Jul. 11th, 2005 10:40 am
liadnan: (Default)

I woke in the middle of the night sweating from a really rather dull nightmare about work. I'd screwed up a routine application of the kind I do several times a month and was desparately searching through a file to find something. You'd think Recent Events would at least leave me with a better class of nightmare. Then I couldn't fall asleep again because one of the neighbours was taking the "live for today" mantra slightly too far and still partying at 3AM on a Monday morning. To be fair, not heavy partying, but talking loudly on their patio, and sound carries a long way through the gardens of north London if your window's open, as mine always is.

I'm tired and grumpy as a result, and not inclined to draw conclusions and things. But I see from yesterday's Snowmail, and from the BBC, that at least 35 people died in bombs in Iraq on Sunday, 20 of them queuing at an army recruitment base in Baghdad. Then there's all those lives lost Thursday, and Friday, and Saturday, and Sunday, from poverty and disease, you know, the ones we were supposed to be concentrating on last week. And, incidentally, today is the tenth anniversary of the massacre of some 8000 at Srebrenica.

There are various things one can say about that, about relative values or the relative newsworthiness of human life. In response, one can quite fairly argue that human nature is inherently solipsistic, that death nearby, or the feeling "it could have been me", or hearing that the friend of a good friend is still among the missing, as I did this morning, is inevitably going to provoke more of an emotional response, even for those of us who have not personally lost anyone close, or who aren't still desparately waiting to hear from the missing. And the unusual and unexpected, which, grimly, none of the things I list above are, inevitably has a higher newsvalue.

I don't see that Iraq can be said to be causative of Thursday, we've been expecting this since 11th September 2001 after all: assuming it is fundamentalist terrorism they hated us enough already anyway. But it's hardly helping. As the Medium Lobster writes: Faster Flypaper! Kill! Kill! Kill!:

"If last week's tragic bombings of the London tube system demonstrate anything, it's that the war on terror has been a staggering triumph. The righteous onslaught of new-painted schools and fresh-pressed police uniforms in Iraq has clearly driven the jihadists fleeing from the central front in the war on terror, scattering from the Middle East all the way to England, where they, in desperation, have resorted to attacking our allies at home."

Which makes George Bush's repeated observation the other day that "We will stay on the offense, fighting the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them at home," just a tad odd: as Hilzoy (quoting others) asks on Obsidian Wings

"But besides all that [ie the morality of the Flypaper Strategy as such], I have to ask: isn't London "home", in the relevant sense? If it comes to that, isn't Madrid?"

liadnan: (Default)

My father gave me many pieces of advice, some of which I followed. One of the more idiosyncratic was "never wear clothes with writing on". His particular loathing was for carrying an advert around on his clothes: he considered that if he was going to do that, even for a product he liked (the usual scapegoat was Guinness) he ought to be paid for it.

While it isn't the most important thing he ever told me, it's something I have actually observed, by and large. I own almost no clothing with writing or indeed logos or pictures, not only not adverts for Guinness but also nothing advertising the clothing manufacturer itself (this is of course a Snare and an Abomination in the Eyes of the Lord in any event, or if not that at least naff), nothing with external labels except my jeans, no band t-shirts or sweat shirts, and nothing with some terribly witty slogan. I think I do have have a couple of ancient t-shirts from shows I was in at university and also, I think, one Glastonbury 94 t-shirt and a Proms 95 t-shirt. None of which ever see the light of day. A pair of college trackie-bottoms, which I wear in bed when I'm cold, and a sweatshirt for some society or other. Oh, and some ancient school ties and a college tie count I suppose. And a scarf. And that's the lot.

All of which is no doubt terribly pretentious and I'm not particularly suggesting that anyone else should follow this line. But I was trying to work out why, precisely, those bloody charity wrist bands irritate me so much.

Read more... )
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From Unconfirmed Sources

Unnamed White House Source Wegman (Pudgy) Waterhouse, speaking on the condition that he was totally pissed at this authors use of other Unnamed Sources with names that were very similar to his said, “Okay, okay, I can see where people might see the humor in Bush talking about vote fraud, but it’s important that the Ukrainian People understand something that’s vitally important: we don’t give a lanyo what they think. They’re just a shitty little people in a shitty little country. We’re just looking for something that will get Americans attention away from the fact that we’re gonna postpone elections in Iraq because the whole place is totally out of control.

Speaking on the condition that he was more anonymous than ever before Waterhouse continued, “We see it shaking out this way: A Revolution will make for a few days of great TV, especially since Ukrainian chicks are pretty good looking, all thin and drawn and pale. During the Protest phase we’ll slip in a report that we may delay the Iraq Elections; as soon as people start to notice that one of the main pledges of George Bush’s Campaign is in the toilet we’ll ask Vlad (Russian President Vladimir Putin) to send in troops to quell the uprising. That’ll give us at least a month of television news reports full of dead cute Ukrainian chicks, further distracting Americans from Iraqi Insurgents, Military Deaths, Halliburton and Tom DeLay. By the time the whole thing is over we’ll have solidified our strangle hold on the Bill of Rights and we’ll have Iran in our crosshairs.”

liadnan: (Default)

That makes six, with one more on the way. In a few years time Christmas is going to be quite unfeasibly expensive. Still, at least my brother and his wife have produced a son, thus removing from me any patriarchal responsibility to ensure the family name carries on. Hurray for them.

Entirely unrelated, but hurray for the journalists of the Ukrainian state broadcaster too.

liadnan: (Default)

Reading the Speccie on the loo just now I was struck by a letter from John Osman, a former BBC correspondent, who writes that at a dinner at the Life Guards mess to which Osman had been invited on his return from covering the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war Mountbatten sat next to him and talked frankly and at length about the subcontinent. Mountbatten's final verdict on his own work: "I fucked it up."

Very true, Louis.

Meanwhile, in linkage, Ken McLeod has interesting, if depressing, things to say about the Caucasus. Having said that, I rather thought Britain and the US were on Russia's side so far as Russia's internal problems were concerned, though less so when it comes to Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan and Russia's attempts to regain power there. Apropos of which, have they decided where this sodding pipeline is actually going to run yet?

liadnan: (Default)

I've been having an enormously self-indulgent attack of the post-holiday/looming birthday/lack of having "done something" with my life blues this last week, hence I've refrained from writing anything.

I did try to write about Beslan but I don't have the words. Looking at the pictures here (link from Brad) is still nearly enough to move me to tears. Fuckit, it is enough to move me to tears. One faint glimmer amid the gloom is provided by the Grand Mufti of Chechnya:

"The Mufti of Chechnya has some strong words for these terroristis. In his denounciation of their act he refers to them as "terrorist-criminals" who have "once again shown their beastly face". He stated that these "terrorist-criminals" are people without a religion and definately are not muslim. Those who know Islam would not use the word together with "terrorism" in the same sentence, he said, because "Islam is a great religion, which calls onto its followers to commit good to others people and nations".

"Muslims of Chechnya are ready to do whatever is necessary to help free the hostages", he underlined."

It all puts my own non-problems in rather sharp perspective of course, though it doesn't help with my continued deeply pessimistic concerns over the slippery slope to hell we all seem to be on. Right at the moment I reckon we're in 1912, for about the third time. Apart from Russia, which continues with its remarkable impression of Germany shortly before 1933. (Brad also makes that comparison, but I'm pretty sure I said something of the sort a long while ago.)

Ho hum.

Last night was a cocktail party courtesy of Alan and attended by Steph, Rob, Katy, Dr D, A., Joff and various others including K and others not appearing in this 'ere medium, mainly to celebrate birthdays for Alan, Steph, and A.; and DrD and Katy's anniversary. Also attended by someone who was one of my closest friends before they sank out of sight for a year and a half: something to which I'm still adjusting.

I (and Joff, and to-be-Mrs Joff) had previously been drinking for the birthday of another friend from a completely different context, so we arrived late, though in plenty of time for cocktails. To be honest, though, while cocktails are all well and good in their place, I find my enthusiasm wanes fairly swiftly. Hence the retreat to gin, and my descent to new depths of gloominess on the cab-ride home. Being deliberately barged by a twat on a completely empty street at three AM when walking to my flat (I asked the cabbie to drop me at Camden, otherwise they always seem to get confused and whack on a heinous extra amount) didn't raise my spirits.

What did raise my spirits was neglecting to clean the flat today in favour of (a) lying on Primrose Hill fine-tuning my suntan until 3 and then (b) Proms: Schoenberg Variations for Orchestra, Beethoven 9, Berlin Phil, CBSC, Sir Simon Rattle. An utterly stupendous 9th (and the Schoenberg was pretty good too) probably the best I've ever heard and undoubtedly the concert of the season.

Unfortunately, I have to work tomorrow... foolishly agreed since I was to be in a particular gloomy London County Court and some kind of diary cockup had meant someone else was in difficulties with their planned hearing in the same court earlier in the day to take their case as well. Which means I have to spend the whole day there. Every silver lining has a cloud.

(Ignore me).

liadnan: (Default)

Not that this really has anything to do with anything, I merely happen to be flipping through this book ("the world's strangest proverbs").

I've just been watching Yes Minister: the devil you know, the episode in which Sir Humphrey gives what remains, some 20 years on, an accurate summing up of the politics of the European Communities. I found myself wondering what Sir Humphrey would have to say about Protect and Survive Preparing for Emergencies: what you need to know, a hard copy of which dropped through my letterbox, and probably through that of most of youse who are in the UK over the last couple of days.

It's actually, in some ways, funnier than its notorious spoof.. "the Fire and Rescue service has become equipped in recent years to decontaminate large numbers of people quickly. This involves showering with soap and water and then dressing in temporary clothing that would be provided..." (as an aside, I do wish they'd employ people who are capable of writing grammatically correct English).. go inside a safe building... Of course there are always going to be particular occasions when you should not "go in" to a building, for example if there is a fire." Score one against the social darwinists I think. And why is "go in" in inverted commas?

The real point though, is that my own response is simply "fuck it". I'm buggered if I'm going to skip one drink so I can afford to buy a tinfoil hat, if you see what I mean.

I lived in centralish London during the last major period of IRA attacks. There's have been a certain irony, given my family history, if I'd been caught in one of their bombs, but I doubt the murdering bastards would have cared. We became used to it and went on with our lives, and I intend to do the same now.

Unlike many of my friends, I would indeed not be remotely surprised if, tomorrow or the next day, I was sitting in my office and a major bomb went off nearby. The RCJ has to be a major target, and Britain is obviously on the hit list, in my opinion. But I refuse to live my life concentrating on that possibility. If I land in the middle of it, I do: nothing is going to prevent that, so in the meantime the only answer is carpe diem. Nor am I prepared to look suspiciously from the corner or my eye at every Arab on the tube. (by the way, did you all see this story?) It's far more useful to go and read some history, particularly the history of the period immediately after WWI, in order to understand how the hell we arrived here. Then it might be easier to work out how to arrive somewhere else.

It was a similar train of thought that sent me looking for a translation of C.PCavafy's Waiting for the Barbarians the other day. It was the end I was thinking of: "Now what's going to happen to us without the barbarians/Those people were a kind of solution."

Barbarians capable of killing thousands of innocents are indeed around, nevertheless, we should resist those who seek to use them as a form of solution.

So fuck it all, I'm off to Istanbul next week. Hurrah.

Before that happens, I have one major and one minor hearing to attend to. The major one involves pleading fraud (for the non-lawyers, pleading fraud in civil cases is along the lines of taking the shit out of the frying pan and fanning the fire with it.. um is that what I mean?), so I guess I'd better get back to work... But The Lyon's Den is on, and I'm sucked in.

liadnan: (Default)

Once again, Christ on a bike... (link via Rainstorm).

LAX or Checkpoint Charlie circa 1970: you decide.

On a more amusing note (via Neil Gaiman) thousands of Christians (for certain values of Christian) plan to move to South Carolina and then secede from the union. As Gaiman notes, it is unclear what the current population of South Carolina think about this.

On a final note, days spent arguing against litigants in person are somewhat tiring. And I have a full day's trial on something rather more substantial tomorrow...

Edited to add a small theological point on the Christian Exodus people.... they say their definition of Christianity is as wide as possible, but I notice they've included the doctrine of salvation by faith alone. Well, that excludes the Catholic and, to the best of my knowledge, Orthodox churches...

liadnan: (Default)

Hurrah. Glastonbury tickets have arrived, and the hearing someone booked in for the morning of Thursday 24th before I remembered to book it out has now gone away because I'm too expensive, apparently. Such is life.

I've been reading a book about the Greek-Turkish war in 1919-1922, a coda to the First World War, recently: fascinating, particularly when read alongside Fromkin's Peace to end all peace, which deals with the Allies squabbly attempts to rebuild the middle east out of the Ottoman Empire in some compromise between the different images that suited them, thus landing us all in the shitty place we now are. (It's also amazing to think about just how many different balls Lloyd George was keeping in the air in those years. His attitude of encouraging the Greeks, against the advice of Churchill, Curzon, and most of the rest, while refraining from giving them any actual help, was the root cause of the mess the Greeks eventually found themselves in.)

Anyway, like most such tales of high level diplomacy behind the scenes, there are moments of mordant humour. Lloyd George, in a memo of 21st July 1921 sent to the Minister of War, was obviously unimpressed to learn major news from the Greeks rather than from British sources:

"Have you no department which is known as the Intelligence Department in your office? You might find what it is doing. It appears in the Estimates at quite a substantial figure but when it comes to information it is not visible. Please look into this yourself."


Jun. 6th, 2004 09:05 pm
liadnan: (Default)

(In which I pontificate pretentiously)

I went home for the weekend, as I hadn't seen my parents for a while and won't be free for a longer while of weekends.

Since my father had a minor stroke some years ago now, his health has progressively degenerated. He takes a vast cocktail of prescribed medicines, one side effect of which has been to make him extremely emotional. We've got used, over the last couple of years, to him bursting into tears when something said in dinnertime conversation, or on the radio makes him feel this way.

A weekend of D-Day reminiscences )
liadnan: (Default)

I'm bored with being ill now.

To add insult to injury, I struggled into Chambers this morning to discover there was no work for me to do, no one had anything to offload on me, and no one much cared if I went home again. Which is what I intend to do.

Bank statement also arrived this morning. My finances, for many years an attempt at re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic into ever more complex forms, appear to have screwed up badly this month: I have something like 70 quid to make it to the end of the month, unless I turn to those fair weather friends, my credit cards. So I am going to have to talk to the bank manager, who always makes me depressed.

Spent yesterday lying around in Primrose Hill. Actually listened to most of the debate, at least in the background. Most impressive speech of the day was Hague's, surprisingly.

Incidentally, despite the fact I disagree with him and thought he was a shite Foreign Secretary (but a very good racing journalist), I also thought Cook's resignation was massively impressive.

I came round to supporting the war a long time ago, as most of you know: I'm not going to change my mind now, nor do I feel livejournal is a particularly good forum for examining it. Basically, it stems from the fact I'm a liberal interventionist by nature. Yes there are lots of places which could do with regime change in the world. Why this one, now? Why not, frankly. What matters now, I think, is what happens after, both in Iraq and elsewhere. I hope we are able to build a liberal democracy there: I don't think it is naive to think that is possible. I am also, quite emphatically, not a cultural relativist, and I don't buy the idea that somehow Arabs can't cope with (don't deserve?) western liberal democratic values. Perhaps, if we do succeed in that, we can also stop pretending the House of Saud are ok guys.

I'm tired, ill, poor and its sunny outside. Balls to this, I'm going home.


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