England's Sword 2.0

Thursday, February 28, 2002


Something ocurred to me while reading this story, Former Iraqi Officers to Meet in Washington, and I came across this sentence:

The officers expected to attend include former Brig. Gen. Najib al-Salihi, a former chief of staff in the elite Republican Guard, a U.S. official said.

Why is the Republican Guard always described as "elite"? Did they run away in a more disciplined formation? Are they more experienced than their comrades in killing Kurdish villagers and marsh arabs? Would someone please explain this to me?

URL Update
My London crime figures article is now on a permanent page here.

Cricket: some pointers

Given that Tim Blair and Peter Briffa have joined me in regularly mentioning cricket in the Blogosphere, I thought this might serve as a useful primer.

As for Tim's view of English cricket writers, like the famous Matthew Engel, it's interesting how many of them, like Peter Roebuck, were Captains of Oxford or Cambridge and then were revealed as being Not Very Good (Derek Pringle, take a bow -- how he managed to have two or three tests every Summer before the selectors rumbled him again is beyond me). So they then attempted to outshine their more talented working class contemporaries in print, where, again, they are revealed as Not Very Good. But it is interesting that all the finest cricket writers -- Cardus, Arlott, C.L.R. James, Fingelton -- have been working class. If there were ever a Gentlemen vs Players cricket writing contest, the Players would win by an innings.


Many thanks to Moira Breen for not only linking to me in her excellent Inappropriate Response blog, but also for repeating the link in her FoxBlog this week. I hope those that have come here from that story are interested by what they find.

Finally, the Wolf has come back to Prospect

I stopped subscribing to Prospect because it was getting more and more Blairite. The "Debate" section was always interesting, though. Here, FT journo Martin Wolf lays the smack down on LSE bleeding heart Robert Wade on globalization and the world's poor. I love Wolf's conclusion:

Yet there is one fundamental matter, in this debate, on which we do disagree. Economic growth is, almost inevitably, uneven. Some countries, regions and people do better than others. The result is growing inequality. To regret that is to regret the growth itself. It is to hold, in effect, that it is better for everyone in the world (or within individual counries) to remain equally poor. You come close to saying just that. It seems to me a morally indefensible and practically untenable position.

He also exposes Wade's argument as simply an unsubstantiated accusation that the World Bank has cooked the books.

At Last Part Deux

My wife informs me that the INS have written to say that I am formally now a Lawful Permanent Resident, only 5 years after starting the process. As Mr Wicks said on the Drew Carey Show, "Yippee, I can get fat and own a gun!"

At last

Kirsty Hughes asks the question I've been asking for some time in her Wall Street Journal article Is this Europe's Philadelphia? (link requires subscription). This is the crunch for the bigwigs gathering at the EU's "constitutional convention":

The challenge of strengthening the EU's role in the world is perhaps the litmus test for whether the Convention faces up to the big questions rather than indulging in banal tinkering. The current transatlantic rift over the axis of evil speech has shown Europe speaking again with many and different voices. Here again the old divisions remain: For example, would the UK or France give up their seats on the U.N. Security Council for an EU seat? Or agree to a single EU voice on the G-8?

The main argument for Britain remaining in the EU has been that it increases here influence in world affairs. How can that happen if it requires losing positions of power in the UN and G8? If Europe does not go down that road, then we have some hope that the Federalist bubble will have burst and sovereignty can return to its most appropriate levels. Otherwise, Britain will be in a genuine constitutional crisis.

Death and the Canadian

David Janes over at Ranting and Roaring picks up on my change of heart over the death penalty and advances three reasons why he is still opposed to it. It's a well-argued piece, as you'd expect from David, and I'll take his points in turn.

Doubt. An important point. It was, after all, the wrongful execution in the Christie case that galvanized opposition to the death penalty in the UK. There are, however, cases where guilt is clear, and the doubt element does not enter into consideration. I would say that anyone whose guilt is not proved to a certain level should not be executed. This is easier said than done, but I am pretty certain that something can be worked out.

Publicity. A simple sub judice rule would suffice to keep publicity to a minimum during appeals periods. The First Amendment poses a problem for this proposal in America, I admit. However, I do not agree with David that the death sentence itself has propeled Mumia to his current level of publicity. I think it would be the same even if he was simply sentenced to Life without Parole. Self-professed victims will always exploit the credulous (I still haven't forgiven the "George Davis is Innocent" campaign for vandalising the test pitch at Headingly [equivalent to Mumia's supporters vandalising the Superbowl field]). By the by, I know of at least one person who is against the death penalty, except for Mumia.

Cruelty. What is cruelty? Inflicting punishment without pity is how I've always thought of it. That is why I was disgusted by the then Governor Bush's remarks about Karla Faye Tucker. If the punishment is humane, having due regard for sensibilities and always encompassing regret, then I do not think it can be regarded as cruel. Tossing someone out of a plane would not be cruel if the executioner was crying when he did it [and the subject was already unconscious; it would undoubtedly be cruel if he was conscious to scream as he fell -- instantaneousness is important in executions]. It would be unusual and abhorrent, but not cruel. I am always amazed that the Electric Chair made it through the unusual part of the 8th Amendment. In any event, I would continue to condemn any system that does not contain the appropriate amount of pity. I should stress that feeling pity for the subject of punishment does not mean that one must let the subject off that punishment; that goes for any punishment, not just the death penalty.

The Pearl killing was just the final straw for me. Writing this article was probably the beginning of my doubts about my stance. I am still conflicted internally, but I think I am finding the right balance.

Evil Quiz

In my day I was vice chairman of the Quiz League of London and regularly enjoyed such entertainments as the evil Great Brain Quiz 97. Now Q.48 has me stumped, which is especially annoying as it is a cricket question. Any ideas? Tim, I'm looking in your direction...

Wednesday, February 27, 2002

Drunk with power

Charles Murtaugh has a great post on the claim 25% of all alcohol in the US is drunk by teens. As the New York Times said, this was a load of old cobblers.

Here's what the Center for Consumer Freedom, basically an advocacy group for restaurant owners with a vested interest in people drinking and eating more (and therefore a good source of info about the food police, as long as you bear that in mind) has to say on the subject:

Social Studies That Flunk The Truth Test

Columbia University's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) announced yesterday that "underage drinkers account for 25 percent of all the alcohol consumed in the U.S." That's shocking -- shocking because it's completely incorrect, and CASA has not recalled its report.

CASA's seeing double: This morning's New York Times, in an article entitled "Disturbing Finding on Youth Drinkers Proves to Be Wrong," reports that the real proportion of alcohol consumed by teenagers was less than half CASA's figure, according to the federal government. CASA "acknowledged that it had not applied the usual statistical techniques" to derive the inflated number, "which would then have been far smaller," the Times reports. But even so, CASA's study "Teen Tipplers: America's Underage Drinking Epidemic" remains the lead item on CASA's website this morning.

This is not the first time CASA, and its president Joseph Califano, Jr., have been exposed for factual distortion. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services blasted a 1994 CASA report on welfare and substance abuse as "seriously flawed." That report said one in four (which seems to be a favorite proportion of Columbia University-based CASA) women who receive welfare were alcohol or drug abusers. HHS's real number was 4.5 percent, and criticized CASA's overly broad definition of "abuser." Said HHS: "Readers of the headlines need to understand the fine print."

And a CASA report on "binge drinking" among college students, also from 1994, cited statistics linking alcohol with sexually transmitted diseases and campus rape. According to Forbes MediaCritic magazine's Winter 1995 issue, many of the "statistics" cited were merely conjecture by health educators at various universities. One number even came from a student handout that was "not intended to reflect any kind of original research." Another statistic came from a misquote published in a student newspaper. Said Professor David Hanson of the State University of New York at Potsdam, who has studied college alcohol use for over 20 years: "If I were teaching a research class, I would use this CASA report as an example of what not to do."

This is just one sign of a "social engineering" movement meant to use misleading "statistics" to influence and restrict consumer freedom. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which has called for increased regulations on restaurants and restrictions on all sorts of food products, also takes on the right to responsibly consume alcohol through its Alcohol Policy Project, which has "led efforts to improve policies regarding the labeling, advertising, and taxation of alcoholic beverages." The program's head, George Hacker, minces no words about the fact that he is an activist before a scientist, and comes with an agenda: He has worked on a national campaign to link alcohol consumption with illegal drug abuse through advertising, and called for blood alcohol content (BAC) arrest levels as low as .05%.

Like CASA, CSPI is not above fudging the numbers to make its point. CSPI released a report on soda in 1998. Like CASA's report, it dealt with consumption by children -- and like CASA, CSPI doubled the numbers, inflating its actual findings by 100 percent. CSPI admitted the error and did revise the report -- but, like CASA, left the original up on the Internet even after being called on the mistake.

Sometimes the deceptions cannot be explained away as mistakes. Assistant professor Frank Flynn of Columbia University (where CASA and Califano are based) sent letters to 240 New York restaurants, falsely claiming their wares had given him food poisoning. He also lied about what he did for a living as part of a "research project" on how restaurants respond to complaints. The letters said he and his wife had gone to each restaurant to celebrate their first wedding anniversary, but he had become ill after eating, curled up "in a fetal position on the tiled floor of our bathroom in between rounds of throwing up." Ten of the restaurants are now suing Flynn.

What do these various deceptions have in common? These "social engineering" distortions are all intended to change the way consumers think and act. In a recent study funded by a $250,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Deborah Cohen of the RAND Corporation wrote: "Alcohol consumption by any individual is, in part, a function of the overall distribution of consumption of the community and leads to the conclusion that [the] magnitude of alcohol-related health problems in a population is directly related to per capita consumption. Individual consumption in turn is associated with various factors affecting the physical and social availability of the product within the community in which individuals reside." In other words, reduce the availability of the product and consumption by responsible adults, and you reduce abuse by the few. Among her recommendations, "greater restrictions on alcohol accessibility, stricter disciplinary measures for violations and stricter licensure requirements."

Cohen, who has recently launched an effort to apply the same product-control tactics to obesity by shutting down restaurants, told the Dallas Morning News, "It's easier to control the providers than it is the consumers."

Mottram's Insight

Once again, I seem to be the only one to find some good in Simon Jenkins' Times column. His laid-back, "well, what did you expect?" attitude is, sadly, right. As he says,

Government is not the product of a philosophical antithesis between advice and command or policy and administration. Under a centralised presidency, loyalty is absolute not relative. Impartiality is meaningless.

I could argue at length that such a presidency should come equipped with a proper constitutional framework, separation of powers, an independent legislature and subsidiary local democracy. None of these things exists in Britain. But pending a debate on the future of British government, analysis should at least correctly describe its present.

He therefore considers DTLR Permanent Secretary Sir Richard Mottram's recent comments an epiphany. I think they form a perfect summation of the state of the British constitution at present:

“We’re all f****d. I’m f****d. You’re f****d. The whole department’s f****d. It’s been the biggest cock-up ever and we’re all completely f****d.”

Indeed. Bagehot himself could not have put it better.

New Blog Alert

Letter from Gotham is a new blog from the mysterious "Diane E" (if she were male, she would be a Mister E...) a great benefactor of blogs in her distribution of interesting news items, and star of Tim Blair's FoxNews.com column. She has a particularly interesting post on the different treatments of the Saudi "peace plan" by the New York Times and the Jerusalem Post.

Meanwhile, MommaBear, another great patroness of blogs, is also sullying her hands with direct posting, over at DodgeBlog.

A case study in established religion

The Church of England is getting to the stage where it can no longer be regarded as Christian. That's the message of this excellent article, How the Church failed by reinventing Christianity. The author points out the context in which the CofE operates:

People are astonishingly ignorant of Christian teachings, and regard themselves competent to define religious positions for themselves, based on their supposed emotional needs, and without any reference to long-established traditions of thought and practice.

The resulting mish-mash of faiths and philosophy is accepted as Christianity by an eager Church. The lesson is that, far from religion having too much of an influence on politics, the currently received liberal political ascendency in the UK has overwhelmed the state religion. Could a disestablished Church have avoided this? I don't know. But it clearly demonstrates that religion is not always strengthened by establishment.

The other Rand

Simberg, not Ayn, has a great post on the Yucca Mountain problem at Transterrestrial Musings. He's right, of course.


Natalie Solent makes hay with the Lileks screed on Matthew Engels' apalling piece in The Guardian the other day. I had dinner with a couple of British political friends last night who confirmed that Engels is, in their opinion, a dreadful person. What gets me most about Engels' line of argument is that it is equivalent to saying Tony Blair should not be Prime Minister because he represents a bunch of ignorant Geordies. As a scion of ignorant Geordies, I take personal offence at this and will quite happily treat Mr. Engels to the delights of a good 'hint-end skelping if I ever see him in the cultural wastelands of Wearside (or of Birmingham, Alabama, for that matter -- it's a delightful, cultured city).

P.S. My joy at learning that the delightful Natalie Solent has returned is tempered only by the sad news of her family loss. My sympathies go out to Ms Solent and her family.

The more alert among you...

May notice that I've added a link to "Mrs T" on the left. No, the Leaderene is not starting her own blog (more's the pity -- it would be the most trenchant read on the net). This is a dedicated tribute site that I think is worth publicizing.

Tory Revival Alert: I've got a new post up over on Conservative Revival, the main part of which is a link to an article I wrote some time ago, which I've now decided to publish on the web, arguing that the Tories should emulate Nixon's Southern Strategy.

London's Police Farce

I have an article up on The American Enterprise Hotflash today about the failures of London's police force, as exemplified by comparison between London's crime figures and New York City's. If you want further evidence, look to the high profile Damilola Taylor murder case, which is on the verge of collapse because of police stupidity.


I mourn the passing of Britain's greatest modern comic genius.

Murray in "expert" shocker

I'm quoted towards the bottom in this article at ABCNEWS.com : Unease in Europe Replaces Post-9/11 Solidarity.

Tuesday, February 26, 2002

Anglo-German Relations II

Ah, it seems that when it comes to extra-European policy, our Tone at least does something right. The Germans are mad at him for backing the President against Iraq. As this Telegraph editorial, The road to Baghdad, makes clear, the Euroweenies are stamping their liddle feet:

THE rebuke of Tony Blair by the ruling German Social Democrats suggests that he is doing something right. The Prime Minister had offended, it seems, by moving the Government towards greater support for action against Iraq. To the extent that there is such a thing as a common European foreign policy - which is, thank goodness, not very much - its cornerstone appears to be the protection of Saddam Hussein.

It goes on

When President Bush marked out Iraq as one of the three members of his "axis of evil" in his State of the Union address, even those who disliked the phrase should surely have acknowledged that, in any list of nasty regimes that the West would benefit from changing, Iraq comes at or near the top. The fact that so many European countries refuse to accept this suggests either that they have rather seedy interests in Iraq, or that they are reflexively opposed to American policy (or both).

The cleansing of Iraq could be a real turning-point in British history. It may force Blair to make a choice between Europe and America. It may create a serious political crisis in the Labour party (more on this later). It will be interesting to see how it is handled.

Relatively Speaking

Charles Austin, the Sine Qua Non Pundit, criticizes my TCS piece for praising the New York Times editorial that said, "loosely speaking, watching Jaws on TV is more dangerous than swimming in the Pacific." He contends that the statistics, properly interpreted, would suggest the reverse.

Charles' statistical constructs are basically correct, but I think he may have missed the point I was trying to get across, which is that the risk (of either event) is utterly tiny. Not many people worry about TVs falling on them. Swimming in the Pacific has seen only one fatality in the last 10 years (even in Hawaii the last fatality was in 1992). The risk is basically so small as to be incalculable to any meaningful degree. The same goes for TV sets falling. In the NYT editorial, the operative term is "loosely speaking." There was no attempt to make a serious point about relative risks, more a humorous point about tiny absolute risks. That's the spirit in which I took the comment, and why I praised them.

Devils and Details

At first sight, this story looks like a good thing: Blair and Schröder in pact to reclaim national power. Has our Tone convinced Berlin that federalism is a bad thing? No, unfortunately. One of the few good things about the European Commission is that it has worked very hard to liberalize the European economies, freeing them from protectionism and statist regulations. It seems that the only reason Schroder is opposing the EU is because of this facet:

EU diplomats say the shift in Germany's stance reflects Mr Schröder's fury over a series of moves by Brussels that damage his re-election chances, including an unprecedented "yellow card" issued to Germany last month telling it to get a grip on its mushrooming budget deficit.

Berlin is also fuming over commission plans to break the stranglehold of giants such as Volkswagen over the European car market, as well as attempts to force open Germany's investments and to strip Berlin of its historic control over the post of director-general in charge of competition policy.

In other words, the EU has argued in favor of fiscal conservativism and antitrust measures, and against parochialism and patronage.

I want to be quite clear on this. The EU has been pretty good for the Continent in liberalizing their economies and introducing concepts of civil liberties. Unfortunately, because of the "harmonization" requirements and the inevitable compromises, it has undoubtedly been bad for the UK, setting it back in both these areas. That is one of the many reasons why I don't think British membership is appropriate.

An EU that is no longer liberalizing in this way would be an utter disaster for Europe. Perhaps that's Tony's reason for backing Schroder in this?

Monday, February 25, 2002


For the lack of posts. Very busy day with lots of meetings. This always seems to happen when the Prof links to me...

In the meantime, check out this very interesting (and very long) document on the Common Law. Here's what Lord Wilberforce had to say in debates on the Human Rights Act in 1997:

[The noble Lord] pointed out that UK delegates to the [European] Convention [on Human Rights] in 1950-51;

"...knew that all essential rights were confirmed to us by common law and there was never any intention that the new obligations by way of guarantee should be taken to supersede them".

He then went on to confirm that the civil rights of the subject are confirmed by the common law;

"Perhaps I may remind noble Lords of what our essential civil rights, as guaranteed by the common law, are: the presumption of innocence; the right to a fair hearing; no man to be obliged to testify against himself; the rule against double jeopardy; no retrospective legislation; no legislation to be given an effect contrary to international law--an old principle which has been there for years; freedom of expression; and freedom of association. All of those were in the minds of our delegates firmly secured already by the common law to this country, and not intended to be superseded or modified by the new inter-state obligations in the convention."

The Common Law's relation to Statute Law is a complex one, and weak judges have given too much away to Parliament (the opposite of the American problem). Coke and Blackstone must be spinning in their graves. Nevertheless, Common Law's existence serves as an important bulwark, as this document makes clear. Hubert Vedrine hates it, so it must be a good thing.

Column Up

The Data Dump begins today on Tech Central Station with TCS: Tech - Dubious Data Awards.

Sunday, February 24, 2002

Leftie in lack of discernment shocker

Tim Blair takes on an earnest critic of his FoxNews.com column. The thing that gets me is that this character thought that Family Guy was

a thought-inducing critique of modern society.

Pardon? I preferred the Entertainment Weekly summation of that program:

Family Guy: the cartoon as vile swill.

The real source of exceptionalism

Jim Bennett echoes my discussion with Steven Den Beste some weeks back. He puts it far better than I did when he says:

Why is all this ancient history important? One reason is that the exceptionalist narrative cuts Americans off from their own history. Our rights were not invented by abstract thinkers in a room in Philadelphia one summer. Each of those rights was won by hard struggle over a period of centuries, and each was a lesson learned the hard way.

If we cut ourselves off from the wider historical experience of the English-speaking peoples, we cut ourselves off from the struggle and the lessons. These lessons were constantly on the minds of the revolutionaries of 1776 and the constitutional founders of 1789. We can't really understand our own society unless we know them as well.

As we see in the Heffer article below, it is easy to forget history. The US Constitution serves as an aide-memoire, but campaign finance "reform" shows that even those points can be forgotten or ignored. Proper teaching of history, it seems to me, is the best defence against the terrors of the past returning.

Saying the Unsayable

Simon Heffer calls for the right to keep and bear arms in the UK. His argument is perfectly sensible, and I'm glad someone with a reputation has had the guts to come out and say it. I am miffed, however, that he calls it a "new right." As I've said here repeatedly, it is an ancient English right that has been taken away comparatively recently (for the full story, see here). He also thinks it is up to Government to confer rights. That viewpoint is deeply wrong, but typical of the current British ruling class. It's part of the reason we're in so much trouble, and it's essentially alien. Nevertheless, this is a start.

Saturday, February 23, 2002

I shall not ask Jean-Jacques Rousseau...

If birds confabulate or no, as the poem went. I've succumbed to peer pressure and taken the philosohy test. The results were exactly as I predicted:

Kant 100%
Mill 97%
Rand 97%

Hegelian or what?

Friday, February 22, 2002

The Reality of Evil

I have long been an opponent of the death penalty. My wife is not. Nor are many of my friends. I have, however, stuck to my guns because I have not felt it is our place on Earth to deprive people, however badly they have behaved, of their right to find redemption. My faith says that anyone can find their way to the Lord, and repentence is an important part of that.

Since my daughter was born, my wife has often asked me, whenever a horrible crime occured, how I would feel if someone did that to Helen. I have clung to my belief nevertheless and did so even after 9/11, although I have had no problem with the idea that the fanatics who conspired in that outrage would probably die rather than be captured.

Then the other day I watched a documentary on TLC about Ivan Milat, the Australian serial killer who kidnapped backpackers and then tortured them experimentally, having stabbed their spines to paralyze them before experimenting. He beheaded one of his victims in the manner of the executioners of old. The head has never been found. Both my mother and my grandmother, gentle souls both, had read widely on the deeds of British serial killers, and so I was used to tales of genuine horror. Each of Milat's deeds was worse than anything I had heard before. I had trouble getting to sleep. Kristen's question rang in my mind.

This morning I read the details of Daniel Pearl's murder. The beheading, the humiliation, the lack of humanity stood out. There is plainly no difference between these evil men and Ivan Milat. I can no longer hold to my belief in redemption. For people such as these, I cannot imagine any way that they could be redeemed. These are people who leave no other cheek to turn. I find it difficult even to describe them as people, but their awful rationality precludes me from calling them animals.

I have been forced to confront the reality of evil. Evil, as I now understand it, is the absence of the possibility of redemption. That is what the Devil does. With their complicity, he strips people of their humanity. This is not madness. It is a choice, and a rational one. It is the deliberate turning away, once and for all, from humanity's inherent capacity for goodness.

I can therefore no longer oppose the death penalty for those who are truly evil. In the past, my anger has been tempered by pity. Now it shall be tempered only by regret for what was lost. I do not view that as a bad thing.

Counterfeit Nudie Euro

All I have to say is, "Goodness!"

Icke 'id you not

Glenn Reynolds quotes a reader who found praise of a Slobbo apologist at davidicke.net.

He's being praised by a genuine, certifiable loony. Anyone who follows David Icke must be one.

David Icke was a goalkeeper for Coventry City football club before becoming a pretty decent sports journalist, working his way up to becoming the occasional anchor of GrandStand, the BBC's flagship Saturday afternoon sports program. He then revealed his deep interest in environmental politics, becoming co-spokesman of the British Green Party at the zenith of their electoral success (they beat the Lib Dems into 4th place one European election). Icke's popularity was a major factor in the Green's success around this time.

Then he went barking mad.

He disappeared, then reappeared with his family dressed all in turquoise, proclaiming, like a modern-day Criswell, that Cuba would sink into the sea before the end of the decade. He claims to have full knowledge of how the Illuminati rule the Earth. It is, I kid you not, because they are all reptilian serpent men (oh Lovecraft, thou shouldst be living at this hour). His theory can be found here.

He also espouses the theory that the Bushes and the Royal Family are all caught up in this.

Lyndon Larouche, eat your heart out.

Canadian National Pride

Meanwhile, Canada is busy storming past Byelorussia into the final of a major sport. Interestingly, this National Post column comments on the problem of national identity suffered by our cousins to the North:

One Liberal government after another systematically erased nearly all of our Britishness from the Canadian psyche, culminating of course with Trudeau's Charter of Rights, which effectively substitutes the appointed courts for the elected Parliament as the final national authority.

The Grits could persuasively argue that they had no choice. Even Britain seemed to lose interest in our being British. Unfortunately, however, we've never found anything to replace it. The old mystique is gone. We find we cannot manufacture another out of nothing. That, I suspect, is our central problem as a nation.

Thank goodness for hockey.

Thanks to Jim Bennett for the link.

National Pride

Ah, the full flush of national pride takes hold at the news of Britain's first gold at the Olympics. The writer of this BBC article, When a nation unites, has it exactly right:

With Great Britain's women's team on the brink of Olympic gold in Salt Lake City, the nation rushed to embrace a sport it had successfully ignored for the past 200 years.

Offices and shops across the land were dominated by heated arguments about tough ends, four-foot rings and stones in houses.

Generally speaking, few would give a monkey's about the exploits of a Scottish housewife and her broom. But, when there is even the slightest chance of sporting glory, the country will take even the strangest pursuit to heart - as a glance at the history books shows...

He goes on to remind us of other great British sporting achievements. How my heart swells...

PS See the piece on Nick Robinson below if this is mystifying...

Major Announcements

Looks like I'm going to be a major part of a new weekly TechCentralStation column on Mondays. I'll post the link to the first column when it's up. With our views and Glenn Reynolds' up there every week, it looks like TCS is one of the soundest places on the web. Check out Nick Schulz's excellent piece today on the politics of electoral destruction while you're there.

Second, you can look forward to some antipodean views on this site from an Adelaide-based friend soon. I'll leave it to him to introduce himself, but rest assured that his manner and viewpoint are soundly Blairite (in the sense of Tim rather than Tony).

There is also the possibility of a reasonably famous figure (at least in the Blogosphere) posting guest comments here too.

Finally, I may begin this weekend the process of moving some of the content here to a mirror site in preparation for a probable move off blogspot if service gets any worse. At the very least this should involve the appearence of my long-awaited book recommendation page.

Hope you enjoy the enhanced service.

An Invaluable Source

UK Shadow Attorney General (not as important a job as it sounds) Bill Cash's European Foundation is an invaluable source of information on what's really going on in Europe, behind the spin of the Brussels apologists. Every so often it sends out an "Intelligence Digest" that picks the cream of the stories from Le Monde, Handelsblatt, Politiken and the rest of the Euro press. They make fascinating reading, so I make no excuse for quoting from it at length every so often. Here's the cream of the latest edition.

First off, it is interesting to see that Belgian attempts at setting themselves up, er, unilaterally (hem hem) as a de facto International Criminal Court have been quashed by the International Court of Justice, which has ruled that individual countries cannot prosecute ministers of other sovereign territories under their own laws:

The ruling has been described as "a cold shower" and as "the revenge of international judges over national judges" by the partisans of international justice in Belgium. The ICJ ruled that the former minister enjoys immunity from prosecution by the Belgian authorities. This ruling contradicts the rulings by the British House of Lords in 1998 and 1999 which found that General Pinochet could, in theory at least, be tried by a Spanish court for acts allegedly committed in Chile. The Congolese minister had an arrest warrant in his name issued by a Belgian judge for "grave violations of humanitarian law" and it is this arrest warrant which the ICJ has now declared illegal. In addition to the case against Ariel Sharon, there are now some 30 other cases which have been lodged with the Belgian courts, concerning alleged human rights violations by various people around the world, following laws passed in 1993 and 1999 which seemed to give Belgian judges the right to judge crimes wherever they have been committed. Most of these claims have been declared admissible by the Belgian prosecuting authorities. Among the defendants is indeed General Pinochet but also the Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro, the Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, and the former Iranian president Rafsandjani. But of course it was the indictment lodged against Ariel Sharon which attracted the most publicity. Indeed, it was this indictment which has now destroyed the whole procedure, for the ICJ’s ruling was the consequence of an appeal lodged on behalf of the State of Israel by its lawyers. They argued that no serving prime minister could be arraigned by the jurisdiction of a country with which he had no connection without the principle of state sovereignty being infringed. The ICJ has upheld this view of state sovereignty. One of the Israeli lawyers, Mr. Michel Hirsch, welcomed the decision, saying "If all countries acted as Belgium has acted, relations between states would be impossible." Adrien Masset, Mr. Sharon’s lawyer, said that the ruling clearly fixed the penal immunity of serving heads of state and government, as of foreign ministers. This immunity rendered arrest warrants inadmissible, he said.

The partisans of international jurisdiction showed their displeasure at the ruling. Georges-Henri Beauthier, one of the lawyers bringing the case against the Congolese minister, said that the ruling prevented only the issue of arrest warrants and not the opening of judicial investigations. He also referred to the text of the future International Criminal Court which (although as yet not ratified) said that a person’s official quality could not be considered relevant where criminal prosecutions are concerned. One Belgian law professor said that the ruling would, in the end, serve to create a more precise formulation of the principle of universal jurisdiction in Belgian law. [Le Monde, 17th February 2002]

Meanwhile, in Germany, it appears that fears of a renascent extreme right have been exaggerated somewhat:

Otto Schily, the German Interior Minister is looking increasingly foolish and even manipulative as no fewer than five witnesses called to testify in a court hearing whose purpose is to decide whether to ban the extreme right National Party of Germany (NPD) have turned out to be agents of the German secret police. The case has collapsed and the minister is facing pressure to resign. It has also discredited the campaign "against right-wing radicalism" which, in a shortened form, has become the slogan of numerous politicians and media outlets in Germany – shortened, that is, to "campaign against the Right." In a delicious irony, the leader of the National Party of Germany is an old friend of Otto Schily’s. Before he became extreme right, Horst Mahler was extreme left. He was the founder of the Baader-Meinhof gang – of which Schily was the lawyer. The suspicion will now be that the extreme right wing movement is itself little more than a "provocation" organised by the secret services in Germany themselves. Certainly, the behaviour of the Interior Minister before a committee of enquiry in the German parliament has been extraordinary. His simple refusal to answer questions on the scandal led one opposition CSU deputy to say that Schily was displaying "a pathological case of self-justification" – as if the whole business had absolutely nothing to do with him. [Ame Delfs,Die Welt, 21st February 2002]

Interesting. I have personal reasons for suspecting something similar might be happening in the UK.

Now this is a perfect example of just why Brussels cannot be trusted with anything. Check out the breathaking hypocrisy with which the Turkish question is being approached:

The so-called "Karen Fogg" affair has thrown relations between Turkey and the European Union into disarray. Karen Fogg is the representative of the EU in Ankara – and her e-mails have been published in a local newspaper. The e-mails have been selected by the newspaper Aydinlik (Clarity), the newspaper of a left-wing workers’ party which is not represented in the Turkish parliament, to demonstrate their theory that there is an EU "plot against Turkey" organised by Brussels. The editor claims that he is in possession of some 7,000 e-mails from the same source, and he has held daily press conferences to release bits of his archive little by little. Scores of e-mails have now been published showing what image of Turkey is being presented to the EU. The editor, Dogu Perinçek, is an old Maoist militant close to the Sendero Luminoso movement in Peru. Now, as Le Monde puts it, he has become "an extreme nationalist and anti-European". Perinçek claims to be close to the secret services of Turkey and other forces within the army which, he claims rather improbably, are hostile to European integration. On 19th February, 19 nationalist and Kemalist groups called for Ms Fogg to be expelled.

Meanwhile, in Brussels, and displaying a deep commitment to the principle of press freedom, the Commissar for enlargement, Günter Verheugen, summoned the Turkish ambassador to the EU and presented him with three demands. The first was that the newspaper cease publication of the e-mails. The second was improved security measures for the protection of e-mails. The third was measures for the protection of Karen Fogg and the staff of the EU mission in Ankara. The case is already before the judicial authorities of Turkey which, as one diplomat points out, is not subject to the control of the Turkish government – although Mr. Verheugen would not doubt like the power to decide what is and what is not published in the press. Mr. Prodi evidently feels the same way because he telephoned the Turkish prime minister, Mr. Bülent Ecevit, to reiterate the demands made by Mr. Verheugen. The irony has not been lost on the Turks, who have only recently been the object of attacks by the European Commission – for infringing the liberty of the press. Now the Commission is more or less demanding that a rogue newspaper be closed down. [Laurent Zecchini, Le Monde, 20th February 2002]

And, just to show that national insults are part of the stock-in-trade of European politics:

The German foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, has paid a visit to Prague at a time when tempers have been running high between the Czechs and the Germans. The cause of the row was the remarks made by the Czech prime minister, Milos Zeman, attacking the Austrian politician Jörg Haider, who had demanded that Austria veto Czech membership of the EU if it does not agree to close its nuclear plant at Temelín. Mr. Zeman reacted angrily by calling Haider a Nazi and then also attacking the Sudeten Germans who, he said, got better treatment than they deserved when they were expelled en masse, and massacred en masse, by Czechoslovakia after the war. This in turn elicited furious responses from the Bavarian prime minister.

The occasion of Mr. Fischer’s visit was the 5th anniversary of the joint German-Czech declaration which was intended to help the two countries draw a line under what happened during and after the war. The purpose of the visit is also to see whether a planned visit by the German Chancellor to Prague in March can go ahead. Zeman has tried to backtrack slightly by saying that his government rejects all notion of collective guilt – which was not exactly what he seemed to be saying when he accused the Sudeten Germans of the being Hitler’s fifth column. Fischer responded by apologising again for what Germany did to Czechoslovakia in the war but also by saying that the expulsion of the Sudeten Germans was an injustice and a collective punishment. On the other hand, the Zeman has in the meantime caused more red faces all round by telling the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz that Prague supports the Middle East policy of the EU; that he thinks Yasser Arafat is comparable to Hitler; and that Israel should do to the Palestinians what the Czechs had done to the Sudeten Germans – namely drive them out. He later claimed that he had been misrepresented, even though the comparison between Hitler and Arafat was also reported in a BBC interview with Zeman. The Czech opposition has called for all Mr. Zeman’s foreign trips to be cancelled. [Hans-Jörg Schmidt, Die Welt, 21st February 2002]

Europe, what a marvellous place it is.

Thursday, February 21, 2002

Well done, Boris!

Great Spectator this week. This article is another triumph (and I haven't even linked to Mark Steyn's piece, as everyone else has). It asks why France is being such a sh*tty little country, to coin a phrase:

France is aware that the further it slips down the European Union’s economic rankings — at the latest count it was in 12th position out of 15 in terms of wealth per capita — the more unbridgeable the military gulf becomes. US diplomats are scathing: ‘They have social spending issues. That’s why we don’t go on about burden-sharing any more. No one’s got the time for it.’ Unemployment is heading back up towards 9 per cent. The 35-hour working week is shutting the country down on Mondays and Fridays. And France’s share of US investment in Europe, a crucial measure of the country’s relative appeal, has fallen every year since Jospin came to power in 1997.

‘France is in its most profound crisis since the Algerian war of the 1960s, and is heading towards the type of violent social breakdown that comes along every two or three generations,’ says Christian Blanc, the businessman who turned around Air France and the Parisian transport network (RATP), and who is now considering an independent run for the presidency. The American face of globalisation challenges France more than other countries. ‘With government expenditure still at 54 per cent of GDP and nearly 25 per cent of French workers employed by the state ...many in France still look to the government rather than the market to ensure their well-being,’ says Philip Gordon.

And Chevenment thinks the United States is dedicated to ‘the organised cretinisation of the French people’? Zut alors!

Morroccan Moles

According to this Telegraph report, the Rome plot referred to yesterday was much bigger than initially thought. However, as Steven Den Beste pointed out elsewhere, it was also incompetent, as the cyanide compound would be useless for poisoning water. Which makes me wonder, how many times have they tried this?

DG, FD, &c

Great The Spectator article on what Britain stands to lose in terms of national symbolism if it adopts the Euro.

Anti-Lomborg League

Matt Ridley, the best science writer out there, explains the furor around Bjorn Lomborg in The Spectator:

[The enviro-lobby] are beside themselves with fury. It cannot be Lomborg’s politics that annoy them. He is leftish, concerned about world poverty, and no fan of big business. It cannot be his recommendations: in favour of renewable energy and worried about the pollution that is getting worse. Vegetarian, he rides a bicycle and approves of Denmark’s punitive car taxes. His sin — his heresy — is to be optimistic.

This is very threatening to lots of people’s livelihoods. The environmental movement raises most of its funds through direct mail, paid advertising and news coverage. A steady supply of peril is essential fuel for all three. H.L. Mencken said, ‘The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed — and hence clamorous to be led to safety — by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.’

This reminds me of Bill Hicks' characterization of life as 'just a ride'. Occasionally, he said, people come along and point that out, and "we kill those people" because a lot of us have a lot of money invested in the ride (trust me, it was funny when Hicks said it).

Where in the world is Osama bin Laden?

EurasiaNet reports rumors that Bin Liner is in Georgia:

Reports that al Qaeda fighters, possibly including Osama bin Laden himself, have found refuge in Georgia are stoking pressure for outside military intervention. Top Russian officials are once again hinting that Moscow may feel compelled to intervene militarily to contain Islamic radicals in Georgia.

Sounds like an excuse for Russian adventurism to me, or an excuse to use American troops as a bulwark against Russian adventurism. Meanwhile, an obscure Arabic-language site claims it has posted a condolence message on the death of an Islamic scholar from Bin Laden and his top oppo I-Zawahiri. UPI has the details.

And in Afghanistan, it's beginning to look like the Transport Minister was killed by an angry mob, rather than assassinated (unless the new administration is already fatally compromised by divisions). I wonder if London's tube passengers are getting ideas about Stephen Byers...

Deterrence works

Another case in Britain of a man defending his home killing a burglar, and then being arrested by the police. In this case the burglar had threatened the man's wife with a knife, and the householder killed the burglar with it during a struggle. Libertarian Samizdata quote Chris Tame's reaction:

It is a sign of a morally corrupt society that Mr Lambert should have been held by the police for two days and is even now facing the insult of further police inquiries. In a free and moral society the individual has the complete right to self defense, including the use of deadly force, against those who attack and rob them. Any one who invades the home of another constitutes a deadly threat to its inhabitants, and should be dealt with accordingly. Mr Lambert has behaved both honourably and morally in defending himself, his wife and his property - and is a public benefactor by ridding society of one more predatory looter who threatened the safety of us all.

This is exactly why Blackstone counted the right to armed self-defence when the law has failed to protect as one of the auxiliary rights of Englishmen. How can any society forget something like this? This isn't even anything to do with the British paranoia over guns. Oliver Letwin would do well to start a reasoned debate over self-defence.

Wednesday, February 20, 2002

Feaver Pitch

Peter Feaver in the Weekly Standard has some great comments on The Axis of Rudeness:

The irony is that these European leaders have used extraordinarily undiplomatic means to protest a speech that they disliked on the grounds that it was undiplomatic.

It scarcely needs saying that their shrill outbursts would be considered intolerable were they coming the other way across the Atlantic. In point of fact, no American diplomat would ever treat a policy dispute with the rudeness and petulance that is standard fare over here. Witness the masterful response from Secretary Powell: "There are strong points of view in Europe, and we always appreciate hearing strong points of view. . . . I hear them whether I appreciate them or not."

If European leaders really want to be heard in the United States, then they will have to master their emotions. Prime Minister Blair of Britain understands this instinctively. Blair may have had reservations about the speech, but he registered his concerns privately and constructively. As a consequence, he has influence in Washington.

I wonder if Matthew Parris and those like him who like to complain that gentlemanliness is missing from America these days will take this point to heart?

Guest Comments

Here are some thoughts from my wife on campaign finance reform. I think she's hit the nail on the head, although I do believe that at least one chamber should have room for the experience that comes with long service:

The campaign finance reform bill moving through Congress right now appears to be the equivalant of a criminal passing a sentence on himself - rather toothless. It made me think, what exactly is the problem that this "reform" is addressing? Money? No. Power? Why yes. The whole reason reform is being addressed is because Sen. McCain & Co. believe (rightly I think) that "The People" are concerned with the amount of power money can buy in politics these days. Indeed, Checks and Balances are out the window when interests other than the voters' are promoted.

The question is not, however, how to control the money? It's how to control the power. And I strongly believe the words we're looking for here are "term limits." Why not? Term limits do not offend the First Amendment the way campaign finance reform does. Term limits on both Representatives and Senators would balance out the term limit placed on the Executive branch of our government (thus enforcing the Checks and Balances our government is based on - while still keeping the judiciary above it all).

And finally, term limits does what every politician in Congress does not want the campaign finance reform bill to do - actually limit their power. Because let's face it, if the politician in question has a limited shelf-life then the money won't flow in that direction. The ideal result would hopefully be that we'd lose the lifers and see more people running who are interested in serving the will of their constituencies.

Fresh blood in Congress, people can still exercise their free speech rights with their wallets, and lobbyists might actually have to lobby rather than just waive a corporate checkbook about.

Who knows, power might actually go back to the people.

London: the new Port Royal

London's street crime is out of control. Just check out the stats in the Evening Standard story:

The number of street robberies in all but two London boroughs rose and the figures reveal that last month there were 6,754 street robberies, or more than 220 a day, while in January last year there were 4,520.

For comparison, according to the latest COMPSTAT figures from New York, there were 1,913 robberies (the two offenses are almost exactly comparable) in New York City in the 28 days up to 2/10/02.

But here's the REAL news. In that four week period in New York, there were 29 murders. In London, in January, there were 23. London has now caught up with New York even in that one historically statistical outlier.

More on this to come.

A new epic: the Lord of the Isles

According to the Grauniad (so it might be true), a group of Norwegians have revived an historic dispute over the Western Isles of Shetland and the Orkneys. Basically, the Norwegian-Danish owners of the islands gave them to Scotland in lieu of a dowry for a princess who marriued James III of Scotland. According to this site, proceedings in 1667 established that the Norwegians could get them back in exchange for payment of the dowry in full.

The Orcadians and Shetlanders have long resented Scottish rule, and given how the Scots Parliament is currently operating I wouldn't blame them if they found the offer tempting. Reversion to Norway would also free a large amount of the North Sea from the disastrous Common Fisheries Policy and give them about 50% of British North Sea Oil, which would mean the Scots couldn't whinge about "their" oil any more (the rest is English under any definition). If we could work out some Hong Kong-like autonomous status for the Isles, I'd say do it.

UPDATE: I have had confirmation that, despite what Muir's says, the Northern Isles were not part of the Kingdom of the Isles, so Prince Charles has no role to play here.

A question of rights

Interesting to see that writs of habeas corpus have been filed for the Tipton Taliban and the Vegemite Islamite. I can't see how this will work:

Government attorneys have said that because Guantanamo Bay Naval Base is on Cuban soil and is leased to the United States, it is not part of a U.S. judicial district and thus private lawyers are restricted in filing suit here over conditions there. In addition, U.S. lawyers cite a 1950 Supreme Court decision establishing that foreign belligerents cannot file habeas corpus demands outside the United States.

I mentioned the lengths to which Britain went to avoid habeas corpus issues with Napoleon after his surrender. Interesting that it should be families of the Anglosphere captives that are availing themselves of this possibility.

Why Britain needs a First Amendment

This is utterly outrageous. According to the Independent, British academic research will need to be licensed if it has anything to do with exports.

"This has serious implications for academic freedom," said Dr Ross Anderson, of the security research group at Cambridge University. Dr Anderson, an expert in cryptographic systems, went on: "The DTI is trying to extend the scope of the Export Control Bill to interfere with all the nooks and crannies of science and technology. They like the idea of being able to exercise a pre-publication review – which they've never been able to do in the past. If you submit a patent, it could be suppressed for defence reasons but scientific papers never had that."

Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights is all about 'expression' and has so many get-out clauses that the Human Rights Act could never be used to protect academic freedom. That's why we need a "Parliament shall make no law..." provision in the UK.

I'm still astonished.

UPDATE: Charles Dodgson referenced an Administration plan to ask for self-censorship in the academic field over here on anthrax research. There's the difference in a nutshell. The US executive has to ask for self-censorship about a specific area. The UK legixecutive proposes an all-encompassing law that could be used to restrict freedom in many more cases.

New Tactics?

Interesting. A reader has alerted me to this United Press International story: Italy nabs 4 in alleged U.S. Embassy plot. Four Moroccans have been apprehended apparently planning to poison the US Embassy in Rome's water supply with cyanide.

First, this implies that Al Qa'eda has cells of operatives from "moderate" Islamic countries, which should not in itself be surprising, but goes to show that profiling based on nationality is not really that useful a concept. Second, and more worrying, is the planned use of cyanide. This would be much less likely to arouse Italian opposition than a bomb, which would probably damage Italian as well as American citizens and assets. Are we moving on to "smart terrorism," designed to damage America while not angering her wobbly European allies?

Hain-ous Interview

Peter Hain, the Minister for Europe, was stirring the pot when he gave an interview to Le Figaro:

Mr Hain said: “I am not saying that the euro is inevitable, but the alternative to its adoption is an isolation which is anything but splendid.

“The enemies of the euro are also the enemies of Europe. What they want is purely and simply the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union and an association with the American bloc.”

So where is the isolation if we would be associated with "the American bloc" (presumably this the same "bloc" Western Europe was happy to be part of when it was menaced by the Soviet bloc)? What about the possibility of Britain having closer ties with the US but at the same time remaining part of the EEA? If EEA membership was refused, who would be the "bloc" then?

Hain, Patten and the rest of the self-described sophisticates are diabolic parodies of Theodore Roosevelt. They talk loudly and carry twigs.

Airy Carey

The Archbishop of Canterbury has a Lenten message, Enron's collapse teaches us the dangers of excess. Mostly good stuff and certainly congruent with most business ethics theory I have read.

Neapolitan Variety

Just to underscore that viewing Europeans as products of a monlithic culture is as silly as viewing Americans in the same way, Sir John Keegan has this wonderful story in his Telegraph Notebook:

I HAD to interview the Italian defence minister on Monday. He brought with him a very amusing admiral. "In Milan," he said, "traffic lights are instructions. In Rome, they are suggestions. In Naples, they are Christmas decorations."

The Campaign Finance Illusion

Cal Thomas has a good summary of what's wrong with the incumbent protection bill (it's not an Act yet, thank God) in his latest syndicated column. Meanwhile, across the pond, people who should know better are saying that the best way to prevent political corruption is to have parties publicly funded. But, as Janet Daley argues in today's Telegraph, if the state funds politics, the people's voice will die.

Someone needs to point out that democracy works under a system of tolerable abuse. Yes, some people will always wield more influence than others. Single-issue groups, companies and even some wealthy individuals have "disproportionate" effects on parties' decision-making. But the editorial staffs of the New York Times and the Guardian also have a great deal of influence over certain parties' policies. Some groups donate money. Others donate status and approval. The question is where we draw the line. To my mind, culture is a better weapon than law in this respect. By inculcating a system of honour into how the voters view politics, we can rely on them to elect those represenatives they feel are above simple quid pro quos and who will act in the people's best interests. Unfortunately, we have seen the idea of honour in politics rubbished by such figures as Clinton and John Major (whose inconsistency in disciplining Tory sleazoids partly led to his party's current reputation).

The current President is plainly restoring the idea of probity in American voters' minds, despite the disturbing rumors about his past. Dick Cheney could help that process by demonstrating clearly that his dealings with the energy industry were above board (if they were not, he should at the very least apologize to the people). In Britain, IDS is slowly convincing voters that he himself is an honest and honourable man. Like Caesar's wife, future Tory candidates must be above suspicion. If not, democracy will inevitably suffer.

In Academe's Green Groves

If ever there was one case that could be used to justify firing every academic at major American universities and starting again, this is it: Orgy puts stop to degree courses in sex. Perhaps that's what they really mean by "liberal" arts.

"We are with you, Mr Milosevic"

The new Lafayette? The judge at the war crimes tribunal in The Hague actually said this while concuring with Slobo that a witness against him should be thrown out. What's even more astounding is that the witness in question was "the UN tribunal's chief investigator for Kosovo". On fair trial grounds, I approve. On the grounds that it makes the UN look like a bunch of idiots, I approve. On the grounds that it diminishes the case for a supra-national criminal court, I approve. Ye gods.

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

Solana to Patten: Shut Up, Weenie

Thanks to Steven Den Beste for this link. Solana Urges EU Critics to Stop Slamming U.S.. 'Bout time too. For the record, I agree with virtually all of what Steven's been saying in his debate with the eurobloggers. I'll try to spell out my reasoning tomorrow.

Murray in non-blog web site recommendation shocker!

I'm delighted to see that Elaine Donnelly's excellent Center for Military Readiness now has a kick-tushie web presence. Elaine fought the good fight against trendiness in the armed forces almost single-handedly during the Clinton years. She's endured a lot of abuse and attacks, some of them using the law and government money, to get her message across. Now, at last, we have a government that takes concerns like hers seriously. Check it out!

The Martyrs' Memorial

Metric madness is a magnificent Telegraph editorial on the foolish decision yesterday. Here are two extracts:

IN the "metric martyrs" judgment, we see compounded together most of the things that are wrong with Britain: the state's tendency to over-ride individual freedom; the contempt of the pays legal for the pays reel; the powerlessness of our parliament before a foreign legal code; and the sheer nastiness with which our bureaucracy treats the little man.


It is somehow appropriate that this ruling should concern metrication. For, in its elevation of the abstract and rational over the human and familiar, the metric system is an apt symbol of forcible European integration. Imperial units did not evolve by accident. They came into use because people found them practical. We all have a rough idea of, for example, how long a foot is. But a metre is based on a calculation - or rather, as we now know, a miscalculation - of the distance from the Pole to the Equator.

Our point is not that imperial units are always and everywhere better than their metric counterparts. Rather, it is that people should be free to trade in whatever measurements they wish. If both parties are happy with a transaction, the state should have no business coming between them and declaring it illegal. In practice, it may be sensible to use metric units for technical and industrial purposes, while retaining the older measures for everyday transactions.

Here, however, is a comment from a barrister I know who manages to find the silver lining on the cloud:

Although it is a sad day in many ways, not least for the Metric Martyr's themselves, there is some comfort to be gained from the judgment. The Court has based it's decision on it's view that the 1972 Act was a constitutional statute which, by virtue of the English common law, is not subject to implied repeal. At the same time the Court has re-affirmed that the doctrine of Parliamentary Sovereignty survives. It follows that Parliament could, by incorporating a clause in an Act which makes it plain that the Act is to prevail over European Law, legislate effectively to overturn any particular provision of European Law or indeed to withdraw from the EU altogether. This is important because some lawyers have argued that European Law is " self-entrenching" and it would indeed appear that the Government's lawyers were advancing such an argument in this case.

Therapy and discipline

Michael Gove also has a great column in The Times. He dissects the Left's rampant anti-semitism as being caused by "Ray-Ban Radicalism," contempt for the nation state and:

The final New Left trend which works against Jewish security is the preference for therapy over discipline. Faced with conflicts, the Left shies from the resolute punishment of those in the wrong and insists that both sides have legitimate “issues” which need resolution. The universalist New Left logic of the “peace process” dictates that terrorists and democrats are treated alike. Both parties must learn to abandon their “intransigence” to achieve progress. By placing aggressors on the same moral plain as victims the New Left not only denies morality any place in conflicts, it denies the Jewish people, in their contested home, the moral right to self-defence.

This sort of thinking is prominent in the American academy as well. The enemies of civilization have captured civilization's most important fortresses. Her defenders must work out ways to take them back.

The choice is clear

Irwin Stelzer blast the euroweenies in The Times. It's a great article, so please read all of it. The most interesting thing, though, is that Stelzer spells out that Britain can save itself:

The good news for Britain is that it is seen as an exception, a sort of non-European country. Tony Blair’s instant and complete support for America after September 11 has won his country a special place in American hearts. No matter that the tangible help he can offer is of marginal consequence. Or that Jack Straw’s sneering remarks about the President’s State of the Union speech, and his suggestion that prisoners at Camp X-Ray are being mistreated, have produced sufficient annoyance to prompt a rebuttal from the National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice. American policymakers, who a short time ago wouldn’t have known Jack Straw from any other left-wing British politician with a penchant for anti-Israel forays into Middle Eastern policy, are now sufficiently tuned into British politics to be looking forward to the reshuffle that will see him replaced with someone more sympathetic to the Prime Minister’s broader vision of the need for a sustained effort against terrorists and the regimes that support them.

By their deeds shall ye know them. If Blair does sack Straw then it will mean that he has not yet fully decided to plunge Britain into unity with Europe. The Europe/ America debate is often characterized over there as a choice between the future and the past. The choice is clear. Europe is the past. Britain can only taste the future if it takes the hand its cousin is offering across the sea.

Dumbing down

Brits always used to complain that American's don't understand irony. According to Red Robbo's newslog the Brits don't understand it any more:

Last night on the telly I said that political honour was - like virginity - easy to lose but rather harder to re-gain. I've been inundated (well, contacted by a handful of viewers) pointing out helpfully that you cannot regain your virginity. Is irony that dead?!!!

Five rules for dealing with Statistics
Wendy McElroy's article on FOXNews.com is a pretty good summation of how do handle statistics. She details six rules for dealing with stats, five of which every journalist should remember:

1. How do they know (ie was the methodology valid)?
2. Were all confounding factors accounted for?
3. Does the conclusion make sense?
4. Is the definition of the problem strict?
5. Remember that correlation does not imply causation.

McElroy's first rule, however, "who says so?" is problematic. Some studies are biased by the political objectives of the researcher. But this normally becomes clear from the way the data are handled. If the data pass the other five tests, there is likely to be little objectively wrong with the study. To dismiss a study because of the authors' prejudice is a variant of the ad hominem fallacy. If the data appear to have been skewed, that, and only that, forms legitimate grounds for suspecting bias.

Domine, defende nos contra hos motores bos

When you hear the phrase "door-to-door Mercedes service" I don't think this is what you have in mind: Passenger brought to front door by crashing bus.

Monday, February 18, 2002

Bad news on Presidents' Day

Big family day today, so few posts, I'd imagine. I do have to reference this awful court decision in the UK, however. The metric martyrs have lost their appeal, which means that an Act of Parliament has been invalidated by Secondary Legislation issued pursuant to the European Communities Act (I think that was the title of the 72 Act). I cannot understand how that is possible in our system -- it's like an Act of Congress being invalidated by an Executive Order authorized by an earlier Act of Congress, which I don't think is possible (lawyers please inform me if I am wrong). I shall await the text of the Appeal Judge's verdict.

Friday, February 15, 2002

Destroy all humans!

Steven Den Beste has a picture of a new humanoid robot at USS Clueless. I don't know why, but it creeps me out. Perhaps it's because the reflective "helmet" reminds me of The Ambassadors of Death in the Jon Pertwee Dr Who story?

Noble agriculturists

I was going to write about the fascinating article "1491" in the new Atlantic, but Richard Bennett has beaten me to it. His take says everything I intended to say, and a bit more.

Bye-bye Baghdad

There. They've said it. The Council on Foreign Relations comes out and calls for the invasion of Iraq. One cakewalk coming up...

Weren't the Ethicals in charge of Riverworld?

That must be the biggest cloning project in SF history. Anyway, it looks like Leon Kass' bioethics council is engaged in healthy debate:

Council members agree they are opposed to cloning a human for the purpose of creating a baby, which would be genetically equivalent to a twin brother or sister born later.

But they have yet to determine whether their objections are solely practical or also moral, or what the precise moral objections are.

There was even less agreement on therapeutic cloning, where a cloned embryo is created for research or medical treatments and destroyed before ever developing into a fetus.

A lot of major Blogosphere pundits suggested that the council would be packed or would otherwise fail to give adequate weight to the arguments for cloning. That assessment looks seriously premature now. Whatever their conclusions, they will be the product of genuine debate. I hope whichever side "loses" admits that.

Thursday, February 14, 2002

Worrying image alert: There's a picture of me and my daughter up at the "about" site.

Conservatives: they're so mean

It's an image problem on both sides of the pond. No-one is viewed more harshly in the UK than Lady Thatcher. But according to the man who sculpted her image for the House of Commons lobby, she's a sweetie:

"She was a very easy person to talk to - which I was very surprised at," Mr Simmons told BBC News.

"When I first met her I was very worried, rather intimidated, as most of us were, but meeting her she was a very human person," he added.

This could be the first time since, oh, 1976, that any member of the artistic community has called Mrs T human. The truth will out...

And they keep on coming...

Some great new blogs I've been reading recently. Try out The Vodkapundit (I get the feeling I'd like this guy), Megan McArdle's Live From the WTC, Paul Orwin's Turned Up to Eleven (a left-liberal political stance, with some well-argued points about scientific matters), and David Janes' Ranting and Roaring. I also apologize profusely to Dr Frank and Ben Sherriff (who has a great post on auditing in the light of Enronmania) for not giving them the highly recommended star. I shall fix that.

Are we still in the 13th century?

The Prof was astounded by the Speccie's cover. I hope he's read Mel P's article. The theology she refers to is very, very worrying:

[T]he Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem, Riah Abu El-Assal, [is] a Palestinian who is intemperate in his attacks on Israel. ‘We interviewed Bishop Riah after some terrorist outrage in Israel,’ says Colin Blakely, ‘and his line was that it was all the fault of the Jews. I was astounded.’

The bishop also has an astounding interpretation of the Old Testament. Last December, he claimed of Palestinian Christians, ‘We are the true Israel ...no one can deny me the right to inherit the promises, and after all the promises were first given to Abraham and Abraham is never spoken of in the Bible as a Jew.... He is the father of the faithful.’

What's interesting is that is is apparently all tied to liberation theology, the marxist interpretation of Christianity that motivated the revolutionaries in Central America. Massacres seem to be a speciality of this bunch.

I thought my faith had put this nonsense behind us. Seems like we have a long way to walk on our collective road to Calvary.

Post Scriptum: Andrew Ian Dodge had the scoop on this before The Prof, whom he informed of it. He's not happy about the lack of acknowledgement, to say the least...

Lions led by donkeys?

Interesting Bruce Anderson article in the new Speccie. Were the allied special forces restrained from getting Bin Laden in Tora Bora by general staff pussillaninimity? I'm sure most of my readers will agree with the concluding assessment:

It is now time for Donald Rumsfeld to retire a number of his Vietnamised, risk-averse generals, and to replace them with warriors. After all, he will shortly have a war to fight.

Immigration Idiocy

Forgot to mention that I had a piece criticizing the reaction to census "numbers" on illegal immigrants on The American Enterprise recently.

Crime-free Britain

What nice memories we have of it. The Telegraph's excellent editorial, London needs a Giuliani, there's an astonishing fact that all advocates of the British approach to crime should learn:

It is true that street crime in London has risen by 40 per cent since the last general election, while in New York it has steadily fallen, and that the total of reported crimes in London now far outstrips that of New York.

But this isn't just a crime-control issue. It's a constitutional issue. The chief of police for the US jurisdiction with the highest drop in crime in the 90s told me that the Chief of Police has to have the full backing of the city manager and the city council. That's impossible in the UK, because no-one has that authority:

Here the mayor shares responsibility for the policing of the capital with the Metropolitan Police Authority, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner and the Home Secretary. Even if Ken Livingstone were a more impressive figure than he is, even if he had a clear plan of action, he would need to overcome many more institutional obstacles than Mr Giuliani ever did in order to make the streets of London safe again.

Londoners have an elected mayor who meddles in many things that are not his business but who is impotent in the one matter that ought to be his business. Because Mr Livingstone is not responsible, he is also irresponsible.

We desparately need to return political power to where it is most effectively used. Blair cannot see this. Hopefully IDS, and the people, will.

Scots Aglae

I've written here before about how awful Scotland's parliamentary system is. Here's a case study: This hunting Bill shows how bad Scotland's Parliament is.

Gentlemen vs Players

Interesting little comment in an excellent post on the Bellesiles laugh-in on InstaPundit.Com:

The term "amateur" was originally one of praise, since it signified love for the subject. I think it will become such again.

Indeed. The fallacious argumentum ex auctoritate has become institutionalized (almost literally) in the West. Time and again, however, the supposed experts are being exposed. We may be entering a new internet-supported era of polymathism, if that's a word. How ironic that this should happen at a time when our societies' basic education provision is in such an awful state.

Wednesday, February 13, 2002

Overthrow Saddam? Piece of p*ss!

Remarkably upbeat op/ed by Ken Adelman in the Post entitled Cakewalk In Iraq. Why would kicking him out be easy?

I believe demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk. Let me give simple, responsible reasons: (1) It was a cakewalk last time; (2) they've become much weaker; (3) we've become much stronger; and (4) now we're playing for keeps.

Perhaps "cakewalk" should be become the realist's answer to the pessimist's "quagmire"...

The Terror of Drugs

Interesting piece of data in this Washington Times article about the new drugs fighting policy:

The campaign began with the airing of several stark TV spots during the Super Bowl.

"We tested these ads more extensively than any ads done," Mr. Walters told reporters later in the day. "The focus group results of the tests showed some of the most powerful results reported by young people, young adults and parents, in telling us these would help them reconsider their attitude toward drug use in a positive direction."

Mr. Walters said he was somewhat surprised to discover that parents found the anti-terrorism argument "enormously helpful to them in talking to their children about drugs, in addition to all the other reasons they would give their kids for not using drugs."

The blogosphere (or at least its libertarian spiral arm that I'm an outlying planet on) reacted to the ads with derision, pointing out that legalization would solve the problem instantly. This datum, however, shows that people aren't really concerned about legalization or otherwise. My wife, who was in advertising and is pro-cannabis legalization, said that she thought the ads were very effective.

The argument over the abuse of drugs is all about the consequences of their use. If these ads get people into thinking about one set of consequences, that, to my mind, is all to the good.

Go, Gove, Go!

Everyone's linking to this, but as I consider Michael a friend, I think I should too. Michael Gove's demolition of Chris Patten in the Times is a masterpiece of deflating pomposity.

Not evil? Perhaps gassing your own citizens, invading your neighbours and plotting the murder of US Presidents (Iraq) or starving your own citizens, maintaining a Stalinist police state and diverting foreign support into an aggressive inter-continental missile programme (North Korea) or assassinating dissident exiles, funding suicide-bombing terrorist organisations and brutally suppressing expressions of solidarity with America after September 11 (Iran) aren’t evil. But then what is truly evil in the exquisitely sophisticated mind of a Balliol graduate? Having doubts about the Kyoto treaty? And as for not constituting an “axis”, then what do you call Tehran’s decision to lend financial assistance to Syria so it could buy North Korean Scud missiles? Or North Korea’s plans to sell missiles with a range of 1,000km to any Middle Eastern dictator with money, and enemies, to burn? What about the development, between the three, of new chemical and biological weapons, including the Iraqi stockpiling of anthrax and botulinim toxin? Second, the EU should not delude itself that its strategy of “tackling the causes of terrorism” through aid is an effective substitute for more resolute action. Indeed EU aid has proved to be, if anything, a sop to terror; tribute to barbarians from a decadent Empire incapable of investing adequately in its own defence.

I am so glad that someone has at last pointed out the similarity of "sophistication" to "sophistry". The Commissioner has no clothes.

Touts mes enfants

Astonishingly shallow analysis, Adventures in euroland, by The Guardian's Jonathan Freedland (whose Bring Home the Revolution was a perceptive look at how the American system could be applied in the UK, befuddled by its preoccupation with abolishing the monarchy).

Firstly, he takes the current satisfaction with the Euro in the Eurozone as evidence that the issue is settled. Let's see how that analysis looks after the first serious recession causes the ECB to apply measures that are inappropriate for one or more member nations.

Second, he seems to think that labor mobility will mean massive Slovenian immigration to the UK. Possibly, but linguistic ability is the main barrier to such movement. An American or Australian is always going to have an advantage in working in the UK over a Slovenian, unless they are from the top educational bracket (and how many of thsoe are there?). So unless the EU is going to seek to tighten the UK's non-EU immigration laws, I can't see this having much effect on the composition of the UK's non-British "sojourner" labor force. That will remain overwhelmingly Anglospheric (with the exception of the expat French companies that have been colonizing the Home Counties to take advantage of British Anglsopheric labor laws, something that won't last long if the EU has its way and harmonizes them out of existence).

As for the references to the Constitutional Convention, I expected more input from a man who is a self-confessed fan of the document drafted in Philadelphia.

The reason Britain is watching a different show is that we are tuned to the news channel, while Europe is watching a daytime soap, with all the fantastic plot lines and breaks from reality that entails.

MMR Muddle: a solution?

Steve Connor in The Independent makes a good case from the standpoint of evolutionary psychology as to why the British are so concerned about the MMR vaccine. We're attuned to individual stories, he says, thereby conditioning us to ignore scientists who concentrate on statistical evidence.

True as far as it goes, but there's also some interesting evidence from the YouGov poll (warning: PDF file) on public attitudes. If you look at the figures, the public does trust doctors and scientists. It's the Department of Health they don't trust. The only other identifiable factor that might contribute to the public disquiet is Tony Blair's refusal to say whether Leo had the vaccination. Again, a government issue. It seems that it may be the involvement of politicians in this debate that is scaring the public. We can't trust politicians, the public says, and here they are telling us our babies will be safe. We can't believe that.

This seems to me to be a pretty strong argument for the privatization of the NHS. Political involvement in health decision-making is having a negative effect on public health. Leave it up to the doctors and the public will trust them. I have a feeling that, if some system of stakeholder insurance or something like it can be worked out so that the overall individual financial contribution to health is not really affected, then the public will be only too happy to see the back of the Health Department and we could at last consign the NHS to the graveyard of political failures.

Tuesday, February 12, 2002

Talking of professionalism

I've finally got my archive page in a reasonable condition. You can find links to my work that's been published in places like The Washington Post, The Spectator and other execrable old media locations here.

Busy day

I've finished a couple of professional pieces on the Afghan civilian casualty figures. If they're printed, you'll hear here. if not, well, they'll be posted here...

Low posting alert

Very busy today, so few posts likely. But do check out Constitutional shipwreck warning in The Washington Times. It destroys Cheney's case for executive privilege in the energy task force affair. I'll have more to say on this.

Monday, February 11, 2002

Lomborg vs the Establishment

Scientific American(no link because it doesn't deserve one) published a lengthy "critique" (polemic would be a better word) against Bjorn Lomborg's book The Skeptical Enviromentalist in January. He composed a point-by-point rebuttal on his website as SciAm magnanimously only allowed him an 800 word reply, to be printed in May (!). Now they're threatening to sue him for including even quotes in his rebuttal. Check out the letters in support from, amongst others, Matt Ridley and Richard Lindzen. I have some doubts over Lomborg's work (it is a bit too dogmatic in places) but this is just below the belt.

Fear and Loathing in Kansas City

On the subject of not knowing what education is for, Jay Manifold has a magnificent quote from a letter to the Kansas City Star over on A Voyage To Arcturus.


The trouble with privatizing nationalized monopolies as monolithic bodies is that they have a tendency to continue to operate in a blunderingly crude fashion, but without the restraints of any public service ethos they might once have had. Case in point: British Telecom. BT is suing ISP Prodigy because it claims it patented the hyperlink back in 1980. I'm neither a lawyer nor a techie, but the case seems pretty thin to me. This all reminds me of the case of the BR Spaceship patent...

A Cherry for the Teacher?

[Sorry]. There's been a lot of fuss in the UK about a young Canadian teacher who splept with two of her 15 year-old male pupils. Much of the coverage in the blogosphere has, given the medium's libertarian tendencies, focused on the rights or wrongs of the sex. Thank God for Spiked's Jennie Bristow, who points out in School for scandal that this is a red-herring. The issue is whether or not our teachers know what they're supposed to be doing:

... the use of staff who are not trained to be teachers, or who teach to plug a temporary gap in their lives (or in Ms Gehring's case, apparently, to help get over a failed relationship), does indicate the degree of cop-out that is going on. As society fails to excite people about what it means to be a full-time teacher, dedicated to developing young people's minds and expanding their horizons, it resorts to employing people as (in Ms Gehring's words) 'glorified babysitters', who are expected to do little more than not behave inappropriately. It's hardly an inspiring job - and it's hardly education.

The case was a symptom of a wider disease. We, as a society, don't know what education is supposed to be for any more. That argument holds true on both sides of the Atlantic. We need to work it out, sharpish.

Doctor in Your House

Short but sweet column by anti-idiotarian Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick on Spiked, Doctoring domestic violence. He swiftly dismisses the modern definition of domestic violence as inflationary and then simply points out why Doctors (qua Doctors) shouldn't be worrying about this subject:

Doctors have very limited knowledge or expertise in the sphere of intra-personal and interpersonal development. Their crass intrusion into these areas as the face of public authority claiming to protect women from the vicissitudes of interpersonal strife is destined to end in disaster. It will do nothing to protect women, but it will undermine doctors' capacity to fulfil a professional medical role, which sometimes requires them to maintain a degree of distance from their patients' personal difficulties.

Exactly the same point could be made about Doctors asking children about guns over here.