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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Friday, May 31, 2002
Gotta go. Meant to say much more about other stuff, including loads of good mail on multifarious subjects, but time's up. Please, please, look at Airstrip One and UK Transport for differing opinions as to whether it's all the EU's fault that the rail and track were run separately.

And all who sail in her. I have discovered Brendan O'Neill's site recently. He is of the vile and accursed tribe of progressive republican (UK sense) meeja activists. Teaches a course in online journalism at the Surrey Institute of Art and Design, and you don't get much more quintessentially Enemy Class than that. (Just look at the titles of the dissertations.) Apart from that, splendid chap, and quite sound on drugs (legalize don't lionize) and on the sins of the left.

Anyway, our Brendan decides to put the cat among the pigeons by means of this post slagging off the monarchy and right wing bloggers. Scroll down to find it, he has one link point per day.

Perry de Havilland pecks back.

As does Peter Briffa.

and me, by e-mail, quoted later.

Brendan says the defences of the monarchy are not strong, serious and democratic. Makes 'em sound like they have to be Tony Blair disguised as Milk Tray Man to qualify.

Perry again. "Yes. Undemocratic. Good. You heard right."

In comes David Carr. "With knobs on, " says he.

"And bells and whistles," says Peter. He made the point about the onus of proof being on the innovator, too.

Now, my two pennorth. Brendan O'Neill did not fully quote my e-mail. I'm not complaining; I know from experience that it's easy to make a cut that you, the cutter, think does no more than make the thing more snappy, and then feel quite taken aback when the originator gets into a lather about misrepresentation. So no hard feelings, but what I originally said was:

"But I've met loads of people - mostly middle class women, not that anyone important cares about them - who are quite consciously doing the street party thing to defend their vision of their country against people like you."
The section in italics was cut. But it was not mere padding. That's how it goes in a democracy: your fortunes depend on whether important men care about you. There are winning groups and losing groups. Frequently the winning group is not even the majority but a committed minority of activists. They get to decide. Why? What crime did the losing group commit?

So Brendan O'Neill says the middle class housewives are bored and dotty and has a nice line in ridicule by little-telling-detail, as if the mere mention of sausage rolls made whoever served them unimportant. (Warning: don't try the same line of ridicule by mention of chapattis. If you do people who know about Ethics of Journalism come down hard. Sausage rolls are safe, though.) Then he has the nerve to tell off Peter Briffa for empty, meaningless, 'witty' criticism, and insufficient attention to broader charges.

Let's go to his exact words:

"That just because some bored and dotty middle-class houswives plan to serve mini sausage rolls to their bored and dotty middle-class neighbours, we should all put up with a system that reduces us from citizens to subjects and means that, in the year 2002, we still have an unelected head of state?"

What's with the "just", Mr O'Neill? You're the democrat. You're the fan of the people. Here's the people doing things they like. Pro-monarchists are in fact the majority, as are middle class women come to think of it, but all that sort of consideration is your problem not mine. But I would think, given your professed concerns, that you'd be a tad more concerned. Don't you think the wishes of bored people count then? Pity they don't call themselves "alienated," that would sell better. As for "dotty", the imputation of insanity to those who disagree with you is rather reminiscent of the way Tony Blair's pollster calls those who might vote against the Euro "wreckers": not very democratic, but that's not unusual for democracies.

Here's people doing things they like.That's my defence of the monarchy, along with its consequence "we would be sad if you took it away from us." Since I'm no more than a last-resort democrat I don't need any more. (Though the comparative records of monarchies and republics provides plenty.) I don't even need a definite article before "people". Peter Briffa made a universal and important political point that you ignored. You say that defences of the monarchy have to be "strong" in order to count. But why should we play by your rules? How come it's us who have to put up with the constant demands to explain ourselves?

XXXXXX, Égalité, Fraternité. This ruling may mean the death of unmoderated internet discussion forums in France. It holds the webmaster responsible for libel committed by a forum member. (Found in the Libertarian Alliance Forum.)

Thursday, May 30, 2002
Crime in Japan. David Crookes writes:
I have no citation but the Economist a long time ago
addressed this question and one thing I remember was it claimed that a suprisingly large proportion of Japanese crimes are successfully prosecuted based on confessions. Furthermore, the article stated that police interviews weren't recorded, allowing forced confessions to be more easily extracted.

So Japan might have a nice low crime-rate thanks to police brutality and a general presumption of guilty until proven innocent.
Interesting, if painful to think about. I very much hope that that "thanks to" is really a "despite", since I'd rather not believe that one must choose between a low crime rate and police brutality. It looks as if the Japanese police have not changed. At home I have a book called "Traveller from Tokyo" by John Morris. He was an Englishman who ended up living in Japan for eight months after Pearl Harbour. Even allowing for the fact that any Book Club selection for March 1945 (I found an invoice for 2/6 loose inside the back cover, with a letter to Book Club members from Christina Foyle on the back) was scarcely likely to praise Imperial Japan, the description of Japanese police methods is still harrowing.

My second letter, from Tim Starr, also made reference to a period that Japan would like us to believe is utterly buried:

You write that Japanese gun laws are at least as restrictive as those of
Britain. Sadly, that is no longer true. Japan, for instance, allows Olympic pistol shooters to keep their guns, Britain does not.

As for Japanese crime rates, Japan has had strict gun control since the founding of the Tokugawa Shogunate, when all the guns were collected and melted down into a giant Buddha statue which the rulers promised would bring good karma to those whose guns were taken. However, this failed to prevent a wave of political assassinations in the 1920s and 1930s which brought the Militarists to power. They got their guns from the Japanese Army, of course, because the assassins were from the Army.

So, it's sort of the opposite of Britain. Pre-WWII Britain had little homicide and plenty of guns, pre-WWII Japan had few guns and plenty of politicide.

Two, no three, hot potatoes in one wrapper. If correct, this letter to the Telegraph slams three Guardipendent myths about the railways in one neat package, delivered by a man who ought to know.
Sir - Stephen Byers, a former law lecturer at Newcastle Polytechnic before he became an MP, never ran a business, or worked in industry or commerce creating wealth and jobs. His legacy is a demand for a shake-up of railway maintenance and the need to look at the role of contractors, the sub-text being that a return to British Rail practices is in order.

I was a former senior chartered engineer with British Rail in charge of a division of professional engineers. We found that, generally, direct labour was more expensive than contractors. All work was checked and verified before approving interim payments to contractors. Ten per cent of the tender price was retained to cover a 12-month maintenance period. Good management is required under any form of ownership.

Mr Byers stated that Railtrack has been a failure, totally unaware that the number of deaths per year is lower than under the former British Rail, even when carrying 25 per cent more passengers.
The writer doesn't say over what period he makes the comparison. If it's going back to the Tay Bridge Disaster or something like that, then this ain't news. But if the comparison is fairly recent, and true, it should be headline news.
The key to the whole issue is the Railway Act 1992, responsible for setting up Railtrack, which was issued under the European Communities Act to bring Britain in compliance with EC Directive 91/440, stipulating that track ownership must be separated from that of operational companies.

Idiots in Brussels, knowing nothing about engineering and the relationship between a train and its track, signals and operations, imposed this daft scheme.
Is this true? Is the separation of ownership between rail and train, which all sides seem to agree is a disaster, also the fault of the European Union? It's no use asking Transport Oracle Patrick Crozier because even he says he isn't sure. (Given that he was posting at 6.43am this morning, perhaps it's asking rather a lot that he has an answer by ten.) Anyway, our writer goes on:

My British Rail colleagues and I did not oppose privatisation on ideological grounds. Japan privatised its railways and they are among the safest in the world. The principal problem inherited by all private companies was to discover much of the track and rail coaches were 30 years old and life-expired. Such replacement takes time and money.

Walter Ablett, Chelmsford, Essex

Wednesday, May 29, 2002
Childhood goes on until 25. Except for Israelis. This BBC News 24 report on the shot Israeli "settlers" slips in a quote that the students killed were studying "before their military service". To British readers who have long forgotten that Britain once had National Service that sounds a little as if the school had some particular link with the military. It also makes you think of them as near adults. What it does not mention is that the victims were fourteen years old.

EU - the Guardians of Truth slandered? I've had an e-mail from "Mr Happy" - Iain J Coleman saying the Telegraph, not the EU are the villains in the case of the Oddie versus the EU Islamophobia report. Say it ain't so!

Here is Iain Coleman's e-mail:

You quote William Oddie's reaction to the Telegraph's report about the EU Islamophobia document. Oddie is correct that his views have been misrepresented, but wrong to blame the document's authors. Rather, the fault lies with the Telegraph.

If you read the report, at this link you'll see that Oddie's words and intent are reported accurately. The report summarises comment from a wide variety of politicians, journalists and other public figures, without making any moral or political judgements on their opinions, as well as collecting all the recorded cases of anti-Islamic violence and harrassment. It is the Telegraph which has put a nakedly partisan anti-EU spin on the report, saying commentators were "castigated" or "taken to task" when no such thing took place. For example, the entire entry on Melanie Phillips reads:

Melanie Phillips in The Sunday Times 04/11 "Britain is in denial about the angry Muslims within" expressed her horror at the presence of a "fifth column in our midst",referring to reports that many young British Muslims are supporters of Osama Bin Laden. "Thousands of alienated young Muslims, most of them born and bred here but who regard themselves as an army within, are waiting for an opportunity to help destroy the society that sustains them. We now stare into the abyss, aghast."

In the Telegraph, this becomes:

The newspaper columnist Melanie Phillips was taken to task for writing in the Sunday Times that Muslims had become a "fifth column in our midst", an army of thousands of angry young Muslims "waiting to destroy the society that sustains them".

And it's all like that. The writer of the Telegraph article doubtless assumed that none of his readers would bother checking the actual EU report. In Mr Oddie's case, this was clearly a safe assumption.

I disagree. The report does misrepresent Oddie. So does the Telegraph but to a lesser extent. On page 29 the report says:
William Oddie in The Telegraph 08/11/01 "British hypocrisy could prove the salvation of society" ....suggests that Tony Blair's insistence in separating Islam and terrorism is a desperate and unconvincing attempt to "prevent or at least obfuscate" some people's perception of the British Muslim Community as a threat."
Compare his own account of what he said:
"For this country, there is [an] imperative, which will be with us long after the war is over: to prevent, or at least to obfuscate, a perception of the British Muslim community as being an alien wedge."
In other words the report says that Oddie disapproves of Tony Blair trying to prevent or obfuscate the perception of Muslims as a threat, whereas Oddie says that he himself wants this prevention or obfuscation.

I agree that the Telegraph's take on the matter is not quite right. It suggests the report objected to the mere words "alien wedge", which don't seem to be the issue.

Summarizing others' opinions is difficult. I left out certain subtleties for reasons of space. It could just be incompetence all round. CRE twits misquote Oddie. Telegraph twits misquote CRE. But my taxes don't pay for the Telegraph.

You may hear more later on whether the report really castigated Melanie Phillips. I could get into some serious analysis of castigation-by-positioning. There's a sort of good guy / bad guy rhythm to the report which does hit Mel on the bad-guy beat, as it does Thatcher and Tebbit earlier. However perhaps life's too short to really get into this.

Othello's occupation's gone. I don't know, Peter, what are you going to write about now? Let's hope the mice are in good health.

Unlike Mouseman and Swordsman I don't think that Mandleson will rise from his unquiet grave just yet. Byers' job will go to Hoon. Why? Because he stood up for Gibraltar. So it stands to reason they'll move him away from Defence as fast as they can.

UPDATE: Nah, it was Alastair Darling got the Black Spot. All I can remember about him is that back when he was Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury... no, better not say that, it was a long time ago and proof would be difficult. How about "in the nearest thing I ever had to a personal encounter with Alastair Darling, which was not very near, he was rather snitty, but perhaps he'd had a bad morning and the offence was not great." Remember, when you want the real dirt, come to this blog first.

Better control those digressions, girl. I read Tim Blair having a bit of a laugh at some poor schmuck's expense, and thought, this guy sounds like me. Mind you, I'd rather be Peter FitzSimons than Doug Brown, wouldn't you?

Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note / As her corse to the rampart we hurried. The change of gender you may have spotted there refers to the fact that the burial that has occupied me yesterday and this morning was not that of Sir John Moore but that of my Ford Fiesta Popular. Cars, like ships, are forever female whatever some oh-so-modern bureaucrat at Lloyds List might claim.
But she lay like a warrior taking her rest,
with her bonnet and wheels around her.
So now she is at the top of a wall of cars, awaiting in Valkyric splendour the passage through the crusher to the Happy Driving Grounds. I may have mixed up my mythologies there. Blame the mental disarray consequent on discovering that I had to pay twenty quid to have her scrapped. Time was when they paid you. I have my dark suspicions as to why this change might have taken place. I prefer not to dwell on such sordid matters. Rather let us salute an old, brave car who did not shirk her duty to fill the air with health-giving hydrocarbons hence staving off the next Ice Age. (Have I hit the right point in the environmental scare cycle? I always have trouble keeping in synch.) No matter that I forgot to take the cassette player out. Let it serve as a funeral offering.
We carved not a line, and we raised not a stone -
But we left her alone with her glory.

Tuesday, May 28, 2002
Wobbly. The hopefully amoralistic Airstrip One quotes a cringeworthy pro-European Project speech by President Bush. I could go off this man. Bush, that is. Emmanuel Goldstein is a sweetie-pie.

SIAR* on indicating whether replies to e-mails are desired. A reader writes:

"there's already a well-established FLA.



*SIAR = Says It All, Really. I just made that up. Is NNTR well-established? I hadn't met it before. I've never seen FLA either, though its deprived younger sister TLA is a dear friend of mine.

Nitty-gritty. Layman's Logic has a post about the recent decree issued to the police that they must not use this term because of its supposed origins in the slave trade. (A claim which many etymologists dispute.) Follow the link in Ben Sheriff's post to a post by Eugene Volokh which tells 'em good.

It's gone from the net now, but the BBC's Talking Point forum had a whole discussion on this headed "Has PC gone mad?" Interestingly there was not one single comment in favour of the decree. I've never seen such unanimity before. Normally the BBC makes an effort to at least look as if it is presenting all sides of a debate, and they usually manage to give the PC people a surreptitious boost. On this occasion there clearly was no actual debate to present all sides of. From memory, the closest anyone came to supporting the decree was on the lines of "it's ridiculous to censor words because of their long-forgotten origins, but we should nonetheless censor words that are more clearly offensive."

Another good thing about Labour winning the election... Not my usual start line, I'll admit. But here Robert Harris argues that the Queen's present popularity is connected to Labour's victory. I remember thinking when the Conservatives won their last general election victory that, say what you will, it was Labour's turn next, and about bloody time. Power can corrupt, but so can lack of it. Labour needed to be brought down to earth by actually being responsible for something. Sometimes you have to reach New Jerusalem in order to remind yourself that it's just another New Town.

The EU, guardians of truth. Here's a self-explanatory letter to the Telegraph from one William Oddie (presumably not the same Bill Oddie I used to enjoy watching in The Goodies):
SIR - You report (May 24) an EU racism watchdog as focusing (in a document entitled "Islamophobia") on an article I wrote for The Daily Telegraph in which I am supposed to have asserted that "Britain's Muslims [are] an alien wedge".

What I actually wrote in that article was: "For this country, there is [an] imperative, which will be with us long after the war is over: to prevent, or at least to obfuscate, a perception of the British Muslim community as being an alien wedge."

In other words, my plain intention was the direct reverse of what I am accused of. Articles by other British journalists were similarly distorted in this EU report: the document as a whole is thoroughly disreputable, and should be withdrawn immediately.

A fantasy for the Guardian. I see the Guardian is still pretending that there is a serious body of opinion that thinks the Jenin quote massacre unquote actually took place, despite the fact that the Palestinian Authority themselves have dropped the claim that hundreds of civilians were killed. (Here's Mark Steyn's "Palestinians agree with Israel shock horror" column again.) Admire the way that the anonymous writer of this article seems so impartial. "Palestinians claim the camp was the scene of a massacre. Israel denies this and claims it is a centre for would-be suicide bombers." Can't you just imagine him, her or it smirking, "oh, I just reported the claims. After all some Palestinians still claim there was a massacre." The Guardian does not shrink from making an assessment of the validity of claims made by George Bush or Iain Duncan Smith, but they come over all bashful when it's their friends in Occupied Palestine.

Peter Briffa has given the Guardian a rude nickname, the "Wanker". Normally I'm such a nicey-nicey well-brought-up person that I laugh at this but do not imitate it. I have to admit, though, that the image perfectly describes the way the Guardian works itself up over its own fantasies. (UPDATE: Peter Briffa says he got it from Damian Penny.)

Oh yeah, and the heroic Palestinians have been killing toddlers in ice cream parlours. Scarcely qualifies as news these days, does it? Over the last few decades there has been a lot of outrage over the callousness of the phrase "collateral damage." It seems to stand for the mechanistic, inhuman side of our civilization, that sees human lives as mere tools, or worse, mere mess clogging up the progress of some great cause. Then you compare that attitude to that of to the Palestinians. Palestinians don't bomb places where families congregate as an unfortunate side-effect of hitting an armaments plant; they aim for them so they can kill families. And suddenly the phrase "collateral damage" and the apologetic behind it starts looking like a Normandy beachead: the first ground gained for civilization against barbarism.

Be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Here's a seriously intellectual website containing arguments for Christianity. Also lightbulb jokes, and an ethical defence of same.

Monday, May 27, 2002
Oops. Got into a code loop somehow. Or a time loop. Ignore this post.

Go on, surrender to blackmail now! I just had this cosmically urgent appeal for action:


As per instructed by the web-frau MB, I voted for you in this contest at War Now! How about a plug for my sex, drugs and rock & roll series? Of course I blew the deal since I voted BEFORE sending this email, but anyway. :}P


"Insanabile cacoëthes scribendi"

Now there's a man who knows his special characters. And I will of course plug his sex n drugs n rock n roll series, as hitherto it has only been noticed by picayune specialist blogs like... oh, what is that thing called again? Ah, I remember now... Instapundit.

Y'all vote for me now. Or the sushi gets it.

What will be will be splendidly pedantic.. I had several e-mails about the wisdom of Doris Day. Ray Eckhart's was typical:
My foreign language skills are not formidable, so it took a bit of work to get all of Mr Steyn's witticisms.

What you might be missing, however, is the way many (especially them ignorant Texans) in America mispronounce the Spanish of Doris Day's song, "Que sera sera" (there should be an accent on the "a", so that the translation is "whatever will be, will be."), and instead, pronounce it as sera sera, as in the Italian for "evening", with the accent on the first syllable. In truth, the lyricist made an error, in the sense that the proper Spanish (if I trust my memory and High School Spanish teacher), should be "lo que sera, sera" (again with the accent on the a) Don't know how to do accents.

Thanks to Turkeyblog I do! Go to Webmonkey and search for "special characters." They all start with & and finish with ;. Just write the whole string in place of the character. It looks really weird on "Edit this post" but, trust me, comes out OK on the published page.

The popular misquoting of the words results from mixing Spanish with Italian. According to Babel Fish the Italian would be "Che cosa sarà, sia." (Let's see if their accent copies to my page!) This means "What thing will be, would be." But - trusting my memory and a teacher of long ago - I think that "sia" is the subjunctive and unecessarily posh. I hope I'm right to say that many Italians would drop the subjunctive and the "cosa" and actually say "Che sarà, sarà."

For fans of the song, Mr Eckhart provides the lyrics here. He did give another link, too, but it's not working for me.

"Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime... " Deeply concerned about criminals, completely freaking indifferent to victims of crime. I think I'll make this a series. The widow of the murdered head teacher Philip Lawrence was asked to apologize to his killer by the killer's probation officer. It seems the poor darling was upset at his victim's widow criticizing him for, you know, being a murderer. This was the action of one probation officer who has since had a bollocking, true. But it's symptomatic of the training and direction this officer will have recieved. Which in turn is symptomatic of the culture.

It Can't Rain All The Time, says Myria. A reader with what I think is an Irish name replies, "Obviously you've never lived in Ireland."

BTW I need a more explicit "naming" policy. My intention is that if the author of an e-mail to nataliesolent@aol signs their name then I assume, unless told otherwise, that it's OK to quote them by name. But what does it mean if I can easily get the name by digging in the "Details" field, but the main e-mail is not signed? Is anonymity desired or not?

The truth is out there. It just ain't found its way here yet. Samizdata links to it. Instapundit links to it. It's the Boston Globe story about the disastrous effects of British gun control.

Far be it for me to snipe about this timely exposition of facts I have been shouting into a black hole ever since I had this blog. I merely offer for discussion some complicating factors. The first is that I am pretty sure author Joyce Lee Malcolm is not quite right to call British gun restrictions "the toughest in any democracy". Japan is at least as strict, and has been for longer. This has been cited as one of the causes of Japan's famously low rate of crime by many anti-gun observers. Pro-gun people have to supply other explanations for Japan being different, such as general social cohesiveness. (Does anyone have a url for an accessible summary of different countries' gun laws?)

Secondly, it has to be said that althought the US burlgary and mugging rates are now looking either similar or lower than British rates, it is still true that the British murder rates are lower than US. Next question: is this because of the absence of legal guns? Answer: no. Or it least that's my answer. The British murder rate in the early part of the twentieth century was far lower than it is now, as the article says, and guns were then freely available for self-defence. Considering the more recent past, of the few anti-gun control facts that has become widely known in Britain - the knowledge having been hammered into us in a spectacular and bloody manner - is that the 1997 Firearms Act has been followed by an explosion of gun crime.

That, however, leads us to a third point. It bears repeating that the framers of the 1997 Act were not really interested in reducing ordinary shootings by ordinary criminals. This is not some stupid conspiracy theory. Gun-control was a genuinely popular and well-intentioned movement. But, as I wrote in Rachel weeping for her children:

The main aim of the handgun ban was not to cut down general gun crime. That was only ever thrown in as a makeweight. It is important to realise that what ordinary people wanted from a handgun ban was to stop another Hamilton or Ryan. They shut their eyes and wished hard. If troubled by the question, "won’t the next mad killer just get hold of an illegal gun, as ordinary criminals so frequently do?" then they firmly told themselves, "At least it’s a gesture in the right direction." The law served as a gesture of comfort to the bereaved and to the public.

For more on this subject, see Iain Murray's published work. The June 21st 2001 article is spot-on relevant, of course, but quite a lot of the others also tie in.

Saturday, May 25, 2002
Unbelievably I had not fully taken in that long-time - well, long-time in blog terms i.e. several whole months - correspondent Myria has a blog. It's easy to find at but it's called "It Can't Rain All The Time" My favourite phrase, coming in the middle of a long post, was this:
But I digress.


I have an awful guilty feeling that Dodgeblog (wherein lies the den of another long-time correspondent Momma Bear) mentioned Myria's blog ages ago and I thought, must go and look there, and then the kitchen timer rang or something equally mundane and I didn't.

Talking of Dodgeblog, the thing I posted just now talked about a local council acting in a way that exuded both stupidity and a slug-like malice against anyone who disturbed their sloth. To be fair to local councils most of them do without the malice - but not, alas, the stupidity. Read the post about the sterling efforts of one council to keep all citizens informed regardless of disability.

"Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime..." ...Deeply concerned about criminals, completely freaking indifferent to victims of crime. James Rummel alerted me to a story about a run in between a local council and a 94 year old woman repeatedly victimised by criminals. Observe where the council's priorities lay.

And with reference to the post below, Yoda uses a hankie and blows his nose properly, like the gentleman he is.

The Wisdom of Doris Day. I have to point out, Mr Steyn, that "Che (rather than Que) sera, sera" is the Italian for "what evening, evening." Or was that all part of the joke?

Whether to watch the Pearl video? I certainly won't be, but I acknowledge that a man or woman of goodwill could come down on either side. But here is a passionate argument against viewing it from Moira Breen.
"You have the image of this handsome and kindly young man, in the high summer of his life, and you know his fate. With these two things in your possession, what knowledge remains unrevealed? What proper emotion still lies dormant? The photo of the smiling young man, and the knowledge of his fate. What more, pray, do you need to see in order to feel and to know?"

So glad there's nothing going on in the world, leaving us all free to talk about the scandalous, appalling admission that your odds of winning £10 in the National Lottery are only 1 in 57 and the odds of winning the jackpot are only one in some instantly forgettable but big number. What on earth did people think the odds were? How did they think the lottery made its money?

As government money-hoovers go, I quite like the lottery, or would if it were not for the shamelessly monopolistic restrictions they put on private lotteries competing with it. It's a voluntary tax on stupidity. I pay it every now and then.

I'm mostly better. Thanks for good wishes.

Ain't No Bad Dude now has his own domain name. It's ---No apostrophe!

Friday, May 24, 2002
Have you noticed that I just got a whole bunch of other people to write my blog for me while I feel woozy? And I had the nerve to moan about e-mail. Off to bed now for some more pointed moaning. Oooh, my head, my aching bones...

UPDATE: message to Mr Katzman: In your dreams!

"Kashmir: breathe easier", says Joe Katzman of Winds of Change. He writes:
Noticed your blog postings. Did my own analysis of Kashmir, and came to less alarming conclusions.

Incidentally, while planes can be forward based, the weapons themselves tend to be stored in very secure locations. An airstrike ain't gonna get 'em, and they won't all be at the front. Besides which, you're not going to get all of the Jaguars - and if you do, they still have Mirage 2000s, and Mig-29s. Etc. There's always another plane to load a nuke on if necessary.

It's not like India or Pakistan are the US Air Force, either, with cutting edge equipment precision weapons up the yin-yang.

Result? Risk of a failed first strike is very, very high - so high I can't see either side trying it. Even without a triad-structure deterrent.

The Hole We're In. Jim Bennett recommends this review by Irwin Seltzer of Will Hutton's latest book. So do I. Here's an excerpt:
"Oddly for a tract devoted to comparing benevolent Europe with an America suffering from ‘tenacious, endemic racism’, immigration is virtually unmentioned. It didn’t take a Le Pen or the BNP to highlight the failure of Europe to achieve the successful absorption of immigrants that is so much a part of the conservative agenda and the American success story. The prominence of Indian immigrants in the top levels of Silicon Valley firms is well known. Less appreciated is the fact that in New York City alone some 40,000 minority firms account for a quarter of all businesses in the city, and employ 200,000 workers; over 33,000 of these firms are owned by Asian and Hispanic immigrants. "
I would add that the list of dead at the WTC made the multi-national nature of New York's workforce (note that I said workforce, not welfare rolls) well known.

More inspirational abbreviations. "Augustr", the author of the letter that started all this discussion of ways to streamline the processing of e-mail, has now come up with some more user-friendly ideas. Some of them are not entirely serious. I think. I hope. Well, serious or not, here they are:
"...bloggers may need some subject line abbrev. for other things, if we work hard enough we could have as many as we do all those smiley face thingies :-)

Oh, please -- OP

the obvious one -- FO

absolutely -- abs

references -- REF from happyfacepundit this morning

don't ever email me again -- FO oops used that- but it works doesn't it?

Oh, yeah, one more -- WHATEVER that should encourage people to go away.

The only problem is that after 2 or 3 only frequent users would know what they meant."

I started going down with a bug yesterday afternoon, and I feel yeuch today. So not much from me until I feel better.

Thursday, May 23, 2002
Government funding for Asian language teaching in Australia axed. This BBC News 24 story seems to feel deeply for Australia's national shame. I've got a totally rad blue-sky idea. If there are all these Chinese tourists wealthy enough to visit Australia can't they pay for intepreters? And can't some Australians pay a little to learn Mandarin (or to hone their specific translation skills if they speak it already) so they can make a lot more selling their skills? And can't some tour companies help financially with such training and then recoup their costs in commissions plus some profit as well? No, no, it's too absurd. The BBC would surely have said if this were even possible.

The answer to my quiz is: Chris Cooper has a great blog. Now I've seen it and I'm sure. This is his sharp message to both sides of the abortion debate. After pointing out that the strongest objections to the use of foetuses for experiment do not arise from lack of biological knowledge but from an irreconcilable difference of world-view, he says:
"There is no such thing as a right answer here. That's not sitting on any fence: pointing to the existence of a hundred-foot high fence isn't the same thing as sitting on it.

"So chew on that, objectivists. It means that in a free society, people are going to divide into communities of divergent moralities, and the anti-abortionist ones are just going to have to live alongside communities of people whom they regard as murderers. As they already have to do, of course - but they're not reconciled to the fact."
I think he is wrong to say there is no such thing as a right answer. Unfortunately I can't prove it, and neither can you with what you think is the right answer. But he accurately delimits the playing field we can none of us leave.

You want to see something really scary? This comment addressed to a Vodkapundit post fits the bill:
If the Indians really have forward deployed their strike assets, then the escalation ladder is currently being put in place.

Neither state has what is known as a "secure second strike," i.e., a set of forces that can survive an opponent's first-strike. (Think about our ballistic missile subs, which are hidden and can "ride out" an attack on the US, and then strike back hours, days, or even weeks later.)

Instead, if they've deployed their forces to forward locations, they are vulnerable to an enemy first strike (air bases are very soft targets). Which means that, conceivably, you're either in a launch-on-warning situation (bad, because that really is a hair-trigger alert; we and the Soviets generally avoided going to such a situation), or else you're in a first-strike mode (where your vulnerability won't matter, because you think you'll get your licks in first).

Both are EXTREMELY destabilizing situations to be in, since accidental wars and unintended wars (i.e., "I don't want to go to war, but it looks like he's going to, so I'd better get my shot off.") are much higher probability events under such circumstances.

Posted by: Dean on May 23, 2002 02:45 AM
As I commented to Vodkapundit, no one's mentioned the start of World War I yet, where the railway-based mobilization once started was next to impossible to stop, since to be attacked while de-mobilizing was just about the worst position to be in.

The wages of political correctness is death. As pointed out by a caller to The Corner, back in early September 2001 it would not have been a good career move for a federal agent to suggest serious racial profiling of Arabs at flight schools. What astounds me is that it still might not be a good career move.

"Carry on carping," says Julian Borger in the Guardian. Why, you might get a role in the film and be spanked by Hattie Jacques while Kenneth Williams says "auwww." Borger has no such ambition. He thinks that even though Colin Powell has asked the Europeans to stop carping, the real friends of the Secretary of State should - for his own good - carry on. One might think that a chap who fought in Vietnam, rose to be the most prominent African-American soldier in history, and now holds a major office in the most powerful government in the world would be a better judge of his own best interests than a Guardian journalist. If Borger wants to carp at the US, let him do so. He'll just up the level of Bushite scorn a little further and make it a little less likely that any good advice in there will be lost in the slush. I do wish, though, he'd carp off his own bat and stop pretending that's it's all done for dear Colin's sake.

Quiz time. Of whom did I say, "...I'm sure he has a great blog. Pity either Blogger or my server is malingering so I can't look and see."?

Wednesday, May 22, 2002
The evidence of my senses. James Rummel, of Hell in a Handbasket ("James Rummel, of Hell..." This could be misunderstood. I attempt to thus indicate the name of his blog rather than speculate on the eventual residence of his immortal soul) has many years of experience in the field of forensic science. Read his post about the way the Soviets and others have been doctoring photos for years. He also writes:
"I just read your post on the age of evidence. You were troubled by the news that creative editing with a computer can alter videos to the point that the tape has nothing to do with reality.

"I get this a lot from people. You see, what you're worried about isn't evidence.

"It's not just the law that I'm talking about, even though it provides the best example of what I mean. Think back to your own experiences. Ever have an event happen, something that was important to you so you thought that you'd remember the details forever? Then, when discussing the event with someone else who was there, you found that they had gotten the details completely wrong?

"Right about now you should be saying 'But it's videotape! A recording of real events! To alter that
is beyond belief!' Not really. Tapes have long been edited. Time stamps on surveillance video (the digital clocks at the bottom of the image) was altered almost as fast as video was introduced. Tapes can be altered to show an empty corridor when a whole herd of people are moving through it. Things like that."
[Though I do think our growing ability to put a herd of people in when the corridor was really empty does move matters on to a new level - NS]

"REAL evidence (my old field) is still safe. Fingerprints, DNA, hair and fiber, all still of value. False evidence can be planted, but it can't be altered after the fact."
I am partially reassured, although even for these types of evidence the time will come when something like the replicators in Star Trek can fake anything. However I had in mind more than just the pointed question of what happened on this or that occasion. Once one gets to the stage of asking factual questions on the course of particular events then, yes, recent advances in video technology don't really change things that much. We rightly trust blood, grease and bone more than magnetic tape. My fear is more of that the river of background knowledge will be polluted.

How do we know about history? Or, widening the question, about the way the human race conducts its affairs? Direct experience and instruction count for a lot, but a vast amount of knowledge comes as a by-product of either entertainment or of instruction ostensibly about something else. You watch a Public Information Film about women war workers made in 1943 and, along with foreground knowledge about World War II, you learn that commentators in those days had a special speech-rhythm, and you observe something about women's hairdos and the care needed to protect them, and how big a deal it was that the women were wearing trousers, and you make some assessment of the level of deference in those days, and you note that the makers of the film evidently thought that a reference to Soviet female workers would help morale, and a whole lot of stuff. It worries me that, say, some well intentioned person could put a few black faces among the workers (for a US example) in order to show the black contribution to the war. OK, that would be a stupid thing to do even by the professed lights of the "anti-racists", as the way the contributions made by blacks were hidden from view is a genuine historical injustice. But people do do stupid things that harm their own cause. (Ye gods, some teacher dorks want to ban To Kill A Mockingbird because it contains the word "nigger".) Well, now they can put in the missing black faces. Easily.

Too easily. That was a lousy example, since changing white faces to black has been possible for decades. I shall leave it in as a swipe against teacher dorks, though.

How about the scope for manipulation of our negative knowledge - I mean the things we'd surely know about if they had happened because we are well informed people who know about the world. This is a surprisingly large category of knowledge, and it is evidence of an active mind not a closed one. It's how you know no animals have been found on Mars. It's how you make any sort of estimate of the character of a public figure.

Now it gets scary. No public figure will be safe from some website somewhere having a video clip of him or her saying or doing whatever is calculated to offend the maximum number of supporters. Conversely some public figures will have acolytes making videos portraying them as doing whatever is calculated to appeal to the maximum number of supporters. Osama Bin Laden, for knew I'd get to him eventually, didn't you? And so I have, but you'll have to do your own worrying because I'm off to bed.

Public interest in this blog has reached a new level - namely, 57,000. I know, 'cos Peter Briffa of Public Interest was the 57,000th visitor.

He also links to a story in that says a majority of Germans want to ditch the Euro. Interesting. As I've said before, the price rise that accompanies the introduction of the Euro is a one-off, recognized as such by both friends and enemies of the Euro, and not really politically significant. They'll get over it. But the dissatisfaction of the Germans (of all people) with the Euro, if sustained, is very significant. I should make that "if sustained and reported," because I don't seem to have heard this story elsewhere. Kudos to The Scotsman for getting the word to the English-speaking world. Didn't they get the one about Pim Fortuyn's dubious attitude to paedophilia too?

We are pleased to note the very proper attitude of respect for our person held by Benjamin Kepple. He refers to "Queen/Senator/Her Worshipfulness Natalie" and further observes "She's quite a dish, isn't she?"

We are perturbed, however, that there seems to be some talk of "Ex-queen Natalie." We are very much still upon our throne. Perhaps Mr Kepple's mind has been over-excited by viewing motion pictures. We are informed that a Mr George Lucas has presented another one of these novel entertainments to the public recently.

I homed in on the Anglosphere interest in this comment on the role of philosophers by Junius:
"Anyway, there's no such thing as "British" philosophy these days: there's just one big anglophone philosophical sea in which the British, Americans and Australians etc swim together. There are anglophone philosophers whose work has tremendous relevance for public life - Rawls, the late Robert Nozick - but they didn't achieve the things that they have by being pseudo-politicians and op-ed commentators like, ....the French."
Then I felt a bit sad. "Pseudo-politician and op-ed commentator" perfectly describes us bloggers - even Chris Bertram himself, who I assume from the "us" is a working philosopher. Yer average working philosopher, even.

And if Chris Bertram gets sick of jokes about the number 42, think of the unfortunate barrister called "Harry Potter." Imagine it, perfectly normal life, reach eminent position in chosen career - then BAM! You can never book a room or order a meal without getting a snigger again. I tried to find a link to an excellent article the poor man once wrote on the MacPherson report, but a looking for a needle in a haystack has nothing on this.

This hasn't been one of my more tightly focussed and mentally disciplined posts, has it? And that's even after I edited out the reference to cutting off arbitrarily able-bodied people's legs on Rawlsian principles as a possible post-Answer occupation for philosophers.

Drown 'em in cream. Happy Fun Pundit explains how to defeat environmentalists.

Erasure of history. The Waqf, the Muslim trust that administers the Temple Mount, is busily rubbing out the Jewish past of that site. (via the new-look MCJ.)

Are they serious? Nuclear war between India and Pakistan? Hmmm. Sometimes that's the way it happens - the world is focussed on one eruption while all the time pressure is building up in a completely different volcano. That said, my instinct is that Kashmir is a good deal more intrinsically solvable than the Israeli/Arab conflict.

20 years ago today Staff sergeant Jim Prescott was killed aboard HMS Antelope while trying to defuse a bomb. This is how he died. I was just thinking that even a rather optimistic assessment of the near future will require many men of Jim Prescott's calibre, and will contain a steady stream of death notices. "The London Gazette, Published by Authority" will once again be familiar, not archaic. That said, I hope no interfering fool gets it into his head to drop the crest and the gothic typeface and modernize the layout. These archaisms are minor symbols of remembrance in their own right. Brave men have been commemorated in these pages over several centuries.

Tuesday, May 21, 2002
Glitch-aid. That Sekimori lady, the one Dawson likes so much tells you how to sort it out if your Blogspot page has been replaced by a fetching minimalist "Page Not Found". Apparently mine hasn't - Chris Pastel says he can read it. Then follow Dawson's link to Vincent "Vinny" Ferrari's mobile phone story. Go to the loo first. You plutocrats with laptops, take it in with you.

Inappropriate Response? Moira Breen of the above-named blog has the following arresting quote from David Warren, writing in the Ottawa Citizen:
In the rather shocking words of a British Afghan expert, a man I believe to be deeply humane: "Real progress requires that we address root causes, which means putting bullets through the right foreheads."
Now why does a normally peaceful woman, a typical bookish middle-class mother and law-abiding citizen, feel a distinct sense of pleasure in reading such advocacy of political killing? No, I'm not talking about Moira. I'm talking about me.

Perhaps it's because at least this unamed expert doesn't think empathy or aid solves the problem of people who want us all dead or enslaved.

A helpful letter. Dave Trowbridge of The Redwood Dragon has this little contribution to establishing new standards of internet courtesy and convenience. He writes:
I too am hoping this meme of John's spreads. But my mind keeps assigning
inappropriate meanings to the acronyms.

For some reason, Not Ready to Eat is the irresistible translation of the
first, and Waste Management of the second. The first doesn't make a lot of
sense, but the second does, I think, since it enables you to delete the
message without opening it.
Thanks for sharing, Dave.

At MIT they can put words in our mouths. Regular readers will know that every now and then I yammer on about how the age of evidence is passing away, and the time is returning when a man's word had better be his bond because nothing else is trustworthy.

I didn't think that my prophecy would come true so soon. It might well be worth your while to pay the Boston Globe $2.50 to get the entire article. And if you haven't got $2.50, and your credit ain't good, just read this intro and tremble.

(Article found via the Libertarian Alliance Forum, where it was posted by fellow-blogger Chris Cooper. I keep hearing his name around, and I'm sure he has a great blog. Pity either Blogger or my server is malingering so I can't look and see.)

Blogger's down. And that's OK. The good thing about it is that you won't even know that I'm posting these two worthwhile Telegraph articles a day later than I should have done; you'll think it's all the fault of Blogger.

Here's the first. Sheesh, isn't it amazing that you can be an anti-welfare fanatic like me, jaws dripping blood like Tyrannosaurus Rex, and still vaguely think that Tony Blair or David Blunkett or one of those people had fixed the system so that this didn't happen any more.

Here's the second. Shot teenager was in IRA. He was shot dead on Bloody Sunday. Revered for decades as an innocent civil rights protester he is now revealed to have been a member of the IRA's Youth Wing, Fianna. Sez who? The IRA themselves actually, in a commemorative book- which I would dearly like to see - commemorating 364 IRA volunteers killed in the Troubles. (Why only 364? Which day of the year doesn't get its Daily Martyr? Christmas, if you're good.)

And another thing. Two Sinn Fein councillors killed by loyalist terrorists are revealed to have been IRA members too. I am wounded, wounded to my very heart, to discover that a party that claims to be at the heart of the peace process has so cruelly deceived us.

Smile, it's Time to Blog On says the Guardian.

NRE = No Reply Expected. I've started getting e-mails with NRE on the end. Some precede it with an asterisk, some don't. Wouldn't it be cool if John Weidner's meme spread all over the internet? Go on, spread it, and say you were there at the beginning.

As for WM = Whole Message, Jonathan Gewirtz writes to John Weidner that "(nm)" for "No Message" is already in use in some bulletin boards. I confess I slightly prefer my version, seeing as there is a message if only in the subject line, but let's see what takes off. Something will, I'm certain. I don't care for the brackets, though. Brackets take a few milliseconds more to type since you have to stretch your fingers out of the range of the familiar alphabetical keys. Rather like Olympic sprinting, it's these little factors that make for success or failure.

Links. I speculate that Jim Bennett spends a lot of time here in the UK. No, I don't know him personally, although we've exchanged emails several times. But he does have the knack of selecting apparently minor stories about the UK that resonate, and nine times out of ten you only get that knack by stacking up those air-miles. Most of this article is a take-down of Chris Patten's recent remarks about what he sees as a developing European identity. But along the way Jim Bennett hits that note when he talks about the local government reorganization of 1974. "Huh," say all the non-Britons reading this, "a local government reorganization a quarter of a century ago - this you call a story? Talk about Dullsville, Arizona." And that's the point, guys. Just be grateful you still have an Arizona. Our equivalents, the traditional counties that had stood for centuries, each with its own identity and place in history, were dissolved by administrative fiat one fine day when Edward Heath wanted to look modern and efficient. I remember my resentment when it happened and I was ten for heaven's sake.

Monday, May 20, 2002
Let the people be heard. Martin Devon a.k.a. Patio Pundit says:
I have found that adding a comments facility cuts down on the email load considerably. Unless you have a readership the size of InstantMan's or Andrew Sullivan's audience, you don't have to spend much time managing the comments. It seems to give people the feeling that they have been heard without getting an actual reply. I dip into my comments section and reply every once in a while, mostly to show people that I read them.

The other thing I found was that once readers had an outlet to comment, the nature of emails I got were different. Hardly anyone sends the "vote" type email anymore. I get mostly comments that a reader wouldn't want others to read, for whatever reason.

In any event, I don't feel obligated to answer email from my real world pals, so why should I treat my readers any better than I treat my friends?

Very frankly spoken, Martin, especially that last bit. Got a lot of friends, have we?

I might end up putting in a comments facility. Some downsides to think about, though: it does make a site slower to load, some people have had glitches and of course one loses control of what is said. That's my control-freakery coming out. You wouldn't believe the tactics I use to ensure that people undo their clothes buttons when they put 'em in the wash basket.

BTW, I just drafted Patio Pundit into the New Model Army.

The Throne Room. Continuing an earlier discussion, Captain Heinrichs writes:
"... I am unfocussed in this situation. At present "Rob Roy" is at hand, but also three others which should be rotated out as I have read them. However, I often snatch what is immediately available when the spirit is not only moving but urgent: this can cause heartache when the chosen material has been read recently and is no longer of interest. A lesser problem is having material which very interesting or requires deep thought. This generally prolongs the stay and can distract one from the job at, er, hand.

There is also the long, hot, lingering bath to be considered. Once I had a project from the office for which I did the groundwork and calculations during several evenings/baths. Might this be a suitable
follow-on discussion, avoiding reference to telephones of course?

Over the last two days Tim Blair has demonstrated that he remains free of the dreaded "post lightly over weekends" meme that has wreaked such havoc in the blogosphere.

I once sent Winnie Mandela a Christmas card. I just felt the need to confess that.

And if you're wondering who inspired Tim Blair this week, it was Matt Welch, in fiery form. Superannuated anchorman Dan Rather plays the toast.

Random Jottings suggests a new e-mail convention to indicate that no reply is expected or that the whole message is in the subject line.

I don't think I could cope with the asterisks, though. Quite apart from the surprising double meaning revealed by Redwood Dragon (link within John's post), I'd be sure to forget which code meant what. How about *NRE and *WM standing for No Reply Expected and Whole Message respectively? The asterisks are only there to make it look pretty. Now someone's going to tell me that NRE and WM stand for... well, you tell me.

Talking of new conventions, my failure to link directly to Redwood Dragon was deliberate. Redwood Dragon's comments on kitty tarot are very funny and you should read them. But they are quite a lot funnier if read directly after John Weidner's post. So I obliged you to get to them via Random Jottings. This oppression, besides mortifying your impatience and making you better, stronger human beings, (a) gives John clicks, (b) saves me time and (c) makes the whole thing read better as I said before.

The new convention is not without problems. For a start, some readers will not get round to clicking Redwood Dragon who otherwise might have done. I claim in mitigation that those who do will be in a better frame of mind and more likely to stay. My claim of solicitousness for the Jottings click-counter might be met with scorn, too - perhaps he is even now penning an email saying, "Be off with you! I can get my own clicks! * ** (or NRE WM)

So let me admit that my major motivation is (b). I get sick of cutting, pasting and typing out pointy bracket a href equals quote blah blah. Yes, I know there are meant to be quicker ways but some defect in my intelligence means that I spend as long trying to figure out how to employ the short cuts as I would just typing the thing. If I can convince myself that it is actually virtuous not to do it then that suits me fine.

Another story where the story isn't the story. As Instapundit points out, isn't it interesting that the Guardian feels the need to defend their coverage of the quote massacre unquote at Jenin? Incidentally, I see that even the Prof is taking it slow at weekends now that May is here. Sunshine: blogdom's biggest enemy.

Man bites dog. Tony Blair condemns animal activists. Here's another story where the interest lies in condemnation from an unexpected source. To be fair, Mr Blair has shown no strong feelings one way or the other about the use of animals in medical research. Then again I very much doubt that he has any great love for Mr Fox yet that didn't stop him reaching for the fox-lovers' vote when he needed a bone to throw his supporters. Here's the story.

Palestinians condemn bombing, says the headline of this BBC News 24 story. I wonder if the BBC are aware of the irony in the fact that their headline writer considers that the news value lies in the condemnation not the bombing?

I'm back. I'm afraid I didn't get a chance to post over the weekend, which was exceptionally busy.

Friday, May 17, 2002
Secrets of my mailroom. Then there is the mail that a more decorous age would not have cared to publish. Geoffrey Barto of Turkeyblog and I are exchanging stuff about books to read in the lavatory. And by synchronicity, I also received this:
"I am a great admirer of your Thomas Crapper, who made civilization possible. I doubt that I would make it through the Atlantic Monthly without regular recourse to my cozy study, where my prize porcelain sculpture is on display along with my selection of reading material, such as Monster Trucks and a tasteful collection of colorful flyers from the Wal_mart (I especially value the Spring issue, with its emphasis on garden shrubbery)."
The writer, Ed Collins, was led to the subject of Mr Crapper's ingenious invention by a desire to expand on the linguistic difference between crap and crappy jobs. Interestingly, all the e-mail I received on that subject was literate and all the writers felt they had benefited or were benefiting from having to shovel a little of the metaphorical stuff in their time. I wonder if anyone has compiled any statistics on the correlation, if any, between having had to do a crap job (UK usage) to get through college and later success in life?

Here's a balanced way of dealing with mail: Jack C Denny writes, regarding charity solicitations:
"I used to get all kinds of idiotic solicitations from non-profit and advocacy groups. When they would send these "questionaires-slash-fund raising letters" that always had highly skewed and nonsensical responses preprinted on them, well then I would look for the return-addressed envelope. Almost always they would be postage-paid, as the group was willing to pay the postage to get the donation/response. In that case I would write my reply (as you wrote one) and mail it back to them at their expense. However the more astute groups leave a space for comments on the form. On these I always put my own postage on, returning the respect they have given to me, whether on not I choose to donate to their cause. In this case I have let them have an idea of what I think, not what their pollsters are trying to elicit as a response. Now that's what I call grassroots advocacy."

Do not read this. For the first time last week, my e-mail really got on top of me. I've lost stuff before. I've forgotten stuff before. And, no, I never did answer every letter - particularly as some of them really don't seem to expect it, being more in the way of voting than comment. But last week for the first time I felt the chill portents of a time coming when it would be out of the question to even aim at answering most of 'em. A telepathic reader (his name's on the "details" link, but he doesn't sign the e-mail proper. Not that it's a big deal: I'm just being obsessive, which is the point, oh get on with it woman...) where was I? A reader writes:
"Why do bloggers insist on the need to read and respond to all email. Sgt Stryker demonstrates why this is a bad idea. I am more interested in what the bloggers I read have to say then having the bloggers feel they have a duty to respond to everything. Maybe the readers should find a way to indicate in the subject line how interested the readers are in a reply.
I know that doesn't make a lot of sense but neither does spending hours reading email every day. I can't keep up with all the blogs I like. I generally ration them to a certain time each day and rotate through a list, although there are some including this one I read every day.

"Why not start a blogger discussion on what is the appropriate level of time and attention to pay to your blogs and the email. Post less often when it becomes a strain, as many are starting to do, stop racing to be the first to comment and worry more about the quality if your are still enjoying what you do.

"Please don't respond."
But you lot can.

Beware the Ides of March. And April. And May. And it might not be the Ides. Airstrip One praises Instapundit for covering, when others didn't , the fact that the US administration had vague warnings of September 11. Actually I think Instapundit is a good deal too hard on the US government. The failure of local authorities to follow up on the disquiet about named pupils expressed by the flight schools was negligent. But, as for general warnings of terrorist activity to come, hey, everyone's always getting warnings of everything. The fact is most of them are issued by either cranks, excitable people, tail-coverers who want an insurance policy against every conceivable catastrophe, or professional doom-merchants who half want the kudos of being proved right. A good percentage are also issued by responsible and sane people, but daily life would be impossible if we acted on 100% of their well-intentioned warnings, let alone the ill-intentioned ones. Same goes for bad bits of track.

Another day. Another fisking needed. Isn't there more to life than this? In this article praising Michael Moore's documentary, Gunning for the land of the free, which has just met such a favourable reception at Cannes, the Guardian presents such a multitude of targets - sorry - that I don't know where to fire -sorry - first. Perhaps I should keep my powder dry for now - sorry - and fire off my broadside - sorry - when I feel more inspired. But I can't resist one small target of opportunity. Mr Moore is careful to tell us that the NRA was formed to sell guns to whites only; will he be as forthcoming in telling us how many of the early US gun control laws were passed explicitly to stop newly freed blacks owning guns?

BBC partly forgiven. I submitted a version of the post below to the BBC's Talking Point on our "readiness" for the Euro. They didn't publish it. They never publish my stuff. I'm beginning to get paranoid. However just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean they aren't... willing to publish letters containing a better anti-Euro metaphor than my stock market one, actually.
"Make no mistake, joining the euro will be a huge gamble. We will be surrendering control of the most important levers any country uses to run its economy to a group of people over whom we will have almost no influence whatsoever. You could liken it to trying to drive a car with someone else operating the brake and accelerator - someone you didn't choose and you can't get rid of (and who so far has a pretty poor driving record). - John Parker, UK. "

"We had no idea". The staff of Arab News can hardly express their deep sense of shock and dismay. Did they really allow a racist nutter to sully their famously tolerant pages? Best of the Web explains. Ctrl-F to "David who" to find it.

Thursday, May 16, 2002
Don't push your luck, Tony, says Anatole Kaletsky in the Times.

Kaletsky makes some good points. I particularly liked the aside in brackets here:

This tilts the vote towards the pro-euro camp unless “alienated and perhaps rebellious anti-euro voters rush into the electorate and wreck the referendum”, says the leaked memo. But such “wrecking” tactics (also known as democracy) have recently broken out all over Europe and would in Britain.

In the past decade, in almost every case, there have been significant swings against closer European ties and in favour of the constitutional status quo during the campaign periods. These swings have occurred even when change was strongly recommended by popular governments and supported almost unanimously by political elites.

He makes too much, though, of the effect of the price rises in European goods. I can't help thinking that this is a one-off phenomenon, and people will know this. In general one of the good effects (see, I do admit there are some) of the Euro will be to make prices in the Eurozone more fluid and hence to settle at a generally lower level in the long run. In that same long run, of course, unemployment in Greece and Italy is going to reach frightening new levels, not to mention the feast and famine problems that a one-size fits all economic policy is going to cause all over Europe - but that's by the by.

Is Britain ready for the Euro? asks this BBC News 24 Talking Point. This is a perfect example of BBC bias. "Readiness" is good. One works to become "ready" for events that one has already decided are either desirable or inevitable. "Are you ready for school?" the mother asks the child. "He isn't ready for marriage yet," the concerned father says of his feckless son. The patient gets ready for surgery knowing that unpleasant though the prospect may be, it is necessary. The football manager boasts that his team is ready to go out there and win.

None of these metaphors fit the question of whether Britain should or should not join the Euro. It's like being asked whether you are "ready" to buy a certain financial product that might go up or down, might be easy or impossible to disinvest from, and is offered by a company that might or might not be an ethical place to put your money. To suggest that the only question is your state of preparedness is an affront. As a correspondent called "Mike" puts it, "Britain is ready for the Euro, it always will be. It's also ready to reject it."

Disappearing Duke struck by mystery green projectiles. Little Green Footballs spotted Arab News's little gaffe too, and has some funny comments.

The Case of the Disappearing Duke. Instapundit has just flagged up the mystery. Nancy Drew, get on to it. Also just out is Professor Reynold's latest Fox News column, on the riot at the San Francisco State University.

Wednesday, May 15, 2002
Murder. This is a politics plus quirky stuff blog. I don't usually post reports of "ordinary" crimes, however horrible. However, it does occur to me to wonder whether the murder by arson of five young children and two adults that took place in Huddersfield over the last few days might have a political angle.

The grandfather of the murdered family (it is terrible to think that he may no longer be a grandfather, unless he has other children) is described as a well-respected imam.

More on the Cristeros. Jim Bennett writes:
"There was indeed a movement in Mexico in the 1920s generally called the Cristeros. I don't know what the formal title was. Guerilleros del Cristo Rey (GCR) was the name of a terrorist group in Spain active just before the end of Franco with roots in some of the ultra-traditionalist movements there.

"The Mexican Cristeros were originally a movement of small peasants opposed to the collectivization of land in the area of Mexcio known as Los Altos (the Highlands). Because the Mexican revolutionary government was also anticlerical, it eventually took on a pro-Catholic tone as well, combining two complaints against the regime. It was a bit like the situation with the collectivization of the Ukraine -- a program that
was received with mixed reactions in other parts of the country with less individual land ownership was very strongly resisted in areas with a strong tradition of individual land ownership.

"Although the Mexican government did not resort to outright large-scale populocide as in the Ukraine, it was rather nasty in suppressing the Cristeros, who responded in kind. One incident, the dynamiting of a train with hundreds of innocent passengers killed, got a lot of notice. In the mideast, of course, it would just be considered a good day's work by Noam Chomsky's friends."
Funny where one gets one's knowledge. 95% of what I knew about the Cristeros last week came from the works of the novelist Graham Greene. The Power and the Glory moved me greatly as an adolescent, but since Greene was distinctly friendly to communism, perhaps under the malign influence of his Mao-worshipping journalist brother Felix, I rather think "know" is too strong a word.

Eminent Americans. You may recall I cited the Saudi "Arab News" as an example of the comparatively mild English-language Arab press? Yeah, right. The latest in their series of distinguished foreign correspondents is Neo-Nazi (oh, sorry, former Neo-Nazi) David Duke.

UPDATE: This is strange. I just tried to put in a link just now, but all I got was this. I copied the link from Instapundit. I certainly remember reading Duke's predictable remarks (he thinks the Jews carried out 9-11, natch.) Scroll up Instapundit and you find that Travelling Shoes seems to have read similar opinions from Duke, but on the man's own website rather than Arab News, so that proves nothing. But a poster on the Libertarian Alliance boldly states that "David Duke does Arab News". But now I search Arab News for "David Duke" and get nothing, and search for "Duke" and get uncontroversial articles about someone's cat's poo problems.

Which is it? Has Arab News been leaned on? Or is it yet more evidence of my computer incompetence? Please investigate!

While flitting from flower to flower in the Arab News website I sipped some more of that Saudi nectar. They say there's a public lecture in English coming up called "Let the Bible Speak." I assume the lecture seeks to prove that Islam is compatible with the Bible, or is the final flowering of it. Of course many respectable Muslims hold this view and legitimately seek to persuade others of its truth - but the title might raise a laugh in Saudi Arabia, where the practise of Christianity is banned, and speaking the words of the Bible in public can get you jailed and flogged.

A weird website. I really ought to disapprove of this. But it made me laugh so much that I had to post it anyway. My Cat Hates You.

I never knew Janet Daley was American. At a guess she's married to a British man, and that's why she's ended up here. But I might have known. Like fellow journalists with a foot on both sides of the Atlantic, such as Andrew Sullivan she has strong but nuanced views on identity and assimilation.

(While you are on the Telegraph pages, check out the piece about the BBC and the abortion debate highlighted at the bottom of Ms Daley's column.)

Tuesday, May 14, 2002
Tactics against alien infliltrators. Do you remember I recently posted something about a couple I know who got into Eurosceptic politics? Heck, here it is again:
They met some great people, but also a worrying and incredibly persistent fringe of anti-semites and racists. Real nasties, not just unsophisticates who'd come a-cropper of the latest PC diktat. Trying to keep out the infiltrators was a task not unlike Signourey Weaver's task in Alien: no sooner had you zapped one than another one popped up someplace else.

My friend comments,

"Reading your blog, I liked your comparison of our (I assume) Eurosceptic politics experience to Sigourney Weaver in Alien... The crucial difference is that lucky Sig got to kill her enemies. Entryists need to be politically (at least :-)) slain (I got rid of one group but certainly learned something about why nice people don't go anywhere near politics in the process). It seemed to me that it is the very nature of an entry-is-easy / expel-is-hard, 'let's be nice' political group to be vulnerable to such a fringe. The local guy in charge was a gentleman and very nice; we needed an arbitrary autocrat."

The same reader takes up the recent campaign against smacking:

"We heard an amusing bit of PC logic on the radio this morning. A campaign has been launched in some newspapers to attempt to outlaw any right of parents ever to lay a finger on their naughty children. The advocate explained that a study had revealed the harmful effects such brutal parental behaviour caused; an opinion poll had shown a clear correlation between those who said they were themselves smacked if (sufficiently) naughty when young and those who said they might smack their own children if (sufficiently) naughty now they were parents. In short (and I do not caricature), this is a bad thing because those subjected to it will tend to do (shock, horror) this bad thing. I was reminded of the circular logic buried by Karl Marx in 7000 pages of heavy German text only to be exposed in that unintentionally funny book, 'Marx for Beginners'. To the accusation that he defrauds the workers of surplus value, the capitalist replies, 'But I put up the money.' 'Ah, but where did you get that money', replies the communist narrator; from exploiting the the book's answer.

"Applying the group's opinion poll to themselves, one may deduce that they were never subjected to anything resembling physical punishment when young. Was this the cause of their growing up into politically-correct statists? If so, there would seem to be a good case fror outlawing any failure of parents to punish bad behaviour with vigour, at least on the level of logic that they know and use."

Will you be my daddy, li'l Annie asked? I've just discovered Daddy Warblogs. Would you believe that for a long time I thought this name was something like "Instantman", a joking reference to the Warblogger Emeritus, Instapundit?

Scroll down Warblogs and check out the surprising Neitzsche quote. My closest acquaintance with his philosophy is the line in the Philosopher's Drinking Song that goes, "There's nothing Neitzsche couldn't teach ya about the raising of the wrist. Socrates himself was permanently ...." In earlier years I had always assumed that Neitzsche was tainted with the Nazi brush. More recently I had put that opinion in the box of dodgy ones that could not be relied upon, but only because it shared the same batch number as other opinions I knew needed repair. Another author I must get round to reading someday.

I found Daddy Warblogs with the help of The Edge of England's Sword. The next item down (does that make it nearer the hilt or the point?) links to an article by Heather Mallick which Iain Murray as the worst he's ever seen. Come, come, Mr Murray. It is racist, complacent, malevolent and obscene. It praises Stupid White Men. But is it really the worst you've ever... Looks again at article. Mutters, "'Next up: The Netherlands, where a recently assassinated fascist could handily win the next election. I shall enjoy quantifying the Dutch.'"

Come to think of it, Murray old boy, I see your point.

No one was so naive as to think all those oppressive Canadian laws against hate speech actually applied to important people like Globe and Mail columnists, did they?

Don't it just warm yer heart. Cyprus welcomes Palestinian gunmen. Apparently Greek Cypriots feel that they are the Palestinians in this drama and the Turks are the Israelis. It's interesting that the fact that their Palestinian friends and their Turkish enemies are both Muslims does not seem to affect the Greeks' feelings towards the Palestinians.

Monday, May 13, 2002
Climate of violence. This open letter, found by Dawson, vividly describes a riot at the San Francisco State University when pro-Israel demonstrators were surrounded by antis. How long before someone gets killed?
"Not one administrator came to stand with us. I knew that if a crowd of Palestinian or Black student had been there, surrounded by a crowd of white racists screaming racist threats, shielded by police, the faculty and staff would have no trouble deciding which side to stand on. In fact, the scene recalled for me many moments in the Civil Rights movement, or the United Farm Workers movement, when, as a student, I stood with Black and Latino colleagues, surrounded by hateful mobs."

Optimists. Friends of the Earth sent me a begging letter today. It had a bunch of those either/or questions. It was indeed one of those inescapable moments of decision that confront us at climactic moments. Caesar led his troops across the Rubicon. Luther nailed his proclamation to the door. How would I measure up? Imagine the sweat breaking out on my brow and my mouth going dry as I realised that my only choices lay between these stern alternatives:

Genetically modified diet: I'm happy to eat food modified with virus or bacteria genes, even though no one can predict the long-term effects.


Safe, natural food. I would like to help Friends of the Earth ensure that we never again face a disaster like BSE.

With thumping heart I searched the columns for one saying, "Personally, I think that if Friends of the Earth really do not know that Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy has nothing whatsoever to do with GM foods then they are even more ignorant than I thought they were and I would not trust them to 'ensure' a biological recycling event in an organic brewery." But that option wasn't there. For a moment my heart quailed. How could I ever choose between the two terrible alternatives presented to me? Then with a rush of relief and gratitude I realized that I didn't have to choose at all. The only option that had a tick box at all was the one where you give money to Friends of the Earth.

My way ahead lay clear. With a decisive movement I tucked their leaflet under the flap of the kitty litter box. Recycling. I'm all for it.

Derail the peace process! Byers to Northern Ireland now!

Cristeros. Reader Jay Cantor writes:
I believe that the reference you were looking for in your post on the Lord's Resistance Army was to a group (or collection of groups) known as the "Cristeros" - I think their formal title was "Guerreros de Cristo Rey", Spanish for "Warriors of Christ the King", and were formed in Mexico in the wake of the Mexican Revolution (1920s) as a counterrevolutionary/terrorist force to resist land and social reforms imposed after the Mexican Constitution of (?)1917 [and were a fairly nasty bunch].
Thank you. I had inserted a superfluous "h" into the Spanish spelling of "Christ" and had, by an understandable confusion of ideas, dragged in something of the word "pistolero" or gunman. What little I know of this group suggests that they were indeed nasty, but it is only fair to say that as the Mexican revolution enthusiastically persecuted Christians perhaps at the beginning it seemed as if they had some justification.

I'm miles behind on the e-mail. Sorry.

Sometimes I have nothing to say beyond "how dreadful". I know very little about the background to the Ugandan group calling itself "The Lord's Resistance Army," except that they have followed the pattern established in some South American countries: namely a group that started off as a tribal Christian religious movement (Were they called "Christoleros", "Christolieros" or something else? Google is silent) has degenerated into banditry. Or in the case of the LRA, something far worse.

You've heard of road rage. Now it's Byers rage. This Telegraph article starts with vulgar abuse of Mr Byers (nowt wrong with that) but goes on to make some serious points about what why pseudo-nationalized companies are even more likely to fall to bits than properly-nationalized ones are.

By now I don't have to keep telling you to read UK Transport Blog. The "bullshit" post I've linked to has lines to make 'em wince in every paragraph.

"There's Louise Christian solemnly telling us that there should be a full public enquiry. Will you be waiving your fee, Louise?"

"If you can't keep yourself together when there's an accident that hasn't killed or seriously hurt someone you know, in an industry where accidents are inevitable, at a time when you have to lead your staff - then you shouldn't be in it."

Sunday, May 12, 2002
Guns at Downing Street: Blair emerges in his underwear with hands held high. Prescott, Byers to be flown to Ramallah. "Military rule only until order restored," says New President Gordon Brown. Ignore me. The story here isn't the story. Look, you can click if you like, no doubt the Observer needs the hits, but it's a fairly ordinary account of how we Brits had some role or other in the negotiations that ended the Bethlehem seige. If our diplomatic boys were hard at work that is jolly admirable, but as part of the apocalyptic drama of the Last Days of the International Order, helping some thugs get a holiday in Cyprus does not get star billing. It's a little like that scene in The Mouse that Roared where the newsreader talks about the latest US moonshot and adds proudly that one of the astronauts is wearing a British made watch. The important point is that the headline reads How a British coup ended siege. What a wonderful headline, rich in possibilities. One so rarely sees the word "coup" used in its evocative Native American sense these days, meaning an act that gains a warrior glory-points.

Saturday, May 11, 2002
"It's not just Palestinians who peddle insults." This letter to the Telegraph, written in response to Alan Judd's article, cites in return two instances of extreme Israeli abuse against Palestinians and Arabs.

All talk of this type is bad. The first, by the Shas leader, seems the less serious to me - colourful racist abuse is common enough in the world. If Arab abuse against the Jews were limited to this sort of thing I would scornfully say, "look at the way they talk," but would largely dismiss it. The second is much more serious. I don't speak Russian and haven't checked it out, but I assume it's correct. It is a wicked proposal.

Now to the point. I am limited by ignorance of both Hebrew and Arabic, but I read a fair bit of both the Arab press and the Israeli press in translation or English-language originals.

Here is today's Ha'aretz. Read an article approvingly describing how Shin Bet, the Israeli Security Service is hunting down Jewish extremists who plot violence against Arabs. Read the editorial passionately urging the Likud party not to make opposition to a Palestinan state part of party policy.

Here is today's Jerusalem Post. A somewhat tougher line, but still thoughtful. Read this opinion piece where a chap from the Israeli broadcasting service who has met Arafat describes him as "relevant but no nation-builder. Not so different from the newspapers of many other countries, are they? Note that these are simply today's papers. I have performed no other selection. Also note that they have Hebrew editions (Correction: Alex Bensky informs me that the Jerusalem Post is just an English language paper) - but no-one has even suggested that the Hebrew editions differ systematically from the English ones, or that the Hebrew press generally says things that the English language Israeli press conceals from the world. Not so for the Arabic-language press. The differences between Arafat's utterances in English and what he says to his own people have been widely reported.

Not a week goes by without MEMRI printing some new hate-drunk outrage. Just scroll down the archive of this blog, or Damian Penny, or many others. The point is that this poison does not come from the lunatic fringe but from (and this is frightening) government sponsored newspapers. I haven't yet seen what today's Egyptian, Palestinian or Syrian government newspapers have on offer, and won't until MEMRI gets busy. But I guarantee, sight unseen, that there will be something Nazi-like there. "Nazi-like" is no exaggeration. I used to have what I thought of as a purely academic interest in Nazi propaganda. Read some, it's instructive.

While I'm waiting I will make do with the comparatively mild English language Arabic press. Here is today's (Saudi) "Arab News". Now let's be fair, it does have an article by a Jew: The Last Action Heroes by Israel Shamir. The Arab press also has recently featured articles by eminent Americans. You know, Lyndon La Rouche, Noam Chomsky. Israel Shamir is an admirer of Edward Said (although I wouldn't swear to it being mutual) and a wacko. If you don't believe me go to and read the four most recent articles. "UFO terror" is the one where he hints the Jews carried out 9-11.

You will find Israeli fanatics pumping out hatred in their press. You can't avoid their Arab equivalents. You will find courageous - very courageous - Arab voices preaching moderation and reason. You don't have to even look for their Israeli equivalents; they are part of the fabric of Israeli society. For present-day society in the Arab nation that is not the case. That's the point.