Archive for June, 2003

The Atkins diet for real men

Thursday, June 26th, 2003

My favourite quote in this story is a throwaway: “Grandma was a couple hundred pounds overweight”. It’s about a steakhouse in Texas, where you can eat five pounds of steak for free — providing you do so within an hour. (from Arts and Letters )

They told us so

Thursday, June 26th, 2003

all along, apparently, except when they forgot to do so. The thing about military experts’ predictions is not that they tell the future very well. But they tell you a great deal about the present. John Keegan’s pieces tell you exactly what is being thought at Staff College. So when he starts to explain that a guerilla war was what expertise predicted all along, this is almost certainly untrue on the face of it. It really must be the case that the neocons fooled themselves before setting out to fool the world. but we do learn from this retrospective prediction that none of the soldiers he knows are now expecting the army to escape from Iraq:

The Iraqis have twice rebelled against British involvement in their domestic affairs, in 1920 and 1941. There was no reason to suppose that they would not do so again. What is now needed is that “exit strategy”. It cannot be found either in the previous British experiments with “air control” or “divide and rule”. For one thing, there are no Assyrians left. The whole community emigrated to America 50 years ago.
A better solution is that of recreating an Iraqi national army, as the British did in the 1920s. There is plenty of raw material – the 200,000 unemployed soldiers at present not under orders and only erratically paid. Their discontent is fuelling the disorder.
It must be a matter of priority to enlist as many as possible, give them Western training and use them to replace the American and British soldiers patrolling the cities and countryside. That programme will take several years until it is completed. Casualties among the Western occupation forces will, meanwhile, continue.
Meanwhile, a little more light has been cast on the character of the man who led us into this mess. An account in Ha’aretz of Abu Mazen’s (presumably bugged) report to the Palestinian Authority of his meeting with Bush and Sharon contains an extraordinary vignette:
Abbas said that at Aqaba, Bush promised to speak with Sharon about the siege on Arafat. He said nobody can speak to or pressure Sharon except the Americans.
According to Abbas, immediately thereafter Bush said: “God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them.”
He’s a busy man. He can only listen to God when he doesn’t have elections to win.

worst breakfast read of all time

Thursday, June 26th, 2003

Comes from this report in today’s GuardianEvery half-hour for six hours afterwards, the researchers emptied the volunteers’ colostomy bags and tested the contents for a specific gene that had been spliced into the GM soya.

I found it browsing for a piece of mine on Larry Trask.

Not that sort of ring

Tuesday, June 24th, 2003

The Nine Bishops who wrote an open letter protesting that it was wrong to appoint a celibate gay as bishop of Reading last week have got themselves a nickname. They are known to their opponents as the Nazgul.

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why no posts

Monday, June 23rd, 2003

Gay bishops. House painting. Hay fever. Sinusitis. Did I mention gay bloody bishops?

Galloway innocent horror

Friday, June 20th, 2003

Two small bits of news about George Galloway: one of the English papers carried a “where is his writ?” note — apparently he still hasn’t sued the Telegraph for suggesting that he took money from Saddam Hussein — and the Christian Science Monitor, which had carried much more detailed allegations about him, published a piece explaining that they had been had. All of the evidence was forged:

On April 25, 2003, this newspaper ran a story about documents obtained in Iraq that alleged Saddam Hussein’s regime had paid a British member of Parliament, George Galloway, $10 million over 11 years to promote its interests in the West.
An extensive Monitor investigation has subsequently determined that the six papers detailed in the April 25 piece are, in fact, almost certainly forgeries.
The Arabic text of the papers is inconsistent with known examples of Baghdad bureaucratic writing, and is replete with problematic language, says a leading US-based expert on Iraqi government documents. Signature lines and other format elements differ from genuine procedure.
The two “oldest” documents – dated 1992 and 1993 – were actually written within the past few months, according to a chemical analysis of their ink. The newest document – dated 2003 – appears to have been written at approximately the same time.

The Telegraph story came from papers found by its reporter in a government building: the Monitor had brought its story from a Baathist general who claimed to have looted them from a former office of Qusay Hussein. But this twist certainly makes the whole story more interesting.

Really good stuff

Tuesday, June 17th, 2003

I have linked to The Whiskey Bar before. But I’ve just spent half an hour reading through some old posts, and I really think it’s the best political journalism anywhere on the web today.

out of cache

Monday, June 16th, 2003

I have been fiddling with the style sheet for most of today. The results should be hardly noticeable, but if all the stuff in the right-hand column now is too large, tell me, and I’ll try and work out why.

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A truly reformed Social Security

Monday, June 16th, 2003

One of the secret joys of a religious affairs correspondent’s life is The English Churchman, a fortnightly which calls itself “A Protestant family newspaper”. It has no web site, which makes it difficult to give the full flavour, but, when you google for it, the first two hits come from Ian Paisley’s site. I haven’t seen a paper copy since I left the Independent in 1997 but Steve Bates just sent me some news which shows it maintains its old standards:

“Real purpose of this is to say our old friends at the English Churchman have excelled themselves today with a piece approving slavery. This of course follows that passage in Shortt’s book about Rowan believing the Bible can be updated and no one wld approve of slavery today. Oh yes, the EC would: ‘When an institution such as slavery was abused it was eventually banned. However the form it took in the Old Testament was not permanent and was a form of social security for which many starving people today would be grateful. It was never the best but an emergency help to enable those who had lost all they possessed to get back on their feet again….’ so that’s all right then, just a form of philanthropy really, not necessarily abusive at all…”

The naked truth

Monday, June 16th, 2003

The Whiskey Bar has already done a marvellous collection of Administration quotes that show how much they were lying about WMDs. Now here is an account of what’s really happening which is nearly as funny as the films it’s based on.