Sun-Earther

irregular burbling

Main | August 2003 »

July 30, 2003

petri dish art

A collection of rat braincells in a petri dish in America makes drawings with a robot arm in Australia:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3096973.stm

Posted by Jonah at 4:40 PM

July 25, 2003

The pro-war Right is getting desperate

Will you read this? This feller really has the wrong end of the stick:

http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110003786

Let's have a closer look at what he's saying.

Opponents of American foreign policy in Iraq are attempting to focus the entire debate on one small and extremely unimportant event. They're trying to claim that the inclusion of one specific sentence in this year's State of the Union address is the total political issue

This is simply not true. The State of the Union address issue may be making the headlines in the US at the moment but the fact remains that the Niger uranium claim is simply one of many half-truths and outright lies which were put forward by the Bush and Blair administrations as justification for the war.

For example, Donald Rumsfeld claimed that they had "Bulletproof evidence" of a link between Al-Qaeda and the regime of Saddam Hussein. This has since been proved to be a flat-out lie. The Bush administration also claimed to have evidence that guaranteed that Iraq had active WMD programs and even published satellite photos showing buildings which they claimed housed these programs. Despite this supposed copper-bottomed evidence and despite allegedly knowing where the WMD were, nothing has yet been found at the time of writing.

Aside from Al-Qaeda and WMD, the third reason we were given was humanitarian: the liberation and democratisation of Iraq. This reason was, of course, given last, only after the previous two claims had failed to convince doubters. Of all three reasons, it was the one that I personally felt most compelling. It is also the only reason which has not (yet) been proved to be a complete fabrication. No suprise then that Mr. Den Beste immediately siezes upon this as the true justification for the war.

In fact, the real reason we went into Iraq was precisely to "nation build": to create a secularized, liberated, cosmopolitan society in a core Arab nation. To create a place where Arabs were free and safe and unafraid and happy and successful and not ruled by corrupt monarchs or brutal dictators.

I must say that I welcome this new approach from the US. It makes a pleasant change to see them opposing those nasty, human-right-abusing, undemocratic regimes instead of supporting them for short-term gain. Hopefully the US now sees the backfiring folly of supporting regimes like that of Saddam Hussein, or indeed paramilitary groups such as that of Osama Bin Laden. I'll just skirt round the subject of Islam Karimov shall I?

However, in order to claim Iraqi liberation as the war's main justification, Mr. Den Beste must first explain why so many lies were told by the Bush and Blair administrations.

So why did George W. Bush and Tony Blair, in making the case for war, put so much emphasis on U.N. resolutions and weapons of mass destruction? Honesty and plain speaking are not virtues for politicians and diplomats.

It's breathtaking, isn't it, the way that Mr. Den Beste not only acknowledges that these two are liars, but also asks the reader to accept it as the status quo? Does Mr. Den Beste not think that honesty and plain speaking are desirable qualities in those who govern us, no matter whether or not that is the case at the moment? If a politician is found guilty of lying to not only the electorate but also to the government and the international community should they not be punished and removed from office? Or are we supposed to say "Hey, that's what our rulers do, they lie to us. Deal with it"?

The fact that the Right is no longer trying to deny that the Bush adminsitration lied, but is instead trying to get us to accept such behaviour as the norm is indicative of their increasing desperation. They are on the back foot and they know it.

If either Mr. Bush or Mr. Blair had said what I did, it would have hit the fan big-time.

Yes, Mr. Den Beste, it would have hit the fan because while arguably worthy, going to war to affect change of even the foulest of sovereign regimes is illegal under internation law.

Making clear a year ago that this was our true agenda would have virtually guaranteed that it would fail. Among other things, it would have caused all of the brutal dictators and corrupt monarchs in the region to unite with Saddam against us, and would have made the invasion impossible.

This is just plain laughable. For a start, if Mr. Den Beste seeks to convince us that the Saudi, Kuwaiti, and Iranian regimes would have risen up to defend their long-standing enemy Saddam Hussein then he has another thing coming. Even if they did unite against the US invasion, does he really think we'd believe for one second that the US military couldn't easily trounce the lot of them put together? The US armed forces are the most effective military machine in history and I reckon that it could take on the rest of the world and still come out on top.

And that's ignoring the other big inconsistency in Mr. Den Beste's argument. George Bush has been publicly saying for well over a year that he strongly desires "regime change" in Iraq. Yes, that did make the adventure less likely to succeed: not because the corrupt gulf-region regimes rose up, but because the entire international community could see that the Al-Qaeda / WMD claims were simply fig-leaves over a long-since-decided invasion plan.

Later on in the article, Mr. Den Beste brings up 9/11 as a justification.

The memory of 9/11 runs deep. I'm becoming convinced that few in Europe truly understand just what that really meant to us, the anger and the hatred it raised. It's not the kind of thing we get over. We're not going to forget it.

This makes me wonder just what it is Mr. Den Beste is smoking. Of course we in Europe understand the pain and tragedy of that event. That is why there was such an upwelling of international sympathy and support immediately afterwards. The British in particular, after a 30 year terrorist campaign against our country, understand what it feels like to have such an atrocity perpetrated against your people. The American people will always have my sympathy and condolences over 9/11.

I think that this is a fundamental misunderstanding between the US and Europe. The US seems to think that Europe no longer accepts 9/11 as a reason behind their foregin policy because we think that they should "get over it". What the -? Just how are you supposed to "get over" something like 9/11? That is not what any reasonable European thinks. The reason that 9/11 is carrying less weight as a foreign policy justification at the moment is because 9/11 had nothing to do with Iraq.

The Bush adminsitration is constantly exploiting the 9/11 tragedy and citing it here in the context of Iraq is simply a continuation of that shameful practice. Of course, since the Iraq / Al-Qaeda link has now been disproved, Mr Den Beste tries to claim a link between Arab extremism and the existence of the Saddam Hussein regime.

Arab extremism is no longer something that happens a long ways away and that we can ignore, so we aren't going to. It is their problem, but 9/11 made it ours. Now we'll solve it.
In order to remove the danger to us that Japan represented, it had to be reformed. So that's what happened. Now we're going to try to do the same to the Arabs.

I really wish that defeating Arab extremism was as "simple" as invading and occupying an Arab country, but the situation in the region is far more complex. It's my opinion that a far more effective step in reducing Arab extremism would be to negotiate an even-handed and fair settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians leading to a viable and peaceful Palestinian state. President Bush has commendably commited himself to this aim. I just hope he comes through.

So even America-haters in Europe had better hope that this works, because the alternative is much worse.

Europe is not full of America haters at the moment. George Bush haters, maybe, but we have the wit to make a distinction between the current US administration and the people and nation of America. Criticising George Bush does not equal hating America. The sooner American commentators realise this the better. I love America, it's a great nation founded on good liberal principles and before Ashcroft, Bush et al got their hands on it, it was the free-est nation on earth. Now you can get a visit from the FBI over what you've been seen reading.

Which is a really good reason why they'd also better stop trying to make it fail.

Just what does Mr Den Beste mean by this? Which Europeans have been trying to make the reconstrction of Iraq fail and in what way? This is just more typical knee-jerk anti-European rhetoric with zero basis in fact. Mr Den Beste does his cause no favours with such shoddy demonisation of an entire continent.

Right now the Democrats are running around like chickens with their heads cut off, in thrall to their extreme wing, and trying to peddle a message full of recriminations.

I think this excerpt shows just how rattled the American Right are by the fact that their raft of lies are being exposed. Here Mr Den Beste suggests that asking questions about why your nation went to war after the given reasons have been proven untrue is a mark of extreme politics. I don't know about Mr Den Beste but if I'd found out that my government had committed my nation and our armed forces to a lengthy occupation of another country on the basis of a load of unsubstantiated half-truths and downright lies (and I have), I'd want some answers. That's not extreme by an awfully long shot.

The Democrats won't have any influence until they actually look toward the future and start talking about what they think we actually should do.

Isn't it obvious what we should be doing? Now that we're in there we should do what we told the Iraqi people we'd do and indeed what we are doing: reconstructing Iraq and setting up free and fair elections so that they can choose their own destiny. If it was up to me, I'd leave the oilfields in the hands of this new Iraqi government to do with as they see fit, as opposed to just handing them over to Halliburton. The Iraqi oilfields were in the hands of the Iraqi government before the war and they should stay there after the war. If the Iraqi people want to hand them over to Halliburton then they are free to do so. If they don't, then tough cheese.

However, the need to reconstruct Iraq does not negate the need to get to the bottom of the lies that have been told to the American people as well as the rest of us. The American Right know this, which is why we're seeing such desperate articles as Mr Den Beste's, full of tenuous connections and slurs on the patriotism of any American who has the temerity to ask questions of George W Bush's little cabal.

The truth will out and history will judge the instigators of this war. Some of the people all of the time, George, but not all of us forever ...

Posted by Jonah at 11:58 AM

July 24, 2003

Spamtrap

http://www.mailinator.com/mailinator/Welcome.do

This looks quite useful. It's basically a free service which allows you to use an instant, temporary email address when registering with sites or services that you suspect will sell your address to spammers.

It works like this:

When you have to give your email address, you enter [any name]@mailinator.com

When en email is sent to the address you chose, the mailinator server creates that email account and makes it visible online to the world.

You (and anyone else) can then check what gets sent to the account.

All the rest of the details are available here:

http://www.mailinator.com/mailinator/Faq.do

Sounds like it could be a useful renewable supply of spamtrap addresses, although you wouldn't want anything private going there. In the long term, however, I'll bet that spam-harvesting sites and services start rejecting mailinator addresses. Still, make hay while the sun shines, eh?


Posted by Jonah at 2:55 PM

July 22, 2003

Happy Birthday Sam!

Howay, me brother's 29 today. Have a fun one Sam. Looks like we'll be ending up going to see Mark Rae at the weekend so that should be fun. Sam must be beginning to feel the icy hand of his thirties on his shoulder by now - hahahahah! That shadenfreude is the older sibling's privelige I reckon.

I tell you what, I couldn't want anyone better as my brother. Here's to you our kid!

Posted by Jonah at 6:35 PM

July 21, 2003

Thoughts on shaving

Shaving is a pain in the arse, as any fule kno. This really hit with me on this morning when I woke up after a lock-in at the [censored to protect pub] with Goodwin and Annie until 3 am. (You know, this journal appears to be becoming a chronicle of my descent into alcoholism). Trying to shave with bad DTs when you're late for work anyway really highlights how difficult it can get. I found myself wishing that I could just wax my chin quickly and get it over with.

Why aren't there chinwaxing strips? Is it because waxing is perceived as an entirely feminine activity? Surely the cosmetics industry can do better than that, after all, they've made a fairly good fist of getting blokes to use "male grooming" products such as moisturiser. Getting blokes to use their unnecessary products been the cosmetic industry's main aim for a while now so I'm suprised that they haven't started pushing alternative depilatory options to men yet.

Think about it. Waxing has the advantage of speed but the disadvantage of discomfort. That disadvantage could be turned to an advantage simply by spinning it as the macho thing to do. Razor ads are already full of fighter planes and cars and other signifiers of toughness and speed. Just cut from a close up of the strip peeling off the chin to a close up of a tyre as it rolls away from the camera and "BOB"'s your uncle. Gawd, this marketing thing is a piece of piss, any monkey can do it.

When I was positing this on (void), Ian Malpass wondered why men don't use depilatory cream on their faces. My guess is that the skin's probably too sensitive but it might be worth trying it on a beardy friend if they fall asleep at a party. If it causes permanent disfiguration it's okay because it's not you!

Alternatively, if you want to stick with razors, this feller has a good point:

http://www.i-mockery.com/visionary/shaving.asp.

Posted by Jonah at 2:28 PM

Corned Beef Fax

Chris Devers just sent this link to (void). It's a transcript of a debate on SPAM in the House of Lords:

http://tinyurl.com/cknh

Hilarious:

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, do the Government have any plans to restrict unsolicited faxes? My fax paper is always being wasted by people who send me faxes I do not want. I do not know whether they could be called "corned beef" or something, but I have had enough of them."

Posted by Jonah at 12:43 PM

Invincible

Friday night was Annie's son Joe's birthday, so we took him and a bunch of his mates to Laser Quest for the evening. When we arrived, we discovered they had a bar and so Annie stayed there while I took the kids into the arena to fight.

Cor, it really took me back to when the Then Usual Suspects used to go on a weekly basis about ten years ago! Amazingly, I got top score. I beat six ten-year-olds. I'm so proud.

Running around in there to the accompaniment of that pounding "All your base" techno tune it struck me that Laser Quest is very like clubbing: it's dark, noisy, you're waving a glowing stick thing around and everyone's younger than you. Ah well, at least no-one could laugh at my dancing this way. Heh.

Posted by Jonah at 12:08 PM

July 17, 2003

An undeserved break

Jesus W Christ, I had a very strange day yesterday. I can't go into too much detail because it's be unfair to the other people involved, but basically someone I know had what I can only describe as a psychotic episode, nearly killed his partner and smashed up their house. Absolute fucking nightmare. Thing is, the person who did this is normally as laid-back and mellow as you could want a person to be. It's like Cres said: maybe there's something to be said for having a good shout and vent once in a while.

It's absolutely gutting for the partner; one minute she's chatting away to him perfectly normally, making a cup of tea and the next his eyes have glazed over, he's quoting huge chunks of the bible, punching through windows and throttling her. He didn't know his name, her name, where he was or what he was doing. And this is with her kids in the house, listening terrified in their room.

After he'd choked her until she passed out, he went on to dive through the back window and punched his way through the back garden fence and then ran round to the front and kicked down the front door. By this point the house is spattered with blood from his lacerated hands and generously coated in tiny bits of broken glass.

When she came to, she realised that this was an emergency services job and called an ambulance. The ambulance crew took one look at him and called the police. It took four coppers to get him out in the end, all the while he was laughing maniacally and spouting religious quotations.

I know she's really hurting and confused about this; she loves her feller and is clear she feels that it wasn't him behind those eyes but that doesn't mean she can necessarily trust him again. How on earth do you get a relationship past this sort of thing? You may love someone and know that they'd never intentionally hurt you, but how can you feel safe with someone if they can flip from caring partner to strangling you whilst laughing hysterically?

My heart goes out to both of them. He's very ill and gawd knows what he'll feel like when he becomes lucid enough to understand what he's done. She's just had what I imagine is the most traumatic experience of her life, where someone she loved and trusted has just turned on her in the most horrific way imaginable.

Life can be really shite sometimes and there's only one consolation. Remember folks, it's just a ride.

Posted by Jonah at 3:53 PM

July 14, 2003

Happy Birthday Annie!

Well, it's got to that time of year again where Annie and I share our ages for a day. This year we're both 30 for the next 24 hours. Happy 30th Annie mate!

We usually celebrate with a large joint 48 hour party, but what with it being during the week this year and having taken 'nuff time off recently we're going to have to skip that and do something at the weekend instead.

But even that could be tricky. You see, July is a total and utter sod of a brithday logjam for The Usual Suspects. Check it out:

July 10th: Hulbert
July 14th: Annie
July 15th: Yours Truly
July 16th: Tom (Cresley's Dad) and Eelz
July 18th: Joe
July 20th: Will
July 22nd: Sam

So this saturday I'm going to be attending little Joe's birthday barbie, which might not leave too much room for a huge lash up. Ho hum. Never mind, we just had a huge lash-up in Ravenscar for James' 30th and my kidneys still hurt so that's probably a good thing.

Anyway, the important thing is my best mate's 30 today! Have a good one babes!

Posted by Jonah at 1:29 PM

Baby blues

So, this morning I had a session with the bereavement counsellor. Bloody stupid idea to do it at 9am on a monday morning really, and the jackhammer hangover didn't help much. Still, at least I was dressed and upright when she turned up.

It was really helpful to finally let on to someone about my guilt over the way I felt about Nye during the early stages of the pregnancy. I know nothing I did or didn't feel at the time could have made any difference but you still beat yourself up. Well, I do anyway.

It's like I said at Nye's funeral: he changed the way that both Cresley and I saw a lot of the major issues in life and I think that'll always be his legacy. One of the things that Jan (the counsellor) said to me was that maybe that's why Nye was conceived: his purpose was to bring me round to the idea of having kids.

I found that a little strange. As an atheist I find it very difficult to see a divine purpose for people's existence (although I can see how it can be a comfort to the religious) but even setting that aside what a price to pay for a simple change of attitude! The fact is that Nye didn't change my outlook by dying, he changed it by living, by simply being. There are no reasons for the way things work out in your life: things just happen through chance and the nearest thing we have to a reason is plain luck, bad or dumb.

Still, I don't mean to disrespect Jan: she's very helpful, damn good at what she does and makes a lot of sense. I just didn't get as much comfort from looking for a reason or purpose behind this as someone with a less bleak spiritual outlook might.

I miss you, little feller.

Posted by Jonah at 11:02 AM

July 9, 2003

NTK and the Sunday Sport in the same weekend

Well, the hits are finally dying down on the C.C.D.B. as the meme finally runs its course and peters out. It's still getting new referrers but the hitcount's down to the tens of thousands per day rather than the quarter-million it was getting at its peak just before NTK featured it.

But screw NTK, it appears that the trumps game got a full-page "article" in a far more esteemed and wider-read journalistic outlet. Well, the Sunday Sport, anyway. My chum Hulbert has a copy which I'll scan and post when he gets round to passing it on to me but I've seen a fax.

It's quite a funny piece from my point of view: they mocked up their own deck of cards, dropped two categories (hypocrisy and apalling acts) and changed the name to "Top Cunts" to cover their arses. They also quoted a snippet of the site introduction, claiming it was a "website spokesman" but didn't even print a URL. Somehow I'd expected better journalistic standards from so esteemed an, umm, organ as the Sunday Sport. I dread to think how slow the "news" must have been that day.

Posted by Jonah at 12:34 PM