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Two Minute Hate

Ah. So the details of last week's horrendous "worse than 9/11" conspiracy are now coming out piecemeal.

It appears that none of the conspirators had assembled any bombs or bought plane tickets. Several of them didn't even have passports, making it rather unlikely that they'd be able to smuggle an imaginary bomb onto an imaginary flight.

And they'd been under surveillance for up to a year before the sudden arrests, prompted by the confession of one man who "broke under interrogation" in Pakistan, a country notorious for torturing confessions out of prisoners.

(This rubbish is used as the basis for mass arrests and a huge security clampdown that results in close to 30% of all commercial flights in/out of British airports being cancelled for a week.)

Meanwhile, our glorious Home Secretary, John Reid, is saying "people don't get it" and that he's going to introduce a new anti-terrorism bill into parliament in the next session.

I'm afraid some of us do "get it". And we're not impressed.

Anyone got a photograph of Emmanuel Goldstein for me to link to?

76 Comments

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1:

This one perhaps? And how bloody infuriating, all of this.

2:

Ergh, that's probably Big Brother Himself. Don't mind me. Still mad.

3:

Charlie,

This seems to be your chance in the UK to experience 1984. Here in the US, I am astounded that no one seems to make the same connection with our perpetual hunt for Bin Laden. My guess is that since we're not trudging about in grey clothing and waiting in line for toilet paper, no one can imagine a 1984 scenario. After all, with all of the consumer goods we have, we couldn't possibly have anything in common with Soviet Russia.

I've considered purchasing a stack of copies of Brave New World and handing them out to anyone who comes to my office at work, since it speaks more to a consumer culture. Of course then I suppose they would say, "Thank Jesus we've restricted genetic engineering; now that can never happen to us."

Seriously, I don't have a feel for the UK attitude, but here you are expected to hate terrorists whether they exist or not. Dark Days are coming.

4:

Just a note of possible interest. For a look at the original inspiration for '1984' and "Brave New World' as well as a good read, get 'WE' by Yevgeny Zamyatin.

5:

Here in the US, I am astounded that no one seems to make the same connection with our perpetual hunt for Bin Laden.

That's because the hunt for him and the antics of the DHS and TSA often look more like the antics of the Keystone Kops than anything else...

6:

...and the Fear Industry rages on.

7:

Bin Laden is probably chilling in Kenebunkport.

8:

I can safely say I've never seen OBL anywhere in Maine... Maybe down on the ranch in Crawford?

9:

I looked in my sock drawer this morning, but I didn't see him. (See? I'm doing my bit to help the War on Terror!)

Where did you look for Osama bin Laden today???

10:

Isn't E. Goldstein like Jesus Christ? You hold a thumbnail sketch of the man, and fill in details based on that to make a picture. We all have a good idea of what Osama Bin Ladin looks like, but we're not really meant to be afraid of him. We are supposed to be afraid of his foot soldiers: dark, young, male, not like us.

We know exactly what they are supposed to look like, and if we argue that this image is wrong we're aiding the enemy.

11:

"Where did you look for Osama bin Laden today???"

Shit! He's down the back of my sofa!

(Bastard's probably pilfering all my lost change to fund his next terrorist outrage ...)

Cheers

Jim

12:

Smoke and mirrors. Lying manipulative scumbags...why can't the people of the 'free' West realise that we're lied to just as much as the 'ignorant islamofascists (TM)'?

Divide and conquer, as the saying goes...the world looks pretty divided to me right now, and there's little sign of the rich and powerful losing any ground on either side of the ideological fence. It's like monopoly with nations instead of streets...any bets on whether King George sulked until they let him be the top-hat?

13:

Where did you look for Osama bin Laden today???
Osama wasn't on the Edinburgh bypass (A720), at 5pm today. But everyone else was :(

14:

why can't the people of the 'free' West realise that we're lied to just as much as the 'ignorant islamofascists (TM)'?

That's a given, but the lies we're given are pretty mild. I'd rather be "oppresed" in the US than in Iran or Syria, given that I can't have the perfect world I'd like yet.

15:

America is arrogant.

They think if the world isn't exactly, (or within 98% of) what America is, it's bad.

We drive on the left, i've never eaten a twinkie and i don't particularly feel the need to visit any business at any time within a 24 hour period.

Personally i doubt if bin laden fucking exists at all.

I looked for him in the bottom of a bottle of bushmills.
He wasn't there.

-Dave

16:

On the contrary, I think the US is rather humble. We weren't the ones who went around conquering 3/4ths of the world on a mission to civilize.

And just about any other nation with the sort of power we've had for the past 50 years would have seriously dominated the planet if not outright conquered it.

17:

Yesterday, upon the stair,
I saw Bin Laden wasn't there.
He wasn't there again today.
I guess, Osama's run away!

18:

Apologies for the last line - please remove the comma when reading. I originally had another line and then changed it but left the comma behind. I know misplaced commas really annoy some people.

19:

All due respect, Andrew G, but I don't see how what the US is doing nowadays is really that much different than "civilizing" the world. We use our economic leverage to force other nations to buy Coke and television sets instead of holding them at cannon-point and forcing them to convert, sure. What we do may just be worse. The type of thing that the US does ensures that we deaden any hope for a better world anyway...consumerism run rampant. We do dominate and conquer, just in a different and perhaps more insidious way. And how can you say "any other nation with the power we've had" would conquer the world, anyway? Really? Are you sure?

20:

Ted,
I think any other nation with our kind of power would conquer the world because that does seem to be what nations do: Expand their influence one way or another until some alignment of circumstance and opposition(whether internal or external - usually both) combines to stop them.

21:

And just about any other nation with the sort of power we've had for the past 50 years would have seriously dominated the planet if not outright conquered it.

Uh-huh.

Of course, this whole discussion shortly breaks down based on what "America" is - "America doesn't seek an empire", "Of course America tries to dominate the globe" - and both can be right.

But, on the gripping hand, there are men and women born in America who are killing Iraqis today and dying in Iraq today, and the best reason still standing for this state of affairs seems to be control of oil reserves for the benefit of US/transnational corporations.

22:

Before you dismiss this entire thing as fictional, I'd be curious to see your thoughts on a few news reports:

NYT

British authorities, who have been searching the suspects' homes, have discovered a videotape from one of the suspects in which he explains his involvement in the attack and predicts his eventual death...


news.com.au

...Police in England have reportedly recovered bottles containing peroxide, including some with false bottoms, from a recycling centre close to the homes of some of the arrested suspects...


NYT

"MI5 tracked everyone involved in the London attacks," the official said. "Their past movements, phone calls and e-mails, everything. It was comprehensive in much the same way that the F.B.I. conducted the post-9/11 investigation."

The investigation led authorities to the suspects in the current plot and allowed them to insert an undercover officer, the official said.

If the reports of physical evidence in baby bottles, a pre-suicide bombing VHS tape, eye witness testimony from a mole inside the organization, etc., pan out, will this then be conceded as an actual threat, or would it still just be a Reichstag fire set by Rove and Tony Blair?

23:

Tony Q: But, on the gripping hand, there are men and women born in America who are killing Iraqis today and dying in Iraq today, and the best reason still standing for this state of affairs seems to be control of oil reserves for the benefit of US/transnational corporations.

-- believe that, believe anything. What's mostly happening in Iraq is that Iraqis are killing Iraqis.

And Saddam was always willing to sell us oil.


24:

Charlie: and should they have waited until the bombs were assembled and ready to go?

Sort of like 7/7?

Why this reluctance to believe we have real enemies?

25:

All due respect, Andrew G, but I don't see how what the US is doing nowadays is really that much different than "civilizing" the world. We use our economic leverage to force other nations to buy Coke and television sets instead of holding them at cannon-point and forcing them to convert, sure. What we do may just be worse. The type of thing that the US does ensures that we deaden any hope for a better world anyway...consumerism run rampant. We do dominate and conquer, just in a different and perhaps more insidious way. And how can you say "any other nation with the power we've had" would conquer the world, anyway? Really? Are you sure?

It's hardly the same as, say, sending in troops to force China to buy opium or something. People buy some American products because that's what they want. They don't have to, any more than I had to buy the Japanese car I drive or the Swedish desk I'm sitting at.

26:

Since this thread seems to be drifting into oil-based waters. (A metaphor that should not, strictly speaking, mix.)

One thing I was wondering lately is why there is not a bigger desire in America to push for research into reducing the reliance on oil. I am envisioning something akin to the JFK administration's man on the moon initiative.

I believe it is widely held that the space program benefited a large number of people in a large number of ways. Wouldn't a 'non-oil' program have similar benefits? Additionally, the move to reduce the amount of oil being consumed would play very well at home - from both a "we're not going to cow-tow to OPEC anymore" and a "we're not going to be consuming non-renewable resources as much" viewpoint.

I have to believe that funding this research would not cost more than the current war effort.

The reason I don't see this coming from George Bush et al is that they have been playing the 'war president' card too long to walk away from it, but what about the next President? Would this make a viable initial strategy vis-a-vis providing a new purpose and vision for America as well as a distancing of the new President from the existing policies and practices of the current one?

27:

Mr. Haynes, the answer to your question is in two parts.

1) The only known power source that can replace oil to any significant degree -- as in, supplying more than 10% of an industrial nation's power needs, at comparable cost -- is a nuclear fission reactor. Every other alternative, if scaled to the necessary level, would cost much more than oil does.

2) Due to a byzantine system of regulations, getting permission to build a new nuclear fission reactor in the USA is basically impossible. Despite strong demand for power, there hasn't been a new reactor built in America for thirty years.

And Mr. Quirke, if you were correct about the USA's motive for occupying Iraq, why hasn't there been an American invasion of Venezuela? Why, in fact, hasn't that even been seriously proposed?

28:

Tony Q: "But, on the gripping hand, there are men and women born in America who are killing Iraqis today and dying in Iraq today, and the best reason still standing for this state of affairs seems to be control of oil reserves for the benefit of US/transnational corporations."

Stirling: "-- believe that, believe anything. What's mostly happening in Iraq is that Iraqis are killing Iraqis."

What a wonderful form of logic you follow, Steve. Let's see if we can extend it:

Person A: "People die of car crashes every day in our countries. Cars can be dangerous."

Steve Stirling: "-- believe that, believe anything. The number one killer in the Western world is heart disease."

Person B: "Kiera Knightly must be making a mint off her film projects."

Steve Stirling: "-- believe that, believe anything. The richest woman in show business is JK Rowling, who made her money off writing books."

Person C: "A Hohmann transfer orbit between Earth and Mars would take about 260 days. That's a pretty considerable test of a closed life support system."

Steve Stirling: "-- believe that, believe anything. A Hohmann orbit to Pluto would take much much longer."

29:

And Mr. Quirke, if you were correct about the USA's motive for occupying Iraq, why hasn't there been an American invasion of Venezuela? Why, in fact, hasn't that even been seriously proposed?

Several reasons, I would imagine:

i, What can be done by America is limited by what the American people will swallow - America is, to some extent, still a democracy. It's difficult to paint Chavez as an existential threat to the US - he's the wrong type of brown.

ii, Related to the above, Venezuela is an undeniable democracy. The US was rather embarrassed to be found supporting a fizzled coup recently.

iii, The key point in the cases I've seen is "control over oil reserves". Taking Iraq (supposedly) gives direct control over Iraq's reserves, shores up Al Saud control over Saudi Arabia, and gives the US options against Iran, the main prize. That it didn't quite work out that way in reality is a demonstration of what happens with the worst laid plans of mice and men.

iv, Compare Venezuela's reserves with those in the Middle East, at least from the official estimates. The Wikipedia suggests Venezuela passed its midpoint in 2003 (for what that's worth as a source).

Also, the primary competitors with the US for oil are the EU and China - the Middle East is more strategically placed.

It's hardly difficult to find support for the claim:

• we need to accept responsibility for America's unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles.

several times over:

"Let us call this political platform cheap gas, cheap oil, cheap electricity. The policy would have three basic facets: (1) Government intervention to double the share of nuclear power in electricity generation, thereby reducing pressure on supplies and prices of fossil fuels (and incidentally emissions of hydrocarbons). (2) A concerted national trade and security policy to prevent monopolistic collusion by foreign energy producers, especially in crude oil--and thus to restore more U.S. energy independence. Since collusion is not tolerated in any domestic industry, why must we tolerate collusion abroad against a vital U.S. interest, especially by oil-producing countries whose political existence depends to a large extent on U.S. military power? (3) As part of the same effort to increase U.S. production, a vast expansion of legal permissions for drilling for crude oil and natural gas on public and private lands should be enacted. Energy processing and transmission industries, such as refineries, pipelines, and distributing networks, must gain rights of way, increased freedom of pricing, and thus the access to capital needed for growth. The characteristics of an inspired regulatory regime for U.S. energy would thus be diversity, reliability, and redundancy.

Of course, energy policy is only one facet of a sound overall economic policy. Our national security is linked in innumerable ways to accessible, secure, and preferably cheap energy--suffice it to say, abundant energy is the sinew of basic materials manufacturing and the fuel upon which our industries and armed forces rely. Moreover, economic history shows that America has, from its founding, been a high-wage country, which is a good thing--owing in large measure to the existence of a cheap, secure factor of production called energy. "

30:

David Haynes, The US already tried developing alternate energy sources for both electricity and transport. 30 years ago when the first and second oil shocks hit president Carter instituted a series of programs (mostly under DoE as I recall) to research and develop them as an "Apollo project for energy independence" (or somesuch phrase), they covered almost everything still being talked about today - solar, geothermal, wind, tidal, ethanol, coal to oil, hydrogen fuel cell cars, you name it. It was widely predicted at the time that irrespective of the short-term issues of OPEC cheap plentiful oil could only last for another 20 or 30 years and they needed to have alternatives available when it stopped. It was to be a long term effort that would come on-stream bit by bit over the years and substantially reduce America's reliance on the dangerously unstable ME for transport fuels and also improve the environment at home re electricity production (of course it would also have helped climate change, but they didn't know that at the time, smog, acid rain and nuclear meltdowns being more the issue in those days).

What happened to all these programs? Ronnie Raygun got elected president, the OPEC cartel collapsed and oil prices along with them. Ronnie couldn't see the point of "wasting" government money on such things when there were so many big corporations desperate for defence contracts and millionaires desperate for tax relief, so he cancelled them. Didn't make economic sense with oil cheap again, and as you know trees are the source of most air pollution.

I distinctly remember thinking at the time "Oh shite, this is going to come back and bite us bigtime". Welcome to our nightmare.

31:

I think Tom Shippey had the best answer to American sneers about British imperialism.
Quasi-quoting, "And what happened to your Indians?"

We all know just which nation is the most populous nuclear-armed, democracy of the 20th Century.

32:

Please, gentlemen, before you go any further, read this set of articles from Steven den Beste on energy generation:

A new Manhattan Project
Energy scaling problems
No means No

"In that last article, I gave this list of five properties any proposed alternative energy source must have if it is to make any real difference.

1. It has to be huge (in terms of both energy and power)
2. It has to be reliable (not intermittent or unschedulable)
3. It has to be concentrated (not diffuse)
4. It has to be possible to utilize it efficiently
5. The capital investment and operating cost to utilize it has to be comparable to existing energy sources (per gigawatt, and per gigajoule)."

None of the alternative energy sources known have all five properties on this list.

"The goal of putting a man on the moon was a very tough and challenging engineering problem but it was not obviously impossible to do it (though the time constraints were pretty severe). The goal of the original Manhattan Project was also tough and challenging. But 'eliminating our reliance on Arab oil' transcends 'tough and challenging' and resides in the lofty realm which engineers call 'nontrivial'. (Translated for laymen, that means, 'Forget about it. You won't live to see it happen.')"

33:

We all know just which nation is the most populous nuclear-armed, democracy of the 20th Century.

Heh. I recall making a brief comment about the world's largest democracy still having a hell of a problem dealing with almost half of their population being illiterate peasants, and having one Yank claim that that was the most way over the top anti-American comment I had made...

34:

Actually (David S and David H) there is a viable alternative to oil: oil from different sources. If you cna get one that works, it means you don't have to replace the entire fuel storage/shipping/consumption side of the cycle, just the production stage.

Extraction of oil from the Canadian oil shales is expensive but do-able, indeed economically viable (profitable) if oil has a price floor of $70/barrel (in current dollars). In 1974-79 the price blipped over that level (adjusting for inflation), but it fell back during Reagan 1 and the prototype synthetic oil plants were mothballed or abandoned. Now we're facing global peak oil, oil shale extraction looks very attractive as a long-term solution: it may be the end of cheap oil, but it's not the end of the oil economy by a very long way (because Canada alone has reserves equal to four times the historic capacity of the Arabian peninsula). Add to this, there've been recent improvements in the technique for extracting oil from shale that make it more energetically efficient (only 40% of the energy goes into the extraction process, rather than 70%) and it's looking viable right now.

As for America ...

The USA is the last of the great planetary empires. (If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck: and that 600-ship navy and two-wars doctrine sure looks imperial to me.) Due to an historic accident, the USA's defining creation myth is one of rebellion against empire, so admitting that it's become one is somewhat subversive -- which leads to its own problems; if you can't admit what you are and act accordingly, you're doomed to stagger from crisis to crisis without quite grasping what's causing them. Hence the overall picture is of successive US governments behaving like the "rogue state" they condemn -- bullying, engineering crises, trying to foment coups and subsidizing terrorist insurgencies -- until the behaviour comes back to bite them on the bum.

You know what Al Qaida is? It's payback, payback for Afghanistan in the seventies and eighties, payback for the whole botched Israel venture (a quagmire that will have future historians weeping into their beer as they contemplate the insanity of it), payback for leaving imperial policy in the hands of greedy short-sighted merchants.

35:

TJIC:

NYT: British authorities, who have been searching the suspects' homes, have discovered a videotape from one of the suspects in which he explains his involvement in the attack and predicts his eventual death...

Big deal: he's messing around with a camcorder. A smart defense lawyer would make mincemeat of that one in minutes if it came up in court: "m'lud, my client is participating, with a group of friends, in producing an amateur documentary about the evils of terrorism. The evidence in question was created as a fictional depiction of a suicide bomber's testimonial ..."

news.com.au: ...Police in England have reportedly recovered bottles containing peroxide, including some with false bottoms, from a recycling centre close to the homes of some of the arrested suspects...

There are, I believe, bottles containing peroxide in my house. It's a common ingredient in acne treatments and hair bleach. The probability of not finding bottles of peroxide in any waste recycling centre in the UK are roughly zero. The allegation about a false bottom is interesting, but I'd have to see it to be convinced of anything -- lots of packaging for, e.g. acne treatments, involve odd designs and/or things that can be mistaken for a sealed compartment. (Cut open a draught-flow beer can one day and have a look inside it. If you'd never seen a beer can and didn't know what it was for, that would look pretty damn suspicious, too.)

Finally, "a recycling centre near the suspect's house" is so vague it's never going to stand up in court without some additional forensic evidence that the item was directly connected to the suspect. Otherwise it might be that there is a different mad bomb-maker at large in High Wycombe.

NYT: "MI5 tracked everyone involved in the London attacks," the official said. "Their past movements, phone calls and e-mails, everything. It was comprehensive in much the same way that the F.B.I. conducted the post-9/11 investigation." The investigation led authorities to the suspects in the current plot and allowed them to insert an undercover officer, the official said.

Well, that takes the candle; it's MI5 talking to the press. (Not exactly noted these days for shutting up and doing their job, are they?) If they said that, and it's true, then they just burned an agent-in-place, which is about the worst cardinal sin in HUMINT. Or it might be plain ordinary disinformation, to spook any other Islamicist cells into chewing out their own guts in a game of "hunt the MI5 agent". Whichever way you cut it, that particular disclosure smells bogus.

I'm going to wait for this one to come to court. So far the UK government has managed a conviction rate of 0.14% of people arrested on terrorism offenses. If they manage just 4% this time (a "guilty" verdict for just one of the alleged conspirators) I'll concede that there was something smelly going on. But frankly, I suspect this is all sizzle and no steak -- and for a very good reason: Tony and George wanted to rev up the public in the silly season, and simply over-egged the pudding a little (creating a full-dress panic by pushing the "9/11 2.0" button).

36:

Charlie,

One version I have heard on this sind of the pond is that MI5 was pressured by the US and British Governments to move on these guys before they were really rady to - that they wanted to continue surveillance and follow some investigative trails.

37:

RE: Oil and alternatives
So, if I understand this correctly, the main issue with any of the portable alternatives boils down to energy density. That is, they do not offer energy per unit that is cost effective or acceptable when compared to oil. Even electricity from fission is not really viable when you have to lug it around in lead/hydrogen/lithium batteries but it does divert some of the oil used to produce electricity to other uses.

Canada's oil sands are estimated to hold about 1.7 trillion barrels of oil. The US currently consumes about 20 million barrels a day (2003) as does China. So, the long term sustainability of an oil-based economy comes into question.

From the death of the Carter-based initiatives, can I assume that energy independence was not a popular issue in the US as a whole? i.e. that it did not catch the imagination of the nation. If the Carter administration had vilified the OPEC members more, would the result have been different? (I am drawing loose parallels to the space program's success after America's embarrassment over the launch of Sputnik.)

All this leads to larger questions in my mind. As I see it, the United States, especially post 9-11, has lost its focus and, to a lesser extent, its identity. It used to be that America was the 'land of the free' and 'peacekeeper to the world' and 'the strongest economy'. The US was considered to be the economic engine of the world. The average American was seen to believe that 'everyone wants to be an American.'

While, we could debate that last point, I simply don't hear those sentiments being played as much these days. Its more of 'fortress America' and 'America first'. (Although this also seems to have a parallel in Britain.)

So, the questions:
Am I correct in saying that America's view of itself has changed? Has its psyche been altered by recent events forever or is this just a momentary blip?

Does America need a new vision that is not so internally focussed? America has traditionally been based on an external-facing view and, economically, on an expanding market. Can it afford to be as isolationist as it is becoming?

38:

Steven: that makes a lot of sense and is consistent with the observed facts.

If true, it's also about as damning a condemnation of our politicians as you can get: they're more interested in appearances than substance, and damn any inconvenience or danger this may cause the rest of us.

39:

One of my pet niggles is how people in the USA will pronounce upon the latest UK terrorist threat, often at length, giving details which no one over here has given. This suggests several possibilities:

The USA leaks like a sieve.
Or they like to hype things up for publicity reasons
Or the UK gvt likes to keep us all in the dark as much as possible.
Or we all have different laws regarding what can be said about things before they get to trial, and people in the USA dont seem to have grasped that.

None of these fill me with confidence.

40:

S.M.Stirling: Charlie: and should they have waited until the bombs were assembled and ready to go?

No, of course not but that's not the point. The "plotters" should be watched and, if at some point (maybe now, I don't know) there's sufficient evidence, arrested.

The real question is, assuming the reported state of the plot, whether there was any need for all the "critical" fuss and hassle at airports, etc. That just seems like propaganda, security theatre and, possibly, botty covering. It might also be prejudical to any future trials, of course. Would that mean that if it later transpires that there was no justification for the alert the government would be found to have been in contempt of court?

41:

The real question is, assuming the reported state of the plot, whether there was any need for all the "critical" fuss and hassle at airports, etc. That just seems like propaganda, security theatre and, possibly, botty covering. It might also be prejudical to any future trials, of course. Would that mean that if it later transpires that there was no justification for the alert the government would be found to have been in contempt of court?

I can't really speak for their reasons for doing that, but the most likely thing to me would be that they were afraid that they didn't get all of the plotters. There could have been other cells with plans to do the same thing, and a danger that those cells would quickly carry out their plans once they heard about the arrests.

Of course, it's equally possible that any hypothetical other cells of plane bombers would have gone into hiding, but better safe than sorry.

42:

So, the questions:
Am I correct in saying that America's view of itself has changed? Has its psyche been altered by recent events forever or is this just a momentary blip?

Does America need a new vision that is not so internally focussed? America has traditionally been based on an external-facing view and, economically, on an expanding market. Can it afford to be as isolationist as it is becoming?

It's not really anything new. The US as always swung between isolationist, ant-imperialist, and globalist/expansionist views. Even at the height of US imperialism when we were grabbing what was left of the Spanish Empire, there were plenty of voices against it.

43:

I think Tom Shippey had the best answer to American sneers about British imperialism.
Quasi-quoting, "And what happened to your Indians?"

Disease, mostly. Introduced by the Spanish and French. That wiped out probably 40-80 million people over a century. Most of the worst stuff was done while we were still British.

The 19th century stuff wasn't really that bad -- you'll note that the largest populations of Native Americans are the western tribes that we fought in the 19th century. IIRC, the Navajo are actually larger now than they were then.

One could also ask how many Tasmanians there are, or how the Aboriginies are doing...

We all know just which nation is the most populous nuclear-armed, democracy of the 20th Century.

India, though to be fair it's worth noting that the US is the only nation to have used nuclear weapons in war.

44:

Charlie:
Extraction of oil from the Canadian oil shales is expensive but do-able, indeed economically viable (profitable) if oil has a price floor of $70/barrel (in current dollars).

This isn't a good thing if we're going to carry on using the atmosphere as our carbon sewer of course. It's not quite as bad as using coal to create syngas, but that's not saying much. On a tangential note (to the tangent - oi vey) oil shales bring Venezuela into the picture in a pretty big way IIRC, so Chavez might be in line for a promotion in the axis-of-evil hierarchy if oil shales come on stream significantly.


Returning to the topic at hand, I concur with Ed Davies that a lot of the recent airport chaos was security theatre. I think the basic reaction was understandable ("we don't know if we've bagged 'em all, so crank up the threat levels for a bit"), but I don't think whoever took that decision understood what the increased security checks would entail or how marginal the benefit would be (to the overall safety of the travelling public that is, the benefit to the decision makers in terms of not having to worry about having to explain to the Daily Mail why they didn't shut the airports down in the event of a subsequent outrage was probably foremost in their minds) - possibly they thought that BAA would have a contingency plan that would swing into action like a well-oiled machine, although even NuLab can't be that naive about privatised near-monopolies these days, surely?

Steve's point about Five being pressured into moving early is also consistent with their institutional character - every professional instinct they have would have been to let their quarry run for as long as possible. I also agree that burning an agent-in-place wouldn't be happening if they had any say in the matter - so either they didn't have a say, the inside man was already compromised or its misinformation. I suspect the latter, which is a worry since it would imply that the Security Services aren't having much luck at transferring their Ulster experience to the new context.

Regards
Luke

45:

S.M.Stirling: Charlie: and should they have waited until the bombs were assembled and ready to go?

My answer: yes.

The right way to deal with this sort of op is to gather all the intelligence possible, milk it dry, wait until they're ready to go ... then arrest them red-handed, in custody of the actual devices, at the airport check-in.

Credit for catching them can go to the alert airport security staff, reinforcing public confidence in the existing safety infrastructure. Meanwhile the intelligence operation leading to the arrests should be kept secret (so that other plotters don't know what actually happened -- and so that the same intelligence assets can be used again).

I've said it before and I'll say it again: what we're getting is what Bruce Schneier calls "security theatre", not effective security operations. The more the ass-hats running things from Downing Street and Pennsylvania Avenue focus on appearances over sustance, the greater the risk that the security people they're sending on PR-related wild-goose-chases will miss something really dangerous.

46:

Personally waiting until there is the possibility of some actual evidence would be a good idea.

Half the reasons the police raids seem to fail at the moment is due a philosophy of arrest sooner rather than later before they can do any harm. A wonderful idea in theory, but in practice it seems to leave very little to prosecute anyone with.

47:

The right way to deal with this sort of op is to gather all the intelligence possible, milk it dry, wait until they're ready to go ... then arrest them red-handed, in custody of the actual devices, at the airport check-in.

Good plan in the pre-suicide-bomber era, but what if the terrorists detonate their bombs in the airport as the police close in on them?

48:

George, given the whole point of this alleged plot was to smuggle disassembled bombs onto planes and then assemble them in flight -- that's what all this FUD about binary and liquid explosives is all about -- the bombs aren't likely to be something you can throw together in two seconds flat.

Obviously, you gear your response to the actual threat level, and if you think the bombs are easy to set off you grab them on the way to the airport -- but the closer to the target they are, the better your chance of milking them dry of intel and securing a conviction in court.

49:

"The USA is the last of the great planetary empires."

No, it isn't, not yet. An empire is colonies and provinces ruled from a metropole. There is no important territory to which the USA stands now as, for instance, Britian stood to India during the 19th century, or as Britian stood to its American colonies during the 18th.

Having the largest military on the planet (which the USA does, by far) makes the USA a superpower. That means the USA has influence in many other nations. But influence is well short of control.

50:

One could also ask how many Tasmanians there are, or how the Aboriginies are doing...

In the words of Dr James Belich:
"...one of the reasons that NZ Settlers did not treat the Maoris as their Australian counterparts did the Aborigines was that, when they did, they got killed."

I wonder if the Maori are the 'best' real-world result for a European settler colony's indigens.

51:

One of my pet niggles is how people in the USA will pronounce upon the latest UK terrorist threat, often at length, giving details which no one over here has given. This suggests several possibilities:

The USA leaks like a sieve.
Or they like to hype things up for publicity reasons
Or the UK gvt likes to keep us all in the dark as much as possible.
Or we all have different laws regarding what can be said about things before they get to trial, and people in the USA dont seem to have grasped that.

Or, the Internet is filled with loudmouth knowitalls, and the US is overrepresented on the Internet as a whole.

ANd, no, I'm not ignoring a certain amount of self-referencing there...

52:

I wonder if the Maori are the 'best' real-world result for a European settler colony's indigens.

Pretty much - the "Brown Briton" meme developed because they were tough mfs capable of standing up to British/colonial forces of the time with the help of some very sophisticated seige experience. In the King Country, it's fair to say they never actually lost.

They got swamped by immigrants buying off land later though.

If you're talking about "Making Peoples", it should be noted that at the end of the nineteenth century, the Maori were thought to be doomed - a poor backward race doomed to be assimilated and destroyed by the superior white culture. Their renaissance was due to both cultural flexibility and a string of incredibly talented leaders moving within the political process, and possibly to Pakeha New Zealand searching for the basis of a national identity when Mother England kicked it in the face.

53:

I wonder if the Maori are the 'best' real-world result for a European settler colony's indigens.

The Native Hawaiians and Samoans did pretty good too. Whites are actually a minority in Hawaii.

There are probably more Hawaiians and Samoans now than there were pre-contact.

54:

"I wonder if the Maori are the 'best' real-world result for a European settler colony's indigens."

Why limit the question to European experience? the aboriginal peoples of the Indian Subcontinent didn't fare to well, the Hmong got the short end of the stick in Indochina and the emigrants from the Han plateau swamped damn near everybody in their path when they moved into what is now southeastern China.

55:

Flip side of the coin: within two generations of the early industrial-age USA crowbarred it's way into the high mediaeval Japan, the Japanese navy was kicking European ass.

I'll grant you Japan in 1850 was hardly aboriginal, and had a lot of extraordinary characteristics that marked it out as hot #1 favourite for "catch up fast, then overtake" -- but it's a definite data point for a thesis that contact with a technologically more advanced civilization doesn't automatically cause the less advanced culture to curl up and die.

56:

The Native Hawaiians and Samoans did pretty good too. Whites are actually a minority in Hawaii.

I thought that hardly any native Hawaiians were left (except in Niihau) and that most of the present-day population of Hawai'i was Japanese or other Asians...

57:

I thought that hardly any native Hawaiians were left (except in Niihau) and that most of the present-day population of Hawai'i was Japanese or other Asians...

As of the 2000 Census, there were 271,000 living in Hawaii proper.

Nationally, there are about 400,000 Pacific Islanders only, and 943,000 who have at least some ancestry. The pre-contact population was probably about 400-500 thousand.

58:

What's so confusing to me is why are we in Iraq and shouldn't we be in Iran because of the cold water Nuclear issue. Oh wait the U.N. is dealing with that but there are also other forces at play like non-profit orgs. Are not we dealing with militants through Saudi Arabia and Pakistan?

At this point were not technically at was with any nation becase Iraq is supposed soverien now yet this massive military and all this money. It's quite an expensive non-war.

I just think it's too extreme to have a massive military operation for 1 building that got knocked down AND there wasn't this huge so called terrorsim activity before this 9/11 scam where the U.S. allowed it to happen from obvious oversight!

It's time to rewind the drum!
Arrignorancy

59:

They can have my citizenship. Anyone with an outerspace ticket I will revoke my citizenship and live there. I don't want to become a citizen again anywhere of anything.

60:

To be honest, there are advantages in being a subject of Her Brittanic Majesty, though they way things have gone for the majority of my own life, she seems set to go down in history as Elizabeth the Unready.

Trouble is, saying the monarch is ill-advised is pretty usually a precursor to bloody rebellion (and the disappearnce of the monarch into a medieval quasi-Gitmo where nobody is actaully tortured, but you don't want to drink from any unsecured wine-casks.

Still, we do have that thought that the State is not Tony.

On the other hand, there are stories going around about our current Home Secretary, John Reid. He was, as a student at Stirling University, allegedly an enforcer for the Communist Party; the sort of petty hoodlum who would walk in and say, "Nice little political party you have here...". The sort of guy who might, in another time and place, have been seen at political meetings wearing a shirt of black, or brown. Or marching, flag high, ranks closed, with silent, solid steps.

Now he seems to be angling for renumerative directorships from the airline industry, brandishing an iron fist in a teflon glove as he threatens to require biometric checks on airline passengers "well in advance" of any flight.

It's hard not to believe that this rather oddly timed terrorist outrage is a bit short of reality, and has about as much connection to any real threat as finding a dead Polish soldier outside a radio station with a concentration camp number tattooed on their arm.

61:

Still, we do have that thought that the State is not Tony.

Please. I'm not *that* fat.

62:

You know what those "bottles containing peroxide, including some with false bottoms" probably are?

Hair colouring products!

63:

May I note for your convenience the coining of the label The Exploding Shampoo Plot, over on the Making Light blog.

http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/007883.html

Others have already queries whether this was an episode of The Goon Show. No doubt the TSA are already scanning passenger lists for the name of Colonel Dennis Bloodnok, whose dietary preferences, and their consequences, are all too likely to be misconstrued.

We now take you to an interview with Detective Inspector Ned Seagoon, currently on board a steam tram of the Royal Navy patrolling the Arabian Gulf....

64:

The USA is the last of the great planetary empires.

It depends on how you define "empire". Too many peole throw out that term without really defining it. There are three binary classifications:

Territorial or Hegemonic: Territorial empires rely upon direct control of subject areas while hegemonies utilize local clients and puppets. Very few empires are completely one or the other. The British Indian Empire was a mix of British ruled districts and Indian states loyal to the Raj. Nazi rule in the occupied Balkans was a crazy quilt of occupation zones and local puppet states. The Roman empire consisted of directly ruled provinces and local client kingdoms ruled by the like of Herod of Judea. The current American "empire" (more on this said below) should be considered almost completely hegemonic in character.

Centralized and Autonomous: Centralized empires rely on governors, viceroys, satraps and clients directly appointed (and removable) by the central government. Autonomous empires (which at first seems an oxymoron) allow for a great deal of local or regional autonomy. Examples of this type include the feudal structure of the Holy Roman Empire, or the various Mongol Khanates which owed allegiance to the Great Khan. Also included in the autonomous category are those quasi-government agencies which operate within an empire as a "state-within-a-state" such as the British East India Company and the Nazi S.S. Dominion states of the British empire can be considered autonomous imperial entities.

Secular and Religious/Ideological: Most empires in history are of a secular variety, emphasising political ends end economic gain. The Abbasid Caliphate established after the first Muslim jihad was primarily religious in nature. Some empires are a mixture of the two such as the Spanish New World Empire ("For God and gold"). If one considers the ideology of the former Soviet Union to be a kind of pseudo-religion with its cult of personality surrounding its leader, than the USSR could also be considered a "religious" empire.

The current world situation is rather unique in that there is only one real empire in existence, the American "empire". Using the above system, the American empire can be considered hegemonic/autonomous/secular in nature ? perhaps the most light-handed and benign form an empire can take. With the return of the Panama Canal Zone, America has no real "provinces" remaining. Its empire outside of the 50 states consists almost completely of dependencies and allies. The rulers of these client states are not appointed by the central government in Washington and show a great deal of autonomy in their decision making. And since "the business of America is business" with economic growth and establishment of world-wide free trade as its ultimate goal, America is perhaps the most secular empire which ever existed.

Given any other REALISTIC alternative, a benign American hegemony is perhaps the best situation that the world could hope for. I agree that America is an empire (or perhaps "empire-lite"), I just don't agree that it is a bad thing.

65:

Why this reluctance to believe we have real enemies?

[Xenophobic rant deleted by moderator]

Piss off, Anonymous. I'll let you post when you (a) get yourself a real name, and (b) start coming up with citations to back up your unappetizing drivel.

-- Charlie (editing Anonymous's post)

66:

Mr. Stross, your hysterical overreaction to my post (I could have sworn that I signed it as I did the one on empire definitions) does not speak well of a man with your reputation for intelligence. Besides, its not like you haven't heard this from me before.

But as a public service, I'd be glad to provide citations as needed. But really, how much citations do you need for such things as mainstream Islam's routine executions of Gays, oppression of women, persecution of artists, etc.?

Once I go through all that trouble, however, I really would like an explanation from you as to why you have betrayed all your liberal ideals and sacrificed them on behalf of multi-cultural toleration to those who are violently intolerant.

67:

But as a public service, I'd be glad to provide citations as needed. But really, how much citations do you need for such things as mainstream Islam's routine executions of Gays, oppression of women, persecution of artists, etc.?

Once I go through all that trouble, however, I really would like an explanation from you as to why you have betrayed all your liberal ideals and sacrificed them on behalf of multi-cultural toleration to those who are violently intolerant.

I don't think most liberals approve of the above mentioned Islamic practices, but they feel powerless to act against them. Islam's tenacity means that ethnic cleansing is the only solution, which in the eyes of most liberals is a cure worse than the disease.

68:

Daniel: you didn't sign your post. I might have gone easier on you if you had -- I have a strong knee-jerk antipathy to what the slashdot folks call "anonymous coward" posters.

As for your question ... well, there's a long posting on my livejournal (friends-locked and not under this name) that goes into my attitude to religion and ideology, and I think when I've let it sit for a bit I'll probably post it here. It's liable to be a little bit controversial. In a nutshell: I despise violent fundamentalists but I refuse to respond to them in kind. That breeds an escalating cycle of violence that doesn't, ultimately, lead to enlightenment. (As for non-violent fundamentalists, I'm willing to coexist by ignoring them, as long as they do likewise with me and mine.)

Also, I don't see a huge moral superiority on the part of western governments, when contrasted with the governments of the official "rogue states" that we are encouraged to rattle the sabre at. Conditions in Iran under the dictatorship of a vile theocracy may be very sub-optimal, but how many countries has Iran invaded recently? (Hint: replying, "but they supply arms to Hezbollah" is not the response that will get you a cigar, unless you also note how many states and non-state actors our governments supply arms to.)

To put it bluntly: the Iranian government hangs gays, oppresses women, and generally carries on in a barbaric manner at home, but it's fairly circumspect in invading its neighbours. The British government have a fair track record on oppressing people at home (the American government is a whole lot worse -- barely better than Iran, in my view) and a really shitty record of invading foreign countries and funding terrorist insurgencies. And when you count the per-capital death toll, I don't think the west comes out ahead.

This doesn't mean I'd rather live under the Iranian system; but I think we should be focussing on fixing the mess in our own back yard before we start throwing stones at other folks.

69:

"Islam's tenacity means that ethnic cleansing is the only solution, which in the eyes of most liberals is a cure worse than the disease." George Carty

Or to put it another way

What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

A pity most of the extremists don't think this way.

70:

In a nutshell: I despise violent fundamentalists but I refuse to respond to them in kind. That breeds an escalating cycle of violence that doesn't, ultimately, lead to enlightenment.

Indeed - the best friend of any extremist is an extremist on the other side. Fear of Soviet aggression was one of the main factors in Western appeasement of Hitler. (Lame historical analogy: West = Byzantines, Nazis = Sassanids, Soviets = Muslims)

"Saving the world from the Nazis" was a powerful legitimizing force for world Communism.

Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount with a heavy bodyguard in order to provoke the al-Aqsa Intifada, which ultimately propelled him to power on an anti-terrorist ticket.

Al-Qaeda attacked New York and Washington on 9/11 in order to enrage America and provoke it into invading the Middle East, which would hopefully both increase Muslim hate for America and demolish the secular tinpots of the Middle East, thus clearing the way for the new Caliphate.

71:

How, exactly, does one resist a violent fundamentalist without resorting to violence?

If there is no such means, can one rationally hold that violence is bad as such?

72:

You start by recognizing that fundamentalism draws strength from reaction; scared, frightened people flock towards those who offer certainties. You also recognize that the way to defeat an insurgency is by splitting the radicals off from their base of support. It follows that your target is not the violent fundamentalists, but the much more numerous non-violent sympathizers and supporters, and your goal is to convince them that not only do they not need to support violence in order to achieve a subset of their goals (typically "leave us alone" or "stop crapping on us"), but that supporting the violent types is counter-productive.

It worked in Northern Ireland. It worked in Aden. It worked in the Basque territories in Spain. And so on.

73:

1) You're confusing fighters for independence with ideological radicals. The independence of a polity is usually concedable; the goals of a radical often aren't. The assumption that negotiation can resolve all disputes has many counterexamples, the most obvious being the dispute between the Jews of Europe and the Nazis.

2) Even with disputes that are negotiable, if one isn't prepared to use violence on the violent fraction of one's opponents, then that fraction will claim every concession one makes to their non-violent supporters as a victory accomplished by violence. And the supporters will believe it, too. Supporting violence isn't counterproductive when the violent suffer no penalty for their actions.

3) There are cases in which the violent fraction of one's opponents have gained control of a state, and are actively preventing one from communicating with their supporters. In those cases it's not practical even to begin splitting off the violent fraction from their supporters, as the supporters cannot hear you speak. One must break the violent fraction's hold on the state just to have one's case heard.

74:

Mr. Duffy, aren't the axes "Territorial/Hegemonic" and "Centralized/Autonomous" describing the same thing? "Territorial" and "Centralized" both mean provinces are governed by agents of the metropole; "Hegemonic" and "Autonomous" both mean provinces choose their own governments.

75:

daniel duffy:

“Centralized and Autonomous: Centralized empires rely on governors, viceroys, satraps and clients directly appointed (and removable) by the central government. Autonomous empires (which at first seems an oxymoron) allow for a great deal of local or regional autonomy. Examples of this type include the feudal structure of the Holy Roman Empire, or the various Mongol Khanates which owed allegiance to the Great Khan. Also included in the autonomous category are those quasi-government agencies which operate within an empire as a "state-within-a-state" such as the British East India Company and the Nazi S.S. Dominion states of the British empire can be considered autonomous imperial entities.��?

Exactly. I don't like doable governments and double taxing either
What happened to the English spirit of tax hating too?

I totally agree with your take on America as not the only problem here because quite simply everyone is doing it; yet America is the largest player, it seems, so maybe Charlie is right on that as for location value. .

Basically we are setting up these puppet democracies that not everyone wants, obviously it's not a perfect system (look and Peru and the war tension between America and them) and America and the EU and U.S. are promoting it and the spying. Thank goodness for the the deflation of the paper currency I say because the World Bank is an autonomous (generalized) empire as it is useless with a global Internet.

To me the largest empire is the WTO and EBAY now because they have countries by the balls in terms of products and the squeeze gets tighter and ever so tighter. These autonomous hegemonies are dying.

76:

1) You're confusing fighters for independence with ideological radicals. The independence of a polity is usually concedable; the goals of a radical often aren't. The assumption that negotiation can resolve all disputes has many counterexamples, the most obvious being the dispute between the Jews of Europe and the Nazis.

As a general principle, "Appease the Stresemanns and smash the Hitlers" seems to be the best way to go...

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