Friday, 3 October 2008
Now, we have the Labour Home Secretary saying that he was sacked for political reasons and that procedures were not followed. These say that the Commissioner cannot be removed except with the agreement of the Major and her. She did not just point out that no such process had been attempted - she was furious and more animated than I have ever seen her in the more important aspects of her role. She says he was sacked. And sacked for political reasons.
I am fully aware that those about to be pushed sometimes jump. Blair could have carried on regardless and basically challenged Boris to go see Smith and agree to sack him. We see what the likely response to that would have been. He could have asked to see Smith and seek her support and intervention with the Mayor. He did neither. I cannot dismiss the fact that there are matters other than support or non-support in front of him. He has three, possibly, four areas where he may well turn out to have been in the wrong.
My other concern stems from Smith assigning a political element to Blair and to the position of Commissioner. In his position, he is required to be apolitical and to exhibit a colourless stance. His relationships with the departed Major Livingstone and his priorities and statements suggested he was a Socialist. He who lies down with wolves gets up with fleas is something in the back of my mind.
For a Labour politician, Smith has overlooked one of her parties war cries. "It was in our Manifesto". Johnson discussed the Commissioner in his election campaign. A campaign he won.
The Guardian has a neat resume of his career and style.
Thursday, 2 October 2008
The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union, rather than German, which was the other possibility. As part of the negotations, the British Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5-year phase-in plan that would make the new language to become known as "Euro-English."
In the first year, "s" will replace the soft "c". This will make sivil servants jump with joy. The hard "c" will be dropped in favor of "k". This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter.
There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome "ph" will be replaced with "f". This will make words like fotograf 20% shorter.
In the third year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which has always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horibl mes of the silent "e" in the languag is disgrasfl and it should go away. The "a" in words speled with "ea" will be dropd; we ned not fer it.
By the 4th yer peopl wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing "th" with "z", and "w" with "v".
During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary "o" kan be dropd from vords kontaining "ou" and "eo", and so after ziz fifz yer, ve vil hav a rel sensibl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech oza. Ze drem of a unitd urop vil finali kum tru. Und after ze fifz yer, ve vil al be speking German, like zey vuntd in ze first plas.
If zis mad yu smil, ples pas on to oza pepl.
Hundreds of supporters of the U.S. National Federation of the Blind are planning to protest the theatrical release, tomorrow, of the apocalyptic thriller, Blindness The film is deemed ' offensive' to the sight challenged.
A spokeperson for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind said, yesterday, that they had no plans to picket in Canada.
"CNIB is not planning any protest around the movie, Blindness. In fact, we haven't even seen the movie."
TODAY'S GUEST BLOG
IT Wall of China?
Conventional wisdom holds that terrorism is inherently political, and that people become terrorists for political reasons. This is the "strategic" model of terrorism, and it's basically an economic model. It posits that people resort to terrorism when they believe -- rightly or wrongly -- that terrorism is worth it; that is, when they believe the political gains of terrorism minus the political costs are greater than if they engaged in some other, more peaceful form of protest. It's assumed, for example, that people join Hamas to achieve a Palestinian state; that people join the PKK to attain a Kurdish national homeland; and that people join al-Qaida to, among other things, get the United States out of the Persian Gulf.
If you believe this model, the way to fight terrorism is to change that equation, and that's what most experts advocate. Governments tend to minimize the political gains of terrorism through a no-concessions policy; the international community tends to recommend reducing the political grievances of terrorists via appeasement, in hopes of getting them to renounce violence. Both advocate policies to provide effective nonviolent alternatives, like free elections.
Historically, none of these solutions has worked with any regularity. Max Abrahms, a predoctoral fellow at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation, has studied dozens of terrorist groups from all over the world. He argues that the model is wrong. In a paper (.pdf) published this year in International Security that -- sadly -- doesn't have the title "Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Terrorists," he discusses, well, seven habits of highly ineffective terrorists. These seven tendencies are seen in terrorist organizations all over the world, and they directly contradict the theory that terrorists are political maximizers:
Terrorists, he writes, (1) attack civilians, a policy that has a lousy track record of convincing those civilians to give the terrorists what they want; (2) treat terrorism as a first resort, not a last resort, failing to embrace nonviolent alternatives like elections; (3) don't compromise with their target country, even when those compromises are in their best interest politically; (4) have protean political platforms, which regularly, and sometimes radically, change; (5) often engage in anonymous attacks, which precludes the target countries making political concessions to them; (6) regularly attack other terrorist groups with the same political platform; and (7) resist disbanding, even when they consistently fail to achieve their political objectives or when their stated political objectives have been achieved.
Abrahms has an alternative model to explain all this: People turn to terrorism for social solidarity. He theorizes that people join terrorist organizations worldwide in order to be part of a community, much like the reason inner-city youths join gangs in the United States.
The evidence supports this. Individual terrorists often have no prior involvement with a group's political agenda, and often join multiple terrorist groups with incompatible platforms. Individuals who join terrorist groups are frequently not oppressed in any way, and often can't describe the political goals of their organizations. People who join terrorist groups most often have friends or relatives who are members of the group, and the great majority of terrorist are socially isolated: unmarried young men or widowed women who weren't working prior to joining. These things are true for members of terrorist groups as diverse as the IRA and al-Qaida.
For example, several of the 9/11 hijackers planned to fight in Chechnya, but they didn't have the right paperwork so they attacked America instead. The mujahedeen had no idea whom they would attack after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, so they sat around until they came up with a new enemy: America. Pakistani terrorists regularly defect to another terrorist group with a totally different political platform. Many new al-Qaida members say, unconvincingly, that they decided to become a jihadist after reading an extreme, anti-American blog, or after converting to Islam, sometimes just a few weeks before. These people know little about politics or Islam, and they frankly don't even seem to care much about learning more. The blogs they turn to don't have a lot of substance in these areas, even though more informative blogs do exist.
All of this explains the seven habits. It's not that they're ineffective; it's that they have a different goal. They might not be effective politically, but they are effective socially: They all help preserve the group's existence and cohesion.
This kind of analysis isn't just theoretical; it has practical implications for counterterrorism. Not only can we now better understand who is likely to become a terrorist, we can engage in strategies specifically designed to weaken the social bonds within terrorist organizations. Driving a wedge between group members -- commuting prison sentences in exchange for actionable intelligence, planting more double agents within terrorist groups -- will go a long way to weakening the social bonds within those groups.
We also need to pay more attention to the socially marginalized than to the politically downtrodden, like unassimilated communities in Western countries. We need to support vibrant, benign communities and organizations as alternative ways for potential terrorists to get the social cohesion they need. And finally, we need to minimize collateral damage in our counterterrorism operations, as well as clamping down on bigotry and hate crimes, which just creates more dislocation and social isolation, and the inevitable calls for revenge.
TODAY'S GUEST BLOG
French complain of strange smells
Wednesday, 1 October 2008
I was reading about the Boris Johnson idea of a London airport on the Thames rather than extend Heathrow. One of the cons was aircraft noise I then recalled Kai Tak airport in Hong Kong. I pal of mine lived on the top floor of the flats shown in most of the clips. It was not just the noise but the air pressure and vibrations that resulted. I swear he had skid marks of aircraft tyres on the roof!
It would be nice to have the situation whereby this evidence may be given by law but; even so, it is possible to have the conversations proven by inquiry. If one intercepts a call discussing a meeting at the place X, be at place X at the designated time and use the cameras and remote microphones. No need to refer to the intercept in any great detail. Treat it as if it were something received from an informer.
Holding onto someone for a period in excess of 42 days just because you can do so is counter-productive. It just introduces another element into a trial and allows defence counsel to add another "injustice" or "element of doubt" into their response to the case. .
I was asked to ration myself to not more than 5 posts a day. For a while, I did this but unilaterally broke the agreement when I saw the poor response to the free time the others gained. Five posts seems a strange way to measure volume. A post could consist of a cartoon or photograph with one line of remark by me. I could also write a very much longer item - still a post.
I have been in and out of the group a couple of times. Initially, I felt happy there but somehow or somewhere, it has lost what it was.
Because of being rationed on such daft grounds, I'll solve all their problems and write nothing there. The few people whose opinion I value and whose work I appreciate can read me here. Or stay where they are.