Now, should Saddam Hussein be found guilty, when it comes to his being executed the death penalty is a cruel and inhuman punishment that violates the right to life and the prohibition against torture. I know well how strongly many Iraqis feel about Saddam and others. But to impose the death penalty on these individuals will be a throwback to the ancien regime - it will suggest business as usual in terms of cruel and inhuman punishment."

To me, common sense dictates that such concerns, in the case of someone convicted of ordering the killing of hundreds or thousands of civilians, are outweighed by the gravity of the offence, no prospect of "rehabilitation" and the fact that, to the extent that other murderous leaders can be deterred, imprisonment for life with good chance to catch up on reading and see the wife and kids is rather pathetically inadequate.

As I said, it is also not just about Saddam; it is about stopping the continuing killing as far as possible as soon as possible.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Useful Hitchens article

Tribal Ignorance - What you think you know about Iraq's factions is all wrong. By Christopher Hitchens

See the link above to a good Hitchens article on the tribal groupings in Iraq, and how the Western media tends to misrepresent their situation. A crucial paragraph (the bit about the Kurds was news to me):

"To be a Sunni or a Shiite is to follow one or another Muslim obedience, but to be a Kurd is to be a member of a large non-Arab ethnicity as well as to be, in the vast majority of cases, a Sunni. Thus, by any measure of accuracy, the "Sunni" turnout in the weekend's referendum on the constitution was impressively large, very well-organized, and quite strongly in favor of a "yes" vote. Is that the way you remember it being reported? I thought not. Well, then, learn to think for yourself."

Those wacky Dutch

Found via Julian Calendar (see link on my blogroll) is this story. In the Netherlands, a man with a passing resemblance to "Dr Evil" has entered into a legal "civil union" with 2 bisexual women. The first modern government endorsed European form of polygamy?

What I find curious is that when you do a Google news search for "Netherlands polygamy" it comes up with a miserly 20 reports on this (and many of these are conservative American sites, not major news ones.)

I would have thought this would attract more attention in the MSM, as the idea of "civil union" legislation has been pushed a lot in the last year or two. But surely the gay lobby would not want to press for it to cover 3 -somes? I recall Mark Steyn warning in a column that if you allow gay marriage, the next push (which had already been started by some group in the States) would be to legalise polygamy.

God, think of the fun the Courts would have in deciding property settlements or child custody cases with more than one partner!

More on Latham Diaries

There's an interesting comment piece (the first of 2 parts apparently ) over on the APO website on the Latham Diaries. Written by former Latham "booster" David Burchell, I like this part best:

"In his rage and revulsion, Latham has doubtless traduced the reputations of some decent and honourable people, both in the ALP and elsewhere. (What his hapless ex-staffers did to deserve their various '‘serves'’, for instance, is hard to fathom.) There doesn'’t seem to be any particular strategy to this: as Latham sees it, he'’s just speaking the truth as he finds it. There'’s a kind of compelling brutal honesty to this approach, but also a strange emotional autism."

The general argument in the article is that Latham is obviously emotionally and physically unwell, but his basic points about the party are valid. Sure, but everyone knew about the factional problems endemic in the party before the Diaries anyway.

Posts to make you grind your teeth

So, the awful Cindy Sheehan has a permanent blog of sorts at Huffington Post. Her posts are excruciating to read, but then again, so are those of nearly everyone at Huffington. I suppose it's the Daily Kos for those a bit more grown up.

Cindy's latest words of wisdom:

"I have two points to make about the referendum vote in Iraq on Saturday. First of all, George told us in his headlong rush to disaster in Iraq that Saddam had WMD's and that Iraq was culpable for 9/11. George and his band of war monsters still despicably say 9/11 in every major speech in defense of the invasion and continued occupation. He never said "regime change" or spreading "freedom and democracy." If the constitution passes, what will be the next devious justification for the occupation?"

This can be criticised as being factually and morally in error in so many ways , I can't be bothered responding.

An earlier post is weirdly paranoid about using the military to help in the event of a dire outbreak of bird flu:

"The war machine and the people who serve it in our government are getting a little afraid themselves of not being able to keep the industrial military complex rolling in the bloody dough, so George and friends have come up with a new enemy whose atrocities also can't be contained to borders and that doesn't wear a national uniform: The Bird Flu. What kind of person who doesn't bow before the warmongers and war profiteers calls the military as his first plan of action when a health threat is supposedly brewing? Instead of calling out the National Guard (who by the way are still fighting, killing, and dying in Iraq), do you think his first call should have been to the CDC? Or to his Surgeon General, and not his military Generals? These people do not walk on this earth anywhere near reality or peace. Our new enemy of the state will be Birds who may be ill and we shall be very afraid every time we sneeze and pray that our government saves us from more imaginary threats. While we are praying, the war profiteers are laughing at us on our knees as they are counting their stacks of wicked and immorally gotten gains." (Emphasis mine)

Just how far will she have to go before she loses credibility even with the Huffington crowd?

By the way, I notice that Huffington Post is absolutely full of commentary on the Judith Miller story. For me, even with Professor Bunyip's useful commentary, it has become just too complicated to follow. It would appear that the whole matter seems to be fizzling out, and maybe that is why the Left is in a bit of a lather. (Of course, seeing I have lost track, I could be proved wrong.)

Arab freedom revolution continues (at snail's pace)

Stumbled across this today:

"A source in a private Saudi media company announced on Sunday that its company, in an agreement with Riyadh city secretariat, will display a children cinema retrospective during the three days of Eid al-Fitr to be the first cinema shown in the Kingdom, 20 years after banning such shows. The source said that the show will start on November 3 will be limited to women and children in the halls of one of the big hotels in the Saudi capital. The hall includes 1400 seats. Thirty year ago, the Saudi authorities used to permit the display of cinema films in private clubs but in the beginning of the 1980s prevented cinema shows in public places under the charge that they are religiously prohibited. On the other side, the authorities permit the use and selling of video films in public shops which sell tapes and CD ROM for most recent Arab and foreign films."

I am guessing that the dire risk of a unmarried man and woman touching hands in the darkness are behind the ban, but who knows.

It's pretty unbelievable, isn't it?

Never happy

Paul McGeough, the Sydney Morning Herald journalist whose unending pessimism about Iraq has received a fair bit of attention over at Tim Blair's, continues his dire predictions today.

It seems to me that his analysis is very unlikely to be original. To quote:

" This is a Clayton's constitution - a conflicted, contradictory unity bill for a country tearing itself apart, accepted in a vote dictated by the fault lines of Iraqi history.

Here are some of the elements of the constitution that mock notions of national unity and invite civil war."

And he goes on to talk about various aspects of the constitution that he thinks are likely to cause problems.

Now, I know that copies of the constitution are available, but I really doubt that McGough is making these judgments just on his own reading and analysis. His pronouncements are too dogmatic, too neat. For example:

"Laid out in its separate parts, this is a document that denies the very notion of Iraqi citizenship."

But if he is following some other commentator's or academic's line, he doesn' t acknowledge it.

I think he must be a fan of this site (Al Jazeera.com, which is not the same as the Al Jazeera TV network, nor Al Jazeera.net, which may or may not have something to do with the TV network. I wish these guys could come up with better product differentiation.) I had mentioned the .com website some time ago. It is rabidly anti-Bush, anti-Iraq constitution, and gives every conspiracy theory the light of day (although with comments allowed after articles, which usually does attract a lot of rebuttal.) Their take on the new constitution is here. The key paragraph:

"It seems that Bush'’s admin has finally found the solution: "Divide Iraq" and then pit the three mini states created against one another. It's not the first time something like this happened."

Al Jazeera.com is based in Dubai, apparently.

Anyway, time for some optimism please.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Lots of Goodies

Lots of good stuff on the Centre for Independent Studies website at the moment. Firstly, the transcript of a lecture given by Johan Norberg (his pro-globalisation views were mentioned by me last week)

The full paper by Helen Hughes on aboriginal problems being linked to their isolation from the economy generally is also to be found there. Frank Devine gave a bit of a backgrounder to how the paper came about recently in the Australian.

There's also a link to a decent article (look at the right hand column; I can't copy the link here for some reason) by Owen Harries on how wrong the predictions of "intellectuals" have historically been, and the possible reasons why. Hopefully, Mr Harries is himself wrong about the Iraq war, which he opposed.

Crime and punishment in Japan

The Japan Times Online

The Japan Times link is to a story about the Japanese criminal investigation system.

"Japan's criminal justice system lacks a fundamental notion that is manifest in other parts of the democratized world: the presumption of innocence, according to human rights advocates.

Suspects are still forced to make false confessions during interrogations in which legal representation is banned, and custody can last up to 23 days before charges are filed, lawyers and people who claim to have or were determined to have been falsely accused told a recent public meeting in Tokyo held by the Japan Federation of Bar Associations.

Arrested suspects are often detained in a police "daiyo kangoku" substitute prison for up to 23 days before indictment, and release on bail is unlikely as long as they plead innocent or remain silent."

It's no wonder US military authorities are reluctant to hand over their members to this system.

If you go to jail, it's not much fun either. A brief ABC radio report last year noted:

"Life on the inside is incredibly strict, conditions are Spartan, and intricate rules dictate every aspect of prison life – how to sit at a table, how to fold your clothes, never sit on the futon. Some prisons even dictate how to lie in bed. Prisoners who roll onto their stomachs during the night can be punished.

(Sound of bell ringing)

In the jail workshops, inmates work diligently, not allowed to speak, look at the clock, look at each other, or look out the window. There are regular reports of physical abuse by guards. In 2001 and 2002, several prisoners were killed by their keepers at Nagoya jail.

One of them died when guards pushed a high-pressure fire hose into his rectum. The force of the water caused massive internal trauma. The prison tried to claim the injuries were self-inflicted."

It pays to behave yourself when in Japan.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Holocaust revisited

I have been meaning to recommend "Auschwitz", the BBC documentary that concentrates on the death camp of the title, but deals with the Holocaust in general too. It is currently showing on the ABC in Australia on Thursday nights.

It's a well made series, with a good balance between "talking head" interviews (both with survivors and some of the perpetrators) and dramatisations of various events.

Looking at the BBC website, it is clear that a lot of care went into the dramatisations. Some of them are precise re-enactments, filmed in the same location where the events took place. No wonder these scenes have such an authentic feel. (Actual locations featured a lot in Schindler's List too, if I recall.)

Still, in such documentaries, for emotional impact it is hard to beat first hand accounts delivered by the witnesses. This series does take more interest than most in the story from the other side. These interviews tend to be fairly short, however, and while most of the old men seem to regret their involvement now, they don't usually come across as being too haunted by it.

This week's episode was most upsetting when covering the (foreign national) Jewish children taken from occupied France. About 4,000 were separated from their families and deported; none of them survived. If you have children yourself, hearing such stories is particularly affecting.

When one aging Nazi soldier was asked about this, about how he could believe at the time that children deserved this fate (even if you believed that adult Jews were the source of all evil), he said (as best as I can recall) that they knew the children themselves were not responsible, but it was the Jewish blood in them that they feared and believed they had to eradicate.

This has been said by several of old soldiers; they genuinely believed at the time that Jews were so bad they deserved their fate.

I don't know a lot about this topic in particular - about how so many Germans could be so strongly convinced that the Jews deserved death. (OK, it is debatable how many German citizens without direct involvement in camps knew that the Jews were being exterminated. But in the BBC show it is often the men who were personally doing or witnessing the killing who are saying this.) I know the generalities about Nazi propaganda against the Jews. What I have trouble comprehending is how successful it was. And it wasn't as if Jews were more capable of being considered "non humans" because they were out of sight and not observable.

This is why it is worth revisiting this topic every few years. It is almost incomprehensible, yet it occurred.

There was a book out in the last few years that did deal with the issue of how responsible the German people has a whole should be seen. Guess I should just track it down and read it.

Finally, while looking around the Web at a few Holocaust sites before I posted, I found that there are actual photos of Amon Goeth, the commandant of the camp in Schindler's List, with his rifle on his balcony. (If you recall from the movie, shooting inmates from his balcony was one of his hobbies.) I didn't think the movie was a likely exaggeration, but I was still surprised to find photos of him which appear to confirm this habit.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Noteworthy opinion in The Age

Today's Age has 3 (count them, 3) opinion columns worth commenting on.

First, a pleasing one from their resident right winger Tony Parkinson. (Must be lonely for him if has to come to the Fairfax to write his columns.)

It's all about French hypocriscy on the Iraq situation. Funny how the oil-for-food scandal doesn't seem to get sustained attention in the MSM. (To its credit, Lateline did give it a fair outing one night a couple of months ago.)

Second, a more typical Lefty rant about how awful it is for the Bracks government to take even the slightest step towards discouraging late term abortions. Let's start with the title: "Late term decision won't ease the pain of abortion". Of course late term abortion is only about the pain of the mother. Not the fact that in many cases it is the killing of a viable fetus that, if any mother had given birth to prematurely, all medical help would have been given to keep it alive.

The assumption is this:

"Any woman wanting a termination after 20 weeks (the definition of a late-term) would almost certainly have considered the decision carefully, if not agonised over it."

But barely five lines later it's said that "teenagers account for the highest proportion of late terminations for psychosocial reasons". I wonder how many teenagers seek late term abortion because they could no longer hide the pregnancy from family, and are being pushed into it for that reason. Wouldn't giving them more time (only 48 hours cooling off period after all, which is what the Brack's government has introduced) possibly help sort out this sort of pressure that might be placed on teenagers?

Next:

"It is worth noting that almost half the women who have the procedure in Victoria are from other states. They come here because late-term abortions for psychosocial reasons are provided in a clinic in Melbourne. It is believed to be the only such clinic in the country. Clearly there is demand for this procedure."

Well clearly if there is demand, it must be warranted. But I find the fact that there is a demand for, say, heroin fairly irrelevant to the decision as to how it should be considered legally and morally.

The writer claims that:

"A psychosocial reason for an abortion is given by a doctor when there are fears that the mother's mental health could be damaged if she continues with the pregnancy. This is a genuine concern in the case of some women. It's not an excuse to have a late-term abortion because a woman just couldn't be bothered to do it in the first trimester."

Excuse my skepticism, but it seems to me that if there is one clinic in Melbourne that is attracting interstate clients for this procedure, there is a fair chance that they might be popular because of the low risk that they are going to turn you away. How hard is it to say that you feel suicidal at the prospect of having to have the baby? How much time do the doctors spend clarifying this?

It is obvious that many in the medical profession find late term abortion (at the very least) distasteful, and are happy to run a million miles from it, especially if the reason does not involve any abnormality of the child. And when even Eva Cox and other feminists indicate a willingness to look at the issue, you know there is something serious going on. Sushi Das (odd name) just sees it as a matter of demand and supply, and women must get what they want because they "agonised" over it.

Third, Paul Keating gets to have a bleat about proposed IR reform, and how everything about the economy for the last ten years is actually all his doing, and why didn't the Australian public love me, etc etc.

He's acting like a scorned lover who just never knows when to let it go. Doesn't he realise that such stuff just re-confirms people's views as to why they ousted him? If there is one thing he should learn from Howard it is modesty.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

I got rhythm...

Gosh, I didn't realise that "natural" family planning methods of birth control still attracted much research. I suspect Catholic hospitals may have something to do with this.

Anyway, a slightly amusing paper says that couples who use such "fertility awareness" methods do have the same amount of sex, it's just that they have it more often on "safe" days. This makes for a "selling point". The claim as to the effectiveness of the methods seems pretty big:

"In earlier field trials Institute researchers determined the efficacy of the Standard Days Method and of the TwoDay Method to be to be greater than 95 percent and 96 percent respectively when used correctly, making them more effective than the condom or diaphragm. The Standard Days Method is for women with cycles between 26 and 32 days long. To use the method effectively, women can use a visual tool called CycleBeads® to monitor their cycle days and identify the days when pregnancy is most likely (days 8 through 19)." (Emphasis mine.)


Cyclebeads? Cute name. You can see what they are here. Just a way of counting days.

I am pretty skeptical about this, just because it sounds too good to be true. However, the claim is as follows:

"According to the 1998 edition of Contraceptive Technology, 85% of women who use no method of family planning will get pregnant in one year. The percent of women who will become pregnant during the first year of perfect use of a "user-controlled" method is as follows:

  • Cervical cap, 9 - 26%
  • Spermicides, 6%
  • Diaphragm, 6%
  • Female condom, 5%
  • Male condom, 3%
  • Birth control pills, 0.1 - 0.5%
  • Standard Days Method, 5% (2002 Georgetown study)"


Is it fair of me to ask what the "non perfect use" rate of success of each method is? Or does that just make meaningful comparisons too difficult?

Comments doctors?

Too much time on their hands...

I just discovered (via a Google search to find something on Daily Kos) that the youngsters who swarm to that site have started to fill Wikipedia with articles pushing their anti-Bush agenda. See the entry here (on the "Downing Street Memos") and here (on the "movement" to impeach Bush).

Admittedly, these articles have been the subject of much Wiki community debate over their contents. However, it does seem pretty clear to me that the articles do need some right wing balancing, and that young Lefties seem to have a lot of time to spend on this sort of stuff. (Maybe they are more likely to be unemployed than fine upstanding right-wingers? Ha ha.)

I don't have enough time to do edits on these and similar articles. But I encourage you, dear reader, to have a go!

While I am talking of Bush, I note that Powerline today points out that Bush's low approval rating, which is giving much encouragement to the anti-Bush crowd at the moment, is far from exceptional in comparison with any of the last seven presidents. (In fact it is above the low points of all of the 7 previous presidents.) It's a good point to know.

Reasons to be optimistic overall

The Australian: Johan Norberg: Don't worry, be happy [October 12, 2005]

In case you missed it, yesterday's column in the Australian (above) is well worth reading, and memorising, for the next time you're at a dinner party with some "global" pessimist (which is perhaps most people.)

Update: Miranda Devine talks about this too in today's Sydney Morning Herald. (And takes a well deserved swing at John Doyle's recent speech.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Pessimism in Iraq?

Institute for War and Peace Reporting

See link above for a story indicating Iraqis are not well informed on the constitution that they are to vote on this weekend.

I think this website is relatively neutral. Certainly, its sponsors cover a wide range of organisations.

Cautious optimism in Iraq?

Aljazeera.Net - Sunni party backs Iraq charter in deal

The above link is from Aljazeera.net, which I would not normally quote as authoritative, but it is interesting that it reports the last minute deal with one of the main Sunni parties (for it to support the constitution) in rather more optimistic terms than the western press. (See CNN's report, for example.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Media alignments in IR reform

It's interesting to watch News Ltd -v- Fairfax press over the new IR reform.

The Australian has had 2 IPA pro reform columns in a row (yesterday and today). They give unionist Bill Shorten a run yesterday against it, but the editorial is strongly in favour.

At Fairfax, as I mentioned earlier today, Gerard Henderson indirectly addresses the issue in a "pro -ish" fashion, but a couple of uni academics get strong (I am tempted to say hysterical) anti reform columns in the SMH and The Age.

Haven't had a chance to see much of the ABC's reporting on it yet. Should I also look at the new Margot Kingston site on this topic? Maybe later...

Sex in America

Is there a new editor, as well as a new look, at Salon.com? Today's lead article is "Just like a woman", a 5 pager about men who prefer sex with plastic over flesh. The dolls are relatively realistic, but at $6,500 per doll that's a lot of money the guys could have spent on dates. (Although after dinner fun is no safer bet than with a silicone companion who can't run out of the room.)

I note that I posted briefly entry on Japanese sex dolls for hire last week. I felt I should post on the American sex doll scene so as to show a racial even-handedness when it comes to cringing and/or laughing at such matters.

There is way too much information on the topic in this article, and as I try to maintain a certain decorum in this blog, I won't post the more sordid details.

Just go read it yourself. You know you want to.

Meanwhile, a few weeks ago, Slate.com did an article about the latest survey of other sexual practices in America. While the article noted that the press mainly commented on the significantly higher rate of oral sex amongst teens, the other big point of the study was a much higher rate of anal sex, and the press just ignored that.

I blame "Sex and the City". (Seriously.) If ever there was a show that was going to make casual or adventurous sex look inviting, safe, and cool, that was it. Funny how the women seemed to have a lot in common with gay men. (Because it was produced and written by gay men, maybe?) And no, I didn't watch it that much. Maybe 8 episodes tops over its whole run.

At least (one hopes) it got explicit sex out of the sitcom format for a long, long time.

The Churches and workplace reform

If the push is for jobs, the evidence is clear - Opinion - smh.com.au

Gerard Henderson in the SMH today (see above) makes a lot of sense. I always have time for his calm, reasoned (and conservative!) take on such matters.

The basic problem is that the Churches (or elements within them) can prefer theories of social justice over practice, just as the Left is want to do.

I must blog more on the general issue of the Churches and politics sometime...

Motherhood in Japan

Maid in Japan - World - smh.com.au

The link above is to a bit of a rambling, but still interesting, article in the Sydney Morning Herald today about the social reasons for a declining birth rate in Japan.

It is a complex issue. I have no issue with governments trying to take positive steps towards encouraging child bearing. But I think it unlikely that the Japanese government would see it as culturally appropriate for it to do much in this line.

Younger japanese people are much more westernised in attitude, and young men's attitude to sharing household responsibilities is much better than it was (or so I believe). Still, it is hard to imagine a sudden change in workplace culture that would allow and encourage fathers not to spend so many evenings away from the home. Husbands taking transfers to other towns for work is also common and this hardly helps child-rearing.

The funny thing is, the cultural attitudes that are at the heart of the issue are not ones that can be seen to encourage personal happiness. Why it is so hard to change them, then?

Monday, October 10, 2005

Extreme anti-global warming

With Brisbane having a terribly warm spring this past week, and its main water dam being down to 30 something percent, it might seem a little unwise to be expressing any skepticism about global warming. Truth is, I'm a bit of a fence sitter on the issue anyway.

But on the skeptic's side, some scientists noted recently that the sun may account for up to 30% of recent temperature increases. That's a big figure. I didn't notice this reported much in the main stream Australian press, but maybe I missed it.

If the sun is going to play that big a role, then mega engineering may be the answer. Popular Science ran an article about this a couple of months ago, and it is still on line. As I am keen on space travel generally, I like the idea of building giant space umbrellas, although I guess so many launches to put them into orbit might not do the atmosphere much good in the process. Maybe a better idea would be to make it from moon dirt and use a "mass driver" (an electro magnetic sled) to launch the bits into orbit. Or how about an asteroid being nudged into earth orbit and making it from that? I like the idea of putting an asteroid in earth orbit anyway, and then just working out what to do with it later. As I recall, some may be a good source of ore. Could it be done with a solar sail to "de-orbit" one? Just imagine the greenies reacting to a proposal to do that!

Another article with a similar space-based solution is here. The idea is not for one big umbrella, but a swarm of really little ones. Or even just a ring of particles in orbit to dissipate a couple of percent of sunlight from hitting the tropics. (How you successfully launch other desirable things through such a ring is not explained. Unless it can cope with that problem, it is a very silly idea.)

The other idea this article mentions is to make the atmosphere dirtier:

"Volcanic eruptions, such as that of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991, pumped aerosols into the atmosphere and cooled the global climate by about a degree. Other researchers have suggested such schemes as adding metallic dust to smoke stacks, to flood the atmosphere and reflect more sunlight back into space."

So pollution may save the planet after all.

How about using nukes to cause a few volcanic eruptions? Must be some volcanic islands somewhere that no one really needs. Just move the lizards to somewhere else. Eruptions make for pretty sunsets too.

And you can get too much of a good thing with a volcano:

"Global cooling often has been linked with major volcanic eruptions. The year 1816 often has been referred to as "the year without a summer". It was a time of significant weather-related disruptions in New England and in Western Europe with killing summer frosts in the United States and Canada. These strange phenomena were attributed to a major eruption of the Tambora volcano in 1815 in Indonesia. The volcano threw sulfur dioxide gas into the stratosphere, and the aerosol layer that formed led to brilliant sunsets seen around the world for several years."


See link here. Wikipedia has a bit more about 1816's climate too.

This fiddling with climate is going to be tricky!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Left and War

Calling for peace is the easy option - Pamela Bone

See the above link for a nicely argued column by Pamela Bone in The Age.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Microsoft - racing to be last


ZDNet India : Microsoft to support PDF in Office 12

The title of the above link tells the story in a nutshell. Woop de do. I use Wordperfect 9 which came out in 2000 and it has built in conversion to .pdf.

It is particularly useful when emailing forms to people overseas, so you can be sure it will print out with formatting intact.

Speaking of Microsoft, the very unsuccessful movie "Timeline" has been showing on cable here recently. I read the Michael Crichton book (it was nice and pacey, but the basic reason for the time travel was a big let down). The bad guy is a computer genius nerd, and I had to laugh when I saw how the character (played by David Thewlis) was made to look. (See pic above.) Distinctly Gates-ian, don't you think?

Ramadan in practice

The New Culture of Ramadan

As the fasting month of Ramadan begins soon for Muslims, I had a look around the Net for some info on how exactly it is practiced. (I had heard somewhere before that many Muslims gain weight during the month, because of the large amount of food they eat at night to compensate for not eating during the day.)

The above link is to a year-old article from Saudi Arabia that is interesting. I didn't realise that shopping hours changed to extended night hours as well, and that the lack of sleep caused by eating and shopping at night makes many people grumpy at work, especially public servants!

And the weight gain bit is true:

"Most people actually gain weight in Ramadan. They fast from dawn to dusk, only to eat three meals in the seven hours of night: Iftar at sunset, dinner about 10 or 11 p.m. and then sahoor at 2 or 3 a.m.....

Sadly Ramadan is now the month of satellite TV programs — sit-coms, soap operas, and too much food."


Does sound awful.

A study in contrasts

In the Australian today, there are 2 very contrasting opinion pieces on the Islamist problem. One by Phillip "let's not talk too harshly about premeditated murder least we offend" Adams, and the other by Mark "why doesn't the West believe them when they say they want to rule the world" Steyn.

The Phillip Adams column deserves strong attack. He hears only what he wants to hear, in that he ignores John Howard's oft-repeated line that the majority of Muslims are fine, upstanding, peace loving members of the community. Explicitly, when Howard talks of how Muslims "hate" the West, he is talking of the murdering extremists. Phillip claims:

" The chill of fear that passed through mainstream Australia at the PM's words would have been nothing to the dread felt within Muslim suburbs such as Sydney's Lakemba. Another nail in the coffin of co-operation. It's more encouragement for the sort of angry, alienated kids who turned themselves into bombs in London."

Only if, like you Phillip, they DO NOT LISTEN TO WHAT JOHN HOWARD AND KIM BEASLEY SAY.

Read this (from the other side of the world, where they have better hearing than in Phillip's office in Sydney) in the Gulf Times in Qatar:

"
SYDNEY: Prime Minister John Howard assured Australian Muslims yesterday that they should not be frightened in the wake of the latest Bali bombings as they were seen as friends, not enemies.
Howard, whose government has been accused of targeting Muslims in tough new counter-terrorism laws, said that he wanted to reassure the nation'’s 300,000-strong Muslim minority that they should not feel alienated.
'“We see them as friends, we don'’t see them as enemies,'” Howard said.
'“We see them as here in the struggle, not as a group of people who should feel frightened and isolated and alienated.
'“This is as much of an attack on the way of life that a majority of them hold dear as it is the way of life that I hold dear and you hold dear,'” he told reporters."


Phillip Adams, like much of the Left, has a compulsion to encourage victimhood, and if there is a chance that someone will be slighted (however mistakenly) by anyone to the right of Adams, he will rush to hold their hand and sympathise with how misunderstood they are.

Mark Steyn's column, by comparison, makes the realistic point that semi-apologists (who try to find a way of turning the blame for attacks on the West) simply refuse to listen to what radical Islamists say. (Christopher Hitchens makes this point repeatedly too.) As usual, Steyn displays the type of bracing common sense that the Left has trouble coming to grips with.