Thursday, April 23, 2009

I will be "off-blog" for the next four days.

Keep well!

Shakespeare too (Today is the Anniversay of his Death)

SONNET 104 (written to a male lover)

To me, fair friend, you never can be old,
For as you were when first your eye I eyed,
Such seems your beauty still. Three winters cold
Have from the forests shook three summers' pride,
Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turn'd
In process of the seasons have I seen,
Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burn'd,
Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green.
Ah, yet doth beauty, like a dial-hand,
Steal from his figure and no pace perceived;
So your sweet hue, which methinks still doth stand,
Hath motion and mine eye may be deceived:
For fear of which, hear this, thou age unbred;
Ere you were born was beauty's summer dead.

See Mabillard, Amanda. An Analysis of Shakespeare's Sonnet 104. Shakespeare Online. 2000. (23/4/2009) < >.

St. George: A Gay Saint? (Today is his Feast Day)

St. George is, along with St. Nicholas, without any question among the most popular of all saints in history. The odd thing is that nothing whatsoever can be established about him as a historical figure. Indeed the among earliest references to this cult in the West involve papal condemnations of the myths surrounding him.

So how can George be included in a list of "queer" saints. For two reasons - iconographic and textual.


No one reading early texts about George can fail to be impressed by the explicit homoeroticism in them. George at one stage is about to marry, but is prevented by Christ. As the text said "[George] did not know that Christ was keeping him as a pure virginal bridegroom for himself". (Budge, 282) Later on after mind-boggling escapades [George is killed and resurrected a number or times in his myths], Christ welcomes George into Heaven with bridal imagery: - "And the Lord said to the blessed George, Hail, My George! Hail beloved of myself and of My Angels…I swear by My right hand, Oh my beloved one that I will establish a covenant with thee that when thou shalt bow thyself upon thy spiritual face in heaven and shall come with all they congregation to worship the holy Trinity, all the saints know thee by reason of the honour which I will show thee, O My beloved… " (Budge 320-21).

In these texts, here from Coptic versions, George is presented as the bridegroom of Christ. Bridal imagery is quite common in discourse about Christ, but usually male saints are made into "brides of Christ" [see Carolyn Walker Bynum's work on this], but with George a same sex marital imagery is used.


George is among the most common subjects of religious art. His iconographic type is fixed - he is a young beardless warrior. It is worth noting that some commentators have seen appeal of this figure as androgynous. Here are the comments of Christopher Walter, a recent commentator on the cult of George:-

'There can be not doubt that [George] had an exceptional affective appeal, difficult perhaps for us to grasp, since the Byzantines have not bequeathed us many empirical descriptions of their feelings. Some reconstruction can be tentatively undertaken….Thomas Matthews has studied the affective attitude of the Byzantines towards their icons and the saints represented on the icons. `One was supposed to fall in love with these saints.' Or elsewhere: 'The involvement of the Orthodox beholder with his painted images was complete…The believer entered a world of images in a way the modern view of paintings cannot accomplish". However, empathy as a characteristic of human psychology, must keep pace with development and changes in artistic media. It may not be amiss therefore to quote James Baldwin's description of a budding actor in a film. It seems to me to give some insight into the way that a Byzantine saw an icon of St. George:`…The face of a man, of a tormented man. Yet, in precisely the way that great music depends, ultimately, on a great silence, this masculinity was defined and made powerful by something which was not masculine. It was not feminine either and something….resisted the word androgynous. It was a quality to which numbers of persons would respond without knowing what it was that they were responding. There was a great force in face and a great gentleness…It was a face which suggested, resonantly in the depths the truth about our natures'" (Walter, 320)

In addition to all the above, George is patron saint of scouting, chosen as such by Baden Powell. There is a webpage for George, Patron of Scouts!

Select bibliography

Budge, Earnest Wallis, The Martyrdom and Miracles of St. George of Cappodocia: The Coptic Texts, (London: D. Nutt, 1888)

Bynum, Caroline Walker, Jesus as Mother: Studies in the Spirituality of the High Middle Ages, (Berkeley: 1982)

Walter, Christopher, "The Origins of the Cult of St. George", Revue des ├ętudes byzantines 53 (1995), 295-326

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Thatcher, Heath, and Cameron

Mrs Thatcher: an apology | And another thing...

Any man who finds himself on a bus after the age of 30 can count himself a failure.

Tom Harris devotes a blog to saying Thatcher did not say this. Fair enough if she did not say it. I, in fact have never heard it attributed to her.

But Thatcher did little to help public transport, hated railways, and privatized BA.

Look, we are about to face a period of Tory government. The goal is that it does limited harm and that Labour can reconstitute itself to be electable in 4 years time.

Cameron is Heath, not Thatcher.

More American Nazis

The Case for the ‘Torture Memos’ by Rich Lowry on National Review Online

"Rightly considered, the memos should be a source of pride"

List of Likely CIA Prisoners Who Are Still Missing - ProPublica

List of Likely CIA Prisoners Who Are Still Missing - ProPublica

The CIA has not released the names of terrorism suspects it held in secret detention with the exception of 14 who were transferred to Guantanamo Bay, in September 2006. Human rights groups have tried to track those identities using publicly available information about high-profile captures, eyewitness accounts from former detainees and family inquiries. In June 2007, six human rights groups released the names of nearly three dozen apparent CIA prisoners [1] (PDF) whose fates remained unknown. We've updated that list based on the most current information available to Human Rights Watch. (For more details, also see our accompanying story [2].)

Does anyone recall when one of the reasons for going to war against Saddam was that he used torture and and maintained secret prisons.

The New Eichmann

The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

... is when you can link the torture to the obsession with finding a link between al Qaeda and Saddam. McClatchy's story is the most eye-popping of the last week in my view, certainly a twist I didn't fully foresee:

A former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the interrogation issue said that Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded that the interrogators find evidence of al Qaida-Iraq collaboration.

"There were two reasons why these interrogations were so persistent, and why extreme methods were used," the former senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity.

"The main one is that everyone was worried about some kind of follow-up attack (after 9/11). But for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there."

It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Muhammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document.

"There was constant pressure on the intelligence agencies and the interrogators to do whatever it took to get that information out of the detainees, especially the few high-value ones we had, and when people kept coming up empty, they were told by Cheney's and Rumsfeld's people to push harder," he continued.

"Cheney's and Rumsfeld's people were told repeatedly, by CIA . . . and by others, that there wasn't any reliable intelligence that pointed to operational ties between bin Laden and Saddam, and that no such ties were likely because the two were fundamentally enemies, not allies."

Senior administration officials, however, "blew that off and kept insisting that we'd overlooked something, that the interrogators weren't pushing hard enough, that there had to be something more we could do to get that information," he said.

The first reason to use torture is to prevent a ticking time bomb that could kill millions; the second reason is as a routine part of intelligence gathering; the third is to produce false confessions to justify a war already planned. Torture is a powerful weapon, isn't it? Look how many it corrupted so completely and so fast.

Via Andrew Sulliavn

Criminalizing Conservatism

Power Line - Criminalizing Conservatism

Many liberals don't just want to defeat conservatives at the polls, they want to send them to jail. Toward that end, they have sometimes tried to criminalize what are essentially policy differences. President Obama hinted at another step in that direction when he said today that he is open to the idea of bringing criminal charges against the Justice Department lawyers who wrote opinions to the effect that waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods could legally be used on al Qaeda detainees. Obama said the question was a complicated one, and the decision will ultimately be made by Attorney General Eric Holder.

Good on Obama. When conservatism amounts to nothing more than the defence of torture, it deserves to be destroyed.

The UK Budget

It was at least a Labour budget - not vindictive against the poor.

Sadly, I still think the Tories will win the next election, and I expect to see the sheer vindictiveness of that party on display. In terms of tax rates, the Lib Dem proposal to lift income taxes altogether from low paid workers was the best and should have been adopted.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Nine men arrested over suspected terror plot released to UK borders agency

Nine men arrested over suspected terror plot released to UK borders agency | UK news |

Why are these men being deported if they face no charges.

Update (Guardian): More on Terror Suspects. A disgrace.

Pox Britannica?

Howard Jacobsen: Pox Britannica

There is something in the air here, something you can smell, but also, in a number of cases, something more immediately affronting to Jews. It is important not to exaggerate. Most English Jews walk safely through their streets, express themselves freely, enjoy the friendship of non-Jews, and feel no less confidently a part of English life than they ever have. Organizations monitoring anti-Jewish incidents in England have reported a dramatic increase after Gaza: the daubing of slogans such as 'kill the jews' on walls and bus shelters in Jewish neighborhoods, abuse of Jewish children on school playgrounds, arson attacks on synagogues, physical assaults on Jews conspicuous by their yarmulkes or shtreimels. But, while these incidents ought not to be treated blithely, they are still exceptional occurrences.

And yet, in the tone of the debate, in the spirit of the national conversation about Israel, in the slow seepage of familiar anti-Semitic calumnies into the conversation--there, it seems to me, one can find growing reason for English Jews to be concerned.

People here are sharply more critical of Israel here than in the US. I have to say that after the Gaza war, I simply want a two state solution imposed. That is not perfect. It would be better, in my book, to have one state, but no one there wants that. People here will be vocally anti-Israel, but that does not creep over among native English people. Virtually all anti-Semitic incidents seem to come from over excited, and somewhat marginalized, Muslim youths.

So, yes, at a dinner party, a pro-Israel Jewish person might find a lot of dissent. But among the dinner party going classes, no actual antisemitism.

The Deflation Lie

Deflation returns to Britain for first time since 1960 | Business |

Deflation returned to Britain for the first time in nearly five decades last month as prices measured by the retail price index (RPI) were lower than the same time a year ago.

The Office for National Statistics said the RPI was 0.4% lower in March than it had been in March 2008. That was the first negative reading since March 1960, when Harold Macmillan was prime minister and John F Kennedy was running for the US presidency.

This may be true if you drive a car and pay a mortgage but the deflation figures published in the UK today are sheer bunkum for the poor.

Here's why.

*Food. General food inflation is still rising, but hidden in those figures, and explaining why supermarkets are making mega profits is that the "low-end" non-branded items on which low income people were already relaying have shot up in price by 20-30%.

This is from my experience of ASDA

Tomatoes: up from 55p to 88p over the year
ASDA Butter: up from 67p to 87p over the year.
Mincemeat: up by about 20%
A Can of Tuna: 33p to 48p
Rice: 55p to 88p

[Canned tuna, brown rice, and onions is a cheap nutritious meal - but it has doubled in price.]

*Gas and Electricity
Southern Electric raised prices by around 40% last year, and reaped profit over the winter, even as oil market prices plummeted.

*Bus Fares. First Group in Manchester has increased the Fare from where I live to the Town center from 1.20 to 1.50.

For people living on low incomes virtually our expenses are on food, fuel, and bus travel. There is no way these costs have gone down over the past year, In fact there has been more like an 8-12% increase.

There is no evidence that the Labour government is offering anywhere near enough help.

Monday, April 20, 2009

American Nazis for Torture


How America became a torture nation

The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

"When War Crimes Are Punch Lines

Chris Buckley becomes Rush Limbaugh. If you want to know how America became a torture nation, read it."

Via Andrew Sullivan

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Gathering Storm

And a take down by the Colbert Report.

In the U.K. it should be a key demand for LGBT groups that Civil Partnerhips be allowed to be civil marriages, and that those churches/etc (Unitarian. Quaker, MCC, Independent Catholic Church, Liberal Judaism) that want to celebrate religious ceremonies be able to do so.

Susan Boyle in Jimmy Fallon Sketch

Susan Boyle in Jimmy Fallon Sketch Video

Susan Boyle solves all America's problems.

When Computers Know More About You than You Know About Yourself.

I just logged on to Youtube and was present as recommended videos:

Jesus of Nazareth (22 of 41)
No Answers, with In Paradisum, by Point Valid with Catherine Asaro
Project Mayhem : Last Part Of Fight Club.
Tom Robinson "Still loving you"
Perhaps Love - John Denver & Placido Domingo
Danny Boyle winning the Oscar® for "Slumdog Millionaire"
Judy Garland - The Trolley Song (Meet Me in St. Louis)
My Corner of the Sky

This is disturbing.

I mean, why are there no Susan Boyle videos?

A degree in spin

A degree in spin: PM's sacked adviser's Cambridge theory of how to use rumours and riots

The Mail on Sunday article argues that Gordon Brown's disastrous adviser, Damian McBride, revealed something about himself in his M.Phil. thesis, which argued that

* The American race riots in the Sixties showed that violence is needed to bring political change.
* The rumour mill is a good way to spark riots.
* And in academic language he even appeared to suggest that riots increase the amount of sexual activity and drug-taking.

Hmmm. I don't think it's really that easy to draw links between what you write academically and live in real life.

I wrote my Ph.d. dissertation (i.e. "thesis" in Brit speak)about sanctity and gender among Byzantine saints. I, for instance, have never really attempted to be a Byzantine Virgin.

Oh, and Christos Anesti to Orthodox readers.

Ian Hislop Lays Into Bloggers?

Iain Dale's Diary: Ian Hislop Lays Into Bloggers

I'm a little surprised to see extent of the anti Private Eye animus, and the sello-out charges on Ian Hislop among Iain Dale's commentators.

I agree with poster Alex Creek - any single page of Private Eye digs up more on crap governance in this country than a month of Guido. Or any blog so far.

It remains, as far as I concerned, the most essential reading matter published in Britain.