England's Sword 2.0

Monday, December 10, 2001

And so it begins...

This could be the first of many. According to The Times, a Labour MP has deserted to the Liberal Democrats over the war on terror. He didn't put it like that, though:

"Labour’s let people down. But there is an effective alternative. Having thought about this over many months, I am convinced that the Liberal Democrats stand for honest and credible policies which can change this country for the better.

“The values which I find most important in politics are tolerance and integrity. I have experienced enough Labour intolerance in recent weeks to last a lifetime.

"I want to belong to a party which encourages debate and practises genuine internal democracy. Tony Blair is behaving in an increasingly arrogant and presidential manner. His party believes in threats and intimidation to crush internal dissent.”

But this is good. The Lib Dims are regarded by many in middle England as a comfy, Centrist party that's good on local issues. In fact, they're a bunch of extreme Left nutjobs who'd regard Nader as a corporate shill. The more Left-wing Labour MPs join them, the less they'll be able to sustain that illusion, which will be good news for the Conservative Party, and therefore the UK as a whole.

Ce n'est pas la realite, c'est la France

Shocking story in the Christian Science Monitor: France debates right not to be born. This isn't about abortion, this is about something far more important:

PARIS -- The first thing doctors asked Willemijn Forest, after she gave birth last year to a baby boy diagnosed with Down syndrome, was whether she wanted to keep her child.
"After the delivery, they took him away immediately, assuming I did not want to see him anymore," says the Dutch woman who lives in Marseilles, the country's second-largest city. "I said of course I want to keep him. I was so appalled by their attitude."

These days, Forest, like many other parents here who have children diagnosed with mental disabilities, is no longer shocked. Last week France's highest appeals court ruled that children with Down syndrome have a legal right never to have been born and could sue doctors that attended the pregnancy.

There seems to be an attitude that one is entitled to fulfillment of everything one desires, and if one cannot achieve that, then one can take action against someone or other who is to blame. This is the logical extention of that attitude. How long before it becomes official EU policy? And how long then before Baltasar Garzon decides to try an American doctor for this "crime"?

New America, Old Story

Curious piece in the Washington Post (Big Thinker) about the New America Foundation. Professional courtesy precludes me from saying what I think about the place, but see how it shattered the mould. After all,

... most local think tanks are either hopelessly ideological or are larded with older scholars and policymakers who needed a place to flop between White House jobs.

According to Halstead, this leaves a crop of promising young thinkers "intellectually homeless." Or they were before New America.

Jolly good. Let's hear about the sort of dynamic new person edging out those policymakers "flopping" between administrations:

Other fellows come from academia or government never having written an opinion piece for a major publication. Karen Kornbluh joined the foundation after serving as deputy chief of staff to then-Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin.

Oh. But they're progressive, so it's allowed.

A New Fallacy!

I think it's official that the comparison of some argument to the Taliban mentioned here before has now become a sub-genre of the Straw Man fallacy. Let's call it the argumentum Talibanum.

Latest example, which shows how far it has ingrained itself in academic circles, appears in this article,
Workaholic Wives and Their Sick Husbands, in Richard Morin's often excellent "Unconventional Wisdom" column in the Sunday Washington Post.

The article is about a study that appears to show that the health of husbands of wives who work more than 40 hours a week suffers, while the reverse is not true.

An earlier version of his study, circulated more than a year ago, sparked controversy and a brief flurry of publicity after Stolzenberg summarized it at academic workshops. Some observers concluded that his findings argue strongly for a return to traditional sex roles. (One colleague, in a pre-Sept. 11 quip, asked, "So the Taliban are right?")

Let's see how stupid this argument is. The Taliban are presumably disapproving of murder. So therefore, laws against murder amount to the "Talibanization" of justice. QED.

I think that anyone who advances the argumentum Talibanum should be answered with a very loud, very wet raspberry. Preferably right in the face.

Conspiracy to pervert the course of information

Indebted again to Instapundit for drawing this Slate article to our attention:

Pipe Dreams - The origin of the "bombing-Afghanistan-for-oil-pipelines" theory. By Seth Stevenson

What's most interesting about this excellent review of how one conspiracy theory ("we're only supporting the Taliban to protect oil pipelines") turned into the reverse ("we're only attacking the Taliban to protect oil pipelines") is tracing the spread of the meme:

LA Weekly -- Village Voice -- Russian TV -- TomPaine.com -- The Hindu -- Taliban ambassador -- LewRockwell.com -- Green Party USA -- The Guardian -- Channel 4 News -- The Mirror

What a tangled web...

Perhaps he'll throw himself off a yacht?

Thanks to Matt Drudge, we know that Bob Maxwell's old organ, The Mirror, a British tabloid with a Blairite outlook and none of the redeeming features of The Sun, has broken the news that Osama in planning to kill himself, live on TV:

His estranged wife Sabiha said last night he would order his elder sons to shoot him rather than be captured.

Sabiha, 45, added: "That will be the signal for a new wave of terror. The targets this time would be the Capitol building in Washington, Big Ben in London and the Eiffel Tower in Paris."

Her claims were broadcast on Russian television as al-Qaeda boss bin Laden reportedly led 1,000 loyalists into forests in Afghanistan after being flushed out of his Tora Bora caves.

Let's just check the provenance of this story, shall we? An estranged wife who hasn't seen her former husband for, well, at least 3 months, Russian TV (plenty of sensationalism in that medium) and a British tabloid. Credibility rating: 5%.

And they're going to blow up a bell (Big Ben)? Put Philadephia on high alert. Unless, of course, she means St Stephen's Tower...

Saddam: the indictment

Supposing bin Laden was Saddam's junior partner is the question asked by Alan Judd in this interesting Telegraph essay. He mines extensively from the seam of Laurie Mylroie's book War Against America, and it certainly seems there is a case to answer:

What her argument amounts to is that, by treating the WTC bombing and subsequent terrorist acts as purely criminal issues, the Clinton administration left Americans exposed to further terrorism by anyone who realised that, so long as there was no obvious state involvement, there would be no retribution. It was, in the words of one American ambassador, "the mistake of the century".

Does Mylroie's argument stand up? It seems that Saddam Hussein's smoking gun was there on September 11. The bombers, like Osama bin Laden himself, had exactly the connections with Iraqi intelligence and its Sudanese proxies that you would expect if Saddam were their helpful but elusive big brother.

The focus on treating terrorism as a criminal act is echoed in this Steve Chapman column:

You could try enemy soldiers in civilian courts, of course. Everything they do in combat falls into some category of the criminal code — homicide, assault, trespassing, and who knows what else. You could regard the Wehrmacht as just an oversized German street gang, to be dealt just as we deal with any other street gang. President Bush has provoked a storm of criticism by authorizing special military tribunals to try terrorists caught in our war against al Qaeda. Some of the complaints, dealing with the specific rules and procedures that the administration proposes, are worth considering. But other gripes seem to miss the crucial point that war is vastly different from law enforcement.

Chapman's analysis is excellent. I think one important point that many, including the often excellent old lefty Nat Hentoff and others on the pro-tribunal side, are missing is that we have court rules for the simple reason that the offenses they deal with are offenses within a community. Justice being seen to be done by agreed means is important for the reinforcement of the community's safety and to reassure the community that it is doing the right thing. Open court is an important part of this. But when the community is attacked from without, those rules are not necessary. There are, of course, ways in which communities deal with each other to ensure mutual respect -- which is how we get the Geneva convention -- but those who don't want to be part of such things can be dealt with as we like.

The flip side is, of course, that if members of our community are the enemy, then we really do have to deal with them according to our community's rules. Dealing with sleeper agents by the same means we use to deal with foreign-based terrorists is a worrying development. If my neighbour Mohammed, the Algerian, can be put on trial in this way, then what about my neigbour Jean, the Canadian? Citizenship is too blunt a tool to decide who is picked out and who is not. I say this as a non-citizen, an admirer of the Constitution and from the same liberal tradition who is nevertheless regarded as equal with the Bin Laden supporter for these purposes.

"Liberal at home, conservative abroad" was Palmerston's philosophy in most things. I think it could be adopted as a general principle. And Palmerston would be sending the gunboats into Iraq as we speak.

Up to a point, Lord Blogger

The irrepressible Glenn Reynolds at InstaPundit.Com has a nice point on the role of the House of Lords in filleting Blunkett's "terrorism" bill:

Our own Senate was supposed to play that role -- and did, back before the 17th Amendment turned every Senator in to a Presidential wannabe. Maybe it was a mistake.

This is the point I've made repeatedly here about the Ciceronian "mixed polity." Every government needs, in Gibbon's words, a monarch, "a martial nobility" and "a stubborn commons." That nobility has to be regionally-based, defending regional interests, (viz Montesquieu) or it's just a Court Party under another name, with all the factional infighting and succession-planning that involves. Madison, Jay and Hamilton understood this. Blair, Harold Wilson, and whoever drafted the XVIIth amendment do not.

One slight problem with the Reynolds post though:

UPDATE: Martin Pratt says the hereditary peers were all kicked out in '99. Oh, I thought they were just being allowed to die off. Now they're lifetime "life peers" instead. The 17th Amendment point still holds, though.

Not quite. There are 96 hereditary peers left, elected from amongst their own number. They will go if Blair has his way and, if memory serves me right, be replaced by 60% of the chamber appointed by the Government of the day. Can you say "rubber stamp"?

Sunday, December 09, 2001

Brave Indeed

This Telegraph editorial, Balkanising Britain, on Blunkett's immigration comments, is remarkably brave, because it says something I have not seen in repectable print for many years:

When someone describes himself as a multi-culturalist, he rarely means that he accords equal respect to arranged marriages or sharia law. What he really wants is a society in which no one much values anything. And, by and large, he is getting it.

Consider, for example, the unrest that troubled Oldham and other towns earlier this year. To talk of riots between Muslims and Christians would be a travesty: hardly any of the boys involved could have quoted a single hadith or a single psalm.

These, rather, were the deracinated products of a "multi-cultural" state school system. White or Asian, they had been given little grounding in the values of any civilisation. Accordingly, they grouped themselves in the most primitive and tribal way: by skin colour.

Multiculturalism simply breeds racism and demoralization in all its constituent cultures. Many wonderful roses may grow from the ashes of 9/11, but the death of multiculturalism will be one of the sweetest-smelling of them all.

Under the Table Extradition

Official: UK opposes execution of bin Laden - December 9, 2001, reports CNN. I wrote an op/ed about this 6 weeks ago, but no-one was interested in publishing it, worse luck. I'd be interested to see a poll about how popular this decision is -- up to 75% of the British public want the death penalty restored under certain circumstances. Of course, that is now impossible unless we repudiate the European Convention on Human Rights (as I believe we should).

However, one of the reasons why I think the US is content to see UK troops on the ground is this:

But another British official, who asked to remain anonymous, said the extradition debate may be irrelevant. If British troops capture bin Laden alive, the U.K. military would in all likelihood hand over the al Qaeda leader directly to the United States, the official said.

Jolly good. Whatever the politicians say, the troops know who their friends are.


Immigrants 'to take citizen classes' reports the Beeb. Has the penny dropped finally? Well, perhaps, but there's a long way to go. As the Beeb says,

... liberals are likely to attack any aspect of the changes that could harm multiculturalism.

The citizenship classes in the US are accompanied by tests on history and culture that many Americans admit they would find hard to pass.

Comment: erm, well, isn't this an indictment of the education system...?

Ajmal Mofroor, London branch president of the Islamic Society of Britain, said he was a "bit sceptical" about the idea.

English classes for immigrants were a good idea but "to talk about classes to make citizens more contributory citizens of Britain is something controversial - we would like to know what that means", he told the Today programme.

My guess: citizenship classes will be about egalitarianism and so on, and the exams will test people on their willingness to pay higher taxes.

Just a thought...

Just Desert (sic)

Occasionally I see something on the web that makes me jump up an yell, "Yes!!!". Normally this is when Sunderland beat some jumped-up London club 3-0. Tonight, however, I saw something on Libertarian Samizdata that almost woke up the wife and baby:

[Perry reports] I just saw over on Muslimpundit that Robert Fisk was attacked and beaten up by a mob in Pakistan. My heart bleed for him. Not. You may be sure he will try to find some way of blaming the US for what happened. Fisk and his dismal newspaper, the oh so ironically named Independent, have been amongst my pet hates for rather a long time. A tip of the turban to those guys.

Robert Fisk is one of the biggest Saddam apologists out there. A colleague of mine has debunked his Gulf War Syndrome claims repeatedly. Others have debunked his claims about the numbers of Iraqis 'killed by sanctions". He's a "blame-Britain-first"-type and this is so deserved. "Tear him for his bad verses".

Friday, December 07, 2001

Quizzes should stay where they belong -- in pubs

As readers of this blog have probably guessed, I have distinct libertarian tendencies in some areas. This does not mean I'm a fan of anything libertarians produce. One example is The World's Smallest Political Quiz, currently being referenced by the recommended Canadian blog Daimnation! and the magnificent Andrew Sullivan.

The quiz is just not good enough; a colleague of mine wrote a pretty good dissection of it at the late lamented Technopolitics website. It's disappeared from the archive (along with a few of my articles), but another version is available at the STATS site. You may not agree, but I think these are important points.

PS. Perry de Havilland of Samizdata has another takedown of this quiz. As he points out, these guys are much more socialist than libertarian. As another correspondent points out, possibly the most serious methodological flaw is the absence of any "neutral" answer to the questions. Take the quiz if you want, but I wouldn't hold any store at all by its results.

President's Log

Egad! A White House contact just sent me an e-mail with the following opening sentence:

Below are today's remarks by the President aboard the USS Enterprise.

Visions of Star Trek danced in my head. Of course, this is a ship at Norfolk on Pearl Harbor Day. What the President said was quite moving, this especially:

There is a great divide in our time -- not between religions or cultures, but between civilization and barbarism.... Our war against terror is not a war against one terrorist group. Terrorism is a movement, an ideology that respect no boundary of nationality or decency. The terrorists despise creative societies and individual choice -- and thus they bear a special hatred for America. They
desire to concentrate power in the hands of a few, and to force every life into grim and joyless conformity. They celebrate death, making a mission of murder and a sacrament of suicide. Yet, for some reason -- for some reason, only young followers are ushered down this deadly path to paradise, while terrorist leaders run into caves to save their own hides.

And it looks like those caves are getting a few Quantum Torpedoes down them...

EU Terrorism

According to EUobserver, the Ministers of Justice, Home Affairs and Gestapos of the European Union have arrived at a common definition of "terrorism":

According to the deal, a terrorist activity is an act which "intentionally intends to destabilise or destroy the fundamental political, constitutional, economic and social structures of a country."

Interesting. That's precisely what the EU has been doing to the United Kingdom for almost thirty years...


I meant to comment on this yesterday, but just didn't have time. Luckily, Patrick Ruffini has a nice discussion of the current US Commission on Civil Rights scandal. Basically put, its an apparatchick trying to hold on, illegally, to a place on the Commission in order to maintain a majority. It's the worst style of Soviet Bloc/ British Trade Union politics at work. But how does The Washington Post report it?

White House officials provoked a confrontation with the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights by suddenly swearing in President Bush's new appointee late last night over adamant objections from the commission's chairwoman.

Provoked a confrontation?!? If anyone's provoking a confrontation it's Berry. This is like saying George W provoked a confrontation by winning in Florida! Ye gods. The journalism of attachment is alive and well here in the States.

Let her stay there

Feminist left-winger Jackie Ballard was once talked about as a future leader of the Liberal Democrat party in the UK. Then the good voters of Taunton turfed her out of Parliament. Where is she now?According to this Telegraph story, wearing a headscarf in Iran. She's learnt a lot there:

"I think the big danger of globalisation is that these traditional and innocent cultures get diluted and devastated by western culture," she says. "A lot of western culture is awful. It's a tragedy if it infiltrates other cultures and they lose their individuality."

But doesn't protecting culture amount to censorship if it means deciding what Iranians are allowed to see? She ducks that one. "That's a debate for Iranians to have. It's about censorship and how far you can close the door. But I'm not here as a politician, I'm here as a student. I'm observing, not interfering."

As there are two million Afghan refugees in Iran, and the Teheran government is a bitter enemy of the Taliban, the war is an inescapable subject. She endorses the opposition to the military campaign that she has found in Iran. "I just can't understand how the biggest powers in the world can take on a poor, backward country whose people didn't choose their government."

She's learning so much I think she should stay there. I can think of one or two American politicians like her who should join her...

Should the IRA be the RA?

Meanwhile, up in Canada, the Canadian Islamic Congress accuses the National Post of "stirring up hatred". It must be true, a statistical study says so:

The study purports to be an objective, statistical analysis of the incidence of "anti-Islam terminology." What counts as "anti-Islam terminology"? Apparently, the term "Muslim terrorist" does. Under the CIC's rules, it counts for 80 hate points. So do "Muslim militants" (70 points), "Muslim extremists" (60 points) and "Muslim fundamentalists" (50 points).

The CIC's campaign is not a battle against hate. It is a battle against truth. Pop quiz: What do al-Qaeda, Hamas, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Pakistan's Harakat ul-Mujahidin and Egypt's al-Jihad have in common? Not just that they are made up of people who happen to worship Allah, but that they fight with the explicit aim of destroying secular governments and instating Muslim theocracies. "Muslim terrorist" is therefore an entirely apt term. ...

That fact is reflected in the names the groups pick for themselves. How, we'd like to know, would the CIC have us refer to the Palestinian terrorist group Islamic Jihad? When the group triumphantly claims responsibility for blowing up a disco or a school bus, should we be careful to report the claimant group as "Is***ic Jihad" so as not to promote "stereotypes"? For that matter, how many hate points do we get for using the word "Hamas"? Presumably that group's name is off-limits, too, because it is an Arabic acronym for "Islamic Resistance Movement."

Good point. Have British papers been stirring up hatred against the Irish for all the years they've referred to the self-styled Irish Republican Army? Or is it the terrorists themselves that stir up hatred? Occam's razor, people...

It's that man again!

Berlusconi vetoes EU warrant, reports the Telegraph. Well thank goodness for that! What drove Signor Berlusconi to such an heroic act? Love of civil liberties? Principle? Sovereignty concerns? Errm, no. It appears that he was frightened of landfing up in a Spanish slammer...

European Union diplomats suspect that the astounding move from one of the most pro-EU states was prompted by the personal problems of Mr Berlusconi, its prime minister. He could face extradition charges initiated by Spain, where he has been named in fraud inquiries.

The Italians demanded the exclusion of fraud, corruption and most of the other 32 crimes to be covered by the warrant. Balthasar Garzon, Spain's leading judge, has already asked the Council of Europe to lift Mr Berlusconi's immunity as a member of its assembly, and is reportedly itching to begin a full investigation into the Spanish branches of his business empire.

Yes, Baltasar Garzon, Pincohet-buster, US death penalty-hater, has another Leader in his sights. Let this be a lesson -- if there is ever an international criminal court, this joker could end up being the most powerful person in the world. And there'll be many others ready to take his place should he fall. I wonder who else we're saying this about...

Executive Business

One thing about the British government's approach to the terrorism fight is that it has reintroduced the term "the Executive" into British politics. Take, for example, this Times editorial. Here's a good summary of a point I've made here before:

Clause 110 [of the Terrorism Bill], initially Clause 109, will empower the Home Secretary to use secondary legislation to introduce into British law any criminal statute agreed in conclave with the EU’s justice ministers.

This means that new laws which could imprison British citizens could be rushed through in a 90-minute committee debate, where they are not susceptible to amendment. The executive could pick a pliant majority to push the measure through. There would be no scope for scrutiny by the House of Lords. The Shadow Home Secretary, Oliver Letwin, has rightly pointed out that a Civil War was fought to prevent the Executive introducing legislation under the prerogative power that would put our citizens in jail: “now they will be able to do that in a 90-minute debate”.

After his amazing performance yesterday (ever seen so many Senators deflated at once?), John Ashcroft looks even more a moderate when compared to David Blunkett.

The Marcusian School of Journalism

Simon Jenkins' coulumn in The Times makes chilling reading today. He defends America from its European detractors while conveying a few home truths. But this is particularly worrying:

I have to cite a packed meeting that I chaired last week at London’s City University. It was on media coverage of the war. The hall was filled with hundreds of journalism students and journalists and I confess I was shocked. Hardly a single contribution from the floor was not anti-American. The students agreed with Mr Feaver that the British media “fail to distinguish between news reporting and editorialising”, but flatly disagreed about the direction of the bias. They wanted the opposite bias.

They felt that it was the duty of the press to abandon any professional objectivity, champion the Third World and oppose American military imperialism. The views were little different from those I might have heard in Gaza or Peshawar. The cry was for what is termed “the journalism of attachment”. The structuralism rampant in journalism schools defines war reporting as shot through with coded meaning. There can be no such thing as impartiality. Therefore the media should be statesmen of the new world order — and against America’s war in Afghanistan.

As Jenkins goes on to say, "a dispassionate witness [is] never more vital than in time of conflict." But those who fulfill the duties of the Free Press no longer believe this. If a free press does not seek for objective truth, free from all this structuralist nonsense, then it has betrayed its purpose. Jefferson was all for continuous revolution in order to prevent liberties being corrupted like this. I'd say the time for a revolution in the press was now.

Thursday, December 06, 2001

Friday Morning Armistice

I knew many very funny people at college. One of them is dead. One of them is Deputy Editor of The Times. Another is Armando Iannucci, former host of the hilarious Friday Night Armistice on the BBC, a satirical show that had six Americans slack-jawed in horror at its irreverance a couple of days before Jan 1st 2000. He also used to write a magnificent take-off of Blair's chief spinmeister, Alistair Campbell, every Friday in the Telegraph. he stopped that a few weeks ago, but now he's back, with a new, biting Notebook. it's highly recommended.

Here is his take on John Simpson, the BBC reporter whom the world now knows as "The First Man into Kabul":

[First topic] is John Simpson's triumphal march into Kabul. Most people remember Simpson's controversial claim to have "liberated" Kabul on behalf of the BBC, a claim he's now apologised for and has rather honourably admitted was just a delirious and cack-handed squawk from an over-excited tubby war hack who looks like a melted waxwork of Peter Ustinov. But it's still easy to be hypercritical about his actions. That's because, until Simpson walked in, Northern Alliance forces stayed outside Kabul. They'd been asked to do so by America, Britain and the other forces of the Strike Against Terror (Canada, I think).

He goes on. Mark Steyn is no longer the funniest writer on the war.


Sir John Keegan, historian extraordinaire and defence editor of the Telegraph (can any American paper boast such a staffer?), gives his take on the war to date in Friday's Tephelrag (The Taliban danger has gone, but al-Qa'eda remains). He has some very good points, including:

Many of [the Taliban's] fighters, moreover, though ethnically Pathan, were not the fierce Afghan mountain warriors of Kipling's ballads but town dwellers from Pakistan. Poorly trained and badly equipped, they lacked the quality to conduct protracted operations in conditions of modern warfare.

However, when he comments that this war has so far been shorter than the Second Afghan War, there is one important thing to bear in mind, with only infantry at his command, Lord Roberts of Kandahar, one of my personal heroes (known to his troops as "Bobs"), went from Kabul to Kandahar in two weeks! Beat that, Rumsfeld...

Cropdusters. Hmmm.

Technology of 'Dirty Bomb' Simple, but Not the Execution, explains the Washington Post. I'm very glad someone has written such a sensible takedown of the unsubstantiated fears being generated about dirty nukes, but...

Someone was musing to me about the unique capabilities of cropdusters. We'd all assumed that cropdusters would be used to spread bateriological or chemical weapons over a populated area. But cropdusters have other unique capabilities. They're able to fly steady at very low altitudes and undertake quite spectacular aerobatic twists, turns, climbs and dives. In other words, they'd be perfect for delivering a dirty bomb into an urban setting without being easily detected or shot down. Could this be why the 9/11 evildoers were looking at cropdusters? Just a thought...

The case against DOJ continues...

Interesting quote from Churchill by David Pannick QC in The Times on Tuesday:

In November 1943, the Home Secretary, Herbert Morrison, decided to release the Fascist Sir Oswald Mosley and his wife Diana from detention. The Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, was in Cairo, meeting President Roosevelt. Churchill cabled to express his approval. He observed that “the power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist”.

Can't get much clearer than that, can you? Pannick goes on, with the withering rhetoric of the top barrister:

Some of us retain an old- fashioned preference for imprisoning people only if their criminality can be proved, what [British Home Secretary] Blunkett dismisses as “airy-fairy civil liberties”.

Many of Pannick's arguments apply equally well over here. I go back and forth on this question, but find myself reaching the same conclusion repeatedly: tribunals, violation of attorney-client confidentiality and so are essential for Bin Laden, in the unlikely event we take him alive, and a very limited number of other top brass, but there is no sense in taking the powers so in advance or in such broad terms. If we captured an odious individual and then announced special measures, a few half-wits might complain but most would applaud. Instead, we have created crises of civil liberty on both sides of the Atlantic. That's regrettable.

Killing Me Softly?

Spiked does a great job (Life before death) with the assisted suicide debate. I can't really add much to this conclusion, so here it is in its entirety (italic-free for easier reading...)

"But there are good reasons for suicide remaining a taboo. It is a demoralising act, and often an indictment of those who had been nearest and dearest to the person who has committed suicide. There is also much evidence that people change their minds about committing suicide. Prominent campaigners for the legalisation of euthanasia Annie Lindsell in Britain and 1960s acid guru Timothy Leary in the USA both backed out of suicide in the end and died naturally instead.

"It may be a cliché to say that most suicide attempts are a 'cry for help', but the evidence seems to bear this out. In one US study, less than four percent of 886 attempted suicides went on to kill themselves. We allow a 'cooling off period' in such mundane matters as switching gas suppliers or purchasing insurance, giving us time to really consider our decision. So how long would be an adequate 'cooling off period' in deciding whether or not to go on living?

"The best test of whether somebody really wants to die is whether they do it themselves. If a loved one asks us to help them commit suicide, isn't it best to assume that they are not really ready to go?"

I love the cooling off period analogy...

Spirited Offense

I have another "hotflash" piece up at The American Enterprise Magazine -- Online. This one, which will doubtless move to the archives by Friday, is called "Double-Crossing Over" and essentially puts the boot into "Crossing Over with John Edward." This "medium" was planning to run a show in which he "contacted the dead" of the WTC terrorist attacks. That's the sort of thing that sends shivers down my spine.

Ticked On

One of my wife's favorite movies in "The American President," I kid you not, written by Aaron Sorkin while on crack and in which Clinton-without-the-Clintonness President Michael Douglas triumphs over an evil Republican whose vote-grabbing slogan is "I'm running for President." The sentiment that the Presidency is a noble institution is fine; the politics are apalling. I'm glad that Jay Zilber, at Mind Over What Matters (which I spotted at Samizdata) disses The West Wing for being "so September 10th."

I'm doubly glad that in doing so he also praises "The Tick," the new Fox comedy about useless superheroes (a favorite sub-genre of mine). It's a trifle stylized and therefore will probably get canceled, but it does have some wonderful lines. A couple of weeks ago The Tick was delivering an incomprehensible eulogy at the funeral of America's greatest superhero. When asked if he should stop it, a general replied, "No. I like the cut of his gibberish." Last night, The Tick explained to his sidekick why they were a real team: "You're on first name terms with lucidity. I have to call him Mr. Lucidity."

Well, it amused me, and it's definitely better than The West Wing

Wednesday, December 05, 2001

Afghan Ataturk Watch

Well it seems that Hamid Karzai is indeed the man to watch. According to this story from The Times he's been given a big boost by the Bonn conference (not that I hold much store by their deliberations):

Hamid Karzai, a moderate Pashtun whose fighters are part of the push to oust the Taleban from their last stronghold in
Kandahar, was chosen to head the interim administration to
replace Taleban rule.


We've gone and dropped a bomb on him. The tragic incident that killed 3 US soldiers and many more of our allies caught Karzai too, but not fatally:

The man named as the interim leader of Afghanistan was hurt in the same "friendly fire" incident which killed three American soldiers. Pashtun leader Hamid Karzai was "slightly injured" by a stray American bomb which fell on Afghan opposition forces at a forward headquarters north of Kandahar. But Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke says the new head of the Afghan government has been seen since the bombing and is believed to be safe. Press Association.

When I first heard of him I said he could be the new Abdul Haq. I didn't mean it quite that way. He does look like him though: here's a link to the Times profile, including a picture.


Well, not quite. It seems that since Grandfather Blogger posted that comment about him receiving a $500 check in the post, Amazon honor boxes and paypal links have sprouted up on every decent blog out there. Not being one to stray too far from the herd, I have followed suit. Any donations received will (initially, at least) be ploughed back into the site: my aim is to set up iainsmurray.com or something like that where I will be able to store all my newsclips, magazine articles, etc, as well as host these two blogs. If you'd like to contribute to this noble cause, click on the left. If not, well, baby can do without shoes this winter*

*Not true...

Ungentlemanly Conduct

Disturbing report by Stanley Kurtz on National Review Online. Christina Hoff Sommers, author of the recommended books "Who Stole Feminism" and "The War Against Boys," had been invited to speak at a government conference:

Sommers was delivering an invited speech at a conference on "Boy Talk" (a program sponsored by the Center for Substance Abuse and Prevention (CSAP) of the Department of Health and Human Services) when CSAP official Linda Bass summarily interrupted, and commanded Sommers to end her talk. Minutes later, as Sommers was forced by a hostile crowd to defend her claim that scientific studies ought to be used to help evaluate the effectiveness of government drug-prevention programs, Professor Jay Wade, of Fordham University's Department of Psychology — an expert on "listening skills" — ordered Sommers to "shut the f*ck up, bitch," to the laughter of the others in attendance. Having been muzzled by Bass and put upon by the crowd in a manner well outside the bounds of civilized discourse (and with not a move made by those running the conference to chastise Professor Wade) Sommers had little choice but to leave — effectively ejected from a government conference, simply for airing her views.

Astonishing. This is an example where the lack of accountability in the Executive branch really militates against the success of the separated powers system. In a British-style Parliamentary system, the Minister responsible for CSAP could be hauled over the coals in Question Time and by the Select Committee for this astonishingly rude display. He would then take it out on the CSAP head, who would make sure that this sort of thing didn't happen again (I've seen this exact process at work many times).

But in the separated powers system, there is no real sanction against this sort of thing happening other than Tommy Thompson's attention span. If he is able to pull himself away from anthrax and attend to this problem then something might happen. But I doubt it. The HHS placemen will continue to rule their little empires for as long as they want and behave like the tyrants they obviously are. The CDC might as well be a separate country.

Perhaps the House Committee on Government Reform might care to look into this?

Having said that, I think in general the separated powers model is better than the Parliamentary model, but this is one real area of weakness.

Moral Relativism Redux

We all thought moral relativism was dead after 9/11, but how wrong we were. That meme didn't take long to morph into something else. Here's an example from a letter to the Wall Street Journal today (no sense in blogging it as it'll be gone soon, and is available to subscribers only anyway):

When it comes to the degree of coercion thought proper in controlling what adults choose to do with their own bodies, Bill Bennett and the Taliban are of like mind. Jihads and drug wars are merely two sides of the same irrational coin.

This form of moral equivocation seems to be catching on. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine, for example, called limits on embryo experimentation "Talibanization."

This is doubly offensive. It is offensive to those who suffered under that totalitarian regime to compare it to democratic decisions about genuine moral dilemmas (drugs do kill and destroy, embryos are human life of some sort). It is also offensive because it seeks to equate any religious sensibility with the extremism of the Taliban.

Also in today's Wall Street Journal, Virginia Postrel, whom I admire greatly, writing about stem cell research, speaks of the "despicable moral equivalency" of those who "equate loving parents with Nazis." The argument that ACT is a bunch of Mengeles is despicable. But the same goes for the argument equating genuine ethical concerns in areas such as drugs and embryo experimentation to the Taliban's apalling regime.

(By the way, Shiloh Bucher has a great discussion of the problems with embryonic stem cell research here at Dropscan. It's far better than the somewhat weak position advanced by Bill Kristol in the Journal.)

I should stress that I recognize genuine libertarian arguments in favor of drug legalization and, to a lesser extent, embryonic research, but this "Taliban" argument is one that's unworthy, divisive and ultimately, I hope, self-defeating.

Tuesday, December 04, 2001

The Afghan Ataturk?

I used to read Australian papers only for their cricket coverage (The Age in Melbourne is particularly good), but their war coverage has also been outstanding (Jim Bennett has commented in his UPI column on media convergence among the Anglosphere nations during this war).

An insightful reader forwards this link from the Sydney Morning Herald that contains the first real biographical information I've seen about Hamid Karzai, who comes closer than anyone else we've yet seen to being a candidate for the role of Afghanistan's Ataturk:

Hamid Karzai, who served as foreign minister in the former government of Burhanuddin Rabbani - now back in power in Kabul, at least for now - has a pedigree that has marked him out as a potential prime minister in whatever new government emerges from the war.

He took over as leader of the Popalzai clan in 1999, after his father was assassinated in Pakistan. The Popalzais are leaders of the Durrani tribe, which established the first Afghan empire in the 1700s and ruled the country almost without interruption until former king Mohamad Zahir Shah was toppled in 1973. The Durranis are the principal tribe in the ethnic Pashtun heartland of southern and eastern Afghanistan and the Pashtuns, as Afghanistan's largest ethnic grouping, are assured of a dominant role in the new order.

Mr Karzai, who spent five years of exile in Pakistan and the United States, returned in early October and immediately headed into the southern provinces to rally anti-Taliban support among local tribal leaders.

If he succeeds in leading the liberation of Kandahar, his leadership ambitions will have renewed impetus. His triumphal march on the city has already enhanced his prestige.

He hopes to persuade the Taliban to capitulate. "Our main concern is the civilians inside the city. We don't want to see a lot of civilians killed. The people have suffered enough already," he said.

Looks like a man to watch.

Egad! Missed the Bounder!

Perry de Haviland of Samizdata has this interesting link to an Australian report that the British SAS almost nailed Bin Laden:

"We were within a whisker of getting him. It was a hard battle and will have put the fear of God into his people," a source close to the regiment was quoted as saying.

"When prisoners were questioned it came out we had just missed him by about two hours," the source added. Intelligence sources, also contacted by the paper, believed bin Laden fled as the battle began.

The SAS are a bunch of hard cases. An old flatmate of mine was best man to a Squaddie who did several tours of Northern Ireland. On one occasion they went into the NAAFI (military canteen) and saw a couple of characters, identified as probably SAS, sitting in the corner talking to each other in morse code and openeing beer bottles with their bayonets. When said squaddie was asked about the reputation of the SAS types he replied, "Even the Paras are scared to talk to them."

They may not frighten the enemy, but by God they frighten me, as someone once said.

It's not an army, it's an armee

Another useful WSJ Europe article. The Last Hurrah (again, link may only work for subscribers) suggests that the Afghanistan action may be the last in which UK forces can help the US. This is for two reasons -- first, the crippling cuts in the defence budget and, second, the signing away of British defence rights:

[T]he pattern of events, as well as the statements of many of those behind these developments, strongly indicate that what is intended is single policy and an embryonic European army. To quote from the report to the European Commission of October 1999 by Richard Weizsacker, Jean Luc-Dehaene and David Simon, "New institutional arrangements will be needed; they should fit in the single institutional framework of the Union . . ."

The reality is that Britain will be gradually absorbed into the integrated structures of the European Union and may consequently lack the freedom of action necessary to support its Atlantic partner. When a future U.S. president asks for military help , a British prime minister may have to shrug and walk away -- whatever his private inclinations and the public mood.

Those who would like think that Anglo-American relations will continue as before, and that each country can count on the other when the chips are down, should heed the words of Lord Alun Chalfont, a Labour Cabinet minister who has been writing on defence issues for four decades:
"Anyone who still believes that the European Security and Defense Initiative is not an item on the agenda of [European] political integration is not living in the real world."

This is something that US politicians really need to wake up to, stat.

An Objectivist Speaks on the Euro...

Alan Greenspan has finally said something on the Euro. This Wall Street Journal Europe leader (link may be for subscribers only) shows that the message is getting through that the Euro isn't about lowering costs, but about social engineering. Greenspan's comments are pretty damning:

"Over the decades, Europe has sought to protect its workers from some of the presumed harsher aspects of free-market competition," Mr. Greenspan told the Euro 50 Group Roundtable in Washington, but "the level of employment in the United States has turned out to be higher as firms find hiring less risky and, hence, are more willing to add employees to their roster."

This has been the "dividend" given off by America's ability to implement the new technological breakthroughs of the past decade. "[M]uch, if not most, of the rate of return from the newer technologies results from cost reduction, which on a consolidated basis largely means the reduction of labor costs."

As a result, the Fed chairman said he continued to see large flows from Europe into dollar-denominated securities, keeping the dollar strong. A couple of years back this was "widely attributable to a booming American economy. But, again contrary to expectations, the euro has not materially strengthened as the American economy has weakened." Yesterday at mid-day the single currency was at 0.8914 U.S. cents, after opening nearly three years ago at $1.18. This reflects "market expectations that productivity growth in the United States is likely to be greater that that in continental Europe in the years ahead."

The editorial goes on:

European leaders with this bent of mind (and that's by no means a majority) wanted a single currency that would topple the dollar and anchor a political entity of some sort that could then compete with the United States. The competing ideological product would be an alternative to U.S. style "cowboy capitalism." The Fed chairman has added to the growing chorus of voices declaring this logic flawed.

The European technocracy is setting itself up for a massive fall. Let them do it. Let's just make sure the British economy isn't dragged down with them.


Lord Lamont is one of those figures you only realise was a man of substance after they leave office. He was undershadowed by his Prime Minister when he was Chancellor and then scapegoated by that talentless administration. But in this Telegraph editorial, EU police could arrest you at home and jail you abroad, he once again shows his keen grasp of reality. It says something when a Tory grandee quotes the director of the British version of the ACLU (of which I am a member):

"What [this EU-wide arrest warrant] could mean in practice," said John Wadham, the director of Liberty, "is that a British police officer will arrive at your door with, for instance, an Italian police officer in tow to arrest you. They will take you, via an impotent British court, to Italy, where you will be dumped in a prison to await trial, perhaps for something somebody thinks you did when on holiday."

Exaggerated? Possibly - although it might not seem so to a friend of mine who, on an Italian beach, spotted a young boy trying to pinch his wallet. He ran after him and found himself accused by an Italian policeman of threatening the child. It took years for the charges to be dropped.

Frightening, but perhaps not so if it is allying Lamont, Wadham and John Mortimer, author of the Rumpole novels and a celebrated champagne socialist. We saw yesterday that the New Statesman is part of this alliance too. Can this odd lague defeat Blair and Brussells? We can only hope so.

Monday, December 03, 2001

The right of the people peaceably to assemble...

EU to create databases on "suspected protestors" and all resident "foreigners", reports the pressure group Statewatch. This is going from bad to worse, and so quickly. Now the EU, with the Germans and Belgians charging forward in the van, wants to extend powers to prevent people from protesting abroad and to keep databases on all foreigners in the EU.

As Statewatch points out, the anti-protest powers constitute a kind of "quasi-criminal record" and most certainly contravene the principle of innocent-until-proven-guilty. I wonder what sort of statute of limitations there will be. As things stand, these proposals could certainly be used to forbid Daniel Cohn-Bendit (the famous "Danny the Red" of 1968) and even Joschka Fischer, German Foreign Minister, from leaving their countries. That would be fun.

The foreigners database, meanwhile, would probably affect Britain more than any other country. Thanks to her links with the Commonwealth, I'm pretty certain that the UK has more foreigners resident in her territory than any other EU country. many thousands of Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders and, yes, Americans, could be subject to an unprecedented degree of official supervision. As Statewatch notes, Germany (and Luxembourg, which doesn't really count) is the only EU country to maintain a foreigners database.

Le Grand Frere is presumably decorating his new offices in Brussels as we speak.

Our Common Law?

This is an interesting aside on the whole military tribunals, detention etc debate, from the UK (as you might expect in this blog). This Telegraph story -- Detention without trial unjustified, says law lord -- contains a very interesting quote from a war that hit far harder than the current one:

[Lord Steyn] recalled the famous dissenting judgment of Lord Atkin, one of his predecessors, in 1942: "In this country, amid the clash of arms, the laws are not silent. They may be changed, but they speak the same language in war as in peace."

It is, of course, a dissenting judgment, but it is an eloquent one. The rest of Lord Steyn's argument rings true as well. I still think the US enhanced powers are probably justifiable, but an answer to a question that hasn't really been asked yet.

The Last Right

John Weidner at Random Jottings -- a recommended blog -- has a great suggestion for sorting out mass shootings. Just throw things at the gunman. Doesn't really address the Dunblane situation (you can't expect 6 year-olds to react in such a concerted fashion) or any sniper-like shootings, but it's a start.

Of course, self-defence is an absolute right, whatever the European Convention says. Here's Blackstone in 1765:

The fifth and last auxiliary right of the subject ... is that of having arms for their defence, suitable to their condition and degree, and such as are allowed by law ... [It] is indeed a public allowance, under due restrictions, of the natural right of resistance and self-preservation, when the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression.

John's suggestion seems completely legal by that score. Or has the natural right been rescinded by Statutory Instrument?

Murray on The Right Side

Owing to double-booking, my appearence on Armstrong Williams' show has been moved to 2:20pm tomorrow, Tuesday 4 December. In the meantime, you can catch my boss on the show at 1:30pm today.

Biting your own navel

Meanwhile, the other side of the New Statesman can be seen in the dispatches from its Washington correspondent. This extraordinary piece of self-loathing is a candidate for "worst article of 2001" in some awards ceremony or other. It manages to criticize Blair for being humiliated by the US (?) while at the same time damning the US for all its actions in the current crisis. How about this:

In the triumphalism that followed the routing of the Taliban in Kabul, Business Week magazine emoted freely: "The scenes of joy in the streets of Kabul evoke nothing less than the images of Paris liberated from the Nazis."

Perhaps America needed a pyrrhic but none the less cathartic "victory" to avenge the atrocities of 11 September; there was so much anger, so much fear and so much hubris, that there was a national need to celebrate the defeat of a foe, real or imagined. With Thanksgiving Day on 22 November - traditionally the biggest holiday of the year - that catharsis finally arrived.

So presumably the military-industrial-entertainment complex [(c) Fox Mulder] parachuted in actors from Disneyland to celebrate in Kabul for the benefit of the folks back home after the Macy's parade? Ye gods!

Trial by Jury: RIP

That lamp by which freedom lives is about to be snuffed out in England. One of the redeeming features of the old left "New Stateman" magzine is its commitment to the old liberal cause of civil liberties. In this excellent Focus piece, Nick Cohen examines the evidence that New Labour is going to abolish the Magna Carta right to Trial by Jury. It's a devastating case, and is incredibly important:

One of the best definitions of this country used to be that the English were innocent until found guilty beyond reasonable doubt by a jury of their peers. Not any more. In America, Australia or any other common-law democracy, it would need a coup d'etat to implement the government's programme.

Cohen's conclusion is quite terrifying, and utterly reasonable:

In Auld's review of the royal commissions and legal authorities that had supported trial by jury over the centuries, he quoted and then dismissed the declaration of the late law lord Lord Devlin, that the jury was the "lamp that shows that freedom lives".

Auld could not bring himself to give the full passage, so here it is: "The first object of any tyrant in Whitehall would be to make parliament utterly subservient to his will, and the next to overthrow or diminish trial by jury. [It] is more than an instrument of justice and more than one wheel of the constitution: it is the lamp that shows that freedom lives." Our present tyranny has a subservient parliament already. Now it's after trial by jury.

The pretext? To save the country GBP 250 million a year in court costs. This is one game that is certainly worth the candle.

Sunday, December 02, 2001

Social(ist) Workers

This Sunday Telegraph editorial deals pretty well with the idiot faction in the West:

There is, however, a potent body of Western opinion which persists in believing that the only acceptable way to respond to the outrages of September 11 is to do nothing - except, perhaps, talk. If America were to stop fighting - so the argument goes - and to address the "grievances" of the Muslim world, then the terrorism would end.

The idea that the men who would be the next generation of al-Qaeda's terrorists could be persuaded to abandon that project by well-meaning aid-workers bearing gifts is a dangerous if seductive error. It is also comprehensively refuted by the facts. The fanaticism which leads men to contemplate joining al-Qaeda has never been quelled by argument.

Yes, indeedy. Why these people don't realise that you must always look at things from the other person's point of view is beyond me -- especially when you consider that that's supposed to be a central thesis of multiculturalism. The Guardian reader's approach to this problem merelt confirms to me that multiculturalists don't believe in different cultures at all. They're syncretists of a sort, equating all cultures as essentially identical. And that has proved once again to be a huge mistake.

PS the reason I'm posting so late is that I've been up watching Doctor Who on MPT. Tonight's episode included a line from an old-fashioned British Brigadier which seems relevant. On being confronted by a living gargoyle with the power to disintegrate people he turned to his troops and said, "Chap with wings -- five rounds rapid." That sorted it out...

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.