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:

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Wednesday, May 31, 2006
It's not the croquet I object to, it's the lawn it was being played on.

JEM says of Mr Prescott,

While we're quoting from the Sermon on the Mount, here's one for John Prescott, old salt as he was, to contemplate when he next plays croquet...

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

I must get out the old croquet set again. Splendid game. Personally, I have no objection to him playing it. Surely nothing so superficial could dilute the uncrushable proletarian might of John Prescott's class identity - after all, being deputy ruler of the country and living in a grace-and-favour mansion didn't.

Ah, I see the mansion has been relinquished. Never mind, he can always come round my place for a game, properly chaperoned. And he still has his other grace-and-favour home and his ministerial salary. Of course "salary" isn't quite the right word at the moment. "Unearned income" might describe it better.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Haditha - like you care.

Several US marines are being investigated by the Naval Criminal Investigation Service and are likely to be charged with a massacre of 24 people, including women and children, in the Iraqi town of Haditha.

If these allegations are correct then the guilty men should be punished, and not with the disgracefully lenient punishment meted out to Lt Calley, the officer who led those guily of the massacre of Vietnamese villagers at My Lai. Personally I don't lose any sleep when child-murderers are executed.

As it happens I found the particular Washington Post article linked to above on one of my occasional visits to the website of the Stop the War Coalition. They profess to be horrified by the slaughter of civilians, they who said:

"The StWC reaffirms its call for an end to the occupation, the return of all British troops in Iraq to this country and recognises once more the legitimacy of the struggle of Iraqis, by whatever means they find necessary, to secure such ends."

I wouldn't have thought it of Johann Hari. I would have thought it of the Independent though. Hari slagged off Bjorn Lomborg in its pages - fair enough, that's what freedom of speech is for. In the course of his slagging off, though, he made several clear errors of fact. Lomborg himself and Scott Burgess drew these errors to the attention of the paper. Result? Nothing. No response. All that high-toned stuff about the Readers' Editor doesn't seem to be for anything.

One is sometimes curious to discover what people one knows by email look like in the flesh. I had never really thought of discovering what they taste like in the flesh. Iain Murray, however...

Saturday, May 27, 2006
Pave the Rain Forest. A truly inspirational video clip.

What interests me about this and similar stunts is that nobody could act the part of a non-actor that well until reality TV came along.

UPDATE: ¡No Pasaran! linked to the same video. One of their commenters, "owl", was outraged:

As a Canadian, I don't find this in the least bit funny. Building a Starbucks in the rainforest would be HORRIBLE for the people of Brazil! They deserve the best: a Tim Hortons. That Starbucks junk tastes like melted brown crayons.

BTW: I hope it's a four lane highway. I hate backups.

Not one jot. In Saturday's Times Victoria Hislop writes about her experiences meeting lepers in India. Heartwarming stuff. That leprosy is not, contrary to popular belief, particularly infectious and is curable is a message well worth repeating. It would be hard to disagree with passages like this:
I met many who were less “lucky”; for example, the case of someone who had ignored early signs and in whom the disease had taken hold. He was 20 and had several large, numb skin patches and when I held his arm I felt the tell-tale rope-textured thickening of the nerve down his forearm. I suspected that his delay in seeing a doctor was the result not merely of lack of education but also of denial. His first thoughts on diagnosis had been: “How will my family react? Will my neighbours shun me?” In this patient, I saw how dangerous stigma can be, almost as destructive as the disease itself.
But then came this:
In the Bible, Leviticus xiii and xiv detail how someone with leprosy should be treated, that he should cry: “Unclean, unclean” and live alone outside his community. Leprosy was believed to be a punishment from God but, even though we know that it is just great misfortune, the stigma remains, even today. I’d like to see those pages removed from every copy of the Bible.
Er, why? What good does she think this somewhat drastic step might do? I grant you, the passages concerned are not quite in accord with modern clinical practice but is there a special problem with Christians excluding lepers these days? Rather the contrary, I would have thought. She says herself that 70% of sufferers live in India, a mainly Hindu country. I do not seek to claim that this fact is an example of cause and effect, merely that it is a fact, and that ministry and assistance to lepers has been if anything a Christian speciality. As it ought to be, given Jesus's own actions.

Has Ms H really considered the practical difficulties involved in her proposals? As the Soviets found out, the trouble with excising bits of reference books is that it leaves embarrassing gaps that have to be filled somehow. When Beria fell purchasers of the Soviet Encyclopedia were sent an article about the Bering Straits with strict instructions to paste it in; when Krushchev fell in turn his monument was an article about the krushchev, a beetle. In order to achieve a complete obliteration of the offending Biblical sentiments Ms Hislop would have to extend the blue pencil to numerous other mentions of how the LORD smote the king, so that he was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a several house. And why stop with lepers? (Come to think of it, why stop with several houses, as John Prescott might say? Sorry. No self discipline. Couldn't resist.) As many reformers have observed the Good Book is chock-full of stonings and sexism and stuff: get rid of all that and the Bible would be so much nicer. The only problem is that it would not, unfortunately, be the Bible. Look, when Waitrose sends round a Faulty Product Notice announcing that traces of nuts have been uncovered in batch #1234-Z of its strawberry-flavoured caviare and offering a replacement or a refund, 99% of customers ignore it. I really don't think you are going to get a better response rate when half the customers regard the product as the unalterable Word of God.

It won't just be the Christians refusing to put their scripture in the pre-paid envelope provided, either. The first five books of the Christian Old Testament are also the Jewish Torah, and the Jews have a bit of a reputation for being stubborn about these things. Deuteronomy 4:2:

Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.

Despite all this, you know, leper colonies are not found in modern Israel. I guess the Jews, like the Christians, have found ways of reconciling Leviticus with a world in which there are drugs for leprosy - did you know that thalidomide of all things works wonders? - even without a scissors being taken to anyone's holy book.

If Ms Hislop is by any chance a Christian, perhaps she ought to be advised that her proposed censorship would not have met with Jesus's approval. And that disapproval was recorded in a section that it would be particularly difficult to edit down without anyone noticing: the Sermon on the Mount.

For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

Monday, May 22, 2006
Spleeyiiiich-glockglock-glockle-PLOINK. That, I hope, is the noise of Blogger's Block unblocking. Man, you know how it is. First you're going to start blogging again when Task X is over. Then along comes Problem Y, surely as deserving of your time as X, which in any case took longer to sort out than expected. Then X and Y are out of the way, or as out as they'll ever be, but now you've got an intimidating pile of unread emails and you've just plain lost the plot. And, oh look, here comes the super-urgent, important and not entirely unwelcome Obligation Z ...

I may not yet quite have hit rock bottom. True, I did on certain occasions avoid blogging by deliberate acts of work but I haven't yet descended to tidying the house.