Natalie Solent

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

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

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

The Old Comrades:

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

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Friday, November 30, 2001
It's here! The surprise, I mean. Look, there it is on the left! Isn't it lovely? It's a donation button. D'you know, not one of you guessed.Or perhaps you all did but were too shy to claim your prize. Never mind, I'll let you have a go anyway.

Oh dear. is not going to like this.

Well, best go to bed. Night night.

That beautiful surprise I promised you yesterday. I'm working on it. If you can guess what it is, you can have first go.

Recovery of bodies in World Trade Center. Reader Benjamin Morris makes some excellent points in response to my post on Anne Karpf's Independent article.
We went through something similar when JFK Jr.'s plane crashed into the ocean. David Cross once said, "If I die in a plane crash, don't bother looking for me. If it makes you feel better, smoke a pack of Camels, put it in an urn, and call it me."

However, this is different. The rubble is going to have to be cleaned out regardless. They aren't just going to leave a smoking pile of concrete and steel sitting in the middle of Manhattan. And the rubble has a bunch of corpses or pieces of corpses scattered throughout it. If there are 3800 dead bodies in there, I would think that just not worrying about it would constitute a public health hazard. Additionally, stories have been coming out of people trying to defraud the authorities with false claims of relatives dying. Doesn't recovery at least lessen the chances that this would happen?
Points taken. By the way Instapundit picked up on the same article. (Great minds think alike, but I got there first!) Glenn Reynolds thought it was "a clunker."

Zimbabwe: it's not all bad news. And the good news is... that it is now obvious to the meanest intelligence that, as this BBC News 24 story makes clear, Mugabe is a tyrant. There is no other good news. This is Zimbabwe, after all.

A sanctimonious Anna Quindlen article denouncing liberated Afghans for being so crass as to buy videos is in its turn denounced by Libertyblog and by More Than Zero. The Libertyblog post ends with a particularly acute point:
After engaging in some pop psychology and brandishing the names Galbraith and Veblen, two grossly irrelevant commentators even in modern liberal economic circles, she stretches for one last Deep Thought:

You know that if those people whose family members died on September 11 could have them back for Christmas, the last thing on their minds would be a sweater or a tie.

Sure -- most people would gladly trade what is possible for what is impossible. That passes for an argument against a commercial Christmas? It isn't an argument against anything, except maybe against giving Anna Quindlen a platform for her elitist hyper-snobbery.

Christopher Pellerito has a great blog. One leeetle criticism, though: I feel the lack of headlines or bold key phrases when searching for a particular post. Look at the post just below the original one on Anna Quindlen for example. Wouldn't that have been all the jollier with a nice attention grabbing header like "Screw America"?

"Some people emit outrage like elephant's piss" says this Independent piece by David Aaronovitch. It's too bad of Mr Aaronovitch to make me laugh out loud (I was in danger of imitating the elephants for a moment there) in an article about mayhem and massacre - but I'll remember this column long after more serious ones are forgotten.

Thursday, November 29, 2001
If Glen Reynolds of Instapundit can tell a hushed and waiting world that he's going off to boil an egg then I can let the anxious crowds know that I'm going away now to bake a cake for my art group. Later today I'll try to put some new links in, change that deceptive "SF" in the blog description to "Science Fiction" (Note to new readers: fear not, I am not really from San Francisco), and present you all with a beautiful surprise that you will love very much and want to play with immediately.

Reality falters once again. A few short hours ago I peeked in at have you noticed that has the cute URL "dawsonspeek" and saw this enormous picture of a Desert Eagle pistol, together with an indelicate suggestion about the head of a sovereign state. The Grand Head Thug of Yemen can look after himself, but, ever solipsistic as I am, the pistol worried me strangely. Was it a message to me? Defiance, perhaps - "I ain't scared of yo' Gun Nut husband"? Or perhaps, almost the converse, a gesture of camaraderie, rather as Cyrano De Bergerac might sit down with the other chap and have a good ol' chin-wag about sight-pictures and whether adding the Pachmyr grips was really the way to go... I shall assume the latter. The Gun Nut says hi, but opines that the Desert Eagle is too heavy for combat use.

Anyway, I just pop over to the blog again to verify the reference and... it's disappeared. There's a completely different looking blog in its place, with stuff about Ashcroft and Mazar-i-Sharif and Windows XP and Turkey and clones and you name it. Panicpanicpanicrealityfadepanic. Eventually I found the Desert Eagle bit far, far, down the column. Phew. Does this man ever leave his computer?

BTW I forgot to say in my earlier post that Random Jottings, too, has had the decorators in. We San Franciscans (is that right?) are always at the forefront of style.

Now that I know I'm really from San Francisco, I have vowed to take more of an interest in my home town. The San Francisco Examiner says that the lawyers prowl even here. Not even chocolate is safe from their slavering jaws.

Hear Margaret Thatcher weep. Another echo of the Falklands War. This Telegraph story says that the Falklands play banned as too favourable to Maggie will finally be heard on the radio.

No, the slaughter at Mazar-i-Sharif does not make me happy. I would much rather that the CIA agent interrogating the Taliban prisoners had lived to carry on with his useful work, that the Northern Alliance soldiers killed retaking the place had lived to return to their families, and that even the Taliban themselves had had the chance to see the error of the ways. Having established that, don't think me too callous when I say that for the Independent to waffle on about the Geneva convention is ridiculous. The prisoners had violated their surrender. In all wars, in all times, and in all places that gets you killed. Here's a few sentences from the Sunday Times Insight Team book on the Falklands War:
Lieutenant Jim Barry and two fellow soldiers were killed as they moved forward after an Argentinian trench had raised a white flag.... Not one of the Argentinians still defending School House when the incident occurred survived.... "...we had the white flag incident and they were not going to mess about trying to take surrenders any more."

The speaker, then second in command of 2 Parachute Battalion, came to believe later that the killing of Barry and the others was a mistake in the confusion of battle rather than deliberate treachery by the Argentines. The incident still demonstrates that to kill those you believe have violated their surrender is not a heathen custom unique to robed foreigners but common practice dictated by the logic of the situation.

Wednesday, November 28, 2001
Random Jottings mission statement. As the British Telecom adverts say, "it's good to talk." Cue pleasant domestic scenes of good citizens using the wonders of the internet to send out their family newsletter all about their kids, their pets, their jobs and their hobbies. Oh, and a few inspiring words to sign off with: "We are both filled with savage indignation at the way socialist slime rabble are gnawing away at Western Civilization. Once my blog has attracted thousands of readers, I will explain these matters in words clear to the meanest understanding, and then the whole left-liberal worldview will simply collapse."

Those pesky Pakistani nuclear scientists are back in the jug again, says this story in the Teheran Times. Does the close conjunction of the words "nuclear" and "Osama Bin Laden" make you feel a bit, you know, worried? Cheer yourself up, follow the link from the Teheran Times to Afronet to a self-arrest form produced by the a wag in Oklahoma. No, I won't do it for you. Only if you do it yourself will you make the right profound reflections on the interconnectedness of the world, the strange juxtapositions of history and culture, that lead from the Islamic Republic of Iran to a cop joke in the Great Satan.

Oh yeah, the news. Take a rest from all this self-referential ego-caffeine and read this curate's egg of an article by Anne Karpf in the Guardian. Granted, she has a point when she says, "while burying a body is an important therapeutic rite, it's psycho-babble to suggest that it necessarily ushers in closure" and "the idea that the recovery of a small body-fragment can do more than mildly assist grieving would be considered shamanistic if expressed by an Afghan tribe." Our forefathers knew better. They would not have thought this labour to identify teeth and bones seemly. Now that no hope remains that anyone will be found alive, let them lie.

But why does Anne Karpf have to make a whole new third world grudge out of this, like they had some shortage? The header says, "No living third world body ever had the sums lavished on it that are being spent on DNA tests at Ground Zero." She had to put in the "living" bit so as to stop wags like me mentioning Tutenkhamen's solid gold death mask or the Great Pyramid. All peoples spend what they can on honouring the dead. The discrepancy between funeral bills is no greater than that between any other sort of bill. If that's an issue, write about free trade or debt reduction or whatever, don't tack it on to this. And I never heard that the World Trade Center DNA investigators treat the remains of the many Yemeni or Pakistani victims with any less respect than the others.

Strange news from San Francisco I live there, unknown to myself. The loveably reptilian (read it and you'll see what I mean) Ken Layne has made favourable mention of me and, but strangely, sirrah, strangely:

Two crazy new American blogs: and Natalie Solent. Welch keeps writing to me about all the smart and funny Americans he's found since Sept. 11. I have to agree. We're supposed to be -- according to certain pundits -- one-eyed, cousin-humping morons, endlessly out of touch, too dumb to live. Or, at best, freaks on one coast or the other, ceaselessly impressed with an academic lack of common sense.
And yet ... this Dawson site comes from North Carolina (my buddy and neighbor Morgan J. Freeman directed some of those Dawson's Creek shows, you know?) and Solent writes from San Francisco, which is supposed to be filled with delusional nuts.

Seriously delusional. One may hope that now I have been confronted with the truth, a cure is at hand. Soon, now, I will stretch out my hand to the lightswitch and it will go down when it should go up. I will leave out the "u" in "favourable". I will develop an interest in that inferior version of rounders you colonials amuse yourselves with. Essex will melt away, revealing the seven hills of my own fair city, had I but known it. Or was that Rome?

We are but clicks in the Great Web Counter of Time. Brian Linse, he of the apostrophically challenged AintNoBadDude, blipped me an e-mail saying he was my 1000th visitor, and what reward would he get? (He knows it not, but he was also the second ever person to send me a blog-related e-mail.) As to the prize, Brian, let me tell you a very old tale. Once a great philosopher did a service for a king. "How can I reward you?" said the king, "You have but to ask and it will be granted."
Thus answered the philosopher:
"A grain of rice on the first square of the chessboard,
"Two grains of rice on the second square,
"Four grains on the third square,
"Eight grains on the fourth square...

"Yes, yes, OK," said the king, "I get the picture. You have my royal promise." Foolish words! For the philosopher continued implacably on: "16...32...64...128...512...1,024...2,048...4,092..."
And by the time he reached the 64th square all the rice in the universe would not suffice. Thus the kingdom was bankrupted, the currency collapsed, and the philosopher eked out his days in poverty, exacerbated by constipation from eating too much rice.

Aren't you glad you're escaping all that trouble, Brian? You get a mention, OK?

But it's a very nice mention. Outrageous story you have there about the smoke-out-the-window patrol in Maryland. As you so wisely say, "Hey, any day that this kind of shit doesn't start in California is a good day."

Tuesday, November 27, 2001
That Antonov story. There's a very odd story in Libertarian Samizdata about Al-Quaeda people escaping over three nights in an Antonov they have picked up from somewhere. Even odder is the apparent silence about this story in the US press, despite the fact that half of them seem to wish for their own side to hit disaster. Kudos to Samizdata for spreading the news, however unwelcome.

America's Get Tough attitude is paying off in respect throughout the Moslem world, says this Independent article by Stephen Pollard. He's right. I hope Americans draw the right moral, though; not "interfere with extreme force all over the world" but "if you have to hit, hit hard and don't apologise". There's more good stuff in the article. Read about how, now that the Arabs have tried and failed at one political "big thing" after another, it's time to try the political "big thing" which works, namely democracy.

God bless and preserve the British electorate. May the Divine providence shine upon them and their beer bellies and their clapped out Vauxhall Carltons rusting in front gardens and their platitudinous opinions. Especially their platitudinous opinions. Because if it wasn't for the British electorate, the power-mad twit Hattersley who wrote the fetid Guardian article I'm about to discuss would have been one heartbeat away from Prime Minister. To read the whole thing go to 50,000 kids go without breakfast, but parts of it with my comments in italics follow.

"And, to me, the most disturbing fact of all: "50,000 children, aged eight to 10, have nothing to eat or drink before going to school in a morning".

The special horror of that final statistic is easily explained. Poverty - described in numbers and income levels - is, or ought to be, eradicable. Improve the minimum wage. Increase tax credits or the level of income guarantees.

Oh, you mean do some more of what you and your ilk of both parties have been doing for the last eighty years. Do some more of what has made the poor into your cattle, unable to take charge of their own lives even to the extent of feeding their children. Great idea, Roy.

But there is an unavoidable suspicion that many of those unhappy 50,000 children are the victims of private rather than public failure.

And private failure is not so easily redeemed. Surely every family should be able to afford a daily cup of tea and slice of toast. Some of them are the victims of society's failure.

Damn straight. Your Great Society: a cruel failure. You, the Controllers, made them like this. You made it pay not to have fathers. You made it impossible to have the humble jobs that raised men from serfs of the state. You made sure it didn't pay to raise yourself. You stole every institution whereby the poor provided for their own education, health and old age. You mocked and penalised "bourgeois respectability". You told them again and again that they were nothing but passive victims.

But bad habits are not easily changed. An extra £5 a week will not solve the problem.

That depressing conclusion leads naturally to the most controversial part of Piachaud's paper. No one will argue with his assertion that children's prospects are determined by the physical, social and cultural environment in which they live, the quality and extent of education and health provision - and their families.

But Piachaud reminds us that, in Britain, "families are a private matter" and that "privileged neo-liberals decry any inter- vention in the private sphere as the nanny state or social engineering".

That's not "neo" liberals, Roy, that's any sort of liberal whatsoever, including great names from your own party's past who you are fond of quoting but not reading.

And given half a chance, you'll make sure that any non-privileged person of any party who might want to tell you to get your tanks off his or her breakfast table is redefined as "vulnerable" and "protected" from hearing opinions you don't like. Any readers think I'm paranoid bringing up the freedom of speech angle here? Just keep reading and you'll see why I do.

The laissez faire approach not only abdicates responsibility for the relationship between parents and children.

Yes. Abdicate. Glad you get the idea. Abdicate the hell out of my relationship with my children. Abdicate the hell out of anyone's relationship with their own children. No one made you King, so abdicate. No one much even voted for you, which is why I bless the British electorate. Maybe I have harsh words above for their beer bellies and Vauxhall Carltons, and indeed for their irresponsibility in not ensuring their children eat breakfast, but by God, at least they had the sense to keep Roy Hattersley off their backs.

It prohibits interference in the workings of a corrosive triangle - parents, children and the commercial pressures upon them.

Piachaud calls it "pester power", TV-inspired agitation to own trainers and wear jeans which are embellished with the right label. All over Britain parents are now being put under Harry Potter pressure. Families who cannot afford the assorted tat are made to feel their poverty. Neo-liberals will ask who decides that buying some tawdry toy or contrived game is wrong? The answer is anyone who thinks it is important for children to be sent to school with a breakfast inside them.

The last two sentences are too incoherent to criticise rationally. He seems to be saying that anyone who thinks breakfast is imortant for children also thinks that it is wrong to buy Harry Potter's Quidditch card game. If that's what he means, then one counter-example suffices to disprove the theory: me. My kids eat about a packet of Weetabix a minute and yet I smile benignly on Harry Potter produce. When I cannot afford it, I say No. Try it sometime - of course it can be difficult to get through the socialist indoctrination that every material thing comes to you by right rather than work, but perseverance is good for the soul.

However Hattersley may be saying more: that anyone who thinks breakfast for children is important gets to decide, for others, whether those others should have the Harry Potter duvet cover. Maybe next week he'll tell us how he plans to enforce this ruling. Enforcement is not impossible. True the only societies so far to have managed that degree of control are tyrannies, but there's nothing impossible about horrible tyrannies.

In this, as in other matters, Britain is ridiculously reluctant to impose the slightest constraint on human behaviour. Quebec - a province of a capitalist country which regulates the provision of private medicine -

and threatens to destroy a talking parrot for speaking English

- prohibits all TV advertising aimed at children. So does enlightened Sweden - though protection of vulnerable families is undermined by Murdoch's satellite beamed from Britain.

See, readers I wasn't being paranoid. To Hattersley: Well how dreadful. You mean those ghastly poor people have freedom of speech, too?

Although Piachaud does not say so, TV itself is part of the debilitating problem. Not only do teenagers agitate for their own sets. Educational research confirms that toddlers, with innumerable channels to choose from, have a smaller attention span than those without. They spend their formative years zapping a remote control and, mentally, they zap for the rest of their lives. Even as I read Piachaud's conclusion, I could hear the chorus of derision that his recommendations are bound to provoke.

Give me strength to deride. I'll need it, for behind the derision lies fear. These people want the power to "protect" people from hearing any more derision of them and their notions. One government TV channel would do that job nicely.

He wants "a serious strategy" to improve the quality of children's lives. That has to mean that parents are sometimes denied the right to make the wrong choices.

"Sometimes?" Why stop there? If you're going to stop them making wrong choices about how hard they work at making the kids eat their Shreddies, why not stop them making wrong choices about the rest of their diets, kids and adults both? Now we've dispensed with the idea that even the vulgar have private lives that are not the state's concern, let's have a "serious strategy" to control all the other things they do with their yukky bodies, like who they fornicate with and when and how they propagate their wretched selves.

Neo-liberals insist that freedom must include the liberty to make mistakes. What right does anyone have to worship an idea which sends 50,000 eight to 10-year-olds to school cold and hungry?

The same right you have to worship an idea, socialism, which has slaughtered tens of millions. You're worried about hunger? Let's take a look at how most of those millions died. Famine. Deliberate famine in the old USSR. Accidental but easily predictable famine in China, in North Korea, and all over Africa. Anyone think all that is not really relevant? But it is. The famines came in societies where, to prevent individuals from making mistakes, the state took all the power. Then the state made its own mistakes, and because it was the state talking, its mistakes had power to propagate themselves over millions of lives.

Yeah, and another thing, if Roy Hattersley can stick his nose into my family's eating habits, can I stick mine in his? It sure looks like it would do him good to miss a few meals.

Monday, November 26, 2001
Give a dog a bad name and then hang him. In this Times article, Angela Jameson describes the exodus from Railtrack. Seems engineers just don't want to work there any more, given the constant criticism and collapse of their share options. What a surprise.
RAILTRACK, the crippled railway company, is lurching towards another disaster as engineers and key staff leave the group in droves.
Industry experts say the exodus could see the biggest outflow of skills and knowledge from the rail industry since privatisation. Many engineers are giving up railway work for jobs building roads and other infrastructure projects. The departures are causing serious delays to important projects including the upgrade of the West Coast Main Line, according to construction groups and consultants who are involved in the work.

One construction company heavily involved in railway work told The Times that it had been approached by several senior engineers. “There are a number of engineers who want to come and work for us because they feel so disillusioned there,” said a source in the company, which declined to be named.

“A lot of the understanding of the railway is in the heads of the engineers. You don’t have to lose very many engineers before that knowledge is haemorrhaging,” he added.

A Railtrack spokesman confirmed that the group was short of 200 engineers and that the number of people leaving was “obviously a cause for concern”.

Insiders fear that resignations of skilled engineers will surge after Christmas as construction companies lure away staff disillusioned by constant criticism of Railtrack.

Following the Government’s decision to put the company into administration, key staff have become increasingly demoralised and have lost any incentive to stay with the group, since their share options have evaporated. Staff lost share options worth £12million when Railtrack was put into administration.

The biggest loss to the company so far has been the resignation last month of Tony Fletcher, project director on the West Coast Main Line upgrade, who is moving to the rail division of WS Atkins, the consulting group.

There are fears that Mr Fletcher’s departure will prompt other senior staff to look for new employers. Richard Clare, chairman of EC Harris, a consulting engineering group involved in the West Coast Main Line work, said: “He had a strong following and many people on that project are now wondering what will happen to them.”

Meanwhile, Stephen Byers, the Transport Secretary, said yesterday that a successor to Railtrack should be running in less than a year.

Let me make a prediction. There will be a crash soon. Sad, but these things happen. Then Stephen Byers will say that it just proves he has to renationalise the railways.

More legal fun. While searching without success for an account of the massacre described above I found this report that the parents of one of the Columbine killers - yes, I did say killers, not victims - planned to sue the school district. How it all panned out I just don't want to know. Oh, and here's another thing. A very odd thing, actually. According to this 1999 story in The Guardian the two murderers anticipated Bin Laden:
Further extracts from the diary kept by Harris from April last year revealed that after attacking Columbine high school, he and Klebold planned to 'ravage' the neighbourhood, kill 500 people and then, if they survived, 'hijack an airplane and crash it into a major city', the sheriff, John Stone, said. The intended target was New York City.

[Italics mine.] Just think, if they had managed it, we could have had the pleasure of hearing how understandable it all was from Ward Churchill, Noam Chomsky, Norman Mailer et al a whole two and a half years earlier.

The majesty of the law Over at Libertarian Samizdata an Illuminated blogger who, true to his calling, wishes to remain anonymous, says that "Everything you have ever suspected about personal injury lawyers is not true...(it is much, much worse)." There follows an article by Thomas M Sipos. Mr Sipos may have found himself a little unpopular with his colleagues after writing
How To Make Money in Soft Tissue Injuries

Reminds me of a commercial art studio where I worked for three months. The day I joined, the girl at the next desk said, "You'll be fired in three months. It's nothing personal. Everyone is. I'll be out myself in a few days time." The idea was to get rid of staff before they were employed long enough to acquire some legal right or other - yet another illustration of how our wonderful employee protection laws really work. I duly passed on the same info to my successor.

Back to the law. Here's a joke: Question: "What do you call eight dead lawyers?" Answer: "A start." Now here's the background to the joke. Several years ago, a man went on a killing spree in a US law firm, killing eight. I think you'll agree that the witticism is not quite so funny once you know that. But the fact is, enough people thought it was funny to enable the joke to cross the Atlantic within days. It has to be said that, now that death has replaced sex as our biggest taboo, sick jokes about death will naturally fall on fertile ground. Yet even allowing for that factor the legal profession ought to be worried that hostility to their doings has become so widespread that everyone immediately sees the humour in dead lawyers. I find this sad. My late father was a lawyer. I suppose he was just too old fashioned to see the appeal in acting like the lawyers described in The Daily Outrage. (BTW if you want to see a really depressing account of the effect of the litigation culture on ordinary human feeling, search that site for the name of "Sergio Jimenez").

I've hit 500 since installing the web counter on Nov 21st. Gosh, it's hard work, all that logging out and logging in again.

Sunday, November 25, 2001
A problem of etiquette not discussed at my finishing school, was how one can gracefully recommend a blog whose author professes to be in love with one. Improper motives might so easily be suspected. Perhaps one should let slip some casual mention of one's husband, the Gun Nut? That was the course of action recommended by one's husband, the Gun Nut, anyway. If you want to see what this is all about, go see the surreal yet erudite blog produced by

Remember Dr Strangeolove? How he used to force his Heil-Hitlering hand down with his reformed democratic all-American hand. It was like that. I reverted. I.. I... I... I went into a paper shop and my hand against my will stretched out and I paid money for a newspaper. To whit, the Sunday Telegraph. It was pretty good actually. Here's one story about plans to put children as young as three on a register of criminals. Of all the bizarre ideas. Skimming through the article (it's great how fast you can skim-read on this paper stuff, you must try it sometime) I found the usual Benelyn from a spokesman. "He said it had always been thought improper to share information but it was now essential because this could sometimes prevent crimes being committed against children." I glanced back to see who the speaker was, the better to mock him, her or it, and found that it was actually the Prime Minister.

A martial art, taught in secret among the slaves. The Brazilian art of Capoeira is new to me, although its history clearly has parallels with the way that martial arts were developed in Okinawa when the population were disarmed by the Japanese authorities. Here is the story of a street kid who found success teaching Capoeira in London and elsewhere. Given that it has flourished underground for 400 years, it would be sad to see this symbol of resistance boxed and diluted. So, unlike everyone quoted in this BBC story, I hope the government gives Capoeira no support at all.

Really serious. Here's College students write the darndest things from CNN.

This blog is serious. Weighty. Morally unbending. We think the public needs to know that ex-resident Clinton is, apparently, advertising Chinese cosmetics. It must be true because I read it in the Politics section of Time Magazine.

Saturday, November 24, 2001
Anthony Adragna of QuasiPunditmailed to say that he knew of a guy who'd enjoy my bit about the wrinklies, namely Alan Simpson, formerly of the US senate and now enjoying - really enjoying - his retirement. While I was typing out the link, Mr Adragna blogged it himself, so you just go there. You can read nice words about me, too. Good thing I changed the colours of my blog template, which is the same one as employed by the QuasiPundit gang, or you'd all think I wrote it myself.

The healing winds of trade are blowing over Afghanistan in this New York Times story with the great title In Herat, TV Man Is King, Burka Man Is Lonely.

Kunduz waits. In this Independent story Fergal Keane wonders how soldiers who have never heard of Geneva, let alone its conventions, will behave. For the record, I hope they don't massacre the Taleban. The Taleban may well deserve death. But we deserve the intelligence they could supply.

Kill them anyhow, say some: at the end of the last shindig in Afghanistan, foreign Moslem volunteers returned to their homes carrying the spores of terror with them. But the case is different now. These foreigners will not be returning as victorious heroes, but as unpopular, half-forgotten losers finally being let out of jail.

One final point. The Geneva conventions (not that the Northern Alliance have signed them, still less the Taleban) demand that once a soldier has surrendered he must be treated well. However I have heard it said that the attackers are not under any particular obligation to take his surrender in the first place. Is this true?

There's could-happen-to-me stupid (this column, passim), and there's stupid stupid. The title of this Times snippet says it all. Drunk one-armed driver on mobile phone.

Friday, November 23, 2001
Airport security: hate it or hate it. Let me get this straight. Airport security can close down an airport for hours because one man runs down the up escalator - remember my earlier blog on Michael Lasseter. But airport security cannot do anything so vulgar as lay a finger on said man, despite their own opinion that he might be the next Mohammed Atta. Here's the story according to CNN The key words are:
"Asked why the guards didn't physically stop him, Collins said, "They don't have the authority to touch any passengers. They can only sound an alert."
Did I miss something? Wouldn't it have (a) saved everyone a lot of trouble and (b) actually be a more secure security procedure if a guard had just grabbed Mr Lasseter and said, "You can't go this way, sir."

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers, which is most of you, judging from the e-mails. Alas, not everyone shares my sentiments. Last year this is what Ward Churchill had to say about Thanksgiving. Actually, I can understand why a Cherokee might harbour bitter feelings about the last 400 years, but if you really want to put your temper to the test, try reading Mr Churchill's account of his delight at the WTC atrocity and see if you still like him afterwards.

LATER ADDITION A check on the "delight" link reveals that the final and worst paragraph has been omitted. Here it is:
> There is simply no argument to be made that the Pentagon personnel
> killed on September 11 fill that bill. The building and those inside
> comprised military targets, pure and simple. As to those in the World
> Trade Center . . .
> Well, really. Let's get a grip here, shall we? True enough, they were
> civilians of a sort. But innocent? Gimme a break. They formed a
> technocratic corps at the very heart of America's global financial
> empire - the "mighty engine of profit" to which the military dimension
> of U.S. policy has always been enslaved - and they did so both willingly
> and knowingly. Recourse to "ignorance" - a derivative, after all, of the
> word "ignore" - counts as less than an excuse among this relatively
> well-educated elite. To the extent that any of them were unaware of the
> costs and consequences to others of what they were involved in - and in
> many cases excelling at - it was because of their absolute refusal to
> see. More likely, it was because they were too busy braying, incessantly
> and self-importantly, into their cell phones, arranging power lunches
> and stock transactions, each of which translated, conveniently out of
> sight, mind and smelling distance, into the starved and rotting flesh of
> infants. If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way
> of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little
> Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I'd
> really be interested in hearing about it.

Exploding blog alert! Don't look, it's too horrible! My attempt to create links to fellow bloggers just resulted in the entire blog being rolled out along the sidebar, like Bugs Bunny after he went through the sausage machine. If I've left out anyone who thinks they ought to be linked, dry your tears and e-mail me.

Tasteless humour from Random Jottings
Secretaries Powell and Rumsfeld are sitting in a bar. A guy walks in and asks the barman, "Hey, isn't that Powell and Rumsfeld?"

The barkeep says, "Yep, that's them."

The guy walks over to the two and says, "Hey guys, what are you doing?"

Rumsfeld says, "We're planning an air strike."

"Really? What's going to happen?"

Rumsfeld says, "Well, we're going to kill 10 million Afghans and one bicycle repairman."

The guy exclaims, "Why are you going to kill the bicycle repairman?!"

With that, Rumsfeld turns to Powell and says, "See, I told you no one would give a damn about the 10 million Afghans!"

Do I laugh or do I cry about this Common Dreams report about heavy-handed action against a parody of the GATT website?. Take your seats, ladies and gentlemen. In the red corner we have suppression of free speech by the real GATT and in the blue corner we have deception by the spoof website. The link still works, so obviously the GATT lawyers have not yet prevailed.

Ice Cold in Alex no longer. This Telegraph article on the latest EU environmental diktat forbidding the resale of old fridges to Africa leaves out the biggest evil consequence of all. The poor in Africa won't be able to get cheap old fridges any more. So some of them will end up eating food that has gone off, because they are poor and can't afford to throw away something just because a few flies visit it. And some of those people will die. But they'll die cared for and environmentally sound, so that's OK. Don't waste your time worrying about bottle-fed babies drinking milk full of bacteria either; it's their own fault for not realising that the correct role of black babies is to provide statistics to show breast is best, so it's a good thing if they all die, really.

Wrinklies whinge at Government. Oops, sorry, I had the wrong filter switched on. Start again. Senior citizens are outraged at the dropping of a private member's bill to outlaw ageism. Instead of getting lots of lovely laws for Christmas, the Government is fobbing old people off with rotten old consultation. I ask you, what is Christmas without the pleasure of seeing some evil shopowner in jail for hiring his neice Janine (16) as a favour to her mum?

Fact is, wrinklies, the law is slow and you will probably have gone to your various rewards by the time the evildoer is sent down. Whereas it will only take the Janine's uncle a few weeks to grasp that our girl is semi-literate, high most of the time, and has to grab a sickie every other Monday, being "shagged out", by which I do not mean tired. So you just wait patiently unil she's fired and then present yourself at the door. Wear your medals.

Thursday, November 22, 2001
Poor suckers was yesterday. Today, a lucky beggar.Irishman David Hickey, unexpectedly enriched by a bank official who mistook euros for pesetas, puts up a spirited defence of his right to keep the money. As he says, "I looked at the original transfer form and it had a disclaimer on it saying that Bank of Ireland took no responsibility for any mistakes made during the transfer. And the Bank made a big mistake. So I thought; 'Fine, this money is effectively mine'. "

The Guardian has got its nerve back on Zimbabwe, after several years of being embarassed to admit how badly their blue-eyed-boy (metaphorically speaking) had turned out. Time was when a search of their archive under the heading "Zimbabwe" got you little but cricket scores.

Anatole Kaletsky has an interesting opinion piece in The Times which gives good odds on Blair's Messianic vision coming true. I am not exactly "on message" about the New World Order, but it's true that more trade with Russia would help both us and them. As Sean Gabb has pointed out in this Free Life Commentary, Russian Orthodox Nationalism is not suitable for export.

Cornelius Fudge can't be everywhere, you know. While Mr Blunkett labours to destroy our rights to privacy and free expression he has lost interest in the futile war against drugs. This Guardian story, Of course weekend cocaine's OK, moves us nearer to having the legal right to take drugs. So I get to lose the free speech and privacy, which I did want, in exchange for a right to ingest poison. Better than no rights at all, I grant you, but I'm not gaining on the deal.

Blair will learn to spell "Toomorrow". I couldn't resist this mean, heartless story from the Telegraph

Wednesday, November 21, 2001
Mea Culpa. The North Koreans, and one of my readers, James C. Bennett, knew better than I did that "Kuds", "al-Kuds" ,"alquds" and variations thereof all relate to the Arabic name for Jerusalem. While I'm grovelling I might as well admit that Muslim News was not being as quite as evasive as I thought when it ran a story on student elections in Palestine ahead of the fall of Kabul. These student elections are important because they are the only elections.

America's Love for Jews and Israel is the title of this article by Abdul Qader Tash of Arab News. Somebody really ought to take Mr Tash quietly to one side and tell him that it's no good the Saudis blowing £600,000 on puff in the Economist if their boys are going to write as if any love directed at Jews were in itself pathological.

Now I know what "safe mode" is for. An illegitimate code-baby popped out just then, but the tachyonic prophylaxis of blogger software lets me pop it in again. Do not try this in the real world.

Having whet my appetite by changing the sidebar to a rather fetching shade of purple, I'm now attempting a few other customizations. If this blog explodes it's because I have only the vaguest knowledge of HTML and related arcana. Apologies in advance for any disruption.

Driven from his home by fear of the mob.What is this man's crime? Did he blow up a city? Did he rape a baby? No. He ran down the "up" escalator. It caused a flap at an airport, according to a story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and now he's classed in there with Osama Bin Laden. Perhaps not quite that; the fact that Michael Lasseter didn't mean to do any harm to anyone has been noted as a sort of just-possibly-relevant secondary phenomenon: "We'll take his apology to heart," said stern Clayton County Solicitor Keith Martin. "But it won't stop the prosecution. We don't let people go with an apology."

What, not ever? Many quips come to mind regarding Mr Martin's last sentence, some of them involving ex-president Clinton. But actually this is serious, and not just for the poor sucker (poor suckers are my theme for today) whose life has been torn apart because of a moment's panic over a lost bag.

Note that Mr Lasseter's panic makes him a public enemy. Even I end up calling him a "poor sucker", and I'm on his side, having ran after a good many lost handbags myself. Strange, isn't it, that no-one thinks to call the airport's reaction "panic"? Yet that is what it was. Why doesn't the airport apologise for panicking, wasting everyone's time, creating a climate of fear, and generally doing Osama Bin Laden's work for him? "But," the authorities will wail, "we honestly thought..." That's OK. If it was an honest mistake, we'll all forgive them, won't we?

America, you have enemies enough. Save your wrath for them.

More bureacratic legalism, acting, as usual, to stifle feelings of common humanity.
Daily Telegraph London 17/11/01

Judge acts as disabled barrister is snubbed

A judge threw down his wig in anger when he was forced to wheel a
disabled man into his courtroom after staff refused to help him.

Judge John Hopkin left the bench to help Michael Pearce, 59, a
barrister and MS sufferer. He was only person willing to offer
assistance after a ruling that ushers and security guards should not
touch the disabled.

Staff are not covered by insurance in the event of accidents and so
have been told to leave wheelchair-bound visitors to fend for

Judge Hopkin, who took action in a crowded courtroom, said: "I thought
these courts were supposed to be disabled-friendly. This is a quite
disgraceful scene, a disabled counsel with no one to help him get
through the doors."

Mr Pearce, 59, a self-employed barrister, is not covered by Court
Service insurance after its policy was changed in September. He said:
"I don't know why they had a change of heart. What about disabled
members of the public and jurors, What are they going to do?

"I think the Court Service owes it to the general public to help those
people who are less able to help themselves."

Vernon Coaker, Labour MP for Gedling, Notts, said he would raise the
issue with the Lord Chancellor's Department, adding: 'This is lunacy."
Now, the disabled barrister here does not appear to be any sort of activist, just a disabled barrister trying to get on with his job. But this case is interesting as well as outrageous because it potentially sets one tribe of legalists (the jobsworths who won't touch a person needing help for fear of being sued, and behind them, the reckless suers) against another, namely those disabled people who believe that the rest of the world must be forced to make their path smooth. This man is a barrister, after all. Perhaps even as we speak he is turning the pages of Snodgrass on the Disability Act...

How did I miss yesterday's Telegraph leader (on the dangers to freedom of a unending war on terrorism) by Robert Harris?Perhaps because there are similar, and similarly depressing, headlines on every front page. The piece includes an incredibly apt quote from Hitler.

Hot philosophical news. In this New Republic article, Jonathan Rauch writes in praise of hypocrisy. He's serious. This isn't a literary joke. He sees hypocrisy+law as an exquisitely modulated, evolving system that gives the most humane outcome. He thus argues for leaving in place such things as the law on drugs. One of the strongest challenges to my own hard core libertarianism that I have met in a long time.

Oops! again, and this time the poor sucker is me. The link on the previous entry just gives you an ad. I shall leave it in place as a lesson to myself to refrain from schadenfreude. Here's the original Telegraph story:
Futures trade fiasco puts Dax in tailspin
By Helen Dunne, Associate City Editor (Filed: 21/11/2001)

THE German futures exchange Eurex was embroiled in a major row yesterday after it cancelled an unusually big trade, which left many of its members sitting on large losses.

The December futures contract on Dax, Germany's index of leading shares, dropped almost 800 points from an opening level of 5,143 within half an hour of a trader hitting the wrong buttons.

It is believed that the trader was intending to sell one futures contract when the market hit 5,180 but instead sold 5,180 contracts, which sent the market into freefall. It was unclear yesterday where he worked.

The dramatic move triggered many electronically programmed trades, set up to automatically sell futures contracts once they hit a certain level.

It also led to a major sell-off in the contract of Euro Stoxx, an index of leading European company shares. It opened at 3,807 but, within minutes, lost over 20 per cent to hit 2,985. Traders said that movements in the Euro Stoxx contract are very closely linked to the Dax contract.

Five hours after the massive sell-off in Dax contracts, Eurex announced that trades below 5,083.5 would be cancelled. However, it took a further two hours for confirmation that trades on Euro Stoxx would be cancelled below 3,726.

The news led to outrage among members of Germany's futures exchange, which is traded exclusively on electronic screens. One trader said: "This is un-bloody-believable. It is a complete mess."

They were angry because trades initiated as a result of the dramatic slump had not been cancelled, leaving them nursing hefty losses. There was also outrage at how long it took Eurex to announce its decision.

One trader said: "If they had left the initial mis-trade as it was, then I estimate it would probably cost the bank involved about £30 million. Instead, the bank has been saved and I and all the other members suffer."

It is understood that many traders took the opportunity to buy both indices when it hit such low points, and then sold them when the market recovered at a much higher level. In some cases traders sold futures contracts on other European stock markets and actual shares, as a hedge to protect themselves.

"I bought the market when it fell and then sold it when it reached a much higher level," explained one banker. "Now my first trade has been cancelled, but my second one hasn't because it was above the cut-off point. I have lost money and I am furious.

"The guy involved must have been an idiot. All through the trading process it says things like 'are you sure?' It is meant to protect us from making errors."

One Eurex insider said: "These guys are professional traders, they must have known this was a mis-trade and would be cancelled. They expected to profit from somebody else's error and now are complaining because they couldn't."

However, futures traders rejected suggestions that they had capitalised on somebody else's misfortune and pointed out that a recent mis-trade by a Lehman Brothers employee was not cancelled, even though it also led to a dramatic swing in the market. "How do we know when they are going to consider it a mis-trade? Do they want us to sit on our hands?" said one.

A Eurex spokesman said: "It did not take a long time. We have to get the information but a company has to first register that it was a mis-trade. We informed the market as quickly as possible."

Oops! Some poor sucker pressed the wrong button in Germany, and a silly amount of money went flying. LATER NOTE: the link doesn't give the right result - see later.

Now even senior police officers are saying that the drug laws should be relaxed. This BBC News 24 story does not minimize the harm done by drugs, but reports the emerging consensus. No one should be unmoved by the sufferings of Leah Betts' mother. Equally, no one should be unmoved by the fact that the prohibition of ecstasy did not stop her daughter dying of it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2001
Alas for dreams of glory... Would-be martyrs left on the beach, says this BBC News 24 story.

Voldemort is the name Rich Galen bestows on Bill Clinton in this "Mullings" column asking where the Clintons were when it came to defending the rights of women in the White House or Afghanistan. Continuing the Harry Potter theme, in today's Guardian Cornelius Fudge a.k.a. David Blunkett speaks.

I am particularly reassured - not! - by the following:
..."especially as there is a safeguard against rash prosecutions for incitement in the form of the attorney general who would have to approve every action."
There is a legal fiction that prosecution decisions taken by the attorney general are not acts of the government. It's just that, a fiction. The attorney general is the attorney general because the Prime Minister says he is. Any time Tony says frog, he jumps.

Stock tip for the day: All companies with unpronounceable names that have to be typed in a silly way are doomed. Ignorant of this profound truth, the New York Times reports fairly optimistically on the "stocks formerly known as British Telecom," now masquerading as "mmO2". The NYT opts to capitalise the first "m" when it appears at the beginning of a sentence, and to regard the "O" as an "oh" not a "zero". Observe other variations elsewhere. Observe irritated business diarists advising you to sell so that they may be spared the trouble of typing out the stupid name yet again.

In this post I hope to give the impression that I am casually acquainted with both "the artist formerly known as Prince" (who seems to have disappeared, in proof of the pop version of the rule above) and that I know all about stocks and shares. I do have fifteen pounds in premium bonds somewhere.

Monday, November 19, 2001
News from the year 2035 Author unknown. Thanks, whoever you are.

1. Castro finally dies at age 112; Cuban cigars can now be
imported legally but President Chelsea Clinton has banned
all smoking.

2. Spotted Owl plague threatens Western North America crops
& livestock.

3. Last remaining Fundamentalist Muslim dies in the American
Territory of the Middle East (formerly known as Iran, Iraq,
Syria, and Lebanon)

4. Afghanistan still closed off; physicists estimate it will
take at least ten more years before radioactivity decreases
to safe levels.

5. George Z. Bush says he will run for President in 2036.

6. 35 year study: diet and exercise is the key to weight loss.

7. Nursing home event... Bill Clinton denies allegations of
affair with candy striper.

8. Texas executes last remaining citizen.

9. Upcoming NFL draft likely to focus on use of mutants.

10. Baby conceived naturally.....scientists stumped.

11. Authentic year 2000 "Chad" sells at Sotheby's for $4.6 million.

12. Ozone created by electric cars now killing thousands
in Los Angeles.

13. Average height of NBA players now nine foot seven inches.

14. Microsoft announces it has perfected its newest version
of Windows so it crashes BEFORE installation is completed.

15. New California law requires that all nail clippers,
screwdrivers, and baseball bats be registered by January 2036

The last line of this snippet from Instapundit caught my eye.
THE TIME WARP: While sitting in a doctor's office this morning, I leafed through a Time magazine from last June (medical waiting rooms serve a valuable archival function; I'm surprised they didn't have the "Who Will Win the Space Race?" issue of Newsweek still lying around somewhere). Some highlights: A skeptical account of Bloomberg's candidacy for Mayor of NYC. A skeptical account of Bush's foreign-relations efforts, strongly implying that he wasn't up to the task of dealing with foreigners. And a piece by Andrew Sullivan, suggesting that Bush & Cheney's 1950s-style stiff-upper-lip masculinity might alienate voters more used to the bitten-lower-lip style of Bill Clinton. Boy how things have changed! I should note that only Sullivan's was styled as an opinion piece, but that the other two stories seemed to have about the same reportage-to-opinion ratio. Well, not everything has changed.
How true it is that you have to separate the usually honest reporting from the unthinking commentary. I recall watching a TV documentary about the Falklands War. An ex-soldier was trying, haltingly, to describe a source of friction between the officers and men. In swoops the commentator, ten times as articulate, one tenth as perceptive: "As so often, the troops were let down by the officers..." So I'm yelling away at the TV, "He didn't say that! Shut up and let him talk, you prat!"

There you have it. I have finally become my grandma. I shout at the TV. Can you blame me? If your blood pressure needs an invigorating surge, listen to the final sound-bites with which TV political reporters finish their reports. Usually they are (a) considerably longer than the ten seconds given to the politicians they are meant to be covering, (b) presented as if handed down from heaven, and (c) fatuous.

Utterly different field, same whinge. In The Edge of England's Sword an entry headed "Occam's Razor, anyone?" gives another example of interesting jam wrapped in stale bread. It's getting more dangerous to be a vicar, says some believable if unscientific research. It's All Because of Consumerism says the waffler presenting the research, sublimely unaware that his take on events has no more status than mine or yours.

Order the guns and kill! I'm hoping to help start up a Libertarian Kipling Feeding Frenzy on Samizdata

Do you like Kipling? I don't know, I've never kippled. (This entry was a link that went wrong. The moving cursor, having writ, moves on. It cannot be erased, but my piety and wit suffice to change the wording as much as I choose.)

A three year old child is going to be torn away from a loving home, the only home he has ever known, to be sent to live among strangers speaking a foreign language. God, that's terrible. Get the social workers to intervene! Sorry, no can do. The social workers are the ones doing it. In this Jewish World Review column Thomas Sowell recounts another case of PC child abuse. The unfortunate three year old is partly American Indian. Or Native American, whatever, I don't care. Apparently that means that some tribe owns him and can claim him at will.

America is not the only place where race or nationality determines the fate of unwanted children - or, more accurately, very much wanted children wanted by would-be parents of the wrong race. Anyone but me remember "The Dying Room", where Chinese orphans dragged out their last hours? Anyone remember Caecescu's orphanages in Romania, with the three year olds who had spent their entire lives in urine-soaked cots? What a relief to know that these children had their precious heritage protected! Were it not for that, something awful might have been imposed on them, like being cherished, educated and loved.

The [North] Korean Central News Agency had this to say on Nov 14th about its relations with the state of Palestine. ("State of Palestine"? A little premature there, guys). All is as one might expect, except for one oddity in the last line, namely the aspiration that the new Palestine should have its capital in some place called "Kuds." There's a Kudus in Java, but it seems a little far for Arafat to commute.
Greetings to Palestinian President
Pyongyang, November 14 (KCNA) -- President Kim Yong Nam of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of the DPRK today sent a message of greetings to Yasser Arafat, President of the state of Palestine, chairman of the executive committee of the Palestine liberation organisation and head of the Palestinian national authority, on the occasion of the 13th anniversary of the proclamation of the state of Palestine. The message extended warm congratulations to the president and people of Palestine on the occasion and expressed belief that the friendly and cooperative relations between the two peoples would grow stronger to meet the need of the new century.
It wished the president and people of Palestine fresh success in their efforts to found an independent state with Kuds as its capital.

The King wanted a train set for Christmas. Here's a cute series of letters to the Guardian about the British railway system considered as a great big toy

The Afghan rollercoaster. This from the letters page of the Telegraph:
SIR - Your front page picture of happy faces on the streets of Kabul (Nov. 14) brought warmth to the heart. But how much was this evidence less of a keenness to westernise than of simple Afghani perverseness?
I cannot help wondering if the right way to see the Taliban era is as a natural reversal of what happened in 1928, when the country embarked on a crash course of modernisation. King Ammanullah returned from a European tour, determined on immediate change.

Roland Wild, a 24-year-old reporter in Northern India who was later your Vancouver correspondent, managed to take a car through the Khyber Pass. The first evidence of what was afoot came as his driver stopped to don western clothes, kept in the toolbox, whenever they approached Afghan officials, and afterwards put his dhoti on again.

Wild arrived in Kabul just in time for the meeting of the first Afghan parliament, which was held behind a barbed wire fence in a public garden. The chiefs who had been summoned were told that the proper dress for modern legislators was Homburgs and morning coats.

They arrived nervously holding hands; those who squatted on their hunkers were prodded by friendly police with poles and pointed towards the park benches provided. A band played badly out of tune; the king arrived with bodyguards dressed as if for a Ruritanian musical, and Wild took photographs. But as the king revealed his plans, presaging abolition of the veil, Wild realised from the reaction that he was finished, and set off 700 miles back to India where he filed his world scoop to the Daily Mail.

Since he was not allowed back, Wild reported from the border how Ammanullah was driven out by the bloodthirsty son of a water carrier with unregenerate views remarkably similar to those of the Taliban. He then covered the world's first airlift of 586 westerners, flown from the British embassy.

In his 1932 biography of Ammanullah, Wild described how only a few years later many of the changes proposed by Ammanullah were introduced, the cinema proving very popular in Kabul. But by then Ammanullah had settled in Rome - like his cousin the present king.
Moral: "Don't use force to bring about social change."

From the sublime to the ridiculous. The American Muslim conscience speaks in an article in the Orlando Sentinel, blogged by AintNoBadDude. Further down the page the Dude also takes a glimpse at the Lifestyles of the Wretched and Deranged, to whit pro-anorexia websites.

Sunday, November 18, 2001
And here's the whoop of relief. As promised the Guardian - or at least its Sunday sister, the Observer, predicts that the campaign is about to descend into chaos. The first line might make you think that there is a desperate knot of Britons fighting for their lives against thousands of Northern Alliance soldiers hungry for their blood. Don't worry. It is a row about how many British troops are to guard an airbase.

Britain last night signalled its grave concern about the dangers facing coalition forces in Afghanistan as heavily armed warring factions demanded that foreign troops 'get off our sovereign soil'.
In a series of developments which showed that the war in Afghanistan was in danger of slipping into diplomatic and military chaos, Geoff Hoon, the Secretary of State for Defence, told The Observer that the situation on the ground was 'pretty grim' and that a contingent of 6,000 British troops may now not be deployed in Kabul.

As fighting continued throughout parts of the country still under the Taliban's control, Hoon also indicated that the group of 100 troops, including members of the Special Boat Squadron, already in the capital could be pulled out as tribal warlords began carving up the country, demanding bribes from locals, killing captured Taliban soldiers and looting property from civilians.

'It sounds pretty dangerous,' Hoon said in an interview with The Observer . 'If they have completed their work we will pull them out. We are not keeping them there for the sake of it.

'If they say we have got enough information, they will come out and we will then make a judgment as to who goes in, if anyone goes in, thereafter.'

The Northern Alliance warlords, competing for supremacy as the country drifts into a political vacuum, said that the British forces had never been invited and that they would not allow a large force in to secure the key airstrip at Bagram on the outskirts of the capital.

Mines litter the area and there are fears that marauding militias, hardened by years of conflict, could inflict serious casualties on any large-scale British force. Special forces were also said to be in the mountains carrying out search-and-destroy missions on al-Qaeda troops.

Yesterday Engineer Arif, the Alliance's deputy intelligence chief and a senior figure in the organisation, said that the troops had arrived without proper consultation and that only 15 could stay to undertake 'humanitarian tasks'.

Hours later Dr Abdullah Abdullah, the Alliance's Foreign Minister, said that there was no agreement on enlarging the force.

'We are talking about a number less than one hundred British soldiers,' he said. 'If we are talking about the presence of thousands of fighting forces from outside Afghanistan then this is an issue that must be discussed.'

The news comes as a significant blow to efforts to put humanitarian systems in place before the snows of winter set in. Without an operating airfield, large drops of food or peace-keeping forces will not be possible. The chaos also raises the spectre of the country once more being plunged into anarchy by tribal warlords, who now no longer need allied help to drive out the Taliban.

Hoon said British troops would not be put in danger, suggesting that a major reassessment of military options in Afghanistan was taking place.

It now seems clear that plans to put a large contingent of British troops on the ground in Afghanistan have been put on hold. Sources said that any deployment was not imminent.

The arrival in Afghanistan of the Government's special envoy, Stephen Evans, has also been delayed.

'It has to be dependent on the situation on the ground, how that evolves and crucially whether we can get them [British troops] in safely,' Hoon said. 'We are certainly not going to put them in and take risks with them.'

Military sources said that individuals who had set their face against the arrival of coalition forces could wreak havoc.

'You have to bear in mind that a single Taliban with a shoulder-launched missile, hiding not too far off that runway, could cause a massive problem,' an official closely linked to the British military campaign said.

'One C130 [supply plane] coming down as a result of being hit, a slow-moving aircraft hit by a missile as it is coming in or taking off, you would lose a lot of people.'

Yesterday the former Afghan president, Burhanuddin Rabbani, arrived in the newly captured capital for the first time since he was driven out by the Taliban in 1996.

It is feared that this could mark a return to the factional fighting that destroyed the country after 1992, when rival warlords carved the country into personal fiefdoms and paved the way for the Taliban's rise to power.
The rest of the article refers to rumours that OBL has fled the country.

Saturday, November 17, 2001
Signs of a spat between the Northern Alliance and the UK. They're arguing about how many British troops should be in there. Expect tomorrow's Guardian to fall upon this with great whoops of relief: at last some bad news for the West, however minor.

Let me get my caveats in first. No, Afghanistan's future is not likely to be an eternal round of peace and plenty. Yes, coalition warfare always involves ruffled feathers. Yes, it's their country, after all.

First time I've felt sorry for Tony Blair in weeks. Being lectured by Baby Assad was probably good for his soul, but the Northern Alliance could have been grateful for a while longer! Shades of De Gaulle refusing us entry to the EEC in revenge for the humiliation of having to be say "thanks" to his ancestral enemies... Now there's a thought. A worrying possible outcome: UK/NA quarrel will be papered over but one day we'll wish they had pushed us out.

The British Conspiracy! This irresistible piece by one Peter Goodgame came to my attention via the Libertarian Alliance forum. At first I was sure it came from La Rouche conspiracy theory stable, but apparently not so. Mr Goodgame, whose talents have not hitherto come to my attention, blows hot and cold about La Rouche somewhere round the middle of the article.

'Pig-ignorant peasants' row. Let's be honest. Teachers' union boss Nigel de Gruchy is right to claim that he has been selectively quoted in this rumpus, fun though it is. Perchance some Wat Tyler of the rival NUT has taken offence at Sire de Gruchy's aristocratic name. Personally I'd love to see a real pig-knowledgeable peasant, perhaps one of the Grundy family from The Archers, dispensing earthy wisdom to the little blighters.

War vets on the rampage in Zimbabwe. Sadly, as this BBC News 24 story makes clear, they don't mean veternarians. Though I can't help thinking that most of the actual veterans of Zimbabwe's war against white rule, which ended in 1980, must be getting a little old for all this. Like the "students" who took over the US embassy in Iran at about the same time it must be a prudently polite term for "ruling party thug".

Bye Bye, Taliban. Or Taleban. Soon it won't matter how I spell it. Here's the Times on your last hours.

Friday, November 16, 2001
Americans are converting en masse to Islam according to this article in WorldNetDaily.I confess I found the scenes described in Boston rather hard to credit. CAIR are jerks, but Dr Fatihi is obviously no Bin Ladenite, and there is something appealing about his enthusiasm. Perhaps, like so many Conservative canvassers in the last election, he mistook politeness for support.

I've had a soft spot for Oliver Letwin ever since he incautiously said during the election campaign that the Tories would cut zillions off public expenditure. Here he is defending the rights of Wee Frees to call the Pope the antichrist. As a Catholic myself I'd really rather they didn't, but I'm recommending the article in order to get my Campaign for Real Free Speech discount.

Just a reminder of what all this is about. More info on the last minutes of Flight 93. I wondered at first whether the story of Todd Beamer and his fellow passengers' brave end would turn out to be a comforting myth. But no, seems you really can make a difference.

Hello Planet Earth. You could have a free gift waiting for you says this article in the Independent. Soon YOU, Planet Earth, might be able to park your shiny new £35 billion outside your lovely home in the solar system. You have three years to claim, so DON'T FORGET, post your claim form to Doha now. Good luck, Planet Earth!

Don't let my little bit of fun up there make you think the trade talks don't matter, or that there is no great prize at stake. (Though that figure of £35bn does appear to pop up from nowhere in the last paragraph.) Anyway, real people really do win things from competitions. I know 'cos my brother won a video camera (way back when they were a big deal) from a competition on a beermat. Then he forgot himself at the presentation ceremony and asked for a rival brand of beer.

Two views of China First go to the China Daily News site. Modern China: bright, funky website, uncensored news about bank robberies, you name it. Now click the "Communist Party 80th Anniversary" button on the right. Timewarp! No need to read this stuff, people, you have lives after all. I don't so I did: "Socialism is growing in China" is the only line to raise a smile.

The Falung Gong button above does not take you to a game show, as ignorant westerners might think from the name and the bouncy typeface.

Thursday, November 15, 2001
Having got over my paranoia attack, I popped into Ain'tNoBadDude, read the stuff about the poor wee delicate souls at the BBC who can't stomach the word "terrorist", and put in a link to Dawn magazine's letters page like he asked me to.

I wanted to balance the sweet but clueless letter in Dawn magazine just posted with some similar Costnerish examples from our own wonderful press. But the *$!&%* internet is usleless today, so I'll watch some paint dry instead. Last time it was this slow, it was because....
Bad thought. Excuse me while I check the news.

International relations: all our problems solved in this letter to Pakistan's Dawn magazine.

Need for a just world order

The time has come to concede to everyone his right and to eliminate imperialist rule in different parts of the world. We must also eliminate imperialism in the new form when big and prosperous countries exploit poor and small nations. If we want to save the world and live in peace, we should establish everlasting "justice" in the world. In this process we shall also have to democratise and reform the United Nations and rescue it from imperialist clutches.

We propose that an "international conference" be summoned under the aegis of the Organisation of Islamic Conference and the United Nations to focus attention on every "trouble spot" in the world and take decisions by simple majority to restore the rights/and lands to the legitimate owners even if the imperialists have ruled over those lands for centuries.

The conference should also take decisions in cases of self-determination and independence struggles by various nations of the world.

When just and equitable order will be established, all nations will live in peace and the international community will live as a big happy family.

When the international conference grants to the nations of the world, whether free or subjugated, their legitimate rights, real peace will dawn on the world.


Chairman, Muslim Commonwealth Movement, Karachi

There you are then. Get going.

A newly discovered blog, like a new planet, has swum into my ken. It's the alarmingly-named The Edge of England's Sword. Good articles on Jim Bennett's "Democracy, immigration, multiculturalism - take two out of three", on not believing the Guardian, and (you have to look in the archives for this one) safety fascists killing Bonfire night.

Simon Hoggart is very funny about discreet British government gloatingover events in Afghanistan in the Guardian today. Hey, I'm British and it doesn't stop me. Gloat, gloat, gloaty-gloaty-gloat.Gloaty gloaty gloaty gloateeeeee.... gloat gloat.

Wednesday, November 14, 2001
The impromptu cross made of fire-blackened, salvaged planks of wood, still stands amid the ruins of the old Coventry cathedral. The guide told me that it was put up the day after the raid by an unknown hand. Cynic that am, I wondered if it was erected to be seen more by men than God. No matter. If it was propaganda then it was inspired propaganda and it must have given comfort to many.

I mention the Coventry raid because it took place 61 years ago today. 568 people were killed that night. The total number of British victims of aerial bombardment in WWII came to 60,447. The German toll was ten times higher. Both governments had underestimated the stoicism of their own people, and of their enemies: despite the bombing, commerce and industry went on in both countries, hampered but not ended.

At last I understand. This world is not real. Philip K Dick was right; soon this computer will melt away leaving only a bit of paper marked "computer". I know all is illusion, because not only did I agree with Polly Toynbee this morning, I also, at least when it comes to the House of Lords, agreed with... No. I can't bring myself to say it. Him, anyway.

Trif leader in the Telegraph from Janet Daley. It's about Kabul again. I can't seem to think about anything else. In fact... oooagh...mmmf... I just can't stop myself, I've got to say it... YO!

From the Guardian letters page:
Alina Lebedeva (Flower power, November 13) has thwacked with her carnations the most high-profile admirer of Islam in Europe [she referred to Prince Charles, who was hit with a flower by a peace protester], which makes her the perfect figurehead for one of the most misguided protest campaigns in history. While the people of Mazar-i-Sharif dance in the streets, protesters in London insist they would have been better off languishing under the Taliban. I have yet to read an interview an Afghan who does not to welcome the bombing, albeit with reservations. Is this the first time protesters have attempted to save people from military action from which they did not wish to be saved?
Anne-Louise Crocker
Shoreham, Kent

Possibly not the first time - Vietnam and Cambodia might say the same. Gosh, I've changed.Did I really write that?

Dazed and confused, I stagger from the rubble. A new world is out there. Can it really be true? Unbelievably, it can. I have agreed with Polly Toynbee twice in two weeks. She even talks about "our victory". Still silly about patents though.

Tuesday, November 13, 2001
Anyone from the Northern Alliance reading this? Please, please, please don't kill the Taliban prisoners you take. I know they are bastards. I know you have gone out and re-taken your capital city from foreign oppressors. But which is better? That all these people are mourned by their families as matyrs - making their sons into more enemies for you, or that they go home (after doing time for their crimes) and say, "The Afghan people hated us. We were defeated, and had to beg for mercy. My son, stay home and never get into shit like your Daddy did."

Jolly times in Kabul. How many times has anyone had cause to write that without irony in the last twenty years, I wonder? It may yet sour, but while it lasts go to BBC News 24 and enjoy this report from John Simpson, who seems to have liberated Kabul himself.

Yet more on my burgeoning obsession with libertarian tendencies in Harry Potter: Cornelius Fudge IS David Blunkett. Consider: Fudge is afraid, and with good reason. So he lets the Dementors into the civil society of the magic world, and gives them power over persons convicted in hasty and fearful tribunals. And Voldemort laughs. Gadzooks, this all started off as a joke.

Reader John Weidner, of San Francisco had this to say about my Harry Potter blog:
On the downside, Harry Potter is suffused (probably quite
unconsciously) with the disastrous British idea that the very best
students should expect to slide into a career in government, while
only goof-offs like the Weasley twins will become inventors and

A just point, but in response I observe that the Ministry of Magic does not get that good a press in the later books. And the entrepreneurial Weasley twins are portrayed as much more cool than big brother Percy the wannabe civil servant. OK, OK, so I don't really know anything about Ms Rowling's political beliefs. But a rather interesting and subtle point that occurs to me is that even non-libertarians see a unregulated world as much more natural than a regulated one. Perhaps this is merely a reflection that for most of our history we were far less coddled.

Paul Foot in the Guardian today has this in the second half of his column:

'Blair's sermons on the war in Afghanistan have become less bellicose in recent weeks, and there is a reason for the change. He was knocked off his perch by the vast demonstration on October 13. He will be even more shocked by the demonstration against the war this Sunday.

I've been talking to Salma Yaqoob, 30, a psychotherapist and mother of two, who has lived in Birmingham all her life and chairs the coalition against the war in that city. She was inspired for the first time in her life to take part in public protest when, on a visit to the city centre in the week after September 11, she was ostentatiously spat upon. "It was not so much the spitting but the fact that no one protested about it."

She went to an anti-war meeting, and helped to organise another one, in Small Heath, attended by 2,000 people. She tells me that 50 coaches have already been organised to bring people from Birmingham to London on Sunday, and she expects many more. "My eyes have been opened by this war," she says. "What is especially shocking is how much has been kept from us - we don't even know, for instance, how many innocent people have been killed by the bombing."

She says the strength of the anti-war coalition is that it cannot be written off as a collection of usual suspects. "If we were only CND, people would say we were exclusively white middle class; if only socialist, we would be the loony left; if only Muslim, and I am a Muslim, we could be dismissed as religious. It's the fact that we are all together with so many people who are none of these things that makes us so very strong." '

Now I am saddened - really saddened, not tactically saddened - that Ms Yaqoob was insulted for wearing Moslem dress, and that no-one came to her defence. But, tell me, what on earth does it have to do with the question of whether the US is right or wrong to make war in Afghanistan in response to the WTC attack? I can see what connection the yob who spat at her made, but what connection does a reasoning human being make?

I have a happy fantasy that Sunday's Stop The War demo will have to be called off, the war having been stopped by being won. Not very probable, I grant you, but it might be interesting to see the effect that scenes of rejoicing in Mazar and Kabul have on the numbers. I just pray the Northern Alliance maintain discipline, historically weak-to-nonexistent in Afghan armies.

Famine is coming soon to Zimbabwe according to this Times story. September 11 saved Mugabe from the inconvenience of scrutiny. "Security of property" sounds like an eighteenth-century squire's excuse of the rich for starving the poor, doesn't it? Took me a while to learn that security of property is the dyke that holds off famine. Ask the Russians. Ask the Chinese. Ask the Africans. Don't ask the Irish, because they have rarely looked hard at their own history, but you could try asking an Irish historian.

Rumour Mill turning. Here's an odd story about US soldiers allegedly held by the Taliban from the Times of India, reported in Muslim News. While you're visiting Muslim News, turn back to their front page, and be amazed at their choice of running order: student elections in Palestine trump the fall of Kabul.

Non-seriously depressing news from Instapundit. Glenn Reynold's brill weblog has passed the half million visitors mark, after three months. He is destined to be even more famous than he is already because he inspired.... danaaa!.... me to start a weblog. So why is this depressing? Because he appears really pleased that he has been donated a whole $1,100 for his prodigious output. Now don't get me wrong, if I saw $1,100 lying on the street I would stoop to pick it up. Let me go further: for $1,100 I would parachute into Kandahar dressed as a nun - well, maybe not, but it's clear that weblogs are not the way to make one's fortune. Sigh.

PS I can't find the exact link on Instapundit. Is the whole $1,100 thing a phantasm of my dosh-strapped mind? Never mind, you can always read about the Boulder penises instead.

Northern Alliance on the outskirts of Kabul One of the odder rules of war is that "fanatics run both ways". It was Moslem fanatics - the Sudanese "fuzzy wuzzies" - who broke the British Square. Kipling's poem was written in an era when no one, least of all the British soldiers whose language it borrows, gave a monkeys about the use racist terminology, but it gives the enemy full credit for courage. Yet defeat for fanatic armies has often meant rout. In 1945 the Soviets swept through Japanese-ruled China in operation August Storm. (Never heard of it? Nor have many people. The atomic bomb wiped it from the popular mind.) Those same Japanese who had thrown themselves over cliffs rather than surrender at Okinawa just... lost the plot. The metaphor is deliberate. This wasn't in the script! They surrendered in droves. May it go thus in Kabul .

Monday, November 12, 2001
Another plane crash in New York - cause unknown. Just heard that a plane to the Dominican Republic has come down in Queens. Although certain parallels to the 11 September attack, such as the 9.15am local time of the explosion, suggest another terrorist attack, other arguments point to an accidental cause. New York's sufferings go on.

Various sceptics think the Telegraph's video (see 11 Nov) from Osama Bin Laden is either fake or does not, in fact, admit that his boys carried out the WTC attack. As a tail covering measure, I'll remind you that I did say, "if confirmed". But I don't think my tail needs covering quite yet, so let it wag some more. (1) Digital fakes aren't that good. Not yet. Not for so long and complex a production as a closeup for several minutes of a famous human face talking. One day fakes will be that good, and then we shall return to the age of testimony on oath.
(2) Does he admit it? It has been plausibly argued that the brotherhood of Islam is so strong that they all talk as if the act of one was the act of all. OK so I don't speak Arabic, but it seems pretty clear to me. Miles of talk about how wonderful the destruction of the WTC was, and then "our terrorism is good terrorism." If he's not saying he did it, what is he saying?

Personally I think all this fooling about is a replay of the Provisional IRA's reaction after the worldwide horror following the bombing of a Remembrance Day ceremony at Enniskillen several years ago. First silence. Then "we didn't do it." Since then, alternation or parallel running between "we did do it and we don't care" and "we meant the bomb to go off at some other time, honest". Possibly the WTC, like Enniskillen, was a "spectacular" under the charge of subordinates that came out more spectacular than the paymasters had planned.

Politicians vs Lawmakers "Politician" gets you a sneer. "Lawmaker" gets you respect. Perhaps that's why Home Secretaries these days so love making laws. Quite a few good quotes in this Telegraph leading article on civil liberties being eroded in the present war

Stop the war! Open a MacDonald's in Kabul

This document, of fundamental importance for the peace of the world, was posted on the Libertarian Alliance Forum.

"No two countries that both had McDonald's had fought a war against
each other since each got its McDonald's." --TF, 1999


By Thomas Friedman

Every once in a while when I am traveling abroad, I need to indulge in a
burger and a bag of McDonald's french fries. For all I know, I have eaten
McDonald's burgers and fries in more countries in the world than anyone, and
I can testify that *they all really do taste the same.* But as I
Quarter-Poundered my way around the world in recent rears, I began to notice
something intriguing. I don't know when the insight struck me. It was a
bolt out of the blue that must have hit somewhere between the McDonald's in
Tiananmen Square in Beijing, the McDonald's in Tahrir Square in Cairo and
the McDonald's off Zion Square in Jerusalem. And it was this:

No two countries that both had McDonald's had fought a war against each
other since each got its McDonald's.

I'm not kidding. It's uncanny. Look at the Middle East: Israel now has a
kosher McDonald's, Saudi Arabia has McDonald's, which closes five times a
day for Muslim prayer, Egypt has McDonald's and both Lebanon and Jordan have
become McDonald's countries. None of them have had a war since the Golden
Arches went in. Where is the big threat of war in the Middle East today?
Israel-Syria, Israel-Iran and Israel-Iraq. Which three Middle East
countries don't have McDonald's? Syria, Iran and Iraq. How about
India-Pakistan? I'm convinced they could still blow each other up, because
they both now have nukes, but only one of them -- India -- has fries to go
with them. India, where 40 percent of the population is vegetarian, has the
first beefless McDonald's in the world (vegetable nuggets!), but Pakistan is
still -- dangerously -- a Mac-free zone.

I was intrigued enough by my own thesis to call McDonald's headquarters in
Oakbrook, Illinois, and report it to them. They were intrigued enough by it
to invite me to test it out on some of their international executives at
Hamburger University, McDonald's in-house research and training facility.
The McDonald's folks ran my model past all their international experts and
confirmed that they, too, couldn't find an exception. I feared the
exception would the Falklands war, but Argentina didn't get its first
McDonald's until 1986, four years after that war with Great Britain. (Civil
wars and border skirmishes don't count: McDonald's in Moscow, El Salvador
and Nicaragua served burgers to both sides in their respective civil wars.)

Armed with this data, I offer "The Golden Arches Theory of Conflict
Prevention" -- which stipulates that when a country reaches the levels of
economic development where it has a middle class big enough to support a
McDonald's network, it becomes a McDonald's country. And people in
McDonald's countries don't like to fight wars anymore, they prefer to wait
in line for burgers.

from THE LEXUS AND THE OLIVE TREE: Understanding Globalization
by Thomas L. Friedman, 1999, New York [Farrar-Straus-Giroux]


Sunday, November 11, 2001
Osama changes the party line. If confirmed, this story from the Telegraph is the most important development in the war so far. Bin Laden's latest video now says that he did do it, it was terrorism, and that's good. Why do I rate this poxy little video as such a big deal? Because all evasions are now stripped away. Everybody in the world, choose your side now.

Saturday, November 10, 2001
"Harry Potter and the Libertarian Subtext"
The Natalie Solent philosophical analysis hit-squad has come up with the following observations indicating a not-so-secret libertarian agenda in the recently released film.
1. Hagrid does not wear a motorbike helmet for his flying bike.
2. Dumbledore arranges an informal adoption for Harry rather than putting him in care. Admittedly, it is not the happiest placement - but we libertarians all know that perfection is not an option.
3. Hogwarts is a fee paying school, and does not follow the National Curriculum.
4. There is no indication that Harry pays inheritance tax on his holdings in Gringotts.
5. The goblins in Gringotts do not monitor large cash withdrawals, or in any way conform to regulations to prevent money laundering.
6. Gringotts Bank - Not An Equal Opportunity Employer. But since everybody seems happy, that's OK. We do not need state-enforced quotas.
7. Hogwarts pupils are entitled to free association. It is their own business if they sort themselves into groups of like-minded individuals. Although superficially it seems that the decision of the Sorting Hat is coercive, it is clear that the sortee does not have to go into Slytherin if he or she doesn't want to.
8. Nobody is troubled by Political Correctness when pointing out the high proportion of sociopaths in Slytherin house.
9. But, that said, isn't it inspiring that certain elements within Slytherin are doing their part to fight the common enemy?
10. The Health and Safety Executive have obviously never crossed the Hogwarts threshold. Among the violations of safety legislation are improperly secured moving staircases, flying broomsticks under the control of minors and dangerous wands in the hands of minors.
11. The sport of Quidditch is a wonderful example of the voluntary assumption of risk.
12. And, since Hogwarts is not bankrupted by ambulance-chasers or insurance claims either, it looks as though contract dominates tort in the magical world.
13. The troll is seen off by the unorganised militia, as are other baddies. You do not see Harry banged up for murder or violation of the troll's civil rights.
LATE ADDITION: How could I have left out this one? Fluffy does not even have one muzzle between his three heads. A shocking violation of the Dangerous Dogs Act.

More worryingly, the portrayal of Dursley's fumblings with a shotgun gives a very negative impression of the armed citizen. And we'll have to see from future films and books whether the house-elves gain their own liberation by non-coercive means or are re-ghettoized by taking the false route of Ministry of Magic pupillage and parasitism.