Saturday, March 28, 2009

New To Us: The Facebook Aeneid

New To Us: The Facebook Aeneid

What if?

NIGEL JONES: What if? Henry VIII's sister had taken the throne...or Kaiser Bill had become our king | Mail Online

Orgasm and childbirth

Orgasm and childbirth - Times Online

Orgasm and childbirth are not two words you expect to find in the same sentence. But, as implausible as it may sound, increasing numbers of mothers are signing up to the Orgasmic Birth movement. Childbirth, they claim, far from being a painful ordeal to endure, can be as ecstatic and pleasurable as the moment of conception itself. Now, with the release of two new documentary films in America depicting orgasmic births, and websites awash with first-hand accounts from women claiming similar experiences, are we about to lift the lid on this taboo?

My first ever boss - at the YWCA in Edinburgh in 1983, claimed she had an orgasm when her son was born, and claimed further than this was the cause of mother-child love.

I never quite believed it.

Are You Mad

Do you have a mental health problem? - Times Online

The Times gives helpful list of questions you can ask yourself.

The little white lie that grew

BBC NEWS | Magazine | The little white lie that grew

In a case which has deep resonance for Britain and the entire civilized world, the whole of Australia has been glued to the media in recent weeks, following the story of an eminent judge who has ruined his reputation because he tried to lie his way out of a speeding fine that would have cost him about �36.

At the age of 70, he is about to go to jail for a minimum of two years because he failed to cough up 36 quid at the right moment.

I have to say that I feel a real sympathy for the Judge in question in this story. Two years in jail for a 70 year old is massively too much.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Mexican Drug Lord Officially Thanks American Lawmakers for Keeping Drugs Illegal

David Henry Sterry: Mexican Drug Lord Officially Thanks American Lawmakers for Keeping Drugs Illegal

"Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman Loera reported head of the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico, ranked 701st on Forbes' yearly report of the wealthiest men alive, and worth an estimated $1 billion, today officially thanked United States politicians for making sure that drugs remain illegal. According to one of his closest confidants, he said, 'I couldn't have gotten so stinking rich without George Bush, George Bush Jr., Ronald Reagan, even El Presidente Obama, none of them have the cajones to stand up to all the big money that wants to keep this stuff illegal. From the bottom of my heart, I want to say, Gracias amigos, I owe my whole empire to you.'"

Make Poverty History: Cheaper Drugs Now ! [From a UK TV show called Shameless]

Gay icons: National Portrait Gallery snubs Judy!

Gay icons: National Portrait Gallery snubs Kylie Minogue and picks Nelson Mandela | Art and design | The Guardian

Minogue, Garland, Minnelli and Streisand may be adored by gay men across the world but they will not be part of a major summer exhibition announced yesterday by the National Portrait Gallery called, simply, Gay Icons. Instead, a 10-strong panel, including Elton John and Billie Jean King, has cast its net beyond an ability to look and sound fabulous and gone for a more considered list of names.

Religion on British TV

Ruth Gledhill - Times Online - WBLG: Round-the-clock condom ads on British TV

I subscribe to Virgin cable and so the only religious channel is the GOD Channel, an American Import.

I have no idea how it stays on the air since it reflects the religious life of very few people in the UK, and moreover is viciously homophobic. I suppose the only reason people don't complain about it is that no one watches it.

As far as I can tell dispensationalist millennialism is a very minor interest here.

EWTN on Sky TV is *very slightly* better, and is good on things like reporting papal visits.

Still it would nice to have a kind of British religion channel - I suppose it would be like a 24 hour mix of Songs of Praise, Big Questions, some documentaries by Paul Malone, and old Joan Bakewell programs.

Hey, I would watch it.

Obama Warns On Afghanistan, Pakistan Situation : NPR

Obama Warns On Afghanistan, Pakistan Situation : NPR

President Obama warned Friday that the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan is 'increasingly perilous.'

He acknowledged that, after seven years of fighting, 'the war rages on,' and that '2008 was the deadliest year of the war for American troops.' He said intelligence reports indicate that terrorists are actively plotting to harm Americans from their safe havens in Pakistan.

In his speech, the president outlined his strategy to revive the war that his commanders in Afghanistan say they're not winning. The key pillars include more troops and training for Afghanistan and more treasure for Pakistan.

I like Obama, but this may be a mistake. Perhaps the CIA now has some really good intelligence? Of course since it keeps firing gay linguists, this is somewhat suspect. I do agree with Obama though that af-pak is a very dangerous region - a source of terror, because of the A-bombs there, and because tectonic movements are liable to upset any government. On the whole I think Iran is less dangerous.

A good deal of the political problems the US is facing in both af-pak and Mexico could be curtailed by a new drugs policy. Although I am very much aware that cocaine and heroin are dangerous drugs, I think the violence surrounding them are much worse. Make them legal: give coca leave and opium poppy growers a way to live that is dependent on peace, and a whole lot of areas will be pacified.

Meanwhile, give heroin via prescription to addicts, decriminalise and tax cocaine, and thereby cut off the western funding of the destabilisers.

Monarchy and Patriotism

Tom Harris MP has attacked the Tory MEP who "ripped Gordon Brown a new ass", Daniel Hannan as unpatriotic.

He writes:

"What was truly repugnant about his speech was the total absence of any sense of patriotism. Some Tories on the extreme right of the party share the problem of some Republicans in the States: they don’t regard the head of government to be the nation’s leader unless he or she is also a member of their little party."

I did not like Hannan's speech, but to call it non-patriotic misses one of the huge virtues of the system of constitutional monarchy. We in the UK can feel free to attack any political heads of government without being unpatriotic precisely because our head of state is the Queen.

Modern Constitutional Monarchy actually works quite well. It encourages political freedom of expression by allowing expressions of political dissent from the government to be distinct from lack of patriotism.

If you were to take the modern countries in the world it is worth living in, the the Queen's 16 "realms" (The UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and 12 others), Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Spain would all come near the top places to live.

Even in less free countries, monarchies (which have some eye to the future), often provide more real political stability than transient "strong men" - Morocco, Thailand, Malaysia.

Monarchy is a damn near universal aspect of human social development. That being the case, we should be glad of the one we have.

Great Headline

Madonna confirms split with Jesus as she tells Twitter fans 'I'm glad to be single' | Mail Online

I suppose Jesus does not go well with Kabbalah.

Lula is right on this

'Blue-eyed bankers' to blame for crash, Brazil's Lula tells Gordon Brown | World news |

"White, blue-eyed bankers are entirely to blame for the world financial crisis that has ended up hitting black and indigenous people disproportionately, the president of Brazil declared .

In an outspoken intervention as Gordon Brown stood alongside him, Luiz Inacio 'Lula' da Silva pledged to make next week's G20 summit 'spicy' as he accused the rich of forcing the poor into greater hardship.

'This crisis was caused by no black man or woman or by no indigenous person or by no poor person,' Lula said after talks with the prime minister in Brasilia to discuss next week's G20 summit in London.

'This crisis was fostered and boosted by irrational behaviour of some people that are white, blue-eyed. Before the crisis they looked like they knew everything about economics, and they have demonstrated they know nothing about economics.'"

But I bet some of them at least had brown eyes.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

World Clock

worldclock.swf (application/x-shockwave-flash Object)

Why can't we have Ads like this in England?

Via Dan Savage.

I always liked Old Spice.

Pot-related questions deluge W.H. - John Ward Anderson -

Pot-related questions deluge W.H. - John Ward Anderson -

When the White House put out a call for town hall questions, it might not have been expecting this.

The more than 92,000 people who responded either have Cheech and Chong senses of humor or there is a deep concern in America — undetected by the media — about the decriminalization of marijuana, its possible use for medicinal purposes and its potential as a new source of tax revenue.

Given the opportunity to say what’s really on their minds without going through the filter of the mainstream media, people “buzzed up” a series of questions that seemed to suggest broad interest in legalizing marijuana and taxing it.

Via Andrew Sullivan.

It's odd. As far as I can see there is no "medicinal cannabis" movement in the UK. Perhaps it because, in practice, there are virtually no penalties for possession. Still, unlike in parts of California, people here cannot walk into dispensaries and get "with a prescription" various blends, or ready made brownies.

Or perhaps it's because in the UK, booze is the solution to all problems.

Archbishop Mario Conti and Gay Kids Wanting to Kill Themselves

More on the "hate speech" issue.

Here is a YouTube by young gay Christians in the US.

I was once a young gay Catholic living in Scotland, and while I think Archbishop Conti should be allowed to say what he wants, he need to know that he hurts people.

People don't have a right not to be offended. But neither do those being offensive have a right not to be told what are the consequences of what they say.

People like Conti make young gay kids try to kill themselves.

The decision to let abortion clinics advertise on TV is wrong on every level | Coffee House

The decision to let abortion clinics advertise on TV is wrong on every level | Coffee House: "The news that abortion clinics are to be allowed, for the first time, to advertise on TV and radio strikes me as utterly grim: a bad idea and a deeply sad one to boot.

The Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practise say they're responding to Government calls to combat rising teenage pregnancy but if so they're going about it exactly the wrong way.

To start with it'll be counterproductive. To advertise abortion is to suggest that it is a legitimate form of birth control—and the simpler and more painless the ad makes it look the more it'll encourage young girls not to take sex seriously; or to worry about protection. So abortion ads may well increase the number of pregnant teens.

Second: even if abortion rates rise as well, surely no-one sane or humane could claim that that's a good thing in itself? If it's a necessary evil, abortion is still an evil. Whatever those nice people at Marie Stopes say, killing foetuses is a sad and unpleasant affair. Many women who never expected to turn a hair, mourn their lost babies all their lives.

It seems to me at best wrong-headed and at worst barbaric to actively promote it."

I agree.

The Crash - A view from the left - LW ebook

The Crash - A view from the left - LW ebook


We are at a turning point in the life of our country - before us lies a period of economic dislocation unparalleled since the 1930s, while the dangers of climate change and resource depletion loom ever larger.

The Crash offers an alternative to the compromised policies of the G20. Contributors analyse and explain the economic and social issues that lie at the heart of our crisis: the credit crisis, the housing disaster, secrecy jurisdictions, the practices of private equity firms and the intellectual failure of orthodox economics. They put forward ideas for a new kind of agriculture to ensure food security, a People's Post Bank, and a Green New Deal for tackling global warming; and make the case that Britain should think seriously about joining the Euro. And, taking a wider view, contributors identify historical trends in economic crashes, the immorality of inequality, and the arguments for a left alternative.

If ever you think you have had a bad week...

Asia Exile - Times Online - WBLG: The Luckiest or Unluckiest Man in the World? Tsutomu Yamaguchi, double A-bomb victim:

Kyodo reported yesterday that Tsutomu Yamaguchi, one of the handful of people to survive the atomic bombings of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, has finally been recognised as such by the Nagasaki local government.

Footsteps in the sand, anyone?

Elton John and The Guardian

I think it was a mistake for Elton John to employ Carter-Ruck to go after The Guardian about this little piece of nastiness, and his efforts were repulsed in the High Court today.

But the original article was just sheer snarky nastiness by Marina Hyde. She had written (posing as Elton):

Naturally, everyone could afford just to hand over the money if they gave that much of a toss about Aids research - as could the sponsors. But we like to give guests a preposterously lavish evening, because they're the kind of people who wouldn't turn up for anything less. They fork out small fortunes for new dresses and so on, the sponsors blow hundreds of thousands on creating what convention demands we call a "magical world", and everyone wears immensely smug "My diamonds are by Chopard" grins in the newspapers and OK!. Once we've subtracted all these costs, the leftovers go to my foundation. I call this care-o-nomics.

This was more than unfair. The Elton John AIDS Foundation is a quite serious organisation funded by Elton. I have benefited from its largesse - it paid for me to attend a retreat weekend for long term AIDS survivors - so perhaps I am biased.

But EJ is a pop star, and one whose success have never really depended on gay fans. His music has never been part of "gay" culture". He has no more obligation to support AIDS/HIV charities than anyone else. And yet he has done so, consistently for almost two decades.

That deserves some respect.

The Problem with British Bloggers

BBC NEWS | Programmes | Daily Politics | Guido loves Derek

No glamour at all.

Harry Potter: Devil to Muslims and Christians?

The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan (March 26, 2009) - Harry Potter And The Goblet Of The Jews

Three videos in which Christians and Muslims make fools of themselves by asking the "question" - is Harry Potter just fantasy?

[The last of the videos, from the film Jesus Camp actually seems to show quite real abuse of children by US Evangelicals. Ugh.]

Loonies, all of them.

The Civil Heretic - Freeman Dyson

Magazine Preview - The Civil Heretic - Freeman Dyson - Profile -

Look up "Dyson Sphere" on Wikipedia.

Ongoing Discussion about Free Speech and Gay Rights chez Tom Harris

[Someone asked whether Archbishop Mario Conti's attacks on gays amounted to incitement of hatred against gays.]

I certainly believe that religious attacks on homosexuality - including the Roman Catholic church's repeated statements that homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered" do in fact incite hatred against homosexuals.

But, in an open market place of ideas, I believe (as a Gay Catholic) that such hatred is best repulsed by verbal contestation.

What is objectionable is the effort by some religious groups to protect *themselves* by law whilst demanding *by law* the right to attack others, and *by law* the right not to be offended.

I am quite happy for the law to allow Mario Conti the free speech to attack my sexual desires as "intrinsically disordered", just as long as I can point out that Catholicism is full of suppressed homoeroticism, and that if I want to go, in Glasgow, to go and get turned on by seeing a naked man being ritually humiliated, I have a choice of looking at a Crucifix in St. Andrews Cathedral, or going to a gay S/M club.

[In fact, all the best SM clubs have always been in Edinburgh. Glasgow poofs are sissies.]

Labourites who want a Labour Defeat at the Next Election

Iain Dale, my favourite Tory blogger in the UK, apologises for not going after Tony McNulty, a Labour minister who seems to have been playing the system to get maximum "expenses."

What Iain and other Tories is that many people on the non-revolutionary Left are quite as disgusted with this current UK Labour government as any Tory.

And yet, while we form a significant part of the political spectrum in the UK, we simply cannot get our views heard in the media.

That's why Vince Cable, the Lib Dem politician, is so popular. His views are often far to the left of the government's.

On QuestionTime, etc., we only ever get out views heard if someone like Will Self or Peter Tatchell gets on.

Above that's why people like me, who will vote Labour for emotional reasons, above all hope for a hung parliament, a weak Tory administration, and time to re-create a real Labour Party.

The United States and Climate Change

Nigel Purvis: By trying to impose unrealistic obligations on the US, Europe risks undermining international progress on global warming | Comment is free |

The best reason for the US to act quickly is that the US is likely to be among the most effected nations.

Here in the UK, unless the Gulf Stream is turned off, we seem to be among the best possible places to live in a warmed globe. It's true we may lose some of the South-East (tant pis) but overall as an Island nation, we will be able to feed ourselves, keep out others looking for the life boat, and still be OK.

The United States, in contrast, has spent the past 60 years moving it's population to the areas of it's landmass least likely to cope with dramatic climate change. Virtually the entire eastern sea-board is threatened, not to mention the water depleted South West. If logic was behind policy the US would be busy trying to pull people back to Michigan, Penn, Ohio, and other nice, wet, hurricane-proof areas, where, with little difficulty it could provide all its needs.

Instead, it keeps diverting water from the Colorado to grow needless crops in California and the Southwest.

More on Catholics and Gays in Scotland

I suppose a bit of history might help all sides here, for the Catholic Church in Scotland has not always had such a problem with homosexuality.
There is continuing discussion about the Catholic Church and its freedom to attack homosexuality at Tom Harris' blog. I Have chipped in with a bit of history.

In fact the Catholic Church often had its biggest problems with heterosexuality. For decades the biggest pastoral problem discussed was "mixed marriages" (i.e. Catholics wanting to marry Protestants). Apart from tha, there were occasional problems such as when Mario Conti's predecessor as Bishop of Aberdeen eloped with his housekeeper, who happened to be the wife of a local Church of Scotland minister.

Meanwhile, in the 1970s, the incipient gay movement in Scotland was getting its greatest support from various Catholic parishes and priests. For example, in Edinburgh Fr. Anthony Ross OP allowed the first gay discos in Scotland to take place in the basement cafeteria at the Catholic Chaplaincy at 23 George Sq. While the Gay Catholic group QUEST had strong groups in both Edinburgh and Glasgow. More than that the Scottish Minorities Group (later Scottish Homosexual Rights Group, with Robin Cook MP no less as honorary President) for years had its mimeographed publication GAY SCOTLAND produced and distributed from a Parish house in, I think, Cumbernauld.

One in six British psychiatrists and therapists have tried to “cure” patients of homosexuality

One in six British psychiatrists and therapists have tried to “cure” patients of homosexuality - from Pink News

Research published today in the BMC Psychiatry journal shows that a sixth of registered British therapist and psychiatrists have attempted to 'cure' patients of homosexuality. Shockingly one psychiatrist who responded to the study justified offering 'cures' saying: 'the physical act for male homosexuals is physically damaging and is the main reason in this country for AIDS/HIV. It is also perverse.'

This is an interesting snippet.

Overtly the UK is far more hospitable to gay people than most states in the US. In the US anti-gay psychiatry is usually thought to be driven by the vast religious culture of the country. Here in the UK, on the other hand, there is very little public expression of religion, but we still find something like this happening.

One reason I propose is that there are still "customers" for this quackery. Homosexual people who want to be "cured." Where does that self-hatred come from? Given the general non-religiosity of the country, I suppose its possible all the clients come from the remaining religious base.

Or could it be from the incredible self-stigma some (perhaps many) British gays impose on themselves.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What Added Value Comes from "Financial Services"? / Comment - Is it back to the Fifties?

The crash has forced professional investors and academics to question the theoretical underpinnings of modern finance. The most basic assumptions of the investment industry, and the products they offer to the public, must be reconsidered from scratch. Indeed, the very reason for the industry to exist – a belief that experts make the smartest decisions on where people’s money will do best – is up for scrutiny as a result.

The answer to the question is "none".

Gay Rights and Free Speech: Some Things Stink

Labour MP Tom Harris has written about how he voted against a government initiative to prohibit "hate speech" against gays, lesbians, etc.

Well I'm gay, and on free speech I pretty much believe that the US First Amendment should be enacted here in the UK. So on the exact issue, I suppose I would support Tom Harris.

But that would be in an "all other things being equal" situation. As the discussion by Tom Harris and in the comments section of his blog has made clear, Tom has quite willingly gone along with other restrictions on so called offensive speech (see Simon Gardner's comment). And as Patrick Harvie notes it is on this of all issues that he breaks a three line whip.

I think that in this case his vote stinks to heaven.

You could get your bona fides back, perhaps, Mr Harris, by sponsoring UK legislation that allowed gay people access to marriage, or even more cheaply by simply calling for civil partnerships to be allowed to be celebrated in the many churches that would be quite willing to host them.

Jade Goody - Telegraph

Jade Goody - Telegraph

Jade Goody, who has died aged 27, was catapulted into the limelight in 2003 by the apparently none-too-glittering achievement of coming fourth on Big Brother; so began a roller-coaster career that made her the poster girl of the curious contemporary cult of talentless celebrity.

British readers will have heard too much of Jade Goody, who died recently. But this is a classic Daily Telegraph obituary and well worth the read.

Was Hadrian's Wall built in the nineteenth century?

A Don's Life by Mary Beard - Times Online - WBLG: Was Hadrian's Wall built in the nineteenth century?

It seems it was at least "heavily repaired."


Blogger's T-shirt gesture breaks taboo on Tiananmen rebellion - Times Online

References to the 1989 army crackdown on student demonstrators in Tiananmen Square are taboo in China. If mentioned at all, the protests are described as a “counter-revolutionary rebellion”.

However, one young Chinese man has now posed boldly on a blog hosted by one of China’s biggest servers wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the date – June 4 – but in a code that may take time for censors to spot.

His T-shirt reads VIIIIXVIIV.

R.I.P. Smellie, Bottom and Balls

R.I.P. Smellie, Bottom and Balls - the surnames that are dying of embarrassment | Mail Online

The decline of Britain's most embarrassing names

(Percentage change between 1881 and 2008)

1. Cock -76%
2. Smellie -71%
3. Handcock -61%
4. Spier -56%
5. Balls -55%
6. Wilcocks -52%
7. Daft -51%
8. Death -47%
9. Gotobed -42%
10. Shufflebottom -40%
11. Bottom -36%
12. Jelly -34%
13. Cockshott -34%
14. Cockroft -33%
15. Bulcock -32%
16. Longbottom -32%
17. Glasscock -31%

Anti-capitalists admit attacking Fred the Shred's home and warn other bankers: 'This is just the beginning'

Anti-capitalists admit attacking Fred the Shred's home and warn other bankers: 'This is just the beginning' | Mail Online

Anti-capitalists today claimed responsibility for vandalising the home of disgraced former Royal Bank of Scotland boss Sir Fred Goodwin.

Windows on the ground floor of the ex-RBS chief executive's luxury villa in Edinburgh were smashed and a Mercedes in the driveway damaged in the attack this morning.

Sir Fred, who is at the centre of a huge row over his �16million pension, was said to be 'shaken' by the vandalism but it is not known if he was inside at the time.

An anonymous anti-capitalist statement released hours later ominously warned it was only the start of a campaign against bank bosses involved in the financial crisis.

Not good, but did they expect to keep the proles down forever?

Now 'Big Brother' targets Facebook

Now 'Big Brother' targets Facebook - UK Politics, UK - The Independent

Millions of Britons who use social networking sites such as Facebook could soon have their every move monitored by the Government and saved on a 'Big Brother' database.

All in the name of "national security."

It's as if the members of the current UK government read George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and took it as a programme of action rather than a warning.

I wonder when the rats in face-cages arrive.

More on Public Employees and Wealth Creation

An Anonymous commentator wrote:

Public sector employees solely consume wealth generated by private sector employees who generate a profit which in turn generates a tax revenue base from which there is money to employ public servants.

The public sector is a luxury affordable by a successful wealth generating society. Take away the wealth generators and there is no public sector.

This is nonsense as basic economics. A worker doing x-job (e.g. building houses, providing security services) contributes exactly the same wealth to the economy whether s/he is publically or privately employed. Much of the wealth produced by such a work is expropriated in both system.

The same applies to administrators. Assuming for the sake of argument that paper-pushing administration is necessary for society to work, then the work of a civil servant in administering a project is just as wealth generating as the work of a private administrator.

In both cases, a higher amount of the social wealth produced in all the above cases is expropriated by those who are richer.

For example, take the a public servant called a "police officer." His or her value to society is to help contribute to public order. All benefit from this public order, it is true, but the rich benefit more. For it is their *greater* property that is defended.

In a state of nature, the physically young and powerful would simply be able to take wealth from the weak (both the weak poor but also the weak rich, who have more stuff.) In actual society we guard against this intrinsic natural power of the young and strong.

But the split is assessing the difference in contribution of public and private employees is merely one of accounting.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Anonymous Liberal: Dispatches from the Alternative Right Wing Universe

The Anonymous Liberal: Dispatches from the Alternative Right Wing Universe

Good post on the nutso right-wing in the USA.

It's very curious watching US Conservatives self-destruct just as the UK Conservative Party is getting it's act together. Of course "conservative" in the UK means something like "moderate Democrat" in the US.

Public Employees Create Social Value

Iain Dale, along with many other Conservative bloggers, has posted a Speech by Daniel Hannan in which Hannan ripped into Gordon Brown in front of the European Parliament.

Along with some real hits on Brown, Hannan repeated the common theme among Conservatives that public employees do not "create real wealth."

The problem with Hannan, and in my thinking what will be a problem with the coming Conservative government, is that it is not true that only the work of a private employee has value while the work of a public employee has none.

For example, the public employees who teach, repair roads, work as cops, etc, contribute real value to human society, while the work of private employees, such as, well, Hedge fund employees contributes nothing.

When a Conservative government seems likely, I think it is worthwhile to keep pointing out the likely fallacies.

The Sad Truth

"People with Ph.D.’s don’t want to fish for a living. They need something else to do.
"...the people have cultivated themselves to the point where they are unsuited for the work available to them. All these exquisitely schooled, sophisticated people, each and every one of whom feels special, are presented with two mainly horrible ways to earn a living: trawler fishing and aluminum smelting."

-Vanity Fair article

How finance capitalism drove Iceland mad

Wall Street on the Tundra |

A handful of guys in Iceland, who had no experience of finance, were taking out tens of billions of dollars in short-term loans from abroad. They were then re-lending this money to themselves and their friends to buy assets—the banks, soccer teams, etc. Since the entire world’s assets were rising—thanks in part to people like these Icelandic lunatics paying crazy prices for them—they appeared to be making money.

How Far Has the IDF Fallen? - Jeffrey Goldberg

How Far Has the IDF Fallen? - Jeffrey Goldberg

Pardon me for saying so, but the Jewish people didn't struggle for national equality, justice and freedom so that some of its sons could behave like Cossacks.

Cuter than David Miliband?

CNN Turns Focus to GOP Congressman Aaron Schock's Abs - Towleroad, More than gay news. More gay men

Via Andrew Sullivan.

Update: More (inc. video) at CBS.

Can anyone say gaydar?

'The smaller they are, the harder it is,'

IDF: Soldiers' anti-Palestinian T-Shirts are 'tasteless' - Haaretz - Israel News

The Israel Defense Forces on Monday condemned T-shirts worn by soldiers that depict scenes of violence against Palestinians as the army faces increasing domestic criticism over its conduct during the recent offensive in the Gaza Strip.

The T-shirts, ordered by troops to mark the end of basic training and other military courses, were worn by a number of enlisted men in different units, Haaretz reported over the weekend. They were not made or sanctioned by the military.

One depicts a child in the cross-hairs of a rifle with the slogan, 'The smaller they are, the harder it is,' said one of T-shirts. Another shows a pregnant woman in the cross-hairs and the words '1 Shot 2 Kills'. Others depict a soldier blowing up a mosque and Palestinian women weeping over a gravestone.

I'm speechless.

[PS: See more at Sky News

Cameron: We Need Capitalism With a Conscience

Iain Dale has published lengthy extracts from a speech made today by David Cameron - We Need Capitalism With a Conscience.

In many respects Cameron sounds reasonable. But every time I think the Tories sound OK, as Cameron often does, especially when compared to Brown, I simply pull out Alan Clark's Diaries (about his experiences as an MP in the Thatcher and Major governments).

It's there you see the true face of Toryism, and what we will get when Labour is defeated at the next election.

Holy War

Soldier says rabbis pushed religious war in Gaza | International | Reuters

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Rabbis in the Israeli army told battlefield troops in January's Gaza offensive they were fighting a 'religious war' against gentiles, according to one army commander's account published Friday.

'Their message was very clear: we are the Jewish people, we came to this land by a miracle, God brought us back to this land and now we need to fight to expel the gentiles who are interfering with our conquest of this holy land,' he said.

The account by Ram, a pseudonym to shield the soldier's identity, was published by the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper in the second day of revelations that have rocked the Israeli military. ( 'Shooting and Crying, 2009').

Ecrasez l'infame!

Does anyone think this is the first time?

Seumas Milne: Will Israel be brought to book over evidence it committed war crimes in Gaza? | Comment is free |

Last week, the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reported that a group of Israelis soldiers had admitted intentionally shooting dead an unarmed Palestinian mother and her two children, as well as an elderly Palestinian woman, in Gaza in January. As one explained: 'The lives of Palestinians, let's say, is something very, very less important than the lives of our soldiers. So as far as they are concerned they can justify it that way'.

A Proposed Bill of Rights in the UK.

The British Labour Government is today putting forward a new proposal for a Bill of Rights. This is very strange indeed since no government in living memory, outside wartime, has so restricted the rights of British people to do and say what they want.

In fact, the Bill proposes "Rights and Responsibilities". As Henry Porter points out in
Putting rights behind responsibilities, which no government has any business defining when responsibility are already defined by law, is a clue to [the government's] true design of placing citizens under greater government control.

This is exactly correct.

The New Medieval Galleries at the Bristish Museum

British Museum's Medieval Europe Gallery: a golden compass to a dark age - Times Online

The British Museum owns one of the pre-eminent collections of medieval art, artefacts and archaeological pieces in the world. For 25 years it has been languishing in an uninspiring gallery that many visitors unfortunately treated as the corridor on the way to the Egyptian section.

Now the collection, which includes the famous Royal Gold Cup, the beautiful Dunstable Swan Jewel and many other unique works, is being redisplayed in a renovated first-floor gallery (formerly used for storage). It has been given the space, the context and the focus to show a degree of sophistication that may surprise many.