Thursday, November 16, 2006

Slow blogging

Posts have been sparse lately: I moved, and have been trying out as a mortgagor broker. More stuff will be coming soon.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Jo Jo Laine RIP

Jo Jo Laine, who died on Sunday aged 53 after falling down a flight of stairs, led a fast-paced life which bore witness to the dangers of too much beauty combined with an almost total lack of self-restraint.

Petite, wide-eyed and with waist-length dark auburn hair, Jo Jo Laine became famous as a model but notorious as a groupie who numbered among her conquests some of the most glamorous icons of the Sixties and Seventies rock scene.

Daily Telegraph 10/24/2006

Saddam's Death Penalty

I remain opposed to the dealth penalty in all circumstances. This trial should have taken place in the Hague, not in some hobbled together and inept Iraqi court.

The Observer 11/5/2006

Right Wing Gay Scandals

First Mark Foley, then Ted Haggard.

I don't really have any sympathy for them as Republicans, but I do have a great deal of sympathy for them as men enlosed and psychologically damaged by the closet. The Haggard case my be worse, since his wife and kids are now indubitably hurt.

Everybody's life runs by a different clock: when it's good time for one person to come out, its not necessarily right to another. Those of us who do come out do face a more or less limited form of public discrimination: on the other hand there is the basic freedom of being oneself. This "everyone is on their own clock" is the basic arguement against "outing."

The problem is when the hypocrisy becomes transparently foul. When people have accepted themselves as homosexual but continue to publically attack gay people, visit public gay places, and then expect the rest of us to conspire in their closet.

A Harpers Article on Ted Haggard and Colorado Springs 11/2/2006 [h/t Andrew Sullivan]

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Road to Delusion

Next week, George W Bush faces his last, critical electoral challenge. Niall Ferguson assesses a failed presidency.

In the aftermath of George W Bush's re-election as president two years ago, his campaign manager, Karl Rove, amused himself and his boss with a battery-powered "Redneck Horn". At the touch of a dashboard button, the device would yell insults in a raucous Southern accent, providing automated road rage for "red state" Republicans.

George W Bush and Dick Cheney face the possibility of defeat in the mid-term elections

The toy's abusive messages ranged from the relatively mild "Slow down, dumbass!" to "Hey, hogneck, who taught you how to drive?"; "What the hell was that manoeuvre?"; "Are you freaking blind?" and "You're a goddam moron!" How they all laughed in the White House, if the Bush administration's renegade court historian, Bob Woodward, is to be believed.

Today, however, the joke is on them. For the Redneck Horn could now just as easily be used by ordinary Americans to express their frustration not merely with Mr Bush but with the entire Republican Party. With a little over a week remaining until the congressional mid-term elections on November 7, some opinion polls indicate that "You're a goddam moron!" is precisely the message voters intend to send the White House.

Niall Ferguson, Sunday Telegraph, 10/28/2006

Ferguson is a conservative.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The New Nuclear Age

Islam, Terror and the Second Nuclear Age
New York Times 10/28/2006

Pretty much following my end of innocence post a week ago.

Jacqueline-Charlotte Dufresnoy RIP

Jacqueline-Charlotte Dufresnoy, who died on October 9 aged 75, was born Jacques-Charles Dufresnoy, but became celebrated as the French transsexual singer, entertainer and Marilyn Monroe lookalike, Coccinelle.

Coccinelle was the first Frenchman to have a sex-change operation and went on to found an association to help others who felt they had been born with the wrong sexual identity. The British transsexual April Ashley was one of her protégées.

Jacques-Charles Dufresnoy was born in Paris on August 23 1931. His mother sold flowers in the Pigalle district and, as April Ashley recalled in her memoirs, Jacques-Charles was "raised among strumpets so that the ethics of their system came naturally to him". By his own account, he became aware that there was something amiss at the age of four; as soon as he was able, he dyed his brown hair platinum blond and took to wearing women's clothing. One of his favourite outfits, a red and black polka-dot dress, earned him the nickname Coccinelle (French for ladybird).

Coccinelle made his debut in 1953 as a "showgirl" at Chez Madame Arthur, a Parisian cabaret specialising in drag acts. He later became a fixture at the more famous Carousel nightclub. April Ashley, who joined the Carousel troupe in 1956, recalled that Coccinelle (or "Coxy" as he was known) wore low-cut gowns which barely covered a pair of silicone-filled breasts which would occasionally sag and need to be "pumped up". He usually arrived on stage in one of a number of outrageous mink coats, all dyed different colours, and with scarlet lipstick. In the quest for his true self, Coccinelle had already had a "nose job". In 1958 he heard about Dr Georges Burou, a gynaecologist in Morocco who was known as a pioneer of vaginoplasty, or "gender reassignment surgery". He went to Casablanca and had the operation done.
After her operation the French modified the law to enable the details on birth certificates to be amended following a change of sex, and she duly changed her name to Jacqueline-Charlotte — "née femme".

In 1960 she contracted the first of three marriages, to a sports journalist called François Bonnet. "Being a faithful child of the Church," April Ashley recalled, "she booked Notre Dame Cathedral for the ceremony (which she attended in an off-the-nipple gown). When the newlyweds appeared on the cathedral steps for photographs, the crowd gave them a terrific send-off, apart from those who pelted them with tomatoes."

Over the next 25 years Coccinelle toured the world, making a particular hit in South America and even performing in front of the Shah of Iran. For 10 years she appeared in cabaret in Germany. Her last public performance was in 1990.
She also worked extensively as an activist on behalf of transsexuals, founding the organisation Devenir Femme, and helping to establish a centre for research into gender identity. Her autobiography, Coccinelle by Coccinelle, was published in 1987.

At her funeral, held at the Eglise Saint-Roch de Paris, Father Philippe Desgens reminded mourners: "All the children of God have a place in the Church", and noted that "by her marriage in church after her operation, and during her whole life, Coccinelle showed her faith."

Sunday Telegraph 10/29/30

There is a Coccinelle page at

Friday, October 27, 2006

Where is the "Movement"?

I need to check this more, but as far as I recall, at no stage during the Vietnam war was less than 50% of the public in support of the war. [And this was at a period of a better educated, and more news-paper reading public.] Now opposition to the War is vast, and the extent of the catastrophe, both for Iraqis, and general world stability, is evident to a majority.

So where is the "movement."?

Medieval Video from the 1980s

Noted by Andrew Sullivan 10/27/2004

Andrew has been running a whole series of links to YouTubes of Best and and Worst Eighties videos. Personally I found his link to Freddy Mercury and Queen's I Want to Break Free brought on many fond memories.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

New Jersey

Damn, this gay marriage thing was tough to understand and to decide what was best outcome at this time in New Jersey.

I did not want to give Karl Rove anything to stop the GOP getting screwed on November 7th.

And when I heard it was a 4/3 decision, I thought "damn, even New Jersey has three judges against us." Until I realized that the three dissenters wanted full marriage for gays in name also. The majority "just" wanted all the rights and privileges, but allowed the legislature to decided what name to give the institution, and told lesbian and gay people to get to work persuading their neighbours to accept them.

NO JUDGE DISSENTED from the decision that gay and lesbian couples deserve equality.

It's a brilliant decision given the timing: nothing to rile the Christianists to get out to vite, but it will create another civil union state.

Andrew Sullivan's prediction of a patchwork of development for gay marriage, made eight years ago, is coming true.

As a historian I know that social mores can change within a matter of months: but the trend to accept legal gay unions is probably now unstoppable in Western Civilization.

In the long run, Western Civilization will die. Later civilizations will have different sets of familial institutions and rules (clones can't marry clones, perhaps). Who knows? But in our episteme, "Gay is Good" is rapidly becoming "Gay is Boringly Normal."

It's a WIN all round for gays and lesbians.

Until the next episteme that is.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Messing Up Iraq

The US and its sidekick the UK have messed up Iraq. Saddam was clearly an awful thug, and he and his henchmen perpetrated war crimes such as genocide against elements of the population.

Despite that, for the majority of people living there, life was a reasonably secure one, in which clans kept social order, and where there were highly developed educational and professional streams. There was almost no sectarian violence, Christians lived freely, urban women did not wear the hijab, could drive, and life could go on.

It's hard to imagine the most pro-American/pro-British Iraqi thinking that things have got better in any way since the invasion. Indeed, one proposal tossed around the US media is to try to find strongman (like Assad, Saddam, or Mubarak) to get the country under control.

Either the US and UK need to get out now, admit their screw up, and stand by guiltily as the Iraqis forge some sort of order. Chaos never goes on for ever. I suspect that the main reason for not doing this is that Iran will emerge as a greater regional power.

Or perhaps the US and UK need to go to war. I mean really go to war to win, and commit enough forces to suppress insurgents.

Without Bush's (or more probably Rumsfeld and Cheney's) messed up initial war, the situation would be so much better now. They could have followed Colin Powell and sent 500,000 troops in.

And the US had the troops: it just did not use them.

The United States Army as of 2004, consisted of 494,295 soldiers on active duty, 342,918 in the Army National Guard (ARNG) and 204,134 in the United States Army Reserve (USAR). [Wikipedia]

The Marines as of 2005 had 180,000 active duty and 40,000 reserves. [Wikipedia]

The U.S. Navy currently numbers nearly 500,000 men and women on active duty or in the Navy Reserve and operates 282 ships and more than 4,000 aircraft. [Wikipedia]

The Airforce has 352,000 men and women on duty. [Wikipedia]

Altogether that is 2,113,000 active and reserve duty military. Perhaps another half million were available in potential coalition partners.

A real war, using the power available has not been fought, and it is a prime duty of those who engage in war to commit to winning it. In this above all, the "easy" air-strike wars of the 1990s lead to a massive misjudgement by the US leadership. It is this leadership which thus bears the direct responsibility for Iraq.

The choice now is not to "stay the course", but to either fight the war with the resources necessary to win, or quit.

The big problem with all this is that it may be too late. If it is too late, there is only one logical conclusion. Withdraw. Admit yet another American defeat.

And then settle down to dealing with Iran.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Muslim Veils and Catholic Veils

Labour loses faith in multi-culturalism
At his press briefing yesterday, the Prime Minister made it clear his Government's approach to cultural diversity had changed. He may have couched his position in careful language, but the conclusion was inescapable: integration, rather than multi-cultural separatism, is now official policy. By saying that he "fully supported" the decision of Kirklees council to suspend the Muslim teaching assistant who had refused to remove her veil at work, and then reinforcing this point with the observation that the veil was a "mark of separation", Mr Blair removed any doubt about the Government's position.

He was, in effect, affirming that the contentious views expressed over recent weeks by Jack Straw, Ruth Kelly and John Reid were not maverick individual opinions, but part of a larger, concerted revision of the Cabinet's stand. Mr Blair, unsurprisingly, wanted to avoid the appearance of an outright volte-face: at one point, he suggested that there should be "a balance between integration and multi-culturalism". This would be a logical impossibility, since the policy of multi-culturalism, as it has been understood and practised, is antithetical to integration.

Ministers are now clearly ready to embrace the argument that they have attacked for many years as insensitive, even bigoted: if Britain is to succeed in absorbing diverse peoples, ethnic minorities must accept the mores of their adopted country. Private religious observance should always be respected, but its practices cannot be permitted to contravene either civil law or the social rules that make community life workable.

Most crucially, the Government's new stand implies that there is an obligation on the part of all those who settle in this country to relate to the larger society and to accommodate its expectations. As the shadow home secretary, David Davis, has said, we cannot afford to encourage a form of "voluntary apartheid" by allowing minority groups to withdraw into cultural isolation. Mr Davis described this as a "series of closed societies within our open society". In fact, such separatism, which the philosophy of multi-culturalism promoted, is a threat to the very existence of an open society.

Daily Telegraph 10/18/2006

With all the current fuss over Muslim women choosing to wear veils, I think it is also worth pointing out that many Catholic women wore veils until recently, and that a veil can be a source of womens' power.

I don't mean a burqa or a chador, but the kind of face-showing/hair-hiding veils nuns used to wear. They were largely thrown out in an orgy of destruction of Catholic symbols after Vatican II, and nuns started to claim to be "laity".

The end result was that a de facto Catholic female clergy in effect ended up giving up a kind of social power.

A moderate Muslim woman in a hijab (i.e. the recent Lebanese invention of a scarf like veil - one that looks just like a a Greek Orthodox nun's veil - could be seen as giving a certain social power and respect.

This is not a conflict of civilizations issue.

Animals are Just as Gay as Republicans

Oslo gay animal show draws crowds

Penguins regularly form same-sex pairs. Photo: Per Aas/NHM-Oslo
Curators say a Norwegian exhibition on homosexuality among animals has been well received, despite initial indications of strong opposition.
The Oslo Natural History Museum opened the show last week and says it has been well attended, not least by families.

Organisers reported early criticism of the project, and being told by one opponent they would "burn in hell".

But there has been strong interest in an aspect of animal behaviour the museum says is quite common.

It says homosexuality has been observed among 1,500 species, and that in 500 of those it is well documented.

BBC 10/18.2006

Animals can be queer as well - 10% or Penguins in fact. One could expect it of Flamingos, but Penguins?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Monday, October 16, 2006

St Theodora Guérin (1798-1856)

Wikipedia: St. Theodore Guerin

Pope Benedict XVI does not seem to be such an canonization-maniac as John Paul II (to whom over half of all canonized saints can be attributed). [It's worth pointing out, I suppose, that "canonization", i.e. papal naming as a saint, is a fairly recent development: most named Catholic saints have never been "canonized" in any formal procedure.]

Mother Theodora Guerin (I see no need to use the male form of the name) has won plaudits from the liberal media, such as NPR's All Things Considered 10/16/2006.

Why? Basically because she told the local bishop, in the nicest possible way, to fuck off when he tried to control her and her order.

In the history of sainthood this canonization of a loyal servant of Christ is nothing new.

What do you think my chances are? I think they are good. The Virgin Mary will get me in the back door, then St. John Newman, SS Sergius and Bacchus, St Sebastian, and all the other heavenly queers will work for my eventual canonization.

I am still working out what I want to become patron saint of.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Two Fathers

The Netherlands, a kid sings of his two dads. Very moving. [h/t Andrew Sullivan].

The French YouTube tag for this says:
Terrence a deux pères et les aime beaucoup et est fier d'eux et le chante. Un hymne d'amour montrant que l'homoparentalité est une parentaluité belle et pleine d'amour.Enregistré dans le cadre d'uen émission télévisée :Kinderen voor Kinderen song

Translation: Terrence has two fathers, loves them both a lot, and is proud to sing to them. A hymn of love showing that homoparenting is good parenting and full of love. Recorded from a transmission of the (Dutch) TV show "Kids sing for Kids."

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.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Caption Competition

O.K. What is Bush saying to Foley? Suggestions accepted.

UPDATE (Also see comments)

"You need medical help after 4 hours"

"Bigger is better"

"Gay and straight approaches to fishing"

"How big is your screen?"

"Cialis lasts all weekend"

[NB: The picture is from Andrew Sullivan's blog 10/6/2006.]

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Pope Abolishes Limbo

Infallibility has it's good points.
Limbo is....peopled by all history's unbaptised children, many gazillions more than can fit into even a big Starbucks. Limbo divides into Limbus Patrum, the temporary resting place of the souls of good persons who died before Jesus's resurrection, and Limbus Infantium, home for children who die without being freed from original sin (ie baptised). It is the latter that Pope Benedict XVI will abolish later today at a mass in Rome.

The Guardian 10/6/2006

Apparently the Pope decided to keep Limbo going for another year.
The Times 10/7/2006

Ruth Gledhill has a long discussion of the issues at The Times 10/04/2006

Foley's Downfall

A picture of the guy who had the long IM with Mark Foley, at Passionate America. Not bad sleuthing. For those who have not been able to bring themsleves to read all the IMs (which amount to cybersex), at one point the young man in question asks Foley if he has a "fetich", and states that his is people who wear casts [Warning: do not follow link if feint of heart]. Not an innocent.

A Race Riot in Britain

While looking at Little Green Footballs, to see how US Republicans are coping with the Foley scandal (now typically overblown in my opinion), I was alerted to this story in the Evening Standard (London) 10/5/2006.

The LGFer seemed to think that the riots were caused by Muslims. The Evening Standard is a conservative newspaper, and only the slightest reading shows that in this case it was white racists attacking Muslims who wanted to dedicate a place for prayer.


It's all about karma for the fuss over Monica.

If you enjoy seeing GOPpers squirm, look at Little Green Footballs

UPDATE: (Even more Schadenfreude)

Cannon: Teens "egging on" Foley in online sex scandal
Salt Lake Tribune 10/6/2006

The View from Britain

Until the Foley flap unfolded, most analysts had assumed it would not be quite as bad as that this time. Only about 40 House seats are in play, compared with over 100 in 1992. Competitive Senate races are far fewer and even tighter. But in Foley's wake, political calculations are changing. Now, twin nightmares keep the lights burning late in the West Wing.

One is that the Foley affair may accelerate the alienation of the socially conservative, evangelical Christian base which represents the Republicans' core support. The other is the prospect of a Democrat-controlled Congress turning President George Bush's final two years in office into one long, multi-pronged investigation into the propriety, legality and honesty of his administration's actions since 9/11, particularly over Iraq.

The Guardian 10/6/2006.

Did someone say "impeachment"?

Les Mis in a Minute

Gin and tonic. Man in prison for 19 years for stealing bread gets parole. Bloke in charge marks his card. Man steals from kind bishop. Bishop takes pity. Man's life is changed. Ten years on. Man is mayor and factory owner. Factory lady exposed as having illegitimate child. Lady sacked and becomes prostitute. Lady dies. Man's life is changed. Man buys lady's daughter from comedy bar owners. 10 years on. Boy falls in love with daughter. Revolution in air. Girl dressed as boy brings letter from first boy professing undying love for daughter. Man reads it. Man's life is changed. Interval. Revolution. Many die. Boy marries daughter. Man leaves. Comedy bar owners return. Make boy realise man saved his life. Man led to heaven by factory lady and girl who was dressed as boy. Finale.

The Guardian 10/6/2006.

The article is on Les Misérables becoming the world's longest running musical. You either like musicals or you don't; some of the most sublime moments of my life have come in connection with The Sound of Music, West Side Story, and My Fair Lady. But there is nothing quite like the experience of Les Mis, which I saw three times on Broadway. As The Guardian notes the show is an exercise in moral philosophy: it pits Christian forgiveness, in the person of Valjean, against the arid Legalism of Javert, and yet still makes Javert a fully human figure.

Rosamund Carr RIP

It seems it is still possible to live a good life.
Rosamund Carr, who died on September 29 aged 94, abandoned her life as a Manhattan socialite and moved to Central Africa with her adventurer husband; she remained there for more than 50 years and chronicled her experiences of the beauties and tragedies of the region in Land of a Thousand Hills — My Life in Rwanda (1999).

Daily Telegraph 10/5/2006

'The Worst Drivers Own BMWs'

BMW owners have been named as the worst drivers in Britain in a poll of more than 5,000 motorists.

The survey showed that the image of the BMW driver has not changed since they came to symbolise the brash winners of the boom-bust economy of the 1980s.

"They seem to be unable to use signals, expecting others on the road to have psychic powers," said Ian Vince, co-author of The Myway Code, who organised the survey.

"We were really surprised that BMW drivers got so many votes. We expected Chelsea Tractors and 'White Van Man' to come in higher.

"The BMW is a smug car and perhaps there is some envy towards the drivers from those of us in our Fiestas."

Class War, as reported in the Daily Telegraph 10/6/2006

Getting Religion - the English Way

The Church of England is to offer a speed-dating service to help lapsed worshippers find the church of their dreams.

Representatives of 10 churches will meet potential converts in a hotel lounge.

They will have five minutes with each of them, one to one, to try to sell them their particular place of worship and brand of Christianity.

The event is aimed at young people toying with returning to church but too busy to find one that suits them.

Daily Telegraph 10/6/2005

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Multi-Level Marketing

You walk into a job interview. The office is strangely bare - looking just like the "rapidly growing company" opened last week.

You find out that there is no pay, just commission

Basically it works like this; you get some poor punk to give you a $200 check for affordable health insurance. You (the agent) then get an immediate check for $250, and then 5% of all subsequent payments. The "manager" gets 6% of that amount each month. Each manager gets $1,500 for a recruit who makes $10k in sales.

You need to pay $300 up front to get on this gravy train.

Tory, Tory, Tory

In his speech today to the UK Conservative Conference, party leader David Cameron opposed reductions in taxation, endorsed same-sex marriage, praised government-controlled healthcare as "one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century," omitted any words of praise for the British mission in Iraq, attacked Tony Blair for drawing too close to the United States, aligned himself with a more liberal approach to Britain's surging crime rates, urged the Anglican Church to admit non-Anglicans to church schools while endorsing more state funding for Muslim schools.

David Frum, National Review Online, 10/5/2006 not liking the style of the new leader of the British Conservative Party, David Cameron.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


A friend is considering suicide.

There was a story in the New Yorker about a guy (one of the three who lived) who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge. Just as he let go, he realized all the problems of his life could be solved. Apart from the fact that he had just let go of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Through early morning fog I see
visions of the things to be
the pains that are withheld for me
I realize and I can see...


that suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
and I can take or leave it if I please.

I try to find a way to make
all our little joys relate
without that ever-present hate
but now I know that it's too late, and...


The game of life is hard to play
I'm gonna lose it anyway
The losing card I'll someday lay
so this is all I have to say.


The only way to win is cheat
And lay it down before I'm beat
and to another give my seat
for that's the only painless feat.


The sword of time will pierce our skins
It doesn't hurt when it begins
But as it works its way on in
The pain grows it grin, but...


A brave man once requested me
to answer questions that are key
is it to be or not to be
and I replied 'oh why ask me?'


'Cause suicide is painless
it brings on many changes
and I can take or leave it if I please.
...and you can do the same thing if you please.


Rationale for Studying History

Friend: I am having a discussion with my Education instructor about building a lesson plan.This is a major part of my grade and I am so lost.
UNFHistoryProf (my AIM name): I never did lesson plans, I just read all my life, and came into class and had a general idea what to talk about
Friend: I am supposed to picka Sunshine State standard, then develop a 'rationale' and 'concept maps' from that. I finally begged the lecturer for an example of a 'rationale', and he said "Here's a good rationale:Citizens need to be able to interpret the relationship of geography on Florida's history because this relationship has influenced and will influence their lives as well as the lives of those in their communities. "
UNFHistoryProf: History helps people know where they are in time as a map helps them know where they are in space
Friend: Now, this is where I get totally flustered. He also goes on to say,"Mmmmm.... with that rationale, we could investigate Spanish exploration, tourism (early types, e.g., springs in the late 1800's to Walt Disney), animal conversation (e.g., alligators (hunting), bald eagles (pesticides), bears/panthers (human efforts to build highway underpasses as a result of population growth in S. Florida)), population by cultures (e.g., Hispanic, Minorcan, Greek), sports (even baseball's spring training location fits here)..."
UNFHistoryProf: The study of history encourages the distillation of webs of interpretation from a seeming infinite number of unrelated facts. History is about creating an histoire (French: story) out of an istoria (Greek: investigation) and doing both well. It's also a kind of intellectual masturbation for geeks. It saves on KY for those who have been circumcised......


As readers may be aware, getting a job is a current high priority. I am best at teaching, but can do many other things. If you know of anything let me know at

Standard Resume:
Academic CV:
Transcripts: transcript.pdf

Also Sprach Zarathustra

The Guardian 10/4/2006

Scandals Past

Everybody that I know is glad Foley is gone, but there seems to be an issue here to purposefully politicize a personal issue, and I find that repugnant.

But, what about all the GOP "state referendums" on gay marriage to get out the vote. The GOP Has used gay-crap constantly to throw at the Dems: now it's all a "private matter." The real matter is GOP hypocrisy. Every time anyone goes on about Clinton getting a blow job they need to ask why G.H.W. Bush's adultery, or G.W. Bush's cocaine use and/or DUI was blown over by the media.

Who Caused 9/11?

Well Osama and his cohorts did.

But it becoming clearer that so did the Clinton-obessessed GOP.

At this stage the best hope of us all is that Al Gore becomes the only person since Roosevelt to win three national majorities.

Clinton's cigar did not affect his job. If anything, when he went after Bin Laden, GOPpers and Dems said he was just "wagging the dog."

Republicans caused 9/11 by deliberately sabatoging a Democratic president over a blow job.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


Researchers at the University of Exeter surveyed nearly 500 children. They included children aged 7-11 in ten junior schools and children aged 11-14 in one comprehensive, one Church of England, one Methodist and two independent schools. Nearly half the children were Christian and nearly a third were Muslim.
While most of the children knew that Jesus had a reputation as a caring person, fewer than one in ten believed that Jesus was, or is, God. A third found Him “a bit confusing” and more than a quarter thought him “hard to believe in”. The children struggled to understand Jesus’s death and Resurrection, and resorted to the language of magic to describe him, linking the miracles with the magic tricks of Paul Daniels.

In reference to the Resurrection, one boy asked: “If he rose from the dead, how come he ain’t here now?” Others wanted to know why Jesus didn’t help them today, and why he doesn’t “come down” and tell everyone He is true.

Q: What does the Bible say about the birth of Jesus that makes Christians believe he is special?
A: Jesus is the prophet of Allah
Q: Why is the cross an important symbol for Christians?
A: Because he was crossified on a cross
... Because Jesus was crusified on one to replenish our sins ...
... Because he hang himself
Q: What do you think Christians mean when they say that Jesus is the “Son of God”?
A: God is a dad to Jesus, but God and Mary weren’t married
Q: Why do you think Jesus chose fishermen like Simon and Andrew to be his disciples?
A: Because he liked fishing. And fishing is a wise sport.
...To fight for him
Q: According to the Bible, why did some people want to arrest and kill Jesus?
A: Because everybody thort he was a wizard.
... Some for shopping the cheats, and one for money.
... Because he heeled people on days he shouldn’t.
... They thought he would become rich
Q: What do Christians celebrate on Easter Sunday?
A: Chocolate
... When he rowed into Jerusalem waving palm trees
... Christmas

The Times 9/29/2006

Jews in London Arrested for Anti-Semitism

[a]...story about the Jewish people arrested by police a few days ago in the run-up to the Jewish New Year. What were they arrested for by those beloved guardians of our free society at the Met? Yes, you guessed it. They were handcuffed and led off to the cells at Charing Cross police station - under suspicion of inciting anti-Semitism.

Ruth Gledhill, The Times 9/26/2006

A Gay Governor for Florida

Charlie Crist: Bear with us. Crist, Florida’s GOP candidate for Governor, is another famously-closeted occasionally-outed always-denying Republican… from Florida. Florida’s already home to Katherine Harris, whose disastrous spectacular campaign has meant that many would-be Republican voters may stay home. Now add in that funny picture we put up top of Crist with Foley. It could turn into the candidates one real weakness, if his loser opponent could manage to make it stick. But it’s a long shot.

Wonkette 10/3/2006

GLBT News Summary for Progressives .

GLBT News Summary for Progressives . . . . . Ray's List: NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST.


Monday, October 02, 2006

George W. Bush...

...the only man in the world to make Jacques Chirac look like a good leader.


My friend Scott Carson of An Examined Life addresses the great existential question for many of us - "So Many Books, So Little Time" 10/2/2006

It turns out that, if you are around 40 and expect to read around 1 book per week for the rest of your life, you only have around 1600 left. If that is the case, why own around 4,000 books, one has to ask oneself. And why buy any more?

These are deeply disturbing questions, involving not only great decisions about not only what to read, but calculations of U-Haul and shipping rates, and $120 month storage units.

PS: A friend suggested a solution - "You go back and reference them after you read them! Right?"

But what happens after Google Books digitizes everything? After all a $15 a month Google full text access fee (it's coming) would work out cheaper than rent or mortgage, and it would be searchable.


I just heard about the details of the attack on an Amish school: I almost threw up in my car. The perp, because of some incident in his childhood, separated the adults and the boys from the girls, and then shot the girls (aged 3 to 16) execution style.

Brits just don't get Americans on guns. Indeed, it was the Tories under Mrs Thatcher who banned all guns. The ban is so strong that the British Olympic shooting team has to train in France. (I don't know what they will do in 2012 when the games are in London.)

Violent crime is much lower in England. There are violent criminals of course, and some gun crime, but the police still do not carry guns. [In fact I never saw one until I went on a high school trip to Russia in 1976.] There is a limited number of deaths one can perpetrate with a knife or battery acid.

There seems to be a problem with violence in the American psyche. And, while it is true most gun owners are not criminals, it is equally true that ALL perps of gun crime are gun possessors.

One could not effectively remove guns from American life at this stage. It would be possible, though, to ban the sale of ammunition. Gun owners could then stroke their, umm, guns, without harming others.


A friend points out that "real 'gun nuts' load their own ammunition, or own black powder rifles."

I suggest that "gun nut" is someone who needs either a facelift, or some viagra, KY, and a Kleenex.

The Fall Out

I have never seen NRO's the Corner so quiet. Only Larry Kudlow addressed the mess.

Meanwhile, Bob Woodward seems to the biggest loser (apart from the GOP that is).

Who is the Funniest Party Leader

There is not much choice in Britain, it seems.
The Guardian 2/2/2006

Smoking Room

Only in Canada
...Douglas Hutchinson, a professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto...this week received an official blessing to puff away on campus to his heart's content - or discontent, as the medical case may be.

Anti-tobacco types can relax a little, however. Professor Hutchinson, a 10-a-day man, is only doing it for health reasons. Clean, green marijuana joints, rather than the dreaded nicotine sticks, are his drug of choice.

According to news stories, Prof Hutchinson has been regularly toking up for more than a decade now. Until last week, however, his self-administered "therapeutic treatment" for an unspecified medical condition had been a private arrangement.

The Guardian 10/2/2006

Gay Scandals

There is now no doubt that Mark Foley acted both unwisely and possibly illegally. (Although the age of consent is 16 in DC and most other American states, it is illegal to solicit anyone under 18 over the Internet.)

What is odd is the timing. I say this, even as I hope the Democrats win, and the story is very bad for the Republicans.

The problem is the very long history of using a "gay scandal" as a political tool, and even more particularly in the lead up to an election. For non-gays each scandal seems new, but for gay people with any life experience there is a depressing sameness about each episode.

A Primer: Gay Political Scandals

  • Prince Philippe zu Eulenberg 1907-09 (Germany)
  • Roger Casement 1916 (UK/Ireland)
  • Alfred Redl 1913 WWI (Austria-Hungary)
  • Lord Montagu of Beaulieu 1954 (UK)
  • Ian Harvey 1958 (UK)
  • Maureen Colquhoun 1974-78 (UK)
  • Robert Bauman 1980 (US)
  • Jeremy Thorpe 1978 (UK)
  • The Queen's detective 1982 (UK) [I cannot recall the details)
  • Peter Tatchell 1983 election period) (UK)[In this case the fact that the Liberal Party candidate was also gay, did not stop the Liberals going after Tatchell simply for being gay]
  • Gary Studds 1983 (US)
  • Dan Crane 1983 (US)
  • Barney Frank 1990 (US)
  • Jim Kolbe 1996 (US)
  • Jerry Hayes 1997 (UK)
  • Tom Spencer 1999 (UK)
  • James McGreevey 2004 (USA: New Jersey)
  • Peter Davis 2006 and here (New Zealand) [Davis' is husband the NZ Prime Minister]
  • James E. West 2005 (USA: Washington) [This case is remarkable for its similarities to the Foley case.]
  • Mark Foley 2006 (USA) (election)

    Note that these kind of scandals are sometimes related to actions, sometimes just to the fact that a person is gay. All shades of the political spectrum are prone to use this mode of attack. See a disreputable list of Republican Sex Scandals at dkospedia
  • Sunday, October 01, 2006

    The End of the American Republic

    Non-American writers are really upset at the recent Congressional Bill on the treatment of detainees

    Robert Harris compares it as a response to the Roman reaction to a terroist attack in 68BC in "Pirates of the Mediterrean." New York Times 9/30/2006.

    Niall Ferguson, usually thought of as a neo-Thatcherite, is aghast at American Conservatism in the Sunday Telegraph 10/1/2006.

    Teacher Suspended for Museum Tour

    “Keep the ‘Art’ in ‘Smart’ and ‘Heart,’ ” Sydney McGee had posted on her Web site at Wilma Fisher Elementary School in this moneyed boomtown that is gobbling up the farm fields north of Dallas.

    But Ms. McGee, 51, a popular art teacher with 28 years in the classroom, is out of a job after leading her fifth-grade classes last April through the Dallas Museum of Art. One of her students saw nude art in the museum, and after the child’s parent complained, the teacher was suspended.

    New York Times 1/10/2006

    October is Lesbian and Gay History Month

    October is Lesbian and Gay History Month. The most usual approach to these kinds of "subaltern group month" [i.e. a none-elite group whose history has often been ignored] is to take a Great Person approach. [See for example 1/10/2006].

    There is a problem with this kind of approach to history, best summarized by Wayne R. Dynes in Homosexuality: A Research Guide (New York; Garland, 1987):182
    The impulse to draw up extensive biographical lists of notable homosexuals of the past began with the 19th century homosexual scholars in German-speaking countries. Parallel tendencies occur with scholars representing other minority groups, where such lists seem to function to provide historical witness of the collective worth of an ostracized group. This "hall of fame" approach has recently been criticized as skewing homosexual and lesbian history towards an unrepresentative elite, effacing historical variety and class differences. The search for famous homosexuals also provokes a largely fruitless series of debates over whether figures of the past, such as Socrates or Caesar, were truly homosexual.

    I accept Dyne's point as legitimate, but very often we know about the elite, or we know about no one at all. As we weave our history, all our investigations are legitimate.

    As gauche as it might seem to modern historian, there is a stage of the history of almost any oppressed group where people will make lists of past members of the group. Womens/Black/Jewish historians have all manifested the approach, and it is a starting point. History cannot stop at this point; it needs to go on to look at why oppression occured, how groups resisted oppression, and at the underlying constructions of sex and gender in any given society.

    I have web site that deals with the whole topic at People with a History.

    The Laughing 9/11 Bombers

    Exclusive film of suicide pilots at Bin Laden’s HQ on January 18, 2000.
    The Sunday Times 10/12006

    Ségolène Royal

    There is a very possibility that the next president of France (the election is next year) will be a woman.

    Imagine, Ségolène and Hillary in charge of the world's most active militaries instead of Jacques and George. It could happen.
    The Sunday Times 10/1/2006

    American Borat

    Kinky Friedman, irreverant country singer, satirist and self-proclaimed "equal opportunities offender", was his usual ebullient self as he bounded on to the stage at the latest stop in his remarkable campaign to become governor of Texas.

    "You know the definition of politics?" the former frontman of the Texas Jewboys band asked a packed audience at the Flying Saucer bar in San Antonio. "Well, 'poli' means more than one and 'tics' are bloodsucking parasites!"
    Despite a racism row over a 26-year-old tape of him using the word "nigger" during a comedy routine, Friedman appeared relaxed. "I offend everyone," said the man whose best-known musical hit, They Ain't Making Jews Like Jesus No More, took satirical swipes at just about every group.

    "I have always used humour as a weapon to attack bigotry. I don't pretend bigotry doesn't exist. I'm a realist, not a racist. I've campaigned against racism for years but this is the price you pay for taking on the entrenched interests of the two-party system. Somebody organised this hit job pretty well, but they only attack you when you're carrying the ball, and we're carrying the ball."

    He outlined his eclectic political platform: his social policies range from support for prayer in school and more police on the streets to backing gay marriage and decriminalising marijuana to clear space in prisons for real criminals "like paedophiles and politicians". Friedman says he has not touched hard drugs since 1985.

    He has a predictably unconventional plan for dealing with the influx of illegal immigrants from Mexico. As well as deploying 10,000 National Guards along the border, he proposes placing five Mexican generals in charge of their side, putting $2 million in a holding account for each and deducting $10,000 for every illegal caught crossing. "It's a joke but it also happens to be a good idea."

    Sunday Telegraph 10/1/2006

    Etiquette Comes to Australia

    It is no surprise that the authorities in Australia have been warning people not to refer to the British as whingeing poms during the coming Test series. Observers have commented on the wave of politeness that has been sweeping the country lately, forcing thousands of ockers to flee their homes for fear of being engulfed by good manners.

    There are reports of a move to change the national song to May I Have the Pleasure of the Next Waltz, Matilda?

    Sunday Telegraph 10/1/2006

    Also fun in the Sunday Telegraph
  • On the George Foreman Grill
  • Logic

    A non-friend said to me;

    All Cretans are liars.

    You are a liar.

    Therefore you are a Cretan

    Umm, but I come from England.

    Saturday, September 30, 2006

    Age of Consent

    How old is old enough?

    The old Code of Canon law allowed a female to marry at 12 and a male at 14. These days (need to check this), it's 14 for females, 16 for males.

    Personally, I doubt most people in the modern west are emotionally mature enough for marriage until they are 40. Unfortunately that conflicts with the biological clock for both men and women.

    So what do we do? Most jurisdictions choose 16. That seems reasonable to me.

    See the website Age of Consent.

    Dowd: Borat and Bush

    Maureen Dowd's New York Times column today as reposted here and here.

    [If you don't know it, bloggers repost almost all TimesSelect columns.]

    What's Worse (or Better) Than a Trekkie Convention?

    In contrast to the I-saw-them-first snobbery of sci-fi and music obsessives, there seems to be an almost evangelical urge to spread the word, and to introduce others to the joy of reciting 30-year-old comedy routines. They seem especially keen to pass their sense of humour on to new generations. Luckily, their off spring are only too happy to charge around dressed as witches or knights chopping imaginary limbs off people.

    A Monty-Python Convention.
    The Guardian 9/30/2006

    Friday, September 29, 2006

    Mark Foley

    The resignation of Mark Foley [See 9/29/2006 is to be regretted.

    Foley may have been unwise but nothing that has come out has suggested illegality. In general, I expect that age-consonant couples work better, and I agree age of consent laws should be obeyed.

    But, with only minor tut-tuting, it is fairly common for older powerful men to marry women decades younger than them (Michael Douglass, Tony Randall, etc.)

    Gay people should be allowed to make the same bad decisions as straight people.

    UPDATE (9/30/2006):

    More has come out. Apparently some AIM messages by Foley contained much more inappropriate comments to other young men. If so, that somewhat changes the situation.

    UPDATE (10/1/2006):

    Very good discussion at Glenn Greenwald's blog.

    UPDATE (10/2/2006)

    The Chicago Tribune 10/2/2006 has a good account of the Republican's damage control efforts, and Democratic efforts to capitalize on the issue.

    ABCNEWS 10/1/2006 has published the full transcript of IMs, which amount to "internet sex." No wonder Foley resigned. The young man in question does not, however, come across as exactly innocent.

    Thursday, September 28, 2006

    Hillary Stood Up

    She just made a speech which, in my case for the first time, makes her presidential material. Most Democrats ducked this challenge. She did not.

    Andrew Sullivan 9/28/2006 [Video]


    List of Most Viewed Pages in Wikipedia

    Mostly naruto and porn, with a significant gay subset.

    Update: Andrew Sullivan picked up on this (hey, what about a hat-tip?)

    Itsy-Bitsy RIP. Not!

    As readers know, I am an avid reader of Daily Telegraph obituaries. The very best days for those with this hobby are those when a living person's obituary is accidentally published.

    This happened this week to Paul Vance, writer of the song "It's an Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.

    "Do you know what it's like to have grandchildren calling you and say, 'Grandpa, you're still alive?'" said 76-year-old Vance.
    BBC 9/28/2006

    Twenty Five

    Number of jobs applied for today. There must be a better way.

    By the way, this accounts for the increased posting of late: I have been online constantly applying for positions. Basically I have been applying for 2-3 jobs and then reading and posting something - mostly funny or tragic (they seem the same thing these days) - as a way of breaking the tedium of typing my address again and again.

    Apologies if it's all boring.


    Dear Employer,

    I am interested in the position you advertised. I am at a transitional state in my career and might not be a traditional candidate for your position. I urge you to consider my application in any case.

    I have worked for years in both teaching and administration in educational institutions. More recently I have held a combination of jobs; as self-employed web-editor; in sales positions, and in short-term promotions. I am extremely adaptable, learn very fast, and have been able to satisfy all my clients and employers.

    If you want a confident self-starter with years of experience using computers, office software, and in interacting with the public, I'm your man.

    Fruit Fly

    A video of Cherie Blair (wife of the British Prime Minister) singing Oklahoma! at the Labour Party conference in Manchester.
    The Guardian 9/28/2006.

    Horse Meat Salad

    Evening Standard 9/23/2006
    The best Borat article so far.

    You don't know who Borat is? You will. [Video (P.S. it's a joke...sort of...)]

    American Dream

    If this Republican party maintains control of all branches of government, the danger to individual liberty is extremely grave. Put aside all your concerns about the Democratic leadership. What matters now is that this juggernaut against individual liberty and constitutional rights be stopped. The court has failed to stop it; the legislature has failed to stop it; only the voters can stop it now. If they don't, they will at least have been warned.

    in re New York Times 9/28/2006
    Andrew Sullivan, America's greatest British promoter, giving up on his American dream today 9/28/2006.

    The Sound of $2 Billion

    According to NPR the Iraq war is costing $2 Billion a week ($2,000,000,000).

    That means it costs 10,000 time more per week to wage war in Iraq than to buy the rights to Sound of Silence for a film.

    Tokyo Rose RIP

    Iva Toguri, aka Tokyo Rose, is apparently the only American ever pardoned after a treason conviction. Good for Gerald Ford if the Daily Telegraph obit 9/28/2006 is correct.

    The Saddam Trial

    The Saddam trial is a disgrace to justice that ought to be prorogued or transferred to another country. The latest judge has just suspended the session because he was unable to control the increasingly self-confident ravings of the bearded and staring-eyed ex-tyrant, and, when proceedings resume on October 9, they will still be a mixture of farce and tragedy.

    Boris Johnson, Conservative MP and member of the shadow cabinet, Daily Telegraph 9/28/2006


    Michael Rubin at NRO gets everything wrong 9/28/2006

    Taqqiya means "dissimulation": i.e. misinforming people of one's views in order to stay alive. Although some Shi'ites reject the term, there is little doubt that such activity was allowed by Shi'ite jurists over the centuries as a way to allow their people to survive under persecution.

    A western corallary in Catholicism is that of allowing Mental Reservation to Catholics under persecution and certain other circumstances. [I know this is a "Hitler example" but it works: a Nazi comes into a convent in occupied France and asks the mother superior "are their any Jews here?"; she responds "No" (and holds in her mind the qualification "as far as you are concerned").]

    It is important to note that taqqiya has NEVER been approved by any Sunni school of thought. Rubin though suggests it applies to Muslims in general.

    super-dooper poopy head

    Jonah Goldberg (one of the better New Republic Online contributors) is disgusted 9/28/2006 with the Virginia senate race.

    Naomi Campbell

    NAOMI CAMPBELL was given a warning that a warrant for her arrest would be issued if she did not attend her next court date in New York City after she failed to appear yesterday.

    The 36-year-old model was “absolutely obliged” to be at Manhattan Criminal Court on November 15 over accusations that she threw a mobile phone at her housekeeper’s head, Judge James Gibbons said.

    The Times 9/28/2006

    I have no interest in Naomi Campbell, but this was a good a hook as any to hang this story on. It concerns a interaction in her life with the great English philosopher A.J. Ayer.

    He taught or lectured several times in the United States, including serving as a visiting professor at Bard College in the fall of 1987. At a party that same year held by fashion designer Fernando Sanchez, Ayer, then 77, confronted Mike Tyson harassing Naomi Campbell. When Ayer demanded that Tyson stop, the boxer said: "Do you know who the fuck I am? I'm the heavyweight champion of the world," to which Ayer replied: "And I am the former Wykeham Professor of Logic. We are both pre-eminent in our field. I suggest that we talk about this like rational men". Ayer and Tyson then began to talk, while Naomi Campbell slipped out.

    Wikipedia, Alfred Ayer

    Brazilian Bombshell

    A weird story in the Daily Telegraph 9/28/2006.

    The Sound of $200,000

    Cherry Gross interviewed the film maker Todd Phillips on Fresh Air yesterday (7/28/2006). During the show she asked him how much it cost to get the rights to use Dust in the Wind and Sound of Silence in his film Old School.

    Dust cost $40,000; Silence cost $200,000. Phew!

    Creepy Posters

    Andrew Sullivan 9/28/2006 links to a display of faux-posters by Austin Cline at About.Com.

    Cline introduces his collection thus:

    Visual imagery, though, can often communicate ideas more quickly than words and convey emotions more immediately than any argument. For that reason I have created propaganda posters which promote some of the beliefs of the Christian Right. The intention is satirical, not sympathetic, but even so I believe that both the images and the words accurately reflect what some on the Christian Right belief and advocate. The original posters were produced as government propaganda, mostly during the first and second world wars.

    The posters are initially amusing but a major problem becomes apparent quickly. Cline mostly rewords World War II and Cold War posters. As reworded the way they try to manipulate thought and frames of thought is creepy.

    But then one has to ask oneself, doesn't that mean the original posters were just as manipulative and creepy?

    An Idiot Who Thinks London is Britain

    Greg Guffield, Weekly Standard 10/2/2006

    Tuesday, September 26, 2006

    Santorum on Google

    Try searching for Santorum on Google. It's not for the feint-hearted.

    Old blogs never die.

    A Vocabulary Problem

    "I'm a bibliophobe and proud of it, and I am an English teacher, and want my doctorate in education."
    Michelle, caller on Talk of the Nation, NPR 9/26/2006 [2:53 eastern time].

    Private Eye in the UK calls such broadcast verbal slips "Colemanballs" after a famous british sports journalist.


    I have had a wierd problem lately - sleepwalking.

    Last Wednesday, after going to bed at 10pm, I apparently woke up at (around midnight) and made several telephone calls, and rearranged some things in my room. When I woke up in the moring, I had no recollection at all (and still don't) of what had happened but was able to reconstruct from what happened by physical evidence (e.g. records of calls on my cellphone). Something similar happened last Friday. I confused some people with very odd-sounding conversations. Nothing serious went amiss.

    I am a long time insomnia sufferer, and recently switched from Lunesta to Ambien. What seems to have happened is that I took Ambien too soon after drinking a glass of wine. That will not happen again.

    Ambien is about to go on the market as the generic zolpidem, and as a result I think more people will take it. The "Ambien excuse", as in the case of Representative Patrick Kennedy, had always seemed to me to be bogus. I now expect to hear a lot more about it, and, frankly, after my own experience, will be inclined to believe it.

    Basic rule: hide your car keys before you take a sleep aid.

    Finding a Job

    I am looking for a job, and in fact devote many hours each day to this search.

    So far I have been using online sites (Monster, Hotjobs, etc.), and there are some advantages to this approach. Applications can be made by email/website, newspaper classified ads are searchable, and so forth. The problem is that very few good jobs (at least ones I can apply for, are online. I am sad to say that I have only just found out why.

    Almost all the big employers - local hospital systems, big companies, even retail chains - have their own job application web sites. Each of which requires a separate application. The result is tedium as the same data has to be entered time and time again.

    It's odd to say that the upshot of years of internet development has been that job seeking is just as tedious as ever.

    [PS: If you know of any jobs, let me know ( I am willing to locate anywhere in the US.]

    Freedom in Venezuela

    After Hugo Chavez "Bush is the Devil Smelling of Sulphur" speech, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, made comments to the effect that such freedom of speech would not be allowed in Venezuela. How then do you explain this from a Venezuelan newspaper today:

    The truth is that all the nonsense our President has said in the United States confirms that for him, worrying about unemployment, insecurity, inflation and housing for Venezuelans is already too small. We will have to face these problems with candidate Manuel Rosales, because Chávez is very busy saving other peoples, including the Americans, whom he recently asked to 'wake up' and choose a better president.
    American Democrats and Republicans have closed ranks to defend their President. The Venezuelan President has made an error in calculation. Americans thought that Chávez was a nice guy trying to help the poor, victim of a Venezuelan selfish oligarchy. Now they learned that our President is offensive, vulgar, and intolerant. President Chávez has lost key support in Washington, Latin America, Europe and in other world continents. If he continues like that, making up enemies and 'saving' other peoples from the Devil, he will continue to make mistakes that will soon lead him to his political defeat. Being the idol of Hizbollah and of Cuba does not benefit Venezuela. Chávez's fights with the world cost Venezuelans too much. He no longer defends our interests. It is time Venezuelans woke up, too and chose a new President, December is getting closer.

    Editorial, El Nacional, as translated in the Corner at National Review 09/25/2006

    Shouldn't an American diplomat know more about the country?

    Noam Chomsky in 2003

    You never need an argument against the use of violence, you need an argument for it. And the arguments that have been given for it are not convincing.

    There is no debate about the importance of disarming Iraq and indeed other countries that have the capacity to use weapons of mass destruction. That is very important and everyone agrees on it.

    Sane people do not undertake actions when they know that there is reasonable possibility that it may lead to a humanitarian catastrophe

    The way to proceed with that is the way that has been done - with careful inspection procedures and efforts to ensure that the US and Britain and others will no longer carry out the policies of the past and provide Saddam with means for developing weapons of mass destruction.
    So we should certainly do everything to prevent him from developing weapons of mass destruction.

    I think that nobody doubts that the world would be better off if he is eliminated. But the means that are proposed are outlandish.

    The means that are proposed are that we should carry out an attack which we understand may cause very severe humanitarian catastrophe and might also lead to the only real likelihood of his using weapons of mass destruction.

    The US planners are well aware that it is not a situation like the 1960s, when you can carry out aggression and violence for years with no public opposition. Now the popular consciousness has just changed.

    You can declare victory over the much weaker enemy - but anything longer than that is going to arouse the public which simply is not as willing to accept aggression and violence as Europe and the United States have been in the past.

    Whether there will be large-scale humanitarian catastrophes, nobody knows.

    It is a reasonable possibility and sane people do not undertake actions when they know that there is reasonable possibility that it may lead to a humanitarian catastrophe unless they have enormously powerful arguments.

    Noam Chomsky, BBC 2/12/2003

    It May be Time to Elect the Tories

    John Reid, current Home Secretary:
    First: "I will rebuild the whole British justice system if I have to." Second: "I need News of the World readers to tell me what they want."
    one of the direct quotes in the article does have him arguing that issues of law and order are "too important to be left to the professionals". "We need the ideas and views of real people, like your readers," he says. Thank goodness he's not in charge of the NHS, or air-traffic control. "Quadruple-bypass surgery is too important to be left to the professionals," you can imagine him saying in the hopes of a popularity-boosting soundbite. "We need real people, not petit-bourgeois surgeons, in charge of them scalpels."

    Sam Leith, Daily Telegraph 9/25/2006

    It's a truism of British politics that governments of both parties jump the shark at some point. That may have happened in Britain. I would vote Labour, but understand those who think things have gone too far.

    It is most distressing, by the way, that I find myself agreeing with Daily Telegraph writers so often.