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.)


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Friday, January 03, 2003
 
Do you ever worry about homeschooled Muslim children being indoctrinated? Even some homeschoolers do, let alone mere fellow-travellers such as I. In this post Brian Micklethwait offers cogent reasons why homeschooled Muslim children are less likely to be taught by extremists than state-schooled children.
But look at it this way. If Muslims don't get - or are somehow not allowed to exercise the right to – home education, then they are more than ever likely to insist on having Muslim schools. And what is more likely to be taken over by Wahahbi maniacs? Muslim families or Muslim schools? I'd say Muslim schools. And I'd especially say publicly funded Muslim schools, in which consumers (i.e. parents) can be kept at arm's length and lorded over by the externally-funded producers, the people running the place.

Also, if the only way to get a Muslim education is to send your kids to a Muslim school, that might reinforce the tendency of Muslims to live in separate communities, in order to get into the right school catchment area. But if they are the masters of their own houses, no need for them to move house to get the sort of lives they want for themselves and their children.





 
"Ease up on Nasser!" I had a well-argued e-mail from David Yule.
I've been reading your weblog for a while now, enjoy your comments and generally find your posts interesting and well informed. I nearly sent you an email about your original comments on Nasser Hussain and Zimbabwe (link),
and so after your followup (link), I thought I would try to defend Nasser.

I can understand your desire for people to make their own moral decisions, and not to abdicate responsibility to the government, but in this case I feel it is the government's responsibility.

Whatever Nasser Hussain decides to do, he would be making a political decision on behalf of not just himself, but also the English cricket team, and by extension the whole of England. To put it another way, if this was the football world cup (instead of the cricket world cup), would you really want David Beckham to be responsible for the most visible foreign policy decision of England on Zimbabwe?

Aside from that, his job is a professional sportsman - and as such he is being ordered by his employers to go there and play (and could even be held in breach of his contract if he doesn't). If his decision only affected him, then fair enough; he would have to weigh his moral position against the possibility of it terminating his career as anyone else would. However, I would expect anyone making a decision on behalf of his country to be balanced and unbiased; how can he be that when one option has the possibility of being career ending, while the other has the possibility of being the highlight of his whole career.

You mention a "... society where people were no longer in the habit of delegating their moral reactions to government". It seems to me much more of a case of the government delegating its moral reaction to one person.

Incidentally, I believe the situation reflects very badly on the two bodies whose jobs are to make policy decisions like this: the English Cricket Board, and the Government. Both of them have known this will be a problem ever since the Zimbabwe situation got worse (the cricket matches have been scheduled for over a year now), and done nothing. They are now both complaining loudly to the media about how terrible the situation is - and blaming the other. The idea that they could sit down together, and agree a policy jointly doesn't seem to have occured to them.

A final point (I've already written more than I intended!): the situation is more complex than the South African apartheid sports boycotts in the 80s. Then, the South African sports teams were part of the problem; in Zimbabwe, the cricket team is healthily multi-racial (with a disporpotionate number of players from white farming backgrounds), and they want England to visit.

So, please ease up on Nasser. He's currently facing the hardest job of his career, and really doesn't deserve criticism for asking the people who employ him to do their job properly.




 
My twenty year old Penguin English Dictionary tells me that "Boxing Day is the first weekday after Christmas, on which Christmas-boxes are traditionally given." Makes perfect sense, of course; one wouldn't be giving the between-maid her box on the Sabbath. Yet in all my life I had never even heard of Boxing Day ever being anything other than Dec. 26th whatever the day of the week.


Thursday, January 02, 2003
 
John Weidner is working to redeem himself for the crime of befuddling my brain by publishing an explanation of why that Dean Esmay brain bamboozler thingy works out the way it does. Dean Esmay himself suggests that there is no proof so effective as personal experience: "Don't feel bad. This puzzle nails mathematicians, engineers, computer programmers, etc. all the time. And it nailed me the first time.

The easiest way to prove this to yourself is to get a friend and play the game with them. You be Monty. Play with an open-minded friend, and just get your friend to agree to either always switch or never switch. Within 20 iterations or so of the game, the light will go off in your head, I guarantee. ;-)"



 
The power of positive thinking. Capt. Heinrichs writes, Well done: 0C today. Please hold on to those warm thoughts for tomorrow as the weather report is making noises like '-17C'.

On the garage roof front, though, I have to report that your collective mental efforts were completely ineffective. It had to be done by tedious physical means.



 
Junius has his libertarian instincts tested when reading about what some sicko will do under the pretence of it being art. Me, too, my old son, me too.

It does imply a challenge to opponents of censorship. Two points in reply - (1) I would expect and hope that in a society where people were no longer in the habit of delegating their moral reactions to government (e.g. Nasser Hussain seeking "guidance" from the government as to whether he should play cricket in Zimbabwe*) that social disapproval would regain much of its lost force. C S Lewis wrote somewhere that the decline of the custom of houding a cad and a bounder out of decent society was not because of any increase in charity: wretched, poor disgusting sinners are still as scorned as ever they were in Victorian times, but nowadays successful, rich disgusting sinners are lionized.

(2) So far as I know the "artist" in this case is not publicly funded. But Channel 4 certainly is. I do think there is a link between the whole idea of shock value in avante-garde art and state funding. The usual fault of popular art, art people pay for, is sentimentality not brutality. (I even think that some of the extreme war-type violence of typically capitalist types of art like computer games is validated by the cult of épater le bourgeoisie which is itself sustained by state funding. Victorian popular war fiction was full of little drummer boys dying heroically; why isn't ours?)

*In fairness to Mr Hussain the whole 'guidance' thing may have been a coded plea for state money to pay the cancellation fee. The fact that he has hopes of being bailed out in this way is also not a desirable state of affairs, but does absolve him of being unable to make his own moral decisions.



 
Well done Muslim News. They too sometimes publish contrarian stories. For instance they have re-published this Telegraph story about the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics - an crime of which a few of their readers will approve, but of which the more peaceable majority will not even have heard, seeing as crimes against Israel are rarely mentioned in the Muslim press.

(Foreign readers may be asking themselves why this decades-old story is news now. The explanation is that in Britain certain official papers are classified as secret for thirty years. Then they are released by the Public Record Office to be pounced upon by historians. Thus we are now seeing records of, for instance, cabinet deliberations in 1972 for the first time. Some even more sensitive records will not be revealed to the public for a hundred years after their creation.)

I was going to write what a revelation it is of the ambivalent, etiolated, excuse-making decadence of certain Foreign Office mandarins, effete themselves yet finding a secret delight in abasing themselves before men of violence.

But I knew all that anyway, so it isn't a revelation at all.



 
Well done the Guardian. Sometimes they do give an airing to views very different from their own. Six months ago, for instance, they published this article about the futility of the British gun ban and now they have rep-published it as part of their special report on gun violence. Calling this a "Special Report" is something of a cheek; it is more a compilation of previous articles than a report containing new material, but perhaps an overview of just how many gun violence stories there have been recently is what we need.


Wednesday, January 01, 2003
 
Many a true word said in jest. Minutes after making my little quip about convenience being the world's favourite guide in assigning blame, I came across this essay by Larry Elder. Seems my joke wasn't original: Elder writes
Aristotle once said, “Anyone can become angry — that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not easy.”




 
Don't blame me for this. Blame John Weidner. Uh, no, blame Dean Esmay. And he says, don't blame him, blame Jerry Pournelle - but since his original link is long gone, I think I'll blame you, John, after all, since you're available and convenient.* It's all your fault that my brain is going round and round like a fairground horse. I still can't quite accept it. Are you penitent yet?

*The world's favourite reason for choosing whom to blame for anything.



 
You know you're getting old when you get all stroppy about the mistakes on the karaoke lyrics for "Grease". Happy New Year.

Think warm thoughts at Captain Heinrichs in Canada "Current temp is -6C; 30cm snow; last night was -20C) Of course I am hard-done-by, and looking for sympathy outside the dictionary (between 'sin' and 'syphilis').

While you're at it, think 'repair the hole in the garage roof' thoughts in our direction. Also some 'neighbours don't get mad at us for the fireworks' thoughts would be good.



Tuesday, December 31, 2002
 
Why don't I just automatically redirect you to Joanne Jacobs and save you the trouble of coming here before linking to her? She has another story you shouldn't miss, all about the Oakland School for Social Justice, Community Development [and Creating Habitual Malcontents Destined For a Rotten Life.]

Lots of laughs there. The students get to go to "culture and resistance" class. More laughs yet to come when they apply for a job.



 
The deserving poor. Joanne Jacobs tells a sad story in a post on public and private charity. Follow the link to find her starting point, a post by Jane Galt, which is itself followed by a great discussion in the comments.

Question from me: why do so many people hate the idea of dividing the poor or the rich into deserving and undeserving groups, yet nearly everyone is quite happy to assess the middle class by their deserts.

(Nice dictionary, good dictionary. I came very close just then to asking why everyone is quite happy to judge the middle class by their puddings. Mind you, this too is a profound question. When were you last served jam roly-poly by anyone of your own age or younger? Cultural cleansing, I call it.)



 
Producer trying to sign up Amartya Sen for Bollywood role. Honestly, that's what it says. And for a film called Wild Noise, too, not for my own private project Confessions of a Teenage Welfare Economist.


Monday, December 30, 2002
 
Sorry for the silence - I didn't get a chance to say a formal farewell before going off to visit computerless relatives. Blogging will be light over the next few days while I catch up with life...

...and with the news. You know how the minute you stop looking the world goes and throws a triple-somersault? My husband certainly boggled when he saw a headline in the AOL news page reading "Hussain appeals to Blair for help." Boringly the Hussain in question turned out not to be Saddam but England cricket captain Nasser Hussain-with-an-a. He is seeking political guidance over whether the England team should play in Zimbabwe. Make your own decisions, Nasser.



Tuesday, December 24, 2002
 
Heya, life ain't so bad. Most people mean well, do all right, get along. Happy Christmas everyone. Meanwhile....
5 June 1944

Dear Gen. Eisenhower,

I know your schedule for tomorrow is carefully planned and all, but would you mind awfully pausing your invasion for an hour or two? I want to find time to have a little chat with my penfriend in St Mère Eglise. Thanking you in advance,

Bill Snooks (Pte)


And that's how much chance I have of doing any more blogging for the next twenty four hours.


 
Horrifying. Every implication of the story cited here by Amygdala left me sick at heart. A black American victim of terrorism in Africa was left to die because he was mistaken for an African. (NB free registration for Washington Post required to read Amygdala's link.) Part of the horror is that one can see why it happened. Ach, I don't want to go into it.

CORRECTION: Gary, it was very charitable of you in your e-mail not to put forward the obvious explanation for my confusion; namely that I was drunk. I might well have been, you know. Just 2cc of dry sherry and I'm murmuring 1980s pop songs from a corner of the sofa. My New Year's resolution is going to be if you want to blog it, blog it immediately. With this story I posted the url then went away and did Christmas stuff. Later I came back, wrote the commentary, and published it. Somewhere in the intervening period I imagined or picked up from another story a terrorism connection which isn't there. Mea culpa.


 
In a spirit of Christmas thoughtfulness, it seems David Trimble is reviewing the sometimes surprising history of Northern Irish unionism. Letter to Slugger points out a review by Mr Trimble of 'The Secret History of the IRA.'


 
David Irving & Mona Baker. The relationship* that dare not speak its name? Diane E of the newly reborn Gotham2003 has been tracking the story, which, like everything to do with Mr Irving, is more twisty than a piece of fusili trying to impress the teacher at pasta school. Scroll up from the link above for more updates as they come.

*Note to Mr Irving's ever-busy lawyers. Don't bother. Relationship can mean many things.



Monday, December 23, 2002
 
No, you haven't had one sherry too many. You keep seeing Iain Murray's name over at the Volokh Conspiracy because it is really there. He's acting as a sort of locum conspirator. In this post he reports on figures suggesting the UK is less anti-semitic than either the US or Europe.
I read somewhere that the UK also has one of the highest rates of mixed-race marriages in the world. So perhaps we don't all hate each other as much as we keep hearing we do.


 
Someone has not forgotten the Korean kidnap victims. John Costello writes:
Today's New York Times has a full page ad on page A11. It starts with "This is a Fact," below which is a photo of Megumi Yokota, it then provides more information on the situation than I have read in the Times news sections. For example, the North Koreans claim the remains of the dead Japanese were "washed away by a flood," also: the one set of remains they did provide belonged to someone else.

It ends with an open letter to Kim Jong Il, stating that the issue is not closed.

The website is: http://www.trycomp.swee.to
(I can't make that link work, but it may just be busy - NS.)


9:10 PM

Saturday, December 21, 2002
 
You can tell a woman by the company she keeps. Giles Coren of the Times found out something about poor persecuted friend of the Palestinians Mona Baker - namely that she writes in friendly terms to holocaust-denier David Irving. Note she seems to have initiated the correspondence, not him. I found this item via Damian Penny, who has a report of it that will outlast the Times' deadline for charging foreign readers. Do her supporters who write to the Guardian know? Does boycotter-in-chief Stephen Rose know? (Mr Rose is a Jew who supports a boycott of Israeli academics out of political conviction, but I doubt that he cares for Mr Irving or Mr Irving's friends.)

By the way, I really do believe in academic freedom. Thus support Mona Baker's right to organize boycotts, so long as others have the right to denounce her and boycott her back. I also think that it is legitimate and praiseworthy (though it should not be compulsory) for universities to have a policy against racial discrimination and to fire people who breach it. If academic journals want to judge academic papers on the race of the writer, let them, but let them be revealed as temples of a pernicious cult, not temples of knowledge.

It seems that I am rarer in this belief than I would once have thought. Stephen Rose's views on academic freedom seem to be gaining ground. He writes in the article linked to above: "Academic freedom I find a completely spurious argument in a world in which science is so bound up with military and corporate funding." Very revealing. He has gone that far. He should not be too surprised when Irving and his like come up to meet him.



 
You don't want to hear all my moaning. Your role in the script now requires you to write in saying, oh, but we do! Please Natalie, tell us more about your unmet deadlines, your faulty ISDN line, your tormented life as a Christmas shopping survivor, the crow-like rasp that precedes each cough...


Friday, December 20, 2002
 
A Happy and Vigilant Christmas To All My Readers. Especially Capt. Heinrichs, who discovered this idle diversion.


 
A fisking here, a fisking there. Layman's Logic takes on the Great Cham himself and the Mirror besides. I haven't even bothered to send you to the permalink this time, since I know it won't be working. But for the archives here it is.


 
"The Two Towers makes no effort to look for root causes." From Innocents Abroad, a reflection on watching The Two Towers with an enthusiastic French cinema audience. If Blogger permalinks aren't working go here. Whateveryado, go there and read this:
...there is a problem with root causes. Root causes assume something that is rarely mentioned. Root causes assume that humans can escape their moral obligations by standing outside the normal world. It assumes humans can abstract themselves from reality and go romping through history looking for the all-powerful distant cause that will explain each and every aspect of our current situation. Then, having discerned the historical secret, the wily scholar can, with a gentle wave of his hand, dismiss all those silly concerns about morality, responsibility and honor, while providing the road map for solving all our social ills. That this approach, which is really none other than the methodology of the social sciences, is simplistic in the extreme, reducing human decisions to little more than unthinking reactions to a single dominant stimulus, means little to its proponents. They accept all this because the root cause provides an immediate and simplistic explanation to impress the gullible and justify the foolish.
There is one phrase later in the post that I don't think I can quite sign up to, namely "evil is its own cause", but other than that, this post had me cheering.


 
From

12:25 AM
Thursday, December 19, 2002
 
Habemus internetionem! When I told her that I was having my computer upgraded a friend of mine said, "Oh, that sounds bad. Whenever or a shop has an upgrade that usually means that they are unable to function for days.

I hate jokes like that.

Now I've been back for five whole minutes, I am going to read my e-mail. I hope no one is desperate for a speedy answer.



Saturday, December 14, 2002
 
Isn't this headline absurd? "The National Crisis." It's about Cherie Blair.

Sure, Cherie has tried to have it both ways for too long: standing on her privacy yet holding seminars on policy issues. And who fixed it for Euan Blair to hob nob with Kate Winslet at a movie première?

As so often there was a whole new story lurking in the margins of the one everybody's talking about. Explaining the hostility between the normally pro-Labour Mirror and Cherie Blair, the Guardian comments:

There is no great mystery as to the reason for the hostility. Piers Morgan, the Mirror editor, recently revealed that Mrs Blair had tried to get him the sack, complaining to his bosses that he was missing a moral compass.
I am surprised and concerned to learn that the Prime Minister's wife could even think she had the power or influence to get a newspaper editor sacked.

All very revealing. But not a national crisis, let alone the national crisis.



 
Dan Dare was actually a little too scary for the six-year old market today. Arachno-humanoid aliens wrapped up captives - including our heroes - in cocoons and ate them as and when. Fortunately Sondar was there to whop their heads off, spreading ichor all over the place. It owed something to the film of Starship Troopers and something to Aliens. One of the best in-atmosphere spaceship battle sequences I have ever seen, though.


Thursday, December 12, 2002
 
No, Natalie you have not pressed the right buttons. Some Blogger glitch or other means that I'm stuck with the malformed post before this one, my shame public for evermore. Good thing I didn't idly tap my fingers on the keys and write My vote for Sexpot of the Blogiverse is [edit]

Here is the previous post done properly:

No, Margo, you are not well read. Tee hee. Margo Kingston, the dame Tim Blair made world famous, has been caught out by the same fake Shakespeare quote that earlier caught out Barbra Streisand. In this webdiary entry she¹ writes:

"Quoting historical figures can be perilous when confronting the convictions of the righteous, but just to demonstrate that this has all happened before, I've included a selection of the sayings of the wise and not so wise over the ages. Just in case anyone thinks I am well read (I wish!) I found these by trawling the internet for a few minutes. If you don't need further convincing you can skip this part."
I do need further convincing that Julius Caesar, either in his own right or as imagined by Shakespeare, ever said this:
Beware the leader who bangs the drum of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervour. For patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind. And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and patriotism, will offer up all of their rights to the leader and gladly so. How do I know? For this is what I have done. And I am Julius Caesar.
Barbra Streisand quoted almost identical words in a speech to the Democratic National Gala, but later on had to put this correction on her website.

(The Kingston and Streisand versions of this internet hoax are almost identical but not quite. The last line Kingston quotes has "And I am Julius Caesar" where Streisand had "And I am Caesar." Also Kingston has "drum" for Streisand's "drums". However, in comparison to publishing the notion that the phrase "...the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry-" either came from the Latin or was penned by William Shakespeare, the misquotation of a misquotation is no great sin.)

Funny thing is, Babra Streisand's slip happened two months ago and was widely reported then. Ms Kingston ought to read more Mark Steyn. Then she'd catch up with things.


¹ LATER: What a complicated post this is turning out to be. I thought there were two mid-length quotations from this chap David Makinson in this Margo Kingston webdiary entry, each of them starting with his name and ending with three little stars. I never dreamed that any real journalist would get away with putting their byline at the top of an article, writing an entry quote and one paragraph and then abandoning the whole of the rest of the article to be filled up by quotes from a mate of theirs. (How did they split the take, I wonder?) Yet this is what Tim Blair claims has happened, and he knows more about what is allowed in Australian newspapers than I do. So it's David, not Margo, who is not well read. Well, both of them actually.



 
No, Margo, you are not well read. Tee hee. Margo Kingston, the dame Tim Blair made famous, caught out by the same fake Shakespeare quote that earlier caught out Barbra Streisand. In this webdiary


10:32 PM
 
Wot, no posts? I am on a secret mission to hunt down and destroy the enemies of our country. My claim to be trying to learn two different graphics programmes at once in order to earn a few pennies is mere cover. I know I can trust you guys not to tell.


 
"All right then, who would He vote for?" I have a post about the phrase 'What would Jesus Do?' over at Samizdata.


Tuesday, December 10, 2002
 
"We must prevent an exchange of monologues." Airstrip One reports how brave little Holland is standing up to be counted in the face of Mugabe's tyranny.


 
Asymptotically limited blogging today. I have to make some money. But I can't resist quoting an exchange in the Libertarian Alliance Forum between me and Sean Gabb, the author of the God and Margaret Thatcher piece linked to in the post below.

After Dr Gabb posted his piece, I commented thus :


Jesus Christ was so little minded to give specific guidance as to politics that he didn't even deal with the issue of slavery. And these twits think that it's heresy to be in favour of the free market or against the UN.

SG responded:

From the Revered Elderberry Pinkneedle:

"Of course, and in a very real sense, are not the Gospels the foundation of the 2001 Labour Manifesto? Would not Jesus have gone up to Tony Blair and said: 'Well done thou good and faithful servant. Depart in peace -but not yet?"

From the BBC Today book of Thought for the Day, © BBC Publications, 2003

Just in case the BBC's lawyers are already on the case, it was me that added the copyright sign, seeing as it had got swamped by tachyonic inteference in the temporal transfer.


Monday, December 09, 2002
 
God and Margaret Thatcher and The Established Church of England. The inimitable Sean Gabb lets fall an avalanche of criticism on a snowball of an aside thrown out by a report to the Church of England. The report said, just in passing:
[u]ntil the Church of England can choose its own bishops, Christian ecumenicism is stymied, because no other church will amalgamate with one whose bishops might be chosen by a future Margaret Thatcher.
That little remark spurred Dr Gabb's commentary.
"Far more effective, the authors of the report knew, was to imply her theological status in a sneer of 32 words - 32 words that it has taken 3,200 words of even abbreviated argument to expose and refute."
The 100 to one ratio is not so disproportionate if you think of the many more than a hundred occasions that foolish little sneers like this one have appeared in the media.

LATER: I can't link directly to the piece concerned, so the link takes you to the Free Life Commentary index page. Scroll down the little blue window on the left to find Free Life Commentary No. 82.