Head over now to my new, Movable Type-powered web log here. My vanity site, as mentioned below, is iainmurray.org.
Goodbye, Blogger. It's been a bumpy ride, but not without its pleasures.
As Iain Murray of the Competitive Enterprise Institute points out, this division itself rests on a deeper civilizational distinction: "This is perhaps the clearest indication that the world is divided between what some are terming the "Anglosphere" . . . and a group of failed empires--France, Germany, Russia, Islam--that resent American military and economic dominance." With the Muslim world sunk in hostility to the United States and Western Europe declaring its neutrality, Washington may find itself turning increasingly to its Anglosphere allies.
It is curious and irritating, therefore, that the Pew survey does not include the largest English-speaking country in the world, namely India. Yet even as France and Germany are moving away from a close relationship with the United States, India is establishing a new strategic alliance with Washington. As my colleagues in UPI, Martin Walker and Derk Kinnane-Roelofsma, have revealed in the last few weeks, Indian officials have been meeting with senior Pentagon figures to discuss the establishment of an "Asian NATO" that might eventually expand to include Singapore, Australia and Japan.
India's Deputy Prime Minister, Lal Krishna Advani, is currently in Washington and is expected to meet every senior administration figure, not excluding President Bush, to carry these discussions further. Even if the large prize of an "Asian NATO" is some way off, it is plain that a de facto U.S.-India strategic partnership already exists.
That partnership will be carried on in the English language. If military cooperation with the Aussies or Singapore comes about in due course, they speak the lingo too. The United States is linked to its main allies in both Europe and Asia by cultural ties that underpin a common strategic interest. A new, and unexpected, world order is taking shape--and world opinion will have to adapt to it.
Unfortunately, British law, at least from what I have read about how the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861 was written and is interpreted by the courts, doesn't give any ... benefit to the resident. As the law has practically been used (and as has happened in the Martin case), the law establishes a level playing field between an intruder and his victim with respect to use of deadly force. You can use a gun against an intruder if he has a gun, and gives you reason to believe that he is going to use it against you.
I happen to think this is an extraordinarily stupid law. If everyone was equally strong, in equally good health, criminals didn't rely on unfair advantages (like a concealed handgun or knife), and didn't engage in unsporting behavior like multiple intruders (as was the case with Martin), this sort of Marquis of Queensberry rules approach might be mildly supportable in an academic "Wouldn't the world be wonderful if we could all get along?" sort of way. The problem is that Offences Against The Person Act was written when Britons, even criminals, seemed to operate on a more civilized level.
Over time, Whitman believes, status-conscious France and Germany began to treat nearly all criminals in the dignified manner once reserved for members of the nobility and political prisoners. America, disdainful of such status distinctions since the Revolution, came to treat everyone in the low-status manner befitting peasants and common criminals. The United States, he argues, moved to one-size-fits-all vengeance while Europe moved towards individualized, nurturing justice. American justice thus "tends not to treat offenders with respect"--which puts the nation at peril through its indifference to suffering.
Whitman has visited German prisons and read German guard-training manuals, but he doesn't appear to have done the same in the United States--and so he makes much out of European training-manual provisions and legal precedents requiring respectful treatment of prisoners, but he seems unaware that similar provisions also exist in the United States. French prisons, as Whitman concedes, are in some ways worse than their American counterparts. While he makes much of policies allowing French prisoners to wear their own clothes and have other petty comforts, he really doesn't make a convincing case that Europeans as a whole are much nicer to prisoners than Americans overall. They simply let them out of prison more quickly and suffer higher crime rates as a result. More disturbingly, Whitman's book has a strangely anti-democratic subtext. Whitman has many kind words for unelected European bureaucrats who run prison systems and, in one absurd passage, compares America's long prison sentences to Nazi torch-light rallies because both "lend themselves naturally to mobilizing mass support."
One way to think about mobility is to array wage earners into fifths, ranging from the lowest income quintile to the highest quintile. Mobility is then measured by the movement among the quintiles over time. Even after a single year, there is considerable movement:
* After one year, about one-third of the workers who were in the bottom income quintile move to a higher quintile; and about one-quarter who were in the top quintile move to a lower one.
* Of those who were originally in the intermediate three quintiles, about half move to another quintile.
There is even more movement over longer periods. Comparing the wages of workers of the same age over a 15-year time period:
* The percent of workers who remained in the same quintile after one year was 60 percent.
* The percent remaining in the same quintile fell to 43 percent after five years, to 33 percent after 10 years, and to 29 percent after 15 years.
These results also point to the importance of knowledge and skill, as measured by education and experience, in facilitating economic mobility. Individuals who have responded to the incentives implicit in the increased earnings inequality have experienced the greatest mobility. The implication is that public policies providing individuals and their families greater freedom and opportunity to invest in themselves and their children will have the greatest positive impact on economic success.
Perhaps going hand in hand with the decline of a structured society is the erosion of the religious foundations on which it was once built. One tends to suppose that in the 1950s, Britain was predominantly a church-going (and of course Christian) society, whereas this is no longer the case. In fact, nominal church membership has not fallen precipitately: in 1951 the estimated baptised membership of the Church of England was 624 for every 1,000 in the population; by 1996, it was still 511. [Source: Butler & Butler, "Twentieth Century British Political Facts".] In the 2001 census (the first to include a question on religion), 72% identified themselves as Christians and a further 5% as belonging to other religions - although many of these can be only nominal adherents, since when we asked in a 2000 survey only 62% of the adult public said they believed in God. (The census figure, it should be noted, includes children as well as adults.) Churchgoing is much lower than theoretical adherence to a religion, of course: in 1957, only 14% of adults said they had been to church on the previous (February) Sunday. By 1993, attendance had fallen to the extent that only 18% said that they ever went to church on a Sunday, but it was clearly a minority activity even at the time of the coronation.
But what has certainly changed is that there is more acceptance of "new age" spiritualism, and other supernatural phenomena, as well as scepticism about organised religion. One 1999 MORI Social Values question gets at this trend quite neatly: 65% of the public agree that "Personal spiritual experience is more important to me than belonging to a church". This leads to what some would describe as a more credulous society. For example, in January 1950, only 10% of the public told Gallup they believed in ghosts, and just 2% thought they had seen one. By 1998 we found that 40% now said they believed in ghosts, and 15% that they had "personal experience" of ghosts; 6% of the public, indeed, said they had based a decision on their belief in ghosts. In 1951, only 7% of the public said they believed in foretelling the future by cards and 6% by stars; in 1998, 18% of the public said they believed in fortune telling or tarot, and 38% in astrology (though we didn't ask specifically about using it to foretell the future).
The cosmologist ... says the most frightening risks are probably man-made.
"A hundred years ago, the nuclear threat wasn't even predicted ... but that threat still hasn't gone away," he said.
The arms race, after all, was fueled by science, and the field has a responsibility to inform a wide public of the risks in deciding how to apply scientific breakthroughs, he added.
"For the first time ever, human nature itself isn't fixed. Biotech drugs and genetic engineering are empowering individuals more than ever before," Rees said.
With rapidly advancing DNA technology, "even a single person could cause a disaster," Rees warned, ... Thousands of people have the ability to engineer viruses and bacteria to cause deadly plagues. Even if one such "weirdo" didn't kill many people, that type of biological terrorism would profoundly change daily life, the scientist warned.
Nanotechnology -- the subject of a recent Michael Crichton thriller about the havoc caused by runaway microscopic machines -- are also a potent threat, he said.
If the field advances far enough, rogue self-replicating nanotechnology machines -- feeding on organic material and spreading like pollen -- could devastate a continent within a few days, Rees said.
The dangers of global warming are also addressed in the book, subtitled "A scientist's warning: How terror, error, and environmental disaster threaten humankind's future in this century -- on Earth and beyond."
Rees does not discount the possibility of disaster caused by scientific experiments involving particle accelerators. "Perhaps a black hole could form, and then suck in everything around it," he cautions.
The British scientist calls for better regulation and inspection of sensitive data and experiments.
"We need to keep track of those who have potentially lethal knowledge," Rees said.
... the striking characteristic of the Bush administration on Europe, as France and Germany explore an openly anti-American policy, is that outside the Pentagon there is no policy. Congress holds no hearings. Other than finally threatening legal action against the EU's scientifically unjustified barriers against genetically modified U.S. food exports, the U.S. Trade Representative explores no other options. When the Estonians are ordered by Brussels to start raising their tariffs on American goods as a condition of joining the EU, Washington is silent.
Maybe they are simply discouraged. Twice in the 1990s then-U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor and his EU counterpart, Leon Brittain, negotiated a Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement. Each time, the French vetoed it. Today, the Doha Round of world-trade liberalization is endangered by the EU's difficulty in scrapping its protectionist farm policies in the teeth of French vetoes. ...
Neither Congress and the administration has yet paid much attention to the EU convention, chaired by former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, that is drafting a new European constitution. And yet in Giscard's proposals for a strong EU presidency, a common foreign and defense policy and an increasingly uniform judicial system, the implications for U.S. interests are serious.
The Bush administration would have allies all across Europe and the rest of the world if they openly singled out France for confrontation. The U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve would also have support is they pressed the question why the European Central Bank and the eurozone economy are stagnating and helping bring down the wider global economy. And it's odd that so few people in the U.S. media or politics wonder why not.
The U.S. Congress might find it useful to explore Kissinger's idea of joint hearings with the European Parliament into issues like farm-trade obstructionism. The price they might have to pay could be other contentious hearings on the Kyoto Protocol and global warming, or on U.S. policies in the Middle East. Fine. Bring it on. Americans have arguments here that too few Europeans have heard.
Where does this leave us? In limbo, is the answer. That is also where we are likely to remain for some time. I, for one, think that is the right decision for a country as sceptical as the UK about the implications of the currency union. And if you doubt this scepticism, take a look at how the government has approached this decision. It is because of British doubts that it has stressed the need for a clear and unambiguous assessment only of the economics. Not so much through its substance as through its style, this entire exercise shows that the British are not ready for membership.
In the clear
You can stand up straight and walk tall, no one's after you, unless they're trying to nick something from you! It's good to behave 100% correctly and to the letter of the law, though it's hardly life on the edge…
Based on your answers, we have calculated the maximum penalty for your crimes*:
Years in prison: 0 Potential fine: £0
Network Rail is not a joint stock company, but something called a not for profit company. You can say that again. Network Rail made a loss of £290 million in the year to March, and without some fancy accounting, it would have been much worse.
The Government has effectively had to underwrite Network Rail's £21 billion of debts (although yet more financial engineering has kept this mighty sum off the Treasury's books). Driven by cries about safety, spending is out of control and the company will swallow £12 billion in subsidy by 2006.
Despite burning through all this money, the Network Rail locomotive has allowed delays to rise nine per cent in the past year. A fare increase for passengers is imminent. Costs are so high and service levels so poor that one of its biggest customers, the Royal Mail, is abandoning mail trains after 170 years.
Instead of shareholders, Network Rail has 116 members, including busybodies from the Crime Concern Trust, the Royal Association for Disability & Rehabilitation, trade unions, and the Cyclist's Touring Club. They are entirely unaccountable. Standards of corporate governance and disclosure are extremely poor.
The members' role has a contradiction at the heart of it. We are told they have "similar rights to those of shareholders in a public company", yet "no financial or economic interest" in whether Network works.
Network Rail is a sort of Third Way on wheels. Tom Winsor, the rail regulator, believes it is a nonsense. He says a company with no shareholders is hard to incentivise. If he fined Railtrack for poor performance, it came out of shareholders' pockets.
But Network Rail has no shareholders, so just passes a fine on to the taxpayer or passengers in higher costs. "Shareholders with money at stake," said Winsor, "are far more likely to be responsive than public interest members.''
He said the Bank of England would be told to change the current inflation target of 2.5%, and that a new Europe-wide measure of inflation would be used.
Supporters of the euro have, by and large, accepted these facts of life. They agree, reluctantly, that Britain would at present be foolish to contract out its interest rates to Frankfurt. But they want the Government to bring about economic convergence. Convergence, one wonders, with what? With Euro-land's unemployment rate? With its burdensome regulations? With its high taxes?
If so, Gordon Brown is their man. One by one, the Chancellor has been ironing out the things that used to make Britain different from its neighbours, joining the social chapter, buying euros and, above all, raising taxes.
Significantly, his new taxes have been in areas where Britain used to enjoy a competitive edge over the rest of Europe. We had many more private pensions, so he taxed them. We had a higher rate of home ownership, so he raised stamp duty to continental levels. Now he has brought social security levies into line with the EU through his swingeing rise in National Insurance. How Mr Brown has come to be thought of as a eurosceptic is one of the wonders of our age.
1. Higher productivity. Britain has just slipped back into fifth place among the world's economies, behind France. Mr Brown's propensity to meddle brought a halt to the extraordinary surge in productivity which Britain enjoyed until 1997. His finicky schemes have created perverse incentives in the private sector, and raised costs for businesses.
2. Lower taxes. (And, equally important, simpler taxes.) Taxes are rising faster in Britain than in any other industrialised nation. The sheer complexity of the system is quite as harmful as the overall burden.
3. Public service reform. If nothing else, Labour has done us a favour by proving beyond any doubt that spending more on the public services does not necessarily improve them.
4. Fewer regulations. No government has imposed so many new rules on our businesses. A recent survey by the British Chamber of Commerce showed, with pretty convincing methodology, that the total cost of these regulations has been at least £20 billion since Labour came to power.
5. A balanced budget. At present, Mr Brown aims to keep the debt-to-GDP ratio steady over the economic cycle. This means, preposterously, that when the economy is growing, he aims to borrow more. A better target would be no net borrowing over the cycle.
Meeting these tests, of course, would make us less rather than more like the rest of the EU. Yet they would make Britain a wealthier country. There you have Labour's problem.
The European Central Bank President, Wim Duisenberg, put it thus: "I know why (Britain should join). I just don't know when"...
While Italians have accepted their new currency, and the loss of the lira, it has been less easy to accept the huge rise in prices that came with it.
They welcome the newfound freedom to travel without changing money, but mention the euro, and you will instantly be told that prices have doubled, yet wages have not.
For this reason, Britain's reluctance to join doesn't surprise people in Rome. ...
... few [Spaniards] feel passionately enough about the issue of the single currency to hold a grudge if Britain chooses not to join.
"If they want to keep the pound that's fine by me too," says Iguacelle Mateus, a young woman who lives and works in Madrid. ...
In this enthusiastically pro-European nation, Irish people know full well that the British have a pretty different take on Europe.
Alain, a 50-year old doctor, comments: "I wonder sometimes whose side the British are on - Europe's or America's. I'd like Britain to join the euro, but the British will have to decide first which is more important to them." ...
Only one person disagreed - Sybille, a 25-year old Parisian student. She said that by siding with America on Iraq, Britain had ruled itself out of Europe, and did not deserve to participate in the single currency.
The “screw-ups” were obsessively tracked by bloggers. Like British tabloid newspapers in hot pursuit of a wounded politician, they never gave up on their quarry.
Nevertheless, the clearest example of the bloggers’ ability to take scalps was the forced resignation of Trent Lott, the Republican Senate leader, after he was vilified for making a racist remark at a southern politician’s 100th birthday celebration last year.
Only when left-wing bloggers began to make a fuss did newspapers such as The New York Times begin to notice that anything was amiss. Eventually Lott was shunned by the left and the right, including Bush.
One "Yes" voter who raised a few eyebrows was Poland's Soviet-era military dictator, General Wojciech Jaruzelski.
"[Once] I would have said that [Polish EU entry] was science fiction, the theatre of the absurd," the 79-year-old former leader told reporters.
"It's a new reality and you have to take it into account. I took account of it by voting for Poland's entry into the EU."
MM: ... you speak of the fall of the US, which has just won the war in Iraq. How come?
ET: The war against Iraq was a military absurdity. The US won a victory over a country with a barefoot army which had been bled dry. It demonstrated its military omnipotence in Iraq in order to hide its economic weaknesses. True rivalry will no longer be settled using military force. The real counterbalance to the US is found in Europe, Russia, China and Japan. The main battlefield will be the economic sector. ... Actually, I like the US a great deal. Until recently, it was the most important factor in maintaining international order. But now it is a factor for instability. The industrial core of the US has been hollowed out. The American trade deficit amounts to $435bn a year. The country needs $1.5bn a day in foreign capital. The US is no longer self-sufficient. Europe, with its strength in exports, is. ... The US was the undisputed victor of the 20th century. Now it has difficulty in recognising its own dependence. Hitherto, the Europeans envied the US its standard of living and technological power. This generated a certain modesty. Nowadays the US leads only in military terms. In most spheres the Europeans have overtaken it.
MM: But Europe has been torn apart politically.
ET: Europe's strength is based on economic integration, which is independent of political decisions. Whether governments in eastern Europe like it or not, they are economically tied to Europe and Russia. The only things they can get from America are weapons; America cannot export anything else. The US has created dissidents in "new" Europe, but the latter still depend on "old" Europe and Russia. Turkey realised this and has kept its distance from the US. ... In conjunction with France, there is a core of political renewal independent of the US and with mass popular support. Spain, Britain, Italy and the east Europeans represent the "old" Europe, since they have not yet achieved autonomy. ... I hope that the British will find their way back into Europe. The driving force behind this will be the renewed violence and arrogance of the Americans. The British will realise of their own accord that they belong to Europe's community of values.
MM: What about the war on terror?
ET: The omnipresence of terrorism is a powerful myth, thanks to which the US has assumed the right to crusade around the world, whether in the Philippines, in Yemen or in Iraq. The US wants to keep the world on tenterhooks by means of this permanent state of war. But military methods don't help in the fight against terrorism. Only police and secret service work can help. The terrorist threat could have been minimised in this way since 9/11, but the collective psychosis of the Americans did not allow that. ...
I am a demographer and I'll stick to the facts. Arab and Islamic terrorism is not a relapse of these regions into barbarism, it is the result of a crisis in the modernisation process. All countries go through radical changes as a result of literacy and birth control. Because all the Islamic states have been weakened, there is no great power among them. The terrorism will disappear of its own accord with the end of the demographic revolution.
MM: Does international law have a future?
ET: The majority in the UN was opposed to war in Iraq. In spite of this, the US went ahead and thus violated international law. The UN's role has never been so important. In view of America's destabilising role, one might consider whether the UN security council should move to Europe, perhaps to Switzerland.
MM: Numerous rogue states are members of the UN.
ET: The UN is not a club of democracies but an organisation which tries to solve problems between countries without resorting to war. In recent years there has been enormous progress towards democratisation. This has not been imposed from outside; it is the result of education and the emancipation of women. We cannot start a war against Syria or China in order to introduce democracy in these places.
MM: The US is the only country with democratic universalist ideas which wants to export its values.
ET: The Iraq war was a geopolitical show of strength, not a selfless democratic mission. But the Europeans must demand that the US does now put democracy into practice in Iraq. With the overthrow of Saddam comes the end of American hypocrisy. In this respect, I am a long way from the deep-seated anti-Americanism of many of the French. My grandfather was an Austrian Jew and an American citizen. My mother fled to the US during the second world war. I have a positive attitude towards America. But sadly we can no longer speak of the US as a great democracy. Its electoral system is in crisis. Internal inequality is rising. A rich American is no longer comparable with a rich European. There exists a new plutocracy, which is spoiling the American dream. Since the financial scandals, faith in the free market has been destroyed. The US is projecting its own internal disintegration onto the whole world.
MM: Is America also weakened because it has had to bear the burden of keeping the peace for 50 years?
ET: After 9/11, the threat to the US, to a nation which had until then been considered the guarantor of global security, stirred up great anxiety all around the world. Every country wanted to help. But the Americans didn't want help. They listened less and less to their allies, and became more and more arrogant. As far as the balance sheet and financial flows are concerned, the US has long been a drain on the whole world. The Europeans can no longer react to this in a friendly manner; they must counter America with industrial and financial methods. ... If there is no opposition to American militarism, then—as the Europeans well know from their own wars—it will be encouraged to pursue more adventures. Europe and Russia must create a stable strategic structure to counter it. The Atlantic axis no longer functions.
MM: Is Russia a reliable partner?
ET: Russia is no longer dangerous. The Germans obviously see this in a different light to the French, who have fewer problems with the Russians. Russia is weak and is experiencing a similar demographic crisis to that of Germany and France.
MM: Would you like a complete break with the US?
ET: No, I feel a much closer affinity to Anglo-Saxon culture than to Russian culture. But we need a counterbalance to the US. It is not so much a question of a break as a question of autonomy. In order to avoid an antagonistic relationship with the US, it is important that Britain should come back into the European fold. The greater danger is that the US will become more antagonistic and anti-European. The EU and the UN are strong, but Nato is virtually useless. Russia is a more important guarantor of European security.
MM: What can the US do to prevent decline?
ET: For the moment, the US has chosen the military path. It would be better for it to strive for industrial reconstruction, to become productive again. The world believes that thanks to its victory in Iraq, the US has achieved worldwide leadership. In fact, it used military means in response to a non-military problem. I believe this shows it has lost its omnipotence.
First, I would privatise the BBC. My investment banker friends say that would net £5 billion for the radio and television station. I would promise to return the whole lot to the 20 million-plus licence fee payers within 120 days of being elected. So, instead of you paying £112 to the Government, I would send you a cheque for £250.
There would be a lot of huffing and puffing from the chattering classes, but, once inside the polling booth, they would agree with me that they could do with £250 and that it would be no loss to say farewell to the Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation.
Second, I want to pull up the drawbridge on Britain. Our roads are too crowded, our house prices too high, our trains too packed. I don't want any more white South Africans, Australians, New Zealanders, Asians, Jamaicans, etc allowed into our country for the next five years.
Let's have a breathing space while we work out a better system. In the United Kingdom, there are 243 people per square kilometre; in France, it's 87; America, 29; and Australia, four. Let those with the space take the people. We have done our bit over the years. It's somebody else's turn.
Third, I want to reduce taxes. Isn't it incredible that the Conservative leadership is so gun-shy these days that it will not put tax cuts at the heart of its economic policy.
Unbelievably, tax kicks in at £90 a week. Why on earth should someone who earns so little - try living, working and travelling in London on £90 - pay any tax? I would set the starting threshold at around the £16,000 mark.
And, finally, the most important of all and the reason why I was in Oldham, I want to bring in the death penalty for DNA-proven paedophile killers. I made the speech in Oldham because it was less than 30 minutes from Saddleworth Moor, where Myra Hindley and Ian Brady buried their young dead. I object to people living their lives in warm cells with television, newspapers and three meals a day having murdered the most vulnerable in our society.
These four policies should see me comfortably into Number 10.
At A seminar at Droitwich Spa this week, Dr Heinz Kiosk, the eminent social psychiatrist and chief psychiatric adviser to the Curtain Rail and Pelmet Authority, discussed the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
"We hear a great deal about child soldiers and their part in the present atrocities. It is indeed deplorable. But can we be quite sure our condemnation of these children is free from the taint of racism and eurocentrism? Are they so different in principle from our own Boy Scouts, indoctrinated as they are with Western militarism?
"Are they so different from helpless young people conscripted into public school cadet corps? And in any case, haven't the children of the Congo learnt to commit atrocities by following the example of the European colonists who occupied their previously peaceful countries?
"It is time we faced up to the facts of colonial history and admitted our shameful part in it. Until we do so, we shall be members of a guilty society. But it is not only our society which is guilty," he went on, as his audience, alerted to the danger, began scraping back their chairs and desperately fighting their way to the doors and windows.
Too late. Dr Kiosk, his eyes revolving in opposite directions as he levitated four feet in the air, was already bellowing, "we are all guilty!"
A Celestial Snub
The British space probe, Beagle 2, now insolently speeding towards Mars, carries a fragment of a pop song and some fatuous art work by Damien Hirst, equally vile symbols of degenerate popular culture. Is there a chance that it will encounter our own columnar space vehicle, Don Carlos and the Holy Alliance III, now motoring on a tour of the solar system?
If it does, our august machine, programmed to avoid the swarm of vulgar objects now buzzing tastelessly about the heavens, will give no sign of recognition other than a slight increase of freezing hauteur. It will leave Beagle 2 to its banausic task of probing and burrowing into the surface of the Red Planet in its futile search for microbes and soda water.
Then away to the remote depths of space, for a weekend in the realm of the satellites of Pluto, discovered by our space vehicle on a previous expedition. There, on those delightful little worlds, a hereditary caste of noblemen spend their leisure hunting, fishing and, in the evenings, in their commodious hunting lodges, discuss such questions as the possibility of life, improbably near the sun, on our own unimaginably distant earth.
The Oxford Times reports today that for a mere £1.50 pa subscription the Council will text message you when there has been a bio-terrorism outrage so you can run away. The image of everyone simultaneously picking up their phones and then trampling each other to death in the melee is just too delicious. Also we are going to have a dress rehearsal next Wednesday for and there will be a simulated attack on "a site of mass entertainment".
The daughter of two teachers from Reims, Mlle Herold was not interested in politics until about two years ago.
Since then, she has been devouring the great texts of "classical liberalism", seizing on thinkers such as Hayek, one of Margaret Thatcher's favourites, and wondering where France went wrong. Liberal conservatives are a rarity in France where the Right-wing parties are much more centrist than in Britain or America.
Mlle Herold, however, is not alone in pining for change in France. Like many of her generation, she would rather go on to business school than the Ecole Nationale d'Administration, the civil servants' graduate school that trained most of France's current political and business elite, but is losing kudos as the French state loses respect.
"There is no value put on work in France," she said. "I've just come back from Hong Kong where people love to work. In France they are always looking for a way to get out of it."
During an exchange term at Birmingham University she was impressed not only by the beer but also by the British work ethic. "If people want to work, they can work. In France we have let the union minority take us all hostage."
All of [the recent idiocies mean] that now is an ideal time for Britain and America, with the support of the Poles, Czechs and other nations of Eastern and Central Europe about to enter the European Union, to present a new, positive vision for Europe. The grandiose dream of a united federal Europe, so beloved of French and German strategists, must be firmly rejected. In its place, London and Washington must call for a flexible Europe, united by a common heritage and culture, but which maintains the principle of national sovereignty at its core.
With this new vision of Europe, U.S. and British national interests converge. A common European foreign and security policy that prevents Britain from fighting alongside the United States would be a nightmare scenario for planners in Washington. The intense debate over Iraq has resulted in a fundamental shift in U.S. policy toward Europe. For 50 years the United States has encouraged and helped drive the process of European integration. However, the Bush administration is beginning to conclude that a monolithic Europe is neither in the interests of the citizens of the United States nor the people of Europe.
The vociferous condemnation of U.S. foreign policy that has emerged across Europe since Bush's "Axis of Evil" speech has awoken a sleeping giant, which until recently had been content to quietly acquiesce in what German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer once described as "the finality of European integration." In the coming years we can expect to see Washington take a more pro-active and aggressive approach toward Brussels and work more with individual European states, rather than attempt to deal with a weak and comically self-deluded Brussels.
It will be in America's interests to strengthen the hand of those European governments that oppose the concept of a highly centralized Europe. In the years ahead there will be increasing calls in Washington for a Europe of independent nation states, held together not by an artificial constitution and undemocratic government, but by the principles of free trade, individual liberty and national identity.
Hunting is morally equivalent to rape, child abuse and torture, according to one of Britain's leading Christian experts, who is closely connected to Labour's religious establishment.
The incendiary claim, which brought immediate condemnation from pro-hunting groups, has been made by Andrew Linzey, professor of theology at Oxford University and a recognised authority on morality and its effects on people's relations with animals.
In a report to be published by the Christian Socialist Movement (CSM) in the next fortnight, Linzey will argue that there is no moral defence for hunting as sport and that it should be completely banned. 'Causing suffering for sport is intrinsically evil,' he says. 'Hunting, therefore, belongs to that class of always morally impermissible acts along with rape, child abuse and torture.'
'If you ask a rape victim or a victim of torture who has suffered so much whether they think what they have gone through can be compared to hunting, I think you know the response you would get.
'Frankly, it's disgusting. We are talking about a legal pastime which is being likened to illegal acts of gross exploitation.'
In my view the day was carried by the optimists, who say that we have learned from past errors how to respond to bursting bubbles. They predict that the American economy will be growing at an annual rate of a bit under 3 percent by year's end, and at a still higher rate in 2004. As these cheery economists see it, all the pieces are in place for such a recovery. Interest rates are already low, which should keep the housing market growing at the record pace of recent months. The decline in the dollar will stimulate the export-led sector of the manufacturing and service sectors, and ward off any deflationary tendencies. And now we have the president's tax cut. ...
Moreover, everyone is underestimating the size of the tax cut. Congress halved the president's request, and approved $350 billion in tax relief over the next 10 years. But congress managed to keep the figure so low only by assuming that taxes will be allowed to return to their prior, higher levels on January 1, 2005. That, say the politicians who have experience with such things, is highly unlikely: Congressmen will not campaign in November of 2003 on promises to raise taxes shortly after taking office. So the reductions won't expire, and total tax relief is likely to approach the figure the president originally requested.
Germany is considered a basket case, its economy shrinking and its population declining to the point where it will be "economically irrelevant," in the words of one observer, within the next several decades. All of which is made worse by a soaring euro that is reducing the international competitiveness of Germany's already high-cost industries.
France is somewhat better off, partly because the one-size-fits-all interest rate set by the European Central Bank suits it better than it does Germany, partly because the exchange rates prevailing when the euro was adopted were more favorable to France than to Germany, and partly because the French simply ignore many of the growth-strangling rules that the more orderly Germans obey to the letter. In short, France's black economy provides a source of flexibility and growth not enjoyed by its German allies.
The consensus view is that the chancellor has got it wrong. His optimistic forecast ignores the noticeable slowdown in consumer demand, and the productivity-draining effects of the massive increase in taxes and the swelling of the public sector. Indeed, all of the jobs growth in the British economy now comes in the public sector, and consists of piling administrators on top of already-useless administrators.
Worse still is the effect that the new European constitution will have on Britain. The bureaucracy's ability to ensnare Britain in red tape will increase as the European court puts flesh on the bones of the constitution and its call for "worker dignity," stronger unions, and an enlarged welfare state. The U.K. economy will pay the price, and soon--or such was the view offered as the pudding was served.
Where does this sort of thing end? At the moment, the western world is more tolerant of sexual indiscretions than it is of dietary indiscretions. More tolerant of drug abuse than of tobacco abuse. But what happens when the pendulum swings and sexual indiscretions are no longer tolerated? Will the NHS deny publicly funded treatment for sexually transmitted diseases to people who have sex outside of marriage? Will they deny obstetrical care to single mothers? AIDS treatment to gay men who chose to have homosexual sex? Or to drug addicts who chose to use IV drugs? Taken to its logical conclusion, it’s a very rigid, inhumane policy. Surprising for a political party that’s supposed to be liberal.
There is a direct link between obesity and poverty. Charging those who break their “contract” means, quite specifically, charging the poor — the very people who most need access to their GP because of the effect of their diet.
But the brains of Britain behind Labour’s new “ugh, poor people, how perfectly horrible” NHS plan have done us all a favour. They have shown the inevitable path down which a state-funded, state- delivered healthcare monopoly ends up travelling, with a rationale at once totally logical and totally surreal. If demand for a service is too high, bar access to those who use that service most. Even if they use it most because they need it most. It’s genius. It really is.
And the policymakers have also revealed in its full, blazing glory the contempt in which they really hold their fellow citizens. If you don’t measure up, ship out. If you aren’t living up to expectations, you don’t count.
One insider told me yesterday that the Chancellor “hasn’t been so happy in ages. Sarah is pregnant, and Tony’s stuffed. It couldn’t really be much better for him”. The Prime Minister’s flagship Foundation Hospitals policy, which was intended as the boldest of all the bold new developments, has been neutered by the Chancellor’s intervention. Mr Brown forced Mr Blair to fight a bruising internal war to get his university fees policy through – and it has yet to face the anger of backbench Labour MPs, let alone many parents. And as every day brings a further deterioration in the Prime Minister’s trust ratings, and ever louder whispers against him by Labour MPs, so Gordon Brown licks his lips in anticipation. The Chancellor said no more than the bare minimum required of him during the war, and the more Mr Blair is damaged in the aftermath, the more Mr Brown is strengthened.
I impugn the motives of no one in the House. The different positions that we have taken all come from the best, not the worst, of intentions. But as elected Members of Parliament, we all know that we will be judged not only on our intentions, but on the results, the consequences of our decisions. The consequences of the amendment would be neither the containment nor the disarmament of Saddam's regime, but an undermining of the authority of the United Nations, the rearmament of Iraq, a worsening of the regime's tyranny, an end to the hopes of millions in Iraq, and a message to tyrants elsewhere that defiance pays.
Yes, of course there will be consequences if the House approves the Government's motion. Our forces will almost certainly be involved in military action. Some may be killed; so, too, will innocent Iraqi civilians, but far fewer Iraqis in the future will be maimed, tortured or killed by the Saddam regime. The Iraqi people will begin to enjoy the freedom and prosperity that should be theirs. The world will become a safer place, and, above all, the essential authority of the United Nations will have been upheld. I urge the House to vote with the Government tonight.