Monday, February 26, 2007

Latest Movies and DVDs I've seen.

Yesterday, went and saw 'The Good Shepherd'at the movies, and daughter had given me 'Kenny' as a present (much appreciated - she's just started working and she gives her parents presents!).

Kenny, (a 'mockumentary' daughter called it), was original, amusing, and uplifting. Recommended.

'Good Shepherd', worth seeing, but hardly uplifting, or even representative of both sides of the reality of the Cold War. It's about the origins of the CIA, and one 'operative' in it (and the OSS before that). It was OK, not great, just OK. The movie was at great pains to point out the 'darkness within' the principle character, and the CIA as an entity. It did nothing to illustrate the much darker soul that was the KGB and NKVD (I wonder if the writers/director ever heard of Beria, for example).

This graph (from Tim Blair's site), gives a good indication of root causes;
Note that the Soviet Union 'fell' in ~1989. Notice also the dramatic reduction in world conflicts that immediately followed.

There is a new threat now. Wonder what we would see if we graphed that effect?

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Keep on blogging

Isn't that a great picture? Worth a thousand words. I saw it somewhere, then had to find it again via a 'net search. Many have picked up on it, including PBS, here. Seems to originate here.

They say bloggers can be sorted into two camps. 'Thinkers' and 'Linkers'. If you read much of this blog, I believe it must be pretty obvious which of the two I gravitate towards. Linking helps, but nothing is more boring than just echoing the thoughts of others.

LGF (probably the foremost conservative blog in the world), linked to this story on blogging.

To cut to the chase that 'Army of Davids' can and do make a difference. From breaking new news, to floating new ideas, to just 'keeping the bastards honest' (meaning oversight of the MSM - the main stream media), blogging is a phenomenon that will have far reaching influence. (It's NOT something you are likely to see places like Myanmar, North Korea, or China ever let loose).

PS. Nicole at Debate and Relate has linked to us here, Thanks and welcome D&Rers.


Sunday, February 18, 2007

East Timor.

I take an interest in East Timor. For several reasons (I'll expand this post more in days to come).

In the meantime, check out this blog - by an aid worker.

East Timor is close to Australia's north. And forms part of the so-called 'arc of instability' to our north. From a humanitarian view, these are our neighbours, and we should do what we can to help. From a purely practical point of view, or even purely out of self interest, the better these countriess do, the more safe and secure are our nothern approaches. So East Timor, Papua New Guinea, the Solomons, Fiji, Indonesia, should all be places to take an interest in.

Added Feb 26th: East Timor would seem to me to be a good example of a people who never got a decent go. They have been up against it for most of their history, and particularly their recent history.

First, they were part of the rivalry between the Portuguese and the Dutch.

Come WW2, and the Japanese made things pretty hard for them.

Then the Indonesians.

And with no background in running things themselves, it's no wonder they struggle with nationhood and self-government.

Still, I wish them well. they deserve a break, and some help from the rest of us.


Monday, February 12, 2007

Hard data on Global Warming.

I've been trying to find some hard data on global warming. Graphs of temperature measurements, or inferred but researched data that objectively looks at 'climate change'.

I know there are lots of people out there that insist they know what is happening, and what we must do. Who say 'debate is over'. Who want to advance their view only, by force of law if possible, and shut down any dissenting view(s).

I disagree - strongly - with that viewpoint. That is the same viewpoint which led to the Spanish Inquisition, for example, or of the activites of the secret police in the old communist bloc countries. Truth - if it is indeed truth - can withstand scrutiny. Falsehood cannot. View with scepticism those who embrace an ideology which seeks to silence it's critics. Open debate finds truth. Unquestioning accepance of dogma leads to darkness of one sort or another.

For example, Those who point to human causes, at least as the sole cause of climate change, ignore the Sun's solar cycle changes (eg Milankovitch), and also fail to take account of the longer term changes in the Earth's orbit around the Sun, which is influenced, albeit slightly and on a long timescale, by the other planets, notably Jupiter

I found this on Wikipedia;

Here we see that there have been changes in temperature, trends up and down, even within the comparatively recent, documented past.

and this;

We see that scientists have been able to plot changes since the last glacial period. (And some studies point to substantial variations!).

And this;

Based on ice coring, the above image shows many times in the past when temperatures have been hotter than now. (More on ice-coring here).
The US NOAA has a good site, worth looking at, but unfortunately it largely just echos the IPCC report.

There are plenty of organisations and people out there telling you what to think on the subject. What is harder to do is to cut through the dogma (and often - hysteria) and then try to inform yourself with objective fact - which is what we should do.

From an (somewhat parochial to be sure) Aussie perspective, what we do will matter little, if 20 million Aussies simply stopped using fuels, if we were to be taken out of the equation completely - nothing would change.

Increasingly, it is what places like China and India do that determines how long the world's oil will last, for example. If 'greenhouse gas' emissions do make a difference, then it is what Europe, China, India, and North America do that are the determinates. Not what we southern hemisphere inhabitants do or don't do.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Long War.

Naming wars used to be easy. War of the Roses, the Spanish succession, Korean, Vietnam, civil wars (various), the World Wars (a couple thereof). Some only took on their name long after the event(s) - eg the 100 years war. What used to be called the 'War on Terror' seems to be acquiring a new name - The Long War.

When did it start? 9/11 (September the 9th 2001?). Earlier? The 1st WTC attack, or the Beirut bombing?

'SourceWatch' quotes some people who ought to know a bit about this conflict;

Newt Gingrich, speaking at the (US) National Press Club on August 21, 2005, put it this way;
"'The sheer reality of the long war — I call it long war deliberately — (is) we're going to be fighting the irreconcilable wing of Islam for at least 50 to 70 years,'" Gingrich said. "'And ... my biggest complaint is nobody has yet to stand up and say this is going to be really hard, this is going to take a long time,' he added in response to questions after the speech."
"'We are faced with a long war with the irreconcilable wing of Islam,' he said. 'They really do want a different world than we're going to live in and, therefore, one side or the other is going to win because it's not negotiable.".

The Cold War lasted from 1945 til 1989 (or '91 depending on which source you read). My time in uniform was during that era. Sadly, it's looking like as that was our war - which occasionally went from cold to hot - for example in Korea and Vietnam - then this will be the one our children largely will have to fight. (I don't feel comfortable with that - perhaps some of we oldies should think about putting that uniform back on - if we aren't already considered too old?).
Perhaps to see what the future holds we need to ask some 'what if' questions?

Would terrorists like to strike again? (I believe the answer is Yes - they want to hit and hurt those they hate as severely as possble).
What would/will be the eraction if they do? (That answer would vary, the reaction of Spain and the Philippines was different to that of the US, UK and Australia to getting hit - but the best pointer to likely reaction to another 9/11 type attack is, I believe, foreshadowed by the reaction to Pearl Harbour - which heralded the US entry as a serious player into WW2).
What happens to the terrorist's sponsor states when their oil starts to run out? How long can those sponsor states stay in the shadows? (Is that merely a measure of the Wests patience?).
How will the 'Long War', and it's influence on our economies, and the laws it spawns - and their effects on rights and freedoms - mold our societies?

All questions worth pondering.

And while you ponder 9/11, and Bali One and Bali Two, and the London Bombings, watch this.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Different strategy for Iraq?

Found a pointer to an interesting article at the Washington Post over at Milblogs;

"Gen. David H. Petraeus, the new U.S. commander in Iraq, is assembling a small band of warrior-intellectuals -- including a quirky Australian anthropologist, a Princeton economist who is the son of a former U.S. attorney general and a military expert on the Vietnam War sharply critical of its top commanders..."

Including an Aussie connection;

"...Petraeus, who along with the group's members declined to be interviewed for this article, has chosen as his chief adviser on counterinsurgency operations an outspoken officer in the Australian Army. Lt. Col. David Kilcullen holds a PhD in anthropology, for which he studied Islamic extremism in Indonesia. Kilcullen has served in Cyprus, Papua New Guinea and East Timor and most recently was chief strategist for the State Department's counterterrorism office, lent by the Australian government. His 2006 essay "Twenty-Eight Articles: Fundamentals of Company-Level Counterinsurgency" was read by Petraeus, who sent it rocketing around the Army via e-mail...."

A Major Kilcullen did some hard yards in East Timor c1999.

(And I found an interesting new site too via that Milblog post).

Monday, February 05, 2007


One of the positives about having immigrants from 'all over', is that they bring some new and different foods and drinks with them. Chinese, Italian, Thai, Vietnamese food. Indian, Lebanese, Greek. It's a veritable smorgasbord.

It's something of an acquired taste, but I like Chinotto. The taste is vaguely like bitter grapefruit.

If you get a chance, try it (and give it a chance to win you over). Better than mass market lolly water any day.

Update: A New Australian friend at work (from Malta) tells me that there they have a quite special drink called 'Kinnie'. (More here). Orange and bitter-herb based. I'll be trying it, apparently you can get it here (in Sydney).

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Dogs and Cats - part of the human family?

How many of us had a dog as a family pet when growing up? I had an all but inseparable companion in a small 'bitza' dog named Sam. And if you separate humans into 'dog' and 'cat' people, I would have said I was with the former.

But the fact is that both species are very much a part of the human family, and often a cat or dog is very much an integral part of a human family. Fed, groomed, petted, talked to and about, mourned when they pass. Remembered.

Perhaps we should reflect on a truth - that we as a species would not be where we are today without the symbiotic relationship we have with our furry friends - cats, dogs - and horses are in that group too.

Cats have been with us since we started storing grain (there was no other sort of vermin control back then). Dogs, even longer, when they became hunting partners many millenia ago. Horses were long our main source of power (horsepower) and transport.
I have developed a fondness for cats over the past few years, and a theory that cats get on better with humans than with cats. We have a lovely (quite fat) puss name of Claudia, who is an inside cat, and in theory at least, another - 'Barbara' - but she has decided to adopt an older neighbour who lives on her own as her human - cats are like that.

We (humans) like them, they like us, and we would be the poorer for it without our furry friends, and probably still huddled in rough shelters somewhere were it not for the fruits of a truly symbiotic relationship, a win-win for each species in the extended human family.