England's Sword 2.0

Wednesday, July 31, 2002

The false analogy to prohibition

Rand asks in the comments section below, why not bring back prohibition for alcohol? Good question, but not as damaging as it first seems. First, drug use combines a variety of deleterious effects -- short-term cognitive and psychtropic effects similar to large amounts of alcohol from small doses of the drug, plus long-term health effects connected with use rather than abuse (in this respect, marijuana is more similar to smoking than to alcohol). This makes it a more serious public health threat than either smoking or drinking. Moreover, there is evidence that marijuana is more addictive than alcohol, and more carcinogenic than cigarettes. This is a much bigger deal than either of the other substances.

In any event, the main difference between the two is that society has decided it prefers alcohol legal (there are no polls about restoring alcohol prohibition because it's such an outlandish suggestion), but is more convinced that drugs confer more harm than benefit overall. An extensive Pew Poll on the subject last year found flat-out rejection of the libertarian position on drugs -- 86% rejected the idea that "people should be allowed to take any drug they want so long as they don't hurt someone else". Marijuana is more of a gray area -- 49% believed that possession of small amounts of marijuana should be treated as a criminal offense, as opposed to 46% who didn't -- but it is clear there is no majority in favor of the move. Society has yet to be convinced that legalized drug taking, even of the supposedly inoffensive marijuana herb, will benefit society. They know the drugs war isn't working, but that's a far cry from being convinced that legalization would be a good thing. Society knows that alcohol prohibition was stupid. Drugs are different, and society recognizes that.

Perceptions of English male ineptitude

This Spectator article caused me to smile. So many of my English friends -- highly educated, successful chaps -- have married foreign women that I couldn't help but chuckle. The writer is Canadian and supposedly an acknowledged beauty, but finds it hard to get Englishmen to behave romantically. This is the heart of the article, I think:

In North America, it is generally understood that men chase women, and women, in turn, leave themselves open to being chased. This is why a corny book like The Rules: Time-tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr Right has sold more than a million copies since it was first published in 1995. Despite its fusty tone and blatantly pragmatic aim (it is, essentially, a bald-faced guide to husband-hunting), The Rules offers a basic outline for traditional courtship — one that many North Americans actively embrace. In essence, it is a handbook on how to play hard to get (don’t call him, let him pay, make him wait, etc.). Where I come from, it is not unusual for confident, successful women to adhere to certain basic rules of courtship. Old-fashioned as it might be, in romantic protocol there is an expectation of formality and respect.

It wasn’t always like this. Ten years ago it was common for Canadian and American women to become ‘offended’ by men who employed traditional courtly behaviour. Males were dressed down for opening doors and bills were split on principle. Since then, however, there has been a softening of the feminist ethic where romance is concerned.

Somewhere along the way, North American women took what they wanted from political correctness and feminism and discarded the rest. Women like to be courted, and proper courtship is, by definition, a gendered pursuit. It requires men to adhere to a different, even oppositional, code of behaviour from their female counterparts’. Like a waltz, it can be very beautiful so long as everybody knows the steps.

It’s been suggested that the wall I’m encountering is that old cultural mainstay, English reserve. Frankly, I think it’s simpler than that. The English male avoids being alone with a woman because he dreads being alone with a woman.

Yes, but in most cases I'd say that's really "with an Englishwoman". All the foreign girls my circle has married have been very good at making us feel comfortable, unlike the frightful harridans that seem to make up the majority of young English womenhood. If this lady is an acknowledged beauty, I'll bet my bottom dollar that all the Englishmen she's been out with have simply been awestruck by the idea that a beautiful girl is actually willing to talk to them. Beautiful, friendly girls are 10 a penny over here, it seems. In Britain, they're about as common as the Never Spotted Grimblemouse...

Anyway, I thought I'd turn the subject over to my wife, an acknowledged expert on this subject (hem, hem):

Foolish, foolish North American girl. You’ve got in all wrong. Use your American advantages.

First of all, remember you’re in a different country, therefore you must change your approach. American men are indeed more aggressive, so? English men aren’t because English women just plain awful (in general, there are many splendid exceptions). I won’t go into details because I don’t wish to offend. Rather than expect English men to behave like American men, accept their differences. It will work to your advantage.

Second, pick a man you like and pursue him. Iain stalked me (too long a story) but actually did nothing. When push came to shove, I was the aggressor [I say, hang on, this is a bit near the knuckle... ed.]. This was not a problem.

Third, be upfront. You like an Englishman and you want him to spend time with you, then tell him clearly. They are not a bright lot in general in this area and need your guidance (again this works to your advantage).

Finally, because decent Englishmen are tabulae rasae, you can train them to do what you like. Think about that. With little experience with women, these men appreciate any “tricks” or “techniques” you give them. Don’t think about it as training per se so much as getting what you want in a manner that pleases two parties.

I love an Englishman with all my heart and soul. The time I’ve invested in “domesticating” him has paid off in spades. He is a delight and a privilege to have in my life and I thank God for him every day. I recommend Englishmen to all my American female friends and hope this helps this rather misguided North American girl.

Kris Murray
Iain’s Wife

Well, there you have it. Straight from the, erm, horse's mouth...

Because they got high

Rand Simberg and I agree on most things, but there is a sharp disagreement between us on drugs policy. Commenting on the reaction to the John Stossel ABC News Special last night, Rand asserts:

As for marijuana being the second leading cause of car crashes, I'm aware of no data on that subject. I think he's probably just making it up.

I'm not sure about the "second leading cause" argument, which seems to be a bit over-the-top, but there's plenty of evidence about marijuana involvement in traffic accidents:

Marijuana affects many skills required for safe driving: alertness, the ability to concentrate, coordination, and reaction time. These effects can last up to 24 hours after smoking marijuana. Marijuana use can make it difficult to judge distances and react to signals and sounds on the road.

There are data showing that marijuana can play a role in crashes. When users combine marijuana with alcohol, as they often do, the hazards of driving can be more severe than with either drug alone.

A study of patients in a shock-trauma unit who had been in traffic accidents revealed that 15 percent of those who had been driving a car or motorcycle had been smoking marijuana, and another 17 percent had both THC and alcohol in their blood.

In one study conducted in Memphis, TN, researchers found that, of 150 reckless drivers who were tested for drugs at the arrest scene, 33 percent tested positive for marijuana, and 12 percent tested positive for both marijuana and cocaine. Data also show that while smoking marijuana, people show the same lack of coordination on standard "drunk driver" tests as do people who have had too much to drink.

There's research from the UK that says that marijuana users are less likely to be involved in accidents than normal folks, but there are significant differences in driving conditions between the UK and US, so I'd prefer to rely on US data here.

As for drugs links to other crime, in 1997 33% of state prisoners and 22% of Federal prisoners said they had committed their offense under the influence of drugs. Bolstering my belief that drugs prey on the weakest in our society, 46% of female inmates who had been abused admitted that they committed their offense under the influence of drugs, while veterans (26%) were less likely than nonveterans (34%) to have done so. The figures are higher for jail inmates and, significantly, marijuana is the most prevalent drug mentioned. I should add that, as self-reports of criminal activity, these numbers are likely to be significant under-estimates.

Being under the influence, of course, does not mean that the drug caused the crime. Drug use is part and parcel of the criminal lifestyle. But in lowering inhibitions, it means that antisocial behavior is more likely to be seen as acceptable. There's probably a vicious circle effect here. What I am certain of is that drug use blights the lives of too many, especially in the lowest social classes, and that drugs law relaxation, when it has been tried, has not seen any decrease in that central problem. Indeed, evidence from Brixton and Europe seems to suggest the reverse.

The INS Mindset

Mark Steyn has the last word on the Deena Gilbey farrago.

Ignoring the voice of the working class

The Guardian seems a bit miffed that cannabis law relaxation is opposed by a majority of Britons surveyed. They go to great lengths to stress that this is because only old fuddie-duddies (those over 35) are opposed. Perhaps this might be because it's people over 35 who have children at an age where drugs become an issue? Moreover, I've been saying here for a long time that drugs affect the working classes much more severely than the educated, middle class Guardian reader. It's hardly a surprise to see, therefore, that the working class strongly opposes decriminalisation:

Generally approval ratings for the reform of the cannabis laws rises to 45% among the more affluent and middle class voters. Among working class and poorer voters the level of approval falls to 26% with 63% of social class DE voters - the unskilled and unemployed - opposed to any decision to relax the penalties for possessing cannabis.

Once again the working class are being sacrificed against their will at the altar of a liberal god.


Grateful to Peter Cuthbertson for this one. Attitudes against adopting the Euro in the UK are actually hardening, despite the fact that 35% of the sample had now used the currency. Yet the fanatics at Britain in Europe still keep peddling their old lie:

Simon Buckby, campaign director of Britain in Europe, said: “When people go to the eurozone they can see that anti-European scares simply aren’t true.”

Whatever. The Times article also suggests a majority of Germans want to return to the Mark. This currency will collapse within 5 years, mark my words...


According to the Group Captain, New Labour are so upset by the judicial decision that their detention of non-British terrorists (alleged) was discriminatory that they are considering an opt-out from Article 14 of the ECHR, which reads:

The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.

Wonderful! The whole philosophy of non-discrimination is summed up in those words. New Labour would demonstrate its complete lack of any sort of principle whatsoever in opting-out from that Article. Bwah-ha-ha!

The European View of Human Rights

Once again, the Europeans have got the opposite worldview to Americans. Emmanuel Goldstein has some must-read comments about the effect of the European Convention on Human Rights on terrorists in Britain:

So thanks to the ECHR we are not allowed to send foreign criminals back to foreign governments, but we are allowed to detain free-born Britons indefinately. Got that?

Unbelievable. A convention based on negative rights would not have this problem.

Davidian Fiasco

Stephen Pollard has some great commentary on the David Davis debacle that demonstrated last week just how far the party has yet to go:

Mr. Davis was on a fishing holiday in Florida (as the Sunday Telegraph put it: “He went fishing. They went hunting”). For two days Mr. Duncan Smith had tried to contact him, with no success. When he finally managed it, Mr. Davis pointed out that he had been incommunicado because the phone supplied to him by the Conservative Party had failed to work. The word “metaphor” could have been invented for this one event.
Mr. Davis’ replacement was Theresa May, who had previously shadowed the Transport Secretary, Stephen Byers. Mrs. May is one of those rare persons who can make Tories reach consensus: they all agree that she’s absolutely inept.

The Tories desperately need some policies to put forward. Liam Fox, for instance, is intelligent, telegenic and personable, but every time he appears in public criticizing the dreadful state of Labour health policy he has to say "we're developing our ideas" instead of offering a coherent alternative. This has gone on too long.

Not that it'll make a difference, but over the next few days I'd like to revive Conservative Revival as a sounding board for new ideas for the British Conservative Party. As such, I think it should really be a group blog. I already have one eager and talented volunteer signed up, and I'd be grateful if anyone else who would like to be able to post ideas or discussion of other people's ideas would let me know of their interest.

Where's Osama?

Sitting in state, on a red hot plate, between Pilate and Judas Iscariot, I should think. Apparently the US is 'holding Bin Laden bodyguards' at Guantanamo Bay and his son has assumed a leadership role in Al Qa'eda. I'd say the odds are pretty small that he's still alive.

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

attention National Council of La Raza!

Those benighted UK authorities! They haven't realised the distinction between race and ethnicity. Check out this Spectator article for just how confused the UK bureaucracy is over race:

Children who until now have had no reason to think of themselves as anything other than a human being are being obliged to classify themselves, like a worm in a biology lesson, as belonging to one of 15 species and 65 sub-species, each given a four-letter code. You can, for example, be ‘White British’ (WBRI), a ‘Traveller of Irish Heritage’ (WIRT), a Gypsy Roma (WROM); you can be ‘Black Caribbean’ (BCRB), ‘Chinese’ (CHNE) or — which, until I came across the government’s ethnic classification system, I thought applied only to zebras — a ‘White and Black African’ (MWBA). You cannot — lest anyone should be fooled into thinking that bureaucrats who work in ethnic awareness had succeeded in purging their minds of all prejudice — be a British Chinese or a British Gypsy.

And yet, in all of this, there is no classification for Paraguayans. So what would that famous gaming team, the London Paraguayans, do?

Bad IDea

The redoubtable, formidable and indefatigable Chad Dimpler points out exactly what's wrong with the ID card idea:

Now imagine that card with a photo, DNA reords, retina imprints and finger prints. Imagine that all your records will be available to every government agency and department on request - whether you have dealings with them or not.

And then imagine the system breaking down - not even necessarily through shady dealings - just through the habitual underfunding and poor maintenance the system will inevitably suffer from. Imagine a politician having a 'bright idea' which won't cost much to implement because we already have the information on the ID database.

And then imagine waking up and realising you can't even buy a pair of socks without it appearing on a government database. And then think how you could have stopped it if you'd given a damn in time.

This all goes for the US as well, of course...

Mel P

The spiciest girl columnist writing today exhibits her grrlpower once again in the excellently argued The case for war against Iraq which ran in yesterday's Daily Mail:

Such action might split not just the Labour party but Britain itself down the middle. For a rampant and ugly anti-Americanism is being allowed to make the British political weather.

This prejudice can only be countered if Blair does what he has so far been reluctant to do and properly makes the case for war to Parliament. For it is Parliament where the national consensus is forged.

Real concerns are being expressed about action against Iraq, which the Prime Minister must lay to rest. For these claims are all eminently implausible, wrong and defeatable.

Interestingly, the most compelling argument against an attack on Iraq is not being made by the Left at the moment, as Brendan O'Neill points out, presumably because if they did, it would ruin their arguments in favor of intervening wherever the heck they liked...

Blunkett's problems

Interesting analysis, by the BBC of all places, of the problems facing David Blunkett. His "emergency powers" adopted after 9/11 but before passage of the anti-terrorism act have been ruled illegal by the immigration appeals court. My favorite UK think tank, Civitas has recently published a pamphlet by Professor Ken Minogue that examines Blunkett's philosophy, which, as he says, has a lot to commend it.

Blunkett’s working-class common sense places him closer to the aspirations of ordinary people than most members of parliament, but Professor Minogue argues that he has not escaped New Labour's ‘passion to regulate, codify, define and help us poor ordinary citizens to live better lives’.

He wants to call upon the virtues of a vigorous civil society, whilst declaring the Home Office the Department for the Citizen. Like other politicians, he wants the powers of the modern welfare state, coupled with an active citizenry. The two things are largely incompatible.

Indeed, like most supporters of New Labour, Blunkett misunderstands the basis of civil society and how it both guarantees freedoms and must - for that very reason - be separate from the State. If Blunkett could realise this essential truth about Britain then his problems would clear up and he could make a very good home secretary. Instead, he flirts with tyranny.

Fiddling while Rome burns

Policemen often complain about their time being wasted with paperwork. Perhaps they should also be complaining about this ludicrous misuse of police time. Can't imagine they will, though.

Absurdities abound

I don't know what's more interesting about this story by Alex "Global Warming" Kirby -- the sheer bias in the writing towards the "let's force everyone to wreck their economies in the name of our unproven theories" school or the absudity of the constitution of the United States being criticized by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds...

If Europe issues a Declaration of Independence, Britain must declare UDI

Nick Denton argues that Europe must declare its military independence from the US. Fair enough. Where Denton goes wrong is in arguing that Europe and the US are diverging and that the UK is part of Europe. Divergence between Europe and the US is mainly driven by European welfarism, which, Denton's arguments about toys for boys notwithstanding, could not survive with the increased military spending necessary to make Europe a significant player militarily.

In fact the divergence is not so much between Europe and the US as between continental Europeanism and an emerging separate Anglosphere civilization, as Jim Bennett has pointed out:

Western in origin but no longer entirely Western in composition and nature, this civilization is marked by a particularly strong civil society, which is the source of its long record of successful constitutional government and economic prosperity. The Anglosphere's continuous leadership of the Scientific-Technological Revolution from the seventeenth century to the twenty-first century stems from these characteristics and is thus likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Finally, beginning in World War I and continuing into the post-Cold War world, Anglosphere nations have developed mutual cooperative institutions. The Anglosphere potential is to expand these close collaborations into deeper ties in trade, defense, free movement of peoples, and scientific cooperation, all bound together by our common language, culture, and values.

Language, culture and values are defining aspects of a civilization. Except among the super-rich, those are not shared by Europe, but they are by the Anglosphere. Europeanism, insofaras it was ever a civilization, was held together by an aristocracy. Since the demise of that system, it has been held together only by spates of technocracy. The EU is an attempt to keep that technocracy going whatever the will of the European peoples by imposing culture and values from above. In its avoidance of the question of language, the Europeanism mirrors the Austro-Hungarian Empire, unaware that language diversity helped break that entity up. And as Jim argues forcefully, Britain has never really been part of that "civilization" since the Middle Ages, despite the desires of certain parties from Guy Fawkes through James II, Edward VIII and on up to Ted Heath and the current gang. If Europe does become the Austrian Empire reborn, then Britain must have no part of it.

Murray defends Europe shock horror!

Perry de Havilland has a great post at Samizdata.net critiquing Victor Davis Hanson's odd analysis of the Europe-America divide. Hanson seems to have decided that what average Europeans find wrong with America, such as its bizzarrely large murder rate (which is very difficult to explain), is more important than what it finds right with America (Winnebagos, jet skis, and Play Station IIs, as Perry points out).

This basically all boils down to whether your worldview envisages the glass as being half-full or half-empty. In deciding that it's all evidence that Europeans are resentful of America's supposed classlessness (an illusion, as Theodore Dalrymple and Perry have both pointed out), Hanson is himself taking the glass half-empty approach.

Me, I ordered a cheeseburger (obligatory Gary Larsson reference).


18.75 %

My weblog owns 18.75 % of me.
Does your weblog own you?


Thanks to the thankfully-returned Peter Briffa for pointing out this one. Read this Dallas at Colorado Major League Soccer report from Yahoo and pay special attention to the second paragraph. Gazza has obviously arrived early, and is playing for the wrong club...

News from Dimpler Towers

Some ruminations from the stomach of England can be read at the new blog of an old friend of mine, who has deserved such an outlet for what seems like generations. Chad Dimpler, election analyst, promises comments "when something in the news really, really narks you."

Oh my!

Chris Smith was Britain's first openly gay cabinet minister. Michael Portillo famously admitted to homosexual experiences in his youth. It was somewhat unfortunate, therefore, that the original headline of this BBC story was "Chris Smith stands behind Michael Portillo for
vice-chair of BBC".

The numbers game

Here's the link to Howard's fine piece, Terrorized by Numbers, in case you haven't seen it yet.

Recent Research Suggests...

My latest UPI column is up. This edition of Recent research suggests... looks at the latest Afghan civilian casualty numbers, the child abduction furor and one elementary mistake...

Despair? Hardly

Education may be key to extremist actions, reports the Guardian. The paper referred to (downloadable here for $5) suffers from a small sample size, but you'd have to expect that when asking what motivates terrorists. It's main conclusion is that

having a living standard above the poverty line or a secondary school or higher education is positively associated with participation in Hezbollah. We also find that Israeli Jewish settlers who attacked Palestinians in the West Bank in the early 1980s were overwhelmingly from high-paying occupations.

A little of learning is a dangerous thing, as someone once said.

Monday, July 29, 2002

One more blog

Before I call it quits and turn in. Just as I have been delighted to find a lot of good blogs on the centre and left recently, it is always good to see another decent blog on the right. Peter Cuthbertson's Conservative Commentary is a Britblog that contains an awful lot of good, conservative sense.

No posts Monday

Apart from this one, that is. Family commitments mean no posts today, but I do have two things to say:

1. As the grandson of a coal miner, I was utterly delighted by the safe rescue of the Pennsylvanian "howkers".

2. My colleague Howard Fienberg will have a very important article up on TCS on Monday morning. Check out Kesher Talk or Tech Central Station for the link.

Friday, July 26, 2002

The corporate issue: it's all US GAAP's fault

A correspondent writes to say that the current scrutiny banks are coming under may be missing the point. He alleges that the ethical problems US corporations are facing are all the fault of the US Generally Accepted Accounting Practices (GAAP), which concentrate on box-checking and not on the spirit of accounting. It's a compelling case, here presented in full (I'm sorry, but I'm mystified by a few of the acronyms too):

I have to say that generally it is not IMHO right to attack the banks for complicity in most of these situations. Bankers, and indeed the lawyers who help structure the deals, are often tasked with looking at the grey area of the accounting standards to come up with transactions that will help finance a company whilst having a neutral or indeed positive effect on its balance sheet. There is nothing wrong with them advising in this manner. It should be the accountants role, who should, and again here I think there was a clear failing by Andersens over Enron, properly consider a transaction before it is even close to being signed, and if necessary
say that it doesn't work or demand changes. Certainly in the UK this happens a lot.

One of the big problems exposed by Enron are the complete failings of US GAAP, which until Enron the US hailed as the greatest GAAP in the world, to the extent that they in essence forced it onto European corporates by requiring them to compile their accounts under US GAAP if they wanted to list shares on a US Exchange.

US GAAP is not only a prescriptive system but many of its rules have been found in other countries to be deeply flawed and thus have been changed, yet the US FASB has failed to respond. We had one trnasaction we were looking at where a company granted a long lease of a major property to an SPV which then leased back on an ongoing but shorter fram to a subsidiary of the original company. However the subsidiary was not a good credit risk for the bondholders who would be paid out of that rent. I was shocked when a US lawyer suggested we just get the original company to guarantee the subsidiary's rent. Under US GAAP this would not have brought any of the deal back on to the original company's balance sheet, something you wouldn't have got away with under UK GAAP. Also the company involved was European but happily! compiled under US GAAP.

The US FASB needs to wake up and realise that they have to move to a system where accountants look at substance over form and are then prepared to say to lawyers and bankers OK you've got a very nice bit of legal analysis but I'm afraid when I look at this transaction its just bollocks!

Good news, for once

BBC NEWS | UK | Widow wins fight to stay in US. Jolly good. I wonder if there was a little arm-twisting involved...

Mind the doors

Traveling on the London Underground can be a depressing experience. But occasionally the staff actually make you smile. I remember being stuck in a boiling hot overcrowded Tottenham Court Road station one evening while the trains were delayed but not minding because of an hilarious exchange on the public address system between the controller and a guard on the platform. This included the wonderful line "Please pay no attention to the lunatic on the platform. Our job is not to entertain you. Our job is to delay your journey by providing defective trains." Anyway, Iain Coleman has some similar stories in his "Tube Tales" blog entry.

On the other hand...

If you're pining for a good leftist American weblog, you could do a lot worse than UNDERNEWS: The daily news service of the Progressive Review, Washington's most unofficial source. It's a genuinely independent site, with a good deal of humor and a willingness to tackle corruption and cynicism on the left as well as the right (viz editor Sam Smith's current investigations of Robert Rubin). I'll add it to my recommended sites soon.

Arrogance personified

Peter Hain and his bunch of backstabbers at the Foreign Office have outdone themselves this time. The government of Gibraltar is going to hold a referendum over the British plans to share sovereignty with Spain. Hain says he won't recognize its results. Let him remember that, in Dante's vision of Hell, the deepest level is reserved for those who betrayed others...

Tadpole Stew

JamesBowman.net has been redesigned with a much more pleasing regency feel to it. Long-time readers will remember that I consider James to be America's finest film reviewer. It takes a pretty good movie to earn a star from him, and I recommend a trip through his review archives (his review of The Patriot, for example, points out what was really so objectionable about that movie from an American standpoint).

He has now posted his review of Tadpole. People who have been following Andrew Sullivan's objections to this stylish panegyric to pedophilia will know what to expect, but James sets out the problems of this movie concisely and eloquently:

... the movie’s publicists are so confident of its audience’s view of the matter as just good, clean fun that they are sending out press releases of indescribable vulgarity to publicize the results of a poll to celebrate what they call “National Tadpole Week.” Some remarkable number of respondents report a relationship in their own past like that of Oscar and Diane, and the publicists encourage the use of “tadpoling” as a verb meaning the pursuit of such relationships.

If like Donna Britt, a columnist for the Washington Post, you are inclined to applaud these efforts, I can have nothing more to say to you on the subject, but for everyone else the tastelessness of the ad campaign is reflected in the tastelessness of the movie.

James' reviews often leave you thinking "How can our society have come to this?" Tadpole seems to be the most perfect example yet.

Thursday, July 25, 2002

Murray coast-to-coast

If you have access to Radio America's syndicated show Nolan at Night, I'm going to be on it at 7:30pm EST on Monday night, discussing phony statistics et al.

Attention Canada!

Canadian readers may like to check out CANSTATS - The Canadian Statistical Assessment Service, a new organization affiliated with the Fraser Institute that is doing God's work in debunking phony statistics up there. I'm on the Board of Advisers, believe it or not.

Subjects ... may have arms for their defence suitable for their conditions and as allowed by law

Thus spake the Bill of Rights, 1689. The loophole of "as allowed by law" has been exploited so often that Her Majesty's subjects may no longer have arms for their defence (I don't believe this section has ever been repealed or amended, but i could be wrong). A new American book, reviewed here in The Washington Times, charts the course of the de facto revocation of the right. Only now are we beginning to see the results:

The author sums up the English situation: Its law-abiding citizens "have been effectively disarmed of all weapons for nearly fifty years," had had their excercise of self-defense "severely circumscribed," are at the mercy of wholly inadequate law enforcement, and find themselves afflicted by a judicial system reluctant to incarcerate those offenders that police are "able to apprehend." In short, a deeply entrenched but badly flawed policy provides "only minimal deterrence" to the lawless. "The result," concludes Malcom, is a reversal of four centuries of increasing English civility by "a rate of violent crime soaring to record levels."

The author also points out that Tony Martin, the farmer initially jailed for life after shooting a burglar dead, would not only not have been charged in America, he would not have been charged in France or Germany. Is that the state of civil liberty in the UK, that Englishmen are less free to defend themselves than Germans? What exactly did we fight that war for?

Home truths, honestly delivered

There is a fascinating interview with Theodore Dalrymple in the Australian magazine Policy. He addresses topic after topic with honesty and insight sadly missing from most of our elected politicians. He spears, for example, the central problem with Mrs Thatcher's ministry. It centred itself on economics and ignored the social consequences:

... in some ways Mrs Thatcher was a mirror-image Marxist. Everything that Marx abhorred she thought was good, and she thought (or she appeared to think—I’m not sure she gave enough attention to it) that if only we could get the economy right then everything else would follow. But in fact the market can completely destroy social relations if the market is completely uninformed by any kind of vision. If the whole world is treated as a sweet shop, and all you’ve got to do is choose, then I think that’s very wrong. And I don’t think Adam Smith would have approved. I suspect that Mrs Thatcher understood that—but I think that when people are in power, they actually lose sight of what is going on. And she also didn’t do very much to alter the welfare state.

I've said this often, and I'm glad to see Dalrymple agrees. By concentrating on economic arguments (and anti-Soviet defense considerations, which actually affected a lot of social policy), she ignored the consequences of such idiocies as the National Curriculum, the abolition of polytechnics and the failure to privatize the BBC (which would have done a lot more good than some of the other privatizations she did tackle). Having said that, she fixed the dysfunctional British economy, and so we should always be grateful for that.

Dalrymple also addresses the question of drug abuse, and once again comes straight to the point when talking about the decriminlization/legalization lobby (PS is Peter Saunders, from the Australian think tank):

PS: Some people argue that it’s being drug-driven, don’t they?—that the great crime wave has been driven by the need to get money to feed the drug habit. And that of course is the argument for decriminalising hard drugs.

TD: Well that is the argument, but I suspect it is wrong. I think the decision to take heroin in these deeply criminalised sub-cultures is itself part of the criminal mentality. After all, now heroin is so cheap that a person on the minimum wage can be a heroin addict. So effectively you’re saying that if you made it free, these people wouldn’t commit crime. I don’t believe that.

PS: And if we decriminalised it, then presumably this would just be another area that we’ve given up on.

TD: We just give up—we don’t draw the line anywhere. And one has to ask oneself, why do so many people take it? This again is fairly recent. I mean, if somebody said to me, ‘Here’s some heroin, you can have it free for the next ten years’, I wouldn’t take it.

PS: Is that something that’s trickled down from the intellectuals?

TD: I think it might have in the sense that [they have taught that] nothing is wrong, everything is just a matter of lifestyle, there’s nothing to choose between going out to work and lying around in your own vomit. However, I think there is another point here that perhaps isn’t caused by intellectuals. That is that if you take the group of people who inject—and after all, it is a lower class thing to do—it is difficult to see for an uneducated and perhaps not very intelligent person how that person can have any self-respect. He’s not a provider for anybody. He’s never going to be a provider. If he has children, he has almost certainly abandoned them. So it’s difficult to see what you can offer these people other than this very miserable existence. In places like Zaire, where I’ve worked, there’s a kind of self-respect even amongst the very poor who, for example, although they live in mud and all the rest of it, will turn themselves out on Sunday immaculately. And you can still see that with West Indians in my area in Britain—the older generation on Sunday, they are so beautifully dressed, it’s a delight to see.

Indeed. Drugs are part and parcel of the criminal culture. They will continue taking them, with all the negative consequences for social order that implies, whatever the legal nature of the source of supply. The return of working class respectability would do more to reduce the problem than legalization ever would. But chipping away another social sanction -- the illegality of drugs -- will simply exacerbate the problem. I think he's got it right here.

Dalrymple and his interlocutor then address the issue of the Anglosphere, without calling it such, and the sensible limits to liberty that have been decaying in that culture:

PS: Living as I do now in Australia, it strikes me that Australia is much more nationalistic, in a positive way, than Britain is. There’s a pride in Australia. And it is of course a very multi-ethnic, multicultural country, and is seemingly very successful in getting different groups to live side by side without knocking the stuffing out of each other.

TD: But I think Australians could destroy it by over-emphasising the harmfulness of their colonial past. What we’re actually seeing here is the culture, which I suppose is still fundamentally British, the political culture, is actually an achievement of world historical importance. It is one of the most attractive cultures that man has produced—the Anglophone inheritance. That’s why immigrants come here, for God’s sake! Nobody wants to emigrate to China. So there’s something good about it, and what is good is of course the inheritance—the democratic structure, the open culture, the relatively open economy, a relative lack of corruption, freedom of association, freedom from fear of the knock on the door at midnight—these are all tremendous achievements. The idea that there’s a political opposition that doesn’t get shot. And of course we have one of the greatest literary cultures in man’s history, in which Australia can take part positively.

PS: I came across research showing that the most individualistic country in the world is the United States, second is Australia, third Britain and fourth Canada—so you’ve got the Anglophone countries as the most individualistic cultures. The list you just rattled off, the positive virtues of that British inheritance, these are all virtues associated with individualism. But perhaps what you’re mapping in your book is the reverse side of that—maybe the price we pay for a culture that’s dynamic and open and that respects individual diversity is that we’re loathe to impose collective moral rules on people—and that the result is social fragmentation?

TD: Well yes, if that freedom is taken to extremes, but there was an inherited understanding that freedom is only of value if people have some kind of virtue. Roger Kimball in one of his books quotes a judge from the last century who said that if people lose their sense of obedience to the unenforceable rules, then civilisation itself is in danger. He said that people should not think that because it is legally permissible to do something that it is permissible in any other sense. Obviously we do not want a law telling us to stand there and not stand there—but we have no internal sense that we don’t actually push in front of one another, or bash people aside, and that our rights have to be tempered by respect for other people’s rights—that is what seems to have changed. In Britain, for example, I speak with people on housing estates and they tell me that one of the worst things imaginable is having a neighbour who insists on playing music at three in the morning extremely loudly. It sounds like a trivial thing, but it isn’t trivial if it goes on night after night and if you know that if you draw attention to it you’re likely to be greeted with an angrily-wielded baseball bat because that person who’s wielding it thinks that you’re infringing his liberties. I think at one time everyone would have understood without it having to be explained that your right to your privacy and pleasures is tempered by my similar rights. But I think we’ve lost that sense.

PS: But what’s caused that? You’ve mentioned the education system, and the radical egoism of the 1960s, and we’ve talked about the Thatcher inheritance too, and we said we would come back to the welfare state. Is the welfare state culpable?

TD: I think it’s a necessary condition, but not a sufficient one—or perhaps it’s not even necessary. I don’t think the welfare state is solely responsible. It certainly makes some things possible—for example, it makes the breakdown of the family possible; but I don’t think it makes it inevitable. The people who first experienced the welfare state did not start to behave badly immediately—‘Oh, now we’ve got the welfare state so we can have children out of wedlock, or we can divorce one another, and we can be violent with impunity.’ I believe, for example, if you look at New Zealand, the welfare state is older in New Zealand than in Britain, and the crime rate started going up some time later than in Britain.

PS: So if it wasn’t the welfare state that caused it, what was it?

TD: I think it’s modern culture. And modern ideas. The idea that human relationships can be freed of all social obligation and contractual obligation and that then the full, beautiful human personality comes out—well, it’s romantic drivel.

The intrview goes on to address the strange idea that Britain is hobbled by class structure, but that America and Australia aren't, and many other areas of interest besides. This is an excellent summary of the thought of one of the most sensible philosophers of our age.

Again, from Andrewsullivan.com

He's really getting the goods on the issue of how multiculturalism is badly affecting women. In Australia, prosecutors censored rape victims' evidence so they did not appear racist. These women had been raped by Lebanese muslim immigrants precisely because they were "sluts and Aussie pigs" in their eyes. Yet prosecutors thought that revealing that made the victims appear racist. What sort of society gets its values this mixed up?

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

More on Multiculturalism and Women

Andrew Sullivan points to this article in an incisive post I can't permalink. He didn't highlight this bit, which I thought well worth blogging:

Forced marriage is one of these practices. Among Muslims in Europe, it’s quite common for young people to be compelled by their parents to accept spouses they don’t want. Some women manage to escape these situations and seek protection in women’s shelters. In 1999 the Guardian published an article by Faisal Bodi, a British Muslim who complained about these shelters, which in Great Britain are called "women’s refuges." Charged Bodi, "Refuges tear apart our families. Once a girl has walked in through their door, they do their best to stop her ever returning home. That is at odds with the Islamic impulse to maintain the integrity of the family." (Bodi made certain to note–as if it definitively established the loathsome character of women’s shelters–"the preponderance of homosexuality among members and staff.") Citing universal Muslim belief in "the shariah, the body of laws defining our faith"–which he described, a bit unsettlingly, as "a sharp sword capable of cutting through the generational and cultural divide"–Bodi argued that British authorities must recognize the Muslim community "as an organic whole" and thus accord it a larger role in resolving conflicts over forced marriage. Bodi’s plaint was phrased with extreme delicacy, but the point was clear: when Muslim girls or women flee the tyranny of father or husband, the government should essentially hand them over to a group of Muslim men. In short, British law should effectively be subordinate to Muslim law. Group identity trumps individual rights.

But if that isn't bad enough, consider this, which Andrew does quote:

Then, in September 2001 (only five days, in fact, before the destruction of the World Trade Center), the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet reported that 65 percent of rapes of Norwegian women were performed by "non-Western" immigrants–a category that, in Norway, consists mostly of Muslims. The article quoted a professor of social anthropology at the University of Oslo (who was described as having "lived for many years in Muslim countries") as saying that "Norwegian women must take their share of responsibility for these rapes" because Muslim men found their manner of dress provocative. One reason for the high number of rapes by Muslims, explained the professor, was that in their native countries "rape is scarcely punished," since Muslims "believe that it is women who are responsible for rape." The professor’s conclusion was not that Muslim men living in the West needed to adjust to Western norms, but the exact opposite: "Norwegian women must realize that we live in a multicultural society and adapt themselves to it."

Much of the Anglosphere's political development over the past 150 years or so has been taken up with finding ways to secure equal justice for all (the XIVth and XIXth Amendments to the US Constitution being good examples). Multiculturalism sets itself squarely in opposition to that philosophy. To quote Jim Bennett: "Immigration, democracy, multiculturalism. Pick any two."

We just don't know

Good examination by the Telegraph of the truth behind the claim that 'one in 20 British women has been raped'. This whole area is fraught with difficulty and is probably the one area of crime where statistics are not yet really able to help us understand the problem.

All at See

Looks like I'm not the only one to identify the real choice facing Rowan Williams:

Only if Dr Williams concentrates on raising the Church's morale and defending its fundamental creeds, rather than indulging in political posturing on fashionable issues, does he have a chance of leaving the Church in better shape than he has found it.


The Shadows Fall

I'm pretty dispirited by IDS' shadow cabinet reshuffle. David Davis has been a sacrificial victim, I think. Worse, though, was the choice of his replacement:

One of Mr Duncan Smith's senior officials said: "Having an effective and politically adroit woman in the chairman's role will get the message across that the party is living in the 21st century, not the 19th."

I wholeheartedly agree. Who did he have in mind?

Reaping an angry wind

Writing in The Age, the main Melbourne paper, an Australian journalist berates The sins of our feminist mothers. In so doing, of course, she fails to recognize that what happened was entirely predictable, but, apart from that refusal to consider the beam in her own eye, this is an excellent summation of the problem facing women of a certain age all over the Anglosphere. They are "premature empty nesters":

We're alone, childless, many of us partnerless, or drifting along in "permanent temporariness", as sociologist Zygmunt Bauman so aptly put it in a recent Age article by Anne Manne to describe the somewhat ambiguous, uncommitted type of relationship that seems to dominate among childless, professional couples in their 30s and 40s.

The point is that while encouraging women in the '70s and '80s to reach for the sky, none of our purple-clad, feminist mothers thought to tell us the truth about the biological clock. Our biological clock. The one that would eventually reach exploding point inside us.

Maybe they didn't think to tell us, because they never heard the clock's screaming chime. They were all married and knocked-up by their mid-20s. They so desperately didn't want the same for us.

And none of our mothers thought to warn us that we would need to stop, take time out and learn to nurture our partnerships and relationships. Or if they did, we were running too fast to hear it.

For those of us that did marry, marriage was perhaps akin to an accessory. And in our high-disposable-income lives, accessories pass their use-by date, and are thoughtlessly tossed aside. Frankly, the dominant message was to not let our man, or any man for that matter, get in the way of career and our own personal progress.

Her conclusion:

But the truth is - for me at least - the career is no longer a challenge, the lifestyle trappings are joyless (the latest Collette Dinnigan frock looks pretty silly on a near-40-year-old), and the point of it all seems, well, pointless.

I am childless and I am angry. Angry that I was so foolish to take the word of my feminist mothers as gospel. Angry that I was daft enough to believe female fulfilment came with a leather briefcase.

It was wrong. It was crap. And Malcolm Turnbull has a point. God forbid! (This article was written in response to the Malcolm Turnbull article linked to here. It's also well worth a read -- Ed.)

Family is the most rewarding human achievement available to us all. Destroying it has given us crime and misery for a marginal hedonistic benefit to the young. Is the total sum of misery any less now than it was when some men and women were trapped in joyless marriages? I don't think so. How could an entire generation have been so foolish? And, of course, the tragic thing is that these women who have learnt the lesson the hard way have no children to warn...

Great Smears of History

I've long accepted the allegation that J. Edgar Hoover was a cross-dresser and that the Mafia blackmailed him with their knowledge of the fact. The evidence, however, looks shaky.

Equality and assimilation

The conflict between multiculturalism and Western liberalism has again been demonstrated in Sweden, where a Kurdish family that refused to assimilate has murdered a daughter who wanted to be a modern Swedish woman. They are, of course, unrepentant, because, as a criminal male member of the family said, "I've broken your rules, but Fadime has broken our rules, and our rules are much more important." The whole issue is well covered at Gene Expression (and the comments section handles well the argument that these people are no different from redneck wife-killers).

Giscard invents Euro-Senate

In an effort to placate the Anti-Federalists, Valery Giscard-d'Estaing, thinking himself Europe's Madison now as well as her Franklin and Washington has just invented the European Senate to bridge the divide between the states, err, sorry, nations and the Union, except that it seems its sole power would be the "advise and consent" powers of approving nominations.

Perhaps Giscard should read this pretty good summary of the current process from David Sands of the Washington Times. Paul Weyrich's comments are especially important:

Conservative political activist Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation predicted hard times ahead for the EU drafters, based on his own extensive experience advising constitution-drafters in Eastern Europe, Latin America and Asia after the end of the Cold War.

"Every place where I worked you had a shared culture and a shared basic approach to what government should be," Mr. Weyrich said. "You don't have anything like that with the European Union.

"Not only do you have so many different languages and government systems, but just the understanding of what freedom means is very different in the Scandinavian countries from what it is in France or Spain," he added.

Europe seems to think she can reproduce the multilingual empires of the Hapsburgs in a democratic fashion. There are two unfortunate obstacles to this idea: why and how.

Tuesday, July 23, 2002


I am indebted to a senior UPI journalist for informing me about the pilot episode to a never-made US TV series, Alexander the Great. It would have stared William Shatner as Alexander, with Adam West (yes, Batman) as his oppo Cleander.

I can just imagine the dialogue:

ALEXANDER: You don't understand; We ... are Greeks.
CLEANDER: Holy Zeus, Alexander

Mercy of mercies, it died after the pilot.

Moral or Political?

That's the choice facing Rowan Williams, the newly-designated Archbishop of Canterbury. As head of the Anglican Communion he will have to decide whether to concentrate on morals, on which he is essentially sound, or politics, which is the easy choice. My prediction is that, if he chooses politics, the Church will finally collapse and have to face disestablishment. If he chooses morals, the Church might once again seem relevant. I do not have high hopes that Oxford's former Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity will make the right choice.

Move over, Dr Kevorkian

You know, in all the furore about Dr Harold Shipman, Britain's greatest mass murderer, I missed one little snippet about how his killing spree started. He was an over-enthusiastic euthanist:

Although his motive for the killings was not entirely clear, the report concluded that Shipman began ending the lives of terminally ill patients and then moved on to patients that he found annoying or uncooperative.

Euthanasia will be abused. People will be murdered. Euthanasia is fine if it's your choice all the way. Once someone else takes the decisions, the moral issue changes, as I have argued before. Shipman is a warning to us all (thanks to Medpundit for pointing this out).

Compensating the Country

Jay Leno last night on the Congressional pay rise:

"I got a better idea. Instead of a salary, let's put Congress on commission. They don't get paid unless they do something right."

Crime Time

My friend Eli Lehrer has an article I wish I'd written myself over at NRO on the subject of the latest FBI crime figures. As he says, the news is both less important and more important than it seems:

While citizens rightly worry about any increase in violence and theft — particularly one that follows a decade of good news — 2001 saw very little movement in crime rates. Accounting for population growth, violent crime actually fell fractionally, while property crime rose only bit more than one percent. Over 60 percent of the total increase in the crime occurred in the larceny/theft category, which includes offenses as trivial as stealing a candy bar. Many big cities continued to get safer too: Crime continued to decline in Chicago; New York; Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; and a host of other important urban centers.

Still, the recent increases in crime deserve serious attention. Motor-vehicle theft rose nearly six percent in 2001 and murder increased over three percent. Robbery rose four percent nationally and soared almost eight-and-a-half percent in the suburbs. Both morally misguided youth and serious, committed career criminals commit these types of crimes; and both are becoming more prevalent.

To begin with, the United States has begun to let more thugs out of prison. In 2001, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that prison populations fell for the first time in nearly 20 years as a record 635,000 inmates were dumped on the streets. Thanks to correctional facilities that do almost nothing to rehabilitate offenders, the convicts leaving prison are some of the worst criminals ever and recidivism has hit all-time highs.

But the increasing number of released thugs can't entirely explain the increase: Nearly as many people left prison while crime rates dropped sharply, during the late 1990s. The increasing levels of violence among juveniles do explain some of change. Children born at the height of the crack epidemic are now entering their teens. Raised without fathers, decent schools, or viable role models in neighborhoods where violence is the norm, they have begun to emerge as the "super-predator" caste William Bennett, John DiIulio, and John Walters foresaw in their 1996 book Body Count.

I've expressed skepticism that the "coming crime wave" was washed-up before. I don't think the DiIulio argument will be fully verified or falsified until the latter half of this decade. I sincerely hope it's a false argument, but youth crime figures are still at historically high levels.

Anyway, Eli also points out that the entirety of the 2001 crime rise happened after 9/11. Probably the most impressive police chief in the country told Eli why:

"It was distracting, we pulled resources out of the neighborhoods" says Lowell, Mass., police superintendent Edward Davis, whose city had led the nation in crime decreases during the 1990s. "We were spending inordinate amounts of overtime on things like having people with rifles standing around the reservoir."

This is exactly the same syndrome that leads to old ladies being searched in airports, but the consequences are much more serious.

Snorts of disgust

Sharpton Says Tape Has Been Leaked in Smear Attempt. Apparently, the Working Class Hero was caught discussing a cocaine deal in 1983 and subsequently wore a wire for the FBI. Now HBO is going to broadcast the evidence. Sharpton's defensiveness here reminds me of Big Julie in Guys & Dolls -- "I am an honest person, as is proved by my record. Fity-two arrests and no convictions!"


I should have predicted this. CBS news last night reported,

"First it was the medical shock the recent study finding increased health risks of long term hormone replacement therapy, taken by millions of women. Now it's the aftershock in court. The makers of the popular drug combining estrogen plus progestin are facing women's anger and big time lawsuits."

They added,

"As many as six million women did take it, and now as a result of the recent blockbuster study linking Prempro to higher rates of these diseases, lawyers around the country are looking to line up what could be hundreds of thousands of clients."

The junk science laws will no doubt be called into play here. Nevertheless, I foresee a re-run of the Dow-Corning breast implant affair. Despite no credible evidence proving silicone breast implants caused illness to women, the company that made them was forced into bankruptcy because of the weight of lawsuits against it. The trial lawyers made millions.


I should add that the INS feedback link came courtesy of the Editor of the Midwest Conservative Journal.

Direct action

Here's the link for sending feedback to the INS. If you are an American citizen and outraged by the Deena Gilbey fiasco, please use it. Be polite. Don't attribute motives. Be calm and rational and we are much more likely to get results. Writing to your Congressman and other elected officials may help too.

Monday, July 22, 2002

About time too

The provos have been having their cake and eating it for too long. It seems that Tony Blair has realized this and re-inserted his amazing removable backbone because he is going to tell the IRA to stop their dreadful behavior:

Tony Blair will this week warn the IRA that links with overseas terrorist groups, acquiring new weapons and organising paramiliary violence on the streets of Belfast are incompatible with their ceasefire.

Now hopefully someone on this side of the Atlantic might get the message and designate the PIRA, and not just the "Real IRA," as terrorists...

You couldn't make it up...

I'm still shaking my head in bewilderment at this Telegraph story. The story is perfectly summarized in the first paragraph:

A surgeon at a leading hospital has said he had to stop halfway through an operation because foreign nurses could not follow his instructions. As a result, he said he has been threatened with disciplinary action for racism.

Ye gods...

John Ashcroft, have ye no shame?

Thanks to The 11 Day Empire for this one. A few days after 9/11, a British widow of a permanent resident who died in the WTC was told by the INS a few days leter that they were going to deport her. I commented on this disgraceful episode on Tory Revival, but the archive seems to have disappeared. I recall that the chief of her local fire department said something along the lines that he would sit with a shotgun on her front door and fend off any agents coming to deport her. The INS said it would look at the matter again. Now they're going to deport her anyway despite the fact that both her children are American citizens!!!

If they go ahead and perform this wicked act, John Ashcroft and his underlings should be treated as beneath contempt. It is one of the most disgusting things I have ever heard.

More degrees, less learning?

The Institute of Directors, which represents medium sized businesses in the UK, has called for fewer media studies graduates and more plumbers. In a way, they're right. "Too many chiefs, not enough Indians" has lost ground as a saying thanks to political correctness, but the truth inherent in it must be acknowledged. If everyone has a degree, then higher degrees will be what sorts senior management out, but how then does a degree qualify one to do more prestigious work? Comparative advantage only works up to a point, or does Miliband assume that we are moving into a post-plumbing society?

I hate to say it, but the Germans have got it right on this one. The US, with its "Associate Degrees" and community colleges has also got it pretty good. The UK had a decent system with Polytechnics offering lower-value education, but for some unfathomable reason the Tories got rid of them, converting them all into Universities.

I wonder if this question would remain if schooling were at all rigorous. I have a suspicion that an education system that tried to teach as much as it good, instead of printing certificates, would have a significant rate of natural wastage. Perhaps the IOD could do some good by sponsoring an independent system of objective testing, passing which would actually mean something...

Labour's true face: from someone who knows

The formidable Stephen Pollard is bravely putting an article he's written for the Telegraph tomorrow on his blog today. It's a great read, underling what I've been saying for months about what Iraq will tell us about the Labour Party:

To most Labour MPs, America is an imperialist power which contaminates whatever it touches.

A month after the destruction of the World Trade Centre, I dined with a group of left wing friends, one a prominent Labour backbencher, another a senior minister. Out it all came: killing 3000 people is terrible but if America hadn’t been such a malign presence in the world it would never have happened; bin Laden may be an evil criminal but he speaks for large numbers of the dispossessed. Most MPs gritted their teeth and kept quiet about their hostility to American action in Afghanistan – although otherwise sane figures such as Doug Henderson, the former Army Minister, and Peter Kilfoyle, also a former Defence Minister, expressed their ‘concerns’, as they put it. Their argument was that action should have been by the United Nations, which was of course pure sophistry. What they meant was that they couldn’t stand the sight of American troops in action.

Labour is certainly a changed party. ... But they go along with it because Tony Blair has brought them power. That means that the backbenches will not rise up in support of strikes. The labour movement may be split, but the Labour Party isn’t. MPs know that strikes hurt Labour, and their chances of keeping their seats. End of story.

American foreign policy is different. Loathing American military action is part of their DNA. Mr Blair has had numerous opportunities to hint at differences with President Bush over action against Iraq; he has refused to take any of them. When America launches action against Iraq, he will be as steadfast in support as ever. And then we will really see what a Labour Party split looks like. The Prime Minister knows that, damaging as public sector strikes will be, he can still control his party. When American – and, if Mr Blair is really serious about his support, British - bombers fly over Iraq, he will enter uncharted territory. Backbenchers will be queuing up to denounce the US – and, thus, him. There will, I am sure, be ministerial resignations. Clare Short, after all, left the then opposition front bench in protest at the Gulf War, and that was in response to a real invasion, not just a threat. Mr Blair is right to worry about the impact of strikes. But for real nightmares, just wait for action against Iraq.

Exactly. The attack on Iraq will split the Labour Party. Will it spell downfall for Blair and the rise of Brown as an unreconstructed Leftist, the bastard son of Tony Benn and Barbara Castle? Will it unite the Blairites with the Tories to form a center-right coalition that will dominate politics for a decade? Or will it see the rise of the Liberal Democrats as a Euro-left party that will destroy Britain for good? America's and Britain's interests at both at stake here.

Where's Osama?

Six feet (more likely inches) under. Even the radical Islamists think so...

Go easy on the new guy

I'm always interested in ex-pat blogs. Check out London Chimes, from a Brit now resident in Philadelphia.

Murray in the Monitor

And I'm also in The Christian Science Monitor this morning. When the placebo works looks at recent evidence that the placebo effect is a more central part of medicine than we had previously realized. They've been a little naughty in highlighting that this is evidence that alternative methods of medicine may work, but I can live with that. If faith healing seems to work because of the placebo effect, it's the neurophysiological elements of the effect that are important, not the faith. What's important is that it doesn't seem like the effect is a con trick on the body, but a genuine physical effect.

Murray in The Buffalo News

An expanded version of my argument over HRT appeared in yesterday's Buffalo News as HRT over-reaction is the real danger to women. I've actually updated my argument since then so that it's a little less dogmatic, but it seems Buffalo didn't get the memo. Still, nice to be in print in Bills country.

Murray in TCS

My Tech Central Station column is up. More Drugs, Less Crime? looks at evidence recently advanced in favor of the contention that drugs law enforcement causes violent crime, not gun availability. Bottom line: must try harder.

Friday, July 19, 2002

Raison d'etat in the UK

I couldn't agree more...

An International Meme

The Prof's Hashemite Restoration idea is spreading quickly through the UK. First the Economist cites it, now the Telegraph says If Iraqis want a king, Hassan of Jordan could be their man.

Please Placebo Me

Just been told that, on the current schedule, I will have an op/ed in The Christian Science Monitor on the subject of the placebo effect on Monday. I will of course link to it when the web version is up.

Blair's dilemma

Philip Stevens in the FT has a useful discussion of the dilemma Blair faces over the Iraq Question. I still think this is going to be the make or break point for his Ministry, and for New Labour as a cohesive coalition.

Murray influences US drugs policy?

Hmm. I think I should pat myself on the back for this. Drugs czar John P. Walters has a great op/ed on why the US should not legalize drugs (link for subscribers only, I fear). He tackles some of the most common arguments in favor of legalization, including this one:

But legalizers overstate the social costs of prohibition, just as they understate the social costs of legalization. Take the statistic that more than 1.5 million Americans are arrested every year for drug crimes. Legalizers would have us believe that otherwise innocent people are being sent to prison (displacing "true" criminals) for merely toking up. But only a fraction of these arrestees are ever sentenced to prison. And there should be little question that most of those sentenced have earned their place behind bars.

Some 24% of state prison drug offenders are violent recidivists, while 83% have prior criminal histories. Only 17% are in prison for "first time offenses," while nominal "low-level" offenders are often criminals who plea-bargain to escape more serious charges. The reality is that a high percentage of all criminals, regardless of the offense, use drugs. In New York, 79% of those arrested for any crime tested positive for drugs.

Now compare an article I wrote for the late, lamented Technopolitics site, of which an edited version is still available here:

Simply because the charge isn’t serious, it doesn’t mean that the person charged is an innocent. Over half of those charged had prior convictions (10 percent 5 or more), over a third were convicted felons, and just under a third were already under criminal justice supervision at the time of their arrest. If the authorities are able to remove an habitual criminal from the streets with a possession charge, that is probably a good thing. Remember that the one charge that federal agents were able to make stick to the great 30s crime lord, Al Capone, was tax evasion.

The same is true for prisoners in state and local jails. About 27 percent of state prisoners are in jail for simple possession, and 13 percent are there for marijuana-related offenses. But a massive 82 percent of state prisoners have one or more prior convictions, and fully 54 percent were under some form of supervision at the time of their arrest. The likelihood is very small of jails being swelled by thousands of unlucky college students who were the victims of a drug bust targeting the otherwise innocent .

I do know some people at ONDCP, so I have to say I'm flattered by this...

What's worrying the Brits?

Interesting to see that traditional Tory issues are returning to prominence as worries in the public's mind. Crime, race/immigration, Europe and defense all make the top 7. No party has ever been able to tackle transport successfully (partly because central Government shouldn't be involved in it, I think), leaving just education and the NHS as traditional Labour issues up there. And the public has made clear, it seems, that the failure of the new tax & spend policies to improve the NHS will be the last straw for them. It'll be interesting to watch how this ranking goes, and how the parties react to it, over the next couple of years.

Thursday, July 18, 2002

Option 5?

I invited the perceptive Orrin Judd what he thought about the juries/ justice/ collapse of civilization discussion Chris and I have been having and he has made a very interesting contribution. The short of it is that he does not think that Britain, as a post-Christian nation, can engage in a Restoration, at least along the lines of Wilberforce's achievement. He also fears that Option 2 has been tacitly accepted, at least by the Church of England.

As far as the Church goes, he may be right. Peter Hitchens concludes his excellent survey of the state of British religion in The Abolition of Britain as follows:

... night after night, in the wards of a hundred hospitals, people die as they have always done, alone at the end and in many cases afraid of what is to come, more and more comforted by morphine, less and less by the Holy Ghost. We prefer not to notice. In the midst of death, we are in life and John Lennon's wish in 'Imagine' -- 'no religion, no heaven and no hell, and all the people thinking for today,' has come true. How odd that the Church itself should have helped it to do so, by abandoning its cold and austere central truth, that we all must die and may be judged, the one piece of ground nobody, not even Hitler or Stalin, could ever have captured from it.

But I have often felt that the Church has retreated from friendly ground. There is significant religious feeling still in the UK, I believe, but the Church does nothing to reach out to grasp this feeling and bring it back within the fold. So other churches, sects and faiths, be they Baptist, new age or Islamic, are reaching out and taking hold, thereby fragmenting the country further. The Church does itself no good by endless hand-wringing in public. A confident Church could see off these challenges, but we have not had a confident Church for decades.

Anyway, Orrin's comments about the supremacy of egalitarianism meaning that Restoration is well-nigh impossible are well made, and thought-provoking. Yet I have a feeling that egalitarianism's hold on the British people (at least, in the sense Orrin means) is weak. From what I remember from a few years ago, my constant communications across the Atlantic and my recent trip there, I feel that there is a simmering resentment, a realization that something is badly wrong, that perhaps it is good to open doors for the handicapped or give up seats for ladies, that this is not patronizing but actually rather a good thing. There is no leadership in sight, from Church or politician, that could give this feeling the impetus it needs, but I wonder whether something might not happen spontaneously in the next few years, as a groundswell of opinion rejects the "egalitarian" paradigm, just as a previous groundswell rejected the 70s economic consensus for the next quarter of a century (and, in swelling, brought Margaret Thatcher to the fore). It may happen. If it does, it is likely to be part and parcel of a groundswell that rejects Europe and either embraces the Anglosphere or turns to splendid isolation once more. A restoration of a distinct British (or English) national identity will need something like it to succeed.

There is, therefore, I think a possibility that Orrin's Option 5 -- a counter-revolution -- may occur in the UK. The hope is slim, but realistic, in my opinion.

Turning to Chris's latest comments, I broadly agree (for the reasons stated above) that people do have a basic sense of justice, but I think it has been skewed considerably. Why else is "grassing" viewed as a greater crime than assault on old ladies? The problem is not so much the complete collapse of civilization -- we haven't yet reached Locke's state of needing to steal arms to defend ourselves (and we'd have to steal them from the criminals in the UK...) -- but a collapse of trust and feelings of shared endeavor. "Bugger you Jack, I'm all right" was thought to be the watchword in the 60s but it has never been more applicable than now. The great institutions -- the Church, the artistocracy, the law, the police, Parliament, the NHS, local government -- have, in many ways by their own actions, all lost so much respect that, coupled with the fact that no-one is taught why we have them in the first place, they have become counter-productive. The armed forces and, amazingly, the Royal Family are the only institutions that still retain considerable public respect.

Yet the framework is still there. As I said, I don't think knocking it down will do much good. Nor will desparately papering over the ever-widening cracks. Instead, we have to rebuild, repair and bolster. That will take genuine effort in terms of engaging the public in a wide-ranging debate about what our nation is all about. It will entail teaching history (and the public appetite for popular history programs seems to demonstrate a felt need here), engaging the public in local discussion of issues and, above all, asking them to make decisions.

Returning to the subject of juries, I think that the proposed reforms go in the opposite direction. Rather than removing trial by jury for crimes with a jail sentence of 6 months to 1 year, I would install it for all crimes where the accused stands a chance of going to jail. Rather than questioning the principle of innocence until proven guilty, I would enshrine it in a new Charter -- not Act -- of Rights (note that the American Constitution does not guarantee it, unless it is part of due process), debated up and down the land. Rather than loosening Habeas Corpus, I would reassert the supremacy of English/Scottish law over the Islands. And rather than abolishing double jeopardy protections I would say to police and public that we're going to pull our socks up and make damn sure that when we know people are guilty we can prove it, and not cut corners in the hope of getting a quick verdict, which is the real answer to the miscarriages of justice problem.

In some ways, this discussion is about whether we are going to give the people of Britain a fish, or teach them to fish. As for me, I'm going fishing...

Jobs for the boys

The Telegraph, declaring This is where the money goes, lists a selection of the public sector jobs advertised in the Guardian yesterday. Silly me, here I was thinking local government was irrelevant to people's lives...

Assaulting civil liberties

The Indepundit is also outraged by Labour's attack on trial by jury, double jeopardy etc. Well said! Of course, non-one dared touch these rights for 300 years, despite the absence of a written constitution. It is only with the virtual abolition of the teaching of history and the rise of the current, historically impoverished generation that anyone has been able to argue that hard-won rights are irrelevant to modern life.

Excuse me, but...

This article seems to imply that medical interventions during birth are a bad thing. Why is saving women from agony bad? I could understand it if the sturvey concluded that the babies suffered, but that doesn't seem to be the case. My wife suffered through natural childbirth against her will (we had asked for an epidural but her labour progressed much more quickly than anticipated, which, coupled with an inattentive nurse -- the exception rather than the rule it seemed, led to Helen charging down the birth canal before the drug could be safely administered) and I see no reason why she should be denied the protection from the pain she suffered next time. Once again we seem to be exposed to the delusion that what is natural is therefore right.

Blogroll Update

A few additions to my blogroll to the left. All of these fine blogs deserve more exposure, even if I disagree with them.

Double standards?

The justification for enquiry into politicians' sexual habits used to be that they might be subject to blackmail. More recently, and more telligly, it has been that it tells us a lot about the politician's levels of truthfulness. A politician who lies to his wife might very well lie to his constituents (or to a jury). Moreover, he might very well lie to the high court of Parliament, and that is important. The other aspect is that it tells us a lot about his or her judgment. We expect high standards of judgment from our elected masters, and the nature of their peccadilloes tell us a lot about that aspect of their capabilities. Drinking, of course, famously impairs judgment. So why isn't it okay to ask a politician if he is, as is rumored, a drunk?

Overseas AIDS

Staggering statistics in Dr Michael Fitzgerald's analysis AIDS in Britain: why complacency is justified. The total annual number of heterosexuals in the UK who have contracted HIV from a partner infected in Europe is 53. The number converting to AIDS is 19. The rarity of the problem is astonishing given the hoopla about it. Virtually all the heterosexual HIV/AIDS in the UK is concentrated in immigrant African communities that are not particualrly interactive with other communities. Dr Fitzgerald concludes that virtually all the heterosexual "risky behavior" that people are warned off because of AIDS can therefore be indulged in freely in the UK. Fair enough. There are good reasons to avoid these practices, but AIDS ain't one of them...

The EU: Taxing in America

Now correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't the American Revolution partly about a foreign power levying taxes on American soil? Well, it seems the EU wants America to implement its Savings Tax Directive, meaning that the US Government would collect financial data on money earned by EU citizens in America and let the EU know so it could tax them. This "tax-harmonization" measure is, of course, a bad thing economically and just being proposed to help prop up Europe's ailing welfare states. Here's a take from John Blundell of the Institute of Economic Affairs, and here's the Center for Freedom and Prosperity's analysis of how supportive the administration currently is of this appalling proposal.

Learning from the past

Grateful to Chris Bertram for pointing this one out (and I'll try to have some more thoughts on justice and juries responding to his useful further thoughts later in the day). Sam Brittan in the FT points out the dangers inherent in Gordon Brown's strategy. Britain is in real danger of a recession:

Mr Brown has understandably fought shy of getting involved in economic ideology and has simply pointed to the margin of safety in his plans, which suggests that his fiscal targets would be met even if the economy were 1 per cent below the Treasury's present view of its trend. This safety margin would be adequate in the face of normal forecasting errors but would not be nearly enough in the face of a serious world recession.

The possibility of such a recession was highlighted by Wynne Godley in a letter to the Financial Times on Tuesday. He remarked that if US household net savings were to revert to their long-term norm, personal expenditure would fall relative to income by about 6 per cent, setting off "a self-reinforcing implosion of asset prices and demand".

Prof Godley and others have been warning about this danger for some years. What seems to have staved it off so far is that world property values, as shown in the chart, have remained stable or even buoyant, despite a 40 per cent drop in equity indices. Even in the US, property is a more important part of personal wealth than directly held equities. In the UK, moreover, there has been a property bubble, which becomes more dangerous every day it continues.

All the talk has been about raising taxes in the event of a resecession-generated spending deficit, and public opinion has fallen squarely behind this idea. But it would be one of the biggest mistakes imaginable. As Brittan points out, the experience of the 20th Century has shown that tax cuts, not tax hikes are the best weapons against recessions. Brown is playing a very, very dangerous game here. The Tories should start saying this now...

The BBC: Distorting Markets Because of the Unique Way It's Funded

Stephen Pollard (link may go to wrong story after a while, I fear) has a distressing tale about how the BBC has abused its taxpayer-funded position to put a high-quality subscription arts channel out of business. Disgusting. There is simply no justification for a state broadcaster in any free country in this day and age. Privatization of the BBC would be a sign that Britain was becoming more civilized, not less...

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Having it both ways

The Media Research Center catches the Washington Post out. They'd worked up a real head of steam over Dick Cheney's selling his Halliburton stock in August 2000, two moths before the company released bad financial news. Unfortunately for the Post, it seems that on August 18, 2000, they demanded that Cheney sell his stock immediately to avoid a conflict of interest...

Option 3: The evidence

Don't take my word for it. Head over to the Group Captain's Letter from the Olde Countrie and see his take on the relentless assault on the British judicial system from people who know better.

Who's contemptuous of Virginia Woolf?

Theodore Dalrymple, that's who. In The Rage of Virginia Woolf he gives that overrated hack a thorough going-over. His conclusion is, however, as depressing as any other Daltymple column:

Had Mrs. Woolf survived to our time, however, she would at least have had the satisfaction of observing that her cast of mind—shallow, dishonest, resentful, envious, snobbish, self-absorbed, trivial, philistine, and ultimately brutal—had triumphed among the elites of the Western world.

I believe Cicero said something appropriate about this...

More on crime, juries and culture

As always, Chris Bertram raises some interesting points on crime and juries.

On crime, Chris is right up to a point in saying that there is generally a rational cost/benefit calculation by the criminal that can be exploited by law enforcement to help maipulate crime down. He is also right in saying that police activity is governed to an extent by the costs and benefits of the judicial system. However, these points hold much more true for property crime than for violent crime. Property crime has traditionally been the driving force behind British crime reduction efforts, so much of British crime fighting theory depends on these economic arguments.

But as I mentioned below, a lot of American research is looking at the cultural aspects of violent crime. Irishman Pat Fagan's pioneering research at the Heritage Foundation, for instance, found that family structure and the breakdown of communities had much more to do with violent crime than previously thought. This is the world of Myron Magnet and Theodore Dalrymple. A general breakdown of cultural norms has removed inhibitors against violent behavior. Rational cost/benefit analysis is secondary to the presence or absence of cultural norms that regulate behavior on a primary level. These norms seem to be much more important in the case of violent crime, dealing as it does with people rather than property. It is therefore my contention that British crime reduction efforts need to move away from the economic one size fits all approach and look at how cultural change has affected violent crime rates. Can government do anything about this? Yes, but it needs significant community and personal involvement too. Fiats from central government won't do anything. It is therefore unlikely to be an attractive option for the current government.

As for juries, Chris says that we need to look at ways of ensuring that more guilty men are convicted. I agree, but, again, what is being proposed is not the way to do it, and the difference between a "right" verdict and a "just" verdict is both the core of my argument and also a cultural matter. Many criminal cases are not clear cut, and so a jury's deliberative function will depend on what is seen to be just. Yet when cultural norms break down, this function is impeded, either by prejudice or by other factors. For instance, if the norms of the street say that stealing from the rich is not a bad thing, then a jury will regard the law that says it is as unjust and therefore acquit. For the jury the decision was just. For the law, the decision was wrong. This Times article shows just how cultural breakdown affecting juries is not simply a working-class phenomenon. The middle classes increasingly regard jury duty as a waste of their time with the result that they evade the only duty the nation can call upon you to devote your time to in peacetime. The results are pernicious, and relate back to the other cultural issues:

The Home Office is deeply concerned that the ancient legal principle that defendants should be tried by 12 of their peers is being eroded. Most juries are no longer demographically representative.

In Liverpool the problem has an added piquancy. Liverpool Crown Court has the highest acquittal rate, 79 per cent, in the country. A person pleading not guilty in Liverpool is twice as likely to walk free as someone at the Old Bailey.

The knee-jerk explanation for this is that Scousers are natural friends of the underdog. Given the choice between siding with the police and the accused, they will tend to give the latter the benefit of the doubt. (As the joke goes: What do you call a Scouser in a suit? Answer: The defendant.)

But while locals admit that there is an element of truth in this, the general picture is more complex. The fact is that Liverpool merely magnifies a countrywide trend. Acquittal rates nationally have risen by a third over the past decade. Only 35 per cent of defendants who plead not guilty are convicted. The legal establishment concedes that the general public is more politically aware than it was 50 years ago and less willing to accept police evidence as fact.

But Liverpool has another problem: witness retraction. The high acquittal rate here is not simply down to sympathetic juries; it is because of rising numbers of prosecution witnesses who refuse to give evidence, often because they feel intimidated by the accused’s friends and family. In many cases the judge’s only option is to record a not-guilty verdict without the case ever being put to a jury.

Juries are recording "incorrect verdicts" not because the system is somehow wrong but because national culture has got out of step with the legal process. The way to ensure that the guilty are convicted is to get the public to think once again in terms of right, wrong and greater good. That's a cultural question. If the public reject that, then we have to think about changing the legal system to reflect the new culture. Otherwise, we are moving away from being a democracy to an elitist tyranny again, with the elite imposing their norms on the populace. That's essentially what the jury reform proposals imply.

So we are left with three possible solutions to the criminal justice problem in the UK:

1. Restoration. Ensure a "reformation of manners," as Wilberforce termed it. Use the tools of education and genuine debate to restore a level of trust and sense of shared endeavor in British society that has been lost. This should reduce crime and put public opinion back in step with the justice system.

2. Revolution. Throw off the old system that has grown irrelevant to the wants of the people. Install a new system that reflects current norms. "Grassing" becomes the ultimate crime and theft, violence and depravity are accepted up to certain limits (eg "messing wif de kids").

3. Paternalism. Recognize the disconnect between the people and the system, but try to uphold the system in an effort to avoid chaos. Abolish any institution that relies on popular involvement and replace with experts appointed by and from the elite. Increase the number of tools law enforcement has to enable them to do their job effectively by use of laws, regulations, permits etc.

(There is also a fourth: Replacement. Completely replace the British justice system with one that works in Continental Europe. Ignore the fact that the disconnect between British norms and that system is even greater than the one that currently exists).

Option 2 is clearly ludicrous, and was abandoned as an option in 1983 (I originally said 1979, then I remembered The Longest Suicide Note in History). Option 3 is the one that has been pursued by governments since then. It has not worked. The disconnect has grown wider and the option has been teetering on the edge of tyranny for some time. If it falls off, as I am sure it will, option 2 will probably result, although some will call for option 4. No-one has really tried Option 1. John Major, of all people, toyed with the idea but screwed it up so badly with his sex-based "Victorian values" and "back to basics" campaigns that it was discredited before being given a chance to work. Nevertheless, I think it remains the only hope for a democratic, liberty-loving Britain.