Sunday, July 24, 2005

Great! So now it turns out trigger-happy police can't tell the difference between asians and Brazilians.

Some points.

The police chasing the guy were plainclothes. What would you do if chased by a non-uniformed guy with a gun on the tube? (Particularly if you're from Brazil with allegedly 40,000 "gun related homicides" a year? Of course, in Brazil something like 7000 people a year are shot by police so, you wouldn't necessarily hang around if they were in uniform, either.)

We also know police were watching Jean Charles de Menezes's apartment block or street and followed him up several roads. So, we presume (hope?), that they had a specific suspect in mind. But that still seems a fairly longish period of time in which they could have been trying to establish whether they had the right man. Do they do this while trailing someone? Or is an initial mistaken target going to be followed until the end? After all, how do they check the real suspect wasn't nipping out the back way at the same time?

Witnesses were also talking about wires coming out of Menezes's belt. What did these turn out to be? His iPod? Tools to do with his work as an electrician?

I am, more or less, in favour of shooting-to-kill someone who may be on the verge of blowing up a carriage full of people. But this is a damning mistake. It's the first application of this policy and it got things 100% wrong. We're now in a situation where more lives have been lost in mistakes with this policy than saved by succesful executions of it. I wonder if that state will ever get reversed.

Finally. How the hell am I going to explain this when I get back to Brazil?

More analysis at BBC

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Another interesting right-wing take : Al Qaeda's Fantasy Ideology
BBC NEWS | UK | 'Ordinary' lives of bomb suspects

Know what this reminds me of? Columbine. Same questions. How could these ordinary kids from good homes in our area do this to us?

I wonder if anyone is trying to take lessons from Columbine and other "dissolute teenagers on killing spree" stories and triangulating them with this stuff.

Now, I'm not saying there's no religious or ideological component. But plenty of people have the religion and ideology. Only a few do this.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Written July 7th, but not finished or posted :

So, the game has changed.

Flew into London this morning, head filled with thoughts about corruption in the Brazilian government, to find that London had just been attacked with the Al-Qaeda speciality : multiple co-ordinated bombings.

Couldn't get from Heathrow to my mother's so went to my aunt's instead. Finally got back Friday.

Update : July 12th. Phones were out. Back now. And I have an internet connection again.

Thoughts ...

First. Hope everyone I know and care about is OK. And sorry about everyone who isn't. That's not just tokenistic. I do care. But I'm not going to wallow in it.

Secondly. Pretty much agree with what Graham said.

Third : I'm a bit shocked at the level of debate I've been hearing in the media. It often seems to go like this :

pundit 1 : these terrorists hate our way of life and are trying to destroy it, but they'll never overcome British pluck.

pundit 2 : this isn't about our way of life. It's about Iraq.

pundit 1 : nonsense. Terrorists attacked the US *before* the invasion of Iraq.

At which point, the alloted time for debate seems to be up.

This is so weak, that I'm thinking of putting together a quick refresher FAQ for people who find the media aren't managing to keep the important points in mind. Coming soon.

Fourth : I have a certain amount of respect for the analysis of some of the deeper thinkers on the conservative, right wing, yet I'm disturbed to find echoes in the position of the British far-right. But really, how different are these two positions? There are a lot of assumptions in Lind which are extremely comfortable for the BNP. (Foreigners are causes of disorder, etc.) Lind is eloquent and convincing. Let's accept what's good and insightful from his analysis, but he is on the far right and shares their prejudices. We don't need to go all the way over to the neo-fascists.

Fifth : looks like the police have got someone. Good. Hope they have. But keep in mind all those screw-ups trying to catch the IRA in the 70s. Getting the right people is a good result. But the urgent desire to get somebody doesn't justify or excuse getting the wrong people. In fact, getting the wrong people in a rush, or on a hunch, is worse than useless. Haste shouldn't make us clumsy.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The other shoe drops. Eric Raymond moves against the "left-wing", political interpretation of free software. If it's only about efficiency (not a political ideal of freedom) then we don't need special regulation or a politicised conscience about it. We only need the natural emergent effects of a freely competitive market.

Interesting ...

Gone also, of course, are all the awkward questions about "property" that Stallman raises.
WorldChanging A New Kenyan Currency
This is why people prefer markets over governments.

The US government is run by people with quasi-fascistic intuitions about how to maintain security and power. Their attitude to global warming is "conservative" in the worst possible sense of being incapable of updating their world view.

However. The government of the US is not the whole story in America and the rest of the world. There's also a wave of investment in green and companies. On AltEng and World Changing you can see dozens of stories a week about new private initiatives.

Some are more useful than others. Hydrogen cars from Malaysia are not a great deal until the energy in the fuel cells is not ultimately derived from oil.

On the other hand, these are hydrogen cars from Malaysia! The world isn't waiting around for the US (or UK or French) governments to solve this problem. And the fuel cells are more flexible in that they can eventually be charged from any source of power.

A year or two ago we had a good argument on ThoughtStorms about sustainability and the character of our economy. Peak oil and global warming is shaping up to be a real empirical test of the rival theories. What's clear is that none of the technologies are "solutions" by themselves. Fuel cells? Still need to generate power. Ethonol? Pretty environmentally unsound most of the time. Wind? How do you transport, store energy? Solar? Photovoltaic cells are energy expensive to create.

At the same time, a complex combination or ecosystem of different solutions, often mutually supporting (eg. home solar furnace using lenses to suppliment a fuel-cell / petrolem / ethanol car) will start to diminish various problems on a piece-meal basis.

Now, constructing a complex ecosystem is something only a market can do. You need lots of parallel trial and error, not a single programme applied as a mono-culture across the country (or world).

Some of the CNN visionaries are worth reading.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Ian Bicking has a post about ethanol and its use in Brazil, which seems to be getting some good comments.
The BBC are sticking the boot in.

But surely not even Tony was naive enough to think he had a deal with devil. I think this is pure retrospective wishful thinking ...

Here's what actually happened.

Sir Nigel : The Americans are going to invade Iraq.

Tony Blair : Fuck! Can we get out of it?

Sir Nigel : Sorry, nope. If we don't back them up, they'll invoke the X-clause.

Tony Blair : What's the X clause?

Sir Nigel patiently explains why the UK government has to do anything the US government wants it to.

Tony Blair : Fuckety fuck! Suppose I go public?

Sir Nigel : Can't be done. The first rule of the X clause is you can't mention the X clause.

Tony Blair : [expletive]+

Later that night ...

Tony Blair (thinks) : Maybe I can drop hints that there's some kind of deal going on here. That I'm going to get some kind of payback from W ... I know, maybe at the G8. With a bit of luck, the Tories will have got their act together and I'll have been safely voted out of Downing Street by then and we can spin the non-appearance of said deal as Howard's incompetence and spinelessness.

Later, after the election ...

Tony Blair : Oh shit!

Karl Rove (secret communication) : Tony, Tony. Don't take it so bad. You're still living in the reality-based community. Listen, if Iraq is an accomplished mission with freedom marching up and down until it's feet get sore. If Iraq is a success - and it is - despite the fact that the country is pretty much non-functioning, that neither we nor its government can guarantee much freedom or security to its inhabitants, and that it's become a recruiting cause and training ground for the next 5 generations of even more virulent anti-American terrorists. If, despite all this, Iraq is a success simply by the power of our willing it to be so. Then, for goodness sake, you can ensure that the success of the G8 isn't jeopardised by our long-standing opposition to Kyoto ... simply by wishing it to be so.

Tony Blair : You mean ...

Karl Rove : Exactly, global warming is just a theory, right. We don't want to get hung up on any particularly theological issues. Our position here is that technology will save us (Somehow. It always does.) We're willing to talk about that. And you should really learn to be satisfied that we have been willing to talk to you. Us talking to you is all the success you need.
Ross Mayfield : But isn't there a certain irony for celebrating a victory for more consumer choice and control for a handful -- around an event on global poverty? Is the highpoint of net-enabled media a mass entertainment event that draws us to SMS or click on a petition and feel we have done our part?

Ross Mayfield's Weblog: Affective Media
Reasonably amusing.

SemanticKinght - Asemantics SRL
Learn your hip-hop moves

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Robert Cringely : ... back to Grokster and the Supreme Court. Grokster wanted to be seen as a common carrier like the telephone company. Just because telephones can be used to plan and sometimes carry out crimes doesn't make the phone company a criminal accessory. But Grokster, the Court decided, was built more with the intention of illegally sharing music than the phone company was built to aid kidnappers. So Grokster IS a criminal accessory in the eyes of the court.

What will happen, of course, is that Web 2.0 will turn the next Grokster into several separate organizations offering different services that use a common API syntax to create a Grokster equivalent. Each of these parts will look more like the phone company and less like Grokster until the Supreme Court won't recognize them as the accessories they happen to be.

PBS | I, Cringely . June 30, 2005 - Accessories Make the Nerd

Saturday, July 02, 2005

And continuing from the last post, more androids
Philip K. Dick. Now a robot!
Egad! According to this article brains behave more "like a biological organism" than a computer.

The computer metaphor describes cognition as being in a particular discrete state, for example, "on or off" or in values of either zero or one, and in a static state until moving on.


"In thinking of cognition as working as a biological organism does, on the other hand, you do not have to be in one state or another like a computer, but can have values in between -- you can be partially in one state and another, and then eventually gravitate to a unique interpretation, as in finally recognizing a spoken word," Spivey said.

Whereas the older models of language processing theorized that neural systems process words in a series of discrete stages, the alternative model suggests that sensory input is processed continuously so that even partial linguistic input can start "the dynamic competition between simultaneously active representations."

I suppose this says more about the simplistic models that linguists have been using than anything else.