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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Wednesday, April 30, 2003
Iain Murray writes:
Nefas is, of course, the subject of the most memorable Latin grammatical rhyme:

To nouns that cannot be declined

The neuter gender is assigned:

Examples fas and nefas give

And the verb-noun infinitive.

Nefas est summum fallere:

Deceit is gross impiety.

Sung, in my memory, to the tune of Greensleeves.

Molesworth thought the song rocked too, adding "bebop bebop" between "assigned" and "examples"...

I must re-read Down With Skool, How To Be Topp and the rest agane. I probably didnt get about a quarter of the jokes becoz I dont akcherly speak Latin chiz. But my husband sez that any fule can learn it even grabber winner of the mrs joyful prize for raffia work.

A partly-lawful day. Sometimes a snatch of song, a line of dialogue or a euphonious name will lodge itself in my mind. All day yesterday it was two words: nefastus parte. It started when I incautiously decided to follow up on two terms I discovered in a Latin trivia quizbook: fas and nefas. Here are some of the websites Google threw up. (It's better than the sortes virgilianae any day.)

This extract from a book about Pontius Pilate by Ann Wroe gives a good explanation of the term:

The unlucky days were those that immediately followed the Kalends, the Ides or the Nones; these, and some others, would be marked in his calendar with the letter N as nefastus, unlawful. On those days, in Rome, the courts could not open. Other days were partly lawful: on NP days (nefastus parte) the morning was unlawful, but if the gods were propitiated with sacrifice the afternoon could be used for court business; on EN days (endotereisi), hearings were allowed in the middle of the day. There remained the days, like this one, that were reminders of previous troubles. It is probable that the dates around Passover were already marked in his calendar with the special dots or seals proclaiming them unlucky, auspicio malo.

This website instructs the reader on how to practise the Religio Roma in the modern world.

The sacrifice in today's world is a complicated matter. Many localities have ordinances that forbid blood sacrifice, or even the keeping of animals necessary for the rites. Therefore, a devotee will have to make many concessions.

Once an altar is consecrated, sacrifice should be simple, as long the altar in not defamed. If you are looking at a bad day at work, and you need some help, you would do something like this. In the morning, wash your hands. Approach the altar, ring a bell, say , " O Lares and Penates, come and accept this offering, and bless this day." Light a cone of incense one the altar, and continue on with day. If this does not help, then perhaps a more intense ritual will be required.

The altar should ideally be placed outside, where a charcoal brazier can be safely lit. The size, decoration, and construction are all variable. Ideally, the altar would be built in a walled garden where rites could be conducted in privacy. Neighbors would probably not appreciate the killing of animals, burning of entrails, nudity, drunkenness, and sexual activity under their kitchen window. Never condemn the unfaithful! The religio accepts all Gods, and it is not profane to drink the blood and eat the body of the Christ on the Easter holiday.

Er, not wishing to be intolerant or anything but that doesn't cut both ways.

Finally, this is a micro-nation called Nova Roma. One of the participants is apparently the same chap who wrote the advice on sacrifice above, as his entries on the Roman calendar, the names of gods and so on, are the same in both sites. Not all the other members of the forum were appreciative of his contribution.

When Chris Tarrant tells you you've won a million, the final question having been whether certain semi-auspicious days of the Roman calendar were known as A - festina lente B - caffe latte or C - nefastus parte, I'll expect a decent cut, OK?

This looks bad. Two more Iraqis killed by US troops in Fallujah. Other reports speak of demonstrators wounded, not killed.

You remember this post about the use of the words "right wing" in the anti-racist educational website Britkid? Well, the author, Chris Gaines, has said he will be changing the wording soon.

I love the internet.

UPDATE: ...except when I hate it. The link to "this post" having ceased to function, try this one instead.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003
Fear and loathing amid the Rachmaninoff. Have I mentioned yet how much I hate, detest and despise those radio adverts for the charity World Vision? Classic FM, the station which usually keeps me company in the Solentmobile while I do the ton through narrow country lanes, scattering hens and peasants before my wheels, is infested with the things. Only the fact that I never can seem to maintain the elegance of my italic letter-forms when driving at speed has stopped me writing down their script - and, oh boy, do they have a script, strenuous efforts to imply the contrary notwithstanding - word for word and hence being able to to fisk them so accurately that you'd all laugh your socks off. So, sock-wearers still, you will just have to pay attention.

No doubt World Vision do worthy work. If you want to be pen pals with little Waeroo and pay for his education, that's fine. (I'd always be a little worried that Waeroo will turn up on my doorstep all grown up already circa 2014, but that's just me, and is, incidentally, the sort of semi-serious inhibition to generosity that can only see the light of day sandwiched between several jokes. Forget you saw it here.) But why do World Vision have to hire a bleeding Tony Blair sound-alike to make their pitch? The pauses, the verdammt pauses, it's not the words that get me, it's those awful meaningless... PAUSES. They don't even have the decency to be properly silent pauses: instead the man emits a sort of ghostly glottal stop, :yy!, like the noise a ninja makes when removing an enemy's head under conditions of urgency and secrecy. "When I learn what a difference it has made to Waeroo that he. Swipe. Can go to school in a proper building instead of. Parry. Under dangerous palm trees, it gives me. Shuriken! A real feeling of. Disembowelling thrust. Pride. So die all enemies of the Mogowawa clan! So I guess that. Drink deep of Igichiro blood, O my thrice-tempered sword. Helps both of us."

I suppose the actors, and Tony Blair, get it from watching too much fly-on-the-wall TV. Have you noticed how Tony Blair doesn't employ the ghastly spontaneous pauses when he really is being sincere?

US troops are to leave Saudi Arabia. Just after a victory is a good time to go. It will be hard for Bin Ladenists to claim that they leave with their tails between their legs, and now that the threat from Iraq is gone they are not needed anyway.

The threat may not be quite gone yet. There were also a few words in the BBC story about the shooting dead of 13 demonstrators in Iraq, the US army having claimed - quite credibly - that they were fired at from the crowd. I thought of Bloody Sunday. Front line combat troops doing demonstration duty... bad lookout. Yet, as I said, I have no trouble believing that they were fired upon, just as I have no trouble believing the Paras were fired upon three decades ago. One step the British Army found useful in avoiding further Bloody Mondays, Tuesdays etc. was to avoid issuing the troops with too much ammunition.

Monday, April 28, 2003
What percentage of British people would carry a gun if it were legal? Steve Chapman has found an astonishing statistic in the Observer.

UPDATE: B.A.B.S.A.: General link to blog here.

Junius starts off this post with a gratuitous insult directed at the opinions of Simon Jenkins of the Times. And it even gets better than that - just read the comments, 17 so far, which delve into the psychology of numeracy and whether our intuitive perceptions of probability can be trusted.

At last. David Farrer of Freedom and Whisky carries out an unceasing search for kindred spirits who, like him, disagree with the dominant Scottish political culture of tax, spend and whinge. Sometimes he finds them. Here he links to a simply marvellous article by Fraser Nelson: Deceit and betrayal that are crippling Scotland.

Sunday, April 27, 2003
"This information came to me from Winston Churchill:

"On the day I took over the Prime Minister's job again in October 1951 after considerable military opposition from the Attlee faction representing the Dragon, 126 members of my "supporting cast" - artists, writers, photographers, copywriters etc who had been imprisoned by the Attlee government mainly because they were working for me - were released on my order from prison. Frank Hampson the principal artist of the Eagle comic was one of them."

Corking stuff, eh? It gets better. This website, which appears to be serious, is devoted to preaching reincarnation and exposing the demonic activities of Prince Philip via Churchill's memoirs from beyond the grave and hidden messages in Frank Hampson's artwork.

"Churchill separately described Philip as: 'A gryphon and a wereson. A gryphon is one who serves the Lord Above All not, being neither fish nor fowl nor bird of the air and an abomination in the sight of God. A wereson is one who is ensorcelled - who has within him another being, hidden, watchful and looking out.'"

"Vora is mostly Herbert Morrison the member of the Labour Cabinet who had taken over from Clement Attlee as chief concupiscent of the Dragon, or "head worm" as I termed him, following the failure of Attlee and Truman's gold-exporting efforts to the War on Saturn on behalf of the Dragon and their consequent extinction in September 1951."

So Vora is mostly Herbert Morrison. I just knew it had to be something like that.

This post intentionally blank.

Only it's not.

Ceci n'est pas un pipe.

Nothing daunted by the loss of Columbia a Russian and an American have blasted off for the International Space Station, and Jeff Bezos of Amazon has made serious progress towards building this sweet little bird.

I knew this timeline just needed a few little kinks knocked out of it.

Interesting stuff found while Googling. To keep the last post brief I've edited out the stuff about Mona Baker and Tom Paulin, but here is a good article from a secular Jewish perspective called "The Left, the Right, and the Jews."

Why am I still surprised by these things? This is "the National Grid for Learning", a government-sponsored directory of resources for teachers. This is "Britkid", one of the sites it recommends.
This is a website about race, racism and life - as seen through the eyes of the Britkids. Would you like to... hang out with a Britkid, or go into town?
I did a bit of both and it's OK. Conscientious, and I approve of conscientiousness. Utterly convinced that any progress in getting along is the result of laws demanding that we should, but, let's face it, the libertarian meme on that issue has yet to pentrate very far.

The author, Chris Gaine, spent many a wakeful hour worrying about the extent to which our nine sample Britkids should bear the weight of representing stereotypes; too much and it defeats the object, too little and, as the author puts it:

...this would have given an entirely untypical picture and failed to make some essential points about the social ramifications of racism.
There is one little form of stereotyping, however, that the author has not spent any time at all worrying about. He or she ('Chris' could be either) has a page called 'Right Wing' Movements. We do have those quotation marks around the first two words of the title, but any momentary thought that they presage an examination of how and why the sozialistiche bit came to be in the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei is soon quashed. There are one or two references to murders and firebombings by extreme right wing groups, but in general this website, supported by a government body for use in schools, is quite happy to to make no distinction between the BNP and the Conservative Party.
This is why it's important here to have some understanding of who the Nazis were, and what happened when they were in power in Germany. Their persecution of minority ethnic people is an extreme example of what a right wing movement can do...

...There are many right wing groups throughout Europe, (for example, there are known to be at least 40 such groups just in Spain).

By any normal definition of "right wing", Jose Maria Aznar's ruling Popular Party is among them.
...Their ideas are often supported by right wing organisations in America who feel that although many different minority ethnic people now populate America, there is still a chance that Europe might 'avoid' being populated by so many different groups.

...Individuals, organisations and authorities united their efforts against racism and against right wing groups, and in fact, this website itself is a product of that struggle by some groups and individuals.

...Trade unionists are people who support the rights of workers in their jobs, and the right wing does not agree with their beliefs either.

In some ways this is not my problem. In the World's Smallest Political Quiz I come at the top, not at the right. But there is something very wrong when children are taught, by a government approved website (have I got that point across yet?), that the political beliefs of half the country are synonymous with racism, or that the right wing is the only source of racism, or that the right wing is the only source of anti-semitism. By disallowing all but one side of the political spectrum's sincerity in opposing racial hatred, they are cutting off the branch upon which they sit. Some of the real 'Britkids' reading this, never having been taught any logic, will decide that if being right wing means being racist then so be it.

UPDATE (30/04): I sent a note pointing out this post to Chris Gaines. He (it turns out he is a he) has said he has thought about it and will be changing the wording.

Friday, April 25, 2003
Anyone else on AOL? I suppose somebody must be; I can't be the only one paying for all that advertising, it just feels that way. Isn't it adorabubble the way the pre-printed favourites list includes an entry called "Recipies". It's been that way for months and nobody has noticed except me. I was put off steak and kidney by school dinners, but chicken is nice. So is apple, but I think I'm right in saying that recitart would be the correct British usage.

Most boring Tim Blair post ever. But it made its point, dears, didn't it?

UPDATE: The curse of Blogger strikes again. This time it's the bug I call the "Mystery Tour." I refer not to the "Democracy, Whiskey, Sexy" post, which is quite interesting - and would probably be very interesting if I understood what to do with those MP3 doodads - but to the Ted Turner one. Just click here and scroll up, down or sideways.

Parting shot. I just noticed Dawson's last ever* comment :
bet every time you go to pee you whip out a hair and piss in your pants, Klotz. No fried catfish for you!

Thanks to all, you folks are righteous, and swell pals to have.

Way to go, amigo.

*Last so far.

Come, Comrade, Join Us in the Collective Farm! as Vera Korableya's poster once put it, to the admiration of softhearted 1930s liberals from Stockholm to San Francisco. Their childrens' hearts (and heads) are still soft. Colby Cosh points out a naive article in the Christian Science Monitor glowingly describing the way that Venezuelan oil workers once hostile to Chavez have started to bubble with enthusiasm for his brand of redistributive politics, including slashing their own salaries... since the army took over their workplaces.

Thomas Sowell on what's wrong with the welfare state:
One of the most dangerous things about the welfare state is that it breaks the connection between what people have produced and what they consume, at least in many people's minds. For the society as a whole, that connection remains as fixed as ever, but the welfare state makes it possible for individuals to think of money or goods as just arbitrary dispensations.

Thus those who have less can feel a grievance against "society" and are less inhibited about stealing or vandalizing. And the very concept of gratitude or obligation disappears -- even the obligation of common decency out of respect for other people.

The next time you see a bum leaving drug needles in a park where children play or urinating in the street, you are seeing your tax dollars at work and the end result of the vision of the anointed.

I was going to say, "I love this man and want to bear his children". Instead I will say a big hel-lo to my dear husband of so many happy years and speak of my intellectual admiration for Prof. Sowell's precise and economical distillation of something I had long thought in an inchoate way.

I just love the delicate phrasing of the pricelist for the Indy's new Pay-per-view scheme.
Much of the content on the site will remain free to read, but subscribers will be able to tailor their Independent Portfolio to include one or more of the following sections:

Opinion. All articles by our regular columnists and commentators and leading articles from The Independent and Independent on Sunday.

Robert Fisk. All articles by our world-renowned Middle East Correspondent, Robert Fisk.

News and Sport archive. All articles more than seven days old in the news and sport channels.

Crosswords. Our intriguing and taxing Cryptic Crossword each weekday, with a six-month archive of crosswords.

Makes it sound as if the presumed snob-appeal of being able to choose which options to buy far outweighs the inconvenience of having to pay (and pay plenty, a quid for a day's hire* of one Fisk column, for goodness' sake) for what once came free. Some copywriter worked hard on those words. Appreciate them.

I feel a cold wind blowing over all these blogs of ours.

*Just to clarify here, you have to pay them.

Thursday, April 24, 2003
Radio 4 just said they've got Tariq Aziz.

Which country is about to overtake Sweden as having the highest level of government spending per head in Europe? Which country spends more of its national income on health than any other country in the developed world? Which country has the lowest life expectancy in Europe? The answer is the same for all three questions.

(Via David Farrer - to whom congratulations, BTW. Scroll up to see why.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2003
Want a little anger before you go to sleep tonight? I meant to post this hard-hitting Michelle Malkin article quoted by Joanne Jacobs earlier but happy scenes of Eastertide drove it from my mind. Now I'm back to my usual grouchy self, why should you be happy? Joanne certainly isn't. Scroll down to her comments at the end:
Pre-schoolers can be "activists" for more TV or later bed times. When it comes to military and foreign affairs, pre-schoolers can be cute, little puppets for the person who controls snack time. Scaring pre-schoolers into thinking the Blue Angels are going to bomb Seattle . . . That's not fair.

UPDATE: The link within a link takes me to the wrong Michelle Malkin article. I could have sworn it was working before. I'm on the case.... Aha! Joanne's link takes you to Ms Malkin's latest, which was then but isn't now the kiddy peaceniks thing. Here it is from the archives. By the way, I woke up still angry. It's not so much the political indoctrination of pre-schoolers, disgraceful though that is, it's the deliberate lies told to put the children in fear of their lives.
"Respect our words, Blue Angels. Respect kids' words. Don't kill people."

"If you blow up our city, we won't be happy about it. And our whole city will be destroyed. And if you blow up my favorite library, I won't be happy because there are some good books there that I haven't read yet."

It is not clear whether the words above are quotations from the children or Ann Pelo taking it upon herself to speak in their voice, although the former quotation, particularly, sounds like activist-speak not toddler-speak. It is clear that she felt it quite OK to leave her charges under the impression that the Blue Angels, the US Navy's equivalent of the RAF's Red Arrows, might really turn round and bomb their local library. Perhaps she justified herself on the grounds that, well, they do bomb Iraqi children (she would, of course, ignore the unprecedented success in avoiding civilian casualties in the war just ended) and so it's morally right that American four year olds should feel the same fear.

A whole generation of Irish writers, I sometimes think, became writers in order to finally express their resentment about the way their Catholic schools would terrify pupils with visions of hellfire - but at least the monks and nuns believed in the hellfire themselves and were passing on the truth as they saw it. This woman Pelo inflicts psychological torture on children in order to bring them to her version of correct thinking: the very charge sometimes justly laid upon Christian educators. But Ann Pelo doesn't think the Blue Angels will bomb Seattle, she just thinks it useful that the children she teaches should.

LATER: Just out of interest, This link from 'Rethinking Schools Online' and this blurb about 'That's Not Fair' provide more insight into her thinking (such as the chapter heading 'Preparing the Travelers: Fostering Dispositions for Activism in Young Children'). You know, it is probable that she did eventually get round to reassuring the children that they were not about to be killed by US Navy pilots, having allowed them to think otherwise for long enough to produce the stuff about the library. Yet in the 'Rethinking Schools Online' link, when talking about derogatory racist stereotypes arising in play, she rightly says that the teacher should immediately step in to give the children a more accurate view of the world.

Waiting for permission. One of Junius' correspondents writing from China points out how China's authoritarian culture weakened its response to SARS.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003
More than one hot cross bun. Remember how blogger David Holford got a letter full of Lawyer Macho from Tower Hamlets council after publishing a post called Hot Cross Councils (scroll down) a little while ago? You can read his updates here, but it seems he wasn't the only one who came under the Sauron-like gaze of the redoubtable Tower Hamlets Head of Communications. I posted about David Holford's experience on this blog and on Samizdata, and Joanne Jacobs commented that she had got the same letter, or rather Jewish World Review which linked via Fox to her blog post on the matter had got it. They ignored it. I wonder how many other sites had the same letter, and how many of them complied with Tower Hamlets' demands through fear?

And I wonder how much of the Community charge so gladly paid by the citizenry of Tower Hamlets goes into employing officials to blogsurf looking for unfavourable mention of their doings?

NEW exciting bonus post!!!! This post was originally a half-written version of the one above which first dis and then re-appeared in the system somehow. Now it has been reborn as an exciting new Galloway Hypothesis #5: Agatha Christie Rides Again. Remember the one where the chap plants evidence against himself for a murder he did actually commit, his motive being not contrition but a cunning plan to be tried for the murder, have the case break down because the evidence is flimsy and then be protected by the double-jeopardy rule forever....

In this version Galloway (or, far more plausibly, a Galloway-friendly person or organisation acting entirely without Mr Galloway's knowledge or consent, M'lud) fabricates and plants evidence of dramatic, obvious and well-paid treachery, anticipating the libel trial. The trial occurs, breaks down when Abdul Al-Somebody confesses to having made up the letter, and no-one ever dares investigate the remaining evidence for a less well-paid and more ambiguous, but still disgraceful, form of cooperation with Saddam Hussein.

My ingenuity astonishes even me.

The Telegraph is very sad that we can't hang Mr Galloway.

I've often thought the same. Oh, my ears and whiskers, there will be the mother of all libel trials if they're wrong about this.

Iain Murray thinks they're right. I daren't, I simply daren't, fully trust anything so utterly confirmatory of all my prejudices.

Hypothesis #1: Secret service black op. A little obvious methinks, and probably Saint Tony wouldn't want to know about it, but it's not as if they haven't done some breathtakingly ruthless things.

Hypothesis #2: Prankster. People are funny sometimes, and about some pretty grim subjects too. Remember the Observer's Farzad Bazoft, hanged by Saddam Hussein in 1990 in part because it was someone's idea of a joke to get the papers to say he was a spy? (I can't find anything on the internet about the hoax angle, but my memory insists that some such claim was one of a series of hoaxes perpetrated on British newspapers at about that time.) In favour of this hypothesis is the story's very appeal.

Hypothesis #3: Cultural confusion. In this one Galloway really does think he's raising money for worthy causes (however misguided his definition of worthy), but his Iraqi opposite number thinks he's taking a bribe because that's what he'd be doing.

Hypothesis #4: Tra-la-la boom -ze -ay, we're gonna hang Gall -o - way...

Howdya wangle that, you jammy b... And his comments are up the spout, preventing me from fully expressing my envy.

UPDATE: His archives are even further up the spout. It's Briffa I'm talking about. You know, Peter "Just a little thing I dashed off for the Times" Briffa.

Saturday, April 19, 2003
Blog roll call. A fond farewell, whether temporary or permanent, to one or two blogs from the links column. First Dawson, who tells me that he is retiring from blogging to concentrate on his degree, and because he's been feeling recently that it was too much like work and too little like leisure. Alas, Diane of Letter from Gotham's absence from blogging is not voluntary: she has been obliged to take down her blog for work reasons. In fact I don't know why I even put in the link just then; it no longer works. Perhaps the future may see either or both of them returning to the fray. Meanwhile when I click Joanne Jacobs I get a message saying "check back later." So I will.

UPDATE: I did, and she's back online.

Question: where have all the right-wing dictatorships gone?

The Liberty Dragon reports that a Cardiff man who was wrongly convicted of murder will not now have to pay for his bed and board while in prison, an earlier Home Office try-on having been rebuffed. If the Home Office staff keep practising maybe one day they will be as confident as their Chinese equivalents, who will shoot a man then charge his family for the bullet.

(If the permalink doesnt work try this general link. That way you get a special bonus article on the trial use of tasers by the North Wales Police in the bargain.)

Thousands march in Baghdad to protest against US.

Because they can.

Uday's bizarre punishments of Iraqi footballers who missed a penalty or otherwise failed to please sound like the actions of a comic-book dictator. But they were real.
The torture continued, in two-hour sets with an hour's break in between, and the beatings grew more savage as Latif tired. The only relief, if it can be called that, came when he was led outdoors into the winter cold, and doused in freezing water.
The team captain, Jaffar, himself beaten and incacerated many times, laments the waste of his talent:
"Now that Uday has fled, footballers are hoping those days of terror and humiliation are behind them. But for Jaffar, now 36, it's too late. "I wish I were 20 again so that I could show how well I could play," he said. "

Thursday, April 17, 2003
Words of Wisdom.
"There is nothing wrong with personal attacks per se, George Galloway for example is made for them"
- Harry Hatchet (extracted in an appallingly out-of-context manner from a serious post about something else entirely.)

"Animal behaviour" is the title of the admirable leading article carried by the Guardian today.
"The targets of the injunction are the Animal Liberation Front and the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty. The two organisations have made it clear they are not interested in free open debate, but prefer instead intimidation, coercion and threats."

"Long lines of negro cavalry swept by the Exchange Hotel brandishing their swords and uttering savage cheers, replied to by those of their own color who were trudging along under their loads of plunder, laughing and exulting over the prizes they had secured from the wreck of the stores, rather than rejoicing at the more precious prize of freedom which had been won for them."

- a Confederate viewpoint from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, 29th April 1865, referring to events in Richmond in the closing days of the US Civil War.
Even in daylight, the streets of Nasiriyah are unsafe. Looters line every road, pushing carts laden with all manner of stolen items – furniture, household appliances, jerry-cans and pieces of wood. They do so casually, joyously, as if they are aware that with Saddam Hussein's regime ousted and the US Marines unable to police the entire city, there is no one to stop them. They wave as you pass.
- Andrew Buncombe of the Independent, 4 April 2003, referring to events in Nasiriyah in the closing days of the Iraq war.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003
Wars on Bad Nouns such as the War on Poverty and the War on Drugs tend to go on forever. Kudos, therefore, to the Thai minister for drugs, General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, who is quoted in the Bangkok Post as saying Thailand's War on Drugs will be over on December 2.

Good. That particular war had killed over 1,000 people by late February and many more since, giving it a butcher's bill comparable to that of certain better known recent wars. General Yongchaiyudh is doomed to defeat, obviously. But I really do admire him for coming out with an end date.

What real racial hatred looks like. Vandals have desecrated Muslim graves in Saffron Hill, near Leicester. No doubt the criminals think that they are in a different category to their counterparts in France who did this. I have news for them: whatever its creed or colour, trash is still trash.

Busy day today. I really will try to catch up on the e-mail tomorrow.

"So sue me." Blogger David Holford is being told by Tower Hamlets Council to remove a story from his website they don't care for. (Remember the banned hot cross buns?) He has decided not to comply. This could be your future, so read the story now.

In the interests of exactitude I will say that it is not absolutely clear to me from the words quoted that he is definitely being threatened with legal action. The words he quotes the council's letter could be read as referring to "racial hatred" in the ordinary English sense of the words rather than "incitement to racial hatred" in the sense of a crime in law. I will ask David Holford to clarify that point. However even the most non-threatening possible intepretation of the council's words is still pretty threatening. They know full well that an official letter containing the words "incitement to racial hatred" is meant to put fear into the mind of whoever reads it.

They also know that the charge is absurd. I don't agree with all Mr Holford's opinions, and if you scroll down a bit you will see that he is not one to hold back from frank speech when he is mad at some group. But racial hatred?!? The news story quoted incited scorn and ridicule of council officials, not Muslims. The only reference Mr Holford made to Muslims in the post under dispute was to quote certain sensible opinions offered by Muslim representatives and state that he agreed with them. Like all enemies of free speech the council are seeking to protect themselves from deserved scorn by lying about what their critics say. Goons.

UPDATE: I've now seen more of the text of the council's letter. It is phrased in lawyerese but it clearly is designed to secure the action the council want through inducing fear of legal proceedings. I claim no knowledge of legal matters, but I thought I detected in the phrasing a slight reluctance to state the threat in so many words. I suspect that they dare not make the threat plainly because they know they would be laughed out of court. They are relying on Mr Holford being intimidated. He doesn't seem to be.

I say again: this has nothing to do with preventing hatred against Muslims. Tower Hamlets council are taking advantage of the general and correct sentiment against real hate speech to cover their own tails. This is what always, always, always happens under a regime of censorship. You've heard Cocteau's saying: "The purity of a revolution can last a fortnight." Here's my saying to match: "The purity of a hate-speech law can last a week, so long as it's a week when the council are on strike."

Sunday, April 13, 2003
Amoral and utopian multiculturalism. These thoughts also stem indirectly from the Jim Bennett article linked to in the post below, but I couldn't fit them in the right place there so I offer them as a separate post.

Our present multiculturalism is amoral and utopian. The two qualities go together more easily than you might think. To see why, look at relationships between people.

Churchill described Lenin's sympathies as being "...cold and wide as the Arctic Ocean, his hatreds tight as the hangman's noose. His purpose to save the world, his method to blow it up." Those who love all mankind have frequently been ruthless: I would prefer to trust a man or woman who has loved well a few precious others. Such a person is more benevolent even to a stranger.

One of the distinguishing features of love (whether family love, or the love of deep friendship - romantic or marital love doesn't come into this analogy) is indistinguishable levels of love for the people within the circle. The very phrase "levels of love" sounds odd: the relationship simply is not scalar. A loving mother cannot choose between her children; a loving child cannot chose between his parents, a friend cannot choose between his friends, a family member cannot choose between the others in his family. It would be like choosing between your lungs and your heart. This ideal is not always attained, but it is attained far more often than most of our other ideals.

Trying to love a crowd is impossible. No one man can begin to know them all, yet alone know them well enough to love. One can and should, of course, have goodwill towards the crowd. And as time goes by a person who was once in the crowd can become better known, better liked, until, perhaps, that person becomes loved and loves in return. But note that there is no way to reach get inside the circle except by a process of choice and assessment, of admiring this and disliking that. You don't pick your closest friends at random. You don't pick your husband at random.

It is a sham to detatch one aspect of mature love, its reluctance to say that A is loved more than B, and and try and bolt it on to something way short of love, mere goodwill. Worse than that it is a barrier to friendship; if you are forbidden to assess you can never get through the middle stage of wishing to know a person better.

As for people, so for cultures. We dream of a utopia where all the world's cultures will be cherished equally. It is impossible. It's like trying to love the crowd. But a person, and a culture, is the richer for having loved one or two others well.

The death of the Judeo-Germanosphere. Jim Bennett has written an important article.

When I first thought about the Holocaust I focussed on asking how could the Germans, with all their accomplishments, do such a thing.

I did consider the ancient evil of Christian Jew-hatred, and the bitter irony whereby the laws excluding Jews from 'respectable' professions such as soldier or farmer brought them first prosperity then death. In general, however, the picture uppermost in my mind was that of the resentful Germans seeking any vulnerable group to blame for their troubles. They picked the Jews, I thought, mostly because they were available.

There is truth to that, of course. But as time went on and particularly after the attacks of September 11 2001, I came to see that there was another half to the question. As well as "Why the Germans?" it is necessary to ask "Why the Jews?" A large part of the answer to that is because in the last flowering of German civilisation before WWII there were German Jews excelling in every art and science.

Millions of words have been written to try and understand both questions, "Why Germany?" and "Why the Jews?" Given that torrent, it is rare to be able to add anything to our understanding. This article does.

"No war, no lies" was the chant on the anti-war protest yesterday. Someone better tell them that upping their claim as to numbers to ten times the police estimate is not credible. Oh, someone has.

How odd if The Observer of all papers should break the story that Saddam Hussein's regime was concealing information about WMD from the UN...

Saturday, April 12, 2003
The Handmaid's Tale - full of holes? Richard Aubrey writes:
I don't agree with your take on the book.

Unless I missed something, there were at least half-a-dozen major howlers. For example, the protagonist was young enough to be fertile, but predated the regime, while the regime had been going on for many, many years. She had been the wife of a professor but was constantly puzzled by the pidgeon Latin for not letting the bastards grind you down.The regime spent huge numbers of young men in a useless war, while being barely able to get any kids born. How come they didn't run out? Nobody ever said what the men of the past did when this regime began making its programs known. You know. The brothers, husbands, fathers, and sons of women.

And I asked some teachers why they taught it. They said it was to caution kids about the dangers of a theocracy. I asked why they didn't talk about reality instead of fiction. They weren't at all sure the Tale was fiction, but in any event they had never thought about speaking of the Taliban, and its awful brethren. In fact, in my opinion, the only reason for promoting the book was the cover it gave for denigrating Christianity.

I confess that all the plot howlers Mr Aubrey describes had completely passed me by when I read the book. It normally takes me several readings to spot such things. When I next read it I shall have to see if the enveloping sense of claustrophobia that struck me as so plausible when I first read it still seems as impressive. To give the book a fair trial I shall have to wait a little until my wish to jeer at the author has died down; but she wouldn't be the first author to be outclassed by her own work. On the issue of religion, I didn't see the religion described as being more than residually Christian - certainly Jesus scarcely featured in it - but even if Christianity is the religion portrayed, it is legitimate SF to speculate about a Christian theocracy. Hey, I happily speculate about telepathy and time-travel.

I just don't take telepathy and time-travel as plausible explanations for real world events.

Malta's election is in practice another referendum on the EU. Oh-oh, now it's me saying, "vote until you get it right!" My defence is that one can't very well hold off general elections.





The sign is found all over occupied Germany. Nothing could show more clearly how shaky allied "control" of Germany really is, as our correspondent reports (readers may note that his comments may have been censored and/or altered by the notorious information minister of this blog):

Europe's slide into violent anarchy will trigger a humanitarian disaster if Allied troops are unable to fill the power vacuum and reassert order quickly, UN and other aid officials warned yesterday.

The warning came as looting in Berlin spread from government buildings to hospitals, embassies and private businesses, and the growing lawlessness in the capital prevented the few remaining aid workers there from delivering badly needed medical supplies and water to hospitals.

Adding to the sense of chaos, a Nazi-diehard "werewolf" blew himself up on the Mühlenstrasse, where it runs along the river Spree, killing one Russian soldier and severely injuring his French, British and US counterparts who were manning a checkpoint.

A wave of lawlessness across the country illustrated the potential for the unravelling situation to turn a successful military campaign into postwar disaster in a matter of days as a result of the total collapse of government services.

Elsewhere in Europe the grim headlines continue to flood in, making a mockery of claims that the Western Allies have come to "bring democracy." (Please note again the possiblility of news manipulation from the notorious blog spin doctors):
Rome: Fascist buildings are set ablaze; fears mount as looters run amok

Paris: City captured by Partisan forces; banks and shops ransacked by mob

Jugoslavia: Russians take control of oilfields; anarchy as Chetnik troops begin pull-out

Vienna: Looters shot dead by British forces

O.K., I'll stop messing about now, particularly as my analogy breaks down in Eastern Europe where Soviet claims to be bringing democracy really were a mockery. What I really want to say is that looting is nothing new. One relevant parallel for a totalitarian regime losing (in this case temporarily) control of its capital is the Moscow panic of October 15th - 18th 1941. My regular correspondent A.R.C. writes

"A British diplomat stationed there (comically determined to remain anonymous in the wartime-published book in which I read this; he has the author describe him as "with one blue eye and one brown and six fingers on his left hand") describes "panic and looting... chaos" and speaks of "widespread rumours that Jews were being beaten up in subways".

"Kravchenko, who was stationed on the outskirts, writes that, "As alarm grew, police repressions were intensified. It was a vicious circle that made the final outbreak of panic and looting - so carefully concealed from the outside world - inevitable." When he went to Moscow on the 16th, "... rioting and looting had begun. Stores and warehouses were being emptied by frenzied mobs." When he returned to the Bolshovo where his unit was posted, "...I found a disorderly mob milling through our buildings. The looting had begun shortly after my departure and had been under way for hours. Local inhabitants had been rapidly reinforced by peasants from nearby villages. ... the locust swarm devoured ... everything that was not tied down. ... the snow all round was trampled and strewn with discarded articles." Kravchenko also describes rumours of wild orgies, ("hundreds of people behaved as if the end of the world had come") and adds that while some rumours were themselves symptoms of the panic, "That some of the reports at least were true I learned subsequently in great detail. At Sovnarkom headquarters" (where he was posted later in the war) "...high officials rounded up the youger women empoyees for a drunken debauch that went on for hours".

Kravchenko's full description of the Moscow panic makes Baghdad look tame (noting that Muscovites had a lot more to panic about).

He also reminded me of another exampleof the reason why 'looters will be shot' notices are common military equipment. In the American Civil War, outbreaks occured on the Union side during both Lee's invasions of the North and on the confederate side in Nashville at the war's start and in Richmond at its end. On April 2 1865 Grant's forces began a general advance and broke through Lee's lines at Petersburg. The Confederate Capital, Richmond, was evacuated and fires and looting broke out.The next day, Union troops entered Richmond. I don't know whether the looting - much of it blamed on the newly-free blacks - stopped immediately, but by April 4 Richmond was considered safe enough for President Lincoln to make a tour of the place, where he was mobbed by ecstatic blacks. He entered the Confederate White House and sat at the desk of Jefferson Davis for a few moments with "a serious, dreamy expression."

It is always dangerous to push an analogy too far, and extremely unfair to put Jefferson Davis in the same slot as Saddam Hussein, but I cannot resist noting that the Civil War finally came to an end on April 9th, a date our generation will also have cause to remember.

Cuba. Not quite so cuddly. Several of the hijackers of that ferry have been executed. That's executed as in dead. It may come as something of a surprise to our intelligentsia that the United States is not the only American nation willing to use capital punishment.

Having used force and the threat of murder to take over the ferry the hijackers were certainly criminals who deserved prison. But they didn't actually kill anybody, and in the end they surrendered peacefully. I predict that when the next in this spate of hijackings occurs the gunmen will reckon they have little to lose by fighting to the death.

Returning to an earlier post on the subject of Cuba, the NUJ still haven't said a word about the Cuban journalists given prison sentences of between twenty and twenty-seven years. The International Federation of Journalists has done better.

Friday, April 11, 2003
Sahhaf. Not quite so funny. I've enjoyed his manic denials of reality as much as anybody, but it's worth remembering that being a shill for a mass-murderer is not a nice way to earn your living. In this widely-linked article Eason Jordan of CNN writes:
Last December, when I told Information Minister Muhammad Said al-Sahhaf that we intended to send reporters to Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, he warned me they would "suffer the severest possible consequences."
Read the article to see just how severe the consequences of annoying Saddam could be: Sahhaf was threatening murder. In the ex-Information Minister's defence it seems clear that even those close to the the top of the structure of repression lived in fear; perhaps all the greater because they were under Saddam's eye.

Brian's Education Blog comments in detail on the surprising success of British children in international reading tests, reported in the story a few posts down. He thinks credit is due the parents. This is undoubtedly true, but it's not just them. I think Brian does not realise the extent to which "Look and Say" is very much on the retreat even in schools. At the moment I think that the State orthodox system of how to teach reading is a fairly good system; it has been pretty good for the last five years or so.

It's like living under a good Roman emperor. Fine for now, but what'll the next one be like?

Trouble at t'Mirror. I do reckon it be summat to do with young Master Pilger going mad, like.

Mucho good stuff from two new members of the Biased BBC team, Kerry Buttram and Niall Kilmartin.

Thursday, April 10, 2003
Interesting and surprising news: English schoolchildren among the world's best readers. The article also suggests that watching TV is good for reading skills, up to a point.

David Janes writes:

"My apologies for the the shotgun-blast nature of this e-mail but I'm just
pissed off enough tonight to send it anyway:

I'm not usually a fan of scatter-gun emails either. But I'll forgive him. His post tells the tale of one new Canadian who "despite the weight of the reality he lives in, [believes] that the Americans are exactly the same as a the Nazis" and of another, now deceased, who believed differently.

Happiness is... burning your money because it has Saddam's picture on it. Scroll down Michael Totten's collection of photographs from Iraq. (Via Tim Blair.)

I hope Saddam's doubles kept their razors handy.

Saddam didn't fall alone writes Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid.
The news shocked the people of Cairo, where the fundamentalists, nationalists, leftists and the deceived headed numerous campaigns to declare their preparedness to defend Saddam’s Iraq.

But by yesterday morning, the TV stations — including that advocated the campaign to defend Saddam and his regime — didn’t succeed in hiding the images of the happy people celebrating in the capital.

That’s why yesterdays’ images, in which the people of Baghdad tore down their dictator’s pictures and pissed on them, overthrew the biggest lie in the contemporary history of the Arabic world.

The main Arab news editorial was more what you'd expect, but I take the appearance of Al-Rashid's article as another breeze in the fresh wind blowing through the Arab world.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003
British launch a gun amnesty in Basra. Oh lor, talk about exporting the worst aspects of our culture. Now they'll have to launch another one every six months for the indefinite future. Perhaps Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf can be re-instated in something close to his old job to make regular proclamations that the latest glorious gun amnesty is going to really, finally solve the problem just as splendidly as the last five did, and in fact an amnesty a day keeps the looters away. He can then resolutely ignore the gun-toting perp nicking his microphone.

I think I might get one of those "Hands off Iraq" posters after all. End colonialism and paternalism! Stop trying to force our cultural norms onto other countries!

The Iraqis are, it seems, quite heavily armed. This disproves the assertion that tyranny is impossible to impose on an armed population. So much the worse for over-ambitious assertions. To quote Glenn Reynolds, "Certainly some tyrannies have arisen in nations where press freedom existed--Weimar Germany, for example. Yet we do not generally require proof of efficacy where other Constitutional rights are concerned, so it seems a bit unfair to demand it solely in the case of the Second Amendment."

Personally, I think there is ample proof of efficacy for both freedom of speech and the right to bear arms - just not 100% efficacy. When the subject came up in the Libertarian Alliance Forum this is what I said (edited to hide my spelling errors and other embarrassments) in response to an earlier post:

1) Guns are useful against criminal fellow citizens, agreed.

2) Guns are of little use against a tyrannical government, agreed. (I think there were quite a lot of hunters in the former Soviet Union, which didn't stop the regime lasting 70 years) This is because of the obvious disparity of power - a whole state apparatus against one person with a pistol.

3) But that does not mean they are of NO use. They do have a use of last resort. The knowledge that the civilian population has them makes genocide harder. Evil as he is, I do not believe that Saddam Hussein wants genocide (well, not of his own subjects anyway; he might want or pretend to want extermination of the Jews) but I will use him as an example since he is in the news. It is notable that where Saddam Hussein has killed whole towns he had to resort to poison gas from the air. That was a very visible strategy and no doubt cowed the towns nearby, as it was intended to. But what if he had wanted to kill ALL the Kurds rather than kill some and terrify others - wouldn't he have killed them in by shooting them, a type of massacre that can go undetected for decades and isn't very newsworthy even when known about? [I cited the Congo in a later post as an example of this.] Perhaps one of the things stopping him was an armed population.

An armed population makes arrests harder; I hope that quite a few of Saddam's intended victims have gained the few seconds necessary to make their escape by using a pistol to slow down the cops.

Of course having an armed population has costs as well as benefits. I have in mind the escalation of violent quarrels and feuds, particularly in a tribal culture. And it is no panacea. In many of the evils a society may face it is pretty well irrelevant. However even in Saddam's Iraq I think it helps.

Well, it ain't Saddam's Iraq any more but I still think it helps.

UPDATE: David Carr also spotted the story.

Montres toi Chirac!! I was intrigued by this posting by "kurukuru" from Le Monde's forum.
Show yourself, Chirac!

The most deadly conflict that humanity has known since the Second World War is taking place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, at this moment, today!


Africa is in the French sphere of influence.

Well Chirac shows us TA politics - the effectiveness of TA diplomacy [I don't know what "TA" refers to - NS.]

Convene the Security Council, send Hans Blix, give us beautiful speeches on peace. We'll see if it works.

Down there there are thousands of "little-kiddies-gonna-die."

If you are worth anything, stop this carnage for us.
Show us that you aren't just a fairground juggler.

Stir yourself, Villepin!

You've sweet-talked us with your "multipolar world" - and proved by your deeds that you are nothing but a sweet talker!!!!

You have a golden chance my boy to prove the merit of your positions, the virtue of your attitude... MOVE YOURSELF!

And if you come to the conclusion that preventative war has some virtues, we'll forgive you changing your tune.

Incidentally there is a poster from that forum called SBJBC who regularly posts credited excerpts from blogs, sometimes translated into French. Recognize this one?
Le Pillage de Bagdad s'est arrete soudainement aujourd'hui, quand la plus importante famille mafieuse de l'Irak a disparu de la ville.

Des milliers d'habitants de la ville sont entres dans les batiments du gouvernement, pour essayer de recuperer une petite portion de ce qui leur avait ete vole durant ces 24 dernieres annees.

"J'ai pris un gros vase du bureau de Uday. Ca ne pourra jamais remplacer les membres de ma familles que saddam m'a enleve, mais tous ces trucs appartiennent au peuple iraquien, et cela nous avait ete vole sans nous demander notre permission", expliquait une iraquienne .

The essence of the regime. Rageh Omaar of the BBC said that today was, "Iraqis ending what many of them described to me as 'The cruelty and sadism of the last 25 years.'" That ties in with something A.R.C. wrote to me:

Now that Saddam's regime is soon to end, I find myself thinking about what its essence will be revealed to be, once we start taking testimony, unearthing mass graves, etc.

The essential law of Hitler's land was, "Thou shalt kill." Hitler lied often but his lies were devoted to enabling or defending his murders. He regarded his lies as a general regards his deception plan; once the true attack is obvious to the enemy, the deception does not matter any more.

By contrast, the law of Stalin's land was, "Thou shalt bear false witness." Stalin murdered often (more often than Hitler, partly because he ruled longer) but, whereas the Nazi regime was punctilious in ensuring its chosen victims died and relatively casual about its lies, the Soviets went to extreme and bizarre lengths to maintain their lies and were relatively casual about whether a given accused was shot, died of overwork in the camps or survived.

Saddam kills often but, since he does not rule a mass population, much less than either Hitler or Stalin. His regime lies incessantly but much less skillfully or consistently than Stalin's, and indeed, less skillfully than Hitler's. That Saddam pulled the UN's chain for 12 years is a comment on the UN, not on his propaganda skills. That his removal provoked a world-wide political crisis is shameful, because it is also ridiculous.

I offer the conjecture that the essence of Saddam's regime will prove to be cruelty. Inept as a liar and killer, he was nevertheless competent at putting his people in great fear. Both Hitler and Stalin came from revolutionary parties that were not averse to commiting crimes. Saddam by contrast came from a strictly criminal group who became politicians. Is this a partial explanation of the difference?


For Margaret Atwood: Lots of flowers.

(Refers to this post.)

The floodgates of anarchy. I've just posted some thoughts on the delirious scenes in Baghdad over at Samizdata.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003
A Cuban journalist has been sentenced to 27 years in jail according to the New York Times. His "crime" appears to have been that he rode around Havana on a battered old bicycle covering the news independently. Other dissidents have received sentences almost as savage: 25 years for a man who sought democratic reforms. 20 years for an economist who invited an American diplomat to her home. 20 years for a poet and journalist who suffers from phlebitis and other illnesses.

I sincerely - and reasonably - hope that the regime that imposed these sentences will not last 27 months, yet alone 27 years.

ADDED LATER: When I hear the word "Cuba" I always think of the advertisements for the Cuba Solidarity Campaign and favourable articles about Cuba that I always used to see in The Teacher magazine, organ of the National Union of Teachers. It spurred me to see if the old love affair between Papa Castro and the British Trades Unions still burned.

Ah, the old spark burns yet. The TUC links to the Cuba Solidarity Campaign as just another human rights organisation, placing it between Anti-Slavery International and the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The National Union of Journalists is spared this embarrassment, but I notice that although they are sufficiently quick off the mark to make reference to the journalists killed today in the Palestine Hotel, Baghdad, they say nothing about the life sentence imposed on their fellow-journalist in Cuba for doing his job. Perhaps their press release condemning this sentence is in the works and will appear tomorrow, but I doubt it.

When are the unions going to wake up?

Incidentally, look hard at that NUJ article. One wonders whether the extravagance of the charges it flings is meant seriously, in which case they have picked a funny place to launch a criminal prosecution, or is merely melodrama for the groundlings:

"It seems certain that the media are being targeted," said NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear. "There must be thorough and independent investigations of all these incidents, and those responsible brought to book.

”The Geneva Conventions require combatants to protect the lives of civilians, yet here we have American forces taking aim at them. These are war crimes.

"The Americans say they have the most precise weaponry in history. Not all of these attacks can be accidents."

What a worldview.

Monday, April 07, 2003
"Waiting for Saladin." While it is true that Irfan Husain, writing in Pakistan's Dawn magazine, clearly holds Saddam Hussein in scorn, he cannot bring himself to take any pleasure in the overwhelming nature of Western military superiority over his co-religionists. This lack of enthusiasm does not stop him making some hardheaded observations:
"If it is established that we [Pakistan] helped North Korea develop its nuclear capability, there will be hell to pay once Iraq is out of the way."
Indeed. I don't know if Pakistan did help North Korea get nukes or not. I do know that is salutary that the rulers of any country that did should be afraid.

However the lines that really caught my attention in Husain's essay looked to the future not the past:

"One problem is that attaining technological parity implies a major shift in thought processes, allocation of resources and the system of governance. All this takes much effort and political will.

"It is much easier to just sit back and wait for the second Saladin. "

I very much hope that in years to come Irfan Husain will indeed see the Muslim world achieve the changes in thought processes, allocation of resources and system of governance he desires. I hope that Western technological superiority does indeed dissipate.

No, I haven't turned into a self-hating Westerner. At present we should maintain our technological superiority as our ancestors would have maintained their city walls. Outside those walls vast swathes of the Islamic world are, to be frank, in the grip of barbarism. But there's no honour to us in superiority per se: if our margin of superiority dissipates because the Islamic world is catching up - and, like Husain, I don't believe that that they can catch up without becoming more objective, more orderly and more free - then we are better off, not worse. Saladin and Richard certainly knew about truce and parley in one era of technological equivalence between their two civilisations. Perhaps their distant descendants might know actual peace in another.

How many Congolese dead? Around 1,000, according to this report from Voice of America. How silently they went. The world said nothing, distracted by more public wars. Perhaps the lack of interest is inevitable given that the conflict does not seem to relate to any causes or ideologies familiar to us, yet it worries me that murder on this scale goes almost unnoticed.

How many Iraqi dead? In this TCS article, "Don't count on it", Iain Murray concludes that while the Iraq Body Count site run by Hamit Dardagan and John Sloboda (advised by the famous - or notorious - Afghan body-counter Marc Herold) might be of some use in providing a maximum figure, the minimum figures it provides are useless. Partly this is because of over-reliance on dodgy sources, and partly because they hold that "the responsibility for consequences is assigned to the party initiating the conflict. Thus, if someone injures or kills someone else while acting in response to an attack on themselves, the responsibility for the consequences is applied to the initial attacker." In other words, they are going to blame the allies for pretty well all civilian deaths in the war. The results are predictable. On April 2, for instance, their minimum figure for Iraqis killed was higher than the estimate provided by the Iraqi government itself.

I do have one criticism. The database and Iain Murray's article are both quite clearly counting only people who have been killed, and make no estimate of injuries: it would have been better, therefore, to avoid the term "casualties" which in military parlance means "killed or injured", although I concede that most people these days use the term only to refer to deaths.

The war is moving fast. I have no time to blog about it today. These guys, for all their faults, have the stories - including that of the hideous friendly-fire incident that killed 18 Kurds, among them John Simpson's translator.

I scarcely dare jump straight from that "scene from hell" as Simpson called it, to the very funny scenes running on ITV live right now. A minute ago I caught a gorgeous videophone shot of two US soldiers lying down in the gardens of one of Saddam's palaces. The live voiceover said that they "seemed to be having a snooze." No way. They were - or are - posing like mad, as are another two sitting on loungers surrounded by flowers, having a little chat and admiring the view.

Jaques Delors, of all people, is saying that Chirac is leading France down a diplomatic cul-de-sac and frankly admits that European monetary union is "not working".

Sunday, April 06, 2003
More on the loopy paranoia of our elite about GWB's religion over on Biased BBC if you are interested...

UPDATE: ...And if the link works. It didn't when I checked it a minute ago. Please try the general link on the sidebar.

PS: You wouldn't think it from what I say below, but The Handmaid's Tale is actually a magnificent novel, from the opening scenes where every tiny detail ('blankets so old that they actually had "US Army" stamped on them') flutters down into place to set the scene of repression and despair, right along to the ambiguous concluding remarks made by a patronizing historian writing from the safety of a time yet further in the future. Don't let my bad mood or the author's silly one put you off reading it.

The Twiterati. Fiona Maddocks has written a book on Hildegard of Bingen, has been known as a critic of ballet and literature for two decades and is or was editor of BBC Music magazine. Margaret Atwood has been writing poetry, short fiction and novels since the year of my birth, The Blind Assassin, Alias Grace and Cat's Eye being among her most recent, as well as her best known work, the unforgettable The Handmaid's Tale.

These women are not stupid.

These women are twits.

The former was interviewing the latter in Thursday's Evening Standard. Here's the result, calling itself "A twist in the tale." The twist comes in the mental contortions Maddocks has to perform to get from George W Bush's inoffensive Evangelical beliefs to this:

"The question all readers of The Handmaid's Tale want to ask its Canadian author, Margaret Atwood, is: "How did you know?" Her 1986 best seller, set in a futuristic totalitarian regime called the Republic of Gilead, formerly the United States, has chilling prescience: Christian fundamentalists have seized control and imposed repressive laws, brainwashing women and depriving them of all the rights they have spent the past 1,000 years securing - education, property, freedom to give birth when and via whom they choose. "
(Emphasis mine.) I don't know why poor old Dubya does hold off from imprisoning all the women and depriving them of their names so that the top men's personal concubines are called "ofdonald", "ofjohn" and "ofdubya", according to the system described in the book. That's obviously what he wants, as proven by the fact that he sometimes goes to breakfast prayer meetings, and it's not like he gets any credit for restraint.

Atwood cannot be held responsible for the excesses of her interviewer, though. Her excesses were all her own. Instead of laughing in embarrassment at Maddocks' absurd pronouncements and gently reminding her that science fiction is, you know, fiction, Atwood solemnly responds:

"Only in America did people ask, in utter seriousness, 'How long have we got?' They realised that they were closest of all to the real thing, especially compared to Europe, which is now so much more secular a place than the States."

Give me a break. No, say the two Furies, we will not give you a break. There is loads more yet to come.
"Nor does Atwood flinch from repeating her warnings to anyone who will listen. A piece on Napoleon, published in the US and UK weeks before the bombing of Iraq, analysed his two biggest mistakes. "One was going into Spain and believing the Spaniards would welcome him with flowers in the streets when, instead, there was guerrilla uprising. The second was invading Russia when he did not have to, getting to Moscow and thinking he'd won. But then the Russians turned round and burned Moscow. The Iraqis have not filled the streets with flowers ..."

I read the article she refers to when it came out and thought about contesting on this blog her claim that it was the Spanish guerillas who ejected Napoleon from the Peninsula. Their struggle was indeed epic, but it's a bit of a joke to leave out the actual decisive factor in liberating Spain from Napoleon Bonaparte, namely Wellington and his army. However I can see why, given the anti-war policies she supports, she might prefer not to dwell on a British army that freed an oppressed people from a tyrant in cooperation with local freedom fighters.

Anyway, I never posted anything on it then because apathy won out, as it still does. I've suddenly run out of steam. Let me leave you with the sixth picture in this set of nine from the BBC. The streets are not strewn, but it does show one little Iraqi flower, just for Margaret Atwood to be going on with.

All these vandals should be strung up, that's what I say. An artist recently wrapped Rodin's "The Kiss" in string to demonstrate the claustrophobic nature of relationships. Then another artist came along with a scissors and demonstrated the victory of love over all bonds, or classical art over modern, or possibly Manchester United over Liverpool.

Now I am a defender of property rights so I can say that the scissors artist was A Bad Thing and deserves the prosecution for criminal damage that is coming his way. I may have to repress the odd giggle while saying it, but that's my business. That giggle may become an outright guffaw, however, if the art community as a whole try to come out with the same line (line - string - geddit?), seeing as they are normally so keen to épater le bourgeoisie and their cursed repressive system of pettifogging law.

From the point of view of modern art, is not Mr Snippy far better than Ms Stringy as a standard bearer for the avant-garde? Not for him the compromises of seeking permission - hah! - to mess around with the work of an earlier artist, or, yet worse, of cravenly applying for a grant. No, serene in his authenticity as an activist and an artist, he approaches the earlier work without servile reverence. He comes, he snips, he scores!

Missing. The Globe and Mail reports that 29 European tourists have disappeared in Algeria recently. Were it not for the war this would be a big story. It ought to be a big story. (Link via Instapundit.)

Saturday, April 05, 2003
It's looking worse. Eye witness sees 30 busfuls of American prisoners. The eye witness was a Saddam fedayeen. I ask you, would a man about to die lie to us?

Al Jazeerah are treating as fact the Iraqi line that they have regained control of the airport. The headline to the third story down says, "Allied attack gains momentum (Report written before Iraqis gained control over Saddam International Airport, It was also written from Qatar representing the US viewpoint)."

UPDATE: Chris Bertram of Junius writes:

I think your implied attribution to Al-Jazeera of the Iraqi airport story
is wrong. Their site is

whereas your link is to

(with an H) which is different. Confusing, I know, but the authentic one isn't reporting Iraqi propaganda as fact.

I've been had. I wonder, is the Al-jazeerah-with-an-H a sincere rival to the better-known Al-jazeera-without-an-H (i.e. it means "the news" or something like that in Arabic, so that many news outlets might have that name), or a parasitical site that deliberately seeks to trade upon the somewhat higher credibility of its namesake?

Transport in the year 3000 looks pretty fine, pretty fine. Actually, Patrick Crozier's time machine only took him a few years into the bright future of the railways but I have this pathetic need to prove my familiarity with popular culture.

Uh, maybe not the snipers, Patrick. But the list of sponsors at the end was heartwarming.

Unconventional warfare. A.R.C. writes
"A U.S. tank column has driven through parts of Baghdad and in response, Saddam's police, with a picture of Saddam on the lead car, are driving round the journalists' hotel, and possibly other parts of Baghdad. Do they think it is an election campaign, with rival candidates driving round letting the public see them?"
Well, sorta.

British troops discover makeshift morgue containing hundreds of executed corpses, some in military uniform.

UPDATE: This BBC story says they could be repatriated corpses from the Iran/Iraq war - or they could be people executed after the Basra rising of 1991. The bodies do look very dessicated, even given the desert atmosphere, so it seems unlikely that they are recent victims of Saddam. Get forensics onto it.

And make sure they examine every corpse. Where do you hide a tree? In a forest.

Friday, April 04, 2003
Babylonian Musings on the joys of reading Arabic. This little post is a vignette of our times.

Saddam alive after all. Must do something about that.

Thursday, April 03, 2003
Joke, one, officers for the use of. Capt. Heinrichs writes:
1. Ideally the two arms of the pincer should follow vectors whose directions (axis of advance) cross at a separation angle of 60 to 140 degrees . Attacking directly from the north and south implies an angle of 180 degrees, and that means friendly fire becomes not-friendly quickly.

2. "... launch their pinpoint demolitions": generally demolitions should be 'fired', 'initiated', or 'triggered'. Launching a demolition is difficult as most are fastened securely to a large, immobile object. However, it is possible you are talking of a Centurion AVRE and its 165mm 'Petard' launcher, which permits one to launch a demolition, but not necessarily be 'pinpoint'.

3. When advancing on two fronts, these fronts should be moving parallel, and in the same direction. Divergent or convergent axes are confusing; converging at 180 degrees could have an impact on the operation's success.

4. I pontificate pedanticly, but, it's me.

I think you mean "pedantically."

UPDATE: Capt. Heinrichs points out that the headline to this post ought to read, "Joke, one, officers, for the use of." I missed out the third comma. Mea culpa.

Krugman Truth Squad pincer movement. On the northern flank John Weidner and his mobile strike force of Special Forces economists launch their pinpoint demolitions. On the southern flank, we have the massed firepower of Donald Luskin and National Review pushing ever forward. It is an awesome advance on two fronts. But be warned, the wily Krugman has survived all-but-fatal blows to his credibility before. He will not give up easily.

Sorry about this. The upwave of my war-emotion sine wave has this regrettable tendency to override my good taste circuits.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003
A.R.C. writes:
"...given the rate of advance today, I suspect we must be approaching any red line Saddam drew about the use of chemical weapons. I wonder (noting that one can over-interpret these things) if his broadcast inviting junior officers to 'sack' any superiors who did not fight with sufficient determination could relate to resistance to orders to use chemical weapons?

"One thing seems clear; he must lack reliable secret communications with his troops to broadcast such an admission of questionable morale over the air.

"There is a historical analogy. After July 20th 1944, Hitler broadcast that any German soldier who knew that his superior had been connected with the plot should act against him immediately. One of the last entries in Anne Frank's diary records her hope that this would lead to a breakdown in German discipline as a discontented soldier could shoot his superior and claim he was a plotter. As we know, no such breakdown occurred, quite the contrary, so we shouldn't place too much weight on Saddam's broadcast. However, while Saddam does not match Hitler in his atrocities, he matches him even less in his abilities; it may be a sign the end comes."

Speculation: Saddam Hussein was killed by that first strike, and it helped Iraq's military performance.

An internet tragedy of the commons, or how the crude and thoughtless hordes of the blogosphere took something fragile and beautiful and spoiled it. I spotted The Dullest Blog in the World because it was just above a post cited by Instapundit. So did a few thousand others, apparently. Where yesterday there were but one or two comments on each sublime post now there are thirty to forty. And you know what? I can hardly bear to say this; it is such an indictment of the way our oafish Western size 11 feet trample on the very beauties they prize most. Some of those comments were... interesting.

Vandals. How could you?

UPDATE: Other comments were in Finnish. At least I think it was Finnish, but I do not know for sure. I do not speak Finnish.

2nd UPDATE (FINALLY GETTING THE HANG OF THIS, I THINK): Wishing for a better world. I often wish that there were more nice things happening in the world and fewer nasty things. When I have finished wishing that I think about other matters.

"Do not confuse a highly educated workforce with that of a highly skilled one." Scotland turns out twice as many lawyers as it needs and half as many engineers, according to a report spotted by David Farrer. And remember, compared to doing media studies, getting a law degree counts as hard-nosed realism.

There's nothing wrong with education for the joy of it. It's part of what makes having a brain worthwhile. Just don't demand that other people pay for your pleasures then tell them fibs about how its for the good of society. This applies even to engineering students; I am not completely convinced that the claimed shortage really exists. If it does, how come all the engineers aren't rich?

OK, there could be lots of possible reasons. We won't know what the country really needs until there is a free market in hiring, firing and education.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003
David Holford is an American Orthodox Christian living in the UK. Click on the link to read some striking and forceful arguments against the war, made from a viewpoint that you don't often meet in this country.
"But wouldn't he have attacked Saudi Arabia after Kuwait if we hadn't stopped him there? We could have hoped so. A secularist Muslim with tolerance for Christians could have overthrown an absolute monarchy where the penalty of preaching the Gospel is beheading? We are talking about the government that has actually supported more terrorism than any other and was the source of the funding and schooling of the 9/11 hijackers. Why in the world are we going after a nutcase in Baghdad with limited resources whilst coddling and nurturing the real demoniacal forces of radical Islam?"
My answer in three words would be "first things first." (It deserves more than three words, but that's all I have time for.)

Must resist... must work... must not waste time on internet...

Bleah. I give up. Go on, bring penury a little closer by surreptitiously spending some work time reading the The Dullest Blog in the World and A blog by Kim Jong Il.

(Hat tips to Is That Legal for the former link and Randy of San Diego for the latter.)