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30 January 2004

All Hutton, All the Time

The Guardian's daily comment section today has a total of nine comment articles and every one is about the Hutton inquiry, the BBC, the Government's response to the Hutton inquiry or the response of David Kelly's friends and family to the Hutton inquiry. And a Guardian poll shows that three times as many Britons believe the BBC than believe the government. So, there, Tone, gloat all you want.

29 January 2004

Sidney Blumenthal on the Democratic presidential campaign

In full voice against Bush, in the Guardian, is Blumenthal's latest update on the state of the early days of the 2004 presidential campaign. He sees Democrats finally coalescing around the idea of defeating Bush on the issues. Here's a quote:
"Clark insisted on being drafted to run by a committee that had been created for that purpose. He wanted to be seen as Olympian, above politics and embodying the will of a postwar nation. But he had to struggle through a gruelling primary contest. Fatefully, he decided not to go to Iowa, allowing Kerry to outflank Howard Dean there. The elements that Clark sought to assemble were held by others: Kerry owned electability; John Edwards, southern identity; and Dean, the persona of the Washington outsider. A man of parts, Clark was left in pieces."

The 1984 Miners Strike - Then and Now

Here's more on the 1984 Miners Strike. This webpage is about a documentary in the making; it is based on the 20-year later follow-up by a guy who photographed a number of demonstrations and confrontations, who lived with the miners and was quite involved in their struggle, although as a journalist and therefore necessarily a bit of an outsider. He is now tracing down some of the people he grew close to during the strike to see what their lives have brought them in the intervening years, when twenty-nine out of every thirty mining jobs have disappeared.

The shadow of Iraq

Here is another scathing indictment of the process leading up to the Iraqi war, followed by a suspicious look at the Hutton report (these seem to be filling up the news spaces just now, with the general verdict being that it is a whitewash) but this one has an added twist - a Northern Ireland connection.

Flu's deadly numbers game

I don't pretend to understand viruses, but I fear them. Here's an edited quote:
'The big concern now is fast-track mutation: that a person carrying a human flu virus also catches avian flu. If that happens, the viruses can trade genes leading, in the worst case, to a lethal and highly infectious virus, which no one has immunity to. . . Mixing avian and human flu viruses - a process called "antigenic shift" - to produce a particularly nasty version can happen without both viruses getting into humans. Pigs can catch flu from humans and birds, making them effective mixing pots. . . One difficulty is understanding what genetic changes could make avian flu virus a global killer. The virus could need genes to make it replicate more rapidly, so you cough or sneeze more virus out. It could need genes that make you sneeze harder or more often. "It's really the $1bn question," says Jacqueline Katz of the US Centres for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta. "We really don't understand what would make it transmissible between humans." '

the Jeds: annual West Wing fanfiction awards

Some of you may know that I am a major West Wing fan. I suffered terribly from moving to the UK, where West Wing broadcasts are patchy and unpredictable and always several years behind. Well, tonight, just now in fact, through a venerable women's mailing list I am on and LiveJournal, where many of the women hang out, I just discovered the wonderful world of West Wing fanfiction. The woman on my mailing list who writes this stuff is one of these winning authors. Oh, boy, this will keep me busy for weeks.

The solitary gerbil of the apocalypse

The sexing up of absolutely everything, by Catherine Bennett of the Guardian, sums up what a lot of us are feeling today. Blair was "staring into the abyss" and suddenly now he is strutting and preening himself and tongue-lashing all who dared to criticise him. Yeccchhh. What with the snow and all, I sort of want to go back to bed and pull the covers over my head.

28 January 2004

I confess! I leaked the Hutton Report!

When I went out (into the snow!) this morning and saw the headlines, Blair 'furious' at Hutton leak, I knew I was in big trouble. Just because they know about the Hutton report website in California is no reason to report it in Great Britain. The Sun only leaked the story a half day before the official report, but I leaked it the previous night! Oh, wait, I think my link didn't actually have the Hutton report itself. It does now, though.

27 January 2004

Hutton Inquiry Web Site

Ya gotta love the way the UK does these things. All your questions are answered at the Hutton Inquiry Web Site. (Note to Americans - this is not a joke. This is the actual government website. No, really.) Thanks to Joani - in California - for sending me this link. She wishes her own government was half this forthcoming on its "9-11" investigation.

A very radical idea from Zoe Williams.

Zoe Williams is one of my favourite Guardian columnists. Don't put mothers behind bars is her latest really radical yet surprisingly sensible idea.

Jesus' General

I just stumbled upon a really funny blog: Jesus's General (and a very manly blog, too, as it says.) How I saved five men from the fires of hell with nothing more than a fistful of serpents is, I presume, a typical post.

26 January 2004

US now in the hands of a group of extremists - Soros

In a follow-on from another article I posted about (the Bubble of American Supremacy), George Soros, writing in the Guardian, charges that a small group of extremists has control of the US government. The crux of his charge is this:

The US can lose its dominance only as a result of its own mistakes. At present the country is in the process of committing such mistakes because it is in the hands of a group of extremists whose strong sense of mission is matched only by their false sense of certitude.
This distorted view postulates that because we are stronger than others, we must know better and we must have right on our side. That is where religious fundamentalism comes together with market fundamentalism to form the ideology of American supremacy.

Religious controversy in Pakistan

Islam Online, one of a plethora of websites devoted to elements of Islamic culture and worship, reports in its news section the latest controversy over "moon sighting" in Pakistan. Since the Muslim calendar is lunar, and certain holy days depend upon a particular sighting of a new moon or full moon, there are specialist committees of Islamist scholars who make official declarations of the dates of feasts, the end of the Ramadan fast and such matters. In Pakistan, the secular meteorological office took it upon itself to "prematurely" announce the date of Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice (2 February, according to them.) This caused a furore at the Reut-E-Hilal committee, the religious officials in charge. But this body had apparently "dropped the ball" not long ago by failing to confirm the moon sighting to end the Ramadan fast, with the result that this was celebrated at two different times. Don't feel superior, Christians, until you read about the Council of Whitby and all the kerfuffle that occurred trying to get Ireland and England to celebrate Easter at the same time as the rest of Christendom. Sure, it was over 1000 years ago, but really, is the debate over the Ten Commandments in a courthouse or the ordination of female bishops any more seemly? Rather less, I should say.

25 January 2004

Blogkeeping

I finally got off my b*tt and did some more book reviews. I have been sort of keeping up with the intention to do a "word of the day" every day at Wordkeeper, my newest blog. Deborama's Kitchen has one new recipe and a few useful links for healthy foody things like Champion Juicers, which would be on my wish list if Amazon carried them. You see the list of recommended books down the left side there? I am going to change them for some different books soon, so be on the lookout. They won't really be gone, because most of them are reviewed at my book blog, or if not they will be.

Inspiring words for Sunday


Swami Dayananda, a.k.a., Bede Griffiths, Cam OSB

. . . The Grace of Christ and the Holy Spirit is offered to every human being from the beginning to the end of the world. Even if you have no religion, wherever you have love, kindness, unselfishness, friendliness, these things are the effects of divine grace in you. And if you have a religion, Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim or whatever, the grace of God in Christ is coming to you in the Holy Spirit in that religion. We are all sharing in this grace of God . . . But this grace can be totally invisible.

The truth about "No Child Left Behind"

Greg Palast was fired up at G W Bush's mention of the "no child left behind" pledge in his State of the Union address to write this scathing editorial.

You know and I know the testing is a con. There is no "better option" at the other end. The cash went to eliminate the inheritance tax, that special program to give every millionaire's son another million.
You know and I know that this is not an educational opportunity program - because you offer no opportunities, no hope, no plan, no funding. Rather, it is the new Republican social Darwinism, educational eugenics: identify the nation's loser-class early on. Trap them, then train them cheap.
No Child Left Behind is of one piece with the tax cuts for the rich, the energy laws for the insiders, the oil wars for the well-off. Someone has to care for the privileged. No society can have winners without lots and lots of losers.
Thanks to my non-blogging friend Joani for e-mailing this link.

24 January 2004

Twenty Years Ago Today

Channel 4 tonight screened a feature-length documentary about the 1984 miner's strike. (Warning: I think this link will change to something else very quickly.) Here is a website that covers an artist's project staging a re-enactment of the pivotal battle in the "civil war" that was the miner's strike - the failed attempt to close the coke-works at Orgreave in Yorkshire. And it looks like the BBC will have another documentary on the strike on the 27th.

A battle for control of the Sierra Club

How to Save the World's Dave Pollard has a recent post about four under-reported stories in the media, and I was particularly taken by the last one. It concerns a battle for the board of the Sierra Club that is pitting a new influx of anti-immigration activists and radical animal-rights activists against the longer-term, mainstream environmentalists and their new ally. Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The Five Deadly Worlds of Ikea

While browsing my blogroll, I came upon this at Whole Wide World of Fat Buddha - how to survive a trip to Ikea. It is insanely funny.

23 January 2004

Whew - that is a lot of work!

Yorkshire Soul has got a filmlist meme that he is passing on and then a booklist meme that he made up, inspired by the film one. I have contracted both of them, but I put them on my LiveJournal, instead of here. So go take a look if you're interested. (By the way, I have got to read Jennifer Government; it sounds really good.)

22 January 2004

Veiled threat

Jon Henley, writing in the Guardian, discusses the way the French ban on headscarves for Muslim schoolgirls may be about to backfire in a serious way. The original story was covered by this blog and a number of others.

These Crooks Today

Dwight, of Wampum, would like the people who spam him to take a little more pride in their work, if you don't mind . . .

Let Barlow Be Barlow

This, Hecklers at a Funeral, is the sort of thing I was hoping to get when I heard that John Perry Barlow was blogging. Now the poet comes out, and the heart is in his writing. A bit of background: Barlow was a good friend of Spalding Gray, who, in case you haven't heard, has disappeared, presumed dead of his own hand. After Barlow posted an elegy to Gray on his blog, he was subject to unfeeling attacks from several vicious trolls in the comment section. The link above is his response.

Sorry, I just couldn't resist it

This was bound to happen sooner or later, with the news channels running the unrelated tickertapes under main news stories. Both Eschaton and Apostropher had this before me . . .

21 January 2004

The Pig Who Sang to the Moon

Dave at How to Save the World has a review of Jeffrey Masson's latest book on the emotional lives of animals, The Pig Who Sang to the Moon. Masson's two previous books have dealt with wild animals and pets; this one is about farm animals, or, as he says they should more properly be called, farmed animals. Dave says it's a brilliant exercise in gentle persuasion toward a more vegetarian way of eating, or at least to a deeper awareness of the lives of the animals on farms.

20 January 2004

More coverage on Katharine Gun

The New York Times ran an op-ed by Bob Herbert on the story called A Single Conscience v. the State. This has been picked up by Common Dreams, via the Institute for Public Accuracy. A substantive update appeared briefly in several outlets, including the Scotsman, saying that a date was set for the trial on 16 February.

Too late for Martin Luther King Day

I should have posted this yesterday, but I only found it today. A series of interviews in the Duluth-Superior News Tribune of the adult children of famous civil rights activists shows that many of them carry on their parents' missions today. 'I thought everybody's daddy went to jail' is a quote from Cheryl Lowery-Osborne, the daughter of Joseph Lowery. Great article, well worth a read anytime.

Another article about racism towards the Roma

Britain as the deep south is the title of an article by Heaven Crawley which details the worsening situation of anti-traveller racism. Explanatory note for non-Brits: Gypsies or Romani people are commonly called Travellers in Britain; there are also non-Romani Travellers, usually called "new age travellers." Some of the discrimination that the Romani experience is also directed at new age Travellers and this fact is used to justify the excuse that anti-traveller prejudice is not racism. I think this is mere semantics; it is a cultural discrimination, it is, for want of a better word, tribalism. It doesn't matter what you call it, some of the actions arising from anti-traveller-ism are barbaric and truly on a par with anti-black vigilantism experienced in the US. This also reminds me forcefully of what was done (is still being done) to the Dine (Navaho) and Hopi people in the American Southwest; they were also forced into inappropriate housing that destroyed their chosen way of life and broke their culture.

News Flash: Army War College slams Global War on Terror plan

Back to Iraq 3.0 has this story, a now familiar point of view, but from a surprising new source, and a peculiarly well-informed one, at that. Peaceniks, get used to the idea of citing a US Army think tank to support your arguments.

19 January 2004

Iraqi war whistleblower Katharine Gun follow-up

Tristero and Juan Cole of Informed Comment have both picked up the story mentioned below. If anyone sees any other blogs mentioning it, could you let me know?

18 January 2004

Iraq war whistleblower faces trial

The Guardian Unlimited (the online edition) has this story, titled US stars hail Iraq war whistleblower, with today's dateline. The story is about Katharine Gun, a British former employee of GCHQ who is facing trial tomorrow for violating the Official Secrets Act. The official secret she violated is that of a US 'dirty tricks' operation to spy on the UN Security Council.

I was rather amazed that this story is not all over the blogosphere, let alone the mainstream media. The Guardian is almost the only Western media outlet to carry it, at least according to a Google News search. And who else is carrying it? Al Jazeera, Pravda and a Cuban newspaper are amongst the top hits. And this is despite the fact that her cause has the backing of a "star-studded solidarity drive". There is a short comment from the Guardian as well as the main story. I also did a basic Google search and found a few blogs and lefty sites covering the story, but none of the big hitters - not Buzzflash for instance.

Overrun in Atlanta, by Joel of Pax Nortona

I know! I know! I'm behind in my blogging. I knew (some) about the events in Atlanta on the 15th, but I didn't post anything then. And then I didn't even read blogs yesterday. So today I readPax Nortona's excellent post about it. It's a great image - Bush running scared from a small angry crowd, despite all his overwhelming protection, and then to cap it all - an all white Dixiecrat fundraiser in Atlanta. How does this guy get away with it?

16 January 2004

Sex and the Democrats

AlterNet has this story about the role that perceived manliness and sexiness plays in vote-getting. Apart from other questionable things about this interesting hypothesis, it doesn't have a thing to say about the electability of female candidates. All the stuff about nurturing fathers vs. strict fathers is very interesting, and the stuff about the crotch-padding of Bush's infamous flight suit is . . . disturbing. But it automatically raises questions in my mind - if this is all true, how does a woman have to be perceived to be elected? Experience would show, in Britain, that a "strict mother" figure works in similar situations to those calling for a strict father, and that a big handbag is symbolic and important, although I don't understand why. But will any of this translate to American? And how can I use it to advance my own private goal of seeing Chelsea Clinton in the White House (not as First Lady, either) in 2012?

15 January 2004

Iowa Death Trip

Steve Perry of the blog Bush Wars (also at Babelogue) has teamed up with Mark Gisleson to bring us a Minnesota radical's and a former Iowan's perspectives on the Iowa Caucuses. Should be good.

Mark Steel

If you live in Britain, you may enjoy the Mark Steel Lectures on the BBC. I just watched the first one, on Byron, on BBC Four. I love this guy; he is so funny, and I am a sucker for working class erudition. If you don't live in Britain, I guess you'll have to be content with the website.

Religion's sexual problems

Karen Armstrong, in an article titled The Eve of destruction, traces the origins of the constantly resurgent misogyny in most modern-day religions. It's not as simple as you probably think.
Quote on Islam:
The Prophet Mohammed, for example, was anxious to emancipate women and they were among his first converts. . . There is nothing in the Koran about the veiling of all women or their confinement in harems. This practice came into Islam some three or four generations after the Prophet, under the influence of the Greek Christians of Byzantium, who had long covered and secluded their women in this way.
Quote on Christianity:
Jesus . . . and St Paul had women disciples. They did not ordain them as priests, because there was no Christian priesthood until the third century. The early Christians espoused a revolutionary egalitarianism; a priestly hierarchy was too reminiscent of Judaism and paganism, which they were beginning to leave behind. Those who today condemn women's ordination as a break with tradition should be aware that priesthood and episcopacy are themselves innovations that depart from the practice of the primitive church.

I have further thoughts, too, on this article, which is sparked by the looming possibility of a breakaway Anglican "wing" which only allows male priests. There are still (and probably always will be) some things about the British psyche that are totally impenetrable to me. Quite a number of them have to do with the Anglican church. This is a country that is almost aggressively secular, not compared to France, obviously, but certainly compared to the US. Less than 10% of nominally Christian Britons are churchgoers or practitioners of any religious devotions such as prayer or meditation. Yet the Anglican church, due to Establisment of Religion, wields enormous if narrowly-channeled power. That's why this ongoing controversy over the ordination of women and female bishops really puzzles me. My own church in the US (United Methodists) is far more conservative on many social and "lifestyle" issues than the centre of the Anglican church in the UK, and yet has had female bishops for decades. The UMC had one major schism in the 19th century over slavery, and has been threatened with another over "reconciling" with gays and lesbians, but the ordination of women was relatively serene, and they (the women) are now some of the most popular and influential bishops. So what accounts for the Anglican hysteria? Misogyny? God forbid!

What have the Arabs ever done for us?

So asked daytime talk show presenter "Kilroy", in a now controversial newspaper article. And Guardian columnist Derek Brown is telling him what. Of course, historically the Arabs are the inventors of zero and algebra, and are the discoverers of much astronomical knowledge and many chemical processes. At their cultural peak, they were artists, writers and architects of far greater skill and taste than Europeans of the day. But many people who know these facts, even if Kilroy doesn't, have no idea of the richness of Arab culture today, in such areas as poetry and prose, calligraphy, ceramics and architecture.

14 January 2004

Last Copter Out of Baghdad by Rick Perlstein

This Village Voice article by Rick Perlstein shows why some commentators are calling the Iraqi war "Vietnam on crack".

13 January 2004

If you are up for a really good think . . .

you could do worse than read Philosoraptor's latest post, which is concerned with a David Brooks article about neo-conservatives and the "great unhinging". It's long, but worth it.

Google for fun and profit

One of the great things about the Guardian Online is that its articles, like this one, are really helpful and practical. This one is all about Google, including how to make it work for you.

12 January 2004

Re-branding Bolton?

In the Guardian today, Tristram Hunt, in an article titled Industrial evolution, discusses the changing public perceptions of the industrial revolution, from the "wilderness of dirty brick" and the "filth and ugliness" described by J. B. Priestley in the 1930s to the new image of the genesis of modern, prosperous Britain. The Big Pit in Blaenavon, Derwent Valley Mills and New Lanark are just some of the "dirty bricks" that have gained the status of "world heritage sites" and many other less famous sites are popular attractions; also prized nowadays are the industrial landscapes and portraits of heroes of the Industrial Revolution by artist Joseph Wright. So, it sounds like Bolton is missing the boat, culturally speaking, by a recent move to revert to its pre-industrial name of "Bolton-le-Moors" to give it "a fresh, environmentally friendly feel and help to attract business." Better to try to become a world heritage site, and celebrate its northern grittiness. (The article is an excerpt from Hunt's new book, Building Jerusalem: The Rise and Fall of the Victorian City.)

Which Enterprise Character Are You?

You're T'Pol. You are very analytical and logical, as any good Vulcan is, but this makes you stick out like a sore thumb. You're cold and calculated, but there's a softer side to you that you tend to keep under wraps.

Take the Enterprise Quiz!

Brought to you by redanubis.

11 January 2004

Definition of the day

Via e-mail, from a self-styled libertarian:
lib·er·tar·i·an n. - A gun-toting economist on drugs.

The Truth about the Rosenbergs

This is from Zeek: A Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture. It's a review of a book by the Rosenbergs' son, Robert Meeropol, in which he does not claim to know "the truth", but rather explains his own "agnostic" stance on their innocence and how his experience has formed his character as an activist.
If you want to buy An Execution in the Family: One Son's Journey, click here to buy it from my store (only in the UK and Europe).

US father in 'Private Ryan' plea as son is killed in Iraq

From today's Observer, and also added to the "Special Reports" on the Iraq War. I don't have a comment on this; just read it. It's another sad war story.

Labour Website of the Year

Vote for the Labour Website of the Year over at LabourStart. And thanks to the Mad Prophet, fellow anarcho-syndicalist, for this link.

10 January 2004

Are You A Blogaholic?

I took this test to find out Am I A Blogaholic? My results said: "60 points is in the 51 through 80 precent.[sic] You are a dedicated weblogger. You post frequently because you enjoy weblogging a lot, yet you still manage to have a social life. You're the best kind of weblogger. Way to go!" Thanks to The Whole Wide World of Fat Buddha for the link.

How do they find me?

I have, I am ashamed to admit, indulged in one of those inevitable blogging vanity exercises, and gone through the "referrals" section of my site meter reports with a fine-tooth comb. I even compiled a sample of the results in a document. A few interesting things came to light. My daughter is named Aimee, one of my nephews is named Tyler, and they were standing next to each other in this family reunion picture, which is on my personal page. I didn't know there was a popular porn star named Aimee Tyler, but this has garnered me a lot of glimpses from searchers looking for a bit of skin. (As will this post, now I come to think of it.) I already get a few looking for "sex", because that word is in my blog description. On a more serious note, I was surprised how many people come my way looking for book reviews, and occasionally restaurant reviews, even though I haven't done any of the latter.

09 January 2004

How the Brits feel about the new visa requirements in the US . . .

and Homeland Security/Patriot Act issues generally. This post on LiveJournal has really touched a chord with the British, but it needs to get out in the blogosphere of American blogs. Thanks to Not You, the Other One for pointing me to this post.

Camp Delta Seven of Nine to be Returned to UK

No, I don't mean Jeri Ryan. (How's that for sexing up the blog?)
The Guardian reports that seven of the nine British detainees in Camp Delta will now almost definitely be returned to the UK as remaining legal hurdles are cleared.

08 January 2004

Barlow and his big mouth

Unless you are a deadhead or a musicologist or a student of early internet communities, you will not have heard of John Perry Barlow; I am the first and the third, to a small degree, so I have. Therefore, when I read in All the Pages Are My Days that JPB had started a blog, I clicked onto it eagerly. And discovered a hornet's nest. The guy has been in the blogosphere less than a month and already he is the right's favourite political football! Catch it in midstream at "Narcissism and the American Left", by Armed and Dangerous. The statement that aroused the storm of debate was:
"We can't afford to lose this one, folks. If we do, we'll have to set our watches back 60 years. If they even let us have watches in the camps, that is." (Safire Takes A Shot At Us, by BarlowFriendz)
I actually agree with a LOT of what the original post in Armed and Dangerous is saying. Don't get me wrong, I still love JPB as a poet (and they call him an internet uberexpert too, but I don't think that actually requires technical or real-world brilliance), and no one is saying his heart ain't in the right place (on the left, yep, right where it belongs) but the essay pushed a lot of buttons for me. As you may or may not know, I have been in and out of leftist political movements since 1970, and the two things that always drive me crazy and drive me out are : 1) the way polemicists, mostly male, always pull the "ooh I'm such a criminal rebel, the establishment is scared of me and I'm going to be disappeared soon" routine and 2) the way the SWP or even less savoury groups take over everything just as it's growing big.
Looking back at JPB's statement, I say two things. First, there were so many better ways he could have finished that sentence "If we do, . . ." He could have referred to America's eroding image in the rest of the civilised world, to the lurking unsustainability in the economy, to the corruption in corporate circles or to the mostly hidden plight of the poor. To suggest that the greatest threat the Bush admin poses is to wealthy technocrat liberal big-mouths like himself is tragically solipsistic. Second, why 60 years? That would be 1943-44, really a heyday for leftist intellectuals. It bespeaks a certain ignorance of history I have come to expect in so-called intelligentsia of the hippie school. It makes the few of us who care about such things look bad by association.

Guardian tries to read minds, gets award for bad journalism

What a difference a word makes! As reported in Andrew Sullivan, the Guardian had a moment of insane irresponsibility and published the following sentence:
"The killing of Reuters cameraman Mazen Dana, who was shot dead by US troops in August for filming outside an Iraqi prison, provoked outrage."
As one would expect, this statement has also provoked outrage, mainly amongst the American military. Consider if the word "for" had been changed to "while". Does this highlight why I say the sentence is irresponsible? How can a journalist know what a soldier shoots someone "for"? A blog called "Iraq Now", authored by a soldier, makes this reasonable point:
"Here's a news flash for you guys: Mazen Dana was killed when he went downrange during a firefight, turned around, hefted something on his shoulder, and foolishly aimed it in the direction of a tank's gunnery optics."
Well, yeah, exactly. I was halfway trained in journalism in the early 1970s (before I changed my major for the third time out of seven.) None of the ethics and standards that I learned at that time are in evidence today, even in the world's highest rated publications. It makes me ill sometimes.

07 January 2004

Monarchy

I have been waiting to catch an Outside the Beltway Traffic Jam Linkfest to do this post about the true Monarch of Great Britain. Just because I want people to know about this, because it's cool.
I saw this show on Channel 4 narrated by Tony Robinson (Baldrick in Blackadder and the presenter of Time Team.) The website has the amazing genealogy that he created to track down who is the real successor to the throne, if his theory that Edward III was illegitimate is correct, and if all other "rules" about succession were followed. The most amazing thing about it is who the true monarch turns out to be: a very personable Earl who lives in Australia and is called "the Pom" rather than the Earl of Loudon.
"In 1969, he married the red-headed Noelene McCormick, and together they had five children, who in turn have given them five grandchildren (Noelene has since died). When Michael's mother died in October 2000, he inherited the earldom (if not the British throne). His heir is his eldest son Simon, the present Lord Mauchline.
"When Tony Robinson told Michael that, according to the research, he should be the king of England, he accepted the news calmly, then said: 'I believe that Australia should be a republic. I'm not a mad monarchist.' "
Along the way a lot of fascinating stuff was brought out: reference was made to the still controversial possibility that Richard III did not kill "the princes in the tower", a claim that was examined in Josephine Tey's novel The Daughter of Time, a personal favourite of mine. Also the story of the Hastings family's interaction with the recognised royal family, and the story of how they lost their fortune (twice). Fascinating stuff.
Meanwhile, the Guardian comes out with these wonderful well-reasoned screeds every now and then about the lingering anachronism that appears to be the real monarchy, like this one, which asks, why can't we have a grown-up discussion about this topic, for once?

My test results

I took the Which Classic Movie Are You? (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) and the Which Famous Person Are You? (JFK!!!) tests. You can see the results and link to the tests yourself here.

Thanks to Joel for the links to the tests.

My refund nightmare

Jonathan Freedland explodes the pernicious myth of consumer power. "But what force on earth is weaker than the feeble power of one?" (From America's best labour hymn - Solidarity Forever.)

Guardian's Baghdad Blogger column

Salam Pax queues up with many other Iraqis to apply for a mobile phone; meanwhile, in another queue, only those 65 and over can escape the hajj lottery.

The Pop vs. Soda Page

The Pop vs. Soda Page shows on a map of the US where people call the sweet fizzy stuff "pop", "soda", "coke" or other. (It doesn't say what the other is.)

06 January 2004

Twelfth Night

Jeanne of Body and Soul is back with a lovely post about today's holiday, also known as the 12th day of Christmas or the feast of the Three Kings. She tells the story of La Befana, which I first heard of through a puppet show at the Heart of the Beast puppet theatre in Minneapolis.

Our British Allies

Correspondences - News By the People For People, features this 1948 essay by Edmund Wilson with contemporary commentary by Magpie. I have to say that it is accurate, in that it corresponds very well with my own experiences and perceptions. I still have never done that ex-anglophile rant; maybe I never will. It has gone too far now, and would be rambling and overly complex, so I guess my thoughts and feelings on the subject will just leak out gradually in petty annoyance and almost-concealed resentments. How very English.

05 January 2004

Britney

Yahoo News - BRITNEY SPEARS. And they accuse homosexuals of weakening, denigrating or destroying the institution of marriage. Bah!

04 January 2004

Wow! No, I mean, really - wow!

I discovered a new blog called Correction, recommended by Real Live Preacher, and this post was very inspiring. It is a long musing (not rambling at all, despite what he says) about the nature of faith and truth. But then this one, called Desolation, just blew me away. You must read this guy.

02 January 2004

Return of the King, condensed parody version

By mollyringwraith:

This is absolutely hysterical. Here's just one of my favourite bits:

SAM: He's trying to kill us! We're walking straight into a trap. I'm not going one step further.
FRODO: Leave, then. I'm sick of your paranoid delusions anyhow.
SAM: But I...
FRODO: Go on - get out of here. Good riddance.
SAM: But you...
FRODO: Have a nice death.
FRODO stomps off. SAM stays behind, weeping piteously.
PEOPLE WHO HAVE READ THE BOOK: ...the f**k??

Polly Toynbee: helping children break the class divide

Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee cites an American study titled "Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children" to show how class differences are cemented in the first three years of a child's life based on the number of words spoken to it, and the ratio of encouraging to discouraging statements made. One interesting statistic: children of middle-class professionals at the age of three have larger average vocabularies than the parents of children on welfare. And the implications of this study are that no amount of money spent on improving language in schools will suffice without very early intervention: by the age of three, it is often too late to correct the imbalance.

01 January 2004

Soros: The Bubble of American Supremacy

In The Bubble of American Supremacy in the December issue of Atlantic Monthly, George Soros sums up the sequence of events from the Cold War through "September 11" so succinctly that it ought to be quoted in elementary World History books of the near future. (Thanks to best friend Joani for this link by e-mail.)

I'm Back!

Back to the UUUK that is. I had an interesting and fun visit - no political arguments and surprisingly little contention of any kind. Both adult children are doing pretty well (not that they couldn't both use some money if you're offering!) And my parents are still going strong despite such calamities as having a broken neck and two rounds of surgery or being bitten by a dog while out walking. I went shopping with my two younger sisters at an outlet mall in Gulfport, something we realised we had never done together (that's go shopping full stop, not just at this particular place.)
I am very out of touch with things. They do have newspapers of a sort in Gulfport and the family is on the internet through AOL (which is a bugger to use when you're not used to it.) But I only caught the high points. My dad is a fan of Faux News and my Mum doesn't watch news unless something that is important to her has happened. 'Nuff said. (But I love 'em anyway and I am not just saying that in case they read my blog, either.)
So maybe a real post with content and links and all that will come out tomorrow. I need to readjust my sleep cycle now.

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