Thursday, July 28, 2005

Were Britain Bombers Duped into Dying?

Was my speculation a little while ago out on a stonger limb than I thought?

While it doesn't suggest that they didn't know what they were carrying, this report does suggest that the Britain bombers may not have intended to kill themselves.

Ongoing speculation: did a contact give them something to 'distribute'? Something that turned out to be a little less innocuous than they thought?*
*not being an apologist. Just canvassing possibilities

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Steel Breeze

Click here.

With a brisk westerly blowing through the winter skies, this set of office signs was howling in sympathy. Which company do you think is a front for Purgatory?

Monday, July 25, 2005

Smile! You're at Checkpoint 20050156873

... being Microsoft's patent application for: the SMILEY!!!

Actually, it's for emoticons in general, but you can be forgiven if you're ROTFL too hard to notice that little detail

I like Groklaw's take on the whole silliness (cute pig), and PJ's response to John Dvorak's 'shock jock' article on the Creative Commons license.

Make no mistake, the methods may differ, but those elements who spread FUD and threats of legalised extortion are just as much terrorists as those insane souls who commit acts of sadness on London subways and Baghdad markets.

The intention is the same: cow the populace into meekness.

Sorry guys. These tactics might have worked in a less connected age, when each person's fear was felt in isolation.

Not any more.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

WNA: The Muse Moves...

In case you hadn't noticed, I have been mulling over the reaction to the London bombings. The world reactions. My reactions.

Why I should be so preoccupied with an event that occurred half a world away is beyond simple understanding. I think it has to do with the team at We're not Afraid, who deserve a huge accolade for presenting an avenue for a measured response that doesn't involve going out and roughing up a few hapless individuals who (if you 'd stopped to ask before causing a 'spot of bovver') were just as outraged as you.

It has long been my personal opinion that going after terrorists with an attitude of vengeance is worse than useless, and the simple manner in which WNA allows you to express this is what has captured my imagination.

Would that certain national leaders could come to provide an equally mature response! (To be fair, I think that even Bush has an inkling of this when he spoke of promoting an 'ideology of peace' on the steps at Gleneagles: but he since has had his leash put on again)

And my reaction? A tribute to WNA, and what they stand for:
Not Afraid
You caught the News today, with your acts of sadness.
What was it you were trying to say?

Did you want a reaction, from hurt that turns to hating?
Blind oaths that there'll be Hell to pay?

Well I've got news for you: it doesn't have to be that way!
We're bigger than the part you wanted us to play.

We can break the mold: the circles that you travel in
This may not be the end, but it just might be the start.

I'm not afraid of you, no matter what you do,
The light just keeps on shining through.

I'm going to say it, to your face: the World's a good place.
And you can't tell me that's untrue.

So we'd just thought we'd say, we are not afraid of you!
And hating's not the way, we're going to reply!

We'll reach into your heart, to see what makes you play the part!
And live to see the day, your own fears will be stayed.

The World's a good place (not going to give it up!)
The World's a good place (not going to give it up!)

I know how this sounds in my head. I also know how it sounds when I sing it (shudder!). It may be some time before I inflict the latter on you! (for technical, as well as aesthetic reasons)

What I would like to do is to post this piece (and accompanying noises: both vocal and instrumental) at a site where anyone can join in and add to the mix. What will the result sound like?
  • An anthem of hope?
  • A rendition of another Friday night down at the Pub?
Ah! But that is the joy of experimentation: finding out!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Sharks Circle...

Oh, dear! George 'wobbly' Bush seems to be losing support. An article in The Age suggests that questions over Karl Rove's role in the 'outing' of a CIA operative (possibly in revenge for her husband's opposition to the government), might be proving the final straw :
"'If the economy were doing better, the Iraq war wasn't as tenuous and people weren't as uneasy about terrorism, then they might be willing to cut Bush some slack on the Rove issue,' said Robert Shapiro, who specialises in public opinion at Columbia University."
If, if , if...

Don't you think that all those 'ifs' add up to something? I think they bloody well should!

Why the Bristles, Tony?

Why is the Blair government bristling so at the recent report concluding that UK's involvement in Iraq has increased the risk of terrorist attack?

It's true!

Does that necessarily mean that the people making that claim are saying that the UK (or any other country) should have kept out of it in the hope they would be left alone?

If so, then yes, the mindset is craven.

But I would suggest that the reason that the Iraqi invasion should not have been supported was not because some yahoos might start making threatening gestures, but because it was the wrong thing to do!

None of the justifications for the war have stood up to close scrutiny:
  • Weapons of Mass Destruction? Not a scrap (Oh! they existed, once, but had already been decommissioned. I suspect, though, that it appealed to Hussein to be able to play poker)
  • Hussein's links with Al Q'aedda? What links? His brand of nastiness was very firmly secular, and solely for the benefit of his good self!
  • The liberation of a suppressed people from a hated tyrant? Maybe some truth here, but boy! Look at how the world was dealing with Iraq prior to invasion, and who suffered as a result? (hint: it wasn't the Baathists!). And look at what is happening now: a tyrant is gone, and the race is on to fill the vacuum (and BTW just think: Iraqis now have to deal with the equivalent of London bombings on a daily basis. With no infrastructure).
So, yes, the world is a more dangerous because of the actions of the coalition of the willing. The ironic thing is that the invasion had precious little to do with the 'War on Terror' anyway.


In the wake of the London bombings, there come the predictable calls to tighten security and generally 'do something'. It's a reasonable response and, of course, reviews should be made to see how things could have been handled better. The Blair government are currently doing just that, moving to introduce laws to allow the deportation of hate-mongering imams etc.

In Australia, too, steps have been taken: it is an offence to incite religious hatred, and there's currently a furore over the sale of books purporting to do promote same.

On the face of it, that's a good thing, isn't it? On the face of it, yes.

But dig a little deeper. What would be achieved by suppressing expression? Apart from the general dangers to a free society, would it prevent the general public from coming into contact with dangerous ideas? Yes, but I doubt the general public would be interested in embracing them. Would it prevent those who want to embrace them? History suggests not.

Furthermore, legislation on this topic turns out to be a paper tiger, as seen recently when a couple of ranting pastors in Victoria were found guilty of inciting religious hatred against muslims, and promptly declared that they would go to prison rather than stop doing it. Their tunnel Vision is unimpaired by bars, it seems.

As unpalatable as it is, I believe the best thing to do with views of hate is let them rant in the open, where they can be seen, and countered. To put it crudely, you're less likely to step in dogshit in the daylight. Suppressing expressions of hate should be seen for what it is: an act of laziness that sweeps the problem under the carpet, where it can fester in darkness (and where cultish behaviour thrives).

What *does* need to be done is to actively engage the views spouted, seek them out, and criticise them remorselessly. And laugh at them! Hell hath no fury like a fanatic ridiculed! And nothing more pathetic when their own followers start taking up the alternate batons.

Oh, yes! This would take more effort.

But it might get some results, too.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

At the Risk of Seeming Foolish...

I am going to go out on a limb, here.

Reading the reports on Hasib Hussain (one of the four London bombers), it seems that the main reaction has been shock. Thought to have been a loving and caring young man, how could he have been so badly misjudged?

The cynic might argue 'Well, yeah! That's what you'd expect his family to say!'

We may never know what motivated him but, for the moment, I am willing to entertain a radical and perhaps naive scenario, if only to counter the backlash of anger which was, after all, the main objective of this carnage.

Is it possible that he didn't know what he was carrying?

Friday, July 15, 2005

Things You Don't Realise: Effects of Spam on Developing Countries

WorldChanging: has this article on Spam and its effect on the developing world.

If you think having to clear out umpteen million emails about enlargements for various bits and pieces is bad enough, spare a thought for the poor folk who barely have the bandwidth to say 'hello, world'.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Here Be God

This week's New Scientist has a feature piece on the so-called 'ID' (Intelligent Design) conjecture. If you haven't encountered this ingenious little argument before, well, it proposes that natural selection gets by with a bit of help from 'a friend'.

It beats Darwin's theory of evolution through natural selection hands down by neatly avoiding (well.. ignoring, actually) all those annoying inconsistencies one might encounter in the real world by suggesting that some bits of the evolutionary jigsaw were placed by a watchmaker who could 'peek' under his blindfold.

Having difficulty explaining how the 44 proteins in a bacterium's flagellum got it together simultaneously? Easy, just invoke ID.

Can't figure out how the blood clotting mechanism could develop? Why, that is clearly the work of a Superior Being (and, by inference, a mystery to which mere mortals are not privy!)

In other words, ID stands for 'Intervention: Divine'

We don't use the G word in any of this. Why? Because it is expressly forbidden to invoke the name when trying to ratify educational curriculum in the US. So, those who regard evolution as a dangerous theory have been promoting ID as a much more palatable alternative.

... and thereby demonstrate their abysmal ignorance as to what scientific theory is about.

Yes: evolution through natural selection is a theory, not a fact.
No: not all things in nature have been adequately explained by it.

So what?

In science, nothing is a fact! Scientific Theories are models built on observations of how the world operates. And, if the model doesn't fit the observations, it is the model that is wrong: reality is never at fault (although our interpretation of it may be). What happens then? The model is either refined to fit, or discarded in favour of something better.

In deciding what theory provides the best explanation, a principle known as 'Occam's Razor' is employed. It's application is simple: choose the theory with the least embellishment.

Which leads us back to Natural Selection and ID.

On the face of it ID isn't necessarily wrong. It is entirely possible that some pan-dimensional super being is indeed tinkering with reality in the manner described. However, to accept this as the best explanation is to invoke a host of unnecessary complexities that are far in excess of the problems that apparently assail NS (eg: where did that PDSB come from? Who made him?)

No! Occam's Razor suggests that it is best to stick with NS. That is, unless some compelling piece of evidence arises for which NS simply cannot be made to cover. This has yet to happen. (issues like flagellum proteins are just examples of a knotty problem which has yet to be answered: a few years ago it was the structure of the eye, whose development can now be modelled using simple rules that do not require clauses like 'and lo: there was an eyeball!')

In fact, there is no compelling need to invoke ID, other than that it is a more comforting and appealing worldview (hey! Did I say it was flat out wrong?).

So, why the persistent push to not only have ID introduced into mainstream education, but to give it equal standing with a theory that has withstood 150 years of 'tyre kicking'?

The underlying reasons have little to do with 'good science' and more to do with the 'hearts and mind' struggle that the Culture of Lief seem intent on waging with the rest of humanity.

There was a chilling prequel to all this: a couple of weeks ago, New Scientist wrote a piece on Iranian science. Yes, it does exist! (in fact, Islam has a long tradition of scientific inquiry). However, it seems there are some questions which it is not considered appropriate for man to ask.

ID in action: Leave God in the bits of the map that haven't been filled in yet.
Update: one additional thought on this issue. If, by Occam's razor, divine intervention is not needed to explain how things arose, then does ID break the second commandment?:

'Thou shalt not take the name of God in vain.'

Saturday, July 09, 2005

London: Still Standing

Still Standing
I am not afraid,
Cultures of Def, and of Lief,
Dreamweb's light shall fade

Friday, July 08, 2005

Culture of Def

It complements the Culture of Lief, as is demonstrated by the London bombings.

People who think this is the way to get their point across bear as much relationship to mainstream Islamic teachings as Branch Davidian or Temple of God did to Christianity.

Their miserable system of belief, that can dismiss 'collateral damage' as either instant martyrdom or the just smashing of infidel clay, can only be described as : satanic. So, I think that linking their creed with the 'difmal' city in Dante's pit is quite appropriate. (it also separates this creed out from other religions with which it might wish to be associated)

I've commented before about this. Culture of Def has no head, so the only way to prevail against it is to cut it off at the roots. And that involves reaching into the communities that foster it, finding out why, and dealing with the causes. This takes a lot of preparation, and won't grab the flashy 'we're doing something' headlines that a 'war on terror' does. Indeed, the way in which the Culture of Lief has been conducting it's campaign to date suits the Culture of Def just fine.

Like I said, a nice complement.

However, I felt a faint flicker of hope, listening to Bush speak on the bombings from Gleneagles, that he might finally be getting an inkling as to what he should be doing.

I won't hold my breath.
Update: Speaking of 'dealing with the causes', Jamais Cascio at Worldchanging has a sensible response to the bombings, which is a good deal more constructive than my ramblings!

Update 2: Dear deffists, the World is not afraid of you. And that should make you worried. You see, that link rose spontaneously within hours of your greeting cards, and shows that the Dreaming Web has no head to cut off either. And it's bigger than you are, with far more healthy roots. It is the common man/woman, who knows precisely what you have to offer: nuffin!
Now, I've got other things to do!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Tools of Mischief: Reprieve

So, I gather that the EU have resoundingly rejected the sotware patents proposal, by 684-14.

Good news, on the face of it.
"We buried a bad law and did so without flowers,'' - Eva Lichtenberger, an Austrian member of the parliament's Green group.
To push the analogy, without flowers there shouldn't be any fruit.

On the other hand:
"Rejection would be a wise decision because [approving the directive with the amendments] could have narrowed the scope of patenting," said Mark MacGann, director-general of the European Information Technology and Communications Association (EICTA), an industry group representing big vendors including Microsoft, Nokia and Siemens.
Hmmm! No strange fruit, but watch out for toadstools! Well, for now, enjoy the moment. Breathe deep and free.

Just remember, it ain't over yet.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


It has been our recent experience that the 'Y' chromosome starts to express itself at around three years old.

It's part of the process, but Little Missy has been quite articulate for some time now, and I'm surprised it didn't happened earlier:
  • Why do we have arms?
  • Why do we have bodies?
  • Why do we snatch?
  • Why do we have animals and people?
...why, indeed!

Friday, July 01, 2005

The Sounds of Silence...

"So that is how liberty dies: to the sound of thunderous applause." - Sen. Padme Amidala (lifted from Len)
Yet, more telling than a thunderous shout of approval is a single chord of silence.

...and there goes ole' Wobbly again, sounding off at Fort Bragg like things are looking up in Iraq and how americans have to stand firm etc.

Thing is, the troops weren't applauding.

Were they told to tone it down a bit, and overdid the toning?

Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel - Jefferson