Friday, December 12, 2008

Declaring Year Zero

Words associated with Christianity and British history taken out of children's dictionary
Even if you imagine that there are specific social and philosophical goals to removing words from a dictionary associated with national historic or Christianity, one would be hard pressed to believe that there is a valid reason that it can be imposed on the general population.
Oxford University Press has removed words like "aisle", "bishop", "chapel", "empire" and "monarch" from its Junior Dictionary and replaced them with words like "blog", "broadband" and "celebrity". Dozens of words related to the countryside have also been culled.

The publisher claims the changes have been made to reflect the fact that Britain is a modern, multicultural, multifaith society.

But academics and head teachers said that the changes to the 10,000 word Junior Dictionary could mean that children lose touch with Britain's heritage.

"We have a certain Christian narrative which has given meaning to us over the last 2,000 years. To say it is all relative and replaceable is questionable," said Professor Alan Smithers, the director of the centre for education and employment at Buckingham University.
Supider still, it doesn’t have to have anything to do with the narrative of Britsh history at all. What is it exactly that these revisionists are trying to say? That there was no history of the UK before the 20th century and that Christianity never existed? That a simple conduit of information (broadband) is in itself comparable to a religious and philosophical framework?

It’s all evidence of a real loss of the narrative long past us now. One that can’t distinguish (inm this case) between objects and concepts. It isn’t even up to the storyboard mechanism of the cave paintings, and quite frankly the only way to dispose of all notions of our philosophical heritage, one would have to insure a standard of stupidity to enable it.
Words taken out:

Carol, cracker, holly, ivy, mistletoe

Dwarf, elf, goblin

Abbey, aisle, altar, bishop, chapel, christen, disciple, minister, monastery, monk, nun, nunnery, parish, pew, psalm, pulpit, saint, sin, devil, vicar

Coronation, duchess, duke, emperor, empire, monarch, decade

adder, ass, beaver, boar, budgerigar, bullock, cheetah, colt, corgi, cygnet, doe, drake, ferret, gerbil, goldfish, guinea pig, hamster, heron, herring, kingfisher, lark, leopard, lobster, magpie, minnow, mussel, newt, otter, ox, oyster, panther, pelican, piglet, plaice, poodle, porcupine, porpoise, raven, spaniel, starling, stoat, stork, terrapin, thrush, weasel, wren.

Acorn, allotment, almond, apricot, ash, bacon, beech, beetroot, blackberry, blacksmith, bloom, bluebell, bramble, bran, bray, bridle, brook, buttercup, canary, canter, carnation, catkin, cauliflower, chestnut, clover, conker, county, cowslip, crocus, dandelion, diesel, fern, fungus, gooseberry, gorse, hazel, hazelnut, heather, holly, horse chestnut, ivy, lavender, leek, liquorice, manger, marzipan, melon, minnow, mint, nectar, nectarine, oats, pansy, parsnip, pasture, poppy, porridge, poultry, primrose, prune, radish, rhubarb, sheaf, spinach, sycamore, tulip, turnip, vine, violet, walnut, willow
Even with the pummeling of eco-cation the kidlets are getting as a kind of ‘original sin’ burden they aren’t permitted to get past, plant names for things that are ubiquitous to the point of being invasive in Britain (such as mint) are being removed.

This isn’t a case of someone trying to build a brave new world or a ‘Logan’s Run’ society. It’s a expression of the sad lack of perspective of a generation incapable of placing itself anywhere in history without looking for the gaps it wish it didn’t have to face. In the US, I would think that they would want to leave the work ‘cracker’ in, just. Y’know, for the sake of indoctrination and all...

Elsewhere: hope is dangled in front of western women otherwise unable to form durable human relationships well into adulthood.

Have a nice day.

Protecting that all Imoprtant, nay - Vital Strategic Cheese Production

The cascade effect telegraphing through the whole of the economy, the mass layoffs, the agony. Despite the cost SOMEBODY should do something... Italians discover government cheese:

Italian consumers seem to support the cheese bailout, which also includes a purchase of 100,000 wheels of another grating variety, Grana Padano. The operation will cost €50 million.

To pay for the parmigiano wheels, the Italian government is dipping into a special European Union fund meant to help feed needy people.
Emphasis mine.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dispatch from Utopia

Berlin - chaotic freedom-hating leftists counter-protest against authoritarian freedom-hating leftists. As usual, the natives don’t quite get the narrative of just what it is they’re protesting against: the mere existence of people who don’t agree with them.

From pacifist arms exporters the implausible delights of whining for its’ own sake, Observing Hermann continues to watch them following the script.

Lethargy as Lifestyle

Potential candidates who can’t be bothered to run. Potential bloggers who can’t seem to make themselves notice what is or isn’t going on. Welcome to the human warehouse that is EUtopia.

We know we have got it wrong when our senior European politicians prefer to serve in the non-elected commission, or even in national government, rather than in the currently anodyne European Parliament, even though that body is (theoretically at least) the second most important legislature in the world.
A people leaders are loath to actually trust, and a people unmoved by the tediousness of those in political life. It’s a perfect storm – a kind of ghetto mental complex on a continental scale.
Why should we need to "boost interest and participation in" the European elections at all? Why do we fear that turnout in some countries will be so low as to threaten the democratic legitimacy of those elected?

It is because politics in Europe and debate in Europe has simply become so stultified and dull, extinguished by the well-meaning and ordered hand of bureaucracy.

Politics was always about people and will always be about people, because ultimately we place our trust and our judgement in people.
While always willing to get jumping mad at someone an ocean away, and seem to want to chisel Senator Obama’s head onto Mount Rushmore before he’s even taken office, the lecturesome ways of these great Euro-minds seems to wander off when the subject at hand is their own behavior, initiative, or demonstrative value to civilization.

George Bush? They have a “lesson” for us about George Bush! Barack Obama? They’re all ”for” Barack Obama for a plentitude of recorded reasons they’re willing to recite verbatim. Themselves? Themselves? Hello... Is there anyone in there?

Mark Mazower, author of Dark Continent: Europe’s 20th Century, and other interesting criticisms that look into the heart or heartlessness of the Ur-European notes evidence of this retrograde nature and social lethargy – all the while imagining that their passivated actions are equal to the endless complex of sneering at others over mushy, irrelevant “good to do” notions things one tries to call virtues:
It is not so long ago that Austria’s rightwingers used to campaign on the slogan: “Vienna must not become Chicago”. They were not the only Europeans to become more xenophobic with the end of the cold war. But they were perhaps the only ones to link their detestation of the new immigrants from the Middle East and eastern Europe to hoary images of race riots and organised crime drawn from America’s bad old days.

Now that an African-American from Chicago is set to become president in Washington, not everyone in Vienna is happy. In an extraordinary on-air outburst, Klaus Emmerich, the veteran Austrian television pundit, declared: “I would not want the western world to be directed by a black man.” When invited to retract, Mr Emmerich stood by what he had said, adding that “blacks aren’t as politically civilised” and pouring fuel on to the fire by hinting that Mr Obama’s “rhetorical brilliance” and ability in organising a movement made him comparable to infamous demagogues from the past. America’s choice, Mr Emmerich concluded, was as misplaced as a Turk becoming the next chancellor of Austria.

His comments were greeted by a storm of criticism, just as Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi’s “joke” about Mr Obama’s “sun tan” had been: two elderly men betraying their generational prejudices, one might think. Yet the underlying problem goes deeper. A comment such as Mr Emmerich’s would be political suicide in the US; in Austria it earned little more than a slap on the wrist. How is it that while both places have their fair share of racism, one finds such contrasting public and political responses?
I guess there’s no place like Utopia.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

If it did not exist would anyone bother inventing it? (circa now)

The EU precedent on torture that puts the actions of American officials in a more favorable light — which is precisely why the MSM hasn't reported it

In light of the spectacular nature of the case [of torture of a prisoner in a German police station] and, above all, the raging American debate on torture in connection with the Guantánamo Bay prison camp and the war on terror, on first glance this might seem odd
writes John Rosenthal in Policy Review about the fact that the European Court of Human Rights (echr) ruling went almost entirely ignored by the American news media.
But on further reflection, it is perhaps precisely its obvious relevance to the American “torture” debate that explains the American media’s indifference to the echr ruling. The ruling was announced just as a campaign to charge senior Bush administration officials with “war crimes” was reaching fever pitch this past summer. With leading news organizations like the New York Times openly abetting that campaign, it would hardly have been opportune for those same news organizations to call attention to a European precedent that puts the actions of the American officials in a more favorable light — and all the less so as the editorial boards that have been most adamant in denouncing alleged American “torture” practices typically regard Europe as a paragon of virtue in the matter of respecting international law.

…Two points are particularly notable about the echr’s [Magnus] Gäfgen ruling in light of the accusations against Rumsfeld and other Pentagon officials. The first is that the echr explicitly found that one of the techniques Rumsfeld and Haynes rejected as too severe does not meet the threshold for being regarded as torture. Citing the Army’s “tradition of restraint,” Rumsfeld and Haynes refused to authorize threats of physical violence, as well as two other “Category III” techniques, “exposure to cold weather or water” and what has come to be known as “waterboarding.” (The only “Category III” technique that was approved was the “use of mild, non-injurious physical contact such as grabbing, poking in the chest with the finger, and light pushing.”) The Court, however, found that mere threats of violence, if they are not carried out, do not as such constitute torture. It came to this conclusion even while recognizing that Ennigkeit’s threats must have caused Gäfgen “considerable mental suffering” (§69). By the standards of the European Court of Human Rights, then, all less harsh measures should not be regarded as torture either. The Court’s finding in this regard ought not, of course, to have any direct legal relevance. The United States is not a party to the European Convention on Human Rights and it is not represented in the Council of Europe to which the echr is attached. Nonetheless, the finding is especially awkward for Physicians for Human Rights and kindred ngos, since such groups tend precisely to regard echr jurisprudence as authoritative even for countries like the United States that are not part of the Council of Europe.

…The fact that the echr acknowledged Gäfgen’s “considerable mental suffering” renders its finding even more awkward for Physicians for Human Rights, since the latter makes ample use of the notion of “psychological torture” in order to elevate physically nonaggressive interrogation practices into the torture category. The group has indeed previously devoted a 135-page report to the subject. As it so happens, Ennigkeit appears to have expressly aimed to maximize Gäfgen’s psychological torment, not only by invoking the imminent arrival of the “special officer,” but also, if Gäfgen is to be believed, by threatening to allow him to be sexually abused by fellow prisoners.

Of course, even if the interrogation methods approved by the Pentagon do not rise to the level of torture, they could well be considered “inhuman treatment,” which is likewise prohibited under the un Convention against Torture (more fully, the un “Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment”). No one reading the transcript of Mohammed al-Qahtani’s interrogations that was leaked to the press in2005 could doubt that the treatment to which he was subject by his interrogators was, by ordinary standards of human interaction, crude and abusive.

But this is where the second salient aspect of the echr Gäfgen ruling is especially relevant. For while the echr found that the Frankfurt police’s treatment of Gäfgen did constitute “inhuman treatment,” it accepted the Frankfurt District Court’s judgment that under the circumstances this treatment did not warrant punishment.

…One may well wonder whether the accusers of Donald Rumsfeld and other Pentagon officials would be prepared to acknowledge “massively extenuating circumstances” in their cases. But if the desire to save the life of an eleven-year-old boy is an extenuating circumstance, how can the desire to prevent a follow-on attack to 9/11 and to save potentially thousands of innocent lives not be one? And if the difficulty involved in questioning a wily and arrogant 27-year-old student who has been “trained in law” is an extenuating circumstance, how can the difficulty involved in questioning an evasive and potentially dangerous al Qaeda operative who has been trained in operational security measures not be one?

To deny the same degree of forbearance to American officials and personnel involved in the war on terror is to imply that irregular combatants forming part of terrorist organizations deserve greater legal protections not only than ordinary prisoners of war, but indeed than ordinary citizens. Such an absurd — and for the United States suicidal — logic could only be embraced by persons who are fundamentally committed to seeing American counter-terrorism efforts fail.

Humans: They Ain’t What they Used to be

In a fit of grinding out the last bits of ancient régime along with the dignity of the people still alive who built it, the East German seat of government is done being demolished. Funny – in spite of the near leveling of the city, a number of Nazi structures were left standing – but that may have been a case of sterner folk understanding that without evidence of history one is doomed to repeat it.

‘Smell ya later’

Then again, those folk ain’t what they used to be. The normally trashy Berliner Kurier known for dimwitted social taunts and page 3 bippy shots reports that Ikea has found most men in this post-touchy-feely-education age unable to assemble furniture, what after decades of being berated for being male:
The world is out of whack. You could also say the screws and pilot-holes too, because the head of Ikea in Germany shocked the world of men. She claims: Women do a better job assembling their furniture!

Petra Hesser (50), German boss of the Swedish furniture chain has to study their drawers. These men did a bad job with "Pax," "Billy" and so forth. Hesser: "Men never look at the instructions and have the most trouble because they always think they can figure it out. This is empirical evidence." On the other hand, women were very different: They begin studying the structure of the manufacturer’s instructions and then proceed systematically. Hesser: "The woman sets out first by properly sort all the screws. All the men throw a pile and then afterwards what is missing."
All it really means is that there is something so deeply irrational about the connections in the furniture, that trying to assemble it with known skills after making an observation of it employing reason and physical basics useless.

But I’ll leave it at that, along with your anthropomorphically named chair named ‘Sven’ or something. Upon last check, I was unable to converse with a lamp or any other inanimate object with the same élan as the statistical majority of women, nor did I feel any need to use junk as a substitute to human contact.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Gold Medals for a Global Committment to Issue Press Releases

The generic global buzz of the week a few weeks back was piracy off of the Somali coast, but it wasn’t that long ago that it was rapidly becoming a non-story. The International Maratime Bureau reported in 2007 that piracy in the Indian Ocean and East Africa fell to its’ lowest point in years. At the time, it was the US Navy active on the grey waters and the US which pushed for an effective reporting technology.

“We are like a beat cop conducting maritime interception operations either by radio queries or flag verification boarding, or pattern recognition,” he said. “We also pressurize the maritime environment to deny international terrorists its use as a venue for attack or transport of personnel, weapons, or other material”.
Thereafter, it was handed over to NATO, which in part meant that parties other than the US were taking the point. Then it went downhill, after any sort of success by European forces got a great deal of publicity.

Now, that failure, carefully leaving out the performance of any NATO member state Navies, we have the generic global story of the week to find in the generic global headlines and tut-tut over our oatmeal in the morning.
"Our participation in the Somalia project is an important one," said David Miliband, the British Foreign Secretary. "This is obviously a very challenging project but one that European leaders are approaching with real humility as well as determination."
Which is where they get a platform for some sort of future and present grandstanding, in spite of the fact that the Indians were unwilling to screw around as the EU attempts to “make history” as it has in Darfur since their 2004 commitment to quickly deliver a rapid-reaction force to the area, one over which they continue to obfuscate over.

Speaking of bobbing platforms in the sea or otherwise, the wind-up toy that are the Grauniad’s writers come up with a real salve – not for the piracy problem, but [] their feelings. Peter Lehr somehow managed to convince himself that
“A western armada is not the way to sink Somalia’s pirates…”
Indeed. Buoyancy is drowning. Freedom is slavery. Etcetera, etcetera… Now that the Armada of cutsie poo social concrens is finally on its' way, the promotes have met their match: Somali pirates with a skill at manipulating the European sensitivity for the environment, or rather showing a skill at making Pavlov's dog drool on cue:
The EU fleet also faces the problem of strong support for the pirates amongst coastal communities who hail them as heroes, defending Somali fishermen against poachers from foreign nations, including Spain and France.

"The presence of European war ships will undermine the Somalis' ability to protect their natural resources from illegal fishing," said Mohamed Said, a pirate leader whose group has held the Saudi super-tanker Sirius Star for ransom since 15 November.

"Many of the polluters of Somalia's waters, those who dump toxic waste, are Europeans. This force will contribute to giving them unimpeded access to our waters," he told AFP.

As if Somali pirates were protecting any resources at all to begin with. Further, the Europeans having hamstrung themselves out of being able to act on any sort of common sense need to do something that might require shots to be fires have also managed to find a way to outsource their dispensing of bad news and expactiation-reduction messages:

According to UNOSAT, a UN-affiliated agency that analyses satellite data, the recent increase in naval vessels has done little to deter pirates, only forcing them to concentrate their attacks in specific areas.

"You would need at least 100 naval ships in the area to make a decisive impact, but this is impossible," Jean Duval, a maritime expert with French private maritime security outfit Secopex told the French news agency.
And why is that? Because even if in reality they did only need 10 ships and a nfew aircraft, a way would be found to explain why it couldn't be done, letting snarling dogs bite - just so long as the image of themselves can remain good, that the poor societies around them still pretend to look up to them, and that no action would be required on their part to maintain a good image of themselves as responsible - so long as it comes at no cost of their need to act on the values they try to look like they're promoting.

Think about it: they are making a big deal out of commiting to go where they've already been and failed, and at the same time trying to find a way to make a future failure forgivable and un-noteworthy. It's pathological.

What do you get when you cross a Political Unitarian and a Suicidal Fundamentalist Pacifist?

Belgian society, that’s what:

Last week, a couple of Belgian television networks received a video with masked Arabs claiming to speak on behalf of al-Qaeda. The men threatened attacks in Belgium if the country does not pull its tiny military contingent from Afghanistan. The video quickly turned out not to come from al-Qaeda but to be a compilation of existing al-Qaeda tapes. It was the work either of people attempting a sick joke or of potentially dangerous amateurs from the local Muslim community trying to mimic the big boys.

The reaction of the Belgian media was telling, however. Rather than exposing the video as a hoax and stating that, if the threats were genuine, the country should not grovel to terrorists, De Standaard, Belgium’s leading allegedly center-right newspaper, opened a public debate about the question whether Belgium should withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. Fortunately, the government has not responded affirmatively or Belgium would be the first country to give in to threats from jokers or Muslim kids who seek media attention with an amateur movie made on their pc.

It is to be feared, however, that if there ever is a major terror attack in Belgium the Belgians, whose country hosts the headquarters of both NATO and the EU, will react like the Spaniards did after the 2005 Madrid attacks: by painting their hands white and surrendering.
Yes, you read that right. A hoax was enough to trigger that.