Friday, March 21, 2003

Bloody Hell

Just watched the footage of government buildings in Baghdad getting vapourised one by one. I've no idea what the Americans are using but bloody hell. It's ramping up big time now.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

They Don't Need No Education

Edinburgh schoolchildren protested today, egged on by Scottish Socialist Party rabble-rouser Tommy Sheridan and Britain's lightweight version of Michael Moore, Mark Thomas. You've got to hand it to the Socialists - they know how to get them when they're young.

David Farrer has got pics from the demo.

Despite Donald Rumsfeld's "shock and awe" promise things are unfolding gradually. Maybe Allied forces are gambling that the Iraqi regime is already so brittle that it will shatter under just a bit more pressure.

Now I'm hearing chants of "we shall not be moved" coming from the pub next door. Fight the tyranny of last orders!

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

The Belly Of The Beast

Matthew Engel labours under the delusion that he is sending out guerilla dispatches from deep inside the most pernicious regime in the world. Not Iraq or North Korea but the United States. I know The Guardian is ripe for ridicule but sometimes it's well written and rises above the level of fatuous comparison, blatantly stupid distortion and sneering hatred exemplified by this bit of idiot pamphleteering. It's the Dummy's Guide to moral equivalence, nasty and rueful.

No Matthew, a skin-of-the-teeth victory in a democratic election is not the same thing as only being able to vote for a sitting dictator. It's better. A legal system which suffers from institutional unfairness and even corruption but has the ability to redress mistakes is not the same thing as summary decapitation, electroshock treatment, rape or being fed feet-first into a shredder. It's better.

Political horse-trading in an elected Parliament is not the same thing as an assembly whose members make decisions under the watchful eye of a totalitarian state and the implicit threat of physical violence. It's better.

A common response to foolishness such as Engel's is simply to say "there's no comparison", which is of course correct except that it means you do make a comparison. When you compare two wildly different situations cold logic thankfully washes away the adolescent nonsense that insists tigers are zebras and Bush is Hitler.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Neither Fish Nor Fowl

David Frum in National Review has a terrific column examining the archaeology of the strange species known as the Paleoconservative. Native to the United States, these gloomy monoliths are now of mostly historical value. Frum shows that their inherent tendency towards isolationism and racism has progressed into defeatism and a headlong retreat from reality. Frum concludes:

They began by hating the neoconservatives. They came to hate their party and this president. They have finished by hating their country.

War is a great clarifier. It forces people to take sides. The paleoconservatives have chosen - and the rest of us must choose too. In a time of danger, they have turned their backs on their country. Now we turn our backs on them.

Quite right.

Monday, March 17, 2003

Ehrlich Wrong Shock

The New York Times has broken the news that the global catastrophes predicted by ecochondriac scientist Paul Ehrlich have not actually happened. The billions of people who unexpectedly did not perish in the global famines of the late seventies and eighties say they feel "vindicated." Al Gore, obscure politician and author of the 38,744th best selling book on Amazon.com, Earth In the Balance, is said to be "delighted, obviously, but baffled."

Charlie's War

I've voted for the Lib-Dems in the past (I was young and foolish) but no more. Charles Kennedy's latest comments just make me think that if they can't get the important stuff right there's no point worrying about their fiscal prudence or assessing their public sector reform programs.

When I hear Charles or other commentators worry about there being "no legal basis" for military action I think the phrase sounds oddly off kilter because once you get to this stage the concepts of legality and war just seem incompatible, belonging in different spheres of human experience. It's not like they're interchangeable and you go around talking about "a military basis for legal action".

He's also caught in a contradiction where he'd support military action if there was a second UN resolution and a Commons vote which made it "legal" enough but he'd still have to oppose it because he doesn't agree with the aim of toppling Saddam and because innocent civilians will inevitably be killed. That's two anti-war positions and I could understand it if Kennedy advocated one or the other but he can't do both.

They haven't got much credibility left. Daft ideas like marginalising British influence in the UN twice over don't help the LibDems. The BBC's description of them as "the UK's third largest political party" makes them sound pretty substantial, but to paraphrase the late great Bill Hicks: "Yeah well maybe, but you know what? After the first two largest parties, there's a reeeal big fucking dropoff, okay?"

Sunday, March 16, 2003

Balancing Act

The biggest surprise at the movies so far this year is the mostly unheralded Equilibrium, a sci-fi actioner with a debt to The Matrix (amongst, ahem, other films). It could be the breakout hit of the year much like Pitch Black was in 2000 if Dimension Films can be bothered to promote it.

Writer/Director Kurt Wimmer has fashioned a derivative but highly entertaining yarn set in a future society where all emotions are banned upon pain of execution. The populace is kept in check by mood-equalising medication and failing that, elite enforcers called "Clerics" who employ a novel martial art based on firearms ("Gun-Kata") to either pistol-whip or shoot nonconformists to death. Christian Bale plays the top Cleric who one day neglects to take his meds and starts to become a "sense offender" (or feel criminal, if you like).

The Gun-Kata is absolutely superb and is introduced in an audacious sequence where Bale executes a rebel group in a whirlygig of gunfire lit only by muzzle flashes. It's all done with physical performances and razor-sharp editing, much more effective than tedious wirework and computer enhanced figurines. Other than that, it borrows liberally from popular visions of dark futures. Actually, Wimmer rushes into the Dystopia aisle in the supermarket and flings every tin he can manage into his trolley. Equilibrium's nods to Orwell, Huxley and Ray Bradbury are obvious but it also gleefully nicks concepts from THX-1138, The Handmaid's Tale, Harrison Bergeron and Logan's Run.

Its low budget sometimes work against it and its script sufferes from intermittent clunkiness but it's got enough vim to keep you entertained. Well worth a look if you like this sort of thing, and definitely the best genre B-pic for years.

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