Friday, February 29, 2008

the $6 trillion war

Joseph Stiglitz may be a neo-classical economist but this is, without doubt, the most damning critique of the Iraq war. Despite the blatant lack of morality-based, security-based or diplomacy-based justifications for the Iraq war; neo-con war-pigs were still content to sit smugly in their exorbitantly indulgent petro-homes in texas and wax lyrical about the economic benefits of interventionism to the US economy. Stiglitz just fucked them over beautifully.

Predicting obvious criticisms from Republicans Stiglitz observed:

"They had two reactions," Stiglitz says wearily. "One was Bush saying, 'We don't go to war on the calculations of green eye-shaded accountants or economists.' And our response was, 'No, you don't decide to fight a response to Pearl Harbour on the basis of that, but when there's a war of choice, you at least use it to make sure your timing is right, that you've done the preparation. And you really ought to do the calculations to see if there are alternative ways that are more effective at getting your objectives. The second criticism - which we admit - was that we only look at the costs, not the benefits. Now, we couldn't see any [economic] benefits. From our point of view we weren't sure what those were."

(Emphasis is my own).

Pieces of information in this article are just so damning of Bush's rule. They are nothing short of incredible:

"By way of context, Stiglitz and Bilmes list what even one of these trillions could have paid for: 8 million housing units, or 15 million public school teachers, or healthcare for 530 million children for a year, or scholarships to university for 43 million students. Three trillion could have fixed America's social security problem for half a century. America, says Stiglitz, is currently spending $5bn a year in Africa, and worrying about being outflanked by China there: "Five billion is roughly 10 days' fighting, so you get a new metric of thinking about everything."

I ask what discoveries Stiglitz found the most disturbing. He laughs, somewhat mirthlessly. "There were actually so many things - some of it we suspected, but there were a few things I couldn't believe." The fact that a contractor working as a security guard gets about $400,000 a year, for example, as opposed to a soldier, who might get about $40,000. That there is a discrepancy we might have guessed - but not its sheer scale, or the fact that, because it is so hard to get insurance for working in Iraq, the government pays the premiums; or the fact that, if these contractors are injured or killed, the government pays both death and injury benefits on top. Understandably, this has forced a rise in sign-up bonuses (as has the fact that the army is so desperate for recruits that it is signing up convicted felons). "So we create a competition for ourselves. Nobody in their right mind would have done that. The Bush administration did that ... that I couldn't believe.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

novel digital tools for subverting public forums through pro-Israel propagandising

A complicated headline but one which indicates the malicious potential of this, which I found through a comment on a CiF thread.

There is more about it from The Guardian here.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Prem Sikka rules

In utter contrast to my preceding rant, here we have a CiF commentator making a well presented and evidenced case for social progress. Prem rules.

Brendan O'Neill is a sociopathic little gobshite of a propagandist and should be locked up

I can't believe that CiF give him a platform from which to preach this gods-awful shite. What is the bloke's problem? Did he once get hassled by an aggressive Greenpeace protester? Why is he so opposed to taking action to combat climate change? I don't believe for one second that he is ignorant of the case presented by the IPCC but he seems determined to misrepresent it:

"[Plane Stupid] are cynically politicising scientific theories, turning them into instruments of emotional blackmail to be wielded against the supposedly selfish flying masses.

Their 10-years claim has its origins in the IPCC's speculative claim that if global temperatures rise by more than 2C above pre-industrial levels, then there may be agricultural losses, adverse health effects in poorer parts of the world and a greatly increased risk of water shortages - and the IPCC thinks atmospheric carbon dioxide levels that would trigger this rise "could possibly be reached in about 10 years or so"."

This cockweasel-king fails to address any of the actual issues associated with airport expansion, cheap flights, climate change or anything, really! Why has his rant been published? What credibility does he have to waste my time by penning such dross? Is it some sinister plot to make ruin my eyesight by making me stare balnkly at a computer screen?


I am engaged in a war of words with TheOldOligarch in the comments who accuses me of "hysterical , unreasonable overemotional theatrics". Well, my only defense is that he started it by suggesting that, by calling people "climate change deniers", I presented climate change as if it were:

"a dogma that must be accepted without dissent or questioning".

He went on to add:

"Climate change is not on a par with the theory of gravity, is it? I thought it was a loose scientific consensus with widely varying parameters, projections and forecasts depending on which study you read. Which I guess means it should be open to healthy debate, it is not a religious commandment."

Now, I have not denied this anywhere. I happen to think that climate change science is exactly on a par with the theory of gravity a both are backed by an incontrovertible weight of evidence. However this moron didn't give me a chance to elaborate on my terminology and just waded in with fists swinging. I consider such characters to be bigots and waded back an attempt at a reasoned argument. This apparently had no effect upon the moron as he continued to assail my terminology. This just pissed me off so I struck back with some hard facts and not a little scorn for, what I felt was, his clearly deliberate obfustication.

The struggle continues . . .

Jubilant Additional:

I think I won that debate.

Wow! I feel a tingle up and down my spine . . . as if I've achieved something corporeal, visceral . . . some sort of meaningful change. This feels GREAT!

Ronniejotten caught Brendan with his lying pants on too.

how 'moderation' in faith fosters fanticism

Excerpt from The God Delusion for LycidasOHalloran on this CiF thread.

"In illustration of the dark side of absolutism, I mentioned the Christians in merica who blow up abortion clinics, and the Taliban of Afghanistan, whose list of cruelties, especially to women, I find too painful to recount. I could have expanded upon Iran under the ayatollahs, or Saudi Arabia under the Saud princes, where women cannot drive, and are in trouble if they even leave their homes without a male relative (who may, as a generous concession, be a small male child). See Jan Goodwin's Price of Honour for a devastating expose of the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia and other present-day theocracies. Johann Hari, one of the (London) Independent's liveliest columnists, wrote an article whose title speaks for itself: 'The best way to undermine the jihadists is to trigger a rebellion of Muslim women.'132

Or, switching to Christianity, I could have cited those American 'rapture' Christians whose powerful influence on American Middle Eastern policy is governed by their biblical belief that Israel has a God-given right to all the lands of Palestine.133 Some rapture Christians go further and actually yearn for nuclear war because they interpret it as the 'Armageddon' which, according to their bizarre but disturbingly popular interpretation of the book of Revelation, will hasten the Second Coming. I cannot improve on Sam Harris's chilling comment, in his Letter to a Christian Nation:

It is, therefore, not an exaggeration to say that if the city of New York were suddenly replaced by a ball of fire, some significant percentage of the American population would see a silver-lining in the subsequent mushroom cloud, as it would suggest to them that the best thing that is ever going to happen was about to happen: the return of Christ. It should be blindingly obvious that beliefs of this sort will do little to help us create a durable future for ourselves - socially, economically, environmentally, or geopolitically. Imagine the consequences if any significant component of the U.S. government actually believed that the world was about to end and that its ending would be glorious. The fact that nearly half of the American population apparently believes this, purely on the basis of religious dogma, should be considered a moral and intellectual emergency.

There are, then, people whose religious faith takes them right outside the enlightened consensus of my 'moral Zeitgeist'. They represent what I have called the dark side of religious absolutism, and they are often called extremists. But my point in this section is that even mild and moderate religion helps to provide the climate of faith in which extremism naturally flourishes.

In July 2005, London was the victim of a concerted suicide bomb attack: three bombs in the subway and one in a bus. Not as bad as the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, and certainly not as unexpected (indeed, London had been braced for just such an event ever since Blair volunteered us as unwilling side-kicks in Bush's invasion of Iraq), nevertheless the London explosions horrified Britain. The newspapers were filled with agonized appraisals of what drove four young men to blow themselves up and take a lot of innocent people with them. The murderers were British citizens, cricket-loving, well-mannered, just the sort of young men whose company one might have enjoyed.

Why did these cricket-loving young men do it? Unlike their Palestinian counterparts, or their kamikaze counterparts in Japan, or their Tamil Tiger counterparts in Sri Lanka, these human bombs had no expectation that their bereaved families would be lionized, looked after or supported on martyrs' pensions. On the contrary, their relatives in some cases had to go into hiding. One of the men wantonly widowed his pregnant wife and orphaned his toddler. The action of these four young men has been nothing short of a disaster not just for themselves and their victims, but for their families and for the whole Muslim community in Britain, which now faces a backlash. Only religious faith is a strong enough force to motivate such utter madness in otherwise sane and decent people. Once again, Sam Harris put the point with percipient bluntness, taking the example of the Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden (who had nothing to do with the London bombings, by the way). Why would anyone want to destroy the World Trade Center and everybody in it? To call bin Laden 'evil' is to evade our responsibility to give a proper answer to such an important question.

The answer to this question is obvious - if only because it has been patiently articulated ad nauseam by bin Laden himself. The answer is that men like bin Laden actually believe what they say they believe. They believe in the literal truth of the Koran. Why did nineteen well-educated middle-class men trade their lives in this world for the privilege of killing thousands of our neighbors? Because they believed that they would go straight to paradise for doing so. It is rare to find the behavior of humans so fully and satisfactorily explained. Why have we been so reluctant to accept this explanation?134

The respected journalist Muriel Gray, writing in the (Glasgow) Herald on 24 July 2005, made a similar point, in this case with reference to the London bombings.

Everyone is being blamed, from the obvious villainous duo of George W Bush and Tony Blair, to the inaction of Muslim 'communities'. But it has never been clearer that there is only one place to lay the blame and it has ever been thus. The cause of all this misery, mayhem, violence, terror and ignorance is of course religion itself, and if it seems ludicrous to have to state such an obvious reality, the fact is that the government and the media are doing a pretty good job of pretending that it isn't so.

Our Western politicians avoid mentioning the R word (religion), and instead characterize their battle as a war against 'terror', as though terror were a kind of spirit or force, with a will and a mind of its own. Or they characterize terrorists as motivated by pure 'evil'. But they are not motivated by evil. However misguided we may think them, they are motivated, like the Christian murderers of abortion doctors, by what they perceive to be righteousness, faithfully pursuing what their religion tells them. They are not psychotic; they are religious idealists who, by their own lights, are rational. They perceive their acts to be good, not because of some warped personal idiosyncrasy, and not because they have been possessed by Satan, but because they have been brought up, from the cradle, to have total and unquestioning faith. Sam Harris quotes a failed Palestinian suicide bomber who said that what drove him to kill Israelis was 'the love of martyrdom . . . I didn't want revenge for anything. I just wanted to be a martyr.' On 19 November 2001 The New Yorker carried an interview by Nasra Hassan of another failed suicide bomber, a polite young Palestinian aged twenty-seven known as 'S'. It is so poetically eloquent of the lure of paradise, as preached by moderate religious leaders and teachers, that I think it is worth giving at some length:

'What is the attraction of martyrdom?' I asked. 'The power of the spirit pulls us upward, while the power of material things pulls us downward,' he said. 'Someone bent on martyrdom becomes immune to the material pull. Our planner asked, "What if the operation fails?" We told him, "In any case, we get to meet the Prophet and his companions, inshallah." 'We were floating, swimming, in the feeling that we were about to enter eternity. We had no doubts. We made an oath on the Koran, in the presence of Allah - a pledge not to waver. This jihad pledge is called bayt al-ridwan, after the garden in Paradise that is reserved for the prophets and the martyrs. I know that there are other ways to do jihad. But this one is sweet - the sweetest. All martyrdom operations, if done for Allah's sake, hurt less than a gnat's bite!' S showed me a video that documented the final planning for the operation. In the grainy footage, I saw him and two other young men engaging in a ritualistic dialogue of questions and answers about the glory of martyrdom . . . The young men and the planner then knelt and placed their right hands on the Koran. The planner said: 'Are you ready? Tomorrow, you will be in Paradise.'135

If I had been 'S', I'd have been tempted to say to the planner, 'Well, in that case, why don't you put your neck where your mouth is? Why don't you do the suicide mission and take the fast track to Paradise?' But what is so hard for us to understand is that – to repeat the point because it is so important - these people actually believe what they say they believe. The take-home message is that we should blame religion itself, not religious extremism - as though that were some kind of terrible perversion of real, decent religion. Voltaire got it right long ago: 'Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.' So did Bertrand Russell: 'Many people would sooner die than think. In fact they do.'

As long as we accept the principle that religious faith must be respected simply because it is religious faith, it is hard to withhold respect from the faith of Osama bin Laden and the suicide bombers. The alternative, one so transparent that it should need no urging, is to abandon the principle of automatic respect for religious faith. This is one reason why I do everything in my power to warn people against faith itself, not just against so-called 'extremist' faith. The teachings of 'moderate' religion, though not extremist in themselves, are an open invitation to extremism.

It might be said that there is nothing special about religious faith here. Patriotic love of country or ethnic group can also make the world safe for its own version of extremism, can't it? Yes it can, as with the kamikazes in Japan and the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. But religious faith is an especially potent silencer of rational calculation, which usually seems to trump all others. This is mostly, I suspect, because of the easy and beguiling promise that death is not the end, and that a martyr's heaven is especially glorious. But it is also partly because it discourages questioning, by its very nature.

Christianity, just as much as Islam, teaches children that unquestioned faith is a virtue. You don't have to make the case for what you believe. If somebody announces that it is part of his faith, the rest of society, whether of the same faith, or another, or of none, is obliged, by ingrained custom, to 'respect' it without question; respect it until the day it manifests itself in a horrible massacre like the destruction of the World Trade Center, or the London or Madrid bombings. Then there is a great chorus of disownings, as clerics and 'community leaders' (who elected them, by the way?) line up to explain that this extremism is a perversion of the 'true' faith. But how can there be a perversion of faith, if faith, lacking objective justification, doesn't have any demonstrable standard to pervert?

Ten years ago, Ibn Warraq, in his excellent book Why I Am Not a Muslim, made a similar point from the standpoint of a deeply knowledgeable scholar of Islam. Indeed, a good alternative title for Warraq's book might have been The Myth of Moderate Islam, which is the actual title of a more recent article in the (London) Spectator (30 July 2005) by another scholar, Patrick Sookhdeo, director of the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity. 'By far the majority of Muslims today live their lives without recourse to violence, for the Koran is like a pick-and-mix selection. If you want peace, you can find peaceable verses. If you want war, you can find bellicose verses.'

Sookhdeo goes on to explain how Islamic scholars, in order to cope with the many contradictions that they found in the Qur'an, developed the principle of abrogation, whereby later texts trump earlier ones. Unfortunately, the peaceable passages in the Qur'an are mostly early, dating from Muhammad's time in Mecca. The more belligerent verses tend to date from later, after his flight to Medina. The result is that

the mantra 'Islam is peace' is almost 1,400 years out of date. It was only for about 13 years that Islam was peace and nothing but peace . . . For today's radical Muslims - just as for the mediaeval jurists who developed classical Islam - it would be truer to say 'Islam is war'. One of the most radical Islamic groups in Britain, al-Ghurabaa, stated in the wake of the two London bombings, 'Any Muslim that denies that terror is a part of Islam is kafir.' A kafir is an unbeliever (i.e. a non-Muslim), a term of gross insult.. .

Could it be that the young men who committed suicide were neither on the fringes of Muslim society in Britain, nor following an eccentric and extremist interpretation of their faith, but rather that they came from the very core of the Muslim community and were motivated by a mainstream interpretation of Islam?

More generally (and this applies to Christianity no less than to Islam), what is really pernicious is the practice of teaching children that faith itself is a virtue. Faith is an evil precisely because it requires no justification and brooks no argument. Teaching children that unquestioned faith is a virtue primes them – given certain other ingredients that are not hard to come by - to grow up into potentially lethal weapons for future jihads or crusades. Immunized against fear by the promise of a martyr's paradise, the authentic faith-head deserves a high place in the history of armaments, alongside the longbow, the warhorse, the tank and the cluster bomb. If children were taught to question and think through their beliefs, instead of being taught the superior virtue of faith without question, it is a good bet that there would be no suicide bombers. Suicide bombers do what they do because they really believe what they were taught in their religious schools: that duty to God exceeds all other priorities, and that martyrdom in his service will be rewarded in the gardens of Paradise. And they were taught that lesson not necessarily by extremist fanatics but by decent, gentle, mainstream religious instructors, who lined them up in their madrasas, sitting in rows, rhythmically nodding their innocent little heads up and down while they learned every word of the holy book like demented parrots. Faith can be very very dangerous, and deliberately to implant it into the vulnerable mind of an innocent child is a grievous wrong. It is to childhood itself, and the violation of childhood by religion, that we turn in the next chapter."

If you have a reasoned response to this Lycidas, feel free to post it- with appropriate evidential references- in the comments. If not . . . . well, you know where you can go.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

renewable future

I've mentioned this so many times but for some reason it seems that no-one in the UK government is listening. Any way, now Jeremy Leggett has taken up the cause like the legend that he is.


Some of the comments are simply abhorrent. Its as if these people think that moving to renewables is some sort of science-fair gimmick for people in lab-coats and safety glasses. RENs treat renewable energy advocates as if we were Star Trek fans advocating the development of matter transporters or warp drives.

Additional Addition:

My grateful thanks to Radix who shared this link with me in the comments. Its pretty cool if you want to big up the whole renewable thing to your friends or anyone who needs persuading that renewable generation is the future and not just some pipedream.

Tea Appreciation Society

I am loving this bunch.

I have one of these tea-shirts (ha!).

Monday, February 25, 2008

Johann describes why libertarians should support all attempts to legislate against climate change

Its always been obvious to me that the moral highground dictates that we must sacrifice our own quality of life to protect the actual biological lives of millions in the developing world. But its always been a hard one to spell out in concise, concrete terms to a skeptic. Johann has saved me the trouble.


He got one thing wrong though:

"Just as no libertarian would argue you should have the right to buy and fire a nuclear weapon, no libertarian should argue you have the right to burn unlimited greenhouse gases. Once confronted with this argument, the only people who cling to a libertarian defence of fossil fuels are people who take money from the fossil fuel industry itself, like Spiked Online."

His error is in forgetting that many people profess the creed of libertarianism solely to clothe their conservatism in a cloak of morality. When presented with Johann's argument there is a creed of people who will blithely murmur agreement and then, once out of eyesight and earshot of human beings, will spend their every waking moment seeking the next most viable excuse for perpetrating the status quo (you know, the one where they get everything and people of other skin colours, languages, cultures, etc. get nothing except a nasty ending).

"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."

- John Kenneth Galbraith

spangly-sparkly corporate global sociopathy

Johann describes a model case of corporate sociopathy. This is what capitalist fundamentalism breeds. If you remove a corporate managerial board from any possible contact with the victims of their policies and any accountability for their actions across international borders, particularly those between this world and the developing ones, then dehumanising the victims of your policies makes good, profitable management practice with big, fat bonuses for all.

Friday, February 22, 2008

musical interlude

Just to brighten your Friday, check out Frogs In Fire. Punkscience likes Policeman On The Floor and Standing In Line.


Here's another couple of little musical treats for the interested, as well as these guys who I am going to see play tonight.

German dreams

This is just plain awesome.

is this not the most pathetic example of misgovernment?

Jack Straw pleading. Pathetic!

Hoist from the petard of his own government's ineptitude and inability to recognise a looming crisis.

What the fuck did he think was going to happen to the rising prison population? Did he think that criminals might suddenly realise there wasn't anywhere to incarcerate them if they were convicted and so suspend their nefarious activities until the population dropped a bit? It actually seems as if this is what the government were expecting because they've done exactly fuck all to increase prison capacity.

I'm not 'for' locking people up but there's people, criminally or just generally insane, who need to be incarcerated for their own good and ours. If you can't do this then these people remain poorly contained to the detriment of society and particularly to those who have to handle such dangerous characters without adequate facilities. I feel for the prison staff.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

why is Israel given such defferential treatment by the UK government?


This and this both indicate that Israel and its citizens are considered to be above international law by elements within the UK administration.

Addition - 8th Jan, 2008:

This article has been deleted form the Independent's website so I am reproducing it here in full. I'm not advancing any conspiracy theories but I haven't had this problem with any other of the old Indy articles I link to here.

Keeping the peace? The El Al flight and the Israeli army officer
Heathrow airport, September 2005. An Israeli general accused of war crimes flies in. Waiting for him is a team of Met police officers. Would they dare to arrest him and risk provoking an international incident?

By Andy McSmith
Wednesday, 20 February 2008

We now know that the story could have turned out very differently. Inside the plane was a senior Israeli army officer, Doron Almog, veteran of some of the most celebrated military operations in the troubled history of the Middle East. There were also armed Israeli sharpshooters.

Outside were officers of the Metropolitan Police, acting reluctantly on an arrest warrant served by a judge at the request of lawyers who wanted to launch a private prosecution against the general.

The question that can never be answered is what would have happened if the police had marched on to the plane to seize the general and haul him before the courts. Possibly, he would have come quietly, and a lot of lawyers would have been kept very busy as the courts weighed what to do next.

A much more sinister possibility is that the Israeli agents on board would have refused to let the general be arrested without putting up resistance. At best, that would have meant an ugly stand off followed by a major diplomatic row. At worst, it could have led to dead bodies aboard the plane.

But now, the police and the Government face some awkward questions, of which the most interesting is who warned the Israelis that there was trouble brewing at Heathrow?

Maj-Gen Almog had planned to visit the UK in September 2005 to pay various social and charitable calls on Jewish communities in Solihull, the West Midlands, and Manchester. As his plane touched down at Heathrow, a call from the Israeli embassy in London warned him that police were waiting to arrest him. The general and his wife refused to leave the plane. Two tense hours elapsed, while Det-Supt John MacBrayne, a senior counter-terrorism officer in charge of the operation, agonised over what to do.

One of his problems, according to documents that have come to light, which were passed to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, was that he was unsure of the legal position. He contacted Scotland Yard for advice on whether he had the authority to order his men aboard the El Al aircraft, when it was clear the airline was not going to give consent. According to the official log: "He was informed that police did indeed board aircraft routinely but it was not clear if this could be done without the consent of the carrier. It was confirmed that El Al were refusing voluntary access to the plane and Det-Supt MacBrayne could not get confirmation that he had a legal right to do so."

But the log also shows that Supt MacBrayne had a problem. As an experienced anti-terrorist officer he knew that El Al aircraft are the most heavily guarded vehicles in the world. The seats on its aircraft are never filled only by ordinary fare-paying passengers. There are always at least a couple of men who are highly trained, heavily armed "air marshals". With a famous major-general on board, there might have been four or five air marshals. These are not people that any police officer would want to mess with.

"DSU MacBrayne took the considered opinion that, as access to the plane would not be consensual, there existed a real threat of an armed confrontation," the log recorded.

Having consulted Commander John McDowall, deputy national co-ordinator of terrorist investigations, the Superintendent decided to allow the plane to go on its way with his quarry still aboard.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission has vindicated the police who conducted the operation. But that leaves two big questions unanswered – who tipped off the Israelis, and why did the Met seem to think they did not have the power to board an aircraft on British soil?

The legal position, which seemed to have the Met stumped, was actually straightforward, according to several legal experts who were asked their opinion yesterday. A foreign aircraft is not sovereign territory, and while it is on British soil it is subject to British laws. Even the threat of a shoot-out should not have prevented the police from enforcing the law, Kate Maynard, of the solicitors' firm, Hickman Rose insisted. "Who knows what might have happened?" she said. "It need not have been an armed stand off. They could have stopped the plane from taking off, and brought in negotiators from the Foreign Office. Can you allow people from other countries to put the police in a situation where they can't enforce British law?"

The Anti-Terrorist Branch had been reluctant all along to take any action against the general. They acted only under pressure from Hickman Rose, who represents Palestinian clients, including the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. The lawyers themselves are not Palestinian. Several are Jews, and of those, Daniel Machover is an Israeli citizen – facts that have played big in the Israeli media. Mr Machover has been accused by Israel's most popular newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, of committing "a travesty masquerading as righteousness, exonerating terror-masters from blame but painting those who fight mass murderers as villains".

One of the firm's clients is Abdul Matar, the former inhabitant of one of 59 homes in a Palestinian camp that were bulldozed by the Israelis in 2002 in retaliation for attacks on Israeli soldiers. Another is Ra-ed Mattar, whose wife and daughter were killed when the Israelis dropped a powerful bomb in a crowded part of Gaza in July 2002, killing Sheikh Saleh Shehadeh, a leading Palestinian militant. The bomb killed 14 others including nine children.

Under pressure from the lawyers, the Anti-Terrorist Squad agreed that they would detain the general if he set foot on British soil, and would consider serving him with a warrant, but it would be up to the solicitors to bring a private prosecution. They intended to rely on a 50-year-old act of Parliament, the Geneva Conventions Act, which enshrined the Geneva Convention in British law. No one has ever been prosecuted under that Act.

The Anti-Terrorist Squad was also feeling discreet pressure from the Government to leave the general alone. Supt MacBrayne had had a note from a minister at the Foreign Office – whose name is not revealed in the log – who claimed that there was "little or no evidence" on which to launch a prosecution. Mr MacBrayne felt obliged to contact the Foreign Office and point out this was not true. Hickman Rose had in fact produced evidence that satisfied a magistrate that there was a case for the general to answer at least in relation to the bulldozing of those 59 homes. It also believed it could substantiate three other criminal charges against him.

He is not the only senior Israeli in its sights. Just over a year ago, the Israeli army's former chief of staff, Moshe Ya'alon, was arrested in New Zealand, after Hickman Rose took out a private case against him over the assassination of Sheikh Shehadeh. The case was ruled out by New Zealand's attorney general.

When Tony Blair met Israel's Internal Security Minister, Avi Dichter, last August, in his new role as Middle East peace envoy, he was dumbfounded to learn that Mr Dichter dare not visit the UK, where he too would risk being arrested over the Shehadeh killing. Two others, the Chief of Staff Dan Halutz and a former commander of the Gaza division, Aviv Kochavi, are also keeping away from the UK, for the same reason.

Doron Almog has been a well-known public figure in Israel since 1993, when he was appointed commander of the occupation forces in the Gaza Strip. By then, he had already had a colourful military career. When he was 22, he led a paratrooper unit into action in the Yom Kippur War.

Three years later, in July 1976, he was one of the Israeli commandos who descended suddenly on Entebbe airport, in Uganda, where over 100 crew and passengers of an airbus were being held hostage by Palestinian hijackers. When the shooting stopped, all six hijackers, one commando, three hostages and 45 Ugandan soldiers were dead.

In December 1993, Mr Almog stunned Israel by sensationally announcing that he had met members of Hamas, the militant organisation that is now the elected government of Gaza. Even now, most governments in the world, including the UK, refuse to recognise the Hamas administration, because Hamas will not recognise the state of Israel.

Mr Almog made two seemingly contradictory claims: first that he knew Hamas was preparing to send suicide bombers against Israel, secondly that there was a moderate faction within Hamas with whom Israel could do business. He claimed its hostility to the PLO exceeded its hostility to Israel. Hamas claimed the meeting had never taken place.

Mr Almog has attracted international attention for his role as head of Israel's Southern Command from 2000 to mid 2003, when he was in charge of operations in Gaza, and presided over the demolition of an estimated 1,100 Palestinian homes.

Before his planned UK visit, in September 2005, the police had also been warned that arresting a prominent Israeli might trigger a reaction among British Jews. Their original plan had been to detain General Almog in Solihull, where he was scheduled to speak in the synagogue, but they were warned that that would be inflammatory.

To lessen the tension, they decided a uniformed officer would be the one to make the arrest at Heathrow. Even so, the advice from the Met's National Community Tensions Team was that "this matter was of national significance to the Jewish community... any police action could significantly impact on community confidence in the police."

After the botched arrest, Mr MacBrayne checked with the West Midlands police and the Jewish community and reported that "there had been no local Jewish community issues."

But the Israeli government was enraged that one of its military heroes should be made so unwelcome in the UK, though it was mollified by an apology from the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw. That apology has attracted derision from lawyers.

"He apologised for a judicial process," Mr Maynard said. "This case was not a stunt; it was an effort to bring Almog to justice in a place where he would have a fair trial, because he has complete immunity in Israel. To have it thwarted, and then to have an apology, is incredible."

That being the British Government's attitude, perhaps it is not surprising that somebody, somewhere, took it upon themselves to warn the Israelis that it would save both countries a serious embarrassment if Maj-Gen Almog did not alight from that plane.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

the sky-pixie made me!

My first paragraph on this CiF thread sums up my position succinctly:

"This article is revisionist crap. Evolution needs no rehashing to make it acceptable to rednecks. Rednecks need educating to help them understand the profound implications of evolution. This is an educational and sociological problem, not a scientific one."

I chose to follow this up with a succession of appropriate quotes from my collection.

public consultation on Heathrow's 3rd runway

This exercise is set to close on the 27th of this month and I would like to urge anyone reading this to deploy their democratic right to object to this apocalyptic proposal on the grounds that it is at odds with everything that science tells us we should be doing to prevent catastrophic climate change and the deaths of millions of people across the globe.

Stop Blair!

Please could everyone who visits this site sign this petition against Tony Blair becoming President of the EU.

The man is a war criminal and should be jailed for life, not given more power. Try and imagine what his appointment would imply about the values of the people of Europe; a continent so desolated by war twice in the last century. People guilty of Blair's crimes were executed at the Nuremberg trials. I do not believe in capital punishment but if I did and had to apply it to a single individual it would be Blair.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Monday, February 18, 2008

Labour government are doing fuck all to encourage adoption of renewable generation technology

This piece in the Guardian today hammers home the extent to which the Labour Government's greenwank hobbles attempts to combat climate change through the development of renewable domestic micro-generation.

This corroborates my own experiences corresponding with my local MP, Alison Seabeck (lab). I fired off an angry letter after reading an awesome piece in the New Statesman:


I am writing to ask why your government insists on funding road building schemes when ample evidence exists to demonstrate the insanity of this practice in this modern world. A recent article in The New Statesman supplies detailed arguments against such proposals as well as offering a critique of the New Approach To Appraisal system currently deployed to evaluate the worth of proposed transportation developments to our nation’s transport system. I was wondering if you might provide me with reasons for such examples of misgovernment as the requirement that proposed light rail plans require 25% of funding to be contributed whereas road schemes require only 10%; the arbitrary assignation of a cost of £70 per tonne of extra carbon dioxide likely to result from a proposal and also the reason that any proposals prior to January of this year- eg. The M1 widening scheme- did not have to account for carbon emissions at all; the assumption of a price of $35 for a barrel of oil in 2025- the current cost is in excess of $70 and, in light of the predictions that oil production will peak in the next 10 years, this value is going to go anywhere but down; the bizarre variation in prospective revenue derived from reductions in travel times from transport developments according to different modes of transport- as a regular cyclist and bus user I am offended to have improvements in my journey times valued less than those of car drivers; the counterintuitive system under section 3.5.1[1] of crediting a particular scheme for any increase in fuel consumption it might generate due to the increased tax revenues this entails- regardless of the cost of extra emissions, associated congestion, etc. etc.

I could go on but I think you get the idea. Anyway, answers on the back of a postcard to anyone but me. I despair of producing any change in this plutocracy and intend to desert this country to its fate at the first opportunity so I suppose I couldn’t care less. It’s just that writing to you is a bit like supporting online petitions against human rights abuses in developing countries- you know its never going to affect your own well being but at least you can take comfort in the action of registering your support, however ineffectual it ultimately proves to be. A mere salve to my conscience- if I was more organised and less misanthropic I might be up at Heathrow this coming week fighting the good fight but sadly not.

And the response . . . ?

Dear punkscience

Thank you for your letter. I do understand where you are coming from on the issues you raise.

The Government cannot win. When we cut the road building program we were heavily criticised and when we opted to expand after a long and detailed consultation with the regions concerned we again have clearly upset a number of people. We do need roads, out [sic] economy needs a good infrastructure. Where we need to do work is ensuring that the traffic that commutes on the roads is a lot less polluting, that the number of road journeys is [sic] being minimalised and that the road building and widening schemes are only carried out where a strong case has been made.

A great deal of work has been undertaken by the government and private sector to produce cleaner vehicles and fuel and this work must continue. This government invested heavily in public transport and the increase of use in rail and bus services has been significant. This government have also made it possible for local authorities to introduce a range of measures designed to cut traffic (including congestion charges) which had a signfiicant impact in London.

I note you talk about leaving the UK. I am not convinced necessarily that this is the answer because the UK are world leaders in tackling climate change issues.

Yours sincerely,

Alison Seabeck MP

She is a cockweasel. A filthy, lying cockweasel, no less.

I don't remember many people criticising Labour for halting the road builiding program in 1997. In fact, I'm sure they were broadly praised for it.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Robert Peston rules

Another contribution from CiF to my catalogue of diatribes on this government's absurd tax policies. And its a sweet little nut of a corker.

contrasting politics of labour laws on different sides of the Atlantic

Here's an interesting diatribe. I was struck by this paragraph:

". . . workers' incomes and/or job securities had been reduced over recent years by neo-liberal "reforms" identified as necessary for European "unity." So they worked more and took on debt. Their mounting stress strained family life and reduced civic participation. Such painful adjustments, as always, bred social tensions."

The point about reducing civic participation is an important one, as anyone will agree who is as appalled as me by the blatant disenfrachisment of the electorate in this country. I invest many hours staying as abreast of current affairs as I can but I am clearly an exception amongst my peers. If you've ever tried to discuss politics with your friends in the pub it is shocking how ignorant most of them are of issues I consider to be critical to the present and future wellbeing of our society (personal liberty, nuclear generation, Saudi-BAE scandal, faith schools, public transport, housing, etc etc.). Most people have an opinion on these issues but its generally poorly informed or an outright fantasy.

human nature


Is anyone else perpetually fascinated (disturbed?) by the apparent inhumanity of many of the decisions taken in global politics? The Bush administration's, and indeed many recent US administrations', brand of exceptionalism; Tony Blair's religious certainties and his absolute conviction that he did nothing wrong in forcing GB to cooperate in invading Iraq; the ugly daily slog in Afghanistan, Pakistan and a dozen other nations in the frontline of the oxymoronic "war on terror"; the appalling world bank, IMF and WTO with their hell-bent policies of globalisation and impoverishment of developing nation's as a weapon through which to impose neoclassical economic version of imperial exploitation; I could continue the list but I think I've set the scene.

All of these disgusting examples of barbarism are characterised by a dehumanising process. A belief that other people are of less worth than and of lowlier stock than the judging individual(s). Egality has never been so far away and any argument for it is drowned beneath a deluge of ideological froth about "liberation", "freedom" and "development". I am convinced that the value system which allows the perpetrators of this brutality to sleep at night is a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of humanity. The conviction that people are, at their core, self-interested and malicious in their pursuit of it. The fallacy of this has been made clear time and again in anthropological, sociological and psychological research (three dirty words for a true experimental scientist such as myself but the best we can do short of doing a Truman Show job). However, US-style international diplomacy is still conducted via the "us and them" mentality of an exceptionalism that dehumanises the adversary through a sincere belief that the "darkies" or the "nig-nogs" or those "funny little Asian guys" or those strange Europeans with their socialist politics and long holidays are somehow inferior. Its a casual racism that has developed beyond mere skin colour and evolved into the conviction of a glorious manifest destiny awaiting its acolytes.

A fascinating aside to this is the fact that, at more local levels, such inhumanity becomes more subtle because the electorate becomes less and less vulnerable to such prejudices because you can't accuse your neighbour of being a darky or a Mexican or a bloody Eastern European so instead the language changes to a more evidential and factual basis.

Anyway, the instigator of this particular rant was an article in New Scientist which I will link to here. Unfortunately its subscription only so you'll have to pick up a copy to get the full story.

Friday, February 15, 2008

punkscience loves Ubuntu

After ongoing technical issues with my VAIO laptop I have finally turned to the side of light, reason and beauty by installing Ubuntu. My laptop actually works better than it did with XP thanks to this glorious example of collectivism. Seriously, peeps, the development of Linux is a model example of the wonder of humanity.

amusing website of the week

I am greatly entertained by Decentpedia. I can' t work out if its tongue-in-cheek, much like the General's work, or whether it is a dry presentation of someone's tawdry experiences debating politics. Having frequented a few forums where such matters actually get debated I recognise many of the attempts at arguments presented here.


After further reading its definitely the tongue-in-cheek thing.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Thursday, February 07, 2008

carbon emissions must be reduced to zero to avoid catastrophic climate change

I was looking at my links for the Zero Carbon Britain one and was surprised to not find it as I'm sure I added it. Anyway, I slapped that mofo in there and stopped for a browse whilst I was there and found this. It even goes beyond what George says. The comment below it is distressingly sincere.

The abstract of the original article can be found here. NewScientist covered it here.

This news is pretty much the nail in the coffin of my hope that we, as a civilisation, will deal with this. I know that we can, I just don't believe that we will. There isn't sufficient public feeling to drive the major changes that George calls for: A mobilisation on the scale of the world wars.

"Supergrid" gets thumbs up from industry

This concept has been developed twice before by thinktanks and now it is being vaunted by a commercial generator. Its a good thing to keep up your sleeve if you are confronted by a renewable energy nihilist who tries to tell you that renewables can't supply baseload capacity.

"Renewable Energy Nihilist". Nice.

RENs, I'll call 'em.

sky-pixie representative says the opinions of more than one sky-pixie should be respected

Rowan Williams is such an idiot.

Dr Williams says the argument that "there's one law for everybody... I think that's a bit of a danger".

So, exactly what is religious dogma meant to be, then? I was under the impression that the point of sky-pixie worship was that you were following the absolute, incontrovertible truth (according to your chosen deity).

I love it when sky-pixie fans say stuff like this, or this. Its just so damning of their morals. After condemning the concept of equality in the eyes of the law, what comes next? Absolution for child-rapist-Priests because they were doing the sky-pixie's work? A second Inquisition?


Rossinisbird is more measured in his criticism of the idiot.

Additional Addition:

"Under Islamic law polygamy is condoned, allowing a man up to four wives and giving him the primary right to call for divorce. This means he can leave his first wife, refuse her a divorce and remarry, yet still consider himself living in accordance with his faith."

From here. I think this is an excellent example of why Sharia law sucks ass. I'm not opposed to polygamy, per se. If some idiot thinks they can have a stable and happy life as part of a loving collective then that's their hard lesson to learn. I am, however, fundamentally opposed to inequality of rights, as exemplified by Islam's treatment of women as second class citizen. I'm not going to moderate my comments by referring to some sort of "moderate" Islam as having rejected these values as I am generalising and cases of the latter are in the great minority, in my humble opinion.

There's interesting material in this article by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, one of the few sky-pixie fans I actually have respect for.

turbo-capitalism / capitalist fundamentalism / neoliberalism sucks ass

The Media Lens posse rule.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

I want George Monbiot and Jonathan Porritt to rule the world

George has been listening to my inner voice again and has written down what it is whispering with regard to UK politics. I can't agree with him more, except on the point of the corruption of UK politics. Surely the evidence he cites indicates otherwise?

Anyway; introduce state funding of political parties, compulsory voting and the single transferable vote.

Theo Hobson must actually be disturbed

His CiF piece is simply astonishing!

The comments are awesome and well worth a read if you fancy a chuckle. I haven't read such a fundamentally damning expose of the irrelevance of religion to day to day life (if not to politics) in a long time. Not since I read this.


My comment was deleted by the moderator. It went something along the lines of:

"Theo, you forgot to mention giving up critical thinking and independence of thought, but I suppose they don't count because you gave them up the day you were beaten- or terrified- into Believing."

There was more vitriol but I was busy this afternoon and I've forgotten what I wrote.

what happens when the US outspends the rest of the world's defence budget?

A link from the CiF post I mentioned below reveals this little gem of information. Its always puzzled me how the Americans never object to the amounts of money their government spends on weapons and the military-industrial complex when they have no public health care and little decent public schooling. I suppose that's what having a shite education system does for the ruling elite; it keeps the populace ignorant of the wider world and amenable to simple emotional manipulation by dissemination of outright propaganda. That a Wikipedia article should exist describing this phenomenon and yet for the subject to not be a major point of contention in recent and past elections in the US is indiciative of the enormous success of this policy.

Educated people see through the bullshit, question what their government tells them, seek information from objective sources and generally don't vote for morons like Blair and Bush. Its that simple.

By this standard the number of intelligent people in the UK and US are pathetically low. Oh dear.

Back on the subject of weapons, I feel depressed that the US administration seems to be forcing its way into a new cold war against Russia and even Europe too, which the yanks seem to view with utter contempt for our (relatively) liberal, socialist politics and habitat of pointedly criticising the bullshit that gets churned out by the Whitehouse. The combination of fear of foreigners and a massive defence budget bode ill. Particularly as that nation still has no national policy in place for combatting climate change. Indeed, attempts to push through legislation at the local and state level are being thwarted by the central administration.

US Defence Secretary: "NATO troops do not know how to fight a guerrilla insurgency"

Yes, Robert Gates actually thinks that the resurgence of the Taleban is the fault of poorly trained NATO forces in the country. Several responses are competing to be laid down here:

  1. Maybe if the US had devoted its entire military effort to Afghanistan instead of exploiting the moral vacuum to set off on a war of aggression against a nation wholly unconnected to the events of 11th September 2001 then maybe the Taleban wouldn't have been able to conduct its resurgence in the absence of sufficient military force to police the freshly occupied Nation.
  2. The US has started so many war of agression, covertly or otherwise, and committed so many attrocities that prove fertile grounds for driving popular uprisdings against their forces that its unsurprising that their troops have plenty of experience in this field.
  3. On that note they are actually one of the worst forces on the planet for engaging in attrocities; needless applications of blunt firepower with huge associated civilian casualties; widespread dehumanisation of civilians and other local populations ("gook syndrome"); frequent attempts to divide and conquer competing insurgencies with arms and support, including hard cash, drugs, weapons- pretty everything is up for grabs for those who want to temporarily switch side for profit or pleasure, thereby engendering massive contempt for the the occupier.
  4. Who the fuck does Robert Gates think NATO's fighting? Weren't the Taleban trained and armed by the CIA? He's got some fucking cheek pulling this out of the bag whilst our body count continues to rise inexorably.
  5. Gates' record:
    1. Number of wars in which the US military has been beaten into little pieces of shit and had to call upon foreign support during Gates' time in service: 4 (Vietnam, Nicaragua,Iran, Iraq II).
    2. Number of wars in which the US has been moderately successful: 2 (Grenada [wow- an island of 110,000 people- tough target!], Iraq I).
    3. So his record sucks even more floppy horse cock than he does, which is a lot. Hardly a position from which to criticise others.
So, Rob old chap: Shut the fuck up and teach your own troops to respect other human beings and to use judicious and appropriate levels of force in their defence and maybe, just maybe, people wouldn't be so keen to bomb the shit out of you and your occupying forces.

More on NATO in Afghanistan from CiF.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

new French train will hit 224mph

The train is set to travel 1000km in 3 hours bringing the technology closer and closer to air travel. I feel quite strongly that short-haul flights that do not cross significant bodies of water should be banned and replaced with high speed rail links.


I like this quote from M. Sarkozy and would like to point it at nu-labour:

"We need to entrench a simple message in people's minds: industry is not over, industry is essential for the economy of a rich nation as much as an emerging nation,"

where your plastic will end up

Another Indy article. I like the word 'nurdle'.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Jonathan Porritt totally rules

He has a question-and-answer piece in the Indy. It reveals more about his ultimate awesomeness.

His book is probably one of the most important resources on the planet today for any aspiring World-Savers.

those who cannot learn from their mistakes . . .

So, after the CIA stuffed the Taleban's bunkers full of stingers and heavy machine guns back in the '70s- which were later connected to several downed airliners, warlords and opium production- it seems that the hard lessons about the stupidity of trying to buy off guerillas with weapons hasn't been learnt by the UK. I can't decide whether the inept handling of the Afghani situation is, in fact; some Kevorkian attempt to divest the nation of our responsibilities in that nation by inciting the government there to eject us in disgust; or just the usual bumbling incompetence from the good ol' boys of the civ-serv.