Saturday, October 26, 2002
This will lead to the perfection of "electronic" actors. They've 5 more films to make, and the later ones look like to involve Dumbledore even more. Gladiator showed improvements in the technology. By the time of the fourth film, I reckon they'll have it down pat...
Summary of the story: the kidnappers shot two hostages. Hostages tried to escape, setting off a booby-trap. Russian special forces storm the theatre. An Australian diplomat says "only" 10 hostages were killed. Regardless, this looks likely to make things in Chechnya worse, not better.
Russian behaviour there has oscillated between disgrace and atrocity for several years. But, as with the Palestinians, they've done their best to destroy any international sympathy for them. And, predictably, it's the average Chechen, who'll suffer most.
Thursday, October 24, 2002
Death penalty op-ed to follow...
"You have to doubt that democracy would take root in Iraq. This is not because of some supposed incompatibility between Islam and political freedom, or because Arabs love firm government. ...
It is not religion or ethnicity that makes democracy so unlikely in Iraq, but history. ... Iraq... is a tribal society and has no traditions of freedom. When the British and French created states out of the ruins of the Ottoman empire, they chose to use traditional authorities. So Syria, Transjordan and Iraq were assigned to the Hashemites, who had been driven out of Arabia by the Saudis. From 1921 Britain ruled Iraq through the Hashemite kings. We controlled unrest through simple methods - such as, on occasion, using the RAF to bomb rebellious tribesmen. When Iraq became nominally independent, we still controlled things through loyal pro-British retainers, such as General Nuri al-Said, who, in effect, appointed prime ministers, often choosing himself.
Britain ruled Iraq in order to preserve stability in the region. Iraq is made up of disparate ethnic and religious groups, and without a strong central government it would fly apart. This worked until the British became extremely unpopular after the Suez invasion of 1956. In 1958 came the bloodbath.
An army major, Quasim, seized power in a military coup. The royal palace was besieged, and the young king, Faisal II, and all the royal family were massacred. Nuri was shot in the street and his corpse run over repeatedly by municipal buses. A few years later, Quasim was overthrown in a CIA-assisted coup. Through more coups and purges Saddam eventually came out on top.
If Saddam is overthrown there could easily be another bloodbath. The Kurds in the north would love to break away and foment nationalism among their fellow Kurds in Turkey, Syria and Iran. Real democracy in Iraq would bring social revolution, and the overthrow of the ruling Sunni elite. The devout Shia peasant majority, who have been an underclass since Ottoman times, might well set up an Islamic republic. Believe it or not, in Baghdad you meet genuine supporters of Saddam who say: "At least he protects us from the mullahs." If "some general" was found to hold the country together he would have to have an apparatus of repression comparable to Saddam's.
In Iraq I did not find a yearning for democracy, but a nostalgia for the past. On display at the book auction market in Baghdad were books with pictures of the old kings, and even of Nuri al-Said. One man said there was special sympathy for the young murdered king: "Why could we not have treated them the way Egypt treated its royal family? We could have sent them into exile - or even just told them to live quietly here." Others said if there were a free vote now, "90% would opt for the monarchy".
This yearning for some sort of traditional rule may sound quixotic, but in Iraq it could just work. The Hashemites could bring a parliamentary system to Iraq comparable to that of Jordan, and could rule the Kurds and Shias with a lighter hand. Iraq, like Jordan and the rest of the Arab world, would be authoritarian - but it would be neither a naked military dictatorship nor a mere puppet state. Stranger things have happened. "
"The North Koreans are right: the US has failed to carry out its 1994 agreement to construct two light water reactor power plants (Leaders, October 22). They were scheduled for completion in 2003 and are running at least seven years late. All the North Koreans have, eight years on, is two holes in the ground. The US is threatening not to allow the delivery of key nuclear components until after the International Atomic Energy Authority "completes" its tests on North Korea's sealed nuclear plant, which will take up to three years, pushing the completion back until 2013 at the earliest.
In the meantime the promised deliveries of heavy fuel oil by the US to tide over North Korea's flickering power system over have proved sporadic, as the Republicans in Congress have blocked funding.
All of this is compounded by Bush's, new strategic doctrine of pre-emptive deterrence (James Rubin, October 23). While one deplores any further nuclear proliferation, is it not surprising that the deeply suspicious, isolated and authoritarian regime in Pyongyang has now concluded that they are being played for time and that the US is not looking for a solution, but rather merely trying to get its sequencing right: first Iraq, then North Korea.
Glyn Ford MEP
Lab, South West England "
High court hang-ups
'Why did you steal 40,000 hotel coat hangers, knowing that hotel coat hangers are designed to be useless outside hotel wardrobes?'
15 October 2002
A most extraordinary trial is going on in the High Court at the moment in which a man named Chrysler is accused of stealing more than 40,000 coat hangers from hotels round the world. He admits his guilt, but in his defence he claims that - well, perhaps it would be simpler just to bring you a brief extract from the trial. We join the case at the point where Chrysler has just taken the stand.
Counsel: What is your name?
Chrysler: Chrysler. Arnold Chrysler.
Counsel: Is that your own name?
Chrysler: Whose name do you think it is?
Counsel: I am just asking if it is your name.
Chrysler: And I have just told you it is. Why do you doubt it?
Counsel: It is not unknown for people to give a false name in court.
Chrysler: Which court?
Counsel: This court.
Chrysler: What is the name of this court?
Counsel: This is No 5 Court.
Chrysler: No, that is the number of this court. What is the name of this court?
Counsel: It is quite immaterial what the name of this court is!
Chrysler: Then perhaps it is immaterial if Chrysler is really my name.
Counsel: No, not really, you see because...
Judge: Mr Lovelace?
Counsel: Yes, m'lud?
Judge: I think Mr Chrysler is running rings round you already. I would try a new line of attack if I were you.
Counsel: Thank you, m'lud.
Chrysler: And thank you from ME, m'lud. It's nice to be appreciated.
Judge: Shut up, witness.
Chrysler: Willingly, m'lud. It is a pleasure to be told to shut up by you. For you, I would...
Judge: Shut up, witness. Carry on, Mr Lovelace.
Counsel: Now, Mr Chrysler - for let us assume that that is your name - you are accused of purloining in excess of 40,000 hotel coat hangers.
Chrysler: I am.
Counsel: Can you explain how this came about?
Chrysler: Yes. I had 40,000 coats which I needed to hang up.
Counsel: Is that true?
Counsel: Then why did you say it?
Chrysler: To attempt to throw you off balance.
Counsel: Off balance?
Chrysler: Certainly. As you know, all barristers seek to undermine the confidence of any hostile witness, or defendant. Therefore it must be equally open to the witness, or defendant, to try to shake the confidence of a hostile barrister.
Counsel: On the contrary, you are not here to indulge in cut and thrust with me. You are only here to answer my questions.
Chrysler: Was that a question?
Chrysler: Then I can't answer it.
Judge: Come on, Mr Lovelace! I think you are still being given the run-around here. You can do better than that. At least, for the sake of the English bar, I hope you can.
Counsel: Yes, m'lud. Now, Mr Chrysler, perhaps you will describe what reason you had to steal 40,000 coat hangers?
Chrysler: Is that a question?
Chrysler: It doesn't sound like one. It sounds like a proposition which doesn't believe in itself. You know - "Perhaps I will describe the reason I had to steal 40,000 coat hangers... Perhaps I won't... Perhaps I'll sing a little song instead..."
Judge: In fairness to Mr Lovelace, Mr Chrysler, I should remind you that barristers have an innate reluctance to frame a question as a question. Where you and I would say, "Where were you on Tuesday?", they are more likely to say, "Perhaps you could now inform the court of your precise whereabouts on the day after that Monday?". It isn't, strictly, a question, and it is not graceful English but you must pretend that it is a question and then answer it, otherwise we will be here for ever. Do you understand?
Chrysler: Yes, m'lud.
Judge: Carry on, Mr Lovelace.
Counsel: Mr Chrysler, why did you steal 40,000 hotel coat hangers, knowing as you must have that hotel coat hangers are designed to be useless outside hotel wardrobes?
Chrysler: Because I build and sell wardrobes which are specially designed to take nothing but hotel coat hangers.
Sensation in court. More of this tomorrow, I hope "
Wednesday, October 23, 2002
That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it does remove the moral superiority implied by abolishing capital punishment. If it's morally abhorrent, then surely a country can only set itself up as morally virtuous if it's consensually abolished. The ethical dictator is a dictator nonetheless, and the people attract no credit for their government's actions. And countries where democracy decides such things are no less moral than those where they don't: lives are not preserved "in the people's name" in the sense meant by that phrase. Literally, yes, but what is meant is that the people wanted this, and can accept the credit. But if you are thwarted in your wish to see Hindley or Bin Laden hang, that does not remove the moral taint (or credit) of that desire.
I'd also like to commend the RFU for its prompt offer to organise a collection (and make a substantial donation (I work it out as £150,000).
Tuesday, October 22, 2002
The good was The Unknown Soldier at 76. The poignancy of the selection came over strongly in the footage of his internment that they showed> A very moving piece of film, and an amazingly well thought-out choice by, in part, the public.
The bad was Edward I. I wouldn't normally quote the type of anti-semitic bigotry reproduced below. However, if you can judge historical figures, in part, by their future admirers, then someone who believes the blood libel (one of the bold passages), yet appears to mostly approve of Edward's actions, is a particularly interesting item of evidence about this "Great" Briton.
"In an attempt to solve the problem of "anti-Semitism", King Edward I passed in 1275 the Statutem de Judeismo (Laws or Statutes regarding Jewry), a set of laws commonly known as the "Anti-Usury Laws." These laws outlawed the lending and borrowing of money for unproductive purposes. Jewish historian Cecil Roth, in his book A History of the Jews in England, admitted that these special privileges were "an amazing concession" because it was probably the first example of "affirmative action" or "positive discrimination." This set of laws was remarkable because King Edward I did not merely outlaw the lending and borrowing of money for unproductive purposes but granted special licenses to the Jew in order to encourage him to take up farming and any craft. However, the Jew never took advantage of these opportunities, choosing instead to continue with such parasitic practices as usury, clipping the coin (paring the silver off the coins which debased the currency), desecrating the host and ritually murdering Christian children every Passover, as the Jew is instructed to do in the Talmud. If anyone thinks that this was simply a medieval problem, it should be remembered that when Henry Ford was accused of being an "anti-Semite" for having publicized the Jew's thoroughly unproductive and parasitic nature, he offered a reward of $1,000 (a considerable sum at the time) to anyone who could show him a Jewish farmer. The reward was never collected.
King Edward I permanently banished the Jews from England in 1290. After the Jan/Mar '92 NSV Report was published, one of our associates made a trip to the University of Southern California Law School and sent us a copy of the actual wording of King Edward I's Edict of Expulsion of the Jews in 1290. The Edict of Expulsion of 1290 reads:
"Eodem anno omnes Judei, cum eorum bonis, filiis, et uxoribus, circa festum Omnium Sanctorum, terram Angliae et Aquitaniae, concedente rege Edwardo, exulantur."
This is translated by Dir. Cooper as:
"To the same end [in reference to a tax levy in the previous sentence which is not included here] in the year, all Jews, with their goods, children and wives, around the holiday of All Saints [All Saints' Day is November 1st], are banished from the land of England and of Aquitania [the southwest part of what is now France between the Loire River and Pyrenees Mountains], King Edward having conceded."
The above sentence says a lot - not only for English history but this situation has repeated itself elsewhere in Europe from the middle ages to the present time. You see, the word "concedente" implies that the king reluctantly yielded to pressure from his advisers and subjects. In other words, the king was not the motivating factor behind the Edict of Expulsion. Most probably, the king was informed in no uncertain terms that unless the Jews were expelled, he would face a violent revolution which would not only result in the expulsion of the Jews but also the execution of the king, his family and loyal backers. So the king conceded to the Edict of Expulsion and thus ordered his Jewish friends, allies, business partners and co-conspirators out of English territory. To ease the pain of his former Jewish associates, the king not only allowed the Jews to keep the money which they obtained from usury and coin-clipping, and any belongings that they could carry (all Jewish owned real estate, synagogues, cemeteries went to the king), but the king also levied a tax onto the English people to pay for the Jews' transportation out of England. (Note: From the medieval ages to the present time, national leaders always deny a Jewish problem but eventually the people reach a point where they no longer believe the lies of their leaders and proceed to give an ultimatum to these leaders - Jews out or revolution. Faced with such an ultimatum, the leaders almost always yield to the desires of the people.) "
As you can see, the main issue that the author (of the top google result I found) has with Edward is that he was too kind to the Jewish population of England. The BBC does manage a rather more balanced account of the 1275 law, though only seems to mention the Edict of Expulsion.
The above text is sorid (it appears to come from a National Front off-shoot in Hull). But it illustrates that nauseating anti-semitism is not merely a cancer on the Middle East, or upon certain strains of Islam. It shows that genuine hatred of the Jews beats on in the West, not merely the repulsive (intellectual, if not practical) extremes of the theoretically tenable "anti-Zionist, not anti-semitic" position. And, as a very few incidents in the UK, and more in continental Europe, have shown, it can lead to action, not just hate. The modern web should be aware, as long-time use-netters appear to automatically learn, that there are terrible people with terrible ideas out there: as with most fears of the long night, the lights of reason and renunciation are the only ways to banish the darkness from the room.
And it's concerning (though almost certainly unrelated to this) that Edward I made such high running: this dark period in England's history should be better known.
"I n point of fact, British support for Bush on Iraq is jeopardising British interests across the board. Blair's position has allowed France's Jacques Chirac to put himself forward as a champion not just of Arab concerns but of those of Europeans, too. Blair, who wanted so much to place Britain at the heart of Europe, has on this watershed issue set it significantly apart. What a contrast is presented by Chirac's triumphant Middle East tour last week, during which the 55 nations of La Francophonie backed him on Iraq, and Straw's demeaning traipsing around Arab capitals where he was seen, at best, as Colin Powell's messenger boy. What a difference between European perceptions of Blair as Bush's mouthpiece and of Germany's Gerhard Schröder, the man who refused to "click his heels". "
Gee, taking a position applauded at a conference attended by terrorists. Quelle courage
"Georgia School Board Bans 'Theory Of Math'
COGDELL, GA—The Cogdell School Board banned the teaching of the controversial "Theory Of Math" in its schools Monday. "We are simply not confident of this mysterious process by which numbers turn, as if by magic, into other numbers," board member Gus Reese said. "Those mathematicians are free to believe 3 times 4 equals 12, but that dun [sic] give them the right to force it on our children." Under the new ruling, all math textbooks will carry a disclaimer noting that math is only one of many valid theories of number-manipulation."
Go read more
Sunday, October 20, 2002
A little searching has revealled that this wasn't an unknown first use of the term. The exact quote, I am informed, is:
"The danger of the past was that men would become slaves.
The danger of the future is that men may become robots."
Very apposite, I'm sure. But also not a Thoreau quote. It's from an author called Eric Fromm, attributed to a book called The Sane Society. He was also the author of "The Art of Loving", which may have nothing to do with things, or may be why the producers misattributed the quote. Which is annoying, as, I'm fairly sure, it would be reasonably amusing for the author of Walden to have come up with it...