Saturday, October 18, 2003

'If they move, kill 'em'

And now I'll share with you, too, a few of my favourite lines from movies (not repeating anything I've covered before - like from On the Waterfront, or those quotes from Westerns I used here earlier as a test.)

First up is flagged in the title of this post: 'If they move, kill 'em'. That's Pike Bishop (William Holden) in The Wild Bunch. You'll think the choice must reflect a dark and violent side to my nature. But as well as that, it's something about where the line comes: at the end of a long, building, preliminary sequence, pregnant with something about to happen, that accompanies the opening credits; and a split second ahead of the last of these credits, 'Directed by Sam Peckinpah'. And that's it. It's marking that credit, that director, and in front of that movie, his greatest masterpiece. It's the perfect Peckinpah line.

Next, Bert Gordon (George C. Scott), towards the end of Robert Rossen's The Hustler (1961), explaining to Fast Eddie Felson (Paul Newman), who's on the point of leaving the pool room, that there's still unsettled business between them: 'You owe ME MONEY', he says, each word more insistent than the last.

A good and more recent line, from Michael Mann's Heat (1995) - from which I also cherish the 'Brother, you are going down' conversation between Al Pacino and Robert De Niro - is when Pacino arrives back at his lady friend's apartment after a day doing man's work, and she's slightly pissed off, him being late and all, and the meal she's cooked. It's vintage tired Pacino, here Lt Vincent Hanna:
I got three dead bodies on a sidewalk off Venice Boulevard, Justine. I'm sorry if the goddam chicken got overcooked.
Another thing I love (and this is from memory, going some way back) is a scene early in Bill Forsyth's Gregory's Girl (1981). Out in his car Gregory's old man, a driving instructor, happens upon his teenage son on the way to school and says roughly the following:
Hello Gregory. Your mother was asking after you the other day. You remember your mother, don't you? Perhaps we could arrange a meeting. In the kitchen on Friday?
And then a whole lot of one-liners. Jack Nicholson, after a particularly trying outing with Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment (1983), declining her invitation to stop by, with 'I'd rather stick needles in my eyes'. Cary Grant and his mother in a lift full of people in North By Northwest (1959), and her saying to the two guys he's told her are trying to kill him, 'You men aren't really trying to kill my son, are you?' - inducing general merriment. James Coburn in Charade (1963): 'My Momma didn't raise no stoopid children'. And Groucho, I forget in which movie: 'Come and lodge with my fleas in the hills - I mean, flee to my lodge in the hills.'

Ah well, better not go on. But it sure is like they sing it: that's entertainment.

posted by norm at 10:26 pm | link

Jack Torrance

So this evening I'm not straining too hard, guys and gals, hats, cats, punks, bikers, touchy-feely folk and just people – yeah, just people, and also compassionate ones, and not even excluding a few wild eccentrics and the odd layabout. I've had a lousy week, afflicted by the kind of cold that climbs inside your head, your throat, your eyes, and settles down there with heavy, dripping boots, so that you feel thoroughly bleeeeuurrggh. Did I stop blogging? I did not. I'm therefore taking it easy here.

I'll share with you my choice for the all-time most chilling moment in the movies. I'm not talking horror-flick chilling, or chilling-scarey. Not cover-your-eyes, crouch-down-behind-the-seat-in-front kind of stuff. No, I'm talking chilling-psychological: possible moment of a possible life when a terrible truth descends.

It's in Kubrick's The Shining (1980), and it's the moment when Wendy Torrance (Shelley Duvall), going looking for husband Jack (Jack Nicholson) through the large and - but for the two of them, their son Danny and a few other 'presences' - empty Overlook Hotel, stops off at the table where Jack has been working these past weeks and casts her eye over what he's been producing. It's page after page after page, whole boxes full of pages, of just the one phrase typed over and over again: 'All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy'. You watch as the realization comes over her who – and what – she and Danny are now living with in this isolated place. It's one of the great moments in modern cinema.

posted by norm at 8:41 pm | link

Friday, October 17, 2003

Out of context

Sorry to keep returning to this story but it continues to offer new pearls of the human spirit. One is that
French President Jacques Chirac blocked the European Union from ending a two-day summit Friday with a harshly worded statement condemning Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's remarks about Jews a day earlier.
Chirac said there was no place in an EU declaration for a text of this kind.
Shucks. But two is that maybe it's just as well since the supposed culprit is protesting media misrepresentation:
Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad on Friday lambasted the Western media for distorting his opening address at the 10th Organisation of the Islamic Conference and portraying him as anti-semitic.
"You will appreciate of course the Arabs are also semitic people so being anti-semitic means I'm against Arabs and Jews as well. That is very even-handed because I am against both, not just one," he said, taking a dig at the Western media.
See Oliver Kamm on John Pilger in connection with this transparently feeble ruse. But now three is what walks off with a freshly-baked biscuit here, because
Muslim officials gathered for the OIC meeting said Mahathir's comments had been taken out of context and were aimed at rallying the Muslim world. Yemen's Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qurbi said he supported Mahathir "100 percent".

"The prime minister outlined a very important issue that the Israelis and the Jews control most of the economy and the media in the world," he said.
Don't you just love it? Taken out of context, but... the Jews control the world. It's notable how often the plea 'taken out of context' in relation to some seemingly vile statement fails to go on to explain why it isn't really, as it gives every appearance of being, vile. I remember when Winnie Mandela made her 'with our boxes of matches and our necklaces we will liberate this country' statement. It looked just like she was endorsing that charming method of murdering people with burning tyres. But, no, Winnie had been taken out of context - she of the educational title my daughter Jenny and I confected for a laugh, Famous Women Thugs. So now, too, with Dr Mahathir Mohamad. I mean, he was only saying the Jews control the world.

Shabat shalom, all. Boy, do we need a day of rest from all this.

posted by norm at 9:03 pm | link


Gregg Easterbrook has apologised for his remarks about the Jewish executives at Disney I reported here a couple of days ago. Roger Simon accepts the apology, though explains why he finds it unimpressive. Also interesting to me is a defence of Easterbrook by Tom Perry at Isntapundit (you may need to read that again), a defence I hadn't seen till now. One element of it is this:
Is he [Easterbrook] suggesting a double-standard? Yes, but he wants to hold Jews to a higher moral standard, which any rational person would take as a compliment.
I can see why Perry might think that, but it isn't as simple as it looks. For being held to a higher standard can mean that you get condemned for things more quickly, more often or more severely than others do, or indeed when others don't get condemned for worse. (And you don't need to travel too far mentally to come up with a topical example.)

Another element in Isntapundit's defence of Easterbrook is more worrying still. It's this:
You can't use the word "Jew" in a sentence anymore without being ridden out of town on a rail by a bunch of outraged pantywaists.
This is an old story - and not just about Jews but about almost anyone who's ever been on the wrong end of anything particularly nasty. They do go on so.

Those hyper-sensitive Jews, eh. Whatever has got into them?

posted by norm at 8:06 pm | link

The Security Council resolution

The reports I've read about yesterday's resolution at the UN Security Council have tended to focus on the fact that it probably won't mean too much in the way of contributions of troops and money by other, previously uninvolved countries. See, as examples, this in the Guardian and this from the Boston Globe. However, there is another relevant aspect, touched on in the report in the Washington Post. Here are some excerpts from the resolution adopted unanimously by the Council:
The Security Council...

Recognizing that international support for restoration of conditions of stability and security is essential to the well-being of the people of Iraq...
Affirming that the terrorist bombing of the Embassy of Jordan on Aug. 7, of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad on Aug. 19, and of the Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf on Aug. 29, are attacks on the people of Iraq, the United Nations and the international community...
Welcomes the positive response of the international community in forums such as Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Conference, the United Nations General Assembly and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, to the establishment of the broadly representative Governing Council as an important step toward an internationally recognized, representative government.
Determine[s] that the Governing Council and its ministers are the principal bodies of the Iraqi interim administration, which without prejudice to its further evolution, embodies the sovereignty of the State of Iraq during the transitional period until an internationally recognized representative government is established and assumes responsibilities of the [Coalition Provisional] Authority. (Emphasis added)
Much of the opposition to the war in Iraq and its sequel has turned on its legitimacy under international law, although whether it was in fact illegal under international law is moot. Whatever the case on this score, the decision of the Security Council would appear now to have determined the issue of the legality of the interim arrangements put in place by the Coalition. Will that affect the attitudes, indeed the hopes, of all those individuals and media organizations who, in their... er... alignments hitherto, have placed so much emphasis on procedures of international law? Just wondering.

posted by norm at 3:36 pm | link


Under the headline 'Malaysian PM's remarks about Jews "misunderstood"', this piece reports a clarification from Malaysia's foreign minister Syed Hamid:
"I'm sorry that they have misunderstood the whole thing," Hamid told The Associated Press. "The intention is not to create controversy. His intention is to show that if you ponder and sit down to think, you can be very powerful."

"People may not be very happy but this is the reality: the Jews are very powerful," Hamid said.
Oh, so that's what he meant.

posted by norm at 2:46 pm | link

More on that speech

There's a brief item in the Guardian today by John Aglionby on the speech by the Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. That's the speech in which he says, as the Guardian's South Asia correspondent reports, that 'today the Jews rule this world by proxy'. (The full text is here.) Saying of reactions at the summit that 'Many leaders praised [Mahathir's] honesty in speaking his mind', Aglionby himself describes the speech as 'sabre-rattling'.

Thought experiment. Suppose a Jewish public figure making remarks, such as I and perhaps you might describe as demented and poisonous, about Muslims. So, all right, one wouldn't necessarily expect to read from a reporting journalist either 'demented' or 'poisonous'. But can you imagine anyone writing for a liberal newspaper or a liberal-leaning public broadcasting organization and saying of some comparable garbage about Muslims that it was 'uncompromising' or 'sabre-rattling'? Maybe you can, but I can't.

There has developed today a deep infection on the liberal/radical/left side of the political spectrum with respect to what can be freely said about Jews, and which excuses itself behind the right to be critical of Israel. But it is inexcusable. And it is potentially deadly. The question is how far this infection still has to go and whether indeed it can now be arrested.

(Update at 2.50 PM: See also the comments to these posts at Biased BBC and Harry's Place.)

posted by norm at 12:06 pm | link

The normblog profile 4: Jackie D

Jackie D was born in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio in 1977. She grew up in the rural farmlands of southern Ohio, and attended Ohio University before fleeing to the UK in 1998. After spending three years as a freelance writer in the West Midlands, Jackie moved south to work in marketing as a writer and editor. She now lives in London and blogs at Au Currant.

What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Think twice, post once.

What are your favourite blogs? > The first blogs I check each day are those belonging to Oliver Kamm, Joanne Jacobs and the Adam Smith Institute.

What are you reading at the moment? > Virtually Normal by Andrew Sullivan, Still Small Voice: An Introduction to Pastoral Counselling by Michael Jacobs and A Life in Progress by Conrad Black.

What is the best novel you've ever read? > Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger covers all the bases for me.

What is your favourite poem? > 'Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night' by Dylan Thomas.

What is your favourite song? > I don't think I could possibly narrow it down to just one. At the moment I have Philip Glass's Violin Concerto - the Second Movement - 'Verdi Cries' by 10,000 Maniacs and 'Beautiful Day' by U2 on constant rotation.

Who is your favourite composer? > Beethoven.

Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > I used to believe in the virtues of a cradle-to-grave welfare state; no longer.

If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > I really would not know where to start, but the end goal would be to increase the amount of personal responsibility each member of the population takes for his or her own choices and make the state a much, much smaller part of people's lives than it is.

What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Self-discipline - and I say that as someone with precious little of it myself.

What is your favourite proverb? > 'Wer am meisten liebt, ist der Unterlegene und muß leiden.' ('He who loves the most is the inferior and must suffer.') - Thomas Mann.

What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Most people spend more time on recreational shopping than makes sense to me.

What, if anything, do you worry about? > My family, my friends and what comes next.

Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > Close to my family and oldest friends.

What would your ideal holiday be? > I'd love to get a round-the-world ticket and go wherever I wanted, no strict itinerary, for six months. The first stops would probably be Poland, Italy, China, Japan and New Zealand.

What do you like doing in your spare time? > Reading, looking at photographs, drawing, painting and what some people refer to as 'entertaining' – cooking meals for groups of friends.

What talent would you most like to have? > I'd love to be able to play the piano a lot better than I do.

What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > Secondary school teacher.

Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > Either Stephen Fry or Chris Rock.

If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > Since it's not realistic to wish for a total rollback to a time when people didn't expect the state to take care of them, I'll be selfish and wish for a happy family. That's slightly more realistic.

If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > Stephen Fry, the Marquis de Sade and Nigella Lawson.

[Previous profiles: Chris Bertram (Sep 26); Alan Brain (Oct 10); Michael J. Totten (Oct 3). The normblog profile is a weekly feature, with a new one posted every Friday morning.]

posted by norm at 10:43 am | link

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Kabul connections

From a piece in today's Guardian online:
For Kabul the future is arriving at last: the city is experiencing an internet boom. Without any infrastructure to build upon, the Afghans are rushing to install wireless connections across the city. Internet cafes are appearing in every neighbourhood, mobile phones are the must-have item, e-government initiatives are transforming the way the country is run, and e-commerce is kicking off. And even while the official infrastructure struggles to produce electricity for more than a few hours a day, home-built antennae pointed at the hills are producing an ad hoc broadband network faster, cheaper, and simpler than anything in the UK.
The article goes on to discuss some of the practical differences this is making.

posted by norm at 4:22 pm | link

Jews rule the world

That's according to Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, addressing a summit of Islamic leaders:
The biggest summit of Islamic leaders in three years has opened with calls for the world's 1.3 billion Muslims to unite against "a few million Jews" who allegedly rule the world.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Muslims for years believed mistakenly that Islam rejected new technology and progress. He urged Muslims worldwide to ignore teachings by religious fundamentalists that scientific studies were somehow un-Islamic.
Malaysia, a mostly Muslim nation, has long been a critic of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories and of US policy in the Middle East, including the war in Iraq and its strong backing of the Jewish state.

Mahathir launched a blistering attack on what he described as Jewish domination of the world and Muslim nations' inability to adequately respond to it. "The Europeans killed six million Jews out of 12 million, but today the Jews rule the world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them," he said.
There is also a report here. From which this:
He said: "They [Jews] invented socialism, communism, human rights and democracy, so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong, so that they can enjoy equal rights with others.

"With these they have gained control of the most powerful countries and they, this tiny community, have become a world power."
So that persecuting them 'would appear to be wrong'. The story is also here and on the BBC site. The BBC describes the Malaysian Prime Minister's words thus:
Dr Mahathir's comments were uncompromising.
His 'uncompromising' comments included these:
He told the conference that Jewish "arrogance" meant that they would "forget to think".

"They are already beginning to make mistakes. And they will make more mistakes. There may be windows of opportunity for us now and in the future. We must seize these opportunities," he said.
(Updated at 3.35 PM.)

And now here's how quickly things change. The BBC site, not ten minutes after I pasted and copied the 'uncompromising' characterization from it, had been cleaned up. The characterization had gone. So had the lines I quoted following it. Who've they got writing these reports? 'Uncompromising'!

(Latest update - 4.30 PM.)

posted by norm at 2:34 pm | link

50K hits - the normblog half-century

According to my Site Meter account I've just passed 50,000 visits. When I started, I think I'd have been surprised at the idea I might get this many in a year, whereas it's been less than three months - 80 days in fact. Anyhow, to everyone who's been reading my blog, and to all you bloggers who have put me on your blogrolls or linked to my stuff, this is by way of saying a big thank you for your support. (OK, it's not a picture of me, much less of my blog; and it's not for his half-century. But it's the gesture of acknowledgement I'm aiming at.)

posted by norm at 1:25 pm | link

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Be afraid, Poms...

This is a lovely piece, Matthew Hayden talking about his recent record score in Test cricket:
[I]f I am honest, my aim is to be able to break that record again, though I know the conditions and environment were on my side this time around.
The funny thing about breaking Brian Lara's record of 375 was that I didn't even know what it was, or the Bradman-Taylor Australian record of 334 either. I am not big on statistics. I didn't have a clue. Even at the end I was asking Gilchrist, who is huge on cricket history: "What is this record again?" When I was in the 320s he said: "Well, you have gone past Bob Simpson's 311, and Sir Garfield Sobers is later on, but you have Wally Hammond and Len Hutton and the boys to contend with at the moment." He just reeled them off. Amazing. When I knew about the Bradman-Taylor record, I went for it. When I achieved this, I thought I might as well try for Lara's 375 as well, but I did not think I had a lot of time. I thought we would declare.
England is a wonderful place and memories are so pleasant from my two Ashes tours and county stints with Northamptonshire and Hampshire. However, it is a place where I have not quite got my batting strategies together. My 380 at Perth is simply part of my journey. England is a place where there is so much more I would like to achieve...
Be very afraid.

posted by norm at 10:56 pm | link

The Victim Reich

Anne Applebaum:
According to [an] opinion poll, more than a third of the Germans now think of themselves as "victims" of the Second World War - just like the Jews... Lately momentum has gathered behind a movement to build a new museum in Berlin dedicated to Germans expelled from their homes at the end of the war - just like the Holocaust museum. It's not wrong for Germans to remember their relatives who suffered, but the tone of the campaigners is disturbing, because they seem, at times, almost to forget why the war started in the first place.
Read what else she has to say about the 'mood in Germany'. (Via Roger Simon.)

posted by norm at 9:15 pm | link

About Rio

Read what Gary Neville has to say:
When we sat down with members of the FA, they admitted straight away there were flaws in the system. They accepted that a player should be man-marked by a tester as in other sports, to stop him leaving the training ground by accident. And Rio was not given any allowance for the fact that he had volunteered to come back that afternoon.
In no disciplinary matter should club representatives be advising an independent FA chief executive.
Add all that up and throw in your loyalty to a team-mate who has been vilified and banned before he has been charged and I would hope you can understand why we took a stand.
(Emphasis added.) Thanks to Morris Sheftel for the link.

posted by norm at 8:08 pm | link

Blogging miscellany

> Someone (else) who doesn't care for good news about Iraq.

> Take a look at this post at Apostablog, following the various links.

> Dave Dudley makes a welcome return to Harry's Place. He and Jo have bought a new car.

> Wander a couple of fields across to EnviroSpin Watch, where you'll find that Philip Stott has installed a new feature - an EnviroSpin Voting Booth. There it is, see, next to that tree. Go in and cast your vote.

> You might like to pay a visit, next, to The Whole Thing, a blog recently started up by Colin Macleod. In his inaugural post Colin links to something of my own and offers a hypothesis about current differences on the left: 'It appears to me that the implicit, usually unstated difference between Geras and his comrades is that they hold their "anti-imperialist" project, which they conceive to be crucially an anti-American project, to be of greater importance than the fate of the Iraqi people.' It doesn't describe the whole of the anti-war left, but it certainly captures some of what I've heard argued there.

> Along the corridor (yup - see, on this matter, Kieran Healy) at Blacktriangle, check out the makeover that Anthony Cox has had - not personally (though for all I know he may have had one), but on his blog. He's made the leap from you know where to you know where. Blacktriangle regularly carries items of general interest. One recent post linked to an online databank about the Nazi Euthanasia programme.

> Back in this building but two flights up at Crooked Timber, Chris Bertram comments on an appeal by Paul Foot and arising out of a libel case against two of his SWP comrades.

> Finally, home again here downstairs at normblog, I've reorganized my 'garage' - linking to various items posted by me since I got going and which may still be of interest; and appending dates to help you find them in my archive if the links mess you about, as they sometimes may. I'm also still adding to my blogroll from time to time. Please signal to me if I'm on yours and haven't reciprocated.

posted by norm at 4:25 pm | link

Salam Pax

Read the Baghdad blogger in my dnoc today. He's not all one way, but he's not all the other way either:
I am very excited about this - it is these things that hammer it in that "it" has changed.
Well, someone's pleased, hey. Read for yourself.

posted by norm at 2:32 pm | link

Jewish second thoughts

Gregg Easterbrook criticizes Quentin Tarantino's new movie, Kill Bill, for its violence - it 'opens with an entire family being graphically slaughtered for the personal amusement of the killers' - and finds it relevant to the issue that two of the executives at Disney, which distributed the film, are Jewish.
Recent European history alone ought to cause Jewish executives to experience second thoughts about glorifying the killing of the helpless as a fun lifestyle choice.
Shouldn't recent European history, to say nothing of much other history, cause everybody to have these second thoughts? (Via Michael Totten.)

posted by norm at 2:12 pm | link

Hello Freedom!

From Dan De Luce in Tehran:
Nobel Peace prize winner Shirin Ebadi received an emotional reception last night as thousands of Iranians greeted the human rights lawyer with chants of "Hello Freedom!"

"This prize is not mine, it belongs to our people," Ms Ebadi told the jubilant crowd over a megaphone after arriving on a flight from Paris.

"This prize means that Iran's desire for realising human rights, democracy and peace has been heard by the world," she said to roars of approval from the crowd.

In a spontaneous demonstration of sympathy with Ms Ebadi's struggle for civil rights and freedom of expression, Iranians of all ages and background gathered at Tehran airport to celebrate.

posted by norm at 12:25 pm | link

UN developments

Now, this seems encouraging:
United Nations -- France, Russia and Germany on Tuesday dropped their demands that the United States grant the United Nations a central role in Iraq's reconstruction and yield power to a provisional Iraqi government in the coming months.

The move constituted a major retreat by the Security Council's chief anti-war advocates and signaled their renewed willingness to consider the merits of a U.S. resolution aimed at conferring greater international legitimacy o[n] its military occupation of Iraq.
[T]he shift by America's toughest critics in the 15-nation council has placed the Bush administration within reach of a diplomatic victory only a week after it was on the verge of withdrawing the resolution altogether, according to officials here.
Read the rest.

posted by norm at 12:17 pm | link

The Geneva Accords

Go here to read about the Geneva Accords, 'the controversial document drafted by former senior Israeli and Palestinian officials'. Within the article click on 'Click here for the main points of accords'. Some of these:
The Palestinians will concede the right of return. Some refugees will remain in the countries where they now live, others will be absorbed by the PA, some will be absorbed by other countries and some will receive financial compensation. A limited number will be allowed to settle in Israel, but this will not be defined as realization of the right of return.

The Palestinians will recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people.

Israel will withdraw to the 1967 borders, except for certain territorial exchanges, as decribed below.
The Palestinians will pledge to prevent terror and incitement and disarm all militias. Their state will be demilitarized, and border crossings will be supervised by an international, but not Israeli, force.

The agreement will replace all UN resolutions and previous agreements.
According to Israel Radio the Israeli government is 'furious with Switzerland over its sponsorship of the Geneva Accord'. The Swiss foreign ministry 'quoted the East Jerusalem Al Quds newspaper as having reported that the principles of the document were largely agreed upon during a meeting in Britain hosted by Prime Minister Tony Blair six months ago'. There's another report here.

And here are two reports about an explosion today in Gaza which has killed CIA and US diplomatic personnel.

posted by norm at 11:49 am | link

normblog World Cup competition line-up

All appeals and the extended deadline notwithstanding, there have been few entries for this exciting event - only nine in fact, including that from yours truly. I'm bound to conclude that amongst readers of this blog there's less interest in Rugby Union than there is in either jazz or country music.

Never mind. There's still all to play for. Here's the line-up, with (a) predicted winner, (b) losing finalist, (c) margin of victory, and (d) the other two semi-finalists - (b), (c) and (d) to serve as successive tie-breakers, as needed.

> Jackie D - (a) England; (b) New Zealand; (c) 22 points; (d) Australia / South Africa.
> Jamie Milne - (a) England; (b) New Zealand; (c) 10 points; (d) Australia / France.
> Ian Holliday (a) England; (b) Australia; (c) 9 points; (d) New Zealand / South Africa.

> Richard Bayley (a) New Zealand; (b) England; (c) 8 points; (d) Australia / Ireland.
> Andrew Russell - (a) New Zealand; (b) England; (c) 7 points; (d) Australia / France.
> The Philosophical Cowboy - (a) New Zealand; (b) England; (c) 4 points; (d) Australia / France.
> Steve Kingston - (a) New Zealand; (b) England; (c) 2 points; (d) Australia / France.

> Norman Geras - (a) Australia; (b) England; (c) 13 points; (d) New Zealand / France.
> Jim Nolan - (a) Australia; (b) New Zealand; (c) 2 points; (d) England / France.

Thanks for your entries. Good luck, us nine.

posted by norm at 11:41 am | link

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

The rights and wrongs of amnesty 4

[The first three instalments were posted on 6, 8 and 10 October.]

Continuity: It has to be judged whether in Chile or Argentina or South Africa, in former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Indonesia, in Israel and in Palestine, the gravity of the possible consequences of trying to secure justice for the victims can outweigh the wrong that is done by offering amnesty to their killers or torturers.

I come now to my concluding points, in which I will start by emphasizing that that - a wrong - is precisely what it is, a terrible, unredeemed wrong to those who have suffered, if the perpetrators of torture, murder and the rest are amnestied, even in exchange for truth, even if there is justification in terms of averting future suffering on a scale bordering on, or amounting to, moral catastrophe. And so it should be presented by those who sponsor and agree the policy of amnesty. It should be presented for what it really is, politically expedient or necessary perhaps, but a wrong nevertheless and not some new and better way. Calling it, as some do, 'restorative' or 'transformative' justice changes nothing of substance here, since it simply leaves the traditional concerns of justice undealt with in favour of essentially different concerns that have been assigned the same name.

In this connection, I would also like to comment on the notion that amnesty-with-truth can be commended vis-à-vis the pursuit of justice as a more forgiving process.

It is not in principle impossible to forgive someone for a crime they have committed against someone else. One can do that. Forgiveness isn't necessarily 'one to one', from the wronged person to the person who has wronged her. Think of a family member or friend who has done something dreadful to another. You could come to forgive him for the sake of your future relationship. By extension the same thing can apply to your relationship to anyone else. But one cannot forgive the perpetrator on behalf of the person violated. Such forgiveness is only that person's to bestow and it has to be done willingly; it cannot be imposed. No politico-juridical process of so-called reconciliation in which representatives of some community 'authoritatively' offer forgiveness substitutes for freely given forgiveness by those who have suffered; and to invoke the notion of forgiveness irrespective of the feelings, or against the wishes, of any who have been violated aggravates - it adds to - the wrong they have been done. ('It is easy for Mandela and Tutu to forgive... they lead vindicated lives. In my life nothing, not a single thing, has changed since my son was burnt by barbarians.')

Moreover, so far as any national regime truly does want to encourage forgiveness, I would suggest that, wherever possible, it should lay down more stringent requirements for amnesty than confession of the truth. I mean some substantial act of remorse. For though it may be the case, it is not necessarily so, that a willingness to confess indicates genuine remorse. First, there is the unashamed style of confession 'We were fighting a war for this or against that'. And second, even when there are overt expressions of remorse, there is the question of how sincere or profound they are. A real, and I would have thought nearly infallible, test of remorse would be a willingness by the wrongdoer to pay some significant penalty or (non-monetary) recompense for the wrong done. I'm thinking here about reduced sentences and/or practices of reparation, service and so forth; but I will go no further with it than to say that the penalties ought to be set at a point far enough beyond zero to be quite burdensome, but far enough away from a more fully appropriate punishment so as to recognize the act of remorse itself. This would be not only a signal of the genuineness of the remorse of torturers and murderers, but also a test of how serious the representatives of the new political order are about concepts like reconciliation in a two-way rather than merely cop-out sense.

'Amnesty', I end by noting, is of the same linguistic provenance as 'amnesia'.

[This instalment concludes the series.]

posted by norm at 2:59 pm | link

The tanks ready to roll

According to our resident military expert, Brigadier Sir George ('Fixed-wing') Monbioterrorism:
A mature democracy is in danger of turning itself into a military state.
He means the USA, of course. Our man has the same concerns very much at heart in Iraq. He refers to certain forces at work there as 'the resistance' – mature democrats, these, to a man and even a woman, blowing people to smithereens without discrimination.

posted by norm at 11:10 am | link

The distribution of responsibility

A couple of flights up at Crooked Timber, Chris Bertram has an interesting post arguing that there is no fixed sum where the ascription of moral responsibility for bad acts is concerned. His argument overlaps with concerns I've expressed here at normblog recently:
Apportioning blame, ... speaking forthrightly against moral crimes, is not a zero-sum activity. To properly condemn Hamas and their ilk, and to oppose their aims insofar as these are morally criminal or unjust, does not disbar anyone from criticizing Israel for the wrongs it has done and is doing. So the situation doesn't even provide that excuse.
(And see also this.) I offer an observation on Chris's post in Crooked Timber's comments box. Make your way upstairs and read the whole discussion if you're interested.

posted by norm at 11:04 am | link

Breach of natural justice

Marcel Berlins on the Rio Ferdinand affair:
I have been astonished and saddened at how enthusiastically my lawyer friends have joined in the pro-Football Association, anti-Rio Ferdinand camp. I stress lawyers because they, of all people, ought to know the basic principles of natural justice, one of which is that an offender is punished after his conviction and after being given an opportunity to present his case and his mitigation. Ferdinand has been denied that fundamental right.

He clearly did not take the drugs test when supposed to. But we do not know what explanation or mitigating factors he might be putting forward. Every lawyer knows that things that look straightforward at first glance often develop differently. It could not, last week, have been assumed that Ferdinand could have no defence and no excuses... [T]he FA chose to punish him severely before any hearing and before all the facts were known. (They still aren't.) That is a grave breach of natural justice, for which the FA should be castigated, not praised.
Maybe Marcel Berlins' friends are Arsenal supporters - or ABUists.

posted by norm at 10:58 am | link

Monday, October 13, 2003

Abercorn St, Bulawayo

Having been an atheist for all of my life except when I wasn't aware of the issue, I haven't spent much time in synagogue. But the one synagogue I did spend any time in was that in my home town of Bulawayo. A few days ago it burned down. There seems not to have been foul play involved. You can read about this here and here; and there are pictures here and here. That synagogue, and my brief relationship to it, had some part in shaping my Jewish identity. With the Bulawayo Jewish community I mourn their loss.

posted by norm at 6:14 pm | link

normblog greatest jazz albums poll

Finally, here is the result you've all been waiting for. I don't think I'll be conducting another poll for a little while! But it helps to keep me off the streets. OK, so counting in a few people who posted comments in response to Tom Runnacles' list which he put up round the corner at Crooked Timber as well as submitting it here, or who blogged their choices on their own sites, there were 45 participants in all and they voted for 323 albums in all. Of these, 258 albums only obtained one vote each, 30 albums obtained 2 votes each, and 14 obtained 3 votes each. The top albums are the rest - those securing 4 votes or more. They make up a Top 15 or a Top 21 (depending on how you look at it), since there was a 7-way tie for the fifteenth spot.

The normblog greatest jazz albums:

1. Miles Davis, Kind of Blue - 1959 (20)
2. Louis Armstrong, The Complete Hot 5 and Hot 7 Recordings - 1925-9 (12)
3. John Coltrane, Giant Steps - 1959 (10)
4. Charles Mingus, Mingus Ah Um - 1959 (7)
4. Sonny Rollins, Saxophone Colossus - 1956 (7)
6. Duke Ellington, Ellington at Newport - 1956 (6)
6. Lee Morgan, The Sidewinder - 1963 (6)
8. Cannonball Adderley, Somethin' Else - 1958 (5)
8. John Coltrane, A Love Supreme - 1964 (5)
8. Eric Dolphy, Out to Lunch - 1964 (5)
8. Duke Ellington, The Blanton-Webster Band - 1940-2 (5)
8. Thelonious Monk, Brilliant Corners - 1956 (5)
8. Oliver Nelson, Blues and the Abstract Truth - 1961 (5)
8. The Quintet*, Jazz at Massey Hall - 1953 (5)
15. Ornette Coleman, Change of the Century - 1959 (4)
15. John Coltrane, Blue Train - 1957 (4)
15. Miles Davis, Sketches of Spain - 1959-60 (4)
15. Bill Evans, Sunday at the Village Vanguard - 1961 (4)
15. Brad Mehldau, The Art of the Trio Volume 3: Songs - 1998 (4)
15. Charles Mingus, The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady - 1963 (4)
15. Charlie Parker, The Complete Dial Sessions - 1946-7 (4)

(* Parker, Gillespie, Monk, Mingus and Roach)

It is notable that 17 of these 21 albums were recorded in the decade (well, just about) 1953 to 1964, and that there is only a single album on the list recorded since 1964. If you're just starting up a jazz collection, you could begin with these 21 albums. If you've already got a collection, how many of them does it include? My answer to that question, I can boastfully say, is 21.

I was mindful of the point in this comment from Chris Bertram: 'I think the widespread anthologising and repackaging of work makes an albums poll difficult'; and also this one from Thomas Uebel: 'Top anything lists are testing, but a top 15 of jazz albums does border on impossible. First, because the album concept discriminates against pre-1955 history. Second, because it allows greatest hits compilations of same artist and best-of samplers of whole sub-genres. Just as the first is too narrow, the second is too wide.'

Partly for this reason, and as a matter of further interest, I also collated the number of albums voted for per (lead) musician. Setting the qualifying threshold at 5 votes yields a 'Top 28 normblog poll jazz musicians' as follows:

Miles Davis (43 votes), John Coltrane (28), Duke Ellington (28), Charles Mingus (25), Thelonious Monk (20), Louis Armstrong (16), Charlie Parker (15), Herbie Hancock (12), Sonny Rollins (11), Billie Holiday (10), Art Blakey (8), Bill Evans (8), Art Pepper (8), Clifford Brown (7), Ornette Coleman (7), Ella Fitzgerald (7), Wayne Shorter (7), Cannonball Adderley (6), Dave Brubeck (6), Eric Dolphy (6), Lee Morgan (6), Oliver Nelson (6), Oscar Peterson (6), Max Roach (6), Count Basie (5), Stan Getz (5), Horace Silver (5), McCoy Tyner (5).

A lot of important folk don't make the cut, but a few whose failure to do so surprises me are: Sidney Bechet, Bix Beiderbecke, Benny Goodman, Coleman Hawkins, Joe Henderson, Keith Jarrett, Brad Mehldau, Gerry Mulligan, Ben Webster and Lester Young. Not managing to pick up a single vote (out of 491) for a single album are: Lee Konitz, Wynton Marsalis and David Murray.

Gender breakdown of the voters: 43 men, 2 women. Yikes!

Thanks to all who took part, including the blogger contingent from the following blogs: Cobb, Crooked Timber (two entries), Electrolite, Harry's Place, Marginal Revolution, MooseRot, OxBlog, Panchromatica, Plastic Gangster, Terra Taco and Zizka. If I've overlooked anyblogy here, I apologize. Please let me know.

OK, now go play some Gerry Mulligan or Ben Webster. You don't have any?! Then, kindly explain yourself.

(Amended at 12.55 PM)

posted by norm at 12:12 pm | link

Iraq: Monday morning round-up

> In yesterday's 'Broadcasting House' on BBC Radio 4 at 9.00 a.m. Dan Damon spoke to Dia Kashi, an Iraqi in London, on his feelings about Iraq today. If you go here, click on 'LiSTEN' (to the latest programme) and then fast forward to 31 minutes in - running to 39 minutes in – you can hear the exchange. This is some of what Dia Kashi said (taken down by me, but substantively accurate):
They [Iraqis] used to live in a continuous hell and there was no hope at all. With difficulties now after six months of liberation, at least there is a hope and there is a big hope.
In general the people I know personally, they are telling me nearly every day that there are a lot of good things going on... [then elaborated]
If you compare the situation in Iraq and Germany after the Second World War, how many years the Germans need to establish themselves again...? So the same in Iraq after 35 years of unbelievable, unimaginable brutality and mismanagement; I mean, six months is nothing...
[Regarding the new freedom of the press and related developments...] This is something like a dream come true for Iraqis.
But not for certain other people, hey?

> Catching up on my blog-rounds last night after a busy few days, I visited Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish. There's much pertinent matter relating to the Iraq war in his posts for Friday and Saturday (October 10 and 11), and some more today. If you've not already done so, I recommend you read it and follow Andrew's links.

> Christopher Ondaatje, 'My media':
TV is fabulous. In this country, TV is superb for drama and sport: rugger, cricket, athletics. I deplore the BBC's bias against the Iraq war. The press has made a mountain out of a molehill with this WMD.
Not quite how I'd put it myself – I'd say they've made a green parrot out of a question of some genuine interest, on the one hand, and their own moral disgrace and shame, on the other, with the latter being the primary impulse – but yep.

> I suppose, for balance, I should point you towards another kind of voice, so I will. What shall I call it? Yes, the odious voice of the Guardian would be apt - today's front page, where it's just War without end and Another day in Iraq, another bomb. This last headline tops an article by Rory McCarthy in which he says:
The lunchtime blast, which rocked the Iraqi capital, was the latest in a series of devastating bombings over the past six months that have claimed nearly 200 lives, most of them Iraqi civilians.
And in which he says:
Few in the street appeared to have any sympathy with the bombers. "What had they done, those innocent people who died today?" said Majid Salih, the owner of another photo laboratory close to the hotel. "How stupid to believe that by doing this you will go to paradise. They only succeeded in killing other Iraqis."
Still, it is the work of people McCarthy and the newspaper he writes for call 'resistance fighters'.

posted by norm at 10:28 am | link

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Hayden's record

My guys - the Aussies - just keep blazing away, and blazing away out front there for them is Matthew Hayden. On Friday he surpassed Brian Lara's record of 375 for the highest individual Test innings, and I feel bound to mark his achievement here. Devotees of this particular cult walk around with such numbers fixed in their heads: 334, 336*, 364, 365, 375 - and now 380. It's a perfectly logical sequence. Though it surely won't be that long before we see someone making 400-plus, for the time being Matthew Hayden is the man.

Here and here are two tributes from the Australian press, and here and here two from the Groan. The newspaper, but not the online, version of the last of these (by Mitch Phillips) contains the following detail:
The powerful 31-year-old left-hander dedicated his spectacular innings to the 202 people, including 88 Australians, killed in the Bali bombing on October 12 last year. Hayden, along with the rest of the Australian team, wore a black armband and a traditional baggy green cap and claimed these to be his source of inspiration.
(Thanks to Gareth Api Richards for the Australian links.)

posted by norm at 10:10 pm | link

Just not cricket?

[Whenever I talk rugby to my friend Andrew Russell, one of the things he says is that it's a flawed game. It may not be the most appropriate sort of reflection to mark the opening stages of the World Cup, but I've asked him to develop his thoughts on the point and he's kindly obliged, throwing in some of his own personal reminiscences in the process. The word, then, is to Andrew Russell...]

The Rugby World Cup is upon us and I'm duty bound to be supporting England. I know of those who make a point of not supporting their country of birth or residence but I cannot get my head around it myself. Why should I want New Zealand or Argentina or Wales to win? It makes no sense to me. I suppose in a sporting sense it's my country right or wrong.

But here's the problem. I love team sports, and at the highest level there is something unique about sporting events, where moments of individual brilliance can genuinely transform the perceptions of the watching public. Think Shane Warne and that ball against Mike Gatting, crystallizing one cricket team's dominance over another for a decade to come. Think Michael Thomas scoring for Arsenal in the last minute of the title decider at Anfield in 1989, signalling the rise of Arsenal and the beginning of the end for Liverpool. Think Cantona's goal against Sunderland at Old Trafford, which reminds you that the arrival of one individual provided a talented but underperforming team the chance to dominate English football for many years. In rugby think of Jonah Lomu lifting Tony Underwood by the scruff of his neck and depositing him on the touchline. Even golf can have these incidents, as several Ryder Cup competitions have shown. All of these moments had a sublime beauty of their own and underlined the changing dynamics of their respective sports.

However, I do have a problem with Rugby Union. To my mind, it's a flawed game because it progresses far too much via interruption. To the outsider it is the relentless kicking for touch that is the principal flaw in the game, getting defences out of trouble and allowing forward lines respite from the process of attrition which is their strategy.

At school my shape led to me playing as a prop. [Me too – Ed.] This meant I would often see the ball but hardly ever touch it. My job, in conjunction with the rest of the fat lads, was to mob other fat lads and grapple in the mud until the oval ball popped out to some sleek fancy dan who would attempt to run pell mell on what remained of the grass and into glory. Occasionally a fat lad would meet a fancy dan, the latter not looking where he was going, the former, wheezing heavily, getting slowly to his feet - the last vestige of some ruck from any time during the last 20 minutes. The collisions were gratifying if you weren't involved, and horrifying if you were. I gave up playing rugby at the age of fourteen after one final row with my games teacher, who was doing two things I didn't care for: first, teaching us to foul on the blindside, and second, arranging games that clashed with more important events (notably football). I took it up again at University thinking it might help me win a Student Union election. It didn't, but the game was a lot more fun than it had been at school.

The most serious flaw in rugby, though, is that despite what some will tell you, the best team often loses. And this flaw is most evident when England play big matches. England have dominated northern hemisphere rugby for a number of years now, but have seldom been 'better' than France. But they are usually more effective. If one simple (but central) rule of rugby were to change - if goals and penalties only counted when the number of tries was equal - England would be hard pushed to win a game against the best teams in the world. In recent years they have beaten Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and France by virtue of the outstanding kicking ability of Jonny Wilkinson in games where they scored fewer tries than the opposition. It's entirely logical and rewards England's greatest attributes - massive forwards, players all over the field who are strong in the tackle, and a truly exceptional place-kicker. It's not without excitement, not even without beauty, but it's not what rugby should be about. Rugby ought to be about scoring tries, and too often the game at the top level isn't. To my mind this makes rugby unique in team sports since at the very highest level the quality of the game is undermined, pock-marked by efficiency.

In recent years England's cricket team have hit upon a formula designed to frustrate the opposition. Ashley Giles bowls relentlessly at Sachin Tendulkar's legs in an attempt not to get him out but to stop him scoring. It seems to work: often Tendulkar will swipe at another leg-side delivery and be out for 40 rather than 200. As an England fan you can rejoice in the wicket, but as a cricket fan you know that aesthetically and morally it's wrong. And rugby is worse. In the end it's just not cricket.

posted by norm at 8:51 pm | link

Rugby comp

Segueing smoothly from the rugby rabbi into the Rugby World Cup, thanks to the very same Philosophical Cowboy I now know of his site Rugby (World Cup) Round-up. I commend it to you. Cowboy submitted an entry to the competition I'm running here at normblog, and I'm now encouraging further entries by extending my deadline by 48 hours - from end of today to end of Tuesday. Please have a go by sending in your answers to these four questions: a) which nation will win? b) first tie-breaker, which nation will be the other finalist? c) second tie-breaker, what will be the points margin between them in the final? d) third tie-breaker, who will the other two semi-finalists be?

posted by norm at 11:35 am | link

Jewish sporting achievement

Following up on my reference to Jewish sports people, and thanks to the Philosophical Cowboy, I can now direct anyone who's interested to the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. Make of it what you will, but I still reckon Jewish writers and Jewish doctors would win against Jewish sportsfolk. Not necessarily at track and field. But in an event something like Relative Accomplishment and Reputation in Chosen Pursuit. Still, it's about taking part, innit? Some of you may also want to follow up on the rugby rabbi.

posted by norm at 11:31 am | link

What is the meaning of life?

Search me. But now there's a blog from where you may be able to find your way to an answer to this challenging question. A couple of days ago I received a letter from one Caspar Addyman, the content of which you will find here. It said, amongst other things:
I have got it into my head that you are well placed to know about life, the universe and everything. Therefore, I am writing to ask if you could tell me the meaning of it all. (Do not be too flattered, I am writing to every philosopher in the country!)
I replied to Caspar's email address, directing him to my blog in general and one item on it in particular. It turns out that he is posting all the replies at The Meaning of Life. My reply is here.

posted by norm at 11:25 am | link

The fabric of existence

Across the river at Save our short story, Wife of the Norm's strange tale The Sisters is up. A taste:
She told me where to go. There was a shop on one of the streets hidden behind the Co-op which she said would surprise me. I don't know whether she knew or not... but I am getting ahead of myself. It is important to tell the story in the right order, just as it happened.
I thought: what do they mean? Why should Rhiannon spend her days upstairs? As though to answer my unspoken question, the second woman... Megan... spoke.
Only one way to find out.

posted by norm at 11:23 am | link


After I posted the item immediately below I saw this post - about the same Pilger letter to the Guardian but focusing on a different aspect of it - by Oliver Kamm. I do urge you to read it, with a view to building up a more comprehensive moral picture of its object.

posted by norm at 11:21 am | link

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