Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

Back to main blog

RSS thingy

Jane's Blogosphere: blogtrack for Natalie Solent.


( 'Nother Solent is this blog's good twin. Same words, searchable archives, RSS feed. Provided by a benefactor, to whom thanks.
I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)

The Old Comrades:

November 2001 December 2001 January 2002 February 2002 March 2002 April 2002 May 2002 June 2002 July 2002 August 2002 September 2002 October 2002 November 2002 December 2002 January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 August 2007 October 2007 February 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 March 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 October 2009 January 2010 March 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 April 2011 June 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013 July 2013 August 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Tuesday, January 22, 2002
Exciting new 25th anniversary drama in production from BBC! Already in production, ready for screening on the anniversary this time next year is a vivid reconstruction, of the human cost of the La Mon House Hotel bombing. Twelve people were killed, several by being burnt alive, when the Provisional IRA blew up this hotel. This drama will tell their story...

Just kidding.

Philistines take over Reason magazine? I heard it from the Kolkata Libertarian. Reason magazine have published an article by Charles Freund who says that when the Taliban trashed the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan they did more to wrap the statues in greatness than their builders ever did. A very careful reading of the article reveals it as stopping short of cheering the Taliban on, more observing that "fame accrues to those who die untimely deaths" applies even to statues. So Suman Palit is a little harsh to Freund, but I did admire the rest of his comment on the way art made according to quite different precepts reminds us of lost civilizations.

Monday, January 21, 2002
Shock horror! Canadian blogger PICKS UP PHONE! It has to be admitted that some of us are so mentally stuck in the cyber-province that it comes as a shock when you find intrepid souls like Lawrence Garvin of What Fresh Hell ........?, willing to pick up phones, seek out officials by name and ask them for their side of the story. For a phone-phobic like me, that ranks only just short of ringing up Sauron and asking him, does he think he has an image problem?

You will remember the Ms Jan Ovens in the FORCES Canada controversy. She was the official who asked that the Canadian flag be removed from the pro-smoking website. Mr Garvin tracked her down and spoke to her, and reports that she picks up her own phone (which favourably impresses him and in turn me) and was happy to explain.

He says, "It turns out that the flag itself, while it is technically Trademarked, can be used by anyone so long as it is not used in a style that would tend to cause confusion between the user and an official government agency. That was the beef in this case. "

He concludes that the smokers oversold their story.

I don't. I feel sympathy for Ms Ovens because I, like her, have been a civil servant obliged to pick up the phone and explain a government policy to sometimes irate members of the public. But that same fellow feeling also supplies me with a certain amount of cynicism. I've been there. I've done my share of soothing the public, and when I read that the only beef was the possibility of confusion between FORCES and the Government of Canada, I'm afraid that the background music swells in my head, and the tune is a medley of lullabies.

There is one point which favours the government case. "FORCES" is an unfortunate acronym. The phrase "Canadian FORCES" genuinely might be taken to mean "Canadian Armed Forces." But if you look at the snapshot of the original web page you will see that, right next to the flag, the very first line of the explanation says that FORCES Canada is the Canadian chapter of an international smokers' rights organization. How much clearer can you get?

Did any member of the public actually complain that they had been misled by the presence of the flag into thinking FORCES was a government site?

Lawrence Garvin, in saying that the smokers oversold their case, points out that the repressive-sounding section 9 of the Trademark Act,
(1) No person shall adopt in connection with a business, as a trade-mark or otherwise, any mark consisting of, or so nearly resembling as to be likely to be mistaken for,
(n) any badge, crest, emblem or mark
(iii) adopted and used by any public authority, in Canada as an official mark for wares or services,
in respect of which the Registrar has, at the request of Her Majesty or of the university or public authority, as the case may be, given public notice of its adoption and use;

is cited in the e-mail exchange between the FORCES-Canada rep. and the govt. rep but the next and more liberal-sounding section is not. The liberal-sounding bit reads:

(2) Nothing in this section prevents the adoption, use or registration as a trade-mark or otherwise, in connection with a business, of any mark

(ii) an armorial bearing, flag, emblem or abbreviation mentioned in paragraph (1)(i.3), unless the use of the mark is likely to mislead the public as to a connection between the user and the organization.

I don't think that the omission by FORCES of this section damages their case. For one thing, I may be missing something that a lawyer would see, but the way I read it the two sections say nearly the same thing anyway, just in different order. For another, I say again what on earth was there likely to mislead the public? And if the only objection to the use of the flag is the possibility of confusion, can the government please advise its citizens in FORCES Canada of ways in which they can put the flag back on the website in a non-confusing manner?

And this part of Mr Garvin's report was the clincher in leading me to conclude that my sympathies are still with the smokers: "Ms. Ovens told me that this type of intervention had been made "two or three" times before but that there is no organized effort to chase down abuses of trademark on the flag."

If they only chase down two or three then this is a dead-letter law. When a dead-letter law is revived just to nab two or three violators then there must be a reason for those two or three. Much as I disapprove of trademarking a national flag, I can see why it would be a good thing to stop fraudsters pretending a product had some sort of Government approval or backing when it did not. FORCES never made or implied such a claim. No one is saying that they did. So why was the decision made to crack down on FORCES in particular? Were the other two also smokers' rights groups? It looks to me as if this is a case of selective enforcement of the law according to political criteria.

In case anyone's wondering, I am not a smoker and never have been. I never could manage to inhale - I had to fake it when having the obligatory surreptitious attempt at smoking on the way to school. Embarrassing at the time, but lucky for my health in retrospect. Nor have I any connection with FORCES. The first communication I ever had from them was when Mr Walt Hanley sent me an e-mail last night drawing my attention to this webpage.

If any of the relevant officials are reading this, the questions I think you should answer as part of your commitment to being seen to enforce the law equally to all, are in bold.. But don't read Walt Hanley's web page, because he specifically forbids you to in the disclaimer at the end. I'm telling you this because you might otherwise read all the way down the page and only realize when it was too late.

It's a pity. If people keep banging on about this then Ms Ovens will stop answering her own phone, and the relatively human face of the Canadian government will be dimished by a small amount. But I still think the removal of the flag is quietly oppressive and bang on we should.

"Fight Hijackers" says The Times. And those words are a story in themselves. Times change.

A good wigging. Blogs of War links to an article that makes fun of the venerable if sometimes lousy headgear that weighs down the brain of the British Judge, and hints they should be jettisoned. I believe that Australian judges did get rid of the wigs some years ago, but then went back to wearing them. The reason was that off-duty judges found themselves much more prone to be accosted by aggrieved ex-cons when shopping. The wig also puts a brake on judicial showing off. Would the judges castigated by AintNoBadDude be so prone to play to the gallery if they knew they looked like plonkers?

I like the wigs. As I-forget-who said, "are our lives so full of colour and drama that we must set out to make them greyer and more boring?" Finally the wigs and other anachronistic regalia might - and now the edge comes into my voice and it all gets a bit less jolly - they might remind some of our trendy modern judges that the law, including trial by jury, is their entailed inheritance not their bloody productivity bonus.

Must've been in a snappy mood this morning when I made a dig at Instapundit over the Cornell West saga. Actually - you know how you do these things - I was actually quite happy to keep hearing about the egregious West but had noticed the big peak of West stories a few days ago and somehow felt obliged to make a dig because I could. Y' know. Or maybe you are nicer than me and don't. Anyway in recompense I'll say that tucked into a post about K-mart was one of those little buried gems of Reynolds humour that you could so easily miss: "I haven't followed the issue that closely, if you can believe it, but..." Italics mine.

Smiles again. I'm glad Ken Layne seems to have made peace with Scourge of the Warblogs Tim Cavanaugh.

Rail safety is costing lives, says the Telegraph's Neil Collins. I respect him for this. Anyone can sound off about this issue on a blog, and I often do, at zero emotional cost to myself. Mr Collins comes right out and says it in reply to an "how would you feel if it was your son who died?" e-mail from the mother of a young man killed in the Paddington rail crash. He does not abuse a person who has suffered, but nor does he deviate from saying what must be said.

Got to grit my teeth and say it: well done David Blunkett, Lord Irvine and Lord Goldsmith if it was really you who "saved trial by jury", as the front page of the Times put it. Was there any principle there, or was it just reluctance to be unpopular, I wonder?

I'm trying to shut up about the Canadian flag for a bit, lest I be accused of "doing a Cornell West". Unfortunately Hawspipe posted a whole lot of detailed stuff which mentions me a lot. That is completely irrelevant, of course. Just look at the "life's little choices" picture below.

CIA, CIA, How many Al-Quaeda did you burn today? Tacky I know. But how odd it is that everybody's swapped round from talking about wicked CIA activity to wicked CIA inactivity. has a link to a review of three books about the CIA, which like all the best book reviews goes way beyond the actual books.

Sunday, January 20, 2002
Mail from David Janes. "Well, I just did some goggling and found this:
The Canadian Flag is protected by the Trade Marks Act, and protected
against "unauthorized use!"
"The next question is: did someone tell FORCES that this use was, unathorized, or did they do this a publicity stunt?"

Note from NS: I heard about this whole thing from the Libertarian Alliance Forum (it's on Yahoo, but you need to register, and unfortunately there is a stupid hacker loose in it at the moment.) That gave the impression that FORCES Canada were merely using the flag as a visual identifier to lead readers to their bit of the site. But I don't know. And while the question is interesting, it makes no difference to the principle.

UPDATE: Looks like Mr Janes' own blog, "Ranting and Roaring" has more info. I've just added a link to his name above. Gosh, he gets mail from Mark Steyn!

Rare agreement between Aint No Bad Dude and Samizdata on why you shouldn't have cameras in courts. Kudos, Dude, you've moved me from undecided to decided in one fell swoop. And the times when that has happened all stand out clearly in my mind.

Take on the flag issue: Quote from a letter to Instapundit:

"That's nuts," he murmured. "My dad was a POW in World War II. He and his dead buddies earned that fellow the right to carry his flag and speak nonsense."

From the context of the letter it's clear that the flag referred to is actually the swastika. Now, the evil associations of that symbol are about as far away as you can get from the friendly thoughts that I have when presented with the Canadian flag. But the same sentiment should apply in this case as well. Let's assume that you think that smoking is a thoroughly unpleasant habit and that the smokers' rights group are speaking nonsense. So what! A whole load of Canadians (a great many most likely smokers) died to preserve freedom of speech, and that includes freedom of pictures and symbols.

Many libertarians think that the nation is an accident of geography unworthy of their loyalty. I'm not one of them. I think that loving your own country is as natural and need be no more aggressive than loving your own family. But it has to be said that patriotism has been corrupted many times with worship of the current ruling man or group, which is indeed worship of an accident of the times, unworthy of anyone's loyalty. One of the triumphs of our civilization is the partial unbundling of these two ideas. We sneer at the Third World countries with their Presidents for Life and at the old communist countries where the Party and the People were, so we were told, forever indivisible. The reason I'm so het up about one little arrangement of pixels on a screen is that Canada, a civilized country, one of our own, has taken a step in that same terrible direction.

The Canadian flag does not belong to the Canadian government. Neither does Canada.

Saturday, January 19, 2002
The Canadian flag is a trademark of the Canadian government. If you visit FORCES Canada, the Canadian branch of a smoker's rights group, you will see the following astonishing message:
10 January 2002 - The Canadian flag has been removed from this website as use of it is a "trademark infringement". The flag is owned by the Canadian Government. Private citizens are not entitled to its use.

And what a corker of a post this is! That splendid chap Dr Frank... I'm sorry I can't keep this up. That sadist has insulted the very ether by passing on this yeuch-inducing spume of the military-industrial complex about spiders impregnating cows or cows impregnating hamsters or something.

And here are wise words from that most excellent and admirable Jeff Jarvis on Terrorist home videos.

(Note he's moved to

My super, multi-talented and in every way loveable dear chum Jay Zilber says, regarding the question of why we bloggers do the evildoer Tim Cavanaugh's work for him,

"My position ... is that when Mind Over What Matters fails to jump at the slightest provocation, we're letting the terrorists win."

An unexpected pluralism. Instapundit mentioned this NY Times article 2 Jews Outlast Taliban. Maybe Not Each Other. in order to take a poke about the final ending of the Brutal Afghan Winter.

My eye was caught by this:
"While Mr. Levi spoke, two women came to the door to hear holy readings. Mr. Levi is regarded locally as a man of religious learning and these visits seem to be his sole source of income, perhaps explaining his deprived circumstances."

I knew that there were Hindus, and had been Jews, in Afghanistan. What I didn't know is that at least some presumably Muslim women would come to a Jew for holy readings, whatever they are.

Friday, January 18, 2002
Er.. hi. Come here often? Know anyone? Oh, let me guess, you came along with that nice chap from "Suck." That's, um, awfully nice. I expect you want to know what "absolutely everybody linked to, and no wonder." This is it. No it's not. I can't believe this, my big day and the code won't go. Goodbye cruel world, I'm off to Tora Bora to die gloriously.

[Update. Didn't like Tora Bora. Can you believe it, some chap with a beard stole my clothes at gunpoint? I had to come back dressed in these grotty old robes, though I did manage to come away with the thief's rather nice watch which he dropped while putting my lipstick on. While I was away a lady called Myria fixed everything, and I decided to live after all, and devote myself to to the good work of capitalist self-promotion. This is the link to where Tim Blair electronically gatecrashed a talking heads show on Australian TV, and this was what I came back with.]

A glimpse into a different world... I sent my brother the Insanity Test posted below. He said it had reached his office from another source an hour ago, and sent me a link to "Convicts Reunited" in return. He added that he had not yet signed up.


There is a suspicious jokiness about the Privacy Policy quoted. And surely no one would really be so crass as to advertise "The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers" on the banner... would they?

You MUST try this. Go to Damianation and do the insanity test. Make sure the sound is on. Am I the only one who left it running to see how long it went on for?

Phonics is a Republican plot says a "profoundly stupid" article described thus by Joanne Jacobs.. It is, too. Stupid, I mean. The author, Stephen Metcalf, daringly reveals that the Bush family and some other family involved in selling tests had three generations born at about the same time. Well, there's a bit more substance than that, but it annoyed me the way he talked as if no one could ever dream that the Democrats and the teachers' unions might have a few interests in common.

For a UK angle see this Libertarian Alliance Pamphlet by Brian Micklethwait. No, you won't read it if I say "pamphlet", it sounds too respectable. Correct that to "angry rant from personal experience" by Brian Micklethwait.

Breen and Solent Mud Wrestling Shock. Not really, but saying, "you made some really very good points, Moira, particularly about taking charge of your own life" does not get those hits coming. (Hey, that take-charge line is yet another argument in support of the idea of "America! Change yourself first!" Am I going to have to become Noam Chomsky? Aaargh! No! One day I might elucidate the differences.)

I tried to work up an analogy of why the demand that you water the houseplants you never asked for was like having to pay for welfare programs but it sort of died in the earth.

Pulling the subject back to female pioneers, Richard Aubrey made a good point: "Things that would generate a hostile response when done by and to a man befuddle a man when done by a woman. This change of tempo in the social dance usually works to the advantage of the one who starts it, which is to say the woman. So she has no reason not to keep it up."

Warblogger, thou art mortal, says Jim Henley in qualified defence of Justin Raimondo. Also he directs me to Ginger Stampley's White Rose which discusses the housewife wars. Shiloh Bucher also weighs in with a duster. As well as the recent post, scroll down to where she commits herself to "better blogging through clean closets." I said I was going to look for "magic of self-transformation" posts, but that was not what I meant.

Well, it's new to me even if the post does date from November 1st last year. From Michael's weblog, reached via Hawspipe, a deeply responsible line of argument to take with pacifists.

Dunno why I keep going on approvingly about people punching people. Some deep psychological compensation for my ineradicable temperamental wimpiness is at work.

Red Ken: same old stuff. I have to say that I think Iain Murray is 170 degress wrong in his praise of Ken Livingstone for what he says in this Evening Standard article. Any "Massive investment" in communities will show as small a payoff, social or financial, as the last twenty trillion pounds did. Did I say "small"? Small would be lucky. It will probably be negative. As for making it harder to exclude black children who misbehave, think of the effect on black children who behave. Would you work well with a violent criminal sitting three feet from you every day?

I said 170 degrees rather than the full 180 to allow for the true words "How about some legal guns."

[Added later: if you joyfully boggled at the idea of Red Ken's conversion to victim re-armament, de-boggle down. Iain Murray said it, not Ken.]

Thursday, January 17, 2002
There's a story going round that conservative black activist Jesse Lee Peterson is going to sue Jesse Jackson for civil rights violations and assault and battery. Far be it for me to comment on what actually happened at the meeting where the fight broke out (although a happy coincidence of first names does allow me to safely say, hope you got at least one good punch in, Jesse!), but if the case makes the BBC acknowledge the existence of such astounding things as conservative black activists, I shall be happy.

While he does the cooking, my husband likes to report back to me about snippets heard on the radio. Did you know that half of all the strike-days in Britain take place in some part of the Post Office? Or that Soho parking meters earn more than the minimum wage?

Husbandwork. Both Random Jottings and Inappropriate Response are pursuing me with gunk-dipped Purdy brushes, starved houseplants and dingy ivory sofas.

Readers of a sensitive disposition may object to the following.

I torture paintbrushes. I dip them in incompatible types of paint. I lovingly mangle their "edge" or whatever you call it by winkling down into inaccessible corners. I let the paint dry on good and hard, preferably by leaving the brush uncleaned on a windowsill, but sometimes I balance it on an armchair for variety. Then I throw them into horrible dark corners of the garage for fifteen months. Then I use them for clearing out spiders. Then I say, "oh, did you mind very much, sweetie? Never mind. Buy a new one."

I'm only about two days behind on the letters now. I briefly tried an insane system where I would save letters to a special "unanswered" file then pass them through to a "dealt with" file. Sorry.

Several letters deal with Justin Raimondo's stats: Robert Martin says, "...the breakdown doesn't support that total [of 11 million]. Whatever the total, consider this. When your site is titled "," haven't you pretty much cornered the market on everyone plugging in just about any kind of search that includes the word "antiwar" anywhere in its formulation?"

On similar lines, Daniel Hartung writes, "those numbers are generated by (my count) nine (9) columnists, several of whom have been well-known for years (e.g. Alexander Cockburn), supported by as many researchers and even an editorial staff. It's hardly fair to put the hit count of a pro-am site against any single warblogger. If he wants to start comparisons with Marshall or Kaus, (or probably most fairly, that's another thing."

Looking at the daily totals Instapundit, which I'm sure I recall mentioning a high of 23,000 seems to be at least comparable to Mr Raimondo's average of 11,000. Though, to be reasonable about this, what has that to do with whether either of them are in the right?

"Reasonable." A thousand curses on the word. You heard the man. Had I been a bit less reasonable I'd be in Pravda by now.

Mama Spank. A reader called Dan writes regarding the trial of humanity in "Have Spacesuit Will Travel". Although he didn't directly say whether the galactic authorities had the right to try humanity, he does think that a possible defence of the galactic authorities' extermination of the horrible aliens "has to do with the difference between preventative law enforcement vs. correcting problems after they arise." In other words the humans were only potentially dangerous, whereas the Bugs had proved they were. As Dan wisely says, "instead of assuming that everyone is potential criminal, you let everyone do their own thing, then when it is obvious that the repeated admonition "Mama Spank" doesn't work, shoot them in the brain."

Female pioneers nice guys, says reader Tom Roberts. His mother's godmother, Elizabeth Kirk Rose, presently aged 102 was one of the first women MDs and combined motherhood, keeping house, coping with the practical difficulties of her husband's blindness and maintaining a medical practice. With all that, says Mr Roberts, "actually, she had to be both smarter and nicer than her compatriots (all male of course) as her career was not at all guaranteed by merely passing through the curriculum. Specifically, she could have been prevented from specializing after the MD by the faculty never recommending an internship or residency position. As things went, she had her specialty chosen for her, Pediatrics, which was seen as being compatible with her gender." My apologies, Dr Rose.

But even this gentle rebuke doesn't keep me quiet for long. I now re-hypothesize that there are two success strategies for pioneers: you can either charm or push your way to the top. Interestingly, Dr Rose's male contemporaries were utterly charmed, while her female contemporaries thought her "pushy" - although I would imagine that the behaviour so described would be considered completely normal now.

Various people I know have met Margaret Thatcher. They all report that she is just like your best friend's mother.

Pellerito is back - not in Libertyblog which is deep in slumber, but in Samizdata. He has a piece about bonds which makes the issue (haha!) as clear as it is ever likely to be to me. I think he may be cross with me for saying that he "gets his hands dirty" actually working with economics. I did not mean to be rude, indeed I have the greatest admiration for anyone who, for the good of all strives to understand these evil little beasts. An economic bit me in the leg in June 1978, so I know whereof I speak.

Don't read this article. It's in the Times, it's about how they grade examinations and it is worthy in its aims. But it is completely incomprehensible, which is not the fault of the hard-working writer but that of the five or ten incompatible agendas different bits of the state have tried to fulfil in creating umpteen different forms of assessment. You can just look at it if you like. Now take a pill. Why do they bother?

The Guardian praises Fascists, fascist railway systems, rail privatisation, splitting the Italian railway system into separate operating companies for track and trains.. .I always knew this would happen. I've slipped into an alternative world. All hail President Hague and The Sublime Porte, His Majesty King Al of the House of Gore. Seriously, this is not a bad article, in fact it has at least one quotable quip, namely that it was not true that under the fascists the trains ran on time - just nobody dared say when they were late. But how very odd to see it in the Guardian. What will their letters page say tomorrow?

Wednesday, January 16, 2002
Justin Raimondo Wrote Me a Fan Letter (Sort of). Hey, good thing I snuck up to check my e-mail during a brief interval while rest of family have gone off to all-night Tesco's in order to buy a ghastly product called "Spiro 2" with which to further bring home to me my inferiority at all forms of computer games. The wicked Justin Raimondo has e-mailed me. (His heading was "PLEASE don't sulk.") No time tonight for analysis, here's the letter:
Dear Natalie:

I was GOING to deal with your remarks on my "OTT" swipe at Andrew Sullivan, really I was: but by the time I got near the end of my 3500-word screed, I was so exhausted that I just didn't have the energy. That's one reason: the other is that you, apparently, are the Reasonable Faction of the Warblogger Conspiracy. Your nuanced remarks about how you aren't against putting 9/11 in the more general context of US foreign policy, contrasted with, say, Joanne Jacobs' militant "luv it or leave it"-ism, put you in a different category altogether. But I WAS going to put you in at the end, as a contrast to Sullivan's "India (and Israel) must be unequivocally supported" stance.

Okay, as to your question about the "hits/visits/unique visitors" etc. that gets: I've actually done a little research. Over the last 30 days, we've gotten a grand total of 11,147,014 "hits". This breaks down as follows:

Visits 524,516
[Average Per Day 17,483]
Unique Visitors 181,041
Visitors Who Visited Once 134,833
Visitors Who Visited More Than Once 46,208

What's interesting is the amount of time they spend on the site:

Average Visit Length 00:10:50
Median Visit Length 00:05:13

Of course, that's for the whole site. My column, last month, had 104,476 visits (we don't have a breakdown
on 'unique visitors' for individual items, but I would say it's roughly 100,000.)

On weekdays, we average 15,000 unique visitors per day: 10,000 on the weekdays. There's usually some major link somewhere feeding traffic, either from Yahoo, WorldNetDaily, or some other source. It'll be interesting to see how the mention in Instapundit turns into hits. started out just as many of the "warblogs" did: one guy ranting. Of course, it's ended up that way, too -- but with 100,000-plus readers per month.

So, as you can see, Instapundit's somewhat sniffish remark that we're just "trolling for hits" is a bit pretentious. If anyone benefits, traffic-wise, it's going to be Reynolds, not us.

I see you are a science fiction fan. Of course, you are aware of sf fandom: it's interesting how much the "blog" phenomenon parallels the "fanzines" of the sf world. When I was a teenager, fanzines were my primary literary outlet -- and, boy, did I have fun!

It was funny, really, how Reynolds simply assumed that is a typical, leftist anti-capitalist band of Birkenstock-wearing Chomskyites. It apparently never occurred to him that anyone to the right of Jonah Goldberg might be opposed to turning the American republic into a souped-up version of the Roman Empire."

Announcement. I would just like to say that I personally love Matt Welch's hat.

I wasn't mentioned in Justin Raimondo's denunciation of warbloggers, kindly e-mailed to me by Sulk. The ingratitude of the man. I tried to get him some hits the other day for going OTT in an anti-Sulli article. Couldn't that have been good for at least a dishonourable mention as a minor lackey of the forces of evil? Instapundit, Ken Layne, Bjorn Staerk and Sullivan (of course) do get the treatment, and Joanne Jacobs comes in for particular ire. Raimondo defiantly tells her he will not be silenced,("To that, I – and millions of others – will never consent, and if you don't like it… well, you can try to shut us up, but I wouldn't advise it."), as if she in particular were likely to pop over to his house with a bunch of ex-Pinochet secret police.

Last point: Mr Raimondo says that he personally gets a lot more hits than all the warbloggers put together, but does not cite any numbers. His qualification "(visits, visitors, readers, whatever)" suggests that he has done a calculation that gives one answer by one method of counting "one hit", and another by another. If you're reading, Mr Raimondo, tell us more.

Shock news update: world is round! Like ripples after the tidal wave, September the 11th has had several second-order small effects that have only become apparent now that months have gone by and people, except for the bereaved, can find it in themselves to look around. One of them is that the illogical American habit of putting the month first when writing dates as numbers may come to dominate. This, of course, stems from the striking coincidence that 9-11 is the US emergency number. Another is that we now all know the US emergency number. (Possibly soon to be ours as well; the authorities are weighing the greater ease of remembering 999 against the greater probability of it being rung in error by small children or even by a mobile phone hitting the side of your bag as you walk.) Yet another effect is that I finally started to believe all this stuff about time zones. 9am in New York is 2pm here. I'll never forget it. Previously if I had to call the US I had to do things like hold a satsuma up to a lamp and rotate it, uttering incantations like "the sun rises in the East, so we get it first," or remember a completely obscure snatch of dialogue from Chico and the Man.

I said I'd never forget it, but for the first time in months, I did forget today. There's a person in America still sleeping the sleep of the just to whom I bunged an e-mail hours ago in the confident but foolish expectation of a quick reply. However, in general, all this blogging really has taught me that the world really is round and in Australia it really is already tomorrow.

One from the obits. I confess I had not heard of this Lord Young of Dartington (born Michael Young) until reading his obituary, but he certainly seems to have been interesting and original. His last daughter was born when he was eighty years old, for one thing. Something of a mixed legacy on the political front: I do not look on the ground-breaking Labour manifesto of 1945 as a great boon to mankind, and I can get heartily sick of the Consumers' Association and its mag Which? sometimes. (Message to the ever-vigilant Which? scanner bots descending from all directions: No, I do not want to take part in a free prize draw.) But if he was one of the first to look at "the way slum clearance schemes disrupted inner city communities" then he deserves a kind word. And one can scarcely object to a college for funeral directors.

The Open University, which he helped pioneer, is another curate's egg. It is an admirable way to finally get the degree in Mathematics or Romance Languages you always wanted, had life not got in the way first time round. But the OU Marxist strangehold on sociology helped get "Sociology Degree: Please Help Yourself" written over toilet paper dispensers all over Britain.

Money will corrupt blogging, says Anita Jensen.

I don't buy it. If you end up with an audience of 150 persons daily (average) at a cent-per-view basis, you're making $1.5 . I can't imagine who would do this for the money. If you're attracting 1500 people, you're still making a whole lot less than the minimum wage.

I think the model for payment ought to be some kind of deposit-in-account system where I (the reader) put $50 or $100 into the box and then each view is automatically subtracted. When the money's gone, the outfit that deals with the money advises me and I can post more or not, as life dictates.

The whole point of this is that it takes one decision every several months to ask yourself if what you're getting is worth to you what you're paying. Anyone who didn't think it was could easily reverse course and redo his budget. This is not rocket science and I am also assuming most of the folks who read blogsites are not idiots.

Efforts to bring such a system down to 5-year-old levels are just silly. People are pefectly capable of figuring out if they want to see a site daily and thus run the horrendous risk (!) of paying 1 cent for the privilege or if they want to save it all up and read once a week. I am not, myself, quite so anal, but I suppose there are folks out there who are not me.

As it stands, I have in the past three months spent money on blogs of assorted kinds that I liked but my main problem with doing it this ad hoc way is that I have no way of recalling (on an instant basis) who I paid for what and how much. I absolutely do not have the time or energy to delve back into ancient credit card receipts to try to decipher this information and I can't actually emphathise with the person who would try. Although, of course, all power to them.

I keep touting this because I don't think I'm unusual. I expect there are many others who have dropped dollars on their favorite sites and would like to do on a sustainable basis but can't stand the boredom of keeping notes. One of my understandings about the entire Internet hoo-hah was that it would help me out from keeping notes, fr example. I have an account with Amazon that appears to be bottomless and (so long as I keep paying my bills) that's exactly what I like about the Internet. I can go to Amazon any time, buy what I want and know I won't face a hassle about doing so.

That's what I think bloggers ought to aim for: a painfree auto-deduct system that works without customer input.

Anyway, I appreciate your taking note of my viewpoint, even if I am not gathering universal agreement.

Effect of nicotine varies according to race. The equivalent story about alcohol would be more of a hot potato, but the BBC seems to regard this story about a study comparing likelihood of lung cancer across the races as uncontroversial. Good that they do. Race is actually an intrinsically interesting subject if you can keep the lid on your emotions; recent insights into British history gained from genetic studies are fascinating.

Variety packs: Before all this feminism causes me to totally lose my Paglia-style credibility, can I direct you to Random Jottings where there is some very funny stuff about how these days even the Nazis will have racially mixed propaganda posters.

The objection to the tampering with the NY firemen statue is that it was meant to show a true moment of history. You want a statue with a lot of idealized females personifying diverse geographical backgrounds and ways of life? Come over to London and airlift out the Albert Memorial. You can have a big stone cow representing "agriculture" thrown in for good measure.

Drat. I just missed hit no.16,000.

Tuesday, January 15, 2002
Does your wife work? No, she's old and knackered and I'm trading her in. Dare I break a lance for the feminist cause in the face of Moira Breen's stormy riposte, backed up by the big guns of Instapundit.

Yeah. The running dogs of the masculinist oppressors will never intimidate me! My dear spouse and helpmeet, despite the time when he set up a time-delay camera to catch a kelpie in the act of changing the sheets, would be the first to defend me against any charge that I am the sort of woman "who would never ever personally confront an actual individual male over loutish behavior." Our relationship is more the sort where he starts citing the statute of limitations. (Crimes such as "Not Knowing Where the Bin-liners Were Kept After Two Years of Marriage" are considered "spent" after five years. Criticising My Driving In Front of Witnesses, like murder, has no statute of limitations at all.)

But it would be unladylike to dwell on my own particular case, particularly as I have no intention of letting my hus. tell his side of the story on my flippin' blog. Nor will I waste too much time specifically defending Ms Maushart, whose book I may never have the pleasure of reading, but I say again, she has a point. I won't jaw about the exact percentages but I thought she was spot-on with the general message of this:
"The moment a man gets married," Maushart says, "his domestic workload almost disappears. He immediately gets about 70 per cent less cleaning, 50 per cent less cooking and 90 per cent less laundry. There are nowhere near these benefits for a woman when she gets married. And these days you're at pains to deny that you're doing it, because apart from being exhausted by it, you're ashamed of yourself."
Then Moira comes back with, "Not a very nice thing to do someone you allegedly care for, is it?" And that is also spot on. But the two statements are not incompatible, either as to intrinsic truth or likelihood of together accurately describing a married couple. The mark of a system, or climate of opinion, that needs reform is that it makes people who may well be nice - at least as nice as most people - do un-nice things.

Let's take the approximate truth of those statistics first. If you get a bunch of women together they moan about these same things. They have the status of proverbs, so common are they. Study after study says that in households where both have jobs, the woman does, in fact, do more than her share. She can't bear to have dirty socks on the floor; he can. Moira herself good-humouredly admits that tidiness "is a chick thing."

Among modern liberated folk it is unlikely to be the case that the man refuses or shirks any specific job. He'll do anything he's asked to. But he won't initiate, he won't remember unprompted, and he won't notice what needs doing. He'll put on a wash, if asked. But come eleven o'clock at night, it will still be in the machine. She will ask him to take it out and hang it up. He will. Then, says he, "is there anything else you want me to do?" She can't think right now. They are both tired. "Right then," he says, "I'm off to bed. Goodnight darling." And she won't follow him just yet, because first she has to feed the cat. And put away the milk that was left out after the last cup of coffee. And check the doors are locked (she gets worried about that; he doesn't.) And set the heating to "economy". And put out the letter that must be posted where it'll be seen. And put the grill to soak. And get out tomorrow's meat to be defrosted. Then she goes upstairs to the loo and sees that somebody - no, I'm not saying it's necessarily the husband - has, shall we say, had a sprinkle when they tinkle. So she cleans it up. And she notices that the shirt he so complaisantly hung from the shower rail is all wonky so that, if left, it would end up looking like one of Quasimodo's. So she straightens it. And then she goes to bed, and he says, "what kept you?"

I don't sound very gracious, going on like this. But that itself is another relevant point. One of the numerous intellectual debts I owe to my former political incarnation as a left-winger is this observation: it is always easier for the winners to act nice. My lord can dispense mercy to the peasants with a merry smile; I bet the peasants were a surly, resentful bunch. When women first broke into such professions as medicine and law, can you imagine what a bunch of obsessive harpies those first pioneers had to be? Feminism is, by hypothesis, a matter of looking at institutions and customs that have proceeded without opposition for centuries and pronouncing them wrong. It is seeing and denouncing a problem where no-one, even the victims, saw it before. It is hard to do this and stay welcome at parties.

I grant you, many modern feminists (and anti-racists) are parasites riding like fleas on the reputation established by their grandmothers. They have long since won the battles of simple justice that the earlier generation fought, and now coast along regurgitating their once-righteous anger and turning the hose onto the most absurd and innocent targets. But legitimate targets do still exist, even if, at least in the West, the abuses to be denounced are minor in comparison to those in other places and other times.

For example Maushart is also right to say this, "There is the more subtle, emotional care-taking work. Things like organising and masterminding the whole family enterprise..." I don't much relate to Maushart's particular example of the woman being expected to worry about how family relationships pan out. But "organising the whole family enterprise," yeah, been there. I challenge you, Moira, or any married woman to put your hand on your heart and swear to me that your husband has never said, "have we got my sister's birthday present yet?" or words to that pattern.

A last and less contentious thought. I too aspire to "the golden order and serenity of a household out of a de Hooch painting." Beautifully put. When disorder does enroach, I am particularly likely to retreat to the computer. Is that because it is a highly ordered micro-environment, I wonder?

Have Computer, Will Blog. Andrew Millard kindly says, "I love your site, and appreciate anyone who mentions Heinlein stories in context of current events (even if she can't recall titles like "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel.)" He reminds me that "the main character (along with the representative specimen from an earlier era of Earth history - a Roman Centurion in this case) does take exception to being judged by these obnoxious aliens, and rather vociferously denounces their right to judge us. Indeed, the Centurion chucks his spear at them and dares them to fight fair. A great story and fully in keeping with Heinlein's typically positive view of humanity, warts and all."

Please settle at your soonest convenience. Alan M. Caroll suggests a shift to e-bills on the micropayments page. Incidentally, you have no idea what agonies went into that bit of code "". In about 1980 a computer club was started at my secondary school. Anyone would've thought I was a prime candidate: SF fan, wanted to be astronaut, good at maths. Nah, I thought, nothing for me in that.

Go figure, Byers. Would-be investors in the railways say, "Bite me once, shame on you. Bite me twice, shame on me." A proverb I first heard articulated by Pavel Chekov on Star Trek.

Talking of education by early evening TV, Moira Breen, quoting Jonathan Gewirtz (who writes good stuff to me too) with approval, denounces "The Day The Earth Stood Still" as "noxious totalitarian propaganda."

It's interesting that what I shall call the "Tidy Up Your Room Or Else" or "Virtuous Einsatzgruppen" model turns up so often in juvenile fiction. For instance there is a whole series of popular kids' books by Bruce Colville following on from "My Teacher Is An Alien", all of which use the common SF trope of a Trial of Humanity with blowing up Earth as one possible verdict. I eventually gave up on the series because, despite being engagingly portrayed as sassy and independent-minded, none of the human kids ever seemed to work up the nerve to stop trying to placate the galactic authorities and instead say, "at least on our world the Nazis lost!"

There's also that Heinlein juvenile which uses the same trial idea...

[Hi. This is the Demon of Almost Completely Irrelevant Asides here. My job is to lurk in Natalie's synapses ready to jump out when the opportunity arises and tempt her to waste even more time on the internet. Just gotta tell you about a really great temptation I put over her just now. She was a bit embarrassed at admitting that, once again, she didn't know which Heinlein story she meant. So she went off to search (Heinlein+"roman soldier"+SS) instead of asking the readers like my good buddy Angel Sticktothepoint wanted her to. Ho ho, I had her in my coils then. Sure as hell (geddit?) she found this great list of SF stories to do with mathematics, so she can kiss goodbye to any hope of achieving anything today. And now I can infect all you guys too. I love my job. Bye now.]
...although, with typical Heinlein complexity he one minute hints that he thinks the political setup that allows this is not all it should be, and next minute gets us cheering when he exterminates a whole race of unredeemable baddies.

Boy. Is that the time? Having just about managed to fight off the demon, I've got to log off now. Even arguing with Mol-ra about feminism and the Virtuous Dude about capitalism must wait for another day.

Such is the psychic grip that this blogging stuff has on me that I actually woke up this morning thinking, I said "moot" when I meant "meet" in the previous post. Or perhaps I meant "muut" a Turko-uguric word meaning "that'll impress 'em", or even "maat", which as you know is Hausa for "Long time no see, Mr Welch!"

Monday, January 14, 2002
Propped up in the saddle like El Cid, the recovering Iain Murray rides into battle, with a link to his own article in American Enterprise Magazine on the gap between European elites and their people regarding the death penalty. I found it interesting to see that the AEM thought it moot to put in a little note at the bottom saying that Mr Murray is an opponent of the Big Chop. His article sticks firmly to the question of the democratic deficit.

Ego-deflator Virginia Postrel says that blogs aren't such a big deal and micro-payments won't happen. Now, now, dry your eyes. V.P. links to an article by Arnold Kling suggesting that we are using an outdated paper-era magazine model. Payment for content? Pooh, old hat, like paying for air. You pay for the thing or person that screens the air for anthrax. Except I mean, like, it's good anthrax. Um, that wasn't one of my more premium-level metaphors, was it? (Found for me by Joanne Jacobs)

How many people will this kill, I wonder? Sometimes it's the little stories, the unsensational ones tucked away in the business section, that are the most ominous. An EU directive imposes insanely strict product liability. It is used to sue the providers of the free (FREE for heaven's sake) blood transfusion service. So maybe, think would-be investors, researchers, entrepreneurs, jobseekers, just maybe we won't go into the lifesaving business after all.

Like It Or Lump It. I always used to despise the way newspapers headed their stories with idiotic puns. Now look at me. Yeah, blogging showed me it isn't that hard to write op-eds, but sometimes it also gives me a dawning sympathy with the awful things sub-editors do when hard pressed for a headline. To the saucy story in the Guardian. Yeah, it's that one about the EU reclassifying lumpy sauces as vegetables. Andrew Osborn, wishing to defend the EU, seems to think that it is some kind of a scoop to reveal that those wicked sauce-manufacturers (a) are multi-nationals, (b) used a lobbying firm to make their case and (c) blamed Europe.

To support (a) and (b) I will cite this:
"But the perfectly legal yet stealthy way in which multinationals fight their lobbying battles through the press leaves a rather sour taste, even if corporate interests do happen to coincide with media ones."

(a) "Multinationals" first. I thought the wonderful, liberating thing about European Union was that we would all be free to trade across borders. Gone would be the days of Little Englanders and Petits Francais; now companies would recruit and trade across this exciting jumbo-size pool of however-many customers. A company so constituted is called a multinational. In fact he has no evidence that the single-country sauce makers love and yearn for the sieve of the bureaucrat, so the entire multinational angle is just neurone-twitching for Guardian readers.

(b) They used a lobbying firm. So Herr Lumpen-Saucenmeister, who knows all there is to know about the secret recipe for 'Nice 'n' Chunky Five Spice Surprise' but nothing at all about whom to contact in the press hired someone who did. How awful, nein. And if Herr S. did feel the need to keep his name secret from the EU, could that be because the EU makes life nasty for people who criticise them - a government of men and not of laws, in other words?

(c) They sneakily complained to Europe, as opposed to, say, Ardnamuirchan Parish Council or the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board. Osborn writes:
"The Eurosceptic angle - the ludicrous eurocrat take - was an obvious winner and the story was cleverly sold to journalists on that basis."
That's because Europe was the problem. As ever.

Finally EU officials think it very hard that they are singled out. "Every country in the world has to make these kind of decisions," they say. Why? Who makes you? Is there a worldwide Jacquerie of fanatical supporters of bureaucratic import duties prone to placing the decapitated heads of Dolmio executives onto pikes and waving them outside Brussels windows?

Schools spite. Read Joanne Jacobs on how the schools bureacracy are trying to strangle charter schools at birth in Hawaii. (With typical pettiness they won't let charter schools met ordinary state schools in sporting competitions.) The Cliff Slater column she links to starts off soooo calm and measured, but just stick with it to the end.

We had a whole dollop of this sauce in Britain when Grant Maintained schools were first started, but I'm happy to say that it was splatted firmly back up the collective noses of the Local Education Authorites. It did the LEAs no end of good to find out that quite a lot of their clients were happy to do without them. Now the situation has moved on (translation: I've lost track of it), and the fact that some of my kids' school tops still bear the old logo referring to the school as "G.M." marks them out as the deprived children of...

...the middle classes, actually. Midnight has struck, so I'm allowed to change the subject mid post. Isn't it strange how thrift has moved upmarket? You look at the pushchairs outside the school gates, and if it's a turbo-charged, titanium-coated, atomically-stabilized Maclaren costing fifty per cent more than one of the racing cars that the company sells as a consolation to wretched peons who can't afford their pushchairs, then you can be sure the owner is on income support. Our family pushchair has now moved on to an exciting new career as a load-bearing joist, but it came to us from an obscure charity shop representing local depressed people. Be that as it may, they seemed deliriously (if I may use the word) happy to get rid of it. Oxfam would never have allowed it through the front door.

Sunday, January 13, 2002
Al-Quaeda. Anthrax. Alimony. Which is the one that really terrifies you guys? I've never read the book reviewed in this Independent article, Susan Maushart's "Wifework", but I have no difficulty believing her when she says that more women than men seek divorce, that divorced women are less likely than men to wish to remarry, and that the reason for this is the division of housework.

My husband's skill at cooking is nearly enough to have me forgive him for years of thinking that pixies washed his socks and elves cleaned the toilet. Nearly.

Love's Young* Dream. is back. And he speaks of a higher love even than that of Ann Coulter, or me. He snuck back on the 11th despite telling us all to wait until the 13th.

And other dreamers dream on... Libertyblog is still sleeping though, as are England's Sword and Mind Over. Samizdata has a takedown (with a micro-quote from me) of a horrid Dea Birkett article about education in the Guardian, plus some serious philosophy for your Sabbath reading. AintNoBadDude has a link to a stern warning from a great-looking site called Photodude which is wham-bam relevant to my stuff on pay-per-view. Jottings is a gentil parfit knight when it comes to female fireys and Damian Penny is going to be King of Canada. 'Scool. Blogs of War omits the proverbial best thing about McDonalds: there are always some brats there worse behaved than your own.

There is no room for Spanish Euros in the colourful universe of Inappropriate Response. Tim Blair can keep this job; it's flipping exhausting. And Instapundit? He's on a golfing holiday with Jimmy Hoffa. Would I lie to you?

*Actually I think I read somewhere that he's a year older than me. Love's Young Dream. I stand by it.

Magic in College (and I don't mean Hogwarts). This trenchantly expressed e-mail came from Andrea Harris:
"As concerns the observation on the "magic" elements in the urgings to buy safety with self-transformation, I think I can help you out somewhat with a personal observation.

"I'm currently working on a Humanities major. Yes I know, I must be a masochist. Anyway, last semester I took a course with the glorious name of "Contemporary Multicultural Studies." Mostly we looked at slides of
folk art and engaged in discussions of how our society's racism and sexism and everything-ism sucks.
(My classmates came from every corner of the globe and all lifestyles were represented among us; the Orlando, Florida area has an extensively multicultural community, including servant-beating Saudi Princesses.)

"One day the professor was talking about her experiences living in government housing and how difficult it was to wend the bureaucratic maze to get anything done. I spoke up and said something about how this is an example of why government-run housing is so crappy, as well as are many other things taken care of by a bunch of federal initials; most people don't have the time to waste filling out ten thousand forms in triplicate and so forth to fix any problem. She replied that the solution is to make the government institutions "more caring."

"By what magic are we to accomplish this?

"Why, by the magic of "changing people and making them better." Then everything else will fall into place.

"That is why all these peace creeps and leftists and West/capitalism/etc. haters haven't come up with any solutions to balance out their diatribes. To their point of view, no action can be taken until humanity itself changes. For instance, we can't solve the problem of poverty until we change the way people think of personal property: as long as people think that they can "own" things, there will always be rich people. Notice I said "rich people" -- "activists" don't really mind there being poor people. It's the existence of the rich that cheeses them off. Poor people are always grateful; but just try to feed a rich person from the back of an Oxfam truck and see what thanks you get."

Many thoughts on micropayments. Click here for a selection of letters on the subject of micropayments and pay-per-view.

There are wise - if frequently contradictory - words from Joanne Jacobs, Anita Jensen, Alan Caroll, Jonathan Gerwitz, Clay Shirkey, Myria, Geoffrey Barto, Jeff Jarvis and Eve Kayden.

Saturday, January 12, 2002
The Real Michael Howard is not the much-unmissed Tory former Home Secretary or the distinguished-but-still-wrong-about-the-war-in Afghanistan military historian, but this excellent person:
"After being charged 20 pounds for a 10 pounds overdraft, 30 year old Michael Howard of Leeds changed his name by deed poll to 'Yorkshire Bank Plc are Fascist Bastards.' The Bank has now asked him to close his account, and Mr Bastards has asked them to repay the 69p balance by cheque, made out in his new name.
(I didn't spot this myself but lifted it from a post on the Libertarian Alliance Forum.)

Quick update: "is", of course, should have read "was". But I don't suppose I shall often need to distinguish this Mr Y. B. P. a F. Bastards from any other Mr Bastards.

Friday, January 11, 2002
No apologies for posting a story that first came out on New Year's Eve. I only just found it, but the last few lines of this article (about a yellow pushchair of all things) from the NY Times just stopped. Me. In. My. Tracks.

I found it in a blog new to me, Jeff Jarvis's World War III. It's a heavyweight, passionate blog, not least because Mr Jarvis was present at the WTC when it was attacked. (His own story is on a sidebar.) But it does have its lighter side - and I hope that this side was predominant when Mr Jarvis makes his beef against me, saying that it was he not Ken Layne who invented the "fly naked" initiative. Um, sorry, I must have misread it.

There's also some worrying prognostications about the possible end of free Blogger. Looks like I'm not the only person who has yearned for cash for clicks. In the next few days I'll put a selection of the responses I got on this controversial issue together on a separate page and link to it on the sidebar.

I'm going to be light on posts over the weekend because I've got a zillion real-life things to do. I just hope this one works; I keep getting error messages. Here goes...

The ghost at the feastwas Tim Blair, electronically gatecrashing a talking heads show on Australian TV. Absolutely everyone has linked to this, and no wonder. I thought, who's that mad old witch cackling? - and it was me.

Tim will be glad to know that he has attentive readers If you compare the transcript he provides (Incidentally, what a marvellously useful service. Does anyone provide transcripts of BBC talking headfests?) with his posts you'll see that... Tell you what, why don't I hop into my TARDIS and invite myself along as well?

MAXINE McKEW: Tom, let me say, perhaps start with you. If you could characterise 2001, as some have, as the year of living cautiously, what would you say about 2002? What are your hopes?

THOMAS KENEALLY: Well, I hope it's the year of living incautiously. We haven't resolved the question of whether we're a brave or a timid nation yet.

We are simultaneously bronze Anzacs and tenuous maidens likely to be raped by foreign strangeness and we have to decide which we really are.

TIM BLAIR: Can't we be sort of half one thing and half another? You know, like your beard?

NATALIE SOLENT: Wait up, Tim, he hasn't said the bit about "the appropriate sense of self-silliness" yet.

TIM BLAIR: Hi Natalie. Natalie! What the hell are you doing here?

THOMAS KENEALLY: You wanna step outside and say that about my beard?

NATALIE SOLENT: I've edited myself in. If you can do it, so can I. (Accusing tone) And By The Way, you edited out some of the best bits.

MAXINE McKEW: Matthew? How do you see it? Do you think that Tom's right, that we're a mix of the timid and the brave?

THOMAS KENEALLY: I'm not bloody afraid of you, you beardless -

TIM BLAIR: Now, now, not both of you at once. (Soothingly) Honestly, Natalie, I was just leaving some jokes for you. As the Good Book says, "And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger." Leviticus 23.

NATALIE SOLENT: Oh, all right then.

MATTHEW REILLY: (shouting everyone else down) I think 2001 can be characterised as a year of fear and, if I'd like to see anything change in 2002, it is, I'd like the dialogue in Australia to change from our first response to some new challenge, not being fear, but being understanding, trying to know something first before you're afraid of it.

(long pause)

TIM BLAIR: That made no sense at all. Are you feeling all right?

THOMAS KENEALLY: You won't be feeling all right when I've finished with you. I was really proud of that line "the appropriate sense of self-silliness" and you just threw it away. Edited out. Gone.

MATTHEW REILLY: I think we leap and under the current sort of political leadership, I think our first instinct - or from 2001 - is leaning towards fear.

NATALIE SOLENT: If you leap leaning you fall over. I'm beginning to see Tim's point. Shut your eyes, snip coming.


JOHN BIRMINGHAM: Having grown up in Queensland like you, I mean, I know what a repressive right-wing government's like and I know that it's very, very different from what we're living under now.

In Queensland, when I grew up, if you stepped out of line or stood against the system, it would reach out and touch you in the night and it would take you away and you know, you might have to flee the state.

TIM BLAIR: Yes … the Killing Fields of Paddy Gully. I know of them well.


NATALIE SOLENT: Look I'm absolutely with you on that point, Tim, the guy is being a self-dramatizing prat when he talks about Queensland as if it were Stalin's Russia, but don't you think you should get your hand off his mouth and let him say the bit about the cops planting evidence in drugs busts? I mean, might he not have a valid...

TIM BLAIR: Who invited you?
NATALIE SOLENT: Who invited you?
OMNES: Who invited either of you?

THOMAS KENEALLY: There are some things that happened in the last year which, as a child of a digger, I find a bit sinister - the SAS being sent out to the Tampa, the Armed Forces, which are a noble and very highly trained force in Australia being used for reasons that aren't really military …

NATALIE SOLENT: Go on, go on. Don't let that Tim guy put you off. Now comes the bit about the army being used for "eugenic reasons, race control reasons."

THOMAS KENEALLY: You've made me lose my thread. All the fun's gone out of it now. Where was I?

NATALIE SOLENT: (Hurriedly snipping) Here.

MATTHEW REILLY: Are we not noble or are we just apathetic? Are our politicians preying on the Australians' natural apathy towards political matters?

NATALIE SOLENT: Don't you want to object to being called the "chattering classes" then? Look, it's here in the script. Then John Birmingham gets to say it's a phrase only used by half a dozen right wing columnists earning $1,200 an hour. Hmm, $1,200... Maybe I should move to Australia.

OMNES: We don't let riff-raff in.

MAXINE McKEW: Robert, if this is right - if we're a satrapy of the US. And, Tom, if you're right, that we've taken the first step along the path to, perhaps, a more oppressive regime. Like, if you're right, let me say to you all, that this is great raw material for writers. You are talking the stuff of tremendous conflict and tension. And I'm - you know, I risk buying into a tremendous argument here, I'm aware, but why is it so few of our writers are addressing these big contemporary issues?

TIM BLAIR: Like, you're kinda old lookin' to be talking like, you know, a teenager.

NATALIE SOLENT: And kind of silly to pretend you're taking such a big risk in suggesting to writers that writers were not addressing the big issues. As if you didn't know that anyone allowed round that table has been carefully vetted. No one nasty was ever going to let near, love.

THOMAS KENEALLY: You're absolutely right. We - there was no novel by Australian writers on the Timor situation.

MAXINE McKEW: John wrote a history.

TIM BLAIR: Did anyone buy it?

NATALIE SOLENT: Timmy my boy, you missed Thomas Keneally's hurried correction: "There was no notable work, apart from John's." I thought it was quite funny, you know, him suddenly realising he'd dropped this great big brick.

MAXINE McKEW: (hurriedly) Let me then move this conversation on to this.

NATALIE SOLENT: And let me move this conversation on to this!


MAXINE McKEW: Honourably?

LINDA JAIVIN: I like that. Courageously, compassionately.

TIM BLAIR: Retardedly?

ROBERT DESSAIX: It's interesting that it's people like us who are talking about these ideas normally. No-one would look to people like us in this country to talk about these things.

NATALIE SOLENT: Now you say, "They would in America."

ROBERT DESSAIX: Will you stop doing that?

MAXINE McKEW: That's my hope for 2002, that we do a bit more of this.

NATALIE SOLENT: C'mon Robert, now you say, "And in France" Then you say, Linda, "They'd definitely ask people like us and we'd talk for four hours on the television, not just half an hour." Then I can say, that's all you people want isn't it? Jobs for the boys. Have you ever watched French TV? Has anyone? The answer is no, because, you're right, it is full of left wing intellectuals talking for four hours at a stretch. Thomas Keneally then almost redeems himself, if you're interested, by showing a bit of irony and saying, "The demise of the chattering classes." But that Marion woman doesn't like that, oh no, she says "You see, you're being pejorative but I think chattering, talking--"

TIM BLAIR: (throws self under passing truck)

NATALIE SOLENT: As I was going to say before that truck went by, then the transcript mysteriously stops. Y'know, I hate to be rude about your country, Tim, but don't you clean floors in Australia? There's all red muck on this one. Tim? Was it something I said?

(Just a note for any hermits reading. This is a spoof of a spoof. You have to see Tim Blair's instaclassic original spoof to get it.)

Thursday, January 10, 2002
Gotta go but first a Quick one on Libertarians being just as silly as some others.

Micropayments I had a lot of response on this one. Bear with me while I digest it all.

War, Blogs of. The Blogs of War in a post dated 4 Jan (you have to scroll a fair way down) had this intriguing thought:
As a solution to our practical problems [adjusting policies to remove root causes of hatred], this line of thinking is dubious in the extreme. In fact, it has always struck me as a kind of "primitive magic," wherein operations and rituals we perform upon ourselves are supposed to have a transformative and determinative effect on the world outside.
I found this particularly interesting because I could criticize it quite strongly - there is nothing impossible about operations we perform on ourselves changing the world outside; it's only a posh way of saying that if you clean up your own act you will have more influence with others. Nor is "get rid of root causes" talk ridiculous of itself. (Even if I do scream, "Who attacked who here?" every time it is said. But that's just me.) Yet I, like Dr Frank, do indeed sniff a strong scent of magic in a lot of this talk of the West buying safety by self-transformation. As soon as I read the m-word, it was like finally being able to put a name to a flavour in a stew or remembering a word that had been on the tip of your tongue. I'll back this up with quotes when I find some.

War. Justin Raimondo, who's The Other Sort of Libertarian, going OTT in an article criticising Andrew Sullivan for support of India. Sample extract:
Violence and rhetorical hate directed at Christians, and against Catholics in particular, is on the upswing in India: oddly, this doesn't seem to bother Sullivan [a Catholic], who only needs to know that India, like Israel, "must be unequivocally supported."
Well, I'm also a Catholic and it bothers me. It didn't stop me being horrified by the attack on India's Parliament. India has too many violent Hindu-fascist mobs, but there's a big difference between a mob and a government mob. Raimondo ought to present some evidence that Sullivan is actively ignoring or denying violence against Christians in India rather than simply not having it as his subject in that particular column.

Lileks last laugh. I just loved the last paragraph of this.
"The cruel thing to do, of course, is to walk past the guy and say “man, are you high,” which would just paralyze him. Or perhaps say “rooty-toot parakeet clock face McMango” in a dead expressionless voice. Or bark, once."
I made similar joke once, but I don't know if it ever got a laugh. I had a version of my CV which I may or may not have sent out to a potential employer (I honestly got mixed up between the sensible and not-sensible versions. In either case they didn't call back.) which included, without comment or explanation, the line "Health: good, except for being a werewolf."

Payment without Tears. Anita Jensen has clearly been thinking along the same lines as me and Joanne Jacobs, but has taken it somewhat further. She writes,
"I have long thought that one part of the answer to content was payment in such a way as to be unobstrusive (who wants to remember what the stupid registration thing requires on each site? ) and almost automatic (e.g. you give permission once a year to Amazon or Paypal or whoever) so that you could surf happily without having either (a) the guilt that you're absorbing someone's labor without recompense or (b) the fear that some horrible Register For This Page popup will disrupt your surfing and ask you to remember hopeless details about what you thought your password to the Times of London was.

"This would be in the familiar format of a subscription but at a rate that makes sense on a daily basis. For instance, if I view a page each day, I have no problem paying a cent a time. Over the course of a year, that would amount to $36.50 or so, about what you would expect to pay for a respectable magazine, especially one that did not assault you with advertisements. Speaking for myself, I spend much much more than $36 a year on magazines and I have absolutely no opposition to doing do electronically if it can be made reasonably commensurate with my habits and reasonably hassle-free"

Of course, we are dealing with two separate issues: the first is subscription versus donation, and the second is the search for means of smooth, continuous, easy payment rather than payment in chunks. I think the term for payment being divisible into small particles is "frangibility". I would like to see all possible binary combinations of voluntaryism and frangibility available. Going on:
"But I would like to know when I have rung up my limit on a period of reading so that I can pay my fair freight. This is not something I am now organized enough to keep track of.

On reading this another problem pops into my fertile brain: under my desired system it is even easier for cops to watch you surf. But seems like that they're determined to do that anyway. Ms Jensen also makes some observations about rates of pay:
"Your comment suggested a miniscule one-tenth of one cent. I suggest a cent per site view because that seems to me to be miniscule enough. The links to other sites from bloggers, alone, weed out hours of unproductive surfing. This would mean that mega-bloggers like Sullivan could count on $220 a day for his labors (assuming he gets his 22,000 views per day average) and it would mean that less-known or start-up bloggers would have some hope of carving out a niche that would compensate them somewhat for their time and energy. "
If I might finesse the issue of "compensate" a little... I do not, of course, think that the world owes me or any other blogger a living (Not that Ms Jensen does either, I'm just free-associating onward from her starting point.) If the idea got about that readers should pay writers for their creative agonies, rather than their output, then I'd have to pay you guys, 'cos I love to blog. In a sense, of course, I do pay to blog in the currency of money-making opportunities forgone. Another point for smaller-scale bloggers is that a sum of money exactly tracking the stats curve of how many views you get is more predictable, and hence more useful, than the same amount of money received as surprise donations. (Of course the surprise donations are more fun.) I assume this effect disappears at Sullivan's exalted level, rather in the way that Premium Bond prizes are statistically predictable once you hold enough bonds.
"I would also expect that such a process would reduce the number of casual views. This might mean a start up would elect to go free initially to build an audience, but loss-leaders are a part of all businesses and personal ones need not be different. But if a site then achieved a 2000-person readership per day, that would bring the writer a small payment per day (less whatever the collecting agency charged), not a lot, but then again, blogs are done as much for energy and enthusiasm as for money.

"If such a system could be established (and I expect the software and technology is in place, and only needs putting together) it would have a couple of salutary effects. It would separate the readers from the view-throughs; it would provide a quantitative basis for the major media and bloggers to recognize the phenomenon for what it is because it would help establish the parameters of what it is; and it would probably change in fundamental ways the way that the regular media now use websites.

"It is this last piece of the action about which I am most dubious, but I don't doubt that an effective mini-payment plan for bloggers would encourage major media to contemplate ways to cut themselves in on the deal."

Yup. A potential downside to my desired option is that the newspapers we blog from would soon want to charge too! Maybe I would end up wishing I had let sleeping dogs lie. On the other hand, most of their online readers are not and never will be bloggers, so arguably whatever factors make them think it worthwhile to publish free online would still operate.
"Anyway, it's a subject that ought to be aired more comprehensively, because it is entirely idiotic to assume that people are going to devote hours of their daily lives to this activity without recompense for the rest of time, and because blogs provide a terrific place on the Web for people like me who can't tolerate the idiots who dominate chat rooms."

I would point out here that there is recompense, in the pleasure one gets from blogging. The reason I would like to see some sort of frangible payment system is that, without it, direct publishing is more skewed than it has to be towards those with significant spare time or money. An awful lot of great student bloggers are going to - horrors! - graduate one day, and get jobs, and that's the last we'll see of them. Housewife bloggers like me are also at risk of this terrible fate. On other hand (I think I'm using up hands too fast, this is at least my fourth) some bloggers might graduate to the mainstream media. I sort of want to do this myself. But.. but.. what I really want to do is BLOG TILL I DROP BABY! Yeee-HAH!

Lord Irvine jeered by own side. Good.

I'm waiting for the mother-ship. I used to know a song to the tune of "She'll be wearing pink pyjamas when she comes" that described the coming return of "Lord Lucan, Elvis and all, and all-ll-ll/ Lord Lucan and Elvis and all." But I never knew Kitchener was in there too. Weird tales for our times, told by David McKie in the Guardian.

That completes yesterday's posts. The poor things were kept in detention overnight by Blogger. No access to a lawyer, and the only person they were allowed to communicate with was me. Shocking.

Wednesday, January 09, 2002
The British handgun ban has succeeded so far. Regular readers will be surprised to hear me say this, as I opposed the ban. Partly I mean it in a cynical sense. The ban has succeeded in appeasing public wrath at how an awful crime was "allowed to happen" (a most revealing phrase). It has succeeded in answering the demand to Do Something. However I do not believe that the motives of Michael Howard and Jack Straw were wholly or mainly cynical. The aim of the ban was not particularly to cut down general crime, but to stop another Dunblane. So long as there isn't one it can be said to have worked.

I do not believe that the fact that there has been no British gun massacre (I refer in this discussion to mass killings of strangers) since pistols were banned after Dunblane was a result of that ban. After all, there was no gun massacre for nine years between Hungerford and Dunblane under less strict gun laws, and no gun massacres at all before Hungerford under less strict laws yet.

I wrote a pamphlet on this subject, called "Rachel Weeping for her Children". That link takes you to the more computer friendly HTML version. The PDF version as originally published under the heading "Personal Perspectives No. 15" can be found at the Libertarian Alliance website. I started writing it on the fifth anniversary of the massacre.

Whether there will be another spree killing in Britain is a matter of chance. One means of getting a gun, the legal means, has been closed off. Illegal routes multiply. I doubt whether the final post-Dunblane closing off of the legal route had a great deal to do with the subsequent multiplying of illegal guns, except perhaps whatever connection there might be between two different avatars of the baleful spirit of the age. It seems to me that it is the possibility that the criminal might find his victim armed that deters, not the mere existence of guns for sporting purposes - which is all there was before the 1997 Act.

Self defence in Britain had been dead for years. Even before Dunblane, even before the Hungerford massacre nine years earlier, I kept my pistols in a locked cabinet, in accordance with the law.

This post was prompted by discussion in Instapundit, Edge of England's Sword and, of course, Random Jottings. I'll be saying more later on the link between the right to self-defence, murders by sane criminals and murders by insane spree-killers.

Big fat dollop of sympathy you'll have with me wanting to get paid for simply publishing other bloggers' e-mails. But can I help it if they are good? Here's Iain Murray:
Pallas (I always prefered that name) wasn't so much the defender of the "state" as of the city-community. Athene Polias was her name in this guise, and the Athenians erected a huge stature of her looking out over the city on the Acropolis(therefore the theatre next to it was called the Palladium...) I don't think the Athenians would regard what we call the state as anything like the city. Athene, if anything, would regard such a thing as an assault on her city's independence, and would therefore protect her from it.

I can actually see Pallas as the patron deity of the "No" campaign against the Euro. Now where's Diomedes when you need him?
I love it. But I don't love Oliver Letwin.

Joanne Jacobs e-mailed back with a neat analogy that says it all:
"The solution would be a way for people to pay a very small amount per read, like the cost of turning on the light, instead of asking them to donate the whole electric bill when they feel like it. I hope all those ingenious minds out there will figure out how to make it feasible."

Some revolutions run out of steam. Before I go away to do some work (this is a pointed remark), a salutary thought from Joanne Jacobs:
Blogger Revolution
"I finally read the James Bennett piece on weblogs in Anglosphere (English-speaking cyberspace): He thinks we're Martin Luther!

"I think we bloggers are on the cutting edge of something, but I'm not sure what. We've created an international salon to discuss ideas, trade jokes, critique the established media and fight for truth, freedom and justice.

"But it relies on unpaid labor. I'm averaging $30 a week in Amazon donations, despite tripling the number of visitors since September. And with all the new, excellent blogs out there, I keep spending more time reading blogs and less time in activities for which I conceivably might earn money. I can't tell you guys how often I vow to cut back, stop reading, stop blogging, write the damn books. How long can we keep this up?"
Sell-out you may call me, but I would like to see a way in which one could charge a tiny, really tiny, sum for each pageview, and do it in a way that would cost the viewer no effort. For most people Blogging would then be a hobby, as it is now, but with some slight renumeration to wave at sceptical spouses. For some it would be a second income, for a very few a serious first income.

I know there are tips jars, and I do thank those who have contributed to mine. Perhaps I'll sound less greedy if I talk in terms of me as giver/payer rather than recipient. Giving a donation is slightly stressful. Vastly slowed down here is a transcript of my thought processes as the question "should I donate to this blog?" comes up on the radar:
Why this blog? Why not that one? If I give the same amount to X as X gave to me it looks and is ridiculous, like mechanically swapping equal cheques at Christmastime. Tell you what, I'll wait three months and then do it, if I remember. Then again, if I'm giving money maybe I ought to give it to a real charity. But not till after the car's had its MOT. Ooh, my head hurts. Don't want to think about it. But its such a corker of an article, I really ought to, but...Aha! Here's an interesting link. Click.
Compared to all that the dim background knowledge that I was automatically paying one tenth of a penny would be ease itself, even if I ended up paying more at the end of the day. I know, I know, nearly every attempt to make people pay for content has failed. But I would like to find some solution. I really do think it is high time the citadels of comment were stormed by the people, and there will be more stormers if they are paid for it. Just a little bit.

Tiny technical note. Reader Alan Robertson says he had no problem following my Indy links and returning to my site. So I'll put it to the test. Ever eaten dog?

Here's a much more conventional, but still interesting, column from Janet Daley in the Telegraph where she reminisces about the days when railway guard was the job of choice for Marxist militants who lacked the patience for teaching. This explains a lot. Did they, I wonder, all keep the communist faith as the world moved on? I've never been a porter but I have been a teacher, and, despite the vast and continuing numbers of political idiots in that profession, it did seem to me that there was something of a reality-check as time went on. Even true believers tend to go off encouraging the oppressed masses to rise up in glorious struggle against all patriarchal manifestations when the first step of said struggle is a kick in the nuts for trying to stop the brats smoking behind the gym. Railway staff have also been the victims of rising numbers of assaults - but you do have to be that bit more intelligent to make the connection with what you have been preaching all these years...

Would you like to see Zanu PF's website? I mean "like" in a rather specialised sense, of course. Here it is.

Safety kills. The people who die because a drug is not approved by the FDA and similar bodies die not knowing they could have had years more life. Their relatives, unless exceptionally well informed, never complain. Rarely does their story reach the media. But here is one time where it did: an account by Reason Online, via the US Daily Report, on lives lost because gene therapy was forbidden.

Athena, not Venus and a chap called Caroll, not a lady called Carol. You remember how in this brave new world of blogs we soar above conventional media in our adherence to the facts, ma'am, nothing but the facts? That's true for all bloggers but me.
From The Goddess Athena website, this
description of Athena:
[Note from me. The goddess Athena has a website? Terry Pratchett, thou shouldst be living at this hour! And fortunately, you are.]

Daughter of Zeus, and only by him, the Goddess Athena was not generated by any woman. She leaped from the head of Zeus, already adult, dressed with her armor.

But the mother is not completely missing from the miraculous birth of Pallas Athena. According to Hesiod's account of the weddings of Zeus, the King of the Gods chose Metis as his first wife. She was of all beings "the most knowing" (as the word metis is interpreted), or "of many counsels" as translated in the sense of the Homeric epithet polymetis.

As she was about to give birth to the Goddess Athena, Zeus deceived his pregnant wife with cunning words and assimilated her into his own body. Mother Earth and Father Sky had advised him to do this so as to prevent any of his descendants from robbing him of his kingly rank. For it was destined that the most brilliant children were to be born to the Goddess Metis: first, the daughter Athena, and later a son, the future King of Gods and men.

In the most ancient account, the Iliad, Athena is the Goddess of ferocious and implacable fight, but, wherever she can be found, she only is a warrior to defend the State and the native land against the enemies coming from outside.

She is, above all, the Goddess of the City, the protectress of civilized life, of artesian activities, and of agriculture. She also invented the horse-bit, which, for the first time, tamed horses, allowing men to use them.

She is the favorite daughter of Zeus; and that's why he let her use his insignia: the terrible shield, the aegis and his devastating weapon, the ray.

The most used expression to describe her is "the bright eyed". She is the first of the three virgin Goddesses, also known as Maiden, Parthenos, and from this name was taken the name to the most important Temple dedicated to her, the Parthenon.

In poetry she is the incarnation of Wisdom, Reason and Purity.

Athens is her city; the olive tree, created by her, is her tree; the owl, is the birth consecrated to her.
I like the sound of "Wisdom, Reason and Purity," not to mention "ferocious and implacable fight." I'm not so keen on defending the State per State, but Athena remains, as Mr Bloyd said, a far more appropriate patron for bloggers than Venus.

Tuesday, January 08, 2002
It was Athena, not Venus, who sprang fully formed from the head of Zeus. I knew that. A lady called Carol Bloyd has written me a nice e-mail with gory detail, but it'll have to wait until tomorrow because this computer is going out of action while my husband (a chap far more handsome and much sounder in every respect than Oliver Letwin) murmurs strange incantations over it.

Ben Sheriff thinks I have a "thing" about Oliver Letwin. A scandalous libel! I am above Things. I commentate, Mr Sheriff, and I observe. I observe, among others, the next man to hold the post of Her Majesty's Secretary of State for the Home Department. Nah, I can't make myself believe it either. Here's the blog.

Also, flip down to Saturday's post about the Brian Toohey on Aussie fireys (firies?) article panned by Tim Blair. The point I want to make explicitly is why on earth shouldn't a free market fire service include volunteers? I'm a rampant capitalist lunatic, and I'd volunteer in like circumstances. The important point about this freedom stuff, as far as I'm concerned, is no coercion. Ain't nothing free about a law against giving. [Quick thought later: indeed there ain't. Tips jar is on the left!] Whether money changes hands is up to the people on the ground.

Has the Indy fixed the problem whereby once you link to them you can't go back? Let's see with this story about female US fighter pilot McSally resisting the abaya. Here goes! No. They haven't. Obviously they don't want to have the keen AB1 audience of Blogland read their stuff. Fine. See if I care...