David's Daily Diversions

Bite-size portions of the wit and wisdom to which you are accustomed in David's Mental Meanderings

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Saturday, March 22, 2003
 
The World as We Know It

As my two most recent Meanderings demonstrate, I have been opposed to the commencement of hostilities between the United States (aka “the Coalition”) and Saddam Hussein (aka “Iraq”). Now that those hostilities have commenced, I would like to make it clear that I am opposed to the cessation of those hostilities before the completion of the objectives of the Coalition. In other words, now that they are in there, they need to finish the job.

Today there were anti-war rallies across the UK, most notably in London. In an attempt to repeat the 750,000-strong march before the war, protest organisers managed to bring together 200,000, according to generous estimates. (Not as generous as the 500,000 claimed by the organisers, of course.) I’m not suggesting that 200,000 people is a small turnout. That’s a lot of people against the war. It does demonstrate that 550,000 fewer people felt as strong as they did the first time around.

Just like the leader of the Liberal Democrat party, Charles Kennedy, I voiced principled objection to the war, but now that Parliament has voted and backed the action in a sizable majority, it is time to unite. I note that the liberal democrats in both houses of the US Congress agreed with unanimous resolutions to support the war effort. This is one of the few times I have ever agreed with liberal democrats in either the UK or US meanings of that term.

If I believed that the war against Saddam is immoral, I would not care about the voice of the majority. That is the belief and view of some of the protesters. I just believe that he war is inadvisable and unsupportable in international law. If international law has just evolved in a significant way, then we will have to live in the world as it has become.

I hope that Saddam is replaced by a workable and stable political solution for the Iraqi people.


Friday, March 21, 2003
 
One of the Most Horrifying Things I've Ever Learned

The Anglicans have done a lot of strange things over the last few years, defying virtually every constraint of Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition. But who would have ever imagined this.

Chaplains in the British armed forces will be giving last rites to Muslims in the current conflict. You might think that this is the sort of thing Anglican clergy would be happy to do. After all, they baptise children willy-nilly without the least concern about whether the parents are even married, not to mention Christians. So what’s the big deal about saying a few prayers over dead or dying Muslims?

If they were Christian prayers, I could almost live with it. I would just say, oh it’s those silly Anglicans handing out sacramental benefits indiscriminately as usual. But that’s not what they will be doing.

As quoted in the Times, The Rev Squadron Leader Andrew Jones, attached to the British Harrier Force in the desert, said: “I will say the words of the shahada (Islamic declaration of faith), which I have written on a specially laminated card, and many other chaplains have it also. I will say: ‘There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, Amen — Allah is great,’ which I repeat four times.” That’s right. Rev Jones will explicitly deny the Faith four times per dead Iraqi. I don’t care that he attempts to excuse himself by saying he may have to cross his fingers. Cross his fingers! Deny the Cross and pretend that God accepts crossed fingers, like a children’s game of tag! I don’t think Jesus said, “Take up your crossed fingers and follow me.” Peter should have thought of that, and maybe he wouldn’t have wept when the cock crowed. But even Peter didn’t proclaim sole allegiance to a false god and a false prophet.

Rev Jones even admits that “Muslim extremists may not take too kindly to a Christian chaplain being there, but we don’t want to upset them.” The Reverend is clearly unable to think without contradiction. The Muslims don’t want us to do this, but we don’t want to upset them by not doing it? Even a Muslim scholar, also quoted in the Times doesn’t think it would be acceptable. He realises that you don’t say a prayer you don’t believe.


Thursday, March 20, 2003
 
House moving day. I’m sure I’ll have reflections upon it when all is said and done and I am sitting in our new flat without broadband, but hopeful with at least dial-up service. You never know how telephone lines are going to get switch off and back on again.

In the meantime, I recommend the blog of Touchstone Magazine: A Journal of Mere Christianity, appropriately called Mere Comments. Touchstone combines the efforts of Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant thinkers, "conservative in doctrine and eclectic in content."


Wednesday, March 19, 2003
 
The Ideals of Young Idiots

As I was shopping with Mrs Holford and the sprog in the city centre yesterday, a not yet post-adolescent young man handed me four-page (folded A3) publication which in the masthead claims to be “Hereford’s favourite FREE anarchist news sheet”. Now call me out of touch, but I wasn’t aware that Hereford had any other anarchist news sheets, or that other such news sheets might only be available in exchange for cash.

This FREE news sheet is published by the Herefordshire Anarchist Group. I was informed within the pages of the sheet itself that until recently the Group was simply called “Hereford Anarchists” but they changed their name because the new appellation “sounded far more inclusive and organised”. Os it just me, or isn’t lack or organisation the whole point of anarchy?

These anarchists contend that “the destruction of capitalism is absolutely vital.” They also “see no purpose in the state.” Somehow I don’t think that they realise capitalism is necessary for their parents to support them and that when their parents are fed up with them as useless leeches, they will need the state to pay their dole money.

Oh, and this news sheet is only FREE if it is handed to me in the street. I can subscribe to receive it six times a year by sending £2 of my capital to their PO Box which is located, oddly, in another county.

Now for something from the opposite end of the political spectrum...

Europe’s Only Absolute Monarchy

This week, voters in Liechtenstein created Europe’s only absolute monarchy. Prince Hans-Adam II joins the likes of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and the Sultan of Brunei. Under the new constitution ratified on Monday, he won the right to veto bills, sack the government and adopt emergency laws. There is also a provision in the constitution to abolish the monarchy altogether by referendum, but this is unlikely anytime soon. The new system won by a landslide 64% of the vote with a turnout of 87% of the electorate.

I can’t actually read the new constitution, as it is in German, but it appears that Hans-Adam II lacks some of the powers of his counterparts elsewhere in the world. There are apparently no provisions for torture or whimsical beheading. How does he expect to get any respect from his fellow absolute monarchs without these?


Tuesday, March 18, 2003
 
What are you doing here? You should be reading todays Mental Meanderings!

Come back tomorrow for another Daily Diversion.


Monday, March 17, 2003
 
Connecting the Dots with an Imaginary Line

It has been well-publicised that the last time the British government tried to prove that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, they plagiarised an old PhD thesis. Now they have fallen for simply forgeries that a basic knowledge of the countries involved would have exposed.

Supposedly secret documents about Saddam’s attempt to purchase uranium were passed to the US by MI6, the UK’s equivalent of the CIA. The International Atomic Energy Agency has shown that the documents “bore the wrong names of ministers, were stamped with incorrect dates and even carried the imprint of a junta deposed a decade earlier.”
If they are going to do this, they need to do it right.

It’s All in the Name

Osama Bin Laden’s niece is attempting to launch her career as a pop star. Something tells my Uncle Osama wouldn’t approve of his rather unreligious, burkha-less neice collaborating with a producer who has with Madonna in the past.

She may have been disowned by most of her family, but unless she changes her last name, she has little chance of success. The Pop Idol judge Simon Cowell noted, “There’s only one worse surname you could have to launch a pop career — and that’s Hitler.”

Hot Cross Councils

Four local councils, Tower Hamlets, Liverpool, York and Wolverhampton, have taken hot cross buns off of the school menus. They don’t want to offend non-Christians. I kid you not. They are afraid of protests.

In the case of Tower Hamlets, an east London borough, apparently there were objections to pancakes being served on Shrove Tuesday (a custom so common here that Shrove Tuesday is always referred to as Pancake Day by the media and supermarkets stock special displays with the ingredients). The council said they had “a lot” of complaints, but could actually say how many. A council spokesperson said, “We are moving away from a religious theme for Easter and will not be doing hot cross buns. We can't risk a similar outcry over Easter like the kind we had on Pancake Day. We will probably be serving naan breads instead.” So it wasn’t just complaints; it was an outcry.

Call me thick, but I’m not sure exactly what other theme there is to Easter. Pretty much the whole thing is about the Resurrection of Jesus (and by implication all the things leading up to said Resurrection). And I didn’t realise that local councils had authority to pick a theme for Easter.

Even the Muslim Council of Britain described this as “very, very bizarre” A spokesman said: "This is absolutely amazing. At the moment, British Muslims are very concerned about the upcoming war with Iraq and are hardly going to be taken aback by a hot cross bun.

"Unfortunately actions like this can only create a backlash and it is not very thoughtful. I wish they would leave us alone. We are quite capable of articulating our own concerns and if we find something offensive, we will say so. We do not need to rely on other people to do it for us.

"British Muslims have been quite happily eating and digesting hot cross buns for many years and I don't think they are suddenly going to be offended."

Conservative MP and former Home Office minister Ann Widdecombe (who arranged my job as an intern at Westminster in the early 1992) summed it up: "It would appear that we should know about everyone else's culture apart from our Christian tradition. It seems that anything that comes from an ethnic minority is fine, while anything Christian is wrong.”

UPDATE:

Following the publication of this piece, I was requested to remove it or face legal action from Tower Hamlet Council. Apparently, the existence of this piece will incite racial hatred in East London. Now my traffic stats would indicate that about the only people in East London reading David's Daily Diversions are apparatchiks of the Tower Hamlets Council. But that's enough for them.

As I have explained in my further story on this, I'm not removing what I have written. In the spirit of fair play, however, I am willing to append hereto the official press release from Tower Hamlets. Of course, as with any governmental statement, I reserve the right to comment upon it. So feel free to read the press release, giving it the same credibility you would give anything immanating from government sources in general and Tower Hamlets in particular:

"Response to Sunday Telegraph article, 16.3.03

"In response to the article concerning Hot Cross Buns (pg 11) in the above newspaper: Tower Hamlets Council would like to make it clear that it has never ordered schools not to serve hot cross buns at Easter. This allegation is entirely without foundation.

"In addition:
"1. Tower Hamlets Council, as the Local Education Authority, has a recommended Religious Education curriculum which encourages schools to celebrate the full range of religious festivals and to take a multi-faith approach to religion.

"2. However, the Local Education Authority is not in a position to order any school on its religious requirements for food. That is a decision to be taken by each school.

"3. The Council respects each school's choice as to whether it takes part in any marketing event regarding school catering.

"4. All schools in the borough were given the option of whether they wanted pancakes to be provided on pancake day and we supplied pancakes to all schools that requested them. We are unaware of any complaints.

"5. Tower Hamlets Council celebrates the rich cultural diversity of its community and the benefits that this brings.
"-Ends-"

First of all let's cut the crap. Paragraphs 1 and 5 are irrelevant. Nothing wrong with them, but they have no bearing on the truth or falsity of the article in the Telegraph. Of course only a Liberal Democrat-controlled council could make perfectly legitimate statement sound like they don't actually stand for anything. According to paragraph 3, the serving of hot cross buns is a marketing event??? And most paragraph 4 is again irrelevant. Neither the Sunday Telegraph nor I suggested that schools weren't given the option to serve pancakes. But paragraph 4 seems to taint the truthfulness of paragraph 2. If the LEA is not in a position to order, what is it doing giving options?

So you decide. Which is more credible, the Sunday Telegraph or Tower Hamlets Council?


Sunday, March 16, 2003
 
[This post was edited -- if you've only read the first part of this entry, you haven't read the whole thing]

Ten Months of Waiting for Nothing

One of the things that I received for my birthday was the results of my barium enema. Especially if you haven’t been a regular reader of my Meanderings, you may think it very strange that I would discuss barium enemas at all, not to mention my own. What I’m really offering, however, is a comment on the National Health Service.

The surprising thing is that I got the results so soon. This was all as a result of an attack of what appeared to be diverticulitis on 4 May last year. When I arrived by taxi for an emergency appointment with my GP, he thought I had a perforated bowel and called an ambulance to get me to the hospital. I had gotten in to see the GP immediately and had gotten to the hospital within minutes. Within five hours there was actually a bed for me. They never figured out what was wrong with me and eventually I was given an appointment to see a specialist.

Because of a cancellation I was able to get in early to see a specialist in mid-September. After a quick poke and prod, the specialist couldn’t find anything immediately wrong and ordered the aforementioned barium enema. Again, I got lucky and due to a cancellation was able to have the procedure done in February. The results were sent back to my specialist and I was informed yesterday.

The results are that my colon is normal and I don’t have diverticulitis. So it took 10 months and 10 days to have one investigative procedure that produced no useful information. I have had attacks since 4 May, so it wasn’t a one-off. So now I have to go back to my GP to decide where to send me for further tests. At this rate it could be years before I have any idea what is actually wrong. I wish I was exaggerating for effect. I wish.

I’m Not Alone

In having to wait 10 months for a relatively cheap, basic investigative procedure I shouldn’t feel alone as a victim of the NHS. Though the Labour government had set a target date of 31 March for reducing the waiting list for operations to less than one year, it has not achieved this. A health minister indicated 10 days ago that the target would be met, but it appears that about 7,000 people have still been waiting more than a year.

That isn’t to suggest that progress hasn’t been made. A year ago there were 21,400 people who had been waiting more than a year for surgery. By January 2003, there were still 9,600. Apparently it helps if you make a big fuss. This is difficult for British people, who have been trained to endure with a stiff upper lip. From the Sunday Times: “Olive Wilkes, 78, from Leeds, had an operation to remove her gallstones last week — after her plight was reported in a local newspaper. She had waited 13 months.”

Olive should consider herself lucky. She only has gallstones. Excruciating, but not life-threatening. The newspapers always have stories of cancer and heart disease patients who have had similar waiting times. They drop off the waiting list and into the grave.

Trouble North of the Border

The Public Health Institute of Scotland has revealed the result of a study showing that Scots have the lowest life expectancy in western Europe. Scottish women are at the very bottom of the table, while men are die earlier only in Portugal.

It is not a problem with the fresh Scottish air. In part, it seems to be just the opposite. Scotswomen have the highest rate of death from lung and oesophageal cancer and Scotsmen the second highest, due to the insatiable use of tobacco. The other major factor is the propensity for both genders of skirt-wearing Jocks to drink like fish. Apparently, north of the border they don’t believe that you can have too much of a good (or bad) thing.

And if things weren’t bad enough in Scotland already, a new biography of Rob Roy MacGregor will remove the romanticism and legend. A former professor of Scottish history at St Andrews University has demonstrated in Rob Roy: The Man and the Myth that the quintessential Scottish hero was spy for the English government against the Jacobites. Author David Stevenson notes, “The evidence of this is quite clear, it was printed well over a century ago, but writers on Rob Roy have never mentioned it. Perhaps the evidence was too much at odds with the images of him they were determined to project.”