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.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Another meme. DK is getting tedious...

DK tags me. Again. Oddly enough, it was a book meme that got me into this mess in the first place .

1. One book that changed your life - the hardest question first.
To be honest, I am generally a despicably contented bourgeois lackey whose life has not been through much in the way of upheaval. I've always thought that most of the ideas of the "Left" do not survive contact with the real world so haven't even had the benefit of an epiphany in the way of a sell-out to mammon. That said, I don't really think my very first job was in quite the right field and I wasted a considerable number of years before changing the emphasis of my working life to something a little more in line with my natural talents. For that I think I must blame the eponymous " What colour is your parachute?". Like the world renowned " Atkins Physical Chemistry", there is a new edition of this book produced pretty much every time you blink.

2. One book that you've read more than once
"A day in the life of Bob, the man on the moon ", by Simon Bartram. And I've read this one a good deal more than once. In fact I have read this book every day, and sometimes twice a day, for the last 18 months or so. Worse still, the edition we were given came with a CD. A CD of the author reading the book. So we can listen to it in the car.

3. One book that you'd want on a desert island
The "Desert Island discs" premise is that you are actually condemned to live out the rest of your life, alone, on this wretched island and that attempts to escape are forbidden and/or inevitably doomed to some sort of "Groundhog Day" failure. That would clearly colour one's choice of reading material. In the absence of this premise, I'm opting for the hope of survival and escape. So something like this is order of the day. The whole series is generally diverting. That or indeed anything as long as it is not "Bob, the man on the moon" (see q2 above).

4. One book that made you laugh
Round Ireland with a Fridge. Simply absurd premise, but somehow manages to touch on the more important things in life, especially the random kindness of strangers.

5. One book that made you cry
Norm never cries and he is a sissy lefty. I'm not going to admit to this either...

6. One book that you wish you had written
Saki's short stories . His prose is exquisite, his plotlines beyond compare in intricacy and originality, his wit razor sharp. I remember one English lesson when I must have been aged about 11 when our teacher came in, sat down and just read "The Stalled Ox" to us. That was the point at which my eyes were truly opened to the power of the English Language and I recall thinking to myself "If only I could write like that...". I still think that.

7. One book you wish had never been written
In terms of the generally disastrous consequences of any given piece of writing, it would be hard to beat Marx's " Communist Manifesto". (Actually, one could say much the same for the last 3 Tory party manifesti). I note that our ruthless dog-eat-dog world has ascribed a value to this particular tome - you can buy it used for a penny...

8. One book that you are reading at the moment
Lady P-G's latest magnum opus. I shall revisit this page and insert the relevant amazon link following publication. Watch this space.

9. One book that you've been meaning to read
I am hideously badly read. One could fill a library with important material that I really ought to have read but haven't. Let's start with " The Welfare State We're In" and hope that no-one tells James that I obviously haven't bought it yet.

10. Five others that you'd like to do this
1. Seaty!. Obviously.
2. Timmy! Surprised that DK didn't nail him whilst he was about it.
3. Timmy! (A different one, but a smashing chap and a good choice as I doubt that there is much else to do on Sakhalin Island except read. There might be some other things to distract you that might involve your delightful new wife, but this is a polite blog so we won't mention that)
4. Timmy! Yet another one. Three of everything: that's what we need. Even if it is just "people called Tim".
5. I would love to nominate the Zombie, but i doubt, if you will pardon the pun on his not-a-blog name, that he has "time"

There we are. It took a while, but we've got there.

Monday, September 11, 2006

5 Years On


We are all American.

We are all Balinese and Australian.

We are all Spanish.

We are all Londoners.

In fact, whilst we are at, we are all Iraqis.

Actually, let's face it, we are all Muslims.

We are hairdressers; we are teachers and schoolgirls; we are all people trying to help others left destitute by earthquakes.

We are many things, but the one thing we are not, is Hezbollah.

Cracking the Code

The second letter in this section makes a very valid point, praising the first link in the chain required to break the enigma code:
Hundreds of members of the Royal Signals and girls of the Y Signals Auxiliary Territorial Services (ATS) worked at radio sets, covering 24 hours a day, recording vague and faint messages in code transmitted by the German forces. They worked in isolation and had no idea of the importance or destination of their "scribble"; all they knew was that tight secrecy was essential.
True, but omits a crucial aspect of this job which thereby understates the dedication of these, relatively lowly, operatives. the accuracy of the transcription was of paramount importance. In order to make a break, the teams needed to have absolutely accurate encrypted messages - a few mistaken letters could threaten the decryption process.
 
The tedium of recording long strings of letters from the original morse code transmissions, apparently entirely at random, day after day cannot be imagined. They had to overcome this tedium to get it right, and with absolutely no idea what any of it was for, save the exortation that it was a) secret and b) important. That is real dedication.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Morons, largely harmless, for the ridiculing of

 
Sir – My husband fathered our first son at 47, when I was 32, a second son at 49 and a daughter at 52. All were healthy babies who have now grown up and produced eight babies between them.

I question the statistics of older fathers causing autism.

Valerie Geller, Woodford Green, Essex
 
Research Results, upon which our valiant Valerie sees fit to trouble the Letter's Editor, also in the Torygraph :
They found that if the father was aged 15 to 29 when a child was born, the risk of autism was six in every 10,000 children. If they were aged 30 to 39, then nine in 10,000 children suffered autism, going up to 32 in 10,000 for fathers aged 40 to 49.
 
That's 32 children in every 10,000. So your sample of exactly 3 children is, errmmm..., statistically rather unlikely to be relevant.
 
P-G Prescription: A custard pie should suffice. This would appear to be your common-or-garden, largely harmless moron.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Three things - there should always be three things

As discussed before my much needed break, DK has tigged me and, as I haven't responded to one of these things for a while and I heartily concur with the idea that there should always be three things , I shall oblige.
  1. Things that scare me
    • School Fees
    • Horror Movies
    • Timid women driving small cars who seem entirely unable to pull out when passing me on my bicycle

        • People who make me laugh

        • Things I hate the most
          • Sanctimonious lefties who seem to think that individuals will be happier if you remove from them (forcibly) all hope of advancement.
          • the taste of paracetamol, even the small traces of it in things like lemsip
          • Chewing gum, and the people who chew then casually discard it on a pavement, where it gets stuck to your shoe, or (worse) on a bus or train seat where it ruins your suit.

              • Things I don't understand
                • travel insurance policies
                • Partial Differentials - came jolly close to stuffing up my degree over this
                • gmail's autoformat guessing algorithm
              • Things I'm doing right now
                • going to get my teeth scraped by a dentist
                • thinking how to celebrate my wedding anniversary
                • Bragging about my Tuscan holiday

                    • Things I want to do before I die
                      • Bag all the Monroes
                      • Run a marathon or, worse still, a trialthon
                      • Earn enough to have a properly reckless and adventurous retirement whilst I have sufficient life remaining to do so. Or win the lottery and go and teach physics or maths somewhere

                          • Things I can do
                            • The cube. Not very quickly (like about 2 mins), but I can still do it.
                            • Swallow with my mouth open - legacy of a great deal of painful orthodontic work as a teenager. Try it: it's not easy at first.
                            • put both my legs over my shoulders. (Well, I used to be able to do this - I haven't - dared - try for a while)

                                • Ways to describe my personality
                                  • One of those "irregular verbs": I have an independent mind. You are an eccentric. He is round the twist.
                                  • "actually, all things considered, really a very nice chap" , despite my many attempts to disguise it.
                                  • In all, I can't do better than the summary that Platoon Commander at RMAS gave me. He suggested that the box in which I ought to be delivered to my Company Commander should be labelled with a strong warning:
                                    "Give this man a crystal clear 'left and right of arc', tell exactly what will happen to him if he strays one inch outside either and then for God's sake don't watch what happens inside them."
                                    UPDATE: It turns out that I can in fact do better: "Educated and Erudite". I'll buy that, perform a proper low-bowing curly doffing of the Mess-Undress P-G Peacock Feather hat and dispatch marching bands in the direction of James, noting that he ought to keep his pecker up and stick with it. His contribution is worthwhile and much appreciated in the grace-and-favour appartment. (See new link in blogroll as proof)

                                • Things I can't do
                                  • Sales
                                  • Write "thank you" notes within a reasonably polite time frame
                                  • Listen to more than one thing at a time. If I am watching the telly or listening to the radio, I physically cannot hear other people talking (not to me at least anyway)

                                • Things I think you should listen to
                                  • Your gut instinct
                                  • Your kids. They tell you all kinds of stuff.
                                  • The sort of silence that you rarely get the chance to experience these days, except in remote rural areas. Absolutely still early mornings at the top of a decent Alpine sky resort for example - the snow deadens sounds rather well - or a good patch of Highland grouse moor (without the shooting, or the expletives of the gamekeeper).

                                • Things you should never listen to
                                  • the grating sound made by pieces of raw pottery rubbing together.
                                  • The Today programme if you are already in a bad mood and a hurry.
                                  • anyone who tells you that he/she is the sole authority on a given topic, that you should discard and ignore anyone and everyone else no matter how much such persons appear to be talking complete shite and no matter how much such others (whom you are implored to ignore) appear to you to be being entirely reasonable. This lady springs to mind as an apposite example.

                                • Things I'd like to learn
                                  • to play the piano, or just about any musical instrument
                                  • to speak a foreign language really properly fluently
                                  • to fly an aeroplane or a helicopter (or both)

                                      • Favourite foods

                                            • Beverages I drink regularly
                                              • Decent French red wine, usually either Bordeau or Burgundy
                                              • Coffee - far too much coffee
                                              • Hot Ribena

                                                  • Shows I watched as a kid
                                                    • The Dukes of Hazard
                                                    • Captain Pugwash
                                                    • Tomorrow's World

                                                        • People I'm tagging (to do this meme)

                                                        Wednesday, September 06, 2006

                                                        And another thing

                                                        In case you hadn't heard, it comes in pints.
                                                         
                                                        Somehow this link seems to have slipped through the net when moving over to a bloglines generated blogroll.
                                                         
                                                        Apologies Emily. Omission corrected. "Rip-Roaring Right Wing Ranter" OK for you?

                                                        BBC has cake. Eats It.

                                                        Monday night at the Grace-and-Favour appartment found us unpacking our bags, sorting out the effects of a burst litre carton on soya milk and listening to a simply dreadful piece of doom-mongering, rabidly anti-US propaganda by the BBC on Radio 4 on Peak Oil .
                                                         
                                                        What I find so extraordinary about the BBC is the manner in which they fail completely to join the dots.
                                                         
                                                        They state the premise that as oil production peaks the price of oil will rise. Yup. This is followed by the relatively mundane inference that as the price rises, it becomes economic to exploit additional sources of oil with higher production costs so the sources of supply will rise as prices rise. So far, so primary schoolbook economics.
                                                         
                                                        I will leave aside the fact that they then disappear into a side alley about the limits of deep drilling, rather than alternative sources e.g. oil shales, increased recovery efficiency etc (I bet you didn't know that usually only 35% of the content of a given field is currently extractable), to focus on the things that are then NOT said.
                                                         
                                                        It is extraordinary that there is simply no attempt to think beyond the fact that we currently use a lot of oil and therefore any restriction of supply will be a total and unmitigated disaster.
                                                         
                                                        Two points in particular are missed entirely:
                                                        1. If oil prices rise, it is not just alternative sources of oil that become profitable. Other alternative - and crucially by "alternative" I mean "renewable" - sources of energy become profitable too.
                                                        2. If we are going to run out of oil in 30 years time, someone had better start rerunning the CO2 predictions in the climate change models. You can have a peak oil disaster or a climate change disaster, but you can't have both - at least not in the mickey mouse manner that the BBC is foisting the latter upon us.

                                                        Finland, Finland, Finland! The place I long to be

                                                        So sang the Pythons.
                                                        It would appear that they were right:


                                                        You scored as Finland. Your army is the army of Finland. You prefer to win your enemy by your wit rather than superior weapons. Enemy will have a hard time against your small but effective force.

                                                        Finland

                                                        81%

                                                        British and the Commonwealth

                                                        69%

                                                        Poland

                                                        69%

                                                        United States

                                                        63%

                                                        France, Free French and the Resistance

                                                        56%

                                                        Italy

                                                        56%

                                                        Soviet Union

                                                        50%

                                                        Germany

                                                        38%

                                                        Japan

                                                        31%

                                                        In which World War 2 army you should have fought?
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