The Rule of Law (you say you want it?)

To: KCL SS&PP Students (University of London, King’s College)
Sent: Tuesday, August 29, 2006 4:30:37 PM
Subject: DVD & video borrowing restriction

Dear all,
Please see the dull but important message below, which will principally
affect users at the Maughan Library.


Dear student,

We have recently implemented a borrowing restriction regarding the ISS
DVD/VHS collection.

In compliance with the Video Recording Act (VRA) 1984 the British
censor must classify (U, PG, 12, 15 or 18) every video or DVD
distributed in the UK. It is an offence (under Section 9) to supply a
video or DVD that hasn’t been classified unless it lies within a very
narrow class that escapes classification entirely. This class includes
sports and educational DVDs. ERA recordings (off-air) are also exempt.
Not all foreign imports have been classified, though those that have
had a theatrical release already will certainly have been rated.

It is also an offence to supply a DVD/video that does not feature the
correct certification labels (Section 13). No foreign imports will have
UK markings. Under the Act, the word “supply” is carefully defined and
it includes “letting on hire” or loaning, even for no reward.

Therefore, having consulted with the KCL Legal Compliance Team we can
no longer allow unclassified videos or DVDs to be removed from the
building (except for classroom teaching on prior authorisation).
However, they can be issued for viewing in the Library & ISC itself.
This use apparently escapes the statutory definition of “supply”. This
category of DVD and video now features a red reference card stating
where the item can be played as well as a short loan label, with the
last loan period ending at closing time.

We particularly wish to avoid any embarrassment or arguments at the
main counter and security gate so we would appreciate your co-operation
in this matter.

Information Specialist – Social Science & Public Policy
Information Services & Systems
King’s College London
Franklin-Wilkins Building
Waterloo Campus
London SE1 9NH


Less Kids in Africa Equals Better Security for America

Jeffrey Sachs who leaps over tall buildings in Bolivia and Russia in a single bound and lands in Africa to solve its many problems is at it again (read article in Scientific American). Where he once promoted the power of unfettered markets, advising the Russians on the ‘shock therapy’ that left a bulk of state assets in the hands of a cabal of crooks, he is now an environmental activist urging benign state intervention in economic development. His latest campaign involves helping the environment by helping poor people in Africa and the Middle East whose numbers are rising too fast according to this descendent of Thomas Malthus.

Allowing that people in the rich countries live on about $30,000 per year, well above the global average of $10,000, which itself is substantially more than most Africans consume and earn, his suggestion is that giving birth to less poor people is the best course of action in the future. Sachs is worried not about the suffering of the unborn poor should they live like their parents in scarcity and ill health but rather that they may actually manage to fulfill their economic aspirations. At present growth rates by 2050, according to UN forecasts (not usually worth the paper they are printed on by the way), world population will be 9 billion with 2.5 billion of this number born in the poor countries. If this ‘surplus’ somehow finds a way to earn and consume today’s $10,000 average, it would by Sachs calculations cause untold environmental stresses especially due to the fact that cruel fate has chosen to locate ‘biodiversity hotspots’ among the unwashed masses. He worries of the unhappy fate of these hotspots especially since they are a critical part of the ‘Global biological heritage’ a phrase that irritates me to no end because it consigns our part of the world to a perpetual poverty only relieved by the trickle of Birkenstock wearing nature tourists and their cousins, gigolo hungry European grandmas in Mombasa. Our economies are not supposed to grow, or if they do only slowly, according to this view. The African the environmentalist would love to see come to be is a gentle soul who wants nothing more than to live in rude but serviceable shelter, to consume a little food he has grown in the small plot out back, provided it does not kill off that rare species of caterpillar, and who in all things is guided by the desire to live ‘sustainably’. Sustainability for the west to be exact. Not for that African – who thank God will never be – access to the comfort and security that comes from building of wealth. They are going to have their nature even if it requires that they get rid of the hungry, ambitious, dare-to-want-to-survive poor’ – before they are born.

Sachs appeals to American national security and economic interest. His argument in summary is that the more poor there are the angrier the number of young men willing to take up arms against prosperous America. He bewails the Bush administration’s ‘religious right’ inspired refusal to support fertility control in the poorest countries. Better to invest in fertility control now he urges: it is the best use of dollars for a more militarily and economically secure future for America. He is kind enough to stress that this should be voluntary fertility programs. Heaven forbid that under the ambit of national security women and men in Africa should be led into little hospital rooms and rendered infertile. As usual Sachs is never one to pursue his arguments to their logical ends. Couched in his kindness is a kind of neo-eugenics: rid the world of the poor by ensuring that they do not give birth to more like themselves; we are running out of room for you especially if you are from the poor nations (which I read to mean brown nations.)

If it is really a matter of national security then under the present American administration’s pre-emptive doctrine against emerging threats, surely there is a need to limit the number of children that the poor have. Yes, this might be achieved by voluntary measures. But foremost will not be the issue of helping the volunteers improve their lives, it will be as was true in all eugenics programs, an attempt to protect ‘society’ from the undesirables. It might appear to be a bit much for me to be comparing this kind of well-intentioned policy advocacy with the eugenics movement, but I believe that Sachs’ call folds neatly into those of a century ago and that once the more hysterical and less politically correct types make it, all will be much clearer to you poor, over-breeding buggers.

The humanitarians of the day are like the European missionaries of the nineteenth century, providing justifications for colonial misadventure ‘for the good of the poor, native blighter.’ They increasingly join their mission with the ‘imperial’ promotion of the west’s interests. So much so that western NGOs are now a critical tool in their military’s strategy, helping to blunt the impact of the bombs and bullets poured into a target population. It does not surprise me in the least that with the likes of Sachs running around aid agencies are increasingly being targeted as non-neutral in many battle grounds. The toothless and rudderless left to which Sachs is an honored member has become the sheep’s clothing for a hawkish, domineering constituency that needs fodder for its military adventures. What could be more convenient and humane than to save the poor from themselves while being able to pursue imperial goals clothed in the Good Samaritan’s robes?

In 1807, William Hazlit accused Malthus of making himself ‘conscience-keeper to the rich and great, especially to those of them who are not of a giving disposition, all in coining or at least popularizing for their use the magical phrase or formula ‘surplus’ or ‘redundant’ population.’ Sachs too acts to promote the interests of the rich nations but, with a perpetual nod to political correctness and disingenuousness, he would rather he appeared to be regarded as promoting the interests of the poor themselves. He therefore urges the rich to give even more, despite much of this money coming to no good whatsoever and even being harmful in a lot of cases. The animating spirit of his ideas is a restless ambition to be counted first among the rich and great by opining as an expert on regions and matters where his knowledge is thin and mostly involves advocating policies that have been tried for decades and found wanting. Joined by the other hapless musketeers, Bono and Geldof, his is a media game joining concern for poverty with the celebrity bandwagon for the selfish pursuit of personal plaudits and the conscience cooling balm of the ‘feel good factor’. To hell with the poor made to swallow his bitter medicines no matter how ill it makes them.

As Samuel L. Jackson would say of Sachs: ‘How smart can he be? He’s peeing into the wind.’

On a Further Reading

Parselelo Kantai on the contested territory in writing and acting on history in Kenya, and the recent spate of books by white, western intellectuals decrying the oppressions suffered by Kenyans of various stripes under British colonialism.  One of them, Caroline Elkins (author of Britain’s Gulagreviews Adam Robert’s The Wonga Coup, the story of a failed 2004 coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea led by British mercenary Simon Mann and part-financed by Mark Thatcher, former British PM Maggie Thatcher’s son.  Binyavanga Wainaina generously provides barbed pointers on How to Write About Africa – to hilarious effect.  When African Americans visit Africa, why are they considered white by some Africans?  James Campbell’s Middle Passages is a historical narrative of two centuries of African American journeying to Africa. 

In Kenya and Africa, the Christian church has grown by leaps and bounds.  What is behind this hunger for transcendental truth?  Kenyan missionary Patrick Mukholi sets out to save heathen souls in Oxford, England.  If you’re a man, it turns out that the cut could save your life.  And now there are queues outside the surgery room after studies suggest that a circumcised man is 60% less likely to contract HIV than his uncircumcised counterpart.


‘Arrest me not,’ Mel Gibson telleth the centurion, ‘for I owneth Malibu. And thou lookest a bit Jewish unto me.’ Sayeth the centurion, ‘Tell it to the procurator.’

Ah, peace. Who is it good for?

Ah, peace. Who is it good for?

‘”In Afghanistan, Americans have all the wrist watches but Afghans have all the time.” The enemy will attempt to control the clock with the strategic intent of winning by not losing. He will use the clock to wear down American resolve. Management of the clock will allow him to use patience as a means to offset American superiority in killing power.’ So writes Maj. Gen. Robert H. Scales (Ret.) who is looking to historian Alan Beyerchen’s touting of touchy-feely soldiering as the next great advance in the theory of war fighting.

Israeli soldiers engaged in urban battle no longer conceive of the city as the site of engagement but rather a medium of warfare. They are leading the way in the development of a new kind of approach to fighting in urban areas where most battles in the coming decades will be fought. The IDF in Nablus in 2002, as is increasingly the case today, aimed to use ‘none of the city’s streets, roads, alleys or courtyards, or any of the external doors, internal stairwells and windows, but moved horizontally through walls and vertically through holes blasted in ceilings and floors. This form of movement, described by the military as ‘infestation’, seeks to redefine inside as outside, and domestic interiors as thoroughfares.’ So says architect Eyal Weizman who sees in ‘walking through walls’ tactics the coming together of post-structuralist thought and operational theory. Cutting edge military thinkers, many in Israel, are apparently eager to challenge their institution’s linear thinking, centralized planning and fixed concepts with thinking, and practice, that is consciously post structuralist and draws heavily on Foucault. At last it seems critical theorists just might earn themselves some Pentagon dollars.

Books to look up

Steven Hahn reviews Eric Foner’s Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction. At the heart of American freedoms is the history of Black America during the First Reconstruction. Eric Foner revises revisionism.

What if the history from which you draw ‘self esteem’ were forged? Pride and mistaken identity.

John Updike tiptoes around Ngugi wa Thiongo’s Wizard of the Crow.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun brings the Biafra War up close and personal. Chimamanda recognises that history happens to people, that it is in the details of lives that the broader canvas of history is understood. Add to that, the book is a page turner.

Prize Winning 419s: I’m blind, also have Diabetes Insipidus, and Diabetes Mellitus

I am a fan and historian of the 419 scam email. I have noticed lately that they seem to be getting better by the day. Now they are written (supposedly) by middle class families in England rather than the usual relative of deposed African dictators (usually West African.) AB & H will henceforth dedicate a prize to one 419 per week selected from those received in my inbox. This week’s winner is Phill Adams whose wife needs a holiday since they have spent all their money on taxi fares to hospital to treat his blindness, ‘Diabetes Insipidus, and Diabetes Mellitus.’ Phill’s real innovation on the 419 email is providing a website from which you can make a donation to his wife’s 2-week holiday. And his decision to go for the heart strings as opposed to greed. Good for you Phill.

I’m sorry to bother you but I hope you could spare a few minuets,
I’ve had a lot of ill health and my wife betty has been with my thru out, a real help and support to me, I’m blind, also have Diabetes Insipidus , and Diabetes Mellitus, I’ve had loads of operations on my eyes, and other various operations , and a few years ago I slipped and shattered the bone in my left arm, I’ve had 3 ops on this arm to correct it I still have little use from it, and have to rely on my wife’s help this has put a lot of strain on my poor wife, We live in England and I’d love to beadle to take her on a holiday to Devon in the UK where we live she loves the place and hasn’t had a holiday for some years as most of our money goes on taxis to hospital for me as I cant get around on public transport, could you please help me to give my wife Betty a 2 week break and put a smile on her face 🙂 by making a small donation of small amount. I know she would appreciate a break
Thank you for your time and if you do spare a little to help me by visiting the link below
Many Man thanks for your donation

What do George Galloway, Five-Fingered Betty and Erica Jong Have in Common?

George ‘Gorgeous’ Galloway with his overly orange tan, shiny suits, ‘indefatigable’ love of the spotlight and praises for Saddam Hussein is not my usual cup of tea but that man can do an interview. There is little that is better on TV than to watch Galloway tear a hapless interviewer to bits. Watch this clip on Sky News.

Earlier this morning I run across a brutally delicious review of Erica Jong’s latest effort ‘Seducing the Demon’ which I probably will not read after such a flaying. When in primary school, I would save my lunch money and buy a used book every Friday at a small used bookstore in Hurlingham (which I recently discovered still plies its trade.) It was there – at the age of ten if I remember right – that I came across Jong’s Fear of Flying. I was initially attracted to the title with its promise of airplanes and pilots. But as I flipped through its pages I came across the sex: fevered ‘zipless fucks’ that roused me to no end. And for some years afterward, while the book was in my possession, the pages with the sex scenes were worn from continual reference. It delivered almost as good value for the money as Nick Carter, the spy whose third testicle was a mini-nuke, or Slocum the gunfighter.

Some years ago, as my mother was turning fifty, and, I think quite scared if her frequent laments were any indication, I bought her Jong’s Fear of Fifty. My reasoning was that the book must surely be about life continuing after this watershed, perhaps even of a life that is more sensual and satisfying. She never did tell me what she thought of it and I had forgotten my gift until I came across this review in the Atlantic Monthly. The gift I fear may have plunged her into an even greater depression. What is it do you think that explains such narcissism which seems to be the almost inevitable destination of baby boomer writers?

The mind being what it is, my remembering reading the Fear of Flying inevitably casts me to the (embarrasing) subject of self love. Or to five-fingered Betty as I heard this relationship with the self referred to when I got to college in the States. The former (or perhaps still-going-strong Marxists) at Spiked, the UK online magazine, have been taking dead aim at the ‘politics of self’ or politics emptied of all content except the narcissism that Erica Jong seems to exemplify. Frank Furedi in an essay on ‘Europe’s very first ‘Masturbate-a-Thon’ event’ shreds the state’s outing of five-fingered Betty. The very same Britain that is today celebrating masturbation as the ultimate self love was a hundred years ago gripped in a hysteria that it was responsible for the weakening of their empire as it presumably had the Roman one…