I’ve just purchased a new digital camera , so posts from me over the next few weekends might be a bit scarce.
I started in digital photography about 16 months ago when I purchased my first digital camera. Since then I haven’t looked back. When you don’t have the cost of film or developing you suddenly have a whole lot more scope to exercise creativity, since ‘dud’ photos cost nothing.
My first digital camera was a Canon Powershot A-20 (now replaced by Powershot A-40). This is a great camera for anyone new to digital photography. The A-20 is a 2.1 megapixel camera. For the person off the street, this means you could print the images from the camera at normal photo size and probably not notice the difference. The A-20 features a 3x optical zoom and a basic controls for resolution, image compression, white balance and exposure. The updated A-40 model also has a ‘movie mode’ for capturing short movie clips. You can read more about the A-20 on my web site.
I’ve now purchased a Fuji Finepix 602-Z. Whilst the A-40 is essentially a digital compact camera, the Fuji has a lot more manual controls and is on the border of being a digital SLR. The 602-Z offers full manual control over aperture, shutter speed, white balance and focus. Recognising there might be times when simplicity will suffice, the 602-Z does offer a number of pre-programmed ‘automatic’ modes. Although I’ve had it less than a day, I’ve got the basic functions under control and look forward to mastering the camera controls (not the art of photography) over the next few weeks.
If I manage any interesting photos I’ll post a link. (I’m hoping to head to the motor show next weekend).
Here is a truly frightening article about Saddam's sons. What more can you say after reading this? Can you imagine one of these guys taking over from the father? One hopes that if Saddam manages to stay in power long enough to pass on the throne, that one of the Iraqi military has the good sense to ice the two sons (link courtesy of 2 Blowhards). Here are a few introductory paragraphs:
Both men (Uday is 38, Qusay 36) were born and bred to violence of the most lurid kind. As infants, they were supposedly given disarmed grenades as toys. More reliably, they were said to accompany their father on outings to the torture chamber ...
Saddam has always believed in the symbolic power of mutilation. “Under torture, the high and mighty are quite literally exposed as being made of the same stuff as everyone else,” writes Kanan Makiya in his study of Saddam’s Iraq, “Republic of Fear.” As Iraqi ruler, Saddam delivered the broken bodies of his victims to their families. He was aiming at the creation of “a new man” in Iraq, just as Hitler and Stalin had tried to do in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. He may well have made his sons into psychopaths...
Strolling through a park, Uday spotted a young couple. He called out to the young woman, but the pair walked on, pretending not to notice. Affronted, Uday grabbed the woman by the arm and declared, “You’re much too good for this simple man.” (Her companion was wearing the uniform of an Army captain.) The woman stammered that she had been married only the day before. Uday’s guards promptly dragged her to a hotel room, where Uday raped her as the guards watched from the next room. Latif, who says he witnessed this scene, says he heard the woman scream. He went to the balcony and saw her half-naked figure lying in front of the hotel entrance six floors below. Her husband, who cursed Uday, was executed for “defamation of the president.” It is impossible to confirm Latif’s story, but Iraqi media reported the execution of the husband, Saad Abd al-Razzek.
Civil liberties and national security If indeed the Bali bombings are simply a precursor to other attacks that may hit Australian soil (and this is still debatable as it is unclear what the motives of the bombers are - for all we know it may be an attempt at destabilising the Indonesian government) then we will soon be grappling with some of the dilemmas faced in the US.Ken Parish has already laid his cards on the table by discussing some of the more drastic national security measures that we might need to consider in a worst case scenario. Let's hope it never comes to that.
This recent piece in the estimable and principled Reason magazine gives us a flavour of the sorts of arguments we might see in Australia down the line and points out that with some exceptions the self-proclaimed enemies of big and centralised government have not lived up to their labels:
One conservative who’s stuck to her federalist ideals is the hardest-working housewife in politics, Phyllis Schlafly. In a syndicated column this summer, she thundered against "increased federal control" in the wake of 9/11, targeting her ire at Operation TIPS (the administration’s proposed national clearinghouse for Stalinoid snitching), the USA PATRIOT Act, and the president’s National Strategy for Homeland Security ...
Search the work of Goldberg, semi-reformed Leninist David Horowitz, Wall Street Journal Arab basher James Taranto, and other erstwhile federalists. You’ll find no echo of this analysis. You will, however, find defenses of the new programs, with The Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes even stumping for a national ID card. Taranto claims TIPS should raise no civil liberties concerns, and Horowitz has been nostalgic for the FBI’s old Cointelpro program of domestic spying ...
Perhaps I’m just not being creative enough in my interpretation of federalist principles. Perhaps, when the Pentagon’s colony at Guantanamo exempted itself from the ordinary rules of imprisonment, it was merely being another laboratory of democracy. Perhaps Operation TIPS is a radical experiment in Swiss-style decentralized defense, with citizen-spies instead of citizen-soldiers. Perhaps the president reviews the collected work of James Madison each morning before setting out to make policy -- or, even more formidable, the collected reverent references to Madison in National Review.
Or perhaps some of liberty’s fair-weather friends are fickle pals of federalism as well.
The American Conservative Here is one positive and one not so positive response to the new Pat Buchanan and Taki edited magazine, The American Conservative which bills itself as a journal of the Old Right and condemns both globalisation and immigration. I've never been a fan of either Buchanan or Taki so this doesn't sound like the sort of mag I'd buy except out of curiosity. However one of my favourite writers in the blogosphere (and one who also has the good taste to link to me), Steve Sailer, writes for it, albeit as an arts writer so maybe it can't be that bad.
Psychologists rediscover Socrates: This has got to be one of the funniest abstracts I've ever read:
People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains. The authors suggest that this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it. Across 4 studies, the authors found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar, and logic grossly overestimated their test performance and ability. Although their test scores put them in the 12th percentile, they estimated themselves to be in the 62nd. Several analyses linked this miscalibration to deficits in metacognitive skill, or the capacity to distinguish accuracy from error. Paradoxically, improving the skills of participants, and thus increasing their metacognitive competence, helped them recognize the limitations of their abilities.
Bali's Hindus contemplate revenge This really doesn't sound very good when you consider that the word 'amok' comes from the Malay language (link found via The Bitchin' Monaro Guide):
When a huge car bomb devastated the heart of Bali's entertainment district Saturday night, four of Made Swarna's friends were inside the Sari Club bar, where they worked as waiters. Not one of these Balinese men survived ...
Swarna said he is sure that Muslim militants originally from elsewhere in Indonesia were involved in the attack and he is equally convinced that his fellow Hindus, who make up most of the island's population, will now take revenge on Bali's Muslim minority.
"This will cause religious clashes," said Swarna, 34, holding Cindy in his arms and offering an ominous prediction that has suddenly become common here. "We will sweep them out of Bali and make them go back to their homes so that Bali will be safe."...
Top Indonesian religious leaders, including Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Confucians, met Monday in Jakarta and appealed for calm, urging believers not to blame any specific religion for the terror attack. Several national religious leaders said they were planning to visit Bali this week to demonstrate their concern.
But some Balinese wondered whether everyone would heed their call. "It could be that the Balinese will expel the non-Balinese," said Made Suparta, 41, a native Balinese elementary school teacher wearing a traditional sarong as he waited for a ride outside the modern Duta shopping mall in downtown Denpasar. "It would be extraordinarily violent if that happened."
More on the F test John Ray writes to inform me that he had a paper on what the F-scale test (see below) really measures published some years ago. It's available online here. To sum up, John's paper argues that the F-scale test doesn't measure fascist tendencies at all but rather, a high score is indicative of an 'old fashioned personality':
A great deal of data has been surveyed and the inevitable complexities have arisen but throughout it all, it has been obvious that a view of the 'F' scale as primarily a measure of old-fashioned orientation has considerable explanatory force. It may be, of course, that having an "old-fashioned orientation" is not the most ultimately accurate way of characterizing high F scale scorers. That they could also fairly reasonably be characterized by related descriptions such as "cultural traditionalists" or "cultural conservatives" is admitted.
Fascism test Here is something that should be right up John J Ray's alley and can be used to prove his theories right or wrong - a Fascism Receptivity test. I scored 1.93 on this test which is substantially below the average of 3 to 4.5 which means apparently that I'm a 'whining rotter'. If you score over 4.5 you just might be the next Fuhrer.
The out-of-Africa theory contends that anatomically modern man first arose in eastern Africa about 150,000 years ago, then migrated out on a relentless push in which the species eventually conquered the planet.
This suggests that waves of African wanderers helped Man to evolve smoothly along a single path rather than branch out into starkly different genetic lines, and so Homo erectus in Asia was replaced by Homo sapiens out of Africa about 100,000 to 200,000 years ago.
This theory now faces a serious challenge.
The Liujiang Hominid fossils were discovered in 1958 in a cave in Liujiang County in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. The fossilized bones, which include the skull and partial body and limbs, comprise one of the most complete and intact skeletons for a single modern man of this kind ever discovered in east Asia.
The accurate dating of the fossils will contribute to understanding man's origin or origins, a heatedly debated issue among the international academic community...
The estimated age of "Liujiang Man" challenges the 15-year-old "out of Africa" theory that holds that modern humans first appeared in eastern Africa about 150,000 years ago, migrated out of the continent between 35,000 and 89,000 years ago, and moved across the globe to sweep aside populations, with no inter-breeding.
There are still dissident scientists who insist on the multi-regional evolution model which holds that modern man descended from several indigenous archaic human populations in the Old World,such as the Neanderthals who resided in Europe or from the so-called Java man or from the Peking man in Asia.
This alternative theory, called multi-regionalism, also holds that our ancestors emigrated from Africa 1.5 million years ago, but differs in that it holds that different branches in several different regions -- what is now Africa, Europe, east Asia and west Asia -- evolved simultaneously into modern humans through interbreeding between the regions.
The genetic quirk that makes red hair red may also make carrot-tops harder to knock out — in the operating room, that is.
A new study suggests people with naturally red hair need about 20 percent more anesthesia than patients with other hair colors.
It's a small study that will need confirmation. But it marks the first time scientists have linked a visible genetic trait to anesthesia doses, said Dr. Daniel Sessler of the University of Louisville, whose study will be presented Tuesday at a meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists ...
But why would hair color possibly matter? The theory hinges on melanin, a pigment responsible for skin and hair color.
The sun triggers a hormone that in turn triggers the production of melanin to form a tan. Redheads seldom tan easily because they have a defective receptor for that hormone — a quirk with this "melanocortin-1 receptor" that also leaves their hair red. Without its intended receptor to dock in, the melanin-producing hormone may cross-react with a related receptor on brain cells that influences pain sensitivity, Sessler explained.
Dunlop vs Shanahan Tim Dunlop has a good deconstruction of the recent mess by Angela Shanahan. Shanahan tries to be too clever by half, executing a U-turn on her previous position on Iraq (without it seems to me, any actual justification) while making some vaguely Falwell-esque arguments without having the guts to actually spell them out (I have used the word 'deconstruction' rather than Fisking because the latter term seems to piss off Tim D a lot and one should beware of the wrath of Tim).
Personal reflections on Islam Don Arthur has an interesting piece on Ralph Peters, a right wing, more pro-war than thou commentator who has a surprisingly far more nuanced view of Islam than many right wing warbloggers. I guess it just goes to show that it's unfair to pigeonhole people. Without naming any names, it's worth pointing out that the understandable anger of some commentators has already led to an indiscriminate Islamophobia. I agree with Peters's (and Don's) analysis when Peters writes:
The truth is that Indonesian Islam poses no danger whatsoever to the United States or to its citizens - or to anyone else, except Muslim extremists. The radical fundamentalists and sponsors of terror in Indonesia are a small fraction of believers. The danger - real, if slight - comes not from the syncretic, humane, tolerant, homegrown forms of Islam. The danger comes from models of Islam exported from Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, and insinuated into Indonesia through infusions of cash, missionaries, and hateful propaganda, by the building of mosques and madrassas where secular schools and clinics are badly needed, and through bribes - bribery seeming to be Indonesia's national sport
The syncretism that Peters alludes to is also characteristic of Islam in Malaysia where the Malays originally practiced a blend of animism and Hinduism. Many Malay village customs to this day are basically remnants of ancient animist and Hindu customs. The Islamic influence came from trade with Arab merchants from around the 15th century onwards. I spent the first 15 years of my life in Malaysia, a country where the majority of the population are Malay Muslims. I grew up amongst these people and spent the first two years of my primary education in a Malay school (my parents believed in immersion training). I remember attending countless Malay New Year celebrations at the homes of my parents' friends, I remember Malay schoolmates trying to cajole me to smuggle them food from the canteen during Ramadan (the fasting month). I recall nothing of this pathological, dour, anti-Life caricature of a religion exemplified by its Wahhabi adherents or the murderous variety preached by OBL. And no, there was nothing remotely 'anti-women' or misogynistic in the Islam I saw practiced in Malaysia, nor any feeling of oppression even among Malay women who freely chose to wear the hijab (even though they would obviously be more devout than the women who didn't) - some of whom were my teachers in school . (The Burqa is another thing altogether I dare say. Sometimes clothes do tell you something about psychology). In saying this I don't wish to downplay, say, the unpleasantness of the 1969 racial riots (i.e. anti-Chinese pogroms) in Malaysia but that had as much to do with Islam as anti-Jewish pogroms in Russia had to do with Christianity.
The sad thing is that Peters is right. More extreme forms of Islam are gaining a foothold in Malaysia, funded by the Saudis. What is more, the South east Asians who take on these more extreme forms of Islam are cutting themselves off completely from their cultural heritage - they are rejecting the syncretism of their parents and grandparents and in the process making themselves even more psychologically dependent on their new found cause.
Some of these radicals aren't necessarily 'village bumpkins'.Far from it, as it's the 'bumpkins' who still have a foot in the 'old culture' and aren't searching for a place to settle down their psychological roots. It may well be the newly urbanised, the first from their family to become professionals or get a university education, who may be more susceptible to stricter and more extreme forms of Islam. (Recall that in Indonesia the exemplar of tolerant Islam and religious pluralism was Abdurraham Wahid who is head of the more village based Islamic organisation Nahdlatul Ulama while the University of Chicago trained Amien Rais advocates a stricter brand of Islam and his supporters are comprised of mainly urban professionals.)
While some lefties may wince at the 'cultural genocide' of globalisation, at least being committed to secular Western values doesn't really entail condemning other aspects of your identity as worthless. Western culture is tempting but it is not psychologically totalitarian in the way the more extreme forms of Islam are. If any country is promoting cultural genocide it's Saudi Arabia. VS Naipaul may be getting cantankerous lately but his two books on his travels in Islamic countries, Among the believers and Beyond belief are masterpieces of empathy and observation, and document this tragic process well. The disconnected and alienated members of Jemaah Islamiyah are the exemplars of this process.
More reflections on Bali Let's not forget that the recent terrorism in Bali was as much an attack on the Balinese themselves as it was an attack against 'foreign interests'. The Islamic radicals could have chosen to attack 'foreign interests' in the rest of Indonesia (and perhaps they will) but I'll bet they placed pretty high value on doing this in Bali, an oasis of Hindus and animists in a country of Muslims and in the process decimating the local Balinese economy which is so dependent on tourism. Razib of Gene Expression thinks that Megawati Sukarnoputri has been playing a game of appeasement with the local Islamists because she has enough problems gaining credibility among their supporters (being a woman and leader of a secular nationalist party) and basically has been afraid of pissing them off.
The Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terrorist organisation that is shaping up as the prime suspect in the Bali bombing, apparently sent members to train with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. If, and I do say if since we are still in the speculation stage, if JI is eventually implicated in the Bali bombing, then the decision to overthrow the Taliban and wipe out the terrorist training facilities Afghanistan will be somewhat vindicated. It may have come too late to stop this bombing, but the disruption to al-Qaeda activities and its training of other terrorists, may have prevented others.
The Bali attack and the impending (?) war with Iraq Heath notes in the posting below that some antiwar protesters have already started invoking the Bali attacks as a reason not to get involved in the possibly impending war with Iraq. While I remain a sceptic on the 'attack Iraq' issue it is precisely this sort of logic that cements my reluctance (and I suspect the reluctance of 'moderate sceptics' like myself) to get involved in any of these anti-war protests and have to associate with numbskulls in the process.
1) If Iraq does have links with Al Qaeda, given that Al Qaeda and its networks have been active in fomenting Islamic radicals basically in our backyard one would think it a good idea to nip this in the bud before it gets any worse. The idea of the world's most populous Muslim county, which happens to be in our backyard falling to some version of the Taliban should be enough to give anyone the creeps and strengthen our commitment to the misnamed war on terror (we should call a spade a spade, and as Daniel Pipes argues, simply acknowledge that what we are really committed to is a War on Radical Islamism - a battle between two equally universalist impulses - those of the Enlightenment and the anti-Enlightenment, imperfectly represented as each of these sides are by the various parties). If the Iraq war is a stepping stone to this broader war, we have ever more reason to be commited to it.
2) However I tend to agree with Heath's judgement which seems pretty plausible to me in the absence of other evidence that Iraq has no involvement with the bombing. In the absence of other evidence it is also plausible that Saddam Hussein, the Baath Socialist has nothing to do with the radical Islamist Al Qaeda network who probably regards him as some sort of infidel to be beheaded when they achieve their Islamic utopia. In this case, using the Bali bombing as an 'excuse' not to participate in the war on Iraq is simply beside the point, quite unnecessary given the weakness of the case for pursuing the war on Iraq and by implication quite feeble and tasteless. If there is a national interest case for pursuing a war on Iraq (and this is something I am not prepared to rule out given the WMD proliferation case and is quite contingent on how well the UN handles Iraq) then of course the consideration that we may be visited by attacks of a similar nature is a possibility but hardly a compelling one in and of itself, especially if Iraq has nothing to do with Al Qaeda and the groups in South East Asia that can most easily deploy terror attacks against Australia are affiliated with Al Qaeda.
More pertinently I think in the absence of any compelling evidence of an Iraq-Al Qaeda link we should continue to distinguish between our commitment to the euphemistically named 'War on Terror' (which as I have argued is really a War on Radical Islamism) and the possible war with Iraq. Any implications people wish to draw from the recent Bali terror attack regarding their own views on foreign policy should acknowledge this distinction. If anything it strengthens the case for our commitment to the 'war on terror' if things in Indonesia have already got to such a state.
I also agree with Heath that Australia can play an increasingly important role in this respect by paying more attention to its backyard and assisting the governments of Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia to bring the Islamic radicals to justice. Though hardly shining beacons of liberal democracy, these three governments are, given the circumstances, better than the alternatives and they all have every interest in participating fully in the War on Terror now given the repercussions for their countries.
“We're probably less than 12 hours away from the first opinion piece arguing that the attacks were the logical consequence of supporting the US in the war against terror, and that we'd be better off staying quiet and not upsetting anybody, especially Islamic murderers.”
Tim, you don’t even have to wait that long. Channel 10 news has just reported that protesters at an anti-war protest today used the Bali bombing to argue that we should not get involved in a war against Iraq since it would only lead to more terrorism.
The number of Australian casualties, the closeness of this attack, these factors will probably force many people to reasses their position on the war against terrorism, perhaps further polarizing the Australian public.
The attack is also going to have a devastating impact on the economy of Bali, and perhaps Indonesia more broadly. (to the extent it relies on the foreign earnings of Bali). The Australian government has issued both a travel alert advising Australian’s to defer travel to Bali, and for those currently in country to hasten their departure.There is also this update from DFAT. I’d expect tourist numbers will plummet and take a long time to recover.
Sadly, it may even be possible that this is what the terrorist want. Force more people into poverty and discontent and thereby so the seeds of a revolutionary army. Suddenly having a strong Australian military presence in our top end looks very sound – and perhaps deserving of some additional resources.
Two bombs were detonated in Bali last night. CNN reports as many as 118 people killed, whilst the SMH is more conservative, putting it at a confirmed 60. One bomb was detonated 100 metres from the US Consulate and apparently caused no casualties. A second bomb however was detonated in the ‘Sari Club’, a nightclub popular with foreigners. The casualty list which includes tourists from Australia, the US, France Canada and Britain. The choice of target would suggest to me that this is an act of international terrorism, rather than local politics.
But who is responsible? According to the SMH article, a group with links to al-Qaeda is already under scrutiny from Malaysian and Singaporean authorities , who claim that the group is operating out of Indonesia. The groups goal - to set up an Islamic state in South-East Asia.
There will no doubt also be questions about possible Iraqi involvement. Although it may sound to some people like being ‘too convenient’,. It is worth remembering that during the last Gulf War, Iraqi secret service personnel did try to coordinate terrorist attacks in Asia ( the details are outlined in Richard Butlers book – ‘Saddam Defiant’)
If I had to pick one of the above however, I would pick the group with al-Qaeda links. Saddam might be an egomaniac, but I don’t think he is so stupid as to openly kill a bunch of holidaying foreigners from the very nations itching for war with him. That would be pulling the trigger on his own doom.
This whole incident is quite frightening coming on top of another terrorist alert for US and Australian nuclear facilities.
Thanks to this short piece in The Australian, I was able to track down a fantastic article by Ron Rosenbaum who describes himself as “a contrarian, libertarian, pessimist, secular-humanist, anti-materialist liberal Democrat who distrusts the worship of "the wisdom of the market." It also seems he is an Instapundit reader.
(The use of ‘libertarian’ is interesting in the light of Mark’s comments earlier this week about the left trying to claim different parts of the political landscape – but I digress)
Ronsenbaum’s October 12 article is a farewell to Chris Hitchens, a leftist writer at The Nation who challenged the left to
“recognize the terrorists not as somewhat misguided spokesmen for the wretched of the earth, but as ‘Islamo-fascists’—theocratic oppressors of the wretched of the earth”
It is also a farewell to that section of the left who believe that the US deserved what it got on 9/11 and that turns a blind eye to the evils of leftist regimes.
“So, for my part, goodbye to all that. Goodbye to a culture of blindness that tolerates, as part of "peace marches," women wearing suicide-bomber belts as bikinis. (See the accompanying photo of the "peace" march in Madrid. "Peace" somehow doesn’t exclude blowing up Jewish children.)…
Goodbye to paralysis by moral equivalence: Remind me again, was it John Ashcroft or Fidel Castro who put H.I.V. sufferers in concentration camps?
Goodbye to the deluded and pathetic sophistry of postmodernists of the Left, who believe their unreadable, jargon-clotted theory-sophistry somehow helps liberate the wretched of the earth. If they really believe in serving the cause of liberation, why don’t they quit their evil-capitalist-subsidized jobs and go teach literacy in a Third World starved for the insights of Foucault?
Goodbye to people who have demonstrated that what terror means to them is the terror of ever having to admit they were wrong, the terror of allowing the hideous facts of history to impinge upon their insulated ideology. “