England's Sword 2.0

Tuesday, April 30, 2002

The Feudal Times and Reactionary Herald

... has a new contributor in Will Hutton, it seems. Chris Bertram takes down his idiotic attempt to argue that a homogeneous Europe is a nicer place than America because of feudalism over at the insightful Junius (take a lot at his post today on the far right being the real anti-globalizers too).

Babelfish or Franglais?

EUROPE 2020 is obviously a francophone operation, so I am normally prepared to be lenient on their sometimes eccentric translations. This press release, however, is one of the worst I have ever seen:

Communiqué of Europe 2020 : To prevent anti-democratic forces to progress, we need an innovative European democratic project

On Monday June 17th 2002, Europe 2020 will release an important document
entitled: 'Reshaping Europe 2005-2020: Visions and Concrete Proposals for a
democratic, effective enlarged European Union' . It will present a process to re-invent the European Union and build a European common democracy.

This document (50 pages) will integrate all the works conducted by Europe 2020 and its partners during the past 5 years namely through the series of Europe 2020 Anticipation Seminars in the EU and the Europe 2020 Candidate Countries Seminars. It will also integrate the learnings and findings coming out of some major European projects where Europe 2020 was heavily involved such as Newropeans 2000 and Eu-StudentVote.Mixing high level expertise of the EU system with cutting hedge experience of European democratization, this document will also be the first comprehensive vision and set of proposals developed by the European up-coming generations (below 40 years old).

The document 'Reshaping Europe 2005-2020' will be sent out directly to the political top decision makers of the EU such as the European Head of States and Governments, the European and National Parliaments and the Convention on the Future of Europe. Meanwhile an executive summary will be circulated widely through Internet to 1.000.000 citizens and organizations in French, English, German, Spanish and Italian.

At a time when the voices of new generations are not heard into the debate on Europe's future, it seems utterly important to Europe 2020, only European think-tank created and operated by the up-coming generations, to bring a major input coming from those who are going to effectively build tomorrow's Europe.

This is the ONLY way to prevent tomorrow's Europe to be anti-democratic!

All your bases are belong to us!

(Seriously, "cutting hedge"...!?!)

Frogs in trouble

No, this story isn't about Le Pen. My colleague Howard Fienberg takes on the issue of frog defomities at Tech Central Station in "The Story That Croaked?"

Puzzled? Try reading some history!

Thanks to Jonas Cord for clueing me in on this one (you don't want to know why I was incommunicado yesterday). Romano Prodi is puzzled by the US-UK relationship. So the links engendered by a common culture, language, constitutional theory, legal system and attitude to trade and business are more puzzling to him than the links enforced by a common currency that ignores the needs of major participants? That the President of the EU could be so astonishingly obtuse is what puzzles me...

Saturday, April 27, 2002

The people must reclaim the justice system

And this made me angry enough to blog it. Tom Utley has some important observations in It's not the golf ball thief who is mugging justice. A chap who retreived lost golf balls at night from a water hazard at a local club, then sold them on, has been sentenced to six months' jail and ordered to pay GBP 400 in compensation (to whom?) Contrast this with the penalties handed out for their previous offenses to the "children" acquitted of the Damilola Taylor murder:

Child A took a car without consent and escaped with a conditional discharge and a six-month disqualification; he assaulted a police officer and suffered no more than an order to pay £50 compensation.

Child B was fined £20 for taking a car; when he did it again he was given a conditional discharge; for a later theft, he was given a 12-month supervision order and a three-month parenting order; for criminal damage he was made to go to an attendance centre for only 18 hours; for assaulting care workers he escaped with a £30 fine and was bound over to keep the peace for 12 months.

Child C: burglary, supervision order; criminal damage, conditional discharge; affray, eight-month detention and training order. Child D: robbery, 12-month supervision order; theft, 12 hours at an attendance centre; assault, supervision order; another assault, another 12 hours at an attendance centre; burglary, released on bail.

Brits sneer at Americans for trying children as adults. In cases like this, I think that's a very good idea...

Space: The unethical frontier

As you know, I don't normally post at the weekend, but I had to blog this. Rand Simberg used his FoxNews column to criticize someone who commented that exploring space was 'unethical', I kid you not. Unbelieveably, Rand received a host of e-mails agreeing, not with him, but with the anthropophobe. The debate continued on Transterrestrial Musings. Read Rand's initial observations, and then check out the astonishingly obtuse comments made by a humanity-hater in the Comments section. Amazing. The viewpoint does seem to be, as one shrewd observer summarised it, that Rocks Have Rights...

Friday, April 26, 2002

Almost perfect

Astoundingly good analysis of the Damilola issue by Jennie Bristow at spiked: Trials and tribulations.


Greece has convicted 12 British plane-spotters of spying. Who for? From a simple national interest perspective, it's time to ditch Greece and turn to Turkey as a much better ally.

Cheerio, INS!

Jolly good. The House voted 405-9 to abolish the INS yesterday. The Senate is expected to do the same. Well done, Rep. Sensenbrenner!

Son of France and Steyn

Mark Steyn has a similar analysis of the French predicament to mine, but of course says it far better:

Europe's ruling class has effortlessly refined Voltaire: I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death my right not to have to listen to you say it. You might disapprove of what Le Pen says on immigration, but to declare that the subject cannot even be raised is profoundly unhealthy for a democracy. The problem with the old one-party states of Africa and Latin America was that they criminalized dissent: You could no longer criticize the President, you could only kill him. In the two-party one-party states of Europe, a similar process is under way: If the political culture forbids respectable politicians from raising certain topics, then the electorate will turn to unrespectable politicians -- as they're doing in France, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and elsewhere. Le Pen is not an aberration but the logical consequence.

His conclusion, however, goes further than I would dare:

I've said before that September 11th will prove to be like the Archduke's assassination in Sarajevo -- one of those events that shatters the known world. To the list of polities destined to slip down the Eurinal of history, we must add the European Union and France's Fifth Republic. The only question is how messy their disintegration will be.

I think both those ailing entities will stagger on for some time yet. It will be another event that pushes them over the edge. 9/11 just opened more people's eyes to what was happening in Europe (the British Euroskeptics' eyes were already wide open). It did not open the Europeans' eyes, as we should now realize. They need another event; Le Pen getting elected against all predictions to the contrary would be such a happening. More likely, however, will be a series of small events that lead up to people waking up one morning to find that their centuries-old civilization has collapsed overnight.

UPDATE: Josie Appleton has a very sensible analysis, stressing the importance of democratic principles in all this, at spiked.

Justice for Damilola can only come from the people

Long-time readers will know of the Damilola Taylor case. For those who are new to it, this was a ten year old African boy who was stabbed to death in South London. A good student and a likeable boy, the initial theory was that he was killed by youths of Caribbean descent who dislike Africans for various reasons. Having been criticized heavily for not treating the murder of a black youth, Stephen Lawrence, seriously enough, the Met Police pulled out all the stops in the investigation of this crime. But when the case came to trial, it quickly turned to farce. A girl who was the main prosecution witness turned out to be less than reliable and the judge ordered the defendents whose guilt or otherwise turned on her testimony freed. There was considerable confusion over the "logistics" of the crime and a flimsy case advanced that Damilola had died in a bizarre accident. Overall, the jury felt that guilt had not been proven beyond reasonable doubt. Of course, as soon as they were freed the defendents' representatives started talking about suing the police. Richard Littlejohn gives a trenchant account of the case in The Sun today (although he's a bit too credulous about the accident theory).

But the problem is wider than this one case. As The Telegraph spells out in its main leader, Give us back our streets, the problem is one of a society that is rotten:

The acquittal makes the case an even more potent expression of what has gone wrong. It is very likely that there are people on the estate where the murder was committed who know precisely who did it. These have not come forward either because they would regard doing so as "grassing" or else because they are frightened that they would face a campaign of terror from the family or families of the killers. Either way, it is a terrible reflection of the state we have reached. It demonstrates how many members of the public have become alienated and how the police have lost control and credibility.

The people of these communities have to ask themselves whether freedom from these gangs and justice for the dead is more important than resentment of the police and a bizarre kind of dependent independence from the wider community. Justice, at its heart, comes from a desire by the people to see certain principles upheld. If some communities abstract themselves from these principles, the idea collapses. It seems that these people see "grassing" as a bigger sin than murder. Something has gone terribly wrong if that is the case. It may be that these people have lost any sense of ownership of the justice process. If that is the case, that must be addressed without moving the system too far towards vigilanteism. I wonder, however, whether a decent self-defence law might provide some protection for these people from their local tyrants and encourage a stronger sense of civil society. In the end, justice for Damilola can only come from the people itself. A way needs to be found of getting them to understand that.

UPDATE: Phillip Johnston has a policing plan that would help achieve the aims I argue for. His point that the police and local community must be strongly enmeshed (as i ahve argued here before) is so important and so blindingly obvious that I still cannot see why it has been ignored for so long.

Here's a demo to attend

Time for lovers of liberty to get out the placards and banners and take to the streets. Charles Moore of the Daily Telegraph has organized a rally on May Day to blow the whistle on the control freaks. His rationale is simple:

The defenders of freedom therefore have to be prepared to be awkward. They have to try to persuade people not to act in haste and repent at leisure, people who are often very angry. Take the issue of paedophilia. Because people are naturally horrified by child abuse, many of them can be persuaded to support almost any measure which purports to punish or control it. This was why the controversial Brass Eye satire on the subject was so brilliant and why so many of the control freaks wanted it banned. The fact that child abuse is a terrible thing does not automatically mean that someone convicted of it should be deprived of all rights in perpetuity, nor that all accusations of it should be believed.

Indeed. I'd be there if I was in the UK. If any of you make it, please let me have a report.

Attention Sarah Brady

This sort of thing doesn't happen in Germany, of course. Only in America.

UPDATE: According to Agence France Presse, the death toll is now 18. Proportionately, that's equivalent to 61 at an American school.

Thursday, April 25, 2002

INS isn't working

Great op/ed by Rep. James Sensenbrenner in today's Washington Times.
Time to split argues for splitting the INS in two. I heartily agree. This is my experience --

A backlog of 5 million unadjudicated petitions for immigration benefits forces aliens trying to play by the rules to wait in limbo for years. Thousands wait in line for hours each day at INS offices with an easy question as to whether their benefit application paperwork is all in, yet they can't receive this simple answer via the INS web site or by phone because the agency is still largely paper-based and lacks this 1990s service. I've seen thousands of these files stacked from floor to ceiling in INS offices.

Meanwhile, the other side is unable to do anything about 300,000 identified illegals. The congressman is right to argue that splitting the agency makes the most sense. That will allow the service side of the agency to do its best for people who want to do things right and the enforcement side to do the worst to the people who do things wrongly. The INS is schizoid at the moment. Let's give it this bit of therapy at least.

Respec' is not due

Here's word from the Washington Times on what's happening inside the Church of the Nativity:

Two Armenian friars who escaped from the church on Tuesday night through a side exit spoke yesterday of extensive looting, including theft and destruction of Christian sacramental objects, from the church.

Having got many European Christians on side by asserting that they had essentially claimed sanctuary, I wonder how many of the areligious major world newspapers will cover this aspect?

Politique as usual

Some interesting commentaries on the Le Pen result, and on European politics in general in the last couple of days. First of all, here is Dan Hannan MEP's take on the Le Pen issue:

One of my friends in the European Parliament is a Belgian - and, believe me, you've never met a Euro-federalist until you've met a Belgian MEP. He has always regarded me, affectionately enough I think, as a madman. He simply cannot understand how any rational adult could oppose the euro, or want national parliaments to remain sovereign, or be worried about the proposed European constitution.

So it was a pleasant surprise when he turned to me on Tuesday and said: "I hate to admit it, but you Conservatives may have been right all along. Too much European integration really is pushing voters into the hands of people like Le Pen".

I don't believe that all or even most of Le Pen's voters support his manifesto. Quite apart from his rejection of the notion that all Frenchmen should be equal before the law, he has made absurd promises to boost spending while slashing taxes, and wants to take France back to an age of tariff walls. Rather than voting for Le Pen, many French people were voting against the complacency of the established parties.

In France, as in many EU countries, the ruling parties have very deliberately created a consensus on all the big issues: immigration, European integration and corporatist economics. Politicians outside this consensus are shunned and vilified, often penalised by rules on party registration or funding. Those within it, by contrast, have become aloof, out-of-touch and in many cases corrupt.

In such a climate, voters turn out of sheer frustration to politicians who portray themselves as being against the whole system. It is rather like the black market. Just as an over-regulated economy drives people to conduct their business outside the law, so a political system that offers no choice will drive them towards the political equivalent of the cowboy trader.

The Guardian and the BBC mischievously describe this process as "the rise of the Right", and try to link racist parties like the French National Front with Euro-sceptic parties in Portugal, Switzerland and Scandinavia -- and so, by implication, with the British Tories. Within hours of Le Pen's election, I was asked to go on air by Newsnight, who were plainly trying to establish a connection in their viewers' minds between Le Pen and the Conservative Party.

In fact, Le Pen is not particularly Right-wing as we would understand the term in Britain. He believes in economic protectionism and state intervention, and is anti-British and anti-American. He represents a nasty, authoritarian tradition in French politics that has no real equivalent on this side of the Channel: the tradition of Boulanger, of the anti-Dreyfusards, of Charles Maurras and the Action Française, of Vichy and of Poujade. This philosophy has little connection with mainstream Gaullism, and none whatever with the free market conservatism of other European states.

The real significance of Le Pen's victory lies in what it tells us about the state of French democracy. The Fifth Republic, as conceived by de Gaulle, vested immense powers in the Presidency. But European integration has gradually done away with all the things that the General believed in: economic sovereignty, a distinctive French foreign policy, a centralised state and a powerful President. Chirac has nugatory powers at his disposal compared with those enjoyed by the de Gaulle. Voters, sensing this, have ceased to treat his office with the deference they once did. Feeling ignored and powerless, they have sent an angry signal to their rulers.

European federalism is widening the gap between government and governed. If we want to tackle the public's alienation, we must restore the sense that how you vote makes a difference. Until we do, we can expect to see other Le Pens across the continent.

Fair comment, I think. I was discussing this issue with a Europhile friend over dinner last night and he made mostly the same points. The current party system, especially in the context of EU power, is increasingly irrelevant to the voters. Parties that do not promise to return power to the people are increasingly being ignored. Another friend of mine sent me the following analysis of how the traditional French powerhouse parties did in the election:

By the way I checked last night and 3.4% at this election is by far the worst performance of the PCF [French Communist Party] since its foundation in 1920. Its worst pre-war performance was 8.4% in 1932. In more recent years it never dropped below 6-7%. In the sixties and seventies its vote never dropped below 20%, exceeding the combined vote for all the far left parties this time. From 1945-56 its vote was 25%+. I should imagine it will start to fall apart now, if its not doing so already, and its members defect to other groups.

Bayrou's 6.9% is also by far the worst poll by the UDF [Union Democratique Francaise] since it's foundation by Giscard in the 70s. It's also the worst performance by the centre, which used to mainly represented by the Christian Democrat MRP, that I could find since the war. Remember old Raymond Barre? Even he managed 16.5% in 1988. We may see the break up of the UDF as well after this election. 'Quelle dommage!'

My friend also pointed out that St Josse of the Huntin' Shootin' and Fishin' party (actually, Hunting, Fishing, Nature and Traditions Party) is urging his supporters on his website not to vote for Le Pen. That's a bad sign, as it surely means that most of them already are thinking of doing so. Add Chevenment's vote and posit a mass abstention by the Left and suddenly things look a lot, lot closer. I'm pretty certain Chirac will win, but the possibility of a close vote looks a lot bigger to me than a couple of days ago.

Meanwhile, we see in the Netherlands another aspect of European politics. Wim Fortuyn is a liberal anti-immigrant. He himself is gay, and bases his anti-immigration arguments on the principle that the Netherlands is a nice, liberal place and more immigrants will make it less so, subjecting people like himself to increased prejudice and loss of liberties. It's an interesting proposition, and one that seems to be attracting a lot of support.

Finally, the view from outside the EU is admirably summed up by Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic in this WSJ piece by Pete DuPont:

Mr. Klaus believes that in the 1990s Europe became more socialistic. "Regulation is for today's socialists what public ownership of the means of production and central planning were for their fathers and grandfathers," he says, adding that the 1990s saw "a victory of new collectivisms." In the first 10 years after the collapse of communism the dominant European slogan was "Deregulate, liberalize, privatize," but now Mr. Klaus sees a very different set of priorities: "Regulate, adjust to all kinds of standards of the most developed and richest countries, . . . get rid of your sovereignty and put it into the hands of international institutions and organizations." In short, flying one's national flag is becoming politically incorrect.

As long as Europe's states remain democracies, there is a way out of this problem. Increasingly, European voters are turning to people who articulate, however crudely, the central truth that sovereignty resides with the people and cannot simply be given away to supranational institutions. Political parties of all persuasions that ignore this and speak to their needs and those of their cronies will increasingly go the way of the UDF and PCF. If the parties wish to survive they will have to adopt a more, how can I put it, skeptical approach to European integration. After the next round of European elections I expect to see Tony Blair step back from his euro-enthusiasm. I certainly can't see him risking a referendum on the Euro any time soon.

Which makes me ask the following question: has France saved Britain?

New Column

Apologies for no posts yesterday. I hope the extra long one on Tuesday made up for it...

Anyway, I have a new column running on UPI. Recent Research Suggests will look at the stories from the past week centered on research reports, as well as highlighting other studies that didn't make the press for no readily explicable reason. Hope you enjoy it. Which reminds me, I have to write this week's version today...

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Le Pen de ma Tante

The Telegraph agrees with me on Le Pen: he is a product of the EU.

The real significance of M Le Pen's success on Sunday lies in what it tells us about the state of the French democracy. The ideals of the Fifth Republic, as conceived by de Gaulle, have been gradually eroded by the EU. The president is no longer sovereign, either in economic affairs or foreign policy, while Euro-regionalism has undermined the unity of the state. No wonder French voters have ceased to take the office seriously. The Fifth Republic has been hollowed out by Brussels. Now, the outer shell is crumbling.

Happy St George's Day

I'm suffering from what seems to be my umpteenth head cold this year, but at least it allows me to read something appropriate for the day. Tony Bourdain is the badass executive chef of Les Halles in New York (don't worry, I'm going somewhere with this) who writes in a style the New York Times compared to a combination of Hunter S. Thompson, Iggy Pop and Jonathan Swift (which should make him a hero to bloggers everywhere). The Food Network is currently broadcasting his amazing series A Cook's Tour, wherein he journies all over the world in search of the perfect meal. This weekend I saw his episode on England. Foolish mortals who believe the stereotypes they hear about British cooking should pause for a momen't reflection on how they have wasted their lives, for Bourdain considers Britain and Australia to be the places where the best is happening in food at the moment. Spurred on by my wife, I therefore read the chapter in the book of the series about England, and came across these marvelous passages, which seem to me to be particularly appropriate for the day. They are about Fergus Henderson, proprietor and chef at what must be the most traditionalist restaurant in England, St John, near Smithfield market:

Years ago, when the prevalining wisdom among foodies directed quaint, tiny, sculpted portions of brightly colored odd bits -- light on the protein and heavy on the veg, Fergus was reveling in pig -- pig fat, pig parts, and pig guts -- his plates rustic-colored palettes of browns, beiges, and earth tones -- maybe the occasional flash of green -- simple, unassuming, unpretentious -- and absolutely and unapologetically English.

While most of his contemporaries, newly empowered by Michelin stars and a suddenly food-crazed public, rushed to the squeeze bottle and the metal ring, to Japanese and French classics for inspiration, Fergus was alone on the hill, running up the Union Jack. He went to a neighborhood where nobody wanted to go, set up shop in an all-white abattoir-looking space down a seemingly univiting alley, and began serving what he refers to as "nose to tail" eating, a menu so astonishingly reactionary for its time, he might well -- in another country -- have been imprisoned for it. Today, while lesser mortals cower around their veggie plates in hemp sandals, cringing at the thought of contamination by animal product, St. John's devotees -- and there are a lot of them -- flock to his plain, undecorated dining room to revel in roasted marrow, rolled spleen, grilled ox heart, braised belly, and fried pig's tails.

It was a very ballsy position to take back in the early nineties -- and it's an even ballsier proposition today, when the Evil Axis [nb this was written before 9/11... ed.] Powers of Health Nazis, Vegetarian Taliban, European Union bureaucrats, antismoking crystal worshipers, PETA fundamentalists, fast-food theme-restaurant moguls, and their sympathizers are consolidating their frearful hold on popular dining habits and practices.

Bourdain rises to his theme...

There are dire times to be a chef who specializes in pork and offal. The EU has its eye on unpasteurized cheese, artisanal cheese, artisanal everything, shellfish, meat, anything that carries the slightest, most infinitesimal possibility of risk - or the slightest potential for pleasure. there is talk of banning unaged cheese, stock bones, soft-boiled or raw eggs. In the States, legislation has been suggested, mandating a written warning when a customer requests eggs over easy or a Caesar salad. ('Warning! Fork - if placed in eye - may cause injury!') A woman in the States won a lawsuit, claiming her coffee was too hot, scalding her as she stomped on the accelerator exiting the McDonald's parking lot. ('Warning! Deep-fried Mars bar - if stuffed down pants - may cause genital scarring!') The result of this unrestrained fear mongering, this mad rush to legislate new extremes of shrink-wrapped germ-free safety? Much like it was after Upton Sinclair's The Jungle scared the hell out of early-twentieth-century meat eaters - the absorption o f small independents into giant factory farms and slaughter domes. Try and eat an American chicken and you will see what looms: bloodless, flavorless, colorless, and riddled with salmonella - a by-product of letting the little guys go under and the big conglomerates run things their way.

You have only to visit an English pub in, say, Bristol or Birmingham - once-proud strongholds of British culinary tradition at its simplest and most unvarnished - to see that the enemy has reached the gates and is pounding on the door. A vegetarian menu! Right there - next to the steak and kidney pie and the bangers and mash! Worse - far worse - is when you look over the bar and see Brits, brewers of some of the finest alcoholic beverages in the world, gorgeous beers, ales, and bitters, once served in that most noble of drinking vessels - the pint glass - sucking Budweisers from long-necked bottles.

It's war. On one side, a growing army of hugely talented young British, Scottish, Irish, and Australian chefs, rediscovering their own enviable indigenous resources and marrying them with either new or brash concepts or old and neglected classics. On the other? A soul-destroying tsunami of bad, fake reproductions of what was already bad, fack New York 'Mexican' food. Gluey, horrible nachos, microwaved, never-fried 'refried' beans, fabric softener margaritas. Limp, soggy, watery, and thoroughly dickless 'enchiladas' and catsupy salsas. Clueless 'Pan-Asian' watering holes where every callow youth with a can of coconut milk and some curry powder thinks he's Ho Chi Minh. (Forget it. Ho could cook.) Sushi is almost nowhere to be found - in spite of the fact that the seafood in the UK is magnificent. You get more heart, soul, and flavor at an East End pie shop than at any of the rotten, fake, dumbed-down 'Italian,' ;Japanese fusion,' or theme purgatories. Even the cod - the basic ingredient of fish and chips - is disappearing. (I raised that subject with a Portuguese cod importer. 'The damned seals eat them,' was his answer. 'Kill more seals,' he suggested."

Fortunately, Fergus and other like-minded souls are on the front lines, and they're unlikely to abandon their positions. Sitting at St. John, I ordered what I think is the best thing I have ever put in my mouth: Gergus's roasted bone marrow with parsley and caper salad, croutons, and sea sold.

Oh God, is it good. How something so simple can be so ... so ... absolutely luxurious. A few Flintstone-sized lenghts of veal shank, a lightly dressed salad ... Lord ... to tunnel into those bones, smear that soft gray-pink-and-white marrow onto a slab of toasted bread, sprinkle with some sel de gris ... take a bite ... Angels sing, celestial trumpets ... six generations of one's ancestors smile down from heaven. It's butter from God.

Bourdain goes on to call St. John a "call to the barricades"...

Because it will not end with the marrow (which already has to be imported from Holland). The enemy wants your cheese. They want you never again to risk the possibility of pleasure with a reeking, unpasteurized Stilton, an artisanal wine, an oyster on the half shell. They have designs on stock. Stock! (Bones, you know -- can't have that.) The backbone of everything good! They want your sausage. Anf your balls, too. In short, they want you to feel that same level of discomfort approaching a plate of food as so many used to feel about sex.

Do I overstate the case? Go to Wisconsin. Spend an hour in an airport or a food court in the Midwest; watch the pale, doughy masses of pasty-faced, Pringle-fattened, mobidly obese teenagers. then tell me I'm worried about. These are the end products of the Masterminds of Safety and Ethics, bulked up on cheese that contains no cheese, chips fried in oil that isn't really oil, overcooked grey disks of what might once upon a time have been meat, a steady diet of Ho-Hos and muffins, butterless popcorn, sugarless soda, flavorless light beer. A docile, uncomprehending herd, led slowly to a dumb, lingering, and joyless slaughter.

Tony Bourdain, the Food Network's Theodore Dalrymple, chef to the Anglosphere, my wife's god, slayer of modern dragons, a true conservative and a true liberal. Read his books and watch his shows. And if you live in London, go to St. John and tell me how good it is.

Monday, April 22, 2002

Collapse of France Watch

So Jean-Marie Le Pen is the second most popular politician in France, eh? Actually, the problem is a direct artifact of the French electoral system. If they had a college or a series of run-offs, then the issue wouldn't be as serious. Le Pen got, I think, about as many votes as he did last time, while the Gaullistes and Socialists lost votes.

In any event, Tim Hames has an interesting analysis in The Times today that seems pretty accurate to me. What would, however, be a political earthquake is if analysis shows that Le Pen has attracted votes by his pro-soveriegnty, anti-European views. We should not forget that France only just voted for the Maastricht Treaty in the early 90s, with Philippe Seguin and Philippe de Villiers (I think they were both Philippes...) leading a very successful anti-establishment campaign that almost pulled off what would have been a real political earthquake. I'm not sure that they would not have won today.

In any event, there seems to be a groundswell in Europe against the "liberal consensus" that has been building the technocratic Europe regardless of the wishes of the people. Unfortunately, the tactic of labeling any decent politician who objects to the process a racist or a xenophobe has meant that the field has been left open to the real racists and xenophobes. Only in Britain and Ireland have decent politicians stood up to this tactic, which is one of the reasons why there is no powerful far-right party in either nation, unlike France, Germany and Italy, to name but three of the sophisticated European nations.

If the current European constitutional convention succeeds in erecting a pan-European government I predict it will crash down in the flames of popular revolt within a few years. The technocrats forget that democratic legitimacy comes from the people alone. Occasionally, a segment of the people points this out...

Friday, April 19, 2002

European Defense Commitment

It's come to a pretty pass when the Pakistanis think your army is underfunded. And they want a common defense policy for Europe?

Dinner with an Idol

I despair of ever writing my summary of my English trip. Good then of Iain Dale to provide his thoughts about one of the highlights of the trip, dinner in honour of Margaret Thatcher. Iain is justly proud of his achievement. It was a wonderful evening, made slightly bizarre for me personally by sitting next to a charming French professor who was understandably europhile. The dinner was excellent, the speeches wonderful, and I got to meet my idol, Sir John Nott. For it was he who, by demolishing Frances Morrell during a late 70s edition of Robin Day's Question Time, spurred me to take an interest in politics. I told him this and he seemed utterly delighted. What a nice chap.

Iain alludes to Sir Bernard Ingham's speech. He had a magnificent tale about correspondence No. 10 received alleging that Sir Bernard was actually born Miss Elsie Ackroyd and cooked a mean rock cake. I've seen and dealt with correspondence to the Government from all sorts of loonies, and this does not strike me as at all implausible (that someone should write that, not that Sir Bernard was actually Elsie...)

I was also delighted to see there my old friend Michael Gove, who is even more impressive in person than in print. In a nice surprise I also saw my old friend Ed Vaizey, who writes for the Grauniad, but about conservative issues, so he's not an idiotarian.

So thanks, Iain. That was an excellent event. Well done!

Thursday, April 18, 2002

The Bush Tax Pledge Reversal -- British Style

Yesterday, Gordon Brown raised taxes a year after Tony Blair promised he wouldn't. Sound familiar? My take on the Budget is over at Conservative Revival . Also check out what Iain Dale and Natalie Solent have to say. Peter Briffa has a comprehensive look at the reaction that will tell you that Labour have pushed themselves down the slippery slope.

Great New Blog Alert

I missed this while I was gone, but Eugene Volokh and his brother now have a blog. Eugene is a rising star and a formidable thinker, so check out The Volokh Brothers.

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Publication in absentia

Whoops. While I was away, Tech Central Station published my column on the recent study linking TV watching -- any TV watching -- to violent behavior. See it for yourself at Violent Couch Potatoes?

Freedom and the Mass-man

Excellent article by Daniel Johnson under the unlikely header, Spaniards are prejudiced - and all the better for it. After comparing the Spanish attitude to bullfighting to the British attitude to foxhunting and going off into a slightly pretentious discussion of Ortega y Gasset (why do we need to know he is re-reading it?), he gets to a very good series of points:

Nor is the problem merely one of precipitate, amateurish law-giving or governance. For people do not - cannot - live decent, civilised lives if everything they do is regulated by government fiat. Custom and habit, tradition and ritual, the consciousness of history and the guidance of providence are more precious to the society of man than any statute.

We live under a tyranny of temporality. To abolish takes no time; to create takes all the time in the world. The best time, indeed, is time immemorial, time out of mind, time hallowed by eternity.

Johnson concludes that, generally, prejudice is a good thing:

The pre-eminence of prejudice derives from our need to be rooted in a past that is older and a culture that is greater than we are. We should not have to justify each and every practice or pursuit that gives our lives their distinctive texture.

Up to a point. If we forget why we have these good prejudices, then the process has taken over from the value. That is why we need folk tales, legends and history to back up these prejudices. What is traditional, to my mind, is only right if there was good reason for adopting the tradition in the first place.

That's one of the reasons why I hate Morris Dancing...

Well, I'm a Dutchman...

The entire Dutch cabinet resigned yesterday in recognition of Dutch peacekeepers' failure to prevent the massacre of 7,000 muslims at Srebrenica (7,000... makes recent events seem like small beer, doesn't it?) during the Bosnian fiasco. Sir John Keegan has an excellent analysis of what the incident tells us about peacekeeping in this Telegraph article: Playing policeman is thankless: doing it badly can end in tragedy.

The upshot of his argument, it seems to me, is that there are very few forces that can provide effective peacekeeping detachments. We certainly saw that in Sierra Leone and in Bill Clinton's nation-building adventures. And the implications for the UN are huge...

Humble Pie

U.S. Concludes Bin Laden Escaped at Tora Bora Fight, reports the Washington Post. Finally. Bruce Anderson had this article in The Spectator on 16 February blaming uncertainty on the part of the American command, an uncertanty that was condemned by British commanders at the scene.

Interesting, therefore, that it should be British troops currently leading the fight in similar territory in Southeastern Afghanistan...

The Enigma that is Freedland

Jonathan Freedland, former Washington correspondent of The Guardian wrote "Bring Home the Revolution," a magnificent conservative appeal to return the UK to 18th century values that was sidetracked by an obsession with the abolition of the monarchy. He's such a frustrating writer because there's so much good stuff buried there beneath a pile of "liberal" orthodoxy. Today, in Parallel universes, he writes the nearest thing a regular Guardian columnist could ever write to a defence of Israel. In some ways, this is the best primer I've yet come across for anyone who wants to understand objectively the situation over there.

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

Slowly getting back to normal

In a spare few minutes before a meeting starts, I've been able to play around with the BBC's interactive Budget Ready Reckoner, which allows you to play around with the British economy by taking the decisions the Chancellor will have to tomorrow.

I think this will take you to what cold-hearted, mean-spirited Murray would do:

Or if that (the longest URL I've ever seen) won't work, you could just feed this in:

basic rate of income tax (percent) : 10
higher rate of income tax (percent) : 25
higher rate threshold (£pa) : £40,000
personal allowance (£pa) : £6,000
national insurance contribution (NI) rate (%) : 5
NI upper earnings limit (£p.w) : £450
Value Added Tax : 5
duty on tobacco per pkt 20 (pence per pkt 20) : cut by £1
duty on a pint of beer (pence) : abolish it!
extra duty on a bottle of wine : abolish it!
extra duty on a bottle of whisky (pence) : abolish it!
extra duty on petrol per litre(pence) : abolish it!
vehicle excise duty (£p.a) for cars above 1,400cc : £50
department for education and employment (DFEE) : halve it
law and order (the Home Office) : increase by 25%
the ministry of defence : cut by 10%
uprate all non means-tested benefits by this amount : halve it
basic state pension : £100
(no change where not mentioned)

Results: massive boom in the next few years (the GDP increase graph is of course misleading as I'd end up with an absolute increase in GDP from 100 now to 154.5, compared with the forecasts of 121.6). There'd be a deflation shock, followed by high inflation. There's something badly wrong with the model, however, 'cos I get negative unemployment after 2004 (massive immigration could be the answer). Perhaps the US Census Bureau put this together? Government debt is almost eliminated by 2009. Oh, and everyone, yes everyone, except the pensioner couple is better off. I'm sure policies could be adjusted to provide a safe haven for pensioners.

Still, if we could solve that inflation problem and the unemployment glitch, it doesn't look like a bad solution, does it?

Interestingly, I've just plugged in tax hikes and spending increases and get almost the same macroeconomic results, but everyone is much worse off...

Monday, April 15, 2002

Back in the Saddle

Back, but busy, unsurprisingly. I hope I'll be able to give you a full update on my thoughts on my trip later.

That Dodge can hold his beer, though...

Friday, April 05, 2002

Over and Out

Well, this is probably my last post for well over a week. I'm going to the UK tomorrow to attend the Politico's fifth anniversary bash with Mrs Thatcher and Iain Dale presiding. I hope to see a few of the names that appear on these pages regularly and, if I can't post during my travels, I shall endeavor to give you a full report when I return. I shall be in London for the Queen Mum's funeral, so that will be interesting...

See you on the 14th or thereabouts.

Nostalgia Trip

I Am A: Lawful Good Elf Ranger Bard

Lawful Good characters are the epitome of all that is just and good. They believe in order and governments that work for the benefit of all, and generally do not mind doing direct work to further their beliefs.

Elves are the eldest of all races, although they are generally a bit smaller than humans. They are generally well-cultured, artistic, easy-going, and because of their long lives, unconcerned with day-to-day activities that other races frequently concern themselves with. Elves are, effectively, immortal, although they can be killed. After a thousand years or so, they simply pass on to the next plane of existance.

Primary Class:
Rangers are the defenders of nature and the elements. They are in tune with the Earth, and work to keep it safe and healthy.

Secondary Class:
Bards are the entertainers. They sing, dance, and play instruments to make other people happy, and, frequently, make money. They also tend to dabble in magic a bit.

Mielikki is the Neutral Good goddess of the forest and autumn. She is also known as the Lady of the Forest, and is the Patron of Rangers. Her followers are devoted to nature, and believe in the positive and outreaching elements of it. They use light armor, and a variety of weapons suitable for hunting, which they are quite skilled at. Mielikki's symbol is a unicorn head.

Find out What D&D Character Are You?, courtesy ofNeppyMan

I quite liked TV Nation...

And he did do that wonderful "Jeffrey Dahmer's neignbors" investigation, but sadly, Michael Moore deserves much of the criticism he's come in for. As does the BBC. Take a look at this fawning Newsnight Review of Stupid White Men, and then compare Spinsanity's review. Mark Lawson seems to be the token man of sense on the Beeb panel:

What frightened me was when he got to his explanation of what was going on in Ireland - that was so prejudiced and glib, but it affects the way you think about the rest. You think "Is he as wrong about America?"

From what I've seen, yes.

Vive l'Anglosphere?

Zut alors! Voyez ici au Daily Telegraph -- Comme tout Le Monde. Comme l'Anglais dit, "Blimey!"

(Apologies for the Franglais)


According to the Independent, the Egyptian government paid for a Red Sea resort holiday for Tony Blair and his family. Well, at least it wasn't the British taxpayer...

Constitutional Debate Crisis

It is worrying when a long-time conservative MP can get so confused over constitutional issues as Michael Brown is in this Independent column. I have a lot of respect for Michael Brown -- his columns alone make the paper readable at times -- but this particular article says a lot about the state of constitutional debate in the UK.

Because it's not the monarchy per se that is the source of Mr Brown's complaints, it is the very issue of separation of powers. As I've argued before, binding the King into Parliament was a very effective settlement in 1688. But the fusion of the King's executive function with the Parliamentary majority that occured in the 19th century upset that delicate balance. Mr Brown makes it clear about half way through his piece that the florid language surrounding the relationship of Parliament and Monarch is not the issue, it's the exercise of royal prerogative by the Prime Minister.

I think this is a good point, and it's one Tony Benn make regularly. However, again, there is confusion. Subsuming the executive function completely to Parliament is as much a breach of the principle of separated powers as was the blatant disregard of Parliament by monarchs in the past. Executives often need a great deal of latitude to act effectively in the nation's best interest. They should be accountable, yes, but not responsible to the legislature.

How then can Britain achieve this? Abolishing the monarchy is a red herring. Instead, what needs to be done, I think, is to extract the executive function from its fusion with Parliament. The best way of doing this is by directly electing the Prime Minister. That gives him or her democratic respectability and, at a stroke, frees Parliament from its subservience to the Government of the Day. It can therefore go back to its proper job of legislating in the nation's rather than the government's interest. It would retain financial control over the Government, and I think should be able to call Ministers to the bar of the House to answer questions on their performance, so retaining the accountability that is so important in our system but which is too often a sham.

Meanwhile, the various powers of the Royal Prerogative need to be looked at again. Which are appropriate for Parliament and which for the Prime Minister acting, theoretically, on the Monarch's behalf? I think war is best declared by legislatures, although the actual declaration of war has been superseded by various UN arrangements. The arguments against regularizing Parliamentary terms fall if the Executive is separated, so that can be set on a Statutory footing and the need for a dissolution prerogative disappears. Sign treaties should become a King-in-Parliament power ie the PM signs them but Parliament ratifies them. Creating Peers could be taken away from the Executive and given to an independent Honours function under someone like the Lord Chamberlain. Same with the Church of England appointments. Patronage regarding the Cabinet and Ministers should remain with the Prime Minister. I don't think Parliament should have an "advise and consent" role in this process (although there should be a resurrection of impeachment powers). The judiciary should become truly independent with the Lord Chancellor a separate officer of the Crown from the PM as I argued here.

Just a few thoughts. This could all be guaranteed by a new Declaration of Right, a contract between the Monarch and the People. The oath of loyalty deemed inappropriate by Michael Brown could be refined to declare loyalty to the Crown and People as defined by this new charter.

Incidentally, the Constitution of the US requires that the President of the US swears an oath to protect and defend the Constitution before he takes office. If a Nazi was elected President who had promised to abolish Congress and rule by decree, does Mr Brown think that it would be wrong for him to be required to swear that oath? The general principle of government is that you work within the existing structure until you have done what is necessary to change that structure legitimately. Sinn Fein MPS should swear loyalty to the Queen, then work within Parliament to get the oath changed, at which point they can take the new oath. The Nazi would have to get people in Congress who agreed with him and then persuade the States. Legitimate government requires all who engage in it to play by the rules of the game.

In the end, what Mr Brown is talking about is checks and balances. And the UK needs more of them, not fewer.

Thursday, April 04, 2002

Mail Force

Paul the Postman asked me what I thought about the privatization of the Royal Mail. I can answer that pretty easily: I'm against it, just as I would be against the privatization of the Queen's highways. However, I firmly believe in the liberalization of the postal market. Competitors should be able to offer services in direct competition to the Royal Mail. If the Royal Mail is unable to survive in such circumstances, then it should be reduced to simply guaranteeing the delivery of official mail (which I think is still a necessary state function).

I don't see why this should happen. If FedEx can run a successful letter delivery business, then so should the Royal Mail. It would need to have the right employment conditions to recruit the people it needs and the right systems to ensure most efficient delivery. I happen to think that with a few reforms the Royal Mail could blow away the package-handling competitors in the letter delivery business. They've got the basic infrastructure in place already. That's a huge advantage in this sort of business.

There's nothing inherently wrong with the mail business, as far as I am aware, that makes it a sinkhole for taxpayers' money. Up to a few years ago, it was profitable, with an External Financing Contribution going back into the public purse (as opposed to London Underground's External Financing Limit of subsidy). Get rid of the silly ideas like renaming it or reducing service in rural areas and stick to the knitting -- it's a letter delivery service -- and I'm sure the Royal Mail will ensure that the executive responsibility of ensuring the safe delivery of post will be carried out.

What? The Post Office? That's for a later date.

Collapse of Britain Watch

Theodore Dalrymple's article in the new Spectator covers the same ground I went over yesterday. It is stylish, entertaining and depressing, but I find it trying to say two things, one of which I disagree with profoundly.

[The Queen Mother] lived to see the day when the word British was practically an accusation in itself, or a term of abuse, a guarantee of poor quality at best and a synonym for the coarsest and cheapest vulgarity at worst. The British were never universally loved — nor were they universally lovable — but they were once acknowledged to have qualities as well as defects, and great accomplishments as well as faults. Their country, for all its shortcomings, had charms as well; but by the time of her death it had none, having become a theme park for social pathology and psychopathy. The British had become universally — and rightly — despised and detested for their boorishness and self-righteous, indeed evangelical, vulgarity. The football hooligan had completely replaced the gentleman as the archetypical Englishman.

The collapse in cultural confidence — that there was in British culture anything worth preserving — was no doubt the consequence of the collapse of power.

What collapse of power would that be exactly? Dalrymple says "she saw her country descend from the first to the second or even third rank of powers," but that is simply untrue, unless one concedes that the first rank is America and America alone. To that extent, however, I'm willing to borrow terminology from British football and call America the Premier Division. But just who else is above the UK? And on what terms? I'd say that power is a combination of military and economic capability. Russia supposedly has more military capability than the UK, but most of its fleet is rusting and the air-ground forces would find it hard to sustain any offensive (look at Chechnya). Russia's economy would collapse, I am pretty certain, in the event of any sustained military effort that was not necessary for the survival of the nation. China has a large military, but its logistical element is poor. I don't think they could invade Taiwan even if they wanted to. Both countries' economies are tiny compared with the UK's. Germany and Japan have larger economies, although Germany's is tanking and Japan's is currently stagnant (although I think it will take off again), but their military capabilities are constrained by constitution and mindset. France is really Britain's only competitor for the role of second most powerful nation in the world, and we've got them beat on both military and economic measures at the moment. Add in the considerable influence Britain possesses beyond her borders for historical reasons and you have a country that may not be a super-heavyweight, but at least a cruiserweight, and one that is able, like Holyfield, to compete effectively even in a weight class above.

So I do not think the cultural collapse Dalrymple describes can be wholly accredited to a collapse in international power. Some, no doubt, stems from relegation from the Premier Division. But the rest is purely a cultural artifice. We did not become bad mannered because there's no Governor-General in Bulawayo any more. We became bad mannered because no-one teaches anyone that impoliteness is unacceptable any more. Teaching still happens, and people still learn things, but they are taught different things, things that are a direct root cause of the unpleasant society Dalrymple decides.

Britain has become a society dominated by one golden rule: do not judge other people, for who are you to say what is wrong. And yet we know instinctively that certain things are wrong. The vandalism of a paediatrician's office because someone confused the word with paedophile is an example. The British people is prepared to accept certain moral absolutes. The battle, therefore, has not yet been lost. As I say below, it will be impossible to turn back the clock and reconstruct what Britain might have been like if 60s relativism had never taken hold, but it may be possible to construct a new Britain based on ancient principles.

It may also be that that new construct comes about because of an historic reconciliation of British right and left. If Private Eye (referenced here by Emmanuel Goldstein) can reveal that arch-socialist but champion of Parliament Tony Benn has had to deny the possibility that he might join IDS's Conservative Party, then anything is possible.


Steven den Beste helpfully points to a story that shows that, in Sweden, Technogeekism is a felony. All my life I've heard Sweden described as "liberal". The only explanation for this I can think of is that they produce a lot of pornography. There is no other way in which I would describe that country as liberal. Their alcohol laws are incredibly restrictive, despite the taste the Swedes have for the stuff, and the government tries to run everything.

People often accuse Anglosphere conservatives of being obsessed with sex. To an extent, this is true, but I wonder whether or not it is actually the continental "liberals" who are obsessed with sex. If liberalism is defined only by an attitude towards what is done and where with genitalia, then the level of discourse is pretty thin. Here's a suggestion: let's ignore attitudes to sex when we talk about liberties, and then let's see how liberal the various political philosophies of the West are.

I think I know what the result would be.

The Hunley Resurfaces

I wonder what they'll do if this gets passed? Check out Kentucky state's HR256. Having said that, surely an ironclad ram would be more traditional, and therefore right.

Wednesday, April 03, 2002

One too many?

The Vodkapundit has fallen off his bar stool, it seems. For those of you who are wondering where he is, he lets us know the scoreat Bill Quick's DailyPundit comments site. Hope to see you back up soon, Stephen. The DTs will overwhelm us without a shot of your spirit.

Euseful Source

An indomitable lady named Christina Speight runs a newsletter of information about the EU called Facts Figures and Phantasies, which is now available on line. Some interesting tidbits in the new edition such as Britain's latest trade figures:

USA by far biggest export market taking 20% of all exports more than Germany (10%) and France (8%) combined. Also no: 1 for goods and invisibles. (Exports to USA/Canada 22%)

Trade with USA in surplus (£10.8bn) but in deficit with EU (-£1.61bn) . The EU deficit is despite the 2nd largest surplus being with Ireland at £4.1bn. (Surplus with USA/Canada/Mexico £12.6bn)

All sorts of other interesting stuff in there.

Update: My Hotflash piece on Instant Runoff Voting is now here.

The State of the Realm

One of my periodic generalizations on the collapse of Britain. A correspondent wrote to me to ask:

I admit off the top I am a big Anglophile, but, what is happening over there? It seems that England is at a crossroads of some kind and trying to find out what it is. I read you post about the BBC's coverage of the Queen Mum's death and Janet's Daly's expansion on that and I agree. England was about, for better or worse, timeless institutions that provided stability in peoples psyche. When you said "England" a certain picture came to mind. Now it just seems the whole thing is out of control with nothing to cling to in a storm by way of bedrock institutions.

I replied thusly:

Ah, a sad question. The central problem is that some time in the 80s the educational establishment decided that teaching history before WWII, unless it centred on how wretched and oppressive life was, was a bad thing. A whole generation has therefore grown up ignorant of the history around them and what it all means. They see the Speaker's mace and have no idea of what it symbolises. They see an old man in a wig telling them what they can and cannot do in court and resent it. They see statues and castles and civic buildings and it never even occurs to them to ask about them. This coincided, disastrously, with the march into irrelevance of the Church of England, resulting in exactly the same process happening with our spiritual dimension.

We therefore have an England adrift. The only sense of traditional pride attaches to the progress of the national soccer team (the cricket team now finds it hard to compete with New Zealand, thinks to the Thatcher government mandating a selling off of school playing fields to finance other educational needs). The English find it hard to identify with anything else about their history because they are profoundly ignorant of it, which leads to a thirst among some for popularised TV history programs that seem to fill this gap. Similarly, they search for spiritual fulfillment in a concotion of half-remembered legends of Christianity and a variety of new age or pagan elements.

It is my belief that only by seizing back the educational establishment from the enemies of history can we ever seek to restore what has been lost. But what will rise in its place can never be the same thing as we lost. Instead we shall have to hope that building up from the same principles our ancestors built their society on we can come up with something that is a worthy heir.

For more on this subject, I recommend Peter Hitchens' "The Abolition of Britain" (available in the US via Amazon), Roger Scruton's "England: an Elegy" and John Redwood MP's "The Death of Britain". All of these are overwrought in some ways, but the central message of what has gome wrong is for the most part right, in my opinion. What we need to do about it is another matter.

Beeb Scizophrenia

In cae you were wondering why I made the remark about the Beeb's coverage of the Queen Mum's death, here's how The Times sums it up:

The death of the Queen Mother was not a news event and should not have been treated as one. It was nothing like that of the Princess of Wales, which happened unexpectedly, prematurely and under extraordinary circumstances. There was nothing to be gained, and much to be lost, by questioning witnesses about the exact details of the Queen Mother’s death. Discussions of the implications for the monarchy were tastelessly premature. Along with changing his tie, Mr Sissons should have taken off his reporter’s hat and replaced it with that of an obituarist. What was called for on Saturday was a celebration of the Queen Mother’s long life and its contribution to British history, not intrusive questions about the moment of her death or speculation about the future for her descendants.

The Beeb justifies its funding by claiming to be a public service broadcaster. too often it forgets to act like one when needed.

A Plea for Deference?

Janet Daley is back to top form, it seems. She takes the example of the BBC's schizophrenic coverage of the Queen Mother's death to make a wider point about British society in general:

The trouble with the BBC is the trouble with the country at large. The BBC no longer knows how to relate to our own national institutions because most of us (or, at least those educated after about 1965) no longer do. It no longer comprehends what role it should play in public discourse, or in mediating between constitutional forces, because the nation no longer has any clear idea of what its attitude should be to those fixtures of national life. This disorientation is not only a historical quirk: it has been quite deliberately and systematically fostered by the New Politics.

The end of communism and the discrediting of Marxist ideology meant that Left-liberal reformers had to find a different way to be radical: the economic argument had been lost. Not only had the Soviet experiment collapsed under the weight of its own contradictions, but even the weaker forms of command economy were coming into disrepute. ...

Instead of pinning their idealism on the state ownership of the means of production, and the forcible seizure of wealth from the plutocratic class, they would transform social relations. So all that had once been respected, all that was traditionally revered, all the historical baggage that inhibited people's "natural" freedom would be tested to destruction. Teachers would no longer be seen as founts of authoritative knowledge. Policemen would no longer act as enforcers of order. All members of the governing class would be assumed to be self-serving liars.

This last aspect of the cultural revolution now appears to be unstoppable, to Labour's startled discomfiture. You can hear the hurt surprise in the voices of ministers when they discover that the antagonism that they happily encouraged as part of their Maoist cleansing in opposition cannot (like Hal the computer in 2001 - A Space Odyssey) be stood down.

In a way that I doubt that its executives intend, the BBC is truly reflecting the national mood: one of confusion, an almost pathological disrespect for all established authority, and a corrosive cynicism not only about the governing class, but also about all democratic endeavour. This is more than a historical identity crisis: it is a breakdown of belief in the values of public life and the possibility of civic solutions.

Quite right. You cannot have a true civil society without a due amount of respect and deference. The British were traditionally proud to be stroppy and suspicious of authority, but as long as authority knew its limits it was granted a deference that allowed it to do its job. If anything, this was the British social contract. Curiously, the assault on deference coincided with an increase in abuse of authority (as regular readers know, I consider a lot of what Mrs Thatcher did to be constitutional vandalism). Was there a causal effect? Probably -- I doubt Mrs T would have destroyed local government if local government had not ceased to respect the traditional division of powers.

In short, a truly restrained government (or other source of authority) needs to be respected, and indeed deserves respect. Teachers who do not promote political causes but who teach facts and critical thinking should be listened to and learned from. Policemen who patrol in order to deter crime before it happens should be obeyed when they tell children to clear off. A government that makes little law, but which considers it carefully and debates it fully, taking into account all the costs it will impose before passing it deserves to have the law respected. That sort of framework seems to me to be essential to avoid a collapse into tyranny.

Voltaire and Madison, look away now

The EU has finally come up with its proposals for making "xenophobia" a criminal offense. The Telegraph takes down this idea in its leader today, Liberty to think ill:

The draft proposals define racism and xenophobia as feelings of hostility to individuals based on their "race, colour, descent, religion or belief, national or ethnic origin". If they are put into effect, the police will be able to send anybody suspected of these offences for trial anywhere in the EU, without having to go through the current extradition procedures.

Apart from being a blatant attack on the British citizen's freedom of speech and thought, the proposals contain an obvious absurdity. If it is to be an offence to disapprove of an individual because of his beliefs, then it must surely be an offence to disapprove of him for believing in racism or xenophobia.

The officials who drafted these proposals would make criminals of themselves, by the very act of proposing to imprison others for their beliefs. This is not merely a smart-aleck point. It goes to the heart of a fundamental question of liberty: who decides which beliefs should be lawful, and which should not?

Someone should send these idiots in Brussels a copy of the Bill of Rights...

Tuesday, April 02, 2002

Hunting tigers out in India

Suman Palit has an excellent potted history of India and how it leads to the current crisis (just as important as the one in Israel, if you as me). My one quibble is with his glossing over the different nature of British rule in India before the Empire was declared. Warren Hastings and Cornwallis (yes, that Cornwallis) were much more, well, libertarian in their governance than their successors. The Mutiny put paid to that, however. Anyway, do take a look.

More Falklands thoughts

Disturbing analysis by Sir John Keegan on the degradation of Britain's naval and air force capability since the Falklands. The army's managed to stay in shape, but the lack of capability in the other services is worrying.

Keegan finishes with the thought that a few more Argie bombs going off could have sunk us (literally). Interesting, a reader has this to contribute:

While the State Departments role in the Falklands was deplorable, I think on the whole the UK got US support where it counted. Probably the best example were the AIM-9L Sidewinders that were rushed to UK units tasked for the Falklands mission. They were crucial to the defense of the fleet as the only fighter the UK had, the Harrier, was not designed for the interceptor role. Unlike the older tail-chaser Sidewinders that were in the UK and Argentine inventories at the time, the AIM-9L allowed all-aspect kills.
Without this Sidewinder, fewer Argentine attacks would have been successfully intercepted and more fleet ships would have been at risk. The loss of a few more would have ended the mission to retake the islands. I don't remember the approval process for getting the missiles shipped, I was 12 at the time, but I assume it had to get approval from the Pentagon, State, and President.

I'd have thought only the Pentagon would have been involved in such a decision (and that would fit my theory), but I'd be grateful for confirmation. Thanks for the input, though.

Erm, excuse me...

From Kesher Talk, comes this interesting tidbit:

Al Qaeda, Taliban run to Iraq: The Christian Science Monitor is reporting today that "many Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters... are simply joining a budding conflict nearby, in Iraq, local security officials warn. Ansar al-Islam, a Kurdish Islamic extremist group that has shaken Northern Iraq with bloody episodes of killing over the past 14 months, is being bolstered by the American rout of Osama bin Laden's diehards at Shah-e Kot, Afghanistan. ... While Ansar is gaining strength in numbers, new information is emerging that ties the organization to both Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network and to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. The Al Qaeda contacts allegedly stretch back to 1989, and include regular recruiting visits by bin Laden cadres to Kurdish refugee camps in Iran and to northern Iraq, as well as a journey by senior Ansar leaders to meet Al Qaeda chiefs in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in the summer of 2000."

Odd. I thought that part of the Harris/Casey/Clark/BBC/sophisticated European argument was that the Iraqis hate the fundamentalists and vice versa so that they could never be thought of as an axis. The response will be, of course, to ignore the historical evidence and say that America has driven them together and if we'd just left them alone and given them pots of money they would never be a threat to anyone (cue drag on cigarette and brush of tab ash off the black polo neck).


[NBG stands for "no bloody good," in case you were wondering. I have a commentary on the wonderful-sounding "Instant Runoff Voting," known to Brits as PR (proportional representation) or, more accurately AV (alternative vote), at The American Enterprise Magazine Hotflash site today. I'll add the permalink tomorrow, but it's called "Instant Run-off a Vote for Inequity" if you're looking for it from here.

History, my dear boy

I hate to have to say 'Tunku Varadarajan is wrong,' but I find myself doing it again. His opinion that HM the Queen should abdicate is plain silly. The monarcy is in a position almost directly comparable to its position in the 1870s and thereabouts. A Queen who is viewed as out-of-touch, a Prime Minister who couldn't care less about the monarchy and a Prince of Wales who at times looks distnctly unsuitable for the office and discontented in his current position. Nevertheless, the monarchy survived, strengthened. HM does not need to change jobs to replace her mother as the nation's favourite grandmother. She will take over that job naturally. Meanwhile, as Diana's memory continues to fade, her son will continue to grow in public estimation. His tribute to his grandmother seems to have gone over very well. And Blair is no Gladstone. If the monarchy grows in popularity, as I think it will, he will attach himself to its aura somehow. Victoria died beloved. A few decades earlier "Rule Britannia" had threatened to replace "God Save the Queen" as the national anthem. I think history will once more repeat itself.


I had assumed that Junius was a reference to the Lucius Junius Brutus who overthrew Tarquin the Proud and established the Roman Republic. In a way it is, but Chris e-mails me to say that the immediate reference is to the radical whig pamphleteer who wrote under that pseudonym. He sound like someone we could do with more of today:

He understood the plain-going whig doctrine he preached, and expounded it, on occasion, with matchless clearness. What could be better as a statement than the sentences in the dedication of the collected letters which point out that the liberty of the press is the guarantee of political freedom and emphasise the responsibility of parliament? And the same strong common-sense marks an apophthegm like that on the duke of Grafton— Injuries may be atoned for and forgiven; but insults admit of no compensation. They degrade the mind in its own esteem, and force it to recover its level by revenge.

Vive la France!?!

Very interesting comment over at Chris Bertram's Junius. It appears that it was Mitterand's strong belief in the Atlantic alliance that convinced him to back Mrs T so strongly during the Falklands conflict. In addition, it seems to add to my theory that Foreign offices all over the world are havens of idiotarianism, as he did so against the advice of his own foreign minister.

Incidentally, it is very nice to see a well-argued traditional socialist web log. Chris seems to come from the school that produced the Workers' Educational Association and Ruskin College rather than the paternalist indulgence that has superseded them in too much of "progressive" thought. More power to his elbow!

Two points in one

Michael Gove excels even his high standards in this incisive piece. He also underlines my point that the moral equivocation of Haig and Kirkpatrick in '82 was deeply wrong:

Whether it is the Mitchell plan, the Tenet plan or the Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah’s Arab League-sponsored plan, there is a quack’s cabinet of patent salves always on offer to apply to the Middle East’s agony. But all such treatments, like the snake oil peddled by Al Haig in 1982 and the “clean” dismemberment which Chamberlain and Daladier administered to Czechoslovkia in 1938, can only cause the infection to take yet more virulent hold. For each of these “peace plans” rewards terror by ratifying the gains secured by violence and reinforcing the message that the West is too weak to resist aggression.

If Haig and his like had been able to pressure Britain to make peace with the fascists for Cold War "realpolitik" reasons, then perhaps President Reagan would not have been able to make his "tear down this wall" speech. Michael is right that the Flaklands action demonstrated to all that the West would stand up for its values. This remains a huge black mark on Reagan's record, in my book.

But more to the point, check out this paragraph:

Terrorists care only about winning. To defeat terror one must prove that it will not secure political gains. Israel needs a government that can grasp that logic properly, which will tighten its security policy accordingly, explain fluently to the West that its struggle is democracy’s struggle, point out that there can be no peace in the Middle East while the regimes which sponsor terror survive, and then refuse to engage with peace plans until terrorist violence has ceased. The Israeli politician who best understands this is Binyamin Netanyahu.

Sharon is a wimp! Draft Netanyahu! I really never thought I'd see that argument advanced by such an influential columnist. Well said, Michael. Now let's see the Washington Post follow the Times' lead...

Rich and Poor

The Worldwatch Institute has this to say on "the growing gap between rich and poor" in its comments on the Johannesburg summit on sustainable development:

What the world learned: The World Bank and other international entities embraced a definition of poverty that looks beyond lack of income to include other essentials for human well-being, especially health and education. But the income measure of poverty is still relevant, and sobering: 2.8 billion people live on less than 2 dollars per day.

What goals were set: World leaders committed themselves to reducing poverty, and the extreme disparities between the rich and poor. In 1998, a joint report by the OECD, United Nations, International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank pledged to cut income poverty by half by 2015, and to reduce child and maternal mortality, among other goals.

What happened: The share of the world's people living on a dollar or less per day fell from 29 percent in 1990 to 24 percent in 1998. Still, 1.2 billion remain under this threshold. Mortality of children under 5 fell from 86 deaths per 1000 children in 1990 to 78 deaths in 1999. Inequality remained the glaring norm: the richest billion receive 78% of world income. Child mortality was more than 19 times greater in low-income than in wealthy countries in 1999.

Interesting, then, that the National Journal should reveal, in its annual survey of the salaries of top nonprofit executives, that Lester Brown, erstwhile President of the Worldwatch institute, should have received $586,914 compensation out of total Institute revenues of $4 million, according to their last report to the IRS.

PETA, on the other hand, may be a bunch of loonies, but they're principled loonies. Ingrid Newkirk, their President, received only $25,962 in compensation last year.

Monday, April 01, 2002

Best of the Best

Stunningly good Best of the Web Today from the WSJ today. For balance's sake, this should be read out loud at the end of today's BBC news broadcasts. The news that British generals are mobilizing for September should, however, be read in conjunction with the disappointing news that Tony Blair has delayed publication of HMG's dossier on Iraq.

As Tom Roberts and other have eloquently answered all the questions I raised on this subject, I find it hard to believe that the MOD can't do so as well, unless the FCO have stuck their oar in. I think rather the delay is more likely to do with the recognition that, until the Queen Mother is laid to rest, the news will have significant competition. Instead, better to be seen as willing to urge restraint on Bush, then, after the Arabs, emboldened by international condemnation of Israel, do something spectacularly stupid, release the dossier then as part of a real push for action. These people know how to play public opinion. I think they recognize that now is not quite the right time to be talking about Iraq. Perhaps late July?

The Pensions War

Britain is one of the few countries to have tackled the pensions/ social security problem that will emerge as the West's demography changes over the next few decades. It seems that Europe is a tad jealous of this. New rules will probably cause the current system serious problems:

Industry insiders are furious that EU countries without extensive funded pension systems could be in a position to destroy the UK system.

Mr Rubenstein said: “It is hard to understand why an effective and successful UK pensions model should be potentially destroyed by a directive which will have limited application to many other countries across Europe.”

Delete "pensions model" and replace as appropriate and you have a pretty good model sentence there for virtually everything the EU does to Britain.

Prejudice and Pills

My Tech Central Station column is up. Scientific Prejudice looks at how the Institute of Medicine report on racial disparities in health care may possibly be overstating the case.