Friday, April 30, 2004

Privatising Mister Plod

[Mr. Plod]

Maybe, isn't more of a role for non-state solutions to public security? Am I alone in thinking that maybe the Americans have a point in allowing wide ownership of guns? This is probably thinking the truly unthinkable, whether in Ireland or in Britain.

Homeowners with AK-47's would act as a far more effective deterrent than the slim possibility of Mr. Pold interrupting a career of crime with a short prison sentence.

Equally, these protesting yobs would be far less likely to smash up shops if their owners or employees, like the Korean grocers protecting their stores during the L.A. riots, were standing guard with Uzis.

Maybe if I lived in N.I., I would prefer to have the arms in my own hands than rely on either the state or whichever drug-dealing thugs had declared themselves to be the defenders of my community.

The thought of Gerry Adams complaining to Republicans (i.e. the G.O.P., not the knee-cappers) that he is being deprived of his Second Amendment rights amuses me. They might actually warm to him, even after the recent faux pas in Colombia.

At the risk of sounding like the good Reverend Blair, I can see how individual rights, private enterprise and voluntary work could reinforce each other to protect against crime and terrorism.

Peter 笔德

From each according to their docility...

Years ago, when I was a student, I remember taking a brief break from the library and hearing the parade passing Trinity on Nassau Street. If I recall correctly, this was the first May Day to be a public holiday, introduced by Labour when they entered into coalition with FF. As somebody said at the time, the workers, especially those in the public services, are now secure, and the middle classes the ones exploited and at the mercy of technology and market forces

I don't know what banners they were marching under, but "F**k the public!" would have probably been appropriate.

Post box

Last night's Dispatches documentary on Channel 4 jogged my memories of our local sorting office in Glenageary, Co. Dublin. By the mid-nineties, our post was being delivered either so late or not at all most days that my retired parents got into the habit of walking to the sorting office to ask for the letters, sparing the postman the unreasonable burden of walking two hundred yards to deliver it to our home and cutting into valuable time in the Deerhunter.

Pearse Station

CIE always managed to annoy me a lot too. Commuting through Pearse Station every morning, I was crushed into a a huge mass of people inching slowly off the platform, down the stairs, through a narrow corridor and skirting the automatic ticket gates to pass by ONE MAN WITH A CLIPPER who would collect our tickets, by hand, one by one. It was never a pleasant way to spent five minutes. I always thanked God there was never a fire in the station, or we would have been trapped in a desperate scramble to get out.

Instead of having automatic ticket barriers, like in every other city I've ever visited, we had to wait meekly while CIE operated at its accustomed sedate pace. Recently, machines for buying train tickets have finally appeared, but the experience of being the sand in the egg-timer when you leave the station is the same.

Even Beijing in rush hour was a smooth and easy ride by comparison. I think if I have to have communism, I'd prefer the Chinese variety, which seems to cope with managing infrastructure during rapid economic growth more competently, rather than the Irish combination of weak management and over-mighty unions. High time we had some Thatcherism, I think.

Peter 笔德

Mayday, mayday!

Even at the beginning of last month, Dublin seemed to be in a state of controlled panic over the coming weekend's May Day protests.

Customer feedback
Do you want fries with that? Mayday 2000 in London

Frank McGahon posted an excellent article on the protestors at Samizdata today. My feelings about these events are mixed.

On one hand, public violence is usually a great advertisment for whatever thugs are opposing. Think of de Gaulle's election victory after May 1968 or Bull Connor's police brutality in Selma.

On the other, I can easily imagine these people applying the same taste for violence and radicalism to taking grain from starving Ukrainian peasants, as Red Guards beating and humilating "reactionaries" or burning books in German streets.

I'm not certain, even today that humanity has really learned anything much from the mistakes of the past century. I doubt that the taste for violence is lacking in any of us: Certainly, it isn't in me, if my taste for Tarantino movies is anything to go by. All the most dynamic ideologies still seem to be radical, utopian, apocalyptic, collectivist and anti-bourgeois.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

The Twilight of the Oil Age?

Sun goes down on Oil Rigs

The Faculty of Security Studies at the University of Openess (sic) hosts the Apocalpyse Project, a multidisciplinary study of theories about the end of the world as we know it. I was one of those who inspired it, driven, I think, the same impulse that leads me to largely reject religion.

After the successful workshop held in the graveyard of the Limehouse church on 24th April, we are near to organising a reading list and email discussion. The topic has been kicked around for quite a while, first in the Climate Change session, later on the UO mailing list and now recently in a discussion I’ve been having with two French dudes.

My understanding so far, based on the International Energy Agency reports, the U.S. Geological Survey and the energy chapter in Bjorn Lomborg’s book "The Skeptical Environmentalist", and other sources (including studies by Julian Simon and the National Center for Policy Analysis) is that reserves of to cover about 40 years’ worth of forecast usage are currently available for extraction production and that other sources of petroleum, namely shale oil and tar sands, will be economic with oil above $30 per barrel.

With plentiful coal and uranium, and wind power becoming a viable alternative, I’m doubtful that we need worry too much about the geology of oil, whatever about the wisdom of the political and economic risks the world takes in depending on the Persian Gulf for supplies.

However, I'm very much looking forward to experimenting as to how with this project. Between unaccountable governments, hysterical NGO's and incompetent corporations, what will a group of citizens - all educated, independent-minded and with diverse intellectual approaches - achieve to bring some light to these vexed environmental questions. Bringing more people to the UO would be a bonus.

Links to the project and related sources are available at the UO FoSS site linked above.

Peter 笔德

Monday, April 05, 2004

Look at My Column!

I like doing these tools of self-analysis - this one tests which New York Times editorial columnist you represent. I get a different answer every time I try it, seemingly because I change my choice for the actor best suited to portray me on film. First I'd got Paul Krugman, then Tom Friedman.

David Brooks
You are David Brooks! You're exceedingly smart, but
your writing is as compelling as wallpaper. You
are a thoughtful though hard-line conservative,
but lack any of Safire's verbal pyrotechnics.
In addition, you dress like you're colorblind.
Fall down, juvenile.

Which New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

I think "wallpaper" is too harsh. He doesn't write as pithily as Robert D. Kaplan or match the wonkery of James Fallows, or wield a rhetorical samurai sword, cutting down opponents with a deadly flick of the wrist like the early Paul Krugman, but I do like his writing. Who could possibly say that Bobos in Paradiseis dull?

Peter 笔德

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Watch This Space

My personal homepage at has mushroomed from a simple directory of my contact details into a long and rambling collection of my scribblings. As my schedule permits, I will move anything apart the most static data over to this blog.

I will also post an account of my recent stay in China, which I have been writing offline.

However, in spite of the name, and the posts I've written to date, I will post on anything and everything, although China's language, culture and economy are all major interests of mine.

Peter 笔德

Is it safe to eat in Chinese restaurants?

Never mind food poisoning, SARS or even just the slow accumulation of fatty deposits in your steadily hardening arteries - watch out for those Dim Sum trollies!

In recent news from Indonesia's southernmost province, authorities in Sydney now plan to subject the waiting staff in Chinese restaurants to the same regulation as drivers, namely compulsory training, testing and L-plates.

No doubt something needs to be done to stop the carnage in our hostelries, with people crushed to death every day by stray slices of seasame toast, instead of dealing with rampant forest fires, prowling serial killers, the odd suicide bomber and the world's deadliest spiders.

Extreme bureaucratic pettiness can be found anywhere, but the cow-town attitude of the natives towards people "straight off the boat" seems typically Australian.

Peter 笔德

Why "The Black Line"?

Long live the black line! 黑线思想万岁!

[Mao ZeDong thought 毛泽东思想
Stephan Landsberger's Chinese Propaganda Posters

One of the things I like most about the Chinese language is the colourful and pithy Maoist slogans and aphorisms, like "Shit or get off the pot", "running dogs", "All reactionaries are paper tigers", "the old stinking ninth" and so on. Hence, I've chosen my favourite - The Black Line - as the name of this blog.

I suppose it's really no different to an appreciation of to Soviet propaganda posters or the correography of the Nuremburg rallies, but at a much greater cultural and geographic distance.

Anyway, my intention on this blog is to take a small role as the black hand (黑手) in spread counterrevolutionary reactionary black line (黑线) and perhaps working with like-minded others in black gang (黑党).

Background on the Cultural Revolution, taken from Jasper Becker's book "Hungry Ghosts":

The opening salvo of the Cultural Revolution (文化大革命) was the publication on 9 May 1966 by the official People's Daily newspaper (人民日报) of an editorial titled "Open Fire Against the Anti-Party Anti Socialist Black Line!"

This broadside targeted prominent intellectual and Beijing deputy mayor Wu Han, who had written a play "Hai Jui Dismissed From Office", which described the unfair treatment of a conscientious official by a corrupt emperor. This form of political dissent had been common in Chinese literature as a means by which scholars could criticise national leaders indirectly by drawing analogies with historical events.

Figures among the senior leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (中国共产党) , including Deng Xiaoping (邓小平) had forced Mao to discard the disastrous agricultural and industrial policies that led to chaos and starvation during the Great Leap Forward. Mao mobilised China's young people to confront his opponents within the state bureaucracy. Soon Red Guards terrorised intellectuals and anyone suspected of conservative or counterrevolutionary sympathies, paralysing the education system and destroying many cultural relics. The "turmoil" (dongluan 动乱) is regarded as the nadir of post-1949 Chinese history.

Peter 笔德

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Hello world! 你们好世间! 你們好世間!

Welcome to my blog, which will be updated as and when I have anything original to say.

Peter 笔德