Back on air security…

Even though tit-for-tat moves between governments on tariff barriers are destructive, I salute Brazil’s tit-for-tat reaction to the absurd new US visa rules. If everyone else outside America had the balls to do the same… the government probably still wouldn’t take any notice. But it’d be cool.

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“If just one in ten people could understand and coherently explain comparative advantage, the world would be an immeasurably better place” – David Gillies, in Peter Cuthbertson’s comments section (a surprising source for wisdom, I know…)

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Air craziness opinion

We (ie the government, airlines, and people who do a bit of research into these things; not sure if the Public At Large do or not) know perfectly well that well-planned terrorist operations can breach security, and will be able to for as long as there are low-wage civilian jobs in airports.

We also know that there will always be low wage civilian jobs in airports; otherwise the cost of flying would be impossibly high and everyone would be far worse off (unless you’re a Green who believes flying is next only to genocide in the scale of Very Bad Things).

We also know that real life is not like 24 or a Harrison Ford film. If there’s a gun battle 10,000 metres up between terrorists and armed policemen with 300 civilian bystanders, the outcome is rarely going to just be Bad Guys Dead, Good Guys Live.

We also know that military planes can easily shoot down hijacked airliners. This is why worries about another literal 9/11 disaster are completely misfounded: no government will ever mess up its air defences quite as radically as the US did that day. That’s probably unfair to the people involved: given that as far as anyone knew the US faced no incoming airbound threats, they were totally confused by what happened. But that won’t be the case if there’s a next time.

So the only thing sky marshals can help ensure is that hijacked airliners crash into unimportant targets – and this can be achieved by air defence already. What a brilliant use of resources…

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Sorry, generally

In particular, sorry for not updating SBBS – and for not changing it to display old posts when everything has expired. My own fault for being too stubborn to use MT, I guess… Anyway, happy new year. What’s happened since I last posted?

The US government’s plan to force foreign airlines to hire sky marshals has reached the sneakily coercive stage – “have marshalls, or we’ll ban your flight from taking off!”. I’m sure the insurance industry only quotes higher premiums for pilots travelling with sky marshals than those travelling without because the people working there don’t understand risk, not because the plan is utterly mad and dangerous.

In other news, head Kink Ray Davies has been shot. Surprisingly, not by his brother or any of his other bandmates.

The most shocking news of the Christmas period, though, was the revelation that if you take a country with a long-established climate of corruption, put a notorious crook in charge, and abolish the laws against fraud, then Bad Things will happen. I’ll drink (milk) to that.

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The mysterious dissappearing SBBS

Remind me to change my settings so that articles live longer than a week when nothing new’s been posted…

In other news, I’ve been working harder than people should have to (this is my 10th consecutive day in the office; yesterday was the first time during those 10 days that I left before 7PM. Not nice); I had a birthday yesterday so am now hungover and older; and for vaguely related reasons haven’t got much posting done.

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Ireland and famine

I don’t know a great deal about the Irish famine. However, I’m fairly convinced from everything I have read that the idea of the evil English deliberately genocide-ing a million Catholics is bollocks.

This National Review article (I know, I know) has an interesting argument – in particular, raising the point that the New York authorities played a major role in releasing the potato blight that was the famine’s direct cause.

Can anyone point me towards a good and (more or less) unbiased source dealing with this? I’d quite enjoy having a stick to bash Irish Americans with next time they raise outrageous lies about murderous Brits…

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On liberal imperialism

Ryan at Beatniksalad is worried that senior British diplomat Robert Cooper believes in treating states with double standards depending on how liberal-democratic they are.

This isn’t a terribly controversial view – it’s been taught in International Relations courses for the last n years, where n is quite large: the system of order among “modern” states is maintained by balance of power (which can catastrophically fail, as in WWI), while postmodern states (broadly, Europe plus Anglosphere post-2003) rely on transnational institutions and shared cultural values.

This isn’t entirely daft – trusting France not to harbour murdering terrorists is broadly safe (notwithstanding what some of the more deranged people on the US right may think); the same is demonstrably false for Iraq (which doesn’t mean Saddam was involved in 9/11, but he did provide sanctuary for al-Qaida-ites afterwards) and certainly not something you want to leave to trust for Syria or Pakistan.

The difficult bit is dealing with states in transition from modern “we hate everyone who isn’t us and my enemy’s enemy is my friend” to postmodern “we don’t actually hate the rest of the world at all – hey, we’re all people” – like most of Asia (outside the ex-USSR, where things don’t really seem to be improving), like Iran, and maybe like China.

Irrespective of WMD or no WMD, al-Qaida or no al-Qaida, it’s difficult to feel sad about the Iraq war. One of the world’s nastiest bastards is gone, and at the very worst case scenario we won’t make things much worse than they have been. On the other hand, it’s going to be decades before Iraq is democratic (in the sense of a commitment to democracy, rather than in the sense of having elections to pick the next tyrant) and secure. There was no good option.

However, if we were to destabilise Iran’s transition to democracy so that Iranians felt it was being imposed by external imperialists, this would be a genuine tragedy. And that’s where liberal imperialism falls apart – you CAN’T force the Iranians to democratise; that will make everything a million times worse. Unless the bad government you’re toppling is as bad as or worse than Saddam’s, which is rare, the “yes, but they’re our bastards” reaction kicks in among the people.

So where does that leave liberal imperialism, outside of Iraq, Afghanistan and North Korea? There isn’t anywhere else ruled by nasty enough bastards for an invasion to be welcomed even as grudgingly as the Iraq invasion. If we back democrats too strongly, then they’ll be discredited in the eyes of the people.

So whether you view the doctrine as scary or good, it’s not applicable in more than 2% of the world’s “modern” or “pre-modern” regimes anyway. Which is nice, or a shame, respectively.

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At least call centres are useful

A stupid pundit claims that call centres don’t help India’s economy. Apparently offering young graduates jobs that pay four times the average national wage, while also giving them the opportunity to perfect their western English and improve their understanding of the Anglophone culture they share, is a bad thing.

Actually, I guess if you’re the kind of BJP nationalist who believes England’s net impact on India was negative, and that Indians in general should stop speaking English, then I guess it is.

Meanwhile, back in the sensible world, shifting call centre work to India is a great move for people in the UK and US, and for people in India. It’s a shame that – in all three countries – an unholy alliance of nationalists and socialists with no understanding of economics are trying to stop the shift.

Let’s hope they fail.

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Paging Cuthbertson

Natalie Solent has written one of the best Peter Cuthbertson parodies ever; unfortunately, she seems to have forgotten to label it as such.

Potentially the socialist brain rays are erasing her memory processes. They’re certainly erasing mine. Roll on Christmas and New Year, when the alcohol can take over…

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