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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Thursday, January 31, 2002
Francophiles, speak out. Both Christopher Johnson of Midwest Conservative Journal are having mild guilt attacks over all this cheese-eating surrender monkeys stuff. He says he quite likes the French and "I'm going to write something nice about them first chance I get." My sentiments exactly. I go to France whenever I can. But the French elite, venal yet pompous, do not make our task easy. How often do we get to read about the magnificent not-very-secret society of French gourmets who feast on unpasteurized milk, fragrant blue cheese and forbidden cuts of meat in defiance of all regulations? I can't even find a link. But they do exist.

Here, as second prize, is a very old article by Jim* Henley in the Guardian saying the French aren't as Europhile as we think. Actually it is a pretty sound analysis, but I was looking for something far more quick, French and lively than mere politics.

The real Jim Henley writes,
"I've actually been blogging long enough now that I had to ask myself, "Did I write something nice about the French?" Then I worried that there was someone at the Guardian trying to live off my reputation. (I mean, they're pretty stupid at the Guardian, right?) But apparently the byline on the article is Jon Henley, who is likely deeply jealous that I registered before he did."
My typing fingers obviously just think that "Jim" goes with "Henley" better than "Jon" does. It's sort of a compliment if you think about it.

Bell, book and a word from the mayor. One of Damianation's readers sent him a CNN story about a village that officially expelled Satan from the community. Wish it was that easy, guys. I am reminded of the Kipling short called "The Village That Voted the Earth Was Flat." That story has a surprisingly modern starting point: two motorists (oh, for that age of empty roads!) are caught in a dishonest speed-trap run for profit by the local authorities. In revenge they manouevre the yokels into making their village famous for its folly.

Feel better now? These are the instructions given to airport security screeners in the US. Aren't you relieved that they are told "personnel may not rely on generalized stereotypes or attitudes or beliefs about the propensity of members of any racial, ethnic, religious, or national origin group to engage in unlawful activity."

There is no excuse for insulting behaviour towards Arab or Moslem travellers. There is no excuse for ignoring the fact that there are other fanatics than Moslem ones, and that Moslem terrorists will try to use non-Arab agents when they can. But what does it take for the Department of Transportation to admit that it is not a belief but a fact that, at this time, 90% of the world's terrorists are Arabs and Moslems? Two big smoking holes in a major city?

From this side of the Atlantic it seems odd - admirable, but odd - the way Americans pay so much attention to the State of the Union speech. After the tragedies and dramas of last year it is natural that this year's speech will be watched carefully, but even in the piping years of peace it seems that ordinary Americans will sit and watch the speech on TV. In this country as soon as a Party Political Broadcast comes on they have to beef up the National Grid to cope with the surge of power required by millions of kettles being put on to boil. I believe that was literally true in the days when all channels had them simultaneously. Of course a Party Political isn't comparable to the State of the Union, but that's the point - what is? No one say the Queen's speech on Christmas Day. I always put it on out of respect, and loyally half listen while I pig the rest of the pudding in another room. It is sincere and can be moving in a stilted way, but were not talking policy content here, are we?

Anyway, it's very impressive the way Americans take it so seriously. Like the dude does.

Wednesday, January 30, 2002
Anglosphericalsceptical Emmanuel Goldstein writes that his column on is taking a break, at least for the next few months. Meanwhile has mutated into a team effort, possibly under the influence of spores carried by my fellow Samizdatan David Carr.

The brothers have Labour over a financial barrel. A possible explanation for the upsurge in union militancy from Ian McWhirter writing in the Glasgow Herald. (You have to press "opinion".) He believes that the requirement to disclose large donations has put off businesses who don't want to be accused of cronyism. That in turn has made Labour more dependent on the unions.

To think that I supported the European Economic Community. To think that I was bored by the European Community. And now I loathe and fear the European Union. Why? Because of this sort of mindless destruction of the environment. The EU has a venereal disease. It can't even stop itself from harming the causes it most affects to love.

(Also covered in The Edge of England's Sword and Samizdata, and no wonder.)

Scary stuff. While my flowing locks bedecked the pillow, the ether fizzed hot with talk of someone denouncing Sulli. for alleged Krugmanesque practices. By the time I had finished my cornflakes and had taken my morning dose of the dread drug gfi, and hence was finally able to face the world, Tony Adragna had already caught the ball From Left Field and was in the process of hurling it back.

SPLASH!The long promised new look to has arrived, courtesy of Stacey of Sekimori Design who has a designer blog (well it would be, wouldn't it?) in which she shocked me to the core by admitting that she doesn't like Thunderbirds.

The very first post of the New Dawsonian Era mentions me calling his new design "the wave of the future". Which, worryingly, it is. The worry does not come from any dislike of resting my eyes on a surfer's dream. I'm just worried that the standard has moved up again. For a while there I thought I was poised on the cutting edge of technology for having figured out how to change the background colours. Oh well, balancing on the cutting edge gives you stripy feet.

5,4,3,2,1... Midwest Conservative Journal And she's off! Unlinkable no more! Thanks to Myria and Geoffrey Barto, gurus of of the ancient and puissant art of Hut Mul.

French lessons for us monkeys Geoffrey Barto of Turkeyblog which used to live here but now lives here chimes in with a more scholarly interpretation of the dreaded Simpson's phrase that I discovered yesterday.
"I'm not a native speaker of French, but the de reddition construction, while meaning "of surrender" doesn't feel quite right (maybe you should check with Matt Welch's wife).
[Um, if you know the lady personally, perhaps you might like to ask this particular question, Geoffrey. - NS]
To offer something a little more out-there, may I suggest "singes capitulards caséivores" - monkeys tending-to-surrender eating-cheese (like carnivores eat meat; I doubt that this word exists, but the roots are there to make it). Alternatively, singes capitulards qui mangent du fromage or singes capitulards, mangeurs de fromage.

Just to warn of the dangers of what too much free time can turn up, man-eating is mangeur d'hommes, but also anthropophage (Greek roots; I had to use Latin since I don't know the Greek word for cheese).

I'd be curious to know what a native speaker of French would come up with."

Since I rather think the answer to that would be "a smack round the ear - Comme ca!" I rather think that the issue must forever remain unsolved. Je me rends. Unless any French readers would care to let us know the equivalent insults for those boorish Anglophones?

Oh, yes. The wicked Christopher Johnson of the unlinkable (though I have been sent some useful hints {which worked, see above}) Midwest Conservative Journal, who started all this, has confessed that he does not speak French but used translation software. Wow, this is cool. Interesting that, though it gave far from a perfect result this time, translation software has definitely reached the stage of being useful. What changes will come to the world when the curse of Babel is finally lifted? What towers will we build?

Tuesday, January 29, 2002
Disturbing (but Funny) Search Requests. I had had some inkling of the awful truth of what modern software can do when Samizdata posted a list of funny criteria which had guided some folk to them. But the full horror only became clear to me when I skimmed through the "Bloggie" winners and found a wonderful site called "Disturbing Search Requests." (Warning: the award means that the site is dead crowded today.)

Yes, I know, you are amazed that people who didn't know all about both phenomenon and site are even allowed out any more. But it's new to me and I love it. This is funny spell-checking for the 21st century. Talking of which, Christopher Johnson of MCJ asks, 'Are spell-checkers intelligent life forms? Juno's didn't like "McAuliffe." [Democratic party chairman.] It suggested "Malice."'

Three things I found out in the last 24 hours that everybody else has known about for ages.

1. Control-F.
2. Cleverer hit counters than wot I got can tell what search criteria people used to find your blog. Deeply, deeply embarrassing.
3. The phrase "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" - see previous post and this Goldberg article.

For one brief moment I thought I had successfully linked to the Midwest Conservative Journal. But no. I've tried various stragegies of leaving in and editing out those two pesky squares, and it still doesn't work. You'll have to go via Samizdata (who have mysteriously called me a "posh blog stop". Posh? Essex girl me?) if you want to see Your Editor calling the EU the League of Nations and sundry other jibes, such as "vous fromage mangeant des singes de reddition." Ah, French, the language of diplomacy. Quite possibly that means "cheese-eating surrender-monkeys," but it may not because the French-English online dictionary I consulted warned me that la reddition was a new submission and had not been checked. It is nice to see a dictionary being built up, apparently, word by word by anyone who happens to pass by and feels so inclined, like modern day barn-raising.

No one seems to have voted for Canadian whisky as being the best in his little poll. Isn't that sad?

A seven year old boy was stabbed by Palestinian infiltrators according to the Jerusalem Post. Clicking the Arab Terror button gets an equivalent of "Portraits of Grief."

An Author's Tale. John Weidner of Random Jottings says he was touched by this Telegraph article on author Patrick O'Brian. I confess I was more saddened and disturbed, perhaps because I had no idea of O'Brian's double life. We delude ourselves that we know an author because we know his books.

I lost touch with O'Brian's work when after the birth of my first child my fiction consumption went down almost to zero and stayed that way for several years. I put this change in the habits of a lifetime down to tiredness and hormones. But "episodic fiction-reading impotence" has other triggers than just having a baby. There was a discussion in the Libertarian Alliance Forum on the subject and several courageous male sufferers came forward. Others told harrowing tales of the reverse condition, describing solitary sixteen-hour book orgies after traumas such as redundancy.

Don't worry. Following temporal therapy, in the last year or so I started reading again. And, profound though his moral failings appear to have been, O'Brian's books are on the list.

Monday, January 28, 2002
I stand refuted by Alan M. Carroll, who writes, "On the other hand, one may think back to the Rigoberta Menchu incident, where many did say "although the content of the book was refuted, it's still true". (This is all about my pedantic objections to the misuse of the word "refute".)

Also from Instapundit
"PUNDITGATE STRIKES BRITAIN, at least according to this report from The Guardian. This sounds far worse than anything involving Enron, I have to say.

I'd like to know more about who's getting money from what organizations. And I'd like to see the inquiry expanded to foundations and the like, whose nonprofit status is treated as proof of moral cleanliness in Washington -- but which shouldn't be. There's a lot of agenda-advancing money out there, I think, and it should be smoked out."

Does the pun in "smoked out" mean that the Prof was joking when he said it sounded "worse than Enron"? I hope so. Scruton would escape horsewhipping under my proposed system, since it was always obvious to me what he would say about ciggies and I am not half as shocked that he seeks to be paid for saying it as I am by the amount. It's so low. The Guardian article is not quite clear, but if the £4.5 - 5.5k per month was not just for placing articles but also for
"...assisting the multinational - the world's third-largest cigarette combine and manufacturer of brands such as Camel and Winston - on everything from education and licensing to dealing with the World Health Organisation."
then it's pretty measly.

OK, OK, I'm being a little too easy on Scruton here. He seems to have annoyed the Financial Times enough for them to drop him, so clearly they did not feel he was dealing with them properly. Though he made no secret that he was a consultant for Japan Tobacco, I can see their irritation that Scruton sought to break the usual convention that a columnist is only paid by one master, the newspaper, when a story by him appears in that paper. Perhaps the Club Committee ought to drop a stiff hint in the professor's ear about disclosure. If consultancy fees that substantially add to a pundit's income are going to become commonplace we need a new set of habits. But Scruton escapes, as Krugman does not, the charge of hypocrisy.

By the way, if Clive Bates does not get a salary for being a director of ASH, then I shall apologise handsomely for calling him, as I do call him, "a grimy hack for the anti-smoking industry." The Guardian's headline-writer, a grimy hack for the newspaper industry, was also no doubt paid well for falsely stating Scruton was promoting smoking per se, rather than smokers' rights.

Regrettably, I have not been paid to write this.

From Instapundit's FAQ: "While I'm at it, a surprisingly large number of people don't know how to use the "find in page" feature that most browsers have. Control-F, or clicking on "Edit" and selecting "find" will let you search for an individual word on a page. It's very useful, but I'm amazed how many people don't know about it."

Including me, until this moment.

Times columnist Matthew Parris got a bit of stick from warbloggers for pessimistic predictions that didn't come to pass. Never mind. In the domestic sphere he is one of the best. This article on the NuLab way of dealing with crises shows how Parris does it. Click the link to read some darkly comic lines, but the part that made me most angry was this:
"I listened to the Health Secretary on the Today programme at the start of the week. Alan Milburn had been invited to discuss a directive issued by a Civil Service health chief in the South East telling staff the region was heading for an overspend and must make urgent cuts, no matter how painful. What, asked the interviewer, did Mr Milburn make of that? Oh, said the Secretary of State, no problem: they can get the shortfall from other regions which may be underspent. Thus in 30 seconds, to extricate himself from a temporary tight spot on the radio, a Health Secretary kicks away an entire financial discipline, undermines the woman tasked to enforce it, and cheats those regions which do succeed in keeping within their limits. After that interview, everyone in the health service will be taking their spending limits just a fraction less seriously."

Parris is wrong about the "just a fraction less seriously" - the peverse incentives are much more serious than that. But if you want to know by what mechanism things fall apart, there it is described.

A grim end. US forces storm a Kandahar hospital where wounded International Taliban were left stranded by the fall of the regime that brought them to Afghanistan. They decided to barricade themeselves in, waiting for... what, I wonder? Anyone want to tell me they'd have been worse off on the beach in Cuba?

It's surprising that this seige, which has been running for months, was successfully kept out of the public eye.

UPDATE: Robert A. Carroll writes, "I dunno where you are, but there were quite a few stories about the terrorists holed-up in the hospital. I'd bet I heard about them once a week, on average." Oops. Ignorance revealed. Too much time blogging, I suppose..... In retrospect I now realise that the tail-end of one news story I heard did refer to the seige.

Hidden glories of the Midden. John Weidner writes, and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation would be well advised to hire him for the defence: "I think 'midden' is used in archaeology for the village trash-heaps and dumps that are of great interest to excavators. Perhaps someone read about treasures of some primitive culture being found in a midden, and assumed it was some sort of art gallery."

Through the keyhole. There are fascinating pictures of AintNoBadDude's party for LA bloggers. The Dude himself has little round glasses and a cute little flick in his hair. Ooooh, I just knew he would. But I always sort of thought he had black hair. And a lightning-bolt scar... Apart from that the biggest surprise is the unaccountable failure of various bloggers to wear their "props" 24 hours a day. Matt Welch: no hat. I love that hat! Ken Layne: no hat and no trenchcoat. You're not going to tell me that anyone with a typeface like that doesn't wear a trenchcoat.

Inappropriate Words. I've just noticed that what I wrote below ties in with Moira Breen's understandably peeved response to the misuse of words. My own peeve of the month is people who think "refute" means "deny" or "argue against" rather than "disprove". It was funny but also sad to hear someone on the radio say, "Dr X may have refuted what I said, but I know it's true."

Sunday, January 27, 2002
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has a page giving publicity to websites of interest to Aborigines. It's called "the Midden." Why? Is there some culturally specific metaphor - something about where the flies all go to socialize, perhaps - of which I am ignorant, or did some enthusiastic young thing at ABC convince herself that it meant sorta like "central meeting place" rather than its official meaning of "pile of manure"?

That came out sounding nastier than I really intended. From what I could see there was nothing I would confidently describe as crappy about the actual aboriginal material, although much of it had the laboured, wheezy tone of a culture being muffled by subsidy. I just want to know who thinks up these names and why.

Dear Old Oom Krugman Some thought-provoking words in defence of Paul Krugman from Mind Over...

There's a ping-pong match here between two views as to whether Krugman's profession as an economist should have have given him any special insight when paying in the now famous Enron $50k cheque to his bank account. Mark Steyn says, "he of all people should know it doesn't come out of thin air." The Zilber response is, "Honestly, Andrew [addressed to Andrew Sullivan], do you really ever expect to convince an economist to apologize for his own market value?"

The resolution? Krugman's arrogance - I won't go so far as to say 'crime' - lay in taking the tone of a fearless giant-killer and defender of the peasantry while stashing an enormous cheque from Giant Plc. The phrase "It's Just Not Done, Old Chap" has covered a lot of folly over the years, but it also served to keep many a soul on the straight and narrow. If it is the "done thing" nowadays for columnists to act like this then it's about time they were all horsewhipped on the steps of their clubs.

If Krugman had been happy to tell the world, "I'm a superstar, and paid to match" all along he wouldn't look such a rat now.

Don't just scroll down to find your own name in the "Hiawatha for our times" in Unremitting Verse. Read all of it. Go on. Get yourself some culture.

Blairey bait: Glenn Sacks, one of us. OK, I didn't set this up, it just happened, right? I jus' goes and checks out Tim Blair, an' he disses Glenn Sacks an' there's all these links, see, and one of them is really great and makes me say that can a guy who writes this be all bad?

This is how it feels to be Charlie Brown seeing a smile spread across Lucy's face as his foot leaves the ground to kick the ball.

Marjan the Lion, eater of Taliban, is no more. Momma Bear sent me this story about his last days.

Saturday, January 26, 2002
Not many posts today, as my loving family intend to gently but firmly escort me out of my warm cyber-cave in order to feel once more the sun on my face (no chance) and wind in my hair (can do). Before I go, any teletubby survivors among you, such as the Distinguished Correspondent (bet he's never been called that before) who e-mailed me the other day, might like to see this winsome ditty that did the rounds of the playground some time ago.:

(To the tune of "Nick Nack Paddywack")

I love Po
Po loves me
Let's gang up and kill Dipsy
With a knife in the back and a bullet in the head
Tough luck La-la, Dipsy's dead!

Friday, January 25, 2002
The sad fate of my Blaireys. The first thing they teach aspiring journos in j-school is a trick of the trade known as the Tim Blair gambit, often inexplicably abbreviated to "Blairey". It works thus. You write an op-ed dissing something. Then you wait for replies saying "you're too mean." Then, and only then, you release the killer fact held in reserve. For an example see Fxxzzplt. (Noise indicates utter failure of Blogger archive to smoothly implement my request to link to that Tamin Ansary thing where this gambit was first revealed.)

Twice in the last few weeks I have sought to provoke the scheming Blair by jocular insults against his country, while all the time holding ready a quiverfull of shafts of repartee poised to shoot down all his most likely replies. Not only has he failed to respond for so long that I have forgotten what my own V-1 and V-2 Vengeance Jokes actually were, although I do recall that one of them somehow involved asserting that wombats are made of fibreglass*, he has further oppressed me by himself bringing up a glorious bit of Ozmockery.

*a fact personally checked out by my husband who fell into a trance while wombat-viewing at Sydney Zoo. He reported that waiting for it to move was a deeply disquieting, ego-deconstructive yet oddly transformative experience of ephiphany-through-boredom.

My day for fulfilling promises. I also said I'd give answers to my little quiz on the breakdown of body count for the conflict in Northern Ireland. The place to go, as two and a half million viewers already know, is the Conflict Archive on the Internet site, known by its rather contrived acronym CAIN.

One grimly fascinating section of this site consists of statistics tablulated by Malcolm Sutton and can be found on

Who did the killing?
Deaths (caused) by Organisation Summary
British Security 363
Irish Security 5
Loyalist Paramilitary 991
not known 78
Republican Paramilitary 2043
TOTAL 3480

So Republicans killed more than twice the number of victims claimed by Loyalists. (Note: No, I do NOT think that excuses Loyalist killers.) But my question was a cheat, dear readers, for it hid an interesting and little known paradox. Namely that there were more Catholic victims than Protestant.

Who did the dying?
Deaths by Religion Summary
Catholic 1506
Not from Northern Ireland 713
Protestant 1261
TOTAL 3480

How come? Because as well as killing Protestants the Republican paramilitaries killed loads of people of their own - and my own - Catholic religion. Neither sort of killing makes me like them very much, but I think the second type ought to be better known.

Oh yes, I also said I would supply the population ratio. It's 58% Protestant to 42% Catholic. Although the word "minority" is often, accurately, used to refer to the Catholic population, there is a curious tendency to simply use the word as a sympathy-getter without any consideration of the logically necessary implication that the non-Catholics are the majority. Can I supply examples? No, because one can't supply examples of an absence. Just read a lot about NI and you'll see what I mean, once you start looking for it.

I've found it really saves on mental wear and tear when discussing NI to get all your caveats in first. Please take it as read that I am the last person to think that mere numbers make a cause righteous. My point is only that the lack of interest in the Protestants amounts to bias.

Bad news for Bloggers. The Times has started charging for articles more than seven days old.

Last post I promised examples showing a determined effort not to notice that the really heavy restraint on the Camp X-ray prisoners was for only for the flight. Here's one from the lovable Sheikh Abdullah Azzam.

"However, we may ask: "Is there one single incident of the Taliban treating their prisoners, whether Muslim, non- Muslim, Northern Alliance, Western, in this manner, depriving them of the ability to speak, hear, smell, move, etc. throughout the seven years that they were in power?"
We may indeed ask. Let's ask Sayed Abdullah. The Washington Post article telling his story describes how Taliban beatings and imprisonment crippled him, blurred his vision and speech, damaged his brain, rendered him incontinent, and, in a perfect emblem of the Taliban, killed his pleasure in books. The numerous prisoners of the Taliban who had hads and feet amputated might also score as "incidents", no?

Azzam finished his article on a note intended to be stirring:
"The next time there is a martyrdom operation carried out by individuals for whom the Sunnah of the Prophet is worth more than the lives of American civilians, America only has itself to blame: it cannot point the finger at anyone when the 'chickens come home to roost'. "
No, but it can point daisy-cutters. Good news, when you're dealing with people who think that the proof that a man does value the Sunnah of the Prophet is that he does not value the lives of American civilians.

Thursday, January 24, 2002
Correction. I was posting too fast on the 22nd and ended up being inaccurate when "quoting Instapundit quoting Jim Bennett" about that Richard and Judy show poll. Jim Bennett himself wrote in to put me straight:
"Actually, it was Instapundit quoting Jim Bennett quoting a Washington Post Article. The funny thing about the article was that it was a typical effort by T.R.Reid, the Post's incredibly Europhile London man. Almost all the article was about how Britons are shocked, shocked, by the X-Ray treatment -- except for the last four sentences which bring up the Richard and Judy poll.

My column was mostly about the fact that the supposed "America vs. the World" opinion gap is, at least within the English-speaking countries, a gap between the chattering classes on the one hand, and ordinary sensible people on the other.

The latter group realize that when dealing with people who have expressed their intention to stage suicidal attacks to kill as many people as possible and die in the process (and whose buddies did exactly that at Mazur-e-Sharif -- in fact, some of the X-Ray crowd are survivors of Mazur-e-Sharif), you might not want to treat them the same way we treated surrendering Italian conscripts in World War Two."

I'll add that the latter group also realize that the prisoners are not sitting in their cells muffled up to the eyeballs; the really heavy restraint was just for the time of maximum danger, namely the journey. (I bet the pilots of those flights had a stiff drink afterwards.) There seems to be a determined effort not to notice this fact. I'd post a few links showing what I mean, but, such is the unfairness of life that I have to wash up instead.

How others see us. I found this Palestinian Media Watch site via Kesher Talk. The general style of high-flown murderous hysteria featured in its translations will be familiar to those who've seen what is reported by the Middle East Media Research Institute.

PMW makes no bones about its message and lacks the more moderate Arab voices which MEMRI does feature. PMW's ideological bent doesn't bother me - so long as the translations are accurate it has every right to bring them to the attention of the world - but if it wants solid credibility it should also indicate how mainstream the publications quoted are. Yes, I know the Palestinian Authority does not allow a free press so in a sense anything they put out is "mainstream." Yet even within that there might be degrees and nuances, kite-flyers for mad ideas and pet moderates for western eyes.

"BEFORE THE NEW YORK TIMES STARTS RUNNING "PORTRAITS IN GRIEF" OF FORMER ENRON EMPLOYEES," said, and I thought, wow that is one biting line, gotta blog that, and then I went on and read the next bit: "IT'S WORTH REMEMBERING THAT EVEN AFTER THE COLLAPSE, ENRON STOCK IS STILL WORTH MORE THAN THE ENTIRE SOCIAL SECURITY "TRUST FUND" which turned out to be a really sweet little thrust of the stiletto, too.


Siren song. I tried to resist but I knew I would be sucked over to Unremitting Verse eventually. There's something simply irresistible about the whole idea. Despite the quotes I'd heard bandied about the web, it's not all about Tom Ridge and the present war. For instance there is vast sequel-fodder in verses such as "If My Grocery Store Wrote Me As My Old College Does."

Al Quaeda don't watch movies but they talk to people who do, or they did watch when they were kids, and the somehow the idea of the city-in-peril-from-Dr Strange percolates through the same interconnections that put Bert the Muppet on a pro Bin Laden poster in Pakistan. So I think Robert Altman is right and Damian Penny is wrong. Not a comment I often make.

I've read the first of Pullman's fantasy series, here reviewed by Andrew Marr in the Telegraph. A good review by a man whose ethos and influence I don't like of a good book whose ethos and influence I don't like.

A pro-Mugabe guest column from the Guardian. This is by George Shire It's difficult to know what to say about this, except that to say the bits I do know about are full of distortions and smears, which doesn't give me confidence in the rest. He writes,
"You would never know from the way Zimbabwean politics is usually reported in Britain that Zanu-PF supports a broadly social democratic programme...."
You'd never know it from this Amnesty page on Zimbabwe either. (And it doesn't even yet include the moves to end freedom of speech in the last two months.) I let my Amnesty subscription lapse because I got tired of their other agendas (anti death-penalty, anti-arms trade) crowding out the core work of writing to free or protect prisoners of conscience, but I still respect them for this sort of work.

"As long as Muslims like Mohammad Wakil have a voice," says Bjørn Stærk, "there is hope for Pakistan." He gives a quote from Wakil which encapsulates my see-saw of feelings about the present state of Islam:
"The world is relieved to know that 99.9 per cent of our billion plus Muslims are not terrorists. However, this relief is swiftly displaced by the fact that today, over 90 per cent of the world's terrorists are Muslims. These ignorant, misguided Muslims justify their terrorism as "jehad". And we, the moderate, secular and educated Muslim elite have, for decades, bought into their argument to pacify their wrath against us."

Silly note: there's hope for me, too: if I put Bjorn Staerk's name in as the link I automatically get the funny characters.

Wednesday, January 23, 2002
Who is this chap Krugman anyway? Whoever he is, Random Jottings flags up a nuance often ignored, while quoting another good Mark Steyn column.

UPDATE: A hypocrite, that's who. I've just re-read both Mark Steyn's column and John Weidner's commentary. Both of them need a bit more shouting about than I gave them a minute ago. The Steyn thing is ace. Sample quote:
"In other words, if the producer's girlfriend gets $50,000 for being "script consultant" on a movie (as happened to a friend of mine), she can be forgiven for not knowing about how any of this icky money business works. But, if an economist gets offered 50,000 for nothing, he should at least understand it doesn't come out of thin air -- down the line, it might even come out of the pockets of all those little people he bleats on about."
Plus lots of stuff about the way the paper media are being soft on one of their own. And John Weidner's point, which I have not seen anywhere else, about the difference between donations to a political campaign and donations to a person's own bank account, makes Krugman look worse yet.

Captain Kirk as villain? Thomas Sipos drops me a line every now and again. As well as being a lawyer he is a luminary in a writers' salon called the Karl Hess Club, and this website of theirs mentions the "Prometheus Awards", established by the Libertarian Futurist Society "to honor books in which the Captain Kirks of the galaxy are the villains. Books in which the only good starship captains are those who smuggle contraband past interplanetary governments." Yeah! But nothing can dent my affection for Classic Trek, polystyrene rocks and all.

Some letters you just post uncut. "The ultimate parody of this subgenre of science fiction [Trials of Humanity] has to be the Eighth Voyage of Ijon Tichy, described by Stanislaw Lem in his Star Diaries. It is hilarious - full of descriptions of humans as lopsided bags of mucus ("snot monsters") by the disgusted Representatives to the Star Congress. The trial culminates when it turns out that humans are the corrupted evolution of a higher-beings illegal refuse pile. Actually, it is quite hilarious, as is most of the rest of the book, especially the Seventh Voyage which is a hilarious time-travel-paradox-meet-your-parents story. -- Dave Bakin" Gee thanks, Mr Bakin, so good of you to share.

Some poll results showing why Jack Straw should keep his mouth shut if he wants to stay popular..
  • From Andrew Sullivan on a poll carried out by the enormously popular radio host, Jimmy Young: "Not scientific, I know. But he got 32,000 calls. 92 percent backed the U.S. Just remember: the Guardian is the paper the media elites read. It has influence, like NPR or the New York Times. But it’s not indicative of the real mood in the country."

  • From England's Sword: "Even the Mirror, which has payed up the "torture angle" to the hilt has to admit: 91 per cent of readers in a Mirror poll backed the US treatment of the prisoners. It was a phone-in poll, so unscientific, but it was the largest vote they've ever recorded and the results were so emphatic it must be indicative of something. I hope Gallup or MORI are conducting a poll as we speak (heck, the American Embassy in the UK should be paying for one) on this subject so we can know the real state of public opinion, but I suspect it'd be overwhelmingly pro-US."

  • Instapundit,quoting Jim Bennett: "After the the issue was discussed today on the "Richard and Judy Show," Britain's equivalent of "Oprah," the hosts held a telephone poll. About 5,000 responses came in, producers said. The result: Only 8 percent felt the prison was "inhumane," with 92 percent supporting the U.S. treatment of the suspects."

Intelligent concern about treatment of prisoners is a good thing. A yawning gulf between the so-called leaders of opinion and ordinary people is also a good thing, if it presages the fast-approaching appearance of aforesaid opinion leaders in the dole queue.

[UPDATE/CORRECTION: Jim Bennett was actually himself quoting a Washington Post article.]

Lileks on Richard Scarry: the dark side. Have fun. He has not yet begun to suffer. When his Gnat is a year or two older Lileks Senior will taste the full horror of singing the Teletubbies theme tune while driving even when, for the first time in months, he is alone in the car. A friend of mine got seriously into an SF scenario where the Tubbies were test-tube grown* clone-descendants of aliens imprisoned for long forgotten crimes on a planet run by robots. Sort of like Australians, really. I didn't say that, you imagined it.

Talking of those aliens, have you seen my new "Ranting and Roaring" link over there to the left? Go there and see an awe-inspiring picture of one of the original aliens in its spaceship. This one is an example of the species before it was genetically engineered into the green, purple, yellow and red-skinned forms.

*Look at them. They didn't propagate sexually, now, did they?

What on earth was I talking about two posts down? These two Telegraph pieces cover it well. First take a look at yesterday's leading article "Another Surrender" then at an article published the day before on the recent Bloody Sunday film.

It's the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, so there has been a rash of films and documentaries about it. Fine, normal, OK. What is not fine and OK though it definitely is normal is the glaring absence of any portrayal of or interest in the Protestant side of the story. ('m talking about the whole Northern Ireland conflict here, not just Bloody Sunday.) The British Army take on things is shamefully underepresented but not utterly ignored. The Protestants... hey man it's weird. They've been written out. Invisible.

Do this quiz in your heads. Answers in a day or two's time.
  • What is the ratio of Catholics to Protestants in Northern Ireland?
  • What is the ratio of Catholics killed by Protestants to Protestants killed by Catholics during the Troubles?

And no, I'm not under the impression that two wrongs make a right, nor that the rightness or wrongness of a cause is decided by population numbers, still less that the identifiers "Protestant" and "Catholic" have any significant connection to varying beliefs about transubstantiation and the Real Presence.

I swoop like a harpy! With my cruel beak I snatch links from Perry de Havilland's very mouth! Uncatchable, I fly away to gloat and consume this Onion piece about a gun-besotted peace activist at my leisure.

Tuesday, January 22, 2002
Exciting new 25th anniversary drama in production from BBC! Already in production, ready for screening on the anniversary this time next year is a vivid reconstruction, of the human cost of the La Mon House Hotel bombing. Twelve people were killed, several by being burnt alive, when the Provisional IRA blew up this hotel. This drama will tell their story...

Just kidding.

Philistines take over Reason magazine? I heard it from the Kolkata Libertarian. Reason magazine have published an article by Charles Freund who says that when the Taliban trashed the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan they did more to wrap the statues in greatness than their builders ever did. A very careful reading of the article reveals it as stopping short of cheering the Taliban on, more observing that "fame accrues to those who die untimely deaths" applies even to statues. So Suman Palit is a little harsh to Freund, but I did admire the rest of his comment on the way art made according to quite different precepts reminds us of lost civilizations.

Monday, January 21, 2002
Shock horror! Canadian blogger PICKS UP PHONE! It has to be admitted that some of us are so mentally stuck in the cyber-province that it comes as a shock when you find intrepid souls like Lawrence Garvin of What Fresh Hell ........?, willing to pick up phones, seek out officials by name and ask them for their side of the story. For a phone-phobic like me, that ranks only just short of ringing up Sauron and asking him, does he think he has an image problem?

You will remember the Ms Jan Ovens in the FORCES Canada controversy. She was the official who asked that the Canadian flag be removed from the pro-smoking website. Mr Garvin tracked her down and spoke to her, and reports that she picks up her own phone (which favourably impresses him and in turn me) and was happy to explain.

He says, "It turns out that the flag itself, while it is technically Trademarked, can be used by anyone so long as it is not used in a style that would tend to cause confusion between the user and an official government agency. That was the beef in this case. "

He concludes that the smokers oversold their story.

I don't. I feel sympathy for Ms Ovens because I, like her, have been a civil servant obliged to pick up the phone and explain a government policy to sometimes irate members of the public. But that same fellow feeling also supplies me with a certain amount of cynicism. I've been there. I've done my share of soothing the public, and when I read that the only beef was the possibility of confusion between FORCES and the Government of Canada, I'm afraid that the background music swells in my head, and the tune is a medley of lullabies.

There is one point which favours the government case. "FORCES" is an unfortunate acronym. The phrase "Canadian FORCES" genuinely might be taken to mean "Canadian Armed Forces." But if you look at the snapshot of the original web page you will see that, right next to the flag, the very first line of the explanation says that FORCES Canada is the Canadian chapter of an international smokers' rights organization. How much clearer can you get?

Did any member of the public actually complain that they had been misled by the presence of the flag into thinking FORCES was a government site?

Lawrence Garvin, in saying that the smokers oversold their case, points out that the repressive-sounding section 9 of the Trademark Act,
(1) No person shall adopt in connection with a business, as a trade-mark or otherwise, any mark consisting of, or so nearly resembling as to be likely to be mistaken for,
(n) any badge, crest, emblem or mark
(iii) adopted and used by any public authority, in Canada as an official mark for wares or services,
in respect of which the Registrar has, at the request of Her Majesty or of the university or public authority, as the case may be, given public notice of its adoption and use;

is cited in the e-mail exchange between the FORCES-Canada rep. and the govt. rep but the next and more liberal-sounding section is not. The liberal-sounding bit reads:

(2) Nothing in this section prevents the adoption, use or registration as a trade-mark or otherwise, in connection with a business, of any mark

(ii) an armorial bearing, flag, emblem or abbreviation mentioned in paragraph (1)(i.3), unless the use of the mark is likely to mislead the public as to a connection between the user and the organization.

I don't think that the omission by FORCES of this section damages their case. For one thing, I may be missing something that a lawyer would see, but the way I read it the two sections say nearly the same thing anyway, just in different order. For another, I say again what on earth was there likely to mislead the public? And if the only objection to the use of the flag is the possibility of confusion, can the government please advise its citizens in FORCES Canada of ways in which they can put the flag back on the website in a non-confusing manner?

And this part of Mr Garvin's report was the clincher in leading me to conclude that my sympathies are still with the smokers: "Ms. Ovens told me that this type of intervention had been made "two or three" times before but that there is no organized effort to chase down abuses of trademark on the flag."

If they only chase down two or three then this is a dead-letter law. When a dead-letter law is revived just to nab two or three violators then there must be a reason for those two or three. Much as I disapprove of trademarking a national flag, I can see why it would be a good thing to stop fraudsters pretending a product had some sort of Government approval or backing when it did not. FORCES never made or implied such a claim. No one is saying that they did. So why was the decision made to crack down on FORCES in particular? Were the other two also smokers' rights groups? It looks to me as if this is a case of selective enforcement of the law according to political criteria.

In case anyone's wondering, I am not a smoker and never have been. I never could manage to inhale - I had to fake it when having the obligatory surreptitious attempt at smoking on the way to school. Embarrassing at the time, but lucky for my health in retrospect. Nor have I any connection with FORCES. The first communication I ever had from them was when Mr Walt Hanley sent me an e-mail last night drawing my attention to this webpage.

If any of the relevant officials are reading this, the questions I think you should answer as part of your commitment to being seen to enforce the law equally to all, are in bold.. But don't read Walt Hanley's web page, because he specifically forbids you to in the disclaimer at the end. I'm telling you this because you might otherwise read all the way down the page and only realize when it was too late.

It's a pity. If people keep banging on about this then Ms Ovens will stop answering her own phone, and the relatively human face of the Canadian government will be dimished by a small amount. But I still think the removal of the flag is quietly oppressive and bang on we should.

"Fight Hijackers" says The Times. And those words are a story in themselves. Times change.

A good wigging. Blogs of War links to an article that makes fun of the venerable if sometimes lousy headgear that weighs down the brain of the British Judge, and hints they should be jettisoned. I believe that Australian judges did get rid of the wigs some years ago, but then went back to wearing them. The reason was that off-duty judges found themselves much more prone to be accosted by aggrieved ex-cons when shopping. The wig also puts a brake on judicial showing off. Would the judges castigated by AintNoBadDude be so prone to play to the gallery if they knew they looked like plonkers?

I like the wigs. As I-forget-who said, "are our lives so full of colour and drama that we must set out to make them greyer and more boring?" Finally the wigs and other anachronistic regalia might - and now the edge comes into my voice and it all gets a bit less jolly - they might remind some of our trendy modern judges that the law, including trial by jury, is their entailed inheritance not their bloody productivity bonus.

Must've been in a snappy mood this morning when I made a dig at Instapundit over the Cornell West saga. Actually - you know how you do these things - I was actually quite happy to keep hearing about the egregious West but had noticed the big peak of West stories a few days ago and somehow felt obliged to make a dig because I could. Y' know. Or maybe you are nicer than me and don't. Anyway in recompense I'll say that tucked into a post about K-mart was one of those little buried gems of Reynolds humour that you could so easily miss: "I haven't followed the issue that closely, if you can believe it, but..." Italics mine.

Smiles again. I'm glad Ken Layne seems to have made peace with Scourge of the Warblogs Tim Cavanaugh.

Rail safety is costing lives, says the Telegraph's Neil Collins. I respect him for this. Anyone can sound off about this issue on a blog, and I often do, at zero emotional cost to myself. Mr Collins comes right out and says it in reply to an "how would you feel if it was your son who died?" e-mail from the mother of a young man killed in the Paddington rail crash. He does not abuse a person who has suffered, but nor does he deviate from saying what must be said.

Got to grit my teeth and say it: well done David Blunkett, Lord Irvine and Lord Goldsmith if it was really you who "saved trial by jury", as the front page of the Times put it. Was there any principle there, or was it just reluctance to be unpopular, I wonder?

I'm trying to shut up about the Canadian flag for a bit, lest I be accused of "doing a Cornell West". Unfortunately Hawspipe posted a whole lot of detailed stuff which mentions me a lot. That is completely irrelevant, of course. Just look at the "life's little choices" picture below.

CIA, CIA, How many Al-Quaeda did you burn today? Tacky I know. But how odd it is that everybody's swapped round from talking about wicked CIA activity to wicked CIA inactivity. has a link to a review of three books about the CIA, which like all the best book reviews goes way beyond the actual books.

Sunday, January 20, 2002
Mail from David Janes. "Well, I just did some goggling and found this:
The Canadian Flag is protected by the Trade Marks Act, and protected
against "unauthorized use!"
"The next question is: did someone tell FORCES that this use was, unathorized, or did they do this a publicity stunt?"

Note from NS: I heard about this whole thing from the Libertarian Alliance Forum (it's on Yahoo, but you need to register, and unfortunately there is a stupid hacker loose in it at the moment.) That gave the impression that FORCES Canada were merely using the flag as a visual identifier to lead readers to their bit of the site. But I don't know. And while the question is interesting, it makes no difference to the principle.

UPDATE: Looks like Mr Janes' own blog, "Ranting and Roaring" has more info. I've just added a link to his name above. Gosh, he gets mail from Mark Steyn!

Rare agreement between Aint No Bad Dude and Samizdata on why you shouldn't have cameras in courts. Kudos, Dude, you've moved me from undecided to decided in one fell swoop. And the times when that has happened all stand out clearly in my mind.

Take on the flag issue: Quote from a letter to Instapundit:

"That's nuts," he murmured. "My dad was a POW in World War II. He and his dead buddies earned that fellow the right to carry his flag and speak nonsense."

From the context of the letter it's clear that the flag referred to is actually the swastika. Now, the evil associations of that symbol are about as far away as you can get from the friendly thoughts that I have when presented with the Canadian flag. But the same sentiment should apply in this case as well. Let's assume that you think that smoking is a thoroughly unpleasant habit and that the smokers' rights group are speaking nonsense. So what! A whole load of Canadians (a great many most likely smokers) died to preserve freedom of speech, and that includes freedom of pictures and symbols.

Many libertarians think that the nation is an accident of geography unworthy of their loyalty. I'm not one of them. I think that loving your own country is as natural and need be no more aggressive than loving your own family. But it has to be said that patriotism has been corrupted many times with worship of the current ruling man or group, which is indeed worship of an accident of the times, unworthy of anyone's loyalty. One of the triumphs of our civilization is the partial unbundling of these two ideas. We sneer at the Third World countries with their Presidents for Life and at the old communist countries where the Party and the People were, so we were told, forever indivisible. The reason I'm so het up about one little arrangement of pixels on a screen is that Canada, a civilized country, one of our own, has taken a step in that same terrible direction.

The Canadian flag does not belong to the Canadian government. Neither does Canada.

Saturday, January 19, 2002
The Canadian flag is a trademark of the Canadian government. If you visit FORCES Canada, the Canadian branch of a smoker's rights group, you will see the following astonishing message:
10 January 2002 - The Canadian flag has been removed from this website as use of it is a "trademark infringement". The flag is owned by the Canadian Government. Private citizens are not entitled to its use.

And what a corker of a post this is! That splendid chap Dr Frank... I'm sorry I can't keep this up. That sadist has insulted the very ether by passing on this yeuch-inducing spume of the military-industrial complex about spiders impregnating cows or cows impregnating hamsters or something.

And here are wise words from that most excellent and admirable Jeff Jarvis on Terrorist home videos.

(Note he's moved to

My super, multi-talented and in every way loveable dear chum Jay Zilber says, regarding the question of why we bloggers do the evildoer Tim Cavanaugh's work for him,

"My position ... is that when Mind Over What Matters fails to jump at the slightest provocation, we're letting the terrorists win."

An unexpected pluralism. Instapundit mentioned this NY Times article 2 Jews Outlast Taliban. Maybe Not Each Other. in order to take a poke about the final ending of the Brutal Afghan Winter.

My eye was caught by this:
"While Mr. Levi spoke, two women came to the door to hear holy readings. Mr. Levi is regarded locally as a man of religious learning and these visits seem to be his sole source of income, perhaps explaining his deprived circumstances."

I knew that there were Hindus, and had been Jews, in Afghanistan. What I didn't know is that at least some presumably Muslim women would come to a Jew for holy readings, whatever they are.

Friday, January 18, 2002
Er.. hi. Come here often? Know anyone? Oh, let me guess, you came along with that nice chap from "Suck." That's, um, awfully nice. I expect you want to know what "absolutely everybody linked to, and no wonder." This is it. No it's not. I can't believe this, my big day and the code won't go. Goodbye cruel world, I'm off to Tora Bora to die gloriously.

[Update. Didn't like Tora Bora. Can you believe it, some chap with a beard stole my clothes at gunpoint? I had to come back dressed in these grotty old robes, though I did manage to come away with the thief's rather nice watch which he dropped while putting my lipstick on. While I was away a lady called Myria fixed everything, and I decided to live after all, and devote myself to to the good work of capitalist self-promotion. This is the link to where Tim Blair electronically gatecrashed a talking heads show on Australian TV, and this was what I came back with.]

A glimpse into a different world... I sent my brother the Insanity Test posted below. He said it had reached his office from another source an hour ago, and sent me a link to "Convicts Reunited" in return. He added that he had not yet signed up.


There is a suspicious jokiness about the Privacy Policy quoted. And surely no one would really be so crass as to advertise "The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers" on the banner... would they?

You MUST try this. Go to Damianation and do the insanity test. Make sure the sound is on. Am I the only one who left it running to see how long it went on for?

Phonics is a Republican plot says a "profoundly stupid" article described thus by Joanne Jacobs.. It is, too. Stupid, I mean. The author, Stephen Metcalf, daringly reveals that the Bush family and some other family involved in selling tests had three generations born at about the same time. Well, there's a bit more substance than that, but it annoyed me the way he talked as if no one could ever dream that the Democrats and the teachers' unions might have a few interests in common.

For a UK angle see this Libertarian Alliance Pamphlet by Brian Micklethwait. No, you won't read it if I say "pamphlet", it sounds too respectable. Correct that to "angry rant from personal experience" by Brian Micklethwait.

Breen and Solent Mud Wrestling Shock. Not really, but saying, "you made some really very good points, Moira, particularly about taking charge of your own life" does not get those hits coming. (Hey, that take-charge line is yet another argument in support of the idea of "America! Change yourself first!" Am I going to have to become Noam Chomsky? Aaargh! No! One day I might elucidate the differences.)

I tried to work up an analogy of why the demand that you water the houseplants you never asked for was like having to pay for welfare programs but it sort of died in the earth.

Pulling the subject back to female pioneers, Richard Aubrey made a good point: "Things that would generate a hostile response when done by and to a man befuddle a man when done by a woman. This change of tempo in the social dance usually works to the advantage of the one who starts it, which is to say the woman. So she has no reason not to keep it up."

Warblogger, thou art mortal, says Jim Henley in qualified defence of Justin Raimondo. Also he directs me to Ginger Stampley's White Rose which discusses the housewife wars. Shiloh Bucher also weighs in with a duster. As well as the recent post, scroll down to where she commits herself to "better blogging through clean closets." I said I was going to look for "magic of self-transformation" posts, but that was not what I meant.

Well, it's new to me even if the post does date from November 1st last year. From Michael's weblog, reached via Hawspipe, a deeply responsible line of argument to take with pacifists.

Dunno why I keep going on approvingly about people punching people. Some deep psychological compensation for my ineradicable temperamental wimpiness is at work.

Red Ken: same old stuff. I have to say that I think Iain Murray is 170 degress wrong in his praise of Ken Livingstone for what he says in this Evening Standard article. Any "Massive investment" in communities will show as small a payoff, social or financial, as the last twenty trillion pounds did. Did I say "small"? Small would be lucky. It will probably be negative. As for making it harder to exclude black children who misbehave, think of the effect on black children who behave. Would you work well with a violent criminal sitting three feet from you every day?

I said 170 degrees rather than the full 180 to allow for the true words "How about some legal guns."

[Added later: if you joyfully boggled at the idea of Red Ken's conversion to victim re-armament, de-boggle down. Iain Murray said it, not Ken.]

Thursday, January 17, 2002
There's a story going round that conservative black activist Jesse Lee Peterson is going to sue Jesse Jackson for civil rights violations and assault and battery. Far be it for me to comment on what actually happened at the meeting where the fight broke out (although a happy coincidence of first names does allow me to safely say, hope you got at least one good punch in, Jesse!), but if the case makes the BBC acknowledge the existence of such astounding things as conservative black activists, I shall be happy.

While he does the cooking, my husband likes to report back to me about snippets heard on the radio. Did you know that half of all the strike-days in Britain take place in some part of the Post Office? Or that Soho parking meters earn more than the minimum wage?

Husbandwork. Both Random Jottings and Inappropriate Response are pursuing me with gunk-dipped Purdy brushes, starved houseplants and dingy ivory sofas.

Readers of a sensitive disposition may object to the following.

I torture paintbrushes. I dip them in incompatible types of paint. I lovingly mangle their "edge" or whatever you call it by winkling down into inaccessible corners. I let the paint dry on good and hard, preferably by leaving the brush uncleaned on a windowsill, but sometimes I balance it on an armchair for variety. Then I throw them into horrible dark corners of the garage for fifteen months. Then I use them for clearing out spiders. Then I say, "oh, did you mind very much, sweetie? Never mind. Buy a new one."

I'm only about two days behind on the letters now. I briefly tried an insane system where I would save letters to a special "unanswered" file then pass them through to a "dealt with" file. Sorry.

Several letters deal with Justin Raimondo's stats: Robert Martin says, "...the breakdown doesn't support that total [of 11 million]. Whatever the total, consider this. When your site is titled "," haven't you pretty much cornered the market on everyone plugging in just about any kind of search that includes the word "antiwar" anywhere in its formulation?"

On similar lines, Daniel Hartung writes, "those numbers are generated by (my count) nine (9) columnists, several of whom have been well-known for years (e.g. Alexander Cockburn), supported by as many researchers and even an editorial staff. It's hardly fair to put the hit count of a pro-am site against any single warblogger. If he wants to start comparisons with Marshall or Kaus, (or probably most fairly, that's another thing."

Looking at the daily totals Instapundit, which I'm sure I recall mentioning a high of 23,000 seems to be at least comparable to Mr Raimondo's average of 11,000. Though, to be reasonable about this, what has that to do with whether either of them are in the right?

"Reasonable." A thousand curses on the word. You heard the man. Had I been a bit less reasonable I'd be in Pravda by now.

Mama Spank. A reader called Dan writes regarding the trial of humanity in "Have Spacesuit Will Travel". Although he didn't directly say whether the galactic authorities had the right to try humanity, he does think that a possible defence of the galactic authorities' extermination of the horrible aliens "has to do with the difference between preventative law enforcement vs. correcting problems after they arise." In other words the humans were only potentially dangerous, whereas the Bugs had proved they were. As Dan wisely says, "instead of assuming that everyone is potential criminal, you let everyone do their own thing, then when it is obvious that the repeated admonition "Mama Spank" doesn't work, shoot them in the brain."

Female pioneers nice guys, says reader Tom Roberts. His mother's godmother, Elizabeth Kirk Rose, presently aged 102 was one of the first women MDs and combined motherhood, keeping house, coping with the practical difficulties of her husband's blindness and maintaining a medical practice. With all that, says Mr Roberts, "actually, she had to be both smarter and nicer than her compatriots (all male of course) as her career was not at all guaranteed by merely passing through the curriculum. Specifically, she could have been prevented from specializing after the MD by the faculty never recommending an internship or residency position. As things went, she had her specialty chosen for her, Pediatrics, which was seen as being compatible with her gender." My apologies, Dr Rose.

But even this gentle rebuke doesn't keep me quiet for long. I now re-hypothesize that there are two success strategies for pioneers: you can either charm or push your way to the top. Interestingly, Dr Rose's male contemporaries were utterly charmed, while her female contemporaries thought her "pushy" - although I would imagine that the behaviour so described would be considered completely normal now.

Various people I know have met Margaret Thatcher. They all report that she is just like your best friend's mother.

Pellerito is back - not in Libertyblog which is deep in slumber, but in Samizdata. He has a piece about bonds which makes the issue (haha!) as clear as it is ever likely to be to me. I think he may be cross with me for saying that he "gets his hands dirty" actually working with economics. I did not mean to be rude, indeed I have the greatest admiration for anyone who, for the good of all strives to understand these evil little beasts. An economic bit me in the leg in June 1978, so I know whereof I speak.

Don't read this article. It's in the Times, it's about how they grade examinations and it is worthy in its aims. But it is completely incomprehensible, which is not the fault of the hard-working writer but that of the five or ten incompatible agendas different bits of the state have tried to fulfil in creating umpteen different forms of assessment. You can just look at it if you like. Now take a pill. Why do they bother?

The Guardian praises Fascists, fascist railway systems, rail privatisation, splitting the Italian railway system into separate operating companies for track and trains.. .I always knew this would happen. I've slipped into an alternative world. All hail President Hague and The Sublime Porte, His Majesty King Al of the House of Gore. Seriously, this is not a bad article, in fact it has at least one quotable quip, namely that it was not true that under the fascists the trains ran on time - just nobody dared say when they were late. But how very odd to see it in the Guardian. What will their letters page say tomorrow?

Wednesday, January 16, 2002
Justin Raimondo Wrote Me a Fan Letter (Sort of). Hey, good thing I snuck up to check my e-mail during a brief interval while rest of family have gone off to all-night Tesco's in order to buy a ghastly product called "Spiro 2" with which to further bring home to me my inferiority at all forms of computer games. The wicked Justin Raimondo has e-mailed me. (His heading was "PLEASE don't sulk.") No time tonight for analysis, here's the letter:
Dear Natalie:

I was GOING to deal with your remarks on my "OTT" swipe at Andrew Sullivan, really I was: but by the time I got near the end of my 3500-word screed, I was so exhausted that I just didn't have the energy. That's one reason: the other is that you, apparently, are the Reasonable Faction of the Warblogger Conspiracy. Your nuanced remarks about how you aren't against putting 9/11 in the more general context of US foreign policy, contrasted with, say, Joanne Jacobs' militant "luv it or leave it"-ism, put you in a different category altogether. But I WAS going to put you in at the end, as a contrast to Sullivan's "India (and Israel) must be unequivocally supported" stance.

Okay, as to your question about the "hits/visits/unique visitors" etc. that gets: I've actually done a little research. Over the last 30 days, we've gotten a grand total of 11,147,014 "hits". This breaks down as follows:

Visits 524,516
[Average Per Day 17,483]
Unique Visitors 181,041
Visitors Who Visited Once 134,833
Visitors Who Visited More Than Once 46,208

What's interesting is the amount of time they spend on the site:

Average Visit Length 00:10:50
Median Visit Length 00:05:13

Of course, that's for the whole site. My column, last month, had 104,476 visits (we don't have a breakdown
on 'unique visitors' for individual items, but I would say it's roughly 100,000.)

On weekdays, we average 15,000 unique visitors per day: 10,000 on the weekdays. There's usually some major link somewhere feeding traffic, either from Yahoo, WorldNetDaily, or some other source. It'll be interesting to see how the mention in Instapundit turns into hits. started out just as many of the "warblogs" did: one guy ranting. Of course, it's ended up that way, too -- but with 100,000-plus readers per month.

So, as you can see, Instapundit's somewhat sniffish remark that we're just "trolling for hits" is a bit pretentious. If anyone benefits, traffic-wise, it's going to be Reynolds, not us.

I see you are a science fiction fan. Of course, you are aware of sf fandom: it's interesting how much the "blog" phenomenon parallels the "fanzines" of the sf world. When I was a teenager, fanzines were my primary literary outlet -- and, boy, did I have fun!

It was funny, really, how Reynolds simply assumed that is a typical, leftist anti-capitalist band of Birkenstock-wearing Chomskyites. It apparently never occurred to him that anyone to the right of Jonah Goldberg might be opposed to turning the American republic into a souped-up version of the Roman Empire."

Announcement. I would just like to say that I personally love Matt Welch's hat.

I wasn't mentioned in Justin Raimondo's denunciation of warbloggers, kindly e-mailed to me by Sulk. The ingratitude of the man. I tried to get him some hits the other day for going OTT in an anti-Sulli article. Couldn't that have been good for at least a dishonourable mention as a minor lackey of the forces of evil? Instapundit, Ken Layne, Bjorn Staerk and Sullivan (of course) do get the treatment, and Joanne Jacobs comes in for particular ire. Raimondo defiantly tells her he will not be silenced,("To that, I – and millions of others – will never consent, and if you don't like it… well, you can try to shut us up, but I wouldn't advise it."), as if she in particular were likely to pop over to his house with a bunch of ex-Pinochet secret police.

Last point: Mr Raimondo says that he personally gets a lot more hits than all the warbloggers put together, but does not cite any numbers. His qualification "(visits, visitors, readers, whatever)" suggests that he has done a calculation that gives one answer by one method of counting "one hit", and another by another. If you're reading, Mr Raimondo, tell us more.

Shock news update: world is round! Like ripples after the tidal wave, September the 11th has had several second-order small effects that have only become apparent now that months have gone by and people, except for the bereaved, can find it in themselves to look around. One of them is that the illogical American habit of putting the month first when writing dates as numbers may come to dominate. This, of course, stems from the striking coincidence that 9-11 is the US emergency number. Another is that we now all know the US emergency number. (Possibly soon to be ours as well; the authorities are weighing the greater ease of remembering 999 against the greater probability of it being rung in error by small children or even by a mobile phone hitting the side of your bag as you walk.) Yet another effect is that I finally started to believe all this stuff about time zones. 9am in New York is 2pm here. I'll never forget it. Previously if I had to call the US I had to do things like hold a satsuma up to a lamp and rotate it, uttering incantations like "the sun rises in the East, so we get it first," or remember a completely obscure snatch of dialogue from Chico and the Man.

I said I'd never forget it, but for the first time in months, I did forget today. There's a person in America still sleeping the sleep of the just to whom I bunged an e-mail hours ago in the confident but foolish expectation of a quick reply. However, in general, all this blogging really has taught me that the world really is round and in Australia it really is already tomorrow.

One from the obits. I confess I had not heard of this Lord Young of Dartington (born Michael Young) until reading his obituary, but he certainly seems to have been interesting and original. His last daughter was born when he was eighty years old, for one thing. Something of a mixed legacy on the political front: I do not look on the ground-breaking Labour manifesto of 1945 as a great boon to mankind, and I can get heartily sick of the Consumers' Association and its mag Which? sometimes. (Message to the ever-vigilant Which? scanner bots descending from all directions: No, I do not want to take part in a free prize draw.) But if he was one of the first to look at "the way slum clearance schemes disrupted inner city communities" then he deserves a kind word. And one can scarcely object to a college for funeral directors.

The Open University, which he helped pioneer, is another curate's egg. It is an admirable way to finally get the degree in Mathematics or Romance Languages you always wanted, had life not got in the way first time round. But the OU Marxist strangehold on sociology helped get "Sociology Degree: Please Help Yourself" written over toilet paper dispensers all over Britain.

Money will corrupt blogging, says Anita Jensen.

I don't buy it. If you end up with an audience of 150 persons daily (average) at a cent-per-view basis, you're making $1.5 . I can't imagine who would do this for the money. If you're attracting 1500 people, you're still making a whole lot less than the minimum wage.

I think the model for payment ought to be some kind of deposit-in-account system where I (the reader) put $50 or $100 into the box and then each view is automatically subtracted. When the money's gone, the outfit that deals with the money advises me and I can post more or not, as life dictates.

The whole point of this is that it takes one decision every several months to ask yourself if what you're getting is worth to you what you're paying. Anyone who didn't think it was could easily reverse course and redo his budget. This is not rocket science and I am also assuming most of the folks who read blogsites are not idiots.

Efforts to bring such a system down to 5-year-old levels are just silly. People are pefectly capable of figuring out if they want to see a site daily and thus run the horrendous risk (!) of paying 1 cent for the privilege or if they want to save it all up and read once a week. I am not, myself, quite so anal, but I suppose there are folks out there who are not me.

As it stands, I have in the past three months spent money on blogs of assorted kinds that I liked but my main problem with doing it this ad hoc way is that I have no way of recalling (on an instant basis) who I paid for what and how much. I absolutely do not have the time or energy to delve back into ancient credit card receipts to try to decipher this information and I can't actually emphathise with the person who would try. Although, of course, all power to them.

I keep touting this because I don't think I'm unusual. I expect there are many others who have dropped dollars on their favorite sites and would like to do on a sustainable basis but can't stand the boredom of keeping notes. One of my understandings about the entire Internet hoo-hah was that it would help me out from keeping notes, fr example. I have an account with Amazon that appears to be bottomless and (so long as I keep paying my bills) that's exactly what I like about the Internet. I can go to Amazon any time, buy what I want and know I won't face a hassle about doing so.

That's what I think bloggers ought to aim for: a painfree auto-deduct system that works without customer input.

Anyway, I appreciate your taking note of my viewpoint, even if I am not gathering universal agreement.

Effect of nicotine varies according to race. The equivalent story about alcohol would be more of a hot potato, but the BBC seems to regard this story about a study comparing likelihood of lung cancer across the races as uncontroversial. Good that they do. Race is actually an intrinsically interesting subject if you can keep the lid on your emotions; recent insights into British history gained from genetic studies are fascinating.

Variety packs: Before all this feminism causes me to totally lose my Paglia-style credibility, can I direct you to Random Jottings where there is some very funny stuff about how these days even the Nazis will have racially mixed propaganda posters.

The objection to the tampering with the NY firemen statue is that it was meant to show a true moment of history. You want a statue with a lot of idealized females personifying diverse geographical backgrounds and ways of life? Come over to London and airlift out the Albert Memorial. You can have a big stone cow representing "agriculture" thrown in for good measure.

Drat. I just missed hit no.16,000.

Tuesday, January 15, 2002
Does your wife work? No, she's old and knackered and I'm trading her in. Dare I break a lance for the feminist cause in the face of Moira Breen's stormy riposte, backed up by the big guns of Instapundit.

Yeah. The running dogs of the masculinist oppressors will never intimidate me! My dear spouse and helpmeet, despite the time when he set up a time-delay camera to catch a kelpie in the act of changing the sheets, would be the first to defend me against any charge that I am the sort of woman "who would never ever personally confront an actual individual male over loutish behavior." Our relationship is more the sort where he starts citing the statute of limitations. (Crimes such as "Not Knowing Where the Bin-liners Were Kept After Two Years of Marriage" are considered "spent" after five years. Criticising My Driving In Front of Witnesses, like murder, has no statute of limitations at all.)

But it would be unladylike to dwell on my own particular case, particularly as I have no intention of letting my hus. tell his side of the story on my flippin' blog. Nor will I waste too much time specifically defending Ms Maushart, whose book I may never have the pleasure of reading, but I say again, she has a point. I won't jaw about the exact percentages but I thought she was spot-on with the general message of this:
"The moment a man gets married," Maushart says, "his domestic workload almost disappears. He immediately gets about 70 per cent less cleaning, 50 per cent less cooking and 90 per cent less laundry. There are nowhere near these benefits for a woman when she gets married. And these days you're at pains to deny that you're doing it, because apart from being exhausted by it, you're ashamed of yourself."
Then Moira comes back with, "Not a very nice thing to do someone you allegedly care for, is it?" And that is also spot on. But the two statements are not incompatible, either as to intrinsic truth or likelihood of together accurately describing a married couple. The mark of a system, or climate of opinion, that needs reform is that it makes people who may well be nice - at least as nice as most people - do un-nice things.

Let's take the approximate truth of those statistics first. If you get a bunch of women together they moan about these same things. They have the status of proverbs, so common are they. Study after study says that in households where both have jobs, the woman does, in fact, do more than her share. She can't bear to have dirty socks on the floor; he can. Moira herself good-humouredly admits that tidiness "is a chick thing."

Among modern liberated folk it is unlikely to be the case that the man refuses or shirks any specific job. He'll do anything he's asked to. But he won't initiate, he won't remember unprompted, and he won't notice what needs doing. He'll put on a wash, if asked. But come eleven o'clock at night, it will still be in the machine. She will ask him to take it out and hang it up. He will. Then, says he, "is there anything else you want me to do?" She can't think right now. They are both tired. "Right then," he says, "I'm off to bed. Goodnight darling." And she won't follow him just yet, because first she has to feed the cat. And put away the milk that was left out after the last cup of coffee. And check the doors are locked (she gets worried about that; he doesn't.) And set the heating to "economy". And put out the letter that must be posted where it'll be seen. And put the grill to soak. And get out tomorrow's meat to be defrosted. Then she goes upstairs to the loo and sees that somebody - no, I'm not saying it's necessarily the husband - has, shall we say, had a sprinkle when they tinkle. So she cleans it up. And she notices that the shirt he so complaisantly hung from the shower rail is all wonky so that, if left, it would end up looking like one of Quasimodo's. So she straightens it. And then she goes to bed, and he says, "what kept you?"

I don't sound very gracious, going on like this. But that itself is another relevant point. One of the numerous intellectual debts I owe to my former political incarnation as a left-winger is this observation: it is always easier for the winners to act nice. My lord can dispense mercy to the peasants with a merry smile; I bet the peasants were a surly, resentful bunch. When women first broke into such professions as medicine and law, can you imagine what a bunch of obsessive harpies those first pioneers had to be? Feminism is, by hypothesis, a matter of looking at institutions and customs that have proceeded without opposition for centuries and pronouncing them wrong. It is seeing and denouncing a problem where no-one, even the victims, saw it before. It is hard to do this and stay welcome at parties.

I grant you, many modern feminists (and anti-racists) are parasites riding like fleas on the reputation established by their grandmothers. They have long since won the battles of simple justice that the earlier generation fought, and now coast along regurgitating their once-righteous anger and turning the hose onto the most absurd and innocent targets. But legitimate targets do still exist, even if, at least in the West, the abuses to be denounced are minor in comparison to those in other places and other times.

For example Maushart is also right to say this, "There is the more subtle, emotional care-taking work. Things like organising and masterminding the whole family enterprise..." I don't much relate to Maushart's particular example of the woman being expected to worry about how family relationships pan out. But "organising the whole family enterprise," yeah, been there. I challenge you, Moira, or any married woman to put your hand on your heart and swear to me that your husband has never said, "have we got my sister's birthday present yet?" or words to that pattern.

A last and less contentious thought. I too aspire to "the golden order and serenity of a household out of a de Hooch painting." Beautifully put. When disorder does enroach, I am particularly likely to retreat to the computer. Is that because it is a highly ordered micro-environment, I wonder?

Have Computer, Will Blog. Andrew Millard kindly says, "I love your site, and appreciate anyone who mentions Heinlein stories in context of current events (even if she can't recall titles like "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel.)" He reminds me that "the main character (along with the representative specimen from an earlier era of Earth history - a Roman Centurion in this case) does take exception to being judged by these obnoxious aliens, and rather vociferously denounces their right to judge us. Indeed, the Centurion chucks his spear at them and dares them to fight fair. A great story and fully in keeping with Heinlein's typically positive view of humanity, warts and all."

Please settle at your soonest convenience. Alan M. Caroll suggests a shift to e-bills on the micropayments page. Incidentally, you have no idea what agonies went into that bit of code "". In about 1980 a computer club was started at my secondary school. Anyone would've thought I was a prime candidate: SF fan, wanted to be astronaut, good at maths. Nah, I thought, nothing for me in that.

Go figure, Byers. Would-be investors in the railways say, "Bite me once, shame on you. Bite me twice, shame on me." A proverb I first heard articulated by Pavel Chekov on Star Trek.

Talking of education by early evening TV, Moira Breen, quoting Jonathan Gewirtz (who writes good stuff to me too) with approval, denounces "The Day The Earth Stood Still" as "noxious totalitarian propaganda."

It's interesting that what I shall call the "Tidy Up Your Room Or Else" or "Virtuous Einsatzgruppen" model turns up so often in juvenile fiction. For instance there is a whole series of popular kids' books by Bruce Colville following on from "My Teacher Is An Alien", all of which use the common SF trope of a Trial of Humanity with blowing up Earth as one possible verdict. I eventually gave up on the series because, despite being engagingly portrayed as sassy and independent-minded, none of the human kids ever seemed to work up the nerve to stop trying to placate the galactic authorities and instead say, "at least on our world the Nazis lost!"

There's also that Heinlein juvenile which uses the same trial idea...

[Hi. This is the Demon of Almost Completely Irrelevant Asides here. My job is to lurk in Natalie's synapses ready to jump out when the opportunity arises and tempt her to waste even more time on the internet. Just gotta tell you about a really great temptation I put over her just now. She was a bit embarrassed at admitting that, once again, she didn't know which Heinlein story she meant. So she went off to search (Heinlein+"roman soldier"+SS) instead of asking the readers like my good buddy Angel Sticktothepoint wanted her to. Ho ho, I had her in my coils then. Sure as hell (geddit?) she found this great list of SF stories to do with mathematics, so she can kiss goodbye to any hope of achieving anything today. And now I can infect all you guys too. I love my job. Bye now.]
...although, with typical Heinlein complexity he one minute hints that he thinks the political setup that allows this is not all it should be, and next minute gets us cheering when he exterminates a whole race of unredeemable baddies.

Boy. Is that the time? Having just about managed to fight off the demon, I've got to log off now. Even arguing with Mol-ra about feminism and the Virtuous Dude about capitalism must wait for another day.

Such is the psychic grip that this blogging stuff has on me that I actually woke up this morning thinking, I said "moot" when I meant "meet" in the previous post. Or perhaps I meant "muut" a Turko-uguric word meaning "that'll impress 'em", or even "maat", which as you know is Hausa for "Long time no see, Mr Welch!"

Monday, January 14, 2002
Propped up in the saddle like El Cid, the recovering Iain Murray rides into battle, with a link to his own article in American Enterprise Magazine on the gap between European elites and their people regarding the death penalty. I found it interesting to see that the AEM thought it moot to put in a little note at the bottom saying that Mr Murray is an opponent of the Big Chop. His article sticks firmly to the question of the democratic deficit.

Ego-deflator Virginia Postrel says that blogs aren't such a big deal and micro-payments won't happen. Now, now, dry your eyes. V.P. links to an article by Arnold Kling suggesting that we are using an outdated paper-era magazine model. Payment for content? Pooh, old hat, like paying for air. You pay for the thing or person that screens the air for anthrax. Except I mean, like, it's good anthrax. Um, that wasn't one of my more premium-level metaphors, was it? (Found for me by Joanne Jacobs)

How many people will this kill, I wonder? Sometimes it's the little stories, the unsensational ones tucked away in the business section, that are the most ominous. An EU directive imposes insanely strict product liability. It is used to sue the providers of the free (FREE for heaven's sake) blood transfusion service. So maybe, think would-be investors, researchers, entrepreneurs, jobseekers, just maybe we won't go into the lifesaving business after all.

Like It Or Lump It. I always used to despise the way newspapers headed their stories with idiotic puns. Now look at me. Yeah, blogging showed me it isn't that hard to write op-eds, but sometimes it also gives me a dawning sympathy with the awful things sub-editors do when hard pressed for a headline. To the saucy story in the Guardian. Yeah, it's that one about the EU reclassifying lumpy sauces as vegetables. Andrew Osborn, wishing to defend the EU, seems to think that it is some kind of a scoop to reveal that those wicked sauce-manufacturers (a) are multi-nationals, (b) used a lobbying firm to make their case and (c) blamed Europe.

To support (a) and (b) I will cite this:
"But the perfectly legal yet stealthy way in which multinationals fight their lobbying battles through the press leaves a rather sour taste, even if corporate interests do happen to coincide with media ones."

(a) "Multinationals" first. I thought the wonderful, liberating thing about European Union was that we would all be free to trade across borders. Gone would be the days of Little Englanders and Petits Francais; now companies would recruit and trade across this exciting jumbo-size pool of however-many customers. A company so constituted is called a multinational. In fact he has no evidence that the single-country sauce makers love and yearn for the sieve of the bureaucrat, so the entire multinational angle is just neurone-twitching for Guardian readers.

(b) They used a lobbying firm. So Herr Lumpen-Saucenmeister, who knows all there is to know about the secret recipe for 'Nice 'n' Chunky Five Spice Surprise' but nothing at all about whom to contact in the press hired someone who did. How awful, nein. And if Herr S. did feel the need to keep his name secret from the EU, could that be because the EU makes life nasty for people who criticise them - a government of men and not of laws, in other words?

(c) They sneakily complained to Europe, as opposed to, say, Ardnamuirchan Parish Council or the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board. Osborn writes:
"The Eurosceptic angle - the ludicrous eurocrat take - was an obvious winner and the story was cleverly sold to journalists on that basis."
That's because Europe was the problem. As ever.

Finally EU officials think it very hard that they are singled out. "Every country in the world has to make these kind of decisions," they say. Why? Who makes you? Is there a worldwide Jacquerie of fanatical supporters of bureaucratic import duties prone to placing the decapitated heads of Dolmio executives onto pikes and waving them outside Brussels windows?