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.)

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I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)


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Tuesday, June 18, 2002
 
As promised, I'm coming back to Brendan O'Neill's question "Why is blogging a right-wing thing?" As I said to him in a private e-mail, after his calling all my readers "easily shocked ladies who lunch" I would dearly love to rend his gobberwarts.* But there's a problem. I agree with him.

He says, "I have always suspected that the right-wing blogging phenomenon is a result of the right's increasing isolation from the mainstream - from mainstream politics, mainstream journalism and mainstream debates. Over the past 10 to 15 years, traditional right-wing views have become ever-more unpopular, as Third Way and consensus politics have take centre stage. The Reaganites and Thatcherites who were in the ascendant in the 1980s have found themselves out on a limb in an age where we're all supposed to be caring, sharing, non-argumentative, environmentally-aware centre-lefties. "

You can't say truer than that. It's like being a sheepdog on a sensitivity training course these days. Pah. But after this strong start the limitations of Mr O'Neill's mindset soon become clear:

"And rather than build an effective and coherent opposition to the new political orthodoxies, some on the right seem happy to retreat into the 'Blogosphere', from where they can throw insults at their enemies without having to challenge them fundamentally."

Huh? Just what sort of fundamental challenge do you think I was putting up before the blog? Cleaning the toilet in a right-wing way? Non-multicultural clearing up after breakfast? The point about blogging is that it costs next to nothing, anyone from housewives to executives can do it, and you don't need to go through an editor. Mr O'Neill's disdain for such low-intensity warfare comes through in his repeated use of the word "challenge":

"...the very nature of the Blogosphere ... means it is best suited to poking fun or poking holes in the mainstream media, rather than actually challenging it at a serious level."

Er, yes. Such a relief. As I write this post now I know that it is well short of the serious and weighty response that I could be composing were I Gladstone reborn. How nice that I'm not, and it's just a blog post that I can get done before nipping round the shop for some more milk. For all his romantic attachment to the spirit of 1798, Sir Brendan the Serious has all the attitudes of a nobleman demanding that these oiks put down the longbows and fight properly (with the very important caveat that first they have to buy the horse and the armour i.e. get a journalism degree and a proper job.)

"...it's safe to say that The Guardian - now the most mainstream, pro-government paper in Britain - won't be quaking in its boots."

No, but it's turning red and shuffling about. Did I ever tell you the story of Matthew Engel's column that was laughed right out of the Guardian archives?

"...it means that many on the right will end up simply talking to themselves, rather than building a real opposition to the Blairs, Clintons and Schroeders of this world. That is one of the reasons I have a lot of time for Iain Murray. Iain and I disagree on many things, but his Conservative Revival weblog was a good stab are thinking about actual alternatives to New Labour and how such alternatives could be reconstituted as an opposition."

He means proper politics again. Join a party. Become activists or local councillors or journalists. Get a proper job. Not that I have the slightest objection to Iain Murray (May his sword arm be ever strong!) or anyone else doing these things. But it all boils down to play nicely! To which I say, "Shan't!"

"In short, I think blogging is a right-wing thing as a result of the right's increasing isolation - and as a result of right-wingers' fancy for short, sharp, pithy attacks on an enemy that, in fact, they don't feel like they can take on. "

Classic guerilla tactics. And a classic guerilla error is to be tempted before you are ready into full scale battles that you are certain to lose.

Whoah, brakes on. Perhaps I'm in danger of letting my military metaphor push me into conclusions I don't really believe. Although I do think the right wing three quarters of the blogosphere does indeed do much of its work by pinpricks, it may have its greatest effects through conventional means. As Brian Micklethwait says, 'Blogging is going to impact seriously on all this, by identifying non-left and libertarian journalistic talent, giving it a start, training it, and then feeding it into the mainstream media.' So come on Brendan, gis a job.

*As Terry Pratchett fans will know, not as much fun as it sounds.

For reasons I explain over there, this post also appears in Libertarian Samizdata.



 
Uncommon Sense says "I hasten to point out the following: The immigrant-welfare problem exists only in the welfare state. Eliminate the welfare state, this "problem" disappears as well."

Yes.



 
An interesting combination. This and this.


 
Good sense from the Guardian. It happens. Buzz off, snoopers.


Monday, June 17, 2002
 
Total Perspective Blogdex. Like Zaphod Beeblebrox discovering that he really was the centre of the universe, I emerge unconcerned from having passed under the lens of Brendan O'Neill. Hey, what's the problem? Any mention that puts me next to Instapundit is fine by my Inner Troll. Stirring up Junius and Public Interest simultaneously was an undeniably brave stroke, but I'm not sure that Brendan's daring last-minute substitution of his Fenian forbears into the argument - or rather, substitution of his Fenian forbears for the argument - is really enough to keep him in the tournament, seeing that so many Irish ancestors are playing for my team too.

More tomorrow.



 
Britain considered as a private party. Jim Bennett (who, I discover, is Australian - click link to find out more [UPDATE: No, he's an American. I misunderstood - see below.]) writes:
Natalie:

You wrote:

"and while I oppose compulsory English and citizenship classes on the same grounds upon which I oppose compulsory anything else, it is nice that so many British Muslims want more of their people to learn English."

I think the problem is with the fool that called the classes "compulsory" when he should have written "conditional." As marginalized fringe libertarian wierdos know, but Guardian writers don't, is that there's no similarity at all between a compulsory measure and one imposed as a condition of contract, when the action contracted for is entirely voluntary. And immigration to the UK is surely a voluntary act in this case.

I myself find this news extremely encouraging. But then, I've always said that Anglosphere cultures tend toward assimilation unless forced otherwise.

Cheers,

Jim
*&'$%"£! I should have thought of that. In fact I already had thought of it, but in another directory. My mind is like the internet without Google. The directory where I had thought of immigration as agreeing to a contract was headed "welfare/problems/immigration" or something like that. The world is full of hardworking, active people who would like to live in the Anglosphere. In order to get this valuable benefit they would happily contract to do without welfare. If we could let them in on these terms we existing residents would gain the benefit of their energy and talents and we wouldn't get swamped by freeloaders. But such is the horror of unequal treatment that even though both sides would benefit we can't bring ourselves to do it. The English lessons are - or were - subject to the same constraints. Quite rightly we don't want the Home Secretary checking our apostrophes, and so we shy away from allowing him to check anyone's.

Mr Bennett's argument, that a contract freely assumed is no oppression, is a strong one. I teeter on the edge of agreement - but remain worried: what if we get the new immigrants learning English and citizenship (I assume they come as a package), and it works fine, and then someone oh-so-reasonably says, shouldn't we all share in the benefits of Education in Citizenship? Ah, come now, the test at the end is easy, platitudinous even... you just have to say that you are committed to the British ideal of "social justice" in order to pass.

The adoption issue, too, brings up a conflict between universal rights and particular conditions accepted as part of the deal. We've all heard about the hoops that those wishing to adopt a child must jump through. The hoops are frequently absurd and outrageous, but that's another story. Even if one accepts that some check must be made that prospective adopters are fit to be parents, that doesn't mean that one supports similar checks on natural parents. A tremor goes through me when I hear a sententious TV commentator raise the topic, because they always finish up by talking about the "anomaly" that even the most feckless natural parent is allowed to breed.

Finally, I gave some thought to another important question raised by Mr Bennett. Which is the best service area on the M1 for children? It's a close run thing, but I'd say Newport Pagnell if you like them fried, but Toddington if you go for the fricassee option.

What's all this Australian bit? In a sort of director's cut, Mr Bennett has sent out an extra three words for his column exclusively for readers of this blog. "I suppose I should have written the following sentence with the additional 3 words in brackets. "In its own way this immigrant mix has become part of Anglosphereness, so that a bowl of Vietnamese noodle soup can be for me a taste of home (even when I'm ) in Australia."



 
British Muslims pro-integration? I was surprised by this finding: "Further evidence of the appetite for integration lies in the level of support for David Blunkett's plans for compulsory English language and citizenship tests for new immigrants - 65% of Muslims backed the proposal. " The Guardian and ICM carried out a poll on the attitudes of British Muslims. Although this commentary exaggerates the extent to which the respondents did want integration, I must admit that I was surprised and heartened by the support for Blunkett's proposals. Which is weird, because I don't actually support them myself. But given that I am a marginalized libertarian weirdo, I must take my comfort where I can; and while I oppose compulsory English and citizenship classes on the same grounds upon which I oppose compulsory anything else, it is nice that so many British Muslims want more of their people to learn English. It's a pity that there is a great swarm of "diversity officers", British Sign Language to Urdu intepreters and the like whose jobs depend on this not happening.


 
At last. Teleportation.


 
Power without responsibility. Peace Process without Peace. There was a story in Saturday's Telegraph that brought back memories. Headed "Terror threat to policeman" it described how a young Catholic policeman narrowly escaped injury - they called it injury, though I would have thought "death" was more the mot juste - after a bomb exploded under his car. The link says that too many people are trying to access that story. Good. I hope the crowds trying to access note well that Mitchel McLaughlin, chairman of Sinn Fein refused to condemn the attack on the officer. Sinn Fein grow fat on the rewards of participation in the peace process. Their placemen prance about for photo-opportunities and pose at the big desks they now have in government. Yet they refuse to condemn attempted murder of a policeman.

The story reminds us that this type of killing is not new. Both the Ulster Defence Regiment and the Royal Ulster Constabulary were meant to be religiously mixed. But the IRA killed as many Catholic policemen and part-time soldiers as it could. It was easy to do. The gunmen knew where the Catholic recruits lived. Then, then, they set up a great wail that the UDR and the RUC were sectarian, and wasn't it shocking how few Catholics there were in them. And the "liberal" British press, let alone the foreign press, just lapped it all up.



 
Dawson is up at five in the morning, posting for you. Loads of classic exuberant LOL ranting. Not everyone can do exuberant ranting. I think you need to eat mysterious Southern food, like fried opossum, to do it right. But I have to say that the link to the man he shot in Reno put me into a weird loop. Cunning, these Frenchies.

UPDATE: Some of my less cosmopolitan British readers thought I was joking about fried opossum. No, I'm not. Do a Ctrl-F search or scroll down to find the 'possum, passing the bear fillet in burgundy on your way. Now, I'm very soft-hearted and happen to know that my meat appears by special act of creation divinely shrink-wrapped on Tesco shelves. But if I had to eat dead animals like the rest of you, there is a certain appeal in going out in the morning to hunt your lunch.



Sunday, June 16, 2002
 
What is this, a frigging gossip column? My dear friend Junius (of course he's too high-principled to use his title, but we all know) tells me that Electrolite has moved to most chic little place at http://nielsenhayden.com/electrolite/ - cost him five million, you know, but worth it for that location, and of course we're all missing Myria who, getting serious here, is having a bad time according to a comment on her blog. I heard that snippet while at the most magical party thrown by my dear friends over at Dodgeblog...


Saturday, June 15, 2002
 
Moves, News, Corrections. Midwest Conservative Journal is now at http://mcj.blogspot.com so adjust your links. I hope Our Editor does keep the archives available somewhere. Ain't No Bad Dude says that the Gun Show Loophole really exists and needs closing, others disagree. One for you Yanks, I think. And, keeping up the non-idiotarian liberal theme, Gary Farber's Amygdala is back and strategizing after a hiatus.

Layman's logic has looked a little closer at The American Kaiser's post cited by me earlier. He corrects some maths and mathematical terms and gets a less dramatic result. The corrected figures are still striking: "...And therefore a Jewish child is two and a half times as likely to die as his Arab neighbour, and it's mother twice as likely." Someone else - in fact several someones - should check up on this. Not because I don't think Ben Sheriff hasn't done a capable job, but because if confirmed these figures are extremely important and should be spread widely.

But the checking won't be done by me any time today. I have birthday party games to arrange, loot bags to fill, panics to have, a temper to lose. I love it all really.



Friday, June 14, 2002
 
Wallabies from Hell hit Henley. Why do I have to turn to the Sydney Morning Herald to find out all the important news? I never heard about the chimpanzee, either.


 
Cook, A Snoop, At the World Cup. Sorry. Couldn't resist that. A regular correspondent (Let's call him A.R.C. for short) writes:

...I observe Robin Cook has called for Labour to spin less. Is this a disguised bid to be a rival to Gordon Brown in the post Blair leadership election? (As you may deduce, I'm not disposed to credit the remarks of cabinet ministers. Cook is presumably experienced at spinning to his wife re his occasional affairs; surely he shouldn't treat strangers better than his nearest and dearest. :-))

Meanwhile, I assume the goverment's radical expansion of the list of agencies that will be allowed, with zero oversight, to examine which web sites you visit, is providing the UK blog community with something to talk about. A civil service spokesman has assured us that occasion to use these powers will be rare so there's no cause to worry. Alas, the sentence structure reminded me (actually happened genuinely to remind me) of Hitler's reassurance, to the Reichstag that voted his enabling law in 1933, that occasions to use these powers would be rare. That coincidence doesn't actually worry me; but this government's untrustworthiness does!!

A final question: why are so many Japanese supporting the UK in the world cup?







 
Rage against a cupcake. The story that made my blood boil last night was not a murder, a rape, or a terrorist attack. I don't know why I should be so bothered by a school dispute in a foreign country, unless it's because I have been a teacher, but I was absolutely incensed by this story about some idle brat in Peoria, Arizona who who was about to fail for cutting classes, plaiglarism, ignoring the offered second chance and all-round complacent inefficiency. But not, I think, stupidity. Oooh, no, this chick knew how to ensure she passed without the trouble of actually working. She just gave Mommy and Daddy a call, and Mommy and Daddy hired this nice lawyerman called Stan F. Massad and he told the mean old teacher lady that he'd be make her very sorry if she didn't let Daddy's girl have fun with a cap and gown.

But the school authorities knew that would be unfair to the honest students. They acted firmly to back up their teacher, Elizabeth Joice, and defend the reputation of their school, right?

Wrong. They caved in abjectly.

Seems I wasn't the only one incensed. The Arizona Republic described the original report as "knuckle-whitening" and speaks of a wave of angry comment from readers. And several blogs have covered the story, such as Desert Pundit who includes an e-mail address for complaining about the lawyer's intimidatory tactics,
Zonitics, Instapundit, and of course my personal start-point for education stories, Joanne Jacobs.

And here's the cool cartoon by Benson that gave me the "cupcake" line.

I've had a little play on Google myself. I didn't find Cupcake's name, alas, but I did find the website for Sunrise Mountain High School. (Motto: We Won't Fail You)

I bet Cupcake sang the school song with a big smile on her face as she graduated: "Go mighty Mustangs! gallop to glory / fighting all the way / Mustangs will conquer / in purple and white / standing up tall / with their heads held high / So let’s go, fight / we’re Sunrise Mountain High School / onward to victory! "

I've wimped out of ringing up Arizona. But if anyone nearer or braver wants to courteously ask the school why they allowed the hard work of their honest students to be debased, the phone number and address can be found here. Or perhaps the Peoria Unified School District Administrative Center at 6330 West Thunderbird Road, Tel. 623 486-6000 would be the guys to talk to; I am unsure of American practice in these matters. And if you're feeling very, very brave indeed, Pirhana-lawyer (I refer only to his undoubted tenacity and initiative on behalf of his clients) Stan F. Massad can be contacted here. I live far away and have a pure past, Stan. And no money.



Thursday, June 13, 2002
 
A good sport. I'd just like to mention that Nick Butterworth, author of the Percy the Park Keeper books, very good-humouredly signed a copy of his justly famous work, "Just Like Jasper" for my son. Nothing unusual about that you say? Well, the copy concerned still had its "Withdrawn from Hertfordshire Libraries" stamp clearly visible. I think we paid 20p for it. But we got Percy new, honest. And in hardback.


 
Ain't no way to pretend that I'm posting this story about an actor alleged to have taken out a contract on his wife for any other reason than a ghoulish interest in its sheer filmability. An interest shared by the LAPD, according to the defence.


Wednesday, June 12, 2002
 
I'd have caught this Lileks blast on the profiling issue eventually as I complete my sweep through the blogs I've missed over the last week or so. But Joanne Jacobs caught it first. Mr Lileks is talking about fingerprinting and photographing visitors to the US from high-risk countries.
I don’t care. I am way past caring. I have not a jot of the care-sauce left in my bones. The care tank is empty. There’s no one home in Careville. The dog ate my care. The Care Crop didn’t come up this year. Self.com/care comes up as a 404.

Would I raise an eyebrow if the government quarantined everyone with a Koran, kept them in holding cells for a week, tagged them with a microchip and sprayed them with a dye that shows up on orbiting satellites? Yes, I would. I’m raising an eyebrow right now, just for practice’s sake. But when these people get hysterical about co-religionist non- citizens being photographed and fingerprinted, I not only disregard what they say now but whatever they say in the future, as well as whoever cites them as an authority.

There's the germ of an idea in that last paragraph. Or rather, there's one point that has been widely made and another idea that needs to be teased out further. The widely made point is that he suppression, or attempted suppression, of obvious and moderate precautionary steps against Arab/Muslim suspected terrorists is one of the factors promoting hatred against innocent Muslims. Man, it does not please folk who have just had three thousand slaughtered in front of their eyes to be told that they are racists for wanting to check out the next Saudi buying a copy of "Teach Yourself To Fly."

The point I haven't seen widely made is that intelligent profiling might have good effects on Muslims of goodwill. And I can see why. The way I've written it, it looks completely freaking loopy. Getting Hassled, Stopped, Frisked and Full Body Searched Is Good For You. Yeah, right. But there's something there. Something more than the obvious point that their lives might also be the one saved: many Muslims were murdered in the WTC, the Pentagon, and on those planes.

Perhaps the proposition looks a little saner if we consider what's happening now. There is a vicious circle. Moves that would clearly make us all safer are not openly taken. Result: resentment among non-Muslims at being endangered for the sake of political correctness. But, of course, Arabs and Muslims are being profiled, only stealthily, and you can bet the stealth adds poison to the way that baggage checkers and cops carry out this task. Next result: resentment among Muslims at the snide insults they suffer. So we get hysterical denunciations of measures that are not objectionable when the real cause of their anger was the objectionable way in which those measures were carried out. But the denunciations annoy non-Muslims even more, and motivate the frisker to be a little more rough, the policeman to put a little more sneer in his voice, the press and public to build on any existing tendency to lump all Muslims together as terrorists and enemies. And characterizations of that sort have a way of coming true.

Open and avowedly temporary precautions would be a lot better. The inconvenience to travellers is never going to be fun, and the powers granted to snoopers are always going to be worrying. But the bad effects would be much softened. Among those fingerprinted there would be occasion for dignity and fortitude, two qualities that Islam does seem to promote. There would be occasion for sympathy and imaginative identification among the bystanders, and that the West does well.

God knows, we're in need of some more positive thoughts about Arabs and Muslims. MEMRI's latest shocker, ably described by David Tell, featured on Instapundit today, and is going to be all over the world tomorrow. As it should be. Truth will out and should out. This soft-spoken corrupter of children, Doaa 'Amer, and her supporters should be denounced before the world. I think there are Muslims who would like to speak out against this behaviour. They are (mainly) silent for two reasons. The first is obvious: physical danger from either their rulers or the mob. Those more fortunately situated could make them safer by highlighting their cases in the way that Amnesty International still does well, when it can tear itself away from callow anti-Americanism. The second reason for silence is isolation. Like Winston Smith watching the film of the lifeboat being bombed, individual Muslims who are disturbed by the fanaticism look round and see everyone else baying for more blood. Why, even most of the Franks who you might think would object seeing as they are so loudly against racism, seem vaguely approving. Unless these individual Muslims are very exceptional individuals they do as Smith did and shrink into themselves. Here, again, Muslims and non-Muslims living in free countries help by speaking out. If the general population of Egypt, say, learn that the rest of the world are horrified by their anti-semitism some of them are going to wonder if the rest of the world might be right. The first person to say so looks a weirdo, quite possibly an apostate, and lives in fear of his life. The ten thousandth person doesn't.



 
Fans of 'Robot wars' will like this picture from Random Jottings. Me, I feel sorry for the poor little aeroplane. Did laugh a bit, though.


 
A certain profile. Dr Frank asks some questions about the exact histories of dirty bomb man Padilla and his British equivalent, Reid the shoe-bomber. Both are members of disaffected ethnic minorities who converted to Islam in prison. It is very clear to me that members of this category should be looked at hard. "Looked at" does not mean insulted, harassed, or arrested. Forensic profiling does have a fair record of success in catching serial killers, along with some notable failures. The term refers to a procedure more complex and more tentative than what people usually mean by profiling, although one-word profiling also has its uses. In other words, yes, I do think that the baggage checker should snap to attention when either an Arab or a Muslim reaches the head of the line. That is hard on the non-terrorist majority of Arabs and Muslims, so let it be done with decent discretion. The checkers should never be dozing, of course, but the ideal of constant total alertness when checking all passengers is forever unattainable. Some selectivity is necessary. The selection will be a mixture of simple broad-category-prejudice, more complex narrow-category prejudice and the copper's standby of watching to see if they twitch. And, I hope, specific intelligence briefings based on the answers to Dr Frank's questions.

My point is that the broad category prejudice is not irrational. Al-Qaeda have turned to non-Arab agents such as Padilla and Reid precisely because the operations of their Arab agents are hindered by it. It is good that they are forced to work from a much smaller pool of agents, as their chances of finding people with the correct temperament are smaller. (Both Reid and Padilla seem to have lacked it: both prone to hysterical display.) But if you say, "no point in looking extra hard at Arabs because neither Reid nor Padilla was Arab" then you relax that pressure and restore access to the larger pool of terrorists. I made some similar comments to a post entitled "Profiling folly" at The Edge of England's Sword before seeing Dr Frank's post, which expressed what I wanted to say better than I did. Iain Murray correctly points out that most Arabs in the US are Christian, but I don't see that that negates my argument any more than the undoubted fact that most Arab Muslims are not terrorists negates it. All investigation has some element of slander, since even to look over a suspect violates the pure presumption of innocence. We just have to manage the balance as best we can. One-word profiling and detailed forensic profiling don't stop being useful merely because they are not security panaceas.



 
And it stayed 0-0. A table-full of football pundits seem to regard this as a quite good result for England. I begin to see why people like talking about football. It's nicer than real life. In real life people bomb school buses and the Guardian reports on it without comment.

The American Kaiser has done some counting of the dead in the current conflict. (Link found by Damianation.) Everyone knows that many more Palestinians than Israelis have been killed. But did you know that "... nine Israeli women were murdered for every Palestinian woman, and five Israeli children for every Palestinian child." ?

That, in a nutshell, is why I am so hostile to the Palestinian side in this war. They go for soft targets. The fact that these bombers also kill themselves is irrelevant in ethical terms. Certainly the fact that they are in the grip of that rare but ineradicable fever of the human species, a death cult, is important. The psychology of the cult demands that its adherents kill in in a spectacular way, outside the bounds of normal wartime behaviour. Put crudely, it would be a waste of all that mana generated by an act so unusual as premeditated suicide to use it all up while doing something so boring and passé as waging war according to the custom of civilized nations. It's important but not crucial. Suicide per se does not outrage me. It is not their self-killing that makes them evil but who else they kill.

(Fattening up your own five year old children to kill themselves later does outrage me, but that's another story.)





 
The garage opens at eight. So why don't I ring up the nice mechanic right now and order the part I need. Of course I shall have to give him detailed information about the chassis number, the engine number, the make and model of the car and suchlike - he may have to look some of these details up, but I'm sure he won't mind taking a little extra time for a customer. And I always think it's polite to engage people in a little social conversation, don't you? Everyone likes to talk about their kids!

Just kidding. I wouldn't really do a thing like that. It's still 0-0.



Tuesday, June 11, 2002
 
Great Lines from the Movie of Life. It must have looked rather sinister, me saying, "I'm going away for a day out... at least the roads will be empty." Famous Last Words or what. (Count no man happy until he is dead. The last words of General John Sedgwick at the Battle of Spotsylvania were: "They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist--")

I do hope there is an innocent explanation for the silence of Muslimpundit, who has now had the longest two minute break in history.



 
Chewing the cud. Or other bodily products. Hi, Ray. Ray has written to me saying,
"And you thought seed-rich poo didn't work as a metaphor. I like it better than this one...."
Then he links to a Bill Quick link to a sparky blog called Silflay Hraka. And if you don't know what that means you need to either read Watership Down or check out this bunnytalk dictionary. Exercise caution if you are of a sensitive disposition and/or have a taste for raisins or chocolate drops. (Having only one rabbit I had no idea that they did it to each others'... I trust I need not continue.) Sensitive people won't like the insect adolescents post either. Pure Far Side.

If I were not nissed as a pewt on chink pampagne I would say more on why I think Watership Down has one of the best portrayals of an alien mindset that I have ever read in a science fiction novel. Oops, just spotted an unintentional ethnic spur in the Sloonerism back there. Doubly unfortunate given that we have just been so royally feasted by the staff of the Lucky Star and an aromatic duck (whadda they do, wear aftershave to pull the drakes?) who died gloriously so that we could celebrate my husband getting the job he wanted.

And with that I shall gid you bood night.



 
Can this be for real?


 
http://dawsonspeek.com. D'y'hear that? Dawson is the latest to get his own domain name. Us Blogger bloggers are getting thin on the ground. Or flushed out to sea. Whatever. And another one gone, and another one gone, and another one bites the dust...

And, like Random Jottings, another one who acts like I just disappeared into the Lost World for an untraceable four months hunting dinosaurs and lost civilizations when all I was really doing was shopping, eating, drinking and plinking. I have an ominous feeling that my post of 4 June that was meant to explain things either didn't explain or didn't appear.

UPDATE: It didn't appear, according to reports from my trusty spies. You know for a guy who gave, free, a phenomenally useful and innovative service to the world, poor old Ev of Blogger (sounds like a minor thegn of Ming the Merciless) must walk around with a lot of curses on his innocent head. Over the last month or so I have occasionally found that despite pressing "post and publish" and getting back the message, "your transfer was completed successfully" when I check the web page nothing new has appeared. There doesn't seem to be any cure other than try, try again. Or go off to Belgium. Works for me.



 
No man or woman of spirit lets a little thing like the limits of statistical validity get in the way of judging the entire spirit of a nation from one chance encounter. So, amid all the reports of murky French equivocation about terrorism, allow me to inform you definitively that the true France has not spoken yet. While waiting for the ferry home from Dunkirk we popped in to the little museum that commemorates the evacuation of 1940. The custodian there, or at least the one on duty when we visited, is a very pleasant ex-army chap. We got talking when my husband went over to point out that the Martini action shotgun-type thing was actually nineteenth century, and used for hunting not war. (Whenever you let my spouse into a war museum he always does something like this. I've learnt to put up with it. Pretending that I've never met him before only leads to embarrassment later. There always comes a point when he cheerily says"...and you must meet my wife", and then I have to either drop all pretence or respond "unhand me, sir!") So the nice custodian comes over and he and my husband have a happy talk about the rifling, the diameter of the barrel, what sort of rifles colonial troops had in 1940, and the way people just give things to museums who, being the mathom-houses that they are, haven't the heart to refuse them. I learnt the French word for "rifling". I've forgotten it since, but it's cool to have known it even for a little while. Anyway, the conversation moved on to his experiences in Algeria (he wasn't hostile to Algerians) and thence to terrorism in our own day, and he said some pretty uncomplimentary things about intellectuals and their spouting off, and added for good measure that we knew how much King Solomon paid for the pillars of his temple, so it sure seemed to him like the Jews weren't complete interlopers.

Or, at least, I'm fairly sure he said that. I found I'd reached an interesting plateau in my French comprehension. I could understand 90% of his words and 75% of his sentences, but was missing at least half of what he said. What I desperately needed was more processing time. Misled by the pretty way I can reel off a pre-prepared sentence of French he assumed that I was a good deal more fluent than I really was. Next time I must remember to dumb down my sentence structure to a level commensurate with my understanding.



 
Get your priorities right. Skimming through Samizdata, I see that Brian Micklethwait imagines me as denouncing discussion of football when there are so many more important issues that demand to be addressed. And so there are! Did you know, for instance, that I got some beautifully nuzzly suede mules from a little place in Lippenslaan for the absurdly low price of thirty Kalganids?

"Lippenslaan". Don't disabuse me; if this doesn't mean "Lips lane" I don't want to know. In the previous post I really ought to have said that Flemish sounds like English happily drunk. No doubt it is all just a linguistic coincidence but there are dozens of jolly Flenglish constructions to delight the Anglophone visitor. For instance "toegang" means either "entrance" or "forbidden". (I really ought to sort out which before next visiting a Flemish nuclear reactor. Or, indeed, the Flemish shooting range that I just did visit. "Geen toegang" definitely does mean "entrance forbidden," I have at least established that much.

But what a likeable word "toegang" is. I look down at my toes (neatly dressed in suede) and wriggle them. The way they hang around in a gang all the time is something shocking.



 
She's back! She's unpacked! She's - oooh, about five-eighths of the way through the enormous pile of washing. My husband and I just spent a long weekend in the Belgian resort of Knokke-heist. Long ago it would have been two separate cutely-named resorts, Knokke and Heist. Flemish sounds like English, drunk.



Tuesday, June 04, 2002
 
The Stealth Blogger strikes! Sorry for the dearth of posts over the last few days. And I'm afraid the famine is set to continue until next Tuesday, the 11th. We have a few more family events to pack in before going off to Belgium to indulge in an activity illegal in this country.

Wash your minds out! I refer to the sport of target pistol shooting.



Sunday, June 02, 2002
 
I'm going away for a day out now - with the great issue still undecided. At least the roads will be empty.


 
Sweden has equalized. Not that I'm interested.


 
Random Jottings continues to track me telepathically. John Weidner writes that he put in a swipe against the Palestinians as a whole people when feeling grumpy, which he has now removed. He even apologises. A little while ago I too condemned the Palestinians as a whole.
"Palestinians don't bomb places where families congregate as an unfortunate side-effect of hitting an armaments plant; they aim for them so they can kill families."
I was conscious what I was doing while doing it. That, thought I, is the first collective condemnation I have written in decades. Hitherto I had said some pretty damning things about them, but phrases such as "a people sunk in barbarism" yet imply that it is possible to rise up again. "Palestinians do X" implies an eternal character. Fine, I thought. About time someone said it. The killing of an eighteen month old girl and her grandmother at an ice cream parlour and the usual peverted boasting that followed it had put me in a black fury.

OK. I was wrong to put it quite like that. I don't actually feel particularly like apologizing, but one thing I will say: anyone and any group is capable of redemption.



 
There appears to be some sort of sporting tournament taking place. I thought you might like to know that. We turned up at church at the usual time but the service was over and everyone was just scarfing the biccies and leaving in a most unsociable hurry. So home we go, and the kids are watching TV - some wholesome educational programme, no doubt, and my daughter informs me that "England scored." I hope she is not referring to the purchase of illegal pharmaceuticals.

And has the Guardian/ Observer shut up shop or something? Where are the customary denunciations? Iain? Peter?



 
Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by.... sloth. Uncommon Sense explains why the US State Department seems to prefer one-party states. Mind you even sloth is preferable to the sort of imaginative intiative shown by some public servants teaching Police Studies at Chandler school. (Scroll to the post below.)


 
The "Post and Publish" button worked just then, for the first time in twenty-two hours. I have not actually been sitting here for twenty-two hours trying it, but that's what it feels like.

Blogging will be low to non-existent over the coming half-term week. For some of it we will be away, for the rest we will have a guest staying in the room where the computer lives. And while the demands of hospitality might allow me a well-defined blogging period I can't get away with popping in at one in the morning with a cheerful cry of "I've just got to see if Blogger is working."



Saturday, June 01, 2002
 
Democracy is wonderful. I recant all of that wicked anarcho-capitalist drivel I was spouting to Brendan O'Neill. Online democracy is the wave of the future. And you, YOU, can ride on the very crest of that wave by voting for me at the War Now poll for cutest female blogger.

Go on, then.

What are you still here for? Hop to it! Do you seriously want to argue with Momma Bear?

[Responsibility outbreak here.] Believe it or not, there are reasons for following the links above other than voting for me. Voting for Diane E. of Letter from Gotham, for instance. She's a bit behind right now, possibly because she is one plain spoken woman, not afraid to express unpopular opinions. Momma Bear's denmate Andrew Ian Dodge continues with the much admired rock and roll series - this has the same effect on me as the naval terms in CS Forester or Patrick O'Brian: I have only the vaguest idea what Andrew is talking about, but breathe deep of all that authenticity. The Brendan O'Neill link has his response to my response to his post on the monarchy. Although Brendan tries manfully to provoke, the whole dicussion is actually morphing away from the monarchy and into Individual Rights versus People's Will. If it were not past my bedtime I'd start on about Athenian ostracism and the Federalists. And War Now has a fascinating post about Bruce Hill's first few weeks of wearing a kippa.

(Bruce, it's just the way my mind works; I have to know these things. Having slugged the guy and taken your leave, did you ever get to see how the The Seige ends?)



 
Natalie and Blogger. When it works, I don't. Some of this stuff has been lying untreated on a trolley in the lower half of my Blogger screen for a shocking amount of time. UPDATE and looks set to stay there for yet longer. Look, I'm not asking for a qualified Blogger doctor, even the charge nurse will do...

Confessions of a Criminal Justice system: Christopher Pastel writes:

I don't know what is meant by "a suprisingly large proportion" of Japanese crimes being successfully prosecuted based on confessions, but I can tell you that the percentage in the States (at least back in the early 1980's) was about 80% of guilty verdicts being based on confessions.


There was more on comparisons of crime between Japan and the US from Antoine Clarke. (Hey, Antoine! I found your Alternative Clarke Budget in my filing cabinet the other day. I never did slip it under Ken's door, coward that I was, so it's my fault that Labour won the next election and I am personally responsible for everything from then on.) Antoine wrote:

The explosion in crime rates in both the USA and the UK coincide with the simultaneous massive expansion of the welfare state, the virtual abandonment of the death penalty (in the US, New York got it back in about 1996), reductions in prison sentencing (especially for young offenders under 21), restrictions in firearms ownership and in the British case, the arrival of immigrants who didn't assimilate as easily as predecessors. This last point I blame squarely on the welfare state which created short-term rewards for failure. See Charles Murray's "Losing Ground" and his pamphlets for the IEA) on prison and on the underclass.

I don't know what the Japanese welfare state is like, but it might have something to do with crime rates. The ratio of "alienated" immigrants compared with the UK may also have something to do with it.

My own particular Charles Murray plug would be for his least known book, "In Pursuit of Happiness" which focuses squarely on why welfare gives you a horrible life.

Antoine also brings out into the open my dark suspicions as to why I had to part with £20 in order to get my car scrapped. "Two reasons why you had to pay," he writes, "(1) Raw materials continue to fall in price (except gold since 9-11) [market]" That's no fun! I can't slag off the market, it's not in my job description. C'mon, gimme one I can use. "(2) Recycling costs more than building from scratch but it mandatory and there's a new tax on landfill. [state]" Better! Thank you!






 
A cold wind over French free speech. Turkeyblog is first with a translation of the link to the French court decision regarding internet forums. Or fora, if you insist. (Reminds me of an oldie: one maths professor sent a note to another saying, "Shall we meet this evening to discuss some conundra?" The other guy writes back,* "I can think of nothing more boring than sitting on our ba doing sa.") But it's not just France. Tom Fox of Triple Dub writes:
I think that the UK has a similar problem, as Demon Internet found out to their detriment. I myself used to be in charge of the Web for a National UK paper. Unmoderated forums were a no-no. Things get more interesting when people use services such as YACCS, which may well be in a third country. In this case it would be the US, which has more "liberal" libel laws.

Liberté has been an oft forgotten word in France. The police protested last autumn over the introduction of the presumption of innocence, over 200 years after the revolution.
I think it was Hannah Arendt who asked why the paradigm of revolutions has so often been the French and not the American, and speculated that the defining difference between the two types was large-scale seizure of property.


*This must have happened at the high noon of Royal Mail excellence around the turn of the century when a letter to the same town could be sent and replied to in one day.



Friday, May 31, 2002
 
Gotta go. Meant to say much more about other stuff, including loads of good mail on multifarious subjects, but time's up. Please, please, look at Airstrip One and UK Transport for differing opinions as to whether it's all the EU's fault that the rail and track were run separately.


 
And all who sail in her. I have discovered Brendan O'Neill's site recently. He is of the vile and accursed tribe of progressive republican (UK sense) meeja activists. Teaches a course in online journalism at the Surrey Institute of Art and Design, and you don't get much more quintessentially Enemy Class than that. (Just look at the titles of the dissertations.) Apart from that, splendid chap, and quite sound on drugs (legalize don't lionize) and on the sins of the left.

Anyway, our Brendan decides to put the cat among the pigeons by means of this post slagging off the monarchy and right wing bloggers. Scroll down to find it, he has one link point per day.

Perry de Havilland pecks back.

As does Peter Briffa.

and me, by e-mail, quoted later.

Brendan says the defences of the monarchy are not strong, serious and democratic. Makes 'em sound like they have to be Tony Blair disguised as Milk Tray Man to qualify.

Perry again. "Yes. Undemocratic. Good. You heard right."

In comes David Carr. "With knobs on, " says he.

"And bells and whistles," says Peter. He made the point about the onus of proof being on the innovator, too.

Now, my two pennorth. Brendan O'Neill did not fully quote my e-mail. I'm not complaining; I know from experience that it's easy to make a cut that you, the cutter, think does no more than make the thing more snappy, and then feel quite taken aback when the originator gets into a lather about misrepresentation. So no hard feelings, but what I originally said was:

"But I've met loads of people - mostly middle class women, not that anyone important cares about them - who are quite consciously doing the street party thing to defend their vision of their country against people like you."
The section in italics was cut. But it was not mere padding. That's how it goes in a democracy: your fortunes depend on whether important men care about you. There are winning groups and losing groups. Frequently the winning group is not even the majority but a committed minority of activists. They get to decide. Why? What crime did the losing group commit?

So Brendan O'Neill says the middle class housewives are bored and dotty and has a nice line in ridicule by little-telling-detail, as if the mere mention of sausage rolls made whoever served them unimportant. (Warning: don't try the same line of ridicule by mention of chapattis. If you do people who know about Ethics of Journalism come down hard. Sausage rolls are safe, though.) Then he has the nerve to tell off Peter Briffa for empty, meaningless, 'witty' criticism, and insufficient attention to broader charges.

Let's go to his exact words:

"That just because some bored and dotty middle-class houswives plan to serve mini sausage rolls to their bored and dotty middle-class neighbours, we should all put up with a system that reduces us from citizens to subjects and means that, in the year 2002, we still have an unelected head of state?"

What's with the "just", Mr O'Neill? You're the democrat. You're the fan of the people. Here's the people doing things they like. Pro-monarchists are in fact the majority, as are middle class women come to think of it, but all that sort of consideration is your problem not mine. But I would think, given your professed concerns, that you'd be a tad more concerned. Don't you think the wishes of bored people count then? Pity they don't call themselves "alienated," that would sell better. As for "dotty", the imputation of insanity to those who disagree with you is rather reminiscent of the way Tony Blair's pollster calls those who might vote against the Euro "wreckers": not very democratic, but that's not unusual for democracies.

Here's people doing things they like.That's my defence of the monarchy, along with its consequence "we would be sad if you took it away from us." Since I'm no more than a last-resort democrat I don't need any more. (Though the comparative records of monarchies and republics provides plenty.) I don't even need a definite article before "people". Peter Briffa made a universal and important political point that you ignored. You say that defences of the monarchy have to be "strong" in order to count. But why should we play by your rules? How come it's us who have to put up with the constant demands to explain ourselves?



 
XXXXXX, Égalité, Fraternité. This ruling may mean the death of unmoderated internet discussion forums in France. It holds the webmaster responsible for libel committed by a forum member. (Found in the Libertarian Alliance Forum.)


Thursday, May 30, 2002
 
Crime in Japan. David Crookes writes:
I have no citation but the Economist a long time ago
addressed this question and one thing I remember was it claimed that a suprisingly large proportion of Japanese crimes are successfully prosecuted based on confessions. Furthermore, the article stated that police interviews weren't recorded, allowing forced confessions to be more easily extracted.

So Japan might have a nice low crime-rate thanks to police brutality and a general presumption of guilty until proven innocent.
Interesting, if painful to think about. I very much hope that that "thanks to" is really a "despite", since I'd rather not believe that one must choose between a low crime rate and police brutality. It looks as if the Japanese police have not changed. At home I have a book called "Traveller from Tokyo" by John Morris. He was an Englishman who ended up living in Japan for eight months after Pearl Harbour. Even allowing for the fact that any Book Club selection for March 1945 (I found an invoice for 2/6 loose inside the back cover, with a letter to Book Club members from Christina Foyle on the back) was scarcely likely to praise Imperial Japan, the description of Japanese police methods is still harrowing.

My second letter, from Tim Starr, also made reference to a period that Japan would like us to believe is utterly buried:

You write that Japanese gun laws are at least as restrictive as those of
Britain. Sadly, that is no longer true. Japan, for instance, allows Olympic pistol shooters to keep their guns, Britain does not.

As for Japanese crime rates, Japan has had strict gun control since the founding of the Tokugawa Shogunate, when all the guns were collected and melted down into a giant Buddha statue which the rulers promised would bring good karma to those whose guns were taken. However, this failed to prevent a wave of political assassinations in the 1920s and 1930s which brought the Militarists to power. They got their guns from the Japanese Army, of course, because the assassins were from the Army.

So, it's sort of the opposite of Britain. Pre-WWII Britain had little homicide and plenty of guns, pre-WWII Japan had few guns and plenty of politicide.




 
Two, no three, hot potatoes in one wrapper. If correct, this letter to the Telegraph slams three Guardipendent myths about the railways in one neat package, delivered by a man who ought to know.
Sir - Stephen Byers, a former law lecturer at Newcastle Polytechnic before he became an MP, never ran a business, or worked in industry or commerce creating wealth and jobs. His legacy is a demand for a shake-up of railway maintenance and the need to look at the role of contractors, the sub-text being that a return to British Rail practices is in order.

I was a former senior chartered engineer with British Rail in charge of a division of professional engineers. We found that, generally, direct labour was more expensive than contractors. All work was checked and verified before approving interim payments to contractors. Ten per cent of the tender price was retained to cover a 12-month maintenance period. Good management is required under any form of ownership.

Mr Byers stated that Railtrack has been a failure, totally unaware that the number of deaths per year is lower than under the former British Rail, even when carrying 25 per cent more passengers.
The writer doesn't say over what period he makes the comparison. If it's going back to the Tay Bridge Disaster or something like that, then this ain't news. But if the comparison is fairly recent, and true, it should be headline news.
The key to the whole issue is the Railway Act 1992, responsible for setting up Railtrack, which was issued under the European Communities Act to bring Britain in compliance with EC Directive 91/440, stipulating that track ownership must be separated from that of operational companies.

Idiots in Brussels, knowing nothing about engineering and the relationship between a train and its track, signals and operations, imposed this daft scheme.
Is this true? Is the separation of ownership between rail and train, which all sides seem to agree is a disaster, also the fault of the European Union? It's no use asking Transport Oracle Patrick Crozier because even he says he isn't sure. (Given that he was posting at 6.43am this morning, perhaps it's asking rather a lot that he has an answer by ten.) Anyway, our writer goes on:

My British Rail colleagues and I did not oppose privatisation on ideological grounds. Japan privatised its railways and they are among the safest in the world. The principal problem inherited by all private companies was to discover much of the track and rail coaches were 30 years old and life-expired. Such replacement takes time and money.

From:
Walter Ablett, Chelmsford, Essex






Wednesday, May 29, 2002
 
Childhood goes on until 25. Except for Israelis. This BBC News 24 report on the shot Israeli "settlers" slips in a quote that the students killed were studying "before their military service". To British readers who have long forgotten that Britain once had National Service that sounds a little as if the school had some particular link with the military. It also makes you think of them as near adults. What it does not mention is that the victims were fourteen years old.


 
EU - the Guardians of Truth slandered? I've had an e-mail from "Mr Happy" - Iain J Coleman saying the Telegraph, not the EU are the villains in the case of the Oddie versus the EU Islamophobia report. Say it ain't so!

Here is Iain Coleman's e-mail:


You quote William Oddie's reaction to the Telegraph's report about the EU Islamophobia document. Oddie is correct that his views have been misrepresented, but wrong to blame the document's authors. Rather, the fault lies with the Telegraph.

If you read the report, at this link you'll see that Oddie's words and intent are reported accurately. The report summarises comment from a wide variety of politicians, journalists and other public figures, without making any moral or political judgements on their opinions, as well as collecting all the recorded cases of anti-Islamic violence and harrassment. It is the Telegraph which has put a nakedly partisan anti-EU spin on the report, saying commentators were "castigated" or "taken to task" when no such thing took place. For example, the entire entry on Melanie Phillips reads:

Melanie Phillips in The Sunday Times 04/11 "Britain is in denial about the angry Muslims within" expressed her horror at the presence of a "fifth column in our midst",referring to reports that many young British Muslims are supporters of Osama Bin Laden. "Thousands of alienated young Muslims, most of them born and bred here but who regard themselves as an army within, are waiting for an opportunity to help destroy the society that sustains them. We now stare into the abyss, aghast."

In the Telegraph, this becomes:

The newspaper columnist Melanie Phillips was taken to task for writing in the Sunday Times that Muslims had become a "fifth column in our midst", an army of thousands of angry young Muslims "waiting to destroy the society that sustains them".

And it's all like that. The writer of the Telegraph article doubtless assumed that none of his readers would bother checking the actual EU report. In Mr Oddie's case, this was clearly a safe assumption.



I disagree. The report does misrepresent Oddie. So does the Telegraph but to a lesser extent. On page 29 the report says:
William Oddie in The Telegraph 08/11/01 "British hypocrisy could prove the salvation of society" ....suggests that Tony Blair's insistence in separating Islam and terrorism is a desperate and unconvincing attempt to "prevent or at least obfuscate" some people's perception of the British Muslim Community as a threat."
Compare his own account of what he said:
"For this country, there is [an] imperative, which will be with us long after the war is over: to prevent, or at least to obfuscate, a perception of the British Muslim community as being an alien wedge."
In other words the report says that Oddie disapproves of Tony Blair trying to prevent or obfuscate the perception of Muslims as a threat, whereas Oddie says that he himself wants this prevention or obfuscation.

I agree that the Telegraph's take on the matter is not quite right. It suggests the report objected to the mere words "alien wedge", which don't seem to be the issue.

Summarizing others' opinions is difficult. I left out certain subtleties for reasons of space. It could just be incompetence all round. CRE twits misquote Oddie. Telegraph twits misquote CRE. But my taxes don't pay for the Telegraph.

You may hear more later on whether the report really castigated Melanie Phillips. I could get into some serious analysis of castigation-by-positioning. There's a sort of good guy / bad guy rhythm to the report which does hit Mel on the bad-guy beat, as it does Thatcher and Tebbit earlier. However perhaps life's too short to really get into this.



 
Othello's occupation's gone. I don't know, Peter, what are you going to write about now? Let's hope the mice are in good health.

Unlike Mouseman and Swordsman I don't think that Mandleson will rise from his unquiet grave just yet. Byers' job will go to Hoon. Why? Because he stood up for Gibraltar. So it stands to reason they'll move him away from Defence as fast as they can.

UPDATE: Nah, it was Alastair Darling got the Black Spot. All I can remember about him is that back when he was Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury... no, better not say that, it was a long time ago and proof would be difficult. How about "in the nearest thing I ever had to a personal encounter with Alastair Darling, which was not very near, he was rather snitty, but perhaps he'd had a bad morning and the offence was not great." Remember, when you want the real dirt, come to this blog first.

Better control those digressions, girl. I read Tim Blair having a bit of a laugh at some poor schmuck's expense, and thought, this guy sounds like me. Mind you, I'd rather be Peter FitzSimons than Doug Brown, wouldn't you?



 
Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note / As her corse to the rampart we hurried. The change of gender you may have spotted there refers to the fact that the burial that has occupied me yesterday and this morning was not that of Sir John Moore but that of my Ford Fiesta Popular. Cars, like ships, are forever female whatever some oh-so-modern bureaucrat at Lloyds List might claim.
But she lay like a warrior taking her rest,
with her bonnet and wheels around her.
So now she is at the top of a wall of cars, awaiting in Valkyric splendour the passage through the crusher to the Happy Driving Grounds. I may have mixed up my mythologies there. Blame the mental disarray consequent on discovering that I had to pay twenty quid to have her scrapped. Time was when they paid you. I have my dark suspicions as to why this change might have taken place. I prefer not to dwell on such sordid matters. Rather let us salute an old, brave car who did not shirk her duty to fill the air with health-giving hydrocarbons hence staving off the next Ice Age. (Have I hit the right point in the environmental scare cycle? I always have trouble keeping in synch.) No matter that I forgot to take the cassette player out. Let it serve as a funeral offering.
We carved not a line, and we raised not a stone -
But we left her alone with her glory.


Tuesday, May 28, 2002
 
Wobbly. The hopefully amoralistic Airstrip One quotes a cringeworthy pro-European Project speech by President Bush. I could go off this man. Bush, that is. Emmanuel Goldstein is a sweetie-pie.


 
SIAR* on indicating whether replies to e-mails are desired. A reader writes:

"there's already a well-established FLA.

NNTR,


Nick"

*SIAR = Says It All, Really. I just made that up. Is NNTR well-established? I hadn't met it before. I've never seen FLA either, though its deprived younger sister TLA is a dear friend of mine.



 
Nitty-gritty. Layman's Logic has a post about the recent decree issued to the police that they must not use this term because of its supposed origins in the slave trade. (A claim which many etymologists dispute.) Follow the link in Ben Sheriff's post to a post by Eugene Volokh which tells 'em good.

It's gone from the net now, but the BBC's Talking Point forum had a whole discussion on this headed "Has PC gone mad?" Interestingly there was not one single comment in favour of the decree. I've never seen such unanimity before. Normally the BBC makes an effort to at least look as if it is presenting all sides of a debate, and they usually manage to give the PC people a surreptitious boost. On this occasion there clearly was no actual debate to present all sides of. From memory, the closest anyone came to supporting the decree was on the lines of "it's ridiculous to censor words because of their long-forgotten origins, but we should nonetheless censor words that are more clearly offensive."



 
Another good thing about Labour winning the election... Not my usual start line, I'll admit. But here Robert Harris argues that the Queen's present popularity is connected to Labour's victory. I remember thinking when the Conservatives won their last general election victory that, say what you will, it was Labour's turn next, and about bloody time. Power can corrupt, but so can lack of it. Labour needed to be brought down to earth by actually being responsible for something. Sometimes you have to reach New Jerusalem in order to remind yourself that it's just another New Town.



 
The EU, guardians of truth. Here's a self-explanatory letter to the Telegraph from one William Oddie (presumably not the same Bill Oddie I used to enjoy watching in The Goodies):
SIR - You report (May 24) an EU racism watchdog as focusing (in a document entitled "Islamophobia") on an article I wrote for The Daily Telegraph in which I am supposed to have asserted that "Britain's Muslims [are] an alien wedge".

What I actually wrote in that article was: "For this country, there is [an] imperative, which will be with us long after the war is over: to prevent, or at least to obfuscate, a perception of the British Muslim community as being an alien wedge."

In other words, my plain intention was the direct reverse of what I am accused of. Articles by other British journalists were similarly distorted in this EU report: the document as a whole is thoroughly disreputable, and should be withdrawn immediately.





 
A fantasy for the Guardian. I see the Guardian is still pretending that there is a serious body of opinion that thinks the Jenin quote massacre unquote actually took place, despite the fact that the Palestinian Authority themselves have dropped the claim that hundreds of civilians were killed. (Here's Mark Steyn's "Palestinians agree with Israel shock horror" column again.) Admire the way that the anonymous writer of this article seems so impartial. "Palestinians claim the camp was the scene of a massacre. Israel denies this and claims it is a centre for would-be suicide bombers." Can't you just imagine him, her or it smirking, "oh, I just reported the claims. After all some Palestinians still claim there was a massacre." The Guardian does not shrink from making an assessment of the validity of claims made by George Bush or Iain Duncan Smith, but they come over all bashful when it's their friends in Occupied Palestine.

Peter Briffa has given the Guardian a rude nickname, the "Wanker". Normally I'm such a nicey-nicey well-brought-up person that I laugh at this but do not imitate it. I have to admit, though, that the image perfectly describes the way the Guardian works itself up over its own fantasies. (UPDATE: Peter Briffa says he got it from Damian Penny.)

Oh yeah, and the heroic Palestinians have been killing toddlers in ice cream parlours. Scarcely qualifies as news these days, does it? Over the last few decades there has been a lot of outrage over the callousness of the phrase "collateral damage." It seems to stand for the mechanistic, inhuman side of our civilization, that sees human lives as mere tools, or worse, mere mess clogging up the progress of some great cause. Then you compare that attitude to that of to the Palestinians. Palestinians don't bomb places where families congregate as an unfortunate side-effect of hitting an armaments plant; they aim for them so they can kill families. And suddenly the phrase "collateral damage" and the apologetic behind it starts looking like a Normandy beachead: the first ground gained for civilization against barbarism.



 
Be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Here's a seriously intellectual website containing arguments for Christianity. Also lightbulb jokes, and an ethical defence of same.


Monday, May 27, 2002
 
Oops. Got into a code loop somehow. Or a time loop. Ignore this post.


 
Go on, surrender to blackmail now! I just had this cosmically urgent appeal for action:


Natalie,

As per instructed by the web-frau MB, I voted for you in this contest at War Now! How about a plug for my sex, drugs and rock & roll series? Of course I blew the deal since I voted BEFORE sending this email, but anyway. :}P

Andrew.

Dodgeblog.blogspot.com

"Insanabile cacoëthes scribendi"


Now there's a man who knows his special characters. And I will of course plug his sex n drugs n rock n roll series, as hitherto it has only been noticed by picayune specialist blogs like... oh, what is that thing called again? Ah, I remember now... Instapundit.

Y'all vote for me now. Or the sushi gets it.



 
What will be will be splendidly pedantic.. I had several e-mails about the wisdom of Doris Day. Ray Eckhart's was typical:
My foreign language skills are not formidable, so it took a bit of work to get all of Mr Steyn's witticisms.

What you might be missing, however, is the way many (especially them ignorant Texans) in America mispronounce the Spanish of Doris Day's song, "Que sera sera" (there should be an accent on the "a", so that the translation is "whatever will be, will be."), and instead, pronounce it as sera sera, as in the Italian for "evening", with the accent on the first syllable. In truth, the lyricist made an error, in the sense that the proper Spanish (if I trust my memory and High School Spanish teacher), should be "lo que sera, sera" (again with the accent on the a) Don't know how to do accents.


Thanks to Turkeyblog I do! Go to Webmonkey and search for "special characters." They all start with & and finish with ;. Just write the whole string in place of the character. It looks really weird on "Edit this post" but, trust me, comes out OK on the published page.

The popular misquoting of the words results from mixing Spanish with Italian. According to Babel Fish the Italian would be "Che cosa sarà, sia." (Let's see if their accent copies to my page!) This means "What thing will be, would be." But - trusting my memory and a teacher of long ago - I think that "sia" is the subjunctive and unecessarily posh. I hope I'm right to say that many Italians would drop the subjunctive and the "cosa" and actually say "Che sarà, sarà."

For fans of the song, Mr Eckhart provides the lyrics here. He did give another link, too, but it's not working for me.






 
"Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime... " Deeply concerned about criminals, completely freaking indifferent to victims of crime. I think I'll make this a series. The widow of the murdered head teacher Philip Lawrence was asked to apologize to his killer by the killer's probation officer. It seems the poor darling was upset at his victim's widow criticizing him for, you know, being a murderer. This was the action of one probation officer who has since had a bollocking, true. But it's symptomatic of the training and direction this officer will have recieved. Which in turn is symptomatic of the culture.


 
It Can't Rain All The Time, says Myria. A reader with what I think is an Irish name replies, "Obviously you've never lived in Ireland."

BTW I need a more explicit "naming" policy. My intention is that if the author of an e-mail to nataliesolent@aol signs their name then I assume, unless told otherwise, that it's OK to quote them by name. But what does it mean if I can easily get the name by digging in the "Details" field, but the main e-mail is not signed? Is anonymity desired or not?



 
The truth is out there. It just ain't found its way here yet. Samizdata links to it. Instapundit links to it. It's the Boston Globe story about the disastrous effects of British gun control.

Far be it for me to snipe about this timely exposition of facts I have been shouting into a black hole ever since I had this blog. I merely offer for discussion some complicating factors. The first is that I am pretty sure author Joyce Lee Malcolm is not quite right to call British gun restrictions "the toughest in any democracy". Japan is at least as strict, and has been for longer. This has been cited as one of the causes of Japan's famously low rate of crime by many anti-gun observers. Pro-gun people have to supply other explanations for Japan being different, such as general social cohesiveness. (Does anyone have a url for an accessible summary of different countries' gun laws?)

Secondly, it has to be said that althought the US burlgary and mugging rates are now looking either similar or lower than British rates, it is still true that the British murder rates are lower than US. Next question: is this because of the absence of legal guns? Answer: no. Or it least that's my answer. The British murder rate in the early part of the twentieth century was far lower than it is now, as the article says, and guns were then freely available for self-defence. Considering the more recent past, of the few anti-gun control facts that has become widely known in Britain - the knowledge having been hammered into us in a spectacular and bloody manner - is that the 1997 Firearms Act has been followed by an explosion of gun crime.

That, however, leads us to a third point. It bears repeating that the framers of the 1997 Act were not really interested in reducing ordinary shootings by ordinary criminals. This is not some stupid conspiracy theory. Gun-control was a genuinely popular and well-intentioned movement. But, as I wrote in Rachel weeping for her children:

The main aim of the handgun ban was not to cut down general gun crime. That was only ever thrown in as a makeweight. It is important to realise that what ordinary people wanted from a handgun ban was to stop another Hamilton or Ryan. They shut their eyes and wished hard. If troubled by the question, "won’t the next mad killer just get hold of an illegal gun, as ordinary criminals so frequently do?" then they firmly told themselves, "At least it’s a gesture in the right direction." The law served as a gesture of comfort to the bereaved and to the public.

For more on this subject, see Iain Murray's published work. The June 21st 2001 article is spot-on relevant, of course, but quite a lot of the others also tie in.


Saturday, May 25, 2002
 
Unbelievably I had not fully taken in that long-time - well, long-time in blog terms i.e. several whole months - correspondent Myria has a blog. It's easy to find at http://myria.blogspot.com but it's called "It Can't Rain All The Time" My favourite phrase, coming in the middle of a long post, was this:
But I digress.

Often.

I have an awful guilty feeling that Dodgeblog (wherein lies the den of another long-time correspondent Momma Bear) mentioned Myria's blog ages ago and I thought, must go and look there, and then the kitchen timer rang or something equally mundane and I didn't.

Talking of Dodgeblog, the thing I posted just now talked about a local council acting in a way that exuded both stupidity and a slug-like malice against anyone who disturbed their sloth. To be fair to local councils most of them do without the malice - but not, alas, the stupidity. Read the post about the sterling efforts of one council to keep all citizens informed regardless of disability.


 
"Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime..." ...Deeply concerned about criminals, completely freaking indifferent to victims of crime. James Rummel alerted me to a story about a run in between a local council and a 94 year old woman repeatedly victimised by criminals. Observe where the council's priorities lay.

And with reference to the post below, Yoda uses a hankie and blows his nose properly, like the gentleman he is.



 
The Wisdom of Doris Day. I have to point out, Mr Steyn, that "Che (rather than Que) sera, sera" is the Italian for "what evening, evening." Or was that all part of the joke?


 
Whether to watch the Pearl video? I certainly won't be, but I acknowledge that a man or woman of goodwill could come down on either side. But here is a passionate argument against viewing it from Moira Breen.
"You have the image of this handsome and kindly young man, in the high summer of his life, and you know his fate. With these two things in your possession, what knowledge remains unrevealed? What proper emotion still lies dormant? The photo of the smiling young man, and the knowledge of his fate. What more, pray, do you need to see in order to feel and to know?"



 
So glad there's nothing going on in the world, leaving us all free to talk about the scandalous, appalling admission that your odds of winning £10 in the National Lottery are only 1 in 57 and the odds of winning the jackpot are only one in some instantly forgettable but big number. What on earth did people think the odds were? How did they think the lottery made its money?

As government money-hoovers go, I quite like the lottery, or would if it were not for the shamelessly monopolistic restrictions they put on private lotteries competing with it. It's a voluntary tax on stupidity. I pay it every now and then.



 
I'm mostly better. Thanks for good wishes.


 
Ain't No Bad Dude now has his own domain name. It's http://www.aintnobaddude.com ---No apostrophe!


Friday, May 24, 2002
 
Have you noticed that I just got a whole bunch of other people to write my blog for me while I feel woozy? And I had the nerve to moan about e-mail. Off to bed now for some more pointed moaning. Oooh, my head, my aching bones...

UPDATE: message to Mr Katzman: In your dreams!


 
"Kashmir: breathe easier", says Joe Katzman of Winds of Change. He writes:
Noticed your blog postings. Did my own analysis of Kashmir, and came to less alarming conclusions.

Incidentally, while planes can be forward based, the weapons themselves tend to be stored in very secure locations. An airstrike ain't gonna get 'em, and they won't all be at the front. Besides which, you're not going to get all of the Jaguars - and if you do, they still have Mirage 2000s, and Mig-29s. Etc. There's always another plane to load a nuke on if necessary.

It's not like India or Pakistan are the US Air Force, either, with cutting edge equipment precision weapons up the yin-yang.

Result? Risk of a failed first strike is very, very high - so high I can't see either side trying it. Even without a triad-structure deterrent.





 
The Hole We're In. Jim Bennett recommends this review by Irwin Seltzer of Will Hutton's latest book. So do I. Here's an excerpt:
"Oddly for a tract devoted to comparing benevolent Europe with an America suffering from ‘tenacious, endemic racism’, immigration is virtually unmentioned. It didn’t take a Le Pen or the BNP to highlight the failure of Europe to achieve the successful absorption of immigrants that is so much a part of the conservative agenda and the American success story. The prominence of Indian immigrants in the top levels of Silicon Valley firms is well known. Less appreciated is the fact that in New York City alone some 40,000 minority firms account for a quarter of all businesses in the city, and employ 200,000 workers; over 33,000 of these firms are owned by Asian and Hispanic immigrants. "
I would add that the list of dead at the WTC made the multi-national nature of New York's workforce (note that I said workforce, not welfare rolls) well known.


 
More inspirational abbreviations. "Augustr", the author of the letter that started all this discussion of ways to streamline the processing of e-mail, has now come up with some more user-friendly ideas. Some of them are not entirely serious. I think. I hope. Well, serious or not, here they are:
"...bloggers may need some subject line abbrev. for other things, if we work hard enough we could have as many as we do all those smiley face thingies :-)

Oh, please -- OP

the obvious one -- FO

absolutely -- abs

references -- REF from happyfacepundit this morning

don't ever email me again -- FO oops used that- but it works doesn't it?

Oh, yeah, one more -- WHATEVER that should encourage people to go away.

The only problem is that after 2 or 3 only frequent users would know what they meant."






 
I started going down with a bug yesterday afternoon, and I feel yeuch today. So not much from me until I feel better.


Thursday, May 23, 2002
 
Government funding for Asian language teaching in Australia axed. This BBC News 24 story seems to feel deeply for Australia's national shame. I've got a totally rad blue-sky idea. If there are all these Chinese tourists wealthy enough to visit Australia can't they pay for intepreters? And can't some Australians pay a little to learn Mandarin (or to hone their specific translation skills if they speak it already) so they can make a lot more selling their skills? And can't some tour companies help financially with such training and then recoup their costs in commissions plus some profit as well? No, no, it's too absurd. The BBC would surely have said if this were even possible.


 
The answer to my quiz is: Chris Cooper has a great blog. Now I've seen it and I'm sure. This is his sharp message to both sides of the abortion debate. After pointing out that the strongest objections to the use of foetuses for experiment do not arise from lack of biological knowledge but from an irreconcilable difference of world-view, he says:
"There is no such thing as a right answer here. That's not sitting on any fence: pointing to the existence of a hundred-foot high fence isn't the same thing as sitting on it.


"So chew on that, objectivists. It means that in a free society, people are going to divide into communities of divergent moralities, and the anti-abortionist ones are just going to have to live alongside communities of people whom they regard as murderers. As they already have to do, of course - but they're not reconciled to the fact."
I think he is wrong to say there is no such thing as a right answer. Unfortunately I can't prove it, and neither can you with what you think is the right answer. But he accurately delimits the playing field we can none of us leave.



 
You want to see something really scary? This comment addressed to a Vodkapundit post fits the bill:
If the Indians really have forward deployed their strike assets, then the escalation ladder is currently being put in place.

Neither state has what is known as a "secure second strike," i.e., a set of forces that can survive an opponent's first-strike. (Think about our ballistic missile subs, which are hidden and can "ride out" an attack on the US, and then strike back hours, days, or even weeks later.)

Instead, if they've deployed their forces to forward locations, they are vulnerable to an enemy first strike (air bases are very soft targets). Which means that, conceivably, you're either in a launch-on-warning situation (bad, because that really is a hair-trigger alert; we and the Soviets generally avoided going to such a situation), or else you're in a first-strike mode (where your vulnerability won't matter, because you think you'll get your licks in first).

Both are EXTREMELY destabilizing situations to be in, since accidental wars and unintended wars (i.e., "I don't want to go to war, but it looks like he's going to, so I'd better get my shot off.") are much higher probability events under such circumstances.


Posted by: Dean on May 23, 2002 02:45 AM
As I commented to Vodkapundit, no one's mentioned the start of World War I yet, where the railway-based mobilization once started was next to impossible to stop, since to be attacked while de-mobilizing was just about the worst position to be in.


 
The wages of political correctness is death. As pointed out by a caller to The Corner, back in early September 2001 it would not have been a good career move for a federal agent to suggest serious racial profiling of Arabs at flight schools. What astounds me is that it still might not be a good career move.


 
"Carry on carping," says Julian Borger in the Guardian. Why, you might get a role in the film and be spanked by Hattie Jacques while Kenneth Williams says "auwww." Borger has no such ambition. He thinks that even though Colin Powell has asked the Europeans to stop carping, the real friends of the Secretary of State should - for his own good - carry on. One might think that a chap who fought in Vietnam, rose to be the most prominent African-American soldier in history, and now holds a major office in the most powerful government in the world would be a better judge of his own best interests than a Guardian journalist. If Borger wants to carp at the US, let him do so. He'll just up the level of Bushite scorn a little further and make it a little less likely that any good advice in there will be lost in the slush. I do wish, though, he'd carp off his own bat and stop pretending that's it's all done for dear Colin's sake.


 
Quiz time. Of whom did I say, "...I'm sure he has a great blog. Pity either Blogger or my server is malingering so I can't look and see."?


Wednesday, May 22, 2002
 
The evidence of my senses. James Rummel, of Hell in a Handbasket ("James Rummel, of Hell..." This could be misunderstood. I attempt to thus indicate the name of his blog rather than speculate on the eventual residence of his immortal soul) has many years of experience in the field of forensic science. Read his post about the way the Soviets and others have been doctoring photos for years. He also writes:
"I just read your post on the age of evidence. You were troubled by the news that creative editing with a computer can alter videos to the point that the tape has nothing to do with reality.

"I get this a lot from people. You see, what you're worried about isn't evidence.

"It's not just the law that I'm talking about, even though it provides the best example of what I mean. Think back to your own experiences. Ever have an event happen, something that was important to you so you thought that you'd remember the details forever? Then, when discussing the event with someone else who was there, you found that they had gotten the details completely wrong?

"Right about now you should be saying 'But it's videotape! A recording of real events! To alter that
is beyond belief!' Not really. Tapes have long been edited. Time stamps on surveillance video (the digital clocks at the bottom of the image) was altered almost as fast as video was introduced. Tapes can be altered to show an empty corridor when a whole herd of people are moving through it. Things like that."
[Though I do think our growing ability to put a herd of people in when the corridor was really empty does move matters on to a new level - NS]


"REAL evidence (my old field) is still safe. Fingerprints, DNA, hair and fiber, all still of value. False evidence can be planted, but it can't be altered after the fact."
I am partially reassured, although even for these types of evidence the time will come when something like the replicators in Star Trek can fake anything. However I had in mind more than just the pointed question of what happened on this or that occasion. Once one gets to the stage of asking factual questions on the course of particular events then, yes, recent advances in video technology don't really change things that much. We rightly trust blood, grease and bone more than magnetic tape. My fear is more of that the river of background knowledge will be polluted.

How do we know about history? Or, widening the question, about the way the human race conducts its affairs? Direct experience and instruction count for a lot, but a vast amount of knowledge comes as a by-product of either entertainment or of instruction ostensibly about something else. You watch a Public Information Film about women war workers made in 1943 and, along with foreground knowledge about World War II, you learn that commentators in those days had a special speech-rhythm, and you observe something about women's hairdos and the care needed to protect them, and how big a deal it was that the women were wearing trousers, and you make some assessment of the level of deference in those days, and you note that the makers of the film evidently thought that a reference to Soviet female workers would help morale, and a whole lot of stuff. It worries me that, say, some well intentioned person could put a few black faces among the workers (for a US example) in order to show the black contribution to the war. OK, that would be a stupid thing to do even by the professed lights of the "anti-racists", as the way the contributions made by blacks were hidden from view is a genuine historical injustice. But people do do stupid things that harm their own cause. (Ye gods, some teacher dorks want to ban To Kill A Mockingbird because it contains the word "nigger".) Well, now they can put in the missing black faces. Easily.

Too easily. That was a lousy example, since changing white faces to black has been possible for decades. I shall leave it in as a swipe against teacher dorks, though.

How about the scope for manipulation of our negative knowledge - I mean the things we'd surely know about if they had happened because we are well informed people who know about the world. This is a surprisingly large category of knowledge, and it is evidence of an active mind not a closed one. It's how you know no animals have been found on Mars. It's how you make any sort of estimate of the character of a public figure.

Now it gets scary. No public figure will be safe from some website somewhere having a video clip of him or her saying or doing whatever is calculated to offend the maximum number of supporters. Conversely some public figures will have acolytes making videos portraying them as doing whatever is calculated to appeal to the maximum number of supporters. Osama Bin Laden, for instance...you knew I'd get to him eventually, didn't you? And so I have, but you'll have to do your own worrying because I'm off to bed.