Saturday, May 31, 2008

the orthodoxy of orthodonty

is it really necessary for almost-perfect teeth?
Since my brother Asinus was away on business the other day, I found myself taking his daughter, my niece Perturbata, to an Orthodontist so that braces of the "train-track"variety could be attached to her teeth.

This is something that I've spoken to both Asinus and his daughter about before. Perturbata's lower jaw contains two twisted teeth, and was given the choice of whether or not to have an orthodontic brace by her dentist.

So far, so fair. The thing is, she was given full braces on both sets of teeth, on the NHS, by an orthodontist who explained everything beforehand as if he were outlining a beauty proceedure. A calculated length of stubble poked through perfect skin - I bet he moisturises.

Perturbata ended up with what she had wanted, then we were taken into a cranny to see a DVD on how one should take care of one's braces. She wasn't allowed to take anything coloured, like Coke, jelly-beans or tomato sauce; anything hard, like gobstoppers or carrots; anything crunchy, like peanuts, crisps or toast; in fact, she had to fast from the palate of childhood. I regret, now, that I reminded her of the old saying that you should be careful what you wish for, in case you get it.

I don't know what Perturbata's treatment cost on the NHS, but another orthodontic centre advertises its prices from "£250 to £7,000". I wonder where a brace on both sets of teeth in order to correct two on the lower jaw falls. And what is the value of those two twisted teeth, which turn up in at least one person in each generation of our family? If I'm ugly, at least I'm continuing a generations-long tradition of being ugly. And being beautiful is risky - a WAG might marry me.

Perturbata and I, I have to admit, had a bit of a falling out. It took a shouting session between Professor Calculus and I to make me realise that Perturbata would remember my response, in Asinus' absence, for a long time to come. So, at Calculus' suggestion, I hugged her and told her that she was beautiful now, but would be more beautiful in a year when the brace came off.

After making the orthodontist richer with taxpayers' money, Perturbata and I went to visit a friend of ours who is hospitalised in Addenbrooke's occasionally so that she can catch MRSA. Afterwards, we went to the concourse and had chips. Perturbata gave me hers, because they were catching in her brace. Being of Scottish ancestry, she has chip-shaped chromosomes, so this was a bad sign.

Perturbata asked me, holding back tears, "How do you make good decisions?"

I replied, "You look at you bad decisions, analyse why they didn't work, and try to do better next time."

"So you've got it worked out?"

I looked at her sadly. "No."

Related posts:

Good dentistry - it's like pulling teeth

Blood, tears and celebrity dentists

Thursday, May 29, 2008

EJ Norman: retro-techno moves forward

EJ Norman - click for myspace EJ Norman
All songs written by EJ Norman/R Blandford
Enquiries to

As I tap away here in the draughty old fen late at night, I'm listening to an eponymous album by EJ Norman, who hails from a nearby old fen but has emigrated to Brighton.

There are twelve songs, collaborations between EJ and novelist/lyricist Richard Blandford: each song has its own texture, moulded by an understated drum-machine, intelligently-played bass guitar, and subtly-phrased synth riffs that colour but never intrude. The synergy of the three instruments is sometimes reminiscent of Kraftwerk, with a soupçon of Eurythmics. In Anybody will Do I thought I heard Benny and Björn on keyboards, in reflective mood.

Then there's the words - described on her MySpace page as "pure synth-driven melodrama, evoking overheard arguments in tacky small-town nightclubs, the wistful dreams of escape imagined on lonely railway bridges, and the precise moment when you realise that a love affair is dead in the water."

EJ takes the voices of different players, like an actress in a series of performances: whereas Fall to Me is a dark tale of seduction told from the point of view of the temptress, In the Shadows tells of the hold a possessive ex-lover from an ill-advised relationship still has on the central character - "in the dark of night I call your name..." In Genevieve we get a picture of the fragile ties, so easily unbound, that keep a band together - echoes perhaps of Yoko sitting in on studio sessions and making comments - and Degrees of Separation charts the frenetic pairings surrounding a disintegrating couple. The only thing I would like to have heard added, I think, is the burnt-wood counterpoint of Mandy Anderson, Cambridgeshire musician and singer, sometime backing-vocalist, and EJ's mother.

Home is mwith thanks to A Priory favourite and always has been, through its various reworkings. Like George Lucas, EJ believes some projects are never finished, just left alone for a while (although, unlike Lucas' oevre, EJ's gets better every time). It's a plaintive cry for the securities of the past, within which it seems at last we are allowed backstage to see the actress remove her mask. The line "I just want to go back" brings to mind Seamus Heaney misquoting LP Hartley to call the past "another country". One might add that they do things differently there because life inexorably carries us away from a place where life was simpler and safer, even if that place never quite existed.

Home reminds me that like any art, great songs are born of great sufferings. Witness Judy Garland's body-image issues; Elton John wrestling with his sexuality; or John Lennon's attempts to transcend his complex personality problems, like Sisyphus' eternal quest to get his rock to the top of the hill.

As Billy Connolly shows, becoming comfortable can render one's art anaemic. But EJ is hungry, angry, raw and ready to serve up pure champagne for the ears and the heart. Her retro-techno style nods in the direction of great performers of the '80's (and even '70's) but she remains, quintessentially, herself.

go to EJ's album page on SoundClick

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

don't dumb down cambridge, smarten state schools up

It appears that an evolutionary psychologists, bless them, like Bruce Charlton, have caught up with the reality that if you are clever, then there is a reasonable chance that you will be able to get a well-paying job. And your children will see that if Mum and/or Dad has a well-paid job, seeking a well-paid job for themselves would be a better course of action than taking something that pays washers.

It seems to have taken them some time to come to this conclusion. Personally, hailing from a working-class estate in Glasgow from which the "working" was being rapidly subtracted due to drugs becoming entrenched in the area, it didn't take me that long to work out that if I wanted children with a cat's chance in hell of making their way in the world, I'd need to move out. The gateway to that was to apply oneself like a constipated rabbit.

What they seem to be saying is that there's no need to adjust the entrance cArchbishop Desmond Tuturiteria to universities such as Cambridge and Oxford, because all this produces is a way for genetically inferior people to access [gasp] education. In other words, don't teach the children of poor folk certain things. Archbishop Desmond Tutu contextualises this self-same situation in his own background by speaking of "education for perpetual serfdom. There were subjects in the history syllabus that you were not supposed to teach blacks because it would put bad ideas into their head. Don't teach them about the French Revolution. Don't teach them about the American war of independence, they might get bad ideas."

AnotherJames Watson evolutionist recently got himself into hot water in matters realting to education and intelligence - James Watson (left), who discovered DNA with Francis Crick by stealing material from Rosalind Franklin, got himself into hot water last year by saying:

"A priori, there is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual abilities of people geographically separated during their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of mankind will not be enough to make it so".

Although it doesn't quite seem to be coherent with the Independent's headline "Fury at DNA pioneer's theory: Africans are less intelligent than Westerners", Watson's crime is is obvious - he has failed to sacrifice at the altar of the liberal notion of equality by saying something like "we're all the same in the end" - an assumption most eloquently disabused by the title of the 1992 Wesley Snipes film, White Men Can't Jump.

So is there a need to make the Oxbridge entrance criteria easier?

The problem is, Cambridge and Oxford Universities are finding themselves under pressure to dumb down in order to admit more working-class entrants. Maybe it's me, but I found that the way out of an area in Glasgow that was like Hell with rain was education, both formal and self-directed: so what's wrong in asking state schools to smarten up?

Greater academic discipline in state schools would have several effects. It would give kids a better chance of passing the Oxbridge interview - or passing the tests for the local tech, or enjoying a good book when they got home from the factory/call-centre. It would let teachers finish the day with a feeling of self-respect. And, in raising the bar, it would enable resources to be targeted towards those kids who are genuinely unable to rise to the level of the bar, because they would be more easily identified.

And, if working-class kids were able to hold their own in Oxbridge on Oxbridge's own terms, it would expose some evolutionary psychologists as the snobs, and possibly worse, that they actually are.

Related posts:
another attack on excellence
two plus two makes learning

Sunday, May 25, 2008

sport isn't worth that much - Yimiti's olympic struggle

guilty of belief
In two days' time there will be a trial, where the accused will be found guilty and given six years' imprisonment.

That, at least, is the information which I found in my inbox from a trusted source recently. The trial is to take place in the People's Republic of China, and the accused is called Alimujiang Yimiti. Ethnically, he is an Uyghur from the region of Xinjiang, which borders Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Pakistan.

Mr Yimiti is an employee of Xinjiang Jiaerhao Foodstuff Company, which is known in the UK as Jirehouse. He was arrested in a swoop by Kashi Municipal Bureau for Ethnic Religious Affairs in September 2007, and charged with "illegal religious infiltration activities". He has also been accused of "endangering national security, namely instigating separatism and stealing, penetrating, purchasing and illegaly providing state secrets or intelligence for overseas organisations and individuals".

The latter crime carries the death sentence - presumably the family are meant to breathe a sigh of relief when the 6-year tarriff was announced. Like many around the world, I await with interest evidence regarding the charge of endangering national security; while the "illegal religious infiltration activities" appears to refer to Mr Yimiti's conversion from Islam to Christianity.

Although China is officially atheist, the situation seems to be that it tolerates some religions - but not others; and some ethnicities - but not others. It appears that Christians in Xinjiang who are of the Han ethnicity - which comprises almost 92% of Chinese - are released relatively quickly, as opposed to Uyghur Christians; whereas the ethnicities website of The National Office for teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language does not recognise the presence of Christians at any time in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region; Christians are neither recognised as being in Xinjiang in the statement on the website of the Chinese Embassy in the US dealing with US charges on religious freedom.

It's not for me to cast aspersions on the Chinese justice system, I merely hope that the justices take into account concerns of the international community that Christians are being heavily leant on at the moment in the run-up to this year's Olympic Games, in the fear that Chinese people may succumb to proselytisation. I don't know what they're concerned about - after a typical Friday night out in Glasgow, I would be accosted by various evangelists, Mormons and Hari-Krishnas: I'd have a few words with them, politely refuse their books, and go home.

I hope that this trial ends well for Mr Yimiti so that the many people throughout the world who wish to enjoy the Olympics can rest assured that their countries can send athletes of whatever religious or political persuasion to the Games to be judged by their performance and not by their thoughts.

If anybody who is unsettled by Mr Yimiti's story wishes to respectfully contact Chinese representatives after having investigated further, I supply the following information based on feedback I have received on this blog's readership.


Her Excellency Ms Fu Ying
Embassy to the People's Republic of China to the UK
49-51 Portland Place
London W1N 1JL


His Excellency Mr Zhou Wenzhong
2300 Conecticut Avenue
Washington DC 20008



His Excellency Mr Lu Shumin
The Embassy of the People's Republic of China in Canada (Ottawa)
515 St. Patrick Street,
Ont. K1N 5H3



His Excellency Mr Zhang Junsai
The Embassy of the People's Republic of China in Australia
15 Coronation Drive
ACT 2600


New Zealand:

His Excellency Mr Zhang Yuanyuan
No. 2-6 Glenmore Street
New Zealand



His Excellency Mr Chen Yonglong
222 Ben Yehuda Street
Tel Aviv
PO Box 6067
Tel Aviv 61060


If you speak Chinese and wish to register your concern, you could contact Committee Chief Director and CCP Secretary Wang Chun Fu of Kashi Region Nationality and Religious Affairs on:

+86 998-2823681

also Kashi People's Municipal Court, on +86 998-2822604.

Whatever language you speak, I'm sure that you are, in this Olympic year, free to write to:

Minister of Justice
Ms Wu Aiying
Ministry of Justice
10 Nan Da Jie
Beijing City 100020
People's Republic of China


Prime Minister Wen jiabao
PO Box 1741
The State Council
Beijing 100017
People's Republic of China


As a non-sporty person whose sports intake consists of watching the Olympics every four years, I hope this can be resolved before the Games start, so that I can feel able to watch the proceedings, and catch a glimpse of modern China.

Related posts:

as the Olympics begin
at the close of the Olympics

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Gwyneth Dunwoody - in a class of her own

advert for a fancy-dress shop
The Labour Party has ordered Tamsin Dunwoody's campaign managers in the Crewe and Nantwich by-election - vacated through the sad death of her mother - to ditch the "class-warfare" tactics.

At first sight, this seems very gentlemanly of them. Looking more deeply, however, perhaps it's related to the fact that Ms Dunwoody (right), who styles herself as "a single, unemployed mTamsin Dunwoodyother of five fighting hard for a job" lives in a rather expensive house set in one-and-a-half acres of land. The villa is around 175km from the constituency she is campaigning to represent. This isn't unusual in itself, but what is unusual is that Stephen Ladyman, Labour's vice-chairman, states that Tory candidate Edward Timpson "hasn't done anything in the area". This is surprising given that Crewe and Nantwich is in Cheshire, and Ms Dunwoody's last job was representing a constituency in the Welsh Assembly. A good deal has been made in the campaign that Timpson's father is at the head of a chain of shops that repairs shoes. The campaign managers got so carried away with themselves that they forgot the recent history of their own party when they described Edward Timpson, in their flier, as Tory Thatcher Boy Timpson.

who taught Ms Dunwoody's campaign managers history?
Labour has an ambivalence about class, property and influence - for example, the Blairs collect properties like a Labour-party donor collects honours. Tony Blair, son of a university-lecturer and privately educated at a prominent independent school, had a well-paid job from 1997-2007, it's true; but while he was Prime Minister, his wife would earn a fair whack representing individuals prosecuting the British Government under the 1998 Human Rights Act.

John Major, on the other hand, is the son of a music-hall artiste, and got a job as a clerk after leaving comprehensive school. Margaret Thatcher grew up in the flat above one of her father's two shops and gained a scholarship to a local girls' school.

The late Edward Heath was the son of a carpenter and went to Balliol in Oxford, again through a scholarship. I imagine that Gwyneth Dunwoody, Tamsin's mother and the daughter of a miner, will find him good company. Being somebody who rebelled against the control freakery of Downing Street in the past decade I am sure she would have recognised where the orders for the "class warrior" tactics were coming from, and would have given the pliant footsoldiers short shrift. May God rest her soul.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

we will fight

broken-hearted voters
The draughty old fen has been given notice confirming what we had feared: our Post Office has been marked down for possible closure.

We're a big old fen, which could work against us - it appears that post-offices, when they are the only shop in the village, will be looked upon favourably; but if there are other shops then it's more likely that the post office will close, because the community will have remaining amenities. It works on paper, but personally I've never tried to post a letter in the greengrocer's.

We will, of course fight, and the ammunition of choice in this sort of a fight is information. That's where we meet the first hurdle - rural postmasters and postmistresses have been forced to sign "confidentiality agreements" which are nothing less than gagging orders.

These agreements state that should postmasters give information to people who wish to campaign against the threatened closure of these valuable amenities, they stand to lose their compensation payments - the equivalent of redundancy payments - should their post-offices be closed. A Sub Post Office operates like a private business, with the postmaster earning a commission on transactions as opposed to a wage, which gives a sinister edge to the constant peeling of functions from the Post Office. This compensation will be vital to many postmasters for whom their post office represented not only their source of income, but came with a tied house. Others, approaching retirement, will be depending on compensation, should their branch be closed, to augment their pension.

So we have to forage for our information like sounders of boar seeking berries. The British public seems to be on a starvation-diet as regards facts right now, but, thankfully, journalists are by nature hungry creatures. Mike Laycock of The York Press reports that even as the consultation process is ongoing, based on how much profit the Post Office is making, the pensions contract - worth £200 million - is being put up for tender. What is disturbing is that pensioners are contacted by call-centres and informed that their pensions are going to be paid into their bank-accounts, only being given the choice to collect them at the post-office if they push for it. Those who have newly reached pensionable age are given no choice, full stop.

It's been reported that the Post Office is losing £500,000 a day - perhaps this is not unrelated to the services that have been removed from it completely, or also made available over the internet, like Road Tax and TV Licenses. This even though the Government's own consultation document on "The Future of the rural Post Office Network" states "not only [do] many people not have a computer at home, but that broadband access [is] not available in many rural areas."

A 1988 report found that around 190 different types of transactions were (then) carried out over the post-office counter. These have, as we've seen, been greatly eroded, but in 2001, it was announced that the Post Office would no longer hold the monopoly of delivering mail.

There are rumoured to be five firms who want to compete with the Post Office to deliver mail. I am sure the PO will fight for its right to deliver as much mail as possible and, as I've observed, the ammunition of choice in this sort of a fight is information. In fighting to keep our post-offices open, we are supplying the Post Office with precise and valuable information on the demographics and needs in each community without demanding consultants' fees, even though we know our communities more intimately than anybody coming in from outside (like the operatives who will archive individuals' protests during the consultation period should a Post Office be earmarked for closure).
keep fighting
We will fight. Will we win? That depends on what constitutes winning. But our struggles will be recorded and not forgotten, and neither will the personalities who are administrating and finessing what increasingly seems to be a constellation of done deals.

In the meantime, please use your local post office. You can do more there than you may think, because you haven't been made aware of the breadth of services that it still provides. And write: to local newspapers, nationals, your Parish Councillors, District or City Councillors, MP's and MEP's. You know where to post the letters.

use it or lose it

Monday, May 12, 2008

pentecost 2008

New Scientist is not a magazine to do things by halves, and redoubles its efforts when it senses a chance to stick the boot into its favourite enemy - religion in general, Christianity in particular.
santa delusion...?
The Christmas 2007 issue was a case in point, the jackboots making their first contact in the letters page. One, from John Falla, talks about "prying the dying hands of the Anglican Church", which, along with its shot at state funding of faith schools, is an edited version of his blog-post made just over a month previously. If the whole blogged comment about faith schools funded by the state was sent to the New Scientist, they perhaps had an uncharacteristic attack of scruples and adjudged it too strong, but anybody, like me, who had read The God Delusion knew where the litany was heading.

Another letter, summarised in the first link in the above paragraph, is deliciously spiteful and deserves quoting in its entirety:

"What good is religion? I'll tell you. It's by far the greatest labour-saving device ever invented. Why? Because once you believe, you never have to think again. The amount of painful effort this must have saved throughout history is enormous!"

Substitute "ideology" for "religion", and you might almost be approaching the truth.
gee, thanks, new scientist
AC Grayling wrote a commentary which meshed with the title of another letter, "Every Cell is Sacred" - itself a play on Every Sperm is Sacred from Monty Python's tired The Meaning of Life. In it, he castigates pro-lifers for their "unethical" views, because "of the billions of eggs laid by fish, only about 0.5 per cent hatch...hundreds of spermatozoa die before reaching an ovum, and billions of ova are expended unfertilised in monthly cycles." He takes absolutely no account of the opposite viewpoint, that adult stem cells are more valuable than embryonic ones in the fight against degenerative diseases; nor of the viewpoint that, according to his lights, he commits mass murder every time he spends time with the love of his life.

Anyway, letters of complaint were sent, which received stock answers that New Scientist would "consider" publishing letters objecting to these viewpoints; references to the Press Complaints Commission were pooh-poohed.

Perhaps the letters reminded the editors of their responsibility to protect the magazine's reputation when possible, however, because come Easter there was only one reference to matters religious - tucked away on the front cover, the phrase "Bribery and Salvation", which referred to an article called Save the climate by saving the forests. Of course! What else could salvation refer to?

For an initial answer, I turned (as a practicing etymologist) to Chambers' Dictionary, which defines "salvation" as "the act of saving; the means of preservation from any serious evil; the saving of man [sic] from the power and the penalty of sin, the conferring of eternal happiness". The online version, kept up-to-date through its etymological monitoring service WordTrack, defines salvation as "the liberation or saving of man [sic] from the influence of sin, and its consequences for his soul." Obviously the orthodoxy of New Scientist, which plans to save us from something or other with atheism, eco-friendly light-bulbs and trees, hasn't filtered through to the wordsmiths.

On Ash Wednesday morning I went into Cantabrigia for Mass. It was packed - as were the other two, so I hear, making a total of more people than tend to show up for Sunday Mass. Coming to church at emotive times of the year such as the start of Lent, Easter and Christmas, seem to be related to rituals by which we try to connect with a past that is gone and sometimes never even existed, like making it home for Christmas or toasting absent friends.

That evening, I attended the Imposition of Ashes at the local Anglican church in the draughty old fen. Revd Cantiana, the lady vicar who ashed me, gave the time-honoured warning, "remember you are ashes, and to ashes you will return".

Beforehand, I was speaking with one of the ordinands - trainee vicars - about unity between our Churches. Sometimes it's like being in one of two branches of a family whose forefathers have had a feud which is continued by the descendants even though they aren't quite sure what the feud was about, and the grandparents can't shed any light on the matter because they're dead.

During Lent I took Holy communion round Addenbrookes a couple of times. Sometimes the faith of people who are being put through the mill leaves me not entirely pleased with myself. Will I have to wait until I attain that degree of realisation of the proximity of death before what really matters becomes real to me?

And so we come through Easter, when everything changed, to Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. If nature is parsimonious, as radical militant atheists proclaim, it seems to me that the ideas of salvation and redemption, and generally of turning things upside down, must be encoded within us or else they would have been selected out.
come, Lord Jesus
As one of the correspondents to New Scientist's Christmas issue realised, "any scientist knows that the moment all mysteries are conquered is the moment their grant money dries up". Christians don't generally get grants, but we realise all the same that there are mysteries in this life that are not explicable by Large Hadron Colliders at an eqivalent cost to several million human beings' lives; we trust that God acts through us in mysterious ways that we may never understand this side of the pearly gates.

In short, we trust in God.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

israel's 60th birthday

A grand and feisty lady is coming up for her 60th birthday - Israel declared its statehood on May 14, 1948.

There's a bit of a mix-up about it's modern coming into being, that it was founded on the sand of guilt rather than the rock of international law. This finds its way into The Sum of all Fears, when Tom Clancy has his serial hero Jack Ryan say:

"Before either of us was born, America and other countries stood by and did very little to prevent the extermination of six million Jews. The guilt attending that infamy lies heavy on my country."

Bernard Wasserstein pulls the curtain back a couple of generations in his Britain and the Jews of Europe 1939-1945:

"The first expressions of interest by the British Government in some form of territorial solution to the Jewish problem [of social and political tensions caused by immigration of Eastern European Jews] were made in 1902 and 1903 when there was serious consideration of proposals of Jewish settlement in El Arish in the Sinai Peninsula, or in part of East divert the flow of Jewish refugees away from Britain."

This came to nothing, but in November 1917 the Balfour declaration promised a Jewish homeland in Palestine in an effort to mobilise Jewish opinion in Russia and the USA in Britain's favour as the First World War raged (although the German government had already put paid to any religious influence in Russia with the contents of their sealed train). The Balfour declaration was incorporated into the mandate given to Britain by the League of Nations to govern Palestine - but note that over half of the Mandate covered Transjordania, a largely Muslim entity that, after the British Mandate ended in 1946, became modern Jordan.

Historian Efraim Karsh lays out how Zionists and Muslims collaborated to plan a society that would be equitable to both Jews and Palestinians, but moderates on both sides were frustrated by hardline pan-Arabist efforts to create a conflict where none (yet) existed. In 1947, he states:

"Tiberias’ 6,000-strong Arab community had been similarly forced out by its own leaders, against local Jewish wishes. In Jaffa, Palestine’s largest Arab city, the municipality organized the transfer of thousands of residents by land and sea; in Jerusalem, the AHC [Arab Higher Committee] ordered the transfer of women and children, and local gang leaders pushed out residents of several neighborhoods."

This isn't the accepted history that we're used to - but perhaps we should consider that we have been fed a history that's been the subject of the sort of revisionism that caused Karl Marx to exclaim "I am not a Marxist"!

The flames of hatred that Israel's neighbours felt towards it were fanned by the Brits when we evaporated from Palestine even more quickly than the Belgians did from the Congo. The rest is history (look it up!)...but anybody who thinks they agree with Henry Ford's 1921 interview with the New York Times in which he said "history is bunk" should chew on his actual words: "education is learning how to read and write and then working out ideas, mixing with people, getting experience".

It's not for me to minimise the distress of Palestinian Christians and Muslims on the wrong side of the wall. But I'm struck that, in Cantabrigia, wherever there is a protest of any sort whatsoever there seems to be at least one stall, usually uninvited, manned by people who protest at the Palestinians' lot in Israel. This might be fair comment if the stalls were manned by Palestinian emigrés, but they are mostly tended by Socialist Workers with dodgy moustaches, or Americans who appear to have had a tad too much therapy. If these folk took Mr Ford's advice and engaged with Palestinians long enough to invite their trust, they would indeed hear tales of grievance against Israel, for such is war; but I suspect they would find that the reason for Palestinians' emigration, ultimately, lies with other Palestinians in the rogue state that Israel tolerates within its borders for the sake of what vested interests protest constitutes peace.

Both Jordan and Egypt have attempted to claim land from Israel, but are ambivalent about the status of Palestinian refugees in their countries. President Sadat of Egypt and King Abdulla of Jordan explored the possibility of peace with Israel, and paid with their lives. I wonder if the aforementioned stall-holders have it in them to make this ultimate sacrifice for peace, or if they expect others to do it for them.

Israel is by no means the apostrophe it appears as in the atlas: in 2007, it mounted an attack against a nuclear facility in Syria which left that country facing a lot of questions from the international community as to its relationship with North Korea.

It's a long time since the Balfour Declaration. A lot of terrible things have happened, and a lot of terrible things have been prevented. All I can do is address British people who think they are pro-Palestinian - go live there. Then cross the wall, and live there. You will find that both locations are under attack, but only one location's attacks are reported.

Happy birthday, Israel. I thank God that you're there. And that I'm not.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

mayor of london

Mayor of London - with thanks to Sunday Express
Amid an avalanche of crushing defeats nationwide for Labour, Boris Johnson is now Mayor of London.

This is not just a triumph for Boris, his team and his policies, for example on transport and crime, but a vindication of the Conservative Party's renovation at the hands of David CamerPM-in-waiting - with thanks to Sunday Expresson - hailed by the Daily Mail as a PM-in-waiting - and his team.

It wouldn't take much effort to take apart Ken Livingstone's character; but as a friend of mine once said to an MP who had taunted him about his son's criminal past, when we go to God with our faults written on our foreheads, none of us will have grounds to feel better than anybody else.

The thing is, although Livingstone's failings may not be inscribed sans-serif upon his brow, he doesn't make it difficult for journalists to find an excuse to knock him and, by extension the Labour Party. Take his rift with a journalist after leaving his party to celebrate gay MP Chris Smith's coming out. Having discovered that his interlocutor, Oliver Finegold, was Jewish, he compounded his "German war criminal" remark by indicating that his newspaper, the Evening Standard, was "a load of scumbags and reactionary bigots" and had "a record of supporting fascism". The Evening Standard had indeed supported Oswald Mosley and even the Nazi party, but dropped this support in 1939 - six years before Livingstone was born.

It was a remark typical of the socialist propensity for holding the most indefensible prejudices, and hiding them by throwing their hands up in horror at anything which they think offends their pet minorities like radical militant Muslims and gays, etc. Richard Littlejohn writes:

Under the guise of 'anti-Zionism', anti-Semitism is rife on
British university campuses. But still the Government refuses to ban groups such
as Hizb ut-Tahir, motto: 'Jews will be killed wherever they can be

Being in the vanguard of the Conservative resurgance has its darker side. It is said that Labour is planning a rebuttal unit to take apart Boris' words and actions now and in the past. This is a technique that led it to victory in the 1997 General Election through the offices of their search-engine, named with uncharacteristic patriotism as Excalibur (the article linked to was written by Boris). As was the case with Excalibur, this rebuttal unit will observe no morality beyond the cold hunt for success, no matter the prospect of the British people, regardless of the amount of melanin in their skin, being held to ransom by the party's hostages to fortune.

Ascalon - the sword said to have been wielded by St GeorgeWell done, Boris. May I suggest that you start up an ethical rebuttal unit, and even propose a name for it - "Ascalon"?

Friday, May 2, 2008

reducing roadside shrines

Without rules, people tend to do what they want, regardless of the consequences for others. The realisation of this has led to the Ten Commandments, the Magna Carta and Sadie McGlumphur's Tartan Emporium's Code of Conduct for Kilties.

And the Highway Code.

The Highway Code isn't actually part of British Law, but while you'll never be arrested for observing it, you might well be for breaking it. If, that is, you're observed to be not observing it.

This is where the problem arises in Cantabrigia and its environs, not least the draughty old fen.

We have long had "rat-run" problems, whereby motorists try to evade snarl-ups on busier roads by using the roads running through the d.o.f. which they perceive to be less busy, only to be caught up in other snarl-ups which are largely of their own creation.
slow down in villages
Leaving the draughty old fen, some motorists tend to accelerate before the national speed limit is applicable. The main reason for this has been cited as the lack of signage on some roads reminding drivers that the speed limit is still 30mph.

So the solution appears simple: put more signs up so that drivers know the speed-limit.

But, thinking about the matter, do we need to put up other signs, for example "when you're shooting rabbits don't shoot at people"? Or, "if you're cutting down a tree, don't aim your axe at any non-sylvian being"?

Cambridgeshire County Council is dealing with the problem of fatalities in the region's roads, and it has to be admitted we do not have a situation, we have a problem. It's rationale: to prioritise "accident cluster sites where people had been killed or seriously injured".

So far, so fair. But its method is to remove roadside shrines, on the basis that tno morehey distract drivers and cause accidents. Personally, if I saw a cluster of roadside shrines, it would occur to me that since a few people had died in that location, I should reduce my speed. Taking the shrines away, to my mind, is removing intelligence that drivers should be extra careful on a certain section or a certain bend.

New Labour's boast once was that it was going to be tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime. It turned out to be neither. I would, however, ask one thing of them: if they are going to allow county councils to be tough on roadside shrines, then please, please, force them to be tough on the cause of roadside shrines.