Friday, July 30, 2004

even more Sudan

SAINT of the day is Eusebius of Vercelli c. 283 - 371, bishop, anti-Arian, and the man who almost got away with slamming the Nicene Creed onto the table at a Council of the Church and demanding that all present assent to it as a condition of any further discussion.

Sudan: The Passion of The Present is a regularly updated blog with all sorts of useful links and Robert Corr at Kick and Scream has a decent amount of stuff online. [beer voucher to the mentalist]. This week's LRB has Alex de Waal's subtle and patient examination of the happenings. Just once, his underlying passion glints through:"This is the routine cruelty of a security cabal, its humanity withered by years in power: it is genocide by force of habit."
USAID has some statistics and satellite maps of the villages and refugee camps, Human Rights Watch has a comprehensive Darfur page here - you might remember they were the first to unearth decisive documentary proof of Sudanese government collusion with the Janjaweed.
The UN's
Sudan Information Gateway is authoritative, up-to-date and probably has the best collection of statistics. Finally, has lots of information and seems reasonably reliable.

KING ARTHUR is easily the worst movie I've seen all year, but it has its redeeming feature - I haven't seen a cavalry charge that exciting since the Return of the King. I remembered, watching it, that I'd always regretted being born too late to take part in one in earnest.

Friday, July 23, 2004

the wanderer

SAINT OF THE DAY is Peregrinus, a second century priest and hermit. In honour of Plato.

new coach.  He is the youngest man ever to hold the position, is a former Football Writers' Footballer of the Year, was capped 108  times by Germany and, even more impressively, completely won over the British media in his first season in the Premier League. It's difficult though, to avoid the thought that the DFB have only given him the job to avoid having to employ a foreigner.
Lothar Matthaus is, naturally, very

THE 'SELECTIVE REDUCTION' SAGA rumbles on. There's an excellent meta post at
meta-filter, Noli Irritare has a slightly-less-meta meta-post here,  the comments at Unfogged are generally thoughtful, and Amy Welborn's blog entry - with lots of comment, blogcritics, Hugo Schwyzer's and Schwyzer II are all worth your time.
The Pro- Richards bloggers include
Alas (owner of the most glaring petitio in the history of petitios - just read her comment about sed Contra's post), Trish Wilson, and this which is (unfortunately) beyond parody. 

JOHN SUTHERLAND's pre-retirement analysis of changes in British academia in the last 40 years. ·

"The long awaited breakthrough of women into higher echelons of the academic profession. My successor as Lord Northcliffe Professor at UCL will be the first woman to hold the post . Incredibly, no woman, in nearly 170 years, has been permanent head of my department. That should now change, as a reflection of profession-wide reform. But not, alas, fast enough."
Via CrookedTimber and the Leiter report

BARACK OBAMA: it's unanimous, a star is born. A
transcript of the speech, the Honolulu Advertiser (!), USA Today, the New York Times, and various others are all admiring. Even National Review manages to harrumph only mildly. The New Yorker profile is still the most informative one available online.

mary magdalene.

MARY OF MAGDALA, Our Lord's companion, and the first to see Him Risen is  the - belated - Saint of the day.

YOUR PRAYERS please, for the
hostages - amongst whom are several Kenyans - now being held in Iraq by insurgent forces who call themselves 'The Holders of the Black Banners'. Interviews with the Kenyan families here, some background here. It's a promising sign that the last few sets of hostages taken have been released unharmed. The administration finally got something right when they had a spokeman ask all Kenyans to leave Iraq yesterday.

THE 9/11 REPORT is out. I haven't read it but there are several piecesin today's papers. Guardian
here, Times there.

THIS NEW epistemology blog is outstanding. They seem to have signed up every top-flight epistemologist, the depth of talent gathered here is just awesome. Required reading for for anyone even vaguely interested in philosophy. 

EVERYTHING you ever wanted to know about Hannibal Barca and the Punic Wars in one easily -digestible capsule. Hannibal ad Portas!

I would like one. (Did anyone but Njoroge and I watch Italian football on KTN in the early 90's?)

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

even more Sudan.

These  guys have set up, which has a wealth of information on the crisis and what can be done to help. In the UK, the Disasters Emergency Committee, an umbrella body whose members are some of the most trusted charity organisations in the country, is putting together a relief effort.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004


Saint of the day is Aurelius, bishop and companion of St. Augustine, d. 429.
Amnesty International have a comprehensive overview of the Sudan crisis. They have detail about the widespread collusion between government forces and Janjaweed militia, the violence against women and ethnic cleansing  
Human Rights Watch have compiled a thorough report, what's more, they claim to have decisive evidence that the government has been involved in the recruitment, training and support of the Janjaweed militias:

“It’s absurd to distinguish between the Sudanese government forces and the militias—they are one,” said Peter Takirambudde, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Africa Division. “These documents show that militia activity has not just been condoned, it’s been specifically supported by Sudan government officials.”  

The Sudanese governement has denied these reports. Their Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail, who seems not to be as well-advised in PR matters as he should be, has said that the documents are "90 % false".  
The Guardian has a useful archive of articles which includes, in ascending order of odiousness, this, an interview with one of the baddies, and finally this.
An African in Greenland. He left Togo and spent ten years travelling North, eventually got to Greenland, and returned to tell the story. Tete-Michel Kpomassie is an astonishingly intrepid guy. John Derbyshire has written a review, well worth reading if you can tolerate some of his wilder ramblings, and Al Alvarez's introduction to the book is online here.

Didier Drogba, a certainty for African footballer of the year if ever there was one, has signed for Chelsea from Marseille. There are various reports about the size of the fee, but the figure most often quoted in reports is £26 million, or about €40 million. It seems excessive for a player who has only had two decent goalscoring seasons in his career. On the other hand, he looked outstandingly good in the UEFA Cup, and especially at Newcastle where he destroyed them despite playing alone up front. 


a profile of Bryan Magee, from the Guardian from ages ago when he had a new book out:

".religion as a way of avoiding fundamental problems that have arisen because we don't know certain very basic things about our own lives which I think are unknowable. I'm against that kind of false self-consolation. It prevents people really confronting the harsh reality of our situation." He says that as a child an early appreciation of this harsh reality would upset him. "I sometimes used to feel it was threatening my mental health. But I feel we ought to grapple with things and not evade and I certainly feel that about philosophers. I feel there is a professional obligation not to seek consolation. This is certainly part of what philosophy is for."

Simon Blackburn on Heidegger, originally at TNR, but now at Prof. Pole's site here.

Johann Hari meets Peter Singer and can't quite shake the feeling that something is wrong:

Singer is pure, disembodied rationality - the Enlightenment made flesh. He measures pain and capacity to suffer in neat units and disregards old-fangled notions such as species or emotion. He discusses killing babies or his mother with the passion of the speaking-clock. Give me Singer over the Vatican-style superstitions he is trying to dispel any day; and yet, as I leave the interview, I can't shake off a strange - Singer would say sentimental - anxiety. 

Thursday, July 08, 2004

better out than in.

It's St. Bonaventure (1221 -1274) today.  Doctor of the Church, Minister of the Friars Minor, biographer of St. Francis and friend of St. Thomas

There is a report that there will be an investigation into the death of the two marchers at the demonstration in Kisumu last week. Apparently the police on crowd-control duty ought not to have been issued live bullets.

Sir Edward Clay, Her Majesty's High Commissioner to Kenya,
expressed his dismay at the undiminished levels of corruption in NARC's Kenya in highly undiplomatic language (at a lunch held to encourage investment in Kenya, no less!) :

"We never expected corruption to be vanquished overnight. We all recognised that some would be carried over to the new era. We hoped it would not be rammed in our faces.", and [referring to Francis Muthaura, head of the Civil Service] "He is perhaps trying to whistle up his courage, aware that we know a lot, but perhaps uneasily aware that he does not know just how much we know."
After which, all hell broke loose. The Foreign Office has backed him, Chirau Ali Mwakwere (Minister for Foreign Affairs for about twenty minutes) has had Sir Edward in for a little chat, the US and Norwegian ambassadors have added their voices to the anti-corruption chirping and our hero has announced that he regrets any offence caused, while standing by his sentiments.
The Churches, most civil society groups, and Transparency International have all come out in favour, as have any number of reasonable Kenyans. Still, it's a little worrying, this sudden outbreak of good sense in the British diplomatic corps, also I can't help but wonder whether this disagreement might better have been saved for a little later in the administration' s life.

To general surprise, African leader speaks African language at African leaders' summit.
The Butler report is just out.  I haven't looked at it myself, but the Guardian, and the Times, seem to have good coverage.  For what it's worth, my view is that even if Mr. Blair did not act in bad faith, he was culpably negligent in relying on such inconclusive evidence for his going to war.  The Normblog has, as always, something interesting to say about it.
Barack Obama will make the keynote speech at the Democratic party's National Convention.  Should he be elected, he will be only the third nonwhite person during its history to sit in the Senate.  Wallace Kantai's perceptive rant:
"More importantly, we have little claim to Obama as a Kenyan...We are psychologically and politically predisposed to rejecting outsiders. For Kenyans, whether as official government policy or as evidenced in our private interactions, refugees are a bothersome lot of people – poor, smelly folk whose sole mission in life is to compete with us for scarce resources. We keep them in refugee camps in places that are out of sight. For the few lucky ones who manage to make it into our cities, we put them into ethnic ghettoes such as Eastleigh, hoping they will keep to themselves...Kenyans are entitled to support Obama and to celebrate the proximity of a Kenyan descendant at the centre of American power, but they should do so in the full knowledge that they are hypocrites.
  • Resonance fm, London's first radio art station.
  • EveTushnet's perceptive musings on God, violence, isolation,  and American literature:
    "So many American stories have this sense of radical aloneness, the ferocious quest to find out whether there's anyone else out there...
  • A logician a day...
  • Fahrenheit 9/11, despite Michael Moore's ineptitude finding an ending, or indeed a coherent argument.  So, Ok, it's propaganda, but counter-propaganda propaganda is good propaganda.
  • Ratzinger's confidential note to the American bishops on the matter of pro-abortion politicians and the sacraments.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

hits the fan and splatters all over the room.

BBC news online, allafrica and the Nation all report that one person has been killed in the Kisumu demo.

and he's back

SAINT of the day is St. Pant├Žnus.

John Githongo, Permanent Secretary Ethics and Governance, and quite possibly the most courageous and inventive public servant in post-independence Kenya [well, after D.G. Njoroge], has been restored to the Office of the President, following protests by our 'development partners' over his demotion in the recent Cabinet reshuffle. Once again, national economic policy at the highest level is being made for us. Worse, the donors seem to represent the short-term interests of the Kenyan public better than the administration does.

Here's a pre-rally briefing-cum-manifesto issued before last Saturday's gathering, which, sadly, proved prescient:
"...Kibaki alleged tribalism on the part of those insisting that due process be followed and the popular constitution be adopted, without amendment, by Parliament. The majority ethnic nationality in Kenya, the Kikuyu, he alleged, were under threat by the constitution as drafted and by its supporters. In fact, the issue is one of class, not ethnicity...[There is]the real possibility of political violence being directed against the proponents of the new constitution. Already rumours are swirling through Nairobi that anti-constitution forces are seeking to use hired thugs to disrupt the Uhuru Park rally. Prominent pro-constitution activists are also being attacked in the mainstream media for 'leading efforts to undermine the government'..."

- Philosopher of the Month at the Philosophers' Magazine is Albert Camus.

- Slate approves of John Kerry's choice of running-mate.

- On why Islam does NOT need a Reformation. [Yet another link shamelessly stolen from]

- Review of a new collection of Evelyn Waugh's travel writing. [From First Things].

- debate about multiculturalism. [access may require registration]

Goat's Horns with Red - Georgia O'Keeffe [scan from Mark Harden at the]

Monday, July 05, 2004

articulate outrage...

SAINT of the day is St. Zoe, martyred about 286 at the Emperor Diocletian's behest.

Dominic Odipo on the reshuffle, in today's Standard: "Let us call a spade a spade. What we have now is a government of special, establishmentarian, private interests whose primary objective is to hold on to the levers, trappings and fruits of power, regardless of the primary interests of the Kenyan voter on whose back it rides."

Here's something I missed earlier: John Githongo, Permanent Secretary in charge of ethics and Governance in the Office of the President has been moved to the Ministry of Justice. His appointment to the permanent secretaryship by NARC was a powerful statement of the strength of their determination to root out corruption in public life. His demotion is an equally powerful statement of how the ruling party's priorities have changed. All-Africa, mentalacrobatics and the US government have all noticed.

jonathan freedland on minimalism.

Art, minimal and conceptual only.

Victory of Samothrace [Yves Klein]

Conclusive proof that chewing veve really is good for you, from the scientists at King's College.

Stop hiphop - a gentle deflation of John McWhorter in the guardian. Link shamelessly stolen from aldaily

Sunday, July 04, 2004

the end of the affair

NARC finally broke my heart yesterday. I've enjoyed the affair while it lasted, but after seeing pictures which might as well have come from the Sauron era circa 1992, it's time to break up.

That than which there is no more random piece of information: if wikipedia is to believed, Kenyatta was Tom Morello 's uncle...

Friday, July 02, 2004

a good man comes to the end of his tether.

Oliver Plunkett, martyred in 1681, is the Saint of the day.

the Sacrificezone is a quite outstandingly well done text-only-interface blog. Go, marvel.

Do pay a visit to Berenike, her witty comment on the events of the day is sure to entertain and inform.

The recent cabinet reshuffle is heart-breaking. Kibaki has finally succumbed to the old men in the shadows, and handed them the spoils they sought. His motives cannot have been other than the usual ethnic balancing (cf. William Ole Ntimama - surely the most unappealing man ever to speak in public in Kenya), and plain old-fashioned expediency (cf. the reinstatement of Njenga Karume, and the demotion of Kalonzo Musyoka). No one can deny that decisive action to put an end to the LDP-inspired infighting was neccessary, but the President seems to have gone out of his way to appoint the most objectionable people possible just because he could.
One hates to agree with Joseph Kamotho, but he is entirely right to point out that the reshuffle is quite possibly unconstitutional, because it contradicts some of the provisions of the MOU.

And Professor Ghai has resigned from the CKRC as well...the BBC report is reasonably thorough.

'Always on Top' by Edward Said from the archives of the London Review of Books.

'In the Waiting Room Of History' by Amit Chaudhuri, also from the LRB.

model of east-facing cloister of Novy Dur. John Pawson via eyestorm.