England's Sword 2.0

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Blair has a lot to answer for


Tim, that is, not Tony. He has inspired The OmbudsGod, a site for those who find newspaper ombudsmen just as wrong as the papers themselves. Finally, the answer to Juvenal's question...

Ouch


Michael Gove takes a break from being right about geopolitics to comment on the possibility that Mick Jagger is being offered a knighthood. Even the blogosphere own rock correspondent, Andrew Dodge, should agree with the sentiments expressed, but it does include on of the most egregious play on words I've seen for a long time:

In accepting his K, Jagger is acknowledging that monarchy and meritocracy do mix and incarnating what every Rolling Stone has long known — there’s nothing wrong with a hard, crazed, knight.


It's enough to make you have sympathy for, errr, who was it again ..?

Asses, fact-checking of


Martin Wisse takes me to task for my post about Mrs Duisenberg below. I certainly didn't intend to say that flying the Palestinian flag was the same as joing the Waffen SS, and I think it takes a little bit of misreading to get that meaning from it, but I think Martin's overall point is probably valid and so I withdraw it.

Now initially, I was going to delete the post. Is it, however, more ethical to leave it up with a link to this post? I'd like to hear views.

The Padilla Problem


Eugene Volokh has some very interesting points about the civil liberties aspects of the Padilla detention. This is the most important, I feel:

One important question to which I haven't seen the answer: Will there be some civilian court screening of whether there's indeed very strong evidence to think that a detainee really is an enemy combatant, and thus properly subject to military detention and perhaps (if he's a noncitizen, or if he's a citizen and the rules are changed) military trial? It's one thing to say "enemy soldiers must be subject to military law" -- but quite another to say "people, including U.S. citizens, who are believed by the military to be enemy soldiers must be subject to military law," especially when we leave the easy case of soldiers captured on the field of battle.


Indeed. I think at the very least a judge should determine whether there are grounds for treating someone as an enemy combatant. Otherwise, as they say, who knows where it might end.

Dirty Bombs and Paper Tigers


I've got a quick piece up on dirty bombs at Tech Central Station. It concludes that dirty bombs aren't particularly deadly, and that may be their strength...

Gordon Brown knew my father


In a magnificent article, Labour MP Frank Field dissects the difference between Gordon Brown's tax credit system and Lloyd George's national insurance revolution. Bottom line: Brown is trapping people in dependency, while Lloyd George helped pull people out of a pit. Field is a master in this area. No wonder Tony Blair sacked him.

Hegemony


I've often thought that the modern world bears many parallels to ancient Greece. For years there was a standoff between two great rivals -- Athens and Sparta -- but it ended in one of them becoming Hegemon of Greece. Unfortunately for the Spartans, some disastrous foreign adventures and domestic problems led to them ignoring the rise of a former ally, Thebes, who eventually challenged Sparta and defeated her, becoming Hegemon in her place (they were then crushed by Macedon -- every historical analogy has a breaking point). Could Europe be America's Thebes? If so, Tod Lindberg seems pretty sure President Bush isn't going to allow it. Analyzing the President's West Point speech, he writes:

As Mr. Bush noted, in a statement that is sobering if not chilling in its implications, "America has, and intends to keep, military strengths beyond challenge — thereby making the destabilizing arms races of other eras pointless, and limiting rivalries to trade and other pursuits of peace." What Mr. Bush is saying here is that the United States will never allow a "peer competitor" (in the international relations lingo) to arise. We will never again be in a position of "superpower rivalry," let alone a cog in a multilateral balance of power. The current vast imbalance in power promotes peace most effectively because it teaches governments that any aspirations they might have to pursue war are "pointless."


Was the West Point speech a warning to Europe just as the Berlin speech was an encouragement? I hope the chancellries of Europe are taking note.

Profiling folly


Josh Chafetz comments on the arrest of Jose Padilla that it proves the folly of racial profiling as a solution in the war against Islamists. I agree. You can't profile Arabs, because, bluntly, 2/3 of them in the US are Christian and unlikely to be threats. That also ignores non-Arab Iranians and Pakistanis who have a history of involvement in terror. And what about possible terrorists who are UK or US citizens, like Reid and Padilla? The only possible profiling tool is not racial, but religious. And, as Andrew Sullivan has pointed out, the Anglosphere has gone down that road before, in very similar circumstances (members of a religion that owes some allegiance to a body other than the constitutional settlement of their country, a body that is both wealthy and desirous of seeing the constitution destroyed for some reason). The results were not happy, and we're still seeing people die because of it in Northern Ireland, 3-400 years later.

As I've said before, racial profiling is too blunt a tool to use in these investigations. But fear of being accused of using it has obviously been a positive hindrance. Both sides should agree to drop using it in either sense, for the common good.

Is this why Blair is so behind the US?


Interesting revelation on CBS news last night (yes, I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but bear with me):

CBS (6/10, story 10, Rather) reports, "The foremost English-speaking expert on" Al Qaeda, "in an exclusive interview...reveals tonight that Al Qaeda's original 9/11 plan included more targets and more destruction." CBS (Phillips) adds that Rohan Gunaratna's "new book, 'Inside Al Qaeda,' will be published later this week. Among its other revelations is the fact that the September 11th attacks were supposed to be even bigger, targeting the British Houses of Parliament as well, in an international display of terrorism's reach, and attacking them in the same way." Gunaratna was shown saying, "This team assembled at the Heathrow airport on 9/11 to conduct an airborne suicide attack on the Houses of Parliament." CBS adds, "But, Gunaratna says, the Al Qaeda operatives hadn't planned on one contingency: That after the US attacks all flights would be grounded." Gunaratna was shown saying, "The Al Qaeda team that went to Heathrow Airport had to return because there were no flights taking off. ... The testimony of this man, Afroz Mohammed, is cited as proof of the planned attack. He was arrested in India after fleeing Britain and, in an Indian security services document obtained by CBS News, admitted to the hijack plan. In his research, Gunaratna studied intelligence documents, and had rare access to serving and former members of Osama bin Laden's organization. ... What Gunaratna says he's learned, and what American intelligence failed to understand, is Al Qaeda's 'lose and learn' doctrine. It was prepared to lose terrorists like Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, the 1993 World Trade Center bomber, in order to learn how to carry out the attack successfully the next time. And, Gunaratna says, Al Qaeda is still operating and still planning."


If this is the case, then all those who say that Britain does not have a dog in this fight are once again categorically wrong. Britain has always been regarded as the Little Horn of the Great Satan, and is therefore just as likely to be a target as the US. It looks like American action saved Britain from a humanitarian, cultural and political disaster. Once again, Britain owes the USA.

Katzman among the pigeons


Joe Katzman over at Winds of Change has a comprehensive look at dirty nukes, although I still think he should have linked to Fred Singer's piece. In addition, if you're interested in the different effects that various isotopes would have, look at this article by a former Nuclear submarine engineer. All those definitive articles you've been reading saying that Strontium-90 would be the isotope of choice appear to be categorically wrong.

Of course, it does appear from recent revelations that Al Qa'eda are stupid, and just got phenomenally lucky once. They might therefore go for Strontium-90 because it's what the papers are telling them to use...

Monday, June 10, 2002

Dirty young men


Bet that headline will get a few google hits. Anyone who's worried about 'dirty nukes' in the light of today's developments should read this excellent editorial by veteran scientist Fred Singer. Simply put,

A dirty bomb makes no practical sense. To produce significant radioactivity over an area of, say, one square mile, the concentration within a small bomb would have to be roughly 10 million times greater and would quickly kill the terrorists trying to assemble the material. The radioactivity also creates large amounts of heat energy, sufficient to melt most containers. What's more, any such bomb would be easy to detect at long distance if it emits gamma rays. We therefore conclude that a dirty bomb is mostly hype.


A paper tiger, indeed.

Zero-sum game?


Illuminating claim made by the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman in the latest Lobby Briefing:

Unemployment figures had been falling, which was a good thing not least because as the bills of social failure went down it meant we had more money to spend on public services, for example.


I would hope a future Tory government would say "which was a good thing not least because it meant the Government needed to take less money from taxpayers, which they could then spend on boosting the economy."

If only...

Cat among the pigeons


U.S. Arrests American Accused of Planning 'Dirty Bomb' Attack. Despite being an American citizen, he's been given to the Defense Department as an 'enemy combatant'. They're claiming this is a clear-cut case. It doesn't look that way to me. Now if we'd actually declared war against Al Qa'eda, like sensible people have been suggesting for some time...

Anyway, the other main question is: did this man actually possess any radioactive substances? That's a biggie.

GM Works


The world's best science writer, Matt Ridley, takes apart Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger's junk science drama Fields of Gold (coming soon to a PBS station near you, I'm sure) in this Telegraph article. As Matt says,

The truth is, the greens have lost the argument about GM crops in every country where there is a fair fight. Last year, five million farmers grew GM crops, up from three million the year before. Only by destroying the test sites in this country can terrorists and their organic fellow travellers suppress the truth and keep up the pretence that GM is bad for the environment.

Where GM crops have been planted, the use of sprays has gone down dramatically and the effect on birds and insects has been positive. If only the organic movement had been less blinkered, it could have seen that genetic modification was its saviour, not its devil. It threatens to replace conventional, chemical-using agriculture with a constitutive, biological and therefore, by definition, organic form of farming.


The enviros' tactics in all this seem eerily reminiscent of the Church's in suppressing the early scientists of the renaissance. They're attempting to stop the truth getting out by violence, insinuation, abuse of legal authority and propaganda. They'll fail.

PP: Tom Fox comments on the Green movement in France.

Edukashun, edukashun, edukashun


The Daily Telegraph's leader Stop meddling with schools makes a lot of sense. Its recipe for a new education policy concords with mine:

The first thing is to take Mr Miliband's one good idea - less government intervention - as far as it can go. Pare the vast expenditure of local education authorities right back, or even get rid of them altogether.

Let head teachers control their own spending. Keep teacher training to the classroom and make huge savings on teacher-training institutions. Tear up the national curriculum. Get rid of the Orwellian bodies - the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and the Standards and Effectiveness Unit - that do little to maintain standards.

As Chris Woodhead recommends in his book Class War, the Government should have nothing more to do with schools after funding them, except to assess their performance and let parents examine those assessments. The picture of education in this country need not be one of gloom and despair.


Most important of these suggestions, I think, is the one about teacher-training institutions, which seem to be Marcusian indoctrination camps, spreading failed ideas and prejudicing young would-be teachers against proven but unfashionable methods.

The national curriculum should also go. It was introduced because a few teachers were offering "Peace Studies." As such, it is the biggest sledgehammer used to crack a nut I've ever seen. It was also one of the biggest mistakes the Conservative government ever made and a disgraceful abuse of its power. It destroyed the teaching of classics, and other valuable subjects besides. My blood boils whenever I think about it.

I also fundamentally agree with the suggestion that Universities should tear themselves free from the tyranny of government funding. Oxford has been looking at ways to become fully independent. I hope they succeed.

Not for Eurocrats


TechCentralStation :: EUROPE is here! Brussels bureaucrats need to go elsewhere. Perhaps TechnoCratStation is beckoning...

Hic!


My latest TCS column is up. It's about the dreadfully contrived figures for alcohol-related deaths on campus. If the position is bad enough, why inflate the figures? This sort of disingenuity can only turn people off your cause.

Friday, June 07, 2002

The seat of power


IDS seems to have got it exactly right in his Times op/ed today:

The Centre Right has a responsibility to ... reassert our values and press them into the service of those whose need is greatest. That means trusting people, not second-guessing them. It means understanding that communities are made by men and women, they are not man-made. It means understanding that better schools and hospitals and more responsive local government come from giving teachers, doctors, nurses and councillors the power to do their jobs and making them accountable for what they do.


I would suggest that education, health and local services commissioners (heck, look what happened to Homer Simpson when he was elected sanitation commissioner), appointed by elected mayors or even directly elected themselves is precisely the way to do that. Councillors should hold the purse strings but not the executive power. Who knows, if separated powers work on a local level, they might even work on the national level...

At it again?


I've often heard it said that the most enthusiastic members of the SS were Dutch. I've never been particularly convinced by this line of argument as most Dutchmen I've met have been pretty liberal in the true sense of the word. Here's evidence that might make me change my mind, however. Then again, I'm sure Mrs Duisenberg counts herself more European than Dutch.

PP: I withdraw the above post, for the reasons stated here.

They don't know when to stop, do they


Glenn has already pointed to the god-awful Captain Euro, but if you can tear your eyes away from his silly hat, just take a look at the members of his "team," especially the lovely EUROPA:

As Europa, she combined her expertise in the Gaeia theory and her love of the natural world to become a committed environmentalist. Inside the ATOMIUM, Europa leads all environmental research and ocean wildlife protection projects from the ENVIRONMENTAL SPHERE.


Yes, two idiocies for the price of one.

And the enemy, obviously a Euroskeptic, is Dr. D. Vider (!!!) who runs a travelling circus of evil. I kid you not.

One last post on footie and that's it, I promise


Brendan O'Neill has a poll up on the World Cup that is as scientifically valid as any other internet poll I've seen (and that includes YouGov).

Meanwhile, thanks to Peter Briffa and Chris Bertram for linking to this Independent column which says what I've been struggling to say for years:

And that's how it often is for sports fans, apologising and regretting and acknowledging it's ridiculous but "do you mind if I just catch the score on the teletext", in the same humble manner that you might say: "I know this isn't right but would it be alright if I nipped into your kitchen to warm up some crack?"

But now I've decided people who don't like sport are wrong. ... These types dismiss sport as "spoilt millionaires chasing a ball", but anything becomes meaningless once reduced to its component parts. If they went to a classical concert you could say: "What on earth do you see in a crowd of privileged people with nothing better to do than vibrate air by rubbing a stick against some string".

If someone said they had no interest in any music, it would be your duty to suggest they were missing out on a whole area of passion, excitement and culture. It's the same with sport, which has one unique quality over every other branch of culture: no one knows the result beforehand. Theatre has its qualities but you know with King Lear that eventually Gloucester's eyes are going to be put out. ... What the anti-sport people don't see is that the drama of sport flows from the compelling sub-plots that surround the game. One of the defining moments of history was when Ali knocked over Foreman, not for the quality of the punch but for the triumph of artistry, wit and rebellion.


Oh, and by the way, will anyone bet me that, if England do go on and win this, Blair won't come out and say, "Have you noticed we only win the World Cup under a Labour government"?

Anglospheric Sporting Assimilation


Here's an interesting snippet from the Telegraph's post match report:

Spirits were sky high in Leicester after the final whistle.

Teenager Kamaljit Singh Nagra, who led the crowd watching outside on a big screen, with the beat of his drum throughout the game, said he was delighted with the result.

The 16-year-old from Leicester said: "It was brilliant, the atmosphere was amazing. I think they will win the World Cup now. They have a good chance this year.


I don't know if he'd pass Norman Tebbitt's "cricket test," but this youngster certainly passes the Football Test.

Get in


Don't expect anything sensible from me today. After this I'm struggling not to metamorphose into "Harry Clarts -- Your Football Correspondent" and rename this site "The Inside of Beckham's Boot".

Haway the lads.

Thursday, June 06, 2002

Oh to be in England


Peter Briffa has a transcript of a conversation from "Big Brother," the reality series that flopped here but trounced Survivor in the UK. Now I understand why...

More evidence, if any was needed


Glenn Reynolds linked to this story with a harrumph that was audible all the way from Knoxville. But we're not all bad -- notice that the story says the MoD (who have jurisdiction for arms exports) was quite happy with the sale but it was the sheeps-eye-guzzlers at the FCO who blocked it.

Repeat after me: "Defence Ministries Good, Foreign Ministries Bad"...

Moral certainty


Hmmm. Ignore the reference to "the muderous antics of Sharon" and read the whole of Neil Clark's fisking of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. I'm not sure I agree with all his conclusions (there are some things that no culture worth the name would think as acceptable -- the Rwanda massacres, for instance -- and it's not just "politically correct" to think so), but it's worth a read. I like the end especially:

Auberon Waugh once predicted that ‘politically correct opinion’ would one day lead to the ‘advanced’ world invading Easter Island to stop the natives smoking in public. That may still be many years away, but unless the relentless progress of human-rights groups is checked, the prospect of the ‘advanced’ world imposing sanctions on a country not honouring an International Convention on Transsexual Rights may be considerably nearer.


And that, indeed, is the danger.

Well, everybody else is doing it. I was feeling a little odd...


:: how jedi are you? ::

Cato Redux


Dan Hannan is setting himself up alongside Patrick Henry and George Mason as the modern anti-federalist. This Spectator article explains why. He will, I hope, have more success than his forebears. Giscard is no Franklin, Dehaene no Hamilton and Kerr certainly no Madison. Their version of the Federalist Papers would be hundreds of thousands of words long, incomprehensible and insensitive to the arguments of their opponents. Get to it, Cato.

Bwah-ha-ha


Oh dear, it looks like France could be on the plane home. They have to beat Denmark -- who should have beaten Senegal -- to stand a chance of progressing, while the Danes, I think, only need a draw.

Meanwhile, if Cameroon beat Germany (given how unsure the Germans looked against Ireland, I can see that happening) and Ireland beat Saudi Arabia by more than 1 goal (should be easy given the aerial strength of the Irish), Germany will go home too, despite their 8-0 shellacking of the terror-sponsors.

Of course, England might well be going home too. When was the last time England, France and Germany all went out in the First Round?

Go Team USA!

PP: There's a remarkable bit of old-fashioned football writing on Teamtalk. The referee "doled out cards like confetti," neither team could "find the onion bag" and Recoba "saw the dollar signs and blasted his shot wide when he could have walked the ball over the whitewash." At the end of the day, Brian, that's what it's all about. I'm over the moon.

Monarch-u-like


Andrew Gimson continues his improvement. Coincidental to the discussion going on in the comments section here about the benefits of constitutional monarchy (I must write that bit about the disbenefits), he argues in the new Spectator that the Germans need a constitutional monarchy. His introduction is rather entertaining. After summarising Der Spiegel's less than gracious account of the monarchy, he returns fire with, shall we say, overwhelming force:

On occasions like this it is virtually impossible to restrain the editor of this magazine from clambering into the cockpit of his Lancaster bomber and heading off across the North Sea to give the Jerries hell. He knows quite well that many Britons, including some readers of this magazine, will think it is an insufferable cheek for the Germans to attack our beloved Queen. Who saved the Germans from fascism? Who saved most of the Germans from communism? Who led them in the ways of justice and truth after the war? Who bought Mannesmann? Who beat them 5–1 at football?

Germany, in the opinion of many Britons, is an insufferably dowdy country, inhabited by perpetual students with bumfluff moustaches and satanic fetishes, who cannot even get out of bed in the morning, who are alternately hysterical and depressed, and whose layabout lifestyle is paid for by a dwindling number of diligent metal-bashers who, unfortunately for them, are expert at manufacturing heavy goods for which there is less and less demand. The Germans are the second fattest people in the world, and yet the food is poor, the service in restaurants is unbelievably slow, the shops are shut half the time, the schools are mediocre, asylum-seekers are burnt alive in their hostels, the motorways are jammed, and only a few years ago one of their trains crashed killing 100 people, which makes Hatfield look like a tea party. German jokes are thin on the ground. As for that gangster Helmut Kohl, he was bankrolled by arms dealers and others who secretly handed his minions briefcases full of banknotes.

Far be it from me to seek to undermine the finest traditions of British journalism, or to disagree with much of the above, especially the bit about Mr Kohl, but I am an admirer of Germany and have many German friends, and what follows is written in sorrow rather than anger.


Gimson argues that, as with other European countries, there is a disconnect between the intelligentsia and the common man, leading to a general ignoring of the people's wishes. Nothing necessarily wrong with that, says Gimson, a good Burkean, but it is the reason for doing so that is worrying: the intelligentsia are terrified of being German. As a result, the policies they are following have been disastrous for that great nation:

At least Bismarck, the greatest brute of his age, knew how to write. This is more than can be said for a growing number of German 16-year-olds, who came well below the average in a survey of the 31 OECD countries. British children were the fourth highest achievers in science, with the Germans 16 places behind. Britain came seventh in maths and reading, well ahead of Germany. These surprising results are attributed to the increasing German reliance on half-day schooling, caused by the expense of full-time employment. Nor is the economy quite the force it was. Schroeder promised to get unemployment below 3.5 million by the end of his first term in September this year, and he will fail. Unemployment has been stuck on 10 per cent in Germany, while it is 3 per cent in this country. Germany has the lowest growth rate in the EU, and has lagged behind France and Britain since the mid-1990s. Economic freedom is crushed in Germany by regulation and by a vast welfare state paid for by taxes on jobs. Unemployment is inevitable until someone has the courage to make free-market reforms of the kind once introduced by Ludwig Erhard, but the political system favours immobility disguised as endless debate about what exactly needs to be done.


Gimson's modest proposal is that a constitutional monarchy without real power would act as a focus for patriotism without allowing it to become militaristic again. I'm not sure this would work, but it's an interesting suggestion and a useful analysis of just how far Germany has sunk in recent years.

Wednesday, June 05, 2002

View from one in million


Do you realise that 1 in every 60 people in Britain attended the Jubilee celebrations in London? That's to say nothing of the many more who will attend regional celebrations as the Queen tours the country. Interestingly, Joanne Jacobs' daughter, currently at Oxford, was one of them. Her letter about it to her Mother makes interesting reading (no permalink available, I'm afraid).

USA! USA!


Ho ho...

The Cops get Kopp


At last. Alleged murderer (not just an "anti-abortionist") James Kopp has finally been extradited from France to the US. I presume the Federal charge relates to violating the Doctor's civil rights. As for the death penalty issue, I'd like to see how France would react to him only facing the death penalty if it was required by a hate crime law...

Didn't Kirk and Spock discuss this?


My boss talked about this story so often I have always wanted to see it for myself, but he had begun to wonder whether it was a lost artifact of his use. Now, thanks to Charles Murtaugh, there is a link to Ursula LeGuin's The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas. I like to think I would have walked away. I wonder what our leaders would have done?

Past and Present


The Jubilee weekend certainly seems to have had an effect in the UK. As Alice Miles says, they've learnt that you don't have to forget the past to celebrate the present. The US knows that all too well, and the British did for centuries until the cult of modernity took over. Miles' most interesting observation, however, is in the last paragraph:

I wonder what [Her Majesty] thinks of the euro. I think we could make a pretty accurate guess. If the version of Britain presented this weekend — people of all ages coming together for a jolly good knees up to songs we can all sing along to — is the one people want, I’m not sure that this jubilee weekend hasn’t given the kiss of death to a euro referendum any time soon. If it comes to a contest between the Queen’s vision of Britain’s future and Mr Blair’s, she is well in the lead for now. There was nothing European about the weekend’s events. We had music and jokes from around the Commonwealth and the US, but not a squeak from Europe. The national mood may have demonstrated a belief in community, but not one with a European heart. No wonder the Prime Minister looked uncertain whether this was his sort of party or not.


Let this be a lesson to Chris Petain and his "euro-patriotist" fellow travelers. The greater British community includes siblings, children and cousins. It does not include the neighbors from Hell.

The benefits of constitutional monarchy


I've been meaning to write my thoughts on the monarchy for some days now, following the lively discussion between Brendan, Natalie and Peter. However, this is a good place to start looking at the benefits, as opposed to the costs, of constitutional monarchy. Indeed, to the Telegraph's list can be added the following about the United States:

* At least one bought election of the chief executive (Kennedy)
* One assasination of the chief executive
* One chief executive who abused his power so much he resigned rather than face impeachment.
* One chief executive who was impeached and who was essentially found guilty of perjury against the courts he swore to defend (which is surely also perjury).
* One election of the Chief Executive that was essentially decided by judicial fiat (whatever the rights and wrongs of the case, I thought its resolution deeply unsatisfactory).

In each of these cases, the supreme executive power of the United States has been imperilled to a greater or lesser degree. A prime benefit of constitutional monarchy is stability. The King never dies. I hope to advance my thoughts on other aspects of monarchy later.

Intelligent Design -- Unintelligent Tactics?


I have a pice up on TAP (Scientific Boehner) that is an expanded version of my argument against Intelligent Design being taught as part of the science curriculum.

That isn't to say I don't think the overall idea should be taught in schools. I think the establishment clause of the First Amendment has been way over-interpreted. If you're going to take a constructionist line on the 2nd Amendment then you also have to ask what establishment meant to the founders. I think it's pretty clear it meant an Established Church of the United States, with Bishops and Canon Law and so on. In no way does it ban teaching general religion in schools, to my mind, especially if it's comparative religion. However, this theory should not be taught as science. It's philosophy dressed up as science, and it just doesn't cut it. (Actually, as philosphy goes, it could make a pretty good introduction to the philosophy of science as a segue from the philosophical question of the existence of god.)

Tuesday, June 04, 2002

Sectarianism and Multiculturalism


Brendan O'Neill has some interesting home truths about the current problems in Northern Ireland. They're different from the problems of 30 years ago, but no-one seems to have noticed. As Catholic civil rights grew and the guarantees took effect, nevertheless sectarianism and isolationism increased, with the two communities retreating from each other. As Brendan points out, this was in the name of "cultural diversity". It is important to recognize that the curse of multiculturalism has intraracial effects as well as interracial.

To take a trivial example, I grew up in South Shields, a town on South Bank of the River Tyne, on the North Bank of which stands the major city of Newcastle. Nevertheless, South Shields is geographically closer to the other main city of the region, Sunderland. As a result, Shields folk have always been divided in their loyalties to the football teams of each city. When I grew up there was plenty of friendly rivalry between the supporters of each club, with a lot of people supporting both (the way the fixture calendar used to work, you could go to see one team one weekend and the other the next). That is unthinkable now. The rivalry between the two teams, and indeed between the two cities, has grown in less than 20 years to fully-fledged hate. Rival groups have to be kept away from each other. Sunderland residents were once happy to be called "Geordies," the generic term for people from the North East of England. Now they resent any suggestion that they are Geordies, and have adopted the Newcastle slang word for a Sunderland resident, Mackem, as a label and symbol of regional pride.

I cannot think of any reason for this other than a balkanization caused by the inculcation of a belief that you have no reason to mix with people who are in any way different from you (coupled with the belief that you yourself need never apologize for anything). If that difference come sdown to a slight difference in accent (Mackem derives from the Sunderland pronunciation of "make" -- 'mak' -- which is different from the Newcastle 'mayek'), then that is where the fault line goes. Rival football teams aid in this division, but they are not the spur. I cannot see any other source for this belief than multiculturalism -- Newcastle and Sunderland have existed side by side for hundreds of years with slight differences and rivailries but friendly relations. The intensification of the rivalry seems to coincide almost perfectly with the rise of multiculturalism and the self-esteem movement. The two together have turned one of the friendliest places in the world into a hotbed of arrogant bigots. It is going to take a lot of work to erase those effects.

Desparation


One of the central problems with London's Metropolitan Police is its inability to attract recruits from ethnic minorities. I'm therefore not surprised at the news that the Met is to recruit police from abroad. This can only be a short-term sticking-plaster solution, however. If the Met wants to "look like London," then it needs to make Londoners feel as if it is part of the community. Londoners currently have no real control (except at several degrees of separation) over their police force, and large numbers of police officers come from outside the area. The breakdown of old-style beat polcing, which allowed officers to get to know their community and be accepted as part of it, is another problem.

On the other hand, the culture of large areas of London has altered such that informing the police of something ("grassing") is veiwed as a worse crime than murder (see Dalrymple, passim). That's a social malaise that the police themselves can't solve. If Londoners want to free themselves of crime, then they have to recognize the beam in their own eye first.

A question arises, however. What to do if Londoners don't want to be free from crime?

Monday, June 03, 2002

Fishy business in Brussels


Roger Helmer MEP is another politician who is happy to send out e-mail newsletters about what's going on inside the European Beltway (you can sign up for Straight Talking here). Here's an excerpt from his latest newsletter, concentrating on the follies and corruption surrounding the latest moves on fisheries policy:

The Wisdom of Nye Bevan….

In 1945, Nye Bevan said "This island is mainly made of coal, and surrounded by fish. Only an organising genius could produce a shortage of coal and fish at the same time".

Organising genius? Step forward the EU. As a result of gaping holes in European state aid rules, that allow Germany to pay massive subsidies to its miners, Britain's remaining mines are uncompetitive, and we are now a major coal importer. And of course the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) has allowed Spanish fishermen to hoover up all the fish in the North Sea, creating an ecological disaster area in what were once the world's richest fisheries -- and a prime British national asset.


….and the folly of Commissioner Palacio

One of the lunacies of the CFP is that on the one hand it pays for capacity reduction and the decommissioning of fishing fleets, while on the other, it subsidises new-build capacity, primarily in Spain. There are current proposals for a modest reform which would at least abolish the new-build subsidies. (Our own Struan Stevenson MEP is Chairman of the Fisheries Committee).

But a few weeks ago Spanish Commissioner Palacio wrote to Fisheries Commissioner Franz Fischler opposing the reform, and calling for Spanish boats to be allowed to fish right up to British beaches. Palacio's letter was clearly in breach of her Commissioner's oath to promote the interests of the EU as a whole and not of her own member-state.

Then Prime Minister Aznar of Spain (Blair's buddy, and currently President-in-Office of the Council) phoned Commission President Romano Prodi to express his concern. Within 24 hours, an apparatchik called Steffan Smidt, the most senior official on the CFP reform process, had been fired.

But it gets worse. Commissioner Neil Kinnock's department insisted that Smidt's move was "part of a long-planned programme of staff re-assignments". But this story immediately fell apart. All the other staff on the "long-planned programme" had been advised of their moves weeks before, and given new assignments. Smidt was sacked unceremoniously on 24 hours notice.

Remember that Neil Kinnock was a member of Jaques Santer's discredited Commission (one of four who popped up again in Prodi's Commission) -- and that he's responsible for institutional reform! Watch this space. This story has legs. It will run and run.


Late news

On May 23rd, Kinnock appeared before the Budget committee in the parliament, and both Chris and I had a chance to question him on this fisheries issue. He asked us to believe that the firing of Smidt was completely unrelated to the CFP reform, or the Prodi/Aznar phone call, and that the failure to advise Smidt of his impending "re-assignment" until twenty-four hours in advance was down to an administrative error. The fact that Smidt remains without an assignment is merely coincidental. I told him in plain terms that his story was not credible and he should not imagine that we were children and that he could pull the wool over our eyes. He had a tough half hour.


Only in Brussels...

Modern, Post-modern and Pre-Modern


Here's an interesting contribution to the debate. In You can forget Magna Carta - we need to roll out the Referendum, a British business professor argues that the current world order is not so much post-modern as pre-modern. I wonder what Jefferson, Madison and, ooh, Joseph Chamberlain would think of this analysis?

The Pensions Bomb


One of the great achievements of the Tories under Mrs T and even John Major was the defusing of the pensions bomb. By encouraging private provision, it seemed that the looming demographic changes would not mean a massive burden on the working taxpayer to pay for the retired. Yes, there was a major scandal with people being misled about what their pensions would deliver (I think I was one of those people for a brief period). But overall, people were providing for themselves in a way that shows that welfare dependency can be overcome in the UK.

Now, however, according to the former Labour welfare minister, Frank Field, NuLabour has undone all that good work:

One fact should send a shivering chill down Mr Smith’s spine [Andrew Smith is the new Work & Pensions Secretary]. Lombard Street Research has recently reported that new inflows to pension funds have fallen to a quarter of the level they were shortly after Labour came to power in 1997. Far from the Government’s strategy filling what the Association of British Insurers estimates to be a £27 billion-a-year pensions deficit, this gap is fast becoming a chasm into which more voters will fall as the population ages.

No one should be surprised at this either. For the best possible reasons, Gordon Brown wished to help today’s poorest pensioners and did so by introducing the minimum income guarantee (Mig). This means-tested benefit penalises huge numbers of pensioners who have saved. The rules prevent them from claiming Mig, while at the same time its recipients are given a passport to housing benefit and nil council tax. This is the killer. Most working-class pensioners who have saved find themselves thereby with a lower standard of living than people on income guarantee — some of whom could not have saved, but some of whom decided to spend their money and rely on taxpayers’ largesse.


Labour's solution to this was to introduce a credit, whereby the government would contribute 60p for every pound privately invested. The trouble is that demography will mean that this will translate to an extra 8% increase of income tax to pay for it.

The timer on the Pensions Bomb is ticking away merrily again.

P.P. (Post Postum): A link to Frank Field's Pensions Reform Group's proposal, mentioned in the article, can be found here.

Editors with Ideas


This may be worth keeping an eye on. Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger has written a drama script for the BBC (with IRA fan Ronan Bennett, of all people) about a disaster caused by GM foods. Mick Hume talks about the issue here in The Times but finishes off with a very interesting comment:

One other area of interest is the genetic modification of The Guardian into a new kind of newspaper. Before the general election, it published its own manifesto for government. Last month it hosted its own version of Middle East peace talks. Now its Editor is writing drama scripts for public education — the heroes of which, coincidentally, are crusading journalists. Some might just detect signs of a worrying new strain — self-importance.


Pomposity, stalking horse or Trojan horse? I'll be keeping tabs on this.

The case for immigration


Andrew Gimson, who I've thought of in the past as a sometimes obtuse writer, gets it spot on in this Spectator article on immigration. He points out exactly how dependent British life is on immigrants doing the donkey work (as it used to be called) and, moreover, how the immigrant is usually intelligent and motivated:

It goes almost without saying that middle-class life as we know it in London and in many other places would no longer be possible without the help of foreigners, many of whom come here as students but also work on the side, which they can do quite legally for up to 20 hours a week. They are usually at least as middle class as we are, and, in many cases they are the kind of trustworthy, intelligent, hard-working and sympathetic people whom you can trust implicitly with the care of your own children. There is a persistent tendency, in reporting on foreigners who come to Britain in search of work, to concentrate on those who do so illegally. It is fashionable, just now, to go underground with a hidden camera and film people doing things they should not be doing. This approach has at least three drawbacks. It is underhand, it seldom tells us anything we did not already know and, by focusing on criminality it makes it hard to imagine the existence of open, unashamed honesty.


Exactly the same problems exist with regards to immigration into America. Reading Tony Bourdain's comments on how intelligent, hard-working and sympathetic his immigrant Hispanic kitchen staff are just underlines this. Problems arise when immigrants form ghettoes, by regulation or by other official encouragement. Multiculturalism is the enemy of immigrants, just as much as it is of the host country.

God and Mammon (IT Department)


Jay Manifold's discussion of the intersection of religion and science among what he terms technologists contains the following observation:

I saw a car a few days ago with both DARWIN and ICHTHUS fish symbols. And thought, "finally!"


Funny. I've been thinking of doing that for quite some time...

Harvesting Safety


My colleague Howard looks at the relative safety of organic and inorganic produce in our latest TCS column - Pesky Pesticide Tests. He zeroes in on the real problem -- enviros regularly ignore natural pesticides when they talk about dangers. Moreover, although Howard doesn't mention this, there seems to be a significantly increased risk of food-borne illness from such natural pathogens as e. coli associated with organic foods. Pregnant women in France, where most food is grown organically, are advised not to eat uncooked vegetables. That should tell you something.

The State He's In


Jim Bennett's latest, Changing Will Hutton, delivers a thorough Fisking to Will Hutton, a man who's been as wrong as Paul Ehrlich in the past but who, like him, has managed to retain credibility despite his errors. Hutton now claims that Britain is a thoroughly European state and that "Americanization" will bring it to its knees. As Bennett says,

What Hutton is actually observing, of course, is not the Americanization of Britain, but what I have called Anglosphere convergence. Hutton ignores work such as Alan Macfarlane's, which indicates that individualistic lifestyles, measured by such indicators as predominance of nuclear families, market relationships to land ownership, and geographic mobility, have characterized English social life from as far back as records exist, far predating the Industrial Revolution that supposedly spawned such individualism. He ignores work such as that of David Hackett Fischer, who indicates the cultural characteristics of the United States, including its individualism, were inherited from the British Isles and have been remarkably persistent over the centuries.

It is rather the divergences between Britain and America that have been relatively recent by historical standards, and that have been steadily diminishing under the influence of improved communications, freer trade, and increased personal movement across the Atlantic. This convergence has been two-way, not just a case of American influence in Britain, but it is the case that much of America's openness and dynamism has contributed to the eradication of the sharp gap between the classes in Britain, and the emergence of an American-style middle class there.


Very true, and this is also why some Old High Tories despise America. The emergence of a larger, more vibrant, more educated (in some ways, if not all), distinctly non-bourgeois middle class has swept away the old social order of the knights of the shires. You see it in the current composition, and direction, of the Conservative Party more than in any other location. Margaret Thatcher was its vanguard, while Willie Whitelaw, leader of the last significant block of the squirearchy, saw its value. In essence, the Radicals who had joined Salisbury's Conservative Party to form the Conservative and Unionist Party had finally triumphed.

The radical wing always despised the top-down paternalist view of the class system and as such was defintely "American" in its attitudes despite being entirely home-grown. Jim is therefore right to talk about convergence between the Anglophone countries. There may be divergence at some point, but given the nature of modern communications, which make geography irrelevant and language even more important, I think this unlikely.

UPDATE: I also note that Mr. Hutton is a former admirer of the American way. In his endorsement of Jonathan Freedland's Bring Home the Revolution, he stated "This is one of those rare books that compels you to rethink your world view from first foundations … (It is) the most persuasive case for British republicanism I have ever read." Short memory...

Friday, May 31, 2002

Dailypundit moves


As the Blogosphere shifts slightly, William Quick has become the latest to move. "DailyPundit can now be linked directly at http://64.247.33.2/~icebergw/, but after DNS settles down, http://dailypundit.com should take you right there. (That URL is
already working for some folks)," says Bill. The link on the left should work again in a few days.

Europhobia?


I was going to say something about Paul Gottfried's Spectator article but Tom Burroughes of Libertarian Samizdata has got there first. I don't disagree with a word.

And the crowd goes wild


Magnificent news in the opening game of the World Cup: France 0-1 Senegal. I'm not celebrating simply because of ancient rivalries, but also because, assuming England come second in their group behind the Argies, they will have to face the winners of France's group. Denmark have a tidy little side, with the best goalkeeper in Europe (hem hem), so I think they'll think they've got a good chance of topping the group now. Good news for England.

Now watch us go on and beat Argentina and top the group, and have to play France anyway...

New column out


My latest UPI column is out. You can read Recent research suggests ... here.

Thursday, May 30, 2002

More on drugs in South London


Here's a link to the official police evaluation of the experiment (PDF version). It's remarkably complacent, for the following reasons:

1. The release of officers' time could have been acheived by a reduction in bureaucracy or by delegating most of these tasks to civilian personnel.

2. Drug trafficking increased when it fell in adjoining boroughs (did all the pusher move to Lambeth?)

3. Police officers' failure to return questionnaires is dismissed as proof that they have no serious concerns. More likely it is a clear sign of a demoralized police force that feels it has no power over what goes on.

This all tends to point towards this being a policy railroaded through against the wishes of local policemen and local residents. Dreadful.

Jeffersonian Tolkein?


The chaps at Libertarian Samizdata have found a magnificent quote from LOTR:

[Sauron] is in great fear, not knowing what mighty one may suddenly appear, wielding the Ring, and assailing him with war, seeking to cast him down and take his place. That we should wish to cast him down and have no one in his place is not a thought that occurs to his mind.


Doing away with tyrants entirely rather than replacing one with the possibility of another -- how Jeffersonian can you get? Yet Tolkein was speaking with the voice of old England, not revolutionary America. Those who claim that America invented these ideas, or is a land full of the descendents of the only people who cared about them, should take another look at that sentence. It is quintessentially English. I hope Peter Jackson gives it its rightful place in his upcoming version of The Two Towers.

Back in Lambeth


Back in my old stamping ground of Lambeth, relaxed drugs laws aren't helping. They're currently trying to spin the idea that the relaxation has contributed to a decrease in crime, despite the fact that this decrease seems tied perfectly to an increase in policing since crime spiralled out of control in the first few months of 2002 (when that happened, different observations were made and Rudy Giuliani had to state the obvious, because no-one in London dared to).

Anyway, the Telegraph story, which I missed when it first came out, gets the point exactly right:

In the community centre of the Stockwell Park Estate [I used to live three minutes walk away from this notorious project - ed.], Julie Fawcett has seen at first hand the effects of leniency. "I have kids coming in here high on skunk [a particularly potent form of genetically engineered marijuana] and it makes them psychotic. They smoke it in their lunch hours and you can't tell them to stop it because they say 'the police don't mind'. What do you say to that?"

Ms Fawcett, whose office still bears the blackened mark of an arson attack, believes that legalisation is a middle-class project got up by people who do not understand the effects it has on the ordinary people who live on her estate. "This is a middle-class agenda from people who may smoke their dope responsibly. They don't buy from the dealers on the street who run everything here. The police have basically given up."


Precisely. This is a middle-class agenda driven by the fact that investment bankers don't want precious little Tarquin, with his First in Eng Lit, to get a police record because he started puffing away at Eton or Cambridge. As with assaults on the family, education and the legal system generally, it's the working class that suffers, far more than they suffered from the status quo ante.

Comrades, come running


My grandfather's favorite newspaper is back and on-line. The Morning Star is the Marxist daily that was once financed by Moscow, but now seems to have started up again independently. I'm glad. I'm also told that the paper has an excellent editorial today about how bad the EU's Common Fisheries Policy is. Sadly, they haven't updated the editorial links recently. Still, it's nice to have the descendent of The Daily Worker around.

Wednesday, May 29, 2002

Postmodern Problems


Jim Bennett's latest column looks at the future of NATO following the President's speech in Berlin:

While accepting a modest vision of what a continued NATO might achieve, America would do well to begin constructing alternative structures for defense collaboration with nations that wish to cooperate, like Canada, on a modernist and sovereignist basis. For a roster of who else might fit into such a structure, we could do worse than look at who is fighting on the ground with us in Afghanistan, particularly Britain and Australia. Australia is another nation with a postmodernist intellectual class and a modernist population; its recent actions in dealing decisively on the asylum issue were as fully supported by the general population as they were furiously protested by the intellectual elites.

Bush was not wrong to give one more performance of the old show in Berlin; that is a theater for old shows. Soon, however, other stages will call for new plays, with bringing together veterans of other shows in other places, with a few old faces as well.


As I've said before, I think the current NATO arrangements are a step along the way to dropping the vitually useless (in both senses -- they provide nothing of use, and think they have no real use for the alliance any more) continental European members, and creating an Anglo-Russo-American alliance (thanks to all those who visited from SF god Jerry Pournelle's site when I compared this to his far-sighted CoDominion idea some days back).

Founding Brothers, Confounding Ways


I watched the History Channel's documentary Founding Brothers in once long sweep last night, having recorded it on Monday so as not to miss the wrestling (one of my guilty pleasures about America). In some ways it was not so much the story of a group of men as "The Triumph of Thomas Jefferson," seeming to tell the stories of Washington, Adams, Hamilton and Madison (the last particularly so) only in so far as they intersected with Jefferson's career. Jefferson's character did not come out of the series well, although in the end its focus was the triumph of the Republicans and the defeat of Federalism, a triumph which seemed to meet with grudging approval as having made America what it is today.

Jefferson is a complex character, and the show concentrated on his dirty dealings, hypocrisies (they gave complete credence to the doubtful claims about his involvement with Sally Hemings, saying he enslaved his own children) and other flaws as much as on his ideals. They made much of his falling out with Adams, but gave very little time to the equally significant quarrels between Adams and Hamilton. Hamilton's vast character flaws were given far less time than Jefferson's. Adams' own partisanship was glossed over; the appointment of the "midnight judges," including John Marshall, was not even mentioned, despite its significant impact on American history. Overall, I was not impressed by the balance of the series, although I enjoyed it immensely.

But it has made me think more about TJ, a personal hero of mine. I am more impressed than ever by the way he put his single-minded pursuit of principle above all other considerations. If friends posed a danger to the nation, he dropped them. If the political colossus that awed every other politician of the day opposed his views, he did not shirk from trying to undermine that colossus. That principle -- that the new nation was something different, and must not be allowed to be steered towards the old, failed, flawed model -- was more important than anything. From what I know of the Federalists, I think it quite possible that they could have trod the path so many Republicans (since ancient times) had trod before, putting personalities and effectiveness before constitutionality. It may not have been Washington or Adams (although it may well have been Hamilton), but their successors if the party had survived could have gone that way. Jefferson's opposition, helped by Madison, may well have thwarted this possibility. America should be grateful that he considered principle so important that he did what he did.

Further, it struck me how Roman Jefferson was. I must look into his writings to see whether he realized quite how much his political ways owed to the politics of the Roman Republic. The combination of high principle with political shenanigans such as even the British Liberal Democrats would never stoop to is very Roman. You see it in all the letters of Cicero (another hero of mine, with whom Jefferson shares the problem that we know more about him from his voluminous correspondence than we do any of his contemporaries, warts and all) and in all that we know about the Trimuvirate and their opponents. Jefferson must have seen from the example of the Roman Republic, as well as that of the English Commonwealth, how republics can be corrupted into the rule of one man -- monarchy -- and must have learnt that Roman-style ruthlessness was the only way to prevent that happening. If that meant some decent chaps got knifed, then so be it. Furthermore, if the historians had bothered to read some ancient history, they would know that the simple yet comfortable style Jefferson adopted was very Roman. Rough clothes and fine wine were not seen as incompatible by the ancients.

Jefferson got what he wanted, and America needed. Churchill acted similarly for Britain. I'm glad both of them acted the way they did, and they remain heroes of mine.

Finally, didn't serial liar Joseph Ellis look very uncomfortable in that tie?

Whey, man


Who would have thought I'd see Washington Post doyen E.J. Dionne writing about my home town, South Shields? Well, actually, he's writing about its MP, David Miliband, and his ideas for Reinventing The Third Way. This is a particularly interesting quote:

"Third Way triangulation," he said in an interview last week, "is much better suited to insurgency than incumbency. 'Not-this, not-that' is a very good way of throwing out a right-wing government. But it's not a long-term prospectus for changing your country."


Miliband has just been promoted to Schools Minister -- an almost unprecedented leap straight to Minister of State level for one so young. I wonder what non-Third Way, positive ideas he'll bring to the job, and whether any of them will be US-inspired?

Gove's Think Tank


Michael Gove is the Director of Policy Exchange, a new "think tank" dedicated to new ideas for the Centre-Right in the UK. This deserves watching...

Loose cannons and gay pubs


For those of you who are interested, here's the BBC's Cabinet reshuffle at-a-glance. Here's some personal insights into the sub-cabinet appointments.

My contacts in the local government parts of what was DTLR tell me that Lord Falconer was the biggest loose cannon they have ever seen. He also presided over the dome fiasco. He's now going to be in charge of criminal justice, alongside David "Civil liberties -- what are they?" Blunkett. *Shudder*

Meanwhile, Stephen Twigg has been promoted to be an Education Minister. I knew Stephen quite well when I was an election superviser for a student election he was standing in. He's a very nice chap. I last saw him when I bumped into him in a gay pub in Hampsted (don't ask -- it was a Dreadful Pub Crawl) and he was as warm and friendly as ever. I wish him well in his Ministerial career.

Insert Jim Bennett quote here


Thanks to the redoubtable Junius for this one. As long-time readers know, I think that the New Statesman occasionally has flashes of genius among all its dross. This isn't quite a flash of genius, but John Lloyd's article on the death of multiculturalism is still damned good. It points out how America has been, far from the hotbed of racism Europeans seem to think it is, the most successful democracy at integrating large numbers of minorities:

The war against terrorism is a further aid to this, as it widens the distance between, on the one hand, Americans of all backgrounds and, on the other, the movements and groups with which radical African-Americans had once claimed the kinship of mutual oppression. Radical black groups were the cutting edge of the American multicultural moment, insisting on the right, even the duty, of black Americans to promote their separate culture (however that might be defined). Now, black Americans - after many decades of prejudice, and despite the poverty in which many of them still live - are able to conduct the same intricate negotiation with the rest of US society and its power structures as other groups that have successfully retained an ethnic identity. Middle-class blacks are both using and losing their separateness in order to climb up society's ladders, to enrich themselves and to pass on their wealth and position to their children - as did the Irish, Italian, Jewish and other elites. Shorn of its most active support outside the academy (where it has become a subject), extreme multiculturalism is withering on the vine.


Lloyd could go further, by pointing out the role that resistance to cultural integration played in creating the black underclass (or, rather, the use of said class as an experiment by bourgeois liberals in foisting their anti-cultural beliefs on them), but I think he's made his point. Britain is also in pretty good shape:

The British governing classes have been willing to accommodate cultural exceptionalism in many ways - exempting Sikhs from wearing motorcycle helmets; allowing Jews and Muslims to kill conscious animals; acknowledging (now) that Muslims, like people of other faiths, should have their own state schools. But that is as far as it will go for a while. "Liberalism" - rather more hard-edged and unillusioned than in the 1960s - is back. David Blunkett, who articulates the view of the council estates best, as he came from one, has made it clear that citizenship, learning the English language and adherence to the law and cultural norms will now be more explicitly expected of communities that still define themselves as culturally or religiously apart from the indigenous one (white, brown or black). This month, the police got new guidelines on forced marriages which stress that these are not simply a faster version of arranged marriages, and that the possible consequences - assault, rape, kidnap - are no less crimes because committed within a family. A recent ICM poll for BBC News Online showed that, even though most people think that race relations have improved in the past ten years, they also think that immigration has had a negative effect - further ammunition for those who believe that multiculturalism, which pinpoints the indigenous community as the problem, can damage race relations.


With the rise of multiculturalism to a position of dominance in our value system, we were teetering on the verge of a vast abyss. The progressives wanted us to take a giant step forward. Thankfully, the silver lining of 9/11 is that sensible people of all political persuasions are taking a step back instead.

PS For those who don't know, the Jim Bennett quote is "Democracy, immigration, multiculturalism -- pick any two".

Darling Darling


Tony Blair has reshuffled his government following Stephen Byers' resignation (which, as Iain Dale has pointed out, buried the news that they had to give away the Millennium Dome). Alistair Darling is the new Transport Secretary and Paul Boateng is Britain's first Black Cabinet Minister. I've never been a fan of Boateng's politics, but I've met him and very much liked him as a person. Well done, Paul.

The most interesting thing about all this is that labour has finally admitted that Transport is an important issue that deserves its own Secretary of State. When they came to power, they amalgamated Transport into one Department with Environment and Regional Government. Then they split off Environment. Now they've split off the local issues, which are going to the Deputy Prime Minister's Office, leaving Transport on its own again. Good. As long as central government is going to take on responsibility for getting people to work, it deserves a place among the great public service offices of state. Whether it should have that responsibility is another matter, but taking that as a given the issue is too important to have its Minister sidetracked by other, unrelated issues.

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Remembrance


Like Charles Murtaugh, I couldn't finish reading the New York Times' article on the last words of those who died in the World Trade Center. Josh Chafetz has a summary, with heartfelt commentary, at OxBlog.

Dispatch from the Trenches


Dan Hannan MEP is happy to send out an occasional briefing on his experiences in the European Parliament to anyone who is interested. Here's an excerpt from his lates, entitled "an ordinary week in Brussels":

Here is a selection of some of the things being pushed through the European Parliament this week. None is especially momentous. None is big enough, on its own, to make much of a stir. But, taken collectively, they give a pretty good indication of the direction in which the EU is going.

Report on the Future Development of Europol

Europol is described by the European Parliament as "the embryonic federal European police force". It is intended to evolve into a kind of European FBI, dealing with major crimes while leaving the lesser offences to the national constabularies. To this end, the report proposes to make it directly accountable to the European Parliament, and to incorporate its funding into the EU budget, thus removing it completely from the control of the nation-states.

Report on Corporate Social Responsibility

Here is yet another attempt to regulate businesses, so that their mission is "broader than only making profits". In particular, firms are ordered to "maintain a gender balance, not only in Europe, but in third world countries where they have branches", and to allow a whole clutch of busybody pressure groups to regulate whether they are trading ethically, maintaining a proper work-life balance and so on.

Recommendation on a Single Electoral Method

In a separate report, the European Parliament reiterates its demand for a uniform voting system for European elections. It wants all countries to operate on the basis of party list proportional representation, and to hold their elections on the same day (which would mean moving the UK election from Thursday to Sunday). It also demands equal numbers of men and women on the party lists, and calls for 10 per cent of MEPs to be elected from a single pan-European list. This would obviously disqualify parties, such as the British Conservatives, who do not contest elections on a trans-national manifesto.

Division of Powers

The Parliament is setting out its stall for the proposed European Constitution. It wants to endow the EU with legal personality, opening the way to EU representation at the United Nations and on other international bodies. It also calls for the "communitarisation" of justice and home affairs and of foreign policy – that is, an end to the current intergovernmental approach in those areas.

This is, if anything, a light legislative week. Yet, day after day, the European Parliament is adopting a series of harmonising measures which barely make the news in the member countries. So much for Tony Blair’s fond notion that "Europe is coming our way".


My spine shivered when I read that. This is all about the agglomeration of power by a certain class. Let no-one pretend otherwise.

Silent strategy


Michael Gove gets it right again in this analysis of the Tories' current strategy:

Since the last general election the Tories have learnt to listen, and adopted a strategy appropriate to reality. They recognise that the biggest challenge facing the nation is the need to improve health, education, transport and crime-fighting. They identify the biggest impediment to reform as the impulse to centralise, regulate and second-guess which is intrinsic to Labour. And they emphasise that while all of us lose out as a consequence of public sector failure, with the middle classes forced to pay twice for many services, the biggest losers are the most vulnerable.

By concentrating on this strategy the Tories align themselves with the majority, where elections are won. By declining to be drawn into other arguments, such as the euro, they display that focus on the real national interest which an aspirant government requires. Should a euro referendum be called, then the Tories are in a better position to argue, as is right, that it is a monumental distraction from the real issues Britain faces. And they come to the argument with greater credibility as a party which sees this issue in the round.


The Euro is an issue that goes beyond partisan politics, and it is vital that it is presented that way. Tory activists will not need the imprimatur of their party to campaign effectively when the referendum comes, and by the party keeping quiet the cause can more readily attract others. Barring a massive revival at the polls, this is the best way forward for the party and the country.

Extinct argument


My Tech Central Station column is up. It looks at the media's repeating of a claim by the UN that a quarter of the earth's mammal species face extinction in the next 30 years. Hogwash.

About bloody time, too


He's finally fallen on his sword. I'm placing a large wager on my belief that Peter Mandelson will be installed as his successor. The only way to keep that man down is to drive a stake through his heart.

HTEBCGSSM?


I find myself asking the same question as I did on Friday. Thanks to Natalie and Peter for pointing to this one. The widow of a school principal killed by a machete-wielding pupil has been asked by the Probation Service to apologise to his killer. She upset the poor little lamb by pointing out his lack of remorse, thereby jeopardizing his chances of conning the probation board into letting him out early.

Meanwhile British judges have decided that the term "detained at Her Majesty's pleasure" has no meaning any more. I always thought the ability of Ministers to keep the most evil monsters in jail longer than their sentences was a useful one and a sign of flexibility in the system (given the fuss over its use in the cases of such vile beings as Myra Hindley, the chances of the power being abused are minimal, to my mind). The civil liberties of the victim are being sacrificed at the altar of the civil liberties of the wrong-doer. How often do we have to see this happen before we say enough is enough?

Friday, May 24, 2002

Happy Memorial Day


Going away for the holiday weekend, so I don't expect to post until Monday evening at the earliest. Have a great holiday.

Speechless


Peter Briffa also has some things to say about the EU's attitude towards the free press, but what really made me splutter in disbelief was his link to this story:

A MAN who spent 11 years in jail for a murder he did not commit has been charged £37,000 for his stay.

The Home Office deducted the money from Michael O’Brien’s £650,000 compensation.

Officials claimed he was not entitled to the full amount because he did not pay living expenses while behind bars.


*cough* *splutter* What?!?

Then, to top it off, he links to this story, about a cop reprimanded by his bosses for chasing a thief.

HAS THE ENTIRE BLOODY COUNTRY GONE STARK STARING MAD?!?

INS horrors


Dr Frank is suffering from INS aftershock. I know what that's like. My sympathies to him and his spouse.

Europe: seething hotbed of anti-... er, Islamism


The pseudonymous Emmanuel Goldstein has an important post about an official EU report condemning the European press for causing anti-Muslim incidents. Are they doing a similar investigation into synagogue burnings? I need hardly ask.

4GW -- sounds like a wargames company to me...


The perceptive Joe Katzman has an interesting analysis on Winds of Change on the subject of America and Israel moving towards 4th Generation Warfare (4GW). I wonder if the reason Blair was so keen to get Brits into action in Afghanistan was partly in a desire to get experience of new planning strategies. Maybe, but I'd venture to suggest that there seems to be so much political interference in British military planning that we're going to get left behind whatever our experiences. I may ask some military types what they think of this.

Thursday, May 23, 2002

MADras


I haven't been covering the Kashmir situation because a) everyone else has and b) I haven't been following the news from there closely enough recently, but this Telegraph editorial, The proximity deterrent looks pretty accurate to me, assuming that one side or the other isn't crazy (for which, see Suman Palit).

Bush Bucks-up the Bundestag


President Bush's speech this morning was pretty to the point, if you ask me. I've posted the full text here. Some highlights:

Together, we oppose an enemy that thrives on violence and the grief of the innocent. The terrorist are defined by their hatreds: they hate democracy and tolerance and free expression and women and Jews and Christians and all Muslims who disagree with them. Others killed in the name of racial purity, or the class struggle. These enemies kill in the name of a false religious purity, perverting the faith they claim to hold. In this war we defend not just America or Europe; we are defending civilization itself.

The evil that has formed against us has been termed the 'new totalitarian threat.' The authors of terror are seeking nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Regimes that sponsor terror are developing these weapons and the missiles to deliver them. If these regimes and their terrorist allies were to perfect these capabilities, no inner voice of reason, no hint of conscience would prevent their use.

Wishful thinking might bring comfort, but not security. Call this a strategic challenge; call it, as I do, an axis of evil; call it by any name you choose -- but let us speak the truth. If we ignore this threat, we invite certain blackmail, and place million of our citizens in grave danger.


He made this point as well:

Those who despise human freedom will attack it on every continent. Those who seek missiles and terrible weapons are also familiar with the map of Europe. Like the threats of another era, this threat cannot be appeased or cannot be ignored. By being patient, relentless, and resolute, we will defeat the enemies of freedom.


He didn't quite say "Get the point, Fritz?" but in some ways I wish he had...

Better late than never...


My latest UPI column, Recent research suggests..., finally appears on the web...

Institutional Racism at the BBC?


Interesting article by the London correspondent of the Jerusalem Post in The Spectator. He alleges that the BBC is, to coin a phrase, institutionally anti-semitic:

In my judgment, the volume and intensity of this unchallenged diatribe has now transcended mere criticism of Israel. Hatred is in the air. Wittingly or not, I am convinced that the BBC has become the principal agent for reinfecting British society with the virus of anti-Semitism. And that is a game I am not willing to play, even if, as one BBC researcher recently assured me, my interview fee far exceeded that of my Arab opposite numbers (an outrageously racist point that I, a third-generation refugee and an exile from apartheid South Africa, found difficult to appreciate fully).

I am neither an apologist for the Israeli government nor a defender of its policies. I have been perfectly capable of taking a critical view of Israel when appearing on the BBC, whether it was the Israel of Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Binyamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak or Ariel Sharon. And I am not afraid of informed criticism from others. On the contrary, I believe that criticism is essential to the health of the democratic process (although I was always perplexed that Arab guests were treated with a kind of paternalism that never permitted hard questions).

I have a problem with the BBC’s propensity to select and spin the news in order to reduce a highly complex conflict to a monochromatic, single-dimensional comic cut-out, whose well-worn script features a relentlessly brutal, demonically evil Ariel Sharon and a plucky, bumbling, misunderstood Yasser Arafat, the benign Father of Palestine in need of a little TLC (plus $50 million a month) from the West.

But it was not just the lamentable standards of journalism. I parted company with the BBC over its hysterical advocacy of the most extreme Palestinian positions; an advocacy that has now transmogrified into a distorting hatred of a criminal Israel and, by extension, into a burgeoning hatred of Jews closer to home.

It is astonishing that little more than half a century after the Holocaust, the BBC, guardian of liberalism and political correctness, should provide the fertile seedbed for the return of ‘respectable’ anti-Semitism that finds expression not only in the smart salons of London but also, according to the experts who monitor such phenomena, across the entire political spectrum, uniting the far-Left with the Centre and far-Right.


I have a couple of problems with this analysis. One, I don't think the idea of institutional racism is useful. Not everyone at the Beeb is anti-Israeli. I've had friends who worked there, and could still be working there, who are in no way anti-Israeli. So it's silly to say there's something in the air there that foments anti-semitism. What's far more likely is that the BBC attracts a certain sort, who are likely to be anti-Israeli. Which is to say, a lot of idiots work at the BBC. There's lots of other evidence that this is the case (a private Beeb would have gone bust a long, long time ago).

Second, the author does pull the switcheroo from anti-Israeli to anti-Semite. Although a lot of people are both, there's still an important difference. Repugnance at Israeli politics does not make one a Jew-hater. It's a cheap and ugly trick to accuse someone who is upset by the restrictions the Israelis put on Palestinians drilling wells of anti-Semitism. The Beeb types do have a one-dimensional perspective of Israeli politics but I very much doubt that this translates to hating people because they are Jewish.

Nevertheless, the effect of what the Beeb is doing probably does contribute to anti-Semitism. Lord knows there are plenty of people in the UK who don't possess enough of the background to distinguish between Israel and Jews. That's where the BBC is doing Britain an apalling disservice. And once again, it's a function of the bourgeois imposing their views and values on the nation as a whole. It is not the role of the educated middle classes to filter news for the common man. Davis goes over the top in his analysis, but his conclusion is sound enough.

Redefining democracy


Meanwhile, the European Commission has made its formal proposals to the sham Constitutional Convention. Here's a particularly fun proposal:

While voluntary co-operation can achieve progress, the need for binding legislation on certain aspects should also be examined, such as the statute of immigrants within the European Union or a European regime for dealing with asylum seekers. All legislation on justice and home affairs should be proposed by the Commission, adopted by co-decision (Council and Parliament) and controlled by the Court of Justice.

In this context, Commissioner Vitorino recalled: "The constitutional architecture of the Union should be based upon the Charter of Fundamental Rights. This will guarantee the protection of democratic values and the individual rights of all residents in the Union".


So in order to protect democratic values, legislation is proposed by unelected bureaucrats, voted up or down by a combination of Ministers, who may or may not be elected, and by people elected by a party list system, then controlled by unelected judges.

Oh joy.

Europe: the Irish view


The National Platform for Democracy, Independence and Neutrality - Ireland is an odd organization. It's Ireland's premier organization for opposing European integration, and won a great victory when the people of Ireland rejected the Nice Treaty despite both major political parties supporting its approval. The Platform comprises a lot of decent people, but has links with Sinn Fein. Its slogan might as well be Jeff Davis' "We ask only that we be let alone".

Fair enough. One of its most important arguments is that neutrality is enshrined in the Irish Constitution, and that the Common Foreign & Defense Policy Signor Prodi is so keen on would contravene that requirement. Americans can appreciate that point of view.

Anyway, the Eurocrats are miffed that the Irish should be so nit-picky about their constitution and are demanding that Ireland exploit the central weakness of referenda and ask the question again, hoping for the right answer this time. One of their main points is that Nice is important for European enlargement. The National Platform have issued a statement that I think is worth quoting in full (its not on their website, which is being renovated). This is long, but I think it's useful to read as an example of what non-conservative, small state, neutral thinking is on the EU at the moment:

EU COMMISSION DAVID BYRNE GIVES INCOMING IRISH GOVERNMENT ITS ORDERS

"A conclave of technocrats without a country responsible to no one" - French President Charles de Gaulle on the EU Commission.

* * *

The incoming Irish Government should "get down at once" to re-running the Nice Treaty referendum, Irish EU Comissioner David Byrne said on RTE's "Morning Ireland" this morning.

This statement comes a day after Mr Byrne put his name to the Commission's proposals to the EU Convention that the Commission become a quasi-government for Europe,the sole source of EU legislative proposals on economic policy, EU-wide taxes, foreign policy, and an EU frontier police and public prosecutor in an EU area of harmonised civil and criminal law.

(N.B. If the latter should come about - and big steps in this direction have been already taken - it would mean an end to trial-by-jury and "habeas corpus," as these pillars of the justice systems of the English-speaking world do not exist in the continental EU systems, which permit preventive detention and inquisitorial judges.)

Key elements of Irish civil society such as the Trade Unions, IBEC and the Churches must play their part to get Nice 2 ratified, Commissioner Byrne laid down on "Morning Ireland."

In assessing Commissioner Byrne's remarks one should bear in mind that the EU Commission, and Mr Byrne as one of its members, has a significant selfish vested interest in the ratification of the Nice Treaty. Nice's abolition of the national veto in some 30 policy areas means that the Commission becomes the sole proposer of EU law in these areas, which obviously increases its power.

Other Nice Treaty provisions have the effect of moving the Commission towards becoming a quasi-EU Government,an aspiration which Commission President Romano Prodi's proposals to the EU Convention yesterday puts further flesh and bones on.

These include the provision of the Nice Treaty that removes from national governments and prime ministers the final say in deciding who will be their national Commissioner. Under Nice this is to be done by majority Council of Minsters' vote, rather than unanimously as heretofore. Under Nice, Governments also lose their veto on the appointment of the Commission President, who will henceforth be able to shuffle and reshuffle Commissioners after their appointment, much as a national prime minister can shuffle a cabinet.

This replacement of unanimity by qualified majority vote will have the effect, if Nice is ratified, of ensuring that both the President of the
Commission and individual national Commissioners must be congenial from the outset to the qualified majority on the EU Council - which means effectively the EU's Big-State Members.

Couple these provisions of Nice with the Treaty's proposals for a rotating EU Commission in an enlarged EU, and the fact that the ultimate size of the Commission is still undecided, and one can see why former top Irish EU officials Eamon Gallagher and John Temple Lang told the Forum on Europe in Dublin Castle that Article 4 of the Nice Treaty's Protocol on EU Enlargement providing for rotating Commissioners, is "a serious flaw" in the Nice Treaty, and is in no way necessary to facilitate EU enlargement.

As Eamon Gallagher said there: "If the principle of one member of the Commission per Member State is given up now, you will not get it back later."

These are some of the reasons why all good Europeans and exponents of the European ideal should be pleased that the Nice Treaty was rejected by the Irish people last summer, for it gives the opportunity of deleting these objectionable proposals in a revised EU Treaty, or one that does not require a constitutional referendum in Ireland, before it is too late. Or else leaving the contentious issues of Nice to the 2004 grand constitutional EU Treaty now being discussed in the EU Convention.

On "Morning Ireland" also Commissioner Byrne repeated the canard that the Treaty of Nice is necessary for EU enlargement, despite the statement of his superior, Commission President Romano Prodi, last summer that "Legally,ratification of the Nice Treaty is not necessary for enlargement. It is without any problem up to 20 members, and those beyond 20 members have only to put in the accession agreement some notes of change, some clause. But legally, it's not necessary... from this specific point of view, enlargement is possible without Nice."

The FACTS about the relation between the Nice Treaty and EU enlargement are given in a letter in today's "Irish Times" from National Platform secretary Anthony Coughlan. This was written in reply to an article by UCD Jean Monnet Professor Brigid Laffan, in which she gave the same tendentious twist as Commissioner Byrne does to what the Nice Treaty is about.

This follows for your information:
_________

THE NICE TREATY AND EU ENLARGEMENT -
Text of letter in today's "Irish Times" from National Platform secetary Anthony Coughlan:

Sir,
Professor Brigid Laffan writes (15 May) that the Nice Treaty was negotiated to permit EU enlargement. How does she reconcile that statement with the following facts?

Nice replaces unanimity by qualified majority voting on the EU Council of Ministers in some 30 policy areas. These include the appointment of EU Commissioners, the funding of EU-wide political parties, international trade in services, the implementation of agreed foreign policy joint actions and common positions, and the rules of the EU Structural Funds. What have these to do with EU enlargement?

Nice abolishes the right of each Member State to have one of its nationals on the EU Commission in an enlarged EU. Former Irish EU officials Eamonn Gallagher and John Temple Lang have characterised this provision as "a serious flaw" in the Treaty and as in no way necessary for EU enlargement. They see it as a dangerous erosion of the legitimacy of the Commission as the guardian of the common EU interest, and particularly disadvantageous for small States like Ireland.

Nice permits the division of the EU into first-class and second-class members by permitting eight or more EU Members to "do their own thing" and to use the EU institutions for that purpose, even though the other Members disagree. Examples would be harmonising taxes among themselves or making the EU Court of Justice the final determinant of their citizens' human rights.

Eight out of 15, or eight out of 20, or eight out of a possible 27 in an enlarged EU. This ends the EU as a partnership of legal equals, in which each State has a veto on fundamental change. At present the other EU States cannot go ahead and agree special arrangements among themselves without Ireland's permission. These "enhanced cooperation" provisions of the Nice Treaty would allow them to do that in future.

It is these provisions which make up the new constitutional matter that requires a referendum in Ireland if Nice is to be ratified. There is no need for us to change our Constitution to permit EU enlargement, anymore than we had to hold referendums on previous enlargements.

These provisions for what would effectively become a two-tier three-tier EU are not necessary for enlargement. They were brought into the Treaty negotiations by France and Germany at the Feira EU Summit after the Intergovernmental Conference(IGC) to consider the implications of enlargement had been set up. Their political purpose is to enable the Big States, Germany and France in particular, to establish an inner directorate in an enlarged EU, which can then confront the rest with continual political and economic faits accomplis. They provide the legal path towards what M. Jacques Delors called for in 2000: "A Union for the enlarged Europe
and a Federation for the avant-garde."

Nice militarizes the EU in a new way by making the EU directly responsible for the first time for the 60,000-soldier "Rapid Reaction Force" and the associated EU Military Committee and EU Military Staff, instead of using the Western European Union as the agent of the EU in military matters, as was previously the case. Again, what has this to do with EU enlargement?

The Treaty of Amsterdam says that if the EU enlarges by even one State, the Big States will lose one of the two Commissioners each now has, but will be compensated by increasing their relative voting weight on the Council of Ministers OR by taking their population size into account in such votes. That does not require a further EU Treaty. It is why Commission President Prodi told the Irish Times last June that "enlargement is possible without Nice," and that the EU can be enlarged by 10 or more Applicant countries on the basis of their individual Accession Treaties, as happened with previous enlargements.

Nice BOTH increases the relative voting weight of the Big States AND introduces a population criterion for Council votes from January 2005, irrespective of whether EU enlargement has occurred by then, and irrespective of the number of new Member States. The allocation of Council votes and Euro-Parliament Seats for the 12 Applicant countries is set out in a Declaration attached to the Nice Treaty as the common position of the 15 Members in their negotiations with the Applicants. This is not legally part of the Treaty proper. It was therefore not rejected by Ireland when we voted No to Nice last year. There is no reason why the Applicant countries
cannot join the EU on the basis of the proposals in this Declaration.

The logic of these facts would seem to be that the non-contentious parts of Nice should be put into another Treaty which does not require a constitutional referendum in Ireland. The contentious parts, such as the "enhanced cooperation" provisions, should be left to the Year 2004 Treaty now being discussed in the EU Convention, when the Applicant countries can have a say on them as full EU Members. May I suggest that this is the course the Government should insist on vis-à-vis its EU partners, if it is to do its constitutional duty in the light of last year's Nice referendum result.