Thursday, July 10, 2003

THE NEW TALIBAN: New Labour’s Kafkaresque attitude to sex continues:
“A bill due before parliament next week will make it a criminal offence for two 15-year-olds to kiss in public, the Home Office said last night…But officials said those below the age of consent were unlikely to be prosecuted if both were enjoying the embrace. ..But officials such activity could carry a prison sentence of up to five years."

Funny, but in reality not only bizarre but truly shocking. Reassuringly the official says that children are “unlikely” to be prosecuted but the caveat is that both parties must be enjoying the embrace – note not “consenting” but “enjoying”. How many of you could kiss well at 15? More importantly how many thought you could in a way that the “victim” would enjoy? If this the standard, its not “unlikely” that anyone will be prosecuted, its inevitable that scapegoats will be found for the feminists in the Home Office’s message – “Boys not safe at any age”.

BOLLOX, SIR: Sometimes it seems that kids are more perceptive when something’s amiss than adults:
“Boys do less well than girls in virtually every subject throughout their school lives because they are less tolerant of bad teaching, the education watchdog Ofsted said yesterday….
Boys respected teachers who imposed firm discipline, had high expectations, gave them plenty of individual attention, were knowledgeable and enthusiastic about their subject, taught carefully structured lessons, introduced an element of fun and competition, set clear short-term targets, gave quick feedback and were generous in their use of rewards and praise.”

So boys can tell what is and isn’t sensible teaching. But the government can’t:
“Sex education for children as young as five will be recommended to the Government today as part of a strategy to reduce the rate of teenage pregnancies.”

“President Jacques Chirac negotiated a secret deal to protect Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb general accused of Europe's worst atrocities since the Second World War, according to evidence submitted to the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
M Chirac allegedly agreed to sabotage the extradition of Gen Mladic to face genocide charges for his role in the planned extermination of Bosnian Muslims, including the massacre of 7,000 men and boys in the UN safe haven of Srebrenica in July 1995. In exchange, Gen Mladic handed over two French pilots held hostage for 14 weeks by his forces after their Mirage fighter jet was shot down outside Sarajevo.”
News? Yes but somehow not really surprising.

HOLIDAY AT HOME: It looks like Schroder’s petulant gesture is backfiring at home:-

“Chancellor Gerhard Schröder came under attack yesterday for cancelling his holiday in Italy over jibes from a junior minister in Rome. Most of the more serious German newspapers criticised the decision, made after the Italian politician, Stefano Stefani, claimed that German tourists were blond, hyper-nationalist stereotypes. The Sueddeutsche Zeitung said Mr Schröder seemed sometimes to make his decisions to please the country's top-selling tabloid, Bild…..

Robin Zimmermann, a spokesman for one of the biggest German travel agents, Tui, said people booked to go to Italy were not cancelling their trips. "German holiday makers would have to pay a cancellation fee," he said. "There is not so much solidarity with the chancellor that people are willing to pay for it."

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

OVER-WORKED: And loving it. This article puts paid to the notion that working long hours is bad for the family and bad for personal satisfaction:
“Research by the Australian Institute of Family Studies contradicts the prevailing wisdom that working long hours damages a person's health and relationships. The study found one in four dads who put in more than 60 hours a week are highly satisfied with their work regime. And it appears their happiness flows through to other areas of their life.

Instead of feeling drained, these hard-working men also report higher levels of vitality and greater satisfaction in their relationships with partners and children than men unhappy working such long hours......[and]

Significantly, partners of happy marathon men reported they were also satisfied with their family relationships, discounting the possibility that the men were simply work-obsessed and unaware of the effects their long working hours had on their home life.

Lets hope this report gets translated into German and French.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

MATT’S BBC DIARY, AGE 11 ½: This diary by the “Washington correspondent” [?] Matt Frei is a great study in the neotic journalism of BBC news today:
“Senegal! This former French colony remains one of the most Francophile countries in Africa - cafe au lait, baguettes and crepes for breakfast and virtually no English spoken.”

Hey, quelle suprise for a francophone country!
“Considering the recent spat between Washington and Paris over Iraq, that culinary loyalty alone should put it on the White House blacklist. “

Matt this is Africa, do you think they have the choice to suddenly decide to order “Surf and Turf” instead of sadza?
“Remember how President Bush once pledged that he would do none of the things that his predecessor would? Well today George Bush went to the same slave trading island that Bill Clinton visited in 1998 to give a very similar speech full of regrets but not apologies about slavery, the birth defect of America. “
Well Matt, first of all, I’m sorry but unlike you, most of us did not memorise every word Clinton said and secondly George was kinda compelled to do some of the same things as Bill, like live in the White House, give State of the Union Addreseses, call himself President, when abroad give speeches at the places chosen by his hosts, etc. The fact that he visited the main slave tourist site in Sengal to deliver a “similar” speech is hardly a clincher.
“President Clinton was a master at feeling the pain of nations and peoples. How will President Bush fare? “
I doubt he’ll feel their pain. He’ll probably look at his photo’s, read a few briefings, consult his advisors and then do something.

THANK YOU, BRITISH PRESS, #135: from a story in The Scotsman entitled "Boys planned Matrix-inspired massacre,":

"The New Jersey trio were planning to kill randomly in the streets of Oaklyn, which has inhabitants."

(This, presumably, cannot be taken for granted with respect to mass teenage killing sprees in the Highlands....)

entirely via Oxblog

THE REMAINS OF THE DAY: In the Asia Times:
”Demographics is destiny. Never in recorded history have prosperous and peaceful nations chosen to disappear from the face of the earth. Yet that is what the Europeans have chosen to do….

For today's Europeans, there is no consolation, neither the old pagan continuity of national culture, nor the Christian continuity into the hereafter. The French know that Victor Hugo, Gauloise cigarettes, Chateau Lafitte and Impressionist painters one day will become a matter of antiquarian curiosity. The Germans know that no one but bored schoolboys will read Goethe two centuries hence, like Pindar. They have no ambition but to die quietly, no concerns except for those amusements which might reduce boredom and anxiety en route to the grave. They have no passions except hatred born of envy. They hate America, a new kind of universality that succeeded where the old Christian empire failed. They hate Israel, which makes the Jewish people appear all the more eternal in stark contrast to Europe's morbid temporality. They will pass out of history unmourned even by themselves.”

Telling but its as well to consider prosperous Asian fertility rates - Japan, 1.3; Korea, 1.5; - and then look at the US, 2.1. There’s more to it than just Europe.
Via NZPundit.

A REAL QUAGMIRE: Scott has a post on the Battle of Kursk, fought sixty years ago this week:
“German casualties for this battle were estimated to be 100,000 killed or wounded, while Soviet forces suffered 250,000 dead and 600,000 wounded. This is in a week- if you thought a week was a long time in politics.”

It is our generation’s blessing that these figures are so truly mind bogling.

LIBERIA: Brilliant article on Liberia
“American inaction, they believe, is responsible for the way Liberians have been slaughtering one another for the past 14 years. Much of the world agrees. After all, as Liberians never ceased to point out to me when I visited Monrovia during a brief lull in the civil war, a detachment of 500 trained troops could have put an end to the violence there in a couple of weeks. A few marines would have saved 200,000 lives.

The trouble is that life is lived forwards, not backwards. If the marines had been dispatched, no one would have known how many lives they saved, and then the very same people who condemn the Americans for not having dispatched them would have blamed the Americans for other reasons. They would have said that the Americans were trying to secure West African diamonds, or its iron and manganese deposits. “

With the telling conclusion:
“From a combination of abject psychological dependence and deep resentment, no decent political culture can possibly emerge. American-led intervention in Liberia would bring about peace, but it will be an imposed, imperial peace. The underlying problem would remain: a problem that only Liberians, freed of their own psychological dependence, can solve. “

True. Bush’s equivocation about committing troops looks right, not morally right, but pragmatically right.

NO SUPRISE: Final draft of the EU Constitution is agreed and:
“Germany and France are certain to win major concessions today as final changes are made to Europe's draft constitution, but Britain's key concerns have been ignored."

When do you think that Blair is going to get the message that the Constitution is not intended to take a form that will ever be acceptable to Britain?

KANGAROO GATE: The British Government now claims that it has discovered Gilligan’s source:
“a Ministry of Defence civil servant had admitted "unauthorised" discussions with Andrew Gilligan, the journalist involved. The implication of the MoD announcement was that the official was the source for the BBC's claim that the Government "sexed up" an intelligence dossier to make the case for war. But the MoD said that the official had no knowledge of how the dossier was compiled.”

Obviously the Blair Government is not an entirely independent source, but this looks consistent with the BBC’s Kangaroo Court style of journalism (first seen in Jenin); find someone who says what you want to hear, report their accusation as authoritative, then don't back down.
“Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, wrote to Gavyn Davies, the BBC chairman, last night to suggest they compare notes in private on the likely source of Gilligan's story. The BBC rejected the proposal, saying that the unidentified civil servant did not match its description of Gilligan's source,”

But there are signs that the kangaroo’s tiring:
“However, the BBC confirmed privately last night that the date on which the MoD official claimed to have met Gilligan matched the date on which Gilligan met the source for his story.”

WHO IS GERHARD? Judging from this article, not the sort of guy you’d like to find yourself sitting next to at a dinner party. Gerhard Schroder, attempts to rally the Social Democratic movement but ends up penning a speech that is both boring, incoherent and littered with vacuous slogans. It does however contain an interesting paragraph;

“There is something else our "leftist" critics should bear in mind: we must not only create and preserve social justice for those living and working today, but also consider future generations. Faced with changing our means to social justice - not, I repeat, our principles - we know the future has more rights than the past. We must resist those who hold that the welfare state and workers' and trade union rights are the source of all evil, but our resistance to these neo-liberals will be all the more successful if we tackle the task of restructuring the welfare state in order to modernise it. “

In other words, because of demographic changes, society no longer has the means to pay for social democracy, but despite this, it should be kept as an ideal and neo liberals attacked, well, just for the sake of it.

ANOTHER SLUR: Looks like Italy vs Germany drags on into injury time:
"This time the offensive comments came from Stefano Stefani, an undersecretary at the economy ministry, in a newspaper article. In it, he accuses German tourists of being "stuck up, noisy and outrageous" - and labels them "uniform hyper-nationalistic blondes."

A government spokesman here in Berlin said that should Mr Stefani's remarks receive the approval of the Italian Government, and should they remain without consequences, then the trip would be called off. So, just as the dust was settling after Silvio Berlusconi's "concentration camp guard" jibe at a German MEP, a new row has erupted. “

Don’t you get the feeling that this dispute is being encouraged from the press gallery.

Monday, July 07, 2003


UK Parliament Clears Govt of Misleading on Iraq" - Reuters/Washington Post.

"Campbell cleared by MPs over Iraq dossier" - Daily Telegraph.

"Dossier report clears Campbell" - The Guardian.

'Jury still out' on Iraq claims" BBC website

Verdict: BBC well out on Iraq claims.

BLACK PROPAGANDA; Looks to me like Instapundit has been duped in accepting this linkage on the Congo:

“In August, 1998 Tutsi troops from Rwanda and Uganda, supported by United States, invaded Congo. Their aim, this time around, is to overthrow President Kabila .
The invaders have taken over most of eastern Congo where they are conducting mass murders of innocent people: men, women and children! Enclosed herein are pictures of some of the victims .”

It is not true that the Tutsi Troops were supported by the United States in invading the Congo as this article alleges. Nor, I believe that most of the murders are conducted by the Tutsis – previous reports seem to suggest it was the Hutus who were Interahamwe most at fault.

But wait, look at the url - www.un.int/drcongo/war/war11.htm- it’s a UN webposting with a French heading. Now that wouldn't the very same UN that ordered its troops not to intervene and stop the genocide in Rwanda? And didn’t the French arm and train the Hutu’s. Very suspicious.

Update: I can’t find any evidence to support this allegation other than a series of articles along these lines:

“Since the United States has failed to condemn the Rwandan and Ugandan offensive, some from the DRC, including UMC members, have accused the Clinton administration of supporting the invasion of their country. To show their sense of patriotism, young DRC UMC members voluntarily enlisted into the armed forces to fight off the invasion, according to sources within the UMC in the DRC. “

“Given the intelligence and military collaboration between the United States and Rwanda and Uganda, there is no way the US could not have known of the invasion plans and the plot to unseat Kabila, and one must assume that Rwanda and Uganda pursued their aggression with the full knowledge and complicity of the United States.“
In other words, a failure to oppose was interpreted as support. But by this reasoning you could argue that the US’s failure to oppose Saddam in the 90s meant they supported him, ditto Syria, Iran, South Korea etc. "

Sunday, July 06, 2003

THE HEART OF MADNESS: Bush goes to Africa this week, so expect the usual series of articles and interviews from the “he’s done not nearly enough about AIDS” advocates. But read this article and ask whether we aren’t doing far too much:

“Look at the facts. At the moment in Botswana anyone suspected of being HIV-positive must, before they are tested, be given an hour of counselling in order that they can explore how they, and their family, will react emotionally to a life-threatening disease. This is frankly grotesque on a continent where poverty and disorder make death a regular visitor. The luxuries of counselling are understandable in the resource-rich West, where a tiny proportion of the population is infected; in Africa it is insane. In Botswana, one in three of the population is thought to be HIV-positive. To counsel them all would require 300,000 man-hours. Because of this madness, routine testing for Aids in hospitals simply does not happen — resulting in patients with obvious symptoms being left free to spread the disease."
. Why counselling? Well with due respect to the many qualified and dedicated aid workers, in my experience Aid agencies have an inordinately high proportion of staff who are, frankly, not dealing from a full deck. They advocate counselling not because it is necessary, but rather because it is something they need or have in the past needed – in many cases it was the spur that sent them into the job in the first place. So in a selfish act of transference they then pass it on as a universal panacea to everyone else, whatever their problem, whatever the cost.

But the direct costs this article outlines are not the only ones; when travelling in the poorer parts of the world you will often pick up a "Yali’s Question" undercurrent in everyday conversation: “Why, when you are not smarter, are you so much richer than me?”.

And when SUV driving aid agency idiots are the only Westerners that most of these people meet, the question is all the more poignant and the feeling it engenders, no doubt, all the more bitter.

KITTENS TO CATS: So you thought Silivo baiting the Germans was bad?

“Anglers from northern Europe are using live kittens for bait while fishing in the Po river for the gigantic sheat-fish, according to police.

Giuseppe Lagana, a police officer in Mantua in the Po valley, said that the first case was detected in May. But Mr Lagana, who doubles as a commander with Ampana, Italy's voluntary nature protection force, said the incident was not isolated…
The sheat-fish is a freshwater catfish that can grow to a length of two metres or more. It can weigh up to 660lb (300kg). It has decimated the traditional fish of the Po, Italy's longest river, since its introduction some years ago, and has colonised all the waterways around Mantua. The fish, which has a jutting lower jaw and the long curling whiskers of the catfish, is omnivorous, and when it has exhausted local supplies of carp and eel is happy to snap up ducks and rats. The largest specimens think nothing of charging anglers' boats. They also eat each other.”

Sounds like my kinda of fish.

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