Thursday, October 28, 2004

More hair than wit, and more faults than hairs

Right, I have lots of little things on my mind today. The main one may prove to be the death of John Peel. But before that I thought I would include this link, which the queenofsky attracted my attention to. Is Dubya considering compulsary conscription if re-elected?http://www.thememoryhole.org/mil/defendamerica-draftboards.htm

2Farewell then John Peel. Great voice; funny taste in music (early Kylie!?!) Is it me, or are people dying younger. All the recent deaths I can remember are: Peel (65); Derrida (74); Superman (52); Johnny Ramone (55); Brando (80). That's an average of 65.2. Which is a bit of a worry. Mind you, they may not represent the most healthy demographic: one fat bastard, a nutter, a shattered superhero, a Frenchman and a Kylie fan.

They have found a new species of midgets in Indonesia. [No sensible web links exist right now, but I will put one in if I find it.] Today's Nature reports that bones have been found of three foot hominid type creatures, who are being provisionally named Homo Floriniensis. They lived on the island of Flores up to 12000 years age, the end of the last ice age. To put this in perspective, proper modern humans reached Australia over 40000 years ago. This little island, Flores, also had mini elephants, which is quite cool. However, this categorisation of the species will not last long. I know from my scull fondling days in the UCL Anthropology department the rough typology of hominid sculls. There is nothing about these little folk that suggests they should be "Homo" anything, despite the fact that they may have descended from Homo Erectus. They are to "human" as hedgehog is to rhino. So don't believe the silly hype about "hobbits" being found. Chris Stringer at the BM was quoted as saying "This makes us question what makes us human." No it doesn't Chris. It reinforces the difference between our species and other types of ape. Anyone who still thinks that tool use and hunting in groups makes these critters in some way "human" needs to read Jane Goodall's research into chimpanzees. Even language is not a great indicator. If it is established that they cooked, though, which looks possible, this discovery will become even more interesting.

I saw TB in the press vowing to crack the crime wave blighting Blighty. Tone, even if their was a crime wave (and I'm not sure, to be honest), do you really think we trust you to defeat it. Your last crime cracking bright idea involved frogmarching offenders to cashpoints, didn't it? Get back in your box, your funny little fellow.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Hanging with Chad

news-00-5-3A few days ago, John Kerry's hopes of reaching the Oval office seemed to be falling faster than a liar's grin. Today, it seems, the outcome could hinge on just one state. Florida. Provided Kerry holds Pennsylvania, he needs Florida for victory. http://www.electoral-vote.com Voting has already started in Florida, and chaos is already unfolding. http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/special_packages/election2004/10022158.htm?1c. Although Florida has rid itself of chadding machinery, several other states still emloy it, including, I believe, Ohio, which has already been corrupted by media intrusion from John Bull, perched on Uncle Sam's shoulder. It looks a rosy winter for the families of lawyers across America.

Meanwhile, in Italy, controversy has been stirred by EU attempts to block the appointment of Rocco Buttiglione as EU Justice Commissioner. All was going well for Prof. Butttiglione until his preliminary interview a few weeks ago. “All are free to call me a bigot and intolerant, but I very freely define homosexual behaviours as an indicator of moral disorder,” Buttiglione opined. “The family exists in order to allow women to have children and to have the protection of a male who takes care of them. This is the traditional vision of marriage that I defend.” One can only imagine the reaction of the lefty Europeans to this kind of thing.MBakerAnd to add to the fun, the Pope stepped in with quote of the century, likening attempts to block the appoinment of Buttiglione to a "new inquisition." Now, I don't like to split hairs, JP, but do we really think you, the Pope, have chosen the best metaphor? Go on, think about it. Hosanna!234-pope

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Operation Clark County

guardian%20800x600Thirteen days ago, some Guardian journalists went for an after work brainstorm in "a north London pub" http://www.guardian.co.uk/uselections2004/story/0,13918,1326033,00.html and came up with the bright idea of attempting to deny what used to be called in the good old days the "self-determination" of the American people by persuading floating voters to give birth to "JFK MkII" rather than "Bushy" chads.

imagesRichard Dawkins, the professor of the public understanding of science at Oxford has always seemed like a right muppet. Now his "letter to America" has proved it. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uselections2004/story/0,13918,1326066,00.html Burk. Many Americans were rightly outraged (see http://timblair.spleenville.com/ from 13/10 onwards for how all this panned out.) Actually Tim Blair reckons they nicked the idea from him anyway http://timblair.spleenville.com/archives/007570.php.

All this just goes to prove what a pathetic bunch are the natural fibre wearing, celery munching, soul searching, heart aching, slow marching, tambourine waving, anally retaining, micro managing (I could go on but would just end up with the lyrics to the next Beck single. You get the idea...) "liberal" "left" that has taken root in Britain. They seem to fall into two main groups. the first are the dangling earring brigade: those middle aged women who worry about the moral decay of society. I mean, moral decay? I thought we had established that midget tossing was the answer. the other group are richer, and include more men. The treatment given to this group by Rory Bremner, the only funny thing left in his repetoire (although to be fair his Blair is more imprinted in my mind than the real one), needs no further comment. To have developed into a movement large enough to have its own newspaper, and to get 48,000 people to apply for the addresses of innocent civilians represents they kind of disgusting Claire Shortism that is so happy about post apocalypse Britain. 9/11? Do me a favour! 1/5/97 was the day the four horsemen rode into town: Mandleson, Balls, Blunkett and Giddens are the architects of this itchy new existence. You thought Howard was bad? That was before you realised that "New" Labour would legislate to control minds in a way too crazy to believe. You can't be a civil servant and a member of the BNP? Never would I have believed that a fascist social worker would seem so appealing. Not that I feel much like voting for the Tories, but "withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy". I hope anyone who votes "New" labour on 5th May chokes on their Ryvita.

Friday, October 22, 2004

More Claire Ward

6965870yMHZyOIxmW_ph Just noticed she was educated at Loreto, the Catholic convent school in St. Albans, whose alumni include my sister and her out of Shakespeares Sister. This explains a lot!

Public violence

emile_durkheim British universities stop working on Wednesday afternoons so that we students can participate in violent sporting activity http://www.ucl.ac.uk/~uczxfen/clubinfo.htm. In Venice, Friday afternoon is free, and the students drink, shout and enjoy ritualistic violence in large groups all afternoon. In the USA and Sweden the fraternities and sorieties torture initiands. http://www.sensations4women.com/frat/. One of the great achievements of Emile Durkheim (pictured) was to explain how all societies have a "normal" level of antisocial behaviour, exemplified at length in his monograph on suicide. Similarly, a certain level of public violence is common to all societies, and should not necessarily be considered "a bad thing." In Britain, there has never been a co-ordinated, progressive policy towards the regulation of public violence. Public flogging for women was banned in 1805; bear baiting was banned in 1835, but the last public hanging was not until 1875; hanging was not restricted until 1965; and not abolished entirely (for treason and piracy) until 27th January 1999! Corporal punishment in (non-state) schools was illegal as of 1st September 1999. Foxhunting has just been banned, leaving only fishing as the UK's last bloodsport.

Some people claim that public violence in Britain has been replaced by private media, especially computer games. Films, which are enjoyed somewhat publically, are closely regulated, especially in the wake of the James Bulger murder, which some blamed in part on violent films. Now, computer games are more violent than films, and "Doom" is cited as inspiring the form of a massacre in an American school a few years ago. I find it hard to accept that this amounts to the same thing. It would be interesting to know whether "alcohol-related violence" has genuinely increased in recent years in Britain. Perhaps the high street on a Friday night has become the modern amphitheatre, an experience enhanced by its participatory nature. If so, the government should act before it is too late. Britain needs well regulated public violence; though care should be taken when choosing the form. One possibility is to extend opportunities for shooting farm animals (see 20/10/04) to members of the public. I think bird shooting is still legal in Britain, which may mean shooting is too classy to be widely accepted by the lumpen proletariat ("social scum, that passively rotting mass thrown off by the lowest layers of old society" as Marx so charmingly characterises them. See http://www.chavscum.co.uk/ for how the other side lives now). Another alternative is the ever popular sport of midget tossing. Play for yourself: http://www.fetchfido.co.uk/games/midget_tossing/midget_tossing.htm. Does watching Paula Radcliffe run marathons perhaps qualify? Anyway, all suggestions welcome, and I would encourage inundating my useless MP Claire Ward with massive amounts of correspondance on this and any other strikingly impotant issue.

If you wish to contact Claire Ward MP:
you can call on (01923) 213579 Fax: (01923) 213595
or write to her at:
270 St Albans RoadWatfordWD24 6PE
or House of CommonsPhone: 020 7219 4910 Fax:020 7219 0468Pager: 020 8345 6789 then quote 880045Mobile: 0468 901606
or write to her at:
The House of Commons Westminister London SW1A 0AA.
or you can e-mail her at: wardc@parliament.uk

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Football heaven

We went to the local Irish themed pub last night, and discovered Inter vs Valencia on the telly. Then we discovered Arsenal on another telly. Then we discovered AC Milan vs Barcalona on another telly.
197353966OHxoZj_phWe spent the evening in the middle of the bar, watching Arsenal, with Inter fans on one side and AC fans on the other, all drinking, cheering, and eyeing each other with suspicion. I'm glad both Milan teams won!!!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

A lasting solution for world peace

I am reading "The age of Consent" by George Monbiot. Only twenty pages in, I had come up with a simple way of ensuring world peace. First of all, there are three times as many farm animals in the world as people. Second, the average American eats 88 times as many calories per day as the average Bangladeshi. Number C, 50 million people have died in war since 1945: compare with the mere 8 million who died in WW1. iv) There is a global surplus of food but lots of people can't afford it (one third of the world's people live on less than 1$ per day). Feeding all those farm animals keeps prices high. "So what?" I hear you cry. Well, it is all very simple. Wars aim to damage the powerful in other states by killing the poor. Generals like killing. The obvious solution is for warring countries to agree not to shoot people, but cows and sheep. There would be far more killing for armies to do. The losers would become poor and have to buy food from the winners. The poor in the losing country would have more fruit+veg to eat. And, to throw in a little bonus, global warming would be controlled, providing the gunpowder causes less trouble than the cow farts.

Simple! I don't know why this solution hasn't been reached before. Anyone got Koffi Anan's email?

In my fit of inspiration, I also realised what is wrong with British democracy. Failure is too lucrative (Major, Kinnock, Hague to name just a few). An important facet of Athenian democracy was that failed politicians were punished. The Athenians used to just kick them out. My solution is better: recycling. Any politician who is deemed by the electorate of his constituency at the end of his term not to have done what he was mandated to do should be stripped of all assets, and used as a dinner lady in a bog standard comprehensive. That'll teach 'em! The thought of Blair slopping out baked beans at Brixton High until his seventieth birthday fills me with zealous glee.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Exhuming Macarthy (again); rogue neighbours and the US election outcome

The US election is open to all manner of capricious intervention, but the view from Europe suggests Kerry is now in a very strong position. Funnily enough, I suspect the coverage of 'key states' may be concentrating on the wrong ones. Much has been made of the possible influence of new voters, particularly those who have registered but cannot be polled as they do not have or do not answer landlines. The consensus is that Bush needs a slight lead in states like Florida to soak up this unpolled, supposedly Democrat vote. In my view, these marginal states are as close as they look and will be a fairly fair split. To win one party needs to spring a surprise somewhere. How about Bush in Pennsylvania? Worth (I think) 21 college votes, and polled as being marginaly Democrat, it strikes me as one of the few states where the previously unmobilsed vote may spring a surprise by voting Democrat. Here, perhaps, the approach to public spending proposed by Bush (highly centralised education budgeting etc) may seem both more stable and less "nannying" than the impression given by the Kerry spending plan. To win either side needs to control some "swing" states like Iowa, but ultimately a surprise elsewhere could be decisive...

The disappearance of an anti Daily Mail rant was caused by a naughty neighbour divulging his darkest desires in the comments section. They're not all locked up yet...

As we smirk at Putin outlawing swearing <http://www.inebriantia.org/2003/10/russia_makes_sw.html>, perhaps of real concern should be his reversal of the burden of proof for terrorist trials (for an endearingly bonkers Christian critique of such ideas: http://www.biblebelievers.org.au/nl130.htm). Not intending to bang on about his constitutional changes (lets worry about Blair first http://www.deadbrain.co.uk/news/article_2003_06_18_0358.php for a spoofy version) it is worth thinking about how the US will react to Putin's retreat into isolationism. The nation is simply too big for the US not to worry about, and positioned, as it is near countries more barmy than Afganistan - have a look at Turkmenistan among others - it is likely to be of economic as well as anti-terrorist interest. American interests in central asia makes for interesting reading. http://commdocs.house.gov/committees/intlrel/hfa48119.000/hfa48119_0f.htm. Meanwhile, we have a Labour-Republican alliance, the Tories want the Democrats to win, and not even the Tories can make a coherent statement of a smaller govenment ideal. Should a referendum on Europe ever come, the UK will stick 2 fingers up at the EU, whose borders are about to be closer to Russia than we are used to. The map of international alliance is being redrawn in the most dramatic way since 1989. It is impossible to believe tensions will not result, and the question is: who will be the new "reds under the bed"? While we are shoulder to shoulder with the US of A, this is a question that matters quite a lot.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Bush or Chimp?

bush_chimpSimon provided me with the new URL: http://www.ajokes.com/jokes/936.html

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Another one bites the dust...

So Derrida follows hot(?) on Said's heels. Perhaps that great second generation of postwar philosophers has burnt itself out. I can't see Hobsbawm kicking the bucket just yet though... It seems fitting that no two obituaries carry the same reading of Derrida's "theories". Still, at least the social sciences might at last turn their eye to Ricoeur.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Arrival in Venice

To all and every who come to see my rambling record... I have arrived in Venice. It is a most confusing city, a confusion which is exacerbated by the refusal to incorporate street names in postal addresses. The university has no campus. The main building has been abandoned since it is about to collapse into the Canale Grande. This means that the university consists of obscured entrances, and winding staircases; libraries squashed onto the sides of corridors, and offices in residential courtyards. It is unlike anything I have come across in England, although I suppose if you imagine Oxford forced to moved in its entirity to the conservation area of St Albans you would get the idea...