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Friday, July 29, 2005

I’m not very focused on blogging at the moment, what with my real life making quite some demands, but I am at last trying to give this blog a proper focus and have made my by-line a bit more meaningful. Admittedly it’s still rather more aspirational. . .
But to keep this site alive I though I’d post about some things that caught my attention in London today.

Saw some volunteers of Shelter. The motto on their t-shirt is “bad housing wrecks lives”. Won’t disagree with that, but Shelter’s main task is to fight homelessness, rather than bad housing, and it sends out a rather confusing message. Which is a shame because homelessness is a real problem as a look this city around will confirm. “Bad” housing is a rather subjective term in the end.

Took the no11 down Whitehall. There are Union Jacks flying from all the lampposts. I don’t know how recent an addition this is, as I don’t normally travel through there. Does anybody know whether they’re staying up? I hope so. Beyond giving my patriotic heart warm feelings, the flags also introduce some much-needed colour into Whitehall, which would aesthetically be more aptly described as Greyhall.

Saw the new monument that is up, “To the women of World War Two”. Sorry to say this, but I don’t like it. It is too big, too plump and in the wrong place. Leaving aside whether there should be such a monument to begin with. Who does it commemorate after all? People who had the bad luck to be caught up in a war, but who due to being adult and female somehow warrant special attention. Sorry again to say this, but children and old men suffered and served on the home front just as much as the women did, and they won’t be getting a monument, simply because that would not serve any cause of identity politics. Monuments should either be individual, entirely universal or dedicated to those who purposefully put themselves at risk for the greater good.

Which brings me on to the fairly new memorial to fallen police officers. Now this is an entirely different story. After all the police volunteer to serve, and given the risen importance of policing for national security it is also timely that their sacrifices should have a proper representation. Unlike the WW2 women one, this elegant Lord Foster-designed memorial is neatly tucked away in a quite space between Horse Guards and the Mall. This is a memorial I like, even though I should admit that I wouldn’t have suggested it myself.

It is true that there’s quite a lot of armed police out and about, but personally I think it’s good there’s more police on the street. That said that depends where you encounter them. Out in the exurbs where I grew up and most of my family live, I would find the presence of police anywhere, let alone sub-machine gun wielding ones on public transport, distinctly threatening. And in case you’re scared they might gun you down because of confusing you with a Brazilian electrician, err, suicide bomber, London transport are trying to give you tips how to stay alive . . .

After last week’s rather less pleasing offering, the New Statesman is trying to redeem itself this week, with a cool-designed cover “Why Britain is Great”. Mind you, not yet bhaving read the article I wonder if there are going to find rather other things great about this country, than, say, last week’s Spectator did . . .

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Friday, July 22, 2005

After I had been told that these new "salads" at MacDees' are apparently quite nice I overcame my inhibition against the place and tried one today; not bad, but not really much going for it either. But the sauce really caught my attention and leads me to ask, why George Bush is being used for advertising purposes in a non-ironic manner?


Thursday, July 21, 2005

It is certainly disturbing to hear that British troops are being put on trial for war crimes. But a closer look makes me wonder about whether the term of “war crime” here is really appropriate. Unfortunately I don’t have my standard referral work to hand, so I am not sure what the official definition of a ”war crime” is. Now I would have thought that a war crime would have to be a criminal action, undertaken by a soldier in wartime in following the rules of engagement and/or a direct order from someone further up the chain of command. As far as I can see this applies in this case. However, I am pretty sure that to qualify as a war crime, this criminal behaviour also has to be accepted and not be prosecuted by the state whose soldiers committed the crime. As the Army/MoD/Government is undertaking investigations and imposing punishments this criteria isn’t fulfilled. Surely this means these are simply crimes rather than “war crimes”?

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

I think this is a good idea, of encouraging children to see certain films. This would well complement the generally restrictive approach to having the little ones watching films. I don’t know what it says about me, but how come I have seen only one and a half of the recommended top ten films for children? I did see the Wizard of Oz as a child back in the days when it was on every Christmas; I think it was Christmas anyway. This only counts half though as I have only a vague visual memory of it and no idea about the plot etc. As for ET I though that was pretty rubbish. My personal childhood favourites I would probably add for my own offspring are:
-The Lord of the Flies, despite all the horror films I saw still the scariest film for me; kids can’t be harmed by being taught a lesson in the fragility of social order and the evil that man is capable of.
(I’m told the original Is better, btw.)
-To be or not to be, which to this day remains one of my all-time favourites, and is probably the best war-comedy ever made; slightly controversial in some respects due to treating the Holocaust a little too flippantly, which Lubitsch could not have understood at the time he made the film.
More to come . . .


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

I'm pretty lazy and uninspired at the moment, so apologies for not posting much.
In case you haven't come across it before, this musical argument against id cards is pretty fine stuff.

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Thursday, July 14, 2005

from Harry's Place


Monday, July 11, 2005

So, why would such a grouping decide to carry out attacks in Britain? In summary:
Islamic fundamentalism vs. Islam and the West: there is a civil war within Islam between an extremist minority and the mainstream; a lot of this is about Islam’s relationship to the West; striking at the West is an important function for the extremists to show they mean business, to drive a wedge between Islam and the West and to claim they are the winning side, while feeding the terrorists’ fantasy of a global jihad; as Britain is a Western country, Britain was always a potential target
Ambiguity: terrorists like to exploit ambiguities in a country’s political will, and Britain’s deep divisions over fighting terror and the Iraq war made Britain an attractive target.
Iraq:British forces are preventing an Islamic fundamentalist dictatorship coming into place
Afghanistan: British forces removed and are preventing the resurgence of an Islamic fundamentalist dictatorship
lack of secondary deterrence: Sorry to say something like this when obviously so many people in Madrid feel sympathetic to us Londoners, but the decision of the Zapatero government to withdraw Spanish troops form Iraq overhastily, certainly gave the jihadists a victory and encouraged them that their methods were successful.
G8: as for the timing, publicity basically, all the world’s tv cameras were centred on the UK anyway
Whatever the precise combination of factors, it was unjustifiable.
Full stop.

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Thursday, July 07, 2005

Well, there isn't really anything new to say anymore, that I haven't said before, about terrorism. So far, everybody's has been very calm here and there's no sense of panic. The important thing is simply to go on as normal, because the first rule of conterterrorism is not to be scared into changing our ways. Then of course we should find those responsible and destroy them.


Tuesday, July 05, 2005

It's Veterans Awareness Week, time to say thanks for victory.
Unfortunately I can't quite let it go without a grumble, why did they have to call it "awareness" week? Simply calling it Veterans Week would have been better, by avoiding the language of faddish psycho-babble.

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