Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Best

The sixties have finally died.

The promise, the beauty, the shafts of brilliance dwindled into a shambling nightmare that could no longer keep itself alive.

But the beauty, man... keep your ballet, we have our dance, and our Nijinsky, our Nureyev, our Pan, our god, the greatest talent from our islands in our game has gone.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Creating division

Move your people in, and try to force others out by demographics, there's a word for that. If it weren't the Jews doing the ethnic cleansing, we'd come right out and say it.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Secrets and lies

In the UK, the attorney-general has gagged the press to prevent any more truth about the relationship between Bush and Blair being revealed. It took our investigators a couple of days to find out whodunnit. The Yanks need a lot longer in their case, because they are not looking to close down leaks. Mostly because in their case, it's the government doing all the leaking, so they don't like to poke around into it too much. But since when did we use the Official Secrets Act to stop newspapers from revealing what we think of the Yanks. How is it protecting us, the people, to not allow us to know what Bush really thinks of Chimpy? How is it protecting us to use the OSA to keep us in the dark, to maintain a lie that we have been told? How would it hurt us if the Yanks were really offended and refused to associate with us (arguably that would be a blessing!).

These are dark days. We are complicit in torture and murder. We are liars, cheats and thieves. We are tearing ourselves apart, destroying the values that we claim to believe in. Habeas corpus, accountability, freedom of the press: all being struck down by men whose only concern is the furtherance of power, impelled by a war on monsters that is piece by piece making monsters of us.

Clap your hands say yeah

I thought rock was dead. I thought the likes of U2 had squeezed the life out of it, and now the only way to go was out into the wastelands of Godspeed or Mogwai. Yes, there are ravens who feast on the corpse: I'll listen to Interpol, for instance, and you could just about claim Hard-Fi are rock, but nearly all rock now is either inexpressably dreary (hello Bonio), boringly monolithic (most heavy rock) or achingly retro, and almost all plain rubbish. I find myself buying ever more older stuff, filling in the gaps in my collection with the good records of yesteryear. Perhaps, I began to worry, I've just grown out of it.

But it isn't dead at all. There is still something out there that enlivens, makes you want to jump up and kick down the statues, smash the state and, erm, okay, okay, clap your hands and say yeah.

If you can imagine a psychotic David Byrne trying to reach notes at least half an octave beyond his range, backed by the Violent Femmes out of their minds on dope and speed, you're imagining Clap Your Hands and you're thinking, if you love music, I have to have that. And you do. If you don't have it, you won't hear the careening brilliance of Skin of my yellow country teeth, which is powerful and unhinged, or the fierce antiwar rhetoric of Upon this tidal wave of young blood, you won't be charmed by the demented loveliness of Alec Ounsworth's vision, the drive of the music, the twinkling melodies, the sheer joy it embodies. You won't hear the first fresh rock since the Pixies -- yes, it's that good. This is what rock is supposed to be and while I have this record on, rock lives and breathes just as fiercely as it did when Bill Haley rocked around the clock and kids everywhere first had anthems for their days.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


I know when the black dog is at my door because I feel a brittle brilliance, as though I am balancing a crystal ball on my fingertips, as though I am unaware that it will fall and splinter.

It's a good time to ask things from me, because I am eager to please, a ball of eagerness.

I should not be left alone when I feel like it. I'm sure I'm good to know when I'm feeling good. But I shouldn't be left alone because I'm so brittle I could snap. And what if I snap and just lie down on the floor and refuse even to bother. Because believe me, sometimes I wonder why.

In three days, I will be bad to know. Even I won't want to know me. What am I saying, even I? Especially I. I don't want to know me at any time, even the best of times.

I know when the black dog is at my door because I feel that everything (or at least anything) is possible. The dog barks when I start to think about why it's not only not possible but impossible. Do you know there is a gap between not possible and impossible? Not possible is can't do it now, can't manage at the moment, would if I could. Impossible is can't do it ever, can't ever manage, couldn't. Impossible is a door slamming in your face.

The black dog growls and asks you why you don't achieve. He growls and asks you why you let slip achievement. He has a much broader view of achievement than is fair. He laughs at you for thinking that he should be fair. He laughs and laughs at the very idea of fair.

Look, it's not as though I don't know that the world isn't fair. I'm not stupid.

I have a crystal ball spinning on my fingertips. I am capable of loving anyone, watch out! Because I find that loving is something you can only do when you are able to have faith in yourself. If you don't, that thing you are doing is not love.


Sometimes, all I want is to be kissed. I want someone to turn around and say, I want to kiss you. I could cry, I want it so much. Not because I like kissing, although I do like kissing; not even because I want to feel wanted, although I do want to feel wanted. But because I am afraid that everything has become so familiar that I will never know what it's like to jump in and let the sea wash over me again.

You know, if I could tell S anything, I would tell her, is it my fucking fault I thought you were the sea and all you can manage is a small, turbid lake who wanted another small, clearer lake? Goddamnit. I am spinning a ball on my fingertips. If I stop, I am shattered; and you wouldn't even get wet.

Anyway, fuck that. The earth keeps turning, the days pass, the moments are sometimes good, sometimes bad, the days grow hotter, we are all talking and no one's listening, and I cannot leave this planet.

I know the black dog is coming because I go from loving everything to trying not to hate everything, and it turns on the smallest thing.


I can hear it, howling in the night. It is pretending to be my dreams. But I dream bigger than that. Or smaller. I'm not sure. I'm not sure whether I am trying to expand into something so large it's invulnerable, or become so small you just can't even tell I'm there. If I could decide, I would be happy.

The curse, the growl, the howling dog is that I cannot decide.

I want motherfucking chocolate milk

If you haven't seen the chocolate milk boy, you are going to have one big laugh. Funniest thing I've seen in a month. Kids, eh?

Empire of oil

What? We did it for oil? You're kidding me, right? We know it was all about the WMDs.

Curious, ain't it, that we haven't found even one WMD. But we sure did find a shitload of oil.

White noise


There will be no Nuremberg for Iraq but there should be. And if you supported, or may your god forgive you, still support this, you should be on trial alongside the killers.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Goodness grace us

I watched two geckoes fighting on the window. At first, I thought they were fighting very slowly but I soon realised that one was mounting the other. The female didn't seem to be enjoying it.

The male gecko was missing most of one of his forelegs. It hadn't prevented him from passing on his genes. At least, I was hoping it hadn't. I don't know what the hit rate is for a gecko. But it seemed a fine metaphor. He had been damaged but it wasn't enough to make him unfit to reproduce.

I am not really drawing any conclusions from it. I am useless myself. I see no point to me at all. I am sitting in my basement, home alone for the next couple of days, and of course I start to think about my life, and what it is. Or whether it is. Sometimes I think about whether being good is something you are or something people think you are. If it is something people think you are, are you obliged to be what they think is good? If so, I'm shit out of luck. I'm not sure anyone thinks I'm good and they're probably right.

I'm probably not alone in thinking I'd be good if it wasn't for... You fill in whatever you think it is that's stopping you from considering yourself a good person. If the list runs for more than a page, you're just no damned good. It's easy to see your bad points though. A list of your good points... well, there's the problem. What is a good point? I think it returns us to asking whether good is good for others or just good. I might say, it's good to be honest. But if the world doesn't appreciate honesty, what good is it?

Am I saying what's the good of being good in a bad world? Yes, I am. I've always tried to be good, to do the right thing (the right thing by my lights, not necessarily the right thing if you took a vote), but judging those things in the abstract means that you must ignore outcomes. One of the failings of the utilitarian worldview, I always thought, was that it more or less demanded that the individual always consider the common good above their own, which, while it might be admirable, would tend to make life rather unrewarding, in most senses of that word. However, the opposite is not appealing either, although I've never quite been able to work out why. Why would it not be acceptable to me morally to pursue my own good to the detriment of everyone's around me? I think it's an interesting question. A judicious balance of the two is a tenable aim, I'd have thought, but it's not easy. Recently, I've had to consider deeply how to balance differing goods, and I've failed miserably in doing so in a way that made me happy. Probably that's because of two things: first, that I judged what would be good for others without considering their own view on it, so that I did what I thought was right instead of what they considered right (which meant that I did good in a bad situation, the value of which I'm pondering here); second, that I simply could not do what others thought would be good for them, because I so clearly feel it would be bad for me. I am far from being able to be completely self-sacrificing. It bothers me, because what am I that I believe I would find peace in self-abnegation but cannot do it? Still, some people are fucking hard to please! And if you are trying to balance good as you see it with good as others see it, it's a real problem if the others involved are not doing it the same. I've encountered deep selfishness, which destroyed a relationship in one case and has made another close to unbearable.

I know, I could do more. I need to do more. I'm aware of my limitations. But you have to ask yourself sometimes: are the people who are so keen to remind you of your limitations just not willing to begin looking at their own? And if they are not, and you will not move beyond simply reckoning it's their fault you're where you are, how can you move on from that?

And I need to do less. The desire to be giving can be catastrophic when others do not want what you have to give. I recognise that you need to be able to listen more closely to what they want. But the problem is, for any of us, that part of what you want is what you want to give!


Ultimately, I see a glimpse of the path to contentment, and I cannot step onto it. I couldn't even say why. Being self-destructive makes me unhappy, but I have a long record of taking only the least constructive path, of not even thinking about the outcomes of what I did, indulging the moment and suffering for it. Mostly, I can put that down to fear. Why don't I write novels? I'm too afraid of a poor reception. What a fuckwit! I would say if it were anyone else. Just do it and live with it, you twat. But it's easier to know what's good for others than what's good for yourself. And fear is addictive. It becomes a useful shield. I become able to hide everything, so well that I can't even be sure there was anything in the first place.

I can hear a little voice, saying "self pity will do you no good". Yeah but I'm so fucking good at it. I never found anything else I could excel at the way I do that. I shouldn't have said that. I know that I have been overly concerned with my image lately because I worry that people will read my blog and later be vicious about things that I don't care about, and I will feel embarrassed for them. I want to be a facilitator of feeling good about the world.

I suppose I am feeling that way because I want to be attractive. I want more in my life. I want to touch and be touched, and not to feel that I am encased in ice, talking to myself, my words bouncing from the walls of a cell I built to keep me safe from the world I want to touch me. But somehow I do not know how or what, or if I do, but I don't, why keep telling myself I do when I don't know how? Why pretend that I know but just can't when the truth is more likely that I never knew and never will?


But did you never feel, did you never ask, why could I not step the infinitely small distance between worlds into one in which I and you were just slightly different enough for it to have worked? The world in which good for me and good for you were just that iota closer together?

I know. I know. Change is possible. It only feels as though it is not. It only feels as though someone else decided on my lines and I'm stuck with them. I could awake tomorrow and shed the chrysalis and we could all free ourselves from our lives, the cages we are calling our lives.

Queensland Roar 0 Newcastle Jets 1

Having spent the past few games receiving little reward for playing good football and creating lots of chances, wasted by profligate strikers, Queensland tried a new approach: play awful football and create virtually no chances. Against a Jets side that looked poor, albeit basically competent, with the exception of Carle, who was a stylish livewire with a hatful tricks, the Roar pumped the ball upfield for the whole first field, bypassing the midfield (perhaps not a bad idea, because every time one of them did get the ball, he promptly gave it to the opposition. The first half was abysmal and the Roar were deservedly booed off. They barely competed in midfield and were woeful going forward. Midfielders pass the ball into the box, but no one follows it in; Dilevski refuses to get into space when he is played in the right, and McKay has no notion of attacking when out wide, looking always to lay it off to his full back (a poor idea when you are playing with three at the back, and you are notionally the full back yourself). Baird was especially poor: if he would only take the easy option occasionally, instead of trying to do things he simply isn't equipped for. Brosque was little better: he's technically good but he simply has no idea how to play up front. Brosque needs to watch videos of Henry, or even Carle, to see how he can find space and be able to receive the ball to feet with room to do something with it. He is always getting it with his back to goal, which, given his slight frame, means he all too often loses it.

Where Queensland have done well this season has been at the back. They're a little prone to errors, particularly Gibson, who must surely be told by the coach not to venture up field if he simply can't be bothered to work back hard and to kick the thing into the stands when he is pressured. But they looked vulnerable this week. Again and again, Newcastle attacked down the righthand side. Bleiberg again played 3142, but I think the Jets clearly demonstrated its limitations. Buess and Gibson played in the centre and Gava on the left, but there was a huge hole on the right, which Dilevski, having a very poor game, couldn't fill. The defence was turned several times and the lack of pace showed in the middle.

Seo is absolutely wasted as a defensive midfielder if he's not given the ball. If he's going to play there, Willis should be rolling the ball out to him every time he gets it, and the defenders, rather than looking to get it out wide to players who are far, far too deep to do anything with it, should be playing it through him.

It's clear what Queensland should do. Play four at the back (clearly, fitness allowing, they should be Dodd, Buess, Gibson and McCloughan; Gava is not entirely useless but he didn't cover himself in glory on Sunday either; Dilevski is not a fullback in anyone's language; Murdocca could fill in at rightback though, and McKay would possibly make a useful leftback, something to consider at the moment, and push Buess into the middle while McCloughan is out) and four across the middle and forget clever tactics. There would be no need to swamp the midfield if Seo played higher up the pitch. Bleiberg's tactical plan revolves around playing with three men in a column: a DM, a CM and an AM. But it funnels all the play through the middle, making it very hard to break down determined defences, and leaving the strikers always to try to play in very tight spaces, rather than being free to pick the ball up wide (where Baird does look more useful). Switching to a 442, in which the wide guys are encouraged to join the attackers and the midfielders complement each other in midfield instead of playing in different parts of the pitch, would make better use of Queensland's resources. He should look at playing Seo and McKay in the middle (for McKay, read Murdocca or Carro, either could do a job, and Brosque and Richter out wide. Richter's pace is a tremendous asset but he is being brought on as a sub without a role. Tell him to hug the touchline and burn past the typically slow full-backs. He is genuinely quick and that's rare in the A-League. So use it! Brosque would be much more useful on the left. He should be encouraged to float, to roam in search of space and the ball. He's a useful passer and a skilful runner, but he's not able to use those abilities with a big central defender up his arse. Up front, it's time to realise that Baird cannot cut it. Put him on the bench and bring him on if needed. I thought Simpson, a sub on Sunday, looked willing and could be given a chance. He was clumsy but he put himself about a bit, showing for the ball, and using it mostly intelligently. He is tall enough to make a proper target man too; Baird is depressingly lightweight, although willing to compete in the air. Brownlie is probably the best of the strikers, although it remains a problem that Queensland do not have a goalscorer of any note. If I were coaching them, I'd be willing to try Dilevski up front. He's not a terrible player, but he's unhappy as a right wingback. He looks better on the left, and happiest of all when he's going forward. He's quite sharp, playing several good passes into the box in the past couple of games. With more freedom, I think he'd be a better player. Ask him to pick up the pieces alongside Simpson and I think Queensland could be a little less unpredictable up front and score a few more goals. It's worth trying because there won't be a coach in the league who hasn't realised that if you mark Brosque reasonably tightly, Queensland have nowhere to go up front.

The Roar improved a little in the second half, and were very unlucky to have a Carro goal disallowed for offside when the Jets had a defender standing on the near post. But it would not have been fair reward on the night: Newcastle missed several good chances, with Milicic uncharacteristically clueless in front of goal.

There has to be more movement and more energy than the team displayed on Sunday. Newcastle are solid and competitive but not actually any good, and any team that puts in the effort will beat them. We just didn't work hard enough to get a reward.

I remain convinced that we have a better than average team but this was a below average performance. Bleiberg's tactical tinkering just isn't working. It was a good idea to create more width, yes, and he should stick with that, but picking wingbacks and at the same time three midfielders who play in a column works at cross purposes.

Very hard to pick a best player for Queensland. They were uniformly poor in the first half. Simpson did well when he came on, looking very keen and popping up everywhere. Carro also tried hard and did some nice things. Tommy Willis did well in goal. He's very reliable and capable. I'd say he was best for us, although Carle for Newcastle was far and away the best player on the pitch. Thompson a distant second for them, he was solid. Their defence did well as a unit, really making it hard for Baird and Brosque to get into the game.

The officials must hang their heads. The referee was very poor, as they have often been in the A-League. He seemed to disapprove of the physical challenge altogether and often made poor decisions. The lineos wanted shooting, simple as that. Each missed clear offsides, and the one on the far side from me will shudder when he watches the match on tape, because he flagged away our equalising goal when it was clear that Carro was nothing like offside.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Right on

Sharon a centrist?

They're not kidding?

Whatever next?

How far to the right is Likud then, if it's too rightwing for the Butcher of Sabra and Chatila?

Cold bloody Murtha

Someone needs to ask this ugly fuckhead why there are no marines in Vietnam.

This shrieking nonsense is what you get when you suggest that maybe just getting killed in a pointless war isn't a great idea. It's "traitorous" to suggest you are achieving nothing. It's big and brave to suggest that other people should die for your "values".

More and more, it seems to me that these people's "values" run no further than "U.S.A all the way". When the big boy says die, the troops must die, and anyone who questions it is a traitor and a coward.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Cheat prospered

Given all the rightist blather about oil-for-food (which has gone quiet now that it's been revealed that it wasn't just the Frenchies but everyone was in on it), I look forward to hearing them condemn American graft in Iraq.

Okay, I'm kidding. It's always a sin worthy of eternal tort... abuse when the other side does it, and completely understandable whatsit when ours does.

"We only tortured seven"

No one beheaded or killed.

So says the Iraqi interior minister.

Let's get this straight. You say there's no big deal because no one found the bodies because you threw them in the river? Whoops, I meant, of course, no one found any evidence of murder. Whoops again.

Well, what is he saying? It's no big deal because these are bad guys, "criminal killers" (nice to know that the new Iraq is using due process before deciding that, hey?). I'll punish anyone that an investigation run by my own ministry into any of my own ministry's employees finds has abused an inmate. They are Arabs, whoops, no, sorry, they are Turkomen and Kurds.

They've been dragging bodies from the river for months now. The media have been reporting that militants dunnit. The people have been saying it's the interior ministry.

Join the dots. Look what we've done. Changed the driver but the car's on the same goddamned road. So what are we still there for?

Bending over for Dover

Excellent point.

Christians, does your morality include honesty? And if it does, now that Pat Robertson has blown the gaffe and let us all know that ID is about religion, were you lying when you said that it wasn't, or have you just had the scales removed from your eyes? And if you have, do you agree that because the Supreme Court has ruled, more than once, that the Constitution does in fact separate state and religion, that's the end of the discussion?


The mighty laid low

And I should note that if Woodward didn't realise that his conversation about Plame was important before Libby was indicted, as he claims, he should be sacked without hesitation, because he's no fucking reporter! Did he just not notice everyone talking about Plamegate? Did it simply not occur to him when he was appearing on chatshows telling everyone who'd listen that it was all bullshit and that Fitzgerald was a "junkyard dog" that he was himself a player?

Oaks become acorns

It's sad that great reporter Bob Woodward has fallen to become a Bushista arselicker, but even sadder that he is revealed as just another insider.

"I'm in the habit of keeping secrets."

No, Bob. Reporters reveal secrets. They tell the truth.

Isn't that what you used to say? And since when did a reporter become afraid of a subpoena? Doesn't that conflict with Woodward's bluster about sharing Judy Miller's jail time? Surely he would have welcomed a subpoena that he too could defy and show that his principles are the same as Judy's.

The saddest thing is, they are.

Conventional thinking

A brilliant piece for anyone who still isn't clear on whether "abusing" prisoners is a bad thing.

The shrieking hypocrisy of complaining about showing prisoners on telly should be noted. I ask myself which would worry me more: an appearance on the Iraqi equivalent of the Today show, reading a prepared statement from an autocue in response to questions by Al-Tracy ibn Grimshaw, and a plate of dates after; or having a snarling Alsatian at my bollocks.

Hmm. Tough choice.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Creationists on the warpath in Kansas

Steve Abrams is chairman of the Kansas State Board of Education. He wrote an oped in the Wichita Eagle to counger some of the criticisms of his board's new standards. I annotate the oped: "

Evolution. Creation. Intelligent design. Is there any truth or facts that can come out of what has been bandied about in the media recently about the Kansas State Board of Education, which I chair?

A good question. Will Abrams tell the truth and give us the facts? I'm open minded, although naturally, I suspect a man who calls Toni Morrison "pornography" won't be.

Some of my critics claim that I inserted the supernatural into the science classroom. Others claim I inserted creation via the back door. The critics also claim that in the scientific community, there is no controversy about evolution.

As do many conservatives, Abrams uses words that can mean what he wishes them to suggest but generally don't.

What is the "scientific community"? Is it, like the much discussed "Muslim community", simply all and any scientists, with the latter defined as broadly as suits? Or is it those actually involved in biology -- the science most closely interested in evolution, expressing their views in the journals that provide the fora for the "community" in this sense?

Well, in the former, there are a very few scientists who have stirred the shit about evolution. Among the latter, there is no controversy.

To suggest that there is would be to suggest that if some whacko with a science degree has a crackpot theory about quantum physics, there is a controversy about quantum physics. One would hardly agitate for that crackpot's ideas to be given equal time in a physics class.

You'd think to listen to creationists that there actually was a raging debate in science about evolution. But there isn't. It's almost universally accepted as a useful theory. It is far better supported than quantum theory.

They then proceed to explain that I ought to understand something about this, because surely I can see that over a period of time, over many generations, a pair of dogs will 'evolve.'

I'm not entirely sure what Abrams is on about. A "pair of dogs" would never evolve, because populations evolve, not individuals, which Abrams would know if he were informed about the theory he is attacking.

It astonishes me that a man this clueless is permitted to decide what children will learn!

But that is one of the reasons that we tried to further define evolution.

What is? That he thinks there is a controversy, or that he thinks a pair of dogs will evolve given time?

We want to differentiate between the genetic capacity in each species genome that permits it to change with the environment as being different from changing to some other creature. In our science curriculum standards, we called this microevolution and macroevolution -- changes within kinds and changing from one kind to another.

Those who follow the creationists and their doings recognise three things from this paragraph: one, the keywords "microevolution" and "macroevolution"; two, the biblical term "kinds", which no biologist uses; and three, a notion of "capacity" to change.

The first is a distinction that IDers stress. Why? Because even creationists have realised that they cannot deny that bacteria evolve to become resistant to antibiotics. "There is no evolution" is
so easily refuted that creationists have shifted the goalposts. Now they agree that there is evolution but claim it cannot involve a change of species. Yes, it is a rather silly claim, depending as it does on an idea that a "species" is something readily fixed and easy to discern. Creationists have this idea because they insist that God created life in "kinds": a set array of types, which cannot change into other types. This is what Genesis says. It actually does not make much sense to discuss evolution divided in this way, unless you are wanting to attack it piecemeal, which is the approach ID takes.

Using the word "kinds" does make claims that Abrams is not interested in introducing the supernatural into science look, erm, disingenuous, let's say. Naughty subeditor who didn't point that out to him! Must be a filthy atheist.

The third is interesting, and Abrams almost sneaks it by. Scientists do not talk about the genome's "capacity to change" because they don't believe that the ability to change is static. So why is he mentioning it? Because ID includes some garbled information theory, with a claim that changes between "kinds" -- whoops! meant species -- are not possible because that would involve creating information. I won't go into the information theory behind it, but basically, information is subject to the law of entropy, and cannot increase in a closed system.

Ah! I hear you say. But a genome is not a closed system. ID spends a lot of effort in vainly trying to prove it is.

There are a few critics who want to present an intellectual argument about why intelligent design should not be included in the science curriculum standards.

A few? There are a huge number of critics, including nearly every scientist who expresses any view on it, who suggest in the strongest terms that it should not be included in the science curriculum, on account of its being a religious explanation of the world.

They claim that ID is not good science. From the aspect that intelligent design is not a full-fledged developed discipline, I would agree.

No, that is not the "aspect" they look at. It's that it's not science at all. It does not represent the scientific method in action. It represents a few creationists trying to chip away at evolution, and a lot of blowhards, such as Abrams, fighting to get the work of the creationists into schoolrooms. Calling it pseudoscience is insulting to respectable bullshit everywhere.

But if they took the time to read the science curriculum standards, they would see that intelligent design is not included.

Yes, you wised up. You know that saying "we want ID in the curriculum" is poison. So you try to get it in the back door.

What's in the standards

The critics claim that we have redefined science to include a back door to biblical creation or the supernatural. From page ix of the standards:

'Science is a systematic method of continuing investigation that uses observations, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena.'

Why do they think that you are trying to sneak religion in by the back door?

The previous standards said "natural explanations", didn't they, Mr Abrams. And you changed it to "more adequate" to remove the naturalistic bias that is essential to science.

Science does not seek adequate explanations. It seeks testable explanations. It seeks useful explanations, whose use can be demonstrated.

ID is not testable. Its central contention is "life was designed because it looks like it was designed". That and "life was designed because, man, I just don't see *how* it could have evolved". Yeah, well, okay. But "I am ignorant" might be a "more adequate" explanation of why you prefer creationism, but it's not a good explanation of why the earth teems with life.

You see, ID is not an explanation at all. It doesn't explain how life came to be complex. It just says it is. It says, at base, someone made it that way. It doesn't say how. It doesn't say what the consequences of that are.

Where does that say "the field of science is destroyed and the back door opened to bring biblical creation into the science classroom?

Mr Abrams is well aware that it's what it *doesn't* say that matters. It does not say that science requires testable explanations, which are by their nature, natural. (Because to be testable, your explanation must lie within nature. If you don't follow that, I'll explain in the comments, but be warned, I'm going to think you're too stupid to think it through for yourself.)

I note that the standards allow science to consist of "logical argument". Well, you'll be saying, it does, hey? You take what you've observed and you argue from that to a conclusion.

Well, yes and no. But the standards can be read to mean that science is any one of those things and need not be all of them! So just logical argument would do.

ID can be framed as a logical argument. And as at least one of my readers has learned painfully an argument can be logical without actually referring to the real world.

Similarly, if you go to Standard 3, Benchmark 3, Indicators 1-7 (Pages 75-77), which is the heart of the "evolution" area, you can see that intelligent design is not included. But many of our critics already know this.

So let me get this straight. You are not trying to have ID taught because hey, you didn't mention it by name?

Well, let's say that I am an avowed Satanist and I change the standards of your local church so that they no longer read "this church gathers to worship God" but now say "this church gathers to worship God or alternative powerful figures".

Which powerful figures might I mean?

This is not about biblical creation or intelligent design. It is about the last five words of Indicator 7: "scientific criticisms of those explanations."

Would Mr Abrams like to outline for us what "scientific criticisms" of evolution he is aware of?

I will list them for you:

Yes, none. There are no "scientific" criticisms of evolution. There are disagreements within evolution, but no coherent disagreement with it as a theory in the round. Note the difference, which Mr Abrams ignores, between a scientists who criticises evolution and a scientific criticism. They are not the same thing. Einstein opposed nuclear weapons. So he was a scientist who criticised nuclear weapons. But he did not make a scientific criticism of nuclear weaponry.

Don't want criticisms

Evolutionists do not want students to know about or think about scientific criticisms of evolution.

One has to laugh. Science: a battlefield of ideas, where the fittest survives. Religion: ossified dogma that doesn't tolerate dissent.

Evolutionists don't want you to teach your religion in science classes.

You don't even want to teach *all* religious views on evolution. Just your particular branch's.

Evolutionists are the ones minimizing open scientific inquiry from their explanation of the origin of life.

Another creationist misstep. Evolution has nothing at all to say about the origin of life. NOT A THING.

They do not want students to know that peer-reviewed journals, articles and books have scientific criticisms of evolution.

They do not want students to be told that, Mr Abrams, because it absolutely is not true. Only one creationist article has made it into a peer-reviewed journal and that was only because the editor sidestepped the peer review process, to the disgust of his editorial board when they found out.

So instead of participating in the science hearings before a state board subcommittee and presenting testimony about evolution, they stood out in the hall and talked to the media about how the Ph.D. scientists who are presenting testimony about the criticisms "aren't really scientists" and that "they really don't know anything."

Having a PhD in a "science" doesn't actually make you a scientist. In my university, linguistics was considered a "science". It actually transferred from "social sciences" (stop laughing at the back, you chemist types) to "cognitive sciences".

I find the notion that I might be a scientist because I studied terms for the penis in African languages amusing. (Okay, some of linguistics involves scientific methods, but a great deal of it involves the useless blather of most arts subjects.)

Instead of discussing the issues of evolution, noisy critics go into attack mode and do a character assassination of anyone who happens to believe that evolution should actually be subject to critical analysis.

Oh Steve! If you were willing to do a critical analysis, we'd be delighted to hear it. But "life is too complex to have evolved" just doesn't represent "analysis", critical or otherwise.

Criticisms of science from a religious viewpoint are valuable. They certainly have a place. In a philosophy or religious education class. Where they have no place is in a science class.

Superintendents don't care

In spite of the fact that the state board approved science curriculum standards that endorse critical analysis of evolution (supported by unrefuted testimony from many credentialed scientists at the science hearings)

Kof. This is using "unrefuted" in the widest sense.

and do not include intelligent design

Okay. This is what Mr Abrams needs to be asked.

Mr Abrams, can you name three scientists who have made a "critical analysis" of evolution, and can you outline, briefly, what their critique was?

And do it without saying Behe, Dembski, Meyer. Because, remember, you're not doing this to get ID on the curriculum.

and the fact that scientific polls indicate a large percentage of parents do not want evolution taught as dogma in the science classroom

Who gives a fuck what the parents want? The reason we have schooling is to give kids the tools not to end up as dumb as their dumbarse parents.

Okay, okay. Mean. But the truth is that if parents want to teach their kids that God created the world and evolution is the work of Satan, they can do so. At home. But in a classroom, you are supposed to be learning what it is, not what your ma and pa think it ought to be.

what is the response from some of the school superintendents around Kansas?

Fuck you, Jack, one hopes.

They seem to indicate, "We don't care what the state board does, and we don't care what parents want. We are going to continue teaching evolution just as we have been doing."

They think you're a clown and are ignoring you. Thank goodness for sanity in some small corners of Kansas.

But I guess we shouldn't be surprised, because superintendents and local school boards in some districts continue to promulgate pornography as "literature," even though many parents have petitioned the local boards to remove the porn. Obviously, that is a different issue from the science standards, but it still points out the lack of commitment on the part of administration in some districts to allow parents to control the education for their own children.

Oh dear. See, if you think that books that deal with real-life issues such as sex, drugs and rocknroll are pornography, you just don't get to see the pornography I do. Man, if you think Toni Morrison is hardcore, you obviously don't visit the sites I, erm, sorry, yes, whatever, man.

Guns and bombs again

What's most interesting in this story about the Pentagon's confession that the US used white phosphorus in Falluja is not that the lie-unravelling-confession cycle is getting shorter, but this snippet from Tory arsewipe, Liam Fox:

And I think that, although white phosphorus is a brutal weapon, we need to remember that we were talking about some pretty brutal insurgents. These were the people who were hacking off hostages' heads with knives.

Forgetting for a moment that these were not the people who were hacking off hostages' heads with knives, I'd be wanting to question Mr Fox's principle. He seems to be saying that two wrongs make a right; that it's perfectly okay to use chemical weapons against people if they're bad enough.

Mr Fox, many have decried Saddam for his use of chemical weaponry. Would you agree that because he thought the people he was using them on were very bad -- who could be worse for a despot than those who oppose his rule? -- it was okay to use them?

No, I thought not. They're an abomination in his hands, hey?

In black and white

Some people think I see things too much in black and white. Maybe that's true, although I consider their perception is probably an outcome of looking only at my controversialism and not knowing me very well. Still, it's true that there are some things I simply feel are right and some wrong. It may not be sophisticated enough for those who are willing to allow "nuance" to drive them into moral minefields, but some things you feel in the gut.

So I say this. If you are American and this doesn't make you weep, I despise you. We ask ourselves how the Germans could have allowed the Holocaust to happen, but you know, because for you, it's a mirror.

I'm not saying you have to march in the streets. I'm not saying that you have to feel aggrieved enough to do anything. Except one thing: never to claim that you are a great nation again.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Plus ca change

Thank goodness we got rid of Saddam. It certainly ended all that nasty torturing business.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Walking blindfolded to tyranny

The American Senate has decided to do away with habeas corpus. Read about it here.

Habeas corpus is the most important of your rights, except the right to life, of course (which Americans do not have). Yes, free expression is good and it's nice to be allowed to combine peacefully but freedom from arbitrary detention is best of all.

It's the thing that stands at base of your right to a fair trial, your right to be judged by your peers, and your right not to be punished for things you did not do.

Habeas corpus is the writ that your legal representation can serve, demanding in court that not just reason be given for your detention (and proper charges laid) but that evidence for its needfulness is presented. Habeas corpus is the reason for bail. If the state cannot or will not show you to pose a danger, it is obliged to set you free on your promise to appear for trial (sometimes it demands a surety).

Why would anyone want to remove that right, which protects the innocent and aids the guilty not one bit, because they are still liable to be punished for their acts? Well, the "enemy combatants" held at Guantanamo (some of whom it has been ascertained are innocent of any connection with Al Qaida or other terrorists but are still detained; and perhaps many, most even, are innocent, but who can say, given that there has been no evidence presented -- you will laugh if you read through the Obsidian Wings posts and come across the examination of a detainee, in which the man detained is not allowed to know even what he is supposed to be denying, and is stuck saying "Well, if you will tell me what I am supposed to have done, I'll let you know whether I did it, but I can't deny what I don't even know I'm supposed to have done, all I can do is deny everything") are, according to Senator Graham, not to be afforded the right to ask in court to know why they are being held, nor to be allowed to present motions (in some cases, these are people who are asking leave to sue the government for severely abusing them, including a man who was so severely treated that he is stuck in a wheelchair, having been denied treatment for the vertebrae broken by his interrogators -- I warn Americans that they will start feeling much less happy with their nation, and perhaps even physically disturbed, if they start looking into this stuff). In effect, Graham's amendment says that if the Secretary of Defence has decided to lock you up, you have no recourse to the law. You cannot serve habeas corpus.

No one who reads this blog needs telling that a "democracy" does not lock people up and throw away the key without charge. Surely? You know that the law is there to protect us from people like the Secretary of Defence, to restrain those in power from exercising it arbitrarily? You don't need a lesson in why it's a bad thing to allow those guys to be unleashed?

You might think, well, we're fighting terrorists, so it's gloves off. But once the gloves are off, they don't ever go back on again. I read somewhere that one of the legal guys on the Bushista side said that someone who taught English to an AQ member or their kid (can't remember which), even if they didn't know the kid had a terrorist father or the guy was a terrorist, whichever it was, could be detained because they "aided the enemy".

That means you, guys. If you were to hang out with a Middle Eastern (or Caribbean) guy, maybe a funloving boozer like Mohammed Atta and his guys, perhaps give him a lift to pilot school, or just let him use your phone one time, you can be detained. You. You're innocent though, right?

Well, so fucking what? So what if you're innocent? They don't even have to tell you why you're being locked up, let alone prove you guilty of anything. And it won't help you that you're American. It didn't help Jose Padilla.

Stockholm Syndrome

What's the matter, why don't you answer
What's the matter with me
Cause it's so hard to be
Free and easy, to disappear completely
Hardly as alone as glad

You're heart is broken, and the doors are open
As you're hoping to be
There's brighter places to see
Hands need warming, early in the morning
Hardly as alone a surprise

No, don't warn me
I know it's wrong, but I swear it won't take long
And I know, you know,
It makes me sigh; I do believe in love

No, don't warn me
I know it's wrong, but I swear it won't take long
And I know, you know,
It makes me sigh; I do believe, I do believe...

Another season, of the same old feelings
Another reason could be
I'm tired of aching, summer's what you make it
But I'll believe what I want to believe

You know, some things are just so perfect that you wouldn't change a note, a moment. The world disappears and you're swallowed up in the beauty of the artform I loved before I knew what art was and will love when I'm too old to care what art is. Viva pop.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Black power

Yes, they are taking our jobs. Despite the pandemic racism that still infects the UK, we are finally moving towards equity. Although the Frenchies' way is philosophically attractive, ours has borne more fruit for minorities.

I note that parent involvement is thought to be the prime reason behind the improved life chances of minority kids. Yes, Mr and Mrs Chav, it's your fault if your kid fucks it, not the blacks down the road's.

A cautionary note needs to be struck, because the Rowntree study does show that Pakistani and Bangladeshi kids are falling behind. I note that these are generally Muslims but I draw no conclusion from it, except to wonder whether the general anti-intellectualism that seems to have come to prevail in Islamic society has taken a toll. If it has -- and let's assume it has -- what can society do to counteract that? Is it a good idea to allow faith-based schools to function? On the one hand, would the children perhaps achieve more in a more comfortable milieu? But on the other, would that same lack of faith in the value of secular education that we are allowing has led to kids' prospects' being damaged be apparent in England's madrassas? Should the government put programmes in place to reach out to Muslim kids, to make up the shortfall in attention from parents, if we conclude that it exists? I don't think there are going to be easy answers. What I think we have to recognise is that England, and countries like it, can help resolve the problems we have with Islamism by creating societies in which Muslims can function and flourish without necessarily having to surrender what matters to them. How we do that is not something I have definite answers on, because we need to look deeper at causes and effects and not simply assume that we know why some succeed and some fail because it seems obvious. Science is a good tool for overturning the obvious, so I'd hope we would see more research into what actually does work, and what doesn't.

More Bushwhacking

But Bush didn't stop there.

Many militants are part of a global, borderless terrorist organization like al Qaeda

Are they? It suits American purposes to make out that Al Qaeda is a SMERSH-like organisation, but Bush is aware -- anyone even slightly conversant with AQ is aware -- that belonging to AQ is a matter of self-identification as much as anything else. Al-Zarqawi for instance had nothing to do with AQ (and likely still doesn't) but started to call himself the leader of AQ in Iraq because identifying with AQ made him sound more important and garnered better headlines, or some such reason.

Islamic militants in one place or another are fellow travellers, not colleagues, more often than not. It's important to recognise that not just because it gives a clearer picture of what exactly we're up against, but allows us to be clear on what the aims of each group are -- and their aims often do differ. Most Islamic militants are fighting in nationalist, proindependence causes -- those in Kashmir for instance, or in Thailand, or in the Philippines.

-- which spreads propaganda, and provides financing and technical assistance to local extremists

Does it? I think it's probably true to some extent, because for instance funding and aiding British militants would be in AQ's interests. But the suggestion that AQ is behind every act of violence seems to me to be completely unfounded.

and conducts dramatic and brutal operations like the attacks of September the 11th.

It very rarely does so. It goes without saying that drama and brutality are much more the province of the United States than they are of AQ.

Other militants are found in regional groups, often associated with al Qaeda -- paramilitary insurgencies and separatist movements in places like Somalia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Chechnya, Kashmir and Algeria.

Most of these have few, if any, shared aims with AQ. Somalia is a shithole in which the varying factions are largely fighting for money and power -- the usual stuff. The Philippines is largely Catholic but has a Muslim minority, who feel aggrieved at their treatment by the majority. Pakistan is a wellhead of Islamism but it's wrong to characterise it as having a "paramilitary insurgency" or a "separatist movement". Chechnya has a largely, if not entirely, Muslim population that has been very poorly treated by the largely Orthodox Christian Russians, who invaded it a hundred and fifty years ago and conquered it with a great deal of brutality. When the Soviet Union broke up, the Chechnyans believed that they would be permitted the same right to self-determination that we stood up for in other parts of the Soviet Union, such as Georgia or Lithuania. However, because the Russians had never constituted Chechnya as an autonomous republic, they used the technicality of its being part of the Russian Federative Republic as an excuse to re-invade Chechnya and murder many of its citizens when they got uppity. Perhaps George Bush can explain how those who love "freedom" were so happy to see Lithuania become a nation but at the same time believe the Chechnyans are just separatists who deserve what they get from our Russian friends. Kashmir is disputed between India and Pakistan. Historically, the problem is that the majority of the population is and was Muslim, but its leader was Hindu and opted to join India, not Pakistan. That's a recipe for trouble, of course. Anyone in the least acquainted with Indian history will recall the terrible bloodshed that pursued Partition, and will not be so willing to dismiss Kashmir as a problem of separatists.

Algeria is an interesting case. Some time ago, Salafists -- Islamists with an agenda somewhat similar to that of AQ -- were set to win elections in Algeria. However, with Western connivance, the sitting government cancelled the elections and started to slaughter the Salafists instead of handing over power to them. We taught them a lesson about democracy then, which they remember very well. They know they cannot achieve the change they want through "democratic" means, because we will simply change the rules of the game to prevent them from doing so.

Still others spring up in local cells -- inspired by Islamic radicalism, but not centrally directed.

I'll say not!

Islamic radicalism is more like a loose network with many branches than an army under a single command.

This would be rather like saying that everyone who believes in "liberal democracy" is part of a loose network with many branches than an army under a single command. This is clearly meaningless.

Yet these operatives, fighting on scattered battlefields, share a similar ideology and vision for the world.

Actually, they don't. It doesn't make them easy to deal with by claiming that they do, but it makes it easy to mould our response to what we want rather than what they want.

We know the vision of the radicals because they have openly stated it -- in videos and audiotapes and letters and declarations and on websites.

First, these extremists want to end American and Western influence in the broader Middle East

Yes, they do. I wonder whether George Bush would welcome AQ if they wished to interfere in America's internal affairs; if, say, they wanted to set up a base in Oklahoma, perhaps occupy Texas and attempt to compel it to nationalise its oil industry. Etc.

There is nothing wrong with wanting the mostly unfortunate and bad influence of the West on the Middle East to be removed! Whether the Middle East would be better for it is a moot question, because what AQ want is to be allowed to decide among themselves what is right.

because we stand for democracy and peace

No, man, because you're killing them.

Because you're getting your mitts on their oil.

Because you support the people who keep the poor poor, the dispossessed dispossessed. Because you support an aggressively expansionist Israel, giving it weapons to kill Muslims with.

Because you don't "stand for peace", but rather have involved yourself in more war than any other nation on this planet, bringing misery and death to more places than any other. You're murderers, thieves and liars. I wouldn't want you in my street either.

and stand in the way of their ambitions. Al Qaeda's leader, Osama bin Laden, has called on Muslims to dedicate, their "resources, their sons and money to driving the infidels out of our lands." The tactics of al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists have been consistent for a quarter of a century: They hit us, and expect us to run.

This simply isn't true. Most Islamic "extremists" have been focused entirely internally in the past 25 years. Mr Bush may or may not recall the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. Those same "extremists" fought the Russians. Hey, George, remember? We helped them do it. They were our extremists then.

Last month, the world learned of a letter written by al Qaeda's number two leader, a guy named Zawahiri.

Was it though? There's no way to authenticate it. As I noted when it was in the news, it was rather convenient that Zawahiri said precisely what the Americans would like him to say. I'd like to see what a textual analysis of his letter would reveal.

And he wrote this letter to his chief deputy in Iraq -- the terrorist Zarqawi.

It's preposterous to call Zarqawi Zawahiri's deputy. He was a loose cannon.

I say was because there's no evidence that Zarqawi is actually alive. He is blamed for a lot of terror, usually before there has even been an investigation.

Interestingly, one of America's chief evidence's of Zarqawi's militancy is the Nicholas Berg video. But the guy they say is Zarqawi doesn't speak in a Jordanian accent (he should, he's from Jordan) and has miraculously, like a lizard, regrown his missing leg (he lost it in Afghanistan).

Bush continues to slander the opposition, etc etc, and many commentators have noted this. Apparently, you're practically a member of AQ if you think it was wrong to invade Iraq. The problem is, George, with the caveats I noted (about women and Jews in particular), I tend to find bin Laden's programme more acceptable than yours. You're both bloodthirsty warmongers, supported by vicious nuts who wouldn't hesitate to sacrifice me and mine to their "cause", in his case the Ummah, in yours the bottom line of your pals' corporations. But he at least wants me dead out of a sense of justice and equity.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Lying again

Anyone who thinks that George Bush is a man who is chastened by recent events and has decided that more lies would not serve his cause would have been disabused of that notion by his Veterans Day speech.

At this hour, a new generation of Americans is defending our flag and our freedom in the first war of the 21st century. The war came to our shores on September the 11th, 2001.

But it didn't. The war that America is fighting has been going on for a lot longer than four years. Often, Bush and his team are castigated for continuing to link Iraq to Al Qaeda by making out that their action in the former is part of a war on the latter. Clearly, it was not, but it is part of America's ongoing fight against the poor world, prosecuted to ensure that the rich remain rich and the poor poor, among other things.

But the poor guys having their arses shot off in Iraq are not defending America's flag or freedom. They are occupying another nation against all norms of international behaviour for several reasons, none very savoury. Top of the list is control of Iraq's resources, crucial to America, not just for the oil that will power its SUVs in the future but as a counterbalance to OPEC's badboy antiAmericans such as Venezuela.

That morning, we saw the destruction that terrorists intend for our nation. We know that they want to strike again. And our nation has made a clear choice: We will confront this mortal danger to all humanity; we will not tire or rest until the war on terror is won.

Bush relentlessly pushes a simple message. He knows it is still selling. The message is, terrorists want to destroy America.

But do they? They say they don't. It's key to understanding the various Islamists that their cause, their quarrel, is primarily internal. Their interest in America begins and more or less ends with America's support for corrupt regimes in the Middle East and elsewhere and its meddling in third world politics.

The Qutbista analysis of why it is fighting America does shift, but it centres on America's interventionism. It's the strand that connects Iraq and Palestine, Afghanistan and Indonesia. These are places where America has interfered in the Muslim world and not to the benefit of Muslims -- except for rich, cryptofascist dictators and their cohorts, who are rewarded by America everywhere in the world.

In the four years since September the 11th, the evil that reached our shores has reappeared on other days, in other places -- in Mombasa and Casablanca and Riyadh and Jakarta and Istanbul and Madrid and Beslan and Taba and Netanya and Baghdad, and elsewhere.

Has it though? It's important to recognise that the perpetrators of these acts are generally connected only by their religion, and not in any other way. It serves them to agree that they're AQ, and it's often claimed on Islamic websites that AQ is behind the acts of violence, but even in this age of the global village, making out even the slimmest of links among most of them is difficult.

It doesn't help deal with the problem either to ignore that we are not dealing with a monolithic group with one straightforward goal (to destroy whatever we think they're destroying this week: our values, "democracy", stuff -- nonsense when one considers that Jordan is not a democracy, nor Saudi Arabia, nor Morocco, nor Egypt, although some have elections from time to time for one thing or another, and few of the places bombed share "values"; far from it, President Mubarak would choke on mine). They are many different groups with overlapping but distinct aims.

In the past few months, we have seen a new terror offensive with attacks on London and Sharm el-Sheikh, another deadly strike in Bali, and this week, a series of bombings in Amman, Jordan, that killed dozens of innocent Jordanians and their guests.

I note the word "offensive", which implies a military action on a big scale. It calls to mind the Tet Offensive, which was a huge push by the Vietcong.

But these are isolated acts that happen to have come at roughly the same time.

All these separate images of destruction and suffering that we see on the news can seem like random, isolated acts of madness

It's notable that Bush combines "isolated acts", which they were, wit "random", which they were not.

One can only note that terrorists are "mad" to bomb our infrastructure, but we are quite sane to do it to them. What a difference a B52 makes!

-- innocent men and women and children who have died simply because they boarded the wrong train, or worked in the wrong building, or checked into the wrong hotel. Yet, while the killers choose their victims indiscriminately, their attacks serve a clear and focused ideology

Do they? What is it then? I note that neither Bush, nor Blair nor any member of their respective teams ever outlines what this ideology actually is.

I doubt Bush knows.

In one paragraph, this is what they want: having noted that the Islamic world is run by corrupt badboys, mostly supported by the Yanks, and seemingly ruined by them, with little hope of social justice for the people, Islamic intellectuals looked at two routes to renewal. One was socialism, the other a rebirth of Islam. What is important is the need for renewal, and the intellectuals' desire for greater equity. It's hard to discern through the reams of bullshit written about the Qutbistas that their ideology is fundamentally egalitarian, but at base it is (although, as we all know, what you build on your base can make the final structure very far removed from the foundations). Early Islam was thought to be the perfect society. Because Muhammad was the "perfect man", the way he lived is exactly right for a Muslim. He was honest, scrupulous, fair, just. This is what the Islamic renewalists wanted, still want. They came to believe that if you don't want the same thing, you are not really a Muslim, just as you could argue that if you don't go to church and worship God, you're not really a Christian. (There is a lot more to their programme of course, in particular centring around the two big divides in Islam: that between Sunni and Shia, which could perhaps be characterised as similar to that between those sects of Christianity that are structured with elders and popularly supported ministers and those with a hierarchy; and the other between strict monotheists and those who are a little more flexible (a common enough divide in all big religions; one could compare Buddhism and the divide between the strict antideism of Zen and the spirit-worshippers of Tibetan Buddhism.)

Yes, the occasional Qutbista occasionally mutters about winning the whole world for Islam, but this is rather uncommon, and is not a strong flavour in Islamism. Most Islamists want to regenerate the world of Islam, not conquer the nonIslamic world. They are realists in the main. Even bin Laden has realistic aims, nothing similar to those he is supposed to have.

-- a set of beliefs and goals that are evil, but not insane.

But what is evil? Is it evil to want to regenerate your nation, to want to free it from foreign influence and return it to what you believe was a happier state?

Is it evil to be willing to kill people to control their oil, for water, for money?

What exactly does bin Laden believe that's evil? His views on Jews are very ugly, and although Islam was progressive on women's rights in 700 (and frankly, would be today were it put into place in the Middle East), its beliefs now lag ours (beliefs are not the same as deeds though; Muslims point to the exploitation of women in our society and the downgrading of "womanly" activities such as childrearing and ask whether we're actually ones to talk).

Is it evil to think that the Sauds are not perfect for Saudi Arabia? Evil to think they have exploited their people for their own, and America's benefit, when they could have used the enormous wealth they have to benefit the people much more?

Fuck, I think that! Am I evil? I think that bin Laden's ideals would be a damned sight better for the Middle East than Bush's in most areas. His egalitarian, just society is a lot more palatable than Bush's devil-take-the-hindmost capitalism.

Adapt it so that it is fairer to women and less antagonistic to Jews (not a feature of Muhammad's thought but an accretion of the prevailing feelings of the Arabs) and I don't think it is such a bad vision. Yes, Islam has a whiff of convert or kill about it, but Christianity has a lot of burning flesh and dead "savages" in its past too.

Some call this evil Islamic radicalism; others, militant Jihadism; and still others, Islamo-fascism. Whatever it's called, this ideology is very different from the religion of Islam.

No, it's not. This is a simple lie spread by the Bushes and Blairs because, I feel, they are not interested in finding out what Islam is, its history and how it views the world.

This form of radicalism exploits Islam to serve a violent, political vision: the establishment, by terrorism, subversion and insurgency, of a totalitarian empire that denies all political and religious freedom.

Well, actually no.

It is radicalism, that's true. It seeks a rebirth of Islamic society. But to suggest it exploits Islam is to miss the point. It no more exploits Islam than Bush exploits democracy.


Was the Caliphate a "totalitarian empire"? No, it was not. It did not "deny all religious freedom". It was from time to time repressive of Jews, but not in all places and at all times. When times were tough, Jews tended to take the blame. That's a common theme around the world. A people who stand aside as a recognisable Other are going to be targets and scapegoats. People just aren't all that tolerant, no matter where you go. You can argue that they should be, and should have been, but they aren't and weren't. It's easy to direct antigovernment feeling into antisemitism. Hitler didn't invent the idea. The Caliphate allowed a fair amount of political freedom too. Here's not the place to discuss mediaeval politics but suffice it to say that the heavily centralised administration that is made possible by mechanised transport and communication at the speed of light was not possible anywhere in the Middle Ages and simply did not exist. Bush is mistaking absolutism, which was common to all parts of the world, for totalitarianism, which is a different thing.

When Muslims say they want to return to the Caliphate, they do not mean they want to return to empire in any case. What they are saying is that they wanted to return to a panIslamic ideal, a time when most Muslim lands were under one ruler, and had a commonality that transcended national boundaries. When one looks at the lives of the major figures of the high Islamic period, it's notable how they travelled, lived in different places and were accepted as part of many different societies. This wasn't because anyone forced the locals to accept them, but because the Ummah was a sort of commonwealth.

Indeed, the Qutbistas are absolutely opposed to totalitarianism. They oppose the Sauds, the Hashemis and they despised Saddam, whose regime could very much be described as "fascist" and which we supported, as we do fascists the whole world round, and will continue to do so as long as we allow corporations and not people to call the shots in our policy.

There was much more of the same. You'd presume Bush was ignorant, if you didn't know that he has speechwriters that deliver this stuff. Are they all clueless about what Islamists are and believe? Well, maybe. But they know for sure that a sophisticated discussion of what they are, what they believe, and what we are, what we believe would have Bush's arse kicked to the kerb as quickly as you can say "doing it for the oil". So the masses are fed this bullshit about global ideologies of evil while a global ideology of sacrificing human wellbeing to the making of dollars continues on its merry way.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Torturous choices

Torture's nothing new to us. The striking thing is we kept doing it after the war had finished. So tell me. Were we really the white knights in World War Two? Was the wholescale murder of civilians what the good do? Was it the only way?

When we are telling ourselves we deplore the torturers, we must remind ourselves of the times torture has been done in our name. When we deplore murderers, think about our murders. When we decry the gassing, the burning, the rape and the slaughter...

If I must die, then I must die. But I will never kill. And no one can ever claim to be killing for me. I deny them that right. Justify the start and you don't know what ends you are justifying. I say do not begin in my name.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Hard questions

When Cheney takes the stand when Libby is tried, how is he going to duck these questions?

Do the Bushistas feel he can answer them without damage? Will Fitzgerald be able to trap him in a clear lie? And then prosecute him for perjury?

Some on the progressive side think that Fitzgerald indicted Libby only for perjury not because he didn't have the goods on him for a breach of the espionage act, but because he is playing prisoner's dilemma with Libby and Rove. The deal is, they are offered a way out if they flip and give him Cheney. Whoever rats out Cheney gets off lightly, maybe even walks altogether, and the other is indicted under the EA. If neither does, both go down for perjury. Rove doesn't face a perjury indictment because Fitzgerald wants to keep the Bushistas guessing.

It's the sort of thing Fitzgerald is famed for but I think it might be wishful thinking on two counts: first, it's very possible that Fitzgerald simply doesn't think he can nail either of them on anything further -- it's not a matter simply of knowing they did it (we all know what was done) but proving it; second, Bush can simply pardon everyone involved before it gets to trial. There's some thought that Libby is angling for a pardon: he hasn't done a deal but his legal guys are looking at bringing in classified documents as evidence that the White House wouldn't want to see the light of day; the idea is that Libby's saying "I have you by the balls; pardon me and I let go". Libby definitely knows where the bodies are hidden. If he flips, Cheney goes down. Maybe, just maybe Bush. Bush is certainly dirty but he can just about play it the Reagan way: I just never knew anything about it.

I think if Bush pardons Libby before the trial, it's a clear signal that Cheney is dirty. Why else do it? The question is going to be, will they risk a trial that may or may not put the finger on Cheney, and have him face his own day in court, or will they rather admit his guilt through the mechanism of a pardon for Libby, which will have no legal repercussions for Cheney?

Reap what you sow

Why, when I read this, am I reminded of the skeleton army in Jason and the Argonauts?

Shake it, bake it, lie like fuck about it

When we're reading Pentagon sources lying that the Americans only used white phosphorus to illuminate battlefields, we should note that men that were involved say otherwise (pdf).

Will a member of the mainstream media ask the Pentagon why an army publication printed these guys' saying that

WP proved to be an effective and versatile munition. We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a
potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider
holes when we could not get effects on them with HE. We fired “shake and
bake” missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out.

and that

used improved WP for screening missions
when HC smoke would have been
more effective and saved our WP for
lethal missions.

Lethal missions? How is "illuminating a battlefield" lethal?

Will Judy Miller be asking that, should she ever get a job again as a reporter?

A democracy, if it is to exist at all, relies on the truth being known. Those empowered must be compelled to tell the truth to those who empower them. Without that, there is no democracy. I was horrified though not surprised to see that George Bush was standing by Scooter Libby, formally accused of lying. Bush claimed Libby had done great service to the nation. It's no service at all to lie to it, George.

But that's the way it is today. Even in the face of evidence that flatly contradicts the lie, they lie, and the media prints the lie.

The answer is no. No mainstream media outlet is likely to ask that question. Its reporters scarcely bother with investigation any more. They simply print what the government tells them. They are mini Pravdas, serving a state that no longer serves us, the people, if it ever did.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Buckle on

Reading this piece about how the media manipulated images of the 7/7 bombing victims to corral public support for repressive terror laws, something odd struck me.

"The floor was all buckled."

And I'm asking, buckled upwards or downwards?

Another eye witness said upwards. Would you say "buckled" if it was downwards? Wouldn't you just say "holed" or "there was a crater" without mentioning buckling? Or does a bomb drive a hole into the floor, buckling the floor at the edges of the crater it makes? I don't know. I'm curious.

Some tinfoilistas believe the Yanks laid on 9/11. I think it's plausible. The Yanks are very good at finding out whodunnit very swiftly after events have happened (they name al-Zarqawi as behind many bombings before any investigation has occurred) for people who are not very good at finding out the truth about anything. Naturally, any difficult to explain occurrence will attract its conspiracy theories. It's important to realise that you can accept a thing's plausibility without believing it is necessarily so. So I think, Al Qaeda plausible, CIA plausible, Mossad plausible. The evidence, such as it, supports all three possibilities.

And 7/7? Look, there are extremists who want to blow us to shit. I believe that. But is it possible that someone else did 7/7, even if unlikely?

Anything's possible...

More termination

Of course I do know that we don't all live in cosy, middle-class families, where we all talk about our feelings and work through issues together. I know that the pressures that apply to many girls lead them to feel it's impossible to tell anyone what's happening to them. If they do let people know they are pregnant, they are faced by a multitude of opinions, often conflicting, and they know that they may be stigmatised for their decision in circles that they are not equipped to leave. It's a lot easier when you're 25 to say fuck you to everyone who doesn't like it that you had a termination than it is when you're 15.

But I think the line I am drawing is between saying they don't have to know and they don't need to know. The danger in the debate at hand is that we tip over from the first, which protects the child, into the second, which hurts everybody.

Terminate the discussion

With the recent nomination of Samuel Alito to overturn Roe vs Wade... sorry, I meant to say, become a Supreme Court justice, the issue of spousal notification of pregnancy and its termination has again made the news.

I'm a staunch advocate of choice. I believe the decision to have a termination belongs entirely to the prospective mother. As in most things, I believe that decisions about your own body are private and inalienable.

But. I think there is a but. Telling your husband he has got you banged up should in most cases be a given. If you don't think you can, you probably need not to be married. The same goes for bfs. If you don't think your bf needs to know you're banged up, sister, you need to get a new bf.

This is just common decency. You don't need a law to make you do it. Your own conscience should be your guide.

Is this the same as insisting your man should have a say in whether you keep it? No, but I do believe he should have some influence on your decision. I'm not saying he should choose for you, or you should necessarily listen to him. But let's face it, it's a major decision in his life as well as yours. (Not to mention that if you insist it's all yours now, what's to prevent his suggesting it's all yours when you demand maintenance after you've split up?) Suggesting otherwise is ludicrous. We do not simply put our seed in chicks and then they have their baby. We make an emotional investment.

I've read some rank bullshit on this score. Some liberals yelling the odds, shouting that it's none of the guy's business. I can only assume those guys have never had a kid. It was my business from the get-go when I had mine. I would have been mystified to learn that my wife felt it was some private affair to which I wasn't invited.

When I was younger, a gf told me she thought she might be pregnant. She had been pregnant before and terminated it, and had been very hurt by her bf at the time, who had not supported her through the process. (He drove her to the clinic and then went to the pub.)

The pregnancy "disappeared" and no more was said about it. But I felt hurt. I felt that I had not been trusted with something that I should have been. I would not have asked her to keep the child, but not even being trusted to talk about it...

I hope Zenella does not get banged up in her teen years. I think teen pregnancy is more often than not a tragedy, not just for the mother, but for the kid. These days, it would be rare that the privileged had kids that young, so I guess I'm saying it's a tragedy that those least able to deal with having kids should have them. Arguably, yes, you could say that they have less to lose and more to gain. It's not as straightforward as it seems at first glance.

But if Zenella is unlucky, or stupid, or lazy enough to fall pregnant (and it can happen to the best of us -- I've no room or desire to be judgemental about it), I'd hope she'd come to me for support. Indeed, if she was still legally a child, I'd be obliged to support her.

So while I don't support legal measures to compel children to tell their parents, again I think it's something that a parent generally has a right to know. Yes, I understand that we don't allow compulsion because in some cases parents would pressure the child to abort a baby and remove from them their right to choose, but I don't think it's helpful to frame the debate in terms of a child's right to keep secrets from their parents. In other spheres, we bemoan parents' lack of ability to interfere in their children's behaviour, and yet here we are demanding that they should keep their beaks out.

I am sceptical too of the argument that a 14-year-old girl is fully competent to make the decision without the input of her parents. First, we do not believe that she is competent to decide whether she is ready to have sex in the first place, and second, often the girl has not been competent in using contraception, belying any confidence in her ability to decide what to do with the consequence (although, as I noted, this is a lack of competence that can afflict us all -- however, while accidents do happen, there's a world of difference between a slapdash approach to contraception on the part of someone who knows better and an underequipped youngster's not using contraception because she is not clear on the consequences or on the risks she is taking -- perhaps that is a different issue though).

So, yes, I agree that no one should be forced to share information about themselves, even with their parents, but I do not believe that the refusal to do so is laudable, or something to be encouraged. If we had protocols for doctors to urge advising parents, I would support them, and I would support doctors' being urged to ask why not in cases where children were not willing to share the information with their parents, and to direct them to real support -- in other words, "fuck it, there's a mother and baby school in town" would not be enough. They are children after all and rights are all very well, but the right to be protected has to be somewhere near the top of your list; it's bang up there on mine.

Child's play

I don't know how to think about this.

Something in me militates against regulating toddlers' play. Scientifically, I know that studies are mixed; some finding that early childhood education pays benefits, some finding that it can destroy children's desire to learn.

The problem is that no one approach is likely to fit all. Anyone who takes an interest in the theory of education is quickly impressed by how ineffective comprehensive schemes of education tend to be. I am so little convinced of the value of them that I consider school to be most useful as a venue for socialisation and acculturation, and simply for being with peers, and only as a distant second a place for actually learning. From my own experience, I know that I learned far more, and far more that was valuable, on my own initiative, both during my schooling and since, than I ever did at school. Some of the things I learned then meant nothing to me because of the way I structure my understanding of the world, and have only come to make sense since -- particularly in science, which is far too fragmented at high-school level to be much use. I learned about chlamydomonas and amoeba but not how they fit a broader system in biology. Or if I did, it didn't sink in. I know much more biology now than I did then, and I understand better what I know. I needed a far broader education than I received. Some kids need something much narrower. A common complaint was that they could not understand how what they learned applied to their world.

Standardised education makes a lot of sense to the beancounter mentality that prevails in the British government. In industry, if input is of quality A, and the process of manufacture follows carefully defined standards, the output will be of quality B. A and B are measurable and, within tolerances, will be expected to correspond. It works when you're making widgets because of course if the process is not varied, the outcome shouldn't be. What can affect the output is the quality of the tool used in the process, or its functioning. So the thinking in education is that if you feed in a controlled input, the output will be measurable in the same way it is in an industrial process. What's being ignored is that the process itself can vary -- kids don't respond in the same way to the input -- so that what you measure at the output -- the test -- is not necessarily commensurate across kids. Also, of course, there are other inputs. Just as some industrial proceses require a precise environment, and can be affected by changes in temperature, say, or by the introduction of impurities in an unclean environment, so kids are affected by their surroundings, and in particular, by their home environment.

Of course, there is another side to the coin. Zenella attends a kindy that is of very poor standard. It took us a while to realise it, and by the time we had, we had the dilemma of its being too late to switch her without upsetting her by cutting her off from the friends she had made. It's only a small part of her week in any case, and we keep her away more than we put her in. But we know that they don't offer good-quality childcare and if she were younger, we'd have moved her from fear that it would do her harm. I suppose you feel five-year-olds are more resilient than two-year-olds when it comes to that kind of thing. It wouldn't necessarily hurt if kindys like Zenella's were encouraged, or even compelled, to provide a certain quality of childcare. I know that the more libertarian among us would say, well, if you don't like their approach, move her somewhere else, but the problem with childcare is that it's too scarce a resource to allow much shopping around -- I mean to say it's a seller's market -- and it arguably harms a child to be moved from place to place. And, as I say, you don't realise after a few days that there's a problem. It gradually dawns on you. Kids of Zenella's age are not communicative about their educational experience (apparently, they cannot be; they don't generally have a good picture of "how my day has been" and consequently can't communicate it -- in any case what is salient to the child isn't necessarily as important to you as it is to them).

On a cross

I have mentioned the murder of Manadel al-Jamadi before now. His case is discussed in various places in the tinfoil hat quarter (which is increasingly looking like the home of reason, compared with the almost unerringly wrongfooted traditional media.

His story has now found its way fully into the mainstream, and it poses many questions, whose answers should cause us to look deeply into who we are and what we're doing in the world.

The most shocking thing about al-Jamadi's murder is not that he was crucified by a CIA operative, which I think we all know now is par for the course -- if you don't know that America is torturing and having tortured Muslims on a grand scale, you're not paying any attention at all, and quite possibly cannot or do not read, nor that the file on his case is sitting in a drawer with no action likely ever to be taken against the man who murdered him (just one more unpunished crime in America's long list through the past century of its engagement with the world, freeing people from "tyranny" and their lives), but that it ws probably not even illegal. America seems to have created a legal climate in which its operatives are entirely unrestrained by law, even if they torture people to death.

Bush threatens to veto any bill that carries the McCain amendment, reasserting the US commitment to not using torture. Threatens to veto a promise not to torture!

Is that who we are? Not the people who wouldn't stoop to torture but the people who refuse to give it up? Addicts of torture? Convinced that because in some ways it works as it promises to do (although it has deep negative effects that cannot be ignored as a counterweight to any beneficial outcomes) we must keep it as a tool in our war against the third w... sorry, terror?

Well, if we are, why pretend? Why pretend that we abhor the despots who use it? Why pretend that we are upset by Halabja? Why pretend that we care about Uday's bastinadoing footballers? Why not just admit that we are just like them?

There is no good or evil in this world, no infection that some have and some avoid. Only us. Only us and what we choose to be and do.

Poll dancing

If he exists, God bless Dover.

Fuck Kansas though. Redefine science so that it includes the supernatural and science returns to being a mishmash of halfbaked metaphysics and theology. I have no problem with children's being taught halfbaked metaphysics and theology but can we not have science be science? You guys don't even like science. Perhaps you should just not send your kids to our schools. Open up madrassas and teach them to be good little haters in them.

Fuck Texas too. Up the arse, of course. Why are those people so afraid of queers? Jesus would attend their wedding, you fucking eejits.

The Salvador option

If the bodies of groups of Iraqi men turn up in shallow graves, dressed in civilian clothes, and other Iraqis are seen being executed by men in military uniforms, which is the most likely explanation:

1/ that the men murdered were offduty soldiers, who were all hanging out together, and the murderers terrorists dressed up in military uniforms?


2/ that the men murdered were civilians, and the murderers American-trained special forces?

In El Salvador, the public supported the FMLN, the leftist insurgents. The US trained badboy rightists in techniques that they used to terrorise the campesinos, by brutally torturing and murdering them, with no regard for their actual involvement in the insurgency. The idea was to undermine the popular support by intimidation and encourage the people to comply with the American-backed government.

The American-backed government in Iraq faces an insurgency that has wide popular support.


Who are we? We say we abhor Saddam, his bullyboys terrorising the populace, torturing opponents in dark prisons.

We say we abhor him. But who's running Abu Ghraib now?

Who are we? We say we abhor tyrants who do not allow people to choose their own way.

We say we abhor them. But it's globalisation or death for the world. If you have the temerity to say "fuck off Yanqui", we start drawing up your death warrant. What odds Chavez lives five more years?

We say we are for good but what good are we doing.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

More lies exposed

Does anyone still doubt that the Bushistas lied? Some people do still say that they were simply blind to the truth but were sincere, but look, how much more evidence that they knew what they were saying wasn't true do we need?

I told you so will not unkill the hundred thousand dead Iraqis. It will not rebuild their country. It will not even bring justice, because these fuckers will skate, all of them.

When it's Iran's turn, or Syria's, let's hope that the American public are more sceptical of the lies they are told. It's a faint hope but it's all there's going to be between here and another bloodbath in a faraway land.

Life's a gas

So let's get this straight. Saddam was evil and needed removing from Iraq because he used chemical weapons?

In Iraq, Saddam is on trial for suppressing a revolt. At the same time, in America, Bush's legal boys have affirmed that he is immune from the law in pursuing his role as "commander-in-chief" and must be allowed to do whatever he likes in pursuit of the "war" on terror.

It's not for nothing we say the Americans don't understand irony.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Truth about terror?

If we read between the lines, what do we find out about the terror raids in Australia?

We learn that most of those arrested were not arrested for planning a terror attack but for belonging to banned organisations.

We learn that the media was tipped off. Very convenient that, because dawn raids make very good breakfast news.

What do we not learn?

What the plot is supposed to have been. Bar some vague stuff about railway stations.

What the evidence is. We'll never be told. The Aussies have learned from the British. You sweep up a bunch of undesirables, claim they were involved in some plot or other, refuse to discuss what the evidence was, and then wait for the press to lose interest before letting most of the guys involved go, and rendering some of the others to your pet torturers in Middle East shithole.

Dr Zen's cash is on the whole thing being at the most a question of some hotheads' blathering about blowing up Sydney rail station or maybe the Opera House. We know that the new powers permit the fuzz to pick up anyone who looks funny at the Harbour Bridge and visits a mosque.

Was it serious? We'll never know. We do know that our government are liars and cannot be trusted, and we do know that our press and TV are almost entirely supine.


Worst of all in the recent repressive legislation that Howard has pushed through is the confirmation that in the event of a "terrorist threat", the army can go onto the street and are permitted to shoot to kill.

So all it takes is for big Johnny to cry "Al Qaeda" and it's no longer safe for anyone with the wrong colour skin to walk the streets of Melbourne or Sydney?

Jeez, I should take care. This blog could be interpreted as breaking the new terror laws. A guy was deported for demonstrating against Halliburton. Who knows whether I might find myself on a plane for suggesting that our antiterror laws are much more useful for suppressing dissent than they ever will be for suppressing terror.