England's Sword 2.0

Saturday, March 16, 2002

More UK blogs

The observent among you may have noticed a few new blogs linked on the left. What's interesting is that these are UK blogs. Martin Pratt's Amphetamine Logic and Chris Bertram's Junius have a more left-liberal stance than the majority of blogs I link to, while Patrick Crozier's UK Transport has a libertarian approach to my old stamping ground of British transport policy (which should make James Haney happy). Add these to Natalie Solent's unfailingly readable observations, Emmanuel Goldstein's principled advocacy of British isolationism, Iain Dale's political insights, Ben Sheriff's and Andrew Dodge's quirky commentary and the most accessible promotion of libertarianism there is at Samizdata and you have the beginnings of a genuine British social and political debate. That's something you don't get from the other media.

Now if only Sp!ked would launch a version of the NRO Corner.

Friday, March 15, 2002

Labour Split Watch

More evidence that Blair's foreign policy is driving a wedge between him and former allies: Blair attacked over right-wing EU links. This is from the leader of the TUC, previously a Blair backer.

Orwell in Africa

Zimbabwe enacts media curbs. Well, no surprise there. But in a splendid piece of Newspeak, what do they call the media curbing legislation? "The Freedom of Information and Right to Privacy Bill".

Turkish takeover of U.N. peacekeeping planned for Afghanistan, reports the Washington Times. Good. Let the world see that secular Islamic nations can help spread peace and civilization. This will be a useful first step in the process Victor Davis Hanson refers to re Kuwait:

No, the solution for our fickle friends in the Gulf is a long overdue accounting with the terrorist autocracy of Iraq and the implementation of consensual government in its place. We saved Kuwait once from Iraqi fascism and apparently received ingratitude for our efforts. Perhaps next time we should encourage a new and free Iraq to ignite a chain reaction of democratic revolution in the Gulf — and let the sheiks deal with reformers who seek not to take their oil, but to oust them altogether.

Historically, the lands of the fertile crescent, the Levant and Egypt have been changed by events sweeping down from the highlands to the North (the Hittites, the Medes, Alexander, Rome, the Ottomans). Perhaps Turkish-style secular Islam, properly backed by the West, will be the latest example.


Everyone's blogged this, but it deserves to come to everyone else's attention. Saudi police let some girls burn to death because they weren't properly dressed. It was the "Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice" that enforced this act of evil. Didn't the Taliban have one of those? If there ever were a case for moral equivalency, this is it. The Saudis are the Taliban in another guise. They should be treated the same way.

Sunny side up

As I mentioned, the Sun's worth reading these days. Both Ms Solent and Mr Briffa have already mentioned this, so I thought I'd complete a trifecta: Richard Littlejohn dissects the Government's record to date, with special reference to gun crime (and a disturbing glimpse of the world of A Clockwork Orange coming true).

Aye, Carumba

I can't do anything but quote this en bloc; according to The Washington Post's Reliable Sources column, John Ashcroft is a Simpsons fan:

John Ashcroft Culture Watch: The latest GQ reports that the strait-laced attorney general is a big fan of "The Simpsons." Ashcroft tells writer Jake Tapper that his son and daughter-in-law recently gave him a three-DVD set of the Fox animated series: "Man, I've got a lot of favorite episodes!" he confides, and starts reciting fave lines. "There was that one -- when was it? -- when they thought Bart was somehow related to [late Supreme Court Chief Justice] Warren Burger, and Homer says, 'Mmmmmmmm, burrrgerrrrr.' " Ashcroft especially enjoyed the episode in which Lisa Simpson cheats on a test and as a result her school district receives more federal support. But then Lisa decides to do the right thing. "Frankly, I like her a lot. Obviously, she's an idealist." D'oh!

Dan Quayle, are you listening?

Thursday, March 14, 2002

Is there anyone out there?

Great discussion by Steven Denbeste on USS Clueless - Are we alone? - that asks the big question about extraterrestrial life. Steven thinks that life is rare. I agree. I've long taken to heart Monod's warnings that the possibility of things connecting randomly in exactly the right fashion to correct life is vanishingly small, so much so that even the vast size of the universe is not likely to overcome the odds. Add to that the probably equally small likelihoods of life becoming intelligent and I'm pretty certain that we're probably the only intelligent species out here. I speak as a lapsed science fiction fan, so that does distress me.

Anyway, here's a link to an article I wrote some time ago about extraterrestrial life. Hope you find it interesting.

And another thing...

Also in The Spectator, Andrew Gimson analyzes internal Labour politics on the current big questions:

... on the question of Iraq, Mr Blair faces a choice of either siding with the Americans or with the anti-American, anti-colonialist and pacifist instincts of his own party. In making this decision, he needs to reach only one judgment: will the Americans win? Will they rout Saddam Hussein? And, though there is always a degree of uncertainty about any war, the strong likelihood is that they will. The fighting will be as one-sided as in the Gulf war, and this time the Iraqi tyrant will perish. One of the great Arab grievances against Washington, namely that it had Saddam within its grasp yet allowed him to go on massacring his own people, will have been removed, and so will one of the gravest threats to Israel, perhaps opening the way to an American-imposed peace. But whether or not wider and more durable blessings flow, there will be dancing for an hour or two in the streets of Baghdad, and the opening of Saddam’s torture chambers will make it impossible to imagine that it was wrong to overthrow him. To ask Mr Blair to refuse his share of the credit for this victory would be like expecting Winnie-the-Pooh to turn down a pot of honey.

Gimson's main point is that Blair is repeatedly turning his back on his own party. In this he agrees with my analysis. I cannot see the party standing for it much longer. The question is whether the party knuckles under and continues to moan quietly, or whether there is another option (Brown or defections, I'd say). I can still see Blair needing Tory support soon.

Righter On

Excellent article in The Spectator by Rosemary Righter of The Times. She deserves honorary membership of the Brigade of Bellicose Women for this trenchant piece of work. Here's what she has to say on Iraq and Blair:

The American focus on Iraq is deliberate and logical — with respect to Islamist terrorism, but also with respect to Israel. Saddam’s decade-long defiance of the UN weakens respect for international law. He applauds Islamist extremists for resorting to terror against Israel. While Saddam endures, Arab leaders will not find the political courage to make genuine peace with Israel — not even if that country were led by the Archangel Gabriel. It is Iraq that is on a confrontation course with the West, not the other way round. Saddam’s Iraq is not merely unfinished business; it is a menace of the first order, to the Middle East, to the Western oil supplies that it is his ambition to dominate, to Israel and, ultimately, if he can build missiles with sufficient range, to Europe itself. He must be dealt with or he will deal with us. Blair believes that. He has started to say that. I have not been his admirer, until now; I have thought him weak, deep down. I have not thought him to be much of a strategist. But, in this great emergency, he has raised his game.

The closer war with Iraq comes, the more isolated he will feel. He does not relish isolation. There has always been an anti-American strand in the British establishment, Left and Right. It is one of its ‘forces of conservatism’. When Blair talks about these forces, he too often seems to have inchoately in mind ‘people who disagree with me’. The rise in anti-Americanism — and, to a lesser extent, anti-Israeli prejudice — may be a chattering-class phenomenon; but it risks distorting the political prism through which Britain’s national interest is perceived. Blair must acknowledge this, to counter it effectively. And, if he does so, Conservatives who hate the very thought of his being right must have the courage to support him. Britain’s interest is not always identical with America’s. But it is now. Blair should wear the badge of loyalty with pride.

Excellent stuff. Yah boo sucks to the Americophobes of right and left. We know we're right and we'll stick to our guns.

Blogger = Grammaticus?

Some interesting thoughts in Jon Last's Online Standard article Reading, Writing, and Blogging. He questions whether blogging isn't just a fad (good question, although I currently believe I'm in here for the long haul, employers and family willing), and raises some important qualifications about its focus. But I'm not sure if it does encourage instantaneous reaction in place of considered thinking. I think it does both; few bloggers fail to return to the really serious issues time and time again.

Anyway, this is the important point:

What does that mean? Well, if blogs aren't a fad (and that's a big "if"), it means that as more people become connected to the Internet, the printed word will become increasingly important again. Broadcast news will recede into the background because it's too unwieldy to index and too expensive to produce (a reporter with a laptop beats an Ashleigh Banfield with a camera crew every time).

Which would be a big deal. The ramifications of returning to print are too big to get into here (but just to get you started, think of what it would mean in terms of making English an even more globally dominant language; or what would happen to politics if TV shrunk to pre-JFK levels of importance), but on first blush, they would seem to be mostly good.

Too darn right. For a start, spelling and grammar become important again.

Which made me think. The ancients had a species of scholar, most notably in Hellenistic Alexandria, called the Grammaticus. These chaps would pour over texts, both great and not-so-great, and provide commentary on them. These comments became, in turn, the source of much of our knowledge about the ancient world. Bloggers seem to fill the same function. Grammatici are mostly secondary sources in terms of textual knowledge, but primary in other ways. So we don't report? Big deal. The grammatici weren't poets, either, but without their work the sum of human experience would be much diminished.

So take heart, bloggers. You're part of an ancient and noble tradition. Moreover, you're saving the world from the tyranny of the network executive, be they CBS or BBC. That's a noble cause.

Wednesday, March 13, 2002

And the INS treats me like a a criminal?

So my long, long wait for just for a rubber stamp, was it? Mohammed Atta's got his student visa approved. Ye Gods. Take it away, Mr Sensenbrenner...

"This shows once again the complete incompetence of the immigration service to enforce our laws and protect our borders," said Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), who has co-sponsored legislation to break up the agency. "If you look at the chronology of this, it shows why the INS has to be dismantled and put back together again."

Quite right, and while we're doing it, let's look at ways of negotiating free movement pacts with our closest allies that will be flexible enough to keep the terrorists out but let the decent people contribute to increasing the respective nations' wealth without being yanked down by the clammy hand of useless bureaucracy.

Googledam Busters?

Well, gosh. Thanks to Ben Sheriff, Megan McArdle, Stephen Green, Steven Den Beste and all the others who have left the aerodromes on a googlebombing mission aimed at getting my TechCentralStation article on Afghan casualties to the top of the Google search results page. Modesty forbade my initial involvement, but now everyone else has taken to the air I'd better kick-start my rusty old Lancaster and get up there with them. Here's the text: cut and paste from the source code as you will if you have a blog and think our mission just and fair...

You don't need to click the links to make the Googlebomb, so just scroll on down to my next post.

"Kill Marc Herold Afghan casualties meme by Googlebombing it. For the uninitiated, "Googlebombing" takes advantage of the fact that Google gives a high ranking to regularly updated sites; this means that if a lot of bloggers link to, say, Iain Murray's take-down of the Herold Afghan casualties study, using relevant search terms like Afghanistan civilian casualties and Herold collateral damage and Marc Herold Afghanistan study, we can move Iain's article to the top of Google's search results."

(Sheepish grin).

Fully on board?

It looks as if Blair has banged heads together in his cabinet. According to the Telegraph, Straw gets the point. Blair looks to be staking his Ministry on backing the US. The question I would like answered is whether or not Gordon Brown agrees.

Dammit, Janet

Janet Daley is one of the most intelligent commentators on British politics there is. But she demonstrates in this article the blind faith in economics as the only thing that matters that has helped destroy British conservativism:

For me, there is no question that economic liberalism is the foundation of social liberalism. Private disposable wealth not only gives people self-determination, and the self-esteem that follows from it.

It also makes them less resentful and mean-minded, and thus more tolerant. Individual prosperity frees you from the miserable, mundane obsession with survival, and thus encourages enlightenment, culture and what counsellors call "personal development". Economic freedom is the direct progenitor of all other freedoms.

No, no, no. There are plenty of countries that are economically free but god-awful places to live -- Singapore, Bahrein and so on. What makes the Anglosphere a distinct branch of civilization is that the social and economic freedoms are all predicated on an older set of freedoms, freedoms from executive power, a restraint placed on government by the people that makes liberty, not safety or the common good or anything else, the main object of the constitution(s). We can have no sustainable economic freedom if we do not have property rights and we can have no personal economic freedom if we do not have rights of personal security and personal liberty. These are cultural matters; they are all predicated on a decision by the people to champion liberty, not wealth.

No British political party currently grasps this. IDS is close to doing it, but may get dragged off course. The Liberals still have some members who realise the importance, but they are hamstrung by political correctness and may be forced into abandoning liberty by those forces. Labour only champions liberty when it is politically expedient. The tradition of liberty is in serious danger in the UK. Thank God for the Daily Telegraph, whose Free Country campaign reminds us of the importance of these traditions.

Tuesday, March 12, 2002

Them's Fighting Words

Far be it from me to object to something the eminent Miss Hawgirl wrote (I really must permalink her site), but her comments on Stephen Green's site are a gauntlet thrown down:

I'm inclined to believe [a Times story about an Afghan tinpot warlord who said that American troops were inadequate], knowing that we've shown the Brits, more than once, how "inadequate" their own troops are. They should be more familiar with the definition than us.

Just when exactly? Saratoga? Johnny Burgoyne screwed up there, not his troops. Trenton? Hessians -- "hirelings and slaves". Princeton? The heavily outnumbered 17th Foot gave Washington a good run for his money -- hardly inadequate. Yorktown? After winning some substantial victories (Savannah, Camden), Cornwallis made a strategic mistake and found himself besieged and outnumbered 2 to 1 by the Franco-American forces (you'd never know he was outnumbered from the way the victory is presented). I don't think General Washington would call the British troops during the Revolution "inadequate".

The War of 1812 was a draw (just take a look at the list of battles here). Our "inadequate" soldiers torched the US Capital (must do one of those tours one of these days), despite the fact that our best soldiers and generals were in Spain. If Jackson had had to face any of Wellington's decent commanders instead of Lord Longford's ancestor, then the Battle of New Orleans might have been a bit different. Again, though, the troops themselves were hardly inadequate.

We haven't faced each other since. When we've fought beside each other, British troops were again hardly inadequate -- David French has shown that the tales of poor performance and morale in WWII are myths.

Criticize the generals all you like, Emily, but don't call Tommy Atkins and his mates inadequate. The Americans who faced them man-to-man never made that mistake.

I am certain, by the by, that Emily was joking on this. But there are some elements in America who do believe that the Brits are no use in a fight, despite all the evidence. There are plenty of people in Britain who believe the reverse. Both of those factions need to be put in their place.

Collapse of Britain Watch

There's no substitute for experience. Sorry, there is in Britain: forms. Libby Purves takes on this phenomenon in a splendidly anti-idiotarian piece. It centers on a tragedy where some 13 year olds drowned on a canoeing trip on a dangerous river:

... in this case the problem is defined as leaders not having drawn up an official “risk assessment” or read enough booklets. Certainly this was sloppy, but infinitely more important was their apparent inability to look at a swollen autumn river after heavy rain and draw the conclusion that it was not fit for lightweight, inexperienced 13-year-olds. The most ghastly piece of evidence at the inquest was that Rochelle Cauvet said to a friend that she didn’t want to do the river walk, because “I’m very light, I might drown”.

Her native instinct and eye told her that the water was too fast and deep for her slight body to withstand if she fell. Her faultless judgment coincides with the evidence given at her inquest by the river bailiff and by David Gallivan, an outdoor pursuits instructor who said: “I don’t think you need a qualification. I don’t think you need any form of education to understand that, when it rains, rivers and streams rise. I would not have gone near the place.”

I wonder what the chances are that the teachers with bad judgment and the persons who draw up risk assessments both are Guardian readers? Pretty near certainty I'd say. Idiotarianism has direct consequences.

Tory Revival alert: I have some comments on this Times article about Chris Patten over on Conservative Revival.

Timbo back to form

Good article by Tim Hames in The Times this morning. His analysis of the 6 months since 9/11 is pretty good, if dispassionate. Here's his take on Europe's position:

The real irony of the past six months, unfortunately, is that while the democratic world is safer, it also seems to be more divided. With a few honourable exceptions (notably Tony Blair), the mood in Europe now could not be more different to that in America. Most European leaders have come to the view that the War on Terror ended when the mullahs left Kandahar. The assault on the Twin Towers is viewed as if it were some sort of high-altitude car bomb, rather than an opening shot in a jihad against liberal values.

If there is a European anti-terrorism strategy at all, it is the vague desire to recognise the “underlying causes” of dissatisfaction in the Middle East and elsewhere. This approach operates on the logic that radical Islamist terrorism is akin to a flower which can flourish only in the fertile soil of economic and political resentment. In reality it is far more akin to a cactus — self-sufficient, self-sustaining and demanding of direct action to remove it.

I like the cactus analogy.

It was the Sun wot said it

Thanks to Peter Briffa for this. If you want a real expression of British popular opinion, look at The Sun. It sells four times as many papers daily as the best-selling American newspaper, in a country 1/5th of the size. That's one excellent way of spreading memes. The Sun Says is its opinion column, written in language Michael Moore could understand (and sneer at, no doubt). Today it says what needs to be said about the war, complete with a class warrior's side-swipe at The Guardian. I think I shall permalink it...

>h3>Olympian Idiotarians
Tim Blair lays the smack down on Michael Moore, who would have made a great darts champion in the 70s. What really annoys me is his arrogance towards Steven Bradbury, the Australian speed skater who actually made sure he finished the race. The prideful certainty these idiotarians have that they know best what actually happened, or what should have happened when that doesn't fit with the facts, is one of the most unpleasant aspects of their politics. It reminds me of Achilles at the funeral games of Hector, when he declares that someone whose axle broke should have been the winner, and therefore awards the prize to him. These people are truly Olympian in their stupidity.

Monday, March 11, 2002

The President's Speech

For those of you who are interested, I have posted a complete transcript of President Bush's remarks today. It's an important speech. As my contact puts it:

The speech focuses on the coalition of nations defending our common security; on the second stage of the war on terror (including our efforts in the Philippines, the Republic of Georgia, and Yemen); and on the peaceful world beyond the war on terror. Importantly, this speech also makes a argument; namely, that some states that sponsor terror are seeking -- or already possess -- weapons of mass destruction. These weapons, in the hands of terrorists, would unleash blackmail, genocide, and chaos.

I found the reference to "our good ally, France," somewhat amusing. This President does not lack a sense of humor.

Collapse of Britain Watch

It seems that British policemen are to be armed, not with guns, but with pocket computers complete wth printers. All persons stopped on the street by police are to be given a note of the circumstances surrounding the stop. A crime expert calls the idea "madness," according to The Times. She's right.

Howard of Orange

My colleague Howard Fienberg, proprietor of Kesher Talk, has the Data Dump spot at Tech Central today. Check out Vetting Agent Orange.

Treating nations as means

Meanwhile, there is a wholly objectionable New Statesman article by Charles Grant. It seems to be entirely predicated on the idea that Europe must have a stronger voice in world affairs, especially in the Middle East. Why?

The EU certainly matters economically in the Middle East. It is the largest provider of aid to the Palestinian Authority, with programmes worth 250m a year. And the EU takes 45 per cent of all Israeli exports. But the EU has never managed to extract much political leverage lfrom its economic weight in the region.

One reason is America's security guarantee to Israel. This means that any US administration can - if it wishes - exert much more influence on Israel than the EU.

So because Europe subsidizes Arafat, they should have a greater role? Security will always trump trade, but Grant doesn't seem to want to acknowledge this. He goes on to argue, essentially, that devolving all European national policy on the Middle East to Javier Solana will strengthen Europe's position. He still doesn't explain why this is necessarily a good thing.

Rather, this seems to be simply a cry that Europe deserves to be listened to because she has a big economy. The middle east peace process is simply a means to this larger end. To my mind, this view is reprehensible.

The Left in Crisis

It looks like John Lloyd's complaints worked. He has a major article in the new New Statesman that summarises the growing divide in the Left, at least in Europe, between those who believe in the projection of power to halt genocide and other outrages and those who simply oppose "imperialism," which currently equals anti-Americanism. It's the Left's version of the dispute over sovereignty and national interest that has caused problems for Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic.

One thing that Lloyd's article, which is a very interesting read, makes clear is that at some point the alliance between the Hitchens/ Blair/ Rushdie left and the current American consensus is going to break down. I can only hope that that occurs after the war on terrorism is largely won, not before.

Sunday, March 10, 2002

Let's Parler Le Backstabbing

Steven Den Beste makes some great points about the French and their "contribution" in Afghanistan. I'm prepared to be corrected on this, but I think when the US and UK generals had a disagreement about the strategy to be followed in Northern Europe following D-Day in WWII, the Brits agreed to follow the American strategy despite their disquiet (and given that Monty was not a shrinking violet, that was a significant concession). There are inevitable misunderstandings when different nations operate under the same command (the Glorious Gloucesters in Korea, for instance), but disagreements where one side takes its ball home are potentially disastrous.

I think it speaks incredibly well of America that these incidents have not been publicized further. It could only encourage American "unilateralism," which I thought is precisely what the Continentals wanted to avoid. In fact, it seems that France thinks that she should be in charge of military operations, despite her contribution of one Exocet and a couple of sherbet dib-dabs, and that America should be subservient.

Mark Steyn is right. NATO in its current form has outlived its usefulness. It is time for its dissolution and a replacement by a military alliance that is based on capability and goodwill. Guess who the prime candidates for that will be. And if that scares the Continentals, then perhaps they had better be prepared to put up or shut up.

By the way, I read Steven's contribution out to my wife. She is so disgusted that she will no longer tolerate anything French in the house. No more Veuve Cliquot, all because of these pompous idiots. Now I'm really angry...

Saturday, March 09, 2002

Steel Dawn

Emmanuel Goldstein summarizes Brit blogger reaction to the steel tarriffs issue. Fair comment, although I'm surprised he doesn't mention the stalwart comments over on Samizdata.

The reason I haven't said anything is partly because I've been a trifle busy over the past few days, as you may have noticed, and partly because the issue has been covered so well in the mainstream media, never mind the insurgent blogs. It was a stupid decision from an American point of view, which will probably cost the US in jobs and wealth, never mind its effect on other countries. The only payoff for Bush will be if it makes the protectionist unions less likely to organize strongly for Democrats in November, and I can't see that happening.

I do find it hard to get excited about it from a British point of view, though. Steel is old economy, and I'm as worried about it as I am about statements from the Chairman of Nissan about the Euro. Consett makes delicious snacks now (is Phileas Fogg still going?), not steel.

Castor and Pollutants

Steve Milloy, the Junkman, weighs in on the pollutants debate. His FoxNews article (Suman, you were right) is a great complement to mine. This is an egregious example of junk science.

Friday, March 08, 2002

The Iraq Conundrum

As I predicted below, the Iraq question
threatens to split Labour badly. MP David Chaytor (who tiresomely predicted "Vietnam Mark II") said

"Certainly there is a serious threat that the Labour Party would be split down the middle if the government pushed ahead with its support for the US."

That so many MPs should be so open in their comments this early is indicative of how deep the split is. No party in British history has been as controlled as New Labour. This is getting close to a Fort Sumter.

Immigration Woes

I got up at 5am this morning to get to the local INS office at 6:30. I was finally seen at 12:15, and the process (a passport stamp to say that I am a legal permanent [well, for 10 years] resident) took 4, count 'em, 4 minutes. It was an emotional experience, and I'm thinking of writing it up. Watch this space. As of now, work, lunch and exhaustion are all vying for space in my mind. Later.

Thursday, March 07, 2002

Excellent, Cyber-leader

Now I've come down from trashing 5 studies in the course of 24 hours, I decided to take the Rum & Monkey Giant Robot test.

Which Colossal Death Robot Are You?

Gigantor, hmmm? I answered as close as I could to the Cyber Controller's character as I could. Not far off, it seems.

"You belong to uzzzz... You will be like uzzzz..."

Much better than "You will be assimilated," don't you think?

One to watch for

YouGov are running one of their online surveys, for a Sunday newspaper, I'd imagine. This is going to be an interesting one, as it asks questions about British attitudes towards America re the war, Gitmo and the steel decision (hawk, spit). YouGov use internet surveys, which they then adjust to take account of the demographic skewing of their audience. So far, whenever they've had anything to compare their results, eg election results, they've been spot on. I happen to think this is more luck than judgement, but we'll see. There does seem to be a high proportion of Guardian readers and "educators" among those who take part in these polls, so it'll be really interesting to see the results of this one. I'd encourage any readers of this blog who have a British post code to sign up for the YouGov panel.

By the way, did you know that the post code for Parliament is SW1A 0AA, or that for the Department of Transport is SW1P 4DR?


After several hours' silence, the reason. I have a new article, Polluting the Debate, up on Tech Central Station. It's an instant reaction to the study linking pollution and early deaths that graced the front page of yesterday's Washington Post. Hope it's informative.

Wednesday, March 06, 2002

Some progress on the site front...

I now have a shell site for my various web bits. Iain Murray Online is at www.iainmurray.org. My new e-mail is, accordingly, iain@iainmurray.org.

I hope everything will progress from here.


For the lack of posts today. I've been working on responses to the pollution study mentioned in today's Washington Post, cold fusion, and this gun study for my work newsletter. I'll try to post what I'm saying here.

Last month's newsletter has only just come out, but go there if you want to see some good stuff on why Pat Buchanan is a fool, why a recent DoD decision on Gulf War Syndrome is silly and why there are -2000 illegal Irish immigrants in the US.

Well it confirms I'm Anglo-American...

I followed Ben Sheriff's link to the TotL.net Human Virus Scanner and got the following results:

Viruses you suffer from:
USA - Rule, Britannia! Britannia rule the waves! [repeat]
Junkfood - Eat some real food. Something which you can identify the source of every ingredient, not the point of manufacture.
Sci-fi - Stop wearing the stick-on ears.
Cthulhu - Read some Enid Blyton.
Gaming - Life is not a game. Roll 3D6. On a 4 or more go out and do something with your life.
BBCB - CTRL-Break, and get a real computer. Repeat: "Mode 7 was not a good thing."
Religion - Read "God's Debris" by Scott Adams (yes, the Dilbert guy)
8-Bit - Polygons, all the polygons you can get are not enough.
British - No need for cure. Benign virus.
Discordia - Buy a suit. Invest your money. Eat hotdog buns on a friday.
Politics - Stop caring!
Conspiracy Theory - Face it, the elected government is in control. Actually that's quite scary.
Environmentalism - Consume more stuff! It's easier to buy new stuff than to recycle.
Football - Do something unhealthy and indoors, away from the Bears.

Viruses you might suffer from:
Brand Names (80%) - Having a well-known name doesn't make it good.
Computer Games (80%) - Stop staring at the screen and get some fresh air. You should see a doctor about the RSI in your thumbs.

Now that's me a few years ago all over. Strange how BBC Basic came unbidden back into my mind...

Jeffords in negative

A Labour MEP has defected to the Conservative Party! That's the first time since Reg Prentice in the '70s. His reasons are here. I have more on this over on Tory Revival.

Collapse of Britain Watch

More transport strikes. If there's one thing that really disrupts Britain and gets up the nose of the average voter, it's transport strikes. Gas is so expensive and the road system so inadequate at city level at least that anyone who works in a central business district has to use public transport.

Tuesday, March 05, 2002

An important point

Michael Gove's excellent examination of Africa continues in The Times. He makes a very important point here:

The pressure which the West can bring to bear on Mbeki, and in turn on Mugabe, is however compromised by our own moral myopia towards Africa. It pains me to say that British attention, and the particular focus of conservative commentators, on Zimbabwe to the exclusion of other African atrocities, diminishes our ethical authority. Because Mugabe has, among his targets, the 60,000 or so whites who still live in Zimbabwe, that nation’s plight receives disproportionate notice compared with the many other democratic and human rights abuses, only some of which I had space to list above.

Michael is right. We should be as interested in Uganda as we are in Zimbabwe. That goes especially for the USA, which doesn't even have the blood-relative connection to Zimbabwe Britain has.

Why so keen, Pat?

Pat Buchanan makes a huge logical leap in his USA Today editorial, As Europe fades away, USA will have to go it alone. He says,

If America intends war against Bush's "axis of evil," do not expect French, British or German troops marching up to Baghdad beside us, or standing with us as we confront Tehran.

I can believe the French and German point, but why conclude that about the Brits? Especially when we're bombing Iraqi positions on a daily basis now, and when Jack Straw has been threatening Saddam with having to face the consequences of his actions. We all know what that means.

Buchanan's evidence that we won't step up to the plate seems to be i) that there were race riots in the UK last summer (errr...) and ii) the Irish question caused rifts between the UK and US in the 19th century. Pretty slim grounds for the conclusion, wouldn't you say?

Of course, if Blair stabs America in the back, Buchanan will be able to say "told you so," but I don't think that's likely. That would be the stupidest decision by a British PM since Heath took us into the EEC.

The big decision for Blair

It was the "comedian," Mark Thomas, who issued the "fatwa" on George W. Bush. Thanks to all those who let me know this.

One of my British-based correspondents, Mark Weinberg, added the following:

I too am livid about it, and the Guardian, and the Mirror, and the Independent, and Fisk, and Pilger etc. There's just a lack of critical thought on much of the left right now. It seems only able to define itself by what it is against, rather than what is for. Claiming you're "for humanity", "for the children", "for a better world", "for peace", or whatever other nonsense the Left is selling is easy. Doing something about it is not. The Left is unable to offer up anything constructive, or even introspective, while simultaneously appearing hopelessly self-absorbed - no mean feat.

On Blair: as an American (a New Yorker), I'm deeply grateful for Blair's - and the UK's - support. He certainly seems way out in front of Labour on this one. As a London resident (four years now) who takes the tube daily, I can't help but wonder why Blair can't get his domestic act together? Do I really need to read another story on The Dome? Mandelson? On Byers? The Dome again? On a phantom Euro referendum? Posh and Becks? (kidding, I can't blame that on him.)

Last thing - as much as some of the local press appears iredeemably anti-american, I perceive little of this from my colleagues, friends and business contacts. From this I surmise that The Guardian represents the average Londoner's opinion in the way that Maureen Dowd or Frank Rich represent my own. That is to say - not in the least.

The point about the left only defining itself by what it is against (or in favor of airy-fairy generalities and platitudes) is interesting. This was the problem with conservatives for too long. But there are signs, on both sides of the pond, that this has changed. Has the political pendulum swung?

And if so, are we seeing Tony Blair, who seems glued to the mechanism, swinging with it? I've said before, and I'll say it again, that his decision on what Britain will do when (not if) the USA attacks Iraq will be the most important decision made by a British Prime Minister since Heath took us into the EEC. I think the correct decision may change British electoral politics forever, with Blair forced to ally himself with the Tories.

Here's my reasoning:

New Labour is, of course, a coalition, and there are three immediately identifiable factions:

- the Blairites, who are "visionary populists" ie they want to change the world/ Britain, but will only do things that have public support, which they identify via focus groups. Their foreign policy is driven by Blair's desire to be a player on the world stage, so they are equally happy backing the US and saying nice things about the Euro. They have some figures of substance beside Blair (eg Blunkett) but are mostly ciphers -- the "Blair Babes" spring to mind. Stephen Byers is a great example of the problem this causes;

- the "socialists", led by Gordon Brown, who are reconstructed class warriors/ wealth redistributors, who recognize that certain classic tactics such as massive tax increases and unrestricted union power will hobble them again, although they realise that strikes can be an effetcive weapon if targeted properly. (This is the faction that controls Scotland); and

- the "Marcusians," the Chomsky-Sontag-Fisk-Pilger style "liberals," middle-class paternalist peacenik intellectuals who think they know best. They are the most restive at the moment. One of these, Paul Marsden, has already defected to the Liberals.

From what I can see, the party is about equally split between these three factions. The Blairites and Marcusians both possess large numbers of MPs is what were once marginal seats. The Socialists have a large showing in Scotland, and will therefore lose out when the number of seats there is reduced.

I can see this coalition splitting soon. Brown is, by all accounts, increasingly unhappy with Blair's policies. The Marcusians are in a very stroppy mood. I can see things coming to a head if the US attacks Iraq. If Blair supports the US, as I believe he will, there could be a formal split, with the Marcusians joining the Lib Dems, possibly in enough numbers to form the official opposition. This would at least formally identify the Lib Dems as left-liberal rather than centrist, which should benefit the Tories electorally.

This might, in turn strengthen Brown's hand, possibly driving Blair to seek to form a National Government with the Tories (this would seem reasonable if he is to commit British troops) to balance Brown's position. Depending on how things go, I can see another formal split happening. I imagine Blair would retain the label "Labour," but the rump party would be more like the wet Tories with a pinkish internationalist fringe than anything else.

Just a few thoughts, but I don't think its too outlandish to imagine the map of British electoral politics very different in a few years time.

Three Cheers

... for the Telegraph for receiving a Winston Smith award for their defence of freedom. As their editorial today, Freedom's enemies, makes clear, that's not an easy task.

One thing that occurs to me is that the collective name for the government of the English republic was "The Keepers of Liberty." Of course, Cromwell threw that out of the window, but it would be nice to see the principle acknowledged again.

A Beacon of Hope

Civitas: the Institute for the Study of Civil Society has revamped its website. They are perhaps the only think tank in the UK whose work reflects the knowledge gained from the social revolution and culture wars here in the US. I can only hope they grow in influence.

Collapse of Britain Watch

Meet the Young Offender, soon to be burgling a house near you.

How can Britain deal with these predators?

1. Restore the right to self-defense in the home, allowing use of extreme force in the defense of property. That will deter burglars right away.

2. Build more prisons, recruit more warders and incarcerate more violent offenders, regardless of age. That will at least get them off the streets. Education programs inside prisons might give them enough communications skills for a job in a service industry.

3. Give head teachers the power they need to discipline these offenders within the school, up to and including expulsion. Expelled pupils who cannot find a school willing to take them should be required to attend schools based on a tough love principle, whether they be charitable establishments or an updated form of Borstal. Teach them in a manner that appeals to rather than offends their masculinity; if that means single-sex schools, so be it.

4. Serious policing reform based on local accountability, which should lead to increased numbers of police on the streets operating a broken windows policy -- a far more effective deterrent than CCTV.

5. Encourage the formation of stable family units by strengthening the institution of marriage.

Perhaps it would help if every police office, judge and social worker in the UK read Melanie Phillips' America's Social Revolution. Before coming here I would have been sceptical of every one of those ideas. Now I've seen the evidence I'd say they were undeniable.

Collapse of Britain Watch

Transport strikes are already a given this year. Now London teachers have voted to strike, over a pretty minor issue. I would not be surprised if there was a Summer of Discontent this year.

Scissors and Paste

There are good things in the Observer occasionally. I wholeheartedly agree with The re-vision thing, an article on the increasing tendency of historians and biographers to rely on secondary sources and to omit notes.

History is going through something of a popular revival, at least in the UK. I think that this sloppy scholarship is tied to it. Because we don't learn anything about history proper in school any more, we don't learn about proper historic method. We are therefore confused by notes and cannot tell the difference in value between a primary and a secondary source. The ancients went through a similar phase. After the glories of Herodotus and Thucydides, most historians simply cut and pasted what previous historians had written. It took Polybius to restore history to being a more valuable, yet still popular, activity. We've already learnt that William Hague was no Pitt. Now it seems he is no Polybius either.

Monday, March 04, 2002

Dissent? Not here, comrade

The anti-war Left in the UK has gone too far. This telegraph story relates how respected old Lefties like John Lloyd and David Marquand have found that there is no room for dissent in the pages of The New Statesman or The London Review of Books.

John Lloyd, a former editor of the New Statesman as well as a regular contributor, became so disgusted by the magazine's "ferociously anti-American coverage" and its savage criticism of Tony Blair for backing Washington that he wrote a letter for publication denouncing it.

In his letter, Mr Lloyd said the magazine's failure to advance any kind of alternative to the war on terrorism meant it had opted to "abdicate criticism and analysis for denunciation and cynicism".

He noted that the New Statesman had a long record of getting important issues wrong, such as its past belief that Stalin was a great leader and that Hitler should be appeased. "It is now tending to follow and confirm a fashion on the Left that America is the source of world evils and that New Labour is a servile failure," he wrote.

The Statesman refused to publish his letter.

But all that pales into insignificance besides this little revelation. Unfortunately, the NS doesn't let anyone except subscribers read its columnists online, so I shall have to ask someone who pays for this squalid little rag to send me the identity of the columnist and an exact quote:

In the current issue, one columnist offers his New Statesman earnings to anyone who will kill President Bush though, given the notorious stinginess of the magazine's payments, that is unlikely to prove a tempting offer.

Forget the whimsy. This is serious stuff. Incitement to kill the President of the world's foremost democracy is a serious offence, to my mind. I hope the Crown Prosecution Service is taking steps to have this idiot apprehended.

Doubtless he'd claim his right to freedom of expression was being violated, and he was the victim.

The way of all spam

Jones Web site yanked after flood of e-mail, reports the Sacramento Bee. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear...

Hit parade

While Bravenet's down, I've followed Natalie's lead and got a beseen.com counter. I'd had approximately 38,000 hits before I lost touch with Bravenet, so I'm starting from a guess...

More on Afghan casualties

Mike Fumento points me to a recent NRO article of his I wish I'd seen before I wrote the piece: "No Straight Shooters." As always with Mike's stuff, it is real straight shooting.

Well, Quick and Dodge will know who I'm talking about...

Gasp. Neil Gaiman has a blog, of sorts.

BTW, doesn't Quick and Dodge sound like a detective agency created by Alan Moore?

Montesquieu, we are with you

Great article in the WSJ Europe (link requires subscription, I'm afraid) on EU Competition Commissioner Mario Monti's desire for more investigative powers. The WSJE reminds us of the idea of separation of powers and comments,

Mr. Monti's competition fief already fails this test, as we've noted on a number of occasions. Mr. Monti already conducts his "dawn raids" in cartel and price-fixing cases, and the justification for these raids, according to the European Court of Justice, can only be challenged at the European level. No judge or independent arbiter reviews Mr. Monti's decision to conduct surprise inspections; the decision to do so lies entirely with him. The evidence thus collected is then evaluated by his regulators, who build a case and then serve as judges of that case in turn.

The right of appeal is attenuated by the lack of an efficient court system in which to challenge the verdict. In merger cases, such an appeal can take years to be heard, and so can hardly be made under the time constraints demanded by the business world. And while Mr. Monti's final verdict may be appealed to the Court of Justice in Luxembourg, the damage may already have been done by then if a business has had its operations disrupted by a years-long investigation by the Commission.

It would seem, then that Mr. Monti's powers need rather to be checked than enhanced. The obvious answer is to require Mr. Monti to submit his request for a search to a judge, as prosecutors and police do in many countries. Which judge? The same Luxembourg court is the obvious candidate, although the Commission maintains that member states don't like that idea. Judges in the relevant member state are the next option, although they are not necessarily experts on EU law, and perhaps shouldn't be expected to be.

There may be no perfect solution, especially in an EU in which the "executive branch" -- the Commission -- tries its own cases. The creation of a full-fledged EU judiciary doesn't seem like an attractive option. But as the EU's would-be architects sit down to craft a more perfect union under Mr. Giscard d'Estaing's eye, they'd do well to bear in mind some of the lessons bought at great price by their forbears. The separation of powers made good sense in 1741. It does so today as well.

'Nuff said.

Riddell me this

Gary Farber's Amygdala has a great post up taking down Mary Riddell, one of the Grauniad's chief idiotarians. The rest of his stuff is pretty good too.

The casualty controversy

My latest Tech Central Station column, Casualties of the Press, is up. It covers my review of the Afghan civilian casualty numbers. Hope you find it interesting.

The ongoing struggle

The latest news from Gardez is not good. In so many ways, we need to keep the war on the front pages, but this is not the way I like to see that happen.

Greatest living Indian: Sachin Tendulkar?

Well, it's him or Vidia Naipaul. It says a lot that, in such a huge country, sportsmen and novelists are who we think of, while the politicians are pygmies by comparison. That's essentially the message of the Kolkata Libertarian, Suman Palit, in his comments on Jim Bennett's Indian piece. His analysis of the difference between an Indian Anglosphere, based on liberty, democracy and free markets (I would add the Rule of Law), and an Englishsphere based on snobbery and exclusivity is pretty accurate I would say.

My take on Indian history since the British era is that the era of trade and liberty championed by Hastings, which ended with the Mutiny, laid solid foundations which the more command-centred Victorian Raj did not destroy. Unfortunately, the Raj left an easy legacy for the Congress Party to exploit in its socialist experimentation. As Sulman says, the increased education and wealth that will come about as globalization progresses can only help to dismantle that element of Indian society. And because it has the foundations of basic civil society, liberties and the rest, India will be much better placed to become a dominant power than Russia. That country has a lot of catching up to do, although, as Peter the Great showed, it is perfectly capable of doing it.

UPDATE: It's SUMAN Palit, not Sulman. The implications of my dyslexia are dreadful. I apologize whole-heartedly.

Sunday, March 03, 2002

The Anti-Bellesiles

Apparently Elizabeth historian David Starkey is earning top wages, inspiring jealousy from other members of his profession. The Telegraph points out the excellent precedents and suggests a solution to our woes:

Dr Starkey may, however, prefer to deal more robustly with the criticism from his peers. Perhaps he should use his wealth to endow a chair of invective, devoted to debunking self-important academics.

Who Guards the Guardian?

Next time you find yourself foaming at the mouth with fury at the latest smug inanity emanating from The Guardian, refer again to this Telegraph leader. Britons can sympathise, and we can help.

The EU: Plato's Cave

When the European Rapid Reaction Force was first mooted, some Continental bigwig said that even if they didn't get the necessary commitment from member governments, they would simply declare the force operational. That sort of pupeteering in Plato's cave is still going on, despite the urgency of the situation, This Telegraph leader bewails Britain's agreement to take part:

Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, [has worries], but on rather New Labourish grounds: "There would be a real risk that the EU's first mission would end in failure or rescue by a re-engaged Nato, which would be disastrous in presentational terms."

In other words, ministers know that the EU's defence force is likely to be hopeless. The only argument is a presentational one about whether we should none the less be seen to be part of it.

The traditional role of our Armed Forces - to defend these islands and project British force - is thus subordinated to the political goal of advancing Tony Blair's diplomatic interests in the EU.

The geopolitical implications of such a toothless tiger are obvious:

All it will do is transfer the lines of command to the EU's politico-military structures. At best, this is a pointless and expensive exercise in duplication; at worst, it will encourage the Americans to reduce their commitment to the Atlantic alliance.

The European nations remain almost wholly dependent on the United States for logistical support. The Americans provide Nato with air- and sea-lift capacity, accurate missiles, communications satellites and military computers.

Many Europeans are miffed by their own relative powerlessness. Oddly, though, they are unwilling to increase their defence budgets.

To make matters worse, much of Europe's depleted military spending goes on pointless joint projects such as the Eurofighter - schemes designed to make the EU more united rather than militarily stronger.

As the Telegraph concludes,

we can see where EU defence integration has led. We have committed ourselves to a scheme with nugatory military value - all for the sake of demonstrating our communautaire credentials.

A meaningful military alliance needs mutual commitment, compatability and capability (hm, alliterative or what?). There are several countries that can do this -- the US, Britain, Australia and Canada for instance. The ERRF has none of those necessary characteristics.

Saturday, March 02, 2002

Another Great Britblog

Well-known British political commentator and wit, Iain Dale, has started off his new blog -- Mr Dale's Political Diary -- today. Expect this to be one of the best places to go for inside news and good old-fashioned political gossip. His analysis of l'affaire Byers is spot-on, I think.

Kipling would have been proud

Jim Bennett's latest column is up and it's about India. Some important points about why India is in such an interesting position at the moment. I have often said that this may be the Indian Century. The legacy of Warren Hastings may yet bear fruit.

Friday, March 01, 2002

Isaiah PraiseGod Murray

Well, I did the religion test someone found (Howard, was it you?) and apparently I'm, erm, well...

1. Seventh Day Adventist (100%)
2. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (99%)
3. Eastern Orthodox (99%)
4. Roman Catholic (99%)
5. Orthodox Quaker (97%)
6. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (85%)
7. Orthodox Judaism (59%)
8. Liberal Quakers (59%)
9. Hinduism (57%)
10. Jehovah's Witness (55%)
11. Islam (54%)
12. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (50%)
13. Unitarian Universalism (50%)
14. Reform Judaism (46%)
15. Sikhism (41%)
16. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (39%)
17. Bahá'í Faith (38%)
18. Mahayana Buddhism (32%)
19. Scientology (31%)
20. Theravada Buddhism (31%)
21. Jainism (30%)
22. Neo-Pagan (30%)
23. New Thought (25%)
24. New Age (21%)
25. Secular Humanism (20%)
26. Nontheist (16%)
27. Taoism (12%)

The title, by the way, refers to the Puritan activist Isaiah PraiseGod Barebones, who had two sons, Christ Came Into The World To Save Barebones and Christ Died On The Cross Else Thou Hadst Been Damned Barebones (I'm doing this from memory, so this may be slightly wrong). After the Restoration, one of his sons changed his name to Nicholas Barbon and invented Fire Insurance...

I'm Church of England, by the way. And pretty Low Church at that...

Something for the Weekend

(A Divine Comedy song I can't get out of my head at the moment). As usual, expect fairly light posting over the weekend (this is beginning to sound like a Michael Fish weather report), but if I get the chance I shall be posting my initial thoughts on the two recent gun studies -- the one that claims children die from gun deaths more in states where there are more guns, and the one that claims that a ban on Saturday Night Specials reduced homicides in Maryland. They're both a bit fishy, I think.

Political Spam

I was pleased to see that Ginger Whiteley, like I (and others) did, received an electoral e-mail from Bill Jones, currently Secretary of State of California and a distant third in the primary race for Republican candidate for Governor.

He's destined to remain there if this is any indication of his political machine. It told me I was receiving this e-mail based on my voter demographics. That's a stupid thing to say for a start, but when you consider that I am a) a resident of the Commonwealth of Virginia and b) not even a citizen, you begin to realize just how stupid this is.

I (heart) NY Bloggers

Andrew Hofer's More Than Zero is just great at the moment. Check out in particular his economics post (on how TNR fails economics 101) and his take on The West Wing. Top blog!

Blairite priorities

Mick Hume asks the question

what kind of party believes that the way to revive interest in politics is through a row about how best to control vermin in the countryside?

Any answers, Mr Blair?

PS I regularly find myself typing Balir rather than Blair. Does that strike anyone else as being a trifle, well, demonic?

The Nationalization of Student Life

It had to happen. The idea of students borrowing money to pay for college is unpopular in the UK. Therefore, local authorities pay for tuition and the Government gives the poorer students grants for living expenses. But the Government disapproves of the way students are spending the money. Surely soon it will transpire that poorer students will have been completely nationalized, having to submit audited accounts to the Department for Education.

That debt idea may not seem so unattractive in the future.

Stratospheric Boredom

A poor Peter Simple column this week (by Wharton's own high standards) is relieved by his final entry:

SIR Vidia Naipaul, probably our greatest living English writer, has long been considered for nomination as a tutelary hero of this column.

At a recent literary festival in India, held to celebrate his Nobel prize for literature, he had to listen as two Indian lady writers droned on about colonial and gender oppression. At last he had enough.

"My life is short. I can't listen to banality. This thing about colonialism, this thing about gender oppression, the very word oppression wearies me. If writers talk about oppression, they don't do much writing."

Among many wonderful people and wonderful things, India produces some staggeringly gifted bores of galactic quality. Naipaul's way of dealing with these people makes his nomination as columnar hero even more likely. Whether he would want it is, of course, another matter.

It is a pity Wharton is heading towards BOFTY status himself in his dreadfully unfunny vituperations about the war on terrorism.


Believe it or not, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that
courts martial breach the European Convention on Human Rights. As a result, the British Army and the RAF have suspended them, because any appeal against them will automatically succeed. The Navy has a loophole.

The Telegraph rightly condemns the decision. The ECHR has many get-out clauses, but the armed forces don't appear there. The ECHR has outlived its usefulness as far as Britain is concerned. We should get back to first principles and replace the Human Rights Act with a real Second Bill of Rights.

What is Blairism?

Good question. As Alice Thompson makes clear, even Tony himself doesn't know.

And the person who exposed this was a Kantian. The Telegraph's leader writers make hay with that.


From this story it looks like Daniel Pearl's murderers were a careless as well as heartless bunch. If FBI investigators are helping, I'd imagine they'll be tracked down sooner rather than later.

Thursday, February 28, 2002


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

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

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

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

Cricket: some pointers

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

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


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

Finally, the Wolf has come back to Prospect

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

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

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

At Last Part Deux

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

At last

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

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

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

Death and the Canadian

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

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

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

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

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

Evil Quiz

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

Wednesday, February 27, 2002

Drunk with power

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

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

Social Studies That Flunk The Truth Test

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mottram's Insight

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

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

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

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

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

Indeed. Bagehot himself could not have put it better.

New Blog Alert

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

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

A case study in established religion

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

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

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

The other Rand

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


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

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

The more alert among you...

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

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

London's Police Farce

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


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

Murray in "expert" shocker

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

Tuesday, February 26, 2002

Anglo-German Relations II

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

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

It goes on

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

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

Relatively Speaking

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

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

Devils and Details

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 25, 2002


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Column Up

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

Sunday, February 24, 2002

Leftie in lack of discernment shocker

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

a thought-inducing critique of modern society.

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

Family Guy: the cartoon as vile swill.

The real source of exceptionalism

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

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

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

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