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.)

Back to main blog

RSS thingy

Jane's Blogosphere: blogtrack for Natalie Solent.


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

The Old Comrades:

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

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Gen. Eisenhower,

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

Bill Snooks (Pte)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9:10 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

I hate jokes like that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the previous post done properly:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After Dr Gabb posted his piece, I commented thus :

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

SG responded:

From the Revered Elderberry Pinkneedle:

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 06, 2002
The gift of life. John Costello was able to supply the name of the child mentioned by Joanne Jacobs below, the girl conceived in order to save her older sister: Marissa Ayala was conceived to save Anissa.

Here are several stories from Time magazine about such living-to-living transplants. (The accounts had a doubly strange air for me because a great many of the people involved have similar names: Marissa, Anissa, Alyssa who lived and Alyssa who died.) Not all the decisions would be easy to make:

"What if a couple conceives a baby in order to obtain matching marrow for another child: and what if amniocentesis shows that the tissue of the fetus is not compatible for transplant? Does the couple abort the fetus and then try again? "
and, even harder:
"Tamas Bosze, a Chicago bar owner, was told that only a marrow transplant could rescue his son Jean-Pierre, 12, from leukemia. The boy's only potential donors were twin half-siblings born out of wedlock to the father's former girlfriend. Bosze sued the woman in an attempt to compel her to have the children tested for tissue compatibility. She refused, and a court upheld her decision. Last November, Jean-Pierre Bosze died."

Some hard choices there. But getting back to the original situation, that shared by Zain Hashmi and Anissa Ayala, I think it is clear. Give them their chance. Babies are conceived for much worse reasons.

I don't know if this next thing is connected or not, and I will deliberately refrain from trying to find out, as should you who reads this. But a Google search for "Marissa Ayala" threw up these pictures which the young artists were clearly happy to show on the internet. To find the one by a child called Marissa Ayala, scroll almost to the bottom. I don't know how common a name it is; perhaps there are hundreds of Marissa Ayalas. But I find myself hoping it is the same girl. She does not sound as if her life is a burden to her. Next to her picture of the family starting their festive meal under the decorations she has written:

"We celebrate new Year on the 31 st of December. I have supper at home with all my family. We wartch T.V and we eat grape."
It took me ages to learn to spell "watch", too.

Dispatches from the frontier. My husband spent a memorable few seconds yesterday travelling at speed down the motorway in his car. Sideways. While acting, as he put it, "as a hood ornament for a lorry."

Life's rich tapestry, eh? No one was hurt and we are fully insured, but it's all a bit of a bleah. I am now stuck home waiting for a loan car and a tow-truck to take our poor little Fiesta to hospital and possible euthanasia. I had been planning to go to London and stock up on presents, not to mention meeting Brian Linse who is in London at the moment.

My husband said an interesting thing about his thoughts while being carried along. He didn't pray. He didn't think of his family. He's a teacher and he spends some of his time saying and even more time thinking, "Stop that! You're doing something stupid." And that's what he tried to convey telepathically to the driver of the lorry.

Thursday, December 05, 2002
Joanne Jacobs writes:
"Five or six years ago (if memory serves), a California couple's daughter desperately needed a bone marrow transplant. I think she had some form of leukemia. The parents' bone marrow couldn't be used. So they had a baby, hoping to save their daughter's life. There was criticism at the time: Were they using the baby? Etcetera. As it turned out, the baby's blood was a good match for her older sister. The transplant was performed. Both children are doing well, and the parents are delighted they have two living children instead of the alternative, one dead child."

Shark blog has a general theory of left-wing justice. It's a little harsh to say this of all left-wingers; I'd really prefer to describe this as "idiotarian justice" - but by eck it's true of some I could name.

Why do the asteroids hate us? Schultz deconstructs the universe.

So why does America have such a high murder rate? It was higher back in the days when American and British gun laws were similar, and it has stayed higher, though declining. I expect it will cross over our rising rate during the next two decades.

So after all that, I'm going to sound like Michael Moore. It may have something to do with the fact that America was conquered from the Indians in the relatively recent past, and that the conquest was a struggle - not a walkover as it was in Australia. Other high-crime societies such as Mexico, the Philippines, the Balkans and South Africa also have a history of difficult conquest (or failed conquest) in the last four centuries. Russia, too, sort of.

Yes, I ought to be in bed.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002
Will Warren of Unremitting Verse is retiring. I tried to think of a way of putting that in rhyme. But I couldn't. Will could have, but instead chose to take a very graceful leave of us in prose.

God and Caesar. At the Libertarian Alliance Forum Kevin Carson made two good points about Josephine Quintavelle's views. The first I had thought of already:
"I don't think these parents are very likely to view their new child as a mere convenience or an organ bank. If anything, the opposite is likely to be true. Both the parents and the brother will be conscious of a lifelong debt that can never be repaid."
The second is devastating:
"And speaking of Quintavelle, it's really odd to hear a self-described pro-life person making the statement "Only Parliament can decide these things." If you'd expect anyone to understand the difference between God and Caesar, it would be surely be a pro-lifer."

What is wrong with this picture? Simon Jenkins blithely repeats the notion put about by Michael Moore that you can always leave your door open in Canada. This review by a Canadian, though generally favourable, observes:
"Granted he did test out his theory by jiggling a few unlocked doorknobs in a comfy middle class Toronto neighbourhood and even went so far as to include a shot of what he presumed was a typical Toronto-area ghetto. Why he didn’t venture a few blocks south of the Alliance Atlantis headquarters to Regent Park where he could have gotten a picture of what a real housing project looked like, I’ll never know. Perhaps it was all he could do to show his appreciation to the Canadian film company giant that helped bankroll the film’s production."

"Mr Moore", Simon Jenkins says admiringly, "is a reporter who not only asks “what?” but also “why?” Others say that Mr Moore is a reporter who not only asks "what?" and "why?" but "why should I be constrained by trivia like the truth?" Spinsanity's reviewer, hardly right wing, didn't think much of Bowling for Columbine. Ben Fritz says:

"And readers who uncritically accept those "facts" -- along with a number of other egregious and sloppy distortions -- will be duped. Good satire also should be grounded in fact. Regrettably, Moore gets his facts wrong again and again and again, and a simple check of the sources he cites shows that lazy research is often to blame."

"In a blatant misrepresentation, he states: "We're number one in budget deficit (as a percentage of GDP)." When Moore wrote his book last year, the United States was running a budget surplus, as it had for the previous three years. "

This review is unabashedly anti-left wing, but agrees with the previous one that the film is full of lies and errors. One of the most egregious is one of omission. Moore's portrait of Canada at peace with itself has no mention of Canada's own mass killing, the 1989 massacre of 14 women at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal.

Even the film's title, it says, is wrong. They skipped bowling.

(Original Times link spotted by Jim Bennett.)

LATER: It's Canada+guns day for me. By coincidence a Samizdata reader sent a Canadian National Post article to that blog. It was about the unbelievable expense of Canada's new gun registration system. He added in passing that "I can say that, in Toronto, there was a series of gang related shooting in October where every weekend (for a month) different gang members ended up dead in different parts of the city." Read more here, including the comments.

An honest reply. Paul Wright replies to an open letter from the father of one of those murdered in Bali.

This theme keeps coming up. We must treat those bereaved by crime or disaster with decency and courtesy. But that does not make their opinions right in every case.

LATER: Sigh. If the link doesn't work, go to TANSTAAFL and scroll down.

I know, I know. Online polls aren't worth the paper they aren't printed on. But isn't interesting that the Guardian's online poll right now has 61% against the firefighters' strike?

Connections and Contradictions. There's a wide ranging and thoughtful essay on the value of blogs, Miss World, the French state's attitude to polygamy, and wife-beating capitalist chic at Body and Soul.

I'd like to bounce back with a few points in defence of capitalism. The anti-capitalist part of the essay is not at its core, but being pro-capitalist is fairly close to my core, so that's why I'm going to focus on that aspect.

On sweatshirts and sweatshops. I think that the sweatshop has liberated more women than any law passed in living memory. It takes around two or three generations of sweatshops to go from the ancient pattern of peasant subsistence farming, with its characteristic grinding toil for women, to, well, Taiwan. In 1945 Taiwan was poorer than the Sudan. Now I read somewhere that the Taiwanese goverment felt it necessary to run a campaign against obesity.

Third World women may hate it working in sweatshops, but they hate it less than what they had before. Once the Wal-Mart trainer factory down the road opens its doors, bride-burnings and female infanticide are on the way out. When companies cheat or exploit their workers it is legitimate for concerned customers to boycott them, although I hope they will send someone to talk to the workers first and see what they want given local conditions, just as it is legitimate that companies with a better record should attempt to raise sales by boasting of their relative virtue. And both these things do happen, which takes me to my next point: one of the factors I love about capitalism is its incentives to create and maintain your good name. Likewise one of the things I hate about socialism and statism is that it erodes incentives to respectability. How does wife beating get to be chic? It certainly went on in the London or Los Angeles of 1900* but it was considered disgraceful. What's changed? I'd say that one major thing that has changed is that a man's living no longer depends on his good name. That allowed the cult of the barbarian to resurface. The cult is ever-present in humanity but had been held down in the west by an overlay of chivalry. The gangsta-chic meme (as we can call the latest incarnation of this ancient devil) has been percolating upwards through the income levels ever since.

The author of this weblog, Body and Soul, is Jeanne D'Arc. (Sometimes she hears strange, insistent voices that come from invisible people and say oddly compelling things. But if they bother her she turns off the radio.) She sent me a kind e-mail a while ago. Why can't I either reply to e-mails efficiently or ignore them without guilt?

*Whether wife-beating went on then at a greater or lesser rate than at present is also interesting. I suspect, following Charles Murray's Losing Ground, that the problem is worse now, despite the indifference of the police a century ago, for the same basic reason, namely welfare.

She should patent her own body. Perhaps that's the only way the woman described in Stephen Pollard's post "They're my medical notes, so why can't I have them?" is going to get some control over - or even sight of - her own medical notes.
The hospital couldn’t care less. Its response is classic: "We are sorry that Ms Lawrence is unhappy with the information in her medical notes, but . . . hospitals have a policy not to alter medical records." Well that’s OK then. They have "a policy". It might be the wrong policy. It might mean treating patients with contempt. But, heh, it’s "a policy". And as such, it is utterly typical of the NHS’s attitude to its customers — a patient is just a patient (if only they wouldn’t get in the way of the efficient operation of the consultant’s research), a policy — well, just that, a policy. No matter that it might destroy your life; no matter that it operates against your interests; no matter that it embodies a complete disregard for the rights of you, the patient and the NHS’s wagepayer — it’s a policy, OK?

My kids do that. I tell them not to dance in their socks at parties. "Shoes or bare feet," I screech, waving ruined socks in front of them. "Do you know the cost of socks? Well let me tell you, next time you do that, you are going to find out." But the soul of a juvenile sock-abuser is deaf to all decent shame. "We always do that" or better yet "Everybody does that" is considered quite sufficient explanation and justification. I could teach them the word "policy" and set them up for comfortable careers in the NHS.

Of course, there is no reason to suppose that NHS spokesmen are in themselves particularly juvenile or complacent. They act that way because it is a strategy well-adapted to their environment. Stephen Pollard goes on to say, explaining why lawyers or doctors despite their many faults would never dare to institute a policy of never changing their records:

They provide a service to me, the customer. If I don’t like what I receive, I can take my business elsewhere. The only choice I am given over the NHS is to pay my taxes or go to prison.
The NHS is, in theory, owned by all of us. But as we long ago learnt with other nationalised industries, the larger the theoretical pool of owners, the smaller the influence they exercise.

I can't ever seem to link to individual posts in Never mind. They're all good. He ought to be on my blogroll. Let's look and see if he has already mysteriously appeared there. Yes, he has.

It still astounds me that the first time his name as a columnist ever really sunk in, a year ago, I was terribly, terribly scathing. Anyone can have an off day, and we'll draw a veil over which one of us it was.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002
Canada won't ban Hezbollah. Canada will ban the Canadian affiliate of Magen David Adom who provide ambulances to Jew, Christian and Muslim alike. Because they have stars of David on the sides, presumably.

Ever-helpful, Alice Bachini offers anti-globos yet more diurnal strategies for offering grovelling apologies for being alive and having fun:
Eat Nothing Day

Say Nothing Day (that's one to look out for)

Think Nothing Day

Do Nothing Day (resists urge to lay into the poor hard-done-by firemen yet again)

Hear Nothing Day (in honour of deaf people)

See Nothing Day (to demonstrate unity with blind people)

Achieve Nothing Day

May As Well Not Even Exist Day

"One ring to rule them all, one ring to bind them," said Mr Blunkett. "At last I've got rid of that pesky trial by jury." Mr Chapman has the latest broadcast as the weapons inspectors hit Orthanc.

I'm pro-life. It's commonly taken to mean "against abortion", and despite being a controversial term most people of all opinions have no trouble understanding how the phrase arose. But how this woman, Josephine Quintavelle, gets to be described as "pro-life" is beyond me. A child called Zain Hashmi has the potentially deadly blood disorder thalassaemia. His parents want to carry out some procedure involving genes and bone marrow to produce a sibling who can donate cells from his or her umbilical cord to save Zain. They seem respectable people who clearly love the son they already have. There is no reason to suppose that they will not also love Zain's new brother or sister. True, they will use a part of his or her genetic material to help Zain; and they must perforce do so before the child is old enough to consent. But that does not imply - in fact it is fantastic to suggest it does imply - that the parents will therefore only see the new child as a thing to be used. Josephine Quintavelle is launching a court action to stop them. She believes that only Parliament can decide these matters.

Please, nobody assume that I am blind to the worrying aspects of recent developments in reproductive science. I don't want Larry Niven's SF stories of organleggers to come true. Same goes for Lois McMasters Bujold's stories involving clones created to serve as organ reserves for their masters. Closer to home, I do have qualms about the consent of children being assumed. Also, the growing ability of parents to irreversibly manipulate the physical form of their children raises all sorts of spectres, although it could also confer great benefits. Maybe I'll write about all these issues in the future, although judging from the fact that I still haven't got round to doing my promised essay on abortion, that future may be farther off than the clones.

Just for today, though, I'd like to stick to one point. Zain Hashmi is likely to die. His parents want to make his early death much less likely by bringing a new life into the world. Josephine Quintavelle wants to stop them, because she believes that reproductive ethics should be under democratic control. She believes Zain's much increased chance of premature death is a price worth paying to preserve democratic control, fearing worse consequences than the death of one child if it is lost. I hope I have not misrepresented her opinion. But whether you like or hate it, it has nothing to do with any possible intepretation of the words "pro-life".

She's back. The resurgent Letter from Gotham has up a reply to a post by Iraqi blogger Salam Pax. Read both.

Monday, December 02, 2002
Just lookit this. David Janes has created this amazing blog speed-reading tool. It's called Jane's Blogosphere (neat name, too.) See it at Ranting and Roaring. Here's a version tailor-made for my blog. I'm honoured. I had no idea David was working on this, and I don't know whether he's planning to give it away or sell it, but it looks simply fascinating.

ADDED LATER: He's planning to give it away. Nice chap. And the Janes-related names almost generate themselves; look for "Janes' Fighting Words".

In a minute I'm going to have to surrender this computer to my son in fulfilment of a promise to give him an uninterrupted session on an educational computer game that provides most useful preparation for future life, at least for those of the coming generation whose career plans involve fighting worms armed with Uzis who say "victory" and "oh-oh" in cute squeaky voices. But before I go I'd like to say that the paper version of the Telegraph is just ace today. There is an article by Alan Judd on the right to armed self- defence that is remarkable not so much for anything it says as for the fact that it is an article on the right armed self-defence spread bang over the centre-page of Britain's biggest selling quality paper. And there is a bitterly splendid article by Neil Collins on the number of rail lengthmens' lives that are likely to be sacrificed on the altar of safety. It's more dangerous to work on the railway track than to be a fireman. I'm saying this all from memory as it was my friend who had the paper (I'm far too cool) and she's gone off home. I tried to link to the articles but couldn't, one hopes because so many other people are reading the good word. You may fare better than I. It's certainly worth your while to try at

Okay, gotta go.

ADDED LATER: Here's the Alan Judd article: "We must be allowed to defend ourselves against burglars." and here's the Neil Collins article: "Spending billions to make railways more dangerous."

Islam, Peace, and why I love my referrer log. BoW is on my permalinks for a reason, and I'd have found this Blogs of War post on the phrase "Islam is a religion of peace" eventually. But that beautiful Bravenet software let me find it right now.

Seriously, read it. Guaranteed non-mushy, yet also non-racist. Teases out all sorts of points that I had known without knowing, such as this one:

It seems to me that, far from being an attack directed at Muslims, the ironic use of "religion of peace" is actually a slap at George W. Bush and others who, no doubt with the best of intentions, have employed the banal phrase to avoid confronting or acknowledging a manifest reality: that the wickedness of those who attacked New York and Washington on Sept. 11 is inextricably enmeshed with the wickedness of the ideology of the perpetrators, their apologists, their fellow travelers, and their clandestine supporters; and that the ideology arises not out of a void, but from a variety of religious extremism that is propagated by some of our "allies" in the Middle East and their spokesmen and beneficiaries at home.

"Christian Missionaries Leading a New Crusade." When I saw the headline to this piece in the Sydney Morning Herald I thought it was going to be yet another desperate attempt to pretend that Pat Robertson was the same as Osama bin Laden. It's a good deal better than that, and contains a prediction of the future that is probably news to most of the SMH's readers.

Get real. An Editorial in USA Today tells critics who act as if they think the greatest danger to civilization is Harry Potter and Victoria's Secret to put their energies to more productive use.

Britannia Rules the Waves. A Briton of the old school attempts to reclaim a little bit of Empire. The Foreign Office johnnies seem oddly uncooperative.