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Monday, February 28, 2005

If you happen to be in the are of London I would just recommend you go and see the production of Max Frisch’s “Biografie. Ein Spiel” being put on by King’s College London German Society this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Don’t worry if you don’t speak German, there are going to be English surtitles. It is a fascinating play, which has never failed to both entertain and stimulate anybody I know who has read it. Here’s this production’s blurb about it:

The play centres around one of the themes central to Frisch’s work, the attempt of the characters to rewrite their lives and test possible alternatives to their biographies. Hannes Kürmann, the play’s central character, is given the chance to re-live his life. In doing so, his goal is to avoid marrying his wife Antoinette, with whom he is deeply in love although the pair suffer from an unhappy marriage. In a play which contests the factors of pre-destined fate and that of chance, the numerous figures of Kürmann’s past reappear to witness his decisions. Again

Additionally this is a short analysis that introduces the main themes of wider interest being treated in the play.
One point I would just add is the opinion I heard recently, as concerns Frisch’s development as a writer. From Andorra, certainly Frisch’s bestknown play, it was argued that Frisch’s writing matured immensely in the intervening years. Andorra, as good as it is, is a fairly simple play; admittedly that’s probably one of the reasons it makes its message so well. But Biografie is a definite step forward in terms of the characterisations and the many levels of interpretation and meaning that Frisch has managed to weave into the play.
Well, all I can say is go and see it.


Well, although it is apparently impossible to stand up to the encroachments of the EU when it comes to fisheries policy, constitutional reform, selling arms to China, the negative consequences for transatlantic relations of the EU’s defence technology developments, restricting our freedom of manouvre on asylum policy or anything else you wish to choose. But no, lo and behold, when it comes to trashing our liberties for some ill-defined and possibly ineffective security measures, well that’s ok of course then. For that we can just go and tear up the European Human Rights Convention and ignore the stipulations of the EU. It almost makes me think that on the other issues the Government doesn’t care or perhaps is in agreement with those policies, rather than valiantly trying to fight for Britain’s interests, but simply not being strong enough. Does make me wonder . . .

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Friday, February 25, 2005

I supposed I’m supposed to be relieved by this sort of “compromise” that the Canadian and American churches are being asked to leave the Anglican consultancy body temporarily for three years because they recognize gay clergymen and perform same-sex marriages. This is of course the opposite of what I raised as a solution a while ago (though did I really use the term “progressive message”? *shudder*). And I am not relived at all.
Needless to say I’m unhappy with the current situation and I am still maintaining that the proper Anglican way to deal with this issue would have been ignoring it. It is simply inappropriate to drag such personal issues out into the open instead of keeping them in the intimacy of private life where they belong. And to be absolutely sure about this I am hereby criticising both sides in the argument. It is a spectacle very unbecoming of the Church, indulging in these bouts of therapeutic exhibitionism and ritualised homophobia.

(Just for the sake of being complete I should perhaps add that personally I am completely in favour of gay clergy, but I am as now opposed to gay marriage in Church because of the meaning that I believe such marriage to have; incidentally a completely different issue from the question of civil gay marriage and the possibility of asking for God’s blessing for such marriages.)

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Monday, February 14, 2005

I was a little clueless in
a recent posting
about how to solve the dilemma of having legalised prostitution and still have a welfare to work programme. Over at No Blood for Sauerkraut there has been a little debate about this problem with some interesting ponts raised. Paul13 reminded me of this idea, about having a single-type payment paid out to all citizens, irrespective of circumstances. I had vaguely, in my new year predictions for 2004 hinted at my interest in:

a welfare reform that would replace the over-complicated and useless current system with a single type benefit

. I’m not entirely sure about the costing, but such a system would have two great advantages. Firstly, it would make it possible to cut out the wasteful and ineffective bureaucracy that currently hobbles the administration of welfare pay-outs. Secondly, and this somewhat closer to my heart, it would make it possible to roll back the state and get government a little bit more out of our everyday lives.

Update: Just remembered this idea was endorsed by Alan Duncan in Saturn’s Children. I’ll go and check that out again and post on this as soon as I get round to it.

Another Update: I had already developed an interest in this idea when I was politically wired slightly differently, and I remember it was advocated by Erich Fromm, I think in the Sane Society, but memory is rather hazy right now.

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Saturday, February 12, 2005

Well Labour has certainly secured its election victory now. As its new pledges boldy proclaim:

"Your family better off", "Your family treated better and faster", "Your child achieving more", "Your country's borders protected", "Your community safer" "Your children with the best start".

How on earth do the Conservatives, with their pledges of “Making your family worse off” “Your country’s borders open for criminals and terrorists” and “we’ll make your community drown in violent crime”, and the LibDems, with their pledges of “your child will be left behind” and “Your family being treated later and worse”, believe they stand any kind of chance. They will be simply laughed off. So, when the snap election happens in two weeks time -and this is a serious rumour going around Westminster village- Labour will completely destroy all opposition. Alternatively, people might think the pledges are just election gimmicks and the slogans used a little too vague to be of any use. I wonder.

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Robin Cook is exasperated: he dearly longs for the International Criminal Court to take up investigations into crimes against humanity in Darfur, and is angered by the US’s hostile attitude to the court, which apparently the only problem preventing the ICC’s glorious justice and peace decending upon Darfur.
Hmm, should have done his homework methinks:

The Rome Statute, which created the ICC, gives it the authority to handle genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression. But the court can only consider these crimes if it also has jurisdiction over the accused. The Rome Statute requires that those persons be either nationals of a state party to the treaty or people acting there. Sudan hasn't ratified the statute, so the ICC could only hear cases from Darfur that involve non-Sudanese nationals from states recognizing the court - hardly the bulk, one suspects, of the perpetrators.
Yet the UN panel ignored this requirement

The author also rightly criticises the US government’s decision to label events in Darfur as genocide and then do nothing about them.

There are several points missing so far: how is the ICC’s ruling going to be enforced? You know, when domestic courts make a decision they send out the police, so when an international court makes a decision it sends out the . . . international police? Except of course there isn’t one. So short of a US-led military intervention, what options are there really for dealing with the problem? As far as I can see there is only one: withdrawal of uncondtional diplomatic support and the imposition of economic sanctions on Sudan by China. Is that going to happen? Doesn’t look like it, but either way, that has nothing to do with the ICC and US attitudes to transnational institutions, and it makes Cook look a bit like an uberpartisan hack trying to suggest otherwise. If anybody in the West can really be faulted here it is the EU’s desire to export huge amounts of high-tech weaponry to China, and thus not exactly penalise China for supporting the murderous rampage in Darfur.

PS: And am I the only one who thinks Robin Cook’s language is inappropriate for a proper politician:

Under the Conservatives, Britain had been a backmarker in negotiations to set up such a court. After the change of regime

Or election as changes of Government are normally referred to in this country. Surely Robin Cook has been better known for opposing regime change, if memory serves correctly.
And then there’s this debasement of language:

For the past four years, the Bush administration has pursued a relentless pogromagainst the court.

Pogrom? You mean lynchings, beatings, burning down of homes and hundreds of dead? And a relentless one at that! Sounds like almost like another Holocaust. Evil Bush. Actaully I have to admit, I hadn’t noticed on the news that out of control mobs were aussaulting the staff and buildings of the ICC. But perhaps Cook has access to some sort of secret information on the issue, so I don’t want to be too judgemental.

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The EU’s relations to China are in the news ever more frequently, in this case my interest was roused by this must-read article by Hans Binnendijk, director of the Center for Technology and National Security Policy at the National Defense University in Washington. It underlines again the potentially catastrophic consequences for transatlantic relations, national security and the stability of the pacific region of the EU going ahead with its plans to lift the arms embargo on China. (And just to clear it up, the economic argument for such an unlimited arms trade is virtually non-existent as David Leigh and Samuel Brittan has shown repeatedly.)
Richard North pointed out that this would undoubtedly lead to the US using its missile defence weapons to destroy the Gallileo sattelites. Just try and picture that in full. It would make the transatlantic rifts and arguments over Iraq look like a Sunday picnic. It is given a further little spice for us in the UK. It is possible, if not certain yet, that in July and the previous December, and it is clear that nothing on this front has improved. But don’t expect to hear much about this in the coming election campaign.

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Wednesday, February 09, 2005

. . . so here’s some stuff that’s not particurlarly serious, picked up in different places over the past few days:
-Demons in my pants! (Pay particular attention to the age of those involved and the total number of congregation members!)
-“I’m ambitious”
-Volkswagen gets with the times
-Serious action against the demographic downturn!
-Slow progress in Iraq? Blame the wrong sand!
-Talking of Iraq: a spotlight on occupation troops running amok . . .
- . . . and it gets worse. Sheer evilness.
-World Beard and Moustache Championships, I wont be entering though
-this is quite sweet, though I’m not quite sure what to make of the product title? I mean how would you . . . Oh, never mind.
More riveting stuff where that came from too
-I’m not quite sure whether this is real.
-Muslims for sale, and more (particularly the “jihad”).

Well, I leave it at that, have a nice day.


Sunday, February 06, 2005

Feeling lonely? Just can’t find the rigth partner to go forth and multiply? Well, help is at hand:

If you're interested in meeting and dating quality christian singles - then we are your perfect choice!

You bet. At least it remains serious by helpfully reminding us of the words from the good Book:

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they will become one flesh” Genesis 2:24

I know I shouldn’t mock this sort of thing, you know, being an Anglican myself and it being the Lord’s day all that, but still there’s something slightly comical about the whole thing.

Update:Some useful tips on marriage.

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Saturday, February 05, 2005

Lt. Gen. James Mattis , three star US-marine officer:

It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right up there with you. . . . You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil,. . . . You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."

I report, you decide.

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Friday, February 04, 2005

Now, this story about an unemployed German waitress who will have her benefits cuts because she refused taking up a job in “ “ in one of Germany’s legalised brothels, at first made me laugh. I mean, there is something supremely ridiculous about it; or perhaps I’m just being old-fashioned.
On second thoughts though I see quite a problem here. This is in fact one issue that puts me in a particular quandary.

Let’s look what people of other political persuasions would make of this. If you were more of a social conservative type you would presumably argue that that’s another reason supporting your position that the whole thing should be illegal. Straightforward enough.
Let’s say you’re more of the libertarian persuasion this is an easy one again: the welfare state shouldn’t exist in the first place, so the welfare state couldn’t try to force people into prostitution.
If though you like it a little more leftish-liberalish your views can be easily reconciled with this state of affairs, since you probably oppose the whole enforced welfare-to-work policy.

So, what am I going to say? Ideally I would like to see prostitution reduced or better still, vanish completely. I support legalising prostitution as I see that as the only way of breaking up the nexus between prostitution and the whole organised crime problem coming with pimps and drug dealing, not to mention forced prostitution, primarily of the illegally immigrated. My basic point is one of damage reduction.
On the other hand I support welfare-state measures that expect people to take up work rather than live at the taxpayers’ expense, even if that work isn’t necessarily their dream job. And to cover every aspect, I support the existence of the welfare state and don’t believe it to be an illegitimate function of government as dedicated libertarians argue.
On the face of it this puts me in a position, where I can’t have my cake and eat it. And, naturally, that annoys me. The solution would have to be a restriction on the jobs that unemployed people can be forced to accept or else forfeit their benefits. There are other jobs where such restrictions could apply, the armed forces being an example, because that isn’t a normal job. I’m just not sure what kind of restrictions would be necessary.

Anyways, I think it’s worth giving some thought to it.

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Thursday, February 03, 2005

I just thought I’d do my bit by flagging this story up:


(dpa) - Pressure from Turkey has resulted in the removal of a reference to the Armenian genocide from a German school curriculum, reports said Wednesday.

The eastern German state of Brandenburg has eliminated half a sentence on the Armenians included in ninth and tenth grade history classes after a Turkish diplomat complained to state Prime Minister Matthias Platzeck, the newspaper Die Welt reported.

In a chapter entitled "War, Technology and Civilian Populations" the school book text said "for example, the genocide of the Armenians population of Anatolia." That passage has now been removed from school textbooks, the newspaper said.

I first found this via blogrel. An excellent repository of the full details and more can be found at this new blog Yessem. I urge you to go and read it all. I have to say I find this particularly vile that this happened in the week commemorating the liberation of Auschwitz. Standing up for the victims of genocide? What of those lessons learnt? A bitterly ironic question really coming to think of it given that the Armenian genocide took place two decades before the Holocaust. Learning lessons? Not very quickly it seems. Well, I suppose Hitler learnt the lesson.
But there’s quite a contrast here, which is why I am flagging this up. There is no reason to blame modern Turks for what happened as little as it makes sense to blame modern day Germans for the Shoa. That is not what this is about.
What this is about is something very dark indeed. In the scientific study of genocide several stages of the process are identified. The final stage is not, as one might initially assume, the extermination; the final stage is the denial of the extermination. This is what the current Turkish government is doing right now. It is in effect completing the genocidal work of the Young Turks regime.

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Tuesday, February 01, 2005

I know you’ll be thinking: even lighter than usual?, but I’m going to be investing most of my free time hanging around at the King’s College European Week. I can definitely recommend it, so if you happen to be anywhere around the area can along and give it a look. Today is on enlargement, and will feature the Turkish and Polish ambassadors, and our own Richard North.


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