England's Sword 2.0

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Come in, No 10, your time is up

Robert Harris says that By this time next year, Brown will be in No 10. He argues from past performance. As the saying goes, however, past performance is no guarantee of future results. I happen to think that Tone is a lot wilier than Harris gives him credit for. If it comes down to having to do a deal with IDS or letting Brown eclipse him, I think Tony will do a deal with IDS.

Blunkett's Blunders

Michael Gove takes up David Blunkett's record as British Home Secretary (equivalent to the US Attorney General, with a few extra powers) and tears it to shreds. He's spot on in every criticism, especially this one:

He’s proposed a sweeping centralisation of the nation’s constabulary in his Police Reform Bill which would reverse the trend of successful law enforcement policy across the Western world. While the globe’s most effective police forces, such as New York, rely on devolution of responsibility and neighbourhood autonomy to tackle crime, Mr Blunkett wants to second-guess, meddle, interfere and regulate from his desk in Whitehall. These centralising proposals have been roundly denounced in the Lords by an alliance of Tory, Lib Dem, and independent peers. And hardly surprising too. Never mind the illiberal principle behind Mr Blunkett’s plans, just look at the incompetent practice in his running of the Home Office so far. If the man can’t even frame a single new law without cocking it up, how can he be trusted to supervise the enforcement of all those we already have? But those in the grip of Enronitis don’t think, or indeed act, straight. Over-extended yourself dangerously? Then go further still. Initiatives running into the sand? Then rev up the announcement-count even further. We’ve had 55 gimmicks and counting since Mr Blunkett arrived at the Home Office, one for almost every week in the job. And the result? Crime set to go up by 6 per cent, the biggest increase for ten years.

Yes, while the rest of the English-speaking world has either got crime under control or seen it reduced to levels unseen since the 60s, England is set to see crime increase again.

The Government's reaction to all this is to fiddle with the justice system. There's some truth in what Tony says here, but there's a lot of problems too:

[The PM] stressed the central principle: "That above all, the time has come to re-balance the system so that we restore the faith of victims and witnesses, that the court hearing will be fair to all participants and so that we restore their confidence that a criminal will be brought to justice.

"To achieve that shift we need major reform. We need clearer, simpler rules of evidence that trust the common-sense and decency of judge and jury." Mr Blair said cases should be in the best state they could before trial, "by involving the CPS from the outset."

"We need to look again at the double jeopardy rule, in place to prevent people being tried twice for the same crime. For serious offences if there is overwhelming new evidence that implicates the accused again, they should go back to court. That is the case in Germany, Finland and Denmark. If it makes sense there, it should make sense here too."

Mr Blair said the prosecution should be able to challenge a judge's decision to stop a trial on technical grounds in all courts, promised major investment in IT across the system and work to make sentencing help reduce reoffending with better post-release supervision of all those leaving prison.

He also said he wanted more power devolved to local police chief superintendents, "the commanders closest to the problems of each neighbourhood". He said: "Some of our reforms will be controversial. Many rules of evidence and other procedures were introduced to prevent miscarriages of justice, and protections for the defendant must remain.

"But it's a miscarriage of justice when delays and time-wasting deny victims justice for months on end. It's a miscarriage of justice when the police see their hard work and bravery thrown away by courts who let a mugger out on bail for the seventh or eighth time to offend again or when courts don't have the secure places to put people.

"And it's perhaps the biggest miscarriage of justice in today's system when the guilty walk away unpunished. A modernised criminal justice system demands justice for all and we are on course to deliver it."

Miscarriages of justice and soft sentencing are big problems (building more prisons might help in the sentencing area, Tone), but reforming the double jeopardy rule is not the answer. It will make police forces more likely to rush to trial with weaker evidence, confident that they can try again later. Some people will almost certainly be persecuted unjustly because of it.

Moreover, reoffending may be an artifact of bad prisons policy. If you don't rehabilitate criminals, of course they're likely to reoffend. That happens over here too, despite our better sentencing policies.

Returning to Double Jeopardy, my central rule for things like this is to ask whether it would be unconstitutional in the US. If it would be, then it's normally going to be a pretty big mistake.

Oh, Cherie!

Tony Blair's wife has apologized after saying young Palestinians had no hope but to blow themselves up. Her father, a veteran left-winger, has been outspoken in the past -- check out these comments on the monarchy -- so it's not too much of a stretch to think that she might hold some extreme views. Once again, the Blairs seem to have been wongfooted by the timing of an outside event. Their golden touch seems to be turning to brass.

What the ... !!??

I thought I'd grown used to the surprises in this World Cup. But this is the biggest one of the lot. Ye Gods!

My predictions aren't looking very good now, are they?

PS This summary of World Cup tactics is looking increasingly accurate.

Has the Eurocent dropped?

Dangerous or welcome? According to this EUobserver article, a group of young Europeans have realized that the EU's current direction is unsustainable:

The authors of the document "Vision Europe 2020 - Reinventing Europe 2005-2020" are convinced there are now only two possible choices for Europe: The one they present or an anti-democratic and xenophobic national-Europeanism leading to a certain “death of European integration as a historic project.”

They propose abolishing the European Commission -- huzzah! -- but want to replace it with a European Government -- uh oh! -- with a President elected by "his/her peers" -- double uh oh! -- and such things as a European criminal police force -- aaaarrgghhh!!!

I think I have to prefer the current situation, which is destined to collapse, to this attempt to produce what would be a democratic Europe, but one in which Britain would shrivel up and die as the different nation it has been for so many hundreds of years. It is better to face blinkered opponents than clever ones like these Europe2020 types...

Monday, June 17, 2002

Flags, Hume and Holidays

In some sort of Jungian synchronicity with my earlier posts, I now read Mick Hume in The Times about what the English flag means today. He says that this isn't about resurgent patriotism, but then says that it's about a search for a genuine collective experience. Err, yes, of patriotism, if they knew what it really meant. That's borne out by this bit in the final paragraph:

St George’s flag flies high this week, but in a survey, 83 per cent of English people did not know the date of St George’s Day. Nearly 70 per cent, however, wanted a Bank Holiday whenever it was.

Astonishing. They want to be patriotic, but can't be, because they haven't been told what it means. If the English people were actually educated about their culture and history, then they would be patriotic, and rightly so. But they'd also realise what was being done to them. Princes and parliaments would need to tremble on that day.

Madam, I'm Adams

The trenchant John Adams quote on the left comes from the marvellous FoundingFathers.info -- Quotations from the Founding Fathers. You can send people virtual postcards of the Bill of Rights, amongst other things. Sound.

Hume on Understanding the Activists

And Mick Hume has a great article on the Palestinian Question as a tool of the anti-globalizers in the New Statesman too. He concludes:

Western society is infected by a powerful sense of self-loathing and a rejection of its political, social and economic achievements. It was this spirit of self-loathing that led some, of the left and right alike, to suggest that America got what it deserved on 11 September. Those sentiments are no more progressive when aimed against Israel as a symbol of the west than when they are directed in irrational campaigns against GM crops and the literature of Dead White Males.

We may feel solidarity with the Palestinians, but that is no reason to endorse the anti-imperialism of fools. Populist anti-Israeli rhetoric is cheap, but it offers no solutions - especially when it ends with a demand for even more western intervention in the affairs of the Middle East. The long-suffering peoples of the region deserve better than to be used by those looking for somewhere convenient to strike sanctimonious poses.

Interesting that he quotes Tariq Ali, Christopher Hitchens' old Oxford muckah and extreme left-winger, in support of this argument. We've heard it before from Hume, but to hear it in the pages of the New Statesman gives me hope that the internal struggle on the left is being won by the forces of sense.

New Statesman, new sense?

The New Statesman's leader this week displays a rare grasp of common sense for that magazine. In decrying central Government's micromanagement of schools it betrays the truly liberal roots of its schizophrenic worldview. I do not disagree with a word of this conclusion:

Stripped of the capacity to manipulate the economy - by the global markets and the rules of the European Union - politicians can't keep their hands off the schools. They should relax the pressure, allow education to breathe again and let children enjoy childhood again.

I wonder if they could apply this argument to other areas where the NS regularly argues in favor of government intervention. Well, they could. But they won't.

Scapegoats and terrorists

Thanks to Rand Simberg and the JunkYard Blog for this one. There is a striking resemblance between Jose Padilla and "John Doe #2", the missing link in the Oklahoma Bombing case. Who Is John Doe No. 2? sets out the arguments and implications. At the moment, I'd rank this as a plausible conspiracy theory. If it's true, then those who decided to go after militias as the enemy really dropped the ball. As someone once said, big time.

Column alert

My latest Recent Research Suggests... column for UPI is up. It's not my best, although I think the recidivism points are important.


Watch for all sorts of Star Trek references after what the BBC calls an Australian teleport breakthrough. This isn't Star Trek-style transporting, though. See this STATS article from '98 for a brief rundown of the problems (actually, the Beeb report covers it quite well too).

Bring on the samba boys

So it's Brazil vs England on Friday. Given our convincing performance on Saturday, our rock-solid central defence and the fact that Brazil haven't really played a decent team yet (Costa Rica had a ton of chances against them, and Belgium were very unlucky to have that goal disallowed and not go 1-0 up), I think England could very well win the match and advance to the semis for the first time since that heartbreaking loss to Germany at Italia 90.

Meanwhile, I think the USA stand a good chance of beating a below-par German side after their trouncing of Mexico. The USA are a lot better than most Europeans think, but not as good as they think they are. Nevertheless, they are brimming with self-confidence. They'll give Germany a good game.

The only downside for the Anglosphere in the footie world this weekend was Ireland losing on penalties after deserving to win their game against Spain. Typically, it was Sunderland's Kevin Kilbane who missed the penalty that essentially lost the game in the shoot-out. If West Brom want him back, let them have him...

Sorry for that little parochial outburst. Anyway, my predictions for the semis are:

USA vs Italy and

England vs Japan.

Italy to beat England on penalties in the final...

Happy Belated Birthday, Big Charter

I missed it on Saturday, but Jay Manifold celebrates the 786th birthday of the Magna Carta over on A Voyage To Arcturus. A few months ago I asked people what new public holidays they would want the UK to introduce to replace the anodyne "Bank Holidays." A few said "Magna Carta Day." Jolly good. Today should be a public holiday in the UK.

Friday, June 14, 2002

Shill alert

By the way, if you like those flags, you can get them quite cheaply at Flagline.com - Historic and Military Flags...

Wee sleekit cowrin' politicians

Thanks to David Farrer of Freedom and Whisky for dawing my attention to his one. A new party has been formed in Scotland aimed at smaller government. A century after the great step forward of securing pay for MPs, these laddies want to take a further step by refusing to accept such pay. They're led by Christopher Monckton, a former Thatcher adviser who has behaved, on the occasions I've met him, a trifle oddly. In most respects, they seem to be old school Scottish libertarians. Why, then, does The Scotsman call them "the Bruntsfield bolsheviks"?

Happy Flag Day!!!

Here's a flag I'd like to see flown more often than it is, and on both sides of the Atlantic (thanks to Libertarian Samizdata for the image):

You can read more about this excellent device courtesy of The Claremont Institute in their article A Flag of Conviction: "Don’t Tread On Me".

Here's another one I'm fond of, the Grand Union flag (for obvious reasons):

You can read about this one and some other splendid banners here.

And for those who might be interested in the flags of the confederacy, check out this page.

And here's the flag that flew over America in the 1650s...

Debt repaid?

I never thought I'd say this, but Korea saves USA's ass...

Thursday, June 13, 2002

Democracy and peace

Arnold Beichman of the Hoover Institituion, an academic think tank at Stamford, has been writing some excellent pieces for The Wshington Times recently. In Peaceful democracies he looks at the evidence behind the oft-repeated statement "democracies don't fight each other" and finds it borne out with one exception -- the purely formal hostilities between the Western Allies and Finland in WWII. But essentially it remains an excellent for Western support for Israel and for regime change in the middle east. If we want peace there, then an excellent way to achieve that is to ensure there are democracies there. To those who might argue that simple constitutional arrangements cannot overcome centuries of hostility, look at the situation between England and France. The last century, when both were democracies for the first time, was the first since the two nations took shape that there was no war between them (I think I'm right in saying that).

Finally, Beichman's article finishes off with what is perhaps the most eloquent description of the philosophy behind the Anglosphere idea, by the founding father of modern Conservatism, Edmund Burke:

"Nothing is so strong a tie of amity between nation and nation as correspondence in law, customs, manners and habits of life. They have more than the force of treaties in themselves. They are obligations written in the heart."

Ancient vs Modern

The "Black Rod" affair has ended with a humiliating climb-down by Tony Blair. He knew that Black Rod, the Queen's representative in Parliament, essentially, would be believed over him. What chance legislation comes forward to "modernise" this ancient office and have it fall under direct control of the PM, hmmm?

Rock on, Tommy

The Dodgester comments on Mick Jagger's knighthood, as requested. He also thinks Michael Gove has outed himself as a rocker...

Fear the RIPA

Two interesting additional points to the RIPA issue on official access to data. The first is from a trusted correspondent who points out that most of the agencies named already have such powers, but have them subsidiary to investigatory duties relating to Health & Safety responsibilities, trading standards and so on. There is a fear, however, that without explicit authorization to use them there might be a breach of the Human Rights Act. Essentially, these powers are implicit in common law procedures but now need to be codified. At least, that's the way it was explained to me.

I'm not sure that that can be the case, however. I'm fairly certain John Wadham of Liberty would not be so blind as to overlook what is merely a codification of existing powers. Moreover, there's an interesting letter to the Telegraph linked on their opinion page (it's a java pop up, so no direct link) from a retired spook:

I am no stranger to the need for accurate, timely and verifiable intelligence, having served 19 years in a branch of the Services concerned with military intelligence and afterwards working on IT systems involved with criminal and similar intelligence.

The extensions proposed by the Government to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (report, June 12) are unjustifiable. The sort of intelligence that can be obtained from when and where phone calls have been made, e-mail exchanges, and which computer sites have been visited (loosely defined as traffic analysis) should not, and must not, be available to the organisations the Government wishes to extend it to. There is absolutely no reason why the Food Standards Agency, local authorities or any of the other proposed bodies need access to this type of information.

Any necessary investigations must be carried out by the police or other agencies that the Act already covers. The thought that a local authority, in particular, will obtain this sort of information is very frightening. Local authority staff do not receive the same level of security clearance and vetting as current users of this information and the opportunity for corruption is unlimited. Secondly, the all-encompassing reasons for obtaining such information mean that it would be open to abuse for political ends.

This Government has proved that it cannot be trusted with even the most basic information about individuals. Who knows what injustices and persecutions will follow when a politically motivated local council obtains information about individuals and groups with which it disagrees.

I have always justified the collection of intelligence about individuals on the ground that it is handled by, in the main, apolitical, cleared and vetted individuals with a need to know. I am no longer convinced that this is the case. This Act must be repealed, not extended.

This is the crucial thing. Have trading standards officers really had such all-encompassing powers all along? If they have, it's a national scandal. Once again, this looks like officials gilding the lilly, giving them far broader powers than are necessary.

I remember Richard Stilgoe on "Watchdog" doing a musical skit about the half-dozen or so officials who had statutory right of entry to your home (so much for "the King of England cannot enter) back in the 70s. I wonder how long that list would be now.


Outrage over blindness guidelines reports the Beeb. This time NICE has decided that you have to go blind in one eye before receiving treatment for macular degeneration. I'm serious.

Anything has got to be better than this...

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Hail Caesar

Did you know Julius Caesar has a blog? Ecce Bloggus Caesari.

Yes, I'm a sucker for these things

SimilarMinds.com Compatibility Test

Your match with Daddy Warblogs
you are 77% similar
you are 65% complementary

How Compatible are You with me?

Gunga Dan back on form?

Another snippet from CBS News last night:

CBS reports, "There is a new security alert on tonight. It has this country's gatekeepers keeping a close eye on a particular group of travelers." CBS (Orr) continues, "It is one of the most specific security alerts to be issued since September 11. The Immigration and Naturalization Service has ordered that all Yemeni nationals, except those carrying diplomatic passports, be searched before entering or leaving the United States. An INS memo, obtained by CBS News, directs agents at US airports, borders, and ports, to do a complete and thorough search of all baggage carried by Yemeni travelers, and make an inventory of all effects. The memo specifically orders agents to look for large sums of currency, thermos bottles, night vision goggles or devices, and warns under no circumstances will an inspecting officer open a thermos bottle. The order was given last Thursday, after a recent raid, somewhere in the northeast, of an apartment housing a number of Yemeni nationals. Law enforcement officers discovered dozens of thermos bottles, some rigged with batteries. Wire was also found, components, authorities say, that could have been used in manufacturing bombs. One source said the recovery of materials and the ensuing alert are not connected to any known plot or specific threat, but Yemen has been a haven for Al Qaeda operatives. Just 11 months before the attack on America, the USS Cole was bombed in a Yemen port. Officials haven't said whether anyone has been detained as a result of this latest security memo. But authorities make it clear what began with a simple discovery of thermos bottles, is now a potential threat they take seriously."

Very interesting.


Health care rationing for cancer patients is now affecting people aged 55, it seems. To get access to a drug in the UK, two hoops have to be jumped through. First the drug has to be licensed safe -- the equivalent of FDA approval. Then NICE, the National Centre for Clinical Excellence, has to decide if it's worth allowing Doctors to prescribe it (this includes a cost-benefit analysis of environmental impact and the like). While this process grinds through, people die. Neither American nor European health systems suffer from this problem. I'd love to see some analysis of how many people die owing to NHS rationing compared to how many Americans die from lack of insurance.

Taking liberties

Fury as state is given power to snoop on emails, reports the Telegraph. Quite right, too. The way this has been done is underhanded:

Under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, two dozen ministries and quangos will be able to obtain communications records. Although they will not see the contents of communications - something that requires a warrant - they will be able to insist that internet service providers, telephone companies and postal operators hand over the information.

This can include names and addresses of customers, their service use records, details of who has called whom, mobile phone locations accurate to within 100 metres and the sources and destinations of emails.

Even without knowing the content of the communications, such information would be sufficient for a ministry or other public sector organisation to track and thwart attempts by campaigners, journalists or members of the public to uncover information. The legislation caused controversy when it went through Parliament two years ago. Then, the Government said the information would be available only to the police, customs, intelligence agencies and the Inland Revenue.

However, secondary legislation tabled last month and to be debated by MPs next week has added substantially to that list. Seven Whitehall departments, every local authority, health bodies in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and 11 other public bodies are now included.

Secondary legislation is very hard to block, partly because it depends on legislation already authorized. This therefore amounts to a vast increase in the potential powers of thousands of bureaucrats. Tinpot bureaucrats are well known for exercising powers they have been given (I remember one lawyer at my old Department arguing that we could use the Royal Prerogative to shut up a "troublesome" property developer whose property was being blighted by plans for a new rail line) and I can see these powers being used a lot. That really is infuriating.

Phew! Through...

Ferdinand world class as England edge through is a pretty good summary of a nervy English performance. We seemed to be playing for the draw throighout, which is surely crazy at it means that, assuming we beat Denmark -- a big assumption with wor Tommy on top form in goal -- we'll probably have to play Brazil in the Quarter Finals.

Nevertheless, France and Argentina are both out. I'm more shocked than overjoyed at that. Germany won't last much longer (they have to get past Chilavert now). England has to be one of the favorites to win, alongside Brazil, Spain (looking ominous) and Sweden (who look to have a remarkably easy passage through to the semis), I think.

I'll keep humming Three Lions throughout.

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...


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.


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...


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.


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.


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).


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.


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, 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.


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.