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9/11

146
Elilstita
02-11-2009
05:12 AM ET (US)
Interesting and informative, but would be suffering with something more on this topic?
145
Marijanus
10-21-2007
06:02 PM ET (US)
Hello!
 
Impressive webpage! I like it a lot! I'm looking forward to the next update
very thanks
Michael Kulbarsch
berirtrerejas
144
askanyquestions123
09-11-2007
03:25 AM ET (US)
Visit
http://workfromhomedesk.blogspot.com
143
Martyn Taylor
04-06-2006
10:07 AM ET (US)
On 5th April 2006 a 23 year old phone salesman from Hartlepool (anyone who knows it will understand the significance of being 'from' Hartlepool, they hang monkeys as German spies there - still) was prevented from boarding a flight from the elegantly named Durham Tees Valley Airport to Heathrow, questioned under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and delayed so that he missed his flight.
What put the authorities on to this potential Robert Reed? (apart, that is, from his being a young man of Indian origin who, as will emerge, obviously fancied himself as one humorous dude) In his taxi, on the way to the airport, Harraj Mann asked the cabbie to play LONDON CALLING by The Clash - you know, 'London calling from the faraway towns. War is declared and battle come down.'
While this may not be quite as stirring a call to arms as RIDE OF THE VALKYRIES by that well known friend of peace everywhere and democracy, the Master of Bayreuth (that's Bayreuth not Beiruit) Richard Wagner, it is to be accepted that The Clash haven't been getting played much on Radio Cleveland these last thirty years. Who, in their right mind, is going to believe that a Muslim terrorist is going to ride to Paradise to the strains of an anthem by a gang of gap toothed London punks (or sharp dressed young men, if you include Paul Simenon) Guys, listening to pop music is against their religion! Especially WESTERN pop music.
Mr Mann is of Indian origin, brown skinned and most likely Hindu - if anything - and what is the difference between him an an olive skinned Muslim from Arabia? I mean, to a policeman one wog is the same as another.
Somewhere, Joe Strummer is choking on his Guinness, but isn't surprised.
Safety, as we all know, is paramount, but, once again, I'm reminded of that ancient Greek aphorism - those who the gods wish to destroy they first make mad.
Mind you, Mr Mann's taste in music is questionable. Rock the Casbah indeed!
142
Deleted by topic administrator 02-22-2006 12:01 PM
141
Jonathan Vos Post
12-09-2005
08:52 PM ET (US)
Charlie, please let me know if I'm abusing your hospitality and bandwidth.

I thought it interesting to read:

The United States Air Force [new] Mission Statement, which reads "The mission of the United States Air Force is to deliver sovereign options for the defense of the United States of America and its global interests -- to fly and fight in Air, Space, and Cyberspace." They define their own terms on that web page.

That's not the usual lamp post, is it?
140
Jonathan Vos Post
12-05-2005
07:40 AM ET (US)
God was unavailable for comment on the following story, somewhere on the front of the War on Christmas...

U.S. Unprepared for Attack, 9/11 Panel Says
By HOPE YEN, Associated Press Writer
4 minutes ago
 
WASHINGTON - The former Sept. 11 commission is giving Congress and the White House poor marks on protecting the U.S. against an inevitable terror attack because of their failure to enact several strong security measures.

The 10-member panel, equally divided between Republicans and Democrats, prepared to release a report Monday assessing how well their recommendations have been followed. They say the government deserves "more F's than A's" in responding to their 41 suggested changes.

"People are not paying attention," chairman Thomas Kean, a former Republican governor of New Jersey, said Sunday. "God help us if we have another attack...."
139
Martyn Taylor
11-23-2005
10:26 AM ET (US)
Let's be honest - the 'terrorists' of George Bush's fantasies are not terrorists because the object of the terrorist excercise is the inculcate a sense of terror in the host population without actually doing anything and achieve political change that way - go read the handbooks about terrorism, they are there to be read. Al Quaida and the Iraqi insurgents aren't terrorists - how much more terrorised can those poor people be? - whatever else they may be, but what sort of casualty is the language when the American government appears prepared to ride rough shod over every law - national and international - including their own Constitution and for what? The election of brother Jeb next time around?

Read Sun Tsu. Know your enemy, and don't give him what he wants or expects. It is clear that the American government does not know their enemy and seems intent on giving him exactly what he wants. Bush is a Bourbon, plain and simple.

The really worrying thing is that some of the jihadists really do want to destroy our way of life, and it is a sad little truism that the only real, sure defence of freedom is freedom. I had the distasteful experience last night of watching an apologist for the American administration defending the prospect of bombing Al Jazeera for the crime of daring to oppose the administration line. Watch out all you guys at the Guardian and Liberal Party HQ. Al Jazeera today, the Quai D'Orsay tomorrow. Voltaire may have been French, but he was still right.
138
Jonathan Vos Post
11-22-2005
01:40 PM ET (US)
And for postmodern approaches to combating "bad guys" consider:

Kill or cure: the smallest help must wait till we've conquered our fear of grey goo
Nanomaterials may have the power to save millions of lives, if scientists can manage the potential risks
By Keith Rodgers in San Francisco

Published: 20 November 2005

"... Just because something has a potential to reduce our privacy, it is not necessarily 'bad'," says Dr Lin. "We need to weigh the benefits of that technology (eg nanosensors that protect us by sniffing out minute traces of biochemicals) or competing interests (eg safety)...."
137
Jonathan Vos Post
11-22-2005
01:30 PM ET (US)
A recent arrest in the USA had a heavily armed suspect who possessed sarin. And in Japan:

NPA deputizes Yahoo in hunt for five fugitives

The National Police Agency is placing wanted posters on the Yahoo Japan Web site regarding five suspects.

The five include three Aum Shinrikyo fugitives -- Makoto Hirata, 40, Katsuya Takahashi, 47, and Naoko Kikuchi, 33.

Takahashi and Kikuchi are wanted over their alleged involvement in the March 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system....
136
zornhau
11-21-2005
09:08 AM ET (US)
Try neutral constructions such as, "Enemies of Westernism" perhaps.

BTW Just how many members of that Victorian invasion of Afghanistan made it back to India? One wasn't it?
135
Charlie StrossPerson was signed in when posted
11-21-2005
07:56 AM ET (US)
Alex: agreed, forming policy by reference to Clancy novels is bad -- haven't these guys heard of history books? (The old saw about "those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it" springs to mind, especially in the context of, e.g., attempts to pacify Afghanistan ...)

Z: yes, but bear in mind I was trying to avoid treading on certain bunions that the people I'm trying to reach are sensitive about. Hence the circumlocution, use of the near-meaningless placeholder term "terrorist", and so on.
134
zornhau
11-21-2005
07:03 AM ET (US)
I think we should stop using the term "Bad Guys".

The term downplays the threat by conjuring up images of Bond Super Villains and easy-to-shoot black hats and Imperial Storm Troopers.

By adding a moral dimension, it also hints that Good Will Triumph and that God Will Smite the Evil doors.

Worse, the term tends to sidetrack practical discussions into debates about relative morallity. In a Post Modern intellectual world, there are no moral absolutes, and it's distasteful and hubristic to sit in judgement on other people and cultures, some of whom may only be guilty by association, or by proximity to the target area.

Instead, let's be honest and just say "enemies".

They're often idealistic and heroically self sacrificing, with genuine tales of woe, and a realistic understanding of the West's contribution to their plight. They're often intelligent educated people with experience of the wider world.

We'd rather debate with them over a beer. But since they want to kill us and destroy our civilisation, they are our enemies. That alone should be enough to concentrate our minds.
133
Alex@TYR
11-21-2005
06:27 AM ET (US)
I've blogged (http://yorkshire-ranter.blogspot.com/2004/...hese-operation.html) before that it worries me when the rulers of the world appear to be framing their policy by reference to Tom Clancy novels. At least Kahn had marginally more class than that.

Worryingly, the effects of policy-by-Clancy seem to be a world-by-Ballard, whether in empty-world/apocalypse or Orwellian techno-dystopia mode.
132
L. Nemo
11-19-2005
06:51 PM ET (US)
A bioweapon has been used in the US. In 1984 in the Dalles Oregon a cult used samonella in a salad bar to try to influence the outcome of a county election. This allowed for a more targeted attack and a slower and harder to pinpoint attack.

http://archives.cjr.org/year/01/1/grossman.asp
131
Jonathan Vos Post
11-19-2005
06:42 PM ET (US)
Sir Arthur C. Clarke wrote: "Politicians should read science fiction, not westerns and detective stories." Should we really prefer that politicians, including the dark side of ideolgues who incite terrorism, follow Sir Arthur's suggestion?

I know from extensive personal contact that Herman Kahn was deeply into science fiction (and a friend of Heinlein) when he defined USA nuclear policy. Aum Shinrikio seemed influenced by science fiction, and there is the meme about "The Foundation Trilogy" influencing Bin Laden and Al Queda. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were, perhaps, overly influenced by Westerns (film and TV, not books). Governor Schwarzenegger is influenced by sci-fi. Saddam Hussein wrote (or had ghosted) a Romance-Adventure novel. I don't want to split hairs on defining "thriller" and "technothriller" but I think that Mr. Stross has hit the nail on the head here.
130
Charlie StrossPerson was signed in when posted
11-19-2005
04:38 PM ET (US)
The "bad guys" are a movable feast. (Who's bad? Osama bin Laden? The guys who are currently force-feeding two or three hundred hunger strikers in Gitmo and torturing prisoners for the CIA in Poland?) Anyway, the ones to worry about probably have enough imagination and expertise that they don't need to trawl the web for ideas.

Suffice to say, I wouldn't be talking about stuff like dimethyl mercury if I thought it remotely likely that I'd be giving ideas to someone who was competent to use it but wouldn't otherwise think of it.

The fact is, most people who turn to terrorism as a tactic are lazy -- lazy at a deep, existential level, lazy enough that scaring the shit out of people seems like an easier route to success than spending thirty years campaigning with a ballot box and a megaphone. But that's another rant ...
129
Carl Feynman
11-19-2005
12:03 PM ET (US)
I deleted this message because I decided it was too useful to the bad guys.
Edited 11-19-2005 12:12 PM
128
wkwillis
11-19-2005
09:47 AM ET (US)
My posting was contentious. I don't think I should post till half an hour after I've had something to eat and gotten my blood sugar up.
127
wkwillis
11-19-2005
09:15 AM ET (US)
You ought to get out and meet more different kinds of people. You talk like someone who thinks the world is full of smart, curious, literate, interesting, and competent people. People like you and your associates.
Security through obscurity does not work on your kind of people. Then there are the others. Security through obscurity works very well on most (99%) of humanity. I do not exaggerate. Most people in the world don't know what an LD50 is, or why mercury is more lethal in different forms, or well, basically anything outside their daily life.
126
Dave Bell
11-18-2005
08:37 PM ET (US)
At a slight tangent to all this, you can just about sing "Bouncing the rubble" to the phrase "Waltzing Matilda".
125
kstop
11-18-2005
02:42 PM ET (US)
With fallout, it's radioactive decay which releases the energy that does the damage (which is a nuclear reaction, not a chemical one, obviously).

Chemical weapons use chemical reactions, nuclear ones use nuclear ones (whether it's the chain reaction of a fission bomb, or spontaneous decay of scattered material in the case of the hypothetical dirty bomb).

Also, it might be more true to say that winners have a habit of declaring losers to be evil, or morally or socially deficient, after the fact, in order to make their defeat seem like it was inevitable and justified. A kill'em'all mentality worked fine on aboriginals in the Americas, in terms of getting to be the ones still here today.
124
Mark
11-18-2005
11:31 AM ET (US)
In the end they always loosed or we wouldn't be here tooday. Society would never have evolved. So more "overall" (In the end). Good is better then Evil so Ha!

I'm talking about the nuclear fallout of radiation.
Edited 11-18-2005 11:37 AM
123
Charlie StrossPerson was signed in when posted
11-18-2005
11:29 AM ET (US)
the evil always loose. [sic]

Rubbish.

couldn’t a nuclear weapon be considered a chemical weapon?

Only to the same extent that a bow and arrow could be considered a biological weapon because the bow is made of wood.

(Which is to say, that's a really silly statement.)
Edited 11-18-2005 11:31 AM
122
Mark
11-18-2005
11:19 AM ET (US)
Mark Williams Pontin:

The Civil War was meant to dissuade the South from breaking from the Union thus creating the Republican party in the process. A Republic-nationalistic minded party under Lincoln. Actually the war was declared because of the succession of the South from the Union; although slavery was a mobilizing factor.

An overall 'Kill ?em all mentality' is reserved for the vanquished because, in the end, the evil always loose.
What is extremely disturbing to me, is most Republicans today sounding allot like their defeated counterparts from that war. War is not meant to break and destroy things it?s meant to stop the other side from breaking and destroying things. When did these people get the idea that one such object is evil over another. Even Jesus taught against this. Also we have the Army Core of Engineers that builds as much as they might destroy.
The Democrats do have a hint of, what I call, Reverse Imperialism though but I?m not sure.
In the end, extreme measures were taken, in those wars you described, not as a rational for the means, but a justification for the end. The end doesn't constitute a readiness of a complete slaughter/mind control of everyone on the face of the planet. Hitler Japan etc.
I am not a person who thinks warring is automatically evil. There are fun wars like in video games - books or wars that promote competition and growth or disable a disturbed enemy. Mental and physical.
I think it's called something like 'all means necessary' or something Wesley Clark was touting; but what was his plan??? That's what a good officer of the law or Knight does. Deterrence or preventive measures. Chivalry. The pen is mightier then the sword, sometimes.

That's fine if some Republicans think dancing in the dessert is a deterrent but they have categorically not proved it yet.

Also, couldn’t a nuclear weapon be considered a chemical weapon?
Slaughter of the last 100 years has never been scene throughout history. So there is a balancing error here. Plus we have so much more ability for preventative measures now with things like the Internet. By closing information we would be limiting our deterrent capability. Example: Not letting Iran use nuclear material for peaceful purposes. Another example of looking under the lamppost. Plus I think Iran should take over Iraq anyway. They’re pretty much the same and would cause more stability.

NOTE:
Ah, I think I am getting punctuation errors from my editor. I'm on a Linux box using OpenOffice.
Edited 11-18-2005 11:21 AM
121
Dave Bell
11-18-2005
03:31 AM ET (US)
No one outside Northern Ireland, and quite a few other terrorism hotspots. And the fertisliser/fuel mixtures are used as commercial explosives; I recall the process being shown on Blue Peter.

Another recollection: a book called The Bulletcatchers, about the bodyguard business, which included an account of the truck-bomb attack on the USMC in Beirut. Apparently, a senior British diplomat (the Ambassador?) was visiting the location, and his bodyguard, a British military policeman, recognised what was about to happen. What I recall is that the British Embassy was set up so that a truckload of anything couldn't easily drive in, but the USMC base was effectively wide open.

Of course, being in Britain, I expect I get the "stupid Yanks" versions of these stories; the officer commanding British naval forces in the Kuwait war had a few sharp comments about how the USN kept forgetting the minesweeping when they made their plans.

Which does make me wonder if there's something a bit more fundamental to the whole sorry mess than a few arrogant American politicians.

Anyway, while you can't reasonably plan for every possible attack, the US seems to have switched from "It can't happen here!" to standing on the kitchen chair, screaming "Thomas!", when the problem might be cochroaches rather than mice.
120
S. F. Murphy
11-17-2005
09:52 PM ET (US)
Well, no one imagined fertilizer bombs either used in the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995.

Whatever it is that terrorists use, it will be a common place item that has an obscure destructive use when combined with the right elements.

Having said that, these days I'm more worried about Bird Flu than Osama.

Respects,
Steve
Northtown, Missouri
119
Mark Williams Pontin
11-17-2005
06:54 PM ET (US)
Charlie;

[1] You write: 'I was talking specifically about chemical warfare. Bioweapons are a completely different can of worms.'

Dude, you did write CBW in your post. However, see below ...

[2]You write: "bioweapons and chemical weapons are Not The Same. Conflating the two is a category error. (Chemical weapons don't self-replicate and mutate ...)'

Agreed, chemical weapons don't self-replicate and mutate. Unfortunately, while I used to assume the same thing as you, I made no category error. There's a continuum: the revolution in TARGETING SPECIFICITY we are seeing in pharmaceuticals - chemicals - is absolutely portable to bioweapons.

For a good summation, see this paper by British scientist-arms control specialist Malcolm Dando, called "Scientific and Technological Change and the Future of CWC: the Problem of Non-Lethal Weapons."

http://www.unidir.ch/pdf/articles/pdf-art1824.pdf

Matt Meselson, who did the first experiments that proved DNA replicated as Watson-Crick said and who played a large role in persuading the US to sign the 1972 convention banning bioweapons, recently gave me a very nice quote. "We have a firebreak between chemical and biological weapons." That puts it in a nutshell.


[3] You write: 'I'd take anything Popov or Alibek say with a pinch of salt -- they've got a vested interest in talking their field up."

For sure. I have in fact spent a bunch of time trying to catch both gentlemen out, often by cross-referencing with other interviewers.

Alibek is obviously dubious and with a heavy vested interest; he's no genetic engineer and his claims on Ebola-smallpox chimeras just don't corrrelate with the available technology in 1992.

Popov is something else. Firstly, I've never caught him in an outright false claim or lie. But you have to listen carefully to what he says. He definitely can mislead by omission or the emphasis he places on certain things. Secondly -- and I don't know if you know this - he surfaced into the whole biodefense boom/business/scam having first created for himself a whole new career in Texas. Doesn't mean he's not vested in bioweapons/biodefense now. But he's a very different kind of guy than Alibek.
118
Charlie StrossPerson was signed in when posted
11-17-2005
05:27 PM ET (US)
Mark: bioweapons and chemical weapons are Not The Same. Conflating the two is a category error. (Chemical weapons don't self-replicate and mutate ...)

I was talking specifically about chemical warfare. Bioweapons are a completely different can of worms.

I should also note that I'd take anything Popov or Alibek say with a pinch of salt -- they've got a vested interest in talking their field up. But yes, there's some weird shit out there.
117
Mark Williams Pontin
11-17-2005
04:34 PM ET (US)
To Charlie:

Having said below what 'the fundamental fact of war has been' through history, let me also note that this may no longer hold in the 21st century. We face an unprecedented prospect.

Specifically, you write: 'The requirements for a terrorist CB weapon are almost the opposite of those for a military one.... The military uses of CB weapons broadly encompass three goals: Area denial; Incapacitating or killing enemy troop; Terrorising civilians.'

You make the conventional assumptions, in other words. And since you believe the military aims of CB weapons must be the conventional ones that you cite above and (specifically) biological weapons generally don't produce immediate destruction etcetera, you assume that the military uses of bioweapons are very limited -- really, limited to functioning as a deterrent.

You could not be more wrong. I'm afraid that bioweapons have immense military applications in the 21st century precisely because they don't do the conventional military things.

Sun Tzu, in the Art of War, writes: "To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting. Therefore, the skilful general subdues the enemy's troops without fighting; he captures their cities without laying siege to them; he overthrows their kingdom without lengthy operations in the field." In more contemporary terms, today's military habitually uses the phrase "changing the enemy's behavior" to describe their
core aim.

Thanks to pioneers like Serguei Popov, former division head in charge of genetically engineered bioweaponeering at the Vector and then the Obolensk facilities of Biopreparat, we now know that in principle designer pathogens that target a very broad range of specific biological effects in the central nervous system - memory, cognition, the capacity for terror, joy, etcetera - are possible.

For a few technical hints on designer pathogens designed for behavior modification of target populations, here's an interview with Popov from right after he surfaced in 1999.

http://www.homelandsecurity.org/newjournal...ew2.asp?interview=3

Here's another piece with a more general approach I did in 2003 where I interview Alibek, former Biopreparat chief scientist (basically, a glorified epidemiologist) and Popov (one of the most lucid and nicest scientists I have met -- and let that be a lesson to us all).

http://www.gmu.edu/centers/biodefense/pdf/The_looming_threat.pdf
Edited 11-17-2005 04:35 PM
116
Mark Williams Pontin
11-17-2005
03:35 PM ET (US)
To Mark: 'Wars are similar to sports where usually there are ethics involved etc.' is a deeply dangerous illusion.

The fundamental fact of war has been this: usually, when an actor -- tribe, group or state -- goes to war, they've committed themselves to accept the possibility of violent death and maiming for numbers -- sometimes great numbers -- of their individual members, rather than bear some other consequence (end of their social order, defeat of their ambitions, however interpreted).

To be sure, group ethics may be involved in an actor's motivations for going to war. But more often than not ethics of martial conduct go by the wayside: wars are fought to be won. Certainly, at a war's beginning the majority of individuals in a society/group often hold what becomes an unreasonably optimistic assessment of the cost their side will pay. As they get further 'committed' - pay a higher cost - ethics of conduct tend to dissipate: wars - again - are fought to be won.

A couple of obvious examples:-

[1] The American Civil War. At its start, the Northern public confidently expected this conflict to last six months before the South folded with minimum bloodshed. As the Civil War proceeded, Northern generals like McKinley consistently flinched from the cost in blood and burning that full engagement with the South would entail. Consequently, it became clear to the Union side that it could actually lose. There was much squalling in the North before Lincoln found U.S. Grant and Sherman, generals who fought to win. Grant was once asked when the war would end. He answered in very specific, literal, clear-eyed terms: when we have killed 270,000 Confederate males. He meant that there were precisly that number of Southern males who, in many cases, had never labored, saw slave-ownership as their god-given right, and would die rather than accept the abolition of the true and proper (as they saw it) order of their society. And so it was: they died.

[2} The U.S. in World War II. Briefly, imagine if Americans had been told at the war's start that by its end they would be dropping from the air historically unprecedented bombs that killed many hundreds of thousands of civilians at a time. Most Americans, I think, would have refused to accept that U.S. conduct would have 'descended' to such 'monstrous' conduct.

Note that both the above instances werre 'good wars' and the winning side that undertook such savage war-ending measures was the 'ethically superior' one. Because the North really did fight to end slavery; a peaceful U.S. was struck first at Pearl Harbor by a savagely militaristic Japan
115
Mark
11-17-2005
12:39 PM ET (US)
Also another recent news story here in America called ‘Able Danger’ was a group of super secret intelligence operatives (Spies) that bypassed the government to a certain extent so in fact evidence shows they likely knew enough information to stop 9/11 the U.S.S. Cole attacks etc. but where paper-worked into submission by the higher ups.
They are getting enough votes in congress today to start a commission on this subject that will possibly change the way we Americans and the world conduct overall governance. This might be a bigger story then even Deep Throat, BushyGate etc.
There are too many legalisms that inhibit our ability to conduct business still.
114
Mark
11-17-2005
12:21 PM ET (US)
Suicide was never a major part of military tradition. Wars are similar to sports where usually there are ethics involved etc. So terrorism doesn't factor into that. ie. you can't defeat evil with the military alone and the evildoers aren't going to use military tactics all the time.
Wars are never completely won anyway. Advantages are gained and territories are controlled but corrupt mindsets are not completely defeated. Example: Neo-Nazis, Hate groups, organized crime.
Essentially these minor groups of today are manifestations of past larger state run organizations, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin etc. but they don't need the state anymore in the new D.I.Y. (Do it yourself) era which steps outside the bounds of linear state deployment or is at least more efficient.
These groups are similar to non-profits on the web today where there is a tight hierarchy with limited to no bureaucracy. So having a large bureaucracy go after these groups wont work. Nation-building etc.

The ‘military’ or a defense group has it’s purpose but they should go after the higher ups that are not committing suicide.
Edited 11-17-2005 12:24 PM
113
Charlie StrossPerson was signed in when posted
11-17-2005
07:23 AM ET (US)
Dave: dimethyl mercury doesn't kill fast. I don't know if anyone has ever died of a massive dose, but given its mode of action I'd be startled if it was possible to die of it in less than half an hour, or (more likely) half a day.

This is one of the reasons why it's useless as a military weapon.

A chemist who whips a batch of the stuff up is likely to poison themselves, but unless they completely ignore all the safety precautions it will take months to catch up with them.

Also note that a disturbing proportion of Al Qaida's suicide cases are intelligent men educated to graduate level. Smarts and education are no protection against the kamikaze meme.
Edited 11-17-2005 07:29 AM
112
Dave Bell
11-17-2005
03:56 AM ET (US)
It occurs to me that explosives are a more romantic weapon than chemicals. The suicide bomber ascends to heaven, allegedly, in an instant blaze of glory, rather than slumping to the floor with blurred vision, his chest muscles no longer hearing commands to breath, and his pants filling with his own shit.

And while an own-goal still has terrorising effect, and possibly more with chemical attacks, I rather think a terrorist chemist would strive to survive the manufacturing process so they could do it again.

Could somebody write a set of instructions that a group of suicide bombers could use to brew-up a batch of poison, in a way which wouldn't kill them before delivery? Or would they need direct skilled support?

If they need a live chemist, who isn't willing to throw their life away for one attack, there's a weakness for the investigators and intel to exploit.
111
Michael
11-16-2005
03:45 PM ET (US)
Charlie, you are correct, sir. (See, her story was still in my other browser window when I came back from lunch, so now I know ever so much more than I did.)

She dropped one drop on the latex gloves that are standard protection (the stuff unfortunately goes through latex like tissue paper), and a year later her serum mercury concentration was 80 times the lethal amount. One drop. Damn.

I'd like to amend my earlier rant on security through obscurity. It occurred to me that it's merely a bad idea in the security world, but in the context of suppression of ideas, it's not just a bad idea, but impossible. Impossible even before the Internet but now it's not even possible on a temporary basis. So it's just silly, like moving water with a fork.

No, wait. Not silly. It's stupid. Stupid, like, shoot-yourself-in-the-foot stupid. Stupid like dinosaurs-versus-mammals stupid. Information may not want to be free (or anthromorphized) but free information of all kinds is what keeps innovation ticking. Making the innovator worry that maybe that information is going to be used to blow him up is a sure-fire way of suppressing all innovation. Thus stupid.

My two bits. I don't like the US death spiral into Third World nation status. People sweating about cyberterrorists surfing our vulnerable information resources for ways to kill us all? Those accelerate that death spiral. Get over it. Terrorists are not out to get you. Or me.
110
Mark Williams Pontin
11-16-2005
01:11 PM ET (US)
However, while stupidity seems an endlessly renewable resource, I really don't think that we can count on that kind of luck indefinitely.
109
Mark Williams Pontin
11-16-2005
01:03 PM ET (US)
A little side-note on Aum Shinrikyo casts some further light. I don't know if this stuff has been de-classified by now, but a source of mine was the Sandia Labs guy sent to Japan to write the US classified report.

Essentially, Aum Shinrikyo had microbiologists, PhDs, millions of dollars, plenty of preparation time, hidden labs – and yet they weren't able to get one person sick with their anthrax strain. Sure, it was 1995. But on the other hand --- anthrax? That's pretty fucking simple. So what's up with that?

Well, any competent bioweaponeer knows to look at strain differences before choosing their weapon strain and choose the one that’s virulent. Aum Shinrikyo didn’t. They took the next best strain: the vaccine strain, which was attenuated.

That’s pretty stupid. And it’s pretty stupid by PhDs with microbiological degrees. Let's hope the terrorists keep looking under the lamp posts.
108
Charlie StrossPerson was signed in when posted
11-16-2005
12:45 PM ET (US)
Michael: you're thinking of Dr Karen Wetterhahn. She died after spilling a drop -- much less than 1 ml -- of dimethyl mercury solution on her gloved hand. She died even though she immediately removed the outer gloves. At the time of the fatal incident she was observing full safety precautions, using protective gloves, and working in a fume cupboard with face protection. She was also a highly-rated professor of chemistry, extremely experienced, and very aware of the toxicity of the material she was working with.
107
Michael
11-16-2005
12:19 PM ET (US)
wkwillis: I think maybe something to the effect of barn doors and horses are in order? Even now, in 2005, there is such a huge amount of stuff online that whether you or Charlie or I discuss something in a searchable environment, it really doesn't matter. It's already there. In a few years it will be more so.

After 30 seconds with Google, I am now an expert. I know, for instance, that dimethyl mercury was first synthesized in the 19th century (thus is unlikely to be really secret). I know how to make it, too (granted, I don't know how to make it without dying, but hey, I'm not a terrorist, either). I know a lady died recently after working with it in her lab, and she probably was neither a terrorist nor stupid. (With longer than 30 seconds I'd probably know more about that.)

Point: security through obscurity *really* doesn't work any more, as attractive as the notion is to most of us. Me, too, and I have to admit I use security through obscurity myself when I judge (probably incorrectly) that the cost/benefit justifies it.
106
SerraphinPerson was signed in when posted
11-16-2005
12:04 PM ET (US)
And realisitically anyone with a library card and a Chemistry background could find out about half of this stuff (or more).
105
Charlie StrossPerson was signed in when posted
11-16-2005
10:35 AM ET (US)
wkwillis: you don't read for comprehension, do you? I explicitly noted that the substance I highlighted isn't really ideal for the job. I did not mention some other aspects of it, nor do I intend to do so. And the reason I talked about it in a searchable environment is because I want people to read this.

There are at least two orders of magnitude more anti-terrorist specialists than terrorists, worldwide. If the probability of any individual member of either group coming across this essay is equal, then the right people are a couple of orders of magnitude more likely to get the message than the wrong people. And as I don't happen to have Tony Blair's private phone number to hand, I'm not in a position to put it across directly.

Finally, does the phrase "security through obscurity" ring any bells? And can you explain why it's harmful?
Edited 11-16-2005 10:36 AM
104
wkwillis
11-16-2005
07:01 AM ET (US)
I don't tell people about this stuff in searchable environments. You shouldn't either. Please stop assuming that the ones we catch are representative of the ones out there.
May I point out that while the US is the country maintaining these terror states like Saudi Arabia, that the UK was the one that set them up in the first place, and that some of these cultures permit retribution to the seventh generation? Your grandchildren dying for the sins of your grandparents is not acceptable to your culture, but not necessarily to theirs.
103
Charlie StrossPerson was signed in when posted
11-16-2005
06:25 AM ET (US)
And what sort of organisation does a chemical attack need? Maybe something with more in the middle than anything we've seen since 9/11. This is a harder problem than home-brew explosives.

Not much harder. As I understand it, the chemistry work involved in making the explosive belts is not much less sophisticated than for preparing dimethyl mercury from its precursors (mercury iodide and methyl lithium) and even the precursors aren't too difficult to prepare; what's difficult is surviving the experience. If you try to brew up triacetone triperoxide (TATP) you may blow yourself up; if you make dimethyl mercury you will almost certainly die horribly unless you are very, very careful and have access to top-notch safety equipment -- glove boxes, fume chambers, protective clothing, and so on.

If the person making the dimethyl mercury doesn't care about dying, all bets are off.
102
Dave Bell
11-15-2005
06:14 PM ET (US)
I think you might have not given enough weight to the effects of wearing the military protective equipment, and keeping in operational, both effects which have some overlap with the desirable effects of a terrorist attack. The protective clothing leads to soldiers becoming exhausted sooner, and once you open the package it has a limited useful life.

Even a suicide bomber might take advantage of that; traces of poison gas around the scene are going to make investigation more difficult. And that might justify a quick-acting military chemical. Force the investigators into full NBC gear, heavy gloves and all, and then do something different. Will the police take a chance?

It wouldn't surprise me if several different chemical attacks were made, effectively independently. Whether the sequence of chemical use is planned or not maybe doesn't matter. You think you're in Saving Private Ryan, but it turns out to be Dog Soldiers.

And what sort of organisation does a chemical attack need? Maybe something with more in the middle than anything we've seen since 9/11. This is a harder problem than home-brew explosives.
101
Martyn Taylor
08-31-2005
07:29 AM ET (US)
Once again, congratulations on the Hugo.

As a still convinced socialist, I regard the US constitution as one of the marvels of recent civilisation (give or take amendments such as the right to bear arms in a country with the 2nd largest standing army in the world - or is it the 3rd after China and Russia? - and uncounted thousands of armed law enforcement persons) If the US government would just live up to it rather than trying to subvert it at every turn we'd all sleep a lot safer.

Life's too short to rehearse the manifold inconsistencies of US policy over terrorism since it became a de facto instrument of foreign policy after WW2 (describing the murder of one Capt Nairak as poilitical and the killers immune from extradition was a poke in the eye for the UK govt., always so eager to please Washington)

When the US government returns to the ways of civilised nations, she'll be welcomed back with open arms. Maybe we'll be allowed back too! I don't know about it being soon. A delightful and acute young American we gave a lift to Edinburgh on the way back from Interaction was convinced that Gee Whizz will be superceded by Brother Jeb. Small wonder she wants to emigrate! Wonder if Richard Branson will have scheduled flights to the Moon by then.
100
Victor
08-18-2005
04:29 PM ET (US)
As with David P. earlier, congratulations and apologies from another American. It is depressing - and foolish on many levels. I'll miss your talks at Boskone until such time - may it come quickly - as my government returns to the ways of civilized nations.
99
David P.
08-17-2005
12:24 PM ET (US)
Charlie,

Congrats on the Hugo. As a fan born and bred in Lovecraftian New England, I was thrilled that you won.

And as an American, I apologize for the increasingly fascist rhetoric and behavior coming from our government. It's depressing as heck.

But don't think that you are alone in getting swatted by the black glove. Soon every US citizen will have to carry a passport to get in and out of the country. And the Feds want to institute a database of airline passengers' personal information for "quicker boarding."

Hope Texas gives you a fond final memory of the US.
98
Gary Farber
08-16-2005
10:20 PM ET (US)
Fair enough criterion, Charlie. I hope you'll agree with my agreeing with you. :-)
97
Charlie StrossPerson was signed in when posted
08-16-2005
10:42 AM ET (US)
Gary: a "real" left wing party is one that holds one or more of Congress, Senate, or Presidency, one or more times. I don't believe your socialist party managed any of the above. Note also that I said "in the past forty years". Again, I don't believe your socialist party meets that criterion.

Dave: Labour has, within living memory, been a left-wing party of government. Alas ...
Edited 08-16-2005 10:42 AM
96
Dave Bell
08-16-2005
10:03 AM ET (US)
The Right/Left classification is pretty inadequate, and mostly an accident of history. And it's uselessness as a definition is what makes it so useful as flame-bait.

But there's great swathes of political debate where both major parties in the USA come across as right-wing. And, maybe, if we just looked at the issues associated with personal freedom, both US parties would look uncomfortably close to the state totalitarianism of fascism and communism at their height.

And our left-wing party of government is looking the same.
95
Gary Farber
08-15-2005
05:44 PM ET (US)
"The USA hasn't had a real left-wing party, even a western European soggy-centrist social democrat one, for at least forty years -- if ever."

Charlie, why count out Norman Thomas? I'd agree to count out the alliance with America First, but only after fellow lefties stop promoting the current protofascist "anti-war.com" site as either lefty or worth touching with a ten foot pole. Were Thomas and the Socialist Party not sufficiently left-wing, and if so, how?

That is, it's all about the "if ever" part. Otherwise, sure, yes, of course, absolutely, we agree. But: "if ever"? Pray not let us forget.
94
Randy Beck
08-15-2005
02:09 PM ET (US)
Charlie,

Even more amusing: I can agree with you on the lack of a genuine left-wing party. I think it goes hand-in-hand with my comments. Politics trump ideals.

As for the rest, I'm sorry to have jumped in with both feet.

And belated congrats on the Hugo.
93
Charlie StrossPerson was signed in when posted
08-15-2005
01:44 PM ET (US)
Randy: I find it amusing that you think the Democratic party are left-wing. The USA hasn't had a real left-wing party, even a western European soggy-centrist social democrat one, for at least forty years -- if ever.

Plus, you're using an over-broad brush to paint the left. As with the right, the issue of individualism versus conformity (social permissiveness against social conservativism) is orthogonal to economic policy.

Now please stop using my blog comments as a forum for partisan American politics. Hint: I'm going to delete that kind of comment a lot faster than personal cat-fights because it can take down an internet forum even faster than, well, anything.
Edited 08-15-2005 01:46 PM
92
Randy Beck
08-15-2005
10:23 AM ET (US)
Libertarians have done one thing on this better than anyone else. They're generally willing to acknowledge that a compromise has to be made between privacy and security. The Left (and by this I mean those in the mainstream Democratic Party as well as the extremists) give lip service to privacy but they also play the security card to the hilt. You might recall it wasn't long after 9/11 that Hillary Clinton held up the shrill conspiracy-theory headline, "Bush Knew!"

It's also worth remembering that the 9/11 hijackers used box cutters that were permissible on aircraft at the time. Yet it was the Democrats who insisted on the creation of the TSA as justified by "inadequate" screening. They also pressured for a 9/11 Commission to expose every hole.

While both major parties have a propaganda plan ready for the next major terrorist attack, it will be the Dems who jump at anything, and no compromise will be justified.

If you want to blame anyone for over-eager security, blame the opposition party. They need to say today what balance of privacy and security they'd be willing to accept.
91
Richard Scott
08-15-2005
01:43 AM ET (US)
Have to agree.

I have travelled to the USA quite a bit. My wife is American. However, to put up with that, really couldn't be bothered, unless going there for an extended stay. Had to be fingerprinted for permanent residency in the USA, too, btw. A one off is fair enough, but this is pretty over the top.

Certainly won't feel like a holiday being subjected to that.

Electronic visas for Australians made it a nice hassle free place to go. Not anymore.
90
Anders Monsen
08-14-2005
11:23 PM ET (US)
"The Baron" seems to mock Charlie and his readers with his statement:

-- Doesn't half of your fan-base consist of freakish far-right "libertarian" nutjobs of the neocon kind?

Speaking as a "libertarian" who happens to like Charlie's fiction (for more than one reason, but it boils down to the fact that I think he's an damn good writer who does not mock nor underestimate the intelligence of his readers), libertarians in general are neither far-right, freakish, nutjobs, nor neocons. In fact, "libertarians" tend to distrust and dislike the perversion of America (and Great Britain) currently taking place. It seems that Bush and Blair are walking lock-step down the path of fear and control.
89
Anonymous
08-14-2005
10:13 PM ET (US)
This is extremely worrying. If it were me I would propose speaking by Video over IP from your house. I admire your balls in travelling to America, which I have refused to do after the PATRIOT Act was passed, along with some other rather draconian legislation.

It appears from your blog you have an InfoSec / *nix background - I hope you are not targeted in the same way the Russian who reverse engineered the Adobe 'encryption' was.

Be sure not to openly criticise the US Administration while on American soil! In all seriousness however, I wish you luck on your travels and I hope you return to Britain unharmed.

And PS - has the heavy traffic subsided yet (I notice your blog is still static and not CGI)

Congratulations on your HUGO also! Keep up the excellent writing.
88
Randy Beck
08-14-2005
02:08 PM ET (US)
"So a US Airport isn't under the rule of the US Law."

No, but an international airport is legally considered the same as a border crossing. That means you haven't yet entered the U.S. until you've cleared customs, and your rights are about the same as if you were arrested by U.S. agents overseas.

This was actually settled years ago, long before 9/11.
87
Dave Bell
08-14-2005
10:18 AM ET (US)
So a US Airport isn't under the rule of the US Law.

Does that mean that the TSA personnel who arrest you are acting outside the law? Does that make a place like JFK a Port Royale, a hive of scum and villainy, even a den of pirates?

What happens when there is a breakdown of the rule of law, foreign nationals are taken hostage, and bad things happen?

The example which springs to my mind happened at Katanga, and involved the French sending in the Deuxieme REP.

While the US armed force are focused on Iraq, a country with nuclear weapons and an aircraft carrier, and some really tough paratroopers, has a chance.

Of course, it'd be a mirror image of the stuff the American right-wing idiots are writing, about how the foreigners are all evil, and the heroic American soldiers can shoot the lot of them without even breaking into a sweat.

And I hear that the RAF Regiment has units trained to grab control of airfields. So make it a joint EU operation. There's a lot of that American military SF which depends on incompetent attackers. This could be the Kasserine Pass all over again.
86
Erik V. Olson
08-14-2005
09:36 AM ET (US)
I wish I could blame you. Hell, I wish I had the standing to argue the point.

But, I don't. I spent part of Interthingy discouraging a couple of people from visiting the US right now. It just isn't safe, and it won't change if people just accept it.

Worse, note the position. It doesn't matter if you aren't a citizen. If they feel that there is something "abnormal" about your passport, suddenly, you're in the exact same spot -- no protection of law, because you aren't proven a citizen.

The idea of not being able to see the UK again, (esp to spend more than six hours in Edinburg -- what an amazing city) is a horror. But my nation is now a nation of horrors, and my not being able to travel would be a very, very minor one compared to most, and all it takes is one slip to disappear.

Witness Joseph Padillo: US Citizen, taken from that noted combat zone called "Chicago O'Hare International Airport."
85
Charlie StrossPerson was signed in when posted
08-14-2005
07:11 AM ET (US)
PS: that would be Operation Phoenix and Operation Condor. (Drawing a diagram showing the relationship, if any, between these operations and certain then-junior participants in the Nixon administration who are senior officials in the Bush III administration is left as an exercise for the reader.)
84
Charlie StrossPerson was signed in when posted
08-14-2005
07:05 AM ET (US)
Gary, the legal protections offered by the Japanese government aren't terribly reassuring, but they don't appear to have a record of randomly disappearing tourists and shipping them off to Syria for a brisk session of bastinado. I should like to note that I've got deep misgivings about my own government's actions; do the Belmarsh Eleven ring any bells? However, nobody in the British government has asserted that non-citizens visiting these shores can be subjected to arbitrary mistreatment without recourse to legal defense.

The British government seems to want to bring in draconian anti-terrorism laws. In contrast, the US administration seems to want to make an end-run around the rule of law. Despite the superficial similarity of their goals, the means differ at a fundamental level; the British approach, while oppressive and to be resisted, is at least compatible with democracy, while the US approach is more consistent with the tools of Operations Phoenix and Condor.
83
Bruce Murphy
08-14-2005
02:37 AM ET (US)
And let us not forget that the US is working on making DNA harvesting and retinal/iris scans practical so they can also be inflicted on anyone foolish enough to go there. After all, in amerikaspeak, there's only one word for 'foreigner', 'enemy', 'terrorist' and 'criminal'.
82
Gary Farber
08-14-2005
02:02 AM ET (US)
How do you feel about the legal protections offered by the Japanese government?

I am, if it isn't clear, and it might not be, entirely sympathetic to your feelings, by the way (having blogged on Maher Arar and allied issues many many times).

I can't imagine why you'd think this a more important topic to blog about than the TPM Cafe TOS. ;-)
81
C.E. Murphy
08-13-2005
09:33 PM ET (US)
That sort of thing is one of the reasons I'm leaving this country. I have far too much sense that I'm getting out while the getting is good.

What I find really frightening is that while I understand that political spectrums have a pendulum swing and that we're on a conservative swing right now, the so-called liberals, rather than holding ground that might genuinely be interpreted as liberal, are trying to make themselves more appealing to "mainstream America" by becoming more conservative. It suggests to me that when the pendulum swings back, the arc is still going to be much less dramatic than it should be. It won't be going from conservative to liberal; it'll be going from totalitarian to conservative.

And that's assuming the return swing happens at all. One of the things I've come to realize since Bush was elected in 2004 is that at least half of America (a quarter, if you wish to look at the actual voting populace) simply does not share my idea of what America is, should be, and could be. It doesn't fill me with confidence, and I'm not in the *least* surprised that you're increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of visiting this country. I'm increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of living in it.

Which, frankly, I resent the hell out of, but that's a whole different rant.

-Catie
80
Jonathan Vos Post
08-13-2005
03:27 PM ET (US)
Folks at Intersection from a dozen different countries, with whom I conversed, were almost universally too polite to preemptively bash America in my presence. But, once I apologized for Amerika slipping into fascist totalitarian theocratic muddled-empire, they almost universally agreed and expressed sincere condolences. Then they started in on Blair (in the Robin Cook context), John Howard, et al.

If there was a Military SF conversation holding that the USA was heading in the right direction, but too slowly, I missed it. Recall Ken McLeod referring to the USSR as "FU1" (former union 1) and the USA as "FU2" ...
79
Charlie StrossPerson was signed in when posted
08-13-2005
08:47 AM ET (US)
To be fair, if I was non-white I'd be a bit apprehensive about visiting the UK right now. But the current level of paranoia ... well, saying it sucks is a huge understatement: it looks like we've been led by the nose into dismantling our historic freedoms in order to save them. Which means, if you don't mind the snark, that the terrorists have already won.
78
David S.
08-13-2005
02:53 AM ET (US)
Charlie, I've seen photos of you -- I'd say you've got plenty to worry about. ;-)

People have gone totally nuts about terrorism, they're so ready to hand over their rights to governments that you know are never going to give them back it's, uh, terrifying. All in the name of measures that increase no one's security and do virtually nothing to "fight terrorism" but make it look like the politicians are "doing everything possible". Just today I read that visitors and patrons of the Sydney Opera House will soon be subject to searches of their bags, clothing, shoes (of course, it's not real security nowadays unless they make you take off your shoes), personal belongings, car, and possibly body, all on the say-so of "well trained" security personnel and police. Have a nice night at the opera and get a free strip-search thrown in! Tourists, ah, welcome, sorta...

I've been to Austin a couple of times (but not since 9/11) its a great place and you should have a fun time. In Texas you're biggest chance of being blown up would be in a BBQ accident!
77
S. F. Murphy
08-12-2005
09:56 PM ET (US)
Charlie,

If one could love writers, then I love ya like a brother. If there is troubles with my home that prevent you from enjoying yourself, well, I respect that.

Try to enjoy yourself in Texas next week. If I could drive down from KC to see you, get a novel autographed, I'd do it, but it is beyond my means.

Per the politics, I'm not going to get into it.

Respects,
Steve
Northtown, Missouri
76
The Baron
08-12-2005
08:06 PM ET (US)
Doesn't half of your fan-base consist of freakish far-right "libertarian" nutjobs of the neocon kind?
75
Lauren McLaughlin
08-12-2005
05:16 PM ET (US)
Interestingly, George Bush recently nominated to the US Supreme Court a man who in a recent decision, voted to uphold the legitimacy of military tribunals with starkly reduced defendant’s rights. The defendant has no right to be present at his own trial; unsworn statements rather than live testimony can be used as evidence; and the presumption of innocence can be taken away at any time. AND there is nothing in Roberts’ opinion that prevents Bush from using these tribunals against US citizens.

I'm an American married to a Brit which means we get to sit in that little inquisition room every time we go through US immigration. Neither my husband nor me is likely to be confused with a terrorist, but do you think I don't worry? I worry. Immigration officials get things wrong some times. After all, these are the geniuses who approved Muhamed Atta's student Visa 6 months AFTER 9/11. But it's okay, because there's a nice big photograph of GWB staring down at us while we demonstrate our right to return to our New York City apartment.
74
Andrew Ducker
08-12-2005
04:10 PM ET (US)
I'm a wishy-washy type when it comes to ID Cards, fingerprinting, CCTV, etc. I can see arguments on both sides, and frankly it's not enough to deter me from entering a country.

But when it comes to stripping people of their rights, Guantamo style, on the whim of a government that has no oversight, I'm very much of the "These people have to go." school.

I remember a time when judges were seen as reactionaries that didn't understand modern society. Strange that in both the UK and US at the moment, they're what stands between us and effective dictatorship.
73
The Baron
04-10-2004
04:40 AM ET (US)
See also: E-voting.
72
Mark Gritter
04-10-2004
01:06 AM ET (US)
One might approach the problem from the other end, and argue that the problem isn't being able to put a wireless device in a bomb, it's being able to trigger the wireless device anonymously. (Ban pay phones!) Seriously, a lot of problems become much easier if you admit that identity should be part of the network, and anonymity is an engineered property built on top through both policy and dedicated mechanism--- the current "anonymous" networks are only weakly resistant to identification.

A fellow student in my research group has looked at the security implications of being able to use multiple base stations to locate people attacking the wireless network, or using it from outside its expected range. If you follow that sort of thinking to its conclusion, the obvious solution to terrorists using wireless connections is _better_ wireless coverage. Of course, that brings up privacy concerns, etc., and given the current ease of stealing or forging cell phone access the bad guys will likely get away anyway.
71
Nick 'sharkey' Moore
04-08-2004
07:32 AM ET (US)
G'day Charlie,

   it's an interesting one, because almost anything can
be the trigger ... mobile phones, walkie-talkies,
remote-control toys, alarm clocks. There's no way to get
rid of them all, and given the existence of suicide
bombers, it's not sufficient.

    But I suspect, given your choice of title, that it's
a straw-man argument anyway.

    In Australia, concern over the use of mobile phones
with inbuilt cameras to take pervy photos around swimming pools has lead to all mobile phones being banned in some
places. To the best of my knowledge, you're still free
to bring along your digital SLR ...

-----sharks
70
tef
04-08-2004
05:26 AM ET (US)
Just on an off note: The Psychology of Intelligence Analysis.

As recommended reading.
69
Dave Bell
04-07-2004
06:01 PM ET (US)
There are days when I don't care about the USA. They want us to do stupid things just to keep them happy. But even the stupid can ask useful questions.

People such as Tom Clancy seem to have very strange ideas about how stuff works, but when he wrote in Rainbow Six about his counter-terrorism force he did conjure up a way to control cellphones, so that the good guys could still make calls, but the bad guys couldn't.

It should be possible to control incoming calls to cellphones in the tunnels. If you're the Metropolitan Police, calling a cop, you can have the access code.

And you'd better make sure that your system doesn't let somebody on the inside of the controlled zone make a connection to another phone on the inside.
Since the base stations are essentially computers,
68
Steven Francis Murphy
04-07-2004
10:46 AM ET (US)
Charlie,

Part of the problem is that we've had no cross party consensus in this country since Vietnam on foreign policy. Zero consensus. One side wants to bend us over a table, the other side wants to bomb everyone to oblivion. You get two really bad choices (especially this year) between a likeable halfwit who will at least pull a trigger and a spineless repentant veteran.

It of course makes sense to offer olive branches to those who can be talked to, worked with, deals cut. I see the logic of that and do wish that on those fronts, we were doing more. We could be doing more to provide places like Pakistan with real aid to reform their education system into something that strips away the appeal of the fundamentalist schools that current breed terrorists of the Islamic stripe. We could be doing more to fix our rather rotten intelligence infrastructure (personally, I'm for a Stalinist purge of all American intelligence departments, they've dropped the ball more times than I can count and long before the current situation in Iraq).

We could be doing more to develop smaller, more powerful, covert striking options to surgically excise the active terrorists. It would be ideal to have teams that you could insert into a hostile environment, interact with that environment as if they have always been a part of it, then slit the throats of your active terrorists. Unfortunately, we Americans are tech obsessed and I think (and here I am, I wanna be an SF writer) that will be our Achilles Heel someday.

But getting back to my main original point, it is true that I was speaking tactically because the Mayor in question RE your earlier post was thinking tactically. Banning a technology isn't going to solve the problem.

So I am in agreement that a broad spectrum solution is needed. The military alone (and they, as well as I) will be the first to tell you that.

On the other hand, one way you get people to think that maybe they ought to sit down and talk is to pop the screaming nut in the street with a bomb in the head.

Once upon a long time ago, Missouri and Kansas had a similar problem revolving around slavery. Both sides of the argument from 1854 to 1865 rode back and forth across the stateline burning farms and homes down, taking scalps, and committing other atrocities on a regular basis.

What finally put an end to a fair amount of it was General Order Number 11. Federal Forces proceeded into Western Missouri, ordered all citizens to move within one mile of a Federally controlled population center, then proceeded to burn the countryside down.

That broke the Missouri Partisans, mainly because it deprived them of a means of support and cover.

And on this note, I have to move onto my next relief post here at work.

BTW Charlie, I spoke with my professor last night and she concurs wholeheartedly with your assessment of the UK Train system. She said if I come over there to take the bus.

Respects,
S. F. Murphy
Northtown, Missouri
67
Charlie StrossPerson was signed in when posted
04-07-2004
06:38 AM ET (US)
As an aside, if you haven't already read it I heartily commend to you On the Psychology of Military Incompetence by Norman Dixon. It makes chilling reading, especially against the backdrop of the current disaster unfolding in Iraq.
66
Charlie StrossPerson was signed in when posted
04-07-2004
06:36 AM ET (US)
tef: yes, but ... what we can do is make it inconveniently hard for someone to use certain tools. With ingenuity, any problem can be worked around -- but one interesting lesson from decades of dealing with terrorism is that terrorists are mostly Very Stupid People. They attempt to use very crude physical means to achieve political goals, often out of frustration at their own inability to affect change through legitimate (but difficult and time-consuming) means. If we make it sufficiently difficult to build remote-controlled bombs that it takes an Evil Genius to do so, the short supply of Evil Genii will work in our favour. (Or so the theory goes.)

Steven: Best solution (though one can argue about the varying tactics and means) is to get the terrorists. . Nope, that's a short-term tactical solution that doesn't solve the strategic problem. When facing an insurgency, a modern state has a huge dilemma: <U>there's nobody on the other side who can formally sign a surrender document<U>. You can lock up all the currently-active terrorists, but if the irritant that provoked them in the first place is still there, in a year or so a new generation will come along and it will start up all over again. (Existence proof: Northern Ireland, where IIRC at one point in the seventies all the original provisional IRA commanders and most of their supporters were in prison, and things simply got worse.)

The long-term solution that has a proven track record is: you go after the active terrorists, while simultaneously holding out an olive branch to their inactive supporters -- be they former terrorists who've hung up their guns, or political sympathizers, or whatever. You try to fix the grievance that provides recruits for the active terrorists. This is at root a political task as much as a military/police one, but if you succeed the result will eventually be that after you arrest the last active terrorist there will be no new recruits and the insurgency will effectively be over.

Unfortunately you can't time this approach to a rigid 4-year election cycle. (Political fellow-travellers are, if nothing else, smarter than suicide bombers -- they'll try to colonise your election campaign for their own purposes.) It takes a long-term cross-party consensus and lots of gritted teeth (and a refusal to lash-out indiscriminately) to make this strategy work. It looks defensive, and this doesn't appeal to a certain personality type (naming no names, he's in the White House right now).
65
tef
04-06-2004
09:13 PM ET (US)
You realise that if you ban incoming calls charlie, then outgoing is still an attack vector.

Grab a.
1. cheap old nokia. £10.
2. cable and pic chip.

it phones a specified number, every 5 minutes until the person answers the phone. Not hard, really.

How about we ban all alarm clocks because they can be used for bombs?

Or cars.

Or for that matter electronics.

Or fertilizer?

Or flour?

Banning things because they can be used for destruction is a pointless afair, because there is always another way (tm).

Control of only harmful machinery is a better idea. Rather than jumping to conclusions.

Policeman is on train. Policemen cannot recive incoming calls alerting them to a threat. And so, the world is safer.
64
The Baron
04-06-2004
03:16 PM ET (US)
I beleive the Madrid bombs, though triggered by mobile phones, were actually detonated by an alarm: The one that didn't go off had been set to AM rather than PM. It seems like an underuse of the phones, possibly they were just the cheap source of parts for timers?
63
Steven Francis Murphy
04-06-2004
02:33 PM ET (US)
Technology has always been a double edged sword, especially with homemade bombs. It seems pointless to ban cellphone base stations in London's Underground because sooner or later, someone will create a cellphone capable of transmitting through ground between car and everyone else topside.

At best, jamming GPS, banning specific known tech (why not ban the cheap battery powered alarm clock, which has been used for bombs since long before anyone knew what a cellphone was) is only a stop gap solution.

Anything can be turned into a weapon. Who would have thought that the car bomb would become a weapon of terrorism back when the internal combustion engine was invented?

Seems pointless. Life carries risks. You can boost security, ban fertilizer, and warn everyone but just as lightning sometimes strikes the odd invididual down, so do terrible things like terrorist bombs.

Best solution (though one can argue about the varying tactics and means) is to get the terrorists.

Respects,
S. F. Murphy
North Kansas City, Missouri
62
Charlie StrossPerson was signed in when posted
04-06-2004
11:04 AM ET (US)
Sam: agree about the likelihood of Hughes becoming Mayor (i.e. zip).

Outgoing call from detonator phone waiting for a trigger tone ... that's a workable idea, but it's unreliable. Remember, trains are moving objects. Cellphones don't always handle hand-off between cells cleanly, especially when they're moving rapidly between multiple cells and the airwaves are close to saturated (as they frequently are in central London). I'd therefore give this a very high probability of failure. What's more, cellphone calls involve a high degree of data compression including suppression of silence and distortion of signals other than vocalizations -- I suspect there'd be a high probability that a silent call (waiting for trigger tone) of more than five minutes would either end up being dropped or compressed down to nothing (so that the tone might not get through).

Basically, you might be able to design a "phone home" bomb, but I think it's a lot harder than making a simple command-detonated bomb.
61
Sam Dodsworth
04-06-2004
10:52 AM ET (US)
Um... the Lib Dem candidate for mayor might not be the best point to start from in extrapolating future government policy even if it wasn't pretty clear that he has no chance of winning as long as Red Ken is on the ballot. And meanwhile, London Underground has been moving slowly on mobile phone base stations because their surveys indicate that passengers are just about prepared to tolerate phones in stations but hate the idea of phones on trains. So we have an irrelevant politician calling for the banning of something that no-one's very keen on doing in the first place.

Also, if you allow outgoing calls, what's to stop a terrorist from making an outgoing call from the detonator-phone and leaving it connected, waiting for a trigger-tone?
60
Simon Bradshaw
03-22-2004
07:48 PM ET (US)
Simple straight-and-level flypasts are subject to much fewer restrictions than aerobatic displays, which is why very large ones (e.g. for the 2002 Jubilee) can be mounted over central London and indeed Buckingham Palace. As Dave notes, it also helps if the aircraft in question have more than one engine.

Of course, once you do get into aerobatics, then a whole load of rules come in, most of which boil down to Never Point Your Velocity Vector Where It Might Hurt Someone. Indeed, UK airshow rules are now so stringent that the Reds aren't allowed to overfly the crowd even straight and level in the course of a display (but can do so if it is a stand-alone flypast!) There are good reasons for this, e.g. the DH.110 crash at Farnborough in 1952, the 1988 Ramstein disaster and most recently the Ukrainian Su-27 crash about 18 months ago that killed 77.
59
Steven Francis Murphy
03-22-2004
03:51 PM ET (US)
Training, training, training, training.

People get all weird when they hear the whup-whup-whup of a Chinook or a Huey or a Blackhawk from the Missouri Army National Guard (not quite as bad as your recent California Natioanl Guard :) ).

It is probably nothing and if it is something, there is very little you can do about it except duck.

At least that is my plan if the property where I work gets hit.

My e-mail is colgenmurphy@yahoo.com. I'm about to step away from the ISP where I read your other request, which is why I'm not e-mailing immediate.

Down to the Loading Dock I go.

Respects,
S. F. Murphy
NKC, MO, US.
58
Deleted by author 03-22-2004 02:03 AM
57
Dave Bell
03-21-2004
05:58 PM ET (US)
The Red Arrows fly single-engine jets, while the Tornado is twin-engined, so there's a bit more margin for error, but I reckon the key difference is the time of year. The Red Arrows are still working up for the display season, bringing in the new pilots, practising, and leaving loops of white smoke in the skies of Lincolnshire.
56
Charlie StrossPerson was signed in when posted
03-21-2004
03:30 PM ET (US)
That explains it. Normally they'd use the Red Arrows for a flypast (and I'd have thought nothing of it) -- the Tornados were slightly unusual.
55
Gareth
03-21-2004
03:23 PM ET (US)
There is a similar story about the Tornado fly-past in 'The Scotsman':

http://sport.scotsman.com/rugby.cfm?id=287962004

And that other link again:

http://www.rugbyrugby.com/TOURNAMENTS/Six_...s/story_34833.shtml
54
Gareth
03-21-2004
02:36 PM ET (US)
This seems more helpful and less dramatic:

http://www.rugbyrugby.com/TOURNAMENTS/Six_...s/story_34833.shtml

This is the important bit:

"But it seems a pity to have to lift up a large coloured card to the heavens, because it might obscure the view of the two RAF Tornado jets that will come streaking across the Edinburgh sky - inches above the stadium roof - for the supersonic crescendo. Wow!"

(Although I have removed the earlier link to reflect my peace of mind, I am still quite worried about living in a city in the current climate.)
Edited 03-21-2004 03:19 PM
53
Nojay
03-21-2004
02:23 PM ET (US)
 I heard them too up in Haymarket. Drawing a line between your place and mine would just about go right over Murrayfield.

 I saw a AEW Nimrod making a slow pass over the castle last year during the Tattoo. The light-blue underbelly camouflage paint doesn't work in pitch darkness and strong floodlighting.
Edited 03-21-2004 02:24 PM
52
Alex Ingram
03-21-2004
02:13 PM ET (US)
There was the rugby kick off at around 3pm.

Part of that?
51
Mary Kay
02-11-2004
01:17 PM ET (US)
I suppose that IEDs as outlined in the article you linked to are not impossible. On the other hand, if I wanted to watch the Western white folks chase their tales and snicker, it'd be a good story. With the excellent side benefit of making them cry "Wolf!" to the disgust of all involved who will next time be more doubtful and cynical. Sort of like, oh, me. I can understand why they can't ignore it though.

MKK--and see you tomorrow!
50
kenny
01-25-2003
11:56 PM ET (US)
http://video.c-span.org:8080/ramgen/kdrive/wj011103_cantori.rm
c-span had a nice interview with louis cantori of the center for the study of islam and democracy about egypt and "the radicalisation of islamicists"
49
Lenny Bailes
01-23-2003
02:57 PM ET (US)
I had her first name spelled wrong. Here's a URL about Sheila Jackson Lee's bill to repeal Congressional permission for Bush to use force against Iraq.
48
Lenny Bailes
01-23-2003
02:40 PM ET (US)
I heard a report and soundbyte interview with U.S. Rep Shiela Jackson Lee (D- TX, I think) on KPFA last night, describing a bill she's introducing into the House to repeal the resolution giving permission George Bush to use force against Iraq. I haven't found confirmation on Google, yet, but this sounds like a heck of a good idea to me -- worthy of starting a national letter-writing campaign to representatives throughout the U.S.

Also, San Francisco recently became the 27th (and largest, so far) United States city to pass a resolution condemning the U.S. Patriot Act.
47
Duncan LawiePerson was signed in when posted
01-05-2003
07:22 AM ET (US)
A little extra note on "news management" ...

I was recently in Argentina and had the (mis)fortune to have access to international TV. As far as I could tell, BBC World and CNN - the two English language choices for news - covered exactly the same set of stories Robert sees in the USA. The naughtiness of Iraq and North Korea get the big coverage; there was a brief interlude to show the return of German bodies from Afghanistan but this seemed completely co-incidental to the "war against terrorism". The Palestine and Pakistan garnered some airtime too, but mostly (it seemed to me) because there was a chance to show blood and pain and grieving relatives.

It was an experience which made me glad I've thrown away my TV!
46
Robert Sneddon
12-30-2002
01:11 AM ET (US)
 Hi Gary. Currently I am staying in Atlanta, reading American local newspapers and watching American TV news. Nowadays Afghanistan isn't getting mentioned much and Public Enemy Number One not at all. The focus is on Iraq with a side-order of those naughty North Koreans.

 The idea that Afghanistan's hash was settled by anyone except Americans is not a consideration Over Here, except when (for instance) a bunch of Canadian soldiers gets bombed by a gung-ho American. The attitude when listening to Americans after that incident was wonderment that the Canadians were there at all. The belief is certainly that American forces are not under NATO command but are under the direct operational control of the Pentagon.

 As for Al-Queda being like the IRA, yes and no. IRA people committed suicide for their beliefs, and killed Irish people for their beliefs. They abducted, tortured and murdered for their beliefs, stole for their beliefs and when they were on the run found safe havens in places like America, immune from extradition.

 The IRA's beliefs are left-wing political, not religious. They are less willing to die for them, yes. The only "homicide bombings" they tried involved forcing other people to drive bomb cars into police stations, and that did not work out too well so they abandoned that tactic.

 As for the American operations backfiring, well, a look at the history of internment (imprisonment without trial) would show you the resentment it created in both Irish communities and the recruitment opportunities it created amongst disaffected youth. We tried military-only solutions for decades and got nowhere. It is to John Major's credit that he broke the deadlock that had gripped British political thinking on the subject for so long. As for assassinating top leaders of the bad boys, you might notice that Israel has been doing this for at least a decade and maybe more. There seems to be a never-ending stream of replacements for those top leaders; funny that. We knew who the top people in the IRA were; we could watch them on TV being feted in Patrick's Day parades in New York as freedom fighters (I suspect that wil lnever happen again). We could have grabbed them and jailed them, or "disappeared" them, but we knew when they went equally able lieutenants would step up into their shoes. It was better for us to know where they were and watched who they talked to.

 Your government is making those mistakes right now. It is getting away with stuff that we could never manage (hooding of suspects, for example, or "rigorous" interrogation) which might garner some useful intel but the situation you face (and we all face) is fluid in a way a military-minded organisation isn't really set up to cope with.

 What really worries me is that the American press are letting them get away with it.
45
Gary FarberPerson was signed in when posted
12-28-2002
10:01 PM ET (US)
Charlie, thanks for letting me know that I was the way you ran across Gray Fox -- which, incidentally, I'm abashed to learn about so long after it has actually been in the public record, but that's a valuable lesson in reminding me how much I do miss, no matter that I Read A Lot -- and do keep in mind that it's never too late to update a link, and it's always appreciated, by me, at least. Have a great new year, everyone!
44
Gary FarberPerson was signed in when posted
12-28-2002
09:58 PM ET (US)
> Quote: he'd do better to stop pretending that European
> ambivalence is rooted solely in a desire on the part of
> European leaders to act as free-riders on the back of an
> American anti-terrorist campaign

I'm not clear who "he" is here, Robert. William Arkin? Anyway, if he suggested that, I missed it; it's obvious the European ambivalence stems from a variety of reasons, and only an idiot would miss that.

> It probably would surprise many Americans for them to
> discover the attack on the Afghanistan government, the
> Taliban and Al-Queda forces there was in fact a NATO
> operation;

Um, well, I suppose you can find some, sure, but not anyone who actually, say, reads a newspaper, or even consistently watches any decent tv news source.

> indeed it was the first time NATO (designed to defend
> Western Europe from the Soviets) ever went to war as such. > They might have missed, for example, one of the largest
> group deaths of soldiers there recently were German troops > in a helicopter crash.

Again, sure, but not anyone who reads a decent newspaper. Fortunately, it's only in America that a large number if citizens don't read a, or several, newspapers. I understand that in the UK and EU, EU regulation requires reading of one newspaper, and encourages reading of at least one in each EU language, or five different newspapers in your native language.

;-)

> I think that as far as the American government is
> concerned terrorism is a new phenomenon that no one else
> on the planet has ever suffered from.

I've pointed out before that the "government" is made up of a bunch of individuals, and institutions, with differing views, perspectives, knowledge-sets, and agendas. Sure, I imagine some individuals can be found hither and yon with that attitude, but, y'know, I really don't think that's the general attitude. Mind, I'm judging from afar, but I do note trips around the world by various officials, including plenty of trips to Britain by various folk, and, y'know, weird as it may seem, most career folk are not, actually, idiots, and have actually heard of the IRA, ETA, Baader-Meinhoff, endless etc. I know it's nice to think anyone in American government, or America, is an idiot, but, surprisingly, this often isn't so.

> This leads to the
> mindset where American anti-terrorism commanders expect
> the rest of the world to automatically fall into line
> because they have no real experience of terrorism, not
> realising that all the mistakes they're making now we made > three decades ago (internment, military-only solutions,
> assassinations of top leaders).

This seems to pre-suppose that al Queda is analoguous to the IRA, and that it's possible, and reasonable, to simply negotiate some sort of power-sharing with al Queda, or otherwise make them happy without us all converting to extreme Wahabism or killing ourselves. This seems, speaking of "no real experience," not terribly clueful about al Queda. But perhaps, Robert, you can elaborate specifically on the flaws of the mistakes you list as to how they'll backfire re al Queda or, say, Hezbollah.
43
Robert Sneddon
12-28-2002
07:10 PM ET (US)
Quote: he'd do better to stop pretending that European ambivalence is rooted solely in a desire on the part of European leaders to act as free-riders on the back of an American anti-terrorist campaign

 It probably would surprise many Americans for them to discover the attack on the Afghanistan government, the Taliban and Al-Queda forces there was in fact a NATO operation; indeed it was the first time NATO (designed to defend Western Europe from the Soviets) ever went to war as such. They might have missed, for example, one of the largest group deaths of soldiers there recently were German troops in a helicopter crash.

 I think that as far as the American government is concerned terrorism is a new phenomenon that no one else on the planet has ever suffered from. This leads to the mindset where American anti-terrorism commanders expect the rest of the world to automatically fall into line because they have no real experience of terrorism, not realising that all the mistakes they're making now we made three decades ago (internment, military-only solutions, assassinations of top leaders).
42
Charlie StrossPerson was signed in when posted
12-28-2002
06:00 AM ET (US)
Damn -- I should have credited you in the link, Gary, where do you think I came across Gray Fox? :-)
41
Gary FarberPerson was signed in when posted
12-27-2002
11:37 PM ET (US)
It's pretty weird reading messages from all these posts, over all these months, smushed together like this. I'm just saying.

Anyway, obviously you need to read my blog more, Charlie, as I blogged Arkin's article about Gray Fox, and other stuff about Gray Fox, two days ago -- specifically at 12/25/2002 07:33:04 PM. You wouldn't have had to wait two days to get there if you'd checked me. :-)

(Since my archives are hosed, see "DID YOU KNOW ABOUT GRAY FOX?"), also at <http://amygdalagf.blogspot.com/2002_12_22_...ve.html#86532552>;. See also the Seymour Hersh article I blogged there.
40
kennyPerson was signed in when posted
09-30-2002
09:47 PM ET (US)
I went to meet a colonel in the 82nd Airborne. [newsweek article on mis- and counterproductive conduct by the 82nd airborne]

OTOH, Shabana Is Late for School [nytimes article about girls returning to school after 5 years! v.interesting :]
39
Gary Farber
09-30-2002
05:22 PM ET (US)
On Mon, 30 Sep 2002, QT - Charlie Stross wrote:
[...]
> Firstly, you can't conclude that a report is "sloppy
> journalism" simply because it doesn't come with a shitload of
> footnotes. This is news reportage, held to a strict length
> limit, and the lack of sources is probably an artefact of sub
> editing.

Nonsense, back. It's not acceptable in newspapers to make
unsupported assertions, with no supporting quotes. At least, although that's violated in American newspapers, it's the standard theoretically adhered to, and it's taken note of when it's violated. Perhaps this isn't the custom in British journalism?

> Secondly, there have been bombing errors in Afghanistan --
> notably that wedding party. I call it a bombing error when
> people who are not the enemy are on the receiving end of bombs
> -- what do you call it?

I already called them "tragedies," and affirmed them, so why are you asking?

> Whether that incident, or others,
> involved B-52's is a moot point, because again, the reporter on
> the ground isn't the bored guy in the back office who pulls in
> the stock footage to act as screen candy and break up the text
> flow on the page.

The fact that the incompetence -- obvious -- involves an editor, not the reporter -- of *course* the reporter doesn't chose the art -- isn't moot, but, as I said, irresponsible. Not a huge point, but not one to excuse, either.

> (Thirdly, you're misusing the term "shoddy". And if you're not
> careful I'm going to launch into the hereditary family rant
> about the stuff. Seeing I come from a long line of shoddy
> merchants -- people who bought and sold shoddy -- and seeing as
> how you've been pulling the pedant on me every time I've opened
> my mouth on the subject of George W. Bush's neo-imperialist
> agenda, I think I'm entitled to be pedantic right back at you :)

I'll be your guest. :-)

--
Gary Farber Boulder, Colorado gfarber@savvy.com blogblogblog: <http://amygdalagf.blogspot.com>;
38
Charlie StrossPerson was signed in when posted
09-30-2002
09:17 AM ET (US)
Nonsense, Gary, you're grasping at straws.

Firstly, you can't conclude that a report is "sloppy journalism" simply because it doesn't come with a shitload of footnotes. This is news reportage, held to a strict length limit, and the lack of sources is probably an artefact of sub editing.

Secondly, there have been bombing errors in Afghanistan -- notably that wedding party. I call it a bombing error when people who are not the enemy are on the receiving end of bombs -- what do you call it? Whether that incident, or others, involved B-52's is a moot point, because again, the reporter on the ground isn't the bored guy in the back office who pulls in the stock footage to act as screen candy and break up the text flow on the page.

(Thirdly, you're misusing the term "shoddy". And if you're not careful I'm going to launch into the hereditary family rant about the stuff. Seeing I come from a long line of shoddy merchants -- people who bought and sold shoddy -- and seeing as how you've been pulling the pedant on me every time I've opened my mouth on the subject of George W. Bush's neo-imperialist agenda, I think I'm entitled to be pedantic right back at you :)
37
Gary Farber
09-29-2002
04:49 PM ET (US)
"To the local Afghans, they are starting to look increasingly like occupiers." Asked who, he couldn't say.

One notices the reporter's lack of interest in bothering to support assertions with mere, you know, quotes or sources. It's enough to just pull it out of your ass.

I also note that the photo given for "bombing errors" is of a B-52 of which there have been no reports of bombing errors. But, by all means, let's make it seem as if what tragedies have happened have been fifty times worse than they were, with what is, in essence, a visual lie.

I'm not otherwise arguing that your cautionary take might not be right. I'm pointing out what shoddy and unreliable journalism this is.
36
Gary Farber
09-17-2002
04:08 PM ET (US)
On Tue, 17 Sep 2002, QT - Charlie Stross wrote:

> [ note for Gary: this is a posting ]

Noting back that I thank you for the courtesy, and I've figured out the differences.

> Look. I'm Jewish (albeit unobservant). I've got Israeli
> relatives. I am definitely not a fan of the islamicists
> or their political agenda. Those of them who're into
> throat-slitting would count me among their targets. Before we go
> any further, let's get this much clear: I consider myself to be
> no less a target of the Al Qaida network than you are -- I just
> happen to live in a city that hasn't been hit yet.

I honor your point, Charlie.

> What does worry me is the injection into the western
> discourse (on how to deal with the islamicists) of material
> which is taken up uncritically.

Sure, but where are you talking about, precisely, specifically?
> Remember those Kuwaiti babies
> that were chucked out of their incubators in 1991, and how true
> those reports turned out to be? There's an urgent need to check
> the "facts"

I agree, of course. I'm just unclear who this is news to, and who has, urgently, missed these facts.

[...]

> I've had a feeling for a while that many warbloggers are falling
> on any news that supports their prejudices without attempting to
> critically evaluate the sources for reliability.

Well, yes, I could name a number about which I'd agree with with you about that. But as it is not news to me, I wonder how and who you are naming it as news to. Excessive rightwing warbloggers go over the top in America! Take into account their biases! Evaluate their interpretations!

Snore.

Where is the news here, and what, exactly, are you believing you are delivering as original news, and to whom, Charlie?

[...]

> The intersection of a massive power grab in the western world
> with an atrocity and a pre-war situation makes it very
> hard
to get the facts straight. And I'm worried that so few
> of us even seem to be trying. "Manufacture of consent", anybody?

It doesn't only happen on the right, actually, he noted.

I actually try to get the facts straight, by the way. How few of us, actually, are there? Do they include any major newspapers? Is, say, the _Guardian_ or the _Independent_ in on the conspiracy to collude at deluding us of the facts? Is it actually a tiny group of independent freedom fighters out to "gets the fact straight"? Is it so that hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, perhaps tens of millions, perhaps, even out of the scope of Britain, but in the English-speaking world, of people, are actually reading stuff, and trying hard to "get the facts straight"?
How "few" of us are us, anyway?

Myself, I note a jillion sites in the US, um, commenting away. So, frankly, Charlie, I don't understand what this "few of us" thing you're on about is all about.

Have you actually read any leftist sites from the US?

--
Gary Farber Boulder, Colorado gfarber@savvy.com blogblogblog: <http://amygdalagf.blogspot.com>;
35
Charlie StrossPerson was signed in when posted
09-17-2002
03:47 PM ET (US)
[ note for Gary: this is a posting ]

>Where does this desire for moral and factual equivalence come from?

As far as I can tell it's mostly in your own mind.

Look. I'm Jewish (albeit unobservant). I've got Israeli relatives. I am definitely not a fan of the islamicists or their political agenda. Those of them who're into throat-slitting would count me among their targets. Before we go any further, let's get this much clear: I consider myself to be no less a target of the Al Qaida network than you are -- I just happen to live in a city that hasn't been hit yet.

What does worry me is the injection into the western discourse (on how to deal with the islamicists) of material which is taken up uncritically. Remember those Kuwaiti babies that were chucked out of their incubators in 1991, and how true those reports turned out to be? There's an urgent need to check the "facts" -- partly because some of them may actually be black propaganda, and partly because it's bloody hard for non-Arabic speakers to know what's really going on out there.

I've had a feeling for a while that many warbloggers are falling on any news that supports their prejudices without attempting to critically evaluate the sources for reliability. I can't quantify this because, frankly, most warblogs turn my stomach, so I avoid reading them as a rule.

I also have a deep distrust of right-wing assholes like Tony "Smiler" Blair, not to mention the sociopathic scum currently occupying the White House, who appear to want to start as many Reichstag fires as possible in order to support the biggest corporate power grab in history. (I should add at this point that given a choice between Dubya and Saddam I'd -- reluctantly -- have to admit that Saddam is worse, if only because Dubya isn't famous for executing his political enemies in person in the Oval Office; but if I stop being polite I'd say "Commander-in-Thief" is a term that fits him perfectly. But I digress ...)

The intersection of a massive power grab in the western world with an atrocity and a pre-war situation makes it very hard to get the facts straight. And I'm worried that so few of us even seem to be trying. "Manufacture of consent", anybody?
34
Gary Farber
09-17-2002
03:01 PM ET (US)
On Tue, 17 Sep 2002, QT - Avedon wrote:

> A slight correction: Ann N. Coulter was not fired for making the
> repugnant statement about killing Muslims &etc.; they pulled her
> article but did not fire her. She publicly complained about
> this, calling them a number of insulting names as well as
> decrying their censorship of her. It was her public disloyalty
> to her employers that got her fired;

I'm unclear what you are correcting, since that's what I said. Did someone here say otherwise?

Calling your editor a "girlyboy" only flies in limited communities.
> this should not be
> surprising. However, I believe they have since re-hired her.

Really? I've not looked at NRO in a while. Cite? Has this taken place on the planet Earth?

> Additionally, I'm not sure you'd have to look all that hard for
> outrageous statements in US newspapers

I couldn't agree more. But that wasn't under question. I also wouldn't find it hard to find recipes in US newspapers, or astrology forecasts.
Dozens, hundreds, of editorials declaring that Muslims should all be killed, or that they bake Christian blood into pastries eaten at night during Ramadam, etc., well, that might be hard to find. Unlike the equivalent in Arab newspapers, that Jews do these things, all this century, all this decade, all this year.

Why is this arguable, and hard, apparently, to accept?

Why is MEMRI citing actual articles about how Jews drink blood something to work hard to find equivalents for?

Where does this desire for moral and factual equivalence come from?
[....]

best,
gf

--
Gary Farber Boulder, Colorado gfarber@savvy.com blogblogblog: <http://amygdalagf.blogspot.com>;
33
Avedon
09-17-2002
02:47 PM ET (US)
A slight correction: Ann N. Coulter was not fired for making the repugnant statement about killing Muslims &etc.; they pulled her article but did not fire her. She publicly complained about this, calling them a number of insulting names as well as decrying their censorship of her. It was her public disloyalty to her employers that got her fired; this should not be surprising. However, I believe they have since re-hired her.

Additionally, I'm not sure you'd have to look all that hard for outrageous statements in US newspapers - in some cases, you need only look for quotes from Dick Armey and Dick Cheney. I really ought to have blogged a statement by a Republican leader (forget which one) to the effect that Israel should by rights attain all of its purported biblical lands, including Jordan. And then there's the pre-Desert Storm libel of Saddam that's recently been under discussion. I mean, there's a lot of stuff out there, and it's not just coming from marginal folks.

It should also be remembered that, online, things are equally accessible, and to an alien one page may look pretty much like another. If they are searching online, there are an awful lot of crackpot pages out there that might be barely distinguishable to them from The New York Times.
32
Gary Farber
09-16-2002
06:47 PM ET (US)
On Mon, 16 Sep 2002, QT - Charlie Stross wrote:

> Incidentally, I don't write QuickTopic replies offline, and I
> frequently edit them immediately after posting (in order to
> correct errors). If you subscribe by email you only get to see
> the first (often erroneous) version.

Than you have the advantage, sir.

--
Gary Farber Boulder, Colorado gfarber@savvy.com blogblogblog: <http://amygdalagf.blogspot.com>;
31
Gary Farber
09-16-2002
06:46 PM ET (US)
On Mon, 16 Sep 2002, QT - Charlie Stross wrote:
[...]
> Sure there's loopy antisemitism and insane nonsense in the Arab
> press. What I'm asking about is why the motives of the people
> who specifically bring it to our attention aren't questioned.

Aren't questioned by who, Charlie?

Myself, I've noted quoted from MEMRI in many months, and the number of times I have in over a couple of years is almost surely countable by fewer than the fingers on both hands, if even as many as one hand. But I'm not clear what sort of disclaimer Charlie seems to think one should post if one does: "Warning, this article has been selectively chosen from the Arab press, and although an accurate translation of a piece from a significant Arab newspaper, not all articles in the (state-censored) Arab press are so loony, and please let's not start a war against (any of) them because of this sort of stuff, which I'm sure they'll grow out of, even though such looniness in the press and amongst the population has been rampant for a century"?

Probably not that sort of disclaimer, I guess.

We can agree that loony hateful opinions are not at all a reason to be at, or go to, war, I'm quite sure. Is anyone arguing otherwise?

> Not because they're automatically wrong, but because once we
> stop asking who benefits we become victims ourselves.

I know you mean well, Charlie, but who do you think doesn't know this?
--
Gary Farber Boulder, Colorado gfarber@savvy.com blogblogblog: <http://amygdalagf.blogspot.com>;
30
Gary Farber
09-16-2002
06:39 PM ET (US)
On Mon, 16 Sep 2002, QT - Patrick Nielsen Hayden wrote:

> I can't speak for Gary,
> but I didn't make the initial point in order to bonk Charlie on
> the head. I said it because I think much of the rest of what
> Charlie is saying is worthwhile.

On this, you've spoken for me.


--
Gary Farber Boulder, Colorado gfarber@savvy.com blogblogblog: <http://amygdalagf.blogspot.com>;
29
Charlie StrossPerson was signed in when posted
09-16-2002
06:29 PM ET (US)
Incidentally, I don't write QuickTopic replies offline, and I frequently edit them immediately after posting (in order to correct errors). If you subscribe by email you only get to see the first (often erroneous) version.
28
Charlie StrossPerson was signed in when posted
09-16-2002
06:18 PM ET (US)
Patrick, a quick look at www.memri.org reveals that, in their Special Despatch series ("original translations of Middle Eastern Media" -- not their digests and reports, but actual translations) shows 10 translations in August, 11 in July. That's from the combined media of a region with about the same population as the United States.

Clearly they're being selective here (after all, It would be somewhat surprising if the entire Arab press could only produce ten newspaper articles in a month!). The question is how selective, with what selection criteria (or bias, if you want to be blunt about it), and why.

Sure there's loopy antisemitism and insane nonsense in the Arab press. What I'm asking about is why the motives of the people who specifically bring it to our attention aren't questioned. Not because they're automatically wrong, but because once we stop asking who benefits we become victims ourselves.
27
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
09-16-2002
05:50 PM ET (US)
Actually, I seem to recall reading a substantial piece about MEMRI that made their political agenda pretty clear, but I don't have time to look for it right now.

What seems clear here is that posts are flying fast and furious -- while I was writing mine, a whole bunch more popped in from Charlie and Gary alike. And it looks like Charlie thinks Gary is merely "focussing on the only phrase you think you can refute".

Speaking for myself, I've bothered to address Charlie's claim about "US local newspapers" because it's a substantial issue. Charlie uses his imaginary "US local newspapers," the ones brimming with calls to genocide, as a prop for his assertion that "selective reading of the media of any nation can be used by a black propaganda organisation."

This is of course literally true -- with enough skill and effort, one can make shit look like Shinola, or vice versa. What Charlie is glossing over, though, is that it evidently doesn't take a lot of effort to find some pretty wild-assed stuff in the Arab press six days a week. It's harder to find articles in American daily newspapers asserting the Muslims practice human sacrifice, or clean their teeth with insects, or were sent here from Venus. Really. It actually is harder. This fact matters. Differences of degree become, at a certain point, differences of kind. Charlie can feel goaded by Gary or me, and I'm sorry if he does, but as Gary points out, if he really thinks the boring local US press is just some kind of "mirror" to the routine antisemitism and sheer loopiness of a lot of the Arab press, he's going to come to other false conclusions as a result. I can't speak for Gary, but I didn't make the initial point in order to bonk Charlie on the head. I said it because I think much of the rest of what Charlie is saying is worthwhile. Sheesh.
26
Gary Farber
09-16-2002
05:22 PM ET (US)
Incidentally, Patrick, while "MEMRI is run by right-wing Zionists with an agenda" may be a true statement, I certainly don't know it to be true. That the organizers of MEMRI served in the Israeli military is simply to say they are male and breathing Israeli citizens. To say that they served in Intelligence is simply to say that they are part of a large fraction of the Israeli population.

To go from there to assume, absent further facts, is that they are automatically right-wing is absurd. Anyone who has read anything about various branches of Israeli Intelligence would know that a huge percentage tends to be quite left-wing, very much Labor supporters, among the number of Israelis with the most knowledge of Palestinians and their grievances, among those who have talked and worked the most with Palestinian counterparts, among those most active in the Peace Now camp, and among those most active in arguing against some Israeli military and political actions.

The assumption that "Israeli intelligence" means "right-wing" or "intolerant" or "unsympathetic to Palestinian grievances" is counterfactual.

This is not to say that there not plenty of such right-wing intolerant people in Israeli intelligence, or formerly such; there are. And maybe the folks running MEMRI are. But it's not safe to assume it just by playing, as Geoff Meltzner put it, "connect-the-Jew." I know you know this, I just wanted to point this out, because I like the sound of my own voice.
25
Gary Farber
09-16-2002
05:14 PM ET (US)
Slight whoopsie: I initially missed that, having "subscribed" to read thread via e-mail, that Charlie's response to me was a post, not private e-mail, and thus that my e-mail response would turn into a post. No harm done, just noting, in case anyone wonders why my formatting is bouncing back and forth.

Having now understood that Charlie's previous response to me was his posted response -- I had charmingly thought "QT" meant a private response, and an amplified public response would be forthcoming with the promised "correction" my reading, I now attempt to respond:

I said: "The 'them all' you said clearly refers to 'kill all the Arabs or forcibly convert them to Christianity.' Or so I read you. Did I read you that way in error? Are you modifiying that statement, or would you like to correct my reading?"

Charlie responded: "Yes, I'm going to correct your reading."

I don't mean to be cute, but I genuinely amn't understanding where Charlie is correcting my reading in his response. I'm just kinda blank at how his response answers my questions. Directing me, several times now, to read what he wrote again is the equivalent of, in an oral conversation, simply repeating the same words as before, more loudly.

So I'm still waiting for a response to "Did I read you that way in error? Are you modifiying that statement, or would you like to correct my reading?" that actually specifies what I misread about "(Imagine a mirror-image Arab news organisation combing the US local newspapers for editorials demanding that we kill them all or forcibly convert them to Christianity. They wouldn't have to look far with the likes of Anne Coulter about, would they?)"

Because, actually, they'd have to look somewhere beyond reality. Declaring that a "mirror-image" MEMRI looking at US papers can find equivalent statements is simply wildly untrue, and if you believe otherwise, Charlie, your analyses of the US & Mideast are going to be based on wildly false, dangerously false, premises. That seems rather important to me, which is why I keep inviting you to step back from such a misunderstanding, rather than repeating more loudly that that wasn't your point.
24
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
09-16-2002
04:43 PM ET (US)
Charlie, with all due respect, that's an incredibly lame comeback.

You imputed that it would be easy to find "US local newspapers" that, after 9-11, made statements similar to Anne Coulter's infamous demand that "we kill them all or forcibly convert them to Christianity."

You were wrong. You imagine that there's some deep well of murderous kill-all-Moslems rage in "US local newspapers." You're wrong. There's not.

I know this isn't what you wanted to talk about, but telling me that I'm "missing the point" is rude. I get your points. You've made some good points. (MEMRI is run by right-wing Zionists with an agenda. Also: it's good to investigate where your information is coming from, and who might be benefitting from the spin du jour. Fine points all.) But you've also made the claim that bloodthirsty calls for mass murder are easy to find to find on the editorial pages of American local newspapers, and that a "mirror-image Arab news organisation combing the US local newspapers" could easily come up with material analagous to the kind of Arab-press material that MEMRI translates: reiterations of the blood libel, quotations from the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", and florid calls for genocide against all Jews and Westerners.

Now, this is wrong. With a few eccentric exceptions, most "American local newspapers" aren't bloodthirsty or fire-breathing; they're just bland. If their editorial slant favors imperial dark designs, it's generally by omission, not commission; for instance, most American local newspapers inexplicably fail to agree with me that war-criminal Henry Kissinger should be set upon by wild dogs. Your hypothetical mirror-MEMRI would in fact have to work pretty hard to find "bloody shirts" as spectacularly vile as the stuff MEMRI seems to find in the Arab press every day.

It's possible that you genuinely think that American columns calling for the destruction of Al-Qaeda are the moral equivalent, or "mirror", of Arab articles explaining that Jews make Purim pastries with the blood of Gentile children. I choose to consider this unlikely, because I know you a little bit, and you don't in fact seem to be a brain-dead moral cretin, which one would have to be in order to genuinely believe such a thing. Having dismissed that possibility, I'm left with the inescapable conclusion that you're responding to a factual correction by rather gracelessly trying to wriggle off the hook. Which doesn't do you a lot of credit and I wish you'd knock it off.
23
Gary Farber
09-16-2002
04:38 PM ET (US)
On Mon, 16 Sep 2002, QT - Charlie Stross wrote:
[...]
> Yes, I'm going to correct your reading.

Hokay.

> Go back and read the article, instead of focussing on the only
> phrase you think you can refute.

Charlie, I wasn't arbitrarily looking to find something to refute. I bumped into an assertion that astonished me, and it strikes me as rather an important statement if you believe it's supportable.

> I repeat: selective reading of the media of any nation
> can be used by a black propaganda organisation.

Of course.

> Anne Coulter,

Just "Ann," incidentally.

> Lawrence Kudlow, Suleiman Abu Gheith, it doesn't make much
> difference: they're all susceptible to being quoted out of
> context, and they're all useful as a brush to tar their fellow
> nationals with.

That can be true, surely.

> Which is not a nice thing to do, when the
> purpose of the exercise is to generate an astroturf campaign of
> support for a war of aggression in which many hundreds,
> thousands, or possibly hundreds of thousands of people will die.

I understand your general point, but I'm disagreeing with your supporting premise. I disagree that MEMRI is significantly unreliable, and I disagree that one can easily do a similar job on US newspapers, at the level of vileness that MEMRI finds in the mainstream Arab press. Without disagreeing with your general points on the need to, of course, look for the biases and agendas of those supplying information and opinion, and the fact that there are always statements manipulable for propaganda purposes, I can't agree that either a) it's unimportant that the mainstream Arab press is as full of hatred and absurdity as it is more sensible
journalism, or b) the US press is in any way equivalent, even on the part of extremist opinion journals.

I think you're asserting a moral and factual equivalency that is not supportable, and I think that's an important error in the analysis I so far understand you to be putting forward.

> I think you're projecting your own concerns onto me. Don't Do
> That.

I'm not sure what you're referring to, though we all do read through the lenses of our own concerns, of course.

Meanwhile, I do hope I've not given you offense -- you seem rather testy -- and I do hope we can discuss this, agreeing or disagreeing, amiably.
very best wishes,
gf

--
Gary Farber Boulder, Colorado gfarber@savvy.com blogblogblog: <http://amygdalagf.blogspot.com>;
22
Charlie StrossPerson was signed in when posted
09-16-2002
04:12 PM ET (US)
"The "them all" you said clearly refers to "kill all the Arabs or forcibly convert them to Christianity." Or so I read you. Did I read you that way in error? Are you modifiying that statement, or would you like to correct my reading?"

Yes, I'm going to correct your reading.

Go back and read the article, instead of focussing on the only phrase you think you can refute.

I repeat: selective reading of the media of any nation can be used by a black propaganda organisation. Anne Coulter, Lawrence Kudlow, Suleiman Abu Gheith, it doesn't make much difference: they're all susceptible to being quoted out of context, and they're all useful as a brush to tar their fellow nationals with. Which is not a nice thing to do, when the purpose of the exercise is to generate an astroturf campaign of support for a war of aggression in which many hundreds, thousands, or possibly hundreds of thousands of people will die.

I think you're projecting your own concerns onto me. Don't Do That.
21
Gary Farber
09-16-2002
03:34 PM ET (US)
I'm sorry, Charlie, but, respectfully, this simply won't do. You said "Imagine a mirror-image Arab news organisation combing the US local newspapers for editorials demanding that we kill them all or forcibly convert them to Christianity."

The "them all" you said clearly refers to "kill all the Arabs or forcibly convert them to Christianity." Or so I read you. Did I read you that way in error? Are you modifiying that statement, or would you like to correct my reading?

Because using Lawrence Kudlow's "they must be wiped out wherever they may be found" with "they" obviously being "al Queda," not "Arabs" or "Moslems," is obvious not the same thing at all.

Nor is saying "we will have to deal with Iran" anything remotely identical, or even vaguely close to "[we have to] kill all the Arabs [or Iranians] or forcibly convert them to Christianity."

I'm sorry, but this is simply not just moving the goalposts, but picking them up and tossing them into some other stadium.

As for "...and there are a lot of people lying along it whose opinions are barely less outspoken," perhaps so, perhaps not. The assertion you were making is that it's unfair for MEMRI to pick up these weekly horrifying assertions from mainstream Arab newspapers, since "Imagine a mirror-image Arab news organisation combing the US local newspapers for editorials demanding that we kill them all or forcibly convert them to Christianity. They wouldn't have to look far with the likes of Anne Coulter about, would they?"

That's what you said. And, I'm sorry, but it's wrong, and it's indefensible. It's insupportable outside, I'm afraid, your imagination. The graceful thing might be to note that you over-stated. That happens with all of us; I generally do it on a daily basis. (PNH e-mailed me to say that I was a leetle over-stating in being quite so dismissive of USA Today's reputation "in recent weeks," and it's remotely possible that that's so. :-))

I'm not sure why you're repeating what you wrote about Whitaker, Charlie, as I certainly did read it the first time, and don't note that I argued with you about anything you said, nor said anything at all, other than noting a handful of links.

Last comment for now: "What's bugging me is how little critical analysis of sources for bias is going on in the blogosphere. Yes,. *I'm* biased, too. But it makes me acutely uncomfortable to think that there are readers out there who take in everything uncritically, without even once considering what agenda they might be serving."

I wish you might be a bit more specific about who this nameless "they" "in the blogosphere" are. I acknowledge that that can be uncomfortable. I often don't want to have painful arguments with friends, or make them feel picked on or that I'm scolding them, and I resort to such generalized, seemingly safer, circumlocutions, myself, so I'm not saying that's a terrible thing to do, or tbat I don't do it myself.

"But it makes me acutely uncomfortable to think that there are readers out there who take in everything uncritically, without even once considering what agenda they might be serving."

Well, who are these readers, and how do you know that's what they're doing? And isn't this perhaps a tad of an over-statement?

The flip side of this sort of generalizing is that one is left only able to either nod and say, "yes, there certainly are blog writersreaders who get things wrong," or wonder whether or not I might actually agree with you if you were more specific.

What we're otherwise left with is a sort of self-congratulatory "my keen slan-like intellect enables me to See More Deeply, and Question Authority, than You Other (Nameless) Kids, and You Should Learn to also Use Your Jiant Brain." Which is not, I'm quite sure, the impression you intend to leave, or message you desire to communicate or believe you are communicating.

And, yes, I myself certainly write in that sort of fashion, at times, myself, even if you never do, and perhaps this is just all projection on my part, in which case my apologies.
20
Charlie StrossPerson was signed in when posted
09-16-2002
10:30 AM ET (US)
Aside to Gary: go back and read what I said about Whitaker. "when we go digging into Brian Whitaker's background we find some interesting material linking him to these issues on pretty much the opposite side from MEMRI." And a link to HonestReporting.com which basically gives him a reaming for concealing his editorial post at Arab Gateway.

As I said later in the same damn paragraph, if you'd been reading it, "once you start evaluating information sources, a lot of stuff slots into context, and bias starts leaping out of the woodwork at you on all sides. Once you know who's putting the spin on the report you can at least figure out how to read between the lines, and once the masks come off on all sides it's much easier to assign credibility to news reports."
19
Charlie StrossPerson was signed in when posted
09-16-2002
10:23 AM ET (US)
Found within five minutes of starting to look:

"We first hit al Qaeda in Afghanistan, but the job is unfinished. They must be wiped out wherever they may be found. If the war against this evil takes us to Iraq, Iran or other states, then so be it. The defense of American freedom and democracy can know no geographic boundaries."

(Lawrence Kudlow, Washington Times, http://www.washtimes.com/commentary/20020909-96846062.htm)

or:

"much of the current debate is quite beside the point, because we are at war whether we like it or not, and sooner or later, in one way or another, we will have to deal with Iran. It is only proper, since Iran is the mother of all modern terrorism, the great engine of terror in the region, and the sworn enemy of the United States."

(Michael Ledeen, in National Review Online, http://www.nationalreview.com/ledeen/ledeen090902.asp)

(Pause while a friend drops by :)

Now. I've just "named two" -- and I urge you to read what I was saying in my article about understanding sources before you say "but they don't count". Anne Coulter lies at one end of a continuum, and there are a lot of people lying along it whose opinions are barely less outspoken.
18
Charlie StrossPerson was signed in when posted
09-16-2002
09:44 AM ET (US)
Hmm. Mass market newspapers; hard. Websites (like the one MEMRI decided to do the bloody-shirt thing with): much easier.

In any event, you're missing the point. What's bugging me is how little critical analysis of sources for bias is going on in the blogosphere. Yes,. *I'm* biased, too. But it makes me acutely uncomfortable to think that there are readers out there who take in everything uncritically, without even once considering what agenda they might be serving.
17
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
09-16-2002
08:31 AM ET (US)
"(Imagine a mirror-image Arab news organisation combing the US local newspapers for editorials demanding that we kill them all or forcibly convert them to Christianity. They wouldn't have to look far with the likes of Anne Coulter about, would they?)"

Gary Farber is right to call you on this. What they would find would be Anne Coulter, who (it should be noted) got canned for this remark. There's plenty to criticize in provincial American journalism, but the idea that there are lots of local American papers calling for us to "kill them all or forcibly convert them to Christianity" is grotesque. As Gary says, name two.
16
Gary Farber
09-16-2002
02:10 AM ET (US)
Oops, and how could I forget that the Guardian was good enough to publish a response from MEMRI.
15
Gary Farber
09-16-2002
02:01 AM ET (US)
A couple of responses to Whitaker were posted that I noticed. Offered without further sorting.
14
Gary Farber
09-16-2002
01:39 AM ET (US)
"I strongly suspect that a) the Bush administration will go to war against Iraq, and, despite their promises to the House Republican leadership, it may happen before the November election...." says Alex Steffens.

Wanna make a bet? My bet is that there will be nothing resembling an invasion (in case it's escaped anyone's attention, we've been at war since 1991, and haven't stopped dropping bombs or missiles on Iraq on a near weekly basis in that time) until after the Security Council has had a vote, and the US government has made a declaration responding to however that vote has gone. That might happen in October, but I suspect not. Looking like you're doing this for domestic political reasons is more political damaging than any derived benefit. Really. This is not a partisan argument: it applies precisely as much to why the Clinton Administration didn't make any aggressive moves in October, 2000.
13
Gary Farber
09-16-2002
01:32 AM ET (US)
"(Imagine a mirror-image Arab news organisation combing the US local newspapers for editorials demanding that we kill them all or forcibly convert them to Christianity. They wouldn't have to look far with the likes of Anne Coulter about, would they?)"

Well, yes,I think they would. The reason Ann Coulter was fired was because she said that, and then lied about her dealings with the editors of _National Review_

I'm really surprised you'd make this claim, Charlie. Since you "wouldn't have to look far," can you supply six such editorials from any actual newspapers in the US in the past year? Four? Three? One?

Incidentally, USA TODAY has never been anything than a joke, beyond the occasional scrap of good journalism. It's *always* been famous as "McPaper," and no one I've ever heard of, anywhere, has ever taken it seriously. I don't know why you are. The national papers are the NY Times, WashPo, Wall Street Journal, and then there are some semi-adequate regional papers.
12
Alex SteffenPerson was signed in when posted
08-17-2002
02:44 AM ET (US)
I strongly suspect that a) the Bush administration will go to war against Iraq, and, despite their promises to the House Republican leadership, it may happen before the November election; and b) that it will immediately produce a domestic opposition to that war unseen since the Vietnam War. I hesitate to imagine what public opinion will be like in Europe and Asia...
11
La Gordo
08-14-2002
03:01 PM ET (US)
It's rather scary to hear politicians from rural England discussing the whys and wherefores of war with Iraq. At least when they did that in the middle ages they had training in the art of taking over countries.

Somebody's gotta do it I suppose. I'm still waiting for a brilliant hard-SF writer to propose a working mathematical formula for politics so that people can be taken out of the equation.
10
Dop
05-27-2002
11:18 AM ET (US)
I always thought it was "Send three and fourpence, we're going to a dance".
(three and fourpence = Three Shillings and four pence (3'/4) in old money (£sd) roughly 17p today.)
9
Dave Bell
05-01-2002
05:22 PM ET (US)
Just to note that the comparison between the EU and the USA missed one fairly obvious difference.

Multiple languages.

I've no idea why the UK is doing so badly, except that possibly there's a lot of stupidity at the government/industry interface.
8
Charlie StrossPerson was signed in when posted
04-27-2002
07:04 PM ET (US)
I can feel a rant about the Saudi monarchy and anti-semitism in the middle east coming on. (Watch the skies.) Seriously, I shouldn't read muslimpundit so much -- it gives me an upset stomach.
7
SteelydanPerson was signed in when posted
04-27-2002
06:41 PM ET (US)
Actually, according to a piece that I read, more americans are going to the EU than vice versa and, if given a choice, folks from other countries also choose the EU (same article.)People must like health care. Besides, Charlie, you're criticizing our brave ally the Saudis. They're our good friends, remember?

From America, Land of the Brave, Home of the Free,

Philip Shropshire
http://www.threerivertechreview.com/
http://www.majic12.com/
Edited 04-27-2002 08:43 PM
6
Charlie StrossPerson was signed in when posted
04-09-2002
04:09 PM ET (US)
Neel: report to your local Laundry office for in-processing and your very own signed copy of the Official Secrets Act.

fnord fnord
Edited 04-09-2002 04:10 PM
5
Neel Krishnaswami
04-09-2002
11:39 AM ET (US)
Nah, it's not a troll, it's a distraction operation to hold our attention while off in a corner a rediscovery of the Turing-Lovecraft Theorem is being squelched. :)
4
Duncan Lawie
04-09-2002
05:08 AM ET (US)
Nothing like a bit of Europe vs USA to get the masses chattering. Is Charlie taking a leaf out of the /. trolling book?

There seems to be far more interest in "defending" ones own way of life by attacking everyone else's.
Edited 04-09-2002 05:18 AM
3
Neel Krishnaswami
04-08-2002
07:13 PM ET (US)
Actually, per-capita income is about 50% higher in the US than in the EU. (No, that's not a typo.) One of the big, underreported economic stories of the 1990s was the failure of the EU economies (with the exceptions of Ireland and Finland) to shift into the high-productivity-growth mode that the US economy did.

There are a lot of plausible-sounding -- eg, EU-wide R&D spending is two-thirds the US level (as a share of GDP), and IT investment was less than half the US investment throughout the 1990s, and the European labor market is much less flexible than the American market -- but honestly no one really knows for certain. I feel an urge to prognosticate, so I'll confess ignorance instead. In particular, I have no idea whatsoever why the UK's productivity growth has been bad. It's at the bottom of the big EU economies, and that makes no sense whatsoever. Your economy, with its more liberal labor and financial markets, should be beating the pants off of France and Germany, and instead it's just as lethargic. Freaky, and I wonder what Ireland is doing differently.


Anyway, I'm seriously worried about what could happen if the EU doesn't make the transition: that would mean that the old saw "if America sneezes, the world catches the flu" would remain true, and that is just too dangerous for my restful sleep. Both China and India are both unstable nuclear powers whose central governments have basically tied their legitimacy to the ability to deliver consistent economic growth. If there is a serious global recession -- say the '97/98 Asian financial crisis had hit last year, when the American economy was /not/ growing at 5% a year -- and we would be in deep kimchee.

Between 1980 and 2000 the US's share of world GDP has increased from 22% to 30%. That number needs to come down, and it needs to come down because the rest of the industrial world starts matching the US's growth performance. Unfortunately the word out of Brussels fills me with dread: Duisenberg talks about tax harmonisation (upwards, of course) and the European Commission writes ferociously expensive end-use regulations. I don't know that a more liberal market is sufficient, but I'm pretty sure it's necessary....
2
Charlie StrossPerson was signed in when posted
04-08-2002
10:57 AM ET (US)
Sure, Americans aren't flocking to emigrate to the EU in huge numbers. In case you hadn't noticed, though, the hordes beating on your door aren't mostly EU natives, either. Both blocs, believe it or not, are receiving large numbers of immigrants -- legal and otherwise -- from poorer parts of the world. (Or don't you see any news about the Europe-wide immigration problem? Like, hordes of would-be immigrants turning up in leaky ships off the Italian and Greek coasts, or refugees from camps near Calais repeatedly trying to stow away aboard Eurostar trains into the UK?)
Edited 04-08-2002 10:57 AM
1
mml29
04-07-2002
09:48 PM ET (US)
OK, while I pretty much agreed with Brook's piece, you've made a couple of good points. Most noteably, his arcane references. However the thrust of his article, which is that the EU and most fanatical Muslums, when you boil off the bs, are just plain jealous of America. With the multi-century headstart that Europe had and the vast amount of natural resourses the middle east has, why jimmy bob, why aren't Americans flocking there in droves? 'cause we like it HERE, we're proud of our football and hamburgers and mobility and doing things the way we want to do them. Yeah, the founders would be flipping in their graves, but baby, there's no place I'd rather be than right HERE. And just think, an eighteen century America, in the here and now, would send you guys into comas. M

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