Friday, October 13, 2006

The End of the 51st State

The comments from General Sir Richard Dannatt that he wants his forces to leave Iraq sometime soon have met with overwhelming support on the Army Rumour Service website, where officers can air their views anonymously via forums which promote lively debate.

Many express shock about the frankness of his words and there are several references to Sir Richard’s "moral" courage in speaking his mind, as well calls for the Prime Minister to take heed of his remarks. "I hope Blair is listening," says user "Nigegilb".

The Times 10/13/2006

British academics and members of the "chattering classes" have long been suspicious of British governments' somewhat slavish willingness to support US foreign policy. But so far the political and military elites have been keen to keep up the "special relationship".

This now seems to be changing, with most of the Labour Party long at odds with Tony Blair over Iraq; and the Tory leader defected from the US cause at the last election. Now the military has called it a day.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Now we have all just had another communal moment.

I was with a group taking a lunch break, when CNN came on about the aeroplane hitting a building in New York. I wonder how many, as I, were on edge for 2-3 hours afterwards, waiting for the next hit.

Was this a new Al-Qaeda attack? Would this displace the Foley scandal? What about my friend who lives on West 70th St in Manhattan?

I expect nightmare to night. No other news event ever effected me like 9/11, and this was a very unpleasant reminder that it might happen again.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Page Program

...what, one may ask, are "pages" - underage gofers - doing in Washington, in 2006, to prick the desires of dirty old congressmen and senators with their fresh young faces and limbs? Partly it's the American addiction to Old Europe's lifestyle - the same nostalgia that came up with "valet parking". Everyone's a monseigneur when you go to the local steakerie. The great republic likes the odd aristocratic frill.

Originally pagehood was the lowest rung on the steps of knighthood. At puberty, if you cut the mustard (and were prepared to cut a few throats when required), you made it to squire.

In Washington's seat of power, the page programme was devised by Daniel Webster, in 1829. He believed this touch of medieval chivalry would dignify the House. Pages - boys and (since 1971) girls - are selected from American high schools as a reward for high merit. The programme, one suspects, will not be around for much longer. It doesn't seem to dignify the place any more.

Having underage boys at the beck and call of powerful men was always risky. Probably it was at the round table of King Arthur - but then there was no (smoking-lance?) to embarrass any naughty knight.

The Guardian 10/9/2006

Mon Dieu!

The British have a reputation for having a national superiority complex. Yet more than a fifth of us are hiding a shameful truth: we would actually prefer to be French.

Wooed either by a better climate, a more efficient health service, or simply the greater availability of cheap alcohol, the English have long seen France as the perfect retirement destination.

However, a survey of more than 1,000 people aged under 50 suggests that the young are equally dazzled by the Gallic way of life.

Twenty-two per cent would prefer to have been born in France, while 32 per cent would prefer to live there.

Daily Telegraph 10/10/2006

Monday, October 09, 2006

A Successful Society

Whether you love America (as I do, 87.35% of the time), or detest it (as I do 1.376% of the time - the rest of the time [11.87%] I'm confused) - the stunning fact that ALL the technical Nobel prizes this year have gone to Americans is, well, stunning.

Oddly enough, all these prize-winners have come from American Academia.

What we need is an adminstration which will let the insights of American Academia rule the world.

And not the insights of some business guys in cowboy boots from Texas.

Mona Inglesby RIP : Imperialist Ballet

Thirty years later, following the collapse of Communism, the Kirov Ballet decided to recreate the original Sleeping Beauty, stripping away decades of Soviet alterations. An American scholar told them of the notations' existence. Discovering a single primer for the notation language in their library, they were able to reconstruct Petipa's final production of his masterpiece to stunning and revelatory effect, having a huge success on tour in London in 2000 and in the US. Since then the Kirov and Bolshoi Ballets have become increasingly interested in reconstruction, and a move towards "authenticity" has begun.

Daily Telegraph 10/9/2006

Anti-Gay Leaders Gather

The New York Times 10/8/2006 reports on a successful meeting between Northern Irish Catholic and Protestant leaders.

Iain Paisley, who once led the "Save Ulster from Sodomy" Campaign and the Catholic Archbishop of Armargh doubtless found much to in agree on the need to oppress homosexuals.

Meanwhile, the real solution to the Ulster problem is developing elsewhere. Irish people both North and South are deciding to become Europeans. After all, its more fun to dance the night away on cheap ecstasy-driven holidays hedonistic Ibiza than to argue about limbo and predestination with clergy who wear black to hide the size of their bellies [a guilty admission should go here...].

What's Wrong With American Liberals?

As to bloggers I mainly read Andrew Sullivan and I like NRO best of all the rightwing blogs because its writers are not looney.

I read almost no left-wing blogs; they drive me crazy; American liberals drive me crazy because they want to make people happy.

Pills make you happy; drugs make you happy; alcohol makes you happy; being in love makes you happy; art makes you happy. Politics does not make you happy.

The purpose of politics as far as I am concerned is to spread the wealth created by the successful enterprise culture of capitalism to make sure all people have access to food, housing, and medical services, and all children have access to equal opportunity. Happiness is their own business.

That is why I am called a "democratic socialist" and not a "liberal."

Why China's One Child Policy Will Save the World

Jonah Goldberg at NRO opines
Lots of folks think this nuke thing is good news for the GOP because it puts national security in play and diminishes the Foley stuff. As political analysis, I think that's probably right. But let's keep in mind that North Korea's nuke testing constitutes a failure of US policy. We can debate the details and the extenuating circumstances, but President Bush denounced the Axis of Evil five years ago and promised that he would do everything to keep its members from getting nukes. Well, North Korea just detonated one. Iran is well on its way to getting one. And Iraq, well, that's not quite the bright spot we hoped it would be"

NRO 10/9/2006 [h/t Andrew Sullivan.]

The problem of course was lumping them altogether to begin with. Iran is, in my estimate, open to negotiation; North Korea is off in looney land. The key is China. Right now, I think Japan will feel it has to develop nuclear weapons, since the only possible target is Tokyo.

North Korea has no way to deliver bombs very far. It knows that any use of it's (1-2-3-4 - some small number) of launchers will result in an immediate response - but they are weird enough to try it.

It may turn out that Bill Clinton was right again (and I thought he was wrong at at the time) in allowing commerce with China. Commerce is creating a rich and huge middle class that simply will not allow the destruction of its wealth by some stupid rice-farmer ideological war. China's one child policy is helping; when you put all your eggs (or sperm) in one cuddly little basket, you do not want to loose eternal veneration as an ancestor by having the little bugger blown to pieces in the name of a North Korean with a funny hairdo and a Hollywood fixation.

Mass Venezuela Opposition Rally

Tens of thousands of people have marched through the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, in support of the main opposition candidate, Manuel Rosales. Mr Rosales will face President Hugo Chavez in December's presidential poll.

The march, which filled the main avenues of the city centre, was the biggest opposition rally Venezuela has seen since early 2004.

BBC 10/8/2006.

Remember John Bolton claiming there was no freedom in Venezuela last month? That claim does not really go when huge opposition rallies can be held. The rallies pretty much shows Chavez is not at this stage a dictator.

If the election is fixed or tampered with, I will change my mind.

Sex and Bombs

Sex and Free Love

From the introduction of the contraceptive pill 1960 until the panics over Herpes and then AIDS in 1981 there was a generation which lived without having to worry about the costs of sex. Throughout all previous history women had paid the highest price for sex because of pregnancy; but men also faced costs because of sexually transmitted diseases. The most known of these were syphilis (which eventually leads to dementia) and gonorrhea. Antibiotics were the magic bullets that allowed sex without worry of disease (other STDs were not really considered), and then the pill made pregnancy an option.

What followed was a sexual free for all - at one stage there were straight bath-houses where people could drop in for sex after work (e.g. Plato's Retreat in New York). All this changed almost overnight in 1981. Within a couple of months women's magazines were full of horror stories about herpes, a disease that was sexually transmitted, and was incurable. There was a full blown panic, and one that preceded worries over AIDS. Then along came AIDS, a disease which (at that time) led to a quick and horrible death.

The period of freedom of worry about the cost of sex was over. Condoms were promoted, and for the first time the costs of sex became more or less equal for men and women. The whole cultural change was so fast that those of us who lived through can still use it as an example of just how fast social mores can change.

Mutually Assured Destruction and the Bomb

For most of my lifetime children grew up with the knowledge that we might all die in a nuclear war. Both sides in the Cold War were armed to the teeth with mega-death weapons. Movie after movie depicted cold war tension, and several (e.g. Threads, Mad Max) imagined life after a nuclear war. We all grew up knowing that if politicians got it wrong, we could all die, and with the moral problem that we were electing governments which were committed to using indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction.

And then came 1989. The Berlin Wall fell, and the Soviet Union soon collapsed. For the past 17 years there has been a generation of children who have not had to worry about nuclear war. Terrorism is horrible, but it does not instantly destroy the world, and for most people in the West (outside big cities) it is not really a daily threat.

And then came today. North Korea has exploded a nuclear bomb. A scraggy poverty-ridden thug state has found a way to make itself a world player. The possibility of nuclear proliferation has now become the actuality.

The seventeen years of freedom from worry about the bomb may now be over.

Religious Discrimination

The New York Times is running a long series on the exemptions religious organization enjoy from secular regulation. Today 10/9/2006 the focus is on the often horrendous way religious organizations treat their own employees, and then claim legal protection from lawsuits.

I suppose it is fair enough that religious organizations can claim these exemptions, over who is acceptable as a minister for example, but in some of the cases presented by the Times there is clearly some abuse.

I don't want to limit religious freedoms at all. But I wonder why it should not be legitimate for other, tolerant, people and organizations to discriminate against religious groups that are themselves intolerant. Surely if a political subdivision (city, county etc.) which has adopted non-discrimination laws knows that a religiou group is not willing to abide by the laws should in turn be able to boycott that organization.

In other words, secular and political organizations should not be able to discriminate in any way against individual Catholics, Evangelicals, Jews, and Muslims, but should be able to refuse to support any Catholic, Evangelical, Jewish, or Muslim organization that signalled its refusal to abide by the law.


From a Catholic point of view this is the MOST ludicrous label a Christian can have.

After all, anyone who says they are "non-denominational" is a Protestant.

Still, what was the Orlando Sentinel thinking in this report:
Nelson is a nondenominational Christian who was baptized Baptist. He grew up attending Baptist and Episcopal churches and joined First Presbyterian Church after moving to Orlando last year, according to spokesman Bryan Gulley.

Orlando Sentinel 10/6/2006

The story is about Kathryn Harris 'increasingly ludicrous Senate run. How the hell she won in Sarasota is something all the Wisconsin Lutherans in Sarasota need to commune about with Garrison Keillor.

But, according the the Orlando Sentinel, Bill Nelson should be taken as a Presbyterian (a perfectly respectable denominational label, especially for people who can read books).

Insider Knowledge

So it’s payback time. Internal Republican polls are now showing that this scandal could cost them up to 50 seats in next month’s election, as their base is so disgusted.

Andrew Sullivan, The Sunday Times 10/8/2006

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Shoe Drops

A former House page says he had sex with then-Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) after receiving explicit e-mails in which the congressman described assessing the sexual orientation and physical attributes of underage pages but waiting until later to make direct advances.

The former page, who agreed to discuss his relationship with Foley with the Los Angeles Times on the condition that he not be identified, said his electronic correspondence with Foley began after he finished the respected Capitol Hill page program for high school juniors. His sexual encounter was in the fall of 2000, he said. At the time, he was 21 and a graduate of a rural Northeastern college.

Los Angeles Times 10/8/2006.

The problem with this "scandal" is that so far there is still nothing illegal.

Acting Like a Republican

Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman from Florida who served with Mr. Foley, said, “If you’re a gay Republican, you have to act like a Republican.” Mr. Scarborough, who is now the host of “Scarborough Country” on MSNBC, said “acting like a Republican” entailed going out on the campaign trail “talking about guns, chewing tobacco and riding around in a pickup truck.”

New York Times 10/8/2006

I wonder if you have to have inside furniture on the porch as well?

Prince Charles and a Gay Dean

The Prince of Wales has entered the controversy over gay clergy by lavishing praise on the first Church of England priest to write about his homosexuality.

Prince Charles has endorsed the ministry of Harry Williams in his foreword to a new book of essays by the Anglican theologian, who died earlier this year, aged 86.

The intervention from a man who, as king, will be the head of the Church of England, will alarm conservative bishops who last week addressed growing concern over the number of gay clergy that have "married" since the Civil Partnerships Act was introduced last year.

In his autobiography, Some Day I'll Find You, Fr Williams shocked many within the church by writing openly about his life as a promiscuous homosexual.

In his book, published in 1982, he said of his days working at Cambridge University: "I slept with several men, in each case fairly regularly. They were all of them friends. Cynics, of course, will smile, but I have seldom felt more like thanking God then when having sex. In bed I used to praise Him there and then for the joy I was receiving and giving."

Fr Williams was Dean of Chapel at Trinity College when the Prince arrived at Cambridge to study in 1967.

Now, in a fond tribute to the theologian, Prince Charles has written a foreword to the book, Living Free, due to be published this month by Continuum.

"Harry Williams proved to be a star; a man of intense humanity and warmth whose humour and originality created an aura of approachability," he writes.

The prince does not refer directly to Fr Williams's homosexuality but he hints heavily at it: "His courageous willingness to open up his inner soul and being and to speak from the heart about his own experience of the vicissitudes, complications and agonies of life struck a powerful and immediate chord with huge numbers of undergraduates."

Prince Charles comes across as understanding of Fr Williams's lifestyle and his controversial linking of God and homosexual activity. "His essence may have evaporated, but his heartening and profoundly sympathetic insight into our humanity and into the relationship between God and Man – what he called 'our identity with Life Universal, with God' – will live on through the power and presence of his words and through the affectionate memories of his old undergraduates," he writes.

Sunday Telegraph 10/8/2006

Only trogdylites seem to be bothered by gay people in civilized countries these days.

Liberal Conservatism

'We are back in the centre ground of British politics," declared the Conservative leader, David Cameron, at his party's conference in Bournemouth last week. "A stable economy. Fighting crime. Backing the NHS and our state schools. Childcare and flexible working. Improving our environment and quality of life. Those are people's priorities - those are our priorities today."

Note to the red-faced man in the pinstripe suit and golf club tie: Not tax cuts. Not capital punishment. And not privatisation of health care. Memo to the lady with the blue rinse hairdo and the Edna Everage specs: Not repatriation of immigrants. And not withdrawal from the EU.

"The old policies," Cameron declared, "are not coming back." Instead, he pointedly used phrases like "social responsibility", "collective will", "social solidarity", "binding targets for carbon reduction" (he even name-checked Al Gore) and "civil [including gay] partnerships".

Niall Ferguson in the Sunday Telegraph 10/7/2006 argues that the new British Tory leader represents an old trend in British politics, that of liberal conservatism.

Cor ad cor loquitur

Cor ad cor loquitur

An interesting Catholic blog.