Raise the Hammer Returns

After an enjoyable summer break, the Hammer is back. I have a short piece in this edition, inspired by Terrorist, John Updike’s latest novel. Check it out if you’re interested.


Fallen Art

This is quite a remarkable piece of animation, but be warned that its main idea is diabolically evil.

Two of the busiest weeks I have ever experienced are over…


I Prayed to Allah on a Plane and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt

Britain is considering adopting racial and ethnic profiling procedures to help identify potential terrorists, a move British Metropolitan police chief superintendent Ali Dizaei has condemned as creating the new offence of “traveling while Asian”.

And two young men of “Middle Eastern or Asian” appearance were removed from a holiday flight after their fellow passengers complained that they were acting suspiciously:

In the early hours of Wednesday a number of passengers on Monarch Airlines flight ZB613 left the plane, refusing to fly unless the two men were removed, causing a three-hour delay.

Passengers are reported to have become suspicious after the men were overheard apparently speaking Arabic and seen repeatedly checking their watches, although this has not been confirmed by the airline.

If people who speak Arabic and check their watches frequently in airports are to be acted against, and if the colour of one’s skin is to once again become the determining factor in how one is treated by the police, perhaps it’s time to start jamming the culture a little bit.

That’s why I propose we put our heads together and start up a new company selling t-shirts with Arabic on them whose sayings translate into punchy commentary such as Declare Jihad on Illiteracy, or I Love America, or perhaps I Prayed to Allah on a Plane and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt.

We could also screen-print the image of some bearded, scary-looking dude on them to really make the point, like Abraham Lincoln:

Arabic Lincoln

What do you think?



One tankful of ethanol could feed a person for a year

Ethanol, the fuel mainly produced from agricultural crops like corn, will likely have disastrous effects on the environment. Deforestation and the massive use of chemical fertilizers are just the appetizers. But the environmental costs pale in comparison to the human costs. Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute, lays those out in a Fortune article:

The growing myth that corn is a cure-all for our energy woes is leading us toward a potentially dangerous global fight for food. While crop-based ethanol – the latest craze in alternative energy – promises a guilt-free way to keep our gas tanks full, the reality is that overuse of our agricultural resources could have consequences even more drastic than, say, being deprived of our SUVs. It could leave much of the world hungry.

We are facing an epic competition between the 800 million motorists who want to protect their mobility and the two billion poorest people in the world who simply want to survive. In effect, supermarkets and service stations are now competing for the same resources.

This year cars, not people, will claim most of the increase in world grain consumption. The problem is simple: It takes a whole lot of agricultural produce to create a modest amount of automotive fuel.

The grain required to fill a 25-gallon SUV gas tank with ethanol, for instance, could feed one person for a year. If today’s entire U.S. grain harvest were converted into fuel for cars, it would still satisfy less than one-sixth of U.S. demand.

This problem is especially acute in poorer countries, where farmers are shifting production from food to fuel crops, or simply taking food and selling it to fuel producers rather than food suppliers.

“Sugar prices have doubled over the past 18 months (driven in part by Brazil’s use of sugar cane for fuel)”, the article says, and “Malaysia, the leading exporter of palm oil, is emerging as the biofuel leader in Asia”, but has had to “suspend further licensing while it assesses the adequacy of its palm oil supplies”.

In Malaysia, as this 2004 article reports, there is an enormous gap between rich and poor.

Even within urban areas, a significant underclass has emerged as well over the decades. A few kilometers from Mariam’s kampong, at a sprawling squatter settlement next to an established industrial estate, conditions are dismal. A sizable number of undernourished children can be found in squatter areas and plantations, according to Nasir, a trained nutritionist. The telltale signs are underweight children, poor academic performance, and health problems. Invariably, many of the children drop out of school.

I wonder how Nasir the trained nutritionist feels about palm oil going into gas tanks instead of the mouths of undernourished children.

[tags]ethanol, renewable fuels, biofuel[/tags]


Wesley Clark: more bombs, more often

In a stirring article called A Judgment on Iraq, retired four-star general Wesley Clark and contender for the US Democratic Party’s nomination for president in 2008 communicates his vision for the Democrats:

The truth is the Democratic Party – elected leaders, party regulars and the big-time donors – pretty much agree on the failures of the administration, and even on the policies that need to be adopted, like stronger diplomacy and more reliance on allies and international organizations, coupled with a willingness to fully fund, rearm, strengthen and use America’s armed forces.

As well as the underfunded, underused American military, Clark went on to identify other pressing national problems, such as the anorexia epidemic and America’s unhealthy addiction to small Japanese cars.

[tags]Wesley Clark, Democrats, politics[/tags]

Life, politics, code and current events from a Canadian perspective.

Adrian Duyzer
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