Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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

The Old Comrades:

November 2001 December 2001 January 2002 February 2002 March 2002 April 2002 May 2002 June 2002 July 2002 August 2002 September 2002 October 2002 November 2002 December 2002 January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 August 2007 October 2007 February 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 March 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 October 2009 January 2010 March 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 April 2011 June 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013 July 2013 August 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013

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Thursday, May 29, 2003
Was meant to be packing. Got ranting instead, over at Biased BBC.

Public Interest is back, which is all to the good as I'm off for a few days. See you June 2nd.

UPDATE: Calm, calm. Count to ten. Deep breathing. Enhance your calm. No, the first chapter of Peter Briffa's novel wasn't that bad. It's Blogger going bolooger again that is sending my blood pressure into regions that qualify it for astronaut's wings. Click this second link if the first one didn't work.

If anyone else is new to blogs, this glossary of blogging terms might help.

I have arrived. I have finally had a (an?) hostile e-mail. Ian MacFarlane writes, and I answer in italics:
Visited your website because Mark Steyn had given it the nod.

1. It takes forever to open your page. I don't suppose there's a sensible reason for this?

Depends whether you count "the internet is crud sometimes" as sensible. My page is usually very quick to open; about half a second. But yesterday I had trouble browsing, too.

2. The site is mass confusion. What is a BLOG? And what does it do?

Blog is short for "Web log". It is an internet journal composed by one person or several, containing links to other websites, and usually self-consciously diverse in subject matter. Those that concentrate on politics are a minority of all blogs but are the most widely read.

Perhaps you embrace avant-garde internet terminology to feel superior to those of us who haven't heard them yet?

While it is no disgrace not to be aware of this particular subculture, there are several million blogs out there. Newspapers now feel free to use the term without explanation. Perhaps you impute to me motives that have never entered my head because your granny made you eat semolina pudding when you were three. Amateur psychology via the internet is a notoriously unreliable proceeding, but that's my diagnosis.

3. If a blog is a forum for twits like Ken Mcleod to ramble on about his useless doings, then some people (make that most people!) should just shut the fuck up!

You don't have to read it, chum.

4. One dare not follow a link from your site because once again, it takes forever to go back to the main page.

See answer to your point (1) above.

5. All in all, a general waste of time and effort. Maybe Steyn is losing his marbles!

He looks okay marble-wise to me.

Most sincerely,

Ian Macfarlane.

Have a happy week.

Selective political myopia. Joanne Jacobs led me to an entertaining account from a US academic describing how he carried out a sociological experiment. He deliberately violated university policy by posting a "Clinton/Gore '96" sticker on his office door.
"After two years without any complaints, I decided to replace the sticker with one that said "George W. Bush for President." Within a few weeks I heard reports from two faculty members and one staff member saying that someone was preparing to file a complaint about the Bush sticker."
He didn't want to get fired, so he quickly sent round an e-mail beginning: "You have all been involved in an experiment in tolerance which, unfortunately, some of you have failed . . ."

Eventually his door became a sort of free-fire comment zone:

After one animal rights activist heard about my little prank, she came by the office for a laugh. I put up an "I Love Animals. . . They're Delicious" sticker just for her. Some liberals really do have a sense of humor, you know.

Of course, others don't. After one of my feminist colleagues came by to say that she didn't mind my stickers as long as I didn't post anything "pro-life," I had to respond. That explains the picture on my door showing a newborn baby with "Is this the face of the enemy?" printed above his forehead. If you come by my office, you can't miss it. It's in bold letters.

All in fun, lady, all in fun.

However the admirable Dr Mike S. Adams was wrong - or at least not necessarily right - in saying that his colleagues had failed an experiment in tolerance. After all, he was breaking university rules, and he did not suffer any penalty in the end. One can imagine a devoted supporter of free speech who would, without inconsistency, object to political stickers where they were forbidden by an agreed-upon local rule. Even the glaringly obvious discrepancy in how the two different stickers were received does not necessarily point to a failure of principle. Perhaps his embarrassed colleagues can stand before their Maker and claim that they believe in free speech equally for all opinions. They just... didn't see the Clinton sticker. It was part of the air they breathed, platitudinous, not really politics at all...

I have written elsewhere about how the decision as to what does and does not count as political is deeply political. The Left is right in one thing; there is a sense in which everything is political. That is a horribly dangerous truth. It can lead to the totalitarian vision of Robert Ley, chief of the Nazi 'Strength Through Joy' movement, who said, "Only sleep should be provided as free time, " adding that private amusements had no value for Germany. But even dangerous truths are still true: deciding what is and is not a subject for a discussion isn't just an argument but often the key argument.

I first became aware of this melancholy truth while watching, dumbly, the progress of the Firearms Act 1997. Again and again I heard politicians and citizens of all parties declare with complete sincerity that "this is beyond politics," as if the question of whether to arm the polis were not the very quintessence of politics.

Yet, very often the argument about what is arguable is an argument that never takes place. Sometimes that is because conscious hypocrites carefully plan that it should not. However the most innocent and the most common reason for this just the sort of selective short-sightedness suffered by Dr Adam's colleagues. Did they - could they - finally see the point when he reminded them about the invisible Clinton sticker? Did they say, "Oops"? If so, they passed the experiment in tolerance, though not, perhaps, with distinction.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003
When is racial abuse acceptable from a bishop? To find out, read this article by Joyce Milton in which lambasts the Episcopalians - with a brief word from our own dear C of E to show that it too is full of men who can't say the word "evil" without scare quotes.

(Via Random Jottings)

Talking of matters ecclesiastical, no one noticed my deliberate mistake, perhaps because it wasn't deliberate. John Wycliffe wasn't burned at the stake. He died of a stroke. I was thinking of William Tyndale.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003
Ain't No Bad Dude has moved to

Ain't No Bad Address.

Monday, May 26, 2003
Ken MacLeod has a blog. Found via Amygdala, now posting every day.

No, I don't do interesting posts after midnight. Nothing personal, Gary, Ken, it's my fault not yours that that was just about the most brain-rotting gut-decomposing benzadrinic post I have ever written.* Everything about it was substandard. The utter lack of an arresting headline. The bland, uninformative link text - just the name of the blog linked to, "Amygdala", although heaven knows even that was better than "blog." The lazy failure to provide a permalink. The smug, complacent way that I offered no explanation of who Ken MacLeod was; I just assumed my readers would know. I couldn't even manage the basic courtesy of proper English: "Found via Amygdala, now posting every day" attains all the linguistic dignity of a cinema poster advertising Confesssions of an Accountant: Full Frontal Falsified VAT Returns. For the right to do this my forefathers fought and died, for this John Wycliffe was burned at the stake. O tempora! O mores! I almost deserve this.

Oh well. Isn't it nice that Ken MacLeod has a blog and Amygdala is posting every day?

*Oh no, tell a lie. I may have written a slightly more boring post in October or was it November last year. Wait a minute, it must have been November because I was eating the flapjacks I made for the halloween party, the awful ones that nobody ate, and I was eating them, well more chewing than actually eating, while writing this post (the one I'm talking about I mean not this one I'm doing now) at the same time; and I remember thinking, gosh, this is a pretty boring post. Unless that was the other boring post I did in...

&aelig Thanks to everyone who sent me HTML advice. I still think that there ought to be a general "ignore this" command. I could put all those louche posts that let down the tone of this weblog in between two ignore tags and deny that they were my responsibility at all.

For instance, this website is a mildly interesting example of the oddities to be found on the internet, although I must caution that the banner ad at the top sometimes contains obscene language and images. <ignore> But this is a deeply, deeply sick example of the pathologies rampant in our society. </ignore>

Rescues. Snacks. Dangerous re-fuelling. Logistics. Conventions of Theft. Shooting. Big guys going through little hatches. James Rummel of Hell in a Handbasket recently spent several days aboard the USS McFaul and discusses all of the above. Many pictures.

Sunday, May 25, 2003
"Not yet, you fool" part II. Captain Heinrichs writes:
Partially true, but the greater danger is after one throws the grenade -

"No, that's not what I said!"

The instruction is to watch until the grenade lands, then duck behind the protective wall and watch through the armoured glass. However, the tendency is to see the grenade land, bounce, and then wonder what happens next. At this point, hopefully, the supervisor takes hold of a handful of shirt and pulls vigourously downward. The thrower immediately remembers the post-throw instructions, and dives for the viewing port, to see his throw missed "by that much". It has happened to me, umm, several times. (An interesting but semi-salacious memory intrudes, but I resist the

Continue to resist. Be strong!

It's what they call an "encore presentation." You know, I'd be happy to ask why on earth Mark Steyn has the impudence to put up this article from 2000 again, when everyone knows that the situation is completely different now. I'd be delighted to chide him for going on about yesterday's problems, now happily well on their way to being solved. "That's sooooo 2000," I'd say. It would be nice to be able to do that.

If only. In the real world matters now are as bad or worse as when he wrote this article on crime in gun-free Britain. It's as relevant today as when he wrote it. Bummer.

Andrew Bolt, writing in Australia's Herald Sun, puts it perfectly:
Islamic terrorism has been like a Rorschach blot of the Left: into every suicide bombing you can read your favourite cause, and demand your favourite solution, whether it is winding back American influence, curbing globalisation or destroying Israel.

(Via Tim Blair, who made a different choice from mine as to which passage to pick as best quote. There were plenty of good contenders.)

"On the one hand, there are limits to what the government can do. On the other hand, they [the Algerian government] found a lot of resources awfully quickly to put on a nice show when Chirac's visit was arranged, making one wonder why buckets and shovels were the tools of first resort in this disaster. That we do differently over here is a testament not only to our technology, but to having a truer free market system that can generate the wealth needed to do this right and reinforce the value of individuals enough to have it taken as a given that doing so is worth it. "

- Geoffrey Barto. (Also a Secret Master of Hut Mul, by the way. General link here.)

Saturday, May 24, 2003
Talking of Arab traders in ninth-century Stavanger, as one so often does, I have two questions. The first is rhetorical: how come one was more likely to see an Arab trader in ninth century Stavanger than in twenty-first century Stavanger? My second is more academic. How come these intrepid Arabs or anyone else ever dared go to the Viking lands at all, let alone go loaded down with nickable trade goods? Given that Viking practice was to attack, kidnap and enslave foreigners, why did the Arabs reckon on enough security of their persons and property to venture to the country of the Vikings, as they clearly did. I suppose someone will write in saying it was different in their own country: there the Norsemen had Things and things and an admirable system of anarchist law. Well, how did they feel about that? How did they cope with the gap between going to Britain and seeing the people there as prey and yet seeing visiting Arabs as people?

I 'd like to teach the world to sing. I just watched the closing minutes of the European Song Contest. Honest guv, it was only because I wanted to see the proto-libertarian Austrian entry I read about in Michael Jennings. I didn't see him, but I did observe that the feelings of our European friends and partners towards us remain - how shall I put this? - un peu grincheux. That's right. No points at all, null points, Keine Punkte!

At least the future fame of our brave duo Jemma Abbey and Chris Crosbey of "Jemini" is assured. Just think, at any time as the voting continued some spoilsport might have awarded them a 2, dooming them to oblivion. Fortunately they came through this ordeal unsullied and their song joins the immortal 'Mile after Mile' by Jan Teigen of Norway (It's Norwegian theme day today) as the only the second song in Eurovision history to get no points.

UPDATE: You must forgive me. It seems that I am out of touch with Eurovision affairs. This stinging rebuke to the British warmongers was not delivered by various national juries as of yore but by the people of Europe themselves. Oh goody. Now we won't have to have the Euro after all.

UPDATE SUNDAY MORNING: It is impossible to discuss the Eurovision Song Contest without dropping into irony, but my admiration for Ms Abbey's cheerful attitude is real, not ironic.

'Afterwards Ms Abbey, 21, said she had expected to win, but joked: "Nul points - there you go, maybe that's what we should change our name to."'
"And when we came last tonight it was like I'd rather have come first or last and not in the middle."
No doubt she had in mind the splendid if deplorable words that Milton put into the mouth of Satan:
Here we may reign secure; and in my choice

To reign is worth ambition, though in hell:

Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.

Not yet, you fool! Of course it's not just computers who are stupidly and prematurely obedient when carrying out instructions. The last words of many a sergeant instructor were the following:
"Now, Private, when I say 'pull out the pin,' I want you to-"

An observation. I don't really think that there have been any Arabs or Ashanti for many decades who wouldn't recognise a pair of trousers. Who is there left? A few tribes in Papua New Guinea, perhaps. About ten to fifteen years ago I saw a film of such a tribe being contacted for the first time, but I haven't heard of any such event since then. In our lifetimes the world finally did or will become one. Future historians will be able to state the exact day it happened.

Why dø they hæt us? The Norwegians are understandably confused as to why they have been added to the list of Crusader nations that Al-Qaeda supporters are urged to attack. Did an Arab trader get mugged by a Viking in ninth century Stavanger and add the entire Norwegian nation to the Bin Laden family's extensive list of grudges? Could it be that Muslim militants are not so starry-eyed about the Oslo accords as was once thought? Perhaps this harsh reward for Norway's traditionally high-minded foreign policy reflects some version of Bin Laden's well-known (and often correct) opinion that given a choice between a weak horse and a strong horse, men naturally prefer the strong one.

Bjørn Stærk speculates here and here that it might concern an exiled Muslim militant, Mullah Krekar, resident in Norway, who used to be seen as the cuddly side of Muslim militancy but is now in the process of being expelled for kidnapping and other crimes. I bet they wish they'd never taken him in in the first place. Bjørn adds, ominously, "I still haven't discounted the theory that we've been selected simply because we're a good target."

Quite possibly. That's why the Vikings attacked monasteries: they were full of treasure and the people living there were reluctant to fight back. It would be interesting to know if the Norsemen felt any obligation to work up a fury against the monks for failing to worship Odin and Thor.

(Incidentally, here's a little digression about distinguishing HTML signal from noise. Eons ago in blog terms I lamented the fact that I could only write Bjorn Staerk not Bjørn Stærk. Bjørn himself sent me an email giving the characters you should actually type to make the special characters appear:

& oslash ;

& aelig ;

His educational effort failed because I thought it was a piece of gobbledegook generated as a computer error and was too embarrassed to pursue the matter. He might well have thought that adding, THIS IS WHAT YOU ACTUALLY TYPE was about on a level with attaching a label saying PUT BOTH LEGS INTO THE WIDE BIT THEN PUSH ONE DOWN EACH TUBULAR BIT to every pair of trousers Marks & Spencer sell - but as a customer, I was in the position of an Arab or an Ashanti from a remote village who had never seen a pair of trousers.

There's another little educational lesson here as well. It's very difficult to tell people how to use HTML within a HTML document because whenever you write out a command to show how to write it, the wretched machine insists on doing whatever it is. (Does anyone know of a tag that tells the computer "ignore any instructions within this closing and opening tag"?) Perry de Havilland and I once had an absurd exchange of emails where he thought he was telling me how to do links in that special Samizdata way but all I saw was a link to whatever irrelevant website he had picked as an illustrative example.

So, when writing out "& aelig ;" I had to add some useless spaces. YOU DON'T TYPE THE SPACES, OK? The more general educational point is that when teaching people things they are often more confused by the method of delivery than the material to be taught. And, of course, that you shouldn't wear your trousers on your head.)

Friday, May 23, 2003
Sing along to this.

Got that?

"Annoying Old Guy" sent me a page called 'Nother Solent showing how my blog would look off-Blogger. Whether he did this out of the goodness of his heart, or to illustrate the goodness of his web design company, should he possess one, I don't know. It looks very nice. However I have already embarked on another plan of campaign. So, you ask, why am I still here?

I don't know, why are you?

Oh. I see. Why am I as in me still here? Me glad you asked me that. No doubt you've heard of the law of Conservation of Inertia: you see, all the inertia that didn't go into producing quagmires and swamps when they put into practice the plan to topple Saddam went in to my plan to move off Blogspot. Be grateful for the laws of physics.

Apologies to anyone who sent me mail expecting a prompt reply*. I'm behindhand with a lot of things today. In fact it's so bad that I'm behindfoot.

*If you seriously expected a prompt reply from me, I'm surprised they let you play with electrical devices.

Tim Collins was the Lieutenant-Colonel in the Irish Guards who gave that great Old Testamentish speech before the war, which among other things, reminded his men that the blood of any Iraqis killed unjustly would be on their heads. It is not, alas, unknown in history for men who make great speeches to fall from the path of virtue, and Col. Collins stands accused of brutality. But The Telegraph hints furiously that the case against Collins rests upon a tainted source.

More miracles of nature: An unborn baby can develop normally inside the mother's liver. The miracle of science was delivering Nhala - which means "luck" in Zulu - alive.

Earth seen from just off Mars. I was surprised to learn that this is the first picture of our planet seen from another. What, did no one think to install a rear-view mirror on a space probe before now? Never mind. Click on the bottom thumbnail and you can just see America.

(Via The Corner.)

Thursday, May 22, 2003
Labour MP Tom Watson would not agree with me about guns; the poor sap probably wants tough new regulations against paper darts. But I'll forgive him much for giving us this.

Mind you, how many of us wouldn't look silly in like circumstances? I bet Bill Cash would sell his House of Commons car pass for something equally embarrassing about Watson. If I were Watson I'd find it prudent to spend the next few nights sitting on my porch with my trusty paper dart over my knees.

(Via Au currant.)

In Ghana village blacksmiths make guns. I'd be interested to see one. My husband would be fascinated: he once showed me a magazine article about some village on the Afghan-Pakistan border where they'll run you up an AK-47. This AllAfrica report starts off by reporting this as a shocking state of affairs but a note of local pride sneaks in later. It wants them all licensed, of course, but I rather think the customers very much think that the point of buying Ghanaian is that the products come without a customer registration card.

It's a pity that the sociology of this sort of thing is necessarily hidden. What percentage of the customers are criminals and what percentage peaceable citizens? Is this industry a cause of rising disorder, a symptom of it, or a solution to it? British experience suggests the latter. In 1914 the government had sufficient trust in its citizens to institute a patriotic scheme whereby lathe hobbyists would make fully functioning artillery shells in their garages. Whatever carnage their may have been in France and Belgium, the murder rate at home was at that time astonishingly low.

This link shows some very upsetting pictures of the recent bus bombing in Israel. If you are reading this, most probably you will be saddened but not shocked. Those who most need to be shocked (because still capable of being saddened) will either have these images filtered out by their news sources or will filter them out themselves.

The Meme That Would Not Die. Naomi Klein thinks the rescue of Jessica Lynch was staged because "witnesses" told the BBC that the Americans knew there were no Iraqi combatants in the building. Never mind that the guy who made the BBC documentary she's directly or indirectly getting it from has delicately backed down from this claim. To be fair, though, how would she know? The BBC has not mentioned it.

Any answers? Brian Micklethwait asks, seriously, if anyone has any better solutions to a difficult childcare situation than chaining the kids to the bed.

He has a wider point. In human affairs it's always 1939, never 1933. You'd have stomped on Hitler earlier had you known, but you didn't. Now he's invaded Poland: what are you going to do?

Hmm. Thinking about it, maybe it's always 1938 and Czechoslovakia. You still have some options, but none of them are that good.

It could be you next time. On a more serious note, because no one was killed or even hurt the Yale law school bombing has not had much coverage here, but it has certainly hit home among the blogosphere. Disturbing. It could have been much worse; there was a childcare centre in the building where the suspected bomb was left. Shades of the Alfred Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma.

UPDATE. Sigh. The second (Oxblog) link goes to the wrong place. Try here and scroll down.

Cockroaches to be cremated, reports The Australian.

Suddenly, on May 20 2002. Much loved brother of Red, Jumper, Hoppy, Roachie, Roachette, Bouncer, Biter, Scuttles, Springer, Cocky, and Jumping Jack Flash (all also deceased). A very special son to the late "Typhoid" Mary and her beloved husband Splat.
Your parting was so sudden,
My heart it felt like stopping.
Now in Giant Cockroach Heaven
Another angel's hopping.

Floral tributes or donations to be distributed among cockroach charities may be sent to Charal Trinvuthipong, Director General, Bangkok Disease Control Department.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003
Les neiges d'antan. In this strangely hypnotic blog, William Flesch gives us a series of shimmering autobiographical moments.

Mind you, schools are banned from teaching creationism over at Samizdata. Perry always tells them to get their own blogs.

Digging up Mill's dead body. I've said my piece about the gall of Roy Hattersley in claiming J S Mill would have joined him in wanting schools to be banned from teaching creationism over at Samizdata.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Got that?

My own efforts to flee the People's Republic of Blogger have stalled for the moment, but I'm still scheming.

"This is one of those red meat issues that resonates well doesn't it?," writes a reader called Garrison regarding the Doha briefing room. He continues:
"I designed a media room for the Boeing company here in Seattle and by the time the construction was done and the electronic equipment was installed we had spent well over $200,000. We also built a nice video taping room so our commercial aircraft CEO could tape messages for the troops. Mind you the corporate headquarters had already fled to Chicago, so this was for only a part of the hierarchy. Remodels of an area can easily cost $100 a square foot not including the electronics. Boeing spent 10s of millions last year alone to upgrade their video conference rooms. Ironically virtual reality isn't all that cheap."

Winner does take all. A reader disagrees somewhat with my anti airport expansion article below.
... it could be that, so long as air-transport in its widest sense is growing that, indeed, choking the growth of an airport (or seaport or...) is potentially very bad.

Size matters. There is a certain "je-ne sais quoi" to a transportation hub being the central hub, or at least a main hub. There are still a lot of physical benefits for concentration for logisitics, e.g. one warehouse outside Heathrow covers the world in 24 hours. The same warehouse in, oh, Dublin or Edinburgh doesn;t even do it in 48 hours.

My point, such as it is, is that being a main hub is a not a linear thing. It is unlikely you can be 75% of a main hub, or 80% of a main hub, or 35%, the choice is either you are "it", or you are (at best) a "regional feeder hub" and that that change can be horridly sudden, and cost you massive amounts of money.

It happened in Montreal. Rather than expand an existing airport on the island of Montreal by making preemptive and somewhat expensive land purchases, the diktat came down to build a new improved model airport from zero in a greenfield site 1.25 hours car ride away. There was to be a fast train shuttle to downtown. Continental airtravel was to continue through the old airport. Net result: The train was never built, the new place was FAR from hotels, from contractors, from EVERYTHING, people hated it because transfering was a pain, operations people loathed it. The international airlines moved operations to Toronto.

Currently, the fancy airport in the north is now relegated to aircargo and occasional charter flights ( a huge waste of resources and investment), Montreal downtown is a nice regional airport of no particular international consequence. Toronto grabbed the traffic and ran, and has all the ancilliary economic benefits.

Seaports show the same deal, if your port isn;t deep enough, or you don't have the investments to have the cranes, the efficient container handling, good rail links to the hinterland, suddenly your port is history. It's cheaper to ship to a port 1000 miles away, and have them re-distribute. All the ancilliary industries shift to support, the tugs, the workshsops, the break-bulk specialists, the brokers...

I do take my reader's point. But I don't think it changes mine: the core of my argument is, basically, that compulsory purchase is wrong. My secondary argument was that there is nothing impossible about choosing not to take up every opportunity for economic growth, in this case building a hub airport. He argues well that the benefits to be gained by it, and the losses from not having it, are both more than I would have thought - but it's still wrong. And I'd add that we don't know what structures might evolve if airport builders just did not have the option of bulldozing the homes of a bunch of people living near me.

I'm returning to a subject I covered earlier on this blog in posts dating from 7th - 31st August 2002, if anyone wants to surf the archives. Comments from Jim Bennett, Iain Murray, Patrick Crozier on everything from Japan to BANANAS. And though I says it myself as shouldn't, lots of good stuff by me.

US Army: spinmeisters yes, frausters no. As the post below records I'd be the last to deny that the US military spins like a megawatt turbine. But a BBC documentary called "War Spin" went a whole load further, suggesting that the rescue of Private Jessica Lynch was faked. As usual the BBC displayed a total lack of scepticism towards every source other than the British or US authorities. Read about the whole developing saga on Biased BBC. The interesting thing is that the documentary maker, John Kampfner, has stated today that he now believes that the rescue was not faked. Don't expect the (qualified) retraction to ever catch up with the original story though. Ten years from now, trust me, a drunk woman at a party will solemnly tell you how the whole thing was another fabrication by the George W Bush junta.

They also serve who only sit and design the set. So that's what "shock and awe" feels like. I was shocked and awed by this line in a New York Times article:
Mr. Sforza created the White House "message of the day" backdrops and helped design the $250,000 set at the United States Central Command forward headquarters in Doha, Qatar, during the Iraq war.
They had a set designer for a war? It left me stammering, "But I thought - I mean, you know - military efficiency - no-nonsense utilitarianism - ruthless subordination of form to function... "

Check that last. The US military still subordinates form to function: my only mistake was to be stuck in the belief that their only function was devising and carrying out war plans. They spent quarter of a million bucks on the function of looking right to the public.

There's nothing new under the sun. Indeed the Sun King himself would have understood all this well. I just can't bring myself to like it. What a commentary on the crowd-pleasing vapidity of our civilisation - and what a comment on its prodigious riches, alertness to opportunity, and creative power.

(Via Brian's Culture Blog.)

Monday, May 19, 2003
Airports must grow or die, writes Neil Collins in the Telegraph, along with much other mercantilist tosh. He seems stuck in a pre-Adam Smith economic model that assumes that if one man prospers it can only be by doing down another:
Britain must trade internationally to prosper and, in the winner-takes-all world of modern trade, you either do well or you don't do at all. Success tends to reinforce itself, just as it does in the Premiership.
Yes, international trade is just like the Premiership. We've all observed how there can only be one prosperous country in the world at any one time. All other countries except this year's cup winners are obviously doomed to have a GNP equal to Liberia's.
The option of giving up a little economic growth for a little less effort or sacrifice doesn't exist.
That's why it is a known physical impossibility for any woman to ever turn down a higher paid job because she'd rather spend time with her family. That is why it defies natural law to ever find a successful professional man on the golf-course. That's why everybody works overtime every night. No other options exist.

And while I'm on the subject, why is it that everyone assumes that if budget air travel pushes up demand the only possible answer to that demand is "yes."

The tone I take here may superficially resemble anti-capitalism. Don't be fooled. I love capitalism, but I love it because when freedom is the root, capitalism is the flower. Forcing people to sell their homes when they don't want to isn't freedom and isn't capitalism. The fact that the end result of this process is more trade is irrelevant. The end result of a burglary may well also be more trade, much of it honest, but we don't encourage burglaries on that account.

A mysteriously un-named primary school will be holding a non-competitive sports day out of sight of the parents in order to "spare the feelings of the losers." But is that really secure from prying eyes? Might not some obsessively competitive parents peek through the railings to watch little Aaron participate in a Class Sharing Event under the great big nylon parachute? To be really sensitive to children's needs, wouldn't it be better to hold Sports Day in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard'?

Tough on the kids for whom Sports Day was their one big chance to show that they were not losers.

Richard Heddleson writes:
You write:

"Everyone thought they [the Germans] were cuties circa 1795."

/humor/ Except perhaps for the Americans to whom they were best remembered as the mercenaries from Hesse hired by the evil Geroge III, King of Great Britain and Ireland, to tyrannize the innocent colonists. (Just a little more beam exposure.) /end humor/

Unfortunately, I am moving or I could find my copy of Albion's Seed that has a wonderful quote about the filthy, unshod, babeling Germans disembarking in Philadelphia to make their way west to what became the Pennsylvania Dutch country.

Now, more Americans (40%) have German blood flowing through their veins than any other nationality

Aaagh! No! Not the Hessians again! No! I can't stand any more!

(Hey, after all that, won't it be a laff if the Blogger archive bug strikes.)

Last to the party. I was going to weigh in with some criticism of this essay in Right Wing News. However Instapundit and others have been there before me. Germany and other European countries have indeed let the city walls decay, allowing some infiltration of their culture by barbarous elements against whom a previous generation kept better guard. I don't dispute that Mr Grimm saw what he says he did. I don't dispute that it's scary. However I don't like the sound of this:
"The Eternal Nazi, I'm afraid, will be with us as long as there is a German nation."
Replace "the eternal Nazi" with the Nazi phrase it (ironically? unconsciously?) echoes, "The eternal Jew" and see how it reads. The idea that the Germans are eternally evil is nonsense. Everyone thought they were cuties circa 1795, what with the little toytown states and all. Numerous other groups and nationalities once had completely different reputations than their present ones - somewhere I once read a charming quote about how the Japanese were really too happy and indolent to ever make much of a mark in the coming (twentieth) century.

It says in the Bible, "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" One of my regular themes in this blog is that refusing to see the beam in thy brother's eye because of the mote in thine own is also a sin: it denies the differing relative importance of beams and motes. But the beam isn't part of you, traumatic though it may be to remove. Not for the Germans, the Jews, the blacks, the whites, the Palestinians. Not for anyone.

Saturday, May 17, 2003
I am the Human Flower.
Weapon: Dark Thorns.

Transportation: Golden Jet Pack.

From Lee's Useless Super-hero generator.

And the number of thy counting shall be... four? You may find this hard to believe - not that anyone would would make up being as vague and unobservant as this - but I read this post from Iain Murray and completely failed to take in that I was, to my later astonishment, number four in BlogStreet's Most Important Blogs. I had registered that I was somewhat above Edge - a cause for slight surprise - but it was not until Dave Farell sent me an e-mail that I actually took in the number.

It was too good to last. Now I'm down to a (still jolly) ranking of 25, the pack of readers from Enter Stage Right having lapped me and passed on. But still, like Iain, I haven't quite got used to the idea that people actually read this stuff. I sped past 100,000 in the New Hit Counter Era courtesy of Mark Steyn's slipstream and forgot to notice when.

UPDATE: Dr Weevil writes:

Last Monday I calculated a list of "Bloggers' Bloggers" by taking the Blogstreet Blog IQ Top 100, dividing their Blogstreet ranks by their Blog IQ ranks, and then sorting the results. You came out in fifth place, ranking 216 among the general run of blogs and 25 among the heavy hitters, for a ratio of 8.64. A statistician could probably come up with a better formula, but results suggest that this is a pretty decent measure of who is "punching above their weight". Of course, I have an incentive to think so, since I come in at #15 myself.

Go here if you want to see the Top 35. As I mention in my update, the method was unconsciously plagiarized from C.G. Hill of Dustbury

My old comrade Amygdala and my even older comrade Ain't No Bad Dude hold the number one and two spots respectively in this list of "blogger's bloggers". Both are what you might call "robust left". I wonder if that means anything?

(Fans and anti-fans of John Lott a.k.a. "Mary Rosh" of More Guns Less Crime fame might be stimulated by a scroll down the Dude's multiple posts concerning his disappointing behaviour. However I'd take issue with the term "counter-intuitive" or Tim Lambert's claim that... oh, don't get me started. I must go away now and do important things or the whole continent will be engulfed by atomic fire.)

Thursday, May 15, 2003
Eurozone on edge of slump as UK thrives, says this article in the Times. Foreign readers are requested to pay four trillion Euros and make sacrifice to Quetzalcoatl in order to read it, so I'll save you the trouble. It says that the Eurozone is on the edge of a slump as the UK thrives.

Mark Holland writes:
Loath as I am to nit-pick with a Mark Steyn endorsed scribe I must point out a weakness with the "set-buster" bomb you mentioned. Unfortunately it's only good at Venn diagram mutilation. 'Set' has the most definitions of any word in the English language. 127 if memory serves. However the badger's dwelling is not one of them as it is a 'sett'.

Well, Mr Holland, I am not at all loath to nit pick with you. My dictionary has "sett (also set)" and tells us that the tt spelling prevails in technical senses, such as the particular pattern of a tartan. I don't think a badger hole is at all technical, so there. But let's not quarrel. That one little letter need not hold us back from using weapons of mass destruction on mathematical constructs. These Venn diagrams have it coming. I don't know whether "A union B" refers to trades unions or some kind of imperialist agression, but either way let's nuke 'em back to a pre-Platonic geometry.

The local press where I live made much of the fact that a rocket launcher was handed in during the recent firearms amnesty. I think that it is the rocket launcher mentioned in passing in this story about a World War II grenade.

A source who ought to know gave a different slant to the story. Want to know what that "rocket launcher" actually was? A spud gun. That's right: it shot potatoes.

Seduced by the color-blind eye of the Cyclops of Power, or Give Me That Old-Time Commiedom. On Tuesday I was complaining that the People's Daily were sounding unduly like normal human beings. No such complaint can be sustained against the Zapatista Army of National Liberation. Their communiques, informing us with the greatest urgency that the Iraq war is going to be a big mistake, romantically hail from "the Mountains of the Mexican Southeast." Fair enough: I suppose the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee can't very well supply the authorities with a return address. The language is so quaint as to suggest that the Indigenous Committee might be into the bits of Indigenous Culture that involve ritual peyote use.

A the whole loopy package is solemnly re-published by ZNet in association with - get this - Le Monde Diplomatique.

Do ZNet have any idea how weird and cultish this association makes them look?

Vale. Salud and may the world which is to come have the distinctive signature of no one!

I have a supplier who discreetly provides me with this sort of good stuff:

...Leaving aside that the title "Interior Minister" has a certain sinister and Metternichian sound to it...

...Nicholas Sarkozy (a name which if you see it upside down in a mirror probably reads 'I am Lord Voldemort')...

...I think perhaps Spanish men are going to need more than just the weapon in their pants...

...Cardassians are stupid and annoying. And lumpy.

...and suggest safe daily limits for the intake of statist propaganda...

...So why are you still here? P*** off and read it, stoopid!

Dave Kopel's in town, and not as pessimistic about gun rights here as you might expect. He mentions a new book by Peter Hitchens called A Brief History of Crime: The Decline of Order, Justice and Liberty in England. It normally happens that whenever one of the talented Hitchens family puts pen to paper the result is reviewed and discussed half to death all over Radio 4. I haven't heard a word about this book.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003
A public service. "If you want to appear like you’re at the cutting edge of net culture but can’t be bothered to spend hours online, then never fear.’s pathetic team of geeks, freaks and gimps will do the hard work for you. While you sip wine, read a book or engage in normal social interaction, they will burn out their retinas staring at badly designed web pages and dodge creeps in chatrooms to prepare for you:’s lazy guide to net culture."

Back off youse creeps, that pitch belongs to us bloggers.

I have no strength left to comment on this story about how the burglar shot by Tony Martin is trying to sue him.

Or maybe I have, just. I've heard two separate people ask why no one has yet seen fit to assassinate the burglar concerned. When the law of the land visibly ceases to function something much cruder will take its place.

The truth about Bart Simpson's race. Gary Farber writes:
"'What race is Bart Simpson anyway? Is he even human?'

Of course not. He's cartoon.

Just like the rest of us, dear.

There are no separate human races. Thare are only those of us less and
more cartoonish. Quote me on this."

Boris the Evil Badger has been executed, according to the Guardian. If one casts the democracies as the humans and dictatorships as badgers, there is something Saddam Hussein-like in his story, (although no-one to my knowledge ever stole Saddam from an animal rescue centre): early coddling led to a loss of proper fear, so that he attacked humans instead of running away. For a while he was able to defy all attempts at sanctions, forcing two police officers who were trying to catch him to retreat to the safety of their patrol car. Eventually, however, the increasing boldness of his attacks on seemingly random targets could no longer be ignored and he was reduced to his component atoms by a massive earth-pentrating "set-buster" B61-11 mini nuclear bomb launched as a favour from USAF B-2s stationed at RAF Fairford.

Or, if you prefer, put down by a local vet. No doubt local activists will say that he could have been contained by non-violent means, but I can't help thinking that an assisted passage to the next world was the only real solution to the Boris problem. Mr Mike Weaver, chairman of the Worcestershire Badger Society has claimed that, "This tragedy shows the folly to keep [sic] wild animals as pets." Seems to me that Boris did just fine as a pet and "this tragedy" actually shows the folly of freeing animals from rescue centres. Staff at Vale Wildlife Rescue (who had taken in Boris after he was hand-reared by some party not mentioned in the report) said that he had never displayed any signs of aggression before being stolen or deliberately released from the centre last week.

Which is more than you can say for Saddam Hussein. Mass grave of Saddam's victims found in Iraq.

Austrian tourists missing in the Sahara found, according to a sketchy report.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003
Israelis not the targets this time, so.... Marduk reports that the Guardian, the Independent and the San Francisco Chronicle have all rediscovered the word "terrorist".

Tories pledge to scrap tuition fees. I'm just waiting for the Conservative Central Office discussion paper on nationalisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange.

Then again, better for several million people if the People's Daily really was indistinguishable from the Peterborough Citizen and Advertiser, i.e. extinct since 1973. This disquisition on who qualified as human in communist terminology serves as a reminder of just what a bunch of grindingly vicious dipsticks the People's Daily served.

Comprador Bourgeois Element Realises Futility of Remaining As Running Dog of Imperialism. The People's Daily also reports Clair Short has resigned. They don't say anything remotely resembling my headline, though. I made it up. Okay, so the hard-drinking boyos of Beijing press pack didn't exactly break that story themselves, but you'd think they could do more than reprint Reuters or AFP. It's a cold grey world we have come to, when the People's Daily is indistinguishable from the Peterborough Citizen and Advertiser. Couldn't the comrade writers put more of a Chinese slant on things?

Oops. I'm just leaving.

UPDATE: If Bart Simpson were here (which thank the Lord he's not, sir) he'd tell me not have a cow, but I'm actually having an attack of PC guilt about the post above. You know how it goes, some incongruity makes you laugh, you press post & publish, you go away, you come back, you re-read your own stuff, you realise that you will have to go away forever and live out your shameful days as a bag lady. Can I just take this opportunity to state that I am quite aware that the possession of an epicanthic fold is, objectively, the human norm, and to generally emote a soft mist of niceness and goodwill over everybody. Thank you.

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: What race is Bart Simpson anyway? Is he even human?

"Those insane Canadians," writes Rob Hinkley, "painting cartoon birds, tigers, bomb-wielding pink elephants and skantily-clad ladies on their bomber planes.And proudly calling a bomber which has flown 84 missions the "X-Terminator", as though to celebrate the carnage it has caused: how grotesque! How hideous! Or something."

There are no problems, only opportunities. The ever-positive People's Daily sees the bright side of SARS.
"Hu Angang, a noted researcher, said the changes underway in China's public health system would bring more changes to the country's whole government administrative mechanism.

An old Chinese saying goes: "disaster can be converted to be good fortune at the right time".

I mock, but he has a point there. China's government needs a lesson in the costs of authoritarianism - I just wish it could be given by some other teacher.

Monday, May 12, 2003
Still obsessed after all these hours? The rest of the blogosphere has moved on in its orbit about whatever it orbits about, but I'm still stuck in the Drabble season. Here, Ms Drabble, is a picture of an RAF aeroplane bearing shark's teeth nose art pictured in North Africa early in WWII. Some accounts say that the Americans picked up the habit from the RAF, not vice versa. That's RAF as in Royal Air Force as in your own British air force, Ms Drabble. Still think "a nation that can paint those faces on death machines must be insane," huh?


Royden H Wood IV writes regarding my admission last Wednesday that I don't know the polite way to eat oranges:
Maybe I can help you out with the orange peel thing too. Take the entire Orange, peel and all, and before cutting it or whatever, take it between your open, flat palms and roll it around a bit. Kind of like you're working with clay. Do this for a little bit, maybe a minute. Then peel with your fingers, starting at the top or bottom, whichever, start at a pole. Dig your finger in there, and peel a little back. Work it carefully, in a spiral fashion, and you can peel the entire, err, peel in one piece. Voila, you don't have to worry about the polite way to discard the peel.

Of course, in another day, when I was active in the US Marines, I'd just eat it like an apple. [What, no silver service? The horrors of war indeed. - NS] Most of the vitamin C is in the peel anyway. Probably not the polite thing to do.

Of course it isn't. The truly thoughtful guest refrains from eating the peel until he has amused the company by wrapping it round his teeth, flexing his gums and saying (indistinctly), "Run away, I'm the orange-toothed monster."

Daniel Messing writes:
I read Greenmantle and the other Hannay mysteries long ago, and have re-read them (once, with difficulty, to one of my children--too different a world for him). I take them down now and again to re-read favorite passages. So much of it so un-PC, and yet seems to ring true.

But perhaps it isn't "true." I believe it was Arnold Bennett who criticized another author's description of a prison hanging, remarking that the other had obviously not attended such an event, in the end supplying his own much better description, then adding that he likewise had never attended.

Oddly enough, that was the world in which I spent much time when I was growing up. My father supplied us with most of Blackwell's "Best Books for Children" and we read them all.

So you didn't like v.I. But Sandy? The Tea House? The description of the dance there? Sandy's description of being torpedoed? These pictures give me pleasure.

Me, too, muchly. And there's the interlude on board the Essen barge, a sort of hard-working arcadia. And the thought of Mr Blenkiron makes me wonder about George Galloway.

Sunday, May 11, 2003
Enter Stage Right has up an interview with Mark Steyn. ESR's e-mail alerting me to it mentioned a shocking secret, and there certainly is one¹, but for me the big surprise came one or two paragraphs before the end.

Synchronicity is a wonderful thing. There can be no more than a few hundred souls on this planet who have read Buchan's Greenmantle during the last three years, and Mr Steyn and I are two of them.² There are a select few hundred, too, who have read this blog... and whaddya know?

¹Berkeley!? How could you?

²Truth to tell, I skipped a bit when that Von Einem woman started to play a major role. It's so tedious to be told that one ought to be fascinated.

Going wobbly. The TV news says that General Jay Garner has been recalled from Iraq, following regional administrator Barbara Bodine. Seems a weak move to me, designed to pander to "world opinion" and its squeamishness about the military; if the US isn't careful it'll end up with the worst of both worlds - having to jump when the UN says "frog" yet still having to carry the blame for any failures on its own.

UPDATE: Now Ceefax is reporting a slightly different story, with Gen. Garner demoted/moved sideways rather than recalled. Not so much a wobble as a worrying vibration. My point stands: there are two good things about the UN not being involved in Iraq. One is that the UN isn't involved; the other is that the US knows it can't blame anyone else if everything goes pear-shaped. That's a motive to damn well make it work.

Let her very name be accursed. Iain Murray has taken a most awful revenge on Margaret Drabble for this. He has quietly appropriated her last name to express his frustration with the Blogger bug that takes the reader to the wrong post despite the link being correctly typed. (Naturally, his link will probably take you to the wrong post. If it does, go here and look for "Just like that.")

Should the usage become general, it won't be the first drabble in the dictionary. It has long meant a story told in a hundred words: a structure as light and strong as a balloon that can carry its own weight a thousand times over. The origin of the term, according to Secret Master of Fandom Dave Langford, lies in Monty Python's Big Red Book which says: `Drabble. A word game for 2 to 4 players. The four players sit from left to right and the first person to write a novel wins.'

Monty Python had a bit of a thing about Margaret Drabble. She turns up in this sketch, too.

Man: ...It's a free country. (enter a knight in amour) I mean if I want to eat a squirrel now and again, that's me own business, innit? I mean, I'm no racialist. I, oh, oh...

The knight is carrying a raw chicken. The man apprehensively covers his head and the knight slams him in the stomach with the chicken.

Woman: I think it's silly to ask a lizard what it thinks, anyway.

Chairman (off): Why?

Woman: I mean they should have asked Margaret Drabble.

Thirty years on, the unconscious wisdom of Python becomes clear: Drabble and the occasional eater of squirrels were avatars of each other. ("I mean, I'm no racialist" - "I have tried to control my anti-Americanism, remembering the many Americans that I know and respect") Male and female. Plebian and genteel. It's a ying-tong thing. You Americans wouldn't understand.

Friday, May 09, 2003
Test post.

Send a letter to yourself.

You won't believe the error message I just got. (Hat tip to Boris Kupershmidt via the Libertarian Alliance Forum)

One death is a tragedy. Thirty million deaths aren't even a statistic. Junius has a post recording his astonishment at the short shrift given to the millions who starved during Mao's Great Leap Forward in a magazine containing resources for pupils studying history. Arguably the biggest famine in history. Didn't rate a mention.

A few years ago that would have been par for the course. Not usually a fan of book burning, I might make an exception for the textbook full of smiling peasants from which I learned something calling itself geography in the 1970s. It's fair to say that GCSE history textbooks are usually better than that these days, as I know from having had a small role in producing some. I have to hand a copy of "History in Focus GCSE: Modern World History" by Ben Walsh, published by John Murray. (Just to be clear, this book was nothing to do with me.) It is a little skimpy in its treatment of the Great Leap Forward, but the thirty million are there, as is the fact that the Great Leap was a "disastrous failure" and not a natural one either.

Robert Conquest has done his work. Most British schoolchildren are no longer taught to think of the Soviet/Chinese communist system as just an alternative to our own, "valid in its own way", though I'd be willing to bet that 80% of them wouldn't know that Stalin killed more than Hitler did. My main beef against pretty well all the twentieth century history books I have seen is not one that Chris Bertram would share. They are all written by social democrats. Nice 'n' cuddly social democrats I am sure, but irredeemable statists. Mr Walsh's book is typical. Under "Achievements of the New Deal" it says:

  • The New Deal stopped the Depression from getting worse. Sez you, bud. Nobel prize winning economists sez different.
  • It helped farmers and farm owners to stay in their property with government help. And helped maintain their position vis à vis the landless blacks.
  • It introduced better social security for American citizens. The better to give 'em an atomised and crime-ridden society.
  • New Deal projects provided a strong foundation of schools, roads, dams etc. as a basis for future prosperity. Howdya get from the "took people's money from them" bit to the the "future prosperity" bit?
  • The TVA revolutionised relationships between local and central government. Didn't it just.
  • The New Deal gave hope and confidence to the American people at the worst time in their history Huh? What about the Civil War? and 'saved' American democracy. In order to save American democracy it was necessary to pack the Supreme Court...
(The comments in italics are mine, in case you hadn't worked that out.) "Revolutionised the relationships between local and central government" listed as an achievement. Bleah. Not that I wish to pick upon Mr Walsh's generally admirable book as worse in this respect than any other: they all worship the Tenessee Bleeding Valley Bleeding Authority. A little scepticism has finally crept in regarding the Aswan Bloody Dam and the Akosombo Damn Dam but the TVA still has the benefit of some grandfather clause permitting unalloyed admiration for this ancestor of all those ecology-blasting peasant-dispossessing schemes that have plagued the world since. (Just for the record, no, I have no desire to see the return of the dustbowls and nor do I think that all dams are a bad thing. I just don't think much of expropriation and nationalisation.)

To be fair there is also a list of "criticisms of the New Deal," though I can't help noting that the word "criticism" leaves it open whether the criticism is fair but the word "achievement" assumes that the thing is good and that's that.

Changing the subject, my ever-distractable eye was caught by a couple of lines (intended lightheartedly, I think) that Chris Bertram included in an e-mail alerting me to the post.

"Much as I'd rather be detecting pro-Tory or pro-libertarian biases in our school curriculum to moan about, I was so taken aback by the treatment of modern Chinese history in a magazine dedicated to the national curriculum for history that I had to blog about it..."
This illustrates why I think the adversarial system works well in our courts, and why the separation of powers in the US constitution also works well. The Bertram heart is naturally going to leap a little higher when and if he detects an opportunity to battle for (broadlywithlotsaqualificationsyaddayadda) his own side, just as the Solent heart beginneth to blossom and to bring forth fruit given the chance to nail a pinko. People work with a bit more zip when it is for some cause or organisation that they feel is their own, and an adversarial system works with that grain of human nature, always assuming that all sides are given a free run.

Yet there is a countervailing motive (illustrated by the post Chris actually had rather than the one he wanted) that is present in the hearts of many bloggers, and is something to be encouraged. We all want to be seen to be more than party hacks. In our purer and better moments we even want to be more than party hacks. I shall duly report any examples of pro-Tory or pro-libertarian bias in GCSE textbooks I see. Just don't hold your breath.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003
Now is the time... The "famous American cartoonist Gary Trudeau has come to the aid of the French as they are faced with a campaign of denigration organised from America," reports Le Monde. Trudeau is going to put out Doonesbury in French without subtitles for a while. Well, if Mel Gibson is going to do the Passion in Aramaic, why not? There is always room for a new niche market. Why, if you lose and alienate enough of your once-loyal audience you might even qualify for a subsidy. Hey, it worked for the French film industry.

Nothing about the idea of running an American cartoon in the French language outrages me. I can plough my way through Mr Trudeau's undemanding text, and the notion would still amuse even if I couldn't. However if you are seeking something to finally motivate you to dig out that Lingaphone set from the back of the cupboard, look elsewhere. Last Sunday's cartoon is embarrassing. The characters look outside the cartoon strip and harangue the reader, for one thing, in the manner of Henry the Home Safety Hedgehog using the last frame to say "and as I found out, kids: it's dangerous to play with matches!" But that isn't the worst thing about it. The absolute Yeuch-factor-Triple-A moment occurs when Trudeau assumes that no one would have dreamed of being harsh to the French if they had known it would insult him. M. Trudeau, êtes-vous donc si égoïste que vous ne reconaissez même pas que le question en discussion n'est pas votre nom?

And if terrorists had blown up the Eiffel Tower I don't think that an American book saying that it never happened would have made the US bestseller lists.

"The US is a police state," says a senior German diplomat. One Jurgen Chrobog told his colleagues at the annual meeting of German ambassadors that the US was restricting more and more of its civil liberties. True, but - "thank you for your valuable feedback, Mr Pot."

Meanwhile the German Defence minister, Peter Struck says,

“It’s not for a German Defence Minister to show regret or guilt feelings towards his American counterpart. We have an equal relationship.”
An equal relationship means a relationship where the parties have equal status, not equal moral status. If one party has behaved badly he or she should show regret and feel guilt.

Never mind the news, I have an important question. What is the polite way to eat orange segments? The efficient way is to bite down on about half the segment, peel and all, and then pull it out through clenched teeth, stripped clean. Yummy, but I am not under the impression that this is an elegant procedure.

Sunday, May 04, 2003
Is Cuba the land where communism works? This editorial in the Hindustan Times doesn't think so. Three generations of Indians have taken an understandable pleasure in thumbing their noses at their former colonizers by displaying ostentatious friendliness towards Communist regimes, but times are changing.

And while I'm here: My comment on the success of the far-right British National Party in the recent local elections: racial politics is an ugly game, and one that everybody loses in the end. But when it's the only game in town everyone will play it, and that includes the whites.

Shh. I shouldn't be here. I know I'm meant to be doing other things, but I cannot resist mentioning that Biased BBC is zipping along at the moment, gas in her tank, wind in her sails and mix in her metaphor. Great posts from Kerry Butram, Toby Blyth, Patrick Crozier and a little snuck-in one from me.

Friday, May 02, 2003
High pressure of work and low pressure of air are combining to keep me away from blogging at the moment. The lights keep flickering, the storm clouds gather and Samizdata is having server problems. Is someone trying to tell me not to waste time on the internet? See you in a day or two.