Saturday, May 30, 2009

Adam Lambert Should Not Front for Queen, but... would be great if he did.

[PS. I still think Kris is sexier. But Adam is so much more lubricious! (definition 3b on !) ]

Gay People in Israel

In Israel, Adam Lambert would have won - Haaretz - Israel News

From a different section of the same article in Ha'aretz.

The day before, the mass-circulation Maariv newspaper published an extensive article detailing how 'Over the past decade homosexuals have turned from an exotic detour on [talk-show host] Dan Shilon's panel, to the kings of prime-time.' Among the gallery of famous gays were two of the 20 Survivor contestants, one of them Arik Alper.

'To me,' he told the camera, 'being the last survivor is to be the most popular kid in the fourth grade, which I never was.'

Say what you will about Israel, this place has developed an exceptional tolerance for behavior traditionally deemed deviant. One of the judges on Kochav Nolad (A Star is Born), Israel's version of American Idol, is Dana International, a post-op transsexual singing star whose unapologetic exuberance persuaded Israelis to choose her as their representative to the 1998 Eurovision Song Contest, in which she took first place.

Perhaps a certain tolerance, or predilection, for flamboyantly deviant behavior devolves from the way Israel is itself seen as deviant in its region and in the world. In this world, all Israelis have a certain otherness about them, a statistical minority status.

I know that I often seem critical of Israel in this blog, but I also know, and want to make clear, that as a Gay Catholic Man, there is no other country (apart from perhaps Turkey) in the Middle East that I would be allowed to live an open life.

Without in anyway condemning Arab societies, I find it impossible not to see Israel as a heroic venture. Should I be ashamed to say that at age 16, Leon Uris' Exodus changed my life?

That's why I feel free to be as open in criticising Israel as I do my own country.

Because I love it.

In Israel, Adam Lambert would have won

In Israel, Adam Lambert would have won - Haaretz - Israel News

This is a great article on American Idol runner up (and slightly overblown homosexual) Adam Lambert.

But what got me about the article was it's use of the word "Grundyism" (defined by Google as "primness: excessive or affected modesty" - i.e. that in this case Americans were pretending to be offended by Adam's campness")

Does modern Hebrew (from which I assume Ha'aretz articles are translated) really have a distinct word for "grundyism" - derived from a Dicken's character.

If so, I want to know which word.

Germany's drift from Europe

Germany's drift from Europe | Joschka Fischer | Comment is free |

Following the changing of the guard after the end of Germany's red/green coalition, a fundamental shift in attitude has gradually taken place. Europe today is no longer seen as the key project in German politics in which people are willing to invest an essential part of their political capital – and thus of their own future. Rather, 20 years after the fall of the Berlin wall, the reunited Germany is beginning to realise that it can also act alone. The problem, of course, is that this is a huge misapprehension.

This is the basic reason for supporting the EU. If not Germany, it would be France, or Russia.


Editorial Observer - Some Thoughts on the Pleasures of Being a Re-Reader -

The real secret of re-reading is simply this: It is impossible. The characters remain the same, and the words never change, but the reader always does. Pip is always there to be revisited, but you, the reader, are a little like the convict who surprises him in the graveyard — always a stranger.

My advice. Don't read Jane Austen until you are at least 25, or you will have no idea about the violence, comedy, and sheer human tragedy you are reading. Then reread all her six books every ten years until you die.

PS. I think you can read Dickens or Hardy earlier

PPS. I gather Aniat Brookner does not make sense until you are over 50, so I am waiting.

Supporting Everton for the FA Cup

They are the Lancashire team (and Catholic)

UPDATE: They lost. Que sera sera. At least nobody died. And that's why sport is among the hardest of all human phenomena to study.

The white man is being oppressed!

The white man is being oppressed! | Salon News

The Sotomayor nomination has, at last, unleashed the pent-up id of a faithful, and fearful, GOP demographic -- the aging white male.

Great article at Salon which should be read by Brits who think they are interested in US politics.

Supreme Court nominations are interesting in a way that is totally alien to British thought and practice, and UK based Brits often don't realised this.

The article also highlights the disaster the US Republican Party (I usually say GOP in this blog = "Grand Old Party", a traditional name).

Since Labour is likely to face a period in opposition, we (Labour supporters) need to look at this issue.

Losing Tory MPs

They keep falling.

At this rate, if the Tories keep loosing MPs as fast as they are, the Government might not have enough votes to privatise the Post Office.

Dream Bears - It's Raining Men BGT

Who's an Infinite Being - Me or God

Is anybody out there? | And another thing...

Tom Harris MP posts:
WATCHING The Big Bang Theory tonight, there was a good gag about the Drake Equation, which aims to quantify the probability of Earth coming into contact with extraterrestrial civilisations.

I’m vaguely familiar with the concept, because when Carolyn and I visited Washington, DC, in 2000, I took part in the Drake Equation test at the Smithsonian. Basically, it starts out by telling you how many stars there are in our (the Milky Way) galaxy. Then you have to guess what proportion of those stars have planets orbiting them, and then guess what proportion of those stars have habitable planets, and so on. Eventually the computer presents you with the number of planets, based on your own assumptions, which, at this moment in time, sustain intelligent life.

The answer I was given? One. Earth.

I would argue that, even if there is only one civilisation in this alaxy, there are literally billions of galaxies. There may be intelligent life out there, but we could never contact it or it us simply because the distances are too great.

If, however, the universe, or multiverse, is infinitely big, then all possibilities must be realised a infinite number of times. This idea was around in the time of Epicurus, but seems quite popular with cosmologists these days - otherwise out world looks so oddly “just right” for us that it is hard to resist idea that it was designed.

On unfortunate problem of an infinite universe, however, is that if you go far enough there must be *somewhere* a person who is exactly the same as you - i.e. the complete same conflux of sub-atomic particles, with all you experiences and memories. More than that, there must be an infinite number of such “you”s. Plus infinitely more “not quite yous”.

So either the Universe is infinite, which implies both you are I are infinite beings (within the must greater number of infinities). Or the Universe is finite.

And if it’s finite it looks like a fixed up job, just right for human life.

America's top 10 unhappiest cities - 6 Jacksonville FL

America's top 10 unhappiest cities - MSN Real Estate

6. Jacksonville, Fla.

Overall rank: 6
Depression rank: 2
Suicide rank: 9
Crime (property and violent) rank: 23
Divorce rate rank: 7
Cloudy days: 144
Unemployment rate (December 2008): 7.6%

Muhlberger's Early History: Medieval women's magazine?

Muhlberger's Early History: Medieval women's magazine?

That is what the Toronto Star called this 15th century manuscript unearthed by Wilfrid Laurier University English professor James Weldon. More properly, it is a commonplace book, an interesting genre of writing not unlike blog writing

Friday, May 29, 2009

Articulating the I - A Gay Morrocan Autobiographer

GayCityNews - Articulating the I

"'Salvation Army' is the first novel by Abdellah Taia, acknowledged as modern Morocco's first openly gay autobiographical writer. Now a resident of Paris, he is also the author of the non-fiction books 'Mon Maroc' and 'Le Rouge du Tarbouche,' as well as other works. Born in 1973, he is relatively unknown to Americans, but had a part in Parvez Sharma's 2007 film 'Jihad for Love,' about gays and Islam.

'Salvation Army' feels like a memoir, focusing on a gay Moroccan struggling with sexuality, family, and finding himself as a writer. The novel was recently translated from French into English by Frank Stock and published by Semiotexte, with an introduction by Edmund White. It is strongly erotic, particularly in its discussion of Moroccan family life, likely challenging preconceptions of an American audience. Taia discusses his book and life with Gay City News."

Gay Muslim in Eastenders!

EastEnders newcomer Syed set for | Mail Online

EastEnders newcomer Marc Elliott is to star in a controversial storyline which sees his Muslim character Syed Masood kiss another man.

Syed, the oldest Masood child, will kiss openly homosexual character Christian Clarke (John Partridge) in a new plot, which starts next month.

Apparently they will only show one kiss. Oh well.

Playing with Fire

Earlier this week a commentator on Tom Harris' blog asked:

...what *would* happen if all the Tory MP’s (and maybe all the Lib-Dems and SNP/PC MP’s too) decided one bright and early Monday morning to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (in order) to be appointed to the Stewardship of the Chiltern Hundreds & Northstead Manor? Would that (by dint of several hundred by-elections) force a General Election? I know it wouldn’t force one by law, but would the PM have no realistic choice but to call a General Election in face of fully half the House resigning? An interesting hypothetical, although I’m sure no-one would risk it. After all, if it backfired, you’d just look stupid and maybe even lose some seats in the face of a public backlash. But I’m just curious as to what that would do….

My response was to explain that this would be the kind of constitutionally destabilising action that would lead to a collapse of democratic government.

After all, every other future opposition could do the same thing.

One of the advantages of studying say Roman History is that you can see how, again and again, over-political politicians pushed a constitutional modus vivendi and brought about massive instability.

In fact, if the opposition did such a thing, they would still leave a government in power, which could then, for example, pass a parliament act, that excluded all MPs until a general election. Or, as during WWII suspend general elections altogether.

And then we could all have a nice civil war.

Jacobinism leads always and everywhere to tyranny.

Today, Simon Heffer, a much more important voice than that of the blog commentator, called in a more limited way for the same kind of messing with the constitution.

Dave made a speech to the Open University the other day to outline his view of how politics could be given back to the people. It was pretty fatuous, and suggested that he, like Gordon Brown, is floundering in the face of this unfolding disaster. I am sure there are some things that we might change in the light of this overwhelming evidence that members are, for the most part, no longer honourable. I am interested in the idea of recall, to force an MP to stand for re-election during a parliament if a quorum of his constituents find him unsatisfactory. However, the only thing that will really make a difference is if selection committees in all parties stop picking second-rate people on the make to stand for Parliament, and instead choose those who express a vocation and have the means and integrity to pursue it.

Dave is also hamstrung by the autonomy of Conservative associations: he needs to discuss with certain chairmen in certain seats the wisdom of continuing with their present MP. But there is already something he can do to show he is back in control, and I would urge him to do it today. It is for the Chief Whip to tell those MPs who have agreed to stand down that they should do so now, and not at the next election.

This would not only stop them leeching off the country at once; it would put pressure on Gordon Brown to do the same. Those who have resigned have talked about doing it for the good of the party. A series of by-elections, which the Tories would probably win, would be very good for the party. Those who refuse to go now can have their reputations further trashed; those who don't can begin their rehabilitation. It might even precipitate a general election. Go for it, Dave.

So now, it's clear what the Daily Telegraph is up to - complete political destabilisation.

"Comment Thread Conservatives"

Republicans, Let's Play Grown-Up -

Here's a nice phrase from Peggy Noonan:

"Comment-thread conservatives, like their mirror-image warriors on the left ('Worst person in the woooorrrlllddd!') are perpetually agitated, permanently enraged."

Kashgar to be Bulldozered as China Destroys History

As China destroys its culture, Hong Kong proves that its people care | Simon Jenkins | Comment is free | The Guardian:

Reports from Beijing indicate that 65,000 houses, dating in layers back over two millennia, are decrepit and at risk from earthquakes. They will be cleared and their native Uighur inhabitants forcibly removed from the maze of alleys, mud-brick walls, courtyard houses and 40 mosques to new estates five miles from the city. Already the city walls and moat have gone. Now the old city itself is coming down, with only a zone to be rebuilt 'in Uighur style' for the million tourists who visit Kashgar in search of silk road romance. They will be shown what a local official calls 'an international heritage scenery'.

I taught Chinese History for 4 years at Brooklyn College. Since then, every time I have talked to people who have been to China they have said all they saw was "new stuff".

Most of the damage was probably dine during the Cultural Revolution, but Chinese Capitalism is rapidly finishing the task.

Still, think on this. In 200 years time, even the fallen towers of Shenzhen will be "historic".

Obama: halt to new Israeli settlements is in America's security interests

Obama: halt to new Israeli settlements is in America's security interests | World news | The Guardian

Yesterday the Israeli government spokesman, Mark Regev, said Netanyahu will defy the White House call by continuing construction in existing settlements.

The Israeli government apparently think Obama is an instrument that can be played (read the various opinion articles in Ha'aretz).

Obama, meanwhile, knows 57% of Jewish Israelis want a two state solution.

And he has more cards than Netanyahu.

Faith : Will the Antichrist be a homosexual? - Frontiersman

Faith : Will the Antichrist be a homosexual? - Frontiersman:

"Will the Antichrist be a homosexual?"

This is apparently a major question in Wasilla, Alaska, and all the biblical arguments are give.

Via Andrew Sullivan

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Todd Palin Offered to Buy Daughter Bristol a Car If She’d Dump Levi Johnston

Todd Palin Offered to Buy Daughter Bristol a Car If She’d Dump Levi Johnston -- Daily Intel -- New York News Blog -- New York Magazine

Wow. This is a New York magazine report on an upcoming GQ story.

The picture shows just why Bristol slept with Levi!

Damian Thompson and the so-called hate mail from LGCM

Anti-Catholic 'hate mail'from the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement :: Damian Thompson

More unsolicited material in my inbox today from the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, including a mocked-up photograph of the Holy Father next to the Rev Fred Phelps, the vile American bigot whose slogan is 'God hates fags' and who claims that 'most Jews are fags or fag enablers'.

I've written before about this disgraceful photograph (above), only to be greeted with whining from 'Catholic' gay activists. Well, since the LGCM is part of the grievance industry, I've decided to adopt its own tactics.

The Pope/Phelps image is anti-Catholic hate material, in my opinion, since it compares Benedict XVI to a despicable and deranged extremist. The message it sends to Catholics, including gay ones, is unpleasant and arguably constitutes harassment.

What libel?

Time and time again, especially in the US, physical attacks on LGBT people are justified by the attackers through reference to religious authorities.

The issue is especially clear with Catholicism, since its elaborate effort to derive the "disorder" of homosexuality from defunct Platonic and Aristotelian views on finality makes no sense. Catholic youths when they attack can hardly be expected to know the ins and outs of the somewhat "philosophy" behind the statements.

Meanwhile a huge percentage of the Catholic clergy are gay. When I was interviewed after applying to Allen Hall in 1987, I went through all the tests, and was honest. After we all saw Cardinal Hume, 13 of us candidates met in a pub near Archbishops house. Only 1 of the 13 candidates(admittedly the most handsome) was straight.

I myself went off to do a Ph.D. in the USA. But I have no reason to doubt that a huge percentage of the clergy are gay.

Without them the Church in England and Wales would collapse.

There is even a place in Lourdes for gay clergy to meet.

Catholics like Damian, who publish just as many gay writers as The Tablet, know all this, but expect it to be kept hidden.

MU vs. Barça : Capitalism vs. Socialism

Barcelona have a big edge over Manchester United in that they will never be for sale | Football | The Guardian

Manchester United versus Barcelona is a dream final for the romantic, two great clubs sharing traditions of skill and panache – yet the broader values they embody seem now to spring from opposing visions of the sport. On one side of Stadio Olimpico tomorrow will be Barça, 'mes que un club' – more than a club – as the Catalan institution proclaims itself, bearing Unicef on the shirts, owned by 163,000 members. On the other will stand the famous Man United, soaked in history and tradition with AIG, the ultimate symbol of reckless financial speculation on their chests, and owned by the Glazers.


But, sadly, Barça did play better on the night.

No riots in Manchester though!

Prospects for June 5th - What Happens if UKIP gets More Votes than Labour?

I don't really like Guido Fawkes' blog, although of course I read it. His article today on likely efforts to oust PM Brown if there is a disaster next Thursday at local and European Parliament polls is a must read.

My reading of the current situation, though, is that the Tories might be in as much trouble. Certainly many working class people (i.e. the people I live among in my nice little council estate) seem annoyed at Brown, as do the left-wing commentariat I read daily. But people are now, which was not the case before, just as annoyed at the Tories, and it is the Daily Telegraph's Tory stories that have seemed to stick in the mind.

Although I have some - limited - human sympathy with Julie Kirkbride, David Cameron's support for her is probably reducing all the "fast acting superman" burnish he had built up.

And standing over all this is the Daily Telegraph's agenda, which is now dominated by its desire to drive the news, but also, perhaps, an awareness that it's stories are not leading TV news or other papers every day at the moment. Not even the Daily Mail today. It will probably try to pull out something big in the next week to impact the European elections.

I don't subscribe to the view that the Daily Telegraph necessarily wants to promote UKIP (and certainly not the BNP); but I do speculate that it's owners are enjoying screwing around with the political elite.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Gawker on "England's" Collapsing Political System

Gawker - The Reclusive Billionaire Twins Who Shut Down a Member of Parliament's Blog - Barclay brothers

You may not have noticed, but England's political system is collapsing right about now under the weight of cinematic scandal. The latest news is that a pair of diabolical billionaire identical twins have succeeded in censoring the blog of a hysterical Minister of Parliament whose political views they oppose.

Nadine Dorries is an MP from Bedfordshire, about 55 miles north of London. Last week, she wrote a post on her blog suggesting that the Barclay Brothers, who own the London Daily Telegraph, have deliberately engineered the expenses scandal currently engulfing the nation's Parliament for their own political gain. Lawyers for the Daily Telegraph succeeded in getting Dorries' ISP to shut down her blog under England's strict libel laws. The blog has since re-emerged with the offending post purged. Imagine Rupert Murdoch successfully shutting down Maxine Waters' blog and you get the idea.

Interesting article. It gets confused, however, when it claims on MP claimed "$2,600 for a 'duck moat'"!


The Daily Telegraph's decision to drip out individual MPs expenses day-by-day, extending the scandal and increasing newspaper sales, has added to the sense of crisis. And some, including Dorries, have questioned the motives of the Barclay brothers, identical twins David and Frederick. The reclusive real estate billionaires, who recently expanded into the newspaper business, live in a castle on a private island (pictured) near the British isle of Sark, where they built hotels and restaurants. But they have threatened to pull up stakes after their preferred candidates lost local elections late last year.


But it was Dorries' theory about the Telegraph's motives that led the Barclays to shut down her blog. Last Thursday, she accused the twins of launching "a deliberate course to destabilise Parliament" because they are skeptics of the European Union. The scandal has hurt the Labor and Conservative parties, she wrote, leaving England's smaller anti-EU parties unscathed: "Rumour is that they are fiercely Euro sceptic and do not feel that either of the main parties are Euro sceptic enough. They have set upon a deliberate course to destabilise Parliament, with the hope that the winners will be UKIP and BNP." What's more, she wrote, "the disc was never acquired and sold by an amateur, but it was in fact a long term undercover operation run by the Telegraph for some considerable time, carefully planned and executed; and that the stories of the naive disc nabber ringing the news desk in an attempt to sell the stolen information are entirely the work of gossip and fiction."

Of course all this might be nonesense, but Gawker seems happy to repeat it.

Canada's New National Dish : Move Over Poutine

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | Canada's governor eats seal heart

Canada's governor general, Michaelle Jean, has helped to butcher and eat a seal in an apparent act of solidarity with hunters.

Ms Jean used a traditional Inuit knife to help gut the animal then ate a slice of raw heart.

It came weeks after the EU voted to ban Canadian seal products, but Ms Jean did not say if her actions were in response to the EU proposals.

An EU spokeswoman said the story was 'too bizarre to acknowledge'.

Via Wonkette

Why academics make better bloggers than journalists

Felix Salmon : Blog Archive : Why academics make better bloggers than journalists | Blogs |

Good point.

Via Andrew Sullivan.

BBC Poetry Season Poem

TIME does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side, 5
And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year’s bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide!

There are a hundred places where I fear
To go,—so with his memory they brim! 10
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, “There is no memory of him here!”
And so stand stricken, so remembering him!

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892–1950). Renascence and Other Poems. 1917.
19. “Time does not bring relief; you all have lied”
Sonnet II

Feasting on Hatred

MPs? Well, I can't trust anyone. Not even you | Daniel Finkelstein - Times Online

The British public is feasting on hatred. One minute it's estate agents, then bankers or foreigners. Who will be next?

Good point.

Gay people need to keep their heads down. What if the Barclays and the Daily Mail turn on us again?

[At least Rupert Murdoch's papers have given up gay-baiting.]

Johann Hari Gets Real about David Cameron

Johann Hari: Why are we silent as Cameron preaches voodoo economics? - Johann Hari, Commentators - The Independent

Great article. Some snips.

Main question - how many houses does David Cameron own?

A series of disturbing facts have leeched out about David Cameron over the past fortnight – but they have been virtually unreported. The Tory leader has started advocating a form of economics so extreme it was derided even by the first George Bush as 'voodoo economics', and revealed he is so out of touch with ordinary people he doesn't even know how many houses he owns. We failed for years to expose the MPs' expenses scam. Isn't it time for journalists to pull the news agenda out of Douglas Hogg's moat and start exposing the facts about Cameron that will affect us even more bitterly than the stench from the Fees Office?

Let's start with a tiny story, that points to a bigger untold tale. A few days ago, the Leader of the Opposition was asked how many homes he owns. "I own a house in North Kensington and... in the constituency in Oxfordshire and that is, as far as I know, all I have," he said. He then started to get confused, said he might own four homes after all, and pleaded: "Do not make me sound like a prat for not knowing how many houses I've got." Imagine if Neil Kinnock said this in 1991. Do you think you might have heard?

The fact that David and Samantha Cameron are worth an almost-entirely-inherited £30m, according to financial expert Philip Beresford, isn't in itself damning. Franklin Roosevelt was very rich, but became a great crusader for the poor. But Cameron is advocating policies that will benefit his tiny class of super-rich Trustafarians at the expense of the rest of us. He is committed to spending billions on a massive tax cut for the richest inheritees, paid for by the bottom 94% of us – and now he has announced his enthusiasm for a bogus economic theory that will justify shovelling far more of our money their way.

Why the Prop 8 Decision in California Turns Out to Be a Pro-Gay Rights Win

The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

One of Andrew Sullivan's readers actually read the opinion. It's not that bad.

Have been through the Prop 8 opinion and dissents. It appears that this is a blockbuster pro-gay-rights decision, restricting the effect of Prop 8 to the effect of removing the designation of gay civil unions as 'marriage,' but upholding all equal rights previously declared by the Court; and, suggesting that if the opponents of gay rights were to try to restrict equal union rights for gays by constitutional change, such change would be an Amendment (not a revision) and thus would be procedurally much more difficult to accomplish.

D-Day snub to Queen: Palace fury as Sarkozy refuses to invite royals to 65th Anniversary - and Brown won't act | Mail Online

D-Day snub to Queen: Palace fury as Sarkozy refuses to invite royals to 65th Anniversary - and Brown won't act | Mail Online

Buckingham Palace voiced anger last night after the French snubbed the Queen over next week's D-Day commemorations.

Aides said senior royals had repeatedly made clear their eagerness to support the historic 65th anniversary events in Normandy.

But last night French officials crushed any remaining hopes, admitting they had never had any plans to invite members of the British Royal Family.

They said President Nicolas Sarkozy was focused on the 'main event' of hosting U.S. President Barack Obama.

There was also anger at the British Government for failing to secure a Royal invitation from their French counterparts. Protocol means they cannot simply invite themselves.

The failure to invite the Queen - who is head of state of both Britain and Canada - will be seen as an insult to the memory of the 17,556 British and 5,316 Canadian troops who died to free France and are buried there.

Sarko seems to be acting badly here. But perhaps it's due to Hollywood. After all from American war films you would never guess the UK played a role in fighting the Nazis.

And for Americans of course, Canada simply does not exist.

The Guardian Goes After the Telegraph on Free Speech Issues

The internet – a threat to free speech?

The closure of Nadine Dorries's blog simply on suspicion of defamation demonstrates that it's time for a reform of libel laws

It's probably not the best time to be seen defending an MP, but here goes. Conservative MP Nadine Dorries has been pilloried for likening the Daily Telegraph's handling of the MPs' expenses story to "torture" – drip-feeding information and keeping MPs waiting nervously by the phone each morning, awaiting the dreaded call. On her blog, Dorries questioned the motives of the Telegraph and its owners, the ­Barclay brothers, in this tactic.

The Daily Telegraph objected to Dorries' allegations that it may not have been acting entirely in the public interest. As the Conservative blogger Dizzy reported, the Barclays were upset by the Tory MP's claim that they had a political interest in driving people away from mainstream parties, a claim dismissed as "nonsense" in a letter to Dorries from their solicitors, Withers, demanding the removal of the "defamatory material".

Archbishop Cramner joins in the attack on the Barclay Brothers here

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


It's hard to explain this web accessory, but it lets you make your own kind of music.


Via Andrew Sullivan

Wired Magazine Fails to Understand Socialism

The New Socialism: Global Collectivist Society Is Coming Online

Bill Gates once derided open source advocates with the worst epithet a capitalist can muster. These folks, he said, were a 'new modern-day sort of communists,' a malevolent force bent on destroying the monopolistic incentive that helps support the American dream. Gates was wrong: Open source zealots are more likely to be libertarians than commie pinkos. Yet there is some truth to his allegation. The frantic global rush to connect everyone to everyone, all the time, is quietly giving rise to a revised version of socialism.

David Cameron, Leadership, and the European Union

David Cameron today has been hailed for the "leadership" of speech on a new political deal. But he ducked the central crack in his party's internal politics - the European Union.

Who in the Tory Party is willing to Defend the EU? Ken Clarke seems willing, but the rest of leadership, including Cameron just waffle. Above all, I doubt they want an election now - an election in October after the Irish have approved the Lisbon Treaty would in all probability suit them fine.

I once had some sympathy with the left wing/Bennite critique of the EU - i.e. that it represents a supranational power that cannot properly be controlled withing the parameters of representative democracy because the "European-wide Electorate" does not exist given the language and historical divergences of the Continent.

But now I think a wider historical perspective is worthwhile. After an 1600 year history of more or less continuous warfare, Europe achieved a high degree of peace and stability after the Congress of Vienna in 1815. But that Concert of Europe" was unable to deal the rising power of Germany, which initiated three major wars in 1870, 1914, and 1939.

The European Union has improved on the Concert of Europe by tying the continent together economically, and by spreading and maintaining a human rights agenda which has indeed given minorities protections they lacked in the narrow ethnic Nation-States of the 19th century.

Indeed, it has become one of the major engines of peace, prosperity, and co-operation in world history.

I can quite understand why educated Tories such as Cameron support it, but I find it annoying that neither they nor most Labour politicians will openly praise the EU for what it has achieved. Here all the heavy lifting is done by the LibDems (plus SNP and PC I suppose.)

I am quite willing to have a straight up and down referendum on "staying in Europe/leaving Europe" with a six month serious campaign.

Cameron's refusal to defend an EU that he actually seems to agree with seems to me to indicate his basic weakness as a leader.

UPDATE: I originally wrote "Charles Clarke" when I meant "Ken Clarke." Oops.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Telegraph Runs a Pointless "MPs' Expenses Story"

MP's expenses: Dennis Watts, husband of MP Meg Munn, paid for tax advice by ministers - Telegraph

This story does not seem to be a major ethical problem in any way I can see.

Perhaps the Daily Telegraph is holding back big stories to keep up the suspense, but if this is all they have now, they are scraping the barrel.

Why Posts on American Idol and Drag?

I began English Eclectic not as a political blog as such, nor as a religious blog, nor as a gay blog. It's meant to represent an integrated (or perhaps completely disintegrated) view of life.

I don't think that thinking about drag acts, sculpture by Michelangelo, and the best way to run a country are separate and distinct ways of thinking. I'm not always sure of the connections, but I would suggest this; if in a hundred years time someone wanted wanted to reconstruct what sort of person I am/was, and the things I am/was interested in, they will be able to do it better from this blog than from the thousands of other things I have written.

I don't want to make the sacred profane, but I do see sacredness in profane things.

Best Drag Acts on YouTube

Simon Cowell called drag the lowest form of entertainment on Britain's Got Talent tonight.

I love drag, and some of the best drag recordings from old style drag acts, mostly from London in the 1980s and 1990s, but some from elsewhere.

1. Maise Trollette and Phil- You don't have to say you love me
Great old-fashioned drag

2. Dave Dale - I am What I am
Sheer brilliance

3. Judy Garland Tribute Artist - Peter Mac

4. Craig Russell - Judy Garland and her "son" Liza

5. Jim Baily - Judy Garland "I could go on singing" [2007]

6. Adrella - Liza Minnelli [at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern]

7. Lily Savage - Final Performance Part 1

8. Regina Fong - Typewriter Song [Black Cap Dec 1992]

9. Mimosa - Comme ils disent [What makes a man a man]
Cf Aznavour (English)
and (French)
and Liza
and Aggy Dune

10 Regina Fong - Hollywood, Danny LaRue - [ at the Black Cap, Camden Town]
Regina used both wit and tapes. She did not just do mime.


Aggy Dune and Darienne Lake - Mommy Dearest

I'll add others as per any comments.

'Michelangelo' Crucifix Debate

BBC NEWS | World | Europe | Controversy over "Michelangelo" sculpture

The Italian art world is in a messy 'is it or isn't it' debate over a wooden sculpture that may or may not have been made by Michelangelo.

Standing just 40cm (16 inches) high, it depicts Christ on the Cross, but leading art experts simply cannot agree who made it.

This is not a tale about fakery or imitation - everyone says the statue is a Renaissance piece of art from around 1495, when Michelangelo would have been 20.

But who actually crafted it? That is the question.

The controversy has been rekindled because of a new exhibition in Naples to display the cross, which incidentally has itself disappeared somewhere in antiquity, leaving the figure of Christ these days hanging mid-air connected to a sheet of transparent plastic.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Not Everyone Can Be A "Knowledge" Worker

The Case for Working With Your Hands -

High-school shop-class programs were widely dismantled in the 1990s as educators prepared students to become “knowledge workers.” The imperative of the last 20 years to round up every warm body and send it to college, then to the cubicle, was tied to a vision of the future in which we somehow take leave of material reality and glide about in a pure information economy. This has not come to pass. To begin with, such work often feels more enervating than gliding. More fundamentally, now as ever, somebody has to actually do things: fix our cars, unclog our toilets, build our houses.

This article, by Matthew Crawford, a motorcycle mechanic who also has a Ph.D. is wonderfully thought provoking.

Shameful Israeli Action in East Jerusalem

Armed Israeli police close theatre on first night of Palestinian festival | World news |

Armed Israeli police last night tried to halt the opening night of a prominent Palestinian literary festival in Jerusalem when they ordered a Palestinian theatre to close.

The week-long festival, supported by the British council and Unesco, has brought several high-profile international authors – among them Henning Mankell, Michael Palin and Ahdaf Soueif – on a speaking tour of Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Shortly before the opening event was due to begin, a squad of around a dozen Israeli border police walked into the Palestinian National Theatre, in east Jerusalem, and ordered it to be closed.

Police brought a letter from the Israeli minister of internal security which said the event could not be held because it was a political activity connected to the Palestinian Authority.

Members of the audience and the eight speakers were ordered to leave, but the event was held several minutes later, on a smaller scale, in the garden of the nearby French Cultural Centre.

Israeli police were deployed on the street outside.

I tried to heck this, but neither Ha'aretz nor the Jerusalem Post have reports on this as I post.

The Mail Gets Upset

Mole who blew whistle on MP expenses is a swashbuckler with a £7million trail of debt | Mail Online

His money problems suggest he badly needed the reputed £100,000 he was paid for the Commons expense claims, which were originally touted to newspapers - not including The Mail on Sunday - for up to £350,000.

The Mail seems upset not to have been offered the disks.

Kris vs. Adam. I Thought Adam the Better Singer, but Kris was Sexier

"American Idol's"; bigger message - Los Angeles Times

The two-part finale of hit series 'American Idol,' which begins tonight, is the most talked-about thing in television right now, partly because this season's contenders, Adam Lambert and Kris Allen, are exciting performers. But it's also because they have done something unexpected: Their unlikely friendship has presented America with a new vision of itself, beyond the deepest divisions of the culture wars.

Lambert is a rocker from the liberal urban Southland with roots in musical theater and the Hollywood club scene. Allen is a collegiate evangelical Christian from Arkansas. Lambert has been compared to Queen's Freddie Mercury and Elvis Presley; Allen recalls John Mayer and the Jonas Brothers.

Anyone else willing to deviate from gay orthodoxy.

But Adam should have won since it was singing contest, not a "best time in my imagination" contest.

Beneath a British Scandal, Deeper Furies -

Beneath a British Scandal, Deeper Furies -

LONDON — To speak of a “political revolution” in Britain would seem chimerical were it not for the number of times the possibility has been raised these days, in precisely those terms, by politicians and the London-based commentariat. Suddenly, the talk is of a political system grown petrified, and in urgent need of a root-and-branch overhaul that restores the accountability of politicians — and of the government — to the people.

John Burns is one the best NY Times reporters, and this piece, slightly removed because it's by a sympathetic but well informed non-Brit, deserves reading.

I think he is very right about the "high-handedness" of the operations of power here in the UK.

My experience in the US was that, although "first contact" government officials could be either charming or sullen, the higher up the chain of command you went, the more commitment one found to a deliberate ethic of public service.

Here in the UK, for example in an area I have expressed an interest in, dealing with local managerial level NHS administrators is a nightmare, where "they know best" and "consultations" are permitted after decisions have already been made.

I do not believe in revolutions, but I do not find that after twelve years of Labour government, any real improvements. Indeed the notions of a social-work jargon speaking so-called meritocratic elite, and their obsessions with "aspiration" and "market efficiencies" seem to have infected many areas of life, and, truth be told, many "Third Sector" charities.

What we need to do is gradually, and on a "provisionally good enough" basis, is to remove this class of people from power.

Frank Rich - La Cage aux Democrats

Op-Ed Columnist - La Cage aux Democrats -

“This is a civil rights moment,” Wolfson said, “and Obama has not yet risen to it.” Worse, Obama’s opposition to same-sex marriage is now giving cover to every hard-core opponent of gay rights, from the Miss USA contestant Carrie Prejean to the former Washington mayor Marion Barry, each of whom can claim with nominal justification to share the president’s views.

In reality, they don’t. Obama has long been, as he says, a fierce advocate for gay equality. The Windy City Times has reported that he initially endorsed legalizing same-sex marriage when running for the Illinois State Senate in 1996. The most common rationale for his current passivity is that his plate is too full. But the president has so far shown an impressive inclination both to multitask and to argue passionately for bedrock American principles when he wants to. Relegating fundamental constitutional rights to the bottom of the pile until some to-be-determined future seems like a shell game.

Bravo to Frank Rich, who has long been the most outspoken straight supporter of lesbian and gay people in the US press.

Student Consumers

Your dog's died? Have an A-level then | David Mitchell | Comment is free | The Observer

Now that students are paying customers, maybe they expect Club 18-30 levels of drink and sex, plus extra-soft, double-quilted PhDs to wipe their learned arses on. But, even if you provide that, you're still going to get some whingeing. I remember from my college days that not all 18- to 22-year-olds are gutsy, roll-up-their-sleeves-and-get-on-with-it troupers with overdeveloped senses of gratitude and a horror of appearing self-involved.


How Long Does it Take?

CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

Alexander Cockburn asks a good question.

How long does it take a mild-mannered, antiwar, black professor of constitutional law, trained as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago, to become an enthusiastic sponsor of targeted assassinations, “decapitation” strategies and remote-control bombing of mud houses the far end of the globe?