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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Monday, September 30, 2002
I was struck, writing the post below, by how much more I knew about events in Northern Ireland thirty years ago than events today. I was reading the Letter to Slugger O'Toole blog and scarcely had an opinion on most of the issues raised, except the vague hope that it would all come right somehow. With apologies to those concerned with life and death issues, it's like losing the plot of a soap opera. When my kids were small and I had little time or sleep I lost the plot of Northern Ireland. I lost the plot of a great many other news stories too, but that didn't matter so much as I could regain it with a little reading later. But with Northern Ireland, everything's in code. Seemingly innocent concepts and phrases carry extra meaning, clear to both sides in the know but by mutual and half-conscious agreement not spelled out to outsiders. This obliqueness spills over even into communications where no one is trying to be obscure. It makes it hard to tap back in.

Home to roost. Gerry Adams linked to the murder of the Northern Ireland "disappeared". Ed Moloney, the Northern Editor of the Dublin Sunday Tribune has written a book that alleges:
...Mr Adams had earlier set up two covert IRA intelligence cells, nicknamed the "unknowns", which reported directly to him and were charged with disposing without trace people - most of whom were nationalists - whose deaths could cause the Provisionals embarrassment or bad publicity.
The best known of the disappeared was a woman called Jean McConville. Moloney alleges that Gerry Adams must have ordered or at the very least approved her murder. The IRA say they killed her for being an informer. Leaving aside the question of whether being an informer is a good or a bad thing, her family deny it. They say all she did was cradle the head of a shot British soldier as he died outside her house.

Mrs McConville was the mother of ten children which fits a Catholic stereotype, but actually she was a Protestant. To those who knew Northern Ireland later it is surprising to learn that she had been married to a Catholic (he died), and lived in the Republican Divis Flats area, but all this happened in 1972 before the process of segregation by harassment and threats had really got going. A few days later a gang abducted her and beat her up. She escaped, but not for long. The next day later a second IRA gang - this time including four women, which is unusual - dragged her from her home in full view of her screaming children. It is believed that she was "interrogated" (and we're not talking about a chat over coffee here) then killed. Her body has never been found, despite a thorough search of a beach in Co. Louth, south of the border, following a tip-off a couple of years ago. Left orphans, her children struggled to stay together under the care of her 15 year old daughter, but eventually the family was taken into care and broken up.

By the way, Ed Moloney does not confine himself to investigating Nationalist crimes. He has been active in investigating the murders of Pat Finucane and Seamus Ludlow, two crimes in which it is alleged that the RUC were involved as well as Protestant paramilitaries.

Sunday, September 29, 2002
Earth calling Amiri Baraka! Not that I had ever heard of this poet, despite the confidence placed in him by the state of New Jersey which appointed him poet laureate, but my eye was caught by the title of the piece. Keats told us that "Poetry ... should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost as a remembrance." Here is a sample of Mr Baraka's efforts to live up to that maxim:
Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed
Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers
To stay home that day
Why did Sharon stay away?
Stefan Sharansky rang him up, got a series of spectacularly dopey and ignorant replies, and tosses and gores him in the article linked to in the title of this post.

Friday, September 27, 2002
The Today programme had nothing to say about the biggest political demonstration in British history, the Countryside March, despite claiming to be a flagship programme covering political affairs. Its editor pured scorn on the marchers in a Guardian column, saying that they were a reminder of why he had voted Labour, despite having signed up to a duty of political impartiality when he took up the post. I give a potted history of what happened in Biased BBC.

A letter to the Financial Times outlines the pressures on the Euro.
Those countries that have in effect turned a blind eye to the rules - Italy, Germany, France and Portugal - have been allowed to do so without much in the way of a rebuke from the Commission and nothing more than anxious tut-tutting by the finance ministers of the eurozone.

Excusing its lethargy, at least in the cases of France and Germany, the Commission will point to this year's elections as demanding a discreet silence.

This is no way to run a stability pact. Indeed, we can question whether this pact or any pact can have real credibility when the temptation for governments to try to buy re-election via fiscal generosity will always outweigh eurozone "good governance" requirements.

These pressures will never go away. There's always an election on somewhere.

EU applicants urge Ireland not to reject Nice Treaty says the headline to this story. Actually it means "Government ministers from the governments currently ruling nations applying to join the EU urge Irish electorate not to reject Nice Treaty." Whether the people of Hungary, Estonia and so on generally wish to join this decrepit organization is not discussed. Not that the Independent is the only paper habitually guilty of confusion between sitters and sat upon.

By the way, I had never before realised how different the paper Indy is from the electronic one. The paper version only has half the story, leaving out all the stuff about the leaked memo. And a different headline.

Wan-Wan. Japan Today reports on a device that can translate dogs' barks into Japanese.

The comments from "Fangpi" and -it appears - "Douglas MacArthur" are hilarious:

See Spot speak!

Fangpi (Sep 27 2002 - 17:45)

Once man's best friend is given a voice, I don't know how much longer the friendship can be expected to last.


Fido: Wan-wan

Owner: "Stop humping my leg, damn you!"


Fido: Wan-wan

Device: "I'm horny"

Owner: "Tough s**t. And stop humping my leg, damn you!"

This is one time when technology should leave well enough alone.

Takara launches gadget to convert dogs' emotions into words

Douglas MacArthur (Sep 27 2002 - 18:01)

Rumor has it they're making one for salarymen next called 'Oyajilingual'. It will convert the semi-audible grunts that form the basis of salaryman's conversation into actual words. Designers, though, have only found 4 words and one phrase that sumarize a salaryman's entire existence: bath, beer, shower, bed and girlies' panties.

The device also has a special setting which lets users know when their salaryman has had enough in life and will announce: 'take me to the train platform and push me in'.

Joking apart, this device seems perfectly feasible. I can distinguish several different words in my cats' vocabulary. There's "happy","bird", "feed me", "enemy cat", "horny" (heard in their younger days) and "get me down from the garage roof" for a start.

Thursday, September 26, 2002
Looky here. Amygdala says that the Arab News has an article saying it would be kind of nice to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Can he be right? Yes he can.

What is it with Arab News lately? Don't they like being savaged by bloggers? They used to be a reliable source of sicko stuff to rant about, and they still do have plenty of it, but one or two articles and cartoons recently suggest that there are other, more benign, voices struggling to be heard..

One of my all time favourite TV moments starred the late Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania. He's up on his balcony, addressing the masses assembled below. From his exalted position he can hear a low rumble coming up from the crowd. Graciously he makes a regal gesture, extending an arm and patting down the air, to indicate his desire that the applause should now cease. Then he realises... that noise is not applause.

Yeah, so it's a bit of an anti-climax to move on to Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. But isn't it fine that MGM are standing up to the shakedown-meisters? About time someone did. While it would be uncharitable to wish that either gentleman should suffer the fate of Ceausescu, how I would have loved to have seen their faces when it dawned on them that their rule was being challenged.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002
Germans have a sense of humour, sense of humour, sense of humour.

Some inner demon drove me. I put Tim Blair's effort through Babelfish.

Poland-harvesting bunker monkeys
Welfare-scarfing nature babies
Slap-dancing Fahrvernugen goblins
Order-following command munchkins
EU-lusting sausage honkies
Scrabble-busting maxosyllabic Gemeinschaltzentrum spellers
Luther-boosting Riesling huffers
And it came out as:

Polen-Ernten der Bunkeraffen Wohlfahrt-Flämmen Naturbabys, welche die Fahrvernugen goblins Auftrag-folgen den Befehl munchkins Eu-lusting Wurst honkies Scrabble-sprengen die maxosyllabic Gemeinschaltzentrum Spellers Luther-aufladen Riesling huffers Slap-tanzen

It took me a moment or two to notice. Look where "slap-tanzen" came out. That poor, hardworking computer did its Teutonic best. It put the verb at the end.

Mick Fealty of "A letter to Slugger O'Toole" kindly directed me to this post, commending an article by a Anthony McIntyre, a leading light of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity campaign who quotes Chomsky.
I agreed with the article. I even agreed with the Chomsky quote. I must have fallen into an alternative universe.

Evil tidings from the Indian subcontinent: seven Pakistani Christians murdered in attack on charity and Indian forces on high alert in face of terror strikes in Gujarat.

There is something particularly scary about the Indian temple massacre, even besides the horror of killing worshippers of any religion at prayer. It seems to be a deliberate re-ignition of the firestorm that followed February's massacre of Hindu pilgrims on a train returning from Ayodhya. Hindu mobs took brutal revenge for that, killing hundreds or thousands of innocent Gujurati Muslims in the weeks that followed. Did the Islamic fanatics who attacked the temple want the same thing to happen again in Gujarat? I rather think they did.

It is a relief to turn from these dark thoughts to the safe, familiar procedure of slagging off Reuters. The second report I linked to was from IRNA, the Islamic Republic News Agency. Can anyone tell me how come the news agency of one of the "Axis of Evil" states, the Islamic Republic of Iran, sees no difficulty in calling terror - terror carried out by their own Muslim co-religionists - by its true name, but Reuters can't manage it?

Tuesday, September 24, 2002
This story about the Japanese citizens (and, no doubt, even greater numbers of South Koreans) abducted by North Korea twenty years ago continues to obsess me. Ever wondered what the North Koreans themselves said about it all? It was "we take this serious." Oh, good. I learned how serious they took it from this Korean Central News Agency website. (They don't make it easy for you. First choose September 17 from the calendar and then scroll down to the second item. The people who were abducted, enslaved and in many cases murdered are described as "missing.") Here's what Corsair the Rational Pirate had to say about that. Between me and Mr Pirate there is not a complete meeting of minds on all subjects - religion for instance - but, by G-er-whatever, he hits the spot there. (Link found via Damian Penny who has posted on the subject here and elsewhere.)

But for sheer, unadulterated weirdness take a look at this. The poor drudges who churn out the KCNA's mind-rottingly boring output about how the Prime Minister of St Kitts & Nevis sends greetings to the Dear Leader have to do what they are told or end up starving to death in a work camp. In contrast, this website, the bulletin board of the Korean Friendship Association, is full of bright young things called Dermot and Alejandro who voluntarily swap "Juche greetings" and discuss the best means of refining their understanding of the Dear Leader's wisdom. No one obliges them to at bayonet point. They just like doing it.

Dear Friends,

In the KCNA article on the 17th of September, the DPRK announced the DPRK-Japan declaration and announced the return of missing Japanese. The DPRK government is regretful of what has happened, and promised not to let such things happen again.

If only the United States of America could be equally honest and admit their mistakes, which are far, far, worse.

Bjornar Simonsen

Bjonar Simonsen

Oslo Norway - 09/17/02 23:54:43 CST

Dermot wasn't fooled by this apparent admission:
re the KCNA bulletin for 17/9/2002 I intrepet[sic] the Foreign Ministry statement as just saying that the missing Japanese have been located........this has been distorted by the imperialist media into meaning all kinds of things.

Dermot Hudson

Dermot Hudson

LONDON UK. -09/18/02 15:54:18 CST

I hope you all realise that I am devotedly typing this all out. As the "KFA BBS" is a bulletin board, I assume that as new posts are added in the next few days these posts will slide off the bottom and lost to posterity. Sooner if they realise that the imperialist bloggers are looking in on them. And for some reason I cannot copy the text. The typing is tedious work, though, so I'll skip a few posts. Here's Alejandro Cao:
I just now talked with the DPRK diplomatic corp.

The statement since the beginning until today is that the Japanese people were missing, and the DPRK helped the Japanese part to find the people they're looking for, but at the moment there's not a single word referring to the 'recognition of kidnapping'.

What I was reading in CNN, BBC or other media is that a 'person near to Koizumi' said that.......

and as always the capitalist media take the words like something real when they can be used to say
Didn't I tell you they're evil? -quoting Mr. Bush.

Is incredible that a local newspaper will know always more than the own DPRK Ministries!!

I can also say that I know the Prime Minister Junichiro since I'm 5 years old. This kind of words are just wind, and at the moment the only official point is that the Japanese were missing and the authorities took the proper investigations to locate them.

Why they were missing... or the reasons why they went to Pyongyang? We'll have more details soon and I'll keep you informed.

Best regards,

Alejandro Cao

-09/19/02 01:10:00 CST

I shall look forward to being kept informed by Mr Cao when the individuals listed here finally see their homes again and tell their stories.

UPDATE: The Japan Times says that a diplomat has actually met the abductees.

The Guardian asked "politicians, historians, activists and commentators" what they thought of the Countryside March. They did not ask postmen, software engineers, soft porn stars or me. I will correct at least part of this deficiency. If you want to see the original article without my malicious edits click on the link. If you want to see what soft porn stars think of it all, do your own research. Allons!

Ian Jack - Editor of Granta: "Is it possible that the march was neither a seminal moment in the history of popular protest nor a media confection? That it was both things? That - very boringly - might be my guess. "

Me: Too right mate. Next!

Tommy Sheridan - Scottish Socialist MSP, organiser of the anti-poll-tax movement:

...seemed rather a sweetie, but wrote far too reasonably on the subject of protest for me to quote him at all entertainingly. He did make a late effort with

"Poverty in rural areas is very real and needs to be addressed, but the way to do so is through national policy, such as a higher minimum wage and investment in rural services."

Yes, lets. Then we can have more enormous agricultural machines and the remainder of those unsightly labourers will become unemployed. In the spirit of Lord Peter Wimsey investigating where the drains go, someone I knew who had once seen a labourer tried to find out what happened to them afterwards. She reported that they were put in something called a "drop-in centre for the unemployed." Best thing, really. I'm sure they are much happier being dropped in there to be recycled into doormats and children's play equipment than they were when they had a low wage. Anyway, if that's what the man means by "investment into rural services," I'm all for it.

Francis Wheen, Roger Scruton and Amanda Platell all said sensible things. Talk about peverse incentives: none of 'em get any attention from me at all.

Tristram Hunt - historian: "The numbers were impressive, but the march was inspired by a culture of hostility to New Labour and a visceral anti-Blairism that would have put off a lot of people. They would have had even more numbers if they hadn't been so aggressively and personally hostile to the prime minister."

To me, Hugin! To me, Munin! Find me, O Thought, Find me, O Memory, one - just one - human soul in all this wide realm who sayeth in his secret heart, they speaketh cruel words against the Queen's Annointed and so I will not go.

Richard Benson - writer and journalist, who is working on a book about the modern British countryside: "But it's difficult talking about class in this context, because the march did involve a lot of working-class Tories. Liberal thinkers have trouble with them because they are happy to march behind their bosses and vote for those who their employers think best represent their interests."

Yes, when I hand out soup to my tenants I always give the poor dears strict instructions as to how they should vote. Mr Benson's book about the "modern British countryside" has just about reached The Great Reform Bill. He continues:

"...I was struck by the parallel with the miners; both protests were about the end of a certain way of life. It's hard to formulate any realistic demands around something like that."

"Don't ban hunting." Not hard to formulate at all.

Bruce Kent - vice-president of CND: "I've never known a CND march to be flagged up until it's over..."

I somehow managed to find my way to several in the 1980s.

"...and then there will normally be some critical remark made about how somebody did something stupid or wore something silly. We have a march next Saturday organised by the coalition against war on Iraq, about which I should think nobody outside the peace movement knows anything."

I know about it. Then again I have an obsessive interest in political no-hopers.

"It did make me feel nostalgic seeing it on Sunday. I remember being on the platform and seeing a sea of faces from Speakers' Corner right down to Hyde Park Corner. I remember saying to these people, "Lift up your banners," and it was like watching an enormous field of flowers coming up. Whether we were ever bigger than what happened yesterday, I don't know. We were very big in our day."

I too waxed nostalgic about those same marches. Ah me, well do I recall being outraged that the Telegraph said that some of CND's top brass were tools of the Soviets. I didn't think that even those fascist Torygraph warmongers could really believe such slander. Cor, didn't I laugh when it turned out a bunch of them were not merely unwitting tools of the Russkies but fully paid-up spies.

We have a very, very peculiar system of democracy in this country. Once every five years we have an election, and that's it. Apparently we could go to war without parliament voting on it. Anything that gives a chance for local people to demonstrate and have an input, I think is great.

Actually this last line, illogical as it is (does he think local input into BNP demonstrations is great?) won me over. I always did have a soft spot for the monsignor.

Douglas Hurd - former foreign secretary: "Every prime minister has an in-tray marked "too difficult" and that's where Blair has put foxhunting. The march highlighted that. There wasn't a person there who supported the ban. If the march had any political significance, this was it. The government's attitude towards the marchers has been called relaxed, but is actually evasive."

Never thought I'd have a good word to say about the man who started the modern round of gun-grabbing, but that hit the nail on the head.

Michael Foot - former leader of the Labour party: "It has no political significance whatsoever. If these people want to demonstrate, why don't they demonstrate against Britain going to war with Iraq? What's going on in the Middle East is far more important."

Consider that this man, who says the largest demonstration in modern times, and probably in British history, "has no political significance whatsoever" was once seriously submitted to the electorate as a candidate for the office of Prime Minister of Britain.

On your second point, Michael. I'd never really thought of considering political demostrations solely as a leisure activity, but if you say so, I will. I guess what we're looking for here is a good demographic in the client base, networking opportunities, lavish provision of Portaloos, and really classy supporting merchandise. Can you honestly say that shouting "Hands off Socialist Iraq" in the company of a SWP activist who moonlights as a local govenment officer really makes the grade?

Stella Tillyard - historian:"People are comparing this march to the Chartists and the Jarrow marchers, and talking about the huge numbers, but these people could afford to march. It's a false claim to put it in such a historical context. Most people who have demonstrated in the past with a grievance have not been able to afford to march. There were vast Chartists' meetings in the north of England, but of course people could not afford to march to the capital because they didn't have any money. They couldn't afford to charter trains and coaches and book London hotels. It's a completely different constituency."

Protests only count if you can't afford to be on them! Or sumfin.

"I absolutely don't think it's a significant event. The really important decisions about the countryside will be be taken in Brussels. The common agricultural policy [CAP] - this is really what these people are protesting against. Hunting is a way of making it colourful and appealing to British snobbery. When they say their way of life is threatened, it's a way of life that's become dependent on subsidies. The CAP will be reformed with EU enlargement."

Such faith.

"The other thing you could say about the march is that the Tory party is not a credible party of opposition. What other way do these people have to say whatever disparate things they have to say? It's the Tory party on its feet. Nobody takes the Tory party in parliament seriously. It's a way of getting attention in terms of issues."

Actually this last para should read:

The other thing you could say about the march is that

(8) the Tory party is not a credible party of opposition.

(5) What other way do these people have to say

(1) whatever disparate things they have to say?

(6) It's the Tory party on its feet.

(0) Nobody takes the Tory party in parliament seriously.

(2) It's a way of getting attention in terms of issues.

The whole thing came from typing 851602 into the random anti-Tory spiel generator.

Monday, September 23, 2002
On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair. Jim Bennett has a column on the ludicrous proposal from Andrew Duff MEP that the EU rules should be changed to force countries to stay inside even when they want to leave. He - Bennett, not Duff - compares the EU to a Roach Motel. I can let you know in confidence that Mr Duff is our side's most devoted and cunning deep cover agent. Can you imagine any proposal more certain to arouse the fighting spirit of even the most supine British Prime Minister?

Dodgeblog came up with a similar metaphor. Incidentally, Andrew needs the love of a good woman. That's Dodge not Duff.

Can anyone track down this story? I'm told that the Tasmanian government is thinking of banning snowmen because of the "danger" when they melt. They also, I am told, plan to ban snowball fights.

Sunday, September 22, 2002
Quote of the day:
"The IDF is "isolating" Arafat. Haven't we been in this movie before?"

- Tal G in Jerusalem.

Wisdom comes in time. Surprisingly, this Guardian article about the ending of the French ban on British beef is cynical about the workings of the EU and coldly hostile to the French agricultural lobby.

Certain poor benighted heathens have asked, who is this Dan Dare chap* anyway? This site introduces him. I've just discovered that neither of the further info links at the bottom of the page work. Never mind. This gets you there.

As James Rummel and I agreed, it is distinctly depressing that the interplanetary adventures of Dan Dare are set in 1997. We seem to have fallen into the wrong future somehow.

In a similar vein James laments that we have the UN we have (with Colonel Gadaffi in charge of human rights, ye gods!) instead of the proper UN as depicted in "The Man from "U.N.C.L.E."

But I must disagree with the post two up, past the one which calls me a blog goddess but honestly that is not the reason why I'm talking about this you can skip the one about me if you like, which talks like it's a bad thing for space exploration that some rich kids from a boy band are going to pay $22M for a ride. It's great for space exploration. Which is a more fertile and reliable source of funds: appropriations voted for by a committee of politicians who know there ain't no votes in space, or the unsleeping desire of rich human beings to buy a new experience - in this case an experience literally like no other on this earth?

*Dan Dare is definitely a chap and not a guy or dude.

The perils of active citizenship. Husband and kid-who-did-want-to-go have gone to the Countryside March. Self and kid-who-didn't-want-to-go have stayed at home. I feel a certain guilty relief at second kid's stay at home tendencies. Can you imagine the queues for the toilets?

Saturday, September 21, 2002
I knew something was wrong when the house didn't shake under the impact of coruscating beams of power from the descending space vehicles of all those US-based Dan Dare fans. Sure enough, when I clicked "view web page" it turned out that nothing I've posted today is visible on the page.

During my first few months of blogging this no-show phenomenon never happened. Now it happens every few posts. Three times out of four the following sequence cures it: template - save changes. Archive - archive template - save changes. If that doesn't work the first time, it usually does the second. But now I've done it twice and it still doesn't work. What's worse, the "FTP log" has lots and lots of writing on it (don't ask me what any of it is jabbering on about). Hitherto this has always meant that the transfer worked. I find it ominous that this time seems to be an exception.

UPDATE: It's working now. Firmness! Firmness is what these creatures need. If you take a strong line obedience will follow. Good blog, good blog. Er, that's enough. Down, boy! - Down, I say, DOWN...

Youse all remember how Jim Henley and I had a ding-dong (actually not dingdonging from that far apart) about what was legitimate and what was not when discussing "root causes" of the September 11 massacre? This post of his from November makes some good points.
"The danger lies, and I think this is what bothers Ginger, in the idea that to explain is to excuse - that if we identify Iraqi sanctions or US support for Pakistan's ISI as contributing factors in what was done to us, that that somehow means the hijackers were not evil after all. This danger is more than theoretical - we've read and heard entirely too much from people for whom US policies really do excuse the murders of 9/11. We are not talking about "moral equivalence" either. Neocons abhor what they call moral equivalence, but, properly considered, true moral equivalence is the only acceptable eithical standard for judging foreign policy and state violence. What we get from the anti-American left, at home and abroad, has nothing of equivalence in it; rather, any perceived US transgression from the Arbenz coup to the Kyoto abrogation utterly vitiates any American right to respond to the attacks of September or even to complain about them. It's ethical prestidigitation with "moral equivalance" used for misdirection only."

Dan Dare is on in 45 minutes. Channel 5. I'm not sure what that is in Venusian ronits, but it's time enough for you to get halfway round the world in a low earth orbit, so if all you Americans jump into your rockets right this minute you can still be here in time.

Friday, September 20, 2002
"That stuff is so 1999." When I met Claire Berlinski at Perry's Blogger party she wondered whether we shouldn't try to move beyond simple outrage at the outrage at the use of the word "niggardly." She has a point. I still think parent Akwana Walker was spiteful in pursuing her child's teacher even when she knew no offence had been meant, but I have to admit that I would avoid the use of "niggardly" in conversation with non-university educated black people, for reasons of courtesy as well as prudence. Here's John Derbyshire radiating sweet reason on the subject. And, drat him, using up the send off line I thought of, featuring the word "snigger."

Here, though, is a nice question of etiquette. ("Nice" in the sense of... oh heck, you knew that.) At what point does avoidance of that word (or other explosive but innocent words or phrases) by a white talking to a black¹ become not courtesy but stereotyping? Avoidance implies that the listener is too uneducated to cope.

No, I'm not asking this question just to make trouble or to make the whole thing look ridiculous. I've already said that I would avoid the word "niggardly" and similar words in many cases. The problem is that avoidance is, arguably, objectionable itself.

Final point: One reason for my particular downer on Akwana Walker is that the word didn't just come up in conversation. It was introduced as part of a vocabulary lesson. The fact that the word had an innocent meaning was clear from the start. And, shifting the stress, it was part of a vocuabulary lesson: Mrs Walker preferred to douse her child in synthetic outrage rather than have her learn one new word.

¹Come to think of it, the qualification as to the race of speaker and hearer isn't entirely necessary to the argument. A black speaker might fear to look like an "Uncle Tom" to other blacks. A white speaker might fear to inflame racism among other whites.

A can of worms is opened. Scroll down the Guardian's weblog for several more stories on North Korea and the abduction plot. These events seem almost too odd, too novelistic, to be true, but they are. Recent developments include:

  • We know that the stolen 13 year old, Megumi Yokota, is dead. (The Guardian has a sad story from the day before yesterday detailing the high hopes of her mother prior to the summit where this all came out.) But I learned from the Sydney Morning Herald story posted yesterday that Megumi had a daughter while in captivity. We have yet to discover in what circumstances or who the father was. What should happen to this child? I wouldn't be too keen on saying that she should stay with her father if it turns out that he was Megumi's controller who decided to add the rape of a prisoner to his other crimes. This scenario is just my speculation - but a likely one, for it seems vanishingly unlikely that Megumi was allowed to live freely and choose her marriage partner for love. Perhaps the poor girl, like slave women forced into concubinage throughout history, decided to make the best of her situation, push the great wrong done to her to the back of her mind, tell herself that she welcomed her master's advances, and try to re-create as best she could some semblance of the ordinary domestic life she had once enjoyed.

  • South Korea also says that 486 of its citizens have been abducted in addition to the Japanese. Will any now dare dismiss this claim as paranoia or conspiracy theorizing?

  • Finally, there is the most ominous ramification of all. According to the Korea Times, one of the other abductees was a Japanese woman called Lee Un-hye. Whether that is a Koreanization of a Japanese name or she was ethnically Korean I do not know. This name under various spellings has been heard before. In 1987 two spies, a man and a woman, blew up a South Korean plane, killing all 115 aboard. They then took poison. The man died; the woman lived, was caught, and sang. This woman, Kim Hyon-hi, working under the Japanese alias of Hachiya Mayumi, said she was taught Japanese by this same Lee Un-hye. However until yesterday there was little evidence to back this up. Indeed this report from 1998 pours scorn on the whole theory of abductions by North Korea, hinting that it was all a concoction by murky forces in South Korea. (That theory's been blown out of the water, of course, but the article does supply a potted history of the disappearances.) In conclusion it seems to me that the admission that Lee Un-hye was abducted is also an admission that North Korea committed an act of war against South Korea.

Unbelievably, the state-controlled Saudi media is still peddling the blood libel. The link is to Little Green Footballs, quoting MEMRI.

Actually, not unbelievably at all. Question: Given that this sort of indefensible Stürmer-like raving on the pages of government-controlled newspapers really makes the Saudi government look bad, and they know it, why can't they stop doing it? Answer: because the poison has soaked so deeply into Saudi society that they can no longer even smell it on themselves. This article came out of the writer and then was picked out of the pile by an assistant editor and then was selected by the editor and then was passed to the translator and then was typed in by whatever the modern equivalent of a typesetter is called and then was checked by the sub-editor and was seen by the other reporters hanging around in the newspaper offices and no one, no one, saw anything at all wrong with it.

The A-Level mess. I've got a post on Samizdata with some good advice to Education Minister Estelle Morris:
"I know a breathtakingly simple way for Estelle to get out of this mess entirely. It's this: Get out of this mess entirely, Estelle! "
More over there, edu-fans, including a link to the Telegraph's pretty good coverage of this scandal.

Thursday, September 19, 2002
King Akwa's mistake. Here's an anecdote that may or may not be true, but illustrates a point. Sometime around 1850 one King Akwa, who ruled part of the Cameroon, striving by diplomacy to avoid his country being taken over by the British, French or Germans, wrote to Queen Victoria to apologise for the deaths of some of her agents. He added that he was particularly sorry that his wayward people had eaten them after killing them.

I don't suppose the admission helped his cause. But how was he to know it wouldn't? Someone had explained to him that the whites had this particular aversion to cannibalism and he naturally assumed that it was therefore extra-conciliatory to apologise for that part specially.

A google-search for "King Akwa" reveals a great many entries, but I haven't tracked down that story. I'm told it can be found in Thomas Packenham's "The Scramble for Africa", which I haven't read. Never mind. Keep it in your heads while I turn to a story that happened more recently but is equally shrouded in mystery.

I posted the other day about the unexpected admission from the North Koreans that they did, as suspected but never proved, abduct several Japanese citizens twenty years ago. Around half of them died in captivity. I am very glad that the unfortunate survivors will soon be able to return to their families. (And what's this 'next month' lark? Why hasn't it happened today?) Glad I may be, but I am also mystified. Putting aside for the moment all issues of morality, it was, from the point of view of the North Koreans' own interests, a dangerous thing to admit. If I were a North Korean ruler and were as wicked as a North Korean ruler, I would have killed the Japanese once they were of no more use and never said a word. Didn't they know that the people of Japan were going to be bitterly, righteously angry? I can only surmise that the North Koreans, living in they do in a tyranny where one or two innocent people disappearing is neither here nor there, have no idea that public opinion can matter. Like King Akwa they must have thought that since the foreigners seem to have a thing about this particular practice then it might look well to apologise for it nicely.

I have a good deal more sympathy for the late king than the Dear Leader. Akwa, if I have the same man, forbade slavery. North Korea has yet to do so.

No news was good news in Israel. After six good weeks the suicide bombings have resumed. Alert police observed a man acting suspiciously and approached him, whereupon he detonated the bomb, killing himself and one policeman. Since the killer's target was almost certainly a crowded bus, this officer literally died that others might live.

Even the appearance of a holiday was an illusion:

But Israeli officials denied yesterday's violence had anything to do with Israel's rejection of the Palestinian ceasefire offer. They claim they have captured would-be bombers during the past six weeks, but that one finally got through.

UPDATE: And now, of course, another bomber did get through, killing five commuters on a bus.

I'm not telling you who those new recruits into the New Model Army are, because I'm pretending they've been there for ages. You just didn't notice. The one exception is The Machinery of Night, because it's new and so I can't possibly be blamed.

Wednesday, September 18, 2002
Testing, testing. If this has worked there should be some new names on the blogroll.

Now I'm here I had better talk about something. A friend of mine is very worried about the Axis of Evil. She's worried about the way they can't seem to get the hang of cool missile names. The Iraqi "Scud" for instance. Scud. Is this (a) a relative of the tuna, found in the Bering Straits, (b) a Scots dialect word for a potato, or (c) the noise made by a missile scudding harmlessly into the sand, like the Seed of Onan. Oops, gave that one away, didn't I? The Iranians, not to be outdone in their stern avoidance of vulgar machismo in missile names, have purchased a Scud redesign from the North Koreans called the "No Dong."

Brendan O'Neill has a new home. Unqualified Offerings thinks the property is generally sound, but doesn't like the wallpaper. He is dead right about anchor lines placed so that it is not clear to which post they refer. England's Sword is another offender!

I ought to adjust my template, a task I find irritating and fiddly beyond measure. I ought to argue with Brendan O'Neill about his idea that highlighting news items of barbarism in far off lands is pornography, a task better fitted to my talents. I ought to argue with Iain Murray about legalising drugs, another job which would be engrossing once begun. I shall do none of these things. Bye bye for the rest of today.

The silent majority voices its sympathy for America. The Telegraph's Janet Daley wrote a column bitterly denouncing British media schadenfreude about the September 11 attacks. She found herself knee deep in letters of support.
"They were, with only one or two exceptions, unanimous in their disgust at the "America got what it deserved" refrain that I had described. More than half of them began with uncannily similar words - "I am so sorry" - and went on to say how ashamed they were of the media (particularly the BBC), which presumed to represent their national perspective. Several asked the question, "What planet are these people on?" I wonder if the incestuous media club, which so ostentatiously despises the views of ordinary people and believes that it has succeeded only if it has angered them, realises quite how much it is loathed."
This has also been my experience. I haven't been following the polls, but I'd be surprised if a majority of the British public supported a war on Iraq. But I am pretty damned sure that the vast majority of them were burning with sympathy for the victims and anger against the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks.

Incidentally, that same distinction provides a serious answer to Jim Henley's neat retort to me the other day. When I hear the "America had it coming" theme tune play I want to wash out my soiled ears. When I hear people say we shouldn't attack Iraq I just want to disagree.

Tuesday, September 17, 2002
I was flicking through my "news sources" list while rather guiltily wondering whether any of Peter Briffa, Mrs Briffa or Pejman Yousefzadeh would be mad at me for my little joke when I came across a story that, in its strangeness and sadness, put all that right out of my head. North Korea admits that it kidnapped Japanese citizens twenty years ago. Apparently they were wanted in order to teach Japanese language and customs to North Korean agents. One of the abductees was a child of thirteen, kidnapped on her way to badminton practice. Megumi Yokota is now dead. No one seems to know how she died. What was her short life like, I wonder?

Thanks to the miracle of Babel Fish we can find out what on earth Peter Briffa is talking about:
"Bonjours, my children! I blogge not today because I and my beautiful wife Mrs Briffa ons go the booze cruise have Calais. We will esperons to buy many wines and beer, and perhaps much of cigarette for the father of my wife. Also, we will esperons to have a dejeuner has Boulogne. If you want to read the blogges, have a look with the homes and women has the sinister. Also, he is a new bloggor, Mr. Cinderella Bloggerfeller, which is very interessant. He contribute much has my sections of how, and has a blogge which is very intellectual are humoureux. Also it know many phenomena Frenchwomen. Goodbye, my pea! At tomorrow! "
Actually, as I lament in my comment to him, some strange Blogger process seems determined to deny me the Briffa wisdom and send me to PejmanPundit. I think I had best accept this transformation gracefully. After all, given his interest in phenomena Frenchwomen, one will have to wait a long time before Peter can write as Pejmanpundit does:
"I just realized that I am writing this blog in a relatively (if not absolutely) sin-free condition."

"...Science Fiction, Sewing..." It's not often that I get to fulfil two of this blog's selling points in one post. Gary Farber of Amygdala says that you can get a lunch tote embroidered by Ursula Le Guin's own hand by donating to SF journal, fiction-bank and general resource Infinite Matrix. (Seriously for a mo', it is actually an admirable venture.) Presumably Le Guin doesn't do all that careful silkwork for just everyone. I believe lesser donors get a pair of socks said to be knitted by Manly Wade Wellman or one of George O. Smith's much-loved crochet doilies.

Now that we're all friends... Jim Henley of Unqualified Offerings quotes me as saying:
Likewise I think, frankly, that most of the "blowback" and "root causes" talk was no better than the bar-room mutterings of the rapist's cronies.
But not all of it was. I can't specify any exact dividing line between legitimate and illegitimate "root causes" talk. (Such talk could be legitimate but mistaken.)
and responds in a like spirit:
Golly! In the spirit of comity contained in the lines below, I'm happy to aver that while most of the expansive war crowd (the Iraq-plus people) are either opportunists, hysterics or people who first discovered the Middle East on 9/12, some few of them are expressing a legitimate, considered policy preference, though I'm not prepared to say exactly where the distinction lies.

Monday, September 16, 2002
Angie Schultz, dark mistress of the Machinery of Night has supplied the url of the Mark Steyn column that was mentioned earlier. Battered Westerner Syndrome.

"Poor, sweet, naive Natalie." Angie also wrote about an experience she had when the discussion turned to the rape analogy:

I started to blog about that a month ago (just after the column came out), and ran out of steam after quite a bit of blog post.

Poor, sweet, naive Natalie, thinking that people might wake up and see dimly the error of their ways when confronted with an apt analogy.

On a Usenet group I *used* to read, a fellow made a similar point. He said that this "we had it coming" crap made him think of battered women, who sought to find some flaw in themselves that would justify their attackers. This analogy has a number of problems, but it is human nature to search out causes for things.
Something must have caused this, therefore we must have done something... I got the idea, from his post, that this unseemly schadenfreude had been troubling him greatly, and he was relieved to catch at an explanation for it.

But the other posters were on to him like flies on Fisk. How DARE he make this connection between poor, innocent women and the big bad evil US! One woman said she had worked in a rape crisis shelter (just like Steyn's friend, note) and that the man's comments were So! Offensive! and she was So! Outraged! that she was thinking of putting him into her killfile. (Note that the man in question was one of the sweetest, mildest posters on a contentious group, and did not have a history of being a jerk.)

So the poor, attacked SPINELESS WORM retreated in confusion and tears (if a Usenet post can be said to have tears), and announced his retirement for a few days. When he came back, he apologized for violating RightThink and said he was better now. (I'm sure the re-education camp was loads of fun.)

In the meantime, I wrote to him privately, encouraging him in his original point. I never heard back.

Hmm! Now I've written enough letter to make the blog post I didn't write. (I didn't have a conclusion; the best I could do was to warn Steyn's friend that she should be careful what she said, lest she disappear for a while, only to turn up with a suspicious scar and a vacuous smile.)

I have several times changed and added to the post below on the analogy between those who say that "the US was asking for it" and "the rape victim was asking for it". So even if you saw it earlier, you might like to take a second look. My first comment on the subject was here.

All that "turn on safe mode" Blogger fandoogle doesn't seem to be working, so I can't correct that last bad link. I meant to say
...and in Samizdata.

Overwhelmed with material, I must postpone giving these arguments the response they deserve. One quick point: I don't see what was so awful about the actions of the father in the case described. If I recall rightly, neither did the kid concerned. The dentist's waiting room scenario is one where nerves are likely to snap on all sides. The argument that it is as humiliating and traumatic for an eight-year old to be smacked on the bottom in public as it would be for a grown woman strikes me as simply untrue. I was trying to remember if it ever happened to me as a child, and couldn't recall either way. My very vagueness is evidence that such an act is not necessarily that traumatic. Arguably it's wrong for our society to take that attitude, but it does, and that makes a tremendous objective difference to the level of harm done.

I quite see that similar-sounding arguments have been (mis)used by past societies to excuse violence against women and blacks. But that brings us right back to the crux of the difference between the beliefs of the Taking Children Seriously movement and, let it be said, the rest of humanity: are the rights of children and adults the same?

Alice Bachini posts on the case of that man in Scotland who was convicted for smacking his kid here in her own blog and

3:08 PM
Suing an epileptic because of his face. UPDATE: Ampersand of Alas, A Blog writes:
Hi! I just wanted to point out that the story you posted last week
appears to have not quite been true. See this link to Epilepsy Action Scotland.

I am relieved.

("Alas, A Blog" is a head-to-header, i.e. one of those all-too-rare examples where a blogger of one political persuasion gets into substantive debate with his (her?) exact opposites. Also important stuff: cartoons, time travel.)

"Asking for it." I wrote last night about the analogy between those who are quick to say rape victims should blame themelves first and those who say that the United States should blame itself first. Christopher Johnson of Midwest Conservative Journal writes:
"'s not mine. I think I read it in a Mark Steyn column or it might have been somewhere in National Review. If I remember correctly, whoever the writer was was talking to a friend whose wife worked with rape victims and battered women and she couldn't stand hearing the "What did the US do to provoke this attack?" stuff she heard all over the place. Reminded her of the garbage she heard every day."

Chris Bertram of Junius wrote regarding my second, related analogy, concerning women who are attacked by present or former husbands and previous US support for Osama Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein. He says:

"I don't think your analogy holds up at all. The case is more like someone who has bought a pit bull with the intention of scaring or even attacking people and who then finds they can't control the animal, that it bites them, or their friends, and may kill their kids. Sure, the right thing may be to destroy the animal now, but bystanders are entitled to say that they
shouldn't have bought the thing in the first place.

"Now you might say to the woman, "you should never have married him", but the presumption has to be that however unwise the decision was it was not guided by evil intent. Not so in the cases of the pit bull, Osama and Saddam."
I have more to say on this topic - scroll back to this post later.

UPDATE: Peter Briffa of Public Interest made a good point:

"Surely the better analogy would be:

A woman buys a pit bull. It scares away her horrible neighbours and
potential burglars. But then it turns around and attacks her.

She knew it was bad. But she didn't know it was that bad."

OK. I'm running out of time to blog today, and I haven't said half what I intended too. So, rather than write a connected argument, I'm just going to put down as many thoughts as I can in no particular order.

  • The rape analogy is intended to persuade as well as merely illustrate. Many of those who most strongly think that America "asked for" September 11 are the same people who would most strongly reject the idea that any woman could be "asking to be raped." I would imagine that the use of that particular analogy is very effective indeed at bringing such people face to face with an inconsistency in their own thinking; and that is how minds are changed. It would be contemptible to use the analogy for tactical effect if I did not believe it, but I do believe it.
  • The left-wingers and feminists who originally stamped on the "she was asking for it" meme were right to do so. We owe them a debt. There is an uncrossable chasm between observing that certain actions may increase a woman's risk of being raped and making light of the crime of rape.
  • Those who want to do the latter will often pretend they are doing the former. Likewise I think, frankly, that most of the "blowback" and "root causes" talk was no better than the bar-room mutterings of the rapist's cronies.
  • But not all of it was. I can't specify any exact dividing line between legitimate and illegitimate "root causes" talk. (Such talk could be legitimate but mistaken.) Again the rape analogy is actually helpful in distinguishing. After a decent interval a person of goodwill could bring up, with extreme tact, the subject of whether past actions on the part of the victim were wise or right, and whether different actions should be taken in future. But, by God, you wouldn't do it while she was still bleeding. Nor, Mr Chretien, would you take the opportunity of the anniversary of the event to shoot your mouth off.
  • While I concede that not all those who talk of "American oppression" as being a root cause of September 11 attacks are malign, I do not concede that any of them are right. Personally, I think America's main fault with respect to the terrorists was in not killing them earlier. I think that Islamofascism is, getting back to the analogy, equivalent to a rapist who picks as his target to attack and humiliate the woman of his aquaintance who is most confident, successful and rich. Of course the rapist has a whole spiel on how it is somehow her fault that he is so poor, miserable and twisted, but it's baloney. As for the woman, she may not be a saint - let's say she once had some political dealings with this guy, disreputable though he was - but her main mistake was in making too many excuses for him when he first showed signs of becoming violent.
  • Anyway, now we know what he is. The analogies converge. He must be stopped.


Kidnapped child rescued from Colombian rebels.

Back in the '70s or early '80s, didn't ZANU or ZAPU have a thing about kidnapping bunches of schoolchildren, too? Or was it SWAPO?

Worth the wait. When Larry Elliot finally gets some steam up after wheezing through four of five paragraphs of melodramatic scene-setting, he blows a fine whistle on what 'Black Wednesday' ten years ago means for the Euro now.

Black Wednesday was the event that led me to formulate Solent's Law of the Lemming: any new law or political decision cheered on by all the parties and all the newspapers ends up splatted at the bottom of a cliff. Test it out with some of the unsuccessful measures of the last decade: Entry into the Exchange Rate Mechanism, Dangerous Dogs Act, Firearms Act, US intervention in Somalia... And don't bet on Gordon Brown's popular money-therapy for the NHS working.

Never thought I'd see this. China meets envoys of Dalai Lama. I didn't know the two sides had met twenty years ago, either.

Saturday, September 14, 2002
Two analogies. This may offend. I don't say it lightly. Imagine a woman who has been raped and beaten. The rapist has said that he will return to kill her later. The woman's friends are very concerned. They tell her:

"You must humbly ask yourself what you had done to be raped. Promise to mend your ways."

"You shouldn't have dressed so prettily, so expensively. It made him feel bad."

"He only did it because he was poor."

"Well, OK, not personally poor, but he was very concerned about the poor. He thought raping you would help them."

"He employed a lot of skill and resolution in the way he tracked you down and raped you. Really, one has to admire that."

"Don't try to go after him. You can only do that if we say you can. We might, one day, when we're good and ready. If you are nice to us."

"We don't care if he says he's trying to kill you. You can only strike at him if he's actually here in the room, attacking you again. You'll just have to wait."

Some friends, huh?

I assume everyone reading this can figure out what I'm talking about. I don't know whether this analogy originated from one person, or whether several people saw the correlation independently. I saw it used most recently at MCJ. Though unpleasant, I think the analogy holds true. Furthermore it does what all good analogies should and leads one to new conclusions. For it is possible that the woman's own behaviour made it more likely that she would be attacked - if, for instance, she acquiesced in earlier, smaller assaults.

Here's another aspect: all the talk from Nelson Mandela and Fisk et al about how the US once supported Osama Bin Laden so how dare they turn against him now - or how the US turned a blind eye to Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war, so how dare they attack him now -

How does that logically differ from "He raped you? He's trying to kill you? Tough luck, lady. You shouldn't have married him."

Would Mandela defend that line?

Pontifex Maximus A mighty personage writes:
My real name doesn't appear on my blog, but I rank #1 for queries for Pontifex, my nom de cyber.

As far as why this happens...

One, you have a Google PageRank of 6, which is quite respectable. (For more on Google PageRank, see:

[Google PageRank works like this: a link to your site is a vote. The higher the PageRank of a site, the higher the site's vote is weighted. It's much more complex, but I've found that anything more indepth just causes headaches.]

Natalie Portman only has a Google PageRank of 4, for example, so Google prioritizes your site above her, all else being equal.

But Natalie Imbruglia also has a 6, and you rank above her.

Here are some other factors to consider:
* You include your name at the bottom of every post, which cranks up the numbers of time the search word appears on the page, which boosts your relevancy to the query.
* Google also factors in the text of links to you in it's algorithm. And blogrolls that blog your name, or links that refer to you as Natalie, add up, also boosting your priority.

Hope this helps.

No it does not help. Quite the contrary! What would help is for you to give me convincing reasons as to why Portman, Merchant and Imbruglia were mere chaff in the wind and Solent is, in fact as well as Google, Supreme Mekon of the Natalieverse.

(Talking of which: Dan Dare. 9am, Channel 5. Unmissable.)

Hola Camp. Paul Ibsch writes:
"Hola Camp was the final straw for a disintegrating British Empire. In the years 1953-1959 the UK had slaughtered 250,000 Kenyans and hanged Dedan Kimathi, Kenya's Nelson Mandela.

The net effect of Hola Camp was the denial of history that is so evident in Britain today. Tasmanian Genocide?Opium wars in China? These things happened. And make the Belgians look good. But then again perhaps we Belgians are more honest.

My point about Hola Camp was mostly the oddity of choosing that relatively tiny example. It's like citing the village elders that Stalin's minions had shot on one afternoon in 1937 to stand for the evils of communism - with this difference, that by 1959 British colonialism really was a joke contestant in the World Evil All-Comers. To be honest, I very much doubt that figure of 250,000 slaughtered Kenyans. This brief history of the Kenyan Independence struggle, which praises the Mau Mau, speaks of 5,000 guerillas killed and 12,000 civilian deaths. Likewise this Kenyan educational website which also is pro Mau-Mau, quotes a figure of 13,000 Africans killed in the conflict.

Often I distrust figures for the numbers of victims of colonialism because the same sources downplay or ignore the victims of African or Asian despots, or of socialism.

In general, I see little evidence for a denial of history. I admit that the Tasmanian Genocide is too little known, but it has been in my consciousness for at least twenty years. We get the Irish Famine morning, noon and night, and the major denial of history there is that it is presented as the results of laissez-faire rather than of powerful British interests hijacking the power of the State to strangle any potential competition from Ireland. (You know why there is an Irish linen industry? Because that was all that was left them after tariffs had killed off their wool and cotton industries.) We hear a great deal about slavery (and so we should), but very little about how the Royal Navy drove the slave-traders from the seas.

The Opium Wars are an odd case. They were adequately covered in my school history book, but I never dreamed the day would come when I would see them defended on the grounds of the right of the Chinese working man to smoke whatever he pleased.

Friday, September 13, 2002
Smacking update: the TV news reminds me that the teacher who smacked his kid outside a dentist's waiting room was convicted. In contrast, you and I know that in your home town and mine there are children going to bed tonight in pain and justified fear for their lives, and nothing is done about it because securing a conviction would take effort. And that's under the existing law. Scots parents can be very glad that Jim Wallace's little bit of social engineering can be deferred - until the EU get round to it, of course.

UPDATE: In fact, so convinced am I that the proposed law was nothing but another piece of make-work and empire building by whatever they call the Scottish Department of Social Security these days, that I wouldn't be surprised to find that even a great many of those who oppose corporal punishment entirely while retaining a libertarian cast of mind are relieved that it will not come to pass. Any of you guys care to comment?

OK, OK, I know Google overcounts blogs. And much as Ken Layne deserves to be the very epitome of Ken-ness and Tim Blair, the pattern and exemplar for Blairites worldwide (who on earth is that other chap anyway?), they aren't yet accorded their rightful status by anyone except Google and a rather select group, namely us bloggers.

Still. #1 out of 1,900,000. If anyone who understands these things cares to send me one of those stashes or caches or whatever...

Going down my links column: Samizdata doesn't count, England's Sword ditto and there are rather a lot of Iains out there. James Lileks is #3 James in the world - an astounding achievement; Brian comes in at #2, Dawson Third of All The Dawsons, John has no hope under his first name but is Numero Uno Weidner, and Moira, too, is first of all her tribe.

Hot Jiminy Jeepers! My social life having improved, I hadn't carried out an act of self-googlification in simply ages. I must've lost my touch; I hit "search" before typing in my surname.

There are one million, nine hundred thousand mentions of the word "Natalie."

Natalies Portman, Merchant and Imbruglia receive many citations.

None of these ladies are number one, however.

I am the most famous Natalie on the Planet Earth.

Forgotten Empires. John Weidner writes regarding Seamus Milne's Guardian article yesterday, on the death toll that can be attributed to colonialism:
"Funny how when colonialism is mentioned, you hear about Britain, France, Belgium .. but never the empire of the Tsars of Russia, which remained intact until the 1980's..."

The anti-Mecca. Teresa Nielsen Hayden remembers.
I noticed an odd thing in the days and weeks that followed. You'd see little knots of people standing out on the sidewalks, talking, and as they talked they'd all gradually turn so they could look in the direction of Ground Zero--most of them unconsciously, I think. Even when it was out of sight, even in the outer boroughs, you knew exactly where it was, which direction; it was like you could feel it there, this locus of terrible sorrow and anger.
There is more:

...On the platforms on both sides of the station, big hand-lettered signs said DON'T STOP HERE, to keep subway conductors who'd driven that route for decades from automatically making the stop.

...It was worse the day our train passed through and there was sunlight shining down into the station entrance. I'd known what was beyond that point, but my imagination didn't encompass it, and so the old concourse was somehow still there for me. I hadn't realized it until that moment.

...One step past that, the friends of friends, the hecatombs start.

Scottish MPs reject ban on smacking.

Whatever was the point of the age limit of three anyway? I've scarcely smacked mine since they were three. Children above that age speak the language and understand deferred sanctions. They can be persuaded, bribed, fined, inspired, put to shame, 'grounded' , given merit certificates and be deprived of their GameBoys as the occasion demands. No smacking of children under one year, that I could have understood. But the point of smacking peaks at about two and a half, when there are certain limitations on behaviour that need to be enforced yet the child does not really understand cause, effect, or enough of language to have the reasons for the rules explained.

Some disagree, of course. But even if you oppose smacking totally, don't get sad about this law dying unborn. You see, we were reassured repeatedly that it was never intended to be one of those old fashioned laws, you know, the sort that people are meant to obey. How barbaric that would be! It was all intended as a signal about the "sort of society we want."

However the Committee were wise to this:

"...we do not accept that it is realistic to remove an available defence to the charge of assault while at the same time reassuring Parliament that the number of prosecutions will not increase as a result."
What would actually have happened is that a small but growing subset of parents would have been sued, and convicted. The subset would have been half-consciously chosen for their otherwise law abiding nature, pour encourager les autres and gradually bring about a better world. (Remember that savage punitive assaults on children are already illegal. We are talking here specifically about those cases where a defence of reasonable chastisement could be offered under present law.) The children of really brutal parents and step-parents would have been passed around between the caseloads of different social workers, as they are now. It is awfully troublesome to get the law on people like that. They resist arrest, they don't turn up to court, then when you fine them they don't pay for five years, then when you finally do get them in court they cry about their childhoods into the arms of their social workers and the judge says how he personally has never been the same since Whiffington-Whiffington Major gave him five with a cricket bat for secretly reading the Beveridge Report after Lights Out and lets them off with therapy. So the growing trickle of ordinary parents being sued for ordinary smacking would indeed have brought about gradual change, but not the sort of gradual change desired. It would have been one more step in the inversion of law.

Thursday, September 12, 2002
Mullah Omar speaks! We learn that the Mullah has vowed to drive infidels from Afghanistan. The mullah is made from front- and back-view life size photographs pasted onto two layers of that rigid, blue polysterene used to make "For Sale" signs; the two layers being joined by a waffle or strut construction. He is being pulled along on a string by devoted followers and symbolically tickled by an acolyte holding a hubcap. Mullah Omar may only be viewed by appointment.

Seumas Milne in the Guardian thinks that if we're going to compare Stalin to Hitler we have to bring in colonialism, too. Now, contrary to popular belief, I do not yearn for the restoration of the British empire, still less the vile Belgian one. The charge is worth further study. I do not know much about the Bengal Famine, for instance, other than it's some people's favourite famine.

Someone else is going to have to analyse this. I'm out of time. One quickie point, though. What's Hola doing there listed alongside Dachau and the Gulag? Eleven Mau Mau detainees were beaten to death in the Hola internment camp in 1959. Eleven is eleven too many. I do not need to be told this. But eleven is a molehill compared to the mountains of deaths caused by Hitler, Stalin or King Leopold.

Every dog gets one free bite. Junius and rising star Mark Kleinman are having a fascinating debate over a possible analogy with the proposed war in Iraq and what would have happened if the French had stood up to the Germans (i.e. enforced the Versailles Treaty) when the Germans reoccupied the Rhineland in 1936.

I make it 66 separate posts on Instapundit for September 11 2002. Not counting updates within a post.

James Taranto of Best of the Web is among those outraged at the "scare quotes" around the word "heroes" in the headline of this article about the heroes of Flight 93. I'm as annoyed as anyone else about Reuters' spineless policy decision to employ quote marks around the word "terrorist." But are the "scare quotes" here really scare quotes? Much of the article seems to be about what those present in a ceremony honouring them said about the people aboard the flight. The contentious quote marks could be read as really being quote marks.

Yes, I know. I'm so nice.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002
A gesture of respect. Perry de Havilland of Samizdata walked down the Kings Road in Chelsea with his camera and captured these pictures of shop signs requesting a two minute silence at 1.46pm ( = 8.46am New York time) to honour those killed a year ago.

I hesitate to say very much today. No words could be as eloquent as these heart-searing pictures posted on LGF. I urge you to scroll down as far as it goes. If you value this record of what happened, consider supporting LGF with a donation.

Finally, I remember Dawson writing this brief, heartfelt paragraph exactly three months after the murders of September 11. It's about the innocent ordinariness of the victims. Brokers, stewardesses, firemen, janitors, policemen, caterers, publicity managers, tourists, secretaries...

Why them?

"Some say that we shall never know and that to the gods we are like the flies that boys kill on a summer day, and some say, on the contrary, that the very sparrows do not lose a feather that has not been brushed away by the finger of God."

- Thornton Niven Wilder, The Bridge of San Luis Rey.

Tuesday, September 10, 2002
In answer to your question... Simon Phipps of The Mink Dimension said what he thought of the murder of that child in Iran. Check out the comment from "Mike" too.

Let Civilization Advance! First commercial moon landing gets go ahead.

I got mad at the arrogance of kiddy news show Newsround over at Biased BBC.

What did you think of the case where the Iranian child was beheaded by her father? Here's what Silflay Hraka thought. Best of the Web observed that Reuters appeared to think it kinda cute. The story was listed under "Oddly Enough," you know, where the rains of frogs and the Elvis impersonators go.

Another Tony Martin? Man who surprised and killed career burglar found guilty of manslaughter.

Solent: Blog Killer. Patrick Crozier made me gulp at the Blogger bash the other day. He said that the moment when he decided to give up on Croziervision struck when I wondered, quite casually, whether he could really keep up three blogs. I feel like I've taken off my shoe and found a butterfly stuck to the sole.

On the other hand, Crozier dude, enough of your troubles already! If you want to do good in the world you must, simply must, keep up UK Transport Blog. Indeed, it's time the brand went global. The value of a having a major reference source for transport journalists soaked in libertarian assumptions would be inestimable.

Uzi Gal, the inventor of the Uzi, is dead. And the Guardian doesn't know quite what to make of him. His son Iddo does, though: "...if you are good in something, and you are protecting your country, you might as well stick with it".

Stolen: one peal of thunder. The Blogger Sex War enters its second day. Godless Capitalist and Mrs Elizabeth Capitalist join forces in Gene Expression to make all my best points before I could in response to this post about sexism by Meryl Yourish. Letter from Gotham fires off a few salvos, too. Scroll up, down and sideways for more highly provocative commentary. (Did you know that in blind auditions orchestras hire more female musicians? That Venus Williams ran a 5:29 mile when she was nine years old?) Though I have to say Diane E misses the point about Stephen Den Beste. Although I am not well enough informed myself about Israeli politics to say which of the two is stronger on that topic, surely a high proportion of his audience consists of technically-minded men to whom what she refers to as an "overlay of wargame theories that look to me as if he got them from science fiction novels" is a feature not a bug.

The Tin Ear Award. I nominate myself for this: "If you exceed the normal proportions of sex-talk distribution among the various sex-talk types, as commonly practised in such a group, then you will suffer the normal social penalties for violating accepted norms." I changed the second "normal" to "usual" where those lines appear below. It still reads appallingly.

Apologies to all those who e-mailed me with thoughts on abortion. I do intend to get back onto that topic, and a selection of the e-mails will appear when I do. Right now, though, my mind's away running along different pathways.

'Little Timmy Says Hello.' Pub. 1999. 24pp. $4.95. "Certain to please" - Tiny Tots Digest.

'Little Timmy Meets the Silly People.' Pub. 2000. 24pp. $4.95. "Amusing" - Children's Bookseller Magazine.

'Little Timmy Gets Cross.' Pub. 2001.' 48pp. $5.95. "Possibly more suitable for older readers" - Children's Literature Today. (Limited stock available.)

'Little Timmy Kicks Some Serious Butt.' Pub. 2002. 2pp. $0.50. Not reviewed for legal reasons. SOLD OUT.

Monday, September 09, 2002
Test. Test. Test. Bogger's bluggered again.

Oh, so it's finally condescended to function? In that case, pursuant to the discussion below, may I remind you of the day that Hokie pundit posted the best chick pic ever.

Dodgeblog reveals all!!! Since I heard tell of one poor soul who was sued under the Trades Descriptions Act for selling with salacious hints and a parade of secrecy some sealed brown envelopes, which on being opened turned out to contain pictures of sofas and other soft furnishings, I had better admit that what MommaBear actually reveals to the world is her opinion of female bloggers who sell their show with sexy posters and then complain that the punters ogle them instead of applying serious study to their dissertation on the correlation between Mexican interest rates and the eleven-year breeding cycle of the lesser cicadae.

More links if you step inside - are you man enough to take it, boys?

Oooooooh, and there's even more goodies from Andrew if you scroll down one. I'm in it, too. And squirmy alien monsters from the dawn of time. Go on, go on, go on.

UPDATE: On reflection, after reading Improved Clinch's useful roundup of the debate, and after reading more of Dawn Olsen's blog Up Yours, I have softened my opinion. This happens to me a lot - if this blog was written with an enforced cooling off period of an hour it would consist of nothing but the pure light of reason and get one hit a week, and that one in the hope of finding sewing patterns.

One thing first. In all of this discussion I use "right" (and "allowed") in the colloquial not the political sense. I support everyone's political right to say damn near anything, up to and including shouting "fire!" in a crowded theatre - though I have to be on a roll to make that one stick. If that's understood, let's get on.

There are lots of different types of sex talk. I can discern:

  • (a) material intended to arouse sustained lust, stuff the reader could use in the various ways pornography is used. I don't want to belabour the issue whether or not all of this category actually is porn.
  • (b) material, usually pictures or headlines, intended to get people through the door. Once they are inside the stuff on offer is not sex. The hope is they'll keep reading anyway.
  • (c) as above, but clearly a joke.
  • (d) material intended to arouse in the reader instantaneous lust plus a smile plus a sense of knowingness plus give the impression that the originator is "one of the guys". Samizdata chick pics are the perfect example.
  • (e) autobiographical material, the recounting of which is intended to make the teller feel better in some way. I don't necessarily mean that the teller has a problem, though that is included in this category. It could also be that the teller wants the sheer pleasure of expressing themselves, and has picked this topic.
  • (f) dirty jokes.
  • (g) serious, usually third person, stuff about political, medical or social aspects of sexuality. This might include personal anecdotes, but the point is always capable of being generalized and intended to persuade. Sullivan sometimes writes in this vein. Clearly Dawn Olsen does too, but heavily mixed in with (b) and (e).

Any of these types can be produced in an intelligent manner, even the dirty jokes. But blogging is a conversation among a group consisting mostly of strangers, along with quite a few aquaintances, the odd enemy and some actual friends. What types of sex talk are allowed in such a conversation? Type (a) is pretty well verboten. The second type is nearly so, partly because the surging hormones you've triggered screw up the social dynamics of the conversation and the flow of ideas, and partly because the failure to gratify expectations isn't always exciting or thought-provoking, sometimes it's just irritating. Type (e) is not forbidden, but a little goes a long way. It can get embarrassing, and, quite genuinely may be of limited interest to persons of different constitution to the teller. All the other types are allowed these days. In moderation.

If you exceed the normal proportions of sex-talk distribution among the various sex-talk types, as commonly practised in such a group, then you will suffer the usual social penalties for violating accepted norms. Other people will exercise their right to react unfavourably. Some won't want to talk to you at all. Others will, but they won't take you seriously. Others will tense up not necessarily because they are uptight, repressed individuals (though they might be, and might like it that way), but rather because they feel that they are at risk of being seduced rather than argued into accepting a certain worldview.

Others simply won't be interested. Yes folks, there are people out there who are more interested in Bill Clinton's political legacy than what he did with his cigar. I'm one of 'em. So are most bloggers in this corner of the net. That's why we congregate here. There are plenty of places on the net offering frank discussion of sex, but if we wanted to go there we'd be there not here.

I don't like your face. Some mean-spirited woman called Yvonne Rennie has successfully sued an epileptic because she was "upset" by the involuntary contortions of his face during a fit. I keep re-reading this one thinking there must be more to it than that; not even our modernized judiciary could be that stupid. So far I haven't found anything to contradict the headline, though. There's something about a car crash too, but as far as I can see it does not come into this award. The epilectic, Edwin Young, really is being punished to the tune of £3,500 because he looked temporarily ugly. There are people in this world who look ugly all the time, can I sue them?

And where the fneeb is Political Correctness now we need it?

Man beheads his daughter. An Iranian, according to a brief item in The Telegraph, cut off the head of his seven year old daughter, in the erroneous belief that she had been raped by her uncle. Christendom has has also produced cultures (Old Spain and its colonial offshoots come to mind) where girls and women were killed for illicit intercourse, and where rape was seen as "ruining" a woman. But western machismo is practically dead now, and I don't think they killed child rape victims even when it was at its height.

But Stephanie Dupont is not impressed. Stephanie, come to England and show us how it's done.

David Carr accosted by Spawn of Yog-Soggoth at British Blogger party. Dang. Boringly obliged to catch the last train, I must have left before it arrived; I have long wanted to have a good long chat with a Spawn about their ancient and fascinating culture.

Turkish Gastarbeiten in Germany have provided two interesting stories over the last few days: Couple try to name baby Osama Bin Laden and Plot to bomb US bases in Germany on Sep 11 anniversary

Saturday, September 07, 2002
A point of etymology. Moira Breen writes:
May I make a slight etymological clarification on my obscure slang? "Bawk" does indeed carry the connotation of regurgitation, but I used it to refer to the Globe writers, not my reaction to them. Although, now that I think about it, "bawk" is an excellent onomatopoeic representation of
the sound of barfing, in this case it signifies that sound a chicken makes. Think not "hurl" but "BAAAAWK! Bawk bawk bawk BAAAWK!".

"To bawk" is semantically related to, but has a shade of meaning different from, the verb "to chickenhead", which means "to speak in a fashion that suggests to the listener that one considers oneself quite expert and worth listening to on a subject concerning which one actually has nothing to say that is not trite or ill-informed." I speculate that this was derived from observations of strutting chickens, and that back-and-forth thing they do with their necks.

"To bawk" has the connotation of "to sloganeer", "to thoughtlessly regurgitate received wisdom". Thus, auto-bawking refers to the ability to non-selectively access and deliver the content of one's neural database of unreflective bumpersticker political beliefs, at the drop of a topic, regardless of the pertinence of any specific point.

Storm Warning. I have, I learn, been appointed as "site of the week" at the People's Republic of Seabrook. But I don't think "Northstar"(Jack Cluth) is much concerned about arranging my munificent state pension and honorary Order of Seabrook with oak leaf cluster right now. He's in the eye of the storm.

Actions have consequences. Alex Bensky writes on abortion:
"...the pro-abortion groups often repeat the mantra about a woman's right to control her body. But if the sex that leads to the pregnancy is consensual, hasn't the woman already made a choice about what to do with her body? From that choice certain consequences may flow. At what point should a woman have to take responsibility for her freely chosen acts?"
Captain J M Heinrichs writes on abortion:
"No problem, except that if a woman is to exercise that control intelligently, then I would expect her to make the decision before rather than after the act. The latter is less a choice than birth control: because she forgot.

But, I'm just a guy, and we have no part of the decision process, do we?

Brian Linse wrote on abortion:
"I found your post on late term abortions very interesting. I was wondering how you would approach the problem of a woman who was seeking a late term abortion for reasons pertaining to her own physical health. Natural child birth and cesarian delivery are both considerably more dangerous to the mother than an abortion (unless there's new theory on this that I've missed) and if we posit a case where a woman is informed by her doctor that he has discovered a medical condition that will make carrying to term dangerous, then at what stage, if at all, does the fetus gain equal rights to the mother? I think this situation illustrates the problem of granting an unborn fetus equal rights to its mother. Just a thought..."
I wrote back:
"I suppose I would say that the fetus gains rights on a sliding scale from zero at conception to full rights at the moment of birth. Of course, in the heartbreaking scenario you describe, so many other factors are in play (and without time to think about them either) that no such neat solution can be offered. But in human affairs there is nothing particular to abortion about situations where no one can exactly say what they would do."
I'm not absolutely sure I agree with myself about that sliding scale. Too neat, as I said, and too mechanistic. I feel I ought to be against abortion full stop, and not only because I call myself a Catholic (albeit one with temptations to indifferentism) - but, as I said earlier I just can't muster the right feelings for very early term abortions. But perhaps it is best not to try and sort these things out during bouts of insomnia.

Friday, September 06, 2002
James Lileks seems a generally happy kinda guy. That's why it cuts like a knife when he isn't.
"They made sure that her last moments alive were filled with horror and blood, screams and fear; they made sure that the last thing she saw was the desperate faces of her parents, insisting that everything was okay, we’re going to see Mickey, holding out a favorite toy with numb hands, making up a happy lie. And then she was fire and then she was ash."

"I lied: I'm not 90% back." I confess I had not come across the blog written by Daniel Taylor, the Dreaded Purple Master until now. When I did come across it I was riveted. You reading this - you're a blogger, right? Or a reader of blogs? Or a news junkie? Anyway, you swim in a river of words. News for you: sometimes that river runs dry.
"At the moment, I have a blind spot that covers one third to one half of my field of vision.

Again, because the brain extrapolates so well, as incredible as it sounds, I don’t usually notice it. The ophthalmologist made me see it by the simple expedient of having me focus on a spot on a piece of graph paper and asking me if there appeared to be any gaps in the grid.

Good God Almighty. Most of the right side of it was gone."
What does it take to make the spring bubble up again - at least to some extent?
"So here I am, with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, staring blankly at the front page. God help me if I am intellectually stymied by the AJC.

The headlines I could stagger through with difficulty, if at all. I noticed, though, that the text of the stories was easier to manage. Only proper names, especially unfamiliar ones, stumped me completely.

The therapist, bless her, realized we were onto something, and had me turn to an interior page – as it happened, an op-ed page featuring an analysis of the recent primary election, specifically the defeat of Congressional incumbent Cynthia McKinney at the hands of newcomer Denise Majette. It was relatively small print in a relatively narrow space line.

I rolled right through it. Halleluiah!"
That may just be the most useful thing to come out of Cynthia McKinney's term of office. I very much hope that Mr Taylor's recovery continues.

NOTE: Blogger glitch time again. The number in the link is, honestly, that of the post mentioned above. For some reason it currently takes you to Mr Taylor's next post down. From experience I judge that this link will start taking you to the right post in a day or so.