Saturday, May 25, 2002

Interesting. Tony Blair's salary as Prime Minister is £165,418 which at an exchange rate of £1.00 = $1.458 (current spot rate as reported by the BBC) is $241179.44. How does this stack up against George Bush, for example? Or Gerhard Schröder? Or Abel Pacheco of Costa Rica, for that matter?


I found a distressing piece of news in this article by James Robbins in NRO. It seems that the widow of Ray Kroc, the McDonald's owner, is a big supporter of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. I am therefore going to follow Robbins' lead and boycott McDonalds.

I see the results of the disgusting Sandinista terror daily here in Costa Rica. Around a million Nicaraguans now live here, in a country of four million people. Imagine if, in the States, 75 million of the 300 million or so population were Mexican refugees fleeing persecution. What would that do to race relations? Costa Ricans are famously friendly and hospitable, but there are limits. The Nicaraguan population here is very heavily represented in the more menial areas of employment (it's really hard to find a maid who's Costa Rican - all mine have been Nicaraguan). This means their median income level is way below that of the Costa Rican population, which breeds contempt on one side and resentment on the other. There has also been a recent upsurge in crime, which is blamed, however unfairly, on the 'Nicas'.

Of course, the Nicaraguans are starting to integrate more fully, especially as the second generation arises, but even so the tensions are awful. Although the median Costa Rican income is a pittance by US standards (maybe $600 - $700 a month) it's huge by the standards of Nicaragua. So the migration continues.

So, no more Big Macs for me until Joan Kroc kicks the bucket.


Two superb columns from Jamie Glazov in FrontPage Magazine: Why Islam Can't Join the Modern World and its followup, Will The Real Islam Please Stand Up?

On reading the first column, I was struck once again by how despicable Islam is. I mean that in the true, dictionary definition sense:



Deserving of contempt or scorn; vile.

(American Heritage Dictionary, 4th Ed.)

The list of proscriptions and injunctions that are listed in this piece are simply unbelievable. Islam teaches that the devil spends the night in the cavity of the nose? Puhlease. If Islam really teaches this then it is nothing more than prehistoric superstition, worthy only of "contempt or scorn". All these petty restrictions and rituals are symptomatic of a religion that isn't even mediaeval, but more backward than that. Of course every religion has its little rites and some of them are no less silly than this. But the vast majority of Christians, Jews, and adherents of other faiths don't really cleave to the more esoteric parts of their faith in quite this blind fashion. I'm an atheist, by the way, which would get me killed if the Islamofascists had their way.

When fundamentalist Christians like Henry Morris, Duane Gish or Jonathan Sarfati claim that the universe is 6,000 years old, normal people just roll their eyes and say, "whatever." But if some bearded flake of a Saudi mullah says because the Koran says the world is flat, ergo it is, his maunderings take on the mantle of a fatwa.

I'm with Jamie on this one: I think Islam is simply incompatible with the modern world and we don't have 600 years to wait for it to grow up or fade away. What the solution is I don't know, but I have a feeling it's not going to be pretty.


So, is there going to be a nuclear war between India and Pakistan? So far, the consensus seems to be that the probability ranges between very unlikely and extremely unlikely. However all these analyses have been working on the assumption that the leadership on both sides will be the same in six months as it is now. But how secure is Musharraf's position? If he were to be toppled by a radical Islamist faction, then I feel that a nuclear conflict becomes much more likely. There is a strong contingent of radical Islamofascists in the Pakistan intelligence organ, the ISI. Musharraf has been unable or unwilling to adequately purge this group, and they present probably the biggest threat to his remaining in power.

If a conflict between India and Pakistan does turn nuclear, what would the effects be? Horrific, of course. But it certainly wouldn't be Armageddon, at least outside the immediate zone that is. Precise figures for the countries' arsenals are hard to come by, but let's assume rough parity, with 50-75 weapons of Hiroshima-scale yield (15-50 kT), air and ballistic missile-deliverable.

Broadly speaking, nuclear warfighting strategy falls into two modes of operation, counterforce and countervalue. Counterforce strikes are designed to destroy your opponent's ability to strike you, by destroying his weapons before they can be used. Countervalue strikes are designed to destroy the real heart of an enemy nation, by targeting population centres and infrastructure. Which mode is used depends on a number of factors, but the most important are two-fold: the yield of your weapons, and the accuracy with which you can target them.

Countervalue strikes do not have to be particularly precisely targeted. If the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima had detonated a couple of miles from where it did, the results would have been much the same. Yield is more complex. Obviously, the bigger the yield the larger the area over which a certain range of effects is observed. However, the destructive effects of a nuclear weapon do not go up linearly with yield. The effect of 10 100kT bombs, targeted correctly, is greater than that of a single 1 MT bomb.

Counterforce weapons are much harder to obtain. Typically, your opponent's forces will be point targets, hardened against just such a strike. Here is where the playoff between yield and targeting really comes into play. Targeting capability is measured in terms of Circular Error Probable (CEP). CEP is the radius of the circle around the intended aim point into which 50% of weapons will land. Against a point target, reducing CEP is directly equivalent to increasing yield, but in a very non-linear fashion. A small reduction in CEP translates to a large increase in yield.

The problem that both sides face is that their arsenals are not very effective for either counterforce or countervalue roles. Although CEP is very important for counterforce, very high yield is also desirable. The warhead on an SS-18 Mod 3, specifically designed to target the US Minuteman force, had a warhead with a yield of 18-25 MT and a CEP of about 1000m (source). Trident D-5 SLBMs, owned by both the Royal Navy and USN, have multiple warheads in the 100-120 kT range with a CEP of 120m (source).

Neither India nor Pakistan have the delivery mechanisms to turn their arsenals into an effective counterforce system. They almost by default are reduced to using their weapons in a countervalue strike. This would thus mean multiple warheads against the five or six largest cities in each country. One 20 kT warhead is insufficient to destroy a modern city. The large scale destruction at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was primarily due to the construction methods used. Even so, prompt fatalities would be in the hundreds of thousands to millions, and deaths afterwards due to dislocation of the economies and mass movement of refugees fleeing the cities would almost certainly be as high. In other words, a humanitarian catastrophe of huge proportions.

Would a nuclear war between India and Pakistan have any effects on, say, the USA? No. Prompt fallout from an airburst is very limited, and the long term fallout from such a limited exchange would be negligible. The political effects would be incalculable, however. I have long believed that it is in the best interests of the US to engage India as strongly as possible as a strategic partner. Now that relations with the Russians are so cordial, it is high time that India is brought onboard as a second buffer to Chinese expansionism. This might mean looking the other way were India to re-absorb Pakistan. Conversely, mediating in the dispute might be a good way to force access to the 'tribal areas' of North Pakistan, and achieve the rout of the remnants of al Qaida there.


Spiked online is usually quite good (the articles by Mick Hume are generally very good) but here is a piece that should never have seen the light of day: A line on Linux. Apparently this was written by a technology correspondent at the Financial Times. The nitwit in question, one Fiona Harvey, claims that Linux is a closed operating system only of interest to a scattered handful of geeks whose sole interest is in keeping technology in the hands of some high-priesthood. This is fatuous to such a degree that I barely know where to start. Among the the bons mots Harvey sees fit to dispense:

The real problem with Linux is that it is quite, quite unusable. Unless you have a higher degree in computer science, forget it. Do you know whether you should run Yellow Dog or WINE on an Intel processor? Do you want to?


Really, for all their insistence on the openness of Linux, for all their revelling in their underground status, these Linux people are actually a bunch of snobs. They don't want you to understand the secret language that makes them feel special. They want to make it as hard as they can to join their gang


Far from bringing openness and cooperation to the world of IT, Linux enthusiasts want to keep it as closed as possible - while collecting lavish praise from half-baked anti-capitalists - so they can carry on feeling self-important. After all, if these geeks could write real software, they'd be working for a proper company.

Like Microsoft.

I suspect that la Harvey has never written a line of software in her life. I, on the other hand, have. More than a million lines. It's my job. And only once, in all that time have I written for Windows. We very soon discovered that NT was such an abortion that we abandoned it for Unix, but not before I lost a $2000 completion bonus because the project ran late.

I have been working in Costa Rica for over three years, on four separate projects, and all of them were Unix-based (Solaris and Linux). My current project is running at 50,000 lines of code or more and is perhaps 15% complete. It's running on Linux and FreeBSD, since we cannot possibly afford to run an OS as unreliable as Windows.

And hard to use? Compared to Windows XP, most modern installations of Linux are a snap to install. I'm writing this blog on my Linux machine at home. It's got every feature and application I actually need. And it never crashes (current uptime: 37 days, since we had to turn the power off for maintenance - try getting a Windows machine to stay up that long). Anti-capitalist? I'm designing a fucking stock exchange for Christ's sake. Maybe Fiona Harvey should get her head out of her butt long enough to actually study what she writes about.


Whew! What a hectic past couple of weeks! Anyway, we all worked so hard the boss decided to give us Monday off. Yay! Three-day weekend. I am now going to become BeerPundit(TM).

Musings from Costa Rica

Contact me: d a g g i l l i e s @ y a h o o . c o m 

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2002/04/14 - 2002/04/21
2002/04/21 - 2002/04/28
2002/04/28 - 2002/05/05
2002/05/05 - 2002/05/12
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