Monday, January 30, 2006

Africa's hunger - a systemic crisis

BBC NEWS | Africa | Africa's hunger - a systemic crisis:

The sub-headline screams: More than half of Africa is now in need of urgent food assistance. It continues:
Unchecked population growth

'Sub-Saharan Africa 's population has grown faster than any region over the past 30 years, despite the millions of deaths from the Aids pandemic,' the UN Population Fund says.

A decline in soil quality makes land less productive
'Between 1975 and 2005, the population more than doubled, rising from 335 to 751 million, and is currently growing at a rate of 2.2% a year.'

In some parts of Africa land is plentiful, and this is not a problem. But in others it has had severe consequences.

It has forced farming families to subdivide their land time and again, leading to tiny plots or families moving onto unsuitable, overworked land.

In the highlands of Ethiopia and Eritrea some land is now so degraded that there is little prospect that it will ever produce a descent harvest."
It is so rare that an article in any mainstream media states the obvious: that human overpopulation is a big problem. My hat is off to the BBC on this occasion.

The article concludes:
Some campaigners and academics argue that African farmers will only be able to properly feed their families and societies when Western goods stop flooding their markets.
BBC failed to note that some of these campaigners and academics are themselves African.

From 751 million today, at a steady 2.2 percent growth rate, the population will reach a billion and a half in 32 years.

What's the likelihood of a sustained 2.2 percent growth rate? If ever there was a time to read Garrett Hardin's "Tragedy of the Commons", this might be the time. Here.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Why Do I Blog?

Why do I blog? I don't know.
The most important thing that social psychologists have discovered over the last 50 years is that people are very unreliable informants about why they behaved as they did, made the judgment they did, or liked or disliked something. In short, we don't know nearly as much about what goes on in our heads as we think. In fact, for a shocking range of things, we don't know the answer to "Why did I?" any better than an observer.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

I have always been in favor of complete legalization of all drugs - of getting law enforcement out of the public health business and back to work making the streets safe.

Here is a bunch of cops and ex-cops who agree. See their promotional video here, available in various different formats.

I think I know why we don't legalize drugs in this country. There are two primary reasons. First, prohibition is an industry that serves the commercial and other interests of a lot of people.

The second reason is denial.

Primary (but certainly not sole) among those whose interests are served by prohibition are drug warriors and drug producers. These two supposed opponents are filthy parasites engaged in mutualist symbiotic depredation of society. Without the other each will be greatly harmed, but together they flourish.

In the United States we waste billions of dollars every year, 60 billion or more, arresting a million or two people, incarcerating over 20 percent of the world's prisoners (out of our 5% of global population), among American black males at a rate over five times higher than apartheid-era South Africa, all to accomplish what? NOTHING! The proportion of the American population that is addicted to drugs today is about the same as it was almost a century ago despite the trillion or more dollars sent down the drain, despite the millions behind bars, despite erosion of our civil liberties.

Bloody hell. What a waste.

So when will this change?

I'm sorry to say that my prediction is that it won't change. For one thing, the interests served by the War on Some Drugs benefit powerful people. For another, true believers are in denial. Though Catton was addressing something else when he wrote that denial "seems to be a way of coping with an insufferable contradiction between past convictions and present circumstances, a defense against intolerable anomalous information", the effect is the same in the War on Some Drugs. As a result, we'll just keep on doing what we're doing, reason be damned.

Oh, well... More power to LEAP.

Here's an interview of the founder of LEAP. Here's a piece about one of LEAP's directors.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

Friday, January 27, 2006

Monday, January 23, 2006

Swept by vigilante killings in crime backlash

I caught a bit of flack for claiming in this post that conditions could get as bad as I claimed they could, so here:

Guatemala swept by vigilante killings in crime backlash:
'What is happening is that there is a lot of crime and nobody has confidence in the government's ability to provide security,' said the Casa Alianza's Claudia Rivera. 'Crime is out of control and the state cannot stop it. So people in neighborhoods get together to do it themselves.'
ABC has a variant of the story here. Reuters here.

Judging from conversations with Guatemalans in the capital and the poverty-stricken highlands, extra-judicial killings are widely seen as both necessary and positive.
"When those who are killed are 'mareros' (gang members), people are pleased," said Gerardo Petzey, a 20-year-old student in the highland town of Santiago Atitlan. "Good riddance to bad people," said Antonia Flores, 26, a receptionist in the capital's upscale 10th district.
"Eliminate rabies by killing the dogs that carry the disease," said leaflets left on bodies found shot through the head near the city of
(I put what I think is a fascinating story of extra-judicial killing in the fifth paragraph of an earlier post.)

The vigilantism story doesn't even touch on the subject of lynchings, which in Guatemala do not involve white racists hanging black victims in acts of bigotry. Rather, in Guatemala and elsewhere, lynchings tend to be mob reactions to criminality in the face of law enforcement agency and court system uselessness. The lynching itself frequently involves beatings and gasoline. If you saw the film Cronicas (excellent flick by the way) you got a sense of this type of lynching.

Hand-written notes said, "That's for robbery" and, "This is for breaking into my house."
Various pressures will combine in other, presently prosperous countries to yield similar levels of criminality and violent counter-criminality unless means are found to deal death to extreme criminals in a quick, no-nonsense way.

That is to say, unfortunately, that we will probably have similar levels of criminality and violent counter-criminality in our country. A big part of the reason is that the myth of inherent human dignity renders us impotent in the face of what needs to be done. Oh, well...

Potent Mexican Meth Floods In as States Curb Domestic Variety - New York Times

Prohibition keeps making the problem worse, but onward we "stay the course". What's that old cliche about the definition of stupidity? Doing the same old things expecting different results. Something like that.

Potent Mexican Meth Floods In as States Curb Domestic Variety - New York Times: "But Mr. Van Haaften, like officials in other states with similar restrictions, is now worried about a new problem: the drop in home-cooked methamphetamine has been met by a new flood of crystal methamphetamine coming largely from Mexico."

BULLSHIT: Sabotage probed at Koeberg nuclear station

IOL: Sabotage probed at Koeberg nuclear station

This story was featured in the US Department of Homeland Security's "Daily Open Source Infrastructure Report 23 Jan 2006", which you can download here.
Eskom has not ruled out sabotage as a cause of one of their nuclear reactors at Koeberg in Cape Town, South Africa, having to be shut down. The controlled shutdown occurred on Christmas day after a loose bolt somehow got inside the generator of Koeberg nuclear power station's Unit 1. The bolt was meant to be attached to the outside of the generator. Eskom chief executive, Thulani Gcabashe, said at a briefing on Thursday, January 19, that an investigation was under way. The damage would take at least three months to repair. With only one of Koeberg's reactors working during these three months, the risk of power interruptions in the Cape would increase. Eskom is now shopping around nuclear power stations to try to buy a second−hand rotor and stator to repair the problem. These parts are not kept in stock by nuclear power plant manufacturers, and it would take at least a year for new parts to be made. Koeberg's other nuclear reactor is due to be refueled in March. Gcabashe said the refuelingcould be "stretched" by an extra two months, but this would have to be approved by theNational Nuclear Regulator.

You have to to go the original article and read down a good way before you get to the part where it says
Neither the turbine nor the nuclear reactor of unit 1 was affected.
Had this sort of thing occurred at a coal or gas plant it would never have seen print, but since there's a nuclear reactor several steps upstream of the equipment where the incident occurred, people jump on it. That is stupid, disingenuous or both. Both, probably, and for the DHS infrastructure report to forever be padded with tripe like this is annoying.

The sort of incident described has happened to me personally, and while a big deal in terms of the equipment affected, hardly justifies the breathless headline attached nor inclusion in the DHS infrastructure report, which is full of items that serve as nothing but filler and make the thing seem more substantive than it is.

The incident I was involved in didn't damage a generator, but it could have. I was a new engineer at a coal fired station where one of the generators had just come out of overhaul. The exciter dome was about to be closed up, and I was told to go climb inside and look around for the learning experience. I was well cautioned to remove everything from my pockets and take off anything I might leave behind, which I thought I did. As it turned out, I had forgotten the pager on my belt, and as I was climbing out of the exciter, it snagged on the edge of the access port and fell into the exciter dome. I was lucky in that it happened to land on a narrow ledge that was within reach, and I was able to retrieve it. No big deal in the end.

But a bolt at a nuclear plant:!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Distraught Father's Rant is Not News

BBC NEWS | UK | Magazine | Out of joint

I usually have great respect for the BBC. This time they give me great pause.

The linked story has been featured on the front of the BBC's top news stories web page. As I type it is featured prominently in the Health section of the BBC News web site. Trouble is, the piece should be in neither place because it is not news and it is not reliable health reporting.

Though this story is compelling and surely heartfelt, it is the mournful rant of a grieving, pissed-off father, and as such it is better suited for an opinion page.

The author's son apparently showed great promise in his father's eyes. Now he is a drug addled basket case. The author found out his son had spent, in one year, £5000 (about US$8,800) on "skunk weed" supposedly far more powerful than anything the hippies used to use, yet he presumes that expert opinions to the effect that his son might have had psychological problems to begin with are total rubbish.

The son, according to the father, started smoking pot when he was just 15 years old. Later on he wound up under psychiatric care, but had compliance issues with his medications. He was sent to the United States, where he wound up taking alcohol and progressing to anger and violence. They wound up committing the son when he barricaded himself in his room, requiring the efforts of 10 riot-equipped policemen to subdue him.
Since then he has not only given up all drugs, but also cigarettes and even alcohol.
That statement is quite revealing. The distinction between alcohol and other drugs is an extremely harmful delusion. That the boy's father harbors this delusion is distressing.

I hope this man's son pulls out of it, and that the father and mother are able to resume some sort of serenity. But I also hope they come to their senses and realize that prohibition does more harm than good by quite a margin, and that it is illogical for him to wish for a reversal of the recent change of status of cannabis in his country.

I hope, also, that the BBC editorial board reconsiders whether they should have published this poor man's sad story as news or in the health sections. I would conclude that the BBC was baldly propagandizing, but I still have a little more respect for the BBC than that.

Friday, January 20, 2006

New Wave in Peer-to-Peer File Storage/Backup?

Who knows what the future will bring, but I tend to agree with people who think that ubiquitous peer-to-peer file storage is coming. And soon.

At least one company, Allmydata, Inc., in Mountain View, California, makes one solution available for early adopters. Looks very interesting. It's free in the sense that if you allocate ten units of storage to the project, you get to use one unit free. How much is up to you. (They say it's unlimited, but I suppose that if nothing else you'll run into a bandwidth limitation somewhere along the way.)

I've looked forward to this for several years, ever since reading a paper by an IBM senior genius whose name I didn't retain. He wrote about distributed, encrypted, online storage of materials in a way that would make them immune to censorship. Repressive governments would be helpless to take down sites hostile to their aims because the materials would not exist on any such site - they'd be distributed. I don't recall the specifics of the IBM paper, and I've not been able to find it online, but it struck me as revolutionary, disruptive and cool. I took my hat off to IBM for being in that vanguard.

Anyway, it seems to me that the age of ubiquitous peer-to-peer secure file storage is just about here. Rather than write any more inadequate words on the topic I'll just point to what some other people have written on the topic here, here and here.

I have not installed the Allmydata offering because of the way I use my XP computer, which would require that my contribution to the project be out of service for long periods. When that changes I'll check it out. By then, I predict, we'll all be hearing plenty about this new wave in storage technology.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Lovelock's Outlook Even Darker Than Sturgill's

Independent Online Edition

Here's a renowned scientist publicly, on the release of his new book The Revenge of Gaia, proclaiming an outlook in some ways even more gloomy than mine. And he's far more qualified to harbor such an outlook!

The climate centres around the world, which are the equivalent of the pathology lab of a hospital, have reported the Earth's physical condition, and the climate specialists see it as seriously ill, and soon to pass into a morbid fever that may last as long as 100,000 years. I have to tell you, as members of the Earth's family and an intimate part of it, that you and especially civilisation are in grave danger.
It gets worse, but when he writes, "We [in Great Britain - sls] could grow enough to feed ourselves on the diet of the Second World War, but the notion that there is land to spare to grow biofuels, or be the site of wind farms, is ludicrous", I wonder how he thinks that can happen with the thermohaline circulation [1] [2] slowing down in response to freshening of North Atlantic waters due to ice melt.

Nobody knows specifically what's going to happen. It seems likely, though, that we'll wind up wishing it hadn't, and that we'd had more of the foresight James Lovelock represented.

Sure, there are lots of smart optimists who probably think Lovelock is a crank. It seems to me that they are in denial.

Good News Bad News: US judges back assisted suicide

BBC NEWS | Americas | US judges back assisted suicide

Good news is that the Court upheld Oregon law.

Bad news is that the new Justice Roberts was among the dissenters.

Maybe the Democrats should filibuster Judge Alito's confirmation.

Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote the minority, dissenting view, said: "If the term 'legitimate medical purpose' has any meaning, it surely excludes the prescription of drugs to produce death."
Screw you Scalia. How about you leave that to the people of Oregon. And what kind of sadist are you, anyway? "Legitimate medical purpose" surely includes reduction of suffering.

Good Riddance to Clarence Ray Allen

Google Search: Clarence Ray Allen
Oldest Death Row Inmate Executed

The worst thing wrong with this case is that it took 23 years to execute the monster. Administration of capital cases needs to be reformed.

Once a special board (not an individual prosecutor subject to re-election pressures) has decided a case is capital, the case should be expedited. There should be special courts to handle capital cases. A major purpose behind these courts should be prompt treatment of the case. Endless delays and appeals need to end. If a lawyer can't fit a case into his busy schedule in order to handle it expeditiously, re-arrange that lawyer's schedule or get another lawyer.

Part of this reform involves reducing the likelihood of improper execution. As in war, though, absolute avoidance of "collateral damage" has to be recognized as impossible. You try like hell to avoid it, but you don't stop what you are doing in order to avoid the unavoidable.

There is no reason why, in the "war" on crime, prisoners should be absolutely exempted from the risk of becoming victims (whether of murder or mistaken execution). Police, judges, lawyers and the general citizenry face this risk. Nobody should become exempt from this risk simply by virtue of being arrested.

One of the improvements that should be made in the administration of capital cases is to make abuse of the capital justice system a capital offense in itself. Framing someone into execution should be a capital offense.

Of course, no reform along these lines is likely to happen any time soon. Instead, we'll continue to have quarter-century stays on death row by ever increasing numbers of the condemned, along with the resulting compromise of the death penalty's deterrent function. This will continue until population density and other pressures deliver us to the state presently seen in some other societies, where we see incredible levels of criminality, extrajudicial execution, private death squads and so on.

The death penalty clearly has a deterrent effect, contrary to what death penalty opponents claim. This deterrent effect, though, deteriorates as a function of the time it takes to execute the condemned.

We should not do away with the death penalty; rather, we should maximize its deterrent effect by optimizing its administration.

Oh, well...

Monday, January 16, 2006


This post is part of a little familiarization test. Nothing much to read here, actually, but thanks for stopping by.

Updated (below)

Technorati is, according to Wikipedia, an internet search engine dedicated to blogs.

Part of the idea is that when I make a post, I "ping" Technorati, and then they respond by adding the new post to their index. If one wants, Technorati has functions to add add links to one's blog to make it easier for readers to navigate and search.

Well, as is typical of me, I'm having trouble making it work. I don't know if it's just because I'm older and my brain isn't adequately wired for this ever changing world, or whether I'm just dense, or whether Tainter's complexity is taking its toll. In any event, it hasn't seemed to work.

I was supposed to put a string of text invoking a Technorati script into my blog's template. The script would cause the Technorati stuff to appear. The instructions were not any more explicit than that. So I just pasted the string into a few different places in my template. Nothing seemed to happen, so I finally just left it where there was some effect (the sidespace is now white instead of black).

The idea behind just leaving it there even if it's not working is that maybe things take effect with the first post after adding the Technorati stuff. Well, here we go. I'll post this, then go ping Technorati. There's another script I can use that will automatically ping Technorati when I make a post, but one thing at a time is about my speed.


Seems I did not need to "ping" Technorati after publishing this post. Apparently, Blogger automatically pings them. But I still don't see the stuff that's supposed to appear as a function of the script inserted into my blog's template. Just the white sidespace. Hmmm...

Scientists Work on 'Trauma Pill' - Yahoo! News

Scientists Work on 'Trauma Pill' - Yahoo! News: "propranolol "

MDMA has been around for years and has been very useful in the treatment of PTSD.

Oh, wait. MDMA is a "recreational" drug. Heaven forbid!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Church of GDP

What's the dominant religion of the past 100 years? The answer isn't Christianity with its 2.1 billion followers, or Islam with its 1.3 billion. It's the idea of economic growth, the Church of GDP.
Holy moley!! That's Robert J. Samuelson, the bigshot economist, prolific pundit and TV guru.

When I saw Samuelson's words posted towards the top of the EnergyBulletin news clearinghouse's page I nearly had a heart attack. Could Samuelson actually be admitting anything even remotely approaching that his dismal science is nothing but religion?

Rather than continue reading the excerpt on EnergyBulletin, I clicked directly to the Washington Post to read the entire piece.

What a letdown. I should have known better.

Paraphrasing public health blogger Cervantes, Samuelson has set a little honey-trap for people looking for reinforcement of their prejudices. It obviously worked on me. He got me to read his piece. Trouble is, Samuelson's tactic only pissed me off. I now think less of him than I did before.

Samuelson's piece, which is a critique of a book by another economist making the case that economic growth is morally uplifting, does not even mention energy, resources, limits or exponentiation. It's just more of the same old bullshit.

After the disappointment of having read Samuelson's piece at the source, I returned to EnergyBulletin, where I found their take on Samuelson's piece further down the page. I agree completely with their reaction to Samuelson:
A profoundly irresponsible article from the Washington Post. Samuelson casts himself as a skeptic highlighting some counter examples, but is in fact in agreement with Friedman on the moral virtues of endless economic growth. He never mentions unfortunately, within this seemingly hard-questioning review, that we live on a planet with finite natural resources.

This is a classic case of 'fair and balanced' discourse where both parties share the same narrow framework of assumptions. Normally in a publication like the Washington Post 'growth is good' might be one of those shared assumptions. In opening this question up there is opportunity for some timely reflections on a fundamentally self-destructive — one could say completely deranged — thread through our dominant economic ideologies. But the question is opened only to be closed again more tightly. True reflection might be too painful. Endless growth on a finite planet is fundamentally impossible, and its pursuit (while an understandable enough response to the journey up the energy curve) is leading to mass extinctions, including possibly our own if we intend to try pursuing it on the downslope of the energy curve by burning up the Earth's remaining natural resources.

'The truth is so simple the mind is repulsed' to paraphrase Galbraith out of context.

Samuelson resorts to some outright doublethink: "Societies whose politics focus on the gaining and sharing of prosperity can promote their own stability." Sure, but how exactly can a system based on an unsustainable premise, (not to mention one emphasising competition rather than 'sharing') be considered in any way stable?

Peak Oil implies that we will be forced to embark on a period of economic contraction. But that does not have to mean the end of progress (by most definitions), positive social reforms, depth of human experience or moral virtues.

See instead Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy, Richard Douthwaite's book The Growth Illusion, Clive Hamilton's Growth Fetish, or perhaps William Catton's writings on Overshoot.
I just started reading another economist's 1987 book, Thomas Sowell's "A Conflict of Visions - Ideological Origins of Political Struggles". I'm hoping for a little insight into the conflict between Samuelson's claptrap and the words of one of the 2006 Edge Question respondents, Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, who responded to the question, "What is your dangerous idea?":
The free market

Generally ideas are thought to be dangerous when they threaten an entrenched authority. Galileo was sued not because he claimed that the earth revolved around the sun — a "hypothesis" his chief prosecutor, Cardinal Bellarmine, apparently was quite willing to entertain in private — but because the Church could not afford a fact it claimed to know be reversed by another epistemology, in this case by the scientific method. Similar conflicts arose when Darwin's view of how humans first appeared on the planet challenged religious accounts of creation, or when Mendelian genetics applied to the growth of hardier strains of wheat challenged Leninist doctrine as interpreted by Lysenko.

One of the most dangerous ideas at large in the current culture is that the "free market" is the ultimate arbiter of political decisions, and that there is an "invisible hand" that will direct us to the most desirable future provided the free market is allowed to actualize itself. This mystical faith is based on some reasonable empirical foundations, but when embraced as a final solution to the ills of humankind, it risks destroying both the material resources, and the cultural achievements that our species has so painstakingly developed.

So the dangerous idea on which our culture is based is that the political economy has a silver bullet — the free market — that must take precedence over any other value, and thereby lead to peace and prosperity. It is dangerous because like all silver bullets it is an intellectual and political scam that might benefit some, but ultimately requires the majority to pay for the destruction it causes.

My dangerous idea is dangerous only to those who support the hegemony of the market. It consists in pointing out that the imperial free market wears no clothes — it does not exist in the first place, and what passes for it is dangerous to the future well being of our species. Scientist need to turn their attention to what the complex system that is human life, will require in the future.

Beginnings like the Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators, which focus on such central requirements as health, education, infrastructure, environment, human rights, and public safety, need to become part of our social and political agenda. And when their findings come into conflict with the agenda of the prophets of the free market, the conflict should be examined — who is it that benefits from the erosion of the quality of life?

Emphasis mine.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Personal Appeal - Wikimedia Foundation

I use Wikipedia all the time, and I have for quite a while. It's a worthy project despite some growing pains. Wikipedia has a lot of content, and its accuracy can be as good as that of "real" encyclopedias.

If you happen to see these words, please consider reading the appeal from Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, and consider donating a few bucks.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

What is your dangerous idea?

THE WORLD QUESTION CENTER 2006 poses an interesting yearly question, and draws answers from among some of the brightest minds there are.

Last year the question was: What do you believe is true that you cannot prove? The year before that it was something like: You are the President's science advisor - what do you advise?

This year:
The Edge Annual Question — 2006


The history of science is replete with discoveries that were considered socially, morally, or emotionally dangerous in their time; the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions are the most obvious. What is your dangerous idea? An idea you think about (not necessarily one you originated) that is dangerous not because it is assumed to be false, but because it might be true?
There are 117 essays in response to this question occupying about 12 web pages, of which I've only read the first. So far the responses are as interesting as they were last year and the year before.

In the very first essay, Howard Gardner seems to validate my pessimistic outlook (though focusing on a different set of factors than I), while in the last essay on the first page Cliff Pickover points to the likely combination of drugs and flawed simulations to create completely believable virtual realities. Along the way we are treated to thoughts on relativism, naturalism, the character of time, emotional intelligence, radicalized relativity, banality of evil and heroism, the evaporation of the state and doubts over our own existence. Some or much of it flies over my head, frankly, and I'll have to go back and study a few particularly intriguing contributions.

If you want an interesting stretch, check out the responses to the 2006 Edge Annual Question.

They didn't ask me, but my dangerous idea has to do with the necessity of coercion in limiting human population in the face of environmental limits, and the morality of mass culling of the human herd for the same reason if conditions reach that point. I think that qualifies as dangerous stuff. I probably won't write an essay, though. Far better people than me have already done so with respect to the first part, but to little effect.

Moderate Islamists?

A responder to a Volokh Conspiracy post noting the anniversary of the demise of the Soviet Union on this date in 1991 responded (and later responded again with his source) with a citation of an Economist article observing that "Uzbekistan, in particular, has jailed many thousands of moderate Islamists...".

Moderate islamist? What the hell is that? Before I'm accused of bigotry, that's "islamIST" not "islamIC" or "Muslim". IslamIST. What the hell is a "moderate islamIST"?

"Moderate islamist" immediately struck me as a contradiction in terms, along the lines of "compassionate nazi" or "thoughtful bully". But this was from the Economist. I'd better go look it up.

So I Googled "moderate islamist" and got lots of hits (of course - Google is awesome that way). The first hit was to Tech Central Station and an interesting article by Michael Vlahos.

But what exactly is a "moderate Islamist?" The moderate Islamist should not be confused with the moderate Muslim. The moderate Muslim is the kind of Muslim America likes. Americans are comfortable with moderate religiosity; so like the quiet churchgoer, we would prefer Muslims who are not above, for example, knocking back an occasional beer. But this is not what we should expect. Islam is a demanding religion -- and a demanding way of life. Islamic renewal will be full of piety and passion.

The moderate Islamist, like the radical Islamist, seeks to renew the Muslim World -- not help it relax. The Islamist is dedicated to the Islamic cause, and he is an active proselyte. Thus moderate Islamists like radical Islamists are dedicated to change within and expansion of the Muslim World. But unlike the radicals they reject the path of aggressive struggle, or Jihad. Moderate Islamists would renew their faith and their world instead through Islamic reinterpretation, or Ijtihad.

Moderate Islamists are thus self-proclaimed leaders -- clerics and scholars -- in the renewal of Islam. The moderate Islamist is highly educated, in contrast to many radical Islamists. The moderate Islamist is also receptive to Western ideas -- but selectively receptive.
OK, so a "moderate islamist" is, like some christian fundies, completely absorbed in his mythology and dedicated to his memeplex's growth and eventual dominance, but not necessarily by the violent upheaval favored by more wild-eyed radical jihadis.

Back to Google. The third hit is to the summary of a policy brief from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace which observes that
Political actors or observers who still insist that there is no such thing as a "moderate Islamist" miss the reality that activist organizations in Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, and Yemen have evolved after decades of failed opposition to repressive regimes. Instead of clinging to fantasies of theocratic states, many Islamist movements now see the wisdom of competing peacefully for shares of political power and working within existing institutions to promote gradual democratic openings.
OK, but the cynic in me wants to scream "One man, one vote, one time!" That may be xenophobia, I know, but still... Moving right along...

You know what? I've grown tired of this topic already. I don't have much patience for people of any stripe who wish to impose their mythology on other people. Whether they be "moderate" or radical, to hell with them all.

Is my inner scream of "one man, one vote, one time" a xenophobic reaction? For the time being I think it's more likely to actually represent the reality of islamism, moderate and not.

That's it for now. Maybe I'll revisit this topic, starting with Wikipedia's essay on "islamism".