Wednesday, January 07, 2009

[ethical blogging] increasingly in demand these days

The whole question of blog ethics is a minefield. So glad the Devil's Kitchen posted on the topic because its owner illustrates exactly what Bloghounds is also trying to do.

DK points out that if you are shown to be wrong, you should at least concede it. Yes, yes and yes. Bloghounds believes that ethics means this type of thing, not that you need to be a goody-two-shoes, for whom butter wouldn't melt in the mouth.

Imprecate vocabulary and hitting hard, as long as you can back it up with sources, does not mean you are unethical. Making wild statements without backup is unethical. Shooting off at the mouth without some facts to point to is unethical. Threatening litigation at the drop of a hat, rather than arguing your case - I include that as unethical as well.

Like it or not, only blogs following scholarly standards, no matter how swearbloggy they are, are likely to survive in the long term [or at least keep readers coming back]. Everyone knows that.

Like it or not, we are coming into a period of official pressure to regulate and "clean-up" the blogosphere. We need to look to ourselves and clean up our own act first, the better to resist this trend towards regulation and sanction.

Bloghounds arose from the ashes of some very unethical behaviour from certain quarters which we won't rake over here. Its intellectual capital, the value of its very name, depends on ethics and that's why we go through a complicated process with new membership, with no beg pardons.

The value of your name is not established by bully boy tactics - it's established by how far readers accept your arguments and if yours are better, then they'll be believed. That's the ethical way to go and its the only way we're interested in.

[7 января] с рождеством Христовым

C Рождеством Христовым !

Сердечно поздравляю вас с Рождеством Христовым.

Этот великий праздник объединяет и сближает семьи, поколения и народы в стремлении к духовному преображению и обновлению, в желании делиться друг с другом теплом.

Рождество для миллионов людей служит непреходящим символом чистоты, искренности, человечности и милосердия. В прекрасные рождественские дни наши сердца наполняют вера, надежда и сострадание, вдохновляющие на свершение добрых дел, оказание помощи всем, кто в ней нуждается.

Пусть праздник Рождества придаст вам силы для осуществления самых заветных желаний и планов. Пусть наступающий год порадует новыми достижениями, принесет в каждый дом спокойствие, взаимопонимание, благополучие и любовь.

Желаю вам крепкого здоровья, успехов в делах, счастья и мира.

For non-Russians

January 6th here is Epiphany but January 7th in the East is Christmas.

Today I received a message from someone special and then another [plus photos] from someone else special in Russia and so this is one of those days, Orthodox Christmas, when things get a bit shaky in my psyche. Some years back I chose to follow the January 7th Christmas as it seemed altogether better, as I've tried to explain to my friends over here.

Let's face it, at the end of the previous year, we're all knackered and the last thing we need is the enforced smiles and jollity. It's much better to go off and do something nice with family or partner, to let all the worries fade away and then, invigorated in the new year, you can address yourself to Christmas. An added bonus is that the traffic is lighter then and people are in a better frame of mind.

However, the western tradition dies hard and thank goodness people are still celebrating it here at all.

What I particularly liked about this day was that I got to visit grandparents and that meant a scrumptuous luncheon and a little wine. Unfortunately, it was also a time to make me reflect on where I was and how precarious were all our lots and this is how I'm thinking right now.

The words above in Russian are quite beautiful and basically wish you peace, prosperity and happiness.

Who could argue with that?

[real life] about to curtail this blog

Most bloggers who've been at it for some time would claim that Real Life transcends any blog matters and yet it seems to me, from what I've seen, that many bloggers cannot let it go, even when they run out of things to say.

Let's face it, our blog is probably the only forum where more than our immediate circle get to hear [or read] our views on matters. That's at least so for the political blogger. The food and garden blogger is a different creature but his or her motivation might be the sense of community in that corner of the sphere. That's a motivation for many political bloggers as well.

Real Life does intrude and any day now it's going to with me.

Not to put too fine a point on it, when I go, my internet connection goes too. I don't think it's going to be a total thing, as there is always the local library membership which allows an hour a day and so I'd aim to keep one post up a day but it is going to severely curtail the research time. Quite frankly, I shouldn't be spending hours in the local library when I need to be out following the recovery plan.

I can't see it ever being permanent or even a hiatus but it's certainly going to be a dent in the output for some time, for very necessary reasons and it must be any day now. I now have a commitment to Bloghounds as well and there are advertisers starting to trickle in who are expecting the blog to be maintained.

I don't know how many of us consider our loyalty to the readers either; after all, a reader is a person who clicks in from time to time to see if anything interesting is happening but each of us, in these troubled times, does like to see certain faces in the blog firmament and are sad when they drop away.

So that's the current state of play.

[iran] are they gun running to gaza

The allegation that Iran is providing arms and assistance to Hamas has been denied as "illogical" by many pundits. Gaza is sealed, they say and so it is just not possible for Iran to get in there.

Reva Bhalla, a Middle East analyst with the private intelligence firm Stratfor, said Iran uses a sophisticated Hezbollah smuggling network to get arms to Hamas.

"Basically, you'll have a bunch of Hezbollah agents who will procure arms through Sudan. They'll enter Egypt under forged documents, pay off disgruntled Bedouins in the Sinai with things like light arms, cash, Lebanese hashish - which they can sell in the black market - and pay off Egyptian security guards as well so that they can travel covertly into Gaza to pass off the weapons shipments through Hamas' pretty extensive underground tunnel network," she said.

But most analysts agree that even if Iran is arming Hamas, it would produce little practical gain for Tehran other than to make life difficult for Israel. It is on the political front, they say, where Iran looks to benefit from the crisis in Gaza as it tries to project itself as the leader of the Islamic world.

Analyst Reva Bhalla said Iran is trying boost its standing in the region by embarrassing moderate Arab states.

"It basically makes Iran stand apart from the Arab regimes. And note that the Arab regimes are the most silent on this issue. Most are quite happy seeing Hamas contained, [they] really have no problem with the Palestinians being contained in the region by the Israelis. It's that huge disconnect between what you hear in the Arab street and what you see being actually discussed within these regimes. And so Iran is trying to exploit that," she said.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

[wordless wednesday] captions please

Oops - shouldn't have run this one at Christmas time [see next post].

[rfk] in the shadow of brother john

The assassination of RFK doesn't get the same attention as that of JFK or JFK Jnr's "accident". This is an interesting piece of investigation into RFK's demise:

And incidentally, that youtube on JFK I couldn't find has been found by a correspondent. It's a worry the way the investigator constantly speaks of "scientific, mathematical measurements" and "precise measurements" but he does seem to have the angle fairly right and more importantly - he shows, physically, that it was possible.

Combine that with the other video of a car going past from that pov and the sewer looks a bit difficult but the storm drain would have been quite possible.

[prat filter] early testing looks positive

The Cynical Dragon raises an issue of the greatest import - how to filter out George Galloway and other prats so that they gain no oxygen of publicity from actually being officially gagged.

Pre-filter: Initial filtration of the first bleatings is through a graded density 5-micron pre-filter that traps rhetoric, whining, mindless opinions and covert agendas that affect the atmosphere, tone, and overall appearance of your living space. It utilizes the revolutionary new Nano-bot search and destroy system.

Electrokinetic Absorption: The graded density main filter acquires a positive molecular charge as verbal bilge passes through it. Since most contaminants exhibit a negative charge in solution, the media fibers will electrokinetically attract charged gibes and asides too small for removal by the main filter. It's not unlike a liquid filter in some ways.

Anger-management post-filter: Foaming and frothing containment is achieved by the Kalashnikov head retention value measurement and by sampling a measured amount of bilge from the offending prat into a froth-cling deconstitutionalizer, to test residual "bitterness" of 2 to 3 BU [bitterness units].

Early testing indicates that the filter has possibilities and this blog wil bring your the news the moment PratFilterPlus [patent pending] is brought to the marketplace.

Cost should be in the region of 2.85% loss of sanity.

[vote jon swift] 2008 weblog awards

That talented satirist Jon Swift is in the Weblog Awards again, in the humour section. If you can see your way clear, click on the pic top left or in the sidebar and give him your vote. A blogosphere without humour and biting satire would be a poor place indeed.

[northern ireland] middle-east parallels

Wiki says that the population of Northern Ireland, at the UK Census in April 2001, was 1,685,000. Not many people for a province which has caused enormous headaches over a long period of time.

It's not necessary for me to have Irish blood, I contend, to write on Northern Ireland but as I do have Irish blood, then perhaps I can just feel what I write all the more in this matter. There's no doubting that the Irish can feel ... oh, they can feel and that's reflected in the Eurovision wins they've had, for one.

Agatha Christie put it well in N or M though when she said that the Irish have this knack of turning a dispute into the martyrdom of a national hero and weaving legend and song around it so that the slight is ne'er forgotten. The vehemence and provocation of the Orange marches, the Apprentice Boys or the Royal Black, the Ancient Order of Hibernian, Irish National Foresters or Republican parades are statements of intransigent positions and they raise issues.

The outside world

Just as with Israel and its legion of would-be-destroyers, it's fine for the world to say "ceasefire" but you have to be inside there to know the true nature of the conflict through their eyes. This is life and death for both sides. Also, you have to have grown up with the "hatred fed with their morning milk", as a journo whose name escapes me put it some years back, to understand and feel the issues deeply.

The Fields Of Athenry - Brian Kennedy

On the other hand, the outsider can see the forest away from the trees and provided he's not representing one side or the other, he can be an arbiter. Trouble is, especially in the middle-east and in Ireland, there doesn't seem to be an unpolarized position. I've had unpleasant experiences with both over-loud protestants and soft-spoken yet stubborn fenians over the years and from both sides, this word crops up again - intransigence.

The Irish will leap to say: "Well what about British intransigence?" True but this post is about the Irish.


My partner and I were "caught" in a restaurant in Germany with a party of Northern Irish protestants at our long table and I tried to strike up a conversation on non-Irish issues, which was fine at first but inevitably it came back round to The Troubles and there were two or three Paisleys at the table who made the whole experience of the meal unpleasant.

I've already mentioned that when I was a head teacher in London, our kids went to a basketball match near Canary Wharf and there was an IRA bomb scare. The kids were terrified, the police action was swift and we were kept in touch by mobile phone but what shocked everyone was when the geography teacher, named Brendan, said to the parents of the kids that the English had brought it all on themselves, they have, they have. Of particular interest to me was his term "they".

What can be done with such people? The dispute has become so deep that it's affected day to day life, even thinking on seemingly unrelated issues. A ceasefire is fine but then one of the parties does not respect it and the other does. One side is "just" trying to grab a little more land, a little more power before the heavy hand of reason descends.

And it's never as the arbiters portray it, a dispute between little boys. That's only to trivialize the issue and make the arbiters look like annoying lightweights in the eyes of the combatants.

On the other hand, do we all need constant supervision, a contention you could make after watching Lord of the Flies? Do we all need arbiters at hand the whole time?

Do we need apartheid with agreed, internationally acceptable boundaries?

Personally, I'd like to see a process whereby we could circumvent the lawyers and have travelling arbiters paid by the state, [along with the state's only other functions of defence, social security in a reduced form, education and representing the country internationally].

Monday, January 05, 2009

[unrequited love] the winter may pass ...

Kanskje vil der gå både Vinter og Vår,
og neste Sommer med og det hele År,
men en gang vil du komme, det vet jeg vist,
og jeg skal nok vente, for det lovte jeg sidst.

Gud styrke dig, hvor du i Verden går,
Gud glæde dig, hvis du for hans Fodskammel står.
Her skal jeg vente til du kommer igjen;
og venter du hist oppe, vi træffes der, min Ven!

The winter may pass and the spring disappear
The spring disappear
The summer too will vanish and then the year
And then the year
But this I know for certain: you'll come back again
You'll come back again
And even as I promised you'll find me waiting then
You'll find me waiting then

Sarah Brightman?

[obama] the missing six months

I'm not even going to start promoting the implications of this photo

Weatherman and Nation of Islam connection

The last post touched on the birth issue. Leaving that side for the moment, the story gets weirder:

Just prior to the Pennsylvania primary Barack Obama was asked at a Democratic debate about his relationship with unrepentant Weatherman Bill Ayers. Obama pretended that he was only casually acquainted with Ayers, describing him as "a guy who lives in my neighborhood, who's a professor of English in Chicago...".

Hilary provided a bracing corrective, reminding people that the two men had served on a charitable board together, the Woods Fund of Chicago. This exchange was newsworthy enough to provoke coverage in the Chicago Sun-Times, and the NY Times; earlier stories had sparked The "Fact Checker" at the Washington post.


Barack Obama and Bil Ayers worked together for several years on the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, an educational reform group co-founded in 1995 by Bill Ayers and chaired by Barack Obama. How did Obama forget this?


In addition to Auchi, Ayers, Dohrn, Pfleger, Rezko, Wright, etc...we now have Rashid Khalidi, a Palestinian bagman for Yassar Arafat that secured megabuck from the Woods Fund while Barack H. Obama and Ayers were on the board.

Barack and Michelle Obama and the Khalidis swapped dinner parties and Michelle Obama would babysit the Khalidi's kids, this was not some casual professional relationship they were good friends as Sean Hannity reports.


I live in Obama's neighborhood and know some of the Obama / Ayers crowd. Ayers and Dohrn have babysat the Obama kids personally. The families are personal friends, not just professional acquaintances.

Bernadette Dohrn is the one who said, in response to the Manson family murders:

"Dig it! First they killed those pigs and then they put a fork in pig Tate's belly. Wild!"

Ayers claimed she'd only said it as a joke.

Dohrn went underground in early 1970, engaging in bombing activities. In a 1994 interview, Dohrn said that while the group carried out some bombings of buildings, it did not target people, and the group's actions were justified as a proper response to violent government actions.

Further, from Atlas Shrugs:

Dohrn was once on the FBI's Top 10 Most Wanted List and was described by J. Edgar Hoover as the "most dangerous woman in America." Ayers and Dohrn raised the son of Weathermen terrorist Kathy Boudin, who was serving a sentence for participating in a 1981 murder and robbery that left four people dead.

These were babysitters and dinner guests for the Obamas?

In a recent interview, Obama called his mother "the dominant figure in my formative years. . . . The values she taught me continue to be my touchstone when it comes to how I go about the world of politics."

Stanley Ann Dunham chronology

Obama born August 4, 1961.

“The University of Hawaii at Manoa is only able to provide the following information for Stanley Ann Dunham: Dates of attendance:

Fall 1960 (First day of instruction 9/26/1960)
Spring 1963 - Summer 1966
Fall 1972 - Fall 1974

Spring 1978
Fall 1984 - Summer 1992

Degrees awarded:
BA - Mathematics, Summer 1967 (August 6, 1967)
MA - Anthropology, Fall 1983 (December 18, 1983)
PhD - Anthropology, Summer 1992 (August 9, 1992)

Stuart Lau”


Ms. Stanley Ann Dunham was enrolled at the University of Washington for:

Autumn 1961
Winter 1962
Spring 1962

The records responsive to your request from the University of Washington are above as provided by the Public Disclosure Laws of Washington State. This concludes the University’s response to your Public Records request. Please feel free to contact our office if you have any questions or concerns.

Madolyne Lawson Office of Public Records

Ann Dunham became pregnant approx. Nov 1st, 1960 while still 17 years old. This was while she was at UH.

What is unaccounted for is the period from February, 1961 to August, 1961 and at what point she split from Obama Snr. Here is a comment from DeadSerious 12/27/2008, 17:56:38:

Who remembers Stanley Ann Dunham (Obama) in Hawaii?

No relative or friend
No classmate or teacher
No neighbor or landlord
No prenatal care doctor or nurse
No delivery room doctor or nurse
No hosptial admit officer or attendant
No hospital room mate for the shared room
No post natal care for the mother or infant
No co-workers of Grandma's from Bank of Hawaii

Leaving wild theories aside and accepting the Obama camp line, she had the baby in August in Hawaii and then left husband and baby and attended college in Washington State shortly afterwards?

The whole bloody thing doesn't add up.

[obama] this question now becoming critical

Some of the documentation which would help decide this is one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight:
"Even the Hawaii Department of Home Lands does not accept a certified copy of a birth certificate as conclusive evidence for its homestead program. From its web site: ‘In order to process your application, DHHL utilizes information that is found only on the original Certificate of Live Birth, which is either black or green. This is a more complete record of your birth than the Certification of Live Birth (a computer-generated printout). Submitting the original Certificate of Live Birth will save you time and money since the computer-generated Certification requires additional verification by DHHL.'"

The essence of the complaint is that the "Certification of Live Birth" that is used by FightTheSmears, the Annenberg Political FactCheck and others does not have the same information as an original birth certificate, including location of birth.

Surprisingly, Hawaii happens to issue birth certificates for babies born outside Hawaii. The Hawaiian law on that states:
"Certificates for children born out of State. (a) Upon application of an adult or the legal parents of a minor child, the director of health shall issue a birth certificate for such adult or minor, provided that proof has been submitted to the director of health that the legal parents of such individual while living without the Territory or State of Hawaii had declared the Territory or State of Hawaii as their legal residence for at least one year immediately preceding the birth or adoption of such child."

In the comments section of a recent post, Ted Mathis stated:

3. BHO is therefore not a “natural born citizen” (irrespective of Hawaiian birth or whether he may be a 14th Amendment “citizen” of USA) — confirmed in the Senate’s own McCain qualification resolution (that both parents must be citizens of USA) co-authored by BHO.

4. Supreme Court has already docketed two upcoming conferences, 1/9/09 and 1/16/09 — between dates Congress counts electoral votes (1/8/09) and Presidential inauguration (1/20/09) — to address Berg Case and fashion relief on BHO’s eligibility to be President.

The 14th Amendment appears to scupper the Obama challenge until one returns to the material above. Hawaii issues certificates for births outside of Hawaii. My reading of this, to be fair, is that they may mean "in any other part of the United States" but they may also mean exactly what they say, with no futher stipulation. If Obama had been born in Kenya [grandmother and Kenyan Ambassador] or even in transit, then Hawaii would have been satisfied for their own purposes.

However, clearly, given link one above, he would be ineligible for natural born status, for the purposes of federal election. So there is a convoluted case here. SCOTUS accepts a Hawaiian assurance of his birth, as they have precedent in doing. Therefore he is natural born in their eyes and the case goes no further. However, to go back to the setting aside of Dred Scott [link four above], the differentiation between state and federal law was preserved, not overturned.

So there is a logical impossibility here. "Natural born" is not defined and depends on congressional statements or court interpretation and precedent. In federal law, if he was not born in a Hawaiian hospital but Hawaii accepted the "intent" of being Hawaiian, then he is natural born in terms of their acceptance of the Hawaiian statement to that effect but not natural born in terms of their own conditions.

At the very least, this requires a court case. However, private persons have been ruled to have no standing to bring a case against an elected federal official, e.g. Berg. Only congress has that standing and it is Democratic.

The clear answer to this is that Obama was born on Hawaiian soil.

But where? There is no Hawaiian hospital nor presiding doctor or nurse stated anywhere in the Obama camp reply. The name of the hospital has to be on the vault copy and Fact Check [an Obama camp website] says it has viewed it and yet it has not been stated. More than that, they are refusing to state it.

There is a case, with the grandmother and others, claiming he was born at Mombasa Coastal Hospital in Kenya. Records are now sealed in Kenya.

The official Obama camp claim is that he was born at Queens Medical Center in Honolulu. His sister Mary claimed he was born at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children. There is no record of either the birth or the mother having attended those hospitals.

These hospitals were contacted by Republicans and none had records of Obama's birth.

Many reference materials say Obama was born at Kapiolani, including Wikipedia English version under the subject “Barack Obama.” But under the subject “Queens Hospital,” Wikipedia says Obama was born there. And Wikipedia Italian says this:

Barack Obama nacque al Queen’s Medical Center di Honolulu da Barack Hussein Obama Sr….

Wikipedia Geneology says Queens too. And there’s this reference on Yahoo Answers:

Apparently, examination of the hospitals’ records in Hawaii have shown no birthing records for Ann Dunham Obama even though there is a registry of the birth in the public records office a week after his date of birth it does not show his place of birth.

Perhaps that Yahoo Answer explains Ann Dunham’s brief stop-over in Mercer Island with baby Barack when he was only a couple of weeks old. Is it possible that she was on her way back to Hawaii?

The State of Hawaii does provide for “late registration” births.

Does anyone know in which hospital Stanley Ann Dunham delivered Barack Obama?

UPDATE: A reader, Aragon, adds…

Alternatively, I ask, “Can anyone identify a written statement or interview or recorded statement wherein Obama, himself, identifies which hospital he was born in?” I’ve asked this question for a month now. No statement has been idenitified by anyone here or elsewhere. The inference to be drawn from this is obvious. He doesn’t identify a hospital because it is something that can be factually verified or debunked and this would compromise his aura of plausable deniability when it comes to issues of his true birth place.

Add to this the AFI tape. AFI originally produced a transcript in which Michelle Obama states:

My husband and I know that there is no law that will stop him from becoming the president, just because some American white racists are bringing up the issue of my husband's adoption by his stepfather.

That one is easily solved. Did she say it or not? Produce the tapes where it was said and all is resolved. But this has not happened and it has gone into the same circular non-resolution in which all the other questions have now fallen.

This issue won't go away because it has not been resolved. Whatever is on that certificate is sufficiently important for the Obama camp to ignore a SCOTUS member demand that it be produced. At the very least, they are being secretive and it is no defence to say it is a private matter. To hell with that - this man is to become president.

This smells, it truly does. There is untruth by omission in here. It has to be resolved.

On a personal note, there's a very simple test of the intent of this blog on this and the Gaza matter, of whether this is a vendetta of mine. If you were to take out the name of Israel and Hamas and substitute Palestine and Irgun, would this blog's stance have been the same? Similarly, if it had been McCain in this situation and not Obama, would this have still been pursued as it has?

The answer is an emphatic yes. Damned right. This blog has no affiliation one way or the other, except to the ideal called the truth. This is not to say that I am a moral person or a saint - merely that I want to know the truth on any issue.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

[new dawn] a hungarian rhapsody

4 a.m. in Budapest

Budapest dance ensemble

Eastern influence is strong too.

[hawaii five o] book em, danno, murder one

Hawaii Five-O, does anyone remember it?

Jack Lord had a dark side but he was certainly The Man in this police series - he'd have found Obama's vault copy birth certificate, no problems. In an act of utter prattiness, the supplier of this youtube of the famous theme song won't allow it to be posted on web pages. Click on the pic above to see and hear it.

The show was hugely popular, running for twelve seasons and much of that was down to the characterization and idiosyncrasies. For example:

Curiously, it [the Five-O department] lacked its own radio network, necessitating frequent requests by McGarrett to the Honolulu Police Department dispatchers to "Patch me through to Danno". McGarrett's tousled yet immovable hairstyle and proclivity for wearing a dark suit and tie on all possible occasions rapidly entered popular culture.

Most episodes of Hawaii Five-O ended with the arrest of criminals with McGarrett's catch phrase to Williams, "Book 'em, Danno!

The popularity of the Hawaii Five-O format spawned various police dramas on all the major television networks since its debut. Another legacy is the popularity of the Hawaii Five-O theme song, composed by Morton Stevens and later covered by surf music band The Ventures and by Radio Birdman, a punk-era band from Sydney.

In summary:

While the location, theme song, and esemble cast made "Hawaii Five-O" one of the longest running police dramas in television history, the show is also noted for its liberal use of exterior locations as "sets" throughout the entire 12 seasons, breaking the tradition of filming indoors as with the case for a typical TV series. A typical episode, on average, would have at least two-thirds of all footage shot outdoors.

Here is the Radio Birdman version of the theme:

I loved the deadpan McGarrett [Jack Lord] who reminded me of Robert Stack in some ways. Does anyone recall Stack in The Untouchables? Here he reprises and caricatures his film persona:

[serious people] and bully boy punks

A few people have asked me to continue my series of posts on life in Russia from time to time. I'd like to but not being there now, I don't have the daily incidents to draw from. This one is from what I recollect.

The essential thing to remember in Russia is that the network of family and friends is everything. It provides support systems, which the state does not provide and it also provides protection, an absolute necessity over there.

This is not to say that daily life is like that for anyone but the local gangs. Most people go about their business, going to the market, kids going to school, grandparents playing their roles. Most now have cars and the rest usually go by the now quite satisfactory bus system.

There is a golden rule that you don't go out looking for trouble but if it does come upon you, you need to have a "krisha" [roof] or two in place to help you. Krisha is an outmoded word these days and most people speak of "par' ni" or "rob' yerta" [the guys]. The thing for you to ensure is that the krisha is appropriate for the occasion.

Let me illustrate this. I was going to buy a place in a carpark not far from my home but what it did was put me on the other side of the new development block I was living in [maybe 250 000 population]. While it was safe enough to walk around the well-lit periphery of this block, it wasn't so good to go through it because of the punks.

In Russia, there are egotistical young punks dotted here and there, everywhere, who imagine themselves as hard men and use bully boy tactics which work on the majority ... and then there are the seriously hard men, known as "seriosniye lyudi". I was introduced to a few of these latter and the thing which characterized them was that they were generally softly spoken, with a sense of humour and were nice guys to know.

Only their history and physique gave them away.

The thing is that the punks generally do get away with threatening and standing over the ordinary citizen and so it's best to avoid them. If you can't or if they come to you, then you have to respond and so I asked one of my 'seriosni' acquaintances how to deal with the punk problem in that 'dvor' or yard between the main roads.

His solution was to get a carpark berth at a place which wouldn't require walking through there. If, by some unfortunate chain of circumstances, you did find yourself face to face with them, then there were certain key jargon phrases to know and say, to the effect: "Let's come back here tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. and settle the matter. You bring your people and I'll bring mine."

The absolute essential was that you did go back there the next day at 10:00 a.m. If you failed to, then you'd created a major ongoing problem for yourself. Anytime anyone saw you alone after that, they'd know they could do as they wished. So to use your krisha seemed the solution but this was a double-edged sword. My particular krishi were a bit too high powered for punks in a yard and it would have to have been a major threat to utilize them.

They knew that too because if they did act for you, then there was the standard payback required in some way. Life revolves round favours done and returned over there. So people generally tried to resolve a matter like gentlemen. However, if you were really forced into a corner, there was only one thing for it and that was to utilize your krisha with maximum prejudice and no beg pardons.

Most people knew that a punk might get a result for his bullying but it didn't help much in the long run if he ended up crippled for life. Only nutters ignored silent warnings and it illustrates something which has been said many times in the last few days on the Gaza issue - ongoing violence, such as the Hamas and Hezbollah rockets, only begets violence.

It's better to come to the table in a strong position and not demand anything outrageous which could not be accepted by the other side. Then it's a case of standing by the agreement, otherwise it all starts over again.

Above all, in Russia and perhaps elsewhere too, it's best not to threaten, even obliquely. That leaves you with one of two choices - either remove yourself from the threat as far as possible [which is not weakness - it's intelligence] - or else hit hard out of the blue, when they least expect it.

There is a concept of Russia as a lawless land but that's to misconstrue it. There is a law at ground level and as long as all are au fait with the ground rules, things generally stay calm.

[blogrolls] time for an overhaul

My blogrolls have been updated but there's nothing special happening.

This blog runs a Bloghounds plus an Active Roll as the main rolls. There is also an Inactive Roll but it needs to be named better. In there are bloggers who are either not posting much or are moribund but a sense of past loyalty keeps them there. Notsaussure is an example.

In other words, this latter roll contains good people but something is a bit different about them. Certainly the prattiness of not allowing comments, expecting readers to come in merely for the wisdom, wise though it might be, is a blogrolling factor with me, not that it unduly worries them, of course.

There are people conspicuously absent from the rolls altogether and they might not all know why. Some know full well. This is a one-to-one e-mail matter, should they be interested.

In the end, there are always errors and updates needed so please don't take umbrage. It's an ongoing process.

[so it begins] the slide to ... what?

A Sunday roundup, of sorts:

1. John Trenchard shows footage of what is actually happening in Gaza today.

2. Ian Parker Joseph hits the nail on the head again:

Just read carefully the second clauses of Articles 8, 9, 10 and 11 HERE.

And as the nine hippies of Tarnac are finding, one doesn't actually have to pose a real threat to the State - it's enough for the paranoid and weak central State to believe that you might.

It's a pity Ian's comments system doesn't allow some blogs to comment as I'd like to have added to this.

3. Meanwhile, Henry North London has translated Brown's message into English. Here's a sample:

Prime Minister in Black, translation in Blue
As we look forward to this New Year, we face a challenge. A challenge of how we build a better tomorrow, today.
Hello folks, we're unfortunate to live in the time when our whole economy is based on oil which is rapidly running out but we haven't told you this yet because we are scared stiff, and we know that you would lynch us if we told you things were going to get worse even though it would be the truth.
4. Great piece from Mr. Eugenides on Scotland's first space port.

5. Finally, Blake's 7 is an analogy for our current woes, according to the Quiet Man.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

[the immortals] do they have more fun

Think about if you accidentally become immortal. This, from Douglas Adams, courtesy of the Hitchhiker project:
Wowbagger The Infinitely Prolonged was - indeed, is - one of the Universe's very small number of immortal beings.

Most of those who are born immortal instinctively know how to cope with it, but Wowbagger was not one of them. Indeed, he had come to hate them, the load of serene bastards. He had his immortaility inadvertantly thrust upon him by an unfortunate accident with an irrational particle accelerator, a liquid lunch, and a pair of rubber bands. The precise details are not important because no one has ever managed to duplicate the exact circumstances under which it happened, and many people have ended up looking very silly, or dead, or both, trying.

To begin with it was fun, he had a ball, living dangerously, taking risks, cleaning up on high-yield long-term investments, and just generally outliving the hell out of everybody.
In the end, it was Sunday afternoons he couldn't cope with, and that terrible listlessness that starts to set in at about 2:55 when you know you've taken all the baths you can usefully take that day, that however hard you stare at any given paragraph in the newspaper you will never actually read it, or use the revolutionary new pruning technique it describes, and that as you stare at the clock the hands will move relentlessly on to four o'clock, and you will enter the Long Dark Teatime of the Soul.

So things began to pall for him. The merry smiles he used to wear at other people's funerals began to fade. He began to despise the Universe in general, and everybody in it in particular.
This was the point at which he conceived his purpose, the thing that would drive him on, and which, as far as he could see, would drive him on forever. It was this:

He would insult the Universe.

That is, he would insult everybody in it. Individually, personally, one by one, and (this was the thing he really decided to grit his teeth over) in Alphabetical Order.

When people protested to him, as they sometimes had done, that the plan was not merely misguided but actually impossible because of the number of people being born and dying all the time, he would merely fix them with a steely look and say, "A man can dream, can't he?"

And so he had started out. He equipped a spaceship that was built to last with a computer capable of handling all the data processing involved in keeping track of the entire population of the known Universe and working out the horrifically complicated routes involved.

What would you do if you found yourself accidentally immortal? You've all the money you're ever likely to need, you've seen all the movies, you've visited all the planets. You've been altruistic to the universe. You've been a bstd. You've tried it all. The health is fine.

On the other hand, what would you do if you were mortal, you aged and the systems were beginning to break down? You've done all you're usefully going to do, the kids have grown up, your mates are all dead, you're wondering why you're hanging about.

Would you want to be immortal?

[palestine] just the facts please 4

I wonder if I might ask a question: “Do you feel accepted by your nation, your land, your peer group?” For most of you, that’s an irrelevant question, stupid even.

What would you say then to a friend of mine, a Yorkshirewoman, who moved to another town twenty odd years ago and not so long ago told me, with a touch of irony, that she was now finally accepted because the baker had waved to her for the first time ever, as he’d driven by?

Cutting closer to the chase, last year I was nominated for the American weblog awards in the UK section, largely on the strength of American and British votes but a certain lady left a comment at this site, saying: “Oh, are you a UK blogger, James?” Nice putdown.

Going way back in time, to the 4th class/year/form, I always thought I was one of the lads but one day I was bumped off top spot in our weekly class tests by a girl called Gail and I was mightily p---ed off because she’d been given help with the last test. To be honest, a tear or two crept from the eyes.

At lunch break, out I went to play football with the lads but no one was passing it to me so I just took it and tried for goal myself. Even my own supposed mate wouldn’t tell me what was wrong later but from that day forward, there was a coolness from my peers.

Now, leave aside these trivialities and look at a people who not only haven’t managed any peer acceptance in 5000 years but they’ve also put up with pogroms, oppression, putdowns and all sorts of unpleasantries – anyone know the story of Clifford Tower in York or about the Volga River pogroms?

Forever seen as foreigners and usurpers in their own homeland, taken captive and deported, they’re quite logically going to develop a jaundiced view of life, wouldn’t you think? The word that springs to mind, regarding the attitude they’re likely to develop is “intransigent”.

Unpleasant to deal with but understandable, all the same.

I’ve had two interfaces with the more extreme members of this community, one for three years and one for two weeks. In the former, one month the gentiles’ salaries were not in the bank but the Jewish ones were. Our money had been used to pay for the new chandelier in the synagogue.

In the latter case, I was staying, during the holidays, in a cottage on a hillside and a group of Jewish children passed by, singing Top 100 hits. Suddenly, a voice cried out from behind for them to stop and a man ran up, circling them like a sheepdog and exhorting them to start chanting a Hebrew song instead and so they went, all the way down to the fields below.

Most of the Jewish families I knew were just your average family, “more English than the English”, a statement which would upset them because they were English, in their eyes. This is the thing, isn’t it – non-acceptance of who they are and what they believe in? That then causes an attitude problem in them and confirms the worst suspicions of the non-Jews around them who’ve been fed a diet of hostile folklore all their lives.

Cf the Irish question.

Things stick in the memory and my father always told of how, in the war, he stood on the banks of what might have been the Jordan and on one side were the Jewish settlements, with irrigated land and crops and on the other – desert and Arabs. Blame my dad, not me, for that story. Either way, it sure affected those soldiers and they were far more pro-Israel after it.

Looking at it from the Palestinian point of view, there they were, minding their own business and doing sfa with the place, when along came dispossessed Jews from Europe and man, these people were intransigent in a big way. From 12% of the local population to some enormous number, these Jews posed an enormous threat.

For a start, there was the worldwide caliphate to consider, the goal of every intransigent Muslim and they, the Palestinians, were right in the heart of it. But a different loyalty was also tugging at them at the same time – the nature of being Arab and all it entailed, with a long and glorious past.

With the various mandates in the area, a new idea had also sprung up – that of nationhood. Iraq became Iraq, Persia and Egypt already were, the Lebanon and Syria became distinct.

So, torn all different ways and observing what, to them, were foreign powers imposing a Jewish state on them, they were likely to become intransigent. It was beyond the pale to cast an eye across this vast Arab Muslim caliphate, a source of great pride and to see this ancient blot on the landscape return – the hated Jew. And not only return but right in the prime piece of real estate they suddenly wanted.

All the time, their own holy book speaks of finding Jews hiding behind trees in the end times and killing them, along with other choice scriptures. What chance any sort of accommodation with the Jew? Parts of the Talmud are equally revealing.

The instant Israel formed, wham – virtually the whole Arab world attacked in force, once, twice, three times, even on a religious holiday. Having refused to accept the two state solution, they preferred war and in war, territory gets taken which could never have been taken in peace time.

Then they turned around and cried, “Usurper!”

The Arab leadership must shoulder a large portion of the blame for this. Yes, the life of the Palestinian is dire but look at the intransigence of Hamas, which only stirs up the intransigence of the Jews, which stirs up the intransigence of Hamas and so it goes on. Stop the rockets and see what happens, whether things become better in Gaza.

In a condition of peace, see if Israel continues to choke the border crossings or oppresses the Gaza residents. Let’s not you or I speculate but let’s just see what happens. Let’s see how Hamas spends its billions in aid – on Iranian weapons to wipe Israel off the face of the map or on the living conditions of their own people.

I’d say as long as those nutters are in charge, putting innocent Palestinians in the firing line for their own purposes, as with Hezbollah in the Lebanon, then the Palestinian cause will never be served.

At least Fatah offers some sort of hope for a lasting peace. At least there is a way forward for cooperation on irrigation, on food supplies, on housing, on a reasonable lifestyle.

Let it just happen.

[bloghounds] stirrings from the hearth

Bloghounds Term Report

[Cross-posted at the site, if the technically wizardry of Cherry Pie worked.]

As usual, this is a personal review and you’re welcome to post your own. The Bloghounds welcome your perspective. Comments at the site rather than here, please.

We find ourselves with eight months under our belt and where are we?

The attrition of blogs

Some say that the nature of blogging has changed; certainly there is a move by certain sections of society to restrict and register blogs but there also seems to be less blogging going on in general.

Bloghounds needs to recognize realities and the immense pressures [in blogging terms] of real life in 2009. In short, people have their own worries and less time to devote so this, in turn, makes rules about visiting other members and linking quotas unworkable.

There is also the firm principle that a blog is a voluntary, largely unpaid medium which someone maintains because he or she wants to. Therefore, he will want to visit the Dales, Wat Tylers and Dmajor bloggers, he has his own daily round and his own inner circle.

Where does that leave Bloghounds?

From a personal point of view, it seems, as I wrote once before, that BH is a brand name and as such, the principles upon which it was founded need to remain immutable, as the best trading houses in the world, the ones remaining viable and not bailed out, also do.

The line, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ applies to us. As a badge of a certain, if minor distinction, it stands for ethical principles and that has implications for new inductees. We don’t have many rules but those we do have, we stick to almost vehemently. Not to put too fine a point on it – there is a certain type of blogger we like to see wearing the Bloghounds badge and there are, sadly, some which we don’t.

This is not high-nosed but a simple statement that we are protecting the brand name.

The committee

We do seem to have settled on a skeleton committee which takes care of the nuts and bolts but I’d like to mention some in particular.

There is our technical whiz, Wolfie, who made it possible in the first place and keeps these matters going, there are the original committee members such as Andrew Allison, Welshcakes, Jams O’Donnell [current committee member], Sackerson and then there is one other to mention at this time.

This lady is the goods, a great administrator because she does it with so little fuss. To have an admin who is also so in Real Life is a coup and I’m referring here to Cherry Pie who has carved out her own little niche in the blogosphere and who crosses so many blogging boundaries.


There are two issues we’ve so far had to face.

One was the image copyright matter which we jumped on in uncharacteristic haste, followed now by our own langorous search for a new logo.

The other is the constant problem of applicants who are refused. A look at the correspondence which goes back and forth over any controversial applicant has shown a distinct pattern – unanimity amongst those who spoke and silence from the others.

We know what we want and we know what we don’t. We reserve the right to rely on our members’ voices and we go with the majority opinion. There is no undue administrative directing of opinion for the simple reason that this membership has shown itself to be impervious to undue influence. They’re big boys and girls in their own right.


There is one mystery member who can usually be found contentedly curled up on the hearthrug. We assure members he’s been fed and watered and if you see him roaming round the premises late at night, do not be alarmed – he’s simply shifting position to get closer to the warmth.

The human members

We are the members. Having said that, recent votes and comments have shown a distinct tendency to leave it to the few and so be it. BH does not push the unattainable; it recognizes reality. If things are going in a certain direction, then that’s the direction they’re going.

If this report resembles a boring quarterly company review sent to your mailbox, then that’s a big plus in our eyes. ‘Steady as she goes and into 2009’ is where Bloghounds is currently sailing.

[arabica] music, not war

First is by Hi Fi from 1999 and the second Di-du-la. Both Russian. You know the next one:

Friday, January 02, 2009

[modern living] oh for gay paris

They do it differently in France:

Vendredi, vers 13 heures, la ministre de la Justice a accouché par césarienne d'une petite fille. C'est le premier enfant de Rachida Dati, âgée de 43 ans. Elle avait officialisé sa grossesse en septembre dernier. Depuis, la ministre a refusé de révéler le nom du père de l'enfant, ce qui a suscité de nombreuses rumeurs.

43 years old for her first child, the father unknown and she's a minister of state. And how's this for a prediction?

Anyway, back to more conservative matters, here is your business attire for 2009. Pop over to gay Paris and get yours now.

[the skinny] on the fat of the land

So glad the BBC saw fit to publish this.

This is not the time of year to think skinny but to get a bit of body fat on, eat lots of proteins, good carbos and some good fat. A certain amount of exercise and a whole lot of hibernation is indicated.

Good luck.

[palestine] just the facts please 3

It's next to impossible to get a clear picture of the region loosely referred to as Canaan. I've just been reading one, two, three, four and five sources and am no clearer now than before.

The essential problem is that almost all sources set out initially to be unbiased but then twist the narrative as it goes on, concluding that the land belongs to this people or that people and that they've proved it.

There's little doubt that Israel occupied ancient Canaan but I can't see this as any different to the Romans or Anglo-Saxons occupying Britain. The most realistic statement is that there are quite a few tribes or sub-groupings attached to different regions and the hegemony of one or other is a fact of life.

Whites dominate Australia, the dark skinned tribe dominates Italy ... so what? Realpolitik. Given this, I'd like to ask the Arabs in the middle-east two questions:

1. Do a people exist whom the world could refer to as Jews or of Jewish origin? Just that - do they exist?

2. If they indeed exist, then where is their traditional home, if you will not concede it is in Palestine? In other words, if your claim is correct that the Jews do not descend from Canaan, whence do they descend?

Then we come into another area - the people who develop the region. The Jews have obviously turned the area into a fertile land, where once it was a barren home of nomadic groups and people eking out a living. Jerusalem has been associated with Jews millennia earlier than with Muslims, so who can lay claim to it?

[tough men] sometimes need to remember their age

Statue of Ronald Dale Barassi near the MCG

This sort of thing goes on all the time, of course, so why should this one be any different? Well, there's a twist to it.

On New Years Eve, football great Ron Barassi was having dinner with his wife at a St Kilda restaurant, dining al fresco. There was a commotion and the next thing someone crashed into his wife's chair. It was a woman who crashed to the pavement and was then kicked while she was there by an unidentified male.

Ron Barassi sprung up, the man ceased and ran and Barassi chased him through the crowd, when the man turned on him punched him to the ground and started kicking him in the ribs. Then friends arrived and the man ran.

All right, so where's the twist? Ron had forgotten he was now 72 years old and the coward could have been anything from his 30s downwards. Barassi's been good-humoured about it but understandably, there is a groundswell of sympathy for him.

Just a note for non-Australians. Barassi was the famous Number 31 for Melbourne during their golden years and then went on to a distinguished, premiership winning coaching career afterwards. He's generally regarded as one of the greatest football legends ever. What characterized him during his playing and coaching days was his ruthless determination and hardness - he was a tough customer to tangle with.

You have to wonder what the fate of the coward would have been, had the incident occurred 35 years earlier. And Barassi's last words on the matter?

'I'd do it again.'

[eu monster] time it returned to the eec

Interesting thought - a Mediterranean Union

Liam Fox wrote a piece at the Telegraph on the EU defence establishment:

On defence, the treaty gives the EU Commission more influence than ever. The debate is not about whether the treaty affects our defence policy but how far it pushes us from an intergovernmental policy to a supranational one. The newly created High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (the EU's foreign minister) will also serve as a vice-president in the EU Commission.

This in itself is bad enough, potentially blurring executive and civil service roles.
Worse still, he will also head the European Defence Agency (EDA) and have a right of initiative for proposing EU-led military operations. The bottom line is that the EU will get a foothold in our defence policy for the first time.

We did not join the EU for defence purposes – we have Nato as the cornerstone of our defence. For the EU to have a constructive role, it needs to do something Nato does not do.

Mr. Fox is correct - Britain did not join an EU state with it's own defence establishment. Defence in the UK is through our own forces and in combination with NATO. Quite apart form the resources consideration, there is the simple matter of jurisdiction.

Can anyone doubt that the EU sees itself as consuming the members states in all aspects of a government's remit? This body must be resisted with the full force of a nation's resources until they agree to go back to what they once were - the EEC.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

[renegade] or do you prefer trojan horse

Stephen Pollard tells us that Barack Obama's secret service code name is renegade.

This is the Merriam Webster definition of a renegade:

1 : a deserter from one faith, cause, or allegiance to another
2 : an individual who rejects lawful or conventional behavior

Are they trying to tell us something?

[in bruges] requiem for three hitmen

The reason Roger Ebert is such a popular film critic is because he is a good film critic. You don't have to agree with everything he concludes but he's on the money with In Bruges.

Now, call me a prude but I don't like the way Colin Farrell operates in real life. On screen though and especially in this film, he's the goods. As Ebert says:

Farrell in particular hasn't been this good in a few films, perhaps because this time he's allowed to relax and be Irish. As for Brendan Gleeson, if you remember him in "The General," you know that nobody can play a more sympathetic bad guy.

This is a superior film, despite its lukewarm box office reception. The cast is talented and Clémence Poésy is so uncannily like someone I know well in Russia that the film would be memorable just for her. Thekla Reuten [photo below] maybe even overshadows her although her role is smaller.

Actually, it's a great film in itself. Ebert again:

If the movie accomplished nothing else, it inspired in me an urgent desire to visit Bruges ... The movie does an interesting thing with Bruges. It shows us a breathtakingly beautiful city, without ever seeming to be a travelogue. It uses the city as a way to develop the characters ... But [the film] accomplished a lot more than that.

It's dark, there are quite a few threads and the black, grim humour runs below the surface the whole way through. It's atmospheric and lush and yet it does something else only a few might enjoy - it allows nothing particularly active to happen for long portions of the run time.

Then it finally comes together. Ebert:

Without dreaming of telling you what happens next, I will say it is not only ingenious but almost inevitable the way the screenplay brings all of these destinies together at one place and time. Along the way, there are times of great sadness and poignancy, times of abandon, times of goofiness, and that kind of humor that is really funny because it grows out of character and close observation.

All the above is probably telling you what you already knew.

In Bruges.