Bleating nonsense

by Henry Farrell on November 21, 2003

I was going to blog on James Lilek’s “disgusting response”: to Salam Pax. But Dan Drezner has “beaten me to it”:

Aussie Aussie Aussie

by Brian on November 21, 2003

Americans, like everyone else, like to play up sporting rivalries. And tomorrow sees the latest installment of one of the big ones by their parochial standards: Ohio State v Michigan. It’s a bit overshadowed though by the greatest rivalry in world sports: Australia v England. Since this time it’s for the Webb Ellis Trophy, it is a pretty important game in the rivalry too. A bit more important than, say, our guy beating their guy at darts. In recent years, Australia has outgunned the English in just about everything, but I fear that doesn’t provide much ground for confidence about tomorrow’s game. I’m pretty confident that Australia will score more tries than the English, and the English will score more field goals than we do. If this was an Australian Rules grand final Jonny Wilkinson would be flattened within the first five minutes. Twice. And that’s assuming he got through the warmups unscathed. Fortunately the game they play in heaven is a little more civilised, even if English tactics are about as much in keeping with the spirit of the game as Bodyline. I’m so excited about it I can hardly sleep, which is a good thing since the only way I’ll make a 4am start time is if I’m still awake.

Gratuitous Links

by Brian on November 21, 2003

David Beaver on Gricean maxims of blogging: “Occasionally say what you are certain is true. It adds credibility.” Funniest blog post I’ve read in months.

Geoff Pullum on corpus fetishism in reviews of the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language: “A couple of the reviews published in Britain have been so stupid that the only thing a fair-minded man like me can wish upon the reviewers is that they should die in obscurity.” I love the smell of blog wars in the morning.

Geoff Nunberg on Bush in Britain: “But it’s certainly convenient that Bush fits the negative stereotype of Americans so neatly — he’s a self-made straw man.” If I’m a good blogger one day I’ll be able to write phrases like that.

John Holbo on The Issue Regarding TCS and Confessions of a Former Protein Sheath. As they say in the classics, read the whole things.

Yesterday’s bombings

by Chris Bertram on November 21, 2003

Assuming that Al Quaida or one of their sub-franchises were behind the recent bombings in Turkey, I’m amazed at some of the writing on the subject in today’s Guardian: especially the leader and Polly Toynbee.

“The leader”:,12700,1090102,00.html :

bq. The use of force in Iraq, now enshrined as a governing principle by Mr Bush, invited a highly aggressive response. That response is in progress. The whirlwind is being reaped.

“Toynbee”:,3604,1089947,00.html :

bq. These bombs made yesterday one of the darkest days of Tony Blair’s prime ministership. As if that horror were not enough, too many other disparate pigeons came fluttering home to roost at once. Whichever way he turned, things looked black. They were no mere accidents, for everything that happened came as a direct result of his own decisions, all of them taken against the better instincts of most of his party.

The “war or terror” may have been prosecuted in a stupid way. The Iraq war — nothing to do with the war on terror — may have stoked up Arab resentment against the West. These are reasonable subjects for serious argument. But these writers help themselves quickly, easily and cheaply to the claim that the bombings are a direct consequence of US and British policy since September 11th. To which there are two obvious ripostes. First (an argument too often deployed for rhetorical effect but, I think, applicable here) the bombers set out to do what they did deliberately and intentionally and were not forced to kill and maim many innocent people by Bush or Blair. Second, Al Quaida’s bombing campaign long pre-dates the current US and British governments — remember those East African embassies — and would plausibly have continued with or without the “war on terror” and the invasion of Iraq.

Those demonstrations

by Chris Bertram on November 21, 2003

The widespread hostilty to Bush and Blair over the war and the run-up to it is well reflected in the numbers attending the demonstrations in London and elsewhere yesterday. Many people here are still very angry that they were lied to (as they see it) about WMDs and the “threat” from Iraq. At the same time, liberal hawks are asking rhetorically why there were no demonstrations against Saddam Hussein, or against other tyrannies.

(I think that last question is pretty easy to answer: people usually demonstrate because they are angry at their own government (or its associates) rather than at someone else’s. Even anger at yesterday’s bombings in Turkey wouldn’t translate into demonstrations because there would be no point in marching against Al Quaida.)

But even walking a few streets around my home and looking at the posters urging people to demonstrate, I’m quickly reminded why I would not. “Bush” is represented on many of them with a swastika in places of the “S” — an absurd implied equivalence anyway, and a grotesque one a few days after the synagogue bombings in Istanbul. The stunt with the statue also suggest the triumph of theatre over political and moral judgement. And then there’s the fact that the Stop the War Coalition calls for an immediate end to the occupation of Iraq and that some of its components even support what they call the “resistance”. Since the imperative now is to stop Britain and the US from “cutting and running” and to insist that they ensure a transition to stable and constitutional Iraqi self-goverment (and put the infrastructure back together again) what the demostrators largely want is the opposite of what ought to be done.