March 31, 2003
THE WEEK AHEAD
Looking through the BBC Radio 3
website, I picked out some highlights of the weeks's listening, and added a few links.TUESDAY
7.30 pm 20th Century Masterpieces. Berg: Violin Concerto. An examination of personal and political influences on the work by musicologists and musicians followed by a performanc with Anne Sophie Mutter (violin) and Chicago SO cond. James LevineWEDNESDAY
9.30 pm Night Waves. Discussion of Russian Ark, new film by Alexsandr Sokurov, showing Russian history through events at The Hermitage in St Petersburg: Using 2,000 actors and thirty five rooms, the film is a single 96 minute take encompassing the reigns of Catherine the Great, Nicholas I, Nicholas II, and Peter the Great.
10.15 pm Late Junction
Tallis: Spem in Alium for 40 voices; Cage: sonatas for prepared piano; trance music from Vietnam; court music from Java; music for headphones
7.25 pm Puccini: Madama ButterflyTHURSDAY
Royal Opera House Covent Garden production: Cio-Cio-San: Cristina Gallardo-Domas (sop); Pinkerton: Marco Berti (ten); Orch of ROH Covent Garden, ROH Chorus, conducted by Antonio Pappano
9.30 pm Landmarks. Writers, artists, film-makers and musicians discuss important cultural landmarks in depth. Tonight: The Third Man by Carol Reed, collaboration with author Graham Greene exploring social, economic and moral corruption in post-war Vienna. Starring Orsen Welles, the film features a score by Anton Karas and Oscar winning cinematography from Robert Krasker.SATURDAY
7:30 pm Live From The Metropolitan Opera House, New York, Verdi's Nabucco with Andrea Gruber, Wendy White and Samuel Ramey, conducted by James Levine. The Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves ("Va, pensiero") immediately became a surrogate national anthem for Italy under Austrian occupation on the first performance in Milan in 1842SUNDAY
11.15 pm UltraSchall Festival Berlin (Jan 2003)
Jörg Widmann: Lichtstudie; Johannes Maria Staud: Polygon; Fred Frith: Trouble With Traffic (Fred Frith, guitar); Michael Jarrell: Un long fracas somptueux de rapide celeste; Helmut Lachenmann: NUN.German Symphony Orchestra, Berlin, cond. Roland Kluttig; Berlin Symphony Orchestra, cond. Johannes Kalitzke
5.00 pm Discovering Music. Stephen Johnson explores the American composer Aaron Copland's Symphony No. 3. Largely composed towards the end of the Second World War, it is a work strongly affected its times, and includes an extended movement on the theme known as "Fanfare for the Common Man".
6.30 pm Choirworks - John Rutter conducts the Cambridge Singers
Giles Swayne: Magnificat; Britten: Hymn to St Cecilia; Howells: The fear of the Lord; Rutter: Hymn to the Creator of Light; Ravel: Trois Chansons; Poulenc: Litanies a la vierge noire; Rutter: There is a flower - The Falcon - I my best beloved's am.
9.15 pm The Smith Quartet from the 2001 Cheltenham Festival
Steve Reich: Triple Quartet and Different Trains; Conlon Nancarrow: String Quartet
WAR IN THE VIRTUAL FIELD
receipt of a piece of spam with a very cleverly contrived subject field: "Peasant shooted an Apache with a gun when he saw US Navi soldiers f*cking his goat". No doubt when you open it there will still be offers to increase the size of your penis and reduce that of your mortgage payments.
"ROMAN CONSTRUCTION PROJECT FALLS HOPELESSLY BEHIND ON SECOND DAY" BARBARIAN DAILY NEWS
I guess I could be accused ot taking a sledge hammer to crack not-cases, so this
report of the "media set-back in coverage of setback" offers a lighter (but no less accurate) touch. Meanwhile, a caustic and unostentaciously well-argued piece in the Times Tim Hames
should hammer a final nail into the flag-draped coffin of "Americans stare defeat in the face in Baghdad-Stalingrad and Basra-Vietnam" reports -- except that it is just the kind of idiotic drivel the front page
of the newspaper he is writing in is full of.
ARMS INSPECTION, HEAD EXAMINATION
It has been suggested
that there will be an inconclusive war in Iraq, that will end with Saddam left in power and again subject to arms inspection. It is strange what blogging does to people's heads! In 2002-03 the very reason for the failure to find a solution to the threat posed by Saddam, short of war, was the completely ineffective and inappropriate nonsense that inspection as a method of arms control had become. But that had been evident by 1988, when chief arms inspector Scott Ritter resigned; Saddam withdrew cooperation and the inspections collapsed; and Saddam's brother-in-law, General Hussein Kamal defected and provided detailed evidence of the lengths to which Saddam was going to avoid any discovery of his weapons of mass destruction (WMD). To this France and Russia responded by demanding that pressure on Iraq be reduced
, and broke what had been firm Security Council backing for the arms inspections.
So it is interesting to read an analysis of the situation at this time -- before the 2000 US presidential election, before 9/11 and the "war on terror", and before the long-drawn out crisis over Iraq in the UN in 2002-2003. Of Iraq and Post-Cold War Arms Control
[PDF file download] by Dr. Thomas S. Lynch III was published in National Security Studies Quarterly
(Vol V, No.1) in 1999. Lynch, in 1997-98 a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, concluded:
The United States and Britain will also have to exercise the patience, persistence, and principle to stand together against certain UN Security Council pressure to end the essential confrontation and give Saddam another ill-advised chance at co-operation. Most significantly, an emerging focus on containment must not be muddled with the intro-duction of an UNSCOM-2 [United Nations Special Commission on Arms Control] or "UNSCOM-light" for Iraq. The wooly-headed notion that a re-engineered UNSCOM can bring anything of value to an unambiguously confrontational situation is illogical and untenable.... The UNSCOM experiment has long since run its course. It is high time the senior U.S. foreign policy leaders acknowledge this fact formally...
March 29, 2003
BACK TO THE FUTURE
I have been persuaded to go to an official College 25th Reunion Dinner tonight. It's not that far away, but I'll be staying ovenight. I can't pretend I'm much looking forward to it, but rather than indulge my reservations, I'll wait to see how it turns out before saying any more here.
We are always hearing things about Saddam and Iraq, but some of the most important events and facts don't get mentioned. Here is a chance to test your knowledge. The answers can be found as the first posting in the comments box
-- where you are very welcome to leave a record of your "score", and of course any other observations.In 1980 Saddam Hussein seized Iranian territory and began a military conflict which lasted
until a cease-fire in 1988. During this war Saddam used poison gas against the Iranians.
1. How many people are estimated to have been killed or died as a direct result of this war?
(b) 1 million
(c) 1.5 million
(d) 2 million
2. How much is it estimated that the war cost Iraq between 1980 and 1988 in economic terms (physcial destruction, lost production, trade etc)?
(a) $50 billion
(b) $100 billion
(c) $200 billion
(d) $250 billion
3. During the war between Iraq and Iran, which country was the largest supplier of arms to Saddam Hussein
4. During the war between Iraq and Iran, which country was the largest supplier of arms to Iran
5. During the war between Iraq and Iran, which of these countries was also a large supplier of arms to Iran
6. There are both Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims in Iraq. Saddam Hussein and his ruling group are Sunni
Muslims. What percentage of the population of Iraq are Sunni
7. Saddam has visited particularly brutal repression on the Kurdish people of northern Iraq, including poison gas. About what percentage of the total population of Iraq are Kurdish?
(d) 20%The Ba'ath Party is the main organisation through which Saddam rules Iraq. It operates in every part of Iraqi life. However, it is not easy to become a member: there are admission requirements, and it is much harder to become a party official or functionary.
8. What percentage of the total population of Iraq are members of the Ba'ath Party?
9. Approximately how many Ba'ath Party officials are there?
10. The Ba'ath Party leadership (and commentators in this country) emphasise the fighting anti-imperialism of the Iraqi people. When did Iraq achieve independence from British control?
Well, how did you do?
March 28, 2003
THE REAL UNREPORTED FAILURES OF THE WAR
Why are the journalists so angry and scathing, so insistent that the allied invasion of Iraq has bogged down and failed to achieve its objectives a mere eight days into the war? I would suggest the following:
(a) Because they are profoundly ignorant of military science, and are unable to distinguish offensive strategy from defensive tactics. The latter is the response to the former.
(b) Because they are lazy and uninterested in the structure of the society from which they are reporting. They simply equate defensive resistance with either die-hard Saddam loyalists, or popular anti-Americanism. They have made no attempt to understand (and explain) the relationship between the Ba'ath Party and the direction of social and militarty activity, in a country in which most of the people's food and other subsistence needs were supplied through the
Ba'athist state, and which can mount continuous terror through street-level cadres. Ofd course, they don't even want to think about the fact that the long delays and sapping of morale inflicted by France in the UN, and anti-war demonstrators, allowed Saddam to organise resistance, screw down the system of terror and control on the people, and prepare in every way.
(c) Because they wilfully ignore historical facts. The first Gulf War lasted seven weeks. This sought only to expel invaders from territory they had occupied, which they had had no time to integrate into the political-military system of the Ba'ath Party. There was no attempt to take centres of population in a country of 30 million. And this took seven weeks.
How long did the bombardment of Serbia take before Milosevic gave in?
(d) Because they treat the war just like they treat domestic politics. They trap spokesmen into making statements, especially predictions, and then if things work out differently, harry them to admit failure and incompetence. In war the commanders seek to achieve particular goals, and unless their tactics result in them becoming quite unable ever to do so, or in intolerable losses or men and/or eqipment, they have not failed, or failed to live up to expectations. They are not responsible for the
defensive actions they have to deal with (and advance intelligence can never predict these). The measure of their success is how well they deal with the circumstances they encounter --- enemy attacks, weather, logistics, maintaining order. If this approach guided the reports that journalists made, they would be very different.
(e) Because (and this probably controls all the rest) they are seething with fury, disoriented and confused. All the reports they wrote before the war began have had to be torn up. There were two
main "predictions": one was a general understanding, supposedly based on American statements, that the US forces were infinitely superior, and that the war would be "short" and dominated by bombardment from the air (and local uprisings). The other was made by the anti-war demonstrators. They said there would be hundreds of thousands
of innocent civilian casualties. And since everyone expected the war to be short, then the carnage would have to be immediate and tantamount to deliberate. That
was what the reporters expected to wallow in. They had geared up moralise from amid carnage and mayhem, and indict the perpetrators of these outrages; to bring tabloid-TV stories of individual suffering and misery; to pose as the defenders of "ordinary" Iraqis. Well, so far, that God, that has not happened. Let us hope it never does.
The other area in which these whores of war were anxious to exercise their irresponsible power was the political exploitation of (and linguistic offensive about) "humanitarian disaster". They would be in ther element "reporting" the misery and suffering of ordinary Iraqis facing, or in the grips of hunger, disease, homelessness, and general despair, with recurrent pictorial emphasis on children and the elderly. They would be able to bring interviews of aid workers demanding immediate distribution of food, shelter and medical supplies, requiring cessation of hostilites (even if it would destroy the achievement of military goals) Well, they have lacked the events and the personnel to interview, and they can't get near enough to be part of it themselves (the heroes!). So what do they do? focus all their energies on the Iraqi propaganda about the accidental death of 14 civilians (or were they military personnel wearing civilian clothing - the journalists couldn't care less) in Baghdad.
I have now just read that about 50 civilians (according to the Iraqi authorities) have been killed by a blast in Baghdad. Already the inane sentimentalisation begins to be churned out. This is AOL:
Crowds of mourners wailed and blood-soaked children's slippers sat on the street not far from a crater blasted into the ground. Down the road, residents gathered at a Shiite Muslim mosque, crowded around seven wooden coffins draped in blankets. Some of the men stood silently. Others sobbed into trembling hands. In the background, women cried, "Oh God! Oh God!" Another witness, Omar Ismail, a 35-year-old engineer who witnessed the explosion, said body parts were strewn across the street. "Why do they hate the Iraqi people so much?" he asked.
Who orchestrated this "response"? Local Ba'ath Party organisers? Who is Omar Ismail, the 35 year-old engineer? was he asked if he was a member of the Ba'ath Party, or one of its functionaries? Of course not. Why does Saddam hate the Iraqi people? What are his terror and death squads doing to peope? Why doesn't he give up and go, and stop inflicting all this on the Iraqi people? -- but no journalist would be allowed to ask people those kinds of questions - and they wouldn't want to do so anyway.
And how strange that no detailed report was filed about attacks by Iraqi forces on Basra civilians leaving the city or going to fetch food and water on the outskirts. Iraqis committing atrocities against Iraqis. How do you write claptrap about children's slippers for that? How do you get pictures when the Iraqi authorities don't assist you, and when you would be under fire from Iraqis? How can you interview eye witnesses about this when they are members/functionaries of the Ba'ath Party, or if they are not, when they are in fear of their lives from them?
BROADCAST JOURNALIST HAS RABIES
I had not until yesterday properly understood the metaphorical use of the word "rabid"
. Then I heard a British officer being interviewed on Radio 4. He had taken part in the successful destruction of a group of Iraqi tanks that had broken out of Basra, firing on British positions around the city.
"How did you know they weren't trying to surrender?" the journalist asked.
Tanks in formation that had opened fire -- of course they might have been trying to surrender.
But why not just ask the stupid, vicious, irresponsible, mendacious, hateful British officer why he had tried to murder, in cold blood, against all the conventions of warfare, the poor innocent tank drivers, who only wanted to enjoy the views of the desert? Why not just tell him he is the lowest of the low, and the British people hate him, and hope the Iraqis kill him and all his colleagues? Why not sink his teeth, mouth frothing think infected spittle, into the officers leg?UPDATE
A BBC spokesman has denied that the news editor referred to above was in fact rabid. He said the interview with the British officer followed a brief report that Iraqi soldiers had machine-gunned a line of civilians leaving Basra. The BBC wanted to be completely even-handed in dealing with this kind of incident, and was anxious to point up the possibility that British forces might have been guilty of similar conduct in their treatment of heavily armoured Iraqi military vehicles leaving Basra.
March 27, 2003
POLITICALLY CORRECT PETER
I shall never forget the Christmas present my closest gay friend in college gave me one year: a Sophia Loren cook book. It consisted of gushing accounts of Sophia's wonderful life (dinners with famous friends, lunches al fresco
, her flowers, her clothes) and lurid colour photographs of Sophia posing
with various tables of food, in the kitchen (designer clothes and long red finger-nails) and eating at banquets -- all quite unrelated to puny little recipes which were dotted through the book here and there. Ever since then (and quite separately from Never on a Sunday
) I have idolised La Loren. So I can hardly wait until August when PentaTone Classics
release the recording
that has just been completed of a new version of Prokofiev's children's orchestral classic Peter and the Wolf
, along with a new piece: The Wolf and Peter
. The down side is that Sophia has been joined in the narrations by former presidents Bill Clinton and Mikhail Gorbachev.The Wolf and Peter
by French composer Jean-Pascal Beintus
is, apparently, told from the perspective of the wolf, and "converts the image of the wolf from a fearsome creature to one that represents balance between the needs of human and wildlife populations".
He's in the forest but the forest is disappearing, urbanisation is cutting the trees away... and we see why the wolf is so desperate.
Kent Nagano (conductor)
And there is a happy ending: the Wolf succeeds in convincing Peter that they should live peacefully together. But why couldn't they have found something for Monica Lewinsky to do? (Good pictures of the recording sessions are on the Russian National Orchestra
in Newfoundland, Canada has come up with its own version
of The Wolf and Peter
- but with this sequence, I somewhow doubt it would recommend itself to the likes of Gorbachev and Clinton (who are giving their fees to environmental and AIDS charities), though perhaps a memorable Peter
narrator of the past, Dame Edna Everidge, would enjoy it:
The wolf jumped and showed Peter his sharp teeth just before he began his attack. First he backed Peter into a tree and then Peter screamed but nobody could hear him. The wolf jumped Peter and clawed his face and his arms. Just a minute later Peter's Pop heard the growling and grabbed his rifle. He saw the wolf and took aim. Instantly the wolf was dead. Peter was bleeding very much. Peter's Pop's friend came to see what happened but they were too late. Peter had died.
March 26, 2003
GOVERNMENTS TV JOURNALISTS IGNORE PUBLIC OPINION
The television war "coverage" hysteria continues unabated: the "journalists" and their editors just cannot believe that they
do not control what the generals and soldiers do, so arrogant have they become in their exercise of power without responsibility in domestic politics. But they're sure as hell going to do everything they can to cut the military bastards down to size put them on the spot -- just like they do with the parliamentary politicians. The military commanders must be made to explain and abase themselves before the journalists for an accident that (according to Saddam's propaganda) killed 14 civilians. But the fact that Ba'ath Party desperados in Basra fired on unarmed Iraqis at close range - well, that doesn't allow them to harry and humiliate Anglo-American commanders, so it is passed over in a sentence. No attempt to investigate it either.
Another well-argued call for censorship of these appalling megalomaniacs is made here
by an anti-war sympathiser.
March 25, 2003
I MUST HAVE IT
I have hitherto abstained from offering opportunities for visitors to "Here Inside" to send me items from a wish-list of items like public choice economics books
, recordings of twentieth century operas
and posters of Colin Farrell
. I somehow found it hard to believe anyone would be so generous (and I doubt if recent postings have made anyone feel more so). But now I am on the point of changing all that -- for a single item. My all-time favourite TV personality, The Swedish Chef
, has been immortalised in a limited edition statuette.
The Swedish Chef is hand cast in heavy weight polystone and meticulously hand painted to the highest standards. He sits on a Corinthian-inspired plinth that evokes the image of a classical sculpture while also hearkening to the decorative motifs of the Muppet Theatre. The base also bears The Muppet Show logo and the character's name, while on the underside is listed the sculptor's name and signature, ensuring that this beautiful piece will be treasured item for many years to come.
high and weighing 9 lbs. in a limited edition of 5,000 which cost a mere $60.00 each, the purchase process can be begun here
COOL CALM AND COLLECTED
TV journalists sickeningly insist that war provide constant excitement and live entertainment, and they infuse their incoherent and indiscriminate sensationalism with demands that those waging war conform to their flaccid ideas of morality, stand accountable to them for their conduct and achievement, and bow before their grotesque pretense of even-handedness. Nowhere are these characteristics more furiously displayed than in the insistence (without any proper knowledge of strategy, tactics or logistics) that the war should have proceeded without problem, at a speed hitherto unknown in the annals of warfare. That the US sought before the war to suggest it would be a short campaign was no more than psychological softening-up. And now we are getting a predictable round of interviews with relief workers predicting humanitarian disasters. In complete contrast, the leading article
in today's Times
is factually precise and realistic:
The coming few days will, therefore, witness some consolidation as extra troops are mobilised, supply lines are secured and troublesome fanatics operating out of cities such as Basra, al-Nasiriyah and Najaf are dealt with. Consolidation should not be mistaken for stalemate. There has been endless discussion about whether this will be a "short" or "long" war. Much of this debate is extremely superficial. The definition offered of "short" by some observers would mean that all military activity that did not match the success of the Six-Day War should be deemed a failure. The Falklands conflict, the Gulf War and the Kosovo campaign all took between two and three months to execute. The drive to depose Saddam Hussein and rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction is no less complicated than any of those conflicts. A victory on this occasion that was recorded in weeks rather than months would be an astonishing achievement.
It is also important, if difficult, to keep American and British losses in proportion. Every death, such as those announced yesterday, is a tragedy and a source of anguish, as is the loss of Iraqi civilians, but there is no doubt that coalition troops are inflicting far more punishment on their opponents than they have themselves taken. That a small number of allied military personnel are prisoners of war has been, rightly, the cause of huge concern but the figure for Iraqi captives may be a thousand times higher. A notable slice of television time was devoted yesterday to the fact that one Apache helicopter was obliged, probably as a result of mechanical malfunction, to land in a field but this unfortunate incident will hardly oblige General Franks to reconsider his entire military strategy.
The same could be said for the difficulties that US and British forces are encountering in southern Iraq. They are being harassed by irregular units such as the Fedayin and elements of the Republican Guard. These are men with no future in a post-conflict Iraq, who have few qualms about either disguising themselves as civilians or of forcing the local population to act as human shields. If the allies were minded, though, this menace could be terminated in short order by carpet-bombing the urban centres where they are located. Saddam Hussein would willingly endorse such an offensive. The allies have, correctly, determined that indiscriminate explosions would be incompatible with their war aims. In so doing, they have inevitably made their enterprise harder. The days before an assault on Baghdad can be launched demand patience. The real danger for George W. Bush and Tony Blair lies as much with public relations as on the battlefield. This is not a time to fear a loss of face or bad publicity.
NESCIENCE AND NURTURE
It is March, so blackbirds
have started to nest. One pair has nested in the ivy at the back of our house, and from the kitchen window we can watch their comings and goings, and listen to their song. They are an absolutely splendid pair: the male a particularly glossy black, his partner soft smooth brown. They are one of the species that seems to have benefitted from urban sprawl: the West Midlands Bird Club reports
that only 14% successfully fledge young in woodland, while nearly half do so in towns.
March 24, 2003
THE WHORES OF WAR
Before starting to write this post I have visited Peter's blog. It brought me enormous relief and comfort. For there
, far better and more courageously than I could hope to express it, was his verdict on the TV coverage of the Iraq war.
Do you, like me, sometimes draw back and just wonder at the amount of information given out on the TV? Is there censorship? There certainly should be. Is there deliberate misinformation? Ditto, if it will spare one drop of blood.
I have just watched tonight's Channel 4 News (can't be fucked to link to it). From start to finish its reports were moralising, patronisng, superior and snide -- and dubious, speculative, and almost certainly grossly inaccurate: not a hope that this was the "truth" they crassly and arrogantly claim to know. It was simply unofficial propaganda. Their self-appointed intrusion swept all before it, as the poor soldiers were unable to do on the road to Baghdad, they repeatedly mocked. The reporters oozed self-importance and assumed a mantle of bravery for no more than squatting on the periphery of a battle field with decent men and women; they pretended to a knowledge and expertise that allowed them to discover the very thoughts of those whom their photographers had posed or "captured" for them, and to the all-seeing competence of generals when their puny little perspective amounted to no more than guesswork.
These intellectual titans, these philosophers with microphones, told us that with the death of their comrades, soldiers were "finally" discovering the "true face of war". A shot of troops digging in the sand -- not just trenches we were told, but graves. British troops resting their heads, not one of whom was interviewed, were described as desolate and demoralised. Iraqi dead were shown, one holidng a white flag. We were invited to believe he'd been shot despite it, not, perhaps, that he was shooting from behind it -- an Iraqi tactic alluded to briefly by a British commander yesterday.
Delighting in the setbacks and difficulties of allied troops, we were told the "much vaunted" relief supplies were yet to arrive. Although not a single voice was heard welcoming allied forces (though they do exist
: "some Iraqis waved or gave a thumbs-up as the convoy passed, while others stood stoically"), a dismal old woman was given time to shout her support of Saddam provocatively at the viewer.
Hillsum in Baghdad declared that with the anti-war protests in the West the Iraqi authorities felt the propaganda war had been won. Then an Iraqi television report was shown: an American helicopter in a grassy field, and men in Arab head-dresses brandishing automatic rifles doing a victory dance around the aircraft, followed by an interview with an old peasant who claimed to have shot the helicopter down with his hunting rifle. As the days when it was permitted to laugh at the poor and the mad have long passed, I assume we were supposed to form an opinion of the determination of ordinary Iraqis to fight. We heard at length the Iraqi complaints that their surrendering men were shown on TV, and, as if to prove it, Channel 4 itself showed its own footage of them. Finally, following lengthy, uninterrupted doses of Saddam and other Iraqi propaganda, Ms Hillsum assured us she was free to say what she wanted. God alone knows what a doctored report would look like.
Let the Iraqis tell their people what they like, we are under no obligation to relay it too. Nor should we show tactical problems or difficulties encountered by the British men and women who allow the jounalists to accompany them. How dismal and genuinely demoralising for our troops to hear of enemy propaganda streaming into every home in the UK while they are shot at, and know they would have to protect the unarmed scum who produced it if there was a sudden enemy attack. But most important, the families, the loved ones, the friends and colleagues of those who are doing the fighting deserve to be spared this.
Of course, Channel 4 speaks to its audience and tells them what they want to hear. But Peter Riddell
in The Times
today reports that support for the war now stands at 55%, opposition at 36-37% (compared to 53% against, 29% in favour two weeks ago), and that "the 36 to 37 per cent against, according to the latest two polls, represent ... middle-class professionals and centre-left activists". How will Channel 4 respond to this drop? I shan't be watching to find out. (The Times
also has an interesting piece
covering the bias of eight different TV channels -- BBC is much like Channel 4, in case you hadn't guessed.)
March 23, 2003
I was delighted to discover that Kent Wildlife Trust
is trying to reintroduce beavers into the wild.
Once widespread across the British Isles, the beaver effectively became extinct in the twelfth century. The European beaver is a keystone species with the ability to modify its environment to favour its own kind, and as a bi-product benefit numerous other plants and animals associated with aquatic systems. Beaver activity raises and maintains water levels, and diversifies the age structure and composition of bank-side and adjacent rangeland vegetation in a way that greatly enhances habitat and species diversity.
It's a fascinating project that you can read all about here
. Although the "pioneer" Kent beavers have come from Norway, it is to the the wonderful French achievements
that everyone is looking. Following reintroduction of the beaver on the River Loire, and rigorous protection "on peut considérer aujourd'hui que le castor européen est sauvé"; and now, more than 10 years since the beaver began to spread throughout Burgundy "on dénombre des familles de castors sur une grande partie de la Loire et de l'Allier... L'avenir du castor européen est assuré dans la région de Bourgogne." Bravo!For N. American readers, the European and American or Canadian beaver have significant differences, especially in the extent of damming, which is much less among European beavers.
SCALES FALL FROM THE EYES
A group of American anti-war demonstrators who came to Iraq with Japanese human shield volunteers made it across the border today [into Jordan] with 14 hours of uncensored video, all shot without Iraqi government minders present. Kenneth Joseph, a young American pastor with the Assyrian Church of the East, told UPI the trip "had shocked me back to reality." Some of the Iraqis he interviewed on camera "told me they would commit suicide if American bombing didn't start. They were willing to see their homes demolished to gain their freedom from Saddam's bloody tyranny. They convinced me that Saddam was a monster the likes of which the world had not seen since Stalin and Hitler. He and his sons are sick sadists. Their tales of slow torture and killing made me ill, such as people put in a huge shredder for plastic products, feet first so they could hear their screams as bodies got chewed up from foot to head."
And 100,000 British people demonstrated in London today in support of Saddam Hussein, and to return these people to endless psychotic barbarism.
March 21, 2003
OVER THE TOP
Not the Whore of Babylon (the Pope rightly got given that "handle" long ago, and recently aggressively re-stated claim to it), Jacques Chirac is the Harlot of Paris, shown taking wads from Saddam. That is how he appears in the outrageous attack
taken deep into francophone territory by the Sun
, the newspaper that is to fairness what syphilis is to pregnancy. The Guardian reported
the contents of the French edition:
The front page featured pictures of Mr Chirac and Saddam side by side. The accompanying text read: "Cherchez la difference [spot the difference]. One is a corrupt bully who is risking the lives of our troops. He is sneering at Britain, destroying democracy and endangering world peace. The other is Saddam Hussein."
It is of course dreadfully over the top. Or is it? The Independent
and other broadsheet newspapers left little room to misinterpret Chirac's bahviour in Brussells last night. If at this stage Saddam was in a position to care, he would have kissed the French President on both cheeks, and no doubt the gesture would have been returned (so to speak). The same reports (following Parliamentary answers) revealed that France exported more goods to Iraq than any other EU country.In 2001 French exports to Iraq were worth £380m. Next was Germany with £210m. Britain exported goods worth £56m. The Department of Trade (according to The Times
) said that while Britain tried only to permit renewals of contracts, France aggressively sought new supply agreements with the Iraqi government.
IDENTICALNESS AND IDENTITY
I was charmed by the BBC1 programme
on identical twins on Wednesday. But I was almost bound to be. As an only child I find the idea of even having a sibling quite irresistable, let alone one so close that at times we have the characteristics of a single organism. I'm not alone in this fascination with identical twins. Most people (not that they would perhaps put it quite this way) appear to be drawn to the idea of projecting of their own emotions onto another which is oneself, and to experience projections from another that are one's own. And it was essentially on this level that the programme explored the extent of variation between sets of identical twins, in their interactions with one another, colleagues and family
Of course, though, explaining the experimental format such programmes almost always seem to follow (and this one was no different) is the scientific interest of geneticists and behavioural psychologists in the interplay or "nature" and "nurture" in identical twin development. The programme's appeal was in the interplay of attractive twin personalities, and the scientific-genetic "results" were accorded relatively little significance. But the juxtaposition of clear genetic determination (eg physical attraction) with relationships (eg boy/girlfriend) was suggestive of a model of personality that would combine genetic and environmental components in a more subtle fashion than the endless dichotomies we have had so far.
Of course, I have to admit that for me there is something innocently homoerotic about identical twins, gently reassuring but unavoidably arousing. These twins articulate a degree of unapologetic (indeed enthusiastic) knowledge of, involvement with and affection for same-sex others that is rarely encountered in any gay couple. It is also wonderful to find reduced to symbolic redundancy the central dilemma of (male) gay personality development - do we want to have, or to be, those whom we find attractive? The Gemini paradigm has it both ways. In view of this it was a minor missed opportunity that the programme did not look at a pair of gay identical twins.
PERLES OF WISDOM
At the very furthest extreme from Mr Blair's decisive moral world-view stands (or should I say lies) the politician who, for many years, I have loathed more than any other: Shirley Williams (now as Barnoness Williams leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords). So I felt amused (and somehow justified) when Richard Perle [1 2
], no less, today
chose Williams as the quintessential exponent of the "timid, blighted notion" that grossly impractical ideas about "order" require us to "recoil before rogue states that terrorise their own citizens and menace ours". Although I no more endorse everything Perle says than I deliver myself into intellectual bondage to any other politicial controversialist, much of what he says makes far more sense than those who would demonise him allow:
A few days ago, Shirley Williams argued on television against a coalition of the willing using force to liberate Iraq. Decent, thoughtful and high-minded, she must surely have been moved into opposition by an argument so convincing that it overpowered the obvious moral case for removing Saddam's regime. For Lady Williams (and many others), the thumb on the scale of judgment about this war is the idea that only the UN security council can legitimise the use of force. It matters not if troops are used only to enforce the UN's own demands. A willing coalition of liberal democracies isn't good enough. If any institution or coalition other than the UN security council uses force, even as a last resort, "anarchy", rather than international law, would prevail, destroying any hope for world order.
This is a dangerously wrong idea that leads inexorably to handing great moral and even existential politico-military decisions, to the likes of Syria, Cameroon, Angola, Russia, China and France. When challenged with the argument that if a policy is right with the approbation of the security council, how can it be wrong just because communist China or Russia or France or a gaggle of minor dictatorships withhold their assent, she fell back on the primacy of "order" versus "anarchy". Let us not forget who held that the moral authority of the international community was enshrined in a plea for more time for inspectors.
It is interesting that several bloggers from the independent left have honed in on the unprincipled opportunism of the Liberal Democrats --- Harry Steele
(whom I strongly recommend) is excellent in dissecting
the common social origins and political irresponsibility of the Lib Dems and the Trotskyite Socialist Worker Party, and links to interesting comments from others.
FORTUNE FAVOURS THE
BRAVE UNGRATEFULI have asked our troops to go into action tonight. As so often before, on the courage and determination of British men and women, serving our country, the fate of many nations rests.
I watched the Prime Minister's televised address to the nation
last night with growing admiration. He was rational, firm, honest, and above all, practical. His analysis of the post-Cold War international system was a million miles from the legalism and faux
idealism of the back-turners. His words were those of a political adult. If fortune favours the brave, it will certainly bestow its advantages on Mr Blair. But the people of Britain have already been favoured by finding themselves led by Mr Blair -- though they have by and large been blind to their good fortune, and shown themselves to be anything but brave.
March 20, 2003
THE MOUTHS OF BABES
With the instruction of the Socialist Alliance, talking through the arse is apparently something that is being accomplished at a younger and younger age. University students are on vacation anyway, but schoolchildren have been playing truant -- what fun for them and what an opportunity for mayhem! And such concern for the lives of our troops, and for their families. According to AOL's news pages one headteacher observed: "This wasn't truancy to escape school. This was truancy to make a point." Any headteacher who says that should be summarily dismissed, especially since the way his/her pupils "made their point" was to attack the police, destroy property, and disrupt the lives and business of people who were neither involved nor prepared. The costs of treating injuries to police and consequent sickness benefits, replacing and repairing damaged property, and of police time to restore order, should be presented for payment to those schools from which pupils came who took part in riots.
March 16, 2003
I can't resist repeating this little story from a comment box on Junius
, contributed by Lawrence Krubner who has a very interesting blog
I have a friend with whom I play chess [who] is so very frustrated with the UN at this point that he feels strongly that America should withdraw from it. The last time we played chess I had moved my pawn forward, but I kept my hand on it, because I was still considering the move. I held my hand on it for awhile, at which point he said, "You know, there is a new rule, inspired by the UN, that says if you keep your hand on a piece for more than 30 seconds you will face sanctions." Falling for it, I asked something like: "What happens if I face sanctions?" to which he smiled and replied: "Nothing."
March 15, 2003
IN BROAD STREET LIGHT
last night about 11.30 W. called me to look out of our living room window. There, on the other side of the street, standing in a driveway, illuminated brightly by the nearby street lamp, was a couple. There is no other way to describe their conduct except "snogging like crazy". They just couldn't get enough of one another. Once or twice they separated, and appeared to be in the process of saying "good night", but overcome by desire, they were off again. They turned and held one another in all kinds of ways, their hands roved everywhere, but despite the intensity of their kissing, there wasn't a hint of going any "further".
They went on like this for more than half an hour. People returning from the pub walked past them -- individuals, groups of drunken youths, friends in two and threes. They looked and carried on past, saying nothing. Hundreds of cars must have driven by and caught them in their headlights. None of this made the slightest bit of difference to the couple, who carried on passionately regardless. Eventually, after more long and fond farewells, one of them went into the house and the other got into a car parked in the road and drove off. I suppose there is nothing at all out of the ordinary about any of this, exept that the kissing couple were both men -- tall, young, strong, attractive, clean-cut, masculine, casually dressed men -- and this is a small town. I remember when I first visited New York in 1981 I was jaw-droppingly amazed to see men french kissing one another openly in public places. Now, 20 years later, I need only look out of my front window.
March 14, 2003
I was very amused by this item in a Canadian-Iranian blog
by Hossein Derakhshan. The photo shows one of the boxes used for collecting donations for the poor. The idea is that God will protect the donor in return for his charity. But there is a message written on this box (that claims to be) from someone who put a donation in, and still got hit by a car afterwards, to anyone about to drop in a coin: "Don't do it! It's out of order. Use another box." (Of course, a similar "warning" could be written next to relics and statues of saints in Roman Catholic churches!)
March 12, 2003
Blog entries on "Here Inside" are right down, and I am struggling to keep abreast of developments on all my daily reads. My PC at home is totally fucked, and I need to get a new one fast. But what shall I get to replace it?
I am on the verge of ordering one from Dell (with mostly top-end specs it will cost about £2,800 inc. VAT). Does anyone know any good reason why I shouldn't go with Dell? (and if not, who should I buy from?) At the same time I intend to change my ISP from AOL to BT and get broadband service. Again, anyone know a reason why that would be a bad idea? Advice on either matter would be very gratefully received.
March 10, 2003
UP THE PINKS!
supplement in yesterday's Sunday Times
included a column entitled "Wardrobe Mistress" by Claudia Croft, a sort of sartorial agony aunt. The following question and answer rather surprised me, but np doubt younger visitors to this blog will confirm its accuracy:Q. I'm a gay made teenager and want to wear something that suggests my homosexuality, but is subtle and not too expensiveA. I am reliably informed that tendy young gay men are wearing head-to-toe sportswear. Invest in a vintage hot-pink zip-up Nike tracksuit top (from Kikon To Zai: 020 7434 1316). This will give you straight-acting allure, but the colour will signal your sexuality. Team it with stonewashed fitted Levi's jeans and classic white trainers, either from Nike or Reebok. Wear a gold or diamond stud in your left ear and a simple gold chain (Argos), sport a graded haircut (very short at the nape, rising to a grade 2 on top). Don't forget to spray on some Lynx or Calvin Klein Crave, and always play safe.
I would myself simply have suggested full leather (but I suppose expense might rule that out). And I thought the right ear was the wrong (=gay) ear.
March 06, 2003
Take this job and shove it
I ain't workin' here no more
My woman done left and
Took all of the reasons I was working for
You better not try to stand in my way
When I walk out the door
Take this job and shove it
I ain't workin here no more
I been working in this factory
Pretty close to 15 years
I've some of my best friends women
Standing in a pool of tears
I've seen a lot of kinfolks dying
I had a lot of bills to pay
Lord, I'd give the shirt right off'n my back
If I had the nerve to say...
Take this job and shove it...
The foreman is a regular s.o.b.
And the night boss, he's a fool
He got himself a brand new flattop haircut
Lord, he really thinks that's cool
One of these days I'm gonna blow my top
And there's gonna be hell to pay
I can't wait to see their faces
When I get the nerve to say...
Take this job and shove it...
Although he died in the third week of February in the USA, obituary
notices of Johnny Paycheck
have only just appeared in the UK. A hard-drinking, hell-raising, country singer, Johnny Paycheck had an unexpected US No.1 hit with the bluecollar anthem "Take This Job and Shove It". Written by David Allan Coe, it's a pity Paycheck never recorder another of Coe's classics: "I'd like to Kick the Shit out of You".
The son of an Ohio bargeman, Paycheck's life was a showcase for the destructive power of drugs and alcohol. First sentenced to time for bludgeoning a Navy officer, in 1985 a bar-room brawl ended with Paycheck shooting his adversary in the head. His claim that he had been too weak to use his fists, and so had been obliged to shoot the man in self-defence, did not carry the court, and he was sentenced to 9 years. This followed shortly after the conflagration on a flight to Denver during which all the names Paycheck called the stewardess resulted in a $175,000 slander award against him. A period spent at the home of a female fan with whom he had not hitherto been acquainted led to accusations of raping her under-age daughter.
Yet in the end he got clean in prison, achieved early release, and toured schools in addiction and alcoholism education programmes. It was a life from which too many morals can be drawn for them to be counted -- no matter how unlike him you think you are.
March 05, 2003
The revisionist account of the Cuban Missile Crisis
shown last night on BBC2 was very interesting, but it could not sustain the interpretation we were encouraged to embrace. It painted a picture of a pliable, diplomatic Krushchev who wanted to avoid war at all costs, and a Soviet Union that negotiated a secret quid pro quo
for its retreat on Cuba. But the explanation for the twists and turns of Krushchev's letters to the US was contradictory and unconvincing; and its principal claim -- that the US traded its own Turkish missiles for Russia's in Cuba -- rested on Russian memories for which there exists no documentary evidence.
But whatever the truth of this claim, it was still clear that danger of nuclear war arose from the impenetrably opaque Soviet system, and the unstable power relationship between Societ political and military decision-makers. The programme revealed that Soviet "tactical" nuclear weapons were already installed on Cuba, and Soviet military commanders were prepared to use them without first gaining approval from Moscow. But the most sickening revelation was that at the height of the crisis Fidel Castro, the Cuban revolutionary leader, passionately urged Russia to make a first strike against the USA. The Cuban people, he said, were ready to make the ultimate sacrifice. (US foreign policy documents for this period -- Volume XI of the FRUS series -- are avaiable online here
March 03, 2003
PERFUMES FOR PEACE
First Ms Dynamite and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Liam Gallagher, and Lee Ryan of Blue (trying to drag Kylie and Justin Timberlake along for the fun too) and all the Brit Awards
, then George Michael
(again), and D & G
and the whole Milan fashion week -- all recording away, ripping open envelopes, blinking back tears and cat-walking against the war. Now we have the first anti-war fragrances, and more are bound to follow. Their developer said "I asked myself, if Princess Di was here now, what would she want? I knew then immediately we had to have a scent. Apparently Pres Chirac and several of his petites
are eager to get hold of supplies, as are his friends Bob and Grace Mugabe. American commentators were less enthusiastic: "Frankly, Chirac could immerse himself in a bath of the stuff and he'd still stink of hypocricy and corruption."
PIG IN A POKEThe Department of English, Uppsala University, Sweden, cordially invites you to submit questions regarding English usage, idioms, vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, punctuation, or word histories. We will do our best to answer your queries, using the expertise of our staff and our considerable battery of paper-based and electronic reference materials. We offer this facility as a public service, free of charge. Submit your question via our e-mail address: email@example.com
March 01, 2003
UPS AND DOWNS
Today is the first anniversary of Chris Bertram's blog Junius
. I didn't realise it was only a couple of months older than "Here Inside", because I've been visiting almost from the start of my own blogging. When I read it I always think "I wish I'd blogged about that". Not that I could ever keep up Chris's high mindedness. I am looking forward to another year of thoughts and thinkers.
But even as I write this, my monitor is expiring. The display has shrunk to a slice down the middle of the screen (with the typeface reduced to 8pt) that is growing darker and darker. I've been meaning to get a whole new PC for months. This will almost certainly finally precipitate action, but it might mean "Here Inside" is interrupted for a little while. Advance warning -- but it's amazing what one can make do with until it does pack in!