England's Sword 2.0

Saturday, November 30, 2002

Championing democracy

350 words isn't enough to go into great detail, but you might be interested to see my USA Today editorial, Consider democratic ideals, which was published yesterday. That's the Washington Post and USA Today under my belt. Next stop, the Wall Steet Journal, I would hope...

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Happy Thanksgiving

A very happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers. This blog is taking a brief holiday break.

In the meantime, check out the editorial pages of USA Today on Friday for a piece by me on Instant Runoff Voting.

Reading the Banns

Dark portents abound. Sasha Castel and Andrew Dodge are to be wed. Is there such a thing as a Cthulhoid wedding ceremony? My congratulations to the presumably happy couple.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Gentlemen and Players

I enjoyed Michael Jennings' excellent post on cricket, in particular the differences between England and Australia, but on one thing he is mistaken:

The curious thing about cricket is that although the English invented it, it has only ever been played by a particular (shrinking) social class in most of this country, plus in some parts of the country it is a village game, and as Samizdata says, it isn't perceived as modern by anyone else. The people who actually belong to this social class are often unlikely to be interested in careers as professional cricketers, anyway, so the professional game shrinks.

This is rubbish. Cricket was very popular among the working class for many years. Hobbs, Sutcliffe, Mead, Hammond and most of the all-conquering late twenties England side were "players" - professionals, working class, never been to university. Look at a photograph of the Oval in the 1930s and you'll see a ground crowded with 30,000 men on a weekday of a county match, all wearing the flat cap that was the uniform of the urban working class. When I was growing up in early 70s South Shields, the distinction was still that you played football in the winter and cricket in the summer (even if it was still freezing when "summer" began).

The problem is that about then the football season expanded at both ends. Today, there is only about a month's window when the game isn't dominating the sporting pages and airwaves. It is cricket that has born the brunt of this expansion. The young players want to play football most of the summer, and the spectators are either full of the optimism of a new season or biting their nails as the season comes to its conclusion for most of the time. The working class supporters chose football over cricket, leaving it to decay in the hands of the country squires.

Cricket was the game that unified the classes, bringing squire and farmhand, factory-owner and sheet-metal worker, local vicar and foul-mouthed agitator together. I believe Tocqueville in L'Ancien Regime somewhere remarks that the part of the reason the English avoided a revolution was because their aristos and sans-culottes played the game together. Unfortunately, the working class withdrew from this compact comparatively recently, except, as Michael remarks, in Yorkshire. In so doing, we've lost another part of what made England special.

Death of a Theoretician

Junius has, as expected, a moving tribute to the great man.


Well, Winston Churchill won the BBC's Great Britons poll, and Diana was beaten into third place by Brunel.

Blimey, guv

R.I.P. the Cockney Sparrow. Lummee, what a turn-up. The house sparrow was once synomymous with the indigenous people of London, but it is now a rare sight in the capital, its numbers having plummeted by 59% between 1994 and 2000, and by a further 25% in the last year. The reason? Enviromentalism, as far as I can tell:

Expert Denis Summers-Smith speculates a chemical additive in "environmentally-friendly" lead-fuel petrol is what finally did for Cockney.

Others blame Cockney Sparrow's numerous predators, including cats, magpies and sparrowhawks; the loss of nesting places because of tidier gardens and the possibility remaining birds abandon their colonies when numbers become critically low.

Perhaps Bjorn Lomborg, if he ever is granted heraldic arms by the Danish monarch, should have a sparrow on his crest.

History repeats itself

Nigerian State Says Miss World Reporter Should Die, reports Reuters. Note that it is the state acting here, not the clergy. This is nothing less than a Bill of Attainder, a rampant abuse of executive power unfettered by legislature or judicial system, in this case religiously motivated. We went through this in the UK some 350 years ago, and the result was a system of checks and balances and religious tolerance. Half of Nigeria still retains an echo of that conflict. Now, either Islam is compatible with Anglo-American style constitutional government, or it isn't. If it is, then fatwas have to stop. If it isn't, then the Nigerian people will have to choose. I have a horrible feeling, however, that the army might choose for them.

Sinister motive or sound science?

In a major story in today's New York Times, Adam Clymer (you may remember him as a "major league a**hole from the New York Times") repeats a doctor's allegation that, amongst other things, a decision to remove a reference from a government website to a study that found no link between abortion and breast cancer was "gagging scientists and doctors ... censoring medical and scientific facts ... ideology and not medicine."

In fact, the Danish study to which Clymer refers has been thoroughly debunked, although the link between breast cancer and abortion in women at no increased risk of breast cancer remains weak (women with a family history of breast cancer and who undergo an early abortion are significantly more likely to contract the disease).

Given that the arguments against the study being referenced are statistically sound, it was a sound scientific decision to remove the reference. Allegations of motive must be secondary to that simple fact.

This is how to be tough on immigration

Australian policies kept out terrorists reports The Washington Times. Focusing hard on illegal immigration while allowing smooth processing of legal applications seems an ideal balance to me. Instead, too many immigration authorities around the world either take a "let 'em all in" or a "let's keep all the furriners out" mentality. Australia seems to be getting it right (an accountant friend of mine married an Australian girl and was able to move to Adelaide with none of the hassles I had getting over here). Why can't Britain or America?

Monday, November 25, 2002

Who's the greatest living philosopher now?

Harvard Gazette: John Rawls, influential political philosopher, dead at 81. RIP. So soon after Nozick, too. A sad loss to the world of philosophy, whatever you think of his work. No doubt Chris Bertram will have more to say.

I hate this

The new FBI hate crime figures are out and, as this AP story suggests, the big issue is the "jump of 1,600 percent" in anti-Muslim incidents. Give me a break.

The hate crimes figures are a joke. Alabama regularly reports no hate crimes. The total number that the FBI reports is normally lower than absolute number of murders. Because no-one can agree on what a hate crime is, agencies vary in how they record and report them. The base number of anti-muslim incidents from 2000 was tiny -- 28 -- and so any increase is going to be large in percentage terms. There are still, however, only half as many anti-muslim incidents as there are anti-jewish ones. If there were more incidents this year than last overall, this was at least partly because a lot more police agencies are contributing figures this year. This makes trend comparisons impossible, and the AP was very naughty to say they increased by 17 percent. The FBI don't even quote last year's figures in the actual report (available here).

All these figures suggest to me is that hate crime is rare in America, and even if this is just the tip of the iceberg, then, assuming it is representative, there's a lot more anti-white bias than you'd suspect. Let's hope this won't get much attention (some hope).


Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) claims things are getting worse on America's roads. They say

With alcohol-related traffic deaths on the rise, the United States was handed a "C" grade in the war on drunk driving ... The last time MADD issued the Rating the States report was in 1999 when the nation earned a "C+" grade.

There may have been more alcohol-related deaths numerically in 2001 than in 2000, but that is only meaningful if the rate has also increased. If there were more cars on the road, and more accidents, we might expect there to be more alcohol-related accidents even without an increase in drunk driving. 41 percent of fatal accidents last year involved alcohol. As this PDF document shows, however, the comparable figure last year was also 41 percent. In other words, there has been no real change in the rate of road deaths in which alcohol was involved.

Moreover, the figure of 41 percent includes pedestrians who had been drinking, and so is not really a measure of drunk driving. Moreover, it also includes about 8 percent who were under the general legal limit of 0.08 Blood Alcohol Content. These drivers may have had one glass of wine or less, but they are still counted in the figures for alcohol-related crashes, even if the glass of win had nothing to do with the accident.

The actual estimated percentage of drivers in fatal crashes who were drunk (BAC 0.1 or greater) stood at 30 percent in 1982, but declined to 19 percent by 1994. it has stayed remarkably steady at 18-19 percent since then. This seems to indicate that the message of responsible drinking is not getting through to a minority of "hardcore drunk drivers." These drivers, normally aged 21-44, have significantly more DWI convictions and recorded suspensions or revocations than drivers under the limit or with no alcohol in their blood. Rather than call for more laws aimed at safe, casual drinkers, perhaps MADD should concentrate more on sanctions that work against the repeat drunk drivers who are the real danger on the road.

Turning back the clock

Chad Dimpler has an excellent overview of what's going on in the UK with the current industrial unrest. As he emphasizes, there is a desire on the part of labor union leaders to seize back control of the Labour Party and return to the days when they ran Britain. This is a huge test of Blair's leadership. If he shows any sign of weakness, ambition will overcome Gordon Brown's prudence and he will attempt to outflank Blair from the left. If Blair survives, however, his credentials with middle England will be strengthened and the Tories will be left with a bigger mountain to climb. Britain can live with a center-left government, but not, I think, with an outright leftist one. In some ways, the Tories' best hope is for Blair to be toppled by a combination of redistributionists and peaceniks over the next few months. A Brown government will be much easier for the Tories to oppose. And the figure of Blair, Labour's most successful leader ever, toppled by his own friends, will loom larger over that party than Mrs T ever did over the Tories after her fall. I can see an independent Blair as a major figure in politics.

Separation of Church and Superstate

Philip Chaston over on Airstrip One has more info on the 'religious heritage' clause the EPP wants embedded in the European Constitution (EuroCon?). It seems that the Pope is very much behind this clause. I wonder if the free churches of Northern Europe are as insistent? Philip comments:

If this clause is adopted, it will demonstrate another vital difference between the commanding heights of constitutional practice (the United States), taking its cue from the Enlightenment, and constructing a constitution via committee in that unworthy plagiarist, the European Convention.

Indeed. In many ways, establishment in England has actually worked to separate the temporal and spiritual in a way beneficial to the country (at least until the CofE went off the deep end). There are things the state does in a temporal capacity and things it does in a spiritual one. Church and state are separated more than one thinks. This heritage clause seems to me to muddy the waters in a similar way to Ireland's constitution with its special position for the Catholic church.

Omens and portents

In Scotland, police escorting army firemen have had petrol bombs ("molotov cocktails") thrown at them. If there's ever a sign of a society that has lost touch with what its institutions and traditions mean, it's people attacking the emergency services. It happened in the Meadowell estate riots and it may be happening again here (it could be linked to organized crime, so I'll reserve judgment until then).

Tech Central Station column up

Heart of the Matter looks at the media's dreadful coverage recently of a few cardiac-related issues. You'll already have seen some of it here, but it's polished and shiny for you at TCS.

Friday, November 22, 2002

Crime in the City

Julia Magnet, seemingly an American in London, says Blair talks Giuliani's language but handcuffs cops. She's got a point, but overstates it. Indeed, a friend of mine who is an expert on American policing e-mailed me the following comments:

I don't personally trust Blair's instincts on crime but I find Magnet a bit clueless. A few points:

1. New York does not and never had a true "zero tolerance" police strategy and never has. It has a police strategy that empowers local commanders, encourages officers to take initiative, and gives officers plaudits for making quality-of-life arrests. But discretion _not_ to make such arrests also exists and is probably just as important. It's also backed up with a court system that actually puts away thugs. No diverse metropolis in the West could maintain a viable civic life in an environment of true zero tolerance.

2. The Blairite measures to limit spray paint sales and crack down on bad landlords are actually less harsh than comparable measures in the U.S. Most big cities including Chicago, New York, and D.C. ban spray paint sales outright. Gum on sidewalks just doesn't bother most Americans; I suppose it's just not seen as a sign of disorder. Some BIDS, however, have worked to discourage its sale. Although there's no landlord licensing system as such in the U.S.; the U.S. may be tougher on bad landlords than the U.K. Most effective police departments have a liaison in the building inspection office who works with them to hound bad landlords out of town. Those who don't get the message typically end up in jail. Would Hayek approve?
Probably not. But it's a damn effective way to enforce community standards.

In fact, I think that no central authority can reform British policing in an effective way. Do we really need the same law enforcement strategies in Brixton, Manchester, and Milton-Keynes? No. Brixton can learn a lot from Harlem, Manchester from Chicago, and Milton-Keynes from Irvine, CA. (All of the American places I
mention are very well policed and have some obvious similarities to the British ones.)

For that matter, it's obviously inappropriate to police Brixton and Sloane Square the same way within London. But British proposals from both sides seem to insist on a single-strategy solution. When it comes to stopping drug gangs and probably fighting terrorism, the British policing system has its advantages
but absent a strongly law-abiding traditional culture it's an abject failure when it comes to most everything else.

From what I know of American policing methods, this is exactly right. If the UK is to learn from the US, it has to really understand the American ideas, not just latch on to a soundbite. Unfortunately, we live in an era of soundbite politics.

Fire strikes latest

A new, 8-day fire strike has begun. Mr British Spin talks considerable sense in demanding the government stick to its guns. I can still see this all ending in a terrible fudge, though, which will hurt HMG in the long run.

Death and one religion

In Nigeria, Miss World riots 'leave 100 dead'. Tragic and stupid, of course, but what struck me most about the article was this:

Kaduna is one of Nigeria's most volatile cities; more than 2,000 people died there in clashes between Christians and Muslims two years ago.

In one obscure city, religious clashes killed 2,000 people. That's about the same as died in two years of the Intifada in Israel. Yet there is no Western outrage, no calls for Nigeria to be divided between its two obviously incompatible faiths, and no calls for the UN to pass security council resolutions. If ever there was evidence that the clash of civilizations is about more than just the the Palestinian question, here it is. Perhaps the Miss World riots will open a few eyes.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

Play up, play up and play the game

Who said Englishmen can't play cricket any more? Well played, Vaughan!

Prediction at the close of Australia's first innings: England 311 all out. Australia 500-1 declared (Vaughan injured in the field).

Jackboot Bill

Here we go. HMG has published the criminal justice bill, and it's a doozy. They said they would remove double jeopardy protection for murder, rape and armed robbery. In the bill, 30 crimes have the protection removed, including Class A drug offenses. Trial by jury is dropped in 5 circumstances, "indeterminate sentences" are introduced to make it legal to keep people in jail for as long as the executive likes, hearsay evidence is allowed in some circumstances and, get this, in order to help with the reclassification of Cannabis from Class B to Class C, the police are being given powers to arrest people possessing Class C drugs! You couldn't, as they say, make it up.

Germany calling (soon!)

Latest on the German economy from the no euro e-mail briefing:

German job crisis deepens. German unemployment could be as high as 6 million if the “hidden unemployed” are taken into account, according to a leading German economist. A survey of the top 30 German companies revealed that over half of them expect to cut jobs in the next three years, with the result that 120,000 jobs will go from these companies alone. Also this week, former leader of the SPD, Oskar Lafontaine compared Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to pre-Hitler Chancellor Heinrich Bruning. Lafontaine said, “it is as if Heinrich Bruning has risen again. He caused mass unemployment with his savings measures and prepared the ground for Hitler” (Bild-Zeitung, 20 November).

Milton Friedman: euro to blame for German economic crisis. In an interview with German economic magazine DM Euro, the Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman blamed the euro for Germany’s current economic crisis. Friedman said, “if it wasn’t for the euro, then Germany would not have its current problems … a single European monetary policy is not suitable for the 15 countries in the Eurozone” (21 November).

Not good news, for Germany, Europe, or the world.

Holy Moley!

I've often said Sunderland needs a savior. I wonder how much the transfer fee would be?

Foot and mouth takes on a whole new meaning

I really don't know what to say about this.

Tommy this and Tommy that and Tommy, "Go away!"

Tommy Atkins has had enough and is leaving the British military. This excellent Spectator article tells us why.

The Blair Factor

Peter Oborne asks why Tony Blair is so successful and liked in The Spectator. His answer is that Blair reflects Britain brilliantly:

One key to this is Tony Blair’s Christianity. It is well-meaning, sincere, yet barren of content: very like the Blairite interpretation of Britain or idea of socialism. The Prime Minister has distilled Britain’s bloody and truculent past into a handful of bland and uncontroversial virtues, like tolerance and fair play. Socialism, that great creed for which millions were murdered, has been implausibly converted into a poorly worked-out sense of generalised goodwill. Though Tony Blair now toys with Rome, his Christianity is in the autochthonous Anglican tradition: it consists of a warm glow of belief, stripped bare of difficulty, discipline or theological imperatives. On the right to life or family values, for instance, the Prime Minister unswervingly takes the side of modern feminist dogma against long-established Church doctrine. There is a whiff about Blair of Pelagius, the fourth-century British theologian who denied the Augustinian doctrine of total depravity and original sin, opening out the prospect of salvation through mere benevolence.

This easy morality is perfect for a spoilt and materialistic generation. Blair offers a contemporary version of Victorian hypocrisy: moral purpose which makes powerful demands neither on himself nor on the voters. The British middle classes want to enjoy the material benefits of capitalism and yet feel virtuous. That is the secret: Thatcherism with a public conscience. The contradiction is overwhelming, but Blair magically resolves it, mainly because we want him to do so. The British people want to be led — but taken nowhere. And that is a Blair speciality. The Prime Minister makes us feel good about ourselves, but behind it all there is an ethical miasma that makes no searching demands. These are the truths about the dark little deal with the British people which has turned Tony Blair into the most successful prime minister of modern times.

It's distressing, but it's true. Blair panders to people. He does it to the British citizenry, he does it to the EU, and he's currently doing it to the American President. Not one of them has seen through him yet, because he's not transparent. He genuinely believes he's doing the right thing in each case. In some ways, he is either the best bad man, or the worst good man, in British political history.

PP: A view of the prime minister from the left can be found here. They're not happy with him either.

A soccer story

I found this remarkably touching.

This is why Britain needs a First Amendment

Group rights, it seems, are only for an approved few, and free speech rights are a luxury that will be withdrawn from those who offended the few. This Telegraph story is about a writer who said that rural folk should be viewed as a minority just like ethnic and sexual minorities. He was arrested and held in jail under "hate speech" laws. As Natalie Solent says,

Remember the line peddled by Blunkett that these powers are to be used against thugs and Nazis - you can trust us to act with discretion, old chap - the innocent have nothing to fear

Indeed. This is exactly why we can never afford to compromise on basic civil liberties on the grounds that "we have nothing to fear." We have plenty to fear.

Will UK draft dodgers go to Canada too?

Roger Helmer MEP has just sent out his latest e-mail bulletin. This startled me:

In October, I attended the "Study Days" (or conference, you could say) of the EPP-ED parliamentary group in Estoril, Portugal. A group meeting was addressed by the Portuguese Foreign Minister. An Italian member of our group, Carlo Fatuzzo, asked whether the EU's Common Foreign and Defence Policy should not be supported by an EU "National Service".

To his credit, the Portuguese Foreign Minister dismissed the idea of EU National Service, whether voluntary or compulsory. But we should watch out. Ideas more absurd than this have been dismissed out of hand, only to come back a year or two later as "possibilities under discussion, but don't worry -- we have our veto". Then another year on, it's suddenly a done deal, and it's too late to complain. Compulsory EU National Service. You saw it here first.

National Service was Britain's version of the draft, abolished about 20 years after the war becuase we wanted a professional rather than conscript military. Most continental armies, however, are largely conscript-based, which is why even the small European defense budgets exaggerate their military capabilities. That this should even be suggested as a good idea for a European common defense policy is worrying.

Nor is Roger wrong to suspect that this idea might resurface. When The American Enterprise puts the article by Richard Minter from its current issue online, I will link to his excellent description of the EU legislative process. If you believe in democracy, it will shock you.

US Isolated?

Busy again today, but this PDF format report from the non-partisan Congressional Research Service summarises the positions of 63 countries on war with Iraq. As a correspondent notes, "World support for the U.S. position is so strong, actually, that 11 of the 63 countries included in the survey actually support an invasion of Iraq with or without a UN resolution. These countries are: Australia, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Kuwait, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, United Kingdom. It bears noting that eight of these 11 countries are European." Indeed it does, and 6 of them are in the EU. Perhaps Europe is not quite the lost cause too many on the right in the US claim it to be.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

The Nurture Question

Chris Bertram replies again to my points on family collapse, thoughtfully, as one would expect. He relies on Laura Rich Harris' The Nurture Assumption, a book I have been meaning to read for some time. As I don't have much time today and I haven't read the book yet, I will just make a few general points. Chris says that the bad socialization of children of single parent families is probably a consequence of low income leading to living in bad neighborhoods leading to bad peer groups leading to bad socialization. Unfortunately, the data don't seem to back this up. After controlling for income, race and other demographic factors, children from single-parent families do worse than their dual-parented neighbors in a host of areas (link is to an excellent Civitas summary of the research). Moreover, if the chain of events is as Chris describes it, how does the peer group get badly socialized in the first place? And, again, why did this not happen in working class societies which were equally, if not more poor and always had a small group of "bad lads" who were nevertheless prevented from spreading their peer-group nurture? I shall read Rich Harris, who may well have answers to these questions, but I think it is going to be very hard to fit her theory to the data.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Empire or Imperium?

One of the things that really gets my wife riled up is when people talk about American "imperialism." She's right, the US is not an empire in any generally-accepted form of the word that I can think of. It possesses mighty power -- what the Romans called imperium -- but it generally uses it in a responsible manner according to the wishes of its democracy (sometimes, as in the Clinton response to the embassy bombings, it doesn't even do that). Anyway, Alan Wolfe in The Boston Globe trashes the idea of an American Empire.

I should add that there is one manner in which I do think that there is an American Empire: the conquest of the Indian and Mexican lands in the 19th century would surely have led to international demands for de-colonization and a retreat from Empire had there been a sea between the 13 colonies and the rest of what is now America.

Things the state can do well

Chris Bertram also has a pretty good discussion of things the State is good at. I heartily agree with his point about democratic control. Finding the right balance between volatile popular opinion and sclerotic expert management is a very difficult thing, but it's what we need to do. We're too much tipped towards the manager in the UK at present, and, sadly, Conservative governments helped that happen.

Merrie clercs

Junius disputes the "blame the leftie intellectuals" argument below, asking

"Why did their seed not fall on stony ground?" For ideas to have an impact, there has to be a more-or-less receptive audience. So why was the audience receptive in the 1960s and not (so much) before? Presumably the things they were saying about the British social and political establishment rang true with large numbers of people then. Does Iain think the little boy should have refrained from pointing out the Emperor's nakedness out of concern for the (unknowable) social consequences?

The ground was fertile, I think, because there was a willingness to consider the costs of the status quo without considering its benefits. That's a mistake in any project management, all the more so in this great social project. No-one spoke for old order, because no-one properly understood it. Here's Peter Hitchens' summation, which he puts so much better than I could:

When the British tradition was suddenly threatened by attractive-seeming ideas, innovations and philosophies, there was no-one left to fight for the old order. When affluence encouraged individual independence and weakened the sense of mutual obligation, all classes began to forget the ties that bound them together. Tory politicians might defend tradition's practical benefits, but they did not understand or cherish the beliefs in which they were rooted, or the complex compromises involved.

The true situation was, it seems to me, the reverse of Hans Christian Anderson's tale. The Emperor was fully, and splendidly, clothed, but the little boy said he was naked. No-one wanted to contradict the little boy, so obviously the representative of progress, a visionary indeed, and so the Emperor was stripped naked and left to shiver in the cold, ridiculed by all.

Finally, Chris also quoted the Dennis/Erdos (both men of the left, I mention again) statement about the intellectuals' "wanton ignorance of, or open hostility to the known facts" but does not address it. Even if the intellectuals were right to point out the seeming costs of British society, they should now admit that the costs of their replacement are greater and try to do something about it. In the US, liberal politicians and academics are finally admitting that the two-parent family is worth encouraging. Despite the public statements of Blair and Blunkett, that is something that is still anathema in the UK, so much so that even the Tories will not defend the family as they should. It will take brave leftist academics to admit how incorrect they were and to point to the mountain of research emanating from the US that contradicts their view. Dennis and Erdos are dismissed as "conservative," despite their socialism. Will an acknowledged progressive stand up and say, "for the sake of the working class, we must admit we were wrong"? Chris?

Monday, November 18, 2002

I always liked hymns...

"What a mystery is this, that Christianity should have done so little good in the world!
Can any account of this be given? Can any reasons be assigned for it?"
You are John Wesley!

When things don't sit well with you, you make a big production and argue your way through everything.
You complain a lot, but, at least you are a thinker and not afraid to show it. You are also pretty
liked by people, and pretty methodological about your life and goals. You know where you're going.
Some people find you irritating, so watch out for people leaving you out of things they do.

What theologian are you?

A creation of Henderson

Poverty and crime

Mr British Spin has a post entitled "A window into boy's souls" (sorry, blogger archive bug strikes) criticizing a throw-away remark from Peter Briffa which perhaps does not deserve the opprobrium it gets. Mr Spin's point seems to be that poverty and crime are interlinked. Yet, when he says

But no-one forces nice Middle class kids to not smash windows. Why don't they? inner goodness? or perhaps a sense that there's a point staying straight combined with parents and a wider community who have the resources, the support and the inclination to care for them?

He gets nearer the real point. Working-class families in our own dear North-East existed in poverty, both relative and actual, for many years without any noticeable crime rate. As Newcastle professor and socialist George Erdos and Sunderland Labour councillor Norman Dennis say in their classic "Families without Fatherhood,"

If the communities of Tyneside and Wearside had been roughly as civil as the rest of the country in the earlier period ... in the lifetime of a 77-year old the average citizen has become 47 times more likely to be the victim of a crime against his or her property. By 1991 there were almost as many crimes recorded in the Northumbria police area (226,000), as had been recorded in the whole country in 1938 (238,000).

They go on:
[An anecdotal illustration of how things have changed for the working class comes from a] humane and egalitarian husband, father and grand-father, whose whole working life had been spent as a Sunderland coal-miner. Shortly after he had been made redundant in the mid-1980s he had been in the nearby colliery town of Easington. The memorial to the 83 men who had been killed in the mine in 1951 had been defaced, and he had kept a note of the defacement in his wallet to this day. 'To honour the memory of those who lost their lives. Let passers-by do likewise, get understanding and promote goodwill in all things.' Over these words someone had scrawled, 'the Parky stinks of F*** head.'

They regard people blaming "unemployment" for these ills (this was written in 1993) as being sadly mistaken:

It ... shows a lack of historical perspective to attribute the rise in the frequency of criminal activities, mainly among men, and mainly among young men, to factors which have marginally altered from year to year, or within the period of only a decade.

Of particular interest is their investigation of the Meadowell estate and its riots, which is too long to go into here, but here is the conclusion:

... it was not only or even mainly that the rioters as children were themselves the first or second generation of a home and local life that had left them on average worse off educationally and in social skills than their contemporaries from stable two-parent homes in the same area and in equally deprived working-class homes elsewhere on Tyneside and Wearside. As youths (some themselves the product of single-parent homes, some not) they did not have a taken-for-granted project for life of responsibility for their own wife and children. Their expectations had ceased to be automatically geared to unavoidable parenthood.

To the extent that they are victims of their environment, they are victims of their cultural environment. They are victims of various ad hoc combinations of destabilizing Marxism whose long march through the institutions began and ended in the family, altruistic anarchism, hedonistic nihilism and nostalgie de la boue which excited the undergraduates of 1968 and which until recently were the stock-in-trade of serious journalism. ...

The third betrayal of the intellectuals has lain not so much in their often self-centred celebration of the family's dismantlement, and their unremitting attack since the 1960s on all the taboos that protected family life, as in their wanton ignorance of, or open hostility to the known facts.

Poverty does not cause crime, and it is an insult to the many respectable working-class people over the years who have endured often grinding poverty in maintaining a decent society for their children and brothers to say that it is. The "middle-class upbringing" that Mr British Spin wants for all children is something that previous generations achieved in the working class. Yet, in destroying the institutions that bind such a community together -- the family, education that speaks to history, property rights -- it is the leftist intellectuals who have caused crime.

Return of the Chad

Chad Dimpler, Election Analyst, is back from his hols (presumably analyzing the US election results for the Normans). Expect more laid-back common sense from the custodian of Dimpler Towers. Huzzah.

Pros and cons

Mommy's Home give a nicely balanced look at the pros and cons of a parent staying at home, from an economic point of view at least. However, I wonder whether anyone could ever quantify the benefit to the parents of having a happy, well-adjusted child as opposed to the costs of having the complete monsters you often see in families where both parents work. If a badly-behaved child causes stress and stress contributes to early death, the economic costs could be pretty high. Just a thought.

INS: Incompetent National Socialists?

Dr Frank has more on the INS. I can verify Matt Welch's comment about INS officials making tasteless jokes about people's names. The arrogance of some INS officials knows no bounds.


I spurred a bit of debate in this post below, which centered on the reliability of the historic alcohol consumption figures. I posted this, with a few more bits added addressing other issues, in the comments section below, but think the meat deserves a wider audience. Substantive debate centered around a) the drop in alcohol consumption before prohibition in 1920 and b) whether the official figures reflected actual alcohol consumption.

A little research into the 1917-19 period indicates that alcohol consumption probably dropped then because of pre-prohibition alcohol control methods: the Reed bone-dry amendment, forbidding interstate shipment of liquor into dry states, the Food Control Law, which closed distilleries, and then breweries, and then wartime prohibition (not used in WWII), which did not take effect until 1919! These measures were obviously integral to the whole alcohol restriction phenomenon and should not really be separated from prohibition itself. There were also many individual state prohibitions. The influenza epidemic also would have stopped a lot of people drinking.

Moreover, as Dr Weevil pointed out, cirrhosis deaths are a useful proxy for overall alcohol consumption. Cirrhosis deaths dropped from around 13 per 100,000 in the 1900-1917 era to about 7 in the era 1918-1933. They then began a steady rise with an anomalous peak in around 1948 before peaking at almost 16 in the late 70s. There has since been a steady fall to around 9 today.

Exactly the same drop can be seen in states like CA and NY that did not adopt prohibition before 1920.

The data come from this PDF, whose analysis is flawed because of the artificial separation of the effects of pre-prohibition and state prohibition from US Constitutional prohibition. The three combined clearly had a significant effect on cirrhosis, which the authors admit is a proxy for consumption. Their headline conclusion that Prohibition had an insignificant effect on alcohol consumption is therefore a quibble. I have never been impressed by Miron's work. His analysis of the effect of gun laws, for instance, gave Britain and the US the same scores for restrictiveness.

May I also remind people that the original post was about whether or not prohibition suppresses demand. The rights and wrongs are another matter. Yet it seems clear to me that prohibition does suppress demand.


Europe's "Conservative" Parties are proposing an alternative to the Giscard constitution for Europe. Should we expect a document concentrating on free trade and the sovereignty of nations? Fat chance:

Other EPP proposals include a specific reference to Europe's "religious heritage" in the constitution's preamble, the introduction of an EU tax, and a new form of European partnership for the EU's neighbours which the EU believes might be extended to Turkey instead of membership. ... The group also rejects Giscard's proposal for an "exit clause" which would allow Member States to secede from the EU.

This is the authentic voice of the Old Right, statist and racist. I'd like to see more about that "religious heritage" clause as well...

[Via Philip Chaston on Airstrip One]

Great myths: the uninsured

Do Americans need to rely on Brits to tell them that their health care system is better than they think? Stephen Pollard takes on The New Republic for recycling the factoid that 40 million Americans do not have health insurance. As Stephen says, that includes people temporarily uninsured for a brief period. The number of chronically uninsured, which is what matters here, is roughly a quarter of that figure. Moreover no-one is ever refused emergency treatment because of a lack of insurance. It is chronic illnesses that cause the most trouble for the chronically uninsured and, need I remind you, the British system of universal health coverage does not do well with chronic illnesses either. Can there be any better indication of the true state of the NHS than the fact that the BBC offers private health insurance to its employees?

Hunting tigers out in Indiah

Now, Play the India Card is an insightful investigation of how US-Indian relations matter, and can be improved. The most important thing with India is, of course, that it is about as stable a democracy as you can hope a country with 1 billion people and many languages can be. This is a source of great hope:

Despite the communal violence over issues like Ayodyah, India’s political culture still deems the ballot box to be the only legitimate way to resolve political conflict. Evidence of this fact is that voter turnout has actually increased in the past decade; before 1989, turnout was typically well under 50 percent but has recently climbed into the 60 percent range.12 Democracy in India has emerged from the past decade more vibrant than ever.

Certainly democracy complicates policy decisions for the central government. Just as in the United States, foreign policy in particular suffers because the executive branch has difficulty taking and maintaining long-term positions with foreign governments — which is precisely what successful foreign policy requires. We can expect the bjp, or any other coalition government, to confront this problem, just as we do. But the bjp for all its “xenophobia” has worked well with the U.S. in recent months, and notwithstanding our 1998 sanctions, progress has been made in the overall relationship for some time now. From the U.S. perspective, the bjp has been much more realistic in its foreign policy expectations and has shown little interest in reverting to the military adventurism in South Asia that marked Indian foreign policy during the 1970s and 80s under the idealistic “Nehruvians.”

As the author observes, "it is impossible to ignore that a wealthy, armed India would be an asset to U.S. interests, with little downside risk."

Meanwhile, a correspondent noted this:
There was an interesting anglospheric item on the Indian news program on the MHZ network last week. It was "Anglo-India Day" in India. The Anglo-Indians tend to be getting ethnically more Indian with each passing generation, but still proud of their Anglo heritage.

The definition of an Anglo-Indian, interestingly, is any Indian with part European blood who speaks English. Showing a good understanding of the "Anglo" as the representative of Europe (or Christendom) to India.

It is parallel (minus the mixed-blood aspect) to the definition of a "Russian" in Kazakhstan and Central Asia: any Russian-speaking European, particularly including Germans and Jews. A "Russian" is the representative of Europe to Central Asia.

If India is drawn back into the mainstream of Anglosphere commerce and culture by increased US attention, that can only be a good thing for all concerned.

Friday, November 15, 2002

Great myths: prohibition had no effect on alcohol drinking

Drug legalizers often claim that prohibition did not decrease the amount of alcohol drunk in the US. Rubbish. Take a look at this chart. Alcohol consumption (gallons of ethanol per person) stood at 2.56 in 1911-15 (the temperance mobvement, the war and the influenza pandemic will have contributed to the slight drop in the period 1916-19). When prohibition ended, it stood at 0.97. It took ten years to get back over 2, and did not reach 1915 levels again until 1971. Prohibition quite simply did suppress alcohol demand in the US.

Satura Brassicae

Time for another plug for The Sprout, which does for Brussels what Private Eye does for the UK: exposes shady practices, pricks the bubble of pomposity and gives you a few things to laugh about too. When I finally get round to revamping my blogroll, it's getting a permanent link.


The firemen who could have saved a veteran of Arnhem have at least shown a little remorse for their actions. Apparently shamed, they have abandoned their picket. No word on whether they have returned to work, but this is a good example of how shame (or, better, guilt) can work on the conscience to promote more socially-acceptable behavior.

Meanwhile, another group of strikers acted somewhat creditably, but still continue to picket publicly-owned equipment despite the recognition that it can help limit damage:

In the warren of side streets, the Green Gooddess crews could only try to keep the blaze from spreading. The building was completely destroyed.

One striking fireman said that, with more sophisticated equipment, they would have been able to counter the blaze and save the building.

Soldiers were having to unfurl their hoses within a few feet of the picket line brazier in order to find a hydrant.

This is not like the 70s strike, which was really about political power. This is an over-the-top response to the rejection of an outrageous pay demand. The strikers are folling themselves if they think the public is behind them. My friend Roger Mortimore looks at the polling data for MORI. He does not predict public happiness with the strikes.

Isocratean Dialogue

The wonderful Steven Chapman (another Oxonian!) says virtually everything I wanted to say about Alex Standish's sp!ked article on geography education in the UK, and a little more besides about environmentalism.

In some ways, what is happening in British education is a re-run of the ancient Greek dispute between Isocrates and Plato. Plato felt that education should be about how to think, and be of value in and of itself. Isocrates was more practical, feeling that education should help people do things, and therefore he concentrated on rhetoric. For generations, UK education followed the Platonic model, but over the past 20-30 years, the Isocratean model seems to have won out. I can't help thinking that's a bad thing, whatever political bias is then added on top.

Stop beating about this new heart study

NBC News correspondent Robert Bazell reported on a study about a new test for coronary heart disease last night. The test, which analyzes levels of the C Reactive Protein (CRP) was hyped by Bazell in his broadcast report (the web link is more circumspect). He signed off:

The CRP test is already on the market, costs about $10, and many doctors believe it could save thousands of lives a year by identifying those at highest risk for America's number one killer. Robert Bazell, NBC News, New York.

Yet he failed to mention that the journal that published the study, the New England Journal of Medicine, also published a skeptical editorial by Dr. Lori Mosca of Columbia University, who pointed out that even 20 years ago, there were over 200 known correlates to coronary heart disease (CHD). She argues that widespread use of the test may be premature, pointing out that the similarly hyped beta-carotene therapy failed to predict CHD adequately and was associated with increased risk of cancer.

If the journal that published the study thought a skeptical voice was needed, NBC News should have also provided a platform for one. Instead, news consumers are left with the idea that there is a new panacaea in CHD testing. NBC was irresponsible in coveying that impression.

[The skeptical editorial is mentioned in the MSNBC story, which incorporates extra analysis from the Associated Press]

PP: See Medpundit's further questions, all of which are valid.

Good on yer, Jamie

Jamie Oliver was watchable as The Naked Chef, we found (the Food TV network is often on in the Murray household), but Oliver's Twist was beyond the pale. Nevertheless, it seems there is a lot of good in the man. Stephen Pollard has the story.

Scenes from modern Britain

Over 1,000,000 people are waiting for hospital treatment, a rise of 12,000 since last year, despite the Government's increased spending on the NHS. The free medical service is also refusing to help 8 out of 10 couples that want test-tube babies, forcing these uninsured people to go private. People living in the prosperous South East face a 50 percent rise in their local tax to subsidize the North, thanks to a shift in priorities by central Government. Those paragons of virtue, Britain's teachers, largely fiddled their performance-related pay arrangements so that vitually all of them received a GBP 2000 rise without necessarily earning it. And Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, has opted for "Blame Britain First," saying that British colonialism caused a lot of the problems facing the world now (his argument is actually that the hasty retreat from colonialism caused these problems, but he doesn't realize that, nor that Iraq, for instance, was a British mandate from the League of Nations, not a result of British adventurism). What a mess.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

Milestone Alert

We're approaching the 200,000th visitor here. If you are said visitor, please let me know who you are via the comments section (or, even better, e-mail me a screen shot!).

Boycott Boycott

This is not about the great Sir Geoffrey. Mr British Spin has a great analysis of Daily Mail editor Rosie Boycott's campaign to keep pub opening hours restricted.

Pictures alert

I have uploaded some pictures of my family to the About page. I thought you might like to put some faces to the names.

End of an era

Well, things have come to a dramatic end over at Dodgeblogium.

I predict we have not heard the last here!

Ashamed to be British

Peter Cuthbertson's Conservative Commentary has the dreadful story of an old woman who died as a result of a fire last night. Troops in their ageing Green Goddesses raced to her aid. On the way they passed a fire station, where the firemen temporarily broke their strike to help as well. Peter says they deserve credit for that. Maybe, if they showed remorse for their actions and abandon their strike permanently. They were obviously closer to the fire than the soldiers. Perhaps a prompt, dutiful reaction rather than one spurred by guilt would have saved the old lady's life. I am deeply, deeply ashamed that British public servants should put cupidity before duty in such a way.

PP: Latest on the strikes is here.


Read this and laugh or cry as your fancy takes you. This is the mentality of Britain today: they'll take away traffic safety measures like this at the same time as they're erecting speed cameras...

Government by fiat

Joined-up injustice is an effective summary of why yesterday's Queen's Speech was so depressing. In the area of crime reduction, this is compelling:

America provides some useful pointers. There, policing has proved highly successful in regaining control of the streets. The lesson from the United States is that tackling crime is a task that has to be done at local level.

Only when responsibility and authority are delegated to those on the frontline will results be achieved. But this Government's response is always that it, and it alone, is capable of dealing with any problem. Delegating authority flies flat in the face of all New Labour's instincts.

True and true. This Government rules by fiat. Moreover, it is strengthening the power of the executive at every turn. Another example of a "pretty bloody frightening" society.

BTW, to those who are asking, the Queen's Speech is one of the last vestiges that reminds us that the Executive in the UK is technically a different thing from the Legislature. The Executive, embodied in the Monarch, comes to the Legislature to tell it what the Executive is proposing to it for debate. Of course, because the Executive is the puppet of the Legislature, which elects someone from within itself to exercize all the Executive's powers, this is meaningless (and made even more meaningless by the fact that the party system has made the Legislature in turn a puppet of that elected person). Nevertheless, the more astute will realize the ideal situation the Queen's Speech symbolizes. This is a check and balance that has become dignified, which is the worst thing that can ever happen to checks on power.


Stephen Pollard thinks that the Met Police's new campaign asking people to inform on suspected racists shows London is turning into a "pretty bloody frightening society". Adriana Cronin has more over at Samizdata.

Another opportunity for the Tories

United Press International's valuable UPI Hears... column has an interesting tidbit from Europe for us:

The opposition to Turkey's membership of the European Union is hardening fast. The European Peoples' Party, a coalition of right-of-center parties that is the largest block in the European parliament, is throwing its weight behind the controversial insistence of former French President Giscard d'Estaing that "Turkey is not a European country." EPP leaders Wilfried Martens of Belgium and Elmar Brok of Germany, presenting their own draft constitution for the EU, said their party "had come to the same conclusions as Giscard." They spoke as Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of Turkey's new AK (Justice and Development ) party that will form the next government after a sweeping election victory, was preparing a European tour to urge Turkish membership. The Bush administration is also strongly pressing the EU to give Turkey a firm date to start accession talks. But Martens, EPP chairman, said that Turkey should be content with a "partnership agreement" that falls far short of EU membership.

Michael Ancram should be decrying Giscard, Martens and Brok as being guilty of racism. Turkey is a good friend, they should say, with a long and proud history as a European power. Its secular society is a tribute to the possibilities for a constructive Islamic role in the modern world. The racist attitudes of Giscard and his cronies may simply drive Turkey towards extremism. The Prime Minister should be called on to champion Turkey's aspirations as a member of the EU. If not, why not? Does he agree with Giscard?


The Guardian asks Are You a Yob? Someone should smash their face in for such effrontery.

More on boozing and breast cancer

Richard Brignell of Numberwatch provides his take on the alcohol/ breast cancer issue. He's more trenchant than I am, but quite right, although I think the dose-response issue does have to be addressed more seriously.

The caring society

Another triumph for British charity: Charity Workers Chat with Dead Woman, Then Leave. Of course, this will doubtless be used as evidence that charities aren't up to the job and that social services will have to be expanded.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002


I know the Prof has already blogged this, but Martin Walker's UPI story, American view of Europe, is pretty amazing. The litany of wrong judgment calls by the Europeans over the past twenty years given him by his State Department friend is remarkable, as is the conclusion:

Well, the Europeans may still be able to count on the sympathies and cultural deference of many East Coast journalists, but something has shifted among the diplomats, the think tanks and even many of the academics. At a think-tank meeting last week, when a European diplomat asked rather patronizingly what all these American weapons were actually for, a renowned liberal academic simply quoted Kipling's line about "Making mock of uniforms that guard you while you sleep." And then he turned on his heel and walked away.

America's foreign policy establishment is composed largely of people who seldom pay much attention to military matters, but since the Kosovo war they have come to appreciate the vast disparities between the U.S. armed forces and the rest. It is now widely understood that of all the Europeans, only the British can begin to fight on the same modern battlefield as the hugely expensive and technologically advanced American forces. The rest of the Europeans are so many free riders on the readiness of American taxpayers to spend twice as much as Europeans on what remains the common defense.

The Kipling regiment is, of course, to Tommy, a splendid piece of verse that deserves to be read out loud every week in the newsrooms of the New York Times and the Guardian. Of course, Orwell was a fan of this poem too. I am sure that was what he had in mind when he commented in a BBC broadcast on April 4, 1942, "We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm." Remember that, ye Europeans.

The British Prime Minister

I never thought anyone could ever wrute a love story about a British PM and have it become as big a hit as The American President. Now Andrew Marr points out the same thing in relation to The West Wing (hmm, both Aaron Sorkin oeuvres...):

But there is almost always something missing in British political dramas. We could never make a West Wing out of Downing Street. I think it's that we lack the Americans' belief in the potential goodness of politicians, their sometimes wide-eyed optimism about democracy.

The very idea of a prime minister, rather than a president, who was ultimately benign, even heroic, would be laughed off this island the minute it was broadcast - and I suspect that would have been so throughout most of the past 50 years. Now, does this make us a more knowing, secure democratic culture or a weaker and shallower one? Discuss.

Interesting question, but what about the reverse? The White House has had its share of nasty occupants, but could you ever credit an American President as vicious and scheming as Francis Urquhart?

Cigarettes and alcohol

CBS News reported last night that a new study from the UK had demonstrated a link between drinking and breast cancer. Although CBS claimed that the study "analyzed 150,000 women around the world" it was actually a re-analysis of 53 separate studies. These "meta-analyses" are always questionable because different studies generally apply different methods, and accounting for differences may be difficult.

Nevertheless, the study is reputable. It does not claim to show that drinking causes breast cancer, but it does demonstrate that the risk of the disease increases as more alcohol is consumed daily (a "dose-response relationship"). It also postulates a credible biological pathway -- a damaged liver hinders the metabolization of estrogen, increasing breast cancer risk.

Yet the actual risks of drinking in itself are pretty small. It is only when one drinks heavily that the risk becomes appreciably large. A woman who has, on average, one alcoholic drink a day, suffers only a 3% increased risk of breast cancer. Two drinks implies a 13% increased risk, three a 20% increased risk, and so on (six drinks a day gives a 46% increased risk).

Given that, according to the CDC, only 3% of women drink 5 or more drinks in a day 12 times or more a year, this particular health risk will affect very few people. Moreover, the health risks of such abuse of alcohol are already well-known. This adds to the litany of reasons why it is bad for you to drink so heavily.

In short, the study shows that there is one more increased health risk for women who drink heavily. For the average woman who enjoys a drink or two every now and then, there is nothing to worry about. Indeed, as CBS says, women with no family history of breast cancer but with a family history of heart disease should not be swayed from the beneficial effects provided by a moderate intake of alcohol.


The Telegraph, or at least one particular journalist there, has allowed its head to swell somewhat. Introducing the new party that can really oppose Labour is a call for a party based on a newspaper column. Now I happen to agree with much of what Mr Robinson proposes as his party's aims, but a properly functioning Conservative party should be able to do all of that. Moreover, the simplism of the liberalism shines through in this statement:

Not only will it keep the government out of your lives wherever possible, the FCP will keep the Tories out of your bedroom, because even if it is true that married couples are best equipped to bring up children, we do not want to hear it from Theresa May.

Keeping out of the bedroom is one thing, and something I happen to agree with, but has Mr Robinson never attended a wedding? Marriage is a public act. It legitimizes a union in the eyes of the community. "We are gathered here today to witness the union of this man and this woman in holy matrimony..." and so on. The community has a stake in marriage, therefore it is an entirely proper subject for public discourse, whether by the dreadful Theresa May or by anyone else.

Much of the rest of the column is taken up with an odd ramble about John Bercow and his fiancee Sally. Now it just happens that I knew Sally quite well a few years ago, so I am delighted to read that she is still "all foxy hairstyle and racehorse legs," but what the Dickens has this to do with the proposed new party?

Three out of ten, Mr Robinson. Must try harder.

Nuff respec'

Janet Daley has a great article, Old is bad, new is good - the myth that kills respect, about the unintended consequences of the "progressive" method of education. I have a few quibbles -- she neglects to consider the respectable working class, who maintained order within their communities quite well, thank you very much -- but generally this hits the mark.

Praise Pratchett!

Adriana Cronin of Samizdata has been positing some marvelous epigrams from The Pratchett Quote File, so I thought I'd get in on the act:

It's not Brits who think American readers are a bunch of whinging morons with the geo-social understanding of a wire coathanger, it's American editors.

Very, very true...

Lords help us

Well, there we go. The Queen's speech containe measures to abolish double jeopardy protections and the principle that people are tried on the merits of the evidence against them, rather than on their reputations. Both massive steps backwards. These measures will sail through the Commons because the Tories will be too busy fighting each other to complain and the "liberals" will be arguing that increased public spending is the answer. The Lords are the only hope to stop these unconstitutional measures. Of course, because the Government "looks forward to considering the report from the Joint Committee on House of Lords Reform" even this check may be abolished...

Scientists for Uncertainty

In an otherwise balanced New York Times report on the administration's proposal to investigate further claims about global warming, one statement by an objector stands out as needing further examination:

"If you only talk about reducing uncertainty, that's very appealing to folks who don't want to act on climate change because it implies we can wait," said Dr. Roger A. Pielke Jr., an expert on environmental risks at the University of Colorado, Boulder

This is an odd statement from a scientist, whose profession is dedicated to reducing uncertainty and getting us more precise information about the world in which we live. Furthermore, as Reason's science correspondent Ron Bailey points out in "Earth Report 2000,"

As scientific understanding of the climate system improves, estimates of future warming continue to fall. Even if warming does prove to be substantial, the time required for it to occur (many decades) will allow humanity considerable time to better understand the problem, and formulate any policy changes that might be deemed necessary.

Further information is the lifeblood of science. We cannot regard science as settled simply because an intergovernmental panel came to certain conclusions in 1995. Anything that helps us understand an issue further should be welcomed by all scientists. Those who stand in the way of further investigation need to be asked why.

It takes a marriage...

Surely that would have been a better headline for this New York Times op/ed? Anyway, those in the UK who say social change is irreversible should consider this:

Might marriage be making a comeback in communities where the vast majority of children are born to single parents? A minister on Chicago's West Side told me that when he began preaching there 10 years ago, his congregation scoffed at his efforts to foster matrimony. But this year his church co-sponsored an event called "Celebrating Contentment," in which long-married couples testified to their happiness together. Last summer, there was such demand for the minister's weekly marriage enrichment workshops that he had to put some parishioners on a waiting list. In Baltimore, Joe Jones, who runs a program to promote fatherhood, is adding marriage classes to his curriculum. And the Nation of Islam, which organized the Million Man March, has now taken up the mantle of marriage, declaring it "a social institution in need of restoration."

What's even more amazing than the return of marriage is that this op/ed in favor of it comes from a liberal PBS correspondent in the pages of the New York Times. He's right that marriage is not a panacaea, and that "shotgun" weddings are no more likely to last than the cohabitations they were before government force was involved, but his respect for the institution, though grudging, is based on clear social evidence that families raise children better and are the basis of community:

But there is now growing consensus among social scientists that, all things being equal, two parents are best for children. It would seem to follow that two-parent families are also best for a community. It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes families to build a village.

His conclusion is something that faint-heart conservatives should bear in mind:

Even if conservatives don't know how to get there, at least they recognize that marriage, this very private institution, has very public consequences. Liberals, who have a much firmer understanding of the obstacles poor people face, need to enter that conversation.

If American liberals are beginning to realize that the health of private family life has important public consequences, how much sillier are British conservatives to decide it best to pull out of the area now?

Where's Osama?

Despite the purported Bin Laden tape, I'm not convinced yet that he's alive. Voice recognition techniques have a huge margin of error. If it is genuine, there are two positive points I draw from it: first, that the might Al Qa'eda can't even get a videocamera to their leader (they're not going to give away their location if they film him in front of a wall). The only genuine reason for not videoing him would be if he had visible injuries, eleven months after the attack in which he presumably received them, or if he's emaciated and looks close to death. Either way, that's good. Second, he's explicitly making common cause with the Iraqis. So much for the "Al Qa'eda hates Iraq" argument.

How many people read those papers, anyway?

In response to a question from Peter Cuthbertson, I looked up the latest circulation figures for British newspapers (frames may play around with the direct link, so try ABC Data - Newspapers - National Newspapers). Figures for those of interest to the blogosphere are (daily circulation):

The Sun: 3,612,464
Daily Mirror: 2,095,125
Telegraph: 972,596
Times: 687,611
FT: 451,859
Evening Standard (London paper): 439,098
Guardian: 404,949
Independent: 221,369

There are two mid-market papers, the Express and the Mail, that have circulations of 989,874 and 2,436,889 respectively. They have no web presence to speak of, sadly. The Express is Blairite center-left (it was solidly Thatcherite), while the Mail is conservative but often unthinking, so can tend to anti-Americanism.

(Sunday papers)
News of the World: 4,004,586
Sunday Mirror: 1,697,419
Sunday Times: 1,398,414
Sunday Telegraph: 791,669
Observer: 488,718
Independent on Sunday: 228,328

For comparison, here are the US figures (daily/sunday):

Wall Street Journal: 1,819,528/ n/a
USA Today: 1,769,650/ n/a
New York Times: 1,143,404/ 1,698,281
LA Times: 1,040,670/ 1,391,343
Washington Post: 791,295/ 1,070,809
(New York) Daily News: 688,143/ 821,080
Chicago Tribune: 622,862/ 1,001,662
Newsday: 550,235/ 663,220
Houston Chronicle: 545,066/ 737,626
Dallas Morning News: 522,538/ 782,748

The Washington Times has a measly 103,559/ 49,972 circulation.

The British papers obviously reach a much greater proportion of the British populace than the American ones reach of the American population. The Grauniad is therefore that much more influential than its equivalent, the New York Times. On the other hand, center-right papers sell far more than the leftist ones. In other words, Britain has a bigger proportion of leftists than the US, but at the same time the average British newspaper reader is more likely to read one with a sensible editorial voice than the average American.

Just thought you might like to know.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Defensive gun use in the UK

A grandfather shot his grand-daughter's attacker dead. I wonder how long it will be before he gets taken to court...

Comrades, come running

Excellent analysis by Patience Wheatcroft in The Times of why the extra costs Labour and Europe have imposed on business are bad for the working class. Permanent unemployment levels of 8-10% beckon unless Britain gets its act together and reduces costs on business. Again, this is obvious ground for the Tories to work in. Taxes cost jobs! Why aren't Michael Howard and David Willetts saying that?!?

Educating thugs

Charles Clarke, the new UK Education Secretary, is the son of a former Treasury mandarin, Otto Clarke. I know too little about Clarke senior, but he is described in the index of Corelli Barnett's history of modern Britain simply as "wrangler." From such a lineage often comes greatness, and what I have seen of Clarke junior so far suggests political brilliance and a willingness to take on sacred cows, although I do not sense any real philosophy there. It seems that he may, however be the man to save British education, as Libby Purves suggests in her Times column today.

Yet the main thrust of Ms Purves' article is about educating thugs. I don't think she gets the half of it. Advocating letting children enter the work force at 14 may have been fine in 1920, when there was the option of apprenticeships, but we need a work force better trained for variety now. And I can't see call centers overjoyed at the prospect of being able to employ 14 year-olds. Nevertheless, there probably is a role for "dropping out" later.

Ms Purves gets closer to the problem when she looks at why children are misbehaving in school:

Some are disruptive because they are innately unhappy. That is one of the hardest problems to crack, since it has its roots in the family. Some teachers, especially secondary specialists, say militantly that the pastoral role is not what they are paid for. If so, it is critically important that pastoral skills are respected and rewarded in school, and mental health services (scandalously bad for young people) are available outside it. Some tough schools have had remarkable success with soppy-sounding things: quiet rooms, a time-out routine, even aromatherapy.

This need for human thoughtfulness goes down to the smallest details. Some children are disruptive because, frankly, they are ill-nourished. Surveys show that innumerable children go to school without breakfast. Plenty consider a bag of crisps, a tartrazine-orange drink and a Snickers to be lunch. Schools which offer breakfast, or excellent school dinners, or even just take up their right to subsidised milk, report extraordinary leaps in the children’s concentration.

So she admits children can be disruptive because they have been badly socialized. It's not a great leap from this to admitting that bad (or non-existent) parenting is the root cause of disruptive behavior. Yet Ms Purves' solution is horribly capitulationist:

So it’s not all about sin-bins and thug-punishing. If we have accidentally designed a society where schools are in the front line, fighting to civilise the new generation, let’s admit it, fund it, and go for it.

How about "let's realize there's something wrong with that society and reform to solve the problems rather than just accept it and take taxpayers' money to paper over the cracks"?

Libertarians, take heed

Looking for a certain Madison quote, I came across this one: "Liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty as well as by the abuses of power." All sensible libertarians should hang a copy of this on their wall.

Anyway, I found my quote, which pairs nicely with one by Pitt the Younger:

"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom: it is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- Pitt the Younger

"I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations."
-- James Madison

The Crime Meddler

David Blunkett claims it's about time the victims of crime received justice. Aside from the debate about whether the wishes of the victims is vengeance, not justice, this is a pretty poor excuse for thinking ancient liberties are just a grab-bag you can rummage around in and pull out only those you like. The Telegraph's editorial, Criminal Meddling, says exactly what's wrong with the Home Secretary's arguments:

As for "twisted traditions", it is not altogether clear what Mr Blunkett means by that phrase. But he seems to mean at least three things: the defendant's right to trial by jury for serious offences; his right to have each case against him tried on its merits, without reference to his previous convictions; and his right not to be tried a second time on a charge of which he has been acquitted.

These traditions may sound "twisted" to Mr Blunkett, but there is great sense in all of them. There is no room here to rehearse all the arguments in favour of jury trial. Enough to say that the risk that some jurors may be intimidated, and afraid to convict the guilty, is not a good enough reason to abolish a defendant's right to it.

Nor is it fair, except in the most unusual circumstances, that previous convictions should be read out in court before a jury reaches its verdict. Not unnaturally, the police often arrest people precisely because they have previous convictions. They round up the usual suspects.

The prosecution's job is to establish that a defendant has committed a particular crime - not that he is the sort of person who might commit such a crime because he has done so in the past.

The "double jeopardy" rule, under which a defendant cannot be tried twice for the same offence, also makes good sense. Imagine the chaos that would ensue if no verdict was taken to be final, and every criminal file had to be kept open in perpetuity. Imagine how sloppy the police would become in preparing their evidence, knowing that if they did not get their man this time, there would always be another chance.

The 'twisted traditions' are all enshrined in the US Bill of Rights. Care to come over here and call them 'twisted,' David?

Fight fire with fire

Public safety alert as firefighters decide to strike is the Tories' wet reply to the fire brigades' strike. Not a mention of the fact that the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is not allowing the troops who are deputising for the striking firemen to use the fire brigades' equipment, as that would involve crossing picket lines. News for you, John, no-one in the public remembers the 1926 general strike anymore. This is not "echoes of strike-busting" or anything like that.

Anyway, here is what I would say in David Davis' shoes:

"The government calls these strikes Scargillite. Well, we knew exactly how to deal with Arthur Scargill. We put the good of the country first instead of trying to appease the Labour Party's financial backers in the unions. We faced up to the threat head on and broke the power of the people the Prime Minister has called wreckers. But it looks like the DPM doesn't have the courage to face down these people, even with the threat of innocent lives being lost. At the very least, I call on the Deputy Prime Minister to give up his archaic, doctrinaire, Scargillite view that you can't cross picket lines and allow our troops to use the modern equipment of the fire brigades. If he refuses to allow this, I say that every life that is lost to fire while this strike goes on is on his hands. I hope the relatives of the victims will forgive him, because I won't, and nor will anyone on these benches."

Go on, put the boot in, David.

Always the last to know...

The Blogs of War is (are?) back! Huzzah!

Good article alert!

Gene Therapy Undergoes Reevaluation, in the LA Times of all places, seems like an excellent summary of where we are with gene therapy. It sounds to me like the halting of trials everywhere except Britain (!) after the French boy developed leukemia might have been an over-reaction.

Monday, November 11, 2002

Free Speech, as long as this Court agrees

Eugene Volokh has a great take-down of the latest repressive interpretation of free speech adopted by the EU.

Harcore ruling

Thanks to Peter Cuthbertson for this one. One of Britain's worst serial murderers is among a group of prisoners that has won a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights that their right to free expression guarantees them a right to receive hardcore porn. Whatever happened to the idea that prisoners' rights can be restricted? Subsection 2 of Article 10 of the European Convention allows exceptions "for the protection of health or morals," so how can this get through? Ye gods.

PP: As you'll see in the comments section, I erred in ascribing the decision to the European Court. The prisoners were claiming a right based on the European Convention, and HM Prison Service had capitulated. British bureaucracy has a history of applying European overarching principles rather more strictly than the rest of Europe. This seems another example to me.

Giscard just keeps on giving

Steven Chapman has the final word on Giscard's definition of Europe to exclude Turkey.

Ideas, ideas

Meanwhile, in a world as divorced from reality as that in which mankind enjoys a new era of peace because we can all shoot up, the anti-globalizers set out their manifesto for Europe:

Top of the list, they sought a demilitarised Europe at peace with itself and the world, an ethical continent that takes a high moral stance against US imperialism. High on the list too was a radical rethink, or complete rejection, of the predatory capitalism the continent now knows. They imagined a Europe that rejected crude market ideology, made institutions fully accountable, put people before profit, and where big business was not allowed to dominate the political or consumer agendas.

There were specifics: Europe, they said, should have open borders, and all people within it should have the right to work and to have a home; it should have a Tobin tax on financial markets and regulation of corporations; there should be no GM foods or pollution; no privati sation of public services; the media should be in the hands of the many not the few; and racism should be driven out.

There was almost complete consensus on three issues: that "neo-liberalism" - the free-market ideas espoused by the IMF and G7 - is a violent political and economic doctrine; that trade with poor countries should be fair; and that one vote every four years given to political parties run by self-serving elites is no way to run modern, complex democracies in a globalised economy.

Reminds one of Cade, doesn't it:

"Cade: Be brave, then; for your captain is brave, and vows reformation. There shall be in England seven halfpenny loaves sold for a penny; the three-hooped pot shall have ten hoops; and I will make it felony to drink small beer. All the realm shall be in common, and in Cheapside shall my palfrey go to grass; and when I am king, as king I will be--
All: God save your majesty!
Cade: I thank you, good people--there shall be no money; all shall eat and drink on my score; and I will apparel them all in one livery, that they may agree like brothers, and worship me their lord."

First thing we'll do...

Alternative comedy

opinion.telegraph.co.uk - Legalisation might be the only way to halt the drugs epidemic argues anti-Thatcher 80s comic Ben Elton. Ben's claim to authority seems to be that he's writing a comic novel with some druggies in it. Good for you, Ben. Mr Elton's article seems to distill the received wisdom on the subject, but, as so often, that wisdom is wide of the mark:

It is a matter of simple fact that a large proportion of people in this country, particularly young people, take drugs.

Let's compare that with the available data (warning - PDF file).

11 percent of people aged 16-59 used drugs in the last year, and six percent in the last month. Large proportion? Yes, the numbers are bigger for young people (16-29) -- 25 percent in the last year and 16 percent in the last month, but these are still smaller than the phrase "large proportion" would indicate. If you took 100 young people at random, you'd find 84 of them hadn't touched drugs in the last month, and 75 hadn't done so in the last year. Only a third of people have ever used drugs. This is a minority, and a small and transient one at that.

Because the people who do use drugs are highly segmentized. Most notably, drug use is significantly higher in London than in the rest of the country and "an analysis of different types of residential neighbourhoods showed uniformly higher levels of drug use among 16 to 29s living in affluent urban areas for 'any drug', cocaine and class A drugs." Single, renting accomodation and visiting pubs and clubs were also risk factors. So drug use in the UK is most prevalent among young urban professionals with high disposable incomes who have not put down family roots. Find a married person or a property owner outside London and you're much less likely to find someone who uses drugs. Young men are also much more likely (230%) to have used drugs in the past month than young women. This seems to back up the idea that people "grow out" of drugs, while they don't from drinking, although I'll be interested to see if this changes as the bourgeois view of cannabis as acceptable spreads. For the moment, however, stable family life is the enemy of drugs, another reason why the family should be encouraged.

It also seems to back up my contention that the drug trade is mainly driven by the demand of an educated, but irresponsible, elite. It is their demand that is contributing to the social breakdown in the working class areas where the drugs are sold and traded. "Parasites" is the word that springs to mind.

Moreover, that demand is probably fueled at least in part on the idiotic idea that certain drugs are "safe." A new report from the British Lung Foundation summarizes the evidence that cannabis smoking is much more detrimental to respiratory health than ordinary tobacco smoking, yet 79% of children think it is safe. Some proper public education in this sphere might reduce the amount of marijuana smoked, which would have a considerable effect on the profit margins of drug dealers. The full report (available here in PDF form) is very interesting reading.

Take it away, regular commentators...

Chuck it, Mandy

Peter Mandelson's cri de coeur that Europe needs Britain might be convincing were it not for some blinding indiocies, such as:

the age-old Franco-German partnership
Ah yes, the age-old partnership that has been demonstrated so often over the past few hundred years.

In any event, Mandelson's article is interesting in that it seems to demonstrate that the federalizers are beginning to think of what they can achieve without Britain. The crunch time may be closer than the British Europhiles of the Blairite wing would like. Giscard has put tax harmonization firmly on the agenda, something unacceptable to Gordon Brown, from what I understand. If this is in the Constitution Giscard proposes, then the result will be that Britain and Ireland will have to choose whether or not to remain in the EU:

Mr Giscard d'Estaing also set out his strong views on what should happen to those countries that fail to ratify the proposed new EU constitution. Speaking to the Kangaroo group, a body that favours more economic integration in Europe, he said non-ratifiers would exclude themselves from the EU, but could have economic ties to the union.

"The probability is that of 25 or 27 member states [after EU enlargement] 23 would accept [the constitution] and two or three will refuse," he said. "We have to abrogate the [EU] treaties that exist. If a country says that it does not like the new treaty, there's no existing structure for them to cling to, they cannot seek refuge in the old agreement.

"We should say: you can maintain an economic role, but you can no longer be in this political system. That will be the consequence of refusal."

He said that such countries would play a similar role to members of the European Free Trade Association, which have a free-trade area with the EU, and cited the micro-state of Liechtenstein, with a population of 30,000, as an example.

Remaining within the economic area, but outside the political, is precisely what the British people want, I think. Bring it on, Giscard.