Archive for January, 2007

Things I haven’t listened to for ages…but did today. Propellerheads’ Decksanddrumsandrockandroll album.

On a similar theme, Delroy Wilson does “Conquer Me” live

John Reid, we hardly knew you.. It’s not looking good for him, is it? His strategy, on taking over the Home Office, appears to have been one of pre-emptive disclosure, trying to get the toxic waste out in the open as quickly as possible and get it over with. You poor fool! Wait until you see those bats.. He didn’t realise quite how much shit there was, stuffed in boxes under desks and packed up in database server swapfiles, slowly fermenting in records warehouses off the A1. It reminds me of an Enron memoir in which a former top executive (possibly John Wing, although nowhere stated) describes the company shortly before collapse as having not just cans of worms, but warehouses full of shipping containers of crates of cans of worms. Ya Bass just thought he could do the job with a can opener and a wormkiller spray, when he needed a tactical nuke.

Now, having ridden into Marsham Street on a wave of draconian rhetoric and tabloid mob hurrahing, he’s on the front of the Sun next to the headline John Reid’s Brain is Missing, and the next day next to the word PAEDO in 72 point face. Yup, they done and dropped the P-bomb. It’s hard to see how he gets back from this – Brown certainly won’t want to inherit a Home Secretary with the P-word round his neck and a big yellow-press target on his bald spot. The shit keeps coming, too – one day it’s drug dealers he’s lost, then more nonces. It’s like that mud volcano the gas drillers in Indonesia kicked off. They say he who rides the tiger can never dismount, but that gives the rider far too much agency. You may be riding the tiger now, but the tiger is at liberty to change this at a time of its choosing.

Perhaps the whole direction of British politics post-cold war is reaching a limiting constraint. Reid may prove to be the logical conclusion. Despite being the most authoritarian Home Sec yet, he’s ended up facing basic administrative and economic facts, and has bowed to the facts – they’re like that, yer facts. To some extent, his plan to split the Home Office shows that he himself realises this. Not that it goes anywhere near far enough – the proposed Department of National Security is essentially a way of saving the top control bureaucracy from the shipwreck, and it’s precisely that power-centre that got us into this mess – but it’s probably all he could achieve given the cognitive fixes and institutional constraints.

Let’s think of the history a moment. Early in the 1990s, there was a dramatic shift of public opinion as measured by the British Social Attitudes survey, which suddenly saw an upsurge in measures of the fear of crime and willingness to accept greater state control. Simultaneously, or nearly, we saw the Major recession, the Heineken recession as I like to think of it. It depressed the parts other economic crises didn’t reach – specifically the south-eastern and West Midlands middle class. There was also the end of the division of Europe, and the Völkerwanderung that ensued. At the same historical moment, we see the Woolf report, and the consequences that even the post-Thatcher Conservative Party accepted the failure of the prison system.

Strange times. Although crime rates were falling, and by mid-decade it was becoming clear that the IRA’s war was about to be over, and the nuclear shadow had been lifted, measures of fear were rising. The Conservatives were desperately split and looking sick, needing a new platform. This they found in a Home Office agenda, eagerly pursued by Michael Howard and promoted by the yellow press, that postulated the existence of a permanent crisis. The logic of permanent crisis required immediate action, and progressively greater administrative load on the executive, which had the happy consequence of increasing the crisis atmosphere. Administering radically more complicated immigration controls on radically greater numbers of people with resources that weren’t radically greater meant that the IND was genuinely in crisis.

Howard started off with the Enemy Within – remember “repetitive beats”? Some of us do – but this was too readily soluble, and also self-limiting. The parallel phenomenon of growing environmental concern meant that demonising road protestors was far too close to home for the southern middle class he was trying to scare onside – they were, after all, the protestors. He found a near-ideal bogey in the invention of the Bogus Asylum Seeker, an enemy with the great advantage that it logically didn’t exist, came from Outside, and couldn’t be accurately counted, thus confounding factual refutation. The Outsider would last well enough, at least until supplanted by Trrr post-2001.

He was only partly in charge. New technological developments meant the opportunities for the control bureaucracy were dazzlingly greater than anything since the days of Joynson-Hicks, and so were the costs-a good thing, in terms of institutional politics, as their security status meant they could be defended in a period of budgetary stringency. Hence the paradoxical combination of ever-growing powers and radii of action, and ever-more blatant administrative incompetence, which of course fed into the politics of permanent crisis.

This operating code was seamlessly taken over by successive Labour Home Secs, not to mention the No.10 policy/press machinery. It is as well to remember that despite all the hagiography about Ali-C and Jonathan Powell, most work in the No.10 press office has always been done by civil servants, the same men who handled the yellow press for John Major, and since the dramatic escalation of the permanent crisis agenda post-Hutton, the civil servants have become much more powerful in Government presentation.

So what do the Murdoch/Rothermere press actually want, other than just the commercial and journalistic imperative to break Teh Story? What is the actual content of their messages? What is the latent content of the Sun?

It’s worth looking into the intellectual archaeology of the ‘bloids to answer this. History, said Ken MacLeod, is the trade secret of science fiction. I prefer to think of it as a means to show up the invisible, like Natasha the beautiful spy revealing the alarm’s detector beam with a spray of perfume. The British tabloid press is, like so much else in modern life, an Edwardian or very late-Victorian product. Harmsworth and Horatio Bottomley invented it in co-evolution with the southern middle class, delivering their product over the suburban railways, profiting from the new consumer industries’ ad budgets, having their reporters phone in their copy to beat the competition, offering a political prescription of tub-thumping crisis propaganda that catered to their economic status anxiety.

It was exactly the same target market that movements like the Christian-Social party tackled in contemporary Austria, and I wonder if you can’t make a case that the Daily Mail was the British version of this. Very similar ideas (the Germans have the wonderful word Gedankengut, “thought goods”, for the ideas and assumptions that form the culture of a movement) were knocking around – for the combination of municipal socialism, anti-Semitism, and military pomposity Karl Lueger promoted, read Social Imperialism. The Operation Margarine shift of anxiety from economics to politics – the enemy image of the Socialists read-across onto foreigners, Jews, criminals etc – is the same. Fortunately, the Tories were quick to spot the opportunities here, and the poison was diluted down to a tolerable level.

What has this to do with the Home Office in the 1990s? Well, first of all, the institutional impact was similar. The yellow press ranted-in the Aliens Act to limit immigration to the UK, Vernon Kell formed MI5 in 1909, Maurice Hankey’s long career as chief architect of the national-security state began, the Committee of Imperial Defence began the War Book mobilisation process that is still under regular redrafting at the Cabinet Office today. It is pleasantly symmetrical that 5 was finally put on a legal footing in 1994, the same year Howard’s pustular Criminal Justice Act passed.

More broadly, though, there is a coherent ideology here. What kind of government is called for in crisis? Strong executive leadership would be the intuitive answer, if necessary with the grant of extraordinary powers. A crisis is often the scene of calls for the suspension of legal and constitutional limitations on executive power. Yes, you’re all ahead of me. We’re talking Carl Schmitt and Ausnahmezustand here. The Sun is always keen to attack “judges”, “the Human Rights Act”, and other institutions of constitutional limitation. Note the gap between its bootlicking towards the Prime Minister and its venomous aggression towards individual Cabinet Ministers.

What else does it want? It is always very keen on the military and intelligence special relationship, which in practice means real-time interworking between the Executive Offices of the President and Vice President, and the British “core executive”, as Peter Hennessy calls it, made up of the Cabinet Office Secretariat, No.10, Treasury, and the Foreign Office. Further, although it occasionally turns on individual “fatcats”, it’s quite happy with economic inequality – one doesn’t, after all, shit on one’s own doorstep. We could sum it up as an ideology promoting the core executive, and the final confirmation of this is that the top officials and institutions involved are never mentioned. (A broader weakness of British political discourse is that the last thing ever mentioned is power.)

How can we name this complex of ideas? I propose we call it the Redwood Consensus, after John Redwood, one of the few of its beneficiaries ever to be foolish enough to talk about it. Redwood said at some point during the 1990s that (I paraphrase, and I suspect it’s before the great informational caesura about 1996 when British political discourse hit the Web) globalisation has rendered the state powerless to limit economic insecurity, and the government must therefore offer the public the flag as a substitute – for example, Euroscepticism, the beef campaign, and such.

Permanent crisis, though, has costs. These are now coming home to roost. John Reid may be the last Home Secretary. Andy Coulson may also be the last Screws editor to wield the old wallop.

Ours go up to 11

Is it my imagination, or did the New-Old Iraqi Army cut back its activity during December, only to crank the voltage back up since the “surge” announcement? Since then, we’ve seen the resumption of mass-casualty bombings, the seriously weird assassination of a complete US Army Civil Affairs team in Najaf by men posing as either US troops or mercenaries, and a positive shower of downed aircraft. So far this year, there have been the losses of a Moldovan Antonov-26 near Balad on a staff run for KBR, a Blackhawk near Baqubah which was hit with a SAM whilst carrying a number of senior officers, a mercenary Hughes-500 responding to an attack on a State Department convoy, and now another US attack heli, type unknown, shot down outside Najaf.

A Reuters reporter at an army checkpoint about 1.5 km (one mile) from the fighting said he heard a burst of machinegun fire and saw smoke coming from a U.S. attack helicopter circling above the battle. He said the helicopter, which had been rocketing the militants, came down and smoke was rising from the site. It was not immediately clear whether it had crashed, he said.

Police in Najaf, seat of Iraq’s most powerful Shi’ite clerics, refused comment on the fighting and the U.S. military said they did not issue statements on ongoing operations. An officer in the Iraqi Army’s 8th Division in Najaf, who declined to be named, said he had also heard a report of a downed helicopter. He said the gunmen were dressed in camouflage uniforms and appeared to be well organised and fighting in small formations.

Governor Asaad Abu Gilel told Reuters the authorities had uncovered a plot by the fighters to kill some of the clerics on Monday, the climax of the Shi’ite mourning ritual of Ashura, a high point of the Shi’ite religious calendar. The Reuters reporter said he could hear intense gunfire. He said he had earlier seen two wounded soldiers with a dead comrade in the back of a truck outside an Iraqi military base.

He said troop reinforcements from the nearby city of Hilla were on their way and he had heard radio communications in which soldiers in the midst of the fighting were asking for fresh ammunition supplies. Abu Gilel said the militants, who included foreign fighters, had arrived in the city disguised as pilgrims in recent days and based themselves in the orchards, which he said had been bought three or four months ago by supporters of Saddam Hussein.

Uniforms, well organised small-unit tactics? Sounds like NOIA to me. They seem to be pushing at Najaf quite hard, presumably in an attempt to stage some sort of really awful massacre during Ashura that would drive the Sadr movement and SCIRI/Dawa into mutual conflict. Sunni insurgent violence has been the best recruiting sergeant for both groups, but SCIRI’s relationship with the US and position in government means that they come off worst compared with the Sadrists.

But more importantly, I reckon that the Americans are now in the position of the man who gave the powder to the bear. He rolled it up in a sheet of paper, dipped one end in honey, and pushed it into the bear’s cage…but the bear blew first. Their first 3,200 reinforcements are in, but the insurgent operational tempo has cranked up much faster, and it’s quite possible that they will continue to out-escalate the Americans, simply because the force plan won’t provide troops faster than the insurgents can.

Consider this Seattle Times story, which deals with an apparent agreement with tribal leaders in Ramadi to provide a police force. Apparently the recruitment was a great success, in December. I wonder how it’s going now? I have a little theory here. We know the Baker-Hamilton commission met with Iraqi politicians, including folk like Tariq al-Hashemi and others from the National Accord who have good contacts with NOIA. Now, the Baker-Hamilton plan would have suited the NOIA’s minimum political objectives rather well, by reaffirming Sunni rights, insisting on a pan-Arab role in the final negotiations, and getting the US Army off the streets. That was rather why it was a good plan.

It looks to me like they cut back their activities over Christmas, whilst it was on the table. But now, with this explicitly rejected, and the talk of “the 80 per cent solution” and such..well, all that keeps it from being a betrayal is that there was no explicit offer, at least not that we know of. More likely, the message communicated is that the Americans need a punch in the mouth before they will talk sense. Worse, the obvious counter-strategy to a “tilt to the Shia” is to provoke the Sadrists, thus cutting the 60 per cent of Shia in half.

Like Spinal Tap, their amps go up to 11. And their DShKa machine guns go up to 8,000 feet.

Update: Well, well, well. NOIA? Turns out the story is a whole lot weirder.

NAJAF, Iraq, Jan 28 (Reuters) – U.S. and Iraqi forces killed 250 gunmen from a Muslim cult in a battle involving U.S. tanks and helicopters near the Shi’ite holy city of Najaf on Sunday, Iraqi police, army and political sources said.

The day-long battle was continuing after nightfall, Colonel Ali Nomas told Reuters. A Reuters reporter on the scene saw several American tanks and other armoured vehicles arriving at the site of the battle, 160 km (100 miles) south of Baghdad. A U.S. helicopter was earlier shot down in the fighting, Iraq security sources said. The U.S. military declined comment. The Reuters reporter saw a helicopter come down trailing smoke. An Iraqi army source said some of the dead wore headbands declaring themselves to be a “Soldier of Heaven”.

The fighting began as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims converged on the other main Shi’ite holy city of Kerbala, 70 km (40 miles) to the north of Najaf, for the climax of the annual Shi’ite rite of Ashura.

Shi’ite political sources said the gunmen appeared to be both Sunni Arabs and Shi’ites loyal to Ahmed Hassani al-Yemeni, whom they described as an apocalyptic cult leader convinced he leads the vanguard of the Mahdi — a messiah-like figure in Islam whose coming heralds the start of perfect world justice…

The governor of Najaf province said Iraqi troops fought a day-long battle with 200 or more Sunni gunmen, including foreign fighters, holed up in orchards on the northern outskirts of the city, seat of Iraq’s most powerful Shi’ite clerics. Governor Asaad Abu Gilel told Reuters the authorities had uncovered a plot by the gunmen to kill some of the clerics on Monday, to coincide with the climax of Ashura. “There is a conspiracy to kill the clergy on the 10th day of Muharram,” Najaf governor Abu Gilel said, referring to the day of the Muslim calendar on Monday.

Didn’t see that one coming, did I? A cross-sectarian apocalyptic cult that wears uniforms, shoots straight, and wants to wipe out the Shia Hawza. Fuck. Iraq-it’s the weird that just keeps on weirding. Mind you, am I the only one to think – if this guy can get the Sunni and Shia to follow him and sort out their close-order drills…that’s not a cult, that’s an exit strategy!

It didn’t take me long to find out how to make one of those IEDs that supposedly have to come from Iran. After all, there’s always Wikipedia. Wiki has a neat short introduction here, with an even better photo of one. The idea is simplicity itself. Using the Misznay-Schardin effect, which states that as an explosive charge usually exerts force perpendicular to its surfaces, if it is contained on one or more sides the blast will be concentrated on the open side, you back the charge with something solid.

Then, you shape it so the front face forms a convex shape, and fit a sheet of copper to that shape. And, essentially, you’re done. All you need is a stout steel cylinder, something like a compressed gas bottle, and an oxy-acetylene torch or similar. The backing could just be sand – widely available in Iraq, I believe – and the copper could be beaten into shape against something hard (like the curved bottom of the gas bottle) with a hammer. (There’s an interesting USAF publication here.)

I don’t see where I need the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Corps so far.

Doing the first-class compressed gas version will be more complicated, as the seal must be airtight but not strong enough to keep the bang from going out the right end. A trigger – well, there are many ways of doing this, and let’s leave it at that. We are reasonable people, right?

None of this is new. Misznay and Schardin were Nazi engineers. The IRA used various forms of IEDs, including ones with an IR trigger. Some say MI5 told them how to, whether to keep them from learning worse, or to track the spread of memes through the organisation I don’t know. Even before that, the German extreme-leftists knew the art of EFP. The Rote Armee Fraktion assassinated Alfred Herrhausen, a director of Deutsche Bank, with an IR-triggered one in 1989, or at least somebody did.

There’s a great story about IRA links to the Middle East in Robert Fisk’s Pity the Nation. Fisk had thought the rumours were nonsense (he had, after all, been the Times’s Northern Ireland correspondent through the worst of the troubles), until one day when he took cover from an Israeli artillery bombardment and found he was sharing the cover with a man he recognised. The last time he had seen him had been in Derry in 1972, and the man had then been an IRA Volunteer, like you ever stop.

So, there are multiple ways this nasty little craft could have reached Iraq. And there is no necessary reason for Iran – or any other Dr Evil – to be involved. And so says the LA Times.

Gambia’s President, Yahya Jammeh, whose personal plane, the Ilyushin 62M C5-GNM, is on the UN asset freeze list, is..well. You’d be surprised, but every now and then in this game I see something that shocks even me. Via Ben Goldacre’s Badscience, his pet newspaper, the Daily Observer, would like us all to know he’s discovered a cure for HIV/AIDS, and asthma too. Link:

Jammeh starts curing HIV/AIDS patients today
Written by Lamin M Dibba
Thursday, 18 January 2007
As the world’s scientists and medical doctors continue to scout for an HIV/AIDS cure, which they have not been able to find for the past 20 years, The Gambian leader President Yahya Jammeh yesterday disclosed that he has the cure for the HIV/Aids pandemic as well as asthma.

Today at State House, the Gambian leader will start the treatment of HIV/Aids patients. His treatment of asthma patients will start on Saturday. Below, we reproduce the full text of the Gambian leader’s statement on the cure of the two diseases, delivered at State House at a ceremony attended by the Vice-President, Secretaries of States and many dignitaries.

“I call you to this meeting and maybe you will wonder why I called you including the two Ambassadors from Cuba and Taiwan. I called the two Ambassadors and of course Rose Clair Charles because you have a direct link with the health delivery system of this country. You know that Cuba is a key partner in our health sector and Taiwan is the force behind the Medical Team in The Gambia. This is a follow up to what I said on GRTS that I will now fully participate in the treatment of certain critical cases.

Since 1994, there are many Gambians who know what I can do. A lot of people have been treated in silence or under conditions of strict confidentiality .One would wonder why I start giving medicine to the public and all of a sudden stop. I have been having a lot of queries about that even after we went to the RVTH on Saturday. People were saying, “Well, the President. This is what he does. He will introduce very effective medicines and all of a sudden it will die down and we will not have access to him.”

I had to work on instructions. I don’t have the mandate to do it publicly in great numbers. I was only restricted to a small number so as to be able to prove to people that what I say is what I can do before I have the permission to do it publicly.

I am not speculating on my medicine. There are living witnesses to what my medicine can do. As far as I am concerned it takes only five minutes to cure asthma. I have other medicinal herbs that can take care of a number of illnesses. One of it was the one that was sold publicly at the July 22 Square and the Serrekunda Police Station. But of course, it has to stop at a point because I don’t have the mandate to go beyond that.
I now have the mandate to cure people publicly under strict conditions that I have to abide by otherwise I pay the price.

Now I have the mandate to publicly treat all the diseases on condition that the patient will be treated publicly. In fact, the first and the most important condition is that the person must be diagnosed by a medical practitioner or a medical institution. I am not authorised to treat anybody who just feels sick without a doctor’s confirmation. I can treat asthma and HIV/Aids and the cure is a day’s treatment. Within three days the person should be tested again and I can tell you that he/she will be negative. After the treatment, they have to go to the RVTH for a test again. As I said, I will not treat anybody who is not diagnosed as asthmatic or a HIV/Aids patient by a doctor. I don’t want to give my medicine to a wrong person.” So the reason why I called you is that I have to work with a team of doctors that I can trust. Doctors who will not sabotage my treatment. That does not in anyway mean that I will give them the medicine. These doctors would make sure that the patients abide by the instructions. If I give you the medicine with instructions on how to go about it and you go and do something contrary to that and you turn out to be positive ,don’t blame me. I will not give you names but it is true. It is not a treatment that I speculate on. I am not doing it for money or popularity. The mandate I have is that HIV/Aids cases can be treated on Thursdays. That is the good news and the bad news is that I cannot treat more than ten patients every Thursday. There is nothing I can do about it and if I go beyond that I will have to pay the price.

For asthma, I have to choose between Saturday and Friday. I am also not authorised to treat more than 100 people. I am also not authorised to treat anybody who does not produce a diagnostic paper of asthma or HIV/Aids. One will asked what the Cuban and Taiwanese ambassadors are doing here. The aim is to share the treatment with them because in Taiwan traditional medicine are used. The asthma medicine can be mass produced and packaged and exported to them. The one on HIV/Aids cannot be mass produced because I am restricted to ten patients only on every Thursday and I cannot go beyond that. I want to have a team of three doctors for asthma and HIV/Aids. I want you to select ten HIV/Aids patients: five males and five females for Thursday.

The conditions should be explained to them before they come because if any of them backs out, you cannot replace the one that has backed out. They can eat before coming but they should not eat anything that is oily. The medicine will be given to them in the morning as a preliminary and after, they can eat and in the evening they take it again. Once that is done, they cannot eat anything else the following morning. They may be hungry and thirsty but they have to bear it and that is why they need a doctor to monitor them. Once they have taken the medicine, they should not eat anything no matter what happens till the following day.

Now with regards to asthma treatment, that is the easiest part. When they are coming for treatment in the morning, they should not eat anything that has pepper or seafood when they take the medicine, for four hours they should not eat anything. After that they can eat anything except something that contains oil or seafood. We want to see how we can work with the RVTH to see where these people can be kept until the following morning.With regards to asthma treatment, there is no need to keep them. They can go for six months, without taking anything that is alcoholic. With regards to HIV/Aids, they should be kept at a place that has adequate toilets facilities because they can be going to toilet every five minutes.
Anybody who says he will not be treated publicly should stay away because I have to fulfill the conditions and I will not take risks for anybody.

I am not a witch doctor and in fact you cannot have a witch doctor. You are either a witch or a doctor.”

The degree of moral corruption here makes me actually, physically want to vomit. Here we have the ruler of a sovereign state who is actively promoting God-knows-what quack remedy to his subjects, with the perfectly obvious consequence that many more of them will get HIV and many fewer of them will get effective treatment. The personal aggrandisement involved just adds a pornographically horrible edge to the whole thing.

How many of his subjects can hope for “adequate toilet facilities”, where the word adequate implies ones that don’t put cholera germs in the drinking water, I wonder? I’d love to know what the Cuban and Taiwanese ambassadors’ excuses are, too. The Cubans have a good reputation for medicine. I suspect that the Taiwanese ambassador’s motive was probably to cling to another risible flag pinned to the map.

What is the morally sane response to this? You could wish that he gets the virus himself, it would have a Shakespearian kind of vicious justice, but no doubt he would be off to some Swiss clinic to be topped-up to the teats with antiretroviral agents like a shot. Still, being president for life has a terrible pension plan..

Gambia’s President, Yahya Jammeh, whose personal plane, the Ilyushin 62M C5-GNM, is on the UN asset freeze list, is..well. You’d be surprised, but every now and then in this game I see something that shocks even me. Via Ben Goldacre’s Badscience, his pet newspaper, the Daily Observer, would like us all to know he’s discovered a cure for HIV/AIDS, and asthma too. Link:

Jammeh starts curing HIV/AIDS patients today
Written by Lamin M Dibba
Thursday, 18 January 2007
As the world’s scientists and medical doctors continue to scout for an HIV/AIDS cure, which they have not been able to find for the past 20 years, The Gambian leader President Yahya Jammeh yesterday disclosed that he has the cure for the HIV/Aids pandemic as well as asthma.

Today at State House, the Gambian leader will start the treatment of HIV/Aids patients. His treatment of asthma patients will start on Saturday. Below, we reproduce the full text of the Gambian leader’s statement on the cure of the two diseases, delivered at State House at a ceremony attended by the Vice-President, Secretaries of States and many dignitaries.

“I call you to this meeting and maybe you will wonder why I called you including the two Ambassadors from Cuba and Taiwan. I called the two Ambassadors and of course Rose Clair Charles because you have a direct link with the health delivery system of this country. You know that Cuba is a key partner in our health sector and Taiwan is the force behind the Medical Team in The Gambia. This is a follow up to what I said on GRTS that I will now fully participate in the treatment of certain critical cases.

Since 1994, there are many Gambians who know what I can do. A lot of people have been treated in silence or under conditions of strict confidentiality .One would wonder why I start giving medicine to the public and all of a sudden stop. I have been having a lot of queries about that even after we went to the RVTH on Saturday. People were saying, “Well, the President. This is what he does. He will introduce very effective medicines and all of a sudden it will die down and we will not have access to him.”

I had to work on instructions. I don’t have the mandate to do it publicly in great numbers. I was only restricted to a small number so as to be able to prove to people that what I say is what I can do before I have the permission to do it publicly.

I am not speculating on my medicine. There are living witnesses to what my medicine can do. As far as I am concerned it takes only five minutes to cure asthma. I have other medicinal herbs that can take care of a number of illnesses. One of it was the one that was sold publicly at the July 22 Square and the Serrekunda Police Station. But of course, it has to stop at a point because I don’t have the mandate to go beyond that.
I now have the mandate to cure people publicly under strict conditions that I have to abide by otherwise I pay the price.

Now I have the mandate to publicly treat all the diseases on condition that the patient will be treated publicly. In fact, the first and the most important condition is that the person must be diagnosed by a medical practitioner or a medical institution. I am not authorised to treat anybody who just feels sick without a doctor’s confirmation. I can treat asthma and HIV/Aids and the cure is a day’s treatment. Within three days the person should be tested again and I can tell you that he/she will be negative. After the treatment, they have to go to the RVTH for a test again. As I said, I will not treat anybody who is not diagnosed as asthmatic or a HIV/Aids patient by a doctor. I don’t want to give my medicine to a wrong person.” So the reason why I called you is that I have to work with a team of doctors that I can trust. Doctors who will not sabotage my treatment. That does not in anyway mean that I will give them the medicine. These doctors would make sure that the patients abide by the instructions. If I give you the medicine with instructions on how to go about it and you go and do something contrary to that and you turn out to be positive ,don’t blame me. I will not give you names but it is true. It is not a treatment that I speculate on. I am not doing it for money or popularity. The mandate I have is that HIV/Aids cases can be treated on Thursdays. That is the good news and the bad news is that I cannot treat more than ten patients every Thursday. There is nothing I can do about it and if I go beyond that I will have to pay the price.

For asthma, I have to choose between Saturday and Friday. I am also not authorised to treat more than 100 people. I am also not authorised to treat anybody who does not produce a diagnostic paper of asthma or HIV/Aids. One will asked what the Cuban and Taiwanese ambassadors are doing here. The aim is to share the treatment with them because in Taiwan traditional medicine are used. The asthma medicine can be mass produced and packaged and exported to them. The one on HIV/Aids cannot be mass produced because I am restricted to ten patients only on every Thursday and I cannot go beyond that. I want to have a team of three doctors for asthma and HIV/Aids. I want you to select ten HIV/Aids patients: five males and five females for Thursday.

The conditions should be explained to them before they come because if any of them backs out, you cannot replace the one that has backed out. They can eat before coming but they should not eat anything that is oily. The medicine will be given to them in the morning as a preliminary and after, they can eat and in the evening they take it again. Once that is done, they cannot eat anything else the following morning. They may be hungry and thirsty but they have to bear it and that is why they need a doctor to monitor them. Once they have taken the medicine, they should not eat anything no matter what happens till the following day.

Now with regards to asthma treatment, that is the easiest part. When they are coming for treatment in the morning, they should not eat anything that has pepper or seafood when they take the medicine, for four hours they should not eat anything. After that they can eat anything except something that contains oil or seafood. We want to see how we can work with the RVTH to see where these people can be kept until the following morning.With regards to asthma treatment, there is no need to keep them. They can go for six months, without taking anything that is alcoholic. With regards to HIV/Aids, they should be kept at a place that has adequate toilets facilities because they can be going to toilet every five minutes.
Anybody who says he will not be treated publicly should stay away because I have to fulfill the conditions and I will not take risks for anybody.

I am not a witch doctor and in fact you cannot have a witch doctor. You are either a witch or a doctor.”

The degree of moral corruption here makes me actually, physically want to vomit. Here we have the ruler of a sovereign state who is actively promoting God-knows-what quack remedy to his subjects, with the perfectly obvious consequence that many more of them will get HIV and many fewer of them will get effective treatment. The personal aggrandisement involved just adds a pornographically horrible edge to the whole thing.

How many of his subjects can hope for “adequate toilet facilities”, where the word adequate implies ones that don’t put cholera germs in the drinking water, I wonder? I’d love to know what the Cuban and Taiwanese ambassadors’ excuses are, too. The Cubans have a good reputation for medicine. I suspect that the Taiwanese ambassador’s motive was probably to cling to another risible flag pinned to the map.

What is the morally sane response to this? You could wish that he gets the virus himself, it would have a Shakespearian kind of vicious justice, but no doubt he would be off to some Swiss clinic to be topped-up to the teats with antiretroviral agents like a shot. Still, being president for life has a terrible pension plan..

Does “Paleoprog” contribute anything to the otherwise indispensable American Footprints at all? Consider this thread, where he is defending the Iranian-IED stories on the grounds that

i base it on what the president, rice, gates and others are now saying.

If I had decided to disbelieve any statement from any of these people out of hand, I’m not sure I’d have lost any net information. But anyway, the Iranian-IED meme is worthy of further consideration. Politicians and senior US generals (if there is a useful distinction between the two categories) routinely brief the press that the best IEDs come from Iran, without ever producing any evidence of this. Now, I know it’s difficult, but they never even give any reason to believe this. Just as routinely, intelligence and army sources counterbrief that there is no evidence.

Less often, named officers go on-the-record with this. The Defence Secretary, Des “Swiss Toni” Browne, has said there is no evidence. So has Lieutenant-Colonel David Labouchere, commanding the Queen’s Royal Hussars battlegroup on the Iranian border of Maysan. I’m sure I remember Major-General Jim Dutton, RM, saying so in an interview. Ah yes, “a lot of speculation but not many facts.”

So is there any reason to believe it? The IEDs of which they speak are the ones described as EFPs, for explosively-formed projectile. This means that the explosive is contained around a cone of metal, copper for preference, which is melted by the explosion and driven as a solid slug into the target. This approximates the way modern tank guns work, (well, as numerous commenters point out, the way anti-tank missiles, RPGs and the like work, although in my defence I will point to HEAT ammunition) and will penetrate practically any armour. Especially advanced ones use compressed gas as a fuel-air explosive to push it and either one of many kinds of command-detonator or an infra-red sensor as a trigger.

There’s nothing incredibly complicated in that. When you think that Iraq in 1991 had a nuclear programme and a space programme, and that even in 2003 it was able to build its own rockets (the Al Samoud IIs), it should be no surprise that there are people running about who could design one. And that’s the difficult bit. The rest just requires a sheet-metal workshop.

Personally, I think the conviction – for without any evidence whatsoever, what else is it? – that EFPs must come from Iran is only explicable by a refusal to believe that Iraq has smart people. The epitaph of the Iraq project is that they are all on the other side.

Update: Check out the new post for more shrilling revelations.

Does “Paleoprog” contribute anything to the otherwise indispensable American Footprints at all? Consider this thread, where he is defending the Iranian-IED stories on the grounds that

i base it on what the president, rice, gates and others are now saying.

If I had decided to disbelieve any statement from any of these people out of hand, I’m not sure I’d have lost any net information. But anyway, the Iranian-IED meme is worthy of further consideration. Politicians and senior US generals (if there is a useful distinction between the two categories) routinely brief the press that the best IEDs come from Iran, without ever producing any evidence of this. Now, I know it’s difficult, but they never even give any reason to believe this. Just as routinely, intelligence and army sources counterbrief that there is no evidence.

Less often, named officers go on-the-record with this. The Defence Secretary, Des “Swiss Toni” Browne, has said there is no evidence. So has Lieutenant-Colonel David Labouchere, commanding the Queen’s Royal Hussars battlegroup on the Iranian border of Maysan. I’m sure I remember Major-General Jim Dutton, RM, saying so in an interview. Ah yes, “a lot of speculation but not many facts.”

So is there any reason to believe it? The IEDs of which they speak are the ones described as EFPs, for explosively-formed projectile. This means that the explosive is contained around a cone of metal, copper for preference, which is melted by the explosion and driven as a solid slug into the target. This approximates the way modern tank guns work, (well, as numerous commenters point out, the way anti-tank missiles, RPGs and the like work, although in my defence I will point to HEAT ammunition) and will penetrate practically any armour. Especially advanced ones use compressed gas as a fuel-air explosive to push it and either one of many kinds of command-detonator or an infra-red sensor as a trigger.

There’s nothing incredibly complicated in that. When you think that Iraq in 1991 had a nuclear programme and a space programme, and that even in 2003 it was able to build its own rockets (the Al Samoud IIs), it should be no surprise that there are people running about who could design one. And that’s the difficult bit. The rest just requires a sheet-metal workshop.

Personally, I think the conviction – for without any evidence whatsoever, what else is it? – that EFPs must come from Iran is only explicable by a refusal to believe that Iraq has smart people. The epitaph of the Iraq project is that they are all on the other side.

Update: Check out the new post for more shrilling revelations.

Hissing Sid OS

Well, who saw that one coming? China blasts an old weather satellite with an MRBM. There’s a lot to say about this, but here’s one of the most important things. One of the classic examples of cooperation in an adversarial relationship is the understanding between the US and the Soviet Union, and then everyone else, that nobody would try to extend their sovereignty into low earth-orbit. John Lewis Gaddis devoted a whole chapter of The Long Peace to this idea. Originally, it wasn’t clear that satellites could actually orbit without the permission of states they passed over. But, even though it was soon obvious how useful they would be for spying, the superpowers tacitly agreed to tolerate each other’s sats.

Partly this was because it was clear that, without a cut-off point, it would be extremely annoying to get anything done in space. Partly it was because satellite reconnaissance was seen as a useful precaution against surprise attack, and hence a stabilising influence on superpower politics. So, although both sides researched the possibilities of shooting down satellites, and both the US and USSR carried out successful tests, they quietly agreed to put up with the other side’s birds in time of peace. (There’s a good post here at RussianForces.org about their ASAT program.)

The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 added to, but was really just built on top of, this tacit understanding. It’s important to understand that US (or anyone else’s) complaining about the Chinese is not an argument that “We own space”, or rather, it isn’t one with that particular “we”. The existing position is that anyone who can get to space can use space, and this includes a lot of military or related activity. But all agree not to interfere with each other’s satellites. This is actually quite a good solution.

Many of the things civilians want to do in space are indistinguishable from things the military would like to do in space – the telecoms industry’s activities up there are not very different from military signals operations up there, scientists and cartographers carrying out photographic surveys and some forms of Earth-monitoring are not very different from military intelligence personnel doing photo-reconnaissance, GPS and GLONASS are used by all kinds of people.

This way, all the users are catered for with a degree of security. “We” own space, where the “we” is the community of space users. It’s rather like the high seas. Anyone trying to destroy satellites is effectively enclosing the commons, especially given the debris problem. Whichever way you cut it, it’s an act aimed at changing the status quo in space, and not in a direction I think anyone needs.

It’s also worrying exactly how it was done. The Chinese seem to have used a bloody big rocket fired directly into its path, like a huge SAM. They don’t seem to have told anyone beforehand. Now, firing a bloody big rocket on a ballistic trajectory is an act that can be dangerous. There are longstanding arrangements under which any state that is going to let off a bloody big rocket tells everyone else first. This is because if it goes high enough, it will be detected by early-warning radars looking for ballistic missiles. (The launch will also show up on the US’s Defence Support Program infrared satellites.) A rocket that can put a satellite into orbit can also be at least an MRBM.

That’s not good. In this case the launcher wasn’t big enough to be an ICBM, but it would have been big enough to target India or Japan or parts of Russia. I think all can agree that unacknowledged ballistic missile tests are not a boon to humanity.

Why would China want such a capability? It’s well known that the US armed forces love satellites, for intelligence, communications, weather forecasting, and navigation. A lot of these are in low earth-orbit, like the one the Chinese rocket smashed. There’s clearly a show of strength going on here, but the foxing question is why they found it necessary to do it in the way they did. There’s no point signalling a capability secretly. It’s impossible to do something in LEO secretly, anyway, as all kinds of governments and research organisations from many countries observe it routinely and their data is available on the Net, which is how the news of the hit got out.

The Americans are presumably being put on notice that their LEO constellation can be held in jeopardy. There’s another point, though – satellites are a field in which new countries are rapidly gaining capabilities. Taiwan, for example, rents a share in an Israeli satellite. Nigeria is working on one. It makes sense, I suppose, for the Chinese to keep ahead of states nearer to being peers than the US.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that the UK is one of few comparable states that has no satellite capability of its own. You might remember this post and the difference of opinion on Iraq between the countries without satellites, and France, which has its own. Surrey University and Astrium in Stevenage are good at making them. Arianespace are pretty good at launching any satellite someone will pay for.





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