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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Jane's Blogosphere: blogtrack for Natalie Solent.
( 'Nother Solent is this blog's good twin. Same words, searchable archives, RSS feed. Provided by a benefactor, to whom thanks.
I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)
The Old Comrades:
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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. Dawson.com 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."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:
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 Dawson.com 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 Dawson.com, but strangely, sirrah, strangely:
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.
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.
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 dawson.com
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
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 17/11/01Now, 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
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
2. Spotted Owl plague threatens Western North America crops
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
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?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.
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
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?
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
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.
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
THE GOLDEN ARCHES THEORY OF CONFLICT PREVENTION
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.