England's Sword 2.0

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

London and New York

I've just finished putting together the police recorded crime figures for London and New York last year. They're as follows:

London NYC
No. Rate/100k No. Rate Ratio London:NYC
Murder 189 2.5 584 7.3 0.3:1
Rape 2762 37 2018 25 1.5:1
Robbery 40630 549 27116 339 1.6:1
Assault* 42513 574 20686 259 2.2:1
Burglary 116048 1568 31226 390 4:1
GLA** 60389 816 26364 330 2.5:1

* Felonious Assault in NYC, Grievous Bodily Harm + Actual Bodily Harm in London
** Grand Larceny Auto in NYC, Taking a Motor Vehicle in London

I think the figures speak for themselves.

PP Dammit, the formatting got screwed up. I'll try to sort it out tomorrow.

The Bourne Identity

Eugene Volokh has the reaction of Stephen Bourne, Bjorn Lomborg's publisher, to the Danish decision. Compare and contrast the reaction of Michael Bellesiles' publisher.

Self-defense Down Under

Scott Wickstein of The Eye of the Beholder has some interesting observations on armed self-defense from the Australian perspective.

The segregation myth

Utterly fascinating story from Milwaukee, which has always been labelled a racially segregated city. It appears 'hypersegregation' is a myth induced by crude measurement techniques. An analysis by city block rather than by census tract (up to 125 blocks) reveals a much different story about racial segregation in US cities. It turns out, for instance, that a lot of the cities that ranked well under the old system rank very poorly under the new. It also turns out that Richmond, where I used to live, is extremely mixed, as I always thought it was, while the most mixed city in the country is Virginia Beach. Chalk a couple up for the Old Dominion there, I think. And note there isn't a Northern city in the top 10. I'll be interested to see what Chris Bertram has to say about this, following his recent remarks. Link spotted at Andrew Sullivan's.

Admissions standards

From the Telegraph and The Times today, it appears that David Yelland, former editor of The Sun, is off to Harvard Business School. Perhaps I've been in error in never viewing the Sun as a bastion of intellectualism. Still, at least the Sun, unlike the Independent and Guardian, don't try to justify viewing of child pornography.

The way its s'pozed to be

Great letter in The Times from a Deputy DA in California. Although I'm not sure about the California law she refers to (the English has got a bit garbled), her final paragraph is a keeper:

We’re still allowed to kill burglars who invade our homes, however. As colonies we adopted that common-law rule from you, but I’m now informed that British homeowners are required to respect their burglars’ rights; killing one will have the homeowner hauled up on charges. Now that’s injustice.

Of course, because she characterized herself as coming from the Wild West, this view will be laughed at as primitive. If she'd said she came from the state of Silicon Valley, she might have been listened to...

Blair's evolution

Looks like Michael Gove has the same opinion of Tony Blair as I do: irritating anti-democrat at home, now a statesman abroad. His Times column today looks at the inherent rightness of Blair's position on Iraq, by asking his critics where their positions would lead:

Those who are worried about the growing danger from North Korea and the continuing threat from al-Qaeda need to consider what effect a slackening of pressure on Saddam now would have on their concerns. Would North Korea believe the West was more serious about dealing with nuclear proliferation if we relaxed our approach towards Iraq? Wouldn’t a Western retreat from holding Saddam to account confirm the calculation Osama bin Laden made about the US after its pullout from Somalia and emptily symbolic bombing of a Sudanese chemical factory, that it had not the resolution to stay the course in any fight? And wouldn’t that embolden every jihadist from Dar es Salaam to Dorset into believing that their enemies, which is to say us, were indeed decadent and ripe for defeat?

To those who are worried that the military build-up closes off options, and betrays contempt for the UN, another set of questions might be put. Do they believe that Saddam should be free to continue developing weapons which could bring devastation to hundred of thousands? Are they happy to run the risk of such weapons being unleashed by him or, at a deniable distance, by the sort of terrorists with whom he has been willing to work in the past?


All the talk of respect for the UN which places the securing of yet another resolution as the top priority in this crisis is misguided; the elevation of process over outcome. Unless the UN disarms or removes Saddam, its resolutions will have no force, because it will have been seen to funk the use of force when a challenge came. It would go the way of the League of Nations, its resolutions offering no more protection to the world than a papier-mâché castle, ready to be kicked by any passing tyrant into history’s dustbin.

The Prime Minister told us yesterday that his job was “sometimes to say the things people don’t want to hear”. From a congenital people-pleaser, it was a telling statement, a demonstration that he realises statesmanship involves taking decisions in which there is no difference to split, no happy “third way” between undesirable options. The public, and the press, would very much like there to be a third way of dealing with Saddam which doesn’t leave us in danger or involve young men taking ships to a war zone. The uncomfortable truth is, there isn’t.

I think this is right. Blair is now a reverse Lord Palmerston in that he is reactionary at home, liberal abroad.

Fill yer boots!

Today, The Times reports that LBO firm KKR is planning a bid for Safeway, the UK supermarket chain (not the same one as in the States... that Safeway sold its UK stores to the present firm). If successful, I predict that KKR will appoint Archie Norman MP as CEO. He's got some experience in the field with Asda, and a snoop at the register of member's interests shows that he consults for KKR...

Defining deviancy down

The main argument behind banning guns for self-defense purposes in the UK was that the police could protect you better. Layman's Logic exposes the fraudulence of that position. The Metropolitan Police has decided that it will only bother investigating those burglaries that are deemed "solvable." As our Philosophical Cowboy points out, that's probably only 10% of crimes. We have a state that will not allow you to defend yourself, and yet refuses to seek out those who do you harm on the grounds it can't be bothered. This is not just a nanny state, it's a lazy, self-indulgent nanny. I suggest we fire her.

Liberty in Belgium

Airstrip One is reporting that Belgium may effectively ban the main opposition party for being undemocratic. It can do this because all parties are state-financed and it need only have a politicized judge declare a party undemocratic to cut off its funding. This is a startlingly good example of why free speech is integral to the campaign finance issue.

Risk? What risk?

The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales has denied issuing a 'charter for burglars'. He claims that his revision of the sentencing guidelines accords with standard practice:

"It is a well-established approach to sentencing that an offender should only be sentenced to imprisonment when this is necessary and then for no longer than necessary."

Indeed, there are diminishing returns to the incapacitation benefit. Lock a low-risk offender up and you're probably costing the nation more than the benefit received. But what makes an offender low-risk? M'learned friends seem to think that risk only relates to violent crime. Thus, a 7-time burglar who is arrested for the first time can be seen as low-risk. This is silly, not to mention offensive to the victims of property crime. Anyone who has been robbed non-violently or even pickpocketed can tell you of the sense of personal violation involved. When people enter your home, the sense of violation is even greater. In fact, if these crimes were subject to the same definition inflation we see in sex offenses, then they would be regarded as violent crime. Thankfully, that hasn't happened, and we have a sensible distinction, but it does not follow that property crimes are so low-risk as not to be worth protecting the public from by incapacitation.

Moreover, burglary is, as the Lord Chief Justice says, a serious crime. It should follow that that deserves consideration in sentencing. Lord Woolff should also bear in mind the deterrent effect of imprisonment on other criminals, which has been continually demonstrated over here. These all add up to a serious argument for prison, which has not been adequately addressed by the assembled eminences in wigs and robes. Hardly surprising, considering that it is, in the end, a political issue.

By the sword divided

The BBC is reporting that the Police investigating the gun murder of two teenage girls in Birmingham have arrested the brother of one of the victims. Developing...

Stand up for liberty!

If you are a British citizen and you are concerned at the prospect of the "Entitlement Card," be sure to visit Stand: Defining Digital Freedoms In The UK, which enables you to send your objections directly to the Home Office's Consultation Unit. It is vital that as many negative opinions be received as possible so that HMG cannot claim public approval of the idea (which would be ludicrous anyway, based on an unrepresentative sample, but that would not stop them making the claim).

Bjorn, Baby, Bjorn

The excellent Charles Paul Freund has the last word on the Lomborg railroading over at Reason.

Monday, January 13, 2003

Comrades in Arms

There's some dispute over at Samizdata over whether or not this story about the USA awarding a British soldier the Congressional Medal of Honor is true or not. For what it's worth, the Sunday Times reported it to, in brief. If it is true, it's a remarkable demonstration of how closely out two militaries co-operate.

Who's the victim?

The first story on Best of the Web Today annoys me intensely. As a newly-converted believer in the justice of capital punishment, I think that true evil should be subject to the penalty. The example cited is just the sort of crime I would apply the penalty to, yet, despite no question over the guilt of the perpetrators of this genuinely appalling crime, the sentence has been commuted. The pendulum of injustice swings both ways.

UPI Column

My UPI column has been showing up erratically on the web. Here's the one from just before Christmas.

I wonder how they'll blame this one on the Tories?

Devatating news, if confirmed, in The Guardian:

Two MPs are under investigation for accessing child pornography websites as part of a huge police operation that this weekend embroiled the rock star Pete Townshend.

Sources have confirmed to the Guardian that the names and credit card details of the two MPs are on a list of subscribers to a child porn internet portal sent to Scotland Yard by the US authorities.

The MPs, who are both reported to be former Labour ministers, are the latest public figures to become caught up in Operation Ore, the largest inquiry into child pornography undertaken in the UK.

I'll be very interested to see how this affects Labour's working class vote, and/or how long the Government can keep their identities from leaking out.

The reactionary liberal

Over on Airstrip One, Philip Chaston makes an important point arising from an Independent article:

It is instructive to consider from this passage that what was once liberal is now reactionary. In the first half of the nineteenth century both France and Britain, considered liberal powers, supported movements for representative institutions against autocratic monarchies or the Ottoman empire without acting in a way that would threaten the Concert of Europe. Now, if a great power promotes liberal values and representative democracy, this is imperialism and "patronising drivel", a reactionary measure. When did the invasion of a country to liberate it from an evil dictator and set up a democracy in its place become an action criticised by so-called progressives as immoral and insulting to native culture?

A question well worth acting.

By the way, thanks to Emmanuel Goldstein, the oldest inhabitant of Airstrip One, for defending me against charges of jingoism, in his own particular way.

An innocent classic

It is indeed. You can download HE Marshall's Our Island Story from the bottom of this page. Peter Hitchens, in The Abolition of Britain, calls it an innocent classic, but says it is also "far from ... the one-sided propaganda imagined by modern liberals." He goes on:

Even those who vaguely remember reading this book as children would be surprised by its more or less liberal tone, its willingness to admit that there are blots on the British record, and especially its sharp criticism of the more tyrannical English kings. In the days when British children were brought up to be proud of their country and its past, they were encouraged to do so 'warts and all,' another quotation once understood by everyone but now a mystery to millions.

Here's an example, from the tale of how Britain lost North America:

You know what a tax means. If a certain thing costs one shilling a pound, and the Government said, "We will put a tax of twopence a pound on this thing," then it would cost one shilling and twopence, and the extra twopence would go to Government to help to pay the expenses of the country. For it requires money to keep up a country just as mush as to keep up a house.

You also know that the King could not make the people pay taxes without the consent of Parliament. That was a right for which the people and Parliament had fought over and over again, and which they had won at last. And if Parliament consented to a tax, it was really the people who consented, as the members of Parliament were chosen by the people.

Now the people of America sent no members to the British Parliament. When King George tried to make them pay taxes, they at once said, "No, that is not just. It is against the laws of Britain. If we are to pay taxes we must be allowed to send members to Parliament as England and Scotland do. If we are to pay taxes we must have a share in making the laws and saying how the money is to be spent."

This was quite reasonable, but King George was not reasonable, He said, "No."

The Americans were very angry at this, and they made up their minds to do without the things which the King wanted to tax. This was very hard for them, especially as one of the things taxed was tea. You can imagine how difficult it would be to do without tea.

While these things were happening, the great Pitt had been ill. When he was well again, and heard what George III. and his foolish ministers had been doing, he was very angry. He said the Americans were quite right, and he talked so fiercely that all the taxes were taken off again, except the one on tea. George insisted on keeping that on. He was very angry with both Pitt and the Americans. He called them rebels, and Pitt the "trumpet of rebellion."

"You can imagine how difficult it would be to do without tea." Marvellous! Anyway, Pitt's attitude is underlined:

The war began in the year 1775 A.D., and it was quite as dreadful as a civil war. The colonists looked upon Britain as their mother-country, they talked of it as "home," and now for want of a little kindly feeling and understanding between them, mother and children were fighting bitterly. ...

While the war was being carried on in the States, at home Pitt, the great war minister, who was now called Lord Chatham, was struggling for peace. He had worked very hard to make Britain great, and to make the colonies great. Now, he saw that all his work was to be ruined by civil war, and he tried to stop it. "You cannot conquer America," he said. "They are of our own blood. If I were an American, as I am an Englishman, I would never lay down my arms -- never, never, never."

Wonderful stuff. All the great stories are here: Alfred and the cakes, Charles II and the Royal Oak. And time and again she reminds us of the ongoing British struggle for liberty. Send a copy to every member of the Cabinet, that's what I say.

Read this and weep

Stephen Pollard has an article in the Times about educational standards, which makes me wonder when a latter-day Colonel Pride will turn up outside teacher-training colleges and expel the idiots that dominate them.

On a related subject, Chris Bertram and Kieran Healy have been discussing the virtues of Ladybird history books. Quite by chance, I got the following e-mail from a History Professor friend who, as a graduate of Ruskin College Oxford in the mid-80s, is no conservative:

I came across a children's book that has a bookplate in it. The book was presented to my late uncle, George Quinn, at Christmas 1906, by the St. Stephen's Sunday evening ragged school of Hulme, Manchester. The point is this book is full of words - words like "stoic" that your average kid today probably cannot even read let alone understand. I suppose that Uncle George would have been about 10 in 1906...

Then I found one of my books, The Children's Encyclopedia of Knowledge, Book of History, 1965. I remember that my parents bought it for my birthday or Christmas. Anyway, it follows the old system of following kings' reigns, and it starts with 1066 and all that and goes right up to our present Queen. Funnily enough, it is all solid history - no nasty Tory propaganda at all in it! And it's full of words as well!

Maybe this is the problem? Not that teachers are good or bad, but that we don't read any more. Charlie, my nine year old, is a bugger who will not read for pleasure. He sits glued to our 5,000 channel TV with eyes like saucers.

Reading is, of course, the answer (autodidacticism has a lot to be said for it), but only if the texts are available. I think I may have found an online edition of Our Island Story. Wouldn't that be nice!

Empire loyalists?

In a particularly Anglospherist op/ed, William Rees-Mogg argues for similarities between the British empire and the current American "empire":

In the present struggle in the Middle East, the continuity of the Anglo-Saxon and imperial tradition is particularly obvious, with the US travelling the same territory that Britain covered in the first half of the last century and meeting the same problems of oil, Islam and Arab nationalism. Beyond that, the motivations of the two empires are surprisingly similar. Both have always been trading rather than military empires: like Athens, not Sparta; like Venice or Carthage, not Prussia. If they had a single textbook it would be Adam Smith, not Machiavelli, nor Marx.

Indeed, it is no mere coincidence that 1776 marks the publication of Smith’s Wealth of Nations, Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and the US Declaration of Independence. The United States may have retained more of the intellectual imprint of the British 18th century than Britain itself. Both the British and American empires have responded to circumstances, but have seldom been planned. They are happenings rather than intentions. Very few US Presidents have been empire builders; Teddy Roosevelt, perhaps George Bush is becoming one, but most were not. The same is true of Prime Ministers. Ferguson is right; Britain stumbled into empire, and so has the United States.

Empires come into existence, or grow, largely in response to threats or problems. All empires, in the benefits they provide and the damage they do, reflect the culture of the whole nation. The French were unlucky in that their early empire was pre-revolutionary, before France had developed democracy or freedom of trade or speech. The English were luckier that their empire was substantially post-revolutionary; almost all of it was acquired after the Civil War, and most of it after the revolution of 1688.

The Americans have been luckiest of all, in that their empire came after the War of Independence and the Civil War. The US empire really started in 1898, with the war in Cuba against Spain. The new American empire is global and powerful, but technologically advanced, liberal and democratic. As the British Empire dwindled and disappeared, an essentially benign American empire has helped to secure the stability of a very vulnerable world.

I still think the American position should be described as "imperium" rather than Empire, but Rees-Mogg's reasoning here strikes me as right.

Having said, that, Iwas disappointed to see him repeating as fact the suggestion that Jefferson fathered children on slaves. The DNA data disproved that the children most frequently alleged as his were related to him. There are plenty of other males in his family line who could have been responsible for the intrusion of his family's DNA into the line of Eston Hemings (see here for STATS taking on Gore Vidal over the issue).

Shooting war

Now that a controversy surrounding John Lott has made its way out of the academic lists and onto Instapundit, I thought it worth saying something, although the Prof says virtually everything that's worth saying. I will say that whatever Lott's new survey shows, the questions surrounding the disputed first survey will never go away. Nor can I see anyone ever proving the allegations against him. I have always said that Lott's work needs to be proven or disproven on the data, and this is a sideshow on that issue. Yet data-driven researchers should always be careful with their data, as this episode shows. Like the Lomborg case, this is no Bellesiles.

All the news that's unfit to print

Which is more anti-American, this paper (note the publisher at the bottom of the page) or this paper? (Thanks to Stephen Pollard for the link.)

Sunday, January 12, 2003

Media Roundup

Pete Townshend of the Who (credits "Teenage Wasteland" and "We Won't Be Fooled Again") has taken his songs to heart, having bought child porn off a website, claiming he did it out of curiosity. Right. Then, the Observer applauds Derry Irvine's plan to give burglars custodial sentences, as they are 'non-violent'. Again, I ask "Why burglars?" In publicised burglary cases, most burglars do carry a weapon to threaten (cf. Tony Martin's case). I return to my custodial sentences for white-collar criminals suggestion. As one reader mentioned, it would increase incentives for white-collar crime, but I'd imagine that it's easier to monitor a fraud suspect than a burglar. In addition, it is a Hobson's choice. Unfortunately, the Home Office and Lord Chancellor's department is unwilling to consider locking both of them up. I'd rather have Jeffrey Archer or Jonathan Aitken on the street than a thug.

Saturday, January 11, 2003

Full Court Press

In yesterday's Telegraph, Peterborough mentioned that one of the reasons the London selection committee rejected Nikki Page was her part-time journalism. Yet another example of the Tory attitude to the press. It should view the press like in-laws. They'll be there regardless, and it's far better to not have an acrimonious relationship with them. However, if one talks to most of the spotty junta, any journalist is evil. I wonder if bloggers are next.

Friday, January 10, 2003

Ecce Boris Johnson

Spectator editor Boris Johnson submits his manifesto for the position of Chancellor of Oxford. It's a good one, with a very important point:

For Oxford, it has been a humiliating experience. I remember when I was an undergraduate how the classics dons tried to shock the Thatcher government, to give them a symbol of the barbarous economies they were forced to endure. In an act of calculated self-mutilation, they decided not to fill the greatest chair in the university, the Regius Professorship of Greek.

"It makes us look like Paraguay," said one don confidently, as they sat back and waited for the Thatcher government, in shame, to cough up. They waited, and they waited; and, you know, the government decided they could rub along without a Regius Professor of Greek.

Now the dons are so starved that an average professor earns about £45,000, about as much as one of his banker pupils could hope to score a year after graduation. Oxford's history department was last year outranked by Oxford Brookes; a great achievement by the former polytechnic, but still a come-down for Oxford. It is not just that the best dons are fleeing to America, though they are; by this stage, they are probably getting more lucrative offers from Paraguay.

As long as Oxford relies so heavily on the government, it will always be bullied and short-changed. My friends, let us break free. Let us say goodbye to the misery of Gordon Brown-esque social engineering, the absurd and rigid quotas imposed by the Higher Education Funding Council. Of course the place will always have a social mission, just as it will always be in the tutors' interest to talent-spot the brightest from across the country.

Of course state funding has a role; but not to the extent that it puts the Government's thumb on the university's jugular. The next Chancellor of Oxford owes it to his university, and to future generations, to begin the slow recapturing of independence. We have as our examples the shining empires of the American Ivy League, self-financing leaders in a country where there already are 50 per cent at university.

Actually, the panjandrums at Wellington Square have finally decided to fill the Regius Professorship of Greek (Dr Weevil, are you free?), but the point remains. I voted for Boris every time he stood for election in the mid-80s. Looks like I shall have to do so again.

The National Interest

Brink Lindsey makes a very important point about heroism and the national interest:

In our own age, look at Themistocles’ heir: Winston Churchill. Surely the path of prudence was to strike a deal with Hitler. That was the option that maximized British subjects’ chances for quiet, happy lives. Yet Churchill rejected that course and rallied his people to resist a vastly stronger foe in the teeth of desperate odds. Can we say now that he was wrong to do so? And if we can’t, mustn’t we recognize that statesmanship cannot be reduced to calculations of interest – that it requires, at critical junctures, some unflinching commitment to virtue? And that virtue in such cases consists of refusal to back down in the face of a predator’s threats?

If you are part of a culture or a civilization where virtue is important, then defense of those virtues is part of the national interest. As the old song said, "There'll always be an England/ And England shall be free/ If England means as much to you/ As England means to me."

Gun shy?

The Wall Street Journal Europe says Britain should Get a Grip on Crime (subscription required, I fear). The article contains a lot of common sense and concludes:

As the past five years have shown, a tightened gun ban will have no practical effect on the ability of determined criminals to get hold of guns, which, despite the statistical increase, are used in only 12% of murders and less than 1% of all reported crimes. The sentencing guidelines are more useful, but when judges revolted at being told what to do, Home Secretary David Blunkett gave them discretion over the sentences. In any case, mandatory sentencing for possessing a gun will be a drop in the bucket in the absence of a wholesale change in the culture of policing and a toughening of sentences for crime across the board.

A decade ago, one might have had some sympathy for ministers flailing about in search of a way to make the streets safer. But the dramatic success of New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has provided the textbook for how to do this -- through a combination of tough policing, consistent sentencing and attention to the sort of quality-of-life crimes that British police tend to ignore and judges to dismiss. Nothing in the Labour government's approach suggests Britons can start feeling safer any time soon.

An obvious opportunity for Oliver Letwin, if he can find a spot in his calendar when he's not being bothered by Men in Grey complaining about IDS.


Alan K. Henderson has applied the Heritage Foundation's economic freedom index to That Economist Map. Well worth a look for a third dimension to the issue.

Thursday, January 09, 2003

Last Word on Cloning

I haven't mention the Raelians here because their story was just too absurd to credit. Nevertheless, the media set off on a feeding frenzy despite the complete lack of evidence offered. Chris Mooney, formerly of TAPped, tells us just how bad the media's science is in Clones and Raelians - Happy Old Year (Doubt and About).

Something rotten in the state of Denmark

I've now had a chance to read the full report of the Danish Committee that criticized Lomborg. It's a spectacular piece of doublespeak. To begin with, the Committee could not reach any consensus over whether or not Lomborg's work was a work of science or not, so their conclusion is basically a giant "if Lomborg's work is science..." without the "but we can't agree whether it is or not" explicitly stated.

Secondly, the Committee's guidelines state

In order to label a conduct as scientific dishonesty, it must be possible to document that the person in question has acted deliberately or exercised gross negligence in connection with the activities under consideration.

Their finding is

DCSD has not found-or felt able to procure-sufficient grounds to deem that the defendant has misled his readers deliberately or with gross negligence.

So the DCSD cannot find him guilty of scientific dishonesty. They therefore invent a distinction between objective dishonesty and subjective dishonesty, thereby inventing a category of unconscious dishonesty, which is such a blatant contradiction in terms this work should be referred to the Danish Committee on Philosophical Dishonesty.

The finding that the publication is contrary to good scientific practice would apply to anyone who chooses to publish a popular book rather than have it peer-reviewed. The Mismeasure of Man may well be equally guilty.

In short, a divided committee was unable to reach any firm conclusion within its own terms of reference. Quite what they're up to in issuing this is, assuming bona fides, beyond me.

Guilty! What's the charge?

The pseudonymous Charles Dodgson of Through the Looking Glass compares Bjorn Lomborg to Michael Bellesiles. I don't think this is at all fair. As well as at least one example of deliberate falsification of evidence, Bellesiles was criticized 'in instances, for "failing to carefully document his findings," "failing to make available to others his sources, evidence, and data," and "misrepresenting evidence or the sources of evidence"' (Chronicle of Higher Education, Nov. 8 2002). Compare and contrast Lomborg:

The committee sums up the complaints: "Lomborg is accused of fabricating data, selectively and surreptitiously discarding unwanted results, of the deliberately misleading use of statistical methods, consciously distorted interpretation of the conclusions, plagiarisation of others' results or publications, and deliberate misrepresentation of others' results."

It is not quite so harsh in its own conclusions, accusing Prof Lomborg of not comprehending the science rather than deliberately intending to mislead or being grossly negligent. Nevertheless, it found, he was guilty of scientific dishonesty.

Where, then, is the dishonesty? It seems to lie in the idea that the book is to be evaluated like a scientific article that should be even-handed with data. Yet the book is expressly aimed not at the science, which he admits is "professionally competent and well-balanced" (p.12), but at its selective presentation by doomwatch groups and the media. To that extent, it is a self-declared polemic, not a work of science, although it is scientific. I fail to see how the scientific dishonesty tag can apply. As Lomborg points out,

"The DCSD does not give a single example to demonstrate their claim of a biased choice of data and arguments," he said. "Consequently, I don't understand this ruling. It equals an accusation without defining the crime. I maintain that the complaints of the plaintiffs are unfounded."

The court here seems to have a little of the kangaroo about it. As Nick Schulz points out, they seemed to take Steven Schneider's word as gospel despite his self-confessed desire to be economical with the truth for the "greater good." Lomborg's reply to this should be "Eppur si muove".

British crime: up or down?

Despite the hysteria over gun crime, British crime rates look stable. The Telegraph's article is a little disingenuous, as it neglects to mention the figures from the British Crime Survey also released today. I am less confident that the BCS is an accurate reflection of British crime trends than the NCVS in America, but as the police recorded crime figure have been messed about with so often, it's a better source than those. The BCS appears to show a significant fall in all crime since 1997. Yet the police recorded crime figures have been adjusted to record more crimes, so indicating that previous recorded crime figures significantly underestimated the serious crimes that are reported to police. It's been my suspicion for a long time that British crime overall has remained steady (as the ICVS indicates) or dropped (as the BCS indicates), but that serious crime has been getting steadily worse. The firearms figures fit this model perfectly.

(I've deleted a section on homicide where I misread the figures and got over-excited).

Jumping on the Bandowagon

Useful article, Preserving Britain's independence, by Cato's Doug Bandow, making positive suggestions as to how America can help the UK in its struggle to avoid being swallowed by the EU. I've argued in favor of John Hulsman's plan before, but this would be a useful immediate step that would help the UK without asking it to make the difficult political decision the current shower can't yet contemplate:

Or, to avoid the political complications of challenging Britain's place within the EU, the U.S. could unilaterally lower trade barriers against Britain. That would benefit Americans, even if the U.K. could not reciprocate, and free London from having to choose in or out of the EU when deciding on the euro.

It would be a sign of goodwill to the UK, and have the virtue of annoying the French and Germans intensely. It might also persuade Italy and Spain to be more aggressively Euroskeptic than they currently are. The US Trade Representative should consider this now.

Polling problems

That skeptical Guardian article on internet polling Frank mentions is very interesting. It appears that the weighting YouGov.com and its ilk apply to their political results seems to work, but the same cannot be said when it comes to social issues:

"Being on the internet reflects a different attitude towards life that is to a significant degree independent of socio-economic background," concludes the report.

"It appears highly likely that internet panellists are more politically interested and knowledgeable, and may perhaps be more inclined to take a leftwing stance on some issues, too."

This does not surprise me in the least, but it makes this article by Stephan Shakespeare of YouGov particularly noteworthy (which is why I quote at length):

An increase of five percentage points for the Tories, a reduction of the Labour lead by nine points, , and a distance between Conservatives and the Lib Dems of seven points - all in two weeks and from the same agency. How could this be "the worst possible news for Mr Duncan Smith"? Perhaps the truth was that this was "worst possible news for The Times".

Or at least for a certain clique at The Times, which considers itself so "modern" that it has been pressing for any discussion of tax and spending to be banished from the lips of Tories for eternity. And what was Mr Duncan Smith doing over Christmas, when his poll rating went up? He was distinctly not following the advice of that Times clique. He was advancing the idea that the Tories are a "naturally lower-tax party than Labour". Small wonder at the strange analysis in The Times.

Mr Duncan Smith's argument was that Labour is the natural party of wasting taxpayers' money; that huge spending increases have not resulted in better public services. He argued that over-bureaucracy made the health service less efficient and that he could therefore save the taxpayer money while actually increasing the numbers of doctors, nurses, and teachers. So the evidence of the two ICM polls suggests that the Conservatives' new message has helped their standing. YouGov polling confirms that this message especially resonates with the floating voter.

The other strand of The Times's argument on Monday was that the Conservatives would benefit from being seen to "modernise". There is no doubt that this is true. But what does "modernise" actually mean? Does it mean wholesale acceptance of Labour's theme that only increased spending can turn around public services.

"Modernisers" in the Conservative Party are understandably concerned about a perceived "lurch to the Right", which would no doubt be as disastrous for Mr Duncan Smith as it was for William Hague. But interestingly, polling this week by YouGov showed for the first time that Mr Duncan Smith is seen as more moderate by voters - and more honest - than Tony Blair.

It seems that the new emphasis by Mr Duncan Smith on "value for money" for the taxpayer need not be seen as a lurch to the Right.

So even a panel that seems to be biased leftwards on social issues finds the lower tax message appealing and IDS a moderate. This is pretty good evidence that the Men in Grey are the ones completely out of touch.

More loons

First Lord Irvine loves burglars. And in the Times, Germaine Greer hates men. At least some things never change. Given her spate of articles, one wonders what sort of men with whom she associates. I can see her walking the streets of Soho looking for the dregs of humanity to condemn in her columns. Now, she issues a philippic on the evils of men in sex, who, on the whole, cannot satisfy women. She argues against the introduction of a female version of viagra to combat 'female sexual dysfunction' by claiming that 'no sex rather than bad sex should be an option'. Fine. Can't women make that decision themselves without having to bow to the whims of this harpy? I'd enjoy seeing a column by one of Greer's former lovers (if such a thing exists) bewailing her inadequacies. Apparently, any sort of relationship problem, be it emotional or sexual, is the man's fault. Too many arguments? It's the reintroduction of patriarchy? Neither of you enjoying the bed? Must be his fault. She reminds me of Maxine Waters, the congresswoman whose skill at race-baiting is unparalleled in history. Whenever she is angry, it's due to racism. Poor service at a restaurant? The waiter's racist. Apparently, these are the future battles for civil rights activists, as opposed to the real inequity of opportunity in many inner cities and ghettos. The type disgusts me. Instead of working for advancement in their causes, they trivialize their problems by attributing imagined slights to it.

P.S. More evidence for the Greer is cancerous bandwagon. Time says she's quite taken with boys now. Surely that's illegal? And, given that the same article states she was unfaithful seven times during a three-week marriage. Elsewhere, she claims she married a man who didn't love her. She must have had no choice in the matter, given her love of victimization.

Paper Roundup

The Guardian has an article speculating on the New Party, a possible breakaway Tory group. Also, in what amounts to an earthshaking scoop, they have an article sceptical of internet polling. My kind publisher has reiterated this point several times. The Independent shows its grasp on reality by asking both Oxfam and Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, one of Evelyn Waugh's "Bright Young Things" (contextually, in Vile Bodies it's clearly an insult).

All the papers are running rumours of a plot to ease Duncan Smith out with a private suggestion from either Michael Howard, Oliver Letwin, or Michael Ancram. All report on Kenneth Clarke as the 'consensus candidate', and state that the Tories want to avoid a race between him and David Davis, as it would expose divisions. I highly doubt that David Davis would go in for this. He's muzzled his partisans after the 'unite or die' speech, and I believe that IDS has promised to support his candidacy if he has to vacate the leadership. Besides, Davis' Achilles heel is his inability to conceal a massive ambition. He's an impressive candidate, and [It was at this point that Blogger ate Frank's post, from what I can tell. Interesting that Blogger is making the concept of a lacuna relevant again -- Ed.]

Human Rights? Not in Europe

The European Convention on Human Rights is a queer thing. Incorporated into UK law as The Human Rights Act of 1998 , it's part social contract and part blanket declaration of natural rights, and badly drafted at that. While HRA defines terms such as 'court', there's no litmus test for the oft-used 'reasonable', and lacking that, 'reasonable' can ironically mean 'arbitrary'. Given the haziness of all its proclamations and provisos that these rights can be repealed in time of national emergency, it's no surprise to see Blunkett riding rough-shod over them. It's worth a look, at least.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Dissing the family

James Q. Wilson examines family disintegration and tells us why we should care:

Family disorganization is more important than either race or income in explaining violent crime. While it is true that both poor people and African-Americans commit more crime than do wealthier and white ones, the sociologist Robert Sampson has shown that in poor neighborhoods the rate of violent crime is much more strongly correlated with family disorganization than it is with race. William Galston, once an assistant to President Clinton, put the matter simply. To avoid poverty, do three things: finish high school, marry before having a child, and produce the child after you are 20 years old. Only 8% of people who do all three will be poor; of those who fail to do them, 79% will be poor.

The central question, then, becomes a search for the reasons that families are weak. In my judgment, they are weak in large measure because of broad, long-lasting cultural changes in Western society, changes that for blacks were made even worse by the legacy of slavery. Westerners have sought personal emancipation, at first from kings and bishops, then from social pressures and customary expectations, and now from familial obligations. Enslaved blacks were never allowed to form families at all so that, when emancipation finally came, there was no lasting tradition of family life that could support newly freed people who were cast out into a still-segregated society.

Looking backward makes the importance of families obvious. Looking forward makes families look like an outmoded television sketch called, variously, "Leave It to Beaver" or "Ozzie and Harriet." To many Americans who look backward--conservatives, in the main--maintaining the family, albeit one with some changed human dimensions (such as greater freedom for women), is vitally important. To many who look forward, the family is much less important than female emancipation, personal self-expression and economic careers. Much the same thing could be said about learning, civility, respect and patriotism. They constitute reasonable and time-tested barriers within which our desire for self-expression can operate.

In this country, looking backward at fundamental human affairs has another great advantage: It reminds many of us of the greatness of our country. And for some people, looking forward is a way of showing how unhappy they are with that country.

Wilson is Dalrymple without the, exaggeration, wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Words... failing...

A pupil in Scotland has threatened to sue her school fo breaching her human rights, as guaranteed under the European Convention. How? By giving her detention. The Scottish response has been pusillanimous:

What is more worrying is the immediate reaction of local authorities in Scotland and the Scottish Executive itself. Instead of speaking out in defence of teachers and their responsibilities for maintaining discipline, they have retreated behind lawyers. The Executive says it is a matter for individual authorities to work out for themselves. The authorities say that they are waiting to see how the case turns out before issuing advice.

In the light of this, it is not surprising that some teachers in Scotland are already being warned to avoid detention for the time being. This passive response to a case that so manifestly threatens the rights of teachers to maintain discipline is not only short-sighted, it is damaging in the long run for pupils. If detention were to be withdrawn as a sanction, then only the more extreme punishment, of excluding pupils from school altogether, would remain – and that would be far more injurious.

If, on the other hand, all sanctions were withdrawn, then anarchy would threaten, and education authorities might have to turn to outside bodies — such as security guards — to help them maintain order.

Chaos umpire sits. This was surely not the intention when British lawyers drew up the ECHR in the first place. Detention has been perfectly compatible with it for 50 years. What changed?

Anti-Americanism: the old disease

Great, great article on the anti-Americanism of the British left by Michael Gove in today's Times. He demolishes the myths about America's supposed evil influence on the world and then asks

Why then do the myths of America the Hateful take such powerful hold? Because anti-Americanism provides a useful emotional function which goes beyond logic and reaches deep into the darker recesses of the European soul. In centuries past those on the Left who wished to personalise their hatred of capitalism, who sought to make it emotionally resonant by fastening an envious political passion on to a blameless scapegoat people, embraced anti-Semitism. It was the socialism of fools. Which is what anti-Americanism is now.

It should not therefore be surprising that those on the populist Right who share the Left’s antipathy towards the US are those, like the Austrian Freedom Party or the French National Front, who are heirs of anti-Semitic traditions. Nor should it be remarkable that the other tie which binds these allies of new Left and old Right together, the thread linking those such as George Galloway and Jörg Haider, is their hostility to Israel.

Now which party really deserves the soubriquet The Nasty Party? And three cheers to Tony Blair if he really does have the courage to tackle this evil.

Apres lui, le deluge

Theodore Dalrymple gives us his views on the achievements of Lord Jenkins:

This is not to say that none of the reforms that he oversaw during his period as Home Secretary was justified. Few people would now deny that the Bill to legalise homosexuality between consenting adults was humane. It was rather the atmosphere he created, the forces that his reforms unleashed, that did so much damage, and that so powerfully contributed to the creation of the urban hell in which so large a part of the British population now lives, whether it wants to or not. More than most, Jenkins helped to make Britain what it is today, the underclass capital of the world.

In 1969, he said, in typically aphoristic fashion: “The permissive society has been allowed to become a dirty word. A better phrase is the civilised society.” According to this idiotic and shallow idea, so redolent of the triumphalism of its age, the less people are restrained by laws, conventions, inherited rules and ethics, the more civilised they become. But the legislation of Rousseau leads straight to the world of Hobbes.

If in so much of the country we are now afraid of our own children, we have in part to thank the start Jenkins made on the complete destruction of the family and the institution of marriage. If so many of our lives are dominated by the fear of crime — and if you doubt that this is so, a couple of weeks living on a British housing estate will convince you — we have in part to thank Jenkins’s reforming leniency.

I tend to agree with this. Jenkins' reforms righted injustices against some, but taken as a whole I think the package has left Britain far worse off.

IDS must clean house or go

I've given him time and a grace period. But the Tory party currently seems more ineffectual presently than it did before IDS assumed leadership. Currently, the Conservatives are characterized by internecine squabbles, repeated requests for forgiveness, a lack of a coherent policy, and an inability to hold Labour to account. Under William Hague, the Tories lacked a positive policy (only rebutting Labour's), but managed to condemn Blair on issues. Failure to maintain pressure on key issues combined with an ill-understood policy lost the last election. Currently, there's neither a policy nor a response unit. Even in reliably Tory papers, one reads more about the hand-wringing within the party than how it hopes to change Britain. Labour's made its fair share of mistakes, and then some. Yet the Tories have refused to attack them. The Tories could savage Labour on transport, civil liberties, crime, tax and spend, and education, none of which involve even mentioning Europe. IDS, as party leader, must be held ultimately responsible for the back-sliding. He chose his team and can wield executive power.

A politician's effectiveness is very closely linked to the competence of his staff, and the Tories have failed on that end. Conservative Central Office has failed to deliver and IDS must shake things up there, or leave. The baseball Hall of Famer Leo Durocher claimed that "nice guys finish last". So could quiet men.

Round Trippin'

Not to blow my horn again, but I've issued a follow-up piece on Lord Irvine in Samizdata.. will have the link soon. AM quite interested in comments from readers here. Assuming that prisons are too crowded to accomodate criminals, why not release white-collar criminals first? I would rather be fed a pack of lies by a perjuror than mugged by a thug. I'm wondering how best to deal with yobs. Part of me yearns for some corporal punishment in cases of assault (some may say it's barbaric, but quite a lot of yob gratuitous violence is worse. Remember the French policemen put into a coma at World Cup 98?), but another idea is to extend 'exclusion zones' from child offenders to adult offenders. 'Exclusion zones' are areas repeat yoblings and yobettes (yobbits?) cannot enter under penalty of further offence and probable incarceration. If the government is both unwilling to lock-up those who needlessly and repeatedly infringe on other's liberties and critical of those who defend themselves, it has a moral obligation to at least try to sequester them from their victims.

Clinton for Chancellor?

The campaign to persuade Bill Clinton to stand for election as Chancellor of Oxford University is gaining momentum. I wonder what sort of activities he'd get up to in Duke Humphrey's Library? But there are signs that his supporters' hopes may be dashed:

An Oxford University spokesman said that there were no restrictions against a Clinton candidacy. But he added: “The only thing that might be a barrier would be the need to be in the country for significant amounts of time. That might interfere with his lecture tours.”

Still, Bill enjoys his Oxford associations, as can be seen from this picture taken during the last North American reunion in New York.

Some people are wondering about asking Mrs Thatcher to stand. Clinton vs Thatcher? Now that would be an election worth seeing.

(To those who claim that the Oxford electorate would be overwhelmingly leftist, I think I am right in saying that Roy Jenkins only won the last election because Ted Heath split the conservative vote by standing as well as Lord Blake, who is the man I think deserved the job).


Finishing my roundup of today's papers with the Independent. According to it, John Bercow is urging Theresa May to have more all-women and half-women shortlists. May needs no encouragement. However, the Indy also claims that Bercow would meet resistance from constituencies, which is a problem. Shouldn't the party represent its grassroots supporters opinions, as opposed to following the diktat of an unelected junta of spotty youths at Central Office? Regardless of the merits of the question, if a political party's supporters don't want something, it shouldn't be forced on them by their very officials. Bercow claims that international experience proves his point. This is tripe. Look at the US. Look at other Anglosphere countries. Look at Europe. To expect instant proportional representation by sex and race is ludicrous, and risks alienating deserving candidates who don't fit the quota. Slowly, but surely, more effective representation has come about. Of course there's sexism at the consituency level, but what's one to do? Forcing contrarian opinions on party members will drive them out of the party. Often the constituents aren't overtly sexist, either. Sometimes they do prefer a male candidate. However, this returns to Michael Gove's point in the Spectator that Iain commented on a while ago. Candidacy should be open to anyone with Conservative beliefs, not only party hacks. There are many deserving Tories in a variety of professions who don't have the time to have a second life in politics, but would gladly change careers midways. How will the Tories get more women MPs? They can start by increasing their electoral success, and thinking about things more useful than intra-party complaining.

Creativity in (Andrew) Motion

The Guardian today publishes a poem by Tom Paulin , ostensibly a complaint about his treatment as an anti-semite. Rather questionable taste by Rusbridger, in my opinion. And the left is wondering why Jewish voters desert them.

Funny Old World

Lord Irvine wants judges to not sentence less serious burglars to prison. After all, he thinks the public is happy to see burglars released. I don't know what sort of crowd he's associated with recently. After all, don't people just love to see criminals freed? Part of Lord Irvine's argument is that as it's the offender's first crime, the law should be more lenient. Unfortunately, Tony Martin didn't receive this benefit. The other part of the argument is that prisons are overcrowded, so the law should naturally be diluted. Part of the reason for the existence of sentences is to dissuade from the commission of the criminal act. To fail to execute them, or to dilute them, makes crime a more attractive proposition. I just find it odd when Lord Irvine wants to lock up people for defending their property, and not imprison those who ignore property rights.


In today's telegraph, more students are receiving firsts and upper seconds at UK universities than ever before. Evidence of further dumbing down? I agree. And there are some simple reasons to explain some statistics. More firsts are awarded in maths and engineering because if an equation is right, it's right, and the student receives full credit. In the social science departments, a brilliant essay will receive a 75%, at most. So hard science students have more room for error. Unjust, but the way things go. The lack of seminar courses (in which discussion occurs, not a supplementary lecture) in non-Oxbridge UK is harmful, in my opinion. The capstone of a university degree is learning how to analyze and think. Most of my compatriots in studying can regurgiate as well as a mother penguin, but the slightest deviation from the case studied befuddles them. Rather like enarques. Part of the problem in UK universities is funding, but most revamping needs to take place on the pedagogical level.

On Draft

In today's Washington Post, John Conyers has jumped on the draft-reinstatement bandwagon. Previous, Charlie Rangel supported bringing back the draft due to the lack of fair representation in the armed services. My previous comment on it ishere. As to Mr Rangel's assertion, it seems a conflation of both leftist anti-Iraq sentiment and complaints that a disproportionate amount of servicemen are minorities. He suggests alternative 'national service' for those who are 4-F. First, why the age cutoff at 26? Mr Rangel, today's military is far different from your service in the Korean War. Instead of slogging it out on the ground, it's a highly technical force. As such, whether a mass influx of individuals would be useful is questionable. In addition, who do you think designs these 'smart bombs' and JDAMs? Not the military, but private sector firms. Should we conscript people from their ranks to put on the front lines? Rather unwise if we want to continue our technological superiority. Rangel also suggests no exemption for undergraduate or graduate students. Not sure how wise this is, either. How many people is he proposing drafting? Why decimate our universities producing our next generation of scientists and entrepreneurs for no ostensible reason? I'm also unsure as to what happens after individuals are drafted. Is there a system to place them in a duty to which their talents are suited? After all, why send a Ph.D. candidate to the front-line when he may be able to better serve the country in R&D? It may sound unjust, but isn't it the obligation of a military to use its resources in the most efficient manner? Failure to acknowledge that specification is foolish. After all, the military has a physical cutoff for certain units (e.g. Special Forces). Why not a intelligence-based cut off for others (such as Psy Ops?) How will they fill intelligence roles and other government service in Washington? To partition in this way is consistent with the military's current policy of not sending women into the front lines, as they are allegedly less physically suited to the role. In the same way, certain people may be more suited to other roles in the military due to their capabilities. Rangel also suggests that the national service/draft should include women, which is fair. After all, equality under the law cuts both ways. At present, the Selective Service only tracks men, and it would take a while to build up a database of eligible women.

Lastly, Mr Rangel seems to suggest it would bolster wisdom in public policy to send children of Congressmen into harm's way. Or rather, more specifically, he was offended that only one Congressman in favour of war on Iraq had a son in the enlisted ranks. I'm touched, Charlie. While I have no objection to service, this sounds rather like taking hostages.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Mel P.

More good sense from Melanie Phillips. In Gun law comes to Britain she mentions a crucial problem with Britain's current approach to crime:

The crucial ingredient which is missing in Britain is optimism. Americans believe they can improve the human condition. But in Britain, our governing class is sunk in deep pessimism. It believes it can’t beat social problems but can only institutionalise them, whether it’s family breakdown, drug taking, or educational failure.

Labour, Liberal and Tory paternalists together share this pessimism. No wonder we're heading up the creek without a paddle (paddle use having been restricted in 1987 and completely banned upon Labour taking office).

Michael Moore: Plonker

According to an article on the IMDB, found via Rachel Lucas (whose blog is just fabulous), Michael Moore stormed out of a London theatre because he wasn't being paid enough, after insulting the staff. Here's the full story becuase I don't think that IMDB link will survive long:

American satirist Michael Moore has stormed out of Britain after a bust up with the London theatre hosting his one-man show. The Bowling For Columbine moviemaker performed Michael Moore - Live! to packed audiences for two months before Christmas at The Roundhouse in Camden, North London. But on the penultimate night he reportedly flew into a rage, verbally attacked everyone associated with the theatre because he thought he wasn't being paid enough. During the performance he complained he was making just $750 a night. A member of the stage crew says, "He completely lost the plot. He stormed around all day screaming at everyone, even the £5-an-hour bar staff, telling them how we were all conmen and useless. Then he went on stage and did it in public." Staff retaliated by refusing to work the following night, which led to the show being held up for an hour. Eventually he made a groveling apology to staff and the angry audience finally took to their seats. A source reports that Moore then packed his bags and flew to New York the next day without saying thank you or goodbye to anyone.

Rachel has a long psychological discussion of this incident (and of his offensive "9/11 passengers were scaredy-cats 'cos they were white" argument), but what strikes me as funniest about this is that he has turned into a Class Enemy. London theatres being the shoestring operations that they are, I doubt if many of the staff will be earning above minimum wage (5 quid an hour or thereabouts), although unions might have some retained rights from negotiations in the 70s. Moore is obviously an exploitative parasite on the working class and will therefore be first against the wall when the revolution comes. Now wouldn't that be funny...

Murray Monograph

My monograph on the American experience with the rehabilitation of offenders has just been published on the web by Civitas (warning -- PDF link). It speaks very much to the current debate over prison in the UK.

Rush week

People, even Conservatives, in the UK get scared if you mention Rush Limbaugh, as the man has a legendary status as the archetype of all that is worrying about American conservatism. He's forthright, certainly, but hardly the extremist many claim he is. Toby Harnden's interview with him in The Telegraph may alter that impression. Here he is on anti-Americanism:

Anti-Americanism or antipathy to Mr Bush is based on little more than envy, he says. "There's anger that we are the superpower. There's anger at our economic prosperity." Jealousy and resentment are "just normal human emotions" that nations have, just like people.

"A lot of Europe looks at America and says, 'Well, yeah, but they used their muscle and they run around the world and they steal other nations' resources and they use it up for themselves and deny everyone else; they're irresponsible and they're profligate'.

"I look at America as just the opposite. I think we feed the world, we lead the world technologically, we improve living standards and conditions for our own people and people around the world.

"And in places that are underdeveloped economically, it's not the unequal distribution of resources that's the problem, it's the unequal distribution of capitalism. America is still the land of opportunity and the number of people trying to get into this country proves it. I just wish more people in Europe and around the world understood it, instead of being resentful of it."

He exempts us Brits from much of this criticism and suggests that ordinary people don't necessarily believe all they read in the Left-wing press. "When I'm in London, I read the papers and see all this hatred for America and see all this criticism, but I get in a cab or I talk to people in a pub and I don't hear it.

"I'm sure it's there, but I go to my favourite cigar shop, Desmond Sautter's in Mayfair, and I don't hear any criticism of America. In the hotels where I stay, I don't hear much. France is different. Last time I was in France, it was scary."

One might suggest that looking for anti-Americanism in a cab or cigar shop is likely to prove a vain endeavor, but generally there doesn't seem to me to be anything wrong, or extreme, about this analysis. I should add that, generally, I haven't been impressed by many of Limbaugh's arguments, but this seems fine to me.

Death and Barbarism

Interesting article in The New Yorker about one man's journey in his thought about the Death Penalty. Although Scott Turow now opposes the punishment in general, he does not fall victim to the fashionable (perhaps even European in its sophistication) idea that the death penalty is barbaric:

Several years ago, I attended a luncheon where Sister Helen Prejean, the author of "Dead Man Walking," delivered the keynote address. The daughter of a prominent lawyer, Sister Helen is a powerful orator. Inveighing against the death penalty, she looked at the audience and repeated one of her favorite arguments: "If you really believe in the death penalty, ask yourself if you're willing to inject the fatal poison." I thought of Sister Helen when I stood in the death chamber at Tamms. I felt the horror of the coolly contemplated ending of the life of another human being in the name of the law. But if John Wayne Gacy, the mass murderer who tortured and killed thirty-three young men, had been on that gurney, I could, as Sister Helen would have it, have pushed the button. I don't think the death penalty is the product of an alien morality, and I respect the right of a majority of my fellow-citizens to decide that it ought to be imposed on the most horrific crimes.

But even thought Turow has gone one way, others, like me, are going the other, even in academia. In particular, the idea that the death penalty is racist in the sense that blacks are more likely to be sentenced to death is being debunked:

John McAdams, a political science professor at Marquette University in Milwaukee, acknowledges that African-Americans appear to be overrepresented on death row, where they account for about 42% of the prisoners, compared with about 12% of the U.S. population. (Since 1977, 57% of those executed have been white; 35% have been black.)

McAdams notes the widely held belief that black defendants are more likely to receive the death penalty than whites convicted in similar slayings. But he says that doesn't take into account that blacks make up nearly 50% of all murder victims, and that all but a few are killed by other blacks. Blacks who kill blacks, he argues, are far less likely to get the death penalty than whites, blacks or Hispanics who kill whites.

''Why are the lives of black victims less valued?'' McAdams asks. ''There's a subtle kind of racism going on here, and it's got to do with the victims of crime, not how we treat the perpetrators.'' He realizes that his analysis has a provocative implication: that more black killers should be executed. He favors ''more executions generally.''

I should stress that I do not agree with that last conlusion. I would much rather see executions used more sparingly, as the next paragraph suggests:

But fellow death-penalty supporter Blecker says that the death penalty should be reserved for the ''worst of the worst, the ones almost everyone can agree are worthy.''

I want to see a situation where Chris Thomas would be sentenced to genuine life imprisonment, but where Barbra Jo Brown's killers are executed. True evil deserves the death penalty.

Final comments on the Anglosphere and the Economist map

I want to take back the tone of the post below. I found Kieran Healy's repeated criticisms overwrought and admit I lost my temper in that post below. This is something I don't like doing, and I would like to apologize to him publicly for doing so. I had failed to appreciate that his criticisms were as well-intentioned as he says they were because I found his tone in turn questionable and some of his suggestions as to my motives slightly insulting. Nevertheless, the substance of my post below stands.

Jim Bennett has also given his view in a comments box below, which I hope he will not mind me reproducing here for posterity:

I will compose a longer and more detailed set of comments on these points in the next day or so -- I have been moving offices and haven't had much time -- but very briefly:

1. Either the Anglosphere concept is a good predictor, or it isn't, in whuch case it's probably not worth pursuing. Since most relevant data have not yet been collected or analyzed on an Anglosphere/Continent basis, there's a lot more research to be done. However, there are plenty of indicators suggesting that the Anglosphere is a useful analytical catgory.

2. The Anglosphere is also a subset of a wider set with predictive value: strong civil society, or what Fukuyama (following Banfield, etc.) calls "high trust" society. Non-Anglosphere strong civil societies include, among others, Scandinavia, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. However, unlike Kris, I wouldn't call them Anglosphere countries because they came to enjoy their characteristics by different historical paths. Our experiences and theirs are both potentially interesting to other countries, but may or may not be models.

3. There are significant differences between England and America, as there are between any two Anglosphere countries. However, I believe that in the aggregate and over time, these differences are less than those between Anglosphere and non-Anglosphere countries. One of the interesting things that has been happening is that Anglo-American differences are much weaker today than, say, thirty years ago, and they are continuing to diminish. Things such as constitutional differences and England's historical working-class culture are changing rapidly and that change will likely accelerate. In twenty years it is not unlikely, for example, that Britain may have an indigenous (i.e., not European) entrenched bill of rights, and that working-class self-identification will have continued to fade rapidly. Similarly, Labour's lock on Northern English votes may be in the same state as the "Solid South" Democratic vote in the US circa 1975 or 1980 -- it will vanish in the next political generation.

The Anglosphere concept is like any wide-scale sociological or anthropological analytical framework -- it works in the aggregate and over time. One can always frame a snapshot that seems to contradict it.

This is my last post on the subject of the Economist map, which I think remains a useful graphical description of a new concept people are only too willing to dismiss.

RKBA UK: The fightback continues

First the Telegraph, now sp!ked editor Mick Hume, writing in The Times, questions the purpose as well as the effectiveness of restrictive gun laws in the UK:

The Government might do better to look back and learn the lessons of Dunblane; that gun control laws can extend the State’s control over society, but they do nothing to control gun crime. Despite the ban on handguns imposed in 1997 after the massacre of Scottish schoolchildren by a madman (another non-knee jerk Government measure, we were assured), it is now reported that firearm offences have since doubled.

It may come as a shock to new Labour policymakers, but criminals do not obey their rules. Gangsters can always get guns, and the proposed restrictions on replica weapons and airguns (which can be adapted to fire live rounds) will simply give them more laws to ignore.

The people affected by Britain’s ever-tighter gun controls are the citizenry, denied access to firearms for leisure or self-protection.

The waves may still was up and down, but the tide is turning.

This is getting tedious

Kieran Healy seems determined to nit-pick my posts. He has another post which would strike me as a reasonable criticism of my interpretation of the Anglosphere idea if I'd meant what he thinks I mean in a general sense. But I was writing within the specific context of a two-dimensional graphical representation. Of course the Anglosphere should be taken warts and all. But within the context of a map that looks at secular/rational values, the experience of socialism is going to push the subject one way, and when it looks at survival values, the experience of an entrenched class structure is going to push the subject another way. So they are clearly relevant to the position of a country within the Anglosphere as depicted on this map and it's not pushing a political ideology to say so. Both my previous posts were clearly anchored on this map, and so the context should have been blindingly obvious.

I'm pretty sure that you could do any number of two-dimensional "brand" maps using all sorts of categories of national values and you'd almost always come up with an Anglosphere grouping. In some cases, Britain would be an outlier. In others, America would be. In yet others, Canada might have drifted away. But they would always be part of the same set that would be distinct from the European groups, the former Communist group, the Confuciosphere and the rest. And that will demonstrate time and again the reality of the Anglosphere, warts and all.

Project Exile Not a Magic Bullet

A new study by the Brookings Institution has found that Richmond, VA's, 'Project Exile,' whereby felons found in possession of a firearm were sentenced to 5 years in a Federal Prison, did not have the effect in reducing gun homicides that is often claimed. The authors conclude that there may have been some effect, but it was too small for their statistical instruments to measure.

This should be read by David Blunkett and his gun-grabbers in the UK. Their latest idea, following the failure of remarkably strict gun laws to decrease gun violence, is to sentence anyone -- not just criminals -- found carrying a gun to 5 years in prison. This study says that will have no effect. Now just what would have an effect in lowering gun crime, hmm?

PP: By the way, it appears that the British mandatory sentence will not be mandatory after all. The Home Office is in a real mess over this, a mess 80 years in the making.

Monday, January 06, 2003


Interesting review of Niall Ferguson's latest book in the FT. The reviewer's last paragraph is just malicious, but the book itself sounds very interesting. Thanks to Richard Heddleson for the link.

Drunk and disorderly -- in a pub!!!

Just to prove that nowhere has the monopoly on stupid legislation, Sasha Castel tells us of Fairfax Co., VA's latest idiocy. Police are coming into bars and arresting people for being drunk...

Peer pressure

Interesting contribution to the parents/peers debate in Trick or Treatment - Teen drug programs turn curious teens into crackheads by Maia Szalavitz:

There are treatments for teens that don't reinforce the labeling or peer problems inherent in most drug programs. Research presented at a spring conference held by the National Institute on Drug Abuse compared teens who'd been sent to traditional group sessions with peers to teens who received family therapy, with a third group who had both kinds of care combined. The kids in the peer-group sessions used 50 percent more marijuana after treatment, while the kids in the combined treatment used 11 percent more pot. The teenagers treated with their parents, however, decreased their marijuana use by 71 percent.

I want to see kids decrease their use of drugs, as long-term readers know, but I have never understood the idea that you should treat people who are just beginning to have a problem like long-term substance abusers. Families can have extremely positive influence in people's lives, as the research that Maia mentions demonstrates. Far better to use that as the base of treatment program than the obviously danger-ridden peer group process.

I send letters

I missed it, but on New Year's Eve the Wall Street Journal published my letter pointing out Theodore Dalrymple's mistake in claiming Britain is worse than South Africa for crime. If you haven't got a subscription, sorry, but you read it here first.


Having recently turned 21, my 2p on the alcohol debate. To me, MADD's efforts seemed archaic puritanism. If MADD was truly intent only on reducing drunk driving, surely the vast majority of its efforts would be aimed at preventing it, as opposed to drinking at large. The criminalisation of drinking is a mistake in my point of view. Practically, one looks at individuals from societies where alcohol is treated with indifference. One rarely sees great misuse of alcohol or binge drinking deaths. Due to its taboo status, drinking in the US acquires a social component at high school to college age. The social pressure and thrill-seeking/risk-taking behaviour of adolescents will always exist, and alcohol is only one of its outlets. Granted, I would argue that this allegedly licentious attitude to alcohol does no more to teach responsibility in its use than in the US. In the UK, singing drunks or drunken yobs flourish on the tube after 1030pm, and, at times, it seems out of control. But to criminalize 18-21 year-olds who want to enjoy an adult beverage is a bit frivolous and unjust, given that in legal terms, they are adults for all other effective purposes.

Taking liberties

The Telegraph has an excellent summary of British civil liberties under threat. Many of these measures are the children or grandchildren of measures championed by Lord Jenkins.

A warning from history

The Telegraph obituary of Lord Jenkins also contains a salutary warning to those who think the Lib Dems are going to overtake the Tories:

In fact the Alliance had a brilliantly successful campaign, starting at 14 per cent in the polls and ending with 25.5 per cent of the vote, only two points less than Labour achieved. It was the nearest a third party had ever come to making a breakthrough - yet the Liberals won only 17 seats and the SDP only six.

I think you'll find the Lib Dims need a substantial lead in votes actually cast before they can overtake the Tories in parliamentary representation.


Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, OM has died. He was a great figure in British politics, but not, in my opinion, a good one. Peter Hitchens' verdict on his time as Home Secretary in The Abolition of Britain was that it was an utter disaster, and I am inclined to agree (I shall wait for Hitchens to write his inevitable retrospective before commenting further). Those who regard Jenkins as a great civil libertarian should remember this:

Whereas Jenkins's first spell at the Home Office had been notable for its liberal reforms, the second was concentrated rather on measures against terrorism. The autumn of 1974 witnessed both the Guildford and Birmingham pub bombings, and in their aftermath Jenkins produced a Prevention of Terrorism Act which made the IRA an illegal organisation, empowered the police to detain terrorist suspects for 48 hours without charge, introduced tighter physical controls at points of entry into Britain, and gave the Home Secretary rights to exclude likely terrorists from Northern Ireland.

As such, the Prevention of Terrorism Act looks small beer today, but it was the start of a slippery slope that allowed the executive to accrue more and more powers to itself in direct opposition to the traditional liberties of the British citizen.

Jenkins is also responsible in many ways for the increasing technocracy in Britain, which is ironic considering his working class background. Every champagne socialist and Guardian reader is in some way inspired by Woy (yes, I know it's a sweeping statement, but I think it has more truth in it than many would like to admit). I shall not mention his eurofanaticism.

Yet for all of the mistakes and unintended consequences of his actions, it is my honest belief that Lord Jenkins meant well. For that, he deserves to feature in our prayers. RIP

PP: For Peter Briffa's less charitable take, see here.

PPP: Of course, his death opens up one of the great private elective offices of the UK, Chancellor of Oxford University. I'm hoping Lord Moser, former Warden of Wadham College, puts his name forward.

TCS Column up

Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for his nice comments about my latest Tech Central Station column, The Temperance Movement Is Back.

Murray on the Beeb

Barring any disasters, I'm going to be on BBC Radio 4's The World Tonight at about 10pm GMT (5pm EST) tonight, taking on Derry Irvine's claim that there's no difference between custodial and community sentences. I must say this particular branch of the Beeb seemed very open to my points.


Junius is being mischievous, and self-declaredly so too. Allow me to be mischievous back. He essentially contends that my mention of the Economist map from last week as being proof of the Anglosphere is stretching a point. The trouble is that the conclusion he is afraid to come to is that Britain is part of Catholic Europe. Chris Patten should rejoice!

Of course, it doesn't work that way. Just as the letter A may share some characteristics with Alpha and Aleph, it is nevertheless clearly a member of the Roman alphabet more than it is part of an interesting but useless set of different names for a certain phonic element. I'm sure there's a complicated set theory way of explaining this. As I explained below, the position would be much clearer were it not for the presence of Austria as the only Catholic Germanic country. Similarly, Britain is an outlier within the Anglosphere, as I explained -- it is more class-structured, has constitutional problems that allow more for dependency and oppression than other Anglosphere countries and it has been affected more by socialism than the others -- so one would expect it to be an outlier graphically, just like Austria is of the Catholic category because of its unique position. That doesn't mean it's not part of the set. Geographical or, indeed, graphical proximity is a trap that allows the unthinking, hem hem, to believe that things are more closely connected than they are. The University of Michigan is much more clued-in on these things than either the Economist or Chris Bertram's compass...

PP: Kieran Healey laughs at the above post, but not in a nice way. He seems to think that because a nation has some unique characteristics, it cannot be part of a general set of nations. Presumably the same objections mean that Austria cannot be counted part of Catholic Europe. This is a pretty absolutist line to take and I don't think it's a reasonable criticism. I have asked Jim Bennett for his thoughts.

Friday, January 03, 2003


Be sure to check out Layman's Logic for The Philosophical Cowboy's detailed examination of George Monbiot's ludicrous "capitalism can't work" theory.

The Anglosphere Mapped

Want a conceptual map of the Anglosphere? Go to this Economist article and take a look at the chart about half-way down. The article is all about "America's strange position" in the world (an Economist theme that is getting a little boring) but it is quite clear that America is slap-bang in the middle of the Anglosphere, which is characterized by a repect for tradition and liberty (hardly surprising, given that our tradition is liberty). At first I thought that Britain might have been drifting away from the rest of the Anglosphere towards the Euro-cluster, but on reflection I think it has always been further "left" (in the chart's terms) than the rest of the Anglosphere, given the presence of institutions that are more restrictive on liberty than the rest of the Anglosphere's. The presence of socialism on a governmental scale has also probably pushed it "up" a bit from where it would have been 100 years ago, but again I don't think this is because of a drift towards Europe. Very interesting map, I thought, and it is silly of the Economist not to recognize the Anglosphere when it is staring it in the face!!!

Turbulent priest

I'm not nearly as anti-Rowan Williams as others are. As I've said before, he impressed me when I spoke in a debate with him, and I believe he thinks deeply about his theology, which is generally sound. So I was pleased to see the Telegraph standing up for him, pointing out that his speech that annoyed David Blunkett definitely had a point or two:

This newspaper would always support the promotion of the idea of choice in politics more strongly than does Dr Williams, but he is on to something when he says that choice is not only immediate but must also be seen as "part of a larger story" that makes sense of people's lives and gives them a context. He worries that our culture does not have a "shared story".

Where, for example, does choice in schools lead if "we are no longer confident of educating children in a tradition"? The archbishop says he is bothered by the song Any Dream Will Do that he has heard so often in school performances of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat because it is not true that any dream will do - some dreams are better than others.

The archbishop also argues that to "inhabit a tradition with confidence" does not make you conformist and sheeplike, but radical. It gives you an awareness of other possibilities, a knowledge about your culture and society which makes you harder to fool or browbeat.

This is a conservative argument, though one which the modern Conservative Party is bad at articulating. It presents an unmistakable challenge to the anti-historical "young country" rhetoric of the New Labour project as it also does to the mass-market consumerism of globalised culture. The deepest language to avoid being "defined by the specific agenda of the moment", says Dr Williams, is the religious one. He wants to get that language back into the way we talk in public.

This is exactly the sort of point a prelate of an established church ought to be making. Now if only he would stick to that...

Push poll alert

Are Americans cooling on the President's agenda. That's what the AP would have you believe:

Nearly two-thirds of respondents in an Associated Press poll said they believe it's prudent to hold off on more tax cuts.

But the actual polll question was

"Is it more important to pass additional tax cuts to stimulate the
economy now or to hold off on tax cuts so the budget does not go into a deeper deficit?"

That strikes me as a bit of a loaded question...

Intermarriage and immigration

Junius asks a couple of questions about the differences in certain racial matters between the UK and US. I think the answer to both is that the US was founded on immigration. There was a pattern of racial "homogamy," i.e. Germans would only marry Germans, Italians would only marry Italians and so on, that has only recently broken down. Britain never had that tradition. A similar argument applies to residential segregation. The Irish went to Boston, the Italians to New York, the Scandinavians to Minnesota and so on. You lived with your people. So a degree of segregation was built in by immigration that continues to this day -- Cambodians flock to Lowell, MA, for instance. Britain has never had immigration on a similar scale, but it sees it to a lesser extent -- Brixton, the East End, Bradford and so on (I have to say I find Paxman's quote very hard to believe).

I also think a lot has to do with the fact that minorities are just that much smaller in the UK than they are in the US. There are only 4 million members of ethnic minorities in the UK, meaning that they find it hard to reach "critical mass" in forming communities. Blacks make up 2% of the population, compared to 13% in America. This also means, in intermarriage's case, the "pool" of possible mates is that much smaller in one's own race, making it more likely that one will look outside that pool for a mate. The US is, of course, still hampered by the legacy of segregation as well, so older minorities are much less likely to have intermarried. But there are signs that this all changed in the younger age groups -- see here for an examination of the age factor. Younger blacks have an intermarriage rate not dissimilar to that in the UK. The UK got to the position faster, thanks to the factors just mentioned, but I don't see any particular difference between the two positions in the future.

In short, I find this less of a problem than Chris seems to, and also can't see how it is a problem for the Anglosphere above and beyond the historical one of the legacy of slavery.

UPDATE: I now realize I misread Paxman's quote and find it much less hard to believe now I haven't got it the wrong way round...