Friday, 28 June 2013

Outrage: Robert Spencer banned from visiting the UK

My comment at the New York Times article on this: [LATER: published here]
I have been reading Spencer for many years, and seen him in action in many  videos. He is absolutely NOT a "racist", "Islamophobe", "bigot", or whatever slur one wishes to throw at him. He is extremely well-read on Islam and he presents his views clearly and cogently in books and on air. I have never once seen or read of any view of his which would be deemed "hate" speech or incitement to violence.
He repeatedly says that what concerns him is: freedom of speech; freedom of conscience and equality of sexes and minorities.
In caving in to pressure to ban him, Theresa May is giving in to those truly who are truly violent and intolerant. It is those people who would have reacted to Spencer’s presence by violent acts against him.
Spencer brings a message; about violent Islamism. He's banned.
The violent Islamists, by contrast, are free to enter the UK and to preach their hate and incitement to violence. Muhhamed al-Arefe, who preaches wife-beating and other violence, has just been admitted to the UK.
So it seems that: if you advocate these violent jihadi acts, it's fine for you to enter the UK. If you oppose these violent jihadi acts, you're not welcome.
Shame on Theresa May for this decision.
BTW: why is it that the right to “freedom of speech” has to be couched in terms of "not creating free speech martyrs"? Can't those people framing it in those terms have the guts to say that it simply IS a matter of free speech? No need to apologise for that.

Petition here.
I'm interested to note that most of the comments, especially the "Readers' Picks", are against the banning of Spencer and Geller.
LATER: A snarky piece in the New York Times.  Check out the Twitter to-do between Spencer and the Hope Not Hate crowd.  Actually, I think that Spencer needs a better line in mockery. I'm afraid the tussle with HNH would be awarded to HNH on points.
The article says that EDL head Tommy Robinson is "claiming that Winston Churchill was “a outspoken critic of Islam.”". Well Churchill was an outspoken of Islam. I submitted following comment:
________________________

@"... claiming ..Churchill was “a outspoken critic of Islam.”"...

Churchill WAS an outspoken critic of Islam.  From  his "The River War", Vol II, 1899, p 278:

"How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries, improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live.  A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement, the next of its dignity and sanctity.  The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either asa child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.

"Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities, but the influence of the religion paralyzes the social development of those who follow it.  No stronger retrograde force exists in the world.  Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith.  It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step, and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it (Islam) has vainly struggled, the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome.”
_______________________

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Is ALL inequality a Bad Thing?


A mate sent me the above. And it certainly make the case against unequal distribution of income and wealth very powerfully.  In response, I sent this....

Good vid.  Makes the case rather better than the OWS mob at Zuccotti park. (and all their silly "mic checks" and "twinkles"...)

There's no doubt that income (and wealth) inequality in the US has widened in recent decades.. 

But is all inequality Not a Good Thing?  When I first arrived in China in the mid-70s, top incomes were about 300 yuan/month, and averages maybe 100/month. Very equal.  China's GINI index then would have been very low (ie "good"). Since then, incomes and income disparity have both risen markedly.  But you'd not get too many Chinese wanting to go back to those "more equal" days.  China's GINI index has gone up, but so has the happiness of Chinese people (generally speaking, of course... there are still many totally screwed by the system).

So, the question is not really that inequality is a Bad Thing: rather  how much inequality is reasonable and healthy?

I'm not sure we have an answer to that.  And even if we think that the current US income/wealth inequality is unhealthy, the question then is, what to do about it?  Given that Obama has not been able to get even rises in taxes on the rich. What then?  Confiscation?

In any case -- and this is going to sound like a Republican talking point -- the rich are not merely sitting on their piles of cash.  Once they have their mansions and super-yachts, what do they do with the rest of their cash pile? Answer: put it to work -- creating industries, employing people. [Witness the world's richest cool guy]. Would we rather have business people doing that, or the government?

Finally, there's the question of what has caused that rise in inequality.  Most on the Left say it's the reduction in taxes, especially on the rich, in recent decades. No doubt that's a part of it.  But only a part.  There's also the change in the structure of the economy.  In the US, there used to be great jobs in manufacturing and retail, that used to give folks a route to the middle class.  Now, both of those have been decimated (most recently retail).  That's structural.  And no increase in taxes will fix that.  

It's possible that some of these jobs will come back, at least in manufacturing, as the in-sourcing trend takes hold. (technology and rises in Asian wage rates).

Perhaps all this is sounding a bit like a counsel of despair..  But I have great faith in the flexibility of the US system and its people....  and not too much in the capacity of its government to do much more than set the rules then stand out of the way..

P

"Shias: The Arab Spring’s Latest Victims"

From the always-reliable Raymond Ibrahim:
The U.S.-sponsored “Arab Spring” continues to expose itself as a Sunni supremacist takeover.  While the indicators are many—from the al-Qaeda Benghazi consulate attack to the ongoing persecution of Christian minorities—attacks on Shia Muslims are also on the rise.  
In Syria, where foreign Sunni jihadis, supported and armed by the United States, are attacking all non-Muslims—Christians are prime and obvious targets, and reports of church attacks, abductions of Christians, and their slaughter are many—Shias, who are seen as “false Muslims,” are naturally also under attack. [My emphasis].
Read more...

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

"Snowden revelations won't change scale of US spying"

So Snowden has left our good city, for places as yet undermined, but likely to be Ecuador, though he remains, at time of writing, in a transit lounge in Moscow.
I think Hong Kong, and of course our motherland China, played the hand pretty well.
The US is huffing and puffing, but it's really the one at fault here: eg for spying on Hong Kong, on which it's responded naught.
A rather good article by ex diplomate Martin Murphy, below the fold, which makes some key points:
  • That this sort of surveillance has been known for a long time. So Snowden was just confirmatory, not revelatory. [Which makes me think that this "hero-villain" is more of a thief than a traitor].
  • That the surveillance is par for the course of any decent-sized power.  [what if there were another 9/11 and it was found that meta data had not been mined?]
  • That the US is the most transparent of any world power in its surveillance and its use of the product.
  • That the revelations won't stop electronic surveillance, by the US or anyone else. Spying is the second-oldest profession...
The article is below the fold, courtesy of the South China Morning Post.

"Obama to Egyptian Christians: Don’t Protest the Brotherhood"


As Egyptians of all factions prepare to demonstrate  in mass against the Muslim Brotherhood and President Morsi’s rule on June 30, the latter has been trying to reduce their numbers, which some predict will be in the millions and eclipse the Tahrir protests that earlier ousted Mubarak.  Accordingly, among other influential Egyptians, Morsi recently called on Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros II to urge his flock, Egypt’s millions of Christians, not to join the June 30 protests.
While that may be expected, more troubling is that the U.S. ambassador to Egypt is also trying to prevent Egyptians from protesting—including the Copts. [My emphasis].

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Remember Sarah Schulman?

From: Elder of Ziyon
No?  I thought not.
I wrote about her nearly two years ago, here.
To remind: she's the "veteran far-left Jewish lesbian activist [who] wrote an op-ed piece in which she introduced New York Times readers to a couple of unfamiliar terms.  One was "pinkwashing", which she defined as 'a deliberate strategy to conceal the continuing violations of Palestinians' human rights behind an image of modernity signified by Israeli gay life'".
I wrote a letter of rebuttal to the New York Times at the time and -- wonder of wonders -- they published it!...
But Ms Schulman seems to have been undeterred by my trenchant and insightful comments...
For she's been at it again, this time at a conference she ran recently at the City University of New York, at which, again, the subject was "Pinkwashing".  Oh, and 'Homonationalism" has been added to the brew of neologisms.
I came across this report today courtesy Google Alerts on Islam: Pinkwashing Islam and Anti-Israel Homophobia.
An earlier and longer critique of the conference is the redoubtable Bruce Bawer, here.
Dozy Bint...

Australia's views of China and the US


From the Lowy Institute survey of Australians' attitudes:

Today the Lowy Institute for International Policy releases the results of its annual Poll on Australian attitudes to the world.
The Lowy Institute Poll 2013 has found that more Australians of voting age (by a margin of over two to one) think the Coalition would do a better job than Labor on five of eight key issues: managing the economy, foreign investment, asylum seekers, the US alliance and national security. Labor leads on two issues: managing the relationship with China and the response to climate change. There was no clear difference between the Government and the Opposition on the issue of managing relations with Asia.
Despite most Australians seeing China as the most important economy to Australia, more Australians place a higher value on our relationship with the United States than with China. Australians still overwhelmingly support the US alliance, and support for basing US forces in Australia has increased to 61% (up 6 points since 2011).  
Meanwhile, sentiments towards China have cooled, its ‘thermometer’ rating falling 5 points, and 57% of Australians think that Australia is allowing too much investment from China.
Nevertheless, the vast majority (87%) say it is possible for Australia to have a good relationship with China and the United States at the same time.
There's a report in today's South China Morning Post, here, though it's behind a paywall..

Monday, 24 June 2013

What If We Never Run Out of Oil?

Ralph Wilson/AP
My hard copy of The Atlantic drops on my doorstep here in Hong Kong rather late each month, so I've only just go around to reading this fascinating article by Charles Mann.
Learn all about "tight oil" and methane hydrates.
It's ironic isn't it?
First irony: the US, which didn't sign the Kyoto Protocol (remember that?), has achieved larger reductions in CO2 emissions than any of the countries that did sign the protocol. And that's because they allowed fracking to develop, so far with no adverse effects, and so replace some of its dirty coal fired power stations with natural gas, which has about a third of the CO2 . 
As its proponents point out, fracking technology is not really new -- the US has been using it since 1947.  What is new is that they can no go deeper and horizontally, releasing resources that couldn't be reached before.  A side effect of going deeper, by the way, is that it's virtually impossible that deep fracking will affect drinking waters (one of the fears of opponents). [Later, 25 June: just heard on BBC Radio that a study in the US has found higher levels of methane and ethane near fracking operations].
Second irony: that instead of "peak oil", and "running out in our lifetime", as we've so often been warned, we may in fact be on the verge of a period of such production and resources that we will, as the article suggests "never run out of oil".

A counter argument to Charles Mann's, in the same magazine is Are Methane Hydrates Really Going to Change Geopolitics?, by Chris Nelder.
****
Later, 25 June: The internally linked article about Solar PV written in early 2011, is interesting.  It shows that the cost of solar is dropping sharply as production increases.  Looking at how those figures hold up after a few years, they seem not too bad. Eg, at the end of 2010 there was 40 GW of installed solar PV capacity.  Van der Leun estimates that even if growth slows to 25% pa, capacity will have grown to 320 GW by 2018.  In the event, installed capacity was 100 MW in early 2013, for a compound annual growth rate since 2010 of 58%.  Mind, 320GW still a very small amount compared with total installed capacity of 5,000 MW worldwide, but if the growth continues, and even drops, solar PV could be 18-20% of the total, by, around 2030.  That's my calculations; still, if anywhere near likely, we could realistically have a much more solar future, and who could argue against that -- not even climate change skeptics, if it's done by the market and helps clear the air.

"The Price of Loyalty in Syria"

Jehad Nga for The New York Times
I thought I'd posted this article by Robert Worth earlier, which I think I got to via New York Times alerts on Islam.
It's a fabulous article, long-ish, but repays careful reading.
The comments are interesting too, especially the "Readers Picks".  It's interesting; both Left and Right seem to have come to the same conclusion: that the US should stay out of the fray.  Yet Obama's going in with more weaponry to an opposition parts of which are truly barbaric.  The internet is rife with videos of beheadings, beatings, stoning of women, random shootings, bodies tossed casually into holes... like animals; or dragged along the streets.
There seem to be two arguments in favour of intervention: (1) Assad is a brutal dictator and needs to be removed; and (2) that there's a proxy war going on here between the US/West and Iran/Hezb'Allah/Russia.  On the first, the opposition is hardly going to be an improvement; indeed likely to be worse, with all its brutal Al Qaeda elements. We now recall those times, before the uprisings, when Syria was a pleasant peaceful land.  Basher time.  How many Syrians -- on all sides -- would wish for a return of those halcyon days!
And on the second point, the proxy war: so what?  Let them have it...  There's no oil at stake, after all, and in any case the US is about to be weaned off Middle East Oil, by fracking... [or methane hydrates].
This is a gross oversimplification, to be sure.  But there seems to be nothing to be gained -- even for Syrians -- by the US' intervention, as it may just prolong the agony.
It seems to me that Obama has been suckered it -- being tipped over the edge by Bill Cliton's mocking of him, saying he'd be seen as feeble and weak if he didn't.  But Syria's not Rwanda, which was weighing on Clinton's mind: his failure to intervene and stop the massacres.  And if that's the case, if Obama did feel forced into it, then shame on him.  Syria's is a multi-faceted, multi-sectarian battle, and for that very reason it ought be left to sort its own problems out.

Exoplanets explained


Next time we're sailing over the South China Sea -- to or from the Philippines, say-- and we look up at the so-clear sky and those wondrous strings of countless stars, consider this: that each one has on average more than 3 planets, say these brainy folk...  By my rough calculation the number of planets in the universe ("conservatively" they say) is 2 x 10^25, which is 2 with 25 zeros ("2 octillions"?).  And about a third are earth-sized. How unlikely is it that there's no other life out there?
The video explains how they find "exoplanets".  The site with plenty of other fun science videos is here.

Siding with the Oppressor: The Pro-Islamist Left

A new email from the One Law for All coalition run by ex-Muslim Mariam Namazie.  Very interesting, as it focusses on the issue that may puzzle many -- as it has me -- that is: why does the Left support repressive, misogynist, homophobic, sectarian, anti-Semitic Islamism...

Siding with the Oppressor: The Pro-Islamist Left

A new report by One Law for All entitled “Siding with the Oppressor: The Pro-Islamist Left” [pdf] exposes Stop the War Coalition, Respect Party, Unite Against Fascism and individuals such as Ken Livingstone and George Galloway and their agenda and methods.
This section of the Left uses accusations of racism and Islamophobia and a conflation of Muslim with Islamist in order to defend Islamism and Islam rather than out of any real concern for prejudice against Muslims or their rights, particularly since Muslims or those labelled as such are the first victims of Islamism and on the frontlines of resisting it.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Mainland Chinese women top the world in holding senior business roles

Zhang Xin, chief executive officer of Soho China Ltd., is one of China's top
business women. Photo: SCMP
An email from an old school chum reminds me to post this article, that's been sitting on my desk for some months. The article is behind a paywall, so I'll cut and paste it below the fold, with thanks to the South China Morning Post...

Survey shows more females in China hold senior roles than those in other economies
Friday, 08 March, 2013, 2:11pm
enoch.yiu@scmp.com
Mainland Chinese women topped the world in terms of holding senior business management roles, beating Hong Kong and other advanced economies such as the United States and Britain, a survey by accounting firm Grant Thornton International shows.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Russia: worst place to live?

Having just done a three week car trip in Russia, from Vladivostok in the Russian Far East to Moscow, I found this article interesting.
Russia is an appalling #30 in the overall results, with only Brazil, Chile, Mexico, and Turkey below it. If, as I would, you choose one factor from each of the four groups as your litmus test (income, health, civic engagement and life satisfaction, the four I'd say are most salient), Russia stunningly emerges as the very worst nation on the planet to live in, something that's consistent with the experience of many foreigners who live in Russia. Doing this, Sweden is the best place on earth, followed by Australia and the USA.  
Read more
The interactive chart on the OECD site is fun.  Australia comes out very well, as do the US and Canada; UK is the best of Europe, but Europe itself not a top performer...

LATER: a reader comment: 

So it the worst country on earth (out of 28 or so rich countries) based on the authors chosen metrics.
 Civic engagement and life satisfaction are both very subjective and hard to measure. Moreover I am doubtful about using USA's average income as a statistic. a tiny proportion of the population owns all that wealth.

Watch this:

"Elon Musk is the coolest rich guy on earth"

I've been following Elon Musk for some time now.  It's quite a story!  Immigrant to US from South Africa, computer nerd, entrepreneur, with his brother since pre-teenhood, father of many kids...  all-round polymath, and I agree with the headline in McLeans: "Elon Musk is the coolest rich guy on earth".
And look at the Tesla stock zoom!!  200% in 12 months!...

Nato Withdrawal from Afghanistan: it's a Loss not a Victory

One way to have peace is to give up fighting.  And that's what the Nato countries have done in Afghanistan.  This is in no sense a victory.  It is simply giving up fighting, as others -- Britain and Russia to name two -- have done over the centuries, finding the Afghan adventure just too difficult, too complex, too tortured and victory unattainable.
There was a fellow interviewed on BBC World Service radio here in Hong Kong yesterday, who pointed out the following:
  • ONE: That when the Russians left Afghanistan  in 1985 -- losing in other words -- they left behind an Afghanistan military that was well trained, an Army with artillery, an Air Force with planes and helicopters.  They were defeated by the Mujahideen within three years.
  • TWO; That when Nato leaves Afghanistan -- losing in other words -- they will leave behind an Afghan military that is not well-trained, an Army with no artillery, and an Air Force with no planes or helicopters.  
When asked how long he gave the official Afghan military, he squirmed, but indicated "not long".
How could it be long, when waiting in the wings are the battle hardened Taliban.
A Taliban who is now part of some so-called "peace process", which Karzai said is welcome to take part in any Afghan elections.  A Taliban that is a cypher for Al-Qaeda, our putative enemies -- indeed, the only enemies on the Islamist side who Obama will identify as such.
And yet, and yet, is it any surprise that we hear only positive sounds from those who manufactured and ran the war?
Like the head of Nato, Anders Rasmussen, who waxes all gooey yesterday, talking of the "pride of all Afghans" and of "victory". What tosh! He says that by 2014 "the combat mission will be completed".  Oh really?  What combat mission would that be?  To have killed as many civilians as combatants and to have handed over devastated and newly re-narco-tized country to the Taliban?
I'm sure there is indeed pride amongst Afghans, having again seen off the best of the west.  But it can't turn out well. Not when those brutes in the Taliban take over, as they surely will.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Sam Harris: Islam and the Misuses of Ecstasy

There are heaps of things I Don't Get.
Like: how do rubber-band manufacturers make any money?  We have a little box of rubber bands that we've had since before the Flood.  It's not got fewer bands, but more than when we bought it, as they're added to by the various bits that come through the door in rubber bands.  I don't get that.
And trolling.  Why is it that if you're on a website and happen to point out something that's not in the general drift of the philosophy of that blog, why is one immediately a "troll"? I don't get that.
I don't get why people convert to Islam. I certainly understand why people are Muslims when they're born into it; but not how one could read the Trinity of Islam and decide "yep, that's the religion for me!".
So I also I don't get, as Sam Harris doesn't get, the failure of folks to understand the dangers of militant Islam. Says Sam:  I have long struggled to understand how smart, well-educated liberals can fail to perceive the unique dangers of Islam....
Here are his interesting thoughts on the issue.

Be still, my beating heart!

Goodness me!  Here we are in Hong Kong, the centre of world attention.  For in our midst, lurking now unseen, is the World's Greatest Grass.  Edward Snowden, the guy who blew the lid off US electronic spying: either a traitor or a hero, takes your pick.
And... and the same time, he's been interviewed by Glenn Greenwald, who I feel I just about know, from reading him at length in the recent stoush he had with the redoubtable Sam Harris.  He's in town too!  Be still, my beating heart!
My own view of Snowden: rather more on the critical than the heroic.  There's no doubt he broke his contract and that in so doing, he has endangered his countryfolk.
This sort of thing has been going on since forever -- I was myself in intelligence assessment in the early 1980s, when we got regular "product" from the US's NSA.  It was called "Sigint", for signals intelligence, and I think even the name was classified then, as I think was also even the existence of NSA = "No Such Agency"...  We, then as now, and as the Europeans then as now, valued the product.  Not for its capacity to intrude into private lives, but for indications of possible dangers.  And that's even truer now.
When you think about this guy Snowden, what he's said in sum, is this: he doesn't believe the US has done anything illegal (it hasn't), but he doesn't like it because it might.  So he's stepping up to leak it all. But any possible intelligence that comes from meta-intelligence-mining that needs to dig into actual content of emails, still needs, as it always did, a court order.
In the US 56% of people support the NSA.
Interestingly serial "whistle blower", the New York Times, seems to think so too, at least from the evidence of columnists David Brooks and Tom Friedman.  (Though maybe it was just professional jealousy that they weren't the ones with the scoop..).
As to what will happen to Snowden: my guess is the US will seek extradition, that HK will go through the legal process, which will take a year or more.  And that, in the end, he'll be sent back.  2016 is my guess.  So he'd better find himself some comfy and cheaper digs than the Mira Hotel he was in before.  Settle in for the long haul, Mr Grass.

Wo Wo Woroni!

From Imgur
Woroni... now there's a name I've not heard in a long time.  It's the student paper of my alma mater, the Australian National University. I even wrote a couple of articles for it around 1969-ish, though blow me if I can remember what they were about.
The editors got into hot water a few weeks back with the publication of an "infographic" satirising Islam.  This was the last in a series that had previously satirised Catholicism, Scientology, Mormonism and Judaism. [The Islamic satirical infographic is above left]
It will surprise no readers that there were no problems with the others, just with the final one on Islam.  Some Muslim students complained and the Uni management got involved.  Vice Chancellor Ian Young said it "overstepped the mark" called for an apology and threatened to de-fund the paper if they didn't.  Woroni gave in, took down the cartoon and issued a kind of pro-forma apology.
One of Young's reasons for monstering Woroni like this, he said, was the violence after the Danish Cartoons and the Muslim riots in Sydney last year in the wake of the "Innocence of Muslims" video.
Three things here about Young's foolish censorship:
  • First, that it's a kind of condescension to assume that Muslims have such a poor grasp on their emotions that an infographic would cause them on masse to start rioting. [Farz Edraki makes a similar point in an otherwise dopey article in Crikey]  
  • Second: how does it work to say that you won't do something because you fear violence?  Doesn't that just scream: violence works?  
  • Three: isn't it rather obvious -- wasn't it obvious even at the time? --that this whole episode has only created more animus rather than lessened it?  The comments on the Woroni piece are pretty well all against the decision and are knowledgeably critical of Islam -- that is, doctrinally-based and experientially-based, not "Islamophobic" as Edraki, above, would have us believe.
Woroni covers the history and outcome of the issue rather well here.
One of the instigators of the inforgraphic has left Woroni as a result and posted a rather good-ish piece about the brouhaha on his blog -- though I rather wish he hand't had a swipe at supporter, the columnist Bolton, simply, one assumes, because Bolton is a conservative commentator.
A BTW:
One of the commenters on the Woroni site, a Muslima, claims the offending infographic is "wrong, wrong, wrong".  Actually, she's wrong.   Looking at the infographic above, and based on Islamic jurisprudence, as in the Umdat Al-Salik (linked at left):  Before the law, the evidence of a woman is indeed worth half that of a man's.  A woman is indeed expected to do all the work at home. A menstruating woman is indeed not allowed in a mosque. A male may indeed have multiple wives (though only four, if you're not the Prophet himself, so that's a small numerical error in the infographic).  There are indeed "doe-eyed houris" (virgins) awaiting in paradise (though 72 is said to be metaphorical, indicating "many").
So, on a matter of fact, the Vice Chancellor has little -- indeed nothing -- to go on, to suggest that the cartoon is "overstepping the mark".
A final note: I was rather encouraged by the tenor of the comments in the Woroni article, From back page to Front Page..."

Powering the world with clean power: Pipeline or pipe dream?

Sitting on this for some time now: Part I and Part II of articles in the Energy Policy journal, which put the case for the world to be powered by Wind, Water and Solar by 2030.  (An earlier version appeared in the Scientific American)
Delucchi and Jacobson argue that, while ambitious, the targets are technically feasible, and what's more we've done similarly large-scale transitions in the past: the WWII change from automotive to aircraft manufacture; the building of the US national highway system in the 1950s.
It would certainly be nice to believe that this is doable.  It would clear the air and once and for all put paid to all the arguments over CO2 in the air.
Technically they make the case: using today's technology, we could be carbon-free by 2030. So it's an issue of political will.  And there's the rub.  If something is put forward that makes clear just how huge the job is, indeed overwhelming almost, then -- unlike WWII when the enemy was clear -- it's unlikely to happen when the enemy, CO2, is still debated.  Around half of all people believe that it has nothing to do with global warming.
Here's a few examples of the scale of the task, just looking at Wind:
Delucchi and Jacobson call for 3.8 million 5MW Wind turbines.  First thing is that most wind turbines today are around 2-3 MW. Still, let's accept the 5MW.  That means 19 Million MW of installed wind power.  Today we have around 280,000 MW of installed wind power capacity.  That's asking us to build 68 times the number we have installed today. Or five times the current installed capacity each year for the next 13 years.
And then there's the land needed for that: anywhere from 50 to 150 square kilometres of land for each 1,000 MW.  That means the land needed for the 19 Million MW is 19,000 x 50 (or 150) = 950,000 to 2.85 million square kilometres.  That's an area between the size of Nigeria and the size of India -- or up to bigger than Europe and the UK combined -- which mankind is being asked to set aside for wind turbines. Given the grief caused by windmills today even for the global-warming-accepting Left -- not always simply NIMBY -- how can we expect that the globe will find the will to set aside such a vast area of land? (I'm aware of the pro-argument that the land between turbines can be used for farming, but that's far from a proven or clear-cut case).
In short, their case may be technically feasible, but politically and practically virtually impossible. I don't see how we can get away from adding nuclear to the mix.  Nuclear power stations are about the same cost as the equivalent wind power capacity (when you factor in the availability of wind, which is at most 30% of the time vs 92% for nuclear), and uses much less land (between 0.6% and 8% of the land).
A comparison:
Comparisons of Nuclear, Wind and Solar
Per 1GW
Nuclear Wind  Solar^
Cost $USM 6,400 6,700 21,000
Cost/MW $ $6.40 $6.70 $21.00
Area Sq Km 2.5* 100.0** 148.0

Selected Sources:
A path to sustainable energy by 2030
Nuclear power by the numbers
How much do wind turbines cost?
Wind power by country
Area occupied by Nuclear, Wind and Solar plants
Comparison of Nuclear Power Plants with Solar Tower Power

*   Average of 1 to 4 sq km
** Average of 50 to 150 sq km

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Bob Fowler with Zeinab Badawi on BBC's Hard Talk

Email letter to BBC:
I wonder if Zeinab Badawi*, or her producers, are aware of just how desperate she sounded in her Hard Talk with the diplomat Bob Fowler, to excuse Islam from any wrong doing, and to have Fowler accept the argumentum ad populum that Islam is a "Religion of Peace" which has been twisted or warped by the extremely small band of extremists, just like those who kidnapped Mr Fowler? 
I know it's a show called "Hard Talk" for a reason -- she has to challenge the interviewee.
But this went beyond that.  One could sense the desperation in her voice to try to make Fowler submit to the progressives' worldview of Islam: that there is nothing in Islam to be worried about -- it's just those tiny number of horrid extremists.
To his great credit Mr Fowler did not buy into that nonsense, and that made it a great, memorable and educational interview.  Well done Mr Fowler!
Peter F, etc..
*BTW: I'm a big fan of Zeinab Badawi.  But I just knew her views on Islam would be as those revealed in this interview. But what can she do?  She's brought up-- one presumes -- to believe those bromides, and now works in the Beebs !

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Multiculturalism, Child Protection and Sharia, LSE

Anne-Marie Waters and Baroness Cox will show that a multicultural approach, adopted by local authorities and other public authorities, to child protection is placing children in danger and creating parallel societies. Furthermore, the talk is going to topicalise sharia tribunals and their increasing authority in the issue of child custody, questioning the impact this has, and is likely to have, on the equal protection of children regardless of race or ethnicity.
Rest of report on the conference here.

Monday, 3 June 2013

"Western Cultural Suicide"

.... Why did the family of the Boston bombers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, even wish to come to Boston? If they really were in danger back home in the Islamic regions within Russia, why would members of the family return to the source of their supposed dangers? And if the city of Boston, the state of Massachusetts, and the federal government of the United States extended the Tsarnaevs years’ worth of public assistance, why would such largesse incur such hatred of the United States in the hearts of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar? Obviously, the Tsarnaevs had some sense that the United States was a freer, more humane, and more prosperous place than the Russia they left, but they also felt no love for it, felt no pressure from their hosts to cultivate such love — and believed that they could continue to live as Russian Muslims inside the United States. Did not the Tsarnaevs flee the Muslim hinterlands of Russia because they did not like the thought of things like pressure cookers full of ball bearings exploding and killing and maiming the innocent on the street?
From the pen of Victor Davis Hanson, an interesting article

"Aren’t Religion and Politics Both to Blame for War on Terror?"

I'd thought the entertaining stoush between Sam Harris and Glenn Greenwald had just about played itself out, but apparently not.
Here's a piece from Rounders and Rogues blog, that summarises the cases on each side.   I've only just browsed at this stage;, it's a longish piece, which appears to take a bit of an each-way bet.  But, who can say, maybe that's the right call.
I'll get to it later; posting it now for the record....
A BIT LATER: from debate participant, in Sam's corner, Robbie Bensinger (thanks for the link): "A dialogue between Hussain and Bensinger" (part II link at the end).

Kepler is dead. Long Live Kepler!

The Search for Habitable Planets: Kepler Mission
I was rather hoping that the Kepler mission would find an earth-like planet, with life, in my own lifetime.  Sadly, though, the mission is now lost.
But scientists are upbeat.  At a recent meeting at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the mood was "jovial", "festive", and "energized".
Read why here.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

‘The problem within Islam’: Tony Blair

This really got up the nose of the BBC.  That fact that a politician should draw attention to a problem within Islam.  Heaven forfend!
So, of course, the Beebs had to go into full attack mode.  Which I'm sure loved to do, for they always loved to hate the man.
They got a couple of women to comment on World Service Radio.  I didn't catch their names, but they pretty much forgave Islam for all crimes -- including the Woolwich beheading -- and put the blame fully on Blair, Britain, the US and the rest of us in West too.  It's just our foreign policy, don't you know.  Nothing at all to do with Islam.  Right....
My letter to the BBC just now:
Your interlocutors found Tony Blair "slopy-shouldered" for having the temerity to blame Islam for eruptions of Islamic violence including the Woolwich beheading. 
Instead they found his foreign policy the culprit.
But.... but... does that mean if we, the west, leave all Muslim countries, that peace with Islam would reign?
Assuredly not.
The 9/11 massacre was before any of the wars invading Muslim countries, as were the even earlier WTC and USS Cole bombings.
Sure these Islamic murderers quote western "occupations" for their deeds.  But they alway make sure to quote the Koran as justification as well.
It would be folly to assume that changing foreign policy is going to bring peace to the land. 
Bin Laden made that clear in his "for Muslim eyes only" statements, in which he said that the war agains the west could continue until we all submitted to Islam, or paid the Jizya tax, or were to be killed.  (He also made sure to include "grievances" such as the Palestinian issue, in his "for-western-eyes" statements).
Your interlocutors, with their clear contempt of Blair blinding them, exonerate Islam of any blame...
Yet if one reads even a fraction of basic Islamic doctrine -- the Trinity of Koran, Hadith and Sirah -- one finds plenty there to drive some Muslims to continuing violence against we infidels [whether or not we are "occupying" their lands].  That this may be uncomfortable to the BBC is no cause to downplay, let alone ignore it.
Shame on the BBC -- again -- on this issue....  Peter F.... etc..
**************** 
[EARLIER (1 June): Daily Mail article.  What's odd is that the comments read like those of Guardianistas, and not those of the customary readers of the DM, who don't usually take such morally equivalent lines: Christianity just as violent as Islam, and so on.  Even more startling: the support for those comments from other readers. What's going on?]
[LATER (2 June):  Robert Spencer takes Tony Blair's argument apart, here.]