Saturday, December 30, 2006

Hawaii Condos

Here's an interesting site specializing in the market for Hawaii condos. You can simply log in and search for condos available in Hawaii. That actually sounds very simple indeed but they've added some extra layers of sophistication. If you're selling then you can list what you have to sell, if you simply want to rent out you can do that too.

Obviously, if people can put up listings then as a potential buyer or renter then you can search through those places available as well. They've also launched a new service for 'building specialists'.

These are the realtors who specialize in selling condos in just one or two buildings or resorts. These are usually at the high, or luxury, end of the market. The advantage of using these people is of course that they are experts in their specific field, know the building and the area very well indeed.

If you're in the market for a Hawaii condo, as landlord, seller, renter or buyer, click through to see the site!

Tyson Arrested

Oh dear, this could be something of a serious problem. I do get a little hazy about certain aspects of US law but:

Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson was arrested in Arizona on Friday and charged with driving under the influence of drugs and possession of cocaine, police said.

Tyson was arrested in Scottsdale, 10 miles east of Phoenix, Arizona, after his black BMW nearly collided with a sheriff's vehicle, according to court documents.

"During an interview with Mike he admitted to using today and stated he is an addict and has a problem," the arresting officer said in court documents. "Mike admitted to possessing bags of cocaine and said he uses any time he can get his hands on it."

I guess it depends upon how much he had with him. Black men and drugs tends to be something that attracts harsh sentences and as he is already a convicted felon, they might throw the book at him. On the other hand, the fact that he got bail might mean that they don't think the chrages are all that serious.

Hacking DVDs

Well, this didn't seem to last long.

The companies behind an encryption system for high-definition DVDs are looking into a hacker's claim that he has cracked the code protecting the new discs from piracy, a spokesman for one of the companies said on Thursday.

A hacker known as Muslix64 posted on the Internet details of how he unlocked the encryption, known as the Advanced Access Content System, which prevents high-definition discs from illegal copying by restricting which devices can play them.

The AACS system was developed by companies including Walt Disney Co., Intel Corp., Microsoft Corp., Toshiba Corp. and Sony Corp. to protect high-definition formats, including Toshiba's HD-DVD and Sony's Blu-ray.

There seems to be something of a conceptual problem with almost all of these forms of encryption. If it's going to be simple enough that it can actually be used effecively, then it has to be simple enough that someone can hack it. I'm not sure if there is actually a way around this at all.



Dot Flowers


We've just come through the holidays season so, quick question. How many people did you forget to buy things for? How many emergency, last minute gifts did you want to send?

Here's something to file away for the future, someone who will do sameday online flower delivery.
Your mother phones up and starts talking....and you realize you've completely forgotten her birthday? Or that all important wedding anniversary? Just leap online and Dot Flowers will organize for one of the local flower shops to get something to her that very day.

If you are slightly more organized they'll also provide flowers direct from their own farms and for those who don't want flowers they also offer deliveries of gourmet foods and gift baskets.

A very useful addition to the options of getting a gift or present delivered: although, if that date you forgot was actually yesterday I'm afraid your explanations are your own.

N2 Growth

Here's an interesting blog, all about corporate careers and how to make the most of them. There's some personal stuff in there as well, (like the one about why I hate spam, something which I think we can all agree with) but also some really rather good advice.

I was particularly taken with one entry on the N2 Growth blog talking about why it is that some people seem to make it all the way to the top while others, apparently better qualified, don't. Given that we've said these others are better qualified it isn't because they have some hidden flaw, rather, it's the way in which they use their networks of contacts, the way in which they leverage them.

I also rather liked the comment on the blog about the saddest thing being the wannabe executive with the rolodex to die for who then never actually uses it. Never really works on the network, never pushes his contacts to boost his own career.

If you're interested in how to make the most of those contacts and skills, attributes and talents, that you already have, then this is a good blog to be reading.

Saddam's Execution

This does indeed seem to be a problem for the networks, as Reuters suggests:

As the world awaited word of Saddam Hussein's fate, U.S. television news executives faced a quandary over whether to break a taboo against airing footage of executions should video of his hanging become available.

As of Friday evening, two major broadcast networks -- ABC and NBC -- as well as cable news outlets CNN and Fox News Channel -- said they would wait to see what images of Saddam's execution, if any, surface before deciding whether and how to use them.

All said they would break into regular programming with special coverage when they confirmed the former Iraqi leader was dead, although none contemplated any live pictures from the hanging.

Is any network executive really going to want to start showing snuff movies? As we know, the pictures at least, and perhaps the video, are all over the net already, but is anyone actually going to start showing them on TV? Be interesting to see how it plays out.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Online Bathrooms

No, that's not bathrooms you can use on line, rather, places online that you can buy bathrooms and the necessary equipment.

It would be something of an advance in bathroom technology if you could simply plug into the net now wouldn't it? However, sadly, until that day we're going to continue to need the more prosaic equipment, which is why it's so useful to have sites like www.Taps4Less.com.

We can get all of the necessaries without having to even leave the house, like this incredible selection of minimalist bathroom taps.

The other thing is, what on earth is a macerator.? Are they really an essential part of the modern bathroom? If they are, when did that start?

Anyway, hours of fun for the most devoted shopper there and for those puzzled by the ever onward advance of technology, well, something to think about at least.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Web Hosting

One of the obvious problems we all have with this wondrous internetwebthing is trying to work out where we should host our efforts. As you can see, this is a Typepad blog, which is fine for small sites like this, where traffic isn't all that high and as very few images are used, bandwidth really isn't all that much of a consideration.

If you just want to do a simple blog then Wordpress or Blogger are fine (although they can be a little tedious to use as well).

However, if you're going to try and do something more ambitious then you need to pay a great deal more attention to who is actually going to be doing the web hosts for you. There are a number of considerations and price really isn't the most important of them.

Certainly, price is important, but you also want to pay attention to things like uptime, reliability, even whether the host is on someone's hit list and therefore likely to get in the way of a DOS attack.
As ever with such things it's not possible for any of us to be an expert on day one: we need to look to experts who have already done the research. And here to help us is a listing of the top web hosts companies for us.

Even better is the fact that the same nice people sharing their hard earned knowledge with us also have some coupons available for money off the top company in web hosts. Isn't that great? You get to pick an expert's brains, find out which is the best company for you to use for your project and also save some money in the process.

Web Hosting

One of the obvious problems we all have with this wondrous internetwebthing is trying to work out where we should host our efforts. As you can see, this is a Typepad blog, which is fine for small sites like this, where traffic isn't all that high and as very few images are used, bandwidth really isn't all that much of a consideration.

If you just want to do a simple blog then Wordpress or Blogger are fine (although they can be a little tedious to use as well).

However, if you're going to try and do something more ambitious then you need to pay a great deal more attention to who is actually going to be doing the web hosts for you. There are a number of considerations and price really isn't the most important of them.

Certainly, price is important, but you also want to pay attention to things like uptime, reliability, even whether the host is on someone's hit list and therefore likely to get in the way of a DOS attack.
As ever with such things it's not possible for any of us to be an expert on day one: we need to look to experts who have already done the research. And here to help us is a listing of the top web hosts companies for us.

Even better is the fact that the same nice people sharing their hard earned knowledge with us also have some coupons available for money off the top company in web hosts. Isn't that great? You get to pick an expert's brains, find out which is the best company for you to use for your project and also save some money in the process.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Piggybacking

This method of repairing credit ratings really seems to be very interesting. As far as I understand it it works like this.

So, someone has a bad credit rating. They want to improve it and the way to do that is to borrow money and then repay it. That's simply how the whole credit rating system works, by keeping track of who borrows money and who repays it. Those who do repay on time are obviously considered to be a better credit risk than those who don't when it comes to making a decision about lending them more money.

OK, but what if your credit is so bad that you can't actually borrow any money which you then pay back?

This is where piggybacking comes in. Someone who does have good credit gets a new credit card (on their own account) in your name. It goes to them of course, not to you. They then use it to buy something they would buy anyway and pay their total bill in the normal manner.

Because they have then borrowed money and repaid it, but in your name, that borrowing and payoff then appears in your credit file, boosting your rating.

Now, why would people do that? Because you pay them to do so.

Seems simple enough really, doesn't it?

 

Friday, December 15, 2006

Exercise Mats

Time perhaps to get ready to take off the weight you're about to put on?

We all know that the holiday season is when we all put on pounds and pounds of weight. From the various feasts that we'll all force down ourselves to the boxes of chocolates that seem to erupt out of the surface of every piece of furniture in the house, yes, our calorie intake goes way up.

Combine that with the winter weather that keeps us indoors and no surprises then, we get porky.  

So, what we really need to help us in January is an exercise mat. Sorry, what was that? Ah, yes, you're asking what I'm going on about with exercise mats. Well, the thing is you see, you don't need an expensive gym membership, you don't need to promise to swim a mile a day or cycle for ten. The relationship between eating and weight is very simple. Do more exercise, even of the lightest kind, and you'll lose weight. Just an exercise mat is really all the equipment you need.

Seriously, a few press ups, a few sit ups and abdominal crunches, the odd squat and star jump is all that's required. 20 minutes a day with a simple piece of equipment, that's it!

There's another great joy about this form of exercise....making it much better than dieting. Muscle weighs more for volume than fat. So as you transfer fat into muscle through exercise, you'll look thinner and healthier faster than you're actually losing weight.

US Web

It's become a truism that search engines are the way that people find things on the web. some 70-80% of us find whatever it is that we're looking for by simply asking Google, or Yahoo, or Ask Jeeves: whichever one takes our fancy at the time really.

What this means is that if you're going to try and sell goods or services over the net you need to be in the first page or two of the results for a particualr search term. It's simple a fact of human nature that we are satisfacting rather than fully optimising. We'll go with the easy to find thing that's good enough, rather than mining through hundreds of pages to find the thing that is perfect.

This is why you might need the services of a company like US Web. They've been in business since 1995 and know their way around the industry. They can therefore help you with the intricacies of search engine marketing and optimisation.

There's really no point in trying to reinvent the wheel, you might as well use people who've already been there and done that.

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Australians

Yes, we all have stereotypes in our minds about what certain groups of foreigners are like. We Brits are seen as shy creatures with bad teeth, the Americans as brash and the Australians, well, certainly, they're thought to like their drink, are they not?

An all-in-one plastic wine bottle and cup has been produced by Australia's Hardy Wine Company, the country's largest wine producer.

The "Shuttle" bottle, which holds one glass of wine, has a detachable plastic container at the top.

"It's portable (and) it means you only need to buy one product to enjoy a glass of wine," Miriam Leenders, Hardy Wine Company Global Marketing Manager, told Reuters.

Sometimes these stereotypes just get confirmed, don't they? And plastic? For wine?

 

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Pattaya

Just an interesting little note for those who insist that we should not buy the products of those slaving away in sweatshops.

Under the neon-lights of Pattaya, the Thai town renowned for its sex industry, boys and girls as young as seven try to sell flowers to western tourists.

Some will end up selling their bodies.

"These kids start by selling sweets to tourists who aren't interested, so they use sexual tactics like holding arms or legs," said Sudjai Nakphain of World Vision, who works on a project for children in Pattaya.

"While some kind adults just give them money, others exploit those selling tactics and many kids, who have already been sexually abused by their families, end up selling sex," she said.

Isn't hand stitching footballs or making t-shirts better than that?

 

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Link Popularity

So, you're building your web presence and you find that you now actually need to get a few people to come and read it. There's no point, after all, in spending all that money and inventing the better mousetrap if the world does not in fact beat a path to your door.

What you now need to do is understand how to attract such traffic. It's pretty much true that the bulk of people's traffic comes from the search engines like Google. Having a first page result for a phrase that people search for a lot pretty much guarantees that you get traffic.

OK, so how do you get a decent position on the Google search results? That all comes down to how you go about increasing your link popularity.

Click through that link and you'll find an excellent little essay on how the whole system works and what you can do to get better positioning in search results and thus more traffic.

 

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Sea Level Rises

So we have another researcher who tells us that we're all going to drown imminently.

The world's oceans may rise up to 140 cms (4 ft 7 in) by 2100 due to global warming, a faster than expected increase that could threaten low-lying coasts from Florida to Bangladesh, a researcher said on Thursday.

"The possibility of a faster sea level rise needs to be considered when planning adaptation measures such as coastal defenses," Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research wrote in the journal Science.

His study, based on air temperatures and past sea level changes rather than computer models, suggested seas could rise by 50-140 cms by 2100, well above the 9-88 cms projected by the scientific panel that advises the United Nations.

Isn't that interesting? Most especially as the IPCC (which is that UN scientific panel) is about to announce in a month or so that the predicted sea level rises will be more like 30 cm than the 88 mentioned there.

 

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Climate Change: Not All Bad

Interesting news today that climate change might not actually be bad news for everyone.

Climate change could be disastrous for some animals, but male gray seals are probably not complaining -- it has improved their sex lives.

Weaker males would not normally have a chance with the females, who usually go for the more dominant types.

But lower rainfall levels have forced female seals on the remote Scottish island of North Rona to travel further from their partners to find fresh water, giving the weaker males more opportunity to mate with them.

"The increased movement amongst the females allows the weaker males to mate," said Dr. Sean Twiss of the University of Durham in England.

OK, OK, trivial example, but e should remember that while there are indeed bad effects rom climate change there are also good ones. It's the balance that matters, not just one or the other.

 

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Belisi

So, you're a bartender in a rich and luxurious place like Palm Beach and you're struggling to stand out from the crowd. Of course, you don't have the money to get yourself the Ferrari or the yacht (neither of which would really make you stand out in such a place) so what do you do?

Peter Belisi found a fascinating method, to specialise in wearing exotic ties. They're simply, make a statement about yourself and with a little application and a certain amount of taste one can make quite a name for yourself by differentiating in such a manner.´

In fact, it got so that Belisi was being looked to as a trendsetter himself, with co-workers and so on looking to him for advice on what they themselves should wear. He even prided himself on never wearing the same tie twice.

Such was his reputation in fact that he's been able to turn it into a business. You can have a look at it at Belisi.com, where you can read the whole story and also see his ties, and the more recent scarves and handbags.

 

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Solving Obesity

know, I think we may actually have found the solution to the obesity crisis? As we know, it's been blamed on the fact that people are simply sitting and playing with video games rather than getting off their lard arses and taking some exercise.

Video gamers relish violence on the screen but now players are becoming victims themselves -- of the latest gaming technology in which a wireless, wand-like device is used to direct on-screen action.

Using Nintendo's Wii, the most talked about of three new game consoles out this holiday, players of seemingly harmless games such as bowling and tennis are being left battered and bruised by the controller, not to mention damaging television screens and nearby ceiling fans and computers.

Nintendo has cautioned players on using a wrist strap with the controller and keeping their palms dry but Jim Walsh's blog (www.WiiHaveAProblem.com) is dedicated to sharing some of the amusing -- and embarrassing -- stories of what he calls "the latest trend in gaming violence."

If people are playing these games hard enough to do themselves an injury then they must be burning off a few calories as well, right?

Of course, we do seem to be replacing the obesity crisis with a nation of cripples, but at least one problem's solved, eh?

 

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Polonium 210

This polonium 210 story seems to be never ending. First Litvinenko himself gets himself killed, then there's jets all over the place found to be contaminated and now the Dutch are at it too:

Dutch health authorities said on Friday they have called in about 20 people for radiation testing after they stayed in a London hotel where poisoned former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko also spent time.

A spokeswoman for the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM) said authorities want to test about 20 Dutch people for the radioactive polonium 210.

"Some 20 Dutch people were in the Millennium Hotel in London between October 31 and December 1," the spokeswoman said, declining to comment on who the possibly affected people were and adding that test results were expected in the coming three weeks.

At some point, surely, the levels of contamination are going to fall below background radiation?

 

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Drug Formulary

Epocrates Online is what I think in English we would call a drug formulary. It allows doctors to look up the dosage and so on of drugs like Zithromax so that they can make sure that they are offering the correct amount for that specific patient. It's also possible to check for the retail prices of the drug for those patients who are uninsured and for coverage for the prescription of the drug under the various health plans and insurance policies that people might have.

Much more important though is the way in which the system tracks drug interactions. With more than 3,300 drugs listed, the prescriber can check that the new drug being offered is not known to interact with anything else that the patient is already taking. With one third of US adults already taking five drugs or supplements each day (Wow! that's a high figure!) that's extremely important.

 

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Adjust for Inflation! Grr!

Happy happy days as the FTSE 100 rises to its highest since February 2001.

Britain's top share index extended early gains to hit its highest intraday level since February 2001 on Friday, tracking global equity markets higher and boosted by oils, banks and defense firm BAE Systems (BA.L: QuoteProfile , Research).

By 1018 GMT, the FTSE 100 .FTSE was 29.3 points, or 0.5 percent, higher at 6,257.3 points, having earlier hit 6,258.8 to beat a previous 5-1/2 year high reached on November 16.

However, this isn't actually quite true. You see, they haven't adjusted for inflation. We've had not too much of that, a percent or two a year, but it still means that (without compounding) it would need to be 5-10% higher in nominal terms to be the same in real terms.

 

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Fidel Castro

Reports are that Fidel Castro is near to death:

Cuban President Fidel Castro is very ill and close to death, U.S. Intelligence chief John Negroponte said in an interview published on Friday.

"Everything we see indicates it will not be much longer ... months, not years," Negroponte told The Washington Post.

The Cuban leader, 80, has not appeared in public since he underwent emergency intestinal surgery and temporarily handed over the presidency to his younger brother, Raul Castro, on July 31.

The most obvious thing that might change is the attitude of the US Government to the embargo against trade with the island. We all know that it has been an insane idea from the start but for political reasons it simply could never be challenged within US politics. With Castro gone perhaps this might indeed be changed.

 

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Capella University

There's been a remarkable and very welcome change in the way that student loans are subsidized in the US recently. Little noticed, it's going to change things for an online college like Capella for the better, for the students too.

Capella offers a number of online programs leading to some 76 graduate and undergraduate degrees and a further 16 certifications. All of this means that students can study in their own time, in the comfort of their own home and still acieve the qualifications necessary for success in today's ever more competetive job marketplace.

Now it used to be that you could not get Federally subsidized student loans unless a college conducted more than 50% of its teaching on campus. This has now been changed, so that online places like Capella can also recive students funded by such loans. This is a great advance and one that will help many more students achieve their goals.

 

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Tim Johnson

It's of course cruel to find the illness of someone a source of amusement but after hoping that Tim Johnson, the Senator from South Dakota, makes a full recovery, there is then this:

U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota was critically ill but stable on Thursday after brain surgery for a potentially deadly bleeding that could deprive his fellow Democrats of their razor-thin hold on the new Senate.

Doctors said Johnson had needed no additional surgery and was having an uncomplicated recovery. A Johnson spokesman cautioned that could change and the next 24 to 48 hours was "a critical benchmark."

Democrats narrowly wrested control of the U.S. Congress from President George W. Bush's Republicans in last month's elections, gaining a thin 51-49 majority in the Senate when it convenes in three weeks.

If Johnson, 59, were to leave office, Republicans could gain control of the Senate, with Vice President Dick Cheney having the power to break tie votes.

If he dies or resigns then the Governor of South Dakota (a Republican) gets to appoint his successor. That would, naturally, be a Republican. Of course, there would then be huge screaming from the Democrats. The voters have spoken sort of thing, over riding the results of elections....

Well, yes, but that is what the system says should happen. Also, I don't quite remember Democrats making the same noises when Jim Jeffords left the Republicans after his election.

 

Fatah and Hamas

Sometimes I wonder why the Israelis actually bother:

The ruling Hamas faction accused forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah of trying to kill Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and vowed to punish those responsible, raising fears of civil war.

Hamas spokesman Ismail Rudwan singled out by name a top Fatah official and lawmaker -- Mohammed Dahlan -- as being behind the shooting attack on Thursday on Haniyeh's convoy outside the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt.

One of Haniyeh's bodyguards was killed. Another bodyguard, the prime minister's son and a political adviser were wounded.

Simply, sa they have done, withdraw from the entire area and let them fight amongst themselves.

In other places it was reported that the PM was in fact arriving with $35 million in cash (and that takes up a lot of room you know, that would be 16 to 20 suitcases) that he'd raised to pay for the administration. That's sufficient justification for a gun battle isn't it?

 

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Car Insurance

We've all got huge problems with things like car insurance. We know there's hundreds, if not thousands, of people out there willing to sell it to us but how do we actually work out which one we want or need?

There are simply so many different options. What will the deductible be, what will it cover, what are the differences for which number of drivers and so on? Perhaps most importantly, what will the cost be, what are the monthly premiums going to be? Who is best at covering people with a DUI? Young drivers? Those in an urban (or rural) area?

Fortunately the net has made all of this a lot easier, we can now go to comparison sites or those of brokers and get a car insurance quote online. They'll go through all of the available deals for someone in your (or our) specific situation and thus we can be sure that we're getting the best deal.

 

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I Always New Salads Were Evil...

...and it appears that I'm right.

An ingredient used in 70 percent of Taco Bell's products, lettuce, probably caused an E.coli outbreak that sickened dozens of people in the U.S. Northeast, food safety officials said on Wednesday.

Let that be an important lesson: a fit and healthy diet is based upon meat, potatoes and beer, none of this frilly salad stuff and as for vegetables well, wasn't it spinach that caused the last outbreak?

 

 

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Very Misleading Headline

As Reuters says:

The incoming Democratic-led U.S. Congress intends to give a hand to dishwashers, fast-food cooks and America's other poorest-paid workers by raising the federal minimum wage for the first time in a decade.

With the gap between rich and poor widening, Democrats promised such a pay hike as a part of their campaign that saw them win control of both chambers of Congress in the November 7 elections from President George W. Bush's Republicans.

With the new 110th Congress set to convene on January 4, Democrats vow a vote soon on a bill to raise the minimum wage over two years to $7.25 per hour from $5.15 per hour. And they seem positioned to make the popular measure law.

The headline was:

Democrats to raise wages for poor workers

Rather more accurate would be 'Democrats to ensure that poor workers lose their jobs'.

You raise the price of something then you're going to reduce the amount of it that gets bought, pretty simple really.

 

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Investment Options

When it comes to how you should invest your money there are a few basic and simple rules you should follow. You want to have some cash around, of course, just in case of disaster. You also want to have a few month's worth of the mortgage tucked away in a deposit account or CDs again, just in case of a job or medical emergency. After that you want to have some long term bonds and a healthy slice of equities.

It's all called diversification and it's a very important part of making sure that you have a spread of assets.

Now, within that spread of assets you should also have some much more speculative investments. These could be in options on stocks, in alternative investments or perhaps in commodities. One of the most interesting commodity investments at present is in silver. More is used each year than is mined, there isn't enough recycling going on and the above ground stocks are shrinking all of the time.

One of the best ways of gaining exposure to this opportunity is by the purchase of physical ingots or coins of silver and one excellent way to do this is through hte Monex Deposit Company. Click through the link to see what they can offer.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

HIV In India

Hhhm, it would appear that the medical authorities in India have been making exactly the same mistake as those in Africa about the prevalence of HIV infections.

The number of people living with HIV in India could be lower than government estimates, research issued on Wednesday said.
Scientists who studied the prevalence of the virus that causes AIDS in a district in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh -- the state has the highest HIV rate in India -- found it was less than half the government's figure.

The reason is the very strange places that they were actually measuring who had HIV in.

The researchers tested blood samples from more than 12,000 men and women aged 15-49 from both urban and rural areas in Guntur who were representative for the study.
The HIV prevalence rate they found was 1.72 percent and rose to 1.79 percent, or 45,900 cases, after they adjusted the number for high risk groups.
Official figures based on data collected from antenatal clinics, sexual health clinics, high risk groups and referrals of HIV positive and suspected cases to public hospitals put the number of cases at 112,600.

Why the over-estimate? Well, if you start at antenatal clinics (a group you are absolutely certain have been having unprotected sex) and sexual health clinics (a group you're pretty certain have) then you're bound to over-estimate the prevalence of a sexually transmitted disease. Simple really, wonder why anyone actually counted that way for so long.

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The Bushmen Win!!

Excellent news indeed. The Bushmen who were being thrown off their land to make way for a new diamond mine (although everyone has strenuously denied that this was to be the reason) have actually won their case in Botswana's High Court.

Botswana's High Court ruled on Wednesday that hundreds of Bushmen had been wrongly evicted from ancestral hunting grounds in the Kalahari desert and should be allowed to return.

The court ruled 2-1 for the Bushmen in the key issues of the case, which saw Africa's last hunter gatherers take on one of the continent's most admired governments in a dispute over diamond rich land and development priorities.

Judge Mpaphi Phumaphi, who delivered the swing vote in the case, said Botswana had been wrong to force the Bushmen out of the Kalahari reserve by cutting off their livelihood.

How excellent to see that some countries still abide by the rule of law, so unlike our own European Union.

"In 2002 they were dispossessed forcibly, unlawfully, and without their consent," she said.

The Bushmen say their way of life was being wiped out as they were re-settled into bleak camps where they were unable to use their traditional hunting skills.

Botswana argued that western activists, who have won the backing of South African anti-apartheid hero Desmond Tutu and British actress Julie Christie, have romanticized a Bushmen lifestyle that vanished long ago.

It says the Basarwa, also known as the San, are a danger to wildlife and that the Kalahari reserve is a poverty trap which stops the San integrating into society and denies them access to healthcare and education.

All of that may well be true but it's their right to live as they wish upon their own land. That's just what freedom and liberty mean.

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Google Stock Options

It looks like there's a change in the way that Google is going to account for stock options for its employees. However, it is only an accounting change, it doesn't actually change any of the costs to the company:

"It could give Google a slight advantage in recruiting people," said James Glassman, a financial columnist and fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington D.C. "It has no real effect on the company's finances. It is an accounting change. The impact is all on the human resources side."

That's actually a little difficult to understand given this:

The Web search leader said it expects to start the transferable stock option program in April 2007 and will take an undisclosed charge to reflect the greater value of company options under the new scheme.

Transferable options have two advantages over other means of motivating and retaining employees: They combine the leverage of options -- their initial value can multiply over time -- with the ability to understand the tangible value one gets in holding a tradable stock, experts in the field said.

Hopw can something require a charge for higher costs and still be just an accounting change?

Ah, here it is:

"It seems to be a rather clean effort at introducing a form of liquidity that benefits shareholders and employees alike, without any attempt to generate an accounting treatment that would cause raised eyebrows at the SEC," he said via e-mail.

...

Google said financial service providers might buy the options as a hedge to other investments. However, the term of the options will be cut to two years, or less, once transferred into the program, instead of the normal 10-year expiry.

OK, so the employee can sell the option, when it's vested, without having to wait to the end of the full term of the option when it is actually transferred into stock. That's actually a very good idea indeed. One thing it does do is mean that out of the money options will in fact have a (however small) sales value, as they'll still have a time value.

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

"... less captious and pedantick than they are elsewhere ..."

A sudden flurry of posting, plaudits and links from far and wide, then all of a sudden silence.
 
Perhaps this might explain my distraction.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Well I never...

I can think of one or two people who won't like this (pdf) at all....
 
It is not speed that kills, it is inappropriate speed. Even then, speed is not even a contributory factor in three quarters of fatal accidents.
 
Cameras will not dissuade drivers from failing to look properly (17%) and - my own special bugbear - neither will they protect those cyclists whose deaths are caused by drivers passing too close.
 
The siting of a camera will probably be both a distraction for the authorities (who should be fixing the road) and for drivers (who should be paying attention to road conditions, not their speedometer) in the 12% of fatal accidents where the "Road environment" was a contributory factor.
 
Cameras will not detect vehicle defects (3%)
 
Cameras will do nothing to improve driver behaviour to reduce the massive 64% caused "driver error or reaction".
 
Cameras will not reduce the 19% of fatal accidents where "Driver distraction" was a contributory factor. Indeed 1% of that is due to "Distraction outside vehicle". Hmmmm.....
 
Cameras will do nothing to correct driver "behaviour or inexperience" (29%) either.
 
In short, plastering the entire country in speed cameras will do precisely nothing to prevent 88% of accidents that result in a fatality. In fact, if we did, I would be prepared to bet that we would see a rise in the number of fatalities resulting from "Aggressive driving" (currently a factor in 8% of accidents resulting in a fatality) and those due to drivers being "nervous, uncertain or panicked" (1%). Whilst we are about it, "sudden braking" anyone?
 
Speed does not kill. It undoubtedly increases the chances that poor drivers who are involved in an accident will do so, but it is the poor driving that is the problem. Let us not kid ourselves otherwise.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Welcome back Natalie

The fairy Godmother of the UK blogosphere appears to have surfaced.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

More Venn Diagrams

Ever been embarrassed that you don't know your EFTA from your Eurozone? Do you blush when friends discuss their Schengen Visa-Free Entry Agreements? Well fear not!
Given that

  1. we like this sort of thing,
  2. Dr North has been frothing at the mouth as he rails against our general ignorance on matters European and appalling flippancy whenever we have the temerity to comment on the topic (getting it all wrong due to our appalling ignorance - see above) and
  3. He might actually have a point, given the comments in this article,
it would appear that I now have THREE (count them) good reasons to unleash upon an unsuspecting, innocent and vulnerable world the following creation, dragged up from the darkest and dankest dungeon in which your fierce and vengeful Pedant-General keeps his web-designery geek-type low-lifes:


The Schengen and NATO overlays make it a little messy, but who ever said European politics was supposed to be simple?

UPDATE: Thank you MatGB - Croatia added, to EU Wannabes, but NOT to NATO.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Joke of the Day (for a few days ago)

Q: Why do people write "F*ck the Pope" on the walls of public conveniences?

A: Because they can't be bothered to write "F*ck the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland".

Or they might, if it had been this amiable gentleman who had made a passing reference to something in an obscure speech in a language you don't understand in a place you've even heard of let alone been to.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Reaching across the Divide: An apology

Mea culpa. Peccavi, even.
 
Much as we are all entreated constantly to embrace diversity and reach out to others from wildly different cultural backgrounds, I am afraid that I have may have done untold damage in my attempts to "cross the pond".
 
Despite the fact that any fule kno that
"the US and UK are two nations divided by a common language",
I was not aware that our wayward younger cousins in the former colonies do not commonly use the phrase
"with knobs on"
for emphasis.
 

Some Spectacular Swiss Sanity

The combined forces of bleeding heart woolly liberals, recalcitrant internationalists and tranzi wonks are having conniptions this morning following the news that the Swiss have spoken on the topic of asylum rather too frankly for their liking.

In particular, the UNHCR is frothing at the mouth at the suggestion that - HORRORS! - those wishing to claim asylum need to be able to show passports. From the Independent this morning:


However, the new laws, which will also oblige asylum-seekers to provide proof of
identity within 48 hours of their arrival in Switzerland, have been sharply
criticised by the United Nations refugee agency, which says that it is common
for genuine refugees not to have any means of identification.
Well, yes but...

In fact no. This is deliberately disingenuous. Looking at the detail, the more peculiar it is that UNHCR should have an issue. Here is the text of the 1967 Protocol on the Status of Refugees (it's a large pdf, I'm afraid).

The relevant section is Article 31 (1):

The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of article 1, enter or are present in their territory without authorization, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence.
Perhaps it would be helpful to have a look at a map of the area.

The more astute of you will have noticed that Switzerland is rather notably landlocked. Arrival at Switzerland's borders therefore cannot be done from the sea. To get into Switzerland, our asylum claimant must either travel by land through one of Italy, Austria, Germany or France or they have to fly in. So....

If our claimant travels by land, he cannot claim asylum in Switzerland because he should have done so in one of the four European Union countries through which he must have travelled - he has not "come directly from a territory where [his] life of freedom was threatened".

If he travels by air to fly direct into Switzerland, he would have to have had a passport in order for the airline to allow him to board in the country of departure.

So, either he cannot claim asylum in Switzerland or he should have a passport. I am struggling to see exactly why - in SWITZERLAND's CASE - this should be contentious.

Friday, September 22, 2006

No. No. And Thrice NO.

(via Everyone).
 
I think that is what the public wants.
NO THE PUBLIC DOES NOT WANT THAT.
 
THE PUBLIC DOES NOT WANT STATE FUNDING OF POLITICAL PARTIES.
 
IF THE PUBLIC DID WANT TO GIVE POLITICAL PARTIES MONEY YOU WOULDN'T BE IN THE SHITE THAT YOU ARE.
 
FUCK OFF.
 
If ever there was a spectacular candidate for the Friday Fuck Off Thread, this has to be it.

A jolly friday Limerick

There once was a man called Abu,
Wants a price on his heid
Or perhaps just a bomb in his Shoe.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Heaven Preserve Us!

The Tory Reptile steals my stock phrase as he dives into the Pope and Reason vs Islam and Offence debacle to rail against the apparent surfeit of morons. He is, of course, correct. For that matter, so is this.
 
Unlike, the substantial collection of utter, utter, utter morons here.
Sir, The Pope has made a distinction between Christian reason about God, and Islamic submission to a transcendent God ( reports and letters, Sept 16, 18, 19 and 20).

But the Church dealt harshly with Giordano Bruno and Galileo when they dared to reason.

That would be Giordano Bruno (1548 - 1600) and Galileo Galilei (1564 - 1642).

Calvin denounced Servetus because he dared to reason about the divinity of Christ.

And that would be Michael Servetus (1511 - 1553). Whilst we are about it, do you know exactly how Calvin denounced Servetus? No? Here he is:

I neither hate you nor despise you; nor do I wish to persecute you; but I would be as hard as iron when I behold you insulting sound doctrine with so great audacity.

Does calling for the Pope's execution constitute a fervent wish not to persecute him? No? So what's your point then?

Today the Baptists demand the same submission to the Bible as Muslims do to the Koran.

And? Not even the Pope insists that the Bible is the literal, direct and unalterable word of God. There are some clues in the titles of the main books: "The Gospel According to St. Luke". As such Christianity is open to critical interpretation in a manner that is often treated as the worst heresy by Islam if applied to the Koran.

The Book of Common Prayer threatens any "publick Reader in either of Our Universities . . . or any other person in either of them", who dares to question the 39 articles.

"Either of Our Universities"? What about Hull?

Darwin delayed publication of the ideas in Origin of Species for 20 years because he feared denunciation by clerics.

And? Your point is? Specifically as relevant to the attitude of Christianity to scientific enquiry NOW, as opposed to 200 or more years ago.

With the second letter, what one gains on the swings of brevity is blithely cast away on the roundabouts of more concentrated stupidity:

Sir, If Islam had a co-ordinated hierarchy (such as the papacy) leading the religion, perhaps we would have less violence. Maybe this is the time for Islam to consider the reintroduction of the caliphate, or its modern-day equivalent ( letters, Sept 15), so that Islam can provide a united front to the world.

DAVID E. MICHAEL
London SW3

In some sense he is correct: there is a school of thought that suggests, because there is no hierarchy in the clergy, one can gain status by attempting to "out-Islamisise" the next man: "I'm purer than him!", "He's a heretic!" etc. Whether or not one agrees with that position, the Caliphate would very definitely not be the solution for three very fundamental reasons.
 
Firstly, the Caliphate does not create the hierarchy of the clergy, only a unified governmental structure. Under sharia. Hmmm...
 
Secondly, the comment that created all this furore was the suggestion that the religiously motivated violence is sanctioned by Islam. If that is true, it needs to be addressed. At any rate, we DO know that Mohammed was a leader in war, in a way that Jesus simply was not as another letter writer to the Times lays out here:
 
The swords of the Prophet, as well as those of the caliphs, signify that they were real people living in a real, very hostile world. The swords were used to defend the fledgeling Muslim community from a tidal wave of aggression unleashed upon it by a pagan society. It is easy to level allegations of aggression on someone fighting for his rights against great odds.
 
That may be so, but it brings one unavoidably to the third and most important reason why the Caliphate is not the answer: Islam historically and Islamists today do not recognise the separation of church and state.
 
We cracked all this 200 years ago. It's not hard stuff.
 

Something from my "Drafts" folder...

This is generally fairly accurate. And the bit about Salman Rushdie and Islam reflects my view on the Popery pish and tosh pretty well to boot. More on this in a mo Errm... I mean in a moment. Phew. That was close.

Handholder




You go out of your way to build bridges with people of different views and beliefs and have quite a few religious friends. You believe in the essential goodness of people , which means you’re always looking for common ground even if that entails compromises. You would defend Salman Rushdie’s right to criticise Islam but you’re sorry he attacked it so viciously, just as you feel uncomfortable with some of the more outspoken and unkind views of religion in the pages of this magazine.


You prefer the inclusive approach of writers like Zadie Smith or the radical Christian values of Edward Said. Don’t fall into the same trap as super–na├»ve Lib Dem MP Jenny Tonge who declared it was okay for clerics like Yusuf al–Qaradawi to justify their monstrous prejudices as a legitimate interpretation of the Koran: a perfect example of how the will to understand can mean the sacrifice of fundamental principles. Sometimes, you just have to hold out for what you know is right even if it hurts someone’s feelings.

What kind of humanist are you? Click here to find out.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Ooohh! Some Moral Equivalence...

via DK, we get [drum roll] ...
 
 
The creators have opened a thread on a Board Game Geek forum, where a storm has subsequently blown up [you might want to choose another metaphor - Ed] in that little tea-cup. Amongst some sense-of-humour-failures of positively United-Statesian proportions, there is a serious charge of moral equivalence in respect of some of the material on the website. Aaron Silverman writes (second comment from bottom):
I'm not offended by a satirical game, even if it's in poor taste.

However, I do find some of the material posted on your website to be thoroughly ignorant and offensive. If you don't understand the difference between the attack on Fallujah and the 9/11 attacks (regardless of your general opinion of the war in Iraq) then I can only say that I pity you.
 
Andy (one of the creators) responds thus:
I don't want to get TOO much into a political debate here, because I believe it's largely explained on the website, but drawing a parallel between a sanctioned military act which results in the fore-known deaths of innocents and a non-sanctioned, terrorist, act which results in the same is not mere sophistry. There are many attrocities committed in this world and many would be called acts of terrorism, were it not a recognised state power committing them. I think this is a totally valid and debatable argument.
I don't. This is an attempt to suggest that the causing of any and all deaths of civilians is illegal. It is simply not true because it is simply not sensible. This argument leads DIRECTLY to the situation where party A deliberately hides amongst civilians so that party B either cannot attack or gets the blame for the collateral damage. It would not be in party A's interest to do anything else. Result: all parties hide amongst their own civilians and, because nothing has been done to address the reason why the two sides are fighting in the first place, BINGO: MORE civilians get killed.
 
The Geneva Conventions are perfectly clear on this. It is party A's responsibility to ensure that it does not endanger civilians in the area in which it operates. If party B attacks and civilians die, the blame lies squarely with party A. Party A is thereby incentivised to protect its own civilians - or it would be if Party A gives more than a flying f*ck about civilians' welfare, something that cannot be assumed in all cases.
 
Thus, the difference between
... a sanctioned military act which results in the fore-known deaths of innocents and a non-sanctioned, terrorist, act which results in the same ...
is the existence - or even intelligence suggesting the existence - of a legitimate military target.
 
Let us assume, just for the sake of argument, that our board game creator believes either that a) the Twin Towers represented a legitimate military target for ... um.... the Taliban? - OK maybe he doesn't believe this - or b) that there were no legitimate military targets in Fallujah. We are already in total moonbat territory here, but even with this assumption, there are still crucial differences between our two cases, differences which I submit are not
"mere sophistry".
 
If we take him at his word, that word being "sanctioned", then we have an accountable, elected politician or senior officer who can be identified and hauled over the coals. Further, where the second case would be an act of terrorism, the first would be a war crime. There are mechanisms for dealing with war crimes and chains of command that allow the decisions to be traced and individuals prosecuted. These mechanisms act as a strong disincentive for individuals to commit the crimes in the first place - even in the heat of battle and despite the hideous pressure under which our troops operate. Dealing with terrorism is, well, a little trickier. Maybe that's the whole point of the board game, let alone the "war on terror".
 
P-G Verdict: This would appear to be moral equivalence. My manifesto is pretty clear on the sentence to be handed down here. I am willing to hear a plea bargain though. A complimentary copy of the game might persuade me of the merit of the accused's legal argument...
 
 
 

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

An Unanswerable Putdown

All Hail St Jamie of Oliver.

Last night's return to the "School Dinners" fray showed him to be on spectacular form. The first episode of the new series raises, as one might expect, a number of issues.

Firstly, it demonstrates clearly the parlous condition of the infrastructure of the state. Jamie's School Dinners plan rests on the assumption that fresh food can be cooked and served to children in each school. This assumption was shown to be somewhat flawed in Lincolnshire, for all but 3 out of 286 primary schools in that county.

Secondly, it shows the degree to which people's ability and/or willingness to JFDI seems to have been eroded, both in the state and private sectors. We could posit causes of this lamentable decline in the nation's collective "spunk" (for want of a better word) till the cows come home. Jamie, to his immense credit, gives us the DS Pink solution and identifies clearly what is missing: leadership.

No kitchen at the school? Go and find a commercial kitchen nearby. There's a pub, with a good chef, lots of kit and bugger all trade of a weekday lunchtime during termtime.
No hot cupboards? Divert some of the LEA money (aside - that was being spent on what exactly?) to provide hotboxes.
Input costs too high? Find a local produce wholesaler or farmer and cut out the middle man.
Can't scale up from a single school to an entire county? Organise a day out at a castle and invite school headteachers, contract caterers, pub landlords, farmers and wholesalers and ask them all to plot themselves on a big map.

In short, get the apparatus of the state out of the way, make some noise, let the market in the form of sentient individuals do its stuff and JUST F*CKING GET ON WITH IT.

There was a spotless quote from one contract caterer:

(from memory) I had no idea that there was such a big market with no
competition.

There is one other hugely interesting aside to this: all these individuals with all the opportunity for mutually beneficial trade seemed to be creating a sense of excitement, of connections between people, of the fundamental goodness of human interaction, of "community" damn it. Humans want to make relationships and trade with other humans around them. The fascinating thing was that the LEA - even at the level of the county - could not make this happen by dictat. You have to delegate right down to the lowest level and let people get on with it. The LEA simply cannot arrange contracts for 286 schools at once and no caterer could take on that load in its entirety.

But there is a darker side. Whatever one may think about the eponymous (he must be nearly eponymous by now) Mr Oliver and whatever one may think about the importance and soundness of his cause, he is a walking demonstration of the massive structural faults in our system of government. Mr Oliver is a little short of a single issue terrorist who has inflicted the most insidious form of "blackmail by television" upon the current administration.

Harsh? Perhaps. Fair? Certainly, as I shall show.

  • Jamie Oliver is a "celebrity". Household name: Check.
  • He is campaigning on an emotive issue, that relates to the wellbeing of our children. "Think of the Children": Check.
  • He brings his own media team to his meetings with government ministers. TV Coverage: Check.
No politician - of any stripe - is going to declare on television that such an eminently sensible solution to an undoubtedly serious issue should not receive money when such money is demanded. What Jamie Oliver has done is to demonstrate exactly how to extort taxpayers cash for any given pet project. In a world of limited resources, especially if one desires that government resources NEED to be limited, all requests for such resources have to be balanced. Availability of a charismatic celebrity ought not to be one of the criteria for setting such a balance. I struggle to see how, in a liberal pluralist democracy with a strong and free press, such blackmail can be resisted.

But aside from the imminent collapse of Western Civilisation caused by the demand for more than 37p/meal/child, Jamie Oliver has done one more thing, the benefits of which will flow for many years to come. He has spoken truth to power. In the words of Luke, Chap 1 v51-52:
He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the
imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and
exalted them of low degree.
He managed to get some time with the PM. They discussed the fact that children, or the parents of same, were spending huge amounts on junk food and snacks, which scuppered the take up rates of the proper food being provided. He asked, possibly unreasonably, what might be done to ban children from bringing junk food into schools. The PM, who - to be fair to him - is or ought to be largely powerless on something of this nature, muttered something about a voluntary code of conduct regarding the advertising of junk food to children. We can all see that this is a ridiculous and entirely ineffectual answer. But only someone of the calibre of Jamie Oliver would even consider, let alone dare, responding to this with the dismissive remark:
"That's a bit wet, Tony".
If Mr Oliver were to receive a knighthood, it would be richly deserved for this rejoinder alone.

In fact, he might be up for something higher than a knighthood. I quoted Luke 1, 51-52. Guess what is in v53....
"He hath filled the hungry with good things"
Quite.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Woof!

My great chum Thersites appears to have become confused:
As a business I'm sure the proprietors would prefer Dogs' Delight to Dog's Delight but any usage of the apostrophe would do, unfortunately there is not a grocer nearby to donate one.

Quite why the third person plural form of a perfectly innocent and unconspicuous transitive verb should require its subject to have an apostrophe I feel unqualified to say.

That he should have been able to entice His Excellency the former High Commissioner of Australia to subscribe this particular outbreak of grammatical wrongheadedness is a mystery of sufficient magnitude that one worries if there is some sort of conspiracy afoot.

Whilst we are about it, I'm not convinced that a comma is correct between "do" and "unfortunately" in the quoted sentence above: I suspect one needs a colon at the very least.

P-G Verdict: Stay behind at playtime, young Thersites. A few more latin participles wouldn't go amiss.

Friday, September 15, 2006

More on the Caliphate

It would appear that others have noticed the barefaced example of terminological inexactitude on which I commented yesterday and, further, have followed David T's most excellent advice. The Times has seen fit to print three of the resulting letters.
 
The first, from Katherine Barlow, questions whether, historically, caliphates have displayed the properties that Mr Waheed expects a modern version to exhibit and notes the historical concept of the special tax for non-Muslims:
Minorities were never treated as full citizens in caliphates. Some forced Jews and Christians to wear identifiable visible insigna, excluded them from educational and government posts and, subjected them to a jizyra (shame tax) which, sometimes between 80-150 per cent of the unbeliever's income, was intended as a punitive measure that would eventually force conversion in order to survive.
A fair point and well put, but the historical nature of the Caliphate is irrelevant to the manner in which HuT would like it to be set up today.
 
The second is a somewhat mixed bag. Theodora Nurick quotes from "The Greek Fathers" by Adrian Fortescue - no link, I'm afraid: this appears now to be out of print - to support the idea that the caliphate was a pretty good thing:
The khalifahs . . . were neither unjust nor harsh to their Christian subjects. And we find that the tolerance of these khalifahs, though it did not go as far as putting unbelievers on an equal footing with Muslims, allowed both Christians and Jews to fill important places and often to amass great fortunes.
There is no doubt that Islam went through a very tolerant period and that that very tolerant period was largely contemporaneous with Islam's ascendancy and greatest contribution to civilisation and learning. I will leave it to others to discuss the direction of causation.
 
But even our correspondent here cannot bring himself to agree with the original assertion that a modern day caliphate would be a state where "minorities are treated as full citizens"
 
The second part of the quote is similarly tendentious:
"The life of our saint (John of Damascus) will show us the curious sight of a Christian father of the Church protected from a Christian emperor and able to attack that emperor's heresy without fear, because he lived under a Muslim khalifah."
You don't mean to say? A Muslim Caliph would, entirely out of the goodness of his own heart and desire for the strict observance of the freedom of religion, allow dissidents of a competing empire to operate to undermine said competing empire? I can't possibly see any other benefit that might accrue to him for allowing that sort of thing to go on.
 
The third letter is equally interesting. It is from a Mr Ibrahim Faizal who, it is fairly safe to assume from the text of his letter, is a Muslim himself.
Your correspondent claims that millions of Muslims want a caliphate. I do not want one. No Muslim I know wants one.
Short of some decent opinion polling data, let us at least grant that there is "division within the ranks" as to the desirability of a return of a Caliphate. Division within the ranks of Muslims that is, let alone any of the rest of us - a point neatly skipped over by Mr Waleed.
 
However, Mr Faizal is prepared to go further and provide a bit of real world analysis to support his thesis. What would actually happen and what sort of state would the Caliphate actually turn out to be? The answer, as far as Mr Faizal is concerned, is a clusterphuque of the first water:
If the Shia and the Sunni cannot agree on a president, how in the world can they accept a caliph?
Ouch.
 
This is all good stuff but all three missed the main point: Mr Waleed was lying through his teeth. The greatest argument against the Caliphate is that its most active proponents are very obviously dishonest to the core. None of the letters, or at least the letters published, showed that this is undeniably the case.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

More Unsung heroes

I alluded to the dedication of all involved in the Enigma code-breaking effort just the other day, but Mr Guy Thomas chips in with further revelations:

Sir, The successful reconstruction from scratch of one of the electromechanical decoders that broke the German Enigma machine (report , Sept 7) sends a buzz of excitement to everyone determined to preserve Bletchley Park, the code-breaking HQ, as a vital part of our wartime heritage. Sadly, Hut No 1, where the machine was originally housed, has already fallen to the demolition gang.

The transport complex is likely to follow. These buildings were needed to garage vehicles and plan the logistics of transporting the 12,000 people who worked at Bletchley. Records reveal that, in one week in 1944, there were 28,321 coach journeys covering 25,138 miles and using 115 drivers — just to ferry the workforce back and forth to billets in the Buckinghamshire countryside.

Clearly, this was a transport project on the grand scale, and preserving the complex in recognition of the support services who kept the codebreaking machinery whirring is essential. Despite having other problems on her mind just now, it is to be hoped that Tessa Jowell will find some way to help.

The more astute readers of this blog will have detected a certain fondness for mathematics on the part of your author. Perhaps we should see what we make of all of this.
 
28,321 coach journeys, covering a total of 25,138 miles? That's less than mile per journey on average. 1562 yards each in fact.
 
115 drivers? That's only 219 miles per driver. Per Week. That's really not very much at all. Even if we assume that each driver works only a 5 day week (and I am loathe to make such an assumption given that Bletchley Park ran 3 shifts round the clock, 7 days a week), that works out at 44 miles per driver per day. If we further assume that these coaches are wheezing, clapped out affairs recovered from some rusting junkyard and capable of only 10 mph on average, each of these drivers is capable of covering his average daily distance in just 4 hours 24 minutes. That leaves a great deal of time for drinking tea in the transport shed if you ask me.
 
And what of the passengers? We have 12,000 staff and we charitably assume that all require to ferried twice a day (at the start and end of a daily shift) and further that these 12,000 staff - unlike the drivers - do work 7 days. That is 168,000 passenger journeys in total for the week. Which gives an average occupancy of just under 6 passengers on each journey.
 
Complex? Possibly. Efficient? Nope.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Disinformation, eh?

UPDATE: A very warm welcome to visitors from Harry's Place.

There is a letter in the Times today that deserves attention. It is from a Mr Imran Waheed, the media representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain.

Let's have a look at this letter, keeping in mind exactly what it is that Hizb ut-Tahrir actually wants:
Sir, By conflating the events of 9/11 with the caliphate (editorial, Sept 11), you ignore the growing aspirations of millions in the Muslim world for the return of the caliphate through solely political work. You wrongly portray the caliphate as some kind of medieval militant aspiration.
Not medieval? Article 7c sounds pretty medieval to me:
Those who are guilty of apostasy (murtadd) from Islam are to be executed according to the rule of apostasy, provided they have by themselves renounced Islam.

No militant aspiration? What then is the purpose of Article 184 in your constitution? ("4. With states that are actually belligerent states, like Israel, a state of war must be taken as the basis for all measures and dealings with them. They must be dealt with as if a real war existed between us - whether an armistice exists or not - and all their subjects are prevented from entering the State. ")
Or Article 56? ("Jihad is a compulsory duty ( farD) on all Muslims. Military training is therefore compulsory. Thus, every male Muslim, fifteen years and over, is obliged to undergo military training in readiness for jihad. ")

Muslims envision the caliphate as a state with a representative government
Well, that's "representative" as long as you aren't female, a slave or a non-Muslim (Article 19). Actually, whilst we are about it, does any kind of morally reasonable state require to say anything about the status of slaves?

and an independent judiciary,
Well, possibly yes, but the prospects for abuse are extraordinary given the powers granted to them in Article 76 (" The muHtasib has the authority to judge upon violations, at any place as soon as he gains knowledge of these violations without the need to hold a court session. A number of policemen are put at the muhHtasib's disposal to carry out his orders and to execute his verdicts immediately. "), particularly as there is effectively no right of appeal under Article 74 (" There are no courts of appeal or cassation, because all judgements are of equal standing. Thus, once the judge has pronounced the verdict it becomes effective and no other judge's decision can overturn it, unless he judged with other than Islam, disagreed with a definite text in the Qur'an, Sunnah or Ijmaa' us-SaHaabah or it appeared that he judged in contradictory to a true reality. ")

where the ruling elite is subject to the rule of law,
Unless it doesn't feel like it because once you have been elected Caliph, you are there for life (Article 38) and, because you ARE the State (Article 35) and Leader of the Armed Forces (in which everyone serves - see Article 56) and appoint all officers down to Brigade level (article 61), exactly who is going to make you do anything that you might not exactly be minded to?

technology is embraced,

As long as it serves some sort of military purpose:
(Article 55: "All factories of whatever type should be established on the basis of the military policy")

minorities are treated as full citizens
Of all the sh*te in this letter, this is probably the biggest and most shameless lie. Leaving aside Article 21 ("Any party not established on the basis of Islam is prohibited."), I really don't fancy be a non-Muslim in the caliphate. Non-Muslims:
  • have no right to participate in the election of the Caliph (Article 26),
  • nor to be Caliph or his assistant (article 42) ,
  • nor to be part of his entourage (Article 49)
  • or indeed to have any ruling function whatsoever (articles 19, 87 etc etc)
  • may not be judges (article 69)
  • even when elected as representatives to the Assembly, may not influence the legislative process but can only express views regarding the misapplication of Islamic Law (article 103)
  • have no custody rights whatsoever in a marriage to a Muslim (article 118)
  • and are subject to a head tax for all these wonderful privileges (article 140)
Bagsy be a minority in your gang Imran.

as they were in the past
I thought this wasn't supposed to be a medieval throwback.

and where men and women embrace roles that give no superiority of one sex over the other.

Oh please. Following on from your idea that minorities are going to have a smashing time, let's look at what you think about the fairer sex.
Women:
  • are obliged to obey their husbands (article 116)
  • may not rule in any capacity nor be judges (article 112)
  • and may go about in public, only "on condition that nothing of the women's body is revealed, apart from her face and hands, and that the clothing is not revealing nor her charms displayed." (article 113)

Of course the caliphate is not built on the Western secular model,
You would be right there.
yet to dismiss it as some "centuries-old" medieval notion as Tony Blair recently did is an example of the disinformation expounded since 9/11.
You have the effrontery to accuse anyone - even Tony Blair - of expounding disinformation? Spare me.