Natalie Solent

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

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

Back to main blog

RSS thingy

Jane's Blogosphere: blogtrack for Natalie Solent.


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

The Old Comrades:

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

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

Saturday, November 30, 2002
Dan Dare was cool today. I thrilled to the way that villain-turned-hero White led the enemy fleet to its destruction and his own suicidal redemption; hands firm upon the controls of his ship as the acceleration forces sought to shake it apart, furry dice swinging madly as the ship sped onwards...

Friday, November 29, 2002 I also meant to that Happy Fun Pundit is now at This was one of the more copeable-with elements of my pile of Things To Note, Disseminate, Decide Upon, Reply To And Do Before I Die, Submerged By Their Awful Fecundity. I don't want to note, disseminate, reply to, decide upon or do any more for a bit - there's a letter about a missed dental appointment somewhere in there, and I'd hate to hit it unprepared - so ta-ra, my lovelies.

Just checking. I typed in the search box. The site exists and claims to consist of photographies érotiques. Might have known it.

UPDATE: Thank you, Captain Heinrichs, for your research in this matter. Disinterested scientific enquiry is, I always think, one of the greatest achievements of Western Civilization.

Up to speed - transport - moving things at speed - geddit? Oh, go away. I suppose I have to spell it out, then. Patrick Crozier's blog formerly known as "UK Transport" is now a global brand and can be found at

Let's see if this one's up to speed. Yes.

See, those Volokhs really are taking over. It was The Volokh Conspiracy that pointed out that Amazon still have up Lesley Reed's original admiring review of Arming America as the official Amazon assessment of the book. Clink on the link headed "trying to put it about" in the post below and enjoy the unintentional humour while you still can. It's also interesting to timejump back through earlier and earlier reviews of the book. One courageous chap, by the name of Kieran Healy, comes back in October 2000 to ruefully disagree with an earlier self.

Eugene Volokh also presents an instructive account by Am So A Pundit of the way that a policy of expelling all cheats, however mild, defeats its own object as pity or fear of hassle motivates teachers and fellow students to cover up all but the severest offences. There's nothing new under the sun. I was taught at school how early nineteenth century juries would aquit an obviously guilty defendant rather than send him to hang for stealing a shilling's worth of goods.

By the way, if ever Am So A Pundit finds a big blank where his blog name used to be, and the whole blog propped up by bricks, police enquiries will have me as number one suspect. I covet that name and am going to steal it if I can. No penalty is severe enough to deter me.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers. Hey, Yanks! You know why I get so uptight about Michael of the Beautiful Islands trying to put it about that the American colonists didn't know one end of a gun from the other? Because if they weren't all crack shots then it would be - inconceivably - our fault that we lost the late unpleasantness of 1775-83 instead of, as everybody knows, the result being a regrettable consequence of the ability of those ungentlemanly persons to plink at us from miles away, rather than coming up close to fight as Real Men should.

"'Fear not', said the Angel." On the radio last night I heard about some feeble headteacher (whose school, name and even gender proved instantly forgettable) who banned parents from videoing the school nativity play for fear that the videos would fall into the hands of paedophiles.

If the camcorders had been banned because they put the wee performers off their stride, I'd have said fine, your perogative mate. That would also have been my response to banning them because they blocked the line of sight of the audience, or because they made an irritating whirring noise, or encouraged people to stand up to get better camera angles, or even because they looked naff. If our headteacher had actually banned them because they violated the sanctity of a depiction of Our Lord's birth I would have trembled in awe, knowing that the Real Headteachers (or Headmasters and Headmistresses as die-hard cultists still call them) had at last returned to their thrones.

But to turn off the cameras because he, she or it thinks that a bunch of freaks are going to trouble to seek out images of little Kylie Snoggins muffing her lines as Third Angel From The Left, when they have all the wide sewers of the internet to dip into at will? Get real, you pathetic excuse for a leader. If you have actual reason to believe that the physical or electronic audience of your little play includes dangerous criminals then earn your pay and name names to the cops rather than denying Mr and Mrs Snoggins the chance to immortalize their little darling's moment of glory. A head teacher should stand firm like an oak. This one sounds a more like a feather blown around by every passing wind of public panic.

I leave this computer for just a few days and look what they go and do.

Monday, November 25, 2002
Another addition to my list of bloggers who have taken a break was to have been The Rittenhouse Review. Over the weekend I made a little note in my exercise book to mention this - look, here's proof! (Holds up notebook to screen.) Now I find that (a) he's back and (b) I and others have been bounced from the Rittenhouse blogroll for linking to LGF. It's his blog, of course, to do as he likes with, but...

...but silence is never a good strategy for getting your opinions across. I think a great deal of LGF's enormous hit rate comes from the fact that violence by Muslims is played down by the media. People read the papers and find stories tucked away in corners that they know perfectly well would be spread across the front page if a non-Muslim person or country did the same thing. Hence when they finally find a site that has a lot of stories they say, "At last!" Someone else who sees it too!" There is a fierce joy in saying what is true but forbidden or supressed, or in hearing others say it. This is really no different from the point I made a few posts down that the usual effect of the supression of free speech is to make people more strident. I'm repeating myself. It bears repeating.

Although I spoke about stridency there, I see little or nothing to object to in the individual posts on LGF. Nor in most of the comments, although as for unmoderated comments anywhere you do see a certain percentage of dross among them. There was a little bit of black humour about "Islamic peacebots" in one recent LGF post, but that was no closer to racism than the joke about dumb Boers in a recent Rittenhouse post - slightly less close, in fact; not that I am at all uptight about either. The thing that gets people angry about LGF is the concentration of posts with bad news about the Islamic world. As far as I am concerned that's intimately connected to the fact that there is an awful lot of bad news about the Islamic world to be told at the present time, for twenty or thirty years in the past, and for an unknown (but not infinite) time to come. And bad news, moreover, that our modern multi-cultis are too prissy to tell themselves.

Bloggers are not obliged to write about stories that they find uninteresting or uncongenial. However since The Rittenhouse Review has taken the trouble to deliberately close off an avenue of debate, I trust it will not be leaving coverage of Islamofascist terror and oppression solely to its ideological enemies? If it does then there are few grounds for complaint about what they say.

The most awful fate conceivable to a blogger has befallen me. Yep, I've landed some paid work. I don't intend it to stop me blogging, but it might slow me down a little. For a quite separate reason I am going to be blogging very little in the next few days: we have a guest staying in the room where the computer is. Do you know, some pernickerty people seem to find it odd when one bounces into the room at odd hours of the morning to save the world from civil asset forfeiture.

Friday, November 22, 2002
The judgement of history. John Weidner provides the minority report. And I'd add that the Royal Navy covered itself with glory under the good old system of prize money.

Take another look at the post below. Some of you will bridle at any diminuition of its harshness. I am going to add a softening note in a minute, but, still, I don't think there's a lot wrong with it. Various opinion polls show that a majority of Palestinians support suicide bombings of civilians like this one - I'll track down the link in Daimnation if anyone wants to argue. Therefore the use of the general word "Palestinians" is justified. When Hamas and Al-Asqua claim that the people are with them in their struggle, they speak the truth. Our history books are full of passages saying that the Germans or the British or the Indians massacred people at this or that site, so there should be no objection to statements that the Palestinians massacred people at this or that bus shelter.

The fact that Palestinians habitually celebrate the deaths of innocents, including children, is well chronicled in words and photographs in LGF. I picked Nablus because this was the town with the best publicised public delight at the destruction of the World Trade Centre.

I would say that if you pick a randomly chosen Palestinian, the odds are greater than with any other people on earth (except perhaps the Rwandan Hutu, unless that's been beaten out of them since 1994) that he or she supports the massacre of innocents. I say so only because more than half of them say they do, loudly, proudly and often. Again I would say that if you pick a randomly chosen Palestinian, the odds are greater than with any other people on earth (with same possible exception as before) that he or she supports the genocidal extermination of their enemy race, although here I would guess that the percentage supporting wholesale extermination is much lower than that which merely(!) supports the killing of large numbers and the expulsion or subordination of the rest. It seems a reasonable and sober guess, in the light of their own statements, that the percentage of Palestinians supporting extermination of the Jews is at least as high as the percentage of Germans supporting it in the Nazi era. The main difference between the two groups lies in the presence or absence of power to carry out their desires.

Little sign so far of that promised softening of my heart, you may be saying to yourselves. Here it is: I generally share the modern squeamishness about group judgements. They cannot be avoided if we are to make sense of the world in our limited lifespans, but, of course, it is in individual souls that good or evil is decided. Furthermore as a Christian I must believe that all individuals are capable of redemption, and as an observer of the world I see that is true for groups as well. I don't have a strikingly high opinion of the Germany of 2002, but it is a million miles from the Germany of 1944.

And now we come to the thought that started off this post. I don't like group judgements, particularly racial ones. I am usually fairly careful to slip in some qualifier to avoid them; "present-day Palestinian culture is full of hatred for Jews" rather than "Palestinians hate Jews." Why didn't I this time? Answer: because of the post about Robin Page further down the page. It made me think, "**** you, tranzis, see how you like this."

That is the usual effect of the suppression of free speech.

Thursday, November 21, 2002
Another day, another Palestinian massacre. Many schoolchildren killed, so much to celebrate in Nablus.

So this is what they mean by "hate speech." Telegraph columnist arrested, held in cell, for saying the rural minority should have the same rights as blacks, Muslims, and gays. Not, mind you, more rights than blacks, Muslims and gays, but the same rights.

I did not know we had fallen so far. Remember the line peddled by Blunkett that these powers are to be used against thugs and Nazis - you can trust us to act with discretion, old chap - the innocent have nothing to fear - remember that as you read this:

Mr Page duly attended the meeting with two officers, but when he refused to answer questions without his lawyer present he was arrested and taken to Cambridge police station, spending 40 minutes in a cell.

He was told that he would have to stay there overnight if he wished to wait for his lawyer to attend, and so eventually agreed to be interviewed without him.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002
Now is the time for the world to fall silent at the mighty power, the zen-like subtlety, the laser-guided precision of my awesome forensic intellect. This business everyone's getting so excited about, of whether the criminal or society is to blame? Bit o' both, I reckon.

Diana Mertz Hsieh updates me via her blog on the issue of Aquinas, Aristotle and the Nature and Classification of Lies, and via e-mail on the names issue: "I don't mind being in the "Names Which Are A Pronounciation Minefield, So Watch Out" category with Bellesiles, so long as that's the only category we share! :-) And I must admit that having the last name "Beautiful Islands" is better than my last name, which is half a thank you (hsieh hsieh)!" It's not just Chinese that produces such patterns; this family has a surname that is half a farewell.

Dunno when you'll get to read this. Blogger publishing is temporarily unavailable. Why can't it be spatially unavailable, then I could drive somewhere else and publish from there?

Stop the presses! I wuz wrong. Once-sinful man has forsaken his wicked ways in at least one place on this earth, namely the State of Illinois. There is no crime in Illinois. I know that's true, because why else could the cops spare men and squad cars to harass home schoolers? Read all the articles listed below the factual panel to see an astonishing story of malicious officialdom. I found the link via Bedblog and Samizdata. (Which will hit 400,000 today. Be there.) I see Brian hasn't yet got the hang of contriving that his own blog and Samizdata should re-inforce each other with the correct mix of modesty yet effectiveness. In other words, he still has some modesty in the mix. Be more shameless, Brian, you're making me look bad.

News, news, yer actual news. Little of it good, I'm afraid. Venezuela's going down. The same issue of the New Zealand Herald that had the Chavez story also has this cartoon which leads me to suppose that NZ's decision in May 2001 not to have a combat air force any more because once-sinful man had forsaken his wicked ways may have been judged premature. As a young contributor to the opposition National Party's defence forum put it some five months later:
I'm a 16 year old New Zealander. I am sick and tired of the labour government especially them scrapping the airforce. We're an island nation, if anyone's going to attack us its gonna be by either air or sea, and our army cant fly, and cant swim that well so what are we gonna do? The airforce could take out ships and planes.

What if Terrorists like Osama Bin Laden captured an Air New Zealand plane and were gonna fly it into the sky tower or something? Seen as we have no airforce what could we do? Throw rocks at the plane? If someone was gonna kill thousands of people in a plane like September 11, in New York, what could we do about it?, Ring up Australia and ask them to shoot it down?

I'm back, but still a little pressed for time. So, what do I need to catch up on?

Dawson Speaks and Inappropriate Response have both celebrated blirgdays in the last few days. When I started blogging I naively thought that everyone except me had been doing it for ages. "What," you say, "couldn't you tell they hadn't from the absence of archives?" No, because I hadn't yet figured out archives. I just assumed that all these folk must know their way round Hogwarts and play for the Quidditch team because they all looked so authoritative when flicking their wands to dismiss boggarts, poltergeists, cornish fiskies and other pests. It took me quite a while to figure out that some of them were ickle firsties just like me. Dawson has a vintage anniversary post, covering apologetics, corn bread, and reasons to love Israel. Then there's an intensely detailed review of Blanchard's Does God Believe in Atheists? which, as a review should, tells us about a good deal more than the book.

Only I was brought up short by these lines a little way above: "Not to whine, but w/o some fundage, this blog goes dark Thursday at midnight. Hosting fees and all. Not to fear, we'll prob be back in a month if this happens, but it ain't been raining pennies from heaven here..." So I shall be visiting the tips jar when I've posted this, to help ensure the spaghetti recipe comes my way. (Not, alas, that I would do it justice. My husband does the proper cooking in our house, as he is one who thinks nothing of watching tenderly over a simmering pot for an hour in case it bubbles wrong or something. I'm more your doigts de poisson avec pommes frites style of culinary artist.)

Above that, there's a picture of Moira Stern, the harpist, who before her marriage was known as Moira Breen. Now before you rain down compliments on Inappropriate Response for Moira's modesty in not revealing her talent as a musician, be advised that that would be an inappropriate response - they are different people. (Though for all I know, Inapp's Moira may also be a musician.) You'll just have to rain down compliments on her for something else.

Meanwhile over at Junius, Chris Bertram has returned to the fray with this post responding to mine responding to his... He describes himself self-deprecatingly as a "wishy-washy social democrat," which had my ever-distractable mind wondering about the origin of the term "wishy-washy." Chinese laundries? I shall have to think up a more substantive response later. No, not about wishy-washiness, about the role of the state. (Very quickly: homogenization? Hah! Baby, you don't know you're born. It's the force of state law that enforces homogenized solutions onto education, housing, even freaking bananas for the love of mike...)

Finally, Thank you, Israpundit, for appointing me one of the Israpundit sites of the week. I'm proud to be listed in the company of Asparagirl, Oxblog, GedankenPundit and Mind over What Matters.

Monday, November 18, 2002
No blogging for a couple of days, as I have to do mighty deeds. May I leave you in the hands of singing superheroes with sauce dispensers for heads. If you want to see who to blame, follow this link.

Saturday, November 16, 2002
Diana Hsieh has an update on her lawsuit here. Arthur Silber is more free to comment, and does so here, and scroll up and down for more.

BTW I am told that her last name is said like the French chez i.e. "shay" but sort of quicker and flatter. She probably won't be thrilled to hear this, but that puts her in the same category (Names Which Are A Pronounciation Minefield, So Watch Out) as Michael Bellesiles, which apparently comes from the French belles îles and is said "bell eel." Lest anyone take offence, I must add that I find "Hsieh" a pleasing syllable, and as for Bellesiles, he may not be the History Monthly centrefold I would put on my garage wall, but a last name meaning "Beautiful Islands" is pure poetry.

We didn't actually see the Mekon die, did we? Excalibur, which follows Dan Dare, is also good.

I just saw an advert for a doll called "Baby Wee-Wee." Now when I was little I had Tiny Tears. You could give her a drink and she'd do a wee-wee immediately afterwards, poor thing, which suggests renal failure. But for some reason it was always little girl dolls who did that. There's progress for you. In these happy days we have Baby Wee-Wee, who evinces his masculinity in the most plastic fashion. But I don't think he'll grow up happy with that name.

Important stuff. Dan Dare is on at 8.55am on Channel 5.

Friday, November 15, 2002
Things Your Mother Should Have Warned You About, Part II: As Blair so sensibly puts it, " elevated fear of Yorkshiremen and circus performers will help protect me against their menace. "

Things Your Mother Should Have Warned You About, Part I: Chapman warns: "Inside every such songsmith is a totalitarian monster trying to get out."

Rumsfeld on root causes. Peter Regas writes: "I thought you'd appreciate this response by Sec. Rumsfeld to a question at the 11/11/02 Fortune Global Forum. Like a lot that Rumsfeld says, I found the response both refreshing in its candor and its insight."

It was, too.

Q: ...In order to defend prosperity in some parts of the world is there not a need to attack poverty in addition to all the other steps that you've taken?

Rumsfeld: Certainly there's a need to do that and I guess the question is how does one do that?

I was involved in the so-called war on poverty here in the United States and I've traveled the globe and seen just terrible poverty. I had a friend once and he was asked to chair a commission, an international committee, and the title of it was What Causes Poverty. He declined. He said I will do it but on one condition. The condition is that we change the title and I'll chair a committee on What Causes Prosperity. The reason he said that was, the title What Causes Poverty leaves the impression that the natural state of the world is for people to be prosperous and that for whatever reason there are prosperous people running around making people poor when you say what causes poverty. He looked at the world the other way. He said the natural state of people is to be relatively poor and that there are certain ways and things that can be done that can cause prosperity. They can create an environment that's hospitable to people gaining education and people gaining investments and people finding ways to contribute in a constructive way.

There are big portions of our globe that are so far behind the rest of the world that it is a dangerous thing. It is an unfortunate thing for those people. It's a heartbreaking thing.

The task for the developed world is to see that we do not just salve our consciences by finding ways like Lady Bountiful, we can give some country this or some country that which then is gone and disappears. But to the contrary, that we find ways to encourage countries to take the kinds of steps that create an environment that's hospitable to enterprise and to education so that the nation itself can do those things that will begin to ameliorate the kinds of terrible poverty that we see around the globe.

Certainly the United States has a responsibility as do the people from every nation in this room have the responsibility to contribute to that."

Source: link

With friends like these.... You'd think a guy from the Cato Institute would see the danger to civil liberties in national databases, wouldn't you? Arthur Silber heard an interview with Cato's Charles V. Pena which suggested that things may be blacker than we thought, when even those with a pro-freedom background concede crucial aspects to the statist side:
"Pena started out correctly, stressing the massive invasion of privacy that this plan entails. But then he spent the last few minutes of the interview saying that the burden of proof should be on Poindexter: that Poindexter needed to show that this plan actually could prevent acts of terrorism -- and that if he could demonstrate that, then it would be fine. To be absolutely fair, he didn't explicitly say that "it would be fine" -- but the whole way in which he structured his argument led inevitably to that conclusion: if Poindexter proved that the plan would prevent future terrorist acts, then the plan should go into effect... [snip]

... if this is the manner in which the issue is posed, of course Poindexter can prove that a plan like his would stop terrorism -- and so could I, and so could any one of you. All you need to do is employ enough people -- say, half the population -- to spy and keep tabs on the other half 24 hours a day, and you would never need to worry about any act of terrorism ever again."

I'd add that once a government has such power it is damn near inevitable that they will kill more than the terrorists would. I'm not making light of the terrorist threat, just giving the correct weight to the overmighty state threat. They've killed tens of millions so far.

Also scroll down for a detailed post about abortion, which presents a view I don't agree with extremely well. It had attracted 23 comments last time I looked.

"Blog years are like dog years, only longer." Dawson remembers the sights and smells of his puppyhood, and links to John Weidner remembering some of the cars and postmen he chased back in them days.

LATER REFLECTIONS: Dawson was saying, rather wistfully, that he couldn't seem to find the same enthusiasm at the moment. There's a lot of it about - Joe Katzman has taken a break, and Bill Quick decided he'd had enough the other day, though he later changed his mind. Dr Frank took a break and has come back zinging, as has David Janes.

I hesitated to say what I'm about to say, because I thought people might read too much into it. It may sound dreadfully like something the boss would say as the most tactful gloss possible on the fact that the contents of your desk can now be found in a plastic bin bag at the front office, but, honestly, I don't mean it like that! I just mean the exact semantic content of my words: we bloggers should all relax a little. Life, hobbies, spirits all go in waves. If anyone feels like slowing down, or taking a break, it need not be occasion for Stakhanovite appeals to work harder. And if you want to just keep batting on even though the runs seem to have dried up, then that's fine, too.

UPDATE: As if to put my sanguine attitude to the test, I find that Dodgeblogium and Letter from Gotham are shutting up shop. The former team are to go to other blogs, but the latter is not - Diane E says, "To those of my readers who have flirted with the idea of starting their own blog I’d recommend it heartily. Give it a go. Go until you reach the end. Then stop." Nonetheless I hope we'll hear her voice again. My e-mail basket is always open for a start.

Thursday, November 14, 2002
Heated debate in Denmark over female circumscision.

UPDATE: I think the link works now. Thanks to all those who let me know.

Answers! We got answers! To Eugene Volokh's quiz on colonies in the Western Hemisphere, wherein all the answers are absolutely true, except No. 11. In contrast Snopes lists the horse's ass/rail gauge story as "false." Bah. However, when you read the Snopes account rather than just the status indicator it seems as if the author actually backs up the theory in some cases:
"Horse-drawn vehicles, whether they were chariots or carts or carriages, all served similar functions, so practical considerations (e.g., the speed at which horses could travel, the amount of weight horses could pull, the number and arrangement of horses that could be controlled by a single driver) required that they be relatively similar in size as well.

"That may suffice as an explanation covering the specific combination of horse-drawn vehicles and roads, but what about vehicles that travelled on rails instead of roads (such as trolleys), or that weren't pulled by horses (such as trains)? Why should they be similar in size to their predecessors?

"Although we humans can be remarkably inventive, we are also often resistant to change and can be persistently stubborn (or perhaps practical) in trying to apply old solutions to new conditions. When confronted with a new idea such as a "rail," why go to the expense and effort of designing a new vehicle for it rather than simply adapting ones already in abundant use on roadways?"

The Snopes author does not so much deny the theory as think it wrong in detail, prosaic and uninteresting. He adds at the end that not many people would be interested were it not for the mention of a horse's ass. Well, I don't know about that - I liked it, there are millions of railway enthusiasts in the world, and railway gauges also come up in military history (see the mention of the US Civil War in the Snopes account), not to mention in discussions of whether standards should evolve or be imposed. Snopes is a wonderful institution, but I wonder if researching for the site, and seeing the full range of human folly and credulity, runs the risk of making its veterans a little bit grouchy.

Thanks to reader Robert Dammers for the link.

UPDATE: Brian Micklethwait liked it too, and he didn't even mention horse's whatsits. There is something appealing about the idea of tracing the effects of seemingly inconsequential decisions through history. James Burke wrote a whole book and TV series, Connections, doing just that.

What's wrong with welfare. Steven Chapman puts it very well.
"Then the State comes along, and tells you that, when the going gets tough, you can rely on it to get by. This new state of affairs relieves you of the 'burden' of maintaining the high degree of goodwill and mutual self-interest which maintains a community/society, and furthermore, because the state is a system rather than a person, no expenditure of goodwill on your part is necessary to get what the State is offering."
Scroll up for a killer piece of research about UN Resolution 242, too. Sheesh, I wish I could come out with that sort of detailed knowledge.

Puzzleaholic. Fresh from his victory re Sherlock, Guillermo de Jevenois has another go. He writes:
I am afraid I can't resist a puzzle. My chips for the Malaysian competition
are on:


I am sure you had come up with it already,

Hmmm. I'm not sure about this. It doesn't seem to fit the actual wording of the clue, as quoted in UK Transport. To be fair, I should have quoted the wording more exactly myself. But could be, could be, and the explanation of its vital connection with the railway system is so funny that it jolly well ought to win anyway:

Railroad Tracks

The UK Standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5
inches. That's an exceedingly odd number.

Why was that gauge used?

Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the
pre-railroad tramways, and that's the gauge they used.

Why did "they" use that gauge then?

Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that
they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.

Okay! Why did the wagons use that odd wheel spacing?

Well, if they tried to use any other spacing the wagons would break on some
of the old, long distance roads, because that's the spacing of the old wheel

So who built these old rutted roads?

The first long distance roads in Europe were built by Imperial Rome for the
benefit of their legions. The roads have been used ever since.

And the ruts?

The initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying
their wagons, were first made by Roman war chariots. Since the chariots were
made for or by Imperial Rome they were all alike in the matter of wheel
spacing. Thus we have the answer to the original question. The United States
standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches derives from the original
specification for an Imperial Roman army war chariot.

Specs and Bureaucracies live forever. So, the next time you are handed a
specification and wonder what horse's ass came up with it, you may be
exactly right. Because the Imperial Roman chariots were made to be just wide
enough to accommodate the back ends of two war-horses.

Now the twist to the story...

There's an interesting extension of the story about railroad gauge and
horses' behinds. When we see a Space Shuttle sitting on the launch pad,
there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel
tank. These are the solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. The SRBs are made by
Thiokol at a factory in Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs might have
preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train
from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line to the factory runs
through a tunnel in the mountains. The SRBs had to fit through that tunnel.
The tunnel is slightly wider than a railroad track, and the railroad track
is about as wide as two horses' behinds.

So a major design feature of what is arguably the world's most advanced
transportation system was determined by the width of a horse's ass!

Source: link.

MommaBear has announced that she is leaving Dodgeblogium. Her announcement is here.

You never know what the dice will bring. The EU may just have rolled for sanity and passed, on one small issue at least. Not possible, you say? Then take a look at this from Layman's Logic:
"The Times Online has spotted an opportunity to potential get rid of some European legislation:

"The quantities in which humdrum beverages such as water or wine are sold is not just a marketing convention or a result of the subtle action of consumer preference. It is, sometimes, a matter of EU law and the Commission is beginning to wonder whether that is sensible.

A working paper (there is always a working paper) concluded: “The EU seems over-regulated compared to the rest of the world” and “The fixing of sizes by legislators enables manufacturers to limit consumer choice”. The Commissioner for Enterprise, Erkki Liikanen, has given everyone a chance to air their views at*.
If the survey finds against rules on pack sizes, the Commission will repeal the directives and abolish the rules."

Next stop, CAP et al. After you to vote...

* link is correct - the printed address is a touch vague"
I wouldn't actually bet on the abolition of the CAP by electronic vote any time soon. But we might as well give this a go.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002
Congratulations to Guillermo de Jevenois who was first with the correct answer: The Naval Treaty, written in 1893. He found the answer in

Tough luck, Peter, you were pipped at the post. No cuddly toys, I'm afraid. Tell you what, how about a real life pet mouse as a consolation prize? Oh, I forgot. You already have some.

Oh, and while you're suffering, tell me which Sherlock Holmes story it was that mentioned the Bertillon classification system. A small prize will be awarded* for the first correct answer.

*By someone else in another competition altogether.

Trivial pursuits around the world. See if you can find a word fitting this pattern: [ - - r - e] in a way that has something to do with unpunctual trains. If you can you will be able to help win a crossword competition for a Malaysian reader of UK Transport. The story of Patrick Crozier's mysteriously rising hit counter charmed the socks off me. Future generations won't be able to understand this at all. Or rather, they will be bemused that anyone thought such everyday events worth mentioning.

Progress spoils a lot of good stories. I used to tell a little anecdote about that time a group of us holidaying together in France became accidentally split into two sub-groups and each sub-group had to work out who the other sub group would be most likely to phone in Britain in order to get back in communication. If you are over 30 you can stop nodding your head and telling the computer about that time in Lanzarote, I understand that you understand. If you are under 30 the point is that mobile phones have not always existed.

So, had enough yet of wasting the finite processing power of your brains on idle puzzling that is no good to man nor beast? If you crave more, I can help. Eugene Volokh has hinted to me that my mini-team entry to his recent historical and geographical quiz was creditable but not all-conquering. So far as I know entries are still open. I'll make it easy for you - on second thoughts, no I won't. Suffer.

Dem bones. Did you know what they did before fingerprints? James Rummel does. They measured bones. He finishes by wondering what all the police departments and detective agencies did with all the Bertillon records after fingerprinting rendered them obsolete. If someone does unearth them it would give us a fascinating statistical picture of the state of health of our ancestors. Those among them who came to the attention of the police, anyway.

UPDATE for anyone who had trouble with that link. James Rummel writes: "Re the Case of the Shifting Handbasket...

Blogger was sending people who clicked on the link you put in your blog to a post I had made earlier that had nothing to do with Bertillon. I republished an archive or two and posted a blank page. All to confuse the bedeviled computer and convince it to sit up and fly straight. The link, which I just tested, is now sending people to the correct link."

(My bold type.) That's the way to deal with 'em. Let 'em know who's master.

More about Kibbutz Metzer. Diane E of Letter from Gotham has pointed out that the Guardian did eventually report that horrifying story of the murders of children and adults at Kibbutz Metzer. This account appeared at 6.40pm on their website on the day after the massacre. It stresses the mildly socialist idealism of Metzer's founders. This was the image of Israel I - and many Guardian readers - grew up with.

And this, alas, is an all too typical image from that part of the world these days:

``I will have to say Kaddish (prayer for the dead) for two little kids. It's an entire family,'' the father said, fingering two pacifiers that belonged to Noam. The boy would fall asleep with one pacifier in his mouth and one in his hand. ``How can a man - if you can call him a man - shoot a boy with two pacifiers?'' Ohion said.

The Iranian professor condemned to death for "blaspheming the prophet" (i.e. challenging the ruling clerics) has decided not to appeal. His quoted statement does not suggest a death wish, but refers to "letting the judiciary handle it." I presume this means that there is some advantage of tactics or principle to be gained by not appealing. Even the Islamic Republic News Agency concedes that there is widespread public anger at the death sentence.

Blunkett's re-writing of history. In an article for the Telegraph yesterday, our dear Home Secretary said dismissively that the right to trial by jury dated back to 1855, not Magna Carta. Peter Lilley MP wrote back.

UPDATE: It's like a horror movie. SEE a computer disintegrate before your very eyes! If the link doesn't work for you either, read this:

Re: Re-writing history
Date: 13 November 2002

Sir - David Blunkett makes the absurd claim that "the right to jury trial dates back to 1855, not the Magna Carta" (Opinion, Nov. 12).

He could not be more wrong. As a result of Magna Carta, jury trial had become an automatic right for those accused of felonies for centuries prior to 1855. In that year a predecessor of David Blunkett brought in a measure to transfer some minor cases previously handled by juries for trial in the "police courts". However, he recognised that this would be acceptable only if defendants retained the right to jury trial should they so prefer.

The future chancellor, Lord Campbell, said in the debate: "Had the minister not retained the option of trial by jury, I must have opposed the Bill as unconstitutional."

This Government brought in two Bills - mercifully defeated in the Lords - to take that "constitutional" right away from defendants entirely in two thirds of all cases. Labour still has a manifesto pledge to do that, but now proposes to advance by a pincer movement. Some cases will be removed from juries because they are simple and minor. Others will be removed because they are complex and major. If the Government succeeds in this it will have left little scope for jury trial at all.

No wonder the Home Secretary is trying to re-write our history to exclude a cherished right.

Peter Lilley MP (Con), London SW1

Talking of blirgdays, I have learned that I share mine with Brian Linse's next door neighbour on the Instapundit blogroll, Listen Missy. I have always liked the look of this blog, what little I could see of it behind the Internet Explorer Script Error sign that always, always, always pops up and completely freezes the computer every time I try visiting it.

Say hi to Missy from me, someone. (I would myself, only her e-mail address is somewhere under the ice.) I shall now have to take the utmost care not to click on one of my own links.

Scary Squirrel World.

Honestly. You let these blogs out for one minute, and there they are, breeding all over the place. Shocking, I call it. You may recall that I mentioned the Dude's first birthday a couple of days ago. Now he has posted some birthday reflections.

I assume "cute as a bug's ear" is an American or Tennessee-an term of endearment. Like the French "my little cabbage" these things often appear quaint in translation.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002
One in forty. Jim Miller has a timely reminder of what France went through in the First World War. As a proportion of men of military age the ratio was even higher; it was rare to meet a person who had not lost a father, son, husband or brother.

Let slip the blogs of war... I should really have had that as my headline for the previous post, but 'tis here I ride forth to battle. I've been meaning to respond to this post by Junius for a couple of days. After describing why he sees himself as being on the left despite some common grounds with non-lefties, he says:
Natalie's reaction to the facts Dalrymple adduces is helpfully summarised by her thus:

This is the life that welfare brings about.

This is the life that minimum wage laws bring about.

This is the life that subsidised housing projects bring about.

This is the life that the drug war brings about.

This is the life that cringe-multiculturalism brings about.

This is the life that moral relativism brings about.

Now Natalie follows these sentences with a quote from Dalrymple about how leftists deny the reality he's writing about. Since I think I am, as I mentioned, the blogospheric conduit for the very article about the Parisian banlieu that she discusses, I find this particular ad hominem jibe especially inappropriate.

This has some justice to it, though an admirer of Dalrymple I would eventually have found the article myself, I am pretty sure. As I said in an e-mail to Chris Bertram, I was put in a bad mood by a column that same day by Hugo Young where he launched an ad hominem attack on free-market conservatives, speaking of them as putting "compassion in the dustbin where it had always belonged". I actually meant to blog about him first, then hit on the Dalrymple article as a perfect example of the things his compassion would prefer not to see, then quite forgot about Hugo Y's sins while absorbed in Dalrymple's bleak vision, then had to do something else and finally came back to post about Young after Dalrymple, despite having thought of what I wanted to say about Young before seeing Dalrymple. Phew.

Returning to the main argument, Chris writes:

In any case, the libertarian reaction to the Dalrymple-facts is actually significantly like the (smart) leftist one: namely, to accept the description but refuse the prescription. Dalrymple wouldn't accept the "drug war" item on Natalie's list and is usually inclined to cite cultural factors alongside and often ahead of the institutional ones she mentions.

Like you I quote Dalrymple approvingly without going aong with his entire mindset. Actually I do usually agree with him on the cultural factors as well, but I'm inclined to think that they often follow on, with a time lag of a decade or so, from the incentives that a society or physical reality puts in place. I don't claim that the causation is inescapable. There is always scope for individual moral choice. But since no one objects to the observation that the Japanese are a generally polite people because Japan is crowded, no one need object to the observation that a seventeen year old single girl on a council house waiting list, who knows having a baby will get her a house, is not generally a person you expect to wax eloquent on the sacred crown of virginity.

But Natalie's list encapsulates a pretty standard libertarian reaction. And it also raises several questions in my mind. Libertarians often push the line that state intervention makes worse the problems it purports to solve or creates worse problems as unintended consequences. That's often true, though to assert it as a universal law rather than looking at the facts of each case strikes me as dogmatic.

I do not assert it as universal, and I don't think I've ever read an explicit declaration that the rule holds true in literally every case. Not that I've done a survey or anything, but I always assumed that when Libertarians say "the state always screws up" they were employing conversational exaggeration, such as when I say, "I can never remember how to spell exaggerate." The state usually screws up because it has no incentive to find out what people really want and what really works.

Libertarians also oppose things like "subsidised housing projects" because they are subsidised and because this requires raising money in taxes.

So, the natural first question to ask is: "Which of these is more fundamental, tax or social effects?" and, specifically, "If the social measures you list actually worked, would you still oppose them anyway because of the taxation question?"

Tocqueville said that "Any man who asks of freedom anything other than itself is born to be a slave." At rock bottom, I agree, and hence would oppose them anyway, but fortunately - and not coincidentally - I can escape his harsh choice by observing that your "if" is an extremely rare one. We are always being told that we must swap freedom for safety, social mobility, compassion or military success, just as fifty years ago they told us we must swap freedom for prosperity. (Government advisers were still whiffling on about the superior efficiency of planned economies right up to the time of Wilson.) That turned out to be a load of old cobblers and so will this. In general, free countries are safer, less caste-bound, more compassionate and win more wars than non-free.

A second, more directly Dalrymple-article-related question would be to ask why you are confident in asserting that the welfare-state is at the root of these problems when he also mentions, specifically, questions of urban design. Though the design of large housing projects is also a matter of state control, we can pull it apart, analytically, from the welfare issue.

We can, but I prefer not to! They are closely linked. The housing blocks that everyone hates were nearly all put up by local or national government because a developer who tried to sell homes like that to people who could choose otherwise would go bust in no time. Oh, fashion might decree them for a while, and there is always room for differences of style, but in general the block of flats is the home of last resort. Left to themselves most people buy houses like kids draw, houses with front doors and gardens. They may be tiny, shoddy little houses with front doors and gardens because the people are poor but they won't have multiple walkways so the mugger has fifteen different escape routes, and you won't only be able to reach your living room by a lift or fifteen flights of stairs and your little castle and its plot will be yours and your family's and no-one else's

Furthermore, I've heard tell that, like racehorses, modern blocks of flats all have one great-great grandaddy. Architects all over Europe admired the Karl Marx Hof (spot the hidden political clue in that name) when it went up in Vienna, and cheered when the Socialist Schutzbund defended it against Dolfuss's militia. Whether Otto Wagner himself consciously or unconsciously intended this of the original design, one of the things that its successors were actually built to do was to facilitate violent revolt.

Third, the welfare states that exist in the West vary fundamentally in design and rationale (one helpful set of labels distinguishes among Beveridgian, Bismarckian and Scandinavian models). Do you want really to say the same things about all of them?

Broadly, yes. Of course one may be a good deal less bad than another. I do not know much about this subject.

Fourth, since all these states have welfare-systems, they are all clearly responding to a set of problems: poverty, social insecurity, social exclusion and so on. What would you put in their place? One possible answer is, of course, "nothing". But that rather raises the issue of dependence in a different form since those unable to fend for themselves will have their fending done for them by others (such as family) - if they are not to perish - and so will be dependent on those very fenders. Often intra-familial relations are benign, but not always....

My answer echoes similar answers I give elsewhere. I can't claim (any more than can a socialist) that my way would be better in every case, just generally. In the absence of the state I wouldn't see the family as the only hope of the paralysed, mentally deficient, or those too old to work. There would be charities, churches, trade unions, neighbours, swanky gits who wanted to look good by endowing almshouses, companies who wanted good publicity. And there'd be more money to spare, and a greater sense of responsibility. Question: would you donate in such circumstances, assuming there were no state welfare? You would? So would I.

But, you say, what if someone falls through the net? To which I say, they are falling through the net now. People die in blocks of flats and no one notices for weeks, because they all assume it's the State's business.

It's a bit like parents sending their grown up children out into the world. The parents know that they will suffer and err. Yet they accept that their sons and daughters have to stand on their own two feet; to keep on bankrolling them and buying them out of trouble is almost to ensure that they grow up unsatisfied, incapable and quite probably vicious.

Fifth: "What do you think about universal basic income?" Since this is a proposal for solving the same problems that the welfare state purports to address, but without the poverty-trap/dependency downsides, libertarians ought to have a favourable reaction. Unless, of course, the tax-subsidy issue is really the fundamental one, in which case why are taxes ok to fund school voucher schemes and not other welfare programmes?

I think universal basic income (or a negative income tax) would be better than the mess we have now, but not ideal, as taxes would still be raised by coercion. Likewise I cheer when I read about court decisions that smooth the path of vouchers, despite thinking that no state provision at all would be better still.

Like many a quiz show, life and politics often present us with a choice between a small but safe prize now and the big wager for higher stakes. Which should you go for, your principled ideal or a makeshift that is very far from it, and which may delay or discredit it, but that would be some help to suffering people and does have a realistic chance of being enacted? That dilemma is scarcely unique to Libertarians. I can give no general answer.

There is, in addition, something really scary about vouchers that has sometimes tipped me right over into opposing them. It is this: vouchers would give the government even more power to decide what education is. At the moment private schools are financially independent of government. Yes, there is some regulation of private schools even now, but it is not too onerous. Under a vouchers regime an enormous chunk of a private school's income would depend on its continuing status as a recognized school. How easy, how terribly easy, it would be for the bureacrats to politely "suggest", and the schools to politely accept, a single government approved ethos. Ye gods, I'm talking myself back into opposing vouchers as I write.

I try to restrict the reference-dumping in debates like this, as most people don't really have time to embark on a course of reading at my say-so, but I'm surely allowed to mention one or two books. They would be Charles Murray's Why I am a Libertarian, which is so short you could read it in your lunch hour, and for the architecture, Dr Alice Coleman's Utopia on Trial.

"As I was saying..." Two neighbouring posts on Blogs of War are separated by several months. But the doc is now back and dispensing wisdom. I learnt this fact from Random Jottings, whose first ever post you can see by clicking the link. Just two days earlier AintNoBadDude said hello to the world. And now look at us all, one already, walking, talking and posting half chewed rusks into the slot of the video recorder.

Monday, November 11, 2002
Now I'm losing posts. First I just couldn't publish; now they are actually disappearing. I'm going to call it a day before I end up breaking this computer.

A broader vision. The Guardian and Ha'aretz both have reports of the same story. Both start off straightforwardly enough. Here's how the Guardian tells it:

"At least five people were killed and three others wounded last night when a suspected Palestinian gunman entered a kibbutz near the West Bank and opened fire."

Factual and to the point, you say. Nowt wrong with that as reporting. Only that's how the Guardian ends, too. [At least that's how it ends in the story as electronically published at 10.30 GMT on Monday morning. Anyone want to do one of those cache things to preserve it for posterity?] That's all "Chris McGreal in Jerusalem and agencies" actually saw fit to say about the story that provides the headline. Ha'aretz has a little more detail. You may find it interesting. Newsworthy, even:

"Five people were killed and three injured when a terrorist late Sunday infiltrated Kibbutz Metzer, near Israel's pre-1967 border with the West Bank, killing two small children in their beds, their mother, and two other adults.

"The Al Aqsa Brigades of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement claimed responsibility for the attack, in which the gunman penetrated the security fence, entering a house and killing the children and their mother, then shot dead two adults he encountered outside the dwelling.

"The victims were identified Monday as Revital Ohayoun, 34, her sons Matan, 5, and Noam, 4, Dor Yitzhak, 44, who served as the secretary of the kibbutz, and Tirza Damari, 42, of Elichin, who had come to the kibbutz for a visit.

"The kibbutz, founded by the leftist Hashomer Hatzair movement, was known for vigorous advocacy of reconciliation with its Arab neighbors, and support for a future peace including an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank."

The bold type is all mine. I'm very far from indifferent to the murders of Dor Yitzhak and Tirza Damari, but, just in terms of "stop the presses" potential, I think the ages of the two children - the two children sought out by the murderer, the little boys of four and five who were deliberately, cold bloodedly shot to death with their mother - score, don't you? I mean, the Guardian thinks other poor little children's ages are of interest:

"The military said it had also detained a 15-year-old Palestinian boy on his way to kill Israelis, and arrested a senior member of Hamas in Hebron who was planning another suicide attack.... The military declined to discuss the circumstances of the arrest of the 15-year-old boy in Nablus, other than to say that it is certain he was about to carry out a suicide attack in Israel. If true, he would be one of the youngest suicide bombers so far. "

I can think of several possible defences for the Guardian. (1) It takes time for a story to break, and Ha'aretz is nearer the action. (But we live in the age of e-mail and Chris McGreal is in Jerusalem.) (2) Ha'aretz may be quicker to print and distribute than the Guardian due to smaller circulation in a smaller country and more up-to-date technology. This is just my guess; but I can imagine the Guardian sticking with older technology out of deference to the print unions. (But that wouldn't stop them updating their website. I am pretty sure Ha'aretz did, though I must rely on memory. When I first looked at the Ha'aretz story this morning I don't remember seeing the detail about the Palestinian killing the four and five year old children in their beds, nor do I remember the description of how that kibbutz is known for its advocacy of reconciliation with Arabs.)

What I cannot understand is how anyone could have heard the name of the kibbutz, the number of the dead, the claim of responsibility and yet not have heard, or not thought it worth reporting, that two of them were children. Every other report that I have read - and the three I link to here were chosen at random from Google News - at least mentioned it.

The Guardian is usually so keen on context, too. Let's look at what they say later on in the same article:

"Mr Arafat's Fatah faction was meeting with Hamas in Cairo yesterday in an attempt to secure an end to attacks inside Israel, at least during the general election campaign, for fear of playing into the hands of the Israeli far right."

No other reason?

"The Palestinian leadership has made it clear that it would like a victory for the Labour party, which Mr Arafat calls his "partner in peace".

If you say so, Mr Chairman.

"That appears an unlikely prospect right now, but the left - with its proposals for immediate talks with the Palestinians without preconditions - is gaining strength inside the Labour party.

"The Cairo talks are expected to last several days, and also aim to provide a broader vision to carry the intifada forward. "

A broader vision to carry the intifada forward. What an inimitable conclusion. So now we know what killed Matan and his little brother Noam. Now we know what their mother could not protect her sons from in her last bloody and terrifying minutes. (In what order did they die, I wonder? What order should we hope for; the mother first and the children seeing her slaughtered, or vice versa?) It was insufficient appreciation of the fact that this sort of thing might not be helpful to the electoral chances of the Israeli Labour party. It was narrowness of vision.

UPDATE: On reflection, I was probably too harsh to the Guardian in the post above. Re-reading the story it does not cohere; and that supplies the explanation for the appearance that shocked me, namely that the Guardian had hundreds of words apparently dedicated to the shootings while not mentioning that two of the victims were children. I now think that the story as originally written never involved them at all. It was just a roundup of the events of yesterday. Then this latest atrocity came along. Quickly the authors slapped a sentence about it at the beginning of the article, and then a subeditor took the headline from the first paragraph of the story. I still think that to prattle of a "broader vision to carry the intifada forward" as if the murders so far were no more than a management error is pretty sickening.

Sunday, November 10, 2002
O Valiant Hearts. This was one of the hymns at the Remembrance Sunday service I attended today. The sound play to this link doesn't really get across how gentle and wistful the tune is.
"All you had hoped for, all you had you gave."

A happier anniversary has just passed, as a reader reminds me. On the 9th November 1989 the Berlin Wall fell. Here's one man's story. My own recollections of that momentous event? I missed it. Didn't feel well for a couple of days, stayed in, didn't fancy any TV.

Saturday, November 09, 2002
The gulf between monsters and men. This article by Katharine Viner about catching rapists buzzed around making something close to worthwhile points every now and then. I, too, want rapists caught speedily and rape victims treated with sensitivity. (Alongside strict adherence to the presumption of innocence, which Viner says nothing about.) But in so far as this line made sense at all, it was vile:
The Trophy Rapist has already been turned into a "monster" - thus separating him from ordinary men - even though apparently ordinary men are the most common rapists.
It's always instructive to switch a few terms and see how the logic of such a thing holds up. How would she like this line, which is as true as what she says:
The Washington Sniper has already been turned into a "monster" - thus separating him from ordinary blacks - even though apparently ordinary blacks are the most common perpetrators of gun attacks.
There is nothing illegitimate about the transposition. The Trophy Rapist and the Washington Sniper are two of this year's icons of evil. "Man" and "black" are both descriptions of biological characteristics held involuntarily. Factually, the statement about "ordinariness" of the respective crimes is a lot closer to the truth in my example artificially created to prove a logical point than in her statement which she presumably meant; the proportion of gun criminals among blacks is higher than the proportion of rapists among men generally. Yet if I or anyone else were to say anything similar there would be howls of outrage.

Not that I do say it. There is a vast separation between the Trophy Rapist and ordinary men. There is a vast separation between the Washington Sniper and ordinary blacks. Is Katharine Viner saying she can't see the difference between the rapist and the men in her own family, her own partner if she has one, or her male colleagues at the Guardian?

A Zimbabwean bishop, Pius Ncube, has called on Mugabe to resign. Brave man. Predictably he has been slandered as mad by "information minister" Jonathan Moyo. (In an interview with the BBC, which seems odd. I thought Mugabe was refusing access to the Beeb, which is the most creditable thing to the latter that I'd heard for years. Has Zimbabwe made up to them, or does the ban not extend to government men?) Further down the story it says that the US has threatened "intrusive" measures if food aid is not delivered to opposition areas. I doubt they mean it.

I held off saying this for along time, but food aid should stop.

English immersion works. It has much the best record of any teaching strategy in raising immigrants to the level of employment and prosperity reached by the host population. Bilingual education raises the employment and prosperity levels of a host of teachers and classroom assistants, which is not the same thing at all. How do you fight such a neat, obvious idea? This way.

I keep seeing the headline on US blogs "If they were Republicans, this would be hate speech." I see why.

Friday, November 08, 2002
The village of Shertson, Wiltshire had a really safe bonfire this year. This splendid editorial, Why we must ban all fun now, takes the principle of safety a little further.

The authorities missed a trick, though. Won't the degenerate rustics of Sherston, so clearly in need of protection from themselves, go back to their ancient uncouth ways? Won't they revert to letting off their own rockets in their back gardens, hence endangering, traumatizing and exploding their offspring/guinea pigs in even greater numbers than before? Hmm, better get to work on banning that.

LATER: Chris Bertram, who is obviously keeping an eye on me to ensure that I don't get away without making a more substantive reply than the one below, reminds me that he covered this (knew I'd seen it somewhere) and adds that the article is the work of the ever-surprising Rod Liddle, currently running two-up one-down in my files. Goodman Liddle is up for a baronetcy at least, come the Glorious Day. But do you take care, fellow, for the headsman awaits those who fail me.

Junius is mad at me.

Huh. The original Junius wouldn't have worried about ad hominem attacks. The nineteenth century historian Leckey said that "no writer ever excelled Junius in condensed and virulent invective, rendered all the more malignant by the studied and controlled deliberation of the language, in envenomed and highly elaborated sarcasm, in clear and vivid statement ..."

No, that wasn't my considered and nuanced response to major points of philosophical principle. You get that later, if you're good and eat your greens.

Don't know much about history... Somebody called Clive Hamilton tossed off a remark in The Age that the Australians lost at Kokoda. Bernard Slattery of Brain Gaze ventured to differ. (Link via Tim Blair.)

LATER: It seems Blogger may be doing strange things to the first link. The title of the post in question starts with the words "Sensation! Stupid Wa-" Ahem. You had better find the rest of it yourself.

Thursday, November 07, 2002
And they say our side lack compassion (II): "They" being people like Hugo Young. The sort of brutal world order he works for is described below. But here he is, still self-righteously droning on. He is happy to praise the "compassionate conservatism" of any era but the present (this acknowledgement would have been more courteous had he offered it at the time) yet he and his fellows are strangely silent about the single most successful law ever signed - albeit reluctantly - by his hero Clinton, namely welfare reform. Thousands of black children lifted out of poverty. You wouldn't know it from this:
"Compassionate conservatism, coined by Bush and lifted by Duncan Smith, was for a time a phrase graced with truth and common relevance. Pumped out often enough, the mantra helped Bush defeat the legacy of the Clinton years without entirely disowning their tender side. Tuesday's victories in the Senate and the House were, by contrast, triumphs for the right, paving the way for an unequivocally rightist programme, in which compassion will be consigned to the wastebin of political artifice where it probably always belonged."

And they say our side lack compassion. Glenn Reynolds describes the wretchedness described in this article by Theodore Dalrymple as the result of appeasement. Very true. But I'd like to focus on the old immigrant couple mentioned later on in the article. Trapped by the financial and spiritual dependency induced by welfare, they look on with despair as their unemployed and unemployable children and grandchildren become alien, frightening brutes who either cower before crime lords or seek to join them. The article is about France, the country that UK Shamed Again would have us imitate, but it describes the results of trends visible in every country in the Western World.

This is the life that welfare brings about.

This is the life that minimum wage laws bring about.

This is the life that subsidised housing projects bring about.

This is the life that the drug war brings about.

This is the life that cringe-multiculturalism brings about.

This is the life that moral relativism brings about.

As Dalrymple said in an earlier article: usual, neither pols nor pundits wish to look the problem in the face or make the obvious connections. For them, the real and most pressing question raised by any social problem is: “How do I appear concerned and compassionate to all my friends, colleagues, and peers?” Needless to say, the first imperative is to avoid any hint of blaming the victim by examining the bad choices that he makes. It is not even permissible to look at the reasons for those choices, since by definition victims are victims and therefore not responsible for their acts, unlike the relatively small class of human beings who are not victims. One might extend La Rochefoucauld’s famous maxim that neither the sun nor death can be stared at for long, by saying that no member of the modern liberal intelligentsia can stare at a social problem for very long. He feels the need to retreat into impersonal abstractions, into structures or alleged structures over which the victim has no control. And out of this need to avoid the rawness of reality he spins utopian schemes of social engineering.

James Rummel writes back
I just read your reply to my and Randy's Email to you. One of the things I found interesting was when you said that I didn't have "any objection to a savage end for savage people."

Whoa! Hold the phone! Massive straw man consctruction here.

I object in the strongest possible terms to savge ends for anyone, whether they be savage themselves or not. My whole point is that a little pigskin in the grave isn't savage at all, and is in fact a much gentler (and more persuasive) arguement against Islamofascist terror than just plain killin' folks.

Though killin' folks works as long as it's the folks that want to slaughter innocent people. That's the whole crux of our disagreement here. I want these people to STOP, by fair means or foul. A piggy shroud? Even though those of Islam will react with horror? Well, so what! Beats killing more people. Not only is it less savage than simply hunting down all of the terrorist's cells and jailing or killing them all, I don't see it as being savage at all!

I only meant to use the word "end" in the same colloquial sense as you might say of a dissolute peer "after a life of scandal, he ended up buried in Westminster Abbey." The ambiguity didn't occur to me.

Some kind thoughts James added about that baby stuff lead me to think that I may have inadvertently given a more alarming picture than the circumstances warrant. Nothing has happened - er, that's the whole point. I am getting more jumpy from miles away than I was with my own kids' births, which both turned out OK despite being punctuated by more delays, false alarms and deceptive climaxes than a [insert generic joke appropriate to your country's anti-terrorism effort here]! I think my family must have an inherited tendency to pop out late. Doesn't change when we're out of the womb, either.

Blogger Diana Mertz Hsieh is being sued. Why? She doesn't yet know. Who's suing? A firearms training company called Front Sight Management. What the hell brought this on? Well, she used to think that Front Sight were terrific. Then she got wind of Scientology involvement...

The link is to Arthur Silber's Light of Reason blog; Diana Hsieh's own account is here.

(Heads-up came from MommaBear of Dodgeblog.)

LATER: I had wondered if the fact that Diana Hsieh is legally constrained from talking about the case meant that it might somehow be harmful to her legal position to go from fact to opinion. I am informed that this is not so. That frees me to say that, although I have on occasion defended the free speech rights of Scientologists on the grounds that speech ought to be free however foolish and sinister it is, Scientology is foolish and sinister. That this bizarre goulash of second-rate notions, made up for a bet, should outlive its forgettable author and grow like a cancer until it has funds and pet lawyers enough to bully decent people is thoroughly depressing. I am only glad that some courageous people stand up to them. Good luck, Diana.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002
Ave et Vale to Brian's Education Blog and (temporarily) Winds of Change respectively.

Mr Breen is safe - this time.

I'm a bit distracted at the moment. A family baby (no, not mine!) is ignoring his or her scheduled time to come into the world.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002
Pigskin pittas: the arguments for. Neither James Rummel or regular correspondent Randy has any objection to a savage end for savage people. To take the former's e-mail first:
Just read your post RE wrapping the corpses of Islamofascists in pork products to deny them their 72 virgins. You said that it's barbaric.

Well, I'm not so sure about that. See, the way I look at it, they slaughter our innocent civilians (people just going through their day and who aren't a threat to anyone) because of some religious philosophy. If we threw some bacon in the coffin when we were burying the victims then people would object to a lack of respect, but few would actually consider it barbaric.

Slaughtering people for religious differences, now THAT'S barbaric. Slaughtering INNOCENT people who are no threat to anyone, double barbaric. Why did they do this barbaric act?

Because they didn't like the way the West prospered while they lost relevance and influence. They weren't very sympathetic to our way of doing things, to our way of view, or to the desire of the people they killed to simply survive.

So why is the pork thing barbaric? Because THEY think it's barbaric! To us it's a waste of good food.

Seems kinda weird to me, worrying about the prejudices of people who want to kill us because of those prejudices. Now there's a good point about how ignoring these religious leanings and adopting a "Screw you!" attitude will demean our society or change it for the worse. But the idea about how it's barbaric doesn't seem to me to be very honest.
The "demean our society" part is what I was thinking of. I have no trouble seeing that their murders are a hundred, a thousand, a million times more barbaric than the Russian pigskin pitta proposal. So maybe our standards are a hundred, a thousand, a million times higher. One of the strongest weapons of civilization is its sense of calm, overarching, unshakeable inevitability.

Randy wrote on the same lines as James Rummel, expressing himself even more strongly:

You hold the scales of justice. On one side you have the evil of the world incarnate, and on the other how to deal with the detritus of humanity, and YOU CAN'T FIGURE OUT WHICH ONE IS RIGHT? You are forthwith instructed to watch a continuous loop of "Apocalypse Now", until you develop some clarity of thought on the subject of good and evil.

We're going to drop fire on these people, and turn their earthly world into hell. In fact, according to our Christian faith, we're going to send their nasty asses there. Weakness on this issue points to something deeper.

In the first place, you don't seem to understand war with all of its imperfection and confusion. As the good Captain observes as he heads up river to kill Kurtz, "Charging a man with murder around here is like handing out speeding tickets at the Indy 500". This all dovetails with your "Law of War" nitwitery. Sure you have rules that say what's right and wrong, but when the balloon goes up, the rulebook goes in the shitcan. Good and evil is a struggle in the heart of every man. To take young men, lead them into violence, and let old women judge them afterwards is, in a word, evil.

Likewise, dithering over how to dispose of the bodies is egregiously stupid.

Secondly, one either accepts the truths of one's faith, or one denies God. How can one reason, when one dismisses what is known as truth, or is it your position that Christianity is a fairy tale that you wish to pass to your children? To believe that there is something wrong with sewing pagans in pigskin is to deny one's faith.

Finally, if the thought of mistreating these sons of allah makes you squeamish, perhaps you'll be so kind as to avert your gaze, while the men do the work. Before it's done, we'll be loading the spray tanks on our A4's with rancid liquified pig byproducts, and hozing down whole battlefields. Hmmm, I wonder how they feel about a sprayon plasticized pork product?
The denial of Christianity line was a non sequitur.

There's lots more to say about this, but my mind isn't on the job, for reasons referred to in the post above. One quick point: whatever we do, let's avoid being sneakily glad the Russians do stuff like this while being too pure to do it our wonderful English-speaking selves. Either it's right or it's wrong. The best argument in favour is that it once stopped a similar death cult in its tracks. The best argument against is - still - "it is barbaric", and the existence of other, far greater barbarities on the part of our enemies does not change that.

One year and still going strong. Thanks to mes enfants de blogue AintNoBadDude and Random Jottings, authors of the first and second e-mails to my blog, both of whose own blirgdays are coming up on the 10th and the 12th respectively.

Monday, November 04, 2002
How to dispose of swine. There's some discussion on Instapundit as to whether this Russian idea of wrapping the corpses of the theatre terrorists in pigskin is something our side ought to be doing. According to the reputed beliefs of jihadis, this defilement will stop them going to heaven, and even if the Mullahs can talk them out of that belief, the prospect of being the filling of a pigskin sandwich will most certainly give them the willies.

I've been thinking about this for a few days, and have come to no firm conclusion.

On the one hand, it might well work. This fascinating link sent to Instapundit a few days ago by Terry Oglesby describes how it stopped a similarly-motivated Islamic death cult cold close on a century ago in the Philippines. (Read about the elaborate binding of the body that the juramentados practised before going out on a suicide mission in order to see the similarities between the two cults.) Don't we want to save lives?

On the other hand it is barbaric. We are stooping to their level.

On the other hand, who cares? How much credit has being above their level gained us in the famous "Arab street"? Let us terrify those whom reason cannot reach.

On the other hand, they will retaliate and defile the corpses of our casualties.

On the other hand, we have far less to fear from that than they do. Westerners get upset when they see the corpses of our people dragged through the street, but those of us who believe in immortal souls would consider the belief that God's judgement on the soul could be changed by what was a mob did to the dead body infantile.

On the other hand, maybe mothers seeing their dead sons being dragged through the street by a mob will shake our resolve to carry on with the war. Remember Somalia.

On the other hand, maybe it won't. That sort of thing in a remote and incomprehensible conflict made people ask, what are we doing here? After September 11 2001 an awful lot of them have a very clear answer.

And on the other hand, we already have seen them dragging the corpses of our people through the street, haven't we? We needn't worry about them doing it as retaliation if they do it anyway.

I've given more words to the pro-pigskin side, which does not reflect how undecided I am. The three words "it is barbaric" carry a lot of weight.

Sunday, November 03, 2002
Iain Murray (whose blirgday is on the 4th) and Matt Welch are not Marc Herold's favourite people.

Saturday, November 02, 2002
Moira Breen wrote, "La blogue est triste, alas, and I have followed all the links... No, no, that won't do. Tell your little blog happy birthday and cheer up; I predict a new year of exciting linkage and commentary."

I replied, "Don't worry, it's a happy little thing now. I shall put it to bed soon, steal its birthday money and go off and spend it on the internet."

And so I shall. Have. What more can one ask of a day? The Guy is burnt, the fireworks shot, a crisp new copy of More Guns Less Crime is beginning its journey from the Amazon warehouse, and though British readers have but a few minutes more in which to give me birthday money, you fortunate Americans have longer.

The cockup and the conspiracy theories of history are forever at war. Sometimes one has the chance to see both unfolding before one's eyes. Memo to German security service: if you must bug someone's phone, try not to send 'em an itemized bill.

Few indeed are those who have had the privilege of giving a new word to the language. Reader Captain J M Heinrichs is one: blirgday [blurgday] n day of one's blog's birth; anniversary of that day.

A baby girl whose mother was murdered by her father was brought up from the age of two weeks by a kindly foster mother. The foster mother loved the child so much that when she was eight she wanted to adopt her. Social workers assured the woman that it was not any defect of morality or lack of care skills that meant this would not be allowed. It was just that, unfortunately, she wasn't black enough. You see, the woman was only half-black. And we couldn't have a mischling as a mother to a child of pure black race could we?

You thought that didn't happen any more, didn't you? You thought it was part of the bad old days. You thought Mr Blair had seen to all that. Wrong.

The Rod Liddle who tells this story is presumably the same Rod Liddle I have unrepentantly mocked for the bigoted Guardian article he wrote about the Countryside March, the one that got him fired as editor of the Today programme. It seemed to take him by surprise that all that BBC impartiality rot should apply even to Princes of the Word such as he, which confirmed in my opinion as a twit living in an ivory tower. But this Spectator article shows that he also has another side, one that is compassionate and just. It is good writing in a good cause and a thing to be proud of.

My heart goes out to the eight year old girl. Perhaps her new parents are good people. I hope so. We should not blame them for the fact that she was kidnapped and stolen from her real family; the props of her whole world and affections kicked out from under her, in an act that must be as devastating as if my slightly older daughter were to be stolen from her real family. Because the foster mother was and is forever her real mother in every sense that counts. And in every sense that counts the social workers who did this, and all their like who pollute adoption departments with their tools of apartheid, calipers and skin-colour charts, have kin, too, though they know them not. They are kin to their Australian counterparts who stole a generation of aboriginal children from their families. Different masks, same evil.

Link via Junius, who calls the story "gut wrenching."

Sentenced to re-education. A Canadian by the name of Harding has been sentenced to learn about Islam. In the approved manner only. "The cleric made it clear, Harding recalled in an interview with WorldNetDaily, that during the sessions nothing negative could be said about Islam or its prophet, Muhammad.

"He said he was my supervisor, and if I didn't follow what he said, he would send me back to jail," recounted Harding, who had been prevented from speaking publicly about his case under a gag order. As far as I can judge from the article, Harding appears to be at most a somewhat embarrassing and tactless type of Christian evangelist, not a spreader of hate speech at all.

I found the link in The Volokh Conspiracy. Eugene Volokh adds,

...many people (mostly on the Left) have suggested that American free speech law should follow the more "reasonable," "balanced," or "nuanced" European and Canadian model. Given this argument, it's helpful for us Americans to know just what the consequences of this supposedly superior approach can be.

I came, I saw, I hit post. Here's my first ever post. A year ago today, Dale Amon, writing in the Libertarian Alliance Forum said something along the lines of "I get almost all my news from the blogs now." "What's a blog?" said I. "This," said he. Thirty seconds later I had decided that a blog was right up there with "oxygen" in my List of Desirable Possessions. I can't quite remember what was the first Instapundit post my eye fell upon, but it might have been the one posted at four in the morning about India. Actually as I scrolled down the column I came across several Instapundit posts that had been quoted by Boris Kupershmidt in the LA-F, only I'd never followed the links before. I remember this one in particular because I liked this scene from the pen of the Reynolds mole inside the White House:
BUSH:...Condi, use your contacts out in California to get the Berkeley people to do something stupid, keep any opposition discredited.

RICE: I don't know if I can do that sir. They're still reeling from the boycotts out there.

BUSH: Condi, for chrissake, I'm asking you to get Berkeley people to do something stupid. We're not talking water running uphill here."
Ah, how things have changed. Now Berkeley is a shining light of reason and diversity of opinion.

But my blog is sad. No one has remembered its birthday. Um, I think I have to work on my hints. Make them less hinty, more - more - oh, you know, more shamelesstrollingfortipsy.

UPDATE: A true gentleman ("He's armed without that's innocent within," as Pope put it, although Pope probably didn't have a Glock in mind) has taken pity. Thank you.

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: The same donor has hit the tips jar again. It's those shooting reflexes. Double-tap, they call it.

ANOTHER UPDATE: For one of us was born a twin / And not a soul knew which. Samizdata was born on the same day as this blog, had the same father (Dale Amon), the same mother (Glenn Reynolds), but since Movable Type archives don't give posting-times, I don't yet know which of us can claim to be the elder. Dynastic wars have started for less.

OK, THIS REALLY IS THE LAST UPDATE: It's Iain Murray's real birthday too. So a year ago today he was, we presume, celebrating, and perhaps he needed the next day to recover. He must have had some excuse for tarrying for two whole days before starting England's Sword. Hmm, I suppose we'll have to allow it.