Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Will magnetic media create a black hole in the history of late 20th century creativity?

Apologies for that portentous heading but it does express a fear I have.  Let me explain.  Magnetic media came into their own during the late 20th century.  First there were open reel tape-recorders for sound; then there cassette tapes for sound; then there were floppy disks for computer software, including games; then there were VHS video recorders for a full audio-visual experience.  But all those are now obsolete.  They were an advance for their times but have now been superseded by DVDs etc.

None of that would be any great problem except for one thing:  Magnetic media degrade over time.  That was recently brought home to me when I got out one of my old VCRs and set it up to play some video tapes of two Mozart operas that had been recorded about a quarter of a century ago.  They were a professional production so should have been of good quality.  Unfortunately they were only good in parts, as the curate said.  At their best they reproduced about as well as a DVD but in other parts there was a lot of flicker, "snow" etc.  And it was not the player that was at fault.  More recent recordings were fine.

Yet the performances were good ones that deserved to be preserved.  And, probably because they were great works by a very famous composer, they ARE now available on DVD (See here and here).  But what of less famous works by less famous composers and performers? They must be on the brink of being lost forever.  I think that is a great pity.  Hopefully, all of the best of late 20th century creativity will be transferred to optical format before it is too late but I am pessimistic about most of it.

Interestingly, not all old audio-visual technology is so fragile.  Sound and vision recorded on movie film is pretty long lasting, as is music recorded on the old black vinyl LPs.

Hard disks are also of course magnetic media but disk failure is frequent enough for most people to keep backups of everything -- so data on them is less likely to be irretrievably lost.  I back up my more recent files onto DVDs several times a year.


Want to Defeat Terrorism? It’s Time to Go to the Source

by Michael Ledeen

Lots of well-known former foreign policy/national security officials don’t, or feel obliged to appear “realistic” (diplospeak for “don’t do anything, keep talking”).  Some former military officers do, although only up to a point.

Three duly respected policy professionals, Denis Ross (Obama’s — and plenty of others’ — Middle East guru for a few years early on), Eric Edelman (Bush’s under secretary of defense and earlier ambassador to Turkey), and Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations (who recently published a very important story detailing the background of the Iranian occupation of the US Embassy in Tehran in ’79), tell us it’s time to get tougher with Iran:

"[It's] time to acknowledge that we need a revamped coercive strategy, one that threatens what the Islamic Republic values the most—its influence in the Middle East and its standing at home."

In other words, threaten the regime itself and its foreign legions in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen.  But just when you say to yourself, “Finally!  They’re going to call for regime change,” they tiptoe delicately into dipspeak:  “Iranian officials must come to understand that there will be no further concessions to reach an accord and that time is running out for negotiations.”
Further down, they return to the “we’re almost, kinda for regime change” theme:

"the United States should consider a political warfare campaign against Tehran to complement its economic sanctions policy. The administration officials and its broadcast services should draw attention to the unsavory nature of the theocratic regime and repressive behavior. Such language will not just showcase our values but potentially inspire political dissent."

As if the Iranian people needed the State Department and the appeasers at the feckless Persian service of the Voice of America to tear the blinders from their eyes and enable seem to see that they are living in misery under a hateful regime!  If you really want to “inspire political dissent,” just do it.  Call for the release of the opposition leaders, support the students’ and workers’ and women’s movements, and call for a national referendum on the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic.

But the three gurus aren’t calling for that.  They have no apparent interest in real political warfare, except as part of the nuclear negotiations. They’re calling for some sort of military action in Syria and Iraq, not as a decisive blow to the expansionist activities of the Islamic Republic, but as an essential ingredient in the parlay with Zarif and Rouhani.  Their main objective is to compel the Tehran regime to come to terms on the nuclear deal.

"A regime stressed at home and under pressure abroad may yet consider the price of its nuclear intransigence".

That won’t do, I’m afraid, because, as the Washington Post said in 2012, to get an end to the Iranian nuclear project, you have to have regime change in Tehran.  To be sure, the destruction of the Assad regime would be a major step in that direction, but the three gurus don’t even mention that;  nor, for that matter, does the exemplary General Robert Scales, although he has a better grasp of the dynamics of the Middle East war.

Scales, albeit using different language, stresses the importance of defeating the jihadis on the ground, in large part because defeat undermines their messianic world-view.  He calls it depriving the enemy of “hope,” I call it a blow to their conviction that their bloody enterprise is blessed by Allah.  It comes to the same thing:

"Think of hope as a material formed in a crucible over time by a series of successful terrorist strikes against the West and Western-affiliated countries in the Middle East. Since violent actions filled this crucible, only a violent military counterresponse can crack the crucible and empty it of hope. The object of a campaign against hope is not necessarily to kill in large numbers but rather to find the greatest vulnerability and shatter it dramatically and decisively.

The terrorist’s greatest source of hope today comes from Islamic State battlefield successes in Syria and Iraq. A defeat there cracks the crucible. The question is how to do it with enough drama and speed that terrorists the world over lose hope and become passive. From any perspective, the Islamic State enclave in Syria is militarily unassailable. But Iraq is a different story."

I certainly agree with the general’s main point — defeat of the enemy is very important, and when we defeat them it is not just a gain of terrain but also an ideological and political victory for our side — I think his context is too narrow, and I don’t share either his pessimism on Syria or his surprising optimism regarding Iraq.

I remain perplexed at the failure of our policy elite to advocate all-out political and military support for the Kurds.  They are pro-Western, they are tough and brave, and their enemies in the region are ours: above all, Iran, Turkey and Syria.  They are the most effective force against ISIS.  Our failure to do more for them is yet further evidence of Obama’s grotesque alliance with the Iranians, from Syria and Iraq all the way down to Yemen.

In like manner, I don’t get the optimism about Iraq, which is effectively at the mercy of Iran, and therefore a totally unreliable force.

Why not go to the source, as my late boss General Alexander Haig loved to intone?  Tehran is the source.  Unmentioned by Scales, pigeonholed by the three gurus as a negotiating challenge rather than the terror master of the world, its defeat should be the West’s central mission.



As usual, the Leftist response to criticism is attack, not thought

The latest from Britain, where the Labour Party is led by Ed Miliband, the hard-Left son of a prominent Marxist theoretician (Leftists love theory; the facts not so much).  He has become increasingly unpopular and even party members have questioned his leadership.  But let any outsider criticize him and  ...

Labour went to war with Boots yesterday after the chemist chain warned of catastrophe if the party won the general election.  Stefano Pessina, the firm’s acting boss, said Ed Miliband’s policies were ‘not helpful for business and not helpful for the country’.

Labour business spokesman Chuka Umunna hit back with a series of extraordinary attacks on Mr Pessina and his firm, which has 70,000 UK workers.  He questioned whether Boots paid enough tax while fellow Labour MPs said they would not listen to a multi-millionaire who lived in ‘a big mansion’.

The extreme response will fuel claims that the party is anti-business and raise further doubts over Mr Miliband’s election strategy.  The reaction also showed ‘staggering immaturity’ on the part of the Labour leadership, according to a former party adviser. As chaos in the Labour ranks escalated:

*    Miliband allies were said to be plotting a way to keep him in place, even if Labour lose the election;

*   The editor of the left-wing New Statesman said the leader had a ‘haunted’ look and even shadow chancellor Ed Balls had ‘all but given up’ on him;

*   The party’s biggest private donor attacked Mr Miliband’s NHS and mansion tax policies;

*    Lord Mandelson was accused of plotting to destabilise Mr Miliband;

*   The party’s election campaign chief Douglas Alexander repeatedly refused to rule out a deal with Scottish nationalists in the event of a hung parliament.

Labour’s uneasy relationship with business exploded into the open thanks to the intervention of Mr Pessina, who heads Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc, owner of the biggest chain of UK chemists.

It is highly unusual for captains of industry to be so outspoken this close to an election.

But Mr Miliband has announced a series of policies taking aim at what he calls capitalist ‘predators’ across a range of industries from energy suppliers to private landlords.

Mr Pessina said: ‘If they acted as they speak, it would be a catastrophe. The problem is, would they act that way or not? One thing is to threaten and to shout, but it is completely different to be in charge and to manage the country day to day.’

Labour has previously had close links with Boots – former health secretary Patricia Hewitt worked for it as an adviser.

But last night Labour MPs tweeted criticisms of Mr Pessina, a 73-year-old Italian who is estimated to have a £7.5billion fortune. Ilford South MP Mike Gapes wrote: ‘Does Boots boss own a big mansion in UK? Does he pay income tax in UK? Does he vote in UK?’

Mr Umunna said: ‘It is important that the voice of business is heard during this general election campaign, not least on Europe.  'But the British people and British businesses will draw their own conclusions when those who don’t live here, don’t pay tax in this country and lead firms that reportedly avoid making a fair contribution in what they pay purport to know what is in Britain’s best interests.’

But former Labour adviser Dan Hodges said attacking Boots was a ‘mad, pitch-to-the-Greens and the left’ strategy, adding: ‘The immaturity that surrounds Labour’s political decision-making is simply staggering.’

John Mills, Labour’s biggest individual donor, said reports he had criticised Mr Miliband were ‘pure mischief-making’ but went on to raise doubts about key policies.

A spokesman for Walgreens Boots Alliance insisted Mr Pessina’s comments had been taken out of context, adding: ‘He is not campaigning against Ed Miliband or Labour.’

The company has been accused of trying to cut its UK tax bill by moving its HQ to Switzerland.

The firm’s spokesman said it was now paying more tax than it had as a listed company.



UK: Socialized medicine at work

If you are seriously ill, British government doctors often just want to kill you as not being worth their time.  The evil "Liverpool pathway" -- where they bombed the elderly out with morphine and then let them die of thirst -- now seems to be gone but the underlying attitude remains

A father who doctors ‘gave up’ on following a stroke is now recovering after The Mail on Sunday highlighted his plight.

Doctors applied four times to place a ‘do not resuscitate’ order on the medical notes of Paul Scoble, 48, after he suffered the devastating stroke last August.

It meant they would not have tried to restart his heart if he had gone into cardiac arrest, and would have left him to die.

He was immobile, breathing through a ventilator and largely unable to communicate. Doctors at Basildon Hospital in Essex told Mr Scoble’s children, Danielle and Leon, to prepare for the worst and asked them to ‘seriously consider’ what their father’s life would be like if he did survive, the siblings said.

Besides suffering the stroke, Mr Scoble also had two leaky heart valves. The doctors resisted the idea of carrying out an operation to mend them and said the chances of him surviving it were slim. But Danielle and Leon refused to listen and contacted bosses at other hospitals to ask if they would operate.

After The Mail on Sunday highlighted their plight in November, medics at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London agreed to operate and he was transferred there.

Now, Mr Scoble, who runs a family import business with Danielle and Leon, is off a ventilator, eating and talking.

Last night he said: ‘I feel very lucky to be here and I owe my life to my family, friends, The Mail on Sunday and everyone at the Royal Brompton.

‘I am very disappointed at what happened to me at Basildon Hospital and what they put my family through, and I am quite shocked about how far this had to go before I could get the help I needed.’

Danielle, 29, said: ‘He is doing brilliantly – a million times better than how he was in Basildon. He is ever so grateful. He feels so lucky to have got out of there and had this operation.’



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

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