For two days in a row now, the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 seems to be dominated by stories of helicopter crashes which have killed quite a few people. The lengthy discussions of these incidents (about which there is, in fact, very little to say) annoy me, insofar as they tend to strengthen the impression that the major problems facing the US / UK troops are equipment failures of various kinds. I’m not sure that this is the case.

More interesting stories found online this morning include:

  • A document purporting to be the BBC’s War Reporting Editorial Guidelines (via IndyMedia UK).
  • Reports of the US use of napalm on Safwan Hill (in the Sydney Morning Herald).
  • The resignation of a UK government senior legal adviser (in the Guardian).
  • Robert Fisk’s report of last night’s attacks on Baghdad (in the Independent).
  • Ominous BBC reports of Turkish troops entering Northern Iraq.
  • Protests

    From Indymedia UK:

    Students and residents in Oxford have continued the actions this morning and afternoon. On the Cornmarket shop-street, people dressed in black stood along the paved road, and at 12:30 many church bells rang in mourning. A discussion space was active under Carfax Tower. Subsequently some people chained all the gas pumps at the E$$O gas station in the south of the city. Others are now ocupying the offices of pro-war Labour MP Andrew Smith in East Oxford.

    This follows on from an abortive attempt to occupy the town hall yesterday and a series of roadblocks. (Pictures, but not especially good ones, unfortunately, are here. The one at the bottom, in case you were wondering, is a pile of police-horse-shit).More activity promised later this evening.

    Solitary Sex

    The world gears up for war, and I am reading about masturbation…

    (Via Arts and Letters) I enjoyed two reviews of Solitary Sex, the new book by the Berkeley historian Thomas Laqueur, here and here. I look forward to getting a copy of the book when it appears in UK bookshops.

    Both reviews place a great deal of emphasis on the emerging ideologies of anti-masturbation which developed in eighteenth-century England, with the 1712 publication of Onania; or, The Heinous Sin of Self-Pollution and all its Frightful Consequences in both SEXES given pride of place. And these discussions reminded me, not for the first time this week, of one of the most intriguing eighteenth-century anti-masturbation essays: Jeremy Bentham on “Offences Against One’s Self” from around 1785.

    It’s an intriguing piece, since the bulk of Bentham’s essay is given over to a slashing attack on Britain’s sex laws (which proscribed death for gay sex, etc.), up to and including the laws against bestiality (“Accidents of this sort will sometimes happen; for distress will force a man upon strange expedients”), much of which is splendidly humane.

    But Bentham then turns to masturbation, concerning which he writes that “Of all irregularities of the venereal appetite, that which is the most incontestably pernicious is one which no legislator seems ever to have made an attempt to punish…” He doesn’t recommend legislation — since it “can always be committed without any danger or at least without any apparent danger of a discovery” — but he does disapprove…

    Read the whole thing. It’s good stuff.


    The BBC has a handy list of who’s resigning from the Government and when.

    16:17GMT – Leader of the House of Commons Robin Cook resigns after a meeting with Tony Blair at 10 Downing Street. He said: “Neither the international community nor the British public are persuaded that there is an urgent and compelling reason for this action in Iraq.”

    07:00GMT – Lord Hunt of Kings Heath announces his resignation as junior health minister on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, saying: “At the end of the day I don’t support this action and it would be hypocritical for me to stay in government.”

    11:11GMT – Home Office Minister John Denham resigns saying: “I cannot support the government in tonight’s vote.”

    11:39GMTBob Blizzard, Labour MP for Waveney, resigns as Private Parliamentary Secretary to work and pensions minister Nick Brown.

    11:56GMTAnne Campbell, Labour MP for Cambridge, resigns from her role as Private Parliamentary Secretary to Patricia Hewitt, secretary of state for trade and industry.

    Any minister or PPS who resigns will be comemmorated on the Roll of Honour over on the right hand side of the Virtual Stoa, at least for a bit.

    March Update

    Peering into the archives for the odd search strings which bring people to the shores of the Stoa…

    josip broz car auction
    domus aurea esquiline
    anecdote about Kim Jong Il
    daily mail mosley
    bob marshall andrews [a few of these]
    “ari fleischer” satan
    Ashcroft singing
    essay on the leopard by visconti
    Ben M’hidi Battle of Algiers
    italian word for troll
    historian Christopher Hill
    J. K. Rowling address
    read my lips George Bush Tony Blair
    iraq german students against the war
    coordinated readings Aristophanes Lysistrata
    Woyzeck mpeg
    sealions war against terror

    and, of course,

    free zoo sex clip archive

    So, all in all, a bit more highbrow than usual. It’s the first one which puzzles me the most. And I really don’t think the US military should be sending sealions into combat.