Archive for November, 2009

This is why the wanktanks (thanks, Brett!) anger me, and why they should anger you. In today’s Obscurer:

The intriguing fact that the global warming trend of the late 20th-century appears to have come to a halt for the time being has led to growing public scepticism about claims of impending climate catastrophe.

In view of what increasingly looks like an unbridgeable stalemate and after years of inflamed global warming alarm, we are beginning to see a period of sobering up, where national interests and economic priorities are overriding environmental concerns and utopian proposals. It seems reasonable to conclude that the diplomatic impasse cannot be overcome in Copenhagen or, indeed, anytime soon. Global CO2 emissions, as a result, will continue to rise inexorably.

What is needed in these circumstances is a calm deceleration strategy that will cool future climate negotiations…

It’s Benny Peiser, “director” of the “Global Warming Policy Foundation”, still hawking the intellectually dishonest, busted on its own terms talking point about “no warming for 10 years”.

We mean it, maan!

The “Foundation” has existed for all of a week. It has no staff other than Peiser and no publications and no thoughts other than worn-out old US Republican talking points. And instantly it has apparently open and uncritical access to the pages of a national newspaper.

These people can’t handle it, can they? They have no resistance to this tactic at all. Just show them some headed notepaper and they’ll slurp, slurp, slurp up any old nonsense you choose to tell’em.

Who is Benny Peiser? Sourcewatch knows. He’s a social anthropologist specialising in sport, and a fan of worrying about near-earth objects. He has published a total of three peer-reviewed papers, none of them on anything remotely relevant.

He also does things like this:

Originally published in the prestigious publication, Science, the Oreskes study looked at 928 research papers on climate change and found that 100% agreed with the scientific consensus.[1] Peiser originally stated in January 2005 that Oreskes was incorrect and that “in light of the data [Peiser] presented… Science should withdraw Oresekes’s study and its results in order to prevent any further damage to the integrity of science. On October 12, 2006, Peiser admitted that only one of the research papers he used in his study refuted the scientific consensus on climate change, and that study was NOT peer-reviewed and was published by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.



Can anybody tell me why this isn’t a bigger story? Essentially, the government is buying 20-odd new Chinook helicopters for the RAF support helicopter force, and transferring the existing “green” Merlins to the Navy’s commando helicopter squadrons. This means a significant increase in helicopters, and relief for the Navy support helicopter squadrons, who have been getting on with the oldest aircraft in the inventory, divided into no fewer than four sub-fleets. They get a proper helicopter; all the Merlins will be concentrated in the Navy, thus getting rid of the need to duplicate bits of the support system. And the RAF support fleet gets a lot more Chinooks.

The key to this is that Boeing has at last been willing to let Chinooks be built under licence in Europe, which sounds like a detail until you realise that the production line in the States is tied up with an order for Canada. There has never been a pony, no matter what the Tories might say.

This should finally close the long-running saga of buying new helicopters; over the last 15 years or so, there have been three different projects, which agreed only that the requirement would be a helicopter of some sort. Geoff Hoon unwisely decided to spend quite a lot of money upgrading the RAF Puma force in 2004, but those can’t carry a useful load in Afghanistan. Around about the same time, the government chose to save on the support helicopter budget as well as on the infantry, which killed off a plan to get the Navy marinised Chinooks. This would probably have been the last opportunity to get any new ones before the big commitment to Afghanistan.

So yes, blame Hoon and indeed Gordon Brown by all means. But it was never as simple as that.

Old friends Avient have got it wrong, losing their newly acquired MD-11F in an accident on take-off from Shanghai. We’ve blogged about this lot here, here, here, and here; I also happen to know they sometimes read the blog. There is much material on PPRuNe as well – try here.

The weird bit about Avient is that they seem to enjoy some degree of official toleration. While others were banned, they’ve been able to use first Chateauroux, then Chalons/Vatry airfields in France without trouble, despite all the allegations detailed above and the innately weird nature of an airline with its management in the UK, its place of registry in Robert Mugabe’s capital, and its operational base in France. Weirdly, as I mentioned in this post, the French government was willing to start a row with its No.1 pal in Africa, Gabon, over their right or otherwise to operate freight flights there.

And the civil aviation authorities can’t plead ignorance; very few Ilyushin-76 are compliant with Stage 3 noise regulations. Although it’s possible to hushkit some of them to this standard, Z-WTV is possibly the oldest airframe in circulation, the last Il-76T flying. In fact, when its last major overhaul came up, they decided to put it in storage/leave it to rot as very little fatigue life remains. So every movement their Il-76 made through the EU required an individual exemption, which gave away a certain amount of information.

More recently, yet another scandal blew up around them when they executed a midnight flit from Chalons, moving their base overnight to Liege, and allegedly welshing on €1 million worth of fuel. The aircraft that crashed in Shanghai had apparently spent much time sitting in storage since Varig sold it.

(Also, does anyone know if Avient people were around in South Africa in 1998?)

Update: Here’s a visualisation of Avient traffic through the UAE.

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not such a giant database

This is hilarious. Computer Weekly reports on Sir Joseph Pilling, Identity Commissioner, and discovers that he didn’t have to apply for the job. And he’s very proud that the National Identity Register now contains 538 people. That’s almost one-and-a-half records a day for a year.

(Where are we on that “300 day delivery timetable” again?)

Also spinning off that post, I’d like to reiterate a couple of points from this post and this one. As far as I can see, not much has changed since Beijing was identified as the world’s biggest concentration of compromised Windows machines; Spamhaus ROKSO looks pretty bad for the big provincial networks in ChinaNet and China Unicom, and the Abuseat Composite Block List also shows the Chinese Internet as a very large source of spam and nasties in general.

By network rather than by country, ChinaNet is still the eighth spammiest domain on the Internet. Arbor Networks has some interesting charts on fast-flux DNS abuse, which show .cn as being the biggest real TLD for this particular form of mischief. Tellingly, it takes on average 7.8 days to get rid of a domain taster in .cn, as against 1.6 for .eu; however, Verisign is not doing great either, as it takes 7.23 days on average to get rid of one from .com.

Arguably, the correct model here isn’t some kind of cold war vision of satellites and missiles and invisible hackers, but either a wild frontier or a failed state – which are of course the same thing, looked at from optimistic or pessimistic points of view.

That China has “Internet police” is beside the point. Afghanistan has a force called the Civil Order Police, Italy has Tax Police, and the US has something called the Central Intelligence Agency, but you wouldn’t necessarily expect civil order to be maintained, taxes to be paid, or signs of intelligence. The UK even has a commission on standards in public life, and we know that’s a joke.

a trick question

Cracking post of Londonstani’s; perhaps he should retitle as Continuity Abu M?

However, it leaves me with one really big question. If I was a Taliban leader under Pakistani protection, I’d be really worried about moving to Karachi unless I knew whose side that city’s various armed factions were on. They’re various, as I say, but they’re more or less linked to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement or MQM, a rightwing/nationalist entity that emerged after the Indian-Pakistani wars among the refugees who moved to the cities of (West) Pakistan. It’s historically been very close to the Pakistani Army, quite violent, and an important factor in politics.

In as far as they are on the side of the Army, they’re opposed to secessionist Pashtuns and crazy Islamists. In as far as the particular army unit they are dealing with is the ISI, though…you get the picture.

Of course, it would be naive to ask “Whose side is the MQM on?” Like all such movements, it’s always on the same side – its own side. Rather, at the moment the movement will have aligned itself on a temporary and tactical basis with one or more factions in Pakistani politics in order to pursue its interests, and I’m curious as to which ones.

It may be worth noting that, quietly, Asif Ali Zardari is still president of Pakistan and still not dead, which suggests he may be doing something right. The MQM and the Bhuttos and the PPP, although they’re both based in Sindh rather than Punjab, have been at daggers drawn ever since the MQM changed sides on them at the end of the 1980s, but then this was very likely because the army wanted them to be. Now, though:


…but perhaps they’re protesting too much.

Bizarrely, the world headquarters of the MQM is officially in a shop in Station Road, Edgware; I’m almost tempted to bus it round there and ring the doorbell.

making the pie higher

Well, ha ha. But I’d like to flag another case of Really Bad Data Visualisation from the Murdoch world. It’s in this story from the Scum; mysteriously, the famous paywall still doesn’t seem to be functioning, but the paper isn’t in the habit of publishing any of its graphics online. This is possibly because they are so embarrassing; this is something the good folk at TSL could profitably have at.

Anyway, the story is that net migration has fallen drastically; it’s the lowest it’s been for years, and the biggest single group of immigrants turn out to be returning British expatriates. So naturally, the line to take is that TEH IMMIGRANTS ARE COMING. And the Scum backs this with a half page infographic – or rather, disinfographic – showing net migration since 1997 as a column chart.

The first thing is that the chart shows the numbers IN and OUT as elements of a stacked column chart, so the columns actually seem to show total migration, because it’s moar that way. The second thing is that they are flat across the whole period; there are highs, there are lows, but a trendline would be essentially dead flat. Naturally, there is none.

But the whole thing is capped with a headline reading “THE FLOODGATES OPEN!” Just in case you needed prompting as to what to think about this data. In fact, the headline and the text use the chart to mean the exact opposite of its content. It’s not, really, a chart in any meaningful sense – rather, looming columns and hurtling lines are a sort of aesthetic toolkit of the Menace.

The whole thing goes out over the byline “Tom Newton-Dunn: Political Editor”, which reminds me irresistibly of the last week or so’s Doonesbury strip.

Phil Carter quits; more here. I rather wonder if it had some connection to this.

Is it any consolation that the Obama administration has a better class of resignations? I think not.

Meanwhile, another voice of sense is silenced by trolls. I said a while ago somewhere that CNAS was likely to be to this generation of crazy rightwingers what the Council on Foreign Relations was to an older one. It is ironic, however, that a counterinsurgency expert’s comments box turned into a virtual failed state. As Teresa Nielsen Hayden would say, expecting a community to form without moderation is like throwing seeds over a wall and expecting a garden, rather than weeds, empty beer cans, and well-fed rodents.

Ill-coordinated links. Great news in RepRapping – South Korean scientists have succeeded in getting bacteria to make polylactic acid. PLA is the RepRap project’s favourite feedstock because it’s a reasonably tractable, general purpose plastic that can be synthesised from starch. The synthesis is not exactly simple, which is why outsourcing the job to germs is interesting. As the kit of parts now costs about £395, I really ought to get started with one of these. Now there’s a Christmas present for you. “Engineered bacteria not included.” MUM! YOU FORGOT THE GERMS!

The uranium-enrichment deal with Iran is still on, but they are looking for stronger guarantees of getting the promised fuel for their research reactor. I reckon this is going to come down to the exact number of kilos that leave at a time, and therefore to a fine judgment about the efficiency of their centrifuges.

Spencer Ackerman mourns a great Mod shop. I remember that Klass Clothing in Leeds was about the first business of any kind in town to have a Web site, apart from these guys for obvious reasons. That’s gone, as is Sam Walker in Covent Garden…and possibly even the SL1200!

So how’s that ContentFree Comment doing?

Rather well in the last week or so. Here’s Melanie Phillips:

If this is from a legitimately constituted country…

And again:

Jewish leadership organizations have sold out to rubbish and Tom Gross…British Jews controlling the Labour government, and Israel’s Climatic Research Unit at the material is a world Jewish conspiracy theory appears to Iraq, not merely from pro-Israel’s foreign affairs spokesman Inayat Bunglawala, is the absurdity Islamist website Islam Online

It’s astonishing – loads of hers come out as raving about Jewish conspiracies. It’s as if…she was, in fact, writing reams of paranoid extreme-right wing conspiracist gibberish, just with a different race, religion, or nationality as the sinister target-group!

You doubt? More:

This verbal pogrom is because of the recycling bin or going on Facebook and Islamist stranglehold over public service

Martin Kettle:

Martin Kettle Kettle Kettle Kettle is above all so advanced, the completion by Deryck Cooke and mysterious, its elusive harmonies recalling Arthur Rubinstein’s observation that Brahms should they
would, of musical and musicglobal. It looks like a modern composer.

It looks like a miserable shotgun political relationship, just waiting to happen.

Martin Jacques:

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That one’s almost eerily accurate.

But the pick is this autogloss of a Simon Jenkins thumbsucker:

Global; retreat from humiliating defeat? Fence Defence policy it had beggared itself with the foot. Ed why the best book on this content is indeed allowed by the Syrians in the Times and concrete frames, overlooked by a determination better precedent as doves offer military spending. America had squandered the DIY sector, hair salons, hotels, restaurants anywhere that defeat to a lowering ceiling and double glazing. P as is a Tory smokescreen for the west Tories.

George Osborne has a fixation with the foot.

The unconscious speaks.