Nine Things We Learnt This Week

1. Margaret Thatcher, rehabilitated?

Scourge of the Left, in an Aquascutum suit

“But this portrayal of Maggie the seductress, ‘twirling through Young Conservative balls in strapless gowns,’ as the Sunday Times gushed at the weekend, sums up everything that’s wrong about the way Mrs T has been repositioned. She wasn’t a harmless socialite, she’s not a style icon; she was a ruthless politician, who looked 80s because it was the 80s.”

2. Wallis Simpson, rehabilitated?

Unfit for a King?

“English Heritage, giver of blue plaques to People Who Matter, is the latest to bitch-slap her corpse. Last week, it denied a request by a member of the public to stick a plaque outside Wallis’s 1930s London home. But Wallis matters. She drew to the surface many of the foul bigotries of the age: xenophobia, ageism, rampant snobbery and a desire for women to be submissive, uneducated, unthreatening little dolls.

[snip]

So why today does English Heritage continue this old, old vendetta? Its official reason is an affair that she allegedly had with Joachim von Ribbentrop, the German ambassador to Britain in the 1930s. However, there is no evidence that this actually happened. It is true – and unforgivable – that she visited Germany in 1937 and shook the Führer’s hand. But she did not ‘make’ her husband into the Nazi he became. It was his idea: he wanted to play the King and Nazi Germany was the only country that would have him. Wallis spent her life as a whipping girl for her husband’s failures as king. Nobody could accept that Edward didn’t want to rule us; it had to be witchcraft, didn’t it?”

3. She’s not too fond of slaughterhouses, either.

A cynic might say it’s sick-making

“Few pigs turn their snouts up at the chance to roll around in mud. But Cinderella the six-week-old saddleback has adopted a different motto – four wellies good, four trotters bad – after being diagnosed with mysophobia, a fear of dirt.”

4. Those clever Brits.

“Britons consume about 180 million pints of milk a week. At least two thirds of it is sold in plastic bottles, which began to replace cardboard containers in the Nineties. Campaigners claim that if all the plastic milk bottles in Britain were replaced with pouches, 100,000 tons of plastic waste would be saved from landfill sites every year.”

5. No Comment

“Gynecologists say that in the past few years, more Muslim women are seeking certificates of virginity to provide proof to others. That in turn has created a demand among cosmetic surgeons for hymen replacements, which, if done properly, they say, will not be detected and will produce tell-tale vaginal bleeding on the wedding night. The service is widely advertised on the Internet; medical tourism packages are available to countries like Tunisia where it is less expensive.”

6. We need to count the loot.

7. You can also use grapes.

“Illegal ‘tiger bone wine’ is still being made and sold by some animal parks in China, say campaigners.

The Environmental Investigation Agency says staff at two parks offered to sell the drink, made from carcasses soaked in rice wine, to its researchers.”

8. You think?

“Police services covering 87 per cent of Canada’s population reported 892 hate-motivated crimes in 2006, of which six in 10 were motivated by race or ethnicity, Statistics Canada said Monday.”

9. Another reason why same sex marriage is unnatural.

“Notably, same-sex relationships, whether between men or women, were far more egalitarian than heterosexual ones. In heterosexual couples, women did far more of the housework; men were more likely to have the financial responsibility; and men were more likely to initiate sex, while women were more likely to refuse it or to start a conversation about problems in the relationship. With same-sex couples, of course, none of these dichotomies were possible, and the partners tended to share the burdens far more equally.

While the gay and lesbian couples had about the same rate of conflict as the heterosexual ones, they appeared to have more relationship satisfaction, suggesting that the inequality of opposite-sex relationships can take a toll.”

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The Death of Us

Amnesty International yesterday released a report on the number of executions last year: at least 1,200 people were hung, decapitated, shot, electrocuted or lethally injected last year in twenty-four countries, and 3,347 more went to death row.  Eighty-eight per cent of executions took place in the usual suspects: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the United States.  At a minimum, 540 people were executed in China, and AI estimates this figure is lowballed, because the number of executions in China is a state secret.  Apparently the actual number might prove embarrassing to the Chinese government in the run up to the Olympics is a political and social matter internal to China.

The full report is here.

The Unsnuffable Fire

Oh yeah, I am mad. After watching Tibetan monks get clubbed on Al-Jazeera, hearing about gay activists being jailed for being, well, gay activists (most notable Hu Jia), and hearing ad nauseam about Chinese labour conditions, the other day I came to the jumping conclusion that perhaps the time of the Olympics had passed. Continue reading

Hoohaw of Olympian Proportions

When discussing the Olympics, regrettably a certain amount of hoohaw is inevitable, hoohaw being defined as hay processed, refined, and ultimately emitted from the non-frontal regions of Equus caballus, also known as the common horse. The hoohaw varies in degree and amount. A large lump, indeed, the greatest lump of hoohaw is how Olympics represents the finest athletes from the world over competing in the best spirit of friendship and sportsmanship. It’s such a lovely sentiment I half-believe it even as I write it. Unfortunately it isn’t true. The Olympic Games are not about athletes and sport any more than the television’s raison-d’etre is providing quality programming or the Iraq War is making the world safe for democracy. Continue reading