England's Sword 2.0

Friday, January 31, 2003

Britain: Great Power?

I obtained today some interesting material from the Atomic Heritage Foundation, which is not a nuclear-armed version of the Conservative think-tank, but a charitable body dedicated to preserving the legacy of the Manhattan Project for the nation. Actually, make that two nations. The material makes it clear that the Project was an Anglo-American one from the get-go, having been inspired by two memos from the UK and with sustained British involvement, most notably from nobel laureate Sir James Chadwick, discoverer of the Neutron. I never fail to be amazed by the extent of Anglo-American co-operation during WWII, and this should be a lesson to those Brits who fundamentally distrust the USA, that so vital an endeavor was willingly shared.

Anyway, this all brings me on to two excellent articles on the theme of Britain and its relations with the US. Frequent correspondent Lexington Green has a lengthy, but compelling post on why Britain is a genuine world power. He argues that it is not so much Blair's doing, as Christopher Caldwell argued yesterday, but that Blair is one of the few to realize it. I have to say that I think John Major was leading us down a course where things could have gone from bad to worse and it is to Blair's credit that he reversed that, at least partially. I am also worried about the cultural rot in the UK, which could lead to the whole lot collapsing despite its evident strength at the moment, which lex describes so admirably.

Meanwhile, in the Washington Times, my friends Nile Gardiner and John Hulsman explain for the American audience why Britain will fight in Iraq. It's a simple but again compelling recitation of the facts in the case. Again, this is how Heritage thinks. It's how conservative Washington thinks. That's the reality of the matter.

Thursday, January 30, 2003


Chuck Simmins fisks John Pilger's latest in style over at You Big Mouth, You!

Cald-well Done!

Great article by the Weekly Standard's Christopher Caldwell in the new Spectator, which corresponds very closely to my analysis that Britain is becoming a world power again and that Tony Blair's leadership is an important factor in this. Those who think that Washington is likely to play fast and loose with Britain should consider this:

It may be too early to say that Blair has spawned another wave of British chic, but Americans are mighty impressed by Plucky Little England. Except for the Boston Globe, where the Bush–Blair relationship has been addressed by the old Scotsman editor Tim Luckhurst (who hopefully warns of ‘regime change’ in London), the newspapers have been overwhelmingly supportive. Cal Thomas, a Christian conservative who is the most widely syndicated columnist in the United States, called Blair’s recent defence of his American tilt — with particular reference to his evisceration of Dennis Skinner — ‘Tony Blair’s finest hour’.

This does not mean that Americans now follow the ins and outs of British government. Most couldn’t recount Blair’s travails with Gordon Brown, but they do know who Brown is. They even know who Clare Short is. Such names find their way into American consciousness through the Economist and the Financial Times (which is now delivered door to door). Parliamentary Question Time, which airs on the round-the-clock political network C-Span, used to be rebroadcast as a 3 a.m. novelty show for drunks who don’t mind watching shows they don’t understand —along the lines of Australian rules football. Now it airs live and, on big Iraq days, is switched on all over Washington.

Americans, by and large, would assent to Blair’s characterisation of Britain as the ‘pivotal power’. This is largely because of the public-relations performance of Blair himself. On a day-to-day basis, Blair has pressed the American case with considerably more eloquence than Bush has. Last September, when Bush’s UN resolution showed signs of flagging, it was not any White House-generated spin that provided American hawks with their intellectual case for an Iraq intervention. It was Blair’s speech to Parliament (and his simultaneous release of the 50-page Joint Intelligence Committee dossier) that did it. (Apparently the American decline in manufacturing has proceeded so far that we can no longer even manufacture rationales.)

This has certainly been my experience of Britain's image in the US recently. There was an undercurrent of this before 9/11, but that tragic day quite simply reminded the US who its real friends are. The pay-off for Britain has been immense, as Caldwell says:

An advanced arsenal is something Britain is already building — thanks to Blair’s alliance with the United States. An idealistic role is something it can easily reclaim — if Blair’s alliance with the United States endures. And with an economy in far better shape than that of the United States, no Continental-style structural unemployment, and a culture that operates in the world’s global language, Britain could find itself (along with the United States and China) one of the world’s three Great Powers, the first European country to reclaim such a status. If Blair has his way, it will richly deserve it.

I'm looking forward to Caldwell's next article on the subject in The Weekly Standard, which will probably complement this by looking at it from a more American perspective.

Over-reaction, again

The Mona Baker affair was scandalous (she was the woman who threatened to throw Israelis off the editorial boards of academic journals she edits). Yet, as in the Climbie inquiry mentioned below, the academic inquiry into the affair has recommended exactly the wrong sort of action in response. Chris Bertram thinks it's a threat to academic freedom, and I do think he's right here.

Words fail me...

Let it never be said that Eurocrats have too much power. According to The Times they are tackling a major problem in a responsible manner:

FARMERS throughout the country have 90 days to put a toy in every pigsty or face up to three months in jail.

The new ruling from Brussels, which is to become law in Britain next week, is to keep pigs happy and prevent them chewing each other.

Burglars will not face jail. Farmers who don't provide recreational facilities for pigs will. Further comment is impossible...

PP: Or at least it was until I saw this quote from the Association of British Drivers over at Patrick Crozier's Transport Blog:

The Government no longer listens to the police. One officer recently commented that we have now reached the situation where a law-abiding person in his own car with a driving license, insurance, MOT and tax disc is now likely to face harsher penalties for speeding than a criminal would for stealing the same car!

Deviancy is being defined down and up at the same time...


I know everyone else has linked to it, but this letter is a must-read. Signed by the Presidents or Prime Ministers of Spain, Portugal, Italy, the UK, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Denmark, it should be the final nail in the coffin of the accusation that America stands against world opinion.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003


Why They Hate Us is the title of a new study from two professors at Boston University. There are two major problems with this study of teenagers' attitudes towards Americans throughout the world: the methodology and the logic, which leaves, well, a nice font, I suppose.

Methodologically, the professors were unable to draw up a representative sample of high-schoolers (not surprising, but immediately reduces the value of the work immensely), so they got Boston University students to ask their old high-school teachers to recommend students to talk to. Aargh! The selection bias possibilities there are obvious. Methodologically, all we've got here are some focus groups that may or may not have had teachers' political viewpoints superimposed. The overall results might therefore form the basis for a proper study, but in and of themselves they're not much use.

But let's assume they are valid. What, then, do they tell us? First of all, note that Americans rated themselves negatively -- about the same as Pakistan. Nigeria, Italy and Argentina are all much more favorable to the US than Americans themselves. Second, the negatives are different in different countries. The Bahreinian considers Americans not to have strong religious values. The South Korean considers they have such values. And asking such questions about religion is a little loaded in the current global environment. Pakistanis, Dominicans and Nigerians believe Americans are peaceful are care about their poor. The Chinese, Spanish and Mexicans believe the reverse. There's too much of a spread here to derive any single message from it.

Nevertheless, the professors try. And here's their logic:

What teen-agers seek is American popular culture in all its familiar forms—movies, TV programs and music. These are easily available and enjoyed greatly all over the world. Even if forbidden by their governments, such entertainment products are readily obtained on the street, often in pirated versions. Virtually all families except the desperately poor have, or have access to, a television, radio, CD player, VCR and even a DVD. And like teen-agers everywhere, they do not avidly follow the news. If they did, they would see a lot of “infotainment” stories about crime, sex and corruption (staples of journalists since mass newspapers began).

Over a long period of time, those who produce and distribute popular entertainment worldwide have sought maximum profits (an approved idea in a capitalistic society). To attain that goal, what they produce must appeal to the largest possible audience—which means the young people in any society. It is their tastes and interests that dominate entertainment products, not those of the older and more conservative.

So teenagers want so much to see American culture, which they despise, that they break their countries' laws to obtain it. Presumably so they can tut-tut and remark how shameful it all is. Ye gods. These people have tenure?

The Blair and the Bold

Stephen Pollard has a theory about Tony Blair. I think he's right.

Oh, Ron

Ron Bailey is an excellent writer and scientist who has exposed the simplistic analyses of the extreme environmental lobby on many occasions. I find it odd, therefore, that he has such a simplistic analysis of the connection between drugs/alcohol prohibition and crime over at Reason. Homicide, to begin with, is an odd beast in America (that low figure he cites for homicides in 1900 was enormous for the civilized world even then) and there is a lot more that feeds into the homicide rate than just prohibition, the economy for instance, and cultural factors. I haven't yet seen a good econometric analysis of the role of prohibition in homicide rates over the century (Jeffrey Miron did one of the effects of prohibition internationally, but I think that was flawed), and will be surprised if prohibition is found to have a really significant effect.

The most telling point is when Ron tries to explain away the dropping homicide rate in the 90s -- a time when the Drug War intensified -- as follows:

Most likely it is because the United States now has nearly 2 million people in jail or prison. It would have to be a pretty poor policing operation if, in the course of sweeping up some 1.5 million people annually for drug use, that those offenders most likely to act violently did not end up incarcerated.

Well, indeed. The trouble is that the vast majority of those 1.5 million are nasty pieces of work, as I argued in an article for the now sadly defunct Technopolitics.com site (reproduced here) and deserve to be put away. I'm pretty sure that the criminality comes before the drug industry involvement, not because of it.

I've said before that I think the Drugs War concentrates too much on cleaning up the problem and not enough on preventing it. Those adverts that so offend Ron Bailey are part of a strategy that seems to be working in terms of prevention. That's a good thing in my book.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Site enhancements

I have now added two little enhancements to the site for those who prefer to receive it by other means. There's an RSS feed over there on the left and, further down, below my e-mail contact details is a link to subscribe to a Yahoo group that will deliver posts by e-mail. If you subscribe, you can reply to the posts but they'll only come to me. If you want to make a public comment, the comments box is still there for your use on the site.

I'm not sure how well either of these features will work, so I'd be delighted to get feedback.

Cartoon fun

Peter Cuthbertson points me towards a fun little tool for creating your own three-panel comic strip. My first creation is here.

No, no, you're missing the point

Victoria Climbie's heart-rending death was helped along by bureaucracy. How typical, then, that the Inquiry into the case should recommend as a cure yet more bureaucracy. In addition, it was confirmed in the inquiry that part of the reason why the authorities did not investigate the case as they should have was because they were tip-toeing round racial sensibilities. There isn't a mention of this issue in the recommendations as reported by the BBC. Another opportunity missed.

PP: Excellent summary of the case in the Spectator here.

The way the wind is blowing

Vladimir Putin is taking a harder line on Iraq. Putin's assent was crucial in getting the UN to back the return of weapons inspectors, and I think it will be crucial in the next stage too. If Putin aligns himself with the US/UK alliance then the matter is as good as settled, I think. That codominion idea is one that always deserves serious thought.

Anyway, the wind is blowing away from Old Europe. Even the Belgians (the Belgians!) are drifting away from them:

There were signs that Belgium, previously close to the Franco-German position, might be becoming more hawkish.

"If they don't respond favourably to the demands of the EU, I think it means the Iraqis don't want to reintegrate into the international community, that they manifestly have something to hide, that they have a dangerous agenda, and that they constitute a danger to international security," Foreign Minister Louis Michel said.

Deputy Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy acknowledged that Monday's joint foreign ministers' statement was "minimal", but should still applauded. Spain believes a second UN resolution before any war is desirable but not essential - the position held by Washington.

You know, judging from the press you'd think Britain and America were isolated in the EU, but Italy, Spain, The Netherlands and Denmark are behind their stance, Belgium is leaning that way and I'd imagine Portugal, Sweden and Finland will too before long. If this was better publicized, I think anti-war opposition would decrease sharply.

The dog that didn't bark

There's one thing missing from this BBC report about the tragic shooting of a good citizen of Bradford who was trying to foil an armed robbery. Normally, the police use these occasions to issue a warning to the general public not to try and intervene when a crime is taking place and to leave it to the police instead. That warning is missing here. Is this a rare outbreak of respect and good taste on the police's part, or is there actually a realization that citizen involvement in these things is generally a good thing (leaving aside the obvious downside in this case)?


This blog thing seems to be catching on. The Remedy is the new weblog of The Claremont Institute, a conservative institution dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to public life, which strikes me as being quite a good idea.


I'm proud to call Iain Dale a friend. He's a seriously nice guy who also happens to own a lovely political bookshop in London and is intending to become a Tory MP. For a while he ran a delicious blogspot blog, but he now has a "real" web site: iaindale.com. Iain is a gay conservative who I would vote for any day of the week. Check it out!

What's not to like

He's Venezualan, he's called Vladimir, and he refers to Winthrop. Val e-diction is a very young blog, but one worth keeping an eye on.

Monday, January 27, 2003

Greek fire

Mick Hume makes two important points about matters Greek, to wit a possible British bid to stage the Olympics in London for the third time, and the interminable debate about the future of the Elgin marbles:

Britain should bid to get the Olympics, and fight to hold on to the marbles, for similar reasons: to demonstrate that our society values something higher than the bottom line, and that it believes not only in itself but in our universal human culture.

It might be easier to thrash out these issues if both debates were not quite so clogged up with quotes from sporting celebrities, reading from somebody else’s script about everything from social inclusion to cultural imperialism. Never mind keeping politics out of sport, let’s kick sportspeople out of politics.

As an aside, I am sorry I missed Jenneane Garofalo's (sp?) humiliation yesterday on one of the morning politics shows. Apparently, after explaining why she thought it right to use her celebrity to advance the case against war, she was confronted with an interview from a couple of years ago where she said she would never use her celebrity to advance political views. I enjoy her very much as a comedienne, but being funny does not make her politics right. She accepted that once. I wonder if she does again after that experience?

Why us?

Good exposition of the arguments for war in Iraq in the Telegraph's leader Why Britain should fight. The appeal to the national interest -- broadly defined, as is traditional -- is one that some Tories have difficulty comprehending, but this should spell it out:

[Saddam's] regime foments terrorism in Israel and the West Bank. His weapons programme is overtly aimed at establishing a regional hegemony, at the expense of Kuwait, Jordan and the Gulf monarchies: all British allies. And let us not be shy of saying that it is in no one's interest for the some of the world's key oil supplies to be in the hands of an unstable dictator.

Opponents of the war are right about one thing. We will not be fighting only for the UN; the conflict is also - as Lord Salisbury described the Boer War - about "who is to be boss". This is nothing to be ashamed of: an Anglo-American victory in the Gulf will also be a victory for the Iraqi people, for regional security, for good governance and for free trade. A defeat would signal the retreat of the free world in the face of tyranny.

The short answer to the question "why us?" is that Britain has a clear interest in replacing a regime that endangers us with one that would return Baghdad to its traditional Anglophile stance. This is also, incidentally, the answer to the question: "why not North Korea?" - we have no direct interests there, although we should offer our diplomatic support to the Americans and Japanese if they decide to intervene. This may be a war to uphold international law. But it is also a war against Britain's enemies. If we back down now, those enemies will draw the only possible conclusion.

Seems like a fair summary to me.

Gunboat diplomacy

Go on, George, tell us what you really think.

Terrifying prospect

Anyone who has ever played the classic game Junta will be familar with the action card "Students circulate petition condemning repression. No effect." I can't help worrrying that this threat was somehow inspired by it.

One law for the rich, 300 at least for the gun-owner

Interesting little spat over a study by the Brookings Institution that pooh-poohs the idea that there are 20,000 gun laws in America. Brookings handily dismisses state and local laws in arriving at its total of 300. Now 300 Federal restrictions on gun ownership is itself a little over-the-top, I'd suggest, but it is defintely an underestimate. Sure, the 20,000 figure probably includes archaic laws on blunderbusses and other laws that have fallen into disuse or been superseded, but there's a lot of state and local laws that are still applied. The true figure lies, as always, somewhere in between, so if you're concerned with honesty in this debate, treat that 300 with as much disdain as you might treat the 20,000 figure.

Sunday, January 26, 2003

Best of a bad job

Given that England's cricketers are contracted to the English Cricket Board, who are contracted to appear in Zimbabwe, I think this declaration is about the best that we could hope for, and shows a greater degree of rectitude than I had hoped for when Nasser Hussain attempted to shift responsibility onto HMG.

Hang on a second

I have no desire to jump to the defense of "Old Europe," but I thinkGlenn goes a bit far when he says:

Most of America's biggest problem areas, after all, from Vietnam to the Middle East, were inherited from others.

Let's not forget that it was America's refusal to back Britain, France and Israel over the Suez crisis that is probably the definining moment that set the Middle East along the road to ruin. If Nasser had been dealt with then, we probably wouldn't have Saddam now. Moreover, that incident helped cause the British and French empires to break up prematurely, I think, a process America encouraged, leaving a legacy of suffering and war in Africa and other areas (the legacy is not nearly so bad in areas that had come to independence gradually and thoughtfully, such as India). Finally, it was also the cause of the splitting of France from the Atlantic alliance. Dulles and Eisenhower have a lot to answer for, and simply blaming Europe for it is just not good enough. I also have a suspicion that it will be looked back at by historians as probably the biggest delay in encouraging true Anglospheric feeling. It certainly made at least one generation of British Tories more suspicious than they should be of America.


I'll be on a hiatus from blogging for a week and a half, as I'm attending an International Democrat Union Conference in Australia. I'll return with much interesting gossip about conservative politicians, and quite jet-lagged. Hopefully that will make for an interesting few posts.

Saturday, January 25, 2003

The other Lott affair

For what it's worth, I think Glenn's summary of the controversy surrounding John Lott is pretty fair. I was following this one on the academic lists until my recent unpleasantness and it does seem to have shifted from something unproveable but worrying to something trifling. Just like Bjorn Lomborg, John Lott ain't no Bellesiles.

Lex Lugarensis

Senator Richard Lugar is going to walk into the BBC ring and lay the smack down, with any luck. He'll be answering BBC listeners' questions about Iraq on Tuesday. Interesting that most of the comments so far repeat the usual rubbish about a "war for oil" or this being a "personal vendetta against Saddam." The Senator should be able to deal with those in a heartbeat.

Friday, January 24, 2003

The Swedish Model

This Lancet article is a pretty good indicator that single parent families are in and of themselves damaging to children, something people have been over here for a while, but which has been rejected in Europe. The Boston Globes summarises the results:

The study used the Swedish national registries, which cover almost the entire population and contain extensive socio-economic and health information. Children were considered to be living in a single-parent household if they were living with the same single adult in both the 1985 and 1990 housing census. That could have been the result of divorce, separation, death of a parent, out of wedlock birth, guardianship or other reasons.

About 60,000 were living with their mother and about 5,500 with their father. There were 921,257 living with both parents. The children were aged between 6 and 18 at the start of the study, with half already in their teens.

The scientists found that children with single parents were twice as likely as the others to develop a psychiatric illness such as severe depression or schizophrenia, to kill themselves or attempt suicide, and to develop an alcohol-related disease.

Girls were three times more likely to become drug addicts if they lived with a sole parent, and boys were four times more likely.

The researchers conclude that it's the financial effects that are the main causal factors, although given that Swedish single parents are much better off comparatively than British or American single parents, and that the researchers controlled for socioconomic status, this conclusion seems a bit dubious to me. As the reserachers themselves said:

However, even when a wide range of demographic and socioeconomic circumstances are included in multivariate models, children of single parents still have increased risks of mortality, severe morbidity, and injury.

The relative risks are large and, given the size of the sample, convincing. Once again I stress that choosing to raise a child on your own does not doom the child, but it makes it a lot more likely the child will have problems. That's pretty cruel in my book. If these results are coming from Sweden, home of the alternative lifestyle and the welfare state, then Europe should really look at the beam in its own eye and admit that its experiment with new forms of family has failed.

Al Qa'eda: a bit crap, really

Spain appears to be pulling its weight again, claiming to have foiled a 'major al-Qaeda attack'. Presumably my favorite judge, Baltasar Garzon, will now intervene and get the suspects released in some fashion.

All of the recents arrests, however, indicate to me that Al Qa'eda is really scraping the barrell. Sir John Keegan suggested immediately after 9/11 that Al Qa'eda lost its best operatives in the attacks. It lost most of its leadership (including, I continue to believe, bin Laden) in the Afghan War. Since then, the organization itself has not had a successful attack on Western soil (and the successful attacks it has had, like Bali, were organized with localized fraternal groups). All told, the organization does not seem particularly worrying to me. I continue to believe its days are numbered, providing we don't get complacent.

Thursday, January 23, 2003


I have managed to get myself a short-term (2 week) contract which will help pay the bills for a little while. This being the case, posting may be light for a while as it's quite an intensive task, but I hope to have at least something up every day. Still on the look-out for something full-time, although I am toying with the idea of setting up my own consulting firm. I'll keep you posted.

Seconds out, round one

Sasha Castel gives us her thoughts on what London does better than NYC, and vice versa. I think it's a fair set of comments. No doubt Kris will have something to say...

The old order endeth

William Safire gets it. The loud squeaks emanating from France and Germany are likely to be the final straw for the Atlantic alliance. Safire writes particularly about Schroder:

What this final victory [actually not a victory, because the Mail on Sunday stood up to his bullying -- ISM] shows is that Schröder — with all his illusory conquests, triumphs, glories, spoils — does not share the free-speech values of the West. Though cannily manipulative, he lacks a sense of the absurd, which is why his war on the press is making him "der Gegenstand des Gelächters" — the laughingstock.

But his political switching and diplomatic maneuvering are no laughing matter. The German design is apparently to saw off the Atlantic part of the Atlantic Alliance, separating Britain and the U.S. from a federal Europe dominated by Germany and France (with France destined to become the junior partner).

No wonder the British press catches a whiff of the old Berlin imperiousness. No wonder the idle French threat to veto a resolution — which Chirac knows will not be offered — reminds populous and powerful nations like India and Japan of the inequity of mid-sized France having the veto power, and of the need to prevent Germany from getting it.

France is not aiming its barbs purely at America, though. She too recognizes the Anglosphere, and is basically playing the Great Game again, trying to make the various despots of Africa her clients. Witness this invitation to Robert Mugabe despite British protests:

Mr Mugabe is currently banned from entering the European Union because of doubts about the legitimacy of his re-election last year.

But French President Jacques Chirac was convinced that the Zimbabwean leader's presence at the summit would help promote justice, human rights and democracy in his country, foreign ministry spokesman Francois Rivasseau told journalists.

The real reason is stated later in the report:

Correspondents say that France sees itself as Africa's best friend on the international stage. It recently extended a $3m grant to help some eight million people in need of food aid in Zimbabwe.

As relations between the UK and Zimbabwe have deteriorated, France has been moving closer to Mr Mugabe's government.

Mr Rivasseau said France understand the "emotion and indignation" of the British over the visit, but said that no sanctions would be broken.

Tony Blair is coming close to the moment when he will have to choose between Europe and the Anglosphere. I find it exemplary of continental arrogance that they are forcing this issue, which will almost certainly leave them poorer and weaker.

More on education

A correspondent writes about University fees in the UK:

One reason why top-up fees are so very emotive for people like myself is that I've already been soaked so heavily for education.

The basic premise of Blair's "education, education, education" soundbite was that they would increase expenditure, and that it would be covered from the tax burden we already paid - in other words, families needn't budget additional funds for education. We returned from the Netherlands in 1999, and, after trying 17 different state schools, were unable to obtain places for our sons, and so were forced into the private sector. As it is, we're absolutely delighted with the school our boys attend, but the expenditure represents 25% of my gross salary. This situation arose because Mr Blair promised that primary school class sizes would be reduced to no more than 30 pupils. With no more teachers, even an economist of Mr Brown's ability can work out that the number of places would be cut, and that's just what happened. What I can't understand is how we don't hear about "Labours education cuts", but maybe that is just me being confused by all the "cuts" talk of the '80s, where (real)increases in expenditure were constantly damned as "cuts".

With that background, talk of parents paying for top-up fees, with the entry level being charged at £25K, and full at £50K was just another outrage. In particular, it again showed that Brown has no grasp of economics - the words he was using (even if he meant something else) implied marginal tax rates over 100%, which even a Democrat will acknowledge as silly. It was the straw that broke the camel's back, an "Atlas Shrugged" moment, if you like. And having done that to my children, Brown had also capped it with the Laura Spence nonsense. That's when I decided that its personal - Brown is out to hurt my children. To hell with him, and all his works.

This is an important perspective. Parents in the UK have been messed around, especially middle-class parents. The point about class-sizes is also important. I remember my mother, a former elementary reform teacher, saying that when she started out she had no more trouble teaching large classes of 40 or more because they were well-behaved. There is, in fact, no evidence that class sizes have any real effect on the quality of education. Because teaching is so closely controlled by central government in the UK, the entire system falls prey easily to red herrings like this. I can understand my correspondent's point of view.


I've written about this before, but it deserves revisiting. The Scottish Parliament has passed a land bill that goes a long way towards eliminating property rights:

Part one of the Bill provides for unfettered access to all land in Scotland. Part two allows "communities" first refusal on the purchase of estates - at a price fixed by an independent valuer - when they are put up for sale. And part three will force landowners to sell the fishing rights on salmon rivers to Highland crofters.

The joy for those given the right to buy is that they don't even have to use their own money; the cash is doled out from the recently established Scottish Land Fund, which in turn gets it from the National Lottery under the curious heading of "environmental improvements".

"It's Mugabe in a kilt," said Bill Aitken, who is leading the Tory opposition to the Bill. He was only half joking.

The Bill passed the Scots Parliament 110-19, believe it or not, and its prime supporter says it is

"... realising a centuries-old aspiration to redistribute rights and to empower entire communities." And he points out that only the Scottish Parliament - which has no recourse to the House of Lords or indeed to any revising chamber - could have passed such controversial legislation against the interests of what he calls "the landed classes" so quickly.

Scotland is fast proving to be a stirling example of why unicameral legislatures are a bad idea. As to the bill itself, I wonder what Adam Smith would have had to say.

The song "Hot Shot City" was particularly good

A great genius of our time is recognized in these Amazon reviews.

Thanks to Chad Dimpler for the link.

A Reverse Fisking

Rep Rangel's bill on the draft is now part of public record. Time to start Fiskin'. I'll begin with the obvious. Rangel hasn't proof-read it. Look at the repeated references to 'reverse' which probably should read 'reserve'

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Light posting alert

I have a lead on a short-term project that I'll be finding more about today. Accordingly, it's likely that posting will be light today.

In the meantime, may I say that I continue to be amazed and delighted by your support and generosity. I'm slowly working my way through the mountain of e-mail I've been receiving since last week. If you haven't had a reply yet, please excuse my rudeness, but I shall get round to you. Thanks so much.

A dirty word

Elitism is still a dirty word in the UK. The National Union of Students has applied it to HMG's plan to charge students for their education. I'm never quite certain what the problem is here -- the fees aren't going to be paid by parents, but instead financed by student debt, which America deals with happily. Nor are the payments unreasonable:

"The payback burden varies according to earnings later in life to about £60 a month for example for a civil servant, lower than that for a voluntary sector worker, so the paybacks I don't think are unreasonable."

Michael Gove had a pretty good article on this in The Times yesterday, but I can't find it thanks to The Times' charging system. He essentially argued that a debt of 20,000 pounds to achieve the average lifetime earnings increase of 400,000 pounds afforded by a degree represented a rational investment that should not scare anyone. I tend to agree.

This, meanwhile, may seem like a bad idea, but I think it may spur Oxford and Cambridge on towards rejecting Government funding, and idea Oxford has been toying with for a while. That will almost certainly be a good thing for academic freedom. We would also then probably be able to watch a re-run of James II expelling the Fellows of Magdalen as the Blairites decided to nationalize Oxford. That may be a step too far.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Cultural differences

Glenn has already blogged about the London mosque raid at Instapundit and I agree with his conclusion that the authorities have been keeping Hamza around to see who he's been associating with. One thing occurred to me about the raid, however. Its code name (Operation Mermant) is a genuine code name, in that anyone intercepting messages about it could not possibly work out what it was about. It's always puzzled me why American code names do not have this quality. The UK name for Operation Desert Storm was Operation Granby, for instance. I am reliably informed that this was because some top MOD officials were sitting in the pub The Marquis of Granby trying to come up with a code name. No doubt the American name for such a mosque raid would have been Operation Al-Masri Down or something like that.

Meanwhile, The Sun tells Hamza Al-Masri to "sling yer hook."

Another missed opportunity?

Today, the Fire Brigades Union goes on strike again, providing yet another opportunity for political comment on the subject. Previously, the Tories were silent about any development in the field. The government's policy allows the FBU members to block use of stations or station equipment via picket lines. As such, modern fire trucks which are more efficient (they have radios, and cutting equipment/Jaws of Life, wheras Green Goddesses lack both), are not used to fight fires. Andy Gilchrist, leader of the FBU, stated on Sky during the first strike that he did not care if people died, as the FBU had to make a point. Certainly, the Tories can exploit both the FBU's prevention of public use of public equipment, and make further comment on how more lives will be saved if the equipment is used.

In e-mail discussion, Iain calls this behaviour "Scargillite". I cannot agree more. The FBU has as much right to block public equipment as I have to prevent use of the Tube. Imagine if we extend this analogy to the NHS. Then, if doctors strike, any private GPs should not be allowed to use the medical facilities at NHS hospitals. Surely not in the public interest. David Davis has an opportunity here to savage the government, and if the Tories are to make any impact on their electoral fortunes, they must avail themselves of similar chances.

Let us dismiss the people and elect another

Journalists need to ask the hard questions if freedom of the press is to mean anything, but there's a line to be drawn somewhere. Take, for instance, this "From Our Own Correspondent" report from Matt Frei in DC about the "divergence" between Europe and the US:

Opinion polls still indicate that ordinary Europeans are less anti-American than the politicians who represent them. But how long before the windows of McDonalds are shattered in Stuttgart, or Barbie is hung from a lamp post in Milan?

What!? He might as easily have written "Opinion polls still indicate that Britons are less anti-semitic than any other Western country. But how long before a holocaust occurs in Hampshire?" or, more to the point, "Opinion polls still indicate that Germans are skeptical about war in Iraq. But how long before the streets of Berlin are thronged by patriotic flag-wavers cheering their boys off to war?" If journalists are going to dismiss the polls because they don't conform to their impression of reality then they are making the same mistake John Major and William Hague did. That's not a comparison they'lll find comfortable.

Hope should stem from this

Stem cells could repair brain damage, reports the Beeb. This is interesting because it is, I believe, the first time we have had proof that adult stem cells can turn into brain cells in humans. However, as the story admits, this is not proof that the cells are of any practical use in repairing the brain. This should give us hope, but there should be no suggestion that we've found a cure for Alzheimer's yet. I'll be interested to see what Charlie Murtaugh has to say on this.

Learning from history

Further to the point made by Mrs Tilton in the comments section on the post below, I think it is important to realize that there are limits to the exceptionalism of the Anglosphere. Some have used the welcome post 9/11 retreat from what I sometimes think of as "apartheid multiculturalism" (i.e. the idea that all cultures need to be isolated or pickled in aspic and that transmission of ideas between cultures is presumptively wrong) to argue that representatives of other cultures may need to be carefully watched, deprived of certain civil rights and so on. I find this abhorrent. It has been tried before in the Anglosphere, when Britain instituted laws to restrict the political activities of Roman Catholics, who were viewed as being loyal to another master. That was a disaster and an affront to Anglospheric values, however much it seemed necessary at the time. A middle course is needed but, as Frank says, it is one the Anglosphere is well suited towards.


This brings me to a further point. Multiculturalism, per se, is unnecessary in the Anglosphere. The Anglosphere, although built on the model of an Anglo-Saxon society, is inherently a conglomeration of traditions and beliefs from throughout the world. Even if certain practices do not become mainstream, the Anglosphere leaves individuals free to practice them at will. What other society can absorb all these disparate elements into an integrated culture. In addition, it is important to remain loyal to our core values of individualism and freedom, the very virtues which have allowed refugees to 'live the American dream'. To many of them, freedom in and of itself is the American dream. To them, to integrate a society which values freedom above all else is a no-brainer. However, it is that value which has propelled the Anglosphere to the pinnacle of the world.

Islam's choice

In today's Telegraph Inayat Bungawala complains that Muslims are as victimized as everyone else by fundamentalist violence. He criticizes the oft-cited degree for more Muslims to condemn the acts of the barbarians in their midsts, claiming that critics would be put at danger. Fair enough. However, that thesis fails to explain most of the Arab (to be differentiated from Muslim, fairly enough) street's practice of defending Saddam Hussein, most often in Islamic terms. They completely ignore Hussein's behaviour against the Kurds, for example, who are among the most devout Muslims I know, and also the most realistic in their appraisal of situations. While the Kurds inveigh against Muslim shop-owners selling alcohol, they have never taken their fervour of belief to terrorism. Kurdish terrorist groups, by comparison, tend to work against those denying them self-determination, and have not historically targeted anyone else. So, is this more of an Arab dysfunction as opposed to an Islamic one? The evidence is heavy. When articles talk about the relatively tolerant policies of the Ottoman Empire, one must remember that the Ottomans were Seljuk Turks.

In addition, quite a bit of this state-sanctioned persecution is not limited to Muslims. It rears its ugly head at whomever the authorities deem a risk. The Home Office ignores the Human Rights Act and due process for its targets quite often, excusing them away for bureaucratic reasons. These tactics undermine the respect citizens have in a state and in society. I'd assert that the critics of the raid on the Finsbury Park mosque do have a point... in the Home Office's determinedly inflammatory execution of its policies, but not in the very policies.

Monday, January 20, 2003

A last hurrah

Chicago Tribune columnist Dennis Byrne used most of my text for the 2002 Dubious Data Awards in his latest piece, Media's dubious interpretations of `just the facts'. It's a trenchant read, shall we say.

A mini argument against the Euro

George Trefgarne says the Mini's success shows we don't need the euro:

One group in particular that must be cursing every time they are overtaken by a Mini are those who claim that Britain needs to join the euro to save us from manufacturing collapse. Sir Nick Scheele, chief operating officer of Ford - which owns Jaguar - and one of the few remaining supporters of Britain in Europe, said before Christmas that we must devalue the pound by 15 per cent and sign up to the single currency to ameliorate "a steady erosion of the competitive position of our British operations".

With the pound drifting lower on foreign exchanges, as a floating currency is wont to do, his wish is partly being granted. But prices are set by supply and demand, not the currency they are denominated in. The Mini, for instance, actually sells at a premium to equivalent models in the US, whereas poor Sir Nick's X-Type Jaguar has been dogged by poor reliability, recalls and disappointing sales.

The economic case for Britain adopting the euro is virtually non-existent. Supporting it must surely disqualify anyone from a position of economic leadership in any party.

Presumption of guilt

You may remember the case of Robin Page, a Telegraph correspondent questioned by police after urging people to support the Countryside Alliance march at a country fair. It turns out that the police advertised for "anyone who was offended by the commentary" to contact them. Gives a whole new meaning to data dredging, doesn't it? Natalie Solent has the whole story and is as outraged by this as I am.

The vindication of Blairite foreign policy

As I've said several times, I am coming to the conclusion that Tony Blair is a reverse Palmerston -- anti-democrat at home, liberal abroad -- but with the similarity that his foreign policy is beneficial to Britain in the main [this assumes that being recognized as a great power is beneficial to Britain and excepts his odd European policy, which is looking increasingly out of step with the rest]. In the Sunday Times yesterday, Andrew Sullivan summarized the benefits:

And Blair gets something else too. It is simply not in Britain's interest to give into the crass delusions of anti-Americanism. The notion that Blair is somehow George Bush's "poodle" is ludicrous, and certainly seen as such in Washington. By his emotional and instinctive support for the U.S. in the wake of September 11, by his steadfast support during the Afghan war and in the Iraq crisis, Blair has wielded more influence in Washington than any other world leader. Because of this, he now has more leverage over American power than any British prime minister in recent times, eclipsing even Thatcher's sway over Reagan. And that means an enormous increase in Britain's relative global power - now and for the future. If you don't believe this, contrast the results of Blair's diplomacy with Gerhard Schroder's. It's the difference between being at the center of world governance and utterly marginalized. In fact, Blair has managed to vault Britain back to the status of a genuine world power. When he huddles with George Bush at Camp David at the end of this month, he will be the most powerful British prime minister since Churchill at Yalta.

This wasn't the reason for Blair's pro-American foreign policy. Blair clearly backs the U.S. on al Qaeda and Iraq because he sees the grave danger to Britain that only America, with Britain's help, can prevent. But unprecedented British leverage is a side-product. The man who came to power promising to make Britain a central power-broker in Europe has, by chance or design, done something rather different. By resisting the empty rhetoric of the hate-America left, Blair has made Britain a power-broker on a far grander level. We have the beginnings of an Anglo-American entente - what some in Washington are calling an "Anglosphere" - that could wield enormous influence for the good in the years and decades to come. Blair's ability to see through the rhetoric and flim-flam to the real America, and to see Britain's opportunity therein, has the makings of a historic diplomatic achievement. If only his party and country could see that. Perhaps, given time, they will.

Andrew -- or the Sunday Times editors -- has slightly misunderstood the Anglosphere, which is about more than just the UK-US entente, but it is nice to see the concept being used in such a high-profile publication in the UK. In any event, this confirms that Britain is arguably the second most powerful nation in the world at present, a point I have made repeatedly. This is something the isolationist wing of the Tory party fails to recognize (except for those who don't think it's in British interests to be powerful, a position I have never understood).

Living memory

In an excellent example of how much more connected we are with the past than some people think we are, the last Yankee civil war widow has died in Tennessee. I remember Simon Jenkins of The Times saying how he, as a young boy, had been told by an old lady not to speak ill of Oliver Cromwell, because her grandmother's first husband had worked for him and found him a very decent sort (I may have got some of the details wrong here, but you get the gist).

Which all goes to show that so much more affects us than the modern era. Theodore Dalrymple often points out how humilated old people feel when medical staff address them by their first name. A policy-maker without a true grasp of the past will fail to make policy that is fair to all citizens. We must always try to bear that in mind.

TCS Column Up

My article Oh, To Be In England, on the differing crime rates between London and New York, is now up.

Saturday, January 18, 2003


Ever since John Milton's stirring defense of freedom of the press, Britain has fought an internal war over the limits of press freedom. The libel laws probably restrict the British press too much, but the situation there is still freer than Continental Europe. Now, thanks to the EU, a German panjandrum has forbidden a British newspaper from reporting on his allegedly lascivious actions by gaing an order from a German, not British court. This is unprecedented:

The case is a prime example of something about which the Mail on Sunday and other Eurosceptic papers have long been complaining: the step-by-step extension to Britain of laws made on the continent. In this instance, and apparently for the first time, it is Germany's highly restrictive privacy law.

A leading expert in the field, Michael Smyth of Clifford Chance, said it was not uncommon in commercial cases for judges in one country to set conditions applicable in another. But he added: "I'm not aware of any libel or press law case in which an injunction has won in Country A against a newspaper group headquartered in Country B. But the law permits [Chancellor Schröder] to do it because the EU treats Europe as one jurisdiction."

The Mail on Sunday's story was reported on in several German newspapers.

"Mr Schröder faced a choice. He could sue in Germany or in Britain. I don't see that this injunction would have been awarded in London had he applied to a British court," Mr Smyth said.

This is a development that should worry all supporters of free speech in Britain. Once again, the European Union shows just how it champions human rights (by restricting them).

Thanks to Peter Cuthbertson for the link.

Success in Iraq, so far...

Tom Utley starts off his column with a useful point:

In all the acres of newsprint that have been devoted to the build-up to war, one obvious point has been made too seldom: that, so far, American and British policy towards Iraq has been astonishingly successful. It is true that Saddam Hussein remains in power in Baghdad. But the regime over which he presides is a much more timid animal than the one that spent the Clinton years annihilating the Kurds, defying the UN and mocking America.

Even America's most hostile critic must admit that the Iraqi Kurds are a great deal safer today than they were before George W. Bush began to rattle his sabre at Baghdad. Saddam knows that if he lays a finger on them - or on any of Iraq's neighbours in the Middle East - his last, faint hope of avoiding attack and certain defeat will be gone.

He goes on to express the hope that this successful policy will continue and that war can be avoided. I'm not sure how long the current policy could continue to work. Eventually, Saddam would twig that war is not an option and start his antics again. Would war be justified then? Who would be stringing who along?

Anyway, Utley also gives us a hint of just why the Conservative Party cannot afford to oppose military action in Iraq:

I air my reservations now because this may be my last chance before the troops go in - and I am not going to say a word against the war once our forces start risking their lives.

The Party would look odd to oppose war now and then support it once it had started. Blair could very easily argue that the Tories were flip-flopping and indecisive. If the Tories continued to express reservations, then we would have the extremely unusual and uncomfortable position of Tories failing to support British troops. As long as war looks likely, I would argue that the Party must support the Government in its build-up.

Do they watch the show?

I am delighted to learn from the BBC that Buffy and Angel stars Alyson Hannigan and Alexis Denisof are getting married. Alexis is a true product of the Anglosphere, having been born in Maryland, but grew up and did his drama training in the UK before returning to the US to pursue his career. What amazes me is that this news about stars of two of the darkest, most mature fantasy series on TV should be announced on the Children's BBC website. Unbelievable.

Paypal problem fixed

The paypal button has now been amended so that it refers to my new contact details. I have been amazed by the support people have shown and a few of you have asked me to fix this problem. Many, many thanks again for all your help.

PP: There may, or may not, be a problem with the Amazon box. I'm trying to work this out.

Friday, January 17, 2003

A way out

As Frank has pointed out, the flip-side of Andrew and Sasha's terrible situation is that asylum-seekers are given too much leeway to enter the UK. The Telegraph has a suggestion as to What Blunkett should do:

We are constrained both by the 1951 UN Convention on asylum seekers and the European Convention on Human Rights. Each one on its own appears reasonable and humane. But taken together, and then combined with the current deluge of supposed asylum seekers, they make it impossible for us to vet applicants quickly and accurately. First, this enabled large-scale immigration under another name. Now it is clear that it adds significantly to the danger of terrorist attack.

David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, could get up in the Commons and announce that the safety of the people of this country is the first duty of its government. He could say that he would seek powers and funds to deal with the majority of asylum seekers immediately on arrival, instead of letting most of them settle here. This would mean, for the time being, that Britain, since it cannot pick and choose which parts to subscribe to, would have to withdraw altogether from the European Convention on Human Rights and therefore the Council of Europe. The Government would have to amend the Human Rights Act. All this, he might argue, was regrettable but necessary.

In this way, he could effect a dramatic reduction in the number of asylum seekers. Many members of the Establishment - such as the BBC and lawyers making a living out of human rights - would be appalled. But the people of this country would be relieved. And their lives would be safer.

This is a great suggestion. It would give us a chance to rethink what British rights are all about -- both negative and positive (in the sense of right of participation in governing the country) -- as well as freeing us from obligations that work contrary to the national interest. We can then rethink immigration law to allow for sojourner provisions and other reforms that will benefit rather than harm the polity. It might even persuade the EU to expel us...Well done the Telegraph!

Normal service about to be resumed

I still have quite a few things to do (like get a job -- I have a few leads already), but I hope to approach normal service in the very near future. I have just submitted my Tech Central Station column for Monday, which updates this article from last February with a few more thoughts and better figures.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Durocher 2, Blogosphere 0

After the recent depressing news about Iain, further bad news has come my way to report. Andrew Dodge, late of Blogspot, has been detained by HM Immigration and probably will be refused entry to the UK due to, from what I can discern, minor errors in his paperwork for a work visa. While that decision is HM Immigration's, it's rather sick that a hatemongering fundamentalist can stay in the country claiming both 'asylum' and unemployment benefits, while a bonafide worker may be banned from entry into the UK (I've heard an outright ban is being considered, not just refusal of entry) for shoddy paperwork. Nice guys certainly are finishing last today.

IAIN COMMENTS: Having had a setback or two from the INS myself, I very much sympathize with Andrew's position. To my mind, this illustrates how much we need the "sojourner provisions" outlined in Jim Bennett's Anglosphere Primer. In the meantime, Andrew and Sasha will be in my prayers and I hope Frank keeps us up to date on this dreadful situation here.

Thank you all so much

Kris and I intend to get back to all of you individually who have expressed sympathy for my situation. Your kindness and generosity have been overwhelming. I am considering my options and shall be treating my position as "sub iudice" in order not to prejudice my position. My statement below is my personal assessment of the position and I thought it reasonable to let my readers know what had happened. Some commenters have suggested complaining to my previous employers. I do not think that would be helpful; I bear no ill-will towards my former colleagues and wish to handle this difficult situation professionally.

Again, thank you so much for all the kind words, generosity (you have been far more generous than I ever imagined possible) and offers of help and advice. This really has meant a lot to me and been a great source of support in this difficult time.

I'm in The Spectator!

It was heartening to find that I not only have an article, Let Them Eat Porridge in the Spectator today, but it is also mentioned on the cover, which is nice. Thanks, Boris!

A retraction of sorts

Just talked to a friend at CCO who reads this blog, of whom I have a high opinion. He assures me the Policy Unit has been churning out a good deal of high quality ideas. However, as an outsider, if such ideas are not publicized, it's difficult for the general public (or, for that matter, anyone outside of CCO) to see the work. Therefore, the fault probably lies with the Communications department. Incidentally, the 'spotted dicks' barb refers more to the cliquish Conservative Future types at CCO (who fawn over Theresa May, and are equally effective and annoying). I apologize for any offense taken by those except to whom I was referring. Furthermore, GENEVA (the Tories' volunteer group) solicited policy experts from its database a few months ago to help thresh out party ideas and vet them. I do not believe they ever responded to anyone who replied with his/her CV. Such a system would be very useful, as those with hands-on experience in the areas affected can better critique policy.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Sacked for Blogging

My employment was terminated this morning, with this blog stated as the reason. I was somewhat surprised by this as my previous boss had been happy for myself and a former colleague to run blogs. They took up little work time, about as much as other employees take up with cigarette breaks, and were useful to get work-related ideas into shape for writing up for wider audiences. When my employer expressed his concern, I immediately offered to stop updating the blog forthwith. However, this was not enough and I was fired on the spot. As there is a procedure for disciplinary firings that follows a path of oral and written warnings, I was also surprised that this was not followed. It appears that my employer considered this serious misconduct, on a level with theft and sexual harrassment, thereby justifying an immediate termination. I am not sure that can be justified and would be interested to hear from any legally-qualified readers as to whether they think I have any recourse.

I am of course looking for work, and if anyone has any leads on where a respected (except in my former organization) public policy analyst whose work has been published in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the Washington Post and USA Today could end up, please let me know.

In the meantime, I have a wife and daughter to feed and no recourse to unemployment insurance. Contributions to the tip-jar would be very gratefully received.

Consultative Policy Process

One of the key reasons for Lady Thatcher's effectiveness as PM was her use of volunteer experts as consultants in various areas of policy. Lady T supplemented the substantial intellectual arsenal of the Number 10 Policy Unit with both think-tank experts, and volunteers with professional expertise. Lord David Young, a business executive, was later Secretary of State for Industry. Dr Paul Marks, a head teacher, was her education pundit. Given the Tories' present lack of policy, it would hardly be detrimental for them to solicit ideas from their supporters in all walks of life. Although it may be slightly embarrassing, better to have a policy than to allow the 'spotted dicks' (who bear no intellectual resemblance to anyone who belongs in a prime ministerial policy unit) in CCO to dictate some more foolishness.

Fat fool

I just saw class enemy Michael Moore on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He looked embarrassed to be there, and a good thing too, considering his treatment of London stage crew. Most annoying of all his silly statements (the Iraq crisis is about oil, of course) was his continual reference to the "president" (complete with silly hand gestures). Of course, if Moore hadn't supported Nader it is possible (although unproveable) that Gore would be President. In that counterfactual universe, I imagine Moore would have been on the Daily Show tonight lambasting President Gore for his sanctions on the Taliban government of Afghanistan, which had so far claimed 40,000 civilian lives according to Medecins Sans Frontieres, and pointing out that there had been no link proving Taliban involvement in the 9/11, 9/12 and 9/13 (when flights were finally grounded worldwide following a UN resolution) attacks. Oh, and Moore would be somewhat fatter and jollier, too.

Author goes mad

John le Carre needs to read Michael Gove's column from yesterday.

Tosser alert

Brian Sewell is a patronising twat. And you know how much I hate to swear. Has this fool ever seen the glories of Grey Street, one of the most impressive panoramas in any city? Has he appreciated the fact that the Royal Shakespeare Company for years had but three venues: London, Stratford and Newcastle? Are this man's vocal chords situated in his gluteus maximus? A new Pilgimage of Grace is required, a pilgrimage to skelp this bugger's hint end.

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.