March 2006

Geoffrey Chaucer hath a blog:

SCIANT PRESENTES ET FUTURI and alle those who maye linke to thys page, I Geoffrey Chaucer in the presence of the internette knowlechede thes wordes and typede them wyth myn owene fingres and thus I hereof appeale myn erstwhile freende and companioun Johanness Gowere that he ys a wanker.

..and he’s got blogge t-shirts. My favorite?


[Link thanks to Judith]

Via SFGate:

Borders and Waldenbooks stores will not stock the April-May issue of Free Inquiry magazine because it contains cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that provoked deadly protests among Muslims in several countries.

“For us, the safety and security of our customers and employees is a top priority, and we believe that carrying this issue could challenge that priority,” Borders Group Inc. spokeswoman Beth Bingham said Wednesday.

The magazine, published by the Council for Secular Humanism in suburban Amherst, includes four of the drawings that originally appeared in a Danish newspaper in September, including one depicting Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban with a lit fuse.

Islamic tradition bars depiction of Muhammad to prevent idol worship, which is strictly prohibited.

Actually, it’s not so much an Islamic tradition as it is an Islamic law. The riots against the cartoons were orchestrated by Islamic states in an effort to enforce their laws worldwide. It’s The Satanic Verses controversy redux (this time with extra violence)

I worked as a clerk in university bookstore when Khomeini put the hit out on Salman Rushdie. When we heard the news that bookstores were being threatened, the clerks got together and decided to make a stand for free speech by putting Satanic Verses in the window.

Our manager stopped us. She told us to take it down because a bookstore had been firebombed in San Francisco. We objected, saying that the best response to this threat is to put the book in every window – to diffuse the threat. Besides, this was a threat to free speech. Isn’t free speech what bookstores are all about?

She told us that if anyone was hurt as a result, it would be our fault.

That was one of the most blatant examples I’d seen of how terrorism is, literally, a hostage situation. A tiny group of radicals can hold large groups of people, even in free nations, hostage. All they have to do is is kill or nearly kill a few people, usually randomly and in a particularly awful way, then coast for years on cheap threats and intimidation.

This small group of intimdators could be easily overpowered by the millions of hostages, but in these situations the hostages nearly always cooperate with the intimidators. When they fight, they fight with each other. Most hostages follow and enforce the intimidators’ demands. They make dissident hostages or even potential rescuers feel as if they, not the terrorists, are endangering lives.

As we see in current efforts by the right and the left to appease or ‘reform’ the intimidators, the Stockholm syndrome is the norm. We spend much of our time bickering amongst ourselves, whining about which is the better strategy, appeasement or ‘reform’ – we spend little to no time discussing the weaknesses of the intimdators.

I guess Stockholm syndrome is just a sad fact of human nature, more of a bug than a feature.

Back in the bookstore, we took the display down but put it back later when the manager went home. The copies all sold the next day, nobody blew us up, but despite this, I still felt guilty about taking that ‘risk’.

Should we complain to Borders? As a former clerk, I’d guess that Border’s employees don’t any need more grief then they’re already getting. I think the best way to protest is to finance the very few non-Stockholm sydrome sufferers out there.

So support free speech advocates. Buy Free Inquiry Magazine. Get a subscription, sell a bunch of copies outside (maybe outside Borders?). Terrorism only works if we cooperate.


According to a report in Forbes, Saudi Arabia is working on a nuclear program with the help of Pakistani scientists:

BERLIN (AFX) – Saudi Arabia is working secretly on a nuclear program, with help from Pakistani experts, the German magazine Cicero reported in its latest edition, citing Western security sources.

It says that during the Haj pilgrimages to Mecca in 2003 through 2005, Pakistani scientists posed as pilgrims to come to Saudi Arabia.

Between October 2004 and January 2005, some of them slipped off from pilgrimages, sometimes for up to three weeks, the report quoted German security expert Udo Ulfkotte as saying.

According to Western security services, the magazine added, Saudi scientists have been working since the mid-1990s in Pakistan, a nuclear power since 1998.

Cicero, which will appear on newstands tomorrow, also quoted a US military analyst, John Pike, as saying that Saudi bar codes can be found on half of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons ‘because it is Saudi Arabia which ultimately co-financed the Pakistani atomic nuclear program.’

The magazine also said satellite images indicate that Saudi Arabia has set up a program in Al-Sulaiyil, south of Riyadh, a secret underground city and dozens of underground silos for missiles.

According to some Western security services, long-range Ghauri-type missiles of Pakistani-origin are housed inside the silos.

[link thanks to Harry's Place]


“Half of France was unfortunate to be downwind
of Pepe Lepue when he aired out his toxic armpit”

…more at V the K

In the International Herald Tribune,
Ayaan Hirsi Ali describes how Women go ‘missing’ by the millions

As I was preparing for this article, I asked a friend who is Jewish if it was appropriate to use the term “holocaust” to portray the worldwide violence against women. He was startled. But when I read him the figures in a 2004 policy paper published by the Geneva Center for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, he said yes, without hesitation.

One United Nations estimate says from 113 million to 200 million women around the world are demographically “missing.” Every year, from 1.5 million to 3 million women and girls lose their lives as a result of gender-based violence or neglect…

…Women are not organized or united. Those of us in rich countries, who have attained equality under the law, need to mobilize to assist our fellows. Only our outrage and our political pressure can lead to change.

The Islamists are engaged in reviving and spreading a brutal and retrograde body of laws. Wherever the Islamists implement Shariah, or Islamic law, women are hounded from the public arena, denied education and forced into a life of domestic slavery.

Cultural and moral relativists sap our sense of moral outrage by claiming that human rights are a Western invention. Men who abuse women rarely fail to use the vocabulary the relativists have provided them. They claim the right to adhere to an alternative set of values – an “Asian,” “African” or “Islamic” approach to human rights.

This mind-set needs to be broken. A culture that carves the genitals of young girls, hobbles their minds and justifies their physical oppression is not equal to a culture that believes women have the same rights as men.

Three initial steps could be taken by world leaders to begin eradicating the mass murder of women:

A tribunal such as the court of justice in The Hague should look for the 113 million to 200 million women and girls who are missing.

A serious international effort must urgently be made to precisely register violence against girls and women, country by country.

We need a worldwide campaign to reform cultures that permit this kind of crime. Let’s start to name them and shame them.

[link thanks to Charles at LGF]


..when they’re defending the status quo.

Andrew Apostolou, guest blogging at Michael Totten’s, reports that Reza Mortadi, a 29 year old Iranian, was “summonsed by the Police and charged following complaints made at the “March for Free Expression.”

Here’s Mr Mortadi, allegedly breaking British law.

Via Harry’s Place:

Moradi is, apparently, being prosecuted for holding the MoToon poster…

Meanwhile, I look forward to the trial. If we do not defend Iranian communists – who have first hand experience of theocracy – when they are arrested for protesting against political ideologies in religious clothing, then we have no right to call ourselves Leftists.

The police certainly acted quickly this time.


More here and here.

.. be posting pictures soon, but I’m sorry to say that I’ve got no underwater shots.

I discovered an interesting fact about water pressure – the single-use cameras I’ve been using to take pictures while snorkeling won’t function (or sometimes fall apart) below a certain depth. Fortunately, other divers warned me about this before I brought my camera down. Until I get a camera that can function at depth, I can’t post decent fish pics.

A short list of the fish shots I missed: we saw arrow crabs hiding in a tube sponge; big and little hermit crabs, a sea cucumber (found by our dive instructor, Tom Lee). We watched an octopus do what it does best, transmigrate from one state of existence (a whiteish blobby beast hanging onto a rock) to another (a dark-hued streamlined swimmer). We found a puffer fish, but despite our best efforts he refused to puff.

We found a cleaner shrimp hiding in an anemone. Fish keep themselves clean by stopping by ‘cleaning stations’, where animals like the tiny shrimp eat the bacteria and dead skin off them. It’s a living.

The fish in Cozumel tend to be bigger than average. Like big Americans, their size seems to be due to a bountiful supply of food and a pleasant, safe environment. We saw a ginormous red snapper, many hulking angel and parrotfish.

..and yes, I got over my dive-induced claustrophobia and moved up in the dive hierarchy thanks to the patient efforts of Tom Lee. If you have a tendency to feel ‘closed in’ by lots of heavy equipment, I’d recommend a slower-paced course, where you can swim around the pool for awhile and get used to things. The first few minutes before the dive, when I’m weighted down with a tank on my back still bother me, but once I’m in the water, the feeling of being closed in is replaced by the sensation of flying. When I was a kid, I’d have a recurring dream of flying through Grand Central Station. Swimming above the coral canyons is as much like flying as – flying. I’m trying to get the hang of doing spins and loops.

More about Cozumel when I get the photos together…


No blogging for a few days – I’m heading down to Cozumel in an attempt to get my scuba certification.

..and to see lots of little fishies.

Tony Blair explains it all..

This terrorism will not be defeated until its ideas, the poison that warps the minds of its adherents, are confronted, head-on, in their essence, at their core. By this I don’t mean telling them terrorism is wrong. I mean telling them their attitude to America is absurd; their concept of governance pre-feudal; their positions on women and other faiths, reactionary and regressive; and then since only by Muslims can this be done: standing up for and supporting those within Islam who will tell them all of this but more, namely that the extremist view of Islam is not just theologically backward but completely contrary to the spirit and teaching of the Koran…

…his is not the place to digress into a history of what subsequently happened. But by the early 20th century, after renaissance, reformation and enlightenment had swept over the Western world, the Muslim and Arab world was uncertain, insecure and on the defensive. Some countries like Turkey went for a muscular move to secularism. Others found themselves caught between colonisation, nascent nationalism, political oppression and religious radicalism. Muslims began to see the sorry state of Muslim countries as symptomatic of the sorry state of Islam. Political radicals became religious radicals and vice versa. Those in power tried to accommodate the resurgent Islamic radicalism by incorporating some of its leaders and some of its ideology. The result was nearly always disastrous. The religious radicalism was made respectable; the political radicalism suppressed and so in the minds of many, the cause of the two came together to symbolise the need for change. So many came to believe that the way of restoring the confidence and stability of Islam was the combination of religious extremism and populist politics.

The true enemies became “the West” and those Islamic leaders who co-operated with them.

The extremism may have started through religious doctrine and thought. But soon, in offshoots of the Muslim brotherhood, supported by Wahabi extremists and taught in some of the Madrassas of the Middle East and Asia, an ideology was born and exported around the world.

The worst terrorist act was 9/11 in New York and Washington DC in 2001, where three thousand people were murdered. But the reality is that many more had already died not just in acts of terrorism against Western interests, but in political insurrection and turmoil round the world. Over 100,000 died in Algeria. In Chechnya and Kashmir political causes that could have been resolved became brutally incapable of resolution under the pressure of terrorism. Today, in well over 30 or 40 countries terrorists are plotting action loosely linked with this ideology. Its roots are not superficial, therefore, they are deep, embedded now in the culture of many nations and capable of an eruption at any time.

The different aspects of this terrorism are linked. The struggle against terrorism in Madrid or London or Paris is the same as the struggle against the terrorist acts of Hezbollah in Lebanon or the PIJ in Palestine or rejectionist groups in Iraq. The murder of the innocent in Beslan is part of the same ideology that takes innocent lives in Saudi Arabia, the Yemen or Libya. And when Iran gives support to such terrorism, it becomes part of the same battle with the same ideology at its heart.

True the conventional view is that, for example, Iran is hostile to Al Qaida and therefore would never support its activities. But as we know from our own history of conflict, under the pressure of battle, alliances shift and change. Fundamentally, for this ideology, we are the enemy.

Which brings me to the fundamental point. “We” is not the West. “We” are as much Muslim as Christian or Jew or Hindu. “We” are those who believe in religious tolerance, openness to others, to democracy, liberty and human rights administered by secular courts.

This is not a clash between civilisations. It is a clash about civilisation. It is the age-old battle between progress and reaction, between those who embrace and see opportunity in the modern world and those who reject its existence; between optimism and hope on the one hand; and pessimism and fear on the other…

..more at Harry’s Place

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