The Idiom

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Change We Can Believe In?

Fascinating read from the the Wall Street Journal. Fascinating because its subject has previously been so rare: a jihadist who has renounced violence. Here's a snippet:
Last year, imprisoned Egyptian radical Sayyed Imam Al-Sharif, a.k.a. "Dr. Fadl," published "The Document of Right Guidance for Jihad Activity in Egypt and the World." It is a systematic refutation of al Qaeda's theology and methods, which is all the more extraordinary considering the source. Sayyed Imam, 57, was the first "emir" of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, many of whose members (including his longtime associate Ayman al-Zawahiri) later merged with Osama bin Laden and his minions to become al Qaeda. His 1988 book, "Foundations of Preparation for Holy War," is widely considered the bible of Salafist jihadis.

Now he has recanted his former views. "The alternative" to violent jihadism, he says in an interview with the pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat (translated by Memri), "is not to kill civilians, foreigners and tourists, destroy property and commit aggression against the lives and property of those who are inviolable under the pretext of jihad. All of this is forbidden."
Last Summer, I visited the Middle East and several Arab countries. I spent time in Cairo, Amman, Jerusalem and even made a quick trip through the West Bank around Jericho. At the time, I was very pessimistic about future relations between the West and the Muslim world. I envisioned a future with a dhimmified Europe and a United States that would be an isolated Fortress America, a future not unlike the one foretold in Mark Steyn's America Alone. My visit, albeit short, did little to change my opinion about that part of the world. It's a hard place to live. I was stopped at police checkpoints in Jordan (a soldier "commandeered" my car for a ride home actually, though I would have offered anyway - if I had a choice). There was terrible poverty in some places. I was told that in Tel Aviv while grabbing drinks at the rooftop hotel bars there you could catch a glimpse of rocket attacks going back and forth in Gaza (though I can't say for sure if this was true, the attacks were happening). And we got questioned pretty thoroughly by Israeli soldiers (not pleasant, but I'm glad it was Israelis and not anyone else). It's not a pretty picture and frankly, I didn't really even go anywhere THAT dangerous.

This was just before the success the U.S. achieved in Anbar against Al-Qaeda and insurgents, the success of the Awakening Councils in restoring order in Iraq. And today I read about "Dr. Fadl" and his public appeal to Muslims to renounce violent jihad. When was the last time you read about a prominent Muslim speaking forcefully to urge other Muslims to renounce violent jihad. And not just any Muslim, but one who, if the WSJ is to be believed, has Jihadist street cred on the Muslim Street. Dr. Fadl has had long standing disagreements with Ayman al-Zawahiri. That seems like compelling evidence, as unpleasant I imagine Egyptian jail is, that Dr. Fadl is not simply a tool of the Egyptian government but rather Dr. Fadl is publicly speaking out against violent jihad of his own free will.

Dr. Fadl's publication seems like the kind of statement that the West has called for from so called moderate Muslim leaders who have a best tepidly denounced acts of violence in the name of Islam (and why should they, I suppose, when prominent American religious leaders are proud to say "God Damn America!"). And it carries all the more weight because he is NOT a moderate. It's a Nixon goes to China moment.

So while I still have a generally pessimistic outlook, I'll enjoy the brief glimmer of hope that this story provides me.

Computer Passes False Belief Test

Great. They're now making computers less autistic than Kid Various...

Children typically master the “false belief test” at age 4 or 5. It tests their ability to realise that the beliefs of others can differ from their own, and from reality.

The creators of the new character – which they called Eddie – say passing the test shows it can reason about the beliefs of others, using a rudimentary “theory of mind”.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Well Anyone Who Watched Star Trek Knew THAT!

Scientists have posited the likelihood of rocky, Class M planets orbiting Alpha Centauri B. via The Speculist

Scientists in California carried out computer simulations that suggest Earth-like planets may be orbiting Alpha Centauri B.

At least some are likely to be in the so-called "habitable zone" at just the right distance from their parent star to allow oceans, lakes and rivers to form without freezing or boiling away. Such planets are the best candidates for supporting life as we know it.

Well duh. There is humanoid life on Alpha Centauri, seeded by The Preservers from Earth's Mediterranean basin. And Zefram Cochrane is from there.


Zefram Cochrane of Alpha Centauri

Made In America

Today's NY Times has a story about how human rights groups who combat international trafficking in women are just downright shocked and stunned at having one of their champions, soon to be former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, snagged in a prostitution sting.

Now the human rights groups, which credit him with what they call the toughest and most comprehensive anti-sex-trade law in the nation, are in shock. Mr. Spitzer stands accused of being one of the very men his law was designed to catch and punish.

“It leaves those of us who worked with his office absolutely feeling betrayed,” said Dorchen Leidholdt, director of Sanctuary for Families Legal Services, one of the leaders of the coalition that drafted the legislation.

But hey, these people should get off Spitzer's dick (as it were.) Because when it comes to his choice of hookers, he walks the walk, and makes sure he isn't contributing to the exploitation of women by the trafficking network.

Client 9 - believed to be Spitzer - paid $4,300 for a woman named "Kristen" to come from New York to D.C. A portion of that money, however, likely went to credit for future appointments.

"Kristen" was described as "an American, petite, very pretty brunette, 5 feet 5 inches, and 105 pounds." Client 9 had to be "reminded" what she looked like, suggesting that this was not the first time the two had done business.

So at least he wasn't patronizing some poor Moldovan girl forced into a life of prostitution. Even though it cost him more money, he had the integrity to buy American!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Europe And Obama Sitting In A Tree...

Barack Obama - change Euros can believe in:

Let us understand why, from the European perspective, Obama is good. First, he belongs to a minority. Europeans love minorities—when they live in the U.S. We tend not to like our own minorities, whom we willingly discriminate against on the basis of skin color or religion. Black Americans, however, are popular in Western Europe, since they play good music and revolt against the white establishment. For European leftists, whites in the U.S. are inclined to be Christian, racist, and imperialist. Whites started the war in Iraq. A white U.S. soldier is an imperialist; a black soldier is a victim, fighting in the army only because he is poor.
Obama truly is the "European Candidate." God help us all.

Why don't you play some solitaire, Barack?

Virtual Jihad

We are so totally going to pwn Abdul...

The US government has begun a project to develop ways to spot terrorists who are using virtual worlds.

Codenamed Reynard it aims to recognise "normal" behaviour in online worlds and home in on anomalous activity.

Fireballin' a kobold horde... normal.

Blowing up your avatar in the main square of Goldshire... anomalous.

Kid Various pledges to do his patriotic duty to fight The Enemy anywhere He may be found!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Pay Your Own Damn Way

One post in favor of mass transit deserves one against.

Pravda The New York Times is agitating for a London-style congestion pricing scheme to raise money for the MTA.

Here's a solution. Why not a mixture of cuts to the massive bureaucracy of the MTA and charging riders some semblance of the actual cost to run the system?

Kid Various is all in favor of congestion pricing - as long as that money goes to build new freaking roads!!!

You want to build the LOMEX? Hey, go ahead and fleece The Kid for a congestion surcharge. (Of course, if they built the LOMEX there'd have been significantly less congestion to charge in the first place.)

You want to build Westway? Our wallets are open.

You want to build another desperately needed Hudson River crossing? It's all good.

What The Kid doesn't need is to subsidize subway riders. And Kid Various is a frequent subway user! Because there already is congestion pricing in Manhattan - it's called the daily parking rate, which makes it completely untenable to drive in the City during normal business hours.

Calling Robert Moses

God we hate these people...

March 4, 2008 -- The MTA will re-evaluate a planned entrance to the Second Avenue subway slated for East 72nd Street in the wake of two lawsuits filed by area residents, their lawyer said yesterday.

In suits filed last month, four co-ops are seeking to have the entrance, now set to be built between First and Second avenues, moved to a corner or scaled down.

If Robert Moses were alive today he'd be like; "Oh, you want to hold up a desperately needed public transit hub that will serve thousands of people because you think your street is too crowded? You know - we've decided to re-arrange the design. The 72nd St station will now empty out into the lobbies of your buildings! Fuck you AND the co-ops you rode in on!"

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

He Failed His Save

Quick! Get the cleric! Resurrect spell!!!

Gary Gygax, inventor of Dungeons & Dragons is DEAD!

"I don't think I've really grokked it yet," said Mike Mearls, the lead developer of the upcoming 4th edition of Dungeons and Dragons. "He was like the cool uncle that every gamer had. He shaped an entire generation of gamers."

Back in the day, Kid Various used to wield a pretty big +2 lance himself. This is like worse than the Kennedy assassination to an entire generation of us!