Saturday, January 31, 2004
Friday, January 30, 2004
Students can help the evil demon by joining a Campus Crusade for Cthulhu.
Who do you think his running mate should be?
Tuesday, January 27, 2004
|My life has been rated:|
|See what your rating is!|
Although I sort of knew that anyway. And I was very low on the violence scale. Thanks to Jade Farrington for the link.
Don't get me wrong, I have no brief for McDonald's and the like, although I confess to having the occasional Chicken McNuggets box. I really don't care if they ban McDonald's at all, at one level. At another level I find this a depressing example of people's unwillingness to take responsibily for their own actions. Walkers' Crisps as the latest great evil corporate killer? Give me a break! Everybody knows that in excess junk food is not good for you, if people still eat it, that's their problem. Big Kings are not addictive - although I grant that Coke probably is, with its <sniff, sniff> special ingredient.
Yes, obesity is a problem, but it would be a lot less so if many of those 85% didn't feed their kids a diet of Pot Noodle and Crisps. Or if healthier food brands got off their wanky 'we're so green and anti-megacorp' high-horse and started marketing themselves aggressively at kids as sexy, fun, products. The best good old fashioned lefty-liberal solution would, of course, be to have the state pay for school meals and give kids a real choice of healthy options. This would guarantee them one nutritious meal a day even if they went home to microwave chips every evening. It would cost a fair bit of money, but if the public health establishment are right it would save far more in the long term. And avoid the ridiculous situation where Gary Lineker's crisp advertisements were banned as an evil corporate threat to children's welfare.
Some days, I even find myself agreeing with Onora O'Neill.
Anyway, in this case life meaning life doesn't mean life, thanks be to God.
Britain is about to buy 232 Eurofighters at a cost of £80m a piece. This is a folly comparable with building a modern copy of Nelson's Victory for fleet service, and much more expensive. The Eurofighter is a cold war interceptor. No strategist can devise a credible threat for it to intercept.
Diehards say: if the RAF does not have the Eurofighter, what does it have? Yet this argument possesses validity only if British defence policy is perceived as a job creation scheme for pilots and air marshals.
I like the Eurofighter on ideological grounds - but ideology is not a good reason for £16billion plus. Why is it Hastings veers so wildly from being quite sensible to absolutely frothing.
Monday, January 26, 2004
Labour legislation is strong, the government is actively involved in R&D, corporation taxes are high and spending on public services strong. While most sectors of the economy are open to global competition, fledgling sectors are protected. However, primary production, telecoms and the energy sector has been successfully privatised and capital controls lifted. The government aggressively promotes key export sectors like wine, salmon and copper.
As PJ O'Rourke put it in Eat the Rich - there's good capitalism and bad capitalism, good socialism and bad socialism.
Thanks to Uğur at Turkish Torque for the link. I agree with him that this holds important lessons for Turkey as another moderately-developed economy. Turkey has been doing some similar things anyway, for example on tourism (most visibly) and textiles.
Saturday, January 24, 2004
Samarra, scene of one of the latest bomb attacks, was to have been one of the towns to which Turkish troops were to have been deployed last autumn.
Meanwhile, Dick Cheney has used the World Economic Forum meeting at Davos to call for the EU to admit Turkey as a member. What good one of the most hated men in Europe will do here is doubtful.
Friday, January 23, 2004
Meanwhile, the International Herald Tribune's Thomas Crampton runs a positive article on Turkey's booming economy.
In Arizona, which the Clark campaign seem to be going for in a biggish way, Dean leads Clark by a significant margin with the rest nowhere. Oklahoma is also still a two horse race between Clark and Dean, with Dean's lead being a mere 3% here. Conventional wisdom would hold that Clark should win Oklahoma fairly comfortably. South Carolina is a much more open field, but Edwards is not making the impact one would expect in the Carolinas. However, as we've seen in Iowa, he can be a formidable last minute campaigner.
These sates, along with Delaware, Missouri, New Mexico and North Dakota, poll a week after New Hampshire on 3 February.
Despite this, I'm putting this up here for two reasons:
1. In the unlikely event than bin Laden has been captured, I can say that You Read It Here First.
2. In the more likely event that he hasn't been captured, there remains a public record of how the Hawks constantly trupmet rumours about 'successes', only to quietly dissemble when they turn out to be nonsense.
Thursday, January 22, 2004
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
- After the call for compulsory Irish in the school curriculum, this is another attempt by the SDLP to look more Nationalist than Sinn Féin (note the all-Ireland tag). They haven't twigged that they can't look more Nationalist than SF, because, well, they aren't more Nationalist than SF.
- The proportion of smokers in Northern Ireland is high anyway, significantly higher among Catholics, and even more significantly higher among working-class people. If the SDLP want to permanently kill off their prospects of taking back working-class support, they're going the right way about it. Jim Gibney and the other Sinn Féin electoral strategists must be laughing their heads off.
- The SDLP still don't know why they're in trouble.
- Carmel was one of the most effective Ministers in the power-sharing government. But in her four paragraph quote (presumably from a press release) at the end of the UTV story she rambles into incoherence. Carmel is one of the cleverer SDLP people and she is panicking like hell (remember the immediate post-election stories about her wanting to join Fianna Fáil),
- Northern Ireland has a culture of disobeying laws when it feels like it. The smoking ban South of the border has been difficult enough to implement, and may yet all end in failure.* Can you see this actually being implemented up the Shankill or in Coalisland? Catch a grip!
* Which would be very good not only pour discourager les autres, but it'll take the apalling Micháel Martin's political career with it! :~?
Then I see something like this nasty piece of political interference and I know why!
Apparently the world without Saddam Hussein 'is now a better and safer place'. That particular offer doesn't seem to apply to residents of Istanbul, Casablanca, Riyadh, Baghdad or Southern Thailand.
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
So please, please, please link to me, keep my Google ranking high and drive traffic to me - unless, of course, you think this site is complete keke.
The good news is that the framework commits the government to reaching an agreement with the South before it joins the EU in May. The bad news is that it leaves the awful Rauf Denktaş as Northern Cyprus' chief negotiator.
KDP leader Massoud Barzani, however has made it clear he will withdraw his support for the occupation if Washington forces through a constitution without Kurdish autonomy, and he holds some strong cards at the moment. Expect this to get very messy over the next few months, with the nastiest haggling being over the future status of Kirkuk. This is the sort of squalid little border problem that so often leads to ethnic cleansing.
Next to do the Istanbul shuffle will be German Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer, who arrives tomorrow.
To be fair, I've always been of the school of thought that the greatest tragedy in European history was that the Habsburg Empire could not transform itself into a multi-national democracy.
Ciarán McKeown really is an apallingly bad journalist. He tells us, The juiciest speculation was that both Nigel Dodds and Jeffrey Donaldson would be put up by the DUP, putting Jim Nicholson's reasonably secure Ulster Unionist quota under pressure. If the Ulster Unionist 'quota' (the Ulster Unionists have never got a quota in a European Election, BTW) is so secure, how come the DUP are putting under pressure? Just because the DUP hate Ciarán McKeown, doesn't make him any good.
I am not optimistic. The Unionist parties and Alliance want radical change, the Nationalist parties none whatsoever. London and Dublin might be able to bang heads together - but Blair is in deep trouble at Westminster and Ahern is EU President until the end of June. Neither will be able to give the review anything like their full attention. As the Northern Ireland parties have been so unremittingly crap over the past 6 years, why should they?
Gephardt must now be finito. I suppose he'll back his fellow Democrat machine candidate, John Kerry.
The big unanswered question is how well is Clark, who opted out of Iowa, doing.
It will probably surprise you to know that I would vote for Clark and have backed him ever since he threw his hat into the ring. For non-Americans the most important thing about American Presidents is how well they do foreign policy. In that Clark is head and shoulders above anyone else. He understands Europe and Europeans, which is kind of a good thing for the most powerful man in the world to do, especially if you're one of us Europeans. I think his instincts on domestic issues are sound - he's genuinely liberal and of the generation of US Army officers who had anti-racism drummed into them after the Vietnam fiasco. Okay, he's a bit flag-wavy for my tastes, but then again most Americans are.
He's also a very, very, very dishy man. Four years of that on TV every night? Yum yum!
Monday, January 19, 2004
I think he is right in saying that Turkish Foreign Minister Abullah Gül is savvy, a lot more savvy than cynics like me gave credit for a year ago. However I can't quite agree with his assertion about the AKP:
"Like de Gaulle's RPR party it drags together a mix of modernisers, clever intellectuals, professors, retired diplomats, and businessmen who want Turkey to embrace modernity."
I mean the AKP have done a lot better than I'd ever have thought, but they still far more a party of small provincial businessmen, rural clergy and veiled housewives than of radical intellectual reformers. In some ways I admire them because of that - they're largely people who've dragged themselves by their bootstraps and their European-ness runs together with, rather than against their Islam. But I wouldn't recognise McShane's desciption as applying to the Gaullists, let alone the AKP.
The Occupying Powers have suggested that when Iraqis elect their new government (to take over this June) that they don't have a direct election. Instead given the 'difficulties of compiling an accurate register' (in a society which was a full-on totalitarian state until last year), a series of regional and national caucuses should be held. A bit like what's going on in Iowa today except with a lot less women's rights and a lot more feudalism and sub-machine guns. It seems to be that in that situation, whoever controls the most local strongmen would sweep the board outside Baghdad, Mosul and Basra.
Senior Shi'a cleric, Iran-born Ayatollah Ali Sistani (Arabic speakers can read his website here - and then tell me what it says on it!), rather holds to the view that this is not democracy and wonders why Iraq can't have direct elections like most places. Especially as he and his friends might be expected to very well in a normal election; very much better indeed than people like Ahmed Chalabi. Now, I'm not a big fan of Shi'ite theocracy myself, but I can't help finding my self agreeing with Dr. Sistani.
I presume this explains why the right-wing US government is now going cap in hand to the UN for help. And I thought the UN was a useless forum for dictators and cheese-eating surrender monkeys which should be banished from the banks of the Hudson...
The deteriorating security situation, with possibly 25 now dead at the Assasins' Gate and bomb explosions in British controlled South-Eastern Iraq, might also explain it of course.
Apart from getting his name wrong, I'm now sure I didn't know him as I said earlier. So sorry to all concerned. Apparently he is a Shankill born ex-RUC man and 7th Day Adventist.
This deepens an already difficult crisis for the SDLP.
There is a lively Slugger O'Toole debate on this subject.
The DUP claim this is to enable him to focus on the review process. Like, I suspect most people, I think this is more likely to be due to ill health.
The BBC claim Nigel Dodds is the most likely replacement. I suspect this is idle speculation of the sort that BBC Northern Ireland have replaced journalism with wholesale. It would be crazy for Dodds to assume a triple mandate at Stormont, Westminster and Strasbourg which he will have to give a year before his Strasbourg term of office ends in 2009. Besides, the DUP must have cottoned on to the fact that they really can win two seats here.
I'm not quite sure how Patrick Moore and Tony Benn were supposed to 'promote' pipe-smoking in the sense of the legislation. Not exactly sex symbols, are they? Of course they do disprove the idea that smokers inevitably die young.
I'm not sure how to read these - if real, they would indicate that his opponents' repeated focused attacks on Dean are proving successful. However, they show such dramatic jumps from previous polls, which showed Dean and Gephardt consistently ahead, that it may well be a rogue set.
All important in a low turnout contest on a bitter mid-Winter day (BBC forecasts a daily maximum of -10C (!) In Des Moines today) will be the knock up machines of the candidates. Can Dean's internet fan club make the difference? Union support will also matter a lot in this state, traditionally a stronghold. Unions claimed that they made the difference in 2000, when Gore squeaked a win over Bush here by 0.32%.
Polls for the South Carolina primary, due on February 3, confirm the trend of the Washington DC non-binding primary, with maverick radical Al Sharpton polling well among black voters. Could he get a solid block of delegates from the South and be the unlikely kingmaker come Democratic Convention time?
While there aren't many stronger supporters of Turkish accession that I, my gut reaction still remains, keep your nose out of our affairs, mate. On the other hand, Friedman isn't quite as bad as the many 'nuke Mecca' nutters in blogsphere. And his discussion with Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül is very apposite.
Turkey has undertaken a huge number of reforms to get itself ready for EU membership. If, after all it has done, the EU shuts the door on Turkey, extremists all over the Islamic world will say to the moderates: "See, we told you so - it's a Christian club and we're never going to be let in. So why bother adapting to their rules?"
"If the EU creates some pretext and says 'no' to Turkey, after we have done all this, I am sure the EU will lose and the world will lose," Turkey's Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, told me in Ankara. "If Turkey is admitted, the EU is going to win and world peace is going to win. This would be a gift to the Muslim world ... when I travel to other Muslim countries - Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia - they are proud of what we are doing. They are proud of our process (of political and economic reform to join the EU). They mention this to me. They ask: 'How is this going?'. "
Yes, everyone is watching, which is why the EU would be making a huge mistake - a hinge of history mistake - if it digs a ditch around Turkey instead of building a bridge.
Despite its efforts to warm relations with its Eastern neighbours, PM Erdoğan made it clear during yesterday's visit to Jeddah that Turkey sees its primary links with Europe and will not be part of any Islamic Common Market.
On its Western flank, Turkey's improving relationship with Greece was highlighted when George Papendreou, leader elect of Greece's ruling Socialist Party asked for Turkey's help in reducing the two countries' defence expenditures.
Saturday, January 17, 2004
Turkey's new strategic importance has been flagged-up in a widely syndicated AP article, focusing on Turkey's new 'thaw and sunshine' foreign policy offensive, of building better relationships with Iran and Syria while maintaining close ties with Israel and the US.
The stance of the SDLP is particularly bizarre. They aren't going to make a comeback against Sinn Féin anytime soon, and the current system will - even if a government can be conjured up - relegate them to a permanent second-class status. The Shinners need to have a bit more faith in the direction of political change, which they always ask others to do. Personally, I think a SF/SDLP/Alliance/UUP coalition is a lot more likely than a SDLP/Alliance/UUP/DUP one. And every country needs an opposition.
In Alabama, controversry has errupted about whether or not hijab is acceptable on Driver's License photographs. A similar prohibition on hijab in university ID cards caused serious riots in Istanbul in the mid-90s. That's probably less likely in the Deep South! I have to say Alabama is not a place I'd want to be a Muslim in just now.
Similar stories from 'liberal' France, where if you believe the fringe of the right, the government is bending over backwards to placate domestic Muslim opinion. Well, if it is, somebody forgot to tell French Muslims, protesting across France today against the proposed school headscarf ban.
Montreal-la-Cluse secondary school, has jumped the gun and expelled a pupil for refusing to remove hijab in PE classes. Surely some sort of sensible accommodation could have been reached on this one? It is plenty of other places.
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However, due to my fondness for pipes and classical music, had I answered 'gin and tonic' rather than 'real ale' to the last question... and it was genuinely a close run thing... I would have been:
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Young fogeys ought to be the latter, I suppose, and right-on liberals the former. The problem is... I'm both!
Who is Joe Jackson, I hear you ask? He's the guy who wrote that slushy '80s pop classic, "Is she really going out with him?/Is she really gonna take him home tonight?/Is she really going out with him?/'Cause if my eyes don't deceive me/There's something going wrong around here". His politics are obviously not the type normally associated with the Torygraph. OK, that gives him no more qualification to comment than the average blogger, but I thought this line from his article was fantastic:
America can't seem to cure Los Angeles of its noxious smog, and yet that city is now trying to ban smoking in parks and on beaches. America can't seem to figure out how to stop rampant obesity, or 11,000 gun deaths a year, and yet a former smoker turned tobaccophobe can become mayor of New York and ban smoking in bars.
Quite so. As I've always said, I'll stop smoking when you stop driving.
Friday, January 16, 2004
Unsurprisingly it wasn't all that coherent. Adams quite rightly says that what is actually less than a third of the Assembly, and an even smaller slice of the electorate, shouldn't be able to block the restoration of locally accountable democracy. Yet his party are firmly against any move to end the sectarian designation system which gives the DUP the power to block that restoration. Good generals know when to stop fighting the last war, Gerry.
The DUP may not have the power to resinstate the Unionist ethnic volkstaat we had prior to 1972, but they can exclude Sinn Féin from power very effectively just by thwarting any deal and letting the Brits and Dublin run the country. From a DUP point of view giving Dublin a say may be better than having the country run by fellow Ulstermen... if some of those fellow Ulstermen are Shinners.
Predictably, the European Union (the Reformed Roman Empire, no less) is the whore of Babylon. Less predictably, the 'son of perdition' is George W Bush and we are living in the time of tribulation, which began when we was first elected.
It seems the third woe will come in 2007 when the 10 horns (the EU) burns the 'son of perdition' (George W Bush, apparently) with fire. Sounds scary, eh!
Is it just me, or does anyone else notice a pattern among the 'possible weapons of mass destruction' which have been 'found'?
PS - B'Tselem, are an Israeli group campaigning against the senselessly self-defeating Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. They are an excellent bunch of people and set out how you can help them on their website.
Congratulations, Abe Foxman is not spying on you.
Sleep soundly tonight, for you are by no means
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Why am I so agitated about this? Because Cage and the rest of his ilk have done permanent damage to the world of classical music. By writing music to a formula, and one which is incomprehensible to most people, people were scared off 'serious music'. New composers find it hard to get work performed because audiences, after decades of Cage, Stockhausen and Boulez shy away from anything new. "When is a British orchestra going to play the Dance Four Orchestras?" asks Christopher Fox - never being the answer, firstly because it's shit, and secondly because costs a lot of money to put on.
Prize for pompous eejit of the day goes to Martin Creed, Turner Prize winning artist who said of Cage, "I want what I want to say to go without saying." Wow, man, that's so like... deep. You're so clever. That's why you can see 'a sheet of A4 paper
crumpled into a ball' is a work of art when we normals are too slow to realise.
Thursday, January 15, 2004
The Commission will operate in some secrecy. Evidence considered by the Commission will "generally" (whatever that means) be published on their website. While submissions can be sent to the commission unsolicited, these should be limited to one A4 page, which leaves lots of room to unpick those difficult theological issues! Sessions of the Commission will be held in private. While I've no doubt they will seek a diverse spectrum off views, it looks like our prelatical leaders have decided that this issue is too important for us ordinary in-the-pew Anglicans to have any say. After all what would we care. It's only our Church. Unfortunately fellow liberals like Inclusive Church seem to be going down the same over-clericalised road.
Oh well, all we can do is pray the Commission somehow manages to support justice and keep the Anglican Communion together. How they manage that, I don't know.
It's a classic of example of throw enough mud and some it will stick. See, for example, this BBC story spuriously linking some empty mortar shells with an Iraqi chemical weapons programme, depite the fact even the US Military think they're irrelevant. Sorry folks, there was no Iraqi WMD programme in the 1990s beyond the level of a Primary School chemistry kit in someone's garage. Even Tony Blair has admitted as much.
Among the questions I'd love to ask Mansoor about his 'report':
- Why Kurdish Peshmergi have had access to Saddam's chemical weapons?
- And why would they have been palming them off to Iran?
- What evidence do you have that the 'Iranian and Revolutionary Guard' (sic) are helping al-Qa'eda plan a winter offensive in Afghanistan?
- And why would the über-Shi'ite Republican Guard help the remnants of the Taliban and al-Qa'eda in Afghanistan, when they murdered, tortured and repressed the Afghan Shi'ite community and have always been personae non grata with the Iranian government?/UL>
Oh and, while I'm at it, who are your sources? Do you have any evidence for this or did someone tell you this for buying them a pint? While I'm not doubting the al-Qa'eda Islamofascists who have flooded into Iraq since its 'liberation' would think nothing of murdering a few thousand innocent people in Baghdad do you actually have any evidence of a specific threat, Mansoor? Or are you just conjuring up a story from a few rumours to protect a politician your bosses support?
And the Right have the cheek to talk about Robert Fisk telling lies...
Wednesday, January 14, 2004
Me, I'd need to see a bit more evidence before changing my mind, but some fascinating ideas nonetheless.
By the way, does this mean the USA is not a fully fledged democracy?
Not that he has much choice with Ankara breathing down his neck and a new Northern Cypriot PM committed to reaching a deal with the South. If only we had as much wriggle room in Northern Ireland...
Why do the BBC persist in talking about 'Reformists'? It is clear that Khatami's faction is completely spineless and idelologically meaningless - it is those more radical than Khatami who are making the running now, through the sit-in and elswhere.
So if turnout in February's elections were to be as high as now seems to be expected after the Bam tragedy, and if Liberals (or, if they're all blocked from standing, spoiled votes) do particularly well, what's the betting that the Islamic Republic will be in deep trouble by March?
Âlevis make up somewhere between 20-30% of the Turkish population, yet their existence is not officially acknowledged, with most Western observers preferring to repeat the trite fiction that '99% of the Turkish population is Sunni Muslim'. Yeah, right.
Weaknesses of the article: it ends in the mid-90s, and therefore misses the PKK cease-fire and the continued Âlevi revival both among the diaspora and in Turkey; I think he rather overplays the extent of official Islamicisation during the '80s and doesn't mention the rôle of American in encouraging in (it's always worth reminding Americans of their rôle in creating contemporary Islamic fundamentalism); finally it is written from an expressly Christian and evangelistic viewpoint rather than a detached one. Then again, he doesn't pretend otherwise and this doesn't detract from the lucidity of his analysis.
Âlevis have usually played a key rôle among liberal and pluralist elements of Turkish society.
The London Cemevi has a website, sadly riddled with broken links!
Tuesday, January 13, 2004
Certainly for those of you who take your view of Christianity in South-Eastern Turkey from William Dalrymple's From the Holy Mountain (now, remember 10 years old) it makes for optimistic and uplifting reading. The interesting thing is the position of the diaspora - while contributing enormously, both in financial and human terms, to the rebuilding of the shattered communities of the Tür Abdin, diasporas tend to be more defensive of communities in the homeland of national 'purity', particularly in later generations. Certainly the campaign to have the 'Sayfo' recognised as a genocide reminds be an awful lot of Irish-American attitudes to the famine.
It would be interesting to know what Syria thinks of all this. The recent thaw in relations with Ankara notwithstanding, Damascus has hardly been happy with the Turkish damming of the Upper Tigris and Euphrates as part of the South-East Anatolia Project.
I love this article on findaproperty.co.uk - "The consensus view, promoted by property market insiders (lenders, agents etc), is contested by the independent analyst Roger Bootle of Capital Economics" - i.e. those with a stand to make lots of money if prices rise think they will, those without vested interests think they'll fall. Who would you trust?
Anyone else think the mortgage lenders and estate agents have been talking up the market to suit themselves for years? Higher prices means higher commission on sales and higher interest repayments on mortgages.
My favourite piece of double-speak comes from Andy Gray of the Woolwich - "Consumers clearly believe that 2004 will be a much more stable year for house prices than previous years. The massive fluctuations we have seen are beginning to even out as inflation drops in line with consumer confidence in the economy as a whole. "
The number of times the English languages is twisted like a WWF wrestler here is amazing. We haven't seen any fluctuations in recent years, just unsustainable rises; if consumer confidence is growing why is the rate of increase in house prices slowing down?; consumers believe 2004 will be more 'stable' than previous years, does that mean they believe there will be no house price gains this year.
Other lenders point to economic 'fundamentals' holding up the property market, while chosing to ignore fundamentals that don't suit them, such as record levels of personal indebtedness, the collapse of rental yields in the South East and the virtual disappearance of first-time buyers from the market over large swathes of the South and Midlands. And ignoring the biggest fundamental of them all - the value cycle of assets tends to overshoot at the top and undershoot at the bottom.
Monday, January 12, 2004
This is just as well as that's where I'm going now!
Bizarrely, Ergen was in Istanbul for rehearsals when the bombings happened, one of them, the British Consulate bombing, in the heart of Istanbul Theatreland.
It opened at the Kenterler in mid-December. I'll try and track down some reviews in the Turkish press. I also must try and see something at his East London Arcola Theatre - I hadn't heard of it as such before, although I had heard good things about their production of Crime and Punishment in Dalston.
Dr James Uhomoibhi, an African community leader in Northern Ireland says that racism has risen as 'the issue of sectarianism has largely been removed'. Sadly, I have to disagree with him - sectarianism and racism can exist side by side, fed by the same hatred of 'otherness'.
Personally I don't buy into this guff about educating people to be tolerant. Everybody, even overt racists, knows that racism is wrong. The real problem here is that racist attacks, like sectarian and paramilitary attacks in Northern Ireland, rarely go punished. A few exemplary sentences would go much further to stop these attacks than any amount of 'information fun days'. Has anyone ever been arrested, let alone convicted, for years worth of initimidation of Catholic students and nurses in The Village? Having, as a society, given the green light to sectarian attacks, we can hardly be surprised that thugs feel free to carry out racist attacks.
Even better news was the response to the match being scheduled on a Sunday. The Irish Times reports that in contrast to a sell-out 12,000 crowd inside, a derisory number of Free Presbyterian fundamentalists protested outside at the breaking on the 'sabbath'. Rugby has traditionally been a largely Protestant game in Northern Ireland, and yesterday marked the death of sabbatarianism as much as anything else.
The Belfast Telegraph saw this, and last week's North of England Education Conference held in Belfast as signs of a city transformed, albeit not completely. In large part this is true, but the recent spate of violent racist attacks and a population as segregated as ever shows that prosperity can exist alongside hatred, both ancient and modern.
It said very little of substance, other than the usual snide implication that Cyprus is all Turkey's fault really, but the very fact it what there was more interesting, demonstrating Turkey's massive geo-strategic importance at present.
Wednesday, January 07, 2004
The early shots of an empty London are some of the best location shoots I have ever seen, and there some good thriller bits - the Blackwall Tunnell wheel change, for example.
The soundtrack was also excellent - the In Paradisum from Fauré's Requiem as Manchester lies burning in the distance was seriously effective.
The end scene in the army base was a bit too much of a testosterone filled slug fight for me. Besides, if these soldiers had managed to get electricity going, then surely they could have fired up a Medium Wave radio and picked up broadcasts from the rest of Europe apparently unaffected by the Rage virus? In fact that goes for the rest of them - put a few batteries in a Medium Wave radio and you can pick up broadcasts from Russia to Morocco after dark. A wee bit of French or German and you'd know Britain is in quarantine, stock up on supplies and barricade your self in your flat like Frank and Hannah until it all passed over...
I suppose films like this are all about suspending disbilief for a while though.
Honourable mention must go to Village of the Damned, a superbly low budget 1960 British film adaptation of John Wyndham's the Midwich Cuckoos which was on Sci-Fi channel late on Sunday night. Given the budget constraints, it's actually a very well done Invasion of the Body Snatchers type thriller, with some serious quality actors (George Sanders and Laurence Naismith) doing some serious quality acting. The great thing, however, is how wonderfully plummy the whole thing is. Anyone of any consequence has a cut-glass RP äccént, including the wonderfully spooky and immaculately groomed mutant children with their hypnotising stares and prep school uniforms. The hero of the film is a Professor and local squire, with the Doctor and Vicar in despatches. The southern-country accented villagers are the same as the red uniformed dudes in Star Trek, fit only to be hypnotised or impregnated by strange alien space rays.
I'm making this film sound worse than it is - it is actually a very good thriller, and worth a look if you get a chance.
Syria provided prompt and effective help to Turkey in the investigation into November's Istanbul bomings, including the extradition of 22 suspects. The thaw in Turko-Syrian relations leaves Turkey as the only regional power enjoying cordial relations with both Syria and Israel. Given the general state of disorder in the Middle East, this can only be A Good Thing.
Monday, January 05, 2004
I did manage to get my bike pedals detached and on the plane - thanks to the folks at BMI and their usual quality service.
Cycling in Belfast isn't so different from cycling in London, except it's hillier in Belfast and there are less of us about. Just like London we have signposted cycle lanes in Belfast which end in the most dangerous place conceivable (like the on pavement permission on Queen Elizabeth Bridge), and others which have not been redone after
major rearrangement of road traffic (like the one on High Street). Just like London, many look like they've been done by road engineers who've never been on a bicycle since they were kids.
Congrats to all, however, on the very nice cycle facilities on Ormeau Embankment/Stranmillis Embankment.