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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( '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

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Wednesday, August 07, 2002
The evil of compulsory purchase. I realise that I had unconsciously lifted the bit in the post below about the stubborn old lady from this Libertarian Alliance pamphlet on road pricing. It's PDF, alas. The relevant quote is at the bottom of page 8 and the top of page 9.

Incidentally, I try to be consistent. If a village "dies" (i.e. becomes no more than a dormitory) because no one thinks it profitable to run a bus service to it, my reaction is, "that's sad, but no one is obliged to subsidise my rural retreat." (Though as a matter of fact it might still be viable if roads were not subsidised. Fast transport links can take trade away as well as bring it.) If a village were to die because an airport developer bought out every single house, that too is sad, but, hey, have fun with the money pile, guys. But if a village or one single house is destroyed against the wishes of its inhabitants because the government wishes to convey some benefit to third parties, then that is not sad but wrong. It is a bit like punishing a few innocent people (so long as they are widely believed to be guilty) for the sake of an improvement in public order: however genuine and widespread the benefit, it is still wrong.

Ryanair chief blasts NIMBY Brits. NIABY Brit blasts Ryanair chief. For non-British readers, "NIMBY" is an acronym for Not In My Back Yard and refers to those who support development anywhere else but near them. The Ryanair head honcho says that Britain must get its act together to compete with the French and Germans.

Why? Why should we care what the French and Germans do?

The "development" concerned is in my backyard, near as dammit literally. But I can truthfully say that I have been a NIABY (Not In Anybody's Back Yard) since long before the fake "consultation" document, which purports to say that my objections have a meaningful chance of stopping the state destroying all the villages hereabouts, hit the mat.

Don't get me wrong. I like prosperity, international trade and travel and cool technological stuff including aeroplanes. But why the hell should I sacrifice so much that is important to me in order to "compete with France and Germany" (anyway, weren't they supposed to be our European Partners, scarcely foreign countries at all?), or in order to shave fifteen minutes of the average journey time to a holiday destination by persons unknown to me ten years hence? If Mr Ryanair wants to build an airport, let him buy the land for it, and let him pay off the people affected by noise with stacks of gold, and let him build his freaking runway in a curve if some old lady won't sell. Otherwise I'm inclined to think that the competition that really inspires him is between his greed and his love of power.

ON REFLECTION: I can't think what on earth I meant by that last sentence. A pointless rhetorical flourish. His greed and love of power, are of course, allowed to run in parallel by the laws of compulsory purchase. In a truly free market his greed could only be satisfied by pleasing people, i.e. running a good airline, rather than by earning my undying emnity and permanent boycott of his state-lackey airline, for all that the estimable Patrick Crozier says that he is cool. (Incidentally, clicking that link gives you all today's press comment on airport expansion.) Where was I? Oh, I have a letter. Andy Richards wrote the comment below and my replies are in italics. The italics get a bit frisky in places, but that's a risk you take in writing to me when I'm in a baaaaaaaaad mood.

"Interesting what you say. Seems like no-one wants more airports but everyone wants to fly more. I live in West London and a lot of people here don't want another runway at Heathrow, but they want more holidays and more fresh produce grown in Mozambique or Mongolia.

"I think there's no way round this. The airport for commercial reasons will be going to the south east. That's where the demand is.

What demand? Sure, everyone you know wants shorter journey times if offered them in isolation. But who except those who stand to profit by them lies awake lusting for more airports? Who do you know who would stand face to face with one of the several people known to me whose beloved homes will either be utterly blighted or destroyed and tell them, "I demand a shorter holiday journey time and cheaper pomegranates at the price - taken by force - of a major component of your happiness?" And if you do know any such selfish people, why should their demands be met? What makes their demands trump my friends' rights? The "demand" everyone speaks of is actually a product of government projections of airline activity. It is quite genuine, in the sense that the lines on the graph do indeed slope upwards, but the projection may well be mistaken (look at the history of the New Towns, and weep) and whether it is or not there is no moral reason why the diffuse un-priced wishes of one bunch of people should cause major violations of the rights of another bunch.
That demand will soon be even greater when a forecast extra 700,000 people move to London (most of them to the eastern part of town).

And that move is also state funded. Left to themselves the high house prices would be self-correcting. The lack of places for teachers, policemen, train drivers etc. to live would make the South East steadily less attractive for executives, too. South and North would even out, to the benefit of both. Of course, that won't happen because we are going to have a whole pile of subsidised housing.

And what if the forecasts are wrong? I say again, look at Harlow New Town, once forecast to have a population three times its present size, and take anything government forecasters say with a whole bag of salt.

"We do have a choice of course. We can decide not to build any more airports. We can let it go to France and Germany. We can choose less wealth.
Fixed quantity of wealth fallacy.
Any volunteers for that? Thought not.
All the people I know whose property and lives are blighted by the proposed runways would unhesitatingly accept lower wealth in exchange for their old lives back. Furthermore vast numbers of environmentally concerned people (sincere twits though most of them are) go out and demonstrate explicitly against wealth and against development . Actually, both groups, my admirable friends and the yobbish anti-globalization demonstrators, act in ignorance. The choice is not so stark. In the absence of government-forced development other and better ways of generating wealth (video conferencing, hothouse pomegranates) would arise. Many a poor country has a slick new empty airport and vast motorways dwindling into the sand.
"It does no good blaming all this on RyanAir or 'the state'. If there was no demand for extra airports then nobody would be wasting their time thinking about where they should go."
What faith! Faith that nobody would waste their time building vast white elephants... Ask the Egyptians driven out of their homes by the Aswan dam, or the Ghanaians pushed aside for the Akosombo dam (both now breeding grounds for malaria) whether such faith is justified. For that matter, ask any of the inhabitants of the crumbling, crime ridden modern estates in any British city, in their day touted as the answer to the "demand" for new housing, whether it is impossible that the planners' valuable time can turn out to be wasted.

Boycott Yahoo? Random Jottings suggests a boycott of Yahoo because it acquiesces in censorship by China. I am confused, having recently received this e-mail:

"in a computing newsgroup I monitor, discussion of a [computer] language variant led to a post from someone in mainland China remarking that "Yahoo groups where its newlist sits are forbidden here". The poster encouraged people to work on open-source projects implementing an idea that would let anyone bypass such limitations, while remarking

> >It's very useful technology that can be commonly used, I think.
> >And it does have its dangerous side if it is abused.

prompting this response from someone in Holland:

> To paraphrase a well-known quote: 'any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a gun' ;-)

If you haven't come across this paraphrase before, I thought it would interest you."
It does. If I have time I shall post it as a Samizdata quote of the day. But, returning to the original point, the wording suggests that it is the Chinese authorities who forbid the freewheeling ISP rather than self-censorship by a cringing Yahoo. True, the original poster could be misinformed, but surely the Chinese authorities would prefer to put the blame for censorship on Yahoo if they could, rather as the British government and the EU are always trying to say that it is the other who really pushes the most irksome regulations.

UPDATE AND SKID MARKS: I've read some more. It's cringing self-censorship by Yahoo. Scumbags. There are some thoughtful comments on John Weidner's site against as well as for a boycott, though, pointing out that drawing the oligarchs' attention to might be a bad move. See this post.

The last word on the Hidden Knot comes from Roscoe Ellis, who writes:
"...decades ago, when I was an athletically inclined "flat belly", I spent some time sewing together custom made rock climbing harnesses for myself. As a technical solo climber, my life literally depended on the sturdiness of my gear, and I took great care in its construction. Then, as now, I found that sewing with nylon fishing line rather than thread worked best for my needs. (You probably don't sew with heavy fishing line, do you?)"
Not every day, no.
"But I noticed early on the mysterious power of The Knot at The Last Stitch.

"I've come to accept this strange phenomenon as a mystery of nature. If an answer can ever be found as to why it is as it is, perhaps it will have a metaphysical basis: relating in some way to a scholastic formulation of truth and reality. Or perhaps it has a tie in to crop circles. When I go to see the new Mel Gibson movie, I'll have your question in mind. And if an answer presents itself, I'll let you know."

Mr Gibson is undoubtedly easy on the eye, but does he really have the answer? I once, for reasons that seemed good at the time, read close on a hundred of the 627 Amazon reviews of "The Patriot." By the time I had finished that lot I was into metaphysical speculation all right; I have always thought Purgatory a most logical doctrine.

My stats graph looks like a printout from the day they discovered pulsars. If you're here from The Corner, the post about anti-smoking zealotry is down here.

Tuesday, August 06, 2002
Just a reminder. I'm hoping to blog tomorrow, but no promises. Then I'm off for coupla weeks.

Group blogs seem to be all the rage now. Over time one needs to develop a team name, so to speak. While heartily welcoming Messrs Norland, Arenson and Sullivan to Dawson's blog, I have not yet settled upon what they should be called as a group. "Team Dawsi", by analogy with "Team Sami", perhaps? No, too cute. "The Dawson Four" sounds like they are on trial for something, although there is a nice hint of superhero status for comics fans. "The Dawsonians" sounds worryingly like a geological era or a nineteenth century sect, but has a certain straightforward solidity and is the best I can come up with so far.

But why has Dawson himself no byline? Not that it is hard to recognize his style, but he ought to have one for consistency. There's no rule that says it must include a first name!

Read This Now. Jay Zilber might disagree with the Biased BBC crowd about a lot of things, but his post about the nature and ramifications of bias is supremely relevant. But that was just the appetiser. He really gets going - and, more importantly, continues to walk the narrow way of truth - when he turns, as part of the same mega-post, to the subject of the Middle East. He makes the the harshest of judgements about the present culture and morals of the Palestinians without ever denying their humanity.
"They have been taught no trades, no skills, no expertise -- except for explosives and munitions. They would sooner themselves die than accept the relative success and durability of the Jewish culture, literally a stone's throw from the pit they have created for themselves."

And Silflay Hraka, too, (a) because I can spell it and I want you all to know that, and (b) in gratitude for the haiku. This one is actually rather moving:
Dividing the twins--

letting them see, at last, how

the other half grins.
Kehaar is in competition with Will WARREN, yes I got it this time, WARREN, okay now?

With great effort I have avoided making a rabbit joke. Mr Warren also offers us several haiku, including the atmospheric

At Homeland Security

Still: sunbeamed dust flits.

Bare wall echoes unheard call.

At a desk, Ridge sits.

(Just fooling. I knew it was Bigwig really. Kehaar hasn't posted for ages. Gone off to Pig Vater, maybe?)

Grab him quick! I had better hasten to induct Peter Cuthbertson of Conservative Commentary into the New Model Army, not least because he has grabbed me for his new Biased BBC group blog. Go over there to read my first ever post. Also see Conservative Commentary for a defence of the noble art of monomachy.

James Rummel of Hell in a Handbasket found it a useful tip to cite the Coriolis force as an excuse for shots going wide of the target. "...I've got to try that next time. I always just say that I suck or that I'm having a bad day. But you've found the REAL reason! The damn Earth is spinning and the target moved out from under the shot!". Remember, fellow sportsmen: the true shooter is focused. Centred. Possessed of an almost zen-like calm as he moves inevitably towards his goal... the perfect excuse. Never mind the shooting lark, are you man or woman enough to hack it afterwards in the bar?

Nothing new under the sun. The New Statesman of August 12, 1916 quotes approvingly another paper's editorial:
'"Does anyone suppose that railways will ever be allowed to revert to their former state of wasteful incoherence? In this way it is quite conceivable that we shall get Socialism imposed from above rather than forced on us from below. The changes brought about by the last two years have been so rapid that, in the rush of events, many men have failed to realise their full significance; but that things can ever be as they were in the summer of 1914 is impossible."'

The New Statesman adds: 'Another daily is indignant at the thought that the Channel Tunnel should be built for the profit of private people, and considers that it should be done by the French and British governments. So the world does move, after all.'

The reader who supplied this clip adds, "The passage chiefly made me reflect how inconceivable it was that socialism could ever have been forced from below rather than imposed from above."

Where I fail, Improved Clinch succeeds! Here's the Homeland Stupidity story, courtesy of the BBC rather than the Mail, but clearly the same story: Toy soldier disarmed at airport. But that is not all Improved Clinch has to offer. There's that title for a start, and the fact that Mr Venlet, the author, smokes a cigar. Say what you like, I think that's pleasantly out of step with the best modern health advice. But what I actually went to see was John Venlet's comments on a recent kidnapping case. These girls of 16 and 17 were kidnapped, and raped. Bad. They were found alive and the kidnapper is now dead. Good and good. But, as he says - why were they were out in the middle of the night with their parents having no idea of their whereabouts? It is not making excuses for crime to say that that is asking for trouble.

Secrets of the sewing room revealed. John Weidner of Random Jottings writes, as he lolls in the shade of Mt Fuji, or possibly Kilimanjaro, regarding The Last Knot,
You've given me a distinct feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment, because the trick of hiding the end of the thread between two layers ... I figured that out all by myself, long ago. I never mentioned it for fear someone who really knew how to sew would laugh at me!

Junius is back from being rained upon. So, in order to keep the perpetual rota of rain-sodden Brits on holiday going, I will stride forth and take his place. Not his exact place; the marvellous thing about the soggy Brits rota is that one can take part in this magnificent experience anywhere north of the tropic of Cancer.

The camper van is half way being packed. Like a sort of reverse cornucopia it swallows up vast amounts of our worldly goods. Am I the only person who hates getting ready for holidays? Bah, humbug, I say as I scrape the mould off the rubber window seals. Note the pronoun. I, I, I. When it comes to scraping window frames, the story is always about me.

In case you haven't worked it out, we will be away. Until the 21st to be precise. I should be around to blog tomorrow, but just in case I can't fit any blogging into the gaps between our packed schedule of blazing travel rows*, I thought I'd mention it now so that no-one assumes the worst from my silence and comes in to auction off my blog.

*Marked in my Filofax as:

10am: "You said last Christmas you'd book the cattery this time"

10.30 am: "But Charlene from the travel insurance company promised she'd ring back"

11am: "So where are the cats, then? I told you not to let them see the cat box"

Homeland Jobsworthery update: I still can't find a link that story I read yesterday (5th Aug) in the paper version of the Daily Mail about the two inch toy gun being confiscated at Los Angeles airport. But to more than make it up to you, here's an example twice as stupid. (One can derive the stupidity coefficient from the formula xy = constant, where x= "length of dangerous weapon" and y="Homeland Security stupidity coefficient") Yup, this poor guy's confiscated key chain in the shape of a gun was one whole terrifying inch long. As the author of "" put it himself:
"I doubt anyone would think that it could be a terrorist weapon, unless they were the size of a fraggle. Damn. I got that keychain at the best Mexican restaurant in Corpus Christi, La Iguana. That keychain was so ghetto, I just had to spend 25 cents to buy it. And now... I will never see it again. Goodbye keychain. I'll miss you."

Flop down in the dog bed. Shoot The Dog flops.

Monday, August 05, 2002
They want to extend anti-smoking censorship even to fiction. A government minister in Italy intends to flash a health warning on the screen whenever an actor lights up on film. The mindset of the minister who floated this proposal, Girolamo Sirchia, was revealed by this quote:
"There is no such thing as spontaneous social behaviour, every action is the result of influences."
John Stuart Mill had an answer to that one. When the secretary of the Alliance (an organization agitating for the prohibition of alcohol) said, "I claim, as a citizen a right to legislate whenever my social rights are invaded by the social act of another," Mill made this devastating response:
"So monstrous a principle is far more dangerous than any single interference with liberty; there is no violation of liberty which it would not justify; it acknowledges no right to any freedom whatsoever, except perhaps to that of holding opinions in secret, without ever disclosing them: for the moment an opinion which I consider noxious passes any one's lips, it invades all the 'social rights' attributed to me by the Alliance. The doctrine ascribes to all mankind a vested interest in each other's moral, intellectual and even physical perfection, to be defined by each claimant according to his own standard."
The italics are mine, put there in honour of Minister Sirchia.

(And the quotation is from Chapter IV of On Liberty, if you want to track it down.)

Homeland Security: Protecting Your Family... from two inch toy "Action man" guns. The link isn't up yet, but today's Daily Mail reports that the ever-vigilant security lads and lasses at Los Angeles airport showed their alertness by confiscating a replica gun. It came from a "GI Joe" Action Man toy, intended as a present for a British boy. That's right, the "replica" was slightly shorter than the finger that these people should be getting out, if you'll pardon the vulgar tongue. The baggage searchers then, in all seriousness, considered whether to go for any plastic toy grenades the size of peas that might be threatening the safety of the travelling public.

Just to show that zero-brain zero-tolerance is not confined to American shores, here's a story from yesterday's Mail: Children arrested, fingerprinted and names put on offenders' record for toy gun game.

Saturday, August 03, 2002
I am thirty eight years and several months old. I have a countable number of grey hairs. My size 10 jeans have gone to Oxfam years ago, and I'm wondering about my size 12's.

So how did I live this long and never figure out how to make sure the end of the thread is not visible from either side on a quilt, or anything with two layers meant to be seen? It works like this: when you've finished your line of sewing, do a couple of back stitches for strength. I knew that much. Then you do a final stitch way into the wadding, pull the thread taut and clip the end just above the surface. Once the tension is released the end pops back. Actually I knew that, too, though I've only been doing it for a couple of years. It usually works fine, but sometimes that last stitch works loose. So the final refinement, the thing that got me so excited is this: before making your final stitch you do the simplest possible knot near the surface of the fabric. It doesn't matter exactly where. Then you make your stitch and pull the knot into the interior. The fabric closes up behind it and it doesn't pop out. It's not quite true that I had never figured it out; I had read about it in sewing books, but it always seemed unsatisfactory somehow. Surely, I thought, if the knot can go in to the fabric it can fall out again. Well, it doesn't. Indeed it seems so strong that you could dispense with the back stitches if the line of sewing does not have to bear a load. Why doesn't it come out again, though? Hysterisis or chaos theory, most probably. Probably not Coriolis force, though that explains nearly everything else. After ascertaining that there are no scientists in the audience I always call upon Coriolis force to explain poor scores in shooting. I'd miss in the other direction in Australia.

Friday, August 02, 2002
Warren Hastings A Good Thing? My regular correspondent, A Regular Correspondent, writes:
This one is trickier than most. I always feel that his prosecution was a very good thing both for the empire and for its subjects since it led to higher standards than would otherwise have prevailed. The punishment of his having to endure the prosecution for seven years was surely not unjust to him. It might have been more just if he had been at least convicted and fined at the end of it on some of the counts (he was wholly innocent on some counts, not morally innocent though perhaps legally innocent on others). On the other hand, he was no simple evil oppressor. One of the odd things about the whole case is that twenty years earlier Hastings was keen for reform of the East India company which the Whigs opposed for domestic political reasons (Burke disliked this policy, rebelled against it, was disciplined and eventually launched his own policy, to which he dragged his party almost as much as he dragged the Tories). Hastings' most effective defence would have been to ask, "Where were you when I wanted to stop these things?".

Psst! Wanna see my hit counter? Well, it's a hit counter, and I set it up myself all right. You will observe that there were four, count them, four hits in the month of July. Three of them occured on July 19th and were all me, checking to see that I'd set the thing up right.

So, out there somewhere, is the the person who, having visited this weblog on 20th July 2002, was destined to be the one and only soul on this planet to follow one particular shy little link and see my little joke. Who are you? Did you laugh?

LATER: Oh, all right. Click on the word "me" in the link above. Happy now?

Le Shampooing can now be called Shampoo. Contrary to popular belief I am not engaged in a crusade to get everyone to speak English. I have no particular lust to see English labels on French supermarket shelves. It is a victory for the freedom of speech of producers, the freedom to buy of consumers, and for the cause of anti-protectionism that the EU has obliged the French government to accept English or other non-French labels on products for sale, but my gratitude to the EU knows bounds. I don't concede the EU's right to dictate what goes on labels any more than the French government's.

A good day for some. Indepundit reports a surge in campaign contributions from Arab-sounding sources to the conspiracy theorist congresswoman, Cynthia McKinney. Some of you will be bridling at this. Some of you will be saying, "Getting a bit close to the knuckle, isn't it, looking at people's names on a list of donors and making insinuations based on their apparent race? Would you do this if they were Jewish names?" Actually, if the surge had happened on September 11 2001, as this surge did, yes I would. As Indepundit said, after saying how the attacks had an extra horror for him because September 11 is his birthday,
"Some people, on the other hand, decided after learning of the attacks that it was a great moment to make a political contribution."
Is this as bad as it looks? Here are some possible mitigating factors:

  • Is it possible that donations are actually made a day or two earlier and only show up on the website on September 11?
  • Is the proportion of donors that are Arab-Americans actually so very high?
  • What proportion of donors are non-American Arabs?
  • What is the usual seasonal profile for contributions from both categories? Could there be some innocent reason to do with tax or religious festivals that would result in contributions tending to bunch at that time?
  • No doubt all the donors would claim this one whether true or not. But it probably is true for many that the motive for the donations was fear of a backlash against Arabs. They were seeking the protection of their congresswoman.
Someone will look into it, no doubt. Since I got the link from Instapundit, make that lots of someones.

UPDATE: make that Jim Henley and then tha Atlanta Journal-Constitution. To see the AJC story, follow a link from Instapundit again. Why don't I link to them directly? Well, they didn't even have the courtesy to credit Indepundit.

Thursday, August 01, 2002
Do you think I'm getting a bit obsessed with the Guardian? Could be, could be, but I can't help wondering what they'll make of the UN saying there was no massacre in Jenin. The "blame both sides" bit is the usual moral equivalency verbiage - No! Wait! Wowee, look, progress: they do blame both sides!

The Litmus Test. I have only just found this Ian Buruma article on the boycott of Israeli academics. I found myself skimming with interest down the list of related articles at the bottom too, particularly the actual list of names of those academics who signed the boycott. Two points struck me: first that the Guardian's coverage of this issue is pretty fair - the academic connection brings out the best in the Guardian, and second that the actual wording of the boycott statement is not as extreme ("I will continue to collaborate with, and host, Israeli scientific colleagues on an individual basis") as Mona Baker's out-and-out racist actions suggest.

The boycott is still a disgrace. Reading history, certain issues serve as a litmus test for telling which characters to like and which not to. In the great dramas of the past the titles and slogans at the top of the banners first lose their power to stir the heart, and finally their power to even twitch the right neurons. It doesn't matter that much. Most of us can get through a dinner party conversation without knowing whether we would have been pro or anti the Corn Laws, the Jacobites or the House of York. Although I myself frequently wake up distraught that I can never remember whether Warren Hastings was a good or a bad thing, my affliction is rare. But I know I like Johnson better than Boswell, because Johnson knew slavery was wrong. There is scarcely any credit in my knowing that slavery is wrong when the whole world except for some barbaric outposts knows it too, but credit is due to Johnson and his contemporaries who discerned the evil when many did not. Even more credit is due to those further back in time, who first denounced slavery when the whole world thought it a natural institution ordained by God or the gods.

This piffling little boycott (with or without Mona Baker's embarrassing extension of it) is a far lesser evil than slavery, of course. The great conflict of which the boycott is a part may or may not equal slavery in the harm it does; time and geiger counters will tell. And one day many of the issues that divide us now will be essay questions for schoolchildren. "Would you have been a Whig or a Tory? Give reasons for your decision." "Would you have invaded Iraq or not? Explain in no more than 500 words." Gosh, hard to tell what to do for the best, isn't it? But sacking academics for being Israeli is, in one small respect, like slavery in Johnson's time: anyone ought to be able to tell that it is contemptible, and whether you let yourself see it or not is a filter that judges you. And the same goes for targeting civilians, old people and children. The Palestinians of these last three decades will leave behind them hardly any art, science, literature, political science, or testament of religious thought worth study, except to students of the bizarre in the case of religious thought, but they will be remembered for that.

UPDATE: ...and for the extent to which their society as a whole condoned and celebrated evil.

Equal before the law. Ain't No Bad Dude correctly points out that if a person is legally due government compensation, then he is legally due it no matter how rich or unworthy he is. I don't know about the specific case he mentions, that of a Mr William Clinton, but the principle is sound.

Wednesday, July 31, 2002
Breaking News... Hamas revealed as Bad Guys! Right Wing News is spot-on about Jesse Jackson cancelling a meeting with Hamas because of the Hebrew University bomb. Jesse Jackson pretending to be shocked to the core that Hamas kill people is, as RWN says,
" canceling a meeting with Britney Spears because she did a concert last night."

If this is a money-making scam it is one so beautiful and inventive that it deserves to succeed. The Time Travel Fund.

Chris Tame of the Libertarian Alliance Forum said he wished he'd thought of it. I told him he will, sometime after his second cryogenic revival twenty-odd thousand years from now.

Don't lets be beastly to the banks, sings the Telegraph's City Editor. Though he'll have to sing louder still if he wants to be heard over the chorus denouncing this week's popular hate figure. I vote evict Natwest! Natwest has been badmouthing the other housemates and does not know where Portugal is. No, you can't vote to evict Railtrack, that was last series.

Hebrew University bomb blast kills seven, the Guardian reports, more sympathetically than hitherto. The Guardian writer, Simon Jeffery, and his mysterious "agencies" neglected to insert a single reference to any of the murdered students being reservists or settlers or religious Jews, even though it's odds-on that some of them were. Either they are wising up - and this may be happening, as reporters spend more time close to the facts and watching corpses jump out of coffins - or it could be that academic victims get extra sympathy.

UPDATE: Alex Bensky suggests that the reason for the Guardian's sympathetic coverage was that, as it turns out, most of the victims were not Jews. Perhaps, but at the time the report was written none of the British papers had any information on the status of the victims. Nor is the Guardian known for its instinctive sympathy for Americans. I really do think I detect a change of line.

"As if increase of appetite had grown by what he feeds on". That's what this here blogging does to you. I started off in control. I didn't think it would hurt to add my personal perspective to flesh out this post in Joanne Jacob's site. My comment is #4. Reasonable, isn't it? You might think so at first. But as I wrote the madness came upon me once more and I ended up with a full scale Black Helicopter rant against the perfidy of the educational establishment over at Samizdata.

LATER: I've corrected the link. Now you really do get my Samizdata post and not the one on the sexual prowess of Englishmen. For the benefit of those readers who preferred the original situation, the sexy post the next one on.

Tuesday, July 30, 2002
Drafted. Chris Cooper, Pride of the Scabs, and genial host of Blogospherical - oops, sorry, Blogosophical Investigations has been impressed into the New Model Army.

Quite a few people have sent me http's with requests for comment in the last few days. That's fine by me, and I do try to look at them all, but I hope nobody is burning up for a quick response! And sometimes I forget. You all knew that, didn't you?

Seriously, my advice if you wish to publicize your blog is to find some post in someone else's blog that genuinely made you sit up. Demented out-loud ranting at the screen is a good test for a suitable target post. Then make some apt comment taking the subject further or disagreeing with vigour. Now your "look at this" e-mail is precisely targeted to that blog only, and stands a much higher chance of eliciting comment. Repeat as necessary.

This story has no political angle. I post it because it happened to a near neighbour of mine, and because it made my blood run cold.

My neighbour - we'll call her Anne - went out for the day, leaving her dog the run of the house as usual. Along came the window cleaner, by arrangement. When the dog saw the window cleaner's face looming through the glass it went a barking frenzy at this threat to its territory. Somehow the dog managed to bash itself against the edge of a radiator and cut off the end of its tail. Then the blood hit the fan. And the carpets, walls, curtains and ceilings as the maddened creature charged through the house hosing blood.

The window cleaner saw what was happening but was helpless to intervene. He ran to contact a neighbour who in turn phoned the grown up daughter of the house. She rushed home from work, and took the dog to the vet, leaving a note on the door for her mother to explain the state of the house. The dog was OK.

Anne was not. Home she came. Distracted with her own thoughts, she didn't see the note. Walked straight past it. She came into the house. No dog came to greet her. And every vertical and horizontal surface in every downstairs room was coated with fresh, red blood.

What would you have thought?

Skid marks of the week. The Government has dropped plans to censor technical discussion among academics. Good. If we want to fight terror we need technical progress. For that we need free exchange of ideas. Free peoples have a built-in lead when it comes to innovation.

I can't help noting that the academic community has not exerted itself to quite the same extent when defending free speech that wasn't theirs, but perhaps this experience will remind them of some eternal verities.

After the longest two minutes in history, Muslimpundit is back. He opens a window into the conflict of interpretations within the Muslim world on the meaning of Jihad.

Monday, July 29, 2002
I didn't know! Can you ****** believe that, I didn't know! Oaths in anguish count as prayers, the proverb says, but it ought to say oaths in joy do likewise.

What the blue ***** (sorry again, blame my school) am I singing and shouting about? Guys, Friday, Saturday and Sunday have seen me running about like a hyperactive squonk doing family visiting stuff, finally getting a man in to hack down the trees in the garden stuff, yadda yadda stuff, and stuff stuff. So I didn't see, hear or click any news all weekend. Except for a minute while I was turning over the children's travel songs cassette in the car, and heard that there had been silence from those nine trapped miners for 24 hours. Oh, sad, thought I, and filed it away in the great mental repository of Sad Things That It Doesn't Do To Think About Too Much. Only I did think about it too much, just as I thought about the Kursk too much when there seemed to be some hope that those men might be pulled up alive. I thought about the dark and the enroaching cold, and the air turning foul, and hope slowly leeching away for the families waiting above.

Anyway, first blog for nearly three days and I just went over to Hokiepundit out of curiosity to see if he had gone to one of Brian Micklethwait's Libertarian Fridays, like I suggested. And he had - which is cool, and I'd have loved to have been there, were it not for the family visiting stuff, man/tree stuff, yadda yadda stuff and stuff stuff, not to mention lack of sleep, time and money stuff. (Be sure to see me represent my country in the coming Solo Whinge event at the Commonwealth Games.) But even better than Hokie meeting up with the coming rulers of the planet was the post above. "Thank you, Lord" he says. Mildly curious, I clicked, and a minute later I am whooping and yelling and thanking the Lord too. In a paradoxically expletive fashion, true, but, like I said, that's the bad influence of the Fifth Form for you. They all got out alive and it was all such old news that nobody thought to tell me.

Forbidden to make daisy chains for fear of germs. Forbidden to run. Forbidden to climb. That's the modern litigation-friendly playground according to this BBC News 24 story. Can I add a couple not mentioned? Forbidden to compete. Forbidden to play war.

It's very little comfort to reflect that the children will grow up into fat, bovine, housebound hypochondriacs whose only exercise and outlet for pent-up aggression will be will walking their pudgy soap-scented fingers through to "Chasers, ambulance" in the Yellow Pages in order to sue their schools for training them in habits that led to obesity and making them allergic to everything by not exposing them to enough germs.

Howard Feinberg gives the hard numbers on non-combatant casualties in the Israeli / Palestinian conflict. He concludes that the Palestinians target non-combatants. The Israelis do not. "This she calls news," I hear you say. Not news to me, and not to you. The question is, will these results reach the people to whom it is news?

Friday, July 26, 2002
Gibraltar plans to hold a referendum whether or not the British government approve. We all know what the result will be, but is this wise? Eventually one can imagine Hain himself moving to the strategy of attrition by referendum, as practised on the Danes and Irish. "Wrong answer. Try again." "Wrong answer. Try again." "Wrong answer. Try again." "See, we knew you wanted to be good Europeans really."

Anyway, here's a link to 'Panorama', a Gibraltarian online paper, and one to "Infrequently Asked Questions about Gibraltar."

Do you ever ask yourself why Jack Straw is so keen to give Gibraltar to the Spanish? I don't suppose his constituents bombard him with letters demanding that he Surrender Now. There doesn't seem much of a clamour for it even from Spain. Perhaps he thinks about it while shaving. I see him pause, razor in hand. "Now, what do I have to do today? Clip nose hair, yes, but what else? Got it! Must ask Tony to tell me again why we have to give Gibraltar to the Spanish. I know it was something to do with being modern. I like modern things. I didn't like Europe when it was all old stuff but I like it now it's modern. Good thing I changed my mind just in time for Tony to make me Foreign Secretary, ha! ha! Old things are so snobby. That treaty from the seventeen-hundreds Dunks keeps going on about, sounds like a sneeze, it makes me sick the way they pretend that things like that could possibly matter. Still, really ought to read up on it all, I suppose. Gosh, it was a close one when I couldn't remember whether Gibraltar was in the EU or not. Good thing that Palacio chick was able to tell me. She gets up my nose a bit though. Talking of which, bzzzzzzzz, clip, gotcha! Hey ho, it's just one of those things a really hot Foreign Secretary like me has to do."

Thursday, July 25, 2002
Guess who else has an interest in The War To Save the Empire? History News Network reports that controversial anti-gun historian Michael Bellesiles has been teaching in the Emory at Oxford program this summer. His course: History 341, The American Revolution from the British Perspective.

None of the Samizdata guys would believe me when I said I felt sorry for Bellesiles. Every morning he must wake up and see the axe a little lower. Being sorry for him does not mean I would spare him. What he did was much worse than the plagiarism scandals that were in the news at about the same time, even taking a harsher view than I do of those particular plagiarists' guilt. A plagiarist steals the words and work of another. That's not nice, but it is a crime that can exist as a black mark in an otherwise worthwhile lifetime of achievement. But a historian who lies about history betrays his whole reason for professional existence. Worse, Bellesiles intended his distortions to affect the making of present day policy. Eventually a policy built on lies costs lives.

But I really do feel sorry for him. Even he must sometimes wish the axe would fall.

(Link via Instapundit. It's notable that Professor Reynolds, who presumably is well aware of the law of libel, does not seem worried about discussing the case in the plainest terms.)

Just booking my place in the bunker. Er, about this asteroid. This previously undetected asteroid. This previously undetected asteroid that's heading straight for Earth. It's not being... you know... piloted... is it?

I expect a place on the Threat Team for this.

Poetry in the modern world. An outraged e-mail has burned its way along the ether from Will Wilkinson. Yes, this time I really do mean Wilkinson. It says, I should inform you that I go in for poetry plenty. I read poetry. And yes, yes poems make me cry. And I'm a PRETTY DAMN GOOD POET, thank you very much. True, I do not write clunking light verse about the events of the day,

Do I detect a note of criticism? Two of a trade never agree.

...but we're all limited in our own way.

Here is an unromantic love poem for your enjoyment:

All of Creation Smiles

Had I gone four seconds later

I’d be a wrecked mess of car parts.

A thousand miles closer to the sun, we’d all be weeds.

Had Dad not offered that second drink,

You’d have ended, quite divided, on a tampax and a sock.

But here I am and here you are.

I do not trip. You do not belch.

The birds sing at a pleasing frequency.

Pianos fall, but not on us.

All of creation smiles.
Wow. And it is very nearly is epistemological. It's certainly ontological anyway

It's a pain to reach Iain MacWhirter's hard-hitting article on drugs policy in the Glasgow Herald. First you have to click "Opinion" among the blue options to the right. Then click the same word inside the frame. Then choose Mr MacWhirter's head from among the decapitated columnists offered.

INSERT UPDATE: No need to trouble yourselves. I can now offer no less than two separate direct links to the article: this one from Iain J Coleman of Why Do They Call Me Mr Happy and this one, from Patrick Crozier of This Blog Has No Title Just Words and a Loon. How Messrs Happy and Loon know these black arts I prefer not to enquire.

Persevere. It's worth it. Did you know that the prison authorities sometimes have to retox addicts who have succeeded in quitting drugs in prison, simply because their de-habituated bodies would be overwhelmed when they take the first dose the day after getting out, as they certainly will? I didn't know, and I am shocked.

I hate the way that the law on drugs is being changed. The authorities seem determined to simply declare the Lambeth experiment a success, irrespective of the complex actual results. The whole idea of treating the law as an experimental variable*, to be enforced or not at the whim of the government, is a debasement of our liberties, not to mention a standing invitation for citizens to take the same attitude. The "magnet" effect of a no-law zone on druggies for miles around is undoubtedly causing harm to local people.

Nonetheless Blunkett is right, albeit for the wrong reasons. The war on drugs was immoral to start with and disastrous in practice. It demanded a debasement of our laws and liberties that makes the Lambeth effect look puny. And of course the law on drugs will collapse in a chaotic and harmful manner. "Wars on drugs" are like drugs themselves: one of their major evils is that they can't be quit without a vast traumatic spasm, and they leave behind them harmful effects that go on long after you quit.
Same goes for welfare, socialism and a whole bunch of other dependencies.

*There are circumstances in which I would approve of treating the law as an experimental variable. If at some future time there were to arise many different, competing micro-societies, each of which allowed free migration, it would then be both permissible and fascinating to discover by experiment which laws work and which don't. Such laws would be contracts, freely entered into and honoured equally by all sides. That is very different from David Blunkett saying that he can suspend the universal status of British law whenever he fancies but we can't.

The War to Save the Empire. Take cover! It's Hessians again. John Costello writes:

Still refighting the American Revolution (WTSTE to my Tory ancestors), I see. Well, there was a lot more perfidity and nastiness during the period than the pointless battles in Rhode Island. I have in mind the Battle of Long Island, and its effects on the war in New Jersey that following winter. I would be curious to see how British sources deal with it. Alas, it involves Hessians again. When the British fleet arrived off Long Island (south of New York City) the British officers in charge of dealing with the Hessians informed their German mercenaries that George Washington, the enemy commander, had issued orders that all foreign mercenaries in the employ of the British were to be put to the sword. This outraged the Germans. They thought it very unprofessional, and determined to teach the Americans a lesson. So they did not take any prisoners. Our historians report that the British officers involved thought it was 'good sport.'

Of course, a few days later, when they marched into New York, the Germans found out they had been tricked. They did not consider it at all good sport. It meant they would have to fight to the death needlessly. They also, I presume, concluded that their British officers were 'not professional.'
George Washington was, shall we say, rather pissed off at having lost 500 men on Long Island. However, the brothels of New York were his spy dens, and he certainly learned who was responsible.

What happened thereafter is pretty much glossed over in American history books, but Walter Lord's account more or less hints at it.

The Americans took Hessians prisoner, and treated them very well. And made certain the rest of the mercenary army knew it.

The death rate in the fighting in New Jersey was, for British officers, the highest they experienced in the Revolutionary war, Lord reports proudly.

The Hessians surrendered at Trenton virtually without casualties (their commanding officer was killed) when the town was taken after Washington crossed the Delaware. Washington retreated across the Delaware with his prisoners, who went to work on American farms and in mines until the war was over, when most of them remained or later re-emigrated with their families.

As far as I know, no records either exist, or they are still 'top secret.' I know how I would plot it as an historical novel.

The summer holidays have begun, and blogging may become more sporadic. We have been reclaiming the trackless wastes of the garden for civilization, muttering "Pioneers! O pioneers!" all the while, except when I cut myself on a thorn and changed the words to "****! O ****!"

Jim Bennett points out that he described the trend towards no-big-deal Republican interracial marriage in an article for American Outlook last year. It doesn't seem to be on the web, alas, and I'm not sure whether I ought to quote from it without permission.

The subject is of particular interest to me since I am of mixed race myself. Now you may have seen pictures of me that show me as white, or more accurately and unfortunately, pink with freckles. But that's just the body I got by mistake. Inside I'm really a mixed race African / Chinese, and svelte as a Bond girl. Somewhere out there there's a milky coffee-coloured lady who has always yearned to blush easily and have a little round tummy. (I'm being funny, but I'm not entirely joking. Since childhood I've been running a sort of alternative self-image of a different race. When black kids run a white self-image program it is usually regarded as sad, but maybe some of it is just exploratory, like mine.)

The secret way to riches is revealed by me on Samizdata.

'Til the doctors' minds are changing. / Once again. The changeable views of health fascists get the treatment from Will Wilkinson. CORRECTION: Warren! Will Warren. As several people have observed, including Will Warren himself, Will Wilkinson does not seem to go in for poetry much. Pity.Think what treasures are lost to literature because of the lack of a decent rhyme for the word "epistemology."

Wednesday, July 24, 2002
The Gallipoli Order of Battle. Reader Akaky Akakyevich has kindly directed me to The Gallipoli Association website, where the complete Allied order of battle can be found.

Nail those terror-knitters! Decades ago the Telegraph's Way of the World column used to have a running joke about devoted female activists making balaclavas for SWAPO. It - was - a - joke, airport twits. I can't seem to link to this letter that a lady called Pam Weale wrote to the Telegraph, so here it is in full:

Sir - As a registered Frequent Flyer, I am pleased with the security system at Heathrow. However, as a knitter of nearly 50 years' unrelenting production, I was disappointed to find knitting needles on the list of dangerous items no longer permitted on commercial aircraft.

Knitters are not generally thought of as violent. By the very nature of their occupation, they are content and self-absorbed.

A knitting bag can be flown in the hold (along with scissors and crochet hooks), but a devoted knitter expects to be equipped in the airport lounge. A two hour check-in, topped up with a two-hour delay, could be a pleasant experience if the end result is a bobble hat or a woolly sock.

As for that seven-hour flight: that could mean a jumper as well as the other sock. Are knitting needles really dangerous - or is this another case of discrimination against a minority group?

Not exactly, Pam. It's another case of public and irrational discrimination against a completely harmless group so as to better pretend that rational discrimination against a sometimes-dangerous group is not taking place.

Ha'aretz reports on the rising death toll of innocents in Gaza. The report implicitly approves of this quote from a Labour MP:
"Democratic countries generally do not do things of this nature, and the price we are paying today among the best of our friends is very, very high, and is superfluous."
I have to say it: where is the equivalent in the Palestinian and Arab press when it is Israeli innocents who die?

The Hamas man needed killing. An F-16 was too indiscriminate a weapon to do it.

Gallipoli: fires still burning. A bunch of crisp bullet points from Patrick Crozier's This Blog Has No Title...

Some quick responses.

  • Yes, I did know that casualty does not mean dead. Quite a few sources don't. One often sees the 60,000 casualties of the first day of the Somme reported as deaths as if the 19,240 deaths were not bad enough.
  • On the question as to whether "Britain was running out of men", I assume it was true if recast as "running out of first grade soldiers." Although I don't subscribe to the theory that the British generals at Gallipoli were cynically happy to see New Zealanders and Australians die in preference to British soldiers, it's proably true that the generals knew perfectly well that the Anzacs were healthier and less war-weary than their British counterparts. (And, Patrick if you want to know where at least some of the other 4.25m were in 1918, 90,000 of them were in Ireland and quite a few of them were timber felling. Neither of these diversions was quite as weird as they sound.)
  • Was Gallipoli a good idea badly executed or a stupid notion from the start? Probably the latter, but ask me again in a few months time. I do know that much of the criticism of Gallipoli comes from the same people who think it was mere boneheadedness that made the generals concentrate on a war of attrition on the Western Front. The critics are being inconsistent. The poor sods in 1915 danced around every which way to try and break the logjam. One of those dances was Gallipoli. it showed all the qualities of imaginativeness and indirect approach that the "lions led by donkeys" school of thought could ask for. Didn't work that well, did it? John Terraine would say that even if it had, the most it could have done was moved the problem, not solved it. Moreover trying to move the problem favoured centrally positioned Germany over peripheral Britain. Trains go faster than ships.

Just yesterday my husband brought three books about World War I and one about World War II. (Guess what he's teaching next term.) They were John Terraine's To Win A War, Gary Sheffield's Forgotten Victory and two children's books, Terry Deary's Horrible Histories , one dealing with each World War. I was interested to see how the Horrible History jokey cartoon version of history would deal with more recent horrors than the Terrible Tudors. In fact the tone is not offensive and the jokes are relevant and revealing. It's a pity that the World War I book falls hook, line and sinker for the Blackadder picture of the war.

Which brings me to one of the grown-up books. The Oxford Times review of Forgotten Victory, quoted on the inside cover, states:

[Forgotten Victory] must be the first serious study of the Great War to begin with ... an analysis, not of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand or the Schlieffen Plan, but the impact of Rowan Atkinson, Hugh Laurie and company in Blackadder Goes Forth.
There is an alternative universe quite close to ours where I wrote the first chapter of that book.

In other news, the end of the world will take place on February 1, 2019.

Giscard D'Estaing calls for a whole new layer of Euro-MPs. He says "democratic legitimacy of the Union will not be fully accepted by its citizens until there exists a forum that unites the two elements of legitimacy in the Union – the national and the European one". Be still my beating heart!

No one in their right minds would actually link to a D'Estaing story as boring as that. Here's a a much hotter story revealing how D'Estaing conspired with the Americans to kill British soldiers and sailors.

Monday, July 22, 2002
So you want news as well? OK. Here's some They finally got Van Hoogstraten.

I don't say that everyone who attempts to ingratiate himself with Comrade Mugabe is guilty of manslaughter.

On second thoughts, yes I do.

A word on my links policy.

The word is "inconsistent".

Truthful joking apart, I do want you all believing I operate some sort of filter, otherwise I can't be as lazy and lacksadaisical as I want to be. So what I try to do is notice when a site "just keeps coming up" in my blog. When typing out your name starts to bug me, then you get a permalink. Clearly chance plays a role as to whether this happens this week, this month or ever - but hopefully that very capriciousness casts down the proud and comforts the really bad spellers. It does give a peverse incentive to have your blog name difficult to type, but the easy names have compensating advantages. I hope that keeps everyone reasonably happy. If I keep quoting you but haven't linked it's because I'm stupid today. Just hit me round the side of the head with an e-mail.

Let us turn to examples. Jim Miller on Politics has a really fiddly and irritating web address. So if he keeps on coming up with this sort of interesting observation - which is original to him -

"One thing both he [Mickey Kaus] and the AJC miss: Republican politicians have been leading the way in interracial marriages. Among elected Republican white men who have married non-white women are Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, married to a Chinese-American, Senator Phil Gramm, married to a Korean-American, former Senator and Defense Secretary William Cohen, married to an African-American, and Governor Jeb Bush, married to a Hispanic-American. I don't know of any similar marriages among equally prominent white Democratic men. "
- then he's in double quick. But not today. Because I'm pretending I don't do that. Much the same goes for Post Politics. (The Turing dialogue was sublime.)

Yeah, and another thing. I have typed the stupid hyphen in yadda yadda Uncommon hyphen Sense blogspot for the last freaking time. And I've had it up to here with remembering that Jim Henley is called Unqualified Offerings but you have to type highclearing, whatever that's got to do with anything, too. There. Permalinks as punishment: how do you like that, malefactors! To pay yet more for your typographical crimes I'm putting you both in right at the bottom of the column. Serves you right for being alphabetically behindhand.

Mail round-up. You'd all given up on seeing your carefully composed missives on this blog, hadn't you? Some of you were quite right to give up. Your letter came sandwiched between a mortgage offer and a HOT TEEN (a terrible fate for an innocent young e-mail) and my deleting finger just couldn't break the rhythm. Or I meant to reply but didn't, and the moment passed. Guilty, guilty, guilty. But these happy few escaped the common fate:

First, Jim Miller, writing about quote marks, prowlers, and Gallipoli:

After I had sent my email on quotations to you, I noticed my mistake.
More than I did, mate!

Should have sent you a correction immediately. By way of penance, I have given a fuller explanation on my new site, at this web address:

According to Moorehead's "Gallipoli", there were also 79,000 French troops in the Gallipoli campaign. They suffered 47,000 casualties, which, proportionately, is a little worse than the British losses, 205,00 casualties of the 410,000 soldiers engaged.

Now for "prowler". In the US, the primary meaning is, indeed, criminal. But there is a secondary meaning attached to the word, often used with cats, and sometimes with people. For example: Your cat is quite a prowler, isn't he? Or: I think I'll just prowl around the neighborhood a bit. In the case you mentioned, the name comes from a column in the original American Spectator. It was anonmymous and devoted to political gossip, so "prowler" wasn't completely inapt.

"Curate's egg", on the other hand, has me baffled.

It's from a moderately famous Punch cartoon of about a century ago. An overawed young curate is having tea with his vicar. The curate obviously has been served an egg which has gone bad. When questioned, the poor man says, in a ridiculous attempt to be polite yet halfway truthful that the egg is "good in parts." So it ought to mean "something that is plainly bad yet people try to find something good to say about it out of politeness." Any BBC presenter under the age of thirty will serve as an example. In fact, though, the phrase is more commonly and generously used to mean a thing that really is good in parts.

Michael Kielsky of Uncommon Sense admits to not having come across the Kingdom of Mercia in his studies.

"I had no idea, but then, I had a mere one year of schooling in England. You might as well throw in a link, such as this one, to satisfy the curious readers.

Ben Sheriff of Layman's Logic (and also of Rugby Round-up for all you mud-wrestlers out there) took up the Gallipoli story:

The site you link to says the French were generally accepted to have lost circa 10,000 men. Another site says "Fighting bravely against the Turks the two French Divisions were reduced to 13,000 men by diseases and high casualty rates." So the French casualty rate was 43.4%. (From this link about winners of the "Simpson prize.")

Link to a homepage for the Dorreen family says "Of the 8,556 New Zealanders who served in Gallipoli 2,721 died", a 31.8% casualty rate

Several sites seem to suggest about 20,000 Australian troops made up the 1st Australian Division. 8520/20k = 42.6% casualty rate

To have the same casualty rate as the Aussies, Britain and Ireland would have had to send only 68,390 troops. There were probably many more. But the French seem to have suffered higher proportional losses. However, the real impact of Gallipoli on the Aussie mind-set is as a proportion of the population of only 5m at the time (and note that 23,000 Australians died around the Somme and other Western Front battles) .

More details from Ben came in a second e-mail:
Link to some lesson notes:
Total casualties for the campaign were: British and imperial forces, 205,000 out of a total of 410,000; French, 47,000 out of 79,000; and Turkish, about 250,000 out of 500,000. For Australia, the casualty rate was 27,594 (7,594 dead) out of a total of 50,000; for New Zealand 7,247 (2,701 dead) out of 8,556.

All injuries rates:
British 50%
French 59%
Turkish 50%
Australia 55%
NZ 85%

So France had more injuries than Australia, but staggeringly fewer than NZ.

And I bet Ram Ahluwalia of Post Politics really had given up on me ever getting back to him. Post Politics describes itsef as - a few guys (management consultant, econ PHD, aspiring English PHD) who have libertarian philosophies, good writing skills, and a sense of humor. Postpolitics is a good mix of political economy, philosophy, science, and contemporary political debate...

It's an accurate description.