Archive for March, 2003


March 31st, 2003

Simon writes to the Virtual Stoa to recommend the excellent London Riot Re-Enactment Society.


March 31st, 2003

In an idle moment, I’ve just installed the French Revolutionary Calendar on this page, since I like it so much. My friend Steve engineered it a few years ago for The Voice of the Turtle, and it’s still keeping excellent time over there.

The European Union wants us to switch over to the French Revolutionary Metric System — “The centuries old dream of the masses of only one just measure has come true! The Revolution has given the people the metre!”, etc. — but keep the old-fashioned Gregorian Calendar. I tend to think this gets things back to front, and the combination of the French Republican Calendar and old English imperial measures (restoring the 16oz pint, if need be, as long as bar prices come down in proportion) is far more satisfying.

Another good calendar is the Aztec Calendar, but while it has better glyphs and a good webite, it isn’t so inspiring for anti-monarchists everywhere.

And, thinking of Aztecs, the wonderful exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London is only on for a few more days — it closes 11 April — so if you haven’t been yet, do make the trip. It’s really very good indeed.

Dead Socialist Watch, #21

March 30th, 2003

I haven’t really been paying attention to dead socialists recently, but here’s a good one: Léon Blum, born 9 April 1872, died 30 March 1950.

Gaby Rado, RIP

March 30th, 2003

Channel Four News’s Gaby Rado has died in Iraq. He seems to have fallen off the roof of his hotel in Suleimaniya.

Fields of Athenry

March 30th, 2003

By a lonely prison wall I heard a young girl calling:
“Michael, they have taken you away.
For you stole Trevelyan’s corn, so the young might see the morn;
Now the prison ship lies waiting in the bay.”

CHORUS: Low lie the fields of Athenry,
Where once we watched the small free birds fly.
Our love was on the wing,
We had dreams and songs to sing,
It’s so lonely round the fields of Athenry.

By a lonely prison wall I hard a young man calling:
“Nothing matters, Mary, when you’re free.
“Gainst the famine and the crown I rebelled, they cut me down.
Now you must raise our child with dignity”.

By a lonely harbour wall she watched the last star falling,
As the prison ship sailed out against the sky.
Sure, she’ll live and hope and pray for her love in Botany Bay…
It’s so lonely ’round the fields of Athenry…

Hmm. 42-6 at Lansdowne Road in the Grand Slam match. Time to start paying attention to something else instead.


March 29th, 2003

The Nigerian email scam has now found itself in an Iraqi incarnation…

At 1:17 PM -0500 3/29/03, Farouk Al-Bashar wrote:
Re: Urgent Assistance Needed

By way of introduction I am Eng. Farouk Al-Bashar, I represent my family as the oldest son of the Al-Bashar family, who are the descendants of Ibrahim Al-Bashar Ali from one of the oil rich areas in Iraq. Over the years my family has acquired huge sums of money from royalties for the exploration of oil in our region but over the past 15 years, Saddam Hussein and his gangs of bandits have taken our oils without payments and we can not complain as those who did are all dead. In the wake of the Gulf War of 1990, our family withdrew most moneys that remain in coded bank accounts that Saddam did not find and we hide it in a secret chamber underground, where it remained safe until after the war. At the end of Gulf war, we moved the funds into a private vault of a security company in Baghdad, where it was until we collected it a few days ago on the fear of the eminent war with America…

The eminent war with America is pretty fearful. Excellent, though, that current affairs have caught up with the 419 scam, although this isn’t as inspired as the Afghanistan version of this particular fraud which presented the plight of a group of British servicemen whose code of “military ethics” forbade them from exporting suitcases full of cash they had seized, and perhaps you could help…

Preflight Check

March 28th, 2003

This predates the war (I first saw it on 9 March) and has been reprinted in many other places, but it still makes me laugh and it’s worth throwing into recirculation here, just in case it finds any new and appreciative readers…


1. Cabal of oldsters who won’t listen to outside advice? Check.
2. No understanding of ethnicities of the many locals? Check.
3. Imposing country boundaries drawn in Europe, not by the locals? Check.
4. Unshakeable faith in our superior technology? Check.
5. France secretly hoping we fall on our asses? Check.
6. Russia secretly hoping we fall on our asses? Check.
7. China secretly hoping we fall on our asses? Check.
8. SecDef pushing a conflict the JCS never wanted? Check.
9. Fear we’ll look bad if we back down now? Check.
10. Corrupt Texan in the WH? Check.
11. Land war in Asia? Check.
12. Right unhappy with outcome of previous war? Check.
13. Enemy easily moves in/out of neighboring countries? Check.
14. Soldiers about to be dosed with *our own* chemicals? Check.
15. Friendly fire problem ignored instead of solved? Check.
16. Anti-Americanism up sharply in Europe? Check.
17. B-52 bombers? Check.
18. Helicopters that clog up on the local dust? Check.
19. In-fighting among the branches of the military? Check.
20. Locals that cheer us by day, hate us by night? Check.
21. Local experts ignored? Check.
22. Local politicians ignored? Check.
23. Locals used to conflicts lasting longer than the USA has been a country? Check.
24. Against advice, Prez won’t raise taxes to pay for war? Check.
25. Blue water navy ships operating in brown water? Check.
26. Use of nukes hinted at if things don’t go our way? Check.
27. Unpopular war? Check.


I think France has moved beyond “secretly” hoping that the US will screw up in a big way, and Russia too, but in general this analysis — unlike so many others — has survived the first week of the invasion.