Saturday, August 16, 2003Hardly anyone but United
Enough of all that (below) then, it's Saturday afternoon and I'm off to Old Trafford.
Here, seven Guardian football writers make their predictions for the season, and six of them pick Manchester United to win the Premiership, with just Ron Atkinson going for... some other team. Me, I take nothing for granted in such matters. Still, I'm interested to note that even the miserly Daniel Taylor, his reports about United regularly – what's the best way of saying this? – laced, if not quite empurpled (for, my, how he does like those two words), with resentment at the successes of a great football team and club, even he has gone for United to take the title again. I wonder if he choked or spluttered while writing this prediction down.
posted by norm at 1:16 p.m. | link
From Samizdata's man on the spot: 'Riots aren't that bad. There's 1 1/2 million people here, we are controlling the situation with around 300 soldiers actually on the streets, including fuel escorts, petrol stations guards etc. So let's get some perspective… Not to say it can't get worse, but let's not get carried away.'
posted by norm at 11:42 a.m. | link
It's very good, on this fine Saturday morning when Premiership football returns, to read about people now able to play the game who were formerly forbidden from doing so:
For barefoot boys as young as 4 in tatty shirts, to turbaned men in their 60s, soccer is a passion. Kabul's Olympic Stadium, a venue of executions during Taliban rule, is often packed with fans watching amateur league games. And these days, soccer is attracting the most unusual of players: teen-age girls.But, gee Mom, how can this be – in one of the lands of the American imperium? (Via au currant)
Until the overthrow of the Taliban by a U.S.-led coalition in late 2001, women's soccer was out of the question -- indeed women were not even allowed to venture outdoors without clumsy coverall garments called burqas.
posted by norm at 11:41 a.m. | link
Oliver Kamm (post of August 15) takes down an unfriendly reviewer of The Dude's essays on the Iraq war, catching him at some rather… er… slack attribution.
posted by norm at 11:38 a.m. | link
From a review by Nicholas Lezard of a book about al-Qaida:
He [the author] is not disgusted only with the Islamists - the term sounds almost neutral, but is specific and derogatory - but also with those liberals who would suggest they have some sympathy for the aims of the militants…What, there are such 'liberals'? Must be a slur, surely.
posted by norm at 11:36 a.m. | link
It happens more rarely than it used to, but there's an article on the comment page of my dnoc this morning that I can read without feelings of either impatience or nausea. (OK, that's an exaggeration. There's Martin Woollacott, after all – and a few others). Some excerpts:
It appears that many of our fellow creatures are more like us than we had ever imagined. They feel pain, suffer, experience stress, affection, excitement - and even love. Studies on pigs' social behaviour at Purdue University in the US, for example, have found that they crave affection and are easily depressed if isolated or denied playtime with each other.Please read it all. Does this mark the return of the Guardian-reader deep within me? Possibly not. I find I can think of certain categories of folk from whom I withhold empathy.
When it comes to the ultimate test of what distinguishes humans from the other creatures, scientists have long believed that mourning for the dead represents the real divide. Other animals have no sense of their mortality and are unable to comprehend the concept of their own death. But animals, it appears, experience grief. Elephants will often stand next to their dead kin for days, in silence, occasionally touching their bodies with their trunks. Kenyan biologist Joyce Poole, who has studied African elephants for 25 years, says that elephant behaviour towards their dead "leaves me with little doubt that they experience deep emotion and have some understanding of death."
The human journey is, at its core, about the extension of empathy to broader and more inclusive domains… The current studies into animals' emotions, cognition and behaviour open up a new phase in the human journey, allowing us to both expand and deepen our empathy - this time, to include the broader community of creatures who live alongside us.
posted by norm at 11:34 a.m. | link
Now, there's a question to set your pulse racing. Dr Alek Epstein thinks so:
"The most urgent issues in Israeli society are of no concern to the sociology community," Epstein complains.On the face of it, it does look rather odd. Read the rest.
Epstein's comparison between issues of pertinence to Israel's society and topics of interest to local academic researchers, paints a surprising picture. Were a run-of-the-mill Israeli to be asked to name the main problems faced by the country in recent years, he or she would be likely to cite terror, the security situation, settlements, the peace negotiations and so on. But such topics are given short shrift in works prepared by sociologists.
Out of 501 research studies presented in conferences during the past five years, just four dealt with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Just one work dealt with the influence of terror on Israeli society; just 1 percent, or 5 out of 501, dealt with aspects relevant to the settlers' lives; just a handful of articles addressed military service and its impact on women and new immigrants; and not a single article probed the peace process and its influence on Israeli society. Examining prestigious sociology journals around the world, Epstein found that since 1998 not a single article has been published on a distinctively Israeli topic.
If not Israeli society, what then are the country's sociologists studying? About 10 percent (51 research studies) dealt with industrial-organizational-economic issues; a similar number (49) addressed educational and youth topics, and roughly the same number (48) took up issues related to culture and collective memory ("all of these from a post-Zionist, if not anti-Zionist, perspective," Epstein emphasizes). None of these articles addressed topics of genuine pertinence to Israeli society.
posted by norm at 11:27 a.m. | link
Friday, August 15, 2003CAH: an abbreviation and a trailer
From early next week I'll be blogging the concept of crimes against humanity. I will draw upon work which I have currently in progress to pose, and try to answer, what I take to be one interesting question at the heart of the concept.
As this work in progress is specifically academic work, and it isn't common, if indeed it happens at all, to use such material for blog-posting, some preliminary words of explanation may be useful.
The concept of crimes against humanity today is certainly of wider than merely academic interest. A concept in international law, it has spread beyond the sphere of international law as such to become part of the wider political and moral discourse of our time. Aside from this general consideration, the part of the work in progress which I'll be drawing on has a form suitable – well, not altogether unsuitable – for blogging. It poses a central question about the concept of crimes against humanity and attempts to answer that question by examining ten different ideas from the relevant literature, each of which may be thought of as offering an answer to it. So the thing can be conveniently serialized according to this tenfold division. In fact, taking into account the need for some introductory and concluding material, I envisage more like a dozen to fifteen episodes.
Because the source of the material I'll be posting on this topic is my academic work, it won't have the same informality of style and address usual to the blogosphere and to normblog. It is written in… well, the more formal way I'm used to writing when I do such work - and I won't be altering this much. On the other hand, the text I'm drawing on is supported by an extensive apparatus of footnotes, and I shall be dispensing with that, except where it happens to be easy and seems particularly to the point to include a reference and/or link. I must just ask readers to take it on trust that I can back with the necessary references the positions I attribute, take issue with or endorse. Any especially mistrustful, kvetching, or (OK) merely curious or enquiring reader, is free to email me asking for particular sources.
Naturally, despite these preliminary explanations, some visitors may prefer not to spend their blogtime reading posts of this type. Be advised that you are completely free (and not only because I say so) to skip lightly over them whenever they occur, to other items or even other blogs. They'll be here just for those who are interested. I'll begin this coming Monday (18 August) with some scene-setting material; and then I'll post an episode of CAH - the serial with an approximate frequency of every other day, across a month or so.
The copyright on the material appearing in these CAH posts is mine, though others are obviously free to quote from, or excerpt, it in the usual way for the usual purposes (within reasonable proportions – otherwise, please seek my permission).
The question I'll be asking - Why, or in what sense, can crimes against humanity be reckoned to be, indeed, against humanity?
It begins here, Monday.
posted by norm at 2:38 p.m. | link
An informative piece on this topic by Iraqi sociologist Faleh A Jabar:
While most Iraqis do not support the politics of violence, they do not effectively oppose it either - one of the many paradoxes in the Iraqi puzzle.Read the whole thing. (Via The Command Post.)
posted by norm at 10:12 a.m. | link
Suzanne Goldenberg puts together a list of points here to show how surprising it is that the US network Fox News should be so attached to the phrase 'fair and balanced'. She writes:
The channel has been enthusiastic in its support of the Bush administration, and America's last two wars. Reporters in Iraq showed no hesitation in using the "we" word to describe operations by US soldiers.And then she adds:
Anchors borrowed the phrase "homicide bomber" from the former White House spokesman to describe suicide attacks in Israel.Now, that I don't get. It seems an entirely reasonable usage. I mean isn't the homicide the point of the suicide? Or the suicide the means to the homicide? Unless, that is, it isn't really homicide – or, to speak more bluntly, murder – because it's, you know, resistance. Very balanced, Suze!
For some better fare, morally, intellectually, humanly, I urge upon you this conversation with the writers Amos Oz and David Grossman, two prominent members of the Israeli peace camp. It's long but worth every single word. Thanks to Steve de Wijze for the link.
posted by norm at 10:04 a.m. | link
Thursday, August 14, 2003Linking about links
Oliver Kamm has the goods on evidence of pre-war links between al-Qaida and the Baathist regime. He refers to an argument on this score made earlier by The Dude. And then, from the present, there's also this (link via The Command Post). Connections which the 'peace' party are strangely reluctant to dwell on.
If there's anyone out there, incidentally, who doesn't yet know Oliver Kamm's blog, do yourself a favour. One mini-essay after another – many of them posted in the middle of the night – beautifully written, rounded, researched, and marked by an uncompromising sharpness of intelligence and wit and a breadth of reference rare within the blogosphere. For good measure, his positioning on the great issue of the day is impressively robust.
posted by norm at 11:02 a.m. | link
Matt Seaton's a fan:
But the reason I love duct tape has nothing to do with either practicality or practical jokery. Duct tape promotes an old-world virtue of making something last, repairing it rather than throwing it out and buying a new one. Because you don't bother to duct tape something unless you really can't live without it, it speaks of love and need. Perhaps for this reason, duct tape confers a special shabby loveliness on things. It makes the patched and mended picturesque.If it ain't broke, don't fix it, and even if it is broke, see if you can get by. RTWT.
There is something so romantic about stuff held together by duct tape. It suggests a hopeless yet heroic stand against decay. I see it as a metaphor for the human condition, available by the roll. As WB Yeats wrote, things fall apart. But duct tape holds them together. Sort of.
posted by norm at 10:59 a.m. | link
Mick Hartley writes:
I've been wondering why the British contribution to Country music is virtually non-existent. It can hardly be because it's so uniquely American: the music's roots are all in the British Isles, and besides it's nowhere near as American as Blues or Jazz, both of which have found their share of British practitioners. Indeed you could say that the British response to American Blues/Soul/ Rock'n'Roll defined the terms for what Rock music is (OK, with a bit of help from Bob Dylan). So why nothing in Country music?Any offers?
I suspect the answer lies somewhere back in the sixties (when else?). The people who might have been heading in the Country direction would have come largely from the British folk scene, which was imbued at the time (probably still is) with an earnest left-wing ethos more in tune with Pete Seeger than Hank Williams. And then in the late sixties Country lurched over to the right (or at least was perceived to have done so) with "Okie from Muskogee" etc., and no self-respecting young British musician could possibly associate with that. So artists like Fairport Convention and the rest of the folk-rock scene went back afresh to the old folk stuff, and sort of pretended that Country didn't exist. Oddly the nearest that we came to something like a Country scene, I think, was pub-rock in the early 70s, which had a similar spirit to honky-tonk - just a band playing good loud music to an audience out to drink and have a good time. Think Brinsley Schwarz, Nick Lowe. But then... what?... politics?... Malcolm McLaren?... just the dismalness of the seventies in general?... it morphed into punk and that was that.
I'd be interested if you or any of your readers had a better theory.
posted by norm at 10:57 a.m. | link
Find out which country you are. Michael Totten (via whom the link) is Canada, poor guy. I, not altogether inappropriately, turn out as South Africa. Wife of the Norm? The UN. I can attest that in many ways it suits her.
posted by norm at 10:50 a.m. | link
Why am I being asked to have a look at this man when I've seen him already?
posted by norm at 10:48 a.m. | link
Wednesday, August 13, 2003Swiss roll
I've recently drawn attention here to some Australian left voices that supported the liberation of Iraq. In the same vein, and in the interests of the internationalism of the blogosphere, I've today added to my blogroll a new French-language blog (Un blog–notes à plusieurs mains), the home of Swiss bloggers, François Brutsch and Guillaume Barry. A couple of pieces by François from February and March this year and supporting the intervention may be found here and here.
posted by norm at 4:28 p.m. | link
Salam Pax today, in a piece emphasizing the anger in Iraq at the state of the country, says of his own attitude:
Yes, I am annoyed because if the occupation forces fail, my country will fall apart.A case here, do you think, for all those who profess to have the interests of the Iraqi people at heart - the international community, the UN, including those nations formerly opposed to the war, the anti-war movement, the 'peace activists' - to rally to a global effort to get the country on its feet? We shall see.
posted by norm at 12:29 p.m. | link
A letter in my daily newspaper of choice:
I would like to express my admiration - bordering on obsession - for David Aaronovitch… He seems to be a sane voice on just about everything from Iraq to hot weather and I agree with it all.Ha, we are not alone. (Updated at 11.30 AM on Thu Aug 14: Melvyn Bragg lines up.)
posted by norm at 12:26 p.m. | link
The transfer to Manchester United of the Brazilian footballer Kleberson was concluded yesterday. 'It is the biggest opportunity of my life,' Kleberson said. 'Other clubs were interested, but they weren't United.'
posted by norm at 12:23 p.m. | link
Tuesday, August 12, 2003Humanitarian intervention
David Clark writes on the subject today in a newspaper whose identity will be fully familiar by now to regular readers of this blog. I recommend the piece even though I disagree with its conclusions. It's at least in the right ballpark on the subject of humanitarian intervention, and it's free of some of the usual 'oil', 'we built him up', 'what about this place/that place?' style of advocacy. Clark, however, holds that the war in Iraq didn't meet the necessary criteria for a supportable humanitarian intervention. He writes:
The requirements of "just cause" and "last resort" demand large-scale human suffering that cannot be averted by other means. The Iraqi regime was certainly vile, and had the case for intervention been made when Saddam Hussein was gassing his own people it would have been a strong one indeed. But there was no immediate crisis to be averted in 2003.His requirements are inadequate. They would mean that so long as a regime wasn't committing genocide at the moment, but had finished doing so, or just finished doing so; and that any regime which could massacre large numbers of people quickly enough; and that regimes with a perfectly regular flow of victims going into torture chambers and not coming out of them alive, and of people with their tongues, or their ears, or their hands cut out or off, and of people raped, beaten, starved, or bereaved by the foregoing – that such regimes would be invulnerable to humanitarian intervention from outside powers because of the absence of an 'immediate crisis'. Clark’s criteria – 'what the Canadian-sponsored international commission on intervention and state sovereignty (ICISS) has called "threshold and precautionary criteria" to impose limits on the right to intervene' – aren’t acceptable. The international system and international law need to move forward from that.
Here is another of Clark's conclusions. It is about the alternatives confronting those of us willing to stand in the ballpark of humanitarian intervention, and why 'the pro-war interventionists' among us were wrong over Iraq:
Humanitarian interventionists aspire to a world order based on the universal and disinterested pursuit of justice. Neo-conservatives are motivated by the selective and self-interested pursuit of their own geopolitical goals.There would be ways of characterizing this presentation of the options which might surprise David Clark. Maximalism? Ultra-leftism? But anyway, yes, I count myself amongst those aspiring to 'a world order based on the universal and disinterested pursuit of justice'. In the meantime, there are a lot of us who feel we have to position ourselves between that as an aspiration and its dark, alien other here, selective US self-interest; and find the best ways, in changing circumstances, to move things closer towards the first. Marching for Saddam didn't seem like the most attractive choice. Read the whole thing.
posted by norm at 1:45 p.m. | link
I'm doing penance here for my much noticed omission of Johnny Cash from my Top 15 Country Music Stars. The penance takes the form of drawing attention, for those who don’t already know it, to this video (scroll down for it) of the album Hurt. Thanks to Andrew Russell for the link. Check it out. As Andrew says: 'it's stunning'.
Since I'm back on the subject of country music, let me just add this. If you don't like country music, fine, that's your business. But if you do like it, and you've seen my call for submissions to the normblog poll, and you've not put one together and sent it in… now, come on people, it's easy to do: you just name any number between one and ten of your faves, and you don't even have to rank them. You send to:
I don't want to have to speak to you again about this (except to announce the results).
posted by norm at 1:26 p.m. | link
Once in a while I go down to Vinyl Exchange in central Manchester, to go through their racks stuffed with jazz CDs. The 'while' of the 'once in a' has got to be rather longer lately because I'm generally in danger of losing control there and picking up more stuff than I can properly take in, even in months. Last time, I bought this (amongst other good things) by Greg Osby. If you own it and haven't played it lately, I suggest you put it on.
posted by norm at 1:20 p.m. | link
John Hawkins gives the results of his poll of left-wing bloggers on this topic. George W. Bush who comes in at joint ninth-worst beats Lee Harvey Oswald at joint fourteenth-worst. Less bad, according to enough of these leftists then, to kill a Democratic President than to free a country from a loathsome dictatorship. No, I'm missing something; I'm not being fair.
posted by norm at 1:16 p.m. | link
Bill Thompson asks if they're 'losing their appeal'. Neil McIntosh over at Online Blog has a go at him for factual error, elitism and lazy writing, and links to other blogger critics.
posted by norm at 1:13 p.m. | link
Be afraid, be very afraid. As if Australia's dominance in cricket, tennis, swimming and rugby league were not bad enough, football has now become the country's favourite sport.Read more if you’re interested.
posted by norm at 1:11 p.m. | link
Monday, August 11, 2003Dissenting academy
I don't sign up to everything in this article by Jean Bethke Elshtain, not even to everything – like her casual wave towards Marxism – in what I excerpt below. But it makes good points:
So reflexive is the role of the intellectual as negator, so free from accountability, that the very meaning of dissent has been obscured. Hence in the wake of 9/11, those who disagreed with claims that America somehow brought the attacks on herself were said to be "stifling dissent." But the true measure of dissent isn't whether the vast majority of one's countrymen and women agree with what one is saying but, rather, that one has the freedom to say it. The widely repeated notion that no space exists within American society to make contrarian arguments is risible. Less frequently heard, in fact, is intellectual assent from academic and intellectual circles to something the government is doing or that America is undertaking.Read the rest. Thanks to Steve de Wijze for the link.
The same inflammatory rhetoric has been employed throughout the war in Iraq and its aftermath. Once again we hear it said that America is intolerant of political dissent. But if there is something missing from our public discourse, it is not the voices of those who - like Duke University's Frank Lentricchia - argue that "America is threatened by the most powerful enemy in its history, the administration of George W. Bush." Those voices are coming through loud and clear. What we hear far too little of is serious reflection on religion. Religion is epiphenomenal to Marxism and its various offshoots still powerfully influential in the academy. Religion is "false consciousness" par excellence. Osama bin Laden's talk of infidels is thus a quaint rhetorical turn; the "real" reasons for his murderous ideology must lie elsewhere.
posted by norm at 5:42 p.m. | link
Before the war in Iraq, Jim Nolan was saying:
Regrettably, a visceral knee-jerk anti-Americanism pervades the debate. It stands in the way of thinking through the implications of intervention as against inaction. America's past sins, it's argued, disqualify it from any legitimacy in a struggle against Iraq. A case in point is Washington's past support for Hussein against Iran and the Ayatollah Khomeini in the 1980s. This may be true, but it doesn't necessarily hold that the US and her allies should turn a blind eye to today's madman in Baghdad.Straightforward enough but it seemed to need saying.
Indeed, past sins to which the US and its allies were a party make the obligation to put things right all the more imperative. What better gesture to make amends to those who have suffered under the Ba'ath regime than to be their liberators – albeit belatedly. Disqualification based on past conduct, remember, would have disqualified Australia from any role in liberating East Timor in 1999.
posted by norm at 5:35 p.m. | link
[A]s a rare act of charity, I'd like to offer the following words of (ultra simple) advice to lazy journalists: When in doubt, use Google. The moment an even slightly interesting new site appears online it is pounced on by thousands of people called "webloggers" (they're a bit like Wombles but taller and with better analytical skills). These webloggers will examine the site, discuss it with their friends and decide whether it contains straight information or satire.It's Paul Carr's view.
posted by norm at 5:31 p.m. | link
It isn't all good, and it isn't all bad either.
Yesterday the mobs rioted, setting fire to tyres, stoning cars and exchanging fire with British troops, while a Gurkha on security duties with the coalition authority was killed in an ambush.Go read the whole thing.
"They did not give us what they promised, and we have had enough of waiting," said Hassan Jassim, 19, as a crowd behind him hurled stones at a passing water truck and a Kuwaiti-registered car.
Fadil Salman, a driver, said: "It's not political. We don't have gas, power or salaries. I am not against this coalition, all I want is water."
posted by norm at 5:29 p.m. | link
An intriguing comparison in my dnoc by Christopher Hope:
Perhaps no other leader in Africa today more closely resembles Verwoerd than Robert Mugabe. They hate so many of the same things, and they see as their destiny the duty to save their people and their country from gangs of marauding enemies, gays, Jews, British liberals and traitorous sell-outs among their own tribe. They seem linked across time in an uncanny way.Shame on you, Thabo Mbeki.
Just as Mugabe is cheered in many African councils, the Doctor was supported in his delusions, in his icy dedication, in his dreamy tyranny, in his absurd ideas of ethnic purity and the sacredness of Afrikaner blood, by most of his white compatriots. It was a career of almost unrelieved destruction, and it left his country so badly wounded it has still not recovered.
Tyrants are pneumatic, they puff up like beach balls, like giant dirigibles, they inflate and grow bigger until they loom over the land like horrible Hindenburgs… Baleful balloonmen. Eventually they pop, but it is always too late, and the mess is terrible.
posted by norm at 5:26 p.m. | link
Sunday, August 10, 2003Stories of Zimbabwe
This article tells of the experience of several people from Zimbawe now in the UK:
Until January 2002, British policy was to deport any Zimbabwean who was refused leave to stay, despite evidence they were being handed over to Mugabe's secret police on their return. Deportations are currently on hold. But the Home Office has recently written to exiles, saying: 'It has now been deemed safe for Zimbabweans to return to Zimbabwe.'I append links for two Zimbabwe-based organizations doing work relevant to this post: the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum and the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR).
'It's a poisonous statement,' says Sarah Harland of the Zimbabwe Association, which represents the interests of exiles in the UK. 'We've written to the Home Office asking who's deemed it.'
Calitas Matora, a 55-year-old mother of six, was one of the first women to join the Movement for Democratic Change in 1999. Today she wears a neck brace and walks with a crutch, the result of the beating she received from a mob of 'war veterans'. Her crime was to stand as an MP.
posted by norm at 5:04 p.m. | link
Are they being taught at Berkeley? Roger Simon takes Eugene Volokh to task on the issue (update here).
posted by norm at 5:01 p.m. | link
Did a group of passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 fight their way into the cockpit or did 'the terrorist pilot Ziad Jarrah …[decide] to crash the jet himself because of the passenger insurgency'? The issue is in dispute, as you can read here.
posted by norm at 4:59 p.m. | link
So says the headline on this piece in today's Sunday Times. The piece itself, as I read it, doesn't quite bear out the headline, but see what you make of it.
Childhood misery may be partly to blame [sic] for a politician's choice of career, according to a new study of bullied children. The findings may help to explain the destinies of politicians from Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, to Lord Archer, the Tory peer, and Joseph Stalin, the Soviet dictator — all of whom were bullied at school.I believe I once read somewhere the results of a survey showing that one in every four people had been molested by their sports coaches. I don't recall whether this meant one in four people who'd had sports coaches or just one in four people, period – though I can see that the way I've put it might suggest the former.
She [Karen Robson, a researcher at the Institute for Social and Economic Research at Essex University] analysed data on 16,000 people born during April 1970, as part of a study to be published tomorrow. She found that a child who was socially rejected by his or her peers at the age of 10 was 60% more likely to become "civically engaged" at the age of 29 than a popular child.
posted by norm at 4:52 p.m. | link
In today's Observer David Aaronovitch writes 'I was a toddler when the Fifties ended, but many of the assumptions and practices of that decade lasted well into the next.' I for my part was no toddler but it has always been my impression that the 1950s lasted some way into the 1960s - as an atmosphere, a felt world - and that what people now think of as the 60s only really got going, the Beatles notwithstanding, somewhere at the chronological mid-point of that decade. This may be no more than an eccentric impression. Or could it just be, rather, that the marking of official decades as distinct entities is altogether arbitrary?
posted by norm at 4:38 p.m. | link