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New translation, the Magna Carta

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on the new iphone from apple

It’d be nice to know why anyone would pay out good money on a half-developed gimmick like this.

My best guess is the real cost is approximately $2000 in the first 2 years.

49 notes on the thingie

“48. As you use the iPhone and come across things you wish Apple had done differently, and discover what it hasn't done at all, the full impact of the company's decision not to let third-party developers write apps becomes depressingly clear. With a Palm OS, Symbian, or Windows Mobile device, you get access to an array of third-party apps that let you customize your phone to within an inch of its life. But for now, at least, the iPhone will mostly be what Apple thinks it should be. For me, that's the single biggest downside of this wildly ambitious, inventive device.

“49. Here's something I still don't know: Whether I'm going to keep the iPhone as my primary mobile device . This phone has so much going for it, and so many gotchas, that it amounts to a bundle of contradictions: It's both the most powerful phone the world has ever seen, and one of the most limited. I'm guessing that most of the gotchas will go away over time, as they did with the Mac . But I'm still deciding if I want to be along for the ride.”

Marker at abelard.org

three accessories that will not work with an iphone

  • The iPhone won't work as a phone when docked into speakers;
  • The iPhone doesn't support stereo Bluetooth;
  • Your headphones might not work with the iPhone.

Marker at abelard.org

technical specifications page at apple

Marker at abelard.org

and here is an ad from apple:

 

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/review0607.php#iphone_060707





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who is the new u.s. secretary of defence? - the auroran sunset

Review of Robert Gates’ memoirs, full of interesting quotations from the book. This Gates guy looks seriously interesting - I shall probably get the book. Note that it looks unlikely that Gates will be any less determined than Rumsfeld in stopping the jihadis and in spreading freedom and democracy.

From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War by Robert Gates From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War

by Robert Gates

Touchstone, 2004 reprint, 0684834979
$26.95 [amazon.com]

Pocket Books, 1997, 0684834979
£14.17 [amazon.co.uk]

“Reagan's strategic programs, covert confrontation with the Soviets in the Third World, economic pressures, eventual engagement on arms control, and attacks on the legitimacy of the Soviet government itself built on Carter's efforts in each arena?even though partisans of both Presidents would rather have their tongues turn black and fall out than admit this.”

“By the end of 1984, I concluded that we were kidding ourselves if we thought the contras might win. I wrote [CIA Director William] Casey on December 14, and began by saying, 'The contras can't overthrow the Sandinista regime.' I continued that we were muddling along in Nicaragua with a halfhearted policy because of the lack of agreement within the administration and with Congress on our real objectives. I urged moving to an overt policy including withdrawal of diplomatic recognition; providing open military assistance and funds for a government-in-exile; imposing economic sanctions, perhaps including a quarantine; and using air strikes to destroy Nicaragua's military buildup?no invasion but no more Soviet/Cuban military deliveries. I concluded, 'Relying on and supporting the contras as our only action may actually hasten the ultimate, unfortunate outcome.'”

“One of the enduring characteristics of Congress, especially on foreign affairs, is its eagerness to avoid clear-cut actions that will leave the Hill unambiguously responsible if something goes wrong, especially if they have acted contrary to the president.”

“Some CIA analysts thought that the Reagan administration was making a serious mistake in taking on [Qadhafi] publicly?that they were creating an Arab hero-martyr inasmuch as [Qadhafi] was seen standing up to the incredibly powerful United States. They had a valid point, but it was also true that Libya was an incubus for terrorism and for efforts to destabilize a number of African and Middle Eastern governments. To have ignored all this would have been a mistake, a greater one in my view that responding to his activities.”

and much more.

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/review0607.php#robert_gates_021206

Solar Revolution: The Economic Transformation of the Global Energy Industry

This review has been updated and moved to books on energy replacements - reviews<

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/review0607.php#solar_book_281106

Beyond Oil and Gas: The Methanol Economy

This review has been updated and moved to books on energy replacements - reviews<

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/review0607.php#energy_problems_220906

Our Oldest Enemy, A History of America's Disasterous Relationship with France Four and a Half GoldenYak award - the auroran sunset

Our Oldest Enemy is a deliberately unfair and unbalanced look at the not-entirely-blemish-free history of French foreign policy, particularly with respect to their putative ally, the United States. As far as I know, the data and stories in this book are not made up, but they certainly only tell one part of the story. It’s hard to imagine, I know, but the French really aren’t *all* bad! Nor are the French responsible for *all* of the world’s ills, much as it might seem that way.

Despite the unfairness, Our Oldest Enemy is an excellent history book - perhaps if history books were this well written when I was younger, I wouldn’t have been so put off. The book is obviously very well researched, and is full of interesting facts, quotations and anacdotes. Amongst other things, the book could be used as a light introduction to the history of the American republic - it assumes a lot that would be well-known to Americans, but that gives more than enough for your own study.

France, Our Oldest Enemy

Our Oldest Enemy, A History of America's Disasterous Relationship with France by John J Miller & Mark Molesky,
2004, Doubleday, 0767917553, 286pp.

£7.05 [amazon.co.uk] / $10.46 [amazon.com]

Our Oldest Enemy was published in response to the treachery of the French government in supporting a murderous dictator, who was exporting terror around the world, over their claimed allies in the West. The book also presaged by evidence coming to public notice that some in the French government were spying on NATO meetings on Saddam’s behalf. The book was also preceeded by the uncovering of the Saddam’s UN administered private bribery slush-fund - the dishonestly named Oil-for-Food Program - and by the knowledge that top French officials (amongst many others) had been bribed by Saddam from this fund; this is what led France to be known as a member of “the coalition of the bribed”.

The book’s introduction introduces much of the background to America’s ‘special’ relationship with France. It includes a number of obnoxious quotations from leading French politicians, including this for the last President:

“We are at war with America, a permanent war” - Mitterrand, 1996. [p.10]

To which one could add the following from the current President:

“We are fighting against the American theses, regarding culture, because if we followed them, then we would end up getting an under-culture throughout the world, which would be the worst thing.” - Chirac, 2004.

and from his Prime Minister:

“The Iraqi insurgents are our best allies.” - Raffarin, 2004.

Chapter one starts with a few small British Colonies under attack by the French and their massacre-happy Red Indian allies, who the French just “couldn’t control”. This from the fourth and final “French and Indian War”:

“When the French attackers appeared in March, one of them, Francois Le Mercier, delivered a frightening message to the fort's defenders: If the men resisted, "the Cruelties of the Savages cou'd not altogether be prevented." Threatening barbaric slaughter had become standard operating procedure for the French. In a world of muskets and swords, Indian massacres were not merely instruments of terror - they were weapons of mass destruction capable of inflicting catastrophic damage on large number of helpless victims. And the French were not above using them for purposes of blackmail.” [p.26]

The Indians would kill and scalp anybody they could find, soldier or civilian, old or baby, man or woman. It was common for the French to try to take hostages in order to ransom back British held prisoners-of-war. It was not unusual for the French and Indian marauders to murder the very young, very old and injured amongst those captured, in order to aid their retreat. Not surprisingly, American and British opinion of the ‘honour’ of the French was not high.

The next chapter treats the Revolutionary War, which see the the King of France trying to stop Lafayette going to the aid of America. It sees a supposed alliance where the French admirals refused to cooperate in American operations as promised, leading to major American defeats, making France’s eventual help necessary. It sees concerted diplomatic and military efforts by the French to keep the Americans corralled into as small a part of Eastern America as possible.

Chapter three is entitled “The First Foreign Subversive” and follows the exploits of France’s first ambassador to America, Edmond-Charles Genet. Genet spent his time wandering the American south bribing and inciting in order to try to force America into another war with Britain, a war that would destroy the as yet fragile American Republic. Hardly behaviour one would expect from an ambassador, let alone one from an ‘ally’.

Chapter four follows the France’s exploits during a period which President John Adams described by these words “[France] is at war with us, but we are not at war with her” [p.83]. In those days, the French were aggressively pirating American shipping; they refused to accept Washington’s ambassador, Pinckney, telling him to leave the country or be arrested; and the new French Ambassador, Pierre “An American is the born enemy of all the peoples of Europe” Adet openly campaigned against Adams ambitions to succeed Washington to the presidency. [Adams was well-known to be distrustful of the French and generally positive towards the British - a mirror image to his rival, Jefferson].

“"The conduct of France toward the United States," said Washington shortly before leaving [office], "is, according to my ideas of it, outrageous beyond conception."” [p.83]

This was the time of the XYZ Affair. Essentially, the French government attempted to extort huge [millions of dollars] bribes before they would ‘negotiate’ with the American ambassadors. This extortion was prefaced with threats of open war - the French were already in reality making war on America - and physical violence towards the ambassadors. Adams built the US Navy (about 16 ships) and eventually forced the French piracy to stop in the “Quazi-War”, after capturing some 86 French vessels and losing only one (that one had previously been captured from the French).

Chapter five deals with the Napoleon years. One of Napoleon’s many plans to take over the world involved recreating New France at America’s expense. Amongst other things, he sent a general to scout out the land, attempted to persuade western American states to join a new French union, and secretly swapped with Spain bits of Italy for Louisiana. Napoleon sent his invasion force off to Haiti to suppress a slave revolt; while they were at it, the French seized 20 American ships.

A second invasion force was planned for New Orleans, along with weapons to arm the Indians ready for a reprise of the earlier massacres. Fortunately for the free world, Napoleon’s first invasion force died of yellow fever, his second got stranded in ice-bound seas, and the Spanish caused their own problems in New Orleans leading the Americans to start openly planning their own invasion. Napoleon gave up the idea and decided to sell Louisiana instead.

The final Napoleon years continued with more French piracy, more French dishonesty and the French even managed to force America into a brief war with Britain - it was a toss-up between a war with Britain or one with France, neither of whom were behaving well at the time. The mass-murdering dictator was buried with honours in Paris and statues were erected to him all across France. America responded with the Monroe Doctrine: European interference in the sovereign states of the New World will be treated as evidence of “an unfriendly disposition towards the United States” [Monroe was the fifth president].

“The Next Napoleon”, Napoleon III, is the topic of the sixth chapter, set in the times of the American Civil War. Using the distraction of the Americans, the French invaded Mexico and placed a puppet king on the throne. Meanwhile they were attempting to push Britain into a joint recognition of the slave states, in order to further weaken the American democracy; all the while the French were helping the slavers with safe habours, resupply and cheap loans; later they started building ships for the south. When the war started to go badly for the Southern pariahs, the French started pushing for a ‘ceasefire’ (where’ve I heard that one before?). Fortunately for America and the world, this time Britain was having nothing of it. The French puppet king was eventually thrown out of Mexico by a people’s uprising, backed by the threat of victorious and itchy-triggered American veterans on the border.

Chapter seven gives a not very flattering comparison of French democratic roots and culture with that of the America they so often disparage. Amongst other things, the French pseudo-philosophy of avante-garde is blamed for everything from awful modern ‘art’ - they give the example of Duchamp’s urinal labelled as “Fountain” - to the nihilistic barbarity of Lenin’s revolution and the Italian fascists. At the same time as astute Americans were buying up new artists like Renoir and Cézanne cheap, because the cultured French thought they were rubbish, American writers and artists were descending on France in greater and greater numbers in order to participate in the decadence of those times. They were apparently particularly attracted by the cheap hookers.

Chapter eight deals with the negotiations at Versailles after World War I that set the stage for World War II. Woodrow Wilson’s best somewhat naïve efforts were engaged to help ensure an equitable peace, as he had promised before the German surrender. Clemanceau had other ideas. Eventually his chicanery and bloody-mindedness wore Wilson down - probably causing him a stroke along the way - resulting in the Versailles Treaty that served as Hitler’s excuse for re-militarisation and renewed German aggression. While Wilson and Lloyd-George warned at the time that France was sowing the seeds of future conflict and resentment, the great Keynes, who observed the conference, railed against the stupidity and illogicality of the war reparations and punative clauses - “trying to bankrupt the Germans before robbing them blind”.

Chapter nine deals with the French Resistance, which according to this book was more directed at thwarting the Americans than the Nazis. Things start with the incompetent and bizarre defence, or lack of defence, of France. Then the government refuses to flee to continue resistance in exile, as those of so many other Nazi-invaded European countries had, and instead embarked on enthusiastic collaboration. The collaboration included manufacturing arms for the Nazi war effort, rounding up and shipping off for murder tens of thousands of Jews, volunteering their own SS division that fought on the Russian front, and much more. When the Americans came to liberate France’s North African colonies, they were machine-gunned on the beaches and torpedoed on the sea by the French. When it became clear that the Americans would win, the large French fleet at Toulon - which the French had long been threatening to give to the Nazis - was scuttled rather than allowing it to fall into Allied hands.

All the while, de Gaulle was continually refusing to cooperate with the Allies, working at direct odds to the American and British plans. Roosevelt said of him to Churchill, “I...consider it essential that de Gaulle...be permitted to have no information whatsoever [about Operation Torch] regardless of how irritated or irritating he may become” [p.179/180]. Later he again wrote to Churchill,

“I am fed up with de Gaulle, I am absolutely convinced that he has been and is now injuring our war effort and that he is a very dangerous threat to us. I agree with you that he likes neither the British nor the Americans and that he would double-cross both of us at the first opportunity.... He has proven to be unreliable, uncooperative, and disloyal to both our governments.” [p.181]

It seems Churchill’s opinion of de Gaulle’s behaviour was no better:

“"The prime minister," observed Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, "made plain his entire lack of confidence in General de Gaulle and his conviction that as long as he was at the head of French affairs there would be no good relations between France, Great Britain, and the United States. He said that the General was an enemy and many other things of like sort."” [p.181/2]

Meanwhile Truman reacted to yet another piece of de Gaulle treachery - attempting to annex part of Italy while the Allies were distracted and then threatening war with France’s liberators when he was told to knock it off - calling the general “psychopathic” and describing his behaviour as,

“the almost unbelievable threat that French soldiers, bearing American arms, will combat American and Allied soldiers whose efforts and sacrifices have so recently and successfully contributed to the liberation of France itself.” [p.184]

Hardly France’s finest hour.

Chapter ten deals with the poisonous deconstructionist ‘philosophies’ that ruled the French educational elites after the war. The deconstructionists, of which Rousseau was one of the first, urged “the importance of revolutionary violence as an instrument of positive social change” [p.189]. In other words, mass murder is fine so long as you are building the next Reich. These barbarous philosophies inspired the Paris-educated Pol Pot and Ho Chi Minh, as well as the Paris-educated founders of the Syrian and Iraqi Baath parties. Paris ‘intellectuals’, which had been at the centre of anti-American ‘thought’ since the 18th century, was responsible for the anti-American ideas used by the Soviet socialists to such murderous effect throughout South-East Asian, South America and Africa. Meanwhile, the Paris universities expended their efforts in minimising and denying the Communist holocausts around the world, simultaneously warning of the “Imperialist threat” from the Great Satan in America.

Chapter eleven deals with France’s “Cold War Against America”. I think the following three quotations from de Gaulle should give you a good idea of what that chapter is about:

“His loftiest aspiration - "the vast plan I have formed for my country" - was to lead a bloc of nations in continental Europe as "one of three world powers and, if need be one day, the arbiter between the two camps, the Soviet and the Anglo-Saxon." In more outlandish moments, de Gaulle even spoke of France leading a "Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals."”

“Between France and Russia, there is no conflict of interest.”

“"France," he proclaimed, "is violently opposed to blatant American imperialism now rampant in the world. France will continue to attack and to oppose the United States in Latin America, in Asia, and in Africa."” [p.217/8]

This at a time when France - after refusing to take American advice to move their colonies towards democracy and independence - were quickly being kicked out of those colonies, because their “blatant imperialism” was proving too much for the long abused natives. This left behind festering sores, like Vietnam, for America to try to clean up. This while American divisions in Germany were protecting France from Russian “blatant imperialism”. De Gaulle epitomised the cynicism that has often been a feature of French foreign policy:

“In 1965, when the United States sent Marines into the Dominican Republic to protect American nationals during a violent civil war, de Gaulle publicly jeered. In secret, however, he sent an urgent message to the Johnson administration: "Won't you please move your Marines four blocks and protect the French Embassy?" Always accommodating, the United States complied with the request, although de Gaulle never expressed his gratitude, even privately. His anti-American rages only worsened.” [p.218/9]

The treachery of de Gaulle deserves a book by itself, but you can obtain a fair idea from this chapter and chapter nine. Remember that de Gaulle was elected, unlike the Kings and Emperors who caused the earlier Americans such problems.

The twelth and final chapter deals with the “Age of Terror”, starting with French refusal to cooperate in taking out terror camps in Libya following an attack in Berlin, and with the French Revolution origins of the modern usage of the word “terrorism”, which gives you a fair idea of what to expect.

Having read all that, you may be wondering why I called this book “unfair and unbalanced”. It is true that French leaders have behaved appallingly far too often; but it is also true that this kind of cynical behaviour has never been unusual in the treacherous politics of the Old World, especially as one looks further back in time. The problem America has had, and continues to have, is that they live to and expect higher standards of behaviour than most of the rest of the world. This has led short-term cheats, like many of the French leaders, to try to take advantage of their ‘naïvety’.

However, it is America that has gone from rags to incredible riches. It is America that has gone from being a much-bullied pawn of the European powers, to being able to police their higher standards around the world. It is the like of the cynical French who have *in fact* demonstrated serious naïvety and paid the price for it. It is France who is no longer trusted or taken seriously in international politics; it is the dictators who would “bury the west” that are steadily losing ground. All the while, the idealistic Americans continue to protect the French and others and increase their standards of living, always hoping that one day the French and their like will grow up and join the adults in improving this sad and troubled world.

I only give four and half golden yaks, because the authors somewhat glosses over this reality and also sometimes exaggerate the importance of France and their actions. These problems seem to arise from the authors trying too hard to make France look bad. France looks quite bad enough without their extra help.

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/review0607.php#france_oldest_enemy_140806

When the Rivers Run Dry Four GoldenYak award

This is a book that has been necessary for the past several years, at last it has been hacked together. The writing can be lumbering at times, and there is a distinct lack of organisation and coherent numbers; though many numbers can be found distributed rather randomly around the text. Hence, only four GoldenYaks have been awarded. However, this book is recommended reading for any basic ecology course.

It covers the major problems with the misuse of water around the planet, from grandiose schemes, to poverty, to beggar-my-neighbour water capture, all resulting in depleted ecologies.

The book hops around from the drying of the Aral Sea to feed King Cotton, the destruction of the Iraqi marshlands to serve Madsam’s ambitions, the unsustainable mining of aquifers around the world, the profligate waste of water by much of world farming, the salination of soils through thoughtless irrigation schemes, and much else.

“The water 'footprint' of Western countries on the rest of the world deserves to become a serious issue. Whenever you buy a T-shirt made of Pakistani cotton, eat Thai rice or drink coffee from Central America, you are influencing the hydrology of those regions - taking a share of the River Indus, the Mekong or the Costa Rican rains. You may be helping rivers run dry.

“Economists call the water involved in the growing and manufacture of products traded round the world 'virtual water'. In this terminology, every tonne of wheat arriving at a dockside carries with it in virtual form the thousand tonnes of water needed to grow it. The global virtual water trade is estimated to be around a thousand cubic kilometres a year, or twenty River Niles. Of that, two-thirds is in a huge range of crops from grains to vegetable oil, sugar to cotton a quarter is in meat and dairy products; and just a tenth in industrial products. That means that nearly a tenth of all the water used in raising crops goes into the international virtual-water trade. This trade 'moves water in volumes and over distances beyond the wildest imaginings of water engineers', says Tony Allan of the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, who invented the term 'virtual water'.

“The biggest net exporter of virtual water is the USA. It exports around a third of all the water it withdraws from the natural environment. Much of that is in grains, either directly or via meat. The USA is emptying critical underground water reserves, such as those beneath the High Plains, to grow grain for export. It also exports an amazing 100 cubic kilometres of virtual water in beef. Other major exporters of virtual water inc1ude Canada (grain), Australia (cotton and sugar), Argentina (beef) and Thailand (rice).

“Major importers of virtual water include Japan and the European Union. None of these countries is short of water, so there are ethical questions about how much they should be doing this. But for other importers virtual water is a vital lifeline. Iran, Egypt and Algeria could starve otherwise; likewise, water-stressed Jordan, which effectively imports between 80 and 90 per cent of its water in the form of food. 'The Middle East ran out of water some years ago. It is the first major region of the world to do so in the history of the world,' says Allan. He estimates that more water flows into the Middle East each year as a result of imports of 'virtual water' than flows down the River Nile.

“While many nations relieve their water shortages by importing virtual water, some exacerbate their problems by exporting it. Israel and arid southern Spain both export water in tomatoes; Ethiopia, in coffee. Mexico's virtual-water exports are emptying its largest water body, Lake Chapala, which is the main source of water for its second city, Guadalajara.” [pp.23-24]

Monumental waste is the central story of this book:

“ "[...] In L.A., we receive half we need in rainfall, and we throw it away. Then we spend hundreds of millions to import water, "[ ...] ” [p.330]

marker at abelard.org

“[...] In most of the world’s cities - from London to Nairobi to Shanghai - between a third and a half of all water put into the mains disappears through leaks before reaching its customers. [...]” [p.344]

related material
the rapidly growing clash between food, biofuels and water
land conservation and food production, briefing document

When the rivers run dry by Fred Pearce

When the Rivers Run Dry by Fred Pearce,
2006, Eden Books,Transworld, 1903919576

£12.53 [amazon.co.uk] / amazon.com

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/review0607.php#rivers_dry_070706