Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Cocktail hour

My word, we're already on to D in Hans' A to Z cocktail adventure. And, spurning the undoubted but overfamiliar attractions of the daiquiri, Hans has chosen instead the Dark'n' Stormy, which just happens also to be the name of one of the louche nighttime establishments he frequents. According to Hans - who to be fair, is an expert on naval officers' clubs of the world - the D'n'S was invented more than 100 years ago when members of Bermuda’s Royal Naval Officer’s Club added a splash of the local rum to their spicy homemade ginger beer. They described its ominous hue, so the story goes, as “the colour of a cloud only a fool or dead man would sail under.”

Anyway. Add two measures of rum - Goslings is traditional - to a tall glass with plenty of ice in it. Add ginger beer to taste, and some slices of lime, with a little extra fresh lime juice if you're the type of person who relies on his Sunday cocktail to provide part of his Five A Day pieces of fruit and veg. Stir, and then I suggest gulping rather than sipping; for this is a drink for when you need refreshment. Like Hans after he's been dancing on the bar at the Dark'n'Stormy in Vauxhall.


A mother decides she doesn't love her eleven-year-old daughter - and then tells the Mail about it. And is even photographed with the poor kid for the article. 

This strikes me as so unthinkingly cruel it's essentially child abuse. Has therapy Britain, talk-about-it Britain, really got to this point?

Friday, 23 January 2009

Queen in crop circles shock!

Great story in the Soaraway Sun today (see if you can guess the headline) about the Queen and Prince Philip being fascinated by crop circles, with Philip paying a £6 a year subscription for a newsletter on the subject by 'crop circle enthusiast' (read: amiable loony) Colin Andrews. It reminds me of newsreader Nicholas Witchell's interest in the Loch Ness monster - he even wrote a book about Nessie, and I attended a less than spellbinding talk at the Oxford Union by him on the subject.

I'm looking forward to more revelations about unlikely Royal/C-List celeb fascinations with odd phenomena. Prince Edward's obsession with telekenesis perhaps. ("Damn you, tennis ball, feel the power of my mind, and move! Oh cock. Shucks, Sophie, am I fated to fail at everything?")

Still, they all have a long way to go to beat Noel Edmonds and his melon-shaped orbs-stylee dead parents strangeness.

(That Sun headline? - "ET Throne Home", of course!)


1. Your humble blogger is honoured to be the subject of this Friday's normblog profile, here.

2. Blogging will be light next week as I'll be away. I have scheduled publication of a few posts, and am toying with the idea of a Sarah Palin Week, reposting one SP-related post a day. Well, I figure we need a bit of cheering up in these stormy times.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Book notes - The Football Factory

John King's The Football Factory is the loo and bath book of choice in JMP Towers at the moment. I first read it ages ago, and have periodically reread it ever since. A "bleak, thought-provoking and brutal" (Literary Review) novel published in the mid '90's about football hooliganism and a very white working class, its descriptions of violence are superb and hypnotic; and I think there is something in them which is very appealing to people like me - middle class, white collar professional job, who last got in a fight when they were nine. I suspect, though I may be wrong, that you have to be a bloke to feel this.

Anyway, I wanted to share a passage from towards the end of the book when a group of about 300 Chelsea fans travelling away to Millwall have just got off the train at Peckham Rye, looking for trouble and knowing it's not far away. I think it's great writing, with the testosterone palpable:

We pile out of the station and we're on our own, spilling into the road, geared up because we're steaming, moving away from the station, over the street not waiting for the traffic lights to change, energy flooding our brains and we're on their manor now strutting along and we know the bastards will be around somewhere with their scouts out, mobile phones in small fists for a quick call to the Bushwhackers switchboard.

We look at stray males with suspicion and head towards the ground, buzzing inside the whole time. It's going to go off in a matter of minutes rather than hours. It's a fucking unreal feeling getting into a place like this knowing there's another mob nearby looking to do the same thing, and the fact that they're Millwall makes the whole thing major league. This is top of the table. Millwall and West Ham. But we're united, all together in this, and we're telling ourslves that Millwall are mental, but we're mental as well, like we were against West Ham at Victoria, and it's all about pride and self-respect. Traffic piles up as we cover the street, taking over, total control, a shot of power...The tension rises. We're nervous and cocky at the same time. Somehow we've got to control the nerves and make it work for us. It makes us more violent. More determined. When it goes off we'll have to be brutal if we're going to survive. We're putting ourselves on the edge and when you're in South East London it's a fucking long way to the bottom if you get thrown off.

Headline of the year?

Former French President Chirac hospitalised after mauling by his clinically depressed poodle

the Daily Mail.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Obama's speech as a tag cloud


Oh, and don't believe people who say that Obama fluffed the oath; seems to me that it was clearly the Chief Justice who got it wrong, omitting 'faithfully', and Obama paused to give him the chance to put it in. He also referred to 'President to the United State'. Well, guess it's understandable if he was nervous.
Update: Whoops, he did it again. "Out of an abundance of caution", as Britney didn't add.

No torture pardons

As others have pointed out, Bush did not, as widely expected, issue pardons to those involved in America's torture - sorry, "enhanced interrogation" - programme. As a Bush official has admitted that at least one suspect, "2oth hijacker" Qathani, was subject to torture, this leaves things potentially very interesting, though sadly it is hard to imagine Obama expending political capital on prosecutions.
Of all the terrible things the Bush administration did, the embrace of torture was surely among the very worst.

Btw - "President Obama". Doesn't it feel good to type and say those words?

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

I love Google trends

The second most popular search term in the US at the time of writing is "inaugural luncheon menu". (The most popular is "inaugural website".)  Well, I for one am always interested in food...

Unreported news

If you don't frequent the rare sites that report this stuff, you may not be aware that at least three branches of Starbucks in London - in Whitechapel, and on Shaftesbury Avenue and Piccadilly Circus - have been attacked and looted in the past week, because it is said that the owner of the chain is a "Zionist" who supports Israel. This is, it seems to me, very newsworthy, especially because of its chilling echoes of Kristallnacht. But I haven't seen or heard one mention of this on the BBC.

Now. Imagine that a popular and high profile chain of stores owned by an Asian businessman had been subject to such attacks by members of the BNP because of his support for the Palestinians. Do you think they would have gone unreported by the BBC?

Mark Oaten needs a new mattress

So. Mark Oaten MP has claimed £245 in expenses for a new bed and mattress. I'm at a loss to think how he may have ruined the old ones.

(h/t Portswigger email)

Monday, 19 January 2009

TV guide headline of the week

From the Observer, on a C4 slot featuring celeb chef Heston Blumethal trying to turn round the Little Chef chain - "Heston Services Little Chef". See what they did there?

If you're not British and have no idea what this post is about - sorry.

Right, carry on.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Thatcher forgotten at BBC

Much food for BBC conspiracy theorists on worthy-ish children's radio 4 programme Go For It! (pause to shudder at exclamation mark) this evening. 

Not only is the whole thing a love letter to Barack Obama - who, I have learnt, is a Good Thing because he is Black - but we have also had a child ask an Expert "Do you think we will ever have a woman prime minister or black prime minister in Britain?", to receive an answer that managed not refer to the fact that, er, we have already had a woman prime minister.

Cocktail hour

It's early Sunday evening, so it's cocktail hour. A cocktail on a Sunday, incidentally, is an absolutely essential counter to the sickly temptations of puritanism and abstinence on the night before the school week starts. No, turn your back on the Antiques Roadshow, and say hello to the cocktail cabinet.

Now, you'll remember that we're on to C in Hans' A to Z cocktail challenge, after embracing the Bellini last week. Hans tells me that in the course of "tracking down an old friend" on the internet he came across a cocktail called a "Crusty Arnold" - a frankly unlikely sounding combination of dry vermouth, bacardi, grenadine and white wine. But, as he says sniffily, that's just a little too vulgar for JMP, and in these credit crunch times we're going to stick with the classic and simple Cointreau Caipirinha, which only requires Cointreau, four or five ice cubes, and a lime.

Crush the ice (easiest if the ice is in a plastic bag, then you can bash it with the handle of a big knife if you have nothing else to hand) and empty into a tumbler. Chop the lime into a half and two quarters. Squeeze the half over the ice, then discard it, and add the quarters to the ice. Pour over the Cointreau. Then sit back, and enjoy the contrast of the sweetness of the Cointreau against the tartness of the lime. Hans says that very contrast reminds him of one or two of his old flames. Crusty Arnold, anyone?

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Teen sexting (born out of time)

I realise that it's a tough time to be a teenager and going to school today. Gangs...bullying...lots of nastiness.


I can't help be a bit jealous when I read of what seems to be a full-blown epidemic of teenage girls sending sexy photos of themselves to their male schoolmates. I mean, when I were a lad, you had to screw up the courage to buy a copy of Razzle with your mates after a day full of maths and double physics, and then go home to watch George and Mildred* and the nine o'clock news with your parents in front of the one TV in the house before going to bed. Nowadays, it seems, you're getting pictures of sexy Mandy in your English class sent to your phone before you've even got on the bus. Then, after a hard day of sociology and sex-education, it's back home to surf filth on the computer in your room, until you fall asleep with your head on your keyboard and your short trousers round your ankles.

The world's smallest violin is playing here for you, lads. 

* kudos to the chap (inevitably a chap) who spent an evening of his valuable time writing the Wikipedia entry for George and Mildred.

"Obama world's number 1 terrorist"

Well, in some quarters the disillusionment with Obama has been swifter than I had predicted - setting in big time even before his inauguration! Good work, Weekly Worker; ahead of the game as ever.

Sarah Palin's Greatest Hits

Because I miss her, man. Can you understand that? Just think what America could have had...

Friday, 16 January 2009

Gallowayism of the week

A Friday quiz. George Galloway - pictured above relaxing with a wig-wearing Saddam Hussein in the good old days - has laid an early day motion bemoaning the lack of democratic rights in which Korean state:

a) that vast open air, starving gulag, North Korea; or

b) that successful modern democracy, South Korea?

In fact, I think you know the answer.

David Irving is a nutter

We all knew after the Lipstadt trial - and indeed before - that David Irving is a thoroughly nasty piece of work. However, once upon a time he was quite an effective historian (see, for example, his book on Dresden) and even in his later books he still showed great acumen in finding and speaking to people in Hitler's circle to whom nobody else had spoken, even though his conclusions became more and more outrageous, and driven by his racist convictions rather than the evidence.

So I knew he was a racist and an anti-Semite, but I didn't think he was an out and out loon. But he clearly is now. Johann Hari's profile in the Independent yesterday suggests that he has finally lost the plot. The Indy headline goes with Irving's bizarre claim that Hitler foretold that Irving would be his biographer ("...Hitler replied: “One day, an Englishman will come along and write my biography. But it cannot be an English man of the present generation. They won’t to be objective. It will have to be an Englishman of the next generation, and one who is totally familiar with all the German archives.”") But the piece is stuffed full of lunacies. His Hitler love is now strong that he believes that Hitler was "the best friend the Jews had in the Third Reich"; and, which I didn't know before, he is clearly a semi-pathalogical misogynist.

All rather sad. I saw him speak at my school, and he was a very impressive, authoratative figure who turned up in a Roller and who could recall masses of information in great detail without recourse to notes. My teacher primed me to ask about evidence that apparently contradicted something he'd written; he expertly demolished what I'd said, and then, fixing me with a frankly malevolent glare, said "I'd be very interested to know who put you up to ask me that." I think I avoided an involuntary glance at my teacher who was staring at the floor in the corner; but Irving probably had his mind on a more sinister, Zionist explanation...

(Incidentally, it will be no great surprise to regular readers of JMP that I'm wholly opposed to criminalising holocaust denial, and wholly in favour of defeating the deniers in argument rather than making them martyrs.)

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Sooty seconds

Comments on the previous post have persuaded me to look more closely at this issue of Prince Charles and his mate "Sooty", as it think it raises some important points.

We are told, by Mr Dhillon himself, that he enjoys his nickname, and that he is sure it is meant affectionately and that Charles is not a racist - quite the opposite in fact. What would be the grounds for going beyond that and criticising Charles anyway? The following are what i have been able to come up with.

First, perhaps Dhillon is lying when he says that he enjoys it and is not offended. We can't tell if this is true or not. I see no reason to think it is.

Second, whether Dhillon is offended or not, and Charles' intention in using the term, is irrelevant. The term and its use are objectively racist, independent from the feelings and intention of those involved. I reject this idea that racism can be separated from feeling and intent: I think it's very dangerous and deeply anti-liberal.

Third, Charles is under a duty to set an example because of his position. Dhillon's wishes and feelings, and Charles' intent, are irrelevant: the point is that the use of the term by Charles might encourage its use and racist attitudes. I don't go along with this, because this is a private matter between friends, and I believe Charles is entitled to a private life. I would take a different attitude - I think - if Charles had used the nickname in, say, a speech.

Fourth, Dhillon would have been offended if he was more aware of these issues, and that is relevant: in quasi-wanky-Marxist terms, he is acquiescing in his own oppression because of his false consciousness. I get the sense that is what jg is getting at in his or her comment below, when s/he writes: Even if Dhillon himself is okay with it, it's still not ideal, as my guess would be that he isn't accustomed to moving in the most enlightened circles. Some women are presumably 'okay' with their partners referring to them as 'the ball and chain' or whatever, but that doesn't mean it's fine. I don't like this. I don't see how we are in a position to comment on or criticise Dhillon's own views or feelings, or to suggest that he has somehow got this most personal of issues 'wrong'. To take another of jg's examples, if Spurs fans want to call themselves yids, I say good on them: it's their choice, and I can see it could be quite empowering to use the old racist term themselves.

That's it. Have I missed anything?

Next week: we enjoy the Queen Mother's newly revealed private handwritten tribute to her favourite servant (and the only black man at Clarence House) on his retirement from service, the charming "We'll miss you, Little Old Nig-Nog'.

My and Prince Charles' Sooty racist shame

Following Prince Charles' national humilation and shame for nicknaming an Indian friend "Sooty", it is time I came clean. We had a cat, when I was young, called..."Sooty". Because of his black fur. Black fur! Oh, I'm nothing more than a swivel-eyed bigot, I see that now. Have me sent to one of Harriet Harman's re-education camps now, for my own good, please.
Multi-millionaire Mr Dhillon (Prince Charles' Sooty - as it were) has said of the fuss:

I enjoy being called Sooty by my friends who I am sure universally use the name as a term of affection with no offence meant or felt. The Prince of Wales is a man of zero prejudice and both of his sons have always been most respectful.

But Show Racism the Red Card have said:

In our view there's no friendly banter where racism is concerned. Members of the Royal Family, with all the money that's been spent on their education, should be aware that calling people 'Sooty' is unacceptable.

So Mr Dhillon enjoys being called Sooty by his friends, and SRTRC think that his friends calling him Sooty is unacceptable. Why do they think that? Well, presumably, the logic of their posiiton is that they are in a better position to judge whether Mr Dhillon's friends are acting in a racist way towards him than he is.

Strikes me that condescending attitude smacks of...racism.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Oh Mandy

Is a nice little Mandelson scandal brewing, as predicted here on JMP earlier this month? Watch this space...

I believe in Ameri - blimey, who cut the cheese?

-"Don Corleone, have you blown off?"

Loving the story of the "Mafia Scarlet Pimpernel" Giuseppe Setola who, while his wife kept the police at the front door talking, escaped by going down a trapdoor from his bedroom into a tunnel that led into directly into the sewers beneath Caserta, near Naples. He travelled a mile through the sewers, wearing a miner's helmet with lamp, emerging from a manhole to hijack a car. The car was later found abandoned. Setola remains on the run.

And what was the "well thumbed book" found in his abandoned bedroom, left there as he did his bunk? "Arise, Let Us Go", by John Paul II. Top advice from the late pontiff there.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Smoking ban my arse

Jacob Grier (via Andrew Sullivan) on smoking and the market, with evidence in support of the proposition - which I've always maintained - that the liberal and civilised way to deal with smoking in public places is to leave it to the market:

Arlington makes an interesting test case. It’s one of the wealthiest, most liberal cities in the country, and residents would surely approve a smoking ban if they were allowed to. Fortunately they’re restrained by Virginia law that forbids local anti-smoking ordinances to exceed the state’s own rules. Every year a statewide ban is introduced in the senate and immediately shot down by the tobacco-friendly house.

The fact that popular bars and established restaurants are voluntarily choosing to restrict smoking shows that ban opponents have been right all along: given demand for smokefree environments, profit-seeking business owners will eventually provide them, if not as immediately as a legislative ban would. And as someone who generally prefers bars with clean air, I think that’s fantastic — as long as dive bars like Jay’s or the backroom cigar lounge at EatBar remain free to set their own policies too.

The smoking ban is puritanical and authoritarian bullying by the state, pure and simple.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Cocktail hour

Hans is starting to get a bit nervous about the A to Z challenge he's set himself, particularly as regards the tail-end of the alphabet with its all difficult, high-scoring-at-Scrabble letters. But we're still near the start of his quest, and his spirits remain high.

We're on B this week, and with a nod to Hans' favourite city, Venice ("the queen of the Adriatic!" he trills) he presents the wonderfully refreshing Bellini - white peach juice and Prosecco. 

The Bellini is associated with Harry's Bar in Venice, where it was said to be invented by the bar's founder, Giuseppe Cipriani. It's still there, but it's now frankly a soulless and dispiriting joint, where you drink your Bellini at about 35 euros a go (for when you're there it seems perverse and silly to drink anything else, despite the price) surrounded by self-conscious tourists all doing the same, flicking through their Lonely Planets. 

Better to make it at home, with the best peach juice you can find, and dream of Venice as it should be.

Harry and the 'Paki'

You know the story, and I won't bore with you the usual commentary - young man, Army, risking life and limb, but still unfortunate, let's hope he's learnt his lesson now, etc etc.

But to save you from having to access the News of the World website and watch The Video Of Harry's Racist Shame yourself, I just wanted to share an unreported little detail that suggests - aside from the unthinking use of dodgy terms - that H is really quite a likeable and funny bloke.

Right at the end of the NoW video, when Harry is giving some orders to "his blokes' in a training exercise, he asks if there are any questions. "Are your pubes ginger too?" someone asks, in a deadpan tone. "Yes they are", he answers in the same way. 

Well, it made this blogger chuckle.  

His pretend phone call to his gran the Queen ("yah, love to the corgis...God save you") is also genuinely amusing, and suggests he's adept at laughing at himself.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

New Winnie the Pooh stories

Exclusive: blog post commentary by Eeyore about the forthcoming publication of new Pooh stories.

"In which Tigger has some surprising news.

Tigger has told me the news. He told me yesterday, while I was trying to have a quiet bit of breakfast. In he bounced, without a by your leave. Bounce bounce bounce. Extraordinary way to get about. Exhausting just to watch him.

I could tell before he said anything that he had something Very Important to tell me.

"You'll never guess, Eeyore, you'll never guess in a million years!"

Bit silly. If I'd never guess, why didn't he just tell me?

"No, probably not", I said. "Never was much good at guessing." I paused. "Don't know. Just lacked a certain - somethingness, I suppose."

Tigger did some more bouncing, even faster than before. "There are going to be more stories about us!"

Now, I was expecting some nonsense about Piglet's latest Facebook status update (save me) or some such thing. I wasn't expecting this. 

"What do you think? What do you think?"

I ushered him out, after telling him I'd meet him later at Pooh's house for tea. He's a decent sort, but a little goes a long way, if you know what I mean, and I wanted a bit of time on my own - I know, gloomy old Eeyore - to absorb the news.

What did I think? Well, the drawings will never be up to old Shepherd's standard, that's a given. Genius, that chap, and if I'm honest, I think those drawings were a large part of why so many people seemed to like the stories. And the new stories will be - well, they'll be different, won't they. And yes, quite likely they won't be as fresh or as funny. How could they be? But, you know, while no doubt Kanga will be starting some petition against it all, and Owl will be making clever comments, old Eeyore says - let's see. Give the chap a chance. Who knows - it could work out quite well. I've never been one to put a dampner on things, after all."

Coca-Cola and the EU

Open Europe have found that the sum spent by the EU advertising itself and the joys of 'ever closer union' in 2008 - over 2.4 billion euros - was more than Coca-Cola spent globally on advertising in the same period.

Good to know that tax-payer's money isn't being wasted as times get hard.

Blogging with gloves on

Had to be today the boiler decided to stop working...

Friday, 9 January 2009

Schadenfreude; a definition

Foxtons could be going down the tubes.


"This is what it is like to be Jewish in Britain today"

(Taken at pro-Hamas demonstrations in Dublin and London.)

From my own experience as an identifiably Orthodox Jew, since the beginning of the operation in Gaza I have had things shouted at me like ‘death to the Jews’, ‘Hamas should finish where Hitler left off’ along with the usual spitting and angry looks which I’ve become accustomed to. However, yesterday it went a bit further. I attended the demo in Kensington High Street. Walking back to Gloucester Rd tube as was suggested by the Community Security Trust and Metropolitan Police, there was visibly high security on the route. I saw two friends to the tube station and decided I would walk to a friend’s house a mere 3 or 4 minute walk away since he had told me to stop by to say hello to him and his wife.

As usual, I wasn’t holding any kind of political symbol, flag, banner or placard and was just wearing my yarmulka. As I was about to ring on the doorbell I was set upon by two Asian youths (one wearing a keffiya and one wearing a badge with the Palestinian flag on his jacket) who punched me in the head, threw me to the ground and continued to kick and punch me in the head and other parts of my body until I managed to shout loud enough causing them to flee. I bashed on the door of my friend’s house, sat on the kitchen floor with blood coming out of my head and badly bruised elsewhere. Thank G-d, my injuries were not serious and the paramedics were happy for me to go and stay at a friend’s house until the morning so someone would be able to keep an eye on me. As for my friend who is living with his wife and 10-month old baby, the police have suggested that they go away for a couple of days since there are lots of ‘unknown’ people in the area who could make the place unsafe.

Anyhow… this is what it is like to be Jewish in Britain today.
(letter to "mad" Melanie Phillips)
If anyone is interested in the facts, there have been over 50 antisemitic incidents reported to CST in the past 12 days. This is a higher rate than during the first two weeks of the Lebanon war in 2006, which currently stands as the largest ’spike’ in antisemitic incidents we have ever recorded in the UK.
(Dave Rich of CST, which records anti-Semitic incidents in Britain, in a comment on a Harry's Place thread)

Soramimi kashi

Soramimi kashi means, in Japanese subculture slang, mistranslated lyrics. You get the original lyric, translate into Japanese slang in Japanese characters, romanise the Japanese text, then translate back into the original language of the lyric.

Confused? Of course you are. I'm not sure I fully understand it myself, and I've been studying it for a full 5 minutes. Never mind. The Wikipedia page gives some great examples. Here's Metallica, for Paul:

Enter the Sandman

'Til the sandman he comes...
Chiyoda Seimei ikou...
Let's go to Chiyoda Life Insurance...

Eddie the Eagle back in training

Or, Why Going Skiing Is Asking For Trouble. In case you missed it, this chap was left like this for between 7 minutes (BBC) and 15 minutes (Smoking Gun) after a bizarre ski lift mishap.

Artwork of the day

Lankram the elephant (above) works on Vase of Flowers (finished work below). Rather nice, I thought. His work sells for about £40. Bargain.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Barack Obama wins election

JMP is delighted to announce that Mr Barack Obama has just formally been declared the winner of November's presidential election in the United States of America. Congress has declared that the electoral votes from that election have been counted (and remember the result depends on electoral votes, not the popular vote); Obama received 375, McCain 173.

This is something of a relief to the more cautious among us, for there are plenty of examples in US electoral history of 'faithless electors' - that is, state electors who do not cast their vote for the candidate who won their state. 158, in fact. And this isn't all odd old colonial history. As recently as 2004, a Minnesota elector, pledged to cast his vote for John Kerry, did so for John Edwards.

Anyway, it's a happy day - all over again.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Fatah assisting the Israelis?

I suggested below that some Arab governments are quietly hoping that Israel will deal Hamas a fatal blow; now a fascinating snippet from Jeffrey Goldberg's blog suggests that Israel is getting practical help even closer to home:

I've been talking to friends of mine, former Palestinian Authority intelligence officials (ejected from power by the Hamas coup), and they tell me that not only are they rooting for the Israelis to decimate Hamas, but that Fatah has actually been assisting the Israelis with targeting information.

Update: the Jersualem Post reports that Hamas has executed "at least" 35 Fatah members suspected of collaboarting with israel.

Supervolcano eruption imminent?

And now, in news that puts our other concerns in some context, I have to report that blogger Captain Haddock considers that the evidence is mounting that the supervolcano [TM BBC docu-dram department- more properly a 'volcanic caldera', natch] at Yellowstone in the US may be about to erupt. There have, the good captain reports, been 500 tremors there this past week.

If it were to erupt, it could be, well, tricky. A chap from the Open University, Stephen Self, cheerily reports that it "could result in the devastation of world agriculture, severe disruption of food supplies, and mass starvation. These effects could be sufficiently severe to threaten the fabric of civilization." Ooh-er. On the other hand, the National Park's site is still saying that "There is no evidence that a catastrophic eruption at Yellowstone National Park (YNP) is imminent."

Fingers crossed, eh?

Honour? I don't deserve it

The indefatigable Croydonian has a charming story from France of how two journalists have refused the award of Legion d'Honneur; not for some grandstanding political reason, but simply because they believe they do not merit it.

These are their explanations, as reported by Mr C -

Françoise Fressoz (head political writer at Le Monde):

"Nothing in my professional work justifies such an honour".

Marie-Eve Malouines (head political writer at France Info):

"I can see nothing in my work which would justify such an honour, and that is why I consider myself obliged to to refuse this prestigious decoration".

C'est magnifique, n'est-ce pas?

Monday, 5 January 2009

Why calls for a ceasefire in Gaza are wrong

There are two standard responses in Britain to what is happening in Gaza.

The first from the standard Israel haters - Livingstone, Galloway, et al - is to say what Israel is doing is a warcrime, and to call for an immediate ceasefire. Support for the 'resistance' of Hamas from this group is either express and fiery, as from Galloway, or implied and nuanced, as from Livingstone.

The second is the classic, educated liberal response. It goes something like this: "Of course Hamas are terrible...no justification for firing rockets into civilian areas in Israel...but Israeli actions entirely disproportionate...humanitarian catostrophe...both as bad as each other." And it ends in a call for an immediate ceasefire.

I go along with a little of the second response. There is, clearly, an appalling catastrophe unfolding in Gaza - though on a small scale compared to North Korea's enormous death camps, in Zimababwe, and so on. Israel's actions are not disproportionate, though, either morally or in law. The high kill rate of Palestinians compared to Israelis is irrelevant to this question, which may commentators do not seem to appreciate. Israel is taking steps to kill men who are trying to kill its people by rocket attacks, and it is doing so not randomly but by targetted attacks. Again, those same commentators point to attacks on universities or mosques as proof of warcrimes and/or disproportionality. But whether the target of an attack is a university or a mosque is attacked is irrelevant if the structure is used to directly support attacks on Israel, by, for example, storing weapons. Of course, all steps should be taken to minimise civilian casualties, and from what I have read Israel is - in direct contrast to Hamas - taking such steps. But when fighters deliberately base themselves in civilian areas, even carefully targetted attacks on those fighters will inevitably result in some civilian casualties, and if the fighters are legitimate targets for the attacks, as they are here, those casualties do not a warcrime make.

In other words, the fact that the actions of Israel to defend itself result in civilians, including children, being maimed and killed do not make them wrong either in law or ethically.

Nor does that fact mean that it is right to call for an immediate ceasefire. Who can doubt that it is appallingly inevitable that a cease-fire would simply mean a pause in hostilities - a pause that would, in all likelihood, allow Hamas to regroup and be resupplied by its Iranian sponsors - which would in turn mean more Israeli attacks to counter the renewed rocket attacks. 

But could they not sit down and talk? No, they couldn't. It is an absurdity to talk of Israel negotiating in any meaningful sense with Hamas during such a ceasefire, for its very purpose is the destruction of Israel. Hamas have said, indeed, that they are not interested in a ceasefire: their aim is to continue firing rockets into Israel, to kill Jews.

The only option, it seems to me, that carries any hope of a better future is for Israel to ignore the pressure of world opinion and push on against Hamas, destroying every base and every weapons cache and capturing or killing every Hamas fighter. There are reports that several Middle Eastern governments have quietly said that they hope Israel will do just that, recognising what a disaster Hamas are for the Palestinian people. Yes, more innocent civilians would die. Each such death would be a tragedy. But that would not mean Israel should not do it, if it were - as I think it would be - in the long term interests of all people in the Middle East.

Celebrity Big Brother News

Is it just me, or is Ulrika-ka-ka looking a bit rough these days?...

Abandoned London

Nice idea: guy cycles round central London early on the morning of Christmas Day taking photos. Cue Oxford Street spookily deserted, etc.

More on Flickr here.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Cocktail hour: Hans' A to Z challenge

The first cocktail hour of 2009 is an auspicious moment, and Hans, now recovered from his New Year exertions, has come up with a wizard wheeze: a cocktail for each letter of the alphabet. 

We start, naturally, with the ascetic Apple Martini, a cool cocktail perfect for sophisticated, frosty early January evenings. The White Witch in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe would drink these, conjuring them up from the snow. 


1 measure vodka
1 measure apple Schnapps
Splash of Dry Vermouth
And, of course, garnish with a slice of apple

Shake the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a chilled glass and garnish with an apple slice. Raise your glass, toast the New Year, and sip sip sip.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Mandelson scandal, and other predictions...

At this time of year, as bloggers all round the world sitting at home nursing hangovers, it is traditional to make predictions about what will happen during the next twelve months. So without further ado, here are JMP's for the world in 2009:

1. Obama will (continue to) disappoint the left both here and in the US; he will have been called a 'neo-con' and 'as bad as Bush' in the Guardian letters pages by the end of March.
2. There will be a significant Al-Qaeda attack on a target or multiple targets in Western Europe and/or the US.
3. There will not be an election in the UK.
4. There will be the biggest outbreaks of unrest seen in China for a generation, as economic growth stalls, environmental degradation gets worse and calls for democracy start up again.
5. David Davis will be back in the Shadow Cabinet by the end of the year.
6. Nick Clegg will continue to disappoint and to be largely invisible; murmurings about his leadership getting louder throughout the year.
7. Yet another scandal will emerge about Mandelson, but he will not resign.
8. Brown's Government will support ever more aggressive EU attempts to censor the internet.
9. The BNP will enjoy its biggest electoral success ever in a by election.
10. Mandelson will enter, and win, a new series of Strictly Come Dancing. 

Friday, 2 January 2009

Galloway the thug

At today's press conference of hand-wringing 'slebs and politicos past their sell date called to 'demand' a cease-fire in Gaza, Gorgeous George declared:

"We will be very, very lucky if the explosions taking place in Gaza today don't blow up in our own face at some time in the future."

Am I paranoid in seeing that as a thinly-veiled threat made on behalf of his constituency of radicalised British Muslims?

Incidentally, the latest Respect leaflet on the matter, which includes a little homily from George, describes Hamas' actions (or 'resistance', natch) in firing rockets indiscriminately at Israeli civilians as 'entirely legitimate'. Just to run that past you again: a British MP considers that firing rockets targeted at Israeli civilians, with the aim of killing as many of them as possible, is 'entirely legitimate'. And that MP is considered to be 'left-wing'. Remind me, how did the British left get to this point?

Update: JMP's erudite readers will no doubt already be aware that Hamas' actions are not 'legitimate' under international law. Presumably, then, Respect believe that trying to kill Israeli civilians by rocket strikes is 'legitimate' according to some higher law. Perhaps they had in mind the Qu'ran's exhortations to kill Jews wherever they can be found?

And in other Islamist loony news...

...the Jerusalem Post reports that Hamas have just introduced crucifixion as a lawful punishment.

On Tuesday, Hamas legislators marked the Christmas season by passing a Shari’a criminal code for the Palestinian Authority. Among other things, it legalizes crucifixion.

Not mentioned by the UK press, of course.

Sometimes it's tempting to sign up to the whole 'clash of civilisations' shtick.

Islamist loonies have it in for OJ

Taken at a demonstration in Manhattan. Bless him. Perhaps his mum loves him. Or perhaps not.