We like silly statistics

April 30th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

The US government thinksIraq accounts for 55% of people killed by terrorism last year. This is the kind of skewed statistic you get when you define everybody attacking the US as a terrorist, when you’d call them soldiers or guerillas if they were fighting anyone else.
[needless to say I’m shooting from the hip here; I’ve not actually read the [report](http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/crt/c17689.htm) and I guess it’s not impossible that their methodology makes sense somehow]

Wild Thyme cafe tomorrow

April 30th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

Anybody not doing anything tomorrow evening? Want to come along to Wild Thyme Cafe, eat and chat with vaguely (not offensively) lefty types? I’m planning to be there for pretty much the whole time, 6-10. Only time I went before it was wonderful, and full of people from the nearby streets who I would never meet any other way.

bank holiday Monday, there will be a Wild Thyme Community Cafe from 6 pm til 10 pm at the Ross Street Community Centre. Last orders for food are at 8 pm.

£7, unwaged £5, kids £3
If you can afford it… pay more. If you can’t, pay less.

Wild Thyme is a community cafe run by volunteers from the Cambridge Action Network. Food is donated by Arjuna Wholefood co-operative and cooked by Mouth Music.

Any money raised will be donated to the ‘Camp for Climate Action’ which aims to take action against climate change; provide information on climate change and its causes; share and live practical solutions.


Talking the talk

April 30th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

Iraq president says deal with some rebels possible (Reuters). Talking is good, but I’m not too optimistic about the chances. As context, read [this excellent report](http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=3953&l=1) from the International Crisis Group, on the nature and tactics of the insurgency. They conclude that:

Despite recurring contrary reports, there is little sign of willingness by any significant insurgent element to join the political process or negotiate with the U.S. While covert talks cannot be excluded, the publicly accessible discourse remains uniformly and relentlessly hostile to the occupation and its “collaborators”.

The problem is the insurgents can’t negotiate, because they don’t have a program. Three of the four biggest groups are held together by papering over the differences between their nationalist and their salafi support bases. If they were to start seriously negotiating, they would need to decide on policy positions, and in the process would risk breaking themselves apart.
So my guess is that the Iraqi government has been having some vague negotiations with some members of insurgent groups – but those people won’t be in a position to make any commitments. The best we can hope for out of these talks is a better understandign of the insurgency, and developing lines of communication which will doubtless be of some use later.

light relief

April 28th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

Things making me laugh today: Why Caesar was killed, and a very determined doorstop.

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Jawad al-Maliki

April 24th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

The main news from Iraq this weekend was that Jawad al-Maliki is now Prime Minister of Iraq, following the US-UK campaign to keep Jaafari out of the job.
You won’t learn much from the papers, where journalists are having a visibly hard time filling up their biographies of Maliki. Here they are anyway: [Guardian](http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,1759783,00.html), [AP](http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060421/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq_al_maliki_profile;_ylt=AokX5K6udPHoiMB1bW6FpBQLewgF;_ylu=X3oDMTBjMHVqMTQ4BHNlYwN5bnN1YmNhdA–), [New York Times](http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/04/23/africa/web.0423profile.php), [Times](http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,7374-2149366,00.html). Slightly better is [Juan Cole](http://www.juancole.com/2006/04/al-maliki-acceptable-say-kurds-sunni.html) ‘s dump of old news articles referring to Maliki’s work on the constitution and elsewhere.
But [Helena](http://justworldnews.org/) is about the only person putting the appointment into context. She has followed it through from the [nomination of Jaafari by the UIA](http://justworldnews.org/archives/001727.html) back in february (a surprise choice, the pundits were expecting Abdul-Aiz al-Hakim to be Prime Minister), to what she identified as a [campaign by Britain and the States to block Jaafari’s appointment](http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/election/2006/0405impasse.htm).
With that background, Maliki looks like a face-saving candidate, keeping power within Jaafari’s Daawa party while removing the man himself. Nothing wrong with a compromise choice, of course, but remember that Jaafari will still be the power behind the throne. I just looked at my notes on Iraqi politicians, and the entry for Maliki said one thing only one thing: “close to Ibrahim al-Jaafari”.
As for actual policies, there isn’t any difference between him and Jaafari. The US ambassador [describes](http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/04/23/news/iraq.php) him as “tough-minded” and “strong”, which sounds ominous in terms of democracy. The best that the Iraqi Islamic party has to say is that he is “more practical” than Jaafari. Because he’s an unknown they don’t have much to throw at him, but what there is doesn’t look good. In particular, it can’t be long until Maliki’s opponents bring up his role in the debaathification program, which has angered many by turning into a de-Sunnification program.
That said, this isn’t a bad compromise, and the chance that Iraq will finally form a government is a Very Good Thing.

Gold farmers roundup

April 24th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

[Gold farming](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold_farming) in MMORPGs is a trendy topic, so there are countless superficial articles about it. This is a partial attempt to sift out the drivel, and summarise the real information. I doubt I’ll do this regularly, but maybe I’ll try to revisit it now and again.
PhD Student Ge Jin has [filmed](http://youtube.com/watch?v=ho5Yxe6UVv4) several Chinese sweatshops. It’s been discussed everywhere, most interestingly at [Terra Nova](http://terranova.blogs.com/terra_nova/2006/03/disembodiment_h.html)
PC Gamer has [refused](http://www.kansas.com/mld/kansas/business/technology/14018209.htm) to carry ads from real-world traders like IGE:

“PC Gamer’s official stance on these types of companies is that they are despicable: Not only do they brazenly break many MMOs’ End-User License Agreements (EULA), but they all too often ruin legitimate players’ fun. As a company, we have agreed to turn down what literally amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual ad revenue so that you, as a reader, can game easy knowing that we’ve got your back.”

In Gamestudy there is an [interview](http://gamestudy.org/eblog/?p=34) with a Korean gold farmer, translated from a Korean gaming magazine. Interesting points: the confirmation that “hacking tools tuned for a specific game make it possible to handle incredibly many accounts/characters per worker”, and the discussion of how Korean shops are mostly priced out of the market. I’m not surprised; comments elsewhere have claimed that gold farmers are even being priced out of Beijing, so how they could survive in a city as expensive as Seoul is beyond me. He also says that almost all sweatshop characters are automated. I wonder how true this is beyond Lineage; presumably the mechanics of each game will determine whether it’s worth a real person running a character.
Meanwhile, games have been cracking down on the gold farmers in public: RuneScape have [adjusted their game mechanics](http://news.runescape.com/lang/en/aff/runescape/newsitem.ws?id=571) to reduce one common way for farmers to profit. They also claim that “Over the last few weeks we have banned literally hundreds of accounts a day for macroing at the rune essence mine“. Earlier Blizzard too banned or suspended some 15,000 players for “participating in activities that violate the game’s Terms of Use, including using third-party programs to farm gold and items.

Protected: I’m not racist, I just like dropping bricks on people

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Protected: Dan blurbles again

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Protected: Because you must all be sick of it by now…

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Coalition pressures Iraq to adopt detention without trial?

April 16th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

Reading this article, I find myself desperately struggling to find an innocent explanation – and failing. The gist is that the US can’t hand over control of prisons to Iraqis, because the Iraqi government has too much respect for human rights.

The commander of U.S. prison operations, which include Abu Ghraib and three other sites, said he could not predict when the Iraqi government will match U.S. standards of care for detainees and pass laws allowing it to hold people without trial — key conditions for handing over detainees, numbering 14,700 today.

The US authorities believe that they, unlike Iraqis, do have the right to waive due process:

while the United States points to a United Nations Security Council Resolution allowing it to detain people without charge as suspected guerrillas, the Iraqi government would need to pass its own legislation to do that

I’m not sure where they think this legal authorization comes from. All I can see is that Resolution 1511

authorizes a multinational force under unified command to take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq

Resolution 1546

Decides that the multinational force shall have the authority to take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq

If that’s all there is, this is as legally dubious as it is morally dubious – but quite possibly I’ve missed something elsewhere. Anybody want to see what information Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have collected on this?

I won’t go into the ethical and political dimensions to why this is bad; no doubt anyone reading this post will already be convinced that giving people a trial before jailing them is a Good Thing.

[Cross-post from the [Iraq Analysis Group blog](http://www.iraqanalysis.org/blog)]

Technical woes

April 16th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

As Francis has helpfully pointed out, large chunks of this blog are defunct – including comments, individual entries, and all the archives. I’ve not worked out why yet, but bear with me and eventually things will be back to their usual semi-functionality.
UPDATE: I’m still not sure what was causing this, but I’ve turned off dynamic publishing and now things are mostly working. Let me know if you find things still broken.

Church of Noise

April 14th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

Over the Easter weekend I don’t have to go into work until 2am. This is a Good Thing.

So, I spent yesterday evening at Church of Noise, with i_am_marky, innocent_irony and killingpuritans. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the music – a year of WUS had convinced me that I didn’t much like rock, but this was hour after hour of stuff I could dance at, and not all the tracks sounded identical to each other. Another of those times when I do something, and then wonder why I didn’t try it a year ago.

Current plans involve spending tomorrow evening in the Castle with gothsoc, then Saturday at the Indie Thing. Anybody have better suggestions, particularly for Saturday? Spending three nights at the Kambar in one week feels a lot like overkill.

Dr. Who sings Common People

April 12th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

Common People, with vocals from the automated Tom Baker voice that reads out text messages. I can’t think of any better way to end the Calling than that; it’s a pity so many people missed it. Fortunately there’s an mp3 for you all to revel in. Others are here – the version of God Save the Queen is absolute genius.

The rest of the music at the Calling was also unusually great. I’ve been wishing I danced more; one day I’ll work out the art of dancing and talking. Really I will.

Before that, thanks to Roo, Kai, and the assembled LARPers in the Druids for making Dan have an extremely enjoyable afternoon and evening.

April 11th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

As if Christ, vampires and lesbians weren’t enough, i_am_toast and  i_am_marky have treated me to Toxic Avenger, which involves “the first superhero from New Jersey” protecting a small town from evil. Better still, he does it in a tutu.There was also another film about panther-people, murder and incest,but nobody was paying much attention by that point. Silly films are much more enjoyable than ones that want to be taken seriously.

Update for those of you concerned about the Abolition of Parliament bill: the third reading looks likely to happen during the last week of this month. So far, only one Labour MP is publicly opposing it. Be scared!

Hoping to see lots of you at the Loki-free(*) Calling tonight.

* you don’t want to know how close I came to using a blink tag there

Meeting the Yezidis

April 11th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

One positive byproduct of the war in Iraq has been the increased contact between outsiders and some of the smaller cultural groups in Iraq. I’m thinking particularly about the Yezidis, a religious group in North Iraq. Frequently misunderstood – even seen as devil-worshippers – they have been the objects of prejudice within their own country, and confusion outside it.

Then suddenly in the past few years a steady stream of outsiders have made their way to the Yezidi villages near Mosul and Dohuk. Most recently there is Michael Totten‘s report, written in February. Before that Michael Yon did something similar. And back in April 2005, Jacob Appelbaum wrote his own two-part account of the Yezidis, with many pictures he’s taken.

All three have written touching and human portraits of the Yezidis, as well as collecting ever more accurate information about their beliefs and lifestyles. They certainly compare favourably to this account of them written back in 1941, and even to the photographs from the same time, recently shown at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford.

Do bowls of cherries talk, Jesus?

April 10th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter is a fantastically wonderful film.

Spoilers below

And they said the Clash had sold out…

April 5th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

This is too funny-scary not to propagate. The British police pulled somebody off a plane because he’d been singing along to London Calling on the way there.

For his sake, I’m glad it wasn’t the guns of Brixton

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