England's Sword 2.0

Monday, October 14, 2002

Pardon me while I chortle


Milk protest turns sour, reports The Scotsman. PETA runs up against Scots pragmatism:

Sean Gifford of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and an unidentified man in a cow-suit had planned a peaceful protest at the gates of the Grammar School to let pupils know about the claimed hazards in milk.

But they had to be rescued by two female police officers when the teenage pupils launched a violent protest of their own.

About 100 children, shouting "milk for the masses" and carrying banners, surrounded Mr Gifford and his "cow" partner and drenched them both in milk for about ten minutes. The police eventually intervened and escorted the PETA members back to their car.

An encouraging sign that the coming generation, in Scotland at least, sees through idiotarianism...

Thatcherovitch


George Trefgarne reports from Moscow that Russia is beginning to get capitalism right.

Electoral Liability


I have often said that Britain's electoral system is much better than those of America by virtue of being much simpler. In an effort to increase voter turnout, several states have now charged down the dead end of allowing early voting. There are two problems with this. First:

to the surprise of proponents of early voting, there has been no appreciable increase in turnout in most of the states that have adopted this system.

Well, of course, turnout is a product of how engaged people are with the issues involved in the election (and it's not a particularly good indicator of that, as negative campaigning may work by engaging someone in not voting) not of the mechanics of the system.

Second,

if this change is making it easier for citizens to participate in elections, it is raising troubling questions among Democrats and Republicans about what it is doing to the election process itself. Even proponents say that early voting has the effect of producing a less informed electorate — the equivalent of a theater critic writing a review after the second act of a three-act play.

Democracy suffers, turnout stays the same. What a winner of an idea!

The Victim Culture


Another prime example -- Lord Archer.

Kyoto: The Evidence Mounts, Against...


Harvard scientist Sallie Baliunas looks at the latest evidence about the real efect of Kyoto in this lecture delivered at The Heritage Foundation:

Kyoto-type greenhouse gas emission cuts are expected to make little impact on the forecast rise in temperature, according to the computer simulations (which seem to give exaggerated warming trends, as discussed). One forecast, from the UK Meteorological Office, underscores the point. Without Kyoto, that model predicts a rise in globally averaged temperature of just about 1 degree Centigrade by the year 2050. Implementing Kyoto, according to that model, would result in a slightly but insignificantly lower temperature trend. The temperature rise avoided by the year 2050--the difference between the two trends--is six-hundredths of a degree. That is insignificant in the course of natural variability of the climate. Another way to look at the averted warming is that the temperature rise expected to occur by 2050 is projected to occur by 2053 if the emission cuts are enacted.

The conclusion is that one Kyoto-type cut in greenhouse gas emissions averts no meaningful temperature rise, as projected by the models. In order to avoid entirely the projected warming, British researchers estimate that 40 Kyoto-type cuts in greenhouse gas emission would be required.

The cost of implementing one Kyoto-type cut is enormous. Fossil fuels supply approximately 85 percent of energy needs in the United States; worldwide the fraction is about 80 percent. International policy discussions propose expensive solutions centered on sharp fossil fuel use cuts and a massive increase in solar and wind power. A cost-effective solution that does not stunt energy use and energy growth is to shut down coal plants, extend the licenses of the 100 nuclear power plants in the United States, and build about 800 more. However, that is not under serious discussion as a solution to what is often described as the most pressing crisis facing the earth.

Non-American politicans rightly regard Kyoto as a Holy Grail. Because it will never be implemented (the US Senate voted nem con to oppose it -- conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats alike), it is safe to support it, despite the dreadful economic consequences for so little gain that it would produce. As a result, however, the global pulic is being deceived into thinking that it is a wonderful thing that would benefit all mankind. This cannot be good for the world in the long run.

TCS Column up


Herbal Maladies looks at the increasing evidence that "alternative" medicines are all scams, and at how half a billion dollars' worth of taxpayers money is being spent in proving this.

Hmmmm


Thanks to Chad Dimpler for the link to Arab News' cartoon response to the Bali outrage.

Happy Cabot Day!


Jim Bennett says that today's Columbus Day festivities arecelebrating the wrong Italian. I remember the stories of the Cabots used to be an integral part of British historical education. I doubt if their names are ever mentioned in British schools today (odd, really -- you'd expect the Euro-integrationists to be very keen to show how Italians and Englishmen worked together). It seems odd that the Italian-American community have not given their countryman his due.

Bali: attack on the Anglosphere


The latest estimate of how many Brits dies in the Bali outrage is 33. Many more Australians died there, of course, and it is being compared there to 9/11:

There were so many Australians among the dead and injured that hardly a town or village has not been touched by news of a friend or relative falling victim to the terrorists' bomb.

Making a mockery of those who think geography determines politics, the British feel much closer to Australians than they do to their European neighbors. I have had three good friends, including my Best Man, emigrate to Oz, and the scale of this disaster is beginning to hit home. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their relatives, and with the Australian people. Tim Blair is providing a running commentary of reactions. Scott Wickstein has been too stunned to make anything but the most basic comment, but he provides a great set of links to the Australian (hemi-)blogosphere.

Saturday, October 12, 2002

Blogroaches!


I seem to have acquired a blogroach or two. I am happy to see people post disagreements with my comments, but I think it's a reasonable requirement to ask that they do so in a courteous and constructive fashion. Anyone who persists in "disagreeing with everything posted in the most obnoxious manner possible" will be asked to apologize. If no apology is forthcoming, they will be banned. If anyone diagrees with this policy, please feel free to tell me why.

Friday, October 11, 2002

The British Malaise


The British victim mentality that is encouraged by the welfare state goes beyond the lower socio-economic classes. We hear regularly from British manufacturers how Government needs to change its policies to help them -- in training or by adopting the single currency, for instance. Yet The Economist this week carries a nice little story (for subscribers only, I fear) about how foreign-owned firms in Britain do much better than British owned firms:

There are three main ways in which British management habits differ from international best practice. The first is lean manufacturing,a jargon phrase meaning economy in the use of time and materials. According to a report by the Engineering Employers Federation (EEF), fewer than 40% of British manufacturers have paid any attention to this. Others like the sound of the idea, but in practice typically make only “occasional and sporadic improvements” the report says.

The second is poor performance management. British managers mishandle goals and incentives. Financial and operating results are hard to understand. That makes it hard to plan improvements.

Thirdly, British-owned companies are terrible at managing talent. They fail to spot potential high-fliers. Understandably, that makes it hard to attract them. Britain's top engineering graduates prefer to work for foreign-owned companies.

The three are closely connected. Lean management requires good monitoring, which in turn makes it easy to reward good workers and deal with bad ones. There is also a close connection with company profitability. Comparing 100 British, German, French and American companies, the study showed that a half percentage-point increase in management ability (as scored by McKinsey's ratings system) brings a hefty 2.6% increase in return on capital employed.

Some of this chimes with British companies' own diagnosis. A report last year by the EEF also highlighted the three areas named by McKinsey, as well as better use of information technology and working more closely with universities and other outsiders on innovation and research.

The big difference is that the new study suggests that most of the complaints about government policy are secondary. There is certainly room for improvement when it comes to vocational training, but Britain is actually rather good at teaching manufacturing—notably at Warwick University.

The study says the best thing the government can do for manufacturing is to create a more competitive environment, rather than cosseting industry with tax breaks, incentives and other special treatment. If foreign-owned manufacturers can thrive despite all the annoyances of life in Britain, why can't the locals?

Perhaps the Tories might like to take this up? Self-reliant businesses will do better than those that think they need a crutch of government policies.

Here comes Mr Delivery


Richard Littlejohn is scathing about IDS's delivery yesterday, which seems to have ruined a perfectly good speech. Iain, there's a reason Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and George W. Bush turned to using the transparent autocues rather than a sheaf of notes...

Littlejohn is also good on the "nasty party" angle:

The fact is that the real Nasties are all to be found on the Left.

Most of the spite and class hatred comes not from Conservatives but from Labour, whether in the vindictive campaign against the countryside or the war on motorists.

Or by deliberately trying to prevent private school pupils from getting to the best universities, regardless of how well they did in their exams.

The siting of asylum seeker camps in Tory constituencies is another example.

I can’t ever remember, in 18 years of Conservative rule, the Tories ever wanting to eliminate all Labour opposition.

But Labour wants to drive the Tories into the sea, just as the Arabs want to wipe the Jews off the face of the earth.

To adapt Krauthammer, Tories are bemused by Lefties, Lefties hate Tories. That sort of hate is, of course, acceptable.

Meanwhile, at tho other end of the newspaper hierarchy, The Scotsman agrees with me on the content of the speech:

This is a pity, for the speech reads better on paper than his delivery made it sound. It confirmed a sense of policy direction absent before Bournemouth. The Tories now have a raft of practical proposals for returning power over the public sector bureaucracy to the ordinary citizen. Under Thatcher, you could buy your council house. Under IDS, if your NHS waiting list is too long you will be given the resources and right to opt out. Ditto for bad state schools. If there is a theoretical hole, it is what to do with the bits of the public sector that are left. We are inching towards a more competitive system with the customer in the driving seat.

But it too feels the substance was ruined by the style. It goes on to say that charismatic Mr Blair beat the down-to-earth Mr Major and that IDS is simply a tortoise to the Blair hare. I think there may be two things wrong with this analysis. First, the genius of Tony Blair was that he was seen as both charismatic and as someone you could trust and relate to. But he's lost that latter part now. No-one views Blair as a hare. In fact, last week's Spectator poll showed that 21% of floating voters viewed him as a fox, and 20% as a snake. IDS was viewed as a horse (16%) or a herring (14%). Charles Kennedy of the Lib Dims came out as a bear or a rabbit (14% each). What the public wants is a lion (25%) or a dolphin (24%). None of the party leaders fit an ideal at the moment, so I think it a little early to say that IDS could not, at some point roar like a lion.

Criminal responsibility


Okay. Hold on to your hats. Two 15 year-old boys at a school in Surrey, England, decided they didn't like a teacher after he disciplined them for throwing stones at windows. So they conducted a campaign of abuse against him, culminating in death threats:

They said: "You have five days to live" and "You are going to get stabbed in the back of the head."

They were, understandably, expelled from school. The appeals board, however, thought this was too tough on the little mites and reinstated them. The teachers at the school have refused to teach these monsters, and so the Education Minister has suggested sending them to a 'referral unit'. Now what really takes the cake is that one of their mothers thinks 'My son is punished enough':

"Do you not feel that they have been punished enough? They have missed five months of schooling now in what is an important year. Year 11 is a crucial year for those boys, they are due to take their GCSEs in the next few months. They are ill-prepared because they have not had any schooling at all. It is just a nightmare at the moment."

This is a magnificent example of how the victim culture contributes to anti-social attitudes and behavior. My son did something wrong and was punished, so he is now the victim and all other sensibilities are irrelevant. Behavior like this has to be punished, and it also has to be stigmatized. The other parents at the school need to make it clear to this idiot woman that she is acting in a counter-productive way. Yet I fear the victim mentality is so deeply ingrained that she may not be the only parent to feel this way. If so, British civilization is doomed. In the meantime, perhaps, David Blunkett might like to take a look at how some states have methods for trying children as adults...

El Presidente


Straw calls for president of Europe, reports the Beeb. He does so in an Economist article that is not available online for anyone except subscribers (it's here if you have a subscription). The crucial thing about a President is, of course, what powers the office holds and what checks and balances exist over those powers, not the existence of the office itself. The Presidency of Germany, for instance, is a different best from the Presidency of the United States. Straw's supposed constitutional thinking is sketchy on these issues:

I therefore support Jacques Chirac's proposal for a full-time president of the European Council, chosen by and accountable to the heads of government. He or she would serve for several years, overseeing delivery of the Union's strategic agenda and communicating a sense of purpose to Europe's citizens.

Straw has contributed nothing to the debate with his essay, which is mealy-mouthed in its refusal to say what sort of real power the Presidency should have. At base, the function of government is to legitimize the use of force in ensuring certain things happen. If the European Presidency is to be able to project force into the United Kingdom against the wishes of its King-in-Parliament in delivering the Union's strategic agenda, that Presidency must be opposed. It does not take much thought to realize this, which shows you how much thought has gone into this proposal.

Oh Karachi!


Good job the Pakistani election (in which President Musharraf's allies look to be leading despite a surge in support for extremists) happened before this. A surge in anti-Australianism is surely next on the agenda...

On an aside, I'm glad to see Glenn McGrath back in the Australian side. I've always thought him an extraordinarily good bowler and shudder to think what he would have achieved if he'd been able to keep fit...

Thursday, October 10, 2002

Pretty good


Iain Duncan Smith's speech is a pretty good read and I agree with most of it. I do find it odd that IDS joined in the raving about Theresa May's speech when he flatly contradicts her:

In every charitable, voluntary and community group across the country you'll find Conservatives showing compassion - without ever feeling that their hearts have to be stitched onto their sleeves.

We should be proud of that because we are playing our part in making our vision of a decent society a reality every day.

But the image of the Tories that remains from this conference will be that the Tories admit they are nasty people...

Anyway, despite that, the general thrust was good, and in a direction I recommended -- that Britain is prosperous, but not a very nice place to live. The conference has ended better than it began, I think. I'll be interested to see the blog reports from various people who were there.

Cleaning up the Smog Monsters


Middlesborough is a small town in Yorkshire that likes to think it's in the North-East of England. It has an unenviable reputation as both a chemical wasteland (North-Easterners often refer to its citizens as 'smog monsters') and a place where children are molested (owing to a scandalously over-zealous campaign against child abuse several years ago). It has, however, elected a campaigning former police officer as its Mayor, and he is now introducing the full range of 'broken-windows' initiatives to the town.

Mr British Spin seems to think that this will involve a police state. Let's get this clear: there is no infringement of civil liberties if someone stops you doing something that is against the law, generally agreed as anti-social and the stopping of which does not infringe greater rights. Littering is against the law, anti-social and emphatically not freedom of expression. So if people don't behave, what is the matter with having litter wardens wandering around to ask them not to do it and/or pick it up? Calling this "Big Brother" is, frankly, stupid. The whole principle of the 'broken windows' idea is that somebody actually cares, about the neighborhood, about the quality of life. Caring is not populist authoritarianism. It is about social cohesion and integration.

Here's how the theory developed, from an interview of James Q Wilson by AEI scholar Ben Wattenberg, with liberal Harvard sociologist Christopher Jencks contributing:

CHRISTOPHER JENCKS: James Q. Wilson and George Kelling developed this argument called the broken windows theory, which was that if you go into a neighborhood and you see a lot of broken windows, it tells you that nobody around here cares, that nobody's looking out for the neighborhood, that if you go break some more windows, nobody's going to do anything about it, and in some broader sense, anything goes.

JAMES Q. WILSON: It's the level of disorder that counts as much as crime. And therefore, we urge the police to pay as much attention to public order, the elimination of public disorder, by getting rid of prostitutes and gangs on street corners, by painting out the graffiti, by making people feel comfortable around their homes, that this would do a lot for people, and possibly -- this was the theory -- actually drive down the crime rate.

BEN WATTENBERG: Police departments across the country adopted the broken windows theory. The most famous example: New York City. Subways, city parks and other public spaces were no longer places to avoid. Crime rates declined. Most strikingly, the city's homicide rate dropped like a stone.

JAMES Q. WILSON: As it's later turned out, the research that has been done so far suggests that if you do these things, in fact, the crime rate does come down, because good people are on the streets and bad people find it hard to take advantage of them. The ability to measure the crime rate permits you to test theories, to test competing arguments, to see who is correct.

Good people on the streets = dangerous authoritarianism? Give me a break.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

IDS: Better than the alternatives


IDS made some pre-conference speech remarks today, concentrating on public services*. Okay, but this little bit of evidence from The Spectator and YouGov.com makes for interesting reading:

The floaters provide clear advice on which policies the Tories should pursue. Listing eight different areas for improvement, and asking respondents whether each one would make them more or less likely to vote Conservative, here’s the order: +68: convincing policies to make the economy stronger and create more opportunity; +64: convincing new policies to reduce crime on our streets; +58: radical new policies for funding the health service; +51: convincing policies to help the vulnerable; +29: becoming the party of freedom and reducing the nanny state; +25: a more modern image; +20: a promise to cut taxes; and last, at –10: ensuring more candidates are women and people from ethnic minorities.

The economy is, of course, about far more than public spending, and it's obvious people see room for improvement there. Oliver Letwin's crime initiative finally gets to the heart of the matter of rehabilitation, even receiving approval from The Howard League. IDS has also moved forward on health, trying to say that the idea of a taxpayer-only funded health service is outdated. So in general, with the exception of the blinkered focus on candidate selection, they're doing what the floating voters want. The question is, are the other parties doing better? I was actually impressed by the Liberal Democrats' plans for local control of services (as described here by Iain Coleman) and David Blunkett says the right things, depsite doing the opposite, on crime. The same is true, to a lesser extent, for Gordon Brown and the economy.

Anyway, IDS can take heart from the fact that he's about as good a leader as the talent pool provides:

Should the Tories get themselves a new leader? The floaters zigzag on this: 50 per cent think a new leader would help (only 24 per cent of Tories agree), while 21 per cent say it would make no difference. Sadly for the Tories, all the possible replacements for IDS get poor scores. Rated on whether they would make them more or less likely to vote Conservative, they scored: Ken Clarke (–8); Liam Fox (–18); David Davis (–22); Oliver Letwin (–22); Theresa May (-24); Michael Portillo (–25); Ann Widdecombe (–36). Keeping IDS scored –12.

Give Fox and Letwin time and they may score better as more people understand how good they are. The others are busted flushes. Clarke would drive away people from the core vote (-55, from my calculations, of Tory voters, compared with +43 for IDS) and thereby destroy the party forever. Now wonder the media talk him up whenever they can...

BTW, I still do not trust YouGov and this was a ridiculously small sample (274 floaters and 103 conservatives), so these figures should all be taken with a grain of salt, but the larger figures are probably robust.

*Thanks to Stephen Pollard for pointing out my initial misapprehension.

Looking for the good


Even the Guardian publishes good stuff sometimes. Follow the link in Chris Bertram's post here for a great takedown of some of the biggest myths about globalization. The "companies bigger than countries" one highlighted by Chris is a great example.

A Responsible Press?


I was intending to make comments this morning about the likelihood of the DC area shootings being related to Islamic terrorism (highly unlikely, given that two of the targets, if we include the possible September case, could well, from their physical appearence, have been Muslims), but that seems to be a dead argument given that we now know the sniper left a taunting note on a tarot card saying "Dear policeman, I am God".

Instead, I'd like to comment on Channel 9 and The Washington Post's behavior in making this information public. As the Post itself actually said:

One officer close to the case told a Post reporter that describing the message would severely impair the police investigation.

So why the heck did they go ahead and describe it? A free press has a responsibility to act, well, responsibly. The Post's reporters are not criminologists and can have no justification for saying the release of the information might help the investigation. It may very well harm it, and then The Post may well have blood on its hands. The emotional chief Moose was, by all accounts, hopping mad at the media for this brazen act of irresponsibility.

The Post's motive has to be questioned here. Killings sell papers, as do new leads. In some ways, it is not in The Post's interests for the killings to stop. The reasoning behind the First Amendment was, I am pretty sure (someone please tell me if I'm misremembering Publius), to help educate and inform the public and thereby contribute to the public good. If selling papers is now the purpose of the press, then the contract implicit in the First Amendment has been broken.

Of course, the purpose of the press is really a combination of the two. The Post will argue that the public needed to be informed of a significant development in the case, and that the First Amendment gives the judgment call in cases like this to them, not the police force. Fine, and in many ways, good. It is their judgment to make. But they have exhibited exceptionally poor judgment on this occasion.

What's aboriginal for 'she had it coming'?


A Supreme Court judge in Australia's Northern Territory has dismissed a statutory rape case against a 50 year-old aboriginal man accused of raping his 15 year-old 'betrothed' by saying that he was exercising his conjugal rights in traditional society and the girl "knew what was expected of her". The judge also said:

"She didn't need protection (from white law)," said the judge. "She knew what was expected of her. It's very surprising to me (Pascoe) was charged at all."

Clearly Australia has no guarantee of equal protection of the laws. Justice is clearly not blind when it comes to aboriginal, ahem, sensitivites. Thanks to Peter Laverick for the lead.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

A little context, please


Best of the Web Today goes too far in its snide remarks about yesterday's shooting in Bowie, Md.:

In response to yesterday's nonfatal shooting of a 13-year-old boy in Prince George's County, Md., Charles Moose, police chief of neighboring Montgomery County, is talking tough. "All of our victims have been innocent and defenseless, but now we're stepping over the line," the Washington Post quotes him as saying. "Shooting a kid--it's getting to be really, really personal now."

The killer also shot seven adults, six fatally--all before "stepping over the line."

I saw that interview. Chief Moose had the stains of tear marks running down his cheeks. The emotional context needs to be borne in mind. And yes, there is a difference between attacking adults and attacking children, a visceral difference that we all feel. A line has been crossed between evil and utter evil. This creature is obviously totally devoid of compassion or anything else that makes one truly human. Assuming there is damning evidence when this swine is caught, can anyone please tell me why he shouldn't face the death penalty?

Fighting yesterday's battles


Part of the problem with the Tory party is that they continue to fight yesterday's battles, and then only ones that were won. Why is the headline from today's Conference Tories would extend 'right to buy'? Mrs T did that. Brilliantly. Twenty years ago. The we have Michael Howard taking aim at Bill Clinton, a man who has been out of office for two years and whose future is most talked about as a chat show host. The health proposals are interesting, but ruling out ability to charge patients is foolish at this stage, and shows that the Tories are still scared of reopening the health debate properly. The one really good idea to emerge today is some real school choice by allowing parents to set up what are, in effect, charter schools.

Meanwhile, the dreadful Theresa May contributes to a vicious circle by telling the world that Conservatives are nasty people! What the Dickens? How about standing up and saying Conservative voters are decent people, who love their families and love their country, compared with the haters in the Labour Party who want to destroy anything they don't approve of, whether it be families, education or patriotism, and replace it with their own, twisted version, whatever the consequences for the working class? The silly woman has just given Labour a nice big stick to beat them with.

If she'd read the article on South Park Republicans in today's Tech Central Station, perhaps she'd have had second thoughts:

Southpark Republicans are true Republicans, though they do not look or act like Pat Robertson. They believe in liberty, not conformity. They can enjoy watching The Sopranos even if they are New Jersey Italians. They can appreciate the tight abs of Britney Spears or Brad Pitt without worrying about the nation's decaying moral fiber. They strongly believe in liberty, personal responsibility, limited government, and free markets. However, they do not live by the edicts of political correctness.

Why couldn't she have said that, for Goodness' sake?

UPI


While I was away, my latest Recent research suggests ... column was published by UPI.

Accidental and fortuitous concurrence of atoms


John Allen Paulos has a great column on ABCnews.com about The 9-11 Lottery Coincidence.

More on Tocqueville


Orrin Judd sends along a link to his review of Alexis Tocqueville's Memoir on Pauperism. Extraordinarily prescient, it seems to me.

Party time


We're planning our daughter's second birthday party at the moment. I can assure people that it will not be held at the local equivalent of the Soho House Club. The word "idiots" springs unbidden into my mind...

How to make the little platoons even smaller


One of Mrs T's biggest mistakes was to float the idea of combating football (soccer) hooliganism by introducing football supporters' identity cards. This blatant attack on freedom of association was defeated by a combination of left and right in support of liberty. In another country where, shall we say, liberty is not as highly regarded, the idea caught on, was implemented, and has been a disaster. Junius reports from Belgium.

France and Britain: A clash of enlightenments


I left an old copy of The Public Interest lying around the house, and Kris decided to read The Idea of Compassion: The British vs. the French Enlightenment by the great Gertrude Himmelfarb. I haven't read it yet, but Kris comments thusly:

You really should read the whole thing! This article has shown me the origins of my Founding Father’s thinking, our lucky escape (despite perhaps Jefferson) from French Enlightenment but has also depended my understanding of the origins of socialism (and why it is such a failure). It is also a final rebuke to the horrible social experiments of the 60s.

The passage that captured her attention was a quotation from that great Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville:

In England writers on the theory of government and those who actually governed cooperated with each other, the former setting forth their new theories, the latter amending or circumscribing these in the light of practical experience. In France, however, precept and practice were kept quite distinct and remained in the hands of two quite independent groups. One of these carried on the actual administration while the other set forth the abstract principles on which good government should, they said, be based; one took the routine measures appropriate to the needs of the moment, the other propounded general laws without a thought for their practical application; one group shaped the course of public affairs, the other that of public opinion.

I used to have discussions with Scottish friends who said that the Scots were pragmatists while the English idealists, which meant that something as disastrous as the poll tax would never have happened in an independent Scotland. I wonder what they'd have made of Tocqueville's comment.

High blood pressure alert


Don't read this if you have high blood pressure, like me. I've got a headache now. Natalie Solent has the story of a Times report on the first man to be convicted under Britain's new religious hatred law, an engineer who abused three Muslims after 9/11. She then provides the Telegraph's coverage, which includes a couple of tiny details that might just be relevant to the understanding of the case.

New blog recommendation


Always happy to give a new blog a plug (a plog?), especially if they're mid-Atlantic. The Lincoln Plawg is just such a blog and makes some interesting points.

Sorry for the unannounced absence


I was away at a wedding in Long Island where Kris was the Matron of Honor and Helen the (badly-behaved) flowergirl. As our network was down all Friday I didn't have a chance to make any posts explaining this, or any posts at all for that matter. Posting may well be light today as I have catching up to do as well as a business lunch.

Thursday, October 03, 2002

I said I'd never get a gun, but...


It's things like this that make me question that decision. Five people have been shot dead -- clinically -- just to the North of DC. I'm of course worried that the killers have fled into Virginia, but given that the ratio of arms to persons is probably much higher than in Maryland, that may be a fatal move on their part. Everyone with a gun will have it handy now. The Prof thinks it might be terrorism, but it's far too early even to suggest that. My thoughts are with the victim's families, and with my family.

More on violence


Thanks to The Green Fairy for pointing us to the Independent's coverage of the WHO violence report. These conclusions are interesting:

The roots of violence lie in low educational attainment and substance abuse at the individual level while friends, partners and family members wield important influence at the domestic level. Violence is more likely in areas with highly mobile and diverse populations which lack the social glue that binds communities together.

No mention of poverty. Interesting. Educational attainment is, of course, enhanced by Enlightenment ideals. Madrassas, I imagine, don't count. Subtance abuse -- 'nuff said. Excessive self gratification is often anti-social in its effects. Family and social cohesion are also very important. This could have been written by Edmund Burke or the Founding Fathers. It goes on:

Social factors that influence rates of violence include norms that entrench male dominance over women and children, give priority to parental rights over child welfare, and support the use of excessive force by police against citizens.

Liberty and resistance to arbitrary power, with a dash of Wilberforce thrown in. Keep going...

Research shows that biological factors may explain some of the predisposition to aggression in individuals, but these interact with family, community and cultural factors. Understanding these factors would help policy-makers intervene at an early stage.

Some violent criminals are born, in other words, but we can keep them in check with strong, virile communities. If that's the case, then policy-makers (who should be representative of the strong community, of course) won't need to intervene.

Could it be that WHO has actually realized that liberty, self-reliance and a strong community moral sense are the best inhibitors of violence? Perish the thought.

Insane


Orrin Judd asks "why do we need The Onion?" when real life provides copious examples of a world gone mad.

Here it comes


Well, there we are. According to EUobserver, Giscard wants to rename the EU "The United States of Europe":

The European Union is maybe in the future to be named the United States of Europe, suggested the president of the Convention on the Future of Europe, Valery Giscard d’Estaing on Wednesday, in a speech in the Belgium city of Brugge.

The Convention is at the moment working on a new European treaty that might lead to a European constitution, but now the former French president also wants to discuss the name of the Union.

"This linguistic question is not irrelevant, since the name has a symbolic power that gives the individual citizen the possibility of identifying themselves with the European project's uniqueness and ambitions", said Mr Giscard d'Estaing in the College of Brugge.

How many times have we been told that this is not on the table?

Outdated, Out Thought, Out There


Mark Steyn's Spectator article this week is a terrific examination of European and, indeed, global resentment of America. Half their arguments about the effects of any war led by America are based on outdated understandings of technology, he argues. The UN is also outdated, and the only ones keeping up the pace are the Americans:

If Europeans don’t like this scenario, there’s only one way to do anything about it: get yourself back in the game. At the recent Nato meeting, Don Rumsfeld invited his colleagues to demonstrate their seriousness by setting up a Nato Rapid Reaction Force. He meant a real, actual Rapid Reaction Force, not a fictitious one like the EU’s. You’ll recall Louis Michel, the Belgian foreign minister, insisting late last year that the European Rapid Reaction Force ‘must declare itself operational without such a declaration being based on any true capability’. As the Washington Post remarked, ‘Apparently in Europe this works.’ Asked to set up an actual operational Rapid Reaction Force, most Nato members bristled: the cost would divert valuable resources from social programmes and might mean they’d have to cut back on welfare payments to Islamic terrorists.

So instead the plan is to diminish US hegemony by spending zippo on defence and putting all your eggs in the UN basket. Structurally, the UN is a creature of the Cold War. It formalised the stalemate of East and West: it was designed to prevent rather than enable action; it tended towards inertia, which was no bad thing given the potentially catastrophic consequences of the alternative. But we no longer have a bipolar world, and so the vetoes only work one way — to restrain the sole surviving superpower. England’s clergy have redefined the Christian concept of a just war to mean only one blessed by the Security Council, which is to say the governments of France, Russia and China: it will be left to two atheists and a lapsed Catholic to determine whether this is a war Christians can support. Even more perplexing, The Spectator feels the same way: our editorial last week declared that ‘only UN authorisation’ could provide a justification for war.

Just as a matter of interest, how many countries does George W. Bush have to have on board before America ceases to be acting ‘unilaterally’? So far, there’s Australia, Spain, Italy, the Czech Republic, Qatar, Turkey.... Romania has offered the use of its airspace to attack Iraq. The Americo-Romanian Coalition Against Iraq has more members than most multilateral organisations. But no matter how multilateral it gets, it doesn’t count unless it’s sanctioned by the UN. If France feels the need to invade the Ivory Coast, that can be done unilaterally. But, when it’s America, you gotta get a warrant from the global magistrate.

I'm beginning to think that American withdrawal from the UN should be seriously floated as an option (and not just by the Jesse Helmses of this world).

Robbery with Violence


I got the last story from Instapundit, of course. Now here is more detail about the story referred to in the other part of that post: WHO Report Details Global Violence. Yes, indeed, half of all the violent deaths around the world are suicide:

About 1.6 million people die violently each year around the world, accounting for about 3 percent of all deaths. Most of the victims are men, half are suicides, and 90 percent live in poor and middle-income countries....

Of the global total of violent deaths, 49 percent were suicides, 32 percent were homicides, and 19 percent were the result of war. Per-capita rates of violent death are twice as high in low- and middle-income countries as in the industrialized nations.

So, only 512,000 people are killed by someone else each year, excluding war. That's a global homicide rate of 8.5 per 100,000. That's a lot, lot less than I'd have estimated. Of course, I have huge doubts about the reliability of the data fed into this report, and, as the Prof says, the inclusion of suicide is simply padding the numbers (I wonder what reaction they'd have if they'd released a serious report headlined by the 512,000 figure). The full report is not online, sadly. But, taken at face value, this report is pretty good news.

"Taking Children Seriously"


One of the nuttier libertarian ideas is that of treating all children like adults. Now the children's rights brigade seems to have got in on the act. I can't wait to see my wife's reaction to this piece of news.

Bushnev


I disagree strongly with the isolationist philosophy behind this Ludwig Von Mises institute article The Bushnev Doctrine, but you've got to love the graphic:



Dos vadanya, folks

A Brassy Woman


Asa friend of mine suggested, have a cross and stake ready when you visit Edwina Currie's Website. The brass neck of the woman is incredible. On one side of the main page you have a quote from Matthew Parris, with citation, calling her "one of the best communicators the Tories have"; on the other side is the following:

Edwina has been called "the best communicator the Tories have"

This woman and her erstwhile lover are symptomatic of exactly what's wrong with Britain today. Incredible.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Major Curries Disfavor


Wow, even Howie Kurtz is talking about the Major/Currie sex scandal in his Washington Post media column. Wonders will never cease. Anyway, despite the slagging off (hem hem) Currie is receiving from many quarters, a friend of mine from Tory circles points out the collateral benefit:

I beg to differ. Ghastly though she is, and particularly so for Norma, Ray and the respective offspring, I feel Edwina has done us all a huge favour. She has surely debunked forever the view of 'nice Mr Major'. What we now see is a man haunted by fear of his own mis-doings coming back to haunt him. We have a lover who says she admired his deviousness, who laughed with him over his knowledge of other MPs' failings listed in the whips' black book.

Quite clearly we have a man who's reputation as a PM rested squarely on being seen as a nice, decent, family man - and he wasn't. He made so many mistakes as PM it's incredible and yet still people were prepared to back his snide remarks against other leading Tories. No longer.

These diary entries are truly important historical evidence as they explain the enigma of John Major to a 't'. Even his act of not giving Edwina housing after discussing it with her seems remarkable and petty today. And, as Edwina herself said in a horrible interview this morning, if John Major has to rely on David Mellor and Lady Archer to defend him then it shows the quality of his friends.

After ruining the Tory party, and failing to fix the social problems that had piled up in Britain since the 60s when he had the chance, Major's reputation as a decent sort was all he had left. Now he has lost even that.

Something must be done!


The advocacy group Common Sense About Kids and Gunsis clutching at straws:

"But there is still more that needs to be done: among 0-4 year
olds, accidental shootings actually increased a startling 58%!"
declared Kennedy. "This is simply tragic. We must take personal
responsibility to make certain guns are inaccessible to these very
young children."

The total number of 0-4 year olds accidentally killed by firearm discharge in the US last year was ... 19, as opposed to 12 last year. An increase of 7. That's statistical noise. Each death individually tragic, yes. An epidemic, national tragedy? No.

Would "better" gun storage laws have reduced that figure? There's no evidence (and I'll bet most of those accidental shootings happened in households that routinely ignore safety advice from all quarters), although there is evidence that requiring people to lock up their guns reduces their capacity for self-defense. See this article for a good summary. This case always resonates with me:

Just ask Jessica Lynne Carpenter, a 14 year old from California, a state with "lock up your safety" laws. When a deranged man broke into her home wielding a pitchfork, Jessica was unable to access her father's firearm, even though she is a well-trained shooter. The man used his pitchfork to murder Jessica's two younger siblings, John William and Ashley Danielle, ages 7 and 9. Because of mindless disarmament laws, Jessica was reduced to waiting around for the police to show up with the body bags.

The death rate for small children from accidental firearm discharge is so low it doesn't meet the CDC's standards for publication. I will not accuse the lobby group of scaremongering, as I am sure they genuinely feel there is a problem, but they should also admit that it is not a severe one.

Tony the Radical?


Another convert to the "Tony the Tory" meme is Simon Jenkins:

Tony Blair’s speeches have vastly improved since he abandoned Labour. Yesterday he demolished pacifists, lefties, backsliders and wimps alike. His key ingredient was a definable enemy, the Labour Party. Mr Blair is emerging as a Tory radical in the style of Disraeli. Abroad he offers the glamour of moral commitment and military conquest. At home he enlists the new capitalism to improve the condition of the people. I cannot see how a Tory could fail to vote for this man. There is no trace of socialism in him.

How short-sighted. There is plenty of socialism in him. He seems to regard the individual as only worthy if in "partnership" with certain causes. His speech yesterday was about harnessing the undeniable British preference for individualism to advance socialist causes. He will use, and broaden, state powers whenever he can, unless they have been shown to be economically unprofitable, at which point he will try to cajoal the markets, and he will have no compunction against nationalizing a privatized industry is it is in his short-term political interests to do so.

Tony is not yet a Tory. If he fully understood what freedom means, he might become one easily. As yet, however, freedom is merely a means to an end for Tony the Reformer.

Bloodsuckers


Meanwhile, the Blair government continues its assault on basic liberties in the name of being tough on the causes of crime. The police now have the power to direct Doctors to draw blood from incapacitated drivers at the scene of a traffice accident:

Even the doctors are worried. All that is needed to force blood from someone's veins is the untrained opinion of a policeman that a suspected drink-driver is either unconscious or incapable of fully understanding a request to take blood. The BMA is extremely concerned that the police have received no guidance or training in how to assess capacity. It is perfectly possible that an injured or shocked patient will express clear opposition to having blood taken, albeit in an agitated way, and a policeman can use that agitation to justify sticking a needle in his arm.

Since time immemorial, British citizens have enjoyed the security of their persons free from the wants of the Executive. As Blackstone put it:

Besides those limbs and members that may be necessary to man, in order to defend himself or annoy his enemy, the rest of his person or body is also entitled by the same natural right to security from the corporal insults of menaces, assaults, beating and wounding; though such insults amount not to destruction of life or member.

Now the Executive has the power to instruct a doctor to wound you in order to draw your blood. This might just about be permissable with judicial sanction, but that is obviously not the case.

The civil liberties that Blair has seen fit to challenge are some of the most basic -- right to silence, right to trial by jury and now freedom from bodily injury. What gives him the right to treat ancient liberties like a rag-bag of items that can be dicarded or kept based on passing fashion? This is the reason he cannot yet be called a true conservative.

News from Brussels


Meanwhile, Dan Hannan MEP gives us an excellent rundown of the state of affairs in the pomposity capital of the world:

I saw Neil Kinnock the other day. Mr Kinnock has now become a very grand person indeed: a Vice-Chairman of the European Commission, in charge of cleaning up all the sleaze that was exposed three years ago when Paul van Buitenen brought down the entire Commission. So, Commissioner Kinnock, I asked. How many people have you sacked since then? He waffled and warbled for a bit, but, after a while, he gave me the answer: "To the best of my knowledge, none".

There you have it. Three years after the worst corruption scandal in the history of the EU, not one official had been dismissed in connection with it. Two people have, however, been removed from their posts - not for engaging in corruption, but for exposing it.

One is Mr van Buitenen himself, who, after three years of kicking his heels in a backwater job, has resigned in disgust. The second is Marta Andreasen, who is still fighting her case. Miss Andreasen was brought in to clean up the Commission's accounts. She was horrified by what she found. Uniquely in the modern world, the EU had no proper method of double book keeping. Accounts were kept of Exxel spreadsheets, so there was nothing to stop them being retrospectively doctored. Yet instead of acting on Miss Andreasen's concerns, the EU brushed her aside and sought to silence her.

In September, I organised a special meeting for Miss Andreasen to raise her concerns publicly in front of a group of MEPs: the only such meeting she has addressed. What was extraordinary was the way in which a handful of Socialist MEPs tried, throughout the hearing, to dismiss her findings and imply that she, rather than the Commission, had behaved improperly. It was almost as though they regarded the EU as beyond reproach. To undermine it, even on grounds of financial rectitude, was, in their eyes, a sin against the European project. Their attitude seemed to be: Europe right or wrong.

I have frequently been on the receiving end of this myself. One of the first things I did when I was elected was to write in the Daily Telegraph about how MEPs' allowances and expenses worked. I was instantly sent to Coventry: many Euro-MPs plainly felt that such things ought never to be discussed in public. When a translation of my article appeared in a German newspaper, my German colleagues went ballistic. One, with whom I had previously got on rather well, sent me an e-mail which read: "Dear Daniel Hannan, I can only assume that you were drunk before writing in such a way about a European institution". She has barely spoken to me since.

Her attitude, and that of people like her, is deeply worrying. She regards the goal of a united Europe as an end that justifies almost any means. I draw the opposite conclusion. If the EU is unable to administer its own institutions cleanly, then it is hardly qualified to be given control over swathes of our own national life. If it cannot be trusted to run itself, we should certainly not invite it to run our currency.

Brings a whole new meaning to the phrase "fiddling while Rome burns"...

Blair in retrospect


The best commentary on Blair's speech yesterday that I've read so far is this Telegraph editorial. The "Tony the Tory" idea is underlined:

As far as the Conservatives are concerned, Mr Blair showed that he has lost none of his old skill at stealing their clothes. Nearly everything he had to say about the need to replace "the monolithic provision" of health and education with services tailored to individuals could have been lifted straight from a Right-wing pamphlet. His intention, clearly, was to pre-empt anything the Tories might unveil at their own conference next week. Given their nervousness over discussing detailed policy, he may well succeed.

I agree. But there is a catch:

Whether the public can be so easily dealt with, though, is far more doubtful. There was more than a hint of frustration in Mr Blair's speech that he is still having to argue the case for reform of the public services from first base - and that he has so little to show for it. As our own poll on Monday revealed, whatever the Prime Minister's political pre-eminence, the public knows that, on the ground, very little is happening, let alone improving. Hence his repeated, but wishful, insistence yesterday that Labour is "at our best when at our boldest".

The flaw, of course, is that Mr Blair is not naturally bold, but cautious. He may like a fight, but only when he knows that he is bound to win. On tricky questions of domestic policy, he often seems to think that a strong speech can be a substitute for action, rather than a spur to it.

That is unfortunately the case. Rhetoric is important, and often effective, on the international stage. Domestic policy, however, requires action, and in this respect Blair has been much less effective, his government often acting in contradictory ways in an effort to please all his constituencies (such as on crime) that lessen the effectiveness of what often seems to be a reasonable strategy. The result:

... on health, education, transport and law and order, the pressure for results is mounting.

His Achilles' heel, as he implicitly acknowledged yesterday, is that after five years in power with a huge majority, he somehow seems incapable of delivering them.

And he will continue to be, until he recognizes that he has to jump one way or the other: statism or the market? Stephen Pollard looks closer at this problem, and Gordon Brown's role in it, on his blog today.

Blondes having fun?


It's an excellent example of how sloppy much of the British press is. Last week, many tabloids and the BBC reported that the gene for blondness is dieing out. An ABC producer saw the story in London and it was referred to on Good Morning America. When the New York Times decided to look into it, however, they did an old-fashioned thing. They checked their sources. Stop Those Presses! Blonds, It Seems, Will Survive After All tells the story of how the British press picked up a story without bothering to ask whether it was true or not. If we could somehow marry careful American news coverage with the diverse British opinion pages, we might have a press people want to read. Hang on a second, isn't that what the blogosphere is doing?

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Blair's Vision


Our Tone has delivered a very important speech at the Labour Party conference. Here are some highlights, with my initial reaction:

Today, a nation's chances are measured not just by its own efforts but by its place in the world.

Influence is power is prosperity.

We are an island nation, small in space, 60 million in people but immense in history and potential.

We can take refuge in the mists of Empire but it is a delusion that national identity is best preserved in isolation, that we should venture out in the world only at a time of emergency.

There is a bold side to the British character.

And there is a cautious side.

Both have their time and season.

Caution is often born of common sense, a great British trait.

But there are times when caution is retreat and retreat is dangerous.

Now, at the start of the 21st Century, is a time for reaching out.

Interesting that he should appeal to "the British character." That's not very multicultural of him.

The world can go in two ways.

Countries can become rivals in power, or partners.

Partnership is the antidote to unilateralism.

For all the resentment of America, remember one thing.

The basic values of America are our values too, British and European and they are good values. Democracy, freedom, tolerance, justice.

It's easy to be anti-American.

There's a lot of it about but remember when and where this alliance was forged: here in Europe, in World War II when Britain and America and every decent citizen in Europe joined forces to liberate Europe from the Nazi evil.

My vision of Britain is not as the 51st state of anywhere, but I believe in this alliance and I will fight long and hard to maintain it.

I'm not saying we always apply our values correctly.

But I've lost count of the number of supposedly intelligent people who've said to me:

You don't understand the Serbs. They're very attached to Milosevic. No they weren't.

The Afghans are different. They like religious extremism. No they didn't.

The Iraqis don't have the same tradition of political freedom. No they don't but I bet they'd like to.

Our values aren't western values.

They're human values, and anywhere, anytime people are given the chance, they embrace them.

Around these values, we build our global partnership.

Europe and America together.

Good points, although I'd like to see evidence of "democracy, freedom, tolerance and justice" being long-standing continantal European values, as opposed to ones imposed by Britain and America in 1945 or later.

On Saddam:

If he doesn't comply, then consider.

If at this moment having found the collective will to recognise the danger, we lose our collective will to deal with it, then we will destroy not the authority of America or Britain but of the United Nations itself.

Sometimes and in particular dealing with a dictator, the only chance of peace is a readiness for war.

Jolly good. Then he loses it:

But we need coalitions not just to deal with evil by force if necessary, but coalitions for peace, coalitions to tackle poverty, ignorance and disease.

A coalition to fight terrorism and a coalition to give Africa hope.

A coalition to re-build the nation of Afghanistan as strong as the coalition to defeat the Taliban.

A coalition to fight the scourge of AIDS, to protect the planet from climate change every bit as powerful as the coalition for free trade, free markets and free enterprise.

I'm all for a coalition to give Africa hope (a coalition to abolish the CAP would be the best you could get there -- any chance France would join that one?) but are we going to have security council resolutions on AIDS and climate change? I'd like to see what he proposes here. Well, actually, I don't...

Now, Europe:

Our friendship with America is a strength.

So is our membership of Europe.

We should make the most of both.

And in Europe, never more so than now.


The single currency is a fact, but will Europe find the courage for economic reform?

Europe is to become 25 nations, one Europe for the first time since Charlemagne, but will it be as a union of nation states or as a centralised superstate?

It has taken the first steps to a common defence policy, but will it be a friend or a rival to NATO?

The answers to these questions are crucial to Britain.

They matter to the British economy, our country, our way of life.

And the way to get the right answers, is by being in there, vigorous, confident, leading in Europe not limping along several paces behind.

That's why the Euro is not just about our economy but our destiny.

We should only join the Euro if the economic tests are met.

That is clear.

But if the tests are passed, we go for it.

As Whittam-Smith suggested, it's unlikely HMG will declare the economic tests met while the German crisis unfolds, so this may be empty rhetoric, but the direction of the logic is worrying.

And this is all set out in the next section, which is the Blairite Vision:

Interdependence is the core reality of the modern world.

It is revolutionising our idea of national interest.

It is forcing us to locate that interest in the wider international community.

It is making solidarity - a great social democratic ideal - our route to practical survival.

Partnership is statesmanship for the 21st Century.

We need now the same clarity of vision for our country.

International interdependence is a worrying concept. It seems to be too easily confused with complete dependence, which is what British membership of the Euro would be.

Blair then goes into the achievements of his government, which he casts in relative, rather than absolute terms. He can say "we're better than France" but he can't say "we're better than we were in 1952" (although, of course, he could in some things). Then comes the Tory-bashing:

That's what the Tories hate.

They sneer at the investment.

Pessimism about Britain is now the official strategy of the Tories.

The purpose is not just to undermine the Government, but to undermine Government, to destroy the belief that we can collectively achieve anything, to drench progress in cynicism, to sully the hope from which energy, action and change all spring.

Now they've gone "compassionate".

Know what it means?

We are going to run down your schools but we feel really bad about it.

We're going to charge you to see a GP but we really wish we weren't.

We're going to put more children in poverty but this time we'll honestly feel very guilty about it.

In Opposition, Labour was trying to escape policies we didn't believe in. It was a journey of conviction.

Today's Tories are trying to escape policies they do believe in.

Theirs is a journey of convenience and it fools no-one least of all themselves.

Although he's wrong about the Government part (a proper Tory policy would strengthen civil society -- "the belief that we can collectively achieve anything" without a need for Government auditors, performance targets and regulation), he's probably right in the conclusion...

He then elliptically bashes Old Labour by talking about the move from "The Big State" to "The Enabling State". I'll give this to him, he is demonstrating true leadership in taking on the opposing forces within his party and telling them that they can't go on the way they have done. His arguments about PFI (interesting that he's using the Tory name, not "public-private partnerships") are good ones, and his calls for reforms in the professions well-warranted. Then he comes to crime:

We have increased the numbers of police to record numbers, toughened the law on everything from rape to benefit fraud.

Does that mean everyone feels safer? No.

Why? Because the problem is not just crime.

It is disrespect.

It is anti-social behaviour.

It is the drug dealer at the end of the street and no-one seems to be able to do anything about it.

This is not only about crime. It is about hard-working families who play the rules seeing those who don't, getting away with it.

The street crime initiative has been one of the most successful exercises in partnership between Government and police in living memory.

Not my words, but those of the Chief Constables.

But what was fascinating was not the initiative itself, but what it uncovered.

Outdated identity parades taking weeks if not months to organise. Defendants who didn't answer to their bail and never got punished for it.

Police officers told it was a breach of civil liberties to check whether defendants were obeying bail conditions.

It's not civil liberties.

It's lunacy.

Drug addicts with previous offences routinely bailed though everyone knew what they would be doing between bail and trial.

Magistrates unable to remand persistent young offenders in custody because no places existed in prison or secure accommodation.

The whole system full of excellent people, worn down and worn out.

Step by step David and his team, working with the police are putting it right.

...

For 100 years, our Criminal Justice System like our welfare system was based on a messy compromise between liberals and authoritarians.

The liberals tended to view crime as primarily about social causes and the welfare system primarily about giving to the poor.

The authoritarians wanted harsh penalties and as ungenerous a benefit system as possible.

The compromise was a Criminal Justice System weighted in favour of the defendant but with harsh penalties for the convicted; and a passive welfare system with mean benefits.

In short, the worst of all worlds.

This is a pretty fair summary, although the proposed solutions are ill-thought out in my opinion.

And then the peroration. The Blair vision is still paternalist, giving away more taxpayers' money and demanding things in return -- something he characterizes as partnership rather than paternalism. It may be strict rather than lax, but it's still paternalism. And that's the opening the Tories have. To say that Britain needs to be a country of mature adults working together voluntarily rather than receiving carrot and stick from the man in Whitehall.

Blair has improved markedly over the last couple of years. He's a true leader, internally and internationally, but his ideas are still confused and often misguided. And that is dangerous for Britain.

Oops


Chad Dimpler asks the question, "Has the Blair government made Britain's nuclear weapons illegal?" The answer seems to be yes, they have, and so most of the staff of the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment should be put in jail. Silly boys.

German, German Overalls


Christopher Caldwell has a great article, The Angry Adolescent of Europe, in The Weekly Standard (link probably for subscribers only, I imagine). He looks at what the recent election tells us about Germany's current state. It's not pretty. The casual jettisoning of the Western Alliance is well examined. Moreover, it seems that Germany is finally descending down a path that Britain took in the 60s and 70s -- use envy and tax money to distract from unemployment:

It was to a boss that Schroeder finally turned to get himself out of the unemployment pickle. His crony Peter Hartz, a director of Volkswagen, which is the largest business in Schroeder's Lower Saxony, had been deputized last winter to lead a commission investigating a scandal in Germany's national employment agency. The agency had systematically exaggerated the number of Germans it had been able to find jobs for. Into the bargain, Hartz came up with an ambitious employment plan that he and Schroeder leaked to the newsmagazine Der Spiegel in late June. Its high points were a government-run temp agency and incentives (read: subsidies) for small business to make new hires. The magazine presented it as the chancellor's economic Wunderwaffe--no one knew quite how it would work, but it was supposed to cut unemployment in half by 2005.

Schroeder was able to campaign on the plan, even as he undercut it. He insisted that the government-sponsored temps get the prevailing (exorbitant) union wage, which would, of course, make them just as unhirable as private sector temps are now. He attacked the idea of a Hire-und-Fire-Gesellschaft, which is the new German word for "labor market," and to which the Hartz report makes a grudging accommodation. By the end of the campaign, there was nothing left of Hartz's recommendations that Schroeder would claim for his own--except, of course, the promise to cut the jobless rate. In its place was a howling and envy-laced populism that sought to blame declining services on the people who still had jobs. On the sunlit stage in Rostock, Schroeder insisted that health care "shouldn't be only for those who are born with a silver spoon in their mouths." Education, meanwhile, "shouldn't depend on how much money is in Mummy and Daddy's wallet."

Germany is going to become the sick man of Europe very quickly. Caldwell's conclusion is worth quoting in full:

The tortured examinations of conscience that marked West Germany in the decades after the war, those soul-searching reflections of "working through the past," were genuine, and they grew a country of honor and decency out of a moral disaster. Unfortunately, West Germany is a country that no longer exists. The worries that, after reunification, the west would crush the new eastern states into some kind of conformism has turned out to be 180 degrees wrong. The states of the old West Germany turn out to be relatively frozen in their political allegiances; the East is wide open, and it is to the swing voters of the former Soviet bloc that successful politicians now address themselves. The Stalinist government of East Germany taught its citizens that they were the victims of fascism. To the extent that they were doomed to spend their lives under communism while their Western cousins lived it up, this turned out to be true, in a sense. Easterners feel the very opposite of historical guilt. They feel historical entitlement. Even as their incomes have doubled in relation to westerners' since the fall of the wall, they feel they've been wronged, dissed, screwed. Never denazified, historically frozen by decades of Soviet occupation, the east is something of a museum of German character. It is the easterners who provided the target audience for Schroeder's anti-American message.

Political scientists used to say that the CDU and CSU had a "structural majority" in Germany. This meant that, barring any dramatic irregularities, conservatives won elections. Indeed, had the election been limited to the western states, Schroeder's coalition would have been thrown out of office. But with reunification and the moving of the capital to Berlin, Germany has lurched back into Central Europe. It has also inherited some of the region's problems. Its population is collapsing, and its welfare state may collapse along with it. Its economy shows no signs of entrepreneurship and innovation. Its young people seem motivated by consumerism alone, and are disinclined to form families. Germans tend to be optimistic about solving these problems; as Jochen Thiese, a journalist for Deutschland Radio, notes: "We Germans wait until the last second before moving." And good if they do, but why does everyone assume that these problems will eventually be solved?

It is possible that Germany is undergoing a deep cultural change, and also beginning a slow economic spiral down to a standard of living below that of its neighbors. One can also wonder about its role in the world. The anti-American messages with which Schroeder wooed his newly Central European country may subside, and there may be a period of calm ahead for the German-American alliance. But why assume that Schroeder's distrust of America--and the West?--is a temporary rather than a heartfelt thing? Perhaps it is--but even if it is, something has changed. Should Germany's economic problems prove insoluble, should relations sour with its European neighbors, the United States has now been established as Germany's scapegoat of first resort.

The only problem with the article is its failure to explain the Euro's role in the economic disaster. Following Lord Rees-Mogg's Times article yesterday, we now have the saintly Andreas Whittam-Strobes, a committed Europhile, realizing just how bad the Euro is for Germany:

What is going wrong is precisely what was forecast by the least vociferous group of doubters when our neighbours first began to plan merging their national currencies into the euro: one size doesn't fit all. Those of us who took this line were making almost a technical point – yes, we would like to see closer integration; yes, a common currency would be a good idea, but this particular scheme won't work.

In this light consider Germany's predicament. Like Japan it is suffering from a deficiency of demand. Domestic sales are falling at about 2 per cent per annum; Japan is about 1 per cent down. By contrast, the US, Britain and France are still showing growth.

Moreover, it is obvious what Germany should do to halt the decline. The advice could have been found in any economics textbook published on the Continent before the euro came into existence. It should reduce interest rates; it should let its currency depreciate somewhat against the dollar, so as to find a new level which encourages exports; and it should stimulate its economy by increasing state spending even if the result would be higher government borrowing.

Unfortunately Germany cannot do any of these things. It cannot cut interest rates, for those are set for all euro members by the European Central Bank. Consequently it is obliged to endure rates which in real terms, that is after subtracting its very low rate of inflation, are punishingly high. Nor can Germany allow its currency to depreciate because it doesn't any longer have one. It trades in euros over which it has little influence. It is obvious now that Germany entered the euro at an exchange rate in terms of the old Deutschmark which was too high.

As for letting government spending rise, again it is balked. It has committed itself to obeying the rules of the Stability and Growth Pact, which it itself designed in order to instil budgetary discipline on all members. Deficits must be strictly limited and last only for short periods. But in practice what the rules are coming to mean is that countries already in recession must make matters worse by cutting public spending.

What might happen to Germany as a result of having cheerfully signed up a couple of years ago to a system which, as it turns out, is completely unsuitable to its present circumstances? I believe that it will start to go the way of Japan and sink into deflation. Like Japan, prices for its goods and services will begin to decline; companies and consumers with heavy debts will find them harder and harder to repay; the banks will gradually be rendered immobile by bad debts; stock market prices will continue to test new lows and property values will fall back.

Whittam-Smith finishes by saying that British entry into the Euro will probably not happen, and that this is no big deal. "Life goes on," he says. But what will happen in a Germany that is heading down the same road as Britain did in the 1960s, but which will not be able to use the same tools Mrs Thatcher used to get us out of the economic (if not the social) hole? I'm afraid of the answer to that question.

In the country of the blind, a blind man should be King


(Under human rights law, that is). The latest absurdity to emerge from Australia is a move to allow blind people and the mentally disabled to fly and work as air traffic controllers. How progressive!

THE physically and mentally disabled may no longer be barred from becoming pilots or air traffic controllers.

Eyesight and other medical tests imposed on flight crew have been found to be in breach of anti-discrimination laws.

The finding, by the Federal Attorney General's Department has created fears air safety regulators will be hit with discrimination complaints.

As they say in the outback, "O tempora! O mores!"

Thanks to John Ray for the heads-up.

Foul and Abusive Language


Natalie Solent says basically all I wanted to say about Peter Briffa's encomium of abusive language. I have only this to add: yes, I do swear ("curse" in American) from time to time. When I do so, it is normally in anger. Anger is, of course, a sin. But normally that anger is either self-directed or directed at generalities (such as HM Treasury). Using abusive language, however, is even worse, as it personalizes the anger (or envy, or other sin). The anger may be unconscious, as when a jolly old racist uses a racial epithet in what he thinks is a funny way. When "David" says "Foul and abusive language does have a place in civilised society as without it, many frustrated generations would be lost," I think what he's getting at is that it provides an outlet for anger. In this world, anger is okay as long as it is non-violent. Ben Elton was angry with Thatch, so it was okay that he said "F*ck" a lot. In my world, anger isn't okay. It's something we fall victim to, but it's something we should feel ashamed about. Rules about foul and abusive language help underscore that shame and keep us from falling victim to anger. It's called civility. The common etymology with civilization should be a clue to its deeper meaning.

Satire Sprouting in Brussels


Private Eye has long been pricking the bubble of pomposity in the UK. Now The Sprout aims to do the same thing in Brussels. With any luck, it will have a short lifespan...

Monday, September 30, 2002

There's no pleasing some people


Crazy Canuck Leah McLaren goes to Norway. She doesn't like what she finds:

There are no junkies, beggars, flash cars, club kids or alcoholic grog in sight, just these clean-living recreationalists, a couple of licensed street performers and a mob of tourists in town for a night before they embark on pre-paid fiord cruises. Everybody is trying very hard to look entertained.

It’s official: Norway is even more boring than Canada.

Perhaps she should go to Baghdad, or Medellin. They'd be nice and exciting for her.

Not pulling their weight


It's a commonplace that Europe is not pulling her weight in terms of contributing to the world security crisis, but now William Rees-Mogg makes a plausible case that she's not doing enough to solve the world's economic problems, either. And the main reason is: European Monetary Union:

[Quoting the Financial Times] “Germany’s economy is hemmed in by uncompetitive wage levels, a fixed exchange rate, an inability to alter monetary policy and an already high structural budget deficit.” The uncompetitive wage levels are caused by Germany’s high social costs. That will not be put right by the recently re-elected Schröder administration, with its backbone of rubber. The fixed exchange rate is the euro, which Germany cannot leave. Control of monetary policy has been lost as part of the euro package. The high budget deficit is subject to the Stability Pact, though that is beginning to erode. The two other large economies of the eurozone, France and Italy, also have budget problems.

Gordon Brown is right to ask the eurozone countries to make a greater contribution to the maintenance of world growth. But he is asking the leading countries something which it is impossible for them to do. Germany ought to have a lower exchange rate: the euro makes that impossible. Germany ought to have lower interest rates: the euro makes that impossible. Germany ought to have easier money: the European Central Bank makes that impossible. Germany requires a higher budget deficit to restart the economy: the Stability Pact makes that impossible. That leaves only a reduction in German wage rates, and Schröder is not going to try even that.

The two great problems of Iraq and the world economy share this characteristic: the United States and Europe are not working together. Britain is working to support the United States, but Britain is a small country. Europe is very reluctant to support the United States on Iraq; because of the constraints of European monetary union, Europe is unable to make its fair contribution to averting global recession.

Any politician who voluntarily signs up for EMU has to be a starry-eyed idealist, an idiot, or a Machiavellian traitor. And yet still they queue up to call for the UK to join.

Secession Crisis Looming?


In Canada. Over Kyoto. Ho ho. This National Post story quote's Alberta's premier as playing the 'we're not going to threaten to leave unless... and then promptly threatening to leave' card:

"I don't think Albertans are ready to leave Canada," the province's Premier said in an interview on the weekend. "I hope that the government will come to its senses and we'll explore all of our constitutional options before that's [separation] even considered. If you ask Albertans now if they want to leave, they would say no. But don't push us too hard.

"The Clarity Act applies to all provinces, not just to Quebec. It sets out a formula for leaving the country. Alberta is not looking at that at this time, but that's not to say that some people are not already doing so. There's been some talk. I get lots of cards and letters. So I say to Ottawa, just don't push us. Be fair and understand the importance of this industry to Alberta and Canada."

Interesting to see that laws intended to give the Quebecois more independence are being used by the other provinces. Jim Bennett comments:

I've thought for a while that the precedents and decision set in regard to Quebec secession have other implications, in the long run maybe even more profound. The Canadian confederation has real problems with its structure, giivng Ontario and Quebec a permanent majority against the rest of the provinces. Secession used to be too costly to consider, given that the Western provinces would have to arrange for their own security and international representation, etc., and they would have economic critical-mass problems. These days it would be cheaper and more effective for Western Canada to be independent -- they could cut a
better deal with the US on defense and trade, and end the tax drain eastward. Kyoto could be the straw that broke the camel's back.
Normally in Canadian history, somebody would compromise at the last moment and things would be worked out. But the Ontario-based ruling class is more arrogant than ever before, and Kyoto has taken on semi-religious significance.

Scott Wickstein also has some thoughts from one of the Anglosphere's other long-standing Federal entities.

Hypocritical Cry-Babies


New U.S. Doctrine Worries Europeans is a great list of all the worries the Euro-weenies have at the moment. It also throws into stark relief the idiocy of the "greater integration brings greater influence" argument. Assuming that America has been restrained slightly over Iraq by Blair, if Britain had had to argue as one voice alongside 14 skeptical ones in the common foreign & defense policy, how would Britain's influence in world affairs be greater? Moreover, this sentence is illuminating

Washington's opposition to the Kyoto treaty on global warming, its demand to be exempted from the reach of the new International Criminal Court and its staunch support of Israel's hard-line prime minister, Ariel Sharon, have caused anger and consternation here

when read alongside this evidence from Denmark that has been kept remarkably quiet:

The atmosphere intensified on Friday, when France revealed that its ratification of the ICC convention included the activation of a special clause that would grant French military personnel immunity against ICC charges for seven years.

Bunch of hypocrites.


Thanks to The Group Captain for the link.

An Old Idea


Jim Bennett says that, in the event of action being needed against Iraq, a declaration of war is needed. I completely agree. From both the US and UK. From a constututional point of view, in both countries, it is the only way to avoid the sort of confusion and obstacles that modern military actions inevitably end up in (did the Gulf War ever end? The people think so, the lawyers probably don't).

Conservative Confusion over Correlation and Causation


Family Group Claims Hotel Porn Leads to Violent Crime, reports the Conservative on-line news service CNSnews.com. The article's author, however, makes no attempt to check the claim that there is a causal link between pornography and violence. No reputable research exists that demonstrates this. What has been demonstrated is that sex offenders use pornography, which suggests that the same factors drive each activity. In other words, a sex offender may well watch a porn movie in a hotel, but it is not the movie that moves him to violence. Japan is the clincher in this argument -- a society which far more readily accepts even violent, "disturbing" pornography than anywhere in the West has a far lower sexual assault rate, even accounting for possible underreporting.

Elusive Argument


On Ecstasy, Consensus Is Elusive reports the Washington Post, raising question marks about recent research that alleges that one night's exposure to Ecstasy (MDMA) can cause permanent brain damage. The black mark against this article is that it never mentions that the Science paper referred to passed peer review, which means that it was the consensus of relevant experts in the field that the research methodology was adequate enough to allow for publication. There are often controversies in scientific research which involve competing methodologies, and the rivalry between Dr. Kish (quoted in the report) and Dr. Ricaurte (author of the study in question) seems to be one of these. Peer review is not perfect, and many studies do get published whose methodology can be questioned. It would, however, have been helpful to have the testimony of other experts whose work is not in direct competition (like Dr Kish's) or who have other public stances on the subject (like Dr Grob and Dr Doblin, whose "professional goal is to become a legally licensed psychedelic therapist") to provide more balanced coverage of the issues than the simple "he said, she said" approach taken by the Post.

Toying with Treason


Some have been accusing the American Congressmen currently in Iraq of treason, although I think it's more their knee-jerk reactionism myself. If you want an example of a legislator who is really treading on the borders of treason, check out these comments by 'Gorgeous' George Galloway MP:

"Will they [the Arab states] send forces to defend Iraq this time in 2002 or will they allow the use of their forces, air space and land by the Crusaders and foreigners to attack Iraq and start a fire in an Arab, Muslim country that is part of their big entity?" Mr Galloway said on Al Jezeera, the Arab satellite broadcaster.

"Will they allow this entity to be torn and paralysed? If they do, then they deserve what is awaiting them in the next 100 years."

... Mr Galloway, who spoke at a rally in London yesterday to oppose the war on Iraq, said: "I stand by every word. If the Arabs watch Iraq destroyed as part of a plan to keep the Arabs divided and weak, they will face the same kind of century as the one they have endured in the past and they should rise up and stop it."

Asked whether he would support military action against British and American forces, he said: "This line of questioning stems from the assumption that because I am British, I believe in my country right or wrong. I am against this invasion. Therefore I am in favour of everything than can be done to stop it - everything."

Does this include himself taking up Iraqi arms and shooting at British soldiers? If so, Stephen Pollard is right to say he should have the whip withdrawn.

Saturday, September 28, 2002

Explains a lot


Ex-PM Major 'had four-year affair'. With Edwina Currie no less. My theory about the late 60s Oxford generation gains strength.

Friday, September 27, 2002

Chris Petain's Rallying Point


If Chris Petain is to be believed, the Ryder Cup is a symbol of emerging British loyalty to Europe. Really? The European team is a bit light on Continentals. It consists of 5 Brits & 2 Irishmen, 2 Swedes, a Dane, a Spaniard and a German who is well past his prime. The players from countries outside the Eurozone outnumber those from inside the Eurozone. The majority spend a lot of their time working in the USA. If this is Chris Petain's view of the dieal Europe, he's a lot less federalist than we thought...