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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Jane's Blogosphere: blogtrack for Natalie Solent.
( 'Nother Solent is this blog's good twin. Same words, searchable archives, RSS feed. Provided by a benefactor, to whom thanks.
I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)
The Old Comrades:
November 2001 December 2001 January 2002 February 2002 March 2002 April 2002 May 2002 June 2002 July 2002 August 2002 September 2002 October 2002 November 2002 December 2002 January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 August 2007 October 2007 February 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 March 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 October 2009 January 2010 March 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 April 2011 June 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013 July 2013 August 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013
Saturday, December 24, 2005
Our water has just been cut off. But you are allowed to have a happy Christmas anyway. It's only the drinking water and we have other things to drink. See you in January.
Friday, December 23, 2005
Carnival of flatpack. A little while ago Squander Two* posted about his woes concerning Homebase flatpack furniture, and added to my understanding of Thatcherism in the comments. I emailed my husband about it. No, that's wrong. What did they used to call it again? I spoke to him about it using a vocal protocol. And he wrote a blog post of his own about Homebase flatpack furniture. This is it.
A year or so ago Natalie and I went into Homebase for a few washers or something and left having bought two children’s loft beds with study areas underneath. Just the thing when you have a couple of pre-teens with too many possessions. They were delivered a day or so later and we, having evicted the previous beds, got to work. At fist it all went pretty well, although we used our own tools rather than the silly little allen keys in the kit. We assembled one together with no more hassle than having occasionally to drift a couple of misaligned holes together, so Natalie decided she could do most of the second one all by herself. After a certain amount of time she called for help. A screw wouldn’t go in. It was perfectly well aligned but just wouldn’t bite. I tried, full of confidence in my ability to succeed where she had failed but I couldn’t get the thing in either. I examined the offending screw, a ¼ inch or 6mm machine screw with a fairly coarse thread. Its thread was undamaged. I looked at the hole in the tubular steel strut it was supposed to go into; instead of being threaded, it was plain.
*I hope poor S2 has got over feeling twitchy about Homebase customer service. No? Oh dear.
The innocent have most to fear.
Nationwide spy system to track millions of car journeys a day - the Times
John K, a Samizdata commenter, says:
My sister's number plate was stolen the other day. I think the rise of the congestion charge and gatso infestation has led to a rash of these thefts. If this insane plan goes ahead there will be many more such thefts. Criminals don't give a toss a bout the law. That's why they're criminals, and that's why this is a piece of authoritarian population control disguised as a crime control measure.John K's final line is a slight exaggeration. However his point that criminals, because of their criminality, have less to fear from this sort of measure than law abiding people do is an important one and provides the title of this post.
We may end up being grateful to some criminals. I've posted before this post from a Dutch blog on how they deal with such things. I was going to pussyfoot around with one of those "merely academic interest" disclaimers, but I've got a rotten cough and a temperature and I couldn't be bothered. Go Dutch.
Brian Micklethwait has been packing heat in his jacket pocket. Michael Jennings speaks of resistance, but ignore such foolish talk. My grandma knew exactly why this sort of thing happened. 'Twas the wickedness working out, I tell 'ee, the wickedness working out!
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Mister Cough is not your friend. Rather than relax with my family, blog, sew, prepare for Christmas or do anything conventional like that I have decided to wander round the house in my pyjamas snivelling and cawing like a crow.
Friday, December 16, 2005
On Thursday the Indy led with badgers in peril. EU Rota has the screenshot.
Slow news day? I sympathise.
For once I am out of smart remarks, as Ed says:
Natalie kind of meanders around a bit, like a country walk along the riverside, making allusions which you only get at the end as you reach the vista you were seeking all along; Adloyada picks a thread and then pulls and pulls, taking care to straighten the material so as not to hurt the threads she doesn't object to.Yes, Lachesis is careful in her work.
Hallelujah, the THING is gone.
I skip, I gambol, I pirouette.
I am escorted from Tesco's fresh produce aisle by an assistant manager.
But nothing can bring me down; gravity has a ten percent reduction special offer zone centred around me, for I am without the THING.
Do you have a THING?
My THING was a letter (a proper ink on paper letter) that had gone unanswered for a shamefully long time. Now it is answered, licked, posted and gone. I am free, unless it comes back to me stamped "GONE AWAY" or "DECEASED" in which case it's a ten thousand years in THING thing.
Now I need a new THING.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Go private. Now. You fools.
Today is election day in Iraq.
Here are some pictures from the BBC.
To mark the occasion, Heirs of Hammurabi has up plenty of new material. I liked this:
A young man can find many jobs in today's Iraq, including new ones like selling cars; now widely available to most folks: or cell phones; a true post-Saddam 'must have' item.And this:
No American soldier has been killed in the Kurdish safe haven in the north since Saddam was toppled in the spring of 2003.And this
In more than one instance — and to the delight of American and Iraqi troops — insurgents have been caught attempting to flee the battlefield dressed as women: Considered a particularly disgraceful act among Iraqis.OK, I don't like the sexism. Sooner than we think perhaps, Iraq will experience the joys of diversity seminars. I believe it was Poul Anderson who said that future SF describes the problems that will arise from the solutions to the problems we have now. May the future when Iraqi politicians and media can afford to get as steamed up about basically prosaic issues as we do here be not long coming. Apparently the Kurdish region is well along that route.
Damian Penny links to this scorching piece by a left-wing blogger, Glenn Greenwald, on the true character of the European Left. After saying (in the context of European outrage at the execution of Tookie Williams) that the E.L. displays a "parmaount desire to find fault and evil with the U.S. and thereby adopting that goal as the first and only real principle, from which everything else follows," he continues:
This is a deeply dishonest and manipulative syndrome, having nothing whatever to do with the principles to which its adherents claim fidelity. Indeed, their supposed “principles” (human rights, the sanctity of human life, individual liberty) are simply weapons, pretexts, used to promote the only real principle they have – that the U.S. is a uniquely corrupt and evil country. And the reason one knows that to be the case is because these same individuals systematically overlook and even excuse far more severe violations of their ostensible principles when perpetrated by the countries and governments with which they inexcusably sympathize (sympathy which itself can be explained by a desire to sit in opposition to any and every American interest).
I felt a pang for Mr Greenwald. The early comments came from left wingers, many of whom were comically shocked ("Why can't we accept that other people do have insight and moral wisdom that we lack?") , then, as word got round, stacks of right wingers commented at his site expressing a level of support that he may have found a little embarrassing.
Word getting round included a link from Instapundit, who highlighted a very telling point made by Greenwald:
"Somehow, Europeans have managed to transform the atrocities which they committed and which occurred in their countries from a badge of shame (which, arguably, it need not be any longer) into some sort of badge of moral superiority and entitlement to sit in judgment."Follow the link to Damian Penny's introduction too. He himself opposes the death penalty, but links to an informative piece saying (with figures) that it is popular with the people of Europe, just not their governments.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Testing times. My more old fashioned readers probably think that the driving test is intended to, as it were, test whether a person can drive.
Not in Ontario. Over there it is a privilege which the state grants and the state can take away for reasons that have nothing to do with whether you are a safe driver.
"It is a privilege to have a driver's licence, and one of the corresponding obligations is to be serious about taking your learning as far as possible," Education Minister Gerard Kennedy told a news conference at Queen's Park yesterday before introducing the legislation.Why Ontario, following the example of nine US states including Alabama and South Carolina, should say that the grant of a driving licence is conditional on staying in school rather than on any of the literally infinite number of other irrelevant criteria is not clear to me. It cannot be an argument of principle. Once the state has declared "seriousness about taking your learning as far as possible" to be a "corresponding obligation" to being allowed to drive there is no reason not to also bring "seriousness about taking your virginity as far as possible" into the test criteria, or "seriousness about taking your ice hockey as far as possible" - or Christianity, fascism or Tantric Yoga, according to the fashion of the moment. The "correspondence" is exactly as good in all of these examples, which is to say nonexistent.
It cannot be hard-headed practicality either. There is no reason to suppose or evidence to show that those seventeen year olds to whom it matters most that they learn to drive are also those who would most benefit (if anyone does) from being forced to stay in school. Would-be rural dropouts are penalised heavily, urban dropouts shrug and take the bus. Or drive without a licence.
I guess it must be desperate flailing about to avoid addressing the failure of state education, then.
Iranian president says Holocaust is a myth - the Times.
"The days of denial must end," writes Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian.
My readers know everything. JEM writes:
Call me picky if you like, but in fact 'fistula' is any abnormal passage leading from any bodily cavity to any other that do not normally connect. Indeed it might be a hole in the wall of the vagina, of which there are several varieties covered by the general term 'obstetric fistula' which is what the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital itself tells us it is concerned with. However a 'fistula' might equally well be any one of about a thousand other similar pathological holes in various parts of the body.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Independent Exclusive: People Do Bad Things. I posted at Biased BBC concerning the coverage of the Sydney riots. I said the Beeb manages to be quite clear about the race of white rioters at Cronulla beach on Sunday but goes all coy about the race of rioters of Lebanese origin who made retaliatory mayhem in Mabroubra and other suburbs on Monday. A commenter, Simo, said, "Incredibly, the BBC might have been outdone in deliberate obfuscation by the Independent."
Not that incredible, actually, but Simo's comment deserves a wider audience. It's not about the BBC so I'll post it here. Simo quotes this Independent article:
"Violence on the streets of Sydney spilled into a second night as scores of people drove through beachside suburbs smashing windows of shops, homes and flats.Simo observes:
These naughty "people" are at it again. Of course, when those people aren't young males of Middle-Eastern origin, the Indy shows no such coyness about calling a spade a shovel, nailing first "5,000 white men, many of them drunk" before raising the spectre of the swastika by condemning the unnamed "neo-Nazi groups" who were allegedly fanning the flames.Now, why on earth would anyone report a story of conflict while refusing to name one side?
I can guess why the BBC does it. It thinks a significant chunk of its audience are uncultured whites belonging to socio-economic groups far down the alphabet who would turn on their non-white neighbours if ever they were to learn that some brown-skinned people living on the other side of the globe are capable of behaving badly. Providentially, thinks the Beeb news manager, these brutes can be safely lied to because they are too thick to seek out alternative sources of information.
Hey, maybe the Beeb has a point. The BBC's audience is theoretically the entire British nation after all.
But it's a little disconcerting that a progressive quality newspaper makes the same assumption about its audience. Still, no doubt the Independent knows its own readers best.
UPDATE: Like Simo, Scott Burgess also spotted that the Indy is a "people" paper. If this carries on it'll save a packet on the paper's coverage of the sunnier parts of the world. There were dramatic developments in Basra today, where people did stuff. Meanwhile in Darfur people did peoply things, other people claim. Eventually it might reach a stage where the only person mentioned by name in the entire newspaper was George W. Bush. One would open one's copy to see the Presidential name repeated endlessly, like a mantra.
There comes a point in every old codger's life where they hobble out into the sunshine of the modern world and peer about in a bewildered fashion muttering, "I don't understand. It's all changed. I don't understand."
I'm forty-one - but it's all changed and I don't understand.
When I was a kid the idea that the police would come around and "have a word" with a guest at a BBC talking heads show for the mere expression of opinions that the government did not like, opinions which even the police themselves concede did not include any threat of violence or lawbreaking, would have seemed like dystopian science fiction. Not any more.
Remember Robin Page, called in for questioning for remarks made from the commentary box at a country fair - after the police placed an advert in the local paper trawling for narks?
Dystopian science fiction never comes without a scene where one of the last few relics of the old regime reminisces. Winston Smith couldn't get any sense out of his old codger but the Aged Informants in earlier stories were more cooperative, or less drunk. I shall try to stay halfway sober when my time comes. Sober enough to thank 'ee for my half litre of watered down beer and say that I first noticed things beginning to change when that Robin Page was arrested and I knew it was no longer the Britain I had grown up in when that Lynette Burrows got into trouble.
Monday, December 12, 2005
A long ago war:
...a remarkable man, Epaminondas, one of the Theban generals, (and a Pythagorian philosopher) dreamed of ending the Spartan threat forever. Spartan power rested on the ability of all her citizens to be full-time soldiers, devoting their whole lives to military training. This was possible because they had long-before conquered the large neighboring province of Messenia, and reduced its people to near-slaves, the Helots, held down by brutal totalitarian tactics, including a ruthless secret police.
Google giving. This product of Worstallian ingenuity is an effort to get nice Mr Google to pay for (a) assistance to the Fistula* Hospital in Ethiopia and (b) the Send A Cow appeal.
The idea is you sign up for Adsense and Firefox with the Google Toolbar. Didn't I do a good job of sounding like I knew what I'm talking out? When I figure out what to do I will have a whirl at doing it. And if the Adsense/Toolbar angle does not appeal, one could always consider giving some money!
*A fistula is a hole in the wall of the vagina, an injury often suffered in the course of a stillbirth. The particular tragedy for women who affected by a fistula who live far away from medical facilities is that, as well as having lost their baby, they become unable to control urination and defecation. They are often disowned by their husbands and rejected by the community. Imagine the difference that an operation to repair the hole can make to a woman's life.
Friday, December 09, 2005
Breaking the silence. A little belatedly, may I draw your attention to this post by Adloyada on the dilemmas faced by a Palestinian cameraman who secretly filmed a Palestinian boy being killed for collaborating with Israel.
Narnia Blogging Central. I am indebted to Jon Barnard, late of Room Twelve, for directing me to Andrew Rilestone's site.
This is funny. But don't do it. We need Mr Rilstone alive.
This is not as snappy as my own definitive answer ("Duh!") to the question of whether the Narnia series was a Christian allegory, but it is slightly more nuanced. I liked this post, particularly the analogy at the end, for the same sort of reasons as I like C S Lewis's writing: Rilestone isn't afraid to take as long as it takes to be perfectly clear.
This is the definitive answer to Philip Pullman's daft view that Susan is damned. Stupid-clever person, now my new standard example of someone so blinded by hate that he can't even read the words in front of him properly. (The opening of His Dark Materials is still brilliant though. No denying he can write.)
Oh, and about Note 4... No. No. I cannot speak.
Slippery slopes are a very good description of how the world actually works. Via Instapundit I found this post in the Volokh Conspiracy by Dave Kopel. In 1999 Canadian gun owners who feared that the then new gun registry was a first step towards banning handguns were being addressed thus by a "chuckling" justice department spokesman:
"We are trying to tell (owners) go to sleep at night, because you have nothing to fear from this government. They like to invent bogeymen, and this is one of them."Six years later the Canadian Prime Minister, Paul Martin, has proposed a ban on handguns.
One of the things I noticed about Northern Irish politics in the eighties was that people were always chiding the Unionists for their absurd, paranoid suspicion that cross-border initiatives were the thin end of the wedge for moves towards Irish unity*. What was funny was that some of the chiders themselves would then move on, in the same speech or article, to say that this or that cross-border initiative would get the Unionist community used to working together with the Nationalists as a first step towards ... well, towards getting them to accept Irish unity, now you come to mention it.
*I'm not saying Irish unity is an illegitimate objective, or that it is illegitimate to try and persuade Unionists to drop their unionism. Just that the "paranoid" suspicions of Unionists about the underlying motives of their opponents were frequently correct.
Thursday, December 08, 2005
"The rule of law has had a good day today." Samizdata's Jonathan Pearce rejoices in the decision of the Law Lords that evidence obtained by torture is inadmissable.
He is right. But what about the captured terrorist who knows and won't tell where the atomic bomb is held? Torture him and throw yourself on the mercy of the jury.
ADDED LATER: Ticking. I meant ticking bomb. You know, like in the scenario everyone always uses. You knew that.
Quote of the Day.
Reality bites eventually. Better sooner than later.Widely applicable.
Eight Bangladeshis were the latest to die in a suicide bombing.
A suicide bomb attack killed at least eight people in Bangladesh and wounded more than 50 on Thursday in the latest in a series of deadly blasts blamed on militants seeking Islamic rule in the country.I keep asking myself why the Islamofascist movement has taken to blowing up Muslims so much. I knew the fanatics were that wicked - they have been killing members of other faiths for years, with the Jews, as ever, involuntarily serving as mine canaries by being the first victims of every new ideology of hate - but I did not know they were that stupid.
My guess is that there is some sort of runaway competition in purity going on within the jihadist community. Ever more frenzied displays of loyalty are required: merely killing yourself, or killing women and children no longer sets one apart. This is a reason for believing that the inner circle may be smaller than sometimes thought. OK, so "greater openess to new ideas" was never going to be the first item on the personal goals list for your average suicide bomber, but bigger groups are usually slightly more open to arguments that a strategy is counter-productive. To those in a tight-knit, self-validating group, however, the very counter-productiveness of an act is part of its appeal. They feel that only the chosen few would understand - and since they understand, they must be the chosen few.
The Daily Ablution has more on Bush the Enviromental Terrorist. After spending yesterday stoking my misanthropy in the hellish human-infested caverns of the Grafton Centre ("When you step foot in the Grafton Centre, you leave the dreamy spires of Cambridge behind...") it is alwasy pleasant to catch up on one's missed Ablutions (readers will be so good as to note the capital A), especially when they link to oneself.
Another Ablution post that I had missed was this one from 6 December. Scott Burgess discussed Polly Toynbee's views about the coming Narnia film. I gather the movie was about as welcome to Ms Toynbee as the Second Coming would be to a person of her views, i.e. annoying on general principles and even more irritating if the rubes turned out to like it.
One of Scott's commenters, Ian, writes:
With all the attention on Narnia books, I am wondering why no-one has yet pointed at A Horse And His Boy and frothed at the mouth at its blatent stereotyping of Arabic Muslim culture and society represented by the Calormen?"Ask and ye shall receive," says Angie Schultz later, linking to a report that the "5th Narnia book may not see big screen". All I can do* is re-post my own Daily Ablution comment from a while back. The Wharton mentioned is a chap who wrote a letter to the Guardian.
That Lewis preferred Christianity to Islam - duh! He made no bones about being a Christian apologist. In his writings for adults I can think of three brief mentions of Islam, two critical - but reasonably so - and one complimentary. But the part I've seen of Wharton's letter suggests he has not read the Narnia books at all carefully. There is nothing like Islam mentioned.
*"All I can do" is one of those lying phrases writers love. In truth there are quite a lot of other things I can do. Pat my head while rubbing my stomach with a circular motion, for a start. Although not vice versa.
I wish I loved the Human Race
I wish I loved the Human Race;
Christmas shopping does that to me. Fortunately this piece of revisionist history from Pootergeek cheered me up.
Were they at the same event? Here is a selection of reports on the recent Global Peace and Unity conference organised by the Islam Channel and held in Docklands on 4 December.
Thousands of British Muslims have turned out in huge numbers for an event promoting global peace, stressing to the world their faith is by no means a threat to any one.
It was advertised as a diverse event to which non-Muslims were invited and the impression one got from the website was of a celebration of Middle Eastern culture, food, music and children’s activities in a London milieu.
The Muslim Council of Britain secretary general made his comments in a speech to an east London conference focusing on the role of Muslims in the UK.
One thing that shocked me most was Imran's comment that poor Germany was so humiliated by Versailles that they could not be blamed for their rage, hence how can we condemn the 9/11 bombers? Even the organisers said into the mike after he had finished that they distanced themselves from his remark that '9/11 was a neocon cosnpiracy to have an excuse to start a new Crusade.'
Joanna Bale in the Times:
Ken Livingstone, Michael Mansfield, QC, and the former Pakistan cricketers Saeed Anwar and Imran Khan were among the speakers promoting "global peace and unity".I would be interested to know Imran Khan's exact words.
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Blame Bush for everything. What's he done now? Encouraged wind power.
A global shortage of turbines and other key pieces of equipment needed by the burgeoning wind power industry is causing delays to many schemes needed by the British government to meet its CO2 reduction targets.The Guardian is quite right to be angry. Real men burn rainforests or uranium.
Saturday, December 03, 2005
The much-hyped Sure Start programme, which the Guardian calls a "concept" for some reason, actually sets back the development of the most deprived children. We are assured by the children's minister, Beverley Hughes, that the Platonic or Ideal Sure Start is not at fault; it is but the earthly copy that offends. "I don't think there is anything wrong with the philosophy, but the issue is implementation on the ground."
"Makes a change," says Mr Briffa.
Friday, December 02, 2005
this may be ...not up yr current alley, but were I still blogging (and don't we all thank Christ I'm not)Oooh, I dunno about that. Longtime readers - and I'm talking real longtime readers, going back to the misty dawn of the blogging era in 2001 (as he himself said, "blog years are like dog years"), will remember that Dawson's now departed blog was one of the pioneers. Anyway, Dawson continues:
I'd...beg somone to read this! Not as good as Mark Steyn or VDH...but a fresh prespective, and damn well said me thinks.
This is what he is recommending. A Der Spiegel interview with Robert Kagan: "The War is More Popular than Bush." An extract:
SPIEGEL: You were a strong advocate of the Iraq war. Iraq is still unstable, with more than 2,000 American troops dead. Many of the war's supporters are having second thoughts. What's your position on Iraq today?
"...The difference between us and the Romans was that they regarded weakness as a vice and what we would call cruelty as a virtue."
Mr Micklethwait is, as he never tires of saying, a convinced atheist. However he is sometimes insightful on Christianity. After lamenting the empty-headed niceness of the current Western zeitgeist, he writes:
Niceness was, I suspect, a Roman fact but also a Roman secret. (How else could Christianity have ever caught on?) And then our nice Roman fixer would be back to the Senate to make blood-curdling speeches about the need to suppress with the utmost brutality whatever little challenge Rome faced that week.Among the generally fascinating comments, those by Paul Marks stood out. He argued against Brian Micklethwait, but I think they are both partly right. Trust me to say something like that. It's because I'm so nice.