Archive for July, 2004

Where we are

Wednesday, July 21st, 2004

OK. Tony Blair got off in the commons, partly because Robin Cook makes a much more credible spokesman for the opposition than Michael Howard. But on MOnday James Meek in G2, and Fisk in the Indie (links later: there’s something wrong with the NTL DNS) had long stories about journeys outside Baghdad which suggested a third factor: the British troops have managed somehow to keep out of the war in the American-occupied sector of Iraq.

I have seen no good reports on what is happening in the British sector for the last six months. I assume from this, as I am meant to, that everything is quiet there. But the Meeks, who spent five days with a marine batallion, makes it plain that the war continues fierecely where the Americans do patrol, while Fisk, who drive, with an Arab friend, to Najaf, shows that over huge swathes of the country they no longer even pretend to patrol. Especially interesting is his account of a ceasefire greement in Najaf listing the roads which the Americans are allowed to patrol on. So, where are the British troops patrolling outside the cities now?

Where did all the money go?

Wednesday, July 21st, 2004

The admirable Billmon has a statistic I don’t understand and can’t really believe: All told, real wages dropped more than 20 per cent between 1972 and 1992. I’ve often wondered what the political fallout would have been if that same decline had been administered the old-fashioned way – through direct pay cuts by employers instead of the gradual, indirect erosion of inflation.”

I can’t think of anything which Americans were able to buy 20% less of in 1992 than in 1972 — not even illegal drugs. So in what sense did real wages fall? The statistic I always remember is that for the “middle classes”, real wages have stayed approximately the same since the 1970s. This alone would produce a certain dissatisfaction and political savagery, especially in a culture where everything is always meant to be improving.

But maybe I am just showing a lack of imagination. Things that might be 20% less affordable for the average American include health care, child care, and housing.

Freudian eyes

Monday, July 19th, 2004

I caught sight of the Conservative party’s logo on a web site that people were being invited to mock, and I thought it represented some kind of delta-winged craft crashing after an erratic flight. Only later did I remember that it’s supposed to be a torch. I think my subconscious got it right first time.

acid slug drool

Monday, July 19th, 2004

There was a scare last weekend that gardeners would be prosecuted if slugs can be shown to feel pain. As far as most gardeners are concerned, the problem with slugs is that they don’t feel enough pain: compared to the exquisite torment suffered by the cauliflower which is eaten cell by cell, dissolved in acid slug drool over a period of weeks, the brief horror of sprinkling salt is merciful. But this is not the time to ask who in this discredited government will speak up for the cauliflower. The question is whether there is any truly humane way to deal with the animals that want to eat the plants which we would also like to eat, or even to admire.


wholesale spam slaughter

Monday, July 19th, 2004

Last week I finally tired of the 2000+ spams a day that were coming into My lovely little Python script showed that about 75-80% of them were dictionary attacks so I fixed things so that all mail was refused (not even bounced) to all but six addresses in that domain. Four were accounts I use for shopping or interacting with people who write through the blog. They get forwarded to me properly. Two were old personal accounts, now spam-swamped. They get bounced with a message to try an address at instead, on the off-chance that they are legitimate.

The result has been that my spam went down to about three messages per day. Shutting off “sales”, “info”, and “extension” at killed off most of those. Now I can proudly announce that in the last four days SpamAssassin has caught only two spams. Both were sent to the address I have been using to sign blog comments with. I thought MT made this difficult to harvest, but it’s clearly worth somebody’s trouble, since both were 419 scams, from purported European banks.

meet the neighbours

Friday, July 16th, 2004

From time to time, I like to post photographs of people who comment on this blog. This is Sean (the man kneeling behind him is his ghost writer).

Death penalty for abortionists

Friday, July 16th, 2004

I know they do things differently on Fox news; I know this report comes from Tulsa, Oklahoma where, again, things are different from Saffron Walden. Even so, if a candidate for the United States Senate told me he favoured “the death penalty for abortionists, I’d have put it into the story a little higher than paragraph 7.

Mr Coburn is a former congressman, and an obstretrician by profession.

The great thing

Wednesday, July 14th, 2004

about working for the Guardian is that you get to hear really improbable rumours about Rod Liddle’s sex life.

The Butler Report

Wednesday, July 14th, 2004

In full, in PDF, is already online.

Actors and whores

Wednesday, July 14th, 2004

The bar in the new Rada building is one of the least depraved places I know: full of hard-working good looking young people drinking healthy coffees and smoling healthy cigarettes. But whenever I sit there, I remember a story about Edmund Kean, the original bad boy actor, in the Routledge Dictionary of Biographical Quotations.

March 16 … Kean about three o’clock in the morning, ordered a hackney coach to his door, took a lighted candle, got in, and rode off. He was not heard of till the Thursday noon when they found him in his room at the theatre fast asleep wrapt up in a large white greatcoat. He then sent for a potence, some ginger etc., and said, ‘Send me Lewis or the other woman. I must have a fuck, and then I shall do.’ He had it. They let him sleep until about six when they awoke him, dressed him, and he acted but was not very sober. After the play we got him to supper at Sigel’s lodgings and got him to a bedroom and locked him up till the morning. James Winston, Diary, 1825.

If you want a short definition of prostitution, it is to to spend your afternoons on call as a hangover cure.