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.

From mustard to mustard gas

March 28th, 2003

Naunihal emails to remind me about a 1991 article from the Guardian by David Omissi – then a research fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford, now senior lecturer in imperial history at the University of Hull – which describes the British Government’s use of poison gas on the peoples of what is now Iraq in the interwar period. It describes how Sir Aylmer Haldane used gas shells on Arabs in central Iraq in 1920 during a campaign which killed 9,000, and how, over a decade later, Winston Churchill himself sought to drop mustard gas bombs on Kurdish populations in the north-east despite warnings of the damage these would do to noncombatants. “In the event”, the article notes, “the air force did not use gas bombs – for technical rather than humanitarian reasons”.

The Only Thing French about French’s Mustard is the Name

March 27th, 2003

Press Release of the Day: from French’s Mustard:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Recently there has been some confusion as to the origin of French’s mustard. For the record, French’s would like to say, there is nothing more American than French’s mustard.

Born in New York by the R. T. French company, French’s Cream Salad Mustard made its debut in 1904 at the St. Louis World’s Fair along with its side kick, the hot dog. Both were an instant success! By 1915 the French’s pennant became the brand’s official logo, symbolizing French’s affiliation with baseball and American celebration.

Throughout the years consumers have professed their lifelong love of America’s number one mustard. “For many Americans, French’s mustard IS Americana. It’s all about baseball, hot dogs, family and fun,” says Elliot Penner, president of French’s mustard.

Did You Know?

* French’s mustard was first introduced, along with the hot dog, at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. Now more than 50 billion ounces of French’s is served.

* French’s “Classic Yellow” mustard has been a staple at the ballpark for almost a century.

* French’s mustard is the official mustard at Yankee Stadium.

* Americans love their mustard and last year consumed over 77 million bottles of French’s.

* French’s is America’s “Favorite Mustard” and is in more households than any other mustard.

* In 2002, the French’s bottle got a new shape with new dispensing technology and two new sizes.

* French’s is known for adding flavor and zest to all American favorites including hot dogs, hamburgers, sandwiches, chicken nuggets and pretzels.

* French’s mustard has a flavor to please all palates including Classic Yellow, Bold ‘n Spicy, Napa Valley style Dijon, Honey, and Sweet ‘n Zesty.

* The Seed Story: French’s uses only the highest quality mustard seeds. The milder white mustard seed is used for its Classic Yellow and honey mustard and the smaller, more assertive brown seeds for its Bold ‘n Spicy and Napa Valley style Dijon varieties.

New Jersey-based Reckitt Benckiser Inc., the maker of French’s mustard, is a leading North American manufacturer, marketer and distributor of household and food products. Some other well-known, trusted names in the Reckitt Benckiser family of products include French’s Original and Cheddar French Fried Onions, French’s Worcestershire sauce, French’s potato sticks, Frank’s “RedHot” Cayenne Pepper Sauce and new French’s GourMayo-flavored light mayonnaise.


Support the Troops!

March 27th, 2003

Take the Iraq War Quiz!

1. The anti-war movement supports our troops by urging that they be brought home immediately so they neither kill nor get killed in a unjust war. How has the Bush administration shown its support for our troops?a. The Republican-controlled House Budget Committee voted to cut $25 billion in veterans benefits over the next 10 years.

b. The Bush administration proposed cutting $172 million from impact aid programs which provide school funding for children of military personnel.

c. The administration ordered the Dept. of Veterans Affairs to stop publicizing health benefits available to veterans.

d. All of the above.

And so on, for ten damning questions-and-well-documented-answers.

An automated message follows…

March 27th, 2003

Dear Friends,

Please consider adding your name to the following statement. If, after reading it, you like what it has to say, please take a few seconds to visit this page and add your name to the statement. The statement was released on March 27, 2003, and already more than 2697 have signed on!

“I stand for peace and justice.

I stand for democracy and autonomy. I don�t think the U.S. or any other country should ignore the popular will and violate and weaken international law, seeking to bully and bribe votes in the Security Council.

I stand for internationalism. I oppose any nation spreading an ever expanding network of military bases around the world and producing an arsenal unparalleled in the world.

I stand for equity. I don�t think the U.S. or any other country should seek empire. I don�t think the U.S. ought to control Middle Eastern oil on behalf of U.S. corporations and as a wedge to gain political control over other countries.

I stand for freedom. I oppose brutal regimes in Iraq and elsewhere but I also oppose the new doctrine of �preventive war,� which guarantees permanent and very dangerous conflict, and is the reason why the U.S. is now regarded as the major threat to peace in much of the world. I stand for a democratic foreign policy that supports popular opposition to imperialism, dictatorship, and political fundamentalism in all its forms.

I stand for solidarity. I stand for and with all the poor and the excluded. Despite massive disinformation millions oppose unjust, illegal, immoral war, and I want to add my voice to theirs. I stand with moral leaders all over the world, with world labor, and with the huge majority of the populations of countries throughout the world.

I stand for diversity. I stand for an end to racism directed against immigrants and people of color. I stand for an end to repression at home and abroad.

I stand for peace. I stand against this war and against the conditions, mentalities, and institutions that breed and nurture war and injustice.

I stand for sustainability. I stand against the destruction of forests, soil, water, environmental resources, and biodiversity on which all life depends.

I stand for justice. I stand against economic, political, and cultural institutions that promote a rat race mentality, huge economic and power inequalities, corporate domination even unto sweatshop and slave labor, racism, and gender and sexual hierarchies.

I stand for a policy that redirects the money used for war and military spending to provide healthcare, education, housing, and jobs.

I stand for a world whose political, economic, and social institutions foster solidarity, promote equity, maximize participation, celebrate diversity, and encourage full democracy.

I stand for peace and justice and, more, I pledge to work for peace and justice.”

The co-authored essay which produced this statement is here, with a list of the initial signatories.

US mistakenly offers war money to peaceful Slovenia

March 27th, 2003

LJUBLJANA, March 27 (Reuters) – The United States mistakenly named Slovenia as a partner in its war against Iraq and even offered it a share of the money budgeted for the conflict, the tiny Alpine nation said on Thursday.

One day after hundreds of Slovenians hit the streets to protest the inclusion of their nation in Tuesday’s U.S. war budget, Prime Minister Anton Rop said Washington goofed.

“When we asked for an explanation, the State Department told us we were named in the document by mistake as we are not a member of the coalition against Iraq,” Rop told a hastily arranged news conference.

Slovenia was one of the states named in the $75 billion U.S. war budget which must be approved by Congress and includes grants to partners in the U.S.-led military action. Slovenia was slated to get $4.5 million from the budget, which Rop said will not be forthcoming.

“We are a part of no such coalition. We are a part of a coalition for peace,” Rop said.

Thanks to Richard for this gem.