England's Sword 2.0

Friday, November 30, 2001

Osama the Student?

What is life like inside that Dungeon? Andrew Hofer's More Than Zero has the inside scoop. I think he might have been one of my flatmates at college...*

*I'm serious on this. He was a right git.

Pessimism? Where? (Apart from the BBC, Guardian etc)

The new MORI Poll on Political Attitudes in Great Britain (22-27 November 2001) demonstrates clearly that the general population in the UK completely supports the war: the net approval rate for the ways the President and Prime Minister are handling the war remain at or above +40%, which is a sweeping margin. I'd like to see similar figures for France, Germany, Greece etc.

Not so much a king as a Monarch

Simon Jenkins, ex-editor of The Times, is infuriating. He is at times brilliant, at others just inane and whinging. In recent weeks he's been in the latter mode, complaining about a war both just and necessary. This week he returns to greatness. This article is wonderful stuff, pinning down exactly the dichotomy between the twin stars of New Labour. He begins:

When Mr Blair visited the star-studded Clintons in Washington in 1998, he took with him a retinue larger than any Prime Minister before him. Some 30 aides, almost all political, went to the glittering banquet. Margaret Thatcher never travelled with more than ten. The Blairs did not bother to visit their embassy. A diplomat of my acquaintance remarked: “My God, what have we unleashed!”

We had unleashed a Cavalier, the first to rule Britain in a generation. Every age refights the Civil War in its own way and ours is no exception. Roundhead and Cavalier, Whig and Tory, Gladstone and Disraeli, Labour and Conservative, each conflict is an echo of the original. Each participant is pricked by history. Few are so well-cast as the current contenders, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

True, true, every word of it. It is easy, moreover, to turn this model to American politics. Clinton the Cavalier? Undoubtedly. Bush is more a Fairfax than a Cromwell, but Roundhead he assuredly is. Bravo, Mr. Jenkins! Keep writing along these lines.

Hear Murray Talk

If you can bear to hear a British accent on Talk Radio, I'm currently booked to be on Armstrong Williams' The Right Side on Monday afternoon at 2:30 discussing European attitudes to the death penalty. Hopefully I'll also get in a swing or two at continental law as well.

I'm glad about this because I've been impressed by Mr. Williams the times I've seen him on Fox. And just check out these comments he made at a conference last year:

When I was growing up as a child, my parents taught us that the hue of your skin says nothing great about you, nothing bad about you, does not give you self esteem; you had absolutely nothing to do with it, and so why make it an issue?

Families are the first, best departments of Health, Education, and Welfare. Our policies must assist families, rather than punish marriage and reward promiscuity. Our policies should encourage industry, rather than reward indolence. Our laws should be equally and fairly applied to all Americans, offering opportunity to all, and special treatment to no one, be they wealthy or poor, man or woman, black, white or brown.

Freedom is not free. It requires as much exertion to maintain it as to establish it. Especially in a free nation, every citizen has certain duties: to himself, his family, and to his fellow countrymen. Freedom requires risk, but its rewards are great.

That's a pretty good summation of the basis of my philosophy too. Replace "race" with "class" and it's almost exactly my experience, also.

What a load of Goebbels

European Parliament Rejects Genetics Report, reports Reuters. Sounds like the usual chaos:

In a confused series of votes, the Parliament initially introduced several amendments that were mutually contradictory--seeking in some cases to tighten controls on genetic research, and in other cases to ease them.

This is hardly surprising. Votes in the European Parliament go through at a hell of a pace, with "party" whips standing in front of their members' seats, indicating which way to vote by raising or turning down their thumb. Members regularly press their vote buttons without knowing precisely what they're voting on.

At least in this case the motions came from MEPs themselves (and consequently would have had no legislative force). The European Parliament is probably the only legislature in the free world that cannot initiate legislation. That is the jealously guarded prerogative of the Executive -- the unelected European Commission. Democracy? Pah! Dangerous idea.

Oh, and a British Labour MEP once called Mr Goebbels, "Mr Goering, errr, Dr Goebbels, NO! Mr Goebbels..."

The Last Blubber

Libertarian Samizdata has a nice commentary on PETA's latest argument that Christianity entails vegetarianism:

I just have one question... if vegetarianism matters one jot to Christianity, then why did Christ perform the miracle of turning five loaves and two fishes into many in order to feed the multitude (Matthew 14)? Why not five loaves and two tofu cubes?

Or, indeed, why not slay the fatted lettuce when a prodigal child returns?

Mind you, PETA have expressed an interest in eating a certain kind of meat: check out this amazing site. It's not a joke, this is a genuine PETA site. This all just confirms my suspicion that PETA is in fact a gigantic hoax.

Thursday, November 29, 2001

Is Osama an Orc?

Take a look at this. It's like something out of Dungeons and Dragons:

All that's missing is the label saying "Al Qa'eda Balrog holding pen"...

Greek Fire or Greek Bile?

Boris Johnson has a passion for things Greek (and Latin -- I once heard him quote Ovid's Metamorphoses in a speech about nuclear disarmament). But persons Greek? That's another matter. Trust the Greeks to jail the wrong terrorists is his latest assessment, concentrating on the bizarre arrest and unseemly punishment of a band of harmless 40-something British "plane spotters" for spying. Boris thinks it's symptomatic of a larger Greek malaise:

At a Uefa [Cup] match in Athens, not long after the massacre, 30,000 Greek soccer fans jeered through the minute's silence, while the Stars and Stripes was later burnt in the stands. A recent poll found that 78 per cent of Greeks voting for centrist or Left-wing parties were anti-American, while 58 per cent of Right-wing voters were anti-American.

You may think that a curious way to repay the country that has kept the peace in Europe for 50 years, and prevented Greece from going communist. But that is the way they think. It is time they grew up.

Why should anyone take Greece's side in the dispute over Cyprus? Turkey is the country that has backed the Northern Alliance and helped to oust the Taliban. All the Greeks have done is burn the US flag, stage demonstrations shouting "Down with Bush the killer", and incarcerate, without trial, a hapless bunch of British plane-spotters.

If things go on this way, I think we should seriously look at expelling Greece from NATO.And perhaps there was something to the borders proposed for Greece in the Treaty of San Stefano...

Indian Summer Game Over?

Meanwhile, there's an "anglosphere" crisis brewing that's gone unnoticed in the US. India's sticky wicket is what the Telegraph calls it, for the crisis is over cricket (a sport that almost led Britain and Australia to cut diplomatic relations in the '30s). In many ways this is a question of the rule of law, the laws of cricket in this case. If India refuses to play by the rules, England might refuse to play (literally), and the cricket-mad Indian populace will be outraged. Cricket's international governing body has suffered a series of blows to its authority. This could be the last one, and the system of Test Matches that has delighted so many billions since 1878 could collapse. Where's Kerry Packer when you need him?

Magnum Foedus

The peerless John O'Sullivan, who does the best Enoch Powell impression I've seen, with just the right Black Country inflection, comes up with an excellent task for another Powell. In this National Review article he comments on the unreliability of so many of America's allies and asks how we can form a reliable coalition:

As it happens, one of the less-noticed realities of the modern world is the growth of a multi-ethnic English-speaking world culture. This new informal multinational structure is composed mainly of nations in the old British Commonwealth but it is dominated in almost every respect by the U.S. It brings together nations as different as Jamaica, Canada, India, and Australia through the informal links of language, business investment, immigration, films, books, and democratic legal and political institutions rooted in Magna Carta. It has been given a powerful boost by the information revolution and the internet which, between them, increase the importance of cultural similarity and decrease the value of geographical proximity. And whenever an international crisis occurs, it becomes immediately clear that this so-called Anglosphere shares a common sense of strategic interests.

Americans have noticed that Britain's Tony Blair has been forward in offering military assistance and in pleading the American case against Osama bin Laden. Fewer people have noticed that Australia was actually the first nation to offer the U.S. military help. India was being wooed by the U.S. as an Asian counterweight to China even before September 11. And, of course, Canada is no longer second to Mexico as Mr. Bush's favorite good neighbor. Mr. Powell is almost uniquely qualified in personal terms to put together an enduring international coalition based on the English-speaking world. He is the son of West Indian immigrants. He is the recipient of an honorary British knighthood (bestowed for his role in the Gulf War.) He could articulate the case for the English-speaking world as the basis of a new American world alliance structure as few since Churchill. And if Europe continues to seek its own rival superpower status independent of the U.S., that may suddenly become the diplomatic thing to do.

I can think of fewer better qualified architects for this new grand alliance. It would be a positive achievement for which he would go down in history.

The dog that didn't bark

EU documents are best read between the lines, noticing what's omitted. This website -- European Union citizenship and free movement of persons within the EU, Fundamental Rights, policy on visas and on external border controls -- is a case in point.

To begin with, note no link to anything establishing EU citizenship. That's because no such thing exists. There is no EU nation to be a citizen of (yet). We are citizens of a group of nations who have agreed certain reciprocal rights by Treaty.

Much more worrying is this part:

Every citizen of the Union has the right ... to take part in elections to the European Parliament and in municipal elections in his/her place of residence

Nota Bene: No mention of national or state elections. Why? Because it is a central ideal of the European project to abolish nation-states. If you want proof of that, here it is.

Europe's First Amendment

It seems that the first "amendment" to the European charter of rights will be to prohibit speech, even if it is speech of the most reprehensible sort. EU considers plans to outlaw racism is the Telegraph's take. This is straying into some very dangerous territory. If religion is sacrosanct and cannot be criticized then what about religions that belittle others? Where is the line drawn? Nigel Farage of UKIP also speaks cogently to the inclusion of "xenophobia" in the mix. Would it have been xenophobic to write the stinging criticisms of Hitler's Germany that many writers produced in the 30s? If a population is going through a mass psychosis, isn't it appropriate to point this out? The great virtue of free speech is that arguments can always be argued against, and Madison recognized this. Better free speech that allows the hateful to speak and have their arguments demolished than restricted speech that allows hateful arguments to fester, spread underground and eat away at the body politic like a cancer. Britain needs a real "first amendment" and it would be good for the Tories to champion this idea.

Meanwhile, in France

Some very interesting info from France in that European Foundation publication (actual digest not on line yet). Take a look at these items:

Gaullists call for Gaullism

A group of traditional Gaullists – including several former collaborators of General de Gaulle himself - have signed a declaration calling on true Gaullists to vote for the candidate "who most respects the political choices made by the founder of the 5th Republic." Without actually mentioning the name of the former Interior Minister, Jean-Pierre Chevènement, it is clear whom they mean. They also very explicitly denounced "the way in which the so-called Gaullist party has abandoned its traditions" and said quite clearly that they "do not find in the decisions taken by the president of the Republic (i.e. Chirac) any respect for the founding principles affirmed by General de Gaulle."

The signatories include Jean Foyer, former Minister of Justice under De Gaulle and co-chairman, with the Shadow Attorney General, Bill Cash MP, of the Franco-British Sovereignty Forum; Pierre Lefranc, the General’s former chef de cabinet; Étienne Burin des Roziers, former Secretary General of the presidency of the Republic under De Gaulle; General Pierre-Marie Gallois, veteran of the Royal Air Force and noted patriot and Eurosceptic; Admiral François Flohic, the writer and Academician Jean Dutourd; the journalist Frédéric Grendel (who died just after signing the document, on 25th November), the academic Pierre Dabezies who is already on Jean-Pierre Chevènement’s strategy committee. Others associated with the appeal include Jacques Dauer, president of the Academy of Gaullism, who declared for Chevènement on 14th October, and the former minister Jean Charbonnel, president of Gaullist Action and Renewal. Mr. Charbonnel had voted in favour of Maastricht and the Gulf War, two things to which Chevènement was always bitterly opposed, but he has now decided to support the man he thinks will "restore the authority of the state" and "ensure the return of the nation". Sovereignist MEPs like Paul-Marie Coûteaux, Florence Kuntz and William Abitbol have also declared for Chevènement.

A demonstration is to be held in Paris on 13th December (6 p.m. at Place des Victoires) on the theme of "sovereignist accord" i.e. of a federation between the various sovereignist groups in France. [Jean-Louis Saux, Le Monde, 26th November 2001]

Chevènement seeks to broaden his appeal

Jean-Pierre Chevènement’s position in the polls seems to have established itself solidly at 12%. His campaign is based on themes like "public service," "Europe of the nations," and "education": he is having considerable success in exploiting the vacuum which exists because neither of the big two candidates, Jacques Chirac and Lionel Jospin, have officially launched their campaigns yet. His assistants (including volunteer students) are therefore beavering away producing material for him to announce as future policies. He is therefore using every opportunity to take advantage of world events in order to state his special position on them. One of his supporters has said, "Mr. Chevènement’s candidacy may be a Spanish hostel (i.e. a mixed bag). But instead of bringing your own food, you find ready-cooked meals when you enter." The support he has received is, indeed, very heteroclite: it ranges from former hard-line Communists to Pierre Poujade, the 81 year-old deputy whose name, in the 1950s, became a synonym for his noisy political protest movement on behalf of shopkeepers and other small businessmen. Chevènement is also supported by the founder of the UDF and former colleague of Giscard, Michel Pinton: a conservative Catholic and sovereignist, Pinton was a noted opponent of the PACS or "gay marriage" laws passed two years ago by the Socialist government. [Christine Garin, Le Monde, 26th November 2001]

Because quite a lot of Mr. Chevènement’s support comes from the right, indeed, the Elysée is starting to get a bit worried. Jean-Marie Le Pen, after all, will run, as usual, in the presidential election and he often scores 15% in the first round. This means that the right-wing vote can easily get gobbled up leaving Chirac high and dry – especially since there are various other right-wing candidacies on the cards like those of Alain Madelin, François Bayrou and perhaps Charles Pasqua. The main problem is that, last time, Chirac campaigned on touchy-feely social issues in order to seduce left-wing votes. This won him the presidency but it means that the right-wing electorate has been rather neglected. So the idea is now being mooted to fish out of the bran-tub the man who campaigned against Maastricht in 1992, Philippe Séguin. Séguin’s heart was never really in the anti-European battle and he soon threw his lot in with the vehemently pro-European Chirac. Now, it seems, he will do so again, presenting himself as a supporter of Chirac so that disappointed conservative voters might vote for him after all. But Séguin recently lost the Paris mayoral elections and many think he is past his sell-by date. [Raphaëlle Bacqué, Le Monde, 26th November 2001]

Another outbreak of violence at Sangatte

There has been another riot at the provisional Red Cross reception centre for refugees in Sangatte, near Calais. 29 people were wounded in fights. As before, the fights broke out between the two main ethnic groups in the camp, Afghans and Kurds – needless to say, the "refugees" are overwhelmingly young men. CRS special police were deployed to bring the fighting under control. Some of the refugees even lit a fire inside the camp which the Red Cross personnel had to extinguish immediately. There are currently about one thousand people in the camp, trying to smuggle their way into the United Kingdom. Three of them are now in hospital in Calais, where their condition is described as grave. [Le Figaro, 21st November 2001]

French banks may go on strike when euro introduced

At a meeting on 28th November, the union representatives of bank workers in France have decided to go on strike at the beginning of next year, just as the country is planning the change-over to the euro. The unions, who have been increasing the pressure for some weeks now, want better pay and conditions. They have now decided to exploit this unique opportunity by calling a strike which would be truly catastrophic, coming as it would when banks will be needed more than ever. [Les Echos, 28th November 2001]

Heteroclite? It means irregular, basically. That reporting about Sangatte from Le Figaro is extraordinary, while the bank strike could be the best news for a while. Confidence in the Euro is hadly going to increase when they send in the troops to break the strike, as they surely will...

What a country.

They bombed our chippy!

Found this on the European Foundation's latest intelligence digest:

In a clear message to the American government, the German government has warned that the anti-terror coalition will collapse if the "war on terror" is extended to Iraq. The Germans have said they are convinced that the Europeans are decisively opposed to such a step. Chancellor Schröder warned on Wednesday in the Bundestag against "declarations which are already seeking new targets" – he was clearly referring to President Bush’s somewhat off the cuff threats against Iraq. He said that any new attacks on Islamic countries could provoke worse reprisals than anyone had dreamed of. Foreign Minister Fischer said that Berlin had made its position very clear to Washington and that the European countries were "completely united" on this matter, i.e. against attacking Iraq. Fischer said that he regarded America’s statements on Iraq "with extreme scepticism, to put it diplomatically". These words were no doubt meant to calm the atmosphere in the SPD – Green coalition, which nearly collapsed recently because of many Greens’ reluctance to send German troops to Afghanistan. Fischer said that Europe, as an immediate neighbour of the Middle East, had every interest in finding political solutions to the problems there. "Anything else would be quite contrary to our interests," he said. German deputies expressed pleasure that the Minister of State at the Foreign Office, Ben Bradshaw, had seemed also to rule out attacking Iraq in a statement to the House of Commons: SPD deputy Gernot Erler said he was "happy" that London saw the danger of extending the war in the same way as Berlin. He said it was time to find a "European position" on the matter. He added that if the USA attacked Iraq, the international coalition would collapse and that the German army would not cooperate in any such attacks. Meanwhile, however, Turkey seems to have weakened its opposition to attacking Iraq. The Turkish Defence Minister said that Ankara no longer ruled out "a re-evaluation" of the Iraqi question. Iraq, for its part, has emphasised its desire for good relations with the United States: the Iraqi ambassador to the UN, Mohammed Al-Duri, rejected President Bush’s statement that Iraq was producing weapons of mass destruction and said that Iraq was against all forms of terrorism. [Frankfurter Rundschau, 29th November 2001]

For a start, I'd much rather have the Turks on our side than the Germans (Clem Attlee said something on these lines when approving Turkish membership of NATO). We also already know what the "European position" is: supine.

See, science and religion do mix...

My co-authored piece on the number of Muslims in America makes it into today's Christian Science Monitor* as "How many US Muslims? Our best estimate".

*Note to British readers: this is a respected national newspaper, not Scientologist pamphleteering as some often think...

Wednesday, November 28, 2001

Sneaky Blighters

Sackcloth and ashes are the order of the day at the Berlaymont (or should that be "sackcloth and asbestos"?), if you believe this Governance in the European Union: White Paper the European Commission's put out. They recognize their remoteness and unresponsiveness led to the Irish "no" vote and propose to change.

Some hope. A quick look at the recommendations shows that they're simply trying to acquire even more power. The most disturbing recommendation is that Europe should increasingly "speak with one voice in international fora." Translation: the EU should take over Britain and France's place on the UN Security Council. I have no doubt that this will be suggested. With any luck this will be one area that France and the UK might make common cause, but I also have no doubt that France will try to drag the UK down with it.

This is serious stuff, and America needs to pay attention to it.

That Vision Thing

End the Great Game and replant the almond groves, argues Blair's chief Afghan hound. Obviously "visioning" is a big thing at No. 10, as this is dreamy stuff.* He definitely places too much faith in the Bonn talks:

Agreement in Bonn to the establishment of a provisional interim Afghan authority would be a big success. The authority would need to be completed and augmented as other groups in Afghanistan found their voice.

Bonn is a meeting of minnows, as a reader and I discussed yesterday. We concluded that Afghanistan needs an Ataturk, but where is one to be found? We agreed that a secular Pashtun general involved in the final assault on Kandahar, with the respect of his men and a dose of charisma and resolve, might emerge. If he does not, I fear all the hot air being generated in Bonn might simply form a cloud on which to build a castle in the air.

*Actually, it reminds me of Cade's speech in Henry VI, Part 2:

"There shall be in England seven halfpenny loaves sold for a penny; the three-hooped pot shall have ten hoops; and I will make it felony to drink small beer. All the realm shall be in common, and in Cheapside shall my palfrey go to grass. And when I am king, -- as king I will be, -- ... there shall be no money; all shall eat and drink on my score; and I will apparel them all in one livery, that they may agree like brothers, and worship me their lord."

To which Dick, of course, replies: "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."

Err, padon me, but...

'We want to leave the Middle Ages', claim the minnows in Bonn. Well it would be nice if they entered them first. As my wife constantly points out, women in middle ages England had considerably more rights than women in Afghanistan for a start. I'd venture to suggest that the Sufi culture of the real Afghan middle ages was probably more advanced too. Afghanistan's in the Dark Ages. It'll take a concerted effort to get it just a little closer to modernity.


Confident children blamed for social ills, reports the Telegraph. Well, duh. According to the story:

[Children with high self-esteem] are more likely to be racist, fail at school, bully others and engage in drink driving and speeding, according to the report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Anyone who's spent any time in pubs or real life could have told you this. High self-esteem used to be called "arrogance" and it was well-known as a contributing factor in other failings. It took the "science" of psychology to throw out this important piece of wisdom.

Over here, self-esteem is regarded as one of the most important things to instill in children. Now it just so happens that most school shooters and other middle-class children who kill have highly developed narcissistic qualities. School shootings were unknown in times when many more children had access to guns. They've increased since schooling stopped teaching children facts and started teaching them to be proud of themselves. Coincidence?

Tuesday, November 27, 2001

Power to the People

Great article by another old acquaintance, Stephen Pollard, in The Independent. As Natalie also points out, he does a great job in desbribing how America's retreat from shilly-shallying has cowed the "Islamic street," as they like to call it. But he goes on with an even more important point:

But there is a more optimistic alternative [to endless terrorism in Islam]. The second largest Muslim community in the world (after Indonesia) is not Iran, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia. It is, with 150 million believers, India. And yet, even though they are a minority dominated by Hindus, Indian Muslims do not see America as the cause of their ills or flock to join militant terrorist outfits. The reason, of course, is that India is a democracy – market-based and multi-ethnic. Democracy is the answer, as it always has been. Everything possible must be done to promote it.

India is probably one of the best examples of the Anglsophere phenomenon. Simple adherence to basic anglo-american concepts of liberty, tolerance and democracy, have contained the monster. Ever wonder why Fascism never gained a foothold in the UK or US?

Pass the Scalpel

More withering dissection. Here, Natalie Solent slices apart Roy Hattersley's Guardian column lamenting the levels of materialism and hunger in Britain. I didn't disagree with a word of it. Well done, Natalie!

Go Gove Go

True Scotsman Michael Gove has yet another great column in The Times. Here he witheringly dissects the British "anti-terrorism" act. This is a phrase that should enter Congressional jargon:

For, in the jargon of Parliament, this legislation is one of those Bills which is known as a Christmas tree measure. That does not mean, as it should, that it is discarded when no longer timely and useful. Rather, it means that the Government can hang on to it any bright thing which takes its fancy.

Sound familiar?

Your tax money at work

This University of Warwick press release claims scientific proof that British football is boring:

Black Hole research shows English football (soccer) is 30 times more boring than football (soccer) games in rest of world. Astrophysicists at the University of Warwick studying the extreme variability in X-rays emitted from matter falling into black holes, have discovered that their research methods also show that the world's top division football matches have an unusually large proportion of high scoring games – so much so that international football actually shows a pattern of "extreme events" similar to that seen in the large bursts of X-rays from the accretion discs of black holes. However, analysis of just English premier football league and cup games showed that English top division football is in fact 30 times less likely to have high scoring games than the rest of the world taken as a whole, and could thus be seen by some people as 30 times more boring.

I see. Does this square with the empirical evidence? Watch a random sample of English matches and then a random sample of Italian matches and tell me your qualitative reaction. Also, if my home team of Sunderland is taken out of the equation does England improve? Of course, foreign defences are crap, so it's no wonder...

The Muslim Question

The American Enterprise, policy journal of the American Enterprise Institute has a dynamic new management team. As part of their new thinking, the magazine's website has new articles 3 times a week. The current article (at time of writing) is by me and a colleague and asks how many Muslims there really are in the USA. It'll be in the archives as "Mosques on the Hudson" if you read this later. I hope you find it interesting.

Monday, November 26, 2001

Garzon First?

Quasipundit Anthony Andragna takes me to task for taking Quasipundit to task in Shouting 'Cross the Potomac. I happily concede that Anthony (can I call you Anthony?) did mention Senor Garzon, but the post to which I was refering was the earlier one by Will Vehrs, which didn't... I hadn't seen the Andragna post until just now.

As for the assertion that the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, was a breach of sovereign immunity, well, aside from the fact that chopping off the heads of absolutist monarchs is something I generally approve of, that's a bit of a red herring as it took place some years before the doctrine was codified in the Peace of Westphalia 1648. Moreover, Mary was, if memory serves me right, executed for activities in England, not Scotland. The sovereign immunity principle is pretty well understood as applying to the nation over which the ruler is sovereign. Here's how the 1812 Schooner Exchange vs McFadden case defines sovereignty:

The jurisdiction of the nation within its own territory is necessarily exclusive and absolute. It is susceptible of no limitation not imposed by itself... All exceptions, therefore, to the full and complete power of a nation within its own territories must be traced up to the consent of the nation itself.

Pretty self-explanatory, I think. Sovereign immunity is also spelled out in the 1961 Vienna Convention. The way the EU is restructuring its law, by contrast, helped by such luminaries as Judge Garzon, would logically lead to Iran being able to extradite Bill Clinton for committing adultery.

In any event, I'm not sure I was criticizing Quasipundit in the first place at all. I find the site entertaining and highly recommend it. I was glad they'd drawn attention to the Spanish dilemma and was really just adding something. Sorry if I touched a nerve.

L'Affaire Bellesiles

Although the ubiquitous Glenn Reynolds has written frequently on this, I thought I'd put in my two penn'orth. Michael Bellesiles wrote an award-winning book called "Arming America" in which he purported to have found documentary evidence that the US national gun culture was invented comparatively recently. The colonial America he describes was indeed Moore's Utopia, a happy place where homicide was unknown. Fiction, obviously, and recent scholarly investigations have confirmed that. Bellesiles is squirming now that his own university has decided to investigate. Melissa Seckora on National Review Online has drawn attention to the weakness of his defence.

In general this confirms an impression I have had since I started writing on gun issues. I arrived in the US thinking that guns in civil society were an abomination, and I still shudder whenever I see an armed policeman, although I know I should not. But virtually everything put out by the anti-gun lobby is disingenuous, tortuous or just plain lies. My examination of the arguments for Encyclopaedia Britannica shows just how far they go with statistics (although I do worry, as the article suggests, that the pro-gun forces go too far themselves on occasion), but Bellesiles' work is the most egregious example. The argument for gun control had come almost to the brink of success, but it is now in total retreat across the country. That is partly due to 11 September, partly due to the work of John Lott and other principled scholars, but also due to the public realising that the gun grabbers are just plain dishonest. Bellesiles may turn out to be the Anthony Blunt of his faction.

The Anglospheric Disease

Spiked editor Mick Hume is not a fan of the war. That's a shame, because when it come to looking inward at the problems facing the English-speaking world, he's very perceptive. Writing in The Times today, he points out a central problem (and this is about as far from Blame America First as you can get, despite outward appearences):

Sorry, Mr Blair, but studying the Koran can offer no explanation as to why young British-born Muslims feel more Muslim and less British than their immigrant parents. It is the gradual loss of cohesion and conviction at the centre of Western society that has made some see fundamentalism as more attractive than mainstream notions of what it means to be American or British.

This fragmentary process has been made worse since the ideology of the melting pot, through which immigrants could be assimilated into a dynamic US capitalism, has been supplanted by the ideology of multiculturalism. An increasingly defensive and flabby Western elite has embraced multiculturalism and evaded the real question of how to make people feel less estranged from our societies. Identity politics and the bogus celebration of “difference” first legitimised the lack of cohesion, and then accelerated it. The results can be seen everywhere, from New York to Bradford.

The key is in that word, "elite." America's elite is confined to thin strips on the East and West Coasts. So, in the rest of the country, there is a real feeling of what America is. In the UK, the elite enters our homes every day by means of central Government authority, national newspapers and the BBC/ITN. So not only has Britishness been done away with, but regional differences too (the spread of the "estuary" accent, for example). There's diversity for you.

Weighty Matters

Christopher Booker's Notebook is always a good read for those who are amazed/ depressed/ angry at the number and nature of regulations hampering British daily life. Americans may not know this, but in the name of EU market harmonization, it is now a criminal offense to sell goods in imperial measures. Moreover, this extraordinary revolution in the British way of life was accomplished not through an Act of Parliament, but by a "Statutory Instrument," an executive order, if you will, issued by Ministers. The test case, where a Sunderland (my home town) farmers' market trader was convicted of the heinous offense of selling a pound of bananas, is currently going through the Appeal process. Luckily, the judge in this case seems to be displaying common sense:

"If I had had this case in a lower court," the judge said, "I would have halted it for an excessive abuse of process." It was wrong that men should be prosecuted under laws deliberately made so opaque that they would have "to bury their heads in law books" to know what the laws were.

Several times Lord Justice Laws implicitly rejected the claim made last April by the district judge, Bruce Morgan, in finding the Sunderland market trader Steve Thoburn guilty of selling a pound of bananas, that by joining the European Union Britain had "voluntarily surrendered the once seemingly immortal concept of the sovereignty of Parliament".

Britain, insisted the judge, was still "a sovereign nation", and Parliament was still our sovereign lawmaking body. When the prosecuting QC, Eleanor Sharpston, insisted that she was not taking "instruction from a government authority", the judge shot back that the Government "should be present in this courtroom" to answer for its actions.

Let's hope the Court continues in this trenchant vein.

Sunday, November 25, 2001

Winston Smith has emigrated

Or at least he would if he had any sense. This Daily Telegraph Leader just illustrates how illiberal the UK is becoming, all based on one principle:

"If you've nothing to hide, you've nothing to fear" runs the refrain. In fact, almost all of us have been victims, at one time or another, of some bungling state agency. This further erosion of the freedom to enjoy privacy will significantly tilt the balance between government and citizen.

"If the Government is competent, constrained and accountable, you should have nothing to fear," would be reasonable. But the Blairite regime is none of those.

They're at it again

Scientists fear BSE epidemic in sheep. Okay. There were at most 1,500 out of 40 million infected. That number is now down to 20, but there "might still be an epidemic." They're grasping at straws here. A compelling argument in the British Medical journal recently pointed out how weak the case is that bovine BSE (yes, I know it's a tautology) caused vCJD. Now they're trying to say that ovine BSE (or OSE as it should be called, although how they differentiate it from Scrapie I do not know) is worrying. They say that breeding Scrapie-resistant sheep would be good. But humans cannot contract Scrapie anyway. This looks like a weak, weak case to me. More on this later, i hope.

The Mark of Cain

The Telegraph reports Naughty children to be registered as potential criminals. Well, of course. What else would we expect in the free country that is Britain. Where once quiet words within communities would enable local people to keep a watch out for potential troublemakers, now we brand them with a virtual iron.

The thing is, my mother was a primary school teacher for 30 years in one of the most deprived areas of the country (South Shields). She would regularly open the pages of the local paper and exclaim something along the lines of, "Oh, Johnny Smith's been put away for murder! He was such a lovely little boy..." Past record is not necessarily a predictor of future performance, especially when you're dealing with the young.

A final thought. How odd that, in the race to be non-judgmental over teaching children the difference between right and wrong, we have turned to a system that institutionalises another, more telling, form of prejudice.

Short Caught

Richard Perle kicks Claire Short's arguments into touch. This is great:

It is possible that bin Laden had poverty in mind when he plotted the destruction of the men, women and children who boarded planes or went to their offices on September 11, but he has never said so. I think that is because no one but Miss Short would have believed him. For nowhere in the lunatic ramblings on Al-Jazeera television has bin Laden or his apologists had the nerve to say "We did it for the poor". And there is no evidence that his admirers, poor or otherwise, believe he acted to lift them from privation.

No, Miss Short's international consensus is something else: the preferred cliche of ministers of international development. I am all for trying to alleviate poverty - not because I believe it will make us safer, but because it is the decent thing to do. But we won't succeed in eliminating poverty soon. And while we are waiting, I hope Miss Short will forgive me if I say I would like to begin by eliminating Osama bin Laden.


The Sunday Telegraph eloquently dissects arguments being advanced by the Blairite regime in favour of European integration. It points out the significant difference between power and authority. Incidentally, I am always amazed by the fact that no-one points out the most significant consequence for Britain of such integration: in a Europe with an integrated foreign policy, Britain (and France, for that matter) will almost certainly have to give up her permanent seat on the UN Security Council in favour of the EU. Increase of influence? Hardly.

This is consequential for the US. America has gained significant moral authority in the current conflict by not being the only power taking action. But EU integration will almost ertainly strip away Britain from America's side, leaving America to act alone with an unbearably preachy EU lecturing America on its actions while still sponging off the US for its own defence. It is hard to see how Blair cannot see this, and the Telegraph spells it out in terms Blair could understand:

Curiously, no one has done more in recent months to demonstrate the importance of keeping our final decision-making authority than Mr Blair. The support he has offered President Bush since September 11 goes far beyond that of any other EU member; in some European countries (Greece being only the most extreme example) the popular stance towards America has been not shoulder-to-shoulder but thumb-to-nose. If British sovereignty, including the final decision-making authority over British diplomacy and the deployment of British military force, had been properly pooled with Europe, Mr Blair's flight-bookers would have been strangely underemployed during the last 10 weeks.

But back to the sovereignty point. It would be useful to resurrect the old Roman concept of imperium, which basically means power based on authority. European integration will necessarily transfer imperium away from the UK.

And to the defeatists who say that Britain is past it and needs to integrate to avoid becoming a third-rate power, we're the 4th biggest econmy in the world, for goodness' sake! And current events are showing that we're a pretty significant military power too.

Why does the EU insist on stuffing Turkey?

Mark Steyn's regular column in the Telegraph gives us Mark's personal thanksgiving list. At the end of a decent column (not up to his usual standard, I think), he raises an excellent question I've asked here:

Turkey has dispatched special forces to Afghanistan and sees itself as a bulwark against Islamic fundamentalism in Turkic-speaking Central Asia. Hey, Euro-whiners, if you're so keen on Islamic outreach, when are you letting Turkey into the EU?

Answer from Brussels: we're never letting those people in. Ugh. Unthinkable.

Judge Dreadful

Shouting 'Cross the Potomac (part of Quasipundit.com) picks up on the fact that there are doubts over whether the Al Qa'eda suspects arrested in Spain will be extradited here if the military tribunal is to apply. Quasipundit misses the identity of the key player in the drama. Baltasar Garzon, the judge who ordered the arrest of these suspects (remember, America, in continental Europe, without benefit of common law, judges conduct criminal investigations and order arrests -- a lovely system the EU wants to foist on Britain and Ireland), is actually a Socialist politician slumming it as a judge while his party's out of power. He was the one who found enough evidence to cause an international crisis by sking Britain to extradite General Pinochet, despite the presence in international law of the principle of sovereign immunity. I'm willing to bet my hat that Garzon would not have ordered these arrests if the President hadn't issued his tribunal order. He seems to want to impose the Code Napoleon on common law countries by legalistic diplomatic means. However, as a continental European socialist politician the odds are pretty good he'll have a skeleton or two in his closet. Perhaps an investigating magistrate in another country could issue a warrant for his arrest...

Friday, November 23, 2001

Terrorising the Terrorists

The Times reports that Delta Force has killed hundreds in Afghanistan. Probably true, although a strategic studies professor friend who's served as a Major in two armies (not as difficult as it sounds, thanks to the British Crown) warns me against believeing all special forces hype. That aside, this would be a great thing. As I mentioned previously, applying terror to the terrorists in their lairs is a wonderful irony that should have Saddam and his compadres shaking in, well, terror.

The end of the beginning?

France and Germany seek EU constitution, reports the Telegraph. This is deeply worrying. For example, the current "Charter of Fundamental Rights," which Keith Vaz (who he, ed?) said would not be justiciable and now is, does not contain a prohibition against self-crimination but does, laughably, contain a "fundamental" right to a free placement service. Moreover, as we all know, constitutions tend to be all about "ever-closer" union and do not contain provisions for secession. I have no doubt that this move was timed by Chirac and Schroder to take Blair down a peg or two. The consolation is that any Constitution will be very difficult to sell in the UK. But there's always a chance that this is being brought forward now partly to put the Euro and Corpus Juris in a less damaging light (this is a tactic Pompey used in the 60s BC, for goodness' sake). This is one to keep a very close eye on.

The law of unintended consequences?

Natalie Solent has some bang-on comments about a little EU directive forbidding the sale of old refrigerators to Africa, on environmental grounds. As she points out, this will probably kill people. I wonder how many Malthusians in the Brussels nomenklatura actually think this might not be a bad thing. Brussels is very much like what washington would be like if the liberal think-tanks controlled both Congress and the Executive, without having to worry about elections. Terrifying, isn't it?

Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Happy Thanksgiving

Talking of lost causes, I'm off to Richmond, Virginia, capital of the greatest lost cause of them all, hem hem, for Thanksgiving. God bless, and enjoy Turkey Day.

Father, dear father

Blacks still haunted by slavery is the headline news from a new BET (Black Entertainment Television)/ CBS news poll. I find more interesting the figures on attitudes towards morality and family life. If true, then perhaps a corner has been turned and the two-parent family will make a comeback, to the benefit of all concerned:

"The only black families that will come near to catching up with whites economically are two-parent families," said Ms. Williams. "The reality is that African-American families are poor if they don't have two parents."

This goes equally for British underclass families, who don't have slavery to blame. Instead, they blame economic conditions and "Thatcher." Of course, they should be blaming Roy Jenkins and Shirley Williams who helped destroy the family and the education system concurrently. The family and a decent level of basic knowledge are essential ingredients for a free and functioning society. It's amazing how few people realise this.

A Yank at Oxford

Josh Chafetz, writing in The New Republic, talks about the dispiriting anti-Americanism at Oxford. No change there, then. I remember hundreds turning out to Oxford Union debates to express their displeasure at American foreign policy during the '80s, in the process supporting some very unsavory regimes. The funniest memory is of a debate where half the Sandinista cabinet turned up. The vice-president, "novelist" Sergio Ramirez, refused to listen to the American speaker, so spoke first and then left the chamber with his gang of cut-throats in tow. He got a standing ovation for this act of stunning arrogance and discourtesy, of course. After the students had had their throw, a young American congressman spoke. He got a standing ovation because his speech deserved it. His name was Newton Leroy Gingrich...

Which just goes to show that Oxonians are not immune to reason, but you have to break down walls of prejudice to get through. Not for nothing is Oxford so often called the Home of Lost Causes.

They think it's all over...

Here's one in the eye for those people who dismiss sports as unimportant: Iranian soccer fans cheer for democracy. It appears that footie is the focal point for the secular young Iranians rebelling against the Islamic Revolution. Pity Niall Quinn and the boys from Ireland put them out of the World Cup, then. But this will bear keeping an eye on. Just as cricket is a tremendous force in Pakistan, football seems to play the role in Iran. Saudi Arabia have qualified for the World Cup finals too, and their team isn't that bad. Panem et circenses* have always helped keep the masses in line, but if the government doesn't approve of the circuses, that government is storing up trouble for itself.

* Duas tantum res anxius optat/ panem et circenses. Only two things does the citizen anxiously desire -- bread and the games, Juvenal, Satires, X, l.80

O Julius Caesar! thou art mighty yet!

According to this report in The Times, bin Laden is planning to follow an ancient western tradition, and fall on his sword rather than be captured:

Bin Laden refuses to allow Americans, or members of the Northern Alliance, to kill him, and also refuses to be taken prisoner by them, because that will be a major defeat for him. So, he has instructed those aides who remain with him until the end to shoot him if he is surrounded by American special forces or the Northern Alliance.

The USA is playing the role of Caesar to Osama's Cassius: "Thy spirit walks abroad, and turns our swords/ In our own proper entrails."

Of course, this shows further that Bin Laden doesn't understand the West at all, in that he gives up his chance to make the West squirm a la the worries about Hitler expressed below. Now were the anthrax letters precisely targeted (to engender maximum panic in the media and Congress) or badly targeted (thinking Brokaw and Daschle were tools of the President)? The answer to that question will reveal whether it was Bin Laden or domestic terrorists at work.

To think, or not to think...

Janet Daley's Daily Telegraph column this week looks at the British proposal to make illegal "incitement to religious hatred." Would this be unconstitutional under the First Amendment's free exercise clause? Possibly -- if it's a central tenet of your religion that, to take a real-life example, the Pope is the antichrist, then the First Amendment surely protects your right to say that. The question, of course, goes further than that:

What this is about, in the end, is the moral limit of state power. Should democratic government limit itself to penalising behaviour that is unacceptable, or should it enforce attitudes that it thinks are desirable? That will probably be the most difficult political question of the new century.

In other words, the battle between freedom and tyranny is moving to thoughts and behaviour. Didn't George Orwell write something about this?

Tuesday, November 20, 2001

Military Tribunals: Pro and Con

I'm been in two minds about the President's military tribunals order. Overall, I think it's been a PR nightmare, an answer to a question no-one has asked yet. Initially my thoughts were heading along the lines of William Safire's famous broadside in the Grey Lady, or this intelligent approach by Joel Mowbray. But those thoughts have been balanced by equally intelligent rationales as set out by Tod Lindberg or this excellent piece by the uproarious Jonah Goldberg.

But the clincher for me has been this excerpt from a piece by British historian Andrew Roberts, which ran in the Sunday Telegraph on 28 October (link disappeared as far as I can tell). It relates the troubles undergone by British authorities when they pondered what to do with those two Corporals, the Corsican and the Austrian, who caused some bother in the past:

After Napoleon surrendered to Captain Maitland of HMS Bellerophon he was taken first to Torbay and then to Plymouth, but was not allowed to set foot ashore because if he did the Tory Government of Lord Liverpool feared that he might become entitled to British habeas corpus, which carried with it the right to a trial by jury before he could be exiled to St Helena.

A constitutional lawyer called Capel Lofft even invoked Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights to argue that Napoleon could not be deported without the due process of a trial and sentence. A farcical situation developed when another lawyer named Anthony Mackenrot attempted to serve a subpoena first on Napoleon and then on Admiral Lord Keith, the commander-in-chief of the Channel Fleet A ludicrous game of cat-and-mouse ensued, with Keith moving from ship to ship in the fleet attempting to avoid Mackenrot's writ.

Politicians were similarly worried during the Second-World War at the prospect of Hitter turning the Nuremberg trials into what Professor Richard Overy, in his recent book, Interrogations: The Nazi Elite in Allied Hands calls "a legal quagmire in which Hitler and his associates might make a great deal of mischief in the absence of a clear body of international law". In July 1942 Anthony Eden, then the foreign secretary, recommended that in the light of the abortive "Hang the Kaiser" movement of 1918,"Hitler and his leading henchmen should just be shot as soon as captured. The guilt of such individuals is so black," he minuted, "that they fall outside and go beyond the scope of any judicial process."

Churchill agreed, arguing in 1944 that the Allies should publish a list of "Hitler, Goering, Himmler and other monsters" who would be shot within six hours of falling into Allied hands. In the end it was due to Stalin's insistence that the leading Nazis went before the international tribunal at Nuremberg, although without the star turn of the Furher.

When, in 1944, plans were devised to put Hitler on trial, it was recognised that he would probably ague that as a head of state he enjoyed immunity from prosecution. While the American military lawyers thought they could get around that plea easily enough, they were more worried by his other likely defences, that his invasions were "lawful acts of war" which were justified by "the crime of Versailles'' in order to achieve legitimate "living space for Germany". The prospect of Hitler standing in the dock and arguing his case before the world was so daunting that British policy-makers were willing to risk anything rather than allow the Furher, as the Lord Chancellor Lord Simon wrote in 1945, to "make himself appear as a martyr".

I like to 'believe that Mr Blair is thinking in that way as he suggests because he appreciates the fears of those earlier European leaders. He realises the awful possibility that the Western world's greatest enemy could submit himself to trial - and escape true justice.

Pretty convincing. Genuinely exceptional circumstances should always be dealt with by exceptional means. It is the routinisation of the exceptional that betells tyranny. Advantage Bush/Blair, for now.

Target: Terror

I missed this somehow. My old drinking buddy Michael Gove sets out a convincing case in The Times why this is a war on terror. Virginia Postrel had argued that a war on terrorism was like a war on tanks, but I think Michael has her answered here:

This must be a war on terror, as an abstract noun and as a universal policy, because our efforts will be unavailing if the lesson is not learnt that to use terror is to see the frustration of all one’s goals. If we grant legitimacy to any of Osama bin Laden’s claims, and adjust our policies to buy a quieter life, all we will have done is pay to advertise our own weakness to every group determined to use terrorist violence to achieve its ends.

Our current approach is precisely the wrong way round. Terrorism must be defeated before we set to work on a new Middle East agreement. Because our prime aim in this war is not a reordering of any part of the globe to satisfy any particular project but a demonstration that no stance we take, however noble or ignoble, can be altered by terror.

Can I be compensated for watching Eastenders?

(I was young...) Libby Purves, a centrist columnist of unusual insight, takes on a fallen culture in The Times. She starts off with the British compensation culture (which has baffled the perspicacious Andrew Hofer) but links it to the rights industry and moaning in general. As a warm-hearted woman, Purves admits to feeling sympathy with working mothers who want to spend more time with their children, but goes on:

But every time some new privilege is granted by law, not only does the incentive to employ young women weaken (why should personnel officers make a rod for their own backs?) but the general culture of rights, complaint, and dependency advances a step. Tens of thousands of individuals believe instinctively that it is their responsibility to manage their lives, that we each have free choices and that part of freedom is the acceptance of duty. They stand alone for as long as they possibly can, and take only what help is unavoidable.

Tens of thousands of parents are proud to square the circle by not sparing themselves, and by curtailing their ambition and their spending. Equally, tens of thousands of people with headaches, bad backs, recurrent nightmares or private griefs put a good face on it and continue to give good value to employer and community while they can. They have the grace to be thankful that they are alive, healthy, and not living under the Taleban.

But their toughness and determination are subtly undermined by the others: by the malingerers, the players of the system, the special-pleaders who renege on clear working contracts, the claimers and blamers who want money for what a sane world would classify as bad luck. It is my instinct that this attitude was dented, quite a bit, by the September shock. I hope so.

This argument clearly applies to the US as well as the UK. I wrote about the British compensation culture some time ago, but the attitude may be universal since the Bobos' victories in the culture wars. I hope Purves is right, and a real war will turn us round.

Technology and Liberty

Robert Harris is the author of Fatherland, probably the most successful alternative (or "counterfactual" as it is called these days) history novel ever. He writes occasionally, and well, for the Daily Telegraph. This column contains two interesting points. First:

Every commentator on this conflict - and I write as one who supports it - seems to have got it wrong. What's frightening isn't the prospect of the Americans becoming bogged down, as in Vietnam; what's frightening is the almost contemptuous ease with which they are winning it.

True, so far. The technological gap has increased so far that this war is the equivalent of those colonial wars where Western troops brushed aside their primitive foes. Of course, we should always remember that incompetence (Little Big Horn), bureaucracy (Isandhlwana) and overconfidence (Gordon in the Sudan) can close that technological gap pretty dem quickly. Reporters who were schooled in Vietnam remember the human elements well but forget the technological gap. This war is to Vietnam what the Second Afghan War was to the First. Let's hope that our leaders are as competent as "Bobs" was.

I am, however, worried by Harris' predictions of technological totalitarianism. The US has maintained its constitutional protections such that it has working safeguards against such an eventuality. The British have acquiesced in the evisceration of their constitution so that the only way to overturn such a regime is by revolution: either peaceful (the election of a truly libertarian-oriented government) or through concerted civil disobedience (which I sincerely hope it never has to come down to).

I find it interesting that once again, it is the gun enthusiasts in the States who are most aware of the last time anything like this happened. Don B. Kates, in his useful book Armed, co-written with Gary Kleck, quotes Edward Gibbon (I Decline and Fall, p. 53), writing about the Roman monarchy, but obviously thinking of his own time:

Unless public liberty is protected by intrepid and vigilant guardians, the authority of so formidable a magistrate will soon degenerate into despotism ... A martial nobility and stubborn commons, possessed of arms, tenacious of property, and collected into constitutional assemblies, form the only balance capable of preserving a free constitution against enterprises of an aspiring prince.

By nobility, Gibbons of course meant local bigwigs rather than Earls per se. The UK no longer has such a body of men, prepared to stand up for their local neighbours. The new nobility is merely a Court Party, a gang of super-rich bohemians who control the commanding heights of the media and legal establishments. The commons is not so much stubborn as disengaged, demoralised by the trashing of their values by that new nobility in the culture wars. Property rights have been quietly done away with, and their assemblies destroyed. Arms? Ha! Is it any wonder that Tony Blair's position is so strong?

Monday, November 19, 2001

With two velociraptors in the yard...

Jonah Goldberg's Goldberg File on National Review Online is always a good read. Today he experiments with the Blog format. Good for you, Jonah! Anyway, one reason why it's such a good read is he always comes up with something liable to make you spit out whatever you're drinking. How about this, today:

For most of the bombing campaign, CNN and the rest of the networks were eager to show footage, either from al Jazeera (Arabic for "a bunch of crap") or from Taliban-escorted junkets, showing Kabul in "ruins." We saw piles of stones and rocks which made it look as if Fred Flintstone's house had been pulverized.

We now know, of course, that all that happened was that Fred and Barney were made to grow beards and Wilma and Betty forced to wear burqas. Now that's a crime against humanity...

The Anglosphere Media Market

Readers of my Brit-site Conservative Revival will know that I'm a great fan of OpinionJournal.com's Best of the Web Today feature. Today's is especially interesting from my mid-Atlantic perspective (Glug).

Fully nine of the links in this issue point to UK-based media sources. If nothing else, this war is fusing the online media of the US and UK into a single market. The UK's news market conditions (highly competitive) drive a search for exclusives, which means the UK media is more likely to break news than even CNN (how ten years ago that network is). I'd like to see how the UK news websites' traffic figures have done recently.

In any event, given the habits of the average surfer, this is unlikely to assuage much after the war is over. This could be the beginning of a whole new media age.

The Sun Also Rises

Never thought I'd link to this tabloid rag, but the "trenchant" Richard Littlejohn has some good points to make about the UK Lord Chancellor's son's problems in The Sun.

The Lord Chancellor is an odd office, combining parts of the Attorney-General's, Chief Justice's and Vice-President's duties in the US context. It is therefore understandably a powerful one, with a major say in the consideration of new legislation. If the Lord Chancellor's son is addicted to cannabis, then, some questions have to be asked about his Government's moves to decriminalize it. Moreover, Littlejohn is right to ask why a prominent Law Officer did not alert the police to his son's use of a drug classified as so dangerous by the law. This is not a private matter. It is very, very public. It is therefore disgraceful that, at a time when the need for a UK version of the First Amendment is so obvious, the Government has sought to restrict free speech by importing a right to privacy that has been used to cover up corruption in France. Once again, the European Convention on Human Rights is the villain (I feel like a broken record here).

Tangled Webs

Anyone who's ever had to grapple with a problem caused by judges extruding new rights from the text of justiciable documents will appreciate the mess in the UK at the moment. This excellent Times piece by Earl Howe shows just one of the reasons why the UK government is taking such a perverse approach to civil liberties. We can't deport people suspected of terrorism thanks to a right invented by the European Court of Human Rights and attached to Article 3, from which there can be no derogation or suspension. So they're having to restrict Habeas Corpus, because they can suspend Article 5, where those rights are spelled out.

The European Convention on Human Rights and its bastard children have got to go.

Sunday, November 18, 2001

Occam's razor, people...

Clergy threatened by 'violent' middle classes, finds a new study, according to the Sunday Telegraph. Well, aside from the possibility that this was a self-selecting sample ("1,300 responses" doesn't suggest much confidence in the representativeness), the study seems to suffer from the usual academic problem of over-analysis and bias:

"We found examples of middle-class parishioners who were abusive at the very least if they couldn't get their way with regard to making arrangements for baptisms or weddings. It is caused by an increasingly assertive consumerism and a decline in public deference and trust in public figures."

No, it is caused by selfishness and a failure to realise that attacking people, public figure or not, is wrong. Why is "consumerism" necessarily wrong or harmful? A philanthropic consumer is unlikely to go around threatening vicars. Perhaps the Consumers' Association should say something...

Vires Publici

The Romans had a pretty clear distinction between public and private life, which the Anglo-American tradition inherited. A vir publicus was subject to a wholly different set of duties and judgements than the vir privatus. It was a conscious choice. The usual crop of equivocators have blurred this line in both the US and UK. But Melanie Philips, the former liberal turned cultural conservative, sees through this foolishness. Geraldo Rivera, for one, should read her Sunday Times column today.

The crux of the matter (she's dealing mostly with the improprieties of the new Scottish First Minister in employing and promoting his mistress) is this:

Isn’t this all just so much prying and prurience, pandering to an interested public rather than serving the public interest? But public and private cannot be separated like this. The character of those in public life is important and their private behaviour sheds light on that character. It wasn’t so much McConnell’s affair that has raised eyebrows but the way he chose to handle it.

Exactly. That's why the Clinton impeachment was not "about sex" and why we can't "just move on". You can't be a public man and expect private treatment. The Romans realised that. If the French have forgotten it, that's another reason to reject their culture.

With friends like these...

Al-Qa'eda massacre Taliban, reports the Sunday Telegraph. Oh dear. When "Bomber" Harris announced the massive bombing of German civilian targets to the British people he said, "They have sown the wind. Now they shall reap the whirlwind." Amen.

Now you see them...

The Sunday Times (not simply the Sunday edition of The Times, but a separate paper with different editors, and historically very incisive and reliable) is reporting that we've narrowed the hunt for Bin Laden down to a 30 square mile area. May be disinformation, but it's possible, if we have indeed got useful information from captives.

What I find more interesting about this report is the way it gets across the shadowy nature of the US/UK operations on the ground. The way it seems is that you never know where Brits or Americans are going to pop up. This is great. The terrorist's advantage has always been his covert nature. Now, it seems, he can never be sure that we're not going to show up in his back yard without warning. That, with any luck, is terrifying for them. And for Saddam, Assad and the rest...

As for Bin Laden himself, if these reports are true, I see four possible scenarios:
1. He attempts to escape by helicopter, and is shot down. We are left with no real proof that the charred corpse is his (except possibly for his unusual tallness).
2. We catch him and he is shot (or blown up) while resisting arrest, or "while resisting arrest". This probably my preferred option.
3. US forces catch him and he is brought before the military tribunal. No televised procedings, apart from the sentence, with any luck, depriving him of the platform he'd crave. With any luck, the academics will protest against the treatment of this monster, so further reducing their status in the eyes of the American people.
4. He attempts to, and succeeds in, escaping. If what they say about the total surveillance is true, I'd find this unlikely. I don't think he'd last long in Pakistan, even in the North-West Frontier. I'd imagine he'd try to get to Somalia, whereupon this all starts again.

Variant 3a is possibly the most complicated scenario -- UK forces catch him. If we admit it, I imagine Blair would have to use some aspect of the Royal Prerogative to hand him over without interminable court procedings from Death Penalty opponents. This could lead to a severe crisis in the Labour Party. So that's good, then. If the courts somehow manage to intervene, there could be a crisis for the Special Relationship. I imagine Blair would want to avoid this, and so we'd probably hand him over in Afghanistan.

What if Bin Laden surrenders to the UK publicly, and claims asylum...?

Friday, November 16, 2001

Free to, or free from

Jennie Bristow's wide-ranging spiked-liberties article, 'We can never be safe - but at least we can be free' takes a useful look at the difference in attitudes to civil liberties between the US and the UK. The frame is an interview with Nadine Strossen of the ACLU, but stick with it. Here's an important point:

We do not have an ACLU in Britain, and we do not have a First Amendment. What we do have is a movement among some civil liberties campaigners calling for a formal, written Constitution or a Bill of Rights, that enshrines exactly what rights we do have. This simplistic legalism ignores the obvious problem: that today's society is more suspicious of liberty than the Founding Fathers were, and any attempt to formalise the rights we do have in the UK is more likely to be a codification of the liberties that we do not have, or those that are open to qualification. Just contrast the US First Amendment with the Human Rights Act of 1998 - now incorporated into British law - which defends free expression with so many exceptions and qualifications that there is little 'free' about it at all.

Which is what I've been saying for some time about rights conventions drafted after 1945. Because they choose to frame them in terms of rights we do have, they leave themselves open to ifs and buts. Part of the genius of the Bill of Rights 1689 and then Mason's and Madison's draftings was to phrase rights as what government must not do to citizens. It should be fairly easy to draw up a Charter of Rights in such negative terms.

And if we take the US Bill of Rights as almost exactly where the rights of free-born Englishmen stood in 1776, we can easily see how much under threat those ancient rights currently are in the UK. See this post on Conservative Revival for my assessment of the situation. It's not good.

These polls begin to pall...

My friend Roger Mortimore, one of the UK's foremost polling authorities, has an excellent column, Polling British Muslims, on the MORI website. His comments put the findings of polls showing considerable hostility from British Muslims into question. The latest poll, which found large numbers that thought Osama bin Laden was justified in launching his terrorist campaign, comes in for this stinging criticism:

The survey uses a method called “snowballing”: starting from a small but conventionally drawn sample (consisting of Muslims previously interviewed by ICM in other surveys), it then asks respondents to provide contact details for further interviews. The obvious difficulty is that by getting respondents to name their friends and relatives who become respondents in their turn, it is highly likely to generate clusters of similar opinions – especially where the survey is on a subject which is almost certainly a virtually universal topic of conversation and discussion. With the best will in the world, one can hardly expect an interviewee who is, say, strongly against the war and has chosen to express that opposition by answering a survey, to name further candidates for interview without considering what responses they are likely to give. Furthermore – and this would be a problem whatever the sampling method – there are cultural difficulties in that many Muslim families retain a patriarchal tradition, and interviews can only be obtained from the men. It may well be unrealistic to assume that opinion in such households is genuinely unanimous, but if the women are not prepared or allowed to express their views, we shall never know. Nor from ICM’s survey will we discover the view of those Muslims in Britain whose command of English is insufficient to answer the survey.

I'm not sure we should pay any credence to any poll numbers on "Muslim opinion" until the polling companies solve the sampling problem.

Democracies and War

UPI Columnist Jim Bennett (I must link to his next column), draws my attention to Spencer R. Weart's book, Never at War: Why Democracies Will Not Fight One Another (1998, Yale U. Press, New Haven). He call it:

An important piece of research into the historical case for the "democratic argument against war". His distinction between democracies and oligarchies, and research into its historical implications, is an original refinement of that argument. He mentions but does not elaborate on the fact that democracies tend to form "permanent leagues" with each other, which become important actors in international relations.

This is an important point. NATO is one form of permanent league, the EU another and the Commonwealth a third. It is my strong belief that the EU's current direction will take it away from being a permanent league of democracies and make it a single oligarchy. The ramifications are obvious, in this context.

Jim goes on:

It sheds some light on why democracies consent to initiate war, and why democracies never initiate war against each other. (You have to understand his distinction between "democracies" and "oligarchies" to make sense of that claim.) Briefly, it is that democracies can use essentially the same probelm-resolution systems and habits they use internally with other democracies, but not with oligarchies or tyrannies. Incidentally, he finds that oligarchies never make war on each other, either, for the same reasons.

Useful stuff. Must pick it up.

The Cyprus Question

Everyone hoped this would go away. Now it's back, in a big way. As I mention below, Turkey is an important player in the current crisis. It seems to realise that. As this AP report -- Turkish Cypriot State Has Anniversary -- makes clear, the Turks seem determined to force the issue. Threats of war between two NATO countries are not to be dismissed lightly.

What is to be done? The Turks regard both the UN and EU as in hock to the Greeks on the issue (with some justification in the EU's case). The original 1960 Treaty on Cyprus was signed by the Greeks, Turks and British, who still have some sovereign territory on the island. It may be time for Tony Blair to come out to bat. In many ways, the issue should be simpler than Northern Ireland, for example. After all, there are (as far as I'm aware) virtually no Turks in Greek Cyprus and no Greeks in Turkish Cyprus. And, although the Turks were guilty of rape, murder and aggressive invasion, the Greeks had systematically deprived the Turks of rights previously -- neither side has anything to be proud of.

However, I'm not sure how strong the "ennosis" (?) movement for Greece-Cyprus unification is at the moment, but that will surely be an issue as well, given the Turkish position that Cypriot accession to the EU amounts to unification.

Turkey gave Cyprus to Britain in recognition for its help in vacating the Treaty of San Stefano (the original "peace with honour," as Disraeli put it). Now is the time for Britain to try to acheive peace with honour again. And she needs to do it quickly...

Meanwhile, in Europe...

Le Grand Frere will be watching you shortly. According to this article on the multinational but admittedly euroskeptic EUobserver site, the Belgian Minister of Home Affairs is worried that planned new EU-wide judicial powers run the risk of creating an "Orwellian" situation. Given that the Belgians are probably the most centralist force in Europe, I find that incredibly worrying.

But it goes on. EUobserver also quotes the Danish newspaper Politiken, which seems to be generally Euroskeptic, as reporting that "politicians and commentators, who advocate racist and xenophobic view points, risk being arrested and handed to another European Union member state, where laws on such matters are far stronger." Nor does it seem that the "crime" itself has to be committed in the country issuing the warrant:

Politicians and commentators do not have to express such views abroad in order to avoid getting into conflict with racism legislation in other member states, according to legal experts, writes the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. Opinions printed in a foreign newspaper or on the internet can be sufficient as a way of breaching other countries racism legislation.

A prosecuting office within any European Union member state can issue an arrest warrant, obligating the police in all other member states to find and arrest the suspect, under the European arrest warrant proposal being discussed on Friday in Brussels.

Personally, I wouldn't shed much of a tear if certain people got severely punished in this way, but I would shed many for the implied loss of the Freedom of Speech. And it's not unreasonable to think that these proposals might have more ramifications than just for freedom of speech. Abortion is illegal in several European countries (such as Ireland). Could these proposals be used by zealous prosecutors to punish women going abroad to seek abortions? An extreme case, but it would seem possible.

Yet another example of the EU putting the cart before the horse on the ground that people are less scared of the cart. You can't avoid injustices like the ones described above without having a common judicial code (as it is, this gives a de facto judicial code of a combination of the most draconian laws in Europe). But peoples all over Europe, especially in the UK and Ireland, would resist that. So introduce the arrest warrant first and force the issue.

The case for re-negotiation of the various EU treaties grows stronger every day. As Lord Howell has said, suggesting this should not make the hard-line eurofanatics foam at the mouth. Euroskeptics in Britain have long been characterized as extremists. Unfortunately, it's now all too obvious who the real extremists are.

Thursday, November 15, 2001

De Innocentia

Some time ago, a friend of mine in the UK, who is a Christian pacifist, sent me this quote from an unlikely source:

Of course the people don't want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don't want war: neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.

(Herman Goering)

I had just thinking about this sort of topic on the way in to work. How much are peoples responsible when it comes to war or violence? Goering is, of course, wrong, and he knew it. The common people often do want particular wars, all the more so in democracies, which generally don't go to war unless a majority support it. This tends to happen when a country is actually attacked, or one of its allies is attacked. Who told America it was being attacked? Bush? No, it was CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, every radio station in the country. America knew it had been attacked before a single government official said so.

But even populations led by tyrants can unleash agressive tendencies not directly manipulated by their leader. Germany is a real case in point, which is why so many historians talk about the strange "mass psychosis" suffered by the German people in choosing Hitler to be their leader and then supporting him for so long.

But if we recognise that peoples whose leaders are tyrants or despots may have a degree of innocence, then we are left in a very odd position. We can legitimately go to war with other democracies because their peoples have voted for the war, but we are in a
trickier ethical position with tyrants, because the people may not want to support them. But democracies generally have no reason to go to war with other democracies, yet they have plenty of reason to go to war with tyrants. This is why rules of war become so important, but when the other side refuses to play by them what do you do?

The other question is how far does the responsibility lie on the people of the tyrant's land to get rid of the tyrant? History is full
of examples of oppressed peoples rising up and freeing themselves. But sometimes the people don't mind the tyrant, often for religious reasons, and then you have to ask how far they share the guilt for the deeds performed by the tyrant. I say this particularly because I have a picture in an old newspaper open in front of me of a seething crowd of young women in Indonesia, heads covered, but an unmistakable hatred burning in their eyes, chanting what are presumably anti-American slogans, because several of them have tied hand-written bandanas around their headscarves, bearing the slogan "Go to Hell USA," which presumably means rather more to them than it does to the secular west. If Indonesian terorists launched attacks on Australia (not beyond the realm of possibility), would we be right in saying that these young women are innocent? I don't think so. Remember also all the many, many children involved in riots in Palestine. Is every one of their mothers simply brow-beaten by the father (or Yasser Arafat, by Goering's logic) into allowing them out, or are they also glad that their children are risking death by throwing rocks at the Israelis, and encouraging it? An innocent act? How can we describe as innocent a culture that will gladly, with the approval of the mother,
thrust an automatic rifle into the arms of a child and order him to go out and commit what, by any measure, must be described as hate crimes?

I don't have the answers to these questions, but I think they have to be asked.

Who do you think you are kidding, Mullah Omar...

Anatole Kaletsky has an excellent article in today's Times of London summing up what the collapse of the Taliban means. "Dynamist" Virginia Postrel has the link at her site together with some important addenda. The "war on terrorism" is a war on states that use and support terror. However entrenched they are, however repressive their regimes, they will not be able to stand up to a fraction of the military might that the US-UK alliance will throw at them. The Taliban stand (or rather, fell) as a dreadful lesson to those rulers. If there is decent evidence linking any state to Bin Laden and his gang of thugs, then that state too shall suffer. Dictatorships shall fall until they renounce terror forever. That is the only exit strategy we need from this war.

There will continue to be terrorists without state support, but their reach will be small and the damage they do will not approach the level we saw on September 11.

And all of us, American, Afghan, Pakistani, Briton, Indian, European, Israeli, Jordanian, shall sleep safer in our beds for that.

Anti-humanitarian Humanists

Interesting book review in The Chronicle of Higher Education. I've long said that conservatives should look to Venn, Wilberforce and the rest as examples of how conservatives, for solid, traditional reasons, led the way in the abolition of slavery. Now David Levy widens that point in his new book, How the Dismal Science Got Its Name: Classical Economics and the Ur-Text of Racial Politics (University of Michigan Press). He points out that the "humanist" heroes of the left like John Ruskin were, well, a bunch of racists, while the laissez-faire economists were the champions of the downtrodden:

As he sees it, the debate over the humanity of black people crystallized the differences in outlooks. He notes with disciplinary pride that when the Victorian intelligentsia split, in the 1860s, over the colonialists' brutal treatment of black people in Jamaica, the economists sided with religious radicals. They condemned the island's notorious Governor Eyre, who had suppressed a budding protest movement, killing hundreds and maiming many others. John Stuart Mill was chair of the anti-Eyre Jamaica committee. The "literary sages," meanwhile, defended Eyre. Carlyle led the defense team.

Carlyle was a notorious reactionary. Raymond Williams made a point of noting, and dissenting from, his fetishism of hierarchy and calls for "great" men to lead the benighted masses. But Mr. Levy points out that Hard Times, by the almost universally respected Dickens, is dedicated to Carlyle, and he argues that you can read considerable support for Carlyle's conservatism and racism into that homage. (Dickens's stated view was that black people should be slowly trained for freedom, not immediately emancipated. Ruskin, meanwhile, ridiculed agitation for black emancipation and protection as a distraction from the far more significant problem of the exploitation of white workers.) During the debates in the 1860s, a "terrible clarity came on the world," Mr. Levy writes. And the humanists were not on the side of humanity.

Perhaps Lord Taylor of Warwick would like to comment?

Counterfactual Headlines

Rep. Gary Condit subpoenaed for documents related to missing intern, reports the Associated Press. Just a few weeks ago, Fox News Channel, CNN and the rest would have had a field day with this. Now I doubt they'll mention it at all.

This all makes me think, what would today's headlines have been absent the terrorist attacks? How about these:

New York Times

Bush, Supreme Court Under Pressure Over Florida Recount
The revelation that former Vice-President Gore might have won Florida given a fair recount pushed two branches of government close to crisis yesterday...

Washington Times

Condit to Resign Today
Sources suggest that Gary Condit is to resign his seat in the House following further damaging revelations indicating he obstructed the course of justice...

The Times

Tory Leader "Lightweight"
Sources close to the Prime Minister are describing Iain Duncan Smith MP, the leader of the Conservative Party, as a "lightweight with no experience in government," The Times learned yesterday...

The Guardian

Apologize to the Palestinians!
The Guardian today calls on Tony Blair to apologize to the Palestinian people for the Balfour Declaration, which unleashed the scourge of Zoinism on the world...

Actually, I can see one of those headlines coming true soon. Can you guess which one?

Why Blair is better than Clinton

Important article in the Spectator about the role of former Chief of the Defence Staff, Sir Charles Guthrie, in making Tony Blair into a decent wartime leader. I'd always assumed that Blair and Clinton were exactly alike, but I'm prepared to give Blair some credit here:

Early on, Charles Guthrie took Mr Blair to Bosnia. The PM was not only convinced of the need for a UK presence; he enjoyed the company of the soldiers. Old prejudices rapidly fell away. If he had ever thought he would be dealing with the 5th Bengal Pigstickers in their mess at Poona c. 1905, he now knew better.

Clinton never went throught this conversion. Could fault be laid at the Joint Chiefs' door? Possibly, but here's another difference between Balir and Clinton. Blair really does believe he's doing things for the good of humanity, and is therefore susceptible to having his eyes opened. It happened on nuclear disarmament, on the economy and now on the role of the military. We'll make a true conservative of him yet, boys.

Islamic Orthodoxy

Useful article on Turkey by Professor Norman Stone in the latest issue of The Spectator. Stone, in that wonderfully concise manner of his, briefly summarises how Turkey has managed to remain a secular Islamic state, and provides some valuable insights into the conflicts within Islam:

Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations made quite an impact in Turkey. It is not really very good; one of those books whose title is more interesting than the contents. The real clash of civilisations is within Islam. In the great days of empire the Ottoman sultans had a relaxed form of religion in which monogamy, wine, architecture of genius, Christian wives and helpers, and music that owed much to Byzantium had their part.

As this suggests, Stone feels that the mixture of Islamic and Orthodox Christian subjects under the Sultanate pushed Islam in Turkey in a way that enabled it to secularize relatively successfully. He is right to emphasize its role in a future settlement in the northern Islamic world.

This is, of course, another area in which the EU is a positive hindrance. Because of Greece's influence in the EU and the ongoing Cyprus problem, the EU is less than friendly to Turkey, which has aspired to membership for far longer than others likely to be admitted before it. If the EU were a simple trading bloc, rather than the nascent "superpower" its President wants it to be, then this would not be much of a problem. As it is, the EU needs to get its house in order, fast.