England's Sword 2.0

Thursday, October 31, 2002

Vitae Lampada

THERE'S a breathless hush in the Close to-night --
Ten to make and the match to win --
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,(*)
An hour to play and the last man in. (**)
And it's not for the sake of a ribboned coat, (#)
Or the selfish hope of a season's fame,
But his Captain's hand on his shoulder smote
"Play up! play up! and play the game!"

The sand of the desert is sodden red, --
Red with the wreck of a square that broke; --
The Gatling's jammed and the colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed his banks,
And England's far, and Honor a name,
But the voice of schoolboy rallies the ranks,
"Play up! play up! and play the game!"

This is the word that year by year
While in her place the School is set
Every one of her sons must hear,
And none that hears it dare forget.
This they all with a joyful mind
Bear through life like a torch in flame,
And falling fling to the host behind --
"Play up! play up! and play the game!"

-- Sir Henry Newbolt

More Newbolt poems can be found here.

* This means the ball is likely to rise from the pitch unsighted, resulting in a smack in the face by a leather ball at high speed.
** Bottom of the ninth and two out, no-one on the bases.
# The equivalent of a Letter Jacket

Faith, hope and charity

Well, here's a surprise. Faith does affect behavior (grateful to Best of the Web for this one). It seems that young people who attend Church regularly are significantly better socialized than those who don't:

The survey of high school seniors showed that, for those who report attending church at least weekly:

43 percent said they had never smoked a cigarette.

49 percent said they had never gotten drunk.

55 percent said they never go to bars.

70 percent said they had never tried marijuana.

72 percent said they never have received a traffic ticket.

76 percent had not shoplifted in the past year.

48 percent said they had not been truant in the past year.

82 percent said they had never been suspended or expelled.

The same group of students were more likely to have parents who limited the amount of time they can go out with their friends on school nights, the survey showed. They are also less likely to argue with their parents, and more likely to participate regularly in both volunteer work and athletics or exercise.

The full study can be found here. I haven't analyzed it properly yet, but its reported findings are in line with other research.

Keep going, Howard

Howard Fienberg, of Kesher Talk, was released by my organization on Monday, the day he returned from his honeymoon. Obviously, I can't say anything about the circumstances, but I am very glad to see him back up and swinging so quickly. He has a new article at TCS - The Missing Link. More power to your elbow, Howard. Missing you here.

Through a glass darkly

Anatole Kaletsky looks at the skeleton EU Constitution. Rightly, he realizes that it posits a massive transfer of powers away from the people to a bureaucracy. He then wonders why it seems so difficult for anyone to conceive of properly democratic European institutions. He gropes towards the right answer:

I suspect that the failure to come up with a constitution which would improve the democratic legitimacy of Europe has much more to do with the absence of a European “demos”, than with the selfishness and cynicism of European bureaucrats and politicians. That is why the idea of transferring real power to the European Parliament has so little support anywhere in Europe, while direct election of a European president is dismissed as absurd.

But if there is really no such thing as a European political consciousness, if pan-European political parties are impossible, if an elected president is inconceivable – and if such manifestations of democracy become even more fantastical as Europe continues its eastward enlargement — can the Union’s past successes justify further transfers of sovereignty from the democratic nations of Europe to the bureaucratic centre? That is the crucial question for the Constitutional Convention to answer. So far, there has been deafening silence.

The EU is trying to unite people who don't want to be united, thank you very much. "American" in 1787 meant something more than being a citizen of Virginia or Rhode Island. To an Englishman, Dane or Italian, European is first and foremost a geographical expression. Only the elites see it as something bigger, just as they have often done in the past. That is why this whole project is driven by elites for the benefit of elites. And when elites ignore the people, they store up trouble for themselves.

Laughter in court

When Alan Coren and Miles Kingston were the presiding geniuses behind Punch, it was worth reading. I'm glad to see Kingston still producing hilarious fantasies like the one reproduced at Samizdata - The glory of the English Courts. I stress that the transcript provided is fictional.

Whispering Campaigns

Iain Duncan Smith has taken the unusual step of naming the people conducting the whispering campaign against his leadership. They include Douglas Hogg MP, the late Lord Hailsham's son and the man mostly responsible for the mad cow disease fiasco that destroyed Britain's confidence in scientists (although Stephen Dorrell, Health Secretary at the time, should also bear some of the blame). This leads the Telegraph's veteran cartoonist, Garland, to produce what I, and most who are interested in both politics and cricket, I imagine, consider a hilarious cartoon:

My opinion of this whole silly episode is echoed in the Telegraph leader, opinion.telegraph.co.uk - Selfish Tories:

Even if Mr Duncan Smith were Pericles and Churchill and Gladstone rolled into one, he could not have sorted out in 13 months the mess that has accumulated for nearly 15 years. His party needs a huge collective effort of self-discipline to think about what is wrong with Blair's Britain and what they can offer instead. If they conclude that the answer is another leadership contest, they are mad.

For goodness' sake, Tories, GROW UP!

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

What causes mass shootings? Ego!

The ills vested on the world by inflated egos are again demonstrated in the case of the Tucson nursing school killer. He sent a 22-page letter explaining his actions to the locla paper:

Flores recognized the world would soon be questioning his motives, and in his letter he sought to debunk some theories he expected people will float.

"To the sociologist, it wasn't the Maryland sniper," he wrote. "I have been thinking about this for awhile."

"To the psychiatrist," he wrote, "it's not about unresolved childhood issues. It is not about anger because I don't feel anything right now."

Addressing Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman, he said the gun control debate isn't relevant. "A waiting period or owner registration would not have stopped me. I have a concealed carry permit but I have never brought a gun to the University, (until now)."

Although Flores said his rampage wasn't about revenge, in the end he tried to justify Monday's murders as just deserts for an uncaring university.

"The University is filled with too many people who are filled with hubris. They feel untouchable. Students are not given respect nor regard."

Flores' letter underscores a key personality trait that he shared with others who have committed similar crimes, said forensic psychologist Paul S.D. Berg. The trait: narcissism.

"Look how self-indulgent this is," Berg said Tuesday night, after passages of the letter were read to him. "Everything is about 'me.' "

If someone is selfish and self-indulgent they are much more likely to behave antisocially. Why do we constantly overlook this factor when working out what's wrong with the world?

A complex web of asocialization, drugs and cooking

The Starving Criminal by Theodore Dalrymple is possibly one of the most important things I've read all year. The good Doctor takes as his starting point a recent study that showed that criminals in the UK who were fed vitamin supplements were much less likely to offend while still in custody. He goes on to relate his own experience with malnutrition in the criminal class. Its prevalence is, he feels, at base a reflection of the lack of socialisation related to eating in the lowest British socio-economic classes today (with one exception, which proves that it is not poverty that is the cause):

It never takes many links in a chain of reasoning to get from their smooth and raw magenta tongues to the kind of family breakdown favored by a certain ideology of human relations, encouraged by our laws and fiscal system, and made viable by welfare payments. It is the breakdown of the family structure—a breakdown so complete that mothers do not consider it part of their duty to feed their own children once they have reached the age at which they can forage for themselves in a refrigerator—that promotes modern malnutrition in Britain. Such malnutrition, according to the public health establishment, now affects millions of British households. And it is hardly surprising if young people who have not learned to socialize within the walls of their own homes, who have not learned even the minimal social disciplines required by people who eat together, should be completely antisocial in other respects.

One of the things British prisons could usefully do, therefore, but do not even attempt, is to teach young men how to eat in a social fashion. Instead, they reinforce the pattern of solipsistic consumption by making prisoners take their food back to their cells, where they eat it in the same solitary and furtive fashion as they masturbate.

As to whether the malnutrition consequent upon a profoundly asocial way of life itself contributes to antisocial behavior, by affecting the brain and hence the capacity of the malnourished person to make reasonable choices, only future research will prove. I personally do not find the idea inherently improbable.

This problem appears to be exacerbated, although not caused, by the use of drugs (as it is the drugs' use that is the issue, the legalization argument is irrelevant here, so please don't start that up again in the comments section):

About two-thirds of these malnourished young men take drugs, upon which they spend sums of money that, however obtained, would secure them nightly banquets. The drugs they take suppress their appetite: the nausea induced by heroin inhibits the desire to eat, while cocaine and its derivatives suppress it altogether. The prostitutes who stand on the street corners not far from where I live—they work a shift system and commute in from a nearby town in buses chartered by their pimps—are likewise grossly malnourished (they often end up in my hospital), and for the same reason. You’d think famine were stalking the land.

Not all the malnourished are drug-takers, however. It is when you inquire into eating habits, not just recent but throughout entire lifetimes, that all this malnutrition begins to make sense. The trail is a short one between modern malnutrition and modern family and sexual relations.

Dalrymple goes on to explain how the "liberal" intelligentsia have approached the issue:

The existence of malnutrition in the midst of plenty has not entirely escaped either the intelligentsia or the government, which of course is proposing measures to combat it: but, as usual, neither pols nor pundits wish to look the problem in the face or make the obvious connections. For them, the real and most pressing question raised by any social problem is: “How do I appear concerned and compassionate to all my friends, colleagues, and peers?” Needless to say, the first imperative is to avoid any hint of blaming the victim by examining the bad choices that he makes. It is not even permissible to look at the reasons for those choices, since by definition victims are victims and therefore not responsible for their acts, unlike the relatively small class of human beings who are not victims. One might extend La Rochefoucauld’s famous maxim that neither the sun nor death can be stared at for long, by saying that no member of the modern liberal intelligentsia can stare at a social problem for very long. He feels the need to retreat into impersonal abstractions, into structures or alleged structures over which the victim has no control. And out of this need to avoid the rawness of reality he spins utopian schemes of social engineering.

Their solution has been to invent the concept of the "food desert" where evil capitalists refuse to sell nutritious foodstuffs to the working class, who are therefore forced to eat the bad stuff. But this concept is knocked out by the exception mentioned above: Indian stores in the middle of these "deserts" sell good, cheap foodstuffs to Indian families who have retained the concept of cookery as an important social and cultural activity:

Moreover, unlike the people who spoke so fluently of the food deserts, I had, in the course of my medical duties, visited many homes in the area. The only homes in which there were ever any signs of genuine cookery and of eating as a social activity, where families discussed the topics of daily life and affirmed their bonds to one another, were those of the Indian immigrants. In white and black homes, cookery meant (at its best) re-heating in a microwave oven, and there was no table round which people could sit together to eat the re-heated food. Meals here were solitary, poor, nasty, British, and short.

The Indian immigrants and their descendants inherited a far better and more elaborate cuisine than the native British, of course, but this is not a sufficient explanation of their willingness still to buy fresh food and to cook it: they continue to cook because they still live in families, and cookery is a socially motivated art. Even among Indian heroin addicts (principally Muslim), the kind of malnutrition I have described is rare, because they do not yet live in the solipsistic isolation of their white counterparts, who live alone, even when there are other people inhabiting the house or apartment in which they themselves live. Drug addiction is thus a necessary condition for much of the malnutrition that I see, but not sufficient.

As Dalrymple says, the malnutrition problem is Britain in miniature. The abandonment of traditional rules of social behavior in the 60s and later have caused severe practical problems for the working class. Drugs exacerbate those problems, but without them already existing drug consumption would be much less. The solution advanced and, sadly, accepted by all major players is to legislate and bureaucratize at the macro level, when the real problem is in hearths and homes. This is where the Church could be playing a role, but it has abrogated that. Local morally-based charities seem to me to be the only solution, but they will be undermined continuously by the bureaucracies. I'd be grateful for other suggestions.

Taxing Times

Is the unthinkable being thought? According to the Wall Street Journal, the Treasury is contemplating a complete overhaul of the tax code (link for subscribers only, I fear):

The Treasury Department is weighing proposals for a historic overhaul of the US tax code, including scrapping the current income tax and replacing it with something simpler. On the table are a range of familiar and not-so-familiar options, including a European-style, value-added tax, a national sales tax and a flat income tax. Officials also are mulling changes in the way the U.S. taxes multinational companies on their overseas income." Treasury officials say the decision to proceed with any major changes likely will take months of further study and approval from President Bush. Any proposals would be scrutinized for their impact on budget deficits and would prompt questions about their fairness to specific groups. In the end, an overhaul proposal likely would become an issue in the 2004 presidential election.

I fervently believe that the simpler a tax code is, the less scope there is for cheating, with the result that energy gets spent in more productive ways. Reagan's tax reforms demonstrated this. Those who might be hit worse by a switch to regressive taxes will benefit from more money being available to employ them. In the end, I believe everyone benefits. Perhaps Paul O'Neill doesn't deserve all the opprobrium directed at him over the past couple of years.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Must Read

Jim Bennett and Rand Simberg take a look at what might have happened in 1942 if certain current attitudes had prevailed then over at Transterrestrial Musings. Very funny.

How to lose influence

The European Convention has published the "skeleton" document, drawn up by Giscard and his boys, to form the basis of discussion for the European Constitution. It's clear to me that Britain would be adversely affected by letting this process continue while remaining a member. In one important area, Britain would surely lose influence. As The Independent states:

The union would have "legal personality", with the power to sign treaties and take a seat on international bodies such as the United Nations.

Now would other nations be content to allow EU member countries essentially a voice and a half, being represented individually and collectively? I doubt it. Surely the only point of having an EU representative at the UN is for it to be the sole representative of its members, as is the case in the WTO. France and Britain would therefore lose their permanent Security Council status. That would be a serious diminution of British power and influence. This is an issue Eurorealists should be forcing into the debate. I doubt many Brits would be happy with the prospect.

PP: YACCS is playing up, so comments are down at the moment. Jim Bennett therefore e-mails some important views:

Re a single European seat in the UN -- there is a precedent for dual representation, although the Euros may not like the analogy: Ukraine and Belarus were both "represented" with their own seats in the UN from the start even though they were also "represented" by the USSR as well. Of course the other republics were not "represented" individually. But the whole thing is a farce: nobody in those nations was represented no matter how many seats they held.

I see George Will is gone capitulationist today in the Post; advocating a single European Security Council seat for Europe. Perhaps that threat would get some Brits moving at last. Ironic that the UK can veto the whole UN but soon won't be able to veto the EU.

Well said.

You go, Hugo

The CEI's Hugo Gurdon tells America the truth about the EU.

Motivational blogger

Jim Henley has several posts wrapping up his excellent coverage of the sniper case, among them this one on the killers' motive. Terror? No, says Jim. Money, pure and simple.

Student of history, but not of literature

The Lincoln Plawg's John Smith has been getting a lot of play with his disagreements with a Yale professor's assessment of the War on Terror. I'm not sure I find it that convincing. He makes a great deal of what really happened at Agincourt, but that's not what Prof Gaddis is talking about. He is referencing Shakespeare's Henry V, not the real monarch of the same name. He could have made it more explicit, and certainly muddies the water somewhat, but I think I'm correct in saying that. Here is the motivation of Shakespoke's Henry:

His present and your pains we thank you for:
When we have matched our rackets to these balls,
We will in France, by God's grace, play a set
Shall strike his father's crown into the hazard.

I doubt the wisdom of issuing Prof. Gaddis' arguments, but I think the criticism is a little misplaced too. What a lot of tennis balls!

Well done, Tony Blair!

Our Tone has risen again in my estimation. A Frenchman of some note has accused him of being rude:

M Chirac, who strongly defends the policy because France is the chief beneficiary, reportedly told Mr Blair: "You have been very rude and I have never been spoken to like this before."

It seems Tone has had enough of the appaling idiocy that is the CAP. The French don't like being told home truths. Perhaps someone should send le Premier a copy of Tim Hames' article from yesterday.


In Safety: Another Problem With Poverty the New York Times alleges that studies show that pverty causes children to be hit by cars. Sounds like lax parenting to me, which probably also causes poverty, but who am I to judge?

Crime time

I was interviewed extensively by USA Today yesterday about the new FBI crime figures, but they spiked the story (they just ran a short piece in a sidebar). That's the problem with telling journalists there isn't a story there. The editors often believe you. Anyway, my view can be found in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel story, Reported crime up 4.2% in state.

The limits of intelligence

Well, my TCS column this week attracted this comment:

Dear Mr. Murray;

I found your article without value; in particular, giving play to Clark Chapman of the Southwest Research Institute and Alan Harris
of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for their less than insightful insights tells me that you are probably a skeptic and probably a member of MENSA. If you still want to drop names, do it when you are alone - not on the Internet!

BTW, my definition of a skeptic is one who believes in nothing, being fascinated by their own intellect. Sad!


Anthony J. Sanner
Fair Oaks, CA US

This bright spark runs a website that seems to think that a blotch on a film is evidence of alien activity. What a lark!

Monday, October 28, 2002


Well that was bizarre. I just received an e-mail from Newt Gingrich...

(Nothing substantive, I hasten to add, but if you're reading, Newt, keep up the good work on health care!)

Profiling idiocy

My friend Eli Lehrer puts the boot into the idea that profiling is a scientific method in Profiles in Confusion, reprinted, as it were, from the current Weekly Standard. I've also been saying this for quite some time.

Proposal for the WTC Memorial

My good lady wife has been putting her creative juices to work, and came up with this proposal for the WTC memorial:

Her description:

This is a rough, rough sketch of what I'd like to see on the footprint of the twin towers. Two towers within an open cage frame. The new towers would be no higher than the floors which hit the twin towers, so one would be about 100 stories and one would be about 80 stories. The new towers' footprint would be about one to three feet smaller than the old twin towers so that they fit within the footprint leaving space for a encircling reflecting pool and the open cage frame. This frame would be exactly the dimensions of the old twin towers encasing the buildings within and extending to the height of the old towers, like benevolent ghosts enveloping a new home. The frame would be illuminated at night from within and lights on the top of the new buildings would have continue the illumination to the sky. The rest of the 16 acres can be developed as needed.

Seems a lot better to me than most of the proposals so far.


Don't miss Tim Hames' excellent Times summary of where we are in the War on Terror and how Jacques Chirac's grandstanding is a senseless obstacle to progress.

UPI column up

I forgot to blog this last week, because the UPI web site was playing up. My latest Recent research suggests ... column looks at the recent report on the reliability of polygraphs and at a couple of other bits and pieces.

PP: Wilde has some biting comments about polygraph reliability from personal experience.

TCS column up

My latest Tech Central Station column is up. The Limits of Rationality looks at an attempt to argue that giving more weight to terrorist attacks than to traffic accidents in political decision-making is irrational.

Friday, October 25, 2002

Didn't they read Gramsci?

Seems like Blogger is back, so I hope this will actually publish! Revealing comments in this Telegraph editorial on the task facing the new Education Secretary:

The central premise of the Blairite approach to education has been the centralisation of decision-making in Whitehall. This policy followed a path begun by the previous Conservative government. To appreciate why successive governments thought it imperative to take power from individual schools and teachers, it is necessary to recall how remote much classroom practice had become from any traditional - or even rational - understanding of the function of education.

Teaching methodology and curriculum content were in the hands of an interlocking network of teacher-training establishments, local education authorities and teaching unions that was accountable to no one outside its own ideological circles. The protests of parents and employers made government action seem inescapable.

The Thatcher government proposed a "core curriculum" and "pencil and paper" tests to ensure that children would be equipped with basic skills. Taken over by educational vested interests, this transmogrified into a monolithic national curriculum. Tony Blair, having adopted educational standards as his personal crusade, then pursued this notion of government diktat to its logical conclusion.

The Tory approach seemed sensible to me at the time, but then I was a know-nothing student. I had thought Mrs T was a student of Gramsci. The right approach would have been to destroy the institutions (or their iconic privileges) that had been inflitrated by the revolutionaries (who are, of course, still there). The analogy to privatization should have been obvious. Any meaningful reform of teaching has to start with the teacher training colleges. Without that, it is doomed.

Poxes on both houses etc

Moving office today, so posting will be light even if Blogger Pro ever actually publishes any of the posts I've been making. In the meantime, check out Mark Kleiman's excellently balanced take on the Nevada marijuana legalization ballot.

Thursday, October 24, 2002

Sniper Latest

It really does look like they've got their men. And it seems they were undone by their own stupidity, as well. I think people that are jumping on the surname "Muhammad" as evidence of terrorism are being a bit silly at present. If the elder suspect is Islamic, it'll be Nation of Islam-style. Their terrorism has been terrorism only in the most banal sense of the word. I'll be very surprised if they have any connection to a recognizable terrorist group.

By the way, I am happy to admit my theory about young, bored kids was completely unfounded...

PP: Color me surprised. There's a prima facie case to be answered if what is said in this Tech Central Station article is at all accurate.

Big Brother No Longer a Cliche

Over at Samizdata, Perry de Havilland has snapped a picture of this monstrous poster:

Welcome to the reality of Tony Blair's Britain.

Many a true word

The Media Research Center takes a look at John Simpson, liberator of Kabul and doyen of the BBC's foreign correspondents corps. He seems to be growing more and more ludicrous as the years go by; the last report I saw from him he appeared to be deliberately impersonating Sir David Attenborough. The MRC suggest that he is Britain's Geraldo Rivera. This may be true. Pity the BBC treats him like Dan Rather.

Red Robbo

Nick Robinson (666) is to become the Chief Political Correspondent for ITN, the news service for the independent channels in the UK (and less biased than the Beeb, not though you'd notice). Nick was an extremely wet but prominent Tory at Oxford and his views seem, from what I can discern, to have hardened slightly, but that probably places him squarely in the Blairite range. Nevertheless, it is good to see someone like him at so prominent a media position. It does mean, of course, that he will no longer be running his occasional bloggish Newslog, so I shall have to remove it from my blogroll. One interesting insight in the last one, however:

My favourite test of whether someone is really "New Labour" in their hearts is to ask them (when no-one's listening of course) if Margaret Thatcher was right to defeat the miners.

The true New Labourite - and there aren't that many - will confess that without that happening, the Blairite project would never have been born.

That's what they're getting at when they talk of these strikes being "Scargillite".

I'd be very interested to see how many Labour MPs and activists (or indeed, members of the public) would answer "yes" to that question. That would be a true guide to whether or not socialism has really been defeated in the UK.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Resigned to Failure

Thanks to Mommabear for pointing out below that Estelle Morris has resigned. She admitted she wasn't up to the job:

It appears the former teacher has told the prime minister she felt comfortable in her previous role as schools minister under then Education Secretary David Blunkett but found the step up to cabinet rank too much.

If more people who clearly aren't up to the job admit it (looking in the direction of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Blair will have a nice slimline cabinet before long. Meanwhile, my MP and old college acquaintance, the Schools Minister, has also got into an embarrassing scrape:

David Milliband had an unfortunate encounter this week as he toured the studios justifying the Government’s behaviour in the A-level fiasco and the sacking of exams watchdog chief Sir William Stubbs.

Enroute to one he spied a young woman with a cute baby. Ever the politician, he walked over and beamed “Oh look there’s a little voter.” “Do you know who I am?” came a cold reply from the mother, “I am Sir William Stubbs’ daughter.”

The minister then spent the rest of the day trying to avoid any similar encounters by refusing to appear in the same studio as Sir William.

London Metro 18 October 2002.


Testing times

Another excellent article on sp!ked, Testing Britishness by Josie Appleton. It points out that the reason the Home Office is having trouble drawing up new citizenship tests is because our rulers don't know what Britishness is. Some extensive quotes:

On 9 September 2002, Blunkett established an advisory group to set 'life in the United Kingdom' naturalisation exams for immigrants wishing to become British citizens. The group has also been given the remit of designing a naturalisation ceremony. Professor Bernard Crick, who is chairing the committee, says Prince Charles told him the position was a 'poisoned chalice' - probably one of His Royal Highness' more sensible judgements.

Many of the 'common values' Crick floated in a Sunday Times article on the subject are based on a mythical notion of Britishness, rather than one that actually exists. 'I suppose', he said, without much conviction, 'this is a democratic country that values freedom and rights, toleration, plain speaking, care and compassion for others, truth telling, openness, and the giving of good reasons in public…life and debate' .

Freedom and rights? British governments over the past few years have been busily eroding civil liberties, including the right to silence and the right to free association - and they faced little dissent in the process. Giving good reasons in public debate? From the Commons to the comment pages, the evidence suggests that the level of reasoned public debate is at an historic low. The rest of Crick's values are the vague components of good character, which it would be hard to argue were more prevalent among the British than any other nation.

When not telling fibs about British truth-telling, Crick resorted to tautology: 'It seems to me that we become British by living in Britain and treating one another as British', he said. Yes…and?

Crick also wrote about giving immigrants lessons in paying bills, and telling them how post offices, banks and courts work. It is nice of the British government to provide new arrivals with a Rough Guide to getting about in Britain, but this is hardly the point. It's hard to believe that all this angst about assimilation stems from immigrants' problems with posting letters or paying bills - which are technical aspects of life in a new country that are not very hard to pick up.

... [On Blunkett's idea that immigrant parents speaking English at home would help to 'overcome the schizophrenia which bedevils generational relationships']. The idea that English-speaking ability of their parents has anything to do with youths' lack of sense of belonging in British society is simply absurd. These are second- or third-generation immigrants, who were born and brought up in Britain. It is the absence of values and sources of cohesion in mainstream British society that underlies their lack of 'shared participation' - not their parents' cultural intransigence.

Appleton finishes by saying, "Before Britain starts trying to test immigrants, it should test itself." Indeed it should, and I'd like to suggest that testing History might be the starting point. A people is the product of its history, and so understanding its history must be the key to understanding a people. The history of Britain is one of struggles of beliefs, worldviews and classes, of struggles for liberty and for a better life. From understanding those struggles comes an understanding of the product that resulted. The British have mostly forgotten those struggles, and hence have forgotten what they are. Tell them about their past and they will understand themselves.

Nice one, Brendan

Brendan O'Neill tells the truth about the not-so Nice referendum.

It f***s you up, the nanny state

Helene Guldberg of sp!ked effortlessly exposes the idiocy of a British government guide to parenting and the philosophy behind it in Parenting by numbers. The obscenity in the post title, by the way, is a reference to a Philip Larkin (?) poem, also referred to in the article. I haven't suddenly decided to abandon civility...

Irish Ayes Are Smiling

Here, complete and unedited, is the statement of The National Platform as to why Irish voters approved the Nice Treaty in the second referendum on the subject:

Dear Friends,
In response to several enquiries from outside Ireland for a summary account of why Irish voters voted Yes last Saturday to exactly the same Nice Treaty as they rejected last year, I give below for your information the principal reasons as my colleagues and I see them.

There were two major differences between Ireland's Nice Two referendum and Nice One.

(1) In Nice Two, in contrast to Nice One, there was no public money behind the No-side arguments, because of the removal of this function from the neutral statutory Referendum Commission last December. This body had been given large sums of public money in Nice One to put the Yes-side and No-side cases. That particularly helped the No-side, as they are the poorer of the two. The fact that there was substantial public money behind the Yes-side and No-side arguments in Nice One also meant that private interests did not bother advertising on that occasion. In Nice Two by contrast,the removal of its Yes/No-argument function from the Referendum Commission cleared a free field for private advertising. This was in a ratio of approximately 20 to 1 in favour of the Yes. Thus, for example, the Yes-side posters were mostly put up by private companies that were paid so many euros per poster to do so, whereas the No-side posters were put up by volunteers.

(2) The change in the referendum question: The question the Irish people were asked to vote on in Nice Two was essentially a trick question. There was an extra clause in the contitutional amendment in Nice Two compared with Nice One. This extra clause said that Ireland could not join an EU defence pact without holding a referendum to change its Constitution.This had nothing to do with the Treaty of Nice and was quite irrelevant to the Treaty's ratification. It was inserted as a third clause in addition to the the two clauses that were needed to ratify Nice, and all three had to be voted on as one. This extra clause, if it were to be put to the people at all, should properly have been put as a separate referendum proposition, on which people could vote separately. Instead people voted last Saturday on a three-clause amendment which contained two different joined propositions, to which only one answer could be given, a Yes or a No.

This trick question in Nice Two meant also that the Referendum Commission's other main function, to inform citizens what the referendum was about - for which it was given double the budget of last year (viz. 4.5 million euros) - was inherently confusing, and was biased significantly towards the Yes side. In the event, the Referendum Commission, which was the principal aid to the No side in Nice One, was objectively of significant help to the Yes-side in Nice Two.

These two changes to the basic referendum rules enabled the Irish Government and its allies successfully to impose their campaign agenda in Nice Two. They succeeded in representing Nice Two as a vote for or against "Jobs and Growth," "EU Enlargement," or "Putting Neutrality into the Irish Constitution" - which were largely irrelevant to the real issue. Most Yes-side voters voted in effect for these desirable things, thinking that they were voting on the Treaty of Nice, but without being aware of the actual content of the treaty, which had little or nothing to do with these matters.

The Yes-side's success in imposing its agenda in the last two weeks of the referendum campaign, deriving mainly from the above two factors, was helped by appeals for a Yes vote from the 10 Prime Ministers of the Applicant countries, by the likes of Vaclav Havel and Lech Walesa making similar appeals, by the ambassadors of the Applicant coutries writing a Yes-side letter to the Irish Times, by the Czech and Polish ambassadors actively campaigning for a Yes, by the Irish Catholic Hierarchy positively supporting the Yes side, which they had never done in previous EU-related referendums, and by a number of other factors that variously affected the Yes-side and No-side votes. But in our judgement they were of small significance compared to the two factors mentioned.

The National Platform is of the view that were it not for the above two changes in Nice Two as compared to Nice One, the No side could have won the 19 October referendum. As it was, the 37% No vote - much the same as last year's No - was very creditable in the circumstances. That vote remains as a strong block to oppose the EU State Constitutional Treaty that is already being prepared for 2004/2005.

Yours faithfully,

Anthony Coughlan

PS. Below is an information note on the Nice Two constitutional amendment which has been prepared in response to various queries from abroad. Please feel free to use it or adapt it as you see fit, without need of acknowledgement, if you or your organisation should receive similar queries.


22 October 2002

Irish referendums are forms of direct legislation, like in Switzerland and various other countries, and many states of the USA. The citizens of the Republic of Ireland are legislating to amend the Constitution of their State, which they originally adopted in 1937 and "gave to themselves" by referendum, to use the words of the Constitution's preamble.

Irish referendums are therefore constitutionally different from referendums in the United Kingdom,for example, which are advisory in character, for sovereignty in the UK is regarded as resting with the Crown in Parliament, not with the people.

The Irish Parliament(Dáil) puts a Bill before the people, which they then legislate on. In EU-related referendums Irish citizens are legislating to hand over sovereignty - i.e. legislative,executive and judicial power - to the EU institutions in the areas covered by the EU Treaty in question. This only the people themselves can do, as they are the repositories of sovereignty under the Irish Constitution. This important principle that EU treaties entailing the surrender of sovereignty must be ratified by referendum in the Republic,rather than by parliamentary majority vote, was established by the Irish Supreme Court in the 1987 Crotty case.

So on Saturday last, 19 October, the Republic's citizens were legislating on the 26th Amendment of the Constitution Bill, and the question on the ballot paper was: Do you approve of the 26th Amendment of the Constitution Bill? Citizens vote Yes or No to that. If they vote Yes, the Bill becomes an Act when signed by the President, and the Constitution is consequently amended - in this case permitting the Irish State to ratify the Treaty of Nice.

In every Irish polling booth there was legally required to be a prominent notice on the wall stating what the 26th Amendment to the Constitution Bill says, so that people will know what their vote means. The campaign leading up to the referendum should also have served to make them well aware of that.

The text of the constitutional amendment set out in the Bill is given below. One should note that in the Nice Treaty Re-run referendum, in contrast to the Nice One referendum last year, there are two separate joined propositions to which only one answer was permitted. The third clause has no legal connection with the first two, so it was a trick question to a degree. The Nice Two amendment was different in that respect from all previous Irish constitutional amendments.

The third clause dealing with a referendum on a hypothetical EU defence pact - which had nothing to do with ratifying the Treaty of Nice - should properly have been put as a separate constitutional amendment from the first two clauses. But they were lumped together as two different joined propositions, to which only one answer could be given. This was part of the Irish Government's trickery in seeking to overturn last year's democratic rejection of the Nice Treaty and to get the Treaty through this time.

Below is the constitutional amendment set out in the 26th Amendment of the Constitution Bill. It consists of three clauses that constitute one amendment. The three clauses add three subsections to Article 29 of the Constitution:-

- To insert in the Constitution a proposed new subsection: Article 29.4.7:

"The State may ratify the Treaty of Nice amending the Treaty on European Union, the Treaties establishing the European Communities and certain related Acts signed at Nice on the 26th day of February, 2001."

(This has the effect of ratifying the Treaty of Nice)

- To insert in the Constitution a proposed new subsection:Article 29.4.8

"The State may exercise the options or discretions provided by or under Articles 1.6, 1.9, 1.11, 1.12, 1.13 and 2.1 of the Treaty referred to in subsection 7 of this section but any such exercise shall be subject to the prior approval of both houses of the Oireachtas."

(This relates to the enhanced co-operation provisions of the Treaty.)

- To insert in the Constitution a proposed new subsection:29.4.9

"The State shall not adopt a decision taken by the European Council to establish a common defence pursuant to Article 1.2 of the Treaty referred to in subsection 7 of this section where that common defence would include the State."

This involves a constitutional prohibition on Ireland joining an EU common defence, although it does not prevent the other EU states forming such a defence pact among themselves if they should wish to do so.

Sounds like a quite splendid piece of jerrymandering by the Dail. The Referendum Commission's rules promoted fairness, so they changed the rules. Nice.

Anti-flim-flam from Frum

Unlikely to have much time at all to blog today, but here's David Frum's latest, tackling the idea that the President is motivated by a family vendetta.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Honor amongst thieves

In March 1999, the UK's Secretary of State for Education promised to resign if certain standards were not met:

Mr Willetts [David Willetts MP, then Conservative education spokesman] asked: "Will the minister commit herself to the secretary of state's pledge to resign if the government do not reach their literacy and numeracy targets by 2002?"

Ms Morris, who was then School Standards Minister, replied: "Of course I will; I have already done so. Indeed, I generously commit the Under-Secretary, my honourable friend the member for Norwich, South (Charles Clarke), too. We speak with one voice.

"The honourable gentleman's question is a reflection of what life was like under teams of Conservative ministers, when a secretary of state would promise to resign but the rest of the team would not go too."

The standards have not been met. Ms. Morris refuses to resign, saying that she should be judged on a range of issues. She was junior to David Blunkett, who was then the Secretary of State for Education, when she made the pledge, but at the very least this appears to be at least as sleazy as the Major government's behavior that she so decried in 1999.

Why ration health care?

The reality of socialized medicine: the BBC reports that one of the UK's top specialist surgeons has been 'ordered to stop working' so that his hospital can drive down waiting lists -- the arbitrary Government-imposed performance measure -- instead. Civitas, by the way, has an excellent book comparing the different ways the US, France, Germany and the UK ration health care. It can be downloaded here.

Double Standards at Reason

I love Reason magazine. There's always a lot of great sense in there, as in the Joyce Lee Malcolm article linked to below. But they're as fanatical about drug legalization as they consider the drug warriors to be in favor of prohibition. This has led to an embarrassing case of double standards in the latest issue of their excellent e-zine Reason Express.

Commenting on the sclerosis caused in the DC-Richmond area by fear of the sniper, the writer, Jeff Taylor, sensibly points out the silliness behind applying the principle of joint and several liability to the victims of the sniper, because,

Of course, the only person to blame is the shooter himself.

The very next article refers to a Baltimore woman named Angela Dawson, who was attempting to clean up her neighborhood from the scourge of drugs, and who had her house firebombed by the dealers. She died, as did her five children. Is the only person to blame the arsonist himself? Nooooo:

Number the Dawsons among the casualties of the War on Drugs
Or perhaps society is to blame? After all, 86% of people disagree with the statement "People should be allowed to take any drug they want so long as they don't hurt anyone else." As long as people want restrictions on drugs, there will be drug dealers. And those dealers are scum. They killed the Dawsons, not John Walters. Motes and beams, Jeff.

Monday, October 21, 2002

The Oil Myth

Couldn't wait till tomorrow to blog this one. David Frum's series in The Telegraph continues with a brief but brilliant demolition of the argument that war with Saddam is driven by the "oil lobby". This is where he skewers that silly argument. First he quotes Wyche Fowler, the Clintonian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, arguing in favor of "stability" and pointing out to us poor ignorant Westerners that under theocracy is where the Islamic flame has burned brightest, not democracy:

Fowler's is the authentic voice of the oil lobby, the people who ran America's Middle East policy more or less unchallenged until September 11: pro-Palestinian statehood, sceptical of Arab democracy and concerned above all with the "stability" of the Middle East - meaning the preservation of the Saudi royal family.

Many of these people supported Bush in 2000, but they are found in both parties and throughout the American government. Listen to the retired officials and distinguished public servants who have criticised President Bush's Iraq policy - the Brent Scowcrofts and the James Bakers, the Anthony Zinnis and the Laurence Eagleburgers - and you will hear that word "stability" over and over again. "Stability" means oil.

The remarkable thing about America's post-September 11 Middle Eastern policy is that, for the first time in a generation, oil has been bumped to second place in the country's concerns.

He goes on to rubbish all the permutations of what a "war for oil" could mean. Excellent stuff.

Stacking the Deck

The most important comment in this Telegraph editorial on the Irish Nice Treaty referendum is saved for the end:

Above all, Ireland's experience will have taught him [Blair] that, where European integration is concerned, the people's verdict need not be final. "No" campaigners need to win every time; "yes" campaigners need only win once.

There desperately needs to be a Double Jeopardy rule for plebiscites as well...

Richmond Update

My first thought when I heard about the Richmond arrests was that this could be the local police being skittish. Seems I was right, as the TV news is reporting that the two may have been "in the wrong place at the wrong time." What exactly does that mean? It could be that a trap was set, but these two walked into it and just happened to be in a white van. If so, that's the sort of dramatic element movies thrive on. I imagine someone out there is developing a treatment as this story progresses...

PP: My question below still stands. Which jurisdiction will get first stab at trying the sniper when he/she/they is/are caught?

PPP: By the way, they were Hispanic -- one Mexican, one Guatemalan, and both "undocumented workers." Oops.

Cui bono?

Tim Hames has some interesting comments on the likely politicial effect of the coming strikes by the Fire Brigades and others in the UK:

It is much harder to predict who will benefit from this confrontation. If the Government ducks out and settles largely on union terms then old Labour will, despite the force of the Prime Minister’s party conference address two weeks ago, emerge victorious. If the strikes take place and voters don’t unambiguously blame the unions, then the Liberal Democrats — by proposing a mixture of new, independent pay assessment and additional penalties on strike action — might be better placed than the Tories to exploit irritation with the Government. If, by contrast, the events are viewed entirely in the terms of the 1970s, with detested unions apparently running roughshod over feeble ministers, then the Conservatives, for all their present difficulties, may acquire a political lifeline.

I think the second option, that the Liberal Democrats will be best placed, the most likely. However, Tim really should go on and consider the implications of that happening. Finding himself essentially outflanked on the Left, what will Blair's reaction be? If he moves back to the left, he may lose a lot of his centrist support. If he moves to the right, attempting to kill off the Tories forever, I can easily see many on the left of his party adding this "betrayal" to the "betrayals" over the economy and foreign policy and regarding it as the final straw.

A Labour split could easily result. Once again, I can see a Blairite-Tory alliance as his best hope in such circumstances. You can just imagine the speech, about how Iain Duncan Smith has rid his party of the haters (he'd probably demand the expulsion of Lord Tebbitt as part of the price) and brought it back into the political mainstream. Interesting, compassionate policies on health and education. The real conservatives are now on the Left, combined with the forces of naivety, who all stand ready to wreck our progress, etc etc. The resulting alliance would probably be better than a Ken Clerke-led Tory Party, actually...

Richmond detainee description

The first description I've seen of one of the Richmonds detainees come from The Richmond Times Dispatch:

Neilson described the man as slightly built with dark hair. Other witnesses described him as Hispanic-looking, with shoulder-length hair and a mustache.

Richmond's ethnic make-up is very different from DC's. It wouldn't surprise me if someone mistook a South Asian or Arab for a Hispanic. Interesting, at least.

In Defense of America

Former Presidential speech-writer David Frum defends America from a commonly-believed (in the UK) myth about her each day this week in the Telegraph. Today: Myth #1 - America is totally in hock to the Jewish lobby.

Sniper update

Arrests Made in Sniper Probe, White House Says. The arrests happened very close to where we used to live in Richmond (map here -- we lived just within the Richmond city boundary just to the South of the incident) and we know both Broad Street and Parham Road very well. It's beginning to look as if the sniper and his accomplice were suckered into calling their number, which was then traced incredibly quickly, although it really is too early to say anything more than speculatively.

Meanwhile, will these people face the death penalty? They certainly could in Virginia, but Maryland doesn't really have a clause in its laws that caters for the death penalty for serial killers, and the federal laws seem a little inappropriate too. DC doesn't have the death penalty at all, I think. If anyone knows more about how the law is likely to be applied if this is the breakthrough, please let me know.

European Economic Catastrophe

The Economist looks at Euroland's economic perfromance in relation to its own rules and doesn't like what it sees. The Stability and Growth Pact, product of a more successful time, has fallen under such strain that even Romano Prodi calls it 'stupid.' But, as The Economist points out, it is not just the pact's rules that are at fault:

Europe’s economic performance in recent years has been disappointing, especially when compared with America’s. Europe’s labour, product and capital markets are much less flexible than those across the Atlantic. Unemployment has been consistently higher. And the EU’s commitment, made at the Lisbon summit in 2000, to become the most competitive region in the world by 2010 is going nowhere fast. Governments remain too ready to back down in the face of union unrest and too fond of writing cheques to prop up failing companies. Abandoning the stability pact would be only a step on the road to economic reform.

Strangely, France, with its commitment to tax cuts, is the only one currently going down the Anglo-American road...

All British Readers Please Note

Joyce Lee Malcolm's Reason article on British gun control in its historical context is finally online: Gun Control’s Twisted Outcome. I urge all British readers to pay close attention to this article. It might change a few minds.

A Rare Blast of Common Sense

Howie Kurtz looks at TV's Sniper Brigade for the Washington Post. In the incestuous world of media criticism, Howie always shines through with his simple common sense.

Grating Britons

John Lennon and Diana, Princess of Wales, are among the 10 greatest Britons of all time, according to a BBC poll. Well, at least David Beckham and Posh Spice didn't make the list. The rest of the list is moderately sensible:

Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Winston Churchill
Oliver Cromwell
Charles Darwin
Diana, Princess of Wales
Queen Elizabeth I
John Lennon
Horatio Nelson
Isaac Newton
William Shakespeare

Going down, I recognize Brunel's many achievements, but I might have put George Stephenson in his place out of sheer regional bias. Churchill is a given, although in terms of Prime Ministers, rather than war leaders, Pitt the Younger, Palmerston, Salisbury, Lloyd George and Thatcher could all give him a run for his money. Cromwell secured Parliament's place as a dominant force in the land and then became a military dictator, ensuring Britain would be neither an absolute monarchy or a republican dictatorship again, so his place would be assured even if he wasn't a remarkable personality. Darwin is probably the most influential scientist ever, bar possibly Newton, also on the list for obvious reasons. Diana is just silly. If you have to have an inspiring embodiment of feminine virtues (which Diana assuredly was not, despite her image), I'd go for Edith Cavell or Florence Nightingale (who would almost certainly have made the list 30 years ago). Elizabeth I is probably England's most inspiring monarch, as well as having settled the country's seafaring destiny and Protestant nature, so I'll let her go. Lennon is also silly. As far as poets go, we have a whole host better suited to the position. Nelson is certainly our most romantic military leader, as well as being damn good at his job. Newton I've already mentioned, and Shakespoke is probably the most influential wordsmith ever, in any language. Jay Manifold has some concise but useful suggestions as to who else might be included, including the nomination of Archbishop Stephen Langton, who was, in some ways, England's Madison.

We should of course be grateful the list was as decent as it is. This story about Britain's obsession with celebrity, is deeply distressing. I love the comment from an Australian reader:

Hopefully this survey will put an end to the sneering and utterly hypocritical view, held by many British, that Americans are ill-educated brutes.

It's one of the most unpleasant aspects of Britain that its most foolish inhabitants have an unjustified feeling of intellectual superiority over Americans. Curiously, this is as dominant on the left as it is on the traditionalist wing.

BBC vs The Founding Fathers

Natalie Solent does a great job of analyzing the blatant bias of the BBC over the US gun issue over at, well, Biased BBC. I was enormously anti-gun until I came over here, mainly because I had never heard the arguments in favor. I had recognized a subconscious feeling that something was wrong when the government decided that Olympic shooters would not be exempt from the post-Dunblane restrictions. These were plainly decent people. Why I did not make the connection that if it seems wrong to restrict one group of law-abiding people, it may be wrong for others, I do not know. Just goes to show how far subservience to the state/ respect for the will of Parliament as the voice of the people (to put it in two different lights) affected my capacity for rational thought about rights, I suppose.

Sniper Breakthrough?

Police have surrounded a van near Richmond, Va, and taken a man into custody. They say the evidence was specific enough to justify the action. This could be just a skittish local police force or it could be a genuine breakthrough. While we await further information, however, you might like to check out this AP story, which quotes me extensively on the subject of whether or not there's a pattern to the sniper's activities.

Friday, October 18, 2002

Happy Birthday, Helen

It's my lovely daughter's birthday tomorrow, so I thought I'd post a picture of her:

She had a cold, poor dear...

Blackstone and Malcolm

I promised to quote Blackstone on self-defense:

" But the life and limbs of a man are of such high value, in the estimation of the law of England, that it pardons even homicide if committed se defendo, or in order to preserve them. For whatever is done by a man, to save either life or a member, is looked upon as done upon the highest necessity and compulsion. Therefore if a man through fear of death or mayhem (injury) is prevailed upon to execute a deed, or do any other legal act: these, though accompanied with all the other requisite solemnities, may be afterwards avoided, if forced upon him by a well-grounded apprehension of loosing his life, or even his limbs, in case of his non-compliance. And the same is also a sufficient excuse for the commission of many misdemeanours. The constraint a man is under in these circumstances is called in law duress, from the Latin "durities", of which there are two sorts: duress of imprisonment, where a man actually looses his liberty… and duress "per minas", where the hardship is only threatened and impending".

Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765), Book 1, Capter 1, pp126-7.

Blackstone goes on to call self defense not a, but the "primary law of nature," because "the law respects the passions of the human mind; and ... makes it lawful in him to do himself that immediate justice, to which he is prompted by nature, and which no prudential motives are strong enough to restrain. It considers that the future process of law is by no means an adequate remedy for injuries accompanied by force." Blackstone goes so far as to argue that the right to self-defense cannot be taken away by the law of the society.

There were, of course, hedges round this principle. But, as Malcolm says, "killings that occurred when a man was acting as peacekeeper, or defending himself,his family, and property were classified as justifiable or excusable. ... Killing anyone who was committing a felony was regarded as excusable" (Guns and Violence: The English Experience, p.24). Someone involved in a brawl had an obligation to retreat to the wall, but the intended victim of a felony was not so obliged. Moreover, the fact that the villain in the case discussed below had exited the house is actually pertinent to the case in ancient legal terms, because, "if during the pursuit the culprit was killed 'where he cannot otherwise be overtaken, this will be deemed justifiable homicide. For the pursuit was not barely warrantable; it is what the law requireth, and will punish the wilful neglect of'" (Malcolm, quoting Dicey, ibid p.27).

As for the juries, Malcolm points out that mediaeval juries rarely found a man guilty of homicide when there was an element of self-defence involved, even when the facts of the case suggested the law had been broken. This sort of nullification is exactly why jury trials are so important, to my mind.

The law surrounding self-defense became confused as the law grew more complex in the 16th and 17th centuries, but the practice of confiscating property of anyone accused of homicide, even in self-defense, was so unpopular that Henry VIII had to put an end to the practice. Malcolm comments that "this act extended the category of justifiable, or blameless, homicide to those defending themselves from anyone who attempted to rob or murder them on or near a public highway or path or in their home at night" (ibid, p.47). She also comments "the issue of whether the slayer might have made his escape and hence avoided shedding blood was irrelevant."

A law introduced by Peel in 1827, which reduced the number of capital offenses from 200+ to 11, also held that cases "in which a person should be killed by another in order to prevent a commission of a felony, should be held by law to be justifiable homicide."

Such was the case until 1967, when a broad revision of the criminal law "altered the legal standard for self-defense. Now everything turns on what seems to be 'reasonable' force against an assailant, considered after the fact. As Glanville Williams notes in his Textbook of Criminal Law, that requirement is 'now stated in such mitigated terms as to cast doubt on whether it [self-defense] still forms part of the law.'"

The case seems clear. English law was perfectly sensible about killing people who threaten you by committing felonies against you up until 1967. The re-interpretation of reasonable is, in legal terms, recent.

Stalking Horse

Steve Milloy of The Junk Science Home Page has a pretty good FOXNews column about the science behind the calls for "ballistic fingerprinting" in the wake of the sniper attacks:

Maryland and New York already require ballistic fingerprinting. So far it hasn't helped convict a single criminal in Maryland despite "fingerprinting" 17,000 guns sold since January 2000. New York hasn't had success either.

And there isn't likely to be success any time soon, according to the study [from California state ballistics experts].

The report included the test firing of more than 2,000 rounds from 790 pistols.

When cartridges from the same manufacturer were test-fired and compared, computer matching failed 38 percent of the time. With cartridges from different manufacturers, computer matching failed 62 percent of the time.

This isn't ballistic fingerprinting, it's ballistic hat sizes. The people who are calling for the measure must know that, so I think Milloy's charge that this is essentially a stalking horse for full registration rings true.

The California study can be found here in PDF format.

CAP Claptrap

I can't find it on-line, so here's the full text of an Agence France Presse story from yesterday:

French Minister for European Affairs Noelle Lenoir said on Thursday that the system that allows Britain a substantial annual EU budget rebate is no longer acceptable.

"At the very moment when Europe is about to take the biggest step in its history since the Treaty of Rome, this system has reached the limits of its usefulness," she said during a debate in the French parliament on EU budget contributions. Britain has been granted a rebate since 1984 when Britain's then prime minister Margaret Thatcher succeeded in convincing her European partners that Britain was paying more into the farm subsidies pool than it was getting out.

Thatcher famously elevated the rebate issue to a personal campaign which she said was aimed at "getting our money back".

In her speech Lenoir said that in 1984 the British rebate "was the price to pay for the maintenance of an ambitious Common Agricultural Policy", but that after 2006, "solidarity ought to come into play without restriction."

The EU plans to review the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in 2006.

Lenoir claimed that because of changes to the levels of contributions in some EU countries France now financed nearly one third of the British rebate.

France is the second largest contributor, providing over 17 percent of the budget, but it is also the second largest beneficiary.

The future of farm subsidies has been a pivotal issue as the EU prepares to accept ten mainly agriculture-based countries into the European fold from 2004.

Britain has been one of the most vocal advocates for reforming CAP to significantly lower payments to farmers.

The European Commission insists it is "absolutely" essential to agree a common position on agricultural aid before the December 12-13 summit in the Danish capital that officially approves the entry of the 10 new members.

The CAP is an outrageous racket, and Lenoir is right to say that the rebate was the price of allowing it. Now the rebate should be ended in the name of "solidarity"? I hope this view is getting a lot of play in Britain...

So many theories crumble

Several people, and I'm mentioning no names here, built some magnificent theories about the DC area sniper based on the eye-witness description of an AK-74 as the weapon. One problem:
he lied. I've always thought that the single shot nature of these crimes ruled out a semi-automatic and was highly skeptical about the Kalashnikov reference. Seems I was right.

Meanwhile, the theory that gun registration will never lead to confiscation is also taking a bashing:

Investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are visiting the homes of local registered gun owners to determine whether they have alibis about their whereabouts during the recent shootings.

Odd that law-abiding citizens should be targeted in this selective way. If you buy a weapon intending to kill people with it, surely the last thing you would do is register it. It is also rumored, although I hasten to add I have been able to find no official source for this, that 5,000 guns have been "voluntarily" removed by the ATF for examination. It's well known that if the ATF take your gun, your chances of getting it back are next to nil. The voluntary nature of the weapon surrender apparently also stretches the meaning of that word.

PP: The 5,000 figure appears to have been grossly exagerrated. Better estimates are around the 100 range.

Felonius Monk

That sagacious hermit* Instapundit has exactly the right idea on the problem of disenfranchised felons: reduce the number of felonies. In the UK we abolished the distinction between felony and misdemeanor, so no-one is disqualified from voting by virtue of having a criminal record, but at the same time those sanctions which remain on people with criminal records affect equally those with a minor youthful indiscretion and released murderers. And as the Government turns more previously lawful acts into criminal offenses, the problem is likely only to increase rather than decrease.

* Had to justify the headline somehow...

Thursday, October 17, 2002

The Return of an Old Friend

Boris Johnson has been disappointing over recent months, failing to display the wit and enthusiasm which made him famous, but he has returned to form with I'm no longer Nasty, but please stop lying about Nice, which gives him an opportunity to expose the lies and, better, the motivation of those who are saying that an Irish rejection of the Nice Treaty for the second time would hurt all those nice Eastern Europeans by denying them entry to the EU. First the lies:

There is no real obstacle. You simply convene an inter-governmental conference between present members and candidates, rubber-stamp the terms of accession, which have now been more than a decade in preparation, and bingo, they are in.

The EU somehow managed to admit four new members in 1994 without a new constitutional settlement, and there were similarly successful enlargement negotiations in 1972, 1981 and 1985. No one then pretended that you need a preliminary treaty. Why should you need one now?

It is true that Nice contains one important detail relevant to enlargement: a change to the voting weights in the Council of Ministers, to give a better reflection of populations. But is it really beyond the powers of Gunter Verheugen, and the rest of the highly paid Brussels jurist-linguists (I feel myself starting to rev up) to take those short paragraphs and use the cut, copy, paste functions to insert them in the accession treaties?

Then the home truths:

There are plenty of diplomats and politicians around Europe who are secretly hoping for a no on Sunday, because they would use it as a pretext to try to delay enlargement.

In almost every country you will find those with motives for scuppering the project: the Belgians, for instance, because they like the EU the way it is, with Belgium still taken moderately seriously; the French because they have a horror of free agricultural competition with eastern Europe; the Dutch and the Scandinavians because they know that they will be asked to cough up more to the EU's structural and regional funds; the Spanish, Greeks and Portuguese because they know they will no longer be first in the queue for the bungs and the subsidies, not with the Poles milling around.

The Euro-federalists in Brussels would bully the Irish to vote yes, not because they want enlargement, but because they want the federalising advances of the Nice Treaty. The sophisticated diplomats are praying for a no, because they could then use it - quite wrongly - as an excuse to delay the expansion of the EU. The sensible Irish man or woman will realise on Sunday that this is a vote on Nice, and Nice alone, and I hope that he or she votes no. It is infamous that the EU should keep coming back to countries, after they have given a clear and fraud-free answer to a referendum question, and asking them to have another go.

The free-thinking people of Ireland have consistently rejected foreign overlordship. I pray they will do so again on Sunday.

Reasonable performance

Condi Rice has a halfway decent op/ed in the Telegraph today, arguing the American position on terrorism. This is a nice bit, answering some of the silly objections about "imposing democracy" (although she could have said that doing so is impossible -- if democracy is wanted, it is not imposed, if it is not, it will not survive):

We do not seek to impose democracy on others; we seek only to help create conditions in which people can claim a freer future for themselves. We also recognise that there is no "one size fits all" answer.

Germany, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, South Africa, South Korea, Poland, Taiwan and Turkey show that freedom manifests itself differently around the globe - and that new liberties can find an honoured place amidst ancient traditions.

The associated Telegraph editorial actually flatters her article somewhat:

On the Opinion page, she develops this theme. Her argument is sensible of European doubts about Wilsonian idealism: democracy cannot be imposed; it takes different forms; America knows it must be patient and humble.

I don't think she quite does that, but it would be helpful if she did.

Unreasonable expectation of rationality

They've done it again, the British judges, subjugating a basic right to a silly, silly law. A householder has been jailed for five years for stabbing a burglar to death. The burglar was armed only with a crowbar, which the householder mistook for a machete, and the householder stabbed him 12 times. This was unreasonable in the circumstances, the Court decided, applying a law that calls for "reasonable force" in such events. The whole idea of reasonable force in the face of a threat is, however, laughable. As that wise old American Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes, remarked,

"Detached reflection cannot be demanded in the presence of an upraised knife."

Some people can only defend themselves by working themselves into a frenzy -- I fear I would be that way -- and so the difference between 1 thrust and 12 is immaterial, I would argue. Self-defense and the peaceful enjoyment of one's lawful property are two of the most important rights mankind has striven to secure. It is disgusting that English law should fail people in such a way.

PP: Clayton Cramer posts a joke that seems somewhat relevant.

European Arrest Warrant Update

Some enterprising souls have just set up a new web site, www.rights-under-threat.info, to update people on the threats to liberty inherent in the European Arrest Warrant. Of particular interest are this link to a QC's legal opinion on the proposed law (a QC -- Queen's Counsel -- is a very senior attorney, and their opinions carry significant weight in legal circles) and a useful summary of the differences between the British legal system and the proposed "corpus juris".

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Bread of Heaven

England may have struggled against (the Former Yugoslav Republic of) Macedonia, but there'll be joy in the valleys tonight as Wales beat Italy 2-1 in European Championship qualifying. No doubt the Italians will now claim that the referee was being bribed (in lavabread?) just like at the World Cup. Oh, and Craig Bellamy and Simon Davies can kiss careers in Serie A goodbye...

Ye Gods

Just to underline that people in the DC area shouldn't panic about the sniper, police have issued a set of tips for staying safe (in the sidebar of this article). They're a bunch of doozies. Take this one, for example:

When moving outside, walk briskly in a zigzag pattern.

I have an image of a crowded sidewalk where everone follows this advice, with multiple collisions occuring as a result. Actually, those who are afraid are already doing things like this; I saw a chap walk three quarters of the way up the stairs at a metro station the other day. He then stopped and took his paper out, safe in the knowledge that he had walls of concrete protecting him. Wasn't much fun for the people who had to get past him to get out of the station, though.

In any event, issuing this list does nothing for my confidence that the police have much of a clue in this hunt.

Free will and neuroscience

The always interesting Medpundit has some interesting news from the wilds of neuroscience. Determinists everywhere -- theologian or philosopher -- should jump on this one.

Government defends British rights shocker

Astonishing. Just when I'd almost given up on HMG ever standing up for common law, the Times reports that the Attorney General supports the supremacy of Parliament:

THE Attorney-General championed the sovereignty of Parliament yesterday as he sought to uphold the Guinness Four’s convictions for fraud.
Lord Goldsmith, QC, said that Westminster still had the power to make laws that flouted the European Convention on Human Rights and the English courts must enforce them.

His declaration in the House of Lords was one of the strongest constitutional clarifications of Parliament’s supremacy since the 1998 Human Rights Act enshrined the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights into British law.

The Government’s senior law officer made a spirited affirmation of Britain’s independence in the face of a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that the men’s trial was unfair.

Upholding Westminster’s primacy, he said: “It of course remains the case that Parliament could today legislate deliberately and incompatibly with a convention right.

“The domestic courts will of course be obliged to give effect to Parliament’s expressed intention.”

As clear a statement of a democratic nation's right to self-determination as you could wish for. Of course, if the Law Lords reject the Attorney-General's arguments, then they will, by this one act, have subjugated Parliament to external treaties. The Law Lords hold the very nature of the UK's constitution in their hands. I am far from confident they will make the correct decision.

Bonzer feller

Fantastically good article by Clive James in the Grauniad. Amazing to think that this wise old sage got his break reviewing Dallas and other soap operas... Thanks to another wise sage, Chris Bertram, for the heads-up.

The Young and the Restless?

Sharp rise in favor of war on Iraq, reports the Grauniad. This poll reveals a lot about the British public's state of mind at the moment:

Support for a war against Iraq is strongest amongst men - 51% approve as opposed to only 34% of women - and among 25- 34-year-olds who approve by 52% to 25%. Opposition to war is strongest among women - 41% of whom disapprove compared with 33% of men.

The poll results also show that the belief that a new UN mandate is needed before British troops are committed remains overwhelming with 85% of voters saying this must be a precondition.

A similar proportion - 81% - also says there needs to be a Commons vote before there is British participation in an attack on Iraq. Mistrust of Saddam Hussein also remains at a very high level in Britain. Three-quarters say they do not believe he would honour his commitment to allow UN weapons inspectors into Iraq without any conditions. Only 13% are prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.

It's a given that men are more in favor of war than women, for obvious reasons. But this poll provides further evidence of something I've commented on before about Britain. Normally, the old are more in favor of war than the young (the "old men sending young men to die" idea), but it's the young who are most in favor of war in Britain at the moment. Is this restlessness, or a more barbarous bellicosity brought about by lack of knowledge of history, or a general pro-common sense, anti-idiotarian stance that has no truck with pacifism in the face of potential danger? I'm not sure. Probably a little of all three.

Moreover, the British desire for legitimacy in their actions is obviously not driven by moral relativism. They don't trust Saddam, but they have been told repeatedly that overarching international organizations provide the only legitimate sanction for military action absent an attack. The UN is seen as neither toothless or vacillating in the UK. A few home truths need to be told, I think.

Thanks, chaps

Owing to links from the trinity of Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Reynolds and Andrew Stuttaford of The Corner, this site achieved the Olympian level of 5,666 hits yesterday. I hope that a few of you were interested enough to become repeat visitors.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Jesus Wept

A Bali aftermath story so heartbreaking it has moved Tim Blair to tears. After Kim Hughes and Bob Hawke, it takes guts for an Aussie to admit that...

Murray: the Truth at Last

I am a liberal airhead, according to the F Scale, erm, fascism predictor. Sad to see something so Euclidean, but as it dates from 1946 I'll let it go. Thanks to Green Fairy for the link.

When Loyalty is a Bad Thing

I am indebted to The Bruges Group for drawing another Europeanist outrage to my attention. The Labour Government in the UK has submitted its preferences for the future of Europe (drawn from a document written by a Dr Dashwood) to the Constitutional Convention taking place beyond the gaze of most Europeans:

A key point to watch is the so-called "loyalty" clause - a whole new principle in Constitutional law. This radically centralist legal concept will, if adopted, be a key method by which Brussels will enforce it's control over European Union member states.

Quoting from Dr Dashwood's proposals, section 5 reads as follows:

"5. The principle of loyal cooperation requires that the Member States support the actions and policies of the Union actively and unreservedly in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity, to ensure fulfilment of the obligations arising out of this Treaty or resulting from action taken by the institutions of the Union.

"The Member States shall facilitate the achievement of the Union's tasks as provided for in the Act on Economic and Social Policy and in the Act on Foreign, Security and Defence Policy. They shall refrain from any action which is contrary to the interests of the Union or likely to impair its effectiveness".

This concept must be stopped, or democracy and self-government will be a thing of the past.

Dreadful. A federal Europe will have not a hint of federalism about it.

Nice or Nasty

Bruce Anderson agrees with me that Theresa May's speech last week was overwrought:

[She] went too far. By describing her own party as ‘the nasty party’, she not only incited Norman Tebbit, she also annoyed a lot of people in the hall, who have given decades of effort to the Tory party, in-between running meals-on-wheels and doing the church flowers. They are not at all nasty; they were hurt to be described as such, and a lot of them are now grumbling about why they should go on working for a leadership which insults them. Mrs May ought to choose her words more carefully.

She — and others — should also remember that the electorate does not consist only of minorities. Majorities also have votes. There is nothing wrong with reaching out to minorities, but the Tories will never again win a majority until they can convince decent, hard-working, white, two-parent families trying to bring up three children on £30,000–35,000 that this is the party for them.

Nor should Tories be afraid of sounding tough from time to time. This week, David Blunkett tried to spin the Tory conference out of the headlines by talking about asylum. A lot of people want a government which will stand up for them, and for Britain. Though the Tories must not sound nasty, they cannot rely on the nice vote.

Indeed. You need the patriots, the moral authoritarians and the economic libertarians in any Conservative coalition, as John O'Sullivan has pointed out.

On the other hand, Michael Gove argues that the Tories have been at their most successful when embracing social change. True, but why is social change always seen as going in one direction? There's a lot of evidence over here that social change can be going back, turning away from a foolish path. Crime has fallen, welfare rolls have been cut, the teen suicide rate decreased 20%, education scores increased and the child poverty rate decreased. Increases in illegitimacy, single parent families and cohabitation stopped or began to reverse. All are symptomatic of a society that has decided that the mores adopted in the 60s, and prevalent through the 70s, 80s and early 90s, may not be the best thing for society. Social change can therefore equally be the restoration of what has been lost, or the reformation of manners sought and achieved by William Wilberforce in the early 19th century. It is early days yet for this change in the UK -- Britain is often 5-10 years behind the times compared with America -- but I think this is the wave that the Tory party need to catch.

Cracking Post, Gromit

BBC News Online has exclusive rights to the new Wallace and Gromit microfilms.

A sniper thought

Dale Amon of Samizdata examines the idea that the DC shootings are the work of "professionals." The experts don't seem to think so, and tend towards the idea that its two young men working together. I recall hearing a comment about Columbine, that the experts were astounded at the ratio of kills to shots acheived by the boys there. Others have noticed this, and one theory is that video games have trained kids so that they are better shots than their elders. I think there may be some truth in that. I think we're looking for some very young, narcissistic under-acheivers here. Jim Henley's retail worker theory would fit right in with that.

UPDATE: The theory is outlined in this book by Lt Col Dave Grossman. I happen to disagree with the general theory that TV, movie and video game violence causes youth violence, but I think there's a lot in the theory that it makes them "better" at it.

I swore I wouldn't do this one, but...

You are Kermit!
Though you're technically the star, you're pretty mellow and don't mind letting others share the spotlight. You are also something of a dreamer.

Sniper Theory

Jim Henley of Unqualified Offerings has a theory about the sniper, who is getting closer to my family.

The end of Habeas Corpus in Britain

A lawyer, based in Italy, whose judgment I trust, sends me the following about the implementation of the European Arrest Warrant in the UK:

I have just received a copy of a letter from Leolin Price Q.C. which he sent to to Blunkett on Oct 4th criticising the European Arrest Warrant. This letter apprises me of certain facts.

Now I have been spending my time for months trying to bring this measure to public attention, for it will expose British citizens to being arrested and summarily deported into 14 alien systems of laws about which we know hardly anything, except that none of those on the continent have Habeas Corpus or Trial by Jury, so thousands of prisoners are kept in prison for months on end "pending investigation" and during this time have no right to any public hearing and there is no obligation on the prosecution to exhibit any evidence, so indeed they need not actually *have* any evidence at all!

I learn now from Leolin Price's letter that the legislation coming before Parliament to implement the EAW will actually be even worse than I had imagined. Three aspects that I was not fully aware of before:

1) The Home Secretary will reserve for himself the power to designate (by administrative decision, no future parliamentary debate needed) "appropriate persons" who may carry out the European arrests; this, Mr Price suggests, could be a foreign police officer from the state issuing the warrant. Or, I would add, it could be an agent of the Europolizei when they are fully up and running, uniformed and armed...

2) The arresting person does not have to have a warrant, nor show any warrant to the person being arrested (unless he asks[!] in which case he gets to see it "as soon as possible after [!] his arrest") and there does not even have to BE a warrant, provided that the arresting person "has reason to believe that a ...warrant has been, *or*will*be*, issued" by one of the EU states!!!

3) And the warrant need not describe the actual act that the arrestee is supposed to have committed; the pre-printed form of the warrant simply lists the 32 "types of offence" with a box ticked next to the one that they want to use... E.g. they just tick say "xenophobia" without specifying what you are supposed to have done (or said) that was xenophobic.

So in practice we must suppose that you can get dragged out of bed in the middle of the night and hauled off to jail, and by the way have all your teeth knocked out if it is Europol doing it. Yes this is not so far-fetched as it might sound, Europol officers are already "immune from prosecution", on charges of brutality or any other offence, so they will say, "Well, why shouldn't we put the boot in? Perhaps the prisoner will confess, and that will save us all a lot of trouble and expense, as well as earning us brownie points towards promotion.". If this is to be dismissed as a fanciful scenario, will someone please explain to me why the dickens Europol has to be given immunity???

And then you are told that a Warrant will be issued against you or, if you are so lucky, you actually see a warrant where it just says you are being arrested for "xenophobia" with no further details, then you are trussed up and with minimum formality and no protection from British courts shipped off say to Cadiz in Spain where you await the pleasure of the investigating/prosecuting "judge" for months and months in prison, with no public hearing and no obligation on the prosecutor to exhibit any evidence against you during this time.

This legislative monstrosity is going to tear apart the fabric of our society.

Just think of how it can be combined with article 191 of the treaty of Nice, already on our statute books just awaiting the OK from Ireland, which grants the power to the EU to draw up - by majority voting - "regulations governing political parties". These regulations could easily say that (loosely defined!) "xenophobic" political parties are not to be allowed... after all banning political parties is already current practice in many countries of continental Europe. Only in Britain do we believe that our political freedom must be absolute. But we will have no veto. So what will happen to people who defy the ban? No prizes for guessing, with the EAW to
hand ...

Of course, once the EAW is in place it will be followed up swiftly by the introduction of the European Public Prosecutor and Corpus Juris, as was debated at the Bar Conference last month [!!!], and then the Europol squads will be stationed everywhere, uniformed, and armed, not only with guns like all continental policemen, but with this quite extraordinary, unjustified and unjustifiable immunity from prosecution whatever they do, that places them completely above the law!

I am amazed astonished and outraged that in their annual conference the Tory leadership made no reference to the EAW at all, but preferred to leave their delegates, and the public at large, completely in the dark about this impending disaster.

So this talk of a "secret plan" now, directed only at their Eurosceptic critics like us, of "Trust us, once we are in power we will show the EU what's what" looks to me like a sly attempt at the usual con trick, just to get us to carry on voting for them. To be believed they will have to change their PUBLICLY STATED policies now, AND come clean and make a thorough purge of those past leaders who got us into this deadly swamp, starting with Edward Heath who has said he lied quite deliberately when he told Parliament the Treaty of Rome "would have no effect on our essential sovereignty", and ending with Michael Howard who when Home Secretary boasted in Parliament that under his stewardship Britain was the first state to sign up to the Europol agreement.

The first thing the Tories must do if they want us to take them seriously is to stop blethering ambivalently about "renegotiating" but simply TELL THE PUBLIC THE FACTS about what will happen to each and every one of us if Britain stays in much longer.

They have missed this important opportunity of their annual conference and I am seriously beginning to doubt if they, or the country, will get another one.

Some of the recipients of this email could also do something to tell the public about this. I am hoping they will do so.

Consider it done. If the USA Patriot Act was offensive to civil liberties, what about this? On eof the proudest achievements of British civilization -- habeas corpus and the protection it gives from arbitrary power -- is being swept away in the name of European integration. How short-sighted can people be?