11 November, 2006

Good News from Afghanistan and Iraq 5:

The next item in the occasional series reporting good news from Afghanistan and Iraq is a somewhat dated but fruity topic (sorry). In addition to all their other problems, the Iraqis have been struggling with bio-terrorism from Ommatissus binotatus. No, not an offshoot of Osama's bunch, although they may be distantly related, but the devastating palm leafhopper or dubas. According to the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, these little buggers have been decimating the Iraqi palm crop, causing severe economic hardship for many farmers.

Since earlier this year, Coalition forces have been tackling the problem. Now, as part of the rebuilding bit of Operation Sinbad, the British are planting lots of palm trees in Basra with a view to creating as many as 1,000 long term jobs.

The American blog, Tour of Duty, has some great pictures.

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Blair to talk to Iraq Study Group

Next week, Tony Blair is to speak to the Iraq Study Group over a video link. The ISG, headed by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Democratic Indiana congressman Lee Hamilton, is reported to be considering changes in the administration's Iraq policy. The Guardian has been briefed by UK officials that, although Blair will not call for a quick withdrawal of troops, he will recommend the US attempts to break the deadlock by opening talks with Syria and Iran. The paper goes on to say that Blair will link progress in Iraq with "a re-energised push for peace in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict."

The Palestine-Israel link with Iraq is the unmistakable voice of the Foreign Office "Arab Legion", that is, those FO officials whose line has long been, appease the Arabs and never mind Israel. After Donald Rumsfeld's departure, I imagine the mandarins are hoping that American foreign policy will return what the they regard as normal: the surrender and compromise of the Clinton era , with no such vulgar business as war being allowed to disrupt the diplomatic gravy train.

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The perils of female masturbation.

Do not do it, ladies. Female masturbation damages the hymen and deters potential husbands. Read a book instead. On the bright side, it is not a beheading offence, a flogging will suffice.

That is the advice from Qatar television: Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi on the Risks of Female Masturbation.

Another instructional clip from Memri TV.

Yet more on cash for honours.

Lord Sainsbury, the Labour party's biggest donor (£13m), has quit as science minister. He insists it has nothing to do with the cash for honours scandal but, in the time honoured formula, he wants to spend more time with his family. Translation: there is some problem or other but all those concerned want to keep it out of the public domain.

Off-the-record Labour party sources are telling the Daily Telegraph a different story:

...Labour insiders said the peer, who lent the party £2 million last year, was infuriated that he had become embroiled in the controversy over the secret loans the party used to bankroll last year's general election.
Infuriated? I suspect the only thing Sainsbury is infuriated about is getting caught not behaving himself:
Lord Sainsbury had already been forced to make a humiliating apology earlier this year for "unintentionally" misleading the public after he said he had declared his £2 million loan to senior officials at his department. It later emerged that he had not told civil servants about the money.
And while we are on the subject of infuriation, the Daily Mail reports that the police have reason to be annoyed with the Education secretary, Alan Johnson.
...Johnson was tonight accused of pre-empting police findings over the cash-for-peerages affair after claiming there was nothing "at the core" of the probe.

The Education Secretary risked infuriating Scotland Yard by indicating that detectives have blown the six-month investigation out of proportion.
When ministers start attacking the investigation, (on which the Mail link has more) it is sure sign the government is guilty of something.

MoD leaves UK undefended from alien invasion:

Nick Pope, the former head of the Ministry of Defence's UFO department has been telling the Evening Standard that his former department has been "virtually closed down", leaving the UK "wide open" to alien invasion:

,,,while Mr Pope says that there is no evidence of hostile intent, he insists it cannot be ruled out.

"There has got to be the potential for that and one is left with the uneasy feeling that if it turned out to be so, there is very little we could do about it," he said.

"If you believe these things are extra terrestrial craft then you cannot rule out that what is happening is some kind of covert reconnaissance."
Why should we worry. So long as the US Air Force is still operating the Stargate programme and the Protected Planets Treaty holds, the UK is safe enough.

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10 November, 2006

Nick Griffin not guilty.

After a retrial, Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party, has been found not guilty of inciting racial hatred in a speech in Yorkshire during 2004. The previous link has an extract. The full speech seems to have been pulled from the BNP site, no doubt it will reappear somewhere later. Meanwhile, Griffin's speech can be found in a grainy video on Free Speech on Trial. The BBC also has part of the speech in a news report of the trial.

The Times reports that the judge said,

We live in a democratic society which jealously protects the rights of its citizens to freedom of expression, to free speech. That does not mean it is limited to speaking only the acceptable, popular or politically correct things. It extends to the unpopular, to those which many people may find unacceptable, unpalatable and sensitive.
I should not like to put that to the test. The Times also has a lawyer explaining the legal position.

Almost immediately the squalid but authentic voice of the left was heard from Gordon Brown demanding a change in the law to enable people like Griffin to be found guilty. Even those most ardent of multi-culturalists, the Liberal Democrats, who would not give the likes of Griffin the time of day, are against such restrictions. It is not hard to figure Brown's motives. If he is to lead the Labour party into the next election, he will desperately need the Muslim vote to stand a realistic chance of winning.

Update 11.11.06 @ 21.25

The speech can now be downloaded from the BNP site. It is 61MB.

Fisk corrected; French survive

Back in October, Robert "the Arabs were justified in beating the crap out of me" Fisk, the Indy's resident senior moonbat, accused the Israelis of nuking Lebanon.

It was obviously crude anti-Israeli propaganda. I missed the United Nations rebuttal but Israellycool did not.

Meanwhile, in the (sur)real world of Lebanon, Voice of America reports that French troops came within seconds of firing at the Israeli Force:

..the planes were clearly in an attack position, and normally French troops would fire in self-defense in such a situation. They did not, for reasons that remain unclear.
Given the IAF's reputation it is probably just as well for them that they did not open fire.

More on cash for honours

In today's Independent, Andrew Grice, the paper's political editor has a story alleging that the only cabinet members who knew about the secret loans made to the Labour Party by rich supporters in search of honours were Tony Blair and Ian McCartney, now trade minister but, at the time under investigation, party chairman.

If Grice's report is accurate, the fog is beginning to clear, revealing that the police investigation is focusing on three individuals: Blair, McCartney and Lord Levy. Scotland Yard is probably working along the lines that: as chief fund raiser, Levy raised the money; as party chairman, McCartney would be in a position to unobtrusively handle the money; and, as prime minister and leader of the party, Blair was in a position to recommend the donors for honours.

Veiled surrender

Further to my previous post on Shabnam Mughal, the Muslim lawyer who refused to remove her veil in court: the Lord Chief Justice has duly considered the matter and has duly surrendered. As the Guardian reports, the veil stays. The Jurist puts the case in an international perspective.

So much for integration.

Jihad: the next generation

In a speech yesterday (full text of the speech) Eliza Manningham-Buller, the head of MI5, said that the security services are monitoring 200 groups and 1600 individuals who are currently posing a terrorist threat to the UK. She continued,

The extremists are motivated by a sense of grievance and injustice driven by their interpretation of the history between the West and the Muslim world. This view is shared, in some degree, by a far wider constituency. If the opinion polls conducted in the UK since July 2005 are only broadly accurate, over 100,000 of our citizens consider that the July 2005 attacks in London were justified.

What we see at the extreme end of the spectrum are resilient networks, some directed from Al-Qaida in Pakistan, some more loosely inspired by it, planning attacks including mass casualty suicide attacks in the UK. Today we see the use of home-made improvised explosive devices; tomorrow's threat may include the use of chemicals, bacteriological agents, radioactive materials and even nuclear technology. More and more people are moving from passive sympathy towards active terrorism through being radicalised or indoctrinated by friends, families, in organised training events here and overseas, by images on television, through chat rooms and websites on the Internet.

The propaganda machine is sophisticated and Al-Qaida itself says that 50% of its war is conducted through the media. In Iraq, attacks are regularly videoed and the footage downloaded onto the Internet within 30 minutes. Virtual media teams then edit the result, translate it into English and many other languages, and package it for a worldwide audience. And, chillingly, we see the results here. Young teenagers being groomed to be suicide bombers.

We are aware of numerous plots to kill people and to damage our economy. What do I mean by numerous? Five? Ten? No, nearer thirty - that we know of. These plots often have links back to Al-Qaida in Pakistan and through those links Al-Qaida gives guidance and training to its largely British foot soldiers here on an extensive and growing scale.
In the context of Manningham-Buller's speech, the Times, often a good guide to establishment thinking, examines how the threat can be countered and is in favour of a UK equivalent to the US Department of Homeland Security. The obvious problem with that is, bureaucratic solutions are rarely effective. If MI5 is going to be able to tackle the problem effectively then, above all else, it needs adequate resources. It is doubtful whether the government is actually providing what MI5 needs.

09 November, 2006

Mizanur Rahman: guilty of incitement

Mizanur Rahman, a London Muslim who got rather over-enthusiastic at a demonstration against the Danish Prophet cartoons, has been found guilty of inciting racial hatred. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on a charge of incitement to murder and a decision on a retrial will be made later. Sentencing was deferred. The BBC has a report and some video of the demonstration, which may to may not be relevant. It will not play for me.

So, the question now is, having secured a conviction against an individual who seems to have got worked up on the day, when are the authorities going to move against the really dangerous individuals: the radical preachers who incite the crowds to incite racial hatred? So far we have had only abandoned plans and ineffective taskforces. But let us not quibble. Not so long ago, a case such as Rahman's would have been inconceivable. The authorities are slowly taking a more realistic attitude.

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Hungary hungry for trade.

Hungary has some 200 troops in Afghanistan, stationed in the relatively safe north of the country. The Hungarian government has told Reuters that they are not able to supply any more.

Hungary does not seem to be contributing anything significant to the ISAF. Could it be that their token involvement is merely part of a strategy a la fran├žaise to establish a presence in that corner of Asia with a view to exploiting commercial opportunities in Pakistan, for example, in manufacturing or oil and gas or even nuclear energy. What is in it for Pakistan? As the Pakistan Times observes, access to European Union markets.

I see. British, Canadian and American troops do the fighting and the dying; others get the profit. Just another example of what is wrong with NATO.

Update: 10.11.06

Pestiside sprays the issue with cynicism.

Dhiren Barot truthers

Barots' book is here, not where Google has been sending searchers.

An update on yesterday's visit to fantasy island. The first four pages of a Technorati keyword search for Barot reveals support for the emergent view that Barot was a harmless nutter, set up by the police and security services: Famous for 15 Mega-pixels; roy nelson and, from the same author, Roy's Site. All take the line that Barot is a harmless nutter with occasional reference to the real criminals: Bush and Blair. At the other, more respectable end of the cynical spectrum, SpyBlog is doubtful that Barot did in fact pose an actual threat. even though, "He appears to have been an active terrorist plotter".

There is no point in repeating the counter arguments from yesterday. Such views are not susceptible to reality anymore than those of the 9/11 truthers. Fortunately for them, the Barot truthers are also being protected by the security services.

Update 10.11.06
I still think SpyBlog under-estimates the threat posed by Barot but having re-read his post, I am happy to apologise to Watching Them Watching Us for my mistake in grouping SpyBlog with the hard core conspiracy theorists and this post has been edited accordingly.

Margaret Beckett on Defeating terrorism.

Margaret Beckett, Foreign Secretary, has been giving a speech, at the Royal United Services Institute,in which she said not very, much other than vague generalities. She argued Muslims need to stand up against extremists and, along the way, had a poke at Israel for defending itself in Gaza. All typical of the FO line we have heard dozens of times before. The interesting part, however, is buried towards the end of the speech and will probably get little coverage in the media:

The extremists talk of a clash of civilisations, of an implacable war between Muslims and non-Muslims.

But there is no such clash, no such war.

There is only the determined struggle of the vast majority of civilised people in the world who want to live, work and prosper together against a few who would drag that world into chaos.
Beckett misses the point entirely. Although there are only a "few" Muslims who actively participate in terrorism, integration of Islam into the Judeo-Christian western values of European societies is being actively resisted by the many.

Robert Leiken, writing from an American perspective has analysed the problems facing Europe. In a paper for the Council of Foreign Relations, Europe's Angry Muslims. Leiken argues that
Radical Islam is spreading across Europe among descendants of Muslim immigrants. Disenfranchised and disillusioned by the failure of integration, some European Muslims have taken up jihad against the West.
As Leiken observes, Islamic refusal to integrate is spreading because " Europe's Muslims gather in bleak enclaves with their compatriots" and have no interest in adopting the values of their new countries. Indeed, particularly in the UK, they are encouraged not to integrate by the government's multi-cultural policies and by radical preachers who are allowed to denigrate western society and stir up anti-western sentiment. Interestingly, since Leiken's article, there are signs that Tony Blair has realised the UK's mistake and the official line is slowly beginning to change.

Taking Leiken's argument a step further, the problem now is that Muslims increasingly demand the right to retain their traditional practices even when they are in conflict with the host country's laws. Moreover, an increasing number are seeking to impose Islamic law (sharia) on the entire population, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. Compromise is not possible in the face of such (to borrow a word from Beckett) implacable Islamism. The more European governments surrender to Islam's demands, the more those demands are made and, if they are not met, the result is violence, as the continuing French jihad attests.

The first requirement for dealing with any problem is to recognise its nature. Beckett is a living in the FO version of reality if she fails to realise that the clash between Islam and the west has now developed into a war between two diametrically opposed civilisations: a kulturkampf.

Soldier injured in "hari kari" rocket attack.

A solider, just relaxing after his return from Iraq, shoved a rocket up his arse and lit the blue touch paper in a failed attempt to launch it. An old Taliban trick maybe? Anyway, orbit was not achieved but much pain was. Probably not as much pain as his mates will give him back in camp.

The Times tells us that,

...safety experts warned yesterday that launching a rocket from the backside is a practice that contravenes the Firework Code.
Humourless sods. These days everything contravenes some code or other.

Update

The Northern Echo (hat-raise to arrse) has the video.

From arrse:
The approved method of butt-cheek launch requires a piece of silver foil to be laid over the arse cheeks. A hole at ricker position is made and a plastic "sabot" should then be inserted. This prevents ricker-clench on launch, which obviously can be quite dangerous and permits a smooth exit, withouth splinters or sparks. The angle of launch can be varied but it is generally agreed that touching one's toes provides the best angle of departure. If you want to go high angle, and get an amazing sight then bend fully forward and take a peek upward between your legs. Wear goggles or specs to protect from eye-damage.

This works a treat and I and my colleagues at St Chad's college Durham can verify that on November 5th 1983 I launched a rocket from my arrse at the Principal's house, where it lodged and burned satisfactorily in the guttering. Strangely enough i left very shortly after that and joined the Army without completing my PGCE. For which any parents with children born between 1972 and the present day should be grateful...

Cash for honours police closing in on Blair.

A few days ago, I reported the Guardian's view that that the cash for honours affairs is "fast approaching its denouement". Maybe, maybe not. According to the Times, Lord Levy, Labour's chief fundraiser during the events under investigation, has implicated Blair and the police hope to interview the prime minister within five weeks. That seems like an unrealistic timetable given that, as the Guardian reports, the police are still corresponding with, and interviewing, other cabinet ministers.

The Daily Telegraph's angle is that Blair is trying to keep any police interview away from the glare of worldwide publicity that would surround the police marching up Downing Street. The Daily Mail, goes further and says that Blair will not have to face charges until after he has left office. Obviously the investigation is going to run for some time yet.

Reading between the lines, it seems a reasonable assumption that Levy has decided he is not going to fall on his sword and is singing away, not so merrily, to the police. Yet, somehow, it still seems unlikely that Blair will actually end up in the dock. Even if the police recommend charges, the Crown Prosecution Service will be open to political pressure, not least from the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, himself a Labour donor, ennobled by Blair. Goldsmith is trying to wriggle off the hook by saying he will appoint an independent QC to advise him on the case. As they say in some legal circles, pull the other one.

The Exorcist: the doctor's cut.

Dr Joyce Pratt has been called before the General Medical Council to explain why she recommended a patient, who complained about pain and bleeding, to see an exorcist. According to the Times, Pratt,

gave the woman crosses and trinkets to ward off black magic, allegedly told her that her mother was a witch, that she and her husband were trying to kill her, and suggested that she visit a Roman Catholic priest at Westminster Cathedral in London.
Pratt did not turn up for the hearing. These modern broom sticks are so unreliable.

08 November, 2006

Dhiren Barot: fantasist or al Qaeda terrorist?

Barot's book is here, not where Google has been sending searchers.

Blairwatch does not think Dhiren Barot was a senior al Qaeda figure. Rather, they argue, he "was a glory-seeking Muslim convert who thought he was James al-Bond but was actually a Muppet" and "should have been laughed at and given five years". It is a view which is gathering some support on the further shores of the left.

The widely respected Counter-terrorism Blog takes a different view, as do the American authorities. CTB notes that Barot has been indicted in the US and provides a link to a Federal Indictment alleging that he "served as a lead instructor in a jihad training camp in Afghanistan where recruits were taught to use weapons and received other paramilitary training."

Moreover, CTB links to the Centre for Defence Inormation article which has details of US surveillance of Barot, or al Hindi as he was sometimes known:

While not revealed by British or U.S. authorities, CNN reported in 2004 that two U.S. officials indicated Barot was a senior al-Qaida figure also known as Esa al-Hindi, believed to have worked with the reputed al-Qaida computer expert Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan. Khan was arrested in Pakistan in 2004. According to The Economist, reports from Pakistan indicated al-Hindi was the head of al-Qaida in Britain and answered directly to Osama bin-Laden.
Who are we to believe: conspiracy theorists or the combined evidence of the Pakistani, UK and US security services?

PC Farooq: Islamic reaction.

More on PC Farooq, the Muslim Met protection officer removed from duty because he failed the security vetting procedure. The local paper in Swindon, where Farooq was a policeman before moving to London, reports that,

The leader of a Swindon mosque has rubbished suggestions that a Muslim cleric linked to a suspected terrorist group was teaching children in the town....

...Azim Khan, secretary of the Thamesdown Islamic Association and general secretary of the Jamia Mosque, said he was "shocked and saddened" that his mosque had been tarred with a link to extremism....

...We made a policy about six years ago not to allow anybody into our community who stands for inter-community hatred and we have no association or affiliation with any groups around the country.
The iman they are talking about left three years ago and he did not have any links to terrorism," Mr Khan said.
Well he would say that. The security services, who know their own business best, say otherwise.

Reaction from the usual suspects is predictable. Inayat Bunglawala, of the Muslim Council of Great Britain, is himself no stranger to controversy. According to Life Style Extra, he said,
"It does appear that he was unfairly treated. Certainly there is a concern that smear and innuendo have taken the place of hard evidence.

"I don't think this particular story will come as a surprise to Muslims. It does cause concern, but it would be premature to speculate at this stage. It is possible that they are just being overly cautious.

"The reason that was given for removing him was because he was in contact with an alleged radical cleric. But there is no evidence this cleric ever committed any crime, or that Amjad Farooq was influenced by him, so it does seem to be unfair.

"We need to hear the other side. I don't want to be unfair to the Metropolitan Police - they've got a difficult task as well."
Well he would say that. The security services, who know their own business best, say otherwise. Oh, sorry, I already said that; but it really does reduce to a question of whether the security services are going to either err on the side of caution or take risks with the safety of the individuals they are charged with protecting.

The Olympics: pity the poor taxpayer.

One of the great Olympic traditions is the host government going over budget. It looks as if the British government is going to set new standards of profligacy. Without so much as a spade in the ground, after an initial estimate of £2.375bn, the expected cost has now risen to in excess of £5bn.

The American engineer in charge of the project, Jack Lumley, has already already quit because of political interference. Tessa Jowell, the hapless minister responsible, forgot to take tax into account in her department's budget calculations, so that could be another £1bn or so on the bill. None of this has stopped Jowell vetoing a proposal to reduce costs by turning the post-games Olympic Stadium into a soccer ground.

The Daily Telegraph's Mihir Bose, who has previously detailed the Dome and Wembley fiascos, is following the story in detail. He has a report and podcast here.

Kingsman Jamie Hancock.

The Ministry of Defence has announced the death in Basra, Iraq of Kingsman Jamie Hancock of the 2nd Battalion, the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment. Kingsman Hancock became the 121st British army fatality in Iraq when, on sentry duty, he came under small arms fire.

"Kingsman" is the regimental term for a private, derived from their origins as the Kings Own Regiment.

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Veiled justice

From the Daily Telegraph: Shabnam Mughal, a Muslim lawyer, refused to remove her veil in court after being asked to do so by the judge because he could not hear what she was saying. The case has been adjourned whilst the question is passed to a senior judge.

Miss Mughal, in her twenties, who was representing a Sikh businessman challenging the Government's refusal to permit his nephew to visit Britain, was not taking media calls yesterday. A colleague said she was upset by what had happened.
Well, ain't that a shame. I am sure she will feel better after she has sued.

07 November, 2006

Transparency International

Transparency International is a world-wide organisation, originating in Germany, which claims to be some kind of international morality watchdog. In short, it runs international opinion polls which it then uses to create an annual league table of corrupt nations.

The list usually makes a few good talking points and the 2006 table is no exception. The initials of the first 11 countries in the table spell, in order, "Find SS's Nana" which, even for a German organisation, is probably not relevant to anything very much, but then neither is the survey. Enjoy.

Pc Farooq: suing the Met.

PC Amjad Farooq is suing the Metropolitan Police for racial discrimination. Farooq, a Muslim, was removed from duty with an armed protection unit responsible for guarding diplomats and senior politicians such, as Tony Blair. According to the Met, he failed a counter-terrorism vetting procedure but they are not saying why, on security grounds. The Independent of course senses racism and, to prove its point, quotes various Islamic dignitaries and refers to other cases involving Muslims.

Farooq's lawyer, Lawrence Davies is obviously a learned friend and a half. The Indy quotes him as saying,

" We live in a society where it is possible to point a finger at a Muslim abroad and say that they have WMD and are a threat to national security and no questions are asked. Now those who 'protect' us feel emboldened to point the same finger at British Muslims. Muslims are labelled guilty by association. Doubt is insufficient to save them. They are assumed guilty before being proven innocent. We are very close to living in the days of Salem. If the head of counter-terrorism becomes a Witch-Finder General then any Muslim or Muslim-looking person or sympathiser best take cover.
I'm not sure what WMD have to do with Farooq and I am not convinced at all convinced by the links between the case and 17th Puritanism in Massachusetts and East Anglia.

What is clear, however, is that PC Farooq failed the security vetting so was removed from duty. So far, all that has been revealed is that his children attended a mosque associated with suspected Islamic extremists. Its sounds to me like a sensible precaution. Until, or unless, the detailed evidence either enters the public domain or is inspected by an independent figure, it will have to be left at that. Better safe than sorry.

Panama makes the UN big time.

At last the smoke has gone up. After 48 rounds of voting, Panama has been elected to a two-year term on the UN Security Council, beginning in January. Very handy if the council members ever need any laundry.

Panama does not have an army so it will not be able to take an active role in enforcing any Security Council resolutions but then neither do most of the rest, so nobody will notice. It does, however, have an impressive canal on which you can take a time-lapse cruise at YouTube. There is also some fun stuff on Google Video.

Did the US bomb the Bajaur madrassa?

The Asian media is expressing scepticism that Pakistan was, in fact, responsible for the missile attack on the madrassa at Bajaur. In the Pakistani Daily Times, Rasul Bahsh Rais, a Lahore academic, argues that the US fired the missile and Musharraf's government is willing to claim responsibility because:

Politically it would be less damaging to take the blame than to acknowledge that it has left the area undefended, and that it cannot do anything against NATO and American forces.
Rais identifies two reasons why the Americans might have launched the attack: firstly,a belief that Pakistan is surrendering its border regions (with Afghanistan) to the terrorists; and, secondly , distrust about Pakistan's long term territorial ambitions in the Pashtun-dominated regions along their western border. According to Rais,
The missile strike was just a reminder that the coalition forces would use such force in hot pursuit of the Taliban and against groups and individuals in the tribal belt who are suspected of giving sanctuary to the Taliban or sending any support to them across the border.
Much the same argument is made by Alok Bansal in the Indian based Rediff.com. In Bansal's view, after the surrender to the Talbian in Waziristan,the US lost patience with Pakistan and asked "General Musharraf to stop making new deals with the Taliban within Pakistan. That probably explains the timing of the attack -- on the eve of another peace deal". The other deal being an agreement, similar to the Waziristan Accord, but covering Bajaur. Like Rais, Bansal argues that Pakistan claimed responsibility for the madrassa attack because admitting US military action on its sovereign territory "would infuriate the public and more importantly weaken Musharraf's position within his own constituency, the Army." He continues,
Whatever be the truth, one thing is certain, that the Pakistani policy of buying peace by letting the militant have a free run within the region that was tried out in North Waziristan in September is as good as dead.
Neither article offers any proof that it was, in fact, a US attack. Nor do they consider possible reasons for Pakistani responsibility. It may well be that Pakistan, or at least elements within the armed forces, felt too much ground had been given to the terrorists and decided a line had to be drawn. Equally, in the Byzantine labyrinths of Pakistani internal politics, there may be a host of other reasons. For the moment we simply do not know. A more important question is the extent to which the widespread perception that is was a US attack, created by articles like these, will weaken Musharraf's hold on the levers of power.

Dhiren Barot, the literary terrorist, gets 40 years. Read his book.

Dhiren Barot, the British Al Qaeda terrorist has been sentenced to life in prison, with a recommendation that he serves of a minimum 40 years before parole can be considered. 40 years is a long time to spend safely well-fed, and warm, watching SKY television and pursuing whatever hobbies and educational courses he likes, but I am sure he will manage somehow. Give it a few months and some bleeding heart will be pleading for his release. Think how much the security of the nation could be increased - and how much taxpayers' money saved - with a cheap bit of rope.

If he gets bored, Barot can always write another book. In addition to links to background material, the Daily Telegraph report on the sentence also provides a link to a Barot's literary effort so-far: The Army of Medinah in Kashmir. Click here to download the book in pdf format. The paper says it lays bare the mind of jihadist. I have skimmed through the preambles and the opening paragraphs and I think each of it's 152 pages are going to be hard work. It may well lay bare my impatience with boring texts but I shall plough through to the end and review it on here, eventually.

Jamie Oliver gets stuffed.

Jamie Oliver is a television celebrity cook who has been using his 15 minutes of fame to persuade the politicians to impose his idea of healthy eating on school meals. It has already been reported that children are voting with their feet against the slop on offer. Now, as the msm friends of the health fascists at the BBC and the Guardian lament, the minor panjandrums running the school meals service are getting frustrated at the lack of cooperation from children. The children obviously do not appreciate how important Oliver is and the number of pupils taking school meals are falling.

What next - force feeding?

npower's Edwina Currie moment.

npower has an image problem. The energy company's response to criticisms that repeated price rises are making life very difficult for low income families is: send the children to bed in a hat clutching a microwaved cloth instead of a teddy bear. Most of the advice, based on "academic research" is just commonsense; inoffensive in itself but for an energy company attempt to justify its profiteering, through offering it as money saving advice to hard-pressed parents, is an insult. As the Daily Telegraph observes, npower's

guidance to parents is reminiscent of former junior Tory health minister Edwina Currie, who caused a furore when she suggested that freezing pensioners threatened by hypothermia because they could not afford heating should "wrap up warm" in woolly hats and long johns.
Currie's credibility never recovered. The arrogant idiocy at length:

Keep kids as snug as a bug:
• Get children to wear socks and a hat in bed during the coldest nights
• Tuck them into a sleeping bag
• Take a hot water bottle or microwavable rice cloth bag to bed
• Cover their bedclothes with a blanket (but take care with infants – blanket should be to shoulder only)
• Check the room temperature – it should be 18 degrees in the bedroom (use a wall thermometer to check) and 21 degrees in the rest of the house so you might need to play around with the thermostat or radiators if you have them

Fill kids with fuel:
• Everyone should make time for breakfast, preferably with a warm drink
• Eating regularly will help keep up energy levels and retain body heat

Keep them moving:
• Children should avoid prolonged periods of watching TV – try and keep the family active in the evenings and at weekends
• Encourage them to participate in indoor sports such as badminton or table tennis by joining a local council-run sports centre or youth group
• Use indoor areas such as shopping centres for exercise – walk briskly between shops and step up the escalators instead of standing, or using the lift
• If children are spending a lot of time outdoors, make sure they come inside occasionally to warm up

Wrap up warm:
• Dress children in layers (as a guide, an infant or toddler should wear one more layer than is comfortable for an adult)
• Make sure children do dress for winter when they’re leaving the house - a hat, coat and scarf should be part of their wardrobe
• Make sure they change out of wet clothes as soon as they can to avoid getting a chill

npower offers a range of options to families concerned about winter energy bills:

A range of options? Here is another option for npower customers: change your electricity supplier. It is very easy. All it takes is just one free telephone call to the new company of your choice .

It is far too early in the morning to start on some of nonsense that passes for academic research these days.

06 November, 2006

Cash for honours: Goldsmith's conflict of interest.

UK prime minister, Tony Blair is beginning to feel the heat over the police investigation that he sold honours in exchange for cash donations to his perpetually hard-up Labour Party. In the Guardian, David Hencke says the case is "fast approaching its denouement".

Hencke notes the suprise in Downing Street that the investigation has gone so far, after an intital belief that it was "just a political stunt, not much short of a joke, and the police were merely going through the motions." That is how most observers, myself included, read it at the onset. However, we have all been surprised by the diligence with which John Yates, Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner, has conducted the investigation. If only the they could always be so thorough.

Blair might get off the hook yet. When the police investigation is complete, the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, will be responsible for advising the Crown Prosecution Service on how to proceed. Lord Goldsmith is an old chum of the prime minister. He has donated cash to the Labour party and was elevated to the Houses of Lords by Blair. Despite the obvious conflict of interest, Goldsmith is adamant that he will not withdraw from the case and that he will give official legal advice on whether his old pal should be prosecuted. The political row over Goldsmith's probity, or alleged lack thereof, is gathering momentum.

Well, what is the point of doing favours for somebody if you cannot call in the marker?

Al Qeada terrorist, Dhiren Barot, to be sentenced.

At Woolwich crown court, a two-day hearing is underway to sentence Dhiren Barot, a British al Qaeda terrorist, who had planned to kill thousands of people in both the UK and the UK by packing limousines with gas cylinders and explosives, and detonating them in underground car parks beneath heavily populated buildings.

Barot made reconnaissance trips to the US in 2000 and 2001 but his US ambitions were deferred after 9/11 and he focused instead on the UK. According to the Guardian, in 2004 he travelled to Pakistan for approval and funding from his terrorist bosses. but his trip was cut short when the Pakistani authorities moved in during July and found incriminating documents. On his return to London, he was arrested and, as the Independent reports, the police discovered ample evidence to ensure a conviction. Who knows what other leads it has led to.

The Independent has more on Barot and on Barot's terrorist training abroad. The story is also covered in the BBC, the Daily Telegraph and the Times.

Quite rightly, few details have emerged about how the intelligence services first identified Barot. However, it is sufficient to know that they did. The affair is undoubtedly a major success which gives us confidence in the agencies responsible for the country's security in the War on Terror. Perhaps the government should reward them with adequate funding.

Islamic World Economic Forum.

The 2nd World Islamic Economic Forum is currently meeting in Islamabad, Pakistan. According to Pakistan's prime minister, Shaukat Aziz:

Our eventual goal should be to create an Islamic Economic Union towards which we can begin by entering into multilateral free trade agreements as well as promoting the free flow of capital, labour, goods and services. We can also create a world-class capital market to attract international capital, which would enable us to finance our growth and development.
Much of Aziz's keynote address, about creating the type of workforce necessary to achieve the Islamic world's economic potential, will be eerily familiar to anyone acquainted with the decades of European rhetoric on the same issues. Aziz said,
The world of today is radically and profoundly different from the world of yesterday. We are living in an age of globalization where no nation can afford to live in isolation. We have,therefore, to begin our quest for economic revival by identifying the challenges and opportunities that the current global environment presents.

He said the new world order is characterized by economic integration,technological advancement, predominance of knowledge economy, and diffusion of democratic ideas. Broadly speaking, this process has brought about three fundamental changes. Firstly, a new governance paradigm is emerging whereby the private sector is leading the process of economic growth and governments are assuming the role of policy-maker, facilitator, regulator and enabler.

Secondly, supra- national institutions are laying the rules of the game and nation-states. are called upon to operate within that framework. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, buoyant expansion of global trade and capital flows as well as freer exchange of ideas and technology across the world provide vast opportunities for growth but at the same time pose serious challenges in terms of achieving better governance, higher efficiency and greater competitiveness.
It was meaningless verbiage when the European Union spouted it and the Islamic version is not likely to be any different. It reduces to an argument that in the future, on the one hand, there will be greater competition, on the other there will be less unskilled and semi-skilled jobs; meeting these challenges will require a more highly educated workforce . In Europe the argument remains unproven.

As usual the sense of Islamic victim-hood is never far below the surface. Aziz referred vaguely to "Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan,Palestine, Lebanon and Kashmir [who] continue to face insecurity, death and destruction." According to Pakistan Dawn, Abdullah Badawi, the Malaysian prime minister, was more forthright, in his keynote speech, in blaming the west for Islam's problems. The Islamic world, he said,
...should work for removal of antagonism existing between the West and the Muslim world.

This, he stressed, was not only the biggest challenge in the world but the biggest crisis facing the Muslim nations. Muslim nations have been humiliated by the hegemonic tendencies of global powers as exemplified by the subjugation of Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon and Muslims should remove the equation of Islam with terrorism.
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Presse comment on Saddam verdict

The columnists have been giving their verdict on Saddam's sentence

Predictably, the Independent's resident sermoniser Robert Fisk is against; I think he would rather hang Bush.

In the Guardian, Max Hastings is against; readers of Hasting's otherwise splendid books will be familiar with Mr H in moralising mode.

In the Times, patrician William Rees-Mogg sits on the fence; in best colonial traditions, he is personally against hanging Saddam but thinks it better to leave the decision to the natives.

In the Daily Telegraph Janet Daley is for but, rather than pontificate on the matter, offers an interesting analysis of what the reactions to the verdict tell us about US and British societies.

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Stern: a "dodgy dossier"

Following Lord Mockton's detailed criticisms of the questionable science in the Stern report on global warming and climate change, The Business rips into Stern's equally dodgy economic assumptions. Stern's

...portentious study, The Economics of Climate Change, prepared for the British government, was treated as if it had been carried down from Mount Sinai rather than put together by an ordinary British mandarin. The fawning media classes, which now regard environmentalism as the new religion, immediately took it as gospel (to do otherwise is the new heresy).

The Tories and the Liberal Democrats, which have both suspended their critical faculties on the matter, rushed to clamber aboard the bandwagon. Even airlines and oil companies, these new paens of political correctness, welcomed its arrival...
...
As a compendium of alarmist studies on global warming, the Stern report has no rival. Few outlandish claims have not been included in his 570-page tome, making it a useful guide to current eco-nuttery.
Stern's major methodological failing, identified by The Business, is that, although he bases his models on data from reputable research, he chooses to ignore crucial caveats and qualifications in favour of worst cases.

05 November, 2006

President Musharraf under pressure

In the wake of the recent madrassa attack, the Sunday Telegraph examines Pakistani President Musharraf's political difficulties. Assassination attempts have been made not only by Islamic terrorists, but also by Air Force officers opposed to Musharraf's support for the War on Terror. Indeed, 50 arrests, including many Air Force officers, followed the assassination attempt last September. The omens for survival are not good:

A rattled Gen Musharraf has called a meeting with his closest confidants this week to review personal security.

While he relies on the armed forces to keep him in power, loyalty among the military's lower tiers has become increasingly in doubt because of the perception that he has "sold out" Pakistan to the US and its western allies.

Publicly, officials close to the president deny that he faces any challenge from within the forces.

But privately they now admit that the personal threat against him is becoming "heavier and heavier", and are predicting serious fall-out from Monday's helicopter strike at the madrassa in the village of Chinagai, 100 miles north of -Peshawar.

Paras to drop in on Afghanistan

The Sunday Times reports that the MoD is preparing to drop the Paras into Afghanistan if fighting escalates as a result of the Kabul government's attempts to eradicate poppy cultivation. It is not the first time such a move has been considered:

Paratroopers were expecting to jump into action in Afghanistan earlier this year, the sources said. Two drops into Helmand province were planned, one into the Sangin area in May as part of the US-led Operation Mountain Thrust, and one into the Kajaki area in September.

Parachutes and the RAF dispatchers were sent to Afghanistan ahead of the jumps but there were not enough serviceable C-130s to proceed, the sources said.
Are we really to believe that support for our troops and for our closest ally was not forthcoming because of a shortage of airworthy aircraft? Unfortunately, the answer seems to be yes. Now we know what Colonel Collins meant when he referred to the politicians failing to deal with "the shocking state of our [air] fleet in Afghanistan."

Let's not be beastly to Saddam.

After today's announcement of the death sentence for Saddam Hussein, the ex-Iraqi dictator's many useful idiot friends in the west have swung into action. One of the first out of the blocks was Liberal Democrat leader, Minges Campbell who, this morning, I heard on BBC Radio pleading for the sentence to be commuted. This afternoon, the rush to defend the evil tyrant began.

Amnesty International "deplores" the sentence and does not think he had a fair trial; rather the process was "deeply flawed and unfair".

The European Union is against hanging him, as are various human rights groups and lawyers.

The United Nations is also against execution, as is a motley of other national leaders, including Ireland and Spain.

I find it interesting that the nations and organisations against executing Saddam are those who would not lift a finger to relieve the Iraqi people of the evil tyrant's grip.

For the record,the BBC lists all the defendants and their sentences:

The former Iraqi leader was convicted over the killing of 148 people in the mainly Shia town of Dujail following an assassination attempt on him in 1982.

His half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti and Iraq's former chief judge Awad Hamed al-Bandar were also sentenced to death.

Former Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan got life in jail and three others received 15-year prison terms.

Another co-defendant, Baath party official Mohammed Azawi Ali, was acquitted.

Global warming: the arguments against

In the Sunday Telegraph, Christopher Monckton has the first of a two-part detailed examination of the case for and against global warming. His argument is that the current hysteria over climate change is based on some dishonest science from the UN and on scientists distorting the truth.

This week, I'll show how the UN undervalued the sun's effects on historical and contemporary climate, slashed the natural greenhouse effect, overstated the past century's temperature increase, repealed a fundamental law of physics and tripled the man-made greenhouse effect.

Next week, I'll demonstrate the atrocious economic, political and environmental cost of the high-tax, zero-freedom, bureaucratic centralism implicit in Stern's report; I'll compare the global-warming scare with previous sci-fi alarums; and I'll show how the environmentalists' "precautionary principle" (get the state to interfere now, just in case) is killing people.
Monckton provides detailed references and calculations in a pdf download.

In the download, Mockton summarises his propositions and conclusions:

1. That the debate is over and all credible climate scientists are agreed. False
2. That temperature has risen above millennial variability and is exceptional. Very unlikely
3. That changes in solar irradiance are an insignificant forcing mechanism. False
4. That the last century’s increases in temperature are correctly measured.Unlikely
5. That greenhouse-gas increase is the main forcing agent of temperature.Not proven
6. That temperature will rise far enough to do more harm than good. Very unlikely
7. That continuing greenhouse-gas emissions will be very harmful to life.Unlikely
8. That proposed carbon-emission limits would make a definite difference. Very unlikely
9. That the environmental benefits of remediation will be cost-effective. Very unlikely
10. That taking precautions, just in case, would be the responsible course. False

Doctors want to kill disabled babies

Not doctors in Nazi Germany, but their successors in the United Kingdom. The Sunday Times has uncovered the story:

ONE of Britain’s royal medical colleges is calling on the health profession to consider permitting the euthanasia of seriously disabled newborn babies.

The proposal by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology is a reaction to the number of such children surviving because of medical advances. The college is arguing that “active euthanasia” should be considered for the overall good of families, to spare parents the emotional burden and financial hardship of bringing up the sickest babies.

A very disabled child can mean a disabled family,” it says.
The College itself has declined to comment on the report, except for the usual "nothing has been decided yet" line.

Evolutionary psycho-babble.

More dodgy science. This time mindless drivel from the realm of psychology. The Guardian reports a row has broken out after lecturer at the London School of Economics published a paper arguing that

African states were poor and suffered chronic ill-health because their populations were less intelligent than people in richer countries.

Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist, is now accused of reviving the politics of eugenics by publishing the research which concludes that low IQ levels, rather than poverty and disease, are the reason why life expectancy is low and infant mortality high. His paper, published in the British Journal of Health Psychology, compares IQ scores with indicators of ill health in 126 countries and claims that nations at the top of the ill health league also have the lowest intelligence ratings.
Here we go again, The old thing about IQ tests and intelligence. IQ tests are constructed by psychologists to measure this thing called intelligence. If, the argument goes, your IQ score is low, then it is deduced you are of low intelligence.

As an academic, I once interviewed one of the UK's leading experts on intelligence testing, a distinguished psychologist who has developed various intelligence tests for the armed forces, including aptitude tests for pilot selection. The interview was about another educational field, but during the interview, to illustrate a point he said that IQ scores measure the individual's performance on a particular test, no more no less. So intelligence, as defined by IQ tests, is just an indication of how an individual performed on that test. Taking different tests or taking the same test on different days can give very different results.

If Africans are getting poor test scores, it is due to problems within the education systems on the continent rather than any innate lack of abilities. I have known African educators from a wide range of countries and have always been astounded by the wide range of severe difficulties they battle against.

As for evolutionary psychology, Paul Johnson and Jerry Fodor have each dealt with that.